Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Romney picks former state Rep. Mark Flanagan to run his campaign in Manatee

A day after Newt Gingrich named Bradenton City Council member Patrick Roff to chair his campaign in Manatee County, Mitt Romney announced Wednesday that former state Rep. Mark Flanagan of Bradenton would be heading his campaign here.

Flanagan, who was first elected in November 1994, served eight years in the Florida House.

Bradenton City Council member Patrick Roff leads Gingrich campaign in Manatee

Bradenton City Council member Patrick Roff has been named chairman of Newt Gingrich's campaign in Manatee County, according to The Buzz.

Gingrich's campaign made the announcement as part of the rollout of its organization in Florida in advance of the Jan. 31 presidential primary.

Gingrich's apparent chief rival for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, unveiled his Florida organization earlier this year. One of his statewide co-chairs is former state Sen. Pat Neal, one of the largest real estate developers in Manatee.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sen. Marco Rubio won't be taking Manatee chamber's 'people-to-people' trip to Cuba

Not that he was invited, but consider it a zero chance that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio would join the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce on its "people-to-people" visit next spring to Cuba.

Rubio, R-Fla., on Thursday laid into such trips and the Obama administration policies that make them possible.

“When I look at this stuff, you know what I want to say? Come on, man. This is about promoting democracy and freedom in Cuba?" Rubio said in a speech on the Senate floor. "This is not about promoting democracy and freedom in Cuba. This is nothing more than tourism. This is tourism for Americans that, at best, are curious about Cuba and, at worst, sympathize with the Cuban regime."

Meanwhile, another Florida lawmaker, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, was pleased that her colleagues removed from a spending bill a measure that would have re-instituted limits on how often Cuban Americans can visit family members on the island and how much they can send them. Castor had argued that the limits would have hurt Cuban American families and economically hurt Tampa International Airport, which recently began hosting charter flights to the island.

“Cuban-American families can breathe a sigh of relief that their ability to visit family on the island nation will not be curtailed, especially during the holiday season, by last-minute political maneuvers," Castor said in a news release. Convenient, new airline flights such as those from Tampa International Airport will continue to serve our neighbors and boost our economy. I expect to see even more demand for these flights in the coming months and years.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Castor calls for Congress to reject limits on Cuban Americans' trips to Cuba

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, on Wednesday called on Congress to reject a proposed measure that would roll back Obama Administration rules allowing Cuban Americans unlimited travel to visit family in Cuba.

The legislation, which is wrapped into a larger appropriations bill to keep the government running, would limit such trips to once every three years, as it was implemented under the George W. Bush administration.

Limiting the trips would have "harsh" humanitarian effect on Cuban Americans and their families, and would be an economic blow to the Tampa area, Castor said in a news release. Direct flights from Tampa to Havana were recently launched, in conjunction with the relaxed travel rules.

“The Republican-imposed travel restrictions would deal a devastating blow to Cuban-American families who have embraced the freedom to travel to Cuba more regularly to visit their loved ones. New jobs and charter airline flights would be eliminated under the Republican bill as well,” Castor said. “Tampa International Airport alone has added four weekly flights to Cuba and generated new economic activity in Tampa. The Republican proposal would hurt our neighbors and our economy.”

Advocates of tighter restrictions on travel to Cuba, like Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, argue that unlimited trips help finance the Castro regime in Havana. Diaz-Balarat's measure would also tighten the definition of "family" and limit to $1,200 per year how much money in remittances Cuban Americans can send to relatives on the island.

The Miami Herald reported that Diaz-Balart's measure would have no effect on "people-to-people" trips like the one the Manatee Chamber of Commerce is organizing for next spring. Those trips are covered by a different set of sanctions on Cuba.

Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance makes endorsements

The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance recently announced endorsements in several Manatee County elections next year.

They are:
Manatee Sheriff: Brad Steube, the Republican incumbent.
12th District State Attorney: Ed Brodsky, Republican.
12th District Public Defender: Larry Eger, Republican incumbent.
Manatee County Commission: Vanessa Baugh, Republican.
"The Business Alliance Governmental Affairs Committee will continue its interview and endorsement process in the upcoming year with candidates on the local and state level," the group said on its website. "The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance has a diverse membership that encompasses varied political views and parties. The common thread is that the organization promotes the business interests of entrepreneurs in Sarasota and Manatee counties"

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rep. Jim Boyd's bill would mean a mandatory 10 years in prison for felons caught with guns

Florida Rep. Jim Boyd on Thursday filed House Bill 947, which would slap a mandatory minimum prison sentence on convicted felon if they care caught carrying a gun or using it in commission of a crime.

The measure would be an amendment to Florida's current "10-20-Life" law which sets mandatory minimums for anyone convicted of a gun-related crime. Boyd said the proposal has already been endorsed by the Florida Sheriffs Association and other law enforcement groups.

“This amendment to the 10-20-Life Law will give violent felons pause before arming themselves because they will be facing a 10-year minimum mandatory prison sentence. If they make the choice to carry a firearm and are apprehended, our society will be safer knowing they are behind bars for a long time” said Greg Stout, president of Tampa Police Benevolent Association Inc., in a news release issued by Boyd's office.

Boyd said Stout has been a friend for more than 20 years and said they met earlier this year to "brainstorm" ideas on how to toughen gun laws after the shooting deaths of police officers in Miami and St. Petersburg and other violent crimes.

“This bill will protect not only law enforcement but also the citizens of this great state by
keeping violent felons off the street," Boyd said in the statement.

In an interview, Boyd acknowledged that there might be an added expense for the state by locking up offenders for lengthy minimum prison terms. But it's worth it, he said.

"Personally, the cost of a life is more important than if they are on the outside," he said.

Read the proposed bill here.

Rep. Vern Buchanan calls for probe of reporting dumping of soldiers' bodies in landfill

Calling it a "national disgrace," U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan on Thursday called for a full investigation into the reported dumping of soldiers' bodies in a landfill.

The Washington Post reported that Air Force personnel dumped the remains of at least 274 U.S. troops in a garbage dump.

“This is a national disgrace,” said Buchanan, who represents more than 90,000 veterans in southwest Florida. “Members of the United States Armed Forces who make the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country deserve to be treated honorably, both in life and death. This is an outrage and those responsible should be immediately fired.”

More from Buchanan:
Records indicate that 976 fragments from 274 service members were incinerated and discarded in a Virginia landfill between 2004 and 2008. The Washington Post article today said the number of bodies involved was far more than initially acknowledged. 
According to reports, the landfill disposals were never officially authorized under military policies or regulations. Family members were also never notified of this horrendous practice.

