The amount of money from traditionally Democratic sources rolling into the campaign coffers of embattled Rep. Chris Dorworth should be no shock. Many Democratic insiders long ago determined that political relevance ran through the Republican Party and made a determination to aid the GOP wherever possible. But the Dorworth situation is particularly troubling. The Orlando Sentinel has for almost two years now been investigating Dorworth’s personal finances, and reconciling that with his public statements. The Sentinel has demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that Dorworth is not fit to serve as House Speaker. Dorworth is next in line to be Speaker, but has been beset by allegations conflicts of interest in addition to his own personal financial issues. Columnist Scott Maxwell’s articles on Dorworth are required reading for any Floridian who wants to be quickly educated about the situation the state will find itself in if Dorworth becomes Speaker.
Dorworth is a cocky comer in Florida politics with very little perspective on the real world. He is precisely the type of insider promoted politician that this state continues to attract in both major political parties. He is highly skilled at the political game, but also the type of professional politician (Dorworth has been running for office and making political deals since he was in college) that voters in both parties are growing sick and tired of. Without any guiding set of principles and a true ideology many Democrats have thrown in with the Lake Mary Republican. Even more interesting is the number of contributions to Dorworth’s political committee that have been given by prominent Democrats. The number is too numerous to list here, but you can click on the links and find almost any traditional Democratic donor in the state on the list. In some ways Dorworth himself is less an issue than the reality that he has become a poster boy for the type of legislator the GOP has produced since they captured the Legislature in 1996. That coupled with Dorworth being heavily supported by the types of Democrats that long ago began throwing in with Republicans, contributed to making this situation particularly troubling.
The Florida Justice Association (FJA) and its members have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Dorworth’s cause at the same time as supporting Democrats up and down the ballot for other offices. This comes in-spite of Dorworth’s voting record on tort and civil litigation issues, a record which is lockstep with the corporate powers of the state, the insurance industry and the GOP leadership. Yet, the GOP cannot be certain Dorworth is one of them either: A politician who unscrupulously courts friends on both sides of aisle and tells both sets of supporters he’ll be good to them if he’s Speaker should not be trusted by any side.
Dorworth’s excellent Democratic opponent Mike Clelland, is an attorney and a former firefighter, who has already demonstrated he will be a far better Representative than Dorworth. Yet Clelland’s campaign has been hampered by Democrats who seek to gain access to power by buying into a potentially corrupt leader of the other party. Recent polling conducted by the Kitchens Group shows that Clelland is within striking distance, trailing Dorworth just 40%-37%. With his back against the wall, Dorworth has turned to name calling, attacking Scott Maxwell personally and raising more and more money from his Democratic allies.
Many of the Democrats supporting Dorworth complain regularly about the FDP, local Democratic parties and other elements of the party infrastructure. Yet, they are making it less and less possible for the Democrats to make a real comeback in this state when they choose a morally bankrupt and cowardly professional politician over an excellent, progressive challenger. Who can blame Chris Dorworth for keeping the company he does? He knows how morally weak and lacking in convictions so many Florida Democrats are.
The Florida Democratic Party is thankfully not guilty of alliance with Dorworth, and has recently begun spending money on supporting Clelland. But given the FDP’s stance, we can be sure that soon many Democratic insiders and perhaps even elected officials will complain about the party spending money against their “friend” Chris Dorworth. After all, in 2012 being a Florida Democrat in some circles means almost slavish support for the Republican leadership in Tallahassee.