The Jeb Bush Dynamic – The Scramble

With the new year started, campaign watchers have started keeping tabs on former Governor Jeb Bush. Will he or won’t he? (Run for the U.S. Senate that is).

The State of Sunshine takes a look at the impact of the decision. Today, Part III: He doesn’t run.

When Mel Martinez announced last fall that he would not seek re-election to the United States Senate, politicians across Florida started the mental exercises needed to mount a campaign. Most of them were put on hold when Jeb declared he was considering a run. When he drops out, a scramble will start that will be felt in all areas of Florida politics.

Candidates for Senate

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a synopsis. The major candidates would be those with statewide exposure or experience: Governor Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, former Chief Financial Officers Tom Gallagher. Next you’d consider a half-dozen or more Congressmen – Boyd, Buchanan, Castor, Crenshaw, Klein, Meek, Mica, Putnam, and Wexler. A few State Senators might be in the mix: Aronberg, Atwater, Gelber, and others – although they would likely run for offices opened by others. You would also certainly see former Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio enter the race for Senate.

Governor and Cabinet

If Crist jumps to the Senate race, some of the names mentioned could run for the Governor’s mansion, in addition to Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp. The race for Attorney General would draw other state legislators, such as State Representative Kevin Ambler or former State Representative Dennis Ross, and possibly State Senator Alex Villalobos. The race for CFO would draw Senate President Jeff Atwater. With the Agriculture position already open, Congressman Adam Putnam, State Senator Carey Baker, and former State Representative Marty Bowen are already running.

Florida Legislature

The Legislature would be more immune to these effects because term limits are already forcing a number of Senators and Representatives out of office. If a number of Congressmen jump for the Senate race, those seats could draw state senators or state representatives that would otherwise run for re-election. An interesting twist is that some state senators, those in odd-numbered districts this year, would not have to resign their seats to run for Congress; even numbered-districts are up for re-election this year, so those senators would have to pick a race.

Local races

What does it mean?

If Jeb decides not to run for Senate, there could be a significant shakeup in the composition of Florida’s cabinet and congressional delegation. Whether the seats switch parties or not is unclear. Open seats tend to require significantly more money, and are usually underfunded – making it harder to predict the outcomes of races. A few of the state-wide candidates who are not current state-wide office holders, Rubio, Atwater and Gelber to name three, could probably raise significant funds.

However, given the fundraising prowess of the Republican Party of Florida, and the lack of a viable bench from the Democratic party, it seems unlikely there would be many changes to the party – a gain here or there.

About Jim Johnson

Editor and publisher of The State of Sunshine.
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