Winners and Losers of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 4.24.22

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Florida has another Special Session and a new Education Commissioner on the way.

It’s never a boring week in Florida Politics, especially during an election year. Still, it’s somewhat unusual to see lawmakers prepare for a second Special Session before summer. But that’s what happens when such important work as barring most abortions, attacking Disney on Fox News, and pushing the reset button of redistricting eats into the calendar.

And so state lawmakers this week learned they will once again take days away from raising dollars and knocking doors to tackle those extra issues that didn’t make the cut the first two times the Legislature convened, like property insurance reform. But if that doesn’t feel sexy enough for a mailer, don’t worry. It sounds like Gov. Ron DeSantis still has plenty of culture war curveballs he’s ready to throw.

A second call for a Special Session wasn’t the only thing to shake up the political world this week. Let’s check out another installment of winners and losers.

Winners

Honorable mention: Ron DeSantis. If the principal goal of DeSantis’ governing strategy today seems like gobbling air time on Fox News, this was a fruitful week. As he runs for a second term as Governor (and let’s be honest the GOP nod for President in 2024), conservative pundit Laura Ingraham provided a huge block of air time for the town hall special “Florida and the American Comeback.

That offered DeSantis a chance not only to hold the attention of conservative viewers across the nation but to spotlight members of his staff like controversial Surgeon General and Joseph “anti-Fauci” Ladapo. Supportive groups like Moms For Liberty also took the stage to join in the cheerleading. The festival of fawning went so well for all involved Ingraham closed by teasing up a coming special next year. You know, assuming DeSantis still wants attentions on his ambitions during the build-up to Iowa.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner(s): Sen. Jeff Brandes and property insurers. After years laying out the contributing factors to the litigious property insurance market, Brandes during his last year in the Senate finally saw some attention fall on the issue. He spent the weeks between the regular Legislative Session and now rallying support to reconvene the Legislature and address home insurance. DeSantis set a new Session for May 23-27 to tackle the issue.

At least for a minute, the concerns of Brandes and an industry suffering $1 billion annual losses enjoys the spotlight. Insurers might have made the top spot but for the rough road ahead. Speaker Chris Sprowls still seems skeptical of the need for new reforms so quickly after a round of legal changes in 2021. That’s why a Senate bill that passed with provisions allowing a roof deductible and letting Citizens Property Insurance raise rates faster went nowhere in the House.

But as homeowner renewal rates rise, there’s growing consensus something needs to happen. The spotlight of a Special Session makes an agreement much more likely, presuming an issue like “constitutional carry” doesn’t sneak up and steal every headline.

The biggest winner: Education Commissioner Manny Diaz. That’s right. It’s not just Sen. Diaz anymore.

Okay technically Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran holds the job until Sunday, and then Jacob Oliva will handle the duties in the interim for a couple weeks. Diaz hasn’t announced yet precisely when he will resign his seat in the Florida Senate, and could see a Special Session through at least. But the praise for Diaz already started rolling in from around Florida following the longtime Miami lawmaker’s unanimous confirmation as the new man in charge of Florida’s Department of Education.

Education leaders from colleges and institutions already heaped their praise, demonstrating the embrace of the professional world. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, now a full time education reform advocate, tossed in a congratulations and predicted good things. And Diaz, unlike some of his predecessors, will walk in with positive relationships with the Legislature on top of a working knowledge of policy, reforms and school choice expansions, many of them coming from legislation he personally ushered through the Legislature.

Losers

Honorable mention: Nikki Fried. It’s not that U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is racking up endorsements leading to a Democratic primary for Governor. It’s which ones. South Florida progressives like Sens. Shevrin Jones, Lori Berman and Tina Polsky should have been locks for the Agriculture Commissioner’s own bid for Governor. They might have been if not for a growing consensus her message isn’t translating into momentum.

The August vote on a Democratic nominee remains months away. But pragmatism seems to be seizing the electorate, and that’s bad news for the candidate promising “something new,” code for messaging that’s unpredictable.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Geoff Morrell. After a tenure that didn’t last much longer than the “John Carter” run in theaters, Morrell had a fall out at the House of Mouse. The Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Disney for less than four months, Morrell parted ways with the company amid a public feud with Florida’s political leaders. “It has become clear to me that for a number of reasons it is not the right fit,” he wrote in an email leaked to press.

It seems like Disney may have their fall guy for the messy way a fight over Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” bill played out in public. Just one of dozens of national companies to come out against the “parental rights in education” bill that bars instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity in lower grade levels, Disney became the arch-nemesis in the story somehow. First, Disney employees mutinied when the company didn’t speak out against it forcefully enough. Then the company issued a forceful statement and cut off political contributions, inspiring the blind anger of DeSantis and company. With special privileges at its Florida property sunsetting and carve-outs disappearing, there’s been a drop in stock price and maybe a brewing shareholder revolt.

Disney won’t be a loser in the long-run and a belief people will boycott Disney vacations over policy remains ridiculous. But Morrell won’t be the one spinning the company out of this.

The biggest loser: State Rep. Anthony Sabatini. Does is matter how many Twitter followers you have if they all turn out to be creeps and perverts— or worse? News broke this week that Cliff Maloney, a consultant largely responsible for building Sabatini’s 100,000-plus group of drooling Twitter followers, faces charges of rape and aggravated assault in Pennsylvania. Maloney’s firm 5411, based in Fort Walton Beach, has clients across the country, many of them right-wing lunatics seeking a voice in Congress. Sabatini happens to be the only one on that list running for a Florida seat.

Now, should Sabatini be judged for an incident that happened in 2013, when Maloney allegedly drugged a girl in his dorm room and raped her after she passed out, then played dumb about it in written social media messages shortly afterward? Maybe not. How could he know? But the candidate for Congress did start writing checks to Maloney months after Young Americans for Liberty (hardly a woke mob!) in 2021 publicly ousted Maloney as president. That shake-up happened after a woman working for Maloney went public with accusations he drew her to his hotel room and tried to coerce her into have sexing with him. The gaslighting texts she published on social media last year bear a remarkable similarity to ones sent in 2013 by Maloney to the woman now accusing him of rape.

So it may be news that the entire time Maloney has been boosting Sabatini on Twitter, investigators at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown were investigating the consultant for a sex crime. But it’s not news the man has a history of lechery and treachery.

Sabatini, promoted by Maloney as the “RINO Crusher,” may be best known for his ability to make enemies. But this episode, combined with past relationships with such unsavories as Joel Greenberg and Matt Gaetz, shows his list of friends reveals equally poor judgment.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


4 comments

  • Tom

    May 1, 2022 at 8:13 am

    Yes Jacob, America’s Governor is the weekly “winner”, Gov Ron #1. Dem, Dum Manchurians, “Can’t touch this”

    State finances reported two months in a row, over $600 million in “new” revenues to state.
    As James Carville said, “it’s the economy stupid”, Florida is number one. 1.Over $15 billion in reserves and counting. America’s Gov., great financial steward. 2. 3.2% unemployment rate, top ten in country. Lower than USA. All Florida jobs, pre pandemic recovered. 3. 8.7% in wage growth, Florida third in country. 4. Florida’s Manufacturing jobs, growth continues to accelerate. Floridians working, happy , enjoying freedom, life, accept for the 5% hater Manchurians on FP.

    Florida the economic example as highlighted by Fox/Ingram for all to see. Freedom and Liberty, Gov. Ron sets the example.

    Due to America’s Governor, rising tide for all, not a few like Dem, Dum Manchurians.

    Yes, Sen Diaz working with Governor, greatly expanded public school scholarship program, especially for minorities and poor. This allows more kids to get better education, DeSantis pledge met. Great leadership by both.

    Repub. GOP, up 120,000 in new voter registration over Dems. Over 300,000 registration flip from D to R. More coming.
    Gov Ron, is the winner every day Jacob.
    And on Nov/22. Enjoy!

    • Arthro

      May 2, 2022 at 12:25 pm

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. DeSantis is strong and has made tremendous strides for Florida, in spite of the leftists trying to take him down on every issue they can – they know they have no chance of beating him on election day.

  • F. Williams

    May 1, 2022 at 8:34 am

    Another week, and Commissioner Nikki Fried continues to maintain her concealed carry license contrary to state law.
    Commissioner Fried has publicly stated she uses marijuana. Pursuant to federal law (18 USC 922 (g)(3)) she may not lawfully purchase or possess a firearm. Being federally prohibited, she is not eligible to maintain a Florida concealed carry license (FSS 790.06(2)( n ) and 790.06(10)(a)).
    When will Commissioner Fried publicly state she has either surrendered, suspended, or revoked her own concealed carry license and end her unethical hypocrisy?

  • Arthro

    May 2, 2022 at 12:29 pm

    The property insurance market is a mess and it needs fixing ASAP.

Comments are closed.


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