Tag Archives: Florida Politics

Northeast Florida Power Drought

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As statewide races begin to shape up for United State Senate, Governor, Attorney General, and CFO … a disturbing trend seems to be forming.  None of the  candidates being prominently mentioned in the media is from Northeast Florida.

None

Early polling shows Governor Crist as the odds-on favorite to replace Mel Martinez in the U.S. Senate, though many more conservative Republicans are furious that the state party seemed to be picking sides even before the campaign begins.  crist-rubio Miami Republican Marco Rubio, fresh from his stint as the Speaker of the Florida House, will also seek the seat, and from a more conservative vantage than will Crist.  But Rubio, by all accounts, faces an uphill battle in name recognition, and Crist is riding a wave of almost unprecedented popularity for this point in his term as Governor.  His time spent with John McCain, depending on your point of view, was either a brilliant move in building name recognition or an unabashed run to be McCains’ running mate.  Should Crist win the Senate seat, don’t be surprised to see him make a bid for the White House after one or two terms.Sink-mccollum

The principal candidates to replace Crist in the Governor’s Mansion are Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Bill McCollom.   Both call the I-4 corridor home … Sink is from Thonotosassa, and McCollom is from Longwood.  The I-4 corridor is in some ways Florida’s most purple region, and pivotal in any statewide election.

Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson initially considered a run for Governor, but announced this week that he would not seek the seat.  He, too, is from Central Florida.

That leaves both the CFO and Attorney General seats open on the Cabinet.  Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp (Tampa) as said he’d consider the AG’s office, though that race will likely take a while to shake out.  Senate President Jeff Atwater (West Palm Beach) indicated his interest in the position of Chief Financial Officer … but there will likely be many names floated for that race as well.

But not one (so far) is from north of I-4.  Technically Thonotosassa is north, but it’s pretty much right at the intersection of I-4 and I-75.

Then, too, our region may lose one of it’s best legislators this year.  I truly and fervently hope Senator Jim King is able to serve out his term in the legislature next year, but we had a very personal experience with pancreatic cancer in our family this year.  Maybe I’m just a little too close to that condition, and, of course everyone is different.  But at the very best, there is one more session for Senator King because of term limits, and the region will lose one of it’s champions, and a strong voice in the Senate.

So where does that leave the leadership of the state in relation to the First Coast?  We have a very capable legislative delegation, and there are some strong candidates running for the open seats in the region.  And, too, as more and more of the long-time legislators are sent home by term limits, that playing field will level.  There will be fewer and fewer office holders with longevity in Tallahassee.  Whether or not that’s a good thing is a debate for another day, but the days of someone serving seemingly for life in a single office are gone for good.  Some will jump from office to office as their terms expire. But the way private sector workers now seem to shuffle from job to job, whether by their choice or forced by circumstance, maybe that won’t be seen as a negative.  At the end of the day, the way power in Tallahassee is perceived may change.  But when two thirds of the state seems to be left out of consideration for state-wide races … it might be time to have a look at how political talent is developed north of I-4.

MSB Jacksonville and Northeast Florida should not be considered the red-headed stepchild of state politics.  We have the largest city in terms of land mass in the country, a port system that rivals any in the state for economic development and potential, and as viable and stable an economy as any other region.  We’re not Miami, or Tampa, or Orlando in terms of sheer numbers of people, but then I’m fairly certain no one here really wants to be.  It is important that our voice is heard and our concerns represented in the debates that are coming in the next decades, particularly about water, education, transportation, taxes, the economy, and the environment.

I know, it’s easy for me to write such things from my perch at the continents’ edge.  And no, I’m not volunteering.  But I do hope that somewhere among the delegation is a person who can become known well enough to make a run for a statewide office.  Because otherwise, it takes money … lots of money, to mount a campaign where the first thing to be done is build name recognition south of I-4.  And that’s a difficult hill to climb

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An Interesting Year

florida Well, friends, it’s shaping up to be an interesting couple of years in Florida politics.  The statewide and legislative races in 2010 have been blown wide open, and then we’ll see a new Mayor and several members of the Jacksonville City Council elected in 2011.  And for those who love to watch the process, there’s never a better time.

Speculation began when Senator Mel Martinez announced he would not seek a second term as in the U.S. Senate.  Immediately, a ton of names began floating to the surface as to who might replace him.  Obviously, Republicans want to hold on the the seat.  Republicans are only one vote away from losing their ability to filibuster in the Senate, and if Al Franken holds on to win what may be the worlds longest recount, it may be moot.  I’m a little concerned about a Senator Al Franken.  I just keep hearing bad Saturday Night Like sketches being read into the the Congressional Record.

For the record, I’d have been concerned about a Senator Dennis Miller, too, when that little idea was floating around out there.   “Mr. President … I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but …”

But I digress.

crist With his announcement this week that he would seek Martinez’ seat in the U.S. Senate, Governor Charlie Crist became the instant front-runner in the race.  He’s popular, moderate, and charismatic.  State Representative Marco Rubio also plans to seek the seat, from a more conservative vantage.  Rubio is a former speaker of the Florida House, and is popular with the more conservative wing of the party.  He doesn’t have the name recognition and fundraising advantage as Crist,though, and likely faces an uphill battle with the Governor in the race.

