Byrd, first of two ex-Speakers looking to take flight this seasonby John Kennedy | August 13th, 2012
Plenty of political careers will be shaped by Tuesday’s vote.
But one storyline unfolding in Hillsborough County is whether former House Speaker Johnnie Byrd can make a comeback as a candidate for judge. The always controversial Byrd was last seen on a political stage in 2004, when he finished a distant fourth in a six-person field for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
On Tuesday, Byrd is challenging incumbent Circuit Judge Mark Wolfe.
Heading into Tuesday’s election, Wolfe has far outraised Byrd, with the incumbent collecting $163,837 to the challenger’s $34,670.
Byrd’s weak bid for Senate came after two tumultuous years as speaker. The Plant City Republican had few strong allies in the House, forced lawmakers into some tough votes on social issues and even phone rates. And he departed without many in the Legislature or lobbying corps holding him in the usual misty-eyed esteem achieved by Florida leaders.
Tuesday will decide whether a Republican ex-speaker can make a comeback. But it may also presage another attempted political return by a former Democratic House speaker. Former Fort Lauderdale Rep. Tom Gustafson is running in November against Boca Raton Republican Rep. Bill Hager.
Gustafson was chosen last month by the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee to replace Pamela Goodman on the ballot, after she withdrew to care for her ailing husband.