It’s a tricky thing, launching a major political campaign when you’re supposed to be focused on pulling your state out of economic collapse.
So when Republican Senate President Jeff Atwater formally announced his candidacy for state chief financial officer Tuesday, he used the approach of choice in this election cycle: a low-key e-mail statement.
“I will use the power of the chief financial officer to protect taxpayers from fraud, waste and abuse, whether it comes from Wall Street, fly-by-night finance companies, big insurance or corruption in government,” the 51-year-old banker from North Palm Beach said. “I will reform the way government works by making it more transparent, more effective and more accountable to the people of Florida.”
Understated is the style of choice for state leaders kicking off campaigns at a time when state programs are getting slashed and foreclosures and job cuts are rampant. Virtually every top elected official in Florida is either considering, or already has committed to, running for another office in 2010.
Gov. Charlie Crist announced for U.S. Senate by e-mail, as Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink did for governor. Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum held a rally announcing his campaign for governor Monday, but that was just a small hotel meeting room filled with elected officials and party officials.
Atwater is the first major candidate to announce for the Cabinet office being vacated by Sink, and he is not expected to face a significant challenge in the GOP primary. No Democrat has emerged yet for CFO, but Miami businesswoman and former congressional candidate Annette Taddeo said she is interested, and many Democrats are talking up Miami Mayor Manny Diaz for the post.
The great-grandson of turn-of-the-20th-century Republican Gov. Napoleon Broward, Atwater has been seen as a rising Republican star since he beat Democratic icon Bob Butterworth in a state Senate race in 2002. He rose to become Senate president in 2008, presiding over a chamber that this year blunted some of the House’s more controversial proposals on issues ranging from budget cuts to offshore drilling.
Atwater promised to fight for frugal government and to expand antifraud efforts.