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Rubio votes against Violence Against Women Act hours before delivering GOP SOTU response

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Rubio practicing for his GOP response to the SOTU Tuesday

Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio voted against the Violence Against Women Act, just hours before delivering the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech tonight.

The Senate easily passed the reauthorization of the 1994 law which expired in 2011, authorizing $659 million over five years in spending for domestic violence programs that include shelters, legal assistance and training for law enforcement officers.

Rubio objected to some portions of the act, which expanded services for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims and includes a controversial provision allowing tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians accused of domestic violence on reservations.

Read Rubio’s statement on his “no” vote Tuesday after the jump.
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Mack works tailgaters at FSU, UF games on bus tour

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack made his way through a crush of garnet-garbed tailgaters Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, ending the opening day of a six-day bus tour at the Florida State-Clemson football game.

Also posing for pictures and shaking hands at the stadium was Josh Romney, one of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney’s five sons. ‘Noles for Romney-Ryan’ bumper stickers were being distributed by supporters.

Earlier Saturday, Mack had campaigned in Gainesville, working the crowd outside the Florida-Kentucky game in the afternoon. But his race with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was never far from his mind.

“It looks good,” Mack said about his chances, despite polls showing him well behind the two-term incumbent. Macksaid he is banking on undecided voters — who number in the 10 percent range in most polls — as his key to a come-from-behind win.

“Polls we’ve done are better, much better,” Mack said. “But the undecideds also are trending Republican, and that’s good.”

Still, Mack also has seen his popularity ratings tank in various surveys. The six-day bus tour, which heads Sunday to Jacksonville, may help soften the image Nelson TV spots have enhanced, casting Mack as a spoiled senator’s son. Mack’s father held the same seat for two terms from 1989-2001.

“It all helps,” said

Connie Mack IV meets fans outside FSU game

Mack, who will campaign Sunday with David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association.

Mack also took issue with Nelson for so far refusing to take part in a CNN debate planned for Oct. 30 and another proposed for Oct. 23 from the University of Florida.  The rival campaigns have agreed on only one debate, an Oct. 17 Leadership Florida-Florida Press Association sitdown scheduled for Davie.

“We’re saying come debate us anywhere, anytime. I’m sure he’s going `Ahh, I’ve got a lot of money in the bank and some of the public polling have us up and we don’t want to make a mistake,” Mack said. “I think the people of Florida are saying, ‘we want to know what the two candidates are all about.’”

Mack, who refused to debate his Republican rivals before the Aug. 14 primary, drew a distinction with his approach. “Our closest opponent was 35 points behind us….we’re in a much more competitive race than we had in the primary.”

 

 

Jeb! to raise Cash! for Mack; one Senate debate also set

Thursday, September 13th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will headline a fund-raiser for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack next month in Miami, the campaign announced Thursday.

The $500-and-up per-person event will be held the evening of Oct. 5 at Miami’s Grove Isle Club on Biscayne Bay.

Meanwhile, Mack and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson have agreed to what sponsors are calling the pair’s only live statewide television debate, Oct. 17. Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association are co-sponsoring the debate, which will be aired from Nova Southeastern University in Davie at 7 p.m.

WPTV-Channel 5 in West Palm Beach is producing the event, which will be carried by other broadcast partners in Florida’s 11 TV markets.

Mack and Nelson are still in discussions with Tampa’s Bay News 9 and CNN about another debate, tentatively planned for Oct. 30. The Nelson campaign wants to advance that date, to bring it closer to when early voting is scheduled to begin on Oct. 27.

ACLU wants Senate hearings on voter law before Jan. 31 prez primary

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The ACLU of Florida, already suing to overturn the state’s new voting law, urged a Senate panel Wednesday to hold its planned hearing on the measure — preferably before the state’s Jan. 31 presidential primary.

Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin said Tuesday that his Senate subcommittee will hold a ”field hearing” in Florida on the voting standards approved earlier this year by the Republican-ruled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

The state’s senior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, called for Durbin to stage the hearing, saying the new measure is designed to blunt Democratic turnout in next year’s presidential election – by imposing stricter limits on third-party groups that register voters and shortening the number of days available for early voting.

 Florida is among 14 Republican-ruled states where new voting laws have been approved that Democrats and allied groups say are motivated by presidential politics.

 ”We agree with your assessment that these new restrictions will disenfranchise a great number of Floridians including young, disabled and lower income voters,” ACLU executive director Howard Simon wrote Durbin. “Moreover, these restrictions were intended to, and will, have a regressive impact on the voting rights of racial and language minority voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act.”

Simon said Durbin’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights should consider holding three hearings, in Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, and Tallahassee — before the scheduled Jan. 31 primary.

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.”

