Best Political Coup (2007)

Alex Villalobos's Senate Win

Sometime during the 2006 legislative session, one Republican lawmaker dared to challenge Jeb Bush's crazy proposals on class size and vouchers. That man was state Sen. Alex Villalobos, and his refusal to support Bush's master plan for education cost him dearly. Punishment was swift: Villalobos was stripped of the honor of becoming Florida's first Cuban-American Senate president. Bush backed another Cuban-American to run against him (school board member Frank Bolaños, who was also endorsed by crazy drunk-dialer/state Rep. Ralph Arza). What ensued was the costliest — and meanest — state Senate race in Florida's history. Shady third-party groups spent $6 million to take down Villalobos, and at least $1 million was spent on nasty TV and radio ads in the week before the election. The campaign devolved into a theater of the absurd when Bolaños hired a man in a chicken suit to plague Villalobos at campaign events. Villalobos rolled with the joke ("A bunch of people rushed the chicken because they thought they could get Pollo Tropical coupons," he said), and his sunny nature prevailed. He squeaked by in the election. Now, some political insiders say, Villalobos is untouchable.


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