Earlier this year, the Air Force disciplined three senior officials related to the incidents, but they were allowed to keep their jobs. 
“A slap on the wrist is unacceptable,” said Buchanan. “Those involved must be fired today and a congressional investigation should leave no stone unturned in finding out how this happened, who was responsible and how it can be prevented in the future.“ 
“The men and women who bravely serve this country deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer,” said Buchanan.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Proposed maps offer possibility of big changes, but Florida redistricting process far from over

That Florida lawmakers remain very early in redistricting process was belied by the fact that the Florida House on Tuesday released seven possible ways to redraw boundaries for Congressional districts and five possible remaps for their own House districts. There's no easier way to avoid making a decision than to leave all options --- whether likely choices or not -- open.

But a cursory look at the House's maps does reveal some common themes, at least in how they might affect Manatee County and our current lawmakers.

For the Florida House districts, each of the five maps would place incumbent state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, in a renumbered District 73 generally comprised  of East Manatee, Parrish and Lakewood Ranch, that would be not dissimilar from the district he now represents.

Greater changes would be in store for Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. The proposed maps would place him in a renumbered District 71 that covers most of Bradenton and west Manatee County but also extend south into Sarasota County -- the maps vary on how far south that would be.

All the proposed maps would keep several neighborhoods in Palmetto and Bradenton in a renumbered District 70 that would extend south from Pinellas County, as they are now.

As for the proposed Congressional remaps, all would place incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, in a renumbered 16th Congressional District that would remain primarily a Manatee-Sarasota district with one notable change: All of Manatee County, including neighborhoods in Palmetto and Bradenton now included in a Tampa-based district, would be in one district, meeting one of the goals of new constitutional requirements that districts be as geographically compact as possible.

That differs from the proposed remap offered last week by the Florida Senate, which kept Manatee divided into two districts -- suggesting that this and just about everything else related to redistricting is up for negotiation and, probably, litigation.

So who can blame the House, with all its possible maps, for not making a decision.

You can review all the maps and Census data used to draw them, here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pat Neal says he won't run against Bill Galvano for Florida Senate

It was puzzling to read this morning that former state Sen. Pat Neal was the "expected opponent" for former state Rep. Bill Galvano in the race for Bradenton's seat in the Florida Senate. As one of the area's most prominent developers, Neal probably has the name ID and financial heft to go toe to- oe with Galvano, who has been running for the seat for more than a year, but nothing to this point had suggested that the Senate race would be a venue for clash of two of the area's political titans.

Today, Neal all but completely disabused the notion he was preparing for a re-entry into electoral politics as a candidate.

The Herald's Jim Jones reports:
Based on the way Florida Senate District 21 has been redrawn, developer and former state senator Pat Neal says he won’t be a candidate to replace the term-limited Mike Bennett of Bradenton. 
To date, former state representative Bill Galvano, a Republican from Bradenton, is the only declared candidate for the District 21 seat. 
“It’s not my intent to run against Bill Galvano, He’s been my friend for 30 years. I don’t ever contemplate running against Bill,” Neal said Tuesday.
For his part, Galvano says he is happy to run in the District 21, as proposed by the Senate's redistricting committee.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New redistricting rules could split Lakewood Ranch into two

New Florida constitutional requirements requiring geographically compact districts for seats in the U.S. House and Florida Legislature make it less likely that identifiable areas like Lakewood Ranch, which spans across two counties, will remain in the same district.

At least that's an early conclusion that be gathered from proposed redistricting maps released this week by the Florida Senate.

All of Lakewood Ranch would remain in the 13th Congressional District, now represented by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

But the proposed map for new state Senate districts, which have much smaller populations than Congressional districts, would split Lakewood Ranch among two new districts -- the northern portion in District 21, made up of most of Manatee and parts of Hillsborough and Polk counties; and the southern portion in a District 23 made up of all of Sarasota County and part of Charlotte County.

Theoretically, the maps would make it possible for two people from Lakewood Ranch to be elected to the Florida Senate. But the more likely result is that Lakewood Ranch's influence would be diluted, diminished to the point its reach in Tallahassee would be limited.

Nothing suggests that is the intent of the mapmakers. But as lawmakers work to meet the new constitutional requirements -- new districts must be geographically compact AND protect minority voting rights -- splits like what  might happen to Lakewood Ranch are possible.

Another such split in the proposed Senate map affects several predominantly minority neighborhoods in Palmetto and Bradenton, which as they are now, would remain in a Senate district that extends from Tampa in order to keep it a district likely to elect a minority senator. (The district is now represented by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.)

To see what some in Lakewood Ranch think of the proposed map, read the story in Tuesday's Bradenton Herald.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bradenton's Pat Neal co-chairs Romney's social-conservative advisers

Former state Sen. Pat Neal of Bradenton has been named a co-chair of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Social Conservatives Statewide Steering Committee.

The Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog has the release from the Romney campaign:
Mitt Romney’s Florida campaign today announced the names of the Social Conservatives Statewide Steering Committee. Each member has been an active voice in state politics and an advocate for conservative causes and issue campaigns. The Romney campaign will utilize this coalition to perform voter outreach and coalition building for Get Out the Vote efforts. 
“Mitt Romney is pro-life and is a true conservative on issues of family and faith,” said state co-chair Pat Neal, former state senator and former chair of the board of the Christian Coalition of Florida. “The members of this committee are tired of the liberal policies of the Obama Administration and are confident that Gov. Romney will stand up for the values that have made our country strong and will appoint judges that respect the Constitution and the rule of law.” 
“I am honored by the support of these important Florida leaders,” said Mitt Romney. “Like them, I believe that America is great because of the faith of our founders and the strength of our families, and we must do everything that we can to preserve both.”
Earlier in the campaign, Romney had named Neal one of the Florida co-chairs for his campaign.

A prominent real estate developer in Bradenton, Neal has contributed $7,500 to Romney's presidential campaign, according to Federal Elections Commission records; his wife Charlene has contributed an additional $2,500.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Herman Cain will appear in Sarasota on Nov. 27

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is set to appear Nov. 27 at dinner at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium at which the Sarasota County GOP will honor Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour as its 2011 Statesman of the Year.

Get the details here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Report: Rep. Vern Buchanan is the 10th richest member of Congress

Determining an exact figure is impossible from public disclosure reports, but Roll Call magazine has estimated that Rep. Vern Buchanan is worth $44.2 million, making him the 10th wealthiest member of Congress.

That's down from Buchanan's eighth-place showing in 2010, when he was worth $55.47 million, according to Roll Call.

The best observers can do is estimate a congressman's or senator's wealth because they are required to report their assets and liabilities only in broad ranges. Roll Call determines a bottom-line amount by taking the minimum value of a member's assets and subtracting the minimum value of the liabilities.

