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Argenziano blows her cool with stinky stunt

By GREG HAMILTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 6, 2001


Just when you thought she was getting the hang of this elected representative stuff, Nancy Argenziano kicks statesmanship to the curb and lets her tough-as-nails roots show. She just can't help herself.

As with her previous outbursts of outlandish behavior, Argenziano's latest walk on the wild side has Tallahassee and her district abuzz. This time, however, the reaction is a bit more favorable.

Maybe it has something to do with the target of her temper. On Wednesday, when Argenziano's office delivered a 25-pound box of cow manure to Jodi Chase, many of her colleagues cheered her on because the recipient is a notoriously abrasive lobbyist for Associated Industries of Florida.

She didn't earn the nickname "Chase in your Face" by being a warm and fuzzy Oprah clone. Many in Tallahassee figured that Chase had it coming, especially after she seemed to be taunting Argenziano by going to the representative's 11th-floor House office, putting her feet up on the couch and watching a televised debate on a bill the two had fought over.

It is just a shame that Argenziano chose to waste some of her growing reputation as an effective legislator on such a sophomoric stunt.

As Chase lounged in her office, Argenziano was demonstrating courage in a vote on nursing home reform. The issue is one of her top priorities this session, and she has fought hard for reform, tangling with Chase in the process, but the bill that emerged from the back rooms of the House was just too flawed. Argenziano bucked her party's leadership and was the only Republican to vote against the measure, which passed overwhelmingly.

She could have played the game and toed her party's line, spinning a yes vote to her constituents as a positive step. Instead, she stayed true to her convictions, which is what we're coming to expect from her, knowing that she'll probably be punished by the good old boys who control the House.

Then, she gave it all away by allowing a prickly lobbyist to get her goat and by firing back with a box of cow manure. Which action do you think will be remembered after the session's final gavel falls?

It is stunts like that that put the argh in Argenziano. You want to admire the sass in this self-described Brooklyn girl, but not her childish, self-destructive methods.

Argenziano is known for sending letters so inflammatory they need asbestos envelopes. Two years ago, one of her missiles suggested that problems at the Southwest Florida Water Management District could be eliminated by simply blowing up a nuclear device over Swiftmud's Brooksville office. At least she didn't include a load of spent uranium from Florida Power's Crystal River nuclear plant.

But if barbed words wouldn't do this time, why not something a bit more discreet, like an odorous scratch-and-sniff card? And why 25 pounds of manure? Wouldn't a pound have made the same point?

Once she determined to abandon the professional approach, why go with the dried stuff from a feed store? A quick call to any of her rancher constituents in her district could have had a truckload of fresh, steaming dung at Chase's office in a matter of hours.

Maybe the best way to settle this feud is to take a page from our district's storied past.

Back in 1983, our own state Rep. Dick Locke grappled in a mud pit with "Sassy Sandy," a member of an all-female wrestling team called the Chicago Knockers in a charity event. He lost, but from all accounts, he did our district proud.

Why not set up a plastic pool in the Capitol Rotunda and have Nancy "The Brooklyn Bomber" tangle with Jodi "Chase in your Face"? Instead of mud, they can fill it with a truckload of fresh, steaming . . . well, you get the picture.

For the record, my money is on the Bomber.

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