For regular readers of this blog, you are already familiar with Senator 41, the legendary figure who has helped us navigate the Byzantine politics surrounding the race for the Presidency of the Florida Senate.
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 comprises 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 Jack Latvala and Joe 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? He says that he wants to update us on Latvala vs. Negron now that the 2014 Legislative Session has concluded.
SaintPetersBlog: Good morning, sir, thanks for agreeing to chat with me.
Senator 41: Indeed it is a good morning, Peter. It’s much, much more pleasant to serve in the Legislature when the bucks are flowing.
SaintPetersBlog: It would seem the spigot’s back on?
Senator 41: Just in time for the election, too. Speaking of which, what’s up with your guy Charlie saying he’s gonna go to Cuba. What’s the upside in all of that?
SaintPetersBlog: Well, Governor Crist clearly understands he can’t out-fundraise Governor Scott, but he can receive more free media than the Governor. And what better way to earn earned media in the doldrums of June or July than jetting off to Havana.
Senator 41: Heh.
SaintPetersBlog: Sir, the last time we spoke you framed the race for the Senate President as Joe Negron’s to lose. Is that still the case?
Senator 41: No, don’t put words in my mouth. I said it was too close to call. And it still is.
SaintPetersBlog: So what do you have new to say?
Senator 41: That’s it, that the race is too close to call.
SaintPetersBlog: But it’s always been too close to call!
Senator 41: It wasn’t there for a moment.
Senator 41: There was a moment, right around the beginning of the year, when Negron had 13 votes, maybe 14 votes and was about to lock up the race, but now that doesn’t seem to be the case.
SaintPetersBlog: Wait, if he had 14 pledges, why didn’t he just seize the day, so to speak?
Senator 41: Because he wants a full 15 pledges in hand.
SaintPetersBlog: That’s a little ambitious, no?
Senator 41: Indeed it is, but a one-vote lead is not enough to have the race declared over. So Latvala continues to hang around, staying afloat with his alligator arms.
SaintPetersBlog: Again, this is not breaking news.
Senator 41: You don’t get it … the fact that Negron has not been able to declare victory IS breaking news. Especially since Jack’s bete noire is about to become president of that women’s college.
SaintPetersBlog: I assume you re referring to Senator Thrasher and THE Florida State University.
Senator 41: Of course I am. Now, some folks think that with Thrasher at FSU, Jack is in better shape. But they’re wrong. And they’re right.
SaintPetersBlog: How are they wrong and right?
Senator 41: Well, they’re wrong because the two likely replacements for Thrasher — Travis Hutson or Doc Renuart — are not exactly Jack’s guys. Neither one of them is likely to pledge to him over Negron, so the math doesn’t change.
SaintPetersBlog: So then how are the folks who think Thrasher going to FSU right that it’s good for Latvala?
Senator 41: A Florida Senate without John Thrasher is much more comfortable place for Jack Latvala than a Florida Senate with John Thrasher. If Jack’s dominated the last two years WITH Thrasher in the building, what do you think he’ll be like without his chief rival down the road?
SaintPetersBlog: Senator Latvala dominating — your words, not mine — legislative session doesn’t add up to him becoming Senate President. He’s “dominated” session for the last couple of years and he’s still not won the job.
Senator 41: You’re right about that and it’s almost scary to think about what he’ll do as Andy Gardiner’s #2, but here are two things going for Latvala…
SaintPetersBlog: … Yes?
Senator 41: Don’t interrupt! Here are two things going for Latvala. One, were your buddy to win the Governor’s Mansion, there’s no more vocal critic of Charlie Crist than Jack Latvala. That may count for something with some folks. Two, again, let’s assume Crist wins, there’s no better scenario for the ambulance chasers and trial lawyers than if Crist’s on the Plaza Floor and Negron is Senate Prez.
SaintPetersBlog: So, wait, you’re telling me that Jack Latvala’s chances of winning the Senate Presidency actually improve if Charlie Crist is elected governor. Oh boy, that’s rich.
Senator 41: Yeah, but the reality is, were in for a slog. It’s possible this whole thing goes past the 2016 election cycle. There’s only one chance of a game changer.
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 this November, 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: Of course, there could be some Dave Brat’s out there who might come out of nowhere and knock-off one or two of these in-state-tuition-for-undocumented-immigrants-voting, establishment Republicans.
Senator 41: That’s just what Florida politics needs more of … Tea Partying economics professors. The problem with those folks is that they’re not really interested in money. And no one wants to deal with a man who’s not interested in how much people have contributed to him.
SaintPetersBlog: Well, thank you for checking-in, Senator.
Senator 41: Not a problem, Peter, kiss that baby and wife of yours and tell Charlie to stay the hell out of Cuba.