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Articles by Derek Newton

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And So It Begins

Perhaps The Most Important Race ...

On the surface it would seem that Florida Democrats just ain't a perfect fit with farmers and cattle ranchers. And on the surface, you'd be right.

So it may seem odd that I think the campaign for Ag Commissioner may be second most important Florida election in 2006 after the US Senate.

Even more important than the campaign for Governor?


Conventional wisdom in Florida is that you have to lose a statewide race before you can win one. You have to get known, make the connections and be seen on TV. Since 1990, I can think of only three first time candidates who beat statewide veterans. (Extra credit if you can name them. Answer at the end).

Accepting that maxim as true, we suck at learning that lesson.

Our unsuccessful statewide aspirants just disappear. Bill McBride must have entered the witness protection program after winning the nomination for Governor. Buddy MacKay did no better - although he can be excused after 30 years of public service. Buddy Dyer is temporarily off the statewide stage. Paging John Cosgrove. Has anyone seen George Sheldon? All points bulletin for Peter Wallace.

Am I crazy to believe that Peter Wallace or Bill McBride would kick Joe Negron's ass for Attorney General?

So with the Republicans running two well-known statewide elected officials against our triumvirate of skilled but outgunned hopefuls, putting all our eggs in the governor's basket seems risky and foolish.

So ideally who we run today should be (at least a little bit) about who will run later.

Which brings me back to the race for Agriculture Commissioner.

Since the Ag Commission race is the only statewide contest with an incumbent (again, besides the US Senate), it's likely that whichever Democrat runs will lose.

And if we're likely to lose anyway, why haven't we been looking for a person who isn't say a perfect match to be Commissioner of Agriculture today but could be a good CFO candidate or Attorney General Candidate in four years?

Or better yet, how about someone who will commit to running for Agriculture Commissioner again in four years when the seat is open?

I can already hear a Skip Campbell thundering away on uprooting citrus trees in the back yards of Tamarac grandmothers. I see former Rep. and citrus giant Rick Minton enticing thousands of conservative Democrats back to our party. I can even envision Al Lawson opening the eyes of Florida voters to see African-American candidates as more than just urban liberals.

A few months back, I wrote an article on our undervalued and overlooked bench where I listed at least 10 Democrats who are ready for statewide attention. Any of those, or the three above, could run a good, solid campaign, finish with 45% or better and be the automatic frontrunner in 2010.

I'm not trying to be a pessimist but just consider what happens if we fall short in our quest to re-take the Governor's mansion.

And that loss trickles down to close loses for Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer.

And not one of those three nominees is interested in running again in 2010.

In one bad election night, we'd be looking at 2014 - likely with another crop of first-timers on a statewide ballot.

I just can't wait that long to start winning again.

I hope we win everything next year. But I'm unwilling to risk what happens if we don't. That's why it's extremely important to find someone who can run for Ag Commissioner now with at least one eye on 2010.

Let me ask for you help here.

When you see one of our statewide candidates or hear of someone who's considering a run, pull them aside and ask them: if they don't win, are they willing to run again in 2008, 2010, or whenever?

Use their answers as a gauge for measuring their commitment to the long haul of re-building this party. Count on me to do the same.

(EXTRA CREDIT: Bob Milligan knocked off Chris Comstock in the 1994 GOP Primary and then Gerald Lewis in the 1994 General for Comptroller, Katherine Harris upset Sandra Mortham in a GOP Primary in 1998 and Mel Martinez edged out Betty Castor last year).


8/08/2005 4:53 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

In today's access to information (this exceptional blog for intstance), you can get name I.D. pretty quickly - it's just not like 1986, let's say, when folks would only hear about a candidate in the morning newspaper and maybe on the 6 o'clock news. Mel Martinez prove that, he was in the single digits 10 months before the repub primary.

As an aside; Let's get one thing straight - Katherine Harris did not "upset" Sandra Mortham in 1998. Mortham was to be the Lt. Gov. candidate under Bush when questions arose surrounding the use of her Secretary of State's office for personal promotion and to benefit her family members. By the time Jeb cut her loose in favor of Frank Brogan, she was damaged goods with a late starting reelection campaign and the disgust of the Republican rank and file for putting Jeb's governor's bid in jeopardy. Harris had already announced for the position and didn't back out because anyone could have beaten Mortham whose negatives at the time were high, but pale in comparison to the numbers Harris currently holds.



8/08/2005 5:29 AM, by Blogger Kartik

Derek, an excellent analysis as always. I have heard Rick Minton's name bandied about for various offices the last 3 years and was actually close to setting up a meeting with him until Mark Foley decided (apparently due to circumsatnces beyond his control!) to not seek the GOP Senate nomination.

You are 100% on the mark about the importance of the other 3 cabinet races. Considering the likelyhood of a Crist/Gallagher heavyweight slugfest in the GOP primary, chances are that Republican activists and donors aren't going to help prop up the Joe Negron's, Randy Johnson's and Tom Lee's of the world until at the latest after the primary.

If the Democrats are ever to rebuild a statewide party we need to hold at least one cabinet offices. Look at the succesful playbooks that Democrats had for making states that were GOP dominated more balanced such as inColorado, Montana, Arizona and Kansas involved electing a statewide cabinet official first and then attempting to shift the Governor's position or the Legislature.

Based on the experience in other states, Derak's suggestion is the way to go for the FDP to rebuild.



8/08/2005 7:35 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

Excellent article. One thing though. You forgot Frank Brogan. In his first statewide run, he beat Doug Jamerson to win the Education Commissioner's seat.



8/08/2005 7:36 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

This is a disturbing trend I have noticed in both parties, but moreso from democrats.

It seems the goal has become not getting the right people in office, but instead getting those of a particular political stripe into office.

Who cares what the guy stands for if he's in the right party?

When did the party become more important than policy?



8/08/2005 1:36 PM, by Blogger DerekTNG


Good catch on Brogan/Jamerson but Jamerson was appointed to Education Commissioner so the match-up with Brogan was his first statewide campaign. That's why I didn't include it.

Thanks for reading!




8/08/2005 7:01 PM, by Anonymous Anonymous

The obvious person the Dems should run for FL Ag Commissioner is State Rep. Dwight Stansel. He is a perfect fit for many reasons: 1) He is a farmer 2) Comes from a conservative N FL district, therefore adds some nice georaphic and philisophical blance to the statewide Dem ticket, and 3) He is term limited out of the House, so isnt giving up anything to run. Plus, I think he would love the job! So come on folks, spread the word ... DRAFT DWIGHT STANSEL DEM FOR AG COMMR!!!!



8/09/2005 5:32 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

Where do i get a Stansel bumper sticker ? - I'm on board !!



8/09/2005 7:48 PM, by Anonymous Anonymous

Me too!



8/10/2005 5:10 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

If you like the idea of Dwight Stansel becoming the Dem candidate for Agriculture Commissioner go to www.myfloridahouse.gov and send Stansel an email to that effect! It's up to the grassroots as our party sure as heck isnt going out and recruiting qualified candidates for office! Let's Go Dwight!



8/10/2005 10:18 AM, by Blogger BlueDawgDem

As usual, Derek is right on with this one. There is absolutely no downside to running a candidate who will allow us to fight for the hearts and minds of rural voters.

Minton sounds like he would be awesome, and Stansel would be phenominal. If Rick Dantzler had run for this after Crawford stepped down, rather than for Governor in 1998, we might be talking about a very different field for Governor this year.



8/11/2005 6:04 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

Dwight Stansel, is he worth creating a Florida blogstorm over?



8/11/2005 10:06 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

Run Dwight Run
Would be fun to watch him talk to the Broward DEC...



8/11/2005 8:57 PM, by Anonymous Anonymous

Honestly, I don't think it helps someone that much in 2010 if they lost the Agric. race in '06. I think if you are going to use a position like that as a stepping stone . . . you've got to win.

I've said for a long time that Bill McBride would make the best AG candidate --- because he could win. And then he could run for Governor or Senate in 2010 as the sitting AG. But he is not a strong candidate just because he ran for something and lost. It was a very high profile campaign and until the end he did very well.

