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Poker, extreme sports and 'wolf spider husbandry' are among the ways they spend their time away from the Legislature.
This article was first published by Route Fifty partner publication City & State Florida.
Legislators' profiles on the Florida House and Senate websites include many vital pieces of important information: What they do for a living. What area they represent. Where they were born.
But one piece of information takes a peek into who they really are more than anything else: What they do for fun.
The profiles include a “recreational activity” section for lawmakers to include their interests and hobbies. What a lawmaker includes in this section, and whether they fill it out at all, can provide an insight into them away from the legislative session. While there are plenty of typical hobbies listed (Sen. Lauren Book includes enjoying South Florida’s beaches, for example), others range from extreme sports to niche areas of interest.
Sen. Loranne Ausley, for example, lists that she is a three-time Ironman finisher. Rep. Will Robinson has finished two Ironman races in his own right, but has also completed two Boston Marathons.
Other legislators listed activities that not many would consider leisure. Rep. Anna Eskamani listed feminist research as her first leisure activity (one of her undergraduate degrees at the University of Central Florida was in Woman’s Studies and she wrote her thesis for her political science degree on Iranian feminism.)
Some hobbies listed by legislators stem from long-standing interests they’ve held. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith listed karaoke as one of his recreational interests. He tells City & State it stems from his love of music and show tunes. “Naturally, for me, karaoke is just so much fun,” Smith says. “My go-to songs are ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin.' "
In April, the representative was invited to be a guest judge at the Renaissance Theatre Company’s weekly “Musical Monday” event in Orlando, which featured an open mic contest. At the event, Smith performed “I’ll Cover You” from the musical Rent. “The theater crowd there knew the tune and provided harmony by singing along. It was magical,” he says. Smith posted a video of the performance to his YouTube channel.
For other lawmakers, the leisure activities are centered on sharing experiences they enjoyed as children with their kids. Rep. Randy Fine lists the goal of visiting all 423 national park sites with his family on his profile. He said he was never able to go to them all as a kid, but enjoyed the ones he did go to and wanted to share that experience with his sons.
“It always was something I wanted for my own children, to learn what makes America the greatest country in the world,” Fine says. Every year, Fine’s father and his two sons go on a boys’ trip to knock some of the sites off this list. Last year, they went to Alaska for three and a half weeks. They returned Monday from a trip to northern Minnesota and Northern Michigan to visit Voyageurs National Park and Isle Royale National Park.
So far, his family has visited 58 of the 63 full national parks and 267 of the 423 total sites. Fine said part of the appeal is visiting the affordable and internationally renowned beauty right here state-side.
“With a tank of gas and a tent, you can visit a lot of these places,” Fine says. “It doesn't require an airplane ticket to Europe or Asia. These are amazing places that people from all over the world come to visit that many Americans never take the opportunity to go to. So I encourage everybody to just get out there and find their park.”
While most lawmakers list their hobby of choice, dozens don’t mention anything. One of those is Rep. Blaise Ingoglia. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a hobby. Years before he entered the shark tank of Florida politics, the Hernando County representative and former Florida Republican Party chair was a card shark. According to CardPlayer.com, Ingoglia has been placing in poker tournaments and winning money since 2005. His all-time recorded earnings sits at almost $400,000.
The most he ever made in a tournament was at a World Poker Tour Championship Event in September 2006, where he placed 6th and took home $261,901. Over the past few years, he has played in several tournaments at the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa, as well as online tournaments.
Finally, some of the hobbies that have been listed in the past have been, well, wacky. One of the most iconic was the late Sen. Larcenia Bullard’s listed hobby, “collecting butterfly-shaped objects.”
Perhaps the most offbeat one currently is listed by Rep. Evan Jenne, who included “wolf spider husbandry” in his list. Jenne did not respond to a request for comment about whether it’s a joke – but one hopes it’s not.