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Florida Democrats' chairwoman Thurman likely to face a challenge

Karen Thurman is probably still smiling over Barack Obama’s win in Florida, but state races didn’t go so well.

Associated Press (2007)

Karen Thurman is probably still smiling over Barack Obama’s win in Florida, but state races didn’t go so well.

Is state Democratic chairwoman Karen Thurman in danger of losing her post when the party holds state party elections next month? Probably not — she has long enjoyed the support of Sen. Bill Nelson — but she's not especially cozy with Barack Obama's most influential supporters in Florida, so anything could happen.

Miami-Dade Democratic chairman Bret Berlin, 39, is among her more likely challengers: "I think there was an overwhelming call throughout the state for change (on Nov. 4), and I think change has to be at every level. We have a mandate and an opportunity to restructure ourselves and start to incorporate the new spirit of activism and the new technology," said Berlin, a 39-year-old caterer.

He said he hasn't made a final decision yet, but took an extra dig at Thurman, who had done side work with former state GOP chairman Al Cardenas lobbying for Miami-Dade.

"If I choose to run for state chair I can assure you I'll be full-time chair, and I won't be a lobbyist for a Republican firm on the side," Berlin said.

Other potential names floating around include South Florida fundraiser Alex Heckler (possible, but not likely, he said); and former Clinton administration senior adviser Alvin Brown of Jacksonville.

Delay the election?

There's a fair amount of Buzz out there from prominent Democrats who think it would make more sense to wait a couple of months to elect state party leaders. The idea would be to hold off and see how the new Obama White House and Democratic National Committee want to structure their political operations in ways that might integrate state parties more.

"I do think it is coming up faster than is optimal. I'd like to hear what the new DNC chair and the Obama White House has to say on this, but they have much more pressing matters than who the new chair of the Florida Democratic Party is," said Kirk Wagar, Florida finance chairman for the Obama campaign.

State party officials, however, say an extended delay could leave Florida with no representation when the Democratic National Committee meets in January. Miami resident Andy Tobias could lose his spot as finance chairman, and top Obama fundraiser Allan Katz of Tallahassee could lose a shot at vice chairman.

Is Wagar interested in seeing new blood at the helm of the state party? "I haven't heard any new names out there that blow my skirt up," said the Miami lawyer, who we hope was speaking figuratively.

Martinez in danger

With most observers at this point seeing Gov. Charlie Crist as safe for re-election, the marquee race in 2010 could be Sen. Mel Martinez’s re-election. The Republican incumbent dismisses widespread Buzz in his own party that he may not seek a second term, but the nonpartisan Cook Political Report already classifies that race as a tossup.

Check out Castor on TV today

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, is among those touting state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink for the Senate in 2010. Check out Castor, who co-chaired the Obama campaign in Florida, on Political Connections on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Jennifer Liberto contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner of the week

Kurt Browning: Florida's secretary of state, the widely respected face of the state's election system, is our winner for overseeing an election that, at long last, went smoothly. They're still counting votes in Alaska and Minnesota, so maybe it's time to retire the Flori-duh image and let another state be the election laughingstock.

Loser of the week

Gov. Charlie Crist: There was a time when we would have expected Crist to dominate an event like a Republican Governors Association meeting held in his state and drawing an army of national reporters. But Crist wound up overshadowed not only by Sarah Palin but also by fellow 2012 presidential prospects like Govs. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Haley Barbour of Mississippi. Crist did not speak until after many reporters already had left. And even John McCain, appearing on the Tonight Show last week and talking about future GOP leaders, left Crist off his list, which included Palin, Pawlenty and Jindal.

Florida Democrats' chairwoman Thurman likely to face a challenge 11/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 17, 2008 2:18pm]

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