January 07, 2014

List of potential Atwater successors continues to grow

In Florida, there are few top tier elected positions available at the state level for ambitious pols. Until recently, the three Cabinet races locked up by incumbents promised to be snoozers this election year for all but the very top of the ticket -- the governor's race.

Then chief financial officer Jeff Atwater announced he's ready to ditch his $129,000 state job for one that makes nearly three times the salary: president of Florida Atlantic University. The search committee on Monday picked Atwater, and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux among 10 candidates to interview. If Atwater is named to the post, the governor could appoint a temporary replacement and open the door to politicians from both parties to scurry for the open seat.

Here's the latest line-up of who's considering the job should Atwater leave: 

Continue reading "List of potential Atwater successors continues to grow " »

January 05, 2014

LeMieux also applies for FAU job -- is a turf battle in the making?

On one side we have Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announce he has "been approached" by Florida Atlantic University and has accepted the request to apply for the presidential post. On the other we have former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux announcing Sunday he's also adding his hat to the ring because he was "encouraged by members of the board of trustees." Hmmm.

Whose idea was it to publicly pit these guys against each other, who else has been "encouraged" and why the rush to get a politician?

According to the Associated Press, Gov. Rick Scott "praised LeMieux," in a statement.

"George LeMieux's pursuit of the FAU presidency is further proof that Florida's high-caliber universities attract the best and brightest talent in the country," Scott said. "FAU is fortunate to add to their list of presidency candidates someone like George who has a great vision for our state and would do an outstanding job as president."

Whoa. Was that an endorsement?

But wait, the governor also praised Atwater in a statement a day earlier -- but it reads as if he knew LeMieux's news was coming. He said Atwater has the "experience and skill to be an outstanding president."

"While the school will no doubt consider multiple, qualified, prestigious candidates for the job, FAU would be well served to have a leader like Jeff at the helm," Scott's statement said.

We know Scott is grateful to LeMieux, who served as chief of staff and campaign manager to former Gov. Charlie Crist, was rewarded by being named by Crist to the U.S. Senate to complete the term of former Sen. Mel Martinez in 2009 where LeMieux served for 16 months. Then LeMieux became a vocal critic of Crist and Scott loyalist once Crist jumped parties.

Perhaps, the Florida Legislature's penchant for politicizing higher ed may have some competition.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/05/3853823/former-sen-lemieux-applies-for.html#storylink=cpy

August 28, 2012

George LeMieux pens his own Crist column: 'not the Charlie Crist I knew'

In a column in Wednesday's Tampa Bay Times, George LeMieux keeps his distance from his old boss:

"This isn't the Charlie Crist I knew.

"In recent days, the former Florida governor has publicly lambasted the Republican Party, his former party of more than 30 years, and given his support to one of the worst presidential administrations in recent history. He has characterized the Republican agenda as extreme and a failure in leadership. What's extreme is not the Republican Party, but Crist's attempt to transform himself from Reagan Republican into an Obama liberal.

"The Charlie Crist I knew and worked closely with for five years was Florida's attorney general and a tough, no-nonsense, crime fighter who earned the moniker "Chain Gang Charlie" for his support of prison chain gangs as a state senator. He never met a tax increase he liked. While not an ideologue on issues such as the environment, renewable energy and immigration, Crist's particular brand of Republicanism was conservative enough to convincingly win Republican primaries in his statewide races for attorney general and governor....More from George LeMieux here.

June 20, 2012

Broward loses their chance to have a hometown Senator

George LeMieux dropping out of the U.S. Senate race is a blow for some GOP activists in his home county of Broward.

LeMieux was the Broward GOP’s hopes of a big name to hail from their county. Until recently, the most prominent local Republican to earn national fame from Broward was the brash-talking U.S. Rep. Allen West who won in his second attempt at Congress in 2010. But due to redistricting, the Broward GOP lost West to Palm Beach County where West recently moved to and is running for re-election.

Broward Republicans are likely to keep their claim on one countywide office holder: Sheriff Al Lamberti has a strong shot at re-election in November. Lamberti won his first race in 2008 despite the large Democratic turnout for President Barack Obama.

