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Gov. Scott: ‘It’s Florida’s day to win the race’

Thursday, August 30th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott made it back to Tampa Bay in time to hear U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney cap off the Republican National Convention Thursday night.

Scott left town earlier this week to attend to Tropical Storm Isaac duties, visiting flood-ravaged Palm Beach County and the Panhandle.

“It’s great,” Scott said of his first GOP convention as he made his way through the mobbed floor of the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

“Marco’s going to give a great talk. Jeb gave a great talk on school choices. It’s a Florida night,” Scott said. “It’s Florida’s day to win the race.”

Clad in his signature dark suit and custom-made cowboy boots, Scott eschewed his VIP governor’s viewing box and instead grabbed a seat on the floor alongside the Florida delegation.

“I want to see,” he said.

after leaving town to attend to Tropical Storm Isaac duties earlier this week.

Two RNC attendees throw peanuts at black camera woman

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
TAMPA – CNN confirmed Wednesday that one of its black camera operators was taunted this week by two Republican National Convention attendees, who were removed by security officials.

Atlanta-based CNN said the employee was inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Tuesday night covering the convention when the two attendees began throwing nuts and saying, “This is how we feed animals.”

The cable news network said multiple witnesses saw the exchange, and RNC security and police immediately stepped in.

In a statement, convention spokesman Kyle Downey said the two conventioneers “exhibited deplorable behavior. Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated.”

CNN said it “worked with convention officials to address this matter and will have no further comment.”

Rubio on his speech, immigration, Charlie Crist and the joy of being a home state boy

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

After a brief sound check onstage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was crushed by a media scrum anxious to hear the GOP rising star wax on about everything from Charlie Crist’s endorsement of President Barack Obama to how to address immigration.

Rubio, Florida’s Republican U.S. senator who grew up in Miami, will introduce Mitt Romney tomorrow night at the Republican National Convention, a primo spot second only to the presidential candidate’s acceptance speech itself.

Rubio said his job is to make clear to the millions of television viewers during his prime-time speech the choices between the two candidates and the role of government in people’s lives.

“This election is about the choice the country has about the role government should play in our country. And really that is what this choice is going to be about. It’s not a choice between a Democrat and a Republican simply. It’s a choice about much more than that. So tomorrow, my job is to introduce the next president of the united states and to do so in a way that makes It clear to people what their choice is.
It’s a great honor,” Rubio said.

Rubio will also talk about his experience as the son of Cuban immigrants, something he does with an earnestness that has made him one of the most popular Republican politicians in the country. Rubio was on Romney’s short-list for veep before the former Massachusetts governor settled on U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

When asked what’s different about his tomorrow-night speech, Rubio laughed.

“I don’t know. Thirty-nine million people, probably. Look, it’s a tremendous honor to be able to give this speech in my home state in front of a lot of family and friends,” he said, mentioning his mother and late father.
“It will be affirmation that their lives matter. That all the sacrifices and hard work they went through was worth something…It’s just an honor to be able to introduce the next president of the U.S. and to do so in a way that I hope will make clear the choice that we have and the difference between the two men.”

Rubio blamed complaints that the Romney campaign hadn’t done enough to reach out to Hispanic voters on the campaign’s limited resources and said the pace would pick up in the general election cycle .

Read what Rubio said about immigration, Charlie Crist and Paul Ryan after the jump.

Lincoln look-alike gets attention at RNC

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 by Dara Kam

It’s a fashion smorgasbord at the Republican National Convention, where party faithful are bespectacled in red, white and blue sequins, flags and a glittery cornucopia of patriotic accoutrements.

But perhaps the only top hat in the crowd is being sported by Abraham Lincoln look-alike George Engelbach, a delegate from Missouri who is running for the state House of Representatives whose campaign business cards have the words “Lincoln Admirer” beneath his name.

Engelbach caused a sensation in the Tampa Bay Times Forum where he lingered in the hallway during a slow floor session this afternoon. Fellow delegates frequently stopped him to have their picture snapped with the Republican from Hillsboro, Mo., who ran for the state House two years ago and lost.

