Former Florida Gov. Bob Martinez talked today in Tallahassee about the importance of civic engagement. A Smithsonian exhibit on the same topic will be in town for a couple more weeks.
Martinez addressed Florida State University applied politics master's students in the old Senate chambers at the Historic Florida Capitol. Before becoming governor, he’d led a teachers’ union and was mayor of Tampa.
Martinez recalls, “My very first session was in this building in 1965, when they only met every other year, and it was odd-numbered years.”
By the time Martinez took office in 1987, he’d switched parties from Democratic to Republican. He says the switch—in the opposite direction—by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist probably won’t be an issue for voters.
“The bigger issue for Charlie will be changing in positions," he says. "I think the average citizen doesn’t keep score on how you were registered to vote; they keep score on what you stand for.”
He also says, though he was a Republican governor while the Legislature was controlled by Democrats, from 1987 to 1991, Florida didn’t experience the kind of gridlock seen in today’s U.S. Congress. He says he suspects campaign consultants have something to do with today's partisanship.
"Makes better news sometimes, I guess, to find the faults of another person," he says. "But I think part of it is maybe candidates haven’t adjusted to the instant information that’s out there. When I ran, it was three broadcast stations, print media dominated, things moved slowly.”
He says he thinks candidates are overly cautious these days because they're constantly being tracked by the opposition, many times with hidden cameras.
Martinez‘s talk coincides with the finale of a Smithsonian exhibit that’s been at the Historic Capitol since last summer. The “Choosing to Participate: The Power of Civic Engagement” display will be in Tallahassee through Aug. 10.