Three Takeaways from the Sunshine Summit

The Sunshine Summit, last weekend’s gathering of the Republican grassroots in Orlando, brought together 14 of the 15 candidates currently competing for presidential primary votes, along with most of the Senate candidates.

Unlike the events of the last two cycles in 2007 and 2011, which featured both televised debates and straw polls, this was mostly a candidate showcase – each was given 20 minutes to make their case. The extreme number of candidates this time, and the fact that Florida does not vote until March 15 – after 26 states will have already assigned their delegates, probably reduced attendance at the event. Still, there were upwards of 1000 in the hall, and the media presence was considerable. CSPAN covered the event live, and lots of recognizable on-air personalities could be seen roaming the halls.

External events played a role in what transpired, as reaction to the Paris attacks on Friday were integrated into the Saturday speeches, or in the case of Chris Christie, dominated their remarks. And the Democrat debate on Saturday night offered a unique opportunity to compare all of our contenders to Hillary Clinton and her two pesky sparring partners.

All the candidates remarks can be seen streaming on CSPAN.

After watching all the debates and attending the Heritage Action Event in South Carolina (with 10 of the candidates), I thought I had a good idea of the dynamics of the race and who was on my short list. That said, I left Orlando with a few new insights.

1. The outsiders have captured the imagination of large portions of the Republican base, even at an event comprised mostly of “insiders”.

As an event sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida, with a large number of blue-badged party officials in attendance, I expected a great deal of support and enthusiasm for the “favorite sons” Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, and less for the outsiders Trump, Carson, Fiorina, and (some would say) Ted Cruz. This was clearly not the case.

While Jeb and Marco have strong support, it was the outsiders who were the rock stars.

Ted Cruz laid out the red meat with a flourish and hit all the hot buttons from Obamacare to the border, the Iran deal, a flat tax, and support for Israel, to thunderous applause.

Donald Trump, avoiding any criticism of his rivals this time, took on illegal immigration (need a Dream Act for Americans), winning again, incompetent leaders, and suggested that college students should be taught about the first amendment. The response was widespread and overwhelming.

Ben Carson, after a quiet start discussing his upbringing, lit into an extensive litany of all the things he would do if he wanted to “destroy America” – all of which Obama has put into motion. His was the most complete and devastating attack on the incumbent President of all the candidates and the crowd responded with enthusiasm.

Carly Fiorina, the last speaker of the event, focused on the Paris attacks, the feckless and dangerous foreign policy of Obama/Clinton, and what she would be doing about ISIS. It seemed like Margaret Thatcher channeling Winston Churchill and left no doubt that she would be a serious and effective commander-in-chief. The response was loud and enthusiastic.

2. Almost all of the Republican contenders are displaying the vision, determination, skill and experience that could believably repair the damage that 7 years of Obama have wrought. Clinton is clearly not in the same league with these people, in spite of her over 25 years on the national stage, and tenure as Senator and Secretary of State.

One thing that has become obvious to many people is that there are many kinds of relevant experience besides being an elected official. The office of President is a unique job, unlike any other, and it takes a generalist to oversee a diverse set of tasks, a communicator to inspire the country and lead it in a positive direction, and a visionary to see our potential as a people and set the wheels in motion to carry us forward. Governors, Senators, Business Leaders – all have skills that are relevant to the job, and all of the candidates now in the race have been successful in their lives and bring serious qualifications and abilities to the table.

Some would say that the terrible state that the country is in – anemic growth, unsustainable debt, corruption at all levels, an abdication of world leadership – is a result of professional politicians and insiders (lobbyists, big donors, etc) having screwed everything up. Hillary Clinton, who is unarguably the stereotype of all those things, would represent more of the same, as could be seen on the debate stage in Des Moines. It was apparent in Orlando that our candidates (to a greater or lesser extent), reject the status quo and will lead the country in a different direction.

3. The weeding out process is going to be long and arduous, as very few of these contenders can be counted out, despite their current standing in the polls.

Until the first delegates are selected in the Iowa caucuses on February 1, the polls will be unreliable, as most likely voters appear to be making tentative selections. Many people, until they have to commit, will lean to the candidate that meets their ideological goals, appears to speak “for them”, says the “right things”, or wins debating points. When the rubber meets the road though, issues of electability, consistency, honesty, ethics, contrast with the Democrat candidate, and other issues will rise in importance. As this year is unusual in the number of candidates and the widespread dissatisfaction with elected officials, predictions are hard.

Some weeding out has already begun, as few would expect Lindsey Graham or Jim Gilmore to become the nominee, and two candidates have already left the race. But all the rest have ardent supporters and judging by the enthusiastic response at the summit to most of the candidates, there are many “acceptable alternatives”. It is truly a deep bench.

Heritage Action Candidate Forum

Last week in Greenville, South Carolina, Heritage Action hosted a Presidential Candidate Forum at which 10 of the Republican candidates participated. Unlike the two cable news debates, this event avoided pitting the candidates against each other, and actually focused on policy.

Heritage Action Sentinel Program

This forum occurred during the annual meeting of the Heritage Action Sentinel program, which is the grass-roots arm of the Heritage Foundation. Combining the think-tank and lobbyist muscle of Heritage with a nation-wide grass-roots army of Sentinels is becoming a very effective way of advancing the Conservative agenda. If you would like to become a Sentinel or learn more about the program, visit:

Stretching from 4:00 in the afternoon to after 9:00pm with only a short break, each candidate was given about 20 minutes on stage, with questions provided from a panel of Heritage Sentinels and CEO Michael Needham. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley closed each session by providing a personal story about the candidate and asking them to expand on it. What came across was an in-depth look at their positions on issues, and a sampling of their human side – some that have not been seen before on the campaign trail.

From this unique format, a very good contrast can be found, and it is worth at least sampling the video from the candidates you are interested in. Links to those segments on the Heritage Action youtube channel can be found below.

Although all of the candidates were enthusiastically received by the audience of about 900 sentinels on the floor and over 10,000 more in the stands of Bon Secours Wellness Arena, two candidates really stood out.

Ted Cruz rallied the crowd with the theme of “don’t elect a President to manage the decline of America”, and was clearly the policy favorite with talk of judicial retention elections, a flat tax, and “breaking the cartel”. But it was Carly Fiorina, when asked by Governor Haley what her most difficult job as a leader has been, who spoke from the heart about the anguish that comes from having to fire a close associate who, although competent and a satisfactory performer, proved to be ethically challenged and could no longer be trusted. Her answer revealed a very admirable mix of courage, compassion and loyalty to the goals of the enterprise.

Following is a brief synopsis of the major points made by the candidates, in order of their appearance. Click on their picture to see the Heritage video of their segment.

