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OBAMA TO ORLANDO THIS WEEK
President Barack Obama is heading to Orlando on Thursday as part of a campaign swing through three battleground states. The president’s re-election campaign said Obama will “lay out his vision to rebuild the economy from the middle out, cut taxes for middle-class families and reduce the country’s deficit.” Obama will also stop in two Ohio cities on Wednesday and in Virginia on Thursday. Obama had been scheduled to make a Central Florida stop last week before the movie-theater massacre in Colorado.
WILL OBAMA WIN FLA. AGAIN? KEEP AN EYE ON DUVAL COUNTY by Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times
One of Florida’s top battlegrounds, this longtime Republican stronghold is also one of the most confounding and unpredictable electorates you’ll find.
Few people expect President Obama to match his performance from four years ago, however.
“His supporters are not going to be as fired up this time,” predicted lawyer Kenneth Boston, inhaling a stogie while sporting a bow tie and a glistening Obama watch at a Jacksonville Beach watering hole. “It’s impossible to match the excitement of last time. It was a first then, it was historic.”
The question is not whether Obama can win Duval, but rather how close he can keep it. If the campaign can’t keep Duval closer than 7 or 8 percentage points from Republican Mitt Romney, it becomes harder to make up those votes elsewhere in the state.
IS MITT ROMNEY A WIMP?
A Newsweek cover story says Mitt Romney’s trip to London — where he “managed to alienate just about every living Briton” — suggests he might just be too insecure to be president.
“The episode highlights what’s really wrong with Romney. He’s kind of lame, and he’s really … annoying. He keeps saying these … things, these incredibly off-key things. Then he apologizes immediately — with all the sincerity of a hostage. Or maybe he doesn’t: sometimes he whines about the subsequent attacks on him. But the one thing he never does? Man up, double down, take his lumps.”
MCCAIN, GRAHAM, AYOTTE TALK DEFENSE CUTS IN TAMPA TODAY
U.S. Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte will attend a town hall to discuss the possible impact of defense cuts in the Tampa Bay area, home to MacDill Air Force Base.
PAM BONDI AS VP? SPECULATION RISING, BUT EXPERTS SAY NO
Bondi’s is the latest name to emerge from the pool of rumored contenders for the Republican vice presidential slot, but experts consider her a long shot. The Business Insider website said that the Romney campaign said Bondi make three stops in New Hampshire, including a Women for Mitt Kickoff Breakfast in Concord, and campaign office openings in Bedford and Stratham.
The story then speculates why Bondi would be a good running mate, including her gender, her coming from a battleground state and her strong opposition to the president’s health care law. In addition, Politico.com recently placed Bondi on the top of a list of state officials to watch.
Experts said Bondi would likely not be Rommey’s pick, but her trip is a sign she could play a large role in the campaign and the RNC in Tampa.
TWEET OF THE WEEKEND: @MarcoRubio: Not one, but two planes I was on today had malfunctions.Second one forced to make emergency landing in New Mexico.I know how to take a hint!
THE GOP’S RICK SCOTT PROBLEM by Michael Bender for Bloomberg Businessweek
Brian Burgess, a spokesman for Rick Scott, says, “Reasonable people can debate governing style all they want, but when it comes to substance, Governor Scott is turning the state around.” That’s not swaying organizers of the GOP convention in Tampa. So far they’ve refused to give Scott the prime-time speaking role he wants. “One thing he’ll definitely be part of is the welcoming event,” says Al Austin, chairman of the convention’s host committee, which is raising money to help fund the event. “He’ll certainly have an opportunity to make an appearance there.”
STRIP CLUBS READY TO CASH IN ON RNC IN TAMPA
The New York Times reports Tampa’s “well-known strip clubs have joined the welcome wagon” for the Republican national convention.
“Angelina Spencer, the executive director of the Association of Club Executives, which serves as a trade association for strip clubs, said an informal survey of convention business in New York and Denver had determined that Republicans dropped more money at clubs, by far. … Hands down, it was Republicans. The average was $150 for Republicans and $50 for Democrats.”
