Changes at the Top: 2010 Elections Will Shape Florida Government
With the holidays behind us and the 2010 legislative session fast approaching, considerable attention will turn to the many political races that promise to shape Florida’s future. Many candidates used early starts in 2009 to raise money and put together the campaign infrastructures they will need to carry themselves to the primaries and general election later this year. However, despite these early efforts, the real action is only about to begin. The following summarizes some of the key races and the major candidates that are vying to shape the future of Florida and our nation.
U.S. Senate– The early departure of Senator Mel Martinez allowed Governor Charlie Crist to appoint his former Chief of Staff George Lemieux to the position. At that time, Crist had already announced that he is running for that U.S. Senate seat, but he faces a primary challenge from former state Speaker of the House Marco Rubio. As in many races around the state, and even around the country, this primary battle is generating significant interest as the candidates try to appeal to the proverbial “heart and soul” of the Republican Party. The victor in this primary is expected to face Democrat Kendrick Meek.
Governor– With Crist opting to run for U.S. Senate instead of re-election, current Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) and current Attorney General Bill McCollum (R) quickly announced they likewise would forego re-election to seek the Governor’s seat. More recently, state Senator Paula Dockery (R) announced that she will challenge McCollum for the Republican nomination. McCollum has the advantage of currently holding statewide office and previously having run successful campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives. Although Dockery has not previously run such large-scale campaigns, she cites her conservative credentials and grassroots support and strengths that will energize her campaign. She is well known for her opposition to costly commuter rail initiatives in recent legislative sessions, including the special legislative session in late 2009.
Chief Financial Officer– Sink’s bid to replace Governor Crist opens the Chief Financial Officer position, and Senate President Jeff Atwater (R) quickly announced his decision to run. Atwater is the early favorite and is an experienced campaigner, although state representative Pat Patterson (R) also intends to run. No prominent Democrat has yet jumped into the race.
Attorney General– With McCollum hoping to follow Crist as Governor, the Attorney General’s seat also will be open. Two popular Democratic Senators– Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg, are battling for their party’s nomination. On the Republican side, current Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp is running and recently attracted a primary opponent in Holly Benson. First coming to Tallahassee as a state representative, Benson has subsequently been the head of two governmental agencies in the Crist administration.
Commissioner of Agriculture– The Florida Cabinet includes the Commissioner of Agriculture, which means that the Commissioner of Agriculture also serves as a member of the Financial Services Commission that oversees many insurance issues. U.S. Representative Adam Putnam will seek the Republican nomination and faces opposition from state Senator Carey Baker. Scott Maddox, former mayor of Tallahassee and head of the state Democratic party, will face the winner of the Republican primary. Maddox has run previous statewide campaigns for Governor and Attorney General.
The political dominoes have fallen in a way that will ensure that at least three of the four members of the Financial Services Commission will change from the current commission. At most, only one member of the current Financial Services Commission– either Bill McCollum or Alex Sink, will remain on the Commission depending on the outcome of the Governor’s race. Also, it is not too late for new candidates to jump into the races if they see an opportunity. In any event, the upcoming year will be an exciting one for political observers in Florida.