Just in case you forgot, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is saying he is definitely not running for Florida governor.
This not-so-subtle prompt opens the door for big Democratic donors to warm up to former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.
Many of the moneymen were holding back, waiting for the Florida Democrat’s decision to challenge incumbent GOP Gov. Rick Scott — who Nelson says “must be replaced.”
In the past few weeks, Nelson contacted key supporters to tell them personally he will not seek the job, with most of them hesitant to go on the record until a public announcement.
“It is my understanding that he has now ruled out running for governor due to the complexities and restraints of the campaign finance laws,” Charles Lydecker tells William March of the Tampa Tribune,
Lydecker, a prominent Ormond Beach insurance executive and Nelson backer, added that the Senator was “unambiguous.”
Those same key backers and top aides, just a few months ago, were telling reporters that Nelson was fielding calls from Democrats urging him to run and that he was considering it.
But for months, Nelson would gave the same roundabout answer, “I have no plans and no intention to run for governor,” while stopping short of actually saying he was out of contention.
They were not the only hints from Nelson.
Nelson publically criticized Scott, often taking angry tones, clearly indicating his desire to see the governor replaced.
Last year, March writes, Nelson confided to a reporter he would consider entering the competition if Crist was “struggling,” although he later referred to it as an off-guard “flip comment.”
Lydecker, as well as two other Nelson donor/fundraisers and a Democratic Party insider, admitted to the Tribune they received calls from either Nelson or Pete Mitchell, his chief of staff, clarifying he will not be a candidate in November.
When pressed for an explanation, some were told the reason was the fundraising restrictions. Federal office holders are prohibited from “soft money” fundraising, the sizeable money donations for parties and committees not facing contribution limits.
More soft money was spent in the 2010 Florida governor’s race by any of the candidates’ own campaigns, something that will be the case in 2014.
How Nelson stepping away from the race will ultimately affect Crist remains unclear.