JaxPoliticsOnline.com

Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Attorney General Race Starting To Heat Up

Who knew the hottest race of 2010 might turn out to be the Attorney General race?  At the least, it could turn out to be the most crowded race of the year.

Last week, State Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Ft. Myers) announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination.  Today, State Senator Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach) made a quick switch from the US Senate race to the Attorney General race.  Despite the best efforts of Bill Nelson, the Democrats appear headed for the exact scenario they were determined to avoid—a contended primary.  Rod Smith, a former state senator from Alachua, is also rumored to be considering the race.

On the Republican side, Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp looks like he might have an open field to the nomination.  The Lt. Governor is facing numerous ethics complaints over extensive flying at taxpayer expense.  He faces additional controversy over the revelations that he recently used the Florida Highway Patrol to drive him to Atlanta for a Kenny Loggins concert.  While Kottkamp has not officially announced his candidacy, the clean shaven look he debuted this past Friday would seemingly indicate his intent to pursue higher office.

Both parties may be successful in clearing the field for their preferred Gubernatorial and Senatorial candidates, but the Attorney General’s race is starting to look like the place for variety.

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Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , ,

To Have And To Hold: The Value of Primaries

The retirement of US Senator Mel Martinez, and the subsequent drama that has unfolded around the Republican candidates vying to replace him—former House Speaker Marco Rubio and Governor Charlie Crist—has thrust the age-old debate about the benefits of the primary system into the limelight.  To a lesser extent, the battle is also raging in the Governor’s race—where GOP leaders are trying to avoid a Bill McCollum vs. Charles Bronson fight—and in the race for Attorney General—where Democrats are trying to avoid a three way primary battle pitting Dave Aronberg against Dan Gelber and Rod Smith.

While not perfect, the primary system does exist for a reason.  Voters within a party have the right to have their voice heard when it comes to choosing the candidate that will represent their party in the general election.  (Of course, my personal preference would be a system that allows voters to choose from any candidate in the race, regardless of party where the top two vote getters advance to the general election.  The removes the current possibility to discriminate against voters who do not choose to belong to one of the main parties.)  Yet, although we are several hundred years into this unique American experience of democracy, leaders in both parties are attempting to deny voters the right to choose which candidate will represent their party.

The most visible battle has been the battle within the Republican Party over the Charlie Crist vs. Marco Rubio Senate race.  Jim Greer, the GOP Party Chairman and a long-time ally of Charlie Crist, made his preference for Crist rather clear when he attempted to use his power as Chairman to endorse Crist’s campaign.  While his efforts were thwarted by another member of the Executive Committee, he has continued to take shots at Marco Rubio.  Likewise, the Republican Party made it abundantly clear to Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson that his presence in a Republican Gubernatorial primary was not desired, something that was amazingly insulting to a man who has served the party quite faithfully for years.  Republicans are not alone, of course.  The leadership of the Democratic Party has been working just as diligently to avoid a 3-way primary for Attorney General, with the anticipated campaigns of Dave Aronberg, Rod Smith and Dan Gelber.

Florida’s voters should be insulted by the arrogance of party leadership that seems to presume that they have the authority to make decisions on behalf of voters.  If more than one candidate is interested in a race, party leadership should allow them the opportunity to make their case to the voters.  The voters are capable of deciding which one will best represent their party in a general election.

While smoking may be banned in public spaces, the era of the “smoke-filled back room” appears to have returned to Florida politics.  Despite the storied failures of “back room” candidates over the years (does the name Warren G. Harding and the Teapot Dome Scandal ring a bell for anyone?) Florida’s political elite have decided that they know what is best for the state.

The current arrogance of the leadership in our political parties makes you wonder how many potential “stars” they are bypassing as they push for what they see as the “most certain” path.  It may be hard to realize this when one is secluded in Tallahassee, but the candidates that voters often take to are not always the first choice of the party elite.  1978 is an excellent example of that.  One wonders if there would have ever been a Senator Bob Graham if the Democratic Party leadership had thrown their weight around in that seven-person Democratic primary

Let the voters decide, Mr. Greer and Ms. Thurman.  We are amazingly competent.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , ,

Florida’s Political Dominos

With Charlie Crist’s Tuesday announcement that he was jumping into the race to succeed retiring US Senator Mel Martinez, the political dominos are beginning to fall in Florida.

Within a week, Florida CFO Alex Sink (D) is expected to announce her intentions to run for Governor.  So is Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R).  So is Agriculture Secretary Charles Bronson (R).  That would mean all of Florida’s Cabinet positions will now be open.  So, who is running?  

State Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Ft. Myers) will soon announce his candidacy for Attorney General.  (His website currently shows “Under Construction.”)  Rumors abound that State Senator Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach), currently a Democratic candidate for the US Senate seat, might also be interested.  Another potential candidate on the Democratic side is former State Senator (and Gubernatorial candidate) Rod Smith (R-Alachua).  The Republican candidates are less clear, perhaps State Rep. Adam Hasner (R-Palm Beach) or State Rep. Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park).  

