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Former Senate president Ken Pruitt now juggles property appraiser, lobbying jobs

Monday, November 21st, 2011 by George Bennett

Pruitt: Former citizen-legislator is now appraiser-lobbyist

Former state Senate President Ken Pruitt is a busy man.

In addition to holding down a $128,557-a-year job as St. Lucie County property appraiser, the Port St. Lucie Republican remains a registered Tallahassee lobbyist with Weiss, Handler, Angelos & Cornwell P.A. who is listed as representing seven clients before his former colleagues in the state legislature.

Pruitt made $355,000 as a full-time lobbyist in 2010, but told The Palm Beach Post‘s Politics column (second item) that he has scaled back his lobbying work since winning election to the appraiser’s job last November.

“I am honored to have been elected to serve as the Property Appraiser for St. Lucie County,” Pruitt said in an e-mail last week. “Just as when I was a constitutionally elected official in the legislature, I also worked as a consultant: the only difference now is that I am a constitutionally elected official in the County, my duties are full time and my consulting work is now part time. I am very proud of the excellent work that our team has done on behalf of our taxpayers and I will continue to work hard to maintain their confidence everyday.”

Although Pruitt’s lobbying work is now part-time, law firm partner Henry Handler said, “Our clients are very pleased with the amount of time, energy and depth of knowledge that Ken delivers to their assignments.”

Ken Pruitt re-entering politics to run in special St. Lucie County appraiser election

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 by George Bennett



Former Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt, who resigned his legislative seat in 2009 for a combination of family and economic concerns, announced today he will run in the election to replace the late St. Lucie County Property Appraiser Jeff Furst.

Furst, 68, died of a stroke last week.

Furst’s term as appraiser ran through January 2013. The election to fill the last two years of his term will coincide with this year’s general election. A special period for candidates to qualify for the ballot for the appraiser’s race has been set for Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Jeff Furst left a legacy of dedicated public service; St. Lucie County and the state of Florida have been enriched by his commitment to excellence,” Pruitt said in a prepared statement.

Pruitt is now a governmental affairs consultant in the Port St. Lucie office of the Boca Raton-based Weiss Handler Angelos & Cornwell law firm. He also has a real estate license.

“My experience in real estate combined with the knowledge I gained from my service in Tallahassee make me uniquely qualified to hold this position,” Pruitt said. “I won’t pretend to ever fill the huge shoes left behind by Jeff Furst; however, I do commit to maintaining the high level of service and expertise he instilled in his professional staff at the Property Appraiser’s office.”

Pruitt, 53, is a Republican who held a state House seat from 1990 to 2000, when he was elected to a Treasure Coast and Palm Beach County Senate seat. He was Senate president from 2006 to 2008.

After his 2009 resignation, Republican Joe Negron won a special election to fill the remainder of Pruitt’s Senate term. Negron was reelected to a new four-year term this year when no one filed to challenge him.

Haridopolos to be named senate prez on Dec. 8

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Dara Kam



Sen. Mike Haridopolos will be named the 2011-2012 Senate President on Dec. 8 at 5 p.m.

The Melbourne Republican will assume the post after the two-year tenure of current Senate President Jeff Atwater ends next fall.



Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, is leaving the Senate to run for Chief Financial Officer.

Haridopolos’ ascension is a trifecta for the Palm Beach and Treasure Coast region and continue its domination of the top of the Senate for a total of six years.



Atwater’s district includes part of Broward and Palm Beach counties. He was preceded by former Senate President Ken Pruitt, a Port St. Lucie Republican whose district included Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties.

The southeastern portion of Haridopolos’ Senate District 26 dips into St. Lucie County.

The three political leaders each previously served in the Florida House before joining the Senate.

Senate newbie Negron to chair judiciary

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Dara Kam

Senate President Jeff Atwater tapped newly elected state Sen. Joe Negron to chair the Judiciary Committee, a plumb post for the freshman senator.

Atwater made few other changes in the committee line-up, leaving most chairmen in place in what for many will be their last legislative session because of term limits.

Negron, a former House member, won a special election last month fill former Senate President Ken Pruitt’s District 28 seat. Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, abruptly left office on the last day of the legislative session early in May.

