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Endorsement reversal: Haridopolos backs pal Connie Mack in U.S. Senate race

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 by Dara Kam

One-time U.S. Senate candidate and Senate President Mike Haridopolos is backing long-time friend U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV in the GOP primary, Haridopolos told editors and reporters this morning.

Haridopolos said he’s supporting Mack because he’s disappointed in the negative campaigning that’s dominated the GOP race thus far.

“I was not exactly pleased in the direction in which the senate primary was moving,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told a gathering of reporters and editors at the Associated Press Florida Legislative Planning Session shortly before noon. “I think he’d make an outstanding senator, not just candidate…I want to see us elevate the political discussion. What has disappointed me…is there’s a lot of finger-pointing. Let’s elevate the debate…as opposed to the negative campaigning that’s been done to this point.”

After initially saying he would not get into the race, Mack has now thrown his hat into a crowded GOP field. Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, former state representative Adam Hasner of Delray Beach, businessman Craig Miller and Mike McAllister are all vying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat. The four declared GOP candidates have been plagued by underwhelming poll numbers and fundraising.

Early this spring, Mack, a Cape Coral Republican who served in the Florida House alongside Haridopolos, endorsed Haridopolos, who dropped out of the race this summer.

West slams door on U.S. Senate run

Monday, August 22nd, 2011 by Dara Kam

U.S. Rep. Allen West has officially shut the door on a U.S. Senate run and will instead seek reelection to his current seat, West said in a statement issued today.

The outspoken West, a tea party idol from Plantation and the only Republican in the Congressional Black Caucus, recently made news when he called himself a modern-day Harriet Tubman during an interview with FoxNews’ Bill O’Reilly.

“Over the last several weeks, numerous leaders of the Florida Republican Party, including current and past elected officials, have spoken to me about the race for the United States Senate. Out of respect, I was willing to listen,” West said in the release.

“I have been given one of the highest honors to serve in the House of Representatives and I will continue to serve the citizens in that capacity. I will not seek the Republican nomination for the United States Senate in 2012. With regard to my future, the only goal I have is to do my very best to represent the constituents of the Congressional District and to restore the exceptionalism of our nation.”

Last week, West told reporters the door was open “a crack” to the possibility that he would run, saying it would be disrespectful to supporters to “slam the door in their face.”

Miss. guv Haley Barbour backs George LeMieux U.S. Senate race

Monday, August 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is backing George LeMieux in a heated GOP primary for U.S. Senate.

Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee who briefly considered running in the 2012 presidential race, called LeMieux a “solid conservative” in a statement released this morning by LeMieux’s campaign.

“I am honored to earn the support of a principled conservative like Haley Barbour. When Governor Barbour was RNC Chairman, he helped orchestrate the Republican Revolution in 1994 that built the type of conservative majorities we need to turn our country around,” LeMieux said in the release. “More importantly, from his leadership during hurricane Katrina to his work passing key pro-life legislation, Governor Barbour is a case study in effective conservative governance.”

LeMieux is struggling to shake off his ties to Gov. Charlie Crist, who appointed LeMieux to replace former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez when he resigned mid-term. LeMieux, a one-time close ally to Crist whom the former governor called “The Maestro,” did not seek reelection to the seat, which now-U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio won after Crist quit the GOP and ran against him as an independent.

LeMieux will face off in the primary against Delray Beach’s Adam Hasner, a former state House member who also served as the chamber’s majority leader.

Wealthy Delray Beacher Nick Loeb is toying with entrée into the race but is waiting until gal pal Sofia Vergara, star of Modern Family, gets past the Emmy Awards next month. Chris Ruddy, another Palm Beacher and CEO of the influential West Palm Beach-based conservative publication NewsMax, has ruled out getting into the candidate fray.

A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed that 53 percent of Republican voters remain undecided in the Senate primary but found Plant City tree farmer and retired Army Reserve Col. Mike McCalister leading the current four-candidate field with a meager 15 percent.

Behind McCalister in the poll were both LeMieux, with 12 percent, and Hasner, with 6 percent. Former Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse CEO Craig Miller weighed in with 8 percent support.

