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A Closed Primary

Tom PattonThe primary is set for the State Senate District 8 special election, and Democrats are not going to have much of a say in the process. Democrats couldn’t, or didn’t, find a candidate to run, and only Republicans and write-ins have qualified for the race.

There are two schools of thought on this. Democrats I’ve spoken with feel disenfranchised, and probably rightly so. Given that they won’t be able to vote for ANYBODY in the senate race on September 15th, and since no write-in candidate really has a prayer of winning the election, the winner of the primary who will be selected by only Republican voters is the de facto winner of the seat.

The October 6th general election is going to be an exercise in opening polling places, and the turnout is likely to be minuscule. For people who didn’t vote for the primary winner, getting them to go back to the polls is going to be a particularly hard sell.

That vote won’t make the least bit of difference, other than to be sure that the primary winner actually beats the write-ins. Voters who want to keep their “supervoter” status will be the ones who go to the polls.

That’d be a great premise for a book. Nobody shows up for the general, and a write-in actually wins the race. File that one away.
But on the other side of that coin, what would it have taken for Democrats to have put somebody up for the seat? Senator King was gravely ill for some time. It’s not like it’s a big surprise that there’s an election in a few weeks. Add to that, Democrats kept talking about how they were energized coming off their big wins in 2008. But for this special election there was never even a hint of a Democratic candidate in the race.

So this is the problem. Democrats did not field candidate, and then talk about disenfranchisement when the primary is closed by write-in candidates. I’ll agree they’re left out of the process, but this shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Republicans fielded 4. So where are the Democrats?

Anybody? Bueller?

Whoever wins this seat has to defend it in 2010. This is a special election to fill the final year of Jim King’s term. Maybe the Democrats felt like they’d bide their time and wait until the scheduled election rolls around in a year. But by then, there will be a Republican incumbent in the seat, and that will make it that much more difficult to win. If that was the strategy, and I have no inside information on that topic, it would seem to not be the best of them.

In the meantime, I’ll go vote on the 15th. Actually, I’ll probably take advantage of early voting. It’s unfortunate that Democrats are unable to vote in the primary, but there are multiple reasons for that. Florida’s election laws being what they are, there is always the chance that a primary will be closed. That Democrats didn’t field a candidate is not the fault of Republicans or election laws. Everybody plays by the same rules.

Someone, and almost certainly a Republican, will have a year to go to Tallahassee, get their feet wet, and then come back to the voters and make their case for keeping the job for a full term.

We’ll see what happens when it all rolls around again in 2010.

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