Joe Henderson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 38

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: Will this time be the charm for Hillsborough transportation tax?

For decades, Hillsborough County’s idea of a local transportation fix has been basically to fill existing potholes (sort of) and take years to build more streets and roads that are outdated before they open.

The only thing everyone seems to agree with is that the community has never the will to pay for a comprehensive plan that would alleviate stifling congestion along city and county roadways.

The county’s exploding population growth no longer makes that a practical plan though, which is why local heavy-hitters Jeff Vinik and Frank Morsani have taken matters into their own hands.

They are backing a plan by a group calling itself All for Transportation that hopes to put a sales tax referendum before voters in November to raise an estimated $280 million annually to fund transit needs.

The tax would run for 30 years. Supporters currently are working to get 49,000 signers on a petition to place the issue on the November ballot. So far, they have presented 5,000 to the local elections office.

Under the proposal, 45 percent of the money would go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit for upgraded bus service and pay for other mass transit. The rest would be divided among the county, city of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City for congestion relief.

The group, which also includes attorney Tyler Hudson, who worked on Barack Obama‘s 2008 presidential campaign in Florida, and well-known GOP supporters Nancy Watkins and her husband Robert Watkins.

Well, that’s good. These are serious people who have recognized a serious community need and are trying to do something about it.

But we’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we?

Presented with a similar sales-tax increase proposal in 2010 at the height of the recessions, Hillsborough voters resoundingly said NOPE!

Opponents said one reason it failed was the magic four-letter word: R-A-I-L.

Supporters tried again in 2016 to get a plan called Go Hillsborough before voters, but the county commission wouldn’t even let it go on a ballot. By using petitions this time, transit supporters could be able to bypass the tax-skittish commissioners.

And lest we forget, Green Light Pinellas got a red light from voters in 2014.

So yeah, there is some work to do.

But according to the Tampa Bay Times, Vinik and Morsani kicked in $150,000 each to the effort, and both names carry considerable cache. Vinik owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and is spearheading a $3 billion makeover of Tampa’s downtown waterfront.

Morsani is known for his philanthropy and community involvement.

Tampa and Hillsborough County, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly noted for rapid population growth and a transportation system that is woefully short of options that don’t include cars and toll roads.

That’s no longer an option.

Plan Hillsborough noted in November that the county is adding roughly the population of Temple Terrace (24,000) every year. In 2017, the U.S. Census showed that the Tampa area had the fourth-highest growth rate in the country in the past year.

The need is there.

But there also is a need for details about how All for Transportation proposes the money to be spent. The group promises that information will be forthcoming once it gets the signatures needed to put this on the ballot.

If that happens, then they have to sell it.

I mean, really sell it.

The critics will be out there in force with pitchforks and flaming torches, demanding an accounting for how every cent will be spent for the 30-year-life of the tax. Even after they get it, those same people will decry waste, inefficiency and say that things aren’t so bad that we need this.

Assuming they get this on the ballot, supporters will have until November 6 to convince enough people the critics are wrong.

The future of the county could be riding on the answer.

Joe Henderson: Three game suspension not enough for Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston

Three games?

That’s the suspension the overlords at the National Football League decided Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston deserved for sexually assaulting a female Uber driver and then lying about it while the league investigated.

Three games? That’s it?

It was a negotiated settlement. Read into that what you will.

To be technical, the league ruled Winston touched the driver in an “inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.”

To me, that’s sexual assault.

Instead of a suspension, how about jail instead?

As a sports columnist, I followed the code of never cheering in the press box, but I’ll break that vow now and say I hope Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will replace Winston during his absence, plays like Tom Brady for those three games and keeps the job.

This isn’t about football though. It’s about a troubled man-child with a pattern of assuming he can take whatever he wants, whenever he wants it.

The Bucs have made Winston the face of their franchise since drafting him first overall out of Florida State. They have praised his leadership. His teammates put him on a pedestal.

This is what they get for ignoring red flags that were there all along.

While shooting a BB gun in college, he caused more than $4,000 in damage to a Tallahassee apartment.

