In choosing Mark Pafford to be their next leader, Democrats in the Florida House veered to the left. With several House Democrats already facing major threats in swing districts next year, this lurch to the left could have big consequences in 2014.
Paffords victory over Alan Williams underscores how much the House Democrats have changed in recent years. While only a few years ago the likes of Debbie Boyd and Leonard Bembry could be found in the back rows of the House, right now there are no moderate Democrats representing North Florida districts.
To be sure, Williams is no conservative but hes certainly more pro-business than Pafford. Its fitting that Katie Edwards, one of the last of the Blue Dogs in the Legislature, spoke on Williams behalf before the vote on Wednesday night.
Pafford will have a tough task in 2014 as he looks to cut into the Republican majority that controls the House. Democrats have their opportunities to win a few House seats, including a special election for an open seat in Pasco County next month.
But, looking ahead to 2014, it seems that Democrats will be playing defense in the House. Republicans are already lining up to run against Democrat incumbents in Central Florida like Mike Clelland, Karen Castor Dentel, Linda Stewart, Joe Saunders, Carl Zimmerman and Mark Danish. In South Florida, Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez has already drawn a major Republican foe.
Republicans across the nation have done some damage by demanding whether Democrats running for Congress would cast votes for Nancy Pelosi to be House speaker. In the Big Bend, despite her best efforts to claim the legacy of her father Bob Graham, congressional hopeful Gwen Graham is doing her best to refuse to answer if she would back Pelosi to be speaker and the Republicans will no doubt go after her on this in the months to come.
Something like that could happen in Florida, since Republicans will have an easier time painting Pafford as a liberal than they would have with Williams. State House Democrats in Florida, even pro-business ones like Edwards and Larry Lee, could be facing questions about whether they would vote for Pafford as speaker. Edwards should be fine since she is in a heavily Democratic district. The same cant be said of some of her Central Florida colleagues like Lee, Clelland, Castor Dentel, Stewart and Zimmerman.
In backing Pafford, House Democrats have swung to the left. As Republicans look to pick off some Democrat incumbents next year, Pafford could be one of the best weapons in the GOPs arsenal.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.