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From Slinging Possums To Age Discrimination, Florida’s Silly Season Turns Toxic

| August 12, 2018

Candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture Denise Grimsley slings around the possum she won at the the Wausau Possum Festival in Washington County on Aug. 4. (NSF)

Candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture Denise Grimsley slings around the possum she won at the the Wausau Possum Festival in Washington County on Aug. 4. (NSF)

Slinging possums, eating corn dogs and navigating putrid waters — all in the dog days of summer — are just a few of the extremes Florida candidates are going to as they try to emerge victorious at the ballot box.

The weeks leading up to elections are sometimes known as the “silly season,” but on numerous fronts in the Sunshine State, “the nasty season” seems a more fitting label.

In their final debate before the Aug. 28 Republican gubernatorial primary, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis jabbed early and often in an hour-long exchange Wednesday.

Putnam, the “establishment candidate” whose ascension to the governor’s office not long ago was considered inevitable, pulled out a pocketful of one-liners during the debate, often tweaking DeSantis for President Donald Trump’s endorsement of the Northeast Florida congressman.

“You’re running on an endorsement,” scoffed Putnam, who also derided DeSantis as “the Seinfeld candidate.” DeSantis, who has ridden Trump’s endorsement to a commanding lead in the race, accused Putnam of being “the errand boy for U.S. Sugar,” among other barbs.

Things got even uglier this week in the matchup between U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and supporters of Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican trying to oust the long-serving senator.

In a news release titled “Bill Nelson Tragically Forced to Admit His Memory Is Failing,” the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, on Wednesday attacked Nelson for saying a day earlier that he couldn’t recall a 2010 letter he wrote about delaying the implementation of water-quality standards.

“It’s time for Bill Nelson’s caretakers to keep better tabs on the Senator’s whereabouts and public statements so that he is not embarrassed into admitting he’s no longer dealing from a full deck,” Senate Leadership Fund spokesman Chris Pack said in a news release.

Nelson’s campaign didn’t directly respond to the accusations about senility but instead blamed Scott for toxic algae blooms spreading on both sides of the Florida peninsula, calling the news release “a desperate attempt to distract from Rick Scott’s record of cuts and deregulation that helped create this toxic algae crisis.”

A day earlier, the 75-year-old Nelson bowed up when asked about the not-so-subtle inferences from his 65-year-old opponent’s campaign that the senator is past his sell-by date.

“Any time he wants to have a contest about push-ups or pull-ups, and we’ll see who is not up to it,” Nelson challenged Scott.

Down ticket on the Democratic side, relations for the most part had been relatively cordial, until the advent of Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene. Greene, who made his fortune as a developer, is spewing venom at former Congresswoman Gwen Graham over her family’s involvement in the “American Dream” mega-mall project, which is opposed by environmentalists, in South Florida.

Graham’s father, Bob Graham, earned the admiration of enviros and Floridians during his tenures as governor and U.S. senator for his work to protect Florida’s natural resources.

Gwen Graham, the frontrunner in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, released an ad accusing an unnamed “billionaire opponent” of “attacking me personally, even falsely attacking my dad, Bob Graham.”

Responding to the ad, Greene retorted: “Gwen Graham is no Bob Graham.”

Then, late Thursday, CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede dropped what some considered a bombshell. DeFede reported that Greene once slapped a former waitress on the arm because the music was playing too loud at Greene’s Omphoy Beach Resort, now called Tideline Ocean Resort and Spa.

According to a police report filed a few weeks after the Dec. 28, 2012, incident, waitress Lisa Ann Thomas complained that Greene “smacked me on the arm” and asked her to turn down the music. She told police she was “very offended” by Greene’s behavior and subsequently quit her job, but Thomas didn’t press charges.

“As can be read in the police report, this is simply a case of an employee having a bad day,” Greene spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren said in a press release.

The news of the 5-year-old incident — and Greene’s response — quickly sparked outrage among some supporters of Graham, the only woman in the crowded Democratic field. The National Organization for Women, which hasn’t endorsed Graham, issued a statement demanding that Greene step out of the race.

“This type of assault is rooted in power imbalance, and so it’s unfortunately not surprising that a billionaire like Jeff Greene victimized a female employee. It was incredibly brave of her to report the assault, and we stand with her,” NOW Florida president Terry Sanders said.

VanSusteren blasted back with a statement accusing NOW of choosing to “play politics with the critically important #MeToo movement” and accusing Sanders of retaliating against Greene for criticizing Graham’s environmental record.


Putnam, a two-term Cabinet member and former member of Congress, accused DeSantis, a three-term member of Congress, of running a campaign light on Florida issues.

Putnam mocked DeSantis — who has appeared frequently on Fox News — for relying heavily on his endorsement from Trump, likening the congressman’s campaign to the “Seinfeld” sit-com.

