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The Buzz: Florida politics

Nelson-Martinez relationship smooth, for now

By Times staff writers
Published March 20, 2005

FRIENDS FOR HOW LONG? Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez have had a reasonably smooth relationship in Washington so far, despite their different political parties. Indeed, last week Martinez was one of the few Florida Republicans in Washington reluctant to discuss Nelson's vulnerability as the Democrat faces re-election.

"Bill Nelson and I have developed a very nice political relationship and commenting on that is not a good way to continue that," Martinez said.

That said, Martinez made it clear he won't be neutral once the campaign gets going: "I will be will be involved in that Senate race - we don't know who the candidate is going to be - just as he was involved in my Senate race."

SOME RECRUITING JOB: Outgoing state Democratic chairman Scott Maddox sent reporters scrambling on a wild goose chase last week when he implied that Alex Sink, the former Bank of America chief and wife of former gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride, was looking at running for Congress. He had tried to recruit her to run for chief financial officer, Maddox said when asked why the party chairman had not recruited candidates for all Cabinet seats.

Sink, who has been viewed as a statewide political contender for years, said she had not spoken to Maddox for "many months." And, no, she's not running for Congress or seriously looking at any other campaign for 2006.

Meanwhile, Maddox was left to offer only one potential Democratic name for chief financial officer: state Rep. Ken Gottlieb, a lawyer and obscure legislator from Miramar.

SEN. BROWN-WAITE? As Republicans hunt for a strong candidate to take on Bill Nelson and speculate whether Katherine Harris will get in or stay out, a new name is hitting the political gossip circuit: U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite.

Sure, few Floridians know her, but having unseated a veteran state senator, Chuck Smith, in 1992 and a veteran congresswoman, Karen Thurman, in 2002, she has a reputation as a dragon slayer.

Brown-Waite, of course, said all the proper things about being focused on serving her constituents, even as she sounded eager to get her name in the mix. Republicans need a candidate who not only can win a primary but a general election, too, said the Brooksville Republican, brushing off the suggestion that she might be alluding to Katherine Harris.

"Bill Nelson's very formidable, and we need a strong candidate . . . Republicans need a candidate who clearly is someone who fights for seniors' rights and fights for veterans' rights," she said, coincidentally citing two of her top issues.

YOU BOOZE, YOU LOSE: There's some new competition in Florida for the Democratic and Republican parties. The newest certified political party in Florida is the Prohibition Party, which joins two dozen other minor parties, including the British Reformed Sectarian Party (16 members), the Surfers Party of America (484 members) and Christian Party (1,034 members).

Founded nationally in 1869, the Prohibition Party bills itself as "a refreshing place to be." the Florida chairman, Bill Bledsoe of Milton, notes that in addition to opposing legalized alcohol, its priories including promoting gun rights and public morality.

Meanwhile, some of the most successful parties in Florida are those that attract registrations from people mistakenly thinking they are registering to have no party affiliation. Nearly 213,000 people have registered with the Independent Party, while 717 people have registered as members of the No Political Affiliation Party of Florida, and 1,246 Floridians are registered with the Independence Party of Florida.

FIGHTING WORDS: Florida State University president T.K. Wetherell pulled no punches in a speech to the Capital Tiger Bay Club last week, referring repeatedly to Jeb Bush as "the emperor."

He warned the audience early on that "The emperor on the first floor of the Capitol" and "The blazing saddles bunch at City Hall" were likely not to be amused by his remarks.

He then launched into a blunt review of the political brawl over a proposed chiropractic school at FSU and an ongoing battle over condominiums planned next to the university.

FSU has sued the city to block the condo project, which Wetherell predicted will circle the campus "like the silos they use to feed the hogs in Iowa."

Noting the financial impact that FSU has on Tallahassee, Wetherell suggested that the university might take the $15-million a year it pays the city for electricity and build its own power plant if city officials don't recognize the value of having FSU and the income it provides.

Adam C. Smith, Bill Varian and Lucy Morgan contributed to this week's Buzz.

[Last modified March 20, 2005, 01:06:08]

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