Here are portions of Roll Call's report on Buchanan:
Buchanan’s wealth shows a precipitous drop, down 20 percent from his previous report. The Florida lawmaker reported selling off three of his six auto dealerships in 2010, claiming losses on each of the sales. 
According to his report, Buchanan sold two Fort Richey, Fla., dealerships in transactions valued at $1 million to $5 million. He had previously valued the dealerships at $1 million to $5 million and $100,000 to $250,000 each.... 
... Buchanan also sold a Venice, Fla., dealership in a transaction valued at $5 million to $25 million. He previously valued the dealership in the same category. ... 
... The Republican lawmaker also reported writing off two loans to his former business partner Sam Kazran, totaling at least $1.5 million. 
The Bradenton Herald reported in June that the Federal Election Commission asked a federal court to fine the car dealership once jointly owned by Kazran and Buchanan nearly $68,000 for violating campaign finance laws by reimbursing employees who made campaign contributions to Buchanan’s campaign. 
Buchanan still claimed significant investment accounts and real estate, along with three auto dealerships valued at a combined minimum of $11 million. 
He also dropped about $6 million in debts from his previous report.
For more information about Buchanan's most recent financial disclosure report, including a link to the report, go here.

For the record, the nine members of Congress wealthier than Buchanan, R-Sarasota, according to Roll Call, are:

1. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, $294.21 million.
2. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., $220.4 million.
3. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., $193.07 million.
4. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., $81.63 million.
5. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., $76.3 million.
6. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., $65.91 million
7. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., $55.07 million.
8. Sen. Richard Bluemental, D-Conn., $52.93 million.
9. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., $45.39 million.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rep. Vern Buchanan has more than $900K in bank as he prepares for re-election campaign

Reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission show that U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, is starting out with a huge fund-raising lead in what is expected to be a general election battle next year with former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald for the 13th District seat in Congress.

As of Sept. 30, Buchanan had more than $904,000 in cash on hand and zero debt.

Fitzgerald, a Sarasota Democrat who announced earlier this month after the most recent reporting deadline, reported zero contributions, zero expenditures and zero cash in the bank.

So far this year, Buchanan has raised more than $942,000. Almost two-thirds -- or almost $609,000 -- came from political action committees and the remainder from individuals, according to the FEC.

Buchanan in 2011 has spent almost $995,000, with almost $644,000 going to pay off personal loans Buchanan made to his campaign, according to reports.

Of the remaining $311,000, reports show $71,000 went to Patton Boggs, the Washington law firm representing Buchanan as he remains under investigation for possible campaign finance violations.

(The Federal Elections Commission has closed its investigation, finding no wrongdoing by Buchanan. However, Buchanan's campaign acknowledged earlier this month that the U.S. Justice Department is now investigating the matter.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Democrats say 'Rickpublican' Rep. Vern Buchanan is a lot like Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Democrats have come up with a new moniker for one of their biggest Republican targets, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

Buchanan, according to a new fund-raising website, is a "Rickpublican," signifying that he is too much like Gov. Rick Scott.

Here's the precise definition:
[rick-puhb-li-kuh´n] noun 1. Proper name for Florida Republicans wrought with greed and corruption who are hell-bent on selling out to the corporations and special interests while leaving Florida’s middle class families out-to-dry.
As for why Buchanan is a Rickpublican, the Democrats compile previous claims against the congressman:
Just like Gov. Scott, who was at the helm of a company who received the single largest fine for Medicare fraud in history, this former used car salesman is no stranger to criminal activity. Congressman Vern Buchanan – who is currently under investigation by the feds - has made CREW’s Most Corrupt list not once, but a remarkable three times for his shady, ethically-challenged dealings.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Romney holds on to fund-raising lead in Manatee-Sarasota

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has widened his fund-raising lead among donors in the Manatee-Sarasota area, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

In the third quarter of this year, which ended Sept. 30, supporters donated a total of $25,160 to Romney's campaign, bringing his haul from the area to $134,260.

Similarly, Romney holds a huge fund-raising lead statewide, collecting more than $2.46 million from Florida donors. The next largest haul was by Gov. Rick Perry, who has mined Florida for more than $737,000 in contributions.

President Barack Obama -- the man the Republican candidates are hoping to face in the November 2012 general election -- reported rasising $45,483 in Manatee-Sarasota during the third quarter, bringing his total to $111,691. Obama has raised a total of almost $2.1 million from Florida donors.

However, the biggest fund-raiser in Manatee-Sarasota during the third quarter was former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., who raised $44,000, which his brought his total to $44,500.

Next was U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who out-raised his fellow Texan, Perry, among Manatee-Sarasota donors.

Paul reported receiving $23,370 from donors in the area, bringing his total to $38,358. Perry, who entered the race in the middle of the quarter, reporting raising $20,960.

Herman Cain, the Atlanta businessman leading in many national polls, reporting raising $4,665 from Manatee-Sarasota donors during the third quarter, bring his total $8,655.

Bringing up the rear were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who collected $375, bringing his total to $6,975; former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, $4,250 ($4,250); Rep. Michelle Bachmann, $1,797 ($4,547); and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson $775 ($775).

To view the reports, including the list of donors' names, go here, click on the map of Florida, click on a candidate's name on the left, and the scroll down to 342xx on the right pull-down menu.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bill Galvano continues to draw in big money for Senate race

The campaign cash is flowing to lawmakers in Tallahassee and to those hoping to join them.

And that includes to officeholders and candidates for seats in the Manatee County delegation.

Here's a breakdown:
  • Former state Rep. Bill Galvano, a Republican from Bradenton running unopposed for a state Senate seat, collected $56,700 in contributions during the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, bringing his total take so far to more than $305,000. Galvano so far has spent almost $109,000 on his campaign.
  • State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, raised $19,000 in the third quarter, bringing her haul to $63,400. So far running opposed, she has spent more than $8,000 on her re-election effort.
  • State Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, raised $12,350 in the third quarter for his re-election campaign, bringing his total to $19,150. He has spent almost $9,200. His only announced opponent, Republican Sharon Russ of St. Petersburg, reported receiving $140 in the third quarter, bringing her total to $290. She has spent a total of $185 on her campaign. (House District 57 includes parts of Manatee County.)
  • State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, reported receiving $7,750 in contributions during the third quarter, bringing his total take to more than $23,000. He has spent almost $8,900 on his re-election effort. So far, he is running unopposed for re-election.
  • State Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, reported receiving almost $41,000 in contributions in the third quarter, bringing his total take to almost $56,000. So far running unopposed, Boyd has spent almost $2,800 on his re-election campaign.
  • State Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, reported receiving more than $52,000 in contributions in the third quarter. So far running unopposed for re-election, Pilon has collected total of more than $58,000 and spent more than $3,000.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Keith Fitzgerald launches bid to unseat Rep. Buchanan