Assuming the frontrunner Connie Mack wins the Republican Senate primary, Broward GOP activists will clearly favor him against the incumbent, Democrat Bill Nelson. But the question is whether those activists who have been chummy with LeMieux for years will join forces to help Mack pick up more votes in Broward.

“One thing about the Broward Republicans -- we always unite behind the nominee,” said Broward GOP chairman Richard DeNapoli. “I think that’s what’s going to happen.”

DeNapoli added that Mack has a tie to Broward: he launched his political career in a state house district that included part of eastern Broward.

Broward is an overwhelmingly Democratic County but it has more than 250,000 registered Republicans who can make the difference in statewide races.    

George LeMieux calls it quits in Florida Senate race, Connie Mack all but guaranteed nominee

Former Sen. George LeMieux abruptly quit Florida’s Republican U.S. Senate race on Wednesday, all but guaranteeing that frontrunner Connie Mack will be their party’s nominee.

LeMieux was behind in fundraising, behind in name identification and behind in big-name endorsements when compared to Mack, a sitting congressman from Fort Myers and the son and namesake of former Florida Senator.

“Ahead of us in the polls, the Mack name enjoys widespread recognition that can only be matched with substantial advertising or the opportunity to debate on statewide television,” LeMieux said in a video address posted on YouTube.

He lamented that Mack refused to debate him on television and that “our finances cannot support” a major advertising campaign. In Florida, competitive statewide campaigns burn at least $1 million a week in the final days on television.

Mack, meanwhile, received word Tuesday that he was about to be on the receiving end of a $1 million contribution from Las Vegas gaming magnate Sheldon Adelson, a Republican sugar daddy who planned to deposit the money in an independent political committee, Freedom PAC, established to get Mack elected.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/20/2858956/george-lemieux-quits-senate-race.html#storylink=cpy

Story here

Video and written statement below:

Continue reading "George LeMieux calls it quits in Florida Senate race, Connie Mack all but guaranteed nominee" »

June 13, 2012

Once upon a time, LeMieux proudly had a Mack's support

As former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV  slug it out in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, a little history is worth recalling. When a younger LeMieux ran for the state House in 1998 -- the only other time he sought public office -- he proudly touted the support of the congressman's father, then-U.S. Sen. Connie Mack III.

"George LeMieux has tremendous respect for Senator Mack," LeMieux spokeswoman Anna Nix said. "George's first experience in public service was interning in Mack III's Washington Senate office in 1989.

LeMieux ran as a moderate Republican in that 1998 House race in Fort Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Wilton Manors and Davie, and lost handily to Democratic Rep. Tracy Stafford of Wilton Manors. Then-Sen. Mack attended a campaign event with LeMieux on an oceanfront Fort Lauderdale condo canyon known as the Galt Ocean Mile. 

In a LeMieux "Campaign Update" flyer, LeMieux also touted the support of then-House Speaker-designate John Thrasher. But Thrasher, now a state senator, is supporting Mack IV for the Senate, like the candidate's father. But considering this bit of Florida political lore, it's only a matter of time before LeMieux uses the line about Jack Kennedy that Lloyd Bentsen used to great effect on Dan Quayle in 1988: ("Connie, I knew your father. I worked for your father. Connie Mack was a friend of mine. And believe me, Congressman, you're no Connie Mack.") 

-- Steve Bousquet

June 07, 2012

PPP: Connie Mack leads Republican rivals; Bill Nelson leads them all

PPP Florida:

Dave Weldon's late entry has had little initial impact on the Republican contest for the Senate in Florida. Connie Mack IV continues to be the clear leader with 34% to 13% for George LeMieux and 10% for Mike McCalister, with Weldon starting out at only 6% in the polls.

Mack continues to be the only candidate with any sort of name recognition. 53% of Republican primary voters have an opinion about him. LeMieux's at 31% and McCalister and Weldon are both known to less than 20% of the likely electorate.

Mack is winning easily with every segment of the electorate. He's pulling in similar numbers with men, women, moderates and conservatives, and is especially strong with seniors.

Winning the Republican primary in this race may prove to be a shallow victory anyway. Bill Nelson continues to lead all of his opponents by double digits, as has consistently been the case in PPP's polling on the contest. He's up 13 on both Mack and LeMieux at 49-36 and 48-35 respectively, 47-33 on McCalister, and 47-31 on Weldon.

