21 May 2005

Santorum compares McCain, others to Adolf Hitler

This column has been moved to AmericanpolitiX.com.

20 May 2005

Jeb Bush supports independent redistricting

In a stunning reversal from prior statements, Governor Jeb Bush now supports an independent commission to draw congressional and legislative districts. While Bush previously opposed such efforts in Florida, he is now actively campaigning for the concept of fair elections by joining California Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger to raise money for his California Recovery Team, a committee formed to pay for ballot initiatives in the Golden State. Bush's newest position is surprising, yet encouraging. This is the kind of flip-flop that is good for democracy and good for Florida.

In Florida last year, not a single incumbent for Congress or the state legislature was defeated for reelection. Those same incumbents would like you to believe that this is because they are doing such a great job, but in actuality it is because the districts are rigged. Due to new state of the art computer software, the districts can now be drawn so precisely that the voters no longer choose their representatives. Instead, the representatives now choose their voters. Fortunately, there is a statewide effort to change this great injustice.

Common Cause Florida, the nonpartisan government watchdog group, is leading a petition drive to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2006 that will create an independent commission to draw congressional and legislative districts. The petition is also being pushed by former senatorial candidate Betty Castor, now founder and president of Campaign for Florida's Future. The current plan is modeled after a proposal first set in motion by state Representatives Anne Gannon (D-Delray Beach) and Tim Ryan (D-Dania Beach) through their Committee for Fair Elections. The effort needs over a half million signatures before the voters can decide, so Common Cause is still seeking signed petitions. (You can download a petition here. [PDF] Then mail it in.)

FloridapolitiX.com applauds the governor for choosing democracy over the good ole boys system of yesteryear. With the work of good Floridians like Jeb Bush and Betty Castor, the state's voters just may finally get the districts and the representation they deserve.

Permanent Open Thread

Sorry if you couldn't find the site earlier. Blogger was having trouble, and the site was down. Things look to be working well now.

Use today's open thread to freely discuss the day's happenings. New candidates, Maddox's "lobbying" situation, Bush & Schwartzenegger, Butterworth for Attorney General, etc.

Check back over the weekend.

19 May 2005

Gallagher enters the race for governor

Hoping that his fourth try will be a winner, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher officially entered the race for governor yesterday. He joins Attorney General Charlie Crist in the quest for the Republican nomination. Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings is also expected to join them. On the Democratic side, Congressman Jim Davis (D-Tampa), former Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox, and state Senator Rod Smith (D-Gainesville) are all vying for their party's nomination.

Gallagher has begun the race to the far right. He launched his campaign by setting out his vision which includes ending "judges legislating from the bench," more tax cuts, and a constitutional amendment opposing gay marriage. He announced his candidacy with his wife and son by his side, stressing family values and thereby differentiating himself from his two GOP opponents who are both unmarried. Gallagher's strategy of running to the right is quite pragmatic and may be the only way he can beat a somewhat popular Charlie Crist in the Republican primary. Crist is seen by most to be an extremely liberal attorney general, continuing much of the legacy of his predecessor, Democrat Bob Butterworth. Additionally, Crist is plagued with rumors that he is gay and is still unpopular with religious conservatives because he refused to become involved in the Terri Schiao saga, so Gallagher embracing the conservative base of the party may be a winning prescription.

Gallagher is also expected to be the biggest fundraiser in the party. As the chief executive at the Florida Department of Financial Services, he oversees the operations of the state's insurance, accounting, financial, and banking companies, as well as other big money industries. The governor's race in the Sunshine State is well on its way to be the most expensive race in Florida's history, and Gallagher is expected to lead the way.

Governor Jeb Bush is prohibited from running for reelection due to term limits.

Check back to FloridapolitiX.com in the coming days for an analysis of the Republican and Democratic races for governor.

17 May 2005

Maddox jumps in the governor's race

As expected, former Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox officially entered the race to be Florida's next governor. Maddox faces Congressman Jim Davis (D-Tampa) and Senator Rod Smith (D-Gainesville) in the Democratic primary. Attorney General Charlie Crist is the only Republican who has filed as of yet, but news reports indicate that Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher will enter the race by the end of the month. Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings is also considering the contest to succeed Governor Jeb Bush, who is prohibited from running for reelection because of term limits.

