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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Why the Democrats don't want to see Katherine Harris nominated

It's all about winning Central Florida


Yeah, yeah we've heard all the political pundits the last week share wisdom with the public, that Katherine Harris would be a disaster for the GOP and someone like Speaker Alan Bense, a Panhandle conservative would be a great candidate for the Republicans because Katherine Harris is so polarizing and will galvanize the Democratic base. But I have a different take, based on working on several statewide campaigns over the past ten years. I also hope that the Democrats whose two gubernatorial candidates, either Senator Rod Smith or Congressman Jim Davis have the advantage of a weak Republican nominee for US Senate heading the GOP ticket. Alan Bense, would be the perfect candidate for a Democratic victory in November in Central Florida, the most important electoral region in the state. Charlie Crist or Tom Gallagher will be very strong in the region, but could be substantially weakened by a poor showing at the top of the ticket in the US Senate race.

Florida elections are decided in the I-4 corridor area. They are not decided in South Florida or the Panhandle except in race occasions. I have supported and worked for numerous Democrats who have won several small North Florida Counties against strong Republican opposition (George Sheldon in the 2000 Education commissioner race against Charlie Crist and Bill McBride versus Jeb Bush in the 2002 Governor's race) yet have been crushed in the I-4 corridor thus losing statewide by at least 12 percentage points. I have also supported candidates who carried Broward and Palm Beach counties by margins that seemed difficult to overcome and yet they were soundly defeated once the battle moved north.

Katherine Harris, who crushed incumbent Sandy Mortham in the 1998 Secretary of State GOP primary is exactly the type of Republican who can appeal to moderate voters in Central Florida. Why Harris? She's fairly urbane and cultured, having supported the arts in Sarasota and having gone to school abroad, which appeals to the yuppie crowd. She can also talk tough on taxes, crime and other issues that win elections in the I-4 corridor while not appearing to be a rough and tumble conservative Republican that have not fared well in the region such as Bill McCollum and George W. Bush in his 2000 campaign. Alan Bense, on the other hand while an accomplished legislator will reinforce the stereotypes many Republican and independent woman have about the GOP hierarchy. He's conservative and from North Florida, has grey hair and has little understanding of the state beyond the corridors of power in Tallahassee. The Terry Schiavo issue, pushed by Bush and Bense is a sure fire loser for the GOP in the region. While Katherine Harris (and Bill Nelson) voted for the Tom DeLay pushed, Federal intervention Congressional bill to interfere in Florida's sovereign court system, neither had an upfront role in the issues, unlike Bense. The Bush brothers in 2000, sacrificed Tom Gallagher who in his past life was probably the perfect I-4 corridor candidate (A moderate pro-choice Republican who spoke well on issues and clearly had an environmental streak) for Bill McCollum who got crushed in his home county. The Bush brothers appear poised to make the same mistake again, even though Harris despite a poor standing in the polls currently can probably remake her image with a good media campaign in the Tampa and Orlando media markets. In other words, as a Democrat, I hope the GOP nominates Bense, because Bill Nelson who is an accomplished vote getter in the I-4 corridor will be virtually assured a nice margin coming from the state's most critical electoral region.

South Florida Democrats have a misperception about Central Florida: many activists claim it is conservative and exurban to rural. North Florida Democratic activists see Central Florida as urban and liberal. Neither perception is accurate. What Central Florida is in reality is the Florida that makes us the bellwether for the rest of the nation. Central Florida is America in a nutshell. Tampa/St Petersburg is a large urban area, Orlando an emerging metropolis while Polk and Volusia are the perfect combination of suburbs, exurbs, medium sized cities and rural areas. Polk County, sometimes described by political pundits as the "Polk Panhandle," and to many South Floridians it feels rural and agrarian, actually has more residents the entire area between the Suwannee River and the Apalachicola River in the big bend/panhandle region. The suburbs around Orlando and Tampa are filled with the type of moderate to conservative Republicans that you find in Ohio, Wisconsin and Western Pennsylvania- the swing region in the national elections. These Republicans swung towards Bill Clinton and Al Gore because they were strong on the Environment (after all people move to Florida largely because of its natural beauty) and were not too liberal on economic issues. The region also swung away from liberal Democrats Buddy MacKay and John Kerry whose campaigns seemed geared more towards pleasing liberal activists in South Florida than swing voters. Bill McBride got crushed in his home region because he allowed the Republicans to define him as an out of touch lawyer who would bankrupt the state with an irresponsible education plan.

