2018 Elections

League of Women Voters to Board of Education: Just say no!

rubber-stamp-file-photo-public-domainThe man who castigated troubled schools as “failure factories” is poised to become the state’s next education commissioner, as Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis made clear he wants former House Speaker Richard Corcoran to take over the post.

While the Board of Education technically has the final say-so on the matter, there’s little doubt the panel will grant DeSantis’ wish.

Not so fast, the League of Women Voters of Florida said in a missive issued Friday afternoon.

In a letter to Board of Education Chairwoman Marva Johnson and the rest of the board, the League urged the panel to conduct a national search to find the replacement for Linda Stewart, a veteran educator whose resignation will go into effect next month.

The state Constitution makes it clear “that it is the Board of Education – not the Governor – that has the responsibility to appoint a Commissioner of Education,” the letter reads.

“At a minimum, Floridians expect you to carry out a due diligence process aimed at ensuring Florida’s students that an individual of the highest possible caliber oversees public education. We urge you to take this important duty seriously and not simply ‘rubber stamp’ a politically motivated choice,” LWV Florida president Patricia Brigham wrote in the letter.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Chairwoman and State Board Members,
With the impending departure of Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, the League of Women Voters of Florida reminds you that as members of the State Board of Education you not only have the opportunity, but a constitutional responsibility, to conduct a national search to find the person who is best suited to oversee Florida’s system of public education.
Article IX, Section 2 of the Constitution of Florida was overwhelmingly adopted by the people of Florida in 1998. That provision created the Board of Education, consisting of seven members serving staggered terms to oversee Florida’s system of free public schools.
By enacting that provision, the people of Florida made it clear in the Constitution that it is the Board of Education — not the Governor — that has the responsibility to appoint a Commissioner of Education. Further, the Board of Education members’ terms of office were purposely staggered to ensure that as governors change, the Florida education system would be insulated from the disruption caused by political patronage appointments of a Commissioner of Education.
At a minimum, Floridians expect you to carry out a due diligence process aimed at ensuring Florida’s students that an individual of the highest possible caliber oversees public education. We urge you to take this important duty seriously and not simply “rubber stamp” a politically motivated choice.
Under our state’s current constitution, the Governor retains input to the process by filling vacancies which occur as Board Members terms expire, however, the Board must carry out its constitutional duty and make appointments based upon merit, not political patronage. While members of the Board may ultimately concur with the recommendation of the incoming Governor regarding who to appoint, the Board of Education should decline to opt for an expedient political patronage selection.
In sum, the Board should be guided by the constitutional statement that imposes upon the State a “paramount duty” to make “adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” Included in such a paramount duty is the selection of the best person possible to lead the effort. Finding such a person mandates that the Board conduct a national search and not just grant perfunctory approval to a political patronage appointment.
Florida’s children deserve nothing less.
Patricia Brigham
President

Senate exploring process for ousted Broward supervisor Snipes

fullsizeoutput_1861Senate President Bill Galvano said Tuesday he’s working with his staff to address the issue of former Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes, ousted from her office by Gov. Rick Scott after she submitted her resignation from the post.

The embattled Snipes, appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 and re-elected four times, told Scott she was walking away from the job, effective Jan. 4, amid repeated calls for her to step down or be stripped from office following a number of problems in the November election.

But after Scott booted her from office Friday night, Snipes rescinded her resignation, accusing the Republican governor — and U.S. senator-elect — of attempting to embarrass her and “tarnish her record.”

Scott replaced Snipes with long-time ally Pete Antonacci, whose badge awaited him at the winter meeting of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections but who was a no-show.

If Snipes chooses to follow through with her fight against her removal from office, the Florida Senate will have the final say in whether she should keep her position.

After he appeared briefly at the supervisors’ conference in Sarasota Tuesday morning, reporters asked Galvano about Snipes.

“I’m working with my staff on that issue and I’m not going to comment further,” the Bradenton Republican said.

Someone “reached out on her behalf” to his staff “to understand what the process is,” Galvano said.

Senators “are the ones who ultimately remove, or maintain her current position” after a trial, Galvano explained when asked to explain the Senate’s role.

“We are looking at the process right now, and what the options are and what’s required of us and what the timing of all of that is, so it will be sooner rather than later,” he said, when asked how long it would be until the Senate weighs in on the matter.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee would be the first panel to take up the issue, he said.

WATCH IT: Gillum concedes, again

Following a machine recount that failed to move him closer to becoming governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum conceded — for the second time — to Republican Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis’ 33,683-vote edge over Gillum was the closest general-election victory in a governor’s race in modern history in Florida.

In a Facebook video posted Saturday evening, Gillum, accompanied by his wife, R. Jai, thanked supporters and conceded, as he did on election night, the race to his opponent.

