Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jeb Bush endorses Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate

Well, make that Jeb Bush Jr.

Received via e-mail from the Rubio campaign:
Today I would like to let you know that I will be enthusiastically supporting my friend Marco Rubio for his bid for the United States Senate.

Florida and our country are at a crossroads. Not only in our economic life, but in who we are as Republicans.

My choice was a simple one: Marco Rubio represents the best in what our Party should strive to be and who it must engage – he is young, conservative, and believes in the principles of our Founding Fathers, that individual freedom and liberty are what makes our country great and always will.

Marco Rubio is a candidate who can help to bring our Party back on track by reaching out to our youth, entrepreneurs, Hispanics and those who believe that if you work hard enough, anything you dream can be achieved. With Marco, we have a great opportunity to elect a true conservative and a greater obligation to elect a man of principle.
As Talking Points Memo notes, Bush's dad, Jeb Sr. is still popular and Florida - and probably would have been a shoe-in if he had run for the Senate. Whether that popularity has passed on to his son - who last year endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president - and to Rubio's benefit in his race against Gov. Charlie Crist, remains to be seen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Castor: Sotomayor is 'outstanding' pick for Supreme Court

She doesn't have an official say on the matter - that is reserved for members of the U.S. Senate - but count U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, whose district includes part of Manatee County, as liking President Barack Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“President Obama made an outstanding selection in nominating Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States," Castor said in an e-mail statement this morning. "Judge Sotomayor will bring to the bench her intelligence, her humble upbringing, her top-notch qualifications and her fair-minded approach to legal matters. I am particularly excited that President Obama chose an Hispanic woman for this critical role. Our Tampa Bay area has a strong legacy of Hispanic and female attorneys and judges. An Hispanic woman serving on the highest court in the land is an accomplishment for which we can all be proud.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New poll: Just about everyone knows Charlie Crist

A Mason-Dixon poll shows Gov. Charlie Crist with a 53 percent to 18 percent lead over former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in next year's election.

That's a big gap for Rubio to overcome, but the challenge appears even more daunting when you consider the results of another question in the poll: 98 percent of the 625 registered Florida voters surveyed said they recognized the name "Charlie Crist," compared to 39 percent who recognized "Marco Rubio."

Other results of the survey, as reported by the Palm Beach Post, include U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek holding a 26 percent-16 percent lead over state Sen. Dan Gelber for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat. Crist would beat either one of them handily in a general election, according to the poll results.

In the race for governor, Attorney General Bill McCollum holds a 39 percent-12 percent lead over Agriculture Secretary Charles Bronson, who has not said whether he is running for the GOP nomination. McCollum also holds a 40 percent-34 percent lead over Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in a hypothetical general election.

Read the whole poll here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Galvano: I'm considering running for AG

State Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, tells the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times bureau in Tallahassee that he is considering a run for Florida attorney general, now that incumbent Bill McCollum is running for governor.

The Naked Politics blog reports:
Galvano's name now gets added to the list of other potential candidates: Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist, George LeMieux.

"It is something that I'm taking a look at," Galvano said. He noted that while Republican Party chairman Jim Greer continues to discourage primary battles, Galvano believes "the rank and file really do want to have some options. These are very challenging times and that also equates to challenges in statewide elections so there are people who are interested in making sure decisions are not made too quickly and that there are options to evaluate."
Term limits mean Galvano, chairman of the House Rules committee, cannot run for re-election to the Florida House next year.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bill McCollum is no political amateur

Bill McCollum may eschew the label "professional politician," but there is no question that he is not an amateur when it comes to politics and elections.

The Republican McCollum, a former congressman and currently Florida's attorney general, will surprise no one later today when he kicks off the 14th campaign of his political career by announcing a bid for governor. McCollum's temptation for higher office became easier to give into after GOP Gov. Charlie Crist last week said he was running for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

McCollum will be the second - but maybe not the final - member of the Florida Cabinet to announce for governor. Last week, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat, entered the race, and Agriculture Secretary Charles Bronson, a Republican, also has expressed interest.

McCollum first ran for office in 1980, when he was elected to the U.S. House from central Florida. His resume may be long, but the state's political demographics have changed considerably in the past 30 years. Whether McCollum is a good fit for the new Florida remains to be seen.

McCollum's bid for governor means other politicos will now line up to run for attorney general.

Stay tuned for the next dominos to fall ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Buchanan to host town hall on economy

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan will hold a town hall meeting in Bradenton on Saturday on economic issues.

“Nothing is more important than getting our economy back on track and creating jobs,” said Buchanan.

