Meet Dennis Baxley, the lawmaker who always stands his ground
Dennis Baxley has always stood his ground in Florida's political arena.
The Republican state representative who championed the self-defense law at the heart of the Trayvon Martin case is back in a familiar place: the national spotlight.
Baxley, 59, an Ocala funeral director, is a fifth-generation Floridian, devout Southern Baptist and father of five. He has the calming presence of a small-town undertaker and speaks with the determination of a conservative true believer.
"People tell me, 'You can't legislate morality.' Yes, you can," Baxley says. "Every bill we pass is founded in somebody's value system."
For nearly a decade, no other politician has been so closely identified with as many emotional political battles that transcend party and state lines. And no one has drawn as much attention, from MSNBC to the New York Times to Playboy to Fox News.
Baxley has been called "a one-sided lunatic" by a constituent in print and "a true blue reformer" by former Gov. Jeb Bush.
"He's a committed conservative," says Sen. David Simmons, a Maitland Republican and lawyer who helped write the "stand your ground" law. "He's a very even-keeled individual."