Democrats and Republicans fire shots over Polytech votes
Before Gov. Rick Scott announced the creation of Florida Polytechnic as the state's 12th university on Friday, the Florida Democratic Party released a statement condemning the action.
“This move is nothing more than an appalling and wasteful power play by the Republicans in Tallahassee. The people of Florida didn’t ask for this university, they don’t need it and can’t afford it," wrote Brannon Jordan, Democratic Party spokesperson.
Powerful Republican Budget Chairman Sen. JD Alexander of Lake Wales pushed through the bill to immediately break off the University of South Florida's Lakeland branch.
But the Democratic Party release has one important omission: Most Senate and House Democrats also voted for the university.
That led Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry to quickly call out the Democatic Party condemnation as "nonsense."
"If they wanted to go after anyone on this issue, perhaps it should have been their own senators,” Curry said in a release.
Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich of Weston agreed.
"Before the party puts out a release, they should check and see how everyone voted," Rich said.
She felt comfortable voting for Polytech, she said, and she thinks most of her fellow Democrats did, too.
"I don't think this is a partisan issue," she added.
In recent weeks, public tide seemed to turn largely against the university, with lawmakers and citizens sending thousands of e-mails to Scott's office. Many lawmakers publicly urged Scott to veto.
That includes Rep. Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg, who sent a letter to Scott lobbying against the bill. The letter does not mention he voted for the university, then went back and changed his vote a month later.
"I just really wasn't comfortable," he said, adding that he became concerned with the university's financial impact on the state. "The last resort was the governor, I was hoping I could pull at his heart strings a little."