Scott: Isaac will showcase how Florida handles storms

Sunday, August 26th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Even as Tropical Storm Isaac gains strength and poses a growing threat to Florida’s Gulf Coast, Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t say whether holding a convention in Tampa during hurricane was a bad idea, repeatedly side-stepping questions about the site selection during an emergency briefing with the media this afternoon.

“Everybody likes to come to Florida. I’m sure they’re going to have a great convention,” Scott said.

Scott tried to turn the looming disaster, expected to bring high winds and gusts into the Tampa Bay region, into a Sunshine State sales pitch.

“The convention was a big opportunity for our state to show what a great place it is to live, work and play. Now what they’ve learned, what they’re going to find out this week, is we know how to deal with hurricanes. We’re prepared. This is a state that knows how to deal with those things,” he said. “On top of that we’re the best hospitality state around. We have 87 million tourists here a year. We know how to have conventions, how to have large events and we’re going to do a great job.”

Florida officials’ job is to keep residents and visitors safe, Scott said.

“We’re going to make sure that happens and we’ll do everything we can to make sure they have a great time,” the governor said at convention emergency operations center in Tampa at noon.

Winds are emergency officials’ greatest worry for the Tampa region, Scott said.

“But around the state we’ve got rain, we’ve got wind, we’ve got storm surge and then we’ve got the risk of tornadoes,” he said.

Scott warned visitors to the area who are staying at neighboring Pinellas County beaches to stay put instead of heading into the water-surrounded downtown convention site.

“If someone’s staying close to the beach, stay close to the beach. Don’t start venturing into the Tampa side because you don’t know what’s going to happen as far as your ability to get home,” Scott cautioned, adding that he planned to be in Tampa today only.

Scott said he spoke with Mitt Romney twice yesterday and “brought him up to speed” about emergency preparations statewide and in the Tampa area.

Late yesterday, GOP officials canceled Monday’s opening day Republican National Convention events and said the convention would resume on Tuesday. They are expected to issue a revised schedule later today.

The “roll call of the states” officially nominating Romney was supposed to take place at 2 p.m. tomorrow. But the nomination is now expected to happen on Tuesday along with other events previously scheduled for Monday.

GOP convention postponed, Scott cancels Sunday and Monday activities

Saturday, August 25th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Republicans have postponed their national convention in Tampa at least a day because of concerns about Tropical Storm Isaac.

The event will kick off Monday morning but the convention will immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.

“Due to the severe weather reports for the Tampa Bay area, the Republican National Convention will convene on Monday August 27th and immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, August 28th. After consulting with Governor Scott, NOAA and local emergency management officials, we are optimistic that we will begin an exciting, robust convention that will nominate the Romney-Ryan ticket,” Priebus said.

Gov. Rick Scott has canceled all of his convention-related events Sunday and Monday, including his speech, because of the storm.

So far, however, no delegates have canceled their plans to attend the convention, according to GOP officials.

Isaac moved into Cuba on Saturday after causing flooding and several deaths in Haiti. Forecasters say the storm is on a track that would bring it toward Florida Monday and Tuesday. The Tampa Bay region is under a tropical storm watch already.

Here’s an excerpt from Scott’s statement:

“I am continuing to lead multiple daily briefings with local, state and federal decision makers and RNC officials to share information so the best decisions can be made for each region. I also spoke to Governor Romney earlier today and briefed him on the storm and possible impact to the state. I have made Governor Romney and RNC officials aware of the resources our state can provide in the chance Tampa is affected. Like all decision-makers affected by this storm, the convention officials will make the best decisions for delegates and participants.”

And here’s Priebus’ memo effectively canceling day one:

Due to the severe weather reports for the Tampa Bay area, the Republican National Convention will convene on Monday August 27th and immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, August 28th, exact time to follow.

Our first priority is ensuring the safety of delegates, alternates, guests, members of the media attending the Republican National Convention, and citizens of the Tampa Bay area. RNC Convention officials and the Romney campaign are working closely with state, local and federal officials, as well as the Secret Service, to monitor Tropical Storm Isaac and preserve Florida’s emergency management resources. Officials have predicted participants may encounter severe transportation difficulties due to sustained wind and rain.

The Republican National Convention will take place and officially nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and the Party has other necessary business it must address. We also are remaining in constant contact with state and federal officials and may make additional schedule alterations as needed.

