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220 of their closest friends

TALLAHASSEE — Look for top political donors, Florida State University fraternity brothers, a number of lobbyists and state officials as well as family and friends to be among the gussied up guests arriving in St. Petersburg today for Gov. Charlie Crist's wedding.

The "black tie optional'' event has got the governor's friends hauling out tuxedos and fancy dresses for the wedding at First United Methodist Church of St. Petersburg and a reception at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort.

Although Crist has refused to release a list of invited guests — 220 are expected — and most of them won't talk about it on the record, the Capitol grapevine is filled with news about those who have the hottest ticket in town.

The list includes St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, St. Petersburg Times editor, chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and former Ambassador Mel Sembler and his son, Brent Sembler. The younger Sembler was finance chairman for Crist's 2006 campaign and a fraternity brother at FSU.

Other fraternity brothers reportedly attending include Tallahassee lobbyist David Rancourt and Harry Sargeant III, a Boca Raton businessman and Republican fundraiser. Other lobbyists with invitations include Brian Ballard, former chief of staff for Gov. Bob Martinez and a campaign adviser to Crist, Ronnie Book of Miami, as well as Rich Heffley, a Tallahassee lobbyist who spends a lot of time working in Republican campaigns.

Although rumors are flying that some big-name guests are on the list, none have been confirmed. It has been reported, for instance, that Joe Scarborough, the former Florida congressman who has a television show on MSNBC, had made the guest list. Not true.

"I have not been invited," Scarborough said in an e-mail.

Several members of the State Board of Education will be among the guests: Dr. Akshay Desai, head of Universal Health Care Insurance in St. Petersburg and a substantial Republican donor; Kathleen Shanahan, former chief of staff for Gov. Jeb Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney; and Roberto Martinez, former U.S. attorney from Miami. Shanahan and Martinez worked on Crist's 2006 transition team.

Other Miami lawyers with ties to Crist who will be at the wedding include Democrat Dean Colson, an adviser to the governor on higher education issues, and Manny Kadre, an old friend.

Also on the list are Crist's current chief of staff Eric Eikenberg, former chief of staff George LeMieux, former communications director Vivian Myrtetus and current communications director Erin Isaac, and two men who served as top legal advisers to Crist: Paul Huck Jr. of Miami and Chris Kise, a Tallahassee lawyer and unpaid adviser to the governor on climate change issues.

Former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, Crist's former boss, is reportedly attending, as is Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, as well as GOP executive director Jim Rimes.

Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen Klas of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report, along with Times Washington bureau chief Bill Adair.

220 of their closest friends 12/11/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 12, 2008 2:47pm]

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