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, , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , ,

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