Thursday, February 22, 2018
Politics

Gov. Rick Scott's campaign staff is raking in money

We're going to go out on a limb with this prediction:

If we get to the point where prominent Republicans worried about losing the Governor's Mansion start urging Gov. Rick Scott to drop out of the 2014 race to make room for a stronger Republican, Scott pollster Tony Fabrizio and chief fundraiser Meredith O'Rourke won't be among them.

The Florida GOP has paid Fabrizio's firm nearly $600,000 since August, including $170,000 in December and $277,000 in March. Scott's "Let's Get to Work" political committee paid another $32,000 to Fabrizio.

O'Rourke, who used to raise money for Gov. Charlie Crist until then-GOP chairman Jim Greer pushed her aside, has earned at least $110,000 so far this year.

Scott's allies expect to spend at least $100 million on his re-election, and even if he can't raise all that in donations, he's capable of spending that much himself. That's a lot of commissions for his campaign staff.

Crist in comfort zone

He says he's not a candidate for governor. Not yet anyway. But Charlie Crist sure looked like one Friday.

"I'm seriously considering it," Crist said. "I just think Florida needs to be on a better track, and I think she will be."

In his quest to discover how receptive grass-roots Democrats are to him, the former governor worked a crowd of several hundred Democrats in Tallahassee. The occasion was a wild game dinner hosted by Jackie Pons, the elected Leon County school superintendent and longtime friend of Crist's.

Crist brushed off a reporter's query about being a target-rich candidate who will be hammered with hard-hitting ads over his past flip-flops, his evolution from Republican to independent to Democrat, and his record as governor.

"You're way ahead of me," Crist said. At a photographer's prompting, he gleefully took out his wallet and displayed a Democratic voter registration card. "Here it is," he said. "I'm very proud of that."

The consummate retail politician, Crist thoroughly worked a room filled with educators, posing for dozens of pictures. Accompanying Crist in the role of travel aide was his friend Greg Truax of Tampa.

"You have no idea how comfortable it is to be a Democrat," Crist said.

GOP wins mayor seat

Mayoral contests often have little to do with partisanship, but given the way Florida Democrats have been crowing in recent years about winning mayor's races across Florida, it's certainly worth noting that last week a Republican was elected mayor of that liberal bastion of Gainesville.

Republican, two-term city Commissioner Ed Braddy unseated incumbent Democratic Mayor Craig Lowe with 55 percent of the vote in the nonpartisan election. It didn't help Lowe that he was busted on a DUI charge shortly before the runoff election.

For those keeping score, Democratic mayors lead in seven of Florida's largest cities (Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Port St. Lucie, Pembroke Pines) and Republicans lead three of them (Miami, St. Petersburg, Hialeah).

Horner bounces back

What's the career path of a state legislator who resigns after being implicated in a prostitution scandal? Turns out it's not much different from the career paths of countless past legislators — start lobbying.

Technically, former state Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, is not a lobbyist because legislators are required to wait two years after leaving office. Instead Horner, who resigned last year after being identified — but never charged — as the client of an Orange County brothel, is managing the lobbying team for Osceola County, earning $5,000 a month, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Consultant draws ire

No Casinos, the advocacy group whose goals are self-explanatory, is none too happy about the Legislature deciding to spend $400,000 on a consultant, Spectrum Gaming Group, to help craft a comprehensive gaming strategy for Florida. It's like the fox guarding the hen house, No Casinos said, noting that Atlantic City-based Spectrum has worked for Genting, the Malaysian gaming conglomerate aiming to build a casino resort in Florida, among other gambling interests.

"The people of Florida deserve an honest assessment by objective analysts, not a taxpayer funded propaganda tool for casino interests," said No Casinos president John Sowinski.

Times staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed. Contact Adam C. Smith at [email protected]

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