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‘Congressman who can count’? Blackjack player Schlesinger puts different spin on CPA Murphy slogan

Sunday, March 30th, 2014 by George Bennett

When Democrat Patrick Murphy ran for Congress in 2012 against Republican Rep. Allen West, he contrasted his experience as a Certified Public Accountant with West’s reputation for polarizing rhetoric.

“We need a few more people in Congress who can count, and a few less who divide,” Murphy said in one campaign ad.

Two years later, half a dozen Republicans are hoping to unseat freshman Rep. Murphy in Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18. One of the Republican hopefuls is Alan Schlesinger, a former legislator and mayor in Connecticut who’s also a card counter at blackjack.

“Isn’t it about time we have a congressman who can count?” Schlesinger quipped last week.

Stories about Schlesinger’s gambling caused some problems for his 2006 campaign for Senate in Connecticut. Subscribers to can read Schlesinger’s explanation in this week’s Politics column.

Digital duel: Crist and Scott release new online ads while Scott has TV to himself

Thursday, March 27th, 2014 by George Bennett

Charlie Crist’s new digital ad (above) and Rick Scott’s latest online offering (below).

With Republican Gov. Rick Scott already spending $4 million on statewide TV buys, Democrat Charlie Crist countered today by spending “thousands of dollars” on a digital ad that attacks Scott and defends the federal health care law.

Scott released a new digital ad as well today, this one featuring a 20-year-old cancer patient who says Scott “supports people like me” by backing funding for cancer research. The Republican Party of Florida says the new Facebook ad is “part of a more than $350,000 buy to promote Governor Scott’s message” in addition to his spending on TV.


Sanctions backer Frankel tells broker to unload $4,276 in Russian holdings in her IRA

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 by George Bennett

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, who joined colleagues on the House Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday in approving a sanctions bill against Russia for its Ukrainian aggression, said today she has asked her broker to get rid of holdings in six Russian companies that a Morgan Stanley account manager purchased for her Individual Retirement Account.

The Russian holdings of Frankel and five other members of Congress were noted by The Huffington Post Tuesday.

“I support, and voted for, the bipartisan sanctions against Russia for their aggressive actions against Ukraine,” Frankel said in a statement released today.

“My holdings were purchased by a Morgan Stanley Account Manager, for many clients, long before the current crisis and are among hundreds of stocks in said portfolio that are managed by that manager. The total value of these Russian-related positions have a total value of $4,276. I have requested my broker to liquidate those interests forthwith,” Frankel said.

Official event, political gaggle: Scott to rip Crist on tuition in Tampa

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 by George Bennett

Gov. Rick Scott to visit Tampa for official event, political shot at Charlie Crist.

Gov. Rick Scott‘s official schedule for today includes a 2 p.m. “college affordability roundtable” at a high school in Tampa.

Scott’s re-election campaign this morning sent out advance notice that Scott will “swing at Charlie Crist on tuition hikes” at the high school. The campaign even offered a “sneak peek” at what the Republican governor will say about his likely Democratic rival, who was once a Republican governor himself.

So is the Tampa visit an official event or a political one?


Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz confirmed the college affordability roundtable is an official event.

Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair said the scripted Crist-bashing will be separate.

“He will deliver those remarks at a gaggle afterward,” Blair said.

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp called it a “two-step: the taxpayers pay and Scott advances his re-election.”

David Beckham visit to Tallahassee triggers #selfie mania

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 by George Bennett

David Beckham with Gov. Rick Scott, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Ann Scott in the Capitol in Tallahassee today.

David Beckham is visiting Tallahassee today to seek state aid for a proposed stadium in Miami, prompting Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Will Weatherford and others to get photos with the soccer legend.

Scott posted a photo of himself with Beckham on Twitter and tweeted another one with himself, wife Ann Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera with Beckham.

