September 9, 2009 | 3:15pm
Florida ranks 47th out of the 50 states in terms of influence and seniority in the U.S. Congress, according to an analysis by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
. A dismal ranking by any means, but even more so considering we're the fourth most populace state. Our legislators have less swagger on the Hill than those from tiny states such as Vermont and Rhode Island -- states where the population is less than half of Miami-Dade County.
Kendrick Meek, Florida's fourth most powerful representative, isn't seeking re-election to his seat in 2010 in order to run an uphill battle for U.S. Senate, while the fifth most powerful representative, and Florida's most powerful Republican, Adam Putnam (the rankings were compiled while Putnam served as House Republican conference chairman. Since his ouster from that position, he already exercises considerably less influence) will also exit the Hill in favor of a run for agriculture commissioner.
Add to that the fact that homesick Sen. Mel Martinez resigned, while fellow Sen. Bill Nelson is way too busy talking about Chinese drywall and pythons instead of, say, health-care reform, and the picture in the Senate isn't looking any better.
Though, it's not surprising. Many of the more powerful states find themselves in solidly red and blue territory whiles Florida is perennially purple. Senators and many Representatives can be knocked out of office any year depending on the political climates. And those that want to remain safe, might decide to make fewer waves.
There's also the problem of Reps from politically safer district not capitalizing on that power. Rep. Ilene Ros-Lehtninen has been in Congress going on 21 years is only the 87th most powerful Republican in the house, and the 288th most powerful rep over all. 17 year vet Lincoln Diaz-Balart comes in at a lowly 358th.
There are some signs Florida may only be in temporary draught. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who's only been in Congress since 2004, is already the most powerful Representative from the State and recently took a position as Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Party. Her safe-seat, fast rise, and fundraising ability are the things House leadership careers are made off.
Meanwhile, whoever ultimately replaces Mel Martinez as Florida's elected junior senator is sure to bring much needed new energy, and unless some tempting Presidential aspirations get the best of them, all are relatively young enough to hold the seat for a while.