By Tom Tillison
Orlando Political Press
The year 2010 has come to an end and what better time is there to look back on who stood out, made a difference and set a positive example for his/her fellow Floridians.
It has been a long year filled with some great victories and a few crushing defeats. Democracy can be very ugly at times, but what matters most is that the American people are more engaged today than at any other time in our generation. (And, to be more accurate, we are a constitutional republic, which is important to understand, even if it doesn't flow as well in a sentence!)
This Top 10 list is focused on the political spectrum, as to be expected and is not all inclusive. The challenge is generating a top 10 list is that you will inevitable overlook a crucial name or include a name that will make others cringe. Which is what makes such lists fun!
What is not to be lost in the mix is that more and more of our fellow citizens are getting engaged in the political process, which is the only way we will realize the progress so desperately needed in this great country.
<OMG, did he just use the word 'progress', as in Progressive? Has TomT gone over to the dark side? >
Relax, there is such a thing as progress. C.S. Lewis said it much better than I ever could;
"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."
The Orlando Political Press Presents The Florida 2010 Top Ten People of the Year -
1. The Florida Tea Party Movement - There was much debate over this selection, yet, it was never really in doubt. Regardless of your view of the tea party, you simply cannot deny the impact it has had in the world around us. The excitement and level of involvement in the 2010 November Election was such a stark contrast to 2008 when many where writing the obituary for the Republican Party. Never in our time have we seen such an incredible awakening of the American people as we've seen in the past two years. The record setting voter turnout in the Republican primary across the state told the story.
From Punta Gorda to Jacksonville and just about everywhere in between, the tea party movement in Florida has come to be recognized as possibly the most effective, best organized in the nation. The commitment and passion of those involved is second to none and whether it was playing a role in getting Marco Rubio elected, ridding ourselves of menaces such as Alan Grayson or defeating a proposed tax increase for rail in Tampa, the tea party showed it is a force to be reckoned with. And the real story is that it's still growing and stronger today than it was on November 2, 2010. The year ahead is indeed going to be a very interesting year!
2. Rick Scott - It was difficult not to place Rick Scott in the top slot. Quite frankly, he has turned politics upside down in Florida. Coming out of nowhere, he offered voters a choice between the status quo and a new direction. And with record high unemployment, a stagnant economy and still falling home prices, it's now clear that Floridians were seeking this new direction.
The task ahead is a difficult one for Gov.-elect Scott, it's still questionable as to just how much support he can count on from the Republican Party, however, we can be sure that he will proceed with fresh ideas and innovative thinking to get Florida back to work!
3. Marco Rubio - Another difficult decision not to place Marco Rubio higher. All in all, his story is simply incredible. At a time when he was down 30 points in the polls and the only real support he could count on came from those who shared a roof with him, and four of these five were too young to vote, Marco believed in himself!
And more importantly, he believed in his message, and what an inspirational message it is. To hear Marco speak reminds us that we live in the greatest country in human history and gives us reason to be proud of our American exceptionalism at the very time our very own President discounts it. The son of proud, hard working Cuban exiles has indeed come a very long way!
4. Voters of FL-CD 8 - Is there anything more fulfilling than to have the pure satisfaction of telling Alan Grayson to take all of his props that he loves to drag out onto the House floor and just go home! In a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans and Grayson's canny ability to get the far left to part with their government issued cash giving him a huge financial advantage, District 8 was in for an uphill battle.
We can be very thankful for an opponent of great dignity in Daniel Webster and the voters of District 8 who were savvy enough to see Grayson's boorish behavior for what it really is!
5. Dr. Jack Cassell - At times, I think Floridians fail to understand the great courage it took for Dr. Cassell to take the action he took. When far too many in the medical field were standing silent as the Progressive Left took control of healthcare, Dr. Cassell put principle before his profession, a profession that is his life, and stepped out into the abyss all alone. Sacrificing his wallet for what he knew to be right, this man represents all that is good in us and all that any of us can hope to be. This is the type of man we the people need representing us in Washington, D.C.
6. Allen West - A career soldier who retired in 2004 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, Allen West defeated Democratic incumbent Rep. Ron Klein by almost 9 percentage points in the FL-CD22 race. His aggressive, take-no-prisoners campaigning and his full embrace of tea party values won over an electorate eager for change in Washington, D.C. His straight forward, no nonsense approach will be a refreshing change to what most are accustomed to seeing from our elected officials. One thing is certain, he will not be going to D.C. just to fit in!
7. Patricia Sullivan - Patricia's story is a story of faith. Faith in her Provider, faith in her family and faith in what she has to offer to her community. A tea party organizer and a stay at home mom, she had every advantage going against her, yet, she stepped forward anyway at a time when America most needed it citizens to do so. She ran a principled campaign, was the only Republican primary opponent to qualify by petition in District 8 and, even though she did not prevail, she surprised many with a strong showing. She simply went to work and in the process accumulated an army of supporters, now known as the 'Patriot Army', and gained the respect of everyone who came to know her. Her future in Central Florida politics appears to be very bright!
8. Mike Yost - What can you say about Mike Yost. An automobile mechanic by trade, Mike epitomizes the American values of hard work and integrity. He surprised a lot of folks when he won the Republican primary in FL-CD3 and then worked even harder to do the impossible, upset Corrine Brown in a gerrymandered district carved out just for her. He came up short in that quest, but not for lack of effort. Far too often, people seem to want to underestimate Mike, yet, with an intellect that far exceeds his casual demeanor and a work ethic second to none, this is a man who can accomplish whatever he sets his sights on. A true American hero!
9. Tom Gaitens - Tom is the state director for FreedomWorks and has almost single handedly pulled together the tea party movement in the state of Florida, which is now recognized as one of the most organized and active in the country. But that is not what places Mr. Gaitens on this list. Tom has an undying love for his country that is matched by few, but that is not what warrants his inclusion. What makes him remarkable is the quiet sacrifice he makes in service of his country. Sacrifice that this proud man makes alone and I have the feeling he'd have it no other way. We often ask where are the George Washington's of our time. Well, they're right here, in men like Sen. Jim Demint from South Carolina and men like Tom Gaitens!
10. Frantz Kebreau - Frantz is the national director of the NAACPC (National Association for the Advancement of Conservative People of all Colors) and his story is yet another story of the American Dream. A Haitian American who served as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy, Lieutenant Commander Frantz Kebreau has a simple dream - a colorblind society. In this quest, he travels the country educating his fellow Americans on the real history of race relations in this country in a presentation he calls 'Stolen History'. He does this out of his love for America and because he wants to make this country a better place for all. If you ever have the opportunity to see his presentation, don't miss it!