Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Setting the record straight: Gingrich is no Marco Rubio

And Romney is no Charlie Crist

As the primary contest roars to Florida, candidates are escalating their attacks on one another. This is to be expected in any hotly contested election, and as an observer with a preference in the race, I don't generally care to address or dignify attacks against my candidate of choice, who in this case is Mitt Romney.

Except, the Gingrich campaign is now trying to establish a totally false meme that I feel compelled to address and dispel--that Mitt Romney is somehow connected to Charlie Crist because the Romney campaign is allegedly run by Crist hacks.

The ones in the Romney campaign specifically being cited as evidence of this connection to Crist are Stuart Stevens, Andrea Sauls, and Amanda Hennenberg.

Let's put things into perspective: These three operatives were out-of-state hired guns with no real connection or loyalty to what I like to call the CCC (the Crist Circle of Crap).

The CCC include those Florida "Republicans" who devoid of any principles, supported, defended, and enabled Crist in his treachery against conservatism and the Republican Party over the years. They are the Crist cronies who politically and financially benefited from his ascendance to power and his catastrophic control over the Republican party. They were accomplices in his misdeeds. They include, but are not limited to George LeMieux, Eric Eikenberg, Jim Greer, Delmar Johnson, and other such sycophants on the RPOF and/or public dole under Crist. These are the ones who cheered Crist on and in many cases advised him on how to best execute his treachery.

Stevens, Sauls and Hennenberg do not rise (or descend?) anywhere near that level. In fact, as this Miami Herald article explains, Sauls and Hennenberg were merely following orders. I have the sense that these non-Floridians with little or no prior knowledge of the Florida GOP or Crist's treachery accepted a job to work for a campaign that they saw as a good career opportunity--a safe, high-profile campaign flush with money and supported by the establishment, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Besides, what young Republican operative would turn down an opportunity to work on a campaign down in sunny Florida?

As for Stevens, he may have been directing the messaging for the backstabber Charlie Crist, but at the end of the day, he too was merely a hired gun. He didn't have a cushy office at the RPOF headquarters; he didn't jet-set with Greer, LeMieux and Crist on taxpayer-funded junkets; he didn't have a RPOF-issued credit card; he didn't benefit from the Crist-supporting Scott Rothsteins of the world; and most importantly, he didn't utilize the RPOF to stack the deck against Rubio or other conservatives like the CCC did.

Instead, he was a non-Floridian beltway type being paid to do a job just like any political consultant. Did he give some bad advice? I believe he did. But did that make him part of the CCC? Absolutely not. He was paid to do what he thought was best for the campaign that hired him and would go on to derive no further tangible benefit whether the backstabber Crist won or lost (unlike the CCC).

In fact, Stevens has worked for many prominent Republican campaigns including Bush/Cheney, Haley Barbour for Governor, Jon Kyl for Senate, John Cornyn for Senate, Chris Christie for Governor, and others. He has also worked for the conservative publication The Weekly Standard and countless private companies.

As far as I know, there are no former Crist for Senate 2010 supporters or staff working for the Romney campaign in Florida. In fact, I don't even think there are any Crist for Governor 2006 supporters in the campaign.

Instead, what we see in the Florida Romney campaign are longtime political adversaries of the backstabber Charlie Crist and his CCC:

Brett Doster who headed the Florida Bush/Cheney presidential race in 2004 is doing the same for the Romney campaign. Doster has a long documented history of opposing Charlie Crist. He ran the Tom Gallagher for Governor primary against Charlie Crist and also ran campaigns of notable anti-Crist candidates, including former Florida Christian Coalition president Dennis Baxley, who is also a longtime Romney supporter. In fact, Doster was referred to as "Public Enemy #1" by CCC ringleader George LeMieux.

Alberto Martinez worked in the Florida House Majority Office under Rubio and was an early Rubio supporter who also worked on the Gallagher campaign against Charlie Crist in 2006. He is now on the Romney campaign.

Both Doster and Martinez were blacklisted and essentially barred from doing any busines or associating with the RPOF and Executive Branch during Crist's tenure.

Key Rubio regional campaign chairs and early supporters Bertica Cabrera Morris of Central-Florida and Nancy McGowan of the Jacksonville area are also a staunch Romney supporters and active in that campaign.

In fact, several Rubio-Romney ties were discussed by Politico last October, which include past and current staffers to both Senator Rubio and the 2008 Romney Campaign.

And let's not forget yours truly. I have waged a well-documented and justified war against the detestable backstabber Charlie Crist since 2006. I exposed Crist every time he threw in with the left, despite his popularity with the party he was undermining. And when Rubio declared his candidacy for US Senate, I was one of the state's earliest and most vocal supporters of that underdog campaign. I stood with him when he barely registered in polls and his campaign lacked the financial resources to even allow him to fly to campaign destinations. I was there and I know who stood with us. I do not need to be lectured by anyone who was absent about who was or was not with Rubio.

Today I am a proud Mitt Romney supporter, as I was in 2008. To suggest that I of all people would jump on any campaign tied to or otherwise friendly to Charlie Crist is laughable.


