Monday, July 31, 2006


This morning when I awoke to WFLA-TV anchor Bill Ratliff reminding us that this was the last day of July. Almost instantly, the lyrics to one of my all time favourite songs came to mind.

When I was in high school during the mid 1970s, I became attracted to the music of Carole King. She had been around for quite awhile before that, but the songs she recorded during this particular time were among her best work. One tune touched me from the time I first heard it. It was written by Carole and second husband Charles Larkey, and released on her 1972 album Rhymes and Reasons.


On the first day in August
I want to wake up by your side
After sleeping with you
on the last night in July
In the morning
We'll catch the sun rising
And we'll chase it from the mountains
to the bottom of the sea

When the day is over
And the night air comes to chill us
You'll build a fire
And we'll watch the flames dancing

You'll fall asleep
With your arm around my shoulder
And nothing will come between us
On the first night In August
The first day In August


The St. Petersburg Times is profiling the four major candidates for governor. It featured the Democrats yesterday; the Republican's turn is today.

Charlie Crist (R): His nice-guy personality and staking out safe public positions has helped the attorney general's political career.

Jim Davis (D): This profile focuses on the Tampa congressman's quiet, behind-the-scenes work.

Tom Gallagher (R): While supporters tout his business background, critics say it often becomes too personal

Rod Smith (D): This piece looks at his knack for being in the thick of the thorniest debates.


I always appreciate your taking time to visit this daily effort. While many folks tend to take time off over the weekend, I do at least a couple of posts of or about things that interest me or that have come up.

I just wanted to remind you to be sure to check out some of the posts from the weekend. In addition to the usual Sunday editorial roundup of Florida newspapers, there were a couple of great pieces that many of you may otherwise have missed. There is a really moving piece from Sunday's St. Petersburg Times that I made note of about the Polk County Animal Control team, and another from the New York Times about an evangelical minister in Minnesota that bucks the trend of activist right-wing leaning churches...and he surely ain't liberal.

Check 'em out, and thanks again for visiting I4J...and keep checking back!


That you have ONE WEEK until the registration books are closed for the September 5 primary election. That means that you have until the end of business next Monday if you need to register to vote in the primary, or change your information (name/address/party affiliation). If you've moved, be sure to get that updated, as your precient location may have changed...and that could cause a big headache at the polling place.

As of now, here's Polk County's breakdown of registered voters:

DEMOCRAT: 119,692 - 42 percent
REPUBLICAN: 110,965 - 39 percent
INDEPENDENT/OTHER PARTIES: 54,777 - 19 percent


This morning's Lakeland Ledger features it's annual list of the ten most dangerous intersections in Polk County. If you live in, or often drive in or through, Lakeland, Winter Haven, or Haines City, read carefully. The list is based on the number of collisions there last year.

1) Havendale Boulevard @ U.S. 17, Winter Haven. Back at the top with 50 accidents last year. It's held the #1 position now four of the past five years.

T-2) U.S. 27 @ Polk City Road, Haines City.

T-2) State Road 37 @ County Road 540-A, Lakeland

4) U.S. 27 @ Deen Still Road, Unincorporated Northeast Polk County. This is an area that has simply exploded with growth in recent years.

T-5) South Florida Avenue @ Lake Miriam Drive, Lakeland

T-5) North Florida Avenue @ Memorial Boulevard, Lakeland

7) Lakeland Hills Boulevard @ Memorial Boulevard, Lakeland

8) U.S. 27 @ State Road 544, Winter Haven

9) South Florida Avenue @ Polk Parkway, Lakeland

10) Tenth Street @ U.S. 17-92, Haines City

Most of the Lakeland intersections listed are in the southern part of the city, where there has been a great deal of development. The two intersections with Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland are just off the northern edge of downtown, and slightly south of Lakeland Regional Medical Center with a lot of businesses in the area.

In many cases, the accidents at those intersections are ruled to be the result of inattentative driving or folks trying to race under a yellow light...but the driver in front doesn't, resulting in a classic rear-end collision.

Just a reminder, friends, to please BE CAREFUL!

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Let me encourage you to read carefully this Laurie Goodstein piece in today's New York Times about one evangelical pastor in Minnesota who is bucking the trend of megachurches by refusing to mix religion and politics...and lost approximately a fifth of his congregation because of it.

Reverand Dr. Gregory A. Boyd is senior pastor of the 4,000 member Woodland Hills Church in surburban St. Paul. While he says he is no liberal, he refuses to divulge his political party affiliation...or if he even has one. He does oppose homosexuality and abortion. But he refuses all requests to introduce politicians from the pulpit, set up tables for anti-abortion efforts, and distribute "voter guides". There is not even an American flag hanging in the sanctuary. It came to the point where, according to the feature:

Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

Friends, please stop and take a moment to read that last paragraph again.

There is nothing wrong with preachers focusing their messages on what they see as sin and sinful behaviour. I do not believe there is anything wrong with ministers encouraging their congregants to do their civic responsibility and vote, based on each individual's thoughtful and prayful reviews of the candidates, their opinions on issues close to their heart, and (I would hope and encourage) personal meetings and discussions with the candidates. But the church should not be in the business of endorsing --- formally or informally --- any political party or candidate. A church service should, likewise, not be used by any political candidate as a "photo opportunity". It is simply inappropriate, and bastardizes the worship experience.

And, this Philadelphia Inquirer feature from June notes:

Boyd argued that the state, with its power to enforce its will over others through law and punishment, and the kingdom of God, with its power to transform others "through love," should never mix. Any attempt trivializes God's kingdom, he said.

Amen, Dr. Boyd! And thanks to Mustang Bobby at the Miami-based Bark Bark Woof Woof, a great progressive blog worth checking out regularly, for the heads up on this feature piece.


It used to be that going on a cruise for one or two weeks was a great idea for a vacation or honeymoon. Crusing the seas and visiting wonderful points of call would be stories to be shared forever. Not the headlines we've seen recently, nor the two in today's newspapers:

--- Authorities are investigating the disappearance of a Naples woman, 22 year old Elizabeth Kay Galeana, but would not confirm that air and sea searches for her have been called off.

Ms. Galeana, daughter of a prominent Fort Myers-area automotive dealer, went missing from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' Voyager of the Seas off the coast of Italy Tuesday.

--- And nearly 230 passengers on another Royal Caribbean ship, Mariner of the Seas, became ill with a gastrointestinal condition during a weeklong Caribbean cruise, according to a Saturday statement from the cruise line. The release said the illness was thought to be due to a norovirus brought aboard by a passenger.


