Saturday, July 21, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: A senate race filled with, well, politicians

Judging from all the in-fighting, snubbed egos and all-purpose conniving, you would be forgiven if you mistook the Florida Senate District 19 Democratic primary race as a sort of Borgias on Tampa Bay moment.

It's a very strange Senate district, with about 58 percent of its registered Democratic voters in Hillsborough County, before the district skips across Tampa Bay into southern St. Petersburg. In theory that means a candidate who can carry Hillsborough County has a very good chance of winning the Senate seat. What it also means in practice is that this election season is ripe for some lovely back-stabbing, not to mention an exquisite touch of feigned indignation.

Four Democrats are vying for the District 19 Senate seat — former state Rep. Betty Reed and her successor, Rep. Ed Narain, on the Hillsborough side, and Rep. Darryl Rouson and lawyer Augie Ribeiro on the St. Petersburg end of the district.

Let the plotting begin!

At first the race appeared to pit Rouson in Pinellas County against Reed in Hillsborough. Indeed, Narain, who is only completing his first term in the House, had assured Reed he wouldn't run for the job if she was in the race. Muddying the waters even more, Reed had enthusiastically endorsed Narain to take her seat in the House two years ago.

But that was then. That was before the pol whisperers began to flutter about the hustings like a Greek chorus of hand-wringing.

In a meeting with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Reed explained she had decided to come out of political retirement to pursue the state Senate seat because so many people, including Narain, had encouraged her to run. Seems fair enough.

People. People who need people.

And thus it was with a heavy heart, laden with sadness and regret that Narain reluctantly entered the District 19 race against his old, dear friend and mentor Betty Reed. Why?

Well it was those darn people. For it seems all sorts of people started cooing in Narain's ear, suggesting that perhaps Betty Reed simply wasn't up for the daunting challenges of a state Senate campaign. There were concerns about the 75-year-old Reed's health, so the naysayers naysayed. Her fundraising wasn't going so well. And, according to the conventional wisdom, there was the fear Reed couldn't beat Rouson.

"I feel betrayed," Reed said. Gee, do ya think?

But who are all these "people"? Narain was less than forthcoming.

Was Narain being courted by an imaginary friend? Was it a burning bush? Perhaps the Wizard of Oz? Did the candidate pay a visit to Fatima the fortune teller, who read his palm and saw the word "Senator"? Or perhaps as he walked down the street, legions, scores, masses of people called out to him pleading, no, demanding that he throw his hat into the Senate ring.

This was certainly good news for Rouson, who is figuring if Reed and Narain split the Hills-borough ballot he'll be nicely positioned to win the bulk of the Pinellas vote to claim the District 19 senate seat.

Narain has criticized Rouson for being too calculating during his tenure in Tallahassee, too willing to cross the aisle from time to time to support Republican measures for crass political purposes. Well, one can only hope so. It is Tallahassee after all, a den of legislative intrigue and wink-wink mischief-making. Perhaps Narain might have learned that had he stuck around the House for more than one term.

But it is a bit disingenuous to indict Rouson for being a self-serving glad-hander when Narain himself was more than happy to renege on his promise not to run against Reed because he saw an opportunity to advance his own political career. And let us not forget — the "people" have spoken.

Such an approach would fit in rather well in the Senate, where one's word is one's ironclad bond, until a better deal comes around.

Comments

Editorial: NFL calls wise time-out on disciplining protests

The National Football League kept an embarrassing situation from becoming even worse by shelving its new policy clamping down on players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.The league announced late Thursday it would suspend the 2-month old p...
Published: 07/20/18
Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is shoring up his final year in office with the proposed city budget he released Thursday. The plan includes no big-ticket items, opting instead to maintain ongoing investments in parks, roads and other basic public services....
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18

IRS making ‘dark money’ darker

Under a perverse interpretation of federal law, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations supposedly devoted to "social welfare" can spend large amounts of money to influence elections without publicly disclosing the identities of their donors. But instead ...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

The CrossBay Ferry appears headed for another round of rides across Tampa Bay, with local governments pledging one more year of financial support. But as more taxpayer money is steered into this project, it’s important to recognize what purpose the f...
Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18