Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 8.7.22

The Walt Disney Co. seems to have survived Ron DeSantis' rebuke quite well.

State public schools began the new academic year an estimated 8,000 teachers short of what is needed to fill classrooms properly.

Schools also need hundreds of bus drivers and support staff.

Hillsborough County has about 800 teacher vacancies and 600 staff shortages, according to The district has resorted to sending 300 administrators back to the classroom while sometimes forcing regular teachers to handle more and larger classes.

“Every year, it’s been a little worse, and this year might be the absolute worst year we’ve seen in Hillsborough County in terms of filling the positions for these students,” Hillsborough County Classroom Teachers Association President Rob Kriste said.

Polk County is short 216 teachers, spokesman Kyle Kennedy told Osceola schools need 230 more instructors.

Palm Beach County schools are about 400 teachers under what they need.

Get the picture?

Teachers cite the usual problems — burnout from the incessant meddling by lawmakers over what they can or cannot say, unruly students, lack of administrative and parental support, and low pay.

For many, teaching simply is not an attractive career path now.

And with Gov. Ron DeSantis and other GOP lawmakers hitting his constant refrain that schools “indoctrinate” students with “woke” ideology, that won’t change any time soon. Who can blame anyone who chooses not to put up with a steady barrage of harassment?

Yep, Florida has a real problem on its hands.


Honorable mention: Gus Bilirakis. The Republican U.S. Representative from Florida’s 12th Congressional District joined with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, a New York Democrat, to introduce meaningful bipartisan legislation that could have a nationwide impact.

Called the National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act, Bilirakis said the proposal could ease financial burdens on families and eventually lead to reduced government spending.

“This issue is very important to me as I’ve watched a close family member struggle with Parkinson’s,” Bilirakis said.

“This disease takes a terrible toll on the physical, mental, emotional and economic well-being of everyone involved. The lack of treatment options leaves patients, families, and the American taxpayers in a terrible quandary. We must change our approach in order to get better results, which is exactly what our bipartisan legislation will do.”

In a news release announcing the plan, Bilirakis said U.S. taxpayers spend more than $52 billion annually to provide treatment for Parkinson’s patients. By 2037, the cost of treatment could jump to more than $80 billion annually.

About one million people in the United States have Parkinson’s Disease, more than the combined totals of those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Val Demings. The Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio had her best week of the campaign.

Two polls showed Demings has pulled even with Rubio.

Change Research, a Democratic polling firm out of California, finds both candidates drew 46% in a survey of likely Florida voters, with 7% saying they are unsure and 2% saying they would not vote.

An earlier poll by Progress Florida and Florida Watch, two progressive groups, had Rubio and Demings both at 45%.

Rubio fans could smirk and say, yeah, right — what would anyone expect from a Democratic polling outfit and two progressive groups? To be fair, the nonpartisan still gives Rubio a 90% chance of winning, with nearly 54% of the vote.

That’s down 4 points from a couple of weeks ago, but it’s still pretty good odds.

Here’s one thing they can’t dispute, though: Demings continues to smoke Rubio in fundraising. And at some point, that’s going to leave a mark.

Through the end of June, federal records show Rubio has raised $34.9 million and spent nearly $21 million. However, his take from July 1 through August 3 was slightly more than $1.9 million, compared to $4.7 million from Demings in the same period.

Overall, Demings raised $42.4 million, including an eye-popping $12.2 million in the second quarter, and spent nearly $31 million.

Rubio even acknowledged the issue during an appearance last month on Fox News.

“We can’t get out-spent and out-raised three-to-one because we can’t get our story out,” he said. “Florida is a state that should not in any way have close races like this, but we’re going to because they’re raising a lot of money.”

The biggest winner: The Walt Disney Company. Remember the predictions for pain and suffering at Disney following the culture attack on the entertainment giant by Gov. Ron DeSantis?

The Mouse just roared.

The only pain Disney experiences these days is from lifting all those bags of cash as customers keep responding to the siren call of the company they love.

Disney reported a $3.6 billion (with a “b”) operating profit in its latest earnings report, up 50% from a year ago. The company’s revenue was $21.5 billion, a 26% increase from last year.

Two factors drove the increase: A strong performance by its theme parks as people shrugged off the pandemic and paid for a Disney getaway, and the company’s streaming service, Disney+.

