Fortunately, politics had another slow week in Florida, so I will use this space for the obligatory end of year, top ten list.
10. McCollum wants to sue over health insurance reform. There is nothing particularly top tenish about this specific story, except that it highlights McCollum's clear strategy for election: nationalizing the 2010 Gubernatorial election. It may be the only play for a candidate who has run for office some 13 or 14 times in a year when it doesn't appear the electorate wants more of the same.
9. Jim Greer and the Florida GOP. Personally, I've never understood the choice or Crist's support for Greer, but I am sure glad he's around. The bombastic and ever confident Chairman, Greer's greatest hits include proclaiming that Obama had no chance in Florida, renting his own plane to follow Sarah Palin around, while running up massive travel expenses, then losing the state in the Presidential election. He then ran for Chair of the RNC after losing the White House and seats in Congress and the Legislature, floated his own name for Congress and suggested the President's motives in speaking to school kids was "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda." Carl Hiassan couldn't have dreamed this guy up.
8. Barack Obama inaugurated President. In a nation as closely divided as we are, competitive states are always special, especially when they are worth twenty-seven electoral votes. Proof of the importance of Florida, the President has already made several stops in the state, including one that created an image that will partially define Florida's US Senate race, and another to deliver a large grant for green energy jobs. Moreover, the President's election led to a budget stimulus package that bailed out the stateand created the impetus for the passage of commuter rail by the legislature.
7. Commuter Rail passes. As I wrote in Five Takeaways a few weeks back, the passage of commuter rail combined with the possibility of Florida receiving a significant high speed rail grant could redefine transportation in Florida, while creating tens of thousands of jobs. It has also created a great wedge issue in the GOP Gov primary, between new Tea Party GOP types led by train opponent Paula Dockeryand more mainline GOPers, led by train supporter Bill McCollum.
6. Obama Stimulus Bails out Florida budget. It took them a week longer than allowed by the Constitution, but on May 8, the legislature passed a $66.5 billion budget, which thanks to some $5 billion from the federal stimulus package, averted many serious cuts--and real debate about Florida's budget and tax system.
5. Charlie's Not so Awesome Year. Imagine being Charlie Crist. Eighteen months ago, you thought you might be John McCain's running mate. Twelve months ago, you were unopposed for re-election and nearly 70 percent approval. Six months ago, you raised 4.3 million in two months for the U.S. Senate race. Now you are tied with a former State Representative whose support isn't much higher than his name-ID. The big question: Can you rally?
4. Marco Rubio raises nearly $1 million in US Senate race. Personally, I believe that most political process stories (polling, fundraising, staffing, etc.) are meaningless, other than to the circle of 500 people who live this stuff, with one exception: Marco Rubio's 2009 third quarter haul. The political world was writing off Rubio after his second quarter haul (case in point why process stories are not relevant), suggesting he might run for AG. Then he raised a million, and now people are openly suggesting the race is over for Crist. His money made him credible.
3. Public Corruption Arrests Rampant. While news on the public corruption front focused on the case against former GOP House Speaker Ray Sansom, he was certainly not alone. Prominent electeds in Broward and elsewhere received new professional photos, leading to a renewed call for tougher ethics laws. One solution, proposed by Sen. Dan Gelber, would allow state attorneys to prosecute under honest services laws, which could open the door to many more investigations and arrests.
2. Charlie Crist announces run for Senate. The decision by Governor Crist to not seek re-election and instead run for the U.S. Senate has created the largest political domino effect in FL in generations. Because of his decision, every statewide office will be on the ballot without an incumbent seeking re-election, something that hasn't happened in over 100 years. History could look back at this cycle as the most significant in Florida since Chiles and Askew won in 1970.
1. It's the Economy, Stupid.
Near Misses: Senator George Lemieux, Oil drilling, Florida to get one new Congressional Seat, the return of John Thrasher, Alex Sink outraising Bill McCollum.