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Crist’s lead over Scott shrinks to within margin of error in Democratic firm’s new poll

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by George Bennett

Trailing Democrat Charlie Crist by double digits in polls last year, Gov. Rick Scott has pulled within the margin of error in a new Public Policy Polling survey.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is gaining ground on Democrat Charlie Crist and has moved into a virtual tie in the 2014 governor’s race, a new poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling says.

Crist gets 43 percent and Scott gets 41 percent in the poll of 591 Florida voters conducted Jan. 16-21. The poll’s margin of error wasn’t immediately available, but previous PPP polls with similar sample sizes have had a margin of error of about 4 percent, which would mean Scott and Crist are effectively even. PPP’s last gubernatorial poll in October showed Crist with a 50-to-38 percent lead. Crist held a 52-to-40 percent lead in a March 2013 PPP poll.

Voters have negative opinions of both Scott and Crist. Asked about Scott’s job performance, 34 percent approve and 51 percent disapprove. Asked a slightly different question about Crist, 36 percent said they have a favorable view and 46 percent unfavorable.

Scott defeats the other Democrat seeking the governorship, former state Sen. Nan Rich, by a 40-to-34 percent margin.

The PPP survey suggests Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi could face a tight re-election contest. She leads Democrat George Sheldon by a 37-to-34 percent margin and has a 37-to-35 percent edge over Democratic state Rep. Perry Thurston.

Some other highlights of the new poll are after the jump…


Scott and Cabinet advance smartphone insurance proof

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Motorists pulled over in Florida may soon be able to pull out their smartphones.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet unanimously approved letting state highway officials move forward with plans Tuesday to let drivers provide an electronic proof of insurance over the smartphones and tablets, instead of handing over the usual paper copy.

“I think it’s going to work just fine,” said Julie Jones, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles.

Jones said a department rule change allowing the smartphone standard should be finalized sometime in January.  Paper copies will still be accepted, too.

But the move would make Florida the 30th state allowing electronic proof. With so many states joining in, many insurers now provide smartphone applications that include a driver’s insurance information.

“The whole idea is to make it easier for the consumer,” said Donovan Brown, a spokesman for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.


Florida Democratic battle for Attorney General — may not happen

Sunday, October 27th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Florida Democrats attempting to gain a seat on the state Cabinet face a possible slugfest for one — the race for Attorney General.

George Sheldon, an ex-deputy to former longtime Democratic Attorney General Bob Butterworth, delivered his campaign speech Sunday morning to party activists gathered at Disney World, a day after new rival, Perry Thurston, introduced himself to the crowd. Sheldon directed his fire at Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Sheldon said she was “not just right-wing, she’s wrongheaded.”

He went on to blister Bondi over leading the legal challenge by two dozen states opposing the Affordable Care Act. But his harshest assessment came of Bondi’s push last month to reschedule an execution because it conflicted with her planned campaign kick-off fundraiser.

“She should’ve resigned,” Sheldon said, drawing cheers from those gathered at the Democratic conference.

Thurston announced his candidacy Saturday. His speech later to conference delegates was mostly pegged to his role as state House Democratic leader, although he, too, managed to plug his new candidacy.

Florida’s three Cabinet posts are held by Republicans who, with Gov. Rick Scott, give the GOP command of the state’s executive branch. The Legislature also is led by Republicans, with Thurston topping the outnumbered ranks of House Democrats.

Bondi has already raised more than $400,000 for her campaign and has received another $220,000 from the Florida Republican Party for rent, staff, travel and other costs, state records show. And the prospect of a Democratic primary for attorney general is not something party leaders are seeking.

Christian Ulvert, the Florida Democratic Party’s political director, said Sunday that “something might be worked out.” Sheldon also told the Post that talks may soon be underway that look intended to get Thurston to drop his candidacy to avoid a costly intraparty clash.

“I hate that this comes down to money,” Sheldon said. “But it’s expensive to run these Cabinet races.”

Thurston to challenge Bondi, setting up Democratic primary contest

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Rep. Perry Thurston

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston said Saturday that he will run for Attorney General next year, becoming the second prominent Democrat to step forward and challenge Republican Pam Bondi.

