No More Runoffs?
Published April 28th 2005 in The Ledger (FL)
The runoff primary, apparently, is a thing of the past in Florida. A bill awaiting Gov. Jeb Bush's expected signature would consign them to the dustbin of history.

We have mixed feelings on the subject. The best thing about runoffs is that they even up the odds for lesser-known candidates. In a crowded field, a candidate with wide name recognition can lead the pack in the first primary but end up losing in a runoff to someone whose campaign catches fire late in the process. Without a runoff, the candidate with the most name recognition -- even if it's negative -- usually wins.

But Florida politics have changed dramatically since the days when most statewide races were settled in the Democratic primary. The emergence of the Republicans as the state's dominant party has made primaries -- especially the second primary -- much less relevant. Unlike the old days, when Democrats ran as loners -"every man for himself" in the famous phrase of political scientist V.O. Key -- the Republicans are much more likely to choose up sides and pick their candidates before the voting even begins. That takes much of the color out of campaigns.

We would have preferred going to an "instant runoff" -- in which voters pick their second choice as well as their favorite -- to abolishing the runoff entirely. But there was no support for that plan in the Legislature, so -- like it or not -Florida will be having single primaries for the foreseeable future.