LeMieux leads latest cash quarter, as GOP Senate fields expands

Monday, July 11th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Republican U.S. Senate candidate George LeMieux on Monday became the last of the big three GOP challengers to Democrat Bill Nelson to tout his latest finance total — but he is claiming victory in the dollar race.

LeMieux’s campaign said that in the quarter ending June 30, it took in more than $950,000 — edging Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ $900,000 collected, and the $560,000 former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Delray Beach is reporting raising.

“With contributors from all over Florida, George’s campaign continues to strengthen and his grassroots momentum is reflected in his fundraising success,” campaign manager Brian Seitchik wrote on LeMieux’s website.

Haridopolos, who has been in the race longest, remains the leading money-raiser to date, with $3.4 million collected so far. Fund-raising details aren’t expected to be provided at least until reports are due July 15. Nelson hasn’t revealed his cash totals yet.

The Republican contest also is poised to grow further, with former Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse CEO Craig Miller to announce his candidacy this week. Miller ran for Congress in Central Florida last fall, finishing third in the Republican primary field behind Sandy Adams, the Orlando Republican who went on to defeat Democratic  U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas.

Hasner emerges as the half-million dollar man in Senate fight

Thursday, July 7th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Former state House majority leader Adam Hasner said Thursday that he has raised more than $560,000 for his U.S. Senate campaign since jumping into the race in April.

While that trails leading fundraiser, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, whose $900,000 last quarter brings his total to $3.4 million, Hasner said his first finance report will show he is not relying on the special interest contributors his leading rivals have turned to.

Haridopolos has powerful Tallahassee ties; George LeMieux, appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist for a brief turn in the Senate and now seeking a term of his own, was the beneficiary last month of a Washington cash-call hosted by Senate Republicans.

Hasner, of Delray Beach, is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson next year.

“Obviously, we’re not going to out-raise our opponents right out of the gate,” said Hasner adviser Rick Wilson. “One of them is running the Charlie Crist-special interest, establishment campaign plan. And the other one wrote it. Our approach is fundamentally different.”

Hasner said his report, which is to be filed by July 15, will show he has raised money from more than 2,000 contributors, signs that he’s got an “energized grassroots base.” Hasner also says he’s got $460,000 cash-on-hand.

Haridopolos’ spokesman legs it to Lottery

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The Capitol’s summertime job shuffling continues — with Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ spokesman David Bishop legging it next week for a job with the state Lottery Department.

No successor has been named yet by the Senate boss — whose office last month lost its chief-of-staff, Steve MacNamara, to Gov. Rick Scott. New Haridopolos chief Craig Meyer is also tasked with filling a couple Senate committee staff directors’ posts.

Bishop, a veteran lobbyist, political adviser and former TV reporter, will be a deputy secretary at the Lottery, overseeing marketing, communications and advertising. His $114,000 salary tops his Senate spokesman pay by $2,000.

Bishop joined Haridopolos’ office last September. The Senate president is headed for his final spring as a state lawmaker and is among a four-pack of Republican contenders seeking the party’s nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Balancing the role of lawmaker and statewide candidate is a tough juggling act. But Bishop said his departure was on his own terms for a job that is interesting, and provides some potential for longevity.

“We’ve done a great job of keeping the campaign and the official duties of Senate president separate,” Bishop said. “That’s not an issue at all. I’m leaving on my own timeline.”

LeMieux fares better than Haridopolos on conservative talk show

Monday, June 6th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Despite differences of opinion, U.S. Senate candidate George LeMieux managed to stay on the air with conservative talk-show host Ray Junior this evening, unlike one of LeMieux’ GOP primary opponents, Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Junior tossed Haridopolos off his show last week for refusing to answer whether he’s vote for or against U.S. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan‘s spending plan.

After a long back-and-forth about commuter rail and SunRail, Junior asked LeMieux the same question.

“Should I give you a five minute answer?” quipped LeMieux, who served 16 months as U.S. senator after being appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to fill a vacancy created by Mel Martinez. “I would have voted for it.”

LeMieux gave a somewhat more rambling response to query about whether or not he supports the Fair Tax proposal that would replace federal income taxes with a national sales tax.

“I think there’s a lot of good things about it,” LeMieux began.

Junior credited LeMieux with knowing enough about Fair Tax to talk about it, and gave him a high grade at the end of the show, but not before putting him on the spot about Charlie Crist, who called LeMieux “the maestro.” The pair’s careers were closely linked until Crist left the Republican party for a losing independent bid for the U.S. Senate last year.

“When did you discover Charlie Crist was a dirtbag?” Junior, who has dubbed himself “America’s loose cannon,” asked.

LeMieux didn’t bite.

“I would not say Charlie Crist is a dirt bag. I would not say anything negative about him,” LeMieux insisted, despite repeated goading by Junior. “Charlie Crist is my friend. I have taken a pledge not to say anything negative about him. I don’t think it’s productive.”

Despite refusing to engage in Crist-bashing, Junior, who also bragged about throwing now-U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster off his show during the 2010 campaign season, gave LeMieux an overall thumbs-up.

“I thought I was going to have to kick him off. He did good. ‘Cause he answered the damn questions,” he said.

McCollum joins D.C. law firm

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 by John Kennedy

Former Attorney General Bill McCollum is joining a Washington,D.C., law firm as partner — specializing in representing clients in legal matters before state attorneys general.

McCollum spent 20 years in Congress before unsuccessfully running for U.S. Senate in 2000. His four year term as Florida attorney general, 2007-2011, was sandwiched between another failed bid for Senate (2004) and losing to Rick Scott in last summer’s Republican primary for governor.

SNR Denton is an international law firm building a specialty pivoted around cases involving state attorneys general. While McCollum will work out of Washington, also joining the firm is former Indiana Attorney General Jeff Modisett, who will work out SNR Denton’s Los Angeles office.

“With the recent, dramatic growth in state Attorneys General consumer protection investigations involving key industry sectors such as financial institutions, energy, health care, telecommunications and the internet, it made sense for me to join a firm that is known for its deep bench strength in the public sector,” McCollum said, in announcing the move.

Senate prez booted off conservative talk show

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate President Mike Haridopolos is the big cheese in his chamber but apparently not so much on conservative talk show host Ray Junior‘s turf.

Junior cut short a telephone interview with Haridopolos, who is running for U.S. Senate in what could be a brutal GOP primary, because the Merritt Island Republican refused to answer whether he would vote for U.S. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget if elected.

As he did with The Palm Beach Post’s reporter George Bennett earlier this week, Haridopolos sidestepped questions about how he would vote on Ryan’s controversial spending plan.

Among the non-answers Haridopolos gave: “I’m not in the U.S. Senate but I am in the Florida Senate.”

After repeatedly asking Haridopolos to answer the question, an exasperated Junior wound up the interview.

“Get him off my phone. I don’t want anything to do with this guy. Get rid of him,” he told an aide.

Haridopolos financial backer goes belly up

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 by John Kennedy

One of Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ big  financial backers, Appliance Direct, has filed for bankrupty in an effort to reorganize its finances and stabilize its eight retail stores in Central Florida.

Haridopolos one-man consulting firm,  MJH Consulting, has counted as one of its two clients a company named Market Share Systems, a subsidiary of Appliance Direct. It paid him $181,000 since 2007 and provided him with a $5,000 monthly retainer, according to documents filed last year with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The ethics panel found that Haridopolos  failed to fully disclose his financial interests for five years from 2004 through 2008. In an unusual move, the full Senate admonished its leader — a candidate for U.S. Senate —  earlier this session for the disclosure failures.
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Senate prez joins Scott in rejecting feds’$2.4 billion for rail

Friday, February 18th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The day after a bipartisan coalition of his members pleaded with the federal government for more time to work an end-run around Gov. Rick Scott’s rejection of $2.4 billion for high-speed rail, Senate President Mike Haridopolos joined the governor in saying “no thanks” for the dough.

“The federal government has earmarked $2.4 billion to finance part of the cost of construction of the proposed Florida high-speed rail project. But to do so, Washington would borrow 100% of that money, which would be financed in large part by foreign, non-democratic governments,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said in a statement released this morning.

Haridopolos is running statewide for U.S. Senate in what is expected to be a crowded GOP primary.

High-speed rail projects backed by President Obama’s federal stimulus funds have become a hot-button issue for tea partiers for whom the trains symbolize wasteful government spending.

U.S. Transportation Department Secretary gave Florida another week to come up with a plan for the $2.7 billion Tampa-to-Orlando project.

Read the rest of Haridopolos’ statement after the jump.
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GOP prez candidate Pawlenty gets his Tally on next week

Friday, February 11th, 2011 by Dara Kam

As promised by Senate President Mike Haridopolos yesterday, GOP lawmakers will get a visit from one of the likely 2012 presidential contenders – former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty – next week.

Tea party darling Pawlenty, slated to speak Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., will be the first of the presidential candidates to come to what the Merritt Island Republican, who’s running statewide for U.S. Senate, calls ground-zero in the 2012 race.

“T-Paw,” as he calls himself on his Website, has set up a political committee called “Freedom First” backing conservative candidates like himself, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott and new U.S. Reps. Daniel Webster and Steve Southerland.

Perhaps Haridopolos, hoping to unseat incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in what may be a crowded field, will get his endorsement (although Haridopolos was a Mike Huckabee supporter three years ago.) Haridopolos happily labels himself Florida’s most conservative senate president ever.

Haridopolos said that Florida is “the most important state in the presidential election” and will also likely determine who the next GOP nominee is.

