Gov. Jeb Bush is not eligible to run in 2006, therefore its an open race for the GOP nomination next year.
The two leading candidates are Attorney General Charlie Crist and State Financial Officer Tom Gallagher. Both are raising money and campaigning already in despite the election being over a year off. Lt. Governor Toni Jennings is a possible wild card, she hasn't announced whether she will run or not.
I'm a registered Democrat, so I won't be voting in the GOP primary. Crist and Gallagher have both run for statewide office before and have won races and lost some too. This will be Gallagher's third try at being Governor, he ran in the 86 and 94 primaries too. I wasn't crazy about him then and still aren't today. Crist is 12 years younger and his one defeat was against Bob Graham in the 98 Senate election. Gallagher hasn't even gotten to the general in either of his runs for Governor.
This is all speculation right now. Who knows what will happen in Septemeber 06? Four years ago everyone thought Janet Reno was a lock for the Democratic nomination to run against Jeb Bush. She instead lost to a lawyer named Bill McBride who most people had dismissed till a few months earlier.
Below is part of a Palm Beach Post article from today. It can be read in it's entirety by clicking here.
Fla. GOP split over governor's successor
By Brian E. Crowley
Palm Beach Post Political Editor
Monday, July 04, 2005
Prominent Tallahassee lobbyist Brian Ballard says he loves his sister, Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty, but when it comes to the future of Florida, the two Republican siblings have sharply different views on who should be the state's next governor.
They are not alone. Florida Republicans are in a pickle. Especially the activists.
They are being forced to choose between two men who believe they should be heir to the political power amassed by Gov. Jeb Bush. And those looking for clues as what to do have gotten little help from Bush who, so far, has stayed out of it.
Ballard and his sister are the perfect example of the divide. Ballard, a former chief of staff to Gov. Bob Martinez, wants to see Attorney General Charlie Crist become the next governor. McCarty is backing Tom Gallagher, the state's chief financial officer.
Polls suggest that among registered Republicans, Crist is leading in name recognition. But on Friday, Gallagher may have taken the lead in the crucial test of fund raising. In a press release, Gallagher said he raised a record-setting $3 million in the April, May and June reporting period.
Crist sent out a press release saying his campaign was still counting the money. Speculation among some Crist supporters was that he would show about $2 million raised during the quarter.
Gallagher is hoping that by showing an especially strong money-raising effort and locking up the endorsements of the party's hierarchy, he can create a sense of inevitability about his candidacy.
Crist has responded by having high-profile fund-raisers of his own. One featured billionaire developer and part-time Palm Beacher Donald Trump. And Crist is claiming his own chunk of GOP royalty — including three former state party chairmen.
New outlook vs. experience
For those who are undecided, especially the vast majority of voters who have yet to focus on an election day that is still more than a year away, these early skirmishes will go a long way toward deciding who is still a viable candidate when voters go to the polls.
Crist, who turns 49 next month, is viewed by Ballard and other supporters as the energetic, youthful future of the GOP. A guy who started his political career in 1992 winning an election to the state Senate and — except for a sure-to-lose 1998 race against incumbent Democrat Bob Graham for the U.S. Senate — went on to win races for education commissioner and attorney general.
Gallagher, 61, is portrayed as the seasoned candidate who has the experience and knowledge to lead a complex state. He was elected to the state House in 1974. He flirted with running for governor in 1982 but quickly dropped out. He ran in 1986 and 1994, finishing third in both of those races. In 1988, he was elected insurance commissioner. In 1998, he became education commissioner. By 2000, he was back in the insurance commissioner job, which, in 2002, was merged with other offices making him chief financial officer. He won all those races easily.
"This is shaping up as a race between the old and the new," said Kirk Fordham, who helped run U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez's campaign and is now raising money for Crist. "This is a race about whether you want the past or the future."