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Out of running for FAU presidency, Atwater has $1.1 million for CFO re-election

Saturday, January 11th, 2014 by George Bennett

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater was not one of a Florida Atlantic University selection committee's three finalists for the president's job.

A Florida Atlantic University search committee on Friday tapped former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and two academics — John W. Kelly of Clemson University and Christopher Earley of Purdue University — as finalists for FAU’s vacant presidency, bypassing Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Here’s reporter John Lantigua‘s article on the FAU presidential sweepstakes.

The setback for Atwater is also a setback for politicians who were hoping to have an open CFO race in 2014.

In a post on his Facebook page Friday night, Atwater made it clear he’ll now focus on his re-election bid.

“As I said to my staff about accepting an invitation to apply, my passion for serving as Florida’s CFO and my commitment to working with my great colleagues for years to come remains undiminished,” Atwater wrote.

Also Friday, Atwater’s campaign posted its December fundraising totals. Atwater raised $355,120 during the month and has collected $1,169,876 overall. He has spent $58,931 so far, leaving more than $1.1 million in his campaign account.

The only announced Democrat in the race, William Rankin of Broward County, raised $5,025 in December, primarily from two out-of-state donors who gave $2,500 apiece.

FAU presidential search panel invites Atwater, LeMieux, 8 others for interviews

Monday, January 6th, 2014 by George Bennett

An FAU search committee took about an hour to select 10 presidential candidates for interviews from a list of more than 60 applicants.

BOCA RATON — Florida CFO Jeff Atwater and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux were among 10 candidates invited today by a presidential search committee to come in for interviews later this week.

The selection committee plans to winnow that field to three after interviews Thursday and Friday. FAU trustees are slated to interview the finalists and choose a president on Jan. 17 to replace Mary Jane Saunders, who resigned in May amid a series of public relations embarrassments.

The idea of a politician at the helm of the 30,000-student university rubbed a few selection committee members the wrong way, however.

“I have no personal ax with Jeff Atwater. I hear he’s a tremendous guy and if he would run for governor I’d be happy to support him,” said selection panelist Dick Schmidt, whose family has been major benefactors to the university. “But I don’t think a politician is sending the right message, certainly to the academic community at large, as to where this university wants to go in the future.”

When LeMieux’s name was brought up, selection committee member Abdol Moabery, a member of FAU’s board of trustees, voiced similar concerns.

“I don’t want to be criticized for this becoming a political race. And it looks like that’s where we’re headed, a political race. If we fill this thing with politicians, it’s my opinion that this process is going to get ugly and I don’t agree with it,” Moabery said.

(more…)

Former Sen. George LeMieux applies for Florida Atlantic University presidency, draws Scott praise

Sunday, January 5th, 2014 by George Bennett

Former Sen. George LeMieux has submitted an application for president of Florida Atlantic University. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

On the eve of a selection committee meeting to consider candidates for the vacant Florida Atlantic University presidency, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux said today that he has submitted an application for the university’s top job.

LeMieux is the third political figure to announce an interest in the job. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said Saturday that he’s applying. State Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Margate, is also seeking the job, along with at least 48 other applicants.

Gov. Rick Scott, who offered glowing words for Atwater on Saturday, praised LeMieux today.

“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. 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,” Scott said.

LeMieux, 44, served 16 months as a Republican in the U.S. Senate after being appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist to complete the term of former Sen. Mel Martinez, who resigned in 2009. LeMieux didn’t run for the Senate seat in 2010, but opened a campaign in 2011 for the seat of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson before dropping out in 2012.

(more…)

Move over Ted Cruz: Frankel becoming go-to congressional source for Seuss

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 by George Bennett

Theodor Seuss Geisel

Texas tea party Sen. Ted Cruz sparked a Theodor Geisel (a/k/a Dr. Seuss) awakening on Capitol Hill last week when he read from Green Eggs and Ham during his anti-Obamacare filibuster last week.

But Cruz has been eclipsed in Seussian invocations by Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, who quoted from Fox In Socks during Saturday’s shutdown debate and followed up today with a reading from Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

There are 43 more books in the Seuss oeuvre, enough for a lengthy shutdown.

CNN’s Gergen reveals he cast 2012 presidential vote for Michael Bloomberg

Friday, March 22nd, 2013 by George Bennett

Serial presidential adviser and CNN political analyst David Gergen kicked off the lecture series at former Sen. George Lemieux‘s new Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University on Thursday night, speaking to a crowd of about 400.

