Tag Archives: Gov. Rick Scott

The Emerging Senate Cycle

By Jim Ellis

Tennessee state flag

Tennessee state flag

Oct. 25, 2017 — Though we still have more than two full months remaining in calendar year 2017, the 2018 US Senate field is beginning to take clear shape. With 34 statewide contests to be decided, including the Alabama special election that will conclude Dec. 12, no fewer than 10 campaigns are basically set. Action is occurring in an additional 13 states suggesting that some sort of primary or general election competition will soon come to the forefront. Eleven incumbents seeking re-election are rated as “safe” at the present time.

Former Tennessee US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) announced Monday that he would join the open US Senate Republican primary battle, attempting to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R). This race already appears to be evolving into a possible two-way primary between ex-Rep. Fincher and current 7th District veteran incumbent Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood).

Andy Ogles, the former Tennessee director for Americans for Prosperity, remains in the race after launching what is now a moot primary challenge to Sen. Corker but it is unclear how strong he will be now that several conservative organizations are already beginning to coalesce behind Rep. Blackburn.

The only other bit of Volunteer State intrigue centers around Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen and whether he will enter the statewide contest. Originally, Bredesen took himself out of consideration, but now agrees to consider becoming a candidate. He says a decision will be forthcoming in a matter of weeks. Without Bredesen, the Democrats would likely concede the seat to the eventual Republican nominee since other strong potential candidates, specifically US Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, have already said they will not run.

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Florida: Close Again

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 5, 2017 — Last week, Florida Atlantic University released new survey research data (Aug. 25-26; 800 registered Florida voters via online questioning and telephone automated response) that tested the Sunshine State electorate about the impending Senate contest between three-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and term-limited Gov. Rick Scott (R).

Though we haven’t seen numbers here for months, the FAU data shows little has changed since the last surveys were released. Accordingly, Sen. Nelson tops Gov. Scott by only a 42-40 percent margin, meaning a virtual tie. Close races are nothing new in Florida, as we all know, so the polling results seem plausible.

Gov. Scott is not yet an official Senate candidate and repeatedly says he is no hurry to make a decision. But, the Florida political establishment and other prospective candidates believe he is going to run, which explains why there is so little activity around a Democratic incumbent who could be vulnerable.

Through his first term, the governor had been routinely plagued with poor job approval ratings but still managed to win a close 2014 re-election battle against former governor and now Congressman Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg). Though the FAU poll did not publicize candidate favorability ratios, previous 2017 studies found the governor’s index significantly rebounding into positive territory. It is likely Gov. Scott is sustaining a positive image, since he continues run close to Sen. Nelson on the ballot test question.

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More Sunshine Polling

By Jim Ellis

March 24, 2017 — The Sunshine State of Florida may set an aggregate polling record if the current surveying pace continues. Already we have seen four different pollsters test what may evolve into a US Senate political battle between incumbent Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R), including two new studies released just this week.

More telling than the sheer polling volume is seeing all four surveying entities detect virtually the same result. That is, Sen. Nelson has a discernible lead, as one would expect from a three-term incumbent, but his advantage is small and he fails to top 50 percent in any of the publicized ballot tests.

Sen. Nelson was first elected to the House in 1978 after spending six years in the Florida legislature. He served until running for governor in 1990, losing the Democratic primary to former three-term Sen. Lawton Chiles, who would go onto unseat Gov. Bob Martinez (R) to win the statewide political position. Nelson returned to win the office of Florida treasurer, insurance commissioner and fire marshal in 1994, and then was elected US senator in 2000. He will be 76 years old in November of 2018, and has said on numerous public occasions that he will run for a fourth term.

Gov. Scott came to politics after a career in the hospital industry, which led to him forming his own venture capital firm. Politically, he seems to specialize in winning close, upset elections. He nipped then-Attorney General and former US Congressman Bill McCollum in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary with a three-point margin of victory, and then defeated Florida CFO Alex Sink (D), 49-48 percent, in a contest that the latter was expected to win easily. Despite poor job approval ratings, Gov. Scott was able to slip past former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) in his re-election campaign, in yet another one-point race (48-47 percent).

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part I

By Jim Ellis

March 17, 2017 — As we approach the end of first quarter 2017, we see political maneuvering beginning to occur in many in-cycle US Senate states. Despite what columnists and news reporters are already saying about the Republicans potentially sustaining big mid-term losses in 2018, the Democrats have only one legitimate Senate target: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

Unfortunately for them, Democrats must defend 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (the latter number includes the Alabama special election), and this political fundamental is likely the key reason Republicans will hold the majority irrespective of what the political climate may be like at election time. Arguably, seven of the nine in-cycle GOP seats are located in some of the strongest Republican states in the nation. Today we take a look at the states alphabetically from Alabama through Maryland.

• Alabama: Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) has over a year to solidify himself politically before standing for election. He may well receive a Republican primary challenge because of the circumstances under which he was appointed to succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Strange, while the Alabama attorney general, was conducting an investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley (R), which was obviously stalled when the appointment was made. So far, no one has announced against Sen. Strange, but state Senate President Del Marsh (R) is a possible candidate.

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Nelson vs. Scott

By Jim Ellis

March 10, 2017 — The 2018 Florida Senate race is already creating news. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has repeatedly said he will seek re-election to a fourth term even though he had been rumored as a retirement candidate.

The senator will turn 76 years of age before the next election and completing 30 years of congressional service at that time has led some to believe he might call it a career in 2018. His public comments about seeking re-election are unequivocal, however.

Simultaneously, Gov. Rick Scott (R), ineligible to seek a third term, has publicly discussed challenging Nelson. Now, two contemporary polls testing the hypothetical race were just released, and the early numbers are suggesting a typically close Florida result.

The University of Northern Florida ran a somewhat flawed poll during February (Feb. 16-26; 973 “completed surveys”), over a long 11-day sampling period but featuring a large respondent pool. Referring to them in terms of “completed surveys” tells us little about the group composition, however. Thus, we cannot clearly determine whether those queried are even registered voters, let alone likely participants in a midterm election.

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Jockeying for Position

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 21, 2016 — Already, there is a lot of talk about various senators considering races for governor in their respective states, while at least one term-limited governor publicly muses about running for Senate.

With 38 governors’ races coming to the forefront in the next 24 months — two (New Jersey, Virgninia) in 2017 and 36 in 2018 — we already know that 20 of these states, due to term limits, will choose new governors.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) cannot succeed himself after four years at the state’s helm. Virginia is still the only state in the country that limits its governors to just one term. In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie is ineligible to seek a third term. There is a chance, should Christie obtain an appointment from the Trump Administration, that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) would ascend to the governorship and be in a position to run as an appointed incumbent, however.

In the coming even-numbered year 36 gubernatorial chairs are in-cycle. Eighteen state chief executives are barred from seeking a third term (15 Republicans; 3 Democrats), while eight GOP governors and six Democrats can run for re-election. Alaska Independent Gov. Bill Walker is also eligible for a second term.

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Florida Redistricting: The Latest

Jan. 14, 2016 — The Florida court-ordered redistricting saga continues with new developments regularly changing the political atmospherics. Back in early July, the Florida state Supreme Court struck down eight of the state’s congressional districts – four Republican-held; four Democratic – for reasons of “partisan gerrymandering.”

The map has been changed, enacted, and now fully reported. Since the exact boundaries have found their way into the public domain, we can now see that virtually the entire state has been affected. Mandating boundary alterations in eight districts translated into changing 24 of the state’s 27 CDs. The only three to remain intact are a trio of Republican seats: FL-1 (Rep. Jeff Miller-Pensacola; northwest Florida Panhandle); FL-8 (Rep. Bill Posey; Cape Canaveral to Vero Beach); and FL-19 (Rep. Curt Clawson; Ft. Myers-Cape Coral to Marco Island).

One, Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-Jupiter) 18th District (Ft. Pierce to West Palm Beach), saw less than a one percent change. The two districts altered the most are Rep. Corrine Brown’s (D-Jacksonville) 5th District and GOP Rep. Dan Webster’s 10th CD (Orlando).

The Brown seat that formerly stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando, touching Gainesville and Sanford along the way, now encompasses territory from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. It is still heavily African American, but the original region has been divided over six districts. The largest portion of the 2011-drawn seat, a 40.1 percent population segment, is actually in Orlando. Her Jacksonville anchor maintains just 38.2 percent of the former FL-5 constituency.

