Charlie Crist Archives - Florida Politics

Kathy Castor optimistic about bipartisan health care proposal

A potential breakthrough in health care legislation broke out this week with the announcement of a bipartisan deal in the Senate proposed by Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander and Washington Democrat Patty Murray.

The deal would include funding through 2019 for the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing program, which President Donald Trump cut last week. It would allow states to use existing Obamacare waivers to approve insurance plans with “comparable affordability” to Obamacare plans. And it would not allow states to duck the law’s minimum requirements for what a health insurance plan must cover.

The House of Representatives are not in Washington this week. Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor says that it would behoove her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to speak with the public on what they think of the proposal.

“I think it would be fair to allow people to go through it and understand what it means,” she said Wednesday in Tampa. “I also think it’s important to hear from folks at home, doctors, hospitals, a lot of our neighbors. I’m going to check in with our state insurance commissioner, because here we are and open enrollment is going to start quite soon and people need to know is it going to be affordable for me and my family.”

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act is scheduled to start November 1 and run through December 15. Those “navigators” will attempt to sign up as many people as they can, despite the fact that the Trump administration is reducing their funding, some by as much as 90 percent.

The Alexander-Murray proposal comes a week after Trump finally followed through with his months long threat to yank the funding for subsidies to insurance companies as part of the ACA. Those subsides reduced deductibles and co-payments for low-income Obamacare enrollees. Analysts say the move did not have that significant an impact since many insurers already raised their rates in anticipation of the move. Regulators in several states that didn’t price in the funding loss announced rate hikes soon after the president’s announcement last week. Insurers must continue to offer the cost-sharing subsidies since they are required by law.

Castor says it’s important to let the public “digest the details.”

“We should be cheering on a bipartisan effort to help fix things for families,” she said. “If this bill will really lower costs and provide affordable care to our neighbors, then we need to pass it and the leadership needs to allow a vote.”

Meanwhile on the other side of Tampa Bay, Pinellas County Democratic Representative Charlie Crist is calling on his constituents to sign a petition calling on congressional leaders to demand a vote on the Alexander/Murray proposal.

Charlie Crist adds $353K during Q3 to re-election fund

Democrat Charlie Crist raised $353,473 during the third quarter of 2017, giving him more than $1.4 million cash on hand for his re-election campaign.

While still impressive, the pace is slowing down for one of Florida’s most prodigious fundraisers. The former governor raised a whopping $720,000 during the first quarter of the year, and followed up with more than $550,000 in the second quarter.

With more than a year before the 2018 midterm elections, Crist has yet to face an announced challenger in 2018.

Republican David Jolly could be that challenger.

Jolly has said that he will announce early next year if he will run again against Crist, who defeated him 52 to 48 percent last November.

Voting restoration amendment clears 200,000 signatures

A proposed ballot initiative that would automatically restore some felons’ voting rights after they complete their sentences now has more than 210,000 confirmed petition signatures, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

And while that’s just the number of confirmed petition, Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, says 600,000 signed petitions have been gathered and that he expects the organization to have all the petitions it needs by December.

The Voting Restoration Amendment wouldn’t apply in the case of murder convictions or sex crimes, but all other Florida felons would be eligible once they exit state custody and finish out parole or probation and pay any restitution owed.

To make the ballot, initiatives need to have 766,200 confirmed signatures. Rules require those signatures be spread across Florida’s 27 congressional districts, with the total number due pegged to voter turnout in the most recent presidential election. Former state Senate Democratic leaders Arthenia Joyner and Chris Smith have also filed the proposal with the Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to put it on the ballot.

During his term as Florida governor, then-Republican Charlie Crist worked with Cabinet members Alex Sink and Charles Bronson to push through restoration of rights for more than 150,000 non-violent felons. That process was quickly halted by Gov. Rick Scott when he took office in 2011.

