Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Mel Martinez: Charlie Crist is Clueless

Charlie has wandered off from the herd again:

“I don’t know that my Governor understands all the details this package – that there will be nothing here to help with Florida’s housing economy, the number-one problem in Florida’s economic troubles that we have today are related to housing,” Martinez said. “And until we address the housing problem, we’re not going to bring Florida back to economic health. At the end of the day, there’s not enough largesse that can come to Florida from the federal government to fill the coffers for state needs.


Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, ,

Kendrick Meek Top Recipient of Tobacco Dollars

Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek has been raking in the tobacco dollars, according to The Center for Responsive Politics.  Meek, the presumed Democratic frontrunner in the race to fill the seat of retiring US Senator Mel Martinez, has raised over $30,000 from tobacco interests.  Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader hailing from Kentucky, is the second highest recipient.  No other Floridians make the top 15.

It should come as no surprise that Meek has long had a reputation as a man who enjoys a good cigar.  He is, in fact, featured in this month’s Cigar Aficionado.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

Crist Enjoys High Approval Rating

Courtesy of HeraldTribune.com:

A bad economy, tax increases and his announcement he’s leaving the governors mansion still wasn’t enough to hurt Gov. Charlie Crist’s approval ratings among Florida voters.

According to a Stategic Vision poll released Friday, 62 percent of 1,200 people polled from May 29 to May 31 said they approve of Crist’s job performance. That is two percentage points higher than President Barack Obama’s approval ratings among Floridians according to the poll.

Crist’s approval ratings have been over 60 percent since he took office in 2007.

The poll shows how tough of a Senate candidate he will be to beat for both Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek.

In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, 59 percent of Republicans supported Crist while 22% supported Rubio, the former Florida House Speaker. About 19 percent were undecided.

In a potential match-up between Crist and Meek in a general election, 59 percent of respondents picked Crist, 29 percent supported Meek. About 12 percent were undecided.

Other approval ratings in the poll: Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, was at 55 percent and Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican, was at 45 percent.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics,

Florida’s US Senators Now Have Earmarks on Web

Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson, Florida’s two US Senators, have now updated their websites to include any earmark requests they are seeking.  Nelson’s list can be found here and Martinez’s can be found here.  Nelson has also taken the additional step of listing his military requests separately.  They can be viewed here.  Opening up the earmark process is something just about everyone agreed was long overdue.  The US House went live last month.  Ander Crenshaw’s can be found here and Corrine Brown’s can be found here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

Politicians on Twitter = B-O-R-I-N-G

Great column by Beth Reinhard in the Miami Herald – sharing how politicians on Twitter spell “booooring” in 140 letters.  For example, I’m sure we all wanted to know such facts like it takes Marco Rubio’s wife forever to blowdry her hair.

I joined Twitter this week. Does that make me a twit? (Please don’t answer that.)

This is not why I got into journalism. Spewing online quips limited to 140 letters isn’t the crusade for truth and justice I once envisioned.

But as a lucky survivor in the struggling media biz, I wanted to see what the cool kids were doing. Surprisingly, I learned a lot about Florida’s political twittering class.

Read the rest of this entry »

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To Have And To Hold: The Value of Primaries

The retirement of US Senator Mel Martinez, and the subsequent drama that has unfolded around the Republican candidates vying to replace him—former House Speaker Marco Rubio and Governor Charlie Crist—has thrust the age-old debate about the benefits of the primary system into the limelight.  To a lesser extent, the battle is also raging in the Governor’s race—where GOP leaders are trying to avoid a Bill McCollum vs. Charles Bronson fight—and in the race for Attorney General—where Democrats are trying to avoid a three way primary battle pitting Dave Aronberg against Dan Gelber and Rod Smith.

While not perfect, the primary system does exist for a reason.  Voters within a party have the right to have their voice heard when it comes to choosing the candidate that will represent their party in the general election.  (Of course, my personal preference would be a system that allows voters to choose from any candidate in the race, regardless of party where the top two vote getters advance to the general election.  The removes the current possibility to discriminate against voters who do not choose to belong to one of the main parties.)  Yet, although we are several hundred years into this unique American experience of democracy, leaders in both parties are attempting to deny voters the right to choose which candidate will represent their party.

The most visible battle has been the battle within the Republican Party over the Charlie Crist vs. Marco Rubio Senate race.  Jim Greer, the GOP Party Chairman and a long-time ally of Charlie Crist, made his preference for Crist rather clear when he attempted to use his power as Chairman to endorse Crist’s campaign.  While his efforts were thwarted by another member of the Executive Committee, he has continued to take shots at Marco Rubio.  Likewise, the Republican Party made it abundantly clear to Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson that his presence in a Republican Gubernatorial primary was not desired, something that was amazingly insulting to a man who has served the party quite faithfully for years.  Republicans are not alone, of course.  The leadership of the Democratic Party has been working just as diligently to avoid a 3-way primary for Attorney General, with the anticipated campaigns of Dave Aronberg, Rod Smith and Dan Gelber.

