Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 5.16.21

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The Seminole Tribe of Florida had a very good week. We can't say the same for Attorney General Ashley Moody.

Normally, Florida’s Lieutenant Governor is the answer to a trivia question. They get a big headline when the candidate chooses them as a running mate, and then they fade into obscurity.

They are kind of like those emergency fire extinguishers you walk by every day. You don’t really see until there’s an actual fire and you have to break the glass.

Well, the increasingly obvious presidential ambitions held by Gov. Ron DeSantis may be the fire that jogs everyone’s memory. So, remember this name: Jeanette Marie Nuñez.

She is Florida’s Lieutenant Governor.

Being astute followers of state politics, you already know that. But I’ll bet the vast majority of voters from either party couldn’t pick her out of a group photo.

A few things have to happen before that changes.

First, she has to stay on the ticket with DeSantis for 2022.

Second, DeSantis has to win re-election.

Finally, the exiled Dear Leader from his Elba-Lago fortress in Palm Beach must decide he won’t run again.

DeSantis jumps to the head of the Republican presidential scrum if all that happens. And that’s when his No. 2 in command becomes very important.

DeSantis was the keynote speaker Thursday in Pittsburgh at the Allegheny County G.O.P.’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner. What’s the Governor in Florida doing in Pennsylvania?

Duh!

He hit the high points. Election security. Throw rioters in jail and lose the key. And the new favorite G.O.P. blabber point, eliminating critical race theory from Florida curriculum.

“As we look forward to the fights ahead, we cannot, indeed, we will not go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear,” he said. “We are not going to do that.”

You can imagine how well that went over.

DeSantis is only 42, so he has youth, enthusiasm, and cases of red meat to toss to the ravenous G.O.P. base. He could well be the next President of the United States.

Of course, losing the Governor’s race in Florida would a big setback to that ambition. It’s worth wondering if the millions of independent voters here might be skittish about supporting someone for Governor who clearly has his eyes on something larger and could be gone after two years.

That’s a debate for another time, though.

But before we get on with this week’s game of Winners and Losers, one more thing.

The newspaper industry in Florida just took another torpedo. The Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel were dealt into the vulturous hands of Alden Global Capital. They were part of the Tribune Publishing chain, which again proved its disregard and ignorance of a newspaper’s true worth to its readers and communities.

Alden’s game plan is to acquire, strip down, and squeeze out every nickle. It doesn’t matter what that does to the coverage, so I’m guessing the scallawags in those cities – and in Tallahassee – are cheering.

The rest of us shouldn’t be.

Winners

Honorable mention: College football fans in Florida. Major college football programs throughout the state plan to open at full stadium capacity for the upcoming season. 

The newly relaxed standards for public gatherings led to the “open for business” declarations. Those schools include the University of Florida, Florida State, UCF, South Florida, and Florida Atlantic. Miami and Florida International have not yet officially announced plans, but expect a full return as well.

Additionally, Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman University return to the field this fall after canceling their 2020 seasons because of the pandemic.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: U.S. Rep. Maria Salazar. In this age of polarization, the freshman Republican Congresswoman from Florida’s 27th District won a nice distinction. She tied for third out of 80 first-term Representatives and Senators for bipartisanship.

Salazar co-sponsored 50% of bills with a sponsor from the opposite party. She also joined fellow Republican Carlos Giminez, voting to form a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

That’s a refreshing independent streak, considering their party’s leadership tried to stonewall the idea.

Salazar upset incumbent Donna Shalala last November, while Giminez ousted Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

The biggest winner: The Seminole Tribe of Florida. It’s not even close this week. After years of distrust and contentious back-and-forth with the state over gaming rights, Tribal leadership came away from the bargaining table with a sweet deal.

Well, first, the obligatory asterisk: The new Gaming Compact needs federal approval. Then, it faces an almost certain court challenge. For now, though, the Tribe and a majority of Florida lawmakers are all smiles.

The state gets a guaranteed $2.5 billion over five years, while the Tribe receives exclusive rights to digital sports betting throughout the state. The agreement also allows for Las Vegas-style casinos at all tribal facilities.

It passed the Senate 38-1 (with one member not voting). The lone vote against came from Republican Jeff Brandes of SD 24 in Pinellas County. Brandes complained the state should have negotiated for a bigger slice of the pie.

Maybe so, but it also reinforces what a whopper of a win this was for the Tribe.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Gary Farmer. Here’s some career advice for the former – repeat, FORMER – Florida Senate Democratic Leader: Give it up, dude.