Crist was elected to Florida’s 13th Congressional District last year as a Democrat, and as of Wednesday evening his Pinellas County district was the only one in the state that had hit its signature quota.

Current law requires Florida convicts to wait years after they complete their sentences to apply for restoration through the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of Scott and the Cabinet.

Once they complete an application, they have to play the waiting game. The line to go before the board is thousands of cases long, and it rarely hands down a decision in more than 100 cases during one of its four annual meetings.

The committee backing the measure, Floridians for a Fair Democracy, has been paying out substantial sums to petition gatherers pounding the pavement to get those signatures.

Last month alone saw Calabassas, Calif.-based petition gathering company PCI Consultants pick up more than $400,000 from the committee, while a significant amount of money also went to county supervisors of elections for signature verification fees.

At the end of the month, Floridians for a Fair Democracy had about $180,000 on hand, thanks in large part to the American Civil Liberties Union chipping in more than $1.4 million in the past four months.

New Congressional NASA Caucus to include Bill Posey, Charlie Crist, Alcee Hastings

Florida U.S. Reps. Bill Posey, Charlie Crist, and Alcee Hastings are joining a newly-formed, bipartisan Congressional NASA Caucus to promote the space agency’s agenda, research and budgetary needs.

The caucus, announced Wednesday, is distinctly different from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and its Subcommittee on Space, as Crist, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, and Posey, a Rockledge Republican, are members of both of those committees, while Hastings, a Miami Gardens Democrat, is not. Likewise, Republican U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn of Panama City and Dan Webster of Lake County are members of the full committee, and Webster of the subcommittee, but are not charter members of the caucus.

The caucus is being co-chaired U.S. Reps. Steve Knight, a California Republican, and Marcy Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat, indicative of NASA’s broad national reach with its facilities. The 23-member caucus also has members from Indiana, Mississippi, Michigan, Virginia, Alabama, Texas, Maryland and Colorado.

“The NASA caucus will be instrumental in educating members of Congress about the importance of maintaining our leadership in space and shaping legislation affecting our nation’s space program,” Posey said in a statement. “The NASA caucus can also be helpful in rallying support for Vice President [Mike] Pence’s recent important announcement that the administration is planning to return humans to the Moon and explore beyond.”

The Democrats from Florida were more interested in promoting the science than the vice president.

“Our nation’s leadership in space exploration is key to innovation, technology development, scientific discovery, and educational research – advancing our society and economy,” Crist stated. “Florida has long been a hub for space exploration and research at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which facilitates tremendous advances in both the public and private sectors.”

“NASA is a symbol of American innovation,” Hastings stated. “At a time when the United States faces increasing challenges to its leadership in science and technology, reinvesting in these programs at home is critically important. I am pleased to be one of the founding members of the NASA Caucus, which will promote American leadership in science, and inspire the next generation of young Americans to dream big and break down barriers.”

Rick Kriseman, Kerry Kriseman, GOTV Oct. 9, 2017

Rick Kriseman pounds the pavement as ballots hit the streets

Mail ballots have started to hit the streets in St. Pete cend incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman has started to pound the pavement again ahead of the second round of his re-election battle against former two-term Mayor Rick Baker.

Kriseman and his wife, Kerry, joined their corps of volunteers and staffers kicking off their get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of the Nov. 7 election.

Kriseman and co. knocked on doors across the city and talked one-on-one with voters to plead their case for another four years. The mayor also pitched in at the phone bank to give voters a heads up that the first mail ballots are on the way.

“We’ve come a long way in 4 years. Crime is down, big projects are moving forward, and our city is preparing for climate change,” Kriseman said in a Monday press release. “This November’s election is going to come down to conversations between neighbors in their front yards and living rooms. August turnout was record high, and we’re here to earn every vote to keep St. Pete moving forward.”

Despite polls showing him behind by as much as 7 points three days before the election, Kriseman edged out Baker by a hair in the August primary, which saw the field whittled from six candidates down to two. The slim win wasn’t lost on Kriseman, whose campaign acknowledged it was indeed a “come-from-behind” victory.

That doesn’t mean they see it as a meaningless win, either.

Even though both candidates had to turn around and fund raise their hearts out to reload for the what’s become the most expensive mayoral election in city history, the mayor’s campaign said Monday that the primary win brought forth “a surge in grassroots enthusiasm with volunteers from all over the bay area committing their time and energy to re-electing Mayor Kriseman.”

While the St. Petersburg mayor position is officially non-partisan, Kriseman was a Democrat in the Florida House before becoming mayor. He has picked up endorsements from top elected Dems, including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Congressman Charlie Crist.

The Florida Democratic Party has also been in his corner and treated the city election as a bellwether for 2018, while multiple left-leaning groups such as the Sierra Club have also flocked to his side.

One of the deciders in the August election was undoubtedly the 11th hour endorsement he received from former President Barack Obama.

Kriseman is historically an underachiever with black voters, who make up 15 percent of the city’s electorate. Baker, on the other hand, is one of the rare Republicans who excells at making inroads with the community. The Obama nod put a thumb on the scales, though, and may have been what shunted Baker’s chances of winning it all in the primary.

The Kriseman camp also pointed out Monday that the mayor bested every pre-primary poll in his 69-vote August win, and he may have to do it again in the general election. A St. Pete Polls survey released last week showed Baker with a 1-point advantage over Kriseman, 46-45 with about 9 percent undecided.

All St. Petersburg voters will get a chance to pick one of the Ricks on Election Day, set for Nov. 7, but voters in City Council District 2 and District 6 will also pick the replacements for Jim Kennedy and Karl Nurse, respectively, while District 4 voters will decide whether to give Darden Rice another term.

In Tampa, Andrew Gillum speaks frankly about race

No African-American has ever won statewide office in the Sunshine State.

In fact, one of the last candidates attempting to do so had to contend with a former president asking him late in the campaign to drop out of the race.

Kendrick Meek was a U.S. Representative from Miami-Dade who in 2010 became the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. He faced not only Republican Marco Rubio, but also independent Charlie Crist.

Trailing in the polls with just weeks before the election, Bill Clinton asked Meek to drop out of the race, so that the party could rally around Crist. Meek declined, saying he never seriously considered it. He finished third while Rubio advanced to Washington.

Seven years later and it’s now Andrew Gillum attempting to do the unprecedented as he runs for the Democratic nomination for Florida governor.

And while it’s not something he talks much about on the campaign trail, the Tallahassee mayor opened up about the reality he faces as a black man while addressing students in an appearance at the University of Tampa campus last week.

“There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by in my city where I’m not driving behind a truck on my way to work that has a big old Confederate flag,” he said.

“I know a lot of folks say you shouldn’t conflate the Confederacy with racism,” Gillum added. “Well, I don’t know another way to describe it. States’ rights? States’ rights to own slaves? … If I pause long enough to allow it to impact me, it would.

“But I psych myself out on a pretty regular basis that they’re not talking about me. That they don’t mean me, and I’m the mayor of this city, and all the other things that you tell yourself to be unpenetrated by the kind of inequality that you get to see and experience every single day that you live and breath.”

Big things have been expected from Gillum ever since 2003 when he became the youngest member of the Tallahassee City Commission at the age of 23.

His profile grew larger after he had an opportunity to speak last summer at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Now he’s trying to buck the odds in a state that has never elected a black person statewide (though some Democrats count Barack Obama‘s two victories in Florida in 2008 and 2012).

At UT, Gillum said it’s pertinent as an elected official to note and try to do something about the structural forms of racism and inequality. He referred to a row he had last month with Jim Cooke, Tallahassee’s treasurer-clerk, revolving around the fact that while three minority based firms do bond work for the city of Tallahassee, they generally are recommended only for some of the city’s smaller contracts.

