Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 4.21.24

Gun Rights

Well, those were some fireworks.

This year’s federal qualifying week had several surprises, and most of them unique, from a last-minute retirement from Congress to a much-hyped celebrity candidacy that never was.

The biggest news that actually happened was Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey deciding against running for another term, endorsing former Senate President Mike Haridopolos as his preferred successor.

Haridopolos only filed for the seat about an hour before Friday’s qualifying deadline, and Posey only confirmed his decision to forgo another term after the deadline had passed. The shocker provided a jolt to what was already a highly watched qualifying week.

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Much of that attention was on Luther Campbell, who had teased a run for Congress for weeks.

Uncle Luke first began floating a run earlier this month to promote a documentary he had produced for Hulu. Well, it seems like the 2 Live Crew frontman was only looking for some buzz, as that’s all he delivered.

Things did get interesting in the middle of last week, when he opened a federal campaign account. But Campbell never qualified with the state, reportedly over concerns about financial disclosure rules for candidates.

So we went from a contested Primary in Florida’s 20th Congressional District featuring one of the region’s biggest celebrities — a bid that also likely would have boosted his brother’s run for U.S. Senate — to incumbent CD 20 U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick winning re-election unopposed and no drama whatsoever.

But there was other news from this week. Democrats met their goal of fielding a candidate in every congressional race, an impressive move for a party looking to be taken seriously this cycle and beyond after getting walloped in 2022. Republicans, by the way, are also fielding a candidate in every race except CD 20.

Both the Republican and Democratic Primaries for U.S. Senate will also be contested. And the Democratic Primaries in Florida’s 13th and 27th Congressional District — two regions where Democrats would like to compete — are full of legitimate, well-funded candidates. That likely signals some heated Primaries are ahead, which could sap resources better used in the General.

All in all, it was an eventful week, kicking off this year’s election season in earnest.

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


Honorable mention: Shevrin Jones. Congratulations to the new Chair of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee.

We noted last week that Jones would be a welcome voice leading the party as Democrats try to win back support down south. A Friday vote confirmed Jones’ ascension to the position.

It wasn’t without controversy, as filmmaker Billy Corben made a run for the position as well. But Corben dropped out with a vengeance, criticizing the local party’s decisions regarding Chair candidate forums, and hammering the Miami-Dade Dems for scheduling the Chair vote on the Passover sabbath.

These were a series of unforced errors by the party, and all the more reason why bringing in new leadership to right the ship is needed.

Republicans overperformed in Miami-Dade last cycle. And if polling of Hispanic voters is any indication, the GOP might be ready for a repeat. Jones gets to celebrate this week for earning this position. But now the hard work starts.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest winner: Ashley Moody. The Attorney General is once again stepping up to defend the Florida State University Seminoles, this time with a lawsuit.

Moody filed suit against the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), arguing that the ACC is improperly shielding media rights contracts from the public, with Moody saying they should be public records because FSU is a state university.

FSU and the ACC are already involved in a legal fight, as FSU looks to leave for another conference amid a significant conference realignment ongoing in college sports. FSU is looking to avoid paying hundreds of millions in penalties for leaving the conference. The ACC argues a current deal requires FSU to remain in the ACC for 12 more years.

Moody filed a public records request for the documents earlier this year, but said the ACC hasn’t responded. Moody is arguing that the documents are key to understanding whether the stiff penalty for FSU leaving is warranted.

Moody’s latest move comes months after she made a legal demand to the College Football Playoff committee requesting documents relating to the committee’s controversial decision to leave the Seminoles out of the playoff, costing the university millions.

The Attorney General may be a double Gator, but she’s fighting hard to make sure Florida schools aren’t getting bullied out of big-time dollars.

The biggest winner: Florida’s environment. Earth Day was this past Monday. And while Republicans have typically been averse to embracing the environment-focused holiday, Gov. Ron DeSantis used this past week to roll out win after win for Florida’s environment.

On Earth Day, DeSantis announced a plan to spend another $1.5 billion for Everglades restoration. Last year, the Governor committed to a four-year, $3.5 billion effort to aid the Everglades. This year’s allotment puts the state just $300 million shy of that number with two years to go.

One day later, DeSantis signed legislation helping expand Florida’s Wildlife Corridor and improve red tide research.

