Last week, the smart folks over at The Florida Squeeze wrote about the statewide implications of former state Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff entering the race for Senate District 34.
Squeezers Katy Burnett and Kartik Krishnaiyer make the compelling argument that with Bogdanoff challenging Democrat Maria Sachs, the legislative campaign arm of the Florida Democratic Party must decide whether it wants to put its limited resources towards defending Sachs or to picking off Republican incumbent state Senator Jeff Brandes in District 22.
“There just is not enough money for the Democrats to play in both (races),” writes Burnett and Krishnaiyer. But, as the authors point out, wins by Bogdanoff and Brandes would give Republicans a veto-proof majority in the Florida Senate (hello, parent trigger and prison privatization), so Democrats must — MUST — win one of the two seats to keep from being steamrolled the next two years.
The Florida Squeeze doesn’t say which district would be better for Florida Democrats to commit their resources.
It’s no secret that I work for Senator Brandes and would personally prefer that Democrats pass on competing in this seat, but I don’t know if that is an option for the FDP considering that northeast St. Petersburg and south Tampa is the heart of Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign. Additionally, Tampa Bay is home to many of the truly interesting and competitive state House races up for grabs in 2014, so there may be some cost-saving advantages to playing in Brandes’ seat while also playing in HD 63, 65, 67, and 68.
Of course, Maria Sachs is an incumbent and incumbents kind of call the shots when it comes to loosening the party’s purse strings. It’s difficult to imagine the party not doing all it can to protect an incumbent. As Burnett and Krishnaiyer write, the biggest winner out of Bogdanoff’s decision to run may be Jeff Brandes.
But those two Senate races are not where the ramifications end. Brandes may not be the only Republican to benefit from Bogdanoff’s entrance into the race; the GOP’ers running in those Tampa Bay state House seats also stand to benefit.
I reckon the Florida Democratic Party has less than $3 million on-hand to spend on legislative races. And that’s a very generous number. Scratch a million of those dollars from the back-of-the-envelope because they’re earmarked for South Florida incumbents who helped raise the money and want at least some of it back even if they don’t need it.
This leaves Florida Dems with two million dollars, give or take, to defend Sachs, harass Brandes, and play in competitive state House races. There are currently 16 state House races which can be assessed as competitive — HD 21, 27, 29, 30, 47, 53, 59, 63, 65. 67, 68, 69, 112, 114, 115, 120 — eight of which are currently held by Republicans, seven by Democrats, and one open seat (HD 67).
With just two million dollars to fight the vaunted Republican legislative campaign machine, Florida Democrats will be forced to decide early which of their fingers they can live without. Even if my math is off and the Democrats have four million dollars budgeted to play in state House seats, they’d still have to make some hard decisions about where to play.
Democrats must all but give up the idea of challenging incumbent House Republicans like Keith Perry (HD 21), Ross Spano (HD 59), and Kathleen Peters (HD 69) and circle the wagons around seven House seats located near the I-4 corridor: HD 29, 30, 47, 63, 65, 67, 68).
Democrats are the incumbents in these seats, while HD 67 is without an incumbent.
Do your own math: $2 million split six ways equals a little over $333K for each candidate. Double that number so you include money from Democrat-aligned groups like the Florida Education Association and its reasonable to expect each incumbent to have $750K behind them. That sounds like a lot until you realize the Florida GOP and its business allies can likely spend five times than in each of these races.
With that kind of resource advantage in a non-presidential cycle, it’s safe to assume that some of those Democrat incumbents will not be returning to Tallahassee.
If Ellyn Bogdanoff had not run, would that have changed this math? Probably not, but the million or two dollars needed to protect Maria Sachs would likely have saved two or three Democratic House members.
Of course, when you are outnumbered the way House Dems are, what’s two or three fewer votes?