EARLY VOTING BEGINS IN FIVE COUNTIES
Early voting begins today for the Aug. 14 primary in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe. Those five counties are “pre-clearance counties,” and changes in elections laws in those areas must be approved by the federal government. A change in early voting dates made by the Legislature in 2011 isn’t in effect in those counties, giving voters there more time for early voting.
STATE REVENUE $407 MILLION OVER ESTIMATE FOR YEAR by the Associated Press
A new report shows Florida’s tax and other state revenue collections came in $407.1 million over estimate during the last budget year ending June 30. But legislative economist Amy Baker said Friday that news isn’t as good as it may appear.
Baker, who is coordinator of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, said the state collected about $70 million in corporate taxes in June although they were not due until July due to a calendar quirk.
One-time payments also contributed to the over-estimate collections. That includes $300 million Florida received as part of a $25 billion national settlement with major mortgage companies over allegations they used deceptive foreclosure practices.
The brightest news is that sales tax collections came in $152.3 million over estimate.
ECONOMISTS WILL DECIPHER HEALTH LAW COSTS
State economists will meet Aug. 14 to revise estimates of how the federal Affordable Care Act would affect Florida’s budget, including costs related to a potential expansion of Medicaid eligibility, reports the News Service of Florida. Gov. Rick Scott has already said the state will not move forward with the optional expansion, which he argues would be too expensive. The economists also will look at issues such as part of the law that calls for increasing the pay of primary-care physicians who treat Medicaid patients. The pay hikes are separate from the Medicaid eligibility expansion, though Eric Pridgeon, a top House staffer on health-budget issues, said Friday state officials are still seeking clarification on the issue and that a “consensus” has not been reached that Florida must go along with increasing physician reimbursements. The federal government would initially pay for the reimbursement increases. Jane Johnson, a Scott health adviser, said another issue has been raised about requirements in the federal law that employers provide health insurance to their employees. Johnson said that could increase costs for nursing homes and other types of health providers that serve Medicaid beneficiaries. Those costs ultimately could be passed through to the Medicaid program.
INVESTORS CAN’T WAIT TO GAMBLE ON FLORIDA by Howard Stutz of the Las Vegas Review-Journal
Florida’s gambling proponents are not going to be deterred by a temporary slowdown and continue to push casino expansion in the southern part of the state, a market some analysts predict could exceed the Strip’s annual $6 billion in gaming revenues.
… Gaming supporters quickly began to regroup in early February, after skittish Florida lawmakers canceled a planned vote on a bill that could have placed three casinos in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.
… Recent signals, however, point to renewed interest in South Florida, a gaming jurisdiction that could easily jump to the forefront in casino development, far ahead of Ohio, Maryland and Massachusetts.
INTEGRITY FLORIDA PRESS CONFERENCE ON LAWMAKERS AS LOBBYISTS
Integrity Florida holds a press conference today to release a new report, “Corruption Risk Report: Financial Disclosure.” The report will cover state officials’ personal disclosure forms, including those of lawmakers who work for lobbying firms.
FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER RAY SANSOM WANTS STATE TO PAY HIS LEGAL FEES
Former House Speaker Ray Sansom is suing the state, saying he should be reimbursed for the costs of defending himself against corruption charges that were eventually dropped, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.
Sansom is asking for $817,518.73, plus interest, for his defense in the case that ultimately drove him from office. Sansom faced charges including grand theft and conspiracy in the case, which stemmed from a 2007 appropriation that was supposed to be for an emergency operations center in Sansom’s district.
FLORIDA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION INSTALLS DR. VINCENT GENNARO AS NEW PRESIDENT
The Florida Medical Association installed Miami VA Healthcare System Chief of Staff Vincent A. DeGennaro, M.D., as its 136th President this past weekend during the 2012 FMA Annual Meeting in Boca Raton.
“Dr. DeGennaro is an inspiration to our members, and he is committed to the FMA’s mission of helping physicians practice medicine,” said FMA Executive Vice President Timothy J. Stapleton. “We look forward to his able leadership as we navigate the major challenges that lie ahead for medicine.”
SPOTTED at the FMA’s annual meeting were heavy-hitters CFO Jeff Atwater, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan and congressional candidate Adam Hasner.
