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Rep. Kathy Castor may face challenge from Mark Sharpe

Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is talking about challenging Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor for her congressional seat in 2012. Sharpe, who pushed hard for the high-speed rail line connecting Tampa to Orlando, said this week he wants to be able to participate in national discussions on deficit reduction and America's wars.

"The only question is how will I have that conversation," he said. "That's what I'll be announcing in August."

Sharpe, a retired naval officer who worked on John McCain's presidential bid, is already floating a platform that could fly in Castor's heavily Democratic district. He said he disagrees with McCain's philosophies on U.S. action overseas.

"Before you send a man or woman overseas, you better understand what you're going to do, how you're going to get in, and how you're going to get it out," Sharpe said. "I want to have that conversation about military affairs."

Rail politics

The strange politics of rail continue in Florida. Now, it's SunRail, the Central Florida commuter line approved in late 2009 by the Legislature. Senate President Mike Haridopolos voted for the project then. He's now a U.S. Senate candidate and has decided to raise fresh concerns about the project in a letter that puts Gov. Rick Scott on the spot.

Some tea party folks hate SunRail, and want Scott to block the project, just as he did with a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. The difference between the two projects: SunRail puts Florida taxpayers far more directly on the hook than high-speed rail.

But House Speaker Dean Cannon and the Central Florida power structure want SunRail desperately. And Scott's decision to cancel the project would be a political bombshell. In a perfect tea party world, Scott would cancel it, but this isn't a perfect tea party world.

Tough trim for barber

Remember Carl Troup, a.k.a. Carl the Barber? Then-Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007 rewarded his longtime pal and barber with an appointment to the state Barbers' Board, which meets a few times a year to regulate the profession. Crist, who used to tout the $10 cut at Troup's Northeast Pyramid Barber Shop as proof of his frugality, reappointed Troup to the panel in October before leaving office. Gov. Rick Scott had different plans.

Troup got a call last week from two members of the reappointment board who asked him what parts of Florida barbering law he would like to see better enforced. He said he would like to see a crackdown on licensing, as shops are less frequently inspected than in recent years.

He didn't hear anything back until Thursday, when the board's executive director told him he would not be reappointed. Scott's decision means Troup will lose his spot on the National Association of Barber Boards of America, where he was in line to become president.

Troup says he's not upset, though it would have been nice for Florida to have a representative on the national board.

"But apparently our hot-wheelin' governor did not see that as a benefit to the state of Florida," he said.

Tea party losing punch

Beware, Florida Republicans: The tea party movement that swept you into office in 2010 could cost you the next election. That's the takeaway message from Republican pollster and consultant Alex Patton, who conducted a recent survey showing that, by a 2-1 ratio, registered Florida voters said the tea party movement did not represent their views.

The sentiment against the tea party is significantly higher among self-described independent voters, who swing elections in Florida and who looked unfavorably on the tea party by 3 to 1, the poll showed. Only Republican voters favored the tea party movement, with 68 percent in support and less than 20 percent opposed.

"There's a real danger to Republican candidates," said Patton, a founder of the Gainesville-based War Room Logistics polling firm.

"If, in a primary race statewide, a candidate hugs the tea party too tightly in order to win the primary," he said, "it significantly causes you issues in a general election."

But there's a catch for Republicans: The tea party movement is dear to the base of the GOP. Last year it helped fuel the Republican takeover in the Florida Cabinet as well as the U.S. House.

Times/Herald staff writers Katie Sanders and Marc Caputo contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner of the week

Steve MacNamara. The ultimate Tallahassee insider is now chief of staff for Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned as Mr. Outsider. And while other state employees have their take-home pay whacked by 3 percent, MacNamara gets a 26 percent pay raise, up to $189,000.

Loser of the week

John Thrasher. As former state GOP chairman, state Sen. John Thrasher endorsed the party holding a nonbinding "straw poll" in 2011 for Florida Republicans, hailing it as "good for the state, good for the party and … a real boost to the candidates." Now Thrasher is the No. 1 defender of Mitt Romney snubbing Florida's straw poll.

Rep. Kathy Castor may face challenge from Mark Sharpe 06/25/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 26, 2011 12:06am]

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