Bill Nelson for Governor? Always a fantasy.

crist-charlie-with-bill-nelson-300x336In recent weeks discussion of a possible Bill Nelson candidacy for Governor has continued despite the  unqualified “no” he has repeatedly given, most recently last week. The idea of a Nelson candidacy was always a fantasy though rumors of the possibility were fueled by some of the most influential voices within a desperate Democratic Party establishment.

Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist has long been the clear front-runner to nab the nomination of his new party. While many Democrats are concerned about a potential Crist run for Governor and the talk about Nelson having intensified after the Crist announcement is reflective of this, it never made sense. Apprehension about Crist appears to have subsided in some quarters yet most Democrats are not truly comfortable with him- but an energetic and passionate campaigner is always preferable to one who is unaccustomed to the grind of a tough race, which would typify Bill Nelson.

Crist’s main rival for the notation,  former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich has been largely shunned by the party establishment despite her long record of progressive activism. Many who support Rich simply assume the party establishment was long behind Crist. But as we have discovered in recent months, an effort by leading establishment Tallahassee Democrats including some in the state party itself  to reconsider was being undertaken. From where I sit this was always a foolish idea.

Governor Crist’s decision to embrace populist messaging won over some apprehensive Democrats at a very early stage of his candidacy. At the same time, Senator Rich’s grassroots oriented strategy of connecting with base Democrats made her campaign a vehicle for frustrated progressives around the state to embrace. While Nelson is a senior statesman, he is not a Reubin Askew or Bob Graham-like figure who elicits a great deal in the way of loyalty and passion among Florida Democrats. In fact, I would submit today almost ten years after leaving the US Senate, Bob Graham remains a more influential and beloved figure among Florida Democrats than Senator Nelson.

Why many in the party establishment sought to uproot Nelson from a safe position in the US Senate to a rough and tumble race for Governor against an incumbent Republican is beyond comprehension for me. But for whatever reason, it was pursued but thankfully is now openly no longer a possibility.

A Nelson candidacy would always have been in my eyes a setback for the party. It would further indicate desperation to win at all costs, and the perception of recycling the state’s only statewide elected Democrat to run for Governor furthers the notion that the party has neglected infrastructure building and developing a bench of candidates. The mere fact Charlie Crist who four years ago was the Republican Governor and a self-proclaimed conservative is the current Democratic gubernatorial front runner speaks volumes about the party in some respects. But Crist and his opponent Senator Rich have done the critical leg work to get to this point. If establishment Democrats really wanted Nelson they would have prepared for this in November and December of 2012, instead of making continued desperate calls in January or February of 2014.

Senator Nelson is not running for Governor. What the entire Nelson for Governor talk says about the Democratic Party in Florida, a party that has a worse record than any other east of the Mississippi in state elections since 2000  is up for debate. I think it once again shows a lack of planning and a certain degree of desperation. Others might argue it was a proactive move to try and prevent a weak nominee (Crist or Rich) from taking the party down in November.

Personally, I am not sure Nelson would have run any stronger than Crist or Rich against Governor Scott. Polling data in hypothetical matchups do not regularly translate to election day results when the opposition candidate (in this case Governor Rick Scott) have tens of millions of dollars to play with. I have seen many races across the country where candidates like Nelson have run on their name and reputation, without much energy behind them and have suffered crippling, shocking defeats.

In reality the party is probably much better off with either Crist or Rich as the nominee while Nelson continues to serve us well in the US Senate.


  1. Doesn’t this say something about the state of the Florida Democrat Party? The only person that the party can run against Crist is a washed-up US Senator who has never had a real election fight in his life (except for the 1990 primary that he lost). This party has no “future” plan. This is what you get when Tant, Ulvert, and the useless vendors with a track record of losing are running the party.


  2. This went to the highest levels of the party. I mean the highest levels. Kartik doesn’t mention it but the chairwoman of the party was actively seeking a Nelson candidacy. Undermining the existing candidates in the process.

    She is such an ineffective leader that she managed to alienate both’s current gubernatorial candidates and not get the candidate of her choosing in the race. Par for the course isn’t it in Tant world?


    1. I think that is the worst kept secret in FDP politics.


  3. Where Is Victory? · ·

    Excellent article…as usual…but you missed a couple of key points that I would like to add..

    First, I absolutely agree with you wholeheartedly that former Governor and Sen Graham is far and above more respected and beloved by Democrats statewide that Nelson. Graham has more energy and enthusiasm than Nelson would ever have.

    Nelson running for Governor is being fueled by typical Democratic jealously and ego for some who sadly can’t embrace the best chance Democrats have in 20 years of taking back the Governor’s mansion in Tallahassee.

    Charlie’s last opponent Jim Davis of Tampa, who lost to Charlie for Governor, is the number one drumbeater for Nelson. To me its just stupid. Nelson running is about as exciting as watching paint dry…and the drying paint, to me, is more exciting. Jim needs to put up or shut up. Run himself (and loose again) or join the Nan Rich team.

