Jumping the Gun in the Florida Senate

Major action is happening in the upcoming Florida Senate race even without an official re-election or retirement announcement from Republican incumbent Marco Rubio. And now we see that at least two GOP officeholders are possibly leaping ahead to eye Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) re-election bid in 2018.

Sen. Rubio has been saying for months that he would not simultaneously run for president and re-election to the Senate. Since it appears clearer by the day that he will soon enter the presidential contest, waiting for the statement that he will not seek a second term in the Senate appears relegated to mere formality status.

We previously reported that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) is expected to officially announce his 2016 senatorial campaign next week. He says he’s running irrespective of what Sen. Rubio decides, but the Florida politicos are all proceeding as if Rubio will not seek re-election to a second term so he can run in an unencumbered fashion for president.

Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) said she will not run statewide next year. Considering her recent flap of troubles with part of her Democratic funding base and a controversy over whether she would politically attack President Obama if removed as Democratic National Committee chair, it is not surprising that she is retreating to the safety of her US House district.

Rep. Murphy, however, may not be alone in the Democratic senatorial primary. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) reiterated his interest yesterday. Taking a shot at Murphy’s strategy of getting into the race early, Grayson was quoted by the Politico newspaper as saying, “qualifying for this office isn’t until May 2016. What do they say? Fools rush in.” Grayson further stated that, “the stars are certainly starting to align for a Grayson for Senate run.”

Though Murphy would be the stronger general election Democratic candidate, Grayson would make the most of his opportunity to score with the party’s liberal base. This would make him a formidable in a Democratic primary, but most likely in the category of just being a strong nuisance contender and not much more.

Three Republican House members are also being mentioned as possible candidates for 2016: representatives Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), Vern Buchanan (R-FL-16) and Curt Clawson (R-FL-19). Of the three, DeSantis may be the most serious potential candidate, but it would certainly not be surprising to see Rep. Buchanan run. He has seriously considered running statewide on several previous occasions. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) and Florida CFO Jeff Atwater (R) have been prominently mentioned as potential Senate candidates. Both have been to Washington to discuss their fledgling candidacies with national Republican leaders.

The strange part of the Senate story relates to comments coming from two office holder camps. Gov. Rick Scott (R), as reported in the Tampa Bay Times, is indicating to supporters that he would also consider running for the Senate, but in 2018. At that time, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will be standing for re-election and he (Scott) will be ineligible to seek a third term as governor. Since the senator will be age 76 in that year, and completing 30 years of congressional service, having another open Florida seat at that time is a distinct possibility.

But, Gov. Scott may already have company in what could be a fast-forming 2018 Republican primary. According to a Twitter blurb, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL-17) is also eyeing a Senate race, but in the succeeding election cycle. The source indicates that Rooney is taking himself out of consideration for 2016, but not 2018, all the while saying people should consider Rep. DeSantis for the current Senate campaign.

Once Sen. Rubio makes his re-election plans known, we can expect to see a great deal of concrete political action in conjunction with an open Sunshine State Senate seat. But it now appears the Senate stint will quite possibly be four years in duration.

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