25 August 2005

Raul Martinez for Governor?

Yesterday, the Florida Democratic Party was saddened when one of their most successful elected officials announced his retirement from office. Of course, Florida Democrats could turn their lemons into lemonade by encouraging this iconic politician to run for higher office.

Late on Wednesday, Raul Martinez announced that he would not seek reelection as mayor of the City of Hialeah. Martinez has served as the chief executive in Hialeah for nearly three decades, first elected in 1981. The mayor has experienced ups and downs during his run as mayor and still remains enormously popular among the largely Republican Cuban American community. And he has done so as a Democrat.

Often when a Democrat is elected by a Republican-dominated electorate, he runs away from his party label. Not Raul Martinez. Martinez has always been proud of his party affiliation, and in 2004, he was a prominent member of the Kerry campaign. Martinez has been a great asset to the Democratic Party and should be credited for any progress the party has made among Cuban American voters. (Those gains may be small, but still significant.)

Martinez has not indicated what he intends to do next. He said that he wants to spend more time with his wife and family, but did not rule out the possibility of a run for higher office. Democrats would be wise to enlist Martinez for a future campaign. He has already served as chief executive for a major city. Would the next logical step be the chief executive for the state?

The Hispanic vote is essential in Florida and after snubbing Alex Penelas during last year's election for the United States Senate, Raul Martinez may be the Florida Democratic Party's last shot to secure Hispanic voters in Florida. Of course, Mayor Martinez will definitely be on the shortlist of candidates for Lieutenant Governor, but he may only provide a boost to Democrats by appearing on the top of the ticket.

Let's see what the future holds for Mayor Raul Martinez.

24 August 2005

Is Chris Smith stupid? I don't think so.

Today, news reports have taken the Democratic Leader in the Florida House of Representatives to task for his move to force the override of Governor Jeb Bush's veto of a good government bill. While the Democrats' effort may have likely doomed the legislation in any future special session, it has initiated a discussion that only will benefit Florida Democrats. Newspaper reporters may criticize the Democrats for this political move, but they are not thinking of the long-term effects of this tactic.

Yesterday, Democratic Representative Chris Smith, leader of the minority caucus in the Florida House, petitioned the Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood to conduct a poll asking members whether they support a special session to override Governor Jeb Bush's veto [PDF - 14 KB] of Senate Bill 1146.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican Senator Nancy Argenziano (R-Crystal River), would have established a commission to approve state contracts of more than $10 million and to adopt accountability standards for contracting by state agencies. Reports have shown reckless procedures related to the privatizing of state services, resulting in unnecessary costs to Florida taxpayers. The governor, who pledges to leave no special interest behind, rejected this oversight of the state contracting system, opening the door to big government expenses passed along to taxpayers.

It was April 2003 when the St. Petersburg Times asked the important question, "Can Republicans Govern?" This effort by Representative Smith is an opportunity for Florida Democrats to point out that they can't.

SB 1146 received bi-partisan support last session and overwhelmingly passed both chambers of the Florida Legislature. Now, Republican leaders are flip-flopping on their position, allowing the governor's desire for big government and reckless spending to win.

Republican Leader Representative Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) is the latest in the GOP to abandon the principles of former President Ronald Reagan. SB 1146 would have resulted in less government spending and more efficient government. Gardiner voted for the bill last session, but now he opposes the bill. Why? Good question. Democrats would be smart to provide their own answers. For instance ...
  • Gardiner and the House GOP Caucus now realize that they support bigger government.
  • Gardiner and the House GOP Caucus now oppose accountability of government agencies.
  • Gardiner and the House GOP Caucus now believe that the government knows better than the voters.
These are all logical conclusions drawn from Gardiner and his caucus' recent flip-flop on SB 1146.

Senator Argenziano and Representative Gardiner are already turning on the Democrats. Now, it will be interesting to see how the Democrats respond. Will they stick together and fight? Or will they cut and run, leaving Representative Smith to fend for himself? Unfortunately taking past events into consideration, I would expect the latter.

But Democrats should change their spineless ways and choose to fight the Republicans on this matter. Define the issue.
  • Any Republican who votes against the Secretary of State's poll has flip-flopped on this issue. (Every Republican voted for the original bill.)
  • Any Republican who votes against the secretary's poll now supports bigger government.
  • Any Republican who votes against the secretary's poll now opposes government accountability.
  • Any Republican who votes against the secretary's poll now supports reckless government spending.

Let's hope the Democrats in the Legislature grow a pair and join Representative Smith in his fight on behalf of Florida's taxpayers.

22 August 2005

Davis, Smith go flat; Maddox flatlines

With most Democratic politicos believing Congressman Jim Davis (D-Tampa) poised to handily win their party's nomination next fall, polls tend to show their confidence may be premature. This weekend, the Tampa Tribune reported of anxiety among Davis supporters over his inability to run away from the Democratic field, and polls and contributing factors tend to support their distress. To no one's surprise, the race for the Democratic nomination for governor is still wide open.

Polls by Strategic Vision, a Republican-leaning polling firm, over the past few months show Davis failing to increase his support among Democratic voters. Likewise, one of his opponents, Senator Rod Smith (D-Gainesville), has also remained flat in recent surveys. With the two leading candidates reaching a plateau in support, the real news is former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox who has seen his campaign take a free-fall. All three candidates however are staying competitive, and the most recent poll shows a gubernatorial race that is anyone's to win.

A July Strategic Vision poll showed Davis with 26 percent of the Democratic vote. Smith was a distant second at 15 percent, while Maddox fell to dead last with 11 percent. While Davis and Smith's numbers were virtually unchanged from Stategic Vision's June poll, Maddox witnessed a drop of 9 points, numbers that should have raised concerns within his campaign.

In June, Davis and Smith received the support of 23 and 14 percent of the Democratic voters polled, respectively, while Maddox was the choice of one out of every five Democrats. Previously in April, Davis was supported by 21 percent of Democratic voters, Maddox earned 15 percent, and Smith garnered 13 percent in the poll.

Both the April and June polls were conducted prior to reports that the Florida Democratic Party, under the stewardship of Maddox, had failed to pay federal income and payroll taxes and faced a $200,000 lien from the Internal Revenue Service. The April poll by Strategic Vision was the first to limit the questioning to the three current candidates.

These polls are good news for Davis and Smith with both candidates realizing modest gains over the past four months. Davis has jumped five points while Smith has increased two points. Maddox saw a brief jump in June, followed by a steep fall in July.

Typically, these polling trends would indicate that Davis is strong, but unfortunately he may have failed to meet high expectations. Since the first poll was conducted, Davis received the endorsement of former Senator Bob Graham. Graham's support was expected to provide the Davis campaign with a boost, but it didn't. This means that either the Graham endorsement is not as valuable as some Democrats would like to believe or that Davis' plain and somewhat boring personality cut into any possible momentum the endorsement should have delivered. Davis' failure to gain steam is likely the result of a combination of both factors.

The Smith campaign should be pleased. Since the Legislature has not been in session since May, Senator Smith has been largely absent from recent news reports. Still, he managed to pick up a couple of points, showing slow but steady growth in his support.

Maddox's run for governor may be over. The former chairman has received negative press coverage over the state party's fiscal problems, and he has been engaged in a public feud with one of the largest labor unions in the state. On top of that, it recently surfaced that the City of Tallahassee may have engaged in illegal activities against workers' labor rights while Maddox served as the mayor. Maddox has denied any involvement with these activities.

Polls show that Maddox has lost nearly half of his support among voters, and he is also losing some of his biggest political supporters. The young candidate shouldn't be written off completely, but his speech writers still may want to start working on a eulogy just in case.

At the end of the day, the most important number in all of these polls is the percentage of undecided voters. In April, undecideds accounted for 51 percent of Democrats polled. In June, they were 43 percent, and in July, the number increased again to 48 percent.

With just over a year before Democrats choose their nominee for governor, this race is anyone's ballgame. Right now, Davis is playing the role of the hare, while Smith is the tortoise. And Maddox ... well he may just be a dead duck, but only time will tell.

21 August 2005

Rod Smith declares support for Judge Roberts

Yesterday, FloridapolitiX.com discussed the comments by Senator Rod Smith (D-Gainesville) where he said that he would consider raising taxes if elected governor. Now, Smith's diarrhea of the mouth continues.

In a follow up by the St. Petersburg Times, the paper now mentions that Smith would support Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. for the United States Supreme Court.

The paper stated that candidates typically "brush off hypothetical questions" and seemed surprised that Smith answered their question about Judge Roberts. (Nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court are approved by the United States Senate, not by any state governor.)

"I haven't seen anything that says . . . he is ethically challenged or that he's intellectually inadequate," said Smith. "Right now, I would have no reason to disqualify him other than I don't agree with positions he holds, and that doesn't drive me in judicial decisions."

As stated yesterday, Democrats will not win in Florida until they learn to control their message, to frame the debate. Answering the Judge Roberts question did nothing to help Smith, but the answer could hurt him with abortion rights supporters who he will need next year in the Democratic primary.