Political ploy? No, just plain politics

Fear not, citizens.

You can rest assured that your upcoming elections are moving along free of manipulation, maneuvering or any sort of shenanigan-making.

Oh, there is that bit of silliness involving a shoo-in Republican incumbent abruptly leaving his race, the timing of which gives his party the advantage of handpicking his replacement instead of opening the field.

Said replacement being, let's just say, not exactly someone who's been around the block.

Maybe not even out to the mailbox.

But "potential party puppet" is such an ugly expression, don't you think?

The story goes like this: State Rep. Trey Traviesa, he of headline-making antiabortion causes like his attempt to force a woman to get an ultrasound beforehand, looked to be headed for re-election to a job pretty much his to lose.

Not that there seemed to be much chance of that — him losing — given the no-name guy over on the Democrat side of the ballot.

But last week, Traviesa, whose more-Republican-than-Democrat district stretches east from South Tampa to take in parts of Riverview, Seffner and Brandon, dropped his bombshell.

He was out.

Traviesa mentioned business and family and how politics "just doesn't fit right now," though it seemed to fit just fine when he signed up to run and didn't seem to chafe him when he told a Times reporter that his re-election seemed certain only a week before he quit.

But how fortuitous for the Republican Party that he saw the light when he did!

Had Traviesa stepped down before the June qualifying deadline, why, the race might have been a wide-open free-for-all into which practically anyone could have jumped — all the more attractive without him in it.

How positively ... democratic that would have been!

Instead, according to the rules, an itty-bitty committee of three — well, it was supposed to be three, but darn it, one guy was out of town — got to pick Traviesa's replacement on the ballot.

Among the hopefuls: a former state representative who served eight years before being term-limited out, and a political consultant.

So naturally, they picked Traviesa's own 26-year-old legislative aide, a former White House intern who lives with her parents. (Hey, maybe she can use that for a family values platform.)

Might someone like that be more, say, malleable, than a candidate with tenure and backbone and maybe even the sense to look beyond party dogma on important issues?

As for the Democrats, a fellow named Lewis "Lou" Laricchia, whose campaign seems to center on his beef with homeowners associations, is their guy. Apparently he is their guy whether they like it or not.

This didn't matter so much when Traviesa looked to have the election sewn up. Now? You can bet Democrats would sure like the chance to get a real contender in there. There was even some huffing and puffing about challenging Laricchia's status as a Democrat so they could form one of those fun little committees of their own. For now, looks like he's in.

If all this leaves a sour taste in your mouth, worry not, citizens.

It's just some unusual politics that looks a lot like politics as usual.

Political ploy? No, just plain politics 08/21/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 23, 2008 1:09pm]

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