The Paradise Progressive is an effort to cover, analyze and comment on news affecting the Paradise Coast of Southwest Florida that is overlooked, ignored or avoided by local traditional media. It does this to fulfill the role of a free and independent press in a democratic republic.
As the Washington Post states: “Democracy dies in darkness.” But we say: “Liberty lives in light.” Our goal is to shine a light as best we can to dispel the darkness.
The Paradise Progressive is not affiliated with any political party or organization. It was begun on Dec. 20, 2018. The Paradise Progressive can also be viewed on its Facebook page, which features links to other Florida-related postings, and on its website, ParadiseProgressive.com.
By a vote of 31 to 4 the Florida Senate yesterday, Jan. 20, passed its version of Florida’s new congressional districts.
The new map makes only slight changes to Southwest Florida’s congressional districts but it does take a chunk of Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres out of the current 19th Congressional District and puts it in the 17th Congressional District to the north.
Those districts include considerable Black and Hispanic populations and dilute any potential Democratic voting blocks in the 19th, making both the 19th and 17th districts, already heavily Republican, even more so.
The Senate completely ignored a map submitted on behalf of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which made radical changes to Florida’s congressional districts. DeSantis has indicated that he may veto the Senate map, since he has to sign off on any congressional boundary changes.
The Florida House has yet to weigh in with a final version of its congressional map.
The Senate map
The map approved yesterday by the Senate (S000C8040) largely keeps existing boundaries and numbers.
This map was chosen and shepherded through the committee process by Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-27-Lee County) who chaired the Senate’s Reapportionment Committee.
From the outset, Rodrigues said he was committed to avoiding the experience of the 2010 redistricting, which was challenged in court and took six years to litigate before final maps were approved.
The initial round of maps proposed by the Senate received a “B” grade from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, an academic, non-partisan evaluation by Princeton University. It largely kept existing districts intact, while giving Florida its new 28th district. The B meant that the map was considered “better than average for the category, but bias still exists.”
As of this writing the new maps have not yet been graded by Princeton.
The Senate map keeps Fort Myers’ River District in the 19th and makes Park Ave. the boundary line between the 19th and the 17th in the west. State Road 82 becomes the boundary between the 17th and the 19th until it reaches Rt. 75 in the east.
It also puts the 19th District portion of Lehigh Acres solidly in the 17th.
The initial draft of this map was denounced by Democratic congressional candidate Cindy Banyai. “This is gerrymandering,” she stated in a Nov. 19 press release. “Most of the people who are no longer in FL19 are minorities, our Black and Latino neighbors. It’s well known that this district has always been a giveaway to the Republicans, but this clear targeting of our communities of color should alarm everyone.”
The DeSantis map
The DeSantis proposal (P000C0079) largely follows county lines.
Under the DeSantis proposal, all of Lee County would constitute the 19th Congressional District. Collier County would constitute the bulk of a re-numbered 26th District, along with a chunk of Broward County as far east as Hialeah, the Cuban-American stronghold that provides the center of gravity for the current 25th District. A newly re-numbered 18th District would cover an immense swath of land including all of Charlotte County. Today, much of this area is contained in the 17th District.
It remains unclear whether the Senate or DeSantis maps will prevail when it comes to congressional districts. (The Senate also redrew state Senate districts. House districts will be redrawn by the state House. These do not need the governor’s signature to take effect.)
“We have submitted an alternative proposal, which we can support, that adheres to federal and state requirements, while working to increase district compactness, minimize county splits where feasible, and protect minority voting populations,” stated Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary. “Because the governor must approve any congressional map passed by the Legislature, we wanted to provide our proposal as soon as possible and in a transparent manner.”
The controversies over the dueling maps will not center around Southwest Florida. The battles are emerging over heavily populated districts on the east coast in Democratic areas like Miami and Jacksonville. According to The Florida Phoenix, it appears “DeSantis’ proposed congressional map favors Republicans in 18 districts and Democrats in 10. Under the existing map, Republicans control 16 seats to the Democrats’ 11” whereas the “Senate draft contains 16 districts that went for Donald Trump two years ago and 12 likely to skew Democratic — a gain of one seat.”
Under the Senate map, existing representatives would remain largely in place, with Rep. Byron Donalds (R) representing the 19th, in which he does not reside, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) representing the 25th, and Rep. Greg Steube (R) representing the 17th.
Under DeSantis’ map, Donalds would have to choose whether to run in a 19th District that’s even further from his home—meaning a dual commute to Lee County as well as Washington, DC—or stay where he lives in the 25th and face off against fellow Republican Diaz-Balart.
If Donalds decided not to run in the DeSantis 19th, it could open the door to a new contender of any party.
For his part, if Diaz-Balart decided to run in the DeSantis 26th District, he would suddenly have a population center to contend with in a relatively urbanized western part of his district. Until now, the western part of the 25th was barely populated and Diaz-Balart could concentrate his attentions on Hialeah and his Cuban-American constituents with the occasional trip out to Immokalee serving as a show of some degree of concern for western constituents.
Though the redistricting process is far from over, the Senate map has the greatest likelihood of passage, although DeSantis’ wild card could still change the outcome of the game.
Maps must be finalized by June 17 when candidates qualify to run in the new districts. They’re more likely to be finalized by March 11, the last scheduled day of the legislative session.
“The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by human beings for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison people because they are different from others,” said Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
During his lifetime King worked tirelessly to expand the voting franchise and get people to exercise it. He called voting “the foundation stone of political action.”
But while today people commemorate King’s legacy and remember his contributions to the country, it’s also appropriate to acknowledge the irony of one of the major opponents of voting rights in Southwest Florida—Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.).
Donalds doesn’t even believe that the United States is a democracy. On January 6, the first anniversary of the insurrection at the US Capitol, Donalds tweeted: “We aren’t a Democracy. We are a Constitutional Republic.”
As though to ensure that voting rights don’t expand, during his time in Congress Donalds has consistently voted against measures to protect the franchise and ballot access.
In this Congress, Donalds voted against the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 (House Resolution (HR) 4), and the For the People Act of 2021 (HR 1), both of which are aimed at protecting people’s voting rights (and both of which passed the House).
