Monday, August 31, 2009

1st Democrat files for Florida House #67 race

Z.J. Hafeez, an Apollo Beach attorney, over the weekend became the first Democrat to announce his candidacy in next year's race in Florida House District 67. Also running to replace Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, are four Republicans.

Over the weekend, Hafeez sent out the following news release:
Z. J. Hafeez, Democrat, announced his candidacy for State Representative in Florida’s 67th House District, currently represented by Ron Reagan, who is unable to seek reelection due to term-limits. The 67th District covers parts of South Hillsborough County, Manatee County, and North Sarasota County.

“I am working to be your next State Representative because in these times of economic hardship, we need a strong, independent voice in the Florida House,” Z.J. said. “It’s time to focus on Florida’s recovery by taking a responsible new approach to growth and economic development, in our district and across our great state. That means standing up to special interests and standing up for homeowners, working families and small businesses. It means investing in aging infrastructure and ensuring that new commercial and residential development doesn’t come at the cost of a community’s quality of life. It means creating good new jobs, reducing energy costs and protecting our environment, through a commitment to bold alternative energy initiatives. It means helping workers displaced by the Recession to find new job training and placement opportunities. And it means increasing, rather than slashing education spending, to better prepare our children for the competitive challenges of the twenty-first century workplace.”

Z. J. is a native of the South Shore community, and a product of the Hillsborough County Public Schools. Z. J. graduated from the State University System’s Public Liberal Arts Honors College—New College of Florida, and earned his law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. ZJ returned to his South Shore roots, bringing his wide array of experience and skills to the community, including serving as chairman of the Tampa Bay Community Education Center's Youth Group. Currently, Z.J. works in corporate legal affairs, and resides in Apollo Beach.
The four Republicans currently in the race are Jeremiah Guccione, Robert McCann, Marie Nisco and Greg Steube.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dem chief blasts Crist appointment as 'cronyism'

Gov. Charlie Crist may have made the "safe" choice in picking former aide George LeMieux to fill out the term of Sen. Mel Martinez, who is resigning.

But he also made the dirty choice, says Karen L. Thurman, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party:
"Today, Charlie Crist decided to play political games with the public's trust by appointing George LeMieux to the U.S. Senate. This glaring example of political cronyism is the last thing Florida needed while we face these tough economic times and the Congress is tackling critical issues such as health insurance reform and global warming.

"In appointing LeMieux, someone who has made millions over the past several years selling access to Crist to the highest bidders among Tallahassee's special interests, Charlie Crist once again put his own political ambition above doing what is right for Florida.

"Floridians are sick of the Republican culture of corruption and the Tallahassee back room dealings that clearly led Crist to pick LeMieux, whose only qualification is being Charlie Crist's crony."
The Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog has more reaction.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sheriffs to honor Rep. Galvano

The Florida Sheriffs Association, Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube and Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight today will present state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, with the FSA Legislative Award for his leadership and support of public safety on gambling-related issues during the 2009 legislative session.

"Representative Galvano made extraordinary efforts to learn and understand the details and ramifications of the complex federal tribal and gaming regulatory laws, and was an influential member of leadership who helped direct the outcome of the gambling issues in the Legislature," the FSA said in a news release announcing the award.

The award will be presented to Galvano, chairman of the House committee overseeing the state's gambling compact with the Seminoles, during an event at 2 p.m. at Dolphin Aviation at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Florida tributes to Ted Kennedy

The Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog has a roundup of statements from Florida officials reacting to the death of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, including this one from Sen. Mel Martinez, who crossed partisan lines to work with Kennedy on immigration reform:
"Ted was an icon of passionate public service and gave selflessly to our nation," Martinez said. "I came to know him well through our work on immigration reform where he was a tough negotiator, and someone who knew how to reach bipartisan agreement for the good of an issue. He will be remembered as the Lion of the Senate for his voice, his style, his work, and his allegiance to always do what he thought was best for our country. Kitty and I offer our condolences and Senator Kennedy's family is in our thoughts and prayers."
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., issued this:
"Most Americans cannot remember a time without Ted Kennedy. Whatever your political persuasion, you had to respect his lion-like conviction.I t was that conviction that gave a voice to the powerless over the powerful. Grace and I came to know Ted and Vicki in his later years in the Senate, and we count it a privilege to have known him."
Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, issued this:
“Senator Kennedy dedicated his professional and public service career to working people, seniors and children. His legacy is long and vast. Anyone who has lost their job recently can thank Senator Ted Kennedy for COBRA. Anyone who suffers from mental illness can thank Senator Ted Kennedy for improving mental health coverage. Senator Ted Kennedy also was instrumental in increasing the minimum wage, which is so vital to workers in the Tampa Bay area, and for defending Americans’ civil rights. There is a void in the U.S. Senate today, but his influence will be felt for generations and generations.”
Did you ever meet Kennedy in Massachusetts, Washington, D.C. or Florida? Did you ever work on his or his brothers' campaigns? The Bradenton Herald is preparing a story about Kennedy's local connections and would like to include your stories.

Contact East Manatee Editor Jim Jones at or (941) 748-7916.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Buchanan blasts new budget deficit projects

U.S Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, has posted on his Facebook page a news release blasting new budget deficit projections issued this morning by the White House and Congress.

All the red ink - as much as $9 trillion over the next 10 years - has Buchanan, well, seeing red.

He's using the outrage to once again stump for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution:
Washington D.C. - Rep. Vern Buchanan (FL-13) said today new projections showing the federal deficit exploding to $9 trillion -- up from $7 trillion -- underscores the need for Congress to ratify a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget.

“It is outrageous and unacceptable that the American people are being told to expect $9 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years,” said Buchanan

"Congress has been unable to stop its reckless, irresponsible spending. As a result our nation is on a path to financial disaster," Buchanan said. "It will be our children and grandchildren who pay the price for Washington's inability to rein in spending."

Buchanan opposed the $1 trillion spending bill masquerading as a "stimulus plan" earlier this year. The Congressman also voted against Speaker Nancy Pelosi's bloated federal budget plan and a proposed national energy tax. "We cannot spend our way to prosperity,” said the Congressman.

“To secure our economic future the President and Congress need to make the tough choices necessary to balance the budget without raising taxes,” added Buchanan. “Anything less would likely worsen the economic downturn, making it more difficult for families to make ends meet.”

“The first bill I introduced in Congress would require a balanced federal budget by 2012,” said Buchanan. “If 49 states can do it, so can the federal government.” Buchanan's bill would require a 3/5 vote for any increases in the debt, that the President submit a balanced budget to Congress, and that any legislation to increase revenue must be passed by a true majority of each chamber – not just a majority of those present and voting.

Buchanan also said he would vote against raising the national debt limit when it is brought before Congress for a vote in the fall.

Monday, August 24, 2009

FPL rate hearing postponed because of staffer's attendance at party

The Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog reports on an apparently major glitch in today's hearing on Florida Power & Light's request for a rate increase:
The hearing into Florida Power & Light's request to raise rates started with a bang on Monday when one commissioner called for the resignation of a Public Service Commission staffer because of potential conflict of interest and suggested he may call for a potential dismissal of the case.

Commissioner Nathan Skop called for the resignation of Ryder Rudd, the commissioner's director of lobbyist relations, based on a phone call he had received from Rudd over the weekend in which he acknowledged attending a Kentucky Derby party in May at the home of Ed Tancer, FPL's vice president. Rudd also called Commissioners Nancy Argenziano and Katrina McMurrian

Commissioner Chairman Matthew Carter quickly called for the meeting to briefly adjourn so that he could confer with commission's staff

"We want ratepayers to know the process is fair," he said. "Due process is on the line. We're just going to have to get to the bottom of this."

Rudd told the Herald/Times that he and his wife were in Miami for the weekend and stopped in "briefly'' at Tancer's party as part of his attempts to gather information about the industry issues.

"I do as much information gathering as possible," Ryder said. "It was a good opportunity to meet people who are pushing some of the issues I'm following.

Rudd said he did not consider it a conflict of interest and that he "had no role in the rate case."

Skop, however, disagrees and noted that Rudd does have a role over the division that oversees FPL's request for a pipeline.

"My concern is this person has supervisory oversight of the staff recommendations regarding this rate case and the pipeline determination," he said.

Skop also asked the Public Service Commission staff if FPL had complied with the commission's order last week to release the salary data of its top executives. Staff said it had not. Skop ordered FPL to get the data in by 5 p.m. or he would consider further sanctions, including possible dismissal of the case.

Argenziano said that the attorney general and the PSC's inspector general should investigate Rudd but the investigation into potential conflicts with the regulated industries should also include other staff and fellow commissioners on the PSC.

"This should prompt a thorough invesetigation of the whole place and that means commissioners," she told the Herald/Times. She said she believes that some staff and some commissioners are "too cozy'' with individuals they are charged with regulating.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Photographs from Buchanan town hall meeting

Scenes from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan's town hall meeting at Braden River High School on Thursday, as seen from the school's cafeteria where an overflow crowd of more than 700 people watched the meeting in the school's audito

Buchanan to host town hall today

Just a reminder that U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan this afternoon will host a town hall meeting to talk about health care and other issues.

The town hall, which is open to the public, starts at 4 p.m. at the Braden River High School auditorium, 6545 State Road 70, Bradenton.

Buchanan's office asks that if you plan to attend, to call them at (941) 951-6643.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vern Buchanan is a social animal (UPDATED)

UPDATED, 3:45 p.m. EDT, Aug. 19, 2009

There’s not a lot U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, agrees about with President Barack Obama. Buchanan voted against the stimulus program, and he wants nothing to do with health care reform proposals touted by Obama and the Democrats.

But Buchanan and his staff have been paying attention as Obama has harnessed new Internet tools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like – first to help him get elected and now to govern.

Buchanan - at the prompting of his social-media-savvy children - is following a similar script. He and his staff aggressively use social media applications, especially Facebook, to connect directly with constituents, free of the filters – or balancing perspectives – that newspapers and other traditional media might apply to the message.

For example, when Buchanan wanted to notify the public about a town hall meeting he will be hosting Thursday at Braden River High School, he e-mailed a news release to the Bradenton Herald and other media.

Simultaneously, Buchanan posted the news on his Facebook page, giving his more than 2,600 “fans” – that’s Facebook-speak for those who follow Buchanan via the site – a chance to respond immediately to the announcement.

“Thank You Congressman! I hope everyone that attends, whatever Party you belong to, makes this a good meaningful discussion and brings their good ideas/ behavior too!” wrote one fan.

Deciding what to post on Facebook or Twitter is a "team effort" by Buchanan and his senior staff, and the postings are handled by a new media staff person in Sarasota. The goal is to make "tweet" or "status update" consistent with Buchanan's overall message, said Sally Tibbetts, the congressman's press secretary and district director.

"The congressman makes it a priority to communicate with his constituents, and this is another vehicle," Tibbetts said.

Tibbetts said Buchanan frequently visits the sites, and on occasion will actually post an item.

"It was at his direction that we started this," said Tibbetts, after his children encouraged Buchanan to take advantage of social media applications.

