Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Politics

Romano: Betting on the biggest stories of 2018 in Florida

To listen to us, you would think we have the world figured out.

That goes for politicians, pundits, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between. We are all so enlightened on Facebook and so self-sure on Twitter.

And yet, a year ago, who identified Doug Jones as the next senator from Alabama?

Or, for that matter, state Sen. Jack Latvala as the embodiment of a Lothario?

The truth is, we all know a little, but not as much as we think.

With that in mind, here is a look ahead at some of the storylines that will likely shape 2018 in Florida and Tampa Bay. These are not predictions, just an unscientific stab at probabilities.

For instance …

What are the odds Bill Nelson holds off Rick Scott in a U.S. Senate race?

While Democrats in other parts of the country are fantasizing about the possibility of regaining control of Congress, there is a very real possibility they could lose a Senate seat in Florida.

It’s true Scott never received more than 49 percent of the vote in his two gubernatorial victories, but his reputation has never looked so good. He’s toned down the tea party pandering, he appeared in control during Hurricane Irma and Florida’s economy has rebounded under his watch.

Call it a shaky 3-to-2 for Nelson.

What are the odds Curtis Reeves sees a jail cell in 2018?

We are two weeks shy of the fourth anniversary of the fatal shooting in a Wesley Chapel movie theater. And still there is no trial date in sight for retired Tampa police captain Curtis Reeves.

Officially, his attorneys are appealing a court ruling that denied his "stand your ground’’ defense. Unofficially, they seem to be slow-walking the case for as long as possible while the 75-year-old Reeves remains free. Envisioning Reeves incarcerated means both a trial and a guilty verdict.

Call it 2-to-1 against a jail cell.

What are the odds John Morgan runs for governor as an independent?

The famed lawyer removed himself from contention for the Democratic nomination, but left the door cracked for an independent run. He correctly sees dissatisfaction across the board with both major political parties, but an independent bid will not be easy to pull off. Even in a state where more than 27 percent of the voters are not registered as either Republican or Democrat.

Call it 3-to-1 against a Morgan campaign.

What are the odds Hillsborough County, the city of Tampa and the Rays come to terms on financing for a new baseball stadium in Ybor City?

If the stadium cost $400 million, the odds would be pretty good. Unfortunately, the cost will be closer to $800 million. And that’s going to be a tough problem to solve.

The Rays have floated $150 million as their share, but I would assume they’ll be in for $200 million or more if this gets solved. That leaves roughly $600 million for the county and city. Right now, the city doesn’t seem to have any appetite for that type of spending.

Financing is going to have to be creative, and it’s going to require business leaders to somehow get involved. And that’s going to take both time and pressure.

Call it 4-to-1 against a deal by this time next year.

What are the odds Pasco County’s Richard Corcoran is the governor of Florida?

While Republicans are in firm control today, and Democratic candidates are not terribly inspiring, the GOP’s path to victory has some hurdles. A Corcoran vs. Adam Putnam primary will require both candidates to veer far into the right-wing lane to attract Trump voters. And, considering the president’s unpopularity in polls, that could eventually be a problem in the general election.

Corcoran is shrewd and ruthless, but his cynical nature may eventually work against him.

Call it 3-to-1 in Putnam’s favor.

What are the odds Hillsborough teachers and the school district work out their differences? Too much at stake for both sides. 4-to-1.

What are the odds the Pier construction saga grows uglier? No odds. That’s a sure thing.

What are the odds Congress finally passes flood insurance reform? Considering it’s gotten three temporary extensions in the past few months, and it’s not a presidential priority, call it 3-to-1.

What are the odds I’m completely wrong about all of this?

Well, that’s even money.

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