As the Florida Democratic Party rallies behind its candidates for Agriculture Commissioner and Chief Financial Officer, party chair Karen Thurman is trying to show a united front, sending out emails to supporters which tout the value of both candidates. A strong show of force, except, why isn't she touting these peole individually?
It is still early, so I am probably reading too much into this, but it seems to me the partisan line of attack shows a bit more about these candidates problems. And the message for voters in November is that everyone should vote the party line, I don't think that is a wise strategy, or a fair one to either candidate.
Scott Maddox, the Democrat running for Agriculture Commissioner, is a former Tallahassee mayor, a previous party chairman and a near-successful candidate for Attorney General. In addition to a great record of public service, Maddox also has statewide name recognition and voters in every part of Florida who have cast votes for him in the past. He runs against U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, a bright-faced leader popular mostly among Republican politicos and who has never run statewide. While a formidable opponent, Putnam is certainly beatable.
Loranne Ausley, a state representative from Tallahassee seeking the CFO post, is in a very different situation. A candidate unknown outside the Panhandle, where she probably won't win anyway, Ausley is going to have a very uphill battle against Jeff Atwater, the Republican Senate leader most notable statewide for single-handedly ending the debate last year to allow offshore drilling.
Both Maddox and Ausley are underdogs, fo sure, but the line of attack each of them should take is starkly different, and tying the two closely may not be a wise move by the Florida Democratic Party. Now I am not sure the "anti-Democrat wave" that keeps being discussed in the media will be anything memorable. I actually think Democrats have the chance to pick up seats in Florida's Congressional delegation. But I certainly don't think at a time when voters across the spectrum are so frustrated with business as usual is a moment when many people will vote a straight ticket.
Maddox, I believe, has been running an effective strategy of nailing Putnam on drilling. The Congressman's stance on this issue is the wrong one for a state threatened by the biggest oil spill in American history, and should the Cabinet ever be given the power to give offshore leases, there need to be Cabinet candidates who understand why drilling is a bad idea.
But for Ausley, that is a bad line of attack. Atwater's record is outstanding on oil. She needs to focus on financial issues and tax matters, places where Atwater's positions are more debatable. She needs to focus on matters like Amendment 1, a disastrous property tax measure which has destroyed state revenues. And she needs to spend more time building her name against a candidate with statewide reputation.
So please, let Maddox and Ausley run seperate campaigns. That is the only way they will ever egt to work together on the Cabinet.