Jared Moskowitz

Jared Moskowitz, a former director of the state Division of Emergency Management and a former state House member, talked this week about political partisanship.

TALLAHASSEE --- Jared Moskowitz took aim at partisanship and living in “bubbles” while speaking this week to Tallahassee’s Capital Tiger Bay Club.

“I see a generation of elected officials more interested in Twitter followers than passing bills and legislation,” said Moskowitz, the state’s former Division of Emergency Management director and a former Democratic member of the Florida House. “Instead of trying to build consensus or moving the ball down the field, you know, all they want to do is have one play, throw the Hail Mary that converts into a touchdown. Instant gratification. And it gets rewarded.”

As the club held its first in-person meeting Wednesday since February 2020, Moskowitz was asked to address how he became emergency management director --- a position he left this spring before the surge in COVID-19 cases tied to the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Moskowitz was appointed to the post in January 2019 by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis --- whom he didn’t vote for --- in part upon the recommendation of Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Fort Walton Beach.

Gaetz served in the Legislature with Moskowitz, who previously worked as general counsel at AshBritt Environmental, a national disaster-recovery and environmental-services company based in Deerfield Beach.

“We talked emergency management for about 30 minutes. And we talked about life and politics for about 90 minutes,” Moskowitz said of his interview with DeSantis. “I thought the interview went well. But I couldn't tell. This is my first time ever interviewing with Republicans. So, I have no real basis for whether it went well or not. And so, I was later told that it went well.”

Seeking advice on what to do, Moskowitz said fellow Democrats encouraged him to take the job, noting that few Democrats have recently overseen state agencies. Meanwhile, political consultants warned him against working for a Republican.

“They all told me, I was out of my mind, I would never be elected to anything, my political career would be over, I would be a pariah,” Moskowitz said. “And none of that has turned out to be true.”

He defended the work of DeSantis in the early stages of the pandemic but faulted the messaging, or lack of messaging, when the governor’s administration --- which included himself --- decided not to deal with the media.

“We got in a bunker mentality for a period of time,” Moskowitz said. “So, when you don't deal with the press, other people fill that bubble for you. They fill that vacuum for you. And other people told our story, and by the time we wanted to get back into communications, it was too late. Some of that cake was already baked, and I think that that was a mistake.”

He also said the partisanship in Washington, D.C. has become more prevalent in Tallahassee.

“We live in bubbles,” he said. “I got a rare glimpse at the Republican bubble. In some ways it was frightening, but in other ways it was identical to the Democratic bubble. Our policy disagreements have turned into such a vilification of people that we probably have never spent time with, and we don't understand.”

Moskowitz left the state position in April to return to South Florida, where he grew up and continues to raise his family. He is advising Miami-Dade County on its COVID-19 response.

Asked after the meeting about returning to the political arena, Moskowitz said, “I'm in purgatory right now. I'll let you know when I decide to get out.”

SHOWTIME FOR SABATINI

The Showtime cable network’s political series is giving voice Sunday to state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican running for Congress in Central Florida who has fought mask mandates and repeatedly sparred with his party’s legislative leadership.

On the show “The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth,” Sabatini will discuss how he views the future of the GOP, according to an advance clip offered to the media.

“Most Republicans haven't woken up to the proper role of what the Republican party should be today,” Sabatini said. “And that's a smaller group. That's (Congressman) Matt Gaetz, (Congressman) Louie Gohmert, (Congresswoman) Marjorie Taylor Greene, myself. People like that. And then you have like, what I would consider like a liberal Republican like (U.S. Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell. I mean, he's basically liberal at this point. He's a Democrat. And they know, they just know they're just biding their time before they're removed from the party.”

Such an opinion from Sabatini shouldn’t be a surprise. Sabatini has repeatedly quarreled with state House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, about his bills not advancing and recently labeled Sprowls a “milquetoast RINO.”

Last week, Sabatini had his House office relocated to the ground floor, where mostly Democrats are located.

CAPITOL GUNK

Shortly after Republican leaders put out COVID-19 protocols Monday for the House, Minority Co-leader Evan Jenne predicted there will be an outbreak of the virus.

“You've seen what happens when we put our guard down,” Jenne, D-Dania Beach, told reporters. “When we as a state put our guard down, we have an extreme spike in COVID in the delta variant. The same thing will happen in this building. I know that a lot of people walk around here, pretending like they are somehow impervious to all things. But that is not the case.”

A memo from House Speaker Pro Tempore Bryan Avila, a Miami Springs Republican who is a top lieutenant to Sprowls, said masks will be optional for representatives, staff and the public. However, visitors “are also expected to observe masking and additional safety measures if requested by a member for their individual office or by the (committee) chair for their office suite,” Avila wrote.

In making his prognostication, Jenne laid part of the blame on the Capitol complex that is dominated by a 22-story Cold War era structure. Lawmakers started holding committee meetings this week in advance of the Jan. 11 start of the 2022 session.

“The building is very poor when it comes to knocking down the transmission of a respiratory illness,” Jenne said. “It is notorious for that. All of you that have worked here for a long time, we used to call the Tallahassee gunk, where just everybody in the building would be sick all at once.”

TWEET OF THE WEEK: “The worst part of Rivkees tenure as #Florida Surgeon General was his silence as @GovRonDeSantis spread dangerous misinformation about #COVID19. I am genuinely afraid that Joseph A. Ladapo could cause even more harm than his silent predecessor.” --- Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer (@FarmerForFLSen), referring to former Surgeon General Scott Rivkees and his newly named successor..

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