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2017 looks to be banner year for Florida special legislative elections

Sun Sentinel Editorial Board members talk about Sen. Jeff Clemens and the news of his resignation because he had an affair.

State Rep. Daisy Baez, D-Miami, has resigned, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis running to keep his job, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine announced his gubernatorial campaign ... just another day in Florida politics.


Out: State Rep. Daisy Baez, D-Miami, will resign her seat before pleading guilty to perjury, the Miami Herald's Patricia Mazzei reports. That will open the door to a special election in a toss-up House district that will determine whether Republicans have a supermajority in the state House. And including the special election that will have to take place to replace state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, who resigned Friday after admitting to an affair with a lobbyist now employed by Broward County, the election to replace Baez will be the SEVENTH (7th) special election in the Florida Legislature since the 2016 elections. And keep in mind that the Senate special election will include at least one state representative, Democrat Lori Berman of Lantana, and possibly a second, David Silvers, D-Lake Clarke Shores, opening the door to as many as NINE (9) special Florida legislative elections before we get to the general election in 2018. 

Berman has already announced her run, and I've been told that Silvers is in, but when I tried to ask him about it at an event Monday, he said he couldn't answer questions just at the moment and then ducked out of the Broward Days kickoff event before I had a chance to talk to him. Sad!

For those keeping score, in chronological order:

State Senate District 40: Democrat Annette Taddeo beats state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, to replace disgraced state Sen. Frank Artiles, who went off on an obscenity-laced tirade directed at other members of the Florida Senate. But though Diaz lost, he had to resign his House seat to run, which opened up...

House District 116: A solidly Republican district, where Daniel Perez beat Jose Mallea in a heavily contested Republican primary before winning the general election. 

House District 44: After Gov. Rick Scott appointed state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, to a judgeship, Bobby Olszewski beat John Newstreet by just over 90 votes in a Republican primary before winning a general election that was surprisingly close, given that Democratic candidate Paul Chandler had withdrawn from the race and was replaced by Eddy Dominguez, whose name did not appear on the ballot. 

House District 58: State Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, announced his resignation from the Florida Legislature effective Aug. 15, citing health issues related to back surgery. Lawrence McClure won a GOP primary there Oct. 10, and will face Democrat Jose Vazquez on Dec. 19. Democrats have a slight edge in voter registration in the Hillsborough County district, but McClure has an overwhelming advantage in fundraising, with about $50,000 remaining in his campaign account after the primary, compared to Vazquez's $345. (Those numbers accurate through Oct. 5, the last reporting date for campaign finances.)

House District 72: After having just won the seat in 2016, state Rep. Alex Miller, R-Sarasota, resigned Sept. 1, citing family and business obligations. James Buchanan, son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, seems likely to win the seat in the Feb. 13, 2018 special election. He'll face a Democrat, to be decided between Margaret Good and Ruta Jouniari in a Dec. 5 primary. But Republicans have a strong voter registration advantage in the district, and Buchanan has raised $195,000 through Oct. 19. Then again, Good has raised money like gangbusters, almost $88,000 in her first month of fundraising, Sept. 15-Oct. 19. But the GOP voter advantage in the district will be hard to overcome. 

Senate District 31: And then there's Clemens' seat. Special election dates haven't been set, but Berman and former state Rep. Irv Slosberg are already in the race. Plus Silvers and outgoing Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein are both likely. 

House District 114: The district of admitted purjuror Baez was one of the most hotly contested in the 2016 election, with Baez beating Republican John Couriel by just 1,336 votes out of 67,268 votes cast. Could we see the return of Couriel? Either way, it's sure to be a hard-fought general election, with voter registration numbers that are truly toss-up territory -- 34,509 Republicans, 33,248 Democrats and 27,027 no-party voters in the 2016 election. 

House District 90: Berman's House district is solidly Democratic territory, so much so that a Republican didn't even run here in 2016. Whoever wins a Democratic primary -- and there's almost certain to be one in such a gimme seat for the Dems -- will waltz into the House in the general. 

House District 87: Silvers's district is another easy Democratic win, where the freshman Democrat won a convincing victory in a three-way primary in 2016. If both Silvers and Berman run for Senate, most of Palm Beach County between Boynton Beach and Okeechobee boulevards and between Florida's Turnpike and Interstate 95 will be voting in a special election for a new state representative. If past is prologue (see the vote for SD 40 and HD 116), the House and Senate special elections will likely take place on the same day. 


