Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 6.9.24

Anthony Sabatini loses again, but this one has to sting.

With just over two months until Primary Election Day, things are getting very real on the election front.

This past week saw the qualifying period close. That means the fields are set in state and local races, just a month and a half after congressional qualifying also came to an end.

The most recent Qualifying Week saw fireworks. That includes surprise candidacies, including at least one fishy one, some epic failures to qualify, and answers to long-swirling questions, including whether Democrats would field a candidate in every state legislative race (they did).

So now we finally know who’s challenging who and which candidates got to coast into their seats without any competition whatsoever.

There are still several high-profile constitutional amendments on the ballot as well. And this week saw some news on that front too.

Gov. Ron DeSantis helped launch the Florida Freedom Fund to raise money to oppose amendments that would protect abortion rights and legalize recreational marijuana in Florida. That committee will help counter some of the impressive fundraising totals the groups supporting those amendments have registered.

But that’s not all. DeSantis’ new money machine is also set to play in races involving two State Attorneys whom DeSantis suspended from office. Andrew Warren and Monique Worrell are both running for their old jobs back, but now we know they will face an extra hurdle in the form of the donor class supporting the Governor.

The stage is set across the state, meaning the drama of the Primary and General Elections can begin in full.

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


Honorable mention: Greg Steube. Steube had another strong performance at the annual Congressional Baseball Game. He went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double and a single, adding a walk to boot. He tallied 3 runs batted in and scored 2 runs himself. And on top of all that, he notched a win as the Republicans’ starting pitcher, helping the team to a 31-11 victory.

Steube has been one of the annual charity event’s standout performers for years. According to a breakdown from Forbes, Steube ranks second in wins above replacement among all players active for Wednesday’s game, with the second-highest batting average of anyone with at least 10 plate appearances.

Yes, we just quoted advanced stats about a charity baseball game. Deal with it.

His performance this year is welcome news for the Congressman, who suffered a scary fall last year that put him in the hospital with serious injuries. Thankfully, with his performances this year and last, it seems as though Steube has recovered.

And the best part is that this is all for charity. The game supports the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Nationals Philanthropies and the Washington Literacy Center, helping bring in much-needed money for those organizations.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest winner: Disney. The arrangement between the entertainment giant and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) to spend billions in upgrades was completed this past week. And to boot, Disney dropped the appeal in its First Amendment lawsuit against DeSantis.

Seems like that Disney-DeSantis détente is the real deal, and that’s good news for the state.

We spotlighted the spending agreement a few weeks back, and this week’s CFTOD meeting simply finalized that agreement, calling for $8 billion over the next decade and $17 billion over the next 20 years, with the CFTOD handling infrastructure needs.

Oh yeah, and did we mention Disney is explicitly authorized to open a fifth park as part of these upgrades?

On top of that, the last major legal fight between Disney and the state is over, with Disney ending its appeal after losing in federal court over allegations DeSantis suppressed the company’s free speech rights.

Signs that Disney and DeSantis were making nice have been apparent for weeks. But now it’s finally official that things can get back to normal and Disney can continue occupying its place as a leading economic engine in the state, free of targeting by the government.

The biggest winner: Dads. Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there. Days like this are good reminders that as important as we make politics out to be (and heck, it’s our livelihood here at Florida Politics), family is what’s most important at the end of the day.

Yes, it’s cliché. But the more that politics continues to consume us, the more we need these otherwise obvious reminders.

One of the unfortunate features of politics these days seems to be the lack of decorum and principles in our public square. And it’s a bipartisan problem. Politics is getting nasty. Politicians have no problem completely flipping their positions if it hurts the other team or protects their guys. Those in power seem primarily concerned with staying in power. We can all see it.

And the causes of those changes are too complex to fit into a single blurb of this weekly column. There are many.

But one of the drivers to be respectful to others, to be a good example and to act on some semblance of principle rather than political convenience is the desire to set a good example at home for your family, particularly for your children.

So to all the dads out there in politics, ask yourselves honestly: Do you want your kids acting like this? Are you serving first and foremost as an example to your children and grandchildren, or are you so focused on keeping your current job that you’re doing whatever it takes to stay there? And if you’re trying to tar half the country as evil, what is that going to do to the country your children inherit?

This isn’t a public effort to smear anyone. We’re not taking submissions only to tar and feather you if your answers aren’t sufficient. These are questions to privately ask yourselves today and reflect upon.

To get out of this downward spiral we are in, it’s going to take real leaders to make the case that we need to try at all. It’s going to take good dads and moms doing the right thing, if for nothing else than to show their children what the right thing is.

We hope this Father’s Day is a joyful one for you and your families. And we hope that the next generation’s lives are as blessed as the lives of our leaders now, and that our leaders are doing their best to help shape a country that can make that possible.


Dishonorable mention: Carey Baker. Lake County Property Appraiser Corey Baker got too cute by half during Qualifying Week, and just made his re-election effort exponentially more difficult.

