Thursday, October 11, 2007

Only in Fantasyland Will Feeney Be Defeated

Central Florida papers are all abuzz this morning with the news that a Democratic "heavyweight" has entered the Congressional race against Rep. Tom Feeney (FL-24).

[Suzanne] Kosmas, 63, is a real estate business owner who is involved in numerous community groups and served in the Florida House from 1996 to 2004, when term limits prevented her from running again.

She's also considered the first legitimate challenger to Feeney, whom Democratic insiders see as vulnerable because of criticism targeting him as one of the "most corrupt" members of Congress.

I've written before about Feeney's corruptness, his association with Jack Abramoff and the golf trip as well as a possible investigation and his legal defense fund. But listen carefully:

Not even in the House of the Mouse - the ultimate fantasyland - will Tom Feeney go down to defeat. Well, there is one way...

I followed Kosmas for a few years when she was in the Florida House. She's not a bull in a china shop but rather a reasoned and seasoned politician. She was a leader in the fight to keep Katherine Harris from setting a deadline to certify the 2000 election, which would have kept Bush out of the White House. And, she was fairly effective in a Republican-dominated government at getting her issues out. Another words, a very credible candidate.

But, in Florida, that's rarely the end of the story. In this instance, it's all about the district and 2002. That's when the Florida legislature redrew Congressional districts. It turned the Central Florida landscape from purple to bright red. Feeney's district picked up new pockets of Republicans to fend off the only Democratic stronghold - Volusia County. It decidedly tipped the scales in heavily in favor of Republicans.

The District features the firmly Republican East Seminole County. It includes Cape Canaveral, home to NASA, Harris and Boeing with workers beholden to defense contracts. It also features Patrick Air Force base. Republicans outnumber all others (except Motor Voters) by 20%. These are people who walk into the voting booth with a Republican scorecard and vote the straight party line.

A glimmer of hope that a Democrat might have in this District is Feeney's indictment in an Abramoff-related crime. Even that doesn't appear to be a sure thing:
WASHINGTON -- The smell of scandal doesn't seem to have affected U.S. Rep. Tom Feeny's ability to raise campaign funds.

The Oviedo Republican announced today that he raised more money in the last three months -- $324,000 -- than any other quarter in his three-term congressional career.

The same report indicates that Feeney raised $33,000 for his legal defense fund during the same period. Let's face it - that's an awful lot of $$ for someone who's been getting nothing but bad press in the three major newspapers that cover his District.

One final hope is that a Republican contender will enter the race. Any Republican can win in this District. Given the choice between a corruption-smeared incumbents or a fresh face, Republican voters in the primary could kick Feeney to the wayside. If that happens, Feeney will be gone but the District will still be red.