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Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of September 27, 2020

Give it up for Universal Parks and Resorts, and how ’bout Tampa Bay sports!

Perhaps you saw footage of the celebration outside Amalie Arena in Tampa when the Tampa Bay Lightning won hockey’s Stanley Cup.

Hundreds of closely packed people watched on big-screen TVs as the final seconds counted down.

Joyous!

And crazy.

I saw a lot of hugging, screaming, high fives.

But masks? Hardly anyone.

Also last week, I watched as my beloved Cincinnati Reds lost (boo!) their playoff series to the Atlanta Braves. It was virtually the same scene. Fans packed into an area outside the stadium and celebrated the Braves’ victory.

No masks – at least none that I could see.

Neither franchise allowed fans inside the playing venues as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Looking at those scenes, though, it would have been smarter to let a limited number of fans inside. They could have enforced social distancing and safety.

President Donald Trump, as we know, contracted the virus, as did First Lady Melania Trump.

That’s bad.

Worse is how quickly it spread throughout the West Wing. Multiple White House staffers tested positive and that number likely will increase in the coming days.

We all want this to be over, but as a pastor once told my congregation when the service was running long, “I will be done when I am through.”

It’s the same thing for COVID-19.

Boredom is no excuse for dumb behavior.

OK, on to our weekly game of Winners and Losers in Florida politics.

Winners

Honorable mention: Voting By Mail. The state elections data shows that 4.8 million people requested mail-in ballots. That compares to 2.7 million in the 2016 general election.

That’s 4.8 million people who won’t stand in line on Nov. 3 and put themselves and others at risk for COVID-19.

There’s also this fun fact. In 2016, about 9 million Floridians voted in the general election. If that number is similar this time, it means that mail will account for about half of the ballots.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Tampa Bay sports. Hey, those of us who live in this little patch of paradise know a thing or 10 about losing sports teams. So, indulge us while we celebrate (safely, hopefully) the Lightning’s Cup triumph, the Tampa Bay Rays’ ongoing playoff run, and the Buccaneers standing atop the NFC South.

Just a year ago, the Lightning endured an epic collapse in the first round of the playoffs, falling to Columbus in four straight games. This year, though, the Bolts mowed their way through the post-season, capped by a six-game win against Dallas.

The Rays had the best record in the American League and now face the godless, heathen New York Yankees in the second round of the playoffs.

The Bucs, so far, are living up to the expectations that came when they signed quarterback Tom Brady.

It’s all good, but it’s not quite enough to win the top spot.

That goes to …

The biggest winner: Universal Parks and Resorts. The company donated 20 acres of its property to Orange County. On a website announcing the move, the land is “to be used exclusively for an affordable housing community that will feature approximately 1,000 high-quality apartments.”

It’s called the Housing for Tomorrow initiative and is designed to address Orlando’s chronic need for affordable housing.

“We believe access to affordable housing is a human right,” the company said. “We strongly support the findings and recommendations of Orange County’s Housing For All Task Force.”

Bravo!

But now, as someone once said, it’s time for the rest of the story.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Matt Gaetz. Come on man! Florida’s headline-grabbing Congressman was one of five House members who voted against a non-binding resolution supporting the peaceful transfer of power after the election.

Gaetz joined the rogue’s gallery of Reps. Louie Gohmert, Steve King, Thomas Massie and Clay Higgins on the negative side.

His explanation: “This resolution is a way for Democrats to attack the President and disguise the fact that they will refuse to accept the election results unless they win.”

I guess he doesn’t see (or care) that he and his comrades have the same position if Trump doesn’t win.

Sometimes Gaetz is simply ridiculous. This is one of those times.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Ross Spano. 2020 has not been kind to this soon-to-be-former Congressman. He lost the Republican primary in August, as we know.

And on Wednesday security screeners at Tampa International Airport stopped him after detecting a loaded gun in his bag.

The Washington Post reported the weapon was a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm, loaded with seven rounds.

Oops.

Authorities questioned but not arrest Spano, who has a concealed weapons permit. He was allowed to secure the gun – probably back in his car. He missed his original flight but caught the next one.

Spano did not respond to the Post’s request for comment, but he later explained himself on Facebook.

“This week I forgot to remove my firearm from my leather bag before I went to the airport to fly back to Washington,” Spano wrote. “You can imagine my embarrassment and surprise when TSA personnel stopped me at security and asked me if I knew there was a handgun in my bag.”

The biggest loser: Ron DeSantis. The Governor is known to get a little testy at times. He doesn’t seem to have much patience with anyone who opposes any of his ideas.

Take Friday, the same day of the announcement that President Trump tested positive for the virus.

DeSantis told conservative radio host Drew Steele that those opposing the return of students to in-person classrooms are flat earthers of our day.

DeSantis doubled down on that bit of weirdness.

“In March we may not have had all the information, but in hindsight, knowing what we know now, the closure of schools was one of the biggest public health mistakes in modern American history,” DeSantis said. “And I think even Europe has said we shouldn’t have closed up.”

Let’s dissect that last statement. He likes data, so here’s some.

There were 77 confirmed cases of the virus in Florida when schools closed on March 13. That number was over 631,000 by Sept. 1 when many schools began to reopen. Confirmed cases now are 711,804, with 14,730 deaths.

And the Governor actually believes closing schools was one of the biggest health mistakes in modern American history?

Those statewide numbers are bad but think how much worse it might be if DeSantis kept them open.

Sheesh!!

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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