Former Florida state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, a Democrat from Sarasota, on Thursday officially kicked off his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

Here's Fitzgerald's announcement:
Sarasota, FL – Former State Representative Keith Fitzgerald today announced that he is running for Congress in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Keith Fitzgerald is running because he believes political leaders in Congress have failed miserably when it comes to standing up for hard working American families, creating jobs, lowering the deficit, and honoring our nation’s seniors by protecting Social Security and Medicare. In announcing his candidacy, Keith Fitzgerald pledged to run his campaign, and serve in Congress, with the honesty and integrity Floridians and Americans expect in their members of congress. 
“Getting our country back on track will require electing leaders who can work across the aisle to create jobs, grow our economy and invest in the future of our fellow Americans who just want a fair chance to get ahead,” said Keith Fitzgerald. “I’ve worked with small business owners, Republicans and Democrats, to improve the lives of seniors and families here in Sarasota and along the Suncoast, and I want to take that same pragmatic approach to Washington.” 
Keith Fitzgerald, who lives in Sarasota, is a former state legislator and professor at New College of Florida. He grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, graduated from the University of Louisville, and earned a Ph.D. from Indiana University. He moved to Sarasota in 1994 to teach political science at the New College of Florida and was elected to the State Legislature in 2006.
In the state legislature, Fitzgerald was a watchdog for taxpayer dollars, who fought to take on corruption and make government more accountable. He partnered with business leaders to create jobs and cut taxes; and worked across the aisle to provide tax cuts for small businesses who invest in green technology. Fitzgerald worked tirelessly to protect Florida’s coast from offshore drilling and was a leader committed to making critical investments in Florida’s educational system. 
“Instead of focusing on creating jobs or helping families struggling to make ends meet, Congressman Vern Buchanan has tried to end Medicare and protect tax giveaways for big oil while running from one scandal to the next,” said Fitzgerald. “His tarnished leadership in a perfect example of what is wrong with Washington, and it’s time for him to go. 
“I am running to be the independent leader that the Suncoast can count on. I am going to stand up for the hopes and dreams of Floridians in the coming months, and share my vision for a strong economy by creating jobs right here at home and moving America forward.”
Learn more about Fitzgerald on his campaign website and on his Facebook page. 

Demonstrators 'Occupy Sarasota'

 Ringling art student Joanna Pilar Garra joins a large crowd in front of the downtown Sarasota Bank of America branch for an "Occupy Sarasota" protest.(PHOTO:  TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/
Here is a photo gallery from this morning's "Occupy Sarasota" event outside a Bank of America branch in downtown Sarasota.

On Sunday, demonstrators will try to "Occupy Bradenton."

Activists plan to 'Occupy Bradenton' on Sunday (UPDATED)

The Occupy Wall Street movement has apparently come to Bradenton, with an organizers planning an Occupy Bradenton event for Sunday morning to decry "corporate greed and corruption."

According to the group's Facebook page, activists plan to "occupy" the intersection of Manatee Avenue West and 43rd Street West. Refreshments won't be provided, but organizers noted the location is near a Publix store, the Shake Pit restaurant and other capitalist food outlets.

The Bradenton rally, set to start at 9 a.m., is one of several such meet-ups organized by Occupy Together, which was formed in response to recent protests targeting Wall Street and the American capitalism system. (Check out the a photo gallery here.)

"We the 99% will not be silent and we will not be intimidated. This Sunday we will march together as one to show that it is time that the 99% are heard," the Facebook page states. "We are unions, students, teachers, veterans, first responders, families, the unemployed and underemployed. We are all races, sexes and creeds. We are the majority. We are the 99 percent. And we will no longer be silent."

As of Thursday morning, 50 people had "liked" the Facebook page, which was started earlier this week, far fewer than the 1,477 who "liked" the Occupy Sarasota page. A rally in downtown Sarasota, outside the Bank of America building at Main and Orange streets, is set for 10 a.m. today, according to the page, which noted that 245 people had responded that they would attend.

Follow Occupy Bradenton on Twitter @OccupyBradenton.

UPDATED, 11 a.m. EDT -- Bradenton Herald photojournalist Tiffany Tompkins-Condie reports that about 60 demonstrators were gathered in downtown Sarasota this morning.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Siding with Rubio, Perry, Romney and Huntsman to boycott Univision debate

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau has the latest on the flap over how the Univision television network handled a story about the arrest 24 years ago of U.S. Marco Rubio's brother-in-law:
Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, are boycotting a proposed Univision debate due to what they say were unethical journalistic practices in the way the Spanish-language media giant handled Sen. Marco Rubio, a vice-presidential shortlister. 
Other campaigns might soon join Perry and Huntsman, sources say. 
They made their announcement at the behest of three Florida Hispanic Republican lawmakers who noted that the senator’s office and Univision insiders said Univision publicized an embarrassing story about Rubio’s brother in law because he wouldn’t sit down for an interview on the show Al Punto, which has espoused a liberal line on the hot-topic of immigration. 
Univision has called the allegations of a quid-pro-quo “absurd,” and said that the July story of the 24-year-old drug bust was reported fairly and accurately. 
But Perry, Huntsman and Romney apparently believed the reports from Rubio’s office and the Univision insiders, which were first revealed in a Sunday Miami Herald story. 
“Governor Perry will not consider participating in the January 29, 2012, Univision debate until your network addresses this ethical breach and takes action to correct it,” Perry’s communications director, Ray Sullivan, wrote Univision on Tuesday. 
“With NBC and Telemundo also hosting a debate the same weekend in January 2012, we will have ample opportunity to engage with Spanish-speaking Americans,” Perry wrote. 
Huntsman’s campaign manager, Matt David, was more measured in his letter to Univision. But he said the candidate stands firm. 
“Unless Univision resolves this issue in a timely and satisfactory manner, Governor Huntsman will not give consideration to your network’s debate currently proposed for January, 2012,” he wrote. “We ask the other Republican candidates to join us in this decision and will work with them to identify another forum to debate issues that are important to Americans of Hispanic descent in Florida and across our nation.” 
Romney didn't write a letter to Univision, but issued a statement from spokesman Ryan Williams that said: "We have not received any invitation from Univision for a debate, but we are troubled by these allegations and would not participate in any such debate unless and until Univision satisfactorily addresses this situation."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Former deputy to challenge Manatee Sheriff Steube in GOP primary

 William Waldron

William Waldron, a former homicide detective with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, is challenging his old boss in next year's election.

Waldron, 46, recently filed to run in next year's Republican primary against incumbent Sheriff Brad Steube.