Jeb Bush

  • Need for “disruption”, “change the culture”
  • Block grants to states for Medicaid, school vouchers, zero based budgeting
  • Gridlock is dangerous – Congress will come along with right leader
  • Energy – states should decide offshore drilling, expand leases, support XL
  • No federal control of education but states need high standards

Scott Walker

  • Cancel Iran Deal
  • Send power back to the states
  • Defund Planned Parenthood, repeal Obamacare
  • Refundable health tax credits, cross state lines, HSAs
  • Approve XL
  • Eliminate NLRB – make all states “right to work”

Ben Carson

  • Congress should call Obama’s bluff on Planned Parenthood
  • Seal the border, cut off the “goodies”, farms need workers but no citizenship
  • Eliminate regulations, implement a flat tax
  • Obama doesn’t get to decide if we are a Christian Nation
  • Was radical liberal until heard Reagan speak

Ted Cruz

  • Don’t need next president to manage the decline of America
  • Need someone as conservative as Obama is liberal to fix things
  • Break the “cartel”, repeal Obamacare, implement flat tax
  • Judicial retention elections to rein in rogue judges
  • School choice is civil rights issue of our time
  • Day of appeasement and apology for America must end

Rick Santorum

  • “Blue collar conservative”
  • Flat tax, stop illegal immigration, incentivise manufacturing
  • Supports Ex-Im bank, federal minimum wage
  • Refugees – all the Syrians are Muslim, where are the Christians?
  • Reform social security by indexing retirement age

Marco Rubio

  • Reform education – emphasize alternatives to college, trade schools, etc
  • Must address debt and deficit, reform social security by extending age for younger people
  • Moral clarity on foreign policy, expand military, take care of veterans
  • Immigration reform: close border, e-verify, visa tracking, entry based on merit not family
  • Need president with “sense of urgency”, term limits for Congress

Rand Paul

  • Lower taxes, less regulation, defend 2nd amendment
  • Take message to new audiences
  • Resist encroachments on religious liberty
  • Too many government agencies have swat teams
  • Reform social security and medicare with higher retirement age

Carly Fiorina

  • Fix tax code – make it 3 pages long
  • We never roll back regulations – just talk, want to do
  • After winning Senate – should have made a difference
  • Can lead congress through technology, public pressure
  • Core values matter

Bobby Jindal

  • Religious liberty created the USA
  • Need to fire everyone in DC to make things work
  • Don’t accept there is no way to end Obamacare with Obama in White House
  • If Republican party can’t do the job, create a new one that can
  • Education dollars should follow the children

Chris Christie

  • Make the GOP live up to its rhetoric
  • Entitlement reform – raise retirement age, eliminate for those >$400K retirement income
  • Freedom of religion not only for churches, but officials must follow the law
  • Would enforce federal marijuana laws on the states
  • Education – refinance loans, have national service option , colleges should itemize bills

Reasons for Optimism – The “Defending the American Dream” Summit

Speaker Videos

This past weekend in Orlando, Americans for Prosperity Foundation hosted a conference for grassroots activists from around the nation.

With informative breakout sessions in the mornings to highlight successes on the state and local levels, and “big tent” events in the afternoon with national conservative leaders, there was something for everyone, including ample free time to “network”.

The “malaise” that affected many of us locally after the bitter results of the 2012 Presidential election has been pretty widespread, and organizers from many locations reported falling attendance at many of their events. Hopefully, that is now starting to change. Although we are still licking our wounds, conferences like this one demonstrate that there is still life in the conservative grassroots, we have leaders in the movement that “get it” and have the fortitude to take it to the President – to lead the fight against the train wreck that is Obamacare, the endless debt and deficits, the administration that cares little for the rule of law, the separation of powers, or the role of the states in our constitutional republic.

Bobby Jindal

It’s amazing what is possible in America“, said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, when people are free – free to make their own choices, free from the suffocating regulations of intrusive government. He talked about education as the key for the jobs of tomorrow, and the success they have had in his state in shutting down failing schools and greatly expanding the charter school system which has done a lot to improve the lot of minority children. Last week, unfortunately, Obama’s Justice Department has decided to sue Louisiana to roll back these reforms and return students to their failing schools. Judging by his fiery critique of the President and his policies, it is clear he will stand up against our rogue Attorney General and fight to retain the success they achieved.

Marco Rubio

Our own Senator Marco Rubio declared “There is nothing wrong with America – but there is something wrong with this President“. The good news, he said, is that “we still have time to save the American Dream“, by reforming the tax code and eliminating regulations. “We don’t need Common Core”, he said, and he will not vote for any budget that funds Obamacare or to increase the debt ceiling without a balanced budget amendment and specific cuts.

Unfortunately for Senator Rubio, there is still a lot of anger in the movement about his role in passing the “gang of eight” Senate immigration bill. In the hall were members of Flimen with pink shirts that said “Pink Slip Rubio”, and throughout his speech you could hear sporadic calls for “No Amnesty”. Although he avoided this issue in the speech, he did address it in a smaller group that met with him prior to the session. In a hotel suite with about 40 supporters, after answering some questions about Syria, Obamacare and other issues for which he was among friends, someone in the back asked “what about immigration”. A hush fell across the room at this point and he had no choice but to address it with a somewhat lengthy justification that amounted to “the status quo is unacceptable so we have to do something“. To me it sounded like doubling down. Not good.

Arthur Brooks

Then Arthur Brooks, President of American Enterprise Institute, succinctly summed up the Obama message: “Rich people have your stuff and I’m going to get it back for you.” This shouldn’t have worked as envy is not American, but unfortunately all our side had to say to his supporters was “You’re a moocher” – no wonder we lost. The words “fairness” and “compassion” have been kidnapped by the left and we should take them back and own them, because progressive ideology is neither fair nor compassionate. As a humorous and memorable side comment illustrating our difference in values, he recalled a bumper sticker seen in San Francisco – “Your body may be a temple but mine is an amusement park”.

Rick Scott

Next up was Governor Rick Scott, gearing up his re-election bid with a positive jobs message. Recalling his 2010 pledge to create “700,000 jobs in 7 years”, he reported us as on-track, with the likelihood of 900,000 jobs created by 2018. Scott is still popular with the Florida grassroots, although his support for Medicaid expansion had a lot of heads scratching. We do still remember that he declined to create a state Obamacare exchange, though. A few hecklers in the audience periodically shouted “No Common Core”, reflecting dissatisfaction with the direction that our education system has taken over the last few years. Scott talked about his activities as a booster of the state’s business climate and his good-natured rivalry with Texas and Governor Rick Perry who was the last major speaker of the day.

Rick Perry

A 2012 Presidential candidate until his campaign faltered early in the primary process, he is possibly gearing up for another run in 2016. Well known as a jobs governor, the record of the Texas economy on his watch has been very impressive. As he makes the rounds of the states selling the Texas miracle, he has gained the ire of many blue state governors who do not appreciate his pointing out the shortcomings of their performance or the failings of the Progressive economics.

On another theme, “All roads lead back to the states“, said Perry. One size fits all federal programs (like Obamacare) are anathema to the founding principles of this country. A favorite target of the Obama administration, whose ideology sees the power in the states to be a roadblock to their big government agenda, Texas is now being sued by Eric Holder and the Justice Department as they try to end-run the Supreme Court and re-impose Voting Rights Act restrictions that require federal permission for such things as Voter ID laws.

Ted Cruz

On the final day of the conference, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, another possible 2016 presidential candidate and clearly the favorite of the gathering gave us reasons for optimism. With the success of Ron Paul’s filibuster on drones, and the failure of gun control initiatives after Sandy Hook, the President was forced to “listen to the people”, he said. On Syria, with Obama now going to Congress for authorization, on immigration, on common core, – the people are making their voices heard and throwing a wrench into the Obama agenda. His job as a Senator, he says, is to restore economic growth as the lack of growth is related to all of our other problems. Tax Reform (“Abolish the IRS“), and regulatory reform (“Repeal Obamacare – every single word“) are the key. He sees Obamacare as the greatest job killer of all time and sees de-funding it in the upcoming budget process as the key. In answer to skeptics that see that tactic as a political liability for Republicans, he says “You lose 100% of the fights you surrender at the outset.” Standing ovations were frequent for this speech.

All in all, the speakers reminded us that conservatism is not “in trouble” as the mainstream media may have you believe, but resurgent and full of fire. With his agenda in tatters, the Obama team sees winning back the House and holding the Senate next year as their only chance to have a legacy of anything but failure. Any thought of compromise or even dealing with a Republican House is not is the President’s wheelhouse. Although 2014 will be a harder slog than 2010 when we took them by surprise, at the end of this conference it was clear that we have depth, we have tools and we have a maturity that comes from adversity and learning from the losses of 2012. Thanks to AFP and organizations like them, the conservative grassroots will have help and structure that will amplify our effectiveness going forward.

