Crist’s decision to treat black voters with respect and work across party lines helped him gain the support of a number prominent black Democrats. They included former state Sen. Al Lawson and former Tallahassee Police Chief Walt McNeil.
Gov. Rick Scott took a different turn when he took office back in 2011. He mimicked Jeb Bush’s style by demanding that his black appointees, and just about everyone else associated with him, be blind followers.
The black Republicans who have served as the biggest mouthpieces for Scott’s educational policies are retreads from the Jeb years. Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll is Jeb’s former executive director for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Ava Parker, who is now the chief operating officer for Scott’s pet project at Florida Polytechnic, was one of Jeb’s picks for the Board of Governors. Scott’s go-to trustee at FAMU, Rufus Montgomery, was the field director for African American outreach in Jeb’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign.
Torey Alston probably looked like another safe crony due to his previous cheerleading for Jeb. This helped him secure a Scott appointment to continue serving on the FAMU Board of Trustees. Torey has promoted himself as a Republican who can help his party pick up support among black voters. But his actions during his campaign for the Broward County School Board suggest that he played Scott for a fool.
Torey could have spoken up in defense of Scott’s Tea Party educational agenda and the deep cuts he’s made to public schools in Florida. But Torey essentially ran away from the Florida GOP by complaining about “personal, nasty, negative attacks” rather than speaking in support of the statewide educational decisions that Scott and the party have made.
The campaign was also rocked when the media discovered a pro-Torey flyer that was apparently designed to look like it was produced by the reelection campaign of U.S. President Barack Obama, one of Scott’s political foes. Osgood said she was told that Corey Alston, Torey’s brother, was seen handing the flyers out to early voters.
Scott can’t blame Torey for being smart enough to see that his connections to the governor and Florida GOP were liabilities to his school board campaign. Scott should have known that no serious political candidate in a majority black district in Florida could win by openly promoting a Tea Party vision for public education. He should also have known that shape-shifting individuals like Torey have no loyalty to anyone but themselves.
Torey’s crushing 39 percent loss to Osgood now makes him even more dangerous to FAMU as it searches for its next president. Broward County voters aren’t interested in electing Torey to anything any time soon. That means Torey needs Scott more than ever if he is to have any hope in getting another appointed position that will permit him to move up the political ladder before 2015.
Torey was never likely to support a FAMU presidential candidate whom Scott disapproved. But now Scott has even more power to keep Torey in line.