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Notes From the Campaign Trail

Democrat Chris Craft said he was dropping out of the race for Florida's 16th Congressional District late last week, the Palm Beach Post reported. Craft, a St. Lucie County commissioner who was trying to unseat one-term Republican Rep. Tom Rooney said he wanted to focus on his duties in the county during tough economic times. Craft's exit leaves Democrats without a challenger to Rooney, who defeated one-term Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney in 2008.

Farmer and businessman Dean Black is running to unseat U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown in Florida 3rd Congressional District, the Florida Times Union reported. Black, a Republican, is a political newcomer who says he'll try to counter Brown's high name recognition and heavy fundraising advantage by knocking on lots of doors. Black also dismissed in the Times Union story criticism that he may have trouble as a white candidate in a predominantly black district, saying Brown's ethics troubles supercede race. "If I ran my pet rock against Corrine Brown, my pet rock could get more votes because ethics matter and policy positions matter," Black told the newspaper. The district has 168,000 more Democrats than Republicans. "If and when Mr. Black is fortunate enough to qualify to run for office by the April 30 deadline and make it out of the Republican primary, then I will see him at the ballot box in November,” Brown said in a statement. “However, until that time occurs, I will continue to let the work I've done speak for me.” Black, 44, is an Air Force veteran who franchises transmission shops and farms. Two other Republicans recently jumped into the race to challenge Brown: LeAnne Kolb, a karate school operator from Middleburg, and attorney Anthony Penoso of Jacksonville, who says he is a moderate Republican, and is the author of a book about how to avoid mail-order bride scams like the one that left him jilted at the alter.

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite plans to have surgery to remove an abdominal blockage sometime during the current congressional recess, which runs until April 11. She said in a statement that she would be recover at home with her family and husband. Brown-Waite, a former state senator, quietly got married earlier this month.

The St. Petersburg Times reported this weekend that filmmaker Michael Moore is making a fundraising pitch for liberal firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando. "You can imagine, this man is no friend of neither Goldman nor Sachs,” Moore says in the video fundraising pitch, according to the Times. “And, they are gunning for him in this election. We need to keep him in Congress."

Following the announcement earlier this month that U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek had collected enough signatures to qualify for the U.S. Senate race by petition - if they're all verified - instead of paying a fee, state Sen. Charlie Justice announced he's done the same in his congressional bid. Justice's campaign for Congress is a step further, though, saying this week he's been notified by elections officials that he has qualified by petition. Justice, D-St. Petersburg, is challenging the longest serving Republican in Congress, Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who has been in Congress nearly 40 years. “We plan on continuing our grass-roots campaign by going door-to-door throughout the Congressional District talking to voters about this race and the need for new leadership in Washington,” Justice said in a statement.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith is dropping out of the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. In a letter to supporters sent this week, Smith said funding for his campaign hasn't materialized “and we have reached the point where we can go no further without it.” Smith also parted with a request from his supporters that they ask tough questions of the remaining U.S. candidates and “do not accept squishy sound bite platitudes from the party playbook.” Smith served in the U.S. Senate representing New Hampshire from 1990 to 2003 after serving in the House of Representatives.

With the end of the first quarter coming on Wednesday, campaigns will start to report their campaign funding for the first three months of the year likely at the end of this week. Technically, most legislators could go on and report, because they haven't been allowed to raise money for state races since March 1. Legislative rules prevent fundraising when the Legislature is actually in session. One of the first campaigns to announce its first quarter campaign haul, was the attorney general campaign of Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres. Aronberg announced that in the two-month period his campaign brought in $260,000 his best quarter so far. None of his opponents in the race had reported their fundraising as of Wednesday, with all of them on the Republican side - Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, lawyer Pam Bondi and former agency secretary Holly Benson - able to continue fundraising through Wednesday because they're not in the Legislature. Aronberg's Democratic opponent, Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, is in the same boat as Aronberg, but he hasn't announced a total yet.

The political blog fivethirtyeight.com has a piece this week questioning whether Florida's status as a swing state may be in the past, with the state's opinion of Democrats waning, in part because seniors don't like the Obama health care plan. “There are also a lot of Jewish voters in Florida who might not be pleased with Obama's somewhat hawkish stance toward Israeli settlements,” the blog says. “This isn't rocket science.” The blog notes that Florida was a tenuous swing state to begin with, likely leaning red with a presidential election anomaly, and also downplays the most recent poll with bad numbers for Democrats in Florida. The Mason Dixon poll doesn't include trend lines for health care, it says here: http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/03/fluck-you-florida.html

The Florida Times-Union reported this week that Duval County Elections Supervisor Jerry Holland said 89 people - seven of them in person - asked about switching voter registration after Congress passed the health care bill on March 21, the most inquiries he's ever seen triggered by one event. Whether that will hold to hurt congressional incumbents is another matter, one the paper quoted political scientist Matthew Corrigan as saying wasn't terribly likely. Still, it's likely to be a campaign lightning rod in some swing districts, particularly districts like the mostly conservative Panhandle district where Democrat Allen Boyd voted yes, drawing protests, and districts that some consider toss-ups, like Democrat Suzanne Kosmas' central Florida district. She also voted for the bill.

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