Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of Oct. 25, 2020

On her way to a hospital to give birth, an Orlando woman stopped to vote. WINNING!

Polls throughout most of Florida will close at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday. Because part of the western Panhandle is in the Central Time Zone, it will run an hour behind.

Either way, it shouldn’t be too long until we see substantial amounts of results in the various races. That’s because Florida is one of 46 states that allow elections offices to count early and mail ballots before Election Day.

The question is, why don’t they all?

Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are two of the holdout states. Alabama and Mississippi are the others, but there’s not much doubt about how most people there will vote.

In some parts of Pennsylvania, elections supervisors say they won’t count mail ballots until Wednesday. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said nope, that’s not acceptable. She ordered them to start tabulating at 7 a.m. on Election Day, the earliest allowable.

It’s not clear if those areas will comply.

This is just silly. Please explain the logic of delaying the tabulation of ballots. Like every state, Florida has multiple safeguards in place to ensure the security of the early count.

Why any state would choose to drag the results out is baffling.

In keeping with the spirit of our weekly “Winners and Losers” exercise, I hereby declare the Flab Four states that force America to wait are four-way dishonorable losers.

Now, let’s get to the real reason we’re here.


Honorable mention: All the candidates. They gave speeches, raised money, and made promises. In this weirdest of campaigns year, candidates had to strategize in a polarized environment, all while navigating through a pandemic.


We agreed with some of their positions and disagreed with others. As they reach the finish line, though, we applaud their willingness to stand and be counted.

Well done.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Casey DeSantis. Florida’s First Lady helped secure a $4.9 million grant to expand crisis counseling services in the Sunshine State.

The federal money will pay for more counselors within Florida’s network of 2-1-1 crisis helplines.

“With recent increases in calls to 2-1-1 statewide, the need for behavioral health services is overwhelmingly apparent,” Department of Children and Families Secretary Chad Poppell said.

“Thanks to support from Governor DeSantis, First Lady DeSantis, and our federal partners, Florida’s children and families will have access to counseling and referral services they need to cope during this period of transition and recovery.”

The biggest winner: Voting while in labor. We don’t know her name because of privacy laws, but we salute the Orange County woman who forever shattered any excuse for not voting.

She was in labor and on her way to the hospital to give birth when she demanded her husband stop at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office. That lady takes voting seriously.

Her husband sprinted into the office and pleaded the case with officials there. The Orlando Sentinel reported that customer service representative Karen Briceno issued a vote-by-mail ballot for the woman and waited as she filled it out in her car.



Dishonorable mention: Gov. Ron DeSantis. At a Donald Trump super-spreader rally in Tampa, the Governor asked voters to send a message to the media about their fake newsand everything they’ve done over the last four years.”

DeSantis sent another message, too.

He wasn’t wearing a mask.

COVID-19 rates are spiking in Florida and around the country, and critics have blasted DeSantis’ damn-the-torpedoes approach to reopening the state’s economy. Even if the point about full reopening is conceded, why do leaders like the Governor insist on setting a horrible example of going maskless?

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Joe Gruters. Speaking of masks, the state Senator and head of the Republican Party of Florida took to Facebook to propose – wait for it – a Face Freedom Scholarship.

It’s a response to an increasingly pitched battle in the Sarasota County School District over masks.

“In short: The Face Freedom Scholarship — which would be structured similar to the HOPE Scholarship — would allow families enrolled in a school district with current mask mandates on students to move to an eligible private school on scholarship,” he wrote.

He trotted out the argument that families, not elected officials or bureaucrats, should decide if their child should have to wear a mask while in school. Never mind that one child’s “freedom” could put another child or teacher on a ventilator.

But hey, freedom, baby!

“To Be Clear: This is not anti-mask legislation (I elect to wear my mask often), and I will even draft this scholarship to make it crystal clear that there is no ban on the optional use of masks in school,” he wrote.

“If teachers, families, and children elect to wear a mask at school, they would be permitted to do so.”

Isn’t that nice?

The biggest loser: Orlando. Don’t get us wrong. Orlando is a fine city, but, man, the good people there are going through an awful time.

Orlando and Orange County took the brunt of 28,000 layoffs at the Walt Disney Co. Of those, 18,000 came from Disney World.

The cuts were especially deep on park performers.

The layoffs come on the heels of similar cutbacks recently at Universal and SeaWorld. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Universal theme parks’ revenue fell 81% to $311 million for the third quarter compared with the same period last year.

Orange County’s unemployment rate was around 16% at the end of September, a number likely to increase now.

Adding insult to injury, Orlando was named one of the country’s ten least-confident cities in LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index.

In the same survey, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Jacksonville made the ten most-confident cities.

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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