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Obama supporters in Florida wait for political rewards

We're past President Barack Obama's 50-day mark, so it's time for America's biggest battleground state to be crassly parochial: Where are the plum political jobs for Floridians?

Florida delivered 27 electoral votes and more than $16 million to the Obama campaign. Probably more important, Florida Democrats so thoroughly botched their unsanctioned presidential primary that Hillary Rodham Clinton's early Sunshine State primary win turned out to be utterly worthless. You'd think some political rewards would be in order.

Sure, there's Craig Fugate taking over the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but Fugate earned that with competence, not politics. Doesn't count. And there's former Florida Department of Environment Protection Secretary Carole Browner serving as Obama's climate czar. But she's been in Washington so long she no longer qualifies as a Floridian.

So far only Miami lawyer and top Obama fundraiser Max Holtzman has landed a significant job in the administration, senior adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. That's it!?

Probably not. Some other key Florida Obama supporters are up to their ears in vetting, and several are in line for ambassadorships. You read it here first — at right is the list of people under serious review for major political payback, er, administration appointments.

Mind you, none of these folks is a lock. Also, while we've heard of no specific job, nobody in the know rules out Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, for an administration post of some sort. Obama owes him a lot.

Common Cause casualty

Symbolically, if not practically, this is a very big deal: After 35 years, the good government watchdog group Common Cause is pulling out of Florida. Blame the economy. Executive director Ben Wilcox has lost his job after 10 years of advocating for open government, stricter ethics laws, campaign finance reform and other issues.

"They're folding the tent," Wilcox said, noting that a Sarasota-based fundraiser also is being let go. "It's the economy, fund-raising, things like that."

Don't buy the stats?

Pinellas school superintendent Julie Janssen is not especially alarmed at statistics showing nearly 15 percent of elementary school suspensions are because of battery on an adult. In a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., she said Pinellas does not have a serious discipline problem and that those figures in some cases reflect overreacting teachers.

"We've become so overly sensitive of any kind of touching," said Janssen, who also talks about the grim budget prognosis and likelihood of cutting teacher salaries.

Steve Bousquet contributed to this week's Buzz.

State Sen. Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville: He was an early and influential early supporter of Obama when most African-American leaders were jumping aboard team Clinton. The Buzz is an ambassadorship in the Caribbean or Bahamas.

Orlando developer Bob Mandell: He was another top fundraiser for Obama in the critical I-4 corridor. The Buzz for him is an ambassadorship to Costa Rica.

Tallahassee City Commissioner Allan Katz: A major fundraiser, Democratic National Committee member and the campaign's top negotiator on Florida's primary debacle. The Buzz is a senior foreign policy post.

Frank Sanchez: Former Tampa mayor and Clinton administration staffer who backed Obama early, raised big bucks and became a top Latino adviser nationally. He's a contender for a senior Commerce Department job.

Winner

of the week

Tom Lee. The Republican former state Senate president from Brandon won a vindication of sorts from the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld the 2005 gift ban law he spearheaded to curb the perception that lawmakers were in the pocket of lobbyists. Too bad for him that law didn't help him much in his 2006 campaign for chief financial officer.

Loser

of the week

Bill McCollum. We have to admit, the Republican attorney general looks just fabulous in those TV ads featuring him warning parents about online sex offenders. Maybe it's because he spent $550 in taxpayer money on makeup for the $1.4-million ad campaign (with a no-bid contract for his campaign consultant) in what looks more like a political campaign ad than a public service spot.

Obama supporters in Florida wait for political rewards 03/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 8:37pm]
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