James Call, Tallahassee Democrat
Former President Barack Obama has thrown his support to Rep. Loranne Ausley in her race to keep the North Florida Senate Seat 3 in the Democratic column.
Incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, has targeted the open seat and three other down-state races to protect his six-seat majority.
Three of the races, including the Ausley – Marva Harris Preston contest for SD 3, has featured a nearly identical attack ad that Republicans have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to broadcast.
The ads, with only the Democratic candidate’s name changed, criticize Ausley’s, Patricia Sigman’s, a SD-9 candidate in Orlando, and Javier Fernandez’s, a SD-39 candidate in Miami, ties to the Democratic Party.
Friday morning, Obama issued a blanket endorsement of all three, along with one for Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, an incumbent Simpson has singled out for defeat.
“I’m proud to endorse these outstanding Democratic candidates who will work to get the virus under control, rebuild the economy and the middle class, and protect Americans’ health care and preexisting conditions protections. Support these candidates – and vote early if you can,” Obama tweeted.
If Democrats can hold onto SD3 and Rodriquez’s seat and pick up the open seats in Orlando and one in Miami, they will narrow the GOP advantage to two seats, the smallest Republican majority in three decades.
Ausley quickly retweeted the endorsement with a photo of her and Obama taken shortly after she endorsed his presidential campaign 13 years ago.
“I was proud to endorse Barack Obama in March of 2007, and I am so honored to have his official endorsement in this important battle for Senate District 3,” said Ausley.
Evan Power, chair of the Leon County Republican Party and chair of chairs for the state GOP, dismissed the endorsement and said most voters in the 11-county district are unable to relate to either Obama or Ausley.
“I’m not surprised a former liberal, out-of-touch politician who now owns a house in the Hamptons would support Loranne Ausley, another out-of-touch liberal,” Power said.
When he issued his first round of endorsements in August, the former President said he had identified candidates who would “redeem” the country by “sticking up for working-class people, restoring fairness and opportunity … and fighting for the good of all Americans,” for candidates seeking his endorsement:
In a second round of endorsements Friday he highlighted 10 Democratic legislative candidates, six in House races and four seeking Senate seats.
Allison Tant, a House District 9 candidate and chair of the Florida Democratic Party while Obama was president, was not on the list of House endorsements.
When asked if anyone associated with Obama had contacted her about an endorsement, Tant simply said, “No.”
The GOP holds a comfortable 25-seat majority in the House with three seats currently vacant. The November election is not expected to significantly change the power dynamics at work in the chamber.
But it’s a different story over in the Senate where candidates and their supporters are spending huge sums of money to elect senators who will help draw new legislative districts based on the 2020 census.
In the four races where Obama issued endorsements, the candidates have raised a combined $3.2 million – with the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee headed by Simpson spending at least another $5 million.
If Democrats were to hold on to Senate districts 3 and 39, and also pick up the open Orlando and Miami seats they will cut the GOP advantage to two. It would be the Democrats’ strongest position in the chamber since 1992.