1. Opinion

Ruth: Democratic chances bankrupt in more ways than one

Published Aug. 22, 2013

This probably falls rather neatly under the category of: "What were you thinking?" Obviously not very much.

Did it not occur to Democrat Allie Braswell that if he threw his hat into the ring to challenge Republican incumbent Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater next year that having declared bankruptcy three times might just disqualify him in the eyes of voters from overseeing a $70 billion state budget?

Did the Oviedo Central Florida Urban League CEO never consider someone would look into his past?

In the end, Braswell hung in the ring for less time than Sonny Liston did against Muhammad Ali in their nanosecond 1965 rematch.

This would have been akin to a disbarred lawyer running for attorney general, or an agriculture commissioner candidate found to be using indentured servants on the family farm.

Voters sort of expect someone seeking an office dealing with the state's fiscal affairs to have their own financial house in order.

It also didn't say very much good about the savvy skills of the Democrats in vetting potential candidates when party chairwoman Allison Tant swooned that Braswell was "exactly the kind of leader we need in Tallahassee." In the immortal words of that brilliant political philosopher Texas Gov. Rick Perry, "Oooops."

Allie Braswell is probably a very fine man, who might well be an able candidate to run for another elected office that doesn't involve getting anywhere near a checkbook. But his quick entry and exit from the CFO race speaks to two problems candidates in general — and Democrats in particular — face as 2014 looms.

First, it is sometimes easy to forget just how big Florida is, both in terms of land mass and a growing, diverse population. Running from Panama City to Key West is a daunting, demanding and exhausting full-time exercise.

And that means it is virtually impossible — unless you are Rick Scott willing to spend $70 million of your own money to buy the Governor's Mansion — for a first-time candidate with far less money and less name recognition than Yeehaw Junction's dog catcher to gain much traction in the heart and soul of the body politic.

There are perfectly plausible reasons to run against an entrenched incumbent even if you have less chance of winning than the Academy of the Holy Names does against the New England Patriots. Veteran state legislator Charlie Crist ran an ill-fated 1998 race against Sen. Bob Graham, knowing he was going to his voting-booth doom.

But the campaign afforded Crist, then a Republican, the opportunity to boost his profile statewide, which enabled him to get elected education commissioner in 2000, attorney general in 2002 and governor in 2006. As for the future, we'll see.

But that wasn't the case here. This looks more like a telling commentary on a Democratic Party with the bench strength of the Afghanistan air force.

At the moment, Tant and the rest of the Democratic brain trust are left with the prospect of recruiting Occupant, To Whom It May Concern and Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe to replace the fleeting Camelot that was the Braswell campaign.

Elsewhere on the Democrat roster of titans, Thaddeus Hamilton has filed to run against Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. As an independent four years ago, Hamilton rallied to capture 2 percent of the vote against Putnam. That wasn't a campaign. It was vespers.

Attorney General Pam Bondi might face a challenge from George Sheldon, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and a former assistant Florida attorney general under Bob Butterworth. Although an extremely able public servant, Sheldon has run twice unsuccessfully for statewide office. Good man. Good luck trying to supplant someone who has spent more time schmoozing on Fox News than burning the midnight oil over legal briefs.

That's not to say there aren't any number of credible Democratic candidates across the Florida hustings. It's simply that there seem to be precious few who are willing to spend the next year and a half running around the state on what is likely to be a fool's errand to succeed well-funded and well-known GOP incumbents.

They have likely figured it's better to wait until 2018, when there will be all manner of open seats. It also gives Allison Tant time to actually read some resumes.


  1.  Bill Day --
  2. Jomari DeLeon, is pictured at at Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida August 7, 2019. Jomari is three years into a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. She sold 48 tablets of prescription tablets over two days to an undercover officer. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    Even Oklahoma, a state not famous for progressive reform, has done more than Florida to fix sentencing inequities, Carl Hiaasen writes.
  3. In this photo from June 28, 2019, a Coalition for Life St. Louis member waves to a Planned Parenthood staff member. ROBERT COHEN  |  AP
    Florida law already requires that parents be notified prior to an abortion, writes senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida.
  4. Students say the Pledge of Allegiance as thousands gather at a candlelight vigil for several students killed in the Saugus High School shooting in Central Park, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. CAROLYN COLE  |  AP
    We doctors treat diseases, but what of the epidemic of gun violence, writes a St. Petersburg doctor.
  5. Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association members protest outside of the school board building in Tampa in December 2017. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s letters to the editor.
  6. Muhammad Abdur-Rahim points out the location of what is believed to be a former African-American cemetery next to the parking lot of Frank Crum Staffing located at 100 S. Missouri Ave. in Clearwater.  The empty lot is part of the former Clearwater Heights neighborhood which featured Bethany CME church and Williams Elementary School.   Photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.  JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
    Tampa Bay’s lost cemeteries are part of our collective history.
  7. A business man and woman holding a sign depicting their political party preference. SHARON DOMINICK  |
    Here’s what readers had to say in Monday’s letters to the editor.
  8. Leonard Pitts undefined
    Don’t wall ourselves off from contradictory opinions, writes Leonard Pitts.
  9. President Donald Trump, right, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pose for photographs as Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Nov. 2016 in Bedminster, N.J.
    Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
  10. (left to right) Nupar Godbole, medical student at USF, and Tiffany Damm, medical student at UCF, take part in a papaya workshop at the University of South Florida Medical Students for Choice Second Annual Florida Regional Conference held in the Morsani College of Medicine on February 24, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. Some of the instruments used in abortions, like the manual vacuum aspirator, are used in an exercise with a papaya, to simulate an abortion. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.