Alex Sink, Bill McCollum fill their campaigns with Florida political veterans

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink is filling out her campaign's inner-circle and, unusual for many recent Democratic campaigns in Florida, it's chock full of operatives with Sunshine State campaign experience.

The latest hire, not yet publicly announced by the campaign, is campaign manager Paul Dunn, who most recently ran U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas' successful challenge of Tom Feeney in the Orlando area. Dunn also ran the successful minimum wage ballot initiative in Florida in 2004 and worked on a redistricting effort in 2005.

Dunn joins a team that includes veteran pollster Dave Beattie of Fernandina Beach, whose many Florida clients range from Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio to Sen. Bill Nelson; media consultant Rich Davis, who grew up in Gainesville and worked at the state party in the early 1990s; and general consultant Marc Farinella, a Melbourne resident who worked with the Bill McBride and Rod Smith gubernatorial campaigns.

Republicans have a much deeper political infrastructure in Florida, so it's no surprise veteran Florida hands are leading the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum. General consultant Arthur Finkelstein, pollster John McClaughlin, and media consultant Chris Mottola have been working in Florida at least since they helped elect Connie Mack to the U.S. Senate in 1988, while campaign manager Matt Williams ran McCollum's attorney general campaign and 2004 Senate race and worked for the state GOP state Senate races in 1998.

Governor is Hamptons-bound

Charlie Crist's continuing fundraising odyssey takes him to the Hamptons Saturday where a pal of Florida first lady Carole Crist hosts a fundraising reception for the governor's Senate campaign. The event is at the Sag Harbor, N.Y. home of Jill Zarin, one of the stars of the reality show The Real Housewives of New York City. Co-hosts include Donald Trump and New York Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon.

Trouble with the base

Crist may be crushing Republican U.S. Senate rival Marco Rubio in money and establishment support, but the governor continues to see ominous signs among grass roots Republican activists. Last weekend the Lee County Republican executive committee held an informal "straw poll," and Rubio beat Crist by a 7-to-1 margin, similar to a recent Pasco GOP straw poll.

Dueling endorsements

Rubio on Tuesday picked up the endorsement of former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey Tuesday. Armey, an architect of the Contract with America in the 1990s, called the Miami Republican "an inspiring leader for a new generation... With Democrats now possessing a 60-seat filibuster-proof Senate majority, the last thing America needs is another vote for a second round of stimulus waste, additional burdens on taxpayers, cap-and-trade schemes and liberal judges."

Meanwhile, Crist has tapped into Rubio's Miami turf, picking up endorsements from U.S. Reps. Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart and from Miami Mayor Carlos Alvarez.

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

Alex Sink, Bill McCollum fill their campaigns with Florida political veterans

07/14/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 14, 2009 8:04pm]

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