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Crowded field for AG post to get 1st Democrat soon

By Times staff writers
Published July 31, 2005

While Republican candidates are raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in the crowded primary for attorney general, Democrats still have nobody running. That should change on Sept. 1.

"You will have an announcement on Sept. 1 that I'm getting into it unless something major changes," said state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell of Tamarac, a wealthy trial lawyer from Democrat-dominated Broward County.

Former Attorney General Bob Butterworth had been talking to people about running. Campbell said Butterworth won't run, though he might be recruited to run for lieutenant governor. Another potential Democratic candidate is former Miami-Dade Commissioner Jimmy Morales, but Campbell hopes to avoid a primary fight that he said would sap donations from all candidates.

That subject presumably came up at a private dinner last week at the home of state Sen. Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach. Among the attendees were Campbell, Morales, state Democratic Party chairman Karen Thurman, Sen. Bill Nelson's chief of staff, Pete Mitchell; and state Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach.

Some Democrats had been frustrated about Campbell's delay in getting started. He said he had made a longstanding August vacation commitment to his wife.

"You can't be a candidate and go on vacation," Campbell said.

WELL, IT'S A START: Like many members of Congress, U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris has started her own political action committee, Forward PAC. But she may need to work harder finding donors. The Web site Political Money Line says she has raised a paltry $10,000 this year from two $5,000 contributions, one from her mother and one from her father.

UNION BUCKS: The AFL-CIO may be splitting apart, but in Florida its members appear to agree on at least one thing: citizens initiatives are smart investments. The Service Employees International Union this year has given $100,000 to the Committee for Fair Representation, which wants independent commissions to start drawing legislative districts. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave $50,000 to the Committee for Fair Elections, working on the same thing. Common Cause has written $350,000 in checks to the effort.

Meanwhile, state and federal teachers unions are heavily backing the efforts of a pair of Republicans, former Senate President John McKay and ex-Comptroller Bob Milligan, to force a review of sales tax exemptions. They've given $40,000 this year.

JEB WON'T RUN: Add another line to the list of jobs Gov. Jeb Bush isn't interested in in 2006: the Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson.

Some Republican loyalists, worried that Katherine Harris can't beat the incumbent, were spreading the word last week that the governor, who has already ruled out a presidential run, might be eyeing a Senate race.

Bush was blunt. "I'm not going to run for the U.S. Senate," he told reporters.

FLORIDA'S PASTIME: Florida Republicans used baseball to raise more money for their 2006 campaigns. At Tropicana Field Thursday, the state GOP invited big-money donors to hobnob with state House members - after Rep. Leslie Waters, R-Seminole, threw out the first pitch in the game between the Rays and Kansas City Royals.

At Yankee Stadium Saturday, Senate Republicans held a fundraiser for Senate races during the Yankees-Angels game.

JOINING MICKEY'S TEAM: He's going to Disney World! Gov. Jeb Bush's press secretary is heading to a new job as Mickey's mouthpiece. Jacob DiPietre, the No. 2 person in Bush's communications shop, joins Walt Disney World as public affairs manager on Aug. 15.

He should feel right at home at the Magic Kingdom. The 27-year-old won a college scholarship as a former "Bobby the Bearcat" mascot at his alma mater, Northwest Missouri State. After college, he wore the costume of Kansas City Royals mascot Sluggerrr to earn money for an engagement ring.

"Disney's a great company," said DiPietre, married with one child and a second on the way.

BLOGGING BUZZ: Look soon for regular updates to Buzz online among the Times blogs at www.sptimes.com

Adam C. Smith, Joni James, Bill Adair and Steve Bousquet contributed to this week's Buzz.

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