"Having a vast experience in investigating gang-related crimes and all types of violent crime in Manatee County, I am well aware of the current trends in these crimes and others and what efforts need to be taken to reduce crime in Manatee County in order to make our community a safer place for all people," Waldon wrote in a statement posted on the Manatee supervisor of elections' website. "I would like to re-institute community policing efforts back into our community to instill better relations with the people we are sworn to protect and serve."

Waldron retired from the sheriff's office in August 2010 after 20 years in law enforcement. While at the sheriff's office, As a detective, Waldron investigated property crimes and later crimes against persons, including homicides.

One of the murder suspects Waldron investigated, Blaine Ross, was awarded a new trial  after the Florida Supreme Court last year ruled 4-3 that Waldron violated Ross’ rights in obtaining a confession two days after the slaying of his parents and that Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas should have disallowed the confession at trial. A jury convicted Ross, now 27, in May 2007 of first-degree murder and robbery, and Nicholas sentenced Ross to death that November after a jury recommended the punishment.

After the court ruling, former sheriff Charlie Wells defended how Waldron handled the interview.

“I disagree with the ruling,” Wells said. “I watched the whole thing on video from another room as it was going on, and the detective did everything right."

Ross' retrial is set to start later this month.

Steube has already filed for re-election, and as of June 30, he had collected more than $98,000 in contributions for this re-election effort.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

GOP presidential candidate coming to Manatee

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is set to appear Sept. 19 at Mixon Farms in Bradenton, in a lunchtime event sponsored by Tea Party Manatee and co-sponsored by the Republican Party of Sarasota County.

Get the details and RSVP here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Poll: Buchanan would lead GOP Senate primary

A new poll suggests he would be the frontrunner, but U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan told the Bradenton Herald this week he is inclined to stay in the U.S. House and not enter the race to be the Republican nominee who faces off against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

"I'm focused on what I'm doing," Buchanan said in an interview with editors at the Herald, referring especially to his seat as the only member from Florida on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Buchanan did not completely rule out running for the Senate, saying he would take a closer look at the race at the end of the year. Among the considerations, he admitted, would be whether he would be willing to exchange the prestige that comes with his spot on Ways and Means -- which allows Buchanan a voice on a wide range of issues from taxes to health care to trade -- for a minimal amount of seniority in the Senate.

Another consideration might be whether Buchanan thinks he can beat Nelson -- a prospect the poll results do not suggest.

In a possible head-to-head matchup, Nelson beat Buchanan 45 percent to 35 percent, with the remainder undecided.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

On second thought, Jo Anne Klement decides not to run for Manatee commission

Reversing strong hinting that she was going to run for the District 5 seat on the Manatee County Commission, currently held by Donna Hayes, Jo Anne Klement announced this afternoon she won't be running.

Klement, the wife of former Bradenton Herald editorial page editor David Klement, had indicated interest in the race after Hayes announced she would not be running for re-election. So far, the only announced candidate in the race is Lakewood Ranch businesswoman and activist Vanessa Baugh.

Here is Klement's news release:
Long-time Manatee resident Jo Anne Klement is officially announcing she will NOT run for the Republican nomination for the Manatee County Commission, District 5, in the 2012 election.

“After great consideration and family consultations, I have decided to not pursue a political career,” Klement said. “I think my 38 years of residency in Manatee County, working in the non-profit sector, business and journalism would have been excellent preparation for that position but it is not to be.

“At this very difficult time in our local and national economy, Manatee County is at a critical juncture. The choices we select now will impact us for decades. The people making these decisions must possess experience and perspective in our county. This is not the time to entrust those decisions to people with unknown local track records,” Klement added.

“Our children and grandchildren will benefit or suffer from our decisions the rest of their lives. When we moved here in the ‘70s, this was a county of opportunity. This is one of the most beautiful areas in the country, and people want to live here. We can rebuild that successful era again. I am sure of it.

“I hope whomever is nominated will possess a broad and deep understanding of Manatee County.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Michele Bachmann set to appear at Sarasota rally

GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is scheduled to appear at a rally in Sarasota on Sunday.

Go here for the details.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hillsborough commissioner to challenge Kathy Castor

 Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a Republican, on Monday announced his bid to unseat Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, whose 11th Congressional District currently includes part of Manatee County.

The St. Petersburg Times' Buzz blog has the story:
Saying times of crisis are times of opportunity, Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe announced his intention to challenge Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor in the 2012 election.

"We're in a moment of peril," Sharpe said at the Buddy Brew Coffee house in South Tampa Monday. "The country is in crisis. I feel a duty and obligation to help deal with this crisis."

In announcing, Sharpe, 51, will make his fourth bid for the District 11 House seat. In 1992, 1994 and 1996, he campaigned against long-time Democrat Sam Gibbons, and then Jim Davis when the seat became open. He came up short in each race for the district, which is centered around South and West Tampa and is tilted heavily toward registered Democratic voters. But he showed himself each time to be a capable money-raiser.
While political district boundaries have historically favored Democrats in District 11, state legislators will be redrawing Congressional district lines. That could result in a further concentration of Democratic voters or a dilution. The exercise may not be complete until early next year, and Sharpe said he will stay in the race no matter how the lines are redrawn.

Sharpe said he does not intend to step down as a commissioner, and the law does not require that he do so. His current term runs into 2014.
 Sharpe joins Republican Josh Kiernan in the race.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CFO Atwater says nation's debt rating downgrade should not affect Florida -- for now

From the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau:
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said the nation's lowered credit rating by Standard & Poor last week may cause "some pause" in the market place, but should not immediately effect Florida's own borrowing or investments.

"Florida was AAA before the downgrade, it's AAA today, and in fact the rating agencies just upgraded our longer term outlook," Atwater said. "So I don't believe that it's going to have an impact on our borrowing here in the state of Florida."

Atwater asked Ash Williams, executive director and chief investment officer of the State Board of Administration, to let the Cabinet and governor know "immediately" if he thought the state's investment portfolio needed adjustments in wake of the stock market shock.

The value of Florida's pension, which usually fluctuates, dropped by $10 billion last week, mostly likely as uneasiness over the battered global economy grew.

Here's how much Florida's pension fell since Aug. 1, according to SBA estimates.

Aug. 1 - $127.07 billion

Aug. 2 - $125.61 billion

Aug. 3 - $125.15 billion

Aug. 4 - $122.22 billion

Aug. 5 - $120.95 billion

Aug. 8 - $117.54 billion

The SBA receives a flurry of phone calls when the markets go down, said spokesman Dennis MacKee on Monday. He cautioned Floridians to remember the pension was as low as $83 billion in March 2009.

"We kind of remind them that markets go up and they go down, and if you're in it for the long haul you're generally in pretty good shape," MacKee said.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Democrats target Buchanan in new campaign

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will be targeting Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Bradenton, in a nationwide "Accountability August" campaign.

