Florida House Pecking Order

This week, the Florida House of Representatives officially swore Representative Ray Sansom (R-Destin) as Speaker of the House. But for Republicans, the next two – and maybe three – speakers are already known. Sansom’s term runs from 2008 to 2010.

Following Sansom will be Representative Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park) [2010-2012] and then Representative Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) [2012-2014]. And from what the Orlando Sentinel is writing, following Weatherford will be Representative Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) in what would be 2014 through 2016.

Now, state representatives are limited to eight years in office. That means the representative who would follow Dorworth is not even elected yet.

Collecting Pledges
Of course, none of these are official — not even Cannon. Cannon will officially be “Speaker Designate” during a Republican caucus meeting sometime in the near future. But we know he will receive this designation because four years ago, just after his first election, he started collecting pledges from among fellow Republicans.

In general, a candidate for speaker collects pledges from his current “class” of members and those in the classes immediately before and after — a class is defined by when they reach their term limits, in Cannon’s case the classes of 2010, 2012 and 2014 (those elected in 2002, 2004 with Cannon, and 2006).

When one candidate receives pledges from a majority of the members in the caucus, the other candidates usually drop out of the race and back the winner. This party loyalty makes it possible to line up the speakers as the Republicans have done.

The Permanent Minority Party?
Meanwhile, the Democrats selected Representative Franklin Sands (D-Weston) as Minority Leader for the next two years. Following Sands will be… um… well… It seems the Democrats have not yet selected their future leaders.

That does not bode well for a party outnumbers 44-76 in the Florida House.

From a campaign perspective, the party strength shown by the Republicans will continue to be reinforced. They have greater ability to work together to raise funds for the party — which provides greater resources to help maintain their majority.

The various speakers can also work with the members who reach term limits in the year before they start running campaigns. Rest assured that Representative Cannon, who will be managing the elections in 2010 for the Republicans, has been working with members like Representative Ed Homan (R-Tampa) who will be term-limited in 2010 to find quality candidates.

Meanwhile, with Representative Sands busy leading the Democratic caucus in governing — who is working to find quality Democrats? No one.

Which can explain how the Florida Democrats were only able to gain one seat in the House despite overwhelming Democratic registration numbers and the surge of voters for Obama. The seeds of this failure were really set six years ago.

While the 76-44 numbers will fluctuate, the GOP will be the majority party for a long time to come.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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2 Responses to Florida House Pecking Order

  1. trailwind says:

    a little late to this party…

    the democrats’ problems can also be attributed to gerrymandering.

  2. Jim Johnson says:

    Partially, but there aren’t that many “super-Republican” seats a Democrat could not win. The fact that they can’t even furnish viable candidates shows they simply don’t have the recruiting program necessary to get back into the majority.

    Then again, they don’t have anyone even trying to recruit candidates. Being able to designate leaders two or three elections in advance could make things more competitive.

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