Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of Feb. 16

Note to voters in Florida's Democratic primary: Hold on to those mail-in ballots for a while. Things can change.

We start our weekly exercise with a tip of the cap to NASCAR safety engineers. I mean, wow.

Everyone saw the wreck on the last lap of the Daytona 500. It sent driver Ryan Newman flipping and crashing, sparks flying amid audible gasps of horror from the stands and living rooms across America.

It occurred on the 19th anniversary of the last-lap crash that killed the legendary Dale Earnhardt on the same track. Give NASCAR credit for major safety improvements both inside the car and along the track walls. That may be why Newman could walk out of a hospital two days after the crash.

That’s as big a win out of the arena of politics as we can get.

But hey, this is a political site and once a week we choose winners and losers from among those who make the laws.

So, drop the green flag and let’s get this party started.


Conservatives in the Legislature: This was a good week for those folks. They scored a major win when the House approved a Senate bill mandating parental consent before their minor children can have an abortion.

Conservatives have wanted something like this for a long time. Oh, who are we kidding? Most of them probably want to outlaw abortion, period.

The other side of the argument was perhaps best said by, yes, a Republican — Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen. She broke with her party to vote against the bill.

“We don’t live in a utopia where perfect parents are there to advise their children,” she said.

She feared this could lead desperate teens to attempt risky termination methods and even suicide.

Strong words. But the bill passed.

Matt Gaetz: Florida’s fire-breathing Congressman from Fort Walton Beach went on “The View.” Depending on your (well) view, he either sucked or crushed it during his 7-minute stint on this famously liberal show.

Reviews were mixed, and there was a lot shouting – mostly from the panel – and insults hurled. Gaetz made the point that President Donald Trump should pardon convicted seven-time felon Roger Stone, and we’re not going along with that.

But here’s why Gaetz made it the “winners” column: He showed up.

Most people in his position never would have come within a hundred miles of that TV set.

It took some moxie, although no one ever has accused Gaetz of lacking that.

But our big winner of the week ….

Democrat voters who are holding their ballots: Vote by mail ballots went out recently for the March 17 Florida Primary.

It might have been tempting to fill in the little circle beside your favorite candidate and mail it back right away. But things change, as we saw during the Democratic circular firing squad – I mean debate – in Nevada.

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign was dead, but now it isn’t.

Mike Bloomberg was an unstoppable juggernaut, but maybe not.

Bernie Sanders may be the juggernaut instead. But we’ll see.

Amy Klobuchar was the rising star, but will she even be in the race by the time Florida votes? The same can be said for Joe Biden. And who knows about Pete Buttigieg.

So, hold on to those ballots, folks. Things can, and do, change.

And now, for the rest of the story …


Rob Manfred: Baseball’s Commissioner made a spring training stop in Florida and left with egg on his face and a tarnished reputation.

He referred to the World Series trophy as a piece of metal” (yikes!) and infuriated players throughout both leagues for soft-peddling the Houston Astros cheating scandal.

By not punishing any of the players directly involved, The Washington Post noted that Manfred has taken a bad situation and made it worse.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: The Governor doesn’t often wind up on this side of the “winner/loser” docket, but he does this time.

A federal appeals court ruled that felons cannot be barred from voting because they failed to pay all fines and other fees imposed by the court upon their release from prison.

DeSantis has supported Republican efforts to, um, “clarify” the amendment voters approved in 2018 that restored voting rights for felons who completed their sentences.

The state will appeal that ruling, of course, so maybe DeSantis eventually gets back to his customary “winners” position. But nobody wins ‘em all, and DeSantis doesn’t either.

But at least the Governor had a better week than….

State Rep. Al Jacquet: Good grief. This was a runaway choice for the Loser of the Week. In a video on his personal Facebook page, Jacquet referred to Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Omari Hardy as a “batty boy.”

In the Caribbean, that term is a slur against homosexuals.

Really, Jacquet? Really?

Hardy is running in the Democratic primary to unseat Jacquet,

“It appalled me that a member of the Florida House of Representatives and member of the Florida Democratic Party, which for years has stood up for LGBTQ rights, would use that kind of language,” Hardy told the Palm Beach Post.

He added that even though he is not gay, “it was still personal for me because I was raised in a same-sex household. I have two mothers and I know how hurtful those types of slurs can be. I don’t think that language represents his constituents. That has no place in politics and it certainly has no place in the Legislature of America’s third-largest state.″

Jacquet apologized.

Hardy did not accept the apology.

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.

One comment

  • John

    February 24, 2020 at 8:51 am

    Hopefully the courts invalidate Amendment 4 altogether. The State Supreme Court ruled the language acceptable AFTER arguments that IT INCLUDED PAYING FINES AND COSTS ORDERED BY THE COURT. If the ruling on the language has changed, the whole basis of the ballot language has changed. Otherwise those opposed to it could have easily run a different campaign against the Amendment that arguably could have changed the outcome.

    Those making the all or nothing, unfortunately may end up with nothing.

Comments are closed.


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