Bradenton's Galvano targets Florida Senate presidency

skennedy@bradenton.comJuly 18, 2013 

MANATEE -- State Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, is quietly amassing pledges from colleagues aimed at winning the presidency of the Florida Senate in 2018.

The Republican attorney already holds signed pledges from most of his Senate class, said state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice.

Detert said she is committed to voting for Galvano "because he's from my area, and I've known him for years, and I have much respect for him."

This is, of course, assuming Galvano is re-elected in 2014 and again in 2018 to four-year terms, and that the Senate majority remains in Republican hands. The Senate president typically serves a two-year term.

Galvano is eligible to serve 10 consecutive years in the Legislature's upper chamber despite term limits because of a quirk resulting from redistricting.

Asked this week about his ambitions, Galvano, 47, said, "I prefer not to discuss the future leadership, as it's a member-to-member task. And my task is support

ing (current President) Sen. (Don) Gaetz, and designating Sen. Andy Gardiner" as future president.

Gaetz, R-Niceville, said it would be sheer speculation to predict who will be president in 2018, since its three election cycles away.

"It's not my role to get actively involved in the Senate presidential selections that will occur after I'm no longer in the Senate," Gaetz said Wednesday.

But, he added: "I believe Bill Galvano has all the tools to be Senate president."

Detert said she surprised herself with her decision to commit to Galvano because she opposes picking someone so far in advance.

"It's different for me because Sen. Galvano is a known commodity for me," Detert said. "Being from our same general area is another reason to support him."

Typically, candidates for the upper chamber's highest post collect signatures from their colleagues, and when they feel they have enough to win, they submit their list to the current Senate president, and a formal induction follows among the body's 40 members.

But in the past -- before term limits capped state senator terms to two consecutive elections -- it wasn't done so far ahead.

John McKay of Bradenton, a former Senate president, didn't mince words about Galvano.

"I think you could say with confidence that's one of Bill's goals, and you also could say with confidence that Bill is well-respected among his peers, and I certainly hope he accomplishes his goal," said McKay, a Republican.

The inner machinations of the Senate are almost impossible to read from the outside, he added.

"It's pretty much impossible to say who might be his opponents or rivals, unless you're there," said McKay.

Galvano's high-profile terms in the Florida House also will help him win a campaign for the Senate presidency, said Mike Bennett, Manatee County supervisor of elections and a former state senator.

Before term limits, the body's leadership evolved over many years as members evaluated how a candidate ran a committee and whether he or she was a team player.

"Now, you must make these calls immediately," said Bennett.

"Term limits was the worst thing we ever did in Florida. In past years, you could really, really look at people over years -- now you don't have the opportunity. You find people scrambling for the position because they know everybody else is."

Bennett said of the redistricting quirk that makes Galvano eligible for 10 years in the Senate instead of eight: "In 2012, all 40 senators ran for office; half got two-year seats, and the others got four-year seats. Sen. Galvano got a two-year seat, so he's eligible for two more four-year terms.

"People have called and asked me, and I've told them I think he'd be a great Senate president," said Bennett, a Republican who served in 2010 as the Senate's No. 2, its president pro-tempore.

"I think he's going to pull it off."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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