As rumors fly, Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer denies that he would quit to run for governor

Nov 27, 2011

The following article was published in the Orlando Sentinel on November 27, 2011:

As rumors fly, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer denies that he would quit to run for governor

By Mark Schlueb


Buddy Dyer wants voters to give him another term as Orlando’s mayor in an election next spring. But if they do, can voters count on him to stay?

Local Democratic circles are rife with talk that even if he’s re-elected, Dyer will mount a campaign for governor in 2014, midway through his third full term as mayor.

One of Dyer’s opponents in the April 3 mayor’s race is so convinced the mayor would take an early exit from City Hall that he’s asking all the candidates to sign a pledge to serve a full four years. Fellow Democrat Mike Cantone said he came up with the pledge because he doesn’t think Dyer is being honest with Orlando voters.

“It’s disingenuous at best if he says he’s not even thinking about it. Anyone in political circles knows his name is being floated,” Cantone said. “The mayor has already run statewide, and I don’t think he’s lost that ambition.”

For his part, Dyer told the Orlando Sentinel he won’t depart early.

“My plan is to run for re-election and serve four years as mayor,” he said.

Before he was mayor, Dyer served 10 years in the Florida Senate, including three years as Democratic Leader. He ran statewide for Florida attorney general in 2002 but lost to then-Republican Charlie Crist.

His entry into local politics came not long after that loss, when Orlando’s previous mayor left office unexpectedly before her own term was over. Mayor Glenda Hood resigned during her third term to accept an appointment as secretary of state from then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

Hood announced her resignation less than two months after Dyer’s loss to Crist. Dyer declared his candidacy just five days later and rolled his attorney general’s campaign operation into a mayoral campaign. He won that race, then his first full term in 2004.

Lobbyist and political pundit Dick Batchelor said he has heard the rumors of a possible Dyer gubernatorial campaign. It would be natural for Dyer to consider running in 2014, he said, given Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s low approval ratings.

In September, Public Policy Polling found Scott had only a 36 percent approval rating among Florida voters. The poll found that in a hypothetical “do over” of last year’s gubernatorial election, Democrat Alex Sink would beat him handily. Scott would also lose a matchup against Crist, now an independent.

“Anytime you’ve got a very unpopular seated governor, anybody with any political currency is going to look at it because it’s about as close to a vacant seat as you can get,” Batchelor said.

Among Democrats, Sink is said to be considering another bid for governor in 2014. So is Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston, former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, who ran unsuccessfully in 2006.

There’s also speculation that Crist may switch his party affiliation to Democrat and try to win back the Governor’s Office.

“I think having Charlie Crist as our nominee would be, quite frankly, an embarrassment to the Democrats. Are you sure he’s still going to be a Democrat on Inauguration Day?” said state Rep. Scott Randolph of Orlando, and chairman of the Orange County Democratic Party.

But as a big-city mayor, Dyer’s name keeps coming up.

“Everybody assumes he is moving on, and this is just a transition,” said activist Doug Head, former Orange County Democratic Party chairman.

Though Dyer said he’s focused on running for re-election to the mayor’s office, he has mentioned his interest in being governor more than once in the past.

“I don’t think there’s anything that’s better than being mayor of Orlando — other than governor,” he told the Sentinel last year.

Last week, Dyer had this to say: “It’s nice to be thought of as a candidate for governor. It’s probably the only other public job I’d be interested in.”

And Dyer seemed to have a taste for a political fight at the Florida Democratic Party’s convention last month. In a speech to party activists gathered at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the mayor’s attempt to fire up the base may have foreshadowed a future stump speech.

“We’ve got a governor who has done more harm to the state of Florida in the last nine months than any single man in the history of the state of Florida,” he said to rousing applause.

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