…not really, but there will be serious consequences depending on the outcome of the race for State Senate District 4. I asked Abel Harding (follow him on Twitter @AbelHarding), on the ground in northeast Florida, to offer a snapshot of the race. Here’s his analysis.
The Republican Primary for State Senate District 4 has been one of the nastiest races North Florida has seen since… Well, since the last election cycle when state Sen. John Thrasher and his challenger, former newswoman Deborah Gianoulis, waged a heated battle that consumed millions of advertising dollars.
This year, state Rep. Mike Weinstein and former state Rep. Aaron Bean, are battling to the death, with both candidates seeking to claim the mantle of “conservatism.”
“Conservatism,” while a theme of the race, doesn’t actually seem to be practiced in either campaign with both sides expending millions to hurl insults and accusations with reckless abandon.
Weinstein has the backing of trial lawyers, a pro-Bean ad says.
Bean supports tuition for “illegal citizens,” a pro-Weinstein ad counters. (It’s unclear what an “illegal citizen” actually is. The presence of the first word would seemingly rule out the latter, but we digress.)
This seat was supposed to be Bean’s for the taking. He has the backing of most sitting GOP state Senators and the Florida Chamber of Commerce has thrown its weight – and money – behind his candidacy. And the previous “deal” between he and Thrasher, entered into when Bean withdrew from the race to replace the late state Sen. Jim King, has been one of the most well-known secrets in North Florida politics. Deal aside, Weinstein, a long-time fixture in Jacksonville politics and a former candidate for mayor, has drawn considerable backers of his own. His tend to be local, and include Wayne Weaver, former owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and JaxBiz, the political arm of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.
So, where does the race stand today?
Many local observers believe Weinstein’s built-in name id with Duval County voters gives him an automatic edge. Bean isn’t that well-known in Jacksonville, despite his years of service in the Florida House. But the onslaught of ads, many of which feature former Gov. Jeb Bush, a popular figure among Jacksonville Republicans, touting Bean’s candidacy have likely boosted his numbers among voters paying attention.
The one candidate who could counter Bush’s endorsement of Bean, at least for the Republican faithful, has been silent. And that silence by Gov. Rick Scott has to be a bitter pill for Weinstein to swallow. He was, after all, the first sitting member of the Legislature to endorse the governor’s upstart campaign against establishment-backed Bill McCollum. But Scott has remained silent, no doubt uncomfortable with Weinstein’s willingness to buck his own party’s leadership when dealing with public education and public sector unions.
With the primary now only days away, the rhetoric and the millions expended have nowhere to go but up in this race. And the future of the state Senate presidency could well hang in the balance.