Friday, September 29, 2006

Foley Resigns from Congress over E-mail Sent to Teenage Boy

Congressman Mark Foley's sexual orientation has long been something everyone thought they knew - though Foley has alway refused to answer questions about his sexuality.

The questions took a whole new turn after he resigned from Congress on Friday, September 29th, effective immediately. He resigned in the wake of the publication of e-mails by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The e-mails were written to a teenage boy who had been a page or assistant in the House of Representatives.

The e-mails included a request that the boy send Foley a picture of himself. He apparently also sent the boy a text message asking "Do I make you a little horny?"

The group asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to investigate the exchange Foley had with the boy.

"The House of Representatives has an obligation to protect the teenagers who come to Congress to learn about the legislative process," the group wrote, adding that the committee, "must investigate any allegation that a page has been subjected to sexual advances by members of the House."

President Bush won Foley's seat with 55% and Foley had long been posting double digit leads of Democrat Tim Mahoney. Mahoney has been on television for months and is very well funded and now that Foley is not running, the situation has severely complicated Republican efforts to keep control of Congress.

Foley will remain on the ballot, though his votes will go to a replacement candidate chosen those members of the executive committee of the Florida Republican Party who represent those counties who are in whole or in part represented by Foley.

At present, only State Representative Joe Negron has expressed interest in being named the replacement.

Whoever is named will face serious financial hurdles. Much of the district is within the expensive Palm Beach County media market, but the candidate will also have to purchase media in a number of other counties and media markets. In truth, this means that that the National Republican Congressional Committee will have to spend a great deal of money in the district - money they would much prefer to spend in other parts of the country.

Kerry, Wasserman-Schultz Campaign for Busansky in the 9th

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Phyllis Busanky is receiving some big name help in her campaign for the open 9th Congressional District - U.S. Senator John Kerry and South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Kerry was the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 and a likely candidate for president in 2008. Wasserman-Schultz is a first term Congresswoman and holds the distinction of having been named on of the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill, as well as being a rising star in Democratic politics.

Both Kerry and Wasserman-Schultz will be attending a fundraiser at the Ybor City Coffee Bar. The event takes place on Saturday, September 30th at 10:30 am.

Cope Holds Fundraiser at the Tampa Club

Florida House Democratic Leader Chris Smith and Hillsborough County Commissioner (and soon to be Congresswoman) Kathy Castor headlined a fundraiser on Thursday, September 28 for Deborah Cope (see photo), Democratic candidate for HD 57. The event took place at the Tamp Club.

Other members of the host committee included Hillsborough County DEC Chair Janee Murphy, Frank Sanchez, Herb and Gloria Berkowitz, Matilda Garcia, Ana Cruz, and Chip Fletcher.

Cope is a an activist and businesswoman. She is also a former chair of the Tampa Group of the Sierra Club.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Good News Keeps Coming for Sink Campaign; Lee's Campaign Suffers Another Disappointment

Continuing to rack the endorsements, Democratic candidate for CFO Alex Sink recently received the endorsement of the usually Republican leaning Associated Builders & Contractors of Florida. This was something of a personal blow for her opponent, Tom Lee, who is himself a builder.

This is also the second public blow Republican Tom Lee's campaign has received recently - the first being his abysmal fundraising numbers. During the last filing period, he raised only $13,985 ($9,500 of which came from employees of a single company - the managed health care giant WellCare) or less than 10% of the $187,896 raised by his Democratic opponent.

“Alex is the more experienced candidate in the CFO race. No one can match her business experience, civic involvement, and management skills,” said the Association's Chairman, David Hamilton. “Florida is lucky to have a person of such high caliber running for office.”

The Builders have also endorsed Republicans Charlie Crist for Governor and Bill McCollum for Attorney General.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Berfield Denies Being Influenced by Insurance Industry Contributions

Rep. Kim Berfield, the GOP nominee for Senate District 16, has been forced to deny that she is "carrying water for the insurance industry," as Bill Newton, Executive Director of the Florida Consumer Action Network said. She was even named legislator of the year in 2004 by the Florida Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and the Florida Insurance Council.

