The game’s afoot in Tallahassee.
The news broke late in the week that there may be some potholes in Senate President Wilton Simpson’s once smooth path to becoming Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner.
POLITICO Florida reported that 32-year-old Afghanistan war veteran and Black Hawk pilot Chuck Nadd may challenge Simpson in the Republican Primary. If Nadd sounds familiar, it could be that you remember the Budweiser commercial about him during the Super Bowl.
There’s a bigger story, though.
Nadd told POLITICO in a statement that — get this — Simpson isn’t a strong enough supporter of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Unfortunately, corrupt career politicians like Wilton Simpson have done nothing but stand in his way,” Nadd said. “My wife Shannon and I refuse to let the Tallahassee establishment reverse the Governor’s hard-fought victories.
“Floridians deserve a battle-tested leader in the Florida Cabinet who will serve alongside the Governor and fight for our shared priorities over the next two or four years, not roadblock them.”
This ought to be good.
Simpson already has Donald Trump’s endorsement. And it would appear that Nadd’s entry, which has been rumored for a few weeks, seemed to have some of the Governor’s fingerprints on the decision. The DeSantis camp said they had no involvement in this.
Before we get too far into that, the Agriculture Commissioner job is supposed to be about, you know, agriculture. Simpson is a successful farmer. Nadd fought terrorists — we thank him for his service — but that’s not the same thing as eradicating citrus greening.
And, to suggest that Simpson was a great roadblock to DeSantis’ agenda this year is a huge stretch. The Governor has been on a victory lap since the Session ended.
True, Simpson and DeSantis don’t see eye to eye on the Governor’s proposed congressional maps. That’s probably what sent this over the top.
Nadd also said he plans to attack Simpson on guns, which is another major stretch.
Simpson was endorsed by the NRA, whose Grand Dame, Marion Hammer, said, “A lot of people talk about defending the Second Amendment, but Wilton Simpson has actually defended our right to bear arms.”
Given all that, Nadd’s entry seems like the longest of shots.
But isn’t that what everyone said four years ago when DeSantis was a little-known congressman from Jacksonville? Remember how Adam Putnam was rolling toward the Governor’s mansion until he wasn’t?
Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.
Honorable mention: The Palm Beach Post. Here is the latest example of why newspapers matter. A Post analysis concluded the state overcounted COVID-19 vaccinations by 600,000 people.
The Post said that more than 100 Florida ZIP codes each reported that more than 100% of their residents had at least one vaccine shot. And in some cases, the Post said, “the number of vaccine recipients recorded by the state Health Department exceeded U.S. Census population estimates by more than 1,000%.
Added together, the ZIP codes in question counted 622,000 more vaccinations than the number of permanent residents.
Some of the numbers could be driven by seasonal visitors from out of state, but we don’t know for sure. Florida doesn’t report those numbers.
The state also has no plans to look into what the Post reported.
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: The University of South Florida. It’s a great time to be a USF Bull.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Simpson made it rain for USF in the recent Legislative Session.
USF is slated to get $75 million for a new ocean science building on its St. Petersburg campus, but that’s not all. It is also receiving millions more for cyber security and nursing. It’s record funding for USF.
Oh, and the university completed its search for a new president by naming Rhea Law to the post. She served as interim president while USF conducted a national search.
Law is a long-time civic and business leader in the Tampa Bay area. She’s also a USF alum, which helped. She thanked Sprowls, also a USF grad, Simpson, and the Tampa Bay delegation for their work.
“The investments proposed for USF will help us continue our tremendous momentum and have a lasting impact on the Tampa Bay region for generations to come,” Law said.
Let’s not forget former House Speaker Will Weatherford, who serves as head of the USF trustees. Weatherford and Law are huge advocates for an on-campus football stadium, and guess what? The school recently announced it has chosen a site for that.
The biggest winner: Ketanji Brown Jackson. The nominee from Miami to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy when Justice Stephen Breyer retires showed grace under fire during her interrogation — uh, confirmation hearing — by some Republicans in the U.S. Senate.
Her record as a judge is fair game when one is considered for the highest court in the land. However, the direction Sen. Josh Hawley took in bringing up why Jackson gave a lenient sentence to an 18-year-old in a child pornography case seemed directly aimed at the QAnon crowd.
