Joe Henderson – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

Joe Henderson: FEA to Republicans: You get an F, and you get an F, and you …

It seems only fair that the Florida Education Association decided the Legislature deserved to be covered with the same sauce it has for years been ladling on public schools.

Hence, the report card the Association just gave lawmakers, based on how they voted on education issues over the last two years. Not surprisingly, Republicans — aka the Charter School Expansion Rubber Stamp Collective — fared poorly.

I can just picture Oprah Winfrey announcing the outcome: “You get an F! And you get an F! And you …”  

In the Senate, 16 of 24 Republicans were given F’s, along with most of the GOP House members. This is not surprising, for two reasons:

1: Richard Corcoran, who served as House Speaker for the last two years, was hellbent to overhaul public education in Florida. He made huge strides in that direction, supremely confident that he knew what was right and making sure members of his caucus understood that.

Public-school teachers and union members generally loathe him. I don’t think he minds.

2: While public-school teachers for years have known the deck is stacked against them in the Legislature, they appear to realize that demoralized acceptance of the disrespect from Tallahassee isn’t a winning a strategy.

The primary argument in favor of charter schools is that they offer students stuck in failing schools an alternative. Actually, that is true. Some students do extremely well in charters, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Public schools must accept any student — whether disruptive or disinterested. Nothing is (or can be) demanded of parents in terms of school participation. And if the students flunk out, it can drag down the whole school’s grade, under a formula determined by the state to punish teachers.

Charters can enact much stricter rules and require support from parents. At Tampa’s Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, for instance, families must spend at least 20 hours each year in some volunteer service there.

Public schools don’t have that option.

Failure to meet that requirement means, according to the school handbook, means the student can be expelled. Excessive tardiness or absences can get a student kicked out.

Not so in the public schools, unless a student is 16 years or older.

You get the idea.

Charter schools can boast of some impressive numbers; Brooks-DeBartolo perennially gets an “A” rating and seems by any standard to be a success story.

But charters can also cap enrollment — this case, around 600 students — while public schools have to take any student living within their boundaries.

Teachers at charters also are not unionized.

That always has been the issue, I believe, for lawmakers. They hate dealing with the teachers’ union.

So, they fought back the best way they know how — with grades, to show how public schools lag, with ridiculous requirements that set some schools up for failure, and by diverting money to the charters.

Charter schools this year received more than $91 million from the state under a capital funding program enacted in 2017.

And the FEA told lawmakers if you want to play that game, OK, here’s your grade.

I doubt few, if any, F-rated Republicans are worried about that, any more than a Democrat who gets the same rating from the National Rifle Association stays awake nights.

In our ultra-polarized atmosphere, politicians now wear rejection from the other side as a badge of affirmation.

But there should be at least a little warning to Republicans, used to running roughshod in the Legislature.

Between shootings on campus and being on the receiving end of the back of lawmakers’ hands, they have had enough. If enough of them follow the NRA and take this report card to the polling place, it might just tip a few seats.

If that happens, the FEA will no doubt award itself an “A.”

Bill Carlson to run for Tampa City Council District 4 seat

Bill Carlson, President of the giant Tampa-based public relations firm Tucker Hall, said he will run for the Tampa City Council District 4 seat in 2019.

The district covers much of South Tampa and is currently represented by Harry Cohen, who is term-limited on the Council but is a candidate for Mayor of Tampa.

Carlson, who has never run for elected office, told Florida Politics, “I realized I’ve done a lot behind the scenes in the last 25 years. It’s time to take it to the next level.”

Carlson said “community stuff is my passion” but also has experience going after big prizes. He was a key figure in a battle to pursue more flights to foreign locations from Tampa International Airport.

The airport has since greatly expanded its international presence, which Carlson said could lead to an expansion of trade opportunities.

One of his top priorities, he said, will be to continue “making Tampa a global city” while also continuing to support start-ups and entrepreneurs through innovation sectors.

