Jeff Miller Eyes D.C. Leadership Ladder Though Safely Seated in Florida
Around the State
As the Obama administration tries to clean up the VA department, Jeff Miller has somewhat surprisingly emerged as one of the leading Republicans in Washington.
Miller has done yeoman work in leading the Veterans Affairs Committee, criticizing the administration and Eric Shinseki while not descending into turning it into a partisan witch hunt. It’s to Miller’s credit that his bill, making it easier for the VA secretary to fire incompetent employees, received the backing of 160 Democrats when it passed the House last week.
First elected to Congress in 2001 to fill the place of Joe Scarborough who resigned his seat, Miller has steadily risen up the ranks during his time in Washington. Besides leading the Veterans Affairs Committee, Miller sits on the Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Mike Rogers, the current chair of the Intelligence Committee, is retiring from Congress this year and Miller has already floated his name as a replacement. It would be a big step for Miller, who was named to the committee back in 2009, and he faces some rivals like Peter King and Devin Nunes for the post. Nonetheless, Miller certainly hasn’t hurt his chances of moving up with his leadership on veterans issues.
If his chances of leading the Intelligence Committee are uncertain, Miller’s odds at home are much better. Miller has one of the safest Republican congressional seats in Florida. He also does very well in the general elections. Only twice -- in 2001 when he ran in the special election and in 2006 which was one of the best years in recent memory for Democrats -- did Miller receive less than 70 percent of the general election vote.
In 2012, Miller cruised again, despite President Barack Obama beating Mitt Romney to win Florida and Democrat Bill Nelson routing Republican Connie Mack in the U.S. Senate election. Miller took 70 percent while Democrat Jim Bryan, a businessman and Vietnam veteran, lagged far behind.
Hoping the third time is the charm, Bryan is running again. Unless something drastic happens, don’t expect Bryan to improve much on his past showings, taking 29 percent against Miller in 2008 and 27 percent in a rematch in 2012. John Krause, a businessman and private investigator, is offering a conservative challenge to Miller and hopes to defeat the incumbent in the Republican primary. But Krause has had little success before when he ran against Miller without party affiliation in 2010: he posted only 8 percent of the vote. Independent Mark Wichern is also in the mix.
Right now, Miller is an extremely heavy favorite to return to Washington for a seventh full term. Representing a heavily Republican-leaning district and facing familiar opponents, for the moment he is in excellent shape for the 2014 elections, giving him more room to play on the national stage and focus on moving up the congressional ladder.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.