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90 posts from November 2006

November 20, 2006

House Republicans gain one seat back

House Democrats were celebratory earlier this month when they picked up seven seats in the House. But that celebration is turning out to be a bit short-lived. Rep. Will Kendrick of Carrabelle will announce today that he is switching ranks to the Republican Party. Kendrick's decision comes at an interesting time: He is barred from running again by term limits and had just won re-election when he failed to draw an opponent.

The defection also means that Republicans are just one vote shy from having a two-thirds majority again _ the margin needed in many extraordinary votes taken by the Legislature. The breakdown will now be Republicans 79 and Democrats 41. Rep. Dan Gelber, the Miami Beach Democrat and incoming House Democratic Leader, was not happy about the defection: "Some people are more opportunistic than others,'' he said.

Disputed election appears headed to court

This morning the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission officially certified election results across the state _ including in the 13th Congressional District race between Vern Buchanan and Christine Jennings. Those results show Buchanan winning by 369 votes. But Jennings has scheduled a 11 a.m. press conference in Tallahassee, where it is expected she will announce that she's headed to court to contest the results based on the fact that more than 18,000 voters failed to make a choice in that race.

And if Jennings doesn't sue _ other outside groups, including the People for American Way Foundation, are hinting that they may jump into court as well. Reggie Mitchell of the Foundation declared a lawsuit "imminent."

(UPDATE--Jennings did file a lawsuit this morning in Tallahassee. More here.)

November 17, 2006

Rubio announces leadership posts

Incoming House Speaker Marco Rubio announced Friday that Reps. Dennis Baxley, Marty Bowen, Ellyn Bogdanoff and Adam Hasner would be part of his leadership team when he takes over next week.  Baxley, an Ocala Republican, will be speaker pro tempore, while Bowen of Winter Haven will become the next majority leader. Fort Lauderdale Republican Bogdanoff and Delray Beach Republican Hasner will have the jobs of majority whip and deputy majority leader respectively.

Bowen becomes the first Republican woman to serve as majority leader _ although the first woman to lead the Republicans in the Florida House was Sandra Mortham, the former secretary of state who now runs the Florida Medical Association.

"All four of these members bring a mix of experience and leadership qualities as diverse as the people they represent," said Rubio in a statement.

These announcements set the stage for next week when Rubio is expected to announce committee assignments and the unveiling of his long-anticipated plan to merge budget committees and policy committees together.

Bense friend gets House job despite past arrests

Outgoing House Speaker Allan Bense gave the green light to hire a long-time Bay County acquaintance, Robert Paul Nix, to work on construction projects for the Florida House despite Nix's past problems, which include two DUI arrests and an arrest for disorderly intoxication in 2004. The 63-year-old Nix was hired on Nov. 1 at a salary of more than $43,000 for a job in the sergeant's office.

Nix is a former Panama City Airport Authority member who was fined by the Federal Aviation Authority for breaching airport security measures in 1991, according to the Panama City News Herald. Nix was appointed to the Bay County Planning Commission in 2005 but declined to take the position after there was publicity surrounding his prior convictions. Towson Fraser, a spokesman for Bense, said that Nix has a valid drivers license and contractors license currently and that Bense tapped Nix because of his construction skills.

Whither George LeMieux?

Today Governor-elect Charlie Crist will tell the Republican Party faithful gathered at the quarterly meeting in Orlando that he supports Jim Greer, an Oviedo City Councilman to take over as party chairman early next year after Carole Jean Jordan ends her term.

Since Greer has Crist's backing _ it means his election is all but guaranteed. Greer, who has a 1993 DUI conviction, helped raise money and organize events for Crist. Greer's selection, however, is one more sign that "Maestro" George LeMieux will wind up taking a lead role in the governor's office. LeMieux, who helmed Crist's campaign, has reportedly been weighing whether to run the party, or to work for Crist. The prime issue for LeMieux is the impact a job such as chief of staff would have on his family.

