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The Rush is on…to Win Your Vote

October 24th, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

As of this morning, more than 1 point 4 million voters have already cast a ballot, and  If you haven’t already voted, expect more mail and phone calls from both major parties between now and election day.

More than a quarter million mail pieces like this one are showing up across the state. It contrasts your voting record over the last four cycles with your precinct. Sponsored by organized labor,Rich Templin of the AFLCIO says the message has been proven to boost turnout. “With just a little bit of social pressure, that nudges people, you know, into I should vote to I am voting.”

Winning November 4th is all about turnout. More mail is on the way.

“Hi, this is Kaitlin, and I’m calling on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida” is how one call to an absentee voter started out. At State Republican headquarters, spokeswoman Susan Hepworth saysthe chase is on for absentee ballots that have yet to be returned. “We have offices like this all across the state, obviously full of volunteers, all day every day. Making those phone calls, getting those absentee ballots returned and knocking on doors.”

By the end of the week, more than 1.5 million ballots will have been cast.”

Early and absentee voting is expected to surpass the 2.3 million votes cast before the 2010 election. Republicans hold a ten percent lead in party registration for votes already cast this year. Secretary of State Ken Detzner expects early and absentee voting to surpass election day turnout. “Yesterday I saw some numbers for South Florida, and the turnout rate for early voting was higher than it was in 2010. In one county by 40 percent. So, there’s a lot of people engaged in this election” says Detzner.

Elections officials are being told to expect the unexpected, That includes the potential for a governor’s race so close it triggers a recount.

Recounts are required when the vote totals are less than half a percentage point apart. If five million people vote, a recount would occur if the candidates were within 25 thousand votes of each other.

 

Yourvoteflorida.com is the official state web site for answering questions about when, where and how to vote as well as dozens of other voting topics.

 

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Scott Deposition

October 24th, 2014 by Matt Galka

A battle over the Governor’s private email accounts and whether or not they were being used to conduct state business had a new twist today.  As Matt Galka tells us, the Governor skipped out on a deposition.

Attorney Steven Andrews attempted to depose the Governor Friday but all he got was an empty chair.

Andrews wanted to question the Governor under oath in relation to a lawsuit Rick Scott filed in California.  Private email accounts have allegedly been used to conduct state business, but were not available when public records requests were made.  Scott’s lawsuit is trying to block information from being released.

“I can understand his reticence to appear, but on the other hand, he is the Governor, and he did pick this fight with me,” said Andrews.

The Governor has admitted to having at least one private email, but the violation occurs if those emails aren’t being turned over.

A hearing on the case isn’t scheduled until late November, and the Governor’s people say that’s why Scott didn’t have to show up.

Andrews has been accused of having a personal vendetta against the Governor. He said he only met him once in the 80’s and he has no vendetta.

Former legislator and Scott appointee for Pasco county Tax Collector Mike Fasano called for an investigation in the email accounts at a press event in Tampa.

“He is simply not being honest and straightforward with the citizens of the state of Florida,’ said Fasano.

Instead of attending the deposition, Scott went to campaign events, and a big money fundraiser.

The Governor could be held in contempt of court for missing the deposition, but that will be up to the judge overseeing the case.  We reached out to Governor Scott’s lawyers but they have yet to return our messages.

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Not Dropping the Suit

October 23rd, 2014 by Matt Galka

The state’s biggest teacher’s union has refilled their lawsuit against the state saying that an expanded voucher program is unconstitutional. As Matt Galka tells us, a campaign asking the union to drop the suit has revved up the last couple of weeks.

The Florida Education Association hasn’t wavered on their stance against a school choice expansion bill passed earlier this year.

“We believe the Florida legislature has overstepped their bounds, stepped on the constitution, and somebody has to hold them accountable,” said FEA Vice President Joanne McCall.

The FEA filed a lawsuit over the summer challenging a bill that expanded vouchers.  Social Studies teacher Tom Fassee was named as a plaintiff. But that case was tossed because a judge said he couldn’t prove he was harmed by the legislation. The FEA has refiled the case with parents as plaintiffs.