Putnam backs Haridopolos in GOP Senate field

Monday, June 13th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam did the eenie-meenie-miney thing Monday with the three Republican contenders for U.S. Senate — choosing Senate President Mike Haridopolos as his favorite for taking on Democrat Bill Nelson next year.

“As a former congressman and state legislator, I know that Mike Haridopolos has what it takes to tackle the debt and spending problems in Washington because he has a record of accomplishment in Florida when it comes to balancing budgets and restraining government spending,” Putnam said.

Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, is battling former short-term U.S. Sen. George LeMieux of Fort Lauderdale and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Delray Beach for the GOP nomination, in a contest that so far is marked mostly by fund-raising and endorsement announcements.

Putnam, elected agriculture commissioner last fall, is from a prominent Polk County ranching family, and could bring help Haridopolos open some contributors’ doors in the agri-business community.

PBS/League of Women voters scraps debates because GOP candidates are no-shows

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The League of Women Voters and PBS canceled debates between the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates because GOP candidates Marco Rubio and Rick Scott refused to participate.

The League’s president Deidre MacNab said the debate, scheduled for Oct. 14, would have been the only one to reach all television viewers throughout the state.

The League could not get Gov. Charlie Crist, the independent U.S. Senate candidate, to confirm to appear either, MacNab said, meaning only U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democrat in the three-way U.S. Senate race, had agreed to show up.

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Crist scores Robert F. Kennedy endorsement

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 by Dara Kam

In the midst of chatter about whether U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek should drop out of the U.S. Senate race, Gov. Charlie Crist nailed down the endorsement of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Crist, a lifelong Republican who turned independent to avoid running against Marco Rubio in the GOP primary, will appear with Kennedy in Deerfield Beach this morning to make the endorsement announcement.

Crist first hooked up with fellow environmentalist Kennedy at Crist’s climate change summit three years ago.

Crist: A vote for Meek is a vote for Rubio

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist believes he’s the only candidate who can “stop the Tea Party mess” and defeat Marco Rubio in the three-way U.S. Senate race and that a vote for the Democrat – U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek – equates to a vote for Rubio.

“It sure looks like it. Yeah. I mean, you know, regrettably, that would be the case. I think Democrats are reaching that conclusion all across Florida. They tell me that,” the Republican-turned-independent told reporters when asked if a vote for Meek would be the same as a vote for Tea Party favorite Rubio.

Crist denied that his campaign has been pressuring Meek, lagging in the polls behind frontrunner Rubio and Crist, to drop out of the race.

“Number one, there’s no pressure. People should do what they feel is right. But I’m clear about this. I’m the only candidate who can win in November and stop the Tea Party and the mess that Mr. Rubio would bring to Washington,” Crist said.

Crist said it’s up to Meek whether to drop out.
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Obama backpeddles on mosque support; Crist backs Prez approval of it

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 by Dara Kam

President Barack Obama sought to clarify his support for a controversial mosque planned to be built three blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion. I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about,” Obama, in Panama City Beach for an overnight family vacation, told reporters this afternoon. “And I think it’s very important as difficult as some of these issues are that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.”

Obama drew fire last night for remarks he made at the White House Ramadan dinner where he said he supported the building of the mosque, which New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also approves.

Prior to meeting with Obama this morning, Gov. Charlie Crist said he agrees with Obama.

“I think he’s right. I mean, you know we’re a country that in my view stands for freedom of religion and respect for others. I know there are sensitivities and I understand them,” Crist, who abandoned the Republican Party late this spring to run as an independent in the race for U.S. Senate.

“This is a place where you’re supposed to be able to practice your religion without the government telling you you can’t,” Crist said.

Crist vetoes abortion bill

Friday, June 11th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist has vetoed a controversial health care bill backed by powerful GOP legislators that would have required women seeking abortions to have ultrasounds and listen to detailed explanations of the fetus.

Crist, who abandoned his long ties with the Republican Party and is running as an independent for U.S. Senate, said in his veto message the bill places an “inappropriate burden” on women seeking abortions and violates the right to privacy.

