Tampa Democrats blast Haridopolos' stances, actions
TAMPA - Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Haridopolos got blasted with hostile questions about the recent legislative session and personal ethical issues, including a controversial book contract with Brevard Community College, during a Tiger Bay Club appearance Friday. Questioners, some of them prominent Democrats, implicitly or explicitly accused Haridopolos, who's president of the state Senate, of selling out for political contributions, abandoning environmental protection and balancing the state budget at the expense of education and help for the needy. Haridopolos denied he did anything wrong in the book contract and defended the legislative session as seeking to create a favorable business climate in Florida. "I hope there's a Republican in the room," he joked at one point, after answering a question about the Legislature's abolition of growth management controls by the state Department of Community Affairs.Haridopolos sought to handle the questions calmly and cordially, but occasionally responded with pointed remarks. "It sounds like a lot of people are smarter than us [legislators], from the questions here today," he said. "Rather than just throwing stones at the process, let's participate in the process," he said. "Let's move away from the bumper stickers and the accusations and the name-calling. Let's read bills, let's participate in meetings." After local political firebrand Joe Redner suggested that Haridopolos was "kowtowing to the wealthy" for political contributions, Haridopolos merely snapped, "Next question." Tampa lawyer Bill Frye asked Haridopolos about the book contract, under which the college, where Haridopolos had been teaching history, paid him $152,000 over four years to write a political history of Florida. He produced instead a manual for political candidates that wasn't published until reporters asked about it, and then, only on-line. Critics have called it sophomoric and unsophisticated. "Are you going to return the $150,000 and if not, why not?" Frye asked. Haridopolos, whose state Senate office gives him influence over higher education budgets, said he fulfilled the contract and was asked by the college to remain on the faculty, but instead moved to the University of Florida. "I think it's a read that you would find, it makes sense," and is appropriate for college freshmen or sophomores, he said.
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