Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Life as Kevin Ambler, after election, is pretty good

So what's it like to be Kevin Ambler these days?

What's it like to be the Republican who took on a Republican and exposed the truth about his vacation house bankrolled by a big-shot businessman?

What's it like to lose a state Senate election to that same disgraced rival? To be called a sore loser? To be the guy who embarrassed his party with legitimate dirt on a favored son and, some say, torched his own career in the process?

What's it like to be Ambler? Well, since you ask …

Pretty good, actually.

"There is life after politics," Ambler said cheerfully this week.

He was the white-haired lawyer-legislator in the state House you might spot on Fox News, arguing for an Arizona-style immigration law for Florida. He knew Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman for 20 years, worked on his first campaign, watched sports with him, represented him on legal matters, even.

In Tallahassee, Ambler says he helped his friend with a number of initiatives for the Salvation Army, which pays Norman $95,000 a year — a fat salary that has drawn the ire of folks who put hard-earned cash in those red kettles and now wonder exactly what it is Norman does to earn it.

Things got less chummy when the term-limited Ambler and Norman were eyeing the same Senate seat. If Norman ran for the House instead, Ambler reasoned, they could be "a team on getting bills done." Norman, he says, wasn't interested.

Party bigwigs threw their weight Norman's way. Mailers made it look "like I was a Democrat," Ambler says. Which in a Republican primary may as well be alley cat.

"I had nothing to lose," Ambler says. "I felt that I was the more qualified candidate. I had been a good Republican. I had deviated at times from the established path, but I'm known for putting principles over politics." (Phrases like that help you understand how his testimony last year helped win him a nearly $1 million judgment when he rear-ended a semi. And, no, that's not a typo.)

So Norman beat Ambler. Then came Ambler's lawsuit tying Norman to the failure to disclose a half-million dollar vacation home, already the subject of headlines and an ethics complaint. For a while there, Ambler got e-mails saying things like "go away" and "sore loser." Those stopped when Norman admitted the house was paid for by millionaire political activist Ralph Hughes.

So a judge booted Norman off the ballot and an appeals court put him back on. Ambler may disagree, but says he respects the ruling as "a well grounded, rational" decision that's an interpretation of law and not about what Norman actually did.

He laughs when I ask about his current relationship with the Republican Party. "There hasn't been a lot of communication there," he says. Still, he says, some supported him and privately applaud what he did.

His wife of 26 years sat beside him in court. His film school graduate son just finished working on a Ludacris video, and his daughter is a fine arts major. He just had a headline-making case about Stand-Your-Ground, a law he co-sponsored. Life doesn't sound bad.

And politics?

"I'm certainly going to have an opportunity to take a breather and collect my thoughts," he says.

Life as Kevin Ambler, after election, is pretty good 11/04/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 8:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Police: Uber driver's gun discharges during fight at Adventure Island in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An Uber driver's gun went off Sunday at Adventure Island during a fight between the driver and two passengers.

  2. Baker cautious on Pride politics

    Elections

    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  5. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips

    National

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.