The Daytona News-Journal reported this weekend that Dorothy Hukill’s Campaign has paid her son’s company upwards of 100k in “consulting fees” in the most competitive legislative race in Florida. Hukill can be forgiven perhaps because she is acting no differently than countless handmaiden’s of the majority party have behaved over the past decade. Conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety are a weekly occurrence in this era of Florida politics. In the past week alone, we’ve been confronted with stories about Hukill, Mike Horner, Chris Dorworth and several others. We’ve also seen a political party so arrogant and entitled that they are interfering with the independent selection and merit retention of Supreme Court Justices.
For months on this website we have urged Democrats to run on issues of corruption and cronyism against Florida Republicans. Forget what is happening at the national level with the Presidential race and focus on the issue that has affected most Floridians: one-party control of Tallahassee since 1998 has led to unparallelled levels of arrogance in the capital city. Democrats have their own flaws that have been routinely on display in the Democratic controlled county governments in the southeast corridor of the state. The latest scandal involving a Democrat from this area, that of former Broward County School Board Member Jennifer Gottlieb has turned into a sad tale of adultery, influence peddling and the possible misuse of public funds.
Florida Republicans have created a class of entitled politicians who lack intellectual curiosity or any governing wisdom They are not conservatives as much as they are political whores for power and certain big business. They have lived for years on easy street being opposed by an impotent Florida Democratic Party that lacked organization or the courage in its own convictions to take the fight to the Republicans. The Democrats have benefited from these same tendencies in liberal southeast Florida, where it seems half the elected Democrats on the county level have been at one time or another linked to scandal. Similarly the Republican parties in this part of the state are impotent and worse yet for their supporters cut deals with the Democrats all the time. But things seem to be changing.
Dwight Dudley who is running for House District 68 has begun painting the theme well with his ads. His opponent, former Rep. Frank Farkas benefited from the Republican tide and ineffective state and local Democratic parties in his previous eight years of service (1998 to 2006.) But Farkas, like other former Republican elected officials plotting a comeback will learn that the landscape politically in this state is changing ever so slowly, but changing nonetheless.
For those that argue the Democrats held power unchecked for the better part of a hundred years, in the post 1968 constitutional era, the Democrats were seldom united ideologically but did unite behind big ideas that moved Florida forward. Prior to the late 1960s, the power of the pork choppers was destructive to a state growing in its coastal areas, and in it’s efforts to attract business to urban areas. But the post 1968 Democrats never showed the arrogance, entitlement and recklessness of the Florida GOP since the late 1990s. Much of the period between 1968 and 1998 the state experienced robust growth and political reform thanks to the bold vision and courage of many Democrats.
On the local level in southeast Florida, a vibrant GOP is important. Without a viable opposition party, local Democrats have been able to create a similar culture of entitlement, with Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach serving as cosmopolitan versions of Tallahassee. But this to is likely to change unless local Democrats push accountability and reform themselves.
The time for political reform has come in the state. The passage of the Fair Districts Amendment was the first salvo in what is a fight that will gain momentum the longer Florida Republicans and southeast Florida Democrats maintain power without significant reform or introspection.