Election 2022: Red tide sweeps state, Southwest Florida—and what it means

Cartoon by Andy Marlette. (Creators Syndicate)

Nov. 8, 2022 by David Silverberg

On Election Day, Nov. 8, a red tide swept Florida and its Southwest region.

As of this writing, 11:00 pm, the national results for the House of Representatives and US Senate were not yet available.

In Southwest Florida, in what was hardly a surprising result, Republicans took all seats that they contested.

In the emotional, hotly-contested non-partisan election for Collier County School Board, incumbents Jory Westberry (District 1), Jen Mitchell (District 3), and Roy Terry (District 5) were all defeated, according to unofficial results from the county Supervisor of Elections.

Statewide, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) defeated Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.). Republicans also took all state Cabinet positions. In the contest for the US Senate seat, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) defeated Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.).

Congressional contests

In the 19th Congressional District along the coast from Cape Coral to Marco Island, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) kept his seat, winning Collier County by 70 to 30 percent for Democrat Cindy Banyai and Lee County 67 percent to 33 percent.

In the area that includes Charlotte County, incumbent Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), retained his seat, defeating Democratic challenger Andrea Doria Kale by 70 to 30 percent.

In the newly renumbered District 26, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart beat Democratic challenger Christine Olivo 72 to 28 percent in Collier County.

Collier County

Come January, Collier County will be governed by two commissioners backed by extreme farmer and grocer Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III, who helped fund their campaigns through his Citizens Awake Now Political Action Committee.

In Collier County District 2, Oakes-backed Republican candidate Chris Hall defeated Democrat Barbara “Bebe” Kanter by 70 to 30 percent. In District 4, Dan Kowal won his seat in the August primary.

Republicans took all seats for the state legislature and Senate.

Lee County

In Lee County Republicans swept the county commission seats they sought. In the one contested race, District 5, the winner was Republican Mike Greenwell by 69 percent to Democrat Matthew Woods’ 31 percent.

Collier County School Board

In the unusually hotly contested Collier County School Board election, incumbent school board members Jory Westberry in District 1, Jen Mitchell in District 3 and Roy Terry in District 5 were all defeated. Jerry Rutherford won District 1 by 65 percent, Kelly Lichter won District 3 by 58 percent and Tim Moshier won District 5 by 60 percent.

Lee County School Board

Lee County will begin choosing its school superintendents through a popular vote under an initiative that passed 63 to 37 percent.

In the non-partisan School Board election, Sam Fisher won in District 1, Debbie Jordan won in District 4, and Jada Langford Fleming won in District 6.

Judges and amendments

All judges up for a vote retained their seats.

Statewide totals for the three constitutional amendments were not available at posting time.

Analysis: What’s likely next

The Trump-DeSantis Florida fight

The opening skirmishes of an epic battle between two vicious, disparaging and domineering personalities began just before the election.

On Sunday, Nov. 6, DeSantis was snubbed from attending a Trump rally with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in Miami.

At that rally, Trump gave DeSantis the nickname “DeSanctimonious,” a sure declaration of war (although one unlikely to resonate with MAGA followers who don’t know the word.)

But now, with DeSantis resoundingly returned to the governor’s mansion, it will be all-out war between the maestro and the protégé as they both struggle for the Republican nomination in 2024. As a World Series played between two New York teams is called a “subway series,” so this battle will be a “Florida fight” as the two state-based personalities vie for dominance.

This is likely to be the conflict the media focuses on for the next two years. Every move, every utterance, and likely every fart and burp from these two will be scrutinized and analyzed for its effect on the presidential race. Any other political news will be eclipsed. More importantly for Floridians, the fight will distract from the governing of the state as DeSantis gives his real attention to the presidential race.

It’s worth noting that Trump will be 78 years old on Election Day, Nov. 5, 2024 but he seems so full of bile and hate he’s unlikely to die before then, possibly the only thing that could head off this clash. He’s unlikely to be stopped by indictments, investigations or even convictions. He and fellow miscreants will be protected by Republicans in Congress and the states.

Southwest Florida’s swamp stomp

The DeSantis-Trump rivalry will reverberate throughout Florida as their respective adherents choose sides. Until now both men largely represented the same ideological agenda but the time has come to choose sides.

Beyond that rivalry, however, Florida’s extreme MAGA state legislators will likely lock in their advantages with further voter suppression, more voter restrictions and efforts to narrow the franchise in every way possible, aided by a completely politicized judiciary. The legislature, already a DeSantis rubber stamp, will become even more submissive, with Republican supermajorities that will do more than just uniformly endorse any DeSantis demand. They’ll be trying to boost his presidential chances and also ensure that neither Democrats nor any other party that might arise ever have the remotest chance of attaining office again. Florida will so effectively be a one-party state that even Kim Jong Un will be envious.

This is to say nothing of state legislative efforts to outlaw all abortion, which will likely happen regardless of the fate of a national ban.

Drilling down to local specifics, in Collier County, politics and policy are firmly in MAGA hands at the county level.

This could mean that MAGA radicals may try again to nullify federal law as they did with an ordinance originally introduced in July 2021. Then, the proposal failed by a single vote of the Board of Commissioners. If that ordinance or a version of it passes, Collier County would be cut off from all federal grants, aid and funding. In the event of another hurricane it would get no help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose assistance was essential in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

County budgets will be facing mindless, unnecessary ideologically-driven cuts that will erode the quality of life and the efficiency of county services and infrastructure.

More particularly, county policy will likely reflect the preferences and priorities of Alfie Oakes. That will mean no public health restrictions regardless of circumstances or assistance in the event of a public health crisis like that of the COVID pandemic. It will also mean reduced to non-existent enforcement of county rules, regulations and ordinances he opposes.

The standard of education in Collier County is likely to take a nose-dive, driven by ideological and religious priorities, its budgets cut and new ideological restraints imposed on teachers and curriculum.

Also, with the School Board firmly in Oakes-backed hands, it is entirely possible that major school food contracts may be awarded to Oakes Farms, probably on a non-competitive basis.

Hard but not good

The voters have spoken and in Southwest Florida, the demographic preponderance of Republicans voting their registration ensured a sweeping victory.

Notably, given the results, no one who denied the results of the 2020 presidential election is yet arguing that this election was rigged or a sham or a fraud.

As the “Bard of Baltimore,” journalist HL Mencken, put it back in 1915: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Indeed. The majority of Southwest Floridians and other Sunshine State voters seem to know what they want. They’ll be getting it “good and hard” for the next two years.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Early voting active in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties

Activists show support for their candidates outside the Headquarters building of the Collier County Public Library in Naples. Jen Mitchell, incumbent candidate seeking re-election for District 3 of the Collier County school board, is to the left in the green shirt. (Photo: Author)

Oct. 28, 2022 by David Silverberg

Voting is active and robust throughout Southwest Florida, according to county supervisors of elections.

In its first day of early in-person voting in Collier County, 6,132 ballots were cast at polling stations yesterday, Oct. 27. Combined with 36,630 mail-in ballots, Collier’s turnout is at 16.85 percent of 253,830 eligible voters. So far, 56.15 percent of the ballots were cast by registered Republicans, 25.84 percent by registered Democrats and 16.92 percent by non-party affiliated voters.

