The Florida Legislative session came to a close on Friday, and after a quick weekend break, state politics is moving on to the next phase---the campaign for Florida’s open congressional seats. This morning, outgoing Florida House speaker Jonnie Byrd came to Tampa to officially announce he is running for retiring US Senator Bob Grahams seat; WMNF’s Andrew Stelzer was there and filed this report.


During this year’s session, Johnnie Byrd’s last as a member of the Florida house, he was criticized for taking contributions and a plane flight from an HMO that received a large healthcare contract from the state. Byrd was frustrated by his feud with Senate president Jim King, which ended in a phone rate freeze Byrd wanted, being killed on the last day of the legislative session. Byrd claims that his track record as House speaker proves that he can keep government small, and taxes low. But in his speech to about 50 invited guests on the USS America Victory, which is docked in Tampa’s channelside harbor, Byrd did not even refer to the Florida state politics he’s been working on for the last 8 years. Instead, the Plant City representative spoke about Iraq and Israel.

ACT “The state of Israel is one of our closest allies

Byrd will be traveling to Israel next week. He says America has a lot to learn from a country that has been fighting terrorism for over 50 years. Byrd also blamed Yasser Arafat for the lack of a peace agreement in Israel.

ACT “There’s one reason for no peace—Yasser Arafat…..he pledged…�

Byrd called for an end to US funding of Egypt, and instead said that that money should be sent to Israel. Perhaps in response to yesterdays vote in Israel in which voters rejected Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw some settlements in the west bank, Byrd said he thinks the entire road map should be put off until all terrorism stops.

ACT “The so called road map to peace calls for a Palestinian state, it should be extended, no deadline…further the goals. Palestinian state is worthy, we cannot support the achievement…lets put it on hold…our government.�

Byrd will be traveling to Israel with AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a non-partisan group. He plans to meet with the minister of internal security; other meetings are still being arranged. Herbert Swarzman is a representative of AIPAC; Swarzman was at Byrd’s speech, although he stressed he was there as an individual, not in official capacity.

ACT SWARZMAN-AIPAC “I don’t thin we should have public officials who don’t know the territory

WMNF asked Byrd if he planned to hear the perspective of any Palestinians on his trip.


Wayne Garcia, Byrd’s campaign manager, had a slightly more through answer.

ACT Johnnie is interested in finding out....but as far as meeting with Palestinians.

Speaker Byrd’s main reason for supporting Israel was that they are Americas ally in the war or terror. He tied this to the war on Iraq. Byrd’s daughter may soon be sent to Iraq, and he said that she is one of many young Americans that have a mission.

ACT “Think about it, you have 18 year old kids, who know what they are fighting for …they’ve seen enough to last a lifetime, these aren’t my daughter graduated from the naval academy…soon will be in harms ways too.�

ACT ‘Its got me thinking what are we fighting for?..we are all enlisted in the war or terror.

Byrd borrowed many phrases from President Bush is his speech.

ACT “We have to lock arms with allies…with us or against us. Saddam Hussein, was dragged out of his hole…..I’m a supporter of that nation, I’m not going as a neutral observer, I’m going as someone who believes in the state of Israel�

When asked by reporters about how he will fund his Senate campaign, Byrd again referred to his alignment with the Bush Administrations values.

ACT �Fundraising is the mothers milk of politics, Floridians will support the reps, tax cuts, strong homeland security.� But Byrd has his work cut out for him; he faces competition from two other republican and 3 democrats. Although Byrd has already raised over 2 million dollars for his campaign, U.S. Representative Peter Deutsch of Fort Lauderdale leads the Senate pack in fundraising with more than $4.6 million. And the Bush administrations hand picked candidate, former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez appears to have the support of the governor. All candidates must declare their intention to run by noon this coming Friday, May 7th.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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