Thursday, April 27, 2006

Strategic Vision Poll Gives Republicans the Edge in Governor's Race

The latest Strategic Vision poll gives the Republicans the edge in the Florida governor's race. In a head to head match up, Attorney General Crist has a seven point lead on Congressman Jim Davis - just outside the margin of error. CFO Gallagher's holds a four point lead on Davis - which is within the margin of error. Both Republican candidates hold larger leads in this poll against Senator Rod Smith.

A Quinnipiac poll recently found the two parties to be in a statistical dead heat in the governor's race.

At the Congressional level, a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll follows recent form by showing President Bush's approval rating at a new low - 36%. The Strategic Vision poll found Florida voters to hold the President at the same low numbers. More worryingly for Republican - particularly Republican running for Congress or the U.S. Senate - the WSJ/NBC poll found that voters believed national issues, where the GOP is weakest at present, to be more important than local issues.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tampa Senator Files Lawsuit to Require Release of Names, Qualifications of Temporary FCAT Graders

Senators Les Miller (D-Tampa) and Skip Campbell (D-Fort Lauderdale) have filed a lawsuit to force Education Commissioner John Winn to release information about the individuals grading the FCAT. The Senators first spoke openly about this possibility last week.

The Senators first asked Commissioner Winn for the names and qualifications of the graders on March 14.

"They're thumbing their nose at us. They told us they don't care. But we represent 800,000 people in our Senate districts and that includes a lot of students," said Miller. "We're talking about a test that determines the career of a student."

"If the agency can make public claims that everyone has a degree and more than half have educational backgrounds, it ought to be able to back up those assertions," added Campbell.

The Department of Education claimed that more than half of the graders were teachers or had teaching experience, but then indicated that they did not have a list of the graders or their experience or qualifications.

"They told us that 50 percent of the people who graded the tests were retired teachers or had educated degrees, and now they don't know," Miller said.

The lawsuit asks for the names and qualifications of all temporary graders.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Quinnipiac Poll Results - What Do They Mean?

Neither Democratic candidate for Governor, Rep. Jim Davis nor Sen. Rod Smith, have the kind of statewide name recognition enjoyed by both Attorney General Charlie and CFO Gallagher, but the most recent numbers have the Democrats in a statistical dead heat with the Republicans, with approximately 1/4 of voters undecided. So what is happening?

What is being depicted in this poll is not so much support for either Davis or Smith - who one would expect to be blown out of the water by the GOP candidates in a state where the Republican Party controls all branches of government, especially when the GOP has been extremely effective at monopolizing so many sources of camapign contributions. What is being depicted is the Florida version of the national mood. Voters are expressing extreme ambivalence toward the Republican Party and their candidates.

"It may be that the slight up tick for Davis and Smith reflects the general national negative tone for Republicans," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

On the other hand, the Washington Post's political blog, The Fix, has taken Florida off its list of governorships most likely to change hands, primarily because of the fundraising gap between the two parties.

Davis and Crist (see photo) remain the frontrunners for the nomination in their respective parties.

Quinnipiac University Poll - Florida Governor's Race Tied

  • Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Davis with 39 percent v. Republican State Attorney General Charlie Crist with 37 percent;
  • Davis and Republican State Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher tied at 38 percent each;
  • Crist at 39 percent v. Democratic State Sen. Rod Smith with 37 percent;
  • Gallagher ahead of Smith 41 - 35 percent.
Click here for the complete results.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Senators Sebesta, Jones Stop NRA Bill

Tampa Bay Area Senators Jim Sebesta (R-St. Petersburg) and Dennis Jones (R-Treasure Island) are holding up a bill, supported by the NRA, to require all outlets that sell hunting and fishing licenses to also offer voter registration cards.