School choice advocates are putting the pressure on using social media, and released a television ad slamming the lawsuit.

A commercial with the line “#dropthesuit” aired during the Governor’s debate.  Powerful Florida legislators and school choice supporters have been using it on twitter.

Voucher advocate Lane Wright says the FEA should let it go.

“Union bosses are clearly trying to do anything they can to dismantle this law that they just don’t like, and frankly it hurts kids,” said Wright.

McCall says the ad, which was funded by D.C. based Black Alliance for Educational Options, and the campaign only means one thing.

“If they thought that we were absolutely wrong, why would you spend all this money on a big media campaign to try and pressure the FEA to drop our suit?” she said.

The voucher program serves nearly 70,000 low income students by giving taxes to businesses who fund scholarships. The teacher’s union has another lawsuit pending against the entire voucher program, not just the way it was expanded. A hearing in that case is scheduled for early December.

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Ebola Questions Partially Answered

October 23rd, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott says state government is prepared if an Ebola patient presents them self in Florida, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the state has been short on details and reluctant to talk about the disease.

The first question in this weeks Gubernatorial debate was about Ebola preparations…a sure sign of what’s on people’s minds. “Are you completely confidential hospitals in this state can treat that patient without health care workers getting sick” asked CNN moderator Jake Tapper.

“Here’s what we’ve done so far” responded Governor Rick Scott.

But getting answers has been like pulling teeth. We first began asking about Ebola in August. What followed were several phone calls assuring us hospitals were on the lookout.

Two week ago, a multi agency press office, know as the joint information center, was established. Requests for interviews were again turned down. The office has  made sure copies of newspaper editorials praising the Governor’s Ebola efforts are sent out.

After getting no where, we headed across the Capital city with a camera in tow. As a courtesy, we gave the Governor’s Director of Communications a heads up.

We got voice mail. Frank, Mike Vasilinda. I wanted to let you know so you’re not blindsided that we are about two minutes away from walking into the EOC with a camera.”

With camera rolling we went into the building housing the Joint Information Center, After a ten minute wait, Brian Koon, the state’s Emergency manager appeared.

Someone shows up at Jackson Memorial,  what happens?”“Well, I’ll let the Department of Health work through all of the specifics on that piece of it, but there are very clear screening guidance from the CDC and the State of Florida to insure that we understand what the actual potential this person has; Ebola as you know is very difficult to get ebola.”

Emergency Director Brian Koon was courteous, answered our questions, and deferred when he didn’t have an answer. Those answers lie at the Department of Health and we still haven’t been able to talk to state health official about preparedness.

Earlier this week, the emergency mangers from most of Florida’s counties participated in a day long ebola response training. The National Guard has turned down our request to video and report on the training of two 16 member ebola response teams.

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Quinnipiac Poll Shows Governor’s Race (Roll the Drums)…..Tied!

October 22nd, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

The latest Quinnipiac poll of likely voters shows the race between Rick Scott and Charlie Crist tied at 42 percent. Independent Adrian Wyllie is at 7 percent. The poll is the first to question voters who have already case a ballot.

Rick Scott remains ahead with men, Charlie Crist with women voters. More men then women are voting for the Libertarian. Pollster Peter Brown says the race is a dead heat.

“A Republican who can break even with women will win the election. A Democrat who can break even among men will win the election.Neither one of that is going to happen in this race, and that’s why it’s so close.”

Nearly one million absentee votes have already been cast. This is the first poll to survey those who have voted. The poll was conducted before early voting began, and there is a surprise. Charlie Crist leads Rick Scott by four points among absentee ballots cast.

The lead, while still in the margin of error, is important because Republicans traditionally outpace Democrats by up to a two to one margin in mail in ballots. Pollster Brown has no explanation.

