"The Urkel of Tallahassee"
Daniel Ruth: "This is just what the Republican Party needs — fresh blood, a young buck, a visionary whippersnapper."
Enter Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a man never shy about resisting the burdens of charisma, who has proclaimed his desire to succeed Gov. Charlie Crist.A little history:
In an announcement that had all the thrilling excitement of a novena, McCollum, who will be 66 come election day next year, launched his gubernatorial bid surrounded by more middle-aged white men than the Gasparilla Krewe.
Back in the 2000 U.S. Senate race, Tom Gallagher, an infinitely better candidate with superb retail stump skills, was pressured to step aside by Gov. Jeb Bush and other party leaders to make room for then U.S. Rep. McCollum. At the time, it was felt McCollum had earned the right to run against Bill Nelson based on his leading role in the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton."Now Florida's Republican mandarins are once more lining up like Apollo Creed's entourage in Rocky behind the Urkel of Tallahassee's quest for the governor's mansion."
That's not a political campaign. It's awarding a nomination as if it was a Miss Congeniality contest. So McCollum won his party's sash and now Bill Nelson is in his second term as Florida's senior U.S. senator. Say, that was some keen political strategizing.
Just how pulse-challenged is McCollum? His presumptive Democratic opponent is Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who also has never been confused with Charo when it came to an effervescent presence on the hustings. Yet, compared to McCollum, Sink is now being touted in some circles as a veritable Margaret Thatcher meets Cher of the 2010 gubernatorial contest.It gets better: "Mr. McCollum's neighborhood".
McCollum has been marketed as a steady, experienced candidate who has been repeatedly tested in the political arena, which is a nice way of saying this chap is extraordinarily skilled at giving concession speeches.
Still, if you are a Republican power broker sitting around the men's grill contemplating your goblet of 300-year-old Glennfidditch, no doubt McCollum's jib might well be to your liking — as jibs go. After all, throughout his political career McCollum has carved out a reputation as a highly partisan conservative Republican true believer.
RPOFers spinning out of control
Paul Flemming: "Republicans are higgledy-piggledy, fighting with each other, calling for purges and filing grievances against one another."
With a blindfold on you might think they were Democrats."That's the issue."
Good thing they've got a governor with sky-high approval ratings or they'd be in deep elephant dung.
But with that blindfold test, Charlie Crist does little to ease confusion with the other party.
Jason Steele, chairman of the Brevard County Republican Executive Committee and a former state House member back in the Pleistocene Era (1980-82) when Democrats ruled the Capitol, says he's fighting for the soul of the GOP."A Steele-sponsored motion to demand the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican Party of Florida stay out of the primary and let voters decide on Aug. 24, 2010 passed resoundingly."
Travis Clinger, secretary of the Brevard GOP committee and 18-year-old chairman of the Florida Federation of Teenage Republicans, says Steele is a radical who's destroying the party.
This is much more than a parochial tussle among party faithful on the Space Coast.
The difference is at the heart of the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, 16 months away, between Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio. Rubio's running hard to the right of Crist's moderate populism. The battle applies all the way down the ballot, too.
"We need to get together or Florida will have a Sinking feeling," Steele said in a not-yet trademarked phrase.
"We're being whipped across this state in ways that you cannot believe and if we're not careful we'll go back to pre-1996 Florida," Steele said of the time when Democrats ran the show. "We have a major problem with the Republican Party. That problem is we've lost our way."Much more here: "State GOP sees chaos as another opportunity".
Steele sent the motion approved by the Brevard club to all 67 others in the state asking them to join the fun. So far, at least 10 have approved it and more are on the way, Steele said.
Steele sent out a news release publicizing the vote. Several outlets posted it online. Clinger followed up, identifying himself as secretary of the club and saying that the Brevard REC did not pass a resolution (it was a motion) and Steele's release was in error.
Steele is arranging an emergency meeting of the Brevard REC to remove Clinger as secretary for his perfidy.
"Mr. Steele is targeting me because I told the truth," Clinger said Thursday, unaware of the effort to purge him.
Clinger has filed a grievance with the state party against Steele, saying he violated the GOP's loyalty oath that forbids campaigning against an incumbent Republican.
Check Book Charlie in action
The "People's Governor" does a little fundraising: "Crist could be poised to sign an overhaul of Florida's growth management laws that environmental groups and counties argue would create transportation and development problems."
