Meek’s Free Ads
February 25, 2009

  Kendrick Meek’s nascent candidacy for US Senate in 2010 is getting a hefty on-air boost from a couple of DC-based national advocacy groups, both lauding him for his vote to expand the SCHIP children’s health coverage program.  The 30-second spots, paid for by “America’s Agenda: Health Care for Kids” and “Families USA”, have been airing over the last couple of weeks in the Miami-Fort Lauderale market. 

   The ads aren’t endorsements, of course.  They have that squishy language of the so-called “527” advocacy groups: “Call Congressman Meek and thank him for standing up for our kids.” 

  A spokesman for both 527’s  say only 3 Florida Democratic Congressmen are getting these televised pats on the back from her group– Meek, freshman Rep. Alan Grayson from the Orlando area, and Rep. Allen Boyd, from the Panhandle.  In all, 14 FL Representatives voted for the SCHIP expansion– all 10 Dems, and 4 Republicans (South Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers, among them).

  Why are SCHIP advocates buying ad time after the fact? The America’s Agenda folks say there will be further votes on expanding government-backed health coverage, and they want to reward their staunch Congressional allies with laudatory ads.  The PR folks for both groups insist Meek was not chosen because he’s running for Senate.  Maybe, but it sure doesn’t hurt that these ads are airing in counties that are home to about a quarter of Florida’s 4.7 million Democrats.

   And both 527’s get major financial backing by the Service Employees International Union.  SEIU just happens to be the first major union to have made an endorsement in the 2010 Senate race.  Yep, they’re backing Meek.

Senatorial Dominoes
December 2, 2008

   Decision ’10 is on, with a bang.  Mel Martinez’ decision to vacate his Senate seat after just one term has the Florida political world buzzing about potential replacements, and speculating as to how the electoral dominoes will fall.

  On the Republican side, it all starts with the Gov and the ex-Gov. 

  Few expect Charlie Crist to go after the Senate seat.  His campaign “maestro”, George Lemieux, is quoted as saying he expects Crist to run for a second term as Governor.

  But Jeb Bush might be interested.  His spokeswoman put out a statement saying Bush “has not given serious consideration to running for Senate…at this point.”   That sort of squishy prose certainly won’t discourage speculation Bush is interested, and at least one Bush intimate is spreading the word (to the Herald and NBC 6’s Tom Llamas, among others) that Bush is seriously considering a Senate run, and may decide by early next year.

  The Senate would be an odd fit for Bush.  He’s used to running things, and might chafe in a legislative role.  He can be harsh in disagreement, whereas the Senate’s tradition is clubby and collegial (less so now, but still…)

  The Senate would be a great platform for a guy who says his focus is “advocating ideas and policies to get the conservative  cause back on track”— that’s the back half of the statement put out on Bush’s behalf. 

   If Jeb doesn’t want to run, it could open the floodgates.  Attorney General Bill McCollum says he’d been planning a re-election bid, but will weigh the possibility of a Senate run.  Former Speaker Marco Rubio calls the Martinez seat a “unique opportunity” for someone like himself– “obviously interested in statewide office”, as he put it.  Rubio’s a Bush acolyte, but if Jeb’s not in, he almost certainly will be.

   Another ex-Speaker, Allen Bense, will think about a run.  One current lawmaker thinks Senate President Jeff Atwater might make a run, as might the ex-Senate Pres, Ken Pruitt.  Those in state office don’t have to resign to run for a Federal office, thanks to a state law passed a couple of years ago.

   Congress-folk wanting to move up to Senate would, however, have to relinquish their safe seats in order to make a run.  Republican Reps mentioned as potential Senate candidates include Adam Putnam and Connie Mack (son, of course, of a former Senator).

   State GOP chair Jim Greer says his phone’s ringing off the hook.  He expects lots of Republicans to investigate a Senate run, but figures that the price tag ($25-million?!) and the time investment required will scare away many.

   Democrats had seen the Martinez seat as a potential pick-up all along (a Quinnipiac poll showed Sen. Mel running 4 points behind a generic Democratic opponent).  Just this morning, Politico.com had reported that the leading Democratic challenger– CFO had decided over Thanksgiving weekend, noat to run.  Sink isn’t talking now, in the wake of Martinez’ announcement, but some think she’ll reconsider.