Obama may have had the winning message in 2008, but almost as instructive is how he delivered it. His campaign used Web 2.0 tools to bypass traditional media, and deliver the message he wanted and to mobilize his supporters into action. Obama’s administration has picked up where the campaign left off, using the same techniques to advocate for health care reform and other items on the president’s agenda.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that people are going to model what the Obama campaign did because the results are very clear and it’s obviously effective,” says Andrew Lipsman, senior analyst at comScore, in a story published in July at

Other local politicians have also gotten the message. For example,the campaigns of three of the four Republicans running in state House District 67 – Jeremiah Guccione, Robert McCann and Greg Steube – each have a presence on Facebook.

Buchanan’s Facebook page – - includes photographs of the congressman at work in Washington and back home in the 13th Congressional District; videos of news interviews and speeches ; and “status updates,” in which Buchanan, in Twitter-like fashion, informs fans on what’s he doing at a given moment or solicits feedback on a specific issue.

“Six months ago, Congress passed a $1 trillion spending bill to stimulate the economy,” Buchanan wrote Tuesday. “ In your opinion, was the stimulus bill worth the cost?”

As of Wednesday morning, more than 60 people had responded.

Tibbetts said constituents - of all ages - have responded enthusiastically to the congressman's use of social media. Buchanan also has a Twitter feed, and has set up a “channel” on You Tube. “Vern-TV,” if you will, where he has posted videos of his speeches from the House floor and other appearances.

Anything less, says a digital media expert, and politicians may find themselves obsolete.

“What (Obama) did with his campaign changed the game,” says Devora Rogers, senior content manager at IPG Emerging Media Lab, in the story. “From now on that’s going to be the minimum that people have to do. They have to have their Web site, they have to have their social media down pat, they have to have a totally integrated campaign with radio, TV, web, social media, Twitter. Those are the new rules.”

Poll: McCollum leads Sink in governor's race

A new poll shows Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum with a slight lead over Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the race to be elected governor next year.

The Associated Press reports:
A Quinnipiac University polls shows Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum has a slight lead over Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the governor's race.

Thirty-eight percent of registered voters questioned in the poll released Wednesday favored McCollum, compared to 34 who preferred Sink. They're the only major candidates in the race. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Both want to replace Republican Gov. Charlie Crist in next year's election. Crist is running for U.S. Senate.

The same poll showed a wide lead for Crist over primary opponent Marco Rubio, with 55 percent of Republicans favoring the governor and 26 percent supporting the former House speaker. That margin of error is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

As the Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog notes, governor's survey represents a reversal of a June poll that showed Sink lead McCollum by the same margin, 38-34.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Buchanan to hold town hall meeting on Thursday

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan this afternoon announced he will hold a town hall meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday at Braden River High School.

Here is his news release:
Bradenton, FL -- Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-13) announced today that he will hold a town hall meeting this week. The Congressman will meet with constituents to discuss health care, jobs and the economy in Bradenton on Thursday, August 20, 2009.

“Congress is debating health care reform legislation,” said Buchanan. “We also need to address the economy. I want to listen to the people and get their ideas and suggestions on how to reduce costs and increase access to affordable health care, grow the economy, and create jobs. “
This is the eighth a series of town meetings Buchanan has held throughout the district this year to give his constituents a chance to express their views on federal issues.

The event will be held at 4:00 p.m. at Braden River High School, 6545 SR 70 East, Bradenton, Florida 34203.

Please call 941.951.6643 if you plan to attend the event.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart turns down chance for Senate appointment

The Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog has the latest on Gov. Charlie Crist's search for someone to replace Mel Martinez in the U.S. Senate until after next year's general election, which Crist hopes he will win:
U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart announced late last night that he turned down Gov. Charlie Crist's request that he submit the questionnaire for an appointment to the U.S. Senate to fill the rest of Mel Martinez's term.

"It was a great honor to be considered by Governor Crist for appointment to the United States Senate,'' Diaz-Balart says in a written statement. "I thank him for his kind gesture of confidence. After giving the Governor's request serious consideration and deliberation, I have decided to remain in the U.S. House of Representatives fighting for the causes which I deeply believe in."