Plenty of others around the Capitol did likewise…


Lopez-Cantera says ‘no basis’ for claim Scott staffers used Mexican accents

Monday, March 24th, 2014 by George Bennett

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera said today there is “no basis” for a Miami Herald report that staffers for Gov. Rick Scott‘s re-election campaign joked in a “cartoon-style Mexican accent” while heading to an event at a Mexican restaurant in Coral Gables.

The incident was cited as one of the frustrations expressed by health care executive Mike Fernandez before resigning as Scott’s finance chairman last week. With Scott and Republicans trying to improve upon the GOP’s dismal standing with Hispanic voters, Democrats pounced on the report over the weekend.

Lopez-Cantera participated in a conference call with reporters this morning to tout a new $2 million statewide TV ad purchase by the pro-Scott “Let’s Get To Work” committee that hits likely Democratic rival Charlie Crist for supporting the Affordable Care Act. But the call ended after three reporters asked about Fernandez’ departure and the Mexican-accent controversy.

“Mr. Fernandez left to spend more time with his family,” Lopez-Cantera said in response to a query from “This is a diverse organization that we have here and I am confident that there’s no basis for any of that…This is a diverse organization and we don’t tolerate inappropriate comments and I don’t believe they even happened.”

When a second reporter raised the issue, Lopez-Cantera said: “There is no validity that we can find to any of those comments or what was written.”

When a third reporter asked, Lopez-Cantera said he was there to talk about the new ad and “I have already answered the questions on the other Herald thing.”

A moderator then announced the call was over.

Competing endorsement parades in race for Palm Beach County circuit judge

Monday, March 24th, 2014 by George Bennett

Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon, County Mayor Priscilla Taylor, former County Commissioners Burt Aaronson and Karen Marcus, state Sen. Jeff Clemens and former State Attorney Barry Krischer are among the political figures taking sides in the race for an open circuit judgeship.

Judicial candidates can’t attend most partisan meetings, speak on issues that might come before them on the bench or solicit campaign contributions. So endorsements take on heightened importance. Attorneys Samantha Schosberg Feuer and Jaimie Goodman, two of the four candidates running for the seat of retiring Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown, have been lining up teams of supporters to appeal to voters and raise money.

Subscribers to can read more about it in this week’s Politics column.

Obamacare’s 4th anniversary: Wasserman Schultz praises ‘historic milestone,’ Rubio calls it ‘disaster’

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 by George Bennett

Today marks the fourth anniversary of President Barack Obama‘s signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law that continues to spark fierce political debate.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who’s also the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, marked the occasion with a statement praising the law as “a major, historic milestone on the journey to build a more perfect Union.”

Said Wasserman Schultz: “The law has already benefited millions of Americans, and will continue to do so as enrollment increases, full benefits are realized, and the cost curve bends even further. There is no getting around these facts for the detractors and naysayers who are incapable of accepting Obamacare as the law of the land and instead continue to put politics before people.

Those “detractors and naysayers” include Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who also issued a statement marking Obamacare’s fourth anniversary.

Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, called the law a “disaster” and pledged to continue fighting to get it overturned.

“We cannot give up on our efforts, not just to completely repeal Obamacare, but to replace it with real market-based solutions that allow every single American to have the ability to buy affordable health insurance that meets their needs, and to buy it from any company in America that will sell it to them. We’re going to have a chance to achieve that soon. We cannot give up. ObamaCare is not something that’s set in stone. It can be repealed —and Americans increasingly want it to be repealed — and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

A average of polling data on the health care law shows 38.9 percent of Americans support it and 53.6 percent are opposed.

Obama to Democratic donors in Miami: ‘America is on our side…but in midterms we get clobbered’

Friday, March 21st, 2014 by George Bennett

President Barack Obama greets Sen. Bill Nelson in Orlando Thursday before heading to Miami for a pair of fundraisers. Grace Nelson and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer look on. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

With Democrats facing a tough political climate as the 2014 midterm elections approach, President Barack Obama offered some reassurance and warning Thursday to donors who paid $16,200 apiece to join him for dinner at former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning‘s house.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and other Democratic House members were among the crowd of about 75 at the event in the village of Pinecrest near Miami.

