July 05, 2011

Will Weatherford on redistricting, 2012 and more

UPDATE: Weatherford endorsed former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

State Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, sat down for a wide-ranging, one-hour conversation with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board this morning. The future House speaker has a busy summer going as he chairs the House redistricting committee and attends public hearings across the state. He covered a number of hot topics. Here are the highlights:

The redisctricting process: "It's putting a very complicated pie together that involves a lot of testimony, it involves a lot of law, federal law, state law, constitutional state provisions, case law, I mean, it’s a lot. And I had no idea what this was going to entail when I asked to be chairman of this committee."

Where will FL's new congressional seats be? "The two new seats … that’s probably further down the road in fall. I can tell you the greatest population increases have been I-4-based, really pretty much from Tampa to Orlando, the southwest Florida corridor, down there in Collier, Lee county … and then in northeast Florida, kind of between Jacksonville and Orlando, along that Palm Coast, I-95 corridor. Those are the three that have had the most. So we have two congressional seats, obviously, not three. I don’t know for sure, but my guess would be those are the areas with the most population, they could potentially be where a seat goes."

Getting lobbied by current members of Congress? "Yeah, I’ve had them call, 'Hey, how’s it going Mr. Chairman, what’s happening?’ All the sudden I’m a pretty popular guy to people who didn’t know who I was. I give them the same speech I give our members, which is, ‘Do me a favor, have your people come to hearings, we’d love to hear from you if you want to give us your opinion. But don’t talk to me about where you live, don’t talk to me about what your political agenda is. Talk about the communities of interest in your district, talk about how it can be more compact, talk about how it can follow geographic boundaries better. If your comments are tailored toward the district and not you, it’s okay. But anything you say to me can and will be used.' "

Gov. Rick Scott's low approval rating a concern for 2012? "I’m not concerned about it. I think it’s early. Just like when Gov. (Charlie) Crist in … 2008 his numbers were through the roof, I mean, absolutely through the roof and he got walloped in the polls. To me, if my election hinges upon the popularity of the governor, then I’m probably not a very good legislator for my district."

Endorsing for Republican presidential primary? "I'm flirting. I’d be jumping the gun if I told you. I have narrowed it down and there’s a couple that I really like and one in particular that I’m leaning toward. I’m not going to share it today because I’ll probably be coming out with something pretty soon. We’ll see." (Could it be Jon Huntsman? The former Utah governor is making several Tampa Bay area stops this weekend, perfect for an endorsement.)

What about FL's primary? “I think the goal is to be as close as we possibly can, hopefully like the fifth slot, without penalty. So we’re negotiating with the RNC as to how we get that done. There may be a penalty anyway, no matter what we do. ... but playing devil’s advocate, as Florida, if we were to go into it and say, okay, we’ll take the penalty, we’re going to go the Thursday before Super Tuesday  … Let’s say they take away half of our delegates, they’re worth more than Iowa’s, New Hampshire’s and almost South Carolina’s combined.”

FL Senate race: Won't endorse before the Republican primary. Says all of the candidates are friends.

Asked if PSC was wronged: “Gov. (Charlie) Crist politicized the PSC. The PSC is supposed to be a quasi-judicial branch that is supposed to look at facts and figures and make a determination based on what is in front of them and what they know, not based on political pressure. Gov. Crist, who I still consider a friend of mine, he’s a nice guy, but he went out there and campaigned on lowering people’s rates, he was very consumer-friendly, he wanted to make sure that the PSC was always fighting back and not approving anything that he thought could potentially increase rates for consumers. Well that goes against what the whole PSC was supposed to be. The reason we created the PSC was to take politics out of the decision-making process and make it a judicial decision on facts. Gov. Crist was calling PSC commissioners and telling them how to vote, minutes before the vote, a couple years ago. And so he politicized it first and I think the reaction of the Legislature was to depoliticize it."

Open FL waters to oil exploration? "Not interested. We’ve had the debate. Not interested.”

