When the doors open at the Division of Elections tomorrow, surely there will be a few candidates in line to be the first to officially qualify for the ballot. But as the week moves towards Friday at Noon, when candidate qualifying ends, there will undoubtedly be a few surprises.
Monday marks my ninth candidate qualifying week and there have been some unique moments, like the year Katherine Harris published incorrect qualifying fees, and some 100+ candidates had to fed-ex up an extra check for $43.20 in order to make the ballot, the year that the Fed-Ex plane crashed during qualifying week at Tallahassee International, or probably the most dramatic moment I can remember, when then Attorney General Bob Butterworth made the last minute (and in retrospect ill-advised) decision to resign as Attorney General and run for the State Senate.
This year seems more pro-forma than most, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few things to watch out for. Next week, I will post on races to watch, but until then, here are five things I will be keeping my eye on during qualifying week.
5. Does anyone bail on a Congressional run?
There are three state legislators who are running for Congress still with time left on their legislative term limits, and all three are facing increasing odds of winning. While there is no indication that any of them are considering bailing on their Congressional races, strange things happen to politicians when faced with the reality of qualifying. Whether or not State Senator Steve Oelrich and State Representatives Fred Costello and Leonard Bembry qualify for Congress, or decide to jump back into their legislative races is something to watch.
4. How many of the lucky unopposed will remain that way?
It isn't odd for incumbents in safe seats to be re-elected without opposition, but it is odd for candidates in open seats or candidates in swing districts to return to office without opposition.
Right now, four candidates are on the verge of going to the State Senate without facing opposition: Rob Bradley (Jacksonville), Wilton Simpson (Pasco), Denise Grimsley, Bill Galvano, and several more in the House.
3. How many swing districts will go unchallenged?
There are several incumbent districts that can be considered competitive where no Democratic candidate has filed: Dana Young (Tampa), Bill Hager (Palm Beach), Ray Pilon (Sarasota) to name the obvious ones. In addition, the north Volusia open seat vacated by Fred Costello is a GOP only fight. How many of these will end up getting a pass?
2. Miami, Miami, Miami -- Most notably, DLP family politics.
Last week was home to the rumor that Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla might challenge one of this Miami colleagues in order to make room for his brother, former Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla, to make a comeback to the Senate. Right now, Alex is filed against Democratic State Senator Gwen Margolis, in a district that Margolis is going to win. Clearly he wants to return to Tallahassee. Being that is Miami, anything could happen in this story before Friday at noon.
1a. What is the unknown this week?
As mentioned above, in recent years, we have had planes crash, administrative messes at Department of State, and many last minute political plays. Who is going to fill out a form incorrectly, break down on the way to Tallahassee, forget to resign from local office, or fail to fed-ex their paperwork for Friday morning delivery? There is always an unexpected surprise, and surely, 2012 will be no different.
1. See Jack Run, wherever Jack runs.
This is by far the biggest piece of unresolved drama -- does Jack Latvala run for re-election in the North Pinellas district, which is essentially his old old seat, or does he run for re-election in the South Pinellas district, which is the district he currently represents? Running for re-election in the southern district would essentially mean he is putting his own political career at risk in order to win the Senate Presidency, as he would face a well-funded Jeff Brandes. All of this assumes that his ally, Jim Frishe agrees to run in North Pinellas. But if this happens, it would be the ultimate political all-in move by Latvala.