Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 10.23.22

The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund was created in 1993 after Hurricane Andrew laid waste to Homestead and other parts of the state.

It’s a state-run account that backs up insurance agencies in the event of a major hurricane, such as Ian.

It’s commonly called the “Cat Fund,” and it will take at least a $10 billion hit because of the surreal damage Ian caused. While ample money is in there now to cover the losses, it could face uncertainty in 2023.

Simply put, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund reimburses residential property insurers for a portion of their losses in the event of a major hurricane. It is funded primarily by premiums paid by residential property insurance companies.

But with damage from Ian expected to reach into the multiple billions of dollars, private insurers are stretched. That means they’ll rely on the Cat Fund to pay claims and get people back on their feet.

The maximum potential liability of the Cat Fund this year is $17 billion. The fund had $15.8 billion in cash at the start of this hurricane season.

“We feel very confident that we can cover our obligations for Ian because coming into this year, we had a very large cash balance,” said Gina Wilson, Cat Fund’s Chief Operating Officer.

However, the fund will have only an estimated $2.3 billion by the end of this year. It will need a large cash infusion by the next hurricane season.

An uncertain Cat Fund could cause problems for homeowners by triggering higher insurance premiums. Lawmakers might discuss that when they convene yet another Special Session after the Midterms to discuss property insurance.

Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.


Honorable mention: Florida Republicans. It’s been a long time since they could afford to be this giddy approaching the Midterm Elections.

Most people expect Gov. Ron DeSantis to win re-election in a landslide, which would be the first time in 16 years that a Florida gubernatorial election wasn’t close. You have to go back to 2006 when then-Republican Charlie Crist beat Jim Davis 52%-45%.

Since then, Rick Scott won twice by about 1 point each time. And, of course, DeSantis edged Andrew Gillum in 2018 in a nail-biter.

In the Senate, polls say Marco Rubio is pulling away from Val Demings. And in U.S. House races, GOP candidates are favored in 20 of Florida’s 28 districts.

And no one is paying attention to the races for Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General or Chief Financial Officer. Those races could be so one-sided that the only question is how large those final margins will be.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winner: Florida universities. Take a bow. U.S. News & World Report ranked seven of the state’s universities in the top 400 globally.

Repeat: globally.

The Florida schools and rankings include:

The University of Florida (105), Florida State University (190), the University of Miami (235), the University of South Florida (310), the University of Central Florida (413), Florida International (468), and the Florida Institute of Technology (912).

UF ranked No. 4 globally in plant and animal science, while FSU was 61st in psychology/psychiatry.

The biggest winner: Casey DeSantis. The Governor’s better half showed some serious fundraising chops

She spearheaded relief efforts after Hurricane Ian by raising at least $50 million through the Florida Disaster Fund.

Top corporations quickly answered her call for cash to help the battered parts of Southwest Florida in the storm’s aftermath. The Disaster Fund, established as a private nonprofit organization in 2004, operates through Volunteer Florida, and the First Lady has been its public face.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that donations meet the unmet needs of volunteer organizations involved in disaster response and long-term recovery efforts.

And as we all know, recovery from Ian will, unfortunately, be an extremely long-term process. The affected areas need help and money.

Casey DeSantis made sure they would get both.


Dishonorable mention: Tom Brady. Normally, we try to keep sports confined to the sports pages, but Brady’s plight has become a major statewide story.

We’ll stipulate that Brady is the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League, but nothing lasts forever.

But Thursday’s 27-22 loss to Baltimore was the GOAT’s third consecutive setback. It’s the first time that’s happened to Brady in 20 years.

In that game, he also became the MSAT — most sacked of all time. And on Friday morning, Brady announced his divorce from supermodel Gisele Bündchen was final.

Both parties issued statements on social media, calling the split amicable.

Almost (but not quite) biggest loser: Manny Diaz. The embattled Florida Democratic Chairman should probably be assembling cardboard boxes to clean out his office.

Not only are Republicans about to hand his party its lunch on Election Day, but there appears to be a growing sentiment among Democrats that Diaz has to go.

Thomas Kennedy, a Democratic National Committee member, tweeted that Diaz “needs to resign as FDP chair on November 9th.”

It’s bad enough that Diaz is at the wheel as Democrats speed blindly toward and over the cliff on Nov. 8. But he also angered Tallahassee Democrats by putting himself in the middle of a fight between two members of his party in a local election to become Tallahassee’s Mayor.

Diaz endorsed current Mayor John Dailey over Kristin Dozier in what many expect will be a close race. This miffed both Dozier and the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee. Diaz made the endorsements without consulting the committee.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that local party secretary Steve Broadway was “disgusted” by the endorsement.

“Not only is this highly irregular, but it is the pinnacle of anti-democratic behavior,” he wrote.

All of this leads us to our next category.

The biggest loser: Florida Democrats. They know they’re in for a butt-whipping on Nov. 8, and they’ve arrived at the acceptance stage of grief.

Evan Ross, a veteran South Florida Democratic consultant, put his party’s plight in stark terms.

“The only thing that might give Charlie Crist a chance of becoming Governor would be DeSantis aggressively campaigning for him over the next two weeks,” Ross told POLITICO. “Translation: It’s over. And it’s going to be ugly.”

Winning the Governor’s race was always a longshot for the Dems because of DeSantis’ generally high approval ratings. But Democrats’ chances in other state races, including Demings in the U.S. Senate, appear to be slipping away in a sea of missed messaging opportunities.

Democrats thought they had a winning message on abortion, but a tanking economy became the primary story. Democrats never adjusted their pitch. It was always abortion and, well, abortion.

Demings talked a lot about being a former cop, but that apparently didn’t resonate.

And they know what’s coming

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