Negron will serve the final 15 months of Pruitt’s Senate term and face reelection in 2010.

Negron, an attorney who served in the state House from 2000 to 2006, gained national attention when the GOP recruited him at the last minute to replace scandal-tainted U.S. Rep. Mark Foley. Negron narrowly lost the race to Democrat Tim Mahoney, who was later defeated by Republican Tom Rooney.

UPDATE: Pruitt says he’s not unnamed official in Mendelsohn indictment

Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Dara Kam

Former state Senate President Ken Pruitt said this afternoon that he’s not the unnamed former public official who received $87,000 in secret money from Dr. Alan Mendelsohn.
The Daily Pulp blog this morning reported that Pruitt is the unidentified former public official mentioned in the indictment against Mendelsohn, a Broward County eye doctor who is charged with skimming $300,000 in campaign contributions for his own use and illegally using campaign funds to pay for his mistress’ home and car.
Seated behind his desk at the law firm where he works in the Tradition neighborhood of Port St. Lucie, the Port St. Lucie Republican told Palm Beach Post reporter Daphne Duret that he hasn’t been contacted by any law enforcement official about the investigation and rejected The Daily Pulp blog’s allegation that his name surfaced in the investigation.
“It’s a criminal investigation that I am not a part of at all,” he said. “I’m not a part of it, my name, to my knowledge, is not a part of it. I don’t know what else to say.” (more…)

Joe Negron scores massive win in special state Senate election

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 by George Bennett



Former Republican state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart won a lopsided victory in a special state Senate election today to replace retiring Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, in a Treasure Coast-Palm Beach County seat.

Negron beat Democrat Bill Ramos by a 3-to-1 margin in Senate District 28, which includes all of Martin County and parts of Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties.

Negron, 47, will serve the final 15 months of Pruitt’s Senate term and face reelection in 2010.


Well-financed Negron unveils third TV spot as special Senate election nears

Thursday, July 30th, 2009 by George Bennett

As Tuesday’s special election for Senate District 28 approaches, former Republican state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart is running his third ad of the campaign to replace retiring Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie. The spot, running only on cable TV, features Pruitt touting Negron as “a leader who will always put people first.”

Negron raised more than $400,000 for the race. Democratic rival Bill Ramos raised $31,684 through July 9 and didn’t have enough money to buy any TV ads.

In a sign that Negron sees things going well for his campaign, none of his ads mention Ramos. has Negron on the move

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 by Dara Kam

Negron (R): "This community is hurting."GOP Senate candidate Joe Negron is ramping up efforts to secure an Aug. 4 special election win in response to’s entry into the race to replace retiring Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

Negron sent an e-mail appeal to supporters today asking for cash to fight back against the organization which he said “has sent operatives” into District 28 to help turn out the vote for his Democratic opponent Bill Ramos.

“Thanks to your hard work and support, my campaign is doing very well and I am confident that we will win the race on August 4. However, I am not taking anything for granted, particularly in a special election with an expected low turn-out. I take seriously because I saw first hand how effective they were in helping President Obama win Florida in the 2008 Election,” Negron wrote.

Negron, a former House member from Stuart, is going to spend about $50,000 to collect the absentee ballots “from my supporters” and includes a letter from former Gov. Jeb Bush along with door-to-door canvassing and phone banks, according to the e-mail.

Negron’s collected nearly $387,000 so far and spent about $236,000.

Ramos, who made the ballot by collecting signatures instead of paying the qualifying fee, collected just over $24,000 and spent nearly $19,000 thus far.



The Jensen Beach mortgage broker today volunteered information about a 1989 guilty plea for theft when he was a young postal worker.

Ramos hopes 1989 theft plea doesn’t lead to “ugly” politics

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 by George Bennett

Saying he doesn’t want to be the victim of “ugly” politics in the final days of a special state Senate election campaign, Democrat Bill Ramos today volunteered information about a 1989 guilty plea for theft when he was a young postal worker.



Ramos, a Jensen Beach mortgage broker, is running against former Republican state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart in an Aug. 4 election to replace retiring Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

Ramos, 50, said he’s never tried to hide his past scrape with the law.

In a biographical entry on his campaign Web site, Ramos says that “almost 25 years ago, I was accused of theft by a trusted superior. Innocent, under pressure, and unable to afford an attorney, I was forced to accept a no contest plea to having taken money from my workplace.”


Negron, Ramos make recession-tailored pitches in special Senate race to replace Pruitt

Monday, June 29th, 2009 by George Bennett

They feel your pain.

That’s the message Republican Joe Negron and Democrat Bill Ramos are pitching to recession-battered voters as an Aug. 4 special election approaches for a Treasure Coast-Palm Beach County state Senate seat.


Senate endorsement smackdown in Benacquisto-Merchant race

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by George Bennett

There are 26 Republicans in the Florida Senate. So far, at least seven of them have taken sides in the emerging GOP primary battle between Wellington Councilwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto and former state Rep. Sharon Merchant of Palm Beach Gardens for the seat of Democratic Sen. Dave Aronberg, who’s running for attorney general.

Benacquisto has a fund-raiser in Tallahassee next week with five state Senators on the host committee: President Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach, Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla of Miami, Don Gaetz of Niceville, Andy Gardiner of Orlando and soon-to-retire Ken Pruitt of Port St. Lucie.

Merchant has not formally opened a campaign, but Republican Sens. Nancy Detert of Venice and Paula Dockery of Lakeland say they’ll be on her team. Many insiders also predict that Sen. Alex Villalobos of Miami, who was defeated by Atwater in a GOP leadership struggle, will take sides with Merchant against Atwater’s favored candidate. Villalobos couldn’t be reached today.

Negron has 20-to-1 money edge in special Senate race

Saturday, June 13th, 2009 by George Bennett

Former Republican state Rep. Joe Negron of Stuart has better than a 20-to-1 money advantage over Democrat Bill Ramos as they head toward an Aug. 4 special election for the seat of retiring state Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

Reports filed Friday show Negron has raised $239,169 and Ramos $11,414.

With Pruitt facing term limits next year, both Negron and Ramos had already opened campaigns and were raising money for a 2010 Senate race. But Pruitt, citing family and economic concerns, announced May 8 that he would step down this summer instead.

Since then, Negron has hit the accelerator. He raised $174,619 in the five weeks after Pruitt’s announcement.


No primary in Senate District 28 special election to replace Pruitt

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 by Dara Kam


166_billramosflag003Former state representative Joe Negron will face off against Democratic challenger Bill Ramos and a virtually unknown write-in candidate in a special election Aug. 4 to replace retiring Sen. Ken Pruitt.

Negron avoided a potentially nasty GOP contest when his political nemesis Art Argenio suddenly dropped out of the race last week under pressure from Republican leaders to avoid a divisive primary. Argenio had sunk $40,000 of his own money into his ill-fated campaign.

Pruitt, who served as senate president two years ago, stepped down from his senate seat a year before he would have been forced to retire due to term limits. He announced his decision on the last day of the legislative session and has already been hired by a Boca Raton law firm specializing in land use and zoning issues.

Pruitt and former Gov. Jeb Bush have both endorsed Negron, adding to Argenio’s decision not to seek the post.

It would have been the second special election show-down for Negron and Argenio, who both served in the state House.


Sen. Pruitt on new job: “Life is about relationships”

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 by George Bennett

Soon-to-retire state Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, says his new job with a top-shelf law firm could involve lobbying the executive branch of state government. He won’t be allowed to lobby legislators for two years.

Non-lawyer Pruitt today announced he has accepted a government-relations job with the Port St. Lucie office of the Weiss Handler Angelos and Cornwell firm, which is based in Boca Raton. Pruitt said he’s been a friend of one of the firm’s partners, Cynthia Angelos, for 20 years since both were chamber of commerce activists in the Treasure Coast.

“Life is about relationships,” Pruitt said.


Ken Pruitt joins PSL law firm

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 by Dara Kam

s028State Sen. Ken Pruitt has joined a law firm specializing in land use.

Pruitt, who is not a lawyer, is working for Weiss, Handler, Angelos and Cornwell, a law firm with offices in Boca Raton and Port St. Lucie.