(Click here to read a news story about the event.)

Gergen — who advised Republican Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford and Democratic President Bill Clinton — revealed that he voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008, but not in 2012. But Gergen said he didn’t vote for Republican Mitt Romney last year.

“I didn’t vote Republican this last time around,” Gergen said during a question-and-answer session with LeMieux as both sat on leather chairs in the school’s DeSantis Family Chapel. “I voted for Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg, a write-in, because he’s my kind of leader. He’s very socially liberal but he’s very tough-minded on the fiscal side and I think he’s been a great leader.”

Rubio, Christie to raise money in Palm Beach next week before RNC confab

Friday, March 1st, 2013 by George Bennett

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — potential 2016 GOP presidential rivals — will be in Palm Beach next week for separate fundraisers before heading to Coral Gables for a weekend with top Republican National Committee donors.

Christie, who’s up for re-election this year in the Garden State, will attend a $3,800-a-head cocktail reception on March 7 at the home of Jana and John Scarpa.

Rubio is slated to raise money the following night for his Rubio Victory Committee with a $1,000 cocktail reception at the home of Jim and Dot Patterson and a $10,000-a-person dinner at the home of Pepe Fanjul, according to the esteemed Michele Dargan in The Palm Beach Daily News.

On March 9 and 10, Rubio and Christie will be at The Biltmore in Coral Gables for an RNC event that also features former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Sen. and tea party superstar Ted Cruz.

Political analyst David Gergen headlines LeMieux’s opening show

Monday, February 18th, 2013 by Dara Kam

CNN political analyst and former presidential adviser David Gergen will give a speech at the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University on March 21.

Gergen, who worked for Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, will deliver the inaugural speech at the joint venture between West Palm Beach private university and former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux. LeMieux, a Republican, served 19 months in the Senate after then-Gov. Charlie Crist appointed him to fill a vacancy created by U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, who retired.

Here’s the release from the LeMieux center on Gergen’s appearance:

Former U.S. Senator George LeMieux today announced the inaugural speaker for the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Presidential advisor, national political analyst and Harvard School of Government Professor David Gergen will speak to students and special guests at the University on Thursday, March 21 at 7pm ET.

In addition to his work at Harvard, Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN who served during the administrations of four U.S. presidents. He is a professor of public service at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the director of its Center for Public Leadership. In 2000, he published the best-selling book, Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton.

“I am very excited and pleased to welcome David Gergen as the LeMieux Center’s inaugural speaker. As a journalist, an analyst, and a senior advisor to four U.S. presidents, David brings an unparalleled depth of insight into national politics and first-hand accounts of America’s leading political figures,” said Senator LeMieux. “One of the reasons the LeMieux Center was founded at Palm Beach Atlantic was to give students opportunities for conversations about public policy and leadership. There are a series of substantial and ongoing issues facing Florida and America, and a need for thoughtful consideration in how to address these challenges. I look forward to David presenting his insights at the University.”

Former Sen. LeMieux and Palm Beach Atlantic to make ‘major announcement’ this morning

Friday, December 7th, 2012 by Andrew Abramson

Palm Beach Atlantic University and former Sen. George LeMieux will make a “major announcement” this morning at 11 a.m. in the Warren Library. No further information has been made public.

LeMieux, the former Chief of Staff to Gov. Charlie Crist, was appointed to the Senate by Crist in 2009 when Sen. Mel Martinez retired. LeMieux served 16 months in the Senate and agreed not to run for the seat in 2010 so Crist could have a clear path to the Senate. But LeMieux ended up backing Marco Rubio when Crist left the GOP for an independent candidacy.

LeMieux attempted a return to the Senate earlier this year, but dropped out of the race in June and endorsed Connie Mack IV, who lost to Bill Nelson.

Shortly before leaving office in 2010, LeMieux donated his papers from his time in office to Palm Beach Atlantic. Although he didn’t attend the university, LeMieux said at the time he selected Palm Beach Atlantic because “I like the fact that it’s here in South Florida, where I’m from, and I also like the fact that it’s a Christian school that’s trying to teach the whole student.”

LeMieux currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of the Gunster law firm.

