tampabay.com

Martinez said his piece and watched

By ADAM C. SMITH
Published May 13, 2007


Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean has taken some heat in Florida for pressuring Democrats to abide by the national party rules and not schedule a primary before Feb. 5. Hardly anyone has mentioned Dean's counterpart with the Republican National Committee, who also has been unable to control Florida lawmakers bent on violating the his committee's schedule, too.

Considering he is Florida Sen. Mel Martinez and his party controls the Legislature, you might think he'd have a bit more sway than Dean. But unlike Dean, Martinez has been virtually silent on the matter, except to remind Florida Republicans that they would lose half of their delegates to the national convention by scheduling such an early primary.

"Once I made sure they knew they couldn't come to me and say 'Gee, Mel, but you're the chairman' ... then that's all I did, " Martinez said. "The party's rules are inflexible, but the party also understands that the states are free to do what they will. They just need to know the consequences of what they do."

Martinez predicts other states will want to move up their primaries now, too. "It is probably going to be a free-for-all. For the future ... we may need to think about a national primary day or something like that."

'Political Connections'

The political TV show that's a joint venture between Bay News 9 and the St. Petersburg Times starting today will air twice every Sunday - at 11 a.m. as usual, and also at 6:30.

On Today's Political Connections are Bay News 9 political analysts Bob Buckhorn and Bob Martinez discussing the new St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 statewide poll results.

Giuliani's flirtation

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani was set to attend a golfing fundraiser hosted by Donald Trump in Palm Beach County Saturday. He will return to Florida Friday, including an airport stop in Tampa, to court prospective donors and supporters.

Gambling on Crist

From the latest Florida Baptist Witness: "When politicians run for office in Florida - especially those who seek the highest office of the state in the Republican Party - opposition to the expansion of gambling is required to appeal to the base of the party. Such was the case with Gov. Charlie Crist who campaigned last year repeatedly saying he opposed gambling expansion.

"But, did he really mean it? Floridians will soon find out as Gov. Crist now must decide what to do with a raft of gambling expansion legislation handed to him by the Legislature."

Clues to Thompson

A lot of Republicans hope actor and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson jumps into the presidential race. But if you're looking for tea leaves, we're told Thompson showed little interest in working the room when speaking last week to a Hillsborough County Bar Association Foundation dinner.

McCain's friends

Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe will serve as chairman of the John McCain presidential campaign in Hillsborough County, and Sheriff David Gee will chair McCain's Florida Law Enforcement Coalition.

"Whether he is opposing pork-barrel spending, promoting traditional values or protecting our Second Amendment rights, John McCain's conservative record will make the difference in Florida, " said Sharpe.

Primary negotiations

As Florida Democratic chairwoman Karen Thurman and Dean grapple with what to do about Florida's rule-violating Jan. 29 presidential primary date, we couldn't help wonder if Dean has extra sway over Thurman. After all, under his 50-state strategy, he's paying for six state party staffers.

Naah, says spokesman Mark Bubriski, one of those DNC-funded folks: "He will not in any way make his a 49-state strategy because of something the Republican-controlled Legislature did." It helps that Florida sends plenty of money Dean's way too.

Thurman says the state and national parties are working cooperatively and the DNC will extend the deadline beyond June 1 for Florida's delegate selection plan. Options include making the Jan. 29 election nonbinding and holding party caucuses later, but there's no consensus yet, Thurman said: "It's really a matter of us kind of sitting down and looking at what options might be out there that give Floridians a vote, that makes sure they're not disenfranchised and they're feeling like they're helping select the nominee."

Martinez complaint

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint today against Martinez, alleging multiple campaign finance violations stemming from the 2004 election.

The complaint is based on a recent audit that revealed that the campaign failed to disclose occupations and identification information for donors and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in excessive contributions.

"The violations committed by Martinez for Senate are unprecedented in both size and scope" said Melanie Sloan, the group's executive director. "Basically, Mel Martinez broke the law in order to win an election. Now, years later, he is a sitting senator and the chairman of the Republican National Committee. A failure by the FEC to severely sanction the Martinez for Senate campaign committee will demonstrate that violating the law pays."

Martinez, who has acknowledged errors in his reports and promised to be more careful in the future, characterized the group's complaint as partisan.

Succeeding Frank

It's awfully early, but for some reason we've heard a fair amount of Buzz about the state House District 55 race lately. Among the likely Democrats running for the heavily Democratic district to be vacated by Frank Peterman next year: St. Petersburg City Council member Earnest Williams, the Rev. Charles McKenzie and Gypsy Gallardo.

Adam C. Smith and Anita Kumar contributed to this week's Buzz. For much more breaking political news check out blogs.tampabay.com/buzz.