Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 7.3.22

Florida's school scores came back higher than expected and teachers deserve the credit.

The strangest story of the week — which is saying something in this state — involved the University of Central Florida English department’s anti-racism statement.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that the department noted on its website that it suspended the statement because it violated state law. Shortly after that, however, the suspension notice vanished. A UCF spokesman told the Sentinel the university’s leadership didn’t order the removal.

Clearly, the initial move was a reaction to the so-called “Stop WOKE Act” championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Its official name — ironically titled Individual Freedom — is actually about curtailing freedom. It took effect on July 1.

It prohibits Florida K-12 schools, colleges and universities from teaching anything that can resemble critical race theory without really defining what that is.

UCF’s English department apparently believed its statement, adopted in 2021, might have strayed into forbidden territory.

It read in part, “Our discipline of English has been disfigured by an appalling history of complicity in perpetuating colonialist and racist practices and power structures. Our field has for too long upheld a canon of literature that is exclusive, elitist, and blindingly white.”

I understand UCF’s dilemma over this.

DeSantis is on a crusade to say that teaching about Florida’s racist past — and sometimes present — is a crime. He calls that “indoctrination,” while others might say it is “education.”

First Amendment advocates also have a role in this, and we’ll let the courts sort it out.

But the issue now is that the sloppy language in the WOKE law defies any clear legal explanation for what someone can or can’t say.

Here’s the legal summary of HB 7. See if you can figure it out.

Provides that subjecting individuals to specified concepts under certain circumstances constitutes discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin; revising requirements for required instruction on the history of African Americans; requiring the department to prepare and offer certain standards and curriculum; authorizing the department to seek input from a specified organization for certain purposes; prohibits instructional materials reviewers from recommending instructional materials that contain any matter that contradicts certain principles; requires DOE to review school district professional development systems for compliance with certain provisions of law.”

That’s legal gibberish, which is probably what the Governor intended. He acts as if the law is whatever he says it is. Who knows what that might be on any given day?

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


Honorable mention: Mark Lombardo. His campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in Florida’s 1st Congressional District received a boost. A candidate in what was a four-person race in that Republican Primary withdrew and promptly endorsed Lombardo.

Bryan Jones, a U.S. Air Force Special Operations pilot, had left active duty to campaign for the seat.

“The Republican Primary on August 23rd is a winner-take-all system, and a crowded ballot is not in the best interest of the voters of this district,” he said in a statement.

“While this is one of my family’s most difficult decisions of our lives, my withdrawal of candidacy for this race is out of a higher calling to remain truthful to my faith, the core values that guide me, and my life’s mission of putting the good of others above my own.”

That leaves Lombardo and Greg Merk still in the race against Gaetz.

Lombardo is a retired Marine and former FedEx executive. He vowed to spend up to $1 million of his own money to knock out Gaetz.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: DeSantis. His unannounced candidacy for the presidency in 2024 received a humorous boost from an unlikely source.

The Lincoln Project posted a biting video that uses DeSantis to mock what’s-his-name from Mar-a-Lago.

The 30-second bit begins with the image of DeSantis and Donald Trump, with the words, “It’s hard to watch, isn’t it, Donald? Ron DeSantis betrayed you to become a star.”

It later adds, “He’s laughing at you.”

DeSantis is too smart to take a premature victory lap because Trump obviously remains a force with Republicans. But it’s undeniable that DeSantis appears to be moving toward a presidential run, and he won’t demur simply to spare Trump’s feelings.

The biggest winner: Florida teachers. The Florida Department of Education (DOE) celebrated that overall school grades for the 2021-22 academic year exceeded expectations.

The DOE bragged that it happened because of “policies that kept schools open and kept students in the classroom.”

Open classrooms certainly made for a better learning atmosphere. But the gold star for the better-than-expected outcome goes to Florida’s teachers.

Over the years, they’ve been bullied, maligned, belittled and made to twist in the wind from the ever-shifting demands of Florida lawmakers. Then you throw in a pandemic that turned education on its ear, and the overall performance of teachers is extraordinary.

We can’t thank them enough for what they do to prepare the next generations of Floridians.


Dishonorable mention: City of Orlando. City officials were red-faced and apologizing after a post about a Fourth of July fireworks show went overboard.

“When there is so much division, hate, and unrest, why on earth would you want to have a party celebrating any of it?” the statement read.

