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Nancy Argenziano drops out of U.S. House race, plans to run for state House instead

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 by Dara Kam

After failing to convince a judge to let her run in a Big Bend congressional race as a Democrat, former Public Service Commission Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano has switched gears and instead plans to again seek a state House seat.

Argenziano, a lifelong Republican who switched to the Independent Party last year, challenged a provision in Florida law that limits candidates from changing their party affiliation to a year before the qualifying period for the general election. The time constraint used to be six months, but was included in a sweeping election law signed by Gov. Rick Scott in June that is now being challenged by the Justice Department. A Tallahassee judge ruled in favor of the law last week.

Argenziano said she inadvertently switched her GOP party registration to the Independent Party shortly before the law went into effect last year instead of opting for no party affiliation, or “NPA,” which would have left her free to sign up as a Democrat.

Today, Argenziano said she’s dropping out of the race against incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, a Republican, because she won’t be able to raise the money to compete in the Panhandle race.

Instead, she’s going after the state House seat now held by Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, in her Citrus County home. Smith gained notoriety for sponsoring a controversial measure pushed by Gov. Rick Scott that would allow state agency heads to order random, suspicionless drug testing of state workers. Scott signed that into law this week and said he would immediately implement it before his office said he wouldn’t until a federal lawsuit regarding his executive order of the drug tests is settled.

“He does not have the knowledge, experience, or independence to represent them the way they deserve. He seems to be just another ‘go along’ elected official who does what he is told, rather then act on the basis of what his district needs. Most recently, his responses to questions regarding his bill mandating random drug testing of the most efficient public work force in the nation, were embarrassing,” Argenziano, who also served in the Florida Senate, said in a press release.

Argenziano said she’s going to run as an Independent “and return a sense of what it means to be a member of the legislature: to represent the people of the district in committee rooms and hallways; to represent them fairly and knowledgeably in the public square; to represent them against forces always conniving to get more than a fair share of the public resource.”

Al Lawson to make another bid for Congress

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Veteran Tallahassee legislator Al Lawson, a Democrat, intends to run for Congress again, this time with the help of the GOP.

“Big Al” said he is going to make another stab at the Congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, a tea party Republican who ousted long-time Democratic Congressman Allen Boyd in 2010.

After being termed out of the Senate in 2010, Lawson lost in a brutal primary by about 2,000 votes to Boyd, who held the seat for 16 years before losing to Southerland.

But the maps drawn by the Republican-dominated legislature, slated to be voted out of the Senate this week and sent on their way to Attorney General Pam Bondi and ultimately the courts for review, may give Lawson (and other Democrats) a leg up against the incumbent from Panama City.

Five GOP-leaning counties that helped Southerland get to Washington – Okaloosa, Walton, Dixie, Lafayette and Suwannee – will no longer be in the District 2 North Florida seat if the maps withstand Department of Justice scrutiny and expected legal challenges.

Lawson said one of the reasons he’s running again is because he didn’t like what Southerland said after Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot last summer. Southerland suggested his $174,000-a-year Congressional salary wasn’t worth the safety risks and the time away from his family and funeral home business.

“Throughout my political career, I’ve always fought hard for workers, for economic development and jobs for this district. And this Southerland complained about his $174,000 salary that was taking away from his business,” Lawson, who served in the Florida House and Senate for nearly three decades, said in a telephone interview. Lawson said he intends to formally file to run for the seat next week.

“He seems to be more concerned about the tea party than concerned about his distict where you have high unemployment, and people need somebody to fight for them in Congress. I have a 28-year history of doing that and it’s something the people need,” Lawson said. “I just need to retire him. And let him go back to the funeral home business.”

Lawson could face another veteran state lawmaker in what may be a crowded primary. Nancy Argenziano, a former Republican who switched to become an independent, wants to run as a Democrat for the seat. But she can’t because of a provision included in an election law (controversial for other reasons) approved by lawmakers last year and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in June. That provision bars candidates from switching parties one year before the qualifying period for the general election begins, meaning the candidate must be registered in the party for nearly 18 months before the 2012 November election. Argenziano, who served in both the state House and Senate and also as the chairwoman of the Florida Public Service Commission, is challenging that part of the election law in court.

State Rep. Leonard Bembry, a Greenville Democrat and Boyd look-alike, also intends to run for the seat.

Argenziano sues state over election law

Friday, December 9th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Nancy Argenziano, a lifelong Republican and former state lawmaker who also served as chairwoman of the Public Service Commission, has sued the state over a sweeping election law now being challenged in court for different reasons.

Argenziano wants to run as a Democrat against incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in a Panhandle district that includes Tallahassee, where Argenziano lives.

But she can’t because of a provision included in the election law approved by lawmakers earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in June. That provision bars candidates from switching parties one year before the qualifying period for the general election begins, meaning the candidate must be registered in the party for nearly 18 months before the 2012 November election. The old law precluded candidates from switching parties six months before the general election.

The provision is unconstitutional, Argenziano’s lawyer Janet Ferris – a former Tallahassee judge – argued in a lawsuit filed in Leon County, because the Florida Constitution “prohibits any law from imposing unnecessary and unreasonable disqualifications on those who wish to seek office.

Argenziano switched her GOP party registration to the Independent Party shortly before the law went into effect this summer, she said. But if she had opted to register with no party affiliation, or “NPA,” she would not be in the fix she is in now.

Requiring a candidate to declare their party affiliation nearly 18 months before the election is “preposterous,” the fiery Argenziano told reporters at a press conference this morning.

“It is tantamount to requiring party declaration before even the full extent of the incompetence and deceit of the changing candidate slate is revealed and works to deprive a person of the ability to confront that deceit and incompetence at the most fundamental level, which is to oppose them on the ballot,” Argenziano said.

Southerland, a Republican, ousted long-time U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, a Democrat, in November 2010.

Nancy Argenziano to run as Democrat against incumbent Southerland

Monday, August 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

Nancy Argenziano, a former chairwoman of the Public Service Commission and lifelong Republican, is running against incumbent freshman U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland – as a Democrat. Southerland, a Panama City Republican, ousted Congressional veteran Allen Boyd, a Democrat, from his North Florida District 2 seat in November.

Argenziano, who earned a reputation as a maverick during her tenure in both the state House and Senate, will formally enter the race for the North Florida Congressional seat within two weeks, Argenziano said.

Argenziano sent a letter to supporters declaring her intention to run as a Democrat, saying she needs at least $200,000 to be taken seriously as a candidate and to get the Democratic National Congressional Committee to throw some money her way.

Argenziano has been an outspoken critic of GOP leaders as a legislator and as a utility regulator, appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist, and unleashed her sharp tongue in her message to supporters, explaining why she is switching parties. Crist also abandoned the GOP in a failing bid as an independent against now-U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

“Current Republican leaders have neither patience with nor allowance for honest elected officials, and they demand that members of the various legislatures – who, after all, have sworn to uphold the Constitution – instead just follow the hijacked party line and shut up,” Argenziano wrote. “While I am of the opinion that Americans are not ready to vote in a third party, greater parity of the two parties in state legislatures would allow for far better public policy. When one party – or one intransigent, ideological arm of a party – controls governmental and political policy, as in Florida, it breeds a dangerous hubris and promotes the worst kind of extremism and acceptance of those whose public service is merely a well paid hobby.”

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