Ritch Workman isn’t leaving the race for state Senate District 17 — and he’s fed up with Mike Haridopolos suggesting he will.
Workman, term-limited from running again for the Florida House, says the former Senate President is contacting political allies in Tallahassee and in the newly-renumbered SD 17 floating his possible candidacy in the race and, to Workman’s chagrin, saying Workman intends to drop out of the race.
Workman – who declared his intention to run for the upper chamber back in 2014 – said this week that Haridopolos is free to jump into the campaign, but he’s dismayed Haridopolos would use what he characterized as underhanded tactics in order to strong-arm his way into the seat.
“He is welcome to get in the race,” said Workman, “but to start his campaign on a straight faced lie is disappointing.”
Workman said he spoke with several mutual acquaintances approached by Haridopolos, and “each of them tell me that Mike said I was getting out.”
Haridopolos denies Workman’s accusations.
“I have not asked anyone to get out of the race,” said Haridopolos. “I am being asked to get in, and I am considering it.”
The two Brevard Republicans first met in 2000, when Workman volunteered to knock on doors for Haridopolos’ first House campaign. Their mothers are close personal friends, and the two have worked together to advance the interests of the Legislature’s GOP majority.
Workman says he reached out to Haridopolos – who hosted Workman’s campaign kickoff last September – when he heard of Haridopolos’ newfound interest in the seat, and that the two had dinner together recently in Tallahassee.
“What has changed since you… proclaimed me your choice to be the next State Senator?” at the campaign event, Workman said he asked Haridopolos.
Haridopolos reportedly replied that while he enjoyed making money as a lobbyist, he could continue to consult as a member of the Legislature, and that he “just want[s] to be in the process again.”
Haridopolos has told potential backers he would start off with a fundraising advantage with the help of Republican state leadership, though official policy dictates the state party and Senate Victory apparatuses do not get involved in open primaries.
Haridopolos has a significant warchest in federal dollars left over from an abortive run for U.S. Senate in 2012, but couldn’t use those funds to power a state campaign without “washing” the money through the a political party apparatus, a perhaps unseemly though not unprecedented move.
Vero Beach Rep. Debbie Mayfield and Melbourne Republican Michael Thomas are also running for the Brevard seat currently held by Sen. Thad Altman under the pre-redistricting number SD 16.
Haridopolos told Space Coast Daily he would decide on whether or not to run by the end of March.