Can Florida Teachers and Public School Advcates Look to the Harbinger of Hawaii?

From Cathy Bussewitz and Juliet Williams  of the Associated Press:

A 40-year political career came to a close after Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie lost his bid for a second term in a stunning primary-election defeat by a fellow Democrat and state senator who defied party leadership to challenge the incumbent. A second intraparty fight for U.S. Senate was too close to call.

State Sen. David Ige, once seen as an underdog, cruised to a decisive 35 percentage point win in Saturday’s primary after being dramatically outspent by Abercrombie, who also had high-profile endorsements including President Barack Obama. Ige said his win “proves that people power can be money power, especially in Hawaii.”

Abercrombie is the first Hawaii governor to lose to a primary challenger and only the second not to win re-election. His defeat comes after Obama last month cut a radio ad for Abercrombie, invoking the Hawaiian word for family to tell voters in his native state that Abercrombie is “like ohana to me.”

The governor was seen as confrontational and he angered many voters with a proposal last year to raise a host of taxes. The politically influential teachers union also campaigned for Ige after Abercrombie alienated teachers in 2011 by imposing a final contract that cut pay by 5 percent after negotiations failed.

Ige, a respected state senator who served in the Legislature for 28 years, felt Hawaii was headed in the wrong direction, and that too many of the governor’s decisions were dividing communities.

Bold print mine.

First, some realities. Hawaii is bluer than the Pacific Ocean which surrounds it. Florida has a huge advantage in red counties. Florida ain’t Hawaii when it comes to demographics, but what’s emboldened above represents facts on the ground in Florida.

After Florida Democrats decide between former GOP governor Charlie Crist and former state senator, Nan Rich, focus and assets will be aimed at current republican governor Rick Scott. The current governor’s people must feel that Crist will prevail as they are running TV spots attacking him – even in areas where republican voters greatly outnumber democrats as in the Florida Panhandle.

But make no mistake about two points: Rick Scott’s education policy has indeed served to “divide communities;” and as in Abecrombie’s case, Scott has “alienated teachers.”

Neither President Obama or democrat Sen. Bill Nelson are on the ballot to draw in republican voters who focus on Washington politics. Few change-overs – if any – of congressional seats are likely to occur. The 2008 democrat gubernatorial nominee, Alex Sink, failed to make education an issue and failed to mobilize the state’s teachers. Neither Rich nor Crist will make the same mistake.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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