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Florida Democrats Have a Thin Bench Despite Charlie Crist's Fool's Gold

April 2, 2014 - 6:00pm

Allison Tant promised her fellow Florida Democrats she would recruit candidates to run against Republicans holding Cabinet office, but with two and a half months to go until qualifying ends, no major opponent has yet taken on Jeff Atwater and Adam Putnam.

Florida Democrats appeared to have the wind at their backs as Amanda Murphy picked up a Florida House seat from Republicans and Rick Kriseman won the St. Petersburg mayors race. But David Jollys upset win over Alex Sink in a special congressional election short-circuited that surge.

Tant has to feel good about Charlie Crists chances over Rick Scott in Novembers main event. There are two credible candidates challenging Pam Bondi in George Sheldon and Perry Thurston, but theyre both underdogs to the Republican attorney general. Atwater and Putnam still dont have major challengers even as Tant used her weight as chairwoman of the party to throw her support to Allie Braswell to challenge Atwater. Braswell didnt even last in the race a week after reports came out that he filed for personal bankruptcies on numerous occasions leading to questions about how well Tant and her team vetted him.

Nor do things look much better at the legislative level. There are 20 Florida Senate seats up for grabs this year and the GOP is defending 16 of them. Only one Republican senator -- Jeff Brandes -- has a serious Democratic foe. Even there, Judith Ann McLauchlin starts off as the underdog against Brandes. Its tough to see Republicans picking up any Florida Senate seats this year and, besides McLauchlin, Democrats simply arent showing much effort to flip the chamber.

Nor do things look much better across the Capitol lobby in the Florida House. To be sure, Democrats have their chances to pick up seats -- like the one being vacated by Ed Hooper -- against Republican incumbents, but none of those are anything close to easy tasks. Meanwhile, several Democrats in the House -- Karen Castor-Dentel, Mike Clelland, Mark Danish, Dwight Dudley, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Linda Stewart and Carl Zimmerman -- can expect tough fights from Republicans in November. Democrats could see their gains in the Florida House from 2012 vanish.

If Crist wins, Democrats will take heart for winning their first gubernatorial contest in 20 years. But its telling that they would have to rely on a longtime successful Republican politician to win the governors mansion. As their frustrations with recruiting Cabinet and legislative candidates show, Florida Democrats continue to have a thin bench and Democrats continue to wait for Tant to keep her promise.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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