State Senator Anitere Flores picked a bad year to show her true colors. Over the weekend, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtenin, announced her retirement from Congress. It’s the sort of seat that someone like Flores, the second most powerful state senator in Florida for the next two legislative sessions, should easily be able to leapfrog into. But this year, Flores hasn’t exactly played her cards right – especially when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of Republican primary voters.
From the very first day of the 2017 Session, when she spiked a handful of 2nd Amendment bills, to this final week, where she continues to throw wrenches into the legislative machinery on behalf of trial attorneys, the Miami Republican has singlehandedly alienated almost every conservative or Republican faction in the state.
Over the years, Flores has been a popular candidate, at least at the ballot box, where she’s racked up huge margins over both Republican and Democrat opponents. In her first run for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives, Flores handily defeated her Democrat opponent by a 28 point margin. In 2010, she ran for the first time for the Florida Senate, cruising to an even larger victory over her Democrat opponent, winning 68 percent to 32 percent.
And thanks to term limits, Flores is now in her final two years as a state senator, making her jump into a possible Congressional contest almost perfectly natural. But among those who initially supported her and even donated money to her many legislative campaigns, many are unhappy with her, saying she’s made promises she hasn’t kept.
Here are three of the biggest knocks against her if she decides to make a run for the Republican nomination for Congress:
Flores is Too Friendly to Trial Lawyers
One of the biggest sticking points in the Florida legislature this year has been legislation to address lawsuit abuse of a process called assignment of benefits. The process, commonly referred to as “AOB,” allows homeowners to assign their insurance benefits to contractors – some that are unlicensed – and whom insurance companies say often file inflated claims resulting in higher premiums for homeowners.
And Flores is smack dab in the middle of that fight. As chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance, she presided over a watered down bill that insurers say would have no impact on fixing the problem. She even drew national scorn from the Wall Street Journal:
Florida homeowners might want to remember the name Anitere Flores when they open their next insurance bill. The South Florida Republican this week blocked an effort to stop a plaintiffs attorney scheme that’s endangering the state’s taxpayer-backed catastrophic insurer and sending premiums skyrocketing.
Flores Opposes 2nd Amendement Initiatives
Flores might be forgiven if her only transgression was caving to the trial lawyer lobby. But Republicans – especially gun owners and the National Rifle Association – have a bone to pick with her too, and it’s a big one: she scuttled 10 of fellow State Senator Greg Steube‘s gun-related bills. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune summed the issue up neatly:
In a stunning setback for gun rights supporters, Sen. Anitere Flores, one of the most powerful lawmakers in Tallahassee, declared on the very first day of Florida’s two-month legislative session that she likely would not support any of Steube’s 10 other gun bills, leaving them with little chance of moving forward.
“He and I do not see eye-to-eye on probably any of the other gun bills,” said Flores, a Miami Republican. “I do not support having guns on campus, I do not support having guns in airports, I do not support having guns in school zones. I don’t support those things and Sen. Steube feels differently and that’s fine but this is where we are this year.”
Flores Failed to Help Small Business Owners
Vacation rental homeowners in Monroe County aren’t happy with Flores, either. She is pushing to exempt Monroe County from legislation that would otherwise protect Monroe County vacation rental owners from overburdensome regulations. But rather than simply targeting unwanted behavior by all homeowners, Flores wants to give Monroe County regulators the power to specifically target vacation rental owners with ordinances that have a crushing impact on local tourism.
There’s a handful of other reasons why Flores won’t run. She’s an opposition researcher’s dream. But on matters of pure policy, the reasons above are enough to end her chances of successfully navigating a Republican primary, even without her having to worry about what other nasty attacks might surface in a highly competitive campaign. She is a powerful political figure, and she’ll remain so through 2018 if she stays in the Florida Senate through the end of her term, but there’s simply no clear path for her to survive a vicious GOP primary.