Barbara Bush says Jeb should not run for president
Did Charlie Crist betray Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney

Gay marriage, marijuana and the Battle of Olustee

This week in Florida we have learned that – some folks, including at least one legislator, are still fighting the Civil War insisting that a monument to Union soldiers should not be built at the site of the Battle of Olustee.  A law suit was filed in an effort to overturn Florida’s ban on gay marriage.  And polling suggests most Floridians support legalizing medical marijuana.

 That gentle swooshing sound you hear is millions of non-Floridians shaking their heads in wonder. They can be forgiven for not quite understanding how so many Floridians can support gay marriage and medical marijuana while some are still fighting the Civil War.

 One of the sad truths about Florida is that many of the folks who moved to the Sunshine State over the past 25 years, settled in places like South Florida and have never traveled further north than Disney World. They know little, and care less, about North Florida. To be fair, many folks in North Florida view everything south of Orlando with great suspicion.

 It also explains why running for statewide office is very complicated. As Florida tops 19 million in population and edges past New York to become the third largest state, the politics in this swing state continues to bewilder those in the other 47 states.

 Imagine what folks reading the New York Times must have thought when they learned that some Floridians are still fighting the Battle of Olustee.

 The story opens with this:

 Florida’s northern counties have long seen the South as a kindred place — one that breaks the same biscuits, hunts the same deer and shares the same political bent. So around this tiny town 45 miles west of Jacksonville, on the edge of Florida’s largest and bloodiest Civil War battlefield, a Union incursion on sacred ground feels, to some, like reopening 150-year-old wounds.

 As New York Times reporter Lizette Alvarez explains, the Florida chapter of Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War asked the state if it could have a monument built at Olustee Battlefield state park. Nearly 2,000 Union soldiers were killed as well as about a 1,000 victorious Confederate soldiers.

Among those opposing the idea is state Rep. Dennis Baxley who is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The Ocala Republican is also chairman of the House judiciary committee.

 Baxley makes a nonsensical case to Alvarez:

 Adding a Union monument to Olustee, Florida’s first state park, Mr. Baxley said, violates the public trust because it would redefine the historic park.

“My biggest concern is that this is revisionist history and that these decisions are being made by park officials and not an elected body,” he said. “You have to have some obligation to the people.”

This is one of those little political landmines that must continue to puzzle Florida Gov. Rick Scott who shortly after taking offices expressed surprise that politics was a part of every gubernatorial decision.

It is not hard to imagine Baxley, if determined enough to hand Union forces a second defeat at Olustee, asking Scott to tell the park service to back off. That of course, would put Scott in the unpleasant position of backing the Confederate side of the dispute.

Close your eyes for a moment and picture the potential campaign ad against Scott.

The complete New York Times story is here.

Meanwhile, six gay couples are asking the courts to overturn Florida’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  Charlie “Golly I sure would like to be governor again” Crist is among those who in recent years have changed from opposing gay marriage to supporting it.  Today’s Public Policy Polling survey suggests that Floridians may be edging in that direction – 47 percent support gay marriage, 44 percent oppose it.

The 44 percent number is particularly interesting since 62 percent voted in favor of the 2008 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Clearly some Floridians are having second thoughts.

While Crist came a tad late to the idea of supporting same-sex marriage, Scott remains steadfastly opposed. Who wins on this issue?

More than 600,000 Floridians have signed a petition to put legalization of medical marijuana on the November ballot. It is expected that John Morgan, of the Morgan and Morgan law firm, will succeed in collecting the 683,149 petitions necessary to get the issue before voters. Polls suggest a majority of Floridians support medical marijuana.

Crist, who works at the firm founded by his dear friend Morgan, not surprisingly supports legalization. Scott does not.

Rick Scott’s campaign is betting heavily that his work on improving Florida’s economy will be the most important issue on which he will be measured as governor. Scott deserves credit for his single-minded focus on job creation.  Still, Scott struggles to connect with Florida voters with polls continuing to give him low favorability ratings.

 The new PPP survey suggests that 51 percent of Florida voters disapprove of Scott’s job performance while only 34 percent approve. Despite those numbers, Scott (41) is only two points behind Crist  (43) when folks were asked who they would vote for in November. That suggests Crist still has a lot of work to do.

Florida elections are always complex and fascinating.  Who would have thought that in addition to same-sex marriage and medical marijuana, we might have some folks who will cast votes
based on the outcome of the new Battle of Olustee.

One more number – 21 percent of those surveyed said guns should be allowed in movie theaters.

Enjoy the 2014 campaign.


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