Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of August 9, 2020

Even by Florida standards, the situation with Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels is bizarre.


You made it through another week, which is no mean feat these days. Give yourself an extra cookie.

Even better, scratch another week of hurricane season off the calendar.

See, there are things to celebrate when we take it one day at a time.

Now, public school teachers – especially those in Hillsborough County – didn’t have such a great week. Their new Superintendent, Addison Davis, caved like a straw house in an earthquake last week on the subject of when in-person classes begin in Hillsborough.

The School Board recently voted to start school August 24 online only, then reassess after four weeks. It chose that route after hearing medical experts say it’s not safe to reopen in-person instruction now.

But Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said nope, no way, no how. Hillsborough had earlier submitted a plan that incorporated online and in-person to start the school year. Rather than agree that circumstances may have changed since then, Corcoran bullied the District into sticking with the original plan.

Davis got a (cough) “concession” from Tallahassee: Classes start online-only on Aug. 24, but a week later must open their doors.

He chose to announce that in an email to parents before informing teachers.

At least Tallahassee is consistent in its use of brute force and stubbornness in the face of a medical catastrophe.


Light a candle for a teacher and those staff members and administrators on the front lines of a COVID-19 crisis.

Now, we resume our regularly scheduled rant with this week’s choices for winners and losers in Florida politics.


Honorable mention: Lenny Curry. Jacksonville’s Mayor has had his ups and downs, but we’ll give him props for wearing his mask.

A leader should set a fine example for others to follow, and Curry does that. It stands in contrast to the strange behavior of leaders in a county about 100 miles southwest of Jacksonville. More on that later in this piece.

Curry, remember, was true to his Republican roots about the whole mask issue early during the pandemic. He has since become arguably the most outspoken member of his party about the subject.

With the virus still a fact of everyday life in Duval County (and just about everywhere else), Curry went to his bully pulpit last week.

He reminded everyone that masks are a “simple, easy, and effective way” to slow the spread. He lined up medical experts to support that position.

It’s called leadership.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: U.S. postal workers. Here’s an idea: Leave a note in your mailbox to thank your postal worker for laboring under insane conditions.

You know that slogan that the mail must get through?

President Donald Trump, apparently worried that a blizzard of mail-in ballots will seal his doom in November, is trying to make sure it doesn’t. It starts with Postmaster General and major Trump donor Louis DeJoy, the President’s hand-picked puppet to destroy, um, “lead” the mail service.

DeJoy instituted moves designed to make it nearly impossible for the expected crush of ballots to be delivered on time for the election.

He calls that “unintended consequences” which is, of course, is BS. This is exactly what was intended.

Democrats are calling for heads to roll, which they should. But let’s give it up for those on the front lines. They continue to live up to the postal service motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

The biggest winner: Jamie Grant. If you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take your dream job, you don’t mess around. You take the job and announce to everyone that you’re going to make a difference.

That’s what Grant did when he enthusiastically accepted the job as Florida’s new Chief Information Officer.

It means Grant, a Republican, surrenders the HD-64 seat he has held since 2010. He immediately withdrew from the race to defend that seat in November. But the chance to lead the new Florida Digital System, which he helped create during the 2020 Session, was too much to turn down.

“I’m honored to lead the charge for digital innovation in Florida and excited to leverage technology to problem solve and rapidly respond to individuals, families, and businesses seeking to engage with state government,” Grant said.

“Through new technology, top talent, and private and public sector collaboration, we will fundamentally change the way we serve and communicate with the people of Florida.”

FDS is designed to change the way data is exchanged between government agencies, and Grant clearly has a passion for that work. It replaces the Division of State Technology.


Dishonorable mention: College football. Let’s be clear: we love college football. It’s not September in the South without campuses everywhere filled with tailgate smoke and eager alums waiting for their alma mater to inflict bodily harm on the infidels from the other school.

But we know this year is like no other year, and that’s why no matter what happens now this season will be summed up in one word: blah.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences said they won’t play at all in the fall, but they did say they might resume next spring in some bizarro shape or form.

The SEC (let us bow our heads), ACC, and Big 12 plan on playing, for now. And the plucky American Athletic Conference, home to the University of South Florida and the University of Central Florida, says it wants to tee things up as well.

The AAC also has taken to calling itself part of the Power 4 — a designation it invented to take advantage of its status of Still Playing Ball!

But can it really be a season with so many marquee games already canceled? No Florida-Florida State. USF’s first three games, including Sept. 5 at Texas, won’t be played as scheduled.

There will be limited fans in the stands if there are fans at all.


Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Ocala politicians. Ocala is a charming city with a remade downtown and lots of horse farms complete with rolling hills.

But, just between us, its Sheriff is a moron.

Surely you saw that.

Sheriff Billy Woods brought unwanted national attention to Ocala and Marion County with an incomprehensible edict. In most circumstances, deputies and staffers cannot wear face coverings while on the job.

Worse, any regular citizen coming to the Sheriff’s office must remove their mask upon entering.

Put it this way: Opponents of mandatory masks scream that forcing them to cover their face violates the Constitution (no it doesn’t, but whatever). But now, this (cough) law officer sworn to protect and serve wants to remove individual freedom to wear the mask.


But wait, there’s more.

The Ocala City Council recently passed an emergency order requiring people to wear masks inside businesses. Mayor Kent Guinn promptly vetoed it, but – praise be – sanity prevailed and the Council over-rode the veto 4-1.
Oh, and Marion County recently set a one-day record with 13 virus-related deaths.

In any other week, that would qualify someone as being the biggest loser. But someone cleared it to become an even bigger loser.

The biggest loser: Darryl Daniels. Even by Florida standards, the situation with Daniels, the Clay County Sheriff, is bizarre. We’ll give you a moment to let that soak in.

Daniels, who approaches his office as a rootin’ tootin’ flame-throwin’ cowboy, was booked into jail after surrendering to face one felony and three misdemeanor counts.

This is after the local prosecutor gave Daniels two choices: resign and promise never, ever, ever, to run for office as long as he breathes, or face prosecution. And now Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended him, and top Republicans are running from him as quickly as one would from a maskless twit with a coughing fit.

Daniels is charged with tampering with evidence (that’s the felony) and three counts of making false statements to a law enforcement officer stemming from a sex scandal investigation.

Hmmm, let’s see: lying, sex scandal, and a North Florida Sheriff.

Quick! Get the movie rights!!

But wait, there’s more.

Daniels, who recently said he would deputize local gun owners if Black Lives Matter protesters showed up in Clay County, is up for re-election in November.

He’s not going to let a little thing like potential jail time derail his campaign. Yep, he still plans to run in Tuesday’s primary.

He trails Elmer Fudd and everyone else in the six-person race.

Go get ‘em, big man.

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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