It's highly unusual to see a Polk County story in the St. Petersburg Times, especially on the front page. The Times, to my knowledge, is not delivered or offered for sale at convenience stores across Polk County. The only out-of-area papers you'll usually see racks or spaces for in the stores here are the Tampa Tribune or Orlando Sentinel.

The reason I mention this is that there is a great piece in today's Times which highlights the people of Polk County Animal Control, which recently was incorporated into the Sheriff's Office, and how they deal with the often very emotional work they do in caring for --- and many times having to euthanase --- dogs they keep. In the case featured here, the dogs described were captured in a raid on a property in Mulberry several months ago where the owner was alleged to raising pit bulls as fighting dogs.

FYI: The "Kennel Trash" moniker was given the Animal Control officers from their street patrol collegues, and it's one they accept as a means of bonding the team.

This story is a truly moving piece of work, and should give many readers a completely different perspective of the people who work there. And while many people may be upset when they hear that many of these dogs cannot be adopted, it provides an excellent understanding as to why that is.

There are also several related stories in today's edition:

The Pit Bull Problem: A background view of the breed, as well as information about both sides of their reputation.

The Owner's Story: Hewitt Grant, who owned the 130+ dogs captured in the PCSO raid, is fighting the charges against him. Mr. Grant tells his story, which is told in first-person form edited from interviews conducted in his attorney's office, at his former Mulberry home, and by telephone.

How You Can Help: A listing of a few of the public and private animal shelters across the Tampa Bay area where you can adopt or help homeless and/or abused animals. They did miss one local shelter, though:

SPCA of Polk County
5850 Brannen Road, South
Lakeland, Florida 33813
Telephone: (863) 646-7722 (SPCA)
Shelter Hours of Operation:
Tuesday - Saturday 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM

In addition, Assistant Managing Editor/Newsfeatures Mike Wilson, who was the editor for this report, talks briefly about why this story was done as part of a multimedia piece on the Web site. It's just too bad that the vast majority of Polk Countians will not get to see this excellent special report unless they have online access.

And there is an online discussion of this story. Click here to join it.


We begin our tour of the Florida editorial pages today in South Florida, where the Miami Herald recently focused on the misspending, cronyism, and general ineptitude at the Miami-Dade County Housing Agency. As a result of the series discovered, and the anger felt by the low-income families the agency is supposed to assist, the Herald is calling for a federal investigation, as well as reforms to bring transparency and accountability to MDHA.

Heading up I-95 to Fort Lauderdale, area lawmakers recently held a town hall meeting where residents' key issue was high property taxes. Today's South Florida Sun Sentinel lamented the fact that the legislators showed up with no new ideas or proposals, and reminded readers that they can --- and should --- address their concerns through participation in municipal budget planning.

A little further up the road, the Palm Beach Post tells us that there's still a long way to go to transform Florida's economy. According to a new Wall Street Journal listing of what it called the most innovative parts of the country --- places where smart, creative people are looking for the next big thing --- the only Florida community listed is Palm Harbor, north of Tampa...and it's only listed as in the "Up and Coming" group. The Scripps Research Institute Florida Campus brings a great deal of potential, but the Post opinion is that the state must invest more in education, including the university system.

Continuing up the Atlantic coast to Melbourne, Florida Today agrees with the Brevard County School Board's recent decision to "stay the course" and borrow an additional $214 million to fund it's seven year building plan. It said that while it's certainly no joy taking on new debt, the work is needed. The plan is to upgrade all 82 existing schools, plus building seven new facilities.

Nearly 30 percent of the Florida legislative seats up for grabs this election season have already been decided because only one candidate --- in many cases, the incumbant --- decided to qualify. The Orlando Sentinel reminds us today that the districts were in many cases rigged to protect incumbants, and that the system for drawing district boundries needs to be changed. While a ballot inititative was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court which would have addressed the issue, the editorial said it hopes the decision will not end the effort.

Today's opinion in the Daytona Beach News Journal looks at the issue of building heights, a growing debate in several Central Florida beach towns. The editorial notes that adding height limitations to city charters does not resolve the goal of "preserving community character", and urges those involved to examine all land-use options in investigating what would be most appropriate.

We continue up I-95 to Jacksonville, where the Florida Times-Union notes that while some could have slipped in without signing in, very few political or community leaders attended any of the four meetings held as part of the Jacksonville Community Council, Inc's study of the number of murders in the area. The Times-Union says that attendance actually could mean little, if those who weren't part of the study actively became part of the solution. It also included some interesting observations from the meetings.

Now heading west in I-10, the Tallahassee Democrat urges city and Leon County politicos not to allow what it calls "unrelated political agendas" get in the way of efforts to agree to revisit the funding plan for downtown redevelopment in Florida's capital city.

At the western edge of the Panhandle, the Pensacola News Journal notes the release of a report by the Center for Health Outcomes Research at the University of South Florida. The report does not offer, by design, offer solutions, as the PNJ says that is up to the community. The opinion page calls on area residents to attend one of two scheduled meetings to get a local effort underway to find solutions to Escambia County's health issues.

Making a U-turn and trekking down the west coast of Florida (and nearby inland areas), the Gainesville Sun does not have an editorial per se today, but an interview with Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter to discuss what area voters should know going into the September 5 primary elections.

Just down the road a bit, the Ocala Star Banner gives a thumbs-up to the Marion County School Board's decision to give teachers there an eight percent pay raise. The newspaper's opinion is that the other big issue facing the district is finding a way to lengthen the school day or year to give teachers more time with students as well as allowing students to take more elective courses and offer more mainstream courses. It asks the teachers union to listen to that idea with open minds.

Here at home, the Lakeland Ledger takes note of the recent General Accounting Office report regarding the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, especially the bit of advice the GAO included: Find out who disaster victims are, verify where they live and the losses they suffered before giving out financial benefits to avoid the type and amount of waste and fraud incurred last year.

With the recent scares over Mad Cow Disease, and a generally increased concern over the security of our food supply, the Tampa Tribune approves of an idea to establish a National Animal Identification System which could be used to track infectious diseases or quickly respond to a possible terrorist attack on the food supply. There is already a voluntary system in place which seems to work well, but there is resistance to talk of an eventual mandatory system.

Insurance can't wait. That's the headline to today's St. Petersburg Times editorial dealing with what many consider to be the state's biggest crisis. The opinion is that while some serious proposals to deal with the issues are beginning to surface, 1) A special session of the Legislature this year doesn't make sense without a proposal on the table which would make a serious impact to resolve the issue, and 2) The gubernatorial candidates from both major parties aren't being helpful...and the crisis can't wait until spring.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune opines that while Sarasota County's touch screen voting system seems to have worked rather well during the four years that it has been in use, it lacks an independent paper trail and likely won't be capable of such for awhile. A group has formed to advocate in favour of a optical scan paper ballot system (which Polk County uses), and the newspaper calls for the debate to begin and for county commissioners to begin the process to have the question decided by voters at the November general election.

