A race for a legislative leadership post to be held several years from now is, admittedly, not the easiest of stories to cover. But it is an important story which should be taken seriously by every political editor and reporter. After all, how can you write about the sausage-making that is the legislative process if you don’t really know what’s in the sausage?
For the most part, the coverage of this kind of palace intrigue has been diligent, but also mostly reactive. (How many times did the Times/Herald prematurely report that Andy Gardiner had the race locked-up only for an on-the-ground development to come along and change things?)
Unfortunately, there has been a lot of unnecessary misreporting about the rivalry between Jack Latvala and John Thrasher. Latvala is seeking to be Senate President after Don Gaetz and Andy Gardiner. Reportedly, John Thrasher is opposing Latvala, although I am hard-pressed to find much evidence of Thrasher campaigning for the job anymore.
Still, it’s easier for the media to describe the race in binary terms. If you’re not for Latvala, you’re for Thrasher. And vice versa. This has happened time and time again.
Because Jeff Brandes is running for the Florida Senate, he must be doing so because John Thrasher put him up to it. This, despite the fact Brandes will tell you he’s only spoken once to anyone in Thrasher’s camp.
Because John Legg is committed to Jack Latvala for Senate President, that must have meant Wilton Simpson, who had been on the other side of Legg until Legg switched races, was with John Thrasher, right? Not necessarily.
And, now, the same assumption is being made about Rep. Rachel Burgin. Because Don Gaetz and Andy Gardiner have endorsed Burgin’s opponent and they’re in leadership and Gardiner and Latvala are working together, that must mean Rachel Burgin is with John Thrasher.
At least that’s what Tampa Bay Times deputy editor of editorials Joni James said recently on Florida This Week.
Except James, like most every other political reporter, hasn’t spoken with Burgin about the matter.
Burgin emailed me yesterday after I asked her if she had seen the reports that she was in John Thrasher’s camp.
“All (of that) information is untrue!” responded Burgin. “And no reporter has spoken to me”
So where did James and Co. get the notion Burgin was supporting John Thrasher for Senate President? Out of thin air, perhaps? Or just scuttlebutt? James is the number two behind the most important editorial page in the state. Thin air and scuttlebutt should not be enough for her to blurt out something like so-and-so is with so-and-so.
Burgin may very well end up supporting Thrasher for Senate President; that is her prerogative. But Burgin — and every other candidate for the Florida Senate — deserves to run their race without these kind of assumptions being made about them.