Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 5.5.24

Good news for Florida education at large, bad news for one of those institutions in FAMU.

After Andrew Warren’s extended “will he or won’t he” routine regarding a run for Hillsborough County State Attorney — ending with Warren jumping into the race last-minute — questions remained about how quickly he would be able to get an operation online.

Turns out, pretty quickly.

Warren said this week had added $100,000 in less than two weeks after formally entering the contest to secure his old job, which he lost when Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended him.

The Governor replaced Warren with Republican Suzy Lopez, who is seeking election to a full term in November. Warren, meanwhile, will need to get through a Primary against Elizabeth Martinez Strauss, who has expressed concerns that DeSantis may simply suspend Warren again if Warren wins over similar concerns that Warren will decline to properly enforce the law.

Warren too gave a similar reasoning when announcing he was declining to run. But he changed his mind after a federal appeals court found in favor of Warren, who sued over the Governor’s decision.

With this week’s announcement, it looks like Warren is amassing plenty of resources to make this a race to watch.

The presidential race may not be the only interesting contest featuring two people who have held the job before.

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


Honorable mention: Florida taxpayers. DeSantis signed a major tax package this week that is expected to save taxpayers more than $900 million over the next two years.

Two major planks of the legislation: temporarily eliminating insurance premium taxes for homeowner and flood policies, and setting up four different sales tax holidays.

The pause on homeowner and flood policy taxes will last for two years and is estimated to save homeowners just over $500 million.

Some of the sales tax holidays have been scaled back from last year’s bonanza, but still provide significant savings. “When you’re running big budget surpluses you’ve got to be able to return some of that back to the taxpayers,” DeSantis said.

The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) also spoke out in favor of the measure after the Governor signed it.

“We are grateful to the Florida Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis for supporting much-needed relief to Floridians on essential items to support their families and their careers,” said Scott Shalley, FRF President and CEO.

“When Florida shoppers stock up at local businesses during these tax-free holidays, it’s an added boost to the Sunshine State economy. Florida retail stores power our economy, provide jobs and support their communities.”

While the U.S. economy is stronger than many doomsayers say — especially relative to the rest of the world — there remain many pain points, and moves like these by the state of Florida help families get through some of those financial difficulties.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest winner: Donald Trump. We slotted Trump in the loser column last week, pointing out his legal difficulties (along with criticism of his comments about violence in the 2024 election).

But this week saw a flood of positive legal news for the former President.

The biggest and most direct: Judge Aileen Cannon indefinitely postponed the federal government’s case against Trump regarding his possession of classified documents.

That case has already been moving at a snail’s pace. Some legal experts have said that’s because Cannon is either deliberately slow-walking the case or inept. But now, it’s very likely this case will not be heard before the 2024 election in November.

And on a similar note, an appeals court this week also decided to weigh whether to remove District Attorney Fani Willis from a Georgia case alleging Trump and others were behind a “fake electors” scheme.”

That, of course, also means more delays and again increases the likelihood that the case won’t be heard before Election Day. It’s not an indefinite postponement, and it’s less clear cut than the docs case, but it seems to be going in the same direction.

Having these cases hanging over his head at all is still a burden. But it may not be one that requires him to be physically present and off the campaign trail if these cases aren’t able to get moving in time.

The biggest winner: Higher education in Florida. U.S. News and World Report ranked the state No. 1 in the entire country for education, and that was largely on the back of Florida’s high-level higher education options.

According to the outlet, Florida ranked No. 1 in higher education tuition and fees while also ranking No. 2 in graduation rates for both two-year and four-year college degrees. The state was right about average in terms of the share of residents with at least an associate degree and regarding the average debt at graduation, but that wasn’t enough to drag Florida out of the No. 1 overall spot.

Florida has solid ratings when it comes to pre-K-12 education, but some sore spots remain. The state is No. 5 in college readiness and No. 12 in preschool enrollment. Ratings for high school graduation rate (No. 19) and reading scores (No. 21) are also slightly above average. Florida does rank below average (No. 32) in math scores, however.

A red flag, though, is K-12 teacher pay, with Florida ranking No. 50 out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Florida has pushed to raise starting teacher pay in recent years, but that hasn’t pushed the state out of the basement when it comes to overall pay.

But U.S. News and World Report didn’t directly factor that metric into its analysis, nor did it weigh some of DeSantis’ education policy moves which at times have earned fire from critics, us included.

Dissatisfaction with policy choices and sustained low pay could dent the quality of the state’s education long term. But that’s an “if” that thus far has not played out in the numbers.

Right now, kids are graduating at sky high rates while paying little. This is not to say the state can’t do better when it comes to K-12 performance, but as of now, Florida is at the top when it comes to setting kids up for success.


