Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 11.7.21

Lawmakers look to outlaw most vaccine and mask requirements, but they better be right.

The Special Legislative Session that begins Monday will succeed in its primary purpose. It will allow Gov. Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Republicans to get the headlines they want as the 2022 elections draw closer.

They should be careful what they wish for, however.

Basically, mask mandates and vaccination requirements will be a thing of the past, assuming lawmakers rubber-stamp the agenda.

DeSantis wants to outlaw COVID-19 vaccine requirements from private employers. If those businesses already have a vaccine policy, the Governor wants multiple exemptions available to those who don’t want the shots.

And essentially, schools would be prohibited from taking any standard COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Under the proposal, schools couldn’t require students to wear masks or provide proof of vaccination.

“No cop, no firefighter, no nurse, nobody should be losing their job because of these jabs,” DeSantis said. “We must stand up for people and protect their jobs and livelihoods.”

He better be right.

A fifth wave of the coronavirus may already be underway, just in time for the holidays.

Cases are spiking in several countries, including France and Russia.

In the U.S., 23 states have seen at least a 5% increase in cases over the past two weeks. Illinois, Minnesota, and Vermont report 50% more cases on average.

In Colorado, the number of COVID-19 patients in Latimer County’s hospitals matched the peak in December 2020.

It’s too soon to tell how widespread this latest outbreak will be, but if it hits Florida with a vengeance, DeSantis and GOP lawmakers could have a lot of explaining to do to voters.

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


Honorable mention — Wilton Simpson: Although the election for Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner is nearly a year away, Simpson can start measuring his soon-to-be new office for drapes.

He added $1.6 million to his campaign coffers in October, bringing his total to $7.2 million.

Put another way, his three announced opponents to this point — Democrat Ryan Morales and fellow Republicans James Shaw and Richard Ollie Jr. — have less than $2,000 combined.

Oh, and November likely got off to a great start for Simpson, the current Senate President. He hosted a major fundraiser at his farm on Nov. 4, featuring many heavy hitters.

Current Ag Commish Nikki Fried decided to run for Governor instead of reelection.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner — Gabriella Passidomo: It’s rare in these fractured times that Republicans and Democrats can agree on anything in Tallahassee. That said, both sides of the aisle had good things to say about Passidomo after she met with a Senate panel about joining the Public Service Commission.

Passidomo is the daughter of Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, the Senate President-designate and a member of the panel that heard Gabriella Passidomo’s confirmation.

Sen. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg was one of the Democrats who supported her nomination.

“I, too, want to say thank you for coming by and sitting and talking with me, answering my questions, alleviating all of the horrible fears I might have to vote to support you,” Rouson said, tongue-in-cheek. “But you have been very professional, and I want to thank you.”

Mama P. was proud, too.

“She met with everybody on the committee, and they all said to me, and they weren’t blowing smoke up my skirt, they were really impressed,” she said. “And I’m thrilled.”

The biggest winners — Simpson and Kathleen Passidomo: They helped shepherd the first drafts of Senate redistricting maps that so far are mostly well-received. That’s amazing, considering the volatility these high-stakes realignments can carry.

Traditionally, the party in power would gerrymander the maps to ensure it kept control, but that didn’t appear to happen this time.

“Overall takeaway is this isn’t an aggressive gerrymander,” Democratic consultant and data analyst Matt Isbell told POLITICO Playbook.

Assuming the maps stay as drawn, Republicans could pick up one congressional seat. Florida gets one extra spot in the U.S. House of Representatives because of population growth.

David Wasserman of Cook Political Report predicted the GOP-dominated Legislature would make a congressional map that allowed Republicans to flip three seats. He acknowledge being surprised at how the drafts looked.

“Bizarre: these maps shore up (Florida’s 27th Congressional District for) Rep. Maria Salazar (R), but otherwise are barely gerrymanders,” he tweeted, “By my count, these maps break down 16-12 Trump-Biden, vs. 15-12 today. Is this a head fake?”

As Senate leaders, Simpson and Passidomo deserve credit for ensuring things were on the up and up. Florida’s constitution strictly forbids gerrymandering, and it looks like they followed that edict.

Along with Democratic Senate Leader Lauren Book, they released a memo about the process.

“As Senators, we are frequently presented with situations where we must set aside our personal views and make decisions in keeping with the oath we each took to defend the constitution and laws of this state,” it reads.

“Nowhere is this responsibility more challenging than in redistricting, given that some of us may ultimately decide to vote for a map knowing the realities of that map are such that we will never be reelected. Some of us may choose to defer seeking reelection. Still, others may decide to run against a current colleague who we know and respect.”


Dishonorable mention — Jacksonville City Council: For now, at least, a Confederate monument will remain in the city’s Springfield Park. Council members voted 12-6 against Mayor Lenny Curry‘s request for $1.3 million to dismantle and remove the “Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy.”

Curry was not happy, tweeting afterward, “Tonight the City Council disappointingly denied a step toward real progress in our city by refusing to vote on the removal of a divisive monument from public land.” reported the Council debated in a mostly empty chamber. Noisy disruptions led Council President Sam Newby to order the audience out of the room.

The statue has been in place since 1915. Debate on its removal is likely to continue.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — Florida School Board Association President Chris Patricca: She is under fire for remarks made about Guatemalan students in her Lee County district.

“The biggest challenge principals have with students from Guatemala is getting them out of the bathroom,” she said in a video posted to YouTube. “They’ve never seen running water before. They go in there, turn the faucet on and flush the toilet and are fascinated by plumbing.”

Now, the Palm Beach County School Board has voted unanimously to leave the FSBA until Patricca steps down.

Board Member Marcia Andrews told Fox 4 TV the comments are “truly pretty bad.”

The Guatemala U.S. Florida Chamber of Commerce also demanded her resignation.

Patriccia has apologized but thus far has resisted calls to resign.

The biggest loser — Roger Stone: We could all use a little comic relief in these stressful times, and good ol’ Rog, the ultimate Donald Trump loyalist, stepped up to provide just that.

First, he demanded DeSantis order an audit of Florida’s 2020 election (as if Trump winning the state by 371,692 votes wasn’t enough of a landslide).

DeSantis has not ordered that audit because, well, why would he?

So, good ol’ Rog huffed, puffed, and threw this grenade at DeSantis.

“If Florida governor Ron DeSantis does not order an audit of the 2020 election to expose the fact that there are over 1 million phantom voters on the Florida voter rolls in the Sunshine state, I may be forced to seek the Libertarian party nomination for governor Florida in 2022 #ByeRon,” he posted on the social media platform Gab on Sunday.

Can’t you hear DeSantis’ knees knocking at the thought this bizarre old man from Fort Lauderdale might cost him reelection? You can’t? Listen harder.

Still can’t?

He also said DeSantis must publicly promise not to run for President in 2024 if Trump gets into the race.

One thing we know about DeSantis is that he does not respond well to threats. Reports say Trump is grumbling that the Governor has yet to make that public promise.

He may have to wait a while for that.

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.


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