The race for Chief Financial Officer is wide open on both sides.  Alex Sink was expected to be a shoo-in and no major candidates had expressed interest because of that.  Perhaps former State Senator Tom Lee (R) will give it another shot.  Current Senate President Jeff Atwater (R) appears to be the only one in the race at this point.

The race for Agriculture Secretary is already underway.  US Rep. Adam Putnam (R) already has his campaign website up and running.  At this point, it appears that there are no significant challengers to him.

The most interesting race in the state to watch; however, will be the US Senate race.  The National Republican Senatorial Committee has already weighed in on the Florida race, despite their promises to stay out of it last week.  They have endorsed Crist, something that will only encourage Marco Rubio in his outside bid to “claim” the nomination for “conservatives.”  Jim Greer, the Chairman of the Florida Republican Party, is a close ally of Gov. Crist and will most likely make overt moves to back him in the primary as well.  According to sources, a key figure in the Florida GOP leadership also told a Republican crowd this weekend that he is working to “clear the field” in the Gubernatorial race, meaning that the GOP is moving avoid a nasty primary.  (Of course, nothing speaks to democracy like an attempt by party power brokers to “clear the field.”)

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the flurry of activity around the new candidates for statewide office is that there is nary a mention of a North Floridian among them.  That’s right, Jacksonville—long one of the dominant cities in fielding Florida Governors over the years—has no one ready to step up to higher office.  What does that say about the people we’ve been sending to Tallahassee for the last two decades?

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,

The Coming Battle for the soul of the Florida GOP

The race to succeed retiring Senator Mel Martinez just got very interesting, not only for Florida, but really for the entire nation. 

The “contraction” of the Republican party has received a lot of media attention of late, particularly in light of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic party.  The reasons for Specter’s switch were fairly obvious—he was a moderate Republican incumbent facing a primary challenge from a conservative and all signs were pointing to a primary loss.  Specter’s move was the latest in a series of defeats for the Republican party, particularly the moderate wing within the party.  

In 2006, Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chaffee lost his re-election bid after a tough primary challenge from a conservative Republican left him weakened in a general election.  In fact, more than one of the seats lost in the House during the 2006 and 2008 elections could be directly attributed to the defeat of moderate Republicans in a primary—or the retirement of a moderate.  So, how does this translate to Florida?

Charlie Crist is seen as a moderate, due in part to his support of Barack Obama’s stimulus package.  But, even before the Obama position—for which he was roundly attacked on talk radio—Crist had staked out more moderate positions on many of the hot-button issues. He’s anti-abortion, but don’t try to engage him in a long conversation on the matter.  He’s anti-gay marriage, but says it in a way that leaves no one completely offended.  He won a GOP primary in 2006 against an opponent who had tried to define himself as the only “true conservative” in the race.  In didn’t work in 2006, but could 2010 be a different story?  

Marco Rubio, after all, is no Tom Gallagher.  Sure, he never had a cameo appearance on “The Golden Girls”, but Rubio is young, telegenic and has always been a passionate “conservative”-something that Gallagher could only claim a late-in-life conversion to.  And, Rubio has come out swinging.  In his announcement, he took a step that many saw as unprecedented—attacking sitting Senators of his own party with whom he would have to caucus, assuming he won the primary and general election.  Lashing out at Maine Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, Rubio said that adding to their ranks was essentially the same as electing a Democrat.

While Crist’s popularity ratings have remained unusually high, his popularity among the rank-and-file Republican voters has suffered as of late, particularly after the onslaught he took from political
powerhouses like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity over his support of Obama’s stimulus package.  Their opposition [Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s], when combined with the support already being offered Rubio by the conservative Club for Growth, could signal trouble for Crist in a Republican primary likely to be dominated by conservatives.  While Crist’s political fortunes don’t necessarily concern many other than himself, Republicans do have to wonder how Rubio’s increasingly conservative message will sell in a state that voted for a Democratic President and a Democratic Senator in the most recent statewide elections.  

At this point, despite the potential of a bloodbath, the Republicans still have the strongest field in the race.  Both Democratic candidates currently in the race are facing their own hurdles.  Both candidates are from South Florida, something that could prove challenging as they move to win over more moderate and conservative voters from central and northern Florida. Likewise, neither are well known throughout the state, something that will necessitate significant fundraising success to change.  But, if bloody primaries offer a moderating state the choice between an outspoken conservative Republican and a more moderate Democrat, the Republican Party might have reason to worry.  

Could one have imagined Jeb Bush’s Florida with a Democratic Governor, Democratic Attorney General and two Democratic US Senators?  It may very well be possible…

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , ,

Phone Tax On Hold

At least a few Republicans still believe in lower taxes, apparently.

Prospects aren’t looking good for the much-lobbied Senate bill to deregulate landline phone service and expand the definition of customers who get “nonbasic” service subject to potential rate hikes.

