17 June 2005

Johnnie Byrd, Part II?

The GOP's romance with Katherine Harris is about to have an ugly breakup. Word on the street is that national and state Republicans are recruiting a former Democrat to challenge Congresswoman Harris in the GOP primary for United States Senate. Florida Democrats should be licking their chops. They need a break if U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) is going to retain his seat, and this may be it.

According to news reports, Governor Jeb Bush and state Republicans lack confidence in Harris' ability to defeat Nelson and are encouraging current House Speaker Allan Bense (R-Panama City) to run against Nelson. The White House claims that President George W. Bush is not involved in the GOP's intrastate conflict. Republicans should be wary and remember the last time the head of the Florida House ran for the U.S. Senate.

In 2004, former Speaker Johnnie Byrd finished an embarrassing fourth place in the GOP primary after members of his own party joined Democrats and turned against him for the strong-armed tactics he used during the legislative session. Governor Bush assured reporters that Bense would not become a Byrd for Senate, Part II, but how can he be so sure? With a statewide candidate heading the Florida House, everyone can pretend that there is no conflict of interest, but Bense will obviously be the elephant in the room. (No pun intended.)

Following a particularly bad session, most notably the Senate and House's inability to pass implementing legislation for slots at parimutuels, a Bense run for Senate would clearly be stumbling out of the gate. (OK - I intended that pun.) The Republican Legislature held its annual train wreck this past May, but this year was worse than year's past. Most bills that were important to the people of Florida were left undone as the two chambers engaged in petty disagreements and unsuccessful horse trading in the state capitol. Bense will not be able to escape the criticism that he was unable to successfully negotiate with other state legislative leaders. Ironically, Bense's nemisis in the past session, Senate President Tom Lee (R-Brandon) has also be encouraged to run against Harris in the GOP senatorial primary.

Regardless of what happens, Democrats should be pleased. In a time when they rarely have much to smile about, Florida Democrats should be encouraged by the type of infighting within the GOP that has plagued their own pary for years. (Is it just me, or is this starting to feel like Reno vs. McBride in 2002?) Still, Senator Nelson is a weak general election candidate, so planning a victory party should not be a high priority right now. Nevertheless, it is rare to see the GOP misstep. Democrats had a good day.

7 Comments:

Anonymous gator78 said...

Democrats should be pushing Bense into the race. Harris will destroy him, and the Republican Party will be divided. Remember that the general election is just 2 months after the primary, and the wounds from the primary won't have time to heal in time. The Reno/McBride reference was a good example.

The part of this blog that jumped out at me is that Bense used to be a Democrat. I could see Harris hitting him on that over and over. As primary voters tend to get more and more partisan, believe it or not but that could hurt. Sure a lot of panhandle voters used to be Dems and would understand, but a lot of panhandle voters are still registered as Ds but just vote Republican. That means Bense can't get those votes.

Regardless of Bense's decision, Harris wins the primary. The GOP just has to decide whether they want a strong Katherine Harris with the whole party behind her or a fractured party behind a weakened Katherine Harris. I know which scenario I like.

12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Message to Bense. In the words of Dubya, "BRING IT ON!"

2:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised that Jeb and the Repugs are airing their dirty laundry like this. Everyone is quick to dismiss the Dems, but maybe we have a chance. With Nelson at the top of the ticket and Davis running for Governor, Dems could surprise people.

8:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out this quote from Senate President Tom Lee that appeared in Friday's St. Pete Times:

"We find ourselves with a surprisingly thin bench of elected officials positioned to take their careers to a statewide level," Lee said.

11:52:00 PM  
Anonymous tdog said...

It's very true. Lee has serious personal skeletons, so he can't run statewide. Bense is good, but running statewide while serving as speaker is going to kill him. If the House Democrats are somewhat competent, they can continue to make everything he does look like a powergrab or strongarming. I don't know if the Dems would know to do that, probably not, but maybe.

11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Swamp Pundette said...

Why is nobody looking at Sec of State Glenda Hood???!!

I think she'd be fantastic if she had better name ID.

3:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glenda Hood can't get elected statewide. She did a poor job in Orlando as mayor - just look at the traffic congestion. No concept of growth management. She just let builders go at it with no real plan.

Then in Tally, she has just been a rubber stamp for Jeb. She doesn't think for herself, just does what she's told. Notice how all those African Americans are still kept off the voter rolls. That's Hood's doing.

Hoods aren't just for the Klan anymore. :)

2:45:00 AM  

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