Voting in Absentia: Why I Would Cast My Ballot for Charlie Crist in Florida

By Steven Kurlander 

This article also appeared in Context Florida and the Huffington Post 

Occasionally, refugees who have settled in the US, including naturalized citizens, cast ballots in elections that take place in their origin countries that allow them to vote in absentia and in effect allow them to still have an impact on events in those countries.

I used to live in Florida. As I watch the contest between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, I wish I could vote in the election in my former home like these foreign nationals do.

The outcome of the governor’s race in New York where I now vote is basically over. But the race between Scott and Crist is very close and very important, not just to Florida but the nation.

This race pits a “moderate” Republican populist turned Democrat against a 1 percenter governor who basically bought his first term and who has failed to translate his success in business to his work in government.

The Florida election is a barometer of whether the Tea Party movement that Scott used to win in 2010 remains a force in politics. The race is a test of whether voters are tired of viral politics and now want moderate political leaders.

As a grassroots organizer for the Republican Party of Florida in 2008 in Palm Beach County, I considered Charlie Crist, despite his flip-flopping and some of his conservative social positions at the time, a man who represented the Republican culture that I favored in upstate New York GOP politics.

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Coral Springs City Hall, wasteful spending and school safety at the heart of Mayor’s Race

Coral Springs Commissioner Tom Powers who is seeking to ascend to the Mayor’s post in the November 4th election has recently been on the defensive about the proposed new City Hall project as well as other issues.

Coral Springs was long considered one of the state’s leading cities. Throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s it was considered perhaps the best run large city in the state. The city won numerous good government awards, including some national ones. However, since about 2006, Coral Springs has fallen into decline as property values have not kept up with similar municipalities in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Fewer new businesses are starting in the city, and quality of living has declined. The city’s bond rating has been lowered. Coral Springs, once the envy of so many around the state has developed the reputation of a place in decline. During this period the City Commission has grown more conservative and less effective.

Powers’ has claimed his opponent for Mayor is Senator Skip Campbell, the 2006 Democratic nominee for Attorney General and a State Senator representing most of the city from 1996 to 2006 is dealing in misinformation regarding an expensive new city hall project. This is a project tat appears to be fast tracked in order to benefit major campaign contributors to current commission.  The opponents state that commission trying to build a $28 million city hall without putting the matter in front of the voters. This is plainly true and not any sort of misinformation. 

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TFS Endorsements: Broward county & municipal races/questions


Former Commissioner Keechel deserves to be returned to the Commission in place of the ideological Chip LaMarca, the board’s lone Republican.


YES on QUESTIONS 1 and 2  

Question 1 is a no-brainer as it would reauthorize the Childrens Services Council.

Question 2 will prove more difficult for many because the Broward School District has proven untrustworthy with oversight of public money in the recent past. Still the money is sorely needed in one of the nation’s ten-largest largest school systems. We urge a “FOR BONDS” vote.


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2014 is Already Drastically Different than 2010 – Will that be enough?

The 2010 election has left a deep scar in the collective memory of progressives around the state. Although all over the county Democratic candidates faced the wrath of the then-powerful Tea Party, in Florida the effects particularly burned with the election of both Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and a full Republican cabinet, and a slew of other conservative newcomers who wreaked havoc in state and local governments. There is a real fear that the next midterm election would be just as bad, so there has been quite a lot of talk about how to make this election different.  Even though Obama prevailed in Florida in 2012, there is a deep fear that we might face a repeat of 2010.  Fortunately, enough forces are changing the political climate and things are looking up just slightly.

Overall, the signs look promising. For starters, the electorate is different. With the population growth in the Latino communities, the electorate overall is much more diverse than in 2010, which usually favors the Democrats. Secondly, Obama did surprisingly well in Miami-Dade in 2012 where he performed much better than 2008, and for the first time, it looks like the Cuban vote is beginning to turn slightly bluish. Although a few recent studies suggest that voters are just as apathetic as they were in 2010, it looks like at least that they are apathetic across the board and not just among Democratic voters like before.  Although Obama remains unpopular, he is hardly new news and the impact will not be nearly as bad as 2010. And overall, the distaste for Rick Scott spans the party and has united a broad coalition of groups against him. Similarly a dislike for Pam Bondi has motivated some of these groups to continue working down ballot. These things were not present in 2010 and all will make a different election day.

One of the big questions will be if the Democrats push in early absentee voting will lead to more voters. Although they have significantly cut down on the Republican lead around the state, the hope is that this will increase overall turnout.  It is marginally good if Democratic voters who normally vote on election day are voting absentee because it decreases the money that campaigns will have to spend on GOTV, but the real hope is that the push in absentee voting will increase the Democratic vote share. If Democrats can get more people to vote who wouldn’t normally vote in absentee early, their dominance in early voting could make this a win. Typically, in a midterm election, Republicans enjoy an increased edge by a point or two; in 2010, it was over 3% overall and was one of the main reasons that Democrats could not pull ahead. The returns already look promising – although Rs are ahead, their margins are definitely those those of 2010. And more importantly, they are in the areas where Crist needs.