Florida’s voters should be insulted by the arrogance of party leadership that seems to presume that they have the authority to make decisions on behalf of voters.  If more than one candidate is interested in a race, party leadership should allow them the opportunity to make their case to the voters.  The voters are capable of deciding which one will best represent their party in a general election.

While smoking may be banned in public spaces, the era of the “smoke-filled back room” appears to have returned to Florida politics.  Despite the storied failures of “back room” candidates over the years (does the name Warren G. Harding and the Teapot Dome Scandal ring a bell for anyone?) Florida’s political elite have decided that they know what is best for the state.

The current arrogance of the leadership in our political parties makes you wonder how many potential “stars” they are bypassing as they push for what they see as the “most certain” path.  It may be hard to realize this when one is secluded in Tallahassee, but the candidates that voters often take to are not always the first choice of the party elite.  1978 is an excellent example of that.  One wonders if there would have ever been a Senator Bob Graham if the Democratic Party leadership had thrown their weight around in that seven-person Democratic primary

Let the voters decide, Mr. Greer and Ms. Thurman.  We are amazingly competent.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , ,

Florida’s Political Dominos

With Charlie Crist’s Tuesday announcement that he was jumping into the race to succeed retiring US Senator Mel Martinez, the political dominos are beginning to fall in Florida.

Within a week, Florida CFO Alex Sink (D) is expected to announce her intentions to run for Governor.  So is Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R).  So is Agriculture Secretary Charles Bronson (R).  That would mean all of Florida’s Cabinet positions will now be open.  So, who is running?  

State Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Ft. Myers) will soon announce his candidacy for Attorney General.  (His website currently shows “Under Construction.”)  Rumors abound that State Senator Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach), currently a Democratic candidate for the US Senate seat, might also be interested.  Another potential candidate on the Democratic side is former State Senator (and Gubernatorial candidate) Rod Smith (R-Alachua).  The Republican candidates are less clear, perhaps State Rep. Adam Hasner (R-Palm Beach) or State Rep. Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park).  

The race for Chief Financial Officer is wide open on both sides.  Alex Sink was expected to be a shoo-in and no major candidates had expressed interest because of that.  Perhaps former State Senator Tom Lee (R) will give it another shot.  Current Senate President Jeff Atwater (R) appears to be the only one in the race at this point.

The race for Agriculture Secretary is already underway.  US Rep. Adam Putnam (R) already has his campaign website up and running.  At this point, it appears that there are no significant challengers to him.

The most interesting race in the state to watch; however, will be the US Senate race.  The National Republican Senatorial Committee has already weighed in on the Florida race, despite their promises to stay out of it last week.  They have endorsed Crist, something that will only encourage Marco Rubio in his outside bid to “claim” the nomination for “conservatives.”  Jim Greer, the Chairman of the Florida Republican Party, is a close ally of Gov. Crist and will most likely make overt moves to back him in the primary as well.  According to sources, a key figure in the Florida GOP leadership also told a Republican crowd this weekend that he is working to “clear the field” in the Gubernatorial race, meaning that the GOP is moving avoid a nasty primary.  (Of course, nothing speaks to democracy like an attempt by party power brokers to “clear the field.”)

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the flurry of activity around the new candidates for statewide office is that there is nary a mention of a North Floridian among them.  That’s right, Jacksonville—long one of the dominant cities in fielding Florida Governors over the years—has no one ready to step up to higher office.  What does that say about the people we’ve been sending to Tallahassee for the last two decades?

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,

Jeb? Again?

Politics never cease to amaze me.  Florida Grassroots has already counted on Crist to announce he’s running for US Senate and started a “Jeb Again in 10” campaign.

Dear Gov. Bush,

With the recent announcement that Gov. Crist will run for Mel Martinez’ U.S. Senate seat, Floridians need to make certain proven leadership is restored to the Executive Office of Governor.

During this exceptional period of financial unrest and the historic unemployment rate in Florida, we need an exceptional solution and leader to steer us through this.

We appeal to you Gov. Bush, because of the dedication you exemplified and love we know you have for Florida, to step to the plate to help save our state by running for governor again. You left office with a 65% approval rating after being the only twice elected Republican governor ever. This demonstrates what strong bipartisan support you enjoy statewide.