Farmer, you may recall, was unanimously forced out by his Senate colleagues last month after a brief but chaotic reign. Senate Dems said he was dismissive, especially of women – a nice way of accusing him of sexism.

Lauren Book replaced Farmer, which was sweet irony since he once said she couldn’t concentrate on her leadership duties because of her young children.

Now, Farmer complains about Book’s support for the new Gaming Compact. It’s about local fees generated from the nearby Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The money reimburses cities for costs associated with roads and other services by the casino.

Farmer grumped that Davie will receive a higher share of the money than Hollywood, which he represents.

Book’s father, Ron Book, is a long-time lobbyist for Davie.

Lauren Book sponsored that amendment. Farmer called her involvement in the new formula “inappropriate.”

“I think if somebody else had done the amendment, it would at least take away some of that stench,” he said.

Book called Farmer’s insinuations “ridiculous” and said he’s suffering from “hurt feelings.”

Ron Book called it “gutter politics” and “… more bad misogynistic behavior by Sen. Farmer.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Brian Mast. The Republican U.S. Rep. from Florida’s 18th District took his seat at the front of the clown car in a doofish display on the House floor.

Mast has an A.L.B. degree (liberal arts) from the Harvard Extension School. You wouldn’t know it, though. He , pouted like a spoiled brat because members still must wear masks while on the House floor.

He railed against Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who made the rule, calling it “tyrannical control.”

Tyrannical? Is he kidding?

North Korea: Tyrannical.

Masks: Not tyrannical.

Mast received a $500 fine for this ridiculous act, joining other Republicans such as Q kook Marjorie Taylor-Greene on the bad list.

Perhaps someone should remind Rep. Mast that voters sent him to Washington to do a serious job, not throw childish tantrums.

At least we thought it was serious, but next time we should read the fine print.

The biggest loser: Ashley Moody. Florida’s Attorney General continues to follow the Pam Bondi model of running the office like a partisan arm of the Republican Party. That’s not a compliment, by the way, but I’ll bet you know that.

She continues to push a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the ongoing no-sail order from Florida ports.

At issue is DeSantis’ executive order prohibiting vaccination passports wanting to take a cruise. Cruise ships were petri dishes for COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic. Alas, the state believes Person A doesn’t need to know if Person B was vaccinated.

But that’s not all.

Last fall, Moody triggered a lengthy investigation into the conspiracy theory that Michael Bloomberg was trying to buy Democratic votes in Florida. That’s because Bloomberg helped non-violent ex-felons pay their fines to restore their voting rights.

They called in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The inference was that Bloomberg was using unscrupulous tactics to drum up support for Joe Biden. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, an Orlando nonprofit that works to restore civil rights to those former felons, was caught up in that net.

Moody joined prankster Matt Gaetz on Fox News – never a good look. Their message: SOMETHING BAD WAS GOING ON!

Well, there wasn’t.

As Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel reported, the FDLE spent 706 hours over six months chasing its tail on this non-story. Its decision: NOTHING BAD WENT ON!

the Coalition wasn’t peddling Biden to ex-felons wanting to vote.

Did you hear Moody then reassure the public that FLORIDA ELECTIONS ARE SAFE!

Oh yeah, she didn’t. The unfounded accusation about election shenanigans continues to hang in the air.

Sheesh.

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.


6 comments

  • Herschel Blackmon

    May 23, 2021 at 11:54 am

    Yea, the felons are going to reject Santa Claus. RIGHT!

  • Charles

    May 23, 2021 at 1:48 pm

    Your a bitter, biased, hypocritical old curmudgeon. Time to go sit on the beach by yourself and ponder how you got to this stage in life.

    • Chaz

      May 23, 2021 at 11:11 pm

      Lol I was genuinely thinking the same thing as I read this post. It is the first post of his I ever read. Sad, you would think after 40 years he would know how to just, ummm report the news.

    • Joe Henderson

      May 24, 2021 at 8:58 am

      It’s spelled “you’re” not “your.” No need to thank me.

  • Derek Logue

    May 24, 2021 at 12:07 am

    Senator Book is incapable of doing her job not because she has kids but because she is incapable of functioning without her father telling her what to do.

    • Verdine Bryant

      May 24, 2021 at 1:21 pm

      So says the convicted sex offender and Lauren Book stalker.

Comments are closed.


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