Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.19.18

Yeah thisSunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

She said “Yes!” — Congratulations to power couple Stephanie Lewis McClung, fresh off a victorious stint as Nikki Fried‘s finance director, and Reggie Cardoza, who quarterbacked House Democrats to a net+5 cycle, on their engagement.

Note to readers — We’re asking you, our Sunburn readers, to tell us what you’re grateful for this Thanksgiving, and we will publish your comments in our Wednesday edition. That will be the last one for this week. Send your emails to

Even with his opponent retracting his concession while a recount of the election results was underway, Ron DeSantis wasted little time preparing to take the reins of state government. And now, with a second concession from Andrew Gillum and DeSantis named the clear victor, the Governor-elect can accelerate his transition plans.

Look for DeSantis to name a Chief of Staff immediately after — but not before — the Thanksgiving holiday.

Even with recounts, concession retractions, and other drama, Ron DeSantis was deep into the nuts-and-bolts of his transition to Florida Governor.

Initially, four political insiders — Shane StrumKathy MearsScott Parkinson, and Scott Ross — were thought to be in the running for the Chief of Staff position, however, the shortlist is in flux as DeSantis plans to interview several more candidates for the job.

>>>Mears, a former chief of staff to two House Speakers and currently the chief lobbyist for Florida State University, has unofficially taken herself out of consideration, insisting that it’s not the right time for her to make a personnel move.

>>>One name he increasingly mentioned as a possibility for CoS is former House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Indeed, Corcoran has been a particularly active member of DeSantis’ transition team, speaking up often during policy meetings and personnel interviews. However, the Corcoran-as-Chief-of-Staff rumor is just that, transition sources say.

>>>Although a Chief of Staff won’t be named this holiday week, DeSantis is close to announcing who will comprise his Inaugural Committee.

>>>Additionally, the transition intends to announce more staff hires as soon as Monday.

One big question for DeSantis heading into this week is not about who will get such and such job but rather how does he plan to spend Thanksgiving? Sources say he intends to take part in a charity event Thursday morning and then head out on a well-deserved Turkey Day vacation.

Happening today — The House Republican Caucus will meet in advance of the organization session scheduled Tuesday when Miami Lakes Republican Rep. Jose Oliva will formally become House Speaker, 4 p.m., House chamber, The Capitol.

Happening today — Florida Senate Democrats will meet to elect Sen. Audrey Gibson the 2018-20 Democratic Leader of the Florida Senate, 5:30 p.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol. A reception will follow immediately afterward at Tallahassee Garden Club, 507 N Calhoun St.

It’s certainly not a lock, but it’s possible that the Senate Democrats will also designate Gary Farmer as Gibson’s successor.

With Janet Cruz‘s win in Senate District 18, along with earlier wins by Lori Berman, Jason Pizzo, and Annette Taddeo, it’s believed that Farmer now has as many as ten votes within the caucus to become Leader in 2020. Opposing him are a handful of members, including Lauren Book and Kevin Rader, but it appears neither of them have lined up enough votes to block Farmer, who spent the election cycle working overtime for other candidates, such as Cruz.

The question for tonight is whether the anti-Farmer forces have enough votes to (again) delay a vote on who will succeed Gibson with the hope that they can identify a compromise candidate. We’ve even even heard Cruz’s name in the mix as such a candidate.

But, at the end of the day, we think today is Gary Farmer’s day.


—@realDonaldTrump: Congratulations to Andrew Gillum on having run a really tough and competitive race for Governor of the Great State of Florida. He will be a strong Democrat warrior long into the future — a force to reckon with!

@Fineout: Former State Sen. Dwight Bullard on Gillum concession: “The problem for Ron DeSantis becoming governor of Florida after running against Andrew Gillum is that at least half the state knows we deserve better. A presidential endorsement from Trump does not a plan to govern make.”

@NelsonforSenate releases concession with some salty notes. Doesn’t say Scott’s name, notes that he was heavily outspent, and discusses same issues and talking point he did during race. Not the “wish my opponent well, let’s come together”

@CharlesCWCooke: Gators up 42-0. Bill Nelson to announce a lawsuit on behalf of Idaho.

@Doug_Hanks: Overheard from the (very far away) Miami-Dade canvassing table. The recount of Senate undervotes and overvotes is finished, and one lawyer told another: “My favorite write-in line was ‘They both suck.’”

@DeFede: After the recount, election supervisor Brenda Snipes seemed pleased with the process saying only a few things needed to be “tweaked.” That’s right, tweaked. You know the same way the folks who flew the Hindenburg or were responsible for the Titanic needed to make a few tweaks.

@FredPiccoloJr: Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges. Media looking to attend org session & you do not have an FDLE pass, please stop by the Speaker’s office. If u have an FDLE pass & just want a souvenir please come by as well. W/o this or FDLE badge = no floor access. Plz pass 2 colleagues

@AGlorios: “I hate everything and everyone and I don’t care about your lawsuit” — fellow reporter I ran into just now while we were both picking up Mexican food.

—@GlennThrush: People dump (o)n Tallahassee the same way they dump on Albany. But, like Albany, it’s a cool town with a really distinct edge. Added bonus: Spanish Moss!

—@AnaMarieCox: If you bring salad to my Thanksgiving you will eat it outside by yourself.


Elections Canvassing Commission meets to certify official General Election results — 1; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 1; Thanksgiving — 3; Black Friday — 4; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 8; Hanukkah begins — 13; Partial government shutdown — 18; 2019 Session Interim Committee Meetings begin — 26; 116th Congress convenes — 45; Florida’s Inauguration Ceremony — 70; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 85; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 106; Tampa Bay mayoral election — 106; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 110; Iowa Caucuses — 441; 2020 General Election — 715.


Florida recount 2018: Still confused? Read this.” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

‘This was not just about an election cycle’: Andrew Gillum concedes for second time” via Ashley White of the Tallahassee Democrat — In a four-minute video posted live on Facebook, Gillum stood with his wife R. Jai, a Tallahassee park in the background and both dressed in Florida A&M University orange and green. Gillum first thanked his supporters. Then, he officially acknowledged Republican Ron DeSantis as the winner. “R. Jai and I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on becoming the next governor of the great state of Florida,” Gillum said in the video posted at about 5 p.m. Shortly after Gillum tweeted about his concession, DeSantis replied. “This was a hard-fought campaign,” DeSantis responded in a tweet to Gillum. “Now it’s time to bring Florida together.”

