Jeb Bush Archives - Florida Politics

New mailer targets Jose Mallea over tax increases

Miami Republican Jose Mallea is the target of a new mailer, which claims he helped usher in a massive tax increase during his time in city government.

The mailer — which appears to be from Conservatives for Truth PC, a Coral Gables political committee — claims Mallea, who served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz played a role in “increasing taxes by $74 million on Miami residents.”

“Jose Mallea helped usher in a massive windfall of new tax revenue, to the tune of $74 million dollars,” reads the direct mail piece. “This massive tax increase was very damaging to many of us in the Miami area. Jose Mallea stood by and watched a 41 percent increase in taxes bleed many in our community dry.

The increases, according to the mailer, came during fiscal 2004-05 and fiscal 2006-07.

Mallea faces Daniel Anthony Perez in the special election to replace Rep Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. Diaz, a Miami Republican, resigned effective Sept. 26 to run for the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned amid scandal earlier this year, in Senate District 40.

Mallea has racked in several big name endorsements, including former Gov. Jeb Bush and former House Speaker Will Weatherford, and has raised $140,156. He ended the most recent fundraising period with $88,488 cash on hand.

Perez has raised $83,450, and ended the most recent fundraising period with $35,418 cash on hand.

The special GOP primary is July 25. The winner will go on to face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the Sept. 26 special general election.

 

Florida politics lopsided despite required fair districts

Florida has more registered Democrats than Republicans, but the balance of power in government doesn’t even come close to reflecting that.

Despite a 2010 constitutional amendment aimed at preventing political gerrymandering, Republicans dominate Florida politics. Democrats only hold 41 of 120 state House seats, 15 of 40 Senate seats and are outnumbered in in the U.S. House 16-11.

While it would be easy to say Republicans built their power because they draw the political boundaries for Congress and the Legislature, it’s not as simple as that. Yes, observers note, it has contributed to the lopsided political numbers in a state where presidential elections are often seen as a tossup. But they point out Republicans are at this point just better at raising money, recruiting candidates and winning races in districts that should be more competitive.

The Associated Press analyzed all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly elections last year using a statistical method of calculating partisan advantage designed to detect potential gerrymandering. Florida was found to be one of the states with the largest Republican tilts in the state House. While it also showed Florida Republicans’ advantage in Congress was slightly more than should’ve been expected, it wasn’t to the point that clearly indicated gerrymandering.

The analysis examined the share of votes cast for Republican and Democratic candidates in each district and projected the expected number of seats each party would gain if districts were drawn so that neither party had an overall advantage. In Florida, Republicans had about 11 more seats in the state House than would be expected, one of the largest margins in the country.

Political maps are redrawn every 10 years after a new U.S. Census. Republicans helped gain dominance in Florida by controlling that process in 2002. Democrats controlled it in 1992 when they commanded the Legislature. Then Republicans flipped enough seats to take control by the time Republican Gov. Jeb Bush was elected in 1998.

“Republicans really put their foot on the gas when Bush got elected,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic political consultant.

The state House went from a 71-49 Democratic majority in 1994 to an 81-39 Republican majority after the 2002 election when districts were redrawn by Republican lawmakers. Schale said Republicans drew maps with highly concentrated Democratic districts so that they could create more Republican-strong districts that weren’t as concentrated.

As a result, Schale said, districts seen as competitive still have a slight Republican edge: “Even the places that are competitive aren’t truly like jump balls.”

Republicans acknowledge the 2002 rewrite favored their party.

Former Republican state Rep. Jeff Kottkamp sat on the House committee that redrew House maps. Kottkamp, who later served as lieutenant governor, said lawyers warned lawmakers that there were still rules that had to be followed. “You knew that the district had to be as compact as possible, contiguous. You tried to keep communities of interest all together. It just wasn’t always possible,” he said.

But he said every legislator tried to push for districts that increased their chances for re-election.

