January 03, 2011

Greta Van Susteren delivers message of bi-partisanship at inaugural event

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off two days of inaugural events this morning at a Women in Leadership breakfast at the FSU Alumni Center.

"We are the state that's going to change this country. It's up to us to do what we ran on," Scott said.

Guests of honor at the event that drew about 300 people were were Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the state's first black lieutenant governor in recent history, and Attorney General Pam Bondi, the state's first female attorney general.

"This is the beginning. We are going to turn this state around," Scott said. "We are also going to make this a place where it doesn't matter if you are male or female, if you are black or white, you have every opportunity to do what you want to do."

In her remarks, Fox news personality Greta Van Susteren urged the Florida Republicans who control Tallahassee need to work with Democrats to accomplish their goals.  

"You can roll over the Democrats and get whatever you want, but you know that you aren't going to achieve what you want," she said. "You can either mimic Washington and this ridiculous gridlock we've had, or you can show up Washington." Already, she said, Florida is "raising hell" with Washington with the law suit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care legislation. Now, she said, Florida needs to do what Washington can't and get Democrats and Republicans working as a team to help Florida. She singled out unemployment, saying lawmakers of all political stripes need to work together to bring those numbers down. "You all get bragging rights no matter what party you are," she said, adding that running for office is an individual sport. "Being in office is a team sport. And that's the big difference."

December 31, 2010

AG-elect Pam Bondi taps Dave Aronberg to newly created position of special counsel for her pill mill initiative

Republican Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi today named former state Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Democrat from Green Acres, to a newly created post in her office focusing on prescription pill abuse. "He’s very familiar with this issue. He cares very deeply about this issue," Bondi, a Republican, said of Aronberg, who made a failed bid to become attorney general, losing the Democratic primary.The fact that he’s a Democrat, she said, doesn’t matter."What I want to do is bring people together on all sides who all care about the issue," she said.

Aronberg will be based in south Florida and earn $92,000 a year as special counsel for the pill mill initiative. Shortly after her election, Bondi signalled she planned to make pain clinics that excessively dole out prescription drugs — so-called pill mills — a focus of her office. She set up a transition team that included Aronberg to examine the problem. "We’re at a critical point in our state regarding the number of pill mills. The numbers are staggering. We’ve got to do something to stop it," Bondi said. "Just the other day I had someone say that a friend’s child overdosed. I said, ‘It was Oxycontin, wasn’t it?’ They said, ‘How did you know?’ It’s so widespread in our state. That’s something we don’t want to be known for."

Bondi’s move is likely to come as good news to people concerned that Gov.-elect Rick Scott opted to cut the Office of Drug Control from his administration. Bondi said she will likely push for legislation to tighten Florida’s rules regulating pain clinics.

Aronberg served in the Florida Senate from 2002 until 2010 where he was advocated for legislation to establish a prescription drug database and to more strictly regulate the ownership and operation of pain clinics.

"After getting to know Dave last year, I quickly learned that we share a strong commitment to shutting down pill mills. I have complete trust in Dave's ability to take on this very important fight with me," Bondi said in a prepared statement, "It is unacceptable that Florida has become the nation's pill mill capital and that multiple Floridians are dying every day from illegal prescription drug abuse. In cooperation with federal, state and local law enforcement, we will use all the powers and resources of the Attorney General's Office in a comprehensive effort to eradicate pill mills from our state."

November 13, 2010

AG-elect Pam Bondi partied in Vegas with mega-trial lawyer Jim Wilkes

Four days after being elected Florida's next attorney general, Pam Bondi and her fiancé flew to Las Vegas to party with one of the state's most influential trial lawyers, Tampa's Jim Wilkes.

It was Wilkes' 60th birthday and, while Bondi and her fiancé, Greg Henderson, say they paid for their hotel room and airfare to Las Vegas, they relied on the Republican Party of Florida to charter a plane to get them from Las Vegas to New Orleans, where she attended a meeting of the Republican Attorneys General Association the next day.

Wilkes, who has made a living suing nursing homes on behalf of Medicaid and Medicare clients who have died or been injured because of negligent care, said he has known Bondi since she first began as a prosecutor in Hillsborough County. He sees no conflict with his close association with her.

Bondi, who defeated Democrat Dan Gelber in the attorney general's race on Nov. 2, generally supports the efforts of her Republican colleagues in the Legislature to limit lawsuits against Medicaid providers in an effort to curb costs.

Wilkes said, however, if legislators go too far in curbing access to the courts, the issue will be challenged. The office that must defend against that challenge is the attorney general.

