Florida Politics in 2012 Overshadowed by the Specter of Charlie Crist
Around the State
When it comes to the down and dirty of Florida politics, where U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Miami, and Gov. Rick Scott have every word dissected by the media, and Democrats in 2012 were able to dent the GOP domination in the state Legislature and among the congressional delegation, there has been a single specter that constantly would raise its head wherever partisan events transpired: Charlie Crist.
The former Republican governor, Crist received all the acerbically-placed rage Florida GOP members could muster during the National Convention in Tampa. The then-‘independent’ Crist had endorsed President Obama and announced plans to speak at the Democratic National Convention on the eve of the GOPs event.
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Former RPOF Chair Carole Jean Jordan: 'You Can't Trust Him.'
Demonstrating the media infatuation and even the Republican concerns about Crist’s populism, the attention to the past governor came during a convention that was overshadowed by a hurricane and legendary actor talking to an empty chair.
Crist would then become a prime surrogate for Obama, stumping across the state before the general election. The Republican Party of Florida would catch his every word for a series called “the two faces of Charlie Crist,” which highlighted the dramatic reversion of his once-firmly-held Republican views.
And to further the long-held speculation that he would again run for governor, something that has been on many lips since he was defeated by Rubio in the 2010 Senate race, Crist entered December by announcing at the White House he would formally become a Democrat.
Legislative, congressional races
Charlie is and wasn’t the end of politics in the Sunshine State.
The Republican-run Legislature pushed forward the presidential preference primary at the expense of half of Florida’s legislative delegation, which set off an avalanche from other states to play a bigger role in naming the GOP nominee.
Rubio was long rumored to be a leading contender to be named a vice presidential candidate and, after the contest, was immediately thrust into a speculated front-runner status for the GOP -- along with former Gov. Jeb Bush -- for 2016.
The swing state status, as well as questions about how Florida had set up the rules for election season and some large-county supervisors were conducting the contest, became daily running dramas in the national media.
Across Florida, tea party adherents showed they still have weight to toss around in rural areas during the primaries as they were able to thrust Ted Yoho, a large-animal doctor from Gainesville, into the U.S. Congress at the expense of U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala.
But the general election showed that Florida remains an ideologically diverse collective.
The new constitutionally required rules of redistricting helped Democrats score gains across the I-4 corridor, erasing Republican supermajority holds in the state House and Senate.
The biggest upset was of Chris Dorworth -- the Lake Mary Republican who was supposed to take over as House speaker in two years -- by Democratic challenger Mike Clelland.
In the general election, voters also rejected efforts to oust three state Supreme Court justices opposed by the RPOF and viewed by opponents as longtime liberal activists, while eight of 11 state Legislature-backed constitutional amendments were rejected by voters, including proposals to further restrict abortion, allow taxpayer funding of religious schools, cap state revenue and put the state on record as opposed to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
The bigger story for the future of the Legislature, however, had come in the primary.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, firmed up his chances to be the Senate president in four years, as Republican candidates he and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, scored victories over those backed by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.
Meanwhile, a much-heralded three-district shift of congressional seats failed to work out for the GOP.
U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, abandoned the Treasure Coast for the western portion of his old district, while conservative firebrand U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, gave up his southern and central Palm Beach County district for the Treasure Coast, and Adam Hasner, who had been a strong primary candidate for U.S. Senate, agreed to take on longtime politician Democrat Lois Frankel.
While Rooney, who continues to grow in the party, easily won, the shift didn’t work out as West was defeated in a costly and controversial contest and Hasner wasn’t able to retain West’s Palm Beach County seat for the GOP.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.