TALLAHASSEE — Unless I am completely oblivious to Florida election history, I’m finding it hard to find a more interesting or unsettled election cycle, made even more so by the decision last week of Rep. Tom Grady to forego a return to the Florida House.
Let’s just tick off a few of the 2010 notables.
On Friday, Gov. Charlie Crist addressed the AFL-CIO at the union’s 2010 election nominating convention. That’s worth repeating. Crist, who less than a month ago was the de facto standard bearer for the Republican Party of Florida, stood before a Democrat packed house in Jacksonville to not only pass on a few highlights of his administration but actively solicit the vote of members.
Crist, for those who just moved to Florida this weekend, has “gone rogue” in the parlance of another former GOP compatriot, announcing in April that he was leaving the party to make an independent run for the U.S. Senate.
Unable to convince the party’s right-leaning members who have taken over the party, at least for now, Crist is instead mounting a non-affiliated run to position himself as the man in the middle between the Tea Party’s pick, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, and the Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek.
As if that wasn’t novel enough, Crist over the weekend got the tacit endorsement of the Florida Education Association as the traditionally Democratic-leaning organization gave members the green light to vote for anyone Crist or Meek.
Crist, who vetoed a Republican-backed measure that among other things would have hurt teacher tenure protections, was the clear winner in the FEA decision.
Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, the seeming heir apparent to the GOP nomination for governor, is now facing a credible challenge from Naples businessman Rick Scott. The former HCA Healthcare mogul is spending a bunch of his own money to convince conservative members that he is the true Republican in the race. So far it’s working.
It will be interesting to see if Scott’s appeal persists when McCollum starts spending money, but the $4 million already spent by Scott is having some effect on the race that only months before seemed a McCollum lock. Sound familiar.
Then there’s Grady. A competent freshman who would likely have risen to the top echelon in the 120-member chamber, the 52-year old attorney decided last week to not seek a second term, yet another sure thing that didn’t come to be in this crazy election cycle.
Grady’s decision that he could have more influence outside the House is testament to the limitations of serving in a term-limited chamber. It is also likely a signal that if Grady is to stay in the political realm, (don’t forget he’s not too shabby a lawyer) he’s looking at something a little higher up the food chain.
Rumors have swirled that he would make a fine lieutenant governor candidate and he has also expressed interest in being the state’s attorney general someday. By taking over the reins at Prosperity Florida, a private political action committee that supports conservative members and issues, Grady has given himself a bigger pulpit from which to speak.
Now enter Laird Lile, who immediately stepped into the breach to run for Grady’s now open seat. Also an attorney, Lile has considerable legislative experience for a newcomer after spending much time walking the Capitol halls doing work for the Florida Bar.
That’s it for now but stay tuned. Anyone else have ideas about how to further stir the pot?
E-mail Michael Peltier at firstname.lastname@example.org.