If Charlie Crist isn't planning to run for the Senate in 2010, he certainly seems to relish encouraging people to think so. The Crist-O-Meter moves toward the Senate this week based on several factors:
• The governor stoked the Sen. Crist speculation at a legislative black caucus dinner recently when he shook a few hands with Democratic Senate leader Al Lawson of Tallahassee, who is running for Congress.
" 'See you in Washington,' he said. I can't think of what that means other than that he's going to run for Senate," Lawson recounted of his chat with Crist. "We're not supposed to be in Washington together in the next few months. But if we both get elected, we'll be there. I don't see how I could have taken this any other way. It sounds like he's running."
• The state GOP has shed several more full-time positions, and Republicans say the party realizes it may have serious fundraising constraints with Crist expected to be raising money for his own federal campaign, rather than focusing on unlimited "soft money" contributions to the state party.
• U.S. Rep Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, was widely expected to run for the open Senate seat until he took his name out of the mix and endorsed Crist for either senator or governor. Crist used to work for Mack's father, the former senator, and remains close to the family.
• Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, noting that Crist seems poised to announce for the Senate, announced he is ready to run for governor if that happens.
Crist, who says he'll announce his plans after the legislative session ends in May, said he'd heard of Bronson's interest in succeeding him: "Charlie's a friend and a super guy. He's been, in my humble opinion, a great commissioner of agriculture. And (in) little more than a month, we'll see."
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio on what Florida needs from state leaders:
"We truly need to start with a blank sheet of paper in terms of our method of collecting revenues in this state. Obviously the current system doesn't work well, and so with every session what they try to do is patch it with some idea — we'll add another dollar to cigarettes. Well, how about people who drink beer? … They try these little nickel and dime approaches. This is one of the largest, most active growth states in the country. You've got to have a generalized policy of taxation that deals with boom and bust."
Check her out on Political Connections today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Bay News 9.
Enviro agriculture commissioner?
Eric Draper, Audubon of Florida's lobbyist, deputy director and policy director, confirms that he may run as a Democrat for commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. Draper says he's focused on Audubon's agenda during the legislative session at this point and will make a decision in the next two months.
Other Democrats are in the mix for the Cabinet post? Former state Rep. Rick Minton has already filed, and there's buzz about state Rep. Debbie Boyd, and former Suwanee County Commissioner Randy Hatch.
Times/Herald Tallahassee staff writers Steve Bousquet, Marc Caputo and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.