Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 8.01.21

Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist were riding high last week. But, um, Rick Scott?

In honor of schools reopening across Florida, district leaders face a multiple-choice question. Do they:

A: Stand up to Gov. Ron DeSantis and require students to wear a face mask, essentially calling his bluff.

B: Go along to get along by leaving masks optional, thus ensuring no risk of lost funding.

Some large districts chose answer A. Sort of.

Districts in Orange, Broward, Leon, Alachua, and Duval counties say students have to wear face coverings. These happen to be five large districts with a combined student population of more than 660,000.

The state’s largest district, Miami-Dade County, planned to make masks optional but now is reviewing that idea. Children must wear masks on school buses.

Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties decided that masks are required but parents could opt out. In Hillsborough, teachers can’t enforce mask mandates and those who aren’t compliant can’t be punished. Which, hmm, means they aren’t actually required and teachers can’t do much (anything) about that.

DeSantis drew national headlines for his executive order that bans local school districts from requiring students to wear masks. He said it’s up to parents to decide what their kids will or won’t do.

He’s not big on government requirements unless, of course, the requirements are his.

“It’s parents’ choice in Florida. And government can’t override the parents,” he said at a news conference in Tampa.

Actually, government overrides parents all the time. Remember that the next time you buckle your kid into a car seat or make sure they get their mandatory vaccinations before starting school.

Police can arrest parents who discipline their children too harshly. A parent can’t leave their toddler or infant alone and choose to go to a bar.

Still, DeSantis threatened to withhold vital funds from districts that didn’t kiss his, um, ring. A lot of legal experts don’t believe his order has the teeth to do that, though.

Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer sent a letter to Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran saying exactly that.

He wrote, “It should be noted first and foremost that the Governor does not have the statutory authority to instruct your department to engage in rulemaking, nor does your department have the authority to do so on this particular issue.”

As gung-ho as DeSantis is these days, would he really follow through on the threat to withhold funds from large districts who don’t buy what he’s selling? The prospect of those districts running out of money and potentially shutting down wouldn’t play well in his 2022 (and beyond) campaign.

That may explain why parents who oppose masks could have another option. There’s an idea floating around to provide those parents scholarships to send their kids to charter schools that don’t require face coverings.

It’s a dubious strategy for parents and, especially, their children. In the last few weeks, the delta variant of COVID-19 impacted more young, unvaccinated kids. However, many people planted their flags in the no-mask zone, choosing to believe that a mask violates their civil liberties.

At a certain point, you have to let them make a choice. Just remember those who agree with studies that show masks are effective have rights, too.

OK, on to our weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention — Florida cruise ships: After a lost season in 2020 because of you-know-what, things are picking up.

Port Canaveral has three more ships about to sail with paying customers: Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line.

The Orlando Sentinel reported the Disney Dream would depart Monday for the Bahamas after receiving its conditional sailing certificate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ship did a simulated sail run in July and a practice run with Disney employees.

Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, an Oasis-class ship, will become the largest cruise ship in the world to return to service since the pandemic. It can accommodate 6,780 passengers, but will sail with reduced capacity.

Royal Caribbean has already put ships in service out of PortMiami and Port Everglades, but not an Oasis-class ship yet.

Other ships will follow.

The biggest winner(s) — Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist: Normally, we divide this up into “the almost (but not quite) biggest winner” and, as you can see, “The biggest.”

However, for the first time since we’ve been doing this, we have a tie. It’s between the top two Democratic contenders in the 2022 gubernatorial race.

After some initial stumbles, Fried is on a roll. She seized the opening DeSantis offered on schools and masks to symbolize opposition to what she says is authoritarian rule by the Governor.

Fried and the White House are studying ways to subvert DeSantis’ school funding threats over masks. She began releasing COVID-19 infection and hospitalization data after weeks of silence about that from DeSantis.

In early polls, she still trails Crist, but her populist message to teachers and parents that “we’ve got your back” could resonate with those weary of DeSantis’ threats.

POLITICO reported Fried received $50,000 from Miami health care billionaire and former GOP donor Mike Fernandez. He chose independence after Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party.

Crist, meanwhile, received a rocket boost in his campaign when St. Pete Polls showed him ahead of DeSantis by 1% in a theoretical matchup. The poll had only a 1.6% margin of error. It garnered national attention and showed that Florida remains a divided state.

The Miami Herald reported Crist would spend the next week speaking in Hispanic communities throughout Florida.

It’s called the “Oportunidad Para Todos/Opportunity for All” tour and will hit parts of Central Florida and South Florida. Tampa, Kissimmee, Miami, Homestead, and parts of Broward County are also on the agenda.

He also plans to host roundtables with Cuban, Mexican, Venezuelan, and Puerto Rican leaders.


Dishonorable mention — Peter Feaman: CNN reported Feaman, a lawyer and RNC committeeman from Boynton Beach, compared the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts to Nazi-era “brownshirts.”

Um, he might want to modify that talking point. The brownshirts were part of a regime that slaughtered 6 million Jews. The Biden administration wants people to take vaccine shots so they won’t get sick and possibly die.

Ah, but CNN added that Feaman called vaccines “the mark of the beast” — a symbol of end times in the book of Revelation.

Well, sometimes it does seem that way, but not for reasons Feaman allegedly implied. Nope, this is more sinister. Hyperbole routed reasoned discussion, and facts trail late in the game versus the Q-crew.

We keep pointing things out, though, and the perpetrators either deny it or blame Nancy Pelosi.

In a text to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Feaman called the CNN report “fake news.”

CNN said Feaman’s comments came on a private message platform MeWe.

The report said Feaman wrote on July 20, “The Biden brown shirts are beginning to show up at private homes questioning vaccine papers,” suggesting government officials would go to people’s homes to verify their vaccination status.

That suggestion really is fake news.

Michael Barnett, the Palm Beach County Republican Party Chairman, told the Sun-Sentinel that Feaman holds deep convictions and passionate beliefs.

“While I am not as creative with my language as Peter, I agree that Americans should be concerned with the current administration’s potential for intruding into our private lives in general and regarding whether we are vaccinated or not,” he said.

Passionate beliefs are fine if they are grounded in common sense. Not protecting yourself against a deadly virus and then likening it to one of the darkest times in history lacks that.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — Spirit and Jet Blue airlines: We actually could call it Dispirited airlines because that’s how thousands of would-be passengers on the bargain-rate carrier feel.

We’ll get to that in a moment, but we first must mention Jet Blue.

After teasing that it would move its headquarters from New York to Florida, Jet Blue’s CEO decided, nope. Instead, it will expand its terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The airline already has a training center in Orlando and a subsidiary based in Fort Lauderdale for vacation planning and other non-air travel products.

Jet Blue’s main headquarters has been in the Queens borough of New York since the company’s founding in 1998.

It’s disappointing for Florida, of course. But light a candle for the fed-up passengers of Spirit, based in Miramar.

The “perfect storm” cliché is apropos for Spirit, which canceled more than 1,700 flights in the last week, affecting thousands of passengers. Many of those people vowed never to use the cut-rate airline again.

A combination of factors — weather, a lack of pilots and flight attendants, and work regulations — left Spirit in a mess that rivals anything a major U.S. airline has seen in decades.

“We’ve worked hard really over the last five years at both building Spirit and building its reputation,” CEO Ted Christie said. “I think we’ve made tremendous strides. This is not our proudest moment, and we know that.”

Not their proudest moment?

That’s one way of putting things.

The biggest loser — Rick Scott: The former Florida Governor and current U.S. Senator has a finely honed sense of timing in a crisis. Anyone who has seen him in a U.S. Navy ball cap can attest to that.

So, what was he thinking when he said, “As I travel around Florida, I talk to families about the biggest issues they deal with. The biggest issue they’re dealing with now is inflation.”

Huh? Inflation?

Check the COVID-19 numbers lately?

Two words: delta variant.

Maybe folks at the polo club and other private joints most don’t have enough money to join talk about inflation. But in the everyday world where people worry about their kids, spouses, and jobs, there are more pressing matters.

Staying alive and healthy is at the top of that list. And with the evil virus once again setting records for making people sick, that’s getting tougher.

Maybe Scott targets inflation so people will forget how he eviscerated Florida’s Medicaid program as Governor. He opted out of Medicaid expansion and wouldn’t build insurance exchanges.

In fairness, though, he was a leader in Wawa expansion for our state. Inflation’s not a problem there — most offer free air for your tires.

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

    August 8, 2021 at 7:14 am

    Ron DeSantis is earning boatloads of credit among the people in Florida who actually believe in liberty and not in butt-smooching the Democrats power machine, the one you front. He is standing up to Washington in a way that stirs the hearts of American patriots but leaves the petty loyalists whining about how the consequences of his principled stand. In this war for liberty in the face of Covid, there are generals like DeSantis, soldiers like Republicans, and fifth columnists like, well, like the columnist appearing here.
    Then there is, “Maybe folks at the polo club and other private joints most don’t have enough money to join talk about inflation. But in the everyday world where people worry about their kids, spouses, and jobs, there are more pressing matters.” First Joe, let me just say that you write English like I speak Spanish. Beyond that, however, if you are so bothered by the sight of people enjoying themselves in a country club, why don’t you start a club of your own just for the “better people of the world”? You could call in the “Pointy Institute”. Better yet, run for office on a platform of taxing these country clubs out of existence. There’s revenge for you! If your green monster runs so rampant, why don’t you march up and down in front of the mansions on Bayshore and scream at the people about their selfishness. At least you will get some relief. And, as far as what people in your mythical “every day world” worry about, allow me to suggest that what they worry about is the price of gasoline, their supermarket bills, and why they are not going to be able to fly home to see their aged parents this year because Biden and his MIA vice president have so bollixed the roaring economy that Donald Trump left in his wake that it will be a lucky thing if the average American worker isn’t making $25 an hour in 2025 and finding himself unable to support his family. Last but not least, Joe, in exchange for the weekly pleasure I take in raking you over the coals for your community college journalism, I have just given you the money making tip of your career: $25 for ’25. Run right out and copyright that phrase quick, sell it to the DNC and with all the money they pay you hurry over and become a member of your local polo club so you can enjoy sneering at all the “every day people” who weren’t as intellectually acute as yourself.

    • educatedredneck

      August 8, 2021 at 8:47 am

      Blah Blah Blah…
      To Wit :
      You really got my blood boiling by hitting a nerve with the DeathSantis polling variant now in the gubernatorial race.

    • Mother Theresa

      August 8, 2021 at 11:25 am

      My God you are such a bore.

  • Tom

    August 8, 2021 at 9:34 am

    Say it ain’t so Joe.
    Three wins!
    #1. WH poor decision to attack Governor Ron, America’s Governor turns him into a even larger legend in Republican Party, conservative movement and with Floridians. Really dumb move. WIN Gov.
    #2. Contrast that with Governors of NY and California. Likely Impeachment for Cuomo and Newsom facing very, very tough recall. They decimated their states with lockdowns and now face removal. How’s that $5 million dollar book deal Joe for Cuomo? Newsom’s dinner out at French laundry is legendary on what not to do. Nikki Fraud anyone. WIN for Gov.
    #3. Gambling compact approved by Feds. First step in process, leadership win for Gov. WIN
    Honorable mention:
    Florida chamber poll. Gov double digit leads on both pretenders. Sand bag Pete poll fails to change dynamics except for the haters. WIN!
    Just saying Joe.

  • Edward Lyle

    August 8, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Proof positive that depriving oneself of needed oxygen by wearing a face diaper, and taking 2-shots of sugar water and fertilizer runoff… can make one delusional.

    The real winners are those who didn’t subject themselves to the ink blot test. And the losers… well, me for one… I took this test after all.

    But I do think I see a spilled coffee stain on a fraudulent election ballot… or maybe a flittering bat leaving Covid guano in its path.

    • Tom

      August 8, 2021 at 10:17 am

      Ed, Great confusion in your outline.
      Talk bout delusional. 3 real wins, top em.
      Say what what you mean and mean what you say. Goodness.
      What is that?

      • Edward Lyle

        August 8, 2021 at 11:28 am

        Tom, I can only surmise that it was confusing to you… because it wasn’t about you. My comment was about the thread title story itself… try to keep up.

        PS: I agree with your post by the way. Keep an eye on your front porch. I’m having fedex deliver a kitten and some jello to make up for the hurt feelings. 😉

        • Tom

          August 8, 2021 at 3:09 pm

          It’s always about me.
          Thanks for clarifying, no need for anything. Not needed.
          Glad you liked post.

  • Tom Palmer

    August 8, 2021 at 9:52 am

    It’s hard to get excited about election polls this far away from the election, especially when you fold in the margin of error. DeSantis is gambling this will all blow over by next year. If it does, he’s going to benefit. If not, we may have a race.

    • Tom

      August 8, 2021 at 10:46 am

      Palmer You were excited bout the sand bag St Pete poll and FP led the way to make all the bot haters come out and sing. Didn’t see the same from the chamber poll.
      Regardless, America’s Governor stands taller cause of foolish WH attacks and corrupt Dem Governors.
      DeSantis Dominates the playing field.
      No contest.

