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March column: State Rep. Grant gets demotion but he's OK with it

The list of state House committee assignments and chairmanships just released by Speaker Richard Corcoran represents an unusually high level of influence for the Tampa Bay area, says Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, even though the after-effects of a two-year-old court case robbed Grant himself of any leadership post.

Grant served two terms from 2010-2014 and had previous chairmanships, which should make him a candidate for leadership now.

But the 2014 election in his district was delayed by a court case involving a write-in candidate, causing him to miss the 2015 session. He was re-elected in a 2015 special election, so technically he's now a freshman again, and freshmen don't get committee chairs.

Still, Corcoran might have made an exception, except that Grant's experience level makes him a potential candidate for a future speaker position. Under Corcoran's new reforms, the speaker's race for Grant's freshman class of legislators isn't supposed to be starting yet, and if Grant got a chairmanship, it would look like a head start over the others in his class.

He even had to take a demotion to a freshman-level office location and parking spot. He's now in the Capitol's tower instead of his former location on the fourth floor just steps from the House chamber, and parks in the basement.

Grant says he accepts the situation. "It's important that as leadership in our class coalesces, that everybody be treated as freshmen," he said.

Will he be running for speaker?

"At the appropriate time I'll explore it, but I believe in the reforms and I don't want to do anything that sends a different message."

With a state House speaker from Pasco County and a future speaker, Chris Sprowls, from Pinellas, plus a solid list of chairmanships, "It's fair to say the Tampa Bay delegation has never been stronger," Grant said.

Among the leadership posts Corcoran announced last week:

• Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, expected to become speaker for the 2021 session, will chair the prestigious Judiciary Committee.

• Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, chairs the higher education appropriations subcommittee.

• Ross Spano, R-Dover, is chairman of judiciary subcommittee on criminal justice.

• Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, chairs the PreK-12 Education Quality Subcommittee.

• Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, will chair the Commerce Committee's Energy and Utilities Subcommittee.

• Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, will chair the PreK-12 Innovation Education Subcommittee.


State attorney Warren starts listening tour

New Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren this week began a "listening tour" in which he'll talk to community leaders, law enforcement officials and criminal defense lawyers about how to run his office.

Warren said the tour will consist of at least four meetings. The first was Friday, concentrating on black community leaders including elected officials, community activists and pastors.

It will continue with meetings with the defense bar; law enforcement leaders; outside agencies including victim's advocacy, crisis aid and civic organizations; and likely more meetings with community leaders.

"This is just the beginning," Warren said. "I've pledged to have continuing meetings with the community. That's not going to stop after the transition period."

Warren said the meetings "are an opportunity for the community to raise their concerns," but he expects discussion of issues from his campaign, including prioritizing violent and economic crime, giving young people and non-violent offenders second chances, and fairness and consistency in charging.


Elector buried with emails, letters

Robert Watkins of Tampa, a prominent GOP donor and fundraiser, figured being a member of the 2016 Electoral College wouldn't be that big a deal. It's a ceremonial honor handed out to top party supporters.

If a Republican won, he'd head to Tallahassee Dec. 19, cast his ballot in the state Senate chamber, and that would be pretty much it.

He didn't count on this year's weird election.

As of late last week, Watkins had received 55,000 emails, with more coming at the rate of more than 1,000 a day, and hundreds of letters and postcards, urging him to cast his ballot for anyone other than Donald Trump.

Many of the emails are coming from a form generated by the website It used the wrong address, however, so they're going to Watkins' wife, Nancy Watkins, also a prominent donor and campaign finance maven.

Some of the senders don't pay too much attention to what they're sending.

"My name is Robin bass from [Your City, State]," began one email. Others managed to fill in their city and state.

One letter was printed on stationery, including an envelope, that appeared to be from the Trump-Pence campaign, but the logo had Pence's name on top in bigger letters. It urged Watkins to vote for Pence for president and Trump for VP.

The deluge won't change anything. Watkins said he intends to cast his ballot for the Florida winner, Trump.


Cox-Roush lands role in Trump inauguration

Debbie Cox-Roush, a veteran Hillsborough County GOP activist and former county party chairman, will be volunteer liaison for Donald Trump's Inaugural Committee.

Cox-Roush previously served as top grass-roots organizer for the Trump campaign in Florida.

Contact William March at [email protected]

March column: State Rep. Grant gets demotion but he's OK with it 12/16/16 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2016 8:37am]
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