Floridians with any kind of interest in politics aren't likely to forget crazy 2016.
We started the year -- some of us, anyway -- laughing our socks off when Donald Trump announced boldly he would win Florida.
“I love Florida,” Trump said during an interview on Miami TV early in the year. “I love the people and I think we are going to do very well in Florida. I have a big stake in Florida.”
Win he did. And he did it first by knocking off two of the Florida GOP's favorite sons -- financed-to-the-hilt former Gov. Jeb Bush who threw in the towel after South Carolina and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who mainstreamers anointed immediately after Bush's demise as the "savior of the GOP."
Rubio held on until the March primary, when Trump crushed him by taking 66 of Florida’s 67 counties.
“While it is not God’s plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever, and while today my campaign is suspended, the fact that I’ve even come this far is evidence of how special America truly is,” Rubio said in Miami.
Rubio had little option but to renege on his promise not to run for re-election to the Senate. He did, and handily beat an inexperience Democratic opponent from the Treasure Coast, Congressman Patrick Murphy.
Meanwhile, South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had the worst year of her political career. She was forced out of her post as chair of the Democratic National Committee, after embarrassing internal, hacked emails showed she was doing all she could to rig the primary for Hillary Clinton, who, by the way, spent more time campaigning in Florida than Barack Obama did in 2012.
“At the end of the day these were stolen emails,” DWS complained bitterly.
DWS had a fight to keep her seat against Nova Law School professor Tim Canova, when Canova showed how one of Wasserman Schultz’s top aides in the DNC suggested in an email using Bernie Sanders' religious beliefs against him to help Hillary Clinton. In the end, though, she prevailed.
Republican Congressman David Jolly, who got bounced out of the Senate race when Rubio jumped back in, fought bravely against former Gov. Charlie Crist to retain his seat in redistricted Pinellas County, but Crist ultimately won the day, 52 percent to 48 percent.
"Tonight is a turn in politics," Jolly said. "We may not have won the campaign ... but I'll look at the camera like we did and say, 'Washington look out.'"
Crist not only had the advantage of a long career in Florida politics and name recognition up the wazoo, he had the whole of the Democrats' Washington A-list campaigning in Florida for him: Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden -- and even President Barack Obama cut ads for him.
In Broward, voters shot down a proposal to raise the sales tax by a penny for infrastructure and transportation improvements. And the Florida Keys said no, thank you to genetically modified mosquitoes.
Surprisingly to some, Freshman Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo -- a victim of Democrat-preferenced redistricting considered one of the most vulnerable House members in the country -- beat Democratic former House member Joe Garcia handily.
Curbelo never raised an eyebrow. "It’s a validation of the work we’ve been doing in Congress for the past two years trying to bring Republicans and Democrats to the table on issues like education, transportation the environment,” he said Election Night.
When medical marijuana passed, garnering 71 percent of the vote, it may have launched a new career for John Morgan, the Tampa attorney who bankrolled the initiative. Almost immediately, the personal injury attorney floated trial balloons, considering his chances in a run for governor in 2018.
What a year.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith
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