Continuing down I-75, the Fort Myers News-Press uses it's editorial space today to announce that it's editorial board would endorse local and state candidates for public office in both the September party primary and November general election races. Endorsments will begin the week of August 13.

And the Naples Daily News opinion concerns the lack of affordable housing in the area. It says that while the space is available, there is a shortage of will to build for lower income home buyers. That is only one of several impressions based on it's contining series, notably last Sunday's installment entitled "The Demand for Land".

Make it a great --- and safe --- Sunday! Keep dry, and keep cool. In my case, that costs me a $300+ electric bill for a two bedroom apartment last month!

Saturday, July 29, 2006


It seems as though the Florida Commission on Ethics ruled Friday that there was "probable cause" that Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Chief Financial Office Tom Gallagher may had violated state ethics law while serving as Insurance Commissioner by owning stock in two insurance companies, Penn Treaty American Corporation and Conseco, Inc.

Most of the allegations presented before the nine member panel were dismissed in the closed door meeting, but the 6-2 vote regarding this issue will allow the investigation to continue and eventually bring the matter before a public hearing. That's something the CFO doesn't need dogging him, as he's already far behind in the GOP gubernatorial polls.

Back in January, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Gallagher used an online stock brokerage account to attend to a personal stock portfolio which, at times, included stock in companies that did business with or were regulated by his agency...obviously a huge no-no.


Weekly Planet writer Wayne Garcia recently got something very few of us will ever be allowed: A tour of the new, 138,000 square foot, $32 million FBI office building in the Westshore area of Tampa. The agency folks have been based there since January, and the story of Wayne's experience there is a rather interesting read.


Needless to say, the Middle East crisis and the prospects for a cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah will continue to be the main focus again this week on all the network shows.

ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns will discuss the status of diplomatic efforts to end the violence. Also, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Daniel Ayalon will talk about the current battle against the terrorist organization. And the roundtable will include Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, Time's Deputy Washington Bureau Chief Jay Carney, his wife Claire Shipman of ABC News, and conservative columnist George Will (does he live there or something?)

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and Israeli Deputy PM Shimon Peres will discuss the current situation between Israel and Hezbollah.

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: This week's programme will be live from Jerusalem. No guest lineup has been presented as of early Saturday morning. I'm sure Blitzer isn't going to fill 60 minutes on the fly or with prerecorded packages, so look at least for plenty of back-and-forth with CNN's correspondents throughout the region. Please check back later for a guest list.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns appears here, too. And Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, will discuss efforts to end the escalating violence in Baghdad as more U.S. troops are being assigned to the Iraqi capital city from other assignments across the country.

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: Tim will begin by checking in with NBC's correspondents around the Middle East and beyond reporting on the crisis. Then, two key diplomats --- Israeli's U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman and Lebanese Special Envoy Nouhad Mahmoud --- will appear. And New York Times columnist and Middle East expert Tom Friedman will share his views, having just returned from the region.

Syndicated / The Chris Matthews Show: The new threat from Hezbollah and the Democrats' new 2008 primary calendar's effort on a possible presidential campaign by U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D - NY) will be bantered about by Chris and his panel: Newsweek's Howard Fineman, Kelly O'Donnell of NBC News, Time magazine writer Andrew Sullivan, and Gloria Borger of CBS News.

Bay News 9 / Political Connections: Republican U.S. Senate Candidates Will McBride of Orlando and Peter Monroe of Safety Harbor will be the guests.

One other note of interest here: In two weeks (August 13) at 11:30 AM, Bay News 9 is promoting what it calls the Florida Senate District 10 Great Debate. It actually will be recorded August 10 at 6:00 PM at the Riverview High School auditorium. Political Connections co-hosts Al Ruechel and Adam C. Smith will moderate the debate which will feature lone Democrat Stephen Gorham and Republicans Sandra Murman and Ray Young. GOP candidate and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms is choosing not to attend (I wonder why...). They are soliciting questions from the public for the debate. You can send your ideas on what to ask to or by snail mail to:

St. Petersburg Times
District 10 Debate
426 West Brandon Boulevard
Brandon, Florida 33511

Friday, July 28, 2006


As we begin to get into the political season in earnest, various organizations are planning their traditional rallys and other events which will attract crowds of folks for food, drink, and campaign promises. These events are usually the best opportunity that many area residents will have to meet and speak with candidates for local, state, and federal offices. Even if you're not a political junkie like me, it's always a great idea to attend and get to see and hear the individuals that you will vote to (allegedly) represent you and your interests.

Many of these events are fundraising efforts for the sponsoring organizations, but in at least some cases the ticket price may include food and drink. There are a few free events listed, so if you can't shell out the cost of admission to those that do charge, at least make an effort to check out the free events.

Here is a list of the events on the schedule in the area (check back occasionally for updates):

06:00 - 08:00 PM
Whistle Stop Political Rally and BBQ
Nora Mayo Hall (a/k/a Florida Citrus Building)
500 Third Street, Northwest, Winter Haven
(Across from the Police Station, just off downtown)
Tickets: $15/person

06:00 - 09:00 PM
Greater Haines City Chamber of Commerce Pig Roast & Political Rally
Grand Ballroom, Grenelefe Golf & Tennis Resort
3200 State Road 546, Haines City

06:00 - 09:00 PM
Republican Clubs of Polk County Meet the Candidates Dinner
Chain of Lakes Complex
210 Cypress Gardens Boulevard, Winter Haven (at US Highway 17)
Tickets: $25/person

Politics in the Park
Munn Park
Downtown Lakeland

WTSP-TV 10 / St. Petersburg


Joe Viscusi is attempting to oust incumbant Republican congressman Adam Putnam in what has to be considered a long-shot effort. But he's having fun at it, as today's Lakeland Ledger story notes.

The educator and two year veteran of the Florida House of Representatives (1990-92) carries along a "Howdy Doody" puppet (left edge of the table in the picture above) to occasional campaign appearances in an effort to highlight Putnam's willingness to tow the GOP line, even when it is potentially detrimental to his constitutents.

From the Ledger piece:

"Howdy Doody? Well, yeah there is a resemblance (with the puppet), but he (the puppet) won't run without oil," he said, taking a shot at Putnam's compromise offshore drilling bill, which was created at the request of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Some members of the Florida congressional delegation have said the propoosal is too potentially detrimental to the coastline.

