Vote Phillip Walker. He *might* give Lakeland's civic coalition power; Jennifer Canady will just bring pain
Lakeland’s RINOs, Dems, independents, pro-choice Republicans, local government supporters, and anti-nepotism/anti-machine populists can beat Canady and usefully pressure Phillip Walker.
Lakeland area independents, Democrats, (and even RINOs, lol) get a rare opportunity to dictate the outcome of a state legislature Republican primary election later this month.
It’s the dreary face-off between Lakeland City Commissioner Phillip Walker and Nepotism Commissioner Jennifer Canady, wife of Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady. See Lakeland Now’s Voter Guide here.
Only those two Republicans qualified for the ballot in the District 50 seat — so their primary becomes the general election; and everyone is eligible to vote in it.
Jennifer Canady was the overwhelming favorite in a closed primary. But make no mistake: she’s vulnerable to a cross party “civic” voting coalition that brings together Lakeland’s RINOs, Dems, independents, advocates for local government, anti-forced birth/anti-rapist rights Republicans, and anti-nepotism, anti-political machine populists.
This “civic coalition” could elect Phillip Walker against the favored and vastly better financed Canady. But should we? Increasingly, I think yes, enough so that I’m putting a sign in my yard.
This is not because of any ideology and policy difference anybody might discern from this awful campaign, which I wrote about here with disgust. Walker-Canady is no Lincoln-Douglas; and Phillip will not be a “champion” for the “civic” coalition I’m describing. However, he does potentially offer something more important: leverage.
Come see what I mean.
Choose your own adventure: 16 years of Stargel-like Canady nepotism or ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Let’s game out two potentially divergent paths that the open primary has made possible:
Path 1: 16 years of Jennifer Canady
Jennifer Canady wins. Nepotism and Lakeland political machine-backing assures she will never get primaried in the future. And she’s unlikely to ever lose a general election because of Polk’s partisan leanings and the gerrymandered ways Florida districts are drawn — thanks in part to her husband, chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
We’ll almost certainly get eight years of Canady in the term-limited state House and Senate, doing whatever state government power tells her to do to undermine local communities. This has been the record of Kelli Stargel and Colleen Burton. There is no reason, at all, to think Canady looks at her membership in nepotism club any differently than Kelli.
History shows that a vote for Canady in 2022 is also, most likely, a vote for her in 2036.
Path 2: At least two years of helpful uncertainty, amid momentous issues, that bringing real political competition and civic leverage
The Lakeland-area civic coalition, taking advantage of the rare access to a Republican primary, defeats Canady.
This puts Phillip Walker on the clock, immediately, for a Canady rematch in the 2024 GOP primary — or makes him a target for someone else in the elite GOP machine. (If you want to know who/what that machine is, just go look at Canady’s donors.) I don’t see any ambitious wannabe GOP-club member sitting out 16 years in deference to a Phillip Walker elected by Dems and independents.
In the meantime, Florida’s three biggest issues will be: abortion rights, property insurance/rent, and the teacher shortage — all of which bring great pressure on the GOP from “the left,” if that word has any meaning.
A Rep. Phillip Walker will have none of Canady’s nepotism connections or elite Lakeland GOP machine to insulate him from the demands of the everyday people of Lakeland/Polk County — from the civic coalition that put him in office. And those demands may well get much more intense than we’ve seen before.
And yet 60 percent of red Kansas voters just declared with great common sense that the Canady/Walker position of “life begins at conception” is woman-hating nonsense. That’s what you call a policy/moral/political pickle for the GOP.
Even before Kansas, all Florida Republican elected officials and candidates I’ve seen have been afraid to say if they will keep abortion legal up to 15 weeks in Florida — or impose forced birth on all pregnancies. They refuse to say if they will continue to force rape and incest victims to risk their lives to give birth.
That silence means you must assume Ron DeSantis and his obedient court of GOP legislative automatons in Polk County and beyond plan to outlaw abortion. These means imposing: complete forced birth for all women and girls — including 10-year-old rape victims; vastly more more dangerous, highly surveilled, and potentially criminalized pregnancies for every Florida woman; and enhanced rapist procreation rights.
If candidates like Walker and Canady refuse to say publicly they won’t end legal abortion and impose all that awful stuff, you have to assume GOP leadership will make them do so— unless they come to somehow fear voters more.
