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Ex-Florida House Speaker Allan Bense won't rule out U.S. Senate run

Former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense is considering entering the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, after "very high-profile" Republicans urged him to in the wake of Mike Haridopolos quitting the race.

"Don't hold your breath," Bense, 59, told the Buzz, stressing he was more on the "no" side. "But obviously when you get some calls from some neat people saying, 'You ought to think about it,' you don't totally rule it out."

While it's unlikely he'll jump in, the development highlights the worry some Republicans have in defeating Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.

Bense, often named as a potential statewide candidate, left office in 2006 and returned to his construction business in the Panhandle. He said he has no time line for a decision.

"A calamity in Washington that jeopardizes this beautiful country would probably really help push me, and I hope that doesn't happen," he said.

Meantime, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, tells us he's not reconsidering his decision to stay out of the race.

At his new digs

Gov. Rick Scott is taking a breather this week, escaping the Florida heat (and his poor poll numbers) with the 70-degree days and 50-degree nights in northwest Montana.

Where in Montana? The new 60.6-acre property near Troy he bought June 22. Tucked into the Kootenai National Forest, it's just a couple of miles down the Kootenai River from the Big Sky property of his new chief of staff, Steve MacNamara.

We're told Scott bought the property for $1.45 million from Gerald Mercer, a retired executive registered to vote in St. Petersburg.

The property has a 3,680-square-foot log home built into the rock outcropping of a cliff, which delivers a bird's-eye view of the winding river to the west and the majestic Cabinet Mountains to the east. There is a bubbling spring nearby and 3,000 feet of river frontage.

Sure, $100K will do

It was deleted within seconds, but an errant Twitter message Thursday from U.S. Senate candidate George LeMieux was around long enough to gain notice. "Remember to touch base with Lew," it read. "They should be able to do 100k. Thanks, Ed."

So who is Lew, and who is Ed?

The LeMieux campaign wouldn't say. But there are signs they are current and former executives for Florida Power & Light subsidiary NextEra Energy.

A financial disclosure LeMieux filed with the Senate showed that FP&L was among his many law firm clients after he left Gov. Charlie Crist's office.

LeMieux brushed off the mis-Tweet Friday with another Tweet: "Made a mistake. Onward! George."

Name dropping

Tim Pawlenty's presidential campaign announced Friday it has gotten the endorsement of seven more state representatives: Janet Adkins, Fernandina Beach; Ben Albritton, Wauchula; Frank Artiles, Miami; Jason Brodeur, Sanford; James Grant, Tampa; Ana Rivas Logan, Miami; Jeanette Nunez, Miami.

And Mitt Romney has added to his Florida staff: Bertica Cabrera-Morris will serve as a senior adviser to the campaign and Jay Demetree will serve as a Florida finance co-chairman and a member of the national leadership team. Both held positions with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's campaign.

On to the next phase

Susie Wiles, the Florida-based campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, said she's leaving the campaign. But not because there's a shakeup or a problem.

"It was just time," said Wiles, who served as Gov. Scott's campaign manager throughout 2010 and then almost immediately signed on with Huntsman.

"I signed up to get it started. It's like a phase," she said, adding she'll be replaced by campaign spokesman Matt David.

Times/Herald staff writers Michael C. Bender and Marc Caputo contributed to this report.

Winner of the week

Luis Garcia. The Democratic state representative from Miami said Wednesday he would challenge U.S. Rep. David Rivera, and a day later the Miami Herald reported that federal investigators had opened a second criminal probe of Rivera, examining undisclosed payments from a Miami gambling enterprise to a company tied to the legislator. Rivera's fundraising has already suffered as a result of the controversy.

Loser of the week

Allen West. The tooth-bearing e-mail he fired off to fellow U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who criticized him during debate over a debt-cutting bill, earned him plenty of ridicule, including a spot on The Colbert Report. West used the incident to rally his conservative base — and to raise money.

Ex-Florida House Speaker Allan Bense won't rule out U.S. Senate run 07/23/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 23, 2011 7:39pm]
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