To view Gillum’s concession video, click on the image below:

Rick Scott headed to Senate as Bill Nelson concedes” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Nelson‘s political career now comes to a likely end after four decades in various elected posts. Scott‘s lead after the general election was just over 12,000 votes, a number that shrank to roughly 10,000 after a machine and hand recount. Always trailing by a thin margin, the Nelson campaign had filed a stream of lawsuits that it predicted would produce thousands of additional votes for the three-term Senator. But those efforts failed. He called Scott to officially concede shortly after 2 p.m. Scott put more than $50 million of his own money into the race, giving his campaign a significant financial advantage over Nelson. Republicans have been quick to point out that roughly $50 million from outside Democratic groups was poured into defeating Scott in the closely watched race. On the other side, outside Democratic groups spent about $20 million to try and save the party’s lone hold on power in a third-biggest state in the nation.

For the first time in nearly five decades, Bill Nelson will not represent Florida in government.

With victory, Scott joins an exclusive club of Florida politicians” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Nikki Fried maintains hold in AG race after manual recount” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Former medical-marijuana lobbyist Fried is on the verge of being the only Florida Democrat to capture a statewide win, gaining votes over Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell in the race for Agriculture Commissioner after a manual recount was completed Sunday. Fried’s lead over Caldwell in the Cabinet race peaked at 6,753 votes on Sunday, adding 1,446 votes to her machine-recount total, according to results posted on the state Division of Elections website. Fried, a lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, has repeatedly claimed victory in the race, but Caldwell’s campaign wasn’t ready to concede after the bulk of the manual recount results were provided to the state Sunday.

Matt Caldwell should concede ASAP” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Mike Caruso declared winner in HD 89” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Caruso has been declared the next state representative from House District 89, defeating his Democratic opponent by just 37 votes in the official results. The race between Caruso and Ocean Ridge Mayor Jim Bonfiglio went through both a machine and manual recount as a result of the razor-thin margin. But once those recounts were completed, Caruso held on to his 37-vote margin out of about 80,000 votes cast. Caruso wins the race with 50.02 percent of the vote to Bonfiglio’s 49.98 percent. All recounts faced a Sunday deadline, after which the final results would be certified.

Elizabeth Fetterhoff clings to 61-vote lead after hand recount” via Florida Politics


Brenda Snipes submits her resignation” via Anthony Man of the Sun Sentinel – Facing the likelihood of an embarrassing removal from office, Broward County’s much-maligned election supervisor, Brenda Snipes, announced Sunday she will resign following a string of controversies plaguing her office before and since Election Day. Snipes sent her letter of resignation to state officials in Tallahassee just as the recount ended, her attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel, which first reported the news. Her letter was not immediately available nor was the exact date of her resignation clear, the paper reported. Norris-Weeks told the Sun Sentinel that the 75-year-old Snipes wanted to spend more time with her family.

Broward County misplaced over 2,000 votes” via NBC Miami — Snipes said the 2,040 ballots “are in the building” — referring to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office in Lauderhill. The ballots were discovered missing after there was a discrepancy between the recount returns and the original unofficial returns. Snipes said some members of her team did not have as much training as others and possibly misplaced the ballots in the wrong tray during the machine recount. Snipes added that the vote totals and the number of people who participated in the election matched with the original unofficial returns.

Taking the mantle of Florida election laughingstock is Broward County under Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.

Miami is no longer the laughingstock of election season. Here’s why” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — About 31,000 problematic ballots in the agriculture commissioner contest had been tallied by hand in eight hours, and once again Florida’s most populous county had reached the finish line ahead of Broward and Palm Beach. Eighteen years after the hanging-chad and “Brooks Brothers Riot” fiasco that helped nudge George W. Bush into the White House and six years after President Barack Obama shamed Miami for long polling-place lines that kept voters waiting past 10 p.m., the county carried out a widely-praised, nearly glitch-free election. Thank Elections Supervisor Christina White. She managed a brisk, clean, efficient operation that was the envy of the state. Part of White’s success stems from her assumption that in an election, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. “She knows that in every election you have to account for Murphy and anticipate curveballs,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez said. “She is master of the art of planning.”

Miami-Dade’s well-run recount was a far cry from the debacle of 2000.

Here’s why Palm Beach County is saddled with slow vote-counting machines” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — Elections supervisors in other counties replaced their voting equipment in recent years as Palm Beach County Supervisor Susan Bucher retained her aging platform and pushed state legislators to change upcoming rules for voters with disabilities. “We didn’t anticipate that we’d have to run 100 percent of our ballots through these old machines,” Bucher told reporters one day before a state-mandated recount deadline she didn’t meet. “We anticipated we would have a pretty quiet midterm election as we used to. I guess that’s not the new norm. We never anticipated that these machines would have to run 24/7 and perform four recounts.” Bucher’s office is alone in using voting equipment from Sequoia Voting Systems, a maligned firm that was bought out by Dominion Voting Systems in 2010. Unlike equipment used in other counties, the Sequoia equipment can’t recount votes in multiple races at once.

Even though Florida’s recount is over, Palm Beach may be counting until Christmas” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald

Democrats hire investigator to identify who altered Florida form used to fix ballot” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News — The action came after the USA TODAY NETWORK — Florida reported on an email that showed Democrats were told to distribute the altered forms in an apparent statewide effort, encouraging party workers to give them to as many voters as possible so they could fix signature problems on their ballots despite the fact the state deadline had passed. One party activist has said the idea was to encourage as many voters as possible to fix their absentee ballots after the deadline in hopes that a judge would allow them to be included in a recount later. “Upon receiving notice of the allegations that the form was incorrect, FDP took immediate steps, including hiring an independent investigator to review the issues at hand,” said Mark Herron, an attorney for the party.

Republicans had a secret weapon in the Florida recount fight” via Jonathan Allen of NBC News — “This is personal for me,” Jessica Furst Johnson said in a telephone interview with NBC News. Now that Nelson has conceded, Scott can thank Johnson and her army of GOP lawyers for helping preserve his victory by largely turning back the sprawling Democratic legal effort to challenge the actions of election officials and various aspects of Florida statutes. Though Johnson is one of Washington’s foremost experts on election law, she’s quick to point out that she’s not a litigator. Johnson managed the battle plan, which Republicans say included more than 100 paid and volunteer lawyers working in courtrooms and at recount centers across the state. Friends say Johnson was in the right person in the right place at the right time for Scott and the GOP because she’s able to keep her cool in the midst of chaos, manage people and tasks, and analyze both legal and political questions with knowledge and judgment.


