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Could Charlie Crist run for governor as Democrat?

While watching the Florida Gators game Sept. 17 from university president Bernie Machen's box, former first lady Carole Crist leaned over to state House Democratic Leader Ron Saunders and asked, "Do you think Charlie should run as a Democrat for governor?"

Saunders, who recalled the conversation, replied, "Might as well."

"He's always had a lot of support from Democrats," said Saunders, D-Key West. "I just think if he got a strong primary … of course, at this point Nan Rich is not campaigning. Someone like a Rod Smith might be tough, but I don't know if Rod would even run. So if Charlie switched parties and ran as a Democrat, I think he'd have a reasonable chance.

"Of course, he was sitting there with John Morgan who's got millions of dollars and is a big Democrat and would probably be supportive of him. And Charlie is one of the best retail politicians I've ever known. He and Bill Clinton are probably the two best that I've ever met, and I've met a lot of them. So you can never rule Charlie Crist out."

Hot for Rubio

At the state GOP's Presidency 5 conference, two words automatically drew cheers: Marco Rubio.

Newt Gingrich vowed to pick him for vice president and Marco Rubio buttons were outselling most of the presidential contenders.

Rubio insists he has no interest in vice president, but his latest staff hire may fuel the vice presidential speculation. Joining his office as press secretary is Alex Conant, who had been working on Tim Pawlenty's 2012 presidential campaign. Nice to have someone on board with national campaign experience.

Haridopolos redux

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who dropped out of the Republican U.S. Senate race, has about $2 million still in his campaign account. So what's he going to do with it?

"I'm going to keep it," he declared flatly.

There's speculation he'll run for Congress in a couple of years, the Space Coast seat now held by Republican Bill Posey, though Haridopolos said he has no specific plans yet.

"I think there will be some opportunities. … I'm very interested in the future, but I will only have a future if I continue to perform well."

Argenziano is back

Former state senator and former Public Service Commissioner Nancy Argenziano spoke to a full crowd at the Capital Tiger Bay on Friday, reviving her war stories of the Legislature and continuing her no-holds-barred criticism of her former party, the GOP.

"I see our government being sold, and if you don't believe that, I can provide you with example after example,'' she told the mostly Democratic crowd on Friday. She offered no examples but said: "There's a difference between having lobbyists who come to you and say this is who I represent and have them come to you pointing a finger and say this is what you're going to do."

Argenziano, who lives in Tallahassee, is now a candidate for the congressional seat held by Republican Steve Southerland of Panama City.

She will run as an independent because, as a registered member of the Independent Party, she failed to switch to the Democratic Party before the new 365-day deadline.

Hawkes settlement?

Lawyers for 1st District Judge Paul M. Hawkes and the Judicial Qualifications Commission are discussing a settlement that would resolve the pending charges against the judge without a trial. Lawyers for both sides have submitted secret proposals to members of the commission that charged Hawkes with conduct unbecoming a judge. An initial proposal was rejected.

Hawkes is likely to face trial in late January or early February if he fails to negotiate a settlement.

The charges involve Hawkes' role in the construction of a $50 million courthouse near Tallahassee that has become a symbol for government excess. Hawkes is also accused of bullying other state employees, destroying public records and attempting to get a furniture vendor to provide him and relatives with a free trip.

The JQC has the power to recommend disciplinary action that could include Hawkes' removal from the bench.

Times/Herald staff writers Alex Leary, Mary Ellen Klas and Lucy Morgan contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner of the week

Herman Cain. The former Godfather's Pizza CEO was clearly the surprise star of the state party's Presidency 5 conference in Orlando. Look for him to make it on the vice presidential contender list.

Loser of the week

Rick Perry. The Texas governor came to Florida riding a wave of excitement. After a feeble debate performance and straw poll trouncing, he's seriously deflated.

Could Charlie Crist run for governor as Democrat? 09/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 24, 2011 9:27pm]
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