By Kartik Krishnaiyer
On Friday the St Petersburg Times Buzz Blog reported that Rick Dantzler, one of the most intelligent and qualified Democrats in Florida is considering a political comeback. Dantzler has been out of office since resigning his State Senate seat in 1998 and has not sought office since dropping out of the race for Agriculture Commission in in 2001.
Dantzler is from Winter Haven which has always been the right part of the state to run from. From 1941 to 1989, Polk County produced one of Florida’s two US senators and of course from 1991 through 1998 a Governor as well. Polk County is perceived a rural and small townish much like the Panhandle, but may Tallahassee politicos don’t realize the sheer number of people that live in the sleepy southern styled county.
On a trip to meet with Rick Dantzler during his Agriculture Commission race, I discussed the value of a Polk County based candidate in the car with my fellow travelers, all of whom were Tallahassee residents. When I cited the population numbers for the area and the general appeal those who get elected in county generally have statewide, we had a general consensus: Polk County is perhaps the best political base in the state to run from. (For those wondering Polk County had close to 600,000 residents according to the 2007 population estimates, which is about 2 1/2 times as many people as Leon or Alachua Counties).
During that campaign for Agriculture Commissioner Dantzler impressed me as he had in 1998 when he ran for Governor and then LT. Gov. with his command of state issues and his understanding of localized problems throughout different parts of Florida. But Dantzler’s head wasn’t in the Agriculture Commissioner race. I was tasked with accompanying him to a speech at the Indian River DEC’s annual dinner. There, Dantzler gave his speech, then left before the dinner was complete heading home on SR 60 late at night and towards political oblivion. He dropped out of the race soon thereafter.
But in this time of economic crisis and absent leadership in this state, someone like Rick Dantzler is sorely needed in state government. The St Pete Times indicated that he was interested in the Congressional seat that will presumably be vacated by Adam Putnam who is likely to run for Agriculture Commissioner. Dantzler, a moderate Democrat who is more of a problem solver than an ideologue should consider running for Governor instead of Congress.
Florida is currently governed by a lightweight with a second rate mind whose every move is dictated by political considerations. Our state needs a non political problem solver whose not going to make rash decisions based on the current headwinds in the state. Dantzler would be one of the best potential Democrats who could run for Governor. Another would be Mayor Buddy Dyer of Orlando, who served with Dantzler in the State Senate. Dyer and Dantzler ironically worked together with Attorney General Butterworth to create a piece of legislation to save the Tobacco lawsuit of Governor Chiles in 1996 while Senator Crist and his co-horts in the Republican Party were working to repeal to law that allowed for the suit.
Dantzler’s talents and expertise are needed in Florida: not just by the Democrats but by the state. Hopefully he’ll jump back into politics and seek a state office rather than a federal one.