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The Buzz: Florida politics

7 North Florida sheriffs back Democrat Smith

By Times staff writers
Published August 28, 2005

SHERIFFS FOR SMITH: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith touted the endorsements of seven North Florida sheriffs Thursday. Their backing helps state Sen. Smith bolster his argument that he's best equipped to win over North Florida voters who in recent elections have abandoned Democrats.

Sheriffs Jerry Whitehead of Union County, Dewey Hatcher of Dixie County, David Turner of Gilchrist County, J. Harrell Reid of Hamilton County, Owen Carson McCall Jr. of Lafayette County, Dean Kelly of Putnam County and Joey Dobson of Baker County are forming "Sheriffs for Smith." They intend to recruit other sheriffs to back Smith, who used to be the state attorney in their area. Turner and McCall endorsed Republican Gov. Jeb Bush's 2002 re-election.

"Having Smith at the top of the ticket will be a great advantage to Democrats because it will make it impossible for the Republicans to pretend to be the party better able to keep our neighborhoods safe," said Sheriff David Turner. "No other candidate of either party can match Rod Smith's credentials and experience as a crime fighter and protector of our families."

GALLAGHER'S FAMILY FRIENDS: Touting his profamily credentials, Chief Financial Officer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher Wednesday announced his "family policy team."

"Part of the process of establishing a firm agenda for Florida's future is working with and learning from key advisers who can assist with the formation of policy proposals and initiatives," he said.

The team: state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who raised his profile this year leading the effort to keep Terri Schiavo alive; Pat Neal, a Bradenton builder, former legislator and chairman of the board of the Christian Coalition of Florida; Patricia L. Strowbridge, executive director of A Chosen Child, a nonprofit adoption agency; Alicia Casanova of Miami, a former executive director of the Hialeah Foundation for needy and abused children; Dr. Richard Douyon, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine and staff psychiatrist at the Miami VA Medical Center; Charles English, an adjunct professor at Stetson University in DeLand and Rollins College in Winter Park.

COMMISSIONER MINTON? At a time when Florida Democrats are determined to appeal to voters beyond their base in Florida's big cities, some party strategists are giddy about the prospect of former state Rep. Rick Minton of Fort Pierce running for commissioner of agriculture.

Who better to help the overall ticket than a well-respected, moderate former legislator with deep family roots in agriculture? And, the thinking goes, even if Republican incumbent Charles Bronson wins, a strong challenger would be well positioned when the seat opens up in 2010.

Trouble is, Minton, 55, is a guy who likes to win. He has no blinders on about this race. Minton's father founded a citrus empire, and he would be attractive to the powerful agriculture industry. But Big Ag is not going turn its back on a friend like Bronson, who has no opposition yet.

"He's popular, and he's done a good job. Unless I can find a new base, or somebody steps up to write the check, it's a difficult race. . . . I don't like to lose, and I'm not about to start," said Minton, calling Bronson a "friend" but noting that consumer issues might offer some hope for a challenger.

A self-described conservative who says he's much more comfortable as a Democrat, Minton said he's still examining the race.

MR. ETHICS: As a state legislator from 1986 to 1992, Norm Ostrau was known as "Mr. Ethics." It was a label he neither sought nor liked, but he stood out at a time of serious legislative shenanigans, from unreported overseas trips paid by lobbyists to a rental car industry showering lawmakers with freebies to a sexual harassment scandal involving a top House leader.

In contrast, Ostrau offered abundant integrity, along with some refreshing observations about the way things work in Tallahassee. "You can go through an entire session and not ever pay for a meal," the Broward Democrat once told the Miami Herald.

Ostrau, 67, a lawyer and former chairman of the House Ethics Committee, is one of Gov. Jeb Bush's four new appointees to the state Commission on Ethics. The nine-member commission must be closely balanced between Democrats and Republicans, but it probably didn't hurt Ostrau's chances that he works for the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Blosser & Sayfie, headed by two influential Bush supporters.

DEAN RETURNS: Last time Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean came to Florida, he revved up Democrats in the Republican stronghold of Collier County. On Sept. 7, he's expected in another GOP-dominated County, Duval. Dean also will headline a party fundraiser in Tallahassee on the evening of Sept. 7.

POLL POSITION: A clear majority of Florida voters, 56 percent, don't want the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade. A stronger majority, 61 percent want a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. So says an Aug. 17-21 poll of 1,200 likely voters by the Republican Atlanta consulting firm Strategic Vision.

Candidate matchup questions produced no big surprises. In the Republican gubernatorial primary, Attorney General Charlie Crist led Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher 47 percent to 35 percent. In the Democratic primary, half the surveyed Democrats were undecided, but 27 percent backed U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa; 13 percent supported state Sen. Rod Smith of Alachua; and 10 percent backed former state Democratic chairman Scott Maddox of Tallahassee. Only 14 percent of Republicans said they would prefer another choice in the governor's race, while 55 percent of Democrats wanted another choice.

In the Senate race, incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson beat Republican challenger Katherine Harris, 47 percent to 38 percent.

BLOGGING BUZZ: Check out the online version of Buzz at for more frequent updates, and give feedback.

Adam C. Smith and Steve Bousquet contributed to this week's Buzz.

[Last modified August 28, 2005, 01:11:05]

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