 

 

“We said that we would fight until the last vote is counted. Obviously, we are now closing out the hand recount phase in two of the statewide races,” Gillum said, adding that he wanted to make sure that “as long as it was a legally cast vote, we wanted those votes to be counted.”

Gillum’s  announcement came hours before a 12 p.m. deadline for a manual recount in the races for U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner.

“Now that we are rounding that process out, R. Jai and I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on becoming the next governor of the great state of Florida,” Gillum said.

The contest between Desantis, who had the backing of President Donald Trump, and Gillum, who was trying to make history as the Florida’s first black governor, was one of the most closely watched governor’s races in the nation. Gillum drew the support of progressive billionaires, including George Soros and Tom Steyer, and former President Barack Obama joined him on the campaign trail days before the Nov. 6 election.

Trump, who had repeatedly blasted Gillum on Twitter prior to the election and who called the Tallahassee mayor a “stone-cold thief,” showed the Democrat some presidential love, at least by Trump standards, following the release of the video.

 

“This election may be beyond us,” Gillum said, pausing and looking at his wife.

“Although nobody wanted to be governor more than me, this was not just about an election cycle,” Gillum, wearing an orange FAMU jacket, said. “This was about creating the kind of change in this state that really allows for the voices of everyday people to show up again in our government, in our state, in our communities.”

Despite losing the election, the 39-year-old Democrat made it clear his political career isn’t over.

“We know that this fight continues,” Gillum said.  “More than 4 million of you decided that you wanted a different direction for the state of Florida. We want you to know that we see you, that we hear you, and that your voices will continue to power us as we still stand on the front lines, right alongside you, to make this a state that works for all of us.”

 

Trump: Gillum’s a stone-cold thief. Gillum: Grow up.

After tweeting yesterday morning that Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is a “thief,” President Donald Trump escalated the rhetoric during an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News last night.

The presidential vitriol comes as voters are already casting early ballots in advance of the election, just a week away, and as Trump prepares to storm the Sunshine State to rally support for Gillum’s opponent, Ron DeSantis, and Gov. Rick Scott, who’s trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

According to Trump, Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, isn’t just a “thief,” he’s a “stone-cold thief.” Trump was referring to a ticket for the Broadway smash hit “Hamilton,” supplied by undercover agent “Mike Miller” two years ago.

“The FBI offered him tickets at $1,800 apiece and he took them. He took a trip with the same FBI agent. I guess he was posing as a developer or something. The man, stone-cold took this stuff. I don’t even think he should be allowed to continue on with the race,” Trump said.

Gillum is mayor of a city “known as one of the most corrupt in Florida and one of the most corrupt in the nation,” the president went on.

“He’s a disaster and how he’s even close to being tied is hard to believe,” Trump said of Gillum.

Recent polls have shown DeSantis trailing or tied with Gillum, who’s trying to make history as the state’s first black governor.

Trump also warned that “Florida will become Venezuela” if Gillum is elected.

“It will be a disaster,” the part-time Florida man predicted.

DeSantis, on the other hand, “is a Harvard, Yale guy” and “a very good person,” Trump went on.

“This other guy, is a stone-cold, in my opinion, he’s a thief,” Trump said of Gillum.  “How can you have a guy like this?”

Trump’s intervention on DeSantis’ behalf has only intensified the widespread focus on the spectacle known as the Florida governor’s race, and Gillum took to national media to pooh-pooh the president’s accusations.

Last night on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, Gillum said Trump needs to “grow up.”

Trump targeted Gillum with his tweets as the nation was reeling from the worst anti-Semitic shooting in history. Eleven congregants at a Jewish temple in Pittsburgh were shot and killed on Saturday. The mass shooting came a day after authorities arrested a Florida man who mailed pipe bombs to at least a dozen of Trump’s Democratic critics — including the Clintons and the Obamas.

“Our president instead of rising to the occasion, every opportunity that he gets, to really show that he’s a leader, a leader that can cut through, cut across in the moments where the American people could really use leadership the most, he repeatedly fails us,” Gillum told Maddow.

Trump “spent his day today tweeting about me, tweeting at me, tweeting lies, rather than working to tamp down the kind of division and derision that he himself has helped to stoke,” he went on.

Maddow asked Gillum to elaborate on a tweet in which he called Trump “weak.”

“He performs as all weak people do, by bullying others. You’re talking about the most powerful position in the free world and the president of the United States takes time to badger me, to bully me on Twitter? I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense. The president needs to grow up. He needs to do his job. He needs to lead. This country could use leadership at this moment, and instead he’s throwing insults across Twitter,” he said.

 

 

Trump ‘trash talking’ Gillum as a ‘thief’

As Sunshine State voters line up to cast ballots at early voting sites or hunch over mail-in ballots at home, President Donald Trump flexed his multi-million-follower Twitter muscle today in Florida’s closely watched governor’s race.

