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Mavericky Meek: Crist not fit to lead

Friday, January 8th, 2010 by Dara Kam

meekU.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek held a roundtable with the Capitol press corps this morning and came out swinging at Gov. Charlie Crist.

Meek, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate, slammed Crist, a Republican who’s losing traction in a GOP primary against former House Speaker Marco Rubio, for his turn-around on abortion and his failed health care program that has been ignored by uninsured Floridians.

“Overall I think the governor’s a very nice person,” Meek, a former state legislator who is in his fourth term in Congress, began. “I don’t think he’s prepared to lead this state in the United States Senate. One, he doesn’t like to make a decision. Two, he’s very vague. And three, I believe he’s more politician than leader.”

(more…)

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.

UPDATE: Senate budget committee staff director quits

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Senate Ways and Means Committee staff director Cynthia Kelly resigned from her post today.

Kelly leaves her boss Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander without his right-hand-woman as he struggles to chop $2.8 billion from this year’s budget.

Kelly, who’s spent 20 years working for the state, is quitting to spend more time with her family, according to an e-mail distributed within the Senate. She’ll stay on for up to a month.

Alexander, R-Lake Wales, had this to say about Kelly. (more…)

Health reform Halloween scary for seniors?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Backers of President Barack Obama’s health care reforms unleashed a television ad in Orlando, Louisville and Washington pillorying Humana’s scare tactics targeting seniors and the plan’s impact on Medicare.

Americans United for Change, Obama’s campaign organization-turned unofficial presidential PR machine, is running the ad and also staging a protest at Humana headquarters in West Palm Beach today at noon.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched an investigation into Humana Inc.’s possible misuse of beneficiary information to send anti-health care mailers to its Medicare gap coverage enrollees. The Louisville-based insurer is one of the largest Medicare supplemental insurance providers.

Humana sent mailers to seniors in several states, including Florida, containing what could be misleading information about Obama’s plan, warning of cuts to benefits and increases in costs to the popular government-backed insurance plan for seniors.

According to the AARP’s web site, “None of the health care reform proposals being considered by Congress would cut Medicare benefits or increase your out-of-pocket costs for Medicare services.”

Sink to McCollum: You’re the one who cut Medicare!

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 by Dara Kam

sink-breakersChief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate, gave her likely GOP opponent Attorney General Bill McCollum a taste of his own medicine by calling him out on his Congressional voting record on health care.

Sink’s campaign issued a press release responding to McCollum’s challenge this morning to join him in opposition to President Barack Obama’s and Congressional Democrats’ health care plan.

“During his twenty years in Congress, McCollum voted eight times to cut Medicare by at least $650 billion, voted to raise the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security, and voted to make it harder for government to crack down on health care fraud,” Sink’s campaign manager Paul Dunn wrote.

“Bill McCollum is in no position to question anyone else until he answers for his decades-long record undermining Medicare, Social Security, and affordable health care,” Dunn concluded.

Crist tells CNBC Florida population decline “not that big a deal”

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist performed as the Sunshine State’s chief pitch-man, blowing off Florida’s historic population loss and touting the fine weather in a CNBC interview this morning.

Florida saw a drop of 58,000 residents last year, the first population decrease since military residents left the state after World War II.

“It’s not that big a deal, to be honest with you,” Crist shrugged off the decline on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” show today.

The governor then launched into a Sunshine State sales pitch, touting declines in property taxes and property insurance rates and the weather.

“And it’s Florida. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a gorgeous day today down here in South Florida. You just can’t beat the Sunshine State,” said Crist, who is in Miami. Florida I really think is on the rise and it’s a great deal for an awful lot of people, too.”



Although Florida’s unemployment rate is nearly 11 percent, Crist was upbeat about the job market and pointed to Palm Beach County as a shining example.

Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate was 11.7 percent in July, one percentage point above the state average.