“Obviously if you’re the party in power and your members wanted to draw districts that helped themselves get elected, to a certain extent that’s naturally going to benefit the majority,” Kottkamp noted.

The 2010 “fair districts” constitutional amendment was aimed at preventing that practice. It requires lawmakers to draw maps that don’t benefit incumbents or political parties and to try to keep communities from being divided for political purposes.

Those behind the amendment successfully sued to have U.S. House and state Senate maps redrawn because they didn’t meet constitutional muster, but state House maps went unchallenged.

So, if the maps are fair, why do Republicans still dominate the state House? University of Florida political science professor Dan Smith said Republicans are better at fielding candidates and running campaigns — particularly in about 30 truly competitive districts.

“Republicans have done a good job of targeting those areas and getting good candidates and putting a lot of money into marginal districts, which they tend to win,” he said.

Likewise, he said state Senate maps are drawn fairly, but Democrats underperform in districts they should win.

Part of the problem with Democrats is institutional, said Schale. He said the party has no discipline and doesn’t recruit candidates as aggressively as it should.

“Too often we’ve settled for the first person who raised their hand, and that was not always the best option,” Schale said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Simone Marstiller takes herself out of Attorney General contention

Former appellate judge and Republican Simone Marstiller said on Facebook she will not run for Attorney General in 2018.

“NOT running for AG,” she posted Monday night. “Holding that office has been a dream of mine for a long time.

Marstiller

“But I’ve reluctantly concluded that running for the office just isn’t financially feasible for me,” she added. “Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you for encouraging me and pledging your support. I am blessed beyond measure to have people like you in my life. The adventure continues …”

Marstiller declined further comment Tuesday.

Her name was first floated in a January post on The Capitolist by Brian Burgess, who included her among his picks to replace current Attorney General Pam Bondi amid rumors she was leaving to take a post in President Donald Trump‘s administration. Bondi is term-limited in 2018.

“She’s a staunch conservative thinker, a bit of a fireball, and strikes me as someone rank-and-file Republicans could embrace as potential A.G. candidate – not only because she’s got the fire in the belly for politics, but also because she’d throw a wrench into the flailing and failing identity politics machinery of the Florida Democratic Party,” Burgess wrote in January.

“She’d be an absolute joy to watch – not only arguing cases and in press conferences, but on the campaign trail, too.”

Last month, Marstiller told The Capitolist’s John Lucas she was “weighing her options” for a possible candidacy.

The Liberian-born Marstiller is now in private law practice after retiring in 2015 as a judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal, based in Tallahassee.

Her long resume includes being Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Interim Secretary of the Department of Management Services, Deputy Chief of Staff, and state Chief Information Officer under Gov. Jeb Bush. 

She also was Associate Deputy Attorney General under Attorney General Bill McCollum and Executive Director for the Florida Elections Commission.

Declared GOP Attorney General candidates for 2018 include state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody. Tampa Bay-area attorney and political newcomer Ryan Torrens has filed for the post as a Democrat.

Rick Scott to sign controversial education policy bill

Gov. Rick Scott will sign a contentious education policy bill that critics fear will hurt traditional public schools in favor of privately-managed charter schools.

The Governor’s Office on Thursday morning announced he will approve “a major education bill” at Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando, “which serves many children who receive the Gardiner Scholarship,” one of the programs affected by the legislation.

The bill signing is slated for 3:45 p.m., a press release said. It did not mention the bill by name or number, however, though the Governor’s daily schedule does list it as “HB 7069 Signing And Budget Highlight Event.”

The bill’s approval is widely believed to be in return for House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s support of Scott’s priorities, including full funding of Visit Florida and money for an economic development fund, passed in the recent Special Session.

But it’s been met with vigorous opposition from Democratic lawmakers, newspaper editorial boards and public schools advocates, including the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union.

Among other things, the bill (HB 7069) steers more money to charter schools through a “Schools of Hope” initiative, requires recess in elementary schools, and tinkers with the state’s oft-criticized standardized testing system.

