Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

2018 winners and losers of the year in Florida politics

We have your Ron DeSantis and your Andrew Gillum, plus a whole lot more.
Clockwise from top: Gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis, Adam Putnam, Chris King and Philip Levine. Graphic by Paul Alexander; Credit: AP, AFP/GETTY, Tampa Bay Times
Clockwise from top: Gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis, Adam Putnam, Chris King and Philip Levine. Graphic by Paul Alexander; Credit: AP, AFP/GETTY, Tampa Bay Times
Published Dec. 27, 2018|Updated Dec. 27, 2018

'Tis the season to declare the winners and losers of Florida politics in 2018. Let's get to it.

Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott kisses his wife Ann as he speaks to supporters at an election watch party, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Naples, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) FLWL108
Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott kisses his wife Ann as he speaks to supporters at an election watch party, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Naples, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) FLWL108

Winner: Rick Scott. He doesn't leave any room for error, and his kids' inheritance took a big hit, but Florida's most awkward politician, Sen.-elect Scott, is three-for-three in statewide races. He's Florida's most underestimated candidate, and it only cost him about $155 million of his own money to squeak into the U.S. Senate and two terms as governor.

                                                                      

OCTAVIO JONES | TimesFlorida Gubernatorial Democratic Andrew Gillum greets a packed crowd during the Florida Democratic Party rally held at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida on Monday, October 22, 2018.
OCTAVIO JONES | TimesFlorida Gubernatorial Democratic Andrew Gillum greets a packed crowd during the Florida Democratic Party rally held at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida on Monday, October 22, 2018.

Winner: Andrew Gillum. The Democrats' most naturally talented politician in generations fell short in the governor's race but still emerged as the darling of progressives across the country.

                                                                      

Andrew Gillum pauses, overcome with emotion, as he accepts the nomination to be Florida’s Democratic Party candidate for governor, Tuesday in Tallahassee. (Photo by Colin Hackley)
Andrew Gillum pauses, overcome with emotion, as he accepts the nomination to be Florida’s Democratic Party candidate for governor, Tuesday in Tallahassee. (Photo by Colin Hackley)

Loser: Andrew Gillum. The Tallahassee mayor still lost to a relatively weak Republican, the FBI still has an open investigation into Tallahassee corruption, and Gillum is doing little to knock down the nonsensical talk that a presidential or vice presidential run could be in store soon. After serving as a weak mayor/glorified city council member? Give us a break.

                                                                      

President Donald Trump. Credit: AP
President Donald Trump. Credit: AP

Winner: Donald Trump. He threw himself into Florida's election big time, and it paid off. Both Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis owe him a big debt for zipping into Florida twice in the final week of the campaign.

                                                                      

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Loser: Ken Hagan. The Hillsborough County commissioner spearheading weak efforts to bring the Rays to Ybor City proved gifted at feuding with some reporters and embracing secrecy, but not much else.

                                                                      

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes.

Winner: Richard Corcoran. The House speaker who had aspirations for governor but saw the path blocked, winds up poised to be the most powerful education commissioner at least since the job became appointed 20 years ago and can still cultivate future political aspirations from that post.

                                                                      

The Tampa City Council will consider paying $250,000 to settle a federal lawsuit brought by a company that wanted to open a home to treat people with alcohol and drug addictions in Oakford Park.
The Tampa City Council will consider paying $250,000 to settle a federal lawsuit brought by a company that wanted to open a home to treat people with alcohol and drug addictions in Oakford Park.

Winner: Local governments. Thanks to their aggressive campaign (and very little campaign from the other side), the only constitutional amendment on the ballot voted down was a Homestead exemption proposal that governments said would have cost them tens of millions in revenue.

                                                                      

Vaping. [Tampa Bay Times]
Vaping. [Tampa Bay Times]
Loser: Vapers. Sorry electronic cigarette fans, but voters decided to ban indoor vaping.

                                                                      

Plant High School, where air conditioning ducts were connected to windows to cool down the gym. [BRONTE WITTPENN/Times]
Plant High School, where air conditioning ducts were connected to windows to cool down the gym. [BRONTE WITTPENN/Times]
Winner: Hillsborough schools. Thanks to the schools tax that voters approved, they might have working air conditioning next year.

                                                                      

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes MARSHA HALPER mhalper@miamiherald.com
Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes MARSHA HALPER mhalper@miamiherald.com
Palm Beach County Supervisor Of Elections Susan Bucher gestures as she prepares to speak to members of the media at the Supervisor of Elections office after the deadline for a recount was reached Thursday in West Palm Beach. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Palm Beach County Supervisor Of Elections Susan Bucher gestures as she prepares to speak to members of the media at the Supervisor of Elections office after the deadline for a recount was reached Thursday in West Palm Beach. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Loser: Broward and Palm Beach counties. Yet again South Florida helped fuel the nation's Flori-duh image thanks to botched vote counting by the Broward and Palm Beach elections offices.

                                                                      

New Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton, talks to members of the Florida Senate during the 2018 Organization Session in Tallahassee. (SCOTT KEELER | Times)
New Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton, talks to members of the Florida Senate during the 2018 Organization Session in Tallahassee. (SCOTT KEELER | Times)

Winner: Bill Galvano. The incoming Florida Senate president may have played as big or a bigger role in Republican successes up and down the ballot than even President Trump. Below the radar, Galvano's campaign operation paid for more the 500 organizers across the state to mobilize voters and knocked on more than 770,000 doors. Galvano and other senators raised an extraordinary $44 million.

                                                                      

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is joined by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, at a news conference at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is joined by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, at a news conference at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Loser: Bill Nelson. Bonanza and The Brady Bunch were popular TV shows when Bill Nelson began his political career in the Florida Legislature. He came just a hair shy of winning a third term in the U.S. Senate, more voters decided half a century in public office is enough.

                                                                      

Nikki Fried, a Broward County attorney and Democratic candidate for commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, has put out a new TV ad one week before the election.
Nikki Fried, a Broward County attorney and Democratic candidate for commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, has put out a new TV ad one week before the election.

Winner: Nikki Fried. Congrats to the Florida Democrats' only statewide elected official. Too bad only a handful of Floridians could pick the next agriculture commissioner out of a lineup.

                                                                      

Chris KingCredit: Kirby Wilson, Tampa Bay Times
Chris KingCredit: Kirby Wilson, Tampa Bay Times

Loser: Chris King. The Orlando businessman spent millions of his own money to win less than 3 percent of the Democratic primary vote. And Democrats across Florida are grumbling that he brought zero to the campaign of Andrew Gillum, who should have chosen Gwen Graham as his running mate instead.

                                                                      

Greene [AP]
Jeff Greene [AP]
Loser: Jeff Greene. After handily losing a Democratic primary for U.S. Senator in 2010, the Palm Beach billionaire re-emerged to launch a relentlessly negative campaign for governor. He spent nearly $37 million of his own money — about $240 per vote received — to finish fourth.

                                                                      

Mariella Smith, one of Hillsborough’s newly elected Democratic commissioners.
Mariella Smith, one of Hillsborough’s newly elected Democratic commissioners.

Winner: Hillsborough Democrats. They took control of the county commission majority and won three Republican state legislative seats.

                                                                      

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. [JAY NOLAN  |   Special to the Times]
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. [JAY NOLAN |
Special to the Times]
Winner: Rick Kriseman. St. Pete’s mayor took a big risk and a lot of knocks for allowing the Rays to look for a new stadium location outside of St. Pete, but his confidence that Tampa would not work out proved right. Now the question is whether he can keep the team from leaving altogether.

                                                                      

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, on Fox News, April 10, 2018.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, on Fox News, April 10, 2018.

Winner: Matt Gaetz. It didn't take long for the north Florida congressman to emerge as one of the highest profile and bombastic Make America Great Againers in America. Sometimes it seems he's on Fox News more than the My Pillow guy.

                                                                      

Janet Cruz had the lead by the time she arrived at her election watch party in the state Senate District 18 race. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   TIMES]
Janet Cruz had the lead by the time she arrived at her election watch party in the state Senate District 18 race. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | TIMES]
Winner: Janet Cruz. The Tampa Democrat unseated state Sen. Dana Young and emerged as the only Democrat to win a new state senate seat.

                                                                      

All For Transportation supports raising the Hillsborough County sales tax by a cent to pay for transportation needs. [lLl For Transportation.]
All For Transportation supports raising the Hillsborough County sales tax by a cent to pay for transportation needs. [lLl For Transportation.]
Winner: All for Transportation. Reversing 25 years of failed efforts, the private group succeeded in getting a citizens’ petition on the ballot and passed for transportation improvements in Hillsborough.

                                                                      

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist.
Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist.

Loser: Victor Crist. First-time Democratic candidate ousted the Hillsborough commissioner and former state legislator from office after a quarter-century.

                                                                      

Florida Rights and Restoration Coalition president Desmond Meade speaks during a press conference during an event, which headlined John Legend, in support of Florida’s Amendment 4 at Maynard Evans High School auditorium in Orlando on Wednesday. The amendment would grant convicted felons, who’ve served their time, the right to vote. (BRONTE WITTPENN | Times)
Florida Rights and Restoration Coalition president Desmond Meade speaks during a press conference during an event, which headlined John Legend, in support of Florida’s Amendment 4 at Maynard Evans High School auditorium in Orlando on Wednesday. The amendment would grant convicted felons, who’ve served their time, the right to vote. (BRONTE WITTPENN | Times)

Winner: Ex-felons. Voters ended a Jim Crow era relic so that people other than murderers and felony sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences can vote again.

                                                                      

Pinellas County Commission chairman Ken Welch. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)
Pinellas County Commission chairman Ken Welch. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)

Loser: County Commissioner Ken Welch. Revelations of dubious spending of taxpayer money for a reading program by the Pinellas County Commissioner's wife surely will haunt his campaign for St. Pete mayor in 2021.

                                                                      

Governor-elect Ron DeSantis thanks the crowd at the Spartan Manor before ending his speech during a Thank You Tour across Florida on December 8, 2018 in New Port Richey. [Tailyr Irvine, Times]
Governor-elect Ron DeSantis thanks the crowd at the Spartan Manor before ending his speech during a Thank You Tour across Florida on December 8, 2018 in New Port Richey. [Tailyr Irvine, Times]
Winner of the year: Ron DeSantis. He lacked personal charm and political skill, establishment GOP support, deep knowledge of Florida issues, history with GOP activists, or widespread confidence he could win. But he had Fox News and Donald Trump on his side, and an FBI investigation hanging over Andrew Gillum. Now he’s Gov-Elect DeSantis.

                                                                      

Gubernatorial Republican candidate Adam Putnam gives his concession speech after losing to opponent Rep. Ron DeSantis during his election watch party held at the Terrace Hotel in downtown Lakeland. [OCTAVIO JONES | Tampa Bay Times]
Gubernatorial Republican candidate Adam Putnam gives his concession speech after losing to opponent Rep. Ron DeSantis during his election watch party held at the Terrace Hotel in downtown Lakeland. [OCTAVIO JONES | Tampa Bay Times]
Loser of the year: Adam Putnam. Never in modern Florida history has a statewide candidate started with such high expectations and fallen so flat. What Jeb Bush was to the 2016 presidential race, Adam Putnam was to the governor’s race. Even if he ran a strong campaign, and he certainly did not, he probably could not have overcome his status as a career politician and Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge