Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of January 3, 2021

Manny Diaz had a good week and some Florida Republicans actually stood up against the party's base.

Remember how everyone looked forward to the year 2021?

Oh, we couldn’t wait to be rid of 2020 and the havoc it brought. What we didn’t know, but maybe shouldn’t be surprised by, is that 2021 came in with an attitude. It’s like the previous year, but 2.0.

The new year wasn’t supposed to be the second wave of 2020. The first few days of the year we begged to quickly arrive broke through the front door with a pickaxe, intent on havoc.

In the first week of 2021, let us count the ways it hurt us.

We still have COVID-19 killing people and making fools of lawmakers who downplayed it.

The vaccine rollout has happened with the speed and efficiency of a Michigan tourist with a flat tire bumping along in the left-hand lane of Interstate 4.

The job loss in December was higher than expected.

President Donald Trump continues to say he won the election, but he lies all the time, so we expect that. But millions of people continue to believe him, which leads us to problem No. 5.

A cadre of lunatics, operating under the ironic self-impression that they’re patriots, took over the U.S. Capitol Building and causing extensive damage. It’s the first time since Aug. 14, 1814 during the War of 1812 that the Capitol Building.

Calls are intensifying to remove Trump from office, even though he has a little more than a week left in power. Opponents want to make sure the next person who tries to hijack the presidency thinks twice.

If 2020 were a movie, it would have been the top disaster flick of our time.

If 2021 has ideas about being a sequel along the lines of Die Hard 2, I don’t want to watch.

Anyway, Winners and Losers is back after the holiday break.

Let’s get to it.


Honorable mention: Twitter. Some Republicans went B-S crazy when the social media giant banned Trump for life, but it was long overdue. The only reason Twitter is not higher on the list is that it took so long before making this move. Trump, according to Politico, “went ballistic” upon learning his actual bully pulpit had been taken away. Inciting an insurrection comes with consequences, Mr. (soon-to-be-former) President. Note to those who said this denies Trump his First Amendment right of free speech. No, it doesn’t. He can still say whatever he wants, but the U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee the right to have a social media account.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Manny Diaz. To no one’s surprise, Diaz was elected as the new Chair of the Florida Democratic Party.

The former Miami Mayor won on the first ballot with 54.4% of the vote, easily outdistancing Ione Townsend and Cynthia Chestnut.

Diaz had multiple endorsements, including the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg also supported Diaz, which angered the progressive wing of the party — but to no avail.

The biggest winner: Florida Republicans who said no to the forces of darkness. This group includes U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, plus U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Michael Waltz and Gov. Ron DeSantis. They risked the wrath of Trump’s almighty (maybe not so mighty) base by opposing challenges brought by GOP colleagues and toadies to electors from several states pledged to Joe Biden.

Waltz planned to vote in favor of the challenges but changed his mind following the carnage by rioters at the U.S. Capitol.

Not only are they on the right side of history, but many Republicans apparently agree with them. Following the attack by half-baked Trump supporters, elections supervisors in various of the state report that voters changed their registration from Republican to Democrat, independent, or Libertarian.

It’s too early to draw any conclusion whether that shifts the balance of power in the state, but it’s worth watching.


Dishonorable mention: U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. He just couldn’t help himself. With one exception, he voted to certify the Electoral College results.

When it came to Pennsylvania, though, Scott turned thumbs-down.

Why? Biden won the state by more than 80,000 votes.

The Democrat Governor of Pennsylvania, along with state courts, made a decision to allow votes to be counted that came in after Election Day, even if they did not have a postmark, in defiance of state law,” Scott said in a statement.

“This is absurd, and cannot be tolerated. It also appears that Pennsylvania enacted policies in direct conflict with its own state constitution, which is also unacceptable. We simply cannot tolerate partisan political attempts to change the rules and tip the scales in our elections.”

On Dec. 8, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously dismissed a GOP lawsuit seeking to overturn the election.

It offered a one-sentence explanation.

Reduced to its basics, it was this: Nope.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Adam Johnson. You might know him better as the smiling clown carrying Nancy Pelosi’s lectern during the mob attack on the Capitol. Of course, Johnson is a Flori-duh man from Parrish.

He was arrested Friday night and booked into the Pinellas County jail on three federal charges related to the riot. Johnson was pretty easy to spot. A Getty photographer snapped a photo of him carrying the lectern, and it was just a matter of time after that. The image quickly spread across social media with the speed of COVID-19 at a MAGA rally.

The feds tracked him down with the help of social media.

His initial court appearance is scheduled for Monday.

The biggest loser: U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz. New year, same old story. Gaetz was one of 12 Florida U.S. Representatives that voted against certifying the Electoral College decision that Biden won.

Why are we singling out frat boy?

Because he took the demonization of the other political party to the next level, that’s why.

Not content with sticking to the myth of widespread election fraud, Gaetz said that the D.C. rioters had been infiltrated by … omg … antifa!!

“… some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters. They were masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact, were members of the violent terrorist group antifa,” he said.

The Washington Post reported Gaetz’s remarks drew boos from the other Representatives.

First, antifa is not an organized group, according to the FBI (oh wait, the bureau is in on it too). Antifa is said to be a far-left ideology.


What’s more relevant is that Gaetz based his bluster on debunked Washington Times. It said the software company XRVision used facial recognition technology that identified some of the rioters as antifa members.

The company quickly set the story straight, saying no such thing had happened. The paper then retracted the story with this correction:

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that XRVision facial recognition software identified antifa members among rioters who stormed the Capitol Wednesday. XRVision did not identify any antifa members. The Washington Times apologizes to XRVision for the error.”

Gaetz, to the best of our knowledge, has yet to correct his error.

For the other, the other Florida Representatives against certifying the Electoral College results were: John Rutherford, Kat Cammack, Mario Diaz-Balart, Byron Donalds, Neal Dunn, Scott Franklin, Carlos Giminez, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Greg Steube, and Dan Webster.

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.


  • Ocean Joe

    January 10, 2021 at 7:42 am

    Gaetz has already made himself the “Louie Gohmert” of Florida, a joker more interested in publicity stunts than governing. Pizza, gasmask, etc. Even though nobody really takes him seriously, the continuing spread of conspiracy theories needs to be reined in. Free Speech has limits. The information was false. If the WT retracted prior to his speech, then he most likely knew it was false when he said it. The Sandy Hook parents taught Alex Jones a lesson Gaetz should learn.

  • Palmer Tom

    January 10, 2021 at 9:55 am

    If no one takes Gaetz seriously. how does he keep getting re-elected?

  • jp millender

    January 10, 2021 at 9:16 pm

    first off his daddie: next and most important WHERE’s HE FROM? (part of Florida that is!!

Comments are closed.


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