Guest Author, Author at Florida Politics

Guest Author

David James Poissant: Let’s retire the trope of the hapless dad

Welcome to the winter of 2010. That’s me in the boots and puffy jacket because this is Cincinnati and it’s February and there’s snow on the ground. I’m a full-time grad student, teaching assistant and writer. During the day, my wife works. When she comes home, I write. I teach at night. I would write during the day, but I already have a day job. I’m a stay-at-home dad.

We’re at the post office, the one with the broken door that my double stroller won’t fit through. My six-month-old twin daughters are asleep. I tuck one daughter into an umbrella stroller and carry the other in one arm. I balance my packages in the other arm and head inside. The line is long, but if the girls stay asleep, all will be well.

And all is well until I feel a tug. Reflexively, I drop my mail and grab my child with both hands. A stranger glares at me. As my daughter wakes and cries, the stranger’s face softens. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I didn’t want her to get cold.” I’m bewildered until she explains that my daughter’s pant leg had ridden up, an inch of skin exposed to the cold air. The stranger tried to pull it down, but tugged too hard. “It’s OK,” she says. “I’m a mother.”

“It’s not OK,” I want to say. “I don’t know you. Don’t touch my kid.”

But I don’t say it. I’ve given up fighting. Everywhere I go, I get unsolicited advice, correction, instruction framed as concern. Much of it is well-intentioned, though much of it is wrong. One stranger insisted that babies should sleep on their stomachs. When I explained that the rate of sudden infant death syndrome plummeted when parents started sleeping babies on their backs, the scolder assured me that her kids slept on their stomachs and they turned out OK.

Even good advice often comes from a place of assumption, the assumption being that, as a dude, I’m too dumb to care for my kids. One librarian, scanning a DVD for me, encouraged me to read more to my children and to avoid TV at their age. “I read to my kids every day,” I wanted to say. “They’ve never seen TV, and this, the fourth season of ‘The Wire’? This is not for them.”

In “Manhood for Amateurs,” Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon says, “The handy thing about being a father is that the historic standard is so pitifully low.” Most fathers I talk to—smart, kind, attentive dads—grapple with such lowered expectations. At Starbucks, a mother asked how I liked being a “manny” (a male nanny), as though the only explanation for a man alone with two babies on a weekday was that he must be getting paid. “I’m their father,” I said. She hadn’t meant anything by it, she assured me. She’d seen it on TV.

Our worldview, of course, is shaped just this way. What began as an inversion of the idealized 1950s TV dad (admittedly problematic in its own right), the trope of the bumbling father has become a staple of movie and television comedy. Dad can’t cook. Dad can’t change diapers. Dad can’t clean up a mess without making it worse. (See: “Everybody Loves Raymond.” As in, almost every episode.)

Even in 2018, the trope persists. In season two of the Netflix series “Atypical,” mom leaves for a few weeks, and the kids are forced to eat pizza almost every night. Keeping up with laundry proves insurmountable, until mom comes to the rescue with lavender oil for the shirts and homemade meals for the freezer.

You might argue that such televised fare is mostly harmless. But, deal with enough strangers questioning your parenting abilities or touching your baby, and I promise you’ll lose patience with the stereotype.

Now, let me be clear. I’m not saying that it’s hard to be a man. I’m not saying that dads have it worse than moms. (Moms face a whole host of biases that other writers have addressed far better than I could here.) Most of all, I’m not saying that the portrayal of fathers on TV even begins to approach the problematic portrayal of America’s most vulnerable groups and marginalized communities.

But, make no mistake: When we badmouth dads, we aim our scorn at those communities too. Gay fathers, trans fathers and men of color, already oppressed, need not be told that something in their gender identity makes them incapable of excellent parenting.

Also, lest this come off as a whiny “Male Tears” or #NotAllMen argument, please know that I loathe the trope of the hapless dad, in large part, because of what it says about women. When we buy into the notion that dads can’t care for children, we buy into the idea that parenting and domesticity are women’s roles. When we say that father figures can’t cook without burning the pancakes or iron without burning the clothes, we say that mother figures belong beside those stoves and ironing boards. When we laugh and assume that dads can’t get the job done, what choice do we leave mothers but to assume restrictive roles they have every right to resist?

