Best Politician 2015 | U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy | Arts & Entertainment | South Florida

Let's get this out of the way: Marco Rubio is terrible — a high-voiced, bootlicking opportunist who has tried to gallop atop a (partly bullshit) origin story, painting himself as a refugee from Communist Cuba who's risen as a Tea Party gunslinger. But the best part about watching Rubio leave Florida: It leaves his U.S. Senate seat unprotected. (Rubio is running for president, though he first must trek a campaign trail whereupon Republican candidates will use each other for toothpicks.) Enter from stage left Patrick Murphy, the Palm Beach-based congressional rep with a fresh face, strong track record, and — and we actually consider this a plus — a mug shot from a drunken college night that's already all over the internet. Because really, who among us wasn't booted from a South Beach club when we were 18? It's relatable. Really, though, Murphy is already something of a monster-slayer. He took down Allen West, an evil scientist's lab creation of the most vile politician possible.

The suburban Daniel Boones of the Palm Beach County Tea Party leaped to the fringe of local right-wing circles this year with their serial hosting of crackpot "scientist" John Casey, president of the Space and Science Research Corp. and cofounder and chairman of the International Earthquake and Volcano Prediction Center, both outfits conveniently located in Orlando, where magical thinking meets the Magic Kingdom. Casey preached "global cooling" to the Tea Partiers in a trio of presentations last fall and again this spring and foresees "decades of potentially dangerous cold weather" ahead. He says his studies have never been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal because of "bias." (University of Miami climate scientist Dr. Ben Kirtman has one word for Casey's theories: "Nonsense.")

As if trying to turn "no good deed goes unpunished" into the city motto, Fort Lauderdale Police arrested Arnold Abbott last November for the shocking crime of offering free food to the homeless. It was not a Halloween prank when last October 31, the city made it against the law for groups to feed the homeless outdoors without providing port-a-potties and sinks. The then-90-year-old Abbott, however, continued to do what he had done for decades with the organization he founded, Love Thy Neighbor: He strove to feed those who were going unfed. This was not Abbott's first rodeo against overjudiciousness. Love Thy Neighbor has won five previous court cases in Palm Beach for breaking similar regulations. Abbott continues to fight back both passively — by continuing his weekly feedings — and actively — by suing Fort Lauderdale in hopes of overturning the law.

One of the nation's most aggressive and effective, though little-known, human rights organizations spent two decades operating out of locations in the Pacific Northwest and New England before setting up shop in Lake Worth in late 2013. Given the scandalous state of Florida's prison system, especially under the privatization initiative pushed so mightily by the state's GOP leadership, Prison Legal News and its nonprofit parent, the Human Rights Defense Center, have been welcome additions to the state's criminal justice reform movement, getting the word out about prisoner abuse and abusive prison conditions — to the general public and to inmates themselves. The publication was founded and is edited by Paul Wright, a former army policeman who was convicted of murder after he killed a drug dealer he was trying to rob. Once in prison, he was appalled at how prisoners are treated. Now he and the group's battery of attorneys, who have sued prison systems in Florida and a good dozen other states, go tooth-and-nail to enable distribution inside prisons so inmates know that conviction doesn't void the Bill of Rights.

Ungodly rich from his years of clogging the book racks of airports and drug stores from coast to coast (an estimated 300 million books sold), author James Patterson never has to lift a finger to peel a grape till the end of his days if he so chooses. But Jimmy Jim has a heart and soul, it appears, as evidenced by his latest project, the PBS documentary Murder of a Small Town, which is about crime, punishment, and the hardscrabble lives of the residents of the far other end of Palm Beach County. In Belle Glade, Pahokee, and the other towns around Lake Okeechobee, agricultural labor (when there is any to be found — unemployment rates are staggering) is most folks' bread and butter. Patterson grew interested in those lives during visits to the area as he distributed books to school kids. Now he wants the world to put down his novels for a while and absorb some hard truths.

