The Florida teachers’ union has endorsed state Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, for re-election to his Pinellas-Hillsborough seat.
The Florida Education Association Riley Walton endorsement could be a setback for former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, who is considering challenging Rouson in a Democratic primary, and to Tampa Democrats who would like a senator from their side of the bay. In the minority-heavy district, the Democratic primary should decide the race.
In a news release, FEA President Fedrick Ingram called Rouson “a warrior on our behalf,” citing his opposition to a proposed pro-charter school constitutional amendment.
Joyner also opposed that amendment, however, and has a career-long pro-public education record, while Rouson has often voted for voucher and charter programs opposed by the union, citing their benefits for low-income families.
Former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner is considering challenging state Sen. Darryl Rouson in a Democratic primary.
“I know we’ve had a somewhat complicated relationship with him,” said FEA spokeswoman Sharon Nesvig. But in the most recent legislative session, “His voting record was 100 percent on our issues,” including opposing a major voucher expansion Rouson considered unconstitutional.
Nesvig said the group wanted an early endorsement and acted “based on who’s running now” — but could reconsider, possibly issuing a joint endorsement, if Joyner runs.
FEA endorsement committee member Eric Riley said a dual endorsement would have to be at the instigation of the district’s county FEA branches.
Rouson, citing his parents’ involvement in public education, said, “I have lived public education and know it is the silver bullet for our state and community.”
But Joyner responded, “One good session (by Rouson) does not equate to a lifetime commitment that I have to public education,” and criticized campaign financial support for Rouson from charter and voucher interests.
GOP dinner focuses on Gaetz
The struggling Hillsborough County Republican Party drew a crowd of around 300 to hear firebrand Trump defender Rep. Matt Gaetz at its main annual fundraising event, the Lincoln Day Dinner, Saturday.
The crowd was energized and excited, though smaller than such events in the heyday of the local GOP a few years ago.
Gaetz, of Fort Walton Beach, was scheduled as warmup speaker for Kayleigh McEnany, a South Tampa native and Trump 2020 campaign press secretary. He became the keynote speaker after she went into labor the night before the event, giving birth to a baby girl.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., leaves Longworth House Office Building,in Washington. Gaetz spoke at the Lincoln Day Dinner for the Hillsborough Republican party on Saturday. [JULIO CORTEZ | AP]
One speaker after another called Democrats socialists and denounced what Gaetz called “this phony impeachment.”
Gaetz hurled insults and taunts at 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, predicting Elizabeth Warren will be the nominee and that Democrats plan “a Bernie Sanders drum circle or a rain dance with Pocahontas,” a reference to Warren’s claim of partial native American ancestry.
Gaetz repeated the dubious Republican claim that Democrats “would give free health care to illegal aliens while rendering illegal employer-based health care that covers half the country.” He said Democrats want to invite in illegal immigrants including criminals and drug gangs and “send you the bill for their health care, child care, transportation and cell phones” and “tuition wasted at some liberal university where every illegal alien can get a degree in America-sucks.”
Rep. Gus Bilirakis told the crowd Gaetz may be “the most powerful man in the state” because of his friendships with Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis. State GOP Chairman Joe Gruters speculated that Gaetz could be the state’s next senator if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quits to run for the Senate from Kansas and Sen. Marco Rubio is chosen to replace Pompeo.
The crowd cheered, but Gaetz coyly responded, “I will proudly be a candidate — to coach the (Florida State) Seminoles.”
The GOP’s antipathy to “fake news” as one speaker after another called it, was obvious.
Reporters had to sign an agreement under which they were banned from the VIP reception, prohibited from speaking to attendees during the banquet and required to remain in a press area — three chairs against a back wall — on pain of being ejected.
Good gets Emily’s help, faces tough fight
Emily’s List, the national fundraising organization for pro-choice Democratic women, has endorsed state Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, in her challenge to Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key.
Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good of Sarasota believes she can unseat six-term GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan in 2020. [Photo courtesy of Margaret Good]
That will help Good’s fundraising, but political analysts still rate the Sarasota-Manatee-Hillsborough district Republican-leaning. Politico calls it “likely Republican,” citing Donald Trump’s 11-point win there and Buchanan’s 9-point 2018 win.
Emily’s List solicits contributions to endorsees from a nationwide list of sympathetic donors. It backed Good when she won the seat in 2018.