TALLAHASSEE — Saying the Republican Party has left her and is now owned by ideologues, former GOP state Sen. Nancy Argenziano says she will run for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat.
Argenziano will seek the District 2 seat in North Florida now held by freshman Republican Steve Southerland, who unseated longtime Democrat Allen Boyd in November 2010.
In a prepared statement Monday, Argenziano likened herself to a Ronald Reagan Republican.
"The current iteration of the party abandoned real Republican principles long ago to cater to ideologues and corporations — the Koch entities, most notably — whose interests lie in the profiteering of America and the sacking of the middle class," Argenziano, 56, wrote in a letter announcing her candidacy. "Current Republican leaders have neither patience with nor allowance for honest elected officials, and they demand that members of the various legislatures — who, after all, have sworn to uphold the Constitution — instead just follow the hijacked party line and shut up."
Argenziano will switch her party affiliation to Democrat but for now is a registered independent. She said she made that switch in the spring shortly after the Legislature passed an elections overhaul bill later signed by Gov. Rick Scott that prohibits candidates from running as a candidate for a party if they have been a member of any other party within a year of the start of an election's qualifying period.
For the 2012 election, that was June 4, 2011.
Previously candidates could switch parties six months before a general election, like then-Gov. Charlie Crist did in 2010. Had the new law been in place, Crist would not have been able to drop out of the Republican Party that late and run as an independent for the U.S. Senate.
Argenziano called it "ridiculous legislation done for partisan politics," and cited it as one reason she is rejecting the Republican Party.
She said she believes the provision is unconstitutional, but said she met the deadline for dropping her GOP registration.
"I think being an independent safeguards me," she said. "And if they push it, I'll push back."
Argenziano, who lives in Tallahassee but has a house in Crystal River, plans to file for the race by Aug. 10.
Long a vocal critic of the Republican Party, Argenziano earned a reputation as a state lawmaker for her salty language and as a consumer advocate and defender of nursing home patients. She left the Legislature in 2007 when Crist appointed her to the Public Service Commission. She left the PSC in October 2010 to help Democrat Alex Sink with her failed run for governor.