10:16 PM EDT, May 27, 2010
The Republicans are stacked up seven-deep, trying to boot the outspoken Democrat Alan Grayson out of office.
But you probably don't have time to vet all the candidates yourself.
So on Wednesday night — when the Magic were continuing their comeback and Grayson was chatting about oil policy with Larry King — I attended a forum to hear what they had to say.
Some of it's compelling. Some of it is nuttier than a Snickers bar. Very little of it is moderate.
What follows is quick-hit look at some of what these guys (and one gal) have to say.
•Kurt Kelly. This Ocala legislator's got a big smile, big body and booming voice. He comes across as really quite affable — especially if you want to start another war. Kelly says he is ready to declare war on Iran in as little as six months if the country doesn't shape up. Plus, he loves name-calling. In the space of about 90 seconds, he called Grayson a "disgrace," an "embarrassment" and simply "a bad guy." (The crowd liked that.) Oh, he also talks about himself in the third person from time to time. Scott Maxwell always finds that unsettling.
•Dan Webster. The former House speaker likes to reminisce about the good ol' days when Republicans ended the Democrats' reign of terror and turned Tallahassee into a Camelot of good government. The problem with that selling point is that, to believe it, you also have to believe Tallahassee actually is an example of good government and distinguished statesmanship. And that requires heavy doses of either distortion or medication. Webster's main attribute, as a 30-year veteran of the political scene, may also be his detriment. Career politicians aren't exactly en vogue nowadays.
•Dan Fanelli. If you think ethnic humor is funny — and that white people can't be terrorists — Dan's your man! He even created a whole video featuring a white man and an Arabic-looking one, suggesting that it's obvious which one "looks like a terrorist." (Dan must not be familiar with Timothy McVeigh.) On the plus side, Fanelli is a former Navy pilot who used to have "top-secret security clearance" … which he referenced multiple times Wednesday night.
•Patricia Sullivan. If you're a Tea-Partyer at heart, then Sullivan may fill your cup. Sullivan started a Tea Party group in Lake County and now has what she refers to as her "Patriot Army," which floods online comment boards with praise about her morals and patriotism whenever her name is mentioned in a story … or isn't. She is definitely hard-working and has a true grass-roots campaign. This home-schooling mother of four may want to add a splash of impromptu thinking to her tea, though. Asked for her take on Iran Wednesday night, she seemed stumped.
•Ross Bieling. If you're convinced we have a Marxist in the White House, you and Bieling are kindred spirits. I talked to Ross twice Wednesday — and both times, he stressed that belief … along with the fact that he has an impressive credit score of 820. Bieling, an entrepreneur from Seminole, is running because he is sick of the country's soaring debt and "scared for my country."
•Bruce O'Donoghue didn't make Wednesday night's forum, sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition of Florida. But he is a businessman backed by Mel Martinez and Toni Jennings who has thrown a wrench in what might have otherwise been an establishment coronation for Webster. If you really dislike gay rights, O'Donoghue might be your guy. He has helped lead the Family Policy Council, the group that has worked hard to make sure gays don't get the same rights as straight folks.
•Todd Long ran an impressive campaign against incumbent Ric Keller in 2008 and almost beat him. Instead, he just softened Ric up so Alan could deliver the knockout punch. Since losing two years ago, Todd has gotten himself a radio show and moved where many AM radio hosts go — even further to the right. Todd wants to abolish, well, most of the federal government. But, as a self-starter from '08, Long gets credit for railing against the establishment before it was stylish.
There's obviously more to all these folks than I could fit in this space. If you want to learn more, just Google their names and their campaign sites pop right up. Within moments, you too can be watching Dan Fanelli's lessons on why cops shouldn't hassle old white men at the airport when there are plenty of swarthy, darker-skinned folks around.
Scott Maxwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-6141.
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