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THE BUZZ: Big losses in North Florida in the governor's race catch the attention of Democrat strategists

FILE - This Jan. 14, 2014 file photo shows former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talking about education reform during a forum in Nashville, Tenn. More than five years after governors from both major parties began a mostly quiet effort to set new standards in American schools, the so-called Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest that fuels division among Republicans. Bush hails Common Core as a way to improve student performance and, over the long term, competitiveness of American workers. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) WX204
FILE - This Jan. 14, 2014 file photo shows former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talking about education reform during a forum in Nashville, Tenn. More than five years after governors from both major parties began a mostly quiet effort to set new standards in American schools, the so-called Common Core initiative has morphed into a political tempest that fuels division among Republicans. Bush hails Common Core as a way to improve student performance and, over the long term, competitiveness of American workers. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) WX204
Published Dec. 14, 2014

As Florida Democrats continue their perennial soul searching over how they lost another critical election, most of the talk from the Charlie Crist camp has been about how Rick Scott and the Republicans outspent them by nearly two-to-one.

"I worry the lesson some people have is that it all came down to money and almost nothing else," said former state Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith of Alachua, who is quick to say Crist ran a strong campaign and "might have been the strongest" candidate Democrats could have fielded.

But Smith points to what he sees as an even bigger factor in Rick Scott's re-election: In the five TV markets north of Orlando — Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tallahassee, Pensacola, and Panama City — Scott beat Crist by nearly 250,000 votes.

"We simply cannot write off a quarter of a million votes, and have a chance," said Smith.

Translation: For all the talk by Democratic strategists about the importance of driving up turnout among Democrats in South Florida — especially minorities — Democrats will never be successful if they don't also improve their standing among voters in North Florida, especially white voters.

We heard a remarkably similar assessment from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who may already be the frontrunner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018. He appears today on Political Connections on Bay News 9, and along with questions about a Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Tampa, we asked him why he did zero to help Crist this year and what Democrats need to do next time.

"Democrats have to have a candidate that can compete in areas other than the traditional Democratic areas. If you cannot compete, and if you don't have a compelling message, and if you aren't looked upon as someone who is pro-business, who is centrist, who is all about getting things done, north of Orlando you don't stand a chance," Buckhorn said.

"The Democrats wrote off everything north of Orlando. I think as a mayor, that pragmatic, practical approach that's focused on results and less concerned about partisan politics potentially could be a winning message, whether it's me or (Orlando Mayor) Buddy Dyer or (Fort Lauderdale Mayor) Jack Seiler.''

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

Bush's business

As Jeb Bush looks more and more like a soon-to-be presidential candidate, Bloomberg Businessweek last week ran a tough article about Bush's recent private equity ventures, including offshore tax havens and funds relying on Chinese investors.

"Running as the second coming of Mitt Romney is not a credential that's going to play anywhere, with Republicans or Democrats," Republican consultant John Brabender told Bloomberg. "Not only would this be problematic on the campaign trail, I think it also signals someone who isn't seriously looking at the presidency or he wouldn't have gone down this path."

Cleared but chastised

The House Ethics Committee last week cleared U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, in a sexual harassment case brought by a female employee of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Helsinki Commission.

But the commission admonished Hastings anyway, citing his frequent hugging of the employee and comments he made "about not being able to sleep after sex, and another about female Members of Congress wearing the same underwear all day."

The committee, stating the obvious, found it "concerning that in the year 2014 it has to remind a Member that such comments show poor judgment."

Early inaugural donors

The Florida GOP says it will release the names of donors to Gov. Rick Scott's inauguration activities weekly. The first to step up? U.S. Sugar Corp., $15,000; Allstate Insurance, $5,000; FCCI Insurance Group of Sarasota, $25,000; Calder Race Course of Miami, $15,000.

Guns on campus?

Weeks after a gunman opened fire at the Florida State library, a lawmaker has proposed legislation that would let some people carry concealed weapons on college campuses. The bill (HB 4005) was filed last week by state Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, who also filed a proposal to let certain teachers and administrators carry concealed firearms at primary and secondary schools.

The Nov. 20 shooting at FSU left two students and one school employee wounded, in addition to the gunman's death. It spurred a renewed call for allowing guns on campus. A group called FSU Students for Concealed Carry called on the Legislature to consider such a measure, and National Rifle Association Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer has said she would support the dialogue.

Expect pushback from Democrats, teachers and FSU president John Thrasher. (Thrasher fought to kill a similar proposal in 2011, saying the decision was "beyond personal.")

Steube's bills do not yet have Senate companions.

Kathleen McGrory contributed to this week's Buzz.