And where does the hapless dad equation leave genderqueer and non-binary individuals? When we say that dads act one way and mothers another, aren’t we reinforcing the very gender norms we’ve been seeking to dismantle in this country for decades?

To be fair, in the years since my daughters were infants, attitudes have shifted. Perhaps dads today face fewer preconceived notions. Certainly, their portrayal onscreen, with some notable exceptions, is getting better. Take this summer’s sleeper hit “Eighth Grade,” for example. I can’t think of a father in American cinema rendered with more empathy than actor Josh Hamilton’s character Mark Day. Here’s a guy who cooks healthy dinners and keeps a tidy house. He’s imperfect, but he loves his daughter, and he balances work life and domestic life without neglecting her. He’s not a man merely getting by. He’s doing a great job, the way countless single parents do.

We need more movies like this, and we’ll get more as entertainment races to catch up with the real world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2016, of the over 70 million fathers in America, only 209,000 are stay-at-home dads with working partners. And, only 17 percent of single parents identify as men. But those numbers are on the rise. As they grow, so too will our understanding of fathers and our demand for depictions that transcend the hapless dad trope.

Father may not know best, but he knows a thing or two, so let’s raise the bar for him, in real life and in the movies and TV shows we love.


David James Poissant is an associate professor at the University of Central Florida where he teaches in the MFA program in creative writing.  He can be reached at

Patricia Brigham: League of Women Voters makes no apologies for exposing deception

Erika Donalds, a Constitution Revision Commissioner and sponsor of the now-defunct Amendment 8, was right when she recently wrote that the League of Women Voters of Florida “cheered the end” of the bundled education amendment.

Amendment 8 was written to confuse. It was “log-rolled” with three separate issues — civics classes for middle school students, term limits for school board members, and the giveaway of local control to an unknown legislative-created entity for the purposes of creating new charter schools.

Voters would not have known that sticking third point because the language was misleading and didn’t spell out just what the CRC was trying to do. The Florida Supreme Court saw right through it and struck it from the Nov. 6 ballot.

Yet Donalds claimed the League was “disenfranchising” voters, a laughable accusation. Non-transparency and sneaky omissions in ballot language are actually a better description of “disenfranchisement.”

The League of Women Voters has a long and proud tradition of sticking up for voting rights and transparency in government. Our primary mission is to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government.

We achieve that mission by holding those in authority accountable to the voters. The process of the CRC was a sham — skirting Sunshine laws and ignoring repeated warnings from a whole host of organizations who raised concerns about their process and product.

We repeatedly shared our concerns with the CRC regarding the bundling of multiple proposals. If the backers of Amendment 8 truly wanted this decision to be left to the voters, they would have put it forward as a stand-alone amendment in clear, unambiguous language. They had every opportunity to do just that.

Donalds also claimed that voters “deserved to have a say in whether to allow the school district monopoly over schools to continue, but activist judges decided otherwise.” Donalds needs to keep in mind that public schools are not a business — they are a public service paid for by public tax dollars for the benefit of all citizens. Her argument is akin to saying fire departments have a monopoly over putting out fires.

Donalds asserted that the League “grinned at the news while hurting the very women they want to run for office, squashing the term-limit policy and ensuring more career politicians stay cozy in their school board seats.” Elections are the ultimate term limit. Anyone who feels they are more qualified for the job than an incumbent can run against them.     

Donalds insisted that “more parents than ever are selecting schools outside of their district. Parents and the public at large approve of charter schools and other education choice options at an increasing rate … [The League’s] interest is in preserving the status quo and maintaining power and control over the most sacred of choices — who will help raise our children.”

If for-profit charter schools are as popular as Donalds claims, why was there no mention of charter schools in the ballot language? Why was the primary purpose of the proposal — taking away local authority over public schools — hidden between term limits and civics education? Floridians overwhelmingly support the constitutional requirement to make adequate provision for the education of all children that is ‘uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality.

This wasn’t just about “expanding choice” for students. It was taking local school boards out of the equation to allow for-profit charter school operators to set up new schools wherever and whenever they think they can make a profit at the taxpayers’ expense.   

