Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 8.14.22

Election security police make their move, but the 'Stop WOKE Act' is, for now, stopped.

Color me confused as the race for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 15th Congressional District draws to a close.

Earlier this month, St. Pete Polls showed Laurel Lee with a commanding lead over her four opponents — Kelli Stargel, Jackie Toledo, Kevin “Mac” McGovern and Demetries Grimes.

The poll had Lee with 44%, Stargel with 16%, and Toledo in third with 11%.

That made sense. Lee has money name recognition from her time as Florida’s Secretary of State and as a judge in Hillsborough County.

Also, the election analytics site FiveThirtyEight gave St. Pete Polls a B+ grade for accuracy.

Here’s where the confusion comes in.

FiveThirtyEight projects Toledo to win Tuesday’s Primary and gives the outgoing Tampa state Rep. a 92% chance of topping Democrat Alan Cohn in November.

The site said the projection comes from several factors, including incumbency, fundraising, experience and endorsements.

It may be coincidental, but Lee recently released a blistering TV ad attacking the conservative credentials of Toledo and Stargel. Maybe she saw the same projection.

As a state Representative, Toledo developed a reputation as someone who invests time in her district. It’s worth noting that in 2020, a poll had Toledo down nearly 10 points to a strong Democratic challenger in her House race, but she prevailed by 8 points

Her campaign claimed to have knocked on 50,000 doors in her district.

“Jackie Toledo is one of the most tenacious campaigners in the state of Florida,” her campaign manager Anthony Pedicini said then. “And on top of that, she’s a prolific fundraiser. … Jackie literally worked her shoes off.”

By all accounts, she’s using the same strategy now.

So get the popcorn ready to watch if history repeats itself Tuesday night.

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


Honorable mention: NASA. There’s nothing to match the thrill of watching a large rocket blast off into space, and NASA is ready to light the most powerful candle in its history.

On Aug. 29 at 8:33 a.m., the space agency is prepared to send the supercharged Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft to the moon.

Officials expect an estimated 100,000 people will descend on the Cape Canaveral area. If you can find a vacant hotel room, expect to pay up to $500 per night.

The mission is called Artemis 1. NASA calls it the first in an increasingly complex series of missions designed to “build a long-term human presence at the Moon for decades to come.”

In December 1972, Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of Apollo 17 became the last astronauts to walk on the lunar surface.

Eventually, the hope is the Artemis mission will lead to the first astronaut mission to Mars.

The rocket is 311 feet tall — 11 feet longer than a football field. It has 8.8 million tons of thrust at liftoff.

If you go, bring earplugs. You could need them.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: The cruise industry. Travelers are filling the big ships as companies like Carnival Cruise Line relax COVID-19 restrictions and offer bargains on fares.

Starting Sept. 6, Carnival won’t require vaccinated passengers to take a COVID-19 test within three days of boarding cruises less than 16 days long. The only exceptions are trips to Canada, Bermuda, Greece, and Australia.

In a news release, Carnival said bookings for Aug. 15 were nearly double the equivalent day in 2019.

“We have previously disclosed strong occupancy projections for the summer, and our bookings through the end of 2022 have also been very solid,” Carnival President Christine Duffy said.

The biggest winner: Election police. In a state where more than 11 million people voted in the 2020 election, arresting 20 people for voting illegally might seem like a pebble tossed in a giant lake.

But Gov. Ron DeSantis promised his ballyhooed elections police force wouldn’t stop with that, and we can just imagine the “see, I told you there was fraud” coming from his base.

This is the opening salvo of an office that was just set up on July 1,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Fort Lauderdale. “This is not the sum total of 2020.”

Peter Antonacci, director of the Office of Election Crimes and Security, later told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that investigators are pursuing many potentially illegal voters.

“We’re working with the numbers, and the numbers are shocking. A lot of people are voting that should not vote,” Antonacci said. “The numbers are substantial.”

He did not provide an estimate to the newspaper.

The initial arrests appear to be felons not cleared to vote, but DeSantis said they’re also checking people who voted in Florida but live in other states. They’re also investigating potential votes by non-U.S. citizens.

Critics pointed out that the arrests occurred in strongly Democratic areas — Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, and Hillsborough counties.

And although DeSantis held the news conference in Broward, the county’s Supervisor of Elections, Joe Scott, wasn’t invited to attend.

