Florida Politics 2016: A Year Like No Other

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It was a crazy year in politics and Florida was often the center of attention.

From the campaign trail, Donald Trump made it clear he was pushing hard for a win in Florida.

“I love Florida,” Trump said during a CBS4 News interview early in the year. “I love the people and I think we are going to do very well in Florida. I have a big stake in Florida.”

Trump was right. He did do well in Florida, winning the state and the presidency. Along the way, Trump knocked off two of the state’s political giants.

Jeb Bush, the legacy candidate, buried his dream of the presidency in a shallow grave in South Carolina in February after losing the first three primary races.

“The people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken and I really respect their decision, so tonight I am suspending my campaign,” he told a hushed crowd in a tiny ballroom.

Marco Rubio, the man once hailed as the “savior” of the GOP, held on until Florida’s presidential primary in March, where Trump crushed him by winning 66 of Florida’s 67 counties.

“While it is not God’s plan that I be president in 2016 or maybe ever, and while today my campaign is suspended, the fact that I’ve even come this far is event of how special America truly is,” Rubio said in Miami, as a Trump supporter heckled him.

Rubio recovered from that embarrassing loss by running for re-election to his Senate seat – something he had promised he would not do.

Voters, however, didn’t mind and Rubio went on to easily beat his Democratic opponent, the young and inexperienced congressman from Palm Beach – Patrick Murphy.

“Let me just say this is a lot better than the last time I did one of these in Miami,” he joked.

South Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had a tough year. She was forced out of her post as chair of the Democratic National Committee, after embarrassing internal emails were released as part of a hacking scandal linked to the Russians.

“At the end of the day these were stolen emails,” she argued.

And it became an issue in her fight for re-election against Nova Law School professor Tim Canova, used the emails to show how one of Wasserman Schultz’s top aides in the DNC suggested using Bernie Sanders religious beliefs against him to help Hillary Clinton.

“I absolutely condemn and condemned that email exchange,” she said during a debate with Canova.

In Miami-Dade County, the mayor’s race between incumbent Carlos Gimenez and School board member Raquel Regalado held center stage. And it was evident how much the two candidates did not like each other during their debate on my Sunday show, Facing South Florida.

At one point, Regalado, the daughter of Miami mayor Tomas Regalado, accused Gimenez of being obsessed with her father. And that’s when things got really strange.

REGALADO: “My father and I are two different people and I know Carlos Gimenez has tried to make us one person cause he has daddy issues. I don’t have daddy issues. I have actually sued my father.”

DEFEDE: “I don’t want to get Freudian here, but daddy issues?”

GIMENEZ: “I don’t have the slightest idea what she is talking about with daddy issues with me. I don’t have daddy issues with me, all right.”

In Broward, voters shot down a proposal to raise the sales tax by a penny for infrastructure and transportation improvements, while the Florida Keys said no to genetically modified mosquitoes.

Freshman Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo – who coming into the year was viewed as one of the most vulnerable House members in the country – won re-election easily.

“It’s a validation of the work we’ve been doing in Congress for the past two years trying to bring Republicans and Democrats to the table on issues like education, transportation the environment,” Curbelo said on Election Night.

And medical marijuana passed this year, garnering 71 percent of the vote. For Tampa attorney John Morgan, who bankrolled the initiative, it was a personal victory. He had started the campaign after seeing how medical marijuana helped his brother a quadriplegic.

“When it’s personal to you and you get to see it and you want to do something to honor him and his suffering and his pain yeah it was good,” Morgan said.

There is little doubt 2016 was an historic year in politics. And whether the elections turned out the way you wanted them to or not – it’s worth remembering the words of Winston Churchill, who once said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

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