Trump’s already thrown his support behind DeSantis, who quit Congress to focus on his bid to succeed outgoing Gov. Rick Scott.

Today’s presidential tweet — which went out to his 55.4 million followers and was retweeted to who-only-knows how many more — is the latest installment of the GOP’s “crime & corruption” meme targeting DeSantis’s opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Gillum quickly fired back with a tweet of his own, repeating a mantra where he’s chided the president for failing to use the mayor’s @AndrewGillum handle (to make it easier for his  407,000 followers to be in the know about the presidential attacks).

DeSantis and his supporters, including Trump, are making hay of the drip-drip-drip of documents being released by Christopher Kise, a Republican lawyer who represents Tally lobbyist Adam Corey. Corey appears to be at the heart of a years-long corruption probe by the FBI into Tallahassee city government. The documents, released in batches by Kise, are in response to an ethics complaint lodged against Gillum. The records show that Gillum accepted a ticket from “Mike Miller,” a faux developer who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, to the Broadway hit “Hamilton” two years ago.

Miller also dropped nearly $5,000 on a fundraiser for a committee linked to Gillum, prior to the mayor officially joining the governor’s race. The committee never reported the contribution.

Despite being branded a “thief” by the president, Gillum has repeatedly denied that he’s done anything wrong, and he maintains he’s not the subject of the FBI inquiry.

As for the Sunshine State capital’s rep as “one of the most corrupt cities in the Country,” we’re not sure what metric arrived at that conclusion.

But, in a state where the last governor’s races were determined by fewer than 100,000 votes, Trump’s social media reach might make a difference.

And if his virtual self doesn’t sway voters, perhaps his actual self will.

The part-time Florida man is stumping in two Florida GOP strongholds this week, to boost support for Scott — who’s trying to boot U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson out of his long-held seat — and DeSantis.

Trump’s coming to Fort Myers Wednesday, and he’ll be in Pensacola on Saturday.

Second Chance campaign dumps $5 million on major ad buy

The scene’s a modern version of a Norman Rockwell painting.

A young man with a close-cropped haircut lifts his too-cute-for-words daughter in the air.

“This is Brett. He was addicted to opioids, and has a non-violent felony conviction. Now, he’s clean, has completed the terms of his sentence, and is helping others,” a voiceover says, as Brett and Mallery cavort with their baby on a playground somewhere in Florida.

 

 

The ad is part of a nearly $5 million pushed out by the “Second Chances” campaign behind Amendment 4, the proposal on the November ballot that would automatically restore voting rights for about 1.4 million Floridians who’ve been convicted of felonies. The proposal excludes murderers and sex offenders.

Other stars in the three ads include a vet with a Purple Heart and a former prosecutor.

 

From the press release announcing the ad buy, which will run in Spanish and English on TV and radio, and star real people who’ve lost their right to vote:

“We are excited to share stories with people all across Florida as we approach the start of early voting in Florida,” stated Floridians for a Fair Democracy Campaign Manager Jackie Lee. “Floridians from all walks of life have been energized by this grassroots campaign, and with this ad buy we are bringing the message of second chances to voters across the state.”

Among the stories in the ads are those of Alan Rhyelle, a Vietnam veteran who received a Purple Heart but lost his eligibility to vote due to a marijuana conviction, and Gary Winston, former Assistant State’s Attorney for Miami-Dade County.

“I was a prosecutor for 34 years,” states Winston in the ad featuring him. “A prosecutor should acknowledge that sometimes people make mistakes. I believe that when a debt is paid, it’s paid.”

The $4.956 million ad buy includes over half a million dollars for Spanish-language TV, over $700,000 in radio stations serving minority communities.

 

Not-so-sexy beaches, a la Billy Corben

WARNING — It’s difficult to watch, but Miami filmmaker Billy Corben‘s tongue-in-cheek video playing off a somewhat less controversial Pitbull “Sexy Beaches” spot for Visit Florida is a must-see.

Corben’s clip stars the green slime that’s inundated Florida waterways and the dead fish, manatees and other creatures killed off by the effects of red tide creeping along both coastlines.

Visit Florida drew heat for a controversial contract inked with Armando Christian Perez, better known as Pitbull. The secrecy involving the $1 million contract with Pitbull cost the head of the public-private tourism agency his job late in 2016. Pitbull revealed the terms of the contract on Twitter, showing Visit Florida had paid him $1 million to pimp the state on social media, at concerts and on a “Sexy Beaches” video.

Florida Dems pimped Corben’s video, pointing the finger at Gov. Rick Scott (as does the film pastiche) for the toxic water situation that’s making people sick, closing Florida beaches and shuttering shore-front businesses. As widespread as they are, the red tide and toxic algae outbreaks could be problematic for Scott, a Republican trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the race for the U.S. Senate.

For a flashback to what the state’s #SexyBeaches once looked like, check out Pitbull’s video.