Finally, it should be noted that Donalds didn’t mention that she was a founding Advisory Board Member and Director of Operations for Mason Classical Academy, a Hillsdale College public charter school in Collier County. 

Do the words “conflict of interest” ring a bell?

Donalds has vowed to continue the fight for school choice, and that she and other “reformers” have thick skin. Interesting. Her article sounded to us like the whining of a sore loser.


Patricia Brigham is the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Daisy Baez: Attacks on ACA are attacks on health care access, innovation

As a former hospital executive, a health care consultant, and a former member of the Health Innovation Subcommittee in the Florida House of Representatives, I’ve seen firsthand how access to quality, affordable health coverage can save lives.

The Affordable Care Act has driven significant progress on access to care and innovation. The law ended discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, autoimmune disease, cancer and asthma. It allowed young people to remain on their parents’ health plan until age 26, giving them the opportunity to establish a career while being covered. And the ACA gave the states the option of expanding Medicaid, bringing coverage to hardworking, low-income families.

As a result, about 20 million more Americans — and 1.5 million more Floridians — are insured today. Even as the Trump administration slashed enrollment assistance, sign-ups on the exchanges remained strong for 2018. More insurers, including Oscar Health in Florida, are entering the marketplaces for 2019, and more states are reconsidering their Medicaid decisions. Virginia was just the latest, opting to cover 400,000 more residents.

But, this comes at a time when Florida’s uninsured rate — already the highest in the nation — ticked up for the first time in years, rising more than 5 percent to 2.68 million people without coverage. Florida’s uninsured rate of 12.9 percent is well above the national average of 8.8 percent. More than 130,000 of our fellow Floridians became uninsured in the past year, which drives up health care costs for everyone.

In addition to benefits for patients, increased access to insurance helps local medical centers, thanks to falling rates of uncompensated care. The changes are also transforming U.S. health care into a value-based system, designed to maximize positive patient outcomes.

This is something that patients want. Why? Because it means “feeling good” is a measure of success. It means employers are building a healthier, more productive workforce. And it’s something budget hawks should get behind, because it will save federal and state governments, businesses and families money.

This shift toward value-based health care is leading to some major innovations, as well. Cigna is boosting quality and controlling the cost of care for people with coronary artery disease, by linking reimbursement rates to health outcomes. Florida Blue is offering proactive, in-home care services for the clinically fragile, to help high-risk patients avoid the emergency room and hospital readmission. Prestige Health Choice, a Medicaid managed care plan, is using biometric monitoring to assist individuals with Type II diabetes. Other platforms are providing integrated, personalized plans to help individuals reach their health goals, whether an expecting mom seeking nutrition advice, or a senior citizen hoping to safely incorporate more exercise into their life.

These types of innovative and technology-enabled solutions empower patients to take charge of their health. Paired with free preventive care services, they are among our best tools for reducing chronic disease, which accounts for over three-fourths of U.S. health care spending. That means health care innovation can deliver wellness and sustainable budgets.

I developed my passion for health care in the United States Army as a Preventive Medicine Technician. That’s why I care about electing leaders who are committed to protecting access to health care.

Democratic candidates for Congress, like my good friend Debbie Mucarsel-Powell running in the 26th District, have already made health care a top issue in their campaigns. And with health care under assault by Donald Trump and Republicans, we need leaders who will preserve and build on the Affordable Care Act.

This is a fight worth winning on behalf of South Florida’s families. With her fellow leaders in Congress, I know she’ll keep up the pressure to defend the ACA from attacks, and ensure America continues on the road toward greater health care access, value and innovation.


Daisy Baez is the former State Representative for District 114, and founder of the Dominican Health Care Association of Florida. She lives in Miami.

Erika Donalds: Roadblocks re-energize reformers

Education reform requires thick skin. I cringed as the League of Women Voters cheered the end of Amendment 8 and their success in disenfranchising Floridians.

Voters deserved to have a say in whether to allow the school district monopoly over schools to continue, but activist judges decided otherwise. The LWV patted themselves on the back while blocking mothers from voting on something most precious to them: the education of their children.

