Frank Torres, Orlando Freelance Reporter

Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

Gov. Rick Scott “This will be the number 1 state for you to get a job and for you to get an education”

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2013 at 11:37 pm

Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott unveiled his 74.2 million dollar budget and the number 1 topic was the Governor’s shift to education as his number one priority. Including a 1.2 billion dollar increase in education spending.

Some of the Governor’s biggest opponents during his term have been educators, and in addition to the increased spending we heard about today, he proposed a $2,500 raise for educators last week.

This comes at the half-way point of his term, when almost two years ago cut 2.4 Billion in education spending, and championed a bill that would make government employees start contributing to their own pensions.

This recent trend suggests that the Governor is trying to “walk it back” with his critics and restore some faith with low approval numbers, and serious re-election challengers waiting in the wings for 2014.

The strategy? The analysis involved with this school friendly budget and the new direction the Scott administration is taking us?

He’s got no choice. The economy is very slowly improving, Scott is hoping he can turn his attention to education while the slow growth continues, make some popular moves in areas like immigration and the environment, and hit the campaign trail with a moderate record for a tired electorate, and still be able to tell his base, he was in the Governors mansion during the most conservative session in the state’s history.

This is a new attitude from Rick Scott. We’ll see how far he goes, and how far it will take him with voters.

Rick Scott vs

Rubio gets tough task of selling Senate Immigration plan to GOP Media

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2013 at 2:50 pm

This is the hard part.

Forget standing next to a podium flanked by John McCain and Lindsay Graham, forget sharing the Kumbaya, bi-partisan moments with Chuck Schumer, one of the President’s highest and most loyal Lieutenants. Forget all of the steps Florida Senator Marco Rubio has taken to be the lawmaker who brings the GOP back into the Latino vote field of vision with sweeping Immigration Reform.

You’ve got to sell it to the Conservative Media and not all of them like what they’re hearing.

Rubio has been on a media blitz since an accord on the framework for possible legislation was reached at the beginning of the week, but the response from some of the biggest voices in Republican media has been a range on everything from cautious optimism to a brutal rejection, of the plan that would create a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country.

That comes too close to amnesty, say Conservative Media Personalities like Glenn Beck, and like Rush Limbaugh, who held a tense interview with Rubio yesterday. It was an uncomfortable exchange between the controversial radio hosts and the Senator many see as the GOP’s best chance to retake the White House in 2016.

The President hasn’t made the job any easier for Rubio either. He held a presser yesterday in Las Vegas, Nevada that basically said move on the Senate plan, or he’ll throw one out there himself. It’s the kind of dialog that will make Republicans dig in their heels even deeper against the measure. President Obama mentioned that the process should not wait before “enforcement triggers” are activated involving the border. Rubio’s people had to throw out a release mentioning their disappointment in the President’s remarks.

This is the toughest challenge Senator Rubio has had during his time in Washington. No doubt about it.

The rewards could be huge though. If Rubio can whether the criticism from the media, on his own side and make this happen, he can being viewed as a leader on the big issues and possibly clear a path to a GOP nomination for President in 2016.

Sean Ashby vs. Jennifer Thompson for District 4 in 2014? Early Signs point to Yes.

In Uncategorized on January 29, 2013 at 2:52 pm

It’s too early to declare. It’s never too early to prepare.

A story published by the Orlando Sentinel this morning hinted at an intriguing possible match-up in 2014, for the Orange County Commission District 4 seat that would pit former State Rep. Candidate Sean Ashby vs. Current County Commissioner Jennifer Thompson.

Sparking this speculation was word that Ashby was going to file a complaint with the State Attorney’s office regarding the text messages exchanged between Lobbyist and Commissioners during the Orange County Sick Time initiative, that ultimately failed to make it on the ballot. The text messages were deleted by several commissioners and have set off a series of legal actions.

Ashby had been quiet in this fight (as far as media coverage goes anyways) and the story says he’s been approached about running against Thompson. The group leading the charge, has known ties to opponents of the commission and have targeted Thompson’s seat for next year. It’s hard to believe this action would not be motivated by future political plans.

Jennifer Thompson was easily elected in 2010 in one of the best ran campaigns on the county level. She’s a skilled communicator that is as well versed county issues in all of the districts, not just her own. She’s the most active on Social Media and is capable of raising support that not only puts donations in the bank, but puts volunteers on the streets. She does have some marks against her, including this current controversy revolving around the complaint, and the bad press surrounding her appointments to the redistricting board in 2011.

