1. Florida Politics

Florida Democratic chief backs 'stand your ground'

Published Mar. 25, 2012

Plenty of Florida Democrats are saying "We told you so" and calling for repeal of the "stand your ground" law in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, but not Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith.

Smith, a former prosecutor, cosponsored the bill as a state senator in 2005. He can't see how it could be used in defense of George Zimmerman, the Sanford volunteer neighborhood watchman.

"I've tried and defended stand your ground cases, and I've prosecuted murder cases," Smith said. "This individual (Zimmerman), as I understand the facts, moved the ground toward the confrontation. That's not a stand-your-ground defense. Unless there are facts that I'm not aware of, I think you'll see an arrest made. … It's hard to believe that someone was not arrested that night."

Stand your ground passed the Florida Senate unanimously in 2005, though Democrats in the House warned that it could lead to severe unintended consequences.

Smith said he still supports the law: "I did not believe then, and I still have a real concern why we should put a duty to retreat on a victim. If you were genuinely defending yourself, why did you have to retreat when you were not the perpetrator?"

One-on-one shooting cases without witnesses can always pose challenges for prosecutors, Smith said, but the objective evidence appears compelling in this case: "We're talking about a young man shot point blank at close range after you've been told not to pursue him — and no evidence that this young man was doing anything inappropriate. … Is it reasonable to believe the smaller person attacked the larger? The younger versus the older? The unarmed versus the armed?"

Argenziano opts for Florida House race

Former state Sen. Nancy Argenziano will abandon her campaign for Congress and instead move back to Citrus County and challenge incumbent Jimmie Smith for his seat in the Florida House. Argenziano had hoped to run for Congress as a Democrat, but recently a judge ruled against her challenge of a state law that prohibited her from switching parties less than a year before qualifying to run. She decided not to appeal.

Argenziano, who currently lives in Tallahassee, said she will move back into a home she owns in unincorporated Citrus County near Crystal River. She will campaign under her current Independent Party affiliation.

Without a major party's backing, it would have been nearly impossible to raise the money to be competitive in a congressional bid, Argenziano said Wednesday. She also didn't want to be a spoiler that prohibited a Democratic candidate from unseating incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland, a Panama City Republican.

Thrasher, Gardiner 'worked it out'

Remember that comment from former Republican Party of Florida chairman John Thrasher, in which he didn't want to concede defeat in the 2014 race for Senate president?

"In a year like this, when we have a big summer of elections, a lot of things can change, seems to me,'' Sen. Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, told reporters on Feb. 23 after failing to oust rival Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, in an attempted backroom deal that backfired. "I don't think anybody has pledges until the day they get designated. To me that's what it's about."

Never mind. "I'm supporting Andy,'' he said last week, repeating a comment he has privately told senators for weeks. "We worked it out."

As for 2016 in which Thrasher could face Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, for Senate president, that's another story — and Thrasher won't comment.

Lawsuit filed against Obama's eligibility

Larry Klayman, the conservative legal activist from Miami who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2004, has filed a lawsuit against the state over Barack Obama's eligibility to be on the general election ballot. Klayman wants to require Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to confirm the eligibility of Obama before placing his name on the ballot.

From Klayman's release: "Neither Mr. Obama, nor the Democratic Party of Florida, nor any other group has confirmed that Mr. Obama is a 'natural born citizen' since his father was a British subject born in Kenya and not a citizen of the United States. Therefore, according to Klayman, Mr. Obama is ineligible for the Office of the President of the United States until the state can confirm his eligibility."

Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch, spent $2.9 million on his 2004 primary campaign and won 1 percent of the vote.

Former U.S. rep's longtime partner dies

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley's partner of 28 years, dermatologist Layne Nisenbaum, died Thursday at age 53 after struggling with a rare form of cirrhosis of the liver.

"Layne was my most solid supporter through that ordeal," Foley, a Palm Beach County Republican, told the website Gossip Extra.

Foley had kept his homosexuality and longtime relationship with Nisenbaum secret, until 2006 when his political career blew up amid revelations that Foley had been sending graphic emails to congressional pages.

Drug testing held off during legal dispute

Gov. Rick Scott clarified last week that he wants most state agencies to hold off on implementing the state worker drug-testing requirement he signed into law until the state settles an ongoing legal dispute with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU of Florida challenged Scott's Executive Order 11-58, which required agencies to change their drug-testing policies so that it applied to job applicants and random employees, in May. Scott suspended the order in June.

"Because the legal case remains unresolved, the practical and logistical issues involved with implementing drug testing across all agencies remain the same," wrote Jesse Panuccio, Scott's acting general counsel in a Tuesday memo. "Accordingly, the guidance in the June 10, 2011, memo is still in place."

Times/Herald staff writers Mary Ellen Klas, Tia Mitchell and Katie Sanders contributed. Adam Smith can be reached at


This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge