Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 2.20.22

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Polls say Ron DeSantis is winning and the Legislature gives him what he wants.

Somewhere this morning, a student who attends Miami’s Palmetto High School understands the impossible dream doesn’t seem impossible anymore.

If former Palmetto student Ketanji Brown Jackson, a 1988 graduate from the school, could rise to become the first Black nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, there’s no reason for anyone to believe they can’t accomplish something monumental. The world might tell them “no,” but they have an example now that shows them they can.

Let that sink in for a moment.

We’ll let the legal scholars debate how Jackson’s nomination to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer will affect the Court’s legal makeup. It probably won’t make much difference there. Conservatives will still hold a 6-3 advantage and have the power to reshape America in the coming decades.

But beyond the historical significance of Jackson’s appointment, how she got there is an example for others. She took no shortcuts in her rise from the public school system.

Her father was a lawyer and her mother was a high school principal. It’s safe to say education was important in her household, and Brown Jackson took full advantage of that opportunity.

The Miami Herald reported she was an outstanding member of the school’s debate team, and that skill came in handy in her law career.

She earned graduate and law degrees from Harvard University and later clerked for Justice Breyer.

President Joe Biden promised to nominate a Black woman to the nation’s highest court, and hit this one out of the park.

Brown Jackson should have smooth sailing to confirmation. Last year, she received bipartisan support for her appointment to the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. There’s no reason to believe this time will be different.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings are always big news, but this one will come with an extra twist. This time, it’s not just about what pundits and legal scholars will say. It’s also about what they’re saying — and thinking — about Palmetto High and schools all around the country.

A door that was locked forever has just opened widely. They just have to do the work and walk right through.

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

Winners

Honorable mention: Rhea Law. She just gave the University of South Florida, her alma mater, great news.

Law, a highly respected Tampa lawyer and business leader, has applied to become USF’s permanent president. She was named the interim president last summer and said she wouldn’t apply for the permanent position.

However, after a productive seven months on the job, that attitude changed.

The Tampa Bay Times reported she referenced how the chaos of the last two years turned into an advantage.

“Rather than slow us down, these changes have ushered in a new collective empathy and optimism,” she wrote.

While USF is reviewing applicants for that position, trustee Chair Will Weatherford strongly praised Law’s performance so far.

“She is not only meeting all the goals we set for her, she has also brought the community together, as evidenced by how much support for her we hear on a daily basis,” he said in a statement. “I believe she has earned the right to be a candidate and should be strongly considered.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Fentrice Driskell. Bipartisan praise isn’t easy to come by in Tallahassee. But Driskell, a Tampa Democrat, received a lot of it lately from both sides of the aisle in the House.

Driskell’s Abandoned African American Cemeteries bill (HB 1215) cleared its final panel in the House State Affairs Committee and will now head to the House floor.

“It’s been a labor of love over the last two years and good to get this thing moving,” said Committee Chair Jayer Williamson, a Santa Rosa County Republican. “I just want to say congratulations. You’ve done a great job working this issue over the last couple of years.”

Driskell and Sen. Janet Cruz, also of Tampa, took up the cause after a 2019 investigation by Tampa Bay Times reporter Paul Guzzo began uncovering multiple Black cemeteries in the area that had disappeared under the wheels of progress.

Driskell’s bill creates an Office of Historic Cemeteries within the Division of Historical Resources. The office would coordinate research, repairs, restoration and maintenance at abandoned Black cemeteries and historic cemeteries.

Driskell’s bill passed its latest committee stop the same day the Florida Institute of Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science at the University of South Florida announced the discovery of 45 more unmarked cemeteries throughout Tampa Bay, 14 of which are Black cemeteries.

Driskell proposes to staff the office with three full-time employees at an estimated cost of $200,000 per year.

Cruz has a companion bill in the Senate.

The biggest winner: Ron DeSantis. The Governor had another rocket ride of a week.

For starters, his poll numbers keep getting better. The latest poll by the University of North Florida showed the Governor with a wide lead over any of his Democratic challengers.

A hypothetical matchup gave DeSantis a lead over Charlie Crist of 55%-34%, with 11% either undecided or refusing to say. His lead over Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is 55%-32%.

Here’s an even bigger number, however. The poll asked registered Republicans who they would prefer to see in the 2024 presidential race — DeSantis or Donald Trump.

DeSantis won there too, 44%-41%.

He’s getting almost everything he wants from the Legislature, and his national posture keeps climbing. It’s a delicate situation between the Governor and the ex-President, who believes DeSantis should genuflect to him in gratitude for his endorsement in 2018.

DeSantis has played it smart, though. He continues to say he’s focused on Florida (while often appearing at high-profile GOP fundraisers) and sidestepping any controversy with Trump.

That doesn’t mean everyone is a fan, however.

Former GOP Rep. David Jolly, who left the Republican Party because of Trump and others, recently told MSNBC DeSantis is “far more dangerous” than Trump.

“He’s more savvy. He’s more coy. And he doesn’t have the pitfalls that Donald Trump does,” Jolly said.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Donald Trump. The “Mar-a-Lago Menace” was at his disgusting worst on the subject of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Did he express support for the Ukrainian people trying to save their country?

