Beth Reinhard and Adam C. Smith: "Crist's campaign finance chairman, Brent Sembler, called Crist's fundraising ability as a nonpartisan candidate limited. The governor has traditionally amassed vast campaign war chests with big checks, not from a grass roots, Internet-fueled network of small donations more suited to a party-free campaign."
"But I will tell you that a Democratic lawyer that I use called me unsolicited and said, 'I like what Charlie's done. I want to do a fundraiser. Are you still involved?' " the St. Petersburg developer said. "So I think there's a lot of love for Charlie out there.""Crist will seek new sources of cash".
That remains to be seen. Many Republican donors are demanding refunds from their onetime standard bearer, now in a three-way race against the presumptive GOP nominee, Marco Rubio, and the leading Democrat, Kendrick Meek. The Republican Party of Florida is circulating Crist's campaign address and phone number and urging donors to seek refunds. ...
Among the Democrats and Republicans invited to meet with Crist Sunday at the Grand Beach Hotel in Miami Beach: Former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula, Sarasota chiropractor Gary Kompothecras, Miami lawyer S. Daniel Ponce, Fort Lauderdale lawyer Bill Berger, Belinda Keiser of Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale and Rodney Barreto of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. ...
Other potential sources of campaign cash for Crist: the teachers union, which successfully lobbied him to veto a controversial tenure bill, and the Seminole Tribe, which recently signed a lucrative gambling deal with the state.
The Florida Education Association traditionally leans Democratic, and Meek's leadership on the constitutional amendment limiting class sizes has earned him widespread goodwill among educators. But if the Miami congressman continues to trail Rubio and Crist in the polls, the union could hedge its bets.
Tampa lawyer Barry Cohen, a top Democratic fundraiser, hailed the governor for supporting the Obama administration's economic stimulus package and for appointing an African-American, James Perry, to the Florida Supreme Court.
"I told Charlie, 'You did the right thing then, and I'll do the right thing now,' " Cohen said.
St. Petersburg businessman Fazal Fazlin, a Republican who backed Barack Obama, plans to host a second fundraiser for Crist now that he's an independent candidate.
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "By declaring himself an independent candidate in Florida's U.S. Senate race, Charlie Crist on Thursday managed what many thought impossible: He got officials within the Republican Party to loathe him even more."
They'd turned against him before Thursday for his embrace of President Obama's stimulus plan, for vetoing the Legislature's merit pay bill for teachers, for largely governing from the center while the Republican Party he ostensibly led tacked right."And Crist makes 3". See also "Crist's Flight from GOP Party Gives Hope to Democrats", "GOP quickly exiles governor" and "Charlie Crist must get out of the gate quickly — or fade, analysts say".
But turning independent makes Mr. Crist a pariah. Some Republicans fear he could siphon enough votes from the presumed GOP nominee, Marco Rubio, to hand the election to Kendrick Meek, the Democrats' front-running nominee.
More: "Crist poll shows him in lead". Charlie's new website.
"They boosted funds for higher education, but hiked tuition to do it. They staved off a pay cut to state employees, but made their health care more expensive."
The $70.4 billion budget that House and Senate lawmakers approved on Friday represents a complicated mix of priorities and compromises to keep core programs and services going for another year."Florida lawmakers balance budget with cuts, gaming money". See also "'It's Just Been a Tough Year'", "$6 million budgeted to hire extra judges for foreclosure cases; clerks get $3.6 million" and "Lawmakers OK $70.4B budget".
And then there's Charlie: "Session ends in Crist's shadow", "Legislature passes budget but Crist conversion dampens session end" and "With Crist waving his veto pen, lawmakers end 2010 session".
Wingnuts run wild in Tally
The Palm Beach Posteditorial board: "Hypocrisy doesn't get more blatant than this."
Throughout the session that ended Friday, Florida legislators rebuked President Obama and congressional Democrats for "ramming through" health care reform. "Obamacare," the Legislature's Republican leadership said derisively, forces its way between the patient and doctor. Legislators were so incensed at this heavy-handed government intrusion that they passed pointless resolutions and even a straw ballot measure to be on the record as opposing it."Malpractice in Tallahassee: GOP shoves itself between women and their doctors.".
