Here’s where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay – the ‘post-qualifying’ edition

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Few things in politics are as clarifying as qualifying, one of my political science professors liked to say.

Candidate qualifying, like no other event in an election cycle, separates the wheat from the chaff or, specifically, the Jessica Ehrlichs from the Nina Haydens.

Now that qualifying is over, here’s where sh*t stands.

Hayden’s inability to properly complete the basic paperwork required to run for office may end her political career.  Yes, we all make mistakes, but Hayden is an attorney, for goodness’ sake.  She should know better about dotting i’s and crossing t’s. There is simply no excuse for this snafu.

Just think, less than three years ago, Hayden was a member of the Pinellas School Board with a bright future in front of her.  Then she made the disastrous decision to run against Jack Latvala for the Florida Senate.  She lost badly.  To follow this up, she decided to challenge Bill Young.  What made Hayden think that if she couldn’t beat Latvala, she had any chance of beating Young, the only politician more influential in — and important to  — Tampa Bay?

Nina Hayden needs to take a step back, sit out a couple of election cycles, accept some humility about her political abilities and, then and only then, consider making a return to local politics.

In the meantime, Hayden will remain a cautionary tale.

Sorry, good friends Johnny Bardine and Shari Hazlett, but you’ll have to share some of the blame for Hayden’s screw-up.  Even if you weren’t her campaign managers and/or even if the candidate had gone rogue, Bardine-Hazlett was publicly connected to Hayden’s campaign (there were a lot of Tweets from @JohnnyBardine about Hayden!).

It’s not a big deal, just step up and own that Hayden was a flawed candidate.  You guys have enough good things going on to quickly move past this episode.

Sen. Jack Latvala is a lock to win re-election, even if he has a primary and general election challenger.

Latvala’s primary challenger, Zahid Roy, appears to be associated Sheriff candidate Everett Rice, but has absolutely no chance of defeating Latvala.  The Democrat in the race, the well-meaning Ashley Rhodes-Courter is running why?

Certainly both Roy and Rhodes-Courter are entitled to run for office, but what’s the point of their candidacies? They are but speed-bumps.

Speaking of Latvala, think about the silver-lining for him that has presented itself now that John Legg has moved to District 17 and Jim Norman is reportedly dropping out of that race.

With these developments, Latvala, via his Leadership Funds, may have as much as $200,000 to $300,000 freed-up because he will not have to spend as much money helping Legg vs. Wilton Simpson, nor will he have to spend any money assisting Norman.

Those critical dollars could go a long way helping Latvala’s other allies, such as Ellyn Bogdanoff and Jim Frishe.

Frishe’s opponent in State Senate District 22, Jeff Brandes, reminds us of the, um, flexibility found in Florida’s campaign finance laws.

In a recent fundraising letter, Brandes writes that “(b)y opening a new account for my bid for Florida Senate, all contribution limits have been reset…” This means a contributor was able to donate up to the maximum $500 to Brandes’ campaign for the Florida House, which Brandes was free to spend, such as on these television ads. And now that Brandes is running for the Senate, the same contributor can donate up to the maximum $500 again to Jeff Brandes.

It’s certainly smart of Brandes to exploit this loophole, but it’s a loophole in need of closing by legislative action.  Contributors should be able to only the maximum amount to a candidate once per cycle, regardless of whether a candidate switches the office they are seeking.

“With ‘a little bit of competitive anger in me,’ Tom Lee says he’s ready to return as a ‘foot soldier’ to the Florida Senate, which he once headed, reports Kenric Ward.

Rumors are afloat that Lee will ultimately support state Sen. Jack Latvala to be a future Senate president.

Lee says he’s had “long relationships” with both (Jack) Latvala and John Thrasher, who also is vying for the top job, but that he’s keeping his options open.

Two years ago, Republican Dana Young was locked in one of the most expensive State House races in all of Florida.  Although Young handily defeated Democrat Stacy Frank, the margin of victory did not reflect how closely-contested this race was.

Last week, Young was unopposed when candidate qualifying ended, meaning she will serve at least another two-years in the Florida House.  Maybe this was because of Young’s impressive legislative record.  Or maybe it was because of her prodigious fundraising. Regardless, it’s noteworthy the lock Young has placed on her South Tampa legislative seat.

Super-staffer Ash Mason was the last, best hope of Republicans hoping to keep the Democrat Dwight Dudley from taking back State House District 68 (Brandes’ seat in northeast Pinellas).

Mason, Nick DiCeglie, LJ Govoni, Ian Leavengood and Ed Montanari all passed on running for the seat, leaving former State Representative Frank Farkas as the GOP frontrunner.  But Farkas inspires little excitement among the state’s Republican leadership or the local rank-and-file. One legislative leader, recently in St. Petersburg to recruit a candidate for this seat, was adamantly opposed to supporting a “retread” such as Farkas.

Part of the reason it was difficult for the GOP to recruit a candidate to this seat was the mistaken impression that top-of-the-ballot performance would decide the race, rather than the efforts of the individual candidates.  How can a Republican win in this narrowly-lean Democrat seat in a presidential year, GOP strategists asked.

Well, a Republican won this seat in 2000 despite the district going for Democrat Al Gore.

His name: Frank Farkas.

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.