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PRFAA Joins The Battle For Florida $1m To Alter Non-Compliant Signs Prats Says Rossello Overstates Democratic Governors Support Martin Calls For A Clean Campaign Acevedo Vila Starts New "Town By Town Revolution" Phase
The Battle For Florida Heats Up, Stirring Memories Of The Recount
By ABBY GOODNOUGH
March 8, 2004
MIAMI, March 7 Democrats have courted young voters with a "Donkeys Rock" registration drive, dangling perks like bottle-opener key chains, as Republicans have scoured databases to find like-minded voters among sportsmen, real estate agents and military families.
Democratic interest groups have attacked President Bush's trustworthiness on the airwaves, while the Bush-Cheney campaign has trained legions of volunteers for what they know will be a block-by-block battle.
The tug of war over Florida, capital of swing voters and microscopic election margins, extends far beyond the preparations for the primary on Tuesday. Both sides have been mapping strategy since the bitter recount of 2000, with sophisticated armies vying for the volatile electorate earlier than ever. Florida has 9.3 million voters and 27 electoral votes, 10 percent of what is needed to win.
President Bush, haunted by the 36-day stalemate here after the 2000 election, which ended with a 537-vote victory, has visited 19 times, most recently touching down in Daytona Beach and Tampa to court Nascar dads and promote his tax cuts.
Senator John Kerry made Orlando his first stop of the general campaign season, rousing supporters with reminders of the 2000 recount, and planned to hold rallies in Florida on Monday.
The Bush campaign is spending $900,000 for its first television advertising blitz here, more than twice as much as it is spending in any other state, according to strategists tracking the purchase.
"Florida is on the knife edge of partisan balance," Lance M. deHaven-Smith, a professor at Florida State University who has studied voting patterns, said. "It's a place where little things can alter the turnout just enough to tip the scales."
Even before 2000, the churning mixture of blacks, Hispanics, retirees from other states, urban liberals, suburban moderates and conservative-leaning rural residents made for a deeply divided state. One of five voters is unaffiliated or belongs to a minor party, assuring roller-coaster campaigns for national candidates.
Nowhere is the evolving battle for the presidency clearer than along the Interstate 4 corridor, which cuts diagonally across the state from Tampa through Orlando to Daytona Beach. Young professionals and new Hispanic immigrants have poured into the region, giving the Democrats a foothold in places like Orange County, which includes Orlando, for the first time in decades.
Still, Republicans have held their ground along the corridor, which narrowly went for Mr. Bush in 2000.
The biggest change along Interstate 4 has been the arrival of tens of thousands of Hispanic immigrants not Cubans, who remain concentrated around Miami, but Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and others drawn to Central Florida for tourism, agriculture and service-industry work. A project sponsored by the Puerto Rican government has registered 18,000 Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida in the last seven months.
Hispanics along the corridor voted Democratic in 2000, helping Al Gore become the first Democrat to win Orange County in a presidential election since 1948. But in the race for governor in 2002, those voters went heavily for Jeb Bush, the Republican incumbent and the president's brother. Governor Bush, who speaks fluent Spanish, is running his brother's re-election campaign here and will court Hispanic voters on his behalf.
The Republicans may have another advantage among Hispanic voters: Mel Martinez, who stepped down as secretary of housing and urban development in December to run for the Senate seat that Bob Graham, a Democrat, is leaving. Mr. Martinez, a Cuban-American, is popular in Central Florida because he is a former manager of Orange County.
Beyond the corridor, some standard battlegrounds have kept both camps wary, although there have been noticeable shifts in a few voting patterns.
In Miami-Dade County, Democrats want to steer Cuban-Americans away from Mr. Bush, who had their overwhelming support in 2000. Cuban immigrants have traditionally been die-hard Republicans, because that party takes a harder line than the Democrats against Fidel Castro. The younger generation, less focused on Mr. Castro, may be less loyal to a given party.
Since 2000, Republicans have strengthened their control of Florida's Legislature and its Congressional delegation. Although most registered voters 3.9 million, or 42 percent are Democrats, the margin has narrowed in the last four years. Republicans now make up 38.4 percent of the electorate.
Statewide, the biggest increase by far has been in voters with no party affiliation. They make up nearly 17 percent of the electorate, compared with 15.5 percent in 2000. The remainder belong to minor parties.
Both parties will be fighting for moderate unaffiliated suburban voters, a group that generally went for Mr. Gore four years ago. Because that group is patriotic and somewhat fiscally conservative, some experts said Mr. Kerry, a New Englander, would not appeal to them.
"The only times national Democrats have done well in Florida were when they were Southerners," Professor deHaven-Smith of Florida State University said, pointing to Bill Clinton and Mr. Gore.
To sway the so-called persuadables, the Bush-Cheney campaign began training volunteers in October to promote Mr. Bush in all 67 counties. By summer, the campaign plans to have 3,000 trained workers here and up to 70,000 additional volunteers appealing to swing voters through telephone calls, letters to the editor and block parties.
"We're well aware that Florida still has more Democrats than Republicans," Geoffrey Becker, executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, said. "It's about talking to people, saying, `If you're not with us on this issue, let's find another set of issues we can work with you on.' "
In the latest poll here, sponsored by The Miami Herald and The St. Petersburg Times, 49 percent of the 800 registered voters surveyed said they would vote for Mr. Kerry if the election were held now, and 43 percent said they would for Mr. Bush. The survey, which had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, was conducted on March 3 and 4, just as Mr. Kerry emerged from the Super Tuesday primaries as the presumptive nominee. A separate poll late last month, sponsored by The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and The Florida Times-Union, showed Mr. Bush leading Mr. Kerry by five points. But Democrats painted that as good news, saying that in March 2000 polls here showed Mr. Bush with a double-digit lead over Mr. Gore.
As the Democrats awaited a winner in the nominating contest, interest groups working on their behalf started appealing to swing voters with their own television advertising, door-to-door appeals and voter registration drives. Those groups, called 527 committees, can spend unlimited contributions on advertising and turning out voters, though proposed rules could curtail their powers.
Some groups concentrate on specific issues. Environment2004, for example, was formed to attack Mr. Bush's environmental policies. Groups like the New Democratic Network, created to support centrist Democrats, plan broader approaches. But almost all will be spending a large part of their money in Florida, especially appealing to its Hispanics.
"The Bush campaign is going to be spending millions on advertising," Maria Cardona, a vice president of the New Democratic Network, said. "And this traditionally has not been a priority for Democrats until maybe three weeks before the election."
Starting this week, Ms. Cardona's group will run anti-Bush and pro-Democratic advertisements in the Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach markets.
"The theme is that Democrats are the real friends of Latino voters," Ms. Cardona said. "We've found that works really well, because Bush campaigned on being a good friend of the Latino community, and we are now able to show all these things he has broken his promises on."
Other 527 groups, and the Democratic Party itself, will home in on swing voters in the Panhandle and black voters throughout northern Florida. Democrats say they neglected these groups in 2000.
"We have to see a big turnout in southeastern Florida, hold our own in the I-4 and reach out to swing voters in the northern part of the state," said Scott Maddox, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party.
Although blacks voted in record numbers in 2000, their turnout plummeted in the race for governor in 2002, to 45 percent from 70 percent.
"You can't win an election looking in the rear-view mirror," Mr. Maddox said. "We are going to be talking about issues going on in 2004."
Foremost among those issues will be the economy, education, health care and domestic security, both parties say. A test advertisement run by the New Democratic Network accused Mr. Bush of not putting enough money into education, with a Hispanic schoolgirl asking him, "Why did you break your promise?"
There will also be an effort to link Mr. Bush's policies to Jeb Bush's.
"A lot of the extraordinary turnout among Democratic voters in 2000 was their tremendous resentment of policies coming out of Tallahassee," Representative Jim Davis, Democrat of Tampa, said about Governor Bush's successful push in 1999 to end affirmative action in state contracting and public higher education.