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On the passing of Tom Slade

One of the most influential people in Florida’s last half century of politics passed away on Monday. Tom Slade, more than any other single man is responsible for the political climate Floridians live in today. The lasting and permanent Republican majorities in the state of Florida were built largely by him, with deputies implementing his vision and understanding his view of candidate recruitment and positive messaging. Under Slade, the Republicans went from a permanent minority made up largely of country club types and migrants from the Midwest, to a party that represented people of all stripes and all regions in Florida.

Slade was first elected to the State House as a Democrat from Jacksonville in 1962 but by the time he jumped to the Senate in 1966 he had switched parties ahead of many others in the south. The hard-charging Slade eventually became the architect of Republican majorities, moving the party beyond its very niche base.

In the late 1960’s political prognosticators believed Florida was quickly shifting to the Republican column. But the Democratic landslide elections of 1970, 1972 and 1976 moved the state further into the Democratic column than it had been in the mid 1960’s. By 1982, the Democrats held 32 of 40 State Senate seats, every Cabinet office and 89 of 120 House seats, a significant gain from even the mid 1970’s.

But by the late 1980’s the Republican were on the move again and with Slade as party chair in the 1990’s the GOP flipped both houses of the legislature and the majority of the Cabinet. By 2002, the GOP had achieved complete dominance in state politics, similar to the numbers the Democrats enjoyed two decades earlier.

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Nancy Pelsoi headlines Orlando town hall on working women & empowerment

US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) joined Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Florida) to headline a Working Women Town Hall in Orlando. The event which was hosted by The Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment (FIRE)  drew a packed audience.  

The town hall comes on the heels of a report released on women’s health. Just this week, the Alliance for a Just Society released a Women’s Health Report Card that ranked all 50 states in the areas of health coverage for women, women’s access to health care, and women’s health outcomes. Florida ranks 35th and received a “D” grade overall. Florida ranked second from bottom among the ten largest states by population in the union (thank goodness for Texas!). 

Medicaid expansion which should quite frankly be a bigger issue in the ongoing 2014 Florida election and earned sick time were among the questions posed by the audience to a panel which included Lauren Rowe, a former TV news anchor and producer of Flashpoint, Denise Diaz, Executive Director of Central Florida Jobs with Justice, Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill, Marytza Sanz, President and CEO of Latino Leadership, and Jenna Tosh, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando.

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TFS Legislative Endorsements


SD 6 – Kathleen Trued

SD 12 – Geraldine Thompson

SD 22 – Judithanne McLauchlan

SD 32 – Maria Sachs


HD 6 – Jamie Shepard

HD 29 – Mike Clelland

HD 30 – Karen Castor Dentel

HD 38 – Beverly Ledbetter

HD 43 – John Cortes

HD 47 – Linda Stewart

HD 49 – Joe Saunders

HD 63 – Mark Danish

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FOX News discussion on CD-18 Race

We would normally never post something from FOX News but this discussion which included one-time Charlie Crist confidante and Broward Republican Party Chair George LeMieux was fantastic for its spin in claiming that Congressman Patrick Murphy is vulnerable.

Monday Musings: Reggie Fullwood, Broward Bond Issue, Coral Springs Mayor’s Race, #Fangate, Debate Topics and 2014 is not 2002

House District 13 will not be seeing an election on November 4th. Representative Reggie Fullwood failed complete his paperwork properly and thus, no candidate filed for the seat. A judge ruled that Fullwood could not appear on the November election, triggering a special election. However, Fullwood’s easy re-election is out the window – he now faces a primary opponent in Johnny Gaffney and then a Republican challenger in Lawrence Jefferson. This mistake will cost the district almost half a million dollars according to the Duval Supervisor of Elections. Even though the district is safely D and there is very little chance a Republican could be elected here, Johnny Gaffney is a formidable opponent and this will prove to be a hard primary. The primary will take place in December, with a general election in February. With voter turn out to be projected in the mid-single digits, Fullwood has to be kicking himself for a simple mistake that has cost him an easy no-contest election.  –   KB@BurnettKaty 

