Today's Top Story
by marc caputo | miami herald
About 1.5 million pre-Election Day ballots had been cast as of Friday morning and the Republican advantage over Democrats is slowly eroding in terms of a percentage advantage.
Yesterday morning, Democrats were down 10.8 percentage points compared to Republican ballots cast. Now, Democrats are down 9.8 percentage points.
That's the first time since votes have been posted Oct. 6 that the Republican advantage has been cut to below 10 points. On Oct. 6, when overseas ballots (mainly...
by Scott Bihr | News-Press
A new poll has checked in and Charlie Crist wins the tiebreaker, even if it's within the margin of error.
After a string of polls showing the Democratic challenger tied with incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a fresh St. Leo University survey released late Wednesday finds Crist carving out a narrow 3 percentage-point lead, 43 percent to 40 percent. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie pulls 8 percent, and 9 percent are undecided.
"It appears as though Charlie Crist's attacks against Rick Scott are working, as the race has swung away from the incumbent in the last few months," said Frank Orlando, political science instructor at Saint Leo.
In a key poll finding, Wyllie drains more support from Scott than Crist. Without Wyllie, the two candidates are deadlocked at 45 percent apiece.
Given the Wyllie factor, Orlando said Crist's fragile lead is anything but safe.
"Pre-election polls tend to overstate support for third-party candidates," Orlando said. "When it comes time to cast their ballots, voters seem to settle on one of the two main parties for fear of 'wasting' their vote. It appears that Wyllie is drawing more support from Scott than Crist."
The News-Press forecast model reflects the closeness of the race. The probability that Crist will become governor is 52.6 percent, slightly better than a coin flip. The model projects Crist 46.7 percent, Scott 46.5 percent and Wyllie 6.8 percent.
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by GARY FINEOUT | AP
TALLAHASSEE | The opposing campaigns battling over whether Florida should legalize medical marijuana are being largely funded by two wealthy individuals, who both insist their decision to open up their wallets is personal, not political.
Most of the money spent on Amendment 2 has come from opponent Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate, and supporter John Morgan, the founder of a well-known Florida law firm whose slogan "For the People" shows up frequently on the state's television and radio airwaves.
Florida's battle over pot has been the sixth-most expensive in the nation, according to advertising data on ballot measures assembled by the Center for Public Integrity. So far, $3.4 million has been spent on more than 4,200 television ads, most of them encouraging Floridians to vote down Amendment 2.
To obtain marijuana, patients would have to get a doctor's certification of their condition, which in turn would qualify them for patient ID cards they could use at licensed dispensaries.
Adelson, a high-profile Republican donor and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., has given $4 million to the Drug Free Florida Committee. Adelson's donations represent 84 percent of what the group has raised so far.
Adelson has been seeking approval to build a resort casino in the state, but Andy Abboud, vice president of Las Vegas Sands, said Adelson's decision to spend his own money came after conversations with Mel and Betty Sembler, both prominent Florida Republicans who have long been involved in anti-drug efforts. Adelson's son died from a drug overdose; his wife is a physician who has established drug treatment centers.
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by Mary Ellen Klas | Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE Gov. Rick Scott is planning not to appear Friday for a deposition in a lawsuit he filed in California to block the release of information about Google email accounts used by him and his executive staff.
Attorney Steven R. Andrews was prepared to put the governor under oath in Tallahassee, but Scott’s communications director, Frank Collins, said Thursday “there is not going to be a deposition tomorrow.” Scott’s lawyers asked the judge to quash the deposition but, as of late Thursday, they hadn’t received an answer.
Scott is instead expected to attend a Friday fundraiser at the Biltmore in Coral Gables, featuring former Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez Cantera.
However, if the governor is a no-show for a deposition in a case he initiated, it may not be without consequences.
According to California’s rules of civil procedure, the governor must submit to the deposition Friday unless he has received the court’s permission to change the date, said Walter Clark, a trial lawyer who practices in Southern California.
If Scott fails to submit to the deposition, the judge could hold him in contempt and make him pay damages, according to California law.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's highest court is going to fast-track a challenge to the state's current congressional map.
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday decided by a 5-2 margin to hear a case brought by a coalition of groups who contend that the current map for Congress is illegal.
