Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics – Week of 1.2.22

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Welcome to 2022 (but so far, it looks a lot like 2021, which looked a lot like 2020).

Less than a month ago, we were all about peace on earth and goodwill.

That didn’t last long, did it?

Nope, 2022 arrived wearing the same suit as its family members 2020 and 2021. The more the calendar changes, the more things seem to stay the same.

The omicron variant is galloping through the state just as medical experts predicted last year. We still argue about masks and vaccinations, and we still see way too much of Dr. Anthony Fauci. I imagine he feels the same way, too.

We’re still talking about Donald Trump, unfortunately.

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The Big Lie about a stolen election started in 2020 and continues today.

Sports leagues that juggled schedules throughout all of 2021 are still juggling.

Yet, we soldier on.

Teachers are doing their level best to handle an impossible task, despite continual interference from lawmakers, most of whom only stepped foot in classrooms when they were students.

Doctors, nurses, researchers and first responders still work themselves to the bone.

And, here at Florida Politics, we still pick the winners and losers of the week.

Let’s get to it.

Winners

Honorable mention: Ken Welch. St. Petersburg’s first Black Mayor didn’t get the usual pomp and circumstance for his swearing-in ceremony, thanks to COVID-19. But that didn’t detract from the significance of the event.

I grew up in the areas of our city where my family lived not by choice, but by sanctioned discriminatory practices that defined where African Americans could live in our city,” Welch said. “As a kindergarten and first-grade student, I attended the last segregated classes at Melrose Elementary.”

Welch already has a full plate of high-priority items, including the exploding cost of housing in St. Petersburg and rising water levels because of climate change. Also, a report last month — adopted by the City Council — detailed structural racism issues in St. Petersburg. Welch said he is well aware of that problem, having experienced it as he grew.

“It’s good to have that documented and accepted by the City Council as the true history of our city,” he said. “I think that informs what equity and progress looks like going forward.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: COVID-19 testing. Sure, there have been problems. People have had to wait hours in many cases to receive a test. And while that’s not good, it is encouraging to see how seriously folks take the latest threat of the virus that won’t die.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control show a record 146,665 tests reported per day in Florida through Dec. 29. That number likely is higher now as people scrambled for tests before returning to work and school after the holidays.

They are taking the pandemic way more seriously than the state’s Surgeon General, Joseph Ladapo.

“People who are unlikely to benefit … to sort of be in line waiting to get tested, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Ladapo said in a Tuesday news conference. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me as a physician. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me as a clinical researcher.”

Um, he does realize this virus is highly contagious, doesn’t he? Just because an infected person isn’t showing symptoms doesn’t mean they can’t pass the bug on to someone else who might get deathly ill.

That didn’t stop the Florida Department of Health from releasing new COVID-19 guidelines, saying asymptomatic people didn’t need tests.

In the Orlando Sentinel, Dr. Aileen Marty, professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University, called that “a recipe for disaster.”

The long lines for tests would indicate more people agree with Marty instead of Ladapo.

The biggest winner: Jeff Brandes. Politicians often talk about prison reform in our state but rarely take steps to make it happen. Brandes, a state Senator representing parts of the Tampa Bay area, is a different cat.

His passion for change is reflected in a lengthy Twitter thread on the topic in advance of the opening of the Legislative Session.

“FL desperately needs a new vision for its corrections system because today it doesn’t correct (and) simply warehouses,” he wrote. “(Florida Department of Corrections) is currently together with spit and chewing gum. The Legislature has the responsibility to put it in a sustainable path but could just as easily do nothing.”

Prisons face severe staffing shortages, which last year led to the closure of three prisons. Guards were leaving in record numbers, reporting hazardous working conditions and a backbreaking work schedule.

The system also has been rocked by charges of abuse.

A two-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice painted a horrific picture of the Lowell Correctional Institute in Ocala. It concluded that the state of Florida and the FDOC “fails to keep prisoners at Lowell safe from sexual abuse by staff.”

Even worse, the report noted that FDOC “has documented and been aware of a pattern or practice of staff sexual abuse of Lowell prisoners since at least 2006.”

But they’re just prisoners, right?

That seems to be the attitude, and Brandes is trying to change that.

“One of my sayings to quote is Stein’s Law which states things that are unsustainable will eventually stop. Florida cannot afford the FDOC to stop, and so we must put it on a sustainable path. This includes a long-term plan for facilities and programs (we don’t have one),” Brandes wrote.

For a deeper dive, follow his Twitter thread on the subject. It’s eye-opening.

Dishonorable mention: The Miami Herald. Newspaper reporters and editors are used to claims of bias and other issues by disgruntled readers and politicians. Even by that standard, though, the venerable Herald is under siege.

It started with a Dec. 20 story in the Herald on proposed legislation dealing with rooftop solar. That article says that “Florida Power & Light, the nation’s largest power company, is pushing to hamstring it.”

