Bill Nelson turns 71 on Sunday and its increasingly appearing that the lone Democrat holding statewide office in Florida would prefer to stay in Washington instead of Tallahassee.
Nelson has been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate but he has done little to show that he is interested in taking on Rick Scott, besides not fully ruling out making a bid. Republicans generally dreaded the possibility. In his more than 40 years in Florida politics, Nelson is a proven winner who has successfully resisted Floridas Republican trend in statewide elections.
Buzz about Nelson challenging Scott has faded in recent weeks as Alex Sink had her moment in the limelight as she pondered, and eventually decided against, making a second gubernatorial bid. Now Nelson appears to be closing the door to running against Scott.
Earlier this week, Nelsons Senate campaign sent an email from Grace Nelson, the senators wife, asking for supporters to contribute at the end of the third quarter for fundraising. Grace Nelson praised her husbands commitment to serve the people of Florida in the United States Senate and called him a measured, moderate voice" during a period when our country is facing many challenges at home and abroad, with petty partisan attacks filling the airwaves and our mailboxes.
Grace Nelson also called for supporters to open up their wallets for the senator and contribute to his re-election campaign. Having easily dispatched Connie Mack in 2012, Nelson wont face voters again until 2018. Funds raised for federal campaigns cant be moved over to state ones. Its hard to imagine Nelson would be raising funds for a Senate race which is more than five years out if he plans to run for governor next year.
With Sink out altogether and Nelson continuing to show no interest, the two main contenders for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination will be Charlie Crist and Nan Rich. Crist is the man to beat, especially with Sink and Nelson out. Having spent years running for office as a conservative Republican, Crist would have been blown out by Nelson in the primary. But he is not the only Democrat who should be happy about Nelsons decision to stay out. Rich should see some benefits by being the liberal alternative to Crist, but she hasnt made much progress in the race despite entering last April.
Scott is also a winner with Nelson staying out. Of all the Democratic possibilities, Nelson offered Scott the most problems. As things stand, Scotts still an underdog against Crist but his chances against the former Republican are much better than they would have been against Nelson.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.