CFO candidates let criticisms fly
By ADAM C. SMITH
Published October 29, 2006
Listening to candidates for Florida's chief financial officer might sound as a exciting as attending an accountants' convention. But not when the candidates are Republican state Senate President Tom Lee, one of the bluntest politicians in Tallahassee, and Democrat Alex Sink, a tough and savvy former chief of Bank of America in Tallahassee.
The two squared off in a sometimes heated Political Connections joint interview that airs at 11 a.m. today on Bay News 9, with Lee casting first-time candidate Sink as a tax raiser and Sink casting Lee as a hypocrite when it comes to financing his campaign.
Lee has long been a critic of unlimited "soft money" campaign donations and campaigns that don't reveal their finances, but much of his campaign is being financed by soft money donors to the state GOP that have yet to be revealed. After Lee declined to detail any specific interest groups from which he's raising money and acknowledged that soft money in the party paid for "a fair amount" of his ads, Sink promptly corrected him.
"One hundred percent of your ads in the general election have been paid for by soft money. ... How can you say you're an advocate for transparency?"
The interview grew particularly tense after Lee accused Sink of advocating tax increases and hefty university tuition increases. He referred to Sink's serving on a state business panel that recommended significant tuition increases - higher than the tuition increases he has consistently supported.
"That's your history and you can't run from it, and you need to be honest," Lee said.
Responded Sink: "You're reaching back 10 years to a commission that was chaired by one of the ... staunchest Republicans in our state (Charles Cobb) to try to solve our problems," Sink said.
Political Connections this week also includes interviews with the candidates for attorney general and can be seen at 11 a.m. or later on Channel 342 (Bay News 9 on Demand).
NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT: He's denied it publicly, repeatedly, and clearly, but Republican gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist has yet to shake the talk that he's gay. There is no evidence that it's hurting his campaign, but the Crist-is-gay chatter that went on during the Republican primary has now ramped up among Democratic activists and liberal bloggers after a South Florida alternative weekly weighed in on the matter.
New Times Broward-Palm Beach did its part to "out" Crist with a recent story based on anonymous, second-hand sources. The report said unnamed sources had heard a 21-year-old man say he had a tryst with Crist - the young man denied it - and that the man had named another man supposedly intimate with Crist.
"There's no truth, just the ring of truth," is how the writer summed up his report. But it was enough to prompt bloggers and individual Democratic activists to flood reporters with e-mails demanding the media "expose" Crist.
Crist, who is single and dating a St. Petersburg woman, called the account false. Campaigning through Central Florida Saturday, Crist's opponent, Democrat Jim Davis, said he had heard about the New Times article but hadn't read it and considered the issue irrelevant.
"The issues in this campaign are education, property taxes and property insurance," the Tampa congressman said.
MORE CLINTON HELP: In a sign that national Democrats are starting to view Florida's governor's race as more competitive than they had previously, Bill Clinton will be headlining a New York fundraiser Monday night to pump money into the Florida Democratic Party. The former president had already come to Florida to raise money for the party.
CHAIRMAN BENSE? We're hearing a fair amount of buzz that House Speaker Allan Bense is the most likely next state GOP chairman. "I'd be happy to serve if the party wanted me," he told us the other day.
When we noted that he's never had a reputation for partisan gunslinging, Bense remarked that Floridians don't care for extremes and that he's a fellow who doesn't listen to Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore.
BILL'S BUCKS: U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson - who's been pinged for being a tad stingy in his runaway race while other statewide Democratic candidates search for pennies under the sofa cushions - dug into his campaign wallet last week and handed $250,000 to the Florida Democratic Party.
The money is designed to help the party's get-out-the-vote effort for the Nov. 7 elections, and it brings to $500,000 the amount of cash Nelson has given the FDP since mid August. His campaign says he's also helped raise about another $500,000 for the party.
"We need to have firepower in these races if the people of Florida are to get problem solvers instead of ideologues," Nelson said in a statement.
As of Sept. 30, his campaign account had $6.8-million, according to federal election reports, while he's maintained double-digit leads in the polls over Republican Rep. Katherine Harris.
He's been criticized by some Democrats for not doing more to help others, especially Davis, his party's candidate for governor, who is lagging badly in the money race behind Crist.
Adam C. Smith, Alex Leary, and Wes Allison contributed to this week's Buzz. For much more breaking political news check blogs.tampabay.com/buzz.