    And another high profile Democrat making waves not supporting Crist because of his selfish reasons to run for Governor himself in four years is another Tampan, Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Well I have a message for Mayor Bob…why does everyone have to suffer with four more years of this current idiot for Governor because of you? And secondly, and more importantly, Adam Putnam would make mincemeat out of Buckhorn or any Democrat 4 years from now and even right now as one of many leading statewide Republicans that I am speaking of with tons of Republican money, 10 generations of Florida roots and a statewide grassroots team ready to go.

    Not to mention Nelson leaving a very vunerable US Senate seat in the third largest, and biggest, swing state in the US very open to a Republican takeover. Because the reality is, with the latest finance reports just being released, the Allison Tant, Scott Arceneaux and Christian Ulvert team at FDP headquarters is sucking wind to the Republicans who are consistently outraising the Dems 3 to 1. And the statewide R bench of the entire Florida Cabinet not to mention the House and Senate leadership who gets daily statewide media begs the question as to what D is running statewide with name recognition AND can competitively raise $100 million dollars?

    Hmmm? Charlie Crist is the only one that comes to mind.

    And now that the Republicans have been soundly spanked twice statewide by Obama, they have also finally turned the screws to the vaunted data computer software targeting network to get their steady voters out to vote (as opposed to the typical lazy Democrat) and the first proof of that Republican team’s victory is the Jolly victory over Alex Sink and Sink’s overpaid “loosing” DC and Tallahassee old school consultants.

    Tie that with yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling to open the floodgates even more to the Republican “Bank o Money” and you have a truly grim prospect if every sour puss liberal Democrat doesn’t get off their ass and join the Gov Charlie Crist team now with what ever you can give because you like it or not…he is your only hope!

    I agree with you…a Nelson candidacy for Governor right now (or ever) is lunacy!!! He has a nice safe US Senate seat that he only has to run every 6 years with no term limits with a statewide profile and soapbox to pick and choose what he wants to do every day that the Governor’s job doesn’t have and making the same money. It’s stupid and insane!

    The sooner the Democrats rally around Governor Crist to fight this current Governor’s re-election, the better the entire Democratic Party has to do better.

    It’s our only chance! Don’t blow it!


    1. Without knowing the author of the previous comment it is difficult determining your motives. Are you an operative or an out of office loser looking for a job? Are you a desperate early backer of Crist who is nervous about the momentum of Nan Rich. The only thing I know for sure is you do not have the best interests of the Democratic voters in your heart. Giving the electorate a choice of republicans is no way to strengthen our party or get out the vote. We need to rally around a truly dedicated, long time fighter for Democratic values, Nan Rich.


  4. I think it is long past time for the base of this party to step up and take control! The leadership group in charge has made the same mistake election after election. Democratic voters are NOT centrist! They are Liberal and Progressive. When you force bad candidates down their throats, they simply stay home on election day! Maybe just for a change, the party leadership should get behind the grassroots base of the FDP and support OUR candidate, Nan Rich. At least she stands for what we believe in. Perhaps if we have a candidate we can feel some trust in, Democrats will get excited and come out and vote! Stranger things have happened. It is NOT all about money! Dollars don’t vote, voters vote. We have superiority in numbers in this state, many more registered Dems than all the other flavors. Give them a reason to vote, and they will!


  5. Floridian · ·

    While the party has been terrible for a long while I firmly believe Tant and Ulvert have made it worse and totally unbearable.


  6. Concerned · ·

    Unfortunately Nan doesn’t have a prayer and the vast majority of the Democratic Party are not screaming liberals and Progressives like many people think.

    There ARE many Progressives AND Liberals who are active and noisy in the party but most of the Democrats who can win are moderate and in the middle as are most of the electorate today.

    Obama, Clinton and Carter are not screaming liberals. The do support the vast majority of liberal and progressive causes, but they got elected by getting those independent moderate middle voters who make the swing difference in any election

    That’s why centrist Gov Charlie Crist will win in the fall and get the Democrats out of the ashes and liberal Nan Rich would get creamed !

    And with no money, liberal progressive Nan Rich cannot win by osmosis cause unfortunately you need money to get your message out and she has none.


    1. Another misguided voice from the past. Alex Sink and all of the centrists of the past 16 years have put this party into a coma. The only chance this party has of getting out the vote is to be true to our values and rally the base. It’s time to take a Stand with Nan.


  7. It takes a party of incompetent fools an naive kids like the Fla Dems to make Rick Scott appear electable again. Allyson Tant and her band of incompetent fools are well on their way to doing that.


  8. Dems in Action · ·

    Crist is only interested in Crist. He did nothing for the state or the party while he was governor and if there was a Whig party he would have joined that. It is hard enough to get Democrats out to vote because we have lost representative democracy, The US has become an Oligarchy and most people believe no one is listening to them. The Republicans want a society that is for the Koch’s by the Koch’s and Florida Democrats are tired of waiting for the DC congressional delegation to get out of the way. Let real Democrats run Florida.


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