As a South Tampa resident though, Carlson said he is keenly interested in making the city’s iconic Bayshore Boulevard into a safer road for bicyclists and walkers. Last week, a young mother and her baby were struck and killed by a speeding car on the road.

“I have three kids who ride bicycles on Bayshore,” he said. “Every parent looked in horror at what happened last week. It is unconscionable that we only have two crosswalks on Bayshore.”

He said he plans to listen to all sides of a community discussion about the future of the thoroughfare. There is sentiment by some to reduce the number of car lanes while dedicating part of the current roadway to pedestrians and bicyclists.

“In every issue, we have to balance the needs of all groups,” he said.

Small-business owner Salvatore Guagliardo Jr. previously declared his candidacy for the seat as well.

Joe Henderson: State’s medical marijuana fight is past point of silly

At some point maybe 10 or 20 years from now, the contortions used by the state of Florida to stall the use of medical marijuana will probably seem pretty silly.

Eventually, the drug 72 percent of voters approved for use by people suffering such hideous diseases as HIV, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) will be loosened from political reefer madness.

Those suffering from terminal diseases or just chronic pain will be able to smoke it, or even inhale!

That goes for the federal government too, which still bans marijuana use for even medical treatments.

Thanks to some political parlor tricks in May 2017, medical marijuana is available only in processed forms like oil or edible.

Opponents, probably hearkening back to the days when they didn’t get invited to the cool parties back in college, attached a ban on smoking medicinal weed.


Because the Florida Legislature often doesn’t give a rat’s patootie what voters really want.

That’s still happening, by the way.

After Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers last week lifted that absurd ban, correctly calling it unconstitutional, Gov. Rick Scott quickly announced the state would appeal.

That opened the door for Orlando high-powered attorney and foremost MM advocate John Morgan to call on Scott to stop the madness.

“Rick this type of meanness will COST you the US Senate seat,” Morgan tweeted.

And for emphasis, he added, “Don’t be like the others. Grow some brass ones!!”

It shouldn’t take brass ones to deal fairly with this. After all, the soon-to-be-former Governor and U.S. Senator-wannabe be would be siding with 72 percent of voters.

I’m betting that when most of those folks voted yes on the medical marijuana amendment, they did so with the expectation that users in dire need of relief would be smoking the weed, which is said to be the most efficient way to obtain relief.

At some point, all this begs the question: Whose side is the Governor on?

The Legislature has done some pretty snarky things over the years, but this was essentially an upraised middle finger on an issue that should be about compassion.

I had an aunt die of Parkinson’s years before medical marijuana became a thing.

Ever seen somebody with that disease?

One of the last times I spoke with her, I could barely make out her words, but I sure understood the desperation in her voice. She was begging for something, anything, to help.

What would the Governor have said to her?

Sorry lady, but smoking medical marijuana might be bad for your health?

My grandmother died the most painful way you can imagine, her fingers curled up from rheumatoid arthritis. Every part of her body was in agony. She was begging for death to come.

Pain is always somebody’s problem until you personally experience the real thing.

We’ve seen the crisis in this state and nation from opioid addiction. It’s legal to prescribe potent painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin, and they work well; oh yeah, they work. But they carry a horrible risk of addiction that can kill.

Would smoking medicinal weed be worse than that?

This is past the point of silly.

There is a time to stop being a politician and start being human.

I think we’re there.

Joe Henderson: Voter poll is a chapter, but full story is yet to come

The latest voter survey by Public Policy Polling — the one showing Philip Levine with a double-digit lead in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial race — is interesting and should be taken seriously.

His strategy of blanketing the airwaves seems to be working, although it would be more impressive if the primary was held in early June.

But it’s a long game (just ask the Houston Rockets what it means to be ahead at halftime). Toward that end, over lunch the other day, a friend was saying nice things about Adam Putnam, having met him a few times. That is welcome news to him, I’m sure, considering recent events.