Ashby would still be the underdog if he ran. A passionate educator who won praise for his views on state education, was one of the few Democrats in the area that didn’t get elected to the Florida House, despite sharing a ballot with President Obama. It would be a challenge to get the turnout needed to topple an incumbent like Thompson in a mid-term. He interviewed with this blog a few months back.

It’s a long way to go until 2014, but for you County Political Junkies (all 9 of you), this would be a terrific match-up.

Could this be a District 4 Showdown in 2014?

Could this be a District 4 Showdown in 2014?

Experts forecast economic improvement Four analysts offer opinions on 2013 outlook

In Uncategorized on January 29, 2013 at 1:52 am

I recently spoke to the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce and had a terrific time talking to the crowd in attendance about 2013.


“It’s going to continue to be a slow slog toward economic improvement,” said political analyst Frank Torres.


A great meeting with some brilliant economic minds

A great meeting with some brilliant economic minds

Rubio, Bi-Partisan Group Release Early Senate Immigration Plan, Nelson On Board too

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm

In what is considered one of Congress’ biggest legislative goals for 2013, the Bi-Partisan “Gang of 8” Senators released a basic framework for sweeping immigration reform.

The plan would layout a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants, their children, and find a solution to visitors currently in the country, that have expired visas.

Details released were slim but, show significant movement to the stale-mate that Congress has been at for the last several years. Florida Senator Marco Rubio was on the panel and has been vocal about finding a solution to a problem both sides believe need attention.

Fellow Florida Senator, and Democrat Bill Nelson is also believed to support the early movement on a bill. No word yet from any Florida Members of the House that might get behind the legislation but with big names on the group like Lindsey Graham and John McCain, progress in the GOP controlled House could be possible.

Having both Senators support the bill could also result in the electorate coalescing behind the initiative. Rubio and Nelson frequently go opposite ways on legislation, with the two occasionally in agreement over issues that effect Floridians directly.

This is could be a major victory for Rubio, who is the early favorite to be the GOP nominee in 2016. Taking leadership on a social issue as big as this one, with the Latino vote more important than ever, could help his chances.

Rubio and Nelson could be looking the same way on Immigration this time

Rubio and Nelson could be looking the same way on Immigration this time

Tant wins FDP Chair Election, Faces Big Challenges

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Yesterday, in Lake Mary Florida, Fundraiser Allison Tant was elected as the new Chairperson of the Florida Democratic Party, succeeding Rod Smith as the leader of the party that’s riding high after a successful November that saw Florida stay blue for President Barack Obama.

Tant beat Grassroots Activists Alan Clenendin (who was elected Vice-Chair) and the two in a symbol of unity after a bitter fight, vowed to defeat the GOP in the 2014 elections.

That’s going to be easier said than done. Much easier said than done.

The fact is that FDP hasn’t been a major part of the winning equation for Democrats in the state for some time. Democrats in General haven’t seen success at the polls without President Obama on the ballot in years. Even in 2006, when Nancy Pelosi took the gavel in the House of Representatives, the Central Florida Congressional Delegation remained bright red. Don’t even get me started on 2010.

If Democrats don’t want to lose their November gains, they’d better get to work. Tant faces huge challenges. Let’s break it down.

Recruiting: The State GOP has candidates lined up for the next two election cycles, from municipal races, to State and federals contests. Democrats have problems finding credible candidates for Congress. In Congressional Districts 6 and 7 you had defeated candidates from 2010 running, and once again lost. Val Demings was a good candidate on paper but couldn’t beat Daniel Webster on the ground in District 10 (with Obama on the ballot), Alan Grayson had to throw money into the GOP primary to avoid a match-up he didn’t want, while running in a district he doesn’t live in. Their biggest hope in the 2014 Governor Race? Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist.

Fundraising: Tant is a fundraiser, she should be able to share trade secrets and help out operations all over the state. Especially, here in Orlando where the biggest fundraiser runs a Personal Injury mega-firm that also donates to Republicans.

Governor Rick Scott: Didn’t you hear? He’s a moderate now. Okay, maybe not but he’s moving to the center and has two years to make nice with an electorate, that’s never warmed up to him, since they took a chance and narrowly elected him in 2010. They mentioned that he spent 70 million that year to get elected, yesterday at the FDP meeting. Wrong. Try 75 million.

Turnout in Mid-Terms: Democrats don’t turnout for mid-terms. Tant could conceivably watch all of the 2012 gains disappear on her watch. Including those big plus numbers in the state house. Don’t believe me? Ask Rod Smith’s predecessor Karen Thurman about mid-term turnout. She resigned after 2010.

This isn’t an easy job. That’s why Rod Smith said the only reason he took it is because no one wanted it. Tant has the opportunity to change the culture of the Florida Democratic Party on her watch, but it’s going to be an uphill climb.

Tant has a challenge ahead leading FDP

Tant has a challenge ahead leading FDP

Florida Governor Rick Scott… The Moderate?

In Uncategorized on January 25, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Flashback to 2010. Florida Governor Rick Scott had just narrowly beat Alex Sink in their November showdown that had textgate, massive TV buys, and the rise of the Tea Party, that turned Tallahassee as Red as it had ever been.

The former healthcare executive leaped into the GOP primary, with his pickup truck and catchy “Let’s get to Work” catchphrase that resonated with voters suffering from high unemployment. He ran as far to the right as possible. Arizona style immigration, Repeal and Replace Obamacare, he linked his competition to the then unpopular Commander in Chief, throwing out phrases like “Obama Math” and “Obama Economics”. When he arrived in office, unions marched to Tallahassee to protest pension contributions, similar to the policies Scott’s colleague, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was implementing up north.

Scott’s approval numbers suffered but the Tea Party and Core Conservatives were still behind him. Besides, he had 4 years to make things right.

Fast Forward to last November where Conservatives took a beating in the November elections. President Obama turned out his people and coasted to re-election, taking hundreds of candidates all over the country along on his coat tails. Including, 5 State House Democrats from right here in the Greater Orlando area.

%33 percent? The high 30’s were the norm for Scott, but this wasn’t going to work. Polls also revealed that voters wouldn’t mind if Scott had a GOP primary opponent, and to make things worse, Scott’s predecessor former Governor Charlie Crist had officially become a Democrat and was leaning toward going after his old job.

His voter base was dwindling. He would lose to Sink, Crist or any of the minor names out there. What is Rick Scott going to do?

Start walking it back. Not only win back voters that supported him two years ago, but poach from the middle, and do it before competition officially declares and kills his re-election chances. Then release a modified “Let’s get to Work” sequel.

It started this week with Scott trying to make peace with some of his biggest critics. Teachers. In a very “Oprah” like gesture Scott declared across the board pay increases for educators.

“2,500 dollars for you and you! 2,500 dollars for everyone!”

Scott has also softened up on other issues like Immigration and Election Reform. Why? He has to. Florida is trending blue but, Scott barely won during the Red November of 2010. He’s got no choice.

It’s Rick Scott the moderate from here on out. The crazy part? He’s got enough time and money to make it work.

Two years, a bottomless war chest, and his biggest threat is an opponent who’s switched party affiliation 3 times in as many years.

Moderate will have to be the new normal for Florida’s Governor if he wants to survive 2014. Can he convince the voters?

Scott's change in political behavior is essential for re-election

Scott’s change in political behavior is essential for re-election

2016 Preview? Rubio, Clinton Fence during Benghazi Hearings

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton gave her long awaited testimony of the attack on the Benghazi compound that took the lives of 4 Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

The hearing was long, contentious, and at times emotional. The Secretary of State was receiving praise for her service one minute and addressing accusations of incompetence the next. Clinton will not stay on as Secretary of State for President Obama’s second term. Senator John Kerry is expected to take over after he is confirmed.

What had many Politicos talking and what should be a point of interest for Floridians was the brief exchange between Clinton and Florida Senator Marco Rubio. They engaged each other during questioning yesterday.

Both are 2016 Presidential favorites for their respective parties. Was this a preview of things to come? If it was, it’s reason for excitement. Both potential Presidential hopefuls are top flight speakers under pressure and Rubio’s involvement puts Florida in the national spotlight once again.

The Senator echoed his colleagues by thanking Clinton for her service and wishing her well then, he led off with questioning over the matters discussed during meetings regarding the security conditions abroad and asked for details over solutions discussed. Increased security at locations came up, Clinton replied that domestic forces had the willingness to help but not the capacity. Rubio asked for more details which Clinton didn’t have and in a tense closing, the Secretary of State promised to send the details to Rubio later.

Neither flinched. Rubio could have been more aggressive like his edgier colleagues such as Rand Paul and Ron Johnson from Wisconsin but it would have done more damage than good and made it look like he was just out to “get” Clinton.

This is the Presidential match-up you want to see but, the road to making it a reality isn’t an easy one.

