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Florida status quo has to change, Alex Sink tells Democratic Party activists

MIAMI BEACH — Florida Democratic activists gathered at a posh Miami Beach hotel for their annual Jefferson-Jackson fundraising gala Saturday night, heralding gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink as their new standard-bearer and vessel for hope.

"What an opportunity we are all going to have to support a person in whom we can have absolutely full confidence," former Gov. Bob Graham said in introducing Sink to the sold-out crowd of 1,100 people at the Fontainebleau hotel.

Sink had the crowd in rapt silence, broken by periodic standing ovations, as she recounted growing up on a farm in North Carolina, being a working mom and becoming a businesswoman. Without mentioning Republican rival Bill McCollum, her over-arching message was clear and familiar: change vs. status quo.

"A time to give our state a fresh start has finally come," Sink said. "Status quo has got to go."

Crist is targeted

Charlie Crist was barely mentioned by most of the Democratic speakers. Only U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville — a potential Crist rival for Senate — and Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine took any shots at the popular Republican governor.

"I understand your governor has decided he's had enough after a couple years," said Kaine, who is also governor of Virginia. "The economy's tough, and there are some tough decisions to be made, and he's going to leave that to somebody else. We're glad to take it."

Despite Crist's bipartisan popularity, Kaine called the Senate seat to be vacated by Mel Martinez "within our grasp" and promised national party resources to that race and the governor's race.

Gelber steps aside

Democratic state Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, drew a standing ovation when he announced that he was suspending his U.S. Senate campaign in the name of party unity and instead would look at running for a cabinet seat. The Democratic front-runner for the Senate nomination is U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, who has some work to do as a speaker. Few activists appeared to listen to him as he said something about climate change and creating jobs.

Hesitant supporter

Republican state Senate candidate Jack Latvala has been around enough GOP activists lately to see how much anti-Crist sentiment abounds in the party base. So check out Latvala's awkward and reluctant endorsement of Crist in a Political Connections interview airing at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. today on Bay News 9.

Thank you, Bev

Remember how Beverly Young, wife of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, saved the life of an 81-year-old woman who collapsed on a flight from D.C. to Tampa? Mrs. Young received a nice thank-you note from the woman's granddaughter, who was also on the flight.

An excerpt: "You eased my fear by saying, (I will never forget this) 'you need to calm down or I will slap you so you pass out.' You sent me away, to calm down. I had to collect myself to make sure my grandmother would not worry about me. You gave me the strength I needed, for myself and my grandmother."

Rubio gets a Bush's backing

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio would sure love to get the endorsement of former Gov. Jeb Bush, but for now he'll have to settle for his kid, Jeb Bush Jr.

"Marco Rubio represents the best in what our party should strive to be and who it must engage — he is young, conservative, and believes in the principles of our Founding Fathers, that individual freedom and liberty are what makes our country great and always will," said the 25-year-old Bush.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com.

Winner

of the week

Marion Hammer. Just when it seems the National Rifle Association has achieved every conceivable victory in Tallahassee, its veteran Florida lobbyist pulls off another one. Gov. Crist last week axed the Legislature's plan to pull money out of a concealed weapons trust fund. The moral? It's okay to raid trust funds for affordable housing or children's health care, but don't mess with concealed weapons.

Loser

of the week

Kevin Ambler. The Tampa Republican, mulling a campaign for attorney general or state Senate, last week accused State Attorney Willie Meggs of trying to convict an innocent man — his old housemate, former House Speaker Ray Sansom — because maybe Meggs wants to run for higher office. (He doesn't). Ambler named a bunch of key witnesses Meggs should have called to the grand jury (most of whom had been called). Days later, the same grand jury further indicted Sansom for perjury.

Florida status quo has to change, Alex Sink tells Democratic Party activists 05/30/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 30, 2009 10:14pm]

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