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Democrats chip away at GOP power in Tallahassee

Before Tuesday, Florida Republicans had the wind at their back — record amounts of special interest money, a veto-proof majority in the Legislature and unbridled power all over the state.

But the muscle flexing appeared to backfire and the special interest money, this time, did not translate into landslide victories. Voters delivered a series of election night losses for Florida’s power party. President Barack Obama holds a lead over Mitt Romney. Legislature-backed amendments were mostly defeated. The GOP drive to remake the Supreme Court failed and the Republicans lost their supermajority in the House and Senate.

Even the projected future speaker of the House — one of the most moneyed and powerful Republicans in the state — is in danger of losing his seat to an underfunded political neophyte.

“Florida sent a clear message to us as legislators that they are not pleased with the direction we’re taking them,” said former Senator and Representative-elect Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican. “I think a message was sent [Tuesday] night to the Legislature, and to Gov. [Rick] Scott.”

Led by Scott, the Legislature has tacked sharply to the right in the past two years, passing or pursuing measures backed by the tea party and the business lobby, while slashing funding for schools and social programs.

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