Trump cried ‘fraud’ in Florida. Ron DeSantis said, tone it down.” via Glenn Thrush and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — While the president was in Paris last week, DeSantis let the White House know, through intermediaries, that Trump’s incendiary tweets accusing Democrats of trying to steal the election were hurting and not helping, according to Republicans and administration officials with knowledge of the situation. Breaking with the most powerful Republicans in his state, DeSantis has grown frustrated with the bombastic attacks on Democrats launched by Trump, Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio, believing it will erode confidence in elections and spark a Democratic backlash.

Andrew Gillum advises DeSantis to prioritize diversity” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics


A ‘stress test’ for the next campaign: Florida recount sets the rules of engagement for the 2020 race” via Beth Reinhard and Amy Gardner of The Washington Post — Florida’s sprawling and diverse landscape of largely Democratic big cities, politically independent suburbs and conservative rural swathes make it a key battleground for debates over voting rights and ballot access expected to shape the next campaign. “The recount was a stress test of the Florida electoral system,” said Matt Gaetz, who had just left Broward County when the call came from Brad Parscale to drive the 300 miles back. “If you were the Trump 2020 campaign, wouldn’t you have concerns right now about what the terrain here will look like?’’ Charles Lichtman, a Democratic attorney who worked on Florida’s infamous 2000 recount and represented Nelson and the Florida Democratic Party this year, called last week’s recount “the warm-up … Starting tomorrow, 2020 will be the most important election in our lifetime,” he said.

Matt Gaetz calls this election a ‘stress test’ for 2020.

Nelson’s ending: sluggish campaign couldn’t overcome Scott’s millions” via Steve Bousquet and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — After 46 years in public office, he finally met his match in Scott, whose vast personal fortune, trademark aggressiveness, and single-minded discipline has proved to be just enough to produce an excruciatingly narrow victory — Scott’s third, close statewide win in eight years. “When you’re running against Rick Scott, you’re always playing defense,” said Democratic strategist Steve Schale, “and our path to victory as Democrats is largely predicated on record turnout in a handful of counties. It’s hard to get to a win.” n a period of hyper-partisanship, Nelson bet that voters would gravitate toward the congressman who rose so far above the political fray, he made it to space; the Democrat who affectionately calls his Republican counterpart “Marco;” the candidate who branded himself “Florida’s independent senator.” For the better part of the past five decades, that worked. This time, it didn’t.

How Fried became Ag. Commissioner” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — How, of all people, did the first-time candidate from South Florida rise above the rest of the Democrats? What was her key to a down-to-the-wire success? She says her campaign’s success was threefold. First, her commitment to a mostly nonpartisan campaign. Second, sticking firmly to three narrow talking points, or her “three w’s”: Weapons, weed and water. Fried’s campaign, which was heavily predicated on gun control and expanded access to medical marijuana, brought an understanding of the agriculture commissioner’s role to those outside of the farming community. Or in other words — Democrats, suburbanites and urban dwellers. “These were things that transcend Democrats, independents and Republicans,” Fried said of her campaign platform. “I made them believe that I want to fix things and make things better.” The third key to her success? The “fourth w,” she said: being a woman.

Joe Henderson: Public schools a winning issue for Janet Cruz in SD 18” via Florida Politics — Cruz got into the race to make an issue out of gun violence, but she discovered quickly that voters in her Hillsborough County district were even more passionate about restoring public school funding. That became Cruz’s battle cry throughout a tough, nasty campaign against incumbent Republican Dana Young. It proved to be the winning strategy in Cruz’s 411-vote victory out of more than 207,000 votes that were cast. Cruz, who was forced to leave her Florida House seat because of term limits, had an awakening after a chance meeting with a voter at a South Tampa Home Depot. That woman told her she had gone to the store to purchase portable air conditioners for some classrooms at Roosevelt Elementary School in the Palma Ceia section of Tampa. The more Cruz met with those voters, the more she realized how determined they were.

With public schools, Janet Cruz found a winning issue in the Senate District 18 race.

Ryan Torrens says ‘justice done’ after court reversed qualifying decision — The former Democratic candidate for Attorney General on Friday said he was “gratified” after the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned Judge Karen Gievers, who “erred in declaring that Torrens failed to properly qualify” to run. “Our supporters have been assured that their faith in our candidacy has been vindicated by the appeals court,” he said. “Justice was done, not simply for me, but for the hundreds of thousands of Floridians who supported our determination to stand up to big special interests and fight for everyday Floridians.” The victory was bittersweet: Gievers’ August decision was on hold pending the appeal; Torrens lost to Sean Shaw in the Democratic primary. Shaw, who sued to keep Torrens off the ballot, then lost to Republican Ashley Moody. Shaw claimed Torrens, a Tampa consumer affairs lawyer, qualified to run only because he improperly transferred money into his campaign account. Among other things, the appellate court said Gievers’ “order does not contain any authority supporting its ruling” and that Shaw didn’t have standing to sue, adding that enforcement of state law is a question “within the purview of the Florida Elections Commission.”

Cygnal polling founder talks firm’s success in Florida midterms” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — While many polls missed the mark in Florida’s multiple statewide midterm races, some surveys nearly hit the nail on the head in what turned out to be a chaotic cycle. Cygnal, a polling firm founded by Brent Buchanan, was one of the better pollsters regarding the U.S. Senate and Governor’s races here in the state. Buchanan spoke with Florida Politics regarding Cygnal’s success, as well as his view of the state of polling in general. “The accuracy comes from correctly predicting what the turnout composition was going to look like,” Buchanan said. “We knew that it would be a bigger midterm percentage turnout than historical midterms, just because of the energy that you saw and the interest and enthusiasm.”

Offshore drilling still a threat despite constitution ban, environmentalists argue” via Melissa Nelson Gabriel of the Pensacola News Journal — “We enjoyed a really big win on Election Day when 70 percent of Floridians voted to ban offshore drilling in public waters,” said Hunter Miller, Florida spokesman for the environmental nonprofit Oceana. But the federal government is not bound by the Florida Constitution. The Trump administration is expected to announce its updated offshore drilling plan in the coming months and that has Miller worried. Miller believes there is also a chance the oil industry could reach a deal with outgoing Republican leadership members of the U.S. House of Representatives before Democrats take control next year to expand offshore drilling. “Communities that care about our coasts need to remain vigilant. While we cheer this victory, we know that the fight is not over,” he said.