``Am I nervous, yes,'' Wilkes said. ``Am I nervous that we have a Republican governor and a House and Senate who want to strip people's rights? Yes. More here.



October 27, 2010

October 21, 2010

GOP issues landslide alert: We're beating Dems in early vote

Florida Democrats had been proudly touting the fact that they were doing better in absentee voting requests then they had in 2006, but the Republican Party of Florida has its own stats that could spell doom for every Democrat on a statewide ballot this year.

RPOF says that, for the first time ever, they've won the first two days of early voting. And compared to 2008 (the year of Obama, when Dems outperformed Reps), Republicans are doing far better in absentee voting requests and returns. If true and the trend continues, Democrats have a dim future. Maybe governor candidate Alex Sink could squeak by Republican Rick Scott, in large part because she'd not running as a Democrat and she's at times running away from President Obama. But the numbers suggest the Obama millstone will weigh her down as the red wave swamps Florida.

From RPOF:

Requested absentee ballots: Republicans lead by 228,930 – a 13.21% lead over Democrats. In 2008, Republicans had an 8.89% lead by Election Day. Then, President Obama only won by 2.8 percentage points after a massive ad blitz.

Voted absentee ballots: Republicans lead by 112,534 absentee votes – a 21.88% lead. In 2008, Republicans had a 10.8% lead on Election Day.

Early Voted: Republicans lead by 15,281 votes – a 11.32% lead (Monday and Tuesday). In 2008, Republicans were losing by 73,384 votes at this point in 2008. By Election Day, Republicans had lost the Early Vote by 23.97%.

"We don’t expect to win early voting, but any lead at all is shocking at this point and a testament to the incredible enthusiasm amongst Republicans," RPOF spokesman Dan Conston said.


September 22, 2010

Cabinet debates at UF canceled

The upcoming debates for the three Cabinet positions have been canceled, according to Florida Press Association president Dean Ridings. He said the campaigns of Pam Bondi and Jeff Atwater never confirmed their participation in the debate. “There’s not much of a debate without either of those two,” Ridings said.

Atwater's press guy Brian Hughes e-mailed this: "The schedule in these final weeks of the campaign is packed with candidate forums, grassroots organizing, and travel around the state. There are countless requests of Jeff's time and we simply can't be everywhere all the time." Bondi had a similar statement.

Scheduled for Oct. 5 at the Bob Graham Center at the University of Florida, the other four Cabinet candidates had said they would debate, including Dan Gelber, Loranne Ausley and both Agriculture Commission candidates, Adam Putnam and Scott Maddox.

Ridings said his group, along with Leadership Florida, declined to just produce the Ag Commission debate because of logistics. The two groups are still on to produce debates for the governor's race and the U.S. Senate race at Nova Southeastern University.

September 10, 2010

Gelber calls for a team of public corruption lawyers

Pointing to the dozens of indictments of public officials, Democratic attorney general candidate Dan Gelber on Friday called for a new unit dedicated to investigating public corruption in state government.

“Floridians are really tired of the overwhelming influence of special interests, the overwhelming influence of money,” said Gelber, of Miami Beach. “They read about back-room deals that stink to high heaven, and they wonder why nothing ever happens to them.”

Gelber said the unit would consist of a mix of U.S. Department of Justice lawyers as well as a few attorneys from the state attorney general’s office. Gelber has written U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the proposal, but has not yet received a response.

Several high profile cases – such as a fancy new courthouse and the indictment of Ray Sansom – were sparked by newspaper reports. Gelber did not discuss other potential  cases, but said the team “would have plenty of work to do. And it would result in a change in the behavior of state government.”

September 07, 2010

Bondi campaign hires McCollum's spokeswoman

With less than two months before the election, Republican Pam Bondi's campaign for attorney general is hiring someone who knows the office: Sandi Copes, the current spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Copes, who is taking a two-month unpaid leave from the AG's Office, starts Wednesday as the campaign spokeswoman from Bondi's Tampa headquarters. It's her first foray in to the campaign world.

August 24, 2010

The view from camp Alex Sink

Alex Sink's supporters trickled in after 6 p.m. for the Democratic nominee's victory party in the ballroom of the Sheraton Riverwalk in Tampa. More than 100 people milled around waiting for the big announcement. After CNN declared her the winner of the democratic primary for governor, the room erupted.

She took the stage just before 8:30 p.m. and issued a challenge to whoever she would be facing in November.

"Let's debate the issues in three statewide debates," she said. "Let's call out our differences instead of calling names."

Sink told reporters her message will not change because of her opponent: "We've seen a lot of partisan bickering causing Floridians to see that there is another candidate in the race."

-- Robbyn Mitchell, Times staff writer