Nail-biter: Control of Senate hangs in the balance
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The battle over the future shape of the Florida Senate is all but finished.
The candidates are set for their next debate on Friday night in Miami. But the final showdown is hanging in the balance. And the stakes are higher in the Sunshine State.
If a majority of voters want to keep a powerful Senate Democratic majority, Florida voters will again decide who will cast the votes of the state’s most important legislative chamber next year. If a majority support a GOP takeover, they will also determine the future makeup of Florida’s top executive branch, which includes the governor and attorney general.
If voters decide, as they did in the 2010 election, that Florida needs a bigger, stronger, more engaged and, most important, more diverse Florida Senate, then the fight will go on for years to come. If voters decide that, as many say they do, Florida needs a new kind of senator, then the fight to elect one begins.
Democrats have long thought of themselves as the party of government. Republicans, who have had the majority in the Senate for more than six decades, consider themselves the party of the private sector.
The race will be fought for control of the Senate’s seniority rules, which determine who votes in committee meetings, who gets points for support of legislation and who gets to vote first in the Senate chamber. The rules also set the rules for how much a senator can get in payouts for their party and how much he or she can be paid by outside groups — money that has become a key issue for the candidates vying for control of the Senate.
If the Senate chooses a Democrat, the new junior senator would likely be the first Democratic senator since the 1920s elected from a Republican-leaning district and would be the first in the upper chamber to serve the people of the state for more than three decades.
But if the Senate chooses a GOP candidate, the incumbent would be the first senator elected since the 1970s — the longest ever for any newly elected senator — who was not the incumbent from the state’s most reliably red district. But he or she would also be the first from Florida elected since 1990 to serve the state for more than one term.