Diaz-Balart was elected to Congress in 1992 and would have had to give up a politically safe seat for a brief Senate stint. Crist is running for the Senate seat himself and it's understood that his appointment would bow out in 2010.

Crist is scheduled to interview the other Miami Cuban-American on his shortlist -- former U.S. Attorney Roberto Martinez -- at Miami International Airport today at 1 p.m. He's a Republican but far less partisan than Diaz-Balart, having never run for public office or immersed himself in GOP politics. His bio is here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Reagan endorses Pilon in House District 69

State Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, has endorsed former Sarasota County commissioner Ray Pilon, the only Republican so far in the race to unseat Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota. District 69 covers northern Sarasota County, and stretches north to take in the Whitfield area of Manatee County.

“We need leaders in Tallahassee who will get things done from day one and understand how to achieve their goals within the majority,” Reagan said in a news release. “Ray will be a welcome addition to the delegation we send to Tallahassee.”

A county commissioner from 1996 to 2000, Pilon formerly worked for the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. He currently is director of community affairs for the Peace River Water Authority.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sen. Martinez has money to burn

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez may be winding down his political career, but that hasn't stopped him from spending his campaign cash.

It's all above board, under federal campaign regulations that give politicians broad leeway in how they spend their campaign contributions - even when they're about leave office.

The Miami Herald reports:
U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez announced eight months ago that he would not seek reelection but has continued to spend campaign donations on consultants, staff, air fares, meals, cellphones and purchases at the Senate gift shop.

Federal Election Commission records show Martinez has spent $147,642 since his Dec. 2 announcement. He also returned $419,051 to his contributors, with $456,200 remaining in the account as of June 30.

Federal law gives officeholders wide latitude to spend campaign donations on anything related to their election or in connection with their official duties.

``My general advice is, `contributors beware,' '' said Paul Ryan, an election law expert at the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based watchdog group. ``The door is close to wide open for what federal officeholders can do with the money in their coffers.''

Martinez's campaign treasurer, Tampa accountant Nancy Watkins, said the senator has adhered to federal law.

``It has to be for the campaign or official business,'' said Watkins, whose firm has received thousands of dollars from Martinez's campaign for accounting services in recent months. ``There's no conversion for personal use, and we don't have any of that going on here.''
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A 'common sense' debate about health care reform

The shouting and name-calling that have marked the "debate" over health care reform in other parts of the country has largely been absent in Manatee County, probably because U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan opposes what President Barack Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership have proposed. So there has been no need for conservative opponents to flood his town hall meetings or other gatherings to try to shout-down Buchanan or those who favor a massive overhaul of the nation's health care system.

In fact, some who disagree with Buchanan on what exactly must be done, agree with him that the system needs an injection of "common sense."

Of course, one politician's "common sense" can be another politician's nonsense.

In a recent column published in the Bradenton Herald
, this is how Buchanan defined his "common sense" approach to health care reform:

There is no question that we need to reform a health care system that now consumes 16 percent of our national economic output. We need to make health care more affordable and accessible under a system that emphasizes preventative treatments and early detection.

Congress should take steps to make sure that health insurers cannot callously deny care to people with pre-existing conditions, like diabetes, heart disease or cancer. And we need to make coverage more portable so people can keep their insurance when they leave or change jobs.

Reducing frivolous lawsuits also would lower the overall cost of care and allow doctors to practice preventive medicine instead of defensive medicine. We should also create association health plans that allow small businesses to purchase group health plans, which will make coverage more affordable by spreading risk and increasing negotiating power. Finally, we should target waste, fraud and abuse rampant in the current system.

But what we cannot do is jeopardize the sacred relationship between patient and doctor by putting health care decisions in the hands of Washington bureaucrats. Any reform that results in delayed or denied treatment under a government-run system is a step backward, not forward.

In response to Buchanan's piece, Jan Schneider, who four times has run for the congressional seat now held by Buchanan, has co-written an op-ed in which she agrees with many of Buchanan's conclusions about American health care. But she concludes by offering her own "common sense" solution, one much more radical than the congressman's:
(W)e are convinced that the best solution is ultimately through a single-payer health insurance program covering all United States citizens and legal residents. Although the payer would be the federal government or a government-created entity, this is not “socialized medicine.” Doctors and hospitals would not work for or be owned by the government (except as already so with DOD and VA healthcare). Nor need there be a one-size-fits-all approach. As with Medicare supplements, individuals and businesses should have options to purchase additional coverage.

But beyond advocating for a particular, long-term approach, there is a more crucial point here. President Barack Obama has taken an exceedingly far-sighted, compassionate and brave position in promoting reform of the seriously ailing and outdated U.S. healthcare system. Those of us who support the initiative must assist by making our views known -- rather than allowing the debate to be framed by obstructionists, detractors and nay-sayers.
You can read all of Schneider's column below.

Common Sense and Health Care: A Differing Perspective
By Jan Schenider and Thomas E. Coler

“Do no harm” is a start, and we agree with most of the other guidelines professed by Representative Vern Buchanan (R-D13) in his article on “Apply common sense to health care reform.” Nevertheless, with the United States healthcare system in critical need of reform, our Congressman has offered no practical guidance.

The United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation without a national health insurance or health care system. Our federal government, however, already directly provides health insurance for 28% of the population, including senior citizens, disabled, federal employees, military families and veterans, children, and the low-income. This is done through Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, TRICARE, Veterans Administration health care (CHAMPVA) and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Unfortunately, about 46 million Americans have no health insurance. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people with insurance are bankrupted by an accident or illness. Providers too are suffering, since it is becoming increasingly untenable to comply with the federal mandate requiring of access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay.

Overall, about 60% of our health care is currently financed by public money, including federal and state taxes, property taxes and tax subsidies. About 20% is financed individually through health insurance premiums, out-of-pocket payments (such as deductibles and co-pays) and payments for care for the uninsured. Private employers pay only 21%.

At about 16% of gross domestic product, the United States spends roughly 70% more on health care than other developed countries. We also spend much more on a per capita basis (at around $7,300 annually). Still, the United States consistently receives low ratings on quality and efficiency of care, access, safety, and equity. We have lower life expectancies, higher deaths per thousand individuals, higher infant mortality rates, and so forth.

There are also collateral consequences of the current system. For example, our troubled automakers build in as much as $1,500 per vehicle in employee and retiree health insurance. With the rest of the industrialized world benefiting from national plans, this creates significant trade disadvantages.

With medical costs escalating, health insurance company profits have been growing even faster. This is so even though the administrative expenses in the private sector are considerably greater than for public programs. Company costs run in the range of 14 to 22% percent for most private employer-sponsored health insurance and more for individually-purchased plans. By contrast, Medicare administrative overhead runs about 3 percent of general expenses (6 to 8% factoring in support from other government agencies).

Against this background, the overall goal must be to make quality health care more affordable, accessible and economical. We agree with Congressman Buchanan that Congress must protect working families and small businesses – and avoid sacrificing the needs and interests of senior citizens. Those suffering from pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart disease or cancer should not be excluded from health insurance –- nor treatment for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia precluded. Portability when people change jobs or move is likewise important. Similarly, the paired imperatives of modernizing health records by rendering them in electronic form while protecting patient privacy may improve both patient care and economy of delivery. We even concur with Mr. Buchanan on the desirability of reducing frivolous lawsuits (although probably disagreeing on what constitutes “frivolous”). And certainly, there should be increased emphasis on preventive and follow-up care.

Nevertheless, we are convinced that the best solution is ultimately through a single-payer health insurance program covering all United States citizens and legal residents. Although the payer would be the federal government or a government-created entity, this is not “socialized medicine.” Doctors and hospitals would not work for or be owned by the government (except as already so with DOD and VA healthcare). Nor need there be a one-size-fits-all approach. As with Medicare supplements, individuals and businesses should have options to purchase additional coverage.

But beyond advocating for a particular, long-term approach, there is a more crucial point here. President Barack Obama has taken an exceedingly far-sighted, compassionate and brave position in promoting reform of the seriously ailing and outdated U.S. healthcare system. Those of us who support the initiative must assist by making our views known -- rather than allowing the debate to be framed by obstructionists, detractors and nay-sayers.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mel Martinez's resignation letter

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, who already had announced he wasn't running for re-election next year, is immediately resigning from the Senate because of personal reasons.

Via the Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog, here is a copy of a letter from Martinez to friends and supporters that already is making the rounds:
"Because you’re a friend, I wanted you to know first about the decision I will announce today to step down from public office. Twelve years ago I offered myself as a candidate for public office in Florida out of a deep sense of appreciation for what America and the people of Florida did for me as a young immigrant to this country.

"In 1997, Kitty and I decided it was time to give back and we entered the public arena, first as Mayor of Orange County, then as a Member of the President’s cabinet and now as a United States Senator. Through those experiences I have gained the greatest respect for the people of Florida and have enjoyed serving their interests. When I began my term as Senator, I promised I wouldn’t simply warm a seat; I promised to take on the difficult issues and work to make a difference.

"Keeping that promise has meant pressing for help and assistance for families struggling to keep their homes, their jobs, and their confidence that our country is safe. And on that note, I am especially grateful to the men and women of our military and their families whom I have had the distinct honor of representing in Washington and I thank them for their service to our country.

"As a US Senator, I have also had a platform to speak against the oppression of the Cuban regime and my hope for a better future for the people of Cuba. I will continue that lifelong passion in the next phase of my life. I will always be grateful to the people of Florida for bestowing on me the singular honor of representing them in the United States Senate.

"My priorities have always been my faith, my family and my country and at this stage in my life, and after nearly twelve years of public service in Florida and Washington, it’s time I return to Florida and my family.

"So today I am announcing my decision to step down from public office, effective on a successor taking office to fill out the remainder of my term. I have enjoyed my time in the Senate and have the utmost respect for my colleagues and the institution. I especially thank Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for his guidance and insight."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Manatee County is only a drop in the bucket for Crist

A visit back to the Federal Election Commission's Web site reveals that it is now a bit easier to find out who exactly has donated to Charlie Crist's Senate campaign, which last month reported collecting a whopping $4.4 million - including more than $4.1 million from individual donors.

So far, Manatee County residents have donated barely a fraction of the total take. Donors who list mailing addresses in Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Parrish, etc., have donated a total of $31,200 to Crist, according to the FEC.

Donors can donate up to $2,400 for Crist's campaign for the Republican nomination, and another $2,400 for the general election.

Manatee residents who have donated the max include developers Nathan Benderson, Carlos Beruff and Pat Neal; and David Wick, vice president of Cargor Inc. Additionally, Florida Senate president John McKay has donated $2,400 to the governor.

Crist's financial support from Sarasota County, has been at least three times as rich, according to records. Residents with addresses in Sarasota, Venice, etc. have donated a total of almost $94,000. Among Sarasota residents donating the maximum amounts to Crist is U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

Other major Senate candidates have yet to really put out their hats for contributions from local residents.

Crist's chief rival for the Republican nomination, former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio, reported no contributions from Manatee County residents, and only $750 from Sarasota County. In all, Rubio has reported more than $604,000 in contributions, including more than $578,000 from individual donors.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Kendall Meek, D-Miami, reported more than $2.9 million in contributions, including more than $2.1 million from individual donors. Of that, only $510 - from a single donor - came from Manatee, and $17,400 came from Sarasota.

The second-leading fund raiser on the Democratic side, state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, collected $390,000 in contributions - but none from Manatee or Sarasota.