Early in-person voting in Lee and Charlotte counties has been under way since Monday.

In Lee County, turnout is running at 19.65 percent, with 18,779 votes cast in person and 83,006 ballots mailed in. Lee County has 518,035 eligible voters. Of ballots cast, 52.28 percent were from registered Republicans, 27.37 percent from registered Democrats and 19.11 percent from non-party affiliated voters.

Charlotte County has the highest turnout of the three coastal counties with 20.75 percent of 152,778 eligible voters having cast ballots so far. Of these, 9,395 votes were cast in person and 22,309 votes were mailed. According to the Supervisor’s office, 50.36 percent of ballots were from registered Republicans, 29.58 percent from Democrats and 18.14 percent from non-party affiliated voters.

Because of the damage and disruption caused by Hurricane Ian, early in-person voting in Lee and Charlotte counties continues until Nov. 7. In Collier County, it concludes on Nov. 5.

Times and locations for early in-person voting are posted on the respective supervisors’ websites.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Endorsements: Recommendations for the General Election in Lee and Collier Counties

Oct. 17, 2022

Our elections are no longer “normal”—and this year’s general election is no exception.

Since the presidency of Donald Trump, each election has become a referendum on whether America will remain a democracy. That was especially true in the 2020 presidential election and it remains true in 2022.

At stake is the legislative branch of the American government and the state of Florida. Will America be governed by a party that supports checks and balances on executive power, respects the will of the majority of voters as expressed in elections, and honors its founding Constitution? Or will it be governed by a party wholly given to the worship of one man, which excuses his crimes and appetites, and is willing to replace its governing institutions with his whims, rages and prejudices?

These questions will be answered, not just at the national level, but at every level of government, from the counties, to cities to school boards.

So this year’s election is a referendum on the future and not just a judgment on individual candidates and propositions.

As has been stated in the past, it has always been the position of The Paradise Progressive that a media outlet covering politics has a duty to endorse. Following candidates and political developments on a regular basis provides insights and knowledge that need to be shared with voters. Whether the outlet is national or local television, online or print or even a simple blog, it is the obligation of independent media in a free society to help voters make an informed choice.

Further, it needs to be noted that while The Paradise Progressive has a progressive orientation, as its name implies, it is not affiliated with any particular party or governed by any party’s dictates. Its judgments are its own. That said, it does reference Democratic Party endorsements.

There are three criteria for The Paradise Progressive’s candidate endorsements:

1. Is the candidate qualified for the office he or she is seeking?

2. Can the candidate be relied upon to make clear, understandable, rational decisions based on facts, data, logic and science?

3. Does the candidate support the United States Constitution, the peaceful transition of power and—most of all—democracy?

In response to reader queries, below is a list of all Paradise Progressive endorsements for elected office statewide, in Collier and Lee counties, and in the 19th, 17th and 26th congressional districts that cover Southwest Florida.

Not all these races or candidates been covered in depth in Paradise Progressive postings or fully explained in editorials. Nor is this a complete list of offices up for election.

The offices are listed in the order that they appear on their respective ballots. They include races for non-partisan positions like judgeships and school boards, which are extremely important this year.

Where necessary, for example in judicial and constitutional matters, there is additional discussion.

State and federal offices

United States Senator

  • Val Demings

Representative Congressional District 19:

  • Cindy Banyai

Representative Congressional District 17:

  • Andrea Dorea Kale

Representative Congressional District 26:

  • Christine Olivo

Governor and Lieutenant Governor:

  • Charlie Crist and Karla Hernandez

Attorney General:

  • Aramis Ayala

Chief Financial Officer:

  • Adam Hattersley

Commissioner of Agriculture:

  • Naomi Esther Blemur

State senator, District 27:

  • Christopher Proia

State Representative, District 77:

  • Eric Englehart

State Representative, District 80:

  • Mitchel Schlayer

County offices

Lee County Board of Commissioners, District 5:

  • Matthew Wood

Collier County Board of Commissioners, District 2:

  • Bebe Kanter

Judicial elections

  • Judge Jorge Labarga – Yes
  • All others – No

The Lee and Collier County Democratic parties are recommending that voters vote “yes” to retain Jorge Labarga on the Florida Supreme Court and vote “no” on all others.

The Paradise Progressive concurs.

The reasoning for this vote is explained in the article: “How Florida Voters Could Fire Their Worst Supreme Court Justices In November,” by Matthew Henderson, a Florida-based attorney and policy analyst, writing in Balls & Strikes, a website of commentary and analysis on judicial affairs.

“If DeSantis wins re-election” Henderson writes, “…he can replace any justice the voters reject with another loyal conservative. If Crist wins, however, he can overhaul the court immediately.”

He continues: “Historically, voters have not paid much attention to retention elections; to date, no appellate judge or justice has ever lost one. But scrutiny of the state’s highest court has increased after controversies involving other DeSantis appointees. If even one justice gets close to being replaced, it puts the entire system into question unlike any time since the last time justices were unmasked as partisan hacks in the 1970s.”

Labarga, Henderson writes, “has distanced himself from his colleagues. Appointed by Crist in 2009, Labarga is conservative, but not as brazenly political as his colleagues.”

The other state Supreme Court judges on the ballot offer a stark contrast.

Charles Canaday, who has been on the court for 14 years, is a former Republican state representative and as a US congressman was an impeachment manager against President Bill Clinton in 1999.

Ricky Polston argued in favor of giving state money to religious charter schools despite the state Constitution forbidding it.

Jamie Grosshans, appointed in 2020 by DeSantis, “is the closest thing to an Amy Coney Barrett of Florida,” according to Henderson. As a law student she was “event coordinator for something called the Institute in Basic Life Principles, which turned out to be an actual cult teaching about the ungodliness of blue jeans. She then interned at the Claremont Institute, the conservative think tank that gave us Trump’s personal coup lawyer, John Eastman.” Eastman was the attorney who came up with the legal theory used in the attempt to overthrow the 2020 election.

John Couriel joined opinions making it harder to sue for wrongful deaths as a result of tobacco use and shielded corporate executives from depositions.

Given this record, a “no” vote for all Supreme Court judicial candidates other than Labarga is justified.

As Henderson puts it: “As conservative judges at all levels flex their muscles in courthouses across the country, Florida voters have the opportunity to evict a few of its own revanchist justices who think there are a few too many civil rights floating around.” 

School Boards

Lee County District 1:

  • Kathy Fanny

Lee County District 4:

  • Debbie Jordan

Lee County District 6:

  • Jada Langford Fleming

Collier County District 1:

  • Jory Westberry

Collier County District 3:

  • Jen Mitchell

Collier County District 5:

  • Roy Terry

Municipal elections

City of Bonita Springs City Council District 5

  • Jude Richvale

Constitutional Amendments

  • Amendment 1: Yes
  • Amendment 2: No
  • Amendment 3: Yes

Interestingly, the Lee and Collier County Democratic parties split on these measures, with Lee County’s party advocating “no, yes, yes” and Collier County’s party advocating “yes, no, no.”

Amendment 1 states that effective January 1, 2023, flood resistance improvements to a home will not be included in assessing properties for ad valorem [to value] tax purposes.