Longtime county GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein won’t seek reelection

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 by George Bennett

Dinerstein

Longtime Palm Beach County Republican Party Chairman Sid Dinerstein said today that he will step aside in December after 10 years.

Dinerstein has been elected to five consecutive two-year terms as head of the county GOP. His current term ends in December.

“It’s been 10 years and it’s a volunteer job and my wife and I have given up a lot of things so that I could do this. This is a discussion that went on over many months and it has absolutely nothing to with the outcome of the election,” Dinerstein said.

In a county where Democrats hold a registration advantage over Republicans of about 16 percentage points, Dinerstein has played the role of happy warrior, championing Republican positions and long-shot candidates.

But Dinerstein had an uncharacteristically pessimistic take on President Barack Obama’s reelection Tuesday. (more…)

Obama, Nelson back on top in Florida, poll shows

Thursday, June 21st, 2012 by John Kennedy

With independent voters shifting to his side, President Obama has regained the lead in Florida over presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, while in the Florida Senate race, Democrat Bill Nelson would edge Republican Connie Mack, a poll Thursday shows.

The Quinnipiac University survey showed Obama with a 46-42 percent lead over Romney, reversing its own May poll that showed the Republican with the advantage in the nation’s biggest toss-up state.

Independent voters, which a month ago were siding more with Romney, have shifted toward Obama, who now holds a 46-37 percent advantage in those not allied with either party.

“At this point, Romney is not well-defined in the minds of many voters, especially those in the middle,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll.  “This movement reflects that uncertainty among voters who are up for grabs.”

Florida’s U.S. Senate race also appears up-for-grabs. The survey’s release coincided with the departure of Republican George LeMieux from the race, whose dropping out appears to clear the nomination path for Mack, already the clear frontrunner.

Mack was supported by 41 percent of Republican voters in the survey, with neither remaining rivals, former Army Col. Mike McCalister or former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon cracking double digits.

Nelson, seeking a third term in the Senate, still tops Mack by 43-39 percent, Quinnipiac found. Mack and Nelson were tied in the school’s May survey.

Brown said the “projected November election between U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Mack looks like it could go down to the wire.”

“Sen. Nelson gets modest reviews from voters who give him a 47 – 32 percent job approval rating,” Brown said. “By 46 – 33 percent they say he deserves another term.  He gets a 44 – 26 percent favorability rating.  By comparison, Mack has a 34 – 22 percent favorability rating, with 42 percent who don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.”

The telephone survey was conducted June 12-18 and included 1,697 registered voters. It has a margin-of-error of plus-or-minus 2.4 percentage points.

 

 

LeMieux drops Senate bid, clearing way for Mack to face Nelson

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 by George Bennett


Former appointed Sen. George LeMieux has ended his Republican primary bid for U.S. Senate, all but handing the nomination to his bitter rival, Rep. Connie Mack.

“To continue would only hurt our chances in the fall, and that is not something that I will risk. Connie Mack will be our nominee. He has my support,” LeMieux said this morning in a statement released by his campaign.

LeMieux has trailed badly in polls and has watched Mack score major endorsements, including from former Gov. Jeb Bush and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Mack announced last week that he saw no reason to engage LeMieux and other candidates in GOP primary debates, saying those events would only help Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

“The establishment has thrown their support behind my competitor, Connie Mack. 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. Advertising, which our finances cannot support, and debates, which my competitor won’t agree to,” LeMieux said.

“It is not my nature to step aside, but there is a reality to running a statewide race in Florida. Without the resources or the opportunity to debate, our message simply cannot be heard,” LeMieux said.

Read his full statement after the jump…

(more…)

GOP Senate front-runner Mack declines primary debates, accepts invite to debate Nelson in fall

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 by George Bennett

Mack

With former Gov. Jeb Bush and other big-name Republicans backing Rep. Connie Mack‘s Senate bid and polls showing him with a sizeable lead over his GOP rivals, the Mack campaign says a debate of Republican candidates would only help Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

So Mack has turned down invitations from The Orlando Sentinel and The Tampa Bay Times to participate in debates with GOP rivals George LeMieux, Mike McCalister and David Weldon. And Mack has effectively said no to an invitation from Leadership Florida to participate in a July 24 Republican primary debate in Tallahassee.