      • Tom Palmer

        August 9, 2021 at 12:00 am

        I wasn’t excited about jackshit, troll. I’m just stating the fact that no one knows how this will sort out and I’m willing to wait and see.

    • Edward Lyle

      August 8, 2021 at 11:34 am

      The only polls that are reliable are the poles in stripclubs… and even those depend on who installed them.

      Most of these partisan push-polls are designed to manipulate public option, not gauge it. It’s also a way to panic candidates and push them to spend their campaign dollars on advertising… which is why most polls are connected to a media platform in some way, shape, or form.

      Then there are polls conducted by agenda-driven organizations. These polls are usually designed to send a message to the incumbent and his/her challenger. The CoC is likely sending the message to back off the criticism of illegal aliens and the China Bio-Weapon Scamdemic. The CoC supports illegal alien slave labor and government handouts. After all… so long as you’ll sleep 15 to a singlewide – and taxpayers cover your housing, healthcare, and food expenses – then we corporations can maintain our cheap slave labor operations and maximize profits. Illegal aliens are the new slaves of the DemoKKKrat Party and their corporate owners.

      Think for yourselves… before it’s too late to save this Great Republic.

      • Tom Palmer

        August 9, 2021 at 12:01 am

        I’ve received GOP push poll calls, so I know what you’re talking about.

  • Charles McCarthy

    August 8, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Florida will need the experienced savvy of Charlie Crist to straighten out the chaotic mess that will be left by the soon to be ousted MAGAs. He has shown his commitment to the well being of Floridians while DeSantis, Gaetz, Scott and the rest have used our fine state as a stepping stone to bigger fortunes on the national scene.
    The Republicans who voted for Biden, then all Republican on the rest of the ballot gave the party a chance to recover from thedonalds disasters. They repaid them by siding with the MAGA insurrectionists, betraying their trust.
    They will not forget it in ’22.

    • Edward Lyle

      August 8, 2021 at 11:29 am

      MAGA!…. everybody drink!

    • zhombre

      August 8, 2021 at 2:45 pm

      LOL. Charlie Crist attempted to use “our fine state as a stepping stone to bigger fortunes on the national scene” and got his ass handed to him in a 3-way race for the U,S, Senate. Perhaps you are too young to recall Crist’s opportunism, or have a bad memory. Charie Crist has always worked for the best interests and advancement of Charlie Crist.

  • Stan Chrzanowski

    August 8, 2021 at 10:36 am

    I don’t see a problem with grouping unmasked, unvaccinated school kids together whether in private schools or in their own classes in public schools. If they get sick they can go home to their unmasked, unvaccinated households to be cared for by their unmasked, unvaccinated parents. Personal freedom carries with it personal responsibility. But, do we really have to treat the unvaccinated in our stressed hospitals?

    I also think you shouldn’t have to wear a seat belt (although I always do) and shouldn’t have to buckle up your kids (parents know best, not cops?) and helmets of all types should always be optional… BUT… any accident wherein you’re hurt and weren’t wearing protective gear should automatically void your insurance. Personal freedom carries with it personal responsibility.

    Yes… I vote Libertarian… sometimes… .

    • Andrew Finn

      August 8, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      Stan – I agree with you 100% on this. If they are unmasked and get the disease, then let their unmasked parents treat them in their unmasked homes. I also like your view of seat belts and the like. If we follow the “I’ve got a right to choose” un-maskers, then let’s get rid of “no shoes. no shirts no service” and let people smoke wherever they feel like. Remove the speed limits so people can have “the right” to drive as fast as they want. Where does the “I can do what I want” bull end ?

  • Joseph Brown

    August 8, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    I was in elementary school when the polio vaccine was perfected. We were all required to have the shots, and they were made available to students right there on campus. I wasn’t into the news then, but I don’t recall any parents protesting about an overbearing government forcing their children to get vaccines.

    • Matthew Lusk

      August 8, 2021 at 12:44 pm

      The so-called covid vaccine is not even a vaccine but an experimental gene therapy concoction with no liability to anyone but the body of the recipient. Some of the ingredients are kept secret (and how would you assay each batch run without an electron microscope and extensive chemical analysis anyway?)and there are many side effects which the tabulation there of have been suppressed by hospital administrators. We are no longer living in your parent’s time history, not morally even close.

  • Matthew Lusk

    August 8, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    What’s wrong with witholding funds proportional to the number of students who flee towards a more quality, safe education. Vouchers are the bomb. Education has a very bright future with parents finally wrestling control from marxist purveyors.

Comments are closed.


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