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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

FL-05: How About a Comeback for Karen Thurman?

Posted by DavidNYC

In the past few weeks, I've written a bit about House race comebacks (see here and here). I think that 2006 is definitely the year for any Democrat who ever lost or retired prematurely to get back in the game. You'll have the wind at your backs, an energized base, a crumbling president whose entire administration is in disarray, and a powerful, ready-made issue (government ethics) that can be deployed in almost any district. This is the time to jump back in.

In that vein, here's a name I'd like to toss at ya: Karen Thurman. Thurman represented Florida's 5th CD for a decade, first winning her seat in 1992. In 2002, however, she became an unfortunate victim of redistricting, as FL-05 was re-drawn to be much more conservative. Nonetheless, Thurman lost the new FL-05 by only two points (48-46) to Republican Ginny Brown-Waite. After losing, Thurman did not sit idly by: Earlier this year, she became chair of the Florida Democratic Party. And according to Hotline (no link available), she's been doing a very solid job:

After a horrible year for the FL Dem Party, signs of improvement are showing. Ex-Rep. Karen Thurman as party chair has helped to reduce the debt and manage to raise $1M during the third quarter of the year - its best off-year posting since the days of Lawton Chiles' GOV tenure in '97. The party, under new exec. dir. Luis Navarro, has begun to consolidate the fundraising arms for its campaign cmtes, and is well on its way to establishing an early coordinated campaign plan for '06.

Of course, if she were to run for Congress again, she'd have to step down from her party chair post in the midst of a big election campaign (the state has both Gov and Senate races this year). But the FL Dems look like they're doing pretty well, and it would certainly be easier to replace her as chair than to find a candidate as strong as she would be in FL-05. The Almanac of American politics once described her as "a Democrat who has shown something like perfect political pitch." The Almanac also says she was known for her constituent services, so at the very least, she'd have strong name recognition in her old district.

Now, the cold bracing dose of reality: The district got a lot more Republican after the post-2000 census round of redistricting. In 1996, it went for Clinton 50-37 over Dole. In 2004, it went for Bush 58-41 over Kerry. By way of comparison, in 1994, the last big "tidal wave" type of year, only two Dem incumbents lost in districts that were as heavily Dem as FL-05 is pro-GOP. One was the scandal-embroiled Dan Rostenkowski in IL-05 (18% Clinton margin in 1992). The other was the ultra-liberal ("Let's grow our own weed") Dan Hamburg in CA-01 (17%). And the guy who beat Rostenkowski (Mike Flanagan) lost the very next time out, while the guy who beat Hamburg (Frank Riggs) retired two terms later. Both districts have since safely been in Democratic hands.

So yes, it's possible to win in such a lopsided district, but obviously, it's pretty rare. Brown-Waite would probably be more formidable than Rostenkowski or Hamburg - but she did take $20,000 from Tom DeLay's PAC, voted for the DeLay rule, and gave $1,000 to his legal defense fund. We could tie that around her neck pretty good.At the same time, Thurman would make for a much stronger challenger than either Flanagan or Riggs - quite possibly on a different plane altogether. With her deep connections throughout Florida politics, she could have an enormous amount of ready-made support.

The filing deadline is May 12th, so Thurman has plenty of time to decide. I should note that two Dems have already filed in the district: Vietnam vet and teacher Rick Penberthy and RN John Russell, who came in second in the Democratic primary for this seat in 2004. But I don't think it would be at all unfair to say that Thurman would make a stronger candidate.

So, what do you guys think? How does a Karen Thurman comeback in FL-05 sound?

Posted at 04:01 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Florida | Technorati

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Although Karen Thurman was unfairly targeted by Republicans and lost her bid for re-election as a result, I do not think she should seek her old seat.

Chairwoman Thurman is settling in to her job as Chair of the FDP. It has been a long and difficult year for Florida Democrats and it is important that the party structure move forward now - having another election for chair of the FDP would cause a huge uproar and would hurt Democrats across the state of Florida.

Karen Thurman is doing a great job as chair. Her speech at the convention a few weeks ago was fantastic - both conference attendees and the press agree.

Furthermore, I think that candidate Rick Penbernathy might be just what we are looking for in the Florida 5th. He's a teacher. He's a vet. He's got potential - he just needs some help.

Why don't we focus on finding challengers in districts where no one has filed instead of trying to toss more candidates into a primary battle???