He was accused of rape by a woman at FSU. The woman said she was drugged. Winston said it was consensual. He was never charged but reached a settlement with the accuser and FSU also paid her $950,000.

He was suspended from FSU’s baseball team after shoplifting crab legs from a Tallahassee Publix. He was suspended for a football game against Clemson after a sexually charged rant. The original suspension was for just the first half of that game.

He apologized then, of course. He said he knew he let everyone down, and that he would do better.

He says the same thing now.

In his statement, Winston apologized to the Uber driver and then added, “It is uncharacteristic of me and I genuinely apologize.”


Seriously? Just look at the record.

Oh, but he’ll do better now. Besides, he appeared to blame the Uber groping on alcohol and said he’ll stop drinking.

It’s always something else, isn’t it?

Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers was suspended for six games in 2010 growing out an allegation he sexually assaulted a 20-year-old woman. Interestingly, assuming Winston remains employed the Bucs, he will be serving the final game of his suspension when the Steelers and Roethlisberger come to Raymond James Stadium on September 24.

Three games are not enough.

I’d start with eight games and go up from there. Maybe the whole year.

There have been calls for the Bucs to cut all ties with Winston, just release him. You definitely can make that argument, both a moral and a football standpoint.

Do you trust him anymore?

I don’t.

Can the Bucs trust him?


Can he earn that trust again?

I guess that’s the real question here, isn’t it?

And based on what we’ve seen, I think we already know the answer.


(Image via Getty)

Joe Henderson: Marco Rubio says media is reason GOP won’t criticize Donald Trump


Marco Rubio tweeted Wednesday that Republicans are afraid to criticize President Trump because “it means siding with a media that never cuts him a break, turns even little things he does into an act of evil….”


I mean, Rubio is an educated man. He is a United States Senator.

And apparently, he believes the reason members of his party won’t stand up to the man who put the bully back in the pulpit is because they’re afraid of the media?

What am I missing here?

The only media they’re afraid of is @realDonaldTrump.

Republicans don’t criticize Trump because they don’t want to be the target of his Twitter attacks. Their knees shake at the notion that offering even reasoned opposition to the president’s globe-stomping antics would earn them the rebuke of hard-liners and a primary challenge.

The money tap could be turned off.

Appearing to be in step with Chuck Todd is the least of their concerns.

They have seen members of their own party mocked and humiliated by the president. They have seen him attack John McCain, for goodness sake.

Rubio should know that better than anyone, or has he forgotten the “Little Marco” face-slap that put the final nail in his presidential campaign?

Then again, Rubio has always growled like a pit bull until it’s time to show his cards and he turns into a parakeet.

The unfortunate thing about this tweet is that Rubio has been doing some good things lately. He and Democrat Bill Nelson have developed a cooperative relationship on several issues, to the benefit of Floridians.

He created some chatter in an interview with the Economist when he said workers weren’t seeing much benefit from the big Trump tax cuts, but the fat cats sure were.

“There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers,” he said then. “In fact, they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.”

Did that refreshing bit of honesty hurt Rubio?

Didn’t seem to.

And even if some of his trickle-down GOP pals were annoyed, it was because he strayed from the reservation. It wasn’t because Rubio was “siding with the media.”

So, it’s hard to figure what Rubio was trying to gain by this tweet.

Did the president slip in a new executive order requiring all GOP politicians to attack the press at least once a week?

But seriously folks, it’s not the media’s job to give politicians a break. The media is supposed to be cranky, ask uncomfortable questions and all that stuff.

Anyone with enough time in the public eye as Rubio has had surely knows that. I’m sure his Republican and Democratic colleagues know that too.

GOP members who might otherwise speak up against Trump aren’t afraid of siding with the media.

My guess is, they’re simply afraid.

Joe Henderson: It’s getting harder to identify the good guys

Attorney General Pam Bondi was harassed by protestors last Friday when she was at a movie theater in Tampa for a screening of the Mr. Rogers’ movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Video of the incident went viral. Interestingly, it was captured by a member of Organize Florida who happened to be on the scene.

