Steve Bousquet column: Johnnie Byrd plots comeback, this time as a judge
When Johnnie Byrd left Tallahassee after serving as House speaker eight years ago, the judgments were not kind — from his peers or the public.
Now Speaker Byrd wants to be Judge Byrd.
"I feel the call to public service," Byrd says. "I know that I can be the best circuit judge Hillsborough County has ever had."
He wasn't the best speaker Florida has ever had.
In Tallahassee, Byrd hired 13 communications specialists at a cost of $600,000.
He ran for the U.S. Senate while he was speaker, and got 6 percent of the primary vote.
He punished Republicans who refused to back him on an election-year phone-rate freeze.
He said House members were so docile they acted like "sheep." Lobbyists mocked him by wearing plastic sheep masks on the last night of his final session.
Byrd championed social issues as speaker. He fought for state intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, backed a parental-notice abortion law and sponsored Florida's ban on same-sex marriages.
As a partisan Republican legislator, Byrd criticized the "liberal justices" on the state Supreme Court.