Viscusi has bounced around the political spectrum a bit. After being defeated for reelection to his state house seat in 1992, Viscusi said it was a case of being punished for not supporting all of then-governor Lawton Chiles' programmes. Hurt, he left the Democratic Party and joined the GOP. He ran on the Republican ticket in 1996 for Polk County school superintendent in a losing effort. Two years ago, he left the Republicans and has not been affiliated with any political party since. He is running this campaign as an independent.


The St. Petersburg Times reported yesterday that prominent Miami-area real estate developer and prominent Republican fundraiser currently under investigation by a federal grand jury has ended his efforts on behalf of GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

Sergio Pino wrote the Attorney General advising him that "it would be in your campaign's best interest" for him to end his fundraising support. Pino is being looked at for possible improprities surrounding a fishing trip to Cancun, Mexico, in which he took Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz months before the BOCC approved a Pino development project.

Crist, the clear frontrunner in the GOP race against State Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, said that Pino volunteered to end his efforts, adding that "it was the right thing to do".

The Times story also notes that Pino, a "Ranger" ($250,000+ raised) for President Bush's reelection campaign two years ago, may be looking at more hot water:

"In a separate matter, the Miami Daily Business Review reported last week that it had obtained corporate bank records showing that Pino's companies may have reimbursed $29,500 to 59 contributors to Gov. Jeb Bush's 2002 re-election campaign. It is a violation of Florida election laws for a person to make a donation in another person's name.

The DBR reports today that local police are investigating the possibly illegal reimbursements, but that Miami-Dade Police Detective Michael Holmes apparantly concerned that the state statute of limitations --- generally two to three years --- may have passed for any election law violations.

The story continues:

"He said that wouldn’t bar the Public Corruption Unit from investigating and issuing a report on its findings.

"The detectives also said they could use the revelations in the Daily Business Review to seek more current financial records of Pino’s firms to search for other possible election law violations that may not be beyond the statute of limitations."

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards announced Wednesday that there will be more early voting stations open during the two weeks prior to the primary and general elections. This is to assist voters and hopefully eliminate the long lines that were experienced two years ago when early voting was first used locally.

More than 24,000 voters took advantage of the early voting opportunities in 2004 at the SOE's offices in Lakeland, Winter Haven, and Bartow.

The locations will be:

--- Bartow: City Hall Commission Chamber, 450 North Wilson Avenue

--- Davenport: City Hall Community Room, 5 Allapaha Avenue

--- Lake Wales: Public Library Community Room, 290 Cypress Gardens Lane

--- Lakeland: Supervisor of Elections Branch Office, Polk County Branch Courthouse, 930 East Parker Street (former Searstown)

--- Lakeland: Larry Jackson Public Library Branch Community Room, 1700 North Florida Avenue

--- Winter Haven: Supervisor of Elections Branch Office, Polk County Branch Courthouse, 3425 Lake Alfred Road (former State Farm Regional Office)

These locations will be open for early voting before the primary Monday through Saturday from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM between August 21 and September 2. They will also be used before the general election between October 23 and November 4.

Polk County voters should also be aware that some changes are in store for approximately 50,000 of them because their voting precients assignments will be different. Polk will have 165 precients, with five being added due to the area's continued growth. Twelve precincts are being relocated because the former locations did not meet the requirments of the Help Americans Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) in regard to access.

Make note and VOTE!


Most Florida political watchers have been looking over the latest polls released this week, with the Mason-Dixon survey released Monday and Strategic Vision's poll Tuesday. Also released yesterday was the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute's survey of 1,541 registered voters across Florida. It included 340 likely Republican and 319 likely Democratic primary voters, conducted July 19-24, and has a margin of error of 5.5 percent.

I'll keep is short and sweet here, because the QU poll simply mirrors the results of the other two. The main difference is the gap of Democratic Congressman Jim Davis' lead over State Senator Rod Smith --- 47 to 19 percent with 33 percent undecided or supporting another candidate. That's a lot different than the much closer leads shown in the other two surveys. And the QU survey shows that Davis' lead has been consistant since February, while the Mason-Dixon and Strategic Vision surveys have been noticing that gap shrinking steadily.

Among Republicans, Attorney General Charlie Crist's commanding lead is confirmed yet again here, with a 23 percent advantage (55-32 percent with only one percent supporting another candidate). Clearly the Tom Gallagher campaign team needs to sit down and consider the fact that three major polls show Charlie Crist with a huge lead and less than six weeks until the primary. There are some hard questions to answer, and even more difficult decisions to make there.

The QU survey did not even address the U.S. Senate race. It did ask respondants how they felt about Governor Bush's job in office; he has a 56 percent approval rating, and he only faltered among Democrats, blacks, and in Southeast great surprise here.

And so it goes...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


1) IMHO, the GOP gubernatorial and general election U.S. Senate races are basically done deals...even my five year old granddaughter can tell you that! Charlie Crist's huge lead was validated with two polls this week, and it seems nearly impossible that Republican primary challenger Tom Gallagher can do anything to seriously challenge the attorney general. The Democratic primary will be much more fun to watch in the last six weeks or so, especially as Rod Smith's campaign continues to gain momentum. However, one cannot count Jim Davis out, and this race should be close to the end.

As far as the U.S. Senate race, Katherine Harris may have mucho dinero to toss away, but between a 59 percent unfavourable rating according to the latest Strategic Vision Political poll (see post below) and Bill Nelson's generally favourable impression among the voters as well as his moderate voting record, her chance of actually being elected is close to mine chance of becoming a Polk County Commissioner...slim and none. That only way she can pull it off is for Nelson to defeat himself with either a stupid comment or getting caught chasing whores on Dale Mabry Boulevard.

2) The only explanation I have for former NYC mayor Rudy Guiliani showing up at the top among Florida Republicans for the 2008 presidential election is all the New York/New Jersey repatriates who have moved to the Sunshine State in recent years. But can Guiliani make a serious bid among the other potential GOP candidates? I say it's questionable.

3) Polk County politics this election season will basically be a snoozer, as three school board incumbants and two of the five legislative seats have already been decided as only one candidate bothered to qualify; the other three races feature unknown challengers facing incumbants or well-known candidates with lots of money and political experience. That said, the two County Commission races should be interesting to watch.


The Republican-leaning Strategic Vision Political poll was released early this morning, and it basically confirms the results of the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey released Monday.

The telephone survey of 1200 likely Florida voters aged 18 and above was taken last weekend (July 21-23). The margin of error is plus-or-minus three percent.