Then this week, the GOP-led Legislature itself rammed through a measure that would require women considering an abortion to pay for a live ultrasound of the fetus. They would have to watch the ultrasound and have a doctor or nurse explain what they're seeing. The ultrasound would be required even if the physician didn't consider it medically necessary. Florida already requires an ultrasound for abortions beyond the first trimester, when it might make some medical sense. This measure would require ultrasounds in the first trimester, the period during which the constitutional right to choose is most strongly protected.
The ultrasound amendment never was heard in committee. On Wednesday, Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, attached it to a nursing home bill, HB 1143.
"Florida's lawmakers capped a rancorous election-year session Friday by passing a $70.4 billion state budget that squeezes road building and raises college tuition, while rushing through a contentious requirement that women seeking abortions pay for ultrasounds first."
The 60-day session ended with a burst of partisan bickering, thanks to the emotional abortion fight and uncertainty over how Gov. Charlie Crist's defection from the Republican Party will influence his veto pen. Symbolic of the frayed relations between Crist and the Legislature run by his former party: As lawmakers and lobbyists crowded into the Capitol rotunda to celebrate the session's end, Crist was on a plane for Miami to spend the weekend with his wife, Carole, and attend a fundraiser."Legislative session ends with rancorous debate over ultrasound mandate".
The abortion debate Friday was so raw, heated and, at times, graphic that House Republican leaders ordered teenage pages off the floor and cleared the public galleries of children. Two Democrats wept as they spoke against the ultrasound mandate.
The debate was emblematic of a Legislature that is increasingly conservative. After more than three hours, the House approved the measure — on a 76-44 party-line vote — to require ultrasounds for women seeking first-trimester abortions. The measure now goes to Crist, who already is expressing concerns and appears likely to veto it.
Drill baby, drill?
"Rig tragedy drills to heart of Florida debate". See also "Oil spill chills plans for offshore drilling".
Florida is at risk: "Florida beaches brace for oil spill", "Gulf oil spill could hit Palm Beach County beaches in weeks, oceanographers say" and "Fla. declares emergency over oil spill".
Rubio has second thoughts: "Rubio tempers his support for oil drilling in the Gulf". Or does he?: "Rubio won't back off stance on Gulf drilling".
"Elections figure to be wilder than ever"
"If the number of qualifying candidates is any indication, Florida's mid-term congressional elections figure to be wilder than ever." "Candidates numerous in congressional elections".
Who is Jeff Greene?
"Just when you thought Florida's topsy-turvy election year couldn't get crazier, billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene of Palm Beach -- a Democrat -- hurtled into Florida's already chaotic U.S. Senate race."
His colorful profile -- Mike Tyson was best man at his 2008 wedding, ex-Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss lived in his guest house after prison, and he made many of his millions betting on the housing collapse that killed Florida's economy -- normally would make a candidate like Greene a long shot."Billionaire 'outsider' throws hat into Senate race". See also "Palm Beach billionaire joins Meek, 3 others in Democratic primary for U.S. Senate" and "".
But in a race where Democratic front-runner Kendrick Meek is little known to most voters and Gov. Charlie Crist's nonpartisan candidacy has turned the campaign upside down, Greene's ability to saturate Florida TV with commercials could make him a major contender along with Republican Marco Rubio.
"I'll spend whatever it takes to get my message out and to be competitive with these career politicians,'' Greene told the Herald/Times in a telephone interview. "I'm not going to take a penny of special interest money.''
Considering that Forbes last year estimated Greene's net worth at $1.25 billion, shunning special interest money and limiting donations to $100 or less is no big sacrifice.
"Florida's top elections official, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, abruptly resigned Friday, expressing 'mixed emotions' about leaving on the last day of the legislative session. His departure was not entirely unexpected. A law passed by the Legislature a year ago narrowed a loophole that allowed highly paid state workers to retire and return to their old jobs and draw two salaries."* "Florida elections official Kurt Browning resigns". A related story, from Paul Flemming: "The name's Browning, Kurt Browning"
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*The "two salaries" statement is incorrect. "Browning 'retired' and entered the DROP in 2005 (while he worked as the Pasco County SOE) and he set his separation date as July 31, 2010; that meant that his retirement check was going into a DROP account instead of into his pocket. After July, 2010, if Browning were to keep working, he would be receiving (1) his DROP account lump sum (the accrual of five years of retirement checks which went into the DROP instead of to him), (2) his retirement check and (3) a single salary for his new job as the Secretary of State. The "two salaries" misnomer is a red herring used by Chamber-editorial board types (the folks who hate defined benefit plans, DROP plans or anything better than cheesy defined benefit (401(k)) plans).
