The worst kept secret in Tampa Bay politics is that Rep. Jeff Brandes intends to run for the ‘South Pinellas’ seat in the State Senate. In doing so, Brandes may end up running against Rep. Jim Frishe in the Republican primary.
The Tampa Bay Times Adam Smith says as much in a column on Sunday, writing that the race could be a proxy fight between John Thrasher backing Brandes and Jack Latvala backing Frishe. In fact, Smith writes, “Brandes is expected to be in the Thrasher camp.”
I’m sorry, Adam, but that’s not entirely accurate. In fact, suggesting that Brandes vs. Frishe would be a “proxy fight” is the kind of inflammatory analysis which has almost led to this entire situation spiraling out-of-control.
The reality is, yes, Jeff Brandes is likely to run for the Florida Senate. Why? Because, as his camp will tell you, there’s as much risk in running against a generic Democrat in a lean-Democrat seat in a presidential year as there is running in a primary for the Florida Senate against a well-established Republican like Jim Frishe.
In other words, it’s six of one, half-a-dozen of the other.
But just because Brandes may run against Frishe, that doesn’t mean he’s on Team Thrasher.
First of all, Team Thrasher has yet to really start playing. Sure, Senator Thrasher says he’s in the mix for the Senate Presidency, but he has yet to begin raising money for a leadership fund. Beyond Aaron Bean in north Florida, Sen. Thrasher has yet to genuinely recruit a slate of candidates who, if they win their races, would pledge to support him for the Senate Presidency. Yes, some of the candidates already running may end up supporting Thrasher, but it’s not like they’re John Thrasher’s guys.
The same applies for Jeff Brandes, who, while contemplating a run for the Florida Senate, has deliberately avoided any indication that he’s anything but a “free agent.”
A highly placed source close to Brandes confirms that Rep. Brandes “has only spoken to Thrasher (or those close to Thrasher) once — briefly — during session and not about any campaign, or have they spoken since then.”
Civil blood makes civil hands unclean. The same could be said of civil columns written by certain Tampa Bay Times reporters.