Former state Sen. Ken Plante died Sunday night after a three-year battle with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Plante, 75, was hospitalized last week as his condition worsened.
A Republican born in Orlando, Plante was elected to the Senate from Winter Park in 1967. He left the Legislature in 1978, but remained in Tallahassee as a lobbyist for a number of commercial clients and Gov. Jeb Bush.
Bush, now exploring a run for president, visited Plante at his home last month during a fundraising trip to Tallahassee. Plante left his private lobbying clients to become director of legislative affairs for Bush after he became governor in 1999.
Bush said Sunday night that Plante met “the terrible diagnosis in the way he seemed to face all challenges – with great courage, incredible resolve, and unwavering faith.” Bush noted that “Ken was a steady hand, and provided our team with the much needed reassurance that ‘everything would be okay in the end’ during our first legislative session. We were chaotic, but Ken was always calm, and his experience helped us navigate the process.”
Plante was an uncommon lobbyist, esteemed by legislators, governors and his fellow lobbyists. Plante often talked about his growing dislike of the influence of money in the political process where he worked for more than 30 years. In the final years of his life, Plante worked with former Gov. Reubin Askew and others to try and draft a constitutional amendment to limit the money political candidates can raise and spend. They wanted to find a way to impose limits despite various U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have overturned many attempts to limit contributions.
With the death of Askew a year ago and Plante’s illness, the effort foundered and died.
“The money has become obscene,’’ Plante told the Times in 2012. “Somehow we have got to turn this thing around.’’
-- LUCY MORGAN, Tampa Bay Times