Insurance interests have contributed $73,000 into her campaign, 13 percent of her total and almist 15 times as much as Rep. Charlie Justice, the Democratic nominee.

"It's not that I always agree with them," Berfield said. "I learn the issues, and I look them square in the eye and say I'm with you or I'm against you and these are the reasons why."

During a time of skyrocketing premiums, the perception that a candidate is on the side of the insurance can be political poison. In a July debate, Rep. Frank Farkas, her opponent in the GOP primary, said she could not understand the difficulty many Floridians have paying their property insurance premiums because she does not property.

On the last day of the 2006 legislative session, Berfield voted for legislation that gave insurance companies the freedom to raise premiums up to 5 percent annually without regulatory review. It also established a state-funded matching grant for homeowners who make hurricane improvements.

"The tradeoff?" said Justice, who voted against the bill. "A grant program for rate hikes without government oversight."

Berfield defends her vote, saying she opposed an effort by insurance lobbyists for to get increases of up to 25 percent.

Below are a number of pieces of legislation and how the two candidates voted:

Senate Bill 1980 in 2006
* Kim Berfield: Yes
* Charlie Justice: No
It established a state matching grant to homeowners who make hurricane improvements. It also gave all insurance companies more leeway to raise premiums by 5 percent annually without regulatory review. It gave a new rate-setting structure for the state-run insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., and created a new way to assess property insurance policyholders when Citizens runs a debt.

Senate Bill 1486 in 2005
* Kim Berfield: No
* Charlie Justice: No
The bill made some modest changes to the state property
insurance market, giving consumers some protection against being dumped by their insurance carrier after a storm and giving insurers the ability to get more money out of the hurricane catastrophe fund, particularly after multiple

House Bill 1937 in 2005
* Kim Berfield: Yes
* Charlie Justice: No
The bill placed limits on what insurance companies had to pay for buildings damaged by fire, wind, flooding and hurricanes.

Senate Bill 2488 in 2004
* Kim Berfield: Yes
* Charlie Justice: Yes
The bill expanded the capacity of the state-sponsored reinsurance fund, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. It lowered the amount of storm-related claims insurance carriers would have to pay before the fund is used and raised the maximum post-hurricane assessment on Florida policyholders.

Senate Bill 50A in 2003
* Kim Berfield: Yes
* Charlie Justice: No
The bill, considered flawed even among supporters, was the most comprehensive change to the state's workers' compensation law in nearly a decade. It made it more difficult for injured workers to collect permanent total disability payments. It also limited the amount of money attorneys for the injured could receive. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation recently said the bill resulted in a 39 percent
statewide average rate decrease.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sink Issues Plan to Address Property Insurance Crisis

The Democratic candidate for CFO, Alex Sink, released a 5 point plan to address Florida's worsening property insurance crisis:

