With Frank White out of Speaker’s race is Northeast Florida ready to rally to one of its own?

in Peter by

After Florida Politics’ most recent report about the mostly behind-the-scenes scrum within the Florida House GOP freshman class to determine which of its members will one day be Speaker, the conclusion was that for either Jamie Grant or Frank White to win, one of them would have to quickly drop out of the race.

No much sooner then when this was written did rumors begin to circulate that White was contemplating exiting the race. And after considerable lobbying from Rep. Jayer Williamson, at least that’s what we hear, White, in fact, quit the race.

“I talked to some other members, and it just wasn’t the right time,” White, of Pensacola, told Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida.

With White out of the way and he and Williamson lining up behind Tampa’s James Grant, the race has returned to its original state: Jacksonville’s Paul Renner on one side, Grant and a large band of anti-Renner votes on the other, with Randy Fine in a kingmaker/spoiler role (or, perhaps, a consensus candidate if Grant and Renner can’t win outright.)

The tempo of the race is now quickening.

White’s dropping out read like the firing of a wicked return volley after Sarasota’s Joe Gruters announced earlier in the day that he would vote for Renner.

With Grant probably back in the lead, pressure is now on Renner to lock down his northeast Florida base. The region — Jacksonville in particular — believes it deserves a turn at leadership. And it’s time for the other Jacksonville/northeast Florida House members to get in line.

That was the message Thursday evening at a major fundraiser for Renner’s political committee, the Florida Foundation for Liberty, delivered by boss of bosses, Lenny Curry.

Curry and the rest of the Jacksonville political establishment is “all in” for Renner, according to a consultant who works for multiple candidates in the region.

Along with Curry, Ambassador John Rood and John Peyton spoke before a crowd of more than 250 about the need for northeast Florida representatives to rally behind a northeast Florida Speaker candidate.

The question now is: Was the message delivered?

In the crowd last night were Reps. Cord Byrd, Jason Fischer, and Cyndi Stevenson. If Renner is to win, he needs at least two of the three of them to vote his way.

Byrd is still likely with Grant.

Fischer and Stevenson are still undecided, but considerable pressure will probably be brought to bear to have them vote for Renner.

But even with those votes, the race is fluctuating like my cholesterol level.

Grant’s camp is as confident as ever, thinking that White yielding to Grant is the final, decisive turn.

Which leaves the scrappy Randy Fine. Along with Byron Donalds and, perhaps, Erin Grall, Fine is the what’s standing between a two-horse showdown. Fine, ever the tactician, believes there are votes there for him if Grant or Renner can’t win a quick majority.

But is it time for Fine to pay the role of kingmaker? Does he deliver his vote and, again perhaps, a couple of other independent votes, to Grant and Fine in exchange for a committee chairmanship to be named later?

Stay tuned.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.