Charles Pattison, president of the growth management group 1000 Friends of Florida, said the bill will promote "unchecked and inappropriate" development in vast areas of the state.You can count on the Florida HBA breaking out their check books for Charlie:
With more than 300,000 vacant housing units in Florida and development plans approved for another 630,000, Pattison said he's not sure why legislators felt the need to make it easier to build more.
"It's extremely important to our industry," said Edie Ousley, a spokeswoman for the Florida Home Builders Association."Growth laws may be revised". Related "Crist signs developer-friendly bills".
More from The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Lawmakers fell over themselves this session to give Florida's already privileged developers further breaks that could profit them, even in the current economy." "Fixing what's foul".
"The man who called Republican gubernatoral candidate Bill McCollum a 'darling of the homosexual left' in their 2004 U.S. Senate primary fight has now endorsed him." "Mel Martinez endorses onetime bitter rival Bill McCollum". See also "Martinez endorses McCollum". Background: "Karl Rove's Florida Frankenstein".
Charlie's "immediate family"?
"Gov. Charlie Crist's marriage to Carole Rome marked more than a major lifestyle change [sic]: It also meant increased security responsibilities for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement."
By law, FDLE must provide security and transportation for "the governor (and) the governor's immediate family.""Keeping Florida's first lady and daughters safe costs taxpayers $2,500 a week".
In a year in which the agency has been forced to shed $18 million and 150 jobs, FDLE agents are providing protection for the first lady and her two children at a cost of about $2,500 a week, even though Mrs. Crist seldom ventures into the public eye and her two children attend school out of state. ...
FDLE declined to discuss the extent to which Florida agents are at the side of Carole Crist when she is in New York, where she oversees a family-owned, 100-year-old Halloween costume business and where her daughters, ages 12 and 10, attend school. Her ex-husband, Todd Rome, lives there, too.
The first lady also has lived since 2006 in one of the most exclusive communities in Florida: Fisher Island, near Miami. ...
The total cost of security to taxpayers so far is $57,000 through May 7. The security began last Dec. 12, when the governor and Rome were married at First United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg.
The cost of protecting Carole Crist when she travels alone so far is about $38,000, and the separate costs for protecting her daughters is about $19,000
"The wrong message"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "The Legislature and the board are sending the wrong message to new teachers at the very time Florida schools need the best and brightest at the head of their classrooms to build an information society." "Tests' cost too high for teachers".
Florida's newest industry?
"Terror suspects could be tried in Florida as part of President Obama's plan to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay." "Gitmo plan may mean Florida trials".
Atlas shrugs ... with a little taxpayer help
"The federal seizure of struggling Florida thrift BankUnited FSB is expected to cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. $4.9 billion, representing the second-largest hit to the FDIC's insurance fund since the financial crisis began felling banks last year."
Coral Gables, Fla.-based BankUnited FSB is the 34th federally insured institution to be closed this year, and the biggest. Florida's largest banking institution with about $13 billion in assets as of May 2 was sold for $900 million to an investor group led by former North Fork Bancorp Chairman and CEO John Kanas. It will reopen as a newly chartered savings bank called BankUnited on Friday, with Kanas at the helm."Florida's BankUnited fails, will cost FDIC $4.9B".
The investor group includes several prominent firms: the Blackstone Group, the Carlyle Group, Centerbridge Partners and WL Ross & Co., the private-equity firm run by billionaire investor Wilbur Ross.
The new bank will assume $12.7 billion in assets and $8.3 billion of its total $8.6 billion in deposits. In addition, the FDIC and the new bank agreed to share losses on about $10.7 billion in assets.
Deposits will be insured by the FDIC, and customers can continue to use BankUnited FSB checks, ATM cards and debit cards, the FDIC said.
The failed bank's parent was BankUnited Financial Corp. It had 1,083 employees and 85 branches, all in Florida, mostly located along the state's southeast coast.
McCarty called "duplicitous and untrustworty"
"A state senator wants Florida's insurance commissioner to resign, calling him 'duplicitous and untrustworty' [yesterday] in a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist."
Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, also wrote Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty a lengthy letter demanding that he resign because lawmakers can no longer trust his word. That's after McCarty wrote a letter to Crist "essentially asking the governor to veto" a bill, which could result in higher property insurance rates for consumers who are willing to pay more, Bennett wrote."Bradenton lawmaker calls for insurance commissioner to resign". Related: "Crist is pressured on insurance bill".
