Who are the most influential Democrats in Fla?
We recently put an intriguing question to participants of the Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll, entirely uncertain whether a consensus would emerge: Who are the three most influential Democrats in Florida?
Given the overwhelming GOP dominance of state government — the governor's office, all three Cabinet posts and supermajorities in both legislative chambers — it sometimes seems questionable whether any influential Democrats are left in Florida. Indeed, plenty of our 113 bipartisan Insider respondents (mostly lobbyists, political professionals, fundraisers and political scientists) said they were stumped, or caustically named moderate Republican legislators who don't always toe the line of legislative leaders.
Still, a list emerged, including elected officials, top fundraisers and campaign consultants:
1. Sen. Bill Nelson — 38 votes. The two-term senator, 69, is an obvious choice as Florida's only statewide elected Democrat. (A few insiders also suggested Nelson's savvy chief of staff, Pete Mitchell.)
2. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — 36 votes. As chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, the South Florida congresswoman, 45, is another obvious choice. People might debate whether she's too liberal for a statewide campaign someday, but her focus appears to be on Washington anyway. Note that the top two picks are federal officials.
3. Rod Smith — 22 votes. The former prosecutor, state senator and gubernatorial candidate, 62, now chairs the Florida Democratic Party. Another statewide campaign is plausible.
4. Bob Graham — 21 votes. The former governor and senator, 75, remains a revered elder statesman and stays engaged in state political and policy matters.
5. Charlie Crist — 16 votes. Nope, the former Republican governor and unsuccessful independent Senate candidate, 55, isn't a registered Democrat. But in much of Florida his face and name are still prevalent on those Morgan & Morgan legal ads, and speculation is widespread that he could challenge Gov. Rick Scott as a Democrat in 2014.