“Abolishing voter ID laws, ending signature verification, and putting into place taxpayer-funded campaigns is detrimental to every American’s right to a free and fair election and the harmful rhetoric of President Biden cannot evade this fact,” Donalds argued in a statement at the time.
He defended the filibuster in the Senate even though the filibuster is a practice unique to that chamber and has nothing to do with the House of Representatives—and the threat of a filibuster is now being used to stop HR 1 in the Senate.
What is more, his defense of the filibuster came in the context of his defense of Georgia’s voter suppression law. When President Joe Biden denounced that law as “Jim Crow in the 21st Century” and “an atrocity,” Donalds argued that Biden was “irresponsibly injecting race and the travesty of Jim Crow to oppose the filibuster. Time after time, Democrats resort to the race card to shield them from having to answer for their hypocrisy and radical policies.”
He defended the Georgia law even further in a May 22, 2021 interview with The New York Times: “I think Georgia actually has a very good law. And frankly, it’s sad and, in my view, disgusting that the president referred to it as Jim Crow. It cheapens the history in our country with respect to actual Jim Crow, a disgusting relic of our past. And to try to equate that to what Georgia did, to me, is just completely illogical. It reeks of just the nastiest politics that you could ever want to bring up, to try to divide Americans and divide Georgians.”
He was also a vocal defender of Florida’s voter restriction law, arguing that, like Georgia’s law, “What it does is it actually makes our process cleaner” by reducing the number of drop-boxes and “ballot harvesting,” a practice of collecting mail-in ballots on behalf of other people, a practice outlawed in Florida prior to passage of the bill.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022, Donalds tweeted: “Today, we don’t only celebrate the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we honor his life of sacrifice and dedication that led to America becoming a more perfect union. We are the nation we are today because of men like MLK, and we must keep his dream alive.”
Donalds can start honoring that dream by working to protect and expand voting, “the foundation stone of political action” and stop denouncing, suppressing and trying to restrict it.
A bill to place video cameras in Florida classrooms to put teachers under full-time surveillance, introduced by state Rep. Bob Rommel (R-106-Naples), had its initial reading on Tuesday, Jan. 11, the first day of the Florida legislative session.
House Bill (HB) 1055, Video Cameras in Public School Classrooms, “Authorizes school districts to adopt policy to place video cameras in public school classrooms; provides requirements for such policy; provides for viewing video recordings; provides DOE [Department of Education], school district, school, & certain employee responsibilities.” (A link to the full text of the bill is at the conclusion of this article.)
If passed in this legislative session the bill would take effect on July 1.
The bill has been referred to the Education and Employment Committee and its early learning and elementary education and secondary education and career development subcommittees, and the House Appropriations PreK-12 subcommittee.
Under the bill’s provisions a teacher would have to wear a microphone while teaching. Cameras would be installed in the front of classrooms. If a recording is interrupted in any way a written explanation must be filed. School principals would be the officials responsible for holding and administering the recordings and the bill specifies the circumstances under which recordings can be shared or deleted.
Rommel, who represents a legislative district running along coastal Collier County from Bonita Beach Road to Naples to Everglades City and Chokaloskee, was quoted in a television news interview saying, “Children are our most precious assets in the state of Florida and we should make sure we do everything we can to protect them and teachers too. There are incidents, a teacher/student incident, and we want to make sure we protect everyone in the classroom.”
He pointed out that “It’s not live-streamed. So, the teacher’s privacy and how they teach their class is not going to be infringed on.”
(Editor’s note: The Paradise Progressive reached out to Rommel’s office requesting a telephone interview on this subject. As of this writing the request has neither been answered nor acknowledged.)
HB 1055 immediately raised questions from the Florida Education Association (FEA), the largest teachers’ union in the state.
In a statement, Andrew Spar, FEA president, stated: “We have questions about this bill regarding parental rights and other issues. Could law enforcement or the district use the video to investigate a situation dealing with a student without parental knowledge? Can the video be used by law enforcement if a student harms another student or a school employee? Can a teacher use the recording to show that they did not get assistance in a timely manner after calling the office? Can it be used as evidence to show how effective a teacher is in the classroom?”
There is also nothing in the bill discussing the cost of the surveillance or funding for implementation.
A variety of interested parties are already lining up to lobby on the bill including the Lake County School Board, Hillsborough County Schools, and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, although none had issued public statements on their positions as of this writing.
Yesterday, Jan. 13, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, weighed in on Twitter, stating: “omg no. Florida will not be a surveillance state!!!”
Commentary: Big Brother in the classroom
As though teachers are not under sufficient pressure now, between COVID, mask mandates, remote learning, school shootings, physical threats, anti-public education sentiment, charter school competition, and underfunding as well as low pay, low benefits and general lack of respect, under HB 1055 they would now be subject to constant surveillance in their classrooms.
“Morale is not high in education with teachers and this is just going to look to teachers as another way to catch them,” Angie Snow, an elementary educator in Hillsborough County, said in an interview broadcast on Tampa Bay 10 News. “An allegation is all it takes for a parent to get access and then there’s critiquing and criticizing of everything else.”
Indeed, the presumption behind HB 1055 appears to be that teachers are guilty of something and only the right video footage is needed to catch them.
With that in mind, HB 1055 has been carefully crafted to avoid appearing as part of the ideological assault on educators and school boards.
Although Rommel has espoused conservative, highly ideological views in all his campaigns and previous representation in Tallahassee, he’s couching this bill over concern about “incidents” in classrooms. These are defined in the bill as “an event, a circumstance, an act, or an omission that results in the abuse or neglect of a student” by another student or school employee. There have indeed been incidents of violence and altercations and even shootings in schools like Parkland.
But unlike police body cameras that routinely record footage of potentially violent, dangerous and evidentiary events, classrooms are—or should be—peaceful places. For the most part, what goes on in the vast majority of Florida classrooms the vast majority of the time is teaching and learning.
The extremely rare physical threat or altercation simply doesn’t justify the expense, the difficulty, and the complications—not to mention the simple indignity—of putting microphones on every teacher and installing video cameras in every classroom. If there’s an instance of violence and a security officer has to be called, his or her body camera should provide a sufficient record of any incident.
The real purpose of this legislation is to surveil teachers to punish them—or dangle the threat of punishment—for any heretical ideas they might impart in the classroom, with any party at all playing the role of accuser, inquisitor—and potentially, plaintiff.
HB 1055 fits in nicely with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed Anti-WOKE [Wrongs to our Kids and Employees] Act, giving anyone the ability to sue teachers for teaching critical race theory. Citing video evidence, no matter how far-fetched or flimsy, plaintiffs can head to court on any pretext to financially destroy underpaid teachers even if the plaintiff doesn’t win the case.
From a practical standpoint, there’s simply no need, on a daily, ongoing basis, to record every moment in every classroom—not to mention the Orwellian implications of constant monitoring.
While Rommel is at pains to note that camera footage would not be live-streamed and would have to be released by principals, the fact is that this bill is clearly driven by extreme opponents of classroom COVID precautions and content of which they disapprove—i.e., “wokeness” and critical race theory.
Indeed, in Naples, Rommel’s home district, the only praise for the bill has come from Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III, the extreme Trumpist farmer and grocer who in August called for the “take down” of teachers’ unions by “force.”
“If these teachers have nothing to hide they shouldn’t mind!” he stated on Facebook on Jan. 1.
This is a bad idea and a bad bill that should not get past the subcommittee stage.
* * *
To register an opinion on HB 1055, contact the following legislators (e-mails can be sent through their linked pages):
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the Legislature and fellow citizens:
Welcome to Florumpia, a state of unreason, unreality and unrealism!
While so many around the country have followed science, sense and sentience, Florumpia is proud to be enlightenment’s graveyard.
In Florumpia we’re determined to prevent safeguards to people’s health and safety, to encourage and spread COVID to the greatest degree possible, to endanger our kids in schools and on the streets and as much as possible prevent free thought and inquiry in classrooms.
Florumpia seeks to become the proud dumping ground for ignorance, infection, and delusion, from a losing president who refuses to admit his defeat to anti-vaxxers who want to return to a time before understanding of germs.
Florumpia is a knowledge-free state. We reject all pandemic precautions. We reject all rules, from complying with state constitutional amendments to signaling lane changes.
Florumpia stands as a rock in a stone age! And with our stone tools we will build the future.
Thanks to an authoritarian, unconstitutional federal government, our treasury is full of money approved by Democrats in Congress and the evil President Joe Biden, from the Paycheck Protection Plan, to the COVID relief plan, to support for state governments to infrastructure improvements. With this money so recklessly poured into our state coffers, I will create a special office to invalidate election results I don’t like and a Florumpian military force answerable only to me.
In our classrooms we will stamp out any free or independent thought or critical thinking by our teachers, who will be under constant surveillance and subject to lawsuits by any aggrieved party whatsoever. We will purge all curricula of unpleasantness or discomfort. In Florumpia there have never been any wars with Native Americans nor slavery nor discrimination nor lynchings and no teacher will dare teach otherwise.
We will bring our universities to heel and prevent our professors from thinking any thoughts unapproved by me. They will labor as they should, like mute and mechanical field hands.
Speaking of field hands, we will be closing our borders to all but approved Florumpians, who will pick our crops and repair our roofs and mow our lawns and serve our food in restaurants. If that drives prices beyond what Florumpians want to pay or creates a labor shortage that closes down businesses and hurts the economy we will blame it on Joe Biden.
We will crush dissent expressed in peaceful demonstrations. In our streets, Florumpians can run over any demonstrator if the demonstrator is supporting the wrong cause. Those kinds of drivers will get a pass; all others will be jailed and held guilty until proven innocent.
When it comes to law enforcement we stand with sheriffs like Polk County’s Grady Judd who put it so well: “We only want to share one thing as you move in, hundreds a day. Welcome to Florida, but don’t register to vote and vote the stupid way you did up north, or you’ll get what they got.” We will prevent any kind of what we consider stupid voting. Efforts by stupid individuals to get stupid voters to vote stupidly will be crushed. Only our kind of stupidity will prevail!
Our elections will be carefully monitored and audited to yield only results I like—including my re-election. We will gerrymander districts to ensure only Republican outcomes and prevent anything other than a Republican majority in any election, ever. We will make Florumpia the one-party state it should be.
We will prevent any forms of fact-checking, truth-telling or lie-preventing by social media platforms and actively promote falsehoods ranging from altered COVID statistics to The Big Lie of the 2020 election.
We will encourage the massive accumulation of guns by all right-thinking Florumpians and ensure that Florumpia is a fully armed society unbound by any limits on weaponry—and certainly not restrained by a well-regulated militia.
But while we endanger the lives of already-born Florumpians with guns and germs we will prevent women from having the right to choose their own health options. We will make Florumpia the leading unsafe abortion capital of the world, allowing me to surpass that charlatan, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, as the king of the back alley abortion promoters.
We memorialize the Surfside building collapse and applaud the first responders who answered the call but we will protect campaign-contributing builders and developers by reducing their liability for future catastrophes.
Speaking of Surfside, that sad incident brings me to a final, indisputable and absolutely true observation: “…You never know what tomorrow will bring. Don’t take anything for granted and make the most out of each and every day.”
Voters in the City of Naples, Fla., will get an early preview of the nation’s electoral battles on Feb. 1 when they go to the polls to select three at-large councilmembers, who will represent the entire city, rather than specific districts, for the next four years.
Despite the officially non-partisan nature of the election, Councilmember Ray Christman is being targeted by rightist Republicans for defeat. The reason? At one time, they say, he was a registered Democrat, although he is now officially a non-party affiliated voter. The same goes for candidate Ian Rudnick.
Candidates do not have party affiliations listed on the ballots.
But this year’s partisan twist introduces the possibility that an otherwise open and welcoming Naples could see imposition of a far-right (for Naples) conservative agenda. Traditionally, municipal elections focus on very local issues like development, the environment, quality of life and economic growth.
It’s a test of the movement of Trumpism into the grassroots and its outcome could have an impact beyond just the Naples City limits.
There are 19,115 residents in the city, according to the 2020 Census. Of those, 16,497 are active voters eligible to cast ballots, according to the Collier County Supervisor of Elections.
In addition to Christman, Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison is seeking re-election. The other candidates for the three open seats are Rudnick, a retired Naples Police Force officer; Beth Petrunoff, a retired General Electric executive; and newcomer John Dugan.
