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Published Sep. 15, 2009

Charlie Crist can be beat. Maybe

Charlie Crist is swimming in campaign money, and polls consistently show him to be among the most popular politicians in America. But something ominous and unpredictable is brewing in Florida, and a growing number of Republicans are starting to consider the unthinkable: The people's governor could lose his campaign for U.S. Senate.

"It's rare that I talk to anyone that's got a good thing to say about the governor right now. It's hard to find a real Charlie Crist ally,'' said former state Republican chairman Tom Slade. "Charlie Crist is a marvelous politician, but rarely do you use the word statesman with Charlie Crist. That's his vulnerability, getting branded as another self-centered politician, and he doesn't have many more opportunities to muff up before that happens."

(Story here

Posted by Adam Smith at 09:18:29 AM on September 13, 2009

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Paula Dockery may take on Bill McCollum

Primaries can be expensive, bruising and divisive. So Attorney General Bill McCollum has to be relieved he won't face a serious Republican challenge for the gubernatorial nomination, right? Not so fast. State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, says in a Political Connections interview today she is still seriously looking at challenging McCollum for the nomination. Most of the GOP leadership has united behind McCollum, but Dockery says voters are hungry for a break from typical establishment politicians.

"What I'm hearing from other people is, 'We don't think politicians in Tallahassee are listening to us, we don't think anyone's standing up to the special interests, and we love that you took on a battle - a battle that you weren't supposed to win,' " said Dockery, who inspired loads of grass roots enthusiasm this year for almost single-handedly killing the controversial SunRail commuter rail project criticized as a giveaway to CSX Corp.

In Tampa Bay Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Bay News 9.

Posted by Adam Smith at 09:27:29 AM on on September 13, 2009

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No clear path yet for new highway safety chief

State Highway Safety Chief Electra Bustle, who oversees the Florida Highway Patrol, has just delayed her planned Sept. 15 resignation by two weeks -- a signal of a lack of consensus among aides to the governor and Cabinet over who should take her place.

Bustle had hoped to finalize her departure at next Tuesday's Cabinet meeting. But in a memo e-mailed to the agency's more than 4,000 employees this weekend, she notes that the search for her replacement has begun, and writes: "I have been asked to remain as executive director until the search process is finalized. Therefore, I have moved my resignation date to Sept. 29, 2009. Have a great weekend!"

As of Friday, Gov. Charlie Crist's office had one application on file for the job: It's from Bustle's chief of staff, attorney Larry Ringers, who used to be Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp's chief of staff. And Crist's chief of staff, Eric Eikenberg, has received a letter endorsing Ringers from Mike Kirby, chairman of the Florida Association of State Troopers (FAST). Kirby calls Ringers readily accessible, professional and an "excellent problem solver."

Posted by Steve Bousquet at 10:12:03 AM on September 13, 2009

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PSC's troubles could have been fixed -- in 1992 -- according to grand jury

For weeks, the Public Service Commission is pummeled with allegations: too-cozy relationships with the utilities it regulates, clandestine communications and undue influence by Florida Power & Light.

The accusations sound like the charges facing today's PSC. But it was 1992, when cell phones were the size of bricks and the Internet was still in its infancy.

A statewide grand jury recommended eight reforms to force the PSC and its staff to conduct all business with utilities in the open, with a written record or advance notice. Only one idea was enacted. The others -- some of which might have been able to address the issues bedeviling the PSC now -- were shelved. Here's the story. ( Here's the grand jury report. (

Posted by Mary Ellen Klas at 05:37:23 PM on September 13, 2009