Advocates of Amendment 1 argue that it will both incentivize and reward homeowners who protect their properties from flooding. Critics point out that it will reduce the tax revenues for state and local governments.

This amendment overwhelmingly passed both the state House and Senate on a bipartisan basis, unanimously in the Senate. After Hurricane Ian showed the damage that flooding can do, Amendment 1 makes eminent sense for a Florida in the grip of climate change. It will benefit homeowners of all incomes and help build climate resilience. It should be passed.

Amendment 2 would abolish Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission that meets every 20 years to consider constitutional changes.

Advocates argue this would protect Florida from ill-considered, vague or confusing and whimsical changes, while critics say that rather than abolishing it entirely, qualifications for sitting on the Commission can be tightened.

The idea of a periodic review of the Florida Constitution is a good one and the Commission should be kept. Amendments proposed by the Commission still have to be approved by voters. It also provides a source of new ideas in addition to the four others—citizen initiatives, constitutional conventions, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, or legislative joint resolutions—available to Florida. This proposal should be rejected.

Amendment 3 gives the legislature the authority to grant an additional homestead tax exemption up to $50,000 to public employees. These include classroom teachers, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, child welfare services professionals, active duty members of the United States Armed Forces, and Florida National Guard members.

Advocates argue that these workers and servicemembers deserve a tax break given the nature of their jobs and duties. Critics point out that this measure would cost the state and localities $85.9 million starting the fiscal year after it passes. They argue that it also wouldn’t guarantee that these workers could find affordable housing and it sets a precedent of favoring one group or profession over another for taxation.

The critics have very valid points. However, Florida—and especially Southwest Florida—has great need for these workers so this incentive may be helpful.

The benefits of this amendment especially apply in the case of classroom teachers. After all the bile, hatred and denigration aimed at these public servants by extreme anti-public education fanatics including the governor, after all the restrictions proposed and imposed on them by the legislature and especially given their low pay and benefits, teachers deserve relief and support. There are few enough incentives for classroom teachers to work in Florida. What is more, numerous ideologically-driven school boards are poised to impose further restraints on classroom teaching. This is why electing good school boards are so vitally important in Southwest Florida and everywhere. (See school board endorsements, above.)

This amendment will go some way toward attracting new teachers to the state and retaining the ones already working in Florida. It will assist those who provide vital services in the public sector. It should be passed.

For a very complete, objective, non-partisan analysis of the constitutional amendments on the ballot, see the James Madison Institute’s 2022 Amendment Guide.

Cartoon by Andy Marlette.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Southwest Florida can build back better—if it chooses

A Naples resident looks out over the pier after Hurricane Donna in 1960. (Photo: Collier Museum)

Oct 12, 2022 by David Silverberg

Even weeks after Hurricane Ian stormed ashore in Lee County it’s still shocking to see the debris and destruction all along the Paradise Coast. New victims are being found and new stories of survival are coming to light.

But as stunning and disorienting and overwhelming as the storm’s impact continues to be, it’s not too soon to begin thinking about building back—better.

A disaster is awful but it’s also an opportunity. With a blank slate and a clear field, post-disaster periods can also be a time for grand plans and sweeping visions.

That may seem illusory as people just find places to live, food to eat and get back basic utilities like electricity and water. But it would be a mistake to overlook the chance to reinvent, reform and uplift communities that seem at the moment to have lost everything.

The rebuilding process can be tricky, though. The inclination of people is to try to rebuild exactly what went before and to do it as quickly as possible. There is always a clash between those who want to restore and those who want to renew and getting to one or the other of those destinations can be a winding and uncertain road.

Southwest Florida is hardly the first place to face such a dilemma.

Past examples

To reach back in time and space to an example long ago and far away, this is what happened in London after the Great Fire of 1666. This immense conflagration leveled much of the ancient city, including its crowded medieval streets and tenements. In its wake, planners and architects like Chistopher Wren envisioned a new, clean and fresh London rebuilt in the latest style and according to rational principles.

However, property owners and landlords wanted to rebuild their buildings on their holdings as quickly as possible and as closely to the previous plans as they could.

What resulted was a jumble of claims and counter-claims that was so chaotic and complex that Londoners created a special court to sort through them all. It took many years to resolve them. Meanwhile, what was rebuilt was a hodge-podge of the old and the new. Christopher Wren never got his sweeping new city but he was able to design and oversee the construction of a new St. Paul’s Cathedral, the one that stands today.

Closer to home in time and location, in 1960 Hurricane Donna swept into Naples, Florida and wiped out what was largely an undistinguished and utilitarian downtown. Naples rebuilt but its retail center, Fifth Avenue, declined in the face of suburban mall competition. In 1992 local merchants brought in Miami architect and urban planner Andres Duany to take a holistic view of the town.

“The key to reviving Fifth Avenue is not solely to make it work competently from the point of view of retail,” Duany told the city council, businesspeople and community leaders in 1993. “…Fifth Avenue must be made into a community space, a civic space, a place where neighbors can come to know each other.”

Duany’s detailed planning and vision not only revived Naples’ downtown, it made it a tourist destination and created a consistent, themed urban landscape that supported vibrant retail businesses and restaurants.

This year Naples took its own hit from Hurricane Ian, with storm surge flooding Fifth Avenue. Some stores and restaurants remain closed and some will no doubt not reopen. But it’s also likely that it will revive and attract new businesses—and that revival will build on the planned concept already in place.

Another town that sought to build back better after a disaster was Greensburg, Kansas. On May 4, 2007 an E-5 tornado swept into the small town of 1,400 people, killing 12 and virtually wiping it off the landscape.

The town’s council, meeting in a parking lot, decided that when they rebuilt they would do it in as energy-efficient and environmentally friendly a way possible.

When Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) visited a few days later and learned of the plans, she told them “‘It sounds like you’re going to build it green,’” then-city manager Steve Hewitt recalled to The Washington Post in a 2020 article. “Then we walked out to a press conference and Governor Sebelius said we were going to put the green in Greensburg. We were already talking about it, but she helped brand it and gave energy to what we were trying to do.”

It should be noted that Greensburg was not the home of tree-hugging hippies. It was a conservative Republican town. But city leaders could see a reality beyond political orthodoxy.

As of 2020, according to the Post, “…Greensburg draws 100 percent of its electricity from a wind farm, making it one of a handful of cities in the United States to be powered solely by renewable energy. It now has an energy-efficient school, a medical center, city hall, library and commons, museum and other buildings that save more than $200,000 a year in fuel and electricity costs, according to one federal estimate. The city saves thousands of gallons of water with low-flow toilets and drought-resistance landscaping and, in the evening, its streets glow from LED lighting.”

Greensburg has had its challenges (among others, at one point a wind turbine collapsed in a field). Its green rebuilding was not a panacea and did not result in an economic boom. But it put the town on the world map as a visionary municipality and made it stand out among all the other places on the plains. It also attracted $120 million in disaster relief funds from Kansas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and US Agriculture Department. To this day it remains an American touchstone in disaster recovery and rebuilding.

A coastal Renaissance?

It may seem premature to note this but towns like Sanibel, Matlacha and most of all, Fort Myers Beach now have similar opportunities to plan their rebuilding along rational, visionary lines.

