My (almost) Top 10 interesting moments of Florida’s 2012 primary election

By on August 10, 2012

There are still four days left before the primary election comes to a close, yet it’s not too early to begin compiling a list of some of the best moments from the 2012 primary.

One caveat: I will pass on including any mention of the GOP primary for the US Senate. Mike Haridopolos dropping out, Adam Hasner dropping out, George LeMieux dropping out — these events, like the campaign itself, are best forgotten.

Here’s my preliminary (who knows what may happen during the next 96 hours) list of the Top 10 interesting moments of the primary elections.

10. Ann Ober’s it-could-get-her-booted-from-the-bench broadside against John Grant - In the race for Hillsborough County Court Judge Group 3, incumbent Judge Ann Ober crossed the line. In a mailing to voters, she noted that her opponent, John Grant, was investigated for making obscene phone calls, had three DUI arrests and finished near the bottom of his law school class. Those charges are all 10 to 24 years old, and it appears that Grant has — as he insists — matured since then. The issue here is not whether Grant has an arrest history, but the context and relevance of charges that are far in the past. As the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, opined, “Her decision to take the low road shows a self-serving indifference that is out of step with her record and character.”

9. The US Chamber donates $250,000 to committee supporting Jeff Brandes for State Senate – To me, this is one of the most important developments of the entire cycle. Not for its specific impact on the race for Senate District 22, but what it says that a national organization donated that much money to a  committee that operates mostly in the shadows. This contribution speaks to the disproportion present in many state legislative races. Just think about it, $250K  into a single State Senate race. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars once was enough to fund an entire State Senate campaign; now, it’s a week’s worth of television airtime. The second part of this equation is equally important, the fact that the $250K went to Accountability in Government, Inc., a political committee that appears to be bound by few limits on what it can do.

8. Allen West launches emotional ad, “Body Armor” - West, the first black Republican congressman to represent Florida since Reconstruction, is considered one of the more vulnerable incumbents this election cycle. Redistricting has forced him to campaign for another term in a different district, where he must introduce himself to a new set of voters. Undoubtedly, “Body Armor” is one of the best ads produced this cycle. Moreover, the seriousness of this ad underscores just how competitive is the race between West and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.

7. Rachel Burgin’s weak television spot - Rep. Burgin is featured twice on this list of memorable moments, neither for reasons she would like. Her television response to the endorsement of her opponent demonstrated the weakness of her candidacy. Ending with a photo of Burgin with Senator Marco Rubio (who has not endorsed her), the :30 spot says “the insiders in Tallahassee don’t want me to win.” Actually, it’s more like one set of insiders in Tallahassee doesn’t want her to win, while a second set, which includes uber-lobbyists Ron Book, Jack Cory and Guy Spearman, do want her to win. With production values barely exceeding a PowerPoint presentation set to music, this commercial was disappointingly weak.

6. The attack on Tom Lee by a Rachel Burgin-aligned committee – Just think about how out-of-bounds an attack must be if it makes Tom Lee a sympathetic figure. But that’s what a mailer attacking Lee claimed, blaring that he “abandoned his marriage for a gambling lobbyist” in his first Senate term. Florida Senate Republican leaders hit the roof. They began contacting the lobbyists and special interests who helped fund the committee behind the flier. Election complaints were later filed against Burgin and the lobbyist who funded the attack. I’d argue that Burgin’s campaign never recovered from the backlash it received after this attack.

5. The ugly, no-holds-barred race between Miami GOP Reps. Jose Felix Diaz and Ana Rivas Logan - The rest of the state has nothing on South Florida when it comes to intensity of campaigns for legislative seats. Every candidate is aligned with an alphabet soup of CCEs and ECOs while political consultants change sides as often as they change shirts. Just read this blog post in the Miami Herald and I challenge you to correctly identify who’s who in this race. George R.R. Martin would have trouble keeping up with this Spanish-speaking version of Game of Thrones.

4. The most lethal political ad I’ve seen in Florida politics - I am referring to the ad launched by State Attorney candidate Peter Lombardo, which features an elderly widow holding Lombardo’s opponent, Ed Brodsky, for the murder of her husband because, she contends, Brodsky mishandled the case of the killer, Michael Leon Walker, who should have been in jail for a previous robbery. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune‘s Jeremy Wallace describes it as “maybe the most vicious ad I have ever seen in a local race here.”

I’m holding off awarding my Gold, Silver and Bronze medals until after the polls close at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

What moments do you think deserve consideration? Jack Latvala’s feint to run against Jeff Brandes? Is there a moment in the Sandy Adams vs. John Mica race that really stands out? Or is there a local race that epitomizes all the wonder and horror of Florida politics?

Share your answers in the comments section.

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