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Jeb Bush catches some blame for Hillsborough election supervisor problems

Buddy Johnson, Hillsborough supervisor of elections at that time, answers questions about voting problems.

JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times (2008)

Buddy Johnson, Hillsborough supervisor of elections at that time, answers questions about voting problems.

"Buddy Johnson is a native of Hillsborough County who has been a dedicated public servant. As a past member of the Florida House of Representatives, he has shown the leadership and dedication needed to serve as supervisor of elections." — Jeb Bush's office, January 2003, on the governor's appointment of Johnson to succeed Pam Iorio as Hillsborough elections supervisor.

Fast-forward six years. The elections office is a disaster, and Johnson is a disgraced former supervisor whose performance is under review by the FBI. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio lays some of the blame squarely at the feet of Jeb Bush, who appointed a man whose main qualification appeared to be party affiliation.

"It was a very poor appointment," Iorio said, contrasting the Johnson pick to Crist naming former Pasco Elections Supervisor Kurt Browning as secretary of state. "When governors have these constitutional appointments to make, they really have to look at individuals who have solid backgrounds, particularly in elections. … You have to have that attention to detail and high standards."

Bush did not respond to a request for comment.

Iorio said she's been heartbroken about what's happened to her once highly regarded office since Johnson took over, and welcomed the FBI investigation: "There have just been so many things that have just been so terribly negative coming out of there somebody needs to look into it, that's for sure."

Sorry, Charlie

Bush, in a Wall Street Journal interview published Saturday, mentioned Republican governors he admires, including Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Hmmmm. Surely it was just an oversight that he didn't mention Florida's current governor.

Helping hands

When Henrietta Hughes, homeless after losing her home to foreclosure in 2003, pleaded for help from President Obama during his town hall meeting in Fort Myers last week, she not only received a sympathetic kiss from the president but a helping hand from state Rep. Nick Thompson, R-Fort Myers, and his wife, Chene. Mrs. Thompson, a former prosecutor, on the spot offered Hughes, 61, and her son use of a second home they have been unable to sell or rent. Call it a random act of kindness.

But before long, Rush Limbaugh was on the air casting Hughes as an "embarrassing" poster child for Americans expecting free handouts from the president. And Rep. Thompson started receiving calls bashing him as a disgrace to Republican principles of self-reliance. Thompson made no apologies, noting that after losing her home to foreclosure in 2003, Hughes is paying credit card debt, car insurance, even tithing to her ministry, while living off Social Security and food stamps.

"There is nothing more American or Christian or freedom-loving than someone of their own volition using the resources they have to help someone, and not going through some government program or using tax dollars," Thompson told the Buzz.

Greer straddles on stimulus

Okay, this is getting confusing. Charlie Crist backs the $789 billion stimulus package, even if he doesn't care to talk about the details. But Crist's anointed state GOP chairman, Jim Greer, after publicly chastising Republican critics of that package, issued a clarification last week to stress that he wasn't sold on the proposal yet, but loved the idea of bipartisan cooperation demonstrated by Crist. Why the backpedaling? Nothing like a press release from Nancy Pelosi, featuring quotes from Crist and Greer, to get a GOP chairman's attention.

Fasano on 'Political Connections'

Check out state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Winner

of the week

The capital press corps: (We inter-

rupt this column

for some shame-

less self aggrandizing.) At a time when the economy is

decimating most

of the Tallahassee news bureaus, the ever-shrinking press capital press corps is still showing a pulse as a watchdog. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel last week exposed Lt.. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp's expensive frequent flying on taxpayer-funded state planes, and forced him to reimburse the state for some improper expenses. Meanwhile, reporting by the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau has led to a grand jury review of ousted Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom.

Loser

of the week

Jeff Kottkamp: The lieutenant governor almost nobody has heard of managed to raise his profile big time, thanks to revelations that during his first two years in office Kottkamp billed taxpayers more than $400,000 for 365 flights on state planes, most of them (shock!) to and from his hometown of Fort Myers. Kottkamp says he's trying to drive more. Good idea.

Jeb Bush catches some blame for Hillsborough election supervisor problems 02/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 14, 2009 8:44pm]
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