In 2000 Democrats felt we had high hopes of capturing then Senate District 11 from the reactionary Anna Cowan. Leslie Scales and her husband Earl were leaders in the Marion County Democratic Party and respected by partisans across the state. This was considered a key race as we made an effort to pick up seats in the State Senate and prevent the continued control of the legislature by allies of Jeb Bush.
Cowan was challenged in the primary by Everett Kelly a term-limited State Representative from Leesburg who had switched parties in 1997. Kelly had stuck with the Democrats to vote for Buzz Ritchie (D-Pensacola) as Speaker in an organizational session where lots of jockeying was going on and it appeared that despite capturing a 61-59 majority two weeks earlier, the GOP’s Dan Webster may not be elected Speaker. Democrats who had controlled the chamber since reconstruction jockeyed to try and bring some moderate Republicans from south Florida over to Richie’s camp. Instead the Republicans recruited three Democrats to support Webster (Rep. Sindler of Apoka, Rep. Crady of Yulee who was given the co-chairmanship of the Rules Committee and Rep. Bud Bronson of Kissimmee who had been voting like a Republican for years) and took control of the chamber.
Kelly had been a Conservative Democrat representing a tough area for sometime. Unlike north Florida where Democrats switched with the political winds in the 1990s, Lake County had been trending Republican since the 1970s. Midwestern retirees combined with native southerners to put the county almost out of reach for Democrats. Republicans had come after him regularly and failed to beat him even as the demographics shifts particularly the growth of the Villages made his seat more and more Republican. When Kelly did switch he cited his strong pro-life stand as a reason to switch. “Philosophically I am now in a party I am very very comfortable with,” Kelly told the Ocala Star-Banner shortly after he became a Republican. Allison Tant contributed to Kelly’s State Senate campaign in 2000.
Now in fairness Tant was contributing in a primary, and Kelly while having a bad voting record as a Democrat and a horrible voting record as a Republican wasn’t nearly as abrasive or as intellectually challenged as Cowan was. But still Kelly would have been a much more conservative Senator than Scales, particularly on social issues such as abortion, school prayer and gun control.
Part of me can understand why Tant would want to give a check to Kelly. Anna Cowan was among the dimmest bulbs in a legislature full of dim lights. But on the other hand, why did Tant not give a check to Scales in general after Cowan had thrashed Kelly in the primary?
Here is Tant’s contribution to Kelly’s State Senate campaign in 2000:
Kelly, Everett (REP)(STS) 06/13/2000 100.00 CHE TANT ALLISON 6035 BOYNTON HOMESTEAD TALLAHASSEE, FL 32312