It's part of the DCCC's "Drive for 25" campaign to win back the House of Representatives. Beginning Monday they'll target Buchanan and 43 Republicans across the country with radio ads, billboards, robocalls, and gas pump advertising.

The DCCC also will be targeting other Florida Republican congressmen: David Rivera of Miami, Steve Southerland of Panama City, Daniel Webster of Winter Garden, and Bill Young of St. Petersburg.

No Democrat has indicated they are prepared to challenge Buchanan in next year's election.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Buchanan wants debt 'super-committee' to meet in the 'Sunshine'

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said Thursday he will introduce legislation that would require the Congress's budget-deficit-reducing "super-committee" be fully accessible to the public.

“Too much is at stake to allow this 12-member committee to make critical decisions about the country’s future behind closed doors,” Buchanan said in a statement. “We need to make sure this new committee meets in public as they discuss how to cut $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. The public and the press have a right to see this process unfold.”

Buchanan said his bill would require that all hearings and meetings held by the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction "are done in a transparent manner," through live television broadcasts, advanced public notification, and public attendance." Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., is sponsoring similar legislation in the Senate.

Congressional leaders have until Aug. 16 to appoint the members of the committee, and the panel will have until Nov. 23 to report to Congress with at least $1.2 trillion in budget reductions over 10 years. The House and Senate would then take an up-or-down vote on the whole package, with no chance to add amendments.

Buchanan's effort is similar to one he lead in 2009 to ensure to that deliberations on proposed health care reform be conducted in the open. His resolution then had 172 co-sponsors in the House.

After all, Buchanan said, that's how they do it in Florida.

“The State of Florida leads the nation with one of the toughest right-to-know laws in the country,” said Buchanan. “Florida’s strong Sunshine Law guards against back-room deals and secret negotiations by government officials. I urge congressional leaders to follow Florida’s lead and let sun shine on the joint committee.”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rep. Buchanan: Boehner bill gets support overnight`

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan made a little bit of news this morning during an appearance of "Morning Joe" when he said that House Speaker John Boehner debt ceiling plan had acquired additional support overnight.

Watch Buchanan here:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Romney is leading in fund-raising in Manatee-Sarasota.

Mitt Romney leaves a fund-raiser at the Sarasota Yacht Club last month. (Bradenton Herald photo.)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has raised almost as twice as much campaign cash in Manatee-Sarasota for his 2012 presidential campaign as has President Barack Obama, and almost two and a half times as much as his Republican rivals combined.

Romney's popularity in the region -- and his fund-raising prowess -- are revealed in reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission through June 30.

Romney has proven especially popular in the 342x Zip Code region, which covers Manatee-Sarasota, raising a total of $109,100. Only two Zip Code regions in South Florida and in the Jacksonville area have been more lucrative for Romney, according to the FEC.

In Florida, Romney has raised more than $1.49 million, more than any other candidate -- including Obama. (To see Romney's local donors, go here.)

The president has raised almost $1.15 million in Florida, including $66,208 from donors in Manatee-Sarasota. (To see Obama's local donors, go here.)

Other Republican candidates trail far behind in their fund-raising in Manatee-Sarasota. (To see their local donors, click on the links)

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has raised, $15,100; U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, $14,768; former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, $6,600; businessman Herman Cain, $4,000; U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, $2,750; and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., $500. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has raised $2,100 in Florida but none in Manatee-Sarasota.

In all, presidential candidates have reported raising a total of $219,026 in the 342x Zip Code region.

Statewide, donors have contributed more than $3.25 million through June 30. Only donors in California, New York and Texas have proven more generous.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Buchanan pays off campaign debt to himself

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan raised more than $750,000 in campaign contributions during the second quarter of 2011 -- more than enough for his campaign to pay off debt owed to Buchanan, according to records filed with the Federal Elections Committee.

The reports, which were due to the FEC on July 15, show that between April 1 and June 30, Buchanan's campaign paid Buchanan more than $643,810, reducing to zero the amount of debt being carried by his campaign.

The the payoff of the loan is just one indicator of how Buchanan, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has used his own money to finance three previous campaigns for the House.

He also continues to demonstrate fund-raising prowess that would prove beneficial if he seeks statewide office, such as a U.S. Senate seat.

During the second quarter, Buchanan raised $754,122 in contributions -- more than $235,000 from individuals; and the rest from political action committees. In addition to paying off the debt, Buchanan's campaign reported spending almost $227,000, according to the filings.

As of June 30, Buchanan's campaign had almost $802,000 in cash on hand.

To view Buchanan's filing in detail, go here.


So who are Buchanan's biggest donors?

One measure is provided by, ranks businesses, organizations, etc. based on how much their employees and any affiliated political action committees donate to a candidate. At the top are employees of Youth Services International, a Sarasota-based operator of youth detention centers, with employees donating a total of $18,400.

Others in the Top 5 include Universal Healthcare, American Family & Geriatric Care, SunTrust Banks; New York Life Insurance; Sarasota Conservation Foundation; and Tervis Tumblers Co. (Several other organizations were tied for No. 5 on the list.)

View the Top 20 list here.

Democrats target Buchanan with robo-calls on debt ceiling

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, is one of six Florida Republican members of the U.S. House being targeted by Democrats with a series of robo-calls as lawmakers try to reach a deal on raising the nation's debt ceiling.

The St. Petersburg Times' The Buzz blog reports:
Six Florida Republican members of Congress are being targeted in Democrat-paid robo calls as the negotiations over raising the debt ceiling continue to frustrate both sides.
“Hi, this is Travis calling on behalf of the DCCC. Congressman Daniel Webster and Speaker Boehner would rather our economy default just to protect tax breaks for Big Oil companies and billionaire jet-owners," a voice says on the call facing the Orlando lawmaker. "Republicans quit negotiating with President Obama on raising the debt ceiling."

The other Florida targets are Reps. C.W. Bill Young, Vern Buchanan, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Allen West and David Rivera. All voted last week for the "cut, cap, balance" budget plan. The DCCC robo call campaign targets 60 Republicans nationwide, and the DCCC said President Obama won 83 percent of the districts in 2008.

Democrats and Obama say the House GOP is unreasonable and have accused Republicans of playing political games. Republicans, of course, say the same thing about the Democrats.

Are you going to run for Senate, Vern?

Asked Saturday at a Sarasota National Cemetery event if he's considering a run for U.S. Senate, local U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, had this to say: "I'm focused on the job I got."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ex-partner broadens civil suit against Vern Buchanan

The owner of a car dealership whose business relationship soured with Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said he has voicemails, emails and other proof the congressman would have reimbursed employees who donated to his campaign.

