Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Romano: Guess what? We finally have an election that matters

These are frisky days for voters in Florida.

We have, for a change, something known as "choices.'' These would be actual situations involving multiple candidates running for the same legislative seat in the state Capitol.

Apparently, this is commonplace in many states.

Around here, it borders on folklore.

Just consider the last time we had a chance to vote for state legislators. Of the 140 seats up for grabs in 2014, there were 124 incumbents in the field. And since incumbents win about 95 percent of state races, that meant your ballot could not have had less impact if you had used darts.

That's why this election — early voting started in some places on Monday, and mail-in ballots went out weeks ago — has the potential to actually make a difference.

Constitutional amendments on term limits and redistricting (with an assist from a 2015 court ruling) have changed the political landscape. I wouldn't call it wide open, but there are cracks.

This time around, incumbents are involved in about 55 percent of the Senate races and 64 percent of the House. Compare that with almost 89 percent in that last election.

So does that mean the usual power brokers have closed their PACs and gone home?

Not exactly. There are still an awful lot of familiar faces around. Of the 43 House incumbents not running for re-election, more than half are either shooting for a state Senate seat or the U.S. Congress.

And it is true that more than one-quarter of our lawmakers were automatically elected because they were unopposed in both the current primary season and the upcoming general election.

But those are complaints for another day. The point is votes are going to matter in this election. It may not lead to dramatic change, but the influence will be greater than what we normally see.

"Any time you have open seats it increases the likelihood of greater variations or flux in the usual voting patterns,'' said Darryl Paulson, emeritus professor of government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. "But arguing against that, these are still districts that are pretty well dominated by one party or the other. So you may end up with a different face in Tallahassee, but will you really have much of a change if they're replacing somebody from the same party?''

Right here in the Tampa Bay area, there are a half-dozen legislative seats that are, more or less, up for grabs. (And a few more that are foregone conclusions.)

A redistricting domino effect led Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, to step down, and provided an opening between Republican Dana Young and Democrat Bob Buesing in District 18 in November.

Term limits forced out Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and have led to a primary battle between Democrats Ed Narain, Betty Reed, Augie Ribeiro and Darryl Rouson.

Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, is running for a judge's seat, leaving a primary battle in District 68 between Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn. Three other House seats in Tampa and St. Pete (those vacated by Narain, Rouson and Young) also have the potential to be interesting.

Will any of these races make a difference in Tallahassee?

Probably not. And certainly not in the short term.

But it's rare we get the chance to have any effect in the Legislature, and it would be a shame to let this moment slip away.

Romano: Guess what? We finally have an election that matters 08/15/16 [Last modified: Monday, August 15, 2016 8:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system

    Testing

    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  2. More charges for Tampa Bay area woman accused of getting pregnant by 11-year-old boy

    Crime

    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks

    Business

    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  4. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery

    Ml

    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]
  5. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times