As Greensburg chose to build back better emphasizing energy efficiency and environmentalism, the towns of the Paradise Coast now have an opportunity to be world leaders in climate resilience and protection, rebuilding to take into account climate change and sea level rise—and anticipating its effects.

They have the potential to update their water management practices and systems and have an unparalleled resource in Florida Gulf Coast University’s Water School.

Like Greensburg, they can also rebuild in an environmentally and energy-efficient way.

Like Naples, the rebuilt towns can be made more esthetically pleasing and pedestrian-friendly, perhaps with waterside boardwalks or promenades and a re-built Times Square in Fort Myers Beach, where “neighbors can come to know each other,” as Duany put it.

To rebuild in this fashion would attract federal support and funding that is sorely needed now. Unfortunately, before Hurricane Ian, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) line-item vetoed $1 million for Times Square renovation in Fort Myers Beach. Perhaps that state money can be restored and increased for rebuilding.

The alternative is to allow a haphazard scramble. In this case, the likely scenario is that developers and speculators swoop in and buy up distressed beach properties from desperate owners for pennies on the dollar. Building commences in a chaotic, uncoordinated way and the result is an unsightly and inefficient mish-mash of commercial and residential buildings.

Better rebuilding will take a lot of discipline, cooperation and coordination. Naples’ 1994 revival was done by the city council, business owners and residents all working together guided by a common vision. To successfully rebuild Hurricane Ian’s communities will take similar unity.

But the time to start doing this is now. The potential rewards justify the effort. If people are willing to be cooperative and patient, Hurricane Ian may be the precursor to a Paradise Coast renaissance—but only if Southwest Floridians are willing to build back better together.

______________________

To learn more about past disasters and responses, see the author’s book: Masters of Disaster: The political and leadership lessons of America’s greatest disasters.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

President Joe Biden is no stranger to Southwest Florida

The former Biden property on Keewaydin Island. in 2016 (Photo: Derrick Moreno)

Oct. 3, 2022 by David Silverberg

When President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden come to Southwest Florida as scheduled on Wednesday, Oct. 5, they will not be coming to unfamiliar territory.

Biden’s connection to Southwest Florida is through his brother, James Biden Jr., who bought a vacation home on five acres of Keewaydin Island for $2.5 million in 2013. He then sold it for $1.35 million in February 2018. This was after Hurricane Irma struck in September 2017.

Joe Biden spent Christmas 2013 on Keewaydin with the family.

The exact status of Keewaydin Island is unclear as of this writing, as is the fate of the house that Biden Jr. once owned.

Further to the south, the iconic dome homes of Cape Romano are now completely submerged due to Hurricane Ian.

Biden’s stops and itinerary in Southwest Florida for his Wednesday visit have not been publicly released. However, a common practice for officials is to do a flyover of an affected area to get an overview of the damage. Biden can be expected to do the same before meeting local officials and victims on the ground. If the flyover includes Keewaydin Island, he may get to see the house where he once visited—or at least what’s left of it.

Presidential visits to disaster-stricken areas can have a major impact on speeding recovery and assistance, particularly if the president is familiar with the region.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Southwest Florida reps vote to shut down government helping Southwest Florida–Updated

Fort Myers Beach after Hurricane Ian. (Image: News10)

Oct. 1, 2022 by David Silverberg

Updated 9:00 am with Senate votes.

As Southwest Florida digs out from Hurricane Ian, its representatives in Congress voted to shut down the federal government that is aiding the devastated region.

Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) all voted against the Continuing Appropriations and Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2023 (House Resolution (HR) 6833), to keep the government operating.

Despite their opposition, the bill passed the US House by a vote of 230 to 201, with 10 Republicans voting in favor of it. It had earlier passed the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 72 to 25. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) voted against the bill, while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was absent.

President Joe Biden signed it into law last night, Sept. 30, just before government funding ran out.

Under the bill, the government will continue operating at current spending levels until Dec. 16.

The bill includes $18.8 billion in spending for disaster recovery efforts. In addition to Florida’s needs, it funds efforts for Western wildfires and flooding in Kentucky.

The bill also funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is assisting hard-hit Southwest Florida. The region sustained what is likely to be many billions of dollars in damages from the direct strike from the Category 4 hurricane.

Charlotte and Sarasota counties in Steube’s 17th District were especially devastated.

If Donalds, Steube and Diaz-Balart had succeeded in stopping the bill with their negative votes, the government would have shut down and there would be no money for search and rescue, emergency response and the beginning of recovery.

In addition to keeping the government functioning, the bill provides $12.4 billion to assist Ukraine in its fight for survival against Russia.

However, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) emphasized the aid to Florida in a speech supporting passage of the bill.

“Alongside this critical package for Ukraine, this legislation directs significant funding to help American families devastated by disaster,” she said.  “We continue to hold all the families affected by Hurricane Ian in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time, but we need money to help them.  The $2 billion or more in the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding in this bill will go toward supporting Florida as well as Puerto Rico, Alaska and other communities hit by disaster.  But again, we need more. 

“And we’re also allowing FEMA to spend up to its entire year of funding, giving the agency access to an additional $18.9 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to quickly respond to disasters, especially appropriate now with Ian. And we will need more,” she said.

Despite many public statements and social media postings related to Hurricane Ian, Southwest Florida’s congressmen did not explain their votes against funding the federal government and disaster recovery money.

In his many tweets related to Hurricane Ian and his support for other measures to aid Southwest Florida, Donalds did not address his vote to shut down the government.

His Democratic opponent, Cindy Banyai had to evacuate her home and was without communications. “I rode out the Hurricane and have surveyed the damage. My job is to speak truth to power and that means we need some answers,” she tweeted, issuing a statement saying that “I know many people want to see unity at this time. But if you’re mad, like me, after all is said and done with Hurricane Ian, we need something better.”

For his part, Steube noted in a tweet that FEMA had approved assistance for affected individuals in Polk County but did not address his vote against further government funding.

Diaz-Balart also made no statement regarding his vote against federal funding and operations.

In contrast, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-23-Fla.) noted: “We cannot leave communities behind that are still picking up the pieces from disastrous floods, wildfires and hurricanes and even basic water system failures. This funding bill comes to their rescue.”

Even Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a determined and relentless critic of Biden, had to acknowledge the importance of the federal role in coping with the storm and its aftermath. “My view on all this is like, you’ve got people’s lives at stake, you’ve got their property at stake and we don’t have time for pettiness,” he said before Ian made landfall. “We gotta work together to make sure we’re doing the best job for them, so my phone line is open.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

‘To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance’—Responding to anti-Semitism in Southwest Florida

The bridge over the Rhine River in Basel, Switzerland. (Photo: Author)

Aug. 31, 2022 by David Silverberg

In the city of Basel, Switzerland there is a bridge that crosses the Rhine River.

It’s a magnificent, sturdy bridge and a critical asset for the city. It was built around the year 1225 and was quite an engineering feat for its day.

Construction of the bridge was made possible by a loan from the city’s Jewish community. Theirs was an act of civic engagement and community pride that supported the city’s growth and prosperity. With the bridge built at the southernmost navigable point on the Rhine, Basel flourished and prospered.

