Columns

House Boys Club Can't Hide Katie Edwards' Light

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: May 3, 2014 3:55 AM
Katie Edwards

Katie Edwards

It's the same lousy deal for a woman in the Florida House. Year after year the same. Doesn't matter their party, women seated in the lower chamber invariably fight for a meaningful role, take abuse and get ignored.

Did I just see that happen to Katie Edwards?

Observing the medical marijuana debate Thursday on the House floor -- when it came time to congratulate all parties who helped bring this once-unthinkable bill to the brink of victory -- I heard bill sponsor Matt Gaetz lavish syrupy compliments on the "killer B's of the Senate, Sens. (Rob) Bradley, (Aaron) Bean and (Jeff) Brandes." I heard him thank Edwards for her research, Charles Van Zant for his drive, Cary Pigman for his competence, "every member of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee for their trust," and Speaker Will Weatherford, Dennis Baxley and Steve Crisafulli for all kinds of support.

But research? Really? One or two anemic words, is that the best he could do?

On the other hand, Gaetz was more generous than Weatherford, who didn't mention Edwards at all. He did, of course, pay tribute to Gaetz's "courage, leadership and maturity."

I Beg to Differ

Here's how I see it: Edwards, a woman (strike 1), a Democrat (strike 2), only in her second year (foul-tip), nevertheless found a way to elevate the 2014 Legislature with passion, energy and intelligence. She was a lesson in what all legislators should be doing, given their privilege to serve. And I don't think the boys liked it much -- I mean, they certainly weren't looking for accomplishment.

Next to the families with sick children -- Edwards was probably more responsible for the legislation in the House, where it originated, than any other member.

I know this because I remember the work she did after the 2013 legislative session, when her medical marijuana bill went nowhere. She was smart enough and determined enough to lean into research, look at studies, assess results and figure out how to get a bill heard. She had promised constituents answers.

I also know because at a March 31 forum, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, chairman of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee gave prime co-sponsor Edwards the lion's share of the credit. Was that just a moment of weakness, I wonder?

"Rep. Edwards can be annoyingly persistent," Gaetz said, explaining why he came to sponsor the House CBD medical marijuana bill. "She pestered me with emails every day for about three months."

Certainly Edwards needed Gaetz's heft to pull it off and appeal to House Republicans. And without a doubt Gaetz brought himself up to warp speed on cannabidiol, masterfully so, taking the bill on the "slow and cautious walk" he promised. But without Edwards, without her passion and pushiness and refusal to give up, he wouldn't be savoring this virtual victory lap now.

There's something about the boys in the Florida House. Run down the list of women representatives. See for yourself how many -- with the exception of Speaker Pro Tempore Marti Coley -- have positions of real responsibility. A handful. It's a time-honored thing -- a culture of gender discrimination that doesn't exist in the Senate.

Funny how a woman can languish for years in the House, then go to the Senate and shine. She magically develops talent. Same woman, different side of the building.

The House does pick a token woman to favor year after year. But in the end, when the boys get together, they make sure the plums stay locked up in the club safe.

Gaetz and Edwards together have given this monumental medical marijuana bill a bipartisan flavor. What a shame it was to hear so little mention of that cooperative spirit on the House floor Thursday. Only Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, referenced Gaetz and Edwards as a team, and the importance of bipartisanship in debate.

It was the House's head start on the Senate that awakened the upper chamber to the belief that they could actually cast a vote that could instill a never-before quality of life in 125,000 sick Florida children. Senators were primed and ready when patients told their stories of fear and the sense of futility that led many to give up on Florida, head for greener, medical marijuana-friendly pastures in Colorado.

The boys can like it or not, Katie Edwards didn't come to Tallahassee to sit on her hands.

During a 2013 interview with Sunshine State News, she recalled the 2012 House race. “I had essentially a four-year campaign, while working full-time as executive director of the Farm Bureau, campaigning, and going to law school at night,” she said. “Looking back, I don’t know how I was able to do all of it, but somehow it came together.”

She knows how to play the game, she's a fighter, and I don't think anybody is going to hide the light she brings to the Florida House.

The Democrats claim they're looking hard to run winning candidates for state office. If that's true, they're going to discover Katie Edwards and run her for commissioner of agriculture and consumer services as soon as Adam Putnam is done. Remember, you heard it here first.

By that time, watch how high her stock will have risen.



Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423
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Comments (5)

Dean
11:24PM MAY 4TH 2014
I think Rep Edwards actions, leadership and efforts were OUTSTANDING! Proves Democrats do have worthy ideas. My only regret is that the House and Senate again refused to give the Kathy Jordan Medical Marijuana Act even a hearing. That could well have made Amendment 2 redundent. I ask everybody, no matter your party, to go out in Nov and vote YES on Amendment 2 and make Medical Marijuana legal for all the Patients that it will help. Thank You
JOE KREPS
3:13PM MAY 3RD 2014
Excellent article. Knowing Katie as her constituent, you gave credit where credit is due. She also has the courage to tell the party bosses that she knows Nan Rich would make a better Governor than Charlie Scott. Also as a former constituent of Nan's, I can tell the rest of the state that it's time to let our ladies lead.
Mark
12:11PM MAY 3RD 2014
Everyone TALKS the talk but when it comes to everyone getting to the ballot box, MOST of everyone returns the same good ol' boys to their seats. Rarely do the taxpayers, citizens, or just plain voters EVER make sense at the ballot box! This is why the current legislature, along with recent past ones, thumb their noses at ALL of us! Seems the only thing the Florida legislature gets correctly is that WE, the VOTERS, just have no clue in what or who they're voting for! SHAME ON US!
fla. dem
11:36AM MAY 3RD 2014
I would love to see not only a dem in the Cabinet but a WOMAN and in the good ol' boy seat of all of places.
Harold Monoginslogin
10:59AM MAY 3RD 2014
Nancy you are absolutely right!! If not for Rep. Edwards there never would have been a bill. And althgough Rep. Gaetz is effective, he does by intimidation, all the republicans and democrats except Rep.'s Goodson and Baxley are all afraid of him. And, he and the other R's did not give Katie enough credit. Typical!!!

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