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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Florida Dems Look to Place Big Bet on Senate Race

Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen report “Democratic donors hope to recruit NBA legends Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade to run for Senate in Florida” at nbcnews.com. But their article is about more than these two former NBA stars potential senate candidacies; it’s really an update on Democratic prospects for taking away Republican Rick Scott’s senate seat next year.

As for the idea of running popular “NBA legends” as a shortcut to making Florida a purple state once again, why not? The Florida Democratic Party needs help, and a NBA celebrity candidacy just might help to juice turnout, particularly among black voters. I’ve long believed Democrats could benefit for running more jocks and entertainers. Republicans did alright with Reagan, Sen. George Murphy and Schwartzeneggar. Professional sports brings together voters of all races and athletic stars can help do the same for Democrats running in elections.

Sure, it’s a gimmicky substitute for the hard work of party-building. But consider that famous jocks come with name recognition, a ready-made fan/donor base, charisma and lotsa money. Ditto for big name entertainers. Given the importance of black voters as a pivotal constituency for Democrats, NBA stars like Hill and Wade would also bring significant buzz to a senate candidacy.

African Americans are more than 15 percent of Florida’s population, and nearly a third of the residents of Jacksonville, Florida’s largest city. Concentrated in Florida’s major cities, they can be more cost-effectively mobilized for voter turnout than many other Florida constituencies. It’s not hard to imagine Democratic Hispanic and white stars also boosting voter turnout in Florida.

Dixon and Allen write, ““Grant Hill has great name ID. He would raise a boatload of money and is one of the smartest guys you will ever meet,” said John Morgan, an Orlando-based trial attorney and national Democratic donor, who has spoken directly with Hill about his desire for him to run. “Grant Hill would beat the s— out of Rick Scott.”

“Dwyane Wade is a Florida legend, whose leadership past and present has a lot of folks in our state sending feelers out,” said Ray Paultre, the executive director of the Florida Alliance, a progressive donor group that plays a significant role in Florida Democratic politics. “We have seen former athletes, in both parties, bring something special to the political landscape. He hasn’t been officially approached, but he is on the list of four or five dream candidates to challenge Rick Scott.

Incumbency is always an asset. But it’s not like the Republican Senator Rick Scott is Mr. Popularity. “Everything Rick Scott has done while he was trying to make a name for himself in Washington has made him more vulnerable back in Florida,” DSCC Communications Director David Bergstein said. “His agenda to cut — and to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare — is toxic with the voters that decide a general election in a state like Florida.”

The rest of the article discusses the possible candidacies of five other lesser-known Democratic Floridians from more conventional political backgrounds. Certainly, one of them could emerge as a credible, or even popular candidate. Regardless, Democrats should begin to more actively recruit well-known athletes and entertainers to run for the U.S. Senate and House districts, not just in Florida, but nation-wide.

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