But then in 1347 bubonic plague, the Black Death, began to scourge Europe. It was a horrible disease of unknown origins with a swift lethality that terrified the living. Although the term “pandemic” wasn’t known at the time, it was a sickness that seemed to strike the whole world.

In the year 1349, the Black Death hadn’t yet reached Basel but its onslaught was known and residents of Basel panicked. A conspiracy theory began making the rounds that Jews had poisoned the wells, causing the plague.

The Jewish community had high-level protection: in late 1348 Pope Clement VI issued a papal bull absolving Jews of responsibility for the plague. They were under the safeguard of the Holy Roman Empire. The bishops of Basel, Freiburg and nearby Strasbourg met to coordinate their responses.

But none of the assurances held any weight with an agitated and unreasoning mob. On Jan. 9, 1349 those Jews who hadn’t already fled the city were rounded up. The children were separated to be forcibly converted. The estimated 100 to 600 adult men and women were forcefully taken to an island in the Rhine, shackled together in a wooden hut—and then burned alive.

A Jewish community was massacred despite its high-level promises of protection, the civic-mindedness of its members, and its obvious contributions to the well-being and welfare of the city. Their innocence could not prevail in the face of a delusional conspiracy theory that had no foundation in fact. (And, by the way, the immolation didn’t stop the plague.)

Flash forward 667 years. On December 4, 2016, Edgar Welch, a 28-year-old man from Salisbury, North Carolina, shot his way into a pizza restaurant in Washington, DC, based on an utterly baseless and absurd conspiracy theory he had read on extremist websites asserting that a pedophilia ring was operating out of the restaurant. On October 27, 2018, Robert Bowers, 46, entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., and killed 11 people and wounded six based on a conspiracy theory that Jews were importing people into the United States to replace non-Jewish whites. On March 15, 2019 Brenton Tarrant, 28, killed 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand when he attacked two mosques based on the same racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory.

Conspiracy theories—the term doesn’t fully convey the real nature of these hateful, fabricated, slanderous lies—have consequences. Unfortunately, we live in an age of delusions when such insanities are running rampant.

It was probably inevitable that after demonizing immigrants, blacks, Hillary Clinton, Democrats, Joe Biden and going through a pandemic when ignorant people ferociously fought safeguards like masks and vaccines and promoted magic potions, that some would turn their wrath to Jewish targets. The most laughable slander is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-14-Ga.) bizarre 2018 allegation of space lasers owned by the Jewish Rothschild family causing California wildfires. But as absurd and laughable as that defamation is, it’s part of a trend.

And now Southwest Florida has its own blood libel: Katie Paige Richards, who claimed to be the campaign manager of Collier County school board District 5 candidate Timothy Moshier, repeated a current extremist conspiracy theory on social media that Jewish-controlled media is using pornography to brainwash white males. This comes after a Bonita Springs rabbi’s car, driveway and home were vandalized and defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti in January, after anti-Semitic flyers were distributed in Fort Myers saying anti-Semitism is a human right and other flyers festooned with swastikas were placed on car windshields at local shopping malls. Most recently, on the other coast, anti-Semitic threats of violence were directed at Bruce Reinhart, the magistrate judge in Palm Beach Gardens who approved the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.

Jews have heard these kinds of libels before: that Jews punctured communion wafers to make them bleed; that they took blood from Christian children to bake matzohs; that they poisoned wells to spread bubonic plague; that they conspired to impose democracy on Europe and overthrow monarchies; and that Germany lost World War I because Jews stabbed it in the back.

So when new libels and conspiracy theories emerge, it’s not as though Jews are just offended or emotionally upset. They have a lot of historical experience with these kinds of completely false and malevolent fantasies. They’ve been there before. Jews know how they begin, how they spread and how they end—and they always end badly.

There’s also no excusing the source of this madness. In America in the past, these kinds of fantasies could be debunked with facts, healthy skepticism and simple reality. But Donald Trump sought to discredit real reality and impose his own reality, a reality that ranged from such delusions as having the largest inaugural crowd ever to believing that he won an election that in fact he lost. He smeared as “fake” those who pursued truth. He sought scapegoats for a pandemic he couldn’t competently handle. He not only tried to impose his own lies on the world, it was as though he opened a sealed box and allowed every lunatic’s hallucination to gain credence and circulation. Some of those hallucinations are anti-Semitic.

The time may come when this mass mania may die down. This has happened before in America, ever since the days of its first bout of madness, the Salem witch trials.

But until the lunacy passes, as with the Salem witch trials, there are real casualties.

Anti-Semitism in Southwest Florida

For Southwest Florida’s Jewish community the rise of local anti-Semitic insanity presents the same challenge that every Jewish community has faced in the past: how best to respond?

On Sunday, Aug. 28, Rabbi Bruce Diamond, head of the Fort Myers Community Free Synagogue, which bills itself as a progressive congregation, published an op-ed in the area’s Gannett newspapers, the News-Press and Naples Daily News under the headline, “I worry about the rising tide of aggression.”

In many ways it’s a strange and internally contradictory essay (with some significant lapses in grammar and usage reproduced here as in the original).

On the one hand, Diamond argued, “At this time there is no existential threat to America’s Jew. It may be that the amount of antisemitic violence and incitement is increasing around us and throughout America, but so are all sorts of violence and incitement aimed at so many groups. It’s not just Jews who are the targets- it be anyone, anywhere and at any time.”

Then he states that “Like many of you, I worry about the rising tide of aggression and government’s inability (and sometimes its apparent unwillingness) to containing it.” 

However, cultural and grassroots anti-Semitism, in Diamond’s view, “is a universe apart from the government organizing and sponsoring violence against its residents, be they Jews or any other identifiable group.”

That kind of official persecution can’t happen, he argues, “as long our democratic institutions remain intact, the courts are empowered, and, by consent of the governed, our Constitution holds sway.”

Still, as Diamond acknowledges, “history teaches us that there no guarantees.” Further, “A people that is made to feel threatened by its leaders can tear its government to shreds and jettisoned its most cherished values overnight.”

So ultimately, Diamond writes, “don’t let yourself feel threatened — not by media eager to sell, by the politicians eager for the trappings of power, or anyone else trying to gain control over you and what is yours. They themselves are the threat. But, remarkably, if we all decide to ignore them they will go away and we will be just fine!”

Diamond is apparently putting the onus for anti-Semitic sentiment on the media that seeks to expose it, officials attempting to stop it and anyone else in authority trying to combat it. If those people are ignored, he believes, the wave of anti-Semitism will simply go away—“like a miracle, it’ll disappear,” as one person infamously said of the COVID virus.

As for the real purveyors of anti-Semitism on the Internet, in leaflets and in public forums, he apparently believes they too will pass like the wind and rain or they don’t present a threat.

A somewhat different response came from Rabbi Mendy Greenberg, head of the local Bonita Springs Chabad (a Hebrew acronym for “wisdom, understanding, and knowledge”) chapter of the very orthodox Lubavitcher religious movement.

On Jan. 31, 2022 it was Greenberg’s mailbox that was destroyed, his car window broken, and his sidewalk defaced with the word “Jew’s” in big red letters by two teenagers, Tucker Bachman,17, and a 14-year old accomplice. The perpetrators were swiftly caught by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, charged with hate-crime felonies and in March sentenced to probation.