While other major streaming platforms struggled, Disney+ grew to 221 million subscribers worldwide, passing Netflix for the first time.

Florida Republicans gloated after taking away Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, telling anyone who would listen that the company would finally “pay its fair share” in taxes.

It looks like Disney can handle that.


Dishonorable mention: Escambia County Schools. Michael James quit his exceptional student education teacher job at O.J. Semmes Elementary School in Pensacola.

Why, you ask?

As the Pensacola News-Journal reported, James said a staff member at the school removed pictures of historic Black American heroes from his classroom walls, saying the images were “age-inappropriate.”

The pictures included Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver.

“It really floored me,” James told the News Journal. “I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that.”‘

The newspaper added that James chose the photos because most students at the school are Black, and he wanted to use the images to motivate his students.

He sent an email about the incident to DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith.

Smith promised to investigate.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Rebekah Jones. She was removed from the ballot in Florida’s 1st Congressional District after a judge ruled she had not been a registered Democrat for the required 365 days.

Jones appealed and on Friday won a stay of the ruling by Leon Circuit Court Judge John Cooper, which was in response to a complaint by her Democratic Primary opponent. Even with the stay, though, having this kind of contusion is a bad look with the Aug. 23 Primary Election bearing down.

In a fundraising appeal to supporters to help with her legal expenses, Jones called it an “egregious decision.”

However, the ruling is in keeping with a new Florida law setting rules for membership in a political party.

Officials removed several other candidates around the state from ballots for the same reason as Jones.

The biggest loser: Randy Fine. There was an explosive story that the perpetually hyperventilating Fine, a Republican state Rep. from Palm Bay, couldn’t wait to share.

There were rumors a transgender student sexually assaulted a girl in the restroom at Johnson Middle School in Melbourne. Fine, ever quick to stoke the fires of culture wars, fired off a letter to state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz to DEMAND AN INVESTIGATION!

Fine then publicly released the letter.

That would have been appropriate if the alleged attack actually occurred.

Ah, but, you know — facts. They can be so inconvenient for someone trying to score cheap political points.

“It did not happen,” Brevard Public Schools spokesman Russell Bruhn told Florida Today.

“There’s no record of law enforcement being contacted. There is no record of anybody at BPS being contacted about this. No parent or student. It is irresponsible to send this letter to the state. It’s an attack that is unjustified. And it’s an embarrassment for our state government.”

It. Did. Not. Happen.

In words Fine might more easily understand, it was FAKE NEWS.

Fine could have just called Diaz and said, “Hey, can you look into this?”

But no. He just ran with it.

He tweeted his OUTRAGE toward two School Board members he detests, Misty Belford and Jennifer Jenkins. Fine called them “champions” of the “open bathroom policy.”

Fine, on the other hand, is the undisputed champion of nonsense.

He must be so proud.

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.


  • C.R. Apass

    August 14, 2022 at 8:48 am

    “Fine, ever quick to stoke the fires of culture wars, firing off a letter to state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz to DEMAND AN INVESTIGATION!
    Fine then publicly released the letter.
    That would have been appropriate if the alleged attack actually occurred.”

    The grammatical ineptitude of your first sentence aside–“Fine, ever quick to stoke the fires of culture wars, firing off” (I do have to ask why, after a 45-year career in newspapers, you can’t compose a grammatically correct sentence, unless, of course, most of those 45 years were spent DELIVERING newspapers)–I have to ask why you think an official should not ask for an investigation, and should not do so in writing? How is Rep. supposed to know if something occurred if he doesn’t ask for an investigation? Maybe he should have done like Merrick Garland and sent a flying squad of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the school to rummage through the lockers looking for evidence. And why should he not further release his official communication or fail to tell the two school board members of his legitimate concern? Remember the “transparency” thing you libs love to scream about? Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot, this is another example of the crazed GENDER thing–the untouchable subject in liberal la la land. The only rules that apply in reporting GENDER things, it seems, are Joey’s rules–any Joey you can name, including the ones who live in pouches in Australia. What if there actually had been an attack, and Rep. Fine had ignored it? Oh, again, I am sorry–that would have been okay, because the supposed attacker was transgender, and they get away with anything in liberal la la land, just like Joeys do–including crapa-s opinion mongering and dumb solecisms.

