Parkland High School is not in Gary Farmer’s state Senate district.
No children from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School live in his district.
Farmer lived in Parkland for a decade and, as degrees of separation would have it, his family is closely connected to several of those who were directly and tragically impacted by last week’s shooting.
So why could this be his moment?
Recalling his heated campaign against former state Rep. Jim Waldman, I am reminded that the race turned on who would be most able and willing to stand up to the National Rifle Association. Yes, there was the tit-for-tat back-and-forth over what grade Waldman actually got from the pro-gun lobby, but in the end, his two pro-NRA votes ultimately sunk him.
And Farmer owned it big.
Most everyone I have spoken with says that, in hindsight, the race turned on Farmer’s unbending and unyielding attack on the pro-gun crowd. In fact, many have forgotten that Farmer didn’t just beat Waldman, he pushed him into third place behind a (very) poorly funded Gwyn Clarke-Reed and he did so on his commitment to take on the NRA.
In addition to a longtime gun control advocate — including his push to end the sale of military-style assault weapons in Florida — Farmer has also consistently fought for consumer rights, such as creating new laws to protect subscribers wrongfully denied coverage by their HMO’s; litigating the “Butterfly Ballot” and absentee voting cases to the Florida Supreme Court after the 2000 election; and representing patients, consumers and employees wronged by various corporations, hospitals and insurance companies’ deceptive trade practices.
According to a 2017 Sun-Sentinel profile, Farmer — named a Florida Super Lawyer by Super Lawyer magazine — was lead counsel in some of the nation’s largest whistleblower lawsuits over off-label marketing of pharmaceutical drugs (Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson). From 2012-2013, he served as President of the Florida Justice Association (FJA), the state’s largest and most influential consumer protection organization.
But gun control has been Farmer’s most high-profile issue as of late; he filed a pair of bills in 2017 to tighten background checks for gun purchases in the wake of the Fort Lauderdale — Hollywood International Airport shooting, which killed five people and injured six. The airport in Broward County is part of Farmer’s Senate District 34.
So what does the Parkland shooting mean for Team Farmer?
From this vantage point, it looks like his moment has arrived. His voice will be a loud one and his role as a future leader within his caucus may be largely defined by his impact in the final weeks of Session, especially as to how things shake out on guns and the restrictions thereof.
When does someone run on an issue with a commitment to impact real change and then that issue becomes THE defining issue of the year? Well, this is one such time.
That is why I believe this is Farmer’s moment and we should all be watching closely.