“I have a proven record of raising money and winning races,” Thurston said at the Florida Democratic conference, meeting this weekend at Disney World.

Already in the race is Democrat George Sheldon, a former Department of Children & Families secretary who most recently was in Washington, D.C., as an assistant secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. Sheldon announced his candidacy on Monday.

Thurston, however, said he is undaunted by a potential primary. “The race is on,” said Thurston, who was first elected to the state House in 2006.

Still, the Fort Lauderdale Democrat directed heat more at Bondi, who is seeking her second term. She gained national prominence for leading the legal assault by two dozen states that unsuccessfully sought to have the Affordable Care Act ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Floridians need someone as attorney general who is not just going to be playing partisan political games,” Thurston said.

Bondi recently came under fire for rescheduling a planned execution last month because it conflicted with a fund-raiser heralding the kickoff of her re-election campaign.

Bondi later said she was wrong to have sought the rescheduling of convicted killer Marshall Lee Gore’s execution, which was carried out almost three weeks later.

But Bondi’s campaign said the incumbent is ready for the Democratic challenge. She has already raised more than $400,000 for her campaign and has received another $220,000 from the Florida Republican Party for rent, staff, travel and other costs, state records show.


Another Democrat steps forward to take on Atwater

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

With this weekend’s Florida Democratic Party conference at Disney World marking the unofficial start of campaign season, a newly minted Cabinet contender is trying to catch some attention.

We comply.

William Rankin, 53, of Fort Lauderdale fired off a round of news releases late Tuesday announcing that he is challenging Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a former North Palm Beach state senator and banker.

“This campaign is about us, the people of Florida, and bringing the voice of the people back to Tallahassee,” Rankin said. “We must promote ideas and actions that benefit our economy and restore public trust in our government.”

Rankin is a former director of asset management for the state of Ohio who has lived in Florida since 2000. He’s also a former U.S. Army special agent who specialized in economic fraud investigations.

Atwater, who is seeking a second term as CFO, has raised more than $500,000 for the campaign. An earlier Democratic contender, Allie Braswell, ran a four-day campaign before bowing out after acknowledging a history of personal bankruptcies.

Sheldon challenging Bondi for Attorney General on “character” issue

Monday, October 21st, 2013 by John Kennedy

A former top deputy under Bob Butterworth, Florida’s last Democratic attorney general, announced Monday that he will challenge Republican Pam Bondi next year.

George Sheldon, who recently stepped down as an assistant secretary in the Obama administrations’ Health and Human Services Dept., said he plans to return “character” to the attorney general’s office.

“Taking on predatory lenders, human traffickers, and those who engage in deceptive practices is the job of the Attorney General…not working full time trying to deny health insurance to children and anyone with preexisting conditions,” Sheldon said.

“This race is about character.  Who has the experience and character to use the office of attorney general for general good rather than as a personal, political, partisan platform,” he added.

Bondi spearheaded the lawsuit brought by two-dozen states unsuccessfully seeking to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.  She also recently caught heat for rescheduling a planned execution because it conflicted with a fund-raiser heralding the kickoff of her re-election campaign.

Sheldon served as Florida’s Department of Children & Families secretary under then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist, now a Democrat, is likely to run for governor and share next year’s ballot with Sheldon.

Sheldon earlier was deputy attorney general under Butterworth and is a former state representative. He sought the nomination for attorney general in 2002, finishing third behind current Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Dyer lost to Crist that year.

Bondi’s campaign said the incumbent was ready for the challenge.

“As Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi has fought hard to defend and protect the people by making Florida a zero tolerance state for pill mills, taking on human trafficking, and pursuing consumer relief from both, mortgage and Medicaid fraud, ” said Pablo Diaz, Bondi’s campaign manager.

“Pam Bondi and George Sheldon have very different credentials and points of view, and we welcome the opportunity to show the voters in Florida that they will have a clear choice between two distinctly different candidates.,” he added.