There is the matter of Hilary Clinton’s health which has hospitalized her over the previous weeks. First was the fall she took when she passed out due to dehydration and then there was the blood clot which delayed this testimony several weeks. She would be in her late 60’s if she wanted to run for President again.

Rubio’s path isn’t an easy one either. The GOP’s deep bench of possible candidates to run in 2016 is long. The “deep bench” includes Rubio, New Jersey Guv Chris Christe, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnel, New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez, and Wisconsin Rep. and Romney runningmate Paul Ryan.

So, a Clinton/Rubio showdown isn’t inevitable but if yesterday’s brief back and forth was an indication of “what could be” it should get both parties excited.

Was yesterday a preview of what we'll see in 2016

Was yesterday a preview of what we’ll see in 2016

Why the possibility of Sequestration should scare Floridians

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2013 at 8:00 pm

You’ve heard the word “Sequestration” used during the budget talks in Washington. In that discussion the term is referring to the massive cuts, that would largely effect the defense industry in this country.

“Why should I care? Aren’t we winding down two wars?”

That’s very common thinking. Especially in states that don’t lean on defense employers as much as we do.

Here in Florida, even the remote possibility of Sequestration should terrify us. Why? Let me explain.

The defense cuts involved in sequestration, that were laid out in the budget deal that averted the fiscal cliff in 2011, doesn’t include military personnel. Makes sense, right? Our brothers and sisters fighting overseas shouldn’t suffer when D.C gridlock stops progress.

It does involve military contractors. I’m talking about Northrop Grummond and Lockheed Martin, two of the biggest defense contractors that employ tens of thousands of talented Floridians. We’re talking about roughly, %20 percent of their income disappearing instantly.

They’re accounting department would react and their decision makers would decide to preserve the bottom line. That means layoffs to adjust for the reduced demands of their product.

Thousands of quality STEM jobs. Gone. In Tampa. In Orlando. In St. Augustine. Instantly.

These companies have already been laying off workers gradually for the last few years. They adjust, consolidate, and re-organize. The industry has seen a reduction of business coming for a long time but, having this much income disappear this quickly would be disastrous.

This morning there was an economic forecasting panel, I was lucky to be a part of. I mentioned sequestration as a challenge to adapting to Washington policy. Two other members of the panel, both Economists with outstanding reputations included it in their presentations as well.

Luckily, Washington knows this and will hopefully reach an agreement before the deadline.

Floridians can’t afford to have them to fail.

The defense industry employs thousands of Floridians

The defense industry employs thousands of Floridians

Central Florida Delegation must proceed carefully in D.C Gun Control Talks

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2013 at 12:02 am

Yesterday, President Barack Obama laid out his guidelines for gun control reform. These guidelines were based off of recommendations given to him by Vice-President Joe Biden and his task force following the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut last month.

As expected, extended capacity magazines, assault rifles with military features and more detailed background checks were on the list. These conditions will now be debated for months to come and with the looming debt ceiling talks, patience will be at a premium in Washington.

Where do our people stand? I’m talking about the Central Florida Congressional Delegation and our Senators.

The Senators were the easy part (and they usually are). Bill Nelson a thumbs up on the plan, Marco Rubio thumbs down. Our members of the House will have a slightly tougher call to make.

Floridians love their guns. They also want to send their children to school with peace of mind that they’ll be safe.

Armed guards at all schools are out of the question. Orange County was outfront and greenlit the plan for an elevated police presence at schools before other municipalities and even the NRA mentioned it. That can’t be the solution, it’s too costly and the money just isn’t there.

The one point that everyone does agree on is that mental health condition. Crazy people shouldn’t have guns but, a judge has to say you’re mentally disturbed and overhauling those procedures will be another challenge entirely.

So, members of Congress have to work with what’s in front of them. The Senate will pass what the President wants, the House is different. They have to act and take weapons out of the hands of their constituents or maintain the status quo and wait for the next disaster.

Republicans supporting the measure will get primaried and probably lose.

Democrats can support the President and face a mid-term general, where it’s not a sure thing their voters will turnout without Obama on the ballot (they didn’t in 2010).

Well, can’t voters support all of the President’s conditions?

That’s not what I’m seeing out there. Calls for protecting the 2nd amendment on social media, record turnout at gun shows; Florida will be a tough sell for any kind of gun control reform.

Our lawmakers will have a difficult vote to make, and this time they can’t have it both ways.

Our lawmakers will have a vote on gun control coming soon

Our lawmakers will have a vote on gun control coming soon