“Individuals hold strong personal views on the issue of life, as I do,” Crist wrote in the message. “However, personal views should not result in laws that unwisely expand the role of government and coerce people to obtain medical tests or procedures that are not medically necessary. In this case, such action would violate a woman’s right to privacy.”

Conservatives and anti-abortion groups stepped up pressure on Crist to sign the measure (HB 1143) into law, and House Republican leaders waited until this week to send him the bill.

The veto will likely garner support from some Democrats and pro-choice Republican women, two voting blocs Crist is wooing to shore up his independent candidacy.

Crist: AFL-CIO endorsement ‘would have been nice’ but…

Monday, May 24th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist, now an independent U.S. Senate candidate, said he doesn’t think not getting the AFL-CIO’s endorsement will hurt him, but “it would have been nice.”

The AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor union, endorsed U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, a Democrat, this weekend although Florida’s teachers’ union broke with tradition and co-endorsed Meek and Crist.

Big labor’s snub won’t hobble his campaign, Crist said this morning.

“I don’t think at all. It would have been nice, obviously, that’s why I went there. But I was awfully proud and pleased to get the teachers’ support. It’s all about getting the support of the people,” Crist said, repeating his ubiquitous “people” mantra.

Crist, who wooed the unions at their annual meeting this weekend, said he’d welcome the support of other groups, including environmentalists such as the Sierra Club, of which he said he is a member.

“You know my style. I’ll take help from anyone who’s willing to give it and cares about Florida like we do. That’s what it’s about,” Crist said.

House budget chief and Rubio pal Rivera: Crist a ‘Benedict Arnold’

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

House budget chief David Rivera, who’s also a close pal of former House Speaker Marco Rubio, blasted Gov. Charlie Crist for abandoning the Republican Party and avoiding a GOP U.S. Senate primary against Rubio in favor of running as an independent.

“In the annals of political history in America, the biggest betrayal since bendict Arnold,” Rivera, R-Miami, said this morning, hours before Crist’s anticipated announcement that he will run with no party affiliation. It “just adds to the disillusionment that many voters find in the political process,” he said.

Rivera, who is running for Congress, said that “an overwhelming defeat and an overwhelming victory for Marco Rubio” is the way for state Republicans to heal.

“That’s the best message we can send that politicians need to keep their word. And the ones that don’t need to be rejected in overwhelming fashion,” he said.

Crist on running as an independent: ‘Things change.’

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 by Dara Kam

After repeatedly insisting that he’s not going to jump the Republican Party ship, Gov. Charlie Crist had a simple response to what he would say to Floridians if he does now that he’s considering running for U.S. Senate as an independent.

“Things change,” Crist said.

Those things might include GOP leaders demanding that Crist drop out of the race altogether if he decides to run as a no-party candidate.

Yesterday, the executive director of the National Republican Senate Committee said he believes there’s “zero chance” Crist will remain in the GOP primary against former House Speaker Marco Rubio, once an underdog in the race but who now holds a double-digit lead over Crist in the polls.

“It is our view that if Gov. Crist believes he cannot win a primary then the proper course of action is he drop out of the race and wait for another day,” NRSC executive director Rob Jesmer wrote in a memo.

Crist dismissed the suggestion in his typical populist style.

“I think I’ll take the advice of people in Florida instead of the advice of people in Washington. They’re telling us a lot,” he said.

Numerous GOP leaders in and outside of Florida are distancing themselves from Crist since he vetoed two bills important to Republicans in the legislature: a bill measure that would have allowed “leadership funds” and a teacher merit-pay bill pushed by Sen. John Thrasher, who is also the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

He said he’s “getting a lot of calls and a lot of text messages” offering him advice on what to do.

Crist acknowledged the almost surreal shift in the race in which he was once the hands-down leader and GOP officials virtually pretended that Rubio was not even in the race.

“These are unusual times. Arent’ they?” he said.

Thrasher, who said Crist reneged after telling him he would sign the controversial teacher bill into law, offered some lukewarm encouragement to Crist.

“In spite of policy differences that we’ve had, we have a big tent and I just hope he stays Republican,” the chairman said.

Republicans who once backed Crist may abandon him if he runs as an independent, which could hurt the Republican nominee. Or, he could take their support with him, something Republicans fear.

