Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 8.8.21

What a week, and it all boils down to masks for Florida schools.

Let’s take a momentary pause from those constitutional scholars desperate to avoid placing a piece of cloth over their faces to avoid a deadly disease. We’ll get to them later.

For now, the granular data of the U.S. census came out this week, and, as always, it contained some important information that will shape the next decade in Florida.

Start with this one: The fastest-growing U.S. metro in the last decade was The Villages. The population there jumped 39% since 2010 and currently stands at about 130,000 people. The population of Sumter County, home to much of the Villages, jumped by 26%.

It’s no secret that it’s a Republican stronghold — and I do mean strong.

Why do you think Gov. Ron DeSantis spends so much time there?

Census data show the Florida population is 70% Christian-based faiths, 24% no particular faith, and 6% non-Christian faiths.

Florida’s population is just shy of 22 million. That’s an increase of about 3 million since 2010. The state is 75% White and 16.6% Black.

Do you know how many are native Floridians? You might have to look hard. The Census showed about two-thirds of residents here were born in another state.

Florida also is one of just eight states with a Hispanic population that exceeds 1 million. Florida, California, and Texas account for 55% of the total Hispanic population in the United States.

The large influx of Hispanic immigrants means that Spanish is spoken by 20% of Floridians. Hispanics make up about 26% of Florida’s population, a figure that experts say will continue to increase.

And this will set some people’s hair on fire: Undocumented immigrants make up about 20% of the total state population. That’s the fourth-largest number in the country.

The state also has more golf courses than anywhere else in the United States — more than over 1,250 of them.

Let’s boil this down succinctly.

A lot of people moved here, and many more are coming. They are diverse, and many are settling in the large metro areas like Miami-Dade County, Orlando, and the Tampa Bay region.

And if you think Florida underwent a lot of change since the 2010 census, buckle up. By 2030, things will change even more.

Now, it’s time for our weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention — Nikki Fried (Stipulated): It’s too early in the 2022 election season to put much stock in polls. Nonetheless, the state’s Agriculture Commissioner has reason to feel encouraged by the recent Public Policy Polling survey of Democratic voters.

It showed her ahead of Charlie Crist 36% to 33% in the race for the party’s gubernatorial nomination, with 31% still undecided.

A cautionary note: Te survey polled only 274 voters and has a margin of error of 6%, which is pretty high.

Still, it was good news for Fried, whose early stumbles on the campaign trail put her behind Crist by double digits. She was even farther behind DeSantis in a theoretical matchup.

PPP has an A- rating by FiveThirtyEight.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner — Science: For all the hysteria from the anti-mask contingent, a solid majority of Floridians support mandatory masks for school children.

A survey commissioned by Florida Politics found that 62% of likely voters support such a mask order. That number should give DeSantis a moment of pause as he reads the state’s temperature on this issue.

Among Democrats, 84% support mask mandates, which you would expect, along with 66% of independents. Maybe the most interesting number, though, is 39% of Republicans also support mask mandates.

That’s too big of a number to ignore.

This would tend to support the notion that Floridians weighed science against politics and decided to align with science.

Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

The biggest winner — Defiant school boards: DeSantis threatened, raged, huffed, and puffed against mask mandates in local schools.

But some of them pushed back hard.

As COVID-19 cases skyrocket throughout Florida, the Broward County School Board voted 8-1 to defy DeSantis and keep its mandate in place.

Leon and Alachua counties did the same.

“If something happened and things went sideways for us this week and next week as we started school, and heaven forbid we lost a child to this virus, I can’t just simply blame the Governor of the state. I can’t,” Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna said during a news conference.

“If there’s an out and I didn’t take the out, and I didn’t do what was best for the children here in Tallahassee and Leon County, that’s on me.”

Alachua Superintendent Carlee Simon explained her reasoning in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

“My district is experiencing a dramatic spike in the number of employees testing positive for COVID-19, and school hasn’t even started. We’ve had more cases reported in the past two weeks than in the previous five months combined,” she wrote.

“Tragically, two of our employees died from COVID-related complications just over a week ago. Many others are quarantined and unable to work, and the numbers keep rising. If these trends continue, we may not have the workforce we need to operate our schools safely.”

After DeSantis said the state might withhold the salaries of superintendents and board members who defy his order,  Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho had a comeback of his own.

