Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of January 31, 2021

It was a good week for David Hogg, Anquan Boldin, and LGBTQ rights. Not so good for Matt Gaetz.

We begin this morning with praise for Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Gimenez, and Maria Elvira Salazar. They are Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and they just stood up for what is right.

They sided with House Democrats and voted to strip coo-coo GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments.

“Voting against a member of your own party is never easy, but everyone in Congress must be held to the same high standard,” Salazar tweeted. “As I have repeatedly criticized Ilhan Omar for anti-Semitic comments, I had to hold Marjorie Taylor Greene accountable …”

Yep. Accountability matters when a congressional member spreads lies about the Parkland and Sandy Hook massacres, 9/11, and a Jewish family using a space ray to start a deadly California wildfire.

“From now on, I will hold every Democrat to this new standard that they have created,” Salazar tweeted.

Fair enough.

But there are 13 other Florida Republicans who voted no.

They are: Matt Gaetz (big surprise there), Neal Dunn, Kat Cammack, John Rutherford, Michael Waltz, Bill Posey, Daniel Webster, Gus Bilirakis, Scott Franklin, Vern Buchanan, Greg Steube, Brian Mast, and Byron Donalds.

Perhaps they were convinced by Green’s assertion that she no longer believes children’s slaughter was fake. She tried to put distance between herself and QAnon’s nutty assertion that, among other things, Democrats are a Satan-worshiping cabal of pedophiles.

Too little, too late.

A member of a law-making body like the U.S. House is supposed to exhibit sober judgment and work for the common good. Greene, shall we say, missed those marks by only a couple of light-years.

What does it say, though, when 13 Florida Republicans decided that they need her voice on the education committee to which she was assigned?

Sure, Democrats played politics with this issue, but that doesn’t mean they were wrong. And three aforementioned Republicans were right to agree with them.

Now, on to the weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention: David Hogg. This is no ordinary pillow fight. Hogg, a 20-year-old survivor of the Parkland shooting massacre, is taking on Mike Lindell aka The Pillow Guy.

And Hogg appears to be winning.

Lindell is the conspiracy-spewing founder and CEO of MyPillow. He achieved infamy and a ban by Twitter for pushing hogwash that sinister forces stole the election from former President Donald Trump.

He’s so wacky that even Newsmax – NEWSMAX! – abruptly ended an interview when Lindell continued to push that loony idea.

Enter Hogg. He and fellow entrepreneur William LeGate intend to start their own pillow company. The apparent goal: Put MyPillow out of business.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Anquan Boldin. The former football standout for FSU and the NFL never forgets his Pahokee roots. The 2015 winner of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award is noted for his advocacy. And now he helped arrange a literal shot in the arm for an often-forgotten part of the state.

Thanks in part to his advocacy, the state will open a vaccine distribution site in Pahokee.

“Out in the Glades, we’re forgotten at times. And thank God that we have people that are willing to step up and fight for the people out in the Glades,” Boldin said. “It’s my job to make sure that the people out here are taken care of.”

Boldin swung into action after the announcement that Publix had distribution rights in Palm Beach County. The nearest Publix is 25 miles from Pahokee.

Gov. Ron DeSantis quickly agreed, and now 500 vaccine doses are on their way for area seniors in Pahokee.

They can get their shots at Anquan Boldin Stadium at Pahokee High School.

The biggest winner: LGBTQ+ civil rights. Florida’s Commission on Human Relations said it would investigate claims of anti-LGBTQ discrimination and enforce protections against such violations.

Following an executive order by President Joe Biden, the action aimed at combating discrimination because of gender identification or sexual orientation.

“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.  Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes,” it read in part.

The order dovetails a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that affirmed discrimination in employment, housing, and other areas because gender and sexual orientation are illegal.

The victory comes after a nearly two-decade struggle by Florida’s estimated 880,000 LGBTQ+ individuals throughout the state. Joe Saunders, senior political director for Equality Florida, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that protection against discrimination depended on which part of the state you resided in until now.

“Forty percent of the state does not live in a community where they have access to nondiscrimination protections — places like Pensacola and most conservative places that have been very hostile to the LGBTQ community,” he said. “These are the places where it’s needed most.”


Dishonorable mention: Chad Poppell. His resignation as Department of Children and Families Secretary was no surprise, but it’s still noteworthy.

Poppell was on the hot seat after a USA Today investigation exposed allegations of child abuse by foster parents in the state system.

His department too often dropped the ball on abuse investigations.

“I won’t belabor the point; the quality of the work was poor. We did a bad job,” Poppell told the newspaper.

“Each one of those (cases) may have a dozen decision points along the way. The overall review indicated in those cases, roughly half the time on all those decisions, we made the wrong one.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Terrie Rizzo. Her reputation as an effective leader just took another hit. The former head of the Florida Democratic Party, who resigned in January, apparently left a financial mess for her successor, Manny Diaz.

Did we say a mess?

It got so bad that employees lost their health insurance in November after Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida canceled coverage because of unpaid premiums. Overall, Diaz inherited a party more than $800,000 in debt.

“I knew going in that things were going to be bad. I just didn’t think they were this bad,” Diaz told Florida Politics.

In a statement, Rizzo denied the lapse in coverage.

“The party had the funds to pay the November health insurance bill, we paid it, and I have only recently been told that there was a delay in the check being applied,” Rizzo said.

Records show the party’s health insurance coverage lapsed effective Dec. 1. Employees received a letter from Blue Cross informing them of the situation.

Diaz worked to reinstate the insurance and said the party would cover any medical bills during the lapsed period.

The biggest loser: Gaetz. What Gaetz lacks in couth, he more than makes up for with misplayed hands. Get him outside of a MAGA rally, and he becomes a sad, lost, wandering soul, searching for an audience.

Rep. Frat Boy again proved his lack of political chops. He completely misread the room temperature during a Republican caucus about retaining Liz Cheney as the party’s No. 3 House leader.

Cheney committed the high crime and misdemeanor – in Gaetz’s tunnel vision – of voting to impeach former Trump. He traveled to her home state of Wyoming to demand her removal. Cheney basically told Frat Boy to stick a sock in it.

Before Republicans voted on that issue, Gaetz went on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast with his prediction that her ouster was in the bag. That is, unless “the establishment” cheated.

“My concern is that though today, we have the votes to remove Liz Cheney, somehow the Establishment’s going to find a way to kick the question, avoid a vote,” he said.


The New York Times reported the secret-ballot vote to keep Cheney in leadership was 145-61 in her favor.

That prompted this zinger from GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

“No, we voted,” he tweeted. “You were just wrong by, like, a huuuuuge margin.”

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.


  • Karen Franklin

    February 7, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    I love your takes on these events. Do follow up on the State Dems—Was the insurance bill paid or not? If it was a mail delay, we have more evidence to help go after DeJoy!

  • Tom

    February 7, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene are classic examples of politicians who win office by being not so bright, not so smart, not so thoughtful, and flouting it all every time they open their mouths. Which apparently appeals to certain voters who are like-minded folks.

Comments are closed.


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