Thursday, August 30, 2007

Floridians Split on DNC Decision

A recent poll by the Atlanta-based firm InsiderAdvantage shows about 53 percent of Florida Democrats oppose the DNC's decision to strip us our convention delegates if we refuse to move our presidential nomination caucus to February 5th or later.

I could not discover what the margin of error for this poll is, but one can assume it is between +/- 3-5%, which means that half of Florida Democrats are either haven't made up their minds on this issue or believe that it is time for the DNC to stop this madness - even if it costs Florida whatever prestige we have left after the 2000 election debacle, the Bob Allen debacle, the Terry Schiavo debacle, the 2006 Sarasota election debacle... but I digress.

What this poll tells me is that most Florida Democrats are understandably upset at how the legislature's stupidity has cost us, but that many also realize that a) rules are rules and it's not like Tallahassee didn't know that both the DNC and RNC had bylaws in place against this action, b) the frontloading of the presidential primaries helps no one except the frontrunners and hurts us, the American people.

One more thing - Wyoming has decided to say "to hell with it" and schedule their caucus for January 5th, which means that Iowa and New Hampshire will probably hold their contests in 2007.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

RNC Will Penalize Florida for Early Primary

Just in case Florida Republicans were feeling left out, the Republican National Committee announced that it would penalize Florida, among others, for holding its primary prior to February 5th.

"The rules are clear," said Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. "Any state that holds their primary outside of the window shall be penalized delegates."

The RNC will refuse to seat at least half of Florida's delegates to the Republican National Convention next year, if Tallahassee persists in holding the presidential primary on January 29th.

Graham Speaks Out on Florida's Primary Troubles

Senator Bob Graham told the Miami Herald

Having 20 states vote on Feb. 5, which is legal under the party rules, is much more disruptive than having one state vote on Jan. 29. I think Florida has become a lightning rod for the larger problem.

The primary is currently a matter of state law, and the state is going to organize and pay for it. There's not frankly a lot Democrats can do to change that... Whether or not we have a full slate of delegates, it's the fourth largest state in the country and the most competitive, and when it throws its weight behind a candidate, that's what is important.

I agree, in part with Senator Graham, but still hold the legislature accountable for joinging a game of "gotcha" that has lowered the quality of our nation's political discourse and which cheapens us all.

Of course, it would have been a miracle if the legislature could have completed a session without doing something that cheapened us all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Florida Firewall?

The Fix today suggested that Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign is counting on Florida to launch his nomination.

Giuliani has a strong national lead, but is behind in the Iowa, the earliest test of a presidential candidate, and the second test, New Hampshire, remains in flux. However, his lead in Florida is double his overall national lead.

A powerpoint presentation made to Florida volunteers of the Giuliani campaign (dismissed by the national staff as a simple tool to motivate volunteers - apparently we are easily fooled here in Florida) described the Florida primary as a "firewall" for the campaign - able to offset and even reverse the effects of possible early losses.

Most interesting to this blogger is the phone script included in the powerpoint.

The first question in the script asks respondents who their first choice is to be president -- giving them five options: Giuliani, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.), or "one of the other candidates."

Gov. Mitt Romney, who leads the polls in Iowa and who has been the strongest fundraiser on the Republican side, is missing from that list.

Obviously, they cannot pretend he is a negligible factor (otherwise, McCain, whose campaign has imploded and whose organization is nearly broke).

The only reasonable expectation is that they consider him to be the biggest threat in the field, so are trying diminish him among Florida Republicans.

Giuliani has reason to be nervous. Romney appears to have the support of Jeb Bush's operation, which implies the tacit or behind the scenes support of Jeb himself. Romney is clearly also running the best managed campaign of any in the Republican field. He has had his gaffes and difficult moments, but no Republican has put together a stronger operation in the field (both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama on the Democratic side are running superior campaigns to any GOP candidate).

Monday, August 27, 2007

Baker's Staff Exodus - and the Return of Peter

The St. Pete Times noted that St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker is seeing his staff leave early for greener pastures. It is normal for staff to leave towards the end of an elected official's tenure, but to leave with just over two years remaining is a little unusual.