Under the city’s rules, the top vote getters will take the open seats. All candidates presented their positions at a forum hosted by the Gulf Shore Association of Condominiums, on Thursday, Jan. 6, covered by The Naples Daily News.
Christman told the forum that his priorities were the same as they had been when he first ran: protecting the environment; managing development; sustaining quality of life; and maintaining a transparent, ethical and responsible government. He pledged to be open, communicative and represent the entire community. He expands on these positions in detail on his campaign website, Ray Christman for Naples City Council.
Christman has extensive credentials for municipal government. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., he grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. He attended Florida State University and received a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh and headed Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, then served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Commerce.
He’s been deeply involved in technological development and environmental conservation, from his first job at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy to his 2014 efforts to pass the Florida Water and Land Legacy Act, which now provides state funding for water and land protection. He worked to adopt a new City Ethics Code after an ethics commission was created by referendum.
Amidst the COVID pandemic, he helped establish a city-based vaccination site to inoculate residents against the virus.
Leading the charge against Christman is candidate John Dugan and a political action committee, Collier County Citizens Values Political Action Committee (CCCVPAC).
“Be informed, all Republican voters residing in the city need to vote to replace Raymond Christman,” states the CCCVPAC website. “He is a sitting City Councilor that was a registered Democrat until recently when [he] changed to be registered Non-Party Affiliated (not Republican). State election reports show his residence made donations to Democratic candidates running for Governor named Andrew Gillum and running for State Representative in District 105 Javier Estevez.”
Dugan was an at-large member of CCCVPAC before resigning on Aug. 31 to run for the City Council.
The PAC is currently headed by Russell Tuff, former chairman of the Collier County Republican Executive Committee. As CCCVPAC reveals on its website, Tuff has provided paid services to Dugan and to Michelle McLeod, a candidate for the Collier County Commission and a city council member ousted in the 2020 city election.
CCCVPAC says it has rated all the candidates based on “values” but in fact only Dugan filled out its questionnaire and received its only rating. The PAC recommends that voters vote only for Dugan.
“Only one candidate, John Dugan, completed our questionnaire,” states CCCVPAC. “Apparently, the other candidates did not want to be rated on our values. Since that is the case, although you can vote for up to three candidates, we are recommending you vote for only John Dugan, who wasn’t afraid to state his values up front and have them communicated to the community.”
When it comes to his platform, on his campaign website Dugan opposes COVID precautions like mask and vaccination mandates.
He states that “Growth is inevitable” and “When we take a No Growth position, we do not prepare adequately for projects that happen without proper planning which creates acrimony and problems that could have been avoided. We have a fiscal responsibility to allow redevelopment which increases city revenue while maintaining tax rates.” He also supports water infrastructure improvements and beach renourishment.
Dugan is originally from Boston, Mass., and graduated from Northeastern University with a major in accounting and a degree in business administration. He spent his career at Accenture, a management and technology consulting company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, retiring as a partner in 2009.
CCCVPAC calls Dugan “a rock-solid Republican and not a ‘Party Switcher.’ He was instrumental in fundraising and getting out the vote for the Republican party during the last election cycle.”
Commentary: A very partisan non-partisan election
On March 17, 2020 Naples City voters threw out the mayor and three City Council members in a startling sweep of the city’s government.
In addition to the city’s purely local issues, the election results, coming on the same day as the Florida presidential preference primary, were viewed by some observers as a repudiation of President Donald Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic response and voter unhappiness with a very conservative status quo in the city.
CCCVPAC doesn’t see it that way. As it puts it on its website: “It is clear that the last City Council election could have had a better result for the Republican Party. Two Non-Party Affiliated candidates were elected. The final election vote tally showed 3,751 Republican did not vote – 44% of the City Republicans did not vote. By Party, Republicans were the largest no shows on election day by more than 2000 votes!” [sic, capitalization and syntax theirs].
The fact, though, is that the Naples City Council election is supposed to be non-partisan. Prior to Trump’s hyper-politicization of all of American life this was largely the way business was conducted. While there might be differences of opinion on various decisions or courses of action, party labels were generally irrelevant to the conduct of the city’s business.
That has now changed and Dugan and CCCVPAC are kicking the partisanship up a notch. Their chief complaints against Christman and Rudnick have nothing to do with those candidates’ actual positions on city matters—their unforgiveable sin is that they were once registered Democrats and don’t march in lockstep to conservative Republican decrees. This betrays an intolerance of diverse viewpoints and an effort to impose a single, rigid ideological approach on the city’s government. It’s undemocratic—with a small “d.”
It’s also not the way to govern a city whose chief challenges have to do with local matters like infrastructure maintenance, water and environmental quality, growth management and tourist hospitality.
This election will have consequences on a variety of fronts.
For those Naples City residents who don’t want to see the imposition of a rightist ideology on the city and want to keep the Council focused on real issues affecting all its residents, the choice is very clear: Ray Christman should be returned to office and John Dugan should be defeated.
This will be an election decided by mobilization of supporters on each side.
Having an election in February is often very tough anywhere in the country where winter is usually at its worst. But in Naples the weather should be pleasantly warm and the sunshine abundant. Voting by mail eliminates the possibility of contamination by Omicron and even at the polling place, social distance and a mask make a difference. Besides, most sensible Naples voters have already gotten vaccinations and boosters for their protection.
As of Jan. 10, 680 mail-in ballots had already been cast, representing 4.12 percent of the electorate.
In-person voting will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 1. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is 5 pm on Saturday, Jan. 22.
Early voting begins Wednesday, Jan. 26 and runs until Saturday, Jan. 29 from 10 am to 6 pm daily at two locations: the Norris Center in Cambier Park, 755 8th Avenue South, and the Supervisor of Elections Office at 3750 Enterprise Ave.
There will be drop-box locations for mail-in ballots at the Supervisor of Elections Office and the Norris Center (locations above), and at the Collier County Supervisor of Elections satellite office at 2335 Orange Blossom Drive.
If Dec. 7, 1941 is a day that will live in infamy, Jan. 6, 2021 is a day that will live in disgrace.
It was the day that democracy almost died.
It was a day when Americans, incited by a delusional and dictatorial president, went on a rampage that came close to destroying the Constitution, Congress and government by, for, and of the people.
