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Smith plans to stay away from Rolling execution

Published Feb. 26, 2006

As state attorney in Gainesville, Rod Smith's highest profile prosecution was Danny Rolling, convicted of killing five Gainesville college students in 1990. People introducing Smith, now a state senator running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, invariably mention Smith as Rolling's prosecutor (he once had to gently correct the lady who introduced him as the man who promoted Rolling). Now it looks like the case might gain more attention.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta earlier this month denied Rolling's latest appeal, leaving him with with precious few avenues left to stave off execution. Though the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing issues that could effect executions in Florida, it's plausible that Gov. Jeb Bush could sign Rolling's death warrant in the midst of Smith's campaign.

Should it happen, would he attend Rolling's execution? Smith, who has put three people on death row and never attended an execution, paused only a moment: "I think if I went it would probably politicize it. I don't really want to give Danny Rolling more attention than he deserves."

BRONSON'S BUDDY: Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson apparently has his hands full enough with the citrus canker and myriad other challenges facing Florida agriculture without weighing in on a controversy in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

He sits on the Cabinet with Republican Attorney Gen. Charlie Crist and Republican Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, rivals for the gubernatorial nomination. But in taped interview for Political Connections airing today Bronson carefully avoided criticizing Gallagher for voting on a pipeline project as member of the Cabinet without informing his colleagues that he owned stock in a company benefiting from the project.

"I'm not even sure he thought about it at the time, because my understanding is he did some day trading type stuff," said Bronson, who also discusses citrus canker, and how his office and Crist's office often seem to be stepping on each other's toes while soliciting gas-gouging complaints.

The interview airs at 11 a.m. today on Bay News 9, and starting Monday can be seen on Channel 340 (Tampa Bay on demand). Political Connections is a joint venture between the St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9.

ARMED ATTORNEY GENERAL?State Sen. Burt Saunders of Naples is an underdog in the four-person Republican race to succeed Charlie Crist as attorney general. The low-profile state senator is little known outside his district, and last year raised less money than all his rivals. But Saunders has something in his arsenal the others lack: He's packing heat.

The lawyer and former county commissioner is the only candidate in the race (others are state Rep. Everett Rice, R-Treasure Island; former Republican U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum of Longwood; state Rep. Joe Negron, R-Stuart; and state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Tamarac) with a concealed weapons permit. He disclosed this while campaigning in St. Petersburg, and explaining his mixed emotions about a controversial bill to guarantee that people with concealed weapons permits can bring their firearms to work with them in their cars.

"I tend to have a pistol in the trunk of my car, and I go into my employer's parking area with a gun in the trunk of my car - never really thought about it - possibly violating some rule or regulation," Saunders said. "I think people should have the the ability to carry firearms in the vehicles to protect themselves. On the other hand, employers should have some ability to control what happens on their property."

AFRICAN-AMERICANS FOR GALLAGHER: The Tom Gallagher gubernatorial campaign announced its "African-American Leadership Team" to help bolster his support among African-Americans. The list included some prominent names, including former Public Service Commission Chairwoman Julia Johnson and in the Tampa Bay area Alison Hewitt of Tampa, founder of Creative Community Solutions; Chappella Hill of Plant City, an educator and board member of Hillsborough Community College; and insurance agency owner Ken Anthony of Tampa.

GALLAGHER GRIEVANCES: Supporters of Tom Gallagher want the state GOP to force the Broward Republican Party to revoke its recent endorsement of Charlie Crist for governor. In their formal request for a grievance committee hearing, the Gallagher supporters cite Rule 8 of the state party bylaws, which require party members to be notified in writing, at least 10 days in advance, before such an endorsement vote is to be taken.

Rep. David Rivera of Miami, a Gallagher backer and a Republican state committeeman from Miami-Dade County, is one of those who wrote to party chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan, asking her to fire up the grievance machinery. Pasco and Pinellas Republican parties also have endorsed Crist, but in both cases, the Gallagher camp is satisfied the notice provisions were followed.

Even if Gallagher were to win the Broward grievance, it's possible the Crist forces in Broward would seek a second endorsement vote. There are rumblings that the state and Broward parties are talking quietly in hopes of reaching a peaceful resolution without more public bitterness that could only help the Democrats. Crist campaign manager George LeMieux, a former Broward GOP chairman, says: "The state party and the county party are talking. I think they're trying to resolve it."

Adam C. Smith and Steve Bousquet contributed to this week's Buzz. For more political news, check out