Posted by: TracyJoan [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2005 06:27 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It would probably be more productive to get a search going for candidates for FL-4 (Crenshaw), FL-7 (Mica), FL-10 (Young), FL-12 (Putnam), FL-14 (Mack), FL-18 (Ros-Lehtinen) and FL-25 (Mario Diaz-Balart).

I don't think Thurman is motivated to run for her old seat. There's not really a compelling reason for her to abandon her new job at this time.

As for the districts I mentioned, the Bush/Kerry split, and the Congressional split

FL-04: 69/31 Bush, Crenshaw won easily over a write-in opponent
FL-07: 57/43 Bush, Mica was unopposed in 2004
FL-10: 51/49 Bush, Young won 69/31 in 2004
FL-12: 58/42 Bush, Putnam won 65/35
FL-14: 62/38 Bush, Mack won 68/32
FL-18: 54/46 Bush, Ros-Lehtinen won 65/35
FL-25: 56/44 Bush, Mario Diaz-Balart was unopposed

I'm sure that some time after "Operation Texas" ends, an operation to unearth candidates in Florida can be started.

Posted by: RBH [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2005 06:32 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Why don't we focus on finding challengers in districts where no one has filed instead of trying to toss more candidates into a primary battle?

From all my other posts (especially the post just below this one), I think it's pretty clear that I'm interested in filling empty slots. I also don't see why we can't do both things - not all candidates are created equal. Sometimes, seeking the best candidate can mean giving short shrift to someone who has already filed. That's politics.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2005 06:38 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Keeping a Party Chair may be the worst reason I've ever heard not to run a good candidate for Congress.

Who really knows who the Party Chair is? And who cares?

If you think local party structure is the difference between winning and losing campaigns, keeping Thurman as Party Chair makes sense. Let her continue to build the party.

But if you think good candidates, money and name ID are bigger factors in who wins, this is a no-brainer. Thurman has all three.

Thurman can win this seat back for Democrats if she runs. Everybody and their brother should be willing to trade three state party chairs for winning a seat in Congress.

And it's not like there's nobody in Florida who can do the state party job besides Thurman. But she is likely the only person who can win that seat.

Posted by: FLDem [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2005 06:42 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Brown-Waite doesn't have the liability of being on the wrong side in the Schiavo situation. She spoke against and voted against the Congressional interference in that case.

It's a situation of "Where can she do the most good?".. would she do the most good helping lead the state party and trying to make more gains, or would she do more good by running in a very red district.

I don't think the positives of running in FL-05 outweigh the positives of her continuing the work she's doing as party chairwoman.

Posted by: RBH [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2005 08:27 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Where is FL-05? What part of the state?

Posted by: Strike5 [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2005 08:31 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

West Coast of Florida. Includes Levy County, Citrus County, Sumter County, Hernando County, Pasco County, and parts of Lake County.

Before Redistricting, her district's Gore/Bush split was 52/48 Gore. After Redistricting, the split was 54/46 Bush. Basically, a flip of 6 points in the other direction.

Posted by: RBH [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2005 08:49 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

RBH: Why do you say that? Why is Thurman's work as state chair so important? I mean, isn't a state chair far more replaceable than a viable Congressional candidate?

Let's look at it this way: There are probably at least a handful of people who could effectively run the Florida Dems. There is only one person who used to represent FL-05 and lost by just two percent only 3 years ago.

I'm not saying I'm dead certain that Thurman should stage a comeback. But if the only reason not to is her current job, I just don't see that as being a compelling enough impediment.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2005 09:59 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm pretty sure Karen Thurman doesn't have the desire to be the second FDP chair to resign to run for office in 2005 (the other, Scott Maddox, resigned to run for Governor, and dropped out in October)

When it comes to the GOP tilt of FL05, thirteen districts in Florida were friendlier to John Kerry.

Posted by: RBH [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 20, 2005 10:55 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

She should definately run again. Party chairs are as replaceable as, well, dinning room chairs - a Dem who could be competitive in my district is not.

I have little doubt that the district is actually become MORE Republican each day, but she should definately run again - Brown is hardly a genius.

Posted by: fladem [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 21, 2005 03:46 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I assure you that we are working very hard here in district 5 to elect Rick Penberthy. He is the clear choice for our district. Like Tracy said, he is a Vet and has been teaching High School and College for 22 years. We will continue to work hard to reclaim Thurman's seat.

We do need help though, please visit Rick's website:

http://www.RickForCongress.com to learn more. Thanks!!!


