By Kartik Krishnaiyer
The silence is deafening. At a time when Democrats fortunes are soaring throughout the country and two years after the GOP was relegated to the minority in congress because of a culture of corruption, the Democrats in Florida are letting Speaker Sansom off the hook. Florida Democrats are unwilling to challenge Republicans on their questionable public behavior. Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenants in the US House successfully made ethics an issue in 2006. Florida’s own Suzanne Kosmas made it an over riding issue in her 2008 upset of former Florida House Speaker Tom Feeney.
Speaker Ray Sansom’s continued problems seem to be a hot potato for Democratic leaders in Tallahassee. They don’t want to get near it. Perhaps it’s because of the Democrats own embarrassment with a House Speaker from Northwest Florida (Bo Johnson in 1994) not so long ago. Or maybe it’s because the Democrats, so long in the minority have the attitude of a neutered puppy dog. The Democrats have become a submissive minority, not wanting to rock the boat except on a few issues a year and wanting to take home largely symbolic or frivolous legislation to claim success to constituents after each session.
Sansom has served in the House long enough to know the impotence of the minority party. The fighters who’d previously bring attention to the serious matter at hand have all moved on. The fighting spirit of Kendrick Meek and Tony Hill is no longer found among the House Democrats. The politics of accommodation and submission are fully on display from today’s Democratic minority. The last real fighters of the group, Susan Bucher and Dan Gelber are no longer in the House. What is left is a group of confused members who did well on the budget but don’t seem to realize that they must take the fight on ethics to the GOP, or relegate themselves to a permanent super minority status.
Sansom’s real opponent is the Capitol Press Corp. With accomplished media veterans such as Adam Smith and Steve Bosquet in Tallahassee, it’s difficult to escape all questioning. But the St Petersburg Times, Florida’s paper of record cannot wage this campaign alone. The Democrats however won’t engage in the battle. Perhaps that’s better than storming the beach with your soldiers and then cutting a deal, leaving them to die, as Legislative Democrats have done in the past.
Tomorrow we’ll explore the cradle of corruption in Florida. It’s not Northwest Florida where Sansom, Johnson and former Republican Senator Robert Harden (who also went to jail) hail from, but the Democrats own home base of Palm Beach and Broward Counties. Urban politics meets non ideological, personality driven politics deep in southeast Florida.