Florida Politics reported that FPL offered a commentary challenging the article, only to have it appear in a heavily edited form in the letters to the editor section.

Herald opinion editor Nancy Ancrum told FPL the letter was edited (halved from 500 words to less than 250) due to “unsubstantiated” claims to disparage a member of their editorial staff, namely Tallahassee Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Klas.

So, FPL launched a webpage to make its case.

“Unsurprisingly, we found the story to be incredibly one-sided and misleading on an issue of real importance to 18 million Floridians,” the company said.

You can read its full rebuttal here.

Then, Senate President Wilton Simpson wrote a lengthy critique on a different topic about Klas to Herald Executive Editor Monica Richardson.

Simpson’s ire centered on Klas’ reporting about the Senate’s proposed redistricting maps.

“Mary Ellen Klas has crossed the line of reporting and informing to advocating for organizations that will bring litigation against the Legislature,” Simpson wrote.

The Senate’s initial maps have generally drawn praise, even from Democrats.

“I have great respect for the independent analysis and review of our work product made possible by the free press,” Simpson wrote. “Unfortunately, Ms. Klas has crossed the line between reporting and interfering. To address the serious nature of this interference, staff directed the Senator to disregard the suggestions she made when contemplating future requests for information and analysis from professional staff.”

For a deeper dive and to see the Herald’s defense of Klas, click here.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Matt Gaetz. The attention-crazed U.S. Representative from Florida’s CD 1 suggested on Steve Bannon’s podcast that when Republicans win control of the U.S. House (doesn’t he mean if?), they should keep the Jan. 6 committee going and install nut-job Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene as Chairwoman.

The committee could then get to the REAL cause of the riot: An unholy alliance between the FBI and Democrats to put Joe Biden in the White House.

But wait a minute, didn’t Gaetz say originally that antifa was behind the riot? And all those peace-loving Donald Trump supporters got unfairly caught up in smashing the windows of the U.S. Capitol and trashing offices?

Well, that one didn’t stick, so let’s see what conspiracy is behind Door No. 2.

“I’m ready to rip the whole thing wide open and expose everything,” Greene said on Gaetz’s podcast.

Why not just do it now? If there is credible evidence of such a nefarious plot, let’s hear it. But, of course, there is no evidence. There is, however, a chance to raise more money from the gullible flock that believes such tripe.

These two were made for each other — soulmates of babble, baloney and balderdash.

The Biggest Loser: Ron DeSantis. We’re used to hyperbole on steroids from Florida’s Governor, but even by that standard, his comments about the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection were abominable.

At a press conference in West Palm Beach on Jan. 6, DeSantis dismissed the commemoration of the U.S. Capitol riot as a tool for his old adversaries — Democrats, the loathed news media — to “smear” supporters of former President Trump.

He called it “Christmas morning” for his perceived enemies.

“Jan. 6 allows them to create narratives that are negative about people that supported Donald Trump,” DeSantis said.

The narratives were already there, Governor, playing out on our TV screens in real time. It was an attempt by a band of loonies to overturn the presidential election and keep Dear Leader in power. The attack at the heart of our government must be remembered forever and taught in history classes.

But in DeSantis’ world: Nothing to see here! Nothing to see here!

“So, I think it’s going to end up being just a politicized Charlie Foxtrot (Thursday),” DeSantis said, using military slang instead of “cluster—-.”

More than 725 people were arrested in connection with that Charlie Foxtrot. At least 165 have pleaded guilty — 145 of them to misdemeanors and the rest to felonies.

Authorities charged 75 Floridians with insurrection-related crimes. That’s more than any other state.

When our state experienced rioting in the wake of the George Floyd verdict, DeSantis rushed through an ill-advised and widely panned “anti-riot” bill.

And two days before the insurrection anniversary, a 72-year-old man was arrested at a DeSantis news conference in Jacksonville after disrupting the proceeding.

In a tweet, the Governor’s Press Secretary, Christina Pushaw, compared the outburst to the Capitol riot.

She wrote: “It’s almost the anniversary of J6, and Democrats in my replies are insisting that government buildings should always be open to any member of the public who wants to confront an elected official, and nobody should be arrested for trespassing in a government building! Wow!”

Huh?

This will be one strange year, but then again, aren’t they all?

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.


19 comments

  • tom palmer

    January 9, 2022 at 6:50 am

    Since when is simply stating facts interfering in a process often corrupted by special interest influence.?

  • Alex

    January 9, 2022 at 6:54 am

    1/6 will go down in history as the single most traitorous day in our history – that BOTH sides should be condemning.

    The Big Lie that Trump won but the left stole is the biggest lie in American history.

    The GQP invents more idiotic conspiracy theories (talk) by far than any political party in history, and 1/6 was the most (action) traitorous day in history.

    The GQP can’t be trusted. Nothing they say can be believed.

    We can only believe their actions, and they are plainly anti-American.

  • Alex

    January 9, 2022 at 7:07 am

    1/6 will go down in history as the single most treasonous day in our history – that BOTH sides should be condemning.

    The Big Lie that Trump won but the left stole is the biggest lie in American history.

    The GOP invents more idiotic conspiracy theories (talk) by far than any political party in history, and 1/6 was the most (action) treasonous day in history.

    The GOP can’t be trusted. Nothing they say can be believed.

    We can only believe their actions, and they are plainly anti-American.

  • Alex

    January 9, 2022 at 7:11 am

    My comment is awaiting moderation, despite the fact there is nothing untrue, nor does it have any personal insults, swear words, or can in any way be considered offensive.

    • Alex

      January 9, 2022 at 7:16 am

      The moderation on this site is haphazard, inconsistent, and inexplicable.

    • Ocean Joe

      January 9, 2022 at 8:32 am

      The entire country is awaiting moderation. Too many folks choose sides instead of the middle.

  • TJC

    January 9, 2022 at 9:37 am

    Wait a minute, where are all the TrumpSucker loonies that usually appear here? So far everyone makes sense. Well, just wait for it…

  • Tom

    January 9, 2022 at 9:40 am

    You can find the actions of that day to be despicable and beyond the pail for our democratic republic. Gathering to protest peacefully is allowed, breaking into the capital is not.

    You can separate the actions from the mob and the right to protest. Amazingly, all those that are outraged sat silently when cities burned and people regretfully died cause of the violence.

    Joe, it is interesting that you found the Governor lacking the previous week due to his calendar. Now, cause Gov won’t salute the Pelosi court, whose made deal with the hated Cheney’s to get what she wants. Which is a kangaroo court. Brings back the old saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

    You can disagree with what happened on that day and still not agree with this show trial.

    Lastly, Cong Steve Scalise was almost killed on that ball field. Gov Ron was in attendance, he had just left. The trauma of that day is real. The deranged Sanders supporter came looking to harm Republicans. If that was the other way around we would still be hearing if it. Let’s be real, good for Gov. Ron for reminding people of the real extremism.

    Pelosi exploiting that day for personal Democrat benefit just creates more division. That is where the Charlie Fox Trot derives.

  • Charles

    January 9, 2022 at 9:44 am

    Per Henderson- Less than a month ago, we were all about peace on earth and goodwill. That didn’t last long, did it?
    Well Hendersons is 100% correct. Unfortunately he omits he is on the front line of yellow journalism. He fails to mention he specializes in hypocrisy, misinformation and overwhelming liberal bias. Although there were a few good Henderson posts in 2021 there were far too many that were pathetic, inaccurate, inappropriate, misleading and divisive. Past time for this curmudgeon to fade away.

    • Alex

      January 9, 2022 at 12:04 pm

      Thinks the rightwing media is honest ^

  • Mark Comerford

    January 9, 2022 at 11:07 am

    Desantis by downplaying Covid from the beginning(go to football games, go to bars, movies, and everything else; is directly responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.
    WHY aren’t Floridians mad ? ? ?

    • Tom

      January 9, 2022 at 11:35 am

      True ignorance Mark.
      And Fauci, 800,000 plus. What bout Biden in past 12 months? 400,000 plus. Lift the blinders.

  • Tom

    January 9, 2022 at 5:57 pm

    Joe, I nominate Justice Sotomayor for the loser whopper award next week. I assure you we can’t top her lies 100,000 children in hospitals with Covid and 100,000 on ventilators. This disinformation from a Supreme. Don’t tell all the Manchurians who are investors in F P that it’s not true as they will be offended and attack you. Shameful. How did she get on the Sup Ct. To bad Mitch couldn’t have stopped her like Garland. Just awful.

  • WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

    January 9, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    Horse pucky

  • Tom

    January 10, 2022 at 6:56 am

    No Bull.
    Truth hurts!

  • MaccDaddy

    January 10, 2022 at 7:47 am

    I love reading articles where journalists are condemned for misleading and one sided stories and then finish the same article with misleading and one sided stories.

    • Tom

      January 10, 2022 at 11:40 am

      Nothing misleading, justice Sotomayor is an idiot! Feel free to prove else. She get 4 Pinocchio’s full stop! We don’t 100,000 kids on ventilators and cdc does not have 100,000 children ID’d with covid.
      Spare me!

  • michael l. Hammond

    January 10, 2022 at 4:33 pm

    Way past time for you to retire to california, New York, or Iran….The good God fearing folks of Florida don’t want negative nellies like you! Like most libtards i know, just a miserable waste of a human you are!

  • Tom

    January 10, 2022 at 5:28 pm

    Not sure who you are referencing Hammond. I’m calling out the liberal hypocrites who I believe you may be as well.
    The double talk and extremism from a pathetic justice who can’t share accurate info is misinformation maxed out. Sotomayor is a joke.
    Fee free to clarify yourself. She is a disgrace.

Comments are closed.


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