Baker is a Republican running in a reliably red county. Up until this week, he was the only Republican running, making his path to another term an easy one.

No Democrat was likely to file, only to get blown out. And it was unlikely that a Republican would challenge Baker and waste their time attempting to oust an incumbent in a low-profile race.

Unlikely, but not impossible, as we will see in a second.

So, facing an uncontested re-election effort, Baker made the unusual move to reclassify as a write-in candidate, apparently in an attempt to save some money.

The problem? Someone did indeed make a last-minute decision to file as a Republican once they saw Baker make his move. That means that now, Mark Jordan is the Republican candidate for Lake County Property Appraiser on the ballot, while Baker is only fielding a write-in bid.

And who is Mark Jordan? He’s the brother of Lake County Tax Collector David W. Jordan.

You see, Baker pulled the same move in 2020 and got away with it. It seems as though the Jordans had their eye out this time and were ready to step in if he tried it again. And now, they might both be serving together.

One reassuring thing for Baker? He’s nowhere near the biggest loser from Lake County this week (more on that later).

Almost (but not quite) the biggest loser: The Legislature. On top of all the qualifying chaos, this was budget week to boot. And one of the Governor’s vetoes had a direct impact on legislative staff members.

DeSantis nixed a $56.7 million pot of funding due to concerns about a study on banning credit card company fees and its effect on sales taxes.

But that veto axed the full legislative support services budget, affecting around 200 employees from several different legislative offices.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo released a memo in response to DeSantis’ veto, attempting to reassure the staffers. “We will work this out,” Passidomo wrote.

This comes after DeSantis roped so many state lawmakers into backing his futile run for President, opening them to possible Donald Trump-backed Primary challengers, only to drop out after fumbling Iowa. They put themselves on the line, and now he goes and cuts this money?

The DeSantis-era Legislature has been one of the most deferential to a Governor we’ve ever seen. Most of that came before Passidomo and Paul Renner were in control, so they don’t deserve the bulk of the blame here. But to the Republicans up and down the line who tried playing nice with the Governor’s Office, are you and your staff members getting a return on that investment?

The biggest loser: Anthony Sabatini. Sabatini torpedoed his standing among Florida House Republicans by acting like a complete jackass during his legislative tenure. That led to him flaming out of the Legislature.

But his act, like so many cartoon characters on the Right, was aimed at winning over the GOP base and catching the Trump’s eye in the hope of future fame.

So did he win over the base? Nope. Sabatini lost an open GOP Primary run last cycle to now-U.S. Rep. Cory Mills. Only Republicans voted in that contest, and they rejected Sabatini.

Did he win over Trump? Well, after last cycle’s loss, Sabatini figured he would try again in a different congressional district, targeting incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster.

Desperate for Trump’s approval (and endorsement), Sabatini branded Webster a RINO. and labeled himself as “MAGA.” He posted pathetically thirsty things like, “I am only drinking Trump wine from now until Nov. 5.”

He tried copying much of Trump’s doomsday language about America. “We live in one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” Sabatini said. “No Democrat in this country deserves even the slightest modicum of respect,” he posted as well, echoing Trump’s language targeting the Left.

Sabatini tried to imitate Trump’s edgier side to call out insufficiently conservative Republicans. He said former Vice President Mike Pence was “mentally deficient.” He called U.S. Sen. John Cornynretarded.” He labeled House Speaker Mike Johnson “an unAmerican bastard” and a “pussy.”

He kicked and screamed and threw mud, desperate for senpai Trump to notice him.

And after all of that sad, attention-seeking word vomit, Trump endorsed Webster.

Hours later, Sabatini dropped out of the race.

If that’s not the definition of a loser, what is?

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].


  • ScienceBLVR

    June 16, 2024 at 12:12 pm

    Be a good Dad and Remember DONT contribute to denial of rights via DeSantis Florida Freedom Fund!! In this case,
    Money = bad
    it’s a gas
    Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
    New car, caviar, four-star daydream
    Think I’ll buy me a football team
    Money, get back
    I’m alright, Jack, keep your hands off of my stack
    Money, it’s a hit
    Ah, don’t give me that do-goody-good bu!!$?!+
    I’m in the high-fidelity first-class traveling set
    And I think I need a Learjet.

  • Luke Dean

    June 16, 2024 at 6:39 pm

    Mark Jordan did not qualify until almost 1 pm.
    He will be disqualified upon further review.

    • James Madison

      June 17, 2024 at 10:35 am

      If what Jordan did was illegal, then instead of having the Lake County Republicans censure Jordan, let F. Lee Sabatini file a formal legal challenge. It’s also interesting to note that after Trump’s snubbing of him, Sabatini files for the Lake County Commission against Republican incumbent Doug Shields. Sabatini=Hypocracy

Comments are closed.


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