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2012 races’

Former House Speaker Tom Gustafson to replace Goodman in state House run against Hager

Friday, July 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County Democrats will pick former House Speaker Tom Gustafson to run for state House District 89 race incumbent against state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, according to Palm Beach County Democratic party leader Mark Alan Siegel.

Gustafson, who represented Broward County in the House for more than a decade, will replace Pamela Goodman, who ended her campaign earlier this week because of her husband’s health problems.

The county Democratic Party executive committee will meet on Tuesday to officially make the selection, Siegel said.

Gustafson, a Wellington resident and the godfather of Tri-Rail, currently does not live in the Palm Beach County coastal district but said he’s had his Wellington house on the market for six months and had planned to move to the Boca Raton area before deciding to join the race.

Gustafson, 62, was elected to the Florida House in 1976 and served as speaker from 1988-1990 when Democrats controlled the legislature. His resume includes lengthy stints as a politician, lawyer and academic. Gustafson now serves as the director of research programs in the Finance and Administration Department at Florida International University but is retiring Tuesday, he said.

Gustafson specializes in community planning and transportation issues and was instrumental in the creation of Tri-Rail, which serves Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Gustafson said he wants to bring his multi-disciplinary expertise to Tallahassee again to help make the state a better place to live.

“The issues don’t change very much. They get updated. Things become more important one year than the next. But the rhythm stays the same,” Gustafson said. “The parties come and go in terms of who’s the majority. It changed before. It will change again. What is important is we have a state that needs attention. Politics is in the details. If you can work through the details with a focus and, in my case experience not only in politics but in the practice of law and academia, you can come up with good answers. And that’s what I hope to do.”

Democrats have targeted the District 89 race as one of their state priorities and were disappointed by the departure of Goodman, a former vice-president of the Florida League of Women Voters who had nearly universal support within the county.

Gustafson has been out of office for more than two decades and never represented Palm Beach County. Democratic operatives predicted Gustafson, who’s lived in Wellington for a decade but is well-known throughout the state, will be able to tap into resources far beyond the county to help fund the race against Hager, who has collected more than $100,000 for his reelection.

“I don’t think anyone except political aficionados will remember him but remember campaigns are about sharing and providing information,” Siegel said. “This is somebody who’s ready to hit the ground running.”

Senate prez Haridopolos on GOP primary: ‘Feels good to be right’

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 by Dara Kam

With all eyes on Florida in the GOP presidential race, Senate President Mike Haridopolos might have been justified saying “I told you so” about the Sunshine State’s early Republican primary next week.

The legislature moved Florida’s primary date up from its originally scheduled date to Jan. 31 over the objections of state and national GOP leaders. Haridopolos and others wanted to elevate the state’s role in determining the eventual nominee.

With Newt Gingrich surging in the polls after unexpectedly trouncing Mitt Romney in South Carolina, Florida could be “the lynchpin to one person winning” the race, Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said.

“Every once in a while it feels good to be right,” Haridopolos, a Romney backer, said this morning. “It was a risk, don’t get me wrong. But we thought it was a good risk. Clearly the eyes of the nation if not the eyes of the world are on this…I think it’s a good thing.”

And national coverage of the candidates stumping around sunny, mild-climed Florida may help solve some of the state’s budget problems as well, Haridopolos said.d

“This is like free advertising for our state and it wasn’t Visit Florida that had to pay the tab,” Haridopolos said.

Watching candidates “in their shirt sleeves” in sunny Florida may prompt Northerners to consider relocating their businesses to or visiting Florida, Haridopolos, a former New Yorker, said.

“So I think it’s been a jackpot,” Haridopolos said. “And I think we’re in the place where we deserve to be.”

Florida is the bellweather state in the general election and deserves to be so in the primaries, Haridopolos said, after the lesser-known candidates have been weeded out in Iowa and New Hampshire.

I love these kind of competitions – except when I’m in races. I like the ones where no one runs against me. It’s a lot more successful,” the former U.S. Senate candidate joked. “But to be serious. I think it’s good. I think this will elevate our candidate.”

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