As we have discussed several times on this blog, former Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff and sitting Senator Maria Sachs are battling in the race to watch this election season. With the Republicans a single vote away from a veto-proof majority and only one other competitive race in the state, this race is important to every voter in Florida. With all eyes on Senate District 32, the announcements that unions have begun to endorse Bogdanoff is worrisome on a couple different levels and it warrants a closer look.
The importance of the Senate cannot be understated. Even though Republicans have a large majority, the members of the Senate are more experienced, more rational, and for the most part offer more grounded policy options than the Florida House. Many of Scott’s ideas have been at least moderated and a few times blocked in the Senate. Even the controversial voucher bill was
Democrats have long taken union support for granted. In the last decade, with unions slowly loosing power and influence and the party slowly trying to woo a larger piece of the corporate pie, the relationship has been slightly strained. Since the Democrats have been so weak in Florida Government, the unions have had to find moderate Republicans that support their issues. One of these has been Senator Jack Latvala, who has proven to be a strong ally of the unions though blocking pension reform. Senator Latvala has at times been one of the more moderate Republicans in the building, who fought to get the Dreamers in-state tuition last year, earning him conservative and tea party criticism. He is locked in a leadership battle for the Senate leadership for 2016-2018 in a bitter battle with Senator Joe Negron and there are contrasts between these two men. Negron is considered less moderate than Latvala and is much more aligned with Governor Rick Scott’s agenda and is a strong ally of the current Senate President Don Geatz.
Unions know this and they realize that with an ally in charge, controversial items that might be on Scott’s second term agenda could be moderated, especially in terms of prison privatization and pension reform. The opportunity to get Latvala as Senate President is one that they are willing to act on. With only two competitive elections in the senate this year,
Latvala is pressuring the unions to support Bogdanoff because she will support his bid for leadership. From the endorsement of Firefighters union, it seems to be working, even though her track record on AFL-CIO issues is extremely questionable. But the firefighters have long been psudeo-independent in terms of political endorsements, for example backing Jeb Bush twice for Governor.
With the Republican majority secure for the foreseeable future, unions have to play smart politics in order to protect their interests. Many times, as demonstrated with the endorsement of Charlie Crist, it will come down to forgiving and forgetting and worrying about the future. After the US Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, unions around the country realized they were far out gunned. While there has been much discussion about the diminishing power of the unions, they have very much decided to be pro-active. Their field work ahead of the 2014 election is dwarfing the efforts of the Florida Democratic Party. Dozens of paid organizers in each district, new programs with pre-emtive dialing tech in every area, and a slew of other advancements and policies are all being tested this year, including training organizers to campaign in the workplaces. Not only are they stepping it up for 2014, they are actively training their members to run for office and have started a full-on candidate recruitment program. While many of these organizers cannot coordinate directly with campaigns, ‘Independent Expendenture’ budgets incredible this year, with millions budgeted around the state. This undoubtedly will help Crist in the general election, as they have already begun to pump money into his campaign. Labor is one of Charlie Crist’s biggest hopes going into the general election.
But with Latvala urging them to support Bogdanoff, it will be interesting to see if his leadership bid is worth a veto-proof majority in the Senate for the 2015 and 2016 sessions. Of course, the other seat in play is Senate District 22. Senator Brandes is a Negron supporter and it would be wonderful for the Democrats to take back that seat, as it was drawn to lean democratic. Unfortunately, Judithanne McLauchlan is having a bumpy time, failing to attract the investment needed to unseat a politician as well-funded as Senator Brandes. This should be a winnable race by any means, however, her campaign is lackluster.
And of course, there is always the possible League of Woman Voters lawsuit on the Senate districts, which could also upset Latvala’s bid for the Senate Presidency.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see who prevails. With Republicans wanting that veto-proof majority and Latvala wanting her vote, Bogdanoff has plenty support and is simply raking in the money. The leadership in the Senate matters for all Floridians and this will be a major factor in many policy issues coming up, from springs preservation to education reform.