While a special election on June 11 will determine who replaces the late Clay Ford in the Florida House of Representatives, there’s more at stake than just who will represent District 2. The winner of the HD 2 special election could very well be the next Speaker Designate of the Florida House as they will be given a sixteen-month head start on the rest of their class to organize a campaign for the Speakership.
Marco Rubio and Jose Oliva are examples of “redshirt freshman” legislators elected to office in a special election then later tapped to be Speaker. The period in office during which a Representative completes the term of a former member does not count toward the term-limit cap. That means the winner of HD 2 could serve almost nine-and-a-half years in the House.
It’s during the sixteen month period between the special election and the November 2014 general election that the winner of HD 2 can travel the state to campaign for other candidates, currying favor with future colleagues in the hopes of collecting their pledges of support were they to seek the Speakership in 2020-22. (If I am not mistaken, it will be during these years that the next round of congressional and legislative redistricting is conducted, thereby further upping the stakes of the special election in HD 2.)
Of course, winning a special election is no guarantee of becoming Speaker. Representative Matt Gaetz was elected to the House in a special election and was presumed to be the frontrunner to be Speaker Designate before Richard Corcoran eventually won the post.
Increasingly, geography is playing an important role in determining who will be designated Speaker-to-be.
“Support among the key delegations of Tampa Bay, Central Florida, and Miami-Dade will begin or end any bid for Speaker going forward,” predicts political consultant Anthony Pedicini, an adviser to Speaker Designate Oliva. “A candidate from the Panhandle, even a redshirt, will have an uphill battle bringing a Speakership away from I-4 or further south.”
The winner of the special election in House District 2 will have sixteen months to prove pessimists like Pedicini wrong.