It is Time to Choose

The November election, for which absentee voting has already started, has been described as the “most important of our lifetimes.” Can that really be the case? Are Obama and Romney that different?

Deficits, new entitlements, foreign policy mistakes, polarization, corruption – these have all happened when both parties have been in power. Jimmy Carter projected weakness and gave us the Iran hostage crisis, high unemployment and inflation. Ronald Reagan ended the cold war, but gave us Iran-Contra and failed to control spending. George H. W. Bush left Saddam Hussein in power and raised our taxes. Bill Clinton raised them higher and gave us continuous scandals while enjoying a comfortable economy fueled by the Internet boom. And George W. Bush brought us back from the brink of 9/11, but added a new entitlement, grew the deficit and bogged us down in two wars through his preemptive strike doctrine. What of our current President?

Barack Obama has said he wanted to “transform America” – and has begun to do so. He has rejected “American Exceptionalism” and apologizes for what he sees as our transgressions – racism, colonialism, exploitation of the poor, and destruction of the environment. In setting about to “right these wrongs”, no other President in our history has attempted to change the very essence of America in such a fundamental way.

Our vote in this election is a referendum on this transformation, and perhaps our only chance to accept or reject what will likely become permanent in a second Obama term.

Why has America “worked” for 236 years?

Our first founding document, the Declaration of Independence, created a basic framework – our “first principles”, if you will.

  • We are endowed by our creator with “certain inalienable Rights”, and among them are “Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of happiness”
  • Governments are instituted to protect these rights.
  • Governments serve at the consent of the governed.

These principles of our founding have led to the basic characteristics of American life – that we have the freedom to make our own choices in life, that we have the right to own property, that we are guided by the rule of law not of men, and that we have the opportunity to rise to whatever level of society and wealth that our abilities permit. These characteristics have produced the world’s largest and most dynamic economy, equality of opportunity for all, and an immigration magnet that has drawn people to America from all over the globe.

With individual incentives to succeed, by making our own choices, creating our own wealth and keeping what we create, 300 million Americans exercising our own choices in pursuit of our own dreams create an environment that lifts us all, in ways that can’t be predicted. A few central planners, deciding what should be produced, the kinds of energy we are permitted to develop and use, how we can use our property, how our health care will be delivered – that sort of thinking is foreign to a successful, productive, innovative America.

Barack Obama is not the first to reject these positive forces as regressive and “unfair”. He is not the first to champion the “redistribution of wealth”, where the government takes from some through taxation and disburses to others it deems more worthy. He is not the first to use the force of government to intervene in the markets, picking winners and losers through crony capitalism where it is more important to have a good lobbyist than a good product or service. He is not the first to impose oppressive regulations through the EPA, the NLRB, the Interior and Energy departments, to stifle business growth and concentrate economic power in the hands of the state. He is the first American President in recent times though, to campaign on these principles as “fairness”, and castigate the producers and job creators as the enemy of the middle class, while encouraging dependence through unprecedented growth in the welfare state through food stamps, and the use of Social Security Disability as a kind of permanent unemployment insurance.

The President has been open about his plans and value system and there is very little left to the imagination. He actively promotes tax increases on the wealthy, limits on energy use through restricting permits and canceling the Keystone Pipeline, supports uneconomic enterprises like Solyndra, compromised religious freedom through the Obamacare contraception mandates, limited right-to-work laws by attacking the Boeing plant in South Carolina, and weakened property rights by intervening in the auto bailout to stiff the GM bondholders and Delphi pensioners. These are all detrimental to the economic engine that powers our success.

What has happened in the last four years and why has the economy not improved?

The Economic crisis of 2008: Preceded by the collapse of the housing bubble, itself precipitated by government intervention in markets (Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie/Freddie), global banks and investors were left with mortgage backed assets that were difficult to “mark to market” – precipitating a liquidity crisis. In response, TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, was introduced. Supported by both sides as necessary to inject liquidity into markets and prevent them from grinding to a halt, some would say TARP accomplished its goal, although others complain that some banks should have been allowed to fail. In any case, TARP was implemented during the Bush Administration and had bi-partisan support. All the subsequent economic actions taken by Barack Obama were implemented against the wishes of the Republican minority.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: ARRA, (aka “the stimulus”) pumped over $700B into state and local governments to prevent layoffs of union employees, green energy companies like Solyndra, and projects favored by Democrat politicians for their districts. (Note – this is not to single out Democrats – many Republicans including Paul Ryan asked for and received stimulus money for their districts. Since the Democrat majority wrote the bill though, most of the money favored their interest groups.) One estimate puts the amount of the stimulus that went to “shovel ready” infrastructure jobs (roads and bridges, etc) at less than 5%. The ARRA bill had no Republican support in Congress. Since this money was new, off-budget spending, it did not come from tax receipts but was borrowed – much of it from China.

The Auto Bailout: The “managed bankruptcy” of GM and Chrysler turned much of the ownership over to the United Autoworkers Union, stiffed the bondholders who would have been favored in a conventional (ie. court managed) bankruptcy, erased the pensions of Delphi employees and other non-union workers, closed a large number of dealerships owned mostly by Republicans, and left the taxpayer on the hook for tens of billions even to this day. This also had little bipartisan support.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: PPACA, (aka “Obamacare”), was delegated to the Democrats in Congress to write, and they returned a 2400 page monstrosity that many on both sides of the aisle admitted they did not read. In spite of a full year of noisy opposition in town halls, large rallys in Washington DC, polls showing overwhelming opposition to the bills, and 100% Republican opposition in Congress, it was rammed through by using a reconciliation process after the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts took away their filibuster-proof majority. Burdening one sixth of the economy with what will become a command and control health care system, Obamacare has done more than any other action to inhibit businesses from expanding and hiring. It should be noted that other major entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security had broad bipartisan support for passage.

In other actions, Barack Obama:

  • Reduced oil and gas leases on federal lands and offshore and blocked the Keystone Pipeline
  • Promulgated EPA regulations that will make it impossible to build or maintain coal fired power plants
  • Tried to prevent Boeing from building a plant in right-to-work South Carolina
  • Served up 4 years of deficits exceeding a trillion dollars
  • Raised the national debt to over 16 Trillion
  • Passed Dodd/Frank – which enshrines “too big to fail” and makes it difficult for small regional banks to survive
  • Grew the payroll of the Executive Branch by 25% to $177B in 2012
  • Rescinded ‘welfare to work’ requirements, implemented the “Dream Act”, and a cybersecurity policy by executive order against the will of Congress

How does Mitt Romney Describe it?

In answer to a question during the second debate at Hofstra, this was Mitt Romney’s summation of the Obama record:

We can’t afford 4 more years like the last 4 years:

  • He said by now unemployment would be at 5.4%, the difference from reality is 9 million Americans out of work
  • He said he would reform medicare and social security because they are on the road to bankruptcy – he hasn’t even made a proposal
  • He said he would put out an immigration plan to deal with our challenges – he didn’t even file one
  • He said he’d cut in half the deficit – instead he doubled it
  • He said families would see $2500 reduction in health care premiums – instead they went up by that much and full implementation of Obamacare will cost another $2500
  • The middle class is getting crushed under a president who doesn’t know what it takes to get economy working again
  • He claims creation of 5 million jobs – that’s after losing 5 million jobs – the number of people still looking for work is still 23 million
  • One out of six people are in poverty, 32 million on foodstamps when he took office – now 47 million
  • The economy is growing more slowly this year than last year, which was slower than the year before
  • The policies he put in place – Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, tax policies, regulatory policies, have not let the economy take off and grow like it could have
  • 5 million jobs doesn’t keep up with population growth, and the unemployment rate is down because people have left the workforce
  • Obama is great speaker but has been unable to fix anything – cut the deficit, reform medicare and Social Security, or get rising incomes (down $4300 per family)
  • This election is about who can get the middle class a bright and prosperous future

So why would Mitt Romney be a better choice?

You have heard the case AGAINST Barack Obama. Here is the case FOR Mitt Romney:

Experience and skills

  • Mitt Romney was Governor of Massachusetts, successful even with an 83% Democrat legislature.
  • Mitt Romney has been a successful Business Creator – both with Bain Capital itself as well as the many companies they helped start or recover.
  • Mitt Romney is a Humanitarian, with a track record of good works at the local level through his church and personal philanthropy.
  • Mitt Romney is a Problem Solver – he rescued the 2002 Olympics from bankruptcy and disaster.

Knowledge and worldview

  • Mitt Romney understands and respects the founding, the unique nature of the country, our keys to success
  • Mitt Romney had the proper reaction to the out of control debt and spending (“road to Greece”)
  • Mitt Romney has clear and simple spending priorities – “Is it worth borrowing the money from China to do this?”


  • In spite of months of negative ads from the Obama campaign casting Mitt Romney as a liar, a scoundrel, an out-of-touch plutocrat, a woman-hater, a racist and many other despicable things, he has continued to run a positive campaign and after the first debate where the country saw him for who his is, is now respected and trusted by a majority in the polls.

Time to Choose

It is time to choose. You may agree with my assessment of the choices or you may not. You may approve of the transformation that is taking place or you may oppose it strenuously. Or you may feel that economic recovery is the task before us, not transformation, and it should have been for the last 4 years. Keep in mind that elections have consequences, and some of them are world-changing. It is now in your hands. Please choose wisely.

Some Observations on the Romney Rally in Port St. Lucie

Last Sunday, we made the trip up to Tradition to hang out with 13,000 others and see what a Romney rally is like coming off his game changing debate performance. Although the day was hot and the ground was muddy (including the parking lot), people seemed happy to be there and cheered the warm up acts of Joe Negron, Mary Lynn Magar and CFO Jeff Atwater who has become a very effective large crowd speaker and clearly enthusiastic about the Republican ticket. Allen West and Pam Bondi, who introduced Mitt and Ann Romney were also clearly favorites of this crowd.

Governor Romney gave an organized speech, combining elements we have heard from news coverage of other events with quite a few personal anecdotes, reminiscent of the “humanizing” narrative of Tampa, and endiing with an exhortation to “raise the torch”, that was very effective.

Here are some impressions:

    • The crowd was large and enthusiastic. It was clear that these folks were pleased with the candidate and firmly behind him. Despite the uncomfortable heat, the sticky mud underfoot and in the parking lot, and the long wait for the event to begin, these folks are pumped.
    • The candidate has a new zip in his step.. After his debate performance, possibly the most thorough drubbing of a sitting President that the nation has ever witnessed before an audience north of 70 million, Mitt Romney looks and feels like a winner. No longer defined by Obama’s negative ads, he is free to speak his mind, describe his opponent starkly, and offer hope for the future.
    • The event was well organized and fulfilled expectations.The crowd of 13,000, mostly arriving from I95, were funneled smoothly into parking spaces on a grassy field, checked through security with a minimum of fuss (in spite of the TSA agents in their silly blue uniforms), and allowed to spread out and fill the space efficiently. Free water was handed out, the sound system was good, as was the music, and the event appeared to run within 15 minutes of schedule, despite the threat of a summer downpour.

All things considered, it feels like we have turned a corner and the race is now truly competitive.

912 Leader’s Picks for November 2012

Disclaimer: These election selections are the personal choices of the South Florida 912 leadership team, not an endorsement by the organization. Our panel of 11 was unanimous on these picks except where noted. Many members have asked for such a guide, as an aid to their own research. As such, we are asking you to look at our picks, read our rationale, then choose for yourself.

For an in-depth look at all the candidates and the districts, use our Online Voters Guide

Note: In some of our rationale, legislator ratings from the American Conservative Union (ACU) are used. The ACU is the organizer of CPAC, and compiles ratings based on voting records.

Federal Government
Race Our Choice Rationale
President / Vice-President
Mitt Romney

Paul Ryan

Many of us, maybe most of us, supported other candidates in the Republican primary. As the others rose and fell, Mitt Romney was the one with staying power, outlasting and outplaying them all. The experience honed his message in such a way that today he deserves to wear the mantle of conservative champion. From repealing Obamacare, restoring our strength and image abroad, dealing with entitlements and the federal debt, reducing the size of the federal government and getting their boot off the throat of the job creators in this country, Mitt Romney will correct the leftward lurch of the last four years. Paul Ryan, called by Romney the intellectual leader of the Republican party, will be an excellent partner in this journey, and is perhaps better suited than any current leader to restore us to a position of fiscal sustainability.

But the election is and has always been about Barack Obama, whose extreme left policies, implemented by a cadre of progressive commissars with no appreciation for what made and kept this country great, has animated the grass roots conservative movement like no other. Presiding over an economic policy that favors redistribution and crony capitalism, a foreign policy that has made us weak, emboldened our enemies and squandered our gains won at the cost of blood and treasure, and displaying a disregard for the constitutional restraints on executive power not seen before in this country, Barack Obama MUST BE DEFEATED, or we will not recognize America at the end of another four years.

Mitt Romney deserves your contributions, deserves your volunteer time and deserves your vote. You know what to do.