That group describes itself as “a community-based, nonprofit member organization of low and moderate-income people dedicated to the principles of social, racial, and economic justice and the promotion of an equal and fair Florida for all.”

Very good.

We need more of that.

What we don’t need are the guerilla tactics the video showed against Bondi.

They were inappropriate and juvenile.

Wait a minute, Pam.

Don’t think I’m defending your decision to have Florida join a lawsuit that could end protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

That’s what triggered the protest, and Bondi should be ashamed to be a party to that. It is cold, heartless, cruel and an unworthy partisan example of how she puts her Republican Party ideals over what is best for all the people.

And I did have to suppress a laugh when I saw her quote in the Tampa Bay Times about the incident.

“We were in a movie about anti-bullying and practicing peace and love and tolerance and accepting of people for their differences,” Bondi told The Times. “That’s what Mister Rogers is all about. We all believe in free speech, but there’s a big difference there.”

A good way to put anti-bullying, peace, love and tolerance into practice might be to stop trying to destroy people’s insurance lifeline without replacing it with something that can provide the coverage they need and can afford.

It’s despicable.

Can you say that, Pam? Sure, you can.

Actually, I doubt she could.

This kind of stuff has been building since Donald Trump started his campaign for president. Progressives and Democrats, in general, despise him and the members of his administration — and, by extension, people like Bondi.

They believe Republican policies are designed to make the rich become richer and to screw the little guy. Often, they aren’t wrong.

They believe Trump is a feckless bully whose fallback position is to lie about pretty much everything. Some of the people who support him believe they have a license to intimidate, mock, berate and stomp on people who have different ideas.

Democrats are fed up. The anti-Trumpies have had enough.

But there is no excuse — none, zero — for some of the things we’ve seen lately.

Take Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters of California, for instance. She is acting just like the person she despises.

Saturday in Los Angeles, she said in a speech, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

That’s ignorant on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start.

It’s basically what Trump called for his supporters to do during the campaign. It’s how he excused racists in Charlottesville for inciting violence. It’s his fallback position whenever he feels the heat.

His opponents aren’t as good at that game as Trump has been, and right now they are too filled with fury to grasp that their best weapon isn’t a rock or screaming insults, it’s a ballot on Election Day.

But even that won’t work if the anti-Trump crowd keeps up this garbage. They shouldn’t try to justify this junk with a “yeah, but …” because they would be wrong.

Non-aligned voters already say they can’t tell the difference between the two parties, and these actions reinforce that belief. And they tend to believe that while conservatives can be hardhearted, liberals can be clueless.

Democrats need to ask themselves a serious question. Florida has elected a Republican Governor in five consecutive elections. The vast majority of top officials in Tallahassee are Republicans.

Yes, gerrymandering can explain the GOP lockjaw on the Legislature, but that doesn’t explain why Dems keep losing statewide races.

It’s just possible that Republicans have done a better job of articulating a vision enough Floridians agree with.

Hard to swallow, eh?

If they want to change that narrative, it’s time for leaders of the so-called “resistance” to show they can be something besides mad.

Recent events aren’t promising.

Joe Henderson: For Ron DeSantis, time to dance to the Trump music

The phrase “You dance with the one who brung ya” is a quaint way of saying you stick with what works.

The origin of that saying is generally credited to the longtime University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal, but it has been co-opted over the years by plenty of others, including (let us bow our heads), Ronald Reagan, the Gipper himself.

But now we’re seeing an updated version of that bromide play out in the first wave of TV spots for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, the wonder face from Fox News and apparently President Trump’s new BFF.

The essence of DeSantis’ campaign so far seems to be, “Hey everyone! Donald Trump likes me! DeSantis: 2018!”

Well, I guess that association is what brung DeSantis this far and with only a couple of months to go before the Aug. 28 primary, there is no sense trying out new dance partners now.

His primary opponent, Adam Putnam, has been trying for months to show he can be just as tough and unyielding as DeSantis – but it really hasn’t been a good look for a candidate who loves to show off his small-town, home-spun chops and rolled-up sleeves while still claiming to be tough as Rambo.