PERSONNEL NOTE: FICPA NAMES RIVERS BUFORD ITS DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
Rivers Buford III has been hired by the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountantsas its director of governmental affairs, according to a release from the FICPA. Buford has almost 20 years of legislative and regulatory experience in a variety of positions including policy adviser for the Florida Senate, Senate staff director, legislative affairs director for the Department of Stateunder eight Secretaries of State, and legislative affairs director for the Florida Trucking Association.
NEW SPOX AT DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Reena Bhardwaja, formerly a senior executive producer for WSB-TV in Atlanta, is the new press secretary at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, where she replaces Jennifer Diaz who is moving on to become external communications manager for the Florida Park Service.
>>>Tampa Tribune endorsed Connie Mack for U.S. Senate.
>>>The Orlando Sentinel endorsed John Mica over Sandy Adams in CD 7.
>>>The Sun-Sentinel, the most widely-read daily paper in CD 22, endorsed Lois Frankel over Kristin Jacobs, in the Democratic primary for Congress.
COMMITTEE LINKED TO RICK SCOTT HAS RAISED $3.9 MILLION
The Let’s Get To Work political committee, which is closely tied to Gov. Rick Scott, raised $175,100 between July 7 and July 20, with $150,000 of that total coming from a Realtors group, new elections records show reports the News Service of Florida. Let’s Get To Work has now raised more than $3.9 million this year, though Scott does not face a re-election campaign until 2014. The $150,000 came July 11 from a Florida Realtors advocacy fund, according to records posted on the state Division of Elections website.
SUPREME COURT JUSTICES HAVE EACH NOW RAISED $300K
Florida Supreme Court Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince aren’t typical politicians, but that hasn’t stopped them from raising money hand-over-fist for their merit retention campaigns. Lewis, Pariente and Quince have each raised over $300,000 since they first opened their merit retention accounts in January, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Division of Elections on Friday.
These latest reports show that Lewis raised $14,365 between July 7 and July 20, while Quince raised $10,835 and Pariente brought in $9,550. Not surprisingly, most of the money was raised from lawyers and law firms.
DISNEY MONEY BUYS ADS IN BURGIN VS LEE FIGHT by David Damron of the Orlando Sentinel
Money from Walt Disney World appears to be bankrolling TV ads for state Rep. Rachel Burgin in her bitter primary fight with past Senate President Tom Lee for a Tampa-area Senate seat, records show.
According to the new election filings, Disney wrote a $30,000 check on July 12 to Floridians for Strong Leadership, a fundraising committee controlled by state Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican.
A day later, Flores’ committee cut a $30,000 check to another organization called Accountable Florida. One week after that, Accountable Florida paid $17,633 to Orlando-based Sloane MacKenzie Public Affairs LLC to create and secure air time for a TV ad touting Burgin.
“It was an ad that highlighted Rachel’s conservative actions in the House,” said Timothy Buckley, who owns Sloane MacKenzie. The spot is airing on Tampa cable stations.
Records show Accountable Florida was created less than a month ago, and the $30,000 it got from Flores’ committee is the only contribution it received through July 20. The Sloane MacKenzie ad buy was one of only two expenditures it lists, the other being a $25 wire-transfer fee.
STAT OF THE DAY: A mind-boggling stat courtesy of James Call of the Florida Current — Political spending by committees continues to dwarf spending by candidates, according to campaign finance reports released Friday. Since July 6, candidates have spent $2,463,182.15 while committees governed by less strict disclosure laws have spent $8,067,231.93
COMMITTEE LINKED TO ATTACK ON TOM LEE ACKNOWLEDGES “MISTAKES”
As first reported in Sunburn, a Republican activist in Tampa filed an elections complaint against Tallahassee lobbyists Jack and Keyna Cory related to a recent mailer attacking state Senate candidate Tom Lee.
According to the News Service of Florida, the Cory’s lawyer acknowledges the pair “made mistakes,” in the way the mailer was created and put out. The complaint alleges that the lobbyists failed to create a website with proper disclosure information, including who they were and listing expenditure and contribution records, and that as a committee of continuing existence, the group wasn’t allowed to send out “electioneering communications anyway.”
