I imagine the palace intrigue of North Korea is easier to follow than the GOP leadership fight underway in the Florida Senate. That’s why I sat down with “Senator 41” to discuss what is really going on behind-the-scenes.
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 you may be difficult to find on a map. District 41 stretches 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.
This 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 who does Senator 41 think will win this fight? Keep reading our interview Senator 41 to find out.
SaintPetersBlog: Good afternoon, Senator. It’s an honor to meet with you.
Senator 41: Yes, it is. Wait, I remember you. Didn’t you first come up here as a Page for that Chain Gang fellow?
SaintPetersBlog: Well, yes I did. That was 1994. What a memory you have, sir.
Senator 41: Remembering these things is what I’m all about. Just as I remember the last time my colleague, Jack Latvala, was involved in a leadership fight with my friends Jim King and Tom Lee.
SaintPetersBlog: Senator Latvala did not win that one.
Senator 41: No, he did not. But he learned many valuable lessons.
SaintPetersBlog: Such as?
Senator 41: The first one to make a deal loses.
SaintPetersBlog: How does that lesson apply to the current situation?
Senator 41: The contender who tried to make the first serious deal was John Thrasher. And he lost. In fact, he will likely come out of this the second-biggest loser.
SaintPetersBlog: Before you tell me who you think is the biggest loser, tell me what do you think will happen to John Thrasher.
Senator 41: Hasten his retirement from politics.
SaintPetersBlog: Are you serious?
Senator 41: No one else will say that today, but look for him to move on sooner than originally thought. He has betrayed Andy Gardiner and he tried to keep Latvala from winning. One of those two will be Senate President and that will leave Thrasher on the outside. John does not like the outside.
SaintPetersBlog: So, who lost the most in the last 48 hours?
Senator 41: Don Gaetz.
SaintPetersBlog: But he’s the President Designate, how could he have lost?
Senator 41: John Thrasher and Joe Negron did not make their move without Don Gaetz’ blessing. Some of my colleagues have even told me Don was pressuring them to side with Thrasher and Negron over Gardiner. If that’s true, that could be a disastrous mistake.
SaintPetersBlog: How so?
Senator 41: If Gardiner and Latvala make a deal, that puts one of them in succession after Gaetz. It is never a good situation if the current Senate President and the future Senate President don’t get along.
SaintPetersBlog: That doesn’t sound so bad?
Sentor 41: Really? What’s to keep Gardiner and Latvala from unseating Don Gaetz right now or before the next session? What’s to keep them from staging a coup in the middle of next session? What kind of cooperation can Gaetz expect from Latvala now or in the future, if, in fact, Gaetz betrayed his promise to stay out of the leadership fight?
SaintPetersBlog: I see your point.
Senator 41: My point is, you can’t put Baby in the Corner. In the Senate, you can’t betray Jack Latvala. You can vote against him. You can even attack him. But you can’t lie to him.
SaintPetersBlog: So what happens next?
Senator 41: Right now, despite what you may hear elsewhere, the senator with the most signed pledge cards is Jack Latvala. But that doesn’t mean Jack will win. First of all, Jack has to make sure he doesn’t peacock too much. You saw him at the Governor’s Club, right? That’s how he needs to be all of the time. He has to win this magnanimously. That may mean cutting a deal with Gardiner.
SaintPetersBlog: Wait, what? Cut a deal with Gardiner? But Latvala is winning.
Senator 41: Winning doesn’t mean won. Spend enough years in Tallahassee and you’ll learn that. Latvala could make a deal with Gardiner right now. Gardiner follows Gaetz and Latvala follows Gardiner.
SaintPetersBlog: But why would Jack do that?
Senator 41: Why not? He still gets to be Senate President one day. It’s not Jack is going anywhere. And he will get to spend four years as Senate President Designate. He’ll have the run of the place. In fact, I’d rather be in his shoes than Gardiner.
SaintPetersBlog: Wow, sir, talking to you is like interviewing Machiavelli.
Senator 41: I did not have the pleasure of serving with him, but he would have done well around here.