Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

Wasserman Schultz for governor of Florida

There has been some intriguing chatter in Washington and Florida political circles lately that DNC chairwoman and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is considering running for governor in 2014.

At first blush that sounds nuts. A hyperpartisan liberal from South Florida is not exactly the ideal profile to win statewide office here. But take a step back, and it doesn't sound quite so wacky.

The 45-year-old Broward County Democrat can raise tons of money given her national network. A mother and breast cancer survivor, she also has personal appeal and charm that can transcend her partisan image.

And Gov. Rick Scott, despite vast resources to mount a strong campaign, has an image problem that simply doesn't seem to be going away. If Wasserman Schultz has any interest in the job, 2014 against Scott could be her last best shot.

The bottom line, however, is that Wasserman Schultz seems to have no real interest in the job. Some of her allies view the gubernatorial campaign rumor as an unfriendly one, designed to turn off fellow Democratic House members who might see the DNC chairwoman as more interested in her own lofty ambitions than in their interests.

After all, there is considerable speculation that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi may step down if Democrats fail to re-take the House, and Wasserman Schultz is one of the handful of House Democrats who would be strong contenders to succeed her. Wasserman Schultz's political trajectory looks much more like it's aiming for speaker of the U.S. House than Florida governor.

"The congresswoman is focused on re-electing Barack Obama, regaining the majority in the House, expanding our majority in the Senate, and her own re-election to Congress," said Jonathan Beeton a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz.

"As bad as Rick Scott is for the people of Florida, she has no intention of running for governor."

Ready for Scott

Scratch Wasserman Schultz from the list of Democratic contenders for governor, but add another name: former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jimmy Morales.

The Miami Beach lawyer has been talking to Democrats across the state about the prospect of campaigning and argues that he has what it takes to capitalize on the political playbook for winning a statewide race in Florida.

"We've got to put some new faces out there, and we've got to reach out to new constituencies," said Morales, 50, pointing to the exploding population of Democratic-leaning Puerto Ricans in the Orlando area and the need to excite voters in the Democratic strongholds of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Broward and Miami-Dade saw weak turnout in the past two gubernatorial races, as did areas around Orlando.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," Morales told Buzz. While no decision is expected soon, "I'm leaning very heavily in the direction of making this move."

Morales, a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University and graduate of Harvard Law School, is half Puerto Rican and half Cuban. He's little known outside of Miami-Dade, but was widely seen as a potential lieutenant governor choice for Jim Davis and Bill McBride.

Still, he would be a decided underdog against such well-known potential candidates as Alex Sink or Charlie Crist, and his fundraising ability is unclear.

Morales lost the 2004 Miami-Dade mayoral race to Carlos Alvarez by roughly 10 percentage points.

A former Miami-Dade Democratic chairman, he also looked at running for attorney general and state Democratic Party chairman.

What already seems certain is that Democrats won't be able to avoid another gubernatorial primary for the privilege of taking on Scott.

State Sen. Nan Rich already has announced, and other prospects include state Sen. Jeremy Ring, former state Sen. Dan Gelber, state party chairman Rod Smith, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Sink and Crist.

Obama's Florida team

The Obama campaign has finalized the leadership team for its Florida campaign. Here are the top honchos:

Florida state director Ashley Walker. She oversees the whole operation. Walker has served in senior leadership roles in campaigns including as the 2010 coordinated campaign director and deputy state director for the 2008 Obama Florida campaign.

Senior adviser Marcus Jadotte. Another veteran of Florida politics, Jadotte was deputy campaign manager for John Kerry in 2004 and served as chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch.

Senior adviser Jackie Lee. She led the successful Fair Districts Florida campaign in 2010, was general election director for Obama's 2008 Florida campaign, and used to be field director for the state Democratic Party.

Senior adviser Steve Schale. He led Obama's 2008 Florida campaign, and oversaw state Democratic House races in 2006.

Florida general election director Nick Buis. Having managed congressional and mayoral campaigns, as well as being the Organizing for America-Indiana state director, Buis oversees the grass roots efforts.

Florida political director Reggie Cardozo. Having moved from Puerto Rico to Broward County as a child, he has worked on myriad campaigns and served as political coordinator for the state Democratic Party.

Political Connections

Democrat Keith Fitzgerald, the former state legislator and college professor now vying to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in the Sarasota area, said he would support extending the Bush-era tax cuts for Americans earning up to $1 million.

Check out that and other tidbits in his appearance today on Political Connections on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Joni James contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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