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Issue #63: Senator Pizzo is Right About James Bush III
Representative Bush is a Republican in DEM clothing
Florida’s primaries are just six days away. I am currently in the works on a massive Florida Primary Preview article. You can see me 2020 Preview for an idea of how I structure these. I am currently at 12,000 words - heading for 15,000. Yes I cover EVERY statewide, congressional, and legislative primary. As I have been working on that, a major row has developed around James Bush III, one of Miami-Dade’s Democratic house members. Bush was originally a member of the state house from 1992-2000. He came back in 2008 and served till 2010. Then he won a seat again in 2018.
Bush, a very conservative Democrat, who often bucks the caucus on big issues, is facing a serious primary threat from lawyer Ashley Gantt. A large number of Florida Democrats have come out to openly back Gantt in the primary; including organizations like Emily’s List. Senator Jason Pizzo hit Bush the hardest, saying in relation to DeSantis’ racial gerrymander of a Congressional map, “The Governor seems to have issues with Black folks……But instead of leveraging his relationship with the Governor to help, he is the Governor’s little bitch.”
This comment has angered James Bush, who held a press conference yesterday, demanding Senator Pizzo resign. So some of you may be wondering, why did Pizzo say that?
Bush is a very conservative Democrat. However, Pizzo’s attack was also a direct point about Bush often being the loan Democrat with Governor DeSantis at bill signings and other events. Democrats have long grumbled about Bush’s close relationship with Republicans. Pizzo alludes to the reality that Bush is always giving DeSantis cover by going to events with him, but he has not called the Governor out for his efforts to crack black voters in redistricting or delaying the special elections for majority-black districts. Bush has never stood up to the Governor. Now you may ask, dear reader, “well that language is still too far, how bad can Bush be to justify such an attack?”
Well, lets do a quick look at some of Bush’s votes
Only Democrat to vote for the anti-LGBT “Don’t Say Gay” Bill
Only Democrat to vote for 15 week abortion ban, which didn’t have rape/incest exemptions
Only Democrat to vote to ban transgender students from playing in sports
Only Democrat to vote to allow conceal carry guns into Churches
Only Democrat to vote against allowing smoke of marijuana for medical purposes (this was a bill to regulate the industry after the 2016 Amendment to legalize medical marijuana passed)
One of two Democrats to lower the corporate income tax
One of two Democrats to back DeSantis’ social media regulation bill, which aimed to prevent politicians from being banned (response to Trump ban)
One of two Democrats to vote for bill that prevent private companies from mandating COVID vaccines
One of give Democrats to vote to require parental consent to have an abortion - a law currently being used to force a 16 year old with no parents to carry her 10-week pregnancy to term, deeming her “not mature enough.”
One of ten Democrats to vote to weaken Healthcare facility regulations
In 2010, one of three Democrats to support mandating ultrasounds before abortion.
Bush also has a 67% rating from Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing business group founded by the Koch Brothers. His rating is the highest any Democrat has (which he shares with 3 other corporate Democrats). He also has a 25% rating from the Republican Liberty Caucus. The second closest Democrat is fellow-conservative Anika Omphroy, who has 10%. Every other member of the Democratic caucus has 0%.
Bush has long been regarded as a Republican who pretends to be a Democrat. He sits in a deep-blue region of Miami-Dade in a majority-black district. There is no electoral concern behind Bush’s votes. Yes the Caribbean, and non-Caribbean black communities can be more socially conservative (see my posts about abortion and same-sex marriage referendums in Florida). However, Bush has also backed the GOP on issues from business regulations, corporate taxes, and COVID mandates. On LGBT and abortion issues, specifically the most recent votes, fellow social conservative Democrats like Omphroy still didn’t vote for them. The GOP’s latest bills have been far more extreme than previous years. Bush still voted for them.
Bush’s Electoral Strength
As already stated, Bush has been in and out of the legislature for several years. He’s always represented district 109, which has seen some changes with time. Below is the versions of the district he has represented, overlaid with the new lines he is running under.