Sure it is great to build name recognition . . . but I think the real issue is Democrats have got to recruit better candidates and make sure they are well funded. The Governor's race just might be a lost cause (though anything could happen and we have to fight it out so we don't get hurt too bad down the ticket). We seem to be doing a much better job with the CFO and AG race . . . but the quality of these candidates is really yet to be seen. Let's hope at least one of them will win.

Because if our best statewide candidate in four years is someone who lost the '06 agriculture race, then we are in big trouble.



8/11/2005 9:08 PM, by Anonymous Anonymous

The strongest Dem ticket for 2006

Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate
Jim Davis for Governor
Tony Hill for Lt. Governor
Skip Campbell for Attorney General
Alex Sink for C F O
Dwight Stansel for Ag. Comm'er

Now, that is a first rate team!



8/12/2005 4:08 PM, by Anonymous Anonymous


Welcome to reality. You are finally starting to scratch the surface of real political strategy. Go to Peer Review and read "FL Democrats strategy for victory in 06."

To whoever mentioned Dwight Stansel, good fit, wrong guy. He and Bronson are great friends. It's likely a no go.

I thought Tony Hill was an interesting selection for Lt. Gov. That is real insight from an anonymous Democrat.

Keep up the pontification.



8/13/2005 8:51 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

In politics, friends come and go! I don't see any reason why Stansel couldnt run against Bronson.



8/13/2005 3:02 PM, by Anonymous Anonymous

Stansel isn't running. Take it to the bank. He was asked. He said no.



8/14/2005 1:19 AM, by Anonymous Anonymous

I still say everybody should email Stansel and encourage him to run! Politicians loved to have their ego stroked, and can always change their mind! Look at Ted Strickland in Ohio! DRAFT STANSEL 2006!!!!



8/15/2005 7:22 AM, by Blogger Kevin Cerino

Running an unsuccessful canmaign will make you a front-runner next time? Tell that the Scott Maddox.



8/17/2005 12:05 AM, by Blogger DerekTNG


Losing a statewide primary (as Scott Maddox did) doesn't help you win. Being the candidate of your party on a general election ballot helps you (like Charlie Crist or Jeb Bush).




8/18/2005 8:50 PM, by Blogger Blog de León

While coming from nowhere can be a valuable asset, knowing where you are going is, perhaps, more important. The Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services has an important job -- certainly it deserves more than someone in need of a stone on which to step.

Take Nathan Mayo, who spent a lifetime improving Florida's agriculture. He was commissioner of the statewide department from November 1, 1923 to April 14, 1960. Back in those days, the commissioner was responsible for the entire prison system, the highway patrol system, the land acquisition system and the inspections of food, cattle and seed.

Whew! And you thought your job was hard.

He promoted the canning of citrus juices and frozen concentrate, later establishing the Florida Citrus Commission. Through his efforts, Florida became synonymous with the citrus industry. Mayo considered his greatest accomplishment to be the promotion of Florida as a tourist state.

This caliber of man is not easily found. Certainly, those who possess it would not run for commissioner as a placeholder for some higher office. Designing men may come and go, but the best and the brightest should be cultivated -- like a well-placed grove of Florida citrus.

Nathan Mayo, we need you.



8/20/2005 6:14 PM, by Anonymous Anonymous

L.A. Weekly exposes the progressives and
racists who have kept Los Angeles from building a real subway system, and shows what the new mayor hopes to do about it. Its must reading, especially for people who still believe powerful Henry Waxman, Tom Hayden and other lefties are always on the right side of issues.

http://www.laweekly.com/ink/05/3...s- berkowitz.php



8/27/2005 8:42 PM, by Anonymous Anonymous

I agree with Derek. Our leaders need to be in this for the long haul for all our sakes.



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10/12/2010 7:04 PM, by Anonymous Anonymous

What is going on in Surfside and what does it reflect about what is going on in Florida?

Influence of special interests. Developers. Big money. Zoning changes. Corruption issues.


Can't be missed, takes about a half hour to read through the whole situation and the comments, but wow it is worthwhile.



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