The legislation—a top priority for Corcoranbarely edged out of the Florida Senate on a 20-18 vote where some Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure.

The Senate vote came after intense debate in which opponents contended the legislation was a give-away to charter schools—public schools run by private organizations and sometimes managed by for-profit companies.

Corcoran has said that the changes are even more dramatic than the A+ plan put in place by former Gov. Jeb Bush nearly two decades ago. It created the state’s first voucher program and created the state’s current school grading system.

“It is the greatest public school bill in the history of Florida,” Corcoran said after the bill was sent to Scott.

The nearly 300-page bill includes a long list of education changes that legislators had been considering. But the final bill was negotiated largely out of public view. Some of the final changes drew the ire of the state’s teacher unions, parent groups as well as superintendents of some of Florida’s largest school districts.

Included in the bill is a requirement that elementary schools must set aside 20 minutes each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade for “free-play recess,” although at the last minute charter schools were exempted from the mandate. The bill includes more than $200 million for teacher and principal bonuses.

Bowing to criticism about Florida’s testing regimen, the measure eliminates the Algebra 2 end-of-course exam and pushes back the date in the school year when students must take Florida’s main standardized test.

Another major part of the bill creates the “Schools of Hope” program that would offer financial incentives to charter school operators who would agree to take students who now attending chronically failing schools, many of them in poor areas and urban neighborhoods. Additionally, up to 25 failing public schools may receive up to $2,000 per student for additional student services.

It extends the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, expands eligibility for the Gardiner Scholarship Program for disabled students, and requires 20 minutes of recess each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The bill also requires school districts share capital project tax revenue with charter schools, which Corcoran argued is one of the reasons why some school district officials have come out in opposition to the bill.

Background from The Associated Press was used in this post.

Progressive groups sue over Rick Scott’s judicial appointment power

When Gov. Rick Scott appointed a conservative jurist to the state’s Supreme Court in December, he made clear he wasn’t done.

“I will appoint three more justices the morning I finish my term,” he said, referring to the mandatory retirement in early 2019 of the court’s liberal-leaning triumvirate of Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy A. Quince and R. Fred Lewis.

Now, two progressive organizations are saying to Scott: Prove you can. They say he can’t.

The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause on Wednesday sued Scott in the Supreme Court, saying he doesn’t have the power to name their successors—only the governor elected after Scott does.

They filed a petition for “writ of quo warranto,” a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

The upshot of their argument is that Scott can’t replace the justices in question because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day all three retire, and their terms last till midnight.

“The Florida Constitution prohibits a governor from making a prospective appointment of an appellate judge to an existing seat before that seat becomes vacant,” the writ argues.

It adds: “A prompt, final decision on this pure question of constitutional law … would preempt cynical complaints by anyone dissatisfied with the decision that the case was contaminated by political considerations.”

“Our office has not officially received the suit,” said Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis, declining comment.

Scott’s addition of former appellate judge C. Alan Lawson to the bench created a three-judge conservative minority, including Justices Ricky Polston and Charles Canady, whose name was on a list of then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump‘s “potential Supreme Court picks.”

Assuming the Republican Scott appoints three more conservatives in 2019, the seven-justice court could tilt 6-1 to the right, with current Chief Justice Jorge Labarga remaining. His mandatory retirement is in 2023.

“The Florida Constitution establishes a mandatory retirement age for justices that occurs on or after their 70th birthdays,” the court’s website explains.

Three more conservative judges may well be appointed anyway, even if left to the next governor: Florida hasn’t chosen a Democrat for the Governor’s Mansion since Lawton Chiles was re-elected in 1994.

The lawsuit, however, sticks to a “constitutional question that has plagued this State for decades: When a judicial seat opens on a Florida appellate court due to an expired term coinciding with the election of a new governor, whom does our Constitution authorize to appoint the successor, the outgoing governor or the newly elected governor?”

