Winner and loser of the year in Fla politics
We received a lot of strong nominations for winner and loser of the year in Florida politics — everyone from David Jolly, elected to Congress in a special election that most expected Alex Sink to win, to Gwen Graham, who unseated Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland despite a brutal climate for Democrats.
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her hand-picked Florida Democratic Party chairwoman, Allison Tant, could be the most logical losers of 2014 given the drubbing Democrats took. But we tend to look more forward than backward and view each year's winners and losers more in the context of how the past year will affect politics in the coming year.
So, drum roll please …
Winner of 2014
Jeb Bush. A dozen years since he last appeared on a ballot, the former governor's late 2014 moves toward a presidential campaign demonstrated the enormous clout and goodwill he still enjoys in America's biggest battleground state. He dwarfs both Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in stature.
Runnerup: Rick Scott. It looked grim for Florida's oft-maligned incumbent almost until the end, but thanks to an improving economy, a national GOP wave, and a 2-to-1 spending advantage, Scott made Charlie Crist the first major candidate to lose three statewide elections running under three different party affiliations.
Loser of 2014
Pam Bondi. It's hard to imagine how someone who won re-election so handily (rival George Sheldon could not afford a single TV ad) could emerge from 2014 more wounded and diminished as our Republican attorney general. Put aside the unseemly junkets funded by groups seeking to influence her. Bondi's clumsy communication skills and relentless defense of Florida's gay marriage ban have made her a modern-day Anita Bryant. Antagonizing Florida's gay voters over same-sex marriage and Hispanic voters over immigration reform ensures Bondi has a bright political future ahead of her — if she moves to Mississippi.
Runnerup: John Morgan. Lord knows how many more personal injury cases he earned from all his publicity in 2014, but Morgan still lost both his medical marijuana initiative and his shot at installing a pal, employee Charlie Crist, in the governor's office.