Gingrich points to his current Florida Director Jose Mallea as proof of some kind of greater Rubio-Gingrich connection. Mallea is a friend and a decent guy who did a fine job on the Rubio campaign after he joined it in February of 2010, but that alone does not qualify as proof of a longstanding Rubio-Gingrich connection, much less an indication of a Crist-Romney connection.

Conversely, does the fact Gingrich hired as a key Florida advisor someone who urged Marco Rubio to drop out mean there's some kind of Crist-Gingrich connection? We can go back and forth all day.

To be fair, I cannot omit that the Gingrich campaign has other supporters and staff with connections to the Rubio campaign. But so does Romney. In fact, many early Rubio supporters, including some who were with us way back in early 2009 when Rubio was polling at 3% against Crist are now Romney supporters, including Tampa activist Stephen Gately, Rubio campaign staffer Genessa Casanova, former Miami-Dade Republican Party Executive Director JC Hernandez who is on staff with the Romney Florida campaign, longtime Palm Beach County Republican activist Bonnie Re, and countless others.

Let's also not forget that the backstabber Charlie Crist endorsed Romney's 2008 opponent John McCain 72 hours before the election. And almost half of the voters polled said that Crist's endorsement of McCain influenced their decision to vote for him. Talk about Romney having an axe to grind against Crist.


So in complete and total fairness, I believe both the Gingrich and Romney campaigns enjoy broad support from the Rubio base. However, it is Newt Gingrich running around the state implying he has a monopoly over the Rubio support base and that this is some sort of proxy war between the backstabber Crist supporters and us Rubio supporters. This is laughable.

Despite his hubris today, Gingrich did not have the courage to risk his political capital like DeMint and other conservatives by supporting Rubio early on when he was a long-shot candidate. To be fair, Romney endorsed Rubio around the same time (a couple of days before?) Gingrich did, just prior to Crist's bolting the GOP.

In fact, responding to all this foolishness from the Gingrich campaign, Rubio himself had to offer the following clarification:
"Mitt Romney is no Charlie Crist. Romney is a conservative, and he was one of the first national Republican leaders to endorse me. He came to Florida, campaigned hard for me and made a real difference in my race."
See, even though Romney helped Rubio, he is not making the Rubio vs Crist a wedge issue like Gingrich is. Despite the false impression he's trying to convey today, Gingrich in October 2009 refused to take sides in the Rubio/Crist race when asked in this video, instead heaping praise on both Rubio and Crist.

There is no doubt the 2010 FL GOP Senate Primary was an epic battle between conservatism and progressive Republicanism whose fallout lingers to this day. It is not dissimilar to the landmark 1964 Goldwater-Rockefeller primary for president, which laid the foundation for Reaganism and the modern conservative movement. Unfortunateley, Gingrich was on the wrong side of that one.

I believe Rubio's statement on Romney's assistance during his campaign speaks for itself. Regardless, I urge the Gingrich campaign to drop this, as there are countless early Rubio and Romney supporters who will not be as uncharacteristically kind as I have been in setting the record straight.

***UPDATE 10AM, 1/25/2012***

Marco Rubio scolds Gingrich camp over "innaccurate" and "inflammatory" ad:

Per the Tampa Bay Times:

Sen. Marco Rubio scolded Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign over a Spanish-language radio ad that accuses rival Mitt Romney of being “anti-immigrant”

“This kind of language is more than just unfortunate. It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign,” Rubio told The Miami Herald when asked about the ad.

“The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant,” Rubio said. “Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community.”

Rubio’s sharp rebuke comes a day after he subtly corrected Gingrich for comparing Romney to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, branded by conservatives as a turncoat who left the party before Rubio beat him in 2010.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Beloved wife, philanthropist, Cuban patriot, and "mom" to many, Maria Juana Cohen dies

I want to thank everyone for the countless expressions of sympathy I have received in the last few days. I decided to put politics and other musings on the back-burner and have maintained somewhat of a "radio silence" of sorts since Thursday night when I received word of María Juana Cohen's grave condition. I took the first possible flight out of Tallahassee into San Diego, but unfortunately arrived too late. She died before I arrived, but I was able to make it to the burial and spend some time of reflection with her husband Salomón who has gone above and beyond for me over the years and has been like a father.

Those who know me beyond the political know that María Juana was like my second mother. Although our blood relationship was not exactly close (she was my mother's first cousin), she and I grew very close over the years. In fact, she never had any children, but as the Lord said in Isaiah 54, women who never physically bear children will be blessed with more children than those who have. Maria Juana's relationship with me and many others is proof of that.

Her husband Salomón Cohen is a very successful self-made businessman who co-founded one of Mexico's largest department store chains. He has since sold his shares of the chain, but remains very successful in other business ventures. María Juana and served as her husband's community liaison, if you will. She spearheaded many charitable causes on behalf of the family and the business and became one of their community's most honored philanthropists.

