Bono Mack’s tax filing becomes issue in Florida campaign

Rep. Mary Bono Mack’s Palm Springs home has become a talking point on the Florida campaign trail.

Bono Mack and her husband, Rep. Connie Mack, are being criticized by Mack’s political opponents for getting two homestead exemptions.

As noted in today’s report by the News-Press, they are legally allowed to file for two exemptions as long as the couple maintains separate bank accounts, file their taxes separately and confirm neither is on the other’s deed for the homesteaded property.

Bono Mack purchased her home after former Palm Springs mayor Sonny Bono died in 1998.

The tax exemption is the latest issue that Mack has faced on the campaign trail, where he is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Miami Herald recently reported that Mack has privately struggled with his finances, and got into four confrontations – including a bar fight – when he was younger.

Bono Mack becomes a grandma

Rep. Mary Bono Mack and her husband, Florida Rep. Connie Mack, have become grandparents.

The Republicans welcomed their first grandchild – Sonny William Hrabe — at 12:12 p.m. today. The baby is the son of Bono mack’s daughter, Chianna Bono, and her husband, Mark Hrabe.  

“We are so delighted and thrilled with the birth of our first grandson, Sonny William Hrabe,” Bono Mack, a Palm Springs Republican, said in a statement. 

“Both mom and baby are healthy and doing very well, and Chianna is overjoyed about becoming a mother.

Today would have been the birthday of the baby’s namesake, Sonny Bono, the former Palm Springs mayor and congressman who died in 1998.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better birthday for our grandson. February 16th is a very special day in our family,” Bono Mack said in a statement.

 ”We thank everyone for their kind words of encouragement and congratulations during this time, and we are looking forward to being grandparents and the memories that are in store for our family with little Sonny.”

Sonny William Hrabe weighed 8 pounds and 6 ounces.  The family lives in northern Virginia.

 

Seating shakeup

If you scan the audience while watching  Tuesday’s State of the Union, don’t look for Rep. Mary Bono Mack with her GOP colleagues.

Bono Mack, a Palm Springs Republican, is one of more than 140 members of Congress joining the “No Labels” effort to encourage bipartisan seating at the annual address.

Bono Mack plans to sit next to Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas. In the past, she’s sat with her husband, Republican Rep. Connie Mack of Florida.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Rancho Mirage Democrat, hasn’t decided whether she’ll participate in the No Labels effort.

Politicians hit the fest

Hollywood’s elite flocked to the desert this weekend to attend the Palm Springs International Film Fest gala.

But the red carpet included several political notables well.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack is a regular at the festival that was started by her late husband, Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono.

On Saturday, the Palm Springs Republican presented the Sonny Bono Visionary Award to “The Artist” director Michel Hazanavicius.

Florida Rep. Connie Mack, a Republican who is currently campaigning for U.S. Senate, left the campaign trail to join his wife on the red carpet.

The valley’s own senator, Barbara Boxer, also caught up with The Desert Sun on the red carpet.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever done the red carpet, and I’m warming it up for the real stars who are coming behind,” the Rancho Mirage Democrat quipped.

“It is such an exciting festival. And this year seems to me to be even more exciting. They keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger stars and the films are spectacular.”

My Desert Sun colleagues also spotted Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and Desert Hot Springs Mayor Yvonne Parks at the black tie event.

The film festival runs through Jan. 16.

The lineup features many political films, including a documentary about former Gov. Edmund G “Pat” Brown.

That film – “California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown” – screens on Friday and Sunday.

**Update on Thursday, Jan 10:

After spotting this blog, one Desert Sun reader sent in photos that showed a small crowd of protesters gathered near the Palm Springs Convention Center on Saturday.

The protesters’ signs called for the ouster of Bono Mack from Congress, and at least one sign also targeted Mack as well.

Rep. Connie Mack enters Senate race

Seven months after quashing rumors he would seek higher office, Florida Rep. Connie Mack has changed his mind about a U.S. Senate bid.

Mack, the husband of Rep. Mary Bono Mack, is now forming a campaign to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

“Connie Mack is running for the U.S. Senate. He is making calls. He assembling a team,” Mack’s senior advisor, David James, told the Miami Herald for a report today.

“He will have more to announce about the run in the weeks ahead.”

Don’t expect that news to sideline Bono Mack from her own reelection plans.

In an interview with The Desert Sun today, the Palm Springs Republican expressed confidence that the bicoastal couple could manage both campaigns.

If they do – and if they’re both successful in 2012 – they will make history as the first husband-wife team to serve together in both chambers of Congress.

“Connie did not take this lightly. He believes he can help turn our country around,” Bono Mack said today.

“The stakes are just too high right now in our country to sit this race out.”

Democrat Raul Ruiz and Republican Steve Grasha have both announced plans to challenge Bono Mack in 2012.

The dueling campaigns will inevitably increase the opponents’ complaints that Mack spends all of his time in California and that Bono Mack spends her time in Florida.

The couple has dodged such criticism since they wed in December 2007, and have continually countered that they are dedicated to spending time in their respective districts.

“You expect everything, whatever they can throw at us they will throw at us,” Bono Mack said of the opponents’ attacks. “What’s important right now is the economy. What’s important right now is to talk about jobs. … The rest is just noise and the voters will see it as noise.”

Change of heart

Rep. Mary Bono Mack and her husband, Rep. Connie Mack, didn’t see eye to eye on Monday’s historic debt ceiling vote.

But Congress’ only married couple does agree on how to balance the federal budget.

Bono Mack recently signed on as a co-sponsor of Mack’s One Percent Spending Reduction Act, which would cut a penny from every federal dollar spent for six years and implement a spending cap in the fiscal year 2018.

Mack, a Florida Republican, must have polished his sales pitch in order to get Bono Mack to support the so-called “penny plan”

During their joint appearance on “Fox and Friends” in June, the Palm Springs Republican congresswoman said she wasn’t endorsing the legislation because “he hasn’t convinced me to sign on yet.”

On the same page

Although they don’t always see eye to eye on national policies, Rep. Mary Bono Mack is following in her husband’s footsteps with today’s endorsement of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

Florida Rep. Connie Mack backed the former Massachusetts governor in his 2008 campaign.

Mack reiterated that endorsement last week, according to Romney’s 2012 campaign website.  

“President Obama’s policies have failed Florida and the American people,” Mack, a Fort Myers Republican, said in a statement.

“Mitt Romney has the experience to lead a much-needed economic recovery. He has created jobs, balanced budgets and cut taxes.”

Bono Mack supported former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential primary. In the 2000 and 2004 elections, the Palm Springs Republican endorsed George W. Bush for president.

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Differing opinions

Rep. Connie Mack has been making the rounds on national cable shows to tout his plan to balance the U.S. budget.

Dubbed the One Percent Spending Reduction Act, the Florida Republican wants to cut a penny from every federal dollar spent for six years and implement a spending cap in the fiscal year 2018.

But while his wife, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, joined him during an appearance on Fox and Friends this week, he can’t count on her support quite yet.

“He hasn’t convinced me to sign on yet,” Bono Mack, a Palm Springs Republican, said on the show.

“He’s lobbying me today. So it is his plan, but it is a good plan. … People want to hear solutions and this is a good start.”

You can see a video clip of their appearance here.