1. Opinion

Ruth: Lessons from Florida's primary election

Long ago on an election night when the political prankster Dick Tuck found himself losing badly in a California state Senate race, he responded with a phrase few other politicians would dare to utter: "The people have spoken, the &^%$#&!"

Or words to that effect.

And with the campaign balloons having lost their air and the patriotic bunting hauled away after Tuesday's primary elections, the Florida voters have indeed spoken, offering a few lessons.

Let's begin with this: Money can't buy you love — and not many votes.

It's a good thing Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carlos Beruff is rich and has a day job. The Sarasota real estate developer sure isn't going to the Senate, despite spending about $8 million of his personal fortune trying to unseat incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Take This Job and Shove It.

During his failed presidential bid, it was hardly a secret that Rubio viewed his Senate seat with about as much enthusiasm as Colin Kaepernick musters hearing the The Star-Spangled Banner.

Then, as if by magic, once his presidential ambitions were crushed by Donald Trump, young master Rubio realized that a $174,000-a-year, do-nothing job where you only have to show up three days a week and which provides you a media platform to keep your mug in the public eye until 2020 maybe isn't a terrible gig.

And what did Beruff get for his $8 million? About 265,000 votes, or 18.4 percent of the vote. Beruff predicated his campaign on the absurd notion that he really wasn't a "politician." He most certainly is a politician. He's just not very good at it.

Lesson number two: Name recognition is critical in a campaign, unless your name is Jim Norman.

When the former Hillsborough County commissioner announced his bid to reclaim his old seat, everybody knew Norman's name. And that was the problem. He is the guy who, when the late political wheeler-dealer Ralph Hughes gave Norman's wife $435,000 to buy an Arkansas lake house, acted as if the moolah had popped out of a Cracker Jack box.

Norman insisted he knew almost nothing about the money and the lake house. And while the commissioner and former state senator was never charged with a crime, the whole thing looked awfully sleazy.

Fortunately for Jim and Mearline Norman, they'll be able to spend even more time at Casa Hughes, especially after last Tuesday when Mr. Lake House, What Lake House? was kept in private life by Republican challenger Tim Schock.

Lesson number three: Think of this one as the "Three strikes and you're a dope rule."

The campaign of term-limited Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner to unseat incumbent Hillsborough County Clerk of Circuit Court Pat Frank was nasty and unrelenting. Beckner went after the 86-year-old Tampa political icon, accusing her of not showing up for work, being lax on minority hiring, running an inefficient office and oh, being 86 years old.

Beckner even dispatched some negative mailers the same week Frank's daughter Stacy died. Very classy.

Frank crushed Beckner, and he could have been graceful in defeat. Instead, the commissioner petulantly said he would neither endorse Frank in her campaign against Republican Eric Seidel nor work on her behalf. Considering the margin of Beckner's loss, who really cares?

Memo to Kevin Beckner: When you've just run an unnecessarily brutally negative campaign against an 86-year-old beloved pioneering political figure and you've just had your head handed to you and you can't bring yourself to be gracious enough to acknowledge your opponent's victory — you're a dope.

Who was advising this chap on Political Etiquette 101? Dennis Rodman?

And that brings us to lesson four. Perhaps Beckner will some day return to the political arena an older and wiser man, blessed with the knowledge that, win or lose, the most important victory in any election is never losing one's soul.

Correction: An earlier version of this column misspelled the first name of Tim Schock, Republican candidate for Hillsborough County Commission.