María Juana was born in Cuba and was blessed to have experienced the best days that country saw. Like the rest of her compatriots, she lost the nation of her birth to leftist totalitarianism and was forced to seek exile in the United States. Though she eventually married a Mexican and lived among Mexicans, she never compromised her "Cubanity." She spoke like a Cuban, she danced like a Cuban, and she acted like a Cuban--proudly.

She never hesitated to express gratitude to her new homes Mexico and the United States for welcoming her, but she always remained very vocal about her disdain for the Stalinist regime in Cuba, vowing never to return until there was meaningful democratic change. Unfortunately, like so many others, she did not live to see that day.

María Juana's greatest blessing was meeting her life partner Salomón. He afforded her a wonderful life, they traveled the world together, yet unlike most in their position, María Juana and Salomón never allowed their social ascendance and wealth get to their heads. They didn't adhere to the archaic norms of a society that oftentimes demands class consciousness and division.

They were as content sharing a bench with the locals at the corner taco stand in Tijuana or Cuban cafeteria in Miami as they were at a 5-star restaurant in New York. During meals at home, they shared their kitchen table with their servants, who were never to be called that in their presence. In fact, some of them chose to keep Salomón company at the hospital during Christmas after he had asked them to leave and return home to spend it with their families. It was stirring to witness those same employees--longtime servants, groundskeepers, and housekeepers--weep at the burial as if they themselves had lost a loved one. The fact is, they had.

My favorite María Juana story that illustrates her compassion and humility happened several years ago at the home of a local socialite. In typical María Juana fashion, over the course of a few months, she befriended a servant who worked at the home of this rich woman. During a dinner at this house that she and Salomón were invited to, María Juana stood up from the table to greet her. This was followed by a request from the woman who invited them to not fraternize with "the help." María Juana politely replied that it would never happen again, turned to Salomón, and asked to leave because she could not remain in a house that forbade people from being kind to others. That happened over 30 years ago, and she never stepped foot in that house again. She was willing to offend a rich, potentially powerful woman in defense of a servant. That was María Juana.

I for one will miss her, and so will her husband, family, friends, and the countless people whose lives she touched.


Memorial Video

Full-page tribute from husband Salomón Cohen

Full-page tribute from friends

Half-page tribute from Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante

1992 LA Times article

Obituary in Tijuana newspaper "Frontera" on her passing:

Obituary Translation:

TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA: Known for her altruism and contributions to the city’s development, María Juana Cohen, wife of Tijuana World Trade Center Board president Salomón Cohen, died this Friday.

“I have known her for many years. She was a great woman, very active and philanthropic. She was always willing to support any cause. She always helped,” said Laura Lozano de Velazco, friend of the deceased.

The director of the City of Tijuana’s Department of Family Development José Luis Hernández Silerio said that he shared grief with the deceased’s husband, Salomón Cohen, whom he described as an altruistic man who helped forge the city ahead, and with his wife contributed to the overall development of Tijuana.

“We grieve with Mr. Cohen over the irreplaceable loss of his wife,” said Hernández Silerio.

María Juana Cohen belonged to the [Hurricane] Gilberto Relief Organization, supported the Castro Limón Foundation, belonged to the WIZO San Diego Jewish Organization, contributed to the Trompo Museum, and was a promoter of the fine arts.

This great advocate of Tijuana will be remembered for her big heart and willingness to accomplish good such as hosting events for organizations that benefit children with cancer and the needy, said her friends.

“I remember her with much affection. She was a great woman who was always very humble. She was marked by her Cubanity, her cheerfullness, how she danced and laughed, her beautiful eyes, and more than anything, her happiness and yearning for life—her light,” said Rocío de la Rosa, María Juana Cohen’s personal assistant and friend.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Commentary on Wall Street Journal Editorial "Waiting for Hurricane Charlie (Crist)"

The Wall Street Journal gets it absolutely right in its February 23, 2011 editorial titled “Waiting for Hurricane Charlie (Crist).”

Before discussing some of the points made in the editorial, it is necessary to present a background.

In 2007, newly-elected governor Charlie Crist embarked on a crusade against the free market when he decided to foist a socialist experiment on Florida that included a property insurance version of the “public option.”

Many critics of the “public option” portion of President Obama’s health care reform package insisted that enacting such a proposal would drive private health insurance companies unable to compete with the government out of the market or out of business altogether. Little did they know that their hypothesis was being tested and proven down in Florida with Governor Charlie Crist’s property insurance experiment.

This is how it worked: Charlie Crist converted Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the state-run “insurer of last resort” into an active competitor in the market. Before this ill-conceived change, only consumers legitimately unable to obtain coverage in the private market were eligible for coverage through Citizens. Crist made it so anyone who received a single quote 15% above Citizens’ rates was now eligible for coverage through Citizens—AND he arbitrarily and artificially reduced Citizens’ rates through legislation and against all tenets of actuarial science. This essentially translated into a price control.

The result: private insurance companies could no longer compete. Several reduced policies or left Florida altogether, and in a matter of a few years, Citizens became the largest property insurer in the state controlling 25% of the Florida market, and one of the largest insurers in the country.

