Face it Florida Democrats, having to decide between Dan Gelber and Dave Aronberg for the party’s nominee in the Attorney General’s race is like picking the starting quarterback for the AFC Pro Bowl team. Do you go with Tom Brady and his fistful of Super Bowl rings or do you start Peyton Manning with his otherworldly statistics and his own Super Bowl ring?
Brady or Manning? Gelber or Aronberg? Damn, I just don’t know.
One thing I won’t do is dog whoever I don’t pick. For me, it’s likely going to be Dave Aronberg, but that doesn’t mean I don’t admire, respect and wish good fortune for Dan Gelber.
If I do end up voting for Dave Aronberg (and I’m not there yet), and he doesn’t make it out of the primary, I’ll be the first person after the election to put a Gelber yard sign in their lawn. Gelber was in town two weeks ago and I raced to make his fundraiser, contributing the last $30 I had on me.
That said, let me make the case for Dave Aronberg, at least from a purely political standpoint. After all, almost every Democrat, and even most Independents and Republicans, can agree that both Aronberg and Gelber are eminently qualified to serve as Attorney General.
So, again, this is just a matter of pure politics.
First and foremost, too many of the people who support Dan Gelber are the establishment Democrats who have lost a decades worth of races to the Republican Party. Dan Gelber has all of the Jim Davis types on his side — very good people, people I may have voted for, but people who, as candidates, have just had their lunch handed to them by the GOP.
Gelber’s supporters will point to the fact that he was helping to run the party’s House Victory operations when the Democrats set some sort of record for the most pick-ups in an election cycle. This is just the exception that proves the rules. In fact, if the Democratic Party had not been so decimated by the Republicans in the five elections previous to 2006 then the opportunity for a “record” pick-up would not have existed in the first place.
Some will see that criticism as an attack on Steve Schale, but it’s not. Dude is one guy. His success is also an exception that proves the rule. Because Steve Schale would probably be successful running candidates if he worked in Bangladesh. It’s many of the people who worked around Steve — the cookie-cutter mail firms, the unimaginative production teams, the tone deaf pollsters, the inept field staff (you know who I am talking about) — that ran the party into the ground.
There’s still some good talent in Tallahassee, Screven and Co. Arceneaux, Jotkoff, etc., but the Democratic Party has yet to find someone on par with a Frank Terrafirma, much less an Andy Palmer or a Jim Rimes.
Point-blank: is there a political genius, some sort of counter-intuitive tactician, working for the Democratic Party who haunts the dreams of the RPOF? Um, no.
So anything that can be done to shake-up whatever constitutes Florida’s Democratic Establishment is a good thing. And by all accounts, that involves Aronberg beating Gelber.
(Man, am I gonna get in trouble for those last few paragraphs!)
Moving on, another political reason to support Aronberg over Gelber is because Aronberg makes a better candidate for Governor. Governor?Aren’t they running for Attorney General, you ask? Of course they both are, but Democrats need to plan for the future. I know that isn’t something Democrats are especially good at, but let’s assume that either Alex Sink wins this year and serves eight years in the Governor’s mansion or that McCollum or Scott beat her. The Party will need someone to either carry on Sink’s legacy and run against Adam Putnam in 2018 or challenge McCollum or Scott in 2014.
Who will be a better gubernatorial candidate in four or eight years? Clearly, the answer is the younger, more moderate, more telegenic Aronberg.
I understand that there are a million variables that may interrupt a Putnam vs. Aronberg showdown in 2018, but wouldn’t it be nice, for once, if the Democrats planned for the future. Returning to the Brady or Manning analogy, which quarterback do you build a franchise around. I don’t know if Brady could have won outside of Patriot coach Bill Belichick’s system, but I know Peyton Manning was going to be a successful quarterback wherever he went. Same thing with Gelber and Aronberg. Don’t know if Gelber, even with all of his gravitas, will have the drive in eight years, but I know Aronberg will.
Finally, let’s look at how each of these candidates have conducted themselves during this election cycle and determine who you’d want by your side if you were walking down the political equivalent of a dark alley.
Obviously, this is where I have the biggest problem with Dan Gelber. His decision to drop out of the race for the US Senate, at the time and certainly in retrospect, represents a cataclysmic failure in political judgment. I almost believe that, for that reason alone, Gelber doesn’t deserve the nomination, at least as some sort of sacrifice to the gods of political karma.
The domino effect that Gelber started with his decision to cede the race to Kendrick Meek, as magnanimous as it appeared then, is just the kind of disastrous thinking that has doomed the Florida Democratic Party for the last ten years. It’s ironic that Steve Schale, a veteran of the Barack Obama campaign, would let any candidate he worked with, fall victim to the idea that “they can’t win” when it was Obama who proved that no one is ever completely out of a race and that conventional wisdom, especially the conventional wisdom of the Democratic Party, is often wrong.
For the most part, Gelber has run a decent, if uninspired campaign for Attorney General. I say uninspired, because the man has such greatness within him. Unfortunately, I believe there is a significant difference between Dan Gelber the Legislator and Dan Gelber the Candidate.
Dan Gelber the Legislator is the man who deserved a Profile in Courage award for, during the 2008 legislative session, single-handedly standing up against the legislative arrogance of Marco Rubio and his Republican colleagues.
But Dan Gelber the Candidate is the guy who pulled the penny-ante trick of exaggerating how much he raised earlier this year — a trick that earned him a ‘False’ ruling from PoliFact.
Which brings us to the controversy surrounding Gelber’s resignation from the law firm selected to represent BP over the oil spill in the Gulf. While I agree that my friend Dave Aronberg has gone just a little overboard in his criticism of when and how Gelber resigned, at least Aronberg had the stones to make a move.
For a year, these two candidates have been playing footsies with each other, competing with each other not like political rivals, but like Dan and Dave the Reebok-sponsored atheletes from the 1992 Olympics.
Democratic voters have been waiting for one candidate to show them just enough of a reason to vote for him over the other guy. Who cares if Gelber was or was not a shareholder with Akerman Senterfitt or if the St. Petersburg Times editorial board doesn’t like Aronberg’s tactics?
Sometimes, it comes down to which candidate wants “it” more, like a great quarterback on Fourth and 1. For me, Aronberg looks like he wants to score more than Gelber.
In fact, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who cringed when Gelber called Aronberg a “junior lawyer,” not because I felt bad for Harvard-educated Aronberg, but because Gelber’s sanctimony reinforced our worst thoughts about Gelber. Simply put, that he thinks he’s better than everyone else.
Of course, Dan Gelber is better, greater than us. He is, as Antony spoke of Brutus:
He only, in a general-honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
His life was gentle; and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, “This was a man!”
Of course, Antony only said this of Brutus after he had defeated him in battle.