In: Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, appointed to the gig by Gov. Rick Scott after the resignation of Jeff Atwater, who took a job at Florida Atlantic University, is officially in the race for re-election, the Associated Press reports. Unsurprisingly given that he picked Patronis for the job, Scott is endorsing the man despite the fact that there's likely to be a Republican primary. State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, has said he intends to run, and he previously was the Republican candidate for the job in 2006, when he lost to Democrat Alex Sink by about seven points. Patronis will also face Republican Antoanet Iotova, who previously lost a state Senate race to Gary Farmer in Broward County and, most recently, was indicted in a $17 million bank fraud scheme in January of this year. Whoever wins that primary will face former Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Ring, of Parkland, in the general election. Ring, a former Yahoo executive, as already dropped $100,000 of his own money on the race and raised another $150,000, campaign finance records show. 


Also in: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine announced this morning that he is running for governor of Florida on the Democratic ticket, the Sun Sentinel's Anthony Man reports. 

Two ways to react to the news if you're already in the Democratic gubernatorial race:

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum welcomed Levine: "We’re looking forward to hearing from Mayor Levine during this Democratic primary, and certainly hopes he accepts our proposal to have at least 6 Democratic debates with cross-talk and rebuttals."

Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, on the morning the Miami Beach mayor announced his candidacy, announced the endorsements of three South Florida mayors: West Palm Beach's Jeri Muoio, Coral Springs's Skip Campbell and Pembroke Pines' Frank Ortis. This is what is known as "shots fired."

St. Pete Polls is out today with a new poll of the Democratic primary, which found "undecided" to have a big lead. The poll included 1,726 Florida Democrats, giving it a margin of error of just 2.3 percent -- pretty good as these things go. It found 46 percent of Democrats are undecided in the governor's race. Graham has the lead among named candidates, with 31 percent, followed by Gillum (13 percent), Levine (6 percent) and Chris King (5 percent). (Yes, I know that adds up to 101 percent, math nerds. I rounded the percentages off to the nearest whole number. Sue me.)


Shiny new licenses: The state is debuting its new driver's licenses, the Sun Sentinel's Skyler Swisher reports. The new licenses have greater fraud protections and also include a space to list if the holder is developmentally disabled, a requirement the Legislature passed a couple years ago. The new designation is meant to let police know that license holders have developmental disabilities, so that they don't mistake odd behavior for a sign of drug use or otherwise fear for their own safety when encountering people who may act strangely but don't pose a danger.


Why put off till tomorrow what you could put off till a few months from now? Disgraced former Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown (gosh, I have been using that adjective an awful lot to describe lawmakers recently) is due to be sentenced Nov. 16 for crimes relating to a sham charity that she used as a personal slush fund. The Associated Press reports she is asking for a delay of that sentencing hearing citing medical reasons and a complaint that a presentencing hearing did not give her enough credit for her charitable work. Again, just to emphasize, she wants a delay in her sentencing for fraud and tax evasion over a scam charity owing in part to her charitable work


Generating controversy: Two nursing home groups have asked the First District Court of Appeals to toss out an emergency order by Gov. Rock Scott requiring nursing homes to have generators to back up air conditioning in place by Nov. 15, the Associated Press reports. An administrative law judge put a stsop to the order last week, but Scott is continuing to insist on it as he appeals that ruling. 


How's the Senate doing? Not well, friends. Not well. The Orlando Sentinel's Gray Rohrer reports that the whole chamber is on edge after the sex scandal involving disgraced (there's that word again) state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, and reports of surveillance of other state senators by private investigators, members of the Senate have replaced the congenial atmosphere of the Legislature's upper body with creeping paranoia over who could be next and what it will be that undoes them. 

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are trying to pick themselves up from the scandal. Aside from an impending special election (see first item), the Dems that remain in the Senate have to elect a new Minority Leader for 2019-20, a job that was set to go to Clemens. That election will take place next week, and I'm reporting that the likely winner, following some last-minute machinations, is this woman:

State Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, pictured in happier times. 

Assuming she holds her voting bloc together, Gibson will take over amid a forthcoming election in which Democrats hope to near a majority in the state Senate while also trying to move forward from the salacious scandal that put her into office and the fear and loathing that are tightening their grip on the Capitol. Fun times!


Gassing up: State Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, is out with a proposal to establish a strategic fuel reserve for Florida, the News Service of Florida's Jim Turner reports. That comes after some areas of the state were left with dangerously low supplies immediately preceding and following Hurricane Irma. 

Farmer's bill could dovetail with attempts in the House to respond to the hurricane, where House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, created a Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness to come up with reforms. That committee's bills will likely come out in mid-December. 


Trump+Russia: Privyet, comrades! Let's get this stuff out of the way quickly, because there's a lot of other national political news to cover. To make its case that Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, poses a flight risk, the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller pointed out that Manafort has three passports under different ID numbers and has applied for passports 10 times in the last decade, the Washington Post's Spencer Hsu reports. 

Plus, while the Trump administration has dismissed George Papadopoulos as a "low-level volunteer," the Washington Post reports that he had regular contact with the most senior members of the Trump campaign.

Back when Trump's campaign first announced Papadopoulos as a foreign policy adviser, the Washington Post's Missy Ryan and Steve Mufson reported that the man listed among his credentials that he participated in the 2012 Model United Nations in Geneva. The Hill's Rebecca Savransky reports that Papadopoulos appears to have lied about his participation in the Model UN, and that other parts of his resume may be fabricated as well.  

Again, just to emphasize, a Trump foreign policy adviser cited the Model UN as a credential and even that turned out to be untrue.

The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Robert Costa report that many of Trump's advisers are telling him to go to war with Mueller, advice that he is so far resisting, which is probably a good thing in that U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, told the Sun Sentinel's Anthony Man yesterday that firing Mueller would be grounds for impeachment


"In hindsight, we should have had a broader lens": That's the world from aptly named Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, who admitted under roasting pressure form senators yesterday that Facebook has no way of knowing who's buying its ads and, despite laws banning foreign financing of ads for political campaigns, accepted payment in Russian rubles for political ads, the Associated Press's Tom LoBianco and Ryan Nakashima report.


Delay on tax talk: The Associated Press's Marcy Gordon and Andrew Taylor report that a final bill on a proposed $6 trillion tax cut will be delayed a day while House Republicans iron out last-minute details, many of which are in the story


Hold onto your wallets: Health insurance plans under Obamacare are set to skyrocket in price this enrollment period, partially due to the Trump administration's decision to end subsidies for most plans, the Sun Sentinel's Ron Hurtibise reports. The massive jump in prices will mostly affect middle class workers making more than $48,000 a year who don't have insurance through their workplace. 


The dike could get fixed early, but at what cost? President Donald Trump has said he supports an increased pace of work on the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, but details are vague and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is pressing for more information. The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, which once called for Rubio's resignation, is now out with an editorial supporting the senator


NYC's truck terrorist: President Donald Trump has used the terrorist attack in New York City yesterday to call attention to the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which he referred to on Twitter as "a Chuck Schumer beauty" as he called for merit-based immigration. The Associated Press's Catherine Lucey reports that the truck driver, Sayfullo Saipov, entered the country from Uzbekistan in 2010, though aside from Trump, officials have not said whether he entered via the lottery program. His last known address was in Tampa, because as we all know, every weird/awful story will eventually tie back to Florida somehow. 


If you want to catch the Wave, you'll have to pay for it: The Sun Sentinel's Larry Barszewski reports that Broward County officials are again looking at an increase in sales tax to fund transportation costs, including road improvements, after a proposed half-cent tax was approved by voters last year, but failed because voters did not approve a linked half-cent tax increase dedicated to infrastructure projects for cities. The new proposal would raise taxes by a full cent strictly for transportation projects and comes as cost estimates for the Wave streetcar system have ballooned.


MEANWHILE, IN THE TWITTERVERSE ...

Wouldn't it be great to Repeal the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate in ObamaCare and use those savings for further Tax Cuts.....

≥140 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: That's not how that works. Good Lord, none of this is how any of this works! Somebody gimme a Zoolander "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills" GIF, stat!

 

I support Tallahassee/Leon consolidation. Last vote was 1992. Dug up old precinct map I made of it

≥140 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: I never noticed until this map how much Leon County looks like the state of New York. Not sure what that says about either of them.

 

Starting today, you can sign up for 2018 health coverage. Head on over to HealthCare.gov and find a plan that meets your needs.

≥140 CHARACTER HOT TAKE: And then, after you've taken out a second mortgage to pay for it, you can finally get quality health care. 

 

As always, I'm @Daniel_Sweeney. Troll me there. 

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