"Citing health problems, U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, announced at the last minute that she will not run for re-election and instead will support the candidacy of Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent, who beat today's noon deadline to qualify. ... The announcement, and her statement that she's backing Nugent, came 10 minutes after the noon deadline for congressional candidates to file to run with state election officials. The timing is sure to frustrate possible candidates in both parties, particularly Republicans, who may not have filed because Brown-Waite was in the race." "U.S. Rep Ginny Brown-Waite stunner: She’s not running". See also "Brown-Waite to step down".
The St Pete Times points out the shenanigans: "U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite could not be gracious or fair-minded even on her way out the door. The Brooksville Republican insulted her constituents and fellow public servants by secretly hand-picking her successor and then announcing her retirement minutes after Friday's deadline for qualifying for office. A congressional seat is not a family heirloom to be handed down to a friend. "
Brown-Waite abused the electoral process by qualifying to run for re-election this week, then privately telling only Hernando Sheriff Richard B. Nugent she actually planned to retire and ask that her name be removed from the ballot. Nugent is an extremely credible Republican candidate, but this was a cynical move by Brown-Waite to reward a friend and clear the field of other viable candidates. She cheated voters out of making up their own minds, and she did Nugent no favors by leaving him to explain the collusion on the campaign trail. "A bad record, then a worse exit".
It takes a widow ...
"A young widow's quest to close a legal loophole that would protect firefighter death benefits ended happily Friday -- thanks to a timely save from Orange County sheriff's deputies." "Widow rescues firefighter benefits".
Darryl E. Owens: "Tea party and racism: Readers react to commentary".
A real class act
The delightful Ellyn Bogdanoff,
Convinced that Rep. Janet Long had persuaded the Senate to hold one of her bills hostage, Bogdanoff stormed into Long's office last week and delivered a tongue-lashing in front of a knot of lawmakers. Long, a Democrat from Seminole, filed a complaint with the Speaker's Office that claimed Bogdanoff had made "threats of harm and retaliation."She's apparently the best the RPOFers can do these days:
"In the Florida House of Representatives you are not in an alley," said Long, D-Seminole. "We are supposed to be leaders. Our citizens sent us up here to look out for the business of the people, not to get in somebody else's face and threaten to hurt them."
Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said she was just doing her job.
Minority Leader Franklin Sands, D-Weston, said his relationship with Bogdanoff has been tense since she vowed to kill a local earmark he pitched if he didn't withdraw his call for a recorded vote on a stem-cell measure. They were both freshman lawmakers at the time."Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff is seen as bulldog … and bully".
"I told her I was the worst person in the world that she should be trying to threaten because I just didn't give a damn," Sands said. "I guess that says you always have to stand up to a bully; otherwise they own you."
Bogdanoff could soon be ruffling new feathers. She is running for the seat being vacated by Senate President Jeff Atwater, who is leaving to run for chief financial officer. She has the support of incoming President Mike Haridopolos, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Sen. John McCain, who she backed in the 2008 presidential election.
Raw political courage
"Back-to-school sales tax holiday approved by Florida Senate".
13 'no party affiliate' hopefuls qualify for Congressional races.
Big of him
"Book lovers can thank Johnny Unitas and a little boy on a bicycle who grew up to be the Senate President for the $21.5 million in the state budget for public libraries." "A rags-to-riches library story: Jeff Atwater, 'The Johnny Unitas Story' and $21.5 million".
"House leadership could have prevented this travesty"
The Miami Herald editors: " The House leadership could have prevented this travesty. Instead, it caved to Florida's powerful medical lobby and sacrificed some of the state's most vulnerable residents. The battle was over use of psycho-tropic drugs on youth in state care." "Foster kids lose".
"Times: Who leads Florida Republicans now? Jeff Kottkamp?".
Florida "not in a position"
"Crist will leave it to President Barack Obama's administration to run the federally subsidized high-risk health insurance plan that is to cover people unable to buy such insurance in the private market due to pre-existing conditions such as cancer or diabetes. In a letter late Friday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Crist said he agreed that states and the federal government must cooperate in expanding health care for Americans but said 'unfortunately Florida is not in a position to authorize new financial obligations.'" "Crist says Florida won't run high-risk health insurance pool".
"Florida lawmakers have passed a property insurance reform measure to bolster the state's ability to pay claims in the event of a major hurricane or series of storms." "Property insurance reform bill passes on last day".