Eyes Still on 2012, Democrats Sizing Up 2014 Contenders
'If Alex (Sink) runs, Alex is the front-runner'
Around the State
Gov. Rick Scott’s popularity has sagged to 29 percent. And some Democrats are already looking at a rematch of the 2010 election a few months after a Democratic-leaning polling firm found former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink would win the election by 19 points if it had been held in March.
“If Alex runs, Alex is the front-runner,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist who advised Sink on her run for the governor’s mansion last year.
Sink said she is involved now with other ventures, including her work setting up a nonprofit policy organization. But she didn’t rule out a rematch with Scott, who edged her by less than 62,000 votes in a contentious 2010 election in which the former CFO ran into the strong national winds blowing against Democrats.
“When the time comes, a couple of years from now, I’ll evaluate the race,” Sink said.
But some Democrats are still skeptical of re-running Sink, whose husband, Bill McBride, also lost to Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002.
“I’m not sure, because we’ve heard the McBride story and we’ve heard the Sink story, and neither one of them sold,” said Jon Ausman, a suspended member of the Florida Democratic Party’s executive committee.
A current and a former lawmaker are also getting mentioned: former Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach and Sen. Jeremy Ring of Margate. Neither ruled out the chance of taking on Scott in 2014, though both also stressed the three years between now and the next election.
“I love public service, and I can’t stand what this guy’s doing to this state I care about,” Gelber said.
The former senator recently wrote a blog post comparing Scott to Lex Luthor and saying the governor’s 29 percent approval rating is “too generous.” But Gelber, who ran for attorney general against Pam Bondi in the 2010 campaign, shied away from suggestions that he was actively considering whether to make a bid for the state’s highest office.
“It’s just too early to start thinking about jumping into races when the election is so far away,” he said.
Ring was also circumspect about whether he would run for governor.
“One day, if timing and opportunity meet each other, maybe. ... I’m not getting serious about anything, that’s for sure. And I can’t. Three years out, the thought of getting serious, that’s really foolish,” Ring said.
Ring raised the possibility of a self-funded dark horse in the Democratic primary in 2014 -- but the description of that candidate was close to one of himself, a millionaire and former executive at Yahoo!
“I don’t want to say they have the same policies as Rick Scott, but maybe they have the same profile,” Ring said. “They’ve made a lot of money, they’re in the private sector, people don’t know who they are, and they come out of nowhere.”
And speculation remains strong that former Gov. Charlie Crist could make a bid for his old seat as a Democrat, though Crist has only sporadically weighed in on political issues since he left office.
“Never underestimate Charlie Crist’s ability to shake things up,” Schale said.
During his time in office -- particularly after he bolted the GOP to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent -- Crist was popular among Democrats. In the last Quinnipiac University poll before the November elections, Crist’s favorability rating among Democrats was 62 percent, higher than it was among Republicans or independents and just 1 point shy of the party’s official U.S. Senate nominee, then-Congressman Kendrick Meek.
“But he was popular among Democrats when he was a Republican who vetoed things that Democrats didn’t like,” Schale said. “It’s a totally different story when he comes over here.”
Other names floating around include current Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, a former House member.
Any of them, though, could face a tough task in taking down even an unpopular Scott. But Schale also said they wouldn’t confront the same headwind Sink faced in 2010, as Democrats were wiped out virtually across the board in Florida.
“I think the odds of the political environment being that bad for either party in 2014 are pretty slim,” Schale said. “But it all depends. And, really, the guy who controls the outcome of that is Rick Scott. Governors in Florida tend to get re-elected.”