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Legislative recap lives up to its billing

Mark Parker

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Peter Schorsch, publisher of Florida Politics, led a 2023 Legislative Session review Thursday. Photos by Mark Parker.

Peters Schorsch wrote that he would discuss “what the (expletive deleted) just happened” during Suncoast Tiger Bay’s 2023 Legislative Review; that set the tone for what would come from the hour-long discussion.

Schorsch, a local Tallahassee insider and publisher of Florida Politics, led the presentation Thursday amid a backdrop of still images taking swipes at Gov. Ron DeSantis – Mickey Mouse, the Magic Kingdom, an LGBTQ Pride Flag and pudding cups. The St. Petersburg Museum of History hosted the candid discourse, which Schorsch described as a “Twitter stream of consciousness.”

He is also a political consultant who authors what the Washington Post named its “Best State-based Blog.” Schorsch spent much of his time discussing the Republican party’s exodus of moderates, how it remains the “Death Star” in Florida politics and how new lawmakers pass bills simply “because they can.”

However, some St. Petersburg-centered highlights resulted from a member asking about potential ramifications for the city implementing a chief equity officer and moving forward with its annual Pride Parade.

Mayor Ken Welch

“I’m worried about Ken Welch,” Schorsch said. “I’m like, ‘Brother, man, they are going to come for you sooner or later.

“I don’t know anyone that is adding equity officers right now. I’m proud of him for doing it, don’t get me wrong. He ran into a buzzsaw with that funding for the abortion rights group … I would say to him, as someone who has counseled him politically, ‘Don’t do that stuff right now. You have to stay under the radar on that.’ You cannot add fuel to the fire.”

St. Pete Pride

Schorsch encouraged everyone to attend the June 24 St. Pete Pride Parade and form a human wall to prevent people opposed to the event and what it stands for from taking pictures. He added that one person could take a photo and say a child witnessed something inappropriate.

“That’s what they’re doing in Miami and Orlando,” Schorsch explained. “They’re going to drag shows, they’re taking one picture of a moment and then they’re sending it off. And then they’re (state officials) taking those people’s liquor licenses. So, I urge you to take things into your own hands and protect what’s important to us on that one.”

Local funding

Schorsch expressed concern that the area could lose transportation funding due to a lack of local moderate Republicans and St. Petersburg’s commitment to inclusive progress. He said state legislators like former Rep. Chris Latvala, now a Pinellas County Commissioner, and former Sen. Jeff Brandes served as more center-of-the-aisle voices in Tallahassee.

“I would urge you all to take a very strong look at the Congressional race for 2024,” Schorsch said. “I think that would send a strong signal. I think you got a county commission race that is going to be bitterly contested. I would take a strong stance on that.”

From left: Peter Schorsch, Rep. Lindsay Cross and Nicole Carr, president of the Suncoast Tiger Bay.

Political strategy

He noted that his wife was thrown out of a local women’s rights group because she supported former Mayor Rick Baker over former Mayor Rick Kriseman in a nonpartisan race.

Schorsch said, “The purity test on the left keeps a lot of allies – like me – from helping you do more.” He relayed that similar issues frequently arise with other people who are not “100% there” on every Democratic platform.

He added that Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri “is about as fair of a Republican as you’re going to get.” Rather than opposing the few moderates remaining in office, Schorsch stressed that local Democrats should focus their attention elsewhere.

“Don’t waste your time running a candidate against Bob Gualtieri,” he said. “Take that person and put them somewhere else. Start making those calculated decisions – if you want to win back some of these races.”

Rep. Lindsay Cross

While Schorsch hoped local legislative delegates from both parties would participate in the discourse, new St. Petersburg Rep. Lindsay Cross was the only one who showed. She represents one of the area’s last remaining battleground districts, and Schorsch questioned how no incumbent House Republicans lost their seat in the 2022 election.

He relayed how the state budget ballooned from $77 million in 2019, Former Gov. Rick Scott’s last year in office, to $117 billion this year. He noted St. Pete Sen. Darryl Rouson secured local funding, “and even Lindsay Cross is getting appropriations.”

The 2023 Legislative Session was Rep. Lindsay Cross’ first.

She began campaigning 18 months before her race officially began, and Cross said she was successful in a swing district “largely because I worked my ass off.” That momentum lasted into the session, as Cross received a $500,000 supplemental funding appropriation – pending the governor’s approval – for a pedestrian safety project in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District.

“I was a freshmen representative in a super minority,” Cross said. “So, it’s as bad as it sounds.”

However, some of her language from an affordable housing bill made it into much larger legislation, and Cross now better understands the process. She pledged to work smarter and more strategically when she returns to Tallahassee in September.

“I continue to uplift St. Petersburg and Pinellas County as places where I think we’re doing so many things right,” Cross said. “We’ve been proactive, and I hope that local leaders continue to have the courage – in a calculated way – to do things that reflect the values of our community.

“But it is a very retaliatory system up in Tallahassee, and with some of the leadership there. I think that in the next year or so, we’re going to start to see some of the implications of these policies that were passed.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Steve D

    May 13, 2023at3:39 am

    Is this political satire? I can’t discern.

  2. Avatar

    J. G. West

    May 12, 2023at3:48 pm

    I find it interesting that Mr. Schorsch all but eviscerates Republicans in Tallahassee but has the wisdom to advise Mayor Welch to back off the Equity Officer. And how he obviously fears Republicans “passing bills because they can.” Surely Mr. Schorsch is aware that not only Tallahassee, but the DC contingent from Florida went conservative, and that Governor DeSantis was elected with an unpresented majority! Does this mean that the R’s are going to “trample peoples rights and put y’all back in chains?” as then VP Biden declared. No. They live and work in our fair state too, and only want it safe and prosperous.

    Liberals claim to want to work together most loudly when they are in a “super minority” as Rep. Cross declares, and that “…It’s as bad as it sounds.” Well madam, if you didn’t want to be in the minority, you could have “worked (your) ass off” just as hard if you ran as a Republican! Her efforts in getting an additional $500,000 in supplemental funding for pedestrian safety are appreciated, as are her efforts to support affordable housing. However, she would be wise to remember that you attract more flies with honey than vinegar. If she really wants to help Pinellas County, find a way to positively interact with the other side of the aisle.

    The underlying tone of this article is that only Democrats in Tallahassee care for people, and Republicans are evil monsters lurking about to ruin lives. Well, the millions of new Florida residents would disagree with that sentiment. As do millions of longtime residents. There was a wise man who once asked, why can’t we all just get along? Maybe if it weren’t for a constant stream of bitterness from both sides, we would.

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