But then, my friend casually asked who was running on the Democratic side. I said, well, there’s Philip Levine — he used to be mayor of Miami Beach.

I got a quizzical if-you-say-so look.

Well, and there is Gwen Graham. Remember U.S. Sen. Bob Graham? That’s his daughter.

Um, no. No clue.

At that point, I didn’t bother to mention Andrew Gillum or Chris King.

Now, my friend is older, smart, only peripherally interested in politics but will turn out to vote.

That is the kind of voter Democrats are going to need if they have any realistic hope of regaining the Governor’s Mansion in November. To many folks, though, their efforts have been a tree falling in the forest.

It’s not for a lack of trying.

They’ve all been out on the campaign trail, meeting with every civic or political group (or fundraiser) that will offer an audience.

Only Levine has been peppering the TV airwaves with commercials though, especially the one where he says public school teachers deserve a $10,000 annual raise.

I did some quick math on that.

There are about 180,000 public school teachers in Florida.

That works out to about $1.8 billion in extra money the state would have to find to make Levine’s wish come true even if he becomes the next Governor.

If you believe that will happen, fly to Vegas immediately and put it all on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl next season.

It’s a message that Levine is planting in voters’ minds, though.

I mean, it’s never bad to be on the side of public school teachers; they are the firewall between us and a future straight out of a zombie apocalypse. 

They should be paid accordingly.

It’s fair game, though, to ask Levine exactly how he would plan to do that.

And since during a debate he fumbled over the question of how much money the state budgeted this year for public education (along with each of Democratic competitors), I think the devil might be in the details on this one.

The good news for Levine is that it’s probably too early for the vast majority of voters to care about details, or platforms, or even to get serious about knowing candidates who might as well be from the planet Zortron for all they know.

After all, they are competing for attention with seismic stories like the cancellation of the Roseanne Barr show on TV after her racist (but predictable) Twitter meltdown.

So, polls show Levine with a big lead. It shows Rick Scott leading Bill Nelson.

Interesting? Sure.

But what’s all mean?

Three words: Hillary. Rodham. Clinton.

After all, we are about three months away from the primaries and more than five months from the general election.

Candidates who are way behind should be aware and maybe a little concerned. But anyone in the lead probably shouldn’t start thinking about measuring drapes for their new office just yet.

Joe Henderson: Is all this noise really America? Actually, it is

Between school days and ballgames, I figure I have stood for the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance at least several thousand times.

High school football and basketball games. College games. Pro games. Multiple Super Bowl and World Series games.

Oh say, can you see?

At games where a Canadian team was involved, I have also stood for the rendering of “Oh Canada” — a way cool anthem, by the way.

And the pledge? Well, as a second-grader at Pleasant Street Elementary School, I probably didn’t quite grasp what it meant to pledge allegiance every morning to the flag of the United States of America, but the teacher told us to do it and no one wanted to buck the system.  

As we all grew older though, it became legitimate to say hey, wait a minute, what does this pledge and honor stuff really mean?

It goes far beyond unquestioned obedience to a country that sometimes doesn’t offer the same in return.

It means being able to express yourself without fear of being dragged off and thrown in jail. It’s being able to publicly call out people in authority.

I’m not talking about NFL players who are upset that they risk a fine by taking a knee during the red glare of the rockets. They work for a private employer who can set the rules, even draconian ones.

I’m talking about the African-American who speaks out about the cop car following him at every turn. Or the gay person got tired of made to feel unwanted and uninvited and took to the streets.

Or those who speak out for the immigrant whose paperwork is in order, but still has to explain to his kids why the bully passing them on the street yelled for them to go home.

Or those who argue in favor of the disabled person who hears his government say it is cutting his benefits to save money while passing tax cuts to make billionaires richer.

A lot of people wonder how in the hell did we get so mean and distrustful.

Maybe it’s a clash of values, styles, religions, or maybe it’s just good old-fashioned fear. Maybe it’s always been there and the 2016 election just popped the cork.

