Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 6.18.23

Nikki Fried continued to make moves as Florida Democratic Party Chair.

U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna scored a partisan win this week, as she and fellow House Republicans approved her measure to censure Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff of California.

Luna and Republicans argued Schiff leaked information regarding investigations in former President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russian, and accused the Democrat of misleading the public surrounding those ties.

It’s impossible to capture the years of back-and-forth over this issue in one column, but let’s just say what most reasonable people can see: Russia meddled in the 2016 election and favored Trump; Trump’s team courted damaging info on Hillary Clinton, including from Russian sources; and finally, some Democrats have had a habit of exaggerating those efforts and ties in recent years.

So yes, this has turned into a giant political football, with both sides hyperventilating about the terrible abuses of the other. That’s likely to continue to be the case, especially with Schiff seeking a Senate seat.

But does it warrant a censure? Both sides can continue to chirp and blow every little piece of information on this out of proportion to rile up their base and fundraise. But taking formal House action to censure a member because he was too aggressive on this issue for Republicans’ liking just seems like too much.

Yes, both sides have used the hearing process to hype up partisan passion projects. But neither of Trump’s impeachments were directly about so-called “Russiagate,” for instance.

Luna got a win here in her political bubble. She got some publicity and can frame herself as a fighter against the deep state Dems or whatever catchy, ominous term the GOP comms team can cook up.

But the political climate is already so poisonous, full of so much mudslinging, hyperbole and misinformation, it makes it hard to wade through for the average person. Step things up a notch and using formal legislative action to condemn your political opponents is tacky, and is only going to lead to greater abuses down the line unless we undergo a major course correction.

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


Honorable mention: Mike Redondo. Redondo, a lawyer, is competing to be the next Representative in House District 118. And this week, he got a big assist in the form of an endorsement from future House Speaker Daniel Perez and the House Republican Campaign Committee, the House Republican caucus fundraising arm.

It’s expected the Gov. Ron DeSantis will call a Special Election in HD 118 after DeSantis appointed Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin to serve as Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts and Comptroller. For now, Redondo is facing Christian Chavez, a Miami firefighter, in the Republican Primary for the ruby red seat.

But with Perez and plenty of cash on his side, Redondo undoubtedly has the edge whenever that Special Election contest is scheduled.

“Michael has always stood for what is right, tirelessly advocating for individuals in the face of injustice, and I am confident that he will bring that same level of determination to the Florida House of Representatives, defending Floridians freedoms and standing up for conservative principles,” Perez said.

“I am proud to have the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee lined up behind him in the Special Election for HD 118 and look forward to campaigning beside him, as he lays out his vision to voters.”

Almost (but not quite) the biggest winner: Disney. New polling shows Disney’s favorability ratings have remained steady since last year’s controversy over Florida’s parental rights bill, while the Governor’s rating has dropped significantly.

The data from left-leaning outlet Navigator shows Disney at a +31 favorability rating, almost identical to the +32 for the company in May 2022. DeSantis, meanwhile, sat at -4 in May 2022, but has dropped to a -16 rating in the latest wave of surveys from June 2-5.

Some may quibble about citing data from a left-leaning outlet, and that does warrant a skeptical look. But what’s important are not the specific favorability ratings, but rather the trend. DeSantis is down 12 points from last May, and down 18 points from November 2022, when he was polling competitively with former President Trump in the 2024 GOP Primary. Disney, meanwhile, appears to have mostly weathered the storm in the public’s eye.

The company and the Governor have battled ever since Disney’s former CEO Bob Chapek spoke out against the legislation limiting discussion of LGBTQ issues in Florida’s classrooms. That, of course, triggered a back-and-forth which is still ongoing, both legislatively and in the courts.

But the latest data shows Disney appears to have the upper hand in the court of public opinion.

And in an unrelated note, the company also appears to have nabbed producer Ryan Murphy following his stint with Netflix. That’s welcome news for the company’s Disney+ platform, and is yet another positive point for Disney, on top of the public opinion polling data.

The biggest winner: Nikki Fried. The Florida Democratic Party Chair had a busy week, including a big reason to celebrate, as the party sold out its Leadership Blue gala early.

The annual gathering is meant to mobilize voters on behalf of candidates ahead of the upcoming election cycle, featuring panels and candidate speeches. Fried called the ticket surge a “new day” for Democrats, as the event sold out before guest speakers for the weekend event — which takes place July 7-9 — were even announced.