Republicans point out that Governor Bush is extremely popular and that during his tenure Florida's economy has not suffered nearly as much as that of other states. Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Palm Beach County, predicted that the governor's popularity would help his brother connect with voters in a way that may elude Mr. Kerry.
"Kerry will have a hard time separating himself from the `Taxachusetts' image and liberalism of his state," Mr. Foley said. "I'm not going to be bold enough to say we can sweep this thing. But the equation is looking pretty good for us."
$1 Million To Alter Signs That Dont Comply With The Law
March 11, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) The government will have to invest over $1 million to comply with the State Elections Commissions order to change more than 1,500 billboards used to publicize public works around the island, Transportation and Public Works Secretary Fernando Fagundo said.
Fagundo added that it will cost an estimated $600 per sign to eliminate the amount invested in the project, the number of jobs created, and the phrase "Towards the future on a good path."
The signs wont be painted over as "they would look very bad," Fagundo said.
Prats: Not All Democratic Governors Support Rossello
By Melissa B. Gonzalez Valentin of WOW News
March 8, 2004
Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for resident commissioner Roberto Prats urged New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Rossello to remove the information on his website in which he claims to have the unanimous support of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA).
"Once again the NPP candidate has presented Puerto Rico with incorrect information," Prats said during a press conference at the PDP headquarters on Monday.
Prats distributed copies of letters from the governors of Pennsylvania and Illinois expressing their support for the gubernatorial candidacy of PDP President Anibal Acevedo Vila.
Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich claimed that the DGA has never asked them who they preferred for Puerto Rico governor.
NPP press official Javier Maymi distributed a copy of the DGA press release of Feb. 21 regarding the associations support for Rossello.
Maymi told PRWOW News that, unless the DGA says otherwise, the information on Rossellos website will remain unchanged.
According to DGA information, Rendell and Blagojevich are only two of 24 association members.
Martin Calls For A Clean Campaign
March 6, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) On Friday Puerto Rican Independence Party mayoral candidate for San Juan Fernando Martin called on his opponents the New Progressive Party candidate Jorge Santini, and Popular Democratic Party candidate Eduardo Bhatia, to stop their campaign of insults.
Martin made the call request because he understands that "the San Juan voters want a campaign of respect, free from personal attacks and insults".
The PIP Senator referred to the rough campaign that Santini and Bhatia are running. The day before they had been involved in a disagreement regarding services for disabled and elderly people.
The NPP candidate and San Juan mayor announced on Thursday a new program to provide free transportation for elderly and disabled people to run errands.
Bhatia took advantage of the occasion to hold a conference near the place where Santini offered his, and accused the mayor of not having eliminated the architectural barriers for handicapped people in the capital city.
Santini warned Bhatia, whom he defeated by some 3,000 votes in the 2000 election, that "he is creating a violent atmosphere" and that he is running a campaign of "political fanaticism". He also called him a "snobby liar" and "crazy".
Meanwhile, Bhatia said that "San Juan has a mayor that has dedicated his time to promote views from the city hall. He doesnt deal with the problems in straight forward manner", and he called him "paranoid".
Acevedo Vila Starts New Campaign Phase On Sunday
March 6, 2004
SAN JUAN (AP) The campaign of Anibal Acevedo Vila will start a new proselytism phase to generate enthusiasm for his bid for the Governors seat.
It is a town-by-town tour. Although this is a much-used technique in Puerto Rico, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) has tried to present it as innovative and has said it is the part of the so-called "positive revolution" that Acevedo Vila promotes.
The new stage of the PDP campaign, called "Town by town revolution", will start on Sunday at noon in Loiza, Acevedo Vilas campaign manager, Carlos Dalmau announced.
In a press conference at PDP headquarters, a contingent of "pleneros" (a band that plays typical Puerto Rican music rhythm called "plena") and PDP supporters started to sing "this is the positive revolution, which we are going to win with Anibal" while Dalmau clapped and danced to the "plena".