Obviousoly, Herb Polson is running for the city council, but the early loss of other staffers is potentially telling.

Baker is a moderate Republican who has twice won election in a Democratic city. Everyone agreed that he was a rising star in the GOP. But where will he go now?

No word that he is laying the groundwork for a run for the legislature or county office.

There was once talk that he could run for statewide office, but in 2010 (the first election after he leaves office), the only statewide elections are for offices either currently held by Republicans or for CFO - which would require him to face popular Tampa Democrat, Alex Sink.

The rumors that he would run to succeed Congressman Bill Young have all but disappeared - even as rumors that impending retirement will leave that seat open.

So, perhaps these staffers see what seemed unimaginable only a few years ago - that our relatively young, well-respected, and up-and-coming mayor has reached the end of the line?


Also, we are pleased to announce that Peter Schorsch has returned.

You may remember Peter as the former Republican political consultant who switched parties after falling out with the head of the Mallard Group, the leading GOP consulting shop in the bay area.

You may also remember his arrest for kiting checks and allegedly misusing/misappropriating his clients' money.

Well, we were all pleased to see him re-emerge on this comment thread on the Buzz.

If we are, in fact, to lose Baker, perhaps Peter can keep us busy with water cooler topics.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I Am So Angry About This Situation

Rather than explain the details of what happened, I would direct readers to this Washington Post article and this Miami Herald item and jump directly into my take on the matter.

Perhaps this was the goal of the GOP-controlled legislature all along. To sow discord and frustration among Florida Democrats and dampen Democratic turnout for a property tax ballot initiative that could drastically affect funding for education and public safety.

I am not convinced that there our legislature has the minimal mental acuity to manage this (at least not without Jeb around). They are less Niccolo Machiavelli and more box of broken glass.

I also do not believe (though this could be wishful thinking) this will stand. Not that I believe the DNC will rescind their decision, but that some sort of compromise will be reached.

The money available for a caucus is insufficient, but we could do what many early primary states do and require presidential candidates pony up in return for being allowed to participate. South Carolina, for example, pays for their presidential primaries not with tax money, but with contributions from the candidates. The winner in such a caucus would still almost certainly be the same as the largest voter getter on January 29th, but the forms would be followed.

Donna Brazile was right when she noted how states crave to be first and in recent years, many large states feel somewhat left out fo the nominating process, but Florida could also have made itself relevant by holding its primary in mid-February.

That way would also not have participated in what I continue to insist is a national embarrassment of front loading by both sides.

Because it would be nice, for once, is something embarrassingly stupid happened in our country and it couldn't be traced back to Florida. Just once.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Early Voting Begins Monday for St. Petersburg City Council Primaries

For voters in the 3rd and 5th St. Petersburg City Council Wards, early voting begins early voting beings August 27th extends through September 8th.

Early voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the three Supervisor of Elections offices:

County Building - 501 First Ave., N., St. Petersburg

Election Service Center - Starkey Lakes Corporate Center, 13001 Starkey Rd., Largo

Pinellas County Courthouse - 315 Court St., Room 117, Clearwater

For more information, visit the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.

Grand Opening for Bill Young Bridge

The C.W. Young Bascule Bridge will be officially opening tomorrow, August 25th. The bridge will be closed between 9 am and noon to accomodate the festivities, which begin at 10 am.

The ribbon cutting will begin at 10:45 am and the dedication will be held 10 minutes later. The boat parade begins at 11 am.

Special dispensation was given to allow the bridge to be named after an individual - especially one currently serving in public office who will be up for re-election in just over a year.

Thurman Takes the Case for Florida's Primary to the DNC

When the Florida legislature moved our presidential primaries to January 29th they not only fed into the overwrought presidential election schedule that is making the process something of a joke (anyone else miss the good old days when the nominees weren't decided until Super Tuesday in March?), it also put Florida Democrats in something a bind.

The Democratic National Committee has declared that they will only seat half the delegates of any state not Iowa or New Hampshire that holds their delegate selection process (whether caucus or primary) before February 5th.

The Chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, Karen Thurman, is going before the Rules & Bylaws Committee of the DNC on Saturday, August 25th to argue Florida's case. One assumes that a major part of the case is that it is not the fault of Florida's Democrats that the Republican held legislature decided to join this ridiculous game of "gotcha" and jump of the bridge along with other states.

If you are a Democratic voter in Florida (or if you find the legislature's actions to be a misguided case of blindly following the idiot states in front of you) and care concerned about Democratic voters in Florida being punished for the ever more unstable actions of a delusional legislature, you can make your voice heard here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mulhern Working to Protect 'Creative Industry' Programs in Tampa

As Tallahassee's disastrous actions filter down to the local level, forcing local governments to make drastic cuts in quality of life programs, freshman city Councilwoman Mary Mulhern and Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena are trying to bring Tampa's "creative industries manager" position. The position has been empty since June.

"Creative industries manager" is a fancy way of saying an economic development officer who will focus on the arts and new technology. The arts are something close to Councilwoman Mulhern's heart because of her former job as a arts writer for Creative Loafing.

A lot of the inspiration for many city's focus on "creative industries" was the 2002 article by Richard Florida, "The Rise of the Creative Class."

The piece has generated its fair share of controversy, but the premise is that there is a creative class which is one of the major engines of economic development. Members of this class look for a lot of things in determining where they locate, but qualities like a thriving artistic scene rank high among them.

Whether or not one accepts the premise, certainly as the city looks at efforts to redevelop/revitalize its downtown (much of it, not coincidentally, centered around the Tampa Museum of Art), civic leaders have to be looking jealously across the water at St. Petersburg, who is seeing their downtown go through a renaissance driven in large part by private and public investment in the arts.

Of course, St. Petersburg is drastically cutting back support for nonprofits, including arts groups, so maybe the vaguely depressing downtown that Tampa currently has is in St. Petersburg's future well.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Lawn Signs Do Not Win Elections - Not Even in St. Petersburg

I do not know how many times I have said that to clients. Enough times and enough variations on the theme that I have lost track.

This train of thought was triggered while reading a post on Local Politics Is All about the campaigns going on right now for the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th City Council Districts. The 3rd and 7th are open and in the 1st, Herb Poulson was appointed to finish the term of now State Representative Rick Kriseman and is now running to hold that seat in his own right.

The post describes some of the expenditures made by some of the candidates.

Republican Ed Montanari spent $3,100 on signs. Bill Dudley spent $2,600 on signs (and $500 on t-shirts, which is a whole other post/rant).

How can I put this... oh yes: YARD SIGNS DO NOT WIN ELECTIONS.

A minimum of 75% of campaign monies should be spent on direct voter contact. What do we mean by direct voter contact? Primarily, we mean paid media - radio, direct mail, and television. Newspaper ads would also be considered in that category, though I, personally, am not convinced of their efficacy compared to more targeted forms (by targeted, I mean that it is aimed as much as possible to just your voters; for example, a mail piece that hits only likely voters or a cable buy for viewers in just those zip codes contained in the district). Paid phones and canvassers could also be included in this.

The only major expense outside of this that I approve of is a quality voter file - preferably a web based one from a professional voter file vendor and not something created by a close friend on Microsoft Access.

The remaining 75% goes to items like office space and staff (on larger campaigns) and things like palm cards (the literature given out at the door when the candidate and his or her volunteers canvass potential voters; also known as walk literature) and yard signs.

One of the biggest mistakes rookie candidates make is spending too much on things like yard signs and too little on things that win elections. I estimate $800 as being more than sufficient to buy enough two color yard signs with wire stakes (wooden stakes are just too much trouble - wire stakes are so much easier to deal with) for a city council race in St. Petersburg.

In District 3, the most competitive seat, Cathy Harrelson is well behind in the money race, but if she has been husbanding her resources for expenditures that focus on direct voter contact, she may actually wind up more or less equal with her opponents because they will have frittered thousands of dollars away on too many overpriced yard signs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Does the Environment "Work" in Pinellas Politics

Cathy Harrelson (see photo), former chair of the Suncoast Group of the Sierra Club, is running for the St. Petersburg 3rd city council seat of Bill Foster, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits (though is considered a likely candidate for mayor when it opens up in 2009). She is being managed by a former Sierra Club employee (and former city council candidate, herself), Darden Rice. Harrelson is explicitly running on her strong support for the environment. Rice, notably, did not emphasize her Sierra Club connections when she ran in 2005.

Harrelson proposes investing heavily in energy saving systems and she has suggested taking out government bonds to pay for energy savings measures, using the future cost savings to pay them down.

In 2004, the Sierra Club was the leader in the effort to elect John Kerry and was the organization primarily in charge of GOTV (Get Out The Vote) in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in 2004.

They were notably unsuccessful, with Kerry faring worse then Gore had four years previously and with Bush improving on his prior effort.

Does this mean that environmental issues are not winners in Bay area elections?

Not necessarily. Rice was actually in charge of the Sierra Club's election year 527 (so called after the section of the IRS code that governs these particular non-profit entities) campaign in 2004, but the senior staff member for Florida was Frank Jackalone.

Jackalone's relations with the Sierra Club membership in Florida have never been good and he was often criticized, both within and outside the Sierra Club, for his management skills and lack of political experience. He has since seen many of duties, especially staff supervision, taken over by Jonathan Ullman in the Sierra Club's Miami office.

Environmental issues have never been effectively utilized in the electoral process here in the past, but the broader understanding of the issue of global warming, including Gov. Crist's decision taking the issue to heart, may change that dynamic. Harrelson is untested as a candidate, but has been a strong leader in the environmental activist community and if she can translate that into volunteers and campaign contributions, environmentalists could send a strong voice to the St. Petersburg City Council.

We'll see. The first round of voting will be September 11, but with the surfeit of candidates, it seems certain to go to a run off.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves More than $4 Million for Tampa Port Authority Projects

Tampa Port Authority
Amount Secured: $304,000
Funds will be used to continue the General Reevaluation Report to investigate passing lanes to accommodate new state of the art cruise ships that navigate the Tampa Channel, as well as further improvements needed. Contained in Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

Tampa Port Authority
Amount Secured: $4,250,000
These funds will be used for the annual operation and maintenance of periodic dredging in the 70 miles of federal channels in the Tampa Harbor. Contained in Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

Global Warming Initiative Has Broad Support

A recent poll found that more than three-quarters of all Democrats and Independents agreed with Gov. Crist’s statement that "Global climate change is one of the most important issues we face in this country, and we must make every effort to do what is right. Our state’s future depends on it." Only half of the surveyed Florida Republicans agreed.

Other findings include:

•69 percent of respondents said global warming will result in either "many" or "some" adverse effects, while 15 percent said global warming is not proven, and 5 percent said "no real effects."

•50 percent said global warming is a greater threat to Florida than to the rest of the continental United States.

•53 percent said reducing global warming "will be worth the economic cost."

•82 percent said they support Crist's goal of reducing climate-altering emissions to year 2000 levels over the next decade.

•71 percent said they approve Crist's plan for "capping emissions from major greenhouse gas sources such as utility plants, while 86 percent approved of his proposal "adopting a 'clean car standard' to require new cars sold in Florida to be more fuel efficient."

The poll was taken of 625 registered voters across the state, conducted between July 23rd and 25th. The results have a margin of error of +/- 4%. Environmental Defense commissioned the poll from Mason/Dixon.

Baker Talks About Expanding Albert Whitted Airport

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker spoke about his plans for expanding Albert Whitted airport to the president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

Long-range plans include adding a terminal and possibly developing an on-airport restaurant that would give the broader community a reason to come down to the waterfront and make use of the airport. The mayor is considering other ideas to make the airport a community focal point.

Baker told the AOPA that he plans to pursue commitments for funding from the Florida Department of Transportation and wants to go after FAA Airport Improvement Program funds.

The local Sierra Club group (the Suncoast Group) found itself deeply split over the future of the airport a few years ago and, arguably, has never effectively reunited since.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Swing State Project Lists Young Among Possible Retirees

The Swing State Project, a Democratic group that tracks possible pick ups around the contry, has released a list of likely/possible retirements from the House of Represenatives.

Who should appear but perennial rumour mill focus, Rep. Bill Young?