Despite GOP sweep, Polk Dems encouraged about future” via Gary White of the Lakeland ledger — Can there be a cause for optimism among Polk County Democrats after another winless election? Karen Welzel thinks so. Welzel, the state committeewoman for the Polk County Democratic Party, said the election generated some positivity for Democrats, even as they failed to put any candidates into office at the county, state or federal level. Welzel pointed especially to the relatively close races involving Democrats Kristen Carlson, who ran for the U.S. House, and Bob Doyel, who ran for the Florida Senate. And she exulted in the national results, as Democrats wrested control of the U.S. House of Representatives away from Republicans. To be sure, the election provided plenty of disappointment for local Democrats.


ICYMI — “Florida jobless rate drops to 3.4 percent, adds 17,800 jobs via Florida jobless rate drops to 3.4 percent, adds 17,800 jobs” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — That’s down from 3.5 percent in September and the lowest it has been since January 2007. The state added 17,800 jobs over the month, just below the average 19,000 jobs added per month so far in 2018. Education and health services have gained the most jobs over the year (51,300) after a monthslong run, overtaking the usual competitors for the No. 1 spot, construction and leisure and hospitality. Leisure and hospitality have gained the second-highest number of jobs over the year (51,100) followed by construction (43,400). Government was the only sector to lose jobs over the year through October (-8,900).

Cabinet meeting reset for end of November” via the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott and the state Cabinet will meet by phone on Nov. 30 to consider issues such as Florida Power & Light power-plant projects in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Scott and the Cabinet initially scheduled the meeting for Tuesday but canceled that meeting. No explanation was given for the change of dates. Among other things, Scott and the Cabinet could sign off on a plan by FPL to build a power plant in Broward County and revisit a dispute about a nuclear project in Miami-Dade.

Bill Galvano says hurricane likely a regular Session issue” via the News Service of Florida — “The good news is we had reserves available. The governor had wide discretion to work with those reserves. But it will be a theme for Session,” Galvano, who will formally become President Tuesday, told reporters. “When I talk with our budget folks, you’re talking about a billion-dollar impact that we’re going to have to deal with, and that’s not a prospective (impact). It’s based on dollars that have been spent or will be spent for cleanup and otherwise, that come ahead of any federal reimbursements.” He said issues such as building codes and the power grid in Northwest Florida have to be “vetted” and noted that he had visited parts of the region that sustained massive damage in the storm.

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano says hurricanes are best left to Regular Session.

Galvano says Legislature could consider election law changes” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — “I think we’ve had too many problems through too many cycles,” Galvano told reporters in a wide-ranging interview. “It is something that I am interested in doing, taking a look at how we are working the process and if there are modifications we can make to better serve the people during an election cycle.” Galvano said he had no specific plans, but that senators he spoke with were interested in taking up the issue: “why ballots appear, why they’re hard to track, why we have machine recounts that produce substantially less number of votes than originally reported.”

Supreme Court signs off on process for picking justices” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — In a 4-3 decision, the court held that the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission was acting within its authority to conduct a process that resulted in 59 judges and lawyers applying to replace justices Barbara ParienteR. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince. The justices are leaving the court in early January because they have reached mandatory retirement age. The Judicial Nominating Commission is scheduled to meet Nov. 27 in Orlando to select nominees for the vacancies. The retiring justices’ six-year terms end on Jan. 8, the day the new governor will take office. The court majority rejected petitions from the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause that had sought to extend the application deadline and halt the current application process.

Politics, practicality, price: across Florida, rural students put off by perceived weaknesses of higher education” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times — Rural students are far less likely than urban and suburban peers to go to college, and the divide is growing deeper in places across Florida. If they do go, rural students are less likely to choose four-year universities, and they’re more likely to drop out. Many hail from deep-red counties in the economic lurch — the same places where, in major polls, people say they’re disillusioned with higher education. The 1990s-era “college for everybody” sensibility has faded, and thanks to Florida’s investment in career training programs, high schoolers have options. Rural families remain deeply skeptical of a pricey degree that could be useless back home. And they often don’t have as many resources that build a bridge to college and emphasize the undeniable benefits — some 65 percent of today’s jobs require education or training beyond high school.

Who made key mistakes in Parkland school shooting? Nine months later, no one held accountable” via David Fleshler and Megan O’Matz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Despite an extraordinary series of governmental failures leading to the bloodshed in Parkland, just a few low-level employees have faced consequences over errors that may have cost lives. But not the school administrators who failed to act on warnings of weak security, or the ones who mismanaged gunman Nikolas Cruz’s special education needs when he was a student there. Not the sheriff’s deputies who took cover while children were shot, or their supervisors. And, by all indications, no one at the FBI, which fumbled compelling, back-to-back tips about Cruz in the months before his rampage. “There were so many mistakes,” said Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine, whose district includes Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. “I don’t feel there’s been sufficient accountability. But more importantly, the people that live in northwest Broward, my neighbors and friends, don’t feel there’s been accountability.”

Mistakes were made in Parkland, but there is still no accountability.

After Hurricane Michael, St. Marks tickled pink with flamingo sighting” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Flamingos seem to come in 23-year spans at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. And their arrivals always seem to coincide with a hurricane blowing them in from far away tropical locales. Over the past few weeks, a wild flamingo that has been hanging around the refuge has piqued the interest of bird enthusiasts eager to get a glimpse of the wayward visitor. Birders from as far away as Michigan have made the pilgrimage to Florida to see it. Log books where visitors can sign in have entries from Arkansas, Jacksonville and Gainesville, all showing love for the flamingo.


This past weekend, state Rep. Kristin Jacobs was one of only three lawmakers across the nation to win the National Institute for Civil Discourse’s Award for Civility in State Governance. The award was given for her work in crossing the partisan divide to pass meaningful legislation.

Congratulations to Kristin Jacobs, recognized with the National Institute for Civil Discourse’s Award for Civility in State Governance. (Photo via the Florida House.)

In her second term, Jacobs authored and passed several significant measures focused primarily on water and environmental issues. One such measure, HB 53 designated a Coral Reef protection zone and HB 181, the “Natural Hazards” bill which forced state agencies to work with and communicate with each other on resiliency issues related to climate change and water policy. Jacobs also made a name in working with GOP leadership on getting several key water measures included in other members’ bills.

She also was a leader in helping negotiate and pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act and has been asked by Speaker Jose Oliva to co-lead a lunch orientation for freshman lawmakers on, (what else?) the social aspects of lawmaking.


Trump would ‘love’ Pam Bondi to join administration” via The Associated Press — Donald Trump made the comments Saturday on his departure from the White House for a trip to California. There has been speculation Trump might consider her to replace the recently ousted Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, but the president has not said that. Trump said he would “consider Pam Bondi for anything.” He said she is doing a good job in Florida and “I’d love to have her in the administration.” Bondi has not said what she plans to do when she leaves office.