Call me crazy, but I just can’t believe we’ve seen the real Putnam in all inflammatory those TV spots.

I do, however, believe we soon will be seeing lots of the real DeSantis.

At a campaign stop in Citrus County, for instance, DeSantis went on a jag about the “four liberals” on the Florida Supreme Court who voted to overturn the death sentence of the man who kidnapped, raped and killed 11-year-old Carlie Brucia in 2004.

The reason: The sentencing decision wasn’t unanimous, as now required by Florida law.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, someone in the crowd yelled that they had a tree and rope in their backyard, and then another shouted amid much laughter, “Bring back the hanging tree!”

Afterward, the Times reported that DeSantis’ spokesperson basically said the candidate didn’t disagree with the sentiment.

DeSantis also brings some serious military chops to the party, having served as a Navy SEAL advisor during a tour of duty in Iraq and at the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He also graduated from Yale and Harvard Law School, which I suppose Putnam could twist around and paint DeSantis as a “liberal elite” because of all those ads Putnam ran saying those high-fallutin’ educated cretins look down on anyone without at least a four-year college degree.

But seriously folks, DeSantis has a story to tell and hard-nosed philosophy that will play well with a fair share of GOP primary voters. So why is he trailing Putnam 32-15 in a recent Florida Chamber of Commerce poll?

The main reason, I suspect, is that Putnam has been all over the airwaves with ads while DeSantis is just getting started.

And Putnam has been around on the public stage for a long time while DeSantis, while benefitting from his Fox News platform, still would struggle in name recognition compared to his opponent.

It should be noted that nearly 50 percent of those in the Chamber poll hadn’t made up their minds who to support. And the Chamber did endorse Putnam, for what that’s worth.

With that in mind, we’ll find out soon enough if the Trump Effect is what DeSantis is banking it will be. He is about to launch his own major TV ad blitz, highlighting his relationship with the president.

Strike up the band.

Time to dance with that person that brung ya.

Joe Henderson: Sarah Sanders incident latest step into the abyss

It is wrong that Sarah Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant over the weekend because the staff and owner don’t like her politics and her presence made them feel uncomfortable.

I don’t like her politics either. I disagree with almost everything she says and, especially, the man she represents in the White House press briefing room.

But if we’re going to stop what looks like a steady descent into an abyss from which it may be hard to recover, we have to acknowledge that what happened with Sanders is no different from a Donald Trump supporter refusing to serve, oh, Nancy Pelosi.

If you say that either option is OK depending on how you look at the world, we’re just one step away from food testers.

And yes, I think Trump uncorked the hate when he kicked off his presidential campaign after he said about Mexico, “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Actually, it was quite a weekend for hate.

Sanders’ father, the incredibly hypocritical former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, fired off a sickening tweet that showed a picture of gang members with the words, “Nancy Pelosi introduces her campaign committee for the take back of the House.”

Huckabee was a Southern Baptist minister before entering politics. He parades his faith as both an appeal to voters with similar values and a dog whistle to their worst instincts, as we saw in that tweet.

It’s up to God to give him final judgment on that tweet, but I’ll say it is unhinged piety and represents a side of the Christian faith with which I am not familiar.

But hey, it’s all politics, right?

That makes it OK, right?

There is very little going on right now in our national discourse that qualifies as OK.

Politicians have been making their case for as long as I can remember mostly by talking in platitudes about themselves while casting their election opponent as a spawn of Satan.

What’s happening now is not just about downgrading a person from the other party anymore, it’s about making your supporters hate whole groups of people that might have thought differently.

We see that in Adam Putnam’s repeated references to “liberal elites” on the campaign trail. Students from Parkland have been targeted with outright lies, including a Photoshopped image that made the rounds of a student ripping up a copy of the U.S. Constitution.

Some conservative college students complain they have been targeted for ridicule and abuse by liberal professors. Liberals fire back that the President of the United States is an arrogant bully who started all this.

It goes on, and on, and on.

So where does it stop?

One person at a time, I think.