Donald Trump won the White House with a campaign of division and hatred, and that has pretty much continued through the first 18 months of his administration.

I hoped that wouldn’t carry over to Florida elections this year, but it has.

University of Florida alum Adam Putnam seemingly can’t order eggs without taking a swipe at “liberal elites” — even when he has a good idea like expanded vocational education.

It is OK if a student would prefer to study for a specific trade but going to college doesn’t make you an elitist.

By the way, on his 2017 financial disclosure form, Putnam’s net worth was listed at $8.7 million.

Sounds pretty elite to me.

None of this is specific to one party.

Leslie Wimes, who supports Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, recently used Twitter to refer to rival Gwen Graham as a “skank.” She doubled down on that with a column after the ensuing controversy and, whoa … hit the brakes folks.

Of course, that won’t happen.

You know why?

Because this, too, is America and such talk — no matter where it comes from — is protected by that pesky First Amendment.

This is what we get for living in the Land of the Free.

Instead of high-sounding prose, we sometimes get skanks and slurs, elitist slams, and racist rants.

We get a president who used Twitter on Memorial Day, where we especially honor those who paid the highest cost, to pat himself on the back, noting, “Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today.”

Ridiculous, but expected.

Is that what we stand to honor and pledge allegiance?

Or don’t stand and don’t pledge?

And what so many fought to protect?

Yeah. Actually, it is.

Joe Henderson: Publix will survive this, but Adam Putnam? We’ll see

If Adam Putnam’s campaign for Governor ultimately crashes on the rocks, historians will note the time of 8:27 p.m., July 25, 2017, as the point where it began to unravel.

That’s when he sent out a fateful tweet that was equal parts of bravado and miscalculation. It read: “The liberal media recently called me a sellout to the NRA. I’m a proud #NRASellout!”  

Putnam may have believed he was invincible at that point. He didn’t have a serious challenger looming for the Republican nomination and, well, don’t GOP candidates always win the Governor’s race in Florida?

He had money, folksy charm, name recognition, along with the perception by many that this was just his time. After serving in Congress and two terms as state Agriculture Commissioner, this fifth-generation Floridian with small-town Bartow roots seemed to have everything going his way.

But that changed on Valentine’s Day when 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The resulting backlash against the NRA, led by student outrage at how Florida Republicans rubber-stamp basically anything from the gun lobby, brought new and now-unwanted attention to Putnam.

Suddenly, being a “proud NRA sellout” didn’t sound like such a hot idea.

Then, the Tampa Bay Times uncorked a scoop that brought even more eyebrow-raising attention to Putnam. It reported top officials at the beloved Florida grocery chain Publix had donated more than $670,000 to Putnam in the last three years — far more support than it had given any other candidate.

Publix tried to explain it was just supporting a pro-business candidate, but a lot of people couldn’t get past “Proud NRA Sellout.”

Just a few days after that story appeared, 10 people were murdered at Santa Fe High School in Texas. That focused more attention on Publix and, by extension, Putnam.

Calls for a boycott of Publix for its support of gun-loving Putnam quickly grew loud throughout the state, and it has had an impact. The massive grocery chain, realizing potential damage to the brand, had to issue a statement to saying it is reconsidering how to handle such matters in the future.

“We regret that some of our political contributions have led to an unintentional customer divide instead of our desire to support a growing economy in Florida,” Publix said in an email to CBS.

“As a result of this situation, we are evaluating our processes to ensure that our giving better reflects our intended desire to support a strong economy and a healthy community.”

Since all of this hit the fan, Putnam’s tweets have concentrated on mundane campaign stuff like the Newberry Watermelon Festival parade last Saturday. He hasn’t used that medium to address the controversy with Publix or the growing backlash against the NRA.

The closest he came to any of this was a tweet that said he was “saddened” by the murders at Santa Fe.

I’m sure he was, but there’s a difference between being “saddened” and being willing to be an agent of change to a culture that believes guns are as essential as food and water.