“So I had to ask the question: ‘Why does it seem in the city of Tallahassee minority firms always seem to get the smallest piece?’ ” Gillum said, replying to his own question by saying that he wasn’t certain, and speculating that perhaps Cooke (who he never mentioned by name) had a “predisposition to ‘big’ ” explicitly mentioning Bank of America and other larger institutions.

Cooke later told Florida Politics that he did not want to comment.

Gillum said there is definitely structural bias within the criminal justice system, citing studies that show that penalties for blacks are much stricter than for whites who commit the same crimes. Gillum also said that didn’t mean that judges were racist, but speculated that “a lot of it might be unconscious bias.”

“We should have, moreover, conversations about race, racism, sexism, all the other -isms, because if it sits unconscious, we’ll allow it to continue to perpetuate,” he said.

He then launched into a discussion about his Longest Table program which he initiated in 2015 to spur conversation and strengthen relations between people from all walks of life in Tallahassee. The project won a Knight Cities Challenge grant earlier this year.

“I don’t want to be Pollyanna-ish about it,” he explained. “I know that’s not the cure all, end all, be all, but if we can start to have some deliberate conversations where we put people in places and try to encourage curiosity over judgment, it’d be interesting to see what happens.”

While he can’t mandate people of different walks of life to get together, Gillum said he can try to set an example.

“I think it would be much better to have a governor that encourages that conversation rather than the ‘other-izing’ of each other because Latinos are here and you don’t have a job, or black people are shiftless and on welfare, or all white people are racists, or Black Lives Matter people are unpatriotic,” he said.

“Those are simple platitudes, and they mean nothing, and they get us nowhere.”

Gillum has had a bumpy ride at times during this campaign season. An FBI investigation into Community Redevelopment Agency deals in Tallahassee has put a cloud over his campaign, though Gillum told reporters in August that a federal prosecutor informed him he wasn’t a target of the investigation.

The race is poised to get more competitive, as John Morgan and Phillip Levine contemplate entering the race to join Gwen Graham, Chris King and himself, all vying to become the state party’s standard-bearer next year.

Gillum is the choice among the progressive wing of the party. Whether that is enough in Florida will play out over the next year.


Editor’s Note — An earlier version of this story said Kendrick Meek was the last African-American political candidate to run for statewide office in Florida. In fact, Thaddeus Hamilton ran unsuccessfully for agriculture commissioner in 2014.

Report: Can Florida Republicans finally win back-to-back U.S. Senate races?

Over the past century Florida has never elected a Republican in back-to-back U.S. Senate elections, making the Sunshine State somewhat of a rare bird.

Despite having a veritable stranglehold on the state legislature, and the fact that it will have held the Governor’s Mansion for 20 years by the time Rick Scott leaves office, the GOP has yet to string together consecutive victories for U.S. Senate, notes Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics.

The only other states that can claim the same are Montana and Hawaii, according to Ostermeier’s blog, the latter of which is young enough in its statehood that the trend hasn’t become generational.

It’s not like Florida Republicans have had a hard time winning statewide, either. One look at the governor and Cabinet, and a cursory glance at the campaign accounts of those looking to replace them next year, and it’s clear the Florida branch of the big tent party is suffering from an embarrassment of riches – RPOF simply outclasses FDP with its seemingly endless candidate bench, infinitely deep pockets, and perpetually motivated voters.

Of the 24 statewide races held in Florida since the turn of the century, GOP candidates have won 20. Nelson was the winner of three of those four, while former CFO Alex Sink holds the honor of being the only other Democrat since Walkin’ Lawton Chiles to win a statewide election.

And if it wasn’t for Chiles’ victory in his U.S. Senate contest against then-Congressman Bill Cramer, Republicans would have ended the streak back in 1970.

That election was decided by about 8 points. Not “close,” per se, but an examination of the half dozen opportunities Republicans had to put two of their own in the Senate since then certainly makes it look that way.

