Yesterday Senator Jim Norman formally withdrew from the Senate District 17 race giving a leg up in a competitive advantage to Rep. John Legg in a crowded GOP Primary. The primary winner will face off with Democrat Wes Johnson in the heavily Republican Tampa based district in November. Legg will have to introduce himself to Hillsborough County voters after he has served in New Port Richey based House District since 2004.
Norman’s ethical woes have consumed lots of ink in both the St Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune since February. His withdrawal gives the GOP an opportunity to coalesce behind Legg while not worrying about a potentially wounded incumbent nominee in what should be a safe seat.
The Republicans and GOP leaning interest groups now will have the ability to spend more money throughout the state. The feeling was that a lot of leadership PAC money in addition to interest group money were going to be spent on Norman or even on Legg. This freeing of resources should help the Republicans in the two most hotly contested Senate races in the state.
Senate District 8
Rep. Dorthy Hukill will be the GOP nominee in this marginal seat versus Democrat Frank Bruno. Bruno’s name ID is higher in the Daytona Beach area thanks to Bruno’s tenure as County Chairman (and thus most prominent local elected official) and his developing campaign operation is by all accounts impressive. The seat thanks to a clever gerrymander that five Supreme Court justices approved (the dissenting opinion signed by two justices specifically sighted this district as problematic) leans Republican, but Bruno is perhaps the strongest Democrat recruited for a Republican leaning Legislative seat in the entire state. Hukill will benefit from Norman’s withdrawal with more money, and perhaps critical support and interest from Republican leaders at an early stage.
Senate District 22
Rep. Jim Frishe will now have more access to Jack Latvala’s leadership cash. Senate Presidential aspirant Senator Jack Latvala was close allies with Jim Norman and also was committed to helping John Legg versus Wilton Simpson before Legg switched races. Frishe and Rep Jeff Brandes are fighting for the GOP nomination in this Democratic leaning district where the Ds failed to field a candidate.
Senate District 34
Democratic Senator Maria Sachs should have an advantage in this battle of incumbents but early indications are that Republican Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff is well positioned. More of Bogdanoff’s previous district is in the new 34th in addition to a strong ground operation and seemingly unlimited resources. Bogdanoff is a close ally of Senate Presidential aspirant Senator Jack Latvala. Latvala can now pour money into Bogdanoff’s campaign. Additionally, Bogdanoff will be able to raise more money from the Insurance industry and business early in the cycle. Democrats will be forced to raise more money in this district. A poor Sachs candidacy will affect other races in the area as well, including the hotly contest Congressional District 22 race.
It is worth noting former Rep. Rob Wallace who I considered to be one of the most principled members of the State House when he was a member is vying for the GOP nomination in District 17. He will be undoubtedly the most conservative candidate and in this era of the Tea Party, Wallace’s conservatism may cause a headache for John Legg. Still Legg will be heavily favored.