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2012 U.S. Senate race is on with Bill Nelson, Mike Haridopolos announced candidates

U.S. SENATE RACE ON WITH NELSON, HARIDOPOLOS IN

And the 2012 U.S. Senate race is on. Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos reported raising about $2.6 million in his debut fundraising quarter, compared to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's nearly $2 million haul. Nelson's campaign said he would report between $4.5 million and $5 million in the bank so far for his re-election bid. Former Sen. George LeMieux only recently announced his candidacy. Other possible contenders are former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, retired Col. Mike McCallister and Orlando lawyer Will McBride.

Deputy whip loses GOP job after vote

Freshman Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, was a deputy majority whip. Now he's not. Why Grant no longer holds the position is unclear. House Speaker Dean Cannon "does not comment on internal administration decisions," spokeswoman Katie Betta said. Grant's office confirmed he had a "constructive conversation" with Cannon earlier this week but declined to discuss the details. Last week, Grant was one of only two House Republicans to vote against a bill that would take $50 million from cancer research programs — including $10 million for H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa — and use it to help cover the state's Medicaid bill. The $50 million comes from a portion of the $1 tax on a pack of cigarettes. Lawmakers justified adding that charge in 2009 in part by using it for cancer research. Majority whip Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, raised the issue of the Moffitt funding, saying that Tampa Bay Republicans made a difficult decision in voting to do away with the cancer research funding next year but are gearing up for negotiations with the Senate. "When you go to conference, you've got to support the team position," he said.

Splitting high court could run $14M

State courts officials have determined that the proposed splitting of the Florida Supreme Court will cost taxpayers more than $14 million in remodeling and moving costs, not including the added personnel costs for a bigger court, according to reports, known as judicial impact statements, from the Office of State Courts Administrator. House Speaker Cannon is pushing the plan that would increase the number of Supreme Court justices from seven to 10 and create two divisions of five judges each, one for criminal appeals and the other for civil appeals. Cannon wants both divisions to sit at the so-called Taj Mahal courthouse for the First District Court of Appeal.

Anniversary: Scott joined the race

It was exactly one year ago that a little-noticed item was posted on the Buzz blog with this six-word headline: Republican Rick Scott joins governor's race. The two-sentence item was one of 22 blog posts that day as reporters gave more space to whether or not then-Gov. Charlie Crist would veto Senate Bill 6, how much money the attorney general candidates collected in the first quarter and the Senate's refusal to confirm Crist's nominee to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

Times staff writers Adam C. Smith Michael C. Bender and Jodie Tillman contributed to this report, which uses information from the Associated Press.

2012 U.S. Senate race is on with Bill Nelson, Mike Haridopolos announced candidates 04/13/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 8:49pm]
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