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.