This is the fifth in a series of town meetings Buchanan has held throughout the district to give his constituents a chance to express their views on ways to strengthen the economy.

"I want to listen to the people and hear their ideas and suggestions,” he said.

Buchanan's town meeting will be held at 10 a.m. in the County Commission Chamber at the Manatee County Administrative Center, 1112 Manatee Ave W.

Alex Sink announces bid for governor

With Charlie Crist running for U.S. Senate, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today announced she is running for the Democratic nomination for governor.

"In unique and challenging times like these, our state needs a new and different kind of leadership," she said in the statement to be released this afternoon. "Thousands of Floridians have told me they need leaders committed to protecting the middle class, strengthening our economy and giving our families a fighting chance. As a businesswoman and working mom, I couldn't agree more."

Sink is the first major candidate to announce for governor, but reports are her two co-workers in the Florida Cabinet, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Secretary Charles Bronson, both Republicans, may soon enter the race.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Candidate Crist answers a few questions

Via the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times video blog:

A preview of the Democratic plan for Crist?

So how do the Democrats run against Charlie Crist, if he wins the GOP nomination for a seat in the U.S. Senate?

The script may go something like this, as previewed in a news release this afternoon from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director Eric Schultz:
“Charlie Crist’s record in Florida is not one to be proud of. His administration has created an economic mess with record deficits, staggering unemployment, and a mortgage crisis that has hit nearly every Florida community. Too many in Florida are hurting because Governor Crist has failed to provide leadership and a way out of this mess. He’s jumping ship when he’s needed the most. That isn’t leadership – it is an abdication of responsibility.”

Florida Has 9.7% Unemployment Rate. In March 2009, Florida’s unemployment rate rose to 9.7%, significantly higher than the national 8.5% rate. Since a year prior (March 2008), Florida has lost 424,300 jobs. [Bureau of Labor Statistics, Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary, 4/17/09]

Florida Has Second Highest Foreclosure Rate.
Florida is currently ranked second in home foreclosure activity. Florida recorded 18,946 foreclosures in March, a 33 percent increase from February. [Orlando Business Journal, 4/15/09]

Floridians Facing Job Losses, Foreclosures, Dwindling Bank Accounts.
Crist is presiding over a historic collapse of the state's housing market, banking sector and construction industry, and a slowdown in tourism. Floridians struggle with job reductions, home foreclosures and dwindling bank accounts. [South Florida Sun Sentinel, 4/17/09]

Budget Hikes Taxes, Fees, Tuition While Cutting Spending, Including Elderly Care and State Workers’ Pay.
Lawmakers in Tallahassee have been wrestling with a $6 billion budget gap. The budget recently passed by lawmakers includes $2 billion in new fees and taxes, pay cuts for state workers, tuition hikes, and cuts to elderly healthcare. [Ledger, 5/04/09; News Herald, 5/08/09]

Martinez endorses Crist for Senate

Mel Martinez in 2004 was the first Cuban-American elected to the U.S. Senate from Florida.

In 2010, he doesn't want Marco Rubio to be the second.

Gov. Charlie Crist today reeled in a whale of an endorsement in his nascent bid for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Martinez.

Martinez, himself.

"Governor Crist has a positive record of legislative and executive experience; he is uniquely qualified and ready for this position," Martinez, who is not running for re-election, said in a news release. "He’s a good friend and we have a long history. I fully support his decision and endorse his candidacy.

“Especially at this turbulent time in our nation’s history, Florida needs a positive voice and a tireless advocate. Charlie Crist is that voice," Martinez said.

Buchanan: Elect Charlie to Senate, re-elect me to the House

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is no domino.

Putting his Senate ambitions aside, Buchanan, R-Sarasota, this morning endorsed Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican nomination and announced he would be running for a third term representing the 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

"Representing Florida's 13th district in the U.S. House is an honor and a privilege," Buchanan said in a news release. "I look forward to the opportunity to continue serving the people."

Buchanan, with the proven ability to pay for an expensive campaign, had flirted with a Senate bid - but like every other politician in the state with aspirations for higher office, he was waiting for Crist to decide on his ambitions.

With Buchanan deciding to stay put, chances are other local politicos who were waiting on Buchanan to announce his plans will be doing the same.

Rubio to Crist: Let the debate begin

U.S. Senate hopeful Marco Rubio this morning launched a campaign ad clearly aimed at his new rival for the job, Gov. Charlie Crist.

If the ad is any indication, Rubio, the former Florida House speaker, plans to make the GOP primary in August 2010 at least in part a referendum on President Barack Obama and Crist's support of a major part of his agenda.

