Florida Government and Politics Weekly Update

10 August 2009 Publication
Author(s): Robert H. Hosay Thomas J. Maida

Public Policy News Alert

Politics: U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez Resigns; Governor Charlie Crist to Appoint Replacement
On August 7, 2009, Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez announced his resignation from the U.S. Senate, effective upon Gov. Crist’s appointment of a replacement to complete the unexpired portion of Sen. Martinez’s term. Sen. Martinez had previously announced his intention not to seek reelection in 2010.

Sen. Martinez’s first elective office was as mayor of Orange County. He was U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 2001 – 2003. While in the Senate, he also served as general chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2007 – 2008.

Gov. Crist, the Republican candidate to succeed Sen. Martinez, announced that he would not appoint himself to fill out the unexpired portion of Sen. Martinez’s term and that he had not yet made a decision about the appointment. Early speculation centered on Jim Smith of Tallahassee, who was twice elected Florida attorney general as a Democrat and subsequently changed parties. Mr. Smith also served as Florida Secretary of State from 1987 – 1995. He ran for governor in the Democratic primary in 1986, losing to Steve Pajcic, and in the Republican primary in 1994, losing to Jeb Bush.

Press accounts have mentioned several other possible appointees, including former Gov. Bob Martinez (R-Tampa), former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Ft. Lauderdale), former state Sen. Dan Webster (R-Winter Garden), and former state House Speaker Allan Bense (R-Panama City). Former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack has reportedly taken his name out of consideration.

Politics: Joe Negron Wins Special Election to Succeed State Sen. Ken Pruitt; Special Election Called for Seat Previously Held by State Sen. James E. “Jim” King, Jr.
Former state Rep. Joe Negron (R-Stuart) was elected to the state Senate in an August 4, 2009 special election. Sen. Negron succeeds former state Sen. Ken Pruitt (R-Port St. Lucie), who resigned after the end of the 2009 regular session of the Legislature.

Sen. Negron received 76.5 percent of the vote. His Democratic opponent, Bill Ramos of Jensen Beach, received 23.4 percent of the vote. The Florida Division of Elections reports that 43,852 voters, or 12.2 percent of the 360,039 registered voters in the district, voted in the special election.

Gov. Crist has called a special election to replace state Sen. King, who died on July 26, 2009. The primary election will occur on September 15, 2009, and the general election will occur on October 6, 2009. Four Republicans have filed papers to run for the senate seat in the 2010 election, including former state House Speaker John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine) and former state Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach), and will presumably run in the special election.

Legislature: House Investigative Committee Delays Action on Rep. Ray Sansom
The state House Select Committee on Standards of Official Conduct met briefly on August 4, 2009, and delayed further action on the complaint against former House Speaker Ray Sansom (R-Ft. Walton Beach) until later in the year.

The committee heard a presentation from Special Investigator D. Stephen Kahn, who found probable cause to believe that Rep. Sansom had violated House rules that require members to perform their duties with integrity, in compliance with law, and in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the House. The committee also decided to retain a special counsel for further proceedings.

The House investigation is separate from the criminal charges of perjury and official misconduct against Rep. Sansom. The trial on the criminal charges is scheduled for September 29, 2009.

At the urging of committee chair Rep. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), the committee decided to postpone further action until after Rep. Sansom’s criminal trial. If the criminal trial proceeds as scheduled, the committee would probably next meet during the first week of October 2009, when other House committees are scheduled to meet in Tallahassee.

The House proceeding and the criminal charges both grow out of allegations that Rep. Sansom was involved in improperly directing funds to Northwest Florida State College, creating a high-level position for himself at the college, and holding a private meeting of college trustees in violation of Florida’s open meetings law.

Public Policy News Alert is part of our ongoing commitment to providing up-to-the-minute information about pressing concerns or industry issues affecting our clients and our colleagues. If you have any questions about this alert or would like to discuss these topics further, please contact your Foley attorney or any of the following individuals:

Marnie George
Tallahassee, Florida

Michael P. Harrell
Tallahassee, Florida

Robert H. Hosay
Tallahassee, Florida

Jonathan P. Kilman
Orlando, Florida

Thomas J. Maida
Tallahassee, Florida

Leonard E. Schulte
Tallahassee, Florida

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