In December 1998, days before Chiles died in office, he and then Gov.-elect Jeb Bush, a Republican, avoided a crisis by jointly appointing Quince to the court to replace Ben F. Overton.

In 2014, lawmakers placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot, backed by Republican state Sen. Tom Lee, that would have given Scott the power to name the new justices. But it failed to gain the required 60 percent approval.

“There may be many reasons voters rejected the amendment, there can be no doubt one reason was that a newly-elected governor is not only more accountable, but also better represents the will of the people who just voted than someone elected four years ago,” the writ says.

Ultimately, Scott “lacks authority because the expiring judicial terms run through the last second of the evening of January 8, 2019, by which time his successor will have begun his or her term or, alternatively, if the vacancies occurred earlier in the day, his successor’s term still will have already begun by that time,” it says.

“… (I)f any ambiguity existed in our constitutional scheme, it should be resolved in favor of allowing the incoming governor, who best represents the will of the people, to fill judicial vacancies arising the same day he or she is set to take office.”

The plaintiffs also include LWVF President Pamela Goodman, former LWVF president Deirdre Macnab, and Liza McClenaghan, the state chair of Common Cause Florida. They’re represented by Tallahassee attorneys John S. Mills and Thomas D. Hall, a former Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court.

Jose Mallea raises more than $50K toward HD 116 race

Jose Mallea brought in more than $50,000 in his race to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116.

State records show Mallea, a Miami-Dade Republican, raised $50,640 between May 22 and June 8, bring his total raised to $140,156. Mallea faces Daniel Anthony Perez in the July 25 special primary to replace Diaz, who resigned effective Sept. 26 to run in the Senate District 40 special election.

Top contributors during the fundraising period include Andrew Card, who served as former President George W. Bush’s chief of staff and former Ambassador Al Hoffman. Other top donors include American Principles PAC; IRL PAC, which is affiliated with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; MCNA Health Care Holdings; and Sunshine Dade Investments.

Records show Mallea spent $50,018 during the fundraising period. He ended the fundraising period with $88,488 cash on hand.

Mallea has received the backing of former Gov. Jeb Bush and former House Speaker Will Weatherford. The owner of JM Global consulting, Mallea ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. Prior to that, he served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. He’s also served stints with the federal government, working at the U.S. Department of State and the White House.

State records show Perez raised $33,660 in the fundraising period. Top contributors during the fundraising period included JAC-RU Consulting Services, Doral Station II Corp, and Quintana & Associates.

Perez spent $45,128 during the fundraising period. He ended the period with $40,418 cash on hand.

The winner of the July 25 special primary will face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the Sept. 26 special general election. Records show Mayaudon raised $1,800 and spent $1,781 during the fundraising period.

Marlins sale still involves Who’s Who of Republican politics even without Jeb Bush

The news began to break on Tuesday evening. Jeb Bush was reportedly no longer interested in purchasing the Miami Marlins, according to anonymous sources.

Bush was yet another among the biggest names in Republican politics seeking to buy one of baseball’s worst performing teams. Others include President Trump’s family circle and a serious investor carrying the name of Romney.

The Bush family has been involved with baseball for decades. George H.W. Bush was captain of the 1948 Yale baseball team and a frequent patron of the Houston Astros. George W. Bush co-owned the Texas Rangers in the 1990s.

Before we learned of Bush’s pursuit of the Marlins, news broke in February that current team owner Jeffrey Loria had a “handshake agreement” to sell the team. Not just to anybody, but to Ivanka Trump’s father-in-law and brother-in-law for $1.6 billion.

Charles Kushner, father of White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, and Joshua Kushner were seriously pursuing the purchase, but halted their bid. The problem developed when Trump was said to be strongly considering Loria for the role of ambassador to France. Loria is a major donor to the Republican National Committee.

“Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest Mr. Loria will soon be nominated to be ambassador to France,” read a statement from another member of the group, Joseph Meyer, Joshua Kushner’s brother-in-law. “If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it.”

