Will Andy Gardiner spend money on Ellyn Bogdanoff? And other notes about the race for Senate President

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Last week, Senate President Designate Andy Gardiner hit the links at the spectacular Pebble Beach Golf Course to help raise money for Senate Majority, campaign arm of the Florida GOP. No word on how Gardiner or the other state Senators in attendance — Bill Galvano, Joe Negron, Anitere Flores, Tom Lee, and Garrett Richter — scored on the course, but if someone did end up in the bunker, it may have been Ellyn Bogdanoff.

While Bogdanoff was far from Pebble Beach, she was the topic of many conversations which took place there, according to those who made the trip out West. The question many were asking: “Will Gardiner commit to spending money on Bogdanoff’s bid to unseat Democrat Maria Sachs in Senate District 34?”

Reportedly (and surprisingly), the answer is unclear. Gardiner will not (yet) commit to spending any money out of the millions of dollars he and his fellow Republicans have banked away on Bogdanoff’s race. This despite SD 34 being the most competitive Senate seat in play this election cycle.

Why not? The answers are both personal and complicated.

First of all, we hear that Bogdanoff failed to check in with Gardiner one last time before pulling the trigger on challenging Sachs. No one will verify this slight, but it makes sense given the erratic pace of Bogdanoff’s entrance into the race. I mean, really, what was there to decide? Bogdanoff’s indecision almost forced her into a costly Republican primary against JB Bensmihen, who dropped out of the race last week, but only entered it — he says — because he was unclear about Bogdanoff’s intentions.

It’s doubtful Gardiner will not eventually come to Bogdanoff’s rescue because she didn’t check in one last time before announcing her run. But it is keeping Gardiner on the sidelines for the time being — and that’s not good for Bogdanoff.

What may keep other Republicans from helping Bogdanoff is that she’s pledged to vote for Jack Latvala for Senate President.

Latvala has been outspoken about his belief that Bogdanoff is the tiebreaker in his race against Negron for the Senate Presidency in 2016-18. However, Negron’s supporters reached out to me last week to say that any report that the race is “deadlocked” is wrong. The race is not 13-to 13, Negron’s camp insists, because their guy is a few signed pledge cards ahead of Latvala.

Who’s telling the truth? Probably both sides. Negron is probably a pledge card ahead of Latvala, but if Negron had the race locked up, we’d hear about it. Latvala’s still alive because he’s not dead.

That said, Latvala may have made a strategic error by setting up the Bogdanoff race as a tiebreaker. He’s painted himself into a corner because if Bogdanoff does not win — and I give her two chances in five that she will — than Latvala may not have another card to play.

Regardless, Latvala is going all-in for Bogdanoff, regardless of what Gardiner or Negron are doing.

Latvala has been on a fundraising tear since the end of session. He’s raised more than $307,000 since May 20 for his Florida Leadership Fund, giving Latvala more than a million dollars to deploy in SD 34.

Meanwhile, Negron has put on hold any fundraising for his committee, the Treasure Coast Alliance. Negron says he is dedicated to raising money for the RPOF.

“Since session concluded, I have been working closely with Senate President Designate Andy Gardiner to raise money for Senate Majority so that Sen. Gardiner has the resources to bring back the entire Republican Senate caucus,” said Negron in an email to me.  “This is my top priority.”

Continued Negron, “At the appropriate time, my team and I will resume fundraising for Treasure Coast Alliance to continue TCA’s important mission. The Republican Caucus is far more important than any individual Senator’s political committee.”

Whether the “Republican Caucus” will include Ellyn Bogdanoff remains to be seen.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.