Saturday, December 16, 2017
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.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17