While there was speculation that he would face trouble in his bid for a second term, it appears Republican Rep. Mike Weinstein will have an easier path to reelection than expected.
There were signs that Weinstein was in trouble. He loaned his campaign $50,000 in the first quarter of 2010. He opposed Senate Bill 6, a measure pushed by the Republican leadership in the Legislature, and he faced a primary challenge from a serious contender.
But the Orange Park maverick appears headed for a second term because none of his opponents have done well in fund-raising.
I feel as confident as I can be at this point, Weinstein said on Wednesday.
He said he loaned his campaign the funds because he couldn't fund-raise during the session and he was optimistic he would get the money back.
While it appeared Weinstein would face a fight in the Republican primary from a credible conservative opponent, that challenge quickly fizzled out.
John Melia, the founder of the Wounded Warrior Project, announced that he was going to challenge Weinstein in the Republican primary. Melia set up a website and raised $1,500 in March before announcing his campaign on April 5.
Its time to get business back in shape, said Melia when he announced his campaign. There is so much that businesses and non-profit organizations can accomplish that government just cant or shouldnt do. Id like to fight for an atmosphere of innovation among Florida residents instead of relying on government spending.
But on April 20, Melia pulled the plug on his campaign, saying that he had to focus on Goverline, the logistics company he founded.
With much consideration, I believe I can best serve our community at this time by devoting my full attention to managing Goverline and bringing jobs and opportunity to the 19th District in this manner, leaving me to withdraw my candidacy, said Melia.
Education official Nick Zoller also threatened to challenge Weinstein from the right in a Republican primary, focusing on tort reform and fiscal conservatism. The Zoller campaign has not shown any signs of life since the campaign kickoff, showing anemic fund-raising.
Two Democrats have emerged to challenge Weinstein. Matt Brackett, who did graduate work in history and has run for other House seats, has formed a campaign committee. Larry Jones, an army veteran who currently works in the Duval County School District, has launched a campaign focusing on increased transparency, reforming the composition of water districts and restoring trade and magnet schools. Neither has done much in terms of fund-raising. Both had raised under $1,000 at the end of the first quarter of 2010.
Weinstein has an extensive resume in Jacksonville politics. He served as director of the city Administration and Finance Department under Mayor Ed Austin, a Democrat, and Republican Mayor John Delaney. Weinstein served as president and CEO of the Jacksonville Super Bowl Host Committee and as executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. He also put in 15 years in the State Attorneys Office and ran twice for mayor of Jacksonville.
Despite breaking from the Republican House leadership on SB 6, Weinstein said he remains supportive of members and is grateful for their help.
I was very fortunate to be assigned to the committees I was assigned to, the committees I asked for, said Weinstein who is the vice-chairman of the Civil Justice and Courts Policy Committee.
Weinstein said he has no regrets from his first term in the House, adding that he gained experience and knowledge on both the winning and losing sides of issues. You learn more when you lose than when you win, he said.
He defended his vote against SB 6. When your heart and your head tell you to break from the group, you need to, he said, adding that the vote had earned him more respect in the Legislature. I have no regrets either way.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.