The Convention staff is working around-the-clock to ensure the delegations housed in storm-impacted areas have alternative housing if needed. The Committee on Arrangements will provide additional information to delegates and alternate delegates who are affected by Isaac by Sunday morning. We will also provide guidance to those delegates and alternate delegates who may encounter travel difficulties due to the storm.

We will begin issuing revised convention programming as early as Sunday.

We have an experienced team that will ensure changes are operationally smooth and create as little disruption as possible. The most important concern is safety, but our Convention program will proceed.

And here’s a memo from Republican National Convention President and CEO Bill Harris:

“Our chief priority is the safety of the residents of Florida, of those visiting the Convention, and all those in Gulf Coast states who may be impacted by Tropical Storm Isaac. We have been working closely with the campaign, the party, and state and local officials for months to ensure a successful, enjoyable convention. Federal, state and local officials assure us that they are prepared to respond, if needed, and the scheduling changes we are announcing today will help ensure the continued safety of all participants – our foremost concern. We are also committed to keeping the delegates and guests of the convention well informed about the situation, and we will continue providing updates in the hours and days ahead.”

GOP moves Romney nomination up to Monday

Friday, August 24th, 2012 by Dara Kam

TAMPA – Mitt Romney will become the GOP’s official presidential nominee at the onset of the Republican National Convention on Monday, a break from tradition to keep the party faithful “on message,” according to Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus.

The decision about the early “roll call of states” wasn’t prompted by worries about Tropical Storm Isaac or to avert a disruption from Ron Paul backers, Priebus told reporters today. Rather, it’s about controlling the message.

“I just think it’s better for us to get all our business done in one shot … do everything on Monday, the nomination, all our rules and resolutions, get that done, so we can get on to telling the Mitt Romney story, how we’re going to help save our country,” he said.

The purpose of the early roll call was not to allow the convention to wind up before the scheduled end on Thursday if Isaac threatens the Tampa Bay region or to thwart Paul supporters from hijacking the nomination from the floor, he said.

“Oh no… It’s to get all the business of the party out of the way and get on with the two things, prosecuting Barack Obama, the promises he made and what he delivered, and telling the Mitt Romney story.”

Priebus also said he’s not worried about Tropical Storm Isaac.

“I’m feeling a lot better today than I was yesterday,” he said. “Right now we don’t have to change anything. Obviously we worry if this thing turns into a hurricane and the safety of people if it hits shore, but as far as the convention is concerned we’re full steam ahead and we’re going to have a great week.”

- Tampa Tribune staff writer William March contributed to this post.

Bondi and Bush to be part of RNC’s Wednesday night lineup

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Gov. Jeb Bush have been named part of the Republican National Convention lineup for Wednesday’s third night of the event.

The economy — and soon-to-be Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s ability to fix it — will be a central theme of the night. The GOP mantra for Wednesday will be “We Can Change It,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Priebus said the Wednesday night program “will show that the Romney approach is both optimistic and achievable.” 

Bondi and Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens are scheduled to share an early evening stage, shortly after 2008 presidential nominee John McCain addresses the gathering.  Bush will be on a little later, amid vice-presidential runners-up Rob Portman and Tim Pawlenty, who will speak before Romney running mate Paul Ryan takes the stage.


Scott gets evening speaking slot at convention

Monday, August 20th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott is slated to be among the first speakers on the opening night of next week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, the party announced Monday.

The convention schedule remains mostly a secret. But GOP Chairman Reince Priebus did unveil the lineup for next Monday’s kickoff, built around the theme “we can do better” and a focus on job creation.

Scott, the self-styled ‘get-to-work’ governor, is penciled-in to speak shortly after 7:45 p.m., coming on after House Speaker John Boehner. The early evening speakers include tea party favorites, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Senate contender Ted Cruz, leading up to Ann Romney, wife of soon-to-be nominee Mitt Romney.

“Americans know we can do better than joblessness, poverty and debt,” Priebus said. “This convention will present our vision for a brighter, better future and it will lay out an optimistic, achievable plan to make it happen.”

Scott should be ready for his almost prime time moment. He told reporters earlier this month he planned to stick to his political playbook.

