No Florida Chamber endorsement for David Singer? That’s not what he heard on his voicemail
It’s been a weird week in the race for House District 60 for Democrat David Singer and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
It started Monday night.
Singer got a voicemail on his cell phone at 8:28 p.m. from Florida chamber senior vice president of political strategy Marian Johnson saying, “I wanted to let you know that we got the endorsement for you and, um, I'll be talking to you in the next couple of days and, and letting you know what's going on. Talk to you later and congratulations.”
On Tuesday, in response to an inquiry from the Tampa Bay Times, Singer told a reporter he had learned he would be getting the Florida Chamber’s endorsement in his race against Republican Jackie Toledo. He welcomed it as a sign of recognition that he was moderate and pro-business enough to work across the aisle in Tallahassee. The Times reported his comments on its Bay Buzz blog about local politics.
On Wednesday, the chamber called the Times to say, no, it wasn't taking a side in that race.
"We have not and will not be taking a position on House District 60," chamber spokeswoman Edie Ousley said. "We will be remaining neutral in that race."
Ousley said she believed Singer had misunderstood what the chamber's decision was, but she said he had heard from someone on the chamber's staff Wednesday and was aware that it was not going to issue an endorsement in his race. She did not go into the reasons why. (In the GOP primary, the chamber endorsed Toledo's opponent, Tampa construction company owner Rebecca Smith.)
After the chamber weighed in, Singer said the voicemail was a clear indication of a planned endorsement. He provided a transcript of the message, and he played it for a Times reporter. He believes the news item about the endorsement provoked a political backlash that led the chamber to change its decision.
"It appears partisan politics in Tallahassee are clearly overriding local Tampa concerns, but I'm not surprised by it, either,” he said in an email late Wednesday afternoon. “I got into this race to help change the divisive culture in Tallahassee, and this situation underscores how dire things have become. No matter, as a small business owner myself, this will not deter my commitment to help create jobs and move our economy forward."
No, it was a simple mistake, and an innocent one, Johnson said in an email to the Times Wednesday evening.
“I’ve been doing this for 50 years, and I’m capable of making mistakes,” she said. “It was late and I was tired and I misspoke. This particular race had not gone through our standard endorsement process, and we do not intend to make an endorsement in this race.”
Also on Wednesday, the Greater Tampa Realtors confirmed it does plan to endorse Singer — something he also had mentioned on Tuesday — in House District 60, probably sometime in the next week.
Meanwhile, Toledo on Wednesday released a long list of her own endorsements, which include the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association, Tampa Police Benevolent Association, Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Medical Association and the National Rifle Association, plus the backing of various elected Republicans: state senators Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala; House Speaker-Designate Richard Corcoran; representatives Chris Sprowls, Danny Burgess, Chris Latvala, James Grant, Kathleen Peters and Dan Raulerson; Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White; Hillsborough County School Board members Melissa Snively and Sally Harris and former House Speaker Will Weatherford.
House District 60 covers the South Tampa peninsula, plus Dana Shores, Pelican Island, Baycrest Park, Bay Port Colony, Tampa Shores, Davis Islands, Harbour Island, Palmetto Beach, Palm River-Clair Mel, Apollo Beach and parts of Ruskin west of U.S. 41. Singer and Toledo are running to succeed House Majority Leader Dana Young, who is leaving the seat after three terms to run in the newly created state Senate District 18.