US Senate
Connie Mack
As with the race for President, many of us dallied with other champions during the primary, and Connie Mack’s late entry and seeming attitude of inevitability turned off many. That said, an objective look at his record as a Congressman reveals a solid conservative with a 93% lifetime rating by the American Conservative Union. (Bill Nelson earned a 15%). He has supported tea party values since before they were called that, and is one of the few Congressman who actually voted against the debt ceiling / sequestration deal. His “Mack Penny Plan”, although not as sexy as Herman Cain’s 9-9-9, is a simple yet straightforward path to fiscal prudence. Incumbent Bill Nelson on the other hand, gave us Obamacare and has been lockstep with the President throughout his progressive agenda. Winning back the Senate will be necessary to overturn Obamacare and defeating Nelson is a necessary step.
US House – only one will be on your ballot:
Congressional District 18
Allen West
Allen West has been a favored candidate of the South Florida 912 since its origin in 2009, and many of us worked on his initial 2008 campaign. Washington is broken and Congressman West represents a new breed of leader who approaches the problem in a strategic way, solidly grounded in the principles on which our country was founded. While the redistricting turned his old district into hostile territory, his move to CD18 offers the opportunity to continue the fight. He is rated 88% by the American Conservative Union for his votes on 25 bills in 2011. His opponent Patrick Murphy, a CPA with no previous experience in elected office, comes to the race flush with cash from the national Democrats as the designated giant killer who will dispatch one of their most hated (and feared) Congressmen. If Allen West can be defeated, Murphy and his backers believe it will represent a major blow against tea party influence in national politics. For conservatives, returning Allen West to Washington is as important as the Presidential race.
Congressional District 20 Alcee Hastings is running for his 11th term against token opposition from anti-abortion activist and NPA candidate Randall Terry (who doesn’t even live in Florida), and a write-in candidate in this D+51 district. Rated a 5/100 by the ACU for his votes in 2011, Congressman Hastings has enthusiastically supported the Obama agenda. Even though his election is a sure thing, we cannot pick Congressman Hastings.
Congressional District 21
Cesar Henao
Cesar Henao, entered this race against entrenched Congressman Ted Deutch as an independent after Republican Anna Trujillo dropped out. In this D+22 district, somewhat altered from the old CD19 in which both Ed Lynch and Joe Budd failed to defeat Deutch, Cesar is an insurgent candidate drawing on the Hispanic community as well as the conservative grassroots to shake things up. As NPA, he has been denied access to some venues such as the League of Women Voters forum, but is gathering attention through hard work and a growing volunteer network. With the advantage of name ID, party identification, money and the power of the incumbency, the liberal Deutch (0% rating from ACU) is favored, but Cesar will rattle the cage. Cesar is an attractive candidate and if he does not prevail, we expect to see more of him in future contests.
Congressional District 22
Adam Hasner
Much of this district contains the old CD22 which Allen West won in 2010, and is a pick-up target of the national Democrats – easier now that the district has become D+9. Adam Hasner, was a reliable conservative during his tenure in the Florida House and as majority leader. Originally running for the Senate in a crowded primary field (and winning the CPAC straw poll), he reached out to South Florida 912 and other grassroots early with his small government message. He would repeal and replace Obamacare, work to remove the excessive regulatory environment that is crushing small business, and reform the tax code. His opponent, former WPB Mayor Lois Frankel, strongly supports the Obama agenda and believes the way to improve the economy is more government spending on “infrastructure” and green technology. As with Allen West, helping elect Adam Hasner should be a key goal for county Conservatives.
State Senate – only one will be on your ballot:
Senate District 25
Melanie Peterson
Melanie Peterson, a Realtor specializing in equestrian properties and a board member of the western PBC Farm Bureau, previously held elected office as a Supervisor of the Palm Beach Soil and Water Conservation District and is well suited to the agricultural focus of this western jurisdiction. She favors smaller government, and lower taxes. Her opponent Joe Abruzzo, currently a state House member, has garnered some support among the local business community, but was given a 6/100 score by the ACU on his votes in 2011. Although he holds an advantage in this D+12 district, Ms. Peterson is a well organized insurgent and successfully defeated a primary opponent supported by the party and most of the GOP insiders. A fresh conservative face without the baggage that comes from insider support is just what we need for this new sprawling district.
Senate District 27 This race was decided in the August primary when Jeff Clemens defeated Mack Bernard by a handfull of votes. As there is a write-in candidate for the position, the race will appear on the November ballot but for all practical purposes Jeff Clemens will hold this seat until the next election in 2016. As Mr. Clemens voting record as a legislator has been a bit more progressive than we like, we cannot “pick” him for this race. He has pledged to represent all the citizens in his district though, so we will follow his future votes with an open mind.
Senate District 32
Joe Negron
With a 100% rating from the ACU, Joe Negron has been a conservative leader in the Florida Legislature since his election to the House in 2000. He sponsored the “vouchers for all” plan for education savings accounts, and was the only member of the PBC delegation to oppose Adam Putnam’s tax credits for green energy companies described by Americans for Prosperity as the “crony energy bill”. His opponent, Ray D’Amiano is a token Democrat in the race who has not raised any money nor mounted any kind of campaign that we can detect.
Senate District 34
Ellyn Bogdanoff
Ellyn Bogdanoff was elected to the Senate in 2010 after 8 years in the House. An attorney and insurance expert, in the 2012 session she supported the budget, school vouchers, student led prayer and private prisons. The ACU gave her a 100% rating for her votes in 2011, compared to a 0% for her opponent Maria Sachs. In the 2011 session, Ellyn Bogdanoff was a key leader in passing the “Smart Cap” bill that put Amendment 3 on the ballot. If passed by the voters, it will limit future growth in the state budget to a measure tied to inflation and population growth. Ms. Sachs is also a sitting Senator elected in 2010 after 4 years in the house, and although occasionally at odds with her caucus, votes reliably Democrat. In the last session she opposed the redistricting plan, school vouchers, state employee drug testing, and private correctional facilities. Although some of our members supported Ms. Bogdanoff’s primary opponent, we all agree that she is the only conservative and the best choice in the current race.
State House – only one will be on your ballot:
House District 81
James O’Hara
District 81 is large and sprawling, occupying much of the land area of the western county and the cities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay. It is also very Democrat, whose registered voters exceed Republicans by a 2 to 1 margin. James O’Hara, a conservative small business owner, who believes in lower taxes, decreased regulation and limited government, would be a positive addition to our county delegation. He has reached out to SF912 and the tea party since early in the campaign and has gathered supporters. His opponent Kevin Rader, after jumping between two Senate races and finally challenging and defeating incumbent Steve Perman, is attempting to return to an area he represented in 2008. He doesn’t appear to be campaigning based on issues as the Rader website is content-free, yet he has amassed a $140K war chest. Although obviously a long-shot, James O’Hara best represents our principles and values.
House District 82
Mary Lynn Magar
Mary Lynn Magar, VP and General Manager of Heart Care Imaging and the Martin County State Committeewoman, won the Republican primary with 42% of the vote in a five way race. Opposed by a token write-in candidate that had the effect of closing the primary, she appears on the November ballot but effectively won the seat in August.
House District 85
Pat Rooney
Pat Rooney, brother of Congressman Tom Rooney, won election to the House in 2010, representing the northeastern part of the county, including the coastal area from Palm Beach to the county line. The new district stretches farther inland and is less Republican. President of the PB Kennel Club and several restaurants bearing his name, he understands small business and the challenges it faces in this economic and regulatory climate. Receiving a 100% rating from the ACU, Pat has been an occasional visitor to 912 and tea party events and he and his staff have been very responsive to questions about pending bills and other matters. In the last session, he voted for redistricting, the budget, school vouchers, student-led prayer in the schools, the prohibition on court decsions based on foreign laws. His opponent, David Lutrin, is a big government Democrat who believes the Governor has harmed Florida by rejecting Federal stimulus funds, and that Republicans are trying to restrict voting rights. Mr. Lutrin has been endorsed by SEIU, the Teamsters, Florida AFL-CIO, CTA, FEA and Prgressive Democrats of America. There couldn’t be a clearer choice.
House District 86
Tami Donnally
Tami Donnally, a longtime 912 member, has been consistent in her conservative message, seeking job creation through lower taxes and fewer regulations, and a balanced budget with public safety and education a priority. She came close to defeating Joe Abruzzo in district 85 in 2010 and this time is facing a much more liberal Mark Pafford in a newly drawn district where both of them are competing for voters who don’t know them. Both candidates have made an effort to interact with the grassroots, and Mark Pafford, a legislator since 2008, even walked into the lion’s den and addressed the Tax Day Tea Party Rally in Wellington this year. Nevertheless, his progressive policies, which have won him the endorsement of most of the unions, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club and Progressive Democrats of America, give us pause. In the last session he voted against school vouchers, the budget, drug testing and the prohibition on courts using foreign laws. As in district 85, this is a clear choice.
House District 89
Bill Hagar
Bill Hager, first elected in 2010, is President of Insurance Metrics Corporation, and an entrepreneur who co-founded the Boca technology incubator Cenetec, Inc. This business background is valuable in the legislature as governments at all levels try to right the economic ship. With a 100% rating from ACU on the 25 votes they track, in the last session he voted for the budget, school vouchers, prohibition on foreign laws, and random drug testing. His opponent, Tom Gustafson, joined the race late when the Democrats needed to replace Pamela Goodman who dropped out. Mr. Gustafson is a past Speaker of the Florida House and served in the Legislature from 1976 to 1990. More recently he has been a Director in several academic institutions. As his website speaks of his priorities in only general terms, it is hard to say whether he would march in lockstep with his caucus. Returning Bill Hagar to Tallahassee seems to us a better bet.
House District 90
Sean Kasper
District 90 was put together from the fragments of 4 previous districts, and although incumbent Lori Berman has represented about a quarter of it, many of the voters probably consider it an open seat. Sean Kasper is a newcomer to politics, and at age 24, getting an early start. He is conservative in viewpoint, encourages fiscal restraint and free market solutions. His opponent was first elected in 2010, and has voted a reliable no to every bill introduced by Republicans, including the budget, redistricting, school vouchers, drug testing, student led prayer, and would not prohibit the application of foreign laws in our court system or third trimester abortion. Sean Kasper is enthusiastic but untried, and is learning about state government and its issues as he goes along. Although a very long shot given the demographics, we applaud Sean for deciding to run. There are too many seats in Democrat districts that go unchallenged, and the GOP does little to encourage those who are not likely winners.
State Attorney
Dina Keever
Republican Dina Keever decided to seek this office after it appeared that Democrat Dave Aronberg, who was implicated in questionable tactics to force the incumbent out and prevent interested candidates from stepping up to challenge him, would be unchallenged. She has excellent credentials and experience as a prosecutor, and has indicated a desire to advance the fight against corruption that her predecessor (and supporter) Michael McAuliffe started with the ethics Grand Jury and the indictment of Jeff Koons. Many of us who worked on the ordinances that led to the Inspector General and Ethics Commission are concerned that years of progress could be turned back if Mr. Aronberg wins the office, given the allegations made against him as documented in the Palm Beach Post. While it may be proven that no laws were broken, a State Attorney with less than an impeccable reputation for fairness, integrity and impartiality would be unacceptable. Either Dina Keever or Independent candidate Robert Gershman, also an accomplished litigator, would pass this test. Additionally, Mr. Aronberg has little courtroom experience. In spite of the demographics which favor Democrats in county-wide elections, Ms. Keever has been gathering endorsements and momentum, and we feel she has a better chance than Mr. Gershman to prevail.
Tax Collector
Anne Gannon
Serving as Tax Collector since her election in 2006, Anne Gannon won 87% of the vote in the Democrat primary, which was closed by the presence of a write-in candidate. Although appearing on the November ballot for this reason, she effectively won her re-election in August. Although a partisan Democrat, the office is not political and Ms. Gannon has done a good job with the difficult acquisition of the drivers license function and maintains her independence from the county wherever it can improve efficiency and save the taxpayer money.
Palm Beach Soil and Water Conservaton group 2
Stephen Jara
The Soil and Water Conservation District’s mission is to educate local land users, residents and businesses on ways to protect our natural resources, promote best management practices and conserve, improve and sustain the environment. Supervisors are elected county-wide. The group 2 incumbent Drew Martin is a Democrat, climate change activist with the Sierra Club and the Everglades Coalition. He was also a member of the Progessive Democrats of America steering committee. Stephen Jara is a Realtor, rancher and tree farmer, and is a manager of Golf Courses. He has expertise in equine and tree nursery operations and active in the community, serving on various boards. A businessman, he does not appear to have an ideological agenda and thus we think he would be a better pick for this position.

