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Local Florida Republican activists cool to Gov. Charlie Crist's Senate campaign

Marco Rubio still lags in statewide polls behind Gov. Crist.

MARTHA RIAL | Times

Marco Rubio still lags in statewide polls behind Gov. Crist.

If local Republican executive committees decided statewide primary elections, Charlie Crist's Senate campaign would be in big trouble. The Pasco and Lee county parties have held informal straw polls lately where Marco Rubio blew away Crist among the party faithful.

On Thursday, the Highlands GOP held its own nonbinding popularity contest. Rubio received 75 votes and Crist, one.

"People were very conservative, and they don't like what's going on. They're just upset with the way things are going with Crist. They think he's abandoned us," said state committeeman Chuck Oakes, noting Crist's support for President Barack Obama's stimulus plan, among other issues. Unfortunately for Rubio, early statewide polls show Crist crushing Rubio among Republican voters.

Missing at service

Much of the Capitol political establishment was in Jacksonville Saturday for the first of two memorial services planned for the late Sen. Jim King, but not Crist.

Crist, who already has raised $4.3 million for his Senate campaign, was in Aspen, Colo., raising more money — this time at the home of Debbie and Brent Sembler of Pinellas Park. The host committee included a lineup of prominent developers and a casino backer.

King, who died last Sunday of pancreatic cancer, dedicated his final session of a 23-year career to pushing Crist's renewable energy goals. It died amid House stalling and a last-minute attempt to tack on offshore oil drilling.

The growth line

In the competitive Democratic primary for attorney general, one clear dividing line between state Sens. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres and Dan Gelber of Miami Beach is the controversial growth management bill known as Senate Bill 360. Aronberg voted for the bill reviled by environmentalists and newspaper editorial boards, and Gelber (who also won Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio's endorsement last week) voted against it.

Local governments opposed it, but in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9, Aronberg said he backed it because it gave more control to local authorities. "The state bureaucrats, the politicians in Tallahassee, I think are less equipped to handle local growth management matters than the local governments themselves."

Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Active duty

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, will spend this week in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a congressional tour. "We can't forget about our men and women over there," he said.

Bilirakis, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Veterans' Affairs committees, said he will meet with troops and military leaders and visit a military hospital in Germany. He has been to Iraq before but never Afghanistan. "It's really good to see with your own eyes what's going on," he said.

Town and gown connections

With all this talk of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker maybe replacing Carl Kuttler as president of St. Petersburg College, we can't help but wonder if St. Petersburg mayoral candidate and SPC trustee Deveron Gibbons could parlay that into a Baker endorsement. "I don't know," Gibbons said when asked if he would support Baker for the job. "I really want to see all the candidates before I start saying that."

Shannon Colavecchio and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com.

Winner

of the week

Jim Greer. The state GOP chairman has made a lot of enemies among Republican activists across Florida and among members of the Republican National Committee, but he has friends in high places — Gov. Crist and Republican national chairman Michael Steele. Greer was Steele's choice to become chairman of the RNC's influential rules committee, and last week Greer won a contentious election against two more conservative candidates.

Winner

of the week 2

No clear loser, so this week our second winner of week is former Florida House speaker and U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo. Federal investigators finally told Feeney's lawyers they were ending their corruption probe into Feeney's dealings with former super lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Too bad for Feeney the good news came long after the ethical cloud over him cost him his congressional seat to Democrat Suzanne Kosmas.

Local Florida Republican activists cool to Gov. Charlie Crist's Senate campaign 08/01/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 1, 2009 9:11pm]
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