1. Florida Politics

Slavery memorial won't happen this year. But there's peace.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, didn't hear a bill at his committee that would have created a slavery memorial near the Capitol, stalling the legislation in the Senate. [AP Photo | Steve Cannon]
Published May 5, 2017

TALLAHASSEE — As Miami Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee and Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley dined Wednesday night on the street-side patio of a restaurant a block from the Capitol, the unlikely pair naturally piqued the interest of fellow patrons and passers-by.

Only five days earlier, Baxley, the descendent of a Confederate soldier who is known for his conservative views, had said a proposed Florida Slavery Memorial would "celebrate defeat." The remarks — even with an apology and clarification — immediately incensed McGhee and other black and Democratic lawmakers.

McGhee publicly called on Senate President Joe Negron "to step in and remedy this situation, or we deal with it on another level."

After several quiet days, Baxley and McGhee — two "good friends" who attend Bible study together once a week — made amends Wednesday night.

But lawmakers won't approve the slavery memorial this year as McGhee had still hoped. The Senate has no plans to take up McGhee's House-approved bill before the end of Friday when all pending policy bills die.

Over their casual meal at Andrew's Capital Grill & Bar two days ago — in full view of other lawmakers, legislative staff, lobbyists and other insiders — the two lawmakers "talked about our differences and realized we have more in common," McGhee said.

Both said they wanted to have a conversation before their public dispute escalated any further.

"I can be persuaded a lot easier than I can be forced, and they kind of changed their approach," Baxley said in reference to angered Democrats, who viewed his comments as racially insensitive. "We have different positions, and we have to listen to each other and what our reservations are. This [the Legislature] is how 20 million people have a conversation."

"I think conversations need to be had with those who differ," said McGhee, who is set to be the House Democratic leader after the 2018 election. "My previous interactions with Senator Baxley led me to believe he's a man that I can sit down and speak with, and I did."

Their quarrel stemmed from comments Baxley made April 28 that were published online in a Times/Herald story after the House gave unanimous approval to McGhee's proposal (HB 27) for Florida's first slavery memorial on the Capitol grounds in Tallahassee.

The Senate bill, by St. Petersburg Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson, had been blocked by Baxley, because Baxley never took it up in the government oversight committee he chairs. In explaining why, Baxley told a reporter he had "a discomfort about memorializing slavery" and that it would be too negative.

"I would rather celebrate overcoming the heartbreak of slavery. I wouldn't want to build a memorial to child abuse; I wouldn't want to build a memorial to sexual abuse," Baxley said. "I would like to take it in a more positive direction than a memorial to slavery."

McGhee sought "an immediate clarification," saying Baxley's comments were "borderline racism." By Friday evening, Baxley had apologized "if anything comes across like that" and he said that by "celebrate defeat," he had meant "adversity."

During their meal Wednesday, McGhee said Baxley pledged to "put his weight behind [the proposed memorial] and support it" — specifically by asking Negron, the Republican Senate president from Stuart, to bring McGhee's bill to the floor by Friday.

"He did give me his word that he would reach out to the president and see if we could pull it up before the end of the session," McGhee said.

Baxley said he did speak to Negron Thursday, but he expressed that he was more in the position of "not trying to obstruct it" rather than actively advocating for the bill. "I'm not blocking its passage; I'm not doing anything to interfere with it," he said.

Baxley said he wouldn't officially ask to bring up the bill — "I've signed off as being non-obstructive, if that's the will of the body" — and Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, said neither Rouson nor any other Democratic senator planned to do so.

"It'll happen next year," Braynon said.

Contact Kristen M. Clark at Follow @ByKristenMClark


  1. FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Donald Trump Jr. speaks before the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    University of Florida student body president Michael Murphy received a resolution for his impeachment Tuesday. Then the state’s Republican Party started an online petition and fundraiser.
  2. Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, filed a bill, HB 1161, to implement online voter registration in 2018.
    This week, GOP senators rallied support around Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, to become Senate president for the 2023 and 2024 legislative session.
  3. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, right, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday, in the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. SUSAN WALSH  |  AP
    Experts on foreign policy said it was ridiculous to think that one person could turn a country “bad.”
  4. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, talks with ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP) SAUL LOEB  |  AP
    Almost 9 in 10 think the House impeaches Trump but the Senate won’t convict.
  5. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker speaking during 2016 graduation ceremonies at the Florida State University College of Law. [Florida State College of Law] Florida State College of Law
    The ruling, if it’s not overturned, means that President Donald Trump will not automatically be first on the 2020 ballot in Florida.
  6. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Pensacola.
    Prosecutors say Farm Service Agency director Duane E. Crawson, 43, of Bonifay, led a conspiracy to get his friends, family members and acquaintances to recruit others to submit false applications for...
  7. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Panama City City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. His wife Casey DeSantis is pregnant with the family's third child. He joked that the family will have to transition from "man-to-man to zone defense." (Joshua Boucher/News Herald via AP) JOSHUA BOUCHER/ THE NEWS HERALD  |  AP
    The federal judge had ordered that 17 felons not be removed from the voter rolls before a lawsuit goes to trial next year.
  8. In this Nov. 12, 2019 file photo, Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, waits in line at the federal court in Washington. MANUEL BALCE CENETA  |  AP
    Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary...
  9. The Capitol is seen in Washington on. Impeachment hearings for President Donald Trump come at the very time that Capitol Hill usually tends to its mound of unfinished business. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
  10. This March 7, 2016, file photo shows the Trump National Doral clubhouse in Doral. WILFREDO LEE  |  AP
    A party spokeswoman confirmed to the Miami Herald Thursday that the annual event, to be held over several days in late January, will take place at Trump National Doral Miami, located near Miami...