Florida Government and Politics Weekly Update

13 July 2009 Publication
Author(s): Robert H. Hosay Thomas J. Maida

Public Policy News Alert

Politics: Gov. Crist’s Second-Quarter Fundraising Tops $4.3 Million; Rep. Meek, CFO Sink, and Attorney General McCollum Each Raise More Than $1 Million
Gov. Charlie Crist’s campaign for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Mel Martinez in 2010 raised more than $4.3 million in contributions during the calendar quarter ending on June 30, 2009. The governor’s fundraising results greatly exceeded those of his primary election opponent, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R-West Miami), who raised $340,000 during the three-month reporting period.

The apparent leader for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-17th Congressional District), reported contributions of $1.2 million for the second quarter of 2009. Rep. Meek has raised a total of $3.1 million since the start of his campaign.

Both leading candidates for governor, Democratic CFO Alex Sink and Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum, raised more than $1 million in the second quarter. CFO Sink reported that she had raised $1.3 million in the second quarter, for a fundraising total of $2.4 million. Attorney General McCollum reported $1.1 million in contributions for the second quarter.

In other statewide races, state Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach) announced that he had raised $528,655 between May 18 and June 30, 2009 for his campaign to succeed Ms. Sink as CFO. State Sen. Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres) raised $173,362 in his campaign for attorney general, and his primary opponent, state Sen. Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach) raised $150,853. Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam (R-12th Congressional District) raised $258,523 during the second quarter; his primary opponent, state Sen. Carey Baker (R-Eustis) raised $61,787.

Politics: Mason-Dixon Poll Shows Gov. Crist With a Strong Lead Over All Opponents; AG McCollum With a Slight Lead Over CFO Sink
In a survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc., between June 24 and June 26, 2009, Gov. Crist had a strong lead both over his Republican primary opponent and his Democratic potential general election opponents. In the primary matchup against former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R-West Miami), Gov. Crist held a 28-percentage-point lead, with 51 percent to Mr. Rubio’s 23 percent. However, the race appeared much closer among Republican voters who recognized the names of both candidates, with Gov. Crist polling 33 percent, Mr. Rubio polling 31 percent, and 36 percent undecided.

Gov. Crist also showed a strong lead over Democratic U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown (D-3rd Congressional District) and Kendrick Meek (D-17th Congressional District), his likely general election opponents. Against Rep. Meek, the governor had a 22-point lead, 48 percent to 26 percent, with another 26 percent undecided. Against Rep. Brown, Gov. Crist had a 31-point lead, 55 percent to 24 percent, with 21 percent undecided.

In the race for governor, state Attorney General Bill McCollum garnered a six-point lead over state CFO Alex Sink, leading by 41 percent to 35 percent, with 24 percent undecided. The poll also addressed speculation that state Sen. Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland) might oppose Attorney General McCollum in a primary. Sen. Dockery, whose name was not recognized by 76 percent of the survey respondents, polled four percent to AG McCollum’s 53 percent, with 43 percent undecided.

In primary elections for other statewide offices, the majority of survey respondents were undecided. The two announced Democratic candidates for attorney general, state Senators Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach) and Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres), and a third potential candidate, former state Sen. Rod Smith (D-Alachua), were favored by 11 percent, 10 percent, and 13 percent of respondents respectively, but 66 percent of poll respondents were undecided. Republican primary matchups produced similar results. In the Republican primary for CFO, state Senate President Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach) held a 17-percent to 10-percent lead over state Rep. Pat Patterson (R-DeLand), with 73 percent undecided. U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam (R-12th Congressional District), a candidate for agriculture commissioner, led state Sen. Carey Baker (R-Eustis) by 13 percent to four percent, with 83 percent undecided.

Mason-Dixon polled 625 Florida registered voters, all of whom said they regularly voted in state elections, by telephone between June 24 and June 26, 2009. The margin of error was four percentage points. For the questions regarding primary elections, the survey oversampled likely primary voters, questioning 300 likely Democratic primary voters and 300 likely Republican primary voters. The margin of error for the partisan questions was six percentage points.

Politics: Republicans Await Lt. Gov. Kottkamp’s Decision on Running for Attorney General; Democrats Gain a Candidate for Agriculture Commissioner
With Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp publicly discussing a possible run for state attorney general in 2010, no major Republican has yet entered the race to succeed Attorney General McCollum. According to press interviews with a prominent political consultant, the lieutenant governor is preparing to enter the race but is probably several weeks away from making an announcement.

Press reports have recently raised the possibility that Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Holly Benson might enter the primary. Ms. Benson previously served as a Republican state representative from Pensacola. Three state representatives who had been widely mentioned as potential candidates, Rep. Dean Cannon (R-Orlando), Rep. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), and Rep. Tom Grady (R-Naples), have all announced that they would not run for attorney general, as has former Crist administration chief of staff George Lemieux.

Fort Lauderdale attorney Jim Lewis is a declared candidate, and Orlando attorney Will McBride, who ran in the 2006 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, is reportedly considering running.

On July 8, 2009, former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox announced that he would enter the Democratic primary for agriculture commissioner, challenging Audubon of Florida lobbyist Eric Draper and two other candidates. Mr. Maddox previously served as chair of the Florida Democratic Party and was briefly a candidate for governor in the 2006 election cycle.

State Government: Florida Pension Fund Balance Down by $27.1 Billion at the End of the Fiscal Year
According to estimates released by the Florida State Board of Administration, on the last day of the 2008 – 2009 fiscal year, the balance in Florida’s pension fund stood at $99.8 billion. The June 30, 2009 fund balance was $27.1 billion less than the fund balance as of June 30, 2008.

The retirement fund for Florida government employees is currently funded at 93 percent of its total obligations. The funding level first reached 100 percent in the late 1990s and rose to 118 percent as a result of the dot-com boom.

Insurance: A.M. Best Co. Downgrades the Ratings of the Former Allstate Floridian Companies
On July 7, 2009, the A.M. Best Co. issued new financial strength ratings for the Castle Key Insurance Group, which is made up of the companies formerly known as the Allstate Floridian Insurance Group. The new rating of the companies’ claims paying ability is B -   (Fair), a downgrade from the previous rating of B + (Good). The companies’ business is limited to writing property insurance in Florida.

In announcing the downgrade, the A.M. Best Co. stated, “Castle Key continues to maintain significant exposure to hurricanes and is susceptible to market dislocations and regulatory changes. The ratings also reflect the group’s continued unprofitability.”

Public Policy News Alert is part of our ongoing commitment to providing up-to-the-minute information about pressing concerns or industry issues affecting our clients and our colleagues. If you have any questions about this alert or would like to discuss these topics further, please contact your Foley attorney or any of the following individuals:

Marnie George
Tallahassee, Florida

Michael P. Harrell
Tallahassee, Florida

Robert H. Hosay
Tallahassee, Florida

Jonathan P. Kilman
Orlando, Florida

Thomas J. Maida
Tallahassee, Florida

Leonard E. Schulte
Tallahassee, Florida

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