Next Tuesday is primary day for two of the most fascinating Senate races in the country, with Sen. Linc Chafee trying to stave off Steve Laffey in Rhode Island's GOP primary, and Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume (along with a few others) facing off against each other in Maryland's Dem primary. I'll hopefully be posting my thoughts on those races, particularly the Maryland race, this weekend.
But there was another important primary day this week, with Florida's primaries for both Senate and Governor taking place on Tuesday. None of the contests yielded any surprises. Congressman Jim Davis (no, not the same guy who does Garfield) defeating big sugar-backed State Sen. Rod Smith in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Davis will face off against FL Attorney General Charlie Crist, who routed State CFO Tom Gallagher in the GOP primary.
Crist is one of the few GOPers from the South (inasmuch as Florida can be called "the South") who progressives can at least respect. My personal favorite blogger, progressive Ron Gunzberger of Politics1, has expressed some admiration for Crist, who supports civil unions, favors a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, and opposes overturning Roe v. Wade. Jim Davis also seems a good person and a good candidate, and the race between the two of them seems likely to be a healthy exchange of ideas from both sides.
Over on the Senate side, the situation could hardly be more different. Katherine Harris is no Charlie Crist. Not even close. She's probably the least palatable Republican in the entire country who has run for statewide office in the past decade. Mitchell Wade, the same defense contractor who bribed Duke Cunningham (R-Federal Prison), also wooed Harris with a $2800 dinner and then funneled more than $30,000 in illegal contributions to Harris's campaign (Harris says all the money has since been given to charity). She also has made many statements expressing her opposition to separation of church and state, which she calls "a lie," and advocates open theocracy as fervently as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. And oh yeah - she did everything in her power to disenfranchise Democratic and independent voters in 2000.
Harris's candidacy has devolved into a bad, almost sick joke. The chances of an enlightened exchange of ideas between Harris and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson are less than zero. Both the state and national divisions of the GOP have long distanced themselves from Harris's candidacy, and her victory in the GOP primary does not appear to have made any impression on them. Nelson could beat Harris by 25 points without running a single ad. He could probably win by 50 if he really tried.
The presence of Harris's name at the top of the ballot is also sure to have some drag on downballot GOPers, including Crist, although I highly doubt that many people will condemn the moderate Crist merely because of he shares his party label with the reactionary Harris. The biggest casualty of Harris's candidacy will be the opportunity for Floridians to hear a reasoned exchange of ideas on issues of national importance. And while I am happy that the Dems don't have to worry about defending this seat, that's never a good thing for democracy.