Miami-Dade’s police director’s shooting, DeSantis’ bad week, and more slavery fall out

It’s Monday, July 31, and as the election-year landscape was upended last week in Miami-Dade County, questions continue to surround Gov. Ron DeSantis about whether he can sustain his campaign for the 2024 GOP nomination.


Purge and promises: The week began for the Florida governor with a car crash on the way to a fundraiser in Tennessee on Monday and a second campaign staff purge announced on Tuesday. The developments included the firing of former National Review writer Nate Hochman over a video that featured a Nazi symbol, and DeSantis forced to explain himself after telling a conservative podcaster that he would consider appointing conspiracy-theorist, Democrat and prominent anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to either the CDC or the FDA.

USATSI_20789529.jpgFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis greets audience members during a campaign event in Clive, Iowa, on May 30.

Same talking points: The governor also spent Thursday and Friday barnstorming through Iowa with six events in two days and, despite the high-profile promise of a campaign reboot, DeSantis stuck to familiar talking points during a speech to a prominent gathering of Iowa Republicans on Friday.

Protesters on Cape Cod: By Saturday, DeSantis was greeted by protesters when he arrived for a private fundraiser in the Cape Cod town of Cotuit, Mass., according to the Cape Cod Times. The crowds gathered on the streets and beaches chanting, “Shame,” and held signs protesting the Florida governor’s policies. A day earlier, Cape and Islands District Attorney Rob Galibois said he would investigate the DeSantis administration’s decision to transport nearly 50 Venezuelan asylum seekers from Texas to nearby Martha’s Vineyard last year with false promises of jobs and housing.

Economic plan launch: DeSantis will hold a press conference Monday in Rochester, New Hampshire, to announce what he’s calling his “Declaration of Economic Independence.” He’ll do an interview with Fox News in the evening with host Bret Baier.

Tim Scott gaining ground: DeSantis has built his campaign on the notion that the fight for the Republican nomination is essentially a two-man race between him and former President Donald Trump. But new polls out of Iowa are now showing Sen.Tim Scott of South Carolina gaining ground on the governor. When Scott criticized DeSantis over the state’s new standards for African American history, DeSantis snapped back, calling it a “false accusation.”

Jeb BushPresidential candidate Jeb Bush smiles for selfies with supportets at Chico’s Cuban Restaurant in Hialeah on Monday Dec. 28, 2015 on his first leg of many campaign stops in Florida.

Comparisons to Jeb: The declining poll numbers, angst about campaign overspending, and a summer slump has drawn the inevitable comparisons to the 2016 presidential campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Both Bush and DeSantis were twice elected governor of the swing state and both entered the race with lots of cash and buzz only to watch Donald Trump control the narrative, increase his support among the GOP base, and send the campaigns into a tailspin.

Punishing companies for political views: As part of his quest to gain more earned media, DeSantis has begun to do more interviews. Last week, he sat down with former Fox News host and podcaster Megyn Kelly, who grilled him about his attacks on Disney and Anheuser-Busch.

Kelly asked: Isn’t DeSantis doing what conservatives accuse the left of doing, “using government to punish citizens for political wrong-think?” DeSantis defended the effort to sue Anheuser-Busch for losses to the state employee retirement fund (after its stock dropped in the wake of a boycott sought by conservatives who opposed the company’s use of a trans woman in an online ad. ) “Didn’t you support the boycott against them?” Kelly asked DeSantis. “I did. But that’s just a personal thing,” he replied.

USATSI_20145949.jpgFormer President Donald J. Trump arrives before speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor, Maryland, on March 4, 2023.

Trump’s conflicting calendar: Trump may be leading the pack, but the Republican primary calendar is set to run headfirst into the former president’s legal realities. On Jan. 15, the same day the Iowa caucuses kick off the Republican presidential primary, a civil trial is scheduled to begin in New York accusing Trump of defamation against a woman accusing him of rape. The next day, in South Florida, a federal judge will consider whether to admit classified material into a criminal trial that could put him behind bars.


MIA_007MDPNEWDIRECTORDS.JPGMiami-Dade County Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez is recovering in a Tampa hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday evening. This photo is from the press conference introducing him as the new director at Miami-Dade Police Department Headquarters on January 8, 2020 in Miami.

Police director in stable condition: Miami-Dade County’s police director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez, was in stable condition after shooting himself in the head on the side of a Florida highway July 21, following an apparent domestic dispute that forced his departure from a Tampa hotel where he and his wife were attending a law enforcement convention, according to multiple police sources and reports.

Interim named: Mayor Daniella Levine Cava named Stephanie V. Daniels as interim director for the Miami-Dade Police Department and JD Patterson as interim chief of public safety. Ramirez, 52, holds both job titles, and was expected to be a Democratic candidate for sheriff in 2024.

He was ‘remorseful:’ Before he shot himself with his own gun on Sunday night, Ramirez offered to resign in a call with Levine Cava, where he described a reported altercation with his wife, the mayor confirmed Wednesday.

MIA_LEVINECAVAMDPDPRESSER-LA visibly saddened Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava takes questions from reporters on the condition of Chief of Public Safety Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez during a press conference at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami on July 26, 2023.

