After a week without an announcement of his candidacy, a bid for state Agriculture Commissioner by Alfie Oakes (Francis Alfred Oakes III) appears unlikely.
Last Wednesday, May 18, Oakes told The Paradise Progressivethat he would decide by week’s end whether to run for state Agriculture Commissioner, a position being vacated by Democrat Nicole “Nikki” Fried, who is running for governor. During an April 28 interview at which he made his interest in the position known, he promised Fox News host Tucker Carlson that he would make the announcement on his show. As of this writing, no announcement has been made.
Oakes, an extremely conservative farmer and grocer based in Naples, did not respond to repeated calls and a text message from The Paradise Progressive.
As of today, May 27, there are 88 days until the Aug. 23 primary election, a very late date to mount any kind of campaign, especially a statewide one that would have to reach all of Florida.
The leading candidate for the seat is state Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-10-Citrus County), outgoing president of the state Senate and an egg farmer. In addition to endorsements from former president Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), in the past week Simpson was endorsed by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and Florida Family Action, a politically conservative social action organization.
He has also been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida as well as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Police Benevolent Association.
In addition to Simpson the Florida Division of Elections lists six candidates for the office: Democrats Jacques “JR” Gaillot and Ryan Morales and Republicans James Shaw and Bob White. Businessman Chuck Nadd, although still listed, dropped out of the race when DeSantis endorsed Simpson.
Alfie Oakes, the prominent and outspoken farmer and grocer based in Naples, Fla., known for his extremely conservative political views, will announce in one week whether he is running for state Agriculture Commissioner, he told The Paradise Progressive in an exclusive telephone interview today.
After announcing on April 28 that he was considering a run, Alfie (Francis Alfred Oakes III) told The Paradise Progressive he remains undecided about a bid.
“I likely won’t know for a week,” he said as he weighs his options. “It will be an uphill battle for sure.” In an interview the day before, he acknowledge that “it’s getting really late” to jump in the race.
Oakes is owner of the Seed to Table market and is president of the Citizens Awake Now Political Action Committee, which is backing conservative candidates in Southwest Florida. He is also a Collier County State Republican Committeeman for District 4.
If he ran, Oakes would be up against Wilton Simpson, president of the Florida state Senate, who has been endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and former President Donald Trump and is currently considered the leading contender for the position—but Oakes said he’s a weak candidate.
“He’s a pay-to-play guy,” he said.
In the telephone interview, yesterday, May 17, Oakes acknowledged that “it’s getting really late” to jump into the race. “I don’t know now if I’ll run or sit out this cycle. I haven’t made that determination.”
Oakes met with one of the current candidates for commissioner yesterday but said he had not decided whether to endorse.
At the very end of the hour-long interview—minute 57:40—which chiefly covered Oakes’ commercial history and issues facing the farming business, Carlson asked Oakes about his political plans.
“Alfie Oakes, when you run for office and I hope you will, call and we’ll announce on our show,” said Carlson.
“Well, if I do, I will be blessed to come up here and I am thinking about it. I really thought about making a run for Commissioner or Agriculture for the state of Florida,” he said, adding, “I’ve given it a lot of thought.”
The position of Commissioner of Agriculture is an elected Cabinet position with a four-year term. The commissioner is fourth in line of succession to the governor after the lieutenant governor, attorney general, and chief financial officer.
The Commissioner is charged with supporting and regulating Florida’s agriculture industry, conserving soil and water resources, managing state forests, protecting consumers from unfair trade practices, and ensuring the safety and wholesomeness of food in the marketplace, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.
The current officeholder is Nicole “Nikki” Fried, who was elected in 2018 and is the only Democrat to hold statewide office. She is currently running for governor.
To date three candidates are seeking the office, according to the state Division of Elections. Ryan Morales, a businessman based in Clermont, is the only Democrat. In addition to Simpson, the other Republican candidates are Richard Earl Olle and James Shaw, a farmer. Another declared candidate, Chuck Napp, dropped out of the race when Simpson entered it.
Gingrich move to Naples is just latest addition to rightist roster
May 17, 2021 by David Silverberg
–Updated May 18 with current valuation of Sen. Rick Scott’s home.
If you had the impression that all the debris and detritus of the Trump years was drifting southward to Florida—you’d be right.
The latest move is by NewtandCallista Gingrich, who on May 3 purchased a property in Naples’ tony Quail West development and will be moving there permanently in September.
They’re just part of the Trumps, Trumpsters and assorted Trumpers migrating to the swampy warmth of Florida south of Interstate 4.
Of course, the real lodestar for all this is Donald Trump himself, the loser of the 2020 election, who retreated to his luxurious lair of Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach following his failed January 6th attempt to overturn the US government and cancel the election. Trump became a full-time Florida resident in September 2019 and officially tweeted the change on Nov. 1 of that year.
“…Despite the fact that I pay millions of dollars in city, state and local taxes each year, I have been treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state. Few have been treated worse,” he complained of New York. At the time he was under pressure from New York authorities investigating a variety of suspected misbehavior. (That pressure may turn into indictments any day now, his Florida residence notwithstanding.)
Along with the Former Guy himself came the family Trumps, who have settled along the east coast of the peninsula. Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushnerhave purchased a lot for $32 million on Miami’s exclusive Indian Creek Island, known as the “Billionaires Bunker.”
Further north, Don Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, purchased two waterfront homes in Jupiter’s Admiral’s Cove, another exclusive high-end enclave. The main house, 492 Mariner Drive, listed for $11 million. Next door, Guilfoyle was planning to purchase a $9.5 million mansion for her family, according to The Palm Beach Post.
It’s not only the current family coming south: Trump ex-spouse Marla Maples has settled in Miami, joining her daughter Tiffany who already resides there with her fiancée, Michael Boulos. In March, Marla posted a photo on Instagram of her coyly displaying a Florida driver’s license.
Interestingly, while Trump & Family settle into extravagant and expensive digs, lesser Trumpsters who served his campaign or administration are pleading poverty and penury, either because they’re out of the graces of the Orange One, or because they’re facing the wrath of law enforcement.
Fort Lauderdale is home to Roger Stone, political trickster, lobbyist and consultant. Stone was arrested there on Jan. 25, 2019 and charged with witness tampering, obstructing an official proceeding, and five counts of making false statements during Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian collusion. He was convicted of seven felonies and sentenced to 40 months in prison. Trump first commuted his sentence and then pardoned him altogether just before leaving office. However, this past April 16, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sued Stone for $2 million in back taxes.
Stone pleaded poverty: “The Internal Revenue Service is well aware of the fact that my three-year battle for freedom against the corrupted Mueller investigation has left me destitute,” Stone told The Associated Press. “They’re well aware that I have no assets and that their lawsuit is politically motivated. It’s particularly interesting that my tax attorneys were not told of this action, filed at close of business on a Friday. The American people will learn, in court, that I am on the verge of bankruptcy and that there are no assets for the government to take.”
That’s not the IRS view, which holds that Stone and his wife used a commercial front to “shield their personal income from enforced collection” and support a “lavish lifestyle.”
According to the IRS filing: “Despite notice and demand for payment, Roger and Nydia Stone have failed and refused to pay the entire amount of the liabilities.”
The drama will play out in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom over the coming months.
Also in Fort Lauderdale, Brad Parscale, who touts himself as “an advertising legend,” served as Trump’s campaign manager for 897 days before a major Trump rally he organized in June 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma failed spectacularly.
During his Trump time, Parscale was riding high with a salary of $15,000 a month but with seeming use of much more. Under Parscale Properties LLC, he invested in real estate around Fort Lauderdale including a $2.4 million waterfront home for himself. Over the course of a few months he also purchased $300,000 in luxury cars.
