Not one bit

Nearly two years after quitting politics, does PoHo miss it?

click to enlarge ONE DAY'S MAIL: It's the time of year when the Garcia mailbox is full of surprises. - Wayne Garcia
Wayne Garcia
ONE DAY'S MAIL: It's the time of year when the Garcia mailbox is full of surprises.

Hardly a week goes by when I don't get The Question:

"Do you miss being in politics?"

It is almost two years since I ran a campaign. For those who don't know, I took a nine-year detour into political consulting in 1995 after working for the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times.

I got The Question more often than usual over the past month as we neared the primary election (the results of which arrived after this column went to press).

So here is The Answer:

Hell, no.

The political landscape is no better than it was in 2004, when I decided I'd had enough. If anything, it is marginally worse.

I left because the hypocrisy of both parties was overwhelming, many of the candidates who were coming forward were uninspiring, and the intolerance for other viewpoints exhibited by Republicans and Democrats alike was growing.

If it was exhausting working long hours running campaigns, it's more draining as a member of the voting public being inundated by this year's crop of candidates. One week before Election Day, I came home to find 17 pieces of campaign literature stuffed into my mailbox. Most were crap. Not because they were negative (as I wrote two weeks ago, I think negative campaigning is good and important, as it often reveals more about the sender than the target), but because what they have chosen to go negative about is so trivial.

Many of the attacks were appeals to partisan isolationism. Hillsborough County Commission hopeful Brad Swanson wants to drum Rose Ferlita out of the Republican Party because she dares talk to and associate with known Democrats. (Joe McCarthy, where are you when we need you?) Swanson juxtaposes images of Ferlita with shots of Hillary Clinton (whom she doesn't support and I'm not sure has even met) and former House Speaker Dick Gephardt (as if anyone even remembers who the hell Gephardt is anymore).

But Swanson did go positive as well, using snippets from La Gaceta, the Planet, the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times made to look as if those newspapers support him editorially. For the record, all four have endorsed Ferlita. (Here's a snippet for Swanson's next mailer, feel free to use it at will: "... Swanson's an unethical, disappointing stooge ...")

And on and on it goes. One (admittedly) hilarious mailer pictures Frank Farkas' head on a small dog's body, calling him a "lapdog for lobbyists." His Florida Senate opponent Kim Berfield is "showered with insurance money." I wouldn't mind all the trite slogans, poll-driven message points, distortions, photo manipulations and flat-out lies so much if any of these jamokes was worth your votes.

Too few are.

On top of the damage the candidates are inflicting on each other, there is the friendly fire within the parties themselves. Over on the GOP side, Republican state Sen. Nancy Argenziano recently told her own party's chairwoman to "kiss my ass." In the Pinellas Republican Party, Chairman Tony DiMatteo long ago chose sides in the GOP primaries, and that group's executive committee showed their appreciation for former Chairman Paul Bedinghaus' decade of service by snubbing his wife in her circuit court campaign.

The Democrats are worse. Most folks expected newly elected Chairman Ed Helm to be a lightning rod. Few expected his wife to run a stealth political committee to trash other Pinellas Democrats. The Times reported last week that the Florida Democratic Party is considering suing Adrien Helm's committee for using its name in attacks against USF-St. Pete icon Bill Heller and in endorsements for Pro-Helmers Charlie Gerdes and Norm Roche.

There is a ray of sunshine in Florida politics this year. Three of the four major candidates who ran in the gubernatorial primary are reasonable anti-bigoted moderates. Any of them — Charlie Crist, Jim Davis or Rod Smith — would have a better shot than Jeb Bush at uniting our state, at reaching consensus on critical issues of water, growth, new jobs and insurance. The one prototypically intolerant party hack, Tom Gallagher, was so far out of it by Election Day that he was irrelevant.

So we got that going for us, as Caddyshack's Carl Spackler would say. Which is nice.

Political Whore can be reached by e-mail at [email protected], by telephone at 813-739-4805 or on our blog at www.blurbex.com.

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