But that opens up the Governor’s race, and one of the few name NOT being mentioned is Lt. Governer Jeff KottKamp.  Why?  Well all three cabinet officers have announced their intention to run for Governor:  Charles Bronson, Commissioner of Agricultural and Consumer Services, Alex Sink, Chief Financial Officer and the lone Democrat in the Cabinet, and Bill McCullum, Florida Attorney General and former U.S. Representative.  So, Lt. Governor Kottkamp plans to run for Attorney General.

That leaves all five seats up for election statewide wide open.  No incumbent.  They will be long and hard fought campaigns, and the races are truly wide open.

Meanwhile, former Florida House Speaker John Thrasher announced today (Thursday) that he would jump into the 8th District Senate Race against Art Graham, Aaronsenate 8 Bean, and Dan Quiggle.  Graham is a current Jacksonville City Councilman, Bean was term limited out of the Florida House and Quiggle is a businessman who ran against Ander Crenshaw a few years ago for the U.S. House.  Jim King, the current Senator, is term limited.  But that race could quickly turn from 18 months to 3 months should King be selected for the position of University Chancellor.  He said during the session he intended to throw his hat into that ring, and now that the session is over, that discussion will start to rise to the surface.

Who ever is the next governor, he or she will have a difficult time next year.  Real estate HERE is picking up, but not state wide.  Retail sales are down as well, and property values are still so soft that tax receipts will likely not keep pace with expected spending.  As David Letterman might say, I wouldn’t wish those problems on A MONKEY ON A ROCK!

Florida politics is always interesting.  The next two years will be no exception.  City elections promise to be just as interesting in 2011.  The standard joke around political circles is “Raise your hand if you’re NOT running for Mayor”.  There will be several open City Council seats, including the At Large 2 seat won by John Crescembeni in a special election last year.  There will be plenty of issues to be discussed, policy statements to be parsed, candidates to interview, hopefully debates to be moderated.  I’ll miss being in the thick of it.

Unless I can find my way back.  It’s certainly a goal.  I wouldn’t count me out yet …

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Randomness

Michigan State seems to be way overmatched by North Carolina in the National Championship Game.  14 minutes and change to go and UNC leads 61-43.  MSU might as well be playing at home, as the game is in Detroit … but Carolina just seems to be too much for the Spartans to handle.  Still a lot of time to go, but it’s a big, long hill to climb.

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Over in Tallahassee … the legislature is past the halfway point, and a body controlled by conservative Republicans, many of whom have taken a “no new taxes” pledge, are facing a deficit of $6.1 billion.  So, to provide political cover, they’ll turn to “user fees”.  From “Florida Capital News“:

If approved, they would hit everyone who drives a car, files a lawsuit, goes fishing or takes out the garbage. College tuition could zoom 15 percent.

The legislature has also “zeroed out” “Florida Forever” … the state’s signature preservation and conservation program.  It’s $300 million budget gone.  Still to come is a potential complete re-write of the business tax code.  It would be difficult to imagine a Republican legislature increasing taxes on businesses during a recession, but I suppose not impossible.  About 1200 state jobs are likely to be cut, 800 currently vacant but that still leaves a lot of state employees in a bind, and the rest likely facing salary cuts.  The session ends in 26 days.

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The committee studying the City Budget begins crafting it’s recommendations tomorrow.  I joined this study late, but I’ve learned an incredible amount about how the city crafts it’s budget.  There are so many challenges in our consolidated government, and Jacksonville has been, by almost any measure, fairly fiscally responsible, but still finds it’s self with some serious challenges.  I think when the report is released that people will be surprised at how involved the process is, and yet how basic some of the issues are.  I know I have been.

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I’ll likely spend some time Thursday at City Hall at the committee meeting discussing the city’s landfill dilemma.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days talking to people about the issue, from longtime political observers to current city councilmen and one who voted on the original contract.   There will be public comment on Thursday, along with another iteration of the Mayor’s presentation.  No matter what, it’s going to be close.

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Wreck 295 cropDriving to improv rehearsal tonight, traffic was at a crawl on I-295 from I-95 to Old St. Augustine Road.   Why?  Someone had managed to flip an SUV in the eastbound lanes.  That’ll make for a really bad evening.  The only camera I had was the iPhone, and since we were staring to get moving again, it was difficult to get any composition on the shot.  I had to make sure I didn’t have a wreck myself while trying to get a shot of this carnage.  I hope everybody was OK.

And speaking of improv … yes we rehearse and I’m getting a little disappointed with people making the “you rehearse improv?” joke.  We rehearse to build trust among the players, to learn the structure of the games, to develop characters, to learn new games, and to laugh and have fun.  All to make sure the audience has the best possible experience.  And if you don’t believe it, just give it a shot sometime with no rehearsal.  Stand up in front of 50 to 100 people with someone you’ve never been on stage with before.  Get a relationship and location suggestion.  Build a scene.  Make it funny.

Go!

Nah, I wouldn’t want to do that either.

And now, with 10 minutes until midnight, and North Carolina running out the clock on their 5th national championship (tying Indiana), it’s time to get this up to the server and call it a night.

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