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Politics keep Floridians busy


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 30, 2000

The Republicans are in the City of Brotherly Love this week getting their agenda in gear for the big election in November.

Though George W. already has picked his running mate (former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney), the International Herald Tribune noted in a lead story recently that the ideal running mate for Bush "was the popular young governor from the fourth-largest state . . . but only problem, he's brother Jeb."

Heading for Philadelphia last Tuesday for the party's vanguard sessions was the national finance chairman, Ambassador Mel Sembler. Sembler, president of the Sembler Co. which is charge of the BayWalk development in downtown St. Petersburg, spent much of the preconvention time huddling with party leaders.

Betty Sembler will join her husband today. One of her official convention duties will be hosting a luncheon for Laura Bush on Wednesday. Guests have been asked to bring a book for children ages 3 to 8. The books will given to the former Texas librarian, who will pass them on to needy schools.

Joining the Semblers for the convention activities will be daughter-in-law Diane and granddaughter Erin, who will be a page for the Florida delegation.

Another opinion

New York Post columnist Neal Travis writes that Al Gore should "take a leaf out of Bush's book and go for Bill Daley, his recently appointed campaign chief." In Travis' opinion, the former commerce secretary's credentials match Dick Cheney's, and "He would proably carry Illinois for the Dems, a better dividend than Cheney's Wyoming."

According to Travis, "The other front-runners are fairly bizarre. Genial Sen. Bob Graham (could you pick him out of a police line-up?) based on the wild chance that the party can win Florida." Travis points out that the fact Graham is brother-in-law to Washington Post chairwoman Kay Graham is irrelevant: "That paper is already in the party's bag."

"The other "hot' name being floated is that of Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman," Travis notes.

Goodwill ambassador

When Joe and Joanne Fleece went through the receiving line at Winfield House, the official residence of the U.S. ambassador to England, during the meeting of the American Bar Association in London earlier this month, they were warmly greeted by Ambassador Philip Lader. When the Fleeces mentioned that they, too, were graduates of St. Petersburg High School, Lader broke out in song, delivering the school's alma mater without missing a beat.

Lader also put in a plug for his good friend Kenneth Fullerton, who is running for Pinellas County School Board. Each was best man in the other's wedding.

Lader also greeted St. Petersburg lawyer Bruce Marger and wife Mary Ann. "Is your firm still on 66th Street?" asked Lader. When Lader was a soon-to-be Harvard Law School graduate, he interviewed with Marger's firm, which has since merged with the mega Holland and Knight group. The Fullertons (Kenneth, wife Linda and two sons) were in London earlier this summer and spent a few nights at Winfield House with the Laders. When Lader accepted the ambassadorship, Lader's girls agreed to go -- with the stipulation that when they got to London they could get a dog. Fullerton reports the white Lab, Shakespeare, is very much at home in Winfield House.

Real estates

The past two issues of People magazine feature South Florida real estate "On the Block," the homes of football star Dan Marino and Madonna. The former Dolphins quarterback is offering his nine-bedroom, 10-bath Mediterranean-style home in Weston for $8-million. Records show he paid $350,000 for the 4.3 acres and spent $2-million when he built the 13,278-square-foot home. The residence comes with pool, jogging trail, fully stocked fish pond and dining room with hand-painted ceiling.

Singer Madonna, who has swapped the Florida sunshine for foggy London, has sold her 1928 Mediterranean-style house overlooking Biscayne Bay. The estate, which includes eight bedrooms, a gym and an outdoor heated pool, sold for $7.5-million. The Gunther Corp., which bought the estate, plans to use it as headquarters for a German music group called the Burgundians.

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