Putnam’s candidacy remains strong though, and he still bashing the so-called “liberal elite” at every opportunity. I can’t see him losing the GOP nomination to an even more strident Ron DeSantis, and Democrats have yet to prove they have a winning formula.

But it’s not the sure thing it used to look like.

When Publix starts to move an arm’s length away, you may have a problem.

Publix will survive this.

Putnam? Too soon to say.

The internet lasts forever. If you tweet it, you own it.

Joe Henderson: No game worth price Scot Brantley is paying

Scot Brantley was one of my favorite football players to cover during my years as a sports writer.

That goes back to his days as a ferocious linebacker at Ocala Forest High School, and later with the Florida Gators and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

His trademark southern drawl came through when he co-hosted a sports talk show in Tampa after he finally quit football. He always has been as real as a person can be.

That’s why it is especially painful to hear that at age 60, the man I knew is likely headed down a road from which there presently is no return.

In an interview with HBO sports, his wife, Mary, said Scot has Alzheimer’s disease. That’s not even the worst of it though.

She says the National Football League has denied his claim for assistance from the settlement it reached after retired players began reporting abnormally high rates of brain-related diseases and other ailments.

A study showed that compared to the rest of the U.S., NFL players are three times more likely to die from neurodegenerative diseases and four times more likely to die from Alzheimer’s or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — Lou Gehrig’s disease.

There is no telling how many concussions Brantley endured from high school through seven years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1979, Brantley took a knee to the head and was knocked unconscious in Florida’s opening home game of the season.

He never played another down for the Gators.

He was advised to quit football then but received another medical diagnosis that convinced him and the NFL that he would be OK. The league and players weren’t knowledgeable about long-term effects from head injuries then, certainly not to the degree we see today.

Brantley kept on delivering his signature hard hits, and he said in interviews that he figured headaches and concussions were just part of the game.

You know what else should be part of the game?

How about some compassion.

Players like Scot Brantley helped make the NFL into the multibillion enterprise it is today. The league owes him and all those former players with similar problems compassion, care, and money.

I was part of a team at the Tampa Tribune and WFLA-NewsChannel 8 in 2010 that did a series we called “Broken Bucs.”

We sought to find as many players from the 1979 division championship team that we could to see how they were doing years later. It was the first time any media outlet had undertaken such a project on a single team.

One of my tasks was to find Jerry Eckwood, who was a standout running back on that team. I flew to Nashville, where he was staying in assisted living. He had been homeless for a while and was battling both physical pain and mental deterioration.

He could talk lucidly one minute, then go into a rambling, nonsensical paranoid delusion the next. He had suffered multiple concussions as a player.

Eckwood eventually did get some assistance from the NFL, but the game can never adequately replace what it took from players like him and Scot Brantley.

In reporting that series, we held several meetings with former Bucs at a North Tampa hotel. Many told similar stories of being turned down for injury claims.

“You know what they call it, right?” former quarterback John Reaves said. “Delay, deny and hope you die.”

Reaves died last year at age 67.

In a 2013 interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Brantley talked about his failing memory and admitted he had no idea how many concussions he might have suffered over the years. Who knows how that might have changed if he had heeded the advice to give up football while he was still with the Gators.

All I know is, a guy I like and respect is fighting the battle of his life, and I believe football is the reason why.

I enjoy watching football as much as anyone, but no game is worth the price too many are paying.

Joe Henderson: Sure, young people are registering to vote, but for whom?

The New York Times reported that the number of young people registering to vote since the Parkland killings continues to, using the newspaper’s word, “accelerate.”

That trend is likely to spike upward again following Friday’s massacre at Santa Fe High School in Texas. The overriding factor for the increases obviously would seem to be gun violence in schools, and that is an issue that Democrats in Florida and elsewhere should own.

For Democrats though, there is a disturbance in the force of that narrative.

The Florida Supervisor of Elections Office shows that compared to the end of 2017, the number of registered Republicans increased by 11,065 through the end of April while the number of Democrats declined by 8,977.