  Just-elected State Senator Dan Gelber’s looking a US Senate run, even pointing out his web site’s already entitled “Gelber for Senate”.  Gelber, who worked on the staff of the Senate Investigations Committee, says he’ll be talking over making a run with his wife and kids, but he sounds enthusiastic about the prospect to me.

  Again, a guy like Gelber could run for Federal office without giving up his State Senate seat.  US Reps like Kendrick Meek, Ron Klein, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Kathy Castor, and Allen Boyd would have to resign to run… and several of them have a lot to lose.

  Wasserman-Schultz, for instance, has had a high profile as an Obama talk-show surrogate, and is on Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team.  One Capitol Hill aide familiar with her thinking says Wasserman-Schultz is almost certainly out “unless there are no good Democrats running and the Republican opponent is Katherine Harris.”

  Boyd– a blue-dog Dem from the Panhandle– says he’s thinking about mounting a Senate bid.  If a number of more liberal South Florida Democrats get in the Senate race, Boyd could get the nomination–  remember, there are no runoffs.

    Any Democrat other than Sink would have to get going soon, to build statewide name recognition and a lot of campaign cash.

Inaugural Hot Tickets
November 17, 2008

Local Congress-folk are awed and a little disturbed by the fervor of constituents seeking tickets to January 20th’s Presidential Inaugural.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says she’s never seen anything like it– a nearly immediate explosion of inquiries about how to obtain tickets to the swearing-in of America’s first President of color.  Ros-Lehtinen’s office reports well over a thousand ticket requests, the number “growing all the time”. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’ office reports 603 people asking for 2000 tickets, as of this morning.

Reps in largely African-American districts, perhaps not surprisingly, are seeing the highest demand.  Spokesmen for Kendrick Meek & Alcee Hastings report requests received soaring over 2000.  Hastings chief of staff, David Goldenberg, said he had three interns going through the day’s requests, as we spoke (he says the photo below shows one of three boxes overflowing with ticket requests).

hastings-box

The problem?  Each Congressional office is likely to receive only about 200 tickets to distribute, though no one seems to have an exact number.  Most offices say they have yet to decide how to allot the scarce tickets, though Wasserman-Schultz’ office thinks “probably a lottery” for requestors who reside in her district, while Ros-Lehtinen’s folks figure it’ll be “first-come, first served” .

The Republican Congresswoman told me she is setting aside some tickets for her now-retired Democratic colleague Carrie Meek.  They were friends in the FL Senate and in Congress.  I did point out that Carrie Meek could probably count on her son Kendrick to come up with tickets.  Ros-Lehtinen laughed, but said she wanted to make sure Carrie was taken care of.

Indeed, the tradition seems to be cross-aisle cooperation on this ticket thing.  Democrats apparently provided extra tickets to Republicans for George W’s inaugurations, but Republicans may be hard-pressed to return the favor this year, given the massive demand.

Indeed, Cong. Hastings, according to his staff, put out feelers to 80 of his Republican colleagues, asking if they might spare more tickets from their allotments.  The response so far– 2 tickets from a GOP committee colleague from Michigan.

Lots of Capitol Hill aides I talked to worry that the ticket frenzy is way overblown. Their major concern is that constituents desperate to “share in history” will get ripped off by people selling Inaugural tickets over the internet, and they argue that there are other, easier ways to enjoy the start of the Obama era in Washington.

The 240,000 tickets to be distributed by members of Congress will get you access to the actual swearing-in at the Capitol, but hundreds of thousands of others will watch the ceremony on giant TV screens along the Capitol Mall– no tickets or lengthy security lines required, possibly a better view.

Hundreds of thousands of others may opt to Tivo the swearing-in and instead get prime viewing spots for the Inaugural Parade, from the Capitol to the White House– again, no tickets required.

About those internet offers of hot Inaugural tickets– the system will be designed to thwart scalping.  The tickets themselves will only be distributed to Congressional offices a few days before the ceremony, and constituents who get the tickets will be required to come to pick up the tickets in person.  In addition, Congress is apparently passing a law making it a crime for any Capitol Hill staffer from making money selling a ticket.

