Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 9.19.21

School board members in Alachua County scored a big $$ win in the battle over mask mandates

Think for a moment what America has been through in the last 60 years or so.

An assassin killed John F. Kennedy. We watched the horror of 9/11 play out on live TV.

Wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan seemed to drag on forever. In the 2000 presidential election, Florida made the world familiar with the words “hanging chads.”

And, of course, we’re still coping with a pandemic that has killed more than 685,000 Americans in about 19 months. That’s 11 times more than the total of U.S. soldiers who died during a decade of combat in Vietnam.

Through it all, though, we could take comfort in knowing America was never vulnerable to a hostile takeover like we’ve seen in other nations.

Maybe not. But two major stories in the last few days show that we may have come closer to the unthinkable than we would have ever believed. And it was all designed to invalidate the 2020 presidential election and keep Donald Trump in power.

Months before the election, Trump and his allies started spreading the storyline that a stolen election was the only way he could lose. After Joe Biden secured enough electoral votes to win, “Stop The Steal” became Trump’s mantra, loudly repeated by his supporters.

They even fabricated a conspiracy involving a voting machine company, an election software firm, the financier George Soros (gotta have a boogeyman), and Venezuela to change votes from Trump to Biden.

Well, guess what?

Team Trump knew all along that no one stole the election. An internal Trump campaign memo proves that, but they didn’t bother to let the public know about that.

Meanwhile, as Bob Woodward and John Costa report in their new book “Peril,” Trump lawyer John Eastman came up with a plan to invalidate Biden’s win. They would use political sleight-of-hand with the Electoral College.

Eastman, by the way, is not just some kook dressed in a shaman’s outfit. He’s a bedrock conservative with some serious chops. Eastman is a senior fellow at The Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank.

This was his plan.

Seven states sent dual slates of electors to the Senate. The short version is that Vice President Mike Pence would not initially count the votes from those states because of uncertainty over which slate was valid.

“At the end, (Pence) announces that because of the ongoing disputes in the 7 States, there are no electors that can be deemed validly appointed in those States,” the memo says.

That would have reduced the number of electors to 454 instead of 470. Trump would have had a 232-222 lead. Voilà!

Pence bangs the gavel. Election over. Trump wins.

Coup accomplished.

Maybe the U.S. Supreme Court would have ruled against the ruse, but the burning fuse of a stolen election would have reached the dynamite by then. The violence we witnessed on Jan. 6 might have been repeated all over the nation.

Pence, fortunately, backed away from participating after initially considering whether he should go along for the ride.

The Trumpiest of the Trump supporters would look at all of this and go, “So? Pence wimped out.”

Everyone else, though, should realize we came closer than ever to be one of “those” countries where dictators will do anything to stay in power. That thought ought to keep us up at night.

And Congress needs to prioritize eliminating loopholes in election law now in case another President decides he (or she) doesn’t want to leave.

Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention: Space Force. Demand may soon outstrip capacity at Cape Canaveral as the commercial space business continues incredible growth, and it may soon be more than the famous launch site can handle.

U.S. Space Force Brig. Gen. Stephen Purdy Jr. told a state Senate committee to expect skyrocketing (so to speak) growth in the next year. He is the commander of Space Launch Delta 45 at Patrick Space Force Base, which runs the launch facilities at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

“That’s the world that we’re steadily marching into,” Purdy said. “And we’re doing that because there’s a huge amount of interest.”

How huge?

Purdy said 65% of the Cape launches in the past year were from private commercial interests. He expects that share to rise to 81% in the next year.

One potential growth problem: The Cape has only two launchpads and can’t currently handle the type of rockets under development.

Officials are exploring expansion at the Cape to handle the load.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Booster shots. After weeks of confusing dithering over COVID-19 booster shots, Florida seniors now have their answer: They will soon be available.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended boosters for people age 65 and over, about 21% of the state’s population.

The recommendation also applies to nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 with underlying health problems.

For now, the recommendation applies only to people who originally took the Pfizer vaccine. Other vaccine-makers are still working through the approval process, but it shouldn’t take long.

The biggest winner: Alachua County school officials. One can only imagine the satisfaction Biden must have had when he grabbed the chance to slam dunk over DeSantis.

That’s just what happened when the U.S. Department of Education provided the Alachua school district with $147,719 through Project SAFE (Support America’s Families and Educators).