Bondi denies meeting on becoming Attorney General” via the News Service of Florida — Bondi disputed a report she will meet with Trump next week to discuss becoming U.S. Attorney General. “The attorney general says that is fake news,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said in an email Friday. The McClatchy news organization reported that it had contacted three sources who said Trump was seriously considering Bondi for the job and that she would travel to his Palm Beach estate Mar-a-Lago while the president was in town for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Donald Trump says he would ‘love’ to have Pam Bondi in his administration; Bondi continues to deny there any plans for such. (Image via Getty)

Trump in Palm Beach: PBSO asks FEMA for $5.6M in Trump security costs” via Alexandra Seltzer of the Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has asked the federal government to refund his agency more than $5.6 million for the 65,063 hours his staff and deputies worked to ensure the safety of Trump, his wife and young son during their visits to the county from October 2017 through the end of April of this year. PBSO’s request said it is “honored” to work with the U.S. Secret Service to provide security for the president, but PBSO’s budget can’t “sustain the additional costs without compromising public safety,” the application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. Bradshaw had 693 sworn and civilian staff work 65,000 hours to protect Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and their son for a cost of $5,618,463.56. Bradshaw said the reimbursement is necessary to “alleviate this burden from our taxpayers,” the application added.

Betsy DeVos gives more power to those accused of sexual assault in overhaul of Obama-era rules” via Michael Sykes of Axios — Secretary DeVos has released a proposed overhaul of how the Department of Education regulates colleges and universities on sexual assault and harassment allegations, empowering the accused and giving their lawyers the right to cross-examine their accusers. The proposal pushes aside guidance issued by the Obama administration in 2011 that lowered the burden of proof for accusers and put a time limit on the accused to issue a response to allegations, reports The Washington Post. Under DeVos’ new proposal, schools would only be responsible for investigating allegations that are part of campus programs and are properly reported.

Lauren Book bashes federal proposal to change Title IX sexual harassment rules” via Ryan Nichol of Florida Politics

Cookie ethics: Congresswoman-elect asks if she’s still allowed to sell Girl Scout Cookies” via Nicole Gaudiano and Eliza Collins of USA TODAY — Abigail Spanberger is in a Trefoil over Girl Scout Cookie season. She’s one of her daughter’s troop leaders, and as she prepares for her new job representing Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, she wonders if she has a conflict of interest. “Can I go in the neighborhood and sell Girl Scout Cookies or are people going to feel compelled because I’m now their representative in Congress? Do you know what I mean?” she asked. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Cookie case law from the House Ethics Committee may be wanting. They’ve never publicly addressed the sale of Girl Scout Cookies.


Advice for new governors: Ignore DC’s ‘gridlock, dysfunction and arrogance’” via Jeb Bush for the Tallahassee Democrat — As you navigate policy and politics in the coming months, understand that the one constant in today’s tumultuous and polarized political environment is the pathetic state of affairs in Washington. Washington is not just our nation’s capital; it is the capital of gridlock, dysfunction, arrogance and antics. In short, there is a tremendous amount of talk, but little real action. With a divided Congress on the horizon, matters will only get worse. So, here’s my advice to our nation’s governors: lead, don’t follow. Exploit the 10th Amendment wisely gifted to us by our founders. The role of governors is key in this current era of disruption and volatility. Governors have the power to reform, to innovate, to convene, to drive the conversation and to problem solve. They balance budgets, work across the aisle and are far more responsible for outcomes and accountable to their constituents than their federal counterparts are.


Appointed — Hamid BahadoriJohn WisemanJohn Gatlin and David John to the Florida Building Commission; Marcus Rowe to the Early Learning Coalition of Duval; Adam Mohammadbhoy to the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee; Darla Huddleston to the Early Learning Coalition of the Nature Coast; Jacob Horner to the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando; Anna Weaver to the Early Learning Coalition of Santa Rosa; Victor Mraz to the Early Learning Coalition of the Southwest; and Monesia Brown to the Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend Region, Inc.

Personnel note: Alex Anderson joins OFR as Legislative Affairs Director — The Florida State law school graduate started at the Florida Office of Financial Regulation this month. Anderson previously was governmental relations coordinator for the Department of Education and director of legislative affairs for the Florida College System, according to his LinkedIn page. Before that, he was an attorney to the Office of House Majority Leader under then-state Rep. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, and was staff attorney to the Senate Community Affairs Committee. Anderson got his undergraduate and graduate degrees in management from the University of Florida. He was admitted to legal practice in Florida in 2011.

— ALOE —

Don’t make these common holiday travel mistakes” via Christopher Elliott of The Washington Post — Waiting too long to book: It’s too late for a Thanksgiving travel deal, but you might still find a bargain for Christmas or New Year’s. No guarantees. Leaving too late for the airport: If you’re traveling on the busiest travel days of the year — just before or after a major holiday — give yourself an additional two hours just to be safe. Being unprepared: For too many people, travel preparations are an afterthought. The mistakes range from packing the wrong items to forgetting to gas up the car. Ignoring your ticket’s fine print: Several airlines have raised their luggage fees. Other carriers are making less obvious changes, such as tightening their ticket rules. That means inexperienced travelers may get blindsided. Traveling on the wrong day: The holiday travel hordes move in mysterious ways. When it comes to planning, you may want to leave even earlier and stay later to avoid traffic. Giving travel insurance short shrift: Insurance can protect you in the event of trip interruptions, delays or missed connections, or lost luggage, and it can cover medical expenses.

Brightline passenger rail in Florida: trains whisper, doors swish, bubbly flows” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — South Florida’s Brightline is not like taking the bus — either in fares or comfort. It is a mode of travel that, chances are, not many Floridians have experienced. The train whispers as passengers relax in leather reclining seats. Its doors swish on command from an LED-enhanced button. Attendants are chatty-friendly as they dispense beverages and snacks. If an airplane trip is about contorting people and luggage into a tubular trap, Brightline gives room to stand, stretch and stroll. There’s a cushioned bench at the end of each coach labeled: “A good place to chat.” Then there are the Brightline stations that are the stylish living rooms you don’t have, and, as the company’s reps never miss an opportunity to emphasize, are bright in personality. “Pretty freaking awesome,” said J.C. Sonkin, riding for the first time, traveling from West Palm to Lauderdale for a boat show.