The first of those six wins came a decade later, when Paula Hawkins won in President Ronald Reagan’s landslide election in 1980. Two years later, Chiles won re-election by an astounding 24 points, cementing the legendary Florida Democrat’s reputation as a Cinderella smasher.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham also proved a thorn in Florida Republicans’ side. Connie Mack III’s win in 1988 was followed up by Graham’s 35-point beatdown of Bill Grant in 1992, while Charlie Crist was smacked with a 25-point loss by the former governor in the 1998 election, four years after Mack won re-election.

Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Connie Mack IV earned their double-digit Ls from Nelson following victories by Mel Martinez in 2004 and Marco Rubio in 2010.

But the times, they are a-changin’.

Nelson isn’t as spry as he was when he came into the Senate as a fresh-faced 59-year-old who was only a little over a decade removed from from becoming the first member of congress in space.

And none of his opponents had the kind of goodwill Scott built up among Florida voters during his master class on how to prepare the state for a Hurricane. In fact a Scott candidacy, which is almost a guarantee, would be orders of magnitude more viable than the bids by Harris in 2004 and Mack in 2012.

Sure, many voters may have cast their ballots for the Florida transplant begrudgingly, especially in 2014, but there’s no political spectre so damaging or memorable as the 2000 presidential election snafu that put Harris on TV sets nationwide.

And Mack is just Mack. He was a better than serviceable congressman, but he pussyfooted around the idea of running too much and too publicly in 2012, while Nelson had higher favorables and had the innate benefit of being a Democrat in a presidential election year.

Those advantages disappear next year, and one of the Democrats’ only noteworthy streaks in Florida could  disappear with them.

SD 40 race could be Donald Trump test for Democrats

Florida Democrats are facing a test to see whether anti-President Donald Trump politics will give them a boost ahead of a critical election year and perhaps signal a turnaround after two decades of Republican dominance in the Legislature.

They’ve made Trump a focal point in a special election set for Tuesday to replace a Miami-area Republican state senator who resigned after using racial slurs in front of black colleagues. The Republican in the race, state Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz, was a contestant on Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” helping to make that connection easier.

“Trump’s apprentice just got the GOP nomination,” said a Democratic fundraising email when Diaz won the primary in July. “Contribute now to fire Trump’s apprentice.”

If Democrat Annette Taddeo wins with less money against the stronger organization of the Republican Party, it could be a sign of better times for Democrats. It would also test an anti-Trump strategy ahead of a 2018 election when the governor’s seat and all three Cabinet positions are open and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is up for re-election.

“It’s an interesting test. Does the Trump thing translate down the ballot in a nontypical election?” said Democratic political strategist Steve Schale. “If Democrats talk about getting back to a majority, you have to win races like this at some point.”

On paper, the district southwest of Miami leans Democratic. Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Trump last year, but Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio also carried the district.

“I’m sure the Democrats are going to try to make it a referendum on Trump, but they’re going to have to spend a lot of money to do it,” said David Johnson, a Republican political consultant. “If Pepi wins, it will be credited largely to superior resources and organization.”

Taddeo, 50, has a television ad that begins with her clicking off a television showing a clip of Trump “attacking” professional wrestling icon Vince McMahon. And in a speech to supporters two months ago, she said, “We have a president that we need to stand up [to] and not stand on the sidelines. We need to fight him every step of the way.”

She has run for Congress twice, losing both times. She was also Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist‘s running mate in 2014 in a race barely lost to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

She said Diaz, 37, wasn’t shy about using his ties to Trump during the primary.

“When the president was insulting to Hispanics, instead of coming out and defending us, Representative Diaz actually joined his national Hispanic advisory council,” she said.

Diaz dismissed the attacks from Taddeo and Democrats over Trump and said that being on “The Apprentice” in 2006 was a life-changing experience — even if he was one of the first contestants to get fired.

“Having a camera on 24 hours a day changed me. It made me really think about just how important it is to make the right the decision at all times,” he said.

