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Senate endorsement smackdown update: 2 more for Benacquisto

by George Bennett | June 23rd, 2009

Wellington Councilwoman and Republican state Senate hopeful Lizbeth Benacquisto announced two more endorsements from Republican Senators today: Michael Bennett of Bradenton and Garrett Richter of Naples.



For those keeping score, that’s seven of the 26 Republicans in the Florida Senate backing Benacquisto, who’s running for the District 27 seat that Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, is leaving to run for attorney general.

The other five Senators to endorse Benacquisto are Senate President Jeff Atwater of North Palm Beach, Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla of Miami, Ken Pruitt of Port St. Lucie, Don Gaetz of Niceville and Andy Gardiner of Orlando.

Former Republican state Rep. Sharon Merchant of Palm Beach Gardens, who says she’s running but hasn’t opened a campaign yet, has already lined up endorsements from three Republican Senators: Nancy Detert of Venice, Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Alex Villalobos of Miami

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2 Responses to “Senate endorsement smackdown update: 2 more for Benacquisto”

  1. Sara from Lee Says:

    I am a long-time Lee County resident and involved in local politics. I started this election cycle knowing a little about Lizbeth Benacquisto and less about Sharon Merchant. After learning more about the candidates and attending a group introduction to Benacquisto, it is clear that Benacquisto is the superior candidate – by far.

    First, an observation about the importance of electronic information and communication. The 2008 election cycle was a watershed event with respect to the electronic age and national elections. Forever altered are the ways in which campaigns are coordinated, money raised, and information disseminated and obtained.

    The 2010 election cycle will be a watershed event for electronic communication at the local level. Electronic communication will play an even greater role in local elections than national. The reason – old fashioned person-to-person contact. It’s one thing to receive a blast email from a presidential or U.S. senatorial candidate’s campaign. It’s quite another to receive a personal email from the candidate or from a friend who knows the candidate.

    Benacquisto is well ahead in person to person communications. I’ve been receiving emails from at least a dozen friends who know her or who have had first person experience with her. And although I have not joined in, I know there’s quite a bit of twittering going on.

    On the other hand, I’ve received exactly four emails from persons who know Sharon Merchant, and two of those are hoping she decides not to enter the race.

    Even a nuance such as Benacquisto having a more pleasing and informative Facebook page can make a difference in the electronic age.

    Turning to endorsements, I believe the reasons for Benacquisto’s advantage, in both quantity and quality, are:

    1) Benacquisto has been involved in the district and has an excellent record as a councilwoman in Wellington.

    2) Merchant’s lack of involvement in District 27 and losing record have allowed people to quickly and freely endorse Benacquisto.

    Benacquisto has been involved in District 27 as an elected official and other activities. Merchant does not live in the district and has not been involved in district issues except as a paid lobbyist. Merchant’s candidancy can justifiably be viewed as political opportunism rather than a desire to serve one’s community. I’m not sure how she’s going to answer the question: “What have you done for the people of District 27 that qualifies you to represent us in the Florida Senate?”

    And no matter how much money Merchant spends, it will be difficult to overcome the person-to-person communications advantage Benacquisto will have.

  2. David T the Dem Says:

    Sara, you are on-target regarding the the importance of electronic communication and information. In state and local campaigns its use has been limited mostly to fundraising and internal communication. That will change. I am involved in both marketing and politics (Democrat), and would like to offer some comments to your observations.

    In the 2010 election cycle we are likely to have more contested seats than ever before. Vacancies created by term-limits and early retirements will make it a busy political season.

    There also seems to be a growing number of nomad politicians such as Rader and Merchant who seek career opportunities wherever they arise. The result is more contested primaries.

    A contributing factor to Merchant’s loss in the 2002 District 27 primary was the perception that she was a carpetbagger. And in 2010 it won’t be any easier for her, Rader and other nomads to avoid that label. They will have a difficult time overcoming homegrown candidates who have a network of supporters IN THE DISTRICT. Each supporter will email, Twitter and IM their own personal network of friends on behalf of their candidate.

    Especially in primaries, electronic person-to-person contact, combined with the many other forms of interactive Internet communication such as Facebook and You-Tube, will be immensely effective because it’s low-cost and personal.

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