Chris Smith files for Broward commission run in 2016

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A former Senate Democratic leader, state Sen. Chris Smith, filed Division of Elections paperwork Wednesday for a run for the Broward County Commission in 2016.

The Fort Lauderdale lawmaker, first elected to the state House in 1998, will take on incumbent Commissioner Dale Holness in District 9 in central Broward.

“Just filed for Broward County commission District nine. Excited to start this new chapter of Servitude,” said Smith via social media Wednesday afternoon.

Smith has successfully chased votes in the district half a dozen times — both his old House and current Senate districts directly overlay the commission seat’s boundaries.

The seat takes in large swaths of unincorporated central Broward plus parts of Fort Lauderdale and the cities of North Lauderdale, Sunrise, Plantation, Tamarac and Lauderhill.

Holness, a Realtor and former city commissioner in Lauderhill, has faced tough challenges in recent years but managed to hang on in the majority-minority seat.

Holness suffered a minor political setback last November when his favored candidate in District 2, Dixon Jones, came in third place in the race to replace Kristin Jacobs, who left the commission to assume a state legislative seat in HD 96. Commissioner Mark Bogen now occupies the District 2 seat.

Smith had been rumored a possible candidate for attorney general in 2016.

The genial senator is infamous locally for endorsing Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeb Bush in 1998 and “calling his shot” some years ago when he publicly remarked that he would one day assume the U.S. House seat held by Alcee Hastings.

Buddy Nevins has described Smith’s challenge to Holness and the fight to in turn replace him in the Senate as a “political civil war” in Broward.

Termed-out former House Democratic leader and 2014 candidate for attorney general Perry Thurston is expected to tangle with state Rep. Gwendolyn Clark-Reed in the coming year to take over Smith’s SD 31 seat.

A Thurston vs. Clark-Reed matchup could split the black community’s African-American and Caribbean-American camps.

Smith may have to deal with another difficulty altogether in his run for the commission: a political unknown named Robert D. “Chris” Smith will appear on the ballot alongside the better-known pol, potentially causing confusion at the ballot box. Smith has so far laughed off the issue.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.