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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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The buzz on Florida politics
By TIMES WIRES
Published July 1, 2007
Candidates keep stumbling over Cuba
It's hardly rocket science to pander to overwhelmingly Republican Cuban-Americans in South Florida: denounce Fidel Castro, praise exiles, do nothing that hints you might entertain softening the Cuban embargo.
Somehow, though, this year's GOP presidential candidates are struggling with the drill. In March, Mitt Romney in Miami mistakenly associated one of Castro's favorite phrases - in English, "Fatherland or death, we shall overcome" - with a free Cuba. Ouch.
Then last week, all-but-announced candidate Fred Thompson, while campaigning in South Carolina, seemed to liken Cuban immigrants to terrorists. Talking about the immigration bill, the actor and former Tennessee senator decried the flood of illegal immigrants from Cuba.
"I don't imagine they're coming here to bring greetings from Castro. We're living in the era of the suitcase bomb, " he said, drawing criticism from bloggers on the right and left.
On Saturday, Hillary Clinton jumped on that statement while campaigning in Orlando: "I was appalled when one of the people running for or about to run for the Republican nomination talked about Cuban refugees as potential terrorists. Apparently he doesn't have a lot of experience in Florida or anywhere else, and doesn't know a lot of Cuban-Americans."
Thompson had already clarified his remarks on his campaign blog, saying he was referring to Cuban spies. "Our national security is too important an issue to let folks twist words around for a one-day headline. Cuban-Americans are among the staunchest opponents of illegal immigration, and especially so when it's sponsored by the Castro regime, " Thompson wrote.
Obama's dinner guest
When Barack Obama asked Palm Beach County firefighter Jennifer Lasko to be one of four supporters across the country to join him for an upcoming dinner, she seemed an unusual choice. In the essay that won her the invitation, Lasko wrote that she had been a longtime Republican.
Turned out that wasn't the half of what set her apart. The Palm Beach Post subsequently reported that she also had been a longtime male, John William Lasko, who had a sex change operation. The campaign said she's still welcome for dinner with the candidate.
GOP mayor defends local Democrats' votes
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker may be a loyal Republican, but he disagrees with the state GOP sending out mailers attacking Democratic state Reps. Bill Heller, D-St. Petersburg, and Janet Long, D-Seminole, for opposing a proposed state constitutional amendment to expand homestead exemptions and halt the "Save Our Homes" cap. In a Political Connections interview airing on Bay News 9 today, Baker said he plans to vote against the amendment, because, like Heller and Long, he worries it could hurt school funding and doesn't help give tax relief to businesses.
Baker also addressed his discomfort with St. Pete Pridefest, the gay festival in his city this weekend: "I do not support the parade. I do not support their agenda, but I support their right to freedom of speech."
Kucinich likes it here
So far, long shot Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has spent more time campaigning in Pinellas County than anybody else. It makes sense, and not just because former Pinellas party chairman Ed Helm and congressional candidate Samm Simpson are big Kucinich fans.
Pinellas is Kucinich country. In the 2004 presidential primary, he received nearly 5 percent of the Pinellas vote, compared to 2.3 percent statewide.
African-Americans support Clinton ...
Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, last week endorsed Clinton for president. All three African-American members of the Florida congressional delegation - Brown, Kendrick Meek of Miami and Alcee Hastings of Miramar - are now with Clinton.
... who leads Democrats in Florida
Maybe Brown is reading the polls. Clinton has some competition in early nominating contest states like Iowa and New Hampshire, but not Florida. The latest poll last week came from Quinnipiac University and found that while Fred Thompson is eating into Rudy Giuliani's Florida lead, Clinton is sitting pretty.
Among Democrats: Clinton 43 percent; Obama 16 percent, John Edwards 11 percent; don't know 18 percent.
Among Republicans: Giuliani 29 percent; Fred Thompson 22 percent; John McCain 13 percent; Romney 8 percent; don't know 19 percent.
Quinnipiac found Giuliani at this point beats everybody in Florida. It's 48 percent for Rudy, 42 percent for Hillary. Florida voters gave the former New York mayor a 54 percent/28 percent favorability/unfavorability rating, compared to 47 percent/47 percent for Clinton.