A battle for power in the Florida House ó years in advance

Article Courtesy of  The Miami Herald

By Steve Bousquet

Published July 11, 2012


Term limits has prompted lobbying by politicians to seek leadership positions beyond the next election.

What will you be doing in November 2018?

While you ponder such an odd question, consider this: The race is already underway to choose the speaker of the Florida House in 2018, involving people who havenít been elected yet.

Bizarre, but true. 

Without question, this is one of the most illogical and potentially dangerous side effects of term limits.


House candidates are limited to eight years ó four, two-year terms. The instant they hit the campaign trail, they can hear the ticking of that term limits clock.

Consumed with ambition, they run for speaker without first showing the ability to lead. This is the speed-dating version of running for class president, with much more serious consequences.

Why should you care whoís speaker of the House? That person helps decide whether your taxes go up, whether your kids can receive health care or how long youíll be stuck in traffic.
A speaker could become a U.S. senator, like Marco Rubio, or be driven out by controversy, like Ray Sansom.

Rep. Jose Oliva describes some of his ideas as Manny Diaz, Jr., president of the Hialeah-Miami Lakes Republicans, stands by during a meeting of the club at Las Dilicias restaurant in Hialeah on Sept. 14, 2011

With Republicans firmly in control, the next three speakers have been designated by GOP members: Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel takes over this fall; Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary in 2014; and Richard Corcoran of Trinity in 2016.

But thereís a scramble developing for six years out, with Rep. Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes leading the charge.

Oliva is building friendships with candidates the best way Tallahassee politicians know how: by raising money for them. Oliva, 39, a father of three, is CEO of his familyís cigar business, and said heís not asking people to support him for speaker.

"Talking to people, understanding what they want and building those relationships," is how Oliva described it. "If I get the opportunity, I would like to be in leadership."

Heís a "red-shirt freshman," elected in a 2011 special election (a half-term does not count against the eight-year term limit). That gives him an edge on incoming freshmen (38 of the 120 House seats are open in this yearís elections).

Oliva recently held a fundraiser in Miami for termed-out Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. Fasano is running for a Pasco House seat and calls Oliva a "dear friend."
He sees nothing wrong with Olivaís early candidacy for speaker: "Itís going to be up to the members anyway. Itís a long way off."

But Fasano says Oliva did not press him to commit to a speakership candidacy, and he wouldnít anyway.

"Let me get elected first," Fasano said.

Oliva recently circulated a fundraising appeal among lobbyists on behalf of 11 Republican hopefuls, including Jake Raburn of Lithia and Joe Wicker of Riverview.

"Below is a group I am bringing to town," Olivaís email said.

Other candidates are appalled by the jockeying.

"Itís compromising the process," says ex-Rep. Gus Barreiro of Miami.

"I donít want to commit. I need to get elected first," said Holly Raschein, whoís seeking a House seat in the Keys. "Itís too early."

Oliva himself has a Republican primary opponent, and heíll have lots of competition for speaker. But itís a race against time, and the clock is already ticking.