Alright already! You’re tired of me hemming and hawing about who I think just might possibly win next Tuesday. You’re tired of the parsed answers and qualified explanations. You want predictions. You want me to put my money where mouth is.
But I am the House. I set the lines, so you can bet. But, if I had to bet…
I’d take Bob Gualtieri over Everett Rice in the race to be Pinellas Sheriff. Rice began this campaign with something like a 40-point lead over Gualtieri. Going into the last week of the election it’s now pick ’em. In fact, I have not spoken to many voters who were not already predisposed to Gualtieri or Rice who are not voting for Gualtieri. He has run a much stronger campaign, while Rice would have been better off going on vacation for the last three months. Even Rice’ss supporters are hedging their bets. I know one supporter close to the campaign who predicts Rice will still win — but just by one point. That tells me that Gualtieri is ahead. The only question hope for Rice is if he was able to bank enough early votes to hold off Gualtieri’s surge.
I’d take Jeff Brandes, but not by the margin his supporters are hoping for. Jim Frishe has won straw polls on both sides of the Bay and he has several times the endorsements of Brandes (and for those who argue it’s the quality of the endorsements which matter, let me say that when Leslie Waters is your fourth best local endorsement, that argument goes out the window), so I’m not yet ready to count him out. But there is a difference between now and 2006 when Frishe was counted out against Rod Jones. Brandes’ campaign, fueled by hundreds of thousands of dollars from outside interests determined to keep Pinellas’ Jack Latvala from becoming Senate President, is lightyears ahead of Rod Jones’ 2006 campaign. So a Brandes win cannot be attributed only to money — it will be primarily about money — but it’s not only because of money.
I’d take Tom Lee by almost two touchdowns over Rachel Burgin, whose campaign seems to have shutdown after she and her allies in Tallahassee were hit with a series of election complaints two weeks ago. Sure, Rachel will turn out her very dedicated supporters but Lee has his own band of supporters and is backed by hundreds of thousands of dollars in media. I genuinely believe the voters of SD 24 recognize the differences between Burgin and Lee and will vote accordingly.
I’d take Kathleen Peters to cover the spread over David Phillips in House District 69. Nothing I have seen, internally or externally, suggests to me that Phillips — an outsider with a spotty voting record — has made any inroads in to a community long familiar with Peters. Yes, Phillips, bolstered by Miami money, has hammered Peters in the mailbox. But I have yet to see any indication that these attacks are working. Instead, they have served to focus Peters, who has been endorsed by almost every major Republican figure in the community, including AG Pam Bondi.
In other key primaries across the states, put me down for Mike Weinstein pulling an upset against Aaron Bean in SD 14, Kelli Stargel easily beating Jack Myers in SD 15, Mack Bernanrd and Jeff Clemens too close to call in SD 27 and Ron Saunders edging out Dwight Bullard in SD 39.
Disagree with my predictions? Well, put your money where your mouth is and give me your predictions in the comments section.