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Nancy Smith

Party-Switching Candidates Don't Win Hearts

November 29, 2013 - 6:00pm

Candidates can be moderate and still win elections, but the ones who do it by switching parties and feigning middle-of-the-road principles plain turn voters off.

The old party never forgives, the new party never trusts. That's just how it is.

And, by the way, I'm not talking specifically about Charlie Crist. There are more shameless ship-jumpers out there than just Charlie filing papers to run and making holier-than-thou speeches about what they believe.

You already know about William Rankin, the Democrat opposing Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. Hard to know what about this itinerant mystery man is true, but he claims to have had a top job in the 1996 presidential campaign of GOP nominee Bob Dole, and worked as a census field operations official for the administration of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. In 2004 he switched from Republican to no-party, then to Democrat in early 2012, when he was going to run for office as a Democrat -- or, so he claims.

He said the Republican Party abandoned him.

The Republican Party probably couldn't find him, but that's another story.

What are Rankin's core beliefs? In what direction would he move the weighty issues of the CFO's office? To what is this candidate committed besides his own election? Anyone? Nobody can know what truly grounds a party switcher.

Now we have another candidate, Scott Herman -- an in-your-face party switcher.

Herman, a resident of North Carolina about 10 minutes ago (or so it seems) ran for state representative as a Republican in 2012. When he didn't win, well, he blamed the GOP. They didn't do enough for him. Why? Apparently because he's gay, and Repubs don't want gays, he whined.

What Herman fails to mention is, he had run against popular Democratic incumbent Perry Thurston in heavily Democratic District 94. Thurston took 84 percent of the vote. A reincarnated Ronald Reagan working with Rick Scott's bankroll couldn't have beaten House Minority Leader Thurston.

Now Herman is a Democrat, he's found a new district (93) and a Republican to challenge (John Paul Alvarez). Gee, I hope no one thinks my decision was a political stunt, he said.

Of course they won't think that, Scottie.

Party switching is nothing new. Nor does it only happen on the smaller stage of state politics. That's why, wouldn't you think, those who aspire to higher office would learn from history?

Doesn't anybody remember New York Mayor John Lindsay, a Republican who turned rogue and joined the Democrats in 1971 because he wanted so badly to run for president? By April 1972, he was drowning in still waters and quit the race.

More recently, Arlen Specter, U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, was a Democrat from 1951 to 1965, then a Republican from 1965 until 2009, when he switched back to the Democratic Party. He finally lost his seat as a Democrat, in a Democratic primary, to Joe Sestak.

All of this party flip-flopping drives voters crazy. They might say they understand it; they might wholeheartedly believe the pragmatic heart and soul of a politician is revealed only in a view from both sides. But when it comes down to it, voters need to see their candidate clearly. They need to see deeds. They listen, but they need proof. Anything else is waffle.

Party switchers waffle. They're afraid to tell you what they believe for fear of angering somebody. So they tell you what they think you want to hear.

Listening to Nan Rich the other day expound on her positions as a gubernatorial candidate -- didn't matter that I am conservative and she is liberal, I can and do admire so much about her -- it was a breath of fresh air to hear a candidate tell you exactly where she wants to lead you -- and you believe her. You believe Rich because her whole career has been a constant.

Yet, the Dems give Crist, Rankin and Herman the time of day and Nan Rich not a crumb. Seems crazy to me. I wonder how many voters -- sick and tired of political insincerity and opportunism substituting for substance and passion -- think the same thing I do. I guess we'll find out.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.

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