“I don’t know that they do. That’s the dilemma he probably has now. Again, you’d have to go follower-by-follower to find that out,” said Thrasher, R-Jacksonville.

Dems unleash second video targeting Rubio GOP party credit card scandal

Friday, February 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Democratic National Committee released a second video highlighting U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio’s state GOP party-issued credit card spending when Rubio was Florida House Speaker.

The Dems’ attack ad is curious, however, because it appears to promote Rubio’s opponent Gov. Charlie Crist.

Interspersed with newsclips from MSNBC and FoxNews are interviews with Crist in which he criticizes Rubio’s AmEx spending and comments that if Rubio doesn’t like the flak, “That’s too bad. Welcome to the NFL.”

Rubio racked up nearly $110,000 on his Republican Party of Florida American Express card -including expenditures for items like Internet music, wine and repairs to his family mini-van – that are raising eyebrows on TV news shows nationwide.

The first ad is a take-off on the MasterCard “Priceless” marketing campaign. It also ends with the RPOF’s Tallahassee street address and advises watchers to send their credit card bills there.

NY Times spotlights Meek in FL U.S. Senate campaign

Friday, February 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

It’s no secret that the Florida U.S. Senate race has captured the attention of the national media and is a crucial race for both parties.

But much of the focus has been on the GOP primary featuring Gov. Charlie Crist, who is leaving office after only one term to pursue the post, and former House Speaker Marco Rubio, the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House whose somber face ran on the cover of The New York Times Sunday magazine not long ago, prompting Crist’s campaign to dub him “New York Times Cover Boy.”

While Rubio and Crist slug it out (and it’s getting uglier every day), U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democrat who will likely face off against one of them in November, has been busily stumping around the state gathering petition signatures in the hopes of becoming the first U.S. Senate candidate from Florida ever to qualify by petition.

Read today’s New York Times article on Meek here.

Dems spoof state GOP credit card scandal with ‘priceless’ video

Friday, February 26th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Capitalizing on the scandal erupting over the state GOP’s credit card spending, national Democrats released a video take-off of the MasterCard “Priceless” television campaign.

The spoof highlights some of the Republican Party of Florida-issued credit card charges now-U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio made when Florida House Speaker, including $1,000 in repairs to his family mini-van.

“Getting your personal bills paid for by the Republican Party of Florida like Marco Rubio: Priceless,” the Democratic National Committee video mocks.

The state GOP may get some unwanted mail as a result of the “Priceless” satire.

“Want your bills paid for by the Republican Party of Florida? Just send them in. 420 E. Jefferson Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32301,” it concludes.

The DNC ad targets Rubio at a time when the once-long-shot candidate’s popularity is soaring while his GOP primary opponent Gov. Charlie Crist’s is on the wane.

New poll: Crist, Rubio in dead heat

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio are in a dead heat in the GOP race for the U.S. Senate, according to a poll released this morning.

The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey found Crist and Rubio in a 43-43 percent tie among likely Republican primary voters.

Crist’s lead over Rubio dropped 10 percent in the same poll since August. And the governor’s popularity is at an all-time low, with just 19 percent of respondents having a “very favorable” opinion of him.

Earlier this year, Rubio, the first Cuban-American House Speaker, was considered a long-shot in the race.

But conservative support – including the endorsement of The Club for Growth and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina – has rallied Rubio’s campaign and drawn national attention to the Florida primary, viewed as a test of the rising “Tea Party” movement and characterizing the fight for the control of the party between moderates and conservatives.

Crist and other GOP leaders have angered Republican conservative base voters who typically show up at the polls to vote in primaries.

This summer, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer – hand-picked by Crist – snubbed Rubio by endorsing Crist and discouraging primaries that he said weaken the party’s ability to win in the general election.

Crist alienated conservatives by applauding President Barack Obama’s stimulus package symbolized by the now-infamous “man-hug” with the Democratic president.

And he raised eyebrows in August when he appointed his longtime advisor and right-hand-man George LeMieux to replace U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, who retired before his term ended.

The winner of next year’s primary is likely to face off against Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, who is gathering petition signatures to get onto the ballot.

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