With almost $500,000 settlement, Scott and Atwater achieve dubious victory

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said Tuesday that state offficials have agreed to an almost $500,000 settlement with a Tallahassee art gallery and a construction firm ensnared in a controversy stemming from the new First District Court of Appeal building.

The settlement still must be approved by the Legislative Budget Commission. And even though the state is paying not only the full amount owed Signature Art Gallery and Peter Brown Construction — plus the private companies’ legal fees — Republican leaders cast the settlement as a victory for taxpayers.

The companies will be paid the $392,658.56 owed them, along with $122,224.14 for litigation and other costs, according to the settlement.

“Our most important goal is to protect taxpayer dollars to best meet the needs of Florida families,” Scott said. “It was right to ask for a rigorous and thorough review of the tax dollars
committed to this project.”

Atwater, a former North Palm Beach legislator, said, “With this settlement, the parties now agree that it is appropriate for the Legislature to determine the legitimacy of the payment request.”

The stand-off with the contractors began in 2010, when Atwater’s predecessor, Democrat Alex Sink, completed an audit of the First DCA project a month before her defeat by Scott in the governor’s race. She  said a “perfect storm” of wrongdoing helped run cost of the project – which she dubbed the Taj Mahal – to $48.8 million, about $17 million more than initial estimates.

The courthouse, she said includes 20 miles worth of imported African mahogany, granite countertops and other luxury fixtures.

It had become a “travesty,”  Sink said, because of a lack of oversight by the state Department of Management Services and bullying by appeals court judges – particularly Chief Judge Paul Hawkes. Hawkes has since stepped down from the court.

Sink froze payments to Signature Gallery for 369 framed, historic photos for for the courthouse. The hardline stance was continued by Atwater after he was elected that fall. The construction company included in the settlement had contracted with Signature Gallery to provide the art work.

According to the settlement announced Tuesday, the photos don’t sound destined for the First DCA building. Instead, the artwork involved in the settlement will go to the Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs.


Scott and Cabinet to decide on $580,000 purchase of property adjacent to The Grove

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will choose whether to add a part of Florida’s history to the state’s historical resources tomorrow. The price? $580,000.

The panel will decide whether to buy a three-quarter acre parcel adjacent to The Grove, the former home of the late Gov. LeRoy Collins, his wife, Mary Call Collins and their family. The antebellum home was built by Mary Call Collins’s great-grandfather, Richard Keith Call, a two-term territorial governor of Florida.

The Collinses gave The Grove, adjacent to the governor’s mansion in mid-town Tallahassee, to the state, which has first right of refusal on the neighboring properties. The trust that owns the properties received a purchase offer for the two lots, now the site of a law office and a parking lot.

Scott demands plan for shrinking Citizens Insurance

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 by John Kennedy

Calls for revamping Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run carrier for those who can’t find private coverage, has been a rite of spring in Tallahassee for years.

But Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday is looking to accelerate that discussion — even as he still looks intent on finding a private company willing to take over Citizens, which now has 1.4 million policies statewide.

About half the homeowners’ policies in Florida are held by Citizens, which also is dealing with what actuaries say is 70 percent of the risk.  Coastal homes and condos, which face a high hurricane threat, form the bulk of the company’s line.

Meanwhile, Citizens is adding 4,000 to 5,00o policies a week — with private carriers continuing to cold-shoulder high-risk Florida homeowners, officials said.

“This is not something we can continue to do,” Scott told the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Scott wants the Citizens governing board to meet later this month and present a blueprint for Citizens’ future Dec. 6 to him and the Cabinet. The goal, he said, is simple:” “to shrink exposure.”

When Scott and Cabinet meet, it’s mostly a millionaires club

Thursday, July 7th, 2011 by John Kennedy

When Gov. Rick Scott and the all-Republican Florida Cabinet meet, it’s mostly a millionaires club, according to new financial disclosure reports.

Only Attorney General Pam Bondi claims a net worth of less than $1 million.  Bondi, a former Hillsborough County prosecutor, quit her job last year to campaign fulltime, resulting in her reporting no income in 2010 and a net worth of $472,696.

Her assets are a house and a car.

