State Sen. Aaron Bean represents a big chunk of Duval County and Nassau County. He chairs the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities committee, and serves as Vice Chair of Community Affairs and the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, in addition to several other committee postings.
We caught up with him before the start of the 2018 Legislative Session, and got his take on a number of issues, including the electoral landscape and his own campaign, the impact of Sen. Rob Bradley helming Appropriations, and Bean’s own bills –including a sanctuary city measure that may be the proverbial ‘heavy lift.’
The 2018 campaign, of course, is underway already – and the race that will occupy many people in The Process is the GOP three-way-dance for Governor, between Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and President’s Trump favorite, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.
“I believe the Governor’s race is still wide open. It will be an exciting year for politics as so many seats are up for grabs,” Bean said.
“I will be focused on my own,” Bean added, “as it will be the last time I will run for the Legislature.”
Bean is in an enviable position for that run. Lacking opposition, he has nearly $175,000 on hand between his campaign account and the account of his political committee: Florida Conservative Alliance.
And in terms of ability to move things through the Senate, Bean – and Northeast Florida – have an important asset in recently-minted Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican.
Bean was voluble on what Bradley means, both for the Senate and the region.
“I have known Sen. Bradley for almost 30 years,” Bean asserted, “and he is going to be outstanding as Appropriations Chair. He makes it look easy, but he is always the most prepared member in the room from his constant reading and research.
“As a sub-chair for the criminal justice and environmental appropriations committees,” Bean added, “members could be sure that Senator Bradley was going to know why funds were being spent, and he would be sure it was a good use of taxpayer dollars.”
“He is going to be great for Florida. It is a bonus that he is from North Florida. North Florida Legislators are still going to have to work for any requests, because Bradley is not going to give anyone a pass just because they are from our area, but he is going to deliver a budget we can all be proud of,” Bean said.
Bean is also carrying a number of bills this Legislative Session.
“I currently have 23 bills that range from preventing sanctuary practices in Florida, to making our Secretary of State elected directly by the people, to creating a Ducks Unlimited license plate to preserve wetlands,” Bean asserted.
“Four bills will continue my goal to make it easier and faster to adopt in our state, and another makes permanent a support network to help women who are pregnant, and have nowhere to turn,” Bean continued.
One bill – the Sanctuary Cities bill – has already been guaranteed to pass in its first week in the House; however, Bean recognizes the Senate may be a tougher path.
“Our Sanctuary City bill faces a tough opening as it has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. We don’t have the votes to get it passed – yet – so we are working hard to get that done.”
Bean is at an interesting place in his political career. He’s approaching the zenith of his influence in the Senate, yet there are those who talk about him as the next Republican Congressman from the area, should John Rutherford decide not to run for re-election.
In many ways, he would fit comfortably among Florida’s Congressional Delegation, where firebrands like Matt Gaetz and DeSantis push a particular brand of conservatism and advocate for a President that doesn’t have a lot of mainstream media allies or advocates.
Could Bean end up in D.C. before it’s all said and done? One thing’s for certain: he has an appetite for politics and serving in office, and as an energetic 50-year-old, he has a couple of acts left in his political life.