Questions remain about the unusual shuffle in a race for a Florida Senate seat from Jacksonville.
Three House members had an eye on the position, all conservative Republicans.
The public could not have lost by choosing among the three. But they didn’t get the chance.
Two dropped out and endorsed the third, Clay Yarborough.
It appears that the choice was made by the Senate leadership.
State Reps. Jason Fischer and Cord Byrd have said nothing on the record. Fischer has decided to run for the position of property appraiser in Jacksonville.
But key senators preferred Yarborough, which left the other two in an untenable position.
When Senate President Wilton Simpson and incoming president Kathleen Passidomo both endorsed Yarborough, the handwriting was on the wall.
That’s a bit unusual but not unprecedented. Ray Rodrigues was a similar case two years ago where he also was backed by Simpson and Passidomo in his move from House to Senate.
Had either Fischer or Byrd remained and won the race, he would have been working with people who did not want him. Chances of key committee positions or support for legislation presumably would have been slim.
Insiders said the risk of losing a Republican seat may have been one factor.
With the Republican majority getting slimmer and the outcome of redistricting uncertain, GOP legislators are trying to reduce the risk of becoming a minority. Some believe the Senate leaders thought Yarborough was the party’s best chance of retaining the seat currently held by Aaron Bean, who is not running, for the party.
However, the theory is weak. It would be plausible if the district was up for grabs but the district is solid Republican and even a weak GOP candidate would triumph over a Democrat.
Fischer had more money than his colleagues. But there were whispers that op research had turned up something on him that might have been damaging, or made to appear damaging.
Fischer also did not support Ben Albritton in Albritton’s successful bid to be Senate president after Passidomo. Yarborough did.
Byrd seemed to some observers to be the likely next choice but he didn’t make the cut either. What the final choice by the kingmakers hinged on isn’t clear.
But another theory is that Fischer and Byrd simply were seen as being too independent, and not as likely to follow the leader as Yarborough might be. That perhaps could be verified or debunked later by an examination of Yarborough’s voting record while he is in the Senate.
Meanwhile, one contender to replace Yarborough in the House is Lake Ray, who was replaced on the City Council by Yarborough in 2007 and now is Yarborough’s employer at the First Coast Manufacturers Association.
In any event, the tactics used in this case can create animosity.
Naturally, supporters of the two exiting candidates are upset. They would rather see the electorate make the choice than party bosses, but that’s not how things always work in the real world.
We know Democrats think voters are stupid, but we hope today’s Republican leaders in Florida have not adopted the same viewpoint.