‘He’s stable and talking’: Police say Ramirez turned a gun on himself after stopping his vehicle on the shoulder of I-75 just south of Tampa. According to the president of the agency’s largest police union. Ramirez has likely lost the use of his right eye but appears to have escaped brain damage and is expected to recover.

Searching for answers: Ramirez became a police officer for noble reasons. In a place with a history of bad cops, killer cops, corrupt cops, his spotless record gleamed like the eight gold stars on his collar. As Ramirez rose through the ranks, from patrolling suburban streets to arresting drug dealers, gang leaders and money launderers, to leading the fourth-largest police force in the country, the respect of colleagues and citizens only grew. And then, he snapped. The rage of Ramirez’s breakdown has left those who thought they knew him searching for explanations.

Impact on sheriff’s race: By all measures, the race for Miami-Dade County sheriff was Ramirez’s to lose. Now political insiders say the contest is wide open. The race already has five candidates, but the deadline to recruit someone who may not already be a member of the Democratic Party has passed.

P4_200_croppe_fitted.jpegA federal judge has ruled that the city of Miami must use this voting map for the November 2023 elections. This order, issued July 30, is the latest turn in a lawsuit challenging the city’s 2022 redistricting process.

New Miami map: U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore on Sunday ordered the city of Miami to adopt a new voting map that is expected to shake up city politics ahead of the November elections. Moore ordered the city to implement a voting map that shifts the boundaries of Miami’s five commission districts, including changes that impact who will vote — and who can run — in three races to elect commissioners in districts 1, 2 and 4 in November.

Florida’s slavery missteps: National attention also continued over the Florida Board of Education’s mishandled decision to approve a new middle school curriculum that seeks to teach kids “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” The governor attempted to distance himself from the change, telling reporters: “These were scholars who put that together, it was not anything that was done politically.”

black-codes-gettyimages-640482869.jpgAfter emancipation, repressive laws severely curtailed the rights of formerly enslaved Blacks and allowed white property owners to exploit their labor.

Scholars disagree: NBC News reported that most of the Florida work group did not agree with controversial parts of state’s new standards for Black history. Historic sources show several of the 16 individuals cited by the Florida Department of Education to defend the decision were never even slaves.

Black convention to leave state: The Associated Press reported that the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the oldest historically Black collegiate fraternity in the U.S., says it is relocating its 2025 convention from Florida because of what it described as the DeSantis’ administration’s “harmful, racist and insensitive” policies towards African Americans.

MIA_107DeSantisEdu09NEWPPPFlorida education commissioner Manny Diaz joined Governor Ron DeSantis, at a press conference at True North Classical Academy charter school in Miami where the governor announced and signed several bills including the approval of a $1 billion for teacher salaries and a teachers’ bill of Rights, on Tuesday May 09, 2023.

Information or indoctrination? DeSantis repeatedly says he opposes indoctrination in schools, yet the Florida Department of Education in early July approved materials from PragerU, a conservative group that says it’s all about indoctrination and “changing minds.” The DeSantis administration concluded that the materials produced by the nonprofit co-founded by conservative radio host Dennis Prager is in alignment with the state’s standards on how to teach civics and government to K-12 students. The lessons share a common message: Being pro-American means aligning oneself to mainstream conservative talking points.

Town hall on Black history: Florida State Sens. Shevrin Jones and Rosalind Osgood, along with Miami-Dade School Board Vice Chair Steve Gallon III, will host a forum at 7 p.m. on Aug. 10 to allow the public to provide input about the changes to state’s Black history curriculum. The event will be held at Antioch Baptist Church in Miami Gardens, Florida’s most populous primarily Black city.

State backs down on AP course? The Florida Department of Education said it would not accept the College Board’s Advanced Placement psychology course if it includes gender identity lessons. The College Board then refused to change the course, and the state board appears to have approved it, anyway — making it possible for the nearly 30,000 Florida high school students registered for the AP course to take it in the coming school year. Still, school officials are confused. More details are expected on Monday.

MIA_20230715AD0453cTURNINGPOINTCONFERENCE.JPG6A headshot with posted sticky notes with comments of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is seen during the Turning Point Action Conference at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday, July 15, 2023.

Suarez small-donor problem: In his local campaigns, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has had no problem raising millions in political donations through large checks from high-rollers in real estate and tech, some with business before the city. But now as he runs for the Republican nomination for president, he needs 40,000 individual donors, with 200 from more than 20 different states, to qualify for the first GOP primary debate Aug. 23. That’s been a challenge.

Donor draws elections lawsuit: A complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission Tuesday accused an online artificial flower vendor of illegally funneling half a million dollars from an unidentified source into a Super PAC backing Suarez In its complaint calling for an FEC investigation, the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan watchdog organization, alleged that PassionForest LLC — a small online vendor founded in 2021 — appeared to be a straw donor, illegally masking the identity of whoever was behind a $500,000 contribution to SOS America in October 2022.