County Commission – one or none will be on your ballot:
County Commission District 1
Hal Valeche
Republican Hal Valeche is a former Navy fighter pilot, financial consultant, former Palm Beach Gardens Councilman, and congressional candidate. He advocates lower taxes and responsible spending, and was one of the original members of the TAB coalition. While he opposes privatization of Palm Tran, he supports the Singer Island Groin proposal and implementing a “smart cap” (TABOR) at the county level. His opponent, Palm Beach Gardens Mayor and Democrat David Levy, sees himself as a budget hawk also and has overseen responsible budgets in the city. He would oppose the Groin proposal for its technical problems, “smart cap” as tying the hands of government, but has an open mind about privatization. The Gardens recently finished a protracted fight with the Police and Fire unions, ending with some pension takeaways. Some of these same unions are now supporting his opponent. On balance, either candidate would bring some good attributes to the job, but we give the nod to Hal Valeche for his history of opposition to out of control spending at the county level during the bubble years.
County Commission District 3
Shelley Vana
Incumbent Commissioner, Democrat Shelley Vana was elected to the County Commission in 2008, after serving six years in the Florida House. She defeated Bob Kanjian who had been appointed by Charlie Crist when the previous occupant of the seat, Warren Newell was given a 5 year prison term. A teacher in the Palm Beach School system for 24 years, she also served as President of the Classroom Teacher’s Association. Her opponent Cliff Montross, at age 85, has been an unsuccessful candidate for County Sheriff in 2004, County Commissioner in 2008, and Mayor of Boynton in 2010. He has not mounted much of a campaign, lacks a web presence, does not use email, and has not raised any money. With Shelley Vana, what you see is what you get. Although we don’t always agree with her, particularly on the budget, she is usually willing to listen to opposing points of view and seek common ground.
County Commission District 5
Paul Tocker
County Commission District 5 has been the personal fiefdom of 20 year veteran Burt Aaronson, who is loved by his loyal district where there are 2.2 Democrats for every Republican and in recent years he never won with less than 75% of the vote. Now with term limits ending this reign, the leading contender is his senior assistant, Mary Lou Berger. While over time she will define her own role and she is probably a very nice person, it will be hard not seeing the ghost of Burt hovering over the dais. With 5 weeks to go until the election, the “Issues” page on her website still says “Coming Soon”. Since the Commissioner was never a fan of cutting spending or lowering tax rates, there has never been a meeting of the minds between him and South Florida 912. Consequently, we cannot support his hand-picked successor for the job. Which brings us to Republican Paul Tocker.. Paul is a newcomer to PBC politics and faces significant obstacles, including the mentioned lack of Republicans in the district, being outspent 100 to 1, and climbing the steep learning curve of county issues and history in which his opponent is the knowledgeable insider. With odds like these it takes courage and determination to mount a challenge, and we applaud him for it. No race in Palm Beach County should be conceded without a fight, and conservative, responsible, pro-growth Paul Tocker is carrying our flag.
School Board – district 1 only
School Board District 1
Christine Jax
The School Board is the policy making body for a sprawling district with over 20,000 employees and a budget of $2.3B. As with anything that size, there are multiple interest groups with their own agendas, such as the Superintendent and his staff, the teachers, the custodial and office employees, the vendors, the federal and state government, and of course the taxpayers. A good policy maker should walk among these groups with the big picture in mind. Christine Jax, has this skill. She is an educational policy expert with serious experience as the Minnesota Commissioner of Education, and a published thought leader, yet independent of local influence. Her opponent, former principal Michael Murgio, has excellent credentials, but his support comes primarily from within the system, including the Classroom Teachers Association and former superintendents and principals. Christine Jax, in our view, could bring a new perspective to a system that needs fresh thinking and an independent hand. With school quality cited by many experts as an impediment to economic growth in Palm Beach County, we need an outsider like Christine Jax to shake things up.
Judicial Retention – vote yes to retain in office:
Appointed by Democrat Governor Lawten Chiles, these three activist judges, Fred R. Lewis, Barbara J. Pariente, and Peggy A. Quince were instrumental in striking down school choice, preventing a public vote on Obamacare, and expanding government’s power to seize private property, among other things extensively documented at
We found little that concerns us about the two appellate judges and therefore support their retention without condition.
Supreme Court Justice
Fred R. Lewis
Supreme Court Justice
Barbara J. Pariente
Supreme Court Justice
Peggy A. Quince
4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge
Burton C. Conner
4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge
Carole Y. Taylor
Special Districts – on ballot only within the districts:
Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District Seat 5
Tom Thayer
The Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District was created by a special act of the Florida Legislature in 1974 for the purpose of providing outstanding public beaches and parks for local residents. REC member Tom Thayer and DEC member Stephen Engel are competing for this open seat. Long active in the community, Thayer owns a real estate brokerage and is former chairman of the Boca Code Enforcement Board and vice chairman of the Marine Advisory and Coast Guard Auxiliary flotilla commander. Engel, an advertising executive is a newcomer to Boca Raton and doesn’t have Thayer’s history with the issues facing the district.
Indian Trail Improvement District seat 2 The responsibilities of Indian Trail Improvement District include reclaiming the lands within its boundaries for water control and water supply purposes and protecting the land from the effects of water by means of the construction and maintenance of canals and other drainage works and improvements. Incumbent Republican Carlos Enriquez, a pilot for FPL, has done extensive community work through the Acreage Landowners Association, and Indian Trail’s 2006 Planning Committee. He sees the recent flooding from Isaac as a learning experience that will help them plan for future storms. He is being challenged by Democrat Gary Dunkley who has been critical of the ITID repsonse to the recent flooding and would pay better attention to maintenance and staff training.. Our leadership team was split on this seat and so we offer no pick.
Indian Trail Improvement District seat 4 The responsibilities of Indian Trail Improvement District include reclaiming the lands within its boundaries for water control and water supply purposes and protecting the land from the effects of water by means of the construction and maintenance of canals and other drainage works and improvements. Incumbent Democrat Michelle Damone is the public face of the District. Very knowledgeable, she wrote a Bizpac review article on SR7 extension critical of Jeri Muoio. She is being challenged by Democrat Kenneth Hendrick who has been critical about the Isaac response, claiming that a pre-storm draw-down should have been done. Our leadership team was split on this seat and so we offer no pick.
Northern Improvement District Seat 4 The NPBCID provides a range of services, including storm water control, landscaping and maintenance of canals, waterways and lakes within its jurisdiction. Democrat John Cohen is an attorney, ex-judge and very involved with community organizations including the Salvation Army, Club 100 and the League of Women Voters. NPA Peter Stein is a banker, HOA officer and Red Cross Volunteer. Neither would seem to have much experience that directly bears on water management or environment issues. Our leadership team has little knowledge of either of these candidates so we offer no pick.
Port of Palm Beach Group 1
Wayne Richards
Incumbent Democrat Wayne Richards, in office since 2003, is an attorney and mechanical engineer, and is involved in the community, serving on many boards.
Republican George Black, with a much less impressive resume, has not defined his plans in any great detail. Consequently, we do not see the value proposition for defeating the incumbent.
Port of Palm Beach Group 3
Jean Enright
Incumbent Democrat Jean Enright appears on the ballot with a write-in challenge only, and will likely be the group 3 Port Commissioner for four more years.
Ballot Amendments
Amendment Our Choice Rationale
1 – Health Care Services YES

