turned off as easily as they could be energized.  
Anything can happen.

While there are likely open seats for all of Florida’s
statewide elected offices, let’s look at GLBT prospects
for the US Senate race:

Republicans: Gov. Crist is facing former House Speaker
Marco Rubio.  Other names are tossed about, but at the
moment the Republicans have a moderate and a
conservative battling it out.  Crist is the frontrunner and
has the backing of the National Republican Senatorial
Committee.  Rubio has already billed this as a “David
and Goliath” fight, and has come out swinging, even
with former Gov. Jeb Bush talking him up.  

Crist won election to the Governor’s Mansion in 2006 by being everything to everyone.  
He’s governed (well, when not campaigning for vice president, or getting married, or
fishing) generally from the middle – supporting clean air and environmental initiatives,
and campaigning with President Obama in support of stimulus funds. But he supports
Florida’s ban on gay adoption, and while he originally took a “live and let live” approach
to last year’s Amendment 2, the “marriage protection” amendment, he ultimately
supported the initiative.  Oh, and there’s also Crist’s starring role in the documentary
“Outrage,” which claims he’s gay.   
www.ambiente.us  MAY | MAYO 2009

FLORIDA’S OPEN SENATE SEAT IS A GREAT OPPORTUNITY
FOR GLBT FLORIDIANS
By Stephen Gaskill

By now, even the most casual observer of Florida politics is aware of the political
tsunami set off by Gov. Charlie Crist’s decision to forego a reelection campaign and
instead run for the US Senate seat of the retiring Mel Martinez.  The dominoes-are-
falling metaphor is overused but definitely applies here, since many Florida political
heavyweights -- and some lightweights – are mulling or have announced statewide
runs.

Florida’s GLBT community has reason to be hopeful for 2010, after the mixed bag of
good (Obama), bad (Amendment 2) and ugly (unprepared GLBT candidates) of the
2008 election cycle.

The Democrats are on the offensive this time, with registration climbing in the state,
momentum from several Democratic pickups in Congressional seats over the past few
years, and high approval ratings for President Obama.  But those indicators and good
feelings could collapse just as quickly as the economy did last fall.  And coupled with
the many, many millions of advertising and organizing dollars that will be spent in
Florida next year by both parties, voters could be
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Rubio will run to the right, and Crist might be forced to head in that direction.  It’s always
the stalwarts who turn out in primary elections, and Florida’s Republican primary voters
are more conservative these days – the moderates have become independents.  Crist
has broad appeal to the general electorate, but he’ll need to get through to the right
wing primary voters in order to make it to the November ballot.  Sen. Arlen Specter of
Pennsylvania, in his fifth term as a moderate Republican, just switched parties and is
now a Democrat because he determined he couldn’t beat a conservative in that state’s
2010 Republican primary.  That may be a good analogy for what’s happening in Florida.

In any event, if either of these men went to the US Senate, there wouldn’t be much of a
change from the Martinez view on GLBT issues.  They’ll both be a reliable vote in a
shrinking Republican caucus for keeping Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, opposing Hate Crimes
and Employment Non-Discrimination legislation, and supporting a Federal Marriage
Amendment.

Democrats: The Democratic candidates – US Rep. Kendrick Meek, State Senator Dan
Gelber, and North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns – by contrast support the GLBT community
pretty much across the board.  The most major difference between them on our issues
is on same-sex marriage: Meek and Gelber support civil unions, and draw the line at
“marriage.”  Burns, who is openly gay, supports marriage equality; he and his partner of
26 years had a civil union in Vermont, where they have a home.  

While the Republican field might be set, it’s unclear where the Democratic race will
shake out: Burns is a definite dark horse, Meek has millions of dollars and former
President Clinton on his side, and Gelber is rumored to be interested in the Attorney
General’s seat.  US Rep. Ron Klein hasn’t totally ruled out jumping in the race yet.  And
add to that what nearly all Florida pollsters show – that an unnamed white woman from
Central Florida would be the strongest candidate and could be the eventual nominee –
and this race is still wide open.  Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio (a white woman from Central
Florida) has been talked about for a statewide run, but she declared she’s going to
finish her term and stay out of
.
this cycle.  

Any of the Democratic candidates would be a departure from Martinez’s reliable
Republican vote against the GLBT community.  But we can’t take anything for granted.  
In 2004, Martinez beat Democrat Betty Castor (a white woman from Central Florida) by
only 80,000 votes.  Castor actually led the Democratic ticket in votes then in a year with
the lackluster John Kerry on the presidential ballot.

The 2010 election isn’t a presidential year, but Crist’s decision to jump into the Senate
race has created a generational opportunity for Democrats to solidify their growing
strength in Florida and elect candidates who support equality.  Regardless of which
Democrat eventually becomes the nominee, it’s clear he or she will be a steady vote
supporting the GLBT community, rather than an outright opponent – or worse, one
whose position can never be known because it depends upon the political opportunity
of the moment.





CLICK HERE for more Stephen Gaskill






Copyright 2009| Ambiente.  Do not reproduce without prior authorization.