With Frank White out of Speaker’s race is Northeast Florida ready to rally to one of its own?

After Florida Politics’ most recent report about the mostly behind-the-scenes scrum within the Florida House GOP freshman class to determine which of its members will one day be Speaker, the conclusion was that for either Jamie Grant or Frank White to win, one of them would have to drop out of the race quickly.

Not much sooner after this was written did rumors start to circulate that White was contemplating exiting the race. And after considerable lobbying from Rep. Jayer Williamson (at least that’s what we heard), White, in fact, quit the race.

“I talked to some other members, and it just wasn’t the right time,” White, of Pensacola, told Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida.

Now that White is out of the way, and with both he and Williamson lining up behind Tampa’s James Grant, the race returns to its original state: Jacksonville’s Paul Renner on one side, Grant (and a large band of anti-Renner votes) on the other, and Randy Fine in a kingmaker/spoiler role (or, perhaps, a consensus candidate if Grant and Renner can’t win outright.)

The tempo of the race is quickening.

White’s dropping out read like the firing of a wicked return volley, particularly after Sarasota’s Joe Gruters announcing earlier in the day he would vote for Renner.

With Grant probably back in the lead, pressure is now on Renner to lock down his northeast Florida base. The region — Jacksonville in particular — believes it deserves a turn at leadership. And it’s time for the other Jacksonville/Northeast Florida House members to get in line.

That was the message Thursday evening at a major fundraiser for Renner’s political committee, the Florida Foundation for Liberty, delivered by the boss of bosses, Lenny Curry.

Curry and the rest of the Jacksonville political establishment are “all in” for Renner, according to a consultant who works for multiple candidates in the region.

Along with Curry, Ambassador John Rood and John Peyton spoke before a crowd of more than 250 about the need for Northeast Florida representatives to rally behind a Speaker candidate from Northeast Florida.

The question now is: Was the message delivered?

In the crowd last night: Reps. Cord Byrd, Jason Fischer, and Cyndi Stevenson. If Renner is to win, he will need at least two of the three of them to vote his way.

Byrd is still likely with Grant.

Fischer and Stevenson are still undecided, but considerable pressure will probably be brought to bear for a Renner vote.

But even with those votes, the race fluctuates like my cholesterol level.

Grant’s camp, as confident as ever, thinks that White yielding to Grant is the final, decisive turn.

Which leaves the scrappy Randy Fine. Along with Byron Donalds and, perhaps, Erin Grall, Fine is the what’s standing between a two-horse showdown. Fine, ever the tactician, believes there are votes there for him if Grant or Renner can’t win a quick majority.

But is it time for Fine to play the role of kingmaker? Does he deliver his vote and (again, perhaps) a couple of other independent votes to Grant and Fine, in exchange for a committee chairmanship to be named later?

Stay tuned.

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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