Go on …

“In that moment, something takes over, and we all become united in an inexplicable bond. Yes, America is in strife right now, but you know what … we already bought the fireworks.”

The post was fireworks enough.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: James Judge. The Republican candidate hoping to defeat Democratic incumbent Kathy Castor in Florida’s 15th Congressional District took his devotion for the Second Amendment to a disgusting level. They say timing is everything, and Judge showed an astonishing amount of bad timing.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Judge announced that he’s raffling off four AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles. He made that pitch two days after a gunman used a similar-style weapon to murder seven people at a Fourth of July parade outside Chicago.

“The radical far left wants to abolish our Second Amendment completely. Not on my watch! My campaign is defying them by giving away four AR-15s,” Judge posted on his campaign website.

Actually, most folks would just like to attend a Fourth of July celebration without fearing a lunatic on a rooftop is out to kill them with a weapon of war.

Before Judge can take on Castor, he must win a three-way race in the Aug. 23 Republican Primary.

The biggest loser: California Gov. Gavin Newsom. If Newsom believed trolling DeSantis in a July 4 ad on Fox News would have any impact, he was grotesquely mistaken.

The ad touts California’s accepting approach to gay rights and takes a clever swipe at DeSantis’ “free state of Florida” schtick.

“It’s Independence Day, so let’s talk about what’s going on in America,” Newsom said in the ad.

“Freedom is under attack in your state. Republican leaders, they’re banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors. I urge all of you living in Florida to join the fight or join us in California.”

Well, OK, the ad might have had more impact if Newsom wasn’t vacationing in Montana with his family around the time the spot ran. Because of its LGBTQ+ restrictions, Montana is on a list of 22 states banned for state-funded travel by California.

Yes, Newsom paid for the vacation, but it’s still a bad look and deserves dishonorable mention.

Besides, all this did was make DeSantis even more popular with his base, as if that’s possible.

We should also note that the Governor’s wife, Casey DeSantis, is a major asset as he moves forward with his agenda and ambitions. She appears with him at many rallies, and the pair exudes youthful energy and drive. She’s the best running mate any candidate could want.

And we’ll leave this segment with one more jab at Democrat Val Demings and her campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. As we noted recently, her “cop on the beat” ad touting her experience in law enforcement misses the mark.

She needs to focus more on what she’ll do for Floridians if elected, but FiveThirtyEight doesn’t think that will be a problem. It currently gives her a 6% chance of beating Rubio.

She needs to do better.

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.


  • Ron Ogden

    July 10, 2022 at 5:53 am

    “Our discipline of English has been disfigured by an appalling history of complicity in perpetuating colonialist and racist practices and power structures. Our field has for too long upheld a canon of literature that is exclusive, elitist, and blindingly white.”
    In the first place, the English language arose and developed among Western Europeans of different ethnicity at a time when they were barely aware of “people of color’, and vice versa. It is only in the last 25 years that we have gotten our intestines into such a neurotic knot that such statements as the above have become common.
    In the second place, UCF wouldn’t be there and these little thumbsucking pansies would not be growing in its compost pile if it weren’t for colonialism. In the second-and-a-half place, any statement that uses the term “blindingly white” is as intrinsically racist as the term “Stygian Black” –but less literate.
    In the third place, there have been few occupations in America that have a history of being as exclusive and elitist as the language departments that have been and often remain as the worst plague to strike American higher education. Since hardly any American college devotes any time to anything other than remedial English these days (not to speak of foreign languages), it is clear that I mean the people who are fighting a losing battle to jam subject-verb-object into the dope-addled skulls of thousands of kids who don’t want to hear it.
    Why don’t people like Joe and all these pretend intellectuals just give up, go have a good cry for themselves, and stop worrying us with this drivel?

    • Mother Superior Slapshot, Bishop Stamkos High School

      July 11, 2022 at 2:07 pm

      “…go have a good cry for themselves,” indeed. Like you just had here for yourself. WAAA!
      Sit down, little man. Stop whimpering. You are not the victim you claim to be, bless your heart.

  • Tom

    July 10, 2022 at 8:55 am

    Biggest winner:

    America’s Governor, Gov Ron had a highlight reel week of successes:
    $21 billion in record state financial reserves.
    7.8% wage growth recorded in Florida.
    3.0% unemployment ( likely lower) due to Florida hot economy.
    Florida Education school testing exceed expectations. Two raises and bonuses per Gov/legislature. Repub. Over 200,000 voter registration over Dem, Dum Manchurians.
    Billions in new individual wealth and financial growth within state with new residents.
    Florida rated number one in Covid pandemic growth of all 50 states.

