Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

The winners and losers list of 2011 Florida politics

Over the past year we watched our governor learn that Tampa Bay is a region in Florida, the "Taj Mahal" courthouse fiasco end the judicial career of a GOP power broker-turned appeals court judge, and GOP activists overwhelmingly declare Herman Cain their top choice for president.

Florida Republican leaders snubbed the national party for the second presidential cycle in a row by setting a January presidential primary, while Democrats showed us, er, nothing. Are there any relevant Democrats left in Florida politics besides Bill Nelson?

Lots of options for the political winners and losers of 2011. But there can only be one winner of the year and one loser of the year. Here we are:

Winner of the year

Jeb Bush. Absence makes the heart grow fonder every day, especially when Republicans compare the former Florida governor to the current field of presidential contenders and his two successors as governor.

Loser of the year

Mike Haridopolos. The Florida Senate president presided over an embarrassingly ugly session finale where he looked positively weepy about getting rolled by the Florida House. Then, before admitting that he lied to reporters about approving a severance deal for ousted GOP chairman Jim Greer, Haridopolos had to quit his collapsing U.S. Senate campaign that risked permanently damaging his political brand amid publicity about sweetheart book deals and consulting contracts he never could explain reasonably.

Runnerup winners

Michael Long. The 20-year-old New College sophomore and member of the Board of Governors showed more backbone than most state leaders, calling out Florida Senate budget chief JD Alexander for threatening higher education if he didn't get his way in turning University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland into the state's 12th university.

Alvin Brown. He began as a long-shot Democrat running for mayor of Jacksonville but put together a broad coalition of support to become the first African-American mayor of Florida's largest city and deal a big blow to tea party Republicans in the state. He finishes the year with strong approval ratings and looks like a future statewide contender.

Pam Bondi. Over the early opposition of Gov. Rick Scott, the attorney general and other allies of the prescription drug monitoring database managed finally to get it kicked off to thwart doctor-shopping and over-prescribing of pain meds in a state beset by the prescription drug crisis.

Mike Fasano and Paula Dockery. Shunned by fellow Republicans leading the Florida Senate, the Tampa Bay senators emerged as the highest-profile consumer advocates in Tallahassee.

David Bitner. The late GOP chairman brought a steady hand to a party beset by turmoil and continued building the party back up with energy and dignity as Lou Gehrig's disease took its toll on his body.

Presidency 5. Okay, so Cain's candidacy didn't pan out so well after Florida Republicans launched him to the top tier at the P5 straw poll. But the event still drew loads of national attention and reminded the country Florida politics are rarely predictable or dull.

Marco Rubio. Polls suggest he wouldn't necessarily deliver Florida to the GOP nominee, but Florida's junior senator remains a superstar after a year in office and Republicans' top choice for vice president.

Ellen Freidin. The Fair Districts reform initiative she led in 2010 is still standing after legal challenges and in the long term may prove to be one of the most significant developments in the modern history of Florida politics.

Runnerup losers

George LeMieux. Charlie Crist made his old campaign manager a somebody in Florida politics, but now on his own and struggling to escape Crist's shadow, LeMieux looks more and more like a nobody in Florida's GOP Senate primary.

Adam Hasner. The hyper-partisan former state House majority leader is trying to follow the Rubio playbook to the U.S. Senate, but after nearly a year of criss-crossing the state is struggling to break 2 percent in the polls.

Rod Smith. The state Democratic Party chairman seems not to have emerged from the undisclosed bunker Alex Sink stuck him in during their gubernatorial campaign. Virtually invisible, Smith has led the party while it took a drubbing in fundraising from the state GOP.

David Rivera. The Miami congressman beset by ethical and legal questions and investigations may not wind up charged with anything, but colleagues in Washington are keeping their distance and his fundraising is anemic.

Barack Obama. His support among independent voters dropped significantly in Florida in 2011, while the GOP-controlled Legislature enacted new restrictions on voting that could cost Obama in 2012. He has a lot of work to do to win Florida again.

Tim Pawlenty. The former Minnesota governor had a strong network of support in Florida, but pulled the plug on his campaign before seeing just how quickly fortunes would rise and fall in the GOP primary.

Rick Scott. He read his narrow victory as a mandate from a conservative Florida electorate, rather than part of a massive Republican wave that's unlikely to be around when it's re-election time. An image makeover that included banning ties from his wardrobe hasn't softened poll results showing him to be America's most unpopular governor. He starts 2012 with the danger that Florida's poor perceptions of him could be hardening.

The winners and losers list of 2011 Florida politics 12/31/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 31, 2011 6:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  2. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

    World

    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    Minnesota Twins pitching coach Neil Allen jogs back to the dugout after paying starting pitcher Tyler Duffey a visit on the mound in the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
  4. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond

    Crime

    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg mayoral election is about going forward, not back

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally