Sachs-Bogdanoff state Senate race is No. 1 race for Florida Dems, party chief says

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By George Bennett

Published May 24, 2012

In their quest to regain relevance in the Florida legislature, Democrats are zeroing in on a newly drawn Palm Beach-Broward Senate district where a pair of incumbent Senators -- Republican Ellyn Bogdanoff and Democrat Maria Sachs -- appear headed for an expensive clash.

"The number one race and focus is right here in Maria Sachs. Number one for the state," Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith told a crowd of about 120 Sachs supporters on Monday night at the South County Civic Center west of Delray Beach. "Whatever it takes, however long it takes, whatever the work is, we're going to do it because we're going to win this race."

The new District 34 leans Democratic, with Barack Obama getting 57 percent of the vote in 2008 and Democrat Alex Sink snagging 54 percent in the 2010 governor's race. By registration, Democrats hold a 41.9-to-32.6 percent advantage.

But Bogdanoff, whose current district includes about half the voters who will be in the new district, is pledging to wage a tough campaign.

"They're going to have to put all their resources behind it," Bogdanoff said of the Democrats.

"I never believed that this was going to be an easy seat," Bogdanoff said. "But it is what it is -- and it's the seat I live in."

Sachs does not live in the new District 34. In the new Senate map approved by legislators and the Florida Supreme Court this year, Sachs' home west of Boca Raton is in Senate District 25. That's where state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, is the party establishment favorite.

Smith said Republicans were hoping for a destructive Abruzzo-Sachs primary, but Sachs volunteered to establish residence elsewhere.

"Maria said, flat out, 'I will move to where I need to be to run in that seat I'll take a Republican, I'll take her out.' And that's what's going to happen down here, I promise," Smith said Monday.

Republicans now hold 28 of 40 seats in the Florida Senate. That means the GOP can easily pass bills its leadership wants and also has enough votes to overpower Democrats on procedural matters, which require a two-thirds majority.

With a voter-approved constitutional amendment barring partisan gerrymandering, Smith is optimistic that the new map gives Democrats a good shot to pick up at least three Senate seats this year to end the Republicans' procedural stranglehold.

In addition to District 34, Smith mentioned a heavily Hispanic district in Central Florida and one near Volusia County as prime pickup targets.

About two-thirds of District 34 is in Palm Beach County and one-third in Broward County. In Palm Beach County, the district generally runs east of Florida's Turnpike and south of Boynton Beach Boulevard. In Broward County, the district is generally east of Dixie Highway from the Palm Beach County line to Port Everglades.

Both Bogdanoff and Sachs have shown a past ability to woo donors and voters outside their parties.

Bogdanoff's current district has only a slight Republican registration edge, but she won it by 20 points in 2010.

Sachs recently advertised several Republicans on the host committee for a fundraiser at Trump International Golf Club. But some of those Republicans -- including prominent money-raisers Mark Guzzetta, Tom DeRita and Marta Batmasian -- said they agreed to be on Sachs' committee before they realized she was running against Bogdanoff.

A competitive campaign could get expensive, with candidates buying TV ads in the pricey Fort Lauderdale-Miami media market as well as the West Palm Beach market. Sachs said the race could cost $1 million for Democrats. Bogdanoff declined to estimate a figure.

Democrats have cleared the field for Sachs. Former Democratic state Rep. Kevin Rader opened a campaign to challenge Sachs in the primary, but switched to another Senate district instead. Bogdanoff, on the other hand, faces a Republican primary challenge from conservative Mike Lameyer, who got a surprising 24.7 percent in a three-candidate primary for another Senate seat in 2010.