Some legislators aren't sure what they're running for, and some are displaying their ignorance of new campaign finance laws _ but they're off and running for re-election.
Re-election campaigns and the need to raise money form the backdrop for much of the action as legislators gather in Tallahassee on Monday for a special session called to deal with all the important issues they failed to resolve during this year's regular session.
Some legislators are already calling it "the session from hell," imagining all that can go wrong back home in their districts while they are gathered in Tallahassee squabbling over a budget that should have been approved months ago.
Redistricting haunts everything. Congressional districts have just been established, but legislative districts remain uncertain.
The uncertainty is visible everywhere, even in fund-raising letters. Take the letter that Rep. Steve Geller, D-Hallandale, recently sent to lobbyists all over the state:
"Depending on where the congressional lines are drawn, Senator Howard Forman may run for Congress. If so, I intend to run for his seat. As a result I need your help now more than ever before."
Geller is among legislators who have scheduled fund-raisers during the early days of the special session. He'll be collecting money at the Adams Street Cafe on Tuesday. Forman, D-Pembroke Pines, has decided to stay in the state Senate and support someone else in the race for Congress.
Rep. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, in letters to lobbyists earlier this month, said he doesn't know where his district will be. "I only know that there will be opponents _ how many, and of what caliber, will, in my opinion, be determined by the campaign war chest I'm currently building. Dollars are the bullets in a political battle and I want to be "well armed' _ early on."
Sen. Bill Bankhead, R-Jacksonville, was in the embarrassing position of having to send out letters correcting his attempts to raise money. In an initial round of letters to lobbyists, Bankhead said that the new campaign finance law limits contributions to $500 from individuals but allows $1,000 from corporations.
"We all make mistakes," Bankhead acknowledged in a follow-up letter indicating that corporate contributions also are limited to $500. "Please ignore my little mistake from the last letter and send in your contribution today."
A few legislators have decided to limit their contributions voluntarily and refrain from taking them during legislative session. Sen. Curt Kiser, R-Palm Harbor, is among the few who have established a $100 limit. Others, including Rep. Everett Kelly, R-Tavares, have set a $250 limit.
Some legislators opened their 1992 campaign accounts within days of the 1990 election and began collecting money almost immediately. Several who began collecting money for one race have decided to enter another.
Redrawing the lines for legislative and congressional districts every 10 years has a domino effect on Florida politics. Some legislators retire rather than face an entirely a new batch of voters. Other see opportunities to move up the ladder and trade in a House seat for the Senate, or shift from the state Legislature to the U.S. Congress.
Some state representatives have indicated interest in state Senate seats being vacated by senators who are retiring or running for Congress. Among the representatives are James Burke, D-Miami, Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, Art Grindle, R-Altamonte Springs, Betty Holzendorf, D-Jacksonville, Darryl Jones, D-Miami, Ron Silver, D-North Miami Beach, C. Fred Jones, D-Auburndale, and Mary Figg, D-Temple Terrace. Some haven't announced because they were awaiting a final decision from federal officials reviewing the way the state drafted its plan.
Legislators who have indicated they're running for Congress include Sens. Karen Thurman, D-Dunnellon, Gwen Margolis, D-North Miami Beach, and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, and Reps. Peter Deutsch, D-Tamarac, Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, Bill Clark, D-Fort Lauderdale, Dick Graham, R-Ormond Beach, Tom Mims, D-Lakeland, Darryl Reaves, D-Miami, Patricia Muscarella, R-Clearwater, Tom Banjanin, R-Pensacola, Dixie Sansom, R-Satellite Beach, and David Thomas, R-Venice.
Some like Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville remain registered at the state Division of Elections in two races. Brown planned to run for the state seat being vacated by Sen. Arnett Girardeau, D-Jacksonville, but has switched to a congressional race.
Only a handful of legislators have announced plans to retire.They include Sens. Girardeau, Jack Gordon, D-Miami, and Quillian Yancey, D-Lakeland; House Speaker T.
K. Wetherell; and Reps. Chance Irvine, R-Orange Park, Jeff Huenink, R-Clearwater, and Walt Young, D-Pembroke Pines.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Winston "Bud" Gardner, D-Titusville, has registered to run for re-election but is seeking a full-time job in Tallahassee. Gardner won't say what his plans are, but most observers think he will not remain in the Legislature.