Bennett, the bill's Senate sponsor, wrote that McCarty had told him he would neither oppose the measure nor ask Crist to veto it. He also complained McCarty earlier sent out a news release opposing the bill although his staff members testified to the Legislature that it was a public policy issue for lawmakers to decide.
"I find your professional behavior reprehensible," Bennett wrote. ...
The bill (HB 1171) that Crist has not yet acted on would allow homeowners and businesses, it they choose, to pay unregulated rates to get coverage for hurricanes and other hazards from highly capitalized national insurers.
Check Book Charlie in a gun jam
"In the latest show of the influence Florida's gun lobby holds over state politics, Gov. Charlie Crist's office has been bombarded by tens of thousands of complaints from angry gun owners. The spark: lawmakers this month took $6 million from a trust fund meant to help process concealed-weapons permits." "NRA to Crist: Leave "our" money alone".
Insurance legislation fight
"The sponsor of health insurance legislation is firing back at Blue Cross Blue Shield and consumer groups that argue his bill will inflate health care costs."
The Consumer Federation of the Southeast, Florida PIRG and other watchdog groups have joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida in calling on Gov. Charlie Crist to veto Sen. Don Gaetz's bill, SB 1122. The proposal would make it easier for medical providers to collect payment directly from insurers without joining their networks."Gaetz says health bill is good for workers".
"SB 1122 will do nothing for consumers but is likely to raise costs," Brad Ashwell, director of Florida PIRG, said during a news conference Tuesday.
Direct payment is an incentive for luring doctors into preferred provider organizations, which pay reduced rates, Ashwell said. If insurers have to pay out-of-network providers directly - currently, insurers send those checks to patients - doctors may leave PPOs.
That could result in more out-of-network care, which is costlier for patients, who wind up liable for the cost difference between the insurer's reimbursement rate and the total bill. In-network providers, in turn, would gain leverage to argue for higher rates, the critics warned.
"I'm surprised they didn't also claim that the bill causes male-pattern baldness," said Gaetz, R-Niceville.
"Mel is going to do what’s best for Mel"
The Hill reports that "sources close to Martinez said he might very well exit early and is actively looking for jobs for his post-Senate career. They say that if a great opportunity presented itself that required him to resign early, he would do just that." "Senate GOP watches, waits as key retirement questions hover over 2010 landscape".
Negron snags "The Urkel of Tallahassee"
"McCollum backs Negron in District 28 GOP primary".
Wait till the editorial boards unload on this
This will wig out Florida editorial boards, the folks outraged that some Florida public employees actually have defined benefit pension plans: "U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson introduced a bill Thursday that would require U.S. businesses of a certain size to provide workers with paid vacation."
Citing existing practice in Europe and other industrialized regions of the world, Grayson called for Congress to embrace the measure, which would initially affect businesses with 100 employees or more."Grayson proposes requiring at least a week's paid vacation for many workers".
"Why are [mandatory] paid vacations good enough for the Chinese, French, Japanese and German employees, but not good enough for us?" he said. "In other countries, it's a matter of right. In our country, it is a matter of class."
The Paid Vacation Act of 2009 would extend a benefit of at least one week's paid vacation to millions of workers who currently have none, the Orlando Democrat said. Three years after taking effect, it would also apply to companies with 50 or more employees.
"Maybe the Legislature has been infiltrated ..."
Joel Engelhardt - "Here is a unique way to think about the bill that would gut the state's growth management laws:"
If mass transit ever is going to work in Florida, the state needs traffic congestion. Senate Bill 360, expected to be signed today by Gov. Crist, at best could be said to accomplish that feat."Bring on the traffic jams".
I wonder, though, if that's what residents want. Did Northerners flock to Florida nostalgic for the traffic jams they left behind? Maybe the Legislature has been infiltrated by no-growthers who figure that by eliminating hard-fought growth restrictions, they actually would stop growth because no one will want to live here.
"Political air war"
"Taxpayers can now easily track where state planes are flying Gov. Charlie Crist and Cabinet officers in what's become a political air war." "State flight logs go online".
"New legislation will give an edge to the University of Florida and Florida State University in using tuition increases for academic improvement." "UF, FSU get extra lift in tuition increase".
The least we can do
"The Department of Veterans Affairs must do a better job of finding and testing veterans who may have been exposed to contaminated medical equipment at the Miami VA hospital, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Thursday." "Fla. rep: Find vets exposed to unclean equipment".