Disney details new ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’ attractions” via The Associated Press — It also announced that composer John Williams, creator of the classic “Star Wars” themes, is writing new music for the “Galaxy’s Edge” attractions, and shared a sneak preview. The two signature attractions of the “lands” now under construction will be “Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run,” in which guests can take the controls in three different roles, and “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance,” offering an “epic battle” between the First Order and the Resistance. The attractions are to open at Disneyland Resort in summer 2019 and at Walt Disney World Resort in the fall.

Composer John Williams is scoring the music for the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World Resort.

Your next Uber ride may have a minifridge stocked with snacks” via Kate Krader of Bloomberg — Cargo Systems Inc., the New York-based provider of in-car commerce for Uber and Lyft Inc., thinks differently. Its Cargo box — sort of like a traveling minibar without the alcohol — is in about 12,000 ride-share vehicles; passengers who catch a ride in one that’s equipped with the box can buy snacks and energy drinks on their way to a meeting or home from a very late night. Cargo expanded its accessibility, announcing a deal with Venmo, the mobile payment service beloved by the millennial set. Earlier this year, Venmo began working with merchants including GrubHub and Uber to let consumers transact with merchants.

Happy birthday belatedly to AG Bondi, super spox Max Flugrath, Capital City Consulting’s Gerald Wester state Reps. Jared Moskowitz, Amy Mercado and Elizabeth Porter and former Sen. Geraldine Thompson. Celebrating today is the great Karen Moore.

Firefighter unions played the worst hand ever in modern politics

In a single election cycle, Florida’s firefighter union destroyed relationships dating back nearly 20 years.

Why? Leaders of the Florida Professional Firefighters Union had out-and-out lied to membership. And because of that, the recently ended 2018 election cycle was nothing short of catastrophic for the FPF and its local Miami chapter.

The crux of the matter is that Dade Local 1403 opposed incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis and Lt Governor Jeannette Nunez, Attorney GeneralAshley Moody, Chief Financial OfficerJimmy Patronis, Senate President Bill Galvano, and House Speaker Jose Oliva — all of whom won.

It became one of the worst “all in” moves seen in state politics, orchestrated by a handful of neophyte political operatives: FPF President Jim Tolley, Chuck Lupo, David Perez (candidate and union district vice president), and Omar Blanco.

The Local 1403 president made it abundantly clear with his rally cry: ‘The FPF needed to stop sucking Republicans because the Blue Wave is happening in 2018.’

Since becoming president, Blanco pursued a personal agenda with union funds with little regard for what is good for the organization and its members. This came notwithstanding a record amount of favorable legislation passed by Republican legislators.

Adding insult to injury, Blanco, Lupo, and others convinced David Perez to run against state Sen. Manny Diaz, just two weeks before the qualifying deadline.

This group steered several hundreds of thousands of dollars of firefighter dues toward an ill-fated effort to elect Perez, despite the lack of support from firemen who openly questioned the chances of winning against Diaz, a lawmaker already possessing a strong track record supporting firefighter issues.

Additionally, Nunez led the effort to create the first ever public-private partnership between the University of Miami and firefighter organizations to craft and fund cancer presumption legislation.

Compared to Perez, Clearwater’s state Senator-elect Ed Hooper (a retired firefighter himself) received little money from the FPF.

Such blatant disregard for decades of consensus-building by large regional organizations (such as Palm Beach Firefighters and others) who made bi-partisanship the cornerstone of their political strategy will inevitably jeopardize rank-and-file first responders and their families.

The spectacular malfeasance went on despite the PBA’s unequivocal support for candidate DeSantis and his running mate.

The $64,000 question: Why did they do it and how much will it cost?

The answer is quite simple. Power hungry, unprofessional, partisan hacks have taken over unions for their own monetary benefit. They no longer represent what is best for members. Instead, they go with what is best for themselves.

First responders deserve better and need to clean house.

Everyone responsible should resign effective immediately. However, that probably won’t happen.

They need leaders such as Stan Hill, a former Local 1403 president who pursued bipartisan strategy; former FPS president Bob Carver; Al Cruz, another former 1403 president; and Shorty Brice, a former president of the City of Miami chapter. None of these individuals played partisan politics; they did what’s best for members.

After a similar (albeit not nearly as destructive) display of partisanship, Brice and his Palm Beach counterpart withdrew from FPF years ago. Their successors may now very well face a similar choice.

History, it seems, does repeat itself — and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. It has become a matter of whether union leadership will heed Albert Einstein, or keep getting dragged down the abyss.

In politics, loyalty and honor are what matters. Unfortunately, these current union leaders have lost credibility.

But will they ultimately get what’s coming? No one knows.

The harm is already done.

In realm of innovation, Florida ’gets there first‘

There’s a 50 or so mile stretch of California coast where a staggering amount of the western world’s innovations are born.

From San Francisco to Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino, entrepreneurs with big ideas flock there for two reasons: proximity to a highly specialized workforce and access to an embarrassing amount of the most risk-tolerant capital in the world.

Out of this environment, good concepts give birth to billion-dollar companies, seemingly overnight. But as idyllic a spot as Northern California is for a startup to be born, it is likely the most hostile place in America for a disruptive idea to come of age — and that’s where Florida enters this story.

Its long been said that wherever America goes, if Florida isn’t there yet, it will get there first.

This aphorism, usually a reference to evolving demographics, multilingual communities and global connectivity down to the municipal level, has taken on a new meaning in recent years.

Florida is increasingly looked to by industry disrupters as a market ready to embrace innovation.

Continuing to embrace this role will be essential to carving out Florida’s place in the new global economy as the Sunshine State is poised to make its claim as the tourism (and innovation) capitol of the world.

Example 1A: Home sharing.

Airbnb, the mega-unicorn hospitality company that gives people the ability to plug their biggest asset, their homes, into the global tourism industry, injected nearly half a billion dollars directly into our state’s economy in 2017. The company reported that its hosts, everyday Floridians, earned $450 million last year while also remitting $45 million in taxes.

Meanwhile, back in Airbnb’s hometown and birthplace of San Francisco, the company is slogging through a well-documented fight with regulators and hoteliers who in some cases are seeking to ban the activity outright.

If you know any millennials, you’ll know how ridiculous a position this is.

Home sharing platforms like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway aren’t going anywhere, and if Florida is going to continue to be a dominate force in tourism deep into this century, a big reason is going to be because it leans into home sharing. Why not start early and set an example for the rest of the world to follow?

Elon Musk’s fully electric Tesla Model S is the most innovative automobile since the Model T, and that’s just the start. Their sales model is innovative and perhaps most importantly of all, their approach to curbing global climate change is innovative: produce a product so cool, the positive effects on sea level rise are an afterthought to everyone outside of Miami Beach.

