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Mark Pafford Gives Democrats a Far Better Way Out of Political Limbo than Arthenia Joyner

January 16, 2016 - 7:00am

Democrats have a chance to make major inroads in Florida come November but one of their legislative leaders is giving them a road map leading nowhere. 


Responding to Rick Scott’s State of the State on Tuesday, Arthenia Joyner went back to dated playbooks, praising Barack Obama for pursuing a “course that rescued our country from the brink of economic disaster” and trashing George W. Bush’s presidency as “days of despair.”

Insisting Scott wasn’t up to the job in Tallahassee, the Tampa Democrat belittled his experience in the private sector. Ignoring the dropping unemployment rate and record tourism numbers, Joyner went on about “Scott-world, his Florida of mansions, and yachts, and private jets” and insisted the jobs created under his watch didn’t pay enough or provide benefits. Joyner then went on to complain about Republicans opposing Obamacare before going out of her way to praise state workers and jabbing Let’s Get to Work’s commercial in which Scott talks about his start in the private sector with a donut shop. 

Joyner’s response was reminiscent of Charlie Crist’s efforts to go after Scott in the 2014 gubernatorial race and Alex Sink’s 2010 campaign. Floridians might not be enamored of Scott but they are far more concerned with jobs and the economy than they are about his wealth and his record in the private sector. Crist and Sink tried to tar Scott with HCA’s Medicare fines but voters cared more about his record on jobs. But Joyner didn’t learn that lesson as she continued to pummel Scott and praise Obama instead of focus on the issues. Democrats have followed Joyner’s map repeatedly and it helps explain why the GOP has controlled the governor’s mansion for almost two decades, has strong majorities in both chambers of the Legislature and controls every seat in the state Cabinet. 

Over in the other chamber, Mark Pafford offered a response to Scott’s State of the State for House Democrats and did a far better job than Joyner. Instead of just insulting the governor, Pafford made his case against Scott’s biggest legislative priorities: a $1 billion tax cut package and $250 million for Enterprise Florida. Pafford also turned to other issues, talking about education and praising parents who decide to opt out of standardized testing and Amendment 1 funding. Conservatives might not find much to agree with in Pafford’s response but it was a far better performance than Joyner’s.

Democrats have a big chance in November to make up ground in Florida. Even outside the presidential election, Democrats can flip Marco Rubio’s Senate seat, win a few congressional seats, end the GOP’s veto-proof majority in the House and make major gains in the state Senate after the latest round of redistricting. Granted, the Florida Democratic Party under Allison Tant is the political equivalent of the Washington Generals but following Joyner’s game plan instead of Pafford’s would only increase the odds they blow a major opportunity in November. 

Reach Kevin Derby at or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN

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