A sneaky way to announce running mate

Published September 13, 2006

CAPE CORAL — Charlie Crist knows how to attract publicity. He knows how to dodge it, too.

Crist didn’t want the name of his running mate choice, Rep. Jeff Kottkamp, to leak prematurely. The campaign took extraordinary steps to safeguard its secret.

Crist spoke to the St. Petersburg Times briefly Tuesday, but declined to say who was on his short list of finalists, all of whom had met face-to-face with the Republican nominee.

Campaign spokeswoman Vivian Myrtetus e-mailed reporters Tuesday night, inviting them to fly Wednesday to an unidentified city for the announcement (news organizations pay for their travel, and the campaign is assured of more coverage.)

As sometimes happens, the offer came with strings attached.

The Crist travel advisory was for “planning purposes only” in media-speak, meaning the details could not be reported in advance.

“You can’t blog this, either,” Myrtetus added, meaning the St. Petersburg Times’ Buzz blog couldn’t report the news ahead of time either.

Eight newspaper and wire service reporters and a TV crew showed up at a Tallahassee airport Wednesday morning. They were not sure where they were going, and Myrtetus wouldn’t say.

Only after the press planes were airborne and reporters could not use their cell phones or send text messages did Myrtetus break her silence.

“We’re headed to Southwest Florida,” she said. “It’s Jeff Kottkamp.”

The announcement was made on the lawn of Kottkamp’s home fronting a canal near Fort Myers -- a family-like scene that could not have been possible in a sterile hotel or conference room.