The smart money said Gwen Graham would win the Democratic gubernatorial Primary four years ago. She seemingly had everything going for her — money, name recognition and a long list of endorsements.
We know what happened though. Progressive voters turned out for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in sufficient numbers to give him the upset victory over Graham and five other candidates.
It’s dangerous to make assumptions about elections, especially in Florida.
We mention this because we’re still four months away from the August 23 Primary Election, and anything can happen. It also appears that Nikki Fried didn’t get the memo that Charlie Crist is sailing toward the party’s nomination to run for Governor.
Multiple polls show Crist with a steady double-digit lead over Fried, with Annette Taddeo even further behind. Fried routinely says she isn’t concerned about that, and in recent days she reminded voters of her progressive chops, but with a twist.
She filed a lawsuit against the administration of President Joe Biden. Wait … what? Yep, Florida’s lone statewide elected Democrat sued the Democratic President over a federal rule prohibiting medical marijuana users from buying a gun or having a concealed weapons permit.
“This is just one of the many areas where medical marijuana patients face discrimination or access issues due to being prescribed a state legal medicine,” Fried said.
That’s an interesting double play — pairing medical weed with guns.
Crist quickly countered by reminding people of his pledge to legalize recreational marijuana. He also promised to expunge the records of nonviolent marijuana offenders.
Fried also joined the chorus of people saying it’s time to end mandatory mask-wearing.
“Are we going to wear masks forever?” she asked, parroting a position long held by her arch-nemesis, Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Her position puts her at odds again with the Biden administration. Biden officials are appealing a federal judge’s decision that said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention couldn’t require people to wear masks on airplanes and other forms of mass transit.
Fried may not win, but we know she’ll keep saying what’s on her mind. It’s refreshing.
Now, on to our weekly game of winners and losers.
Honorable mention: Protesting Democrats. Maybe it was just symbolic and had no real impact on the outcome, but give at least a little credit to Florida Democrats for their protest Thursday at the Capitol.
They staged a sit-in on the House floor while Republicans steamrolled approval of congressional maps that will almost certainly mean fewer Black Representatives from Florida in Congress.
The Miami Herald reported that Rep. Yvonne Hinson, a Gainesville Democrat who faced segregation while growing up, was particularly emotional.
“I’ve been kicked. I’ve been talked about, and I have been called names you don’t even put in the dictionary anymore,” Hinson told House members.
“The Voting Rights Act of 1965, I fought for that. I’ve met Martin Luther King, I don’t just talk about him. He taught me peaceful protests, and here we are, 2022, rolling back the tide.”
FiveThirtyEight analyzed the maps in a story headlined The Extreme Bias Of Florida’s New Congressional Map.
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner(s): Vern Buchanan and Greg Steube.
Redistricting might have put these two GOP members of the U.S. House on a collision course for a Primary battle, but they avoided that.
The new congressional maps mean both men live in what is now Florida’s 17th Congressional District. However, residency in a specific district is not required when running for Congress.
Steube announced he would run in CD 17, which he currently represents. That includes all of Sarasota and Charlotte counties and a portion of Lee County.
Buchanan, meanwhile, said he’ll stay in Florida’s 16th Congressional District, which he currently represents under the old maps. Under the new map, it will include all of Manatee and a portion of Hillsborough.
If Republicans take back the House, Buchanan likely will become Chair of the Ways and Means committee. That probably matters much more to him than the new maps.
The biggest winner: DeSantis. He can be petty, polarizing, and vindictive, but the Governor gets everything he wants.
We saw that again during the Special Session, where Republican lawmakers dutifully approved the Governor’s congressional maps. The courts will likely have the final say on the new boundaries, but many believe that won’t come until after the November elections.
Meanwhile, DeSantis’ map stuck a fork into Democrats all over the state. The Tampa Bay area saw two Democratic districts redrawn to turn one of them red.
There was no bigger loser in this than U.S. Rep. Al Lawson. The North Florida Democrat went from a safe minority-dominated district into a deep red district where he has little or no chance of winning.
In the showdown with Disney, DeSantis also got what he wanted over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The Governor showed his adoring supporters that Disney’s “woke” culture wouldn’t fly in Florida.
As if that wasn’t enough, DeSantis got more free airtime when the Florida Department of Education rejected 54 math books. A news release carried the headline “Florida Rejects Publishers’ Attempts to Indoctrinate Students.” You can read the details there.
Dishonorable mention: Randy Fine. He’s rapidly earning a reputation as the loosest cannon in the Florida House.
While the debate about Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District raged, Fine came up with quite possibly the dumbest take on the situation.
He tweeted, “Disney is a guest in Florida. Today, we remind them. (DeSantis) just expanded the Special Session so I could file HB3C which eliminates Reedy Creek Improvement District, a 50 yr-old special statute that makes Disney … exempt from laws faced by regular Floridians.”
A guest, huh?
Fine, a native of Arizona, moved to Florida in 2006.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom opened in Florida in 1971, three years before Fine was born.
And that bit about Disney “exempt from laws faced by regular Floridians” is bluster stacked on baloney. Reedy Creek meant Disney paid for its fire, road construction and maintenance, and other services normally provided by counties.
Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph said Disney pays about $105 million per year on that, along with property taxes like everyone else.
Guess who could get stuck with the tab for those services if Reedy Creek actually dissolves?
Fine’s bill passed but won’t take effect until 2023. Lots can happen between now and then, but it’s plenty of time for Fine to say more stupid stuff.
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser(s): Ben Diamond, Eric Lynn, and Michele Rayner-Goolsby. They’re the Democrats vying to replace Crist in CD 13, and they had to feel good about their chances before the maps came out.
Now, that district looks solidly red.
That greatly reduces the chance that whoever prevails in the Democratic Primary can win in November.
Rayner-Goolsby tweeted, “As I’m thinking about what happened (Thursday). The Governor and his sheep passed on the most partisan and racist congressional redistricting maps in recent history and in the nation. I guess Ronald Dion Desantis mission is clear — #DontSayBlack.”
Diamond, who gave up the chance to be the House Minority Leader to run for Congress, was also blunt.
“Our Founding Fathers warned us about the corrupting nature of power,” he tweeted. “(Thursday’s) passage of Florida’s gerrymandered and illegal congressional map is an abdication of our duty as legislators and a subversion of the power of the people we were elected to represent.”
The biggest loser: Lawson. The Black Democratic Congressman from District 5 got pancaked by the new maps.
We knew it was going to happen, of course. DeSantis used the odd configuration of Lawson’s district as the impetus to override maps submitted by the House and Senate.
Those maps preserved Lawson’s district, a narrow corridor stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. Lawmakers designed it to increase the likelihood a Black could be elected from there.
Instead, DeSantis shoved Lawson into a deep red district in Jacksonville, where he has no realistic shot of winning.
Lawson’s best hope of keeping his seat could depend on how quickly the courts rule on the legality of DeSantis’ maps. He needs that to happen right away.