I imagine those migrants stuck at the U.S. border because the leader of the free world decided to play politics with their lives. Do people really believe those immigrants woke up one day and decided they would undertake a perilous journey so they could bring crime, drugs, and violence to this country?

BuzzFeed reported in late March that what it called a “large caravan” of would-be immigrants, mostly from Honduras, was making a monthlong journey through Mexico to the U.S. because they were running away from all the stuff Trump said immigrants were trying to bring here.

We don’t think about that though, do we?

Nope. We just assume the worst and hide our best instincts.

So, the intensity of distrust grows on both sides to the point where someone can’t even order dinner without being told to leave.

Time to pump the brakes, folks.

Joe Henderson: For now (at least), sanity carries the day

Let’s take a deep breath and briefly examine what we have learned over the last several days.

Lesson No. 1: Separating children from their parents and locking them in cages is bad.

Lesson No. 2: When in doubt, refer to Lesson No. 1.

Sometimes, it really is that simple.

Someone finally got that message through to President Donald Trump, and he announced an executive order that reunites previously separated children and parents. A modicum of compassion and sanity was restored to this nation’s border policy, and I guess we take victories where we can find them.

Hysteria, for the moment, was trampled by millions of Americans who said in loud, unmistakable voices that this isn’t the kind of country we want.

It’s possible to have security without being terrified of the border boogeyman.

That’s a conversation for another day, but it’s an important one — especially here in Florida.

For now, though, just look at how we got to the point where the leader of the free world had to have it pounded through his thick skull that there are lines that can’t be crossed, especially when crying children are standing on the other side.

The arrogance of hard-liners in the Trump administration got us here, along with the president’s unswerving belief that anything which makes his 40 percent base happy is good public policy.

Consider how Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, showed the Fox News audience he had the heart of pit viper when he mocked a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who had been separated from her parents at the border.

This is a guy who had Trump’s ear, and he evidently thinks situations like this are funny. Offered a chance Wednesday to apologize, he declined. Repeat: Lewandowski used to manage Trump’s campaign, and if he had his way that little girl would be nothing more than collateral damage on the way to building a border wall.

And I’ll bet Lewandowski still has Trump’s ear.

Speaking of collateral damage, few people have had a worse week career-wise than Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen of Clearwater.

She was given the fool’s errand to try and back up her boss’s lie that Democrats were blocking any law that could have reunited those kids with their parents, and she dutifully did as she was told.

Turns out, Trump could fix it with the stroke a pen, like Democrats always said.

But Nielsen’s public face on this issue led to an ugly scene with protesters at, oh yeah, a Mexican restaurant where she was having dinner Tuesday night. It rammed home another important lesson: Trying to defend the indefensible is never a good idea.

And just when we think Attorney General Jeff Sessions couldn’t possibly look worse, he did by quoting out of context Romans Ch. 13 from the Bible. Sessions used that to defend the government’s action, basically saying that God would want people to go along with what the administration is doing.

Religious leaders around the country responded with stinging rebukes, and now Sessions could face sanctions from the United Methodist Church, where he is a member.

About 700 UMC clergy and laity across the land, including ten from Florida, signed “a formal complaint against fellow United Methodist layperson Jefferson Beauregard Sessions” for violating the denomination’s Book of Discipline.

They accuse Sessions, among other things, of “chargeable offenses” that include child abuse, racial discrimination, immorality, and dissemination of doctrines contrary to the standards of doctrine of the United Methodist Church (see Romans, Ch. 13) — all growing out of his enforcement of the unholy zero-tolerance directive.

I’ve never been prouder to be a member of the United Methodist Church.

This won’t be the last time Trump is moved to rapid excess while he occupies the Oval Office. Just because opponents forced him to change this time doesn’t mean he will quit trying. He has enablers like Lewandowski, and if they suddenly go away, there will be new ones to take their place.

But if you like the president and you think on balance that he is doing what you sent him to Washington to accomplish, hopefully, you just learned something important.

There are limits.

Trump and those who support him just crossed one.

Yes, they were stopped — this time.

One we know for sure, though. They will be back.

