Yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview Senator 41, NPA – Adams Street, about the Florida Senate leadership race.
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 is comprised of about two city blocks, running the length of Adams Street in Tallahassee.
Not surprisingly, Senator 41 was pretty much right about everything. Yesterday, Senator 41 opined Don Gaetz had lost the most in the last 72 hours and that Gaetz was in more trouble than readily apparent:
“What’s to keep Gardiner and Latvala from unseating Don Gaetz right now or before the next session?” Senator 41 asked. “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?”
After talking with Senator 41, I was not surprised to read a post in the Palm Beach Post that “Gaetz’ time at the (Senate President’s) podium was now in question.”
Gaetz told reporters last night that who will follow in Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ footsteps will be determined after the November elections. Eleven senators – including eight Republicans – are leaving the chamber this year because of term limits.
“I’ve been designated as the next Senate president. Depending on the results of the 2012 election, the Republicans may or may not control the Senate. At that time, the Senate as a whole will elect its next president. I will be a candidate,” Gaetz, R-Niceville, said. It’s virtually impossible that Republicans won’t control the chamber with their 28-12 lead majority, but the outcome of the elections could very well impact his future.
After seeing his prediction proven true, Senator 41 called me to discuss what may happen next:
Senator 41: You know who is most popular guy in the Capitol right now?
SaintPetersBlog: I don’t know, Jack Latvala, I presume.
Senator 41: Jack? Popular? Hardly. He may become Senate President, but do not confuse that with popularity. No, the most popular guy in the Capitol is that Richard Steinberg fellow who sent those weird-Weineresque emails.
SaintPetersBlog: Say what?
Senator 41: Yes, Richard Steinberg. By him screwing up — or whatever he was doing — he just made sure neither Don Gaetz nor John Thrasher are the political ‘Losers of the Week’ in Adam Smith’s column. He just gave cover to every other stupid decision that will be made up here over the next couple of days. No one wants to be next to him, but every Representative or Senator should send him a thank-you note.
SaintPetersBlog: But you think Gaetz and Thrasher have lost?
Senator 41: You’d be a fool to think John Thrasher’s down for the count, but, yes, John has lost the last couple of rounds.
SaintPetersBlog: And what about Gaetz?
Senator 41: Well, he went and un-designated himself last night. What did he say, ‘Whoever follows Haridopolos will depend on the November elections.’ He just went and put his own Senate Presidency in play.
SaintPetersBlog: But you still believe he will be Senate President, right?
Senator 41: Just ask Senate President Ken Jenne that same question.
SaintPetersBlog: But Jenne never ended up being Senate President.
Senator 41: Exactly. Gaetz and Thrasher want to decide this after the November elections, but they don’t have the apparatuses in place to recruit candidates and win elections this cycle. Gardiner and Latvala have a huge head start on them, if Gaetz and Thrasher decide to fight them.
SaintPetersBlog: Yeah, but John Thrasher knows a thing or two about winning elections.
Senator 41: That’s a good point. That’s why if I was Jack Latvala, I’d get this deal done by letting Gardiner serve after Gaetz and him serve after that. Jack was never suppose to run against Gardiner, he was supposed to run against Thrasher for 2015-2016. That way Jack gets what he was supposed to get all along.
SaintPetersBlog: Any other advice for Latvala.
Senator 41: Today or the next could be the big day, from what I am hearing, so get the deal done. The more time that passes the more the policy differences between Gardiner and Latvala will become apparent. And keep the ego in check. He’s been doing a good job so far, but the question on everyone’s mind is if the New Latvala will bear his fangs like the Old Latvala. So far he’s done a great job showing how much he’s matured. And, more importantly, Jack has demonstrated how much he cares about the institution. That’s important to old timers, like me.
SaintPetersBlog: Sir, I keep hearing about the “nuclear option.” What’s that all about?
Senator 41: Don’t you dare mention that in my presence!
SaintPetersBlog: But I need your help. Explain it to me.
Senator 41: The “nuclear option” blows up the Florida Senate. It is not a weapon of last resort. It is the apocalypse. It would involve Gardiner and Latvala using Democratic votes to get what they want by…No, I’m just not going to talk about that.
SaintPetersBlog: I know you have to go and vote on the budget, so let me ask you one final question: When will all of this be decided?
Senator 41: The leadership race will be decided at exactly the moment the Senate wishes it so. But today could be the big day. Or not. I’ve got to go. JD’s up to something…