Joe Henderson: Dems better hear John Morgan's warning - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Dems better hear John Morgan’s warning

Et tu, John?

That’s the question many Florida Democrats are still asking as they seek salve for the Thanksgiving weekend stab in their collective backs from powerhouse Orlando attorney John Morgan.

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It wasn’t enough that after many months of teasing, he announced – on Facebook, of course – that he would not enter the 2018 race for Governor. He said he couldn’t jam up enough “enthusiasm” to run for the nomination, despite some polling that suggested he could win.

Then in a classic blindside, he added, “They are all the same. Both parties. I plan to register as an Independent and when I vote, vote for the lesser of two evils. And if I ever ran, run as an Independent. #ForThePeople.”

I did not see that coming. Raise your hand if you did.

Morgan joins the approximately 3.5 million Florida voters who have no party affiliation. He leaves Democrats to stammer and stutter in the wake of a sneak attack from a guy who has been one of their few sugar daddies over the years.

He leaves Democrats a valuable gift, though, if they’re willing to accept it.

Morgan is more than a marketing genius, he has consistently shown that his finger is on the public’s pulse. His words should be a warning to a party that has been wandering lost in the desert in this state for about 20 years. Public disgust with the political elite has been trending for a while. Gov. Rick Scott swept to power in 2010 as a Republican, but he was really an outsider. So was Donald Trump.

Morgan is telling his soon-to-be former party that people have turned them out. He is not wrong.

It’s easy to point a finger at the recent sex scandals that led to the resignations of state Democratic chairman Stephen Bittel and state Sen. Jeff Clemens and say people are fed up with that, but there is a much-deeper disconnect.

After all, Republicans have had their share of scandal this year too, so on that point Morgan is correct – they are all the same. It doesn’t stop there.

Morgan has tapped into the belief that I think many Floridians share: Lawmaking in Tallahassee is the province of lobbyists and outside money. Voters tend to believe that many people they send to the Legislature are puppets who vote as their biggest contributors wish. They believe their state is for sale.

Democrats will argue that many Republicans are pawns to the National Rifle Association and put the interest of business over the environment and the middle class. That may be true, but Morgan is saying he doesn’t believe they would be any different.

He is saying they would be just as beholden to outside influences and would forget they should be working for the people.

With the pending change in party leadership, Democrats have the chance for a reboot. Articulate a vision, for goodness sake. There are important issues out there that can resonate with the right voice.

Under Scott, much of Florida’s environmental protection was gutted. So, tell the people about the damage that will cause and what you would do to fix it because Floridians love the environment and consistently vote in favor of conservation.

With the debate about health care front and center, convince those voters who will be hurt most by the state’s hard-line stance against Medicaid expansion. Talk in specifics, not generalities. Talk about what you will do to make it better. Talk about guns and how it’s possible to respect the Second Amendment and still have some commonsense regulation.

Talk about ideas to manage Florida’s unrestrained growth and the damage we just experienced from hurricanes – and likely will experience in the future. Talk about mass transit.

Show the people you have a plan because, as we just learned, John Morgan doesn’t believe you do.

Prove to everyone you put the people first, because John Morgan doesn’t believe you will.

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. I covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. I also was the City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. I served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. I have numerous local, state and national writing awards. I have been married to my wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and have two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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