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Former Florida Lawmakers Unite For Biden

Tom Flanigan
Florida's Old and New Capitols

A growing number of onetime Florida House and Senate members are using social media to send a political message.

As the presidential race comes down to the wire in Florida, a group of former legislators is backing Democratic nominee Joe Biden. They call themselves "Former Florida Lawmakers for Good Government," and there are about 130 of them. They include former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, former Governor and current U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, other members of Congress, former state House Speakers, legislators and other elected officials.

"I think we calculated…There's like 200,000 years of experience," said former two-time House Appropriations Chair Sam Bell, a Democrat who represented Volusia County from 1974 to 1988.

The group's Facebook page has about 1,500 followers and requires a pledge of civility to join. Its principles include integrity as the core value of public service, equality before the law, and the encouragement of voting, racial equity and a free press. "Decisions should be based on the truth," the members wrote. "The American people can handle it."

"This is a time when Republicans and Democrats have come together on common cause to change Washington and save our nation," said Bell.

He added one of the best things about the "Former Lawmakers" Facebook page is that people who served together have reconnected.

"The camaraderie that exists in Tallahassee now is really non-existent," he said. "I think what it's going to take is, number one, changing the atmosphere in DC. But you begin by doing what you can at home, and this is a start."

Most of the group's members are Democrats, but not all. And Independent Paula Dockery, who represented Lakeland as a Republican, said some GOP support is silent.

"It's a tough thing," Dockery said. "It takes somebody who's willing to buck the system, and who's willing to take criticism from family and friends and people who helped elect them. Because you're supposed to, in this very partisan time that we live in, put party over country."

Like her colleagues, Dockery recalls when state lawmakers relied more on cooperation and negotiation.

"We realize we're not going to agree on all issues, but we used to disagree with a lot more civility, and that's what we want to see for the future," she said.

Former state Representative Juan-Carlos Planas, a Miami Republican known as J.C., said some Republicans "are looking forward to having debates on actual issues again."

"Part of the reason some of us that are Republicans are backing Biden is because the Trump Party is actually very different than what the Republican Party was, and we'd like to get back to traditional left-and-right issues," Planas said.

But he warned that to get there, it's important to acknowledge what brought us to this moment in the life of our democracy.

"Trump was brought in because there were grievances on how the government affected certain people," he said. "You can't deny that. So the important thing is going to be that if we defeat Trump, we keep listening to the people and try to find a way to meet their needs."

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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