“Even in the Palm Beach County area where Scripps and Torrey Pines and some of these other scientific institutes have located, Max Planck…it’s been great for that area of the state,” Crist said. “We’re very pleased with the direction things are going. We wish they were better, don’t misunderstand me. But we’re not sitting still. We’re on the move. And I continue to be optimistic and encouraged about where we’re going.”

Crist, who drew the wrath of fellow Republicans by urging Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, reversed that position on the health care reforms now being considered in Washington.

(more…)

What they’re saying about LeMieux and Crist

Friday, August 28th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Martinez

Martinez

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez:“I congratulate George LeMieux for being appointed by the governor to fill the remainder of my term. George is bright, capable, and an accomplished
administrator. My staff and I stand ready to ensure a smooth transition.”

Rubio

Rubio

Former House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is running against Crist in the GOP primary to replace Martinez: “This is a disappointing pick for Florida. George LeMieux is a talented political operative and the governor’s best friend, but that doesn’t make him the right choice to represent Florida in the Senate. Governor Crist had a wealth of consistent and principled conservative candidates to choose from, all of whom would have been a reliable check and balance on the excesses of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.”

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate: “Governor Crist was afforded a high responsibility with this appointment. Instead, he treated this process like a mockery, politicizing his selection by flying around the state at taxpayers’ expense, touring major media markets and drawing this selection out. Well respected Floridians with a wealth of elected service experience from Congressman Clay Shaw to Mayor John Delaney to various Hispanic leaders were in a position to hit the ground running if appointed, but that possibility is now nonexistent.”

jimgreerRepublican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer: “Once again, Charlie Crist has demonstrated his commitment to serving Floridians, by appointing George LeMieux who is well qualified, a dedicated public servant, conservative Republican and an excellent choice!”

Progress Florida executive director Mark Ferrulo: “It’s shocking. We wonder why Gov. Crist didn’t just appoint himself if he was going to pick his former chief of staff and campaign ‘maestro’. “The so-called ‘People’s Governor’ has made clear through this appointment that he places personal loyalty and his own political benefit above the interests of Floridians.”

McCollum

McCollum

Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican running to replace Crist as governor: “I congratulate George LeMieux on his appointment as Florida’s U.S. Senator. I have known George for a long time, both as a friend and as a former Deputy Attorney General, a capacity in which he served this office
well. I wish him the best in serving the people of Florida in the U.S. Senate.”

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Hari Sevugan: “With Florida’s economy in shambles, Charlie Crist could have selected a Senator who would be able to hit the ground running in Washington to tackle the problems that face Floridians. In appointing a political crony as a placeholder until he can run for Senate himself, Charlie Crist is using the Governorship to advance his own political ambitions rather than advancing the lives of the Floridians he was elected to serve.”

Wexler

Wexler

U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, a Democrat from Boca Raton: “In short, George LeMieux will make an excellent Senator. I wish him great success and look forward to working with him in any way I can.”

Republican operative and political consultant Mac Stipanovich: “He was not the obvious choice.”

Hammer

Hammer

Marion Hammer, former NRA president who now lobbies for the same organization and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida: “The NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida are very pleased with Governor Crist’s appointment of George LeMieux as Florida’s new junior U.S. Senator. George is rated ‘A’ by the NRA and will be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment in the U.S. Senate. Gun owners can count on George LeMieux to fight to protect freedom and the Second Amendment.”

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff: “This is just one more example of the Republican leadership in Tallahassee putting cronyism and corruption above the people of our state. From Ray Sansom, to former lobbyist Bill McCollum, to George LeMieux, it is clear that we must stand together and pledge to end the Republican culture of cronyism and corruption in Tallahassee.”

Shaw

Shaw

Former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, who was a finalist on Crist’s list of possible Martinez replacements and for whom LeMieux once worked as an intern: “George is a very, very capable guy and I’m sure he’ll do a good job. He’s a quick study, he’s articulate, he’s very close to the governor. I think it’s a good choice.”

Bogdanoff

Bogdanoff

State Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, active with LeMieux in Broward County GOP politics since the mid-1990s: “He’s a smart guy, politically savvy, a hard worker. There’s nothing negative to say about George….He’s certainly smart enough to wade through the issues.”