“I think it will be beneficial for Florida to find out some of the ideas because we face a multitude of problems in the state and if a person is seeking the presidency I think they should come to Florida and let us know what they think,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told reporters yesterday.

Senate prez officially launches bid for U.S. Senate

Friday, January 14th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate President Mike Haridopolos started organizing his U.S. Senate bid with a campaign committee to raise money for the 2012 race.

Haridopolos’ committee – “Friends of Mike H” – launched a Website to accept contributions for the Merritt Island Republican.

Haridopolos is inviting big Republican donors to a “private strategy meeting” in Orlando next month and asking them to bring $10,000 checks, according to an e-mail a GOP fundraiser sent out yesterday.

Haridopolos and what is expected to be a host of others have targeted U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the state’s statewide-elected Democratic holdout. Others who’ve expressed an interest in running against Nelson include former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, an attorney with the West Palm Beach-based Gunster law firm and former aide to Gov. Charlie Crist.

Republicans swept the governor’s seat and the Florida Cabinet and nailed down veto-proof majorities in the state House and Senate in the November elections.

Crist: I’m the only candidate who’ll stand up for Social Security

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Who’s a flip-flopper now?

After weeks of taking heat from GOP opponent Marco Rubio (and Democrat candidate U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek) in his quest for the U.S. Senate, independent Gov. Charlie Crist said Rubio can’t seem to make up his mind where he stands on the issue.

Crist said the former House Speaker changed his stand “three or four times in the past four months” about privatizing Social Security.

“It’s hard to keep up. But obviously he’s all over the map as it relates to Social Security,” Crist told reporters this afternoon. “The seniors of our state deserve to have somebody who will protect and will preserve Social Security. I’m the only candidate in the race who is committed to doing so.”

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Meek calls Sachs defection to Crist ‘strange’

Monday, August 30th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Just two weeks after publicly pumping up U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary race against Jeff Greene, state senator-to-be Maria Sachs yesterday pulled a switch and endorsed Meek’s general election rival Gov. Charlie Crist.

Meek said Sachs, a Delray Beach lawyer, signed an endorsement pledge for him in December and called the switcheroo “strange” especially because Palm Beach County Democrats virtually anointed her to fill U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch’s seat when he left the state senate to go to Washington.

“She spoke very passionately two weeks ago of her support of my candidacy, felt that I should be the next U.S. Senator of Florida,” Meek said at a roundtable with reporters this morning.

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UPDATE: Another Crist pal jumps campaign ship

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist‘s campaign says his website hasn’t changed at all now that the U.S. Senate candidate is openly considering dropping out of the GOP primary and running as an independent.

“No Republican references have been scrubbed from our website, period,” Crist’s campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an e-mail.

Rep. Tom Grady resigned as Crist’s regional campaign chairman today and quit his finance team, citing the website that makes no reference to the governor’s GOP affiliation.

Grady, a Naples Republican who was elected to the House in 2008 at Crist’s urging, is the latest GOP ally to distance himself from Crist and his U.S. Senate campaign after Crist admitted he is considering abandoning the Republican primary race against former House Speaker Marco Rubio and running instead in the general election in November with no party affiliation.

“This evening, as I reviewed your updated campaign website, I noticed a disheartening fact. Your website has eliminated all references to our Republican Party, or as you frequently refer to it, the party of Lincoln,” Grady wrote in a letter to Crist today distributed to the media by Trey Communications.

Once a sure shot to win in the primary against Rubio, recent polls show Crist trailing the Miami Cuban-American by about 20 percentage points.

Yesterday, National Republican Senate Committee Executive Director fueled speculation that Crist would abandon the GOP race saying there was “zero chance” Crist would run against Rubio.

Things change,” Crist told reporters today when asked how he would explain to voters leaving the GOP primary after repeatedly saying he would not do so.

Grady was one of the few Republicans who attended the governor’s press conference at which Crist announced he would veto SB 6, the contentious teacher merit pay measure pushed by GOP leaders in the legislature.

Former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack III, Crist’s mentor whose name the governor frequently invokes, withdrew as Crist’s campaign chairman after the veto Thursday.

Read Grady’s letter after the jump.
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Meek calls U.S. Senate petition drive ‘victory before the victory’

Monday, March 29th, 2010 by Dara Kam

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek‘s campaign today filed 145,000 signatures gathered in his year-long petition drive for the U.S. Senate race in November.

Meek, a Miami Democrat, needs about 112,000 of those signatures validated to make it onto the November ballot.

Florida law allows candidates to qualify by petition in lieu of paying $10,000 filing fee to get on the ballot.

If the signatures meet muster, Meek, a former state legislator, would be the first statewide candidate to qualify by petition.

Meek’s candidacy has been eclipsed by the GOP primary battle between Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio, who sparred in a nationally televised debate for the first time on FoxNews yesterday.

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