BY BUDDY NEVINS
Ending more than a year’s speculation, Democratic state Rep. Katie Edwards of Plantation said this week she would not run for Commissioner of Agriculture next year.
Edwards appeared to be positioning for a statewide run when Commissioner Adam Putnam left office next year because of term limits. Instead, she will run for a fourth term in the Florida House and continue to pursue legislation like ending sales tax on menstrual products.
Her embrace of agriculture has deep roots which gave Democrats hopes the party could field a winning Cabinet candidate for the first time in more than a decade. Despite representing one of the most urban counties in Florida, Edwards’ resume is stocked with solid agriculture credentials.
Before winning office in 2012, Edwards was executive director of the Miami Dade Farm Bureau.
She is currently the top Democratic on the House Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee. As a lawyer, she represents ranchers, farmers and nurseries. On her office wall are awards from all parts of the sprawling Florida Ag Industry.
Edwards’ family – Her father is former Plantation Commissioner Bruce Edwards and her uncle Ted Edwards is a current Orange County Commissioner — have rural land north of Broward where she spent a lot of time.
Her Facebook page is filled with pictures of her in jeans getting her hands dirty in fields, woods and lakes.
Katie Edwards (from Facebook)
Edwards put the rumors to rest in a statement to Browardbeat.com.
“I am not running for Ag Commissioner,” she e-mailed. “I have filed to run for reelection and have been fundraising and campaigning.”
The news is most likely a disappointment to Broward Democratic Chair Cynthia Busch and not because the party won’t have a formidable candidate for Ag Commissioner. Busch has barely hidden her distaste for Edwards and would like to see her gone from Broward politics, numerous party sources say.
Busch, who is also from Plantation, was involved in at least one campaign against Edwards. The party boss was trying to recruit a candidate more to her likening for what she expected to be an open District 98 House seat in West Broward, according to sources.
Since all politics is personal, maybe it is not surprising or unusual that the Democratic leader doesn’t get along with a Democratic state House member. Who gets along with everybody?
However, this difference philosophical in one respect:
Busch is a progressive Democrat who leans towards left-leaning ideological purity, while Edwards has learned to work with Republicans in Tallahassee.
Edwards willingness to reach across the aisle has helped her score victories. That is something tough for a Broward Democrat to achieve in the GOP-Legislature.
She was a pioneer in the medical marijuana fight and was instrumental in obtaining the support of influential Republican leaders to pass a bill. The sale of medical marijuana was strengthened later by passage of a statewide referendum.
Edwards has also pushed for criminal justice reform, backing measures that would give judges more sentencing discretion and supporting rehabilitation programs and prison reforms.
Her latest crusade is one that has won support throughout the Legislature so far, combining tax cutting with equal treatment for women: Ending the sales tax in menstrual products like Tampax. Other medical products are exempt from sales tax, but somehow menstrual products became taxable.
Below is Edwards explaining her bill this week.
Democratic boss Busch should take note. This isn’t a progressive or conservative issue. It’s a fairness issue