Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of December 6, 2020

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Christmas came early for Rebekah Jones' attorneys, but Attorney General Ashley Moody gets a lump of coal.

The reckless attempt by Republicans to overturn the 2020 presidential election never had a chance to succeed.

Republicans persisted with the fable that the election was stolen as part of a vast conspiracy to oust Donald Trump. After losing multiple court challenges alleging fraud, the U.S. Supreme Court summarily squashed their last-gasp challenge Friday night.

The Electoral College will vote on Monday, Joe Biden will win, and we’ll steam merrily to Jan. 20, 2021. It was always going to end this way.

Republicans, at least the sane ones, know this. They kept yapping anyway, willingly booking passage on the S.S. Trumptanic.

Their lunacy damaged trust in another fundamental American pillar – free and fair elections.

Why did they do that?

The primary excuse is that this putrid exercise will motivate Republican voters in Georgia in its upcoming U.S. Senate elections. The GOP also wants to keep its attachment to Trump’s almighty base of supporters.

Here’s where that argument goes off the rails, though.

America soundly rejected Trump’s base by more than 7 million votes. He lost in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – states he won in 2016.

I mean, come on. Maybe in a state like Florida, fanning the conspiracy flames and playing the victim might go over well in some counties. It’s still a lousy way to govern, though.

Like that matters anymore.

OK, on with the show.

Winners

Honorable mention: Pasco County Commissioners. Happy hour will come early to Pasco after commissioners unanimously removed the prohibition against alcohol sales before 11 a.m. on Sundays.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that was the county’s last special Sunday alcohol sale and service provision. Hillsborough is the only remaining county in the Tampa Bay area with a Sunday restriction.

The new Pasco regulation allows sales every day from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m.

In the past, church leaders might have put up a fuss. However, this time, the Times reported there was no public comment and little discussion among commissioners before the vote.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Chris Sprowls. The House Speaker said what many fellow Republicans would not utter. One of his top priorities for the next two years is combating the threat of sea-level rise.

“Here’s one of the paradoxes of being a Floridian: Our state’s greatest asset is also our greatest liability,” he said.

True dat.

One foot of sea-level rise would endanger 65,000 homes and 120,000 Floridians. We’re already seeing the effects of rising water levels in places like Miami-Dade and along the Gulf Coast.

The sea level around Florida is up to 8 inches higher than it was in 1950. According to SeaLevelRise.org, “This increase is mostly due to ice melting into the ocean and, complicated by the porous limestone that the state sits on, it’s causing major issues.”

The water is projected to rise 6 more inches in the next 15 years, costing Floridians billions in damages and increases insurance premiums.

“Sea-level rise is an emerging threat that we must focus on,” Sprowls said. “We cannot afford to simply focus on this month’s jobs numbers or this year’s budget shortfall while ignoring this latent danger facing this state.”

The biggest winner: Rebekah Jones’ attorneys. When agents raided the former Florida data scientist’s home – more on that later – it basically was Christmas morning for her attorneys.

Jones started a GoFundMe page with a goal of $500,000.

As of Saturday morning, she was nearly halfway there. Among the donations to the fund was a $10,000 anonymous gift. More than 600 people have chipped in.

She explained on the page how she would use the money. It will pay for lawyer’s fees, private investigators, and armed security at her home. She’ll also use the money for moving expenses, “so my family can get out of the Governor’s reach.”

She pledged transparency.

“Whatever is left over will be donated to a legal fund that helps provide pro-bono legal services in civil cases for whistle-blowers,” she said.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Chris Nocco. Public interest groups are preparing legal and public relations challenges against the controversial “intervention” program started by the Pasco County Sheriff.

A recent Tampa Bay Times investigation entitled “Targeted” highlighted the data-driven program that tries to identify individuals most likely to turn to crime. That data includes how well a student is doing in school.

“First, the Sheriff’s Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence, and arbitrary decisions by police analysts,” the Times wrote.

“Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.”

There was rapid pushback against the program.

“It’s very clear to us that a policy like this one is unconscionable and should not be able to continue,” Micah W. Kubic, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, told the Times. “In order for this to go away, there will have to be action taken.”

The criticism didn’t stop there.

The Pasco County Council PTA wants reviews of the district’s data-sharing agreements with the Sheriff’s Office, and a group of teachers started a petition to delete the database of at-risk children.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Florida’s image. Sometimes it seems our state can’t help itself. After all, Florida Man is a national thing now while people wonder if we’re a bunch of gun-totin’ chuckleheads.

Once again, Florida was in the national spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Of course, we refer to the raid – oh wait, can’t call it that – at whistleblower Jones’ Tallahassee digs.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents arrived there to serve a search warrant. They traced unauthorized transmissions on a state messaging system to Jones’ I.P. address.

They left with phones and computers, but Jones became a martyr of sorts after video showed agents entering her home with guns drawn. Jones said they aimed guns directly at her and her children; FDLE denied that.

Video of the incident went viral, of course, and the reaction was swift.

In the many stories that went national, perhaps one in the New York Times highlighted the image problem best.

The headline: A State Scientist Questioned Florida’s Virus Data. Now Her Home’s Been Raided.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose skin has grown increasingly thin lately, barked at a reporter who asked about the “raid.”

“It’s not a raid. With all due respect, what you’ve just said is editorializing,” DeSantis said. “Excuse me, excuse me. No – I’m not going to let you get away with it. These people did their job. They’ve been smeared as the Gestapo for doing their job.”

The biggest loser: Ashley Moody. Florida’s Attorney General behaved like a partisan hack. She put her name and credibility on that loopy amicus brief out of Texas. That’s the last-gasp attempt by Republicans to overturn election results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia that we referenced above.

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the attempt with essentially the back of its hand.

“The integrity and resolution of the 2020 election is of paramount performance,” Moody said in a statement. “The United States Supreme Court should weigh the legal arguments of the Texas motion and all pending matters so that Americans can be assured the election was fairly reviewed and decided.”

Um, the “integrity” and “resolution” of the 2020 election are best served by upholding the voters’ will in those states. Instead, Republicans sold the last remaining scraps of their souls in a hell-bent scheme to overturn a result they don’t like.

Why are we picking on Moody when nine Republican House members from Florida also signed the brief? Those include Michael Waltz, Dan Webster, Gus Bilirakis, John Rutherford, Mario Diaz-Balart, Matt Gaetz (of course), Neal Dunn, Ross Spano, and Ted Yoho.

Because those guys are politicians and pander to voters, but Moody should be above that.

Moody is a smart woman, and she surely must know this pathetic gesture will stick to her for as long as she remains in public life. This was the most scrutinized election in U.S. history, and Biden won.

Moody’s office is no place to validate paranoid delusions that deep, dark forces out there, somewhere, stole the election. Her job is to know and uphold the law,  not kowtow to a base of conspiracy theorists.

She should be embarrassed to have been part of this.

Oh, and for the record, five Republican House members from Florida did not sign the brief.

They include Bill Posey, Vern Buchanan, Greg Steube, Brian Mast, and Francis Rooney.

Oh, wait: Steube and Posey added their names to the brief AFTER the Supreme Court ruled.

Nearer, my Trump to thee.

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.


2 comments

  • S B ANTHONY

    December 13, 2020 at 7:52 am

    Re: Ashley Moody. When you behave like a partisan hack, you are a partisan hack. She’s finished.

  • Palmer Tom

    December 13, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I’m with DeSantis. Just because you arrive a someone’s front door with firearms a sledge hammer and reinforcements, it can’t be a raid, it’s just a social call.

Comments are closed.


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