As the Tallahassee lobbyists arrive in St. Petersburg by the Benz-load to join the bandwagon ready to celebrate Jeff Brandes’s victory over Jim Frishe in Senate District 22, let us remember what this race has not been.
It has been a campaign without a single public moment — no candidate forums, no debates, no exchanges of ideas. The last time Brandes and Frishe were in the same room and it meant anything was during the legislative session at the beginning of the year.
It has been a campaign without hardly a mention of that thing called the future, save for a silly debate about driverless cars.
No, what drove this race was the issue of who might be President of the Florida Senate in 2017.
I would bet every dollar in my pocket versus every dollar in yours that were we to walk into the nearest Panera and ask anyone in there enjoying an Asiago cheese bagel if they know the first thing about the Senate Presidency, they would not have a clue about what we were asking.
Yet millions of dollars have been expended in this race on mailers and television employing less creativity than an advertisement for Bay City Plywood.
And what about those millions…
The United States Chamber of Commerce, that organization which represents mom and pop shops across the country, poured $250,000 into this race. Never mind that the US Chamber typically plays at the highest levels of national politics, yet for some reason it decided to get involved in a race for the Florida Legislature.
That’s not odd; that’s not worth pursuit by the media.
Yeah, while we are at it, the local media deserves its share of the blame for the flatness and irrelevance of our politics. A $250,000 contribution from the US Chamber flows into a committee supporting a legislative candidate and all this transaction warrants is a single blog post? No connecting of the dots. No follow-up. Just, ‘Hey, this happened, but we laid off our assignment editor during the last round of buyouts, so I better get dressed for my interview on Bay News 9.’
That’s what passes for political coverage in this town.
The Tampa Bay Times is so busy nowadays Politi-facting whether Olympians will owe taxes on their medals that it no longer bothers to pay attention to the titanic political battle taking place in its own backyard.
Make no mistake, this is a titanic battle. As much as three million dollars will be spent in the race for Senate District 22 when all is said and done. Jeff Brandes has employed at least three or four dozen paid staffers to canvass for him; Jim Frishe and his allies will have sent out, by one estimate, 26 mailers touting his candidacy.
This district is special, by the way. More special than you might think. Florida Republicanism was all but reborn in South Pinellas. This is from where Bill Kramer came. This district is where a young man named Bill Young cut his political teeth.
In many ways, the candidates themselves have given as much as they could.
Brandes has lived in a half-renovated home for much of the campaign. He’s infused his campaign with $500,000 of his own money. Frishe dealt with the dying and death of his beloved mother just as early ballots were being mailed to voters.
In other words, everything has been left on the field.
And yet that doesn’t seem like enough. These are two very good men who did not get the opportunity to truly show what kind of leaders they are.
That was lost long ago in a barrage of television commercials paid for by Lord knows who.