Florida's Political Chairs: Who Is Running for Senate in 2016? Governor in 2018?
Florida law forbids a candidate's name from appearing twice on the same ballot. So if Marco Rubio ends up making a serious bid for president, he'd have to give up his seat in Congress. This could set up a very interesting four years in Florida politics, where a very likely competitive and open Senate election is followed just two years later by an open gubernatorial race after a term-limited Rick Scott vacates office.
So which politicians are already lining up for a promotion in the next four years? Here's a handy guide. Of course, keep in mind that Florida politics tend to be completely unpredictable. There's no accounting for a young South Miami upstart coming out of nowhere or a rich old guy buying himself a seat and ruining everyone else's best-laid plans.
Senate Race 2014
Photo by Giulio Sciorio
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, U.S. representative and chairwoman of the DNC
DWS's dream role was once probably speaker of the house, but she has accumulated a lot of baggage in her role as DNC chair that could prevent her from attaining that goal. It's no surprise, then, that she is reportedly interested in running for Senate (but only if Rubio doesn't run). A recalibration of ambition perhaps? The problem is that, rightfully or wrongfully, Wasserman-Schultz is viewed as a bit more liberal than the state likes its elected politicians. (And this morning, Politico reports that Wasserman-Schultz may already be throwing in the towel on a Senate run.)
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy
The young Murphy became hero of Florida Democrats by pulling a narrow victory in 2012 over controversial Republican incumbent Allen West. The win showed he had appeal in closely contested districts, and he easily won reelection this past November. Don't worry about Murphy being viewed as too liberal, either. The 31-year-old accountant was a former Young Republican who donated $2,300 to Mitt Romney in 2008. Then again, that fact won't play well in a Democratic primary.
Charlie Crist, former governor
Disputed news/rumors broke yesterday that Crist may be interested in a run. He ran for Senate as a Republican in 1998 and an independent in 2010. Why not complete the trifecta? Well, maybe Democrats won't be as desperate this time around.
Other possibilities: Perennial Democratic loser Alex Sink, mayors Bob Buckhorn (Tampa) and Alvin Brown (Jacksonville), and U.S. Reps. Gwen Graham, Alan Grayson, and Ted Deutch.
Jeff Atwater, Florida CFO
Atwater is a former president of the Florida Senate and now holds statewide office as CFO. If Rubio decides to run for prez, Atwater is widely seen as the GOP's fallback.
Pam Bondi, Attorney General
Bondi is the most prominent (and controversial) of the members of the cabinet but perhaps the least qualified to run for anything else. Of course, politics are a cynical business. Imagine you're a Republican megadonor or strategist in 2016 and you're worried Hillary Clinton will bring out a strong Democratic-minded female voting bloc. Perhaps you'd think it would be good to have a woman's name on the Republican side of the ticket. Just saying.
Courtesy of Florida House/Meredith Geddings
Will Weatherford, former state speaker of the house
Just 35 years old, Weatherford has already finished his term as Florida's speaker of the house. He's currently without a political office, but many observers suspect he's not done with politics. However, he might wait to run for governor in 2018.
Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera
Lieutenant governor can be a tough job to progress out of, considering it's an empty enough title to make vice president seem like a vitally important position. But López-Cantera is an ambitious politician who is reportedly "seriously considering" a Senate run.
Other contenders: U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis, Tom Rooney, Vern Buchanan, and John Mica; former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack; and former Interim Sen. George LeMieux.
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Gubernatorial Race 2018
U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham
Graham is the daughter of former governor and senator Bob Graham, which givers her instant statewide name recognition. She shocked all of Florida last election by knocking off an incumbent Republican in a Republican-leaning North Florida district. She's one of the few new bright spots in the Florida Democratic Party. Don't be surprised if strategists and donor are already whispering in her ear about a run at the governor's mansion in 2018. After all, she lived there when she was a teenager.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam
Back in 2009, we pretty much called the fact that Adam Putnam would run for governor. (We just had the year a bit off. Thanks, Charlie Crist.) Putnam was elected to the Florida House at the ripe old age of 22 in 1996 and was in the U.S. House by the age of 27. By 2006, he had become the fifth-highest-ranking member of the Republican leadership in the House. However, he lost that position in 2009 and quickly decided to leave D.C. to run for agriculture commissioner instead. Pretty much everyone expected that the ambitious Putnam's long-term goal was the top spot in Tallahassee.
One problem: Putnam is the definition of a career politician. He has zero real-world experience. That drawback could make him vulnerable to a challenge from a well-funded political outsider, like what Rick Scott did to Bill McCollum in 2010.
Sen. Marco Rubio
So what happens if Marco Rubio gives up his Senate seat in 2016 to run for president and fails? Simple. He rebounds by running for governor in 2018. It's not his ideal situation, but it's an option to keep his political career (and higher ambitions) alive. Which is funny for a guy who won his Senate seat simply by painting Charlie Crist as a career politician with far too much personal ambition.
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