Dishonorable mention: Jared Moskowitz. Moskowitz has gotten plenty of media attention since heading to Washington, and most of it for good reasons. Many of his stunts are not only funny and attention-grabbing, but also incredibly effective at needling his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill.

But that effort at humor combined with his attack dog mentality occasionally leads Moskowitz to cross a line, as several of his Asian American colleagues pointed out this week.

Moskowitz looked to pile on South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who was in the news not only for writing in her book about shooting her 14-month-old dog to death but also for apparently lying about meeting North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Jabbing Noem over the fake meeting, Moskowitz posed this on X: “Why am I getting the feeling that she wanted to eat dog with Kim Jong Un?”

Two of his Democratic colleagues — U.S. Reps. Andy Kim of New Jersey and Marilyn Strickland of Washington, both Korean Americans — spoke out against Moskowitz using that stereotype in the since-deleted tweet.

“While we appreciate our colleague standing up to GOP extremism, we cannot perpetuate harmful stereotypes in the process,” the lawmakers said. “We thank Rep. Moskowitz for apologizing and taking down his tweet.”

Moskowitz told POLITICO that the tweet was not meant to perpetuate stereotypes and took it down in an abundance of caution.

“It was a joke about Kristi Noem and the dictator of North Korea — two people, no one else. I took the post down as I didn’t want it to be misconstrued and offend the broader community. I condemn those stereotypes and would never want to feed into them,” Moskowitz said.

But it’s not the first time Moskowitz has taken down a social media post that crossed a line.

And Moskowitz also this week was also spotted sending out mailers pushing against President Joe Biden’s immigration policy. That’s a move that may be smart politically — Moskowitz faces no Democratic Primary challenger who could hit him from the Left, and faced a tighter than expected General Election contest in 2022 — but it demonstrates a right with a President that Moskowitz otherwise defends vocally.

Again, this isn’t to say Moskowitz isn’t an effective lawmaker or doesn’t have a bright future ahead. He, as a Democrat, served a vital role in DeSantis’ administration after leaving the Florida Legislature, showing he is willing to put partisanship aside in order to serve. He’s smart and pointed, and as a freshman is commonly one of the most effective Democratic voices in Washington.

But Moskowitz would help his own cause by running some of these remarks by another staffer sometimes. Jokes that may play well in your head or with your buddies land differently when you’re a member of Congress speaking publicly,

And yes, some of Moskowitz’s colleagues have posted more offensive things in the past. He is nowhere near the worst offender up in Washington. But the solution to others having no class isn’t to lower your own standards. Moskowitz is smart enough to do better going forward.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest loser: Miami city government. The Miami City Commission once again failed to agree on a new City Commission map as its current drawing remains mired in legal trouble.

Commissioners when drawing the map seemed to admit they were trying to keep a certain racial makeup on the Commission. Critics have sued over the map, and Commissioners were supposed to address concerns and potentially accept a new map this past week.

Instead, they decided to postpone a vote on accepting a new map, kicking the can down the road to a later meeting.

Add to that this week more reports of questions surrounding Mayor Francis Suarez attending major, expensive events and another story that Suarez was recently subpoenaed in a case against developer Rishi Kapoor.

Just more examples of the dysfunction in the government for one of Florida’s most iconic cities. Not a good look.

The biggest loser: FAMU. Florida A&M University has egg on its face after accepting a $237 million dollar donation that may actually be worth … $0.

TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat detailed the saga after questions had brewed for days about the reliability of the donation. Batterson Farms CEO Gregory Gerami, a Texas hemp farmer, gifted the sum with an attached non-disclosure agreement barring all but a small circle of higher-ups at FAMU from knowing about the donation until Gerami made the surprise announcement at the FAMU commencement.

“And the money is in the bank,” said Gerami, who served as the keynote speaker.

But as members of the FAMU Foundation Board later found out, the donation was actually made up of non-publicly traded stock, the value of which depends on whether someone would even want to buy it in the first place.

And now after days of buzz surrounding the donation, FAMU President Larry Robinson was forced to put the gifts on pause while Board members look into its legitimacy.

Surprise donations at colleges are not new. They can be exciting, generate promotion for the university and, of course, are great news for students.

But if a university is being duped into accepting a gift that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, that raises serious questions about its vetting process and is going to hurt the university’s reputation, not help it.

By the way, did we mention that the donor, Gerami, has already had to pull back a major donation from another university over questions about its legitimacy?

Google is your friend.

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

  • Leonard

    May 12, 2024 at 8:53 am

    Moscowitz and Gaetz could be on the list every week. They represent everything that is wrong with Congress. Attention grabbing children that diminish the honor and integrity of the institution. We need more grown ups in Congress that are committed to fixing our nation’s problems rather than seeking tv cameras and special treatment.


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