Yes, it's true. Sources in the local Republican Party say our own Congresswoman Katherine Harris has locked up the contributors and the funding needed to run for Sen. Bob Graham's U.S. Senate seat next year. As you may have guessed, and what makes this interesting locally: The Republicans are already lining up for a shot at Harris' seat in the house.
County Republican Chair Tramm Hudson is considered the front-runner, although there are rumbles that Ringling Museum of Art board chair and local Ford dealer Vern Buchanan still hungers for a taste of the political life. Don't forget, Hudson supposedly had to talk Buchanan out of running last year when Harris decided the seat from Sarasota was going to be the launching pad for her political career in Washington.
And don't forget State Sen. Lisa Carlton. Some Washington experience would be helpful when she makes the run to become Florida's first female governor down the road-according to some Republican insiders.
There is one potential glitch in all this, however.
Solidly Republican Sarasota always seems to have a taste for the token Democrat, especially if it's a good solid candidate. Bob Graham routinely carries the area, and Barbara Ford-Coates does the same on the county level.
A savvy, fresh-faced Democrat such as City Commissioner Mary Anne Servian could come out of the weeds and turn the run for Harris' seat very interesting indeed.
Diners interested in truly fresh fish often aren't choosy about their surroundings if their main objective-good local fresh fish-is the mainstay of the menu. Toss in a magnificent view of Sarasota Bay and a table on historic fishing docks, and you have Star Fish Restaurant in Cortez.
Nothing's fancy, but the grouper and whatever else came into the fish house that morning (Star Fish is actually a fish house with a small market in front and a restaurant out back on the docks) make for a potentially memorable lunch that will have you dragging out-of-town guests up to Cortez.
This is the real thing, right down to the cheese grits that come with the fried mullet lunch, and, along with genuinely good hush puppies, are available as a side with everything else.
Open every day for lunch at 11:30 a.m., Star Fish is open until 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and until 3 p.m. Sundays and Mondays. Just drive down Cortez Road (from either direction) to 123rd Street, turn south, go to the end-and there you are.
Jurassic Park South
The big lizards are coming back, and it has nothing to do with it being an election year. Of course our native alligator never left, but now it's being joined by some relatives, none of whom you want to meet.
Just a couple of months ago the county natural resources department let it be known there have been two local sightings of saltwater crocodiles. Luckily, this particular species of crocs is shy-at least as far as crocodiles go-and poses little threat to human beings.
But now comes something much stranger. Groups of Nile monitors-or whatever it is you call a bunch of them-have been sighted in south Charlotte County near Cape Coral living in the decades-old undeveloped canals.
Growing up to seven feet long, these meat eaters (yes, you read that right) can run up to 12 miles an hour; and since both adults and juveniles have been sighted, they must be reproducing, according to Chris Becker, biologist for the Scenic and Wild Myakka River program.
Dr. Todd Campbell of the Institute of Biological Invasion at the University of Tennessee has applied for a grant from the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program for a project entitled "Eradication of Introduced Carnivorous Lizards." Becker says the project has been "rated high for funding."
Dr. Kenneth Krysko of the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, who has been assisting Campbell, says he doesn't know how many Nile monitors are running loose down south, "but there have been over 120 observations."
So if you're planning a trip south, don't forget the short leashes for your pets.
Dr. Laurey Stryker was named chief executive officer for USF Sarasota/Manatee in 2000. Since that time her plate has been overflowing with orchestrating USF's separation from New College, planning campus expansion on the Crosley Estate while the neighbors are crying, "Not in my backyard," and building relations with the surrounding institutions.
Q: Well, welcome to NIMBY. Ever experienced this before?
A: I've spent a lot of my career in planning and serving on various boards, so I'm familiar with people having strong opinions. Long-term, we're just trying to be good neighbors. We're sensitive to the neighborhood, sensitive to change, and have made accommodations. But at the end of the day, it appears they'd rather we not be there [the Crosley Estate campus]. I hope the day after we complete the project they'll all say. "What a great project."
Q: The campus location controversy aside, what's your biggest challenge in the separation of USF and New College?
A: The challenge is USF and New College both have plans to grow. Sharing facilities such as our library makes a lot of sense, but we're working out the separation in a time of tight budgets. It's not a matter of land but getting the facilities we each need.
Q: What about FSU? Is its proximity at Ringling and the Asolo another challenge for you?
A: It's another opportunity. There are regular meetings with FSU, Ringling School of Art and Ringling Museum. Let's face it, three universities along a quarter mile of bayfront is unique in Florida and maybe the world. So the opportunity here is how to link up and use our strengths.
Q: Any time to enjoy the Sarasota lifestyle?
A: Yes, I do enjoy the Sarasota lifestyle through the theater, good restaurants, good music and, most of all, the many stimulating people I know.
Q: What keeps you awake at night?
A: Opportunity. The idea of how to get it all done, provide the progress they want. The great thing is, Sarasota is so supportive of higher education and yet there's not enough of an opportunity for higher education. Just look at the young people; so many go elsewhere.