Supporters of Pinellas Republican Chris Sprowls‘ bid to become Speaker of the Florida House at the beginning of the next decade have repeated a talking point again and again about rival Eric Eisnaugle: “We’re not sure who eventually will be Speaker in 2021, but we know it won’t be Eisnaugle.”
They said that after the first band of House members launched a coup against Eisnaugle.
They said that after Brad Drake — the North Florida legislator who owes, in part, his victory to Eisnaugle’s financial backing — withdrew his support of the Orlando Republican.
They said that after Shawn Harrison, who had previously spoken out against those who broke their pledge, switched his support from Eisnaugle to Sprowls.
They said that after St. Johns County Republican Cyndi Stevenson, a redshirt freshman who is technically a member of the next class of state representatives, pulled her pledge card from Eisnaugle’s stack.
For his part, Eisnaugle has been able to do little to stop the bleeding from this death from a thousand cuts. Still, he and his camp insist that he has enough support of the entire House Republican Caucus (which includes members in the class before and ahead of Eisnaugle’s and Sprowls’) that he is still on track to be Speaker in 2020-2022.
But that claim doesn’t appear to hold much weight anymore, especially after Thursday, when Eisnaugle lost another pledge — and perhaps the race to be Speaker. Worst of all, he lost by default.
Thursday, Fred Costello threw his hat into the ring for Congressional District 6. That’s great for Costello. Horrible for Eisnaugle. That’s because Costello was a pledge for Eisnaugle.
Now Costello’s support is off the scoreboard, leaving Eisnaugle as many as three votes behind Sprowls in FloridaPolitics.com’s unofficial whip count.
Costello even recognized that his decision may cost Eisnaugle’s his chance to become Speaker.
“If nobody on Chris’ team gets out, and he keeps all the people that he has, then he wins the vote of our class,” Costello told reporters.
“That’s one of the things that I genuinely feel badly about,” Costello said. “I love the Eric Eisnaugle team, but I genuinely love all the freshman in our class.”
Redshirt freshman Paul Renner, the Jacksonville Republican with his own Speaker ambitions, is still pledged to Eisnaugle. Both Renner and Eisnaugle are working to elect another dozen or so new Republicans to the Florida House and, presumably, some of them could line up behind Eisnaugle.
No one has ever been elected Speaker without a majority of support from their classmates. So whether Eisnaugle wants to press forward in the face of these recent developments is unknown.
Today would be an excellent day for him to cut a deal, à la what Jack Latvala did to become Senate Appropriations Chairman under Joe Negron. Eisnaugle will likely not get as favorable terms, but he may not get relegated to the proverbial basement either.
Of course, if you talk to any supporters of Sprowls, they’ll repeat their familiar refrain: “Eisnaugle is not going to be win …”
This morning, however, they are likely to add, ” … because Chris Sprowls WILL BE Speaker.”