Florida and the rest of the nation honored our veterans this weekend, and we would like to take this space to do the same.
Florida’s congressional delegation has multiple members who served in the U.S. military. U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn, Brian Mast, Cory Mills, Greg Steube and Michael Waltz all served in the U.S. Army. U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin served in the Navy, while U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna is a veteran of the Air Force. And U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan served for six years in the Air National Guard.
That’s not to mention the numerous members of the state Legislature, county governments and staff behind the scenes who served this nation with honor. We thank them all and urge our readers to do so as well. Regardless of a person’s politics, they deserve recognition for taking time out of their lives to represent this nation in the military, often putting their lives on the line.
Veterans’ lives can be difficult, even after coming home from dangers overseas. Veterans can often struggle to readjust to civilian life. That can lead to struggles to pay for food and other necessities.
And due to their trauma, physical and mental, caring for those veterans can often be expensive for their caregivers. We, as a nation, have not always adequately taken care of our soldiers when they come home, and there is still more to do on that front.
This Veterans Day weekend was also notable given the increased tensions around the globe. That’s all the more reason to be mindful of the sacrifices our existing veterans have made, so we can push our leaders to make decisions that do not drag us into another costly military conflict.
Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.
Honorable mention: Erika Booth, Tom Keen. The two emerged from three-person fields to serve as their respective parties’ nominees for a highly anticipated Special Election in January.
Booth’s victory in the Republican Primary was expected. As soon as she launched her bid in June, we pegged her as the favorite given the immediate support from House Speaker-designate Daniel Perez and the Florida House Republican Campaign Committee.
That boost helped her raise tons of cash and pull in about half of the vote in the three-way race Tuesday.
Keen’s emergence as the Democratic nominee was a little more surprising, but not entirely out of left field. After all, he came within 57 votes of winning the Democratic nod in 2022. Rishi Bagga served as the nominee that cycle, losing by about 10 points in the General Election.
But Bagga ran again and spent the most cash in the race. A third candidate, Marucci Guzmán, secured support from women’s groups, was the second-highest spender in the race and got a shout out from former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
In the end, however, Keen came out on top with a narrow win, and he’ll carry the Democrats’ banner going forward.
Outside of Florida, election watchers paid attention to a lot of races Tuesday — particularly in Kentucky and Virginia — where Democrats overperformed in another post-Dobbs decision success for them. The House District 35 Special Election in January won’t get quite that level of attention. But Florida Democrats will certainly look to snag a win here to gain some momentum ahead of the 2024 election and follow up on an impressive win earlier this year in the Jacksonville Mayor’s race.
Almost (but not quite) the biggest winner: Ron DeSantis. DeSantis’ 2024 bid has hit some hurdles in recent weeks. But this week was an unquestionable bright spot for the Governor seeking to regain momentum with just about two months to go until Iowans cast their votes.
He started the week by securing the long-sought endorsement from Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. Reynolds argued that Donald Trump cannot win a General Election and that DeSantis, who has committed heavily to Iowa, is the party’s best shot at defeating President Joe Biden.
Whatever you think about DeSantis’ chances (and we’ve noted just how hard his campaign has sputtered at times), it’s clear that if he is somehow able to pull off an upset of the former President, then that path starts in Iowa. Having that state’s Governor back him in a contested Primary, especially as Nikki Haley continues trying to claim that No. 2 spot in the race, will no doubt help. Time will tell, however, whether it’s enough.
Just a day after Reynolds announced her decision, DeSantis got another major boost via news having nothing to do with him, and nothing to do with a candidate even in the current 2024 race.
We’re talking about Virginia’s election results, which saw Democrats end the night with control of both state legislative chambers.
As Trump-skeptical Republican voters have failed to coalesce around a non-Trump alternative, the GOP chattering class increasingly floated Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin as a potential last-minute savior to enter the race and battle the former President head on.
Youngkin had been coy for weeks about whether he would jump into the 2024 fray, waiting until after Tuesday’s results came in.
Well, now he’s got no shot.
A Youngkin bid would have been a direct shot across the bow to DeSantis. With Youngkin politically wounded for 2024, DeSantis can continue his efforts to hold off Haley’s surge and serve as the party’s Trump alternative.
The biggest winner: Buddy Dyer. Dyer’s name has been synonymous with the City Beautiful for decades. Now, Dyer has secured a final term as Mayor after easily trouncing his opposition.
Dyer pulled in more than 70% of the vote in Tuesday’s election, topping three challengers and showing his support in the community remains strong.
“Thank you, Orlando! I am incredibly honored and proud to serve as Mayor of our incredible community for four more years,” he posted on X following the win.
Dyer is the city’s longest-serving Mayor after first taking office in 2003 following 10 years in the Florida Senate. And Dyer isn’t coasting along leading some small town for decades. Orlando is one of the state’s iconic cities and a tourist hub given its proximity to Central Florida’s Disney and Universal theme parks.
Now, Dyer has four more years to carry out his vision in what he says will be his final term as Mayor. Two major projects on his plate: extending the SunRail commuter train and finalizing a permanent memorial to the lives lost during the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Those would be notable capstones to Dyer’s historic tenure leading one of Florida’s largest cities.
I’ve got 21 years of experience, so I think I can give you a damn good four years,” Dyer said at a campaign party following his Tuesday win, per the Orlando Sentinel. “So let’s celebrate tonight. … And back to work tomorrow.”
Dishonorable mention: Antisemites. Florida lawmakers were hard at work in Tallahassee for a Special Session aimed at boosting security for Jewish Floridians and expressing support for Israel.
Legislators called the Special Session following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel. The goal was to show solidarity with Israel while rebuffing any potential anti-Jewish attacks at home.
Sen. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, sponsored the resolution, which she says she wrote on the day of the Hamas attack.
“We support the right of the state of Israel to defend itself and protect its citizens from indiscriminate violence and acts of terrorism,” she said.
Lawmakers also approved $45 million to help protect institutions at risk for violent attacks. Of that pot, $25 million will specifically be used to protect Jewish day schools.
Tensions have been high following the attack in Israel and subsequent Israeli response (more on that later). But Florida lawmakers acted in a bipartisan way to help Jews in Florida feel safe during an incredibly fraught time.
Almost (but not quite) the biggest loser: Charlie Adelson. A jury found Adelson guilty of first-degree murder and other counts after prosecutors accused Adelson of orchestrating the murder of his then-brother-in-law, Florida State University (FSU) law professor Dan Markel.
Markel was married to Wendi Adelson, a fellow FSU law professor. Their divorce preceded Markel’s killing, when he was shot outside his Tallahassee home in July 2014. Prosecutors argued Adelson had Markel killed amid a custody battle between Markel and Wendi Adelson regarding their two kids.
Markel’s murder drew national attention and rocked Tallahassee (including this writer, who took multiple criminal law classes with Markel and graduated weeks before he was killed). Prior to Adelson’s conviction, prosecutors had already convicted the actual assailants. But questions swirled as to whether any Adelson family member would ultimately be charged.
That led to charges being filed against Charlie Adelson in 2022, nearly eight years after the murder. With Adelson now found guilty, Markel’s mother called the verdict a “sense of relief.”
“This has been a really long and terrible ordeal for all of us,” Shelly Markel said. “It’s taken a long toll on our lives.”
It remains to be seen whether any additional charges will be brought against members of the Adelson family. Wendi Adelson and her parents have denied involvement in the murder-for-hire plot.
The biggest loser: Angie Nixon. We’ve noted the atrocities committed by Hamas in Israel during the Oct. 7 attack, but we want to acknowledge upfront here that the attack and ensuing response has triggered wild extremes that we do not wish to join.
Some, in defending the Palestinian point of view, doubt even the veracity of the original attack on innocent Israelis. Others, in justifying a “by any means necessary” approach defending Israel’s right to defend itself, appear indifferent to innocent civilians losing their lives in Gaza.
We don’t exist, in this space, to snap to one extreme or the other, as is so common in our current politics. But we do exist to call balls and strikes regarding whose actions in the Florida political scene had an impact, good or bad.
And Rep. Nixon’s push for a blanket cease-fire this week during a Special Session aimed at supporting the Jewish community — along with Rep. Anna Eskamani’s decision to be the sole lawmaker joining Nixon to support that resolution — was tone deaf and wrong-headed.
We’re not even going to bother repeating some of the criticism against these two Democrats from Republican lawmakers, some of whom have their own history with offensive and inflammatory rhetoric. Rather we’re going to focus on criticism of Eskamani and Nixon from their fellow Democrats, just to show how divisive this push was:
— Democratic Rep. Hillary Cassel asked why Israel has “to defend its actions all the time,” adding, “We are dealing with an absolute attempt to massacre an entire group of people, and we are fighting back, and we will not stop until every single one of those babies — that you care about — comes home.”
— Democratic Rep. Mike Gottlieb said, “When I hear a cease-fire that does not understand our history, or has contempt for our history, I believe it to be born out of ignorance and antisemitism.”
— House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell distanced herself from the resolution as well, saying, “She is her own member. She made the decision to bring that resolution, and ultimately that was her decision.”
Driskell asked Nixon to withdraw the resolution before it could be heard on the floor, a suggestion Nixon rejected. That ultimately led to the tense scene on the floor, featuring Nixon being hammered by members of both parties.
Nixon was correct in saying it was the decision of Republicans to hear the measure on the floor in the first place. After all, Democrats propose many ideas in the Legislature — expanding Medicaid, enacting strict gun control measures, protecting abortion — that never make it near the floor because Republicans don’t want those debates seeing the light of day, even if they know the measures would fail to pass.
But the fact that Republicans allowed this to get to the floor is all the proof that it was a bad decision to file it in the first place. Republicans saw this effort as a losing argument from the jump, and Nixon gave them exactly what they wanted by putting it forward during a week that should have been focused on efforts to protect the state’s Jewish population and express solidarity with a prominent American ally during a time of turmoil.