“A dead heat is a dead heat” says Brown

90 percent of Scott or Crist voters say their mind is made up. But one in four voting for Libertarian Adrian Wyllie say they may change their vote. Over three polls Wyllie’s  support has dropped from 9 to 8 to 7 percent. Pollster Brown says Wyllie voter defections could be the difference. “If it gets down to five or four percent for Mr. Wyllie, that’s going to be another point or two that someone else, either Crist of Scott’s is gonna get. And in a race this close, that could be the difference.”

One constant in the poll…neither Scott or Crist is well liked…which means voters will be choosing whom they believe to be the lesser of two evils.

The poll was conducted before a disagreement over the presence of a fan at the second debate..which has become known as Fangate. The candidates held their third debate last night.

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One Florida, Two States

October 22nd, 2014 by Matt Galka

City commissioners in South Miami want to break up the state into two separate Florida’s. As Matt Galka tells us, their proposal isn’t as crazy as it sounds because it centers around the highly debated issue of climate change.

South Miami is hot about North Florida. So much so, that they want the two Florida’s to break up.

“The real issue for separation is the absolute reality of climate change.  Global warming, rising sea levels, this is no longer political,” said South Miami Vice Mayor Walter Harris at the commission’s October 7th meeting.

Environmental concerns led to the city commission to pass a resolution in favor of a split by a vote of 3 to 2.

“We can’t wait any longer, it won’t be easy but the alternative will be even more difficult,” said Harris.

South Florida, the proposed 51st state, would consist of about 24 counties.

The South Florida counties contain a majority of the population and a majority of revenue contributors.  Susan Glickman with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says this should send a message to lawmakers who have yet to act.

“This should be a wake up call to lawmakers to say that we need to take a look at this serious issue, we need to start now because energy decisions made now are going to impact us into the future,” Glickman.

Climate solutions have been a surprising issue dogging Florida’s Governor leading up to November’s election.  Rick Scott has met with scientists after claiming he wasn’t one.  More than 90,000 signatures were delivered to his office earlier this week from parents and kids pressing for environmental answers.

“Just this year, we’ve experienced six of the seven hottest months in the history of temperature,” said Susan Mcleod, a Florida grandmother who dropped off the petitions.

The split would need statewide approval and then ultimately the approval of Congress.

The proposed boarder of North and South Florida would be Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Orange, and Brevard Counties. City officials say the idea of a split has been tossed around for 60 years.

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Not the Only Flip-Flopper

October 21st, 2014 by Matt Galka

Two weeks to go and there’s no clear cut front runner in the Florida Governor’s race. As Matt Galka tells us, one candidate could be on the verge of dipping into his own pocket for re-election.

Rick Scott was very confident two years ago when asked if he would be self funding a re election campaign.

“I won’t have to,” said the Governor in 2012.

Scott does have plenty of money rolling in. His campaign and the Republican Party have spent more than $56 million dollars on mostly negative ads. Democratic opponent Charlie Crist has spent around $26 million on the same.

But polls won’t tell you who is out front with just two weeks to go. A virtual dead heat between the two has led to speculation that Scott will be writing a check for $20 million bucks to his own campaign.  He spent more than $75 million of his own money to win in 2010.

Political Scientist Carol Weissert says all the negativity can lead to burnout, not turnout.

“We do know that’s one of the things negative ads do.  People get turned off totally,” said Weissert.

A neck and neck race probably isn’t what Scott was planning on.

“I don’t know what it will cost but we’ll have the money to win,” said Scott two years ago.

Both the Scott campaign and the Republican Party of Florida had no comment when we asked if the Governor would be self-funding. We’ll know if each candidate donated their own money when the campaign finance reports are due on October 31st, just four days before the election.

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Red Light Camera Holdup

October 20th, 2014 by Matt Galka

You may be off the hook if you’re holding a red light camera ticket. Matt Galka tells us about two cases that could be the beginning of the end for the controversial program.

A ruling out of South Florida on Red Light cameras could be a major road block for the program in the state.

An appeals court ruled that the city of Hollywood can’t allow third-party vendors who are for-profit to issue traffic citations.

