Mark Bircher’s entrance in CD 13 race hurts Rick Baker more than it does Charlie Crist

bircher, mark

Republican Mark Bircher’s entrance into the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District hurts fellow Republican and still-not-a-candidate Rick Baker more than it does Democrat Charlie Crist.

Bircher is the retired Marine Corps Reserve brigadier general who finished third in the district’s Republican primary in early 2014 to succeed the late Bill Young. The 62-year-old Seminole resident and commercial airline pilot had never run for political office until he entered the special primary election in late 2013. He lost to David Jolly with about 25 percent of the vote. State Rep. Kathleen Peters finished in second place.

Despite his bronze medal showing, Bircher showed himself to be a competent campaigner, albeit with arch-conservative views not exactly in the mainstream with most of the south Pinellas district.

“The states created the federal government for one purpose: to serve the interest of the states,” Bircher said in 2013. “Printing money, common defense, foreign policy, and the post office.”

That brand of conservatism will not win a general election in CD 13, especially after Wednesday’s Florida Supreme Court decision validating new district lines that make it a much more Democratic-friendly seat.

Then again, that brand of conservatism might play well in a Republican primary, even one in moderate Pinellas County.

That could be a problem for former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who is considering running for the seat. Not that Baker would be in danger of losing to Bircher; if Jolly could lap Bircher, you can bet that Baker’s margin of victory would be just as large.

No, what Bircher would do is two-fold problematic for Baker: 1) he’d pull Baker to the right, forcing Baker to stake out positions not in step with much of CD 13; 2) he’d annoy Rick Baker and, trust me, Rick Baker does not like to be annoyed.

My dear friend Rick Baker has run only twice for elected office, both times for Mayor of St. Petersburg in 2001 and 2005. In those campaigns, it paid to be non-partisan and even moderate. Baker campaigned for municipal office on a platform that included an education plank, something then unheard of in local politics. He won with independent and Democratic votes.

Were Baker to run in CD 13, he will have to first tack his sailboat to the right to win a Republican primary. There’s no doubt about Baker’s deeply-held conservative beliefs, but, as his friend Jeb Bush is learning on the presidential campaign trail, much of the Republican base is no longer acting rationally.

Just the idea of having to campaign for Tea Party votes has to give Baker second thoughts about even running.

Mitch Perry contributed to this story.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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