In the GOP race for governor, Attorney General Charlie Crist's tremendous lead over primary challenger Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher was validated. The Strategic Vision poll shows a gap of 57-29 percent in Crist's favour, with 14 percent undecided or supporting other candidates.

Among Democrats, the two main candidates, Congressman Jim Davis' lead over State Senator Rod Smith has become perilous. The gap is now only five percentage points, with Davis in front 40-35 percent. While the Mason-Dixon poll shows more than have of the Democrats interviewed still undecided, the Strategic Vision survey has 25 percent still looking for a candidate or supporting others.

Strategic Vision also asks interviewees who they would support if the general election would be between the Democratic nominee and the Republican nominee. In all cases, the Republican came out on top, but the numbers were generally close. No surprise that Crist came out better when respondents were asked to pick between either Smith or Davis, and that Gallagher -vs- either Democrat would be even (Gallagher -vs- Smith = 40-40; Gallagher -vs- Davis = 40-39 percent).

Even with all the drama surrounding Congresswoman Katherine Harris' U.S. Senate campaign, Republicans responding to the survey still pick her as the frontrunner with 45 percent. The GOP candidate closest is Orlando attorney Will McBride with 22 percent. A full 59 percent of all respondants, though, say they have a negative opinion of Ms. Harris.

Speaking of the Senate race, incumbant Democrat Bill Nelson leads Harris in the Strategic Vision survey 60-22 great surprise.

And there are some interesting items among the questions asked about the 2008 presidential election:

Among Republicans, the front runner is...NOT Arizona Senator John McCain...he came in second (30%). It's former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani with 40%. After McCain, everyone else is in single digits. That said, 48 percent of the GOP respondents say they would like to see Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice run for the top spot.

With Democrats, New York Senator Hillary Rodham-Clinton is tops with 34 percent. Only former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, with 14 percent, and former Vice President and current documentary filmmaker Al Gore, with 13 percent, earned double digit numbers.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Yes, friends, here comes another voter guide to be distributed in churches across the state and online, this time by the Florida Policy Council. It is the group which is leading the petition drive to put before the voters in 2008 a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage...which is already prohibited by statute.

The group's first Florida Judicial Accountibility Project has gotten underway, with questionaires having been sent to over 350 judicial candidates for county, circuit, appeallate, and Supreme Court seats. The questionaire asks candidates about their views on several hot-button topics, including abortion, gay marriage, and school vouchers.

The problem inherent in responding to these surveys is that state judicial canons prohibit candidates from discussing cases, controversies, or issues likely to come before the court. While they can comment on political issues, it advises that judicial candidates not do so. If elected, they can be disqualified from hearing cases related to any issue they had publicly commented on.

This will be a campaign that progressives will need to watch closely.


After a five hour meeting Monday night, the Avon Park City Council voted 3-2 to defeat a proposal by Mayor Tom Macklin which would have 1) made English the official language of the city, and the only language in which city business would be conducted, 2) fined landlords $1,000 for knowingly renting to immigrants who are in this country illegally, and 3) revoked the licenses of any business knowingly hiring illegals (Click here to read how it would have been worded).

The proposed ordinance had divided the city, in addition to causing the firing of it's city attorney after he publicly criticized it as being "poorly drafted" and unconstitutional.

Mayor Macklin championed the proposal locally after discussing the idea with his counterpart in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, which was considering a similar ordinance. Hazelton's ordinance passed July 15. Highlands County Commissioner David Flowers, a former Avon Park councilman and close friend of the mayor, said Macklin simply copied Hazleton's ordinance without doing any research and criticized him for bringing the proposal forward without any public workshop.

The decision last evening was the right thing to do.

While I by no means condone people entering this country illegally, or businesses knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, one has to admit that in this region immigrants --- legal and illegal --- do have a significant impact on the economy, mainly by doing work that many Americans will not do. This is simply not the way to eliminate the won't go away easily or soon.


You may remember that Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Longboat Key) had surgery last Monday to remove an ovarian mass Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. A spokesperson announced Monday that the U.S. Senate candidate received a clean bill of health, noting the growth was tested to be benign and that no further tests were needed.


The latest Florida election poll from Mason Dixon Polling & Research is out, and there's not a great deal of change to report.

Attorney General Charlie Crist almost doubled his lead over Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher to 55-24 percent among likely Republican primary voters, with 21 percent still undecided or supporting other candidates. Since Mason-Dixon's last poll in March, Crist began a television ad campaign while Gallagher only recently started his. In addition, Gallagher has had several negative stories regarding his personal life.

Among Democrats, Congressman Jim Davis continues to lead State Senator Rod Smith 29-14 percent...but that lead has continued to drop since the March poll. The big difference is still that over half likely Democratic voters remain undecided or are supporting other dark horse candidates. Neither candidate has begun airing campaign ads.

The Mason-Dixon firm surveyed 400 likely primary voters of each party by phone July 19-21. The margin of error is five percentage points.

Just remember, friends, that the poll that really counts will be in only 41 days.

Monday, July 24, 2006


She can't get the endorsement of her home county's Republican Executive Committee. According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune's political writer Jeremy Wallace in the Political Insider blog, last Thursday Sarasota County GOP Chairman Bob Waechter blocked a vote on a motion for the REC to officially endorse the Longboat Key congresswoman in her effort to win the party's nomination to face incumbant Democrat Bill Nelson for his U.S. Senate seat.

The motion by Vice Chairman Eric Robinson was ruled out of order, as he failed to state the time, date and place he intended to make his recommendation prior to the meeting. Robinson said that Harris' perceived lack of support within the party led him to make the motion.

It just so happened that two of Harris' primary opponents, Will McBride and LeRoy Collins, Jr., were in the audience at the time.

Party executive committees are usually discouraged from endorsing candidates in a primary race to prevent possible schisms within the organization. I do believe that Florida Democratic Party rules actually prohibit such primary endorsements.


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty is wondering this morning "Where have all the candidates gone?" And, for that matter, "Where have all the voters gone?"

Last Tuesday, Polk County Supervisor of Election Lori Edwards --- a former member of the Florida House of Representatives --- was quoted as observing that "It is a reflection of what seems to be below-average interest in elections this year...In all the years I have observed elections, this appears to be the most apathetic".

There was one error in Rufty's writing: He mentions that of the four House districts that cover Polk County --- all held by Republicans --- only one has opposition. Actually, there are five districts that include portions of Polk, and three will have challengers: Two by Democrats, and one by a Conservative Party candidate. But his observation is undoubtably correct, in that more than half of the local, county, and legislative races have already been decided...of 29 such offices to be contested, 16 had only one candidate who got a free pass.

And one truly troubling item of note is that while voter turnout has been dismal in recent years, the number of black voters has become a big concern. I quote Rufty's column:

" the two Lakeland precincts with a majority of black voters, the turnout for the [2005 Lakeland city] commission races was 9 percent and 12 percent even with a well-known black businesswoman running".

This should be especially worrisome to the Democratic Party, whose candidates black voters have traditionally supported in big numbers. There does seem to be a feeling among some leaders in the African-American community that they have been "taken for granted" by Democrats, which may be one reason a growing number have been staying away from the polls. Also, Republicans have been working hard for some time to attract black voters, and have been making some inroads in Polk County.

Sadly, a number of people simply don't vote because they don't feel that their ballot counts...they are just one person among thousands. They need to be reminded that every single vote counts, and that if they want to make change, they can't simply sit back and complain, writing letters to the editor. They have to become involved...and that means 1) paying close attention to what's happening and who's running, 2) finding a candidate whose beliefs and ideas most closely match theirs, 3) work for that candidate...from passing out literature to talking to friends, family, and neighbours, and 4) VOTE!

Can I get off the soapbox now?


A good piece for you to check out in today's Lakeland Ledger would be it's weekly 5 Questions feature, featuring local blogger and media consultant Josh Hallett of Winter Haven. He owns Hyku LLC, from which he operates his business, and personal blog Empirical Polk.

Josh talks about companies firing employees for posting work-related information or pictures on their blogs, the net neutrality issue, and telecommuting, among other topics. It's short, but sweet...definately worth reading. Way to go!

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Congressman Jim Davis of Tampa and State Senator Rod Smith of Alachua cooled down the rhetoric Saturday night as they debated as part of a statewide party event held in Fort Lauderdale.

While their attacks on each other have heated during the past couple of weeks, Davis and Smith basically played nice during the debate. That was helped by the fact that the format precluded any rebuttals, and didn't provide much opportunity for back-and-forth discussion.

Davis did go on the offensive on at least a couple of issues and hammered at what he called the "ineffective Legislature", while Smith did much the same toward Congress.

Click here to read the story from today's South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Click here to check out a really good overview of the Democratic contest for governor by Beth Reinhard in today's Miami Herald.


Where do I begin? Let's start here at home, where the Lakeland Ledger reminds us of the hard lessons learned by Hurricane Katrina's devestation in New Orleans: Politics is no substitute for science. The opinion is that the McCain-Feingold amendment to establish an independent review panel which would look over U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects of $40 million and above is needed, and calls on the House to approve as the Senate did last week.

The Gainesville Sun wonders who will be the broker for peace in the current violent situation in the Middle East. Certainly not President Bush, who mistakenly believed that democracy would bring stability to the region. It notes the best that can be hoped for is a cease fire which would allow Israel some sense of security while rebuilding Lebanon.

Up in Jacksonville, the Florida Times-Union takes note of RALLY Jacksonville, the early literacy programme started by Mayor John Peyton's administration, ending it's second year as it's book club continues to blossom and 16,000 four-year-olds having received backpacks filled with books and other learning tools...and even a book series set in Jacksonville in which the mayor becomes a character.

Hooray for downloads! That's the opinion of the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Sun Sentinel as the Movielink service, formed by the large motion picture companies, gets ready to enter the next level in 2007. It will allow people, for a fee, download movies from the Internet and burn them onto their CDs. It already allows folks to download movies for viewing. It does note that many people are either still uncomfortable with the idea or (like yours truly) don't have fast enough don't expect Blockbuster to fade into the past for awhile.

Some people just don't listen or understand, so at times they have to be reminded. The Sarasota Herald Tribune does just that this morning, letting readers know that it's actually harmful to feed wildlife...not to mention being possibly dangerous. In addition, it's illegal, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has begun a new campaign to remind folks of the downside of feeding animals. The editorial lists several reasons why it's not good...a couple I didn't even realize.

Heading into the Panhandle, the Pensacola News Journal hopes that the Legislature reverses itself and repeals a law which has put a chill into independent voter registration efforts. The reason is because groups and volunteers can be slapped with what the PNJ calls "draconian" fines if voter registration forms are lost or destroyed, regardless of the reason. And it calls the law an unequal treatment, as political party efforts are exempt. The case is currently before a Miami federal court.

The Orlando Sentinel says that the Orange County School Board has historically shown little leadership in resolving it's problems. It certainly does not want the electorate to decide who it's chairman would be, as a proposal calls for. The problem is that it would require the board, or a petition drive, to get the idea on the ballot...and the Sentinel says a board workshop scheduled for August 2 is simply a delaying tactic. It calls on the OCSB to vote quickly so the proposal can be placed on the November ballot.

Property taxes are the subject of today's editorial in the Tampa Tribune. It notes that the gubernatorial candidates are generally offering flawed fixes to the issue, a growing problem for many families across Florida. The opinion does, however, praise Democratic candidates Congressman Jim Davis and State Senator Rod Smith for being cautious in realizing the problem but wary of hasty changes which could result in new and unpleasant side effects. It also reminds us that any plan should result in equity, predictibility, simplicity, and flexibility for all Florida property owners.

The Tallahassee Democrat is saluting local government efforts to maintain and expand the city's trees and green spaces, which it considers a major value in it's quality of life. There are several additional opportunities for government leaders to continue that effort, and the editorial makes note of how readers can play a part.

We've all heard about the skyrocketing property insurance rate issue, but residents aren't the only ones being affected. The Palm Beach Post editorial spotlights the St. Lucie County School District, part of an consortium of several districts which share a private insurance policy. The district financial officer says the combination of higher rates and lower benefits "creates an inequity in resources we can provide our students". He also says that between resident's own rising rates and the higher taxes to be paid to help government agencies pay theirs, it's "double taxation", an opinion the Post agrees with.

The St. Petersburg Times editorial today says that real victims of the rare lung disease silicosis are being obscured by what it calls "a slick legal machine oiled by unethical trial lawyers and their lapdog doctors who have fabricated whole populations of victims to extort fortunes from companies that dealt with these materials". The opinion is that attornys and doctors involved in what it describes as "This kind of epic fraud" should lose their licences to practice, forfit any gains received, and jailed.

Adults up to the age of 30 playing high school soccer? It apparantly happened at Immokalee High School this past year as five student athletes from Haiti did just that. The Naples Daily News opinion is that while proposed rule changes by the Florida High School Activities Association will help toward eliminating such situations, the idea of overage student-athletes should be seriously reviewed. My question is...with five adults up to the age of 30, they still didn't win even a district championship in soccer???

