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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ex-Gov. Bob Martinez, former 'drug czar,' offers advice to Bondi

Former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez was the nation's "drug czar" in the early 1990s.

The Florida Channel

Former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez was the nation's "drug czar" in the early 1990s.

30

November

If Attorney General Pam Bondi is considering serving as the nation's next drug czar in Donald Trump's White House, she might think twice -- especially if she talks with another Floridian who held the same job nearly three decades ago.

That would be Bob Martinez, the former Republican governor and mayor of Tampa, who held the post in 1991 and 1992 in the last two years of President George H.W. Bush's term. When Bush lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, Martinez headed back to Florida.

In the alphabet soup of the federal bureaucracy, the Cabinet-level agency is known as ONDCP, the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

After Martinez lost his 1990 re-election bid to Lawton Chiles, he was hired as the nation's second drug czar, succeeding Bill Bennett, who went on to a career as a leading Republican pundit and talk-show host.  

Martinez, now a lobbyist at Holland & Knight's Tampa office, knows the route to Senate confirmation. He schmoozed with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, then chaired by Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware, completed the lengthy Senate questionnaire for high-level appointees, and won Senate confirmation on an 88-12 vote. He also endured his share of negative press coverage along the way, like the 1992 Orlando Sentinel editorial that said: "The drug czar office of Bob Martinez is a joke. It has neither the power nor the right people to fight the nation's drug war.")

Back in the early '90s, crack cocaine and marijuana use were seen as major drug problems. Lately, the drug czar's mission hasn't been attracting a lot of attention, even though overdoses and deaths from heroin, fentanyl and opioids have reached crisis proportions in many parts of America.

"I've not seen much from that office," Martinez told the Times/Herald. "It doesn't seem to have the same visibility as it did when I served. It has declined in terms of visibility."

He said the job required working with other federal agencies, law enforcement agencies, states and local governments, and to get drug treatment money to where it was needed most.  "You do a lot of jawboning to get things done," Martinez said. "It's not something that's direct. Policy is your domain."

Bondi is the subject of much speculation that she'll be offered a job in Trump's administration after working to help him win Florida. She actually would be the third Floridian to hold the post: Gil Kerlikowske, a Democrat and a USF graduate from Fort Myers, also held the post under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2014. Kerlikowske currently serves as Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 11:20am]

    

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