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Florida Democrat Kendrick Meek builds support, war chest for Senate run

Rep. Kendrick Meek announced plans to run for the Senate after Republican Sen. Mel Martinez decided not to seek re-election. Support for the Miami democrat is rising.

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Rep. Kendrick Meek announced plans to run for the Senate after Republican Sen. Mel Martinez decided not to seek re-election. Support for the Miami democrat is rising.

It seems an insane question to raise 604 days before Florida elects its next U.S. senator: Is Kendrick Meek already on the verge of walking away with the Democratic nomination? Voters are paying no attention, the field of candidates isn't set, and there's a long, long way to go.

And yet it's hard not to take note of how busy Meek has been, tangibly picking up ground. The Miami U.S. representative already has won significant endorsements from the Service Employees International Union in Florida and the United Teachers of Dade, and on Friday former President Bill Clinton headlined a second Meek fundraiser, raising about $90,000.

While Meek is reeling in money and crisscrossing the state, the only other announced candidate, Democratic state Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, now is consumed with the 60-day legislative session. Unlike legislators running for re-election, he is allowed to raise money for a federal campaign but said he will have little time to do so.

"I'm trying to navigate it in the best way I can," said Gelber, who spent time Friday and Saturday meeting potential supporters in Tampa Bay. "Obviously, some of the other folks that are running don't have some of those constraints. I'm not going to unilaterally disarm. Frankly the practicality is, it's just hard to find hours in the day to make phone calls right now."

Clinton in Meek camp

It's striking how much love Clinton is showing to Meek. The 42nd president, who already headlined Miami fundraiser that took in $300,000, has taken sides in only three other Democratic primaries: his wife's 2008 presidential campaign; the 2002 congressional campaign of his former political adviser, Rahm Emanuel, and the current Virginia gubernatorial campaign of longtime pal and money-raiser, Terry McAuliffe.

Kottkamp flew to game

Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, already under fire for using state planes, flew on a Florida Highway Patrol plane from his home in Fort Myers to Tallahassee in November and attended the Florida State-Florida football game, FSU officials confirmed on Friday. Kottkamp had no official business on his schedule that weekend, raising new questions about the use of state aircraft. He reimbursed the state for flights his wife and son were on and was billed for his seat in the president's box. He paid $192 for tickets, food and drink, spokeswoman Jill Elish says.

Jeb Bush meets Obama education secretary

Jeb Bush last week visited Barack Obama's education secretary, Arne Duncan. "It was a productive meeting," Bush told the Chicago Tribune. "I believe he has a reformer's heart."

$25,000 puts you with some big fish

Recession? What recession? The fifth annual Charlie Crist fishing trip weekend is set for May 15-16 at the Key West Marriott. A mere $25,000 check to the Florida GOP gets one VIP admission to the fishing trip/reception/stir fry. Penny pinchers can get by with $10,000 donations for non-VIP admission, and skinflints can get into the reception and stir fry for just $5,000.

Tampa, Sarasota legislators on TV

Check out state Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, and state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, on Political Connections today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Bay News 9.

Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner

of the week

Beverly Young: The wife of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores has never been much of a wallflower, and her big mouth probably saved a life last week. When an 81-year-old woman passed out on an airplane, Mrs. Young revived her with mouth to mouth.

Loser

of the week

State Rep. Steve Precourt: The Orlando Republican has been an outspoken supporter of a controversial commuter rail proposal for Central Florida, but never bothered mentioning that the engineering firm that bears his family name has received $1.7 million from the state to do survey and mapping work for the CSX project. No need, he says, as he sold his interest in the firm before the 2008 session (though he continues doing "miscellaneous stuff" for the company and was listed as principal on various corporate records). Thanks, Rep. Precourt, for all you do to alleviate cynicism about public service.

Florida Democrat Kendrick Meek builds support, war chest for Senate run 03/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 8:47am]

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