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Politics

Florida's 2014 Gubernatorial Race is Starting Early

August 20, 2013 - 6:00pm

Labor Day has generally been the kickoff of general elections as candidates sprint through the last two months of the election. But things could be different in Florida as the governors race starts to heat up.

So far, former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich is the only major gubernatorial candidate in the race. Rich has done little in terms of making much of an impression despite being in the race since last spring and she has not done well in terms of fundraising.

Rich continues to get more attention from Republicans than she does from her own party. Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), insisted on Wednesday that Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant was getting ready to back former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2014. Crist had been a Republican for most of his political career but, losing to Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate primary, he left the GOP in 2010 to stay in the race with no party affiliation. At the end of 2012, having endorsed President Barack Obamas re-election, Crist joined the Democrats.

Instead of embracing Senator Rich, Allison Tant and the Florida Democratic establishment are shunning her, laying out the red carpet for another former Republican in Charlie Crist, who tanked Florida's economy with 832,000 jobs lost, unemployment jumping from 3.5 percent to 11.1 percent, the second largest jump in unemployment out of all 50 states and D.C., Curry wrote in a memo sent out on Wednesday. Unlike Senator Rich, the recently turned Democrat Charlie Crist has a record of being pro-life, pro-family, pro-business, anti-tax and anti-big spending. Why Allison Tant is turning to former Republicans with records of failure is beyond comprehension.

Curry promised Florida Republicans that the RPOFs efforts to keep Gov. Rick Scott in office will be starting after Labor Day early next month. Get ready, because after Labor Day, the campaign to keep Florida on the right track will be ramping up, Curry insisted.

The RPOF continues to bash Crist and talk up Scott while, besides Rich, other potential Democratic candidates appear unlikely to run. Former CFO Alex Sink, who lost to Scott in 2010, talked to the Tampa Bay Times this week and left the door open to running but noted her family was not exactly supportive of a second gubernatorial bid. Sink also said she assumes Crist is going to run. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., continues to say he has no plans to run for governor, repeating this week that he had no intention of jumping in the contest.Crist has a memoir coming out in early February in which he explains why he left the GOP. The book should give Crist some media exposure and possibly a tour of the state.Scott has certainly indicated that he intends to get a quick start on the election. Last month, Scott told National Review that he would spend $25 million in early 2014 to define his opponent.

The Florida gubernatorial contest should rank as one of the most closely watched elections next year. Part of that comes from other large states appearing to have less competitive gubernatorial contests. Democrats Gov. Jerry Brown of California and Andew Cuomo of New York appear to be cruising to second terms. While Gov. Rick Perry of Texas might be retiring, whoever wins the Republican nomination will be a heavy favorite to become governor. With Florida shaping up to have one of the most competitive races in the nation, it appears the gubernatorial race will be starting early.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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