While some states are banning the sales of Tesla (which, like Airbnb, is represented in Florida by the lobbying firm — Southern Strategy Group — that seems to specialize in representing disruptive clients), the first new publicly traded U.S. automaker in over 60 years, Florida is full steam — or, full charge — ahead. And why wouldn’t we be? Does anything fit the Florida brand better than a cool ride you can feel good about taking down A1A?

One of Musk’s other concerns, SpaceX, is the odds-on favorite to send the first humans to Mars. The company is targeting a launch date sometime in the 2020s when the next great explorers will takeoff from right here in Florida for an adventure which will surely enthrall humanity for generations to come.

Elon for Governor, anyone?

Florida looked prescient back in 2012 when through the leadership of then-Rep. Jeff Brandes, the state passed one of the nation’s first autonomous vehicle testing bills. At the time, AV’s seemed like technology for a distant future, now, barely half a decade later, the entire country is scrambling to get the technology first.

While California is placing more and regulations on AV operations, Florida would be smart to continue to lead in this space.

The undisputed industry leader, Waymo, recently hired lobbyists in Florida, signaling a potential interest in the state.

AV is widely regarded as the next massive shift that will change the way we live our lives, and the title of AV innovation center of the world is still up for grabs. If Florida can wrangle that flag away from California, it’s hard to overstate the long-term impacts it will have on our economy.

For an excellent example of a local government embracing innovation, you don’t have to look any further than my hometown of St. Pete.

The city entirely re-imagined permitting and compliance by bringing in tech company OpenCounter to automate and streamline those processes. The result is potential entrepreneurs can get businesses off the ground faster.

It’s innovation to promote innovation; as a local business owner, I love it.

State agencies and local governments throughout the state should look for similar solutions that the private sector embraces. Companies like Salesforce and Slack come to mind.

There’s a reason the biggest companies in the world embrace cutting-edge enterprise software and for Florida, doing so could increase efficiency, improve the interaction with citizens, and make the public-sector work environment much more competitive.

There is a lot of reason to be hopeful that Florida will continue on this current trend of embracing innovation. Incoming presiding officers, Senate President Bill Galvano and House Speaker Jose Oliva are both champions of innovation and are expected to let industry disrupters prove their mettle in the free market.

State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced his office would look to become the national leader among the states in cryptocurrency regulation.

These are exciting times to be alive, the world is changing faster than ever, and it seems like us lucky folks in Florida are going to have a front-row seat.

In fact, it might not be long until Florida is known as the innovation (and tourism) capitol of the world.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.16.18

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

We thought the Senate District 18 race between Janet Cruz and incumbent Republican Dana Young would be decided on Election Day.

It wasn’t.

Then we thought a recount would be completed by Thursday at 3 p.m. with a winner announced shortly after.

Many thought the Janet Cruz/Dana Young race would be done by now. They were wrong.

Didn’t happen.

So, Hillsborough County voters must wait at least one more day for a manual recount in the closest state Senate race. It will begin at 9 a.m. Friday.

Cruz, the outgoing House Minority Leader, holds a 376-vote lead over Young in the bitterly contested race. Cruz has claimed victory, but Young has not conceded.

According to Hillsborough elections supervisor Craig Latimer, a machine recount completed Thursday showed the vote margin between the two candidates “remained virtually the same.”

However, due to a possible machine malfunction caused by two power outages, the vote total was 846 fewer than on Election Day.

“The fact that the percentages between the candidates remain the same gives us full confidence in our voting process and systems. Even though we achieved 99.84 percent success in our recount effort, we are not willing to accept that votes go unreported,” Latimer said.

“For that reason, the Canvassing Board has decided that the first unofficial results will stand as our second unofficial.”

That means the 207,365 votes will need a manual recount.

Cruz attacked Young during the hard-fought campaign for her alliance with the National Rifle Association while Young hit back with ads about Cruz’s failure to pay property taxes. More than $3.6 million was spent between the candidates on this race.

A Cruz victory would give Democrats some solace. They had targeted SD 18 as one of six Republican-held districts they believed they could flip and gain control of the Senate. They lost the other five target races, so Republicans again will have total control of the Legislature — now that Ron DeSantis officially won his close race against Democrat Andrew Gillum.


@Fineout: A survey of nearly all counties by AP reporters shows there will be at least 60k ballots to go thru during the hand recount — this does not include Broward or Lee. Hand recount covers only undervotes/overvotes not all ballots

@Fineout: Dispatch from fed court from @bsfarrington — P. B. County elex supervisor Susan Bucher testified that it would take until Dec. 15 for the county to finish recounts in Senate, governor’s race, ag commish and a House race.

@ScottForFlorida: With the statewide machine recount finished, our margin of victory has increased by nearly 1000 votes. @SenBillNelson, it’s time to admit this race is over.

@BethReinhardRick Scott campaign estimates it picked up 865 in machine recount. What a bust for Bill Nelson.

@PatriciaMazzei: The Nelson camp is, um, unlikely to concede. Nelson’s lead recount lawyer has argued all along that the only place where he might make significant gains is in a manual recount, if any major machine tabulation error is found.

@DanTallahassee: @FLGovScott, tentatively GOP Sen-elect, actually picked up @AndrewGillum, the Dem Gov candidate, from the Tallahassee tarmac on the Friday night of the Capital City shooting just days ahead of Election Day, per @KevinCate.

@NewsBySmiley: @AndrewGillum issues a statement that does not include the words “concede,” or “congratulations”

@TroyKinsey: One Republican is all for a manual recount: @mattcaldwell_fl, still trailing in the ag commish race. In a statement tonight, he says he’s “pleased the recount will move forward as we continue working to uncover the truth about what happened in Broward County.”

@RickHasen: If there is a worse election administrator in the entire country than Brenda Snipes, I’m not aware of that person.

@Mdixon55: This is all leading up to a Brenda Snipes book deal, right?

@NickConfessore: If my signature had to match every time, I would not only not ever be allowed to vote, I’d never be allowed to use a credit card ever again.

@AdamPutnam: I testified today at the U.S. International Trade Commission in DC on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Unfortunately, the trade environment created under USMCA is anything but a fair and level playing field for Florida agriculture, a $120B industry that supports 2M jobs


Florida Blue Florida Classic: FAMU vs. BCU — 2; Elections Canvassing Commission meets to certify official General Election results — 4; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 4; Thanksgiving — 6; Black Friday — 7; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 11; Partial government shutdown — 21; 2019 Session Interim Committee Meetings begin — 26; 116th Congress convenes — 48; Florida’s Inauguration Ceremony — 73; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 88; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 109; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 113; Iowa Caucuses — 444; 2020 General Election — 718.


