Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bousquet: John Morgan, candidate or not, is reshaping Florida politics

John Morgan is determined to leave a political mark on Florida, one way or the other.

The Orlando personal injury lawyer, famously familiar from his ads on TV, buses and billboards, is traveling the state and getting a feel from voters about whether he should run for governor in 2018.

In so doing, he's teasing Florida Democrats with the notion of something they have never had: a well-known candidate with name recognition who's wealthy enough to fund his own race, just like Rick Scott or Donald Trump.

Morgan says he's on a "talking tour." When politicians say they're on a listening tour, he says, "It's a bunch of bull----."

That's exactly what he said, as TV cameras rolled, last Friday to the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee. It's that kind of talk that could attract a following because it's different and it's not boring.

Morgan is brash, funny and a little profane. His hourlong talk, with key points scrawled on a yellow legal pad, was a political speech, stand-up routine and a lawyer's closing argument all rolled into one.

He made fun of his own TV ads that helped make him insanely rich.

He said he likes to lie in the sun because "brown fat looks better than white fat."

He says the word "s---" about as often as Gov. Scott says the word "jobs."

He says for-profit prisons — seven of which are in Florida — are scandalous and should be abolished.

Charter schools? They're for "rich people" and public school teachers are underpaid and underappreciated.

He calls a Trump-led attack on illegal immigration "the biggest hoax that's ever been played on America," because corporations depend on their cheap labor and everybody knows it.

Morgan, who just won a successful statewide campaign to legalize medical marijuana, wasn't joking when he said it's a travesty that so many people make so little money in Florida, where the minimum wage just went up a nickel — to $8.10 an hour.

He said he will consult with Jon Mills, the University of Florida law school professor and former House speaker, about crafting a ballot measure to give voters the chance in 2018 to put a higher minimum wage — at least $12 an hour — in the state Constitution.

That's a potential political game-changer in Florida on at least three levels.

First, if such a proposal reached the ballot, it could greatly increase voter turnout in a midterm election where Democrats have a dismal track record of getting their base out to vote.

Second, as the ultimate pocketbook issue, a "living wage" campaign would force every candidate for every office to take a position that could cost them votes.

Third, it would force the business community to spend millions of dollars on ads opposing Morgan's crusade, and that's money that otherwise would be lavished on pro-business candidates for statewide office and the Legislature.

Scott himself, already a leading potential GOP candidate for U.S. Senate next year, is in court in Miami-Dade, trying to strike down a citywide living wage ordinance in Miami Beach as unconstitutional.

Voters in four other states (Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington) approved minimum wage hikes in November, to at least $12 an hour by 2020. So it's an issue that's popular all over the country in red and blue states.

And if low-wage workers in Florida's service- and tourist-driven economy find out they can vote themselves a big pay raise, it just might start a movement.

Morgan and his money have already changed the Florida Constitution once. Why should people doubt that he could do it twice?

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com. Follow @stevebousquet.

Bousquet: John Morgan, candidate or not, is reshaping Florida politics 02/06/17 [Last modified: Monday, February 6, 2017 10:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut

    Blogs

    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview

    Hurricanes

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander

    Bucs

    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.

    Figures.

    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest

    Health

    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]