“Now, the good news is on every individual issue, America is on our side,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript released late Thursday night.

Obama mentioned the minimum wage, immigration reform and “whether or not it’s a good thing to invest in early childhood education” as examples of issues where the public agrees with Democrats, but didn’t cite his signature health care law and its double-digit negative ratings in many polls.

While arguing Democrats have an issue advantage, Obama acknowledged his party faces a challenging year.

“So the problem is not that the American people disagree with us on the issues,” Obama said. “The challenge is, is that our politics in Washington have become so toxic that people just lose faith and finally they just say, you know what, I’m not interested, I’m not going to bother, I’m not going to vote.”


House party time: Obama, Nan Rich visit same Miami Zip code later today

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 by George Bennett

Alonzo Mourning (AP)

Things will be hopping in the village of Pinecrest near Miami later today when Democratic governor candidate Nan Rich visits a “Stand With Nan” house party and President Barack Obama swoops in to attend a $16,200-a-head fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning‘s house.

Rich’s event and the DCCC fundraiser are 1.2 miles apart.

Rich’s main rival for the Democratic nomination, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, is expected to join Obama during his visit today, though it’s unclear whether he’ll be at the DCCC event near Rich. Obama is also dropping in on a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at an undisclosed location in the Miami area.

“It’s well known that the President and Governor Crist are personal friends. He enjoys spending time with him – will today, and will in the future,” Crist spokesman Kevin Cate said.

Dr. Ben Carson, mentioned as possible GOP presidential candidate, isn’t a registered Republican

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 by George Bennett

Dr. Ben Carson, registered Palm Beach County voter

Dr. Ben Carson‘s conservative speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast with President Barack Obama on stage has led to suggestions from the right that he run for president in 2016.

With his appearances at conservative and Republican events (including last month’s Palm Beach County GOP Lincoln Day dinner), it’s widely assumed that the retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon would be a GOP candidate if he decides to run.

That would require a party switch. Carson — who moved to West Palm Beach and registered to vote in Palm Beach County last year — is registered to vote with the obscure Independence Party of Florida, according to the county elections office.

Carson was slated to speak at an Area Agency on Aging fundraiser in West Palm Beach on Thursday, but the event has been postponed until the fall, agency CEO Jaime Estremera-Fitzgerald said.

Carson finished third in this month’s Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll with 9 percent — putting him ahead of Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other nationally known Republicans. A “Dr. Ben Carson for President” Facebook page has more than 74,000 followers.

Obama to speak on economy in Orlando, raise money at Alonzo Mourning’s house in Miami

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 by George Bennett

President Barack Obama will speak about the economy on Thursday afternoon at Valencia College in Orlando, then head to Miami for fundraisers that include a $16,200-a-head Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee event at the home of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, helped organize the DCCC fundraiser, which will also feature House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

The event’s $16,200 price tag includes a cocktail reception, photo opportunity and dinner.

Obama also visited Mourning’s house for a 2010 fundraiser for the DCCC and former Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, plans to attend the Thursday fundraiser but Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, do not.

Candidate returns $1,000 contribution from board member who made sarcastic Hitler gesture

Monday, March 17th, 2014 by George Bennett

This gesture by Wellington planning board member Marcia Radosevich led to her resignation from the board and prompted Democratic county commission candidate Melissa McKinlay to refund a $1,000 contribution Radosevich gave in November.

Palm Beach County’s most famous municipal planning board member, Marcia Radosevich, gave $1,000 to Democratic county commission candidate Melissa McKinlay in November and hosted a fundraiser for McKinlay last month.


But after Radosevich sparked controversy by giving a sarcastic Hitler salute to a village staffer during a public meeting (click here for the video), McKinlay returned the $1,000 check and scrubbed a Facebook post that highlighted the fundraiser at Radosevich’s house.

