An old-salt reporter I know had this great saying when you wondered whether voters would pick the best candidate for the job or the one with the greatest potential for crazy headlines:
Whaddaya want, he would growl — good government or good stories?
And oh, the potential for good stories this time around — if by "good" you mean stories of elected officials pushing polarizing personal politics, spouting outrageous and offensive pronouncements and igniting ignorance and fear instead of focusing on actual issues on the minds of citizens.
Then voters go and surprise you with a clear mandate to dispense with this silliness in hopes of getting something done.
From the top: Indiana tea party darling Richard Mourdock, who told us that a woman who gets pregnant as a result of being raped is actually getting a special little gift from God, thankfully lost in his bid for the U.S. Senate. Missouri congressman Todd Akin, who informed us that women's bodies have this super-secret way of preventing pregnancy if a rape is "legitimate" and not made up, was similarly kicked to the curb.
Here at home we had Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield, two county commissioners who ignored science and the professional opinion of dentists and experts and voted to boot cavity-fighting fluoride from Pinellas County's drinking water. They were asked to leave by voters more interested in moving forward than back.
Tallahassee legislators who were lazy or conspiring or both larded up Florida's ballot with 11 proposed Constitutional amendments. I thought we should say no to them all, not just for misleading or confusing content, but also because lawmakers wanted you to do their work for them.
Voters were smarter, saying yes to three and no to the rest, showing thoughtful consideration of individual issues like expanding homestead exemptions to more disabled vets. Lesson learned: Do not underestimate the kind of citizens who are willing to wait hours to vote early — despite the Legislature's best efforts to make it harder for certain people to cast a ballot this time.
Speaking of which …
Hillsborough voters declined to entrust state Rep. Rich Glorioso, who supported those voting changes in the name of a voter fraud problem that doesn't exist, as their elections supervisor. (Have you heard the one about the fox guarding the henhouse?) They picked Craig Latimer, a guy who has ably helped run the office for years.
Ditto Christian conservative activist Terry Kemple's bid to get on the Hillsborough School Board on the platform of keeping evil Muslims from stealing young minds.
Not interested, voters said, and re-elected Carol Kurdell.
And oh, the potential for headlines if state Sen. Ronda Storms had won the Hillsborough Property Appraiser's Office.
Imagine the side bets on how fast Storms would have worked her loud and proud anti-gay, anti-abortion causes into a traditionally dull job. (Dull until the previous occupant's porn scandal, anyway.)
Voters went with the competence of former legislator Bob Henriquez instead.
Good headlines or good government?
This election was a referendum on the latter.
Imagine the headline: Voters Say Crazy Won't Win the Day.