Sebesta considered the legislation unnecessary and Jones expressed concern about "some of these rural county gas stations that sell bait getting involved in voter registration."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Diebold Reverses Decision Not to Sell Voting Machines to Leon County

Voting machine manufacturer Diebold reversed an earlier decision not to sell its products to Leon County, Florida after Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho (see photo) and others ran tests which found the Diebold machines to be vulnerable to tampering.

Diebold and the county are in talks over the purchasing of voting machines for the upcoming 2006 elections.

Former Alaska Senator First Official Candidate for President (see press release below)

To: Assignment Desk, Daybook Editor

Contact: Elliott Jacobson, 202-558-6394, 202-460-8340 (cell)

News Advisory:

WHO: Mike Gravel for President 2008

WHAT: Press Conference where former United States Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska, 1969-1980) will announce his Candidacy for the Democratic Nomination for President of the United States.

WHEN: Monday, April 17, 10 a.m.

WHERE: The National Press Club, Zenger Room, 13th Floor, 529 14th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20045, 202-662-7500, 202-662-7512 - Fax

Paid for by Mike Gravel for President 2008

Tampa Senator Wants to Know 'Who Is Grading the FCAT'

Senator Les Miller (D-Tampa, see photo), along with Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell (D-Tamarac), have been denied information about who is grading the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). As a result, they are considering a lawsuit to open the process up public scrutiny.

According to CTB/McGraw-Hill, the company which grades the test, graders must have a bachelor's degree in a field related to the essay subjects students write about. They are paid only $10/hour for their services.

According to one report, they contracted out to the temp agency, Kelly Services, to hire several hundred workers.

CTB/McGraw-Hill maintains that the information that Senators Miller and Campbell want is a "trade secret" and exempt from Florida's sunshine laws.

Sen. Miller is a candidate for the 11th Congressional District, which is currently held by Rep. Jim Davis. Davis, a Democratic candidate for governor, is not running for re-election.

Sen. Campbell is a Democratic candidate for Attorney General.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nothing Left to Say About Harris

Despite efforts to remain dispassionate (not always successly - particularly when our legislators try to do an end run around the public), I feel the need to speak openly here:

Katherine Harris is insane.

Once a campaign reaches this level of ineptitude, it is best to let it die quietly.

For that reason, there will be no more posts from the Campaign Manager about our erstwhile Senate candidate - not until her campaign shows itself to be anything other than the butt of every joke from Jacksonville to Naples.

Internal Poll Shows Charlie Justice Leading Race for Senate District 16

Internal poll results released by Rep. Charlie Justice's campaign for State Senate District 16 (an open seat, being vacated by Sen. Jim Sebesta) suggest that he leads both Republican candidates - Rep. Kim Berfield and Rep. Frank Farkas.

Polls released by campaigns should be viewed skeptically, but what the poll suggests is not a surprise to St. Petersburg political watchers - Justice is known for being a personable and hard working candidate who knocks on a lot of doors. Farkas is better known for his ethical mishaps than his statesmanship and Berfield is simply not known at all.

The poll, however, does not address one matter - and that is Justice's lackluster fundraising. Both Farkas and Berfield have raised over $300k and Justice has raised only $53k. While he will not have to face anything like what is certain to be a bloody and expensive primary between Berfield and Farkas, Democrats cannot be happy with his numbers.

Click here for a copy of the press release.

Contact: Mitch Kates
Thursday, April 06, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG – State Representative Charlie Justice (D-St. Petersburg) continues to lead both Republican candidates in the race for Florida Senate District 16, according to a recent poll. Among likely voters, Charlie Justice holds a commanding 17-point lead over the expected Republican nominee, State Representative Frank Farkas (R-St. Petersburg), and Justice soundly defeats State Representative Kim Berfield (R-Clearwater), who is also running for the seat, by 12-points. In the Republican primary, the poll shows Representative Farkas with a 10-point lead over Representative Berfield.

