Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics – Week of 5.15.22

Republicans aren’t the only ones who think President Joe Biden is doing a lousy job. After the events of the last several days, the Florida Democrats aren’t happy with their party leader either.

Biden threw a one-two punch that could essentially ensure Florida will go deep red this fall.

He lifted restrictions that former President Donald Trump imposed on Cuba. That’s a move back to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the US and the island nation in 2015 by former President Barack Obama.

Biden also eased sanctions on Venezuela, provided dictator Nicolás Maduro commits to talks with US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó. The US is among about 60 nations recognizing him as the Venezuelan leader.

Two words: Melt. Down.

Criticism flew rapidly at Biden from all corners of Florida, particularly the southern part. Republicans and Democrats agree: This is bad.

“Allowing investments in the Cuban private sector and easing travel restrictions will only serve to fund the corrupt dictatorship,” Democratic US Senate candidate Val Demings said.

But it’s a tacit admission by the President that Florida will stay red no matter what he does. Biden’s gamble is that no state outside of Florida will care one way or the other. And if the Venezuelan move eventually leads to more oil and lower prices, the vast majority of Americans will care even less about where it came from.

The win for Biden on Cuba would be scenes of happy families reuniting, freed from Trump’s restrictions that separated them.

That almost certainly doesn’t come in time to help with the November election, but Biden is playing the long game here. Florida Democrats, however, get the short end of that stick.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Annette Taddeo is exasperated.

“To remove sanctions and allow oil companies to go in there, are we doing that with Russia next?” she asked.


OK, on ​​to our weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention: Joseph Woodrow Hatchett. The US House voted to name the US Courthouse of Northern Florida in Tallahassee Judge Joseph Woodrow Hatchett US Courthouse. Hatchett was Florida’s first Black state Supreme Court Justice.

The measure now goes to the Senate.

Hatchett died in April 2021.

In March, the House voted down the first attempt to rename the building. Republicans objected after learning that in 1999 Hatchett, as an appeal court judge, ruled against allowing prayer at a public school district’s graduation in Duval County.

“Judge Hatchett was a trailblazing American judge and veteran,” Democratic Rep. Al Lawson said. “He was a champion for social justice reform and a dedicated public servant. Despite experiencing racial discrimination, that never deterred his desire to serve in the justice system. He had a long career of prestigious judgeships, military service, and civil rights advocacy that broke barriers for the Black community. ”

Florida Rep. Neal Dunn, a Republican, noted, “He is a great Floridian and American and should be recognized as such. I take issue with his decision regarding student-approved prayers at high school graduations; however, that one decision must not overshadow all his achievements. Now that I’ve had time to learn more about Judge Hatchett, I am proud to support the renaming of this courthouse. ”

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Florida’s first couple. We can all get behind this culture war – the war on the drug culture.

First Lady Casey DeSantis and her husband, the Governor, stepped up front and center in Florida’s never-ending battle against street drugs, especially fentanyl.

Casey appeared at Tohopekaliga High School in Kissimmee to speak to students about the dangers of those substances.

“These drugs that these officers are seeing on the streets, they’re really scary,” the First Lady said. “The drug fentanyl, which only has to be the size of a grain of sand to be deadly, is pouring into our country and winding up in all different types of drugs. You might think you’re taking one thing, but if it’s laced with fentanyl, it could instantaneously kill you on the spot. ”

Later the same day, the Governor traveled to Lakeland to sign legislation (HB 95) increasing penalties for trafficking in controlled substances, particularly fentanyl.

“You go to look at like certain street drugs that are considered, quote, not as lethal – if this fentanyl is in it, then all of a sudden, you’re looking at something that could take your life,” DeSantis said.

The biggest winner: Fentrice Driskell. Barring something completely unexpected, House Democrats will elect her to lead their caucus.

It’s an oft-frustrating task for whoever is in that position because Republicans control Tallahassee and aren’t eager to share power.

However, as one of the state’s most prominent Democrats, Driskell will be in a position to steer the party back to relevancy.

The only way to do that is at the ballot box, and the only way that works is if voters hear a consistent message that they believe will improve their lives.

Too often, Democrats resemble a cacophony of voices, each singing different tunes simultaneously. Folks tune out that stuff because, for the most part, they don’t care about the minutiae of politics.

Simplify and then amplify.

Driskell’s first job in her new role is to get her fellow Democrats to buy into that.


Dishonorable mention: Rick Scott. If Scott falls in the forest, does he make a sound?

For many people, according to a new POLITICO / Morning Consult poll, the answer is “no.”

Not surprisingly, only 16% had a favorable view, while 27% turned thumbs-down. I wonder why? Could it be a reaction to Scott’s “Rescue America” plan, which, translated, is to slap a tax on the poorest Americans?

However, 36% of respondents said they had never heard of Florida’s junior Senator. Another 21% had no opinion. Combined, 57% of those polled either don’t know him or don’t care.

He shouldn’t feel too bad though. The poll showed that people generally have bad opinions about virtually all the top Washington politicians.

And if you’re wondering about the squire of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s numbers showed 56% unfavorable compared to 41% favorable.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser (s): GOP reps who voted against funding for baby formula. We have disdain for the 192 House Republicans who voted against $ 28 million in emergency funding to help in the ongoing baby formula shortage.

We reserve special scorn for the 15 who “represent” Florida.

Remember the names: Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Kat Cammack, Mario Diaz-Balart, Byron Donalds, Neal Dunn, Scott C. Franklin, Carlos Gimenez, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Maria Elvira Salazar, Greg Steube, Michael Waltz and Daniel Webster.

These dedicated public servants responded to the call of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise to vote “no.”

He said Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed the legislation “in hopes of covering up the administration’s ineptitude by throwing additional money at the FDA with no plan to actually fix the problem, all while failing to hold the FDA accountable. ”

We’re still waiting for Rep. Scalise’s plan to “actually fix the problem.”

Meanwhile, babies are hungry, mothers are desperate and these people play politics. What if their kid was hungry? No wonder people hate politicians.

The Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act passed 231-192. It provides funding to help increase inspectors at the Food and Drug Administration. That could help get formula on shelves faster.

It now goes to the Senate.

The nation’s supply of baby formula fell by 40% after Abbott Nutrition, the nation’s largest manufacturer, voluntarily recalled baby formula after discovering several infants suffering from bacterial infections.

The biggest loser: Florida’s congressional count. Oops.

Florida may have been robbed of an extra seat in Congress for the next decade because the US Census undercounted the state’s population by more than 700,000 people.

That’s the conclusion of a post-enumeration survey released Thursday by the Census Bureau. Florida was one of six states affected by low counts, joining Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

They blamed the error on low self-response rates to Census surveys.

Florida did pick up an extra seat after the Census, giving the state 28 representatives in the US House of Representatives. However, it should have been 29.

With control of the House hanging in balance every two years, losing that extra seat could have large ramifications.

The Florida Democrats may actually take heart in that news, figuring that DeSantis would have figured out a way to turn the extra seat red.

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