Loria is yet to be nominated, leaving open the possibility the Kushners would re-engage if Trump goes in another direction for France. If so, Charles Kushner would need to address questions from his past regarding a conviction for tax evasion.

While Bush is apparently stepping aside, his partner, future first ballot Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is looking for other investors. If the Kushners do not get back in, the Tampa resident’s main competition comes from Massachusetts.

Tagg Romney, a venture capitalist and the 47-year-old son of the GOP 2012 nominee for President Mitt Romney, is making a strong bid and apparently picking up steam. Mitt Romney is not involved with his son’s bid.

In April, former Atlanta Braves’ legend and 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Tom Glavine joined the group. In early May, former Oakland A’s pitching star and Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Dave Stewart joined Romney and Glavine. Miami native Alex Rodriguez declined an offer to join.

The two competing groups are said to be offering about $1.3 billion. The Marlins hope to close the sale by the time they host the MLB All-Star Game in mid-July.

Jeb Bush no longer interested in buying Marlins

Jeb Bush has dropped out of the race for the Miami Marlins.

The ex-presidential candidate and former Florida governor is no longer interested in buying the Marlins and has ended his pursuit of the team, two people close to the negotiations said Tuesday.

One of the people said former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who had been part of Bush’s group, is still exploring a bid with other investors. The two people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the parties involved aren’t commenting publicly on the status of negotiations.

Jeter becomes the frontman for an investment group competing with a group led by businessman Tagg Romney, son of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The Romney group includes Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart.

Earlier this month, Commissioner Rob Manfred said the Romney and Bush-Jeter groups were relatively even in their price offers. Both bid about $1.3 billion to buy the team from Jeffrey Loria, who bought the Marlins for $158.5 million in 2002 from John Henry.

Four weeks ago, Bush said he was optimistic he could close the deal. But one of the people confirming Bush’s withdrawal said he didn’t put up enough of his own money to have the controlling interest he sought.

The commissioner’s office wants the purchasing group to demonstrate it has enough cash both to close the deal and operate the team. Because of MLB’s debt service rule, more than half of the winning bid could require cash.

Manfred declined to comment Tuesday. A spokesman for Jeter didn’t respond to a request for comment, and Romney has not publicly discussed his interest in the team.

Jeter and Bush were part of rival efforts to buy the Marlins before joining forces. Jeter, a 14-time All-Star shortstop, retired in 2014 after 20 seasons with the Yankees.

The Marlins have said they hope to close a deal around the time of the All-Star game in Miami on July 11.

Bush, 64, lives in Miami. He served two terms as governor from 1999-2007 and was an unsuccessful candidate last year for the Republican nomination for president.

Jeter, 42, lives in Tampa and has long talked of his desire to own a team. Romney, 47, has been a Massachusetts businessman, venture capitalist and political adviser.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Fate of program for disabled children rests with Rick Scott

Debby Dawson, who lives in southwest Florida, has a simple message to Gov. Rick Scott: The state’s existing scholarship program for disabled children is “life changing” and has helped her 7-year-old autistic son “develop by leaps and bounds.”

Dawson is part of a chorus of parents from around the state who have mounted a campaign through letters, emails and phone calls urging the Republican governor to sign a sweeping education bill that will soon come to his desk.

But that same bill has sparked an outpouring of an even larger negative reaction to Scott both directly and on social media.

School superintendents, the state’s teacher union, parent-teacher groups and Democrats have called on the governor to veto the bill. Even Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican candidate for governor in 2018, called the legislation a “train wreck” on Tuesday and said Scott should take a “hard look” at vetoing the bill.

That’s because GOP legislators crafted the 300-page bill largely in secret, and included in it portions that would steer more state and local money to privately-run charter schools. The legislation (HB 7069) also mandates recess in elementary schools, expands virtual education courses to private and home schooled students, and tweaks Florida’s testing system.

