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285 posts from October 2007

October 30, 2007

Black GOP leader fights the power

Gov. Charlie Crist has earned rave reviews from some black leaders, but the rabble-rousing leader of the Florida Federation of Black Republicans is at odds with his handpicked party chief.

Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer and Deon Long of Winter Park are slated to hash things out in a meeting in Orlando tomorrow.

The conflict blew out into the open at a reception co-sponsored by the party and the federation at last weekend's convention in Orlando, where a Greer staffer tried to pry the microphone away from an expletive-shouting Long.

The incident was a metaphor for their broader struggle over control of minority outreach. Greer has hired a full-time employee to focus on black voters, and the party is organizing a Nov. 16 gathering of black Republicans in Orlando headlined by former Pittsburgh Steeler and gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann.

But Long said Greer is interfering with the federation's volunteer efforts. "They try to divide and conquer us if one group of Negroes isn't doing what you want them to do,'' he said.

Greer said Leon should quit tussling with the state party and get behind its efforts.

"Since he became chairman, there's been a turbulent relationship,'' he said. "We have a right to ensure that groups that we charter are on the same page.''

DNC wants Nelson's suit thrown out

The Democratic National Committee is asking a federal court to throw out the lawsuit that says it is taking away the voting rights of Florida Democrats by refusing to seat the state's delegates at the 2008 convention.

Florida's early primary on Jan. 29 violates DNC rules that say only four smaller states can vote that early.

The suit was filed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings. The DNC's response argues that no one is stopping Florida voters from going to the polls on Jan. 29, and it notes that courts have consistently upheld the power of the national parties over their nominating conventions.

Here's the motion for summary judgment: Download nelson_v_dean_dnc_motion_for_summary_judgment_as_filed.txt .

Marco and Fred together at last

House Speaker Marco Rubio, who was rumored to be on the verge of endorsing GOP presidential candidate Fred Thompson at this month's GOP convention in Orlando, will get another chance to say what he thinks about Thompson in November.

Rubio is on the host committee of the Nov. 16 Florida Family Policy Council gala dinner that will be held at the Westin Dipomat in Hollywood. The keynote speaker for the event is Thompson, the former U.S. senator and TV actor. Another member of the host committee is U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, who has already endorsed Thompson.

Could this be the long-awaited chance for a Rubio endorsement? Word is that Al Cardenas, a Mitt Romney supporter who helped guide Rubio's career, has worked behind the scenes to keep the West Miami legislator from endorsing Thompson

Those who want to sit at the Thompson table at the gala dinner have to pony up $10,000, while a $5,000 check to the council will net participants a table with either a state senator or U.S. Congressman, and $2,500 will entitle a donor a table with a legislator. Here's a copy of the invitation: Download family_policy_council_gala.pdf

Rubio: Senate might quit on taxes, but I won't

House Speaker Marco Rubio all but called the Senate quitters on the property-tax issue in a Tuesday conference call with reporters. He said he has all but given up hope that a new property-tax issue will pass the Legislature in the spring because the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate said they were done with the issue.

"Unfortunately what was produced yesterday will end up being the very best that Tallahassee can produce. It's a small solution to a very big problem,'' he said. He said Rubio said it would "be ideal" if the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission picked up where legislators left off, but he wasn't sure if the special Constitutional group would be able to come up with anything for voters, either.

He said a citizens' petition, therefore, was the likely default but was "the least desirable route" because of laws limiting those proposed amendments to a single subject and there's no in-depth fiscal analysis of what effect such a proposal would do.

Rubio said he wouldn't campaign against this amendment. "I don't view myself as campaigning for this," Rubio said, noting Gov. Charlie Crist is campaigning for it. Rubio said "I might" show up to a Miami event with Crist tomorrow "if I'm invited." He initially said he didn't know anything about the event, and later said he might show or might not because he's giving a speech in Orlando night.

Crist and Senate leaders have said one of the strengths of the new plan is that it's popular in public-opinion surveys. But Rubio seemed to take issue with that.

"I don't think leadership equates to polling. You do what's right. You do what you think is best and then you use your persuasive capital," Rubio said. "I don't think Martin Luther King took polls. I don't think Abraham Lincoln took polls."