    Florida/Gov Ron continues to be the economic example of growth, opportunity and family quality of life.

    Florida continues to be the example of resisting blue state tyrannical rule.


    1. Civiqs poll had Biden at 30% nationally and below water in 48 states. In Florida, he’s now at 29%, repeat 29% in Florida. Chameleon, Fraud, , Dum Dum Demings have no chance. Florida tidal wave coming, super legislature, Congress, school board, and anything between.

    2. Newsom, co- loser as he’s a extremist Gov. as California is floundering in pop loss, horrific crime and elected incompetence.

    3. Abortion advocates, Monmouth poll identifies abortion last, at 5% of importance. Well behind the more important concerns. Majority do not support after first trimester, let alone after birth.

    4. Last loser: Regretfully, Florida Politics promotes, publicizes and apparently espouses Lincoln Org. This is a racist organization, based on hate and venom. Tiki torches in Virginia, they supported the Dem McAuliffe and got trounced.
    It is confounding as to why? It’s a low point for FP.

    • marylou

      July 10, 2022 at 9:38 pm

      Time to turn off Fox. The Monmouth Poll question asked: What is the biggest concern facing your family right now (no list was given):

      Out of 20+ concerns, Abortion was number five, (after Inflation, Gas Prices, Economy, Everyday Bills). Abortion was given by a higher percentage than: Gun Ownership, Immigration, Job Security, Housing/Rent/Mortgage, Safety/Crime, Taxes, and the rest.

      Despite voters’ concerns about the economy and prices, EVERY Republican voted against the recent Oil and Gas Price Gouging Bill. Clearly Florida’s congresspeople put corporate profits above their voters’ concerns.

      • Tom

        July 11, 2022 at 7:29 am

        You are a liar and loser! Mary who.

        Monmouth and other polls prove, abortion is a back burner issue, except for zealot psycho like you.

        You support abortion at birth, like Schumer, Pelosi, Obummer, and Harris.

        People support first term, after that you are floundering moron. Support at 5% is I don’t care land. How’s that 10 yr old girl lie doing. Typical of you.

    • Mother Superior Slapshot

      July 11, 2022 at 2:09 pm

      Brevity, Tom, remember brevity. And take off that cheerleading outfit, you look ridiculous, bless your heart.

  • ScienceBLVR

    July 10, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks for the accolades and recognition for Florida educators. It’s certainly deserved. Sometimes they feel like they are the last line of defense and hope for some. And the not so nice winner..Let’s not forget DeSantis’s latest foray into biased “civics” curriculum he and Corcoran are trying to indoctrinate our students with. CRT? Christian Rhetoric Theory. Scary stuff, and totally skewed.

    • Ron Ogden

      July 10, 2022 at 5:14 pm

      CRT should be converted to stand for a new paradigm: Classical, Rational, True

    • Tom

      July 10, 2022 at 8:49 pm

      Typical mis direction from mis believer.

      No Gov working with legislature has done more for educators snd personnel then America’s Governor.
      Two raises, bonuses and a revised testing program for students.

      Also, expanded and empowered poor parents and poor minority children to access scholarship vouchers. Freeing them from bondage. The scholarship expansion was pledged and delivered. It was the margin of victory from Hispanics and African Americans.

      Students score testing has accelerated and improved recently announced.

      He kept schools open during Covid.
      Saving the lives from potential thousands from suicide. Parents know how valued he is. Florida Education Assoc sued and lost. Big Kahones, whiz kid Gov won, but the peeps, kids really won.

      The Best!

      DeSantis has accomplished more for education in Florida’ as Governor in 100 years. A plus!

  • michael l. Hammond

    July 11, 2022 at 11:13 am

    Joe Henderson, you are the biggest loser every week….Pathetic

    • Mother Superior Slapshot

      July 11, 2022 at 2:17 pm

      And yet you read his work every week. What does that make you? Self-loathing? Masochistic? Mister Henderson’s employers want him to have many readers, and they do not care if those readers agree or disagree with him. My goodness, you really don’t get it, do you, bless your heart.

Comments are closed.


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