Scott, considered Florida’s wealthiest governor in history, reported a $103 million net worth — down by more than half  from a year earlier. But still a bundle detailed in four pages of assets and income sources.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, scion of a Polk County citrus family, reported a $6.8 million net worth. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a former Senate president from North Palm Beach, was worth $1.6 million at the end of last year, according to his report, filed this month.

Atwater said he earned roughly $114,000 last year, with income from the state of Florida, investments, and banking work with Bank of America. Putnam, who left Congress last year to run for Agriculture Commissioner, reported income topping $570,000, including his congressional salary, investments, income from Putnam Groves, Inc., and the sale of  his Washington, D.C., home.

McCollum joins D.C. law firm

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 by John Kennedy

Former Attorney General Bill McCollum is joining a Washington,D.C., law firm as partner — specializing in representing clients in legal matters before state attorneys general.

McCollum spent 20 years in Congress before unsuccessfully running for U.S. Senate in 2000. His four year term as Florida attorney general, 2007-2011, was sandwiched between another failed bid for Senate (2004) and losing to Rick Scott in last summer’s Republican primary for governor.

SNR Denton is an international law firm building a specialty pivoted around cases involving state attorneys general. While McCollum will work out of Washington, also joining the firm is former Indiana Attorney General Jeff Modisett, who will work out SNR Denton’s Los Angeles office.

“With the recent, dramatic growth in state Attorneys General consumer protection investigations involving key industry sectors such as financial institutions, energy, health care, telecommunications and the internet, it made sense for me to join a firm that is known for its deep bench strength in the public sector,” McCollum said, in announcing the move.

Bondi brings pill mill bill in for a landing

Friday, May 6th, 2011 by Dara Kam

As Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi looked on from the dais, the House unanimously approved a pill mill compromise, sending it to Scott for final approval.

Cannon, R-Winter Park, praised the final product, the culmination of late-night negotiations that went down to the wire and at times appeared to be doomed.

“Today we saw the best of the best of the best of Tallahassee,” Cannon, R-Winter Park, said.

Bondi said she spoke with Senate President Mike Haridopolos after midnight and was working the phones until 2:30 a.m. Friday morning to try to bring the deal in for a landing.

Bondi said Friday’s vote would send an immediate message to unscrupulous pill mill operators and doctors.

“I hope they start packing right now,” she said.

Twisting a purple rubber bracelet, Bondi said she could now stop wearing the memento she placed on her wrist on March 8. The bracelet was a gift from the mother of Brandi Meshad, an 18-year-old Sarasota woman who overdosed from prescription drugs. Meshad was the granddaughter of attorney and prominent developer John Meshad. Her body was discovered at his house.

Bondi said she promised Lisa Meshad she would wear the bracelet until the measure was signed into law.

“Real soon,” Bondi said.

Scott to hold Cabinet meeting, tour Panhandle on oil disaster anniversary

Thursday, April 14th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will hold their next meeting in the Panhandle on Tuesday, the eve of the one-year anniversary since the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Scott will spend two days touring the region to promote Northwest Florida’s beaches and seafood, his staff said today.

His trip coincides not only with the BP oil disaster anniversary but comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this week that the oil giant is giving $30 million to seven Panhandle counties for marketing as the area’s summer tourist season kicks up.

Scott has not yet decided whether to join in a federal lawsuit, as Alabama has done and Mississippi and Louisiana are considering, against Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig. The state has until Wednesday, the date set by a Louisiana federal judge, to join the lawsuit. Lawyers involved in the case say Florida could lose out on recapturing millions of dollars in lost tax revenues by not joining the case.

Stay tuned for more details about Scott’s Panhandle swing.

No free school lunches for you, Ag commish Putnam

Thursday, March 17th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam can’t take over administration of free and reduced lunches in public schools won’t happen, at least for a while.

Under federal law, the state Department of Education must continue to handle the free lunches and other meals unless they get a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture giving Putnam permission to take it over.

Fifty-six percent of Florida school children qualify for the federal lunch program – a 6% increase over hte past two years. To be eligible, a family of four must have an annual income of $28,665 or less.

