With Jeff Atwater seeking the presidency of Florida Atlantic University (FAU), some Democrats are already creating buzz as possible replacements to be Floridas chief financial officer, with two young state senators offering the party a sharp contrast in politics.
Jeremy Ring is clearly looking to move on from the Florida Senate though he doesnt face term limits until 2016. Ring applied to be president of FAU but did not make the final cut of candidates and now his eyes could be turning to the CFOs race. Rings name has been mentioned for the post before and he certainly has the background for it. While he is only 43, Rings experience is impressive, including helping launch Yahoos East Coast operations. Ring has become one of the leading pro-business Democrats in Tallahassee and his efforts to reach across the aisle to House Republican Lake Ray has led to legislation helping Floridas ports.
Ring also has some fairly impressive political credentials. When Skip Campbell faced term limits in 2006, Ring handilly defeated Benjamin Graber in the Democratic primary. Since then, Ring has cruised to re-election with little in the way of opposition and not facing much competition from Republicans. Ring is being talked up by Jim Waldman, who was himself mentioned as a possible CFO candidate though his focus increasingly appears locked on moving from the House to the Senate in 2016.
Jeff Clemens is also generating buzz as a possible CFO candidate and his politics offer a sharp contrast to Ring. Like Ring, Clemens is 43. After serving as mayor of Lake Worth, Clemens, who worked in energy conservation and contracting, ran for the Florida House when Mary Brandenburg faced term limits in 2010. Clemens scored a solid victory over Peter Brandenburg, Marys huband, in the Democratic primary but he quickly turned his eyes to running for the Senate.
Taking on Mack Bernard in the Democratic primary in 2012, Clemens ran hard to the left, relying on the support of labor unions. It offered a sharp choice compared with Bernard who had the backing of some of the business community, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Clemens won an ugly primary by 17 votes. A judge in Tallahassee refused Bernards request to count 40 absentee ballots and Clemens was declared the winner.
In his short time in the Senate, Clemens has made some noise as one of the leading liberals in the chamber. He currently serves as the vice chairman of the Banking and Insurance Committee.
Whatever happens with Atwater and FAU, Ring and Clemens are both up-and-coming politicians who offer Democrats a sharp choice on policy. With the race unsettled, either of the state senators would give the Democrats a much better chance to win the CFO race than William Rankin, the only candidate currently seeking the partys nomination. Both of these senators have a chance to flip the CFO position back to the Democrats and would be competitive in the general election for the open seat.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.