Winners & Losers coming out of Florida’s and Tampa Bay’s primary elections

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Tuesday’s slate of elections in Florida and Tampa Bay certainly provided a list of winners and losers — and I’m not just talking about the candidates. Here is my list of the real winners and losers coming out of Tuesday’s elections.

Statewide

Winners

Rep. Eric Eisnaugle – Several steps closer to being Mr. Speaker-Designate.

The Establishment – In this year when the word “Cantor” became a verb (as in, “Candidate X was Cantored in the primary by an unknown, first-time opponent”), the state Republican establishment made sure none of that craziness infected its primary elections. State Senators Thad Altman, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Joe Negron, Jack Latvala, and John Thrasher are all on their way back to Tallahassee. No state House incumbent was upset. The big business organizations beat back (again) the trial lawyers.

Pat Bainter/Data Targeting – If there wasn’t that redistricting case, it’s likely very few people outside of Tallahassee would ever know about Bainter or his firm.  But what they should know is, very quietly, Data Targeting is, arguably, the most complete, most dominant political consulting firm in Florida.

Chip Case – The man behind the man behind the scenes actually lost a couple of races he’d have preferred not to, but his main man this cycle, Eric Eisnaugle, is in much better position to be Speaker D.

Disney – I’m told that The Mouse, albeit off-the-grid, was a big player in several of the battleground legislative races.

Brett Doster – Regardless of how the HD 15 race, where Front Line Strategies client Jay Fant currently holds a two vote lead, turns out, Doster already had impressive wins in HD 6 (Jay Trumbull) and HD 30 (Bob Cortes).

Dane Eagle – The Cape Coral Republican faced a rocky road to re-election after pleading to a high-profile reckless driving charge earlier this year. But few candidates this cycle worked harder, either by raising money or working a ground game, than Eagle. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and Eagle will be much stronger after this year.

Enwright Consulting – My friends Randy Enwright, Jim Rimes, and Dan Barrow are putting together another banner year. After guiding Rep. Matt Gaetz to essentially ten more years in the Florida Legislature, Enwright Consulting steered Brad Drake to a win in HD 5, while guiding Negron, Rep. John Tobia, and Bill Young to victory. The firm is also the tip of the spear in Florida for the U.S. Chamber, which, as you will read below, had a solid Tuesday.

Julio Gonzalez – Some silly blog once published a poll that read that the Venice surgeon was “all but unelectable.” How you like them apples?

Brian Hughes – Dude had a hand in the HD 15 race, Tom Goodson‘s tougher-than-expected win in HD 50, and made good money working in other legislative battles, all while walking point for Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli and fending off the scurrilous attacks of the Tampa Bay Times on the sugar industry.

Javier Manjarres – The publisher of The Shark Tank blog bit down on House candidate Richard DeNapoli and never let go. Have to give credit where credit is due.

The Florida Medical Association – No organization had a better Tuesday than the FMA. Tim Stapleton‘s crew and its allies at the Better Florida Fund (hello, Rick Wilson and Ryan Wiggins) recognized early the end-around the trial lawyers were attempting to run in HD 40, HD 74, and elsewhere and they deployed overwhelming, smartly targeted resources to crush their opponents. After a couple of cycles where the FMA was out-muscled by other organizations, including the optometrists, Florida’s doctors are the BSDs in town again. P.S. The sweet-as-honey-one-day, blowing-you-up-online-the-next Wiggins is having quite a year, first with her work to help pass the Charlotte’s Web legislation and now with her work in these legislative races.

Randy Nielsen – The good news is that Nielsen’s client, Carl Domino, won the GOP primary in Congressional District 18. The bad news is that Nielsen’s client, Carl Domino, won the GOP primary in Congressional District 18.

