When current Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith first won his State Senate seat in 2000, he had to defeat a sitting Republican House member Bob Casey of Gainesville. Smith came through a primary against Rep. Cynthia Chestnut while Casey had plenty of time to raise money and organize since he won the GOP nomination unopposed. This was a seat which at the time had never ELECTED a Republican even though the occupant the since deceased George G. Kirkpatrick had switched parties after his final election to the Senate as a Democrat. (As an aside, Senator Kirkpatrick once grabbed me by the tie after a committee meeting in 1998 and admonished himself for having trained me so badly…I had interned in his office for over a year while in college at UF and was strongly opposed to his school voucher legislation).
While the Democrats were embroiled in the primary, Allison Tant contributed to Bob Casey’s campaign. She did not contribute to Smith’s campaign. Smith defeated Casey in what was the only targeted seat that year won by a Democrat for State Senate. (2000 was a year with more open seats than any in memory due to the first implementation of term limits) In the previous two years, Casey had supported significant restrictions on a woman’s right to choose, several tort reform bills, the biggest of which was later declared unconstitutional, and Jeb Bush’s infamous A+ plan that passed statewide school vouchers and created the monster known as the FCAT.
Casey, in fairness was one of the best Republicans in the House on environmental issues which allowed him to hold a Democratic leaning seat for eight years. In fact, during the 1996 cycle when I was President of the UF College Democrats we had several student environmental activists who were strong liberals support Casey because of his advocacy on local environmental issues. Our candidate, Betsy Styron was strongly supported by most of us, but their were defections.
But Casey’s record otherwise was very conservative, particularity on social issues. At the time Tant was working for Holland & Knight and was a registered lobbyist. It is possible the contribution was due to her employment but is still bound to be troubling for many Democrats particularly those who have backed Chairman Smith both in his previous campaigns and as party chair.
entry below from DOS site:
Casey, Bob (REP)(STS) 07/25/2000 100.00 CHE TANT ALLISON 6035 BOYNTON HOMESTEAD