They grinned at the news while hurting the very women they want to run for office, squashing the term-limit policy and ensuring more career politicians stay cozy in their school board seats.

The once-laudable League disgraced its mission and showed it is yet another teachers’ union surrogate to obstructing school choice.

The devastating 4-3 Supreme Court decision to remove Amendment 8 from the ballot was a loss not just for so many students in desperate need of education reform, but for millions of voters who are now susceptible to disenfranchisement anytime an activist group pushes and funds its agenda.

In addition to term limits and civics education, the most publicly contentious priority was to create new pathways for public schools of choice for Florida’s families. We know that choice, competition and innovation are the avenues to continuous improvement of our education system.

More parents than ever are selecting schools outside of their zoned district school. Parents and the public at large approve of charter schools and other education choice options at an increasing rate. The education establishment sees these trends and has doubled down on its antiquated policies and structure. Their interest is in preserving the status quo, and maintaining power and control over the most sacred of choices — who will help raise our children.

And so, despite tremendous gains for our students, it is clear we still live in a state where the education establishment cares more about the system than its students. To them, students are cogs. They are considered “butts in seats.” I know this is not the sentiment of so many hardworking, passionate individual teachers, but the union mentality has lost sight of what matters. It is incredibly sad, but I will not pretend it’s surprising.

These latest actions ensure that student-centered choice will now have to expand further through private options instead. Amendment 8 would have created a pathway to more high-quality public schools, but the monopoly-defenders and activist Supreme Court of Florida won’t have it.

The students most impacted by this awful decision cannot write checks, organize to write misleading editorials or hire high-priced out-of-state lawyers to distort the truth in the courtroom. I was proud and determined to speak up for them. And will continue to do so.

Education reformers do not give up on students. The greater mission of bringing true education freedom to every family in Florida will continue. It is our goal that every child be afforded a free public education that meets his or her unique needs.

Schools can look different and be a perfect fit for an individual child. Please stop fearing change. Schools of choice are real schools too, with real students and loving teachers. That is all that matters.

Families want choices. Choices are working for students. We will find a way to give them the choices they deserve.

You can be sure this is not the end. If anything, roadblocks re-energize reformers. And we have thick skin.


Constitution Revision Commissioner Erika Donalds is a mother of three school-age children and CPA serving on the Collier County School Board. She was the main sponsor of Amendment 8 on the Revision Commission.

Reggie Garcia: Amendment 4 will save taxpayers money, give felons a second chance

Florida’s 13 million voters have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help convicted felons who have paid their debt to society earn the right to vote, and to a second chance.

Called the “Voting Restoration Amendment,” a proposed constitutional amendment will grant most of the 1.7 million convicted felons the right to vote and help select their leaders for local, state and federal offices.

That is a good thing. It makes sense.

To be eligible, these felons must complete “all terms of sentence including parole or probation.” That means they would have paid restitution, court costs and fees, and completed community service, house arrest, jail, and/or prison sentences, plus any other special conditions of parole or probation.

Felons convicted of murder or a felony sex crime would not be eligible and would have to go through the regular executive clemency process.

Why is Amendment 4 on the November general election ballot? Because almost 850,000 current Florida voters and taxpayers across the state signed a citizen’s initiative petition to give all voters this good choice.

Those who signed span Florida’s political spectrum — not just registered Republicans and Democrats but also Independents, members of one of the smaller parties, or “Non-Party Affiliated“ voters (NPAs).

So, clearly, Amendment 4 has strong bipartisan and nonpartisan support. That is a good thing. It makes sense.

Amendment 4 is good public policy and smart justice. Here’s why:

— Data from the Florida Commission on Offender Review proves that the vast majority of felons who get their voting and other civil rights back do not commit new crimes. They have learned their lesson and are trying to earn the second chance they have been given. On July 1, the Commission reported to the Board of Executive Clemency (made up of the governor and Florida Cabinet) that of the 992 felons who were granted restoration of civil rights in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, only one person was convicted of a new felony. (Yes, literally one out of almost 1,000 people.) If you consider data from the last seven fiscal years, 5,344 felons were granted clemency restoration of civil rights and only 12 people were convicted of new felonies requiring state prison. Now that is smart justice.

