Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

With weak, or no, candidates, Democratic may face painful defeat

For two decades, it's been almost like a ritual after the votes are tallied in nonpresidential elections: Wounded activists and leaders wring their hands and bemoan how the Florida Democratic Party has sunk to its weakest position ever.

Well, forgive us for alarming you Florida Democrats, but if you think 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 were painful election cycles, consider how excruciating 2014 might be.

As things stand, Florida Democrats are pretty much betting the house on former life-long, self-described pro-gun, pro-life, Ronald Reagan Republican Charlie Crist winning back the Governor's Mansion. Imagine the Wednesday morning quarterbacking if Gov. Rick Scott beats Crist and wins a second term. His chances are roughly 50/50.

Meanwhile, it's hard to find any plugged-in Democrat suggesting they have a shot at winning a Cabinet office. Two credible candidates, George Sheldon and Perry Thurston, are spending their scarce resources in a primary to take on lavishly funded Attorney General Pam Bondi, while no serious Democrat has emerged to challenge Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam or Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

It's not that Florida Democrats lack a bench of strong statewide candidates. In 2014, they don't even have a stool.

Another hasty exit

Less than a week, after the Crist campaign announced that former Barack Obama campaign staffer Eric Conrad would be its communications director, Conrad left the campaign "to pursue other opportunities," said Tallahassee-based consultant Kevin Cate.

This is the same campaign that earlier this year started introducing donors to its new campaign manager, Bill Hyers, who also disappeared hastily.

Latvala praises Scott

State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is arguably the leading moderate Republican in Tallahassee, and at first blush, not the most likely candidate to be a top legislative ally of Gov. Rick Scott. But the maverick Pinellas legislator who never hesitated to butt heads with Gov. Jeb Bush has emerged as one of Scott's most vocal cheerleaders.

"He's done a lot for Pinellas County," said Latvala, also heaping praise on Scott's controversial chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth, in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9.

The praise appears genuine, but it also happens to be a wise approach as veto season approaches.

"The governor has listened to me on some issues. He's moderating his position on some issues and frankly that's what government and politics are all about," Latvala said on the show airing at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. "People want to elect outsiders to government jobs, but they need to understand if you do that, there needs to be some on-the-job training. I think he's gotten that, and I think every day he's a better governor."

Important invitation

A lesbian couple from South Florida has been invited to attend the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday with their son. Melanie and Vanessa Alenier are among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Florida's ban on gay marriage.

"Melanie and I have worked so hard to build and protect our family, but nothing can come close to matching the protections that marriage provides," Vanessa Alenier said in a statement distributed by Equality Florida. "Our family is in need of those protections just like other families. We want our son to understand that his family is secure and just as respected as any other family part of our community here in Florida."

Illegal donations

A hotel magnate with ties to Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton pleaded guilty Thursday to funneling illegal donations to three candidates, including Kendrick Meek, the former Florida congressman who ran for Senate in 2010.

Sant Singh Chatwal admitted using straw donors to move $180,000 to the candidates (the others have been identified as Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut). Chatwal then reimbursed the donors.

A Justice Department news release said: "The evidence against Chatwal includes an October 2010 recorded conversation between Chatwal and a business associate who became an informant, in which Chatwal underscored his view as to the importance of political campaign contributions, stating that without campaign contributions, 'nobody will even talk to you. … That's the only way to buy them, get into the system. … What, what else is there? That's the only thing.' "

It also said there is "no allegation that the candidates participated in, or were aware of, Chatwal's scheme."

Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.

Winner of the week

Patrick Murphy. After narrowly defeating outspoken Republican Allen West two years ago in a Palm Beach-area district, U.S. Rep. Murphy looked mighty vulnerable — especially in the climate that appears to favor the GOP. But the Rothenberg Political Report last week shifted its rating to "leans Democrat" based on Murphy's formidable money-raising.

Loser of the week

Children of undocumented immigrants. Despite support from Govs. Rick Scott, Jeb Bush, Bob Martinez and House Speaker Will Weatherford, a bill that would have made Florida students, regardless of background, eligible for in-state college tuition, looks all but dead after Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron decided not to consider it.

With weak, or no, candidates, Democratic may face painful defeat 04/19/14 [Last modified: Saturday, April 19, 2014 9:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What you need to know about Clearwater's $55 million waterfront plan


    CLEARWATER — It's the most aggressive revitalization investment the city has proposed in years and somewhat of a Hail Mary strategy to give visitors a daily reason to come downtown. The $55 million Imagine Clearwater plan unveiled in February calls for reshaping Coachman Park and the waterfront to have more …

    Renderings of the city's $55 million Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment plan show the goal for the redeveloped waterfront. Much of the plan hinges on voters passing a Nov. 7 referendum question, which would allow for development on the Bluff.

  2. Philanthropist Helen DeVos, wife of Orlando Magic owner and mother of Betsy, dies at 90


    GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Helen J. DeVos, a philanthropist from western Michigan known for her support of children's health, Christian education and the arts, has died at age 90, her family said Thursday.

    Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos, left, waves to fans while watching court side with his wife, Helen, during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls in Orlando. The family of Helen DeVos said the philanthropist from western Michigan known for her support of children's health, Christian education and the arts has died. She was 90. Her family said she died Wednesday, Oct. 18, of complications from a stroke following a recent diagnosis of myeloid leukemia. [Associated Press]
  3. Authorities: A man named 'Cabbage' sold soap, not cocaine, to undercover detective

    Public Safety


    Authorities: A man named 'Cabbage' sold soap, not cocaine, to undercover detective

  4. Former Jabil executive again found guilty in 2008 double-murder


    Patrick Evans, the former Jabil executive charged with the deaths of his wife and her friend, was found guilty by a jury Wednesday night.

    Patrick Evans talks with Allison Miller, one of his three public defenders, before jury selection continues in his trial Wednesday 10/11/2017. Patrick Evans, a former Jabil executive charged with killing his estranged wife and her friend almost ten years ago, was back in court for a second trial after his original death sentence conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.
  5. Hooper: After living through them, she pulls people out of credit woes


    Atlanta, a place known for rising from the ashes of the Civil War to become an international city, proved to be a perfect backdrop for Artricia James-Heard's own rise from what she calls "a very vulnerable time in her life."

    Artricia James-Heard