Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Local politicos are all a Twitter

Want to know the latest thoughts on your elected officials' minds, and you want to know it RIGHT NOW?

Well, Twitter, which has quickly has shown that it's more than just another Internet time-waster, may be for you.

A story in the Bradenton Herald this past Sunday
detailed on how candidates for U.S. Senate, governor and other statewide offices in Florida are using Twitter, and its social media cousin Facebook, to connect and stay in touch with voters, campaign contributors and others.

A companion piece listed several local politicians in Bradenton and Manatee County who have gone all a Twitter.

For instance, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, who has become very aggressive with his use of social media, last week used Twitter to tout the support he has gained for his proposal to require that Congress open to the public all debate over health care reform.

But it's not all political. For example, this morning Bradenton City Council member Harold Byrd used his Twitter feed to congratulate Manatee High alum Willie Taggart on being named the head football coach at Western Kentucky University.

Local politicians on Twitter include:
Are there others out there? E-mail me at mmasferrer@bradenton.com

Monday, November 16, 2009

Buchanan: Don't cut Medicare to pay for health care reform (UPDATED)

Pinning down exactly how much any of the health care proposals making their way through Congress might end up costing is challenge for the most actuarially adept Americans. Trying to pin a price on reform is as much a political exercise as it is a feat of accounting.

Which is why U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, and other Republicans were quick to jump on a weekend report from the agency that oversees the Medicare program that found that $500 billion in planned cuts in order to pay for health care reform would sharply reduce benefits for many senior citizens.

In response, Buchanan - who represents the most elderly congressional district in the nation - issued a news release calling on Congress "to develop a health reform plan that will not punish the elderly or bankrupt America."

"I will not stand by while we devastate Medicare, one of the most important pillars of our nation's health care delivery system for senior citizens," Buchanan said.

Read Buchanan's entire statement here.

UPDATED, Nov. 17, 2009According to his Facebook page, Buchanan will go to the House floor between noon and 12:30 p.m. to speak on this issue. You can watch it on C-SPAN.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Graham: Flu response shows shortcomings in bio-defense

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham delivers a lecture at the University of South Florida's Sarasota campus last year. (Bradenton Herald file photo.)

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham watches the response so far to the nation's H1N1 flu outbreak, and it only confirms what he has been warning as chairman of commission studying the threat of bio-terrorism and other weapons of mass destruction against the United States:

We aren't doing enough to protect ourselves.

Officials knew more than six months ago that H1N1 would be a problem this winter, but "in spite of that, the president just declared an emergency, all over the country people are lining up to get shots and there is not enough vaccine available," Graham told Political Watch, in advance of a speaking engagement next week in Sarasota.

"If it is a man-made pandemic, we will have zero time to respond," Graham warned.

The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism
, which Graham has chaired for almost two years, last month issued an interim report updating progress on recommendations it made last year.

Among the conclusions: The government is spending only a fraction of what is needed for drugs and medical countermeasures to counter influenza, other emerging diseases and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear public health threats.

Considering that the commission's warning last year that WMD will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013, the time to prepare and act is now, Graham said.

"If we are not ready when that moment arrives, the game is over," he said.

Graham, who turned 73 on Monday, has remained active in public life as a lecturer, author and senior statesman since retiring from the U.S. Senate in 2004 after 18 years of service. Just last week, Graham and fellow former governors Jeb Bush, Bob Martinez and Reubin Askew joined in a campaign to lobby state lawmakers to restore funding for the Florida Forever land acquisition and conservation program.

On Nov. 18, Graham will be the first speaker in a series sponsored by Forum Truth, a nonpartisan public affairs group based in Sarasota.

Graham co-authored "America, the Owner's Manual: Making Government Work for You," released earlier this year.

Using 11 case studies, Graham said his book is designed "to provide to people who want to be more than spectators in democracy ... a road map of how to do that."

The challenge in getting more people involved in the system is that too many people do not have the basic skills or knowledge about American civics, Graham said. As a result, too many Americans don't bother to vote or otherwise participate in the democratic process.