— The reduction in the number of reoffending felons will have a positive $365 million economic impact, according to a credible economic study completed by the Washington Economics Group, based in Coral Gables. How? By leading to fewer prisons and more jobs and positive economic activity.

— Reduced prison construction and staffing costs will save $223 million. Florida taxpayers currently fund 56 major state prisons, numerous state prison annexes, camps and work release centers, 10 federal prisons and 67 county jails.

— Increased job earnings, taxes paid and economic investments by the felons themselves will generate another $142 million.

Many of the affected individuals are our family members, neighbors, co-workers, high school classmates, church friends and mutual acquaintances of people we know. Except for their status as felons, they are regular Floridians who pay taxes, own homes and businesses, have kids, and contribute to our schools and communities.

Many of their convictions were for small drug possession or property crimes, often committed long ago when they were young.

Under Florida’s constitution, getting voting and other civil rights restored currently requires a grant of mercy, and the process simply takes too long.

A 5- or 7-year waiting period must pass before you can even apply. Some felons seeking voting and other civil rights can be approved without a hearing, but most must wait several years to get a hearing and a decision because there are approximately 23,000 pending applications for all types of executive clemency.

Proposed constitutional amendments require a supermajority of 60 percent approval to be adopted.

So, please vote yes on Amendment 4 and save taxpayers money and help felons earn a second chance.


Reggie Garcia is a Florida lawyer rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer-review designation, and the author of two books on executive clemency: “How to Leave Prison Early” and “Second Chances-Florida Pardons, Restoration of Civil Rights, Gun Rights and More.” He can be reached at

Karen Halperin Cyphers: Does #MeToo reduce demand for a Bill Clinton endorsement?

Leading into Florida’s recent Democratic gubernatorial primary, the lone female candidate and presumed front-runner Gwen Graham was asked in a debate if she would accept support from former President Bill Clinton on the campaign trail … “given the #MeToo movement.”

She hesitated in answering and took heat from her opponents (and perhaps from some voters) for failing to welcome Clinton’s support wholeheartedly.

I don’t need a mention of #MeToo to be reminded of Clinton’s catalog of transgressions, including and beyond what constitutes abuse of power or exploitation in the workplace. Therefore, in my mind, Graham’s hesitation was warranted — even if not the most strategic answer when competing for Democratic votes.

But now Florida’s attention is on the most polarized and high-profile gubernatorial contest in the nation, in which support from nonpartisan voters will determine the outcome.

I wanted to know how Floridians across the political spectrum would react to the same question: Would an endorsement from the former president positively or negatively impact views toward the candidate he supports — with, and without, specific reference to #MeToo?

We tested this through an experimental survey design in which half of the 1,100 respondents were primed to think of #MeToo before answering the question, while half were not. It turns out that #MeToo matters — but not the same way for everyone. We found that a reference to the #MeToo movement:

— Dramatically increases negative views and decreases positive views among voters with no party affiliation (NPA). Following mention of the #MeToo movement, negative views among NPAs regarding a Clinton endorsement almost double, while favorable views drop from 22 percent to 3 percent.

 — Has NO impact on the portion of Republicans who view a Clinton endorsement positively or negatively — not unexpected, given the low regard for Clinton among Republicans.

— Has NO impact on the portion of Democrats who would view a Clinton endorsement negatively. However, a large portion of Democrats do shift from positive feelings to “neutral” when the #MeToo movement is referenced. Interestingly, Democratic women have an even less negative response to the #MeToo reference than Democratic men.

To me, these results suggest that Democrats are either in denial about the degree to which Bill Clinton has “#MeToo-d” women, or it simply doesn’t matter to them.

The fact that a reference to #MeToo moves non-partisans strongly but moves Democrats very little implies that partisanship eclipses other values, or somehow alters how standards are applied.

This wouldn’t be exclusive to Democrats — it doesn’t appear that most Republicans would punish those that President Trump endorses even if reminded of the many repellent things he’s said or done. Quite the opposite, as demonstrated by Florida’s Republican gubernatorial primary.

But in the current general election, the calculus shifts to which endorsements can rally a base without turning off (and, ideally, appealing to) voters in the middle.