“At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck, a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees,” Carvalho said.

DeSantis doesn’t have the power to do that anyway.

Oh, and there’s this. A University of Florida study said the latest virus surge hasn’t peaked.


Dishonorable mention — Marco Rubio and Rick Scott: The $1 trillion infrastructure plan passed the U.S. Senate on a 69-30 vote, meaning it had considerable Republican support.

But Florida’s two GOP senators voted against the measure, even though their home state would benefit greatly from the package. Florida has great infrastructure needs, and the bill would create needed jobs.

Scott gave the same reason he always gives on measures like this (unless it is about cutting taxes for billionaires): It would increase the national debt.

“Let’s not forget, this is just the first step in the Democrats’ plan to pass their $5.5 trillion tax and spend liberal wish list. We support infrastructure, but it has to be paid for. This proposal isn’t it,” Scott said in a statement.

That didn’t stop Scott from voting for the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package under former President What’s-His-Name in 2020.

“I have significant reservations about many provisions in this bill that are antithetical to everything I believe in, but we’re facing a crisis, and this is the only option to get immediate help to small businesses and unemployed workers,” he said then.

Yet, when it came time for President Joe Biden’s relief package earlier this year, Scott was a deficit hawk again.

As for Rubio, well, here’s what he said.

“I support investing in roads, bridges, broadband, and efforts to mitigate against sea-level rise, and I hoped there would be a bill I could vote for,” he said.

“But this bill was negotiated in secret, rushed through the process without meaningful opportunities to have input, and adds a net increase of $350 billion to the national debt. I can’t vote for a bill like that.”

Rubio, however, voted in favor of GOP-backed tax cuts in 2018 that added an estimated $4 trillion to the debt. Overall, the debt increased an estimated $7 trillion when the squire of Mar-a-Lago was in charge. Rubio was there the whole time, obediently voting yes.

Dishonorable mention — Richard Corcoran: The state Education Commissioner, never shy about controversy, now plays a heavy role in the school mask issue. I’m sure he enjoys that.

In lockstep with DeSantis, Corcoran has been big on dire warnings to school administrators who ignore the Governor’s order to make face coverings voluntary in schools.

Well, here’s a warning for the Commissioner.

In Hillsborough schools alone, there were 294 reported cases of COVID-19 since classes began Tuesday. The number of infected students went from zero on the first day to 59, and then to 130 by the third day.

Brandon High School had to enlist teachers to call the homes of an estimated 60 students who needed to quarantine, probably because they were exposed to someone who tested positive. Roosevelt Elementary had at least 13 staff members test positive.

And this was just the first week.

We’re supposed to come together in a crisis, but playing politics with a deadly virus has the opposite effect. Part of that is on Corcoran.

But not all of it….

The biggest loser — DeSantis: For the second straight week, the Governor has secured the outhouse suite for arguably the worst week of his administration.

He’s the bully in schoolyards across the state.

Public opinion is strongly against his strident opposition to mandatory school masks, and threatening administrators trying to keep kids safe is not a good look.

DeSantis has taken a pounding in the media, and there is increasing unrest about whether he is using Florida as a prop to gain the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

First, the Governor threatened to withhold funding for schools that required masks (oops, can’t do that).

OK then, he said, how about we dock the salaries of school officials who require masks? That’s not legal either.

Besides, Biden cut that off at the knees by saying the feds could compensate those paychecks.

DeSantis backed off that, too, and finally said those people should cut their own salaries.

This has gotten beyond ridiculous, even as DeSantis insists dissenters should face the “consequences of their decisions.

That works both ways, you know?

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 15, 2021 at 6:35 am

    After a “45-year career in newspapers” I would think you would have gotten past your inability to see the forest for the trees. It is easy to rattle on about science and defiance and all the drama queens (like Fried–and you) who so relish hooting and dancing about masks. But it isn’t about masks–it is about the principle of individual choice. Ron DeSantis has taken a stand on the principle that the government cannot compel people to choose against their will. He won’t back down. You, Fried and Biden have taken the stand that the government can compel you to act against your will–that our freedom is, after all, conditional and therefore unreal; that we are free only when we behave. DeSantis rejects that, and for that principled stand it is correct to call him a hero and patriot.