St. Pete Polls – SaintPetersBlog’s favorite pollster was waaayyy off in HD 40, but that’s really because I asked them to rely on small sample sizes. On the other hand, the firm nailed the outcome of Crist vs. Rich and Sheldon vs. Thurston, while also forecasting Jennifer Sullivan’s win in HD 31 and Gonzalez’ turnaround in HD 74.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio – Florida’s junior Senator has the Midas touch, there’s just no other way to put it. Before Rubio cut a spot for Julio Gonzalez in HD 74, the doctor was losing to Richard DeNapoli. After the Rubio spot starts airing, Gonzalez takes the lead and never looks back.

Jennifer Sullivan – Consider this: When Sullivan, who won a five-way open primary for HD 31, is term-limited from running again for her seat, she will only be 31 years-old.

Michelle Todd – Yes, I am putting my wife on this list because she was in charge of Charlie Crist’s Election Watch Party. That’s no easy task, yet she made it look easy. All while being an incredible mother to Ella Joyce and wife to the jackass who made national news after ending a Pay-It-Forward at Starbucks. If I have one more guy come up to me and tell me how honored they are to meet me because I am married to Michelle, while giving me this look like they don’t understand why she is married to me, I am going to Pay-It-Forward to myself with a round of dirty martinis.

Ryan TysonAssociated Industries‘ wunderkind was so right about the outcomes in the legislative primaries, the only problem is Tyson is not a self-promoter that he won’t step out and take credit for just how right he was. Tyson ended up using a looser sampling model that other pollsters and, of course, this turned out to be the smart decision as low-information voters turned out in competitive primaries because they were sent mail-ballots as a result of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney pushing them in 2012.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce – This national organization was a big winner on Tuesday because it played in and won two races. It’s big win was Colleen Burton, who defeated trial lawyer John Shannon, which was a classic case of business versus trial lawyers and demonstrated that the U.S. Chamber and the Florida Chamber can impact any race they decide to get involved in. Its other race was Julio Gonzalez’ win in HD 74, where it worked with the Florida Medical Association to defeat Richard DeNapoli.

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho – Insert your Vampire Slayer joke here.

Losers

Chris Dorworth – Yes, Chris Dorworth. The day after his ally, Eric Eisnaugle, all but locks up the race for Speaker of the Florida House, his ally, Scott Batterson, is found guilty of bribery. To date, Brian Ballard has supported his Orlando proconsul, especially since Dorworth is close to both Corcoran, Eisnaugle, and other legislators, but if Dorworth can’t even go into a pitch meeting, how valuable is he?

Jack Hebert – My ol’ boss should be celebrating chiropractor Randy Glisson‘s win in HD 31, but, alas, that did not happen and so Hebert and the Florida Chiropractic Association are without a member in the Legislature. The heady days when both Drs. Dennis Jones and Frank Farkas were in Tallahassee are a distant memory.

Florida Times Union – How terrible is it that the one state House seat which ends with razor-close finish and prompts a bite-your-nails recount falls in the media market of a newspaper that doesn’t even have a full-time capital reporter? Were there to be a recount in Pinellas’ House District 68, for example, you can bet your bottom dollar this blogger, as well as reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune, and a handful of radio and TV stations, would be camped outside the Supervisor of Elections.

Integrity Florida – Those do-gooders were the intellectual proponents behind changes in 2013 to the state’s campaign finance system that increased the caps on contributions in exchange for more frequent reporting of contributions and expenditures. Well, what did that get anyone, except more work for Carroll & Co. and Robert and Nancy Watkins? As was evidenced in HD 40 and 74, the power of outside money is as strong as ever, while the availability of so much information has a) killed the campaign finance story and b) overwhelmed anyone’s ability to decipher it all.

Orange County and Polk County Supervisors of Elections – There are these things called websites on which other Supervisors of Elections post results in a timely fashion as soon as polls close. You might want to look into building one that isn’t from 1998.

