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Gov. Rick Scott beginning to look a lot like Charlie Crist

The closer we get to Election Day 2014, the more Rick Scott seems to mimic Charlie Crist, his potential Democratic challenger.

We've already seen Gov. Scott tear a page from Crist's playbook by courting teachers and calling for across-the-board pay increases. We've seen him strike a newly proconsumer, populist tone on issues including expanding Medicaid and curbing Citizens Property Insurance rate increases.

Now we learn that he's embracing Crist's penchant for sending all sorts of notes to people he comes across. Some of Florida's top Democratic fundraisers recently have received handwritten notes from Scott.

"Let me know if there's anything I should be working on," Scott wrote.

It's a nice touch, and a bit more personal than the form letters Scott (his office, anyway) sends to countless Floridians mentioned in news accounts for assorted honors large and small.

"Congratulations on being named one of Tallahassee's 25 Women You Need to Know for 2013. Thank you for all you are doing to make our state the greatest place to live, work, and play. Your efforts are helping move our state in the right direction," he wrote one constituent recently.

But it's unlikely he earned her vote. She is Allison Tant, chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, and her efforts these days are mainly aimed at making Scott a one-term governor.

Foster's pier cheer

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has been largely on the sidelines when it comes to community debates about replacing the Pier. But in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9, Foster sounded like he's ready to start cheerleading for the controversial new pier design known as the Lens.

"Fifty years from now my grandkids are going to be fighting to save the new St. Pete pier,'' he predicted. "The process has been so public, and so open and transparent, hundreds and hundreds of hours went into this. So I'm excited about the possibility of the programming that could go out there."

You'll hear a very different assessment from Bud Risser, one of the leading critics of the Lens plans, who also appears on Political Connections today, along with Lens supporter Anthony Sullivan. The show airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Rubio all over TV

Sen. Marco Rubio will be on a whopping seven Sunday talk shows to discuss the immigration bill he and the "Gang of 8" produced — a blitz that comes as the legislation is set for release, possibly Tuesday.

Rubio will appear from Miami on Meet the Press on NBC, This Week on ABC, Face the Nation on CBS, Fox News Sunday and State of the Union on CNN. Those five compromise the "Full Ginsburg" but Rubio is also doing Univision and Telemundo.

Jeb Bush pulled the Full Ginsburg recently with release of his book on immigration. The name comes from the late William Ginsburg, lawyer for Monica Lewinsky, who first took on the big five in 1998.

About the ticket

Five state House members, all of whom have been stopped and given traffic citations by state troopers, could be forced to give testimony in the upcoming case of Charles Swindle, a highway patrolman who was fired over his handling of a stop involving a lawmaker.

The Florida Highway Patrol fired Swindle last month after an internal investigation concluded he broke agency rules in his handling of a stop on I-10 Nov. 19 involving Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville. Swindle said his radar gun clocked McBurney at 87 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone in rural Madison. But rather than give the lawmaker a speeding ticket, Swindle gave him a $10 citation for not having proof of insurance and said he told McBurney: "I'm cutting you a break on this one."

McBurney denied he was speeding. He did have an insurance card in his wallet, and he complained to the FHP, which fired Swindle on March 15.

Swindle's attorney, Sidney Matthew of Tallahassee, is challenging the firing in a hearing scheduled for May 2 before the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC). His petition says the state "has engaged in unlawful disparate treatment by dismissing (Swindle) for substantially the same conduct in which other similarly situated FHP troopers were not dismissed."

Besides McBurney, Matthew notes in his PERC filing, he plans to subpoena Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, who also was stopped by Swindle on Nov. 19 and three others also cited: Rep. Clovis Watson, D-Gainesville; Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa; and Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater. Also on the witness list: McBurney's wife, Deborah, who was riding with her husband that day on I-10, and Swindle's former superior officer, Sgt. Gary Dawson, who was described in an inspector general's report as approving Swindle's handling of the McBurney case.

Meet Nan Rich

Former state Sen. Nan Rich is the only official Democratic candidate for governor in 2014 and she's visiting the Democratic Women's Club of Upper Pinellas next month.

Rich, D-Weston, will address the group May 20 at the Safety Harbor Library, 102 Second St., from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For a $5 donation, you'll get lunch. Call 727-581-4630 for information.

Steve Bousquet and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner of the week

Rick Scott. The Republican-controlled Florida House handed the governor a real opportunity to burnish his image with voters when it proposed a bare bones alternative to expanding Medicaid coverage in Florida that rejects federal funding. If Scott actually fights for significantly expanded health coverage, maybe crucial swing voters will start appreciating his recent populist shifts.

Loser of the week

Nan Rich. The former Democratic state senator from Broward County was a sharp, well-respected legislator, but somehow almost nobody is taking her campaign for governor seriously. Last week she reported raising about $41,000 in the first three months of 2013 (bringing her total haul to date to $122,000). That won't do anything to quell skepticism about her ability to take on a governor who has already raised about $10 million for his re-election.

Gov. Rick Scott beginning to look a lot like Charlie Crist 04/13/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 13, 2013 8:10pm]
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