(1) A Strong Insurance Consumer Advocate
As Chief Financial Officer, I will be a strong insurance xonsumer advocate that stands up for families and
businesses who buy property insurance in Florida. As your insurance consumer advocate, I’ll fight to control the exploding cost of property insurance. If insurance companies are refusing to pay legitimate claims, I’ll make them pay. And I’ll take steps toward making sure that Florida’s consumers have insurance policies that describe in plain language exactly what is – and what is not – covered.
(2) An Innovative Regional Solution
The problem of violent weather is a national problem, and we need a national catastrophic fund to spread the risk. But Congress can’t get its act together even after a major disaster like Hurricane Katrina. I am not going to wait for Congress any longer. As Chief Financial Officer, I will call all of my
counterparts in coastal states from Texas to Maine and work with them to discuss the creation a regional catastrophic fund that helps spread the risk of tropical weather.
(3) A Stronger Florida Catastrophe Fund
We need to expand and strengthen the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. A stronger “CAT Fund” will establish a more predictable property insurance market and attract more
private competition for our insurance business. One of the reasons for high insurance rates is the cost of “reinsurance”­– backup insurance that insurance companies buy to cover payment of claims. Through the CAT Fund, the state is able to leverage cheaper reinsurance rates for private insurance companies. There are several proposals to expand the state’s
involvement in providing reinsurance, and reducing the cost of re-insurance will help to lower rates.
(4) Fighting Insurance Fraud
As Chief Financial Officer, I will be the state’s top prosecutor of insurance fraud. According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, insurance fraud costs each Florida family an additional $1,500 per year in increased premiums. In fact, according to
the National Insurance Crime Bureau, fraud can inflate premiums by as much as 30 percent. As Chief Financial Officer, I will increase the number of fraud investigators and otherwise strengthen anti-fraud efforts so that we have the resources to crack down on the fraud that raises our insurance rates.
(5) Better Hurricane Mitigation
When homeowners take steps to strengthen their homes, those efforts should result in discounts on their property insurance. As Chief Financial Officer, I’ll also fight to unify building
codes around the state and increase other mitigation efforts so that citizens from Pensacola to Fernandina Beach to Key West are ready for storms before they arrive.

Former Virginia Governor to Raise Money for Hillsborough DEC

Mark Warner (see picture), who served as Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2002-2006 (Virginia governors are only allowed to serve one term), is scheduled speak at a fundraiser for the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee on October 4th.

Warner is considered a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Sink, Lee Unveil Dueling Public Safety Endorsements

On September 20th, Democrat Alex Sink announced her endorsement by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in her campaign CFO.

In the duel of public safety endorsements, her opponent, Senate President Tom Lee revealed his endorsement by the Florida Professional Firefighters on the same day.

Sink ends with a slight advantage. There are 22,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police in Florida - 1,000 more than the membership of the Florida Professional Firefighters.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

First Post-Primary Filing Period Ends

The most recent campaign finance period ended on Friday, September 15th. The filing will cover the time between September 1st and 15th and is the first filing to cover contributions received after the September 5th primary. Reports are not due until September 22nd. To examine contributions, visit the Florida Division of Elections website.

One of the races worth following in the area is the race for HD 52. Incumbent Frank Farkas lost his primary for SD 16. Two years ago, he struggled against Democrat Liz McCallum to hold onto a seat that is relatively evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

The Republican nominee is Angelo Cappelli and the Democrat is former USF St. Petersburg CEO, Bill Heller. Heller joined the race late, defeating 2004 the nominee in the primary. Even though Cappelli was the leading fundraiser in the district of any party, Heller set a record for the state for the most raised by a House candidate in a single quarter - and he did over a single month, having only entered the race for the last month of the filing period beginning April 1st and ending June 30th.

Now that the primary is over, what will their fundraising look like? Will they be able to maintain the same pace and exhibit the same level of success?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bilirakis Hires Swiftboat Media Team

State Representative Gus Bilirakis has hired the media firm of Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm to help his campaign the 9th Congressional District. They are best known for producing the "Swiftboat" ads used by third party groups to attack Senator John Kerry's military service in Vietnam in 2004 (see Daryl Cagle cartoon). They also produced the more recent ad used by Senator Sherrod Brown. The ad was criticized for doctoring photos of the 9-11 attacks.

While only a small sample of their work, these ads have caused the firm to develop a reputation for both negative ads and questionable factual content.

The campaign of Bilirakis' opponent, former Hillsborough County Comissioner Phyllis Busansky is warning supporters to expect negative attacks. The GOP leadership in Washington, DC has already indicated that they intend to spend most off the campaign warchest on attack ads this cycle and this race is likely to be no exception.

Gus Bilirakis is the son of retiring incumbent congressman, Mike Bilirakis.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Jeb Forms 527 - Preparing for Future Run for National Office?

Gov. Jeb Bush formed his Foundation for Florida's Future some time ago and was busy raising money, hiring political operatives, and spending a great deal of money on media and polling. He has now formed a more overtly political arm - the Foundation for Florida's Future Action Fund. The new organization has already received $100,000 from developer Gary Morse.

If Bush is seriously considering accepting a potential offer to be a vice-presidential candidate in 2008, then forming a 527 organization sends a very clear signal that he is still politically ambitious - and available. However, he also maintains the sort of plausible deniability he would not have if he were to form a PAC or exploratory committee.

Cope Kicks Off General Election Campaign

Community activist and Democratic nominee for HD 57 Deborah Cope (see photo) is kicking off the general election campaign with a renewed push for contributions. Reminding supporters that "with the primary election behind us, the $500 contribution limit resets to zero," Cope is holding a fundraiser on September 28th at 5:30 at the Tampa Club on 101 East Kennedy Blvd.

Cope was the 2004 HD 57 nominee and is a former chair of the Tampa Bay Group of the Sierra Club. She faces Republican incumbent Faye Culp.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sink Uses "Viral Marketing" to Generate Buzz for Her Campaign

In the most recent e-mail message sent out by Alex Sink, Democratic candidate for CFO, she asks supporters to help spread the word. To do so, she included a logo and some relatively brief text. The message ask supporters to cut and past the logo and language and send it out to their family, friends and co-workers and spread the word about Sink. The message in the text is solid and non-partisan, emphasizing her impressive business credentials and obliquely touching on the recent uproar over homeowner's insurance by mentioning "problems with insurance claims." This kind of campaigning can be described as a kind of low key viral marketing, in that it depends on word mouth that uses tools at least partly provided by the campaign to spread the message.

Term limited State Senator Tom Lee won his primary to earn a general election match up with Sink.

See the complete text below.

Calling All Floridians,

This year we have a great opportunity to elect an extremely well
qualified candidate to the office of Chief Financial Officer.

Incredible as it may sound, Alex is the only candidate for Chief Financial Officer who has any financial experience, and hers is exceptional. During her 25 years of experience in the private sector, Alex earned a solid reputation for credibility, integrity and fair dealing. While President of Florida’s largest bank, she managed more than $41 billion in customer deposits while
supervising more than 9,000 employees in 800 branches. Alex has the financial leadership and experience necessary to manage Florida’s $71 billion budget and to hold both government and politicians accountable.

The CFO is regarded as one of the most powerful positions in Florida, second only to the Governor. In addition to Alex’s commitment to be an aggressive watchdog protecting our tax dollars, the CFO is statutorily positioned to be the consumer’s advocate for insurance. If you have recently experienced problems with insurance claims, you will readily understand
how important this advocacy can be. Unencumbered by politics‑as‑usual, Alex will be our champion in Tallahassee.

We want to send a strong message on November 7th about electing the most qualified candidate to protect our interests. Here are a few ways YOU can make an immediate impact:

1. Most importantly, forward this email to
everyone you know! We want to spread the word like wildfire.
2. Visit Alex’s website (
) !!! Find out about the position of CFO and her qualifications.
While there, sign up for Alex eMail to keep in touch with the latest campaign info.
3. Donate on Alex’s secure website.
Simply put, Alex is the most qualified candidate, but this race will be won on visibility. With your support Alex will be able to buy sufficient media time to get her name and qualifications in front of the electorate and will win decisively. And remember, personal contributions by Florida residents may be matched up to $250 by the state.

Alex wants to be our watchdog in Tallahassee to keep Florida government accountable.

Let’s unite behind Alex Sink to make a difference on November 7th!!!

Political advertisement paid for and approved by Alex Sink, Democrat, for Chief Financial Officer.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Justice Prepares for General Election Fight

Rep. Charlie Justice (see photo), the Democratic candidate for Senate District 16, recently opened a new campaign headquarters in St. Petersburg at 6405 MLK (9th St N). He will also be hosting a mass canvass on September 16th.

He will face Rep. Kim Berfield, who defeated Rep. Frank Farkas in the Republican primary. Even in a low turnout race, her 58.8% to 41.2% victory (16,061 to 11,237) can be consdered relatively decisive.

This race for the open seat (incumbent Republican Jim Sebesta is retiring) is considered one of the most, if not the most competitive legislative seat in the state.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Some Thoughts on the September 5th Primary

- Senator Rod Smith almost pulled it off. After spending most of the campaign with a double digit lead, he lost by only 6.4%. This number is not out of line with the last polling done (a poll taken in the second week of August showed Congressman Jim Davis with a 4 point lead) but what is most interesting is that the undecideds (who outnumbered supporters of either Smith or Davis throughout the campaign) did not break for either candidate, appearing to go right down the middle. In the end, this race probably came down to Davis' Tampa base being larger and stronger than Smith's base in Gainesville.

- Senate President Tom Lee won convincingly. He defeated Rep. Randy Johnson by over 20 points - 57.2% to 36.5%. I had thought that Johnson's busy campaign schedule and the fact that neither candidate could afford to truly compete on the air (they did run commercials, but to effectively get through to voters in Florida's expensive media markets can cost millions of dollars) would leave the race tighter. Unofficial numbers showed the turnout to be only 16% of eligible voters. While the average voter probably has no idea who the Senate President is, in a low turnout race, Lee would have been facing voters more likely to know about his leadership position.

- Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor overwhelms the competition. There has not been any real doubt about the outcome of the Democratic primary for the 11th Congressional District for some time, but Castor's campaign has to be congratulated for the carrying her over the all important 50% mark - to 53.9%.

- Congresswoman Katherine Harris held under 50%. Does this mean that if instead of three candidate jumping in late in the game, only one had joined the race, the "anybody but Harris" vote could have won? The staff at the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Florida Republican Party will be spending a lot of late hours at the bars in Washington and Tallahassee asking each other this question. Senator Bill Nelson's campaign staff are already setting their alarms for noon on November 7th and preparing for a leisurely Election Day walk.

- Bill Heller narrowly defeated 2004 candidate Liz McCallum in the Democratic primary for HD 52. McCallum was an energetic candidate and ran a suprisingly strong race against Rep. Farkas in 2004, but Democratic primary voters appear to have believed that Heller's deep ties in the community through his time as CEO at the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus and his strong fundraising (he raised more in his first month that McCallum was able to raise in the previous 18 months) made him the stronger the general election. Because the 52nd is a very winnable seat for a Democrat, the question of electability was probably the winning factor for Heller. Incumbent Frank Farkas was defeated by Rep. Kim Berfield in the Republican primary for SD 16. She will face popular Rep. Charlie Justice in the general election.

All numbers courtesy of the Florida Division of Elections.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Statewide Results

Florida Division of Elections

Precincts Reporting

Pinellas precincts reporting

Hillsborough precincts reporting

September 5 Primary Results

The polls close today at 7:00 pm. Numbers should start coming in around 8:oo pm.

These are the races we expect to be closest, or at least the most interesting:

Governor Democratic primary (Davis-Smith)
CFO Republican primary (Johnson-Lee)
SD 16 Republican primary (Farkas-Berfield)
HD 52 Democratic primary (Heller-McCallum)

Pinellas County results

Hillsborough County results

Sunday, September 03, 2006

SD 16 GOP Primary Goes the Wire

Representatives Frank Farkas and Kim Berfield, their supporters, and their allies (in the case of the Berfield) are working hard to win the right to face Rep. Charlie Justice in the general election.

Berfield is considered to be the frontrunner. She has raised more money and is also benefitting by indepedent expenditures, some touting some questionable credentials - including "supporting" a measure to spend more money in the classroom that she actually voted against. Perhaps more importantly, she has benefitted by allegations against her opponent of ethical improprieties involving a junket paid for by gambling lobbyists.

The Florida Democratic Party, which has targeted the district as the best chance this year to pick up a state senate seat, is running ads against Berfield. The Florida Republican Party is claiming that this means they would rather face Farkas in a general election, but might just as easily reflect the reality that Berfield is the likely winner of the GOP contest.