Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 12.24.23

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Who made our final list of 2023?

Welcome to the final edition of this column for 2023. We hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and is ready to wind down an eventful 2023.

From the stunning polling collapse of GOP presidential candidate (and current Governor) Ron DeSantis, to the shocking rise in influence of U.S. Rep. (and possible future Governor?) Matt Gaetz, this year has been full of changing fortunes and shifts in power in Florida Politics.

After getting shellacked in 2022, Democrats are holding onto hope thanks to some isolated positive election results here and there, wishing to build momentum ahead of next year’s Presidential Election.

Republicans, meanwhile, maintain their supermajority in the Legislature. But with DeSantis’ political strength waning, it remains to be seen whether there will be any notable clashes between the legislative and executive to disrupt the otherwise consistent GOP control. The 2024 Session, by the way, is just over a week away.

And of course, the leading Republican presidential candidate (and now Florida Man) Donald Trump faces numerous legal problems that could impact the 2024 race, including one based here in Miami.

This changing landscape leads to plenty of uncertainty in 2024, and we don’t have any crystal ball here to tell you how it will all shake out. But it will certainly be a year to watch. And the entire team here at Florida Politics is ready to keep you up to speed as we head into a likely crazy 2024.

Thankfully, state Rep. Chip LaMarca is bringing back his bill to remove size limits on wine containers, and we hope he gets it through this Session because we’re going to need it.

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

Winners

Honorable mention: Orlando. New York City may be an iconic spot to ring in the New Year, but according to at least one ranking, the best place to celebrate is right here in Florida.

According to WalletHub, Orlando rose to the No. 1 spot for New Year’s Eve celebrations. The site looked at each destination’s entertainment and food options, costs, and safety and accessibility options.

New York City’s priciness dropped it down a bit, as the city ranked No. 91 in that metric. But Orlando didn’t sneak into the No. 1 spot based on affordability alone. The City Beautiful earned the No. 1 ranking in entertainment and food as well, citing its myriad restaurants, nightlife options, fireworks shows and, of course, Disney World and other theme park options.

The city of Miami earned the No. 2 ranking in terms of entertainment and food options, but placed sixth overall in the list. San Diego nabbed the No. 2 spot, followed by New York City at No. 3, Las Vegas at No. 4 and Atlanta at No. 5.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest winner: Donna Deegan. Deegan scored a major political win this week when she helped remove two statutes that were part of a Confederate monument from Springfield Park, fulfilling a major campaign promise and achieving something even her Republican predecessor, Lenny Curry, attempted to do but could not.

The move is long overdue. It remains shocking that in 2023, cities would want to display monuments featuring a bunch of loser, pro-slavery rebels. Yes, for some, these are non-controversial displays of Southern pride. But read the room, everyone. The Confederacy not only attempted to split this country apart with their (failed) rebellion, they also defended the institution of slavery, a horror for so many ancestors of our Black residents today.

Now, Deegan did rely on a legal gray area to get the “Tribute to the Women of the Southern Confederacy” monument out of the park. The Republican-controlled City Council previously allocated $500,000 to remove the statues, but predicated use of that money on the County voting to approve the removal. 

Deegan, however, did not utilize that money to remove the statues, instead relying on private funds (and spending less than $200,000). Because Deegan didn’t use private funds, and because she has authority over the city’s parks, a General Counsel memo found she had the authority to make the move.

That generated blowback from Republicans, of course. The issue will undoubtedly get sorted out over time. But for now, Deegan can tout that she got this statue off city property, removing a quasi-governmental endorsement of one of our nation’s darkest eras.

The biggest winner: New Year’s resolutions. Yes, these resolutions are silly in a way. Why do we need one day out of the year to try and become a better person? And sure, we’re all going to fail at many of these.

But if it takes a changing calendar to focus someone on self-improvement, we’re all for it.

This upcoming year is almost certain to be an extremely challenging one, politically and socially. The best way to get through challenging times is to make sure you’re strong beforehand, and are prepared mentally, emotionally and otherwise to face difficulty.

So whether it’s a resolution to stay more even-keeled to avoid fighting with political trolls, or a promise to focus more on family and friends and not let politics be an all-consuming force in your life, we hope you find the happiness you are searching for next year. Have a happy and safe night, everyone.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Donald Trump. Trump got kicked off another ballot this week, with Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows finding Trump had engaged in an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, and was therefore ineligible to run.

Bellows’ finding follows the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to bar Trump from that ballot as well (though Colorado will keep his name on the GOP Primary ballot unless the U.S. Supreme Court makes a decision in time to keep Colorado’s findings in place).

Other states, meanwhile, have decided to keep Trump on the ballot.

Look, it’s likely the 6-3 conservative U.S. Supreme Court will find that states aren’t allowed to bar Trump from the ballot in this circumstance. Sure, SCOTUS could always surprise us. But the liberals celebrating this and the conservatives lighting their hair on fire and yelling about the end of democracy need to pipe down for now. Trump is likely staying put on the ballot.

But as we always say, this is a weekly column. And for now, Trump has the shame of being thrown off two state ballots for his despicable actions on Jan. 6. And yes, whether grounds for removal or not, his actions were despicable.

This is another unneeded fight for Trump and a distraction in a campaign full of them.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest loser: Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick. The House Committee on Ethics is investigating the Tamarac Democrat, looking into allegations that Cherfilus-McCormick violated campaign finance laws and House disclosure requirements.

At issue are ads Cherfilus-McCormick ran using official government funds. That’s allowed, so long as the ads are focused on official government work and are not campaign ads.

But Cherfilus-McCormick’s spots blurred those lines, prompting a probe.

These ethics investigations are done in secret. There’s no telling how long it will last, and we don’t even know that lawmakers will ever release the findings. A Cherfilus-McCormick spokesperson said the mere existence of a probe “does not itself indicate that any violation occurred” and that the Congresswoman “takes these matters seriously and is working to resolve them.”

So time will tell whether this amounts to anything, but it’s never welcome news to have these questions being bandied about.

The biggest loser: Whoever swatted Rick Scott. During Christmas week? Really?

The Senator announced that his home had been targeted in a “swatting” incident, where an individual reports a made-up, horrible crime at another person’s address, with the hopes police will arrive in force and disrupt them.

“Last night, while at dinner with my wife, cowards ‘swatted’ my home in Naples,” Scott wrote in a Thursday post on X. “These criminals wasted the time and resources of our law enforcement in a sick attempt to terrorize my family. Ann and I want to thank (the) Naples Police Department and Collier County Sheriff’s Office for all they do to keep us safe.”

Law enforcement quickly realized this was a fake report, and the Senator and his wife were not home at the time, so this thankfully did not escalate to a serious incident.

But this has been the season of swatting, for some reason. Republican U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Brandon Williams of New York both had their homes swatted on Christmas Day, as did Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. Later in the week, Greene said swatters targeted her daughters as well.

This isn’t just an annoying prank, it can be deadly. And aside from that, it’s a waste of law enforcement resources which could be used elsewhere, not to mention a hassle for all involved during what should be a relaxing time during the holidays.

On Friday, Scott said the incident is prompting him to look at legislative remedies to deal with the issue.

“I’m going to make sure that the cowards who make these calls & waste law enforcement resources to terrorize & harass their targets will face real consequences,” Scott posted on X. “I’m talking to law enforcement about what legislation is needed to guarantee justice when ‘swatting’ calls happen.”

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].


One comment

  • Huh?

    December 31, 2023 at 9:44 am

    “Deegan, however, did not utilize that money to remove the statues, instead relying on private funds (and spending less than $200,000). Because Deegan didn’t use private funds, and…”

    Don’t you mean “didn’t use public funds”? Not for the first time: y’all need an editor!

Comments are closed.


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