CFO candidate Will Rankin introduces himself to Hillsborough County Democrats

Will Rankin addressed the members of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Monday night, where he asked for their vote in November.

But first he addressed the question that you may be asking yourself right now: Who is Will Rankin?

He’s the Democrat running for Chief Financial Officer against Republican Jeff Atwater, but he began his presentation at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County in Ybor City by acknowledging that a lot of folks don’t know who he is, or what he’s running for. Or maybe even what the position of CFO is.

Oh, and he’s in the red in terms of the funding for his race. The Division of Elections website shows him having raised $15,210 as of September 5th, but he’s spent almost twice that much in the race — $28,781, to be precise.

Meanwhile Jeff Atwater has raised over $2.5 million so far.

But Rankin is a fun candidate to listen to.

Referring to “Tricky Ricky” Scott and his GOP opponent as “Rubber Stamp Jeff,” Rankin gave a quick biography of himself and what he intends to do once he achieves what would appear to be a near miracle in upending Atwater. That would include teaming up with a newly elected Charlie Crist to repeal a vote that Scott, Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam committed to early on in 2011.

That’s when the Cabinet reversed the previous decision to provide automatic restoration of civil and voting rights to certain ex-felons convicted of less severe crimes. Then-Governor Charlie Crist was able to persuade fellow Cabinet members Alex Sink and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson to pass the vote early on in 2007.

“It’s only going to take two of us to be able to change that,” he said on Monday night. He said that as CFO, teaming up with Crist and presumably swaying another Cabinet member, all sorts of policies and procedures could be changed with him in Tallahassee.

A native from Cincinnati, Rankin served 11 years in the US Army. He doesn’t list a resume per se on his website, but a campaign aide distributed a hard copy that indicates he served as the Director of Asset Management for the Ohio State Treasury and as an advisor to the state Treasurer. He worked on the U.S. Congressional 2000 Census Monitoring Board, and says he’s spent the past 12 years working as an entrepreneur and private business owner in South Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

But for Democrats who had to endure the Allie Brasswell debacle, at least he’s a live, energetic human being, and he definitely delivers the red meat when it comes to bashing his opponent.

He calls Jeff Atwater a “really interesting cat,” saying that it simply amazes him “what money and name recognition will do” for some people. 

“My guy [Atwater] claims to be a fifth generation Floridian. But he’s born in Missouri. Even if he’s fifth generation, but what do you bring to the table that’s different for the last 16 years? My guy’s been in the state Legislature for 14 years. And, as far as I know, does anybody feel that Jeff Atwater has done anything for you? He’s done things for the insurance companies, banking, big business. But he hasn’t done anything for the average citizen. “

He also blasted Scott, Atwater and Pam Bondi for their work on the State Board of Administration, and specifically for supporting legislation that requires state employees to contribute 3 percent of their paychecks to their retirement.

“You’ve got a crook of a governor, you’ve got an incompetent CFO as a banker, and you’ve got an Attorney General who has never, ever had any business experience,” he began, getting on a verbal roll. “[Bondi] has no idea about anything about money. These are the people watching over our state assets for our public employees. These are the same people who advocated the 3 percent contribution participation for public employees. I’ve looked at the figures. I’ve looked at the consultants report. It was a boondoggle! There’s no shortcoming in the retirement fund! There’s none at all. As matter of fact, it’s one of the soundest retirement funds … by industry standards, a retirement fund is fully funded at 80 percent or more. Florida is at 82 percent. It was a boondoggle! One of the first things I’m going to do is work with the new governor and the Cabinet and the Legislature to get that repealed, and as CFO I will have the numbers and I will stand up there every day if I have to in Tallahassee and yell this out loud as I much as I can, and have press conferences every day until people realize it was a lie, and that the hardworking employees deserve that money back.”

Although the 50 or so Hillsborough County Democrats in attendance on Monday night needn’t be reminded of the importance of the midterm elections, Rankin opted to inform them that if they didn’t come out in strong numbers in 2014, the state GOP would only grow stronger.

“Four years from now Rick Scott is going to run for U.S. Senate — Bill Nelson’s seat,” he warned. “Jeff Atwater is potentially going to be your next governor, and we’re going to be playing musical chairs. The Republican Party is going to grow stronger, and we have the ability to stop that RIGHT NOW! It’s your future.”

He then said his campaign could use any financial contributions as possible, and hung out until the end of the meeting. 

Will Rankin remains a decided underdog in the CFO race, but at least a group of Hillsborough Democrats now can match the name and the face. They were probably always going to vote for him, but may do so with a little more enthusiasm.



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