The past election overshadowed the rest of the year in Florida politics, with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ record-setting 19-point blowout reelection victory against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, Republicans capturing a two-thirds supermajority in both legislative chambers and the GOP making gains on local school boards.
City & State Florida didn’t go live until mid-year, but we were around for most of the newsmaking developments, including the jaw-dropping flip of a north Florida state Senate seat that included deep blue Leon County, which long had been held by Democrats.
We took a look through our growing archive and pulled out our 10 most read stories of 2022, including those we posted from our sister publication, The News Service of Florida. Take a quick ride through the past year, and know that we’re already looking ahead to 2023 – and 2024, should a certain Florida governor have plans for higher office.
Christopher Phillip Kimball was named director of the state’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use. He oversees nearly 500 medical-marijuana retail sites and more than 750,000 patients. Florida’s new medical pot czar also is an attorney who spent more than two decades in the U.S. Navy and served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
9. “Florida Gov. DeSantis floats possibility of more special legislative sessions,” by News Service of Florida
In November, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was working on a “robust” agenda with legislative leaders that could mean more special sessions before the 2023 regular session. “We may even end up doing one or two in January, February potentially,” he said. As of last week, no plans had been announced for further sessions after the December special session on insurance ended.
8. “North Florida is the latest front in Ron DeSantis' war on voter fraud,” by Tristan Wood
DeSantis’ new statewide elections police is opening a new front in the war on voter fraud, according to emails shared with City & State Florida. The Office of Election Crimes and Security sent State Attorney Jack Campbell – the Tallahassee region’s top prosecutor – a list of 22 convicted sex offenders, saying all of them voted illegally in the November 2020 general election.
7. “Following the money: Who’s giving in the Marco Rubio-Val Demings matchup,” by Tristan Wood
The U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Marco Rubio and Democratic challenger and U.S. Rep. Val Demings was one of the most closely watched in the country – and one of the most expensive, with the two candidates bringing in $84 million, the third most out of all U.S. Senate races. But Demings’ cash advantage didn’t matter: She lost by 16 ½ points.
In a story that was followed by multiple outlets, City & State reported that the DeSantis administration was pushing a new set of rules for the Capitol Complex, a year after a colored light kerfuffle at the old Capitol. The proposed rules would give the governor sole authority to light building exteriors and limit or prohibit protests or other demonstrations. Some of the proposals were later walked back.
5. “Florida elected official still serves although she lives in Georgia,” by David Volz
Hollywood City Commissioner Linda Sherwood bought a house out of state to care for her ill daughter and mainly resides there, carrying out her duties and attending meetings remotely. Hollywood City Attorney Doug Gonzalez opined that Sherwood remains a resident until she provides notice otherwise, and the city charter says the commission itself “shall judge (the) qualification of its own members.”
Florida prosecutors entered into what’s called a “deferred prosecution agreement” with former state Department of Health employee Rebekah Jones to resolve a computer-based crime against her, City & State first reported. The agreement says Jones must, among other things, “admit her guilt” and “see a licensed mental health professional” for at least one hour per month. If prosecutors are satisfied she has met the conditions, they will dismiss the case.
3. “Cancer diagnosis, loss of a spouse bow but don’t break this Florida lawyer,” by Jim Rosica
A sudden diagnosis of cancer followed by the death of a spouse after being married for less than a year would have crushed many people. Alexis Fowler, however, persisted. This is what it took: A combination of faith and a sense of the absurd. “I believe that there are some mysteries that are not for us to understand,” says Fowler, a native Floridian and longtime local and state government attorney.
2. “Five Questions for Paul Renner,” by City & State
House Speaker Paul Renner officially took the reins in a post-election “organization session” Nov. 22. After that, Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo led a second special legislative session this year to try to stabilize the state’s home insurance market. After the November election but before that session, we caught up with the Palm Coast Republican to talk insurance, education and Florida’s cost of living.
The Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee produced a mailer depicting Corey Simon, a Black Republican candidate, on a shooting target with bullets strewn underneath. He was challenging Democratic incumbent Loranne Ausley, who is white. Tallahassee-based activist and writer Chuck Hobbs said after reviewing the advertisement, “While I don't share Mr. Simon's politics, I respect him as a Black man who has done well in life, one who doesn't deserve to have this type of imagery featuring his likeness.” Ausley went on to lose to Simon, who was head of Volunteer Florida and a former Florida State and professional football player, by nearly six points.