Winner and Loser of the Week in Politics in Florida – Week of 7.3.22
The weirdest story of the week – which says something in this state – concerned the English department at the University of Central Florida statement against racism.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that the department noted on its website that it suspended the statement because it violated state law. Soon after, however, the suspension notice disappeared. A UCF spokesperson told the Sentinel that the university leadership did not order the removal.
Clearly, the original decision was a reaction to the so-called “Stop WOKE Act” championed by the governor. Ron DeSantis. Its official name – ironically titled individual liberty – is actually about the restriction of freedom. It came into effect on July 1.
It prohibits Florida K-12 schools, colleges, and universities from teaching anything resembling critical race theory without actually defining what it is.
UCF’s English department apparently believed its statement, adopted in 2021, might have strayed into forbidden territory.
It said in part: “Our discipline of English has been marred by an appalling history of complicity in the perpetuation of colonialist and racist practices and power structures. Our field has too long defended an exclusive, elitist and blindingly white literary canon.
I understand UCF’s dilemma on this.
DeSantis is on a crusade to say teaching about Florida’s racist past — and sometimes present — is a crime. He calls it “indoctrination”, while others might say it is “education”.
First Amendment advocates also have a role to play in this regard, and we will let the courts sort it out.
But the problem now is that the sloppy language of the WOKE Act defies any clear legal explanation of what someone can or cannot say.
Here is the legal summary of HB 7. See if you can figure it out.
“Provides that subject individuals to specified concepts in certain circumstances constitutes discrimination based on race, color, sex or national origin; revise requirements for required education in African American history; requiring the ministry to prepare and deliver certain standards and curricula; authorize the ministry to seek the advice of a specific organization for certain purposes; prohibits instructional material reviewers from recommending instructional material that contains content that is contrary to certain principles; requires the DOE to review school district professional development systems to comply with certain provisions of the law.
It’s legal gibberish, which is probably the Governor’s intent. He acts as if the law is what he says. Who knows what it might be on any given day?
Now it’s time for our weekly game of winners and losers.
Honorable Mention: Mark Lombardo. His campaign to overthrow the U.S. Representative. Matt Gaetz in Florida’s 1st congressional district received a boost. A candidate in what was a four-way race in this Republican primary withdrew and quickly endorsed Lombardo.
Bryan Jonesa US Air Force special operations pilot, had left active duty to campaign for the seat.
“The Aug. 23 Republican primary is a winner-take-all system, and a crowded ballot is not in the best interests of voters in this district,” he said in a statement.
“Although this is one of my family’s most difficult decisions in our lives, my withdrawal from this race comes from a higher call to stay true to my faith, to the core values that I guide and my life’s mission to put the good of others above my own.
This leaves Lombardo and Greg Merck still in the race against Gaetz.
Lombardo is a retired Marine and former FedEx executive. He swore to spend up to $1 million of his own money to knock out Gaetz.
Almost (but not quite) the biggest winner: DeSantis. His unheralded run for president in 2024 received a humorous boost from an unlikely source.
The Lincoln Project posted a biting video that uses DeSantis to mock what his Mar-a-Lago name is.
The 30-second track begins with the image of DeSantis and donald trump, with the words, “It’s hard to watch, isn’t it, Donald?” Ron DeSantis betrayed you to become a star.
He later adds, “He’s laughing at you.”
DeSantis is too smart to take a premature victory lap because Trump obviously remains a force with the Republicans. But there’s no denying that DeSantis appears to be headed for a presidential run, and he won’t oppose just to spare Trump’s feelings.
Biggest Winner: Florida Teachers. The Florida Department of Education (DOE) celebrated that overall school grades for the 2021-22 school year exceeded expectations.
The The DOE bragged that it happened because of “policies that kept schools open and students in the classroom.”
The open classrooms certainly created a better learning atmosphere. But the gold star for the better-than-expected result goes to the Florida teachers.
Over the years, they have been bullied, slandered, belittled, and forced to writhe in the wind by the ever-changing demands of Florida lawmakers. Then you launch a pandemic that has turned education upside down, and the overall performance of teachers is extraordinary.
We cannot thank them enough for what they are doing to prepare the next generations of Floridians.
Dishonorable Mention: City of Orlando. City officials were red-faced and apologized after a message on a Fourth of July the fireworks went too far.
“When there’s so much division, hatred and unrest, why on earth would you want to throw a party to celebrate it all?” the statement read.
Keep on going …
“At that moment, something takes over and we all become united in an inexplicable bond. Yes, America is in conflict right now, but you know what…we already bought the fireworks.
The post was enough fireworks.
Almost (but not quite) the biggest loser: James Judge. The Republican candidate hopes to beat the Democratic incumbent Catherine Beaver in Florida’s 15th congressional district has taken its dedication to the Second Amendment to a disgusting level. They say timing is everything, and Judge showed an astonishing amount of bad timing.
Tampa Bay weather reported that the judge announced that he was raffling off four AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles. He made the pitch two days after a gunman used a similar-style weapon to murder seven people during a July 4 parade outside Chicago.
“The radical far left wants to abolish our Second Amendment completely. Not in my care! My campaign is challenging them by offering four AR-15s,” Judge said on his campaign website.
In fact, most people would just like to attend a 4th of July celebration without fearing that some crazy man on a rooftop will kill them with a weapon of war.
Before Judge can take on Castor, he must win a three-way race in the Aug. 23 Republican primary.
The Biggest Loser: California Governor Gavin Newsom. If Newsom believed in trolling DeSantis in a 4th of July ad on Fox News would have an impact, he was grotesquely wrong.
The ad touts California’s approach to gay rights and cleverly attacks DeSantis’ “Free State of Florida” schtick.
“It’s Independence Day, so let’s talk about what’s happening in America,” Newsom said in the announcement.
“Freedom is under attack in your state. Republican leaders are banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors. I urge you all to live in Florida join the fight or join us in California.
Well, OK, the ad might have had more impact if Newsom wasn’t vacation in Montana with his family at the time the spot aired. Due to its LGBTQ+ restrictions, Montana is on a list of 22 states banned from state-funded travel by California.
Yes, Newsom paid for the vacation, but that’s still a bad look and deserves a dishonorable mention.
Plus, it all only made DeSantis even more popular with his base, as if that were possible.
It should also be noted that the Governor’s wife, Casey DeSantis, is a major asset for advancing its agenda and ambitions. She appears with him on many rallies, and the pair exudes youthful energy and drive. She is the best running mate a candidate could wish for.
And we’ll leave this segment with one more shot at the Democrat Val Demings and his campaign to oust the US senator. Marco Rubio. As we noted recently, his “cop on the beat” ad touting his experience in law enforcement misses the mark.
She needs to focus more on what she will do for Floridians if elected, but FiveThirtyEight don’t think that will be a problem. This currently gives him a 6% chance of beating Rubio.
She must do better.