And if voter perceptions of endorsements can, in fact, be influenced by something as little as a hash-tagged reference, there may be plenty to consider.


Karen Halperin Cyphers, Ph.D., is a partner and vice president of research with Sachs Media Group in Tallahassee. Have curiosities or ideas for experimental survey questions? Email her at

Chris Hudson: Transit hounds are barking up the wrong tree

It’s back, and it’s worse than ever.

A coalition of local activists and big businessmen in Hillsborough County just got a $280 million sales tax hike placed on November’s ballot to fund transportation projects.

If that sounds familiar, there’s a reason.

Voters already made their feelings perfectly clear on sales tax hikes years ago. In 2010, Tampa residents voted down a similar sales tax hike by 58 to 42 percent.

That should have been the end of it. But tax-and-spend advocates weren’t interested in what taxpayers had to say. They were already making plans to get the transportation tax hike back on the ballot the day after the election, and they’ve been trying to do so ever since, including a failed attempt in 2016. Maybe they think that if they reintroduce the idea often enough they’ll just wear residents down.

Making the ill-conceived tax hike worse is the fact there are no detailed plans as to how the money would be spent. Supporters are essentially asking voters to hand the county a blank check and hope the money is spent responsibly.

Transit tax advocates seem to have forgotten the biggest reason for the Sunshine State’s recent economic success — low taxes. Thanks to a friendly tax climate, Florida is booming. Our state’s unemployment rate is at a nearly two-decade low, and Florida’s economy is expected to hit $1 trillion this year. Our state ranks fourth in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, making it a great place for businesses big and small to open up shop.

But the team behind this half-baked ballot initiative acts like undercutting all of this progress with a tax hike is the only option for funding our region’s transportation needs.

It isn’t.

Before trying to take money out of families’ pockets, they should take a good hard look at how taxpayer dollars are currently being used. They probably won’t like what they find.

Take, for example, the county’s spending on sports teams. In 2014, Hillsborough County lawmakers spent nearly $29 million so the Buccaneers could improve things like their luxury boxes and jumbotrons. Earlier this year, they signed off on over $60 million in taxpayer-funded upgrades to the Lightning’s arena. And now they’re considering spending at least $600 million on a new stadium for the Rays.

Instead of trying to get yet another referendum on the ballot, transit-loving activists should be asking why sports team owners are getting taxpayer funding over transportation projects.

Americans for Prosperity-Florida and our thousands of activists in the Tampa area and across the state believe responsible budgeting should come first. Florida families have to live within their means, so it shouldn’t be too much for them to expect their local governments to do the same.

Making up for irresponsible spending by hiking taxes on hardworking Tampa residents isn’t the solution to our region’s transportation needs.

The sales tax hike was a bad idea in 2010, it was a bad idea in 2016, and it’s still a bad idea today.


Chris Hudson is Florida state director of Americans for Prosperity.

Thomas Kennedy: The real extremist running for Florida Governor

Politics in America has become quite the spectacle recently. Florida, of course, has never been known for boring elections. Consider our last gubernatorial election, where former Republican Governor Charlie Crist ran as a Democrat against Republican Rick Scott, a millionaire who oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the history of Florida (and is currently running for Senate).

Need I say more?

Yet Florida has not seen anything like the epic race pitting Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum against Rep. Ron DeSantis, both aspiring to become Governor. Gillum made history by becoming the first black nominee for Governor in the history of the state after beating four other candidates, all millionaires, while running a bold and progressive campaign. DeSantis defeated Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam after receiving Donald Trump’s endorsement in what was considered an upset by political observers.

Since the onset of the general election, Gillum has faced a barrage of smears from the Florida Republican Party and its allies claiming that he is a candidate too radical for the people of Florida. Republicans say that Gillum is out of step with the average Floridian.

That’s funny coming from a party that has held political power in Florida for two decades, with disastrous consequences for working-class families. Currently 45 percent of households in the state qualifying as working poor and struggle to afford basic necessities like health care, transportation and housing despite being employed. Meanwhile, Republicans in the state have underfunded public education, refused to expand Medicaid for as many as 1 million Floridians, and set up corporate slush funds that divert millions in taxpayer dollars to the same wealthy corporations who help fund their campaigns

In the current race for Governor, it is DeSantis who is the clear extremist. His reactionary political agenda is plain for all Floridians to see.

