Mike Fasano: Florida's new Claude Pepper?
The most vocal and effective critic of the Republican agenda in Tallahassee stood before a TV camera to assess the 2011 legislative session.
"C minus,'' he graded. "We were unsuccessful at getting any legislation even to the Senate or the House floor that would create jobs or stimulate our economy. We seem to only see legislation that would put more hurt on the consumers of the state of Florida. ... The little guy and gal back home, they were not looked after in this last session."
The state Democratic party chairman? The minority leader in the state House or Senate? Try state Sen. Mike Fasano, the lifelong Republican who was passing out campaign fliers for Ronald Reagan long before the GOP came to dominate Florida politics.
Longtime friends are scratching their heads at Fasano's penchant for regularly criticizing fellow Republicans.
One moment Fasano, 52, is blasting colleagues for supporting an insurance bill he insists will sock consumers with big rate increases. The next he's calling Gov. Rick Scott "clueless" for talking about phasing out state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Or telling a Pasco civic group that the session was tainted by Republican Senate President Mike Haridopolos' U.S. Senate ambitions and House Speaker Dean Cannon's prospects as a lobbyist.
"Somewhere along the line, something shifted for Mike. I've noticed the change. I don't know whether deep down Mike is a moderate,'' said state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who in one committee meeting this spring rebuked Fasano for badgering one of Gov. Scott's prison administrators talking about cutting hundreds of corrections jobs. "Mike was a stalwart for Tom Feeney, probably one of the most conservative House speakers Florida ever had. Think about that for a minute.''