But apparently he wasn’t feeling well after his fall from grace. On Sept. 27, 2020 his girlfriend called Fort Lauderdale police to say that he was waving a gun and threatening both her and himself. Parscale’s takedown by police in his driveway was videotaped and widely broadcast. He sold his main house shortly after his arrest and the following day listed a townhome he also owned.
In March 2021, Pascale announced that he had formed a new super political action committee (PAC) called American Greatness PAC and a non-profit American Greatness Fund, which promotes what it calls the Election Integrity Alliance to “unite groups and efforts across the nation focused on combating election fraud.” It will fund state legislators and activists “on challenges to free and fair elections.”
Donors will no doubt be reassured by Parscale’s proven record of handling money in the past.
The other side of Alligator Alley
In an essay published in The Washington Post this past January, humorist Dave Barry put Florida’s east and west coasts into perspective:
“…Miami, where I live, is directly across the Everglades from Naples, only about 100 miles as the crow flies, which the crow had better do because if it lands it will be eaten by a Burmese python,” he wrote. “But despite their proximity, the two cities, because of unfortunate stereotypes, view each other negatively. Miami views Naples as a boring, retiree-infested backwater where the height of wild nightlife is ordering a second round of breadsticks at the Olive Garden. Naples views Miami as an insane urban hellscape whose residents celebrate every occasion, including Valentine’s Day, with gunfire.
“For the record, both of these unfortunate stereotypes are 100 percent accurate.”
Perhaps it was this boringness—or viewed another way, the peace and quiet—of the Gulf coast that first drew Indiana native Mike Pence to Sanibel Island. During his time as Trump’s vice president, Pence would occasionally vacation at an undisclosed location there. Whether his trips continue in the future or he settles there permanently, only Pence himself knows.
For four years Pence was an unfailingly loyal and servile wingman to Donald Trump—who rewarded him by inciting a murderous mob to try to lynch him on Jan. 6.
Also on the Gulf coast is the longtime home of former Florida governor and current senator Rick Scott, whose beachfront home at 3150 Gordon Dr., Naples, is estimated to be worth over $30 million as it awaits climate change-driven sea level rise to wash it into the Gulf.
Naples, with a picturesque downtown and beautiful beaches, has been a minor haven for right-wing pundits and performers for some time.
Fox News commentator Sean Hannity bought a $4.75 million penthouse in a luxury high-rise condo called Moraya Bay in 2009. It was one element of his real estate empire that reportedly includes as many as 900 properties around the country. Hannity sold that penthouse for $5.7 million in December 2020 and has reportedly moved on to Florida’s east coast.
Also in Naples, rocker Ted Nugent, better known at this point for his extreme political views than his music, has long been an occasional seasonal resident. Nugent announced on April 19 that he had contracted COVID-19 a week after performing at Seed to Table, a defiantly COVID-denying, anti-masking market in North Naples.
None of these celebrities made much of an impression on the local community, either showing up on the streets, in shops or in the pages of slick hometown lifestyle magazines as charitable donors.
To the north of Sanibel, Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson occasionally visits the $2.9 million, 3,000-square-foot plus, single-level modernist home he purchased in 2020 on Gasparilla Island, one of the Gulf shore’s many islands.
Newt and Callista Gingrich are the latest additions to the Gulf shore, scheduled to move permanently to Naples in September.
Newt, of course, was Speaker of the US House of Representatives from 1995 until he was ousted in 1999. Callista is just back from a stint as US ambassador to the Vatican’s Holy See.
Her presence will give Naples two former Vatican ambassadors, given the presence of Francis Rooney, who served in that capacity from 2005 to 2008 before representing the district in Congress from 2016 to 2020.
Rooney called Southwest Florida “the redder than red region” in a 2016 speech at the Collier County Fairgrounds when he introduced then-candidate Donald Trump. While he later broke with Trump and Trumpism, he was certainly right in his characterization.