“This shows that Florida Democrats are as energized as we are to get to work because they know how important it is to have visible leadership and an active party that is ready to fight back in 2024 — and it starts now with early investment and engagement like this,” Fried said.

Fried has had plenty to crow about ever since Jacksonville Democrat Donna Deegan won the city’s mayoral race earlier this year. The win delivered Democrats an early victory as Fried tries to turn around the state party following a shellacking last fall.

News of the sellout came as Fried filed an ethics complaint against the Governor, arguing he broke ethics rules by courting donations for a presidential run from lobbyists and elected officials.

On top of that, Fried also got involved with a heated dispute within the Palm Beach County Democratic Party between local Chair Mindy Koch and the Democratic Executive Committee. Some local Democrats were upset with Koch firing a precinct leader and ending the practice of remote participating in executive committee meetings.

Koch is serving in that role after winning the post by just one vote, prompting little room for error. Fried’s decision to get involved, however, shows she is willing to take command of a hectic situation. That will be key for Democrats if they hope to turn things around in 2024 and beyond.


Dishonorable mention: DeSantis’ super PAC. Never Back Down, a super PAC that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to support his presidential bid, closed the week by accusing this outlet of being “bought and paid for by groomers.”

There’s pretty much no context that could make that remark sound any less ridiculous. But the fact that it came in response to FlaPol’s publisher Peter Schorsch jabbing the Governor while posting a picture of his Disney Cruise definitely makes it way more ridiculous.

Just want to share the door decor from our (Disney cruise) we are embarking on this weekend. It celebrates the 25th anniversary of the cruise line. We booked this cruise to celebrate that anniversary AND to spite (DeSantis’) lunacy with his war on (Disney),” Schorsch wrote.

It’s not the first time the Governor has been criticized for dragging on this battle for Disney for so long (with middling results, per those above favorability numbers). It probably won’t be the last. But the fundraising behemoth apparently got so triggered by this, its spokestrolls couldn’t help but respond.

“We get it, you’re bought and paid for by the groomers and Trump,” the organization’s official account wrote.

As Maggie Haberman of The New York Times put it, “A presidential super PAC accusing someone of being backed by ‘groomers’ for taking a Disney cruise is where things are.”

If DeSantis’ boosters can’t handle a light jab about a topic that has generated months of criticism (and yes, support from some as well) so much so that they start arguing pedophiles and their political opponent are shadow boosting a political site, boy are they going to have trouble handling Trump’s vile volleys he’ll be lobbing their way this cycle.

Plus, “bought and paid for by the groomers and Trump”? Come on, we all know Trump never pays for anything.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest loser: Andrew Warren. The Florida Supreme Court shot down the former Hillsborough County State Attorney’s bid to be reinstated, arguing he waited too long to appeal for relief in the state court system.

The 6-1 decision all but ends Warren’s quest to get his old job back. Gov. DeSantis suspended him after Warren pledged not to enforce certain laws regarding abortion or transgender care. The Senate must still uphold DeSantis’ move to suspend Warren. But unless Warren can make some surprising headway there among a GOP supermajority, he’s running out of options.

It’s important to note that Warren didn’t actually decline to prosecute any case, but merely made the promise not to in the future. DeSantis took that as grounds to suspend Warren in a bid to appear tough on crime.

That move was pretty heavy-handed by the Governor, and there’s a good argument that it’s a bad precedent to set that would allow Governors to use the power to suspend political opponents who speak out in ways they dislike.

But Warren also made a mistake here. He mounted a failed effort to sue in federal court. While a judge there had sharp words for DeSantis’ actions, he said ruling on the action was beyond the scope of federal authority.

Warren is appealing the move to dismiss that federal case. But he should have started in state court regardless. That may not have changed the outcome before a Supreme Court stacked with Justices hand-picked by the Governor. It would have, however, given some finality to this earlier instead of wasting time in front of a federal court that lacks authority to rule here.

The biggest loser: Florida’s Constitution? Rep. Spencer Roach floated an eye-catching idea this week: that lawmakers and voters should look to abolish Florida’s Constitution and replace it with a new document.

“The Florida Constitution has been amended 144 times in 55 years — that’s an average of five amendments every election cycle. Contrast that with the U.S. Constitution, which has only been amended 27 times in 235 years. To me, that indicates a deeply flawed document that has served its purpose but is in desperate need of revision,” Roach said during a Real Estate Investment Society meeting in Lee County.