Joe Henderson: Bill Nelson visit was right thing to do (and good politics)

The best thing that could have happened to Bill Nelson’s campaign so far took place Tuesday.

Florida’s senior U.S. Senator, in a fight for his political life, traveled to inspect the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children facility.

It’s a holding camp keeping an estimated 1,000 children — some came to America without their parents, and others because their parents are being held elsewhere on suspicion of trying to enter the country illegally.

Given what is going on in Texas, where children are separated from their immigrant parents, Nelson was well within the scope of his job to make sure there is no funny business going on at the Homestead facility.

Nelson said he set up the visit in advance through proper Health and Human Services channels but was advised Tuesday it would have to be delayed because applications for such visits must be submitted to two weeks in advance.

He went there anyway but was blocked from going inside for a firsthand look.

“I thought by the time I got here, they (would have) thought better,” Nelson said.

“Refusing a Senator, the Congresswoman (Debbie Wasserman Schultz), and the Representative (state Rep. Kionne McGhee) of checking on the welfare of children and also finding out about the welfare of children that have been pulled away from their parents.”

He might have found a locked door there, but it was campaign gold and it didn’t cost a cent.

As the cameras rolled, Nelson let ‘em have it.

“They obviously are hiding something,” he said. “They are using the excuse (that) you have to apply two weeks in advance (to visit). That is what the deputy secretary told me this morning.

“And I said, ‘Obviously, that is balderdash. You know better than telling me that we’ve got to fill out a form two weeks ahead of time when children’s lives are at stake So, they obviously are trying to cover up. They don’t want us to see it.”

Nelson’s righteous anger should make his Senate opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, squirm a bit.

After all, after hitting Nelson for weeks with a barrage of TV ads suggesting he has been in Washington too long and is out of touch, it raised the question: Why hasn’t the Governor gone to check?

After all, he is top elected official in this state.

To be fair, Scott has spoken out against the policy of separating children from their parents.

In this case, though, he ceded the stage — and a whole bunch of free media — to Nelson.

That’s blunder No. 1.

Blunder No. 2 was the refusal by HHS to allow Nelson’s visit to continue. Officials could have told him that cameras had to stay outside but to walk around and check things for himself.

By blocking Nelson, HHS only served to heighten suspicion that something really is wrong there. If he eventually is allowed in and everything looks good, suspicion will be that the place was cleaned up before letting Nelson inside.

It hasn’t been a good week for the Trump administration on this issue.

The president has been loudly criticized on both sides of the political aisle for the zero-tolerance policy that led to this fight.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to use the Bible to justify the policy, and there are calls for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen of Clearwater to resign.

Nelson’s visit will undoubtedly be criticized as a political stunt by some, but after absorbing body blows from Scott’s TV blitz, it was a strong countermove.

It had the added the virtue of being the right to do.

Joe Henderson: Making sense of the Susan Valdes paperwork-controversy

If everything goes as planned, Democrat Susan Valdes will travel to Tallahassee early morning and file paperwork to run for House District 62.

Normally, this would be an uneventful event, barely noteworthy.

But, of course, that race has become anything but uneventful since Valdes’ surprise and controversial decision to resign from the Hillsborough School Board to run for the House seat being vacated by House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, who is challenging for Dana Young’s state Senate spot.

At issue is the charge by a consultant for the Michael Alvarez campaign that Supervisor of Elections Director Craig Latimer’s office accepted Valdes’ irrevocable letter of resignation from the School Board — a mandatory first step to run for another office — after the deadline to make such a declaration.

Political activist Chris Cano also is running.

What is clear so far is that Valdes’ resignation letter arrived and was certified after the close of business at the elections office, but before midnight.

People I have spoken with say the law doesn’t specify that the letter had to be in by the end of the business day, so long as it arrived by the calendar day.

Latimer’s acceptance of the letter would seem to validate that position, although it did open a legitimate question about whether any other candidate would have such an accommodation.

On the other hand, it doesn’t appear that any other candidate asked for that.

Either way, it’s a big deal for Alvarez, who might have been the favorite in that race before Valdes — popular in that heavily Hispanic district — joined the party.

The protest coming his camp, amid suggestions that Latimer’s office unfairly played favorites, would indicate he understands that his campaign just got complicated.

All I can say is this: While it’s obvious that the Valdes resignation came in after the close of business (it was time-stamped at 7:30 p.m.), there is nothing in prior campaigns to suggest Latimer’s office bent the rules for one candidate’s benefit.

Alvarez likely will have to win the Democratic primary on Aug. 28 — and, with that, likely secure a seat in the House — the old-fashioned way: on the merits of his campaign, which are not insignificant.

It won’t be easy, though.

Valdes has the support of both Cruz and Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, who also served in the state House.

The outcome, however it goes, seems unlikely to have much impact on the big picture for the balance of power in Tallahassee, though. The seat almost certainly is going to remain in Democratic hands.

Lest we forget, this also impacts the School Board, where Valdes, first elected in 2004, had two years remaining on her third term. It means the potential for four new Board members at a time when the school district is undergoing considerable financial pressure.

And she also faced two state ethics charges from her time on the Board, which undoubtedly will lead to uncomfortable questions during the campaign.

For now, though, she sounds like someone not worried about anything but running for the state House. She plans to be in Tallahassee bright and early Thursday to make it official.

Joe Henderson: Trump giving supporters exactly what they voted for

In his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump basically told the American people what he was going to do about immigration.

He was going to be tough. He was going to be ruthless.

Mercy was only for the weak.

He would show the world his version of America. It was a two-handed shove to the chest.

So, if you voted for him, don’t pretend you’re surprised border agents are tearing families apart and you didn’t think it would go that far.

This is the nation Gov. Rick Scott had a hand in creating during the campaign when he backed Trump at every turn.

It’s what Republican gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam endorse every time they use Trump’s name.

This is the America religious leaders like Franklin Graham supported throughout the campaign and in the first year and a half of Trump’s presidency, even as evidence piled up daily that he was a bully-in-chief.

Now that children are being separated from their parents at the border with no timetable for seeing them again, Graham told the Christian Broadcasting Network, “It’s disgraceful, and it’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit.”

Disgraceful? He didn’t see this coming?

How could he not?

Trump’s supporters voted for a man who bragged that his celebrity status gave him the right to grab women anywhere he wanted. He supported white supremacists.

He hired Steve Bannon.

They cheered when he shook a fist and shouted repeatedly about building a wall between Mexico and the United States. They stood with him when he insulted our closest allies.

He called Canada a national security threat, but said of Kim Jong Un, “I think it’s great to give him credibility.”

He tripled the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and if some of them act like jackboots, well, that’s just the Trumpian way of enforcing the law, eh?

Trump has been exactly what he promised to be. Did anyone think he was kidding during the campaign and would somehow realize he is the president of 320 million people, not just those who voted for him?

What’s unfolding over immigration is just the next logical step.

He gave people like Attorney General Jeff Sessions power, who now says separating families is OK because the Bible supports it.

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said.

Sessions has been justifiably skewered for taking that out of context, but he also ignored the instruction from Jesus in Mark 12: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

But hey, people should have seen that coming, too.

After all, Trump told students at Liberty University about a verse in “Two Corinthians” instead of 2nd Corinthians, and he told a group of evangelicals in Iowa that he had never asked God for forgiveness.

Um, the Bible kind makes it clear that seeking forgiveness is important.

Evangelicals voted him anyway in large numbers because he pandered to them. They helped create this. It’s too late for some to say they don’t like it.

None of this is an argument against immigration laws and border enforcement, but there is a way to do it without blowing families apart – and on some level, Trump and his minions know this, don’t they?

But they’re all so focused on being tough that they forget everything else.

On Sunday, Father’s Day, Fox News reported Melania Trump’s office said: “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families & hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform. She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws but also a country that governs w/heart.”

A heart.

That would be nice. But that’s not what his supporters voted for. They voted for a crude brute who told them what he was going to do. They believed him.

He didn’t let them down.

They own this.

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