Scott, who supported the creation of the scholarship program, has not yet said what he plans to do.

But if he vetoes the bill, however, he will wipe out an extra $30 million for the Gardiner Scholarship program that provides tuition, therapy and other services to roughly 8,000 disabled students. Legislators included $73 million in the state budget for scholarships, but those who operate the program say it is growing and they may not have enough money to serve everyone without the extra money. Additionally, legislators passed a separate bill that would expand those eligible for the program.

That’s why Dawson wrote Scott asking him to sign the bill. She said without the extra money her other son – who is about to turn 3-years-old – may not get a scholarship in the coming year.

“As a parent who has seen how life changing this grant is, and knowing my second child may not have the same opportunities as my oldest, it is heartbreaking, to say the least,” Dawson wrote in an email to a reporter. “This grant opens up doors for our children where the doors were once shut and locked tight.”

Legislative leaders have not given a detailed explanation on why they put the extra money for the scholarship program in the bill, which was not released publicly until two days before a final vote. Initially, the state Senate had more than $100 million in its budget for the program but then agreed to lower it during budget negotiations.

Sen. Jack Latvala, the budget chairman, said the decision to include the money in the bill and not the budget was at the urging of House Speaker Richard Corcoran. When asked Corcoran called it a “compromise” since the House did not include the higher amount in its initial budget.

Sen. Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat opposed to the bill, argued that legislative leaders crafted the legislation this way in order to make it harder for Scott to veto the bill.

“I was deeply disturbed that (the families of disabled children) were hijacked and used as pawns to mollify opposition to an otherwise bad bill,” Farmer said.

School choice advocates, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, are asking Scott to sign the bill. Former Senate President Andy Gardiner, who has a son with Down syndrome and helped create the program, said he hopes the “governor is mindful” that the bill isn’t just about charter schools and that many families will be affected by his decision.

Barbara Beasley, whose 9-year-old daughter receives a Gardiner scholarship, says it has dramatically improved her daughter’s life, but she said that “lawmakers sold us down the river with their backroom dealing on the education bill.” She said other parts of the legislation are detrimental to public schools and should be stopped.

“I beg Governor Scott to order lawmakers back to session to fix their mistakes, separate these items from the bad and push them through,” Beasley said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Noah Valenstein set to become next DEP head

Updated May 17 — Valenstein was the only person selected to be interviewed for the job, according to remarks at Wednesday’s Cabinet aides meeting. That means he is a virtual lock for the position. Shut out by the decision is interim secretary Ryan Matthews. The interview will take place at next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

The original story is below.


Noah Valenstein, Gov. Rick Scott‘s former environmental policy coordinator, has the inside track to become the next secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, sources tell FloridaPolitics.com.

Valenstein, now the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, is the top pick over interim secretary Ryan Matthews.

Scott and the Cabinet in February OK’d Matthews to serve as interim department head to fill in for departing secretary Jon Steverson. He quit in January to join the legal-lobbying firm of Foley & Lardner.

Valenstein attended an August 2014 meeting in which Scott listened to a group of leading Florida scientists talk about climate change.

At the end of that meeting, Scott declined to say whether he had been convinced by scientific evidence that rising sea levels and warming temperatures merit government action.

Scott also later denied that his administration banned agencies under his control from using the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in public, in emails or in other official documents.

Valenstein, a Gainesville native, graduated with honors from the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and has a law degree from Florida State University.

He interned for both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and past Senate President Toni Jennings in the late 1990s.

Valenstein has lobbied for the Department of Environmental Protection and worked for the Florida House of Representatives (including as deputy policy chief for environmental issues) before leaving for private legal practice.

He’s been a board member of the Everglades Trust, worked for the Everglades Foundation, briefly owned a polling and research company and consulted on policy for Scott’s re-election campaign, according to his resume.

The governor and Cabinet have agreed to aim on a DEP hire during the May 23 Cabinet meeting.

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