Anthony Pedicini – You mess with the bull, you get the horns is how I would describe what happened to Pedicini. Despite a host of victories (U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, House candidates Chris Gregg, Chris Latvala, Chris Sprowls, and political committee work throughout the state), Pedicini and Strategic Image Management are taking it on the chin for losses in House Districts 40 and 74. That’s because Pedicini was so visibly linked and invested in his clients, John Shannon and Richard DeNapoli, while the rest of the political establishment was on the other side. Pedicini attempted a brilliant gambit — to back-door in money from the trial lawyers without the Florida Chamber and FMA realizing it until it was too late. Unfortunately, those two organizations’ radars went off and Pedicini’s clients were locked in the crosshairs.

Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera – As many the bartender has said, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

Gov. Rick Scott – Forget about what is being written about Democrats underwhelming turnout in South Florida because that will be fixed by November (you can just picture former President Bill Clinton getting out the vote condo building by condo building in October). The fact that 12 percent of Republican voters did not support Scott is embarrassing. Unlike voters who went for Nan Rich and will not leapfrog Crist for Scott, those discontented GOP voters, clustered in Crist-friendly counties like Pinellas and Sarasota, are up for grabs.

Adam Smith – The political editor of the state’s largest newspaper was nowhere to be read on Election Day, other than a trite table-setter on Crist. vs. Scott that includes a prediction that money might play a role. How bold!

Rep. Perry Thurston – Bang up week you’ve had, Mr. Leader. First, you are the star witness for THE REPUBLICANS case in the redistricting trial, then you lose big to a guy who had a difficult time providing his residency.

Trees – How many trees were felled to produce the crappy direct mail that polluted the legislative primary elections? How many more will be cut down to supply the Crist and Scott machines?

Tampa Bay

Winners

Associated Builders and Contractors, Florida Gulf Coast Chapter – The statewide and local organization made smart bets in state legislative races, only missing in the HD 74 race. Steve Cona and Co. also picked right with Ed Narain in House District 61.

Capitol Consulting – The campaign consulting firm linked with lobbying shop Corcoran & Johnston had wins with Al Higginbotham for Hillsborough County Commission, Mike Moore for Pasco County Commission, Michelle Shimberg for Hillsborough School Board, Michael Scionti for Circuit Court Judge and Laura Ward for Circuit Court Judge. This on top of its clients who won without opposition, such as Reps. Jake Raburn and Dan Raulerson.

Patrick Manteiga – There was no bigger booster of Scionti for Judge than the publisher of La Gaceta

Greenlight PinellasTom Rask, one of the three most vocal critics of the plan to increase transit opportunities in the county paid for by increasing taxes, flamed out at the polls, while the stubborn, lone voice of opposition on the County Commission — Republican incumbent Norm Roche — was bounced from office. The winner of the GOP primary in District 4, Dave Eggers, supports Greenlight Pinellas.

Pinellas County Young Republicans – Three of its alumni — Chris Latvala, Chris Sprowls, and Bill Young — all won their primaries.

Losers

Barry Edwards – With Shaw’s loss in House District 61, the Pinellas political consultant has yet to figure out what he’ll do after Rep. Darryl Rouson is term-limited. Edwards has seen meal tickets Peter Nehr and Rouson-as-leader-of-the-House-Dems both taken off his table.

April Griffin – Sure, sure, she won her primary to return to the Hillsborough School Board, but the issue should never have been in doubt in the first place.

Sean Shaw – Can’t win in Tallahassee, can’t win in Tampa. The consumer advocate will be a lot easier to ignore now that he’s lost twice.

Chris Sprowls – The Weatherfordian candidate for House District 65 saw most of his allies lose their own races for the Florida House, severely hindering his ambitions to be Speaker of the House in 2020.

The Tea Party – With Maureen Ahern, one of the founders of the Pinellas 9/12 organization, House candidate Joshua Black, Rask, and Roche all losing, there is clearly little appetite for the Tea Party’s brand of politics in progressive Pinellas County.

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.