THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA – By KEITH LAING
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, May 21, 2009……….Saying there might not be enough political money to go around in a down economy when his party will be seeking to win races for the U.S. Senate and governor, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson said Thursday that he would not run to replace Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010.
“There are going to be party people out there at the grassroots who probably aren’t going to like this,” Bronson said at a news conference Thursday. “A lot of them are going to be disappointed …but facts are facts and the numbers are there and I’ve got to live with the fact that this thing got really tight really quick, on the money side especially.”
However, the central Florida rancher and former state senator said that he hasn’t yet made an endorsement for the GOP primary and remained outspoken against efforts to avoid intra-party squabbles next year.
“There’s a number of people who would like to not have a primary,” Bronson said. “This will either be the greatest plan ever of all times or this will be the biggest failure of all times, and I’m smart enough and I’ve been through enough campaigns to know that that knowledge…will be on election night when all the votes are counted. We’ll know then whether it was the right move to make.”
Of Attorney General Bill McCollum, about whom GOP chairman Jim Greer said Monday “all the rivers are flowing toward” in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Bronson only said that “at some point, I’m sure Bill and I will talk about political issues.”
Having pulled himself from a governor’s race that has already begun in earnest 18 months ahead of Election Day, Bronson said he would spend some time with his family and serve out his final term as agriculture commissioner. He added that the writing was probably on the wall for his aborted campaign the entire time he was testing the waters.
“I should have known, I guess, a little bit of this when I mentioned to Chairman Greer that I was thinking about the run for governor quite some time ago,” Bronson said ruefully Thursday. “I didn’t think about it then, but he did look like the cat that ate the canary, so I have a feeling that maybe this has been in the works for some time. I just didn’t know it.”
In the hours before Bronson said he would sit out the race he toyed quite publicly with entering, Greer said it was prudent for the party to unite behind McCollum, even if doing so rankled feathers among Bronson’s loyalists. In a letter to state GOP members, Greer pointed out that his Democratic counterpart Karen Thurman endorsed her party’s frontrunner, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, within 15 minutes of Sink’s campaign announcement last week.
“I have from the very beginning believed that the Democrats would unite around Alex Sink as they have done, avoiding a costly primary and be fully financed and prepared to challenge our Republican nominee in the general election,” Greer wrote party members. “As chairman, I met with and had several discussions with all the potential candidates for governor and emphasized my belief that in this unique time, and with redistricting approaching, I needed to promote and provide leadership in insuring that our party was unified behind one candidate for governor and that all resources be available to combat the Democrat campaign which would be formidable.”
That’s why Greer said he would not apologize for suggesting the party unite behind McCollum, despite repeated criticism from Bronson before his announcement Thursday afternoon.
” I did make it clear that as chairman all steps would be taken to unite behind General McCollum while at the same time recognizing the public service of Commissioner Bronson and the other great Republicans who considered running for governor,” Greer’s letter continued, explaining his decision to appear at McCollum’s Orlando campaign announcement earlier this week.
But even in bowing to the reality that his party appeared likely to unite behind another candidate for an office he desired, Bronson argued for that primaries actually help the party instead of hurting it as Greer and others have argued.
“I have always thought as a former precinct committeeman, state committeeman and party chairman that it was good to have campaigns because that’s how you energize the base to want to really get out and work in political campaigns,” Bronson said.
Bronson also appeared lukewarm to the possibility of running for lieutenant governor instead, saying that the party’s nominee would pick his own running mate and that the largely ceremonial second-in-command position was not worth the some of the hassle that would come with it.
“I made the statement the other day and it’s holding true that if I’m going to take that much heat, I want to own the stove,” Bronson said. “Lieutenant governor is a pretty hot place to be right now.”