December 2, 2022

Campaign Trail

Bland Office -- Not-So-Bland Candidates

The race for chief financial officer heats up.

Neil Skene | 7/1/2006
How could a campaign for something as bland as chief financial officer be nasty or even important? It's a bookkeeper, right?
Well, no, it's not. Florida has never before had a competitive race for CFO, an office created four years ago by combining the old comptroller and insurance commissioner. Tom Gallagher, the insurance commissioner at the time, won the job unopposed in 2002 after Comptroller Bob Milligan walked away from the contest.

This time, though, the job is not only hotly contested but touches some of the bigger headline issues. Insurance, for one -- rising premiums, canceled policies, and a government bailout at state-backed Citizens Property Insurance.

The messy execution of outsourcing contracts lets CFO candidates talk about being watchdogs of government spending. The role of state fire marshal lets them champion "first responders" and show anti-crime credentials by attacking meth labs as fire hazards. And because the CFO is one of three Cabinet members, along with the attorney general and the agriculture commissioner, candidates can talk about tax collections, highway safety, state purchases of land for conservation, the state pension fund, financing state bonds and a number of other things that the governor and Cabinet oversee jointly.

And then there are the candidates themselves. State Rep. Randy Johnson, a politically ambitious, family-values conservative from Disney-built Celebration, is the Republican underdog and provocateur. He's a red-meat populist, accusing (for instance) insurance companies of negotiating in bad faith on recent insurance legislation while knowing that they were going to turn around and impose huge rate increases and cut off policyholders. But he was assigned no role in shaping the insurance legislation and was actually gaveled down by House Speaker Allan Bense at one point for "campaigning" in a debate. In addition to his legislative salary, Johnson is the highly paid executive director of the Orlando Sports Commission.

Tags: Politics & Law, Around Florida, Government/Politics & Law

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