Saturday, February 24, 2018
Politics

Two former Florida Congress members explain partisan gridlock

TAMPA — Gerrymandering, closed primaries and the role of money in politics are the biggest forces pushing members of Congress to extreme positions and preventing bipartisan problem-solving.

That's the assessment two former members of Congress, one Democratic and one Republican but both moderates, offered at a forum Thursday.

"The amount of time you're expected to fundraise — fundraising is the No. 1 job, 20 to 30 hours a week," said former Rep. David Jolly, R-St. Petersburg, when asked to name his biggest surprise on taking office.

Patrick Murphy, a Democrat from Jupiter, responded with a story about forming a bipartisan group with a Republican fellow freshman to try to work on issues both sides could agree on, including eliminating government waste.

They produced a bill identifying $450 billion in waste, he said. But the effort fell apart when Republican House Speaker John Boehner told Murphy's Republican colleague he wouldn't allow a bill to come up if it included a Democratic co-sponsor.

Murphy said the Republican was told, "We're not going to make Murphy look good — we're trying to defeat him. If you work with him, we're going to drop you from your committee." That would have prevented the Republican colleague from raising money for re-election.

Thursday's forum at the University of South Florida, "Why gridlock rules Washington, and how we can solve the crisis," is one of a series on campuses by the two former representatives.

Jolly won the St. Petersburg House seat in a special election in 2014, but lost it to Democrat Charlie Crist in 2016, after alienating party leaders by publicly decrying the emphasis in Congress on fundraising.

He said when he first arrived in Washington, GOP caucus leaders told him his first responsibility was to raise money, not learn about issues.

Murphy, a former Republican, changed parties in 2011 because he felt the GOP was becoming too extreme. He won his House seat, but then lost to Marco Rubio in the 2016 Senate race.

Murphy said freshmen are subject to "brainwashing" to raise money and make holding or gaining majority control for their party their top priority.

"The single biggest change I would make is gerrymandering," he said. Because 90 percent of congressional districts are basically predetermined as Republican or Democrat, "There's only one election that matters," he said. "You've got to win a primary."

To win a primary, Murphy said, "You've got to go to the far left or the far right."

Jolly said he believes he lost his re-election bid largely because the PACs and party leaders he had alienated abandoned him.

But he said the encouraging message is, "Voters can fix these things."

He cited the Fair Districts Amendment passed by Florida voters in 2010, which lessened gerrymandering, and successful initiatives in other states to institute open primaries. In Florida's closed primaries, only members of the party can vote.

But, Jolly said, "It will take a scandal to change anything on campaign financing."

Contact William March at [email protected]

Comments
Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushnerís security clearance

Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushnerís security clearance

WASHINGTON ó A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, three people fami...
Published: 02/23/18
Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

TAMPA ó A bipartisan pair of former congressmen spoke Friday about gun safety measures that are more drastic than those being considered following the Parkland school shootings, and about hopes for a national youth movement comparable to the 1960s an...
Published: 02/23/18

Gulfport candidates draw stark contrasts

GULFPORT ó One candidate is a plain-spoken, straightforward technology consultant who preaches "conservative fiscal responsibility" and votes Republican in national elections.The other is a self-proclaimed "progressive liberal" who practices law, pro...
Published: 02/23/18
William March: Gun issues playing bigger role now in local races

William March: Gun issues playing bigger role now in local races

In the aftermath of the Broward County high school shooting, gun rights issues have jumped to the forefront of local legislative races.Democratic challengers are calling out incumbents in Tampa legislative seats on their past stances on gun control."...
Published: 02/22/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose to President Donald Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the presidentís call last summer for a ban on all transgender service, acc...
Published: 02/22/18
Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

After an emotionally draining day that captured national attention ó the massive rally in Tallahassee and a small, tearful gathering of survivors at the White House ó CNNís Wednesday night town hall on the Parkland shooting could have easily been ove...
Published: 02/22/18
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

A St. Louis grand jury has indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge related to the Republicanís affair with a woman in 2015. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced the indictment Thursday. She launched an ...
Published: 02/22/18
Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trumpís club

Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trumpís club

Two weeks after President Donald Trump nominated Florida businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr. to be ambassador to Barbados, Rizzuto pledged thousands of dollars to fund a gala at Trumpís Mar-a-Lago Club, the galaís organizer said.Rizzuto and his wife, Den...
Published: 02/22/18
Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

New charges were filed Thursday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, ratcheting up the legal pressure on them as they prepare for a trial later this year.A new indictment has long been expected in special cou...
Published: 02/22/18
Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Gun advocates are absolutely right about this:A ban on assault weapons will not end school shootings.How do we know?Because there was a federal ban on assault weapons for 10 years, and mass killings persisted. Thatís because a ban deals only with fut...
Published: 02/22/18