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Campaign puts light on Bush's check to Bilirakis

Gov. Jeb Bush last summer wrote a $100 check to the Gus Bilirakis' District 9 congressional campaign, which is now working to leverage that into much more.

A new fundraising letter from the Bilirakis campaign features a copy of the personal check from John Ellis Bush and a note from the governor:

"With this letter, I'm doing something I can't afford to do for every candidate, and I hope it encourages you to do the same. Enclosed please find a photocopy of my personal contribution to Gus Bilirakis for Congress. Frankly, I cannot afford to send a check to every candidate whom I believe in and campaign for. But this is a campaign I feel strongly about, and Gus is the type of leader the president needs working with him in Washington, D.C."

In state races this cycle, it seems the governor also firmly believes in Robert Fernandez ($250 from Jeb), running to succeed Gus Barreiro in a Miami-area state House seat; and state Rep. Bruce Kyle of Fort Myers ($100), who is running for circuit judge. Bush also recently sent $100 to outgoing Hillsborough GOP Chairman Al Higginbotham, who is running for County Commission.

CHARLIE AND HILLARY: We suspect it was the biggest crowd ever to hear a partisan speech from Charlie Justice, whom Democrats see as their best hope across the state for winning another state Senate seat.

The Democratic state representative from St. Petersburg - running to succeed Republican Jim Sebesta in the Florida Senate - addressed hundreds of Democrats waiting to hear Hillary Clinton last Saturday. Though better known as a policy wonk than an orator, Justice had the crowd roaring:

"My friends, isn't it time we stopped talking about right and left but simply talked about right and wrong? You tell me: Is it right, left or just flat out wrong to campaign on education and children and give our children a one-size-fits-none scheme with tests and a series of voucher programs? Or how about an answer to health care that kicks children off insurance policies? You tell me: Is it right, left or just flat out wrong to campaign as a friend of the working man and consumers, yet vote repeatedly to raise your phone rates and increase your property taxes by a quarter of billion dollars, just here in Tampa Bay? Is it right, left or just flat out wrong to campaign on less government and more freedom and yet repeatedly vote to have big government intervene in our most personal, painful and private medical decisions?"

The Junkie can't quite tell: How many Republicans did Justice smack in a single paragraph?

THE BOSS' BLESSING: Republican Bruce Cotton, a former aide to outgoing state Rep. Leslie Waters of Seminole, has her backing as he campaigns to succeed her in state House District 51.

Cotton knows the state and local issues that matter and has years of experience providing constituent service, Waters said in a statement.

The swing district, which includes Seminole, South Pasadena and parts of Largo, Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg, went for Betty Castor and George W. Bush in 2004. Cotton faces Seminole mayor Dottie Reeder in a primary. Democrats include Seminole City Council member Janet Long and Democratic activist Mike Smith.

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TURN THE TIDE: Gay Democrats have formed a new political group meant to educate and mobilize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) voters on behalf of Democratic candidates.

Called the Pinellas Stonewall Democrats, the group is launching a "Turn the Tide" initiative focusing on issues of equality and protection from discrimination, along with legal recognition of LGBT families and access to health care.

The group says it will also be a voice against what it calls "right-wing attacks on the LGBT community"

"A Republican red tide has flooded Congress with corruption and jeopardized progress here in Pinellas County and in Tallahassee," said Rick Boylan, the newly elected president of Pinellas Stonewall Democrats and a former Democratic National Committee staffer. "Organizing the LGBT community to take political action will have a positive effect on government and our party and will help "Turn the Tide' to make Florida a better place to live for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

Other newly elected officers include former Northern Pinellas Democratic Club treasurer Bill Barr, activists Robin Rowland and Gail Caldwell, and fundraiser David Johnson.

Pinellas Stonewall Democrats meet at 7 p.m. the third Thursday of each month at the Pinellas Democratic Party Headquarters, at 2250 First Ave. N, in St. Petersburg. For more information, visit www.stonewallpinellas.org, e-mail rqboylangmail.com or call (727) 363-6727.

CANDIDATE FORUM: Want to size up the Democratic candidates for governor in person?

Both U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa and state Sen. Rod Smith of Alachua will be at a candidate forum March 10 organized by the Pinellas County Democracy For America group. The forum is free and will be at the Largo Cultural Center, 105 Central Park Drive. For information, call Candi Jovan at (727) 724-1196 or e-mail canditonimsn.com.

Several other candidates will speak, too.

ENDORSEMENTS, PODCASTS AND BIODIESEL: State Sen. Les Miller is picking up another endorsement for his Democratic congressional campaign to succeed Jim Davis: Tampa City Council member Mary Alvarez will announce her support Wednesday. In Pinellas, Miller has been endorsed by St. Petersburg City Council members Rene Flowers and Earnest Williams and by state Rep. Frank Peterman.

Miller's toughest opponent, Hillsborough County Commissioner Kathy Castor is hosting online chats with supporters and is about to unveil its revamped campaign Web site www.castorforcongress.com.

But the most cutting-edge campaign tactic in this race comes from Mike Massaro, a Republican running in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. He's touting his first weekly podcast. It's at feeds.feedburner.com/blogspot/MAXe.

The other creative nod in the race goes to Democrat Scott Farrell, who was scheduled to drive his biodiesel/waste oil-powered campaign bus to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Tuesday night for a Bonnie Raitt show. Raitt is a big advocate for biofuels and runs her tour bus on biodiesel. Farrell in December brought his vehicle to several Raitt shows outside Florida.

Aaron Sharockman and Adam C. Smith contributed to this week's Political Junkie. Contact the staff at politicaljunkie@sptimes.com.

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