The battle for the I-4 corridor is a battle the Democrats have to win in 2006, and I believe the GOP just may hand us a major advantage which we can exploit next year.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dude, You are trying to promote your political agenda with this post. You have done an excellent job seperating your opinions from your profession prior to this. You are trying to make a case for the I-4 corridor's importance and the Dems need to focus on it for your own reasons. Hey, I'm your friend and know you and know what your agenda is. You make the same exact points you do behind closed doors. Take this thing donw and get back to your real focus which we all like- hitting Ronald Reagan and the GOP foreign policy and giving good sports analysis. Lerave this stuff for your campaign plans for your clients.

JK said...

Katherine Harris has margainilized herself by not distancing herself from her role in 2000 recount. She does have the opportunity to reposition herself though and move to the middle. When she was in Senate she was moderate but then became hard right as Secretary of State and Congreswoman.

Anonymous said...

All the dems could go down because of Maddox's clevel bookeeping. Why don't we run Maddox for CFO: he probably won't do any worse than anyone else who could possibly run. Maddox could appeal to the libertarian anti-tax vote!

Kartik said...

Funny stuff, Run Maddox for CFO. Whomever posted that made me laugh which is rare with these posts! Good job!

MaddoxforCFO said...

We're going to wage a campaign to get the most fiscaly responsible man in Florida elected CFO!

Joe said...

Katherine Harris on paper would be the perfect Republican to win the I-4 area, but she herself is too stupid to understand how to market herself. Harris had great potential to be Governor or a US Senator before the 2000 election campaign. She was well liked and was known in Tallahassee for throwing great, somewhat wild parties that leaders from both parties attended. She always appeared refined and less than threatening to Democrats, which was rare in a state where the leading Republicans were Jeb Bush, "chaingang" Charlie Crist, Tom Feeney.

However, Harris has blown it and she'll get beat badly by Nelson unless the current Scott Maddox led Party scandal continues to undermine Democratic chances in every election, which it very well could.

Anonymous said...

Sp Times editorial on Maddox:

The Maddox mess
Tax delinquency is not the only legacy left by former state Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox, who is now running for governor.
A Times Editorial
Published June 23, 2005

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


The IRS has come calling on the Florida Democratic Party, and Scott Maddox is suddenly looking a little less like a miracle manager.

Maddox left his post as chairman last month, just as the IRS was placing a lien of roughly $200,000 on the party for failing to pay Social Security and federal income taxes that were withheld from employees' paychecks. Now he is running for governor, and the financial mess he left at party headquarters is something he is leaving to his campaign pollster. "He did not know about it," Dave Beattie told reporters Tuesday. "Any mistakes that were made he takes responsibility for."

The "mistakes were made" refrain has less than a gubernatorial ring to it, which may explain why Maddox let his pollster speak it. After all, just a few months ago, Maddox was boasting that: "I believe I have helped rebuild the Democratic Party, and I'm ready to help rebuild the state of Florida." Oops.

The IRS embarrassment could be dismissed as just another symptom of the Democrats' organizational disarray if not for the political mileage Maddox has tried to get out of the chairmanship. But as his successor, former congresswoman Karen Thurman, is discovering, tax delinquency is not Maddox's only legacy. She sought the job at a time when people were questioning how Maddox, while party chairman, could pocket $10,000 to sit next to a developer in a Leon County Commission meeting. She was asked to investigate a cozy contract Maddox gave his former spokeswoman, Allie Merzer. Now Thurman has party officials asking about $900,000 that seems to have vanished in a pile of illegible financial records.

In the race for governor, Maddox has used business acumen - at least that's what he calls it - as his calling card. Yet the two examples he consistently cites - Tallahassee mayor and state party chairman - are not building his case. As for mayor, he claims to have "helped run a police department, a fire department, an electric utility and an airport, among other things." Yet Tallahassee's mayor is the ceremonial leader; the day-to-day government is run by a city manager.

As for the party chairmanship, Maddox can't now easily square his rhetoric with the trail of debt he left behind. The state Democratic Party wasn't exactly a finely tuned engine when Maddox took the wheel, but the IRS wasn't putting it up on blocks either.

[Last modified June 23, 2005, 00:46:08]

egcanes said...

I love the glaring omission of Scott Maddox's name from the list of gubernatorial candidates!

Jill said...

Maddox is staying the race from what I just was told. I thought for sure he was a goner.

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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.

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