On this, the first anniversary of the insurrection and attack on the United States Capitol and Congress, the words and actions of four Floridians—all residents of Naples—bears remembrance, as well as their words and actions in the days afterward. They illustrate a range of characters and reactions to what was one of the most horrific events of the early 21st century.
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) and Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III both attempted to overturn the 2020 election, one from inside the Capitol, the other from outside.
Oakes, a Naples farmer, grocer and deep and fervent supporter of President Donald Trump, had chartered two buses to carry about a hundred Trumpers to the “Stop the Steal” rally. He traveled to Washington to participate in the rally and marched to the Capitol.
Oakes was in the mob that breached the police barriers protecting the building.
At one point he stood on the steps of the Capitol at the southeast corner of the East Front and exhorted the rioters to continue the attack.
On the morning of Jan. 6, Byron Donalds, who had sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution three days before, attended the rally on the Ellipse outside the White House.
He left the rally before it ended and went to the Capitol to register his objection to certifying the vote of the Electoral College.
“I’m walking into the Capitol to sign the objection to the Electoral College certification. It’s important we always uphold our laws and our Constitution, no matter what,” he tweeted at 11:17 am that morning.
Donalds was inside the Capitol attending the certification when rioters breached police barriers and began attacking the building. He and the other members were evacuated from the House chamber.
“On my fourth day as a United States Congressman, I followed Capitol staff into a safe room with a gas mask in hand rather than representing my constituents,” Donalds recounted in a statement on the events.
At 2:49 pm, the height of the attack, Donalds tweeted: “Americans have the right to peacefully protest & demand their government works for them—that doesn’t mean we resort to violence. Rule of law must stand during our nation’s brightest & darkest hours & that includes right now. We are better than this. There is no place for anarchy.”
At 10:09 pm, after the riot was over and the rioters had been evicted from the building, Donalds issued a lengthy statement, calling the rioters “lawless vigilantes” and condemning their actions as “thuggery.” Despite this, he voted against certification.
For two former Republican members of Congress the attack on the Capitol was unacceptable, outrageous and enraging.
Francis Rooney of Naples had just retired from two terms representing the 19th Congressional District, the coastal area from Cape Coral to Marco Island.
As the violence peaked at 3:49 pm that day he stated on Facebook: “All of America should be saddened and sickened by today’s events at the US Capitol. President Trump is complicit in inciting violence to contest an election that is over and adjudicated. This must stop now.”
Newton “Newt” Gingrich served as Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. He and his wife Callista quietly moved to Naples in September 2021.
When rioters invaded the Office of the Speaker on Jan. 6th, they weren’t vandalizing one individual’s office; they were attacking the chamber of the highest ranking official in the House of Representatives. That room wasn’t just the personal office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.), it was the sanctum that Gingrich had also inhabited for four years. Every Speaker had occupied it, regardless of party, since the current House wing of the Capitol was completed in 1857.
For Gingrich the riot hit close to home and he responded with fury.
“I was furious. I am furious. Every person who broke into the Capitol has to be arrested and has to be prosecuted,” he said in a Fox News interview the day after the riot. “This is the center of freedom on the whole planet. It’s a symbol for everybody. And what happened yesterday was utterly, totally inexcusable. People should be locked up and punished. And I’m delighted that they’re increasing the preparations for the inaugural because we have to make absolutely certain nothing like this happens again. But as a former House member as well, as you point out, former Speaker, I found it enraging that people who clearly are not patriots — these are people are destructive barbarians and they are frankly criminals, and they should be treated that way and locked up. And I’m very proud of the Capitol Police, that they clearly needed a lot more reinforcements yesterday.”
In the year since
Gingrich may have been angry over the insurrection but it wasn’t sufficient to permanently turn him from Donald Trump. A mere five months after the insurrection he made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to craft a new, Trumpist “Contract with America,” the political device that brought a Republican Congress to power and him to the Speakership in 1995.
Details are sparse but the new contract may be unveiled this year in time for the midterms.
“It should be positive,” Gingrich was quoted as saying about it in the publication Politico in May. “School choice, teaching American history for real, abolishing the ‘1619 Project,’ eliminating critical race theory and what the Texas legislature is doing. We should say, ‘Bring it on.’”
He made no mention of preserving democracy or punishing insurrection.
Over the past year Francis Rooney continued to post on Facebook and do the occasional op-ed, concentrating on his real passions of foreign affairs and environmental stewardship.
Four days after Alfie Oakes returned from Washington he gave a lengthy account of the riot on Facebook on Jan. 10. In it he argued that the assault on the Capitol was “an incredibly clever tactic orchestrated by those that will stop at nothing to ensure the Globalist take over of our United States.”
According to Oakes, “Leading the group was the obvious six or eight paid actors(used in other events such as BLM riots, hard to believe they would be that blatant and sloppy) … followed by a small group of aggressive Trump supporters caught up in the moment.”
In the year since the attack, Oakes never retreated from Trumpism or expressed regret over the attack. In fact, as 2021 went on he called for outright revolution against what he called a “tyrannical” government and said he was stockpiling guns in the event he considers the 2022 elections stolen.
Nonetheless, he did acknowledge in his Jan. 10 post that “I have now found ONE thing that I completely agree on with the ever corrupt main stream media on…..This is truly one of the lowest days in our country’s history!”
When it came to Byron Donalds, after denouncing the riot, he watered down his tweet condemning the rioters to say that they “do not embody my constituents’ values and heart.” Their actions, he tweeted at the time, “will not alter my decision to object to the Electoral College certification” and he indeed voted against certifying the election when the roll call was taken.
Nonetheless, at 3:26 am on the morning of Jan. 7, Vice President Mike Pence, who had been threatened with lynching by the mob, certified the vote of the Electoral College that confirmed Joseph Robinette Biden as president of the United States.
During the rest of 2021 Donalds proved a reliable right wing megaphone, following Republican talking points in denouncing Biden and Democrats, promoting a MAGA agenda and never condemning or acknowledging Donald Trump’s role in the “anarchy” of Jan. 6.
On Dec. 13 Donald Trump endorsed Donalds for re-election.
