There was a time when political parties – at least the Republican Party, to which I’ve long proudly belonged – didn’t get involved in primary elections, except perhaps when a favored incumbent faced a really tough opponent.
It was generally accepted that candidates would raise their own money, recruit their own volunteers, craft their own message and run their own campaigns. Once the primary was over, however, all bets were off and the party would do its darndest to ensure its candidate won the general election.
But over the years, this process has drastically changed because of legislative leadership races, term limits, the lack of a meaningful two-party system and obscene amounts of money from the party, committees of continuous existence and Super PACs.
Too often, these factors have swayed the elections process from a choice made by local primary voters to a coronation by the political establishment.
Three recent examples help to illustrate the point:
The case of Sen. Jim Norman
Sen. Jim Norman had every intention of seeking reelection to his Senate seat in Hillsborough County, even though his district was significantly changed during the legislative redistricting process, which follows the U.S. Census every 10 years.
From where I sit, three factors played into his sudden departure this week: the Senate leadership battle, a personal ethics case and interference by the Tallahassee establishment.
Norman had committed to support Sen. Jack Latvala of Pinellas County, who hopes to be Senate President during the 2016-18 term. But Sen. John Thrasher of St. Augustine also wants to be Senate president, and is believed to have recruited an opponent for Norman. Enter Rob Wallace, a former House member and Thrasher’s short-lived choice to replace Norman when it appeared an ethics issue might keep him off the 2010 ballot. Wallace is believed to support Thrasher for Senate president.
The second factor is Norman’s ethics complaint, stemming from his wife’s purchase of a lakefront Arkansas home with money from one of his political benefactors. Knowing of the ethics complaint, legislative leaders still chose Norman as their candidate in 2010, and with their assistance, he defeated his primary opponent. Now, while the accusation against
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