Aw, darn, Kevin King, longtime legislative aide to Rep. Rick Kriseman, was not selected by the Florida Democratic Party to help ruin, err, run State House races in Tampa Bay. The job, instead, is going to Carrie Henriquez, wife of Bob, consultant to many other Tampa and Pinellas pols.
I’m really beat up by this decision, so bare with me as I explain what’s happened.
Democrat candidates – some decent, most horrible – run for the State House. Because they are Democrats, they either have no clue how to raise money or, even if they do know how to raise money, have few people from whom to raise money. The rare exception being a scion of the Castor political dynasty or a trial lawyer.
Because of this dearth of resources, Democrat legislative candidates are almost entirely dependent on the state party for the financial resources to compete with their Republican opponents. Not that the Florida Democratic Party has much money either. But it does have enough to help candidates with big ticket items like polling and staff.
The FDP, through an arm called House Victory or some other title that basically means the exact opposite of what happens in November, also hires a few key proconsuls to watch over all of the candidates running in a particular region, such as Tampa Bay. This is a very nice gig. In fact, it is one of the few decent-paying jobs offered by the FDP. It’s also, believe it or not, an important job. Because, while the Democrats typically lose more races than they win, if a regional political director is lucky, there will be one or two interesting races to hang their hat on.
For example, in Tampa Bay, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Republicans will win certain races even if a Democrat is filed to run in the seat. The party still sends the regional coordinator to meet with these sad sacks, but everyone involved knows they are marching off to their doom until the day the top-of-the-ticket creates a big enough “wave” so that anyone running under that candidate’s standard wins. This is what happened for the Republicans in 1994, 2002 and 2010 and the Democrats in 2006. Besides these sad sacks, there are one or two competitive races in Tampa Bay that the Democrats will genuinely contest. Specifically, one of these races is House District 68, where Dwight Dudley is running against Republican Frank Farkas.
The regional political director assigned to watch over Tampa Bay will be charged with keeping an eye on the Dudley vs. Farkas race, even if Dudley has his own political consultant upon whose advice he relies. The consultant can strategize all they want, but it’s the regional coordinator who interacts with the money people at the party. And it’s the money people who have final say so on how many mailers and TV commercials a campaign with which a campaign is buttressed.
In addition to the nice salary the party provides the regional coordinator, there are a lot of perks, such as getting in with the vendors creating all of the direct mail and television being paid for by the party. The coordinator won’t make any money off of that now, but like a newly made capo in the mafia, don’t be surprised if these vendors don’t start paying tribute to them down the road. Once you are blessed by the party, you’re a made man.
Steve Schale is, perhaps, the most prominent of these made men (and women). He once had one of these jobs. Now, he has the White House on speed dial. Trust me, it is very much worthwhile to get one of these gigs for an election cycle.
That’s why Kevin King so badly wanted to be the regional political director for Tampa Bay in 2012. First of all, King’s meal ticket, Rick Kriseman, decided not to run again this year, so that means King does not get to take a leave from his state job to go “run” Rick’s campaign. A review of past election cycle’s campaign finance reports can show you how much that was worth. Without a Kriseman re-election campaign, King has to find a paycheck somewhere. Franco Ripple is day-to-daying Dudley’s campaign, so that’s no good. The presidential and US Senate races don’t pay very well this far down the trough. So, King wanted to be the regional coordinator for the FDP.
This was Kevin’s job in 2006 and 2008 when he worked under Schale (until Schale went to work for Obama in 2008). King and Co. rode an anti-Bush wave in 2006 to several interesting wins, including victories for Bill Heller and Janet Long. Kevin’s been crowing about the job he did in 2006 like a high school quarterback still bragging about winning the homecoming game. Nevermind that it was Schale who was the real brains of the operation. Or that the victories had as much to do with the “wave” as anything the local candidates did.
In 2006, Kevin King, to paraphrase Eddie Vedder, woke up on third base and thought he hit a triple.
Fast-forward to this cycle with Henriquez and King vying for the job. This year, Christian Ulvert is in Schale’s position. I don’t think that had any bearing on the decision as I assume that King is friends with Ulvert. Yet, for some reason, Kevin did not get the gig.
Now, I would not be wallowing in another man’s loss if the story ended there. Lord knows how many times I am passed over for something and I wouldn’t want some blogger poking a stick at me. But, see, this is Kevin King. Did you honestly expect him to go quiet into the night after he found out the job was not his?
Have you read Kevin’s Facebook page lately? A cursory read of King’s Facebook will tell you all you need to know about King’s state of mind.
No, Kevin, did not take his ball and go home and prepare to run Kriseman’s mayoral campaign. Instead, he wrote a screeching letter to Rep. Perry Thurston, the incoming House leader and titular head of House Victory. In the letter, Kevin lets anyone and everyone have it for not selecting him to be ‘the guy’ in Tampa Bay this election cycle. No Democrat can win without him, blah, blah, blah.
I’d post the copy I received but I’m not sure I could do so without exposing my source, but, let’s just say, the letter is not exactly pleasant.
I guess, with the decision to hire Henriquez, there won’t behave Kevin King to kick around anymore.
Not until next year’s mayoral race, that is.