At a time when the Democrats should have been celebrating one of their few successes during this legislative session, they found themselves Wednesday morning squabbling in a backroom instead. Once they emerged, the 16-member Florida Senate Democrat Caucus announced it had unexpectedly ousted its party’s leader.
With only three days left in the legislative session, Senator Gary Farmer, (D-District 34) was removed from his post as Senate Minority Leader and replaced by either Senator Lauren Book (D-District 32), who was on deck to take over as leader next year or Senator Bobby Powell (D-District 30), the Leader Pro Tempore, depending on who you ask.
Book’s spokesperson Claire VanSusteren told the Sun-Sentinel, a no-confidence vote on Farmer, taken during that private meeting, was the culmination of issues that had been building through the 2021 legislative session that ends on Friday.
“There’s just not a whole lot of trust between the members and their leader,” VanSusteren said.
According to reports, following 14 Democrat senator’s unified stance on Tuesday against a bill which would have protected candidates for Florida university president positions from public records requests, rumors were floated that there was dissension in the ranks. Farmer was reportedly accused of spreading those rumors.
All 14 of those Democrat senators’ votes were needed to block the two-thirds majority needed to pass that bill. Under Senate rules, a senator on the winning side of an issue can make a motion to reconsider the vote. If any Democrat changed his or her vote, the bill would pass.
According to multiple reports, during Wednesday morning’s caucus, Senator Shevrin Jones (D-District 35), said he had heard his name was being circulated as a possible vote-switcher.
He, reportedly, told Farmer that “not being truthful is something that pisses me off … to have my character put on the line.”
Farmer told Jones: “You had told me you were a no on that bill, and I absolutely took you at your word.”
A few minutes later, the senators ended the caucus and gathered in a private room just off the Senate floor.
Following the conclusion of that meeting, it was reported Farmer was removed by a vote of no confidence. Book announced that she was chosen as Farmer’s immediate successor.
However, according to Florida Politics, Farmer claimed the vote was out of order and then resigned. He also indicated Senator Bobby Powell (D-District 30) would take over.
“I hereby resign as Democratic Leader in the Florida State Senate, and pursuant to Senate and Caucus rules Leader Pro Tempore Senator Bobby Powell shall assume the role and responsibilities of the Senate Democratic Leader effective immediately,” he said.