— He has not taken a stand on raising the abysmal $8.25 minimum wage in the state.

— He opposes gun policies that would prevent tragedies like the Parkland shooting and is proud of his NRA endorsement and the money that comes with it.

— He opposes a woman’s right to choose what happens to their bodies.

— He wants to criminalize undocumented immigrant families who contribute to the economy of Florida in an effort to make their lives as difficult as possible.

— He supports the privatization of prisons and has taken big sums of money from GEO Group, the largest for-profit prison company in Florida.

— He opposed imposing meaningful regulations on industries that are destroying our environment and questions if climate change is caused by humans despite overwhelming scientific evidence.

In stark contrast stands Gillum and his progressive agenda, yet his policy positions are hardly radical or extreme. In fact, they are in lockstep with a majority of Americans.

— Medicare for all? Supported by 70 percent of Americans.

— Assault weapons ban? Supported by 67 percent of Americans.

— Comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship? Supported by 63 percent of Americans.

— Legalizing marijuana? Supported by 61 percent of Americans.

— Raising the minimum wage? Supported by 51 percent of Americans.

— Restoring voting rights to people with prior felony convictions? Supported by 74 percent of Floridians.

I can keep going if I’d wanted to, but I think I’ve made my point.

Despite what political consultants and mainstream media outlets will tell you, people are hungry for change and support policies that will materially make their lives better. They are tired of having to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, and fearing that a health issue could potentially lead to financial ruin or even death due to lack of health care.

DeSantis is a radical who has tied his political fortunes to Donald Trump, one of the most corrupt and unpopular Presidents in modern American history.

I believe that come Nov. 6, Floridians will choose Gillum as the candidate that stands with them on a majority of the issues.


Thomas Kennedy is the Political Director for FLIC Votes and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action. He tweets from @Tomaskenn.

Carey Theil: Dog racers gaslight while greyhounds continue to die

In light of a recent industry guest column regarding state gambling data, voters should ask themselves whether they can believe anything the greyhound industry says.

Earlier this week, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation released new data on gambling at Florida racetracks. According to this report, betting at Florida dog tracks fell by 6.4 percent in the most recent fiscal year, compared to the previous year. Gambling on live races fell even more, by a precipitous 7.1 percent.

In part, this decline is due to significant drops at key dog tracks. For example, racetrack betting fell by a catastrophic 11.2 percent at Palm Beach Kennel Club, arguably the flagship facility for the entire industry. Similar drops occurred at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club (8.8 percent), Sarasota Kennel Club (10 percent and Pensacola Greyhound Track (27.3 percent).

These are signs of an industry in its death throes. According to state records, Florida dog tracks lost a combined $34.8 million on racing in 2016, the most recent year for which the data is available.

Everyone knows that greyhound racing only continues today because of the state dog racing mandate, which requires that gambling facilities hold races in order to offer more profitable forms of betting. This mandate has effectively become a subsidy program for greyhound breeders, who are profiting from a product the market no longer wants.

The aforementioned guest column is designed to mislead and confuse. It wrongly attributes this state data to our campaign. It also attacks the state data, referring to an “incomplete financial analysis” and “propaganda.” Finally, it links to a spreadsheet created by a Massachusetts gambler, who claims the amount bet on races originating at Florida dog tracks is more than the state reports.

If the industry wishes to dispute this state data, it can take up its cause with the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. As a policy matter, there is certainly some money bet in other states, via simulcasting, on races that originate at Florida tracks. Those bets originate in other states and are taxed in other states.

The Division is specifically responsible for accounting for and protecting state revenues related to taxable pari-mutuel activities conducted in Florida. As you may be aware, government agencies are not exactly in the habit of letting tax revenue owed to them under state law slip away. For that reason, the state’s numbers remain more credible than those of an out-of-state professional gambler.

The industry uses these out of state bets to fabricate an imaginary monster, the “Advanced Deposit Wagering” internet gambling bogeyman. The industry uses this rhetorical trick because it needs a platform to argue that greyhound racing isn’t dying. It’s a tough task, because every single shred of actual data shows a consistent and perpetual decline. In fact, according to state data, gambling on dog races at Florida tracks has fallen in 25 of the last 26 years.

