State Sen. Don Gaetz, the Niceville Republican who got into local politics with the help of Ray Sansom and has acted as strong ally ever since, spokeby telephone with his crestfallen friend this afternoon.
"He told me he apologized for any pain that this controversy has caused me or our community," Gaetz told the Times/Herald. "Our community is confused and hurt today. Ray Sansom was the Boy Scout of Northwest Florida, the decent, humble guy from next door who rose to the top of Florida politics in all the right ways, for all the right reasons. It hurts to see someone who you've known and cared for and voted for, as this community has time and time again, now be the first presiding officer in anyone's modern history to have to step aside. This is our friend.
"I would not have taken the job. I grew up in my father's house (a North Dakota mayor) being taught that public service was a private sacrifice. It seems to me this job sent the wrong message. My faith teaches me to hate the sin and love the sinner. Whether he is Speaker Sansom, Rep. Sansom or just Ray, he will always be my friend."