Politico reported last week that Randy Fine was looking at getting out of a state House race and into the open Republican primary to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate.
At first glance, it makes little sense for Fine to get into the Senate race. Religious and social conservatives will balk on supporting Fine who has worked in gaming for much of his professional life. The business community in Florida remains divided on whether gambling should be expanded and wont be thrilled to see Fine put that issue back in the spotlight.
But Fine has a few good cards to play if he enters the race, including being able to largely self fund a Senate campaign. None of the other potential Republican contenders is starting off as the favorite. Bill McCollum leads the polls now but he has faded badly when he runs for statewide office and is the very personification of a career politician. Ron DeSantis is largely unknown. The same holds true with Jeff Miller and Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Its a bit too soon for David Jolly, and social and religious conservatives will have questions about his support for same-sex marriage. George LeMieux already had his shot. Don Gaetz is a Tallahassee insider.
Thats not exactly the strongest of fields and its filled with politicians. Against this group, Fines chief advantage is being an outsider who has never held elected office. Thats a song Florida Republicans love to hear. It helped propel Rick Scott over McCollum and Pam Bondi ahead of Jeff Kottkamp and Holly Benson in 2010. At the congressional level, DeSantis was a fresh face against a field of officeholders and perpetual candidates when he won the Republican primary back in 2012. On the same day DeSantis won the Republican primary, so did Ted Yoho, beating three veteran politicians including Cliff Stearns who had sat in Congress for 24 years. Across the state in Southwest Florida, on the same primary day that DeSantis and Yoho prevailed, outsider Trey Radel beat out a crowd of Republican politicians.
That trend has largely continued since then. When Radel resigned after getting busted with cocaine, early last year, Curt Clawson, another outsider who never held office, beat out Lizbeth Benacquisto and Paige Kreegel to replace him in Congress.
Itll be tough for Fine to be a factor if things stand as they are now with only DeSantis in the Republican primary. But add a few more officeholders into a crowded primary and Fines chances go up considerably. Even with his background in gaming, if Fine plays his cards right, he could be able to tap into Florida Republicans love of candidates with backgrounds in the private sector instead of elected office.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.