Since the Florida Democratic Party chair’s race, much of the attention has now been shifted toward the race for Florida House Democratic leader as well as the governor’s race. In both of these cases, we have former Republicans who have taken the lead in both of these races. This in itself has caused a new controversy in Florida Democratic politics.
In a response to one of our other articles, someone pointed out that Florida Democrats should embrace those that are switching over to our side. And while I totally agree with that belief, those that do switch to become Democrats should be carefully watched.
The reason that I say this is because there is a history that those that have switched over from Republican to Democrat do so for some sort of political gain. On the other hand, those that switch the other way usually do so because they are truly Republicans at heart. So, let’s look at a few examples.
First, let’s look at the Florida House of Representatives. Sherri McInvale switched from Democrat to Republican. She was always one of the most conservative Democrats in the Florida House. So in 2006, she decided to switch parties and become a Republican. This move actually hurt her in her liberal Winter Park district (which was eventually won by Scott Randolph). True, she did have a nice lobbying job waiting for her at the end, but the Republican Party matched her views on economic issues more than the Democratic Party. Therefore, even though with switching parties she guaranteed that she would lose her seat, she did it nonetheless. Just a few months later, Will Kendrick would switch parties. Again, his views on the issues were closer to the Republicans than the Democrats.
Of course, I can mention other party switchers such as Richard Shelby, Ralph Hall, Parker Griffith and Virgil Goode, but none of them belong in today’s Democratic Party. So their switch makes sense.
Now, let’s look over at the Democratic Party. The first major switch of this type was from the late Senator Arlen Specter. While he had always been one of the more liberal Republicans in the Senate, Democrats never thought he was one of their own. But Specter decided to switch not because he was so thrilled to become a Democrat, but instead because of a matter of convenience. He knew he couldn’t win the Republican primary against Pat Toomey. Therefore, he thought he would give a run against Joe Sestak a try. Well, that didn’t work out quite so well for Specter. Still, the timing of his switch was particularly odd.
Now let’s take a look at Florida and the two men that we have been discussing over the last few days. First we have Darryl Rouson. As many of you know, Rouson was not only a Crist ally, but also a registered Republican. While he is liberal on many issues, he does have a conservative streak on others. Still, in order for him to run in the predominately African American St. Petersburg to Sarasota House seat, he knew he couldn’t do it as a Republican. Therefore, switching parties was “convenient” for him. He would go on to win that seat and is in the House today.
As for Charlie Crist, this one is easy. As we all know, Crist couldn’t beat Marco Rubio in the primary. Therefore, he decided to become an independent, as he could take votes away from Democrat Kendrick Meek in order to beat Rubio. This plan didn’t work and Rubio won decisively. After Crist’s loss, he tried to connect himself with powerful Democrats before he made his switch. He campaigned all over the state with other Democratic candidates, usually only picking people that he knows personally. When he was invited to speak at the DNC Convention in September, he sounded more like a Republican that didn’t like his party than a Democrat (though, in all fairness, he wasn’t a Democrat yet). But even since then, Crist hasn’t made any convincing arguments that he is a Democrat. All we know is that he isn’t a Republican (something many of us have been saying for years), buy why is he a Democrat?
If we truly want to be fair, we can also say that Charlie Crist is the reason that we currently have Governor Rick Scott. Let’s got back to the 2010 election. The race that was top billing was the Senate race. But Democrats found themselves in a pickle. Democrats had to decide if they wanted to be a good Democrat and vote for Kendrick Meek. Or, do they want to see Marco Rubio lose, so they voted for Charlie Crist. This vote splitting made it that Rubio’s win was inevitable. Therefore, many registered Democrats might have stayed home because they knew they were throwing away their vote in the Senate race.
On the other hand, because these voters didn’t turn out, this means that Alex Sink was deprived of thousands of votes. Enough people might have decided not to vote because of the Senate race that is actually cost Alex Sink the win. Therefore, one could easily look at Crist’s self centered (sorry, hyphen button isn’t working) decision as a deciding factor in the election of Rick Scott.
While Rouson’s switch is questionable, it still has some validity because of his voting record in the House. Overall it isn’t bad, but he is on the wrong side of education issues.
Crist, on the other hand, seems to purely be using the Democratic Party only for his advantage. He has yet to give Democrats in the state the “I am a Democrat because…” speech. Yes, he says that the Republican Party moved away from him, but all that does is explain why he isn’t a Republican anymore, not why he is a Democrat now. Until Crist can identify himself as a Democrat, registered, loyal Democrats around the state are being taken for a ride by this guy.