Blaise Ingoglia is no Ginny Brown-Waite or Mike Fasano

When Ginny Brown-Waite and state Sen. Mike Fasano pulled nasty, nakedly political maneuvers, they at least had the decency to downplay them.

Puppet master Brown-Waite infamously walked Richard Nugent into her old job as U.S. representative. Fasano responded by placing his friend from Pasco County, Al Nienhuis, in Nugent's old position as sheriff of Hernando. Take that, Rich.

But when asked about the moves, did they brag? Did they crow about their power to reward loyalists and cripple political rivals?

No, they said what politicians always say in these situations: They just did what they could to put the right person in the job.

That's the way things were done back in the genteel old days, by which I mean last year.

Yes, I know, I just used "Brown-Waite" and "genteel" in the same sentence, which would be indefensible if I wasn't comparing her with Hernando County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Blaise Ingoglia.

He's not just acknowledging his role as power broker; he's broadcasting it.

On Friday, Ingoglia sent out a news release saying the party would form a committee to review the qualifications of candidates — and interview them if they are willing — for the School Board vacancy left by Pat Fagan's resignation.

True to the traditional formula, he said the purpose of all this is to select the best candidate, "an applicant who will look out for the best interests of the students while being a good steward of taxpayer dollars."

Ingoglia broke from the script, however, in stating that he would have a hand in the selection — or hoped to — before Gov. Rick Scott makes a decision.

This didn't happen when former Sheriff Tom Mylander temporarily filled the seat of County Commissioner Betty Whitehouse, who died in office in 2004. It didn't happen when Tom Hogan Sr. served the remaining County Commission term of Rob Schenck after he resigned in 2006 to run for the state House. There was no committee to review candidates for Nugent's old job.

And those positions were all partisan. School Board seats have not been since Florida voters changed the Constitution in 1998 specifically to keep — or try to keep — politics out of local education.

So, why the review committee? Well, to put the politics back in, with Ingoglia serving as ideological gatekeeper. And if any candidate is suckered in by the language in the press release and starts talking about the best interest of students, they'll have the password all wrong.

Because you can forget about the Bush years, when Republicans touted school improvement as a conservative issue. To get through this interview, you're going to have to say you'll take the governor's proposed 10 percent cut in education spending and like it. You're going to have to be anti-union and, if you think about the impact of all these cuts, anti-teacher.

The party will "possibly" make a recommendation, Ingoglia said, and, yes, it will be done by committee. But these uncharacteristic touches of humility can't hide the fact that Ingoglia — recently elected to a minor position with the state party — is front and center.

Whether or not he really is a kingmaker like Brown-Waite or Fasano, that's certainly what he wants us to think.

Blaise Ingoglia is no Ginny Brown-Waite or Mike Fasano 03/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 8:28pm]

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