“We are prepared and willing to debate Sen. Nelson and feel that at this point any such Republican primary debate exercise would only serve to benefit Sen. Nelson, which no Republican wants to see,” Mack spokesman David James said today.

(more…)

Game-changer? Jeb Bush weighs in for Connie Mack in GOP Senate primary

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by George Bennett

Bush

Former Gov. Jeb Bush has endorsed Rep. Connie Mack in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, Mack’s campaign announced this afternoon.

Along with Sen. Marco Rubio, who has not endorsed in the primary, Bush is the most sought-after endorsement in Florida Republican politics.

Here’s Bush’s statement, released by the Mack campaign: “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.”

Mack has been locked in a bitter Republican primary against former appointed Sen. George LeMieux, who has repeatedly attacked Mack’s character. Former Rep. Dave Weldon and businessman Mike McCalister are also pursuing the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Two new polls show tightening Florida Senate race between Nelson, Mack

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 by George Bennett

Sustained character attacks from Republican primary rival George LeMieux and fretting by some GOP activists about his campaign don’t appear to have damaged U.S. Rep. Connie Mack‘s Senate bid, according to new polls from Quinnipiac University and NBC News-Marist.

The Quinnipiac poll shows a virtual tie between Mack and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, with Mack up by a 42-to-41 percent margin that’s within the poll’s 2.4 percent margin of error. In the GOP primary, Quinnipiac has Mack clobbering LeMieux by a 40-to-7 percent margin.

The NBC-Marist poll gives Nelson a 46-to-42 percent lead over Mack. That poll has a 3 percent margin of error.

Both new polls suggest the race has tightened since last month, when a Rasmussen poll gave Nelson an 11-point lead and a poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Nelson up by 10 points. Quinnipiac’s last poll on the race in late March had Nelson up by 8 points.

The new Quinnipiac poll is based on a sample that Democrats criticized on Wednesday as too tilted to the GOP.

(more…)

Late GOP Senate entrant Weldon takes aim at Obama

Friday, May 18th, 2012 by George Bennett

Less than three months before the Aug. 14 GOP primary, former Space Coast Republican Rep. Dave Weldon has entered the Republican race for U.S. Senate, joining frontrunners Connie Mack and George LeMieux.

Weldon’s announcement doesn’t mention Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, but criticizes President Obama and mentions “tough choices that will determine our national direction for the next 4 years,” even though Senate terms are six years. The Weldon campaign also released an Obama-slamming video that doesn’t mention Nelson.

Weldon, a physician, was elected to Congress in the Republican wave of 1994. He opted not to seek reelection in 2008. In the House, he had a reputation as a friend of Israel and foe of abortion who had a lifetime 92.5 percent rating from the American Conservative Union.

Nelson was once considered a top GOP target. But a shifting GOP field (Adam Hasner, Mike Haridopolos and Craig Miller have dropped out; Mack declared himself out in early 2011 before jumping in later in the year) and an increasingly nasty fight between Mack and LeMieux have soured Republican hopes.

Democrats responded gleefully to the Weldon news.

“The fact that there’s still so much turmoil in the Republican field less than six months from Election Day speaks volumes about their party’s challenges in Florida,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee press secretary Shripal Shah.

Read Weldon’s announcement statement after the jump.

(more…)

LeMieux: ‘Connie Mack can’t win a character contest with Bill Nelson’

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 by George Bennett

Former appointed Sen. George LeMieux defended and reiterated his character attacks against his main GOP Senate primary rival, Rep. Connie Mack, during an appearance this morning on MSNBC.

“If Connie Mack is the nominee, I don’t think he can beat Bill Nelson. It’ll be a race about character. Connie Mack can’t win a character contest with Bill Nelson,” LeMieux told host Chuck Todd.

LeMieux has called Mack, son of a popular former Florida Senator with the same name, a “Half Mack” and repeatedly criticized the younger Mack’s past fistfights, financial woes and residency questions. Todd asked LeMieux if he regretted the personal nature of his attacks on Mack and if he thought they would hurt the GOP if Mack becomes the nominee.

“He’s trying to run a campaign where people will mistake him for his father. And we can’t make that mistake,” LeMieux said. “If he is the nominee we will lose.”

Romney endorses Mack in GOP Senate primary

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 by George Bennett

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has endorsed Rep. Connie Mack in Florida’s contentious GOP Senate primary.

