Sunday, May 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Special election sends a message to Tallahassee

Democrat Amanda Murphy's narrow victory in the Florida House District 36 special election is a repudiation of Tallahassee special interests and reflects the disconnect between Republican legislative leaders and their Pasco County neighbors on health care and education. It is only one election with a low turnout, but it could be the canary as Republicans head into the 2014 election cycle with an unpopular governor and a Legislature that does not reflect mainstream Florida.

Despite the substantial financial commitment to Republican candidate Bill Gunter from the state Republican Party, lobbyists and third-party campaign committees, Murphy narrowly won in this west Pasco swing district in an election that drew less than 20 percent of the registered voters. She won by emphasizing the consumer advocacy that mirrored the priorities set by her popular predecessor, former Republican Rep. Mike Fasano. He resigned in August to become Pasco's tax collector and later crossed party lines to endorse Murphy and campaign on her behalf.

By electing a Democrat as their state representative for the first time in 15 years, the voters who turned out made a statement against the Legislature's cruel refusal to expand Medicaid and deny health coverage to 1 million Floridians. Gunter parroted House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and future Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, in opposing Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act, which would provide health coverage to 150,000 people in the Tampa Bay region and nearly 30,000 Pasco residents. It emerged as the central issue late in the campaign with Gunter sending recorded telephone messages to voters tying Murphy and Fasano to the Affordable Care Act. Murphy supports accepting $51 billion in federal money over the next 10 years to expand Medicaid, and her victory suggests Weatherford's rigid ideology is not embraced by centrist voters in his home county, much less in Florida.

Murphy also wants to increase state funding for traditional public education, and she supports the Common Core academic standards. Gunter had advocated funneling more money to high-performing schools, and he refused to commit to the Common Core standards that are being inaccurately characterized as a federal intrusion into local teaching.

Gunter, 43, a Presbyterian minister, was making his second run for public office, having lost a County Commission race in 2012. Murphy, 43, a financial adviser and vice president at Raymond James & Associates, was in her first campaign. Her election should demonstrate to both political parties the limited value of recycling familiar names from past campaigns and the importance of identifying and recruiting smart candidates who are successful in their careers and committed to their communities.

Murphy narrowly won a competitive district, and this is only one special election. Republicans still hold a 75-45 advantage in the Florida House, and they are in no danger of losing control with so many safe districts. But Murphy's election in a swing district long held by Republicans, who spent considerable time and money trying to keep it, sends a message for 2014. The Florida House is more conservative than the state overall, and its most extreme positions are out of step with more centrist voters.

Comments
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

Editorial: Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida

It’s a safe bet Florida will get caught up in the frenzy to legalize wagering on sports following the U.S. Supreme Court opinion this week that lifted a federal ban. Struggling horse and dog tracks would love a new line of business, and state l...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/16/18