“What I’m going to talk about is pretty much what I do every day and what I ran on,” Scott said after a Cabinet meeting. “It’s how do we get our state back to work.”


Attorneys in LG’s sex, tape and arson case agree to cool it

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Attorneys for the state and a former aide to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll accused of giving an illegally recorded office conversation to a reporter agreed Tuesday to tone down their testy war of words.

Leon County Circuit Judge Frank Sheffield brought the attorneys behind closed doors and forced the agreement before a hearing Tuesday in the case against Carletha Cole, a 49-year-old grandmother and minister facing as much as 5 years in prison if convicted of the charge.

“We agree with the judge. That’s the rule, and we think we’ve followed it so far. But message received,” said Steve Andrews, Cole’s attorney. “It’s not unusual…for judges to call the parties back to praise them or scold them. It was a joint scolding, I would say. The judge wants a fair trial, and so do we.”

Cole was arrested in October. But the case gained new momentum earlier this month when Cole’s attorneys filed a court document alleging that her relationship with Carroll soured after Cole saw the lieutenant governor and her travel aide, Beatriz Ramos, in a “compromising position” inside Carroll’s office.

The filing also suggests that Ramos started a fire in Cole’s office wastebasket in retaliation. The illegally recorded conversation features Carroll’s chief-of-staff, John Konkus, criticizing Gov. Rick Scott and Cole said she made it to show how dysfunctional the state’s executive office had become.

The governor’s office has dismissed the charges as “outrageous.”

Once Cole’s attorneys aired the allegations of lesbian sex and arson, Tallahassee-area State Attorney Willie Meggs started talking publicly about increasing the charges against Cole.

But following Tuesday’s hearing, both sides apparently pledged to the judge that they would behave more civilly. A trial is not likely to take place until at least the fall, with depositions from witnesses in the case expected to be taken in coming weeks.

Andrews acknowledged that Meggs has offered plea agreements for his client to consider. But he and Cole have rejected them, he said.

“Mr. Meggs was very fair, reasonable,” Andrews said. “But some cases have to be tried. This is one.”

The Palm Beach Post reported earlier this week that the focus on Carroll may remove her as a potential speaker at the Republican National Convention, scheduled for Tampa from Aug. 27-30. With the case looking poised to stretch into the fall election season, it also could hamper whatever role she’d play in campaigning for Republican candidates.



Talk of changing August primary date draws static

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 by John Kennedy

An effort to move the date of Florida’s August primary is drawing mixed reviews among lawmakers and elections officials.

Citing concerns and questions, Senate Ethics & Elections Committee Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, postponed action by a subcommittee Monday on his bill (SB 1596) that would postpone the primary a week, from its scheduled Aug. 14, to Aug. 21.

Diaz de la Portilla said the proposed later date, which would also delay candidate qualifying a week until June 11-15, is aimed at giving those running in redistricted House, Senate and congressional districts more time to decide their political candidacies.

But the delay causes a host of other problems, according to some elections supervisors. Ron Labasky, lobbyist for the Florida Association of Supervisors of Election, said 22 of the 67 supervisors opposed the move — with some saying it could force them to rework contracts for polling places or cause personnel problems.

In Hillsborough County, elections officials have balked because the delay would push the primary election close to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Security for the convention is expected to cause wide-ranging traffic problems in the city’s downtown area, Labasky told the committee.

Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher is among those opposing the primary delay, saying she’s having enough trouble educating voters on new laws, new districts and revised requirements without throwing in a date change.


Fla GOP chief Bitner diagnosed with ALS

Friday, April 29th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Florida Republican Party chairman Dave Bitner has been diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a party spokesman said Friday.

Bitner has been in a mechanized wheelchair for a couple months suffering from what had been thought to be neuropathy. But within the past week, tests have revealed the former state lawmaker has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS),  a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal column.

“He feels great,” GOP spokesman Trey Stapleton said of Bitner, who was elected to a two-year term as chairman in January, succeeding Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. “The guy comes in every day with a big smile on his face. He has a lot of things he wants to do for the party in the coming year.”

Stapleton said Bitner has no plans to step down. Florida will host the Republican National Convention in August, planned for Tampa.

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