Dem registration ‘meltdown’: In the last four years, the number of registered Democrats in Miami-Dade County has decreased by over 6,000 voters, and their advantage over registered Republicans was almost cut in half, dropping from a 15-point lead in August 2019 to eight in July 2023, according to a Miami Herald analysis of state voter registration data. Democrats now have only about 138,000 more registered voters than Republicans in Miami-Dade, once the fertile source of party juice in statewide elections. But now the shift has Democrats concerned about the party’s ability to stay relevant in 2024, when voters will cast ballots in the presidential election and local races.

MIA_20230708AD0068FloridaDeFlorida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried speaks to reporters at the state party’s annual Leadership Blue Weekend at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida on July 8.

Voter registration investment: The Florida Democratic Party is injecting $1 million into voter registration efforts through the end of the year as it looks to make up a growing gap with Republicans ahead of the 2024 election cycle. The seven-figure investment coincides with the launch of an 17-plus county “Take Back Florida” tour by the party’s chair Nikki Fried and Executive Director Phillip Jerez. The tour and voter registration push is set to launch Wednesday in Orlando.

It’s not all about parties: In all but two counties, the percentage of voters who aren’t affiliated with any party has seen the sharpest increases. In Miami-Dade, the number of voters registered with no party affiliation rose two percentage points since 2019.

ACLU cuts staff: The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, a non-profit dedicated to protecting personal freedoms, is downsizing due to budget constraints. The organization is laying off 10% of its staff, according to Executive Director Tiffani Lennon. Lennon said the ACLU of Florida increased its staff to meet “an unprecedented onslaught of attacks on civil rights and liberties” in the state, but now finds itself needing to reduce its expenses by 20%.

IMG_247_fitted (1).jpegA booking photo of former state Sen. Frank Artiles, dated March 18, 2021. He was a close ally of FPL when he was in the Legislature and was arrested in connection with the ghost candidate scandal that defeated Democratic state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez in 2020.

Another delay for Artiles: Former state Sen. Frank Artiles will have to wait at least one more week before a trial date is set in the criminal case against him for his role in the “ghost candidate” scheme that interfered with the outcome of a state Senate race in the 2020 election. Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Ariel Rodriguez on Friday postponed the hearing to set the trial date until Aug. 4 because of a scheduling conflict.

Black farmers finally get pot license: Two Black farmers have received licenses to grow, process and sell medical marijuana, after a new state law helped clear the way for the long-awaited licenses. The Florida Department of Health issued the licenses July 11 to Suwannee County farmer Terry Donnell Gwinn and Bascom-based Shedrick McGriff. The farmers each met a Friday deadline to submit a required $5 million bond to begin operating, sources confirmed.

IMG_RCC_0327.JPG_6_1_TFKLR3UM_L674613823.JPGA handful of protesters took to the streets of downtown Bradenton, June 1, 2021, to condemn Gov. Ron DeSantis’ latest bill signing, calling it a methodical attack on transgender rights.

Transgender people sue state: Citing a “crisis of availability” of care, transgender people are asking a federal judge to block a new state law making it more difficult for trans adults to access hormone-replacement therapy and surgery. The law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature this spring and championed by DeSantis, imposes new requirements on patients diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

State challenges order on kids: One week after a federal judge ordered Florida health administrators to cease relying on nursing homes for the care of children with complex medical needs, the state is back in court, arguing that it would be “impossible” to comply with the judge’s ruling. U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks had sided with the Justice Department, which claimed that Florida’s health policies — prompted by low Medicaid reimbursement rates — essentially forced the parents of children with severe disabilities to institutionalize their children in violation of federal civil rights laws.

IMG_0220.jpegAn N95 mask, like the ones you may have left over from the pandemic, may offer some form of protection from air pollution from the Canada wildfire should you be in an affected area, experts suggest.

Yale study links COVID deaths and party registration: The politicization of COVID-19 vaccines may have led to a higher excess death rate among Republicans in Ohio and Florida during the coronavirus pandemic, a new study published last week in JAMA Internal Medicine found. The study from Yale researchers looked at 538,159 deaths for individuals aged 25 years and older in Florida and Ohio between January 2018 and December 2021. It concluded that registered Republicans had a higher rate of excess deaths than Democrats after COVID-19 vaccines became widely available in May 2021. After that time, the excess death rate among Republican voters was 43% higher than that among Democratic voters.

Miami Beach’s ‘no camping’ for homeless: Miami Beach officials are considering new measures intended to limit the presence of homeless people in public places, including legislation that could subject people sleeping outdoors to arrest if they don’t accept placement in a shelter. For months, the city has been grappling with how to take a more aggressive enforcement approach toward the homeless amid an uptick in the city’s homeless population and complaints from residents. At a City Commission meeting Wednesday elected officials directed the city attorney’s office to draft legislation that mirrors an ordinance in Orlando — a “no camping” law that bans sleeping outdoors on public property in most cases and was upheld in 2000 by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Thank you for reading! The Politics and Policy in the Sunshine State newsletter was curated this week by Miami Herald Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Klas. We appreciate our readers, and if you have any ideas or suggestions, please drop me a note at or message me @MaryEllenKlas.

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