When the arrests were made Greenberg was generous and forgiving. He said that Lee County was a place of love and friendship and he had never experienced any anti-Semitic crime in his 17 years there.

“This type of behavior is obviously in the minority so, but it also stains the community,” he said, calling for kindness on the part of people of different faiths and backgrounds.

He was neither bitter nor vindictive. “A little light sheds away a lot of darkness. It may sound like a cliché but it really can change reality. For the Jewish community, my message is there is nothing to be fearful for. We are here to stay, we are not going anywhere. We’re proud of who we are.”

In a subsequent service after the incident, Greenberg urged congregants to deal with anti-Semitism by praying and putting on “tefillen,” boxes with sacred script in them used during prayers by very orthodox Jews.

Analysis: Responding effectively

So what’s the best response to incidents of local anti-Semitism?

Is Diamond right in thinking that, “if we all decide to ignore them they will go away and we will be just fine!”

Is Greenberg right that “there is nothing to be fearful for” and prayer will be sufficient?

Sadly, history doesn’t bear out either of these responses. Ignoring prejudice just strengthens it and indifference has always led to disaster.

Rather, small acts of anti-Semitism—indeed, all minor acts of extremism, hatred and bigotry—are like the early raindrops that precede a storm. They may seem scattered and insignificant at first but they’re precursors of much worse to come.

Unlike a storm, however, these are human actions and human actions can be changed or deflected.

In one respect, Diamond is absolutely right: officially sanctioned and sponsored anti-Semitism. “cannot and will not happen as long our democratic institutions remain intact, the courts are empowered, and, by consent of the governed, our Constitution holds sway.”

A vigorous defense of democracy, the Constitution and justice will indeed impede anti-Semitism at the grassroots. And the local person to date who has most embodied and enforced a robust and unflinching response to it isn’t Jewish at all.

When Greenberg’s home was defaced, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno was having absolutely none of it.

“Violence based on discrimination or hatred of anyone is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in my county,” he said emphatically at the press conference announcing the vandals’ arrests.

Greenberg was grateful. He thanked “God Almighty for such a special sheriff’s department. It is unbelievable the type of support and velocity, speed and determination of the Lee County Sheriff’s staff to get down to the bottom of this case,” he said.

Marceno was pursuing specific violations of specific statutes but his vigor and decisiveness shows the way that anti-Semitism must be confronted if it’s to be defeated. And the Lee County Sheriff’s Office response exemplified the way hate crimes need to be pursued and prosecuted.

But that’s law enforcement. What can everyday people do?

As long as the US Constitution holds sway and provides legal, non-violent channels for activism, the answer is always the same: energize, organize and mobilize.

Opposing anti-Semitism should be a no-brainer for politicians and officials of all parties. For the past 50 years it was just a standard position that was largely taken for granted. But now it must be reaffirmed and people must push them to do it.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish organization that monitors and opposes anti-Semitism and all forms of defamation, has formulated what it calls its COMBAT Plan. It consists of:

  • Condemn Antisemitism
  • Oppose Hate and Extremism Driven by Antisemitism
  • Make Communities Safe from Antisemitism
  • Block Antisemitism Online
  • Act Against Global Antisemitism
  • Teach about Antisemitism

The details are explained in a 2-minute, 50-second video on YouTube.

One of the major aspects of the COMBAT Plan is to get existing institutions—political, social and religious—to condemn anti-Semitism.

On the political front as applied in Southwest Florida, that means people need to contact their elected officials—of whatever party or level of government—to insist that they publicly condemn anti-Semitism.

That should also extend to candidates for elected office. Any candidate who refuses to condemn anti-Semitism should know that he or she will pay a price: at the ballot box, in financial donations and in social isolation.

Political parties too should be pushed to take public stances against anti-Semitism. To cite a particular local case, the Collier County Republican Party reacted to the reports of Richards’ anti-Semitism in the school board race with a defensive message to members accusing the Naples Daily News of “fake news and selective reporting of facts” and attacks by “leftists.”

What it should do is issue a clear and unambiguous condemnation of anti-Semitism and those who spread it. It needs to clearly, emphatically and publicly state that anti-Semitism has no part in the Party, its platform or its candidates and those who embrace or accept or propagate it will not get its endorsement, its support or even be allowed to be members.

Additionally, government bodies like municipal and county governments should be urged to pass resolutions condemning anti-Semitism—as well as all forms of bigotry and prejudice. These may not have the force of law but there is a value in putting this position on the public record.

Non-governmental entities like chambers of commerce, professional and civic associations should also be urged to adopt resolutions, amendments and statements announcing their abhorrence of anti-Semitism, hate and extremism.

Religious leaders of all faiths, denominations and creeds should be encouraged to denounce anti-Semitism, hatred and prejudice from their pulpits and in their communications to congregants.

Citizens should report any criminal anti-Semitic incidents and hate-driven activities to law enforcement and the ADL, which provides an online reporting form, and to local media for coverage and exposure.

Teaching the evils of anti-Semitism and extremism needs to be updated in schools. The ADL provides materials and online resources.

Regrettably, in Florida, there’s no telling at this point how legislatively-mandated changes to the state’s curriculum and teaching force will help dampen anti-Semitism, given Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “anti-woke” crusade. In the past, teaching about the Holocaust and Anne Frank was considered sufficient. But curricula need to be updated and modernized to deal with online hate and new conspiracy theories.

In a very specific instance in Collier County, incumbent school board member Roy Terry needs to be returned to office in District 5 to help continue enlightened, secular, objective education, along with fellow incumbents Jory Westberry in District 1 and Jen Mitchell in District 3.

All this will not end hatred, prejudice and anti-Semitism altogether. But it should ensure that it’s confined to the stupidly ignorant, the pathetically gullible and the completely insane—who should be recognized as such.

History’s lessons

History is clear: hate doesn’t just evaporate, passivity doesn’t protect, and appeasement doesn’t appease. Anti-Semitism and all “conspiracy theories” and hatred need to be actively opposed.

If there is any comfort to be had, it is that this opposition is very much in the American tradition. Here, history provides strength and reassurance and this from a Founding Father revered by every true patriot.

In 1790, when the United States was newly formed, Moses Seixas, a Jewish resident of Newport, Rhode Island, wrote to President George Washington praising the new government’s attitudes toward religious freedom, in light of past European persecutions.

Washington wrote back and his answer clarified not just the government’s attitude but what would become the nation’s attitude toward all its citizens:

“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

This is the policy that’s now being put to the test both in American government and on American streets, both nationally and locally, in Southwest Florida and everywhere else.

Every true patriot, every good citizen, every American should heed Washington’s words: “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” and give the nation their “effectual support” by supporting democracy, tolerance and freedom with their votes, their actions and their words.

That’s what builds bridges between people—whether those bridges connect communities or cross rivers like the Rhine.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Reading the tea leaves from Southwest Florida’s primary election

I see a need to clean a cup in your future. (Photo: Author)

Aug. 26, 2022 by David Silverberg

Getting lessons from elections can be like reading tea leaves at the bottom of a cup—just about anything can be deduced from the dark, soggy jumble.

