Alex Sink's excellent quarter

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The woman who hopes to become the first to lead the great state of Florida, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, is reporting that she raised $1.6 million over the past three months. Her top Republican Party opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, has yet to announce his fundraising totals over the past quarter year.

Sink is in better shape financially at this stage of her campaign — a little over a year before the general election — than were Jim Davis, Bill McBride or Lawton Chiles, the last three people to run for the Democratic nomination for Governor.  All three of those men lost.

For those who like their politics hardball, the Sink-McCollum race promises to provide the goods.  The Florida Republican Party has acted scared about Sink for a while.  The day after she announced her candidacy, the party, never known not to be in good stead with the financial industry, blasted Sink for her longtime banking ties (she worked in the industry for 26 years, ending her career as Bank of America's president of Florida operations in 2000).

The possible wild card in this race is whether Lakeland State Senator Paula Dockery gets in the GOP race. 

Though she is obviously behind in fundraising, more than a few Republican officials have murmured excitement about her possible involvement.  Remember, there was resentment against State Party Chairman Jim Greer for trying to clear the field for his pal Charlie Crist's Senate run.  That backfired in a big way with Marco Rubio supporters.

Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson appeared eager to run for governor, before deciding it wasn't in his best interests.  But Dockery is on record as saying that Florida Republicans should have a choice. With a new fundraising quarter beginning, one would think she would announce something one way or another relatively soon.

And speaking of Marco Rubio, political junkies await the release of his fundraising numbers, sometime within the next week.  Although nobody expects him to surpass the prodigious numbers that Governor Crist continues to bring in, expectations are that Rubio must come close to doubling his last quarter's numbers to still be considered viable. (He raised $340,000 last time around.)

In other local news, reaction continues to flow into the St. Pete Times offices regarding Editorial Writer Tim Nickens' blast on Sunday in which he accused the four City Council  members who voted against vacating the public sidewalk for the owners of BayWalk of putting "the dagger" into the retail shopping complex in downtown St. Pete.

Nickens tore into Jeff Danner, Leslie Curran, Herb Polson and Wengay Newton for their votes, which BayWalk owners insisted they needed as a crucial part of revitalizing the struggling mall.  Letters in this morning's Times seem split, though small public opinion polls that were published before the vote indicated opposition to privatizing the complex.

Meanwhile, the Times is reporting that Councilman Jim Kennedy took a considerable amount of strong verbiage, shall we say, at a Midtown candidates forum last night.  His transgression? Voting to appoint Karl Nurse to the District 6 seat over four black candidates in a district that has had African-American representation for decades.

A Tallahassee judge yesterday dropped most of the charges against former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who had been accused of violating state conduct laws by moving a $6 million aircraft hangar project to a Panhandle college where he took a job paying $110,000.

To quote from the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

As for the prosecutors’ contention that Sansom had “falsified” a public document — the state budget bill — by misrepresenting the $6 million aircraft hangar, Lewis said a law “by its nature, is what it says it is.”

“It cannot be made false by the fraud, misrepresentation or other trickery of one or more of its members which may have misled other members into voting for it,” Lewis wrote.

Lewis said the law either authorized the construction of the hangar or if it did not, the construction would not be legal.

“Either way, the act itself is not false,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, on the national scene, with the unemployment rate at a 26-year high (it's now at 9.8%), the Obama administration is considering several new items as a social safety net.

The New York Times reports that there will be no second stimulus plan, per se (which would have little support in Congress anyhow), but the administration will work to help those out of work.  Virtually all serious economists say that unemployment will continue to stay high until the middle of next year.

Among the options for additional steps is some variation on Mr. Obama’s proposal during the stimulus debate to give employers a $3,000 tax credit for each new hire, which Congress rejected last winter partly out of concern that businesses would manipulate their payrolls to claim the credit. Another option would allow more businesses to deduct their net operating losses going back five years instead of the usual two; Congress limited the break to small businesses as part of the economic stimulus law.

The search for further remedies is part of a two-track effort in the White House and Congress. Democrats are also considering plans to continue through 2010 the extra unemployment assistance and health benefits available to people who are out of work for long periods. Also likely to be retained, some officials say, is a popular $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers that was included in the $787 billion stimulus law and has helped rouse a housing market that nonetheless remains shaky.

These moves need to happen.  There may be others that the administration or members of Congress are considering, because employment — not health care, and not Afghanistan — is the single biggest issue in this country.  Over 7 million jobs have been lost since December of '07, and Barack Obama's poll numbers will never get higher than the mid 50s, frankly, until the job market improves.

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