Monday may have been one of the biggest days for Northeast Florida in Tallahassee in some time.
State Sen. Audrey Gibson won a contested election Monday evening to become the Leader Designate for Senate Democrats, replacing Jeff Clemens, who resigned after news of an affair with a lobbyist broke.
And before that, Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, took over the Senate Appropriations Chair from embattled Jack Latvala.
We caught up with Bradley Monday evening, and he addressed the regional significance of the twin triumphs on Monday.
“I’m so happy for Audrey. She’s a pragmatic leader who works well with senators from both parties. Very effective,” Bradley said.
“When you think about the fact that we have Senators Bean and Hutson from our area, both highly regarded, and Senator Gibson will be leading the Senate Democrats,” Bradley added, “I’m excited because we have a strong regional team. We all work well together.”
Bradley also discussed the move to the Appropriations Chair.
“Everyone has a different style. I’m just focused on getting the job done with as little drama as possible. There’s been enough drama in politics lately. It’s time to just roll up our sleeves and get the job done,” Bradley said, noting that he’s not new to the appropriations game.
“I’ve spent a lot of my Senate career working in the Appropriations arena,” Bradley noted, “having chaired three different budget subcommittees.”
“We will hit the ground running. President Negron and I have worked together for years and had success together, and we have a great group of budget sub chairs. The transition has already been smooth,” Bradley added.
Bradley is noted for a big-picture vision — one of the reasons he was able to push Senate Bill 10 through in the last Legislative Session — and he is very well-positioned to carry key priorities, such as his proposal to allocate $100 million for Florida Forever — a program that has been underfunded since its inception.
His comments in a Senate panel Monday bear noting, in context of deployment of those funds; at long last, Bradley is positioned to ensure that North Florida gets its share.
“The acquirer doesn’t just exist in one area of the state. The precious ecosystems don’t just exist in one area of the state. The entire state is unusual as an ecosystem,” Bradley said. “That’s why you have the Acquisition Restoration Council… and do it on a basis grounded in science. And really sometimes that ends up with money going to one area of the state or the other, but I think it’s less parochial.”
With Sens. Bradley and Gibson in key leadership roles, it’s entirely possible that the time is now for North Florida’s bipartisan, yet largely collaborative, delegation.