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J.D. Alexander rides again to save Polk County arts center

Remember former Sen. J.D. Alexander, the Lake Wales Republican who almost single-handedly created Florida Polytechnic University by use of his power as Senate Appropriations chair?

Alexander has been out of the Senate for almost five years, but it would appear that the old power cell is still charged and ready to zap when needed.

Polk County Commissioner George Lindsey recently praised Alexander saying he was the main reason that budget cuts that would have shut PSC’s JD Alexander Center in Lake Wales were restored in the Legislature’s recent special session.

“It is not just coincidence that J.D. Alexander on hearing that the funds were vetoed by the governor, got into his car, drove to Tallahassee and began knocking on doors,” Lindsey said. The comment came during a speech in which Republican Lindsey complained that the all GOP county delegation hadn’t done enough to protect the county from cuts.

Because the center was named for him, Alexander was reluctant to take credit for saving the center. But Lindsey was not reluctant about giving the former senator the credit, noting that many are now taking credit for restoring the money.

Supporters have said PSC’s Lake Wales campus is vital to the town. It has taught 11,291 students in music, visual arts and theater classes, all of which are required for an associate in arts degrees at state colleges. More than 40 percent of the students there are over the age of 25.

Alexander instead praised Polk’s two state senators and “a ton of community support” for getting funding restored.

“It is very important to help the hard working people who are enrolled at Polk State,” Alexander said in a recent text. “And I don’t know many things that are more important.”

Ready for another run for office, Senator?

And the beat (and rumor) goes on

Conservative Republicans who voted for school cuts are finding some threats from conservative Republicans.

The latest rumor that just won’t stop is that Rep. Colleen Burton, a Lakeland Republican, could be challenged in the Republican Primary next year by Deputy Superintendent of the Polk County School District John Small.

Several incumbents have been challenged or will be. That’s a highly democratic (that’s right, a small “d”) trait. But if you are an incumbent you likely are already receiving money from special interests and their lobbyists for 2018.

Written By

Former Ledger of Lakeland columnist Bill Rufty is Central Florida political correspondent for SaintPetersBlog and Florida Politics. Rufty had been with the Ledger from 1985-2015, where, as political editor, he covered a wide range of beats, including local and state politics, the Lakeland City Commission, and the Florida Legislature. Ledger editor Lenore Devore said about Rufty’s 30-year career: “[He is] a man full of knowledge, a polling expert and a war history buff … who has a steel trap in his brain, remembering details most of us have long since forgotten.”

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