If the unfair competitive advantage of a government-owned company over private companies and the resultant lack of choice for consumers was not enough cause for outrage, then the enormous risk forced upon taxpayers should be.

As the Wall Street Journal editorial points out,

Citizens assured the state legislature last month that it is in "its best financial position ever," with "pre-event liquidity" of over $14.6 billion. That may sound hefty. But some of that money is borrowed, and the insurer itself estimates a once-in-a-100-year storm could cost upward of $22 billion. Its total liabilities are $451 billion. No storm would hit every insured house, but the possibility of a more than $22 billion event is there.

So how would Citizens pay its claims? It has three sources of primary income: premiums from policy holders, coverage from its reinsurer (more on that later) and the ability to levy "assessments," or taxes, on policy holders and every other Floridian. It's the latter ability that Citizens counts on to top up its coffers, and that's what makes it different from a private insurer, which lives and dies by its actuarial estimates before the storm hits.

Assessments. That’s bureaucratspeak for taxes. To make up any deficit that it may incur following a hurricane or series of hurricanes, Citizens has the legal authority to impose a tax not just on its own policyholders, but on just about every insurance policy issued in Florida—including homeowners policies, renters policies, auto policies, and boaters policies. Those taxes could dramatically increase the cost of those policies for many years. Everyone from millionaires to your neighbor’s 16 year-old kid who drives a clunker to school will be impacted. A typical middle-class family that owns a home and two cars may wind up paying several extra thousand dollars a year for up to 30 years for the very same coverage they receive today.

And it doesn’t end there. Florida also has a state-run reinsurer (reinsurance, essentially, is insurance for insurance companies. An insurance company will pay for a house that burns down; reinsurance kicks in if, say, a wildfire destroys an entire neighborhood). Florida’s reinsurance company, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (or Cat Fund for short) covers only catastrophic wind damage, and it also has the ability to levy taxes to pay off the bonds it would have to issue to raise the money it needs to pay claims after a hurricane. The editorial accurately states:

Last October, the Cat Fund said there's still "significant uncertainty" about how much money it can raise after a hurricane. The fund has about $6 billion of cash on hand. Anything above that would have to be raised in the bond markets. Imagine if the Cat Fund had to go cap in hand for $20 billion or $30 billion, all at once. Citizens, by the way, counts on the Cat Fund for $6.4 billion worth of coverage.

Mr. Crist's unstated answer to all this was that when the big one does hit again, Washington will ride to the rescue. In other words, the real insurers of last resort for Florida beachfront property are taxpayers in Waterloo and Denver.

So that, in a nutshell, was Crist’s entire hurricane catastrophe policy: reliance on Washington to bail Florida out of the bind he got the state in.

Now that the adults have regained control of the state’s affairs, tough decisions lie ahead. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, and every hurricane season that goes by without the right reforms in place is another blank fired in the game of Russian Roulette that Florida was thrown into.

[The] politics will not be easy to navigate because any reform will have to reinsert price signals into the market—meaning higher premiums for Floridians, at least in the short term, given that Florida is so often hit by hurricanes. Some Republicans may resist spending political capital to fix a problem they may not get credit for tackling if a hurricane doesn't hit on their watch. Many Democrats will oppose any changes. Then again, Republicans will surely get blamed for premium and tax increases when a big hurricane hits.

Florida voters did the country a favor when they refused to send Mr. Crist to the Senate. Now Republicans have an obligation to clean up the looming fiscal catastrophe his policies have left behind.

Luckily, Governor Scott and the new Legislature are showing signs of willingness to tackle this difficult issue, but Floridians should insist that changes to the system be made sooner rather than later. Free-market reforms that level the playing field and shift hurricane risk away from taxpayers onto private companies may produce a short-term, methodical increase in property insurance rates. But that is a heck of a lot better than the alternative, which assures massive, disproportionate rate hikes for every Floridian for decades.

Hurricane season begins June 1. The clock is ticking.

(Full text of WSJ editorial may be found here)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tallahassee Young Republicans Resolution RE: High Speed Rail

Because the Tallahassee Young Republicans website is currently under construction, I've posted this resolution here.

On Tuesday, February 22, 2011 the Young Republicans Club of Tallahassee overwhelmingly approved the adoption of the following resolution regarding the high-speed rail proposal recently rejected by Governor Rick Scott.