To illustrate that, Graham, who graduated from high school in 1955, said that between the 7th and 12th grades, he took three 0ne-year civics courses.

By comparison, his granddaughter, who recently graduated from high school, took only a single one-semester course all throughout middle and high school.

"I think one of the reasons why there has been such a decline in citizenship ... is because people are intimidated about being involved," Graham said. "They never learned the skills of citizenship."

For more information about Graham's speech, including how to get tickets, visit ForumTruth.org or call (941) 349-8350.

--- Marc R. Masferrer

Monday, November 9, 2009

Buchanan calls for Congress to investigate Fort Hood shooting

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is calling on Congress to investigate the mass shooting at Fort Hood last week as a possible terrorist attack.

Buchanan, R-Sarasota, quoted media reports that the alleged shooter, Army Major Nidal Hasan, had shouted Allahu Akbar (God is great), before opening fire and killing 13 people and wounding 30.

“We have a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Buchanan said in a letter today to the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, “the bottom line is we need to make sure our military installations are safe and that we are doing everything possible to protect our men and women serving on those bases.”

Buchanan released a copy of the letter this morning attached to a news release.

“The Homeland Security Committee should investigate the motives behind the shooting and any connection between Hasan and terrorist organizations,” Buchanan said. “If the shootings amounted to a terrorist attack, we need to know if this could have been averted and if enough is being done to prevent future attacks.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Castor votes for health care reform bill

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, whose district includes part of Manatee County, released the following statement today regarding the passage of the Affordable Health Care for America Act:

“Today we are making history. At long last, Americans will have access to health insurance that is affordable and dependable. You will have coverage you can count on. Even if you change jobs, get sick or have a pre-existing condition, you will have affordable and meaningful health insurance.

“Floridians win. In the Tampa Bay area alone, nearly 2.3 million residents with health insurance will see improved employer-based health coverage. More than 100,000 area small businesses could qualify for tax credits to provide health insurance to their employees. And approximately 631,000 uninsured individuals will finally gain access to health insurance.

“The Affordable Health Care for America Act we passed today offers stability, security and vital consumer protections that will take effect immediately. You won’t have to pay co-pays or deductibles for preventive care and you won’t be denied coverage if you have a pre-existing condition. You do not have to worry about insurance companies canceling your coverage if you are diagnosed with cancer or another ailment. You do not have to worry about health insurance companies barring you from coverage because you had cancer that is in remission or have recovered from heart disease. You will not go bankrupt when serious illness strikes. You will have meaningful, affordable, stable and dependable health insurance coverage.

“Insurance companies won’t be able to charge higher premiums based on your medical history or current medical condition. No discrimination means exactly that: No discrimination.
“Seniors, rest assured. You will see immediate improvements in your health care.

Approximately 92,100 Tampa Bay area seniors will avoid the Medicare “doughnut hole” for Part D prescriptions because of the legislation we passed today. More than 900,000 seniors in the Tampa Bay area will see immediate improvements to their coverage. I am pleased the AARP has endorsed this landmark legislation. We are truly doing right by seniors.

“We are helping our young adults and their families too. Parents can keep their children on their health insurance plan through their child’s 27th birthday. That means no more worrying about your children’s health insurance when they are in college or looking for their first jobs.
“Meaningful health insurance reform is long overdue in this country.”

Castor successfully authored numerous provisions in the bill that benefit Florida, including sections relating to graduate medical education, wellness initiatives for small businesses, aid for our trauma care, primary care improvements and penalties for unscrupulous Medicare marketing practices. Castor advocates for Florida on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee.

Buchanan speaks against health care bill

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan earlier today went before the House to express his opposition to proposed health care legislation being debated by the House of Representatives.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Charlie Crist in 'denial' about stimulus plan

Gov. Charlie Crist encouraged Congress earlier this year to pass President Barack Obama's stimulus plan, and literally embraced the president when he visited Fort Myers to campaign for the package.

Just don't let the governor/Senate candidate - whose signature is affixed to this letter expressing "support" for the stimulus package - hear you say he "endorsed" the stimulus package.