Politics in Broward County the last month and a half has been dominated by two things: The Governor’s Race, where Charlie Crist is making a massive field effort locally, an effort his campaign is quite frankly NOT replicating in other parts of the state. The other was the Sachs-Bogdanoff State Senate race. But in the last ten days, interest has started to shift towards three issues that will be on the ballot November 4th. First is the the School Bond issue which has faced more organized and sustained opposition than perhaps expected. The second is a local government reorganization in Plantation. The third is the Coral Springs Mayor’s Race between former State Senator and 2006 Democratic Attorney General nominee Skip Campbell and City Commissioner Tom Powers. These three issues have livened up Broward’s politics in the past few weeks. – KK @kkfla737

Although #fangate dominated all the news, there were several other major points that should be highlighted from the debate. The biggest thing missing from the debate was any discussion of immigration from either candidate, which is a surprise considering how hard the campaigns are fighting over the Hispanic vote both in South Florida and in Orange County. Neither of the candidates even attempted to pitch to the Hispanic vote, so look for definite mention of this important demographic on Tuesday. The other issue group that was left out was women – although Rick Scott particularly mentioned his abuse father and wonderful mother three times, real issues that pertain to women were left out. Again, I expect both of these will come up in the CNN debate on Tuesday, where it has already been confirmed that there will be no fan. Even though this debate was not set up to persuade voters – we’ve talked about several times on this blog about how there are very few persuadable – these huge issues could decide if people are going to vote or not. –   KB@BurnettKaty 

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Are the State House races really as noncompetitive as St Pete Polls claim?

In the last few days, our friends over at Saint Petersblog have released polling numbers and data from several contentious State House races across Florida. The polls have been conducted by St Pete Polls, whom we have previously both praised  on this site. Before delving too deeply into the qualms I have about the polling data we have seen the past few days, I think it is important to start off by praising both Saint Petersblog and St Pete Polls for doing a service by offering public polls in State House races. For years state legislative race information was the exclusive province of “those in the know” (which often did include me) but Saint Petersblog has given the masses or at least those who are aware of the website an opportunity to get a feel for where things sit in multiple House races.

My first concern about the polling data is how the results have been weighted. It appears the weighting has in most cases favored the Republican challengers against Democratic incumbents with the sole exception of HD-68 where I believe Rep. Dwight Dudley leads but not quite by the 13-point margin represented in the polling data.  Similarly, former Rep. Shaun Harrison has opened up a 13-point lead against Rep. Mark Danish in the newest HD-63 St Pete poll. It has been well-known in Democratic circles that Danish is struggling and Harrison has likely pulled into a lead, perhaps a comfortable single-digit lead. But the 13-point lead seems preposterous, and given the makeup of HD-63 which includes many liberal USF college students being activated by NextGen and other left-leaning advocacy organizations, polling, especially that based largely on a 2010 turnout model is bound to be highly flawed and unrepresentative of probable Democratic performance. The weighting of each poll has assumed a massive Republican turnout advantage that resembles 2010 numbers, which is an issue we will get to in a minute.

Let us use the example of HD-63 to discuss why 2014 will look nothing like 2010. Progressive organizations whether they be concerned about the environment, reproductive rights, LGBT issues, or increased utility rates have been activated in a way that was unimaginable in 2010. In some respects, these groups are more active than they were in 2012 in the sense that a real effort this time around has been made to target House seats and focus much of the energy of outside liberal groups in protecting Democratic incumbents. When you consider the districts surveyed by St Pete Polls all have a Democratic bent with the exception of Rep. Carl Zimmerman’s HD-65, you realize that the efforts of progressive groups to activate non-typical off-year election votes are likely to shave several points off these polling numbers. In 2012 for example, the left-leaning advocacy groups that were active in the election cycle often were unaware of what legislative seat they were working in and did not plan their strategy around House district lines.

In HD-65, St Pete Polls found Republican challenger Chris Sprowles locked in a tight race with Democratic Rep. Carl Zimmerman. In recent days, it has become obvious that Zimmerman is potentially defying all expectations once again and sits in a strong position to hold this seat. While St Pete Polls shows a slight Sprowles advantage, the poll confirms the competitive nature of this race, one where I believe the Democrats might even have a slight edge of holding the seat. Rep. Zimmerman as we have discussed on multiple occasions previously on this website has routinely over-performed running ahead of top of the Democratic ticket even in his losing campaigns of 2006 and 2008 in a similar district. Should Charlie Crist remain competitive in this north Pinellas seat, Zimmerman very well could prevail.

The polling numbers from St Pete Polls would indicate a 2010 like “wave” election. In the Orlando area, the firm has Rep. Karen Castor Dentel trailing her Republican opponent by 18 points and Rep. Linda Stewart trailing her GOP opposition by 15 points. No doubt Democrats are struggling in the Orlando area as polling has shown for most of this election cycle. But the margins represented by the polling in these two seats are ridiculous when you consider the overall competitiveness up and down the ballot in both areas and the Democrats concentrated efforts in these two districts.

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