Mark Herron, a lawyer for the Corys acknowledged Friday that they violated the letter of the election law, agreeing for one that CCEs aren’t allowed to publish such messages – and that’s what they did. “They quickly recognized they had made some mistakes with respect to the mail piece,” Herron said, adding they would take corrective actions with any future election efforts.
STATEWIDE INTEREST GROUPS INFLUENCING EVEN LOCAL ELECTIONS
Over the last three months, the Miami-Dade Optometric Physicians and more than a dozen other eye doctor groups, lobbyists and political action committees they back have contributed thousands of dollars to state Sen. Mike Bennett’s campaign for the Manatee elections supervisor post, reports Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
… The relationship between Bennett and the optometrists shows how special interest groups in Tallahassee have been able to curry favor with lawmakers to drive legislation and, increasingly, influence local elections — despite ethics rules designed to limit their power.
JEB BUSH ENDORSES MARCO PENA IN HD 49
“I am proud to endorse Marco Peña. Since serving as Student Body President at the University of Central Florida, Marco has been an involved member of his community,” Bush says in the endorsement release. ”Marco has the courage, experience and determination to confront the tough issues facing our state. His conservative leadership will well serve the people of Florida.”
TOM GUSTAFSON MAKING NEW BID FOR HOUSE
Former House Speaker Tom Gustafson is set to run again for the House against Republican Rep. Bill Hager. Palm Beach Democratic Party Chairman Mark Alan Siegel said Gustafson was likely to replace Pamela Goodman, who dropped out of the race on Wednesday. “It’s looking as if it’s going in that direction. … He has such an outstanding record as speaker that we would be honored to have him as our candidate,” Siegel said. Other candidates who might have considered the race are deferring to Gustafson, Siegel said. Goodman stepped out of the raise because of “personal family health reasons with my husband,” according to The Palm Beach Post.
RUBIO HELPING OUT LOPEZ-CANTERA
Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera will get some help tonight from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio at a fundraiser in Coral Gables for Lopez-Cantera’s bid for Miami-Dade County property appraiser.
The News-Press on CD 19: The winner will not get a majority of the vote. In fact, some candidates and political experts say the winning total could be as low as 25 to 30 percent. “That’s the nature of one-party politics,” said Peter Bergerson, political science professor at FGCU.
Tampa Tribune on SD 17: As incumbent Sen. Jim Norman leaves office under an ethics cloud, top legislative leaders in Tallahassee have settled on a candidate they want to replace him.
Tampa Tribune on SD 20: The race to replace Ronda Storms in the state Senate is turning out to be just as interesting — and polarizing — as Storms herself.
Sunshine State News on HD 20: Two Democrats are battling in the August primary for an open seat in the Florida House of Representatives representing parts of Alachua and Marion counties and the winner should be headed to Tallahassee since whoever emerges will face a write-in candidate.
The Political Hurricane on HD 20: First time candidate Marihelen Wheeler is a newcomer to electoral politics but not to the most important issues Florida faces on a daily basis.
Sunshine State News on HD 27: With Rep. Dorothy Hukill facing term limits and running for a seat in the Florida Senate, an interesting battle is developing to see who will represent the southern part of Volusia County in the Florida House of Representatives.
BEST FIRST LINE TO BEGIN A POLITICAL STORY: “Most of us can probably agree that it’s a bad idea to email or text photos of yourself mostly undressed.” — Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times (h/t to Michael Kruse).
CHECK OUT: Fab has some great political posters designed to look like vintage prints from the mid-1900s. My favorites are Attack of the Conservatives and Attack of the Liberals but they also have Vote Democrat, Vote Republican, Mitt Happens and No Bama.
OLYMPIC UPDATE: @FLGovScott: Congrats to Floridian @ryanlochte on winning the first gold medal for Team USA! #sayfie
OLYMPIC UPDATE – PART 2: The Team USA men’s basketball team had no problem with France today in their opening match of the Olympics, cruising to a 98-71 win. But the most eyebrow-raising highlight of the match may have come after the game when each member of the team, including coaches, walked over and gave Michelle Obama a hug.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the indomitable Buzz Jacobs.