Subscribers to can read more about it in this week’s Politics column.


Also in the Politics column: Round 3 of Kimberly Mitchell mayoral speculation in West Palm Beach, why Roberto Clemente was invoked at a recent county commission meeting and what Chelsea Clinton and Marco Rubio have in common this week.

2016 watch: Marco Rubio, Ben Carson speak in Palm Beach County next week

Friday, March 14th, 2014 by George Bennett

Sen. Marco Rubio in Miami last month.

Republican Sen. and 2016 White House speculation magnet Marco Rubio will speak at a Palm Beach Republican Club meeting on Wednesday.

Rubio isn’t the only subject of 2016 Republican presidential chatter who’ll be speaking in Palm Beach County next week. Dr. Ben Carson — the retired neurosurgeon who’s been a conservative favorite since delivering a 2013 National Prayer Breakfast speech with President Barack Obama on stage — will be the keynoter next Thursday at a fundraising lunch to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the nonprofit Area Agency on Aging.

The Rubio event at the Colony Hotel costs $50 for Palm Beach Republican Club members and $55 for others. More information is available here.

Tickets for the Area Agency on Aging luncheon at the Kravis Center start at $250 . More information is available here.

Chelsea Clinton headlines Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County event for $1,000+ donors

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 by George Bennett

Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton will speak at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach next week to raise money for the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.

The only daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now 34. She’s married to Marc Mezvinsky, the son of a former Pennsylvania congresswoman who was voted out of office in 1994 after casting a crucial vote for Bill Clinton’s 1993 budget.

According to the Jewish Federation’s website, tickets to the March 18 event require a minimum family gift of $1,000 to the Federation, plus $125 for tickets for those 36 and older and $85 for tickets for those 35 and younger.

A good night for long-time incumbents – but not Addie Greene – in Palm Beach County municipal elections

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 by George Bennett

Palm Beach Gardens Councilman Eric Jablin (seated) hangs on to the seat he's held for 21 years. (Rich Graulich/Palm Beach Post)

It’s dangerous to extrapolate large patterns from the crazy quilt of 19 municipal elections in Palm Beach County on Tuesday.

But will do so anyway.

Some long-time incumbents — including 21-year Palm Beach Gardens Councilman Eric Jablin, 20-year Royal Palm Beach fixture Matty Mattioli, 12-year Boca Raton Councilwoman Susan Haynie — prevailed in contentious races Tuesday as municipal voters generally sided with the status quo.

Jablin survived a challenge from Michael Peragine, who spent more than $100,000 trying to dislodge the incumbent but fell short with 48.9 percent.

Mattioli, 86, has held elected office in Royal Palm Beach since 1994 and has been mayor since 2010. Criticized for his brusque manner, he squeaked to re-election with 37.2 percent over three challengers. Runner-up Felicia Matula finished 28 votes behind and got 35.7 percent, not close enough for a recount.

Haynie, who served on the Boca council from 2000 to 2006 and again since 2008, won an expensive mayor’s race over council colleague Anthony Majhess in Palm Beach County’s second-largest city.

In Wellington, incumbents Howard Coates and Anne Gerwig retained their council seats after the Florida Democratic Party waded into the nonpartisan race on behalf of challengers Matt Kurit and Sharon Lascola.

While it was generally a good night for political veterans, there was a notable exception in Mangonia Park, where Councilwoman Addie Greene narrowly lost her re-election bid. Greene served on the Mangonia Park council from 1986 to 1992 before winning four state House terms and three Palm Beach County commission elections. She resigned from the county commission in 2009, but came back to the Mangonia Park council in 2011. Challenger Kelisha Buchanan-Webb got 90 votes to 81 for Greene and 18 for Ariyan Alipanah.

‘You’re the only honest politician we know,’ term-limited Santamaria says he’s been told

Monday, March 10th, 2014 by George Bennett

Term-limited Palm Beach County Commissioner Jess Santamaria (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post).

