At this point in the election cycle, there is no day off, there is no weekend. Bill Clinton’s notion of the permanent campaign is permanently ingrained, even at the local level.
Accordingly, much happens over the weekend. Saturday is the new Friday. Sunday evening is the new Monday morning. There is time for church and brunch. But pray fast. Eat faster.
This past weekend was no different, especially on the local front. Here’s where sh*t stands.
In the most battlegroundy of battleground seats, the current House District 52, the future House District 68 (currently held by Rep. Jeff Brandes), Democratic trial attorney Dwight Dudley is jumping into the race.
Affable, photogenic and with a last name that means something in northeast St. Petersburg, Dudley posted this weekend on Facebook that he was running for the State House.
Dudley may be running because he believes Brandes is taking a leap into the State Senate race in south Pinellas. Regardless, Dudley is as credible a candidate as the Democrats have.
As for what Brandes will do, don’t ask me. Please, please stop asking me. Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell. But I don’t, so it doesn’t matter. Jeff Brandes is genuinely weighing the pros and cons of running for the State Senate and when he makes a decision, I’m sure we will all know it.
I will say this, however. With Dudley in the race, Brandes’ time to decide has to be accelerated. If Brandes is going to defend the seat against Dudley, he’ll need the time. If Brandes is going to run for the State Senate, he owes the GOP as much time as possible to find a replacement.
Also, the Florida Supreme Court essentially said on Friday that it would not be messin’ around with any districts it had issue with during its first go-round with the Florida Senate. So the south Pinellas Senate seat is what it will be. How the district will be drawn is no longer a factor in Brandes’ decision-making.
That’s why I expect Rep. Brandes to make a decision sooner rather than later.
Dwight Dudley is not the only Democrat emerging to challenge an incumbent Republican House member. Mary Lou Ambrose is running against Rep. Larry Ahern. The wife of popular Belleair Bluffs City Commissioner Joe Barkley and a force in her own right, Ambrose is another case of the Democrats putting forward about as good a candidate as they can find.
The question is will Ambrose — or any Democrat for that matter — will have the resources to match the overwhelming strength of the GOP.
I put this question to Christian Ulvert, the general consultant to the Florida Democratic Party’s House Victory operation, and he assures me that the Democrats have as much money budgeted as they had in election cycles past, including 2006 when the Democrats poached several battleground seats.
Actually, just the fact that its Ulvert at the helm of the FDP’s efforts is a good sign for Democrats. He’s one of the few smart warriors the Dems still have. He’s got his hands full, mind you, but he’s, like the candidates he is recruiting in Pinellas, about as good as it gets inside the Democratic party.
Ulvert’s top priority in Tampa Bay has to be defending Rick Kriseman’s House seat, right? But what if Rick Kriseman doesn’t run for re-election?
That was the buzz over the weekend, especially from big-money donors in South Florida. But they could be a few weeks behind the intelligence from on-the-ground.
I’ve gone back-and-forth. Originally, I thought Kriseman would not run for re-election; rather he would run for Mayor of St. Petersburg. Then he made a lot of noise about liking the new district he would be running in, so I thought he would run for re-election. But, during the last week, a lot of folks closer to Kriseman than I say they think Kriseman’s back to wanting to run for Mayor.
Maybe I should call Kevin King and ask him what the plan is.
Another Democrat I keep hearing is about to jump into a race is Carl Zimmermann in State House District 65, where Rep. Peter Nehr is looking to win more term before being termed out. Nehr has beaten Zimmermann twice, but that doesn’t seem to be discouraging Zimmermann from trying one more time.
Ambrose, Dudley, Zimmermann. Suddenly three State House seats based in Pinellas are about to be in play.
There won’t be any weekends off anytime soon.