Spring is said to be the time for love, but this year it's open legislative and County Commission seats that are setting politicians' hearts aflutter.
Even though the primary isn't until August 2014 and the general election is the following November, a political scramble is already underway.
"It's not too early right now to be letting people know that you're planning on running," said former Florida Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller, D-Cooper City. In the political world, he said, "2014 is a lot closer than you think."
The jockeying is especially intense this year because Broward voters will elect a slew of new people to the state House of Representatives and County Commission next year. Because of term limits, no incumbents will be able to run for six of those jobs.
Political consultant Judy Stern said it's essential for candidates to act. "Nothing gets done overnight. It takes months and months of hard work," she said.
Open seats are especially attractive because it's virtually impossible to dislodge an incumbent. That means strike now or wait years for the next openings.
The result is political musical chairs all over the county. Among the maneuvering: term-limited state Rep. Joe Gibbons, of Hallandale Beach, is running for term-limited County Commissioner Sue Gunzberger's job. So is former Hollywood Commissioner Quentin "Beam" Furr.
Term-limited state Reps. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, and Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, have filed paperwork to run for the Florida Senate – in 2016, when they hope to replace two senators who will be out that year because of term limits.
It's not limited to current politicians recycling themselves into new jobs. The contest to replace term-limited state Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, features newcomer Elaine Geller, a Hollywood civic activist, and Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach political veteran. Geller is a Hollywood civic activist who owns a janitorial supply company. Jenne is a former state representative and son of former Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne.
So far, just one person, John Paul Alvarez of Hallandale Beach, is running to succeed Gibbons. But several others are eyeing the seat, including Hallandale Beach Commissioner Alex Lewy and former North Bay Village Mayor Joe Geller, the brother of Steve Geller.
The list of people making their plans official is likely to grow soon after the new fundraising quarter begins April 1. A candidate who starts in early April has three months to raise money and show a big war chest by June 30. An aura of inevitability can help raise more money and help cement other candidates' reputations as losers.
Fundraising is critical, Stern said. "I wouldn't be rock and rolling right now for certain elections if the resources weren't such a requirement."
And a successful early start for one candidate can convince potential opponents not to enter the race, Steve Geller said.
Given the size of the districts — about 155,000 residents for the state House and 195,000 for the County Commission — candidates need time to court opinion leaders in places they're looking for votes.
Political consultant David Brown said that requires reaching out to political clubs, homeowner associations and community groups. "If you don't position yourself with these people now, you're giving an opportunity for an opponent or potential opponent to make that impression," he said.
To outsiders it may look like a free-for-all. To Brown, it leads to what he said can be "spirited" campaigns.
Find out more about some of the familiar names and political newcomers planning to run next year at SunSentinel.com/BrowardPolitics.
Open seats in 2014
County Commission District 2: Northeast Broward, currently represented by Kristin Jacobs.
County Commission District 6: Southeast Broward, currently represented by Sue Gunzburger.
House District 94: Central Broward, currently represented by Perry Thurston.
House District 96: Northwest Broward, currently represented by Jim Waldman
House District 99: South-central Broward, currently represented by Elaine Schwartz.
House District 100: Southeast Broward, currently represented by Joe Gibbons.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times