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Buzz: Was it worth it? Study to detail RNC's economic impact

Look for an economic impact report this week on the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. A prediction: The study funded by the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee will conclude that their convention, which did little to help Mitt Romney win the presidency, pumped many gazillions of dollars into the Tampa Bay economy.

And speaking of that convention, congratulations to Ken Jones, the president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Host Committee, who has landed a great new gig after impressing a lot of power brokers involved in the convention.

Jones, 41, is moving from the CEA Group investment firm founded by longtime Republican fundraiser Rick Michaels to become president and CEO of Third Lake Capital, a brand new investment company being launched by the family of billionaire Ron Wanek. Wanek, of St. Petersburg, founded Ashley Furniture and contributed $1 million to the convention host committee.

National Republicans, meanwhile, already are starting to mull host cities for the 2016 Republican National Convention. CNN reports that interested cities include New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Kansas City.

Replacing Fasano

No strong Democrat has yet emerged to run for the recently vacated state House seat of Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano, but we're hearing a fair amount of buzz about one person in particular: Alice Delgardo, a United Way of Pasco County leader who ran unsuccessfully for schools superintendent in 2004.

A Holiday resident who also happens to be a nurse, ordained minister, and onetime legislative staffer in Massachusetts, Democratic fans describe the 61-year-old Delgardo as the sort of centrist, consumer-oriented Democrat who could fit well in the district where voters adored the populist sensibilities of Fasano (and where polls supposedly show Rick Scott deeply unpopular).

This is not at all a done deal, but there seems to be a good deal of enthusiasm about the idea of a run by Delgardo, who has impressed politicos from both parties who have come to know her since she moved to Pasco from Boston in 2002. Heather Fiorentino trounced Delgardo in the superintendent race in 2004, but Delgardo was a last-minute candidate who ran in large part to ensure a Democrat was on the ballot and more than 150,000 county Democrats could cast ballots in the race.

So far two Republicans, Jim Mathieu and Bill Gunter, have entered the race, and Fasano has said he will be neutral.

Barack Obama won the largely working-class west Pasco district twice, and Alex Sink barely lost in 2010. Independent candidate Charlie Crist beat Marco Rubio in the district in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, and last year Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson crushed Connie Mack IV with 62 percent of the vote. In other words, Republicans may have an edge in replacing Fasano, but Democrats can win there — with the right candidate. Whether that's Delgardo remains to be seen.

Kriseman makes case

St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Kriseman appears today on Political Connections on Bay News 9. The former state representative talks about baseball, the Pier, his legislative accomplishments and what he admires most about Mayor Bill Foster's record. Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Voter purge politics

Charlie Crist has signaled for months that voter suppression by Florida Republican leaders in 2012 will be a key line of attack against Gov. Rick Scott should Crist run for governor as a Democrat. Certainly his Democratic fans like to note how Crist extended early voting hours in 2008, enacted paper trails in Florida elections and made it easier for ex-felons to regain their voting and other civil rights.

News that Scott wants to take another stab at purging Florida voter rolls of suspect voters prompted this recent tweet from Crist: "This was a bad idea last year and it's a bad idea again #VoterPurge."

But Crist wasn't always so critical of such voter roll cleansing efforts.

In 2008, everyone from the NAACP to the League of Women Voters to the Brennan Center for Justice and congressional Democrats attacked the then-Republican governor for enforcing a "No match, no vote" program that scrubbed voters whose driver's license or Social Security numbers did not match the state database.

Back then, Crist would not budge.

Pot petition drive

A medical marijuana group says it has cleared its first major hurdle to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot: collecting enough voter signatures to trigger Florida Supreme Court review of the proposed amendment language.

Since July, People United for Medical Marijuana collected at least 110,000 signatures — in excess of the 68,314 needed to start the court review, said the group's treasurer and director, Ben Pollara.

Pollara said the group, nicknamed PUFMM, will temporarily suspend its paid petition-gathering drive until the court rules on the constitutionality of the proposal, which can't be misleading or cover multiple subjects.

Why halt now? "You got $150,000 a week to pay to collect signatures?" Pollara asked rhetorically.

He said PUFMM plans to ask the court for an expedited review so the group can restart its petition drive sooner. It needs to collect 683,149 verified voter signatures by Feb. 1 to make the November 2014 ballot.

Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith can be reached at asmith@tampabay.com.

Winner of the week

Rick Scott. The anti-"stand your ground" Dream Defenders parked at his office for a month have finally left. Governor, you can return to the office you avoided from practically the moment the sit-in started.

Loser of the week

Mitch Needelman. The Republican former state representative from Melbourne was arrested last week on bribery and bid-tampering charges related to a contract with a scanning company, BlueWare, that moved to the Space Coast in 2012 after receiving more than $1.3 million in taxpayer incentives. "A testament to the strength of our business climate and the result of a common vision for economic growth by local, regional, business and government partners," Scott said in 2012 of the move by BlueWare, whose CEO is now wanted for arrest.

Buzz: Was it worth it? Study to detail RNC's economic impact 08/17/13 [Last modified: Saturday, August 17, 2013 8:44pm]

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