Fordham

Fordham

Kirk Fordham, head of the Everglades Foundation: “George LeMieux is the right pick for Florida. He has a deep understanding of a wide range of regional issues that are unique to Florida. When it comes to protecting the people’s water supply and restoring the Everglades, we couldn’t ask for a better ally than we’ll have in Senator George LeMieux.”

Crist adds 3 former Congressmen to ever-growing U.S. Senate list

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist added three more Florida politicians to his possible appointees to fill U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez’ soon-to-be-vacated seat.

Former U.S. Reps. Mike Bilirakis, Lou Frey and Clay Shaw are now among the candidates Crist is considering, bringing his list to ten.

Shaw, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, served in Congress for more than 25 years. His district includes part of southern Palm Beach County.

Last week, Crist asked conservative favorite former House Speaker who later became a powerful state senator Daniel Webster to apply for the post. Crist is also considering former chief of staff George LeMieux, who ran Crist’s gubernatorial campaign and remains a close ally.

Crist said this weekend that he wants to fill the post by Sept. 8, the day when Congress reconvenes after a summer break.

Tomorrow, Crist will interview Shaw in South Florida, Bilirakis and former U.S. Rep. Bill Young in Tampa. He’ll also meet with Frey and former Florida Cabinet member Jim Smith, a Tallahassee lobbyist who served as both attorney general and secretary of state, in Tallahassee tomorrow, according to Crist spokeswoman Erin Isaac.

Crist, who is running in a GOP primary against former House Speaker Marco Rubio to replace Martinez, said previously “it is understood” that he’ll appoint someone who will not run against him next year.

Crist puts Dan Webster on list of U.S. Senate candidates

Thursday, August 20th, 2009 by Dara Kam

WebsterGov. Charlie Crist added former House Speaker Daniel Webster to the list of possible appointments to replace U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez who announced his resignation earlier this month.

Webster is the seventh politician tapped by Crist to apply for the post, which he is leaving office after one term to pursue.

Webster served in the Florida legislature for two decades, winning election to the Florida House where he served as speaker from 1996-1998 before leaving for the state senate where he eventually became Majority Leader.

Webster, an engineer who owns a heating and air conditioning business in Orlando, is a favorite of conservative Republicans who have pressured Crist appoint him to fill Martinez’ seat. Webster actively supported Gov. Mike Huckabee in his presidential bid.

Crist has interviewed several candidates over the past several days:
- State Rep. Jennifer Carroll, R-Jacksonville, the legislature’s only black Republican;
- University of North Florida President John Delaney, Jacksonville’s former mayor and a long-time Crist supporter;
- Miami trial lawyer Bobby Martinez, who served as a U.S. Attorney, headed Crist’s transition team and was appointed to the state Board of Education by Gov. Jeb Bush and reappointed by Crist;
- George LeMieux, Crist’s former chief of staff who also managed his gubernatorial campaign and remains close to the governor.

He’s also considering at least two others:
- Jim Smith, a former Florida Cabinet member who served as both attorney general and secretary of state. Smith, who switched parties from Democrat to Republican, is now a top-tier Tallahassee lobbyist whose partner, Brian Ballard, is also his son-in-law and one of Crist’s chief advisors.
- Long-serving U.S. Rep. Bill Young, an Indian Shores Republican from Crist’s hometown of Pinellas County. Young is in his 20th term in Congress.

McCollum tops Sink for governor in latest Q-Poll

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum edged out Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat, by 38-34 percent in the latest Quinnipiac University poll. Twenty percent of the state’s likely voters polled remain undecided.

That flip-flops Sink’s 38-34 percent lead among likely Florida voters two months ago. Sink remains relatively unknown to Floridians, according to the poll from Aug. 12-17 of 1,136 likely voters. Nearly two-thirds of those polled said they don’t know enough about her to have an opinion of her job performance.

