With the future leadership of the Florida House Democrats narrowed to West Palm Beach’s Mark Pafford and Tallahassee’s Alan Williams, Pafford has enough important backing to appear to be the frontrunner, but some key Democrats think that’s a very bad idea.
In fact, one said, it could be fatal.
Pafford, who declared his candidacy for the position in a letter to the House clerk Tuesday, picked up some much-needed support when Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, backed out of the race the same day.
Jones, who finished second to Daryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, in February balloting for the speaker designate post, was widely considered a contender to replace him after he was ousted Monday night. On Tuesday, however, she threw her support to Pafford.
“At this time, I believe it is in the best interest of the Caucus for us to elect Rep. Mark Pafford as our next leader,” Jones said in a statement. “He will represent us with dignity and integrity, and most importantly, he will right this ship.”
But Palm Beach County Democratic strategist Andre Fladell said Pafford’s more likely to take the ship aground.
Pafford’s record of anti-business votes, which have earned him low scores from business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, could be a killer for the party in fundraising going into an election year against Gov. Rick Scott.
“Electing Pafford as the Democratic leader would be like electing a homeless person to head economic development in Palm Beach County,” Fladell said early Tuesday, when Pafford was the only announced candidate for the post. “It’s the political equivalent of assisted suicide.”
The House Democratic caucus votes Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Capitol.
This year, for instance, Pafford’s record earned him an approval rating of only 36 percent from the Florida Chamber of Commerce – the second lowest among House Democrats, just above fellow South Florida Democrat Elaine Schwartz, according to the non-partisan voting group Votesmart.
Williams’ voting record earned him a 73 percent approval rating from the chamber – tied for second highest among Democrats, behind Larry Lee, D-Fort Pierce, who earned a 75 percent, according to Votesmart.
The average rating among House Democrats was just under 58 percent, according to Votesmart.
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity gave Pafford’s voting record a 21 percent approval rating for 2013, the lowest of any House member, according to Votesmart.
Americans for Prosperity, meanwhile, gave Williams’ record a 32 percent approval in 2013, according to Votesmart. The average for House Democrats was almost 39 percent.
Pafford and Williams did not return phone calls Tuesday.