"I am encouraged by these numbers,” stated Representative Justice. “Our volunteers are working hard, and we are talking directly with a lot of voters. This poll shows that they are responding to our conversations. We believe this election offers a clear choice on critical issues, and the voters of District 16 are agreeing with us," declared Representative Justice.

With the race for Senate District 16 being a top priority for the Democratic Party, the polling results were well received by the Party. “We know that Senate District 16 is a swing seat where Democrats can win. Combined with the fact that Charlie Justice is a great candidate in touch the values of his community, we feel very positive going into this election,” proclaimed John Reid, Senate Political Director for the Florida Democratic Party. “This polling data proves that our optimism is justified.”

The race for Senate District 16 presents a unique opportunity for the voters of the district. For the first time in recent history, voters will be able to compare the voting records of three House members and base their choice for the Senate on how each Representative voted on key issues.

With the current political climate reeling from a variety of corruption scandals, local attitudes appear to be reflecting national trends that indicate voters are looking for independent thinkers.

Voters are concerned about their privacy and government intervention. In the highly charged Terry Schiavo case, Representative Justice took a well documented independent position opposing government involvement in personal family decisions. Both Representatives Farkas and Berfield voted with the majority in supporting government intervention.

Concerns over Special Interests are also on the minds of voters. During three separate votes pertaining to telephone rate increases, Representative Justice voted independently against rate hikes pushed by the telecommunications industry. And in the current Legislative Session, Representative Justice is among those leading an effort to repeal the existing telephone rate hikes by cosponsoring legislation to lower phone rates. Both Representatives Farkas and Berfield voted with the telecommunication’s lobby in support of higher phone bills for Florida’s families.

“Charlie is not your typical politician; he is a true Citizen Legislator,” declared Mitch Kates, Campaign Manager for the Justice campaign. “On issues that effect everyday people- everyday- voters have a strong memory of who voted for them. Our poll results show that the voters remember who took a position for the people and who took a position for Special Interests groups,” stated Mr. Kates.

The poll also showed that voters seek a leader willing to fight for public education. This further explains Representative Justice’s impressive results. With Representative Justice’s mantra “Fix Education First” playing an integral theme in his campaign for Senate and due to the fact that he recently received the “Champion of Public Education” award from Florida’s teachers, polling trends toward Justice are expected to continue.

Four hundred likely voters in Senate District 16 were interviewed in a random sample taken March 8-11, 2006. The margin of error for this survey is ± 4.9%, with a 95% confidence level.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

House Justice Committee Votes to Weaken Voter Approved Initiatives

The House Justice Committee voted on Tuesday, April 4, to strip six voter approved constitutional amendments from the Florida constitution. By making them statutes, rather than amendments, the legislature would have an easier time overturning the decision of Florida voters.

Among the amendments under assault is one passed just eighteen months ago to increase the minimum wage by $1 to $6.15/hour. Florida voters passed the measure 72-28 (4.95 million votes to 1.96 million) over the objections of Gov. Bush.

Tampa Bay Representatives Arethnia Joyner and Faye Culp were two of only three committee votes in favor or protecting the citizen approved amendments. Rep. Joyner is running for State Senate District 18 (currently held by Sen. Les Miller, who is running for Congress)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Legislators Having Second Thoughts About Attempting to Overturn Voter Approved Term Limits

In 1992, Florida voters approved a consitutional amendment limiting legislators and statewide elected officials to eight years in office. After passing a bill asking voters to extend that to twelve years, some legislators - perhaps worried about facing voters in November - want to take it off the ballot. Senator Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) is sponsoring a bill to take that proposal off the ballot. "The Legislature made a mistake," he said.

Many of his colleagues are also starting to get cold feet. Sen. Jim Sebesta (R-St. Petersburg) voted for the bill in 2005, but now supports the Posey legislation.

Bay area legislators Charlies Justice, Gus Bilirakis, Frank Farkas, and Victor Crist were among those to vote against it in 2005 - when it passed the Senate 35-4 and the House 92-24.