Challenges and Opportunities Ahead for Perry Thurston
Around the State
Perry Thurston will have challenges in the weeks to come, but he will also have opportunities to move up the political ladder as he faces his final year in the Florida House.
There could be some headaches for the Democratic House leader in the short term. This week, Thurston called a meeting of House Democrats who will meet on Sept. 23 to hear from Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.
Rouson, who will take over as caucus leader after the elections, has engaged in a high-profile showdown with Allison Tant, chairwoman of the Florida Democrats, over an affiliated party committee he ran. With Rouson having edged Mia Jones in the election to replace him, Thurston’s influence could prove decisive in what happens. Rouson could well be tossed overboard.
But there could be other opportunities for Thurston. His name has surfaced as a possible candidate to challenge Pam Bondi in the attorney general race next year. Thurston certainly has his vulnerabilities. At the end of 2010, he floated a trail balloon that Florida needed a “limited income tax.” Watch that come back to haunt him if he runs for state office.
But, even if he does not have much chance of defeating Bondi, Thurston does make some sense as a statewide candidate for Democrats. He is a proven vote-getter in Broward County, the second largest county in the state. Thurston could also help bring out African-American voters who might be less than enthusiastic to vote for Charlie Crist, a former Republican.
With Allie Braswell’s state CFO candidacy going down in flames, Tant and other Democratic leaders could be looking for an African-American candidate to include on the state ticket in 2014. It’s impossible to imagine that Thurston, one of the leading Democrats in Tallahassee, would be hurt by personal revelations the way Braswell was. If the Florida Democrats want to follow the same game plan they had for Braswell, Thurston would be a much safer option to see it through.
Even if he never offers Bondi a competitive challenge, a Thurston candidacy could help Democrats win their first gubernatorial election in 20 years. And whatever happens with Rouson and in 2014, Thurston, at the very least, has to be counted as a heavy favorite to win the Senate seat in 2016. Even if there are headaches in the short term, Thurston, one of the leading liberals in Tallahassee, is set to be a force for some time to come.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.