A vision of Florida’s future? The dome homes of Cape Romano off the coast of Southwest Florida. When built in 1979 they were on solid land. (Photo: Andy Morfrew/Wikimedia Commons)
Jan. 3, 2022 by David Silverberg
At the end of every year, most newspapers and media outlets like to do retrospectives on the year past. They’re easy to do, especially with a skeleton crew: just go into the archives, pull out a bunch of the past year’s photographs or stories, slap them together, throw them at the readers or viewers and then staff can relax and party for the New Year. Or better yet, when it comes to a supposedly “daily” newspaper, don’t print any editions at all.
What’s much harder to do is look ahead at the year to come and try to determine, however imperfectly, what the big stories will be.
That takes some thought and effort but it’s much more valuable and helpful in setting a course through the fog of the future.
Although there will be surprises and any projection is necessarily speculative, there are a number of big issues in the nation and Southwest Florida that are likely to dominate 2022.
Democracy vs. autocracy
Donald Trump may no longer be president but the impact of his tenure lives on. Just how much will he and his cultists continue to influence events this year?
Although the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and coup failed, the effort to impose autocratic, anti-democratic rule continues at the state and local levels as Trumpist politicians push to create mechanisms to invalidate election results they don’t like.
Nowhere is this truer than in Florida where Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is playing to the most extreme elements of his base as he tries to ensure his own re-election and mount a presidential bid in 2024. He also has to outdo his other potential presidential hopefuls, most notably Texas’ Gov. Greg Abbott (R).
In Florida, the race is on to produce the most extreme, radical right measures both by DeSantis and members of Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature.
Examples of this include DeSantis’ 2022 $5.7 million budget proposal for an Office of Election Crimes and Security within the Department of State to investigate election crimes and allegations. In another time and in other hands, this might seem like a politically neutral and straightforward law enforcement agency, if a redundant and unnecessary one. However, given the past year’s efforts in Florida to narrow voting options and the continuing influence of Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, it could have more sinister purposes, like invalidating or discarding legitimate election results.
DeSantis is also proposing creation of a Florida State Guard, which would be wholly subject to his will and authority. The Florida National Guard, by contrast, can be called up for national duty and is answerable to the US Department of Defense in addition to the governor.
These efforts, combined with DeSantis’ past assaults on local autonomy and decisionmaking and his anti-protest legislation, are moving Florida toward a virtual autocracy separate and unequal from the rest of the United States.
The question for 2022 is: will they advance and succeed? Or can both legislative and grassroots opposition and resistance preserve democratic government?
The state of the pandemic
The world will still be in a state of pandemic in 2022, although vaccines to prevent COVID and therapeutics to treat it are coming on line and are likely to keep being introduced. However, given COVID’s ability to mutate, new variants are also likely to keep emerging, so the pandemic is unlikely to be at an official end.
Globally, vaccines will be making their way to the poorer and more remote populations on earth.
In Florida and especially in Southwest Florida, vaccination rates are high. However, there’s no reason to believe that anti-vaccine sentiment and COVID-precaution resistance will slacken. Further, as President Joe Biden attempts to defeat the pandemic by mandating and encouraging vaccines, Republican states are trying to thwart mandates in court. At the grassroots, as rational arguments fail, anti-vaxxers are resisting COVID precautions in increasingly emotional and extreme ways, potentially including violence.
In Southwest Florida the political balance may change in favor of science as anti-vaxxers and COVID-deniers sicken and die off. This will reduce their numbers and their political influence. As their influence wanes that of pro-science realists should rise—but it’s not necessarily clear that realistic, pro-science sentiment will automatically translate into equal and opposite political power.
This year will reveal whether the DeSantis COVID gamble pays off. He has bet that resisting and impeding COVID precautions in favor of unrestrained economic growth will result in political success at the polls.
Will Floridians forget or overlook the cost in lives and health at election time? It’s a result that will only be revealed in November.
Choice and anti-choice
Abortion will be a gigantic issue in 2022. Anti-choicers are hoping that a conservative majority on the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade and abortion will be outlawed.
A Supreme Court ruling on a Mississippi law outlawing abortion is expected in June. There may be a ruling on Texas’ ban on abortions before then. If Roe is overturned, a number of Republican state legislatures are poised to enact their own bans based on the Texas model and Florida is one of these.
If House Bill 167 passes the Florida legislature, it will inaugurate an environment of civil vigilantism as individual citizens sue anyone suspected of aiding or performing abortions. It’s hard to imagine anything more polarizing, more divisive or more destructive both at the state level and grassroots, as neighbor turns on neighbor.
By the same token, the threat to safe abortion access may galvanize political activism by pro-choice supporters regardless of political party. That was the situation in Georgia in 2020 when a fetal heartbeat bill was passed and signed into law, only to be thrown out in court. Politically, the issue helped turn the state blue.
This year, if Roe is struck down, millions of women may turn against an anti-choice Republican Party and mobilize to enact reproductive rights legislation.
What will be the reaction if Florida follows Texas’ lead and enacts an abortion ban?
Whichever way it goes, abortion will be a sleeping but volcanic issue this year. It will erupt when court decisions are announced. It has the potential to completely reshape the political landscape.
Elections and redistricting
All other issues and debates will play out against the backdrop of a midterm election. Nationally, voters will be selecting 36 governors, 34 senators and the entire House of Representatives.
The national story will center on whether Democrats can keep the House of Representatives and their razor-thin majority in the Senate. In the past, the opposition party has usually made gains in the first midterm after a presidential election. That is widely expected to happen again this year.
In Florida, DeSantis is up for re-election as is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), all state senators, all state representatives and county and municipal officials.
DeSantis is a base politician, in every sense of the word “base.” He doesn’t try to appeal to all Floridians but has clearly decided that his victory will be won by pandering to his most extreme and ignorant supporters—including Donald Trump. His actions reveal that he is calculating that this will give him sufficient support to keep him in office and provide a platform for the presidency in 2024.
Trump, however, is a jealous god and has lately been denigrating his protégé, whom he apparently sees as a potential threat for 2024 and getting too big for his britches. DeSantis may face a Trump-incited primary on the right from Roger Stone, the previously convicted and pardoned political trickster and activist, who lives in Fort Lauderdale.
If the Stone primary challenge does indeed materialize, it will make for one of the great political stories of 2022.