Whereas, the United States government faces a staggering $14 trillion debt due to multiple years of budget deficits, and

Whereas, President Obama recently proposed the largest budget in United States history at $3.73 trillion, which includes a $1.65 trillion deficit, and

Whereas, President Obama’s America’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the “stimulus” foisted at least $862 billion in additional debt on future generations and may eventually cost trillions of dollars over the next several years, and

Whereas, Republicans and conservatives across America united against President Obama’s stimulus plan, which was forced through the legislative process without a single Republican vote in the House of Representatives, and

Whereas, the proposed “high-speed rail” linking Orlando and Tampa would be overwhelmingly subsidized by funds appropriated from the aforementioned Obama stimulus, and

Whereas, historical data suggests that budget overruns are pervasive in over 90% of rail projects, and

Whereas, any budget overruns would be incurred by Florida taxpayers, and

Whereas, if revenues generated by “high-speed rail” are insufficient to cover its costs, Florida taxpayers would likely be forced to subsidize it in perpetuity, and

Whereas, if future lawmakers were to ever decide to dismantle “high-speed rail” due to cost overruns, underutilization, or any other factor, Florida would have to return the $2.4 billion to the federal government, NOW, THEREFORE,

Be it resolved by the Young Republicans Club of Tallahassee, a chapter duly chartered by the Florida Federation of Young Republicans:

That its leadership and membership support Florida Governor Rick Scott’s rejection of borrowed federal funds to subsidize a “high-speed rail” project between the metropolitan areas of Tampa and Orlando, Florida.

Be it further resolved that copies of this resolution be dispatched to the Governor, President of the Florida Senate, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, the Chairman of the Florida Federation of Young Republicans, and to members of the media.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Epilogue to my struggle against Charlie Crist

Florida has had to deal with many crises in the last several decades--everything from catastrophic hurricanes and refugee influxes to the crippling economic effects of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Florida has been lucky to have had adults at the helm to steer her through those turbulent waters. For example, Governor Jeb Bush immediately convened a special session after the attacks on 9/11 to deal with the impending economic effects on the state. Targeted tax cuts and other measures were taken to offset the expected drop in tourism, revenue and the resultant economic slowdown, and Florida weathered that crisis relatively unscathed.

These past four years, on the other hand, paint a totally different picture. Florida was led by a blindly ambitious career politician who has never stuck with any of his several statewide political positions for more than one term. Instead of tackling the issues he was entrusted to confront by the people he professes ad nauseum to represent, Charlie Crist treated each and every position he has ever held as just another step in his perpetual career climb, leaving those tough decisions to others or subsequent officeholders. These past four years prove that Charlie Crist treated the honor of Florida's Governorship no differently. Proof of his dereliction can be found by merely comparing the state's current economic, unemployment, and even population statistics with those four short years ago.

So as Florida elevates Rick Scott as its 45th Governor this week, and in celebration of the fact that the adults have regained control of Florida's affairs, I wish to take the opportunity to explain my years-long contempt for outgoing governor Charlie Crist and why I felt it was necessary to expose him and hold him accountable the way I have these past several years.


Ironically, I was one of the first in Miami-Dade County to sport a "Charlie Crist for Governor" sticker on my car in 2005. I had the opportunity to meet with then-Attorney General Crist on several occasions at Republican gatherings and events. In 2004, I even drove Crist to the airport in the car that today dons a "See Ya Charlie" sticker. I always found him to be an extremely warm, friendly guy and one who made people feel important, especially when he remembered their names. As for his primary opponent, Tom Gallagher, I did not have much interaction with him. I did not dislike him, but found him to be a bit standoffish. Because I considered both men philosophical equals and I had a better personal rapport with Charlie, he initially became my choice for Governor in 2006.

That all changed, however, when I became a Legislative Aide to a state representative. That gig landed me in Tallahassee during the 60-day legislative session in 2006. During that time, I witnessed the divide between conservatives and RINOs in the Legislature. The conservatives were essentially all with Gallagher and the RINOs with Crist. Although I'm not necessarily one to condemn someone for their associations alone, I witnessed firsthand how Crist's allies derailed good legislation or otherwise stood in the way of good legislation. One such Crist ally was Senator Alex Villalobos, who last year flaunted his true colors by endorsing Crist for Senate and Sink for Governor. I became concerned these characters would be empowered during a Crist administration... but I digress.

That, coupled with other things I experienced and witnessed made me reconsider my support for Crist, and so I switched over to Gallagher.

As we all know, Crist went on to win the primary and general elections. At that point, I took a step back and gave him a chance, as he was, after all, a "Republican." But that didn't last very long.


The act that sealed Crist's fate in my eyes was his selection of Jim Greer as Chairman of the RPOF. As someone who was a grassroots volunteer since his teenage years who later worked for the RPOF, I had institutional knowledge of the party and took offense that the incoming governor would have the hubris to appoint someone whose only qualification was being a crony of his (seems this would be an ongoing theme in the Crist administration).

I had no problem with previous governors "tapping" someone to be chairman, since they traditionally respected party leaders enough to choose someone from among the committee who was trusted by its members. Jim Greer had never served on the committee he was selected by Crist to lead, and the State Committeeman from his county even had to resign his post so Greer could qualify to run. I was there when the state committeeman from his county begrudgingly announced to the State Committeeman's Caucus in December of 2006 that the governor had asked him to step down so Greer could be the next chairman.

The election took place in January 2007 at the Annual Meeting. At that point, I did not have anything against Jim Greer personally, other than being party to the entire process by which he was being "selected" by Crist and company to head the RPOF. But at the Annual Meeting, Greer began to show symptoms of what would eventually be his downfall.