SB2626 by Sen. Haridopolos was just suddenly postponed after it failed on a 5-4 vote, with committee member Sen. Charlie Justice out of the room presenting a bill in another committee. Sens. Victor Crist, Dan Gelber, Evelyn Lynn, Nan Rich, and Eleanor Sobel voted no. The bill is being pushed by companies including AT&T, but has garnered opposition from AARP and other consumer advocates.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, , , , , , , , ,

Bar Hopping in Tallahassee

In 1994, the Florida Legislature banned fundraising during the 60 days the Legislature was in session.  How’s that worked out for Florida, you ask?  Well, the session beings tomorrow…here’s todays schedule:

 

Senate Democratic Golf Tournament, Killearn Country Club, 8 a.m.

Rep. Adam Hasner for Florida On the Move (committee) at Governor’s Club, 11:30 – 1 p.m.

Rep. Dwayne Taylor at Governance (consulting firm) 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Reps. Ron Brise and Joe Gibbons at 101 Mint Lounge, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Rep. Adam Fetterman at Governor’s Club, 11:30 – 1 p.m. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twittering the Legislative Session

Dan Gelber, a Democratic State Senator from Miami Beach and a candidate for the open US Senate seat in 2010, has announced his intent (Via Facebook) to tweet the upcoming legislative session via Twitter, the burgeoning online social networking site.  Perhaps the most amusing portion of Gelber’s announcement, however, was his announcement that he intended to encourage other legislators to do the same.  One wonders if he has ever met his fellow State Senators Steve Wise and Jim King?  Can you honestly see them twittering?

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , ,

Sink turns down Senate race

The one person seen as the inevitable front-runner has decided to take her name out of the running for Mel Martinez’s Senate seat. Alex Sink, Florida’s CFO, said she will run for re-election to the CFO position. The full story is here. Democratic speculation now turns to the already-declared US Rep. Kendrick Meek, State Rep. Dan Gelber, US Rep. Allen Boyd, US Rep Ron Klein and Rod Smith.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , ,

Alex Sink in Jax

According to the Jax Daily Record, the State Chief Financial Officer, Alex Sink, will be at Jacksonville University on January 15th as a guest speaker at the Davis College of Business’ “Davis Thought Leaders Speaker Series.”  This will be a great opportunity to check out Sink in person as she is still considering a run for Mel Martinez’ U.S. Senate seat.  If Sink doesn’t announce soon, look for Ron Klein, Dan Gelber, and Allen Boyd to run on the D side.

On the R side, it’s looking more and more like Jeb is seriously considering running.  But if he doesn’t run, look for Bill McCollum, Marco Rubio, and perhaps even Charlie Crist (if he doesn’t still intend to keep his sights on the 2012 Presidency race), to run.

Filed under: Florida Politics, Jacksonville, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jeb Bush vs. Alex Sink

Is it a race to replace Mel Martinez?  

Jeb Bush:

A July 2008 St. Pete Times article wondered if Jeb would seek political office again.    Looks like the St. Pete Times was right on the money as Jeb has now announced he’s seriously considering a run for Martinez’ US Senate seat.  With all the talks he had been giving about the education system, the numerous non-profits he started that many felt were to keep his political base and staffers in place, and the secrecy surrounding his low-profile but extremely public entrepreneurial makeover, rumors had flown that he could be in line to be in the Presidential circle as Education Secretary if John McCain won the Presidential race.  With McCain losing, Jeb has had to set his sights just a little lower.  Now Jeb has been named to sit on the Board of Jacksonville’s Rayonier Inc. for $40,000 a year.  Quite a plum, as Rayonier is a Republican-leaning international timber, real estate, and performance fiber company.  That will certainly re-establish his NE Florida connections (recall that his son went to Bolles while Jeb was Governor) and gain him the favor of Jacksonville’s Republicans.  Connections he’ll desperately need to run for the US Senate now that Florida went blue in the last Presidential election. 

Alex Sink:

Will she or won’t she?  Seems Alex has had mixed feelings about whether or not she wanted to give up her position as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.  Quite frankly, who wouldn’t want to give up that position right now with Florida staring down the sights of a $2+ billion deficit that’s projected to balloon to somewhere around $4 billion next year?  Democrats have been pushing her to run for Governor in 2010, but again who in their right mind would want to have to stare down that huge deficit facing Florida.  Now that Martinez has seen the writing on the wall and announced he doesn’t intend to seek the seat, Alex has again been publicly expressing her interest in running for his seat.  Alex is a wildly popular Democrat – even among Republicans.  Could Alex take a race with Jeb?  She’d certainly be the Democrat candidate that could give him a run for his money.

Other candidates who have expressed an interest:

Republicans:  Bill McCollum, Allen Bense, Marco Rubio, Vern Buchanan, Connie Mack IV, and Adam Putnam.

Democrats:  Allen Boyd, Kendrick Meek, Dan Gelber, and Ron Klein.

Not a NE Floridian among them. 

Stay tuned.

Filed under: Florida Politics, Jacksonville, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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