Voters upend Tallahassee's status quo

Article Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel

By Scott Maxwell

Published November 12, 2012


Those of you who have read my column for any length of time probably know I believe Tallahassee is the most repulsive part of this great state.

Tucked into the state's northwestern bend, it is Florida's unwashed armpit.

The legislature has mutated from a respected institution designed to do the people's will into an extremist, special-interest-driven morass that disrespects the constitution as much its constituents.

Now I know most of you agree because Tuesday's election was a repudiation of Tallahassee's status quo.

Powerful incumbents lost.

The Legislature's attack on the courts failed.

Most of the legislators' ham-fisted attempts to muck up the constitution and clog up voting lines went down in flames.

And, most historically, Central Florida voters appear to have done something that hasn't happened in a quarter-century in this state: oust a future speaker of the House a man who embodied much of what is out of whack.

This wasn't just a liberal rebellion against power-drunk Republicans. It was the work of another, neglected group of people I often write about: the "common-sense conservatives" often abused by the hacks who rule in their name.

Collectively, voters of all stripes finally stood up to say our state deserves better.

They were citizens who don't like politicians playing games with democracy such as gerrymandered districts.

Citizens who truly believe in constitutional principles and don't want legislators trying to mess with the checks-and-balances of the court system and attacking Supreme Court justices.

Citizens who watch their own pennies at home and fume when they see lawmakers wasting their tax dollars trying to overturn the public's vote for Fair Districts or to defend blatantly unconstitutional laws.

And citizens who were sick of seeing legislators travel to Vegas, dine at fancy restaurants and fund their campaigns with money from special interests that need legislative favors all while lecturing residents about the need to live within their means.

None of these actions represents true conservative values.

And finally, voters said: Enough.

They ousted establishment candidates, including incumbent Scott Plakon in Seminole County and former legislator Bob Brooks' comeback attempt in Orange.

And in the most remarkable event in the entire state, Seminole County voters appear to have ousted House speaker-to-be Chris Dorworth from a district that was specifically drawn to keep him safe, stocked with 25 percent more Republicans than Democrats.

If the results hold a recount on Dorworth's narrow loss is scheduled it will be the first time Florida voters have tossed out a designated House speaker since 1988, when Volusia voters rejected Democrat Sam Bell.

Voters also rejected eight of the 11 verbose constitutional amendments the Legislature proposed making exceptions only to provide help to disabled veterans, the elderly poor and widowed spouses of first responders.

And they voted to retain the three Supreme Court justices whom legislators wanted gone simply because these justices had forced politicians to play by the rules.

Time and again, the voters said: No more. Clean up your act. You can no longer steamroll me or my rights no matter how many perks and donations Walt Disney, Big Sugar and the trial lawyers provide for you.

The incumbents who survived had better pay attention because many of them are the enablers.

And if voters got the low-hanging fruit this year, they seem ready to harvest the entire tree.

Tuesday was a good day for common-sense conservatives. And Democrats. And anyone who wants to take this state back.

Tuesday was a good day for democracy in Florida.