Posted by: RickForCongress [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 12:07 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Karen Thurman needs to stay FDP chair. Party chairs may not be visible, but they're not very interchangeable. We must keep the party moving in the right direction after years and years of mismanagement which has led to slow decline of the Florida Dems since the 1980s.

Also, Florida's county parties, the DECs, are practically useless and compeletely ineffective at this point. DECs are what allows candidates to connect with communities and essentially win elections. These organizations need a good kick in the butt from above and Karen Thurman can do that.

The current candidates for Congress in the 5th are fine as it is. It makes no sense to mix up the primary with another candidate.

Posted by: Ray Seaman [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 02:57 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Please note a correction about Rick Penberthy. He is a Vietnam-ERA veteran. He did not serve in Vietnam.

Also...Please note that in the 2004 Democratic Primary, Rick Penberthy spent approximately $60K of his own money to come in 4th place out of four candidates. On the other hand, John Russell spent approximately $5K to come in a STRONG 2nd place.

Ginny Brown-Waite FEARS John Russell, who has publicly taken her on in various forums. He relishes the thought of facing her in the General Election.

John Russell is the STRONG voice that Democrats need to hold corporations accountable. He will NEVER back down! He is for the INDIVIDUAL and has a solid platform on healthcare, energy, and the environment.

Those that know John Russell recognize his strength of voice and integrity of character. He is a true blue Democrat! He is a true Progressive and was chosen to go to a Democratic Boot Camp in Phoenix in October. He met with Nancy Pelosi to strategize and make District 5 BLUE again!

Posted by: Nispero [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 5, 2006 06:00 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

john russell is a male nurse that lives with his mother. he isn't electable in district 5...(no caps lock needed).

Posted by: floridawinsbig [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 9, 2006 11:22 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

John Russell has two Master's degrees...one in Nursing and an MBA. Considering the state of our healthcare system, he is the only qualified candidate that can deal with its complexities. Working as an Acute Care Registered Nurse Practitioner, he deals with the pressure of SAVING LIVES every day. Floridawinsbig...how many lives have you saved recently?? Have you ever worked in a trauma center? John Russell does not fold under pressure! He thrives on it!

Look at John Russell's website www.johnrussellforcongress.com It has substance! He's very clear about his platform and he wrote all of the material HIMSELF.

Now, look at his opponent's website...skimpy on the substance.

Have you heard him speak? John Russell speaks with confidence and determination. He is extremely well-versed in healthcare, energy (especially alternative energy), the environment, foreign affairs, and more. Anybody that knows him sees his passion for civil rights and rights for individuals. He will NEVER pander to a corporation like most of the "Republican Light" Democrats do!

John Russell has worked on political campaigns for over ten years (Ross Perot, Gore & Leiberman, Kerry & Edwards). After he saw the corruption and voting debacle of 2000, he became inspired to run for office himself. Those of us in Democratic circles know him and have seen his tireless effort. Even after he came in second out of four candidates in the Democratic Primary, he continued to work for Betty Castor's campaign. Incidentally, Castor won in Pasco County. He continued working for Kerry & Edwards and has not stopped working on behalf of Democrats since 2004. Campaigning for office is NOT a part-time job. Isn't this the kind of person we NEED in District 5?

As far as his mother goes, I think it is pretty noble to take care of an elderly mother and not put her in a nursing home. He has character.

John Russell is the type of person the Democrats need today--a TRUE Progressive!

Posted by: Nispero [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 10, 2006 11:49 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'd also like to point out something about John Russell. He doesn't live with his mother, who happens to be in her 80's and is afflicted with alzheimers. John built his entire house (over 3500 sq. ft.), by himself, including 26 tons of concrete tile on the roof. When he's not campaigning or working, he and his girlfriend are caring for his mother.

Posted by: Duffy [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 11, 2006 11:47 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

John Russell is far and away the most viable Democrat in the District 5 challenge to Ginny Brown-Waite. What is it about us Dems that makes us so easily forget the past??? Russell was the close second runner to Karen T in 2004. He accomplished that with very limited resources. He has a broad understanding of and can clearly articulate his positions on ALL major issues of the day. He's as solid as a rock professionally and personally. He's not a professional politician. He was identified early on by the national Democratic leadership as a contender. So why is our Citrus County DEC lollygagging, clinging to Penberthy -- totally unelectable in my view -- when John Russell epitomizes a 2006 variety progressive Democrat with all the right stuff? Go figure.....

Posted by: democrat2thebone [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 17, 2006 11:44 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment