“I couldn’t resist,” former Gov. Jeb Bush said, explaining why he kissed the head of Chris Korge, a Democratic money-man, who introduced the Republican on stage at a fundraiser for Miami-Dade’s mayor, Carlos Gimenez, who could have picked up as much as $100,000 at the $500-a-plate lunch featuring Frangipani flower-garnish.
With grey-shot wavy hair, a relaxed Bush sounded at times like the quintessential Florida retiree who’s enjoying his newborn granddaughter and the weather in greater Miami. But Bush is anything but sedentary.
Though he lives in the same city as the Biltmore, Coral Gables, he joked that his address should be in an airline because he spends so much time jet-setting the country on the speaking circuit. He and Korge have also spent a little time dealing with the fallout from Innovida. Chances are better than not that, if President Obama is re-elected, Bush runs for president in 2016, now that we hear his wife, Columba, has given a tacit nod.
Bush dwelled on the politics of not being political at the fundraiser. He spoke about how County Hall is better at governing than gridlocked Washington, and he credited Gimenez for following through on the campaign promises he made before his June 28 election.
Bush also joshed with the 200-plus business leaders about raising money in December for an August mayoral race But, he said, he has learned that “the best way to win a race is to win it early.”
“This is actually a fundraising savings plan,” Bush said. “You’re saving a ton of money by asking friends today” to help Gimenez win early.
Among those in the crowd: Miami-Dade insider Jorge Arrizurieta, former Florida Republican Party chairman Al Cardenas, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2010 campaign manager Jose Mallea, U.S. Rep. and Senate candidate Connie Mack, rival Senate candidate and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Republican fundraiser Ana Navarro, former state Rep. and Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens, former state Rep. Marcelo Llorente, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, Rep. Michael Bileca, and lawyer-lobbyist and Sayfie Review founder Justin Sayfie, former U.S. Rep.-turned-lobbyist Lincoln Diaz-Balart.
Gimenez took a handful of questions. The third one should have been the first: What about gambling? A construction-company official asked the mayor about getting community support to lobby in Tallahassee for the approval of a destination casino-resorts bill. (Marili Cancio writes on Twitter: Gambling question was asked by Pepi Cancio Jr who along former MDCC Pepe Cancio Sr want jobs for S Fl but I agree with Gimenez).
In responding, here’s where Gimenez showed his chops: He side-stepped the issue with a dose of political realism.
“I’m not sure we should be spending so much time on something that might not pass,” Gimenez said.
Indeed, it probably won’t pass the Legislature. Aside from having to overcome entrenched special interest opposition from the likes of Disney World (which employs a former Jeb Bush spokesman as a lobbyist), Bush and many Republican political and business leaders have reflexively opposed gambling in Florida. So do many Christian conservatives. House Speaker Dean Cannon, who hails from a Disney World-area district, is no fan of gaming. And the rest of the Legislature, especially from rural areas and/or the Panhandle, often enjoy dissing Miami when they can.
Gimenez didn’t take any shots at the gambling idea, but he made it clear he was more focused on what he could do: Focus on the convention center. “We have a first class city and a third class convention center,” he said.
He also noted that, should the gaming measure pass in the Legislature, he wants to make sure there’s local control. The “infrastructure” needs to be in place for any large gaming operation, Gimenez said, and local voters should be able to decide the issue.
So, gambling even if the bill passes, folks like Bush and Rubio could take to the campaign trail and oppose the measure at the ballot box (as they have in the past). But then if that does happen, Bush might be too busy running for the White House to worry about casinos.