Sam Kazran, who partially owned Hyundai of North Jacksonville with Buchanan, said in court filings this week that he had been “caught in some political war to which he has no desire to be involved in.” And he appealed to the Federal Election Commission to pursue Buchanan for the campaign violations, not him.

See the full story from the Bradenton Herald's new Washington correspondent, Erika Bolstad .

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Galvano adds to his campaign warchest

With no opponent in sight, Florida Senate candidate Bill Galvano continues to add to his campaign warchest.

In the three months that ended June 30, Galvano, a former member of the Florida House, raised almost $22,500 in cash and in-kind contributions to his campaign for the District 21 seat in the Senate. That brings his total take so far to $248, 459.38, according to filings with the Florida Division of Elections.

Factor in more than $87,100 in reported expenses, and Galvano's campaign has more than $161,300 -- an amount sure to give any possible challengers pause, even if the election is more than a year away.

Among the list of donors to Galvano during the second quarter of this year were former state Sen. Ed Price; Manatee County commissioners Larry Bustle, John Chappie, Michael Gallen and Carol Whitmore; Manatee County Property Appraiser Charles Hackney; former Manatee County commissioner Pat Glass; Walter Presha, CEO of Manatee County Rural Health Services; Manatee County School Board members Julie Aranibar, Robert Gause and Harry Kinnan; and Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston.

Other local legislative candidates were less active in the reporting period ending June 30.

Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, reported $4,100 in contributions during the second quarter, and spending nothing. He has $15,100 in the bank, according to his filings.

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, reported receiving no contributions during the second quarter, and spending almost $1,262, according to his campaign finance report. Because of prior contributions, Steube, the incumbent in House District 67, has about $13,000 in the bank.

Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, reported receiving more than $1,400 in contributions. He currently has about $6,000 in his campaign account, according to the Division of Elections.

Boyd, Steube and Pilon were first elected in 2010, and none has yet drawn a challenger for next year's election.

State Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, reported no contributions in the second quarter of the year, but he did report more than $2,600 in spending. He has almost $3,300 in his account, according to the Division of Elections.

His Republican opponent, Sharon Russ, has reported raising $150, according to the Division of Elections.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lakewood Ranch High teacher running for Manatee school board

 Robert Moates

Lakewood Ranch High School teacher Robert Moates has filed to run for the District 2 seat on the Manatee County School Board. The seat, which will next be decided in the November 2012 general election  is now held by Harry Kinnan.

Moates, 39, teaches economics and American government at Lakewood Ranch High School, according to the school's website.

A Manatee High School graduate, Moates has taught in the county for nine years. He attended Jessie P. Miller and Oneco elementary schools and W.D. Sugg Middle School, Prior to that he worked in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Florida Legislature and ran political campaigns, according to his campaign's Facebook page.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman in Sarasota on Saturday

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman will campaign Saturday in Sarasota.

His visit will include a private fundraiser and a public "meet-and-greet" rally from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 4880 Fruitville Road, Sarasota.

Huntsman is a former governor of Utah and former ambassador to China.

For more details, read this.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hillsborough commissioner considers challenging Rep. Castor

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a Republican, is considering challenging Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, in the 11th Congressional District race next year. The district includes parts of Manatee County.

The Buzz reports:
Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is talking about challenging Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor for her Congressional seat in 2012. Sharpe, who pushed hard for the high speed rail line connecting Tampa to Orlando, said this week he wants to be able to participate in national discussions on deficit reduction and America's wars.

"The only question is how will I have that conversation," he said. "That's what I'll be announcing in August."

Sharpe, a retired Naval officer who worked on John McCain's presidential bid, is already floating a platform that could fly in Castor's heavily Democratic district. He said he disagrees with McCain's philosophies on U.S. action overseas.

"Before you send a man or woman overseas, you better understand wha tyou're going to do, how you're going to get in, and how you're going to get it out," Sharpe said. "I want to have that conversation about military affairs."

As for deficit reduction, Sharpe dismissed the budget plan put forward by Paul Ryan, and said he's interested in proposals put forward by President Barack Obama's debt-panel commission, chaired by former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, a Republican, and Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton.

"They spent a lot of time working on it and it just kind of got dropped. It ought to be part of the conversation," Sharpe said.

Sharpe ran for Castor's District 11 seat in 1996, but lost to Democrat Jim Davis. He was elected to the Hillsborough County Commission in 2004.
So far, the only Republican who has filed for the seat is libertarian activist Josh Kiernan of Palm Harbor, according to the Florida Division of Elections.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, had announced a bid but later dropped out of the race.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New poll shows Romney with large lead in Florida

Public Policy Polling has the story:
Mitt Romney has a double digit lead for the Republican Presidential nomination in Florida, further cementing his front runner status in the wake of Mike Huckabee's exit from the race.

Romney is at 27% to 17% for Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, 10% for Herman Cain, 8% for Newt Gingrich, 7% for Ron Paul, 4% for Tim Pawlenty, and 2% for Jon Huntsman.

Romney now has the outright lead in PPP's most recent polls in all 5 of the key early Republican contests: in addition to the Florida advantage he's up by 9 in South Carolina, 6 in Iowa, 15 in Nevada, and 23 in New Hampshire.

Beyond Romney's continued strength the big stories here are the rise of Michele Bachmann and the collapse of Newt Gingrich. Bachmann's 17% standing represents a 10 point gain from PPP's last Florida poll in late March, when she stood at only 7%. Her strength comes from leading the field with 'very conservative' voters at 21%, followed by Palin at 20%, and Romney at 18%.

Romney's Florida lead is built on a familiar formula. He's not winning with the far right voters who constitute a plurality of the Republican electorate, but he's at least staying competitive with them. Meanwhile he's dominating the field with moderates (a 36-15 lead over Palin) and with voters who identify themselves as just 'somewhat conservative' (a 32-15 advantage over Bachmann.)
Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Buchanan sold off his BP stock after oil spill

We still don't have a final estimate of Rep. Vern Buchanan's net worth last year, but has discerned one interesting nugget:

Buchanan was one of several congressman last year who sold off their holdings in BP after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In 2009, Buchanan's stock in BP was worth between $31,003 and $115,000. (Members of Congress are required only to report their holdings in broad ranges.)

At the end of 2010, Buchanan had no stock in BP. reports:
High-ranking congressmen made a concerted effort to financially distance themselves from BP in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, either by reducing or altogether dumping their stock holdings, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of lawmakers' personal financial disclosure documents released Tuesday.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) gave up all or a significant amount of their holdings in BP after the 2010 spill, which leaked an estimated 205 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 oil platform crew members in the initial explosion.

Boehner, who in 2009 reported owning BP stocks valued between $15,001 and $50,000, sold all of his holdings sometime in 2010. His documents do not disclose specific dates of his transactions.

And Kerry, who in 2009 owned BP assets valued between $351,003 and $765,000 -- the most of any congressmen that year -- sold hundreds of thousands in a string of transactions between the months of April and May when the spill occurred. During his two transactions in May, he sold between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of his holdings each time.

As BP tries to make its way back into politics, contributions from its political action committee have often been labeled as "toxic," and many congressmen have refused to accept money associated with the company.
(Hat tip to The Buzz.)

GOP poll: Gov. Rick Scott getting more popular in Florida

From the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo via The Buzz:
A new poll of Florida voters shows that Rick Scott might not be so unpopular after all, with 51 percent of respondeents disapproving of his job performance and 45 percent approving of it. That's according to a survey of 1,235 Florida voters taken by a group that calls itself Viewpoint Florida -- a firm headed up by GOP operatives Randy Nielsen (Public Concepts) and Pat Bainter (Data Targeting).

The numbers aren't much to brag about -- except when you compare this poll to the survey taken by Quinnipiac University last month, which showed that only 29 percent favored Scott's job performance, making him the least-popular governor in America.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rep. Buchanan's 2011 financial disclosure form now available for your review

Rep. Vern Buchanan's 2011 financial disclosure report is now available for your review here.

Buchanan, who in 2010 was listed as the seventh-wealthiest member of Congress, filed a 116-page report detailing his various assets and liabilities. The 2011 report, which became available to the public today, covers his holdings as of the end of 2010.

Determining Buchanan's exact wealth isn't possible from the report, as members of Congress are required only to list their holdings in broad ranges. In 2010, determined that Buchanan's wealth ranged from minus-$-69,434,661 to $366,180,982, for an average of $148,373,160 -- the seventh highest in Congress.

As for the latest report, we'll add up the numbers as soon as possible and share what we find.

Romney in Sarasota on Thursday for fund-raiser

Mitt Romney, the front-runner for now in the race for the Republican presidential nomination next year, will be in Sarasota on Thursday for a fund-raising lunch.

The event is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sarasota Yacht Club, 1100 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota.

Organizers of the event include honorary chair state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and his wife Dee.

The "suggested donation" for the event is $250, and the maximum allowable contribution is $2,500.

R.S.V.P. to Meredith O'Rourke at or (561) 818-6064.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sen. Mike Bennett drops bid for seat in Congress

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, today ended his bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, concluding he didn't have the needed "fire in the belly" to run for Congress.

Bennett, who last month announced a bid to unseat Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said he was overwhelmed by support he had identified across the district. But "I quickly realized that the 'fire' I was feeling was heartburn over constant fundraising, travel and the other demands of running for federal office," Bennett said in a statement.

“Watching all that is going on in Washington and knowing the constant fight that is required to make a difference there, I have decided to no longer pursue my bid for Congress."

Bennett does not currently live in the 13th Congressional District, which does include part of Manatee County. Bennett was hoping that congressional redistricting next year would take in more of Manatee and offer him a reasonable chance of winning the GOP nomination and unseating Castor. Bennett also said he would consider moving into the district, if necessary, although state law would not require him to do so.

Bennett said he was looking forward to fishing and travel when his current term in the Florida Senate ends at the end of 2012. He cannot run for re-election because of term limits.

“Let me be clear. Is this the end of my life in politics?" Bennett quipped. "You all know me better than that.”

FEC dismisses campaign finance complaints against Buchanan

The Federal Elections Commission has dismissed complaints against U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan that he violated campaign finance laws, according to FEC letters released today by his campaign.

Specifically, the FEC found no evidence that Buchanan encouraged employees of a Jacksonville car dealership to make donations to his campaign which were later reimbursed by their employer in violation of federal law. "(T)he FEC concluded that the Hyundai dealership's former owner, Sam Kazran, was responsible for violating campaign finance laws," a news release from Buchanan's campaign states.

Buchanan had notified the FEC of the questionable donations more than two years ago.

"After considering the circumstances of the matter, the commission determined on February 1, 2011, to take no further action and close the file as to Vernon G. Buchanan" regarding the Kazran-related contributions, a Feb. 7 FEC letter states.

The FEC also dismissed in a March 1 letter an unrelated complaint filed in 2008 by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that alleged similar violations.

"The congressman has been completely exonerated, as we know he would be," campaign spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts said in the news release. "These phony accusations have been exposed as dishonest and partisan attacks."

The FEC letters were dated Feb. 7 and March 1 but had not been disclosed because of FEC confidentiality rules. The FEC allowed Buchanan to release them "in the face of bogus political attacks by Democrats," his campaign said.

Democrats had recently gone on the offensive against Buchanan because of new disclosures in the case, including buying radio time in his 13th Congressional District.

Buchanan's camp dismissed the Democrats' efforts, arguing they were trying to distract attention from the sex scandal revolving around Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y.

"The Democrats' partisan attacks have now backfired in the face of Buchanan's complete exoneration by the FEC," Tibbetts said. "The Democrats and CREW have egg on their face and should be embarrassed by their cynical attacks."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Buchanan: Democrats are targeting him because they're embarrassed by Weiner

This just in from our Washington correspondent, Lesley Clark:

National Democrats said Friday they'll run radio ads slamming Rep. Vern Buchanan for his ties to an auto dealer that is facing a $67,900 fine from the Federal Election Commission.

In response, Buchanan's campaign said he is being targeted because Democrats are embarrassed by the Rep. Anthony Weiner sex scandal.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the spots will begin running Monday during the news-weather-traffic spots in Buchanan's district.

The ads say that Buchanan's "old business was caught illegally funneling over $60,000 in campaign donations to Buchanan to influence his election. Tell Buchanan to come clean."

The DCCC would not release the size of the ad buy.

Buchanan's camp Friday accused Democrats trying to cover up Weiner's sins by targeting the Sarasota Republican.

"The Democrats are trying to deflect attention from the Anthony Weiner scandal with a laughable attack against Congressman Buchanan," the campaign said in a statement. 

The FEC last month asked a federal court to impose a $67,900 fine on a company Buchanan once owned that the FEC says engaged in an “extensive and ongoing scheme” to reimburse employees who made contributions to Buchanan's congressional campaign.

Buchanan wasn't named in the lawsuit and his campaign has said that it is “an issue between the FEC and Hyundai of North Jacksonville, which Vern Buchanan has no interest or stake in.”

On Friday, the campaign said, "It was Buchanan who first reported these questionable donations to the FEC two and a half years ago. And the FEC obviously found that Buchanan had no involvement because the fine was issued against Sam Kazran, not Buchanan or the Buchanan campaign.  Buchanan sold his ownership in the Hyundai of N. Jacksonville store to Kazran in 2005."