BY BUDDY NEVINS
Candidates should get into races early.
That’s a maxim of political experts. The earliest candidates, they say, get their hands on the donations first. They sew up endorsements. All this serves to discourage opponents from challenging them.
Does the tactic work?
Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.
Early races often only benefit political consultants, who have that much more time to bill their clients.
I only have to point to the Democratic primary race between Bill Nelson and Lawton Chiles for governor in 1990.
Nelson starting running in 1988 and rolled up an impressive list of 50 endorsements from state legislators. Much of Broward’s Democratic establishment was in Nelson’s corner.
Chiles jumped in the race on April 1990, just months before the election.
With his early start, Nelson had three times as much money and most of the party activists on his side. Chiles had….the voters.
He beat Nelson better than two-to one statewide and went on to beat Gov. Bob Martinez in the fall.
What about Broward?
Let’s take last year’s hotly-contested four-way race for an open circuit court seat. It was probably the most visible judicial contest in the last cycle.
The first candidate was Julio Gonzalez, who opened his campaign on Oct. 7, 2011.
Laurie Marie Watson opened her campaign six months later, on April 18, 2012.
Watson won. Gonzalez lost.
Or the School Board race between Franklin Sands and Donna Korn.
Sands began his formal campaign Oct. 27, 2011. Donna Korn opened her race on Jan. 24, 2012, three months later.
Korn won. Sands lost.
Broward’s Current Early Candidates
This year there are a number of candidates already running 2014 and 2016 races.
That would be Democratic State Reps. Jim Waldman of Coconut Creek and Perry Thurston of Plantation. They are raising money for 2016 openings in the state Senate.
But the pair of pols have one big reason why they are running so early: Money.
They are in their last term because of term limits.
That means they won’t have a vote in the Legislature after 2014. That means they won’t matter to the hundreds of Tallahassee lobbyists who donate to campaigns.
So they believe they need to run now when lobbyists still return their calls and send them checks.
Still, the early line on Waldman and Thurston is they will both have tough races in 2016 despite their three-year long quests.
Waldman and Thurston aren’t even the earliest birds in Florida politics. That would be state Rep. Doug Holder, R-Venice, who has already begun a 2018 campaign for state Senate.
I’m sure that Waldman, Thurston and Holder have their consultant Svengalis who prodded them into these races early.
These would be political “experts” probably didn’t tell them is that there is no cut-and-dry model for campaigns.
Consultants – including most Broward operatives – claim their expertise with notable win-loss records. Their resumes are impressive until you realize they pump up their win-loss resumes with slam dunks and uncontested races.
Still, they are valuable. Some consultants are great at strategy. Others have network of contacts. Some have a great eye when it comes to designing ads.
But none are infallible
The truth is that they win some. They lose some.
They have no magical formula to victory.
When they say that jumping in a race early works, they are right. It works….sometimes.
Every campaign is different.
First out of the box, doesn’t necessarily mean crossing the finish line first.
The only sure winner in an early race are consultants.
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