Brevard County commissioners will soon begin a new fiscal year with a one billion dollar budget, up from $552 million six years ago. The Melbourne-based Florida Today says that while higher budgets are to be expected for a fast growing area, commissioners should make the effort to wisely plan for the area's long term growth.

The Florida Department of Education is demanding that the Miami-Dade School District replace principals at three of it's lowest performing schools which have been graded "F". The Miami Herald makes note that the schools in question have made significant progress under new leadership and direction, and that the idea to do so at this stage could end up being counterproductive. The opinion also suggests that it would help if DOE would stop micromanaging from Tallahassee.

Today's editorial in the Daytona Beach News-Journal is concerned about Smithsonial Institution Secretary Lawrence Small's deals with several corporate partners which would in some cases limit public access to Smithsonian archives, and noted that what happens there also has an effect on Daytona Beach because it's Museum of Arts and Sciences is an affiliate of the Smithsonian, one of only four in Florida.

And the Ocala Star Banner deals with the issue of one Marion County Commissioner, Randy Harris, trying to "find a way" to support a local option one cent sales tax for road improvement...and apparantly did so by what it called "blackmailing" fellow commissioners for his support.

Hey, friends: Make it a great Sunday. Since I worked last weekend, I've had a nice four day weekend...but all things have to come to an end, so tomorrow it's back to the job.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


"I can't remember a time when there have been that many School Board seats left unchallenged, and over the years there appears to be less and less interest among (potential) candidates in running for the Legislature. It is somewhat distressing to see that lack of interest in running for office. Either they are so content with the way things are or they have just thrown up their hands in apathy."

Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards, quoted in this morning's Lakeland Ledger, regarding the fact that three of four incumbants up for reelection on the Polk County School Board were returned without opposition, and three members of the county's legislative delegation --- all Republicans ---got a free pass.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Qualifying for local and statewide political offices officially closed at noon Friday. Here is the list of those who qualified per the Secretary of State's Election Division and Polk County Supervisor of Elections candidate lists.

--- LeRoy Collins, Jr. (R / Tampa): Retired Financial Executive
--- Floyd Ray Frazier (NPA / Eatonville):
--- Katherine Harris (R / Longboat Key): Incumbant Congresswoman, Former Florida Secretary of State
--- William "Will" McBride (R / Orlando): Attorney
--- Peter Monroe (R / Safety Harbor): Former Resolution Trust Corporation CEO
--- Brian Moore (NPA / Spring Hill): Recruitment Firm Executive
--- Bill Nelson (D / Orlando): Incumbant
--- Belinda Noah (NPA / Tampa): Adjunct Law Professor, Attorney
--- Lawrence Scott (Write-In / Aripeka):
--- Bernard Senter (Write-In / Miami):
--- Roy Tanner (NPA / Oviedo):

--- Virginia "Ginny" Brown-Waite (R / Crystal River): Incumbant,
--- Rick Penberthy (D / Wesley Chapel): Teacher
--- John T. Russell (D / Dade City): Registered Nurse
--- H. "David" Werder (D / Spring Hill):

--- Ed Bowlin (NPA / Lake Wales): Electrical/AC Contractor
--- Adam H. Putnam (R / Bartow): Incumbant, Citrus/Cattle Farmer
--- Joe Viscusi (NPA / Lakeland): Former Legislator

--- Bob Bowman (D / Melbourne): Retired USAF, President of Institute for Space and Security Studies
--- John M. Kennedy (D / Merritt Island):
--- David Welson (R / Melbourne): Incumbant, Physician

--- Karl C.C. Behm (NPA / ):
--- Piotr Blass (NPA / Boynton Beach): Computer Math Professor; Architect
--- Glenn Burkett (D / Panama City): Nutritional Educator
--- Carol Castagnero (D / Lakeland): Retired Teacher
--- Charlie Crist (R / Tampa): Attorney, Florida Attorney General
--- John M. Crotty (D / Maitland): Attorney
--- Jim Davis (D / Tampa): Attorney; U.S. Congressman
--- Richard Paul Dembinsky* (R / Port Orange): Engineer
--- Tom Gallagher (R / Miami): Attorney; State Chief Financial Officer
--- Max Linn (Reform / St. Petersburg):
--- Wilfredo Papa-Roqui Maneiro, II (Write-In / Tallahassee):
--- Omari Musa (Socialist Workers / Miami): No information available
--- Vernon A. Palmer (R / Miami):
--- C.C. Reed (Write-In / Miami): Businessman
--- John Wayne Smith** (NPA / Leesburg): Self-employed Businessman
--- Rod Smith (D / Alachua): Attorney; Former State Attorney; State Senator
--- Michael W. St. Jean (R / Jacksonville): Insurance Business Owner
--- Robert O. Wirengard*** (Write-In / Tampa):
--- Atlee David Yarrow**** (Write-In / Jacksonville): Student

* - As Richard Paul Dembinsky does not have an Internet site related to his current gubernatorial campaign, the link to his biographical information is from his previous campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives.

** - John Wayne Smith has selected James Kearney of Plantation as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor. Smith had originally opened his campaign account as a Libertarian.

*** - As Robert O. Wirengard does not have an Internet site related to his current gubernatorial campaign, the link to his biographical information is from his previous campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives.

**** - Although Atlee David Yarrow has qualified to run for governor as a write-in candidate, he is actually running under the banner of the Socialist Party of Florida. He has also chosen Tyrone Adams as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor.

--- Walter G. "Skip" Campbell, Jr. (D / Fort Lauderdale): Attorney, State Senator
--- Merrilee Ehrlich (D / Pompano Beach): Attorney
--- Bill McCollum (R / Winter Park): Attorney, Former Congressman

--- Milt Bauguess (R / Tallahassee): Financial Advisor
--- Randy Johnson (R / Celebration): State Representative
--- Tom Lee (R / Brandon): Homebuilding Company Vice President, State Senate President
--- Alex Sink (D / Tampa): Retired Banking Executive

--- Charles H. Bronson (R / Tallahassee): Incumbant
--- Eric Copeland (D / Miami): Attorney

--- Victoria Brake (Write-In / Valrico):
--- Stephen Gorham (D / Plant City): Networking/Telecommunications Director
--- Sandra L. Murman (R / Brandon): Former State Representative
--- Rhonda R. Storms (R / Valrico): Former Hillsborough County Commissioner
--- Ray Young (R / Plant City): Building Contractor

--- James "Jim" Davis (D / Bartow): Massage Therapist
--- Seth McKeel (R / Lakeland): Real Estate/Development Businessman

--- Frank C. Attkission (R / Kissimmee): Incumbant, Businessman
--- Beulah Farquharson* (D / Lakes): Real Estate Broker, Sales Manager

* - Since Beulah Farquharson does not have an Internet site related to her current congressional campaign, the link to her biographical information is from a 2004 Orlando Sentinel voters guide profile from her previous campaign for the Osceola County Commission.

