Do friendships die quickly in the Florida GOP?

Randy Johnson being shown no love from his former Republican friends.

About 16 years ago, Randy Johnson, Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Jamey Westbrook were either elected officials or on their way to becoming elected officials. For Randy Johnson, he was seeking his first term in the Florida House and raised nearly $80,000 in his endeavor. For Alex Diaz de la Portilla, he was already a big name in the Florida Legislature and drew no opposition. Even without an opponent, he raised nearly $81,000. Jamey Westbrook, on the other hand, was in a tough race against Bev Kilmer. He would eventually lose that race, but not before he raise $105,000.

Remember, the numbers mentioned above are from 1996. 16 years later, these numbers would be much higher for the same amount.

Let’s fast forward to 2012. All of these men, after being out of the game for one cycle or more, are looking to get back into the political game. For Diaz de la Portilla, he has only been removed from office for two years. For Westbrook and Johnson, the time has been much longer. In the case of Westbrook, he has even switched from being a Democrat to Republican, though his voting record made him a bad Democrat anyway.

One would assume that with their prior connections that all of these men would be able to go back to their old sources and try to scrounge up some money. It isn’t like these men weren’t connected in the past. Even Diaz de la Portilla was nearly able to garner $300,000 in his last attempt at the State Senate, which he won. But for some reason, it seems that friendships die quickly among Florida Republicans.

Of course, Westbrook was a Democrat when he was seeking reelection in 1998. Still, one would assume his connections would transcend party lines. Apparently, his connections don’t transcend any lines. In his current race for the Florida House, he has only raised $$1,150. True, it says that $121,150 has been raised by the candidate, but only $1,150 comes from people that aren’t named Jamey Westbrook. In fact, all of the other Republican candidates in this race have been able to raise more money than Westbrook. Basically, Westbrook is trying to buy his way back into the house. Why Mr. Westbrook would donate, not loan, his campaign $120,000 for a seat that he has a chance of losing doesn’t make sense. Yes, we understand that people use their money to run for office. But with his run-ins in the past, one must question why Westbrook seeks so badly to return to Tallahassee.

While Westbrook is running in his old district, the same cannot be said for Randy Johnson. Johnson, who lives in Celebration and represented mostly southwest Orange County in the past, is now running in a seat that takes him over an hour to reach the closest border. Somehow, he thought he would be able to regain his luster in this district, which includes Glades, Highlands and Okeechobee Counties. Even with this former status as a “big wig” among House Republicans, he has only raised about $17,000 for his campaign so far, and has loaned it an additional $23,000. His primary opponent, Cary Pigman, a local doctor, has raised over $61,000 and hasn’t loaned his campaign a cent. While Westbrook might be able to buy his race, Johnson doesn’t seem as eager to throw $100,000 of his own money into a State House seat.

Further south, we have Alex Diaz de la Portilla. Diaz de la Portilla isn’t a stranger to this process. He has held a number of leadership positions, most notably as Senate Majority Leader and President Pro Tempore. So, unlike Westbrook who switched parties, and Johnson who is running in a totally different district, Alex would have a better chance at raising money at his return shot to the Florida House, right? Wrong! In his return attempt to Tallahassee, Diaz de la Portilla has only been able to raise a little over $28,000, much less than the nearly $300,000 he raised in his last Senate race.

There are other examples of candidates trying to make a return to the Florida Legislature. Even though they haven’t been able to raise the money like they did in the past, they are still making a somewhat respectable showing. Carl Domino is an example of being to raise a respectable amount, yet he is behind fellow Republican opponent MaryLynn Magar. But even Domino’s fundraising efforts aren’t as dismal as those of Johnson, Westbrook and Diaz de la Portilla.

It seems as the if Florida GOP has a system…once you are out, you are out, and there is no coming back. Because of their own personal finances, there is a chance that Westbrook (who, remember, wasn’t a Democrat when he held office) and Johnson could make a return. Diaz de la Portilla can also win because of his name ID and his Republican opponent, Gustavo Barreiro, has only raised a little over $31,000.

So, as it stands, all three of these candidates have a chance to win. And if they do, it isn’t the Republican Party that is helping them. They have to do it on their own.

3 thoughts on “Do friendships die quickly in the Florida GOP?”

  1. Westbrook is a perfect example of the type of Dem that we’ve run off with the urban bias and obsession with south and central fla. Joe Spratt, Doc Peaden, Harry Goode, Everett Kelly and the late great George Kirkpatrick are others.

    By writing off half the state we are a small tent in a super minority. The Republicans are the true big tent.

  2. These days, candidates drop much more money into their PACs and that’s why you don’t often seem them reflected in their campaign accounts. Diaz de la Portilla has raised at lesat $50,000 more in two PACs. But yes, it is still less than 16 years ag.