It also shows an increase of 11,427 in registrations for what it calls “minor parties.”

Democrats still have more than 200,000 registered voters than Republicans statewide, but they have had that advantage forever and still lost the last five Governor’s races.

In this century, Democrats have won just one statewide legislative race — Alex Sink beat Tom Lee for CFO in 2006.

True, Dems have had some surprising special election success in unlikely places. In HD 72 in Sarasota, Democrat Margaret Good prevailed in February over Republican James Buchanan in a district Donald Trump won by 4.4 points in 2016.

And in Dade County last September, Democrat Annette Taddeo beat state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a special SD 40 race to fill the vacancy created when Republican Frank Artiles had to resign following a racist rant.

After those results, it looked like the predicted blue wave for Democrats would sweep over Florida in the midterms, and it still could. For that to happen though, some things have to change — and the kids will have to be the ones to make the difference.

While it’s almost impossible to predict what Trump will do next and how that will affect his popularity in November, he does seem to be better liked in Florida than most places.

A recent Florida Atlantic poll had his approval at 43 percent — not great, but better here than the national average. If that holds, it might mitigate some of the drag on other Republican candidates that Dems have been banking on.

Rick Scott poses the biggest threat of Democrat Bill Nelson’s career in the U.S. Senate.

Although Scott, once considered a darling of the National Rifle Association, helped push through a modestly tougher gun law in the wake of Parkland, but will that be enough to convince young voters that he can be trusted in Washington?

And just as important for Nelson, will those newly registered voters actually cast a ballot? Turnout is usually modest in midterm elections, even when such critical offices are at stake. That has benefitted Republicans in Florida.

The other X-factor is that “minor party” issue. Idealistic young voters often feel neither major party listens to them, and they can be attracted to the message that a candidate out of the mainstream might offer.

That’s where I think Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam has been smart. He has become a champion of expanded vocational education in the state, even to the point of ridiculing the notion that everyone should go to college as some liberal elitist plot.

I think that’s an issue that could resonate with young voters who see a job market that seems to offer them only service positions at $10 an hour.

In close races, those voters can sink the hopes of a candidate from one of the established parties.

Put another way, while major Republican candidates would love to have a big share of the youth vote, they’re probably OK if it goes to anyone else but a Democrat.

That thought alone should keep Dems awake nights.

Joe Henderson: Rick Scott following familiar campaign formula vs. Bill Nelson

The only way to avoid Rick Scott’s ad blitz thus far in his campaign for the U.S. Senate is to unplug your TV set and, well, who wants to do that?

That would mean you missed the Royal wedding and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s ongoing run toward the Stanley Cup, so I guess being subjected to Scott’s “approved” attack on his opponent and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is a price to pay we just have to pay.

The latest ad is a real gem.

Scott, the two-term governor, has been attacking Nelson, the three-term senator, as a “career politician.” Now, he is using what looks like the cast of Everyday Folks to paint Nelson as a rubber stamp who always votes the party line for the Democratic agenda — whatever it is.

One guy in the commercial even says Nelson is too influenced by Nancy Pelosi, and while I suppose their paths have crossed I doubt the House Minority Leader has much influence over Nelson’s votes in the Senate.

Ah, but that’s how the game is played.

Republicans believe Pelosi is such a hot-button item that merely hearing her name or seeing her face will send thousands of voters stampeding to the polls to back any GOP candidate.

Scott is not above playing the guilt-by-association game, either. A big part of his strategy as an unknown outsider in 2010 was to label Republican front-runner Bill McCollum as liberal for supporting — wait for it — “pro-abortion and pro-homosexual” Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential primary.

Painting McCollum as liberal was (and is) laughable, except it worked.

Scott then put “let’s get to work” on an endless loop that we’re still repeating eight years later, and I guess he figures if a little distortion worked before, why mess with success?