McCollum and Sink are both leaving office after one term in pursuit of the governor’s mansion. Gov. Charlie Crist is also vacating after one term to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, who stepped down before his first term in Washington is complete.

The poll also shows Crist with a healthy 55-26 percent lead over GOP primary opponent, former House Speaker Marco Rubio. In June, Crist held a 54-23 percent margin over Rubio.

Crist adds Bill Young, LeMieux to list of U.S. Senate hopefuls

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 by Dara Kam

youngGov. Charlie Crist is screening long-serving U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young and former chief of staff George LeMieux to fill U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez’ seat. Martinez quit before his first term ends in 2012.

Crist, who is leaving office after one term to replace Martinez himself, spent yesterday and today interviewing possible candidates – including state Rep. Jennifer Carroll, UNF president John Delaney, former U.S. Attorney Bobby Martinez and LeMieux, a former deputy attorney general under Crist. They’re all Republicans who presumably have no interest in challenging Crist, who is running against former House Speaker Marco Rubio in a GOP primary, for the seat next year.

Also on the list: former state attorney general and secretary of state Jim Smith, now a Tallahassee lobbyist.

Young is in his 20th term in Congress and is from Indian Shores near Crist’s St. Petersburg hometown in Pinellas County.

Crist meets with LeMieux as he considers U.S. Senate pick

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 by Dara Kam

lemieux1Gov. Charlie Crist is meeting with former chief of staff George LeMieux today as he ponders his replacement for U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez who resigned from office earlier this month.

The hastily-added meeting with LeMieux, a close ally who headed Crist’s gubernatorial campaigns and is now the chairman of the largest law firm in the state, raises speculation about whether the governor will tap LeMieux to fill in for Martinez for the remainder of his term.

Crist is seeking the office himself, running against former House Speaker Marco Rubio in a GOP primary next year.

Last week, Crist asked for applications for the temporary post from U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, former attorney general and secretary of state Jim Smith and former U.S. Atttorney Bobby Martinez. Diaz-Balart dropped out of consideration late Monday.

Crist met with Martinez yesterday before hurriedly asking state Rep. Jennifer Carroll, a Republican from Jacksonville and the only black Republican in the legislature, and University of North Florida President John Delaney. He visited with the Jacksonville pair in their hometown yesterday as well.

Crist adds two Jax officials to Martinez replacement list

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist added two names to the list of candidates he’s interviewing to replace U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez: state Rep. Jennifer Carroll and University of North Florida President John Delaney, both of Jacksonville.

carrollCarroll is the only black Republican serving in the state legislature. delaney-2Delaney was formerly the mayor of Jacksonville and a long-time Crist supporter.

Crist plans to interview both tomorrow in Jacksonville. Neither was among possible candidates speculated on by political insiders around the state.

Crist today met with Bobby Martinez, a Miami lawyer who oversaw his transition when the governor took office in 2007 and a former U.S. prosecutor.

The governor, who is running in a GOP primary next year against former House Speaker Marco Rubio to take the seat himself, must appoint someone to fulfill the remainder of Martinez’ term, which ends in January 2012.

Crist also asked U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Jim Smith, a former state attorney general and secretary of state who is now a lobbyist, to apply for the post. Diaz-Balart pulled out yesterday and a visit with Smith has yet to be scheduled.

Crist U.S. Senate list not limited to Martinez and Smith

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to request more candidates to apply to replace U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez after initially asking three GOP allies to apply.

U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart withdrew his name from the list late last evening, the day before Crist is scheduled to meet with another Hispanic potential replacement, former U.S. prosecutor Bobby Martinez.

Crist will meet with Martinez at the Miami airport at 1 p.m. today.

Crist hasn’t scheduled an interview yet with former secretary of state and attorney general Jim Smith – now a Tallahassee lobbyist – the last of the three candidates the governor asked last week to apply for the job.

But he said today the “short list” isn’t limited to just Smith and Martinez.

Crist called Bobby Martinez a “brilliant man” and “a dear friend and a loyal ally.”

But, he added, “There are others who we’ll be interviewing, too. And I look forward to the process.”

Crist, who is running against former House Speaker Marco Rubio in a GOP primary in November to replace Martinez, cited integrity rather than someone who would mirror his own votes Congress as his top priority in making the selection.

“I have to appoint somebody who in my belief number one has great integrity, will serve our fellow Floridians with honor and will do an incredible job of making sure that we continue to be well represented in both seats in the United States Senate,” Crist told reporters after a morning meeting with educators at the governor’s mansion. “Those are my primary considerations.”

Lincoln Diaz-Balart bows out of U.S. Senate consideration

Monday, August 17th, 2009 by Dara Kam

diaz-balartU.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart withdrew his name for consideration to replace U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez this evening.

Diaz-Balart issued a statement this evening saying he told Gov. Charlie Crist to remove him from the short list of three to fill in for Martinez until next year’s November election.

“I have informed Governor Charlie Crist this evening that I will not be submitting the Questionnaire for appointment to the Senate he kindly asked me to consider submitting. It was a great honor to be considered by Governor Crist for appointment to the United States Senate. I thank him for his kind gesture of confidence. After giving the Governor’s request serious consideration and deliberation, I have decided to remain in the U.S. House of Representatives fighting for the causes which I deeply believe in,”‬‪‬‪‬‪ the statement reads.

That leaves Tallahassee lobbyist Jim Smith, a Democrat-turned Republican who served on the Florida Cabinet as both Attorney General and Secretary of State, and former U.S. prosecutor Bobby Martinez.

Crist is scheduled to meet with Martinez tomorrow at the Miami airport at 1 p.m.

Crist is leaving office after one term to run for the seat and is being challenged in a GOP primary by former House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Diaz-Balart out; Crist to meet with to meet with possible Martinez replacement Martinez

Monday, August 17th, 2009 by Dara Kam

From left to right: Diaz-Balart, Martinez, Smith

From left to right: Diaz-Balart, Martinez, Smith

Gov. Charlie Crist will meet with Bobby Martinez, not the former governor, tomorrow afternoon at the Miami airport.

Martinez is on Crist’s short list to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, who is stepping down 15 months before his term ends in November.

Martinez (Bobby) is a former U.S. prosecutor who sits on the state Board of Education and was a chief transition aide to both Crist and Jeb Bush when they took over as governor.

Last week, Crist asked Martinez (Bobby), U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and former Attorney General and Secretary of State Jim Smith, now a top-tier Tallahassee lobbyist, to apply as Martinez’ fill-in for the next 15 months.

Crist is leaving office next year after just one term to run for the post himself.

Bobby Martinez is considered by some GOP operatives to be the likeliest candidate to replace Mel Martinez, and not because they share the same surname.

Sources close to Diaz-Balart say that he today withdrew his name from consideration for the post.

And Smith’s lobbying career could make him vulnerable to criticism, although he’s considering retiring. Quitting his lobbying job may not quell objections, however. His partner Brian Ballard, one of Crist’s closest advisers, is also his son-in-law.

Greer defends threat of “forced, taxpayer-funded abortions”

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 by Dara Kam

RPOF Chairman Jim Greer stood by his assertion that President Barack Obama’s health care reforms could lead to “forced, taxpayer-funded abortions.”

Greer held a roundtable with reporters at GOP headquarters this morning, covering a range of issues including the hijinks at town hall meetings throughout the country, including one in Tampa that erupted in physical violence.

Opponents of Obama’s health care package claim that the changes would create “death panels” that would pull the plug on Grandma to save government spending.

“I don’t like the term death panels,” Greer said.

But, he added, “I do believe that trying to pass legislation such as this will provide opportunity for certain types of medical procedures that in some cases Americans would not be aware of or in most cases Americans would not want taxpayer funds to help facilitate.”

The chairman was apparently referring to abortions. Greer yesterday circulated a memo questioning the health care bill and whether it would “work to systematically ‘increase birth intervals between pregnancies,’ opening the very real probability of forced, tax-payer funded abortions.”

He stood by his characterization of the bill this morning.

“If the procedure is financed by taxpayer funds, then in fact the word forced or mandated would be appropriate,” Greer said.

The portion of the bill Greer refers to deals with home visitation services.

The full text follows:

“The term ‘nurse home visitation services’ means home visits by trained nurses to families with a first-time pregnant woman, or a child (under 2 years of age), who is eligible for medical assistance under this title, but only, to the extent determined by the Secretary based upon evidence, that such services are effective in one or more of the following:
(1) Improving maternal or child health and pregnancy outcomes or increasing birth intervals between pregnancies.”

Greer decried the outbursts at town hall meetings but blamed Democrats for spinning the events and not being able to answer questions about the health care bill.

(more…)

Greer: No one knew Martinez would quit until he quit

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 by Dara Kam

chairman_greerGov. Charlie Crist and top GOP officials didn’t know of U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez’s decision to resign early until the senator issued a press release on Friday, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer told reporters this morning.

“There is no one who actually knew the event was actually going to take place until immediately prior to or immediately surrounding that statement,” Greer said.

Although rumors that Martinez would step down early circulated for more than six months prior to his resignation, Greer said Martinez repeatedly assured him he was not quitting. Sort of.

“He would say, ‘No I’m not resigning. Tomorrow,” Greer said.

And despite speculation that Martinez quit early to make it easier for Crist to succeed him, Greer said the senator quit to spend more time with his family and not to help the governor.

(more…)

State GOP: We’re not falling apart!

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 by Dara Kam

Fueled by a recent Orlando Sentinel column advising that the state GOP wise up or continue to lose its domination of Florida politics, the RPOF is striking back.

National committeeman Paul Senft penned a rebuttal to Jane Healy’s column asserting that the Republican Party of Florida is just fine, thanks very much.

Despite Barack Obama’s Florida win in last year’s presidential election, Republicans held on to down-ticket seats and picked up a Congressional seat, ousting former Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney from Palm Beach County, Senft pointed out.

And while it’s true that GOP voter registration is slipping, that’s nothing new in Florida, Senft wrote.

So what if the Dems have also reversed their years-long fundraising slump.

Not to worry, according to Senft.

“If Democrats couldn’t produce down-ticket results in a year with more money, resources and momentum than they have ever had, I don’t see how they’ll do it in 2010,” he wrote.

But Senft’s op-ed may do little to quell dissension in a party whose dirty laundry is increasingly being aired in public.

RPOF Chairman Jim Greer has earned the wrath of the right-wing “Liberty Caucus,” a conservative group of libertarians whose leaders are being targeted by Greer for ouster at the upcoming convention.

Like many other conservatives, Greer ticked off the caucus by his early endorsement of pal Gov. Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate race and his efforts to quash a GOP primary with former House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Meanwhile the St. Johns County GOP are trying to oust the Liberty Caucus’ state chairman, Will Pitts, from the party and remove other critics from their committee posts.

Greer’s strong-arm tactics and dismissal of right-wing darling Rubio coupled with growing dissatisfaction among die-hard Republicans with Crist’s moderate stance have left the party in disarray, critics within the party charge.

They say the party leadership is out of touch with the base and this could hurt them in next year’s elections.

The grievances against the rogue Republicans will be heard this weekend.

Game on: Crist orders python purge

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 by Dara Kam

A python posse armed with clubs and machetes will start combing the Everglades for the supersized serpents this weekend.

Gov. Charlie Crist ordered the python bounty hunt Wednesday at the urging of two Florida congressmen who were in an uproar after one of the exotic snakes strangled a 2-year-old girl July 1 near Ocala.

That python was a pet and didn’t live in the Everglades. But the case called new attention to the plague of the oversized reptiles that have spread throughout South Florida’s marshes, gobbling wading birds and posing a danger to native wildlife.

Estimates of the python population in the Everglades range between 10,000 and 150,000. They can reach up to 20 feet in length and have long, curved teeth, along with the ability to squeeze their prey to death.

(more…)

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