“The campaign is being run out of studio. They have a smattering of celebrity guest appearances. And at the end of the day, it’s all about nothing. But unlike Seinfeld, it’s not funny,” Putnam said. “Floridians deserved better than a candidate who makes it all about himself and not about the future of Florida.”

But DeSantis struck back at Putnam, noting the agriculture commissioner has spent his entire adulthood in political office and had accused Trump of being “vile” and “obscene” for sexual comments reported during the 2016 presidential campaign. He also noted Putnam did not campaign for Trump.

“No one knew where he was during the campaign. Now he acts like he is this big supporter?” DeSantis said. “This is inauthentic. This is a career politician trying to tell you what you want to see, not coming from the heart. He’s already proven he will say and do anything in terms of millions of dollars in fake ads to get elected. It’s not working. But that’s what he’s willing to do.”

Putnam shot back that DeSantis has run for three offices — an abandoned U.S. Senate bid, a congressional election and governor — since 2015.

“He’s run for three offices in three years. That’s a career politician with ADD,” Putnam said.


There’ve been plenty of developments on the pot front recently, including the announcement that William “Beau” Wrigley, the heir to the chewing gum dynasty, led a $65 million investment in Surterra Wellness, one of Florida’s 14 licensed medical marijuana operators.

Meanwhile, a Tallahassee judge found a law limiting the number of medical marijuana operators in Florida runs afoul of a constitutional amendment approved by voters two years ago.

A cap on the number of “medical marijuana treatment centers,” as they are known in Florida law, “directly contradicts the amendment,” Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled in an eight-page order.

“Such limits directly undermine the clear intent of the amendment, which by its language seeks to prevent arbitrary restriction on the number of MMTCs authorized to conduct business in the state. The amendment mandates the availability and safe use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients,” Dodson wrote.

Dodson’s ruling, however, isn’t likely to have an immediate impact on the state’s medical marijuana industry as health officials move forward with a planned workshop Aug. 17 to take input on the process to award five new licenses.

In a separate blow to state health officials, an administrative law judge sided with an orchid grower that wants to get into the medical-marijuana business, rejecting a proposed state rule that was designed to help award up to two potentially lucrative marijuana licenses.

–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida

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14 Responses for “From Slinging Possums To Age Discrimination, Florida’s Silly Season Turns Toxic”

  1. hawkeye says:

    1 ,any woman who can sling a possum gets my vote!
    2 , if nelson thinks he can beat scott at pushups or pullups,he must have left his brain in orbit!

  2. Gary Delia says:

    Politics: The religion of the feebleminded.

  3. Dave says:

    We dont need any of them. We can do this on our own.

  4. Arlene says:

    These candidates can sling the mud at each other, we expect that, but Denise Grimsley is abusive to this possum by slinging it around! Animal abuse is now part of a candidates platform? What is the purpose of that? They seem to be having way too much fun by the look on their faces. Look at the possum. He doesn’t seem to be smiling though. Cruelty!

  5. woody says:

    Abusive to animals no matter how insignificant just lost my families vote and anybody she supports.

  6. Truth says:

    She lost my vote. Animal creulty is animal cruelty. How would she like it if someone lifted her off the ground and swung her around by her hair. Sick freak might like it. What gives humans the right to abuse any living being? Hypocrites.

  7. december says:

    Lost my vote as well, against any kind of animal abuse/cruelty to any animal totally unnecessary someone with that mind set doesn’t deserve any position.

  8. Mz chow says:

    How cruel , to break a possums tail for entertainment, which it needs to survive.
    You lose my vote

  9. Fuggetaboutit says:

    Bill Nelson, pure BS. Denise Grimsley, she definitely gets my vote! Sling dat possum!

  10. Buylocal says:

    I don’t think she was being abusive to the possum. They hang by their tails.

  11. Hmmm says:

    By far the country-est thing ever!!!

  12. Algernon says:

    This raises a good question. Yes, possums hang by their tails, but if twisted or stressed the wrong way, they could fracture or break couldn’t they.

    Any Vets or animal care people out there know the facts?

    If it’s a tradition, maybe it’s one that can be stopped with a little education?

    And do you know, possums are one of the best critters who eat lyme disease causing ticks? They’re good to have around much of the time.

  13. Sherry says:

    A candidate for “Commissioner of Agriculture” should be educated about the abuse of animals. Not at all Funny.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had candidates . . . and maybe voters also. . . who were intelligent and educated enough to be able to address “issues” truthfully, ethically and honestly, and also to conduct themselves in a respectable, professional manner.

    Hopefully those days are not “completely” behind us. . .

  14. december says:

    Yes, possums hang by their tails, however that is a long way from an ….. swinging one around by its tail, that is animal abuse.

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