I started to call this “More Fun With Republicans” but the Democrats have gotten into the spirit of things here in Florida as well. Last week I discussed the amazing foot-shooting talent of the Republican party with regard to the Senate race and Governor Charlie Crist.
Now let’s look at the Democrats. Until very, very recently, the undisputed Democratic candidate for the Senate race was going to be Kendrick Meek, a U.S. Representative in Congress from somewhere in South Florida, who inspires a lot of yawning. He never was a serious threat to Governor Charlie because first of all, this is a “red state”. (Speaking of idioms, wonder when that will make it into the OED?) Second, many Democrats are so incensed at the treatment Governor Charlie has received from the Republican Party, they plan to vote for him. In fact, one commentator I read recently calls Charlie the “de facto” Democratic candidate.
But back to the Democrats. There was Meek, coasting along. Enter Jeff Greene. Who? Who in the hell are you, and where in the hell did you come from? And why? Greene, who does not appear to be related to Alvin Greene of South Carolina fame, nevertheless shares that Who-In-The-Hell-Are-You thing we’ve come to expect in politics this year. Jeff Greene, who’s only lived in Florida for 3 or 4 years, has an interesting history, which includes running for Congress as a Republican in 1982 in California, and living with Heidi Fleiss for a year once she got out of jail. He’s running as a Democrat.
But now let’s talk about the Governor’s race. A tiny bit of background: Florida has a governor, and the governor has only three Cabinet members, all of whom are elected. These three are the CFO, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Agriculture. The Secretary of State was demoted to a non-Cabinet level post, and when the last one you had was Katherine Harris, you’re tempted to be grateful, but you have to think about the implications. It means the Secretary of State can be appointed as opposed to elected.
Now let us review the present scenario, and try not to get dizzy. The Secretary of Agriculture is stepping down and not running for anything else, so you can count him out of the equation. (Side comment: if you think it’s odd that the Secretary of Agriculture is Cabinet level when the Secretary of State isn’t, remember that agriculture is huge in Florida. Think oranges.)
The Governor is running for the U.S. Senate, the CFO is running for Governor as a Democrat, and the Attorney General is running for Governor as a Republican. The AG, Bill McCollum, was a shoo-in for the Republican nomination until…you guessed it…enter Rick Scott, who is running as a Republican. Huh?
Scott’s most notable claim to fame is having been the cofounder and CEO of Columbia/HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) at a time when they were convicted of the largest case of Medicare fraud in history, paying $1.7 million in fines. While he was removed by the Board, he was never personally charged with anything, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt him much. Both he and Jeff Greene are described as multi-millionaires, if not billionaires; Scott in health care and Greene in real estate.
I could go on, but let me focus on two issues. The law in Florida states that once a candidate has spent $24.9 million in a campaign, his or her opponents are eligible for matching funds. Scott has already spent $20 million and recently filed suit to stop the law, saying it abridges his right to free speech. The original court ruled against him, but the appeals court ruled in his favor. I assume the Florida Supreme Court is next.
Second is immigration. One of Scott’s endless TV ads quotes Bill McCollum saying with respect to the Arizona immigration law, “We don’t need that law here. That’s not going to happen here.” Scott of course supports it. If he gets the nomination, bet that will play well with the large Hispanic population of Florida.
Apparently Scott is now ahead of McCollum, and the end result is that polls show the Democratic candidate (the current CFO, remember?) would beat either of them. She has been waging a highly successful campaign based on “Let’s you and him fight”. “She” is Alex (short for Alexandra) Sink, who is a former veep for Bank of America, which may not be the most popular brand around at the moment since it has the word “bank” in it.
Nevertheless, based on that Republican foot-shooting talent previously mentioned, at the present time I predict we can practice saying “Senator Charlie” and “Governor Sink”.
I’m sure your state, wherever you are, has similar idiosyncrasies, but they probably aren’t as blatant as ours. I hope there are still places where campaigns are waged by well-meaning and honest candidates who sincerely disagree about the issues and don’t demonize each other. At least here in Florida we can still point to South Carolina as being worse than we are, that is, until we can come up with some new version of the hanging chad.