"I thought Dean Cannon was a great speaker," Weatherford said in an interview. "He was very good to me and I learned a lot from him. But everybody’s different. My style will be very similar to the way that I did the redistricting process."
Weatherford drew raves as House redistricting chairman, where he was responsible for redrawing the 120 House districts. He held several public meetings, sought counsel from Democrats and came up with a map that was generally supported. While the state Senate map is still being challenged in court, the House map was deemed legal last year. Weatherford uses the map as a shield against criticism that under his leadership, Republicans lost ground in the election.
"We lost the super-majority with the map," Weatherford said. "I knew it would cost us seats, but it was the right thing to do."
Along with Gaetz, Weatherford wants to eliminate fundraising committees used by lawmakers. Weatherford said they aren’t transparent.
It’s unclear how exactly Weatherford could enhance transparency, but his shift has nevertheless impressed League of Women Voters of Florida president Deirdre Macnab.
"We’re very intrigued and certainly noticing a new tone and a greater emphasis on ethics," she said. "It’s refreshing."
Amid calls for elections reform by Democrats and voting rights groups, Weatherford sounded like he would revisit the issue, even though he voted for the bill in 2011 that scaled back early voting and made other changes.
"If [HB 1355] contributed to any challenges in the election process, we should admit that," Weatherford said. "Obviously, the laws that are currently on the books may not have served the state well."
Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, a harsh critic of Scott who is considering forming a task force to address elections reform, called Weatherford last week to seek his advice. "He was very positive, telling me he would make sure there was room in the legislation for our recommendations," said Iorio, a Democrat. "I’ve always found Will Weatherford to be reasonable, and I think he’s sincere about elections reform."
Thurston, the incoming House minority leader, also gives Weatherford high marks for being more inclusive. During the summer, Weatherford and Thurston met several times to discuss issues where they said Democrats and Republicans could find common ground — such as gambling, energy, ethics, campaign finance and the budget.
Still, Weatherford’s House may deliver the same hard right legislation of his predecessors.
"In the end, it will still be a conservative agenda," Thurston said. "But he’ll make every effort to push bipartisanship."
Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (850) 224-7263 or email@example.com.