TALLAHASSEE — William D. Rankin, a 53-year-old Deerfield Beach businessman, U.S. Army veteran and "normal, middle-of-the-road kind of guy," says he is prepared to take on Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and his well-funded re-election effort.
The Democrat said, "I have the qualifications to be the CFO." Those qualifications include his position as the former director of asset management for the Ohio State Treasury, responsible for the accountability of more than $120 billion public trust and public retirement funds.
Rankin was also a U.S. Army special agent for 11 years, specializing in investigations of white-collar crime and government contract fraud. Injured in the service, he was honorably discharged.
A Cincinnati native, the divorced father of two adult children has been living in Florida since 1999 when he became director of Florida's 2000 Census operation. He previously served as an outreach director for the U.S. Congressional 2000 Census Oversight Board, and worked with the state's Haitian and Cuban communities.
A graduate of St. Xavier University with a bachelor's degree in business administration, Rankin started a company in the spring called Aespris Security Services.
He's also the owner of a London-based publishing company called Millionaire Lifestyle Publishing, which produces a "broad-based luxury lifestyle publication."
The grandson of a coal miner and union bricklayer, Rankin said he's not a millionaire himself.
"I'm not a career politician, not a lawyer, not a banker, not a super wealthy guy. I'm running because I have a voice that reflects that of the common Floridian," Rankin said.
This is the second Democrat to enter the race to challenge Atwater. The first, Allie Braswell, quit Aug. 19, four days after declaring, following disclosures that he had repeatedly filed for personal bankruptcy.
Joshua Karp, communications director for the Florida Democratic Party, wouldn't discuss the party's vetting process but in an email statement, said "Democrats will make sure Floridians know that Jeff Atwater's go-along, get-along style of politics is hurting Florida's families, and we support the efforts of every Democrat to hold Atwater accountable."
Atwater has raised $538,241 toward his campaign — $442,270 from in-kind donations — with $343,116 of that amount from July to September.
Of Rankin's candidacy, Atwater campaign spokesman Brian Hughes, said "the CFO is focused on the job people elected him to do. It's more than a year away from Election Day."