The followng are Obama for Florida Director Steve Schale's comments on why he's backing Dan Gelber for U.S. Senate. These views do no necessarily reflect the views of members of this blog and this post does not represent an endorsement from party officials, such as myself, who are prohibited from making such endorsements.
Why I choose Dan Gelber.
For a few Floridians, assuredly the announcement of Dan Gelber for Senate was met with a resounding, "It’s about time." But to most it was more of a "Dan who?"
Trust me, I've been there. When Dan first came to Tallahassee in 2000, all I knew was he was some guy who beat a couple of more household names in a three-way primary. No disrespect to my many friends in the Florida House, but as a young legislative aide from conservative Northeast Florida, most south Florida Democrats were the same to me, legislators who represented three square mile districts who largely had no idea what was really happening in swing-state Florida.
He was elected in 2000. You might remember, that was quite a unique year in American political history as it seemed all of the country was focused on Tallahassee. It was also a year that our caucus elected twenty-seven new members, thanks to term limits that required the retirement of more than half the legislature, so when Dan showed up in Tallahassee and started asserting himself on Day One in recount proceedings I thought, "who in the world does he think he is?" However, soon it became obvious that his passion and smarts were what really set him apart.
Many people may not remember, but it was Dan who literally as a two-week first term member, was chosen by the Democrats to make the legal case on the House Floor for continuing the recount rather than hijacking the election. After Dan's forceful and eloquent argument on national TV, then House Speaker Tom Feeney punished him by taking him off virtually every committee he had been assigned to -- but at that moment, everyone knew that this guy was for real.
Over time, working with Dan when I was the caucus' Communications Director, then as the Political Director, I began to truly respect the skill set he brought to the process, and his life story. One day I noticed the wall in his legislative office a Proclamation, signed by people like John McCain, Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar; only then did I learn he spent years working for the United States Senate (in a job once held by Bobby Kennedy), frequently traveling to some of the most unstable parts of the world to better understand how to protect our nation from the threats from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
Another courtroom sketch on the wall represents the near decade he spent as a U.S. Attorney, prosecuting crooked politicians, drug dealers, and those who sought to violate the civil rights of others. On a shelf, sits a picture of some kids from a summer cancer camp Dan started when he was 24 years old. Imagine a 24 year old guy helping create a camp for kids with cancer and spending dozens of summer vacations as a bunk counselor; and of course, there stands the ubiquitous basketball goal, just so you don't take everything too seriously.
In many ways, his office is his story. He is an extremely serious guy who just doesn't take himself too seriously. If you call Dan and he says he has to call you back because he is in court, more than likely, he is still trying to prove he can still go to his left and hit the jump shot. And don't dare try to call him Representative, Senator, or Leader, or you will risk correction. He prefers "Dan." People that know him say that the guy that stood up a couple of Tuesdays ago and asked Florida's 12 million voters to send him to be only the thirty-fourth individual in the history of Florida to represent the state in the United States Senate is the same guy that served as a young federal prosecutor, taking on cases rarely tackled by someone in their 20's, or the same guy that has mentored his little brother Travis for twenty years through Big Brothers Big Sisters, or the same guy who freely admits, just like me, that he is married to someone far more talented than him.
Is this a daunting race for Dan? Absolutely. Florida is a big state and an expensive one to run in. But it will be daunting for all the candidates. But fortunately, Florida is a state that has a history of finding public servants who are packaged a little differently. People like Lawton Chiles and Bob Graham were not necessarily prototypical candidates on paper when they first ran, but fortunately for our state, they didn't run away from a tough challenge. Dan fits that mold. In every job he has had, he has excelled; and everyone who works with him -- ally and adversary -- thinks he is honest, smart and a person of character.
It is simply not in Dan's nature to take the road most traveled and he is not the kind of guy who shies away from tough odds and challenges, in fact, he seems to revel in them, and that is the kind of United States Senator that I want serving me in D.C. So, I hope you will do as I did, and take a little time to get to know him. If you do, you will know why he is worthy of a chance to serve in this moment in history.
Trust me, the last four years, concluding with the amazing honor I was given to run the Obama/Biden effort in Florida, have been physically and mentally exhausting, and about the last thing I want to do right now is think about the next election cycle. But when Dan called and said he felt we needed to do this, I happily laced them up for another game (unlike Dan, I know I can't go to my left and hit the jump shot), and I'll hope you will join me. Get to know him and you will find that he is that unique politico that we all want to work with. Our nation's problems are too big to sit this one out, and I promise you, this will be on heck of a ride.
Let's see, a 48-year old lanky State Senator, with two young daughters (ok, and a boy), a fairly good outside shot, a brilliant lawyer-wife, with a knack for policy and a bad blackberry addiction...for some reason this plot sounds eerily familiar and awfully enticing.
Check him out at www.dangelber.com and join me on the team.
Steve Schale, Florida Director
Obama for America