Gallagher reinvents himself yet again
Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher announced his tenth run for statewide office the other day. Gallgher will seek the Governorship for the fourth time, but for the first time since 1994. When Gallgher to make tenth run for statewide office first ran statewide in 1980 for the US Senate, he was a liberal Republican who marketed himself as someone who could defeat incumbent Democrat Dick Stone. In 1986, Gallagher ran for Governor with much institutional support and lobbyist backing, but was defeated by the more Conservative Bob Martinez in the GOP Primary. In 1988, Gallagher defeated State Senator Ken Jenne to become Insurance commissioner, a thankless job particularly after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. When Gallagher announced his candidacy for the Governorship in 1994 he talked about broad unifying themes, such as Children's heatlhcare, bringing business the Florida and Education funding. Gallagher ran again as a moderate to liberal Republican, and even defended some of Bill Clinton's policies in a prime time debate between Republican candidates. Jeb Bush won the nomination that year and has been the dominant force in Florida Republican Party politics since.
Gallagher's response to his defeats has been fairly typical of someone as ambitious as he is. Gallagher despite a scant background in Education ran for Commissioner of Education in 1998. The goal for him was to return to elective statewide office. He won despite giving no specifics on his views and looking foolish in a debate with the very well versed Democratic nominee, former House Speaker Peter Wallace. Gallagher has since run for two more statewide offices, winning both times and has reversed his longtime views in opposition to school vouchers and in favor of a woman's right to choose.
When Gallagher announced this week he was clearly going after Republican front runner Charlie Crist, whose personal life is constantly being speculated about by political observers. Crist, who has also developed a record of progressive activism in favor of consumers as Attorney General, has a record that stands in stark contrast to the rhetoric of Gallagher's announcement. Gallagher spoke about the need for an amendment to the constitution banning gay marriage and gay adoption and also for the need to stop activist judges from sitting on the bench. Gallagher's speech was so conservative said some observers, that it made Jeb Bush look like mushy moderate.
Tom Gallagher has essentially moved from the Rockefeller wing of his party to the DeLay wing in a short period of time. His rhetoric may be what the Conservative activists in a GOP primary want to hear, but it is my humble opinion that if the GOP is serious about being a governing majority party, Gallagher's new found rhetoric must be rejected in favor of Charlie Crist, who as Attorney General has acted in the progressive tradition of Florida officeholders. (the subject of tomorrow's blog). Crist, unlike Gallagher represents the rhetoric of George W. Bush's 2000 campaign of compassionate conservatism. (Though Bush has failed to govern in that mold) As a Democrat, I am chomping at the bit to get the new Tom Gallagher in a one on one matchup with Rod Smith or Jim Davis. The Republicans should heed this warning and reject Gallagher's reinvented conservatism in favor of Crist's populism and activism on behalf of Florida citizens. A failure to do so could further marginalize the GOP among Florida's electorate and pave the way for a Democratic resurgance in the state.
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- I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.