Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of November 8, 2020

Rick Scott had a strong week. But an Ohio sports blogger as a COVID-19 data analyst? Huh?

As if 2020 hasn’t been sucky enough, Tropical Storm Eta made an encore performance.

First, it battered South Florida with widespread flooding before heading into the Gulf. It soaked up the warm waters then and took dead aim at Florida’s west coast.

Come on, man!

Obviously, this wasn’t a monster storm like the ones that hammered the Florida Panhandle. Still, Eta reminded everyone that it takes more than a trip to the local liquor store to prepare for these things.

Floodwaters covered Tampa’s scenic Bayshore Boulevard. The city’s only level-one trauma center, Tampa General Hospital, sits on the edge of Davis Islands, surrounded by water.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Courtney Campbell Causeway were closed during the storm. Storm surges broke over seawalls, especially in Pinellas County. Waves spilled onto traffic lanes on the Howard Frankland Bridge.

Cities from Sarasota and up Florida’s west coast reported high rainfall amounts. The 6.41 inches Sarasota received was its wettest November day on record.

Tampa broke a record rainfall for the day that had stood since 1968. Areas outside the city reported as much as 8 inches of water.

What’s it all mean?

It means Florida remains a sitting duck for these tropical systems that keep getting bigger and more numerous.

You know all this.

Leaders know this. Insurance companies know this.

Let’s face it, though. People move to Florida for the lifestyle, beaches, and water. Tampa is one of the nation’s most vulnerable cities to catastrophic damage from hurricanes, but it keeps growing.

A major storm would leave the city’s booming downtown under an estimated 10-to-12 feet of water.

Remember, Eta was “just” a tropical storm.

Sleep well.

OK, it’s on to our weekly exercise of Winners and Losers in Florida politics.


Honorable mention: Jared Moskowitz. We don’t want to jump the gun because things can change.

However, disclaimer aside, the future looks bright for Florida’s Division of Emergency Management Director. Moskowitz’s name keeps coming up to head FEMA in the Joe Biden administration.

“I’m interested,” Moskowitz confirmed to Florida Politics. “It would be an honor to be considered.”

It would be a home-run hire.

Moskowitz earned a strong reputation by leading Florida through multiple powerful hurricanes. He received bipartisan praise for working through FEMA’s bureaucracy when Florida communities desperately needed help.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: The Miami Marlins and Kim Ng. The Marlins made history Friday by naming Ng the first female and East Asian-American General Manager in baseball history.

Since this is a site devoted to politics, we should note that baseball politics played an outsized role in keeping women from leadership positions.

Ng was widely assumed to be the one who would shatter that glass ceiling.

She has more than 30 years of experience in baseball, including a combined 21 years in the front offices of the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

This isn’t the first time Ng has broken records in MLB history.

Ng was 29 when the Yankees hired her as assistant general manager of the Yankees in 1998. She was the youngest person and second woman to hold the position.

For the last nine years, she was Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations with Major League Baseball’s central office.

“After decades of determination, it is the honor of my career to lead the Miami Marlins as their next General Manager,” Ng said in a statement.

“We are building for the long term in South Florida, developing a forward-thinking, collaborative, creative baseball operation made up of incredibly talented and dedicated staff who have, over the last few years, laid a great foundation for success.”

The biggest winner: U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. Republicans chose him for the high-profile job of leading the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

With 21 GOP seats on the line in 2022, Scott’s selection shows the impact he made after just two years in the Senate.

“I’m honored my colleagues entrusted me with this responsibility and I look forward to the challenge. Keeping a Senate majority is vitally important to the future of this country and to preserve the American dream,” Scott said.

Floridians know the two-term Governor can be a leg-breaker when it comes to campaigning. He plays to win and can be ruthless in hammering home attack points on an opponent.

Scott will spend a lot of time in Georgia between now and Jan. 5. That’s where Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler face runoff races. If Democrats win both elections, it will be a 50-50 tie in that chamber. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote.


Dishonorable mention: Pam Bondi. Florida’s former Attorney General looks plum loco for joining the fight to have Pennsylvania presidential election result overturned.

“We’ve won Pennsylvania, and we want every vote to be counted in a fair way,” Bondi said.

Um, no, you didn’t. Joe Biden won the state by more than 63,000 votes.

Oh, wait, we forgot about the claims of (tee-hee) voter fraud.

Got no proof, of course, and never will because it didn’t happen.

That didn’t stop Bondi from making a credibility killing move to spread a narrative that a first-day law student could debunk.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Critical thinking. Yeah, there is promising news that a COVID-19 vaccine may be near, but it won’t be available to the masses by early January.

Meanwhile, cases are spiking, and deaths are increasing at an alarming rate.

So, who had the bright idea to float a special two-week legislative session in early January 2021?

Important note: The Session is not a sure thing.

However, there appears to be support among top lawmakers to proceed with the conclave.

Let’s see, two weeks, indoors, close contact.

What could go wrong?

Yes, the state has pressing business. There are serious budget problems, among many other issues.

Think this through, though, before more people become infected by a virus run amok.

The biggest loser: Florida Man. Speaking of a certain nasty virus …

Sure, we ran a smooth election. Before the state could extend its tongue at critics who love to mock us, though, well, read on.

The state needed a data specialist who could analyze COVID-19 numbers and other projects.

The Miami Herald picks up the story from there.

“When Gov. Ron DeSantis needed to hire a data analyst, his staff picked a little-known Ohio sports blogger and Uber driver whose only relevant experience is spreading harmful conspiracy theories about COVID-19 on the Internet,” the newspaper reported.

The blogger’s name is Kyle Lamb, and he lives in Columbus, Ohio.

He admits he doesn’t possess any medical knowledge, but that hasn’t stopped him from mocking COVID-19 safety protocols.

“I have no qualms about being a ‘sports guy’ moonlighting as a COVID-19 analyst,” Lamb wrote on his podcast website.

The hire put Florida back in its familiar role as the joke’s punch line.

The job, by the way, pays $40,000 a year.

Your tax dollars at work.

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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