Besides, Nelson is absorbing a ton of body blows from these ads while sitting on about $10.5 million in his campaign chest. It’s reasonable to ask when he will start throwing punches back before Rick Scott defines himself as an agent of change and Nelson as the face of partisan politics.

While Scott has already spent $8 million on TV ads, including Spanish-language ads, Nelson has essentially been a ghost on TV and puzzling to the Democratic base.

For instance, he voted to confirm Gina Haspel as director of the CIA, choosing not to hold the fact she oversaw “enhanced interrogation” (torture) for a time.

He tweeted his support for relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, calling it the “appropriate place.”   

That doesn’t sound like a Democratic rubber stamp to me.

As long as Nelson lets Scott keep pounding away though, it doesn’t really matter what is true and what is misleading. Yeah, I know — the lead-up to major elections is all about being misleading.

Voters can usually sort through the nonsense, and it is still about 5 ½ months until the election. Neither candidate faces a serious primary challenge.

If I were Democrats though, I’d be worried that Scott is managing to plant enough seeds with voters that it could be hard for Nelson to change minds.

If they doubt that, just ask Bill McCollum.

Joe Henderson: I go to Publix for groceries, not for politics

Yes, the giant Publix supermarket chain has essentially endorsed Adam Putnam to be Florida’s next governor and has thrown a lot of money into his campaign.

Interesting but, in the big picture, so what?

I find shopping at Publix to be a pleasure, especially when its deli fried chicken is fresh out of the cooker. The stores are clean, the worker bees are helpful, and by the time I reach the checkout line, it doesn’t really matter to me what the company thinks about Putnam or any other politician.

I go there for groceries, not for political advice.

A lot about Putnam’s campaign rhetoric has been troubling, especially that “elitist liberal” crap in his latest TV ad, the one that trumpets his Bartow roots, complete with hay bailing.

Guess what, Adam? I bailed hay too, back in the day. I rolled sod. I recapped tires for $2 an hour. I don’t think that qualifies me to lead the state.



Stop with the liberal bashing. You are better than this.

Aren’t you?

But I also understand primary politics today, which basically forces candidates in either party to prove they can appeal to the almighty base. That’s true of Democrats as well as Republicans, and it’s a big part of why politics today is so partisan.

The “base” is filled with dedicated voters who would turn out if the primary was held at midnight on a Thursday during a hurricane. To win the nomination, a candidate has to show he or she can be just as extreme and uncompromising as anyone in the base.

Then the general election comes and everything changes. That’s when the everyday voter, with concerns that include politics but don’t exclude everything else, turns out.

And if Democrats can somehow ride a blue wave and gain control of the state Senate – even if they aren’t successful in winning the Governor’s mansion — having the political savvy to work with the other side will be important.

By that time, I don’t think anyone worth a rat’s patooie will care if whoever wins the race was endorsed by Publix or anyone else.

The issues in Florida are going to be the same for a while – health care, guns, schools, transportation.

The question for all candidates is how do they plan to address those things, not their stance on weekly BOGOs.

If it’s going to be a strictly agenda-based administration, on either side, then people might want to stick their heads under the covers for the next four years.

Rick Scott won two terms by about 1 percentage point each time. I wouldn’t call that a mandate, but Republicans – with the help of gerrymandered districts in the House and Senate – treated it that way and rammed through laws that gave the cold shoulder to about half of the state.

But that’s getting ahead of things.

Publix, based in Lakeland, understandably supports Putnam. He came from nearby Bartow, and he represents much of what that corporation stands for.

Interestingly, there are some things they don’t agree on. Remember how Putnam regrettably referred to himself as a “proud NRA sellout?”

Publix has sought to distance itself from the NRA, if not Putnam, after the Tampa Bay Times initially reported the chain’s significant financial support of him.

I’m not saying that initial story wasn’t interesting.

It was good reporting and it’s helpful to know where the money comes from.

However, it won’t make me decide to shop somewhere else if I decide not to vote for Putnam. I mean, I really like Publix fried chicken.

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