Assuming that, who is more likely to become more afraid of his or her voters? A nepotism and machine-secure Canady or a desperate to stay in public life Walker? I’ll take my chances with Phillip because I am very cold assessor of my political leverage and power.
Indeed, if elected in ‘22, Walker’s best path to re-election in 2024 might be to become an independent and try to recapture the coalition that put him in office. I understand from sources that elite GOP folks tried to recruit somebody to run as a Dem in ‘22, but failed. They won’t let ‘24 be an open primary again if Walker wins. Trust me on that.
Jennifer Canady doesn't want voters to think she's a "Conservative Republican" anymore
Jennifer Canady and her machine people seem to be doing the same math I am.
I got polled last weekend on just the Canady/Walker race. It was professional and detailed and focused on non-Republican voters. It asked a ton of precise demographic and level of support/opposition questions. It must have cost a fortune. I’ve since heard from someone else who got the same poll.
The questioner wouldn’t tell me who was funding it; but there’s no way Phillip Walker has access to the political money and machinery that polling represents.
And even before I got polled, Canady had rebranded herself in mailers for an open primary, dropping the “Conservative Republican” tagline she plastered on her signs, which distinguished itself from Phillip Walker’s — which only say “Republican” on them.
What distinction between her “conservative Republican” and Walker’s “Republican” did Canady seek to emphasize with her signs? You can mull over that yourselves. I think it’s probably just like writing “Super Republican” or “Very Republican” or “More Republican.”
But at the terrible forum I attended with these two, I saw no evidence whatsoever of any meaningful policy or priority difference between the two. They disagreed on nothing — and took no real positions that would help voters understand their choices, other than Ron DeSantis is awesome.
Ooops, all those “radical left” neighbors and voters matter now. Time for a rebrand.
The usefulness of Canady portraying herself as the “very super more” Republican changed overnight when no Democratic candidate qualified to run in the general election.
And you won’t find the word “Republican” on her mailer — other than the tiny legal disclaimer — or any hint of nasty mainstream Republican party messaging on it. It focused on her career as a “teacher,” without noting that almost all of it came as a private school teacher at Lakeland Christian School.
Why would someone hide that, particularly when private school vouchers are integral to Florida’s “choice” education system? Well, most voucher schools are scams (Lakeland Christian is not), and Canady’s approach to education is unlikely to stray from the failed dictates and culture-warring of JebSantis.
It does not help Canady for Democratic or public education voters to know that — so she isn’t going to tell them. For instance, her mailer doesn’t slag off on trans kids or CRT or any of the boogeymen she’ll be ordered to talk about if elected. Her mailer is designed to avoid setting off alarm bells for casual Dems and other non-GOP voters.
That’s because, overnight, the electorate she needs to win has lurched considerably to “the left,” if that word has any meaning. So let’s just say I’m skeptical of Canady’s sudden “soft-on-woke” turn away from “Conservative Republican.”
And what will black voters do?
Moreover, voting patterns being what they are, the open primary brings into play Lakeland area black voters, who are overwhelmingly not Republican.
Phillip Walker is black, with a long-time business and public presence within Lakeland’s black community. He’s the elected Lakeland city commissioner for the geographic district that includes Lakeland’s largest predominantly black neighborhood, although all districts are elected citywide. (I think that should change. More at a different time.)
People are individuals; and they vote how they choose for many reasons. But black candidates often enjoy elevated support from black voters as a political bloc.
It’s unclear to me if Phillip can expect that type of support given his Republican state and national politics, which are generally out of step with the black Democratic bloc he will need to win.
Curiously, the Phillip Walker mailer I received went in the opposite direction rhetorically as Canady’s — playing up “conservative” as a word while the electorate moved “left.” That’s either bad strategy or good ethics. I don’t really care which. But it probably won’t help him win at this point.
To the extent I’m banking on anything at all, I’m banking on Phillip realizing his self interest (becoming and staying a paid state legislator) and remembering his background — particularly his background with local government that Jennifer Canady’s husband has helped strip of the power to self-govern.
The civic coalition might well get some mileage out of him on both counts. It’s worth a try. We have nothing to lose but 16 years of Jennifer Canady.