Unexpected Leaders Steve Crisafulli and New Democrat Boss Could Change the House Dramatically
Around the State
The Florida House will be led by two unexpected faces after next year’s elections but both of them should be ready to assume their leadership roles.
Steve Crisafulli wasn’t supposed to be House speaker. As early as 2009, Chris Dorworth had sewn up the votes to become speaker after the 2014 elections. But Dorworth went down to defeat in 2012 and Crisafulli quickly picked up the pieces to become the next speaker.
While they might be new to their new assignments, Crisafulli, Pafford and Williams have done time in the leadership. Crisafulli will test his wings as majority leader in 2014 and he should be able to solidify Republicans behind him. Pafford stepped into the leadership when he was first elected in 2008, serving as a deputy whip and now serving as the Democrats’ point man on policy. Williams has also served in whip capacities since being elected in 2008 alongside Pafford.
Pafford will be something of a change from Rouson. Business groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) have given Rouson much better grades than Pafford in recent years. Unlike Rouson, a former Republican, Pafford is more partisan. Earlier this week, Pafford even accused Scott of “twisting history” on Florida’s economy. Expect Pafford to be much more liberal and confrontational than Rouson would have been.
Still, that could be good news for Republicans to some extent. Republicans should easily keep their majority in the House next year. That means, if Democrats defeat Scott next year, whoever replaces Rouson will have to reach out to the other side of the aisle to pass legislation. If Crist returns to Tallahassee as governor, he might have been better served with Rouson as his House leader instead of Pafford.
Williams will suit the business community much better than Pafford. In recent legislative report cards from AIF and the Florida Chamber, Williams far outdistanced Pafford and even edged Rouson.
There will be more than a few political dramas going on when the Legislature convenes next year, the most prominent one being what Scott can do to shore up his credentials before he faces voters. But the rushed training of Crisafulli and Pafford or Williams as they prepare to lead their caucuses will certainly be worth watching no matter who prevails in the gubernatorial race.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.