With Gov. Rick Scott up for another term next year, Floridas gubernatorial race is expected to draw the eyes of the nation -- but so far the race is essentially on hold, especially when compared to 2010.
Observers and pundits expected the race to heat up once the Legislature adjourned earlier this month. In the 2010 election cycle, the two presumptive favorites in the race -- Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Bill McCollum -- entered the race in the middle of May 2009. But so far Scott has not filed to run again, though all signs, from fundraising to party building, point to the governor pursuing another term. While there have been grumblings from some conservatives about offering Scott a primary, no major Republican has emerged to offer a challenge.
Even Scotts selection of a running mate seems to be showing signs of inertia. Scott demanded then-Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resign in the middle of March after she was questioned in a federal racketeering case. He promised to name a new lieutenant governor after the Legislature adjourned. Despite some media speculation that he would name someone to the post before he led a trade mission to Colombia, the governor has kept mum.
Scott has the opportunity to score some political points with the appointment and hes clearly weighing various candidates. But sources close to Scott tell Sunshine State News that the governor is nowhere near close to naming an understudy.
Things remain a bit murky on the Democrats side. Former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich entered the race in late April 2012. While she has raised her profile in recent weeks and played up her liberal positions, Rich has struggled with fundraising and making an impact on the race.
In the meantime, other Democrats remain on the sidelines. Former Gov. Charlie Crist, who joined the Democrats in December after spending two years with no party affiliation and decades running for office as a Republican, is still generating buzz as a possible candidate to win his old job back. Crist is working the grassroots by helping Democratic candidates raise funds and attending county party events. Sink, who lost to Scott in the closest gubernatorial election in Florida history, is also a possible candidate despite the death of her husband, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride, in December. Other possible Democratic candidates -- former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler -- are still kicking over the possibility, but appear less likely than Crist or Sink to jump in.
With little action on the Democratic side, speculation turned to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Dems' only statewide elected official, to run for governor. Nelson has always had one foot in Tallahassee and one in Washington and he ran for governor before back in 1990. But, having won a third term in the Senate last year, Nelson, who is 70, appears unlikely to challenge Scott. While he shot down speculation that he will run for governor, he hasnt fully closed the door -- giving him room to maneuver if he decides he is the only Democrat with a chance of taking down Scott. Nelson does appear to be the strongest Democratic challenger Scott could face, but he also looks less likely than Crist or Sink to enter the race.
As summer begins, candidates will continue to ponder and posture about entering the race. Hoping to cut down on speculation about who is in and who is out, politicians often quickly jump in after one of their opponents enters a contest. For example, in May 2009, McCollum filed his paperwork to run for governor two days after Sink did. Look for the gubernatorial race to start shaping up this summer and quickly become the lead political drama in Florida.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.