To his credit, for all his ideological loyalty, Gingrich vehemently denounced the Jan. 6 insurrection in no uncertain terms:
“I was furious. I am furious. Every person who broke into the Capitol has to be arrested and has to be prosecuted,” said Gingrich 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.”
This is not to say that Gingrich hasn’t pounded the Trumpist drum for a long time. But at least he drew the line at insurrection.
Someone who never broke with the Big Lie and in fact swore actual allegiance to the absurd QAnon conspiracy theory is Michael Flynn. He served 24 days as Trump’s national security advisor in 2017 before being dismissed after lying to Pence about his contacts with the Russians. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, then withdrew his guilty plea. He was pardoned by Trump in December 2020.
In keeping with Trump’s “Me First” philosophy, Naples’ beachfront condos and hotels are now trying to drive Floridians off the sands of the area’s beaches.
Florida law allows property owners to possess beaches up to the “mean high tide line”—i.e., the dry sand up to the water. For the most part, the beaches are sufficiently broad that in the past there was room for all and people could walk and pitch their umbrellas where they liked.
But the high-end beachfront resorts and condos sell themselves as having exclusive, private beaches. They’re prohibited from putting up clear barriers like traffic cones to keep people off the sand. Instead, they put up barriers of beach chairs right to the water’s edge. Beachgoers are allowed on the dry sand as long as they keep walking but if they sit down they’re shooed away by security guards. Otherwise, everyday Floridians had better stay in the water—not exactly where people can camp out to enjoy a day at the beach.
The leader in this movement to appropriate the beaches is the Moraya Bay condo in North Naples, once home to Hannity. Further south, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on the town’s Vanderbilt Beach has moved with increasing aggressiveness to keep plebeians off its sands. Once upon a time, the Ritz-Carlton was tolerant and welcoming but no more. The condos’ movement against beachgoers is picking up steam, both with other property owners and with state legislators like the area’s state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-28-Naples) who in 2018 introduced legislation to make it more difficult for municipalities to claim beaches for all residents.
Naples, which prizes its beaches as its main tourist attraction, is headed toward a time when all but a small strip of wet sand will be off-limits to anyone other than the extremely well-heeled. It’s the logical result of Trumpism on the ground—literally.
It’s the law
“My parents live in Florida now,” observed comedian Jerry Seinfeld. “They moved there last year. They didn’t want to move to Florida, but they’re in their 60s, and that’s the law.”
Seinfeld continued: “You know how it works. They got the leisure police. They pull up in front of the old people’s house with the golf cart, jump out: ‘Let’s go, Pop! White belt, white pants, white shoes! Get in the back! Drop the snow shovel! Right there! Drop it!’”
As it is for normal people, so it is for Trump and his Trumpsters. Perhaps Seinfeld’s Florida must-move law was the only law Trump ever obeyed—and even then he was tardy, being well past 60 when he took Florida residency in 2019. Flynn, Stone and the Gingriches are all past 60 and all coming to Florida to—presumably—retire.
Being under 60, the family—Ivanka, Jared, Don Jr., and Tiffany—have moved because that’s simply the way of the world: where Daddy goes, so they go all.
As for the rest of the Tumpers, pundits and assorted minions of all ages, in addition to the extreme politics, they’re attracted to the beaches, the heat and the low taxes like everyone else.
Politically, though, these are not just ordinary immigrants. Their presence along with their money, a Trumpist governor and a Republican legislature incline Florida to indeed become Florumpia—a state governed in true Trump fashion where voting is suppressed, dissent is crushed, corruption is pervasive, lawbreaking is excused, lying is instinctive, bankruptcy always looms and fantasy prevails.
In Florida, all the world will be able to see what a second Trump administration would have looked like—and could look like again if Trump and Trumpism are able to triumph in future elections at any level.
But then, Florida has always attracted delusional dreamers and fevered fantasists. Why should Trump be any different?