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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Florida’s top political stories for 2015 included Floridians joining the presidential race and our governor involved in a scandal.
The year in politics started with the January swearing in of Florida Governor Rick Scott to his second term in office. In November 2014, Scott defeated his predecessor Charlie Crist – seemingly ending Crist’s political career. Or at least that’s what some thought.
No sooner had the Florida governor renewed his vows with the electorate than Scott found himself in the midst of a political scandal. The head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Gerald Bailey, was fired after allegedly refusing to initiate a baseless criminal investigation into a political rival of the governor.
Scott told the public Bailey simply resigned and it had long been planned but it wasn’t true and Scott found himself having to publicly apologize.
“While I wanted to bring in new leadership at FDLE, as we transition into a second term in office, it is clear in hindsight, I could have handled it better,” said Scott.
Truth-be-told, the biggest political news in Florida in 2015 had to do with who was running for president in 2016 and how many of them had Florida connections.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio jumped into the race in April, using the iconic backdrop of Miami’s Freedom Tower.
”I chose to make this announcement at the Freedom Tower because it is truly a symbol of our nation’s identity as a land of opportunity,” said Rubio back in April.
Two months later, it was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s turn.
“Our country is on a very bad course and the question is what are we going to do about it. The question for me, the question for me is what am I going to do about it and I’ve decided I’m a candidate for President of the United States of America,” said Bush during his announcement.
At the time, Bush was seen as the early frontrunner – with a promise to have more than $100 million in contributions and the support of the part’s establishment.
“I will run with heart and I will run to win,” said Bush.
Jeb however had all the lift of a lead balloon and his poll numbers sank, in no small part due to the efforts of a part-time Floridian who branded him “low energy.”
“ I’m winning Florida. I’m beating Bush and Rubio,” said rival Donald Trump back in October while at a South Florida rally.
Trump’s bluster and bombast has carried him to the top of the polls – a spot he shared for a brief period with yet another newly minted Floridian – Dr. Ben Carson, who during a trip to a Kendall bookstore to promote his new book had trouble dissecting the unique policy known as Wet Foot Dry Foot that gives preferential treatment to Cubans who arrive in the US.
“There are a lot of policies that I lack knowledge of,” said Carson back in November.
Locally, Ken Russell mounted a grass-roots campaign to win a seat on the Miami City Commission, turning back well-funded candidates and promising to bring a new sense of reform to local government.
While on Miami Beach, the millionaire mayor, Philip Levine, won re-election thanks to a flurry of commercials touting hyper drive administration.
“I’m looking at rolling up my sleeve tomorrow and going to city hall and continue to getting things done. Really, right now, we have so much to get done. You know me. I’m the impatient mayor so I can’t wait to hit the ground tomorrow,” said Levine back in November.
Also this year, the Florida Supreme Court redrew the boundary lines for congressional districts across the state – resulting in Representatives Lois Frankel and Ted Deutsch to decide to switch districts and it also places Republican freshman Congressman Carlos Curbelo in a district that now favors a Democrat – putting his re-election in serious jeopardy. But that’ll be decided next year.
Click here to read more about Campaign 2016.