A dark-haired, brown-eyed 40-something-year-old woman with strong conservative credentials wants to make her mark on the 2010 race to be Florida's next governor.
No, Sarah Palin is not moving to Florida.
But the comparisons between state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, who today was expected to launch her bid for the Republican nomination for Florida governor and the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee, have already started. A commenter on the St. Petersburg Times' political blog even called Dockery, "Palin with a brain."
(Another difference between Dockery and Palin: Dockery has said she wouldn't vote for a bill allowing oil and gas drilling in state waters off Florida's Gulf Coast.)
The conventional wisdom had been that Republican Bill McCollum and Democrat Alex Sink wouldface off a year from this week to become the next governor of Florida.
Well, Dockery isn't buying it.
"Today's the day, I'm in," Dockery wrote on her Facebook page this morning.
Dockery, 48, was elected to the state House in 1996 and the Senate in 2002 and chairs the Criminal Justice Committee, and would be term limited out of the Senate in 2012. She has a fairly conservative voting record, perhaps most notably helping defeat a proposed high-speed rail system during the legislative session earlier this year.
As Abel Harding of JaxPoliticsOnline.com notes, Dockery's entry means another potential insurgent-vs.-establishment race on the Republican primary ballot next August, similar to the top-of-the-ticket tussle between Gov. Charlie Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate nomination.
It also sets up the possibility that Florida's governor's race will be another front in the heated debate in the Republican Party about the best path out of the political wilderness leading to the presidential election in 2012.
The ideological disparity between Dockery and McCollum, long a conservative stalwart as a member of Congress, may not be as great as that between Rubio and Crist. But considering what Harding and other observers have described as McCollum's lackluster political performance since returning to Florida from Washington, Dockery's campaign has the potential to stir up an already fascinating 2010 election season in the Sunshine State.