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Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of September 13, 2020

A hurricane, Andrew Gillum, and the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsberg gave us whiplash last week.

Well, that was quite the week, wasn’t it?

It’s not every week that we get whiplash from processing a hurricane, a surprising/not surprising admission from Andrew Gillum, and the loss of an icon named Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

A surprising/not surprising move by Mitch McConnell quickly followed the announcement of Ginsberg’s passing. The man who four years ago refused to hold a hearing on Merrick Garland‘s nomination to the Supreme Court said — paraphrasing here — hell yeah, we’ll move as quickly as humanly possible to confirm President Donald Trump‘s nominee.

Before you ask, I think McConnell is fully aware how much his opponents despise him. He just doesn’t care.

We can debate whether Gillum’s acknowledgment  that he is bisexual hurts, helps, or has no impact on his political career. After all, this is a political website devoted to the minutiae of governing and running for office.

Before we go there, though, let’s agree that it must be a relief for Gillum, a married father of three, to get this news out there. No more suspicion, whispers, or pointed questions.

Yes, the man who came within 1 percentage point of becoming Florida’s first Black Governor is sexually attracted to men and women. He said that during an interview with radio host Tamron Hall.

To be very honest with you, when you didn’t ask the question, you put it out there, is whether or not I identify as gay,” he told her. “And the answer is, I don’t identify as gay, but I do identify as bisexual. And that is something that I have never shared publicly before.”

That helped fill the news cycle for a couple of days, but public attitudes toward a person’s sexuality are shifting. Pete Buttiegig, an openly gay man, ran for President and had an impressive following.

In Florida, openly gay state Rep. Shervin Jones is all but certain to win a Senate seat. The days of people caring about that stuff are waning. Gillum may have helped that process along.

But as Florida Politics reported, Gillum wasn’t trumpeting a return to run for elected office.

“To my knowledge he has not decided to seek political office again,” said Sean Pittman, a longtime political advisor to the former Democratic gubernatorial nominee. “I think he will always be involved in policy and politics in some way.”

If he does decide to run again, he faces a hurdle that has nothing to do with his sexuality. It was the incident in a Miami Beach hotel where Gillum was found passed out in a room with two other men. Police also found crystal meth. Gillum denied using the drug but did go through rehab for alcohol abuse.

America loves a comeback story, though, and we probably just saw Gillum take the first step toward that. If he does get back in the game, redemption won’t come quickly – but in the right circumstance it can come.

Now, it’s on with our weekly game of Winners and Losers.

Winners

Also receiving votes: Slater Bayliss. POLITICO’s reporters spoke with more than sixty sources to build their essential profile of Gov. Ron DeSantis, but only Bayliss, a lobbyist with The Advocacy Group, was able to deliver a hole-in-one of a testimonial to the Governor’s golf game — and Bayliss’ proximity to power. Recalling an outing with the Gov to Glen Arven Country Club, in Thomasville, Georgia, Bayliss recounted how DeSantis “almost kind of got a sparkle in his eye” when he approached a difficult shot.

If the coin of the realm in Tallahassee is access, then Bayliss is on the green in two.

Honorable mention: Pam Bondi. Florida’s two-time Attorney General loves the spotlight, and it has found her again in her role as an advocate for President Trump.

Bondi spoke at a Women For Trump rally in Jacksonville, then joined First Daughter Ivanka Trump in Tampa for what was called a “fireside chat.” She also attended a fund-raiser for Trump.

This was after Bondi grabbed a coveted speaking spot at last month’s Republican National Convention.

It keeps her profile high with the conservative base where she has made her home.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Tampa Bay’s sports scene. OK, so Tom Brady and the Buccaneers fizzled in their debut. On Thursday night, though, the other local teams more than made up for that flop.

First, the Tampa Bay Rays defeated Baltimore to clinch a spot in baseball’s expanded playoffs next month. The cost-conscious Rays have led the American League East for most of this abbreviated season.

Hey Yankees: pfffffttttt!!!

And as that night wound on, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New York Islanders in overtime to earn a place in the Stanley Cup finals against Dallas.

It’s the Bolts’ third trip to finals in franchise history; they won it all in 2004.

The biggest winner: Jamie R. Grosshans. She received the nod from Gov. Ron DeSantis to fill the last Florida Supreme Court opening. She wasn’t the first choice – original nominee Renatha Francis withdrew her application because she didn’t meet all the requirements for the job.

Critics wasted no time in pointing out that Grosshans was less than forthright in her application to the Court. According to the Times/Herald, Grosshans didn’t include her association with the group Alliance Defending Freedom in her application.

The Alliance advocates for traditional marriage, anti-abortion, and other evangelical causes.

ADF declares on its website, “Like the Body of Christ, the alliance is one body made up of many parts. Attorneys play different roles than pastors. Business leaders play different roles than legislators. Each person must play his or her particular role, under one shared vision, to ensure that religious freedom thrives.”

Stay tuned.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Margaret Good. One word no candidate ever wants to be associated with their campaign: porn.

But it’s part of Good’s news cycle now after revelations she accepted donations from lawyers who specifically specialize in defending child pornographers.

Good, a Democrat who served in the Florida House, is trying to defeat incumbent Republican Vern Buchanan in Florida’s 16th congressional district race. That already-steep hill just got higher.

It’s the latest in a series of bad headlines for Good.

She appeared to violate campaign finance laws by using money from her state-level campaign fund to pay for a rally related to her congressional run.

Can’t do that.

She also was the only state lawmaker to vote against a bill that outlawed the sale and possession of child sex dolls. Good originally voted for the bill, but later went back and changed it to no.

She explained she actually meant to change her vote on another bill and made the sex doll change by mistake.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Senate Democratic candidates. The fallout over the state party’s receipt of a $780,000 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program continues.

They weren’t eligible for that loan.

Yes, they returned the money after public outrage, including by many within their party. However, why did they apply for the loan at all?

We’re still waiting for an answer.

The loan application could shine a spotlight on that question, but Democrats have ignored calls to release the document.

Republicans are having a field day with this issue. They are all over Senate Democrat candidates Javier FernandezPatricia Sigman, and Loranne Ausley. Democrats need to hold all three seats to have any chance of breaking the Republican stranglehold on the Legislature.

This isn’t helping.

The biggest loser: Climate-change deniers. Category 2 Hurricane Sally walloped Pensacola and parts of the Florida Panhandle, leaving ruin, flooding, and broken lives in its midst.

Of course, we can’t forget Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 monster that brought devastation to Panama City and Mexico Beach in 2018. And there was Category 4 Hurricane Irma in 2017. It went up the middle of Florida.

We caught a break when Cat 5 Hurricane Dorian scooted by Florida, but our friends in the Bahamas weren’t so lucky. It sat on Grand Bahama Island for 36 hours with winds at an unimaginable 185 miles an hour.

Just last week, we saw tropical systems lined up in the Atlantic Ocean like jets waiting for takeoff clearance at LaGuardia. All the while, the west coast is burning with horrific wildfires.

Scientists say it is all fueled by man-made climate change.

President Trump’s response: “I don’t think science knows.

Um, yes it does.

Hey, it’s cool though. Like COVID-19, one day all of this will just go POOF!

Or the planet will.

Written By

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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