After learning Rep. Darryl Rouson created his own campaign and fundraising apparatus for state House races, several elected Democrats are publicly calling for Rouson to step down as caucus leader. If Rouson doesn’t opt to leave voluntarily, party leaders are suggesting they have enough votes to force him out.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, State Rep. David Richardson circulated a letter for other Democrats to sign “calling for Representative Rouson to resign his position as the Democratic Caucus Leader-Designee effective immediately.”
Looking back at this entire episode, it’s really no surprise that Rouson is about to be pushed out. First of all, Rouson (a friend and former client of mine) was a registered Republican until needed to switch parties to run for the state House seat. And no matter how hard he tries, some Democrats will never forget Rouson’s GOP roots.
Second, Rouson will be forever tainted by his close association with consultant Barry Edwards. There is no doubt that Edwards is one of the brightest political minds in all of Florida politics, but some folks just will not forgive Barry for his personal sins from more than a decade ago. More relevant to this situation, some Democrats will not forgive the fact that Edwards was consulting for at least one Republican state House candidate as late as 2010.
So, yes, Rouson will likely be pushed out as House Democratic Leader. But here’s why doing so presents a reeeaaalllyyy awkward situation for Florida Democrats.
Who is Rouson’s best political friend? That’s right, Charlie Crist. And who is likely to be the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer in next year’s gubernatorial race? That’s right, Charlie Crist.
Crist and Rouson will be all but inseparable on the 2014 campaign trail.
Were Crist to win next year, guess who his point person in the Legislature would be? That’s right, Darryl Rouson.
So even if House Democrats succeed in pushing out Rouson now, it’s possible he will be much more powerful by the start of the 2015 Legislative Session than if he was simply serving as House Democratic Leader.
So go ahead, Florida Democrats, strike down Darryl Rouson. But, to paraphrase Obi-Wan’s warning to Darth Vader, if you strike him down, he shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.