That’s the federal program formed this month by the President.

Alachua is the first district in the country to receive the funds.

The cash reimburses schools for money withheld by the state because they followed COVID-19 safety measures such as requiring students to wear masks. DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran are arguably the highest-profile opponents of mask mandates.

Florida’s Department of Education has withheld two months’ worth of salaries, about $27,000, for the four Alachua School Board members who voted to defy DeSantis and impose mask mandates without parental opt-outs.

“We continue to do the work we believe is important in making sure we provide safe environments for students and staff, and the support of our President is incredibly beneficial,” Alachua Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon told Florida Politics.

That’s winning.


Dishonorable mention: Anthony Sabatini. You know those smart-aleck Bart Simpson types from school who always acted the fool because it got them attention?

Sometimes, they grow up to be state representatives. Um, let’s rephrase that. It doesn’t seem that Sabatini ever grew up.

The list of his stupid “hey, look at me” antics is long, undistinguished, and we need not repeat them all here. We’ll just mention his latest time-waster, a bill he filed that would prohibit local law enforcement from assisting U.S. Capitol Police within state lines.

The agency plans field offices in Tampa and San Francisco in response to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why those cities?

The Tampa Bay Times reported the agency chose those cities because “a majority of our potential threats” come from Florida and California.

The expansion is designed to help the Capitol Police sniff out domestic terror threats sooner. The plan is to have its officers work with local authorities to stop the kind of attacks that happened in Washington.

Sabatini’s plan is to introduce another insipid bill that will go nowhere.

We may have to change the name of the “loser” category to “Sabatini.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Florida Department of Children and Families. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service wants to help feed children through a one-time gift of $375 per child to eligible Florida families.

All DCF had to do was apply for the grant, just like nearly every other state has done. On multiple occasions, DCF officials said they would.

They finally did, but only after the stalling became a major issue. The money has been available since April.

Kim Betton, the Southeast Director of Public Affairs for the agency, confirmed the application to Florida Politics.

“On Thursday evening, Sept. 23, 2021, USDA received a Summer P-EBT plan from Florida,” she said in an email.

“USDA commits to working with states to approve submitted plans as quickly as possible once received. The state determines when it is able to distribute benefits. To date, USDA has approved Summer P-EBT plans for 47 states/territories.”

What took so long?

Politics, that’s what — same as it ever was.

DCF blamed Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, but she fired back that her department has no control over this issue. Fried also has repeatedly demanded Gov. Ron DeSantis do something about this.

Meanwhile, it boils down to this: Bureaucrats with full refrigerators and pantries kept hungry kids in limbo to score political points.

The biggest loser: New school guidelines for COVID-19. Dr. Joseph Ladapo didn’t take long to make his presence felt.

He was just named Florida’s new surgeon general and quickly announced that students exposed to coronavirus can continue attending school as long as they are not symptomatic.

Oh sheesh.

So they showed no symptoms but were exposed to a deadly virus. They may be carrying a bug that they can spread easily in a crowded lunchroom, classroom, or school hallway.

One big sneeze, and suddenly a half-dozen kids get infected, and the wheel goes around and around.

These Tallahassee buckaroos continue to play their dangerous game.

Masks on, everyone.

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.


  • Tom

    September 26, 2021 at 9:54 am

    Governor Ron’s had a solid past two weeks of “wins”Joe.
    SGK 3000 monoclonals. After WH sabotage.
    Public School testing revised outline.
    New Environmental initiatives outlined. On top of other past Governor environment initiatives.
    New job creation initiatives outlined to continue Florida’s strong economy. Florida residents and businesses continue.
    Public School scholarship expansion and record participation. Defying status quo.
    America’s Governor continues to lead.
    Just to name a few.

    • Lorraine

      September 26, 2021 at 10:23 am

      Did you actually read this whole article ? Perhaps you kept your patch on one eye when reading
      Hahahaha – best Joke of the day ????
      America’s Governor-????

      Step into most of the other 48 states – most outwardly laugh at him / and the other Republican states – secretly laugh –
      You are way off base and do not even realize it

      • Tom

        September 26, 2021 at 10:41 am

        No, I think you have serious deranged issues.

        America’s Governor for sure!
        You mean the the 25 monoclonal centers? Biden and his inept WH duchy even know they have it. Surrender abroad, surrender on border, reckless spending, with no clue Psaki. Along with the other info I outlined.