And while he said the race isn’t about Trump, some voters still see it that way.

“I support Diaz because I support President Trump,” said Republican Raul Musibay, 75.

Abel Lopez, a 65-year-old Democrat, agreed that the Trump factor was key.

“Anything I can do to help those against Trump,” Lopez said, “I will do it.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

National Weather Service employees ask Charlie Crist to help stop personnel cuts

Charlie Crist was already well aware of how unhappy National Weather Service (NWS) employees were about budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

But the St. Petersburg Democrat learned a whole lot more Monday about the concerns of career agency staffers over personnel reductions — specifically in Alaska. They say such cuts could damage the accuracy in forecasting storms and other major weather events.

“I’ve noticed that it’s under attack, but sadly a lot of things that make a lot of good sense are under attack in the recommendations from the administration,” Crist told members of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

The group was holding its annual convention this week at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg.

Crist said that while the president can propose, it’s Congress that has the power to appropriate, and he predicted that the agency wouldn’t get the proposed five percent budget cut proposed by the Trump administration.

The former Florida governor said that in all of his decades living in the Sunshine State, he’s never seen federal, state and local officials work better in preparing for Hurricane Irma last week, and he said that much of that credit has to go to the NWS and their colleagues. “You are heroes to an awful lot of my fellow Floridians from this past week,” Crist told the attendee. “People are watching your colleagues on television, practically 24/7.”

But the employees with the National Weather Service don’t feel very appreciated these days.

“In Alaska, we have something like a 23 percent vacancy rate,” said Jim Brader, the Alaska Regional Chair with the NWSEO. “Positions aren’t being filled. Some offices have no employees, and so there’s other people filling in.”

Brader added that in one case, a reduction in personnel forced one employee in his office to work 145 days in a row, and some of those were double shifts. He said such reductions in Alaska impact weather forecasting for the rest of the country.

While there are staffing issues in other NWS offices, other employees also noted the significance of downgrading the Alaskan office.

“If you don’t get the critical data into our models, the forecasts are going to deteriorate,” warned Surranjana Saha, who works at the National Weather Service in Maryland. She said that the Alaska region is critical to read out climate forecasts.

“It’s a data void region and whatever radars you get are so precious because this affects the upper stratospheric winds and the wintertime flow over these areas,” Saha said, calling it “gold” to have such information.

Daniel Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, said that it was information from the Alaska office of the National Weather Service that was able to predict when the eye of Hurricane Irma began moving more eastward and out of the Tampa Bay area last Sunday.

“What causes it to make that turn was a mild attitude system was dropping down into the continent, but the information from Alaska is the information that we use to determine where that mid-latitude thing is going to come down so when that storm is going to turn,” he said.

Sobien also said that the NWS has also stopped sending up balloons to get the weather information needed to feed the models that are used to forecast hurricane.

“They just stopped doing that,” he said.

The problems with the National Weather Service aren’t exclusive to the Alaska, however. Brandon Dunston is with the NWS forecast office in Raleigh, North Carolina. He said that his office has lost five operational forecasters in recent years, approximately 40 percent of their meteorologists’ staff.

Although Trump has proposed a budget cut of five percent to the NWS, officials with the agency say the reduction in hiring additional staffers goes back a decade, and they’re still not certain why.

Some NWS employees said they want to have Crist push the chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Arizona Republican Andy Biggs, to call for holding a hearing based on the study the Government Accounting Office has released that confirms the  confirms the vacancy rate in NWS operational units has reached a point where NWS employees are “unable at times to perform key tasks.”

The GAO also found that NWS “staff experienced stress, fatigue and reduced morale resulting from their efforts to cover for vacancies” due to lack of time off and a loss of training.

According to the GAO, NWS managers admit “that employees are fatigued and morale is low” and that employees “were demoralized because they had to cover the workload for multiple vacancies.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons