Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 7.4.21

Every person owes the Surfside first responders respect and thanks.

Tampa Bay — excuse me, Champa Bay — is the unquestioned champion of the sports world at the moment.

The Lightning just won their second straight Stanley Cup, and the Buccaneers will soon begin the defense of their Super Bowl title. The defending American League champion Rays are having another strong season in their quest to return to the World Series.

But while the success of local sports teams is cool, does it matter in the big picture?

Well, consider this quote from Tampa Mayor Jane Castor about what it means to the area.

“That put Tampa Bay on the world map,” she said. “Everybody got to see what we know, that we live in the best place in the United States. What better way to let the rest of the world know that we win titles, back to back, but we get to live in paradise.”

It would be hard to put a price tag on the exposure America’s new Titletown received during this run. Castor, however, said there is a direct correlation between that success and the prospects for future growth in all corners of the area.

“Businesses are coming. We have meetings on a regular basis with companies, families, and people who want to move here to be a part of Tampa Bay,” she said. “It is just red-hot here right now. We are creating entire communities, and it’s just a good time to be in Tampa Bay.”

Oh, there is one thing about the price tag. Cities covet major sports franchises, and owners frequently leverage that into large taxpayer subsidies to build arenas and stadiums.

Residents know all too well what’s going on with the Rays. The team has unsuccessfully tried to cut a deal for a stadium to replace Tropicana Field.

The stumbling block, as always, is the amount of cash the team is willing to put into the project. A proposed Ybor City stadium deal crumbled when it became clear the team expected taxpayers to pay for more than half the nearly $1 billion cost.

It’s also true, though, that leagues value stability and are reluctant to move franchises. These things usually work themselves out.

While we wonder if there can be a resolution for the Rays, there’s a hockey team to celebrate. Tampa will do it in its unique way — with a boat parade Monday downtown on the Hillsborough River.

“What other hockey town can have a boat parade for a celebration?” Castor pondered.

And yes, that will mean more free national publicity to project the image of a successful and fun town that knows how to party.

That’s winning.

Now, on to our weekly game of Winners and Losers.


Honorable mention — Gov. Ron DeSantis: Whatever you think of his politics and obsession with red meat for his base, the Governor stepped up big time during the Surfside catastrophe.

“The Governor has been decisive. He’s been constant. He’s been collaborative,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Danielle Levine Cava, a Democrat, told The Associated Press. “Hats off to the Governor for how he has supported us in this crisis.”

DeSantis is never shy about criticizing Democrats on various issues, but he knew when to take politics out of the mix. He praised FEMA’s response to Surfside and had a joint appearance with President Joe Biden that projected bipartisanship.

There’s an election next year, so it probably won’t be long before things are back to normal. However, this rare respite from political sniping proves that DeSantis can rise above when the situation calls for it.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner — Val Demings: She pulled in an impressive $4.6 million in her first quarter of fundraising for the 2022 U.S. Senate race. Her Republican opponent, incumbent Marco Rubio, raised about $4 million in the same time.

“I have been humbled and honored by the outpouring of support from across Florida and around the nation,” Demings said in a news release. “Florida voters and the American people clearly know what’s at stake in this U.S. Senate election.”

This figures to be the most-watched election of 2022, with control of the Senate possibly at stake. With the amount of money coming into both camps, it also could set spending records.

The biggest winner — Surfside workers: Every day, they sift through the wreckage of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo, knowing their grim work will take a toll.

The responders at Surfside will never forget the scope of the tragedy as they search for bodies, treasured mementos, or anything that can give a sense of closure to the victims’ families.

First responder Nichole Notte said it better than anyone could. She told the Miami Herald about her feelings when workers found the body of a fellow firefighter’s 7-year-old daughter in the wreckage.

“The quietness of the site, all the construction machines shut down, nobody making a sound, no concrete being moved, no metal sounds, nothing,” she said. “Just the sound of the footsteps of them carrying her away. It’s definitely going to live in my mind forever.

“Losing a child is hard enough, but digging for your own child is, is … no words.”

There are countless stories like this at the site as workers battle mental and physical exhaustion, pushing feelings aside as they methodically complete another day.

Yes, there are no words.

All we can say is this: Thank you.

Let’s also not forget the contribution of Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis.

He quickly dispatched 370 urban search and rescue members to the site and worked to make insurance claims go smoothly. Patronis said this is the largest non-hurricane deployment in Florida’s history and included the same number of people were on the ground at Surfside as during Category 5 Hurricane Michael.

Patronis also warned scams people trying to help the Surfside victims. Suspected fraud can be reported at

With all the good I’ve been witness to, however, we are starting to get reports of false GoFundMe websites that are stealing from this effort. It’s disgusting — and as far as I’m concerned — it’s right up there with looting after a hurricane,” Patronis said.

“To people that want to help this effort, please make sure you’re putting your hard-earned money into a credible organization that will help the families that have been truly impacted by this collapse.”


Dishonorable mention — Jeff Brandes: Sometimes, this category can be a paradox. The maverick Republican state Senator from Pinellas County can be a refreshing change from the dutiful soldiers who march in lockstep with party leaders.

That’s not losing, and you can make the case that’s it’s honorable.

He is blunt and never afraid to say what’s on his mind, even if the bosses don’t like that. We need more lawmakers with that attitude.

There can be a political price to pay, though, and Brandes just got the bill.

Senate President Wilton Simpson removed Brandes as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and reassigned him to lead the less-prestigious Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability.

Simpson made it sound nice, noting, “throughout his time in the Senate, Senate Brandes has shown a great interest in the operations of state government.”

