Silver lining for GOP: No blood in primary

Published August 6, 2006

As the Republican gubernatorial candidates raised record-shattering sums all year, Democrats kept talking about the silver lining. Republicans Charlie Crist and Tom Gallagher would spend millions bashing each other, the thinking went, and the eventual nominee would wind up bloodied and weak for the Democrats to finish off in November.

Well, it hasn't happened. Crist and Gallagher have barely nicked each other and - fortunately for Republicans and unfortunately for Democrats - political observers increasingly doubt they will. With polls showing Crist way ahead of Gallagher for the Republican nomination, the question is whether Gallagher, 62, wants to start slugging hard or maintain good will for the future.

"If Gallagher's going to win this thing, he's going to have to go negative," said Republican pollster James McLaughlin, who is connected to neither campaign and doubted Gallagher would go negative. "My guess is he's just trying to make himself viable for the future."

SMITH VS. CRIST: "At the fear of appearing promurder," Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith last ripped Charlie Crist's "antimurder" bill that is the centerpiece of Crist's platform. The proposal, which has failed to win legislative support for three years, is aimed at child predators and would force thousands of probation violators back to court, where they could be sent to prison if a judge decided they were dangerous.

Smith, a former prosecutor, said it would foist enormous expenses on local governments. "He couldn't sell this to the Republican Senate. He couldn't even get it heard in a Republican Senate (committee) that most of the people on that committee favored his candidacy," Smith said in a visit to the Times' editorial board. "What he did then, to admit the absurdity of it, the last iteration of it was 'Well, we'll make it not retroactive.' Well, if you don't make it retroactive, I guess it might be of some value, but it would be a generation from now."

Smith also threw out some unsolicited advice to Crist, who often says that as governor he will sign no bill until lawmakers pass the antimurder bill. Said Smith: "You will never do well telling folks you do this or else. That's just not the way you do business, and the next governor of Florida should not do business that way."

MILLER ON THE TUBE: Check out state Sen. Les Miller of Tampa, one the Democrats vying to replace Jim Davis in Congress, on Political Connections today at 11 a.m. on Bay News 9. Starting Monday, the interview can be seen at no cost on Channel 340 (Tampa Bay on Demand). Also on Channel 340, viewers can see recent Democratic and gubernatorial campaign forums.

Miller received some good news last week when the state Commission on Ethics dismissed complaints against Democratic state Sens. Ron Klein and Miller, saying there was no legal support for the allegation. The decision was released Wednesday.

The complaints were filed by Alan Bergstein, an unsuccessful candidate for the Palm Beach County Commission and member of the Boca Raton Republican Club. He accused the men of violating state law by transferring $55,904 from the Democratic Florida Senate Victory fund to the Senate minority office.

"None of the allegations in the complaint indicate that the respondent received anything of any personal benefit to him from any of the contributions," reads the dismissal report.

Democrats said the move was nothing more than dirty tricks in an election year when both Klein and Miller are running for Congress.

MO' MONEY: In the race for chief financial officer, Democrat Alex Sink, a retired banking executive from Hillsborough County, continues to show herself to be a formidable money raiser. New fundraising reports show she raised more than $102,000 in "hard money" donations up to $500, compared to $85,000 for Republican state Senate President Tom Lee of Valrico, and $37,000 for Republican state Rep. Randy Johnson of Celebration. Her campaign says she also will soon receive hundreds of thousands of matching funds through the state's public financing system, which the Republicans have already received.

Lee, whose position as Senate president made him a top fundraiser early on, has $1.85-million on hand, while Johnson has about $779,000, and Sink has $1.15-million.

In the race for attorney general, Republican former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum has $1.1-million on hand, while state Sen. Walter "Skip"Campbell of Tamarac has $644,000 (Campbell also has hundreds of thousands in matching funds not yet reflected in campaign reports.)

SCHINDLER VS. CRIST: A tough attack on Charlie Crist appeared last week on the conservative Human Events Online. Headlined, "Charlie Crist Let My Daughter Die," Terri Schiavo's father, Robert Schindler bashed the attorney general for not fighting to keep his daughter alive:

"As most Americans know, on March 31, 2005, my daughter, Terri Schindler Schiavo, died of starvation and thirst after having her feeding tube removed by court order. The sad chain of events that concluded with Terri's death ignited a media firestorm nationally and internationally. What few saw or heard was the callous inaction of aspiring governor Charlie Crist."

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