The Florida Democratic party suffers from a noticeably weakened bench ready to run for higher officer when compared to its Republican counterpart. So it's interesting news that two of the state's best known — though perhaps most divisive — Democrats both announced that they will not run for Senate in 2016 in the past 24 hours. Both professional political curiosity Charlie Crist and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will sit the race out, after some speculation to the contrary.
That seat is currently held by Republican wunderkind Marco Rubio, and polls suggest that if he were to run for reelection he'd easily retain his seat. However, Rubio is such a hot prospect he's seriously considering a run at the White House and has indicated if he decided to he'd go all in. Under Florida law he can't run for both president and Senate, and unless he pulled out of the White House race early on, he'd miss the deadline to register for reelection. That would leave an open race that should be tantalizing to Democrats.
But the State's biggest Democrats certainly aren't lining up for the rare opportunity.
CNN reported earlier this week that Crist was making calls to his close supporters about a possible run at the seat. He had run for Senate in 1998 as a Republican and in 2010 as an independent, so it only made sense he'd want to try again in 2016 as a Democrat. (Actually, that makes absolutely no sense, but this is Crist we're talking about.) Crist's inner circle quickly put the kibosh on those rumors, and Crist made it official that he won't be running.
“As members of the Florida Democratic Party, we stand for something — fairness, growing the middle class, and policies that strengthen future generations,” Crist wrote in a Facebook post yesterday afternoon. “I will not be seeking office in 2016, but I will be working alongside you. Too much is at stake for our beautiful Florida to be on the sidelines. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.”
Democratic voters who like it when the Florida Democratic Party runs actual Democrats for office should be pleased... but not too pleased. Lifelong Democrat and current national chairwoman of the party Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz won't be running either.
Politico had reported late last month that the Broward congresswoman was thinking about a run. Her thinking, according to the story anyway, was that a potential Hillary Clinton presidential campaign would bring out lots of voters interested in electing strong female leaders.
Wasserman Schultz has long been a stalwart and ambitious standout of the state's party, but talk to most political journalists, strategists, or donors about her making a run for statewide office and they start talking about how she's too "liberal" to appeal to the state and is best suited remaining in her South Broward and North Miami Beach district.
Interestingly, most analyses of Wasserman Schultz's actual recent voting record paint her as a middle-of-the-road moderate Democrat. According to the National Journal's most recent ideological rankings, Wasserman-Schultz's was only the 120th most liberal member of the House. Seven of Florida's ten other Democratic representatives were considered more liberal than Wasserman Schultz. In other states she'd be considered moderate, but in Florida she's painted as some sort for liberal warrior for reasons we can't quite put our finger on.
In a completely unrelated point, Florida has never elected a Jewish senator and has only elected a woman once. Florida has similarly never elected a woman as governor and the last and only time it elected a Jewish politician to that office was in 1933.
In any event, Florida won't be electing Wasserman Schultz because she won't be running. She announced on CNN this afternoon she'll instead be running for reelection to her congressional seat as an "an opportunity to really be able to advance the agenda about which my constituents care about deeply in a much more significant way." She also continues to helm the DNC.
So who is running now?
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All eyes now fall to Rep. Patrick Murphy, the 31-year-old congressman who narrowly defeated Rep. Allen West in the 18th congressional district back in 2012. Murphy, a confirmed bachelor, interestingly used to be a Republican. Though he never ran for office under the GOP, he did donate the maximum amount to Mitt Romney's 2008 presidential campaign. Murphy is rated as the state's single least liberal Democrat in the House... or most conservative to word it another way. He's like a young Crist but with less baggage.
Of course, Rep. Alan Grayson, everyone's favorite loudmouth liberal is also mentioned as a possible candidate. Though, he's busy accusing his soon-to-be-ex-wife of bigamy at the moment.
Neither have made any official announcement either way.