September 02, 2010

GOP unlikely to remove Tea Party candidate from legislative race

UPDATED: In a Leon County courtroom, the Republican Party of Florida made a last minute attempt to remove a tea Party candidate from the ballot in a Central Florida state legislative race. But time was an issue because the ballot gets certified at 5 p.m. Thursday and the circuit judge appeared skeptical about granting an injunction.

Rep. J.C. Planas, a termed-out Miami lawmaker, was hired by the party to argue the case on behalf of a voter in House District 34, Christopher Denion. (Rep. Chris Dorworth, a future House speaker, currently holds the seat.) Planas argued that John DeVries is a bogus tea party candidate and asked Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford to disqualify him for technical issues surrounding his paperwork and a loan from Florida Tea Party leader Fred O'Neal.

"What we have here is the RPOF verses the Tea Party of Florida," O'Neal said in his opening statement. "They are trying to take us off the ballot."

At the end of the day, the judge rejected the RPOF's efforts to get an injunction but Planas said he will push it to trial. He also said he will ask prosecutor Willie Meggs to file a criminal case against DeVries.

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August 24, 2010

A insider's guide to the primary election

Will Rick's voters show up?: Turnout could be a major factor in the GOP primary for governor. Rick Scott is hoping thousands of casual voters flock to the polls to oust career politicians. A lower turnout could benefit Bill McCollum, who has the party infrastructure and a stronger base of supporters. A win by Scott tomorrow would set the GOP establishment on fire -- it would likely end McCollum’s political career and put his supporters on the spot over who they will back in November. Or how many people sick with the fight will pick third-wheel Mike McCalister?

Will Haridopolos get his candidates? A handful of key state Senate primaries could test the power of incoming President Mike Haridopolos. The Merritt Island Republican has weighed in on several races: Jim Norman over Kevin Ambler in Hillsborough’s District 12; Miguel Diaz de la Portilla over Julio Robaina in Miami’s District 36; Ellyn Bogdanoff over Carl Domino in District 25 in Palm Beach; and Lizbeth Benacquisto over Sharon Merchant in the sprawling Fort Myers-to-Palm Beach District 27. The winners in the two Palm Beach seats face tougher races in November, while the other two primary winners will likely capture a Senate seat tomorrow evening.

Will the Greer/GOP-spending scandal hurt candidates? Former GOP Chairman Jim Greer is gone but his connections to candidates and the party’s legacy of spending on credit cards remains. In Pasco County, former Marco Rubio aide Richard Corcoran is getting reminded of his party credit card spending in his state House race (HD45). And in Seminole County, House candidate Jason Brodeur still thinks Jim Greer is the “bees knees.” Will it hurt him?

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August 23, 2010

The race according to Crist: Me v. political parties

In an anti-incumbent election year, who better to run against than the political party system itself?

That's the Senate race as Gov. Charlie Crist hopes to frame it, obviously overlooking his status as the ultimate political insider who left the Republican party to, ahem, salvage his own career.

"The Democratic and Republican parties will soon throw everything they have at us,'' says an e-mail from the campaign with more money than anybody else. "In more than one way, they see us as a major threat.  We need the resources to fight back. We need to air TV ads, open up campaign offices, and print fliers. We need to respond on the fly, and we need to prove that our independent campaign has what it takes to beat both national parties...With YOUR help and YOUR contributions, we will show Washington that here in Florida, the two-party system is not the law of the land. That here in Florida, people can make up their own minds, and can elect a senator who speaks for THEM."

By the way, Crist still has his sister, Margaret Wood, working as campaign manager. She stepped in when most of Crist's Republican staff fled. Her presence gives the campaign a brushing of maverick-ness while Crist a coterie of professional consultants with ties to the Democratic party: pollster Keith Frederick, media advisor Josh Isay, political strategist Eric Johnson, and communications director Danny Kanner.

May 27, 2010

In poll, Libertarian candidate a non-factor; Crist takes solid lead

Alexander Snitker, the unknown Libertarian candidate in the crowded Florida U.S. Senate race, breathlessly released an internal poll Thursday showing him at 2.5 percent. His numbers are hardly worth noting -- he's likely in the margin of error. (Not to mention, the polling company, Telsel in St. Augustine, run by Ira Bellas, is an unknown quantity and didn't release the margin of error, as is typical practice.)

But the more interesting figures: Gov. Charlie Crist boasts solid lead -- 40 percent to 32 percent -- over GOP rival Marco Rubio. (Crist's lead is slightly less among likely voters, 40 percent to 33.5 percent.) Democrat Kendrick Meek can't break 10 percent. (See the full release below.)

Another curious note, when voters know Snitker, he appears to take the largest chunk from Meek, though the margin of error in this question is likely too high to draw conclusions.

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May 18, 2010

Rentboy scandal: Florida Democrats demand McCollum return $120,000 paid to George Rekers

Just received from the Florida Democratic Party:

In light of Attorney General Bill McCollum's role in spending over $120,000 in taxpayer money on hiring discredited witness George Rekers, today Florida Democratic Party Chair Karen Thurman demanded McCollum pay back the State of Florida for the full cost of the funds he steered towards the so-called 'expert' embroiled in the "Rentboy scandal."