In 2002, Maddox ran for state Attorney General, but was defeated in the primary. Buddy Dyer went on to win the nomination, but lost to Charlie Crist. Since then, Maddox has been a controversial leader for the Democrats. Just after the election, former chair Bob Poe was ousted from office, and Maddox was elected to lead the Democratic Party, promising to bring them back to relevance in Florida. Maddox was not shy in using his position in the party to advance his own career, and his record with the party brought mixed reviews. He was successful in creating an online presence and recruiting volunteers, but failed to deliver at the polls last November. Last November, Senator John Kerry lost Florida by five percentage points to President George W. Bush, House Democrats lost three more seats in the legislature, and the U.S. Senate seat held by Bob Graham for eighteen years was lost to the Republicans.

Friends and foes of Maddox do agree that he is probably the best public speaker in the party. He has a reputation of being able to rile up Democrats, throwing red meat to his partisan audiences. "One of Scott's strengths is he is an excellent speaker and motivator," said Mitch Ceasar, chairman of the Broward Democratic Party. For that reason, it is not surprising that Maddox attracks a lot of the same Democrats who supported Howard Dean in the presidential primary.

The race is still too early for predictions. The three Democrats running for governor are all starting from square one, but each enjoys his own advantages. Maddox has the support of local parties; Smith has the support of state legislators and law enforcement; and Davis has the support of former Senator Bob Graham and the party establishment. Right now, Davis is leading in the polls, but those numbers simply reflect name recognition. Maddox has the momentum and has caused the most excitement within the party. His campaign is already morphing into a Sunshine State's version of the Dean campaign. Let's just see if Scott Maddox has an "Iowa moment."

16 May 2005

Conservatives win, conservatives lose on wine issue

The United States Supreme Court issued a widely anticipated opinion today regarding state prohibitions on direct shipping of wine from out-of-state, ruling such laws unconstitutional. The Court held, as most expected, that the laws in New York and Michigan, which were challenged in the cases before the high court, violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Article I of the federal constitution defines the role of the U.S. Congress, and Section 8 of Article I establishes powers vested to the congress. The provision in section 8, which is applicable to the wine case, states, "[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes[.]" The court's opinion appears to strike down the Florida law that prohibits shipments of wine from outside of Florida.

Today's decision was a huge win for vineyards that wish to cut out the middleman and get their products directly to consumers. The big losers are the industry lobbying groups, like Southern Wine and Spirits, who represent liquor retailers and fought to keep the protectionist laws because they helped local wine distributors at the expense of wine connoisseurs.

The ruling causes mixed reactions among Republicans. Traditional Republicans, who actually believe in less government, celebrate the ruling. The most vocal on this issue is Justin Sayfie, a GOP activist in Broward County who hosts the conservative website Sayfie Review. On the flip side, the religious right, who has gained greater control of the GOP over the last decade, supported the archaic law, because of their general opposition to drinking alcohol and other enjoyable activities. (Think of John Lithgow's character in Footloose.) The differing views within the GOP, which are evident in the wine issue, can best be described by labeling the two competing camps: Reagan Republicans versus Bush Republicans - two very different ideologies. (Of course like everything else, Democrats have no real position on the wine issue.)

Republicans may disagree over the merits of today's decision, but the Supreme Court has just issued a decision that made ordering wine from out-of-state the law of the land. So next time you feel like a good California chardonnay, go online and order it. The religious right may not like it, but now they have no way of stopping you. All they can do is complain, or shall I say ... whine.

Palm Beach high school students choose the Democrats

In an embarrassing defeat for the Palm Beach GOP, the Palm Beach Post reported that 1,871 high school students who recently registered to vote during a school event overwhelmingly chose the local Democratic Party.

The registration was part of a program overseen by county Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson. While the event carries little significance in the grand scheme of things, the registration numbers were good news for a local Democratic Party that longs for something positive to report. The local GOP consistently outperforms their counterparts in fundraising and organization, and the Palm Beach Democrats continue to receive embarrassing coverage in the local press.

During the school program, the Democrats gained 898 new voters (48%), the Republicans signed up 300 (16%), and 673 (36%) students chose no party affiliation. Democrats hold a 45% to 32% advantage in voter registration over the GOP in Palm Beach County.

15 May 2005

Permanent Open Thread

No post today. Feel free to use the comment feature on this post to freely discuss the political issues of the day.