Allan Bense Remains a Power Broker in Tallahassee
Around the State
Almost seven years after he left the Florida House, Allan Bense continues to loom as a force in Florida politics.
Last week, Don Gaetz named Bense to the board of trustees of Triumph Gulf Coast Inc., to help manage funds resulting from the BP oil spill in the Gulf. Bense has remained active on other fronts as well in Tallahassee, chairing the board of the James Madison Institute. He also served as the chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
While he’s been out of elected office since leaving the House in 2006, Bense still has influence in his old stomping grounds. Six years after he served as House speaker, Will Weatherford, Bense’s son-in-law, stepped up to wield the gavel.
With Gaetz leading the Senate and Weatherford heading the House, Bense could be an interesting bridge between the two men. Bense hails from Panama City which is in Gaetz’s district and both men have been active in leading the GOP in that region. Weatherford served as Bense’s aid before marrying his daughter and the two men are close.
Differences between the Senate and more conservative House have often erupted in recent years. Conservative reforms to education, the legal system, state pensions and other issues have often been watered down as the two chambers hammer out final versions of legislation.
Weatherford will be term-limited at the end of next year while Gaetz will give up his Senate presidency. By the middle of the 2014 session, more attention will be paid to the leaders waiting in the wings -- Andy Gardiner in the Senate and Steve Crisafulli in the House.
But Gaetz and Weatherford remain in charge of their chambers. As the 2014 elections start to come into focus, Republicans would benefit if their majorities in the Legislature can work well together.
As his new appointment reminds Tallahassee, Bense is in good standing with Gaetz and, obviously, Weatherford. Even though he has been out of elected office for years, Bense is still one of the power brokers in Tallahassee. Whether it’s in public policy, higher education, leading the business community or with legislators, Allan Bense remains at the heart of it all.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.