He said the event “felt like political theater a little bit.”

Fair point. The Governor didn’t stage a showy news conference after four people from the GOP stronghold The Villages were arrested for voter fraud.

Still, with Republicans screaming nationwide about the myth of a stolen election in 2020, the announcement gave DeSantis a big win with his base.

And, it’s worth noting that five votes decided a recent Special Election for a South Florida congressional seat.


Dishonorable mention: Val Demings’ security staff. The last couple of months were good ones for the Democratic challenger for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat.

Demings raised lots of money, and some recent polls were kind to her.

But she took a step backward when a video captured two security guards hired by her campaign pushing a man to the ground at a meet-and-greet in Mims.

Not a good look.

Brevard County law enforcement is investigating the incident, but opponents were quick to pounce.

“Every media outlet in America would have covered this if I had bodyguards like (Nancy) Pelosi puppet Val Demings does, and they assaulted someone for trying to film me,” Rubio tweeted.

The incident happened at the public Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park, but security blocked the individual from entering. Reports said he is a tracker who regularly followed Demings for the Rubio campaign.

“Security officials take potential threats and threatening behavior toward the Chief seriously,” Demings Communication Director Christian Slater said. “In this instance, the individual did not respond to multiple requests to leave and charged at security personnel in pursuit of Chief Demings’ approaching vehicle.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Rick Scott. His role as the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee isn’t going so well.

Democrats now are slightly favored to maintain control of the U.S. Senate, partly because Republicans nominated substandard candidates in several states.

Recently, POLITICO reported that since Aug. 1, “the NRSC has cut ad buys in the battleground states of Pennsylvania ($7.5 million), Arizona ($3.5 million), Wisconsin ($2.5 million) and Nevada ($1.5 million), according to the ad tracking service AdImpact.”

Republicans are defending seats in each of those states except Nevada.

“People are asking, ‘What the hell is going on?’” one Republican strategist working on Senate races told POLITICO. “Why are we cutting in August? I’ve never seen it like this before.”

The biggest loser: Stop WOKE Act. A federal judge slapped a temporary injunction on one of DeSantis’ signature pieces of legislation.

The so-called “Stop WOKE Act” limits what private employers, schools, and universities can teach about diversity and inclusion.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Walker applies only to restrictions on private employers. However, many other challenges are in the legal pipeline for schools and universities.

Walker scolded the state, saying, “It is unclear what is prohibited, and even less clear what is permitted.”

Critics bashed the bill from the outset, calling it a blatant attempt to squash open discussion on race and gender equity issues. Walker agreed. He said it violates the First Amendment protection of free speech and the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

“Recently, Florida has seemed like a First Amendment upside down,” Walker wrote.

“Normally, the First Amendment bars the state from burdening speech, while private actors may burden speech freely. But in Florida, the First Amendment apparently bars private actors from burdening speech, while the state may burden speech freely.”

He compared the law to the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”

That sounds about right.

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.


  • Tom

    August 21, 2022 at 8:30 am

    Biggest winner:

    It’s the economy stupid! America’s Governor proves keeping Florida open during Covid was the correct remedy. Another great Florida employment jobs report! 2.7% rate, 70,000 new jobs, Florida’s economy on nasa rocket ship. Continued 24 straight months of consecutive job growth.

    Governor DeSantis pro growth, pro people’s policies has unleashed economic liberty!
    All people’s benefit, education open schools, no teen suicides, jobs, businesses, parents, owners, investors, and workers.

    Rising tide for all, not a few like Biden, Harris. America’s Governor do for America, what he has done for Florida!

    • Joe Corsin

      August 21, 2022 at 9:18 am

      ^ All a bunch of bullshit… every single word of it.

      • Tom

        August 21, 2022 at 11:18 am

        Facts are funny things corsin/Elliott. Which you are devoid. You are clueless, hapless, hopeless, and helpless!

        • Joe Corsin

          August 21, 2022 at 11:40 am

          Yeah what you said were hardly facts. Seek help for intellectual disability…

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    August 21, 2022 at 8:34 am

    You have no idea what is yet to be discovered with election fraud. Years of deliberate neglect, incompetence and coverup are ending

    • Elliott Offen

      August 21, 2022 at 9:22 am

      Mar-a-Lago should be the election police first stop… because the biggest election thief in American history is alive and well there… still grifting people to a husk.

  • D. Rafthorse

    August 21, 2022 at 8:54 am

    Joe, the biggest loser of the week, of the month, hell, of the year, is that branch of the multiparty American left named for the Trump Derangement Syndrome they suffer and, of course, their hero, Liz Chaney, who needed less than a year to take one of the proudest names of the old Republican guard and turn it into anathema. Worse than that, she is turning it into a joke. You didn’t mention it in your column, Joe, because you show up as a Clydesdale’s fanny right next to her, and your ego is far to sensitive to ever allow you to admit it.

    • Joe Corsin

      August 21, 2022 at 9:29 am

      Most of the old Republican Party actually thinks that Trump was a deadbeat grifter. Trump duped, deluded, and swindled so many that the old guard must not say much about it until they are no longer eligible for office. Not their fault though, not snake oil salesmen Trump’s fault because the filthy rotten monger and liar is gonna grift….but it’s stupid conservative voters fault. God save the planet because you people have de-evolved back into apes. GOP now a dangerous far right party that should be declared a national security threat and eliminated at any cost.

      • D. Rafthorse

        August 21, 2022 at 9:41 am

        Another Budweiser reject whinnying from somewhere out in the pasture.

        • Elliott Offen

          August 21, 2022 at 10:09 am

          ^ Narcissistic psycho Trump supporter… needs involuntary psychiatric hospitalization.

          • D. Rafthorse

            August 21, 2022 at 10:36 am

            Here’s a guy who who had to steal his name from one of the bigger fruitcakes in recent Manhattan history–running up and down Fifth Avenue in a bra and panties. That is this guy’s avatar, and Scortchy prints him! Must be a sympathy of character.

      • Tom

        August 21, 2022 at 10:46 am

        Corsin total mental breakdown, lies, deceit, distortions, distractions, and dishonesty.

        • Elliott Offen

          August 21, 2022 at 11:09 am

          @Tom: Yeah all that would be the right wing. Nice try though…

      • Tom

        August 21, 2022 at 9:03 pm

        As if scum of the earth corsin would know anything bout the Repub. party.

        • Elliott Offen

          August 21, 2022 at 10:58 pm

          Republican Party make rich people richer..but do nothing for you but fill mind full of poo poo. Republican Party laughing at you idiots that keep giving them your support…feed the hogs buddy. They give you shit for sugar..

  • Tom

    August 21, 2022 at 10:44 am

    It’s about Florida’s economy Corsin/Elliott. Enough with your mental recitations on #45. Please!

    • Elliott Offen

      August 21, 2022 at 11:14 am

      @ Tom Foolery: Yes we are all recovering from Trumpflation. Sad to see Democrats can’t seem to clean up Republican messes fast enough every four years or so OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS. At least you admit Biden is winning right now. I think they call that a moment of clarity. You’re showing some improvement. Keep up the good work.

  • Tom

    August 21, 2022 at 11:22 am

    Idiot Elliot, Biden can’t win on anything.
    I don’t know where you gathered that at all.
    Not in my outline.

    • Elliott Offen

      August 21, 2022 at 11:42 am

      Don’t know ye lips from ye azzhole buddy!!! 💋🍩😆

      • Tom

        August 21, 2022 at 3:48 pm

        Your lips are sucking male organ, degenerate blow artist. Go suck on your male escort, Joey corsin!
        New meaning for you is blow hard!
        LMAO. Facts destroy you filth soros Manchurians,

        • Elliott Offen

          August 21, 2022 at 10:46 pm

          ^ Uncouth, unwashed, uncivilized, un-american.. neo nazi sub-ape. As in, ain’t got the sense that God gave an ape.😆

          • Tom

            August 21, 2022 at 10:55 pm

            Just keep blowing you degenerate pathetic pig. LMAO, blow hard!!

          • Elliott Offen

            August 21, 2022 at 11:00 pm

            ^ Always talking about gay stuff. He’s got men on the mind…naked men.

          • Tom

            August 22, 2022 at 5:35 am

            Degenerate! Just keep blowing, idiot Elliot.

          • Elliott Offen

            August 22, 2022 at 7:39 am

            YOU…YOU are the one talking about sex and men. Nobody else….

  • Tom

    August 22, 2022 at 8:24 am

    Sucking hard! Blow hard.
    Decrepit offen, corsin.

Comments are closed.


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