Republican group 'dubious' about Crist

The ink isn't dry on his announcement that he is running from the U.S. Senate and already Charlie Crist is drawing fire from his right flank.

The Fort Lauderdale-based Conservative Republican Alliance greeted Crist with this broadside.
The Conservative-Republican Alliance (CRA) wishes to welcome Governor Charlie Crist to the U.S. Senate race, and our organization looks forward to hearing how he intends to advance the causes of individual freedom, fiscal discipline, and limited government in the U.S. Senate. There is little doubt that Governor Crist’s popularity throughout the state and his name recognition will greatly aid his prospects; however, the CRA wishes to express its doubts about Governor Crist’s reasoning and rationale that are currently being offered for his entrance into the race for U.S. Senate.

RPOF Chairman Jim Greer has stated that, “It's my opinion he has come to the conclusion that he needs to fight for Floridians on the issues coming out of Washington, D.C., and he needs to be there first-hand." Furthering that sentiment, George LeMieux, Governor Crist’s advisor has said, ''He loves being governor, but he also realizes that Florida's problems have become national problems.''

Pardon our initial cynicism, but it is a dubious proposition at best for Governor Crist to believe- if indeed he really does believe it- that as one of 100 Senators, and with the Republican Party currently sitting in the minority, he would have more power to solve Florida's problems as a Senator than he would as the sitting, elected Governor of Florida? Perhaps we need to remind Governor Crist that a governor of a state has far more power and discretion to affect the lives of the citizens of Florida than a solitary U.S. Senator.

In addition to that dubious appraisal of political power, his entrance into the Senate Race essentially makes him a lame-duck Governor, which further dilutes his power and his chances to effect positive change in Florida from this point forward. Governor Crist’s announcement also throws the entire Florida political map into a state of flux that possibly could jeopardize the Republican Party’s chances to retain the seats and offices that it presently holds. Will the chain of events that Governor Crist has set in motion by virtue of his announcement ultimately serve to benefit the electoral prospects of Republicans across the state, not to mention the citizens of Florida that are presently laboring under the dictates of an increasingly profligate Federal Government? In light of this announcement, we here at the CRA believe there is legitimate cause for concern.

The CRA is all too familiar with the platitudes and political-speak that politicians routinely use as they attempt to advance their careers. Therefore, we respectfully ask the following question to all interested observers- How can Governor Crist honestly claim he is entering this race on behalf of "the people" and for the good of all Floridians? From our perspective, Governor Crist’s quest for the Senate appears to be an opportunistic political move that jeopardizes the prospects of Republicans maintaining political power in Florida, dilutes his own power as Governor, and simply amounts to a risky political wager that would only gain him a resume enhancement for purposes of furthering his own political ambitions.

Crist to push the first big domino of the political season

Not to belabor the metaphor, but Gov. Charlie Crist's expected announcement today that he is running for the U.S. Senate will be the first domino to fall in what certainly will be a wild political season leading to the November 2010 elections.

The Bradenton Herald's Carl Mario Nudi reports on how the bones might break in Manatee:
Crist is expected to announce today that he will run for the soon-to-be vacated seat of Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, setting off a high-stakes game of musical chairs that will completely overhaul the upper echelon of state government in 2010.

To complicate the issue even more in Manatee, the legislative seats Reps. Bill Galvano and Ron Reagan will have to relinquish because of term limits have the local Republican and Democratic parties scouting for candidates to fill various scenarios.

“This is going to be really exciting,” said Kathy King, chairwoman of the Manatee County Republican Executive Committee. “The talk is all about the domino effect.”
The Miami Herald this morning offers a more statewide perspective on what might happen in the wake of Crist's announcement.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Is 'Marco Rubio' Floridian for 'Barack Obama?'

The Weekly Standard sees a few parallels:
In some respects, Rubio is a little like another state legislator who ran for the U.S. Senate, Barack Obama. Like the president, Rubio points to his biography as a testament to the American dream. The son of Cuban immigrants who fled Castro's regime, Rubio grew up in a working-class home--his father was a bartender and his mother a factory worker, casino maid, and Kmart stock clerk. He spent a year at Tarkio College in Missouri on a football scholarship before transferring to earn his bachelor's degree at the University of Florida and his law degree at the University of Miami. He married his longtime girlfriend Jeannette, once a Miami Dolphins cheerleader and now the mother of their four young children. Raised and confirmed a Catholic, Rubio worships with his family at an evangelical church.

Rubio rose rapidly in politics. Elected to the state house in 2000, he served as majority whip and majority leader before being named speaker for the 2007 and 2008 legislative sessions. He recently retired, as required by term-limits.

Like Obama, Rubio can thrill an audience. On April 13, he addressed the College Republicans and Students for a Free Cuba at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Cuba, he said, presents us with "an opportunity just 90 miles off our shores to defend and stand up for the constitutional and Founding principles of this country."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Buchanan: 'We need to act quickly' on drywall mess

Local politicians are working hard to make sure the Chinese drywall mess has everyone's attention.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has his ways.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, is trying another approach.

Buchanan today asked the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate problems that have been attributed to faulty Chinese drywall used to construct homes in Florida, including in Manatee County, and across the southeastern United States.

"As you may know, this defective drywall is emitting noxious fumes and vapors," Buchanan wrote in a letter to the federal agencies. "Furthermore, I have been informed that doctors are advising pregnant women to leave their homes in order to protect their unborn children."

And it could get worse.

"The summer months will bring elevated heat and humidity, which may exacerbate the problem. We need to act quickly."

Congress, with Buchanan's support, already has taken steps to address the drywall crisis. The U.S. House on Thursday approved legislation that would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to study the effects of tainted Chinese drywall on foreclosures and the availability of property insurance for residential structures with the defective building materials.

Read all of Buchanan's letter to the CDC and EPA here.

Former Sarasota County commissioner announces for Florida House

Former Sarasota County commissioner Ray Pilon is currently president of Circus Sarasota.

He is now running to join the circus in Tallahassee.

Pilon, Republican, announced today that he will try to unseat state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, in Florida House District 69 in next year’s election. House District 69 consists of northern Sarasota County and the Whitfield area of Manatee County.

“I want to ensure that, during these tough economic times, residents of House District 69 receive the representation they deserve in Tallahassee,” Pilon said in a news release distributed by the Republican Party of Sarasota County.

Pilon served as an elected member of the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners from 1996-2000, and has been active in the community with the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

Pilon said jobs, economy, and education will rank among his top priorities. He currently serves as the director of community affairs for the Peace River Water Authority.

Pilon and Fitzgerald, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2006, are so far the only candidates to file for election, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Odds for gambling deal get a little longer

The Miami Herald's Naked Politics Blog reports on a possible setback in talks between the Florida House and Senate over how to allow expanded gambling in the state:
With the governor and leaders of the Seminole Tribe sitting the front row, Sen. J.D. Alexander offered to return to the Senate position and give all Seminole casinos full banked card games. On Tuesday, they had offered to limit the options to just blackjack at the tribe casinos outside of Tampa and Hollywood.

"That may be receding a bit with our offer but in discussions with the leaders of the Seminole nation if we want them to make real payments,'' he said.

On parimutuels, the Senate agreed to offer electronic gaming to Palm Beach Kennel Club, Tampa Bay Downs and any other facility that is adjacent to a county with electronic gaming, including counties next to the Seminole's casinos. But the language specifically requires those counties to conduct a referendum and receive voter approval and it excludes Hialeah from the option until it has run two years of live races.

That, and a series of other issues, left the House chief negotiator Rep. Bill Galvano miffed. "With all due respect, the Senate ... is moving backwards from where we want to go from an expansion standpoint, backwards form where the House is heading. I'll look at your offer and will let you know if it's necessary to meet further,'' he said.

As Galvano, stood up to leave, Alexander said: "Well, that didn't go real well.''

The Senate offer required the Seminoles to offer a guaranteed revenue share of $150 million and it would be required to maintain that minimum payment even as their competitors acquired slot machines, unless their net win falls below $1.37 million even if there are additional machines added at competing tracks. Other issues included:
  • Historical racing would be allowed at parimutuel facilites and would share with the state 2 percent of its earnings.
  • Quarter horse purses would be supplemented.
  • Hialeah must have a track and be up and running when its starts its first card rooms.
Before the meeting, Galvano had met with Seminole leader Max Osceola, the governor's chief of staff Eric Eikenberg, Seminole president Jim Shore and briefly, Gov. Charlie Crist.

As the meeting fell apart, Crist said: "Let's see what happens over the next two hours.''

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fla. Democrats ready to rumble with Rubio

Florida Democrats sound like they have a favorite in the race for the Republican nomination in next year's U.S. Senate race.

Received via e-mail:
Tallahassee, FL - Reacting to former Marco Rubio's announcement that he will run for U.S. Senate on a platform of saying no and obstructing President Obama's change, Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff released the following statement:

"At a time when Florida needs real leadership, Marco Rubio is just following George W. Bush and Republicans in Washington, offering only more of the same stale politics and failed polices.

"In announcing his candidacy, Rubio made it clear that his entire agenda if elected is to just say no - no to President Obama's efforts to jumpstart Florida's economy and create jobs, no to allowing Cuban-Americans to visit their families, and no to any solutions aimed at solving the many problems facing the Sunshine State and our nation.

"While Rubio has recently joined the Rush Limbaugh wing of the Republican Party in just saying no, as the sponsor of the largest sales tax increase in Florida's history, Rubio's recent rhetoric on taxes doesn't fit his record.

"Rubio is the Godfather of Tallahassee's Republican culture of corruption. As disgraced former Speaker Ray Sansom's mentor, Rubio taught Sansom how to personally benefit from bringing home the bacon. After delivering millions of tax dollars for Florida International University, Rubio turned around and got a $69,000 per year part-time job at the school... sound familiar? Unfortunately, that is only the tip of the iceberg to Rubio's ethics problems. As Speaker, Rubio was involved in countless ethics scandals revolving around sweetheart mortgages, legislative favors for big donors, highway contracts, and other shady dealings."

Marco Rubio, in his own words

Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio today officially kicked off his bid for the Republican nomination in next year's U.S. Senate race, possibly setting the stage for a mammoth political fight with Gov. Charlie Crist, who has yet to announce his intentions.

Here is Rubio's announcement:

The Associated Press says Crist will likely make an announcement next week.

The Miami Herald has more.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Buchanan: G. Steube would be 'great' for Florida House

Greg Steube, who has built a large stockpile of cash and endorsements for his campaign for the Florida House of Representatives, on Monday received his biggest plug to date: An endorsement from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

"I am pleased today to endorse Greg Steube for state representative," Buchanan said in a statement released by Steube campaign. "Greg was born and raised in Manatee County and is extremely knowledgeable of the district and the district's issues."

"Greg would be a great leader for our area and its people," Buchanan said.

Steube, a Lakewood Ranch attorney, is running as a Republican in Florida House District 67, which is comprised of parts of Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties. Incumbent Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, is blocked by term limits from running again. Also running for the GOP nod are Robert McCann, a Lakewood Ranch physician and attorney; and Jeremiah J. Guccione, a Sarasota businessman.

The election is still some 18 months away, but Steube, who announced his bid earlier this year, has wasted no time in gathering and publicizing endorsements from some of the region's political heavy hitters, including Reagan; state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton; former state senators John McKay and Pat Neal; Manatee commissioners Ron Getman and Donna Hayes; and former sheriff Charlie Wells.

He's also been endorsed by the current Manatee sheriff, his father, Brad Steube.

Friday, May 1, 2009

'Crash tax' ban on its way to the governor

A bill that would put the kibosh on cities and counties levying a "crash tax" to cover the cost of police and fire response to traffic accidents is on its way to Gov. Charlie Crist for his signature.

Several municipalities already use such "cost recovery" programs, and the city of Bradenton was considering joining the fray - that is, until lawmakers, including Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, moved to implement a ban.

After all, critics argued, isn't that why we pay taxes?

The Senate earlier this week approved a bill authored by Bennett, and the House on Thursday gave a ban its overwhelming support.

Gambling deal still not settled

The legislative players, including Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, have not yet folded in the high-stakes political poker game between the Florida House and Senate over the possibility of expanded gambling in the state.

The Miami Herald's Naked Politics Blog has the details of the House offer, as presented by Galvano:

  • Seminoles would get blackjack at its South Florida casinos but only Class III slot machines outside of those counties for a guaranteed minimum of $200 million.
  • Pari-mutuels in Miami Dade and Broward would get blackjack and no one would get additional electronic gaming.
  • Hialeah could get a quarterhorse track and substitute half of its races with thoroughbreds but would have to operate a full schedule of live racing. It would get poker rooms but no slot machines.
  • Miami Jai alai could become a dog track.
  • Tax rate on slot machines would drop from 50 percent to 35 percent as long as the state collected $117 million it earned this year; if not they operators would have to make up the difference, no matter how long they have had slot machines.
  • Compact term would be 15, not 25 years.
Galvano also tells the Miami Herald that final negotiations are being left to House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater.

Buchanan: Don't panic about swine flu

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, this morning chimed in on the swine flu outbreak, cautioning those at a public forum this morning his office organized not to panic.

“We are facing a very serious public health concern, but there is no reason to panic,” Buchanan told about 75 people who attended the event in county commission chambers. “We have no confirmed case yet in Manatee County or in Florida. There will be more cases, more hospitalizations and deaths in the weeks to come but federal, state and local health officials have a coordinated response.”

Health officials currently are checking at least eight possible swine flu cases in the state, waiting for results from labs.