Reporting Jim DeFede
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — From a political standpoint, 2012 proved to be another raucous year in South Florida. Amid echoes of, “Let people vote!” in our ears, with the images of long lines still haunting our memories, Florida was once again the center of attention.
Prosecutors discovered – with shock and amazement – the wonders of Hialeah ballot brokers; those little old men and women known as bolateros who rob the elderly of their right to vote.
Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist suddenly discovered he was really a Democrat. “I feel like I’ve really come full cycle and it’s a blessing,” said Crist, who is expected to make a run for governor in 2014.
We said goodbye to a pair of first term congressmen who were very good at attracting controversy.
There was the ever evasive David Rivera. The Miami Republican couldn’t seem to avoid trouble and spent his entire term under either state or federal investigation. He ended up losing to Joe Garcia — who proved the old adage, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
“We feel very appreciative for the vote we got,” Garcia said on Election Night.
South Florida voters also bid farewell to Congressman Allen West, who once declared with a straight face that he believed “there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.” The bombastic, McCarthy-channeling, Tea Party darling spent a record $17 million on his losing bid to stay in Congress. He was defeated by a 29-year-old neophyte, Patrick Murphy.
Joining Garcia and Murphy in Congress next year will be former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel. Frankel beat Republican Adam Hasner for an open House seat that runs along the coast of Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Florida’s very own spaceman/Senator, 70-year-old Bill Nelson, easily won re-election to a third term in the Senate. He promised to remain a uniter and not a divider, “What I will try to continue to do is to try and reach across the aisle,” Nelson said after winning.
Locally – Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez won his first full term – knocking off rival Joe Martinez.
On the county commission – incumbents all won re-election – despite an effort by the wealthy auto magnate – Norman Braman – to knock a couple of them off. “If they decide to vote for the incumbent commissioners, so be it,” Braman said before the vote.
In Broward the big election news was in the race for sheriff — where incumbent Al Lamberti was beaten by longtime foe and bitter rival Scott Israel. “There is no animosity on my side toward Sheriff Lamberti,” Israel said with little conviction.
Of course the political story of the year was President Obama not only winning re-election – but carrying Florida.
And no sooner had he won then speculation commenced about the 2016 presidential prospects of Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush.
For his part, the President predicted a win in the Sunshine state when CBS4’s Jim DeFede interviewed him on Election Day. “I think it is going to be incredibly close but I know we’ve got the votes to win Florida,” the President argued. “The question is: Are people turning out to vote?”
Actually convincing people to vote wasn’t the problem — allowing them to vote was the issue. Cuts to early voting hours followed by long lines on Election Day made Florida a national joke. “And we need to fix that,” the President noted in his victory speech.
But whether it get’s fixed is still very much in doubt. Of course there is always next year.