The high court will hold arguments on the case in March.
A Florida judge approved a new congressional map in August. The new map alters seven of the state's existing 27 districts, but the changes will not take effect until after this year's elections.
Voters in 2010 passed an amendment that says legislators cannot draw up districts to favor incumbents or a political party. A circuit judge in July ruled that two districts were invalid so legislators changed them during a special session.
by Carol Gentry | Health News Florida
Many Florida shoppers at Medicare.gov will find Day Break and Sunrise among their lowest-priced HMO options. But if they call to enroll in either one, they’re out of luck.
Florida Healthcare Plus, a small Coral Gables company that sponsors the two Medicare Advantage plans, is under state and federal suspension, unable to sign up new members during the current open-enrollment season for Medicare, Oct. 15-Dec. 7. Being frozen at this time of year can be a death sentence for such plans.
Kevin McCarty, state insurance commissioner, suspended Florida Healthcare Plus effective Sept. 23, saying the company was “financially impaired,” that it failed to maintain the amount of surplus funds the law requires.
His order said the suspension would last until the company filed an accurate financial statement, provided sufficient funds to meet state requirements, and proved that those preparing and submitting statements were competent and trustworthy.
No information was available from state officials this week on which of the conditions remained unmet. The CEO of Florida Healthcare Plus, Susan Molina, could not be reached.
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by Lynn Hatter | WFSU
The Libertarian candidate for Governor is out with a new ad running statewide. Adrian Wyllie may not win the governor’s race, but experts say he could spoil the run for either Governor Rick Scott of Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.
Adrian Wyllie has fought to be taken seriously in the 2014 gubernatorial race, and despite being excluded from most debates and voter guides, he’s polling between seven and 13 percent. Now Wyllie is out with a statewide ads promoting his candidacy.
The ad is simple, just Wyllie against a white background and his campaign slogan splayed in a corner. The most recent poll from the Quinnipiac Polling Institute has Wyllie with seven percent support. Down a few points. But Peter Brown, assistant director of the Institute, says that’s normal.
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by Livi Stanford | Daily Commercial
State Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has asked the Lake County School Board to stop teaching the controversial Florida Standards, calling them a mistake and saying the materials are inappropriate for the grade levels.
“I am not going to stand here tonight and ask you to break the law,” he told the School Board Monday. “I am going to implore you to find every possible way to bend it and skirt around it without breaking it outright and throw out everything connected with Common Core (Florida Standards) that you may possibly abandon without obviously breaking the law.”
But School Board members said they were perplexed at his request because it is the Florida Legislature, and not local school districts, that are responsible for implementing Florida Standards.
Further, several board members said if the district were to opt out of the standards, they could face serious consequences.
“Everything he was asking us to do is his job in Tallahassee,” Board member Bill Mathias said. “I would not want the public to have the impression based on a state senator coming formally before the board that we have the authority. It is disingenuous in my opinion that we can do what he asked us to do when it is up to the state Legislature.”
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by MIKE SCHNEIDER | AP
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Signing up new voters at high schools and job fairs, Carol Davis has noticed that the registrants, especially younger ones, are increasingly choosing neither the Democratic or Republican parties.
They instead are picking "No Party Affiliation," and they are hardly alone.
Florida gained more than 600,000 new voters since the last gubernatorial election in 2010, and the overwhelming gains came from unaffiliated voters, not members of the two major parties. The choice not to choose was widespread: unaffiliated voters had gains in every single Florida county. The biggest numeric jumps were in Miami and the Interstate 4 corridor, the stretch of highway from St. Petersburg to Daytona Beach that holds the key to any statewide victory.
"They say they're tired of partisan politics," said Davis who does registration drives for the League of Women Voters of Florida. "Some of them said they're just tired of being bombarded with information from a party and they prefer to be independent."
While unaffiliated voters have been increasing around the nation for the past two decades, their rise is particularly resonant in Florida, the nation's biggest swing state. It could play a significant role in the outcome of November's gubernatorial election, and future presidential races, as more voters like 20-year-old Alecsa Kazenas are up for grabs. The University of Central Florida student describes herself as fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Being unaffiliated allows her to express her disenchantment with how the current political system works without giving up being an active citizen, she said.
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