Florida Government and Politics Weekly Update

09 August 2010 Publication
Authors: Robert H. Hosay Thomas J. Maida

Public Policy News Alert

Politics: Mason-Dixon Polls Show Tightening Primary Races; Rasmussen Polls Show a Close Race for Governor Regardless of Who Wins the Republican Primary

A Mason-Dixon poll released by the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida on August 5, 2010 indicates that the primary contests for the Republican nomination for governor and the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate are tightening.

In the Republican primary for governor, the Mason-Dixon poll shows businessman Rick Scott leading Attorney General Bill McCollum by 37 percent to 31 percent, with 29 percent undecided. Several polls taken by other pollsters in the month of July showed Mr. Scott leading by as much as 16 percentage points. The Real Clear Politics average of polls taken between July 16 and August 4 shows Mr. Scott leading by 41.6 percent to 29.0 percent.

The Mason-Dixon poll also showed U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-17th Congressional District) leading real estate investor Jeff Greene by 33 percent to 29 percent in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. A Quinnipiac University poll in late July showed Mr. Greene leading by 10 percentage points, while other polls showed a slight lead for Rep. Meek. The Real Clear Politics average of July and August polls showed the race essentially tied, with Mr. Greene leading Rep. Meek by 29 percent to 28 percent.

The Mason-Dixon poll surveyed 625 likely Democratic primary voters and 625 likely Republican primary voters from August 2 through August 4 and has a margin of error of four percentage points.

On August 3, 2010, Rasmussen Reports released its most recent general election poll, which showed Mr. Scott leading if he is the Republican nominee for governor and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate, leading if Attorney General McCollum is the Republican nominee.

In a three-way race for governor between Mr. Scott, CFO Sink, and no-party-affiliation candidate Bud Chiles, Mr. Scott wins the support of 35 percent of respondents, Ms. Sink is supported by 31 percent, Mr. Chiles is supported by 16 percent, six percent favor some other candidate, and 12 percent are undecided.

Mr. Chiles apparently takes votes from both the Republican and the Democratic candidate. A June 7 Rasmussen poll, taken before Mr. Chiles entered the race, showed Mr. Scott leading with 45 percent, followed by CFO Sink with 40 percent, three percent for some other candidate, and 12 percent undecided.

In a race between Attorney General McCollum, CFO Sink, and Mr. Chiles, CFO Sink leads with 31 percent, Attorney General McCollum is in second place with 27 percent, Mr. Chiles is in third place with 20 percent, eight percent favor some other candidate, and 13 percent are undecided.

Once again, Mr. Chiles appears to draw votes from both of his opponents. The June 7 Rasmussen poll had Mr. McCollum leading with 40 percent, followed by CFO Sink with 38 percent, eight percent for some other candidate, and 13 percent undecided.

The Rasmussen poll of 750 likely voters was conducted on August 2 and has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

Campaign Finance: State Will Not Challenge Eleventh Circuit Ruling Enjoining Spending Cap

On August 4, 2010, the Florida Department of State announced that it would not challenge the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit enjoining a portion of Florida’s campaign finance law. Gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott sought the injunction against a provision that effectively caps a gubernatorial candidate’s spending at $24.9 million by providing a dollar-for-dollar payment to a candidate’s opponents matching all of the candidate’s spending in excess of the cap.

Department of State Spokesperson Jennifer Krell Davis announced the state’s decision to accept the court’s ruling, saying, “In analyzing our options and wanting to have finality on the issue, we felt it was the best choice not to ask for further hearings on the issue.”

It is not known whether Mr. Scott’s Republican primary opponent, Attorney General McCollum, will seek review of the Eleventh Circuit ruling. Campaign Spokesperson Kristy Campbell told reporters that the McCollum campaign was still considering its options, which might include a challenge to Florida’s $500-per-person contribution limit.

Should Mr. Scott win his primary, the question of the spending cap could come up again if the Democratic candidate, CFO Sink, decides to accept public funding. CFO Sink’s campaign has not yet announced whether it will accept public funding.

State Agencies: Two Department Secretaries Resign

Two heads of state agencies have announced their decisions to resign. On August 2, 2010, Gov. Charlie Crist’s office announced that Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Mike Sole was resigning to pursue other opportunities. Mr. Sole, a career DEP professional, has served as secretary throughout Gov. Crist’s term.

Mr. Sole’s resignation takes effect on September 10, when he will be replaced by DEP Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs Mimi Drew.

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Tom Arnold announced on August 6 that he will retire at the end of the month. Mr. Arnold was appointed to the post in October, 2009, after Secretary Holly Benson resigned to run for attorney general. An agency spokesperson indicated that Mr. Arnold, a 32-year state employee, “has no future plans.”

Gov. Crist announced that Deputy Secretary, Division of Health Quality Assurance Elizabeth Dudek will become interim secretary upon Mr. Arnold’s retirement.

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:

G. Donovan Brown
Tallahassee, Florida

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

Marnie George of The George Group assists Foley on a variety of government and public policy matters as a consultant.

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