The money Greer raised for his chairman's race was seemingly spent almost entirely on a reception the night before the election. After a gaggle of politicians and Republican Club presidents gave their rousing endorsement speeches, Greer gave a speech of his own followed by a buffoonish performance of Elvis songs with the hired band. The lack of class and elegance made me wonder to what depths the Republican Party of Florida had sunk.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who shared that view since incumbent Chairman, Carole-Jean Jordan felt it was necessary to stand up to this madness and run for reelection. Despite raising and spending no money for her reelection effort and having the new governor literally endorse her opponent from the floor, she came within 7 votes of defeating Crist's sideshow court jester Jim Greer. I have always said that Carole-Jean Jordan deserves our respect and admiration for having the courage to challenge Crist, Greer and their enablers.

Greer moved quickly to change things at the party. He fired many staffers and replaced them with Crist loyalists. He also canceled the straw poll scheduled to take place at the RPOF Convention later that year. I personally believe he did it so John McCain--the one candidate RINO enough and unprincipled enough to consider Crist as his VP choice--wouldn't suffer an embarrassing, and potentially game-changing defeat, since many grassroots Republican activists were upset at him over his amnesty proposal at the time.

Additionally, Crist got the Legislature to insert language into an election bill that pads the RPOF State Committee with additional members appointed by the governor, thus diluting county grassroots power and safeguarding against future close chairman races. The bill also included language that would allow a state politician to run for federal office without having to resign his state position. This change in law would have come especially handy for Crist had he been--oh, I don't know--tapped for VP, maybe?


To say that Crist went on to embrace or otherwise support an anti-conservative agenda would be a gross understatement. In addition to the fact that many of us who were early Rubio supporters were exiled from our own party by Crist, Greer, and their enablers--and mocked for supporting a candidate "with no chance" at winning--these are some of the things Crist did to earn the ire of many conservatives and the praise of Democratic State Senator David Aronberg as "one of the best Democratic Governors Florida has ever had":

  • Socializing Florida's property insurance system by making the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation a "public option" for people to choose instead of private coverage. This not only violates every free market principle, but it also places the state one hurricane away from bankruptcy because Crist also forced Citizens to lower its rates artificially and against all tenets of actuarial soundness. If Citizens goes broke, Florida taxpayers will have to bail it out. But this doesn't matter to a politician who never sticks around for more than one term

  • Restoring felons voting rights, which dramatically increased Democrat voters in swing-state Florida.

  • Pulling RPOF funding from the campaign to ban Same-Sex Marriage after he signed the petition supporting the same-sex marriage ban amendmen

  • Campaigning against gambling expansion, yet expanded gambling dramatically. I'm not debating the merits of gambling, but rather exposing and condemning yet another one of Crist's lies.

  • Sucking up to leftist enviros like Sheryl Crow, Robert Kennedy and Castro sympathizer actor Robert Redford to Advance their leftwing global warming hysteria; Publicly crediting Al Gore and his discredited movie with raising his own global warming awareness; implementing through executive order California-style emissions standards and a Cap-and-Trade scheme that will only serve to exacerbate Florida's economic problems. All this made him the Trotskyite Left's favorite pet Republican, but then he backstabbed even them in an attempt to fool Republican primary voters with short memory spans.

  • Lying to Giuliani when he told him he'd endorse him for president, instead endorsing John McCain the weekend before the presidential primary in Florida. Considering Romney and McCain were in a statistical dead heat in the polls leading up to the election, Crist's endorsement of McCain essentially handed the Republican nomination to the most liberal Republican in the field of contenders.

  • Sitting on his hands after he was not chosen for VP and allowing the state to go for Obama. In fact, after consulting with the DEMOCRAT leader of the Florida House--not the Republican Speaker or Senate President, mind you--Crist extended early voting hours, which clearly helped the Democrats throughout the ticket.

  • Squandering the opportunity to tilt the Supreme Court to the right, and instead appointing liberal supreme court justices such as James Perry and Jorge Labarga, who both later voted to strike Amendment 9 relating to ObamaCare off the ballot.

  • Figuratively and literally embracing the phony Obama Stimulus, which conferred it the false illusion of bipartisan support. Some perspective: had Crist been a U.S. representative, he would have been the ONLY Republican to have voted for the stimulus and only one of four in the Senate (along with Snowe, Collins, and Specter, who at the time was still a "Republican").
    SIDE NOTE: When then-Attorney General Crist was campaigning for governor in 2006, he and his campaign manager George LeMieux decided to snub the sitting Republican President by not joining him and other statewide Republican candidates for a rally in Pensacola. Yet, while Republicans nationwide were fighting Obama and his stimulus proposal, Crist came out to support Obama and his stimulus proposal.

  • Permitting Jim Greer to run amok. Despite countless Republican activists, party officers (and more party officers), donors, (and more donors), elected officials, and concerned Republicans calling for his resignation, Jim Greer dug in his heels and defiantly refused to go for months. Jim Greer himself validated my belief when he confirmed that Crist had instructed him not to resign. Let's be clear: if it was up to Crist and his enablers, Greer would STILL be there destroying the RPOF. Why? because it's about them and not about anyone else.