Our request is not without precedent. Heroic Founding Father, Patrick Henry, was the governor of Virginia 5 times. Another great Florida quarterback like yourself, Tim Tebow, is also returning to lead his team for a third title this year.

With your stellar record of achievements and success in everything from the economy to Education Reform and managing 8 major hurricanes which hit Florida in 2 years, we call on you to offer your steady hand and vision which is necessary to set Florida back on course again. Your supporters are mobilizing across the state and we await your prayerful decision.

Thank you for the selfless leadership you have provided our state.

“Who Says You Can’t Go Home?”

Victory ’10… let’s do it!

Florida Grassroots for Jeb

Check out their website here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , ,

Crist Announcement Coming Tuesday

From the AP:

The head of the state Republican Party says Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will announce his 2010 political plans Tuesday and hinted that the U.S. Senate is his target.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer says he believes Crist has “concluded that the problems and issues that Floridians are facing high unemployment and the economy can’t be solved in Tallahassee, they need to be solved in Washington, and I believe that’s what he’s going to do.”

The Senate seat he may be seeking is held by Republican Mel Martinez, who is leaving office after one term. Crist, elected in 2006, sought the same Senate seat in 1998, losing to Democratic incumbent Bob Graham.

Update: Crist’s former chief-of-staff, George LeMieux, confirmed Tuesday is the day. He said it will be a “low-key” event in Tallahassee. “Florida and America are at a crossroads, and I think you’ll see the governor’s decision reflect that,” LeMieux said.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

The Coming Battle for the soul of the Florida GOP

The race to succeed retiring Senator Mel Martinez just got very interesting, not only for Florida, but really for the entire nation. 

The “contraction” of the Republican party has received a lot of media attention of late, particularly in light of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic party.  The reasons for Specter’s switch were fairly obvious—he was a moderate Republican incumbent facing a primary challenge from a conservative and all signs were pointing to a primary loss.  Specter’s move was the latest in a series of defeats for the Republican party, particularly the moderate wing within the party.  

In 2006, Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chaffee lost his re-election bid after a tough primary challenge from a conservative Republican left him weakened in a general election.  In fact, more than one of the seats lost in the House during the 2006 and 2008 elections could be directly attributed to the defeat of moderate Republicans in a primary—or the retirement of a moderate.  So, how does this translate to Florida?

Charlie Crist is seen as a moderate, due in part to his support of Barack Obama’s stimulus package.  But, even before the Obama position—for which he was roundly attacked on talk radio—Crist had staked out more moderate positions on many of the hot-button issues. He’s anti-abortion, but don’t try to engage him in a long conversation on the matter.  He’s anti-gay marriage, but says it in a way that leaves no one completely offended.  He won a GOP primary in 2006 against an opponent who had tried to define himself as the only “true conservative” in the race.  In didn’t work in 2006, but could 2010 be a different story?  

Marco Rubio, after all, is no Tom Gallagher.  Sure, he never had a cameo appearance on “The Golden Girls”, but Rubio is young, telegenic and has always been a passionate “conservative”-something that Gallagher could only claim a late-in-life conversion to.  And, Rubio has come out swinging.  In his announcement, he took a step that many saw as unprecedented—attacking sitting Senators of his own party with whom he would have to caucus, assuming he won the primary and general election.  Lashing out at Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Rubio said that adding to their ranks was essentially the same as electing a Democrat.

While Crist’s popularity ratings have remained unusually high, his popularity among the rank-and-file Republican voters has suffered as of late, particularly after the onslaught he took from political
powerhouses like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity over his support of Obama’s stimulus package.  Their opposition [Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s], when combined with the support already being offered Rubio by the conservative Club for Growth, could signal trouble for Crist in a Republican primary likely to be dominated by conservatives.  While Crist’s political fortunes don’t necessarily concern many other than himself, Republicans do have to wonder how Rubio’s increasingly conservative message will sell in a state that voted for a Democratic President and a Democratic Senator in the most recent statewide elections.  

At this point, despite the potential of a bloodbath, the Republicans still have the strongest field in the race.  Both Democratic candidates currently in the race are facing their own hurdles.  Both candidates are from South Florida, something that could prove challenging as they move to win over more moderate and conservative voters from central and northern Florida. Likewise, neither are well known throughout the state, something that will necessitate significant fundraising success to change.  But, if bloody primaries offer a moderating state the choice between an outspoken conservative Republican and a more moderate Democrat, the Republican Party might have reason to worry.  

Could one have imagined Jeb Bush’s Florida with a Democratic Governor, Democratic Attorney General and two Democratic US Senators?  It may very well be possible…

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , ,

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