For regular readers of this blog, you are already familiar with Senator 41, the legendary figure who helped us navigate the Byzantine politics surrounding the race for the Presidency of the Florida Senate.
During the 2012 legislative session, Senator 41 was the first to know about John Thrasher’s attempted coup. He was also the first to know about the deal struck between Andy Gardiner and Jack Latvala. All in all, Senator 41 seems to always be in the right place at the right time.
Who is Senator 41, you ask. Well, if you don’t know Senator 41, you don’t know one of the most powerful people walking the halls of the Capitol.
Senator 41 represents the 41st District, which may be difficult to find on a map. District 41 is comprised of about two city blocks, running the length of Adams Street in Tallahassee.
Senator 41 is, by far, the longest-serving member of the Legislature. He served with Mallory Horne. He served with Dempsey Barron. He has seen everything. Look up the definition of “institutional knowledge” and you’ll see a picture of Senator 41.
The ongoing rivalry between Latvala and Negron is not Senator 41′s first leadership fight. He was around the first time Latvala wanted to be Senate President, just as he was around when Ander Crenshaw and Pat Thomas agreed to split the job.
So why is Senator 41 contacting us now?
Because there is a push to have the race wrapped-up before Andy Gardiner is designated the Senate President after Don Gaetz, Senator 41 says. That’s why Bousquet, Klas and Van Sickler have written about it so much over the last 48 hours. Joe Negron’s supporters are in high-gear, according to Senator 41.
SaintPetersBlog: Good morning, sir, thanks for agreeing to chat with me.
Senator 41: Of course, Peter, but it’s not for you I am doing this … it’s that beautiful daughter you have. Like most everyone else in Tallahassee, I tolerate you because of who you are married to and your daughter. It’s why I tell my clients to advertise with you — so that you can continue to pay for those adorable outfits Michelle dresses Ella in.
SaintPetersBlog: I’m flattered, sir.
Senator 41: You should be. You out-kicked your coverage with those two.
Senator 41: Right, right, you want to know if your guy is still tied with Negron or if he’s down three votes as Bousquet and Co. have it.
SaintPetersBlog: Who is my guy?
Senator 41: Aw, hell, Peter, everyone knows you got your head so far up Latvala’s ass, I’m surprised you don’t have his beard.
SaintPetersBlog: I’ll admit, I am a fan of Senator Latvala.
Senator 41: See, that’s what I don’t get. You’re a Latvala guy, but you’re also a Brandes guy. Well, they don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on this Senate Presidency thing.
SaintPetersBlog: Yes, I know that. I have the unfortunate task of serving two masters.
Senator 41: Well, the whole point of the Bousquet/Van Sickler article was to out Brandes as not for Latvala. As it happens, Brandes didn’t let himself get painted into a corner.
SaintPetersBlog: Brandes said he won’t comment publicly, even though he has taken a side.
Senator 41: And whose side is that? Duh! Ask Latvala, he’ll tell you Brandes has not committed to him, so that must mean he’s committed to Negron.
SaintPetersBlog: So, the vote really is 13-to-10?
Senator 41: Not by math. First of all, Gardiner’s for Latvala. He can’t say it publicly because Senate Presidents don’t say who they are for, but Latvala brought him nine votes after Thrasher’s coup attempt. Andy owes Jack.
SaintPetersBlog: Fine, it’s 13-to-11 with three open seats in 2016, all of which the Times says will break for Negron.
Senator 41: Before we deal with 13-to-11 count, let’s deal with those open seats, even if its ridiculous to predict what might happen in Florida politics three years from now. Especially with your Uncle Char Char possibly back in the Governor’s Mansion.
SaintPetersBlog: OK, let’s do that. Matt Gaetz is a lock, right?
Senator 41: Yes, even if Doc Peaden keeps calling folks asking if he should run against Baby Gaetz.
SaintPetersBlog: Should he?
Senator 41: Hell no! Who is gonna fund that campaign? The FMA? Oh wait, they just helped Matt raise 250 grand. The NRA, Doc’s other base? I don’t think so. Marion’s committed to Matt no matter what, especially after he stands his ground on ‘Stand Your Ground.’ Doc needs to stay retired.
SaintPetersBlog: Well, maybe Latvala will recruit someone else?
Senator 41: Not likely. Despite what Matt thinks and does, Jack has stayed out of that race out of respect for Don Gaetz.
SaintPetersBlog: Oh, please…
Senator 41: He has! Jack hasn’t spoken to one single person who is thinking about running for that seat. You should know that.
SaintPetersBlog: Well, I like Matt. I’m happy he’ll be in the Senate. Hopefully, he’ll get the rest of you on Twitter.
Senator 41: What’s Twitter?
SaintPetersBlog: Nevermind. What about the other two open seats Bousquet and Van Sickler mention? Garrett Richter’s and Charlie Dean’s. They say Tom Grady is running for Richter’s seat and Dennis Baxley is running for Dean’s.
Senator 41: Tom Grady? $10,000-on-hotel-rooms-in-Bermuda Tom Grady? Yeah, he’ll go over real well in a Republican primary. And we’ve been down this road with Baxley before. No, I believe you’ll see more credible candidates emerge for those seats.
Senator 41: Of course you agree! But that’s not the point. The point should be that Negron’s proponents are so full of shit about the race being 13-to-10 that they have to look to open seats in 2016 as their back-up plan. That should tell you how confident they are about that 13-to-10 count.
SaintPetersBlog: But don’t they have Wilton Simpson?
Senator 41: Well, that’s what’s funny about the Bousquet/Van Sickler piece; on one hand they are writing that Negron’s folks are saying they have thirteen votes, yet with the other hand Simpson is saying he’s undecided. Which is it?
SaintPetersBlog: That’s what I was hoping you’d tell me.
Senator 41: Like a lot of folks, he’s still on the fence. People are genuinely on the fence.
SaintPetersBlog: Including Tom Lee?
Senator 41: You mean the Tom Lee who headlined a fundraiser for Jack Latvala’s campaign for Senate President? That Tom Lee? The Tom Lee who is getting muscled out of his own Senate Prez bid by the same folks who are the muscle for Negron? That Tom Lee?
SaintPetersBlog: I see your point. So where does the race really stand?
Senator 41: To answer that, you have to have a case of deja vu all over again?
Senator 41: Bogdanoff vs. Sachs.
SaintPetersBlog: What do you mean? Sachs won that.
Senator 41: Right … in 2012 … a presidential year … before weeks of bad press about not living in the district. Were Bogdanoff to run against Sachs in 2014, when the playing field is better for a Republican than it was in 2012, the ol’ Angel of Death could knock off Sachs and give Latvala a much-needed extra vote.
SaintPetersBlog: If we had ham, we could have ham-and-eggs, if we had eggs.
Senator 41: Stranger things have happened. If you would have asked me three months ago what year would it be before Mike Fasano wasn’t in the Florida Legislature, I’d have told you the year after never. Now look. They’ve got him tucked away in Dade City.
SaintPetersBlog. Alright, well, if you had to bet ….
Senator 41: I don’t gamble! At least not until Las Vegas Sands gets permission next year to make it legal…
SaintPetersBlog: Just say you had to bet … Who would you bet on, Latvala or Negron?
Senator 41: I’d say the vote is where it’s been since the day after the last election.
SaintPetersBlog: … And that is.
Senator 41: Too close to call.