Future Financial Services Commission Picture Taking Shape
With the primary races now behind us, the potential makeup of the Financial Services Commission for next year has become a little clearer. However, early guesses suggest that some of the general elections will be close and polls have had a tendency to shift this fall, so Floridians will continue to watch these races closely over the next couple of months.
The Financial Services Commission in Florida consists of the Governor, the Chief Financial Officer, the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Agriculture. This collegial body has authority to hire and retain the commissioners of insurance regulation and financial regulation and also is responsible for insurance-related rulemaking. Of the four current Financial Services Commission members, only Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink remains in contention for a future position on the commission. She is the Democrat nominee in the Governor’s race. (Governor Charlie Crist is looking for a U.S. Senate seat, Attorney General Bill McCollum lost a primary bid in the Republican race for Governor, and Commissioner of Agirculture Charles Bronson is term-limited).
CFO Sink will face political newcomer Rick Scott, who secured the Republican nomination in a tough primary race against Attorney General Bill McCollum. Scott was able to rely on his personal resources to fund a formidable campaign, going from an unknown in political circles to the Republican choice as a pro business, smaller government candidate. Polls released before the primaries suggested that CFO Sink holds a small lead over Scott– but of course, some polls had Scott falling in the primary. In any year, and especially in this year, there are enough undecided voters to sway the final numbers, and the dynamics change when hypothetical matchups become real ones.
The race to replace Alex Sink as Chief Financial Officer is between Republican Jeff Atwater and Democrat Loranne Ausley. Atwater is coming to end of his tenure as president of the Florida Senate, while Ausley is a former state representative. Both candidates are running statewide for the first time.
The races to succeed Bill McCollum as Attorney General were thought to be wide open in the primaries. Tampa-area prosecutor Pam Bondi won the Republican nomination over Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp and Holly Benson. In a matchup of popular Democrats, Dan Gelber won over Dave Aronberg. Bondi and Gelber now square off in the first statewide campaign for each of them.
For Commissioner of Agriculture, former U.S. Representative Adam Putnam is the Republican candidate and will face former Tallahassee mayor Scott Maddox.
At least three members of the Financial Services Commission will change next year, and no current officeholder will return in his or her current capacity. This promises to change the landscape in Florida not just at the broad Cabinet level, but also in the regulatory oversight functions currently reserved to the Financial Services Commission. It will be an interesting couple of months…