Bush has faced defeat before. In 2000, he ran for Education Commissioner, but lost 2-1 in the Democratic Primary. In 2010, he ran for the Congressional Seat that Frederica Wilson would win after Democrat Kendrick Meek left to run for US Senate. He got 5%. Then, in 2012, Bush ran for the black-access Senate District 39. He lost to Democrat Dwight Bullard; who had large liberal backing.
Bush also made a run for school board in in 2016. He came in third place, missing a runoff spot. He sued to overturn the election, making all types of claims. The suit went nowhere. It turns out Bush has filed a complaint after he lost to Bullard in 2012 as well. Bullard quipped: “That’s what James does. He’s like that.” Gee…. suing after you lose the vote. Where have I heard that before?
However, he came back in 2018. Bush filed to run for the open district when Cynthia Stafford was termed out. Bush faced off against Cedric McMinn, a young political staffer, operative, and activist. McMinn had a large amount of institutional Democratic support; raising over $140,000. Bush, meanwhile, only raised $25,000. McMinn, had he been elected, would have been the first openly LGBT non-incumbent candidate to win a seat in the Florida legislature. It seemed McMinn was on his way to victory. In the end, though, Bush won.
One issue that helped Bush was the primary being open to all voters. Bush’s campaign openly said, “We actually talked to Republicans.”
Bush’s first term featured plenty of conservative votes and defections from the caucus. Grumbling to primary him began quick. However, with COVID spreading across Florida in 2020, no candidate qualified against him. This was considered a major blunder. However, more focus was on ousting fellow Conservative Democrat Kim Daniels; who would be ousted.
Bush saw what happened to Daniels, who featured similar pro-corporation and anti-LGBT votes, and decided to DOUBLE DOWN on everything.
What will happen next week? Its hard to say. Bush defied the odds in 2018. He is a known name and doesn’t need tons of cash. Gantt has raised $110,000 while Bush has raised $67,000. Bush has won and lost races in the area. I cannot be sure how the election will go.
Like the 2018 primary, this race is open to all votes due to only Democrats filing for office. The partisan breakdown of the primary will likely be around 75% Democrats, 12% Republicans (if primary history is anything to go on). The primary will also be majority black, with a sizable Hispanic share of the vote.
Whoever wins the primary will be automatically elected.
Bush, who called a press conference over the Pizzo quote, is accusing the Senator of racism. He did this while insisting he wouldn’t answer for his right-wing votes.
This of course ignores the fact Gantt is black as well, and that several black Democrats are backing Gantt; like Congresswoman Fredricka Wilson, State Rep Michelle Rayner, and Senator Shev Jones. Bush gets zero sympathy from me, especially due to his anti-LGBT votes. Yeah I’m sure the 15 year old transgender student who just wants to be allowed to play soccer really feels bad for Bush being called the Governor’s bitch. Bush is the real victim here.
Pizzo, for his part, is not backing down. Click below for a full tweet thread from the Senator.
In fact, during Bush’s press conference (go to minute 17 and watch from there) - Bush repeated GOP talking points that, regarding the Don’t Say Gay Bill, “the bill never says gay.” Well no shit Representative, it doesn’t use that word. It talks about sexual orientation a whole bunch though. We have now seen, months post-passage, schools wrestle with this issues. Both LGBT teachers and students (who risk getting outed) are already being targeted by the law. Bush revealed his bigotry at the 18:30 mark when he says, about the controversy,
“look what they are doing to me! And guess what, why should I trust them in the hand’s of my children.”
SAYING THE QUIET PART OUT LOUD HUH!
The GOP attacks on the LGBT community are fueling far-right hate, leading to increased death threats, attacks, and murders. But Bush is the victim. The dreaded gays are after him. A State Senator is after him. He used a bad word!
Bush, and his defenders, insist he is bringing money into the district. Yes every member must bring home aid to their voters. However, many Democrats have brought “the bacon” home to their districts without voting against the entire caucus - especially voting for bills that aim to target LGBT youth. Bush endorsed DeSantis’ bullying style by voting for bills that target the most vulnerable. He then proudly stands with our George Wallace wannabe of a governor. HOW DARE HE complain when Pizzo calls him out.
You earned your title Representative. You are a bigot and you are a baby. But most importantly of all, you are DeSantis’ bitch.