Some may scoff at the idea and argue it’s a long-shot idea floated by one Republican lawmaker. But with a Legislature with GOP supermajorities containing lawmakers who have shown a willingness to push the envelope when it comes to controversial legislation, it’s probably wise to at least consider the possibility this could happen at some point down the line.

For one, it would allow Republicans to gut a lot of provisions the state’s voters have tacked out per constitutional amendments via ballot provisions. Those independent items you vote on to make medical marijuana legal or give voting rights back to felons that have served time? Those are all technically amendments to the state’s constitution, tacked on because lawmakers are unwilling to move on those issues.

If a new constitution gets ratified, it may or may not contain similar provisions.

And look, the amount of amendments to the state’s constitution has gotten out of hand. A lot of these changes are more suited to having a new law passed. True, the GOP-controlled Legislature has been reluctant to take up otherwise-popular changes. But the solution to that is to kick out those lawmakers, not add binding changes to the state’s governing document.

The problem is that the Legislature has become increasingly willing to go along with the Governor in passing highly polarizing measures to help win over the Republican base. A new constitution would need to govern all Floridians. It’s unclear whether members of the current Legislature can take off their party hats and come up with a document that would be suitable for the state.

One major hurdle: lawmakers can’t act on their own. Voters would have to approve a new document. With Florida shifting red, that may be easier than it has been in the past, but it’s no sure thing.

So perhaps Roach’s effort would fall flat, if it ever gets off the ground at all. Voters can put up a roadblock if Republicans put forward a document that’s too partisan.

But his comments are important to keep an eye on moving forward. The issue he raises is real, but in today’s hyperpartisan climate, where every slightly polarizing provision would be pounced upon by party apparatchiks, it remains to be seen whether a new constitution that could appeal to a wide swath of the state without necessitating such frequent changes is even possible.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


  • Rhonda Backed Down

    June 25, 2023 at 7:38 am

    Gov Rhonda backing down from Nikki Fried and Lauren Book makes Rhonda the biggest loser in my book.

    Speaking of books, don’t even get me started about what a loser Rhonda is for banning books!. Oh and groups of humans, too.

    Rhonda bans humans, literally. I seem to remember another guy who banned humans that one time that isn’t taught in Florida schools anymore because a white kid might get the sad feels.

    And by “some white kid,” of course I mean Rhonda.

  • Michael K

    June 25, 2023 at 11:06 am

    Regarding Andrew Warren, the governor should have never taken this step in the first place. Placing the blame on Warren misses the point of precedence. Which duly elected official will be the next to be removed at the whim of a governor’s personal vindictive vendetta?

  • ScienceBLVR

    June 25, 2023 at 12:33 pm

    If I may, another for the “loser” column..patrons of the Palm Harbor Library after recently elected Pinellas County Commissioner Chris Latvala complained about a Pride display of 25 titles about LGBTQ+ characters and topics, books already available for checkout and designated by the publishers as appropriate for the respective age groups, according to TBT. Latvala called the display massive, like a Pride parade, falsely claiming the vast majority of residents disapproved. He knows this how,?exactly. Let’s not forget, that Latvala, who was out of Fl legislature due to term limits, was elected 2 years earlier that the seat was supposed to be open, due to a provision in a bill sponsored by, Yep, the aforementioned future House speaker, Daniel Perez. Latvala’s anti gay hatred was on full display, unlike the library’s Pride display which was taken down., because of his nasty complaints. Ok, it’s my district, so maybe I’m especially ashamed, but this is not what our county commissioners should be doing .

  • Jon Banner

    June 25, 2023 at 2:19 pm

    You wrote:
    “Luna and Republicans argued Schiff leaked information regarding investigations in former President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russian, and accused the Democrat of misleading the public surrounding those ties.”

    But Schiff did not leak any info because everything Schiff said was a lie, it was fiction. Yes he DID mislead the public for over a year.

    • Jon Banner

      June 25, 2023 at 2:22 pm

      You wrote: “most reasonable people can see: Russia meddled in the 2016 election and favored Trump.”

      This is false. It may be what you believe, but there are no facts to back it up.

  • MaccDaddy

    June 25, 2023 at 7:14 pm

    “Using formal legislative action to condemn your political opponents is tacky”, but weaponizing the DOJ & FBI to take down your opponent is completely fine?

Comments are closed.


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