The initial reaction in southeast Florida Saturday to the new Senate map was centered around Ellyn Bogdanoff’s political future. One of the rising stars in the state GOP, Bogdanoff has been a prolific vote getter since her first race in a 1998 special election versus Steve Geller in a heavily Democratic State Senate seat. Against the backdrop of the racially charged ouster of Willie Logan as Democratic leader designee, Bogdanoff courted and received significant support from registered Democrats including winning a majority of African-American votes cast. Geller won 58%-42%, but Bogdanoff had outperformed every Republican candidate running for a legislative seat in that particular area since the early 1970s.
With a moderate reputation and plenty of activist allies in heavily Democratic Broward County, high hopes surrounded Bogdanoff’s move to the State House in a 2004 special election after Connie Mack Jr. resigned to run for Congress on the west coast. As the only Broward County based Republican in the Legislative delegation, all eyes were on how she would perform and what type of voting record she would compile.
In that special election, Bogdanoff had again been seen as a moderate Republican after coming through a seven way primary against more conservative candidates. She was the heir apparent to the budding tradition of centrist Republicanism that features along the Broward and Palm Beach County coasts. Between her 1998 defeat and 2004 victory, Bogdanoff had compiled a greater Rolodex, so to speak, of potential supporters and contributors while maintaining a decent rapport with issue activists, particularly those concerned about public schools in Broward County.
In the legislature, however, Bogdanoff was a disappointment to many of those who had supported her in the past. She became an instant supporter of Jeb Bush’s education and social agenda, clashed with moderate Governor Charlie Crist and has been a strong supporter of most right wing ideas that have made its way to the floor of the House or Senate since 2004. For obvious reasons, Bogdanoff was fast tracked into the GOP leadership and has been mentioned in some circles as a potential statewide or congressional candidate.
Those possibilities still exist, as does the opportunity for Bogdanoff, who is an excellent retail campaigner and impressive in person, to woo Democratic voters in the redrawn Democratic leaning Senate District 32. Incumbent Democratic Senator Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach) is facing a potential primary from former State Rep. Kevin Rader. Much of the Broward County territory in the district would be new to Sachs, but in a twist of irony, Rader ran in that territory before in 2000 as the Democratic nominee in then House District 91 vs Rep. Connie Mack. But ultimately the condominium areas of southern Palm Beach county in the new district will be a tough mountain for Bogdanoff or any Republican to climb for victory.
Bogdanoff is by no means the favorite in the redrawn district but if any Republican can win there it is her. As a longtime observer of politics in southeast Florida, I have seen her buck the odds before and wouldn’t be shocked if Bogdanoff found a way to do it again.