Crist Wins D’s Applause, R’s Silence
October 30, 2008

  Charlie Crist’s about-face on expanding early voting hours won immediate applause– from Democrats.  Within minutes of issuing Exec Order 08-217, Crist was getting e-mailed press-release bouquets from Cong. Kendrick Meek (D-Miami), Cong. Alcee Hastings (D) Ft. Lauderdale, and Fla. Democratic Party chief Karen Thurman.   The Congressmen pointed out, they’d urged the Gov to expand early voting.  The Chairwoman chimed in: “Crist did the right thing.”

   Ordinarily, her Republican counterpart, Jim Greer, is quick to note any major Crist developments.  Earlier in the week, he ballyhooed Crist being mentioned on a Time magazine list of the five most important pols not running for President.  But, on the broadening of early voting, Greer has been silent.

   Democrats, of course, have done well in early voting.  54% of early voters in Week 1 were Democrats.  30% were Republicans.  Expanding Week 2 hours might help the D’s add to that advantage.  Little wonder Steve Schale of the FL Obama campaign eventually weighed in with another attaboy press release– “We applaud Governor Crist”. 

   The Governor says he acted on behalf of FL voters, without regard to political consequence.  Crist was at McCain’s side this morning in Miami, encouraging those attending to vote early, vote by mail, or vote next Tuesday.  He says he sees encouraging signs of a come-from-behind McCain victory in FL.

   Sen. Mel Martinez was also at McCain’s side in Miami.  Asked about fears that expansion of early voting was a boon to Obama, Martinez replied: “We can’t be the party depending on people not getting to the polls ’cause the doors closed on them.  We’ve got to be the party that’s driving people to the polls because of our convictions, so I don’t fear that.”

   Meanwhile, extended hours had a pretty big impact in Miami-Dade.  In eight hours on Tuesday, about 25,000 voters cast ballots.  In  12 hours on Wednesday, that count was up to nearly 36,000.  Broward and the state elections web sites have yet to post yesterday’s totals (as of 7 AM).

Denver Diary–Pt 2– FL Votes Restored
August 25, 2008

About the first thing this convention will do Monday evening is give Florida back 106 delegate votes… ending the state’s half-vote status.

The Credentials Committee’s vote to remove the half-vote punishment was unanimous and received a standing ovation.  “We’ve suffered enough”, pleaded former State Party chair Scott Maddox just before the vote was taken, “under not only one Bush, but two.”

Maddox also got a laugh with this line– “We all know that John McCain picked his running-mate long ago– George W. Bush.”  Not exactly on a par with Leno or Letterman, but Maddox had an easy audience of partisans.

And, clearly, FL Democrats think that “McSame”  line of campaign rhetoric is their best hope of healing the divisions caused by the delegate snafu.  Clinton delegate Michael Lockwood told me some of his Hillary-backer friends insist they’ll vote McCain in November.  Even Lockwood feels the Obama campaign dissed Sen. Clinton by not even going through the motions of vetting her as a possible VP. 

But Lockwood figures most Hillary-ites will come around– “They will see the policy differences and we just can’t afford 4 more years of same policies.”

Congressman Kendrick Meek– one of Senator Clinton’s most-outspoken Florida boosters– figures it about the same.  Meek will vote for Obama on the first ballot on Wednesday night, in the interest of party unity.

“We said we’d be with her ’til the end”, Meek told me, adding– “the Tuesday of the last primary was the end.”

But Michael Lockwood says he’ll cast a symbolic first-vote ballot for Senator Clinton: “I intend to vote for her because I believe I should represent the will of the people of Florida”.  Clinton won 105 of Florida’s delegates in the January primary, compared to Obama’s 67.

It’s actually not clear that pledged delegates selected according to primary results can switch their votes, even if they want to.  Even state party chair Karen Thurman said she wasn’t sure.  (Meek can vote for Obama because he’s a super-delegate).

John McCain’s latest ad (it began running today) is squarely aimed at disaffected Hillary voters, claiming she was passed over for the VP spot because she “spoke the truth about his plans”.   A series of clips of her saying negative things about Obama during the primary season follows.

Michael Lockwood says he’ll be happy to support Hillary on the first ballot, and then join in the chorus of “Kumbaya”– “We can vote by acclamation, tip our hat to him, and get behind the nominee.”

We’ll see how that works for Hillary voters less vested in party unity.