Carpetbagger candidates leave me cold. You know the ones I mean. The politicians who move to a jurisdiction they've never lived in before for the express purpose of running for office.
The Treasure Coast has seen a bunch of them. In Martin and St. Lucie counties anyway, they've generally been well-endowed congressional carpetbaggers -- Patrick Murphy, Allen West, Randy Perkins, Brian Mast, as recent examples -- bound for Washington. Residents are used to them and they've warmed to them.
What Treasure Coasters are not used to, though, is the carpetbagger for state office.
These are the ones you watch like a hawk. Candidates who know when to switch parties, who to give their money to so they can get the kind of appointments that feather their political nests ... candidates who, for instance, think they can carpetbag from liberal Broward County into a cautious, fiscally conservative region like the Treasure Coast. These are "unscrupulous opportunists," just as the dictionary describes carpetbaggers.
That's how I see Belinda Keiser.
Keiser is the vice chancellor of community relations and student advancement for Keiser University, Keiser Career College, Everglades University, and the Southeastern Institutes. These institutions are comprised of 25 campuses located throughout Florida and the southeastern United States with approximately 15,000 students and 2,400 employees.
Can we assume it isn't the annual $30,000-a-year Senate salary that attracts her?
Keiser's husband Arthur is the university's namesake.
She tells people she's lived in Broward County for 27 years -- Parkland, according to some documents, Fort Lauderdale, according to others.
Nowhere does it say Keiser ever lived in any village, town or city in District 25, 80 miles north and light years away in cultural differences.
The address she gives on current filings is the Port St. Lucie campus of Keiser University, in the Tradition neighborhood.
As a generous political donor (her husband's largesse adds to the gifts for a two-fer), she was appointed a Florida delegate-at-large for the last Republican National Convention. Gov. Rick Scott appointed her to the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. She's on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and she's been busy with the Florida Council of 100, the Florida Government Efficiency Task Force and Workforce Florida, which she chaired. Oh, yes, and Scott named her to the board of Enterprise Florida and Space Florida.
She is a FORM 1 filer because of the three boards she’s on. FORM 1 does not require disclosure of income or asset values.
What you won't find on any resume is any mention of party history. That's because Keiser used to be a Democrat.
In 2000, with her address listed as 1500 NW 49th Street in Fort Lauderdale, she ran as a Democrat for the District 90 state House seat. She was defeated.
After which ... through the first decade of the 21st Century and beyond, she gave tens of thousands of dollars to such liberal Democrats as Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Bill Nelson, Charlie Crist, Alcee Hastings, Barbara Boxer, Peter Deutsch, Robert Wexler and the Democratic Executive Committee of Florida, to name just a few. Search her name on this website, and her husband's name.
Apparently, she could just abandon those principles in the blink of an eye and convert to Republican. Not just Republican, but generous Republican.
The point is, I'm sure she and Arthur have given until it hurts to put her in a position to win this state Senate seat two counties north of home. Think of it, what a great business move from their point of view. It could lead to all sorts of big things for the Keisers.
But it's the constituents of the Treasure Coast I'm thinking about. They're going to ask, "What about us?" And rightfully. Who is Belinda Keiser and what's in that carpetbag?
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith