Standing in front of the Alachua County Court House, former state Sen. Rod Smith teased a “major announcement” for Tuesday morning, which almost certainly will mark his entry into the race for the newly redrawn Senate District 8.
The Gainesville attorney and former Florida Democratic Party chair would be the second candidate in the contest, joining Gainesville Republican Rep. Keith Perry, who announced Friday he would skip his last term in House District 21 to run for the seat.
Smith has been rumored as a possible candidate since new Senate maps created an Alachua County-centric seat that is favorable for Democrats. In addition to Alachua County, SD8 includes all of Putnam County and the northern half of Marion County.
Democrats make up 48 percent of the electorate, with Republicans accounting for about 33 percent. President Barack Obama narrowly beat Mitt Romney in the district in his 2012 reelection campaign, though Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson routed Connie Mack IV by 15 points the same cycle.
Smith’s history in state politics dates back to 1992 when he was elected state attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit and prosecuted Danny Rolling, the infamous serial killer. In 2000 he left that post to run for the Florida Senate, defeating former Republican Rep. Bob Casey on Election Day with 56 percent of the vote. He ran unopposed in the 2002 cycle.
After an unsuccessful run gubernatorial campaign in 2006, and another failed campaign as former Florida CFO Alex Sink’s lieutenant governor pick four years later, Smith took over as chair of the Florida Democratic Party, a post he held through 2013.
Smith has a bit of catching up to do in fundraising though he proved to be an adequate fundraiser in the past. He was able to raise more than $500,000 in his 2000 Senate bid and more than $3.7 million in his unsuccessful campaign against former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis in the 2006 Democratic Primary for governor.
Through January, Perry had about $43,000 on-hand in his campaign account, though those numbers are likely to spike after Sine Die allows the lawmaker to start accepting contributions.