Putnam proposed taking over the program so he could hook up Florida farmers and schools and get more home-grown fruits and vegetables into kiddies’ diets.

Putnam got a frosty reception from the state Board of Education when he pitched his plan to them earlier this week. The education department would have to request the waiver.

Education department staff say they’re waiting to see if lawmakers approve Putnam’s proposal before they ask the feds for permission to hand the program over to Putnam.

GOP leaders send warning to GOP Gov

Monday, March 14th, 2011 by John Kennedy

House Speaker Dean Cannon  and Senate President Mike Haridopolos sent memos Monday to  lawmakers, noting they could still consider a number of overrides to vetoes made last spring by former Gov. Charlie Crist.

But is the real target here new Gov. Rick Scott?

The memos warning that the Republican-led Legislature is ready to exert its muscle, follows Scott’s decision Friday to freeze at least until July $235 million in contracts for SunRail, the Central Florida commuter rail hailed by Cannon, Haridopolos and most other Orlando-area lawmakers.

 The delay threatens the $1.2 billion rail project. And it comes just weeks after the Republican governor antagonized many lawmakers — and was unsuccessfully sued by two of them — after refusing the federal government’s offer of $2.4 billion for high-speed rail linking Tampa to Orlando.

The two leaders’ notes are worded cautiously. But the intent is clear: Scott can mess with lawmakers, but they can mess right back.

” I am directing the committee chairs to evaluate potential veto overrides in their area and, should they find a candidate for an override, to conduct a public hearing on the bill,” Cannon wrote. ” The House will take up any override formally recommended by a committee.”

Haridopolos wrote, “Over the past few weeks, several members of the Senate have also expressed an interest in considering some of the remaining vetoed bills, and it is my desire to be open and inclusive in considering these requests.”

 Budget vetoes and slightly more than a dozen bills are eligible for override, the leaders wrote. Included are one measure that would shift the state’s Department of Management Services away from sole oversight by Scott and put it under the authority of the governor and the three independently elected Cabinet officers.

Another would create so-called leadership funds. These accounts would give legislative leaders total control of what typically is millions of dollars in campaign cash they raise but must deposit within the state’s political parties.

No compromise on felons’ rights after Bondi meets with ACLU, NAACP

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi is not backing away from her proposal to do away with Florida’s limited automatic restoration of rights for nonviolent felons after meeting with civil rights advocates today.

But she did say she supported uncoupling current employment restrictions that prevent convicted felons from getting certain occupational licenses unless their civil rights are restored, a lengthy process that could get even more cumbersome if Bondi gets her way.

ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon and Dale Landry, vice president of NAACP Florida conference, met with Bondi for about an hour to discuss proposed clemency rule changes among other things.

The meeting was friendly, Simon said, but Bondi refused to budge on her desire to force felons to wait three to five years to apply to have their rights restored.

“This is a huge problem for the state of Florida,” Simon told reporters afterward. “We’re only going to increase the problem by delaying the period of time for the restoration of civil rights.”


Bondi wants to do away with automatic restoration of rights for felons

Thursday, February 24th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi wants to do away completely with the state’s limited automatic restoration of rights for felons even as civil rights groups are seeking an expansion of it.

In Florida, certain felons automatically get their rights restored upon completion of their sentences and restitution.

But Bondi, a Republican and former prosecutor, says the current system goes too easy on criminals.

“I don’t believe any felony should have an automatic restoration of rights. I believe you should have to ask and there should be an appropriate waiting period,” Bondi told reporters after a clemency meeting this morning.

Bondi said she wants a three-to-five year waiting period before convicted felons can appeal to have their rights restored.

The years-long waiting period will help clear up a backlog of more than 100,000 convicted felons trying to get their rights back.

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet, acting as the board of clemency, approved new rules nearly four years ago making it easier for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes to have their civil rights restored.

Bondi’s predecessor Bill McCollum cast the lone dissenting vote on the rule change.

Now, felons convicted of nonviolent crimes who have fulfilled their sentences will be allowed to vote, hold public office, apply for occupational licenses and sit on juries without applying for clemency, a cumbersome process that can take years. The 2007 change also expedited the process for felons convicted of some violent crimes.

