Republican maverick leaves state Senate

Positive comments in public follow some snide ones in private.

Published May 3, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - A New York motorcycle mama. A Republican maverick who stuck it to the past governor by bucking party priorities like private school vouchers and the Terri Schiavo case.

Most memorably, she sent 25 pounds of cow manure to a lobbyist.

The Florida Senate bid farewell on Wednesday to Sen. Nancy Argenziano, 52, the Dunnellon Republican who is leaving to join the Pubic Service Commission, which regulates phone and power companies. She spent 11 years in the Legislature, six in the House and five in the Senate.

The Senate is on schedule to confirm Argenziano's appointment to the commission before senators leave Friday.

Notably, her absence from the final two days of session coincides with the scheduled votes on some of the most contentious and significant conservative priorities, which she would have opposed.

"Coincidence?" she asked with a sly smile.

Gov. Charlie Crist appointed Argenziano to a four-year term on the commission. Her salary goes from $36,000 to about $133,000 a year.

While colleagues sung her praises for an entire hour Wednesday, several senators have quietly made cracks in recent weeks that they couldn't wait to get rid of her because of all the trouble she causes.

Just this past summer, Argenziano publicly told the former head of the Republican Party, Carole Jean Jordan, to kiss her rear end. The chairwoman chastised Sen. Argenziano for criticizing Gov. Jeb Bush's campaign against the re-election of her close friend and colleague Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami.

But on Wednesday, comments were more positive. Majority Leader Dan Webster revealed that Argenziano was the 61st Republican (of the 120-member House), the one who pushed the balance of power in the chamber over to Republican hands back in 1996. He also revealed that she likes to play her favorite Frank Sinatra song over and over again in a loop: My Way.

"I'm very excited about the new part of my life, but I'll always be thinking about you guys," said Argenziano, clinging to a damp tissue.

She will miss casting a no-vote against voucher legislation that would make low-income students in failing schools eligible for the Corporate Income Tax Credit scholarships, which send low-income students to private schools.

She also will miss voting against a proposal that would make it more difficult for teenagers to get abortions without notifying their parents.