Winners and Losers of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 6.19.22

The bipartisan gun bill that heads to President Joe Biden's desk is proof that Republicans and Democrats can work together.

So, you’re sitting there watching your retirement portfolio evaporate faster than a snow cone on a Florida sidewalk. You’ve resolved not to look at what Dow Jones is up to — or down to — on a given day.

Yes, it rocked on Friday, up more than 800 points. But so what? You know that by Monday, the market is just as likely to look like Charlie Brown trying to kick a football.

As you pass gas stations, you try not to glance at the marquees that show a gallon of gas costs more than it did the day before. You don’t even want to think about how much it will cost next week.

Yeah, we could all use a little Zen these days.

Zen won’t drive Vladimir Putin out of Ukraine or make Wall Street traders practice the patience they recommend for everyone else. It won’t ease the gridlock in Congress.

Republicans will blame President Joe Biden for the price of gas, food, clothes and everything else. It’s only fair, I guess, even if it’s not completely accurate. Democrats blamed Donald Trump for everything except the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, and rumor has it the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack is looking into that.

With age, though, comes perspective, so here’s what I’ve got.

The U.S. inflation rate in 1980 was 13.5% after staying relatively low into the mid-1960s. Incumbent President Jimmy Carter caught the blame for that, but the truth is the upward cycle began while he was still a Georgia peanut farmer.

President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society increased government spending dramatically. That’s usually bad for the economy, and it was then too.

We can’t discount the cost of the Vietnam war either.

Then came a fuel shortage, which led to gas that exceeded $1 a gallon for the first time in my lifetime.

Remember Gerald Ford‘s WIN buttons — Whip Inflation Now?

It’s not that easy. The Dow fell as low as 577 in the mid-1970s. Even with its recent issues, the Dow closed today at over 30,000.

My wife and I bought our first house in 1983, two years after Ronald Reagan brought trickle-down economics to the White House.

We paid 14.5% interest on our home loan.

Because gas cost more, so did groceries because truckers had to pay more to keep the deliveries coming.

Salaries didn’t keep up.

Sound familiar?

So, yeah, we’re in the slop again. It didn’t end quickly the last time, and, no matter what politicians promise in an election year, it won’t this time either.

Buckle up. No single person caused this, and no single person can fix it. That’s just the way it is.

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


Honorable mention: Special Olympians. Those unable to compete in the recent USA Games in Orlando will receive an apology from Special Olympics International.

You may remember that Florida’s Department of Health threatened the organization with a $27.5 million fine if it required participants to have proof of their vaccination against COVID-19.

Rambo Ron DeSantis will have none of that in HIS state — nice of him to share it with us — and Olympics organizers got the message. They dropped the mandate, and the Games went on.

However, that decision came too late for some participants to travel to Orlando, so the apology comes with a sweetener. The governing body will reimburse parents for lost money on hotels and airlines.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: DeSantis. We use a lot of bandwidth in this space to acknowledge the Governor’s fundraising prowess, poll numbers, etc.

It’s the same thing this week.

DeSantis was the subject of a positive profile in (surprise!) The New Yorker.

That comes from a place DeSantis believes is a target-rich environment for liberal bashing.

Staff writer Dexter Filkins said, “He sounds like Trump, except that he speaks in complete sentences. … He’s very good at staking out a position and pounding the table and saying, ‘I’m not giving in to the liberals in the Northeast.'”

Go on.

About the subject of ambition, Filkins said: “All the polls suggest that, if Trump doesn’t run, DeSantis is in pole position, and he’s ready. He’s got more than a hundred million dollars in the bank. He practically radiates ambition.”

Yes, he does.

DeSantis also earned another headline when a new presidential preference survey by Granite State Poll showed him ahead of Donald Trump.

The Governor received 39% support of likely New Hampshire Republican Primary voters compared to 37% for Trump. Last year, DeSantis scored only 18% in that poll.

DeSantis laughed it off, of course.

He chided what he called the “obsession” about whether he will run for President in 2024.

“It’s just funny,” DeSantis said. “It’s like, you know: ‘In a sure sign he’s plotting a political future, Gov. DeSantis is taking his kids to get ice cream’ or something like that.”

Yeah, it’s funny.

But one thing is a sure bet: DeSantis knew everything about that latest poll.


The biggest winner: Gun safety law. While Florida’s two U.S. Senators fell to the occasion and voted against the bipartisan gun safety bill, it passed anyway. It now goes to President Biden.

Release the balloons and confetti!

Fourteen U.S. House Republicans joined

No, the law wasn’t close to everything progressives wanted, but it’s more than a Band-Aid in this country’s gaping wound of gun regulation.

“This package represents the most significant action to prevent gun violence in nearly three decades and is a necessary step to honor our solemn duty as lawmakers to protect and defend the American people,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “Importantly, the bipartisan Safer Communities Act has earned strong support from gun owners, gun survivors, and law enforcement alike.”

The final House vote on the bill was 234-193.

We’ll deal with Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott later in this piece.

In the meantime, let’s touch on how this bill can make things a little safer.

The law strengthens background checks on young people, which might have stopped the massacres in Parkland and Uvalde, Texas.

It provides major funding for mental health, which has been a favorite GOP talking point. They say that guns don’t kill people, but instead, the blame goes to the troubled individuals who use a legally purchased gun to inflict evil.

The bill also strengthens requirements for gun sales through the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” That was an important door to close.

Fourteen House Republicans voted for this bill. Rep. María Elvira Salazar was the only Florida Republican to join that list.

The good guys with legal briefs won a skirmish against the bad guys with a gun.

In the never-ending battle over guns vs. people, take your victories where you can find them.


Dishonorable mention: Soil and Water Conservation Board. When filling out our election ballots, most of us have trouble when we get to the candidates for the Soil and Water Conservation Board.

I mean, who are these people?

That’s why Florida Politics began giving candidates a forum to say who they are and why they want to be on a board that pays nothing and has no real power. We received considerable positive feedback from conscientious voters who want to make informed choices.

But then came Gov. DeSantis. You knew this had to have a DeSantis slant, didn’t you?

Basically, the Governor wants to put his stamp on boards across the state. As Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix reported, DeSantis supports candidates with track records of being cozy with developers.

“Homebuilders looooooove Developer-Santis the way a quail-hunter loves his best pointer,” Pittman wrote. “They shower him with praise and goodies as he wags his tail.

You can read his account here. It details much of DeSantis’ friendly dealings with developers at the expense of conservation.

Almost (but not quite) biggest losers: Rubio and Scott. Both Florida U.S. Senators voted against the gun regulation measure that passed the Senate, with 14 Republicans joining 50 Democrats.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act doesn’t outlaw guns, not even the war-weapon AR-15-style killing machines. Jackboots won’t be breaking down anyone’s door to confiscate their weapons, at least not as long as those persons don’t pose a clear and immediate danger to, you know, schoolchildren.

Rubio has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, which has stuffed more than $3 million into Rubio’s campaign coffers. That’s why he sits up and barks on command anytime the NRA wants its lapdog to earn its keep.

“People support my agenda,” Rubio said at a 2018 town hall on CNN that included survivors from the Parkland massacre. That killing spree happened in South Florida, where Rubio grew up.

Rubio was defensive when asked if he would stop taking “a single donation” from the NRA.

“People buy into my agenda,” he said. “And I do support the Second Amendment, and I do support the right of you and everyone here to go to school and be safe. And I do support any law that would keep guns out of the hands of a deranged killer.”

He said more, but you can click on this link to see his full answer.

You know, Senator, that dearly deceased gunman in Uvalde fit the description of a deranged killer. That’s the purpose of the bill Rubio just voted against.

With moves like that, Rubio should consider trying out for “Dancing with the Stars.”

Scott was Governor here when the Legislature passed a widely praised “red flag law” in the wake of Parkland. The current bill he voted against has a similar proposal.

He wrote a statement explaining his vote. You can read it here.

Is the Senate bill perfect?

No. Many supporters agree it didn’t go far enough; they wanted a ban on assault weapons. But perfect is the enemy of good, and this bill is good.

The NRA’s fingerprints are on Scott’s lapel too. Notice that Scott slipped words like “radical” in the proposal.

I dare Rubio and Scott to go to the auditorium at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School or Uvalde and make the same arguments there.

Will that ever happen?

Of course not.

The biggest loser: Andrew Gillum. The man who came oh so close to beating DeSantis four years ago could face up to 20 years in prison following his indictment on federal charges.

After a lengthy FBI investigation into corruption allegations, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Gillum with 21 counts, including wire fraud and making false statements (the legalese term for lying).

While in handcuffs and shackles, Gillum pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The feds Gillum illegally pursued campaign donations from 2016 through 2019. That includes the period when the former Tallahassee Mayor narrowly lost to DeSantis in the race to be Florida’s Governor.

Gillum’s adviser, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, also faces 19 counts. Prosecutors allege she and Gillum diverted money to a private account instead of supporting his campaign for Governor.

Gillum’s attorney Marc Elias said, “The government got it wrong today. The evidence in this case is clear and will show Mr. Gillum is innocent of all charges.”

That’s for a jury to decide.

The trial is set for Aug. 16, one week before the Florida Democratic Primary Election.

Gillum lost to DeSantis in 2018 by about 32,000 votes. Rumors of the FBI’s interest in Gillum’s finances circulated then, although Gillum denied that anything like that was happening.

However, it’s conceivable that enough people were skittish about voting for someone under investigation, and their votes could have flipped the election.

Now, Gillum is in a different kind of campaign — the one to keep his freedom.

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.

One comment

  • Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down

    June 26, 2022 at 7:53 am

    It must have taken real intestinal fortitude not to include a paragraph about how Florida would have been better off if Gillum had won–social justice, wouldn’t fight Biden, first graders could learn about how cool it is to be gay, etc. Gillum is coming to know that public careers aren’t impervious to foolishness–a lesson everyone should learn.

Comments are closed.


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