And on Wednesday, the Governor shifted from protecting the state’s environment to protecting Floridians from environmental catastrophes. DeSantis signed a measure adding $200 million to the My Safe Florida Home program, which offers grants to homeowners who upgrade their homes to protect against storms.

This week’s moves come after DeSantis earlier this month approved a measure funneling the bulk of revenues from the new  Seminole Tribe of Florida Gaming Compact into environmental projects.

DeSantis came into office in 2019 off the back of a Donald Trump endorsement and after spending his time in Congress aligned with the conservative Freedom Caucus. But one of his first acts was recommending $2.5 billion over four years to improve water quality in the Everglades.

It’s hard for some to remember that version of DeSantis now that he’s molded himself into a right-leaning culture warrior. But it’s good to see DeSantis still remains committed to putting major money toward keeping Florida the beautiful destination that residents and tourists have grown up with.


Dishonorable mention: Debbie Mayfield. Posey’s last-minute decision not to run for re-election froze out any serious challengers from emerging aside from Haridopolos

And former state Sen. Mayfield is a big name left on the outside looking in thanks to Posey’s move.

“Mayfield had been viewed as a contender for this seat if Posey left,” POLITICO’s Gary Fineout noted on X after Posey confirmed to Florida Politics his decision to step down.

Haridopolos’s late filing signaled something was afoot. But with Posey already qualified by petition and touting an endorsement from Trump, nobody — including Mayfield — was quite ready for this move, outside of Posey’s inner circle. That means the last-minute move left no time for anyone else to react.

And look, Posey was quick to endorse Haridopolos. That would have gone a long way in a Primary full of big names, and may have brought him to victory anyway.

But Posey successfully boxed out Mayfield and other serious challengers from entering. Now, Haridopolos simply has some training dummy Republicans to get past before he succeeds his former mentor.

Almost (but not quite) the biggest loser: Bruce Antone. Antone has some questions to answer after a Fresh Take Florida report uncovered that he has repeatedly submitted paperwork showing him living outside his district. That could lead to criminal charges and/or removal from the House.

It’s unclear if the penalties will be that serious, and Antone has updated his documents after facing questions from the outlet over the documents, which showed him living in House District 40. Antone, however, has represented House District 41 since his return to the House. And under state law, members of the Legislature must live in the district they represent.

Fresh Take Florida found that the home where Antone has previously listed his address is in HD 40. “It’s the same address where Antone was registered as a voter for this November’s election and where he has received his postal mail — until he changed the address to say he is living in his aide’s apartment after a reporter’s inquiry. He had been registered there to vote since November 2021,” the report found.

“When a reporter and photographer visited Antone’s home on Shenna Court earlier this year, neighbors confirmed he lived there and said they see him there regularly.”

He also receives a homestead exemption at that property. And it’s not as if this is a new issue for Antone. After being termed out of a previous stint in the Legislature in 2000, Antone decided to run for the Orange County School Board. But after an opponent sued, arguing that Antone lived outside the School Board district where he was running, Antone dropped out.

And that episode centered on this exact same property in question.

Again, it’s unclear whether prosecutors or lawmakers will press this issue or let Antone submit new forms and go about his way. But it’s not a good look for the veteran lawmaker.

The biggest loser: Marion Hammer. Hammer’s name has long been synonymous with the Florida arm of the National Rifle Association (NRA). But that era has come to an end, as Hammer and the NRA have cut ties.

Hammer retired in 2022, but that announcement said she would remain an “advisor” to the gun rights organization. But in a leaked email to an associate, the 85-year-old Hammer said the NRA had “terminated” her “retirement contract,” leaving her “totally without employment or retirement income.”

Blogger John Richardson broke the news, and surmised that Hammer’s proposal to find a successor for former CEO Wayne LaPierre may have contributed to her downfall.

“It leaves me to wonder if this was Bill Brewer’s doing or whether NRA President Charles Cotton was behind this,” he wrote.

You will remember that Marion called out Cotton’s EVP search committee in February and earlier in January had called for a search committee to fill the spot. The January missive was a shot across the bow of those who were trying to install Cotton as the successor EVP.”

Regardless, Hammer’s email about her contract termination contains several gripes alleging that the NRA is not paying her what she was promised. “So much for over 40 years of dedicated service and work for NRA,” she wrote to close her email.

It seems that if she wants that compensation from NRA leadership, she’ll have to pry it from their cold, dead hands.

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