A wiser political consultant once recommended to me to save a few extra shillings I earned during the height of the campaign season, as feast quickly turns to famine in this business once all of the votes have been counted and the campaigns have run their course.
Yes, and rocks weighed more in the ol’ days as well.
Today, in the midst of the winter of 2013 lies already an invincible summer of Tampa Bay candidates seeking to win elected office in 2014. For local political consultants, the feasting may not cease.
First of all — and above all else — there is the prospect of both hometowners Charlie Crist and Alex Sink challenging Rick Scott for the governor’s mansion. Crist and/or Sink on the ballot would be a boon to the local political aficionados who have worked on their previous campaigns.
Down the ballot, there are already several intriguing races forming up.
In Pinellas, a well-funded referendum to bring light rail to the county is expected to take shape over the next two years. There also will be two, perhaps three, highly competitive races for the County Commission. Last week, term-limited State Representative Ed Hooper signaled his intent to run against fellow Republican Norm Roche for one seat. Roche is weighing a move to another district, where he might challenge local powerhouse Susan Latvala. And in a third race, incumbent John Morroni may not seek another term, creating an open seat in the heart of the county.
Across the water, in Hillsborough County, a scrum is already in motion to replace term-limited County Commissioner Mark Sharpe. Democrat Mary Mulhern is giving up her seat on the Tampa City Council to pursue the seat. School Board Chair April Griffin, former County Commissioner Rose Ferlita and current Commish Al Higgonbotham are also interested in Sharpe’s seat.
Pivoting back to Pinellas, with Hooper’s House seat opening up, look for small businessman Chris Latvala, son of the famed state lawmaker, to run there. But Latvala likely won’t get a free pass from Democrats, who believe the seat is ripe for a flip to their column.
State attorney Chris Sprowls is already running hard for House District 65, where Democratic incumbent Carl Zimmermann just got done winning the seat from Peter Nehr, who is said to be eyeing a run for the County Commission if Susan Latvala decided to not run again. Sprowls is a favorite of popular State Representative Mike Fasano and already has the backing of the state Republican establishment.
State Republicans are likely to field candidates in the legislative seats they lost during the 2012 cycle, including House District 63 versus Mark Danish and House District 68 against Dwight Dudley. And just yesterday, consumer advocate Sean Shaw announced he was running to replace Betty Reed in HD 61.
The real battleground seat of all of the legislative races will be for Senate District 22, which Republican Jeff Brandes just won without opposition from the Democrats. Although it’s not clear who the Dems will recruit to run — trial lawyer Fran Haasch, maybe — the Democrats will not let this seat go unchallenged again. Especially not with Crist or Sink generating near-presidential level voter turnout.
All of this goes on without the biggest domino of them all falling: what if Congressman Bill Young decides not to or is not able to run in 2014? Every two years, the Bill Young Retirement Watch cranks up, only to see itself disappointed when he wins by two or three touchdowns. But there is a feeling among some close to Young — who can, as far as I am concerned, run for re-election for as long as he wants, that this might be his swan song.
Were that domino to fall, the entire game would reset.