Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of December 16

winners and losers
Naughty or nice? Florida Politics is making a Yuletide judgment call.

Merry Christmas? It depends on which half of the following naughty-nice list someone lands because it’s time for the Yuletide edition of Winners and Losers, where Florida Politics makes a judgment call.

Let’s get to it.


Florida Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson received some early holiday cheer with the news that state Sen. Keith Perry has decided against running for the CD-3 seat being vacated by Ted Yoho. Perry won a close race in 2018 against Democrat Kayser Enneking for a four-year term. Perry had a large lead in a recent CD-3 poll by Clearview Research and there was even a website pleading with him to jump in the race:

So, how does this benefit Simpson? He doesn’t have to defend Perry’s SD-8 seat, one that Democrats believed they had a chance of flipping if a special election had to be held to replace Perry.


Political strategist Steve Schale certainly should be feeling merry. Schale, who was state director for Barack Obama’s successful Florida campaign in 2008, is all-in for presidential candidate Joe Biden. His man had a good night in Thursday’s Democratic debate and polls are tending in Biden’s favor.

But that’s not all. For reasons passing understanding, Schale is an unabashed fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are enduring another dreary season. But Schale greeted the news that the Jags had fired VP of Football Operations Tom Coughlin with unrestrained glee. Schale’s new Twitter handle: Steve “At Least Coughlin Is Gone” Schale.


The big winner, though, must be mega-attorney John Morgan. The Florida Supreme Court cleared the way for his proposed amendment to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour to go on the 2020 ballot. It needs 60% approval to become law, but Morgan said he is ready to “go to war” to make it happen and that critics should “put up or shut up.” Does anyone doubt him?



Light a candle for the staff at the posh Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. The boss has arrived to spend the holidays, not that President Donald Trump is demanding in any way, right? We know how Trump gets when things don’t go his way, and if you read the news then you know he had a trying week.

C’mon, Mr. President — give the staff a break. It’s Christmas.


The ballyhooed Boeing Starliner spacecraft took off Cape Canaveral amid much hoopla Friday morning, bound for the International Space Station with supplies and Christmas gifts. Alas, its autonomous flight system malfunctioned, causing the craft to miss its planned orbit and ruining any attempt to complete its mission.

Bah, humbug.


But the hands-down loser of the week is Tampa’s famed H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, renowned for its success in advancing treatment of that dreaded disease. However, that sparkling reputation couldn’t save CEO Dr. Alan List, along with Vice President and Director Thomas Sellers and four researchers.

They resigned under pressure this week following troubling allegations of Moffitt’s relationship with China.

Investigations by the National Institute of Health and others revealed significant violations of compliance policies and conflicts of interest, including the possible compromise of intellectual property and involvement in a Chinese initiative that recruits researchers from American and European universities and companies.

The hospital is conducting a nationwide search for a successor while leaving the powerhouse Mercury public strategy firm and former Tampa Bay Times political ace Adam Smith to tidy up this public relations disaster. There also is a call by House Speaker José Oliva to investigate exactly what the heck is going on there.

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.


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