So if it was always about them to the detriment of the party, its candidates, and its principles, why should the rest of us follow them off the cliff like a bunch of lemmings?


These are all acts of treachery that Charlie Crist committed BEFORE he switched parties. This is why I reject the notion that Charlie Crist suddenly became a traitor to the Republican Party the day he switched to a No-Party-Affiliation candidate and that everyone who supported him up until that moment had no idea he would do such a thing.

Can anyone really claim deception? Anyone?

Senator LeMieux, put your hand down. That was a rhetorical question.

Anyway, the answer is no. No one can claim deception. All the signs were there. Charlie Crist was a back-stabber opportunist long before April 29, 2010.

A true philosophical conservative could NEVER support a candidate who did even half of the things that Charlie Crist did prior to his party switch--much less in a Republican primary that provides a clear alternative.

Moreover, no Republican--conservative, moderate, or otherwise--with the party's best interests at heart could nor should support a candidate who would allow his own handpicked chairman to continue humiliating the party and living high off its coffers merely to continue having one of his cronies in such a position.

These are some of the reasons I have utter contempt for the back-stabber Charlie Crist and a select few who enabled him to undermine the principles that I hold dear and destroy the party that I have given so much of my time and energy to since I was 17 years-old.

Courage is rarely convenient. "Abandoning" Crist once he explicitly and literally abandoned the Republican Party on April 29, 2010 is hardly the definition of courage. That was the convenient, politically expedient thing to do.

On the other hand, putting ones self in political harm's way and denouncing Crist and Greer while they were both still in power and in a position to continue damaging our party: that's courage.

This is why I will continue to support candidates for public and party offices that have a proven record of commitment to the party under whose banner they run and the principles that unite us under that banner--courageous candidates who have a record of doing what's right for the party, including challenging and standing up to the kind of destructive and oftentimes treacherous behavior I have outlined here--not those who "toted the party [boss's] line" when the party was hijacked by a bunch of traitors and criminals with no sense of principle.

I salute those party leaders and elected officials who had the courage to stand up to Crist and Greer early on. The party and its members throughout Florida owe them a debt of gratitude.

As for Charlie Crist, Jim Greer, and his enablers, they leave their high positions of power worse off and in some cases disgraced. May they serve as a lasting example of what not to do--or tolerate--in politics.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Remembering the Great Olga Guillot, una gloria de Cuba

Olga Guillot

When I was sixteen years old, I was talked into "dancing" a "quinces," which to those of you non-Cubans reading this, is the equivalent of a sweet sixteens, but for a fifteen year-old and much, much tackier. The dancing part of it is a uniquely tacky (again) Cuban tradition where thirty of the birthday girl's closest friends (15 guys and 15 girls) do a few routines to usher in her grand entrance. The choreographer hired to put this hilarious production together is usually a recently-arrived flamboyant middle-aged Cuban who at one point or another claims to have danced for the famous Havana Tropicana Night Club before emigrating.

But I digress.

So, I was talked into making a royal fool of myself by a high school friend of mine way back in the day because I figured that every good Cuban teenager should be subjected to this unique form of humiliation. The last few weeks before the party, the rehearsals were held at the venue where the party was slated to take place: the Four Ambassadors Hotel ballroom. Next door to the ballroom was an upscale dinner club called Scala.

During one of our long, annoying rehearsals, I snuck out to take a break and heard singing coming from the Club next door. It was Olga Guillot.

Most 16 year-olds wouldn't know who Olga Guillot was, much less sounded like, but I knew. I've always been an old soul, as most of my friends would attest. So I peaked into the front door of the club, and apparently the crack of the door threw Olga off, she stopped, and said, "eh, pero quien esta ahi?" (who's there?)

So I came in, introduced myself, and she asked me to stay for the remaining minutes of her rehearsal because she wanted to talk to me afterward. So I did. Meanwhile, the rehearsal for the "quinces" was going on next door, sans me, which I'm sure relieved the choreographer I made a habit of publicly mocking.

After Olga finished rehearsing, she sat with me, asked me who I was and how a sixteen year-old like me would know who she was. So I explained that I have always held Cuban tradition and culture close to my heart, grew up listening to her music, was essentially raised by my grandparents, etc.

The result: we stayed there talking for nearly two hours, and the only reason I cut it short was because my ride was there to pick me up at a time certain.

We talked about everything from my family, her story, to even politcs. Back then, Bill Clinton was president, and she had very few nice things to say about him. She said she loved and missed the great Ronald Reagan and lamented the fact that we would never see another one like him. Not only was she a Cuban patriot, but she was also a solid, bedrock conservative who was able to articulate conservative principles better than most politicians.

My favorite story she shared that day was how she was performing in some Latin-American country, and thinking that she would be honored with his presence, the owner of the place she was performing at excitedly told her that the ambassador of Cuba was in the audience. Upon hearing this, she informed him in no uncertain terms that she would not perform so long has he was in the audience. Mind you, this was in the early days of her exile from Cuba when she was not exactly financially set and every gig was vital to make ends meet. But she would not relent. The result: staff had to ask the communist ambassador to leave so Olga could perform.