No.

He called Russian dictator — oh, I mean “President” — Vladimir Putin a “genius” and “savvy” for this attack on a sovereign nation.

“I went in yesterday, and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius.’ Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful,” Trump said in a radio interview with “The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show.”

“He used the word ‘independent’ and ‘we’re gonna go out, and we’re gonna go in, and we’re gonna help keep peace.’ You gotta say that’s pretty savvy.”

No, it’s a war crime.

I mean, he’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions,” Trump said during a gathering of GOP lawmakers and donors. “I’d say that’s pretty smart.”

No, it’s not smart.

It should be condemned as evil.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Martin Hyde. His campaign to win the CD 16 seat hit a bit of a bump when video surfaced of him threatening and berating a Sarasota police officer.

Hyde, a Republican challenging incumbent Vern Buchanan, lit into Officer Julie Beskin after she pulled him over for speeding. He was doing 57 mph in a 40 mph zone, but instead of acting contrite, Hyde acted like a fool.

“I’ll just call your chief,” he said loudly. “How’s that? You know who I am, right?”

She kept her cool and kept on writing the ticket.

“Go right ahead, sir,” Beskin replied. “I’m just doing my job.”

“Yeah,” Hyde said, “for now.”

Hyde later apologized and apparently has ended his campaign. It’s just as well because he had no shot — zero, zip, nada — of defeating Buchanan in the Primary Election. We guess he finally figured that out.

The biggest loser: Rick Scott. Florida’s junior U.S. Senator committed the mother of all political miscalculations. His 11-point plan to “rescue America” and help Republicans regain control of the Senate proposed raising taxes on the poorest Americans.

Here is logic on why he wants to impose that on the most impoverished citizens: Paying income tax is good for them, he said. It gives them “skin in the game.”

“I’ll warn you,” Scott wrote. “This plan is not for the faint of heart.”

It’s not for leaders with functioning brain cells, either.

The deafening silence from fellow Republicans spoke loudly about how they felt about his idea. Democrats are sure to use that prominently in Senate races around the country to salvage enough wins to keep control.

Democrats already aren’t shy about weighing in.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Twitter: “Senate Republicans just released an economic plan that doesn’t include a single proposal to lower prices for the middle class. Instead, he wants to raise taxes on half of Americans — including on seniors and working families.”

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.


5 comments

  • Tim

    February 27, 2022 at 8:46 am

    This article screams political bias! Jackson’s career is more of an activist that a jurist! Many of her decisions have been overturned and she certainly doesn’t base decisions on constitutional law.
    Can’t we just report news again without opinions!

    • The Truth.

      March 5, 2022 at 2:18 pm

      Tim bruh, I love this how when someone goes against your political ideas you need to scream how the news needs to report the news. ROFLMAO all yall are pathetic and the republican house is in shambles, nobody knows what they want or how to get there. My political disposition is that if YOU ARE POLITICAL you are a retarded. Just point blank, both sides of the isle have no idea what they are doing and their supporters validate this every time they open their mouths… AS OBSERVED IN COMMENT SECTION. CLOWNS.

  • Tom

    February 27, 2022 at 8:58 am

    Thanks Joe.
    1 out of 4 Dems are supporting America’s Governor based upon this poll. Even if that drops to 1 out of 2 or 3, we are looking at decisive re elect percentage for Gov Ron.

    To be clear, Floridians are responding to his leadership and message of freedom, liberty and opportunity for all. Biden’s abysmal showing at 36% approval per poll will not allow Dems to mount strong challenge for Gov and Senate.
    Crispy and Fraud are over 20% pts behind.
    Dems are in disaster level , Jacksonville’s city council race reflects Dem participation drop off and dismay. It’s called depression.

    As for quoting the despicable, sell out and liberal extremist David Jolly, please encourage him to run vs America’s Governor. So peter h and the predator Org Lincoln group can get crushed by America’s Gov, like 95% to 5% vs Ron. Jolly is a joke, I am astonished you would quote him.

    As for the Sup ct nominee, most of her federal court decisions have been overturned by the Court of appeals, just saying as she is extreme.
    Maybe the Republicans will ask her the insidious and despicable personal questions that the Dem Senators have questioned Rep nominees. I tend to doubt it.

  • Kent Anderson

    March 1, 2022 at 2:04 pm

    Here’s another example of President Trump’s words being taken out of context. He was NOT praising Putin in his remarks. He was stating a fact regarding the timing and method behind the invasion. I wish the lying, biased media would get off his back and just do their job… report the damn news!

    • The Truth.

      March 5, 2022 at 2:15 pm

      You literally are retarded, aren’t you Cunt Anderson. It’s former President is the first correction to your bullshit statement. Secondly the fact that Trump’s statement is literally in terms of praising Putin LITERALLY calling the timing Genius shows how much you and the rest of the trumptards are not intelligent enough to grasp what was said. This is the time we should be united not rallying behind the orange baby about how he got his fweelings hurteded after trying to cause a fucking riot. Get your head out of your ass.

Comments are closed.


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