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State Rep. Scott Randolph has taken the talk about his wife's uterus all the way to Rachel Maddow's national cable television show on MSNBC.
If you haven't heard by now, Randolph, D-Orlando, said the word "uterus" during a March 25, 2011, floor debate about union dues collections. Republicans, Democrats say, told Randolph he couldn't say that word.
The back-and-forth went viral and helped launched Randolph into a new stratosphere of popularity among progressives and liberals. That included a coveted chat with the high-priestess of liberal thinking, Maddow.
Maddow and Randolph discussed how the Republican-dominated Legislature has 18 anti-abortion bills pending, yet some Republicans were upset with Randolph using the word "uterus." That spun into Randolph talking about redistricting, and how Republicans have been able to reach veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate despite being outnumbered by registered Democrats in the state.
"In terms of the last election and how the state Legislature in Florida ended up so very Republican right now, do you think that Floridians knew they were getting the kind of Legislature that would pursue 18 anti-abortion bills all at once? I mean, was the last election all about stuff like abortion rights?" Maddow asked during her April 4, 2011, show.
"Well ... it was muddled," Randolph said. "We had a moderate Republican, Gov. Charlie Crist, who vetoed the last (abortion) bill that made it through the last Legislature. I think it lulled a couple of... some people to sleep. And, then, of course, now, we have a much (more) far right governor in Gov. Rick Scott.
"And at the legislative level, you know, so many of these guys don't get challenged because the districts are so gerrymandered that quite frankly, probably, two-thirds of the Legislature was certified on the day that qualifying ended and their names never ended up on the ballot even. In fact, we have a guy who is going to be speaker of the House in four years, and his name has been on the ballot one time."
"Wow," Maddow responded.
Randolph's claim about a future House speaker surprised Maddow, which means it's something we wanted to check.
The man in line to be speaker four years from now is Rep. Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary. But when we reached Randolph's office, he said he was talking about Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who will be speaker for the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions.
To make sure Randolph wasn't moving the goal posts on us, we decided to check both.
Dorworth represents District 34, which includes parts of Orange and Seminole counties. As of 2000, registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats in the district by about 14 percentage points. Dorworth was first elected to the seat in 2007 during a special election to replace David Mealor. He was re-elected in 2008 and 2010.
According to Department of State election records, Dorworth won a close primary in 2007 against Allen Roosa, winning by 68 votes. Dorworth then won the 2007 general election against a Democrat and two no-party candidates, receiving 54.5 percent of the vote. In 2008, Dorworth easily dispatched a primary challenger and did not have an opponent in the general election, meaning he was re-elected after the primary.
In 2010, Dorworth did not have a primary, but he did beat Democrat Steve Barnes and John DeVries, a tea party candidate.
That's two general elections out of a possible three, and two primaries out of three, where his name appeared on the ballot.
As for Weatherford, the person Randolph says he was talking about, things get a little more complicated.
A one-time aide to former Speaker Alan Bense who married Bense's daughter, Weatherford was first elected in District 61 in 2006. The district covers Pasco and Hillsborough counties, and as of 2000, registered voters in the district were 41 percent Republican and 40 percent Democrat.
In 2006, Weatherford's name didn't appear on the ballot.
That year, Republican Party officials selected Weatherford to replace incumbent Rep. Ken Littlefield on the general election ballot after Littlefield decided to take a position on the Public Service Commission. But the change happened too close to the election, and Littlefield's name remained in place. So votes for Littlefield actually went to Weatherford. Littlefield/Weatherford defeated Democrat Donovan Brown, receiving 60 percent of the vote.
Weatherford was then re-elected without any opposition in 2008 -- not a primary or a general election.
In 2010, he handily defeated newcomer Kevin Wright in a primary, and his name appeared on the November ballot where he bested Democrat Elena McCullough and received almost 66 percent of the vote.
Weatherford's story is a bit trickier to judge in the context of Randolph's claim. Weatherford has run in two general elections -- though only once was his name on the ballot. He also had a primary in 2010, though Randolph's comments pertained to the larger point about redistricting and the split between Republicans and Democrats. That would put greater weight on general elections.
Where does this all leave us?
Randolph said: "We have a guy who is going to be speaker of the House in four years and his name has been on the ballot one time." A basic reading of Randolph's comments would lead you to believe he's talking about Dorworth, who is scheduled to be speaker in 2015 -- four years from now. Dorworth has had two general elections out of a possible three, plus two primaries.
But Randolph said he was talking about Weatherford, who is set to replace Rep. Dean Cannon as speaker for 2013 and 2014. Weatherford's name has only appeared on the general election ballot once -- but even granting Randolph wide latitude, he's still reshaping history. Weatherford was appointed to replace Littlefield on the 2006 ballot for District 61, and even though Weatherford's name wasn't on the ballot, he still spent about six weeks campaigning for the seat.
If he had gotten the years right, Randolph might have had a better case. But because of the misstatement, coupled with the fact that Weatherford's story is not as clear-cut as Randolph described it, we find this claim False.
St. Petersburg Times, "From the Florida House to national media, 'uterus' is runaway hit," April 6, 2011
The Rachel Maddow Show, transcript, April 4, 2011, accessed via Nexis
St. Petersburg Times, "Chris Dorworth: I don't gallivant," Feb. 24, 2009
E-mail interview with Lauren Doney, Scott' Randolph's legislative aide, April 5, 2011
St. Petersburg Times, "Will Weatherford's rise to next House speaker is swift," March 13, 2011
House District 61 statistics, accessed April 11, 2011
House District 34 statistics, accessed April 11, 2011
Florida Department of State Division of Elections results, accessed April 11, 2011
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