--- Jon Kevin Abdoney (Lakeland)
--- David R. Carmichael (Winter Haven)
--- Ernest M. Jones (Lakeland)

--- John K. Stargel (Lakeland): Incumbant State Representative
--- Nathaniel White (Bartow)

--- Rob Griffin (Lakeland)
--- Steve Pincket (Lakeland)

POLK COUNTY JUDGE / GROUP 10 (Nonpartisan)
--- Robert Grizzard (Lakeland)
--- John E. Kirkland (Lakeland)
--- Don Ratterree (Bartow)

--- Russell "Rusty" Boedicker (D / Eaton Park): Real Estate Agent
--- Robert Connors* (D / Lake Wales): Business Consultant, Writer, Former County Commissioner
--- Betty Hill (R / Lake Wales): Aviation Business Consultant
--- Randy Wilkinson (R / Lake Wales): Incumbant

* - As Robert Connors does not have an Internet site related to his current county commission campaign, the link to his biographical information is from his previous commission campaign in 1998.

--- Bruce Parker (R / Winter Haven): Semi-retired businessman, Former Winter Haven City Commissioner/Mayor.
--- Jean Reed (D / Winter Haven): Former teacher
--- Martha Santiago (R / Winter Haven): School Administrator

--- Kay Fields (Lakeland): Incumbant, CEO of Girls, Inc.
--- Ricky Shirah (Lakeland): Towing Service Owner

--- Jake Eaton (Lake Wales)
--- Margot Stevens (Lake Wales)

--- Robert "Bob" Jardine (Winter Haven)
--- Matthew Kaylor (Winter Haven)
--- Mark Remmel (Winter Haven)

And below are the candidates who ran unopposed and the offices they sought; therefore, they are automatically elected:

Dennis A. Ross (R / Lakeland): Attorney, State Representative/District 63

Marsha L. "Marty" Bowen (R / Winter Haven): Incumbant, Citrus Grower

Baxter G. Troutman (R / Winter Haven): Incumbant, Citrus Grower

Steven L. Selph

Charles B. Curry

J. Michael Hunter

Marcus J. Ezelle

Robert L. Doyel

Timothy Coon

Angela Jane Cowden

Hazel Sellers (Bartow): Incumbant, Retired Teacher

Margaret A. Lofton (Auburndale): Incumbant, Retired Teacher

Tim Harris (Lakeland): School Resource Specialist

Paul R. "Rich" Weaver (Lakeland)

John L. "Larry" Knapp (Lakeland)

John L. Chickness, Sr. (Lake Wales)

Betsey D. Schemmer (Winter Haven)


ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: Will not air this weekend due to ABC Sports' coverage of the British Open golf tournament.

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: The Middle East crisis will be discussed with Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., his Syrian counterpart Ambassador Dr. Imad Moustapha, and Douglas Ignatius of the Washington Post.

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: The Middle East crissi will also be discussed here with John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Israeli Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Richard Lugar (R - IN/Committee Chairman) and Christopher Dodd (D - CT), with House Permanant Select Intellegence Committee members Representatives Peter Hoekstra (R - MI) and Jane Harman (D - CA).

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: Ambassador Bolton will be here as well to chat about possible diplomatic solutions to the current Middle Eastern crisis. And House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R - IL) will discuss GOP issues going into the midterm election season.

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten will discuss the Middle East, Iraq, Bush's veto this week of a bill on stem cell research, and the president's agenda for the rest of this year. Also, author Tom Ricks on his new book on Iraq, "Fiasco".

Syndicated / The Chris Matthews Show: The Middle East Crisis, President Bush's stem cell veto, and the Connecticut U.S. Senate race are the items to be bantered about with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, Joe Klein of Time magazine, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, and the Financial Times' Chrystia Freeland.

Bay News 9 / Political Connections: Congressman Adam H. Putnam (R - Bartow) will be this week's guest.


The state's second largest union which represents state employees, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), has long been seen as an organisation which supports the Democratic Party and it's candidates. Throughout the administration of Governor Jeb Bush, AFSCME has slammed his efforts at privatization among other policies. So one would think that it would endorse Democratic candidates for most statewide offices.


Union President Jeannette Wynn announced Thursday in Tallahassee that AFSCME is endorsing Republican Tom Lee of Brandon in his effort to become the next state Chief Financial Officer. The announcement also included a real shocker...if the state Senate President makes it through the primary challenges of State Representative Randy Johnson of Celebration and Milt Bauguess of Tallahassee, Wynn said the union would back Lee against Democrat Alex Sink of Tampa. This would actually put Governor Bush, who is supporting Lee, and the union which has bashed him on the same side.

Apparantly Ms. Sink made the critical mistake of missing the AFSCME's endorsement convention, moving Wynn to say that "We do not have a relationship with her, like we have with Tom Lee. We're endorsing him all the way."

Wynn also said that the union had a good relationship with Lee while he was Senate President, and that "he ran a fair process".

Just another reminder that you can never...never...NEVER take for granted your traditional support groups.


Qualifying for the upcoming elections will end at noon today, so it should be a busy day at Supervisor of Elections offices throughout the state and the Department of Elections office in Tallahassee.

There have been a few surprises, and at least one incumbant --- Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson --- has not qualified to have his name on the ballot for reelection. I fully expect that to be resolved this morning.

One thing that is always interesting is to check out the Web sites of the candidates that you may never hear of, at least in the mainstream media. Although virtually all of them don't have a snowball's chance in a Florida July to get elected, at least a few of them have some ideas worth reading.

There are actually 11 candidates for Bill Nelson's U.S. Senate seat, with four choices on the GOP side. As for governor, there are now 18 candidates who have officially qualified --- five Democrats, four Republicans, a Reformer, a Socialist Worker, four write-ins (including a Socialist), and three No Party Affiliation. Five of them don't even have Web sites, which should be considered a must-have to actively communicate with an electorate as diverse and wide spread geographically as Florida is.

The race I'll be watching closely is the Democratic primary in U.S. House District 5, currently held by Republican Virginia "Ginny" Brown-Waite. The two main Democrats seeking to challenge Ginny are teacher Rick Penberthy of Wesley Chapel and Registered Nurse John T. Russell of Dade City. Both men are quite knowledgable and present themselves well.

Check out the post immediately below this, which includes the complete list of statewide and local candidates in Polk County who have qualified to be on the ballot. I'll be updating it this afternoon/evening after qualifying ends.