Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 5.19.24 (2024)

Cape Canaveral is now the permanent home to the Space Force STARCOM, while anti-Donald Trump Republicans are without a home after Nikki Haley bent the knee.

Alright so there is good news and bad news. The good news is that Heritage Insurance Holdings Inc. is dropping its property insurance rates just ahead of hurricane season, a sign that Florida’s home insurance market may be improving, albeit with a long way to go.

The bad news? Based on this year’s hurricane forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Florida homeowners may need all the help they can get.

The NOAA projections are scary. The agency predicts 17 to 25 named storms in the Atlantic Ocean. Those are the highest ever numbers seen in NOAA’s May report.

NOAA forecasts between eight and 13 becoming hurricanes, with four to seven major hurricanes of at least Category 3 strength. These high figures are a result of an abnormally warm ocean. NOAA says the waters now have temperatures more regularly seen in August.

“This season is looking to be an extraordinary one,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said.

Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 5.19.24 (1)

Of course, none of these projections can foresee whether any of these storms will make landfall in the U.S., much less Florida. There is always the hope that the storms stay away from heavily populated areas and fail to cause much damage.

But with this many powerful storms expected, the odds of a storm-free season become lower. It’s by no means a lock that Florida will see another giant hurricane this year. But families — especially those new to the state — should certainly be prepared just in case.

Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.

Winners

Honorable mention: Shan Rose, Travaris McCurdy. Rose and McCurdy placed first and second, respectively, in an Orlando City Commission contest. The two will now advance to a June 18 runoff.

Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 5.19.24 (2)

Seven candidates competed this week to fill the seat of suspendedCity CommissionerRegina Hill. You’ll recall that Hill came under fire after being arrested and accused of defrauding an elderly constituent.

With just 2,125 total votes cast, the race was tight at the top. Rose topped the field with 527 votes, followed by McCurdy with 495. Public relations strategistEricka Dunlap was just a few dozen votes behind, with 459, followed by civil rights activist Lawanna Gelzer with 403 votes. The other three candidates ended far behind.

So Rose and McCurdy will each have a chance to fill out the remainder of Hill’s term, which runs until the end of 2025. That’s assuming Hill doesn’t beat the charges and return to office.

For now, both Rose and McCurdy have a chance in what will likely be another low turnout affair.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest winner: Ron DeSantis. DeSantis is dancing with the national spotlight once again, snagging hosting duties this week on a major radio talk show and appearing to repair his relationship with Donald Trump as the 2024 presidential race heats up.

“Ron, I love that you’re back,” Trump reportedly said during a conference call to DeSantis, allies and donors who met in Fort Lauderdale this week helping to raise money to support Trump. No word if meatball was on the menu, but Trump apparently left the “meatball” aside when addressing DeSantis on the call.

The 2024 Primary battle between Trump and DeSantis was vicious, with Trump feeling DeSantis should have stayed on the sidelines out of gratitude for Trump’s help in 2018. DeSantis mostly sat quiet as Trump assailed his character before eventually taking it to the former President, but only when it was far too late to matter.

Well, it appears DeSantis has been able to make nice with the former President, a reality that wasn’t a sure thing when the two were going at it over the past year. With DeSantis eyeing a 2028 comeback effort, he’ll need to be on the former President’s good side, and it appears as though they are on that path.

Add it to DeSantis’ chance to fill in for host Sean Hannity on his radio show, and it appears as though DeSantis is beginning to regain some of the magic that made him one of the party’s brightest stars for a few years. He’s got a long way to go to recapture that, if he ever can, but this was a good week for him.

The biggest winner: Cape Canaveral. STARCOM is staying after all.

The Space Force is keeping its Training and Readiness Command Center at the Cape Canaveral military base, its temporary home since last year. U.S. Rep.Bill Posey, who represents the district where the base is located, made the exciting announcement.

“Pleased to learn that the US Air Force selected Patrick Space Force Base as the permanent headquarters for STARCOM!” heposted on X. “Proud to have worked alongside Sen.Rick Scottand Sen.Marco Rubioand (the) Florida Delegation to champion this effort.”

The news comes just a few months after NASA’s Kennedy Space Center here in Cape Canaveral hosted the launch for the first private business operation to land on the moon, a huge win for Space Florida. Now, the state will be home to training and readiness efforts for the military’s space branch, housing 350 permanent personnel.

Houston does have a problem. It’s that Cape Canaveral is solidifying its reputation as the center of all things space for the U.S.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Vanessa Brito. Brito, the Campaign Manager for Democratic congressional candidate Phil Ehr, was arrested at a fundraising event for Democratic congressional candidate Sabrina Bousbar over an outstanding bench warrant for allegedly shoplifting just over $100 in items from Target.

A report from the Miami Herald says the warrant was issued in 2018 after Brito ghosted on her court date.

