Rick Scott, GOP Leaders Name Primary-Date Panel
Around the State
With Florida Republicans wanting a seat at the table to determine who their party’s presidential nominee will be in 2012, the Presidential Preference Primary Committee will be meeting next week to determine when the Sunshine State will hold its primary.
Florida Republicans want to ensure that Florida is no later than the fifth state in line behind Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. With Arizona moving up its primary to Feb. 28, 2012, other states could be moving their primaries and caucuses earlier in the year. South Carolina, traditionally the first state in the South to hold a primary, is also scheduled to hold its contest on Feb. 28 and leaders in the Palmetto State are threatening to move up in response to Arizona’s new date. The Republican National Committee is warning states about holding their events too early and hoped that only the four early states would hold their events before March 6.
With the Sunshine State set, for the moment, to hold its contest on Jan. 31, Gov. Rick Scott and the two leaders of the Florida Legislature on Friday morning unveiled their choices to serve on the committee.
Topping the list from Scott was former Gov. Bob Martinez, the second Republican to lead Florida during the 20th century. Martinez, who was also mayor of Tampa, was one of the key leaders in the effort to bring the 2012 Republican convention to the Tampa Bay region.
Scott also named former state Democratic Senate Leader Al Lawson, a veteran of almost three decades in the Legislature, to the committee. Republican Jean Ungru, Scott’s deputy chief of staff, was the governor's third choice.
Moments after Scott's announcement, the two leaders of the Florida Legislature unveiled their choices.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, named two Republican senators -- John Thrasher of Jacksonville and Rene Garcia of Hialeah -- and one Democrat -- Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando. Thrasher is a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, named House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, and Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, to the committee.
Despite three leaders of their party being named to it, Florida Democrats attacked the committee on Friday.
“This whole exercise is a waste of time and taxpayer money,” insisted Rod Smith, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, in a statement released on Friday. "In a time of fiscal crisis for Florida’s families, Republican leaders in Tallahassee have created a 'dog and pony show' committee tasked with setting a primary date we all know GOP insiders have already agreed upon.
“It's time to stop wasting the state's money and leaving Florida voters in limbo,” Smith added. “Both the Republican and Democratic national committees have agreed to rules and those rules need to be followed. I would urge this committee to do just that.”
A spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida took exception to Smith’s attack.
“No individual or party in Florida – except for the committee just named – has the legal authority to decide the date,” Brian Hughes, communications director of the RPOF, noted in an e-mail sent to Sunshine State News.
“The committee has just been named and will soon ensure Florida a date that reflects how important our state is in deciding the next president of the United States. RPOF commends Governor Scott, Senate President Haridopolos and Speaker Cannon for their leadership on this issue. We look forward to hearing the committee’s decision.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.