    • Ocean Joe

      August 15, 2021 at 7:42 am

      But government can and does compel children to attend school, and kids under 12 cannot get vaccinated, and many over 12 are free to choose not to get vaccinated. So if we are going to mandate they gather, the least we can do is take all reasonable safety measures to protect them and the families they go home to. This is not about you, it is about ALL of us.

    • Ron is Right

      August 15, 2021 at 8:38 am

      You are right Ron Ogden — “government cannot compel people to choose against their will”— I have the freedom to not have my children vaccinated so they can attend school, drive 80 mph in a school zone, not pay my taxes, burn the American flag ( i won’t but I can), attacked the Capitol, pass diseases on to others, and a hell of lot more. I don’t need to be considerate of the health of others. I am a true American patriot.

      • Gary Fuller

        August 15, 2021 at 10:03 am

        “I don’t need to be considerate of the health of others. I am a true American patriot”

        Tough guy, lone ranger!
        I’ll go with the dangerous moron who evidently doesn’t understand America was created by and for, “We the people”.

        • Ron is Right

          August 15, 2021 at 10:45 am

          Tongue in cheeK remark.

    • Jeffrey Abbott

      August 15, 2021 at 9:34 am

      The analogy of “seeing the forest” is apt.

      Patriotism isn’t the same as National Populism and Authoritarianism, which is what it is starting to look like what is being displayed by DeSantis and his supporters. Likewise the “Culture Wars” are very much the same strategies and tactics used by the “Cancel Culture” everyone dislikes – but hey – it’s ok when used here.

      Overruling the local constituents and local leaders from making local mask mandates is as anti-conservative as you can get. I’m now under the belief Conservatism has been co-opted by Populism, and that path is truly frightening (here’s to hope for the Lincoln project).

      But let’s prattle on about freedoms infringed and patriotism. It’s like worrying about painting the boat with a gaping hole in the bow.

    • Mark Lanier

      August 15, 2021 at 2:04 pm

      You do realize this is a pandemic? One person’s bad choice can kill another. Just like during any natural disaster you loose some liberties and choices. This pandemic is fluid and changes with each new strain, just like the weather. What we do has to change with it. I’d rather see a politician use science and intelligence instead of stubbornness.

    • Kathy Peeknow

      August 15, 2021 at 9:00 pm

      I bet you rail against seat belts in cars and on planes, too. This isn’t; about your free will when it affects the person standing next to you, across from you and the children who are helpless. I hope you and DeSantis still feel like heroes when the body bags keep piling up. Shame on you!

    • Beth

      August 15, 2021 at 10:51 pm

      Step back and take a look. You are a member of society. What about your day to day life is ‘free’? Give me a break! When do you go to bed? To work? How many days do you work? What do you wear to work? About what time do you eat lunch? Dinner? Do you stop at red lights? Obey speed limits? Wear a seat belt? Follow safety guidelines at work? Wear a hard hat in construction areas? Wear clothes when you leave the house? Society as a whole influences your day to day life as well as most of the major choices you make. What do you do for a living…did you REALLY choose out of an infinite number of possibilities or only a handful? You wanna live totally free? Find a place to live outside of a society…otherwise societal decisiins are made based on whats best for the whole. Thats how it works.

  • Melissa

    August 15, 2021 at 7:10 am

    It’s good to see that my fellow Floridians do back the science that masks work. It really is sad that DeSantis put his presidential aspirations ahead of the people he governs. And in the end it will be for nothing, because Trump will come back and easily win the nomination. Maybe Trump will throw DeSantis a bone and offer him the.VP spot. This could be the best thing for Floridians because hitching your wagon that close to Trump will equal political suicide. Ron can ask Mike Pence all about it.

    • Sherry

      August 15, 2021 at 8:26 am

      I would like to see that “science” that shows masks have made any impact at all. I have not seen one study proving that. I guess that little virus can’t lodge in your eyes. Guess we should all wear goggles too. If we were meant to wear masks God would’ve made us that way. How about some faith in the science of biology and your own body’s defenses. To think a mask can stop a virus is pretty laughable.

      • Gary Fuller

        August 15, 2021 at 10:23 am

        So let me get this straight, you have not, in 18 months, seen any studies that show mask-wearing has any effect in restraining the virus? It seems like you want to see a study that says masks are 100% effective before you jump on board?? No one ever said they were 100%. (Hint, hint, hint, try Google Scholar search engine, it might enlighten you.)