Ehr is running an uphill battle against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez. This is a distraction Ehr can ill afford to deal with as he tried to oust a well-funded Republican incumbent in an increasingly red Miami-Dade County.

And Bousbar unfortunately gets collateral damage here, as the arrest happened at her fundraiser. Bousbar’s team did say that they had no knowledge of Brito’s background regarding the warrant, nor did she do any work for their campaign.

This isn’t Brito’s only legal troubles either. Months after being arrested for the shoplifting incident, she faced another arrest for trespassing in a Walgreens, according to the Herald. And she is currently facing a lawsuit over allegedly snagging $30,000 from a GoFundMe account improperly. She has been held in contempt multiple times in that case.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest loser: Election officials. Local election officials are pointing out problems with new rules pushed by the DeSantis administration regarding spoiled ballots.

Gary Fineout of POLITICO explained the latest scuffle between local and state officials. The new rule would apply when a voter makes a mistake and asks for a new ballot. Poll workers would then be required to cut off each corner of the spoiled ballot, then put the ballot into an envelope.

Florida, however, has language in its constitution protecting the right to a secret ballot. That has Elections Supervisors worried about the new rule, which could lead to poll workers seeing how the voter had marked his or her ballot while cutting those corners.

“You do not touch a ballot that has voter marks on it,” said Leon County Elections Supervisor Mark Earley in remarks at a conference attended by Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, as reported by POLITICO.

Other Supervisors also voiced strenuous concern, and said they are worried the Governor could remove them from office if they don’t follow the rule, despite its deficiencies.

Florida has tried project toughness when it comes to preventing voter fraud following Trump’s conspiracy-filled tantrum following his 202 election loss. But this is another example of the proposed policies being shoddy at best.

It seems when it comes to constructing good law that will actually secure our voting systems, our state-level officials are the ones cutting corners.

The biggest loser: Nikki Haley. Haley bent the knee to Trump after aggressively positioning herself as the anti-Trump candidate down the stretch run of the Primary campaign.

Whereas DeSantis’ calculation in making nice with Trump could pay off and isn’t completely alienating his own base, Haley’s decision here seems completely at odds with her language in the last months of the 2024 contest.

DeSantis came up with Trump, tussled (yes, with some very aggressive language) over who would be best to lead the party this cycle, then immediately endorsed Trump after he pulled out of the race.

Haley, meanwhile, realized that as the last major non-Trump Republican standing, she needed to appeal to a different sector of the Republican Party. So she did, calling Trump “unhinged” at times and going into full-on attack mode when Trump questioned her husband’s whereabouts during the campaign. Haley’s husband was deployed overseas as a member of the South Carolina National Guard.

“Someone who continually disrespects the sacrifices of military families has no business being commander in chief,” Haley responded.

Turns out, she is going to vote for Trump to be just that.

Look, with how down in the mud Trump gets, it’s humiliating to some degree every time a major Republican candidate tries to make nice with him after they lose. But most of the time, we can at least understand their calculus: They want to be leaders in the party going forward (see: DeSantis, Rubio, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, etc.) and they need Trump’s base to do just that.

And DeSantis appears to have a lane to get back into the base’s good graces. Polling continues to show support for DeSantis as Trump’s running mate. That’s not likely to happen, but it does show that the base seems to view DeSantis’ 2024 run as poorly timed rather than as an affront to their very existence.

But Haley, weeks after ending her candidacy, continued to draw significant support, though still a minority, in Republican Presidential Primary contests. This was not a function of people voting early before she had dropped it. This was a chunk of the party casting protest votes against Trump, signaling their unhappiness. And Haley was their vehicle.

Haley could have been the leader of this faction of the GOP going forward. If Trump loses this year, Haley would have been perfectly positioned to lead the party along a new path going forward. If Trump won, perhaps Haley still could have positioned herself as a rebuilder should Trump’s second term go awry.

But sure, that’s a risk. So let’s look at Haley’s calculus here. She is betting that efforts to make nice with Trump — which the former President appears ready to reciprocate — can allow her to nab some of his supporters in the post-Trump party while still holding onto that more moderate wing.

Will that moderate wing still embrace Haley after yet another flip-flop regarding Trump, something she has done for years now? It’s not clear they will, but time will tell.

Here’s what we do know, though. Haley has absolutely zero shot to win over a significant portion of Trump’s base. It is not happening, not now, not ever. The MAGA sect absolutely loathes moderate Republicans like Haley. In their eyes, she’s closer to a Democrat than she is to them.

So Haley risked pissing off her minority, but still sizable base of support in the GOP for a 0% chance of picking up MAGA support in 2028 or later. She may have a background as an accountant, but the math here is just not adding up.

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Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 5.19.24 (2024)

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