July 01, 2011

Charlie Crist, the slur

He has been off the public stage for nearly seven months and yet Charlie Crist's shadow still looms over the Florida GOP.

The main Republican candidates for U.S. Senate held their first debate Thursday, and it sometimes felt like a game of who could sound most disdainful of the ex-governor.

"I never supported Charlie Crist in his U.S. Senate race despite a lot of pressure to do that,'' stressed state Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Former state Rep. Adam Hasner boasted that his antagonism to Crist was well known in Tallahassee.

Crist, who dropped out of the Republican Party while running for U.S. Senate, is never a great topic for former Sen. George LeMieux — he being Crist's former chief of staff, campaign manager and longtime friend. Running in a GOP primary where many staunch conservatives see Crist as a moderate traitor, LeMieux has to keep his distance from the man who appointed him to fill Mel Martinez's unexpired term in the Senate.

Adam C. Smith's story is here

 

May 24, 2011

May 04, 2011

E-Verify may haunt Haridopolos

Rick Scott last year throttled Bill McCollum on immigration, accusing him of being soft in the issue and a flip-flopper. Now U.S. Senate candidate Mike Haridopolos is sure to take some heat for failing to get a tough anti-illegal immigration bill passed in the senate he leads. Senators passed immigration bill critics will call toothless because it was stripped of a requirement that private employers use the federal E-Verify system to check a worker's immigration status.

Check out the first 30-seconds of this March 8 video, where Haridopolos responds to activists chanting E-Verify! E-Verify.

"I'm here to verify it will be a part of our senate bill,'' Haridopolos assured the crowd. Ouch.

Haridopolos said this evening that he had hoped to get more elements of E-Verify in the bill, but "I'm only one of 40 senators."

April 11, 2011

Adam Hasner's sloppy paperwork problems

What is it with the Republican senate candidates and their shoddy compliance with disclosure requrements?

From George Bennett at the Palm Bach Post: ...Democratic activist Diana Demarest has filed an ethics complaint against former state House Majority Leader and likely GOP U.S. Senate candidate Adam Hasner of Boca Raton, for not filing a required personal financial disclosure form within 60 days of his November departure from office.

Hasner adviser Rick Wilson said Hasner didn't know he needed to file the form and sent it to the Ethics Commission as soon as he found out last week. Wilson accused Demarest of acting on behalf of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, who has opened a 2012 U.S. Senate campaign.

Wilson was apparently referring to Demarest's friendship with Republican activist and BIZPAC Review co-founder Jack Furnari, who is a Haridopolos supporter. Furnari said he had nothing to do with Demarest's complaint and even declined to blog about it because it would have been "awkward. I don't have anything against Hasner. I just support Haridopolos."

Demarest said her complaint had nothing to do with either Haridopolos or Furnari. Her explanation: "I didn't like Adam Hasner when he was in the House. I certainly don't want him to be a Senator."

Posted by Adam C. Smith

April 05, 2011

PP poll: "No early GOP favorite for president or Senate in Florida"

The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling finds the GOP prez primary in Florida "completely up in the air.

"There's a three way tie at the top with 18 percent of primary voters listing Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich as their first choice for President. Sarah Palin gets 15 percent, followed by Michele Bachmann at 7 percent, Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty at 6 percent and Haley Barbour at 3 percent.

For Senate: "Florida Republicans really have no clue who any of their potential Senate candidates are at this point...Mike Haridopolos 'leads' the way in name recognition with 32 percent of voters expressing an opinion about him- 16 percent positive and 16 percent negative. George LeMieux's second with 26 percent of voters able to rate him- 15 percent favorable and 11 percent unfavorable. Adam Hasner only has 15 percent of GOP primary voters who can take a stand on him and they break down 5 percent positive and 10 percent negative.

