States with Republican super-majorities in your state houses, take note. Florida Democrats have come up with a strategy that might not win their party any seats but will help stop the momentum that Republicans enjoy after they rig districts and gain incumbency.
As strategies go, it’s pretty simple: Run somebody.
As the deadline drew near for candidates to pay money and be listed on the ballot this month, several Republican Senate candidates were within an eyelash of taking office unopposed, without a single vote being cast. You could almost hear the champagne bottles popping.
Every one was sitting on a mountain of campaign cash in hopes of scaring off competition. But one by one, in rapid succession, each drew last-minute Democratic opposition, seemingly from out of nowhere.
The rule is, if a candidate has no competition for a seat by the qualifying deadline, he or she can turn over the money they’ve raised to the state party to help candidates with competitors. This year, that would have meant an extra $2 million for the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) to spend as it sees fit to trample Democrats across the state.
The plan that throws a wrench into all this is the brainchild of incoming Florida Senate Minority President Chris Smith (Ft. Lauderdale). Smith made news recently by challenging Gov. Rick Scott and instituting a panel to examine Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law after the Trayvon Martin killing. The move shamed the governor into forming his own task force to look into the effects of the statute.
Smith has no illusions of knocking off the well-financed Republicans in solid GOP districts. But by fielding candidates, he was able to tie the financial hands of the GOP…
“We just felt that people should stand for election,” he said. “A lot of Democrats around the state got tired of us not fielding candidates in so many races.”
…Smith noted that in the last reapportionment election year of 2002, there were 13 Republican senators who were elected with no opposition. This year, that number dwindled to six.
Florida Republicans, of course, are crying foul.
Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, the likely next Senate president, didn’t think much of Smith’s move.
“I’m disappointed that my Democratic friends are so crass as to make this about money, as opposed to choices,” Gaetz said. “I’m sorry the Democrats had a financial motive, a cynical motive, in putting candidates in these races.”
Following Gaetz’s logic, Democrats would have facilitated greater voter choice by staying out of the elections, and ceding the seats to the unopposed Republicans. Democrats also, according to Gaetz, “made it about the money,” unlike the Republicans, who were counting on, um, spending all that money.
We hope that North Carolina, which recently joined Florida in being represented in the state capital by Republicans despite a majority of the electorate registered as Democrats, is watching.