Click here to read Thurman's letter to McCollum

May 12, 2010

Voters undecided in statewide 2010 races

A new Ron Sachs/Mason-Dixon poll shows wide open races for statewide offices with few voters confident about which candidate to elect. (Here are the findings.)

Take the race for Attorney General: voters are 73 percent undecided in the Democratic primary (feature Sen. Dan Gelber verse Sen. Dave Aronberg) and 72 percent undecided in the three-way Republican primary (which pits Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp against prosecutor Pam Bondi and former agency head Holly Benson).

The most intriguing figures come in the Agriculture Commissioner election where the poll tested a the match-up between Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam and former Tallahassee mayor Scott Maddox, a Democrat. It's a deadlock with Maddox at 31 percent, Putnam at 30 percent and undecideds at 39 percent. (The margin of error is 4 percent for this question.)

"The huge number of undecided voters is really where this election rests," said PR guru Ron Sachs, whose firm isn't representing any candidates.

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May 08, 2010

Who spent the most on GOP plastic? Here's the list.

The Republican Party of Florida released 2,452 double-sided pages of credit card statements Friday revealing 31 card holders spent about $7.3 million from January 2007 through March 2010. Below is the list of every card holder and how much they spent. (Do note that the totals only reflect charges starting in 2007, even though many of these officials held American Express cards prior to that date.)

Jim Rimes, former executive director: $2.2 million

Delmar Johnson, former executive director: $1.4 million

Melanie Phister, aide to former Speaker Ray Sansom: $1.2 million

Debbie Bishop, deputy finance director: $694,000

Jim Greer, former chairman: $478,000

Cameron Ulrich, Senate campaigns finance director: $208,000

Carrie Madden, Senate campaigns staffer: $175,000

Ray Sansom, former House speaker: $167,000

Dean Cannon, incoming House speaker: $124,000

Jeremy Collins, special assistant to Greer: $118,000

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April 28, 2010

Greer received $125,000 through secret party contract

Florida GOP officials said Tuesday that former party Chairman Jim Greer received $125,000 through Victory Strategies, the shell company he owned that siphoned party donations through a secret contract with then-executive director Delmar Johnson.

Jason Gonzalez, the party's general counsel, said officials discovered the information recently amid the ongoing internal audit into Greer's management of the party, which ended with his ouster in January. Victory Strategies received a total of $200,000 from the party and the clandestine contract spurred a criminal investigation. Greer countered with a civil suit, alleging the party failed to honor a severance agreement.

Greer contends the party knew about the Victory Strategies arrangement and the party initially deemed the contract invalid because Greer never signed it. But party officials said the legal strategy is shifting to suggest the severance is void because Greer defrauded the party.

The battle between Greer and the Republican Party of Florida now involves three former U.S. attorneys. The party hired Ken Sukhia, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, to defend the civil lawsuit Greer filed against the party.

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April 15, 2010

Reaction to Crist veto quick, harsh; lawmaker pulls endorsement

UPDATED: It didn't take long to gauge reaction to Gov. Charlie Crist's veto of Senate Bill 6. House Speaker Larry Cretul told Buzz that portions of Crist's remarks were "rather harsh."

And at least one lawmaker -- maybe in what is a sign of more to come -- pulled his support of Crist in the U.S. Senate race. "Governor Crist is playing political games with our children's education," said Rep. John Tobia, a freshman Republican from Satellite Beach.

The bulk of GOP lawmakers who pushed the merit pay for teachers legislation dodged comment or gave mild retorts, preferring to issue prepared statements. The reaction came quickly with the Florida Education Association issued one of the quickest releases (at 12:11 p.m.) mere moments after Crist opened his remarks.

The press conference attracted broad attention, including a number of lobbyists and lawmakers opposed to the legislation who stood in the back. One of the few supporters of the bill who attended was Rep. Tom Grady, a Naples Republican. Asked why he attended, "I wanted to look my governor in the eye," he said.

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April 07, 2010

Greer puts McCollum in center of severance talks

In all this mess about the Republican Party offering former Chairman Jim Greer a now-disputed severance package, there is little talk about Attorney General Bill McCollum's involvement. 

But a new document obtained by the Herald/Times describing Greer's negotiations with the Republican Party concerning his severance package illustrates his close connection to McCollum.

Greer writes to GOP general counsel Jason Gonzalez that he will honor the "commitments that I have made to the House, Senate and McCollum's campaign" upon his departure. It's unclear what commitments Greer is referring to.

In the document, Greer also takes credit for helping McCollum, "who I might add would not be without question the presumptive nominee if not for my efforts. McCollum's campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said no commitments exist and disputed Greer's role as king-maker.

Months ago, McCollum received credit in helping oust Greer, a quiet, decisive presence behind the scenes. And now he initiated a criminal investigation by FDLE after earlier suggesting it wasn't necessary.

Read more here. And continue below for more of Greer's defensive letter to the party on Feb. 11, a month after his departure and a day before the party allegedly revoked the severance agreement.

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