Senator Dempsey Barron's Coalition




Post # 99, Bob McKnight's Florida Political Commentary "Curse You Red Baron" Turning the clock in the Florida Legislature, some 40 years, a minority of Republican legislators formed a Coalition then with conservative Democrats, let by Senate Dean Dempsey Barron, (D., Panama City). The Coalition quickly took control of the Florida Senate by a vote of 26-14. It was the first time in memory that the minority found a way to rule without a majority on their own.

It might be a lesson for today for the Democrats. The balance in the Senate is almost the same as when Barron ruled, with the Republicans controlling by a vote of 23-17. Four switches by the Republicans would put the Democrats in control. But that is not easy. Not now. Not when Barron did it. Here is how he did it:

  • Barron wrestled the Senate Presidency away from Senator Dan Scarborough (D., Jacksonville) to hand it to his long time friend and protegee Senator W.D. Childers (D., Pensacola) in 1979. Scarborough had all but locked up the Presidency, but watched weak Senators wilt under the pressure of Barron and his bottle of Jack Daniels on his desk.


  • Childers was known to be impulsive and somewhat unpredictable, but Barron discounted that in light of their decades long bond. Barron apparently did not know Childers as well as the savy Senator from Miami Beach, liberal Jack Gordon.


  • At the Organizational Session, Childers surprised everyone by appointing the Gordon slate of Senators to the key Committees. Barron was shocked and vowed revenge.


  • Barron was a master at counting votes and knew he needed 7 Democratic Senators to join him and the 13 Republicans to form a Conservative Coalition to take over the Senate. He got Senators Thomas, Kirkpatrick, Jenkins, Carlucci, Peterson, Trask, Vogt, Beard, Neal, Hill, Renick and Anderson. It was more than he needed.


  • Barron had a solid lock on the Florida Senate 26-14 with his Coalition.


  • Gordon and Senator Ed Dunn (D., Daytona Beach) steered the Senate for Childers, but without a majority, the 82 Session was at a standstill.


Today, the tables are turned, but the chances of the Democrats forming a Coalition with the Republicans is almost non-existent. Why? Because of the Trump loyalty to the Republican Party, and yes, there is not a Senator Dempsey Barron serving in the Florida Legislature any longer.

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