Joe Henderson: Dennis Ross, Annette Taddeo: Different parties, same political fate
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 3/2/22-Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, has a quiet laugh with a colleague during Senate discussion of her amendment about vasectomies during second reading of the bill prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Wednesday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Taddeo’s amendment saying that a physician many not perform a vasectomy unless two physicians certify they have counseled the man seeking the procedure that it will prevent further life from being created was voted down a few minutes later. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Dennis Ross and Annette Taddeo took different paths to the same result.

Two well-known Florida politicians — one Republican, one Democrat — came to the same conclusion earlier this week. Both realized they had a snowball’s chance in a Florida July of achieving their high ambitions, so they did the smart thing.

Republican Dennis Ross of Lakeland ended his campaign to return to the U.S. House of Representatives. A little while later, Democrat Annette Taddeo conceded what everyone has known for a while, that her campaign for Governor was going nowhere.

The lesson here: You may have been important once, but it’s a mistake to believe that matters now.

Let’s start with Ross.

He served eight years in the House, representing a safe, conservative district that covered Polk County, along with parts of Hillsborough. Ross rose to Deputy Majority Whip and could have been in line for something higher with his party, but decided not to run for re-election in 2018.

Ross said he was tired of the grind and wanted to spend more time with his family. He said then that the expected GOP bloodbath that year that would give the Speaker’s gavel back to Nancy Pelosi had nothing to do with his decision.

However, with Republicans likely to regain control of the House after this November’s Midterms, Ross decided to jump back into the game. He announced in March that he wanted to return to Congress.

Frankly, I initially thought he would be a formidable entry into that race. He has name recognition, experience and unswerving conservative points of view. However, it didn’t take long to see how much has changed in four years.

The 15th Congressional District has new boundary lines, and some of the rock-ribbed Republican voters found themselves in the new CD 16.

This race also attracted some well-known and respected Republicans. State Rep. Jackie Toledo has run hard. State Sen. Kelli Stargel is well-liked by Lakeland area voters. Former Secretary of State Laurel Lee just grabbed the endorsement of Attorney General Ashley Moody.

The Primary field includes four other GOP candidates: Jay CollinsDemetries GrimesKevin McGovern and Jerry Torres.

They all say they represent the future of the GOP. Ross, it seems, represents the past.

“I firmly believe that I am the most qualified candidate in this eight-person race, and I had been looking forward to running a very positive, issue-oriented campaign,” Ross said. “However, with limited resources and a crowded field of candidates, I have decided to discontinue my efforts.”

Key words: limited resources.

The story is a little different for Taddeo, but it has the same outcome.

She spent the last four years in the state Senate, and she was Charlie Crist’s running mate in the 2014 race for Governor that Rick Scott won. In 2012, Taddeo won the election for Chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee.

There have been setbacks too. Taddeo twice fell short in attempts to win a seat in Congress, and in 2010 she unsuccessfully ran for a County Commission spot.

This attempt never went anywhere. Taddeo jumped into the Governor’s race last October for one thing, too late in the game. By that time Crist and Nikki Fried had been campaigning and fundraising for many months.

She never got on the lead lap with the other two and it was never going to happen. Taddeo’s departure could be good news for Fried, who really needs some of that. It leaves her as the only progressive voice in the Democratic field.

Recognizing a lost cause, Taddeo audibled and said she’ll challenge U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar for her South Florida seat. She has a better chance there, but it’s far from a lock. With Republicans expected to clean up in House races, that’s a steep hill for Taddeo even in what’s considered a tossup district.

That’s still an improvement over the mountain she tried to climb.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


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