But elections have consequences and so discerning trends from voting patterns becomes important. And when democracy, governance and representation are on the line, making sense of it all becomes downright critical.

What is to be made of the primary elections held Tuesday, Aug. 23, in Southwest Florida? This analysis is based on official returns from the supervisors of elections in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties.

Turnout was low

As is to be expected in a late August primary in steamy Southwest Florida, turnout was low.

In Collier County, only 29.7 percent, of eligible voters turned out. In Lee County, that came to 26.57 percent of eligible voters. In Charlotte County, it was 26.77 percent.

This was down from 2020’s totals. In the last election cycle 36.3 percent of voters turned out for the primary in Collier County, 31.67 percent in Lee County and 21 percent for Charlotte County.

Then again, 2020 was a presidential election year, it was a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency and it took place in the midst of a pandemic, so the intensity of the electorate was reflected in the primary.

Mail-in voting is here to stay—and favored by voters

In 2020, while mail-in balloting was hardly new, it was newly controversial and strenuously denounced by Trump.

But this year’s balloting seems to show that despite the denunciations and recently enacted restrictions on drop-boxes and verification, mail-in voting remains popular and widely used. This year, mail-in ballots accounted for 54 percent of Collier County ballots, 66 percent of Lee’s and 53 percent of Charlotte’s.

Clearly, legislative restrictions and increased complications placed in the way of easy mail-in balloting have not dampened enthusiasm for this form of voting.

What is more, this is an especially favored form of voting for the many Southwest Florida residents who are away during the days of August.

Did DeSantis make a difference for school board candidates?

In both Collier and Lee counties, the school board elections remain unresolved in all but one race where a candidate won an outright majority and thereby the election.

In an unprecedented move this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) reached down the ballot to endorse candidates in what are usually non-partisan elections. He aided candidates with publicity, cash and favorable mentions to advance his “education agenda.”

According to the non-profit website, Florida Phoenix, “of DeSantis’ 30 endorsed candidates, 19 appear to have won their races and five lost on primary night. The other six appear to be either in runoff situations or advancing to the general election based on election data and local coverage.”

Locally, in District 5 of the Lee County School Board, Armor Persons won with 54.85 percent of the vote.

The other local DeSantis-endorsed candidate was Sam Fisher in District 1. He came in with 43.34 percent of the vote, not enough to elect him outright. He will be facing incumbent Kathy Fanny, who took 30.91 percent of the vote.

This indicates that at least in Lee County, a DeSantis school board endorsement does not automatically result in a school board victory for the favored candidate.

That said, in District 1, Fisher did out-poll Fanny, who now must use the time until November to close the gap.

Thanks to DeSantis’ intervention, school board races are now actually part of the 2024 presidential campaign and one more mile marker on his road to the White House. His credibility is on the line for every candidate he endorses.

In Florida, school boards are not your parents’ sleepy, down-ballot elections any more.

Collier County school board incumbents have to up their game

All the Collier County school board races will be decided in the general election in November.

Interestingly, despite the MAGA (Make America Great Again) nature of some Collier County school board candidates, DeSantis did not endorse any of them.

This makes for what should be an intense and active race to November. The incumbents, Jory Westberry in District 1, Jen Mitchell in District 3 and Roy Terry in District 5 must use the next two months to energize and broaden their campaigns while their opponents, Jerry Rutherford, Kelly Lichter and Tim Moshier, will be doing the same.

The incumbents, all of whom have dedicated their lives and careers to education, have tended not to view their elections as the all-out political struggle their challengers did. For the most part, they continued to see the election as the relatively quiet ratification process it was in the past, interesting only to a small group of parents and professionals.

However, the school board election is now part of a much larger ideological struggle. If serious, sensible, secular education in Collier County is to be maintained, Westberry, Mitchell and Terry need to approach their races much more intently, raise more money—which their challengers are certainly doing—and become much more energetic.

The Moshier mess

Timothy Moshier’s Collier County school board campaign in District 5 deserves special attention following the revelation that Katie Paige Richards, who claimed to be his campaign manager, posted a blatantly anti-Semitic video on social media. When asked, Moshier initially stated that he had “no problem with it.”

When the story was covered in The Naples Daily News (NDN), Moshier’s response was to claim that she wasn’t his campaign manager and that his wife was Jewish (presumably absolving him of all responsibility). He and his lawyers demanded a retraction and threatened a lawsuit.

The Collier County Republican Party issued a statement to Republicans saying, “The NDN is using fake news and selective reporting of facts to destroy Tim. That way, they can assure a continued liberal majority on the Collier County School Board.” It added: “He will not allow last-minute and despicable assaults on his character by the NDN and leftists to defeat him.”

However, for all their defensiveness and outrage, neither Moshier nor the Party denounced anti-Semitism in principle or the lies propagated by Richards, who asserted that Jews are using their supposed control of the media to promote pornography to brainwash white males. Neither Richards, nor Moshier, nor the Collier County Republican Party has repudiated that slander or anti-Semitism in general.

It needs to be pointed out that Moshier, a trucking company executive, has no educational credentials or school administrative experience whatsoever. During a school board candidate panel on May 21st, he called for cuts in the Collier County school budget—at a time when the school district is struggling to retain and attract underpaid teachers among many other needs.

What a more sensible and less defensive county Republican Party might have been expected to do is issue a statement condemning anti-Semitism, saying it has no part in the Republican Party, that it’s un-American and un-patriotic and completely rebuking and repudiating Richards and her delusional allegations.

This case is still open.

The meaning of MAGA for Collier County

MAGA candidates Chris Hall and Daniel Kowal won their races for Collier County Board of Commissioners in districts 2 and 4.

Incumbent Penny Taylor was defeated in District 4. Hall will face Democrat Barbara “Bebe” Kanter in District 2 in the November election.

After Taylor’s defeat, Francis Alfred “Alfie” Oakes III, the extremely conservative farmer and grocer and Republican committeeman who endorsed and backed both candidates, posted on Facebook: “Ding dong the witch is dead,” above a picture of Taylor, with the label, “Walking Dead auditions.”

Alfie Oakes’ post-election Facebook post of Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor. (Image: Facebook)

“That was just in fun,” Oakes said of the post to The Paradise Progressive in a phone interview. “I wish her all the best. It doesn’t come with any ill-intent. I told her [at the time of the Collier County Commission vote in July 2020] that if she masked the people I would make it my purpose to defeat her.”

When Taylor voted to impose a county-wide mask mandate at the height of the pandemic, Oakes posted a picture of her and two other county commissioners in Nazi-esque helmets outside his Seed to Table market. He helped fund Hall and Kowal’s campaigns through the Citizens Awake Now Political Action Committee, of which he is president.

More substantively, the likely elections of Hall and Kowal will place a solid MAGA majority on the Collier County Board of Commissioners.

It’s difficult to say exactly how their election will impact the county’s development, infrastructure and budgeting, given that neither made those issues a priority in their campaigns.

According to Hall’s campaign website, “God, his word, love, and ways, (virtue) has to be reinstated in our nation, our states, our counties, and cities. It’s the only way America won’t fail.” He complained that Andy Solis, the outgoing commissioner, voted for mask mandates, shut down beaches during the pandemic, voted against a sanctuary ordinance for guns and one to nullify federal law and allowed businesses to require vaccinations.