Federal guidelines recommended a minimum of 97 months in prison for the offender, but even the prosecution said that was too much. Prosecutors recommended two years in prison, but Jackson gave him three months of incarceration plus 73 months of supervised release.
Hawley, plus Sens. Marsha Blackburn, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee all implied Jackson was soft on sexual predators.
Why would they do that?
Because the Q crowd, remember, says Democrats engage in sex trafficking of children. Worse, according to one poll, 59% of Trump supporters believe that’s true.
These dog whistles do have potential ramifications. Remember Pizzagate? That happened in 2016, when a guy starting shooting at a pizza parlor in Washington where he believed Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, her former campaign chair, ran a child sex ring.
Jackson held up well, though, and the Senate likely will confirm her appointment.
Dishonorable mention: Taylor Walls. A second baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays, Walls became an unwitting center of attention on social media. That’s because he expressed his opinion on the transgender sports issue, which public figures — and he is one — do at their own risk these days.
As we know, DeSantis has issues with transgender women competing with cisgender women in sports events. Never one to miss a campaign moment, DeSantis quickly weighed in after transgender woman Lia Thomas won an event at the national NCAA swim meet.
DeSantis blasted the NCAA for “destroying opportunities for women, making a mockery of its championships and perpetuating a fraud.”
Enter Taylor Walls.
He retweeted DeSantis’ tweet, adding, “Couldn’t agree more.”
Release the hounds!
Social media may be the most ironically named platform of all time, since, as Walls quickly learned, it’s anything but social.
As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote, “By the end of the afternoon, Walls found everything from his political beliefs to his hairstyle being debated by commenters on both sides of the issue.”
Rays Manager Kevin Cash punctuated the second-year player’s day with a lecture about what can happen when one ventures into social media.
“In my opinion, I don’t think I did anything wrong,” Walls told the Times. “I think I just gave my opinion. Some people may have taken that out of context. And I’m very sorry to them. I respect them. I don’t mean any disrespect to anybody at all.”
He didn’t do anything wrong.
However, pssst, kid? As someone known for giving my opinion, often the best key to use before sending a tweet is the delete key. Just sayin’.
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: DeSantis campaign. The campaign signed up UFC star Jorge Masvidal to join the Governor at a campaign rally in Miami.
The problem is that the announcement of Masvidal’s appearance for the March 30 event came as police investigated — then arrested — Masvidal on felony charges of aggravated battery and criminal mischief. The charges stem from a fight with UFC rival Colby Covington outside of Papi Steak restaurant in Miami Beach last Monday night.
Covington suffered a fractured tooth in the altercation.
Covington recently defeated Masvidal in the featured bout of a PPV event.
The biggest loser: Florida Democrats. Speaking of clueless, ever wonder why many people believe they could mess up a one-car parade? It’s because Democrats keep doing just that.
They have a knack for appearing clueless at the oddest times, such as when they scheduled a major Leadership Blue conference for June 17-19 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
Let’s see, hmm….what else was going on at that time?
A): Pride Month (strike one); B) Juneteenth (strike two); and Father’s Day (strike three, yer OUT!).
On top of that, holding the event at a Disney property exhibited a disconnect because — I don’t know if you’ve heard this — the LGBTQ+ community has issues with Disney’s initial silence on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“Scheduling Leadership Blue at Disney during Pride Month this year is nothing but tone-deaf. To put it another way: FDP — read the room,” LGBTQ+ Caucus President Stephen Gaskill said in a news release following the announcement of the party’s “save the date” for the event.
Democrats got the message, although it came after the pie hit them squarely in the face. They will reschedule the conference.
“We have heard the feedback regarding our Leadership Blue weekend, including conflicts with Pride Month, Juneteenth, and Father’s Day events, all of which we intended to honor,” Party Chair Manny Diaz said in a news release.
“Our timing was not ideal. We also acknowledge that in our fight for freedom and fairness, we can always do more. In that spirit, the Florida Democratic Party will choose new dates and venues to hold Leadership Blue. We will share information about new arrangements once we have explored available options.”
Friendly suggestion: Don’t go for the Fourth of July.