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The Buzz: Florida politics 2004

Did Kerry get a vote from GOP fixture?

By Times staff writers
Published October 31, 2004

Some Republicans say J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, chief of staff for former Gov. Bob Martinez and a key adviser to former Secretary of State Katherine Harris during the 2000 presidential recount, voted for John Kerry for president.

Asked about it Friday, Stipanovich said: "One of the great freedoms of America is the secret ballot."

Pressed to describe his feelings about the war in Iraq and the president, Stipanovich continued to dodge.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment this close to an election," said the normally outspoken Tallahassee lobbyist.

Stipanovich did say he was amazed to see long lines of young people voting early in Tampa, Tallahassee and Wakulla County.

Most years Stipanovich would be hard at work on the last weekend before an election. This year he was heading to St. Marks to pick up his boat and take it back to Destin now that the hurricanes have blown away.

MORE FELON LIS T: When the Florida Republican Party last week released a list of 921 felons who had already cast a Nov. 2 ballot, the party said it was seeking to keep legitimate votes from being watered down by illegally cast ones.

But a "clerical error" that occurred during the process has left the Service Employees International Union wondering if the party is less interested in scrutinizing illegally-cast Republican votes.

In releasing the list to media on Thursday, Republican spokesman Mindy Tucker Fletcher mistakenly attached a file with the names of only 710 felons. What did the missing 211 felons have in common? They were all registered Republicans.

SEIU, a major player in the defeat-President-Bush ground-game, discovered the error Saturday.

Fletcher said she mistakenly grabbed a file that had been tailored to show party breakdown. She said the party forwarded all 921 names to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigation. It also sent the names of another 13,568 felons it expects will try to vote by Tuesday because they voted in 2000, 2002 or registered this year.

Fletcher, in the same e-mail to media that contained the non-Republican list of 710 felons, also attached a copy of the master database for all 14,489 felons of all partisan stripes.

SOCIAL SECURITY HANGUP: Mel Martinez has an unusual message for Republican voters: Hang up the phone.

The Republican U.S. Senate candidate campaigned Wednesday at Freedom Square, a retirement community in Seminole that is a favorite stop for GOP candidates. Mayor Dottie Reeder and a polite crowd of about 100 people turned out, and fresh coffee and homemade brownies were on hand.

But in his visit last Wednesday with Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Martinez told the retirees to be on the alert for phone calls from Democrats accusing him of wanting to raid Social Security.

"If they tell you that, they're lying," Martinez told the crowd of seniors.

Martinez favors privatizing Social Security for younger workers and allowing them to shift their benefits to private savings accounts.

MINOR PARTY SPOILER: With the race for U.S. Senate so close, Betty Castor's campaign is doing whatever it can to win. That includes rooting for her rival.

No, not Mel Martinez, but Dennis Bradley of Kissimmee, the Veterans Party of America candidate.

He's an Army veteran and former Republican who's fed up with both major parties.

Castor spokesman Dan McLaughlin said he thinks Bradley will take votes away from Martinez, giving a boost to Castor. But Castor's pollster, David Beattie, isn't so sure. He said people who vote for Bradley - polled at 1 to 2 percent - may do so as a protest vote, and might otherwise not cast a ballot.

Still the Castor campaign isn't taking any chances. They're still rooting for Bradley.

AIRPORT OPPORTUNITIES: Reporters questioned Betty Castor's choice to take a commercial flight while campaigning around the state last week when her rival Mel Martinez was zipping around in chartered private planes.

Especially when she was stranded for two hours at Miami International Airport because of a delay.

But maybe it was all worth it.

While waiting for the flight, Castor ran into the Rev. Al Sharpton, a former Democratic presidential candidate involved in get out the vote efforts in Florida, and U.S. Rep Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville.

She even posed for a photo with the Miami rapper Trick Daddy, who was on his way to perform in Jacksonville.

Trick Daddy, whose new album is titled Thug Matrimony: Married to the Streets, knew Castor from TV ads. Castor had never heard of him.

But they had one thing in common: He, too, was taking a commercial flight.

Times staff writers Anita Kumar, Steve Bousquet, Joni James and Lucy Morgan contributed to this week's column.

[Last modified October 31, 2004, 00:55:19]

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