In governor's race, GOP tent's loose flaps let in harsh light

By Times Staff
Published July 9, 2006

With most polls showing Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist walking away with the GOP gubernatorial nomination, Buzz has talked to a lot of Tom Gallagher supporters who note that Republicans are still united behind the ultimate goal of keeping the Governor’s Mansion in GOP hands. Whatever happens on Sept. 5, they say, Republicans aren’t bitterly divided.


We were struck by the tone of a column in Human Events online by conservative activist John Stemberger, leader of the Florida Family Policy Council and the effort to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Florida. Stemberger, an Orlando trial lawyer, more or less depicts the gubernatorial primary as a choice between good and evil:

“When Gov. Ronald Reagan left California to lead our nation, Californians faced a stark choice between two visions for their state’s future. To put it simply, they chose a culture of instant gratification, promiscuity, and secularism over a culture of principle, family, and faith traditions. They made the wrong choice, and are paying for it with high rates of abortion, drug use, divorce, crime, and school dropouts.

“Now Florida faces a similar alternative in choosing its next governor. … Tom Gallagher will stand up for the basic conservative values and institutions that Floridians cherish. Charlie Crist will not.”

The Crist campaign declined to respond, but Gallagher’s campaign spokesman Albert Martinez had no qualms with Stemberger’s sentiments:

“Charlie Crist is campaigning as a self-described 'consistent conservative’ for the Republican nomination for governor and the questions raised by Mr. Stemberger regarding Mr. Crist’s pro-choice voting record, his support from liberal special interests, and his flip-flops on gambling and gay marriage are appropriate.’’

SIERRA SUPPORT: The environmental group Sierra Club on Friday endorsed Republican Charlie Crist and Democrat Jim Davis in the primaries for governor. The group said this is the first time since 1994 that it has endorsed candidates in both primaries.

The organization cited Davis’ longstanding support for Everglades restoration and coastal protection and opposition to offshore oil drilling. Crist was cited as the only Republican in the governor’s race with a “sincere interest” in preservation.

Curt Levine, Sierra’s political director, said in an interview that his group sent its questionnaire to Tom Gallagher’s campaign three times, but never received a response. Gallagher spokesman Albert Martinez said he was unaware of the questionnaire issue but said Gallagher’s votes on the Cabinet and the Legislature prove he’s a strong conservationist.

Levine said Sierra’s choices also were partly based on the calculation that it believes Crist and Davis are more likely to win their parties’ nominations. “They’ll be at the big dance in November,” Levine said.

WEBSTER BACKS LEE: State Sen. and former House Speaker Daniel Webster, the longest continually serving state legislator, has endorsed Tom Lee for Florida’s chief financial officer: “As president of the Senate, Tom Lee demonstrated his ability to lead in a balanced, principled, and conservative way,” said Webster. “I generally guard my endorsements — but in this race for chief financial officer I believe that Tom Lee is the best choice for the position. I look forward to doing all I can to help him in this important race.”

GENERAL SUPPORT: It seems Buzz jumped the gun last week speculating about 2008 Democratic presidential contenders who have not yet done much to help the Florida Democratic Party. Scratch Wes Clark from the list of those who have not raised money for the party. Gen. Clark will be the featured speaker for the Jefferson Jackson breakfast on July 23.

NEWEST CONSTITUENT: U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, the Bartow Republican who recently birthed a difficult deal to keep oil and natural gas drilling as far as 100 miles off Florida’s shores, just marked another major delivery, but this time his wife did all the hard work: child number four. Adam Hughes Putnam Jr. was born at 2:49 p.m. Sunday. He weighed in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces, and was 19.5 inches long. Putnam and his wife, Melissa, have three other children, ages 5, 3 and 2. Chief of staff John Hambel reports that mom, Adam Jr. and the rest of the clan are healthy and doing well.

JEB AND CAPITALISM’S THREAT: If Jeb Bush has no interest in seeking office again, why is he chatting with Fortune magazine about excessive executive compensation? Hmmmm. Here’s an excerpt: "Florida Governor Jeb Bush — a pro-market conservative — is even more blunt. Out-of-control compensation, he believes, is 'a threat to capitalism.'" 

Says Bush: “Large rewards for great results can still be attacked, but they’re very defensible. But if the rewards for CEOs and their teams become extraordinarily high with no link to performance — and shareholders are left holding the bag — then it undermines people’s confidence in capitalism itself.” The governor, whose $120-billion Florida pension fund is the fifth-largest in the country, is hardly the only appalled “owner.” Some 90 percent of institutional investors think top execs are “dramatically” overpaid, according to a Watson Wyatt survey last fall.

Adam C. Smith and Steve Bousquet contributed to this week’s Buzz. For more political news check out www.sptimes.com/blogs/buzz .