The firm’s specialties include land use, commercial real estate and zoning, according to its web site.
Pruitt resigned from his District 28 seat on the last day of the legislative session for financial and family reasons.

The Port St. Lucie Republican served as Senate President from 2006-2008.

Pruitt was a well-driller who became involved in real estate during his tenure as a lawmaker. He was first elected to the House in 1990 and joined the Senate in 2002.

More on Pruitt’s new job on The Palm Beach Post later.

Ken Pruitt resigns from Senate

Friday, May 8th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Sen. Ken Pruitt will resign effective August 4.

Pruitt, who has served in the legislature for nearly two decades, told his Senate President successor Jeff Atwater today that he is retiring from politics, Atwater said.

The Port St. Lucie Republican’s decision came as a surprise, said Atwater, who called his friend and colleague “a class act.”

“This man completely was the centerpiece of the Florida senate for virtually the past decade,” said Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, whose senate district abuts Pruitt’s.

Pruitt served as budget chief and rules chairman before becoming Senate President in 2006. He was elected to the Senate in 2000 after serving a decade in the House.

Pruitt delivered his resignation in a private meeting with Gov. Charlie Crist earlier in the day.

“He’s retiring from politics to go home and be with his bride, God bless him. What a wonderful man and a tremendous career in public service,” Crist said.

Crist and Pruitt became strong allies since Crist took office two years ago, sharing the stage on issues such as property taxes and Bright Futures, Pruitt’s brainchild.

“I can’t say enough good things about President Pruitt. Just a wonderful, wonderful friend and a great man,” Crist said.

Atwater said Pruitt told him of his intention to resign over the telephone after the sine die ceremony marking the end of the legislative session.

“That’s the kind of class act that he is,” Atwater said.

Atwater said he asked Pruitt, 52, why he hadn’t said something at lunch so the other senators could say farewell and Pruitt told him: “This was not my day. This was the senate’s day. This was the people of Florida’s day.”

Senate approves $10 million for adoptive family of PBC brothers raped in foster care

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 by Dara Kam

The Senate just agreed to pay nearly $10 million to the family who adopted three brothers who were raped and starved in Palm Beach County foster care.

Under the measure (SB 58), the state will pay Jorge and Debbie and their adopted children $950,000 a year for the next 10 years.

The House has yet to approve the settlement but House Speaker Larry Cretul spoke personally with the family last week.

Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon asked Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater, who sponsored the claims bill last year, the settlement be paid.

As small children, the boys were repeatedly molested by former foster parent Hector Rosa, who is serving life in prison for his crimes. In another foster home, they were threatened with being locked up in a chicken coop when they misbehaved. DCF hid that history from the couple to help speed the boys’ adoption.

Lawmakers approved another bill (HB 381) on its way to Gov. Charlie Crist’s desk that would give potential foster and adoptive families the ability to review case files before they take the children into their homes. Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, sponsored the legislation based on the Palm Beach County family’s experience.

Pruitt wants elected education commish

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008 by Dara Kam

Senate President Ken Pruitt said Tuesday that he plans to push for a constitutional amendment that would return the state education commissioner to an elected position.

Voters eliminated the Cabinet position was eliminated more than seven years ago as part of a sweeping education reorganization package proposed by Republican lawmakers and pushed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

The secretary of education is now appointed by the governor.


More on the death of Ken Pruitt’s son

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007 by Palm Beach Post Staff

Please note: condolences to the Pruitt family can be posted here

Ken Pruitt Jr., the 29-year-old son of Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, died this morning in Tallahassee.

An officer with the Tallahassee Police Department said initial evidence pointed to an accidental overdose, but that the cause of death was still undetermined.

“I can say is that he’s not the victim of a homicide or the victim of any violent crime,” Officer John Creamer said.

Police responded to the townhome of Sam Coskey after he placed a 9-1-1 call at about 1 a.m. this morning in a townhouse community in northern Tallahassee. Pruitt Jr., was brought to the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital where he died, police said.

Coskey told The Palm Beach Post today that he met Pruitt Jr. about 18 months ago at Brothers bar, where Coskey worked at the time as a doorman.


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