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Democrats play high-stakes chicken

Top Florida Democrats are increasingly worried about destroying their chances to win the attorney general's seat because of a looming battle between three of their top statewide prospects.

State Sens. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres, Dan Gelber of Miami Beach and former gubernatorial candidate Rod Smith of Alachua are poised to file for the attorney general seat about to open up when Republican Bill McCollum announces for governor Monday. By most accounts, a three-way primary ensures only that a nominee will eventually emerge bruised and broke for the general election.

What's more, if three of the top members of the Florida Democrats' bench run, they stand to be eliminated as running mate contenders for gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, who is likely to pick her lieutenant governor before the primary.

"You can't expect that you're going to enter in without any competition in the primary," former state Sen. Smith said. "But given what I expect will be a difficult year for down-ticket fundraising, I wish there was a way something could be worked out so that wouldn't happen."

With none of them blinking so far in this political game of chicken, it's not clear there is a way to avoid that.

But Florida's senior Democrat, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, last week organized a conference call between the three would-be candidates, urging them to take a breath and wait at least until this week before filing.

"There's hope that we can work it out. We're still talking, and all three of us are friends. None of us want an Armageddon situation. The only thing a brutal Democratic primary creates is a Republican attorney general," said Aronberg, dismissing talk of him running instead for chief financial officer.

Gelber has already filed to run for the Senate, but says he is "not shutting any doors" about jumping to the attorney general race.

Rubio cold shoulder?

Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio is trying to take in stride efforts by state GOP chairman Jim Greer to strong-arm him out of the primary. Greer is trying — and so far only succeeding to create a grass roots backlash — to throw the state and national party's full resources behind Charlie Crist, shutting out Rubio by invoking an arcane party rule usually aimed at wacko fringe candidates.

"I think I'm a Republican," Rubio quipped. "I've been serving this party as a volunteer since 1991, almost my entire adult life. … I'd like for them to give me a shot, but if he doesn't, that's fine. At the end of the day, we don't spend a lot of time thinking about it."

Busy season ahead

Check out Political Connections on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., where Republican consultant Adam Goodman assesses the lay of the land as we begin one of the busiest election cycles in modern history.

Meek rally

Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek will be in St. Petersburg today for a rally, kicking off his drive to qualify for the ballot by gathering more than 112,00 petition signatures. The noon event is at Straub Park, at Second Ave NE and Beach Drive.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com.

Winner

of the week

Bill McCollum. The all-but-announced Republican candidate for governor lost two statewide elections until he won his attorney general spot running against a Democratic nominee who had proposed requiring adoptive mothers to publicize all their sexual partners. But despite considerable GOP anxiety about McCollum's electability, it looks like he will become the GOP nominee for governor without a serious primary challenge. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker took himself out of contention, and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson is expected to do the same.

Loser

of the week

State Republican chairman Jim Greer. A bully or just a bonehead? Greer created a storm of grass roots outrage when he tried to cut off Republican Senate candidate and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio from any party support. For a guy backing an overwhelmingly popular Republican for governor, Greer sure is acting scared of Rubio.

Democrats play high-stakes chicken 05/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 16, 2009 10:46pm]
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