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The Buzz: Florida politics

Poll finds voters don't want to be told to shut up

By Times staff writers
Published April 10, 2005

A new poll underscores the challenge Republicans face trying to restrict voter initiatives.

The March 17-19 InsiderAdvantage poll of 400 Florida voters found that only 34 percent considered limiting the number of constitutional issues put to voters an important issue for lawmakers to address. As reported on the subscription news site FloridaInsider, that put the issue dead last, behind reforming Medicaid, reducing class sizes and others.

"The potential problem is that Floridians at some point may begin to share the collective instinct that Republicans are starting to do what Democrats did for so long," the FloridaInsider noted. "The GOP may be starting to presume that they know what's better for the people than the people do themselves."

SELF-FINANCING CFO? Democrats have buzzed about former Bank of America honcho Alex Sink, former state House Minority leader Doug Wiles and state Senate Democratic leader Ron Klein jumping into the statewide race for chief financial officer. None of those prospects has panned out, so perhaps it's time for party insiders to take more seriously the one Democrat who's already filed.

Eric Copeland's campaign Web site - - doesn't offer a lot of information ("Building a better Florida requires a state government committed to transparent finances, fiscal responsibility, long term vision, and access to affordable insurance for all our citizens," he states) but Copeland is a Miami-Dade lawyer who specializes in property tax appeals, and has donated to assorted Democratic campaigns over the years.

He brings at least one intriguing trait to the table: apparently deep pockets and a willingness to spend it on his campaign. The 40-year-old Copeland said he doesn't plan to accept public financing because it would limit him to spending just $25,000 of his own money. He said he has not decided how much he'll be willing to spend, but he is preparing to ramp up his fundraising efforts.

STRONG OUT OF THE BOX: Kathy Castor jumped into the race to succeed Jim Davis in Congress as expected last week, turning everybody else into an underdog. But one rival is undercutting his own long-shot credentials. Attorney Scott Farrell says his first fundraising report will show he has raised nearly $50,000.

"For being in the race 10 days, we feel pretty good about that," Farrell said. "It reinforces that this is a competitive race.

State Sen. Les Miller said he'll show about $12,000 raised, but noted that he's been concentrating on his legislative duties. Though Senate rules do not prohibit federal candidates from raising campaign money during a legislative session, Miller said he has opted not to hold any fundraisers in Tallahassee out of deference to Senate President Tom Lee.

"I'm going to turn up the heat on raising funds soon. No question about that," said Miller.

And for the record, Miller doesn't buy that Castor is the clear front-runner in that congressional race.

DEMOCRATS STILL LOSING: It seems the November elections didn't halt the Democrats' slide to Republicans in Florida. Between Election Day and February, Republicans gained nearly 74,000 registered voters, compared to nearly 55,000 for Democrats, and more than 64,000 for independents and minor parties. Democrats still lead Republican in registration, though, 41 percent to 38 percent.

MERLOT TO GO: State senators last week passed a bill close to their hearts: the Merlot To Go bill. Supported by the state's restaurant industry, the bill allows diners to take home an unfinished bottle of wine. Too many diners feel compelled to finish a bottle, even if it means drinking too much before driving home.

The bill prompted some levity from Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, who asked the measure's sponsor if the bill would apply to those who don't drink the same caliber of wine that millionaire Sen. Jim King does. King, R-Jacksonville, joked that he didn't understand why anyone who bought a $10 bottle of wine wouldn't "leave the rest of it behind for the help" but said it would apply to cheap bottles, too.

Afterward, Senate President Tom Lee quipped: "Do we really have that big a problem? Ironically the people who are pushing that the most are usually the people who don't have much left in the bottle when they leave."

MIAMI ON HIS MIND? Five years ago Florida Gov. Jeb Bush added insult to injury when he single-handedly killed the Florida Marlins' bid for state tax dollars for a new stadium on opening day of baseball season. The state, Bush said, had better uses for the money.

But on Tuesday, with the Marlins lobbying for yet another tax break plan, Bush couldn't be baited. "Today is opening day for the mighty Florida Marlins, and I will not have an opinion on the subject of financing. I'm not going to have a specific opinion on a particular bill for any sports franchise on opening day," Bush said, chuckling.

Times staff writers Adam C. Smith, Alisa Ulferts and Steve Bousquet contributed to this week's Buzz.

[Last modified April 10, 2005, 00:39:14]

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