Who will have the 'come to Jesus' talk with Richard Corcoran? - Florida Politics

Who will have the ‘come to Jesus’ talk with Richard Corcoran?

Richard Corcoran

Richard Corcoran promises to make a big announcement this week, but, at this point in the election cycle, what it will be is anyone’s guess.

By now, the Pasco Republican was supposed to have made the GOP primary for Florida governor a three horse race, but, for a variety of reasons, Corcoran is still on the outside looking in.

Florida’s political media, including, most notably, the Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith has feasted on Corcoran’s failure to launch.

“What became of Richard Corcoran’s allegedly brilliant political mind?” Smith asked in a recently column. “Maybe it never actually extended beyond the Capitol.”

Corcoran’s relationship with the media has always been a double-edged sword. He’s probably given more access to more reporters than any other House Speaker of the modern Republican era. He seems to genuinely enjoy talking with and, on some occasions, sparring with individual reporters.

Of course, too much of the legislative process is now conducted behind closed doors, but Corcoran has certainly been the most accessible state leader within the triumvirate of the Governor, Senate President and House Speaker. Yet, as Joe Negron prepares to exit early from the Legislature, it’s the Stuart Republican who is being lauded by the press.

“Can’t wait to see what’s next for @joenegronfl,” tweeted Lawrence Reisman of the TC Palm. “He’s grown a lot as a legislator in the dozen or so years I’ve covered him. I’ve admired his conservative pragmatism.”

It would be quite surprising if any member of the Capitol Press Corps gushes about ‘what’s next’ for Corcoran, despite him and his chamber being significantly more transparent than Negron and most of the rest of the Senate.

No matter how accessible Corcoran was, his politics were never going to endear him with the reporters, columnists, and editorial writers who follow the legislative process. Corcoran probably should have known better — or at least remembered the axiom that if you live by the press, you will die by the press.

And that’s the question facing Corcoran this week: Does his political career live on, or is it over? And if it’s really over, who will have the come to Jesus talk with him?

Who is going to tell the man who for the last two years has been the second most powerful politician in the state that his dream of becoming Florida governor is just not going to happen. It may have been within his grasp six months ago, but he overplayed his hand by spending millions of dollars on a controversial television ad that, at the end of the day, scared the crap out of people. He would have been better served putting all of that money behind the cute spot he cut ahead of the Super Bowl.

Even if that ad had resonated and Corcoran had broken through the noise, it probably still would not have mattered. Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis have not left enough room for Corcoran to operate. It’s just impossible to get to the right of DeSantis and Putnam has a lock on the establishment support. There just isn’t a third lane in the Republican primary. Not for a candidate who can’t self-fund.

I write this as if Corcoran doesn’t know this already. He does. His pollster, Tony Fabrizio does. But he still may run, just to deny DeSantis the nomination.

Or Corcoran may run for Attorney General. That’s what former Rick Scott spokesman Brian Burgess has been saying all along. That’s what I tweeted a week ago. There seems to be momentum for Corcoran in that direction. One rumor is that he’s talked with his brother, powerful lobbyist Michael Corcoran, about him stepping down as the finance chair of Ashley Moody‘s campaign so as to avoid any awkward moments if Corcoran enters the race.

It’s not a given that Corcoran wins the A.G. race, by the way. Maybe Frank White drops out if Corcoran enters the race, maybe he doesn’t. Jay Fant certainly won’t step aside for Corcoran. But its Moody, a telegenic former circuit judge backed by Pam Bondi, who would be Corcoran’s toughest opponent. Meanwhile, Democrat Sean Shaw will be waiting for him in the general election.

So what’s Corcoran going to do … not run for Governor or Attorney General? Could his pride handle such stillness?

What if there was a third way for Richard Corcoran?

No it does not involve redecorating the Governor’s Mansion (although it would be fun to see Corcoran’s wife, Anne, bring their brood to Tallahassee). In fact, it doesn’t involve taking over any office space on the plaza level of the Capitol.

What Corcoran could do — should do if he truly wishes to secure his legacy — is call a press conference this week and announce …

… that he’s running a campaign this November, not for his own election, but to persuade voters to pass the constitutional amendments he most cares about. These include Amendment 1, an expansion of the homestead property-tax exemption, and Amendment 3, a requirement for two-thirds votes by future legislatures when raising taxes or fees. He could also campaign for Amendment 8, which would allow an alternative process for approving public schools, including charter schools, rather than by local school boards, and Amendment 12, which would impose a six-year lobbying ban on former state elected officials, state agencies heads and local elected officials.

(While he’s at it Corcoran could also push for Amendment 3, which would allow voters to decide on future expansions of casino gambling — something the Speaker did not allow to happen on his watch.)

Each of these are issues Corcoran has fought for and wants to see permanently enshrined. If they are approved by 60 percent of voters, they would do almost as much to change the course of state government as whatever any individual politician attempts to accomplish.

Corcoran could take the money he raised thinking it would get him at least four years as Florida governor and, instead, spend it on an effort that would secure his legacy for decades.

Instead of campaigning to be Florida’s Governor or Attorney General, he could fight for ‘Corcoran’s Constitution.’

Richard Corcoran once said, “If you are just going to capitulate to the special interests and the mainstream media and all the powers that be because you are afraid that somehow it is not worth the fight on something that you know fits that definition, there is nothing honorable about that.”

There is no dishonor, Mr. Speaker, in recognizing the futility of proceeding down one path when there is a fight worth taking on down another.

In other words, live to fight another day.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

1 Comment

  1. Is this article a series of trial balloons for Richard Corcoran? Maybe Corcoran will purchase a cigar shop in Tallahassee, light one up, and sip mint julips throughout the years? Better yet, maybe Richard will become a hard core medical marijuana advocate, and along with John Morgan go for a license?

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