What makes Nelson an unusually strong candidate is his appeal to Republicans. 23% of them approve of him, unusual in this highly polarized political climate. And he gets anywhere from 13-17% of the GOP vote in head to heads against his potential opponents. He's also strong with independents, leading the Republican candidates by anywhere from 20-24 points with them.

This race is likely to tighten once the GOP gets unified around its eventual nominee. There are almost twice as many undecided Republicans as Democrats in every possible match up for the fall, and once the candidate's been chosen that person's likely to see the party base unify around him some.

One thing to keep in mind though is that Nelson has pretty consistently run about 10 points ahead of Barack Obama in the state, largely because of his ability to peel off Republican votes. That means Obama would likely have to not only lose Florida, but lose it by a wide margin to bring Nelson down with him. That seems unlikely.

Our polls on this race have been pretty consistent- Mack's a strong favorite to win the primary, and then Nelson's a strong favorite to defeat him for another term in the general election.

Connie Mack: I don't need to debate Republicans in Senate primary. It's over

FullBasking in high poll numbers and the major endorsement of Gov. Jeb Bush, Connie Mack has declined an invitation to participate in a statewide prime-time televised debate, effectively declaring the GOP U.S. Senate primary over.

"It’s clear the race for the U.S. Senate in Florida is now between Connie Mack, the Republican, and Bill Nelson, the Democrat," Mack campaign manager Jeff Cohen wrote in a letter to Jeanne Grinstead, deputy managing editor of the Tampa Bay Times.

Grinstead is organizing the July 26 debate with co-hosts Bay News 9 and Florida PBS and its member stations. The primary is Aug. 14. But Florida voters won't have an opportunity to hear from Mack, who has a big lead in the polls.

"A primary debate among Republicans would only serve to benefit Bill Nelson," Cohen wrote adding that a debate between Mack and Nelson "makes all the sense in the world."

Mack has faced aggressive questions over his credentials by rival George LeMieux. Other candidates include Mike McCalister and Dave Weldon.

Posted by Alex Leary, Tampa Bay Times

June 06, 2012

GOP Senate kill shot: Connie Mack endorsed by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Most endorsements don't really mean much in a political campaign. We blog them because they're indicative of a certain aspect of a candidate's campaign and constituency.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush isn't one of those endorsements.

He's a big effing deal in Republican circles. There's a reason guys like Rep. Connie Mack and former interim Sen. George LeMieux call themselves "Jeb Bush Republicans." Not "George Bush Republicans."

Too bad for LeMieux that Mack is getting endorsed by Jeb Bush, whose son Jeb Bush Jr. is solidly in Mack's camp already. If Mack's name ID and double-digit lead weren't enough to polish off LeMieux, this is the kill shot. To quote Othello before he strangles Desdemona: Put out the light, and then put out the light.

Jeb Bush presided over one of Florida's most-prosperous periods and had strong poll numbers throughout his tenure. The Republican candidates for president would have died to be endorsed by him in the just-ended GOP primary. Sure, Jeb has relatively soft immigration stances (considering the state of the GOP) and recently criticized the tax pledge of Grover Norquist, who said the former governor doesn't know how the"game" of Washington is played. But stances and comments like that are what make Bush such an attractive figure in politics and media.

Here's the press release:

“Connie Mack is the principled conservative that the people of Florida deserve representing them in the U.S. Senate. Connie has the courage, conservative values, experience and determination to confront the tough issues facing our nation. We must return conservatives to the majority in the U.S. Senate.  Connie is the person Floridians’ need in Washington working with Senator Marco Rubio to reduce our national debt and limit out-of-control spending.”
Thanking Governor Bush for his endorsement, Mack stated:
“I am truly humbled to receive the support of Governor Bush, a man whose service and dedication to this state serves as an example to anyone in public service. His tireless efforts on behalf of Florida’s children, particularly in the area of education, are unmatched, and his strong support in communities across Florida is a testament to his leadership ability. It is an honor to call Jeb Bush a friend. I thank him for his support and his leadership, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him in the months and years ahead.”
Governor Bush’s endorsement follows a series of conservative endorsements for Mack, including Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Governor Luis Fortuño and a growing number of the Florida Congressional delegation.