Florida first banned voting by felons in 1845, and the ban was put into the state constitution in 1868.

Voting rights for felons was one of the issues in the disputed 2000 presidential election, when many people, mostly black, were wrongly purged from voter rolls because of an error-riddled state voter database that misidentified them as felons.

Crist, Sink rally in Tally against offshore drilling

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink will lead a bipartisan rally today to support a constitutional ban on offshore drilling today.

Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, and Sink, a Democrat, will appear with lawmakers and others at an event at 12:30 on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

Crist called lawmakers in for a special session last year to pass a similar amendment to put on the November 2010 ballot, but they snubbed him. The legislature met briefly and adjourned without doing anything after Crist abandoned the GOP and became an independent to avoid a Republican primary in the U.S. Senate race, which he eventually lost to Marco Rubio.

Before leaving office in January, Sink struggled to get BP claims czar Ken Feinberg to improve his claims process after tens of thousands of Panhandle residents, and hundreds of Floridians throughout the state, complained about problems with his Gulf Coast Claims Facility.

That system remains troubled as Feinberg is set to begin making final payments to more than 500,000 applicants for damages caused by the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Yesterday, senators discussed creating a state system for victims of BP’s massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to expedite the claims system.

Next Friday, Feinberg will appear before a House committee at the behest of House Speaker Dean Cannon. Hundreds of Panhandle officials and residents are expected to show up. Complaints about Feinberg’s payments from the $20 billion fund set up by BP include delays, an inability to find out where claims are in the process, and inconsistencies in who gets paid and how much.

A federal judge recently ruled that Feinberg is not independent of BP, as he contends, and ordered him to quit saying that he is.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is so fed up with Feinberg’s erratic claims system that on Monday he asked a federal judge to take it over “to facilitate the timely and just processing of claims.”

New Florida Cabinet meets for the first time

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The all-new Florida Cabinet held a very brief meeting this morning, the first since the all-GOP panel took office early this month.

Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam ran through the skimpy agenda in less than half an hour. The highlight: the Cabinet’s confirmation of Scott’s pick for Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard.

“Congratulations. You’ve got a lot of work to do,” Scott told Vinyard, a Jacksonville businessman and lawyer, after the vote. Scott’s transition team was highly critical of the agency and recommended merging it with two other departments to help streamline permitting and regulation.

Scott has revamped the Cabinet procedures and eliminated the until-now routine Q-and-A with reporters before and after the bimonthly meeting, at least for today.

Before the 9 a.m. meeting, Scott’s spokesman advised reporters not to rush the governor on the dais after the meeting ended and that Scott would not answer questions until noon when he is scheduled to address the Associated Press annual editors meeting on the 22nd floor of the Capitol.

Scott’s Cabinet colleagues weren’t so media-shy, however.

Bondi, Atwater and Putnam – all University of Florida alumni – posed for photos and shook hands outside the Cabinet room for about 30 minutes before the meeting started and remained for nearly as long answering questions from reporters after its conclusion.

Scott answered a single question after the meeting.

“Fine. Fine,” he responded when asked how his first Cabinet meeting went. He was then whisked away.

Senate prez officially launches bid for U.S. Senate

Friday, January 14th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate President Mike Haridopolos started organizing his U.S. Senate bid with a campaign committee to raise money for the 2012 race.

Haridopolos’ committee – “Friends of Mike H” – launched a Website to accept contributions for the Merritt Island Republican.

Haridopolos is inviting big Republican donors to a “private strategy meeting” in Orlando next month and asking them to bring $10,000 checks, according to an e-mail a GOP fundraiser sent out yesterday.

Haridopolos and what is expected to be a host of others have targeted U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the state’s statewide-elected Democratic holdout. Others who’ve expressed an interest in running against Nelson include former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, an attorney with the West Palm Beach-based Gunster law firm and former aide to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Republicans swept the governor’s seat and the Florida Cabinet and nailed down veto-proof majorities in the state House and Senate in the November elections.

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