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Quorum Call for House Rules Chairman Gus Craig, D. (St. Augustine)

Updated: Mar 29

Post # 315, Bob McKnight's Florida Commentary

April 1, 2024

Gus Craig was a model legislator for the Golden Age of the Florida Legislature--smart, available, tough, with a sense of humor. And, his word was his bond.

I remember then-Senator Bob Graham telling me on a plane ride back from Tallahassee to Miami that seniority in politics was critical. The Senator had served in both chambers of the Florida Legislature, so he knew of what he spoke. The one legislator he pointed out as the best example was Gus Craig in the House. Craig was first elected to the House in 1958 and was among the longest-serving members in either chamber. Through the years, his friendships and experience grew into almost unmatched power in Florida lawmaking. And yet, few people know his name today.

When I was elected to the House in 1974, Chairman Craig was one of the first members I sought out for advice. He was very available and helpful, especially in covering the rules of the lower body. I noticed right away one of the signatures of the Chairman--his flamboyant and colorful attire. As a St. Augustine Funeral Direct Craig almost always wore madras sport coats to reflect his optimism and hope, as opposed to the darker reputation of his day job.

The Rules Chairman was a favorite of the lobbyists, especially the big-money lawyers. I recall one day he was handling a bill for the race tracks on the floor and encountered surprising resistance from some of the upstart legislators from South Florida. The race tracks in Florida wanted a law to authorize admission to minors as long as they did not bet. The tracks felt the convenience of children attending with their parents might help drive overall attendance and profits. They picked Craig to sponsor the bill since he was the powerful Chairman of the Rules Committee. Few would challenge the Chairman with his control of the calendar of all bills. When blocked in floor debate, Craig bellowed on the floor, "Mr. Speaker, I believe a family that gambles together, stays together. Move the bill Mr. Speaker." The House erupted in laughter and then passed the bill by a wide margin. Only Gus could pull that off.

Representative Gus Craig was typical of the legislators of the Golden Age of the '70's and '80's. He was smart, available, tough, with a great sense of humor. But he had one attribute that just seemed to be a requirement for that time--when he gave his word, he kept it. RIP Mr. Chairman.



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