Winner and Loser of the week in Florida politics — Week of March 16

A tip of the cap to the doctors, nurses, and paramedics on Florida's front lines against COVID-19.

Let’s start this morning’s discussion with some good news. There was some of that last week, you know.

Florida managed to pull off an election in a crisis with no real hitch. More on that in a bit.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed the GOAT (Greatest of all Time) quarterback, Tom Brady. As news of that broke, there suddenly was a demand for season tickets.

And despite some well-publicized exceptions, people generally are taking proper precautions against COVID-19. Social distancing is now a thing. Houses of worship are sending services online. More people are working remotely. Amazon, Walmart, and other companies are hiring to cope with the expected demand for increased home delivery of, well, everything.

Here at Florida Politics, it’s our job to deliver the news and, occasionally, the views. It’s time for the latter: our view of the week’s winners and losers.

Let’s get to it.

Winner: Every doctor, every nurse, every paramedic, every health care worker on the front line. We salute each of you for stepping up at a time when even a pollen-induced sniffle can make a person imagine the worst.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that some doctors and nurses exposed to COVID-19, but without showing symptoms of infection, have been asked to keep treating patients anyway.

Why? One big reason is that there aren’t enough doctors and nurses to deal with the onslaught of patients. The problem is compounded by the shortage of basics like gowns and protective masks.

There also is the concern among those health care workers that they could bring the virus home to their families.


This is a time when the best of the best rise to meet an enormous challenge. These folks qualify.

Honorable Mention No. 1: Secretary of State Laurel Lee, and local supervisors of elections. They took care of business in last Tuesday’s primary election without the disruption many feared could happen, except where poll workers didn’t show up in a few places, probably out of deference to the virus. No big deal. In Florida, we celebrate any election that doesn’t turn the state into a laughingstock.

Florida voters deserve are honorably mentioned, too, for casting 1,736,604 ballots. There was no suspense in the race, and with the virus on the loose, no one would have blamed people for sitting this one out.

Well done.

Honorable mention No. 2: Joe Biden had a crushing victory, winning every county while compiling about 62 percent of the vote. That all-but-certainly knocked Bernie Sanders out of the race. Biden accomplished that despite not campaigning much in Florida. We expect that will change between now and November.

Now, as Jim Morrison once sang, we break on through to the other side and consider the less-successful notables.

Loser: Spring break is an annual rite in Florida, and with a booming economy (until recently), things were looking peachy for the Sunshine State until, well, you know.

Restaurants, bars, and beaches are closed. The welcome mat the state traditionally puts out for spring breakers was replaced by a sign that said (paraphrasing): Go away.

Economic experts are still tabulating the damage, but this is one time that truth will go beyond the numbers. The disruption to the lives of restaurant bar employees is immense. Hotels will lose an enormous amount of money, which likely will cause layoffs.

Dishonorable mention No. 1: Trying to keep casinos open in a public health crisis was a bad bet by the Seminole Tribe. They finally caved and closed their doors, but it was too late to avoid a P.R. hit. It’s no secret that some of the biggest patrons of the casinos are the elderly penny slot players.

And they are among the most vulnerable to the virus.

Dishonorable mention No. 2: Republican state Rep. Mike Hill had lunch Friday at a restaurant with a group of pals. A photo of that gathering later showed up on the Facebook page of friend Mike Bates with the following caption: “The overreaction to the media-induced Coronavirus Panic is destroying the economy. And for what? For nothing. I have no fear that I caught the coronavirus today. I am safe because I was wearing a mask.”

In the picture, Hill is in the middle on the left.

No, Hill didn’t write those words, but as of this writing, he hasn’t denounced them, either.

It brought back memories of last year when he looked like the rear portion of a horse’s anatomy. He laughed with someone at a public meeting said gays should face Old Testament-style punishment.

By the way, stoning was the preferred method of punishment then.

Hill faced a torrent of criticism from fellow Republicans for that episode.

When will some people get the message that the Coronavirus is killing people and making many others extremely sick? It is no laughing matter.

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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