We all know the deal, though.

In the last Legislative Session, Brandes didn’t toe the party line on the crackdown against social media companies and DeSantis’ high-profile anti-riot bill.

He lost a high-level job because of that.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — Matt Gaetz: Yeah, he’s in the news again.

He couldn’t have been pleased when a judge agreed to delay the sentencing of ex-wingman Joel Greenberg until November.

Greenberg pleaded guilty in May to the sex trafficking of a child and multiple other felonies. Greenberg is cooperating with investigators in hopes of a lighter sentence. That’s where Gaetz comes in.

Gaetz and Greenberg liked to party hardy, and there has long been speculation that Greenberg is spilling the goods on his former buddy.

His sentencing, scheduled for August 19, was moved back three months because Greenberg needs more time to tell prosecutors everything he knows.




Stay tuned.

The biggest loser — Florida Republicans: OK, not all of them — not even close. Actually, not that many of them.

But the ones pressing for the release of Jan. 6 insurrectionists deserve the loser label, and that’s what they get. It may not be fair to call them Republicans, but that’s how they identify.

They include some failed candidates and conspiracy-spewing wingnuts. They want DeSantis to bring the heat and get their (try not to laugh … or cry) “patriots” out of jail, where many are awaiting trial.

As Creative Loafing reported, that’s the push behind the “Free Our Patriots Rally in Tally.”

“Folks, The patriots who have been hunted down by the corrupt, communist FBI are suffering. Many of them are veterans who fought for this nation,” tweeted Luis Miguel.

He’s running against Rubio in the Republican Senate Primary next year.

I like Rubio’s chances.

To recap: Criminals who stormed the U.S. Capitol are patriots. Law enforcement officers and judges who hold them accountable are corrupt and communists.

Seriously, Republicans who continue to soft-peddle the riot and block investigations need to do some soul-searching.

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

    July 11, 2021 at 9:48 am

    While the people who actually broke into the Capitol committed a crime and ought to be prosecuted and punished as criminals, the thousands who peacefully protested on the Capitol grounds indeed are patriots and should be honored as such. These are people who believe the central government of the United States has gone out of control, that it is a real and present threat to their liberties, that there is legitimate doubt about the veracity of the 2020 presidential election (anyone who doubts this deserves the sobriquet Pollyanna more so than anyone since, well, Pollyanna), and that Biden and his friends are bent on destroying the philosophical, political, religious and economic foundations of the greatest nation ever created because they are enthralled by an aberrant political theory called Marxism. Every day more and more Americans are awakening to the pernicious disease called, ironically, “woke-ism” and the protests and actions in self-defense are increasing. Joe Biden couldn’t get 40,000 people out to see him on the most beautiful spring day in San Francisco. Donald Trump got that many in a rainstorm in Sarasota. Simple, plain evidence.

    • Tom J

      July 11, 2021 at 6:22 pm

      The “central government” of the United States at the time of the January 6th riot/love-fest was as follows: A Republican controlled Senate, a Republican President, three new Republican President appointed Supreme Court members, and Barr, Pompeo, and all the other Republican President appointed government leaders. So that’s the “central government” that had “gone out of control”? By God, I think you’re right!

      • Ron Ogden

        July 12, 2021 at 9:11 am

        Umm. . I think you left out a branch of government, ya’ know, the one with 435 members, um m m. . .what’s it called, can you help me remember? You know, the one that tried to impeach the President twice and somehow umm. . .well, could never convict him. What was the name of that one? You know, the one where the leader, in a childish fit of hysteria, tore up a speech he was giving. . .uh. gee, damn, getting old I guess.

  • Tom Palmer

    July 11, 2021 at 9:56 am

    Glad to hear from the paranoid right.

  • Ocean Joe

    July 11, 2021 at 10:22 am

    If 40,000 people braved a rainstorm to see Donald, how come he couldn’t brave one to pay respects to our 9,387 fallen soldiers buried in Normandy? Some said it would have been a security risk, but others said he didn’t want to get his hair wet. I go with the latter.
    Either way, it’s true, nobody wants to hear Biden mumble through some prepared remarks, but more than enough wanted to restore sanity to the White House.

  • Tom

    July 11, 2021 at 11:10 am

    Good morning Joe. Florida politics should consider an old fashioned “extra” edition this morning. Outstanding reporting by Brian Burgess/capitolist on the financial fiasco by Nikki “ fraud” Fried. Just an incredible fact based expose on the dishonesty throughout the lack of integrity in financial reporting. Devastating outline in detail. I strongly encourage all to review it. Without a doubt legislative hearings are needed and a special prosecutor to be appointed. Really bad. Extra, Extra read all about it. Brian deserves a Pulitzer mention. Just another example of a miserable campaign that’s not ready for prime time.

    • Tom

      July 11, 2021 at 1:51 pm

      Yes, as Ed McMahon would say to the great Johnny Carson, you are correct sir! 😊 Burgess hit it out of the park, bases loaded walk off.

  • Ben

    July 11, 2021 at 10:19 pm


  • Tom

    July 11, 2021 at 10:35 pm

    What a joke, Tom J, Tom Palmer and ocean Joe.
    The extreme left in unison. News flash, Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20. Take responsibility.
    Gov Ron is the whiz kid youngest chief executive in the country. Facing down a 100 yr pandemic and who has led his state as a model Example. He certainly does not have problems filling out a state req financial disclosure. He doesn’t have the death of seniors like another Gov or abuse issues. He has handled covid well. All three of you need to appreciate the freedom that is derived from this Gov. Unlike other Govs.

Comments are closed.


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