There is a war going on in the Florida legislature. The most conservative member of the legislature, Anthony Sabatini, has been pushing his party to live up to its principles of limited government, free markets, and individual liberty. I see parallels to how Ron Paul once tried to do this in the GOP more than a decade ago. The GOP did not listen then and the grassroots turned to an outsider, Donald Trump, to bully his way into the party and take it over.
Unfortunately, the Republican Speaker of the House, Chris Sprowls, doesn’t like Anthony Sabatini or the principles he is trying to help the party live up to. And now Sprowls has demonstrated, on multiple occasions, his non-tolerance of fellow members of his own party speaking their minds. He has done everything he can to silence Anthony Sabatini, make him less relevant, and quite literally put him in the corner. In the latest of these actions, this week he moved Sabatini’s office to another floor.
But what Speaker Sprowls doesn’t understand is that the more he tries to silence Anthony Sabatini, the louder Sabatini’s megaphone actually gets, and the more we conservatives are going to rally to his side and take on Sprowls himself.
I am perhaps just one example. I used to like Chris Sprowls. When I first learned of him about 5 or 6 years ago, he appeared to be a thoughtful, smart, and dynamic young conservative and we even had a few nice exchanges. But he’s just one of many examples of what happens when you give power and influence to someone and then surround him with all the entrenched interests in Tallahassee. He fails to stick to any set of principles and simply becomes another instrument by which big government grows.
It’s actually not that hard to be a conservative in the Florida House. The Republicans control more than two-thirds of the chamber (72-48). The Senate is more even in terms of party affiliation, with the Republicans holding a slight majority there. And, the last time a Democrat was elected Governor of Florida was in 1994.
But I can’t totally blame Chris Sprowls. It’s also not that hard to be influenced by all the entrenched interests. DC gets named “The Swamp” but Tallahassee is a mini-version of that, and it’s also a capital city that’s far removed from the eyes of most Floridians. With newspapers and media outlets dwindling (and most of the public’s lack of attention to the ones that do exist) it’s easier for the powerful interests to have such an influence on just about every House Speaker that comes around.
There are some exceptions. When Jose Oliva was Speaker, as one example, many of those entrenched interests were frustrated that he didn’t go along to get along, but tried to make the crony capitalists less powerful. However, in cases like this, those special interests just wait out strong principled leaders like Oliva and pounce on weak, feckless leaders like Sprowls. They are like cockroaches. They don’t go away. And Sprowls is their latest victim. He’s now a pawn in their plans.
That’s why we conservatives love it when a representative like Anthony Sabatini comes along. Well before COVID, he was voting against the Speaker’s interests. He was vocal about how much of the Florida taxpayer’s money we were wasting. And then when COVID did come along, he has been the most consistent legislator from day one, standing up against economic lockdowns, mask mandates, and now vaccine mandates. I would argue that if it were not for vocal legislators like Anthony Sabatini, we may not have had our Governor Ron DeSantis being as strong as he has been on these issues. DeSantis is smart. He sees the popularity of issues that Sabatini stands up for and then continues in that direction.
Anthony Sabatini is the conservative warrior we need — and we need about 100 more of him. He is not only vocal, he is smart and intelligent. The first time we met in person, he cited to me all the Firing Line shows with William F. Buckley Jr. he watches. He constantly trades messages with me about books he is in the middle of reading. These are not novels, he is pretty well versed in the many depths of Austrian economics. And he doesn’t just read, he is well versed and knows how to put those principles into practice.
Recently, Sabatini was in Nevada on a 9-day program as a Lincoln Fellow with the prestigious California-based Claremont Institute. Sabatini is the only member in the Florida Legislature with a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union and received a 98 from Club for Growth, the highest of any member in the legislature.
He doesn’t just rack up these accolades. Anthony is also constantly out in the grassroots — not just in his district of Lake County, but all over Florida. And, as an attorney, he has been all over the state suing local governments over their mask mandates. And it is paying off. Because Floridians love him. He has gained a great name ID all over the state and is now starting to attract a national following. People from Miami to Palm Beach to Sarasota to Orlando and many other places are holding fundraisers for him. He has gained attention and endorsements from many people including Senator Rand Paul. And I can tell you, more endorsements are coming because We The People recognize a true representative when we see one.
We also recognize a squish when we see one. And the last time I saw someone in the Florida Republican Party as squishy as Chris Sprowls was Charlie Crist. Perhaps it’s no coincidence they both come from Pinellas County. Sorry to my friends in Pinellas County but your beaches tend to be better than your politicians.
Despite how many conservative groups and grassroots activists champion Sabatini’s voting record, Chris Sprowls has not even allowed some of Sabatini’s bills to be heard, including bills that would have considered renaming a highway in Florida after President Trump, putting in place an e-verify system to check the legal status of workers, and a bill similar to the one just passed in Texas on constitutional carry when it comes to the rights of gun owners. Whether one thinks any of these bills should pass is perhaps up for debate, but not even giving the bill a hearing shows that Sprowls is afraid to debate these matters that are so important to so many conservatives. He is a squish because he probably won’t even answer where he would vote on these bills to try to delicately balance his own future political career.
Sprowls also took away one of Sabatini’s committee assignments and then focused his own energy on combating climate change – hardly a front-and-center issue for conservatives. While conservatives have been concerned about government overreach during the COVID19 pandemic, Sprowls did not show leadership in protecting individual rights over their own persons or stepping up to deal with certain school districts imposing mask mandates on kids. Instead, he called a special session to expand gambling in the State of Florida.
As a conservative, one has to scratch their head trying to figure out just what the heck is a priority for Speaker Chris Sprowls and why they don’t line up with the priorities of most Floridians. It’s clear the entrenched interests of Tallahassee are a bigger influence on Speaker Sprowls than the leading conservative voice in his body. Perhaps he is jealous of the attention that Anthony Sabatini is getting for being such an outspoken advocate on the issues that Floridians actually care about right now.
I have one piece of advice for Chris Sprowls. You too could get this same attention from grassroots conservatives if you change your tune and start taking up some of the items the most conservative member of your party has given you. You should not be trying to silence Anthony Sabatini, you should be thanking him. He has presented a pathway for you by presenting bill after bill of strong conservative reforms. Yet you have ignored him, silenced him, and literally sat him in the corner.
Speaker Sprowls, you might think your “power” to do this right now is effective, but it’s quite the opposite. Anthony Sabatini is gaining steam and conservatives across Florida know who he is. But almost no one outside of Tallahassee or your district in Pinellas County even knows your name or who you are. And you have no path forward in conservative politics in the supposedly Free State of Florida. I hope you don’t go the way of Charlie Crist and simply take the measure of the way the winds are blowing. If so, I’m sure the Florida Democratic Party could use some more politicians on their bench.
I also know there are other legislators in your body that quietly show up to Anthony’s fundraisers and give him their support. I have personally talked to many of them. You know who they are and I believe they can be a bridge for you in helping you to come back to your conservative roots — or at least the principles I once thought you had. In the meantime, thank you for elevating Anthony Sabatini’s platform. Every time you try to put him in a corner, we notice. And we give him even stronger support — because he is saying and doing exactly what the rest of us are thinking. It’s well past time you recognize this. Otherwise, you are sealing your own fate. Just ask Charlie Crist how that worked out for him.
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