Two other tidbits worth noting: LeMieux will be at Crist's side today at the Republican Party board meeting and he will also join Crist this weekend in West Virginia when Crist attends a new governor's seminar hosted by the National Governors Association, an organization that Gov. Jeb Bush routinely used to snub because he felt the group would often take shots at his brother, President Bush.

November 16, 2006

More transition help for Crist

The Charlie Crist transition effort continues and today Crist announced the leaders of four citizen review panels. The panels "will spearhead an agency by agency fact-finding mission aimed at identifying opportunities and challenges within each operation."

Robert Bernstein will lead the Government Affairs and Management group which will review the Department of Management Services, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of State and the Lottery department. Bernstein is a member of the North Broward Hospital District Board of Commissioners and was one of those who supported the hiring of former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Alan Levine to run the district. Bernstein has been credited for leading the charge to oust out the previous chief executive of the district.

Tiffany Carr will head up the Criminal Justice and Public Safety group, which will review the Department of Corrections, the Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Division of Emergency Management and Department of Military Affairs. Carr serves as the executive director of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Dr. A.K. Desai will head the Health Care group that will review the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration. Roman Martinez will head the review of the Office of Financial Regulation. Martinez serves on the board of directors for CIGNA Corporation and Alliant Techsystems Inc.

Meeting with Mel

Campaigning to push Florida's presidential primary up so that it counts for something, incoming Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio met today with incoming Republican National Committee chairman Mel Martinez - who could have a say in the timing of the primary.

Under Rubio's proposal, Florida's primary would be moved up so that it falls right after the Iowa and New Hampshire contests - giving the state a key role in picking presidential nominees for both parties. Rubio detailed the plan Thursday morning at a post-election meeting of GOPAC, the Newt Gingrich-led organization dedicated to electing state and local GOP leaders.

One drawback of moving the date - the national parties could punish the state by refusing to sit its delegates at the conventions. But Rubio said he believes the move would benefit both parties by forcing prospective candidates to campaign in diversity-rich Florida, where they'd have to answer questions ranging from U.S. policy toward Israel and Cuba to agriculture and poverty.

"You want your candidates to be battle-tested,'' Rubio said. "It's difficult to win the presidency without winning the state of Florida so it behooves both parties to have candidates that are palatable for Florida."

The proposal is likely to be debated this spring in Tallahassee.

Martinez, who met briefly with Rubio at the Capitol, said he hadn't yet had time to review the proposal.

"It's probably good for Florida, but I don't know yet as party chair," he said.

McCollum announces transition team leaders

Incoming Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum will announce today his transition team leaders. Orlando attorney Terry Griffin will be the transition team chair, while former State Rep. Joe Negron and former Lt. Gov. Bobby Brantley, who is now a Tallahassee lobbyist, will act as co-chairs. Griffin has been general counsel for the Republican Party of Florida, as well as legal counsel to the co-chairmen of the Republican National Committee.

Rubio releases preview of 100 Ideas, heads to Washington

The House's triumvarate of leadership, incoming House Speaker Marco Rubio, Reps. Ray Sansom and Dean Cannon, unveiled the first fifth of their 100 Ideas Wednesday, calling them the stuff of water cooler and dinner table conversations. The trio then headed straight to Washington, D.C., where they will discuss their 100 Ideas initiative at the annual post-election meeting of GOPAC, the Newt Gingrich-supported Republican organization dedicated to electing GOP leaders in state and local  offices.

They also will appear today on a GOPAC panel to discuss the new idea that could have the most immediate national impact: shifting Florida's 2008 presidential primary to immediately follow New Hampshire's, placing Florida in pivotal place of helping to designate the next presidential contenders. The idea is that while Florida's primary may follow New Hampshire and occur simultaneously with other early primaries, the state's early voters could give Florida a head start and attract candidates to campaign here.

Foley's father dies of cancer

Ed Foley, the father of former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, died of cancer Tuesday at age 85. AP story here.