Sunday, Apr 20, 2014
Columns

Worse? GOP scandals or Dems’ inability to exploit?


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Firmly in control of the Governor's Mansion and Cabinet, as well as both chambers of the Florida Legislature, the Republican Party of Florida's hegemony over state politics has been unquestioned for over a decade. Yet, in the wake of a string of embarrassing scandals that have ensnared several Republican elected officials and politicians, GOP leaders have come to recognize that their opponents are not Florida Democrats.

No, the greatest threat to Republican hegemony in Florida is not the Florida Democratic Party. It's law enforcement.

Would it surprise you to know that law enforcement has taken out almost as many, if not more, Republican state officials than the campaign efforts of the Florida Democratic Party?

In case you are not keeping score at home, weíre now at three senior Florida Republicans scandalized in the course of the last two months.

First was Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who quit her post amid a gambling investigation into a nonprofit for which she once did work.

Second was Republican Party of Florida Finance Chair A.K. Desai, who resigned from the party amid turmoil at his insurance company and allegations by the state of ďa pattern of mismanagementĒ and illegal financial conduct at Desaiís St. Petersburg-based Universal Health Care.

Third, there is Jim Greer, the former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, who was sentenced last Wednesday to 18 months in state prison, plus one year of probation, for stealing from the party.

Three senior-level Republicans, all disgraced. And yet the Florida Democratic Party canít beat these guys?

I donít know which party is more incompetent -- the one with its leaders being investigated and scandalized, or the one that canít make hay out of its opponents' investigations and scandals.

And it's not as if this scandalous behavior appeared out of nowhere. Many, many Republicans throughout Florida have endured serious public relations, if not legal, issues.

Beginning with former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, through former House Speaker Ray Sansom and former state Sen. Jim Norman, and even recently with former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, the Florida Republican Party has had more egg on its face than a short-order cook.

Only one of those four politicians under investigation was removed from office after defeat at the ballot box. The others were either hounded out of office (Foley), arrested before charges were dropped (Sanson) or did not run again after being investigated by the feds (Norman). And these are just four examples that came to mind.

From Okaloosa to Palm Beach, at least a dozen Republican officials are or have recently been under investigation.

Yet the Washington Generals, err, Florida Democrats have been unable to make the case that the Republican Party is synonymous with scandal.

If I were in charge of the state Democratic Party, I would have a team of operatives and social media mavens doing nothing but making an argument greater than the sum of its parts -- that these scandals are not isolated, but endemic of the entire political system.

Think about it: Has much been heard from Florida Democrats after Carrroll resigned? Or after Greer was sentenced?

A Republican state legislator is currently being investigated by two media outlets for misappropriating a $2.4 million grant and there hasn't been one press release from the state Democratic Party.

Are the lights even on at Florida Democratic Party headquarters?

Or have they been permanently knocked out by the Republicans?


Peter Schorsch, a political consultant based in St. Petersburg, publishes and edits the Florida political blog SaintPetersBlog.com. Readers can contact Schorsch at saintpeter4@gmail.com.

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