    • Mother Superior Slapshot, Order of the Cross and Switchblade

      August 14, 2022 at 11:35 am

      My dear Mister Apass, let’s have a look: “Maybe he should have done like Merrick Garland…”
      You know, if you’re going to lecture Mr. Henderson about a typo and try to twist it into a grammatical mistake, you — as a would-be grammarian — should avoid childish constructions such as “Maybe he should have done like…”
      And while you’re at it, maybe you should get some help with that anger issue of yours, bless your heart.

      • Mr. Apass

        August 14, 2022 at 12:45 pm

        Dear Mother Switchedoff–To write that one person should have done like another did is wholly correct grammatically. If you find the compression of language (the “did” is not present), to be too great a stumbling block then I suggest you stopping worrying over your silicon beads (probably an Apple product) and start READING.

  • ScienceBLVR

    August 14, 2022 at 9:23 am

    Well, the grammar police are out and they have dribbled..hogwash and in the who cares category, I mean this is a post not a graduate thesis. And.. I think the true and salient phrase to sum up the thoughts about Rep Fine’s pearl clutching outrage is.. “It. Did. Not. Happen.”. Now granted, we normally like to have a few more words to get the essential message of a sentence, but hey, I got the message, Joe. Loud. And. Clear.
    Nice to hear that Val is rising up in the polls- still don’t think she can beat Rubio, even though he is pretty much useless to the average Floridian, but Ya jus nevah kno.!

    • Gary

      August 14, 2022 at 9:50 am

      The Democrat brand is toxic here in Florida, as it should be, after they tried to shove Andrew Gillum down our throats. As their names imply, those polls Joe cited were done by ultra left outfits. In reality, Rubio is ahead by and will win by 7 to 10 points.

  • Gary

    August 14, 2022 at 9:37 am

    Nice “objective” reporting Joe. I could pick apart all of your cold takes, but I’ll stick with one. DeSantis isn’t trying to destroy Disney, his biggest revenue generator. He’s trying to show them where they are going a bit off the rails, like designing a line of gay pride apparel for small children. Let me ask you a question, Do you leftists ever quell your emotions, and attempt to use logic?

    • TJC

      August 14, 2022 at 11:45 am

      Mr. Henderson is an opinion columnist, not a beat reporter. If you don’t care for his opinions you don’t have to read his work. But fellows like you love to read his column and whine and complain and call names. Be reminded that his boss doesn’t care who reads the columns, he doesn’t care how many of the readers agree or disagree with Mr. Henderson, his boss just wants to know that people are indeed reading the columns. Your comments prove you are reading Mr. Henderson’s work, so you are helping Mr. Henderson stay right where he is, and for that I thank you.

      • N. A. Griemunt

        August 14, 2022 at 12:38 pm

        “. . .his boss just wants to know that people are indeed reading the columns.”
        Thank you for verifying that his boss is not in the journalism business, he is in the clickbait business. Perhaps you would like to posit that, in the 21st Century, nearly all journalism, and all American democratic politics, has descended to the level of clickbaiting, and if you did, I would agree with you.

  • DeSantis For President

    August 14, 2022 at 10:13 am

    Shilling for Disney Corp. pays well. Right, Henderson?

  • Bernard Forand

    August 14, 2022 at 4:35 pm

    Are you voting for the coup? Are you voting to reduce women to second-class citizens? Is this what the GOPers offer that you will vote for? American voting for the party that desires to destroy their Democracy?

    • No And No

      August 14, 2022 at 8:04 pm

      “Are you voting to reduce women to second-class citizens?”
      No, we are voting to declare helpless babies to be real human beings endowed by God with basic natural rights that cannot be contravened for the sake of someone’s convenience.
      “. . .destroy their Democracy.” No, preserve their Republic, which is an actual thing, unlike democracy, which is merely a convention, or a method. America functioned well in the days before this free-for-all brand of anything goes voting, and it will function better when those days are gone.

  • Just a comment

    August 15, 2022 at 11:02 am

    Never worry about the grammar police that is not where this world is spinning too.
    Button the ground of these children don’t survive the Mark
    They make the storms

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn