Monday, November 25, 2013

2014 Governor's Race: What Will Big Sugar Do? … by gimleteye

These have been great years for Big Sugar. Having co-opted the Democrats in the 1990's, massaged Jeb! Bush for eight years, wrecked Charlie Crist and promoted Marco Rubio, and gushed over the most compliant governor in modern history -- Rick Scott -- it is hard to know how Big Sugar does better, politically, from here.

The nearly 800,000 acres it owns south of and around Lake Okeechobee -- through its own companies, affiliates or best boy friends -- look increasingly like staging areas for inland ports, train depots, suburban sprawl: you name it, whatever Big Sugar wants politically, it has gotten. For example, in the last election cycle it tested the power of Dark Money -- through political fund raising committees like Florida First -- and pushed deep into county politics where it has no business.

Until the Lee County race, where it unseated a long-time Republican county commissioner -- Ray Judah -- who opposed the massive releases of pollution that benefited Big Sugar and devastated Florida's estuaries and waterways on both coasts (!), Big Sugar had only tampered at the edges. (Big Sugar has also strenuously fought against Fair Districts, the movement and litigation seeking to end the gerrymandering of political districts at the state and congressional level that has accrued all to the favor of the GOP.)

But 2014 could turn into a strange year for Big Sugar.

Gov. Rick Scott, who invested more than $60 million of his own money to take the Governor's Mansion, is the most unpopular governor in the United States: that is saying, a lot. So who does Big Sugar bet on?

Big Sugar holds no cards with Charlie Crist, at least none we know about. On the other hand, a Crist governorship -- as a Democrat -- might not be worse, say, than with a Lawton Chiles or Bob Graham. In other words, Crist could defeat Scott and Big Sugar would still be in the driver's seat, controlling the state legislature majority and committees responsible for agriculture, land use and environment.

The one wild card is -- interestingly -- climate change.

Florida's economy and jobs have the most to lose in the nation from sea level rise, and yet the issue has been mostly buried in the state's political consciousness.

Climate change could be the electoral issue that acts like an ice-breaker on the political hegemony that has been enforced these long decades by Big Sugar. Why? Because Big Sugar depends on complacency at all levels: from the grass-roots, where it has succeeded in promoting Tea Party activists who agitate against their own interest, to county and state legislatures where perception is power.

With Florida's environmental community largely penned in by Big Sugar's political maneuvering, there is no chance to energize the public on the environment. Climate change, though, is -- in the word's of my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Bachman -- a horse of a different color. But are there any political candidates in Florida, to make climate change the winning issue with voters in 2014 and breaks, finally, Big Sugar's stranglehold on Florida?

Speaking of which, the billionaire Fanjuls are throwing a big fundraiser for Newark mayor Corey Booker, continuing its grand tradition of enlisting African American power centers to the cause of Big Sugar.


Anonymous said...

Really? Corey Booker? WTF? I gotta give them credit, the Fanjuls are shameless. I guess they are expecting Booker to ride to the top. SMH

Somebody needs to get in Booker's ear. The problem is, Big Sugar money is...BIG.

Anonymous said...

The Fanjuls little black book has lots of names.

Anonymous said...

I wish Junot Diaz, the great American writer from the DR, who is in Miami would read your blog.

Anonymous said...

Global warming and sea level rise are a blessing to Big Sugar. Why or how save the Everglades when it is covered in saltwater?

Anonymous said...

The water needs to be for people… to protect water wells that depend on Everglades water. Not a crop.

Anonymous said...

didn't EOM say that Bill Nelson was definitely running for governor? I'm still waiting ....