When Palm Beach County Commissioner Jess Santamaria ran for re-election in 2010, he said he was persuaded to do so after “complete strangers…approached me unexpectedly” and urged him to run.

Now Santamaria says strangers have approached him again and told him they wish he wasn’t leaving the commission because of term limits this year.

According to Santamaria, members of the public from Boca Raton to Palm Beach Gardens have said: “How can we clone you? You’re the only honest politician we know.”

Subscribers to can read more about Santamaria’s thoughts on term limits — and why he was the only one of seven commissioners who didn’t go to Tallahassee for Palm Beach County Day last week — in this week’s Politics column.

Rubio takes a tumble in CPAC straw poll

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 by George Bennett

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made a ringing argument for a Reaganite foreign policy during last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, a showcase for potential 2016 presidential candidates.

But with CPAC attendees growing increasingly libertarian and many conservatives deriding his support for immigration reform as “amnesty,” Rubio took a hit in this year’s CPAC presidential straw poll.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul won the straw poll for the second year in a row, garnering a 31 percent plurality this year. Rubio finished second in 2013 with 23 percent but dropped to seventh place this year with only 6 percent.

Palm Beach County commissioners weigh in-house promotion, national search to replace Weisman

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 by George Bennett

With Palm Beach County Administrator Bob Weisman (left) retiring next year, potential successors include Deputy Administrator Verdenia Baker (second from left) and Assistant Administrator Shannon LaRocque (second from right). Contrary to this photo, county government leaders are not actually 120 feet tall.

Despite having a rotating cast of seven politicians as his bosses, Palm Beach County Administrator Bob Weisman has held his job more than 22 years — about three times longer than the national average for city or county managers.

Weisman, 61, plans to retire in August 2015. So county commissioners this week will begin to discuss how to go about finding a replacement.

When former County Administrator Jan Winters resigned in 1991, commissioners promoted assistant administrator Weisman without a formal job posting or competitive process. This time around, the commission will consider that option, or seeking applications from county employees, or conducting a national search.

Subscribers to can read more about where commissioners stand by clicking here.

Mardi Gras beads out, corroded pipe in for Palm Beach County Day in Tallahassee

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 by George Bennett

Palm Beach County's new signature trinket: the corroded Glades water pipe, displayed here by Water Utilities Director Bevin Beaudet.

TALLAHASSEE — Palm Beach County used to be known around the state Capitol for the Mardi Gras-style beads it handed out during the county’s annual lobbying blitz.

Now the county hopes its signature tchotchke will be a segment of aging, corroded water pipe from the Glades.

County Water Utilities Director Bevin Beaudet and others toted the pipe segments around the Capitol for today’s Palm Beach County Day to dramatize the county’s request for $2 million a year in state money to help replace the crumbling water system in the Glades. Beaudet said the pipe he was displaying was between 40 and 70 years old.

The money has been approved by lawmakers in the past, but vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott. But that was before the county made use of the visual aid.

About 140 people from Palm Beach County — officials from municipal and county governments, civic and business leaders — made the rounds today to press legislators for a variety of county concerns, including the Glades pipes, tax incentives for film and TV production, money for a western-county Palm Beach State College campus and more regulation of “sober houses” for recovering addicts.

Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons was on hand to lobby for money for homeless programs. It was Koons’ first Palm Beach County Day since he resigned in 2010 and pleaded guilty to an extortion charge. Subscribers to can read more about Koons and how he was received by clicking here.

The county’s efforts were commended by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who met with three commissioner and others in his office.

“It’s quite impressive. I was laying in bed last night thinking about 150 people being here from Palm Beach County and wondering why we don’t do that in Pinellas County,” said Latvala. “It’s very important. You guys will go to the head of the line. And part of the reason you’re at the head of the line in this office is how good your staff is.”

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, met with a contingent of more than 30 people from the county in the morning.

“Who’s left in Palm Beach?” Gaetz asked. “Who’s running the county?”

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