Saturday, May 28

Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 5.1.22

The news hasn’t been good lately for Florida Democrats.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis looks unbeatable, and there’s speculation the national Democratic leadership might essentially write off the state. If Dems are feeling a little disheartened these days, it’s understandable.

Then came the POLITICO scoop-of-scoops that the U.S. Supreme Court may trash Roe v. Wade. There was a lot of chatter in the immediate aftermath of that story that it could, finally, get Democrats sufficiently motivated to punish state Republican supporters of abortion restrictions.

Maybe.

At this point, though, they’ll have to prove that they can take on the Big Red Machine that is Republican politics and win.

They’ve had chances to do that in recent years and fumbled every time.

Remember how Democrats would storm the polling places after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High?

Nothing changed.

After four years of loathing then-President Donald Trump, what did Democrats do? They watched as Republicans delivered Florida to Trump in 2020, with Trump increasing his victory margin by nearly 260,000 votes as compared to 2016.

Yes, many women are passionate about protecting abortion rights. You would presume they will organize and stampede to the voting booth. Those who are married could impress upon their spouses that they better vote for candidates who will protect women’s right to choose.

If the Supreme Court guts Roe v. Wade, it likely will allow states to decide what they want to do about abortion. That makes elections for the state House and Senate vitally important.

If you’ve noticed, most Florida Republicans, including Gov. DeSantis, have stayed on the down-low since the news broke. DeSantis just picked a fight with Disney, for goodness sake. But he appears to understand that it might be a better strategy on this issue to talk less, lest he says something that really could ignite a backlash.

Meanwhile, Democrats keep fuming, fussing and screaming about what they see as a fundamental right.

They need to do more than scream, though. They need to win. We’ll know soon enough if Democrats are up to that.

Now, let’s get going with our weekly game of winners and losers.

Winners

Honorable mention: Nikki Fried. She still lags in her race for Governor, but Fried is still around and attracts attention. Axios named Fried one of four Democratic female elected officials to watch in the post-Roe world.

That assumes two things: A) That Roe v. Wade gets overturned; and B) That Fried will be an official after that happens. Fried needs to defeat Charlie Crist and Annette Taddeo in the Democratic Primary for that to be the case.

If that happens, DeSantis will be waiting at the pass.

But hey, the Supreme Court leak about abortion could turn the race upside down.

We never thought this day was coming. So what do we do with it?” Fried said. “We stand up. We make sure that we are standing on shoulders of the women that came before us, and we are fighting for the next generation of women to make sure they have access to affordable reproductive health care.”

Fried also quickly reminded supporters that Crist, a former Republican, has flip-flopped on a woman’s right to choose.

“I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I always have,” Rep. Crist recently said. “I am still pro-life — meaning I am for life. I hope most people are, and I think it’s important to understand the distinction.”

While Crist now strongly supports abortion rights, PolitiFact said his statement that “I always have” is false.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: The Governor’s bank account. You know that big campaign war chest DeSantis has amassed? Well, it’s cha-ching time for TV stations and other media outlets in the Miami and Orlando markets.

Fox News reported DeSantis’ team reserved $5.3 million in ad time for Spanish language broadcast, cable, radio and digital outlets.

For perspective, that’s how much cash Democratic rival Charlie Crist had on hand at the end of March. The Governor raised over $100 million through his re-election campaign and the political committee Friends of Ron DeSantis.

The Governor’s ad buy shows how seriously Republicans will pursue the Hispanic vote. They hope to capitalize on President Joe Biden’s weakness with Latinos.

The biggest winner: Trump. You can bet DeSantis noticed Trump remains the big dog in the Republican Party. We saw again in Ohio that Trump’s endorsement carries massive weight.

He backed J.D. Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author, in the Ohio GOP U.S. Senate Primary. Vance went from a struggling No. 3 in the polls to the leader almost overnight and cruised in the Primary. He now heads to the General Election in the deepening red Buckeye state.

POLITICO had a definitive roundup of how candidates who received Trump’s endorsement this year fared.

On Tuesday, each of Trump’s choices in Ohio and Indiana won, although, to be fair, several of them ran unopposed.

That’s on top of his success in Texas during the March Primaries. Every candidate Trump endorsed won except for scandal-plagued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is in a runoff.

A word of caution, though. While POLITICO’s analysis noted Trump’s recent strong run, there could be storm clouds ahead.

Reporter David Siders wrote, “In a four-week stretch of Primaries running from Nebraska and West Virginia to Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, Trump-endorsed candidates are slogging through difficult races where the former President’s blessing hasn’t proved to be the rocket fuel some expected. In a few cases, his preferred candidates are running far behind.”

Duly noted.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Marni Bryson. The Palm Beach County judge received a stern talking-to about her work habits from Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady.

The Palm Beach Post reported Canady blasted Bryson for her repeated absences and tardiness from her job from 2016-19. He noted that Bryson showed “galling disrespect” for the public.

“This is a sad occasion for you, for this court, and for the entire state judiciary,” Canady said

He said Bryson cleaned up her act after the filing of formal charges against her in 2021.

“This reprimand, like any reprimand, should serve as a sobering warning to any judge who does not take seriously the obligations imposed by the code,” he said.

Bryson’s job pays $151,822 per year.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Walgreens. The giant drug store chain agreed to pay the state of Florida $683 million in a settlement over the company’s distribution and dispensing of prescription opioid medications.

The company admits no wrongdoing.

The settlement includes a one-time payment of $63 million in attorney fees and $620 million paid to the state over 18 years.

As big of a loss as this is for Walgreens, it’s an equally huge win for Attorney General Ashley Moody. A portion of the settlement will go directly to cities and counties for opioid prevention, treatment, and recovery services for the afflicted.

The state claimed a Walgreens drug distribution center sold 2.2 million tablets to a single Walgreens pharmacy in Hudson.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office also said Walgreens increased orders up to 600% in just two years.

“Before taking office, I vowed to seek accountability for the opioid crisis, and with this final action, I can now say we have successfully accomplished our mission,” Moody said.

“The more than $3 billion secured through years of determined legal work will go to communities devastated by opioids. Our hope is this money, paid out over the next two decades, will save lives and help Florida families and communities heal.”

The biggest loser: Matt Gaetz. Leave it to the frat boy Congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District to offer the worst take on the serious issue of abortion rights.

After the POLITICO bombshell on the Supreme Court draft about Roe v. Wade got everyone talking, Gaetz weighed in with, well … just read it.

“How many of the women rallying against overturning Roe are over-educated, under-loved millennials who sadly return from protests to a lonely microwave dinner with their cats, and no Bumble matches?” he tweeted.

This guy couldn’t be a bigger loser if he tried.

Is this a good time to remind people that Gaetz remains under investigation for possible sex trafficking? He also was the lone vote in the U.S. House against a human trafficking bill in 2017, and that measure passed 217-1.


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