However, facts are stubborn things.

In reality, just 9.3 percent of all greyhound racing bets were made over the internet in 2015, according to actual records from the states themselves. While we are responding to this point primarily due to the series of false allegations made by the other side, it remains the case that the alleged preferences of bettors in other states have no bearing on the choices of Florida voters.

This is an intentional strategy dog race promoters are using to try to save their cruel industry. If possible, they deny the facts about the way greyhounds live. If that doesn’t work, they invent their own facts and rationalize their behavior. Let me provide a few examples:

— When the state releases data that shows a further decline of the industry, industry promoters release an unsourced spreadsheet from an out-of-state gambler and misrepresent the state data.

— When it becomes clear voters oppose greyhound confinement, industry promoters say that greyhounds are “only” confined for 18 to 20 hours per day, and that’s acceptable because dogs sleep a lot. Apparently they believe dogs like to live in cages.

— When news organizations report on the 483 greyhound deaths that have been reported to the state since 2013, industry promoters deflect by saying that other dogs die too, so apparently these deaths are acceptable.

In a little more than fifty days, Florida voters will head to the polls to decide the future of greyhound racing. I believe they will no longer tolerate this cruelty, or the trickeration being used to enable it. I’m convinced they will vote Yes for the dogs on Amendment 13.


Carey Theil is Senior Advisor to the Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign.

Committee to Support Greyhounds: The real racing handle numbers

The anti-racing activists led by the Humane Society of the United States, under the guise of “Protect Dogs — Yes on 13,” continue their barrage of deliberately deceptive propaganda aimed at Florida’s voters.

Once again, they are hiding the ball by intentionally omitting monies wagered via Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW), recently submitting a misleading and incomplete financial analysis to the media.

Below is an example of true handle and the TRUE financial impact of greyhound racing, taken from three Florida facilities.

Every track has a results sheet after each performance, which lists the results of every race for that session along with the attendance and handle at the bottom.

The author of the spreadsheet in question — Mr. Dick Ciampa — has reviewed the results sheets for three tracks to gauge the amount of advanced wagering money that is not reflected in the State report that the “Protect Dogs” group referenced.

What was found was a staggering difference in the news release sent out by Protect Dogs and the actual amounts wagered.

In the DBPR annual report, Derby Lane (operating as Derby Lane and Tampa Greyhound Track) reported $38,919,143. When the reported handle on the results sheets were added up for that year, they totaled $90,902,125 – a difference of $51,982,982.

The same analysis was done for Palm Beach (i.e., Palm Beach Kennel Club & License Acquisitions). In the DBPR Annual Report, they reported $49,976,741. The analysis of the results sheet showed the actual handle reported of $155,671,152 — another staggering difference of $105,694,411.

A third track was analyzed, Jacksonville (Jacksonville Kennel Club, Orange Park Kennel Club and St. Johns Greyhound Park), and produced similar results. The handle reported on the DBPR Annual Report was $39,829,574. The analysis of the results sheets was $90,530,670, another whopping difference of $50,701,096.

On three of the larger tracks alone, the total difference was $208,378,489. This hardly speaks of a dying sport as opponents would have you believe. One must ask why they ignore the ADW numbers.

This was a time-consuming endeavor, exactingly researched with clearly supported numbers and totals that are available to the public. It is not a “random spreadsheet” as anti-racing activists have now claimed since our committee first published it.

The numbers do not lie: The anti-racing group’s “report” omitted $200 million in wagering from three tracks alone.

As we have done in the past, The Committee to Support Greyhounds urges the public to come learn the truth for themselves. There are tours being arranged, via the National Greyhound Association, to meet trainers, meet current and ex-racers, watch a few races, visit with adoption group volunteers, get photos with the greyhounds, and ask questions about their care, racing careers, and life after the track.

There are also several kennels who have been putting up live feeds on Facebook each morning, so the public can check out ‘kennel life.’

The full data for handles at several FL tracks is available here. For more information, write to

Photo credit: Van Abernethy

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