        Get real Lorraine. Let me guess you voted for hack Hillary? And sleepy Joe? You are the joke. Let me guess you are working? Enjoying life. Unlike the blue state tyrannical Govs. You can get in your knees and thank this Gov.

        Gov Ron is doing a greet job.
        Spare me your liberal hack.

  • TJC

    September 26, 2021 at 11:09 am

    The ruling members of Trump’s Republican Party are dealers, and rather than dealing drugs for money they deal lies for power. Trump lost the election? Easy-peasy, just say he actually won but it was stolen from him by sneaky liberals. Too many people of color voting? Make it harder for them vote and say you’re actually making elections safer (for Republican candidates, true). Got a pandemic on your hands, Governor DeSantis? Enact laws to prevent businesses and school and other local officials from requiring preventive measures, watch the numbers of sick and dying grow as a result — and then say President Biden has failed to stop the pandemic. Pesky Democrats in congress trying to enact legislation that will finally get on with rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, pay for daycare so that parents can go to work, raise minimum pay, create jobs that fight global warming, get more young Americans into college for their good and the good of the nation — initiatives that may just work, strengthening our economy and tax base, and also prove to be popular? Easy fix for that: suddenly decide you are fiscally conservative, and forget (as in never mention) that you just a few years ago gave a multi-trillion dollar gift of lower taxes to the huge corporations and ultra-rich individuals who bankroll your party’s candidates.
    Trump captured the Republican Party with his lies and demonizations, and now the vanquished Rubio’s and Scott’s and the newly recruited DeSantis’s of the Party are sure that lies and attacks are what His Followers want and therefore must be served, are sure that it will serve them in turn, keep them in office.
    And just like drug dealers, they gamble with other’s lives and well-being to fulfill their own needs and greed.

    • Tom

      September 26, 2021 at 11:20 am

      You are one F’d up person.
      Memo: Your Alzheimer’s guy won!
      Stop dealing in the B S media crap.
      Why don’t you and your Manchurian s like Lorraine deal in facts and issues.

      Are you serious? 5 plus trillion new in reckless spending. Socialism at its best. Get a job and get a life.
      Repubs and Trump passed 2 covid bills/signed. It was bi partisan, nothing from the Manchurian tyrant party.

      Give me a break. Trump. Trump, election. Trump. A bunch of screaming babies. Liberal scream please.

      Are you serious. 2 million illegals invaded the border.
      Thousands left behind in Afghanistan.
      11 million jobs vacant, 8.5 million not working. Minorities unemployment up on Biden/Harris. These people are a joke.

      • Tom

        September 26, 2021 at 11:26 am

        Furthermore drug dealers really?
        Nikki Fraud is the cannabis queen.
        Fentanyl overflowing from south border with illegals. What’s alzie Potus doing bout it. Deranged manchurians.

        Your hypocrisy is overwhelming.

  • Tom

    September 26, 2021 at 11:40 am

    BTW, your incompetent POTUS. Who is negative -15 in Florida is about high 30’s to very low 40’s.
    He is governing miserably, not competently like the liberal cover up media told us he would. What a crock. 40 net Repub House seat pick up coming. Enjoy.

    You cocoon liberals are atrocious.

  • Mark

    September 26, 2021 at 1:04 pm

    ^^^^Tom from MySpace has really let himself go….

  • Tom

    September 26, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    45 wiped the floor with this 46 WH incompetent team. Pathetic.

  • William Harrill

    September 28, 2021 at 6:05 am

    “You know those smart-aleck Bart Simpson types from school who always acted the fool because it got them attention?”

    I think I do. And I think it speaks more of you than your target. We need champions these days.

    • Tom

      September 28, 2021 at 8:04 am

      Oh tell me what that is all about.

      This POTUS 46, really or his inept, overwhelmed VPOTUS? Really?

      Are you mentally challenged?
      I have idea what you are talking bout except to say you obviously know more about the said character than I. Spare me.

      We are talking about our state and country you moron. This POTUS falls asleep in oval meetings with heads of state. He clearly is suffering from severe memory issues. His policies are an abomination.
      Facts matter: Surrender on boarder and Afghanistan. 60% minorities are not vaccinated but ridicule Repubs.
      8.5 million unemployed, 11 million jobs unfilled.

      Please, go watch your cartoons jack ass.

Comments are closed.


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