I just finished a second viewing of the first season of ‘Game of Thrones,’ so forgive me if I frame the political intrigue surrounding the state Senate’s redistricting process in terms only those who where Winterfell is understand.
Despite the Supreme Court NOT ruling either of Pinellas’ state Senate seats invalid, as it did to eight others, there has been considerable uptick in the volume of chatter about what may happen to the district which stretches from the Gulf Beaches to South Pinellas. Currently, only Rep. Jim Frishe is running for this seat, but that does not mean others do not aspire for the throne, err, want to run for this seat.
Here’s where sh*t stands, in Game of Thrones vernacular.
The House of Frishe: Conservative, steady; his banner should be one depicting an older bull dismissive of the young bulls rushing in while he takes his time. What does Frishe have going for him? First of all, he has nothing to lose. He only has two more years in his safe state House seat and he doesn’t have Congressional ambitions to consider; he just wants to be a State Senator, so Frishe is focused and determined. He has the support of similarly-minded steady conservatives, like St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and a host of other establishment bannermen in the local GOP. What is working against Frishe? Frishe is liked, but he is not beloved. And he doesn’t inspire a great deal of excitement. He’s a solid fundraiser, but not a rock-star. And his soft spot in the district is the influential neighborhoods of northeast St. Petersburg. Finally, he’s seen as very close to Jack Latvala, making him a target for Latvala’s opponents in the Senate, such as John Thrasher.
The House of Brandes: Aggressive, ambitious and increasingly unpredictable, Rep. Jeff Brandes has been discussed a great deal lately as a possible candidate for the State Senate. What does Brandes have going for him? The number one advantage Brandes has is that he could self-finance his campaign, making him behold to no one. But Brandes isn’t just about the dollars. He’s brainy, if not wonkish. An Army vet, he has an attractive bio. He excites conservatives. He’s got an independent streak. And he has a loyal, dedicated campaign and volunteer staff. What is working against Brandes? He’s only been in office two years. His name ID on the beaches and in South Tampa is likely non-existent. He’s perceived as a Tea Party candidate in a very non-Tea Party district. And, if he were to run against Frishe, he would create a civil war in Pinellas politics with Brandes supporters on one side and Frishe/Latvala supporters on the other.
The House of Young: A rock-star in Tampa and Tallahassee, Rep. Dana Young has probably tabled her Senate ambitions for the time being, but if enough male and/or Pinellas candidates get into the race, Young could win the seat with a plurality. What does Young have going for her? Young is one of the most liked newcomers in state politics. She’s a prodigious fundraiser. She’s already built a record for getting things done. Oh, and she’s razor-sharp smart. What is working against Young? She’s from Tampa. She’s from Tampa. And did I mention, she’s from Tampa. Nothing else matters as much as this. After all, how could Young convince voters in west Pinellas that she is one of them?
The House of Crow: Who? Larry Crow, the former state representative, is rumored to be considering moving to South Pinellas to run for the seat. But Google who the lawyer was for the Voyeur Dorm and that will end any consideration of Crow’s candidacy.
The House of Rouson: Thanks to Rouson’s “little-finger”, Barry Edwards, Rep. Rouson’s name continues to be bantered about as a possible candidate for this seat. If you listen to Edwards, he’ll have you convinced the Supreme Court is going to redraw the seat to benefit Rouson’s strength in the African-American. If that happens, Rouson will have second thoughts about having second thoughts. But Rouson is fooling himself if he thinks the GOP won’t spend millions against him.
And what about the House of Latvala? Like Tywin Lannister, Latvala is the most important figure in the kingdom, but he’s not the king yet. If it’s accurate that Latvala has sewn up the Senate Presidency in 2017, it may not be the smartest move to raise a sword against him.
So what will happen? Like Game of Thrones, you’re just going to have to stay tuned. But, just like the television show, the second season for which begins April 1, the race for the State Senate is about to get really interesting.