This amendment would safeguard the rights of individuals and employers to make their own health care choices, including direct payment for services , and prohibit the mandate to purchase health insurance.

A YES vote on this amendment indicates opposition to the individual mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) and would conflict with Federal Law as upheld by the Supreme Court. Whether it would have practical effect under the 10th Amendment is open to question, but at the very least it would reflect public opinion on the issue. We vote YES.

2 – Veterans Disabled Due to Combat Injury; Homestead Property Tax Discount YES

This amendment broadens the class of veterans who are eligible for discounts on property taxes under a statute already in effect. The current statute provides a discount to combat-disabled veterans over 65 years of age who own homestead property in an amount equal to their percentage of disability.

A YES vote removes the somewhat arbitrary condition in the existing statute that the subject combat-disabled veteran must have been a Florida resident when they originally ENTERED the military.

In general we are against complicating the tax rules to favor any group. In this case though, the exemption is already on the books and this amendment fixes an arbitrary limitation. We vote YES.

3 – State Government Revenue Limitation YES

Also known as “Smart Cap”, this amendment would impose a limit on the collection of state revenue based on inflation and population growth, rather than the current limitation based on personal income. This is similar to the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” (TABOR) implemented in some other states, but avoids the drawbacks of the Colorado system that worsened the effect of economic downturns. It does this by adjusting the limit based on last years cap rather than last year’s revenue, and allows the Legislature to override the limit by a supermajority vote.

A YES vote would implement the limitations, phased in over a period of years starting in 2014. Limiting revenue based on objective measures of economic activity would prevent growth in the size of government relative to the economy. Because of this, it is opposed by public employee unions and liberal interest groups such as the AARP and League of Women Voters.

If passed, this amendment will be very effective in limiting the growth in government, a key conservative principle. We vote an emphatic YES.

4 – Property Tax Limitations; Property Value Decline; Reduction for Non Homestead Assesment Increases; Delay of Scheduled Repeal NO

This amendment would modify the law defining the “save our homes” provision that defines the allowable increase in property valuation in a single year as follows: 1) If the value of the property goes down, the assesment cannot increase (possible under current law to “catch up” with previous increases), 2) limits the increase on non-homestead property to 5% (currently 10%), 3) institutes an additional exemption of up to 50% of the property value for certain newly qualifying exemptions for up to 5 years, and 4) delays until 2023 the planned repeal of the non-homestead exemption now scheduled for 2019.

A YES vote would institute all of the provisions. Equalizing the allowable increase in valuation between homestead and non-homestead property, deviates from a key aspect of the “Save our Homes” provision which provided advantages to individuals with primary residence in the state. This amendment shifts the advantage to businesses, owners of multiple properties, and new homebuyers and will certainly raise the property taxes for most Floridians. Because of the new home provision which could aid the struggling housing market, the Realtors Associations are in support of this Amendment.

We do not think further tinkering with the homestead exemption rules is wise, particularly if it is used to advantage one group over another. Let’s stop picking winners and losers. It would be better to set the rules for all property equally – this makes it worse. We vote NO.

5 – State Courts NO

If passed would amend Article V of the State Constitution relating to the judiciary. First, under current law, the Legislature can repeal a court rule established by the Supreme Court with a 2/3 majority of both Houses. Under this amendment, only a simple majority would be required. Second, under current law the Governor appoints Supreme Court Justices from a list provided by a Judicial Nominating Committee, but under this amendment, the appointment would additionally require confirmation by the Senate before the appointee can take office. Third, the amendment would give access to the confidential files of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to the Speaker of the House for determining whether to proceed with impeachments of a justice or judge.

A YES vote would implement the changes and shift the balance of power between two branches of state government in favor of the Legislature. While confirmation of Justices would be similar to the US Constitution and would likely enhance the checks and balances, letting the Legislature overrule the courts with a simple majority would seem to drastically affect the operation of the state court system.

Dont’ tinker with our system of checks and balances – we vote NO.

6 – Prohibition on Public Funding of Abortions; Construction of Abortion Rights YES

This proposed amendment provides that public funds may not be expended for any abortion or for health-benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother. It furthermore prohibits an interpretation of the State Constitution that would grant additional rights to abortion than covered under the US Constitution.

A YES vote would prevent all state funding for abortion, including health insurance plans that provide coverage, unless it would conflict with federal law.

Abortion is an issues that almost equally divides us. Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for something they consider immoral, within limits. We vote YES.

8 – Religious Freedom YES

If passed, this amendment would prevent denial of governmental benefits or funding on the basis of religious identity or belief, except as required by the First Amendment. This would remove an existing prohibition (the 1875 “Blaine Amendment”) against use of public funds to aid churches or other religious institutions, and would likely allow funding for private religious schools./

A YES vote would remove impediments to providing public education funding to private schools based on whether they are religious or secular.

Since this amendment would pave the way for voucher systems usable in religious schools, the education establishment (Florida Education Association, members of the Florida School Board Association and Florida Association of School Administrators) brought suit to remove it from the ballot and won, but existing law allows the Attorney General to rewrite the language within 10 days and she did. These groups can be expected to oppose it in November.

Eliminating Blaine removes a tool that can be used against school choice. We vote YES.

9 – Homestead Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse of Military Veteran or First Responder NO

This amendment would authorize the Legislature to grant full or partial ad valorem property tax relief to the surviving spouse of a military veteran or first responder who is killed in the line of duty.

A YES vote would allow the Legislature to implement these additional exemptions to Ad Valorem taxes for another “special class” of citizen. Since the surviving spouses of military and first responders killed in action are already compensated in various ways, through insurance and pension payments, adding complexity to the rules for tax exemption in this way would seem unusual.

We oppose complicating the tax rules to advantage one group over another and vote NO.

10 – Tangible Personal Property Exemption YES

If passed, this amendment would 1) extend the tangible personal property tax (paid by businesses) exemption to $50,000, and 2) authorize counties or municipalities to grant additional tangible tax exemptions by ordinance.

A YES vote will increase the exemption.

Reducing the burden on small business promotes economic growth. We vote YES.

11 – Additional Homestead Exemption; Low-Income Seniors who Maintain Long-Term Residency on Property NO

This would authorize the Legislature to allow counties and municipalities to grant ad-valorem tax exemptions up to the assessed value of a homestead property worth less than $250,000 if the owner has owned it for more than 25 years, is 65 years of age or older, and has a “low income” as defined by general law.

A YES vote allows counties and municipalities to perform additional social engineering on their tax base.

We have nothing against poor seniors, but oppose complicating the tax rules to advance social goals and vote NO.

12 – Appointment of Student Body President to Board of Governors of the State University System NO PICK

This amendment would require the Board of Governors of the State University System to create a council of student body presidents, whose chairman would then become the student member of the Board of Governors. Under current law, that seat is held by the president of the Florida Student Association.

A YES vote would implement the changes.

We have no pick on this amendment, with insufficient information about the pros and cons.

PBC 1 – Allow Slot Machines to be Placed at Licensed Pari-Mutuel Facilities NO PICK

If passed, this would allow slot machines at licensed pari-mutuel facilities in the county (currently only the Palm Beach Kennel Club), subject to approval by the state and expiration of the exclusive agreement between the state and the Seminole tribe which expires in July 2015. Currently, AG Pam Bondi has issued an opinion that slots can only be approved in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Economic benefit to the county is estimated at $1.8M.

A YES vote would register approval by the voters in the county, enabling the county delegation to pursue legislative approval to proceed. There would be not slots in the county before 2015 at the earliest.

We have no consensus on this amendment, with some opposed to gaming expansion of any kind, others seeing the disadvantage that a local business has in competing with the Broward and Dade facilities without it. If you are not opposed to gaming, you should consider a yes vote. We report, you decide.

PBC 2 – Continue to Provide Tax Exemptions for New or Expanding Businesses in the County YES

If passed, this would extend the current authority of the county to provide property tax exemptions to new or expanding businesses beyond the August 2014 expiration.

A YES vote will extend the current county authority beyond 2014.

This tool is already available to the county and is a preferable economic development incentive to direct grants, so we vote YES.

Fired up and ready to go!

Shannon Armstrong, founder, South Florida 912, kicked off the meeting outlining the very full agenda and modifications. We were waiting for an honor guard from PBC Fire/Rescue to arrive so we held off on our prayer, pledge and Star-Spangled Banner until later in the program. Meanwhile, leader Jason Shields played taps on his trumpet.

First up was member Dominique Feldman who is our resident Social Media expert. She led a brief interactive discussion on FB and said she’d be offering another class on how to use FB and Twitter for “social media banking”. So watch the website for her next class which should be in the next couple of weeks.

Next up was Joe Madej, of Palm Beach County Tea Party. Joe has been leading the Tea Party’s effort to sign up poll-watchers and he encouraged folks to sign-up at the meeting.

Jim Hunter, leader, sang a beautiful rendition of a song from “Act of Valor”.

Fred Scheibl, leader, spoke to two topics. First – he covered his analysis of the upcoming electorate and the reach we’ve had with our South Florida 912 Leaders’ picks in 2010 and in the August 2012 primary elections. We can use this to good effect in the vital November 2012 elections. Next, Fred provided an overview of the FL State and PBC Amendments that will appear on the ballot. They are fairly complex, as are the implications of a Yes vote. He encouraged our members to get educated. Leaders’ picks on the amendments will come later.

We had two speakers to address the PBC Slot Machine amendment. Mat Forrest of the Coalition for More Jobs, Better Schools, A Stronger Economy spoke on behalf of the amendment, and Virginia Brooks, Chairperson of the PBC Faith and Freedom Coalition spoke against. Both made compelling cases and it will be difficult for many to make up their minds on this amendment.

By now it was clear that our PBC Fire/Rescue team was busy doing their jobs – so Doug Armstrong, co-founder, led us in an Invocation, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Barry Carson, member, led us in the Star Spangled Banner. And we commenced with our 9/11 Memorial.

Dennis Lipp, leader, produced a heart-wrenching 9/11 memorial video. As many wiped away their tears, Shannon Armstrong, co-founder, segued into why the group is called 912 – stressing the unity the country felt on the day after 9/11. She went through our Mission and Principles and Values and listed all of the ways in which we have to get involved.

Tami Donnally, candidate for FL House District 86, continued, personalizing the ways people could help her campaign or any of the other local campaigns. She stressed that one needn’t live in her district to help. Palm Beach County needs conservative legislators and district boundaries aren’t the important thing – it’s getting these folks to Tallahassee. Melanie Peterson, candidate for FL Senate District 25 echoed a lot of Tami’s sentiments and discussed the vital role agricultural has in Palm Beach County’s economy and how she brings experience not addressed by current leadership.

By now we were running quite late but had time for James O’Hara, candidate for FL House district 81 and Cesar Henao, candidate for Congress District 21 – running against Ted Deutch. Both reiterated the importance of helping the candidates with time and money and spreading the word about their candidacies.

Jim Hunter regaled us with another song and Jason Shields held the 50:50. Janeen Capizola won and donated her winnings to the candidates. Thank you Janeen.

And thanks to all of the South Florida 912 members who helped set up and break down the room.

Now – go out there and make a difference!

Some pictures:

Christian and Jews Standing with Israel Summit Aug 26th

RFP Jewish logo
Dear Shannon,

Join other Romney supporters as we stand in solidarity with the State of Israel at a Christians United for Israel event this Sunday, August 26th.We’ll be meeting in the parking lot of Temple Beth El at 4:30pm and begin flag wavingoff site and across the street from the synagogue at the corner of 27th Street and N. Flagler Dr.  Our rally will only be outside the east entrance and not on the premises of the synagogue.

Pro-Israel Flag Waving!
August 26th at 4:30pm to 6:30pm
across the street from Temple Beth El
Please wear your Romney t-shirts and patriotic gear!
Bring your US and Israeli Flags!
Christians & Jews Standing With Israel Summit   
August 26th at 6:30pm
emple Beth El Synagogue2815 N Flagler DrWest Palm Beach, FL 33407


For more information on the event click here

Event is FREE  Seating is Limited  

Please RSVP here 

Vote and tell your friends and Action committee meeting Monday Aug 20th


Dear Patriots

Please get out and vote there are a number of primaries going on in our area that are Important.
If you need some help please check out the leaders pics on the main website at

get out there early and call a friend to keep them accountable to vote as well!

Coming next Monday night we are meeting to have an action and leadership committee sign up and commit to bring us forward to the election in Novemeber.

If you want to be a part of this please email me and I can send you the meeting info. It will be next Monday night at 7pm.
Any one willing to get active and committed to working hard thru this Novemeber election cycle please email me ASAP Shannon

Vote and tell others on Facebook and Twitter!

God Bless

Shannon and Doug Armstrong

Volunteer for Victory Center

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