Politics: Latest Polling Shows a Close Contest for Governor and a Solid Lead for Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate Race
A poll of likely voters released by Rasmussen Reports on September 15, 2010 has the Republican candidate, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, maintaining his lead over Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running without party affiliation, and the Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek. A Reuters-Ipsos poll released on the same day shows a similar lead for Mr. Rubio in the Senate race and a race for governor that is essentially tied.
In the Rasmussen poll, 41 percent of voters supported Mr. Rubio, 30 percent supported Gov. Crist, 23 percent favored Rep. Meek, two percent supported some other candidate, and four percent were undecided. These results were almost identical to an August 25 Rasmussen poll and reflect a steady decline for Gov. Crist and steady improvement for both of his opponents during the course of the summer.
The Rasmussen poll of 750 likely voters was conducted on September 14 and has a margin of error of four percentage points.
A poll conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for Reuters has Mr. Rubio at 40 percent of likely voters, Gov. Crist at 26 percent of likely voters, and Rep. Meek at 21 percent of likely voters, with 13 percent undecided. When the survey is expanded to include all registered voters, Mr. Rubio leads with 32 percent, followed by Gov. Crist at 29 percent, Rep. Meek at 22 percent, and 17 percent undecided.
The same Reuters-Ipsos poll also surveyed the race for governor. Among likely voters, Rick Scott, the Republican candidate, led the Democrat, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, by 47 percent to 45 percent, with eight percent undecided. Among all registered voters, however, Ms. Sink led with 45 percent, followed by Mr. Scott with 41 percent, other candidates with one percent, and 13 percent undecided.
The Reuters-Ipsos poll was conducted on September 10 through September 12. The poll surveyed 600 registered voters, of whom 486 were considered likely voters. The margin of error among registered voters was four percentage points, and the margin of error among likely voters was 4.6 percentage points.
Politics: Republican Party of Florida Releases Forensic Audit of Party Spending
On September 17, 2010, the Republican Party of Florida released what it described as a forensic audit of party spending for the years 2007 – 2009. According to the party, the law firm of Alston & Bird, LLP was retained “to determine the nature and breadth of inappropriate spending that occurred under the leadership of Charlie Crist during the tenure of former chairman James A. Greer.”
The current party chair, Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine), described the audit as “affirmation of the despicable exploitation and gross financial mismanagement of donor funds that occurred at the Republican Party of Florida during the leadership of Charlie Crist and at the direction of his hand-picked chairman Jim Greer.”
The audit revealed a number of questionable expenditures, including a personal vacation to Walt Disney World taken jointly by the Crist and Greer families that cost the party $13, 436; a $7,060 trip to Las Vegas by Mr. Greer and party executive director Delmar Johnson that the audit found was unconnected with party business; several other personal vacations taken by Mr. Greer and members of his family for which the party paid; and numerous expenses that appeared to be related to Gov. Crist’s Republican primary campaign for U.S. Senate. The audit also found that former state Rep. Ray Sansom (who subsequently resigned as House speaker) was responsible for nearly $100,000 in spending on personal items and family travel, some of which he later paid back to the party.
In total, the audit found that from 2007 to 2009, a total of $381,786 in expenses paid by the party was primarily not related to party business, and an additional $98,412 in spending was probably not related to party business.
Economy: Florida’s Unemployment Rate Rises to 11.7 Percent
Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 11.7 percent in August 2010, according to information released by the Agency for Workforce Innovation on September 17. The August figure represents a 0.2 percentage point increase over the rate for July 2010 and a 0.7 percentage point increase over the rate for August 2009. The August 2010 Florida unemployment rate was 2.1 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate of 9.6 percent.
Florida’s unemployment rate peaked at 12.3 percent in March 2010.
The counties with the highest unemployment rates in August 2010 were Hendry County (20.6 percent), Flagler County (16.4 percent), Indian River County (16.2 percent), St. Lucie County (15.6 percent), and Hernando County (15.0 percent). The counties with the lowest rates were Liberty County (7.5 percent), Walton County (7.8 percent), Okaloosa County (8.0 percent), Lafayette County (8.4 percent), and Monroe County (8.5 percent). Fifty-one of Florida’s 67 counties had unemployment rates at or above 10 percent.
Legislature: 2010 – 2012 House Leadership Begins to Take Shape
On September 15, 2010, House Speaker-Designate Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park) designated two representatives to fill key leadership posts, presuming the Republicans maintain control of the chamber in the November elections.
Rep. Cannon designated Rep. Gary Aubuchon (R-Cape Coral) to serve as Rules Chair. In that role, Rep. Aubuchon will be in charge of the flow of legislative business. A home builder and real estate broker, Rep. Aubuchon also was the coordinator of the House’s review of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and would be expected to play a major role in any oil-spill-related legislation.
Rep. Denise Grimsley (R-Lake Placid), who chaired Health Care Appropriations in the 2008 – 2010 biennium, will be Full Appropriations Chair under Rep. Cannon. She will be the first woman to lead the House budget process. She is a registered nurse and a citrus grower.
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