Geri Thompson and Gary Siplin Battle in Bellwether Primary for Democrats
Around the State
A month out, the most important Democratic primary in Florida could be between two familiar figures in Tallahassee battling for one of their party’s safest legislative seats.
Unlike the gubernatorial primary, which Charlie Crist should win handily, or the yawn-inducing contest to see who gets to lose to Pam Bondi in November, Gary Siplin’s challenge to Geri Thompson should be competitive and even serve as a bellwether for how Democrats proceed in Tallahassee.
Thompson and Siplin certainly have more than their share of history. Siplin beat Thompson in the 2004 primaries but she got some revenge by beating his wife Victoria in the 2012 primaries.
A veteran of the much more partisan House who moved into the more congenial Senate, Thompson has the support of the liberal establishment. The party leadership is looking for Democrats to put up a fight against the Republicans in Tallahassee instead of trying to work with the GOP which controls both chambers of the Legislature. The removal of Darryl Rouson and the installation of Mark Pafford as the next Democrat House leader only underscores which way Democrats are headed.
Thompson is a Democrat in the Pafford mold who will put up a fight against the GOP. Certainly Democrats are starting to place their bets on her. By July 18, Thompson had brought in $143,500, relied on more than $17,450 through in-kind donations and spent more than $76,800. Thompson has gotten a good deal of support from the various teachers' unions and Planned Parenthood this time out. She’s also gotten the support of the Florida Medical Association.
Siplin has generally been more willing to play ball with Republicans in the Senate. It helped him move up the ladder during his decade in the Senate and he even chaired the Agriculture Committee despite GOP control of the chamber. The business community, from the Florida Hospital Association to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, backed Siplin during his various campaigns and helped his wife when she ran for the open seat against Thompson in 2012.
But Siplin hasn’t exactly impressed with his fundraising so far. By July 18, he raised less than $23,000 and spent less than $9,100. Some of the groups that have backed him before are staying away this time out, convinced he can’t win. Siplin’s late start -- he got in the race back in April -- hasn’t helped matters.
Thompson and Siplin offer two contrasting styles for Democrats to embrace in Tallahassee, especially as whoever wins will be a heavy favorite over whoever comes out on the Republican side. Siplin’s been a power in Central Florida for a long time but, with the Democratic leadership placing its bets on Thompson, he has an uphill road to return to Tallahassee.
Tallahassee based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote his analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.