Bradenton's Bill Galvano highly qualified for FL Senate presidency

July 25, 2013 

During his eight years in the Florida House, freshman state Sen. Bill Galvano established a strong record of legislative leadership, consensus building and thoughtful public service.

The Bradenton attorney, termed out of the House in 2010, should be a top contender for the Senate presidency in 2018 (for the 2019-2020 legislative sessions). While he must win re-election in 2014 and 2018, we figure his odds are very good -- at both retaining his District 26 seat and winning the chamber's presidency.

News about his candidacy leaked out last week, though Galvano declines to confirm his aspirations. That speaks to his low-key nature, one that served him well in the House as he rose to powerful posts. Back then, Galvano's colleagues expressed admiration and appreciation for his understated political prowess.

Since colleagues confirmed he is collecting pledge cards from his fellow senators for their votes, his presidential candidacy is well under way.

Because of redistricting and constitutional provisions, Galvano's current term only last two years, but he is eligible for a pair of four-year terms.

In Florida's peculiar political process, chamber leadership are determined years in advance because term limits don't allow the luxury of lengthy deliberations over qualifications. The pitfalls of this process came into sharp focus in the 2012 election when GOP Rep. Chris Dorworth, elected in 2010 to serve as House speaker in 2014-2016, lost his re-election bid by a razor-thin margin.

Another roadblock in Galvano's path to the presidency is if Republicans somehow lose their commanding edge in the Senate and a Democrat rises to the presidency in 2018.

When current Senate President Don Gaetz visited the Herald Editorial Board ahead of this year's legislative session, he responded to a question about Galvano's potential in the chamber: "I think that Bill Galvano could be Senate president, he could be attorney general, he could be governor. Bill Galvano is one of the smartest people I've ever met."

Indeed, Gaetz drafted Galvano to compose an important ethics bill designed to rein in public corruption and abuse -- Gaetz's top priority for the session. That sign of confidence in Galvano can only serve to boost his candidacy. (The full Legislature did indeed pass an ethics bill this year.)

In an interview with Herald reporter Sara Kennedy last week, Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, acknowledged that she signed a pledge to vote for Galvano "because he's from my area, and I've known him for years, and I have much respect for him."The two became well acquainted as members of the region's legislative delegation, frequently engaging the public together in forums and serving on various official bodies.

Manatee County's most recent Senate president, John McKay of Bradenton, held the position from 2001-2002. He, too, speaks highly of Galvano, telling the Herald that the new senator " ... is well-respected among his peers, and I certainly hope he accomplishes his goal."

Galvano earned that respect through his many legislative accomplishments, these being two prominent examples:

• As chair of the House Rules and Calendar Council, he approved an ethics inquiry against then Speaker Ray Sansom, R-Destin, accused of steering millions to a college in his district and then accepting a position there. Through Galvano's diplomatic handling of this controversy, Sansom resigned on the eve of his ethics trial.

• As chair of the Select Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review, Galvano negotiated a billion-dollar deal for the state in exchange for allowing the tribe to expand its casinos into table games.

His deft management of the legislative process and its political underpinning are essential qualities for chamber leadership. Florida will be well-served with Bill Galvano as Senate president.

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