Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 4.25.21


Light a candle for your local Supervisor of Elections.

Their workload just increased dramatically because the Republican-led Legislature made it harder to vote.

Oh, wait … that wasn’t it. It was (cough, cough) election security, a red-hot need for sure after Florida just conducted its smoothest and safest election in memory.

But no.

GOP lawmakers looked around at other states like Georgia and went, “hmmm.” So now, we have a law that prohibits mobile drop boxes, reduces how long they are available, and requires local election supervisors to staff them all.

Leaving a dropbox unstaffed and accessible could mean a $25,000 fine.

There are restrictions on who may turn in another voter’s ballot. Lawmakers added bureaucratic rules about mail-in ballots. And, of course, there is the GOP’s new favorite line of attack on voting: The dreaded bottle-of-water restriction.

They softened it a bit after a lot of blowbacks. Election workers can deliver a snack or water to people in line, but no one else within 150 feet can do that. They made a few more concessions, according to Hillsborough County Supervisor Craig Latimer, who heads the statewide supervisors group.

“Fortunately, proposals that would have been the most disenfranchising, such as canceling Vote By Mail requests that voters currently have on file, were dropped from the final version of the bill,” he wrote.

“However, this legislation still makes requesting Vote By Mail ballots and returning those ballots harder.”

Then basically, lawmakers tossed the shebang into the laps of the supervisors.

Latimer, by the way, is a highly competent and dedicated public servant. He and his colleagues deserve better than this. They know a lot more about staging elections safely and smoothly than agenda-driven politicians.

On second thought, there is one more tweak to the election laws we could make. Take all the Republicans who voted to make it a crime to give a bottle of water to someone in a long voting line and force them to stand in Florida’s sun for two or three hours before they can cast a ballot.

By the way, does anyone want to take bets on how many precincts will be available in minority voting areas next time around?

OK, on to our game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention: Jared Moskowitz. The head of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management since 2019 gets some well-deserved time off.

He announced in February that he would leave the post on April 30 and head home to South Florida.

Running a complex agency is tough in normal times, when mostly what he would do is respond to hurricane damage.

As we know, however, these aren’t normal times. COVID-19 ensured that.

Moskowitz, a Democrat, led the state’s pandemic response and earned respect on both sides of the aisle.

Gov. Ron DeSantis heaped praise on Moskowitz.

“He’s worked incredibly hard. He’s done a fantastic job. I think Florida has the best emergency response in the country,” DeSantis said at a news conference in February.

Moskowitz hasn’t yet revealed his plans, other than spending lots of time with his wife and two young sons.

We’ll hear from him again.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Everglades restoration. Even in a tight budget year, the state found $342.72 million in the couch cushions for Everglades restoration.

That prompted this response from Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation.

“This continued funding could not have come at a more important time, as we’re seeing toxic blue-green algae showing up in areas of our state, reminiscent of the summer of 2016,” he said in a release.

Providing sufficient funding for this was a top priority for legislative leaders, which brings us to our final point.

The biggest winner(s): Chris Sprowls and Wilton Simpson. The House and Senate leaders respectively had a strong showing in the Session.

They not only guided many of DeSantis’ wish list to completion, but they also shepherded their priorities through as well.

Sprowls called the state’s $101.5 billion state budget “the greenest budget in Florida’s history.” Indeed, along with the emphasis on the Everglades, it includes $100 million (as first proposed in the Senate’s budget) to clean and close the Piney Point phosphate reservoir, the site of an ecological calamity that was bad enough but could have been much worse.

There is $500 million in the budget to address rising sea levels wrought by climate change along Florida’s coastlines. Florida’s wildlife corridor got a nod with $300 million for land acquisition, which was a top priority of Simpson.

Simpson will have to wait until next month’s planned special Session for one top priority. That’s when the Legislature will convene to discuss the gambling compact he and DeSantis worked out with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

All in all, a smashing Session for those two.


Dishonorable mention: Miami’s Centner Academy. That’s the private school where co-founder Leila Centner told teachers they could interact with students only if they DIDN’T have a COVID-19 vaccination.

Miami Herald reporters Colleen Wright and Nicholas Nehamas did some fabulous work on this story.

“It began with the academy’s first open house when David and Leila Centner asked guests not just to wipe their feet but to swaddle the soles of their shoes in Saran wrap,” they wrote.

Windows had coverings to protect against potential radiation from 5G cell towers.

No one wears masks there, and they ignore social distancing.

Democratic state Sen. Jason Pizzo, who represents that district, called it “absolute lunacy.”

The school’s website boasts, “At Centner Academy, we value individuality and honor freedom of choice. We are proud that our happiness school does not mandate vaccines of any kind, and we accept religious exemptions.”

Tuition and fees can exceed $30,000 a year. Lunch is billed separately at $230 per month.

Centner Academy reportedly accepts state taxpayer money in the form of vouchers. Those are paid for by funds diverted from the strapped budgets of public schools.

Your tax dollars at work.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Matt Gaetz. The saying goes to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But as Florida’s frat boy congressman may learn, what if both of them are the same guy?

Disgraced former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg seems to be chirping like a songbird as he seeks leniency for multiple sex trafficking and other charges.

If that means offering up his (former) buddy Gaetz, well, back up the bus.

The Daily Beast obtained a letter from Greenberg to Roger Stone, no angel himself. Greenberg, the Daily Beast reported, asked Stone to help him get a pardon from then-President Donald Trump.

The report said Greenberg told Stone that he and Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women, including a girl who was 17 at the time.

Gaetz has denied all of this, but Greenberg’s attorney said his client is cooperating with investigators in hopes for a lighter sentence.

The biggest loser: Florida’s congressional hopes. OK, so we’re greedy.

Our state’s rapid, unceasing growth led many to believe Florida would gain two seats in the U.S. House after the Census. It didn’t happen.

Florida only picked one seat despite a nearly 15% population gain from 2010 to 2020.

Utah, Idaho, Texas, North Dakota, and Nevada all had greater percentage increases in population than Florida.

Don’t weep too much for our beloved homeland, though. The Sunshine State will have 28 members in the House and, with its two Senators, 30 electoral votes in the 2024 presidential election.

Let the jousting begin for the new district, which will choose its initial representative in 2022.

Republicans get to draw the boundary lines and immediate speculation focused on the ruby-red Villages area. The GOP wouldn’t even have to work all that much to make a case to put the new district there.

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.


  • Ron Ogden

    May 2, 2021 at 7:28 am

    Everybody except Joe knows Biden and company cooked the census like so many Shakespearean witches. Florida voted hard for Donald; no way we are going to get anything other than the bare minimum of anything from are oppressive federal establishment. Time to fight back against anti-Florida bias in Washington.

  • Charles

    May 2, 2021 at 10:38 am

    Joe knows but he just chooses to SPIN the truth and mislead. It’s what liberal hacks do.
    It’s not what real journalism is, it’s what politically biased journalism is. Joe should be ashamed and embarrassed.

  • Bob

    May 2, 2021 at 11:20 am

    If Biden cooked the books,then why did NY and CA each lose a congressional seat and an electoral vote?
    My apologies for bringing logic into the conversation.

  • Dorine

    May 2, 2021 at 11:39 am

    I read the first three paragraphs (or basically comments) and it is quite apparent that the author is simply acting as a Democratic activist… so I won’t bother to read the rest…

Comments are closed.


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