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Bush touts his record, but just to his party

GOP leaders say a state function is private, so reporters are ejected during the speech.

By ADAM C. SMITH
Published January 22, 2006


LAKE BUENA VISTA - The Florida Republican Party on Saturday called security to eject reporters listening to Gov. Jeb Bush tout his party's accomplishments in Tallahassee.

The unusual scene - five hotel security staffers and a sheriff's deputy escorting reporters away from where they could hear the governor - occurred in the middle of a speech in which Bush exhorted party activists to spread the word of Republican successes in Florida.

"I apologize for that if I'm indirectly responsible, which I'm not," Bush said after addressing Republican activists gathered at Disney for a party meeting. "I would have loved to have you in there. . . . I wouldn't have said anything different if you were there."

State Republican chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan declined to comment, and the party's executive director explained that party leaders merely wanted to keep their party functions private.

"We wanted to be able to have a private meeting where folks were not worried about being on the record," said executive director Andy Palmer.

The party barred reporters from the ballroom where Bush addressed a luncheon crowd of several hundred, and party staffers then summoned security when they saw reporters listening to the governor through an open door on the side of the room.

"I wanted to give you a little bit of a sense of what's happened over the past seven years, and even prior to that with Republican leadership because we don't read about it much in the paper," the governor said at the start of his remarks. "If you don't toot your own horn, no one else will."

Before they were removed, reporters heard the governor say that Republicans halted early release of dangerous prisoners and helped produce a strong economy through billions of dollars in tax cuts.

"Democrats talk. Republicans act," Bush said.

The governor, starting his final year in office, said later that he also expressed "strong support for Katherine Harris" who is running to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.

She has been lagging in polls, fundraising and clear support from high-profile Republicans. Eager to show her campaign is picking up steam, Harris held a rally at Saturday's party gathering where she promised a campaign "like no other you have experienced."

Dedicating her campaign to her father, who died Jan. 14, Harris promised an aggressive grass roots effort. Those offering testimonials to her on stage included Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, state Rep. Leslie Waters, R-Seminole; Anne Voss of Tampa, president of the Florida Federation of Republican Women; and Harris' campaign consultant, Ed Rollins.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at 727893-8241 or adam@sptimes.com

[Last modified January 22, 2006, 01:01:11]


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