There were similar stories to that, including ones where agents of the Castro dictatorship actually plotted to assasinate her several times unsuccesfully, of course.

I saw Olga socially several other times after our initial meeting at the Four Ambassadors, including at Republican fundraisers and patriotic rallies, but mainly at Versailles Restaurant in Miami, where she was a regular patron.

If you were ever having a meal at Versailles and all of a sudden the entire restaurant burst into applause, it is very likely because Olga Guillot walked in. I have eaten there more times than I care to recount, and have seen everyone from politicians and prominent journalists, to Grammy Award-winning superstars (i.e., Gloria Estefan). The only person whose entrance would provoke spontaneous applause in that Miami landmark was Olga Guillot.

And every time, I would go up to her, I would say hello, and she would remember me.


There are going to be countless obituaries and honors written to this grande dame of song, about how she was a pioneer at a time when no female artist could sell records in Latin-America, about how she was and always will be the queen of Bolero, and how she was a stalwart Cuban patriot and defender of America, which is all an understatement.

I just wanted to honor her in my own way by sharing my personal story about this great lady. May the Lord bless her soul, and may her music and love for liberty endure forever.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Florida's Public Policy Vacuum

(Originally published 5/4/10 on Freedompub.org)

Allow me to talk shop a little bit to set up my point.

My job in Florida is to promote free market reforms to the property insurance system that Charlie Crist largely socialized when he became governor in 2007. Without entering into specifics of his ill-conceived reforms, Crist basically imposed a "public option" type system of property insurance on Florida that essentially transferred massive liabilities from private property insurance companies to the state-run property insurance company. This means Florida taxpayers have assumed those massive liabilities.

Just like Obama's true motives were to drive health insurance companies out of business when he tried to impose a public option on the country's health insurance system, Charlie Crist's public option has driven away most of the state's large private insurance companies. Coverage by these has largely been replaced by the underfunded state-run insurer and small, untested, fly-by-night insurance companies most of which are sure to go bankrupt if even as much as a weak hurricane hits the state. In short, Florida is one hurricane away from either going bankrupt or facing the very real possibility of having tens of thousands of its storm-ravaged citizens not having their claims paid.

Think about that for one second: the state goes bankrupt and/or an entire region of the state can't recover from a storm because claims can't get paid, which eventually also bankrupts the state.

The good news is, the legislature is beginning to notice the importance of this issue, and there have been attempts by statesmen to address it (yes, some politicians are actually statesmen).
The bad news is, as usual, Crist.

Last year the Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill that would have largely addressed Florida's insurance crisis. Among other things, it would have allowed companies to charge rates based on the free market and risk. Opponents demagogued it saying that it would drive up rates, obviously omitting the fact that it would lure more competitors into the market, spread the risk, and ensure solvency so people could actually get their claims paid after the storm. Crist's response: he vetoed it.

This year, a similar bill, albeit a weaker version of last year's, was moving through the legislative process. The bill was changed to address the concerns Crist had raised in last year's so-called "veto message." But as anyone in Florida's legislative process can attest, any "substantive" reasons Crist may cite in a veto message are mere excuses used to justify a veto done only to score cheap political points with the interest group or demographic du jour.

Crist acted like a grade school student who stuck his fingers in his ears and repeatedly yelled "rate incrase rate increase!" as others were trying to reason with him.

In short, there has been a complete lack of public policy gravitas in the governor's office since Jeb Bush's departure. For Crist, no serious policy issue is serious, no potential consequences are of consequence, and every official decision that has to be made must be weighed against the interests of his own political career. Anything that is bad for Charlie in the short-term must be treated as bad policy and must be rendered moot no matter how vital or beneficial it is to the state and its citizens in the long-term.

Issues unrelated to property insurance do not deviate from that narrative. For example, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6, a teacher merit pay bill favored by many teachers, legislative leaders, Jeb Bush, and education reformers nationwide, but vociferously opposed by the teacher's unions. As the bill moved through the legislative process, Crist had explicitly indicated he would sign the bill through personal conversations with legislative leaders and even through public declarations by his official representatives at hearings where the bill was being debated.

Despite his stated support for the bill, Crist vetoed it after the loud minority opposition reached a fever pitch. Devoid of a core support base, Crist killed the bill hoping the teacher's union would fill the void Republicans across the state left when they abandoned him after years of throwing in with Democrats on issue after issue. He hedged his bets and figured the union would rescue his fledgling US Senate campaign. This morning I saw an ad paid for by the Florida Education Association (the state's teacher's union) thanking him for vetoing SB6.

This is the Florida of Charlie Crist's cyncism and opportunism, where an outright and proven lie in the form of a veto earns him in-kind paid media today, and another veto will plunge the state into an unprecedented financial catastrophe that will adversely impact every Floridian tomorrow when Crist is not around to deal with it. Both, however, are the result of Charlie Crist's desperate confusion about his role as governor as he continues in his schmaltzy dither to govern with his eye on the next office.