Former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, has long been known for her tenacious style.
A softer side of Bogdanoff was on display in a recent rundown of her rematch against Democratic state Sen. Maria Sachs. They're set for do-over of the hottest legislative race of 2012 in the Broward-Palm Beach county 34th district.
The News Service of Florida account of the race, rich with the political context important to political insiders, started with this scene: "Sitting in a diner booth with a jogging stroller parked nearby, Ellyn Bogdanoff grabs bites of chicken while struggling to maintain a grasp on her squirming 7-month-old granddaughter, Briana."
Later, it reported: " 'I'm hopeful, and I feel better about this race than I did about 2012,' she said as she wiped drool from Briana's chin."
Key insights from the News Service's Dara Kam:
Major race. The grudge match is widely considered the only Senate race that has a chance of flipping parties this year, but even Republicans are skeptical about Bogdanoff's odds of winning. Bogdanoff, a lawyer and consultant, insists she would not be in the race if she didn't think she could win.
Part of Bogdanoff's enthusiasm is related to the timing of the November mid-term elections, in which Democratic voters typically turn out in smaller numbers than Republicans. Instead of having President Obama at the top of the ticket, former Republican Charlie Crist is likely to lead the Democratic ballot. Republicans are banking that lukewarm enthusiasm on the part of Democrats and independents will keep turnout low and boost chances for Gov. Rick Scott to get re-elected and for candidates like Bogdanoff to make GOP gains in the Legislature.
Sachs strategy. Sachs, who attended a Florida Democratic Party fundraiser featuring former President Bill Clinton in Hollywood on Saturday night, said she is "hitching my stars to political strategists on a national level" that will help her target voters.
"My campaign is going to be cutting-edge strategy," Sachs, a lawyer who lives in Delray Beach, said. "I don't worry about turnout. I worry about property insurance, education and the effects of climate change on our coastline."
The rematch is "a different race, with different dynamics and different issues and really different candidates," Sachs said.
"Last time, we had two incumbent senators in a district that combined Broward and Palm Beach. We ran and I won and she lost. Now, two years have passed. She's not the incumbent. She has not been active. She has not stayed current. I have a record over the last two years," Sachs said.
Tallahassee politics. The Bogdanoff-Sachs race isn't merely about a Republican and a Democrat vying for the same seat over which they bloodied each other two years ago. The contest is about another chase --- who will become Senate president in 2016. Sen. Jack Latvala, a close personal friend of Bogdanoff who coaxed her into vying for the seat again, is in a neck-and-neck contest for the presidency against Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.
Latvala, a Clearwater Republican whose political committee has collected more than $1 million, has pledged to help Bogdanoff raise money for a battle some insiders estimate could cost between $2.5 million and $5 million for each side. But Sen. Andy Gardiner, who will take over as president after the 2014 elections and has been raising money for Senate races for two years, has decided to keep his cash on ice in the District 34 match, at least until later in the election season, according to sources close to Gardiner and Bogdanoff. Gardiner, R-Orlando, may be prepared to unfold his wallet if Bogdanoff shows she can get within reach of Sachs in late September or October, they said. But for now, Gardiner is unwilling to risk party resources on a seat that seems to him to be a long-shot.
Sachs accused Bogdanoff of essentially being a Latvala pawn.
"Sen. Latvala has a personal interest in the outcome of this race. He came back to be president. Whatever he can do to achieve that end, he will," Sachs said. "I am a voice for the people in the district, not a vote for any particular person to become Senate president."
Bogdanoff acknowledges she's in Latvala's corner but said that's not her reason for running. She "absolutely loves public policy" and believes "it's way cooler to be on the inside" to shape public policy.
"Am I a vote for him? Well, yeah. He's my friend. Whether he wins or loses, he's got me as a friend and he's got me as a loyal supporter of whatever he aspires to do because he has been a loyal supporter of what I aspire to do. That's what friends do," she said. "It's very rare in this process and, when you find it, you don't let it go."