Is Brandes vs. McLauchlan the next big thing in Tampa Bay politics?
In the spirit of Peter’s important post from yesterday highlighting accountability and a level of transparency here at SaintPetersBlog, allow me to start this post with all the right caveats: I am friends with Judithanne McLauchlan, the Democratic challenger in State Senate District 22. I have known Judithanne since the early days of the Clinton Administration, where we both served. I went to her wedding (to be clear, I was invited, which was really nice of her). I have talked to her about her campaign, and I have contributed to her campaign (you should, too). I consider her a friend.
So yeah, I’m supporting her candidacy for the State Senate in District 22, a seat currently held by Jeff Brandes. Senator Brandes, as Peter has noted in previous posts, is a client of Extensive Enterprises.
I hope you will not let those caveats get in the way of this key piece of analysis, which I genuinely believe: this is going to be the next big race to watch in the Tampa Bay area.
Senator Brandes is going to have a real campaign on his hands. I suspect it will be easy for Republican advisers and strategists to try and write off Judithanne as a wonky college professor who won’t relate to “real” people in the district.
That would be their mistake.
She is a college professor at USF-St. Pete, but she brings a lot more than just a deep-level knowledge of policy and history. She has a shrewd political mind, and is willing to do the kind of retail campaigning that seems to have eluded Republican candidates in recent electoral cycles.
District 22 is as diverse a State Senate district as your likely to find — the McDill area of Tampa, Gulfport, Redington Shores, Kenneth City, part of St. Petersburg, and more. She will work all of it, she will organize effectively, and she will be a presence.
I know that Senator Brandes has a hefty bank account, and I suspect he’ll maintain a financial edge throughout this campaign. But I do know that Judithanne is quite familiar with how the fundraising for a race like this works, and has an extensive network of her own.
Finally, I think Judithanne is going to have the winning message. 2014, as I mentioned the other day, is going to be about competence, about experience, ability. Senator Brandes does have experience in the State House and now the State Senate. But he’s got nothing on his opponent.
Judithanne has worked in many levels of government, quite successfully. I’m guessing it won’t be long before some goofball at the Republican Party of Florida tries to paint her as an out-of-touch liberal. But that would be a mistake, too. Working at the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the White House doesn’t make you out-of-touch. It makes you an expert. But she’s not just an expert in the workings of the federal government and of national campaigns. She also earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her service in conjunction with the Junior League of St. Petersburg. She has served on the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters, and she is currently serving on the Board of the PTA of her daughter’s school.
She has been teaching politics and government not just from a place of knowledge, but of rich experience as well. Her competency, her ability to serve as an effective leader, is resoundingly evident.
Please don’t get me wrong: Senator Brandes is a formidable political force. I wouldn’t expect him to take it easy or play it safe. I would guess — and despite his relationship with this blog’s parent company, I truly do not know the answer, here — that he will fight hard, stay aggressive, and not be afraid to go negative.
Of course, the only reason a politician ever fights is, well, when he has a fight on his hands. If you live in State Senate District 22, watch for Judithanne, and welcome her to your community when she comes by. She’s the one giving Jeff Brandes a run for his money.