Mack, who has been facing a barrage of character attacks from GOP primary rival George LeMieux, was a key surrogate for Romney before Florida’s Jan. 31 presidential primary.

At a rally in Dunedin the day before the primary, Romney referred to Mack as the “next U.S. Senator from Florida.”

Romney made it official today, issuing this statement: “Connie Mack is a friend, a strong conservative and the type of principled leader we need in Washington to restore fiscal responsibility. By electing Connie Mack, the people of Florida will be sending a clear message to Senator Nelson and President Obama that their failed policies have not worked to change the borrow and spend ways of Washington.”

LeMieux rips Mack for improper official mailing; vendor takes blame

Thursday, May 10th, 2012 by George Bennett

Nearly 58,000 pieces of mail touting a key component of Rep. Connie Mack‘s Senate campaign were sent to voters around Florida at taxpayer expense this month, a violation of congressional rules that Mack blamed on a vendor error but GOP primary rival George LeMieux called “a coordinated campaign effort.”

Mack and other members of Congress are allowed to send “franked” mail to their constituents at taxpayer expense. But about two-thirds of a recent 90,000-piece mailer from Mack’s office touting his “Penny Plan” to reduce the federal deficit went to addresses outside his Fort Myers-area district.

Mack campaign spokesman David James said a New Jersey-based subcontractor who also does work for Mack’s campaign mixed up mailing lists and sent the congressional mailer to a list that included voters outside Mack’s district.

(more…)

LeMieux differs with Rubio on RESTORE Act, Mack pounces

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 by George Bennett

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack‘s campaign is pouncing on GOP Senate primary rival George LeMieux for saying he would have voted for the RESTORE Act, which requires that 80 percent of fines collected from BP for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill go to Florida and other Gulf states.

Florida Sen. and tea party icon Marco Rubio was the only Gulf State Senator to oppose the measure in March. Rubio said he “proudly supported” the legislation originally, but the final Senate product had become “a raw deal that increases taxes, creates a new environmental bureaucracy, and could steer money to places like the Great Lakes and West Coast that had nothing to with the oil spill.”

LeMieux, in a Tuesday interview with a Panhandle radio station, said: “I would have voted for it…in all due respect to Marco, I know he’s a lot closer to it than I was.”

LeMieux, who was in the Senate as an appointee when the 2010 spill occurred, said “Those dollars need to come to the Gulf Coast. You remember I was in Pensacola and all throughout Northwest Florida half a dozen or so times in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill….In general it’s a good bill and I would have supported it.”

Mack’s campaign released a statement from U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Pensacola, criticizing LeMieux.

“I am extremely disappointed that George Lemieux indicated he would have voted for the Senate Democrats’ version of the Transportation Bill,” said Miller. “Although the RESTORE Act is a critical provision for those areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Senate version of this bill contains a massive tax increase and redirects $1.4 billion to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, creating a huge federal power grab. The House version of the transportation bill that Representative Mack and I supported did not contain the tax hikes or land grabs of the Senate bill, yet still supports the affected areas of the Florida coast. Floridians need to be careful that we don’t replace a Big Government Democrat in the Senate with a Big Government Republican. Connie Mack is the conservative we need in the Senate.”

Social conservative Rep. Baxley backs LeMieux, rips Mack in GOP Senate primary

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 by George Bennett

Baxley

State Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, a former executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida and the original sponsor of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, is endorsing George LeMieux in the Florida GOP Senate primary.

Baxley rips the GOP frontrunner, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, as “not ready to serve” and says Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson “will tear Mack apart if he is the Republican nominee.”

Here’s Baxley’s statement, released by the LeMieux campaign:

“Today I am proud to join Herman Cain and 31 other State Legislators and endorse George LeMieux for US Senate. George is a faithful husband and father, and has a solid pro-life, pro-family, pro-free enterprise, pro-Second Amendment voting record. He is the most competent candidate we have to beat Bill Nelson. Connie Mack IV is not his father. Mack has an abysmal personal financial legacy, attacked Arizona for addressing its illegal immigration problems, and supports embryonic stem cell research. I served with Connie in the Florida House and love him dearly, but he has performed poorly and is not ready to lead. Nelson will tear Mack apart if he is the Republican nominee. George LeMieux is the only candidate who can defeat Nelson and we must stand with George to take back the Senate in November.”

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