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Florida Lines Finally Approved

Dec. 4, 2015 — The Florida Supreme Court finally enacted a congressional redistricting plan on Tuesday. The process began in early July when the high court struck down eight of the state’s congressional districts and now culminates in approving a lower court judge’s statewide plan that changes 22 of the Sunshine State’s 27 CDs.

Currently, the delegation stands at 17R-10D. Democrats are poised for gains, but the actual increase may be smaller than intended. Two South Florida seats, those of Republicans Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), a freshman, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), a 14-term veteran and former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appear designed to elect Democrats but these districts have a history of bucking voting trends at the congressional level. Though Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s 27th CD voted 53 percent for President Obama in 2012, the congresswoman didn’t even draw an opponent in 2014 and notched a 60-37 percent win when last contested.

There is little doubt that Democrats will convert Districts 10 and 13, while Republicans will take back District 2, a seat they lost in the 2014 election.

The Orlando-anchored 10th District becomes 15 points more Democratic on the Obama scale and switches 13 points when looking at gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist’s (D) performance in his 2014 statewide losing effort. Incumbent Rep. Dan Webster (R) can’t win this seat, but he may survive by moving into neighboring District 11, an open CD because Rep. Rich Nugent (R) is not seeking re-election. The 11th gains a significant chunk of Lake County from Webster’s current 10th, meaning the congressman will have a foothold in the new district. If he can win nomination, FL-11’s Republican history will allow him to continue his congressional career.

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The Florida Switch

Oct. 20, 2015 — Central Florida House Republicans are getting nervous. The new redistricting plan, which the state Supreme Court is likely to soon adopt, is not kind to the middle-state GOP incumbents. In preparation, press rumors are floating that several members will switch districts in order for each to have a winnable place to run next year.

Under the lower court’s proposed map, Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL-10) is the odd man out. His current Orlando-anchored district goes from a 46 percent Obama district to one where the president scored 61 percent. Therefore, the new 10th District becomes unwinnable for Webster even by his own admission.

Ironically, Rep. Alan Grayson’s (D) 9th District, now a 62 percent Obama district becomes even more Republican than the new 10th. The new southeastern Orlando suburban 9th would carry a 56 percent Obama rating, but even this Republican improvement would not yield a GOP victory particularly in a presidential election year. The 9th will be an open seat because Rep. Grayson is running for the Senate.

Rep. John Mica’s (R) 7th District is currently a 47 percent Obama district that would move to 49 percent Obama because the city of Sanford is annexed, which makes it a virtual tie at the presidential level (Mitt Romney also scored 49 percent). The open 6th District, northeast of the 7th that hugs the Atlantic coast from Daytona through Volusia County, is the seat Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) is vacating to run for Senate. This district gets more Democratic, too, but should remain in Republican hands. Originally, the 6th gave 41 percent of its votes to Obama; now, it would be 46 percent.

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Florida Supreme Court: CDs Unconstitutional

July 13, 2015 — Issuing a long-awaited decision late last week, the Florida State Supreme Court on a 5-2 vote, featuring a lengthy and powerful dissent from Associate Justice and former Congressman Charles Canady (R), declared eight congressional districts illegal under the Florida Constitution in reference to the voter-passed redistricting initiative. The 2010 citizen sponsored measure put partisan restrictions on legislative map drawers, and it is under these provisions that the court took its action.

For the short-term, it means that representatives Corrine Brown (D-FL-5), David Jolly (R-FL-13), Kathy Castor (D-FL-14), Ted Deutch (D-FL-21), Lois Frankel (D-FL-22), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) will soon have their districts reconstructed and before the 2016 election.

The ruling will force the legislature to convene in special session to redraw significant portions of the map. Though the court singled out these eight districts, the entire state map could conceivably be affected. Certainly the districts that lie adjacent to the seats in question stand a good chance of changing, particularly in the urban areas where multiple districts converge at a single point like in Orlando. By definition, if one district is altered, at least one other bordering seat must also change.
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Pence Opts In — and Out — of Race;
Florida Makes a GOP Primary Move

May 21, 2015 — On Tuesday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) announced both that he will compete in a political contest, yet he won’t. After speculating about running for president, Pence formally declared that he will seek re-election as governor. Therefore, he is out of the presidential contest but he certainly remains in the political arena.