Here's guessing Crist's denial won't cause the Club for Growth to pull this ad:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sen. LeMieux opens regional offices

U.S. Senator George LeMieux today announced the locations of his regional offices in Florida. LeMieux’s regional offices provide residents with a local contact when seeking assistance with federal issues or concerns.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Florida and I am dedicated to working hard for every Floridian.” said Senator LeMieux. “These offices provide constituents with access to me and my staff so we can best serve their needs.”

Frequently requested services include ensuring the proper Social Security benefits are received, that Medicare is paying appropriate claims in a timely manner, that military families and veterans are receiving pay and benefits on time, assistance with the IRS, passport applications, and hurricane recovery applications.

201 S. Orange Ave., Suite 350
Orlando, FL 32801
Tel: (407) 254-2573
Fax: (407) 423-0941
TTY: (407) 254-5548
Toll-Free in FL: (866) 630-7106

1650 Prudential Drive, Suite 220
Jacksonville, FL 32207
Tel: (904) 398-8586
Fax: (904) 398-8591

8669 NW 36th St., Ste 355
Miami, FL 33166
Tel: (305) 444-8332
Fax: (305) 444-8449

Fort Myers
2120 Main Street, Suite 200
Fort Myers, Florida 33901
Tel: (239) 332-3898
Fax: (239) 332-3447

1 N. Palafox Street, Suite 159
Pensacola, FL 32502
Tel: (850) 433-2603
Fax: (850) 433-2554

3802 Spectrum Blvd., Suite 106
Tampa, FL 33612
Tel: (813) 977-6450
Fax: (813) 977-6593

Fort Lauderdale
642 N. Federal Hwy.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304
Tel: (866) 630-7106

356 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-3041
Fax: (202) 228-5171

Rubio to speak next week in E. Manatee

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio will be the guest speaker next week at a luncheon meeting of the East Manatee Republican Club.

Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House, is challenging Gov. Charlie Crist for the GOP nomination for the seat now held by Sen. George Lemieux, whom Crist appointed after former Sen. Mel Martinez resigned.

The event is set for 11:30 a.m. Nov. 12 at Peridia Golf and Country Club, 4950 Peridia Blvd., Bradenton. The cost is $15.

For more information, visit www.emanateerc.org

And to make reservations for lunch, call (941) 739-3813 or e-mail longboatfl@aol.com

Golden set to launch bid for Congress

With this year's local elections come and gone, attention can now turn fully to the 2010 elections, where the stakes, from Washington to Bradenton, will be even higher.

Major events in two of the higher-profile races are set for the coming week.

Former Bradenton City Council member James T. Golden on Thursday, after months of silence about his obvious plans to run for Congress - he hasn't spoken to the media, but he has appeared before various political clubs and launched a Web site and Facebook page - officially kicks off his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

Golden, a Democrat, is set to officially announce during an event at the River Club in East Manatee. The party starts at 6 p.m. Call Golden's campaign headquarters at (941) 567-6224 for the details.

And on Thursday, Nov. 12, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is gaining in the polls on Gov. Charlie Crist for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, will speak to a luncheon meeting of the East Manatee Republican Club. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. at the Peridia Golf and Country Club. The cost is $15.

To make reservations, call (941) 739-3813 or e-mail Longboatfl@aol.com

Precinct-by-precinct election results available

For those who want to know more about how their candidate won or lost in Tuesday's local elections - or maybe you just want to know how your neighbors voted - the Manatee County elections office just posted precinct-by-precinct results on its Web site.

You can find them here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Buchanan: Send more troops to Afghanistan

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan visits with troops from the
82th Army Airborne Division while visiting Afghanistan. (Provided photo)

Fresh from a boots-on-the-ground visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan wants President Barack Obama to follow his generals' recommendations and send more troops to the war-torn country.

Buchanan, however, distanced himself from former Vice President Dick Cheney, who last month said Obama was "dithering" by taking so long to decide on the next step in a war now in its eighth year.

"I don't necessarily agree with that," Buchanan, R-Sarasota, said in an interview this afternoon. Obama "is the president, and he is at a critical juncture when it comes to Afghanistan.

"On the other hand, I'd like to see it get done," Buchanan said.

Buchanan, who returned Monday from a four-day visit with five other House members, said the two-pronged challenge for Afghanistan, and for the American role there, is to establish security in Afghan cities and villages, and then build a system of long-term governance.

Progress has been made in both areas, according to Buchanan,"but there is a lot more to be done."

"The idea is to get to the point where they can function as a country," Buchanan said.

Obama, said Buchanan, has two realistic options: Withdraw from Afghanistan; or follow the example of the Iraqi "surge" and increase the American troop level to what he said in a statement is "the appropriate level to accomplish the mission." American generals have asked for as many as 40,000 additional troops.

Buchanan first visited Afghanistan in April 2007, when the war there was arguably not the Bush administration's top priority as it dealt with situation in Iraq.

"Now, all the focus is right there," Buchanan said.

The fight is important, according to Buchanan, especially as long as al-Qaida and the Taliban remain active in Afghanistan. "You can take them on there, or you can take them on here," he said.

While in country, Buchanan said he met with several military servicemen from his district, and said he was impressed with the morale of American forces.

"They were pretty focused," he said.

Buchanan said "victory" in Afghanistan will come when Afghans "provide their own security, when our kids are out of there." Hopefully, he said, that will be in one to two years.

"The sooner the better," he said.

Hayes, Chappie, Whitmore back DiSabatino in District 4

Republican primary voters next August will select their nominee for the District 4 seat on the Manatee County Commission, representing southern portions of the county.

Incumbent Ron Getman, a Republican, is retiring from electoral politics and is not running for re-election. Getman has not endorsed any of the three Republicans - Robin DiSabatino, Norm Luppino and Timothy Norwood - so far in the race, and he might not.

Three of Getman's commission colleagues are not so reticent.

Campaign finance reports filed last month show that DiSabatino received financial contributions of $500 from Donna Hayes and $100 each from commissioners John Chappie and Carol Whitmore.

In all, DiSabatino, a real estate broker, reported $25,350 in contributions - including $20,000 from her personal bank account. She also reported spending $272.81, mostly for postage, printing and voter lists.

The other two candidates, Luppino and Norwood, did not file financial reports. Democrat Roger C. Galle reported $100 in contributions, and expenses totaling $19.92.

State Sen. Paula Dockery expected to launch bid for governor

Paula Dockery

A dark-haired, brown-eyed 40-something-year-old woman with strong conservative credentials wants to make her mark on the 2010 race to be Florida's next governor.

No, Sarah Palin is not moving to Florida.

But the comparisons between state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, who today was expected to launch her bid for the Republican nomination for Florida governor and the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee, have already started. A commenter on the St. Petersburg Times' political blog even called Dockery, "Palin with a brain."

(Another difference between Dockery and Palin: Dockery has said she wouldn't vote for a bill allowing oil and gas drilling in state waters off Florida's Gulf Coast.)

The conventional wisdom had been that Republican Bill McCollum and Democrat Alex Sink wouldface off a year from this week to become the next governor of Florida.

Well, Dockery isn't buying it.

"Today's the day, I'm in," Dockery wrote on her Facebook page this morning.

Dockery, 48, was elected to the state House in 1996 and the Senate in 2002 and chairs the Criminal Justice Committee, and would be term limited out of the Senate in 2012. She has a fairly conservative voting record, perhaps most notably helping defeat a proposed high-speed rail system during the legislative session earlier this year.

As Abel Harding of JaxPoliticsOnline.com notes, Dockery's entry means another potential insurgent-vs.-establishment race on the Republican primary ballot next August, similar to the top-of-the-ticket tussle between Gov. Charlie Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate nomination.

It also sets up the possibility that Florida's governor's race will be another front in the heated debate in the Republican Party about the best path out of the political wilderness leading to the presidential election in 2012.

The ideological disparity between Dockery and McCollum, long a conservative stalwart as a member of Congress, may not be as great as that between Rubio and Crist. But considering what Harding and other observers have described as McCollum's lackluster political performance since returning to Florida from Washington, Dockery's campaign has the potential to stir up an already fascinating 2010 election season in the Sunshine State.