To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, sometimes you go to war with the Senate president you have, not the Senate president you might want or wish to have at a later time.
Soon, Florida Senate Republicans will be at war. Well it’s really hard to describe campaigning against the bungling Florida Democratic Party as being at war, but it’s something like that.
Until this past weekend, the 2016 war for the few competitive state Senate seats up for grabs this cycle was entirely manageable, so much so that the Republicans’ delay in deciding who — Joe Negron or Jack Latvala — would lead them into said war was not that much of a problem. Andy Gardiner even tapped Lizbeth Benacquisto and Bill Galvano to raise funds for Senate Victory while Negron and Latvala sort things out.
This was all before Jeff Atwater decided not to, as had been expected, run for the U.S. Senate. Atwater’s decision has already set off a scramble among several Republicans who might now be interested in running for the seat Marco Rubio is giving up to run for president.
Might Atwater’s decision accelerate a finale to Negron versus Latvala?
It’s not as if a flood of Florida state senators will abandon their seats for a shot at the big game, thereby prompting the need for either Negron or Latvala to take control of the Republican campaign machinery. But there will be some sort of domino effect, perhaps enough of one to prompt enough Republican state senators to publicly call for an end to Joe vs. Jack.
For example, U.S. Rep. David Jolly is being seriously asked to consider running for the U.S. Senate, despite being in office for little more than a year. It’s highly doubtful he runs, but he might, which would open up CD 13. The frontrunner among Republicans to succeed Jolly is probably state Sen. Jeff Brandes. As unlikely it is that Jolly runs, if he did, it’s very likely Brandes runs for Congress (although he doesn’t have to resign to run).
This would open up battleground state Senate District 22, a seat that has flipped back and forth between Republicans and Democrats over the last three decades. It would be a highly competitive, expensive campaign, particularly in a presidential election cycle.
So who on the Republican side would be the decider for Senate Victory, the legislative campaign arm of the GOP? Andy Gardiner? He’ll be out the door (or working on his wife’s campaign!) Staff? It remains to be seen if they can be objective.
No, there needs to be an adult in the room. Someone with whom the buck stops. It doesn’t matter which one it is … Joe Negron … Jack Latvala … maybe even Tom Lee. But it’s time to decide, fellas.
The Game of Thrones in CD 13/SD 22 is likely one of a half-dozen or so possible scenarios that smart political consultants are playing out in their heads because of Atwater’s decision.
“Well if Congressman X decides to run for Senate, that means Senator Y will likely run to replace X. But what happens if Senator Z decides to make the jump early?”
To give you another example, doesn’t U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan need to give the Senate race a second look? What does that do to the Senate seats in his congressional district? Sure they look safe, but this kind of chessboarding creates exactly the kind of environment where safe seats become toss-ups.
Someone needs to be at the Florida Senate wheel in case things veer out of control, which, in Florida politics, they seemingly do more often than not.
Andy Gardiner, call a vote.
Joe Negron, show your pledge cards.
Jack Latvala, do something!
Draw straws. Flip a coin. Whatever.
It’s time to go to war with the Senate president everyone wants.