The Sun Sentinel's Brittany Wallman is an intrepid reporter, as evidenced right there in the paper or on her Twitter feed, @BrittanyWallman, where she spends her days actively chronicling all the news you can use throughout Broward County. She primarily reports on county government, but if a car flips on the Turnpike? Wallman's there taking photos of rescue officials helping the victims. Commissioners are about to vote on a new law? Wallman is there to live-tweet the action. She's fearless, inquisitive, and, somehow, everywhere at the same time. Her reports — found mainly on the Sun Sentinel's Broward Politics page — are fast, thorough, and accurate. So if you're a lobbyist, a politician with ulterior motives, or a flakka smoker about to strip down, keep your eye out and beware: There's Wallman and her laptop, ready to feed the masses the truth.


In 2009, former Miami Herald and Daily Business Review reporter Dan Christensen cut the figurative ribbon on the Broward Bulldog, an online-only news source featuring the kind of detail-driven investigative deep dives that had been disappearing from the pages of major daily newspapers. Powered by donors — including best-selling crime novelist and former South Florida journo Michael Connelly — Christensen's baby has grown into a feisty brawler. Today, the website's reach has extended far beyond the Broward border; appropriately, Christensen rebranded last year to reflect the range, rechristening his baby as the Florida Bulldog. Taking on subjects such as the Sarasota Saudis' ties to 9/11 hijackers to the shitty track records of health-care companies scrambling for work with Broward jails, the Bulldog doesn't back down from big foes.

Not to be confused with the silver-screen legend or the '70s funk singer, this meteorologist can report the sad news of a week's worth of thunderstorms with a smile as bright as a cloudless sunrise over Fort Lauderdale Beach. Davis delivers the forecast with the spunk and jovial expressions of a Muppet, even when it calls for 36 hours of nonstop rain. She spent nearly five years in front of the green screen at the Weather Channel before heading to South Florida. And that gives her the cred to cover all the wild weather our tropical paradise has to offer.

Tommy Hutton is exactly the kind of guy you'd want to catch a ballgame with. And you sort of can, if you tune in to Fox Sports Florida every night to watch the Marlins. Hutton, a former ballplayer himself, doesn't just give color analysis; he gets personally involved. While announcer Rich Waltz calls the play-by-play, Hutton berates players, umpires, and managers whenever they screw up. He has the torqued-up passion of any serious baseball fan, plus actual knowledge of the game. Hutton will go after anyone who he perceives is screwing things up for the Fish. In 2012, when the Marlins' scorekeeper gave shortstop Jose Reyes an error after a slight bobble of the ball, Hutton bellowed, "Whoever is keeping score has no frickin' clue!" During another game, Hutton turned his anger to star slugger Giancarlo Stanton, proving that no one is exempt: "You have to slide!" he hollered. But Hutton also has players' backs. When Stanton was beaned in the face last year, Hutton was ready to fight the entire Milwaukee Brewers team. "You can't let your big guy go down and not do anything!" he shouted. You need fun and passion with your Marlins games. He's the guy you want to tune into.

Marc Hochman made his bones as the wizard behind the curtain of the original Dan Le Batard Show on 790 the Ticket. His dry wit and crazy creative output catapulted him as a primary voice for that show. So when he decided to leave that cushy, highly rated gig to head up the Ticket's morning show, people thought he was nuts. But Hochman did well for himself, not only bringing some of his familiar high jinks from the afternoon show but establishing a local-leaning sports-talk program the likes of which South Florida drive-to-work folk hadn't heard in some time. It was part morning zoo, part local sports takes. But then, Hochman once again decided to make an unexpected and seemingly risky move. He left 790 altogether and decided to go head-to-head with his old pal Le Batard as 560-WQAM's afternoon drive host. As has become par for the course for Hoch, he's doing just fine. While Le Batard remains the highest-rated afternoon drive program, his has strayed some to accommodate its national audience. But Hoch, with cohost Zach Krantz, remains focused solely on the local sports teams while maintaining some of those wacky bits that made Hoch a household name.

Readers' Choice: Elvis Duran

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