The Florida Democrats put Ana Rivas Logan on center stage on Tuesday as she insisted the GOP has been radicalized and held hostage by a group of extremists. Theres only one problem: the new Democrat was in the conservative vanguard during her time in the Florida House.
After a decade as a Republican, Rivas Logan joined the Democrats last month and even got some national attention. The Democrats pushed Rivas Logan forward this week to hit Rick Scott on Hispanic issues, featuring her on a call with the media Tuesday. Rivas Logan also threw a few punches at her old party in the announcement of the call.
The GOP of today is not the party I joined, Rivas Logan said. Its a party that has been radicalized and held hostage by a group of extremists.
Rivas Logan has changed her political positions at a speed that would make fellow Republican-to-Democrat-turncoat Charlie Crist blush. After four years on the Miami-Dade School Board, Rivas Logan came to Tallahassee as a freshman representative after winning a seat in 2010.
While she has claimed that Republican views on immigration and womens issues made her join the Democrats, Rivas Logan was actually a pretty solid conservative during her time in Tallahassee. In 2012, she receieved a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union. The Florida chapter of National Federation for Independent Business -- the same group that fought Obamacare tooth and nail and backs conservatives like Mike Hill -- also gave Rivas Logan a 100 percent grade for her votes in 2012. The same year, she won the Florida Retail Federations legislator of the year award. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Florida gave her high marks. So did tea party darlings Americans for Prosperity which gave her a 93 grade in 2012. The NRA loved her so much they gave Rivas Logan an A grade.
Besides economic and fiscal issues, Rivas Logan was on board with the Republicans on other fronts in Tallahassee. She was a strong supporter of school choice programs, including vouchers; she backed school prayer and ensuring sharia law would never take root in Florida. Despite her talk now about how Republicans are against women, Rivas Logan voted to prohibit abortions in the final trimester and against public funding of abortions. Rivas Logan may be griping about Republican positions now, but in 2012 she received a 100 percent grade from the conservative Christian Family Coalition.
Rivas Logan ended up as one of the chief victims of the Fair District Amendments. She was thrown into the same House district as fellow Miami Republican Jose Felix Diaz. This rare primary battle between two House incumbents was nasty -- at one point, the Miami Herald reported that Rivas Logan left a tearful message on a reporters voice mail -- but Diaz had the advantage, outspending her more than 2:1. He also beat her by the same margin, taking 66 percent while she could only muster 34 percent.
Rivas Logan joined the Democrats last month and was promptly welcomed with open arms by Crist. She even got a little national notice from it all, even as Miami Republicans said her party switch was the result of her own frustrated ambitions.
During the call on Tuesday, Rivas Logan focused on a report that Scotts campaign team chased fundraiser Mike Fernandez away by speaking in fake Mexican accents.
"Rick Scotts campaign staff mocked Florida Hispanics like schoolchildren, Rivas Logan said. Thats unacceptable from the people trying to elect a governor in one of the most diverse states in the nation. These anti-Hispanic comments are exactly the kind of comments that made up my mind to leave the RepublicanParty.
"What is unbelievable to me is that instead of apologizing about these remarks and moving on, Rick Scott hasnt said a word!" Rivas Logan said. Thats not leadership."
Rivas Logans sudden prominence with Florida Democrats isnt exactly a good sign for the party. Bad enough that a former Republican like Crist is their only viable candidate to take on Scott. During his time with the GOP, Crist was far closer to the political middle than Rivas Logan was. Crists political transformation was also a bit more extended than Rivas Logans -- who went from a staunch conservative, before getting clobbered by Diaz in August 2012, to a partisan Democrat.
Crist is leading Scott in the polls, to be sure, but the Florida Democrats arent exactly in the best of shape otherwise for November. Nobody expects them to seriously compete for either chamber of the Legislature and only one serious Democratic candidate has emerged to run against a Republican senator and only a handful are challenging GOP incumbents in the House. Allison Tant and her team failed to vet Allie Braswell -- despite endorsing him -- and still havent found a replacement candidate to challenge Jeff Atwater. No major Democrat has stepped up to run against Adam Putnam. Alex Sink went down to defeat against David Jolly earlier in the month.
Rivas Logan, who went from conservative Republican to a Democrat in the blink of an eye, is now elbowing aside other Hispanics like Darren Soto and Janet Cruz in her new party. Not exactly a sign of a deep bench.
Tallahassee based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.