Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ruth: Pop the cork on the political bubbly


When you are a political junkie, 2014 can't get here fast enough. This is going to be like going on a yearlong vacation with Keith Richards, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Al Pacino's Tony Montana. • Say hello to my little friend, Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche. • Elections, campaigns, smears, character assassination, bloviating promises, misleading claims, posturing, flip-flops, phony smiles, mounds of money, manipulative polling, feigned indignity — oh, sweet mystery of lies, at last I found you. • And it all begins as the quest to fill the seat of the late Pinellas Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-So It Was More Than a Bad Back, Okay?, begins to pick up steam between Republican primary candidates David Jolly and state Rep. Kathleen Peters to decide who will oppose Democrat and former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

Given this is one of the last swing districts in the nation, this race — both in the primary and the general election — promises to be bitter, below the belt and quite nasty. We will be blessed by an abundance of negative campaigning the envy of Machiavelli meets the Koch brothers. Good times, good times.

Later this year, Roche will be one of the last sitting Pinellas commissioners to vote to remove fluoride from the county water system to also run for re-election (last being the operative term here). Commissioner John Morroni voted to remove fluoride from the water in 2011 but voted in 2012 to put it back in, and Roche remained the only holdout.

Others may jump into the race, but at the moment Roche is opposed by term-limited state Rep. Ed Hooper and longtime Largo Mayor Pat Gerard. That suggests the incumbent ought not to start working on a second term inaugural speech.

How bad was Roche's fluoride vote? He might want to ask former commissioners Neil Brickfield and Nancy Bostock about what a career booster their nay fluoride votes turned out to be at the ballot box.

Of course, the Jolly/Peters/Sink congressional campaign and Roche's long road done only set the table for Florida's main event. Come this November, Villages Gov. Rick Scott is expected to square off against the man he succeeded, Republican-turned-Independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist.

We pause here to come down from a Janis Joplin-esque political high.

Does it get much better than this?

To be sure, Scott will be able to raise unlimited money. That's a distinct advantage. But money still isn't enough to transform a governor with all the stump personality of an Easter Island statue into a politician with a discernible pulse rate. Or put another way, Lenin has better current retail political skills.

Meanwhile Scott's probable opponent will be Mr. Is Everybody Happy? himself.

You couldn't conjure up two more starkly contrasting campaign styles — Lurch versus the Fernando Lamas of the I-4 Corridor.

Please, someone call Dr. Phil. I'm having a robo-call overdose episode.

There also will be no shortage of political subplots over the coming year.

Will the Florida Legislature allow the citizenry to vote? Or will Tallahassee limit early voting to 1 a.m. to 1:15 a.m. and require voters to produce now-defunct Blockbuster video membership cards as the only acceptable form of voter identification? Don't laugh.

Perhaps it is also possible the state's answer to The Da Vinci Code is broken when the public finally learns what it is exactly that House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-International Man of Mystery, actually does for a living, although whatever it is, apparently he does it very well.

And finally, perhaps 2014 will mark the moment when Florida's most junior U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Maybe I'm A Mainstream Conservative Republican, Maybe I'm A Tea Party Zealot, takes a position on an issue that lasts longer than a Fox News cycle.

You never know. It could happen. But don't get your hopes up.


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Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

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Stories about powerful men engaging in sexual misconduct are becoming so common that, as with mass shootings, the country is in danger of growing inured to them. But unlike the tragic news about that latest deranged, murderous gunman, the massive out...
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