        As far as our bodies’ defenses catching up and building their own immunity? We’re 18 months into this and now pediatric ICUs are full.

        I wonder if during the Plague people got out of bed in the morning, looked over at their spouse who died overnight then told their children not to worry about the Black Death, your Momma may be cold and dead but herd immunity is on the way!

      • Chris

        August 15, 2021 at 1:46 pm

        What a moronic reply! We get tanned in summer. We get cold in winter! Since God did not give us a way to protect ourselves from the Sun and cold, we should not do anything to protect ourselves from the elements (ignoring the brain He gave us).

  • Karen

    August 15, 2021 at 8:15 am

    Vote out Scott, Rubio and Desantis!! They do not have Florida’s back. Florida is hurting on all levels and they are doing absolutely nothing to help. They are causing chaos and are dividing us! Wake up!!

    • Sherry

      August 15, 2021 at 8:27 am

      Like I would EVER vote for a socialist….

      • Ron D

        August 15, 2021 at 5:27 pm

        I am curious in Karen’s statement where she said she wanted anyone to vote for a socialist?

      • Hater

        August 15, 2021 at 11:03 pm

        Do you even know what socialism is? I am pretty sure you don’t because if you did you would know that the USA is not even close! However, we ARE getting close to going back to a society where a hand full of rich people own everything…and everyone else is poor. I can probably guess which side of the equation you will be on too, just by the ignorance expressed in your post.

        • Tom

          August 17, 2021 at 9:34 pm

          Add ignorant to your moniker.
          Socialism? Really. Few people.

  • Charles

    August 15, 2021 at 9:03 am

    Henderson – Master of yellow journalism, and hypocrisy. Can’t think of a better nominee for “Best Jackassery Journalism” in TAMPA BAY.

  • Weekly Ritual

    August 15, 2021 at 10:28 am

    The Henderson Republican beatings will continue until moral improves.

  • John p Miller

    August 15, 2021 at 10:39 am

    i read the topic, comments above. there is no leadership among the so-called leaders. lack of wisdom,courage,fore sight;simply put “nothing in the tank”!! put them all together and yet there’s no foresight for the state of Florida it’s all about holding power, being in the leadership NO public servant temperament. this crowd of so call leaders has nothing in the team so to speak. Gathered together it shows a dire weakness afraid to do what’s right for all Floridains. simple wisdom is leaking among the entire batch. college education’s military training business leader/owners the entire present batch is lacking. listen watch it’s in plain sight!

  • John McGoldrick

    August 15, 2021 at 11:03 am

    Come on Joe. All immigrants, documented and undocumented, make up 20% of Florida’s population. The vast majority of them are documented. The last estimate of the undocumented population in Florida was 760,000 or a little more than 3% of the state total.

  • C More

    August 15, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    This article is very poorly written and very biased. Don’t claim to be writing about ALL political subjects in a balanced manner.

    • Tjb

      August 15, 2021 at 2:46 pm

      It is an opinion piece.

  • Sweetnsassy

    August 15, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    This is wrong. More parents are pulling their children out of school because of the politics. It’s funny you talk more about Democrats in this article that you do Republicans so how is this a fair representation?

  • Tom

    August 15, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    Yes Tjb, but some balance and objectivity.
    Really? Nicki Fraud Hon. mention apparently based on a unreliable poll. 6% error factor on small sample size of 274. She’s barely in the lead vs Charlie. She is so shrill it’s deafening. She had not presented one policy solution. Just throw as much crap as possible on the wall.,
    No media condemnation of fake fraud Covid infection numbers last week in cahoots with CDC. MTo be clear she is a electoral disaster ensuring a Governor DeSantis re elect win and continued majorities in legislature. Keep on promoting her Florida liberal media. Team Biden has made America’s Governor the giant in Republican circles. Joe was critical of DeSantis when he replied to Charlie few months back, but had failed to acknowledge the foolish Biden team. As for the census, Repub. will make gain in Florida with two to three net pickups on the congressional side. Florida’s help will ensure new Repub. majority in the House of Reps.
    A little fairness and objectivity you would think would offer it self. I guess not much anymore.

