Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, says he decided to call a caucus meeting of all 26 Senate Republicans in December because of the need for senators to "rally around somebody" and bring to an end to the long-running leadership battle between Sens. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.
"It's been three-and-a-half years that Senator Negron and Senator Latvala have been at it. We are going to get to a point where there's got to be a resolution," Gardiner told the Times/Herald in his most extensive comments on the subject. "The unification of a caucus is very, very important. As a member, you should look at who can unify the entire caucus to come together, and a caucus meeting may allow for that discussion to happen."
Gardiner noted that past Senate caucus meetings to designate future leaders have usually been held in December, though Gardiner's predecessor, Sen. Don Gaetz, was chosen in September. What's unprecedented in this chain of events is that the Senate has acknowledged that its current districts are unconstitutional.
With future control of the chamber not yet settled, the Senate must realign its own districts in a three-week special session that begins next Monday, so the stakes are very high.
What the new Senate map will look like is anyone's guess. The result, subject to the approval of the Florida Supreme Court, could benefit Negron or Latvala -- or the Democrats. Even though Negron has declared victory and has named all 14 of his pledges, a majority of the caucus, Gardiner left open the possibility that the outcome could still change.
"I've made it pretty clear we should have a caucus meeting in December. I'm not speculating on the outcome of that caucus," Gardiner said.
Gardiner said the logjam must be broken, and the losing senator must show humility and accept defeat on Dec. 2. "Our caucus has to rally around somebody to lead them," he said.