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    A Times Editorial

    Color-blind patronage


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 24, 2002

    Only four state senators had the courage to oppose the nomination of former state Rep. Rudy Bradley of St. Petersburg to the Public Service Commission, even though Bradley is extravagantly unqualified for the post. After listening to the racial pandering of state Sen. Al Lawson, an African-American Democrat from Tallahassee, it's easy to see why so few lawmakers were willing to point out Bradley's lack of credentials.

    If Gov. Jeb Bush and other Republican supporters of Bradley were injected with truth serum, even they would admit Bradley received the gubernatorial appointment as a payoff for having sacrificed his own political career when he endorsed Bush four years ago.

    Fairly or not, Bradley was overwhelmingly rejected two years later by fellow African-American voters in his district who considered his support for Bush a betrayal of their interests. The governor understandably felt he owed Bradley one, but the PSC is too important to be treated as a plum.

    Bradley showed an embarrassing lack of substance during his confirmation hearings. But when Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Davie, noted Thursday that it "was evident (Bradley) did not know what he should know," she was rebuked by Lawson.

    "Don't stand up here before the state of Florida and say an African-American male is not qualified," Lawson said.

    Does Lawson really think Bradley should be above reproach because of his race? Plenty of unqualified white nominees have preceded Bradley to the PSC over the years, but color-blind patronage is no sign of progress.

    Lawson should apologize to the senators he criticized for judging Bradley according to his qualifications rather than the color of his skin.

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