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The Buzz

on Florida politics

Hillsborough Commissioner Mark Sharpe sounds a milder tone

Remember Mark Sharpe, the hard-charging Republican congressional candidate who embraced New Gingrich's Contract with America and bashed Jim Davis and Sam Gibbons as tax-and-spenders back in the '90s?

Buzz is starting to wonder if the body snatchers got hold of him and snuck a pragmatic, moderate body double onto the Hillsborough County Commission to speak out on issues like wetlands protection, mass transit, climate control and tax reform.

"We're putting all the burden of government on homeowners and home ownership. What we've got to be able to do is find a way to flatten it out," Sharpe, stressing that Florida needs to invest in its infrastructure, said in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9. "The problem with flattening it out is that means you take the tax to where maybe there isn't a tax already. That's going to take some mighty courageous politicians."

Sharpe, a top John McCain backer in Hillsborough, talked about the troubles facing elections chief Buddy Johnson, how he thinks Hillary Rodham Clinton is the stronger Democrat, how he is open to the idea of a county mayor for Hillsborough, and the damaged Republican brand.

"If you're going to go out there and you're just going to be an ideologue and talk about ideological answers to very complex problems, then I think you're going to run into trouble," Sharpe said. "What I've been saying to my Republican friends — and I'm a staunch Republican — is we've got to get out there, and … work with the Democrats, work with the independents, and solve problems."

The interview airs at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Activists line up for state delegate spots

One result of all the fuss about Florida having no delegates to the Democratic convention? Tons of interest from activists wanting to be delegates, or more accurately wanting to maybe be delegates, since it's not yet certain how many, if any, delegates Florida ends up with.

Nearly 400 Democrats from across the state ran for 40 at- large delegate slots. Democrats being Democrats, there was considerable angst and debate.

Controversies included how ballots should or shouldn't be unstapled and the way votes are weighted to give large counties such as Broward and Miami-Dade outsized influence.

"It's not even American," shouted delegate candidate John Mazur of Volusia County, referring to the weighted votes, not the staples. "It's not right."

Democrats remain optimistic about their role in the presidential race.

"This state will deliver a Democratic candidate for the United States," Florida Democratic chairwoman Karen Thurman told the crowd of about 200 Saturday in Tampa.

Rubio says no

to mayoral run

Marco Rubio will not run for Miami-Dade mayor, putting an end to one of the most-watched political guessing games in the state. Instead, he plans on spending the election season on TV, as an analyst and pundit on Spanish-language TV.

"I obviously care very deeply about Miami-Dade," the outgoing House speaker told the Buzz. "But I didn't feel it was the right opportunity for me in this state. The issues I have a passion for are state issues."

Rubio, 36, said he felt he could pose a strong challenge to incumbent Carlos Alvarez, strong mayor for the past two years, but said Alvarez hasn't had enough time to fully prove himself.

"It really wasn't about being able to win or not," Rubio said. "I think I'll be on the ballot again in Florida, probably sooner than later."

Rubio would not discuss his future but he is expected to seek the state Senate seat being vacated by Alex Diaz de la Portilla in 2010. Many think he'll eventually run for governor.

New names for elections panel

Gov. Charlie Crist chose a couple of familiar political names among six appointees to the Florida Elections Commission. They include Republican consultant Karen Unger, who managed Gov. Jeb Bush's 2002 re-election, and Democrat Tom Rossin, a lawyer who was the 2002 Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor against Bush that year.

Jessica Vander Velde, Steve Bousquet, and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.

Hillsborough Commissioner Mark Sharpe sounds a milder tone 05/17/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 2:53pm]

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