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  1. Florida Politics

The Buzz: Democrats flounder in pursuit of Jolly challenger

Published May 4, 2014

Democratic leaders in Washington and Tallahassee on Friday heralded the last-minute emergence of Marine Corps Reserve Col. Ed Jany to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, as a home run.

Jany, a former Orlando cop and veteran of the Army's Special Forces, offers a potentially impressive Washington outsider contrast to Jolly, the former C.W. Bill Young aide-turned-federal lobbyist-turned congressman.

But all we know at this point is that Jany, 49, is a first-time candidate with no known political or fundraising network, that he lacks a home in the Pinellas County district, and that he won't even be listed on the ballot as the Democratic nominee because he did not change his party registration in time. We also know that party officials could not have been clumsier in how they cleared the field for the little-known Jany.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and especially Pinellas Democratic Chairman Mark Hanisee, bullied one of Pinellas County's most prominent ministers, the Rev. Manuel Sykes, out of the race. Their message? A black man has no chance of running for office with an overwhelmingly nonblack electorate.

Way to antagonize the Democrats' most loyal constituency with your shrewd thinking, gents. After all, America has never elected an African-American president. Oh, wait …

'Ethically devoid'

Few people in Florida GOP circles worked harder to oust former Chairman Jim Greer in the year before his indictment and conviction on grand theft charges than former Ambassador Al Hoffman, the former Republican National Committee finance chairman. Hoffman's entreaties to then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist fell on deaf ears, as Crist stuck by his close friend Greer until the last possible moment.

Hoffman, in a letter published on the Buzz blog, says Crist contacted him a few months ago seeking his support in running for governor as a Democrat and that Crist acknowledged Hoffman was right and Crist should have fired Greer.

"I asked Charlie, 'Why didn't you?' He could not provide me with an answer. I told him on the phone, 'Charlie, you were the CEO of our great state, and the toughest decision that a CEO has to make in any business is to determine whether to fire someone who needs to be fired. A good CEO knows when to do that.' "

Hoffman is enthusiastically supporting Rick Scott's re-election: "Charlie is the slickest, snakiest politician in Florida," Hoffman said. "He is the most ethically devoid person I have ever met."

Crist campaign spokesman Kevin Cate dismissed Hoffman's letter, which can be read in full at tampabay.com/buzz.

"Feel sorry for him," Cate said of Hoffman. "Sounds desperate and afraid of having the People's Governor back in Tallahassee fighting for the middle class."

Hillary country?

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio may be the favorite sons of the Florida GOP, but a Quinnipiac University poll released last week found Democrat Hillary Clinton would easily beat them in Florida if the 2016 presidential election were held today. The poll, with a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points, showed Clinton beating Bush 49 percent to 41 percent and Rubio 52 percent to 40 percent. Remember, it's virtually impossible for a Republican to win the White House without Florida's 29 electoral votes.

The poll also points to how much stronger Bush is viewed by the Florida GOP nearly eight years after leaving office than Rubio is. In a hypothetical Florida primary, Bush pulled 27 percent, followed by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky with 14 percent. Rubio drew 11 percent, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie 7 percent, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (now a Florida resident) and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin got 6 percent each. No other candidate topped 4 percent, and 16 percent were undecided.

Shifting public opinion

More from that Quinnipiac Poll: Apparently, the Florida Legislature's decision to grant in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants is in line with public opinion.

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed by Quinnipiac — including 29 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents — support in-state tuition for illegal immigrants who attended high school in Florida and have been accepted to college here.

Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, however, is out of step with public opinion, according to the poll. In 2008, 62 percent of Florida voters approved adding a same-sex marriage ban to the state's Constitution, but today 56 percent of voters — including 32 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents — support allowing same-sex marriage in Florida. It takes at least 60 percent support to amend the state Constitution. The ban faces a pending court challenge.

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