American Traffic Solutions, an Arizona based company, handles the citations in Hollywood and in a majority of Florida cities. Tallahassee Traffic manager Allen Secreast says other cities now have to see how it could effect them.

“We’re at the stage now where we are evaluating the ruling in the city of Hollywood to see how it applies to us,” said Secreast.

Attorney Bill Sharpe is in the middle of a separate case involving the cameras.  His clients in Brooksville – a town of about 8,000 that collects nearly $3 million dollars in red light camera revenue – are trying to put an amendment on the ballot that would allow voters to get rid of the program.

“The money… a third of the money goes to the city, but a lot of the money goes toward the red light camera companies, that’s who’s really fighting this stuff,” said Sharpe.

The city is suing to keep the amendment off.

“There’s not any studies, conclusive studies, that red light camera companies keep the roads safe. So I don’t know why they’re so afraid of letting these people vote,” Sharpe said.

A judge will be ruling on that case by the end of the month – and the referendum could be placed on the ballot in November.

Both cases will only apply to the respective cities the ruling is issued, but the rulings give an outline for other cities to follow if and when they have to determine their own cases.

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Laughing Stock Again

October 17th, 2014 by Matt Galka

Add another national headline grabbing political mess to Florida’s list. As Matt Galka tells us, an electric fan has made great fodder for mainstream comedians.

Stuff has definitely hit the fan in Florida.

It’s the gubernatorial gaffe that has put much more attention on the Governor’s race. Governor Rick Scott didn’t show up on stage for seven minutes thanks to Democrat Charlie Crist’s fan.  Comedians were gifted new material for one of their favorite targets.

Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report and The Daily Show tore the state apart thanks to the incident. Governor Scott has been a favorite target of Jon Stewart and co. in the past.

What seems like such a petty issue overshadowed the debate and may change who’s in the Governor’s mansion come 2015.

The rules stated that no electronics, including fans were allowed for the debate. But Crist’s team handwrote on their agreement that “debate hosts will address any temperature issues if necessary.

Debate organizers say the fan violated rules. Each party gives their own version.

“Charlie Crist was allowed to bring the fan on, he was wired on the stage for a fan both at Charlie’s podium and Rick Scott’s,” said Crist’s spokesman Kevin Cate.

“Essentially, Charlie again, was pitching a fit, because he was trying to break the rules, which he did,” said Republican Party of Florida Chair Leslie Dougher.

The answers don’t exactly blow you away.

Both candidates have used the fan as a launching point for a last stretch fundraising campaign leading up to November’s election.

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#FanGate

October 16th, 2014 by Matt Galka

Florida’s 2nd Gubernatorial debate has gone viral, but not thanks any of the candidates stances on the issues. Matt Galka brings us the fallout of what can only be described as #FanGate.

They started out with sketch comedy rather than debating the economy. Rick Scott didn’t show up to the podium for seven minutes thanks to a disagreement over opponent Charlie Crist’s fan.

The delay gave Crist his own platform and caused the incident to go viral.

Political scientist Caroll Weissert said it’s one of the strangest things she’s ever seen.

“Bizarre, it was a bizarre move, yea.  I think it elevated the debate from one that maybe the citizens of Florida watched, to one that maybe people will be watching all over the country, and not in a good way,” said Weissert, a professor at Florida State.

The fan is never far from Charlie Crist because, he doesn’t like to sweat. Now it’s the G.O.P who may be sweating the situation. Insiders are trying to distance themselves from the The Republican Party of Florida says the Governor never refused to take the stage, they were told Crist was in an emergency meeting about the device.

Four years ago, a Democrat gaffe that showed Alex Sink looking at a cell phone during a debate with Scott helped propel the current Governor to a win. 20 years ago, Lawton Chiles used an odd phrase to help seal his victory over Jeb Bush.

This could be a turning point in 2014’s election, but we’ll know in less than three weeks whether that’s just hot air.

The rules did specifically state no electronics, including fans, were to be used. The temperature around debate time on stage was 66 degrees, according to the organization that put it on.

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