Saturday, May 26, 2018
Politics

George LeMieux's Senate campaign may be in trouble

In a series of one-two-three blows, George LeMieux's Senate campaign has been staggered by anemic fundraising, the specter of a big-name Republican jumping into the race and new court documents that make him a witness in the criminal case against the former governor's handpicked Republican Party of Florida chairman.

Now some are wondering how long LeMieux's campaign will last.

LeMieux knows he's struggling against U.S. Rep. Connie Mack of Fort Myers.

"Do I have an uphill climb? Sure I do," LeMieux said. "I'm not the front-runner in this race. I'm the underdog. Connie Mack IV is the establishment candidate."

LeMieux's campaign got even tougher this week when Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said he was considering entering the Republican race to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

As a statewide officeholder and solid fundraiser, Atwater would pose an immediate threat to Mack's top-dog status and would further threaten the viability of LeMieux's candidacy.

Mack, the namesake of a former senator and baseball manager, raised nearly three times the money last quarter as LeMieux, who reported Friday taking in just $305,000.

The day he reported his fundraising numbers, LeMieux was dealt another setback when he was mentioned in connection with the fraud case against former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer. Greer is accused of defrauding the party by setting up a dummy company and funneling some of the party's fundraising proceeds to himself.

Greer says he's innocent, and that the fundraising work he did saved the party money and was legitimate.

The state party's former finance chairman, Harry Sargeant, said in an affidavit released Friday that Greer's work appeared appropriate, and he suggested the fundraising idea was partly LeMieux's doing.

"In late 2008, I had several discussions with Gov. Crist, George LeMieux and Greer regarding RPOF fundraising," Sargeant wrote in his sworn statement. "During the above-described late 2008 discussions, it was suggested that Greer and RPOF Executive Director Delmar Johnson should take over fundraising responsibility," Sargeant wrote, "and there would be compensation for same in addition to the existing compensation from the RPOF."

LeMieux denies Sargeant's insinuation that he knew about Greer's contract or that he was present when Greer was to get a cut of the action.

"It does not say 'LeMieux had a discussion,' " LeMieux said. "It doesn't say I was in that meeting," LeMieux said. "It was carefully drafted to leave you with that conclusion — carefully crafted by a lawyer who's trying to get this story written."

Greer's attorney, Damon Chase, said LeMieux is misreading the affidavit. "Those are Sargeant's words, not mine, not any lawyer's — in that affidavit," Chase said.

Greer says his problems stem from his support of Charlie Crist, who ultimately left the Republican Party as he waged an unsuccessful, negative campaign against Sen. Marco Rubio in 2010. Crist, now reviled by many Republicans, had appointed LeMieux to hold that Senate seat on an interim basis.

Greer's case is a stark reminder that LeMieux was Crist's right-hand man for years — a fact that, LeMieux says, is something he deals with daily on the campaign trail. "This case is bad for George's campaign," Chase said. "But it probably doesn't matter anyway; Connie Mack is going to kick his behind."

LeMieux said that's not a given because he's winning conservative Republican polls, and Mack is losing or ducking them because he doesn't want people to realize he's not his dad, a former senator.

"He has the golden name," LeMieux said. "He's running a campaign based on confusion. Connie Mack doesn't have the fitness or the character to serve in the U.S. Senate."

LeMieux noted that, despite Mack's fundraising edge, he only has $100,000 more in the bank with $1.3 million cash on hand.

But Mack's campaign manager, Jeff Cohen, pointed out in a written statement that his candidate has momentum, and LeMieux doesn't. "George LeMieux continues to raise less and less with each passing quarter, while Connie Mack raises more and more," Cohen said. "George LeMieux's weak fundraising performance is because his lackluster campaign of desperation has turned off supporters."

Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18