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High Stakes for Rick Scott, Florida Cabinet as Legislative Session Begins

March 1, 2015 - 6:00pm

The chattering class might be talking about a relatively slow legislative session kicking off on Tuesday but the stakes are high for Rick Scott and the three officials in the Florida Cabinet.

Scott should be in his political prime after he beat Charlie Crist in November and with strong Republican majorities in both legislative chambers. But Scotts been hampered so far this year by the controversy over Gerald Bailey being dismissed at FDLE and Blaise Ingoglia beating Leslie Dougher to take over the RPOF.

But Scott seems to be bouncing back again. The mainstream media, which have never liked Scott, tried to milk the Bailey story for all it was worth. But the story is going nowhere since Bailey went out of his way to talk to the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Tribune while ignoring other media outlets and, more importantly, Willie Meggs and the state attorneys office. There will be a few rough waves, to be sure, during the session but, on the whole, Scott has apparently ridden out the storm.

Ingoglias win indicates a big problem for Scott. Already Republicans are turning their attention toward the 2016 presidential race and that means less attention to Scott who remains in the shadow of both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Scott will get some nice wins this session, especially with his tax cuts, but hell need a little more if he wants to get back on center stage.

Jeff Atwater also has a lot riding on this session. Atwater is already working behind the scenes for a Senate bid in 2016 if Rubio decides to run for president. Last week, he was up in Washington, paying calls to the NRSC. While hes pretty well-known from being Senate president and two statewide wins, Awater is no slam dunk to head up to Washington. This session gives Atwater a chance to tell voters what he stands for and, with a Senate bid likely, he will try to make the most out of it.

Theres also a lot at stake for Adam Putnam. Theres been talk of Putnams gubernatorial ambitions for years and this years legislative focus helps him, especially as Steve Crisafulli will put water management front and center. Putnam has a chance to shine this session and offer voters a good reminder they can expect to see him in 2018.

Pam Bondi is always left out of the mix when it comes to higher office with more buzz about a Fox News career instead of a try at higher office. But Bondis people are starting to talk her up for other offices, especially the Senate. Its tough to see her running against Atwater but Bill Nelson is up again in 2018 and he could bow out instead of trying for a fourth term. Bondi is talking up her efforts against pill mills and human trafficking again.

Scott and the Cabinet officials should be able to rack up the legislative wins this session since the Republicans control both chambers. But Scott, Atwater, Bondi and Putnam will want some attention, especially as the media and the political class are already starting to look ahead to the presidential election. For these politicians and their ambitions, the stakes will be high as the session kicks off.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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