Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 9.18.22

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President Joe Biden will visit Orlando on Tuesday, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist will be there to greet him.

However, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Val Demings doesn’t plan to attend, even though the rally is in her hometown.

That’s interesting but not necessarily unexpected.

Democratic candidates around the country have had to decide whether they want to provide video clips of them with a President struggling with approval ratings. In Florida, a FOX 35 poll in Orlando showed only 43% of Florida voters approve of the President, while 54% do not.

“Val Demings doesn’t need the money and attention that Charlie Crist does. So, therefore, she could look at polling and say, ‘I need to get crossover voters, and Joe Biden’s underwater,'” Democratic pollster Steve Vancore told NBC News.

Demings’ spokesperson Christian Slater told the Orlando Sentinel that she would be in Washington during the President’s visit.

A Suffolk University poll showed Demings trailing Marco Rubio 45%-41%. She has picked up 4 points on him since January.

The same poll showed Crist trailing Gov. Ron DeSantis by 7 points, a large gap for this late in the race. Crist has never shied away from supporting the President, and, given DeSantis’ vast advantage in money, Crist needs all the free exposure he can get.

“Florida is on the front lines in the fight to protect women’s freedoms and preserve our democracy,” he told the Sentinel. “President Biden knows that, which is why he is coming and why I’m proud to welcome him.”

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

Winners

Honorable mention: Laurel Lee. She seems to be solidifying her lead over Democrat Alan Cohn in their race to represent Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

A Floridians for Economic Advancement poll shows 41% of the district voters prefer Lee to 34% for Cohn.

The wild card, however, is that 24% of the voters say they haven’t made up their minds. If the poll is accurate — and Cohn’s side said it is not — Cohn would need to capture about two-thirds of that group to have a legitimate shot.

“Laurel Lee is desperate to change the subject away from her refusal to answer questions on the Republican national abortion ban and her party’s support for a total government takeover of women’s health care,” Cohn spokesperson Phil Swibinski said.

“That must be why she’s spreading around a poll that, even with dubious methodology, shows a tight race within the margin of error. The fact is the more voters learn about Lee’s extreme position on abortion, the more they will reject her.”

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Black-owned business. It was a big deal when the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use announced it issued a license to Terry Gwinn to grow and sell medical marijuana.

Gwinn is part of a group of Black farmers. They become the first Black-owned business to receive this license.

“To say this has been a long time coming is more than an understatement,” said Taylor Biehl, vice president of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida.

“It is our hope that the Department will move forward with opening an application window for the remaining 22 licenses available for bid, given the Supreme Court’s ruling 14 months ago.”

The biggest winner: GOP voter registration. The Republican Party of Florida pulled ahead of the Democrats in the number of registered voters by almost 270,000. That’s a pickup of about 40,000 new registrations since the end of July.

According to data from the Florida Division of Elections, as of Aug. 31, Republicans have 5,233,366 registered voters to 4,963,722 for Democrats.

While that’s good news for the GOP, which has steadily widened its advantage since passing Democrats last year, it’s not a knockout punch.

Florida has 3,939,389 registered voters with no party affiliation. In close elections, they can make a difference.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Joe Martinez. He’s the embattled Miami-Dade Commissioner arrested on Aug. 30 on felony charges.

DeSantis suspended Martinez, a Republican, on Sept. 20. He is the sixth elected official suspended by DeSantis in the last two months, and the first Republican.

Prosecutors charged Martinez with two felonies related to a $15,000 payment from a business owner who would have benefited from legislation the Commissioner proposed in 2017.

The Miami Herald reported that Martinez withdrew the legislation shortly after filing it, and the proposed ordinance never advanced. Martinez said the payments in question were related to consulting work he did before taking office in 2016.

Martinez is a retired county police lieutenant and has held his Commission seat since 2016.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Karla Hernandez. Crist’s running mate in the Democratic gubernatorial race isn’t doing the ticket any favors.

Hernandez, a special education teacher, stepped in it with a flippant remark that demeaned special needs students.

“I’m a sp-ed (special education) teacher, so my major is emotionally handicapped education, OK?” Hern?ndez said at what appeared to be a gathering at someone’s home. “That by itself qualifies me to deal with a dysfunctional Legislature.”

There was a video of the quip, and Fox News Digital got hold of it. You can guess what happened next.

First Lady Casey DeSantis tweeted, “Sickened by callous words from someone who claims to be an advocate for our children. … I will make it my mission to let all parents know of the ‘hate in your heart.'”

This has to annoy Crist, who wants to keep the heat on Gov. DeSantis’ controversial migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard.

It isn’t the first time in the campaign that Republicans pounced on Hernandez. She had to defend a 2016 tweet where she said that “many in Cuba mourn the death of Fidel Castro.”

The biggest loser: Donald Trump. The Mar-a-Lago Menace reached new heights of lunacy when he suggested to Sean Hannity on Fox that he could declassify documents “even by thinking about it.”

How can Republicans continue to grovel before this clueless, crass and now-cornered BS artist?

But while questions like that remain unanswered, we’re getting more clarity about what’s in Trump’s immediate future.

Two words: billable hours.

The man notorious for not paying his debts will need lots of expensive legal help in the coming months. Not only does he face potential criminal exposure for docu-gate, but the New York State Attorney General slapped him with a lawsuit alleging Trump engaged in widespread fraudulent business practices for at least a decade.

POLITICO noted the lawsuit also alleges “billions of dollars in falsified net worth.”

The suit charged that Trump inflated the size and value of his real estate holdings to secure tax breaks and favorable insurance rates.

Three of his adult children — Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump — also are named in the suit.

But wait, there’s more!

New York Attorney General Letitia James also sent a criminal referral to federal prosecutors in Manhattan and a tax fraud referral to the IRS, each related to the business allegations.

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss noted on Twitter, “Have never seen anything like this in the history of the American Presidency.”

That about sums it up.

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