"The bottom line on the Republican field at this point appears to be LeMieux and Haridopolos basically as co-favorites with Hasner a step behind- but more than anything else it's wide open and there's plenty of room for someone else to come in and win the nomination."

George LeMieux announces for U.S. Senate


"I'm in," George LeMieux told the St. Petersburg Times, in announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate. "I'm in because the country and our government is on the risk of failure. This is a crisis. I saw it up close. If we don't rein in the spending we're going to melt the economy. I can't stand by on the sidelines and let that happen."

Adam C. Smith, St. Petersburg Times political editor

March 25, 2011

Connie Mack not running for Senate

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV won't run for U.S. Senate.

"I've got two small children and it's hard enough to get to spend a lot of good quality time now. I have a wife. They are all very important to me and at the end of the day family has to be number one,'' Mack told the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald.

His wife, kids and parents encouraged him to run and politically it made a lot of sense, he said. But the three-term congressman also considered his position in congress, saying he said he can be a leading advocate for cutting spending and taxes and, as chairman of House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, the 43-year-old Fort Myers Republican also a top voice on Latin America and challenging Hugo Chavez.

"I come at this from a different place than a lot of members. This decision, it wasn't an easy decision,'' said Mack, who was leading the GOP field in early polls.

Other Republicans running or expected to run include state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux. Mack said he has not made any decision about endorsing in the primary but will not let up his criticism of incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

"Florida deserves a senator who walks and talks the same way," said Mack, who is married to U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack of California. "Sen. Nelson wants to try to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of Florida by voting as a liberal in Washington and then coming back home and pretending he's a moderate."

March 15, 2011

Gaming & tea-party trouble for Mike Haridopolos

Who knew someone from the tea party cared about more government revenue and gaming? Apparently, Everett Wilkinson, South Florida Tea Party, does. Here's his open letter to the senate president, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.

 

March 14, 2011

Senator Mike Haridopolos 
President Florida State Senate 
409 The Capitol 
404 South Monroe Street 
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100

Dear Senator Haridopolos:

The Destination Casino bill now before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee by the Las Vegas Sands corporation would cost the state $1.8 billion in lost Indian gaming revenue if it was passed and signed into law as written.This special interest bill is fiscally irresponsible as it is currently constituted.

A report in the Miami Herald said the Seminoles are paying the state $378 million a year based on the terms of the compact approved by the legislature and signed by Governor Charlie Crist. Passage of the Las Vegas Sands casino bill legalizing casinos outside of Dade and Broward would immediately end the Seminoles requirement to pay the state.It would be five years before the first casino opened. The state would lose $378 million or more each year. The one time $50 million licensing fees for the five casinos anticipated in the bill would not come close to making up this revenue loss, nor is it likely five casinos would ever be licensed.

Continue reading "Gaming & tea-party trouble for Mike Haridopolos" »

February 18, 2011

George LeMieux standing by his rail stance

Count former Sen. George LeMieux as the only one of the only big-name Republican Senate hopefuls who isn't reversing course over his previous support of high-speed rail.

LeMieux's central point: Rejected federal money that has already been budgeted is simply giving spent money to someone else. Here's his statement:

“Washington spending is beyond out-of-control.  When I was in the U.S. Senate, I worked day and night to roll back spending, and that effort has to continue even more aggressively now.  But there’s an important difference between dealing with new spending and dealing with money that has literally already been appropriated.  Congress has, for its purposes, already spent the high speed rail money.  The only remaining issue is whether it comes to Florida or goes to California or New York.  Rejecting this money will do nothing to lower our debt.  It will only send transportation funds to another state.”

 “I believe to promote business and create jobs in Florida we need to increase our transportation capacity.  Florida’s size, multiple city centers, and poor intra-state air travel, make doing business in this state a challenge.  High speed rail, done right, could be the answer to that problem.  I understand the Governor’s concern of putting state government on the hook for hundreds of millions in continuing obligations.  I would seek a public-private partnership to alleviate that concern.”