Still trying to figure out what Janet Long was thinking when she made her comments about firefighters taking advantage of 9/11

By on September 12, 2012

“Is Long dead?” a prominent local Democrat texted me today, to which I quickly responded, “Yep, AB (absentee ballots) going out in two weeks … not enough time for her to recover.”

The controversy surrounding Janet Long’s controversial statements to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board did not appear to be dying down forty-eight hours after she made the comments.

While the Times editorial board attempted to provide some cover for its sure-to-be-preferred choice in the race by writing that Long “gets points” for her “refreshing” candor, Long has elicited a reaction on the newspaper’s online site I have rarely seen. Not only is the story about Long’s comments still the most shared story on TampaBay.com, it has so far received 528 comments from readers — the most I can remember any single story recently receiving.

Long did herself no favors with the half-hearted apology she posted to her Facebook page on Tuesday. It was typical Janet … condescending, self-referential, stubborn.

While apologizing for her comments, it only took two paragraphs before she wrote, “No one knows better than I the sacrifices firefighters and their families make everyday for all of us.”  Yes, Janet’s husband is a retired firefighter, but she didn’t need to say it that way.

No one knows better, Janet? Isn’t saying things like that what got you into trouble in the first place.

Long’s apology on Facebook — which included an unnecessary reference to “firefighter union bosses” — went over about as well as her initial comments.

All of this leaves me wondering, what the hell was Janet trying to accomplish in the first place?

All she had to do was show up to her meeting with the Times editorial board and its endorsement was hers. Heck, she didn’t even need to show up. But since she did, all she had to say was, “Fluoride. Fluoride. Fluoride. And, oh by the way, fluoride.”

Instead, Janet had to vent her anger about not receiving the firefighters’ endorsement despite the fact that she “sleeps with a firefighter” as she likes to joke.  She doubled-down with her ridiculous statement that firefighters’ ability to sway officials to their side is caused in part by firefighters’ work schedule of 24 hours on and 48 hours off. She said that “they have too much time on their hands.”

I can just imagine the Times editors sitting there as Long was really getting go with all this. I’m sure not just one of them made sure their voice recorder was on and working.

I don’t know where Janet goes from here.

Is her campaign genuinely dead?  Well, look at what happened to Everett Rice. He didn’t say anything near as controversial during the GOP primary as what Janet said and he was crucified with his comments. And Janet has nowhere near the resources Everett had.

The point I made earlier about the timing of these comments — relative to when voting-by-mail begins — is the real danger to Long. When voters receive their early ballots during the first week of October, this issue will still be fresh on their minds. Long will be asked about her comments at every candidate forum between now and the election. There will be no escape.

A word of caution to Long’s opponent, Neil Brickfield: Don’t overplay your hand. In fact, the best thing Brickfield can do right now is go on vacation for six weeks and let the damage play out. Short of that, he needs to avoid appearing as if he’s doing anything to inflame the situation.

In a situation like this, the best thing a candidate can do when their opponent is hanging themselves is to make sure not to step on the rope.

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