GOP debate in Orlando draws 2.3 mil

About 2.37 million people watched the Oct. 21 presidential primary debate in Orlando that was co-sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida, according to Nielsen ratings released today.

The FOX News broadcast was the second most watched Republican debate this year, after its Sept. 5 debate in New Hampshire that drew an average audience of 3.1 million.

The next time Florida will play debate host will be Nov. 28, when the Republican contenders come to St. Petersburg. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney had balked at a previous proposal from CNN and YouTube, but all of the candidates are on board with the new date.

The Democratic contenders face off in Philadelphia at 9 p.m. tonight on NBC.

Pelosi raises money for 2008

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi collected checks last night at the Coral Gables home of Big Sugar executive Alfy Fanjul.

The fundraiser was aimed at expanding the Democratic majority in Congress. Attendees included two potential candidates: former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez and Miami-Dade School Board Member Evelyn Greer.

Bush gives Bloomberg an 'A'

Talk of former New York City Michael Bloomberg running for president has died down since he became an independent four months ago, but he gets some good PR from conservative standard-bearer Jeb Bush in today's New York Post.

The former Florida governor and business news magnate have joined forces several times over the past year to tout their school accountability mantra. Bush's column is here.

State to tell court to drop super-exemption amendment

As of now, there still exists the prospect of dualing property tax amendments on the Jan. 29 ballot with the super exemption still before the Florida Supreme Court and another one heading to the ballot from legislators on Monday.

But Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday morning that the appeal before the state Supreme Court will be dropped. He has directed the Department of State to drop the super-exemption amendment, passed by lawmakers in June and thrown off the ballot because of misleading language, because the amendment passed on Monday would be at cross purposes.

More love from the governor

Gov. Charlie Crist is hitting the road today to tout the property tax plan and he plans to make appearances in Jacksonville, Orlando and Port St. Lucie, the home of Senate President Ken Pruitt.

During a morning press conference in Tallahassee, Crist spent more time lavishing praise on Pruitt, House Speaker Marco Rubio, Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster, Rep. Dean Cannon and Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller. He called Pruitt the "greatest Senate president" in the history of Florida and Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp the "greatest lieutenant governor" in history.

Crist promised to campaign "like the dickens" to pass the constitutional amendment that will be on the Jan. 29th ballot and that he will "plead" with the Florida Education Association to rethink their planned opposition to the amendment.

"I have every confidence the people will pass this,'' said Crist. "The people want this."

The governor's office also tried to brush aside concerns that the Senate plan could lead to another legal challenge to Save Our Homes. "Lawyers are back" in the governor's office, Crist said, pointing out that he is a lawyer and chief of staff George LeMieux is a lawyer.

October 29, 2007

Crist hugs Pruitt and showers praise on lawmakers

House members may have expressed frustration about the final tax plan adopted today _ but at a post-session press conference Gov. Charlie Crist was upbeat and showered effusive praise on Senate President Ken Pruitt and House Speaker Marco Rubio for their work on property taxes.

He hugged Pruitt twice and asked Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster to "say something brilliant." Crist said he was happy both Democrats and Republicans voted for the amendment that will now go before voters on Jan. 29th, saying people did not send them to Tallahassee to "bicker."

While a phalanx of top senators showed up at the press conference, top House leaders did not show. The two House members in attendance were Rep. Peter Nehr and Rep. Eddy Gonzalez.

"What happened today was historic and truly important to the people,'' said Crist.

"This is a $12 billion property tax cut....That's getting close to something larger than a pebble,'' a reference to a crack made by Sen. Jim King this past summer after Crist had promised to make property taxes "drop like a rock."

When asked later if he regretted saying "drop like a rock," Crist replied "$27 billion sounds like a rock to me, but it's really for the people to decide. It doesn't matter what I think. It's not about me. It's not about my quotes. It's not about any of that." (The $27 billion figure is based on a combination of today's amendment _ which depends on how many people choose to transfer savings from existing homes to new homes _ and an estimate of how much the mandatory rollbacks will save over a few years.)

And despite Rubio saying he doubts lawmakers will do anything more on property taxes during their regular session, Crist promised that he is not yet done on cutting taxes.

"Does life stop on Jan. 29th?'' Crist asked. "I hope, with the grace of god, it doesn't. But we'll keep going."