Spring is in the air, but it's open legislative and county seats that set politicians' hearts aflutter

Sun Sentinel

Thanks to term limits, Broward voters will elect a slew of new people to the state House of Representatives in 2014.

Spring 2013 may seem awfully early to even think about this, but political insiders say it’s not.

“Nothing gets done overnight. It takes months and months of hard work,” said political consultant Judy Stern. It’s largely a function of the need to start raising campaign money. Someone with personal wealth can jump in later, Stern said.

“You need adequate time to get the resources and to get your messaging out there,” Stern said. “I wouldn’t be rock and rolling right now for certain elections if the resources weren’t such a requirement.”

David Brown, another consultant, said a candidate who starts now gets “scheduled to go to every event in the district and start to establish relationships” with everyone from club presidents to people who can open doors to even larger groups and audiences.

He said a candidate needs to get moving in the spring the year before because many political clubs take the summer off, especially in odd-numbered years.

“You want to get around to certain groups and clubs and leaders between now and June 1st because they may be off and away and then you don’t get them back until September or October. If you don’t position yourself with these people now, you’re giving an opportunity for an opponent or potential opponent to make that impression before you can.”

Expect several candidates to make their interest official in the coming weeks. A new fundraising quarter begins April 1. So a candidate who files paperwork early in April has three months to raise money and show a big war chest by June 30, which can help build an aura of inevitability. That can encourage even more donors who want to be with a winner and discourage people from donating to other candidates who start getting perceived as losers. And it’s enough to persuade some candidates to drop out in the face of an opponent’s strong showing in the early stages of the money primary.

“It’s not too early right now to be letting people know that you’re planning on running,” said former Florida Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller, D-Cooper City. Geller explained that “2014 is a lot closer than you think. It’s just next year. We’re already in 2013.

“In order to run successfully for office today, you pretty much need three things. You don’t need all of them, but three things that you really want are the money to have the ability to deliver your message.

“You’ll want the opinion leaders on your side. That includes the neighborhood association people, if you’re running in a primary you’ll want the Democratic or Republican club leadership. You’d want the union presidents. You want the people who are the opinion leaders.

“And you also want the grassroots,” Geller said.

“If you’re planning on walking a substantial portion of your district, if you’re running, for example, for state House or County Commission, you can’t do that two months out. If you’re planning on walking a substantial portion, you need to start six or eight months in advance.

“You really want to let it be known that you’re running so that the opinion leaders, the campaign contributors don’t support somebody else. If you’re a strong candidate and you let people know you’re running that can convince, sometimes, some candidates who aren’t as strong that perhaps they should be running for another seat,” he said.

“There are other positions that people can run for if they still have a desire to serve the community, so you have to let people know early that you’re running to try to stake out the position,” he said.

Even political talent needs to be locked up early. If someone wants a genius political consultant, the talent could go elsewhere if a candidate dawdles.

Besides winning and losing elections in his own right, Geller was responsible for campaign strategy and fundraising in the leadup to his time as the Senate’s minority party leader from 2006 through 2008.

Geller, by the way, says he’s not going to be a candidate for anything in 2014. His brother, Joe, is positioning himself to run for state representative, though he hasn’t made an announcement yet. And Steve Geller’s close political ally, former Gov. Charlie Crist, is moving toward a run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

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