Kowal, a former Collier County deputy sheriff, ran a campaign for Congress in 2020 that mostly consisted of a bare-bones website. This time he stated on his website he was running for commissioner because he is “Pro-Clean Water, Pro-Limited Government, Pro-Second Amendment, Pro-Law Enforcement, Pro-Life, Pro-Military.” He also states “I stand for clean water, safe streets and sustainable growth.”

With a MAGA majority on the county council, the county will no doubt be primed to resist any future public health measures that commissioners find inconvenient, no matter how compelling or immediate the threat.

At the very least, a MAGA-dominated Commission calls into question the handling of all the county’s relations with the federal government—and this on top of the DeSantis-dominated state government’s hostility to Washington, DC.

For Oakes, the election may close a chapter in his contentious relations with the county government.

“I just think that the people are speaking,” he said of the results. “They don’t want this wokeness, and they don’t want this radical liberalism.”

As for the results of the election benefiting himself and his business, he said that was not his primary motivation in supporting these candidates. “I’m just happy that the people in Collier County have candidates who uphold the Constitution and America first,” he said.

In statewide races, Southwest Florida tracked the rest of the state

The big statewide race that received the most attention was the contest in the Democratic Party to see whether Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.) or Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried would be nominated to challenge DeSantis.

Crist won that primary statewide by 59.71 percent to Fried’s 35.34 percent. This proved to be true locally as well, with Crist winning Collier County by 57.1 percent, Lee by 53.65 percent and Charlotte by 57.08 percent.

This contrasts with 2018 when regional Democrats favored more conservative candidates over the eventual statewide winner, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. It proved that Southwest Florida Democrats are more temperamentally conservative in contrast to their brethren elsewhere.

It would be very interesting to know if Southwest Florida Democratic women favored Fried over Crist in light of the two candidates’ battle over their respective commitments to women’s choice. Fried was counting on a female groundswell to lift her to the nomination. It didn’t happen statewide. Did it happen in Southwest Florida? What might the results mean for the general election on Nov. 8? Just how much will the overthrow of Roe v. Wade factor into people’s next ballot?

Regrettably, the official tallies don’t provide those answers since there’s no gender breakdown in the statistics. There’s a real need in this region for serious, sustained, professional public opinion polling with publicly reported results.

Until we get those kinds of scientific surveys we’ll just have to deduce what we can from the results that we get—and read whatever we can from the tea leaves in the bottoms of our cups.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Primary election sets up epic battles in November—Updated

Collier County Commission candidate Gerald Lefebvre and a supporter of school board incument Jen Mitchell outside the North Collier Park polling place yesterday. (Photo: Author)

Aug. 24, 2022 by David Silverberg

Updated with additional information on Congressional District 17, official counts from Lee County and spelling correction.

The Sunshine State and its southwest corner are headed into what will definitely be epic battles for key offices in the Nov. 8 general election.

Incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will face Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.) for governor.

Incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio (R) will face Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.) for United States Senator.

Incumbent Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) will face Aramis Ayala (D).

Republican Wilton Simpson will face Democrat Naomi Blemur for Agriculture Commissioner.

In the 19th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) will be facing Democratic candidate Cindy Banyai.

In the new 26th Congressional District (formerly the 25th), incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R) will face Democrat Christine Alexandria Olivo.

In the 17th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) will face Democrat Andrea Doria Kale. The Republican primary in the 17th District was canceled when Steube ran unopposed.

Collier County

Collier County had all its precincts reported and the full election count completed by 8:08 pm.

In the race for Collier County Commissioner District 2, Chris Hall won his race with 50 percent of the vote and will face Democrat Barbara “Bebe” Kanter.

Daniel Kowal won his race for Collier County Commissioner District 4 with 42 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Penny Taylor.

In the non-partisan school board races for districts 1, 3 and 5, no candidate won 50 percent of the vote plus one, meaning that all districts will be decided in the general election among the top two vote getters.

In District 1, incumbent Jory Westberry will face Jerry Rutherford.

In District 3, incumbent Jenn Mitchell will face Kelly Lichter.

In District 5, incumbent Roy Terry will face Timothy Moshier.

In the non-partisan election for County Judge Group 3, Chris Brown defeated Pamela Barger by 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent.

Lee County

According to official results from the Lee County Supervisor of Elections, in State House District 77, Tiffany Esposito defeated Ford O’Connell by 70.68 percent to 29.32 percent.

For the Lee County School Board, only Armor Persons made it over the 50 percent mark in District 5, with 54.85 percent of the vote.

Otherwise, in District 1, Sam Fisher will face Kathy Fanny in the general election.

In District 4, incumbent Debbie Jordan will face Dan Severson.

In District 6, Jada Lanford Fleming will face Denise Nystrom.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

Help defend democracy in Southwest Florida—donate here!

Primary election sets up epic battles in November

Voters cast their ballots in 2018. (Photo: Author)

Aug. 23, 2022 by David Silverberg

The Sunshine State and its southwest corner are headed into what will definitely be a rockin’ and rollin’ general election.

The results of the 2022 primary elections set up epic battles for key offices.

Incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will face Rep. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.) for governor.

Incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio (R) will face Rep. Val Demings (D-10-Fla.) for United States Senator.

With 56 percent of precincts reporting, incumbent Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) will face Aramis Ayala (D).

With 55 percent of precincts reporting, it appeared that Republican Wilton Simpson would face Democrat Naomi Blemur for Agriculture Commissioner.

In the 19th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.) will be facing Democratic candidate Cindy Banyai.

In the new 26th Congressional District (formerly the 25th), incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R) will face Democrat Christine Alexandria Olivo.

Collier County

Collier County had all its precincts reported and the full election count completed by 8:08 pm.

In the race for Collier County Commissioner District 2, Chris Hall won his race with 50 percent of the vote and will face Democrat Barbara “Bebe” Kanter.

Daniel Kowal won his race for Collier County Commissioner District 4 with 42 percent of the vote, defeating incumbent Penny Taylor.

In the non-partisan school board races for districts 1, 3 and 5, no candidates won 50 percent of the vote plus one, meaning that all districts will be decided in the general election among the top two vote getters.

In District 1, incumbent Jory Westberry will face Jerry Rutherford.

In District 3, incumbent Jenn Mitchell will face Kelly Lichter.

In District 5, incumbent Roy Terry will face Timothy Moshier.

In the non-partisan election for County Judge Group 3, Chris Brown defeated Pamela Barger by 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent.

Lee County

The Lee County supervisor of elections had not posted official results as of this writing. However, WINK TV was reporting results as of 8:40 pm.

In State House District 77, Tiffany Esposito was leading Ford O’Connell by 71 to 29 percent.

For the Lee County School Board, only Armor Persons made it over the 50 percent mark in District 5, with 55 percent of the vote.

Otherwise, in District 1, Sam Fisher will face Kathy Fanny in the general election.

In District 4, incumbent Debbie Jordan will face Dan Severson.

In District 6, Jada Lanford Fleming will face Denise Nystrom.

Liberty lives in light

© 2022 by David Silverberg

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