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Sen. Bill Nelson keeps saying no to Florida governor's race

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he is not planning to run against Gov. Rick Scott in the 2014 governor's race but stopped short of completely ruling it out.

"I'm not planning to run for governor," he said Wednesday in Tallahassee. "I have no intention of running for governor. I've got plenty to do as serving as the senator of this state, and that's why I'm here today, in my role as senator."

Will you say that you won't run for governor, a reporter asked. "I said what I said," Nelson replied.

Nelson is also not interested in "blessing" other candidates. Asked to name the pros and cons of another possible Democratic candidate, former Gov. Charlie Crist, Nelson said, "I'm not getting into that."

Nelson, who just won re-election last year over Republican challenger Connie Mack, said he does not know why his name is being tossed around as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate. People kept asking him about it at dinner Tuesday night with his chief of staff, Pete Mitchell, at the Front Porch in Tallahassee.

"Everybody in the restaurant's coming up saying this," Nelson said, "and so I told them same thing I told y'all."

He suggested his command of prominent committees as a good reason to stay in the Senate. "I'm chairman of the Aging Committee now. In two years if we still have the majority, I'll be chairman of Commerce," he said. "You look at the jurisdiction that they have, so I will be grateful for that."

Gay marriage sidelines

When organizers sought support from states for "friend of the court" petitions in gay-marriage cases before the Supreme Court last week, they were hopeful that Florida would join.

Florida, a state that attracts attention, has a constitutional ban on gay marriage. And it has Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has stressed conservative positions since being elected in 2010.

Bondi last year went to Washington for the fight over health care, and later put Florida's name on a brief supporting Arizona's tough immigration law. "I'm not saying Florida is in an identical situation, but I did sign on to an amicus and I will continue to sign on to an amicus brief, when they affect states' rights," she said at the time.

But Florida is not among the more than dozen states listed on briefs supporting California's Proposition 8 or the Defense of Marriage Act.

Organizers of the multistate effort sent invitations to all states (as is customary) and there were informal inquiries in Tallahassee that went unanswered.

Given the shifting political attitudes on gay marriage, we wondered if something changed.

"There have been countless amicus briefs filed, and the court has all the information it needs to thoroughly consider the issues presented," Bondi spokeswoman Jenn Meale said.

In a follow-up email, Meale added, "The attorney general believes that the Constitution gives each state the freedom to debate and decide the issue of same-sex marriage and that it would be a mistake for the court to impose a uniform rule on the nation at this time."

During an August 2010 GOP primary event in Miami, Bondi pledged to oppose gay marriage, though the issue hasn't been a hot one in Florida.

Political ventures

Ashley Walker, the savvy strategist who led Barack Obama's Florida campaign last year, is helping lead a new public relations/lobbying firm as Floridian Partners (Rodney Barreto, Brian May, Charlie Dudley, Pat Maloy, Robert Reyes, Gary Guzzo and Jorge Chamizo) start a joint venture with the national firm Mercury.

Mercury Florida will be led by Walker and veteran Republican strategist Kieran Mahoney. Also, Republican National Committee political director Rick Wiley is joining Mercury. Mercury and Floridian Partners will continue providing their clients with services as always.

Said Walker: "The Sunshine State has played an undeniably pivotal role in the political world throughout the last few elections. This venture will create and maintain a strong public affairs presence in all regions of Florida, which will be of great service to our clients."

GOP remarks reused

A Democratic super PAC has turned Jeb Bush's CPAC speech criticizing Republicans for being "anti-everything" into a fundraising appeal.

House Majority PAC produced a video juxtaposing Bush's remarks with some of the more extreme statements GOP figures have made on various issues, from immigration to women's rights to gay marriage.

Bush's remarks drew tepid response at CPAC and stood in contrast to many other speakers, who seemed to reject the notion the party needs to change. Sen. Marco Rubio, a day before Bush took the stage, got the loudest applause of his speech for saying, "We don't need a new idea. There is an idea, the idea is called America, and it still works."

Times staff writer Adam C. Smith contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner of the week

University of Florida. Not only did UF end Florida Gulf Coast University's Cinderella run in the NCAA basketball tournament, it is poised to receive millions in extra funding from the Legislature. After years of cuts, university funding could rise by more than $100 million this year in addition to a restoration of $300 million in cuts last year. Plus, UF and Florida State could get even more through proposed legislation.

Loser of the week

Bill Nelson. The senator is part of a dying breed: Democrats who do not support gay marriage. He objects on religious grounds and says he supports civil unions. Still, the 70-year-old Nelson looks increasingly out of step with his party, and growing public sentiment, and his stance is a reminder of how cautious he can be.

Sen. Bill Nelson keeps saying no to Florida governor's race 03/30/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 7:25pm]
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