The primary action on the Democratic side will be between the three candidates for the Party’s gubernatorial nomination: Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.), a former governor; Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide Democratic officeholder; and state Sen. Annette Taddeo (D-40-Miami.). This battle will be resolved on primary election day, Aug. 23.
On the Senate side Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.), is currently the leading contender to take on Rubio, although Allen Ellison, who previously ran in the 17th Congressional District, is also seeking the Party’s nomination.
In Southwest Florida Democrat Cindy Banyai is pursuing a rematch with Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.). Currently, no other Democrat is contesting her candidacy.
The congressional and state elections will be occurring in newly-redrawn districts and the exact boundaries of all districts, congressional, state and local, will be a major factor in determining the political orientation of the state for the next decade. The Republican-dominated legislature, which begins meeting on Jan. 11, must finalize the state’s maps by June 13, when candidates qualify for the new districts.
If the maps are overly gerrymandered they will be subject to court challenges. In 2010 court challenges were so numerous and complex that maps weren’t finalized for six years. This year state Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-27-Fort Myers), who heads the Senate redistricting committee, has publicly stated that he wants to avoid a repeat of that experience by drawing fair maps at the outset.
Whether the final maps approved by the legislature are in fact fairly drawn and meet the terms of Florida’s Fair Districts Amendment, will be a major question in 2022.
Battle over schools
School boards were once sleepy and relatively obscure institutions of government and education was a quiet area of governance.
That all changed over the past two years. With schools attempting to keep students, teachers and employees safe with mask and vaccine mandates despite vocal opposition from COVID-denying parents as well as right-wing hysteria over the teaching of critical race theory, school board elections have become pointed ideological battlegrounds. Frustrated Trumpers are determined to impose ideological restrictions on teaching and curriculum and use school boards as grassroots stepping stones to achieving power.
In Virginia the 2021 gubernatorial race turned on the question of parental control of curriculum, resulting in a Republican victory. Across the country Republicans will be trying to duplicate that success by making education a major focus of their campaigns. The resulting battle is already fierce and poised to become fiercer. It has erupted at the grassroots as school board members have been physically threatened and Attorney General Merrick Garland’s mobilization of law enforcement assets to protect school board members was denounced by right wing politicians and pundits as threatening parents.
This is prominently playing out in Florida. DeSantis has proposed the Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees [WOKE] Act to prohibit critical race theory teaching and allow parents to sue school board members and teachers. Locally, state Rep. Bob Rommel (R-106-Naples) has proposed putting cameras in all classrooms to monitor teachers. Local grocer, farmer and conservative extremist Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes, has demanded that teachers’ unions be “taken down” by “force.”
The school board elections of 2022 will not be what were once considered normal, non-partisan contests. They will be extreme, passionate, heavily politicized, bare-knuckled ideological battles. The outcome of these elections will determine whether students, teachers and school employees are kept safe from the pandemic, whether teachers are able to teach free of surveillance and liability, and whether the lessons imparted to students encourage open inquiry and critical thinking or narrow, ideologically-driven indoctrination.
Climate change—natural and political
The past year was one that saw some of the most extreme weather on record, clearly driven by a changing climate. Biden’s infrastructure plan had some measures to address these changes and build resilience in the face of what is sure to be climatic changes ahead. However, a major initiative to halt climate change is stalled along with the rest of his Build Back Better plan.
Climate change is the issue that undergirds—and overhangs—every other human endeavor. That was true in 2021, it will be true in 2022 and it will be true for the rest of the life of the human race and the planet.
Florida was extraordinarily lucky last year, avoiding the worst of the storms, wildfires, droughts and heat waves that plagued the rest of the United States.
Locally, Southwest Florida got a taste of climate change-driven weather when an EF-1 tornado touched down in Cape Coral on Dec. 21, damaging homes and businesses.
“What I’ve found is, people when they start talking about things like global warming, they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things that they would want to do anyways. We’re not doing any left-wing stuff,” DeSantis said to audience cheers.
“Be very careful of people trying to smuggle in their ideology. They say they support our coastline, or they say they support, you know, some, you know, difference, our water, environment. And maybe they do, but they’re also trying to do a lot of other things,” he said.
This does not bode well for the governor or legislature addressing climate change impacts this year. Still, even the most extreme climate change-deniers are having a hard time dismissing it entirely.
Reducing or resisting the effects of climate change will be the big sleeper issue of 2022, providing a backdrop to all other political issues as the year proceeds. If there is a major, catastrophic event like a very destructive hurricane—or multiple hurricanes—DeSantis and his minions may have to acknowledge that the urgency of climate change transcends petty party politics.
Beyond the realm of prediction
It is 311 days from New Year’s Day to Election Day this year. A lot can happen that can’t be anticipated or predicted.
In past years a midterm election might seem to be a routine, relatively sleepy event of low voter turnout and intense interest only to wonks, nerds and politicos.
But the stakes are now very high and the dangers considerable. As long as Trumpism continues to threaten democracy and the future of the United States, nothing is routine any more.
The world, America, Florida and Florida’s southwest region are facing unprecedented perils. But as long as America is still an election-driven democracy, every individual has a say in how those perils are addressed.
That precious vote is a citizen’s right and obligation—and it can no longer be taken for granted.
Improved patient navigation, offshore options being considered
Dec. 29, 2021 by David Silverberg
With major challenges to women’s health choices looming in the new year, Planned Parenthood of Florida is already preparing to adapt to a changed political and legal landscape, according to Stephanie Fraim, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.
The changes include renewed and vigorous lobbying of relevant legislators and preparations to serve women’s health needs throughout the region.
Fraim spoke at a “Voices for Planned Parenthood—Let’s Get Loud!” gathering in Bonita Springs on Dec. 7. (Full disclosure: the author was a speaker on a panel at the event.)
“As you know Florida is poised to put in place whatever restrictions the Supreme Court puts in place whether that is a six-week Texas ban or the 15-week ban we heard arguments on last Wednesday or an overturning of Roe,” said Fraim.
“…Make no mistake, [anti-choice advocates] are clearly looking to the legislature to restrict access to abortion care and this legislature and this governor have our rights clearly in their sights,” she told the audience. “Of course we will fight every [anti-choice] law that Florida tries to implement.”
Fraim said Planned Parenthood would be fighting attempts to restrict choice on two fronts. The first was legislative and legal.
“As I said, we’re going to challenge the law that impacts our care but the real battle is going to happen at the ballot box. Right? We need people in our state house and Capitol that actually care about women and people’s health care.”
Fraim urged her listeners to get involved politically, support the Planned Parenthood Action Fund political action committee and in particular to express support for state Rep. Ben Diamond (D-68-St. Petersburg) and Sen. Lori Berman (D-31-Palm Beach County) who on Nov. 23 sponsored the Reproductive Health Care Protection Act (House Bill 709 and Senate Bill 1036) to protect women’s health care.
“On the second front, caring for our patients, getting them care and getting them to care, we will continue as Planned Parenthood to provide every bit of reproductive health care we’ve always provided and provide abortion care up to whatever the law allows, whether that’s six weeks or 15 weeks,” she said. “And, we are at the beginning stages of building one of the largest patient navigation systems in the state, connecting it to one of the largest patient navigation systems in the country.”
Planned Parenthood is putting together teams to help patients get to the health care services they need, she explained. As an example, Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma saw a 500 percent increase in patients when Texas passed its restrictive anti-choice law. Florida’s Planned Parenthood is seeing an increase in Texas patients as well.
“If we lose the right here [in Florida], we will turn that and begin moving patients out of the state to where they need to go,” she said.
As an additional option, “we are thinking about a boat off the east coast of Florida. We seriously are.” A boat could legally provide women’s health services in international waters. Fraim said she had been contacted by a pilot with a float plane who could ferry patients to any vessel.
“I know, it’s horrifying,” she acknowledged. “But this really isn’t a ban on abortion, it’s a ban on safe abortion.”
A Supreme Court decision on Mississippi’s abortion ban is expected in June of next year. A challenge to Texas’ ban on abortions is ongoing, although on Dec. 10 the Supreme Court allowed it to remain in force.
In the meantime Planned Parenthood is actively seeking financial support. Until Dec. 31 all donations up to $500,000 will be doubled, thanks to a matching grant provided by an anonymous donor.
In a pair of momentous votes last night and in the early hours of this morning, the US House of Representatives voted to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress and to raise the debt ceiling, keeping the United States from default.
Southwest Florida’s representatives voted against both measures, which passed on largely party-line votes.
House Resolution (HR) 851, which held Meadows in contempt for refusing to respond to a congressional subpoena, passed at 11:03 pm by a vote of 222 to 208. Republican Reps. Liz Cheney (R-at large-Wy.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-16-Ill.) voted for the measure.
Senate Joint Resolution 33 raising the US debt ceiling to $2.5 trillion, passed at 12:20 am by a vote of 221 to 209. Kinzinger was the lone Republican to approve the measure.
The Meadows matter
Meadows had initially agreed to cooperate with the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, turning over e-mails and documents related to the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. He then changed his mind and refused to testify before the committee despite a subpoena compelling his testimony.
The congressional contempt resolution passed last night will now be referred to the Department of Justice for enforcement.
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) took Meadows’ side against the House of Representatives, in which he serves.
“Everyone supporting the political witch-hunt, known as the House Select Cmte on 1/6, amplifies a charade intended to subject Trump-supporting Americans to a kangaroo court of injustice & political theater. Unfortunately, Mark Meadows is another American on the Dems’ hit list,” he tweeted yesterday, Dec. 14. He added in a further statement: “Holding the former White House Chief of Staff in contempt is a disgrace to the rule of law and Congressional oversight credibility.”
On the day of the attack, Donalds characterized the rioters rampaging through the Capitol Building as “lawless vigilantes” and the attack itself as “thuggery.”
As of this writing, neither Reps. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) nor Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) had commented on the Meadows resolution.
The vote raising the US debt ceiling averts a default on US financial obligations. With the House approving the already-passed bill from the Senate, it now goes to President Joe Biden for signature. It will extend the nation’s borrowing capability into 2023.
In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Nov. 29, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned: “I cannot overstate how critical it is that Congress address this issue. America must pay its bills on time and in full. If we do not, we will eviscerate our current recovery.”
Donalds expressed opposition to raising the debt ceiling in a Dec. 9 interview with Jan Jeffcoat of The National Desk, a television program carried by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. “We’re just blowing trillions of dollars out the back door, then running to the bond market to say give us more money. If we’re going to increase the debt limit on the nation’s credit card, I think that what we’re doing is highly irresponsible.”
In a bid to tighten his control of the Republican Party, former President Donald Trump yesterday, Dec. 13, formally endorsed Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) for re-election, a move slammed today by Democratic congressional candidate Cindy Banyai.
“Donald Trump’s endorsement of my opponent can only lead to one thing— the continuation of the Trump administration,” stated Banyai in a message to supporters. “We will not stand for this any longer, and we need to keep our momentum going to show Byron Donalds and Donald Trump that we can defeat them.”
The endorsement was made from the Twitter account of the Trump War Room and stated that Donalds had been “a terrific advocate for the people of Florida and our Country” and had Trump’s “Complete and Total Endorsement.” (Capitalization as given.)
“Thank you, POTUS Trump, for your ENDORSEMENT and your unwavering support,” Donalds responded on Twitter. “Americans feel the pain of the America Last policies supported by the Biden-Harris administration and undoubtedly miss your America First agenda. I’ll always fight for the forgotten men and women of our nation.”
“I want to put our community first,” Banyai stated. “Byron Donalds is only interested in his allegiances to corporations, and harmful politicians like Trump. We cannot afford to have a representative who proudly posts pictures of himself with someone who has repeatedly damaged our country.”
Donalds and his wife Erika met with Trump during the latter’s nighttime visit to Naples on Dec. 3 and was photographed with Trump and his wife Melania.
The Donalds endorsement was one of a slew of endorsements issued by the Trump War Room yesterday. Trump is reaching down into state and local races to ensure a vise-like grip on the Party at all levels.
In addition to Donalds, Trump endorsed Angela Rigas who is running for Michigan state representative in the 86th District, Jacqueline “Jacky” Eubanks running for Michigan state representative in the 32nd District, and Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-13-Texas), who had served as the White House physician from 2013 to 2018 and Assistant to the President and Chief Medical Advisor, a newly-created position, in 2019.