Fresh off a close election win, some elected officials might not appreciate being reminded about how nearly half the voters preferred someone else. On March 16, U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, saw just such a letter to the editor of the Tampa Bay Times from St. Petersburg resident Scott Stewart, who noted that Jolly beat Democrat Alex Sink 48 percent to 47 percent.
"No one can ever live up to the legacy of Bill Young, and I'm sure Jolly is well aware of that. But keeping in mind the numbers surrounding his victory should be a daily reminder to him when contentious issues arise. Keep all of the citizens on both sides in your mind and the opportunity for success rises substantially. Best wishes, Congressman Jolly," Stewart wrote.
Next thing he knew, Stewart was on the phone with a friendly staffer in Jolly's office, Sharon Ghezzi, confirming he was the letter writer and then with the congressman himself.
"I was really impressed," Stewart told Buzz, recounting how there was not a trace of politics in the call.
It seems these personal, unsolicited calls may be a signature move for the newest member of the U.S. House.
He said he makes a point of calling some constituents who call his office about an issue or some constituent service as well as the occasional newspaper letter writer.
After months of being defined by TV ads, Jolly told Buzz, he finally has a chance to define himself by his own actions.
"My job is to work with everybody," he said.
* * *
Fuzzy memory of vote
As they rewrite history, Tallahassee politicians can have short memories when it suits their political objectives.
Take the current debate over reducing car registration fees and the bill Gov. Rick Scott signed Wednesday rolling back some fees to pre-2009 levels.
Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who voted to raise the fees as a member of the House in 2009, told reporters that he only had "one option" when Charlie Crist was governor, to increase registration fees by about 35 percent. The following year, Lopez-Cantera had a chance to reduce tag fees by a smaller amount. But the record is clear that along with the rest of the House, he voted no.
That year, the Senate voted 37-0 for a bill that would have lowered the fees. The bill was SB 1436, sponsored by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and co-sponsored by Democrat Dave Aronberg and Republicans Charlie Dean and Don Gaetz.
After that unanimous Senate vote, the bill went to the House, where an amendment by Republican Rep. Rich Glorioso of Plant City stripped off all of the fee-reduction language and sent the bill to a conference committee, which turned out to be a death sentence.
The House vote of 116-0 included a yes vote by Lopez-Cantera, House majority leader under Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala.
* * *
Ghost of a vote
A Florida state senator campaigning for the U.S. House with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin caused a bit of a mystery last week.
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, was recorded as voting yes Thursday on the state budget, even though she had already left to join Palin at a backyard barbecue in Naples.
Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine and the Senate Rules chairman, explained the mistake and said her vote button should have been locked after she left. The Senate then officially changed the recorded vote. Thrasher said he did not know who pushed her button.
Benacquisto is one of several candidates running to replace disgraced former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel. A spokesman for Benacquisto's campaign said she told Senate leaders ahead of time that she needed to leave Tallahassee at a specific time.
* * *
Alleviating flood rates
Today on Political Connections, Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, talks about his flood insurance bill moving through the Legislature. Watch the full interview at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
* * *
The wrong Diane
Was it just a slip of the tongue by Gov. Scott? Or were his thoughts elsewhere Wednesday morning?
As he prepared to sign the auto tag fee reduction bill, Scott - working from prepared remarks - singled out the legislators who helped make it happen, such as Reps. Mike Hill and Marti Coley.
He then got into hot water when he mentioned the tax collectors who were present.
"Diane Roberts," Scott said at the bill signing, televised on the Florida Channel.
Diane Roberts? The tax collector who was standing behind Scott was Diane Nelson, the longtime Pinellas County tax chief and president of the statewide tax collectors' group (she has worked at her agency 47 years). Diane Roberts? She's the FSU professor and liberal political commentator whose scheduled talk on the environment at a state-owned museum was abruptly canceled last week by Scott's administration and later rescheduled after allegations of censorship.
* * *
Winner of the week
Lizbeth Benacquisto. In a tough GOP primary for a southwest Florida congressional seat, the state senator from Fort Myers last week drew Sarah Palin to headline a fundraiser. Palin then went on Fox News to gush over Benacquisto to Sean Hannity.
* * *
Loser of the week
Ken Detzner. The secretary of state had already earned loads of scorn from local elections officials for ham-fisted efforts to remove voters from Florida's voter rolls. Last week, a federal appeals court dinged his reputation further, ruling that his office violated the law by launching the mistake-prone effort so close to the 2012 election.
Steve Bousquet contributed to this week's Buzz, which includes information from the Associated Press.