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Rod Smith makes state Senate run official with courthouse announcement in Gainesville

Democrat Rod Smith announced Tuesday morning he’s again running for state Senate in the new Senate District 8. He spoke of his plans to a crowd of about 50 people in front of the Alachua County Civil Courthouse in Gainesville.

Flanked by his family, the former State Attorney and state Senator stressed the importance of North Central Florida “coming together as a family” to win the election, and implored the crowd to get involved in his campaign, whether through fundraising or holding events in their home.

“In North Central Florida, as a community, we have to work together to get things done,” Smith said. “We have to come together.”

Smith, who held two terms in the Senate in the early 2000s, said the contest will be expensive and that he expects Republicans to fight tooth and nail to put a GOP lawmaker into the new seat, which slightly favors Democrats.

“The people in Tallahassee want to win this race bad. They want to win this race so badly because they want to keep those numbers,” Smith said, referring to the near supermajority Republicans hold in the Florida Senate.

Smith said the International Association of Firefighters and the Fraternal Order of Police had both written him to express their support before he entered the race.

“Having police and fire with me goes back to my roots,” he said.

The former Florida Democratic Party chair also poked fun at his campaigns — for governor in 2006 and as former Florida CFO Alex Sink’s lieutenant governor pick in 2010 — when he announced Gainesville businessman and longtime friend Alan Hitchcock would be his campaign treasurer.

“Every time he served as my treasurer we won,” Smith said. “He reminded me that he didn’t serve as my treasurer in my last two campaigns.”

Running in an Alachua County-based seat in a presidential election year should give Smith better odds than his past two contests. About 48 percent of the district’s electorate are registered Democrats, with about 30 percent belonging to the GOP.

In the 2012 cycle, President Barack Obama beat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the district by about a point. Also in that year, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson rolled by former Republican congressman Connie Mack IV with a 15-point advantage on Election Day.

So far, Smith’s only opponent in the District 8 race is third-term Gainesville Republican Rep. Keith Perry, who announced in February he would forego his final term in the House to make the jump to the Senate.

Perry brought about $43,000 cash on hand with him when he transferred his HD 21 campaign to the Senate contest. A good head start, though SD 8 has the potential to be one of the largest targets for both parties in the 2016 cycle.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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