So far, the preponderance of prospective Republican candidates have either officially jumped into the race or appear headed in that direction. Two, Pence and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, have decided not to enter the national campaign.

This means the Republican field could still reach as many as 18 candidates. Eleven have either become candidates or, in the case of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and ex-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, will enter the race soon. Two major potential contenders, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also have yet to formally declare, but will reportedly do so sometime in June.

This will be a record large presidential field and, with no one performing as a clear front-runner, the race may not be finally decided until the very end of the nominating cycle.
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Is McCollum Poised to Make a
Comeback in the Florida Senate?

April 23, 2015 — A new but familiar name has surfaced in the open Florida Senate candidate conversation. Beginning the process of deciding whether to enter another campaign is former congressman and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R).

Out of office since losing the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary to current Gov. Rick Scott, McCollum was assumed to be retired from elective politics after spending 20 years in the House, four more as attorney general, and losing two US Senate campaigns and a governor’s race.

A new poll, however, is clearly one of the elements making him think about embarking upon yet another political campaign. The new Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey (April 14-16; 400 Florida Republican primary voters; 400 Florida Democratic primary voters) finds McCollum holding a significant lead over the rest of the prospective Republican primary field.
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Jumping the Gun in the Florida Senate

Major action is happening in the upcoming Florida Senate race even without an official re-election or retirement announcement from Republican incumbent Marco Rubio. And now we see that at least two GOP officeholders are possibly leaping ahead to eye Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) re-election bid in 2018.

Sen. Rubio has been saying for months that he would not simultaneously run for president and re-election to the Senate. Since it appears clearer by the day that he will soon enter the presidential contest, waiting for the statement that he will not seek a second term in the Senate appears relegated to mere formality status.

We previously reported that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) is expected to officially announce his 2016 senatorial campaign next week. He says he’s running irrespective of what Sen. Rubio decides, but the Florida politicos are all proceeding as if Rubio will not seek re-election to a second term so he can run in an unencumbered fashion for president.

Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) said she will not run statewide next year. Considering her recent flap of troubles with part of her Democratic funding base and a controversy over whether she would politically attack President Obama if removed as Democratic National Committee chair, it is not surprising that she is retreating to the safety of her US House district.
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Even More Presidential Candidates Emerge

Almost everyday now, a new individual is mentioned as someone considering a potential run for president in 2016. The latest to be attracting some attention are two big state Republican governors both named Rick. Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Michigan state chief executive Rick Snyder are reportedly floating national trial balloons, testing whether they might be viable GOP presidential candidates next year.

Though both are clearly considered long shot candidates at best, they do have several key obvious positives. First, they are governors, which has historically been the best office from which to successfully run for the White House. Second, if either were to capture the nomination, their home states should give them a key boost on the general election map, particularly in Gov. Scott’s case because a Republican realistically cannot win a presidential election without carrying Florida. Third, both have a fundraising base that could quickly reach national proportions.

But, both Scott and Snyder also possess clear negatives. Though they won re-election to a second term last month in their respective competitive states, neither did so impressively. Florida being the quintessential swing domain always yields a close race, but Scott’s 48-47 percent victory margin, virtually identical to his 49-48 percent win four years ago over then-Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D), should have been stronger against an opponent Continue reading >

No Surprises In Florida; Russell “Gets It” in Oklahoma; Arizona Results Roundup

Florida

The Florida primary proceeded as expected. Gov. Rick Scott won an 88 percent Republican victory; former Gov. Charlie Crist scored 74 percent on the Democratic side. With no US Senate race on the ballot this year, all of the contested federal action is in US House races. The eight challenged incumbents all broke 70 percent of the vote.

In the two congressional races of note, Miami Dade School Board member and former US Senate state director for interim Sen. George LeMieux (R), Carlos Curbelo, was an easy winner in the Miami-based 26th District. He earns the right to challenge freshman Rep. Joe Garcia (D) in what will be a highly competitive campaign.

Curbelo defeated four other Republicans, including former Rep. David Rivera who was attempting a comeback after being defeated in 2012, a result of several simultaneous scandals involving the freshman congressman and former state representative. Rivera managed to attract only eight percent of the vote last night. Curbelo topped the field with 47 percent, Continue reading >