    • Tjb

      August 15, 2021 at 4:58 pm

      You are a cry baby Tom. Unless the article doesn’t 100% agrees or supports whatever you think it is not fair reporting or an expression of an opinion.

      • Tom

        August 15, 2021 at 6:28 pm

        Hardly, Fact a compli!
        So let’s get this straight?
        So cry baby if you don’t agree with liberal themes. Liberal idiocy as usual from you.
        It’s Sunday so I’ll go easy.
        America’s Governor will shellack hopefully Nikki Fraud by 10. She is an electoral disaster.
        U S House will flip you fool, you are looking at a 30/40 net seat national flip. Rubio will win nicely. Senate will turn.
        I won’t get into the 7% inflation year over year.
        2 million invasion And abandonment of the border.
        The destabilization now in Afghanistan.
        The 10 million unemployed now when it was 3.5% unemployment 20/21 pre pandemic.
        Do all you liberals want to defend incompetent Dem Govs? Fondler Cuomo, Recall Newsom, U can’t garden or boat Whitmer or Black Face Northam. Fraud is a Whitmer want a be.
        Tjb you don’t know anything.
        Cry eye Dems. Go pout. LMAO.

  • Cj messina

    August 16, 2021 at 10:41 am

    I guess the author of this so-called journalism ” propaganda garbage ” failed to pay attention to eighth grade science! All viruses cannot be stopped by having a mask. This is simple asscience explains that viruses are too small and microscopic to be hindered by a mask. Therefore, the mask issue is nothing more than tyranny and political control using fear mongering and has nothing to do with public Health.

    • Jeffrey Abbott

      August 16, 2021 at 10:53 am

      The exact same argument was said of the HIV virus and the permeability of condoms back in the 1990’s.

      I don’t know anyone that would not advocate condom use for safe sex or it not taught in 8th grade science / sex-ed.

      I guess that is tyranny and political control as well.

      • Tom

        August 16, 2021 at 11:57 am

        You can explain that miserable reply yourself!

        • Jeffrey Abbott

          August 16, 2021 at 12:02 pm

          There’s nothing to explain, because it’s an apt parallel. Perhaps a dictionary is needed?

  • Maria Perez

    August 16, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    The selfishness and blatant ignorance of people against masks 😷 and vaccines is just too much!!! This is a health crisis and your individual rights should not be the first priority. The priority is keeping society safe and healthy. Now, our younger population is in trouble because too many have chosen to be defiant and contrary to the advice of doctors/experts.

    • Science

      August 16, 2021 at 1:57 pm

      When the number of children dying from covid reaches the number of children dying from pneumonia each year then I will consider it a problem.

      You are the selfish and ignorant one, I have read every study, all the CDC data and the daily updates, have you? If you had then you would know that more kids die from pneumonia in 2020 and 2021 then Covid. I have children and this is of concern of mine so I read every study I can. I do not read news articles except to get the links to the underlying studies. The studies ALWAYS say something different than what the news article says.

      BTW, I had a local doc prescribe my family Ivermectin as a precaution as it works much better than the vax at preventing covid infections in all people. You should read up on it since it won the Noble prize for saving so many people around the world.

    • Tom

      August 17, 2021 at 3:09 pm

      No one against masks.
      Our Great Governor said the parents decide. Not the School Boards.

  • Ed

    August 16, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    We, the people of the State of Florida, being grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, in order to secure its benefits, perfect our government, insure domestic tranquility, maintain public order, and guarantee equal civil and political rights to all, do ordain and establish this constitution.

    SECTION 1. Political power.—All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the citizens, and they have the right to alter or amend the same whenever the public good may require it; but the paramount allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government, and the people of this State have no power to dissolve its connection therewith.

    SECTION 2. Basic rights.—All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry, and to acquire, possess and protect property. No person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin, or physical disability.

    Right to assemble.—The people shall have the right peaceably to assemble, to instruct their representatives, and to petition for redress of grievances.

    SECTION 18. Administrative penalties.—No administrative agency, except the Department of Military Affairs in an appropriately convened court-martial action as provided by law, shall impose a sentence of imprisonment, nor shall it impose any other penalty except as provided by law.

    SECTION 23. Right of privacy.—Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life except as otherwise provided herein. This section shall not be construed to limit the public’s right of access to public records and meetings as provided by law.

Comments are closed.


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