Judge: Florida election problems make it a ‘laughingstock’” via Gary Fineout and Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — A federal judge slammed Florida for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems and said the state law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that decided the presidency in 2000. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker also rejected a request to extend the deadline later in the day for all of the state’s counties to submit the results of a machine recount. “We have been the laughingstock of the world, election after election, and we chose not to fix this,” Walker said in court. Walker vented his anger at state lawmakers and Palm Beach County officials, saying they should have made sure they had enough equipment in place to handle this kind of a recount. But he said he could not extend the recount deadline because he did not know when Palm Beach County would finish its work.

Judge Mark Walker laments that Florida is a ‘laughingstock’ from this recount business.

After all the drama, Broward finishes recount with minutes to spare — but it won’t count” via the Miami Herald — With just 15 minutes to go, Broward County finally finished recounting every vote. At least, that’s what officials told reporters and the canvassing board at 2:45 p.m. In a surprise announcement at nearly 6 p.m., Broward’s director of elections planning, Joseph D’Alessandro, told the canvassing board the county actually turned in results to the state two minutes late. They won’t count officially. Broward’s original count, due Nov. 10, will stand until the manual recount totals come in Sunday at noon. The manual recount will be added to the first official count. “Basically, I just worked my ass off for nothing,” D’Alessandro said.

Palm Beach County fails to meet recount deadline” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher has missed the deadline to complete several machine recounts following last week’s midterm elections. The state’s deadline to submit machine recount totals was Thursday at 3 p.m. A bit confusingly, county officials are still allowed to continue the machine recount. However, the numbers determining whether a race will go on to a hand recount are locked in as of 3 p.m. Races within 0.25 percentage points following a machine recount are recounted by hand, per Florida law.

Old, overheating machines led Susan Bucher and Palm Beach County to fail to meet its latest recount deadline.

Palm Beach elections chief cutting back 24/7 operation” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — Bucher told Judge Walker that old ballot-counting machines and an exhausted staff led her to dial back the workload to meet state-mandated deadlines. “We have been going at a pace of 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Bucher said during a court hearing. “And we will not be able to continue this pace moving forward.” Bucher’s testimony via telephone was part of a federal court case brought by Democrat state House candidate Jim Bonfiglio, who is just 37 votes behind GOP opponent Mike Caruso. The race is the closest of the four requiring recounts, but state law does not say whether the recount could be completed before the races for governor and agriculture commissioner.

“Only Bay County accepted fax, email ballots, elections officials confirm” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Bay County’s Supervisor of Elections stood alone in Florida when he allowed voters displaced by Hurricane Michael to cast ballots by email and fax. But while no other officials took the compassionate but clearly illegal course of action, more than one questioned why state prohibited elections officials from accepting votes electronically under the circumstances. “My displaced voters unfortunately just had the option for sending ballots in the mail,” said John Hanlon, Gulf County Supervisor of Elections. “But I absolutely wanted to do it.”

Florida Dems planned to use altered forms to fix mail ballots across state after deadline” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News — A day after Florida’s election left top state races too close to call, a Democratic Party leader directed staffers and volunteers to share altered election forms with voters to fix signature problems on absentee ballots after the state’s deadline. The altered forms surfaced in Broward, Santa Rosa, Citrus and Okaloosa counties and were reported to federal prosecutors to review for possible election fraud as Florida counties complete a required recount in three top races. But an email shows that Florida Democrats were organizing a broader statewide effort beyond those counties to give voters the altered forms to fix improper absentee ballots after the Nov. 5 deadline. Democratic Party leaders provided staffers with copies of a form, known as a “cure affidavit,” that had been modified to include an inaccurate Nov. 8 deadline. Jake Sanders, a Democratic campaign consultant based in Treasure Coast who saw the email, said he warned party staffers about the legality of the email, but was ignored.

Tweet, tweet: 


Rick Scott wants to stop a recount he’s winning. That’s silly. Here’s why.” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Even as a recount netted Republican Scott votes, he continued to call on Democratic opponent Bill Nelson to somehow stop the process. “With over two-thirds of the machine recount completed, our margin of victory has grown,” Scott tweeted. Scott spokesman Chris Hartline said with all counties reporting recount results, Scott’s campaign netted votes statewide. Recount results released by the Division of Elections verify the gap between Scott and Nelson grew by 41 votes.

Despite an increasing lead, Rick Scott is continuing to call for a stop to the U.S. Senate race recount. (Image via Getty)

Bill Nelson seeking recount of all ballots in Palm Beach County” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics —Arguing that Palm Beach County’s problems with machines breaking down during the machine recount this week, Nelson‘s campaign has sued in state court seeking to force a recount of all half-million ballots there. Palm Beach County is not the main hope for Nelson’s campaign as the state moves to the ordered hand recount in all 67 counties. That recount is just of ballots identified as undervotes or overvotes in the U.S. Senate election, which Scott leads by about 12,600 votes. Rather, Marc Elias, lead recount lawyer for Nelson, told reporters that myriad factors, including the campaign’s victory so far to allow for some mail-in ballots rejected due to mismatched signatures and other factors, but also on the under and overvotes, particularly in Broward County, where there were an unprecedented 23,000 of them. “There will now be a hand recount. This is in fact what we have been seeking all along.

Scott’s ‘fraud’ claims make punchline for late-night TV — In a news release from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Scott’s “desperation made late-night TV” referencing how Seth Meyers recently pointed out the Florida Governor and U.S. Senate candidate is spreading “conspiracy theories” about voter fraud. “So as the results get worse for Republicans, they are getting more desperate,” Meyers said on his late-night show. “They seem to be focusing their desperation on Florida, where Governor and Senate candidate Rick Scott has been spreading baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud amid a recount there in an incredibly tight race. And now he and his lawyers won’t even say that they’ll accept the results as legitimate if he loses. So Republicans have been spreading lies about nonexistent voter fraud without any evidence.”

Using coded language, Scott calls for Terrie Rizzo to quit as head of Florida Democrats” via Florida Politics — The Scott campaign is calling on incumbent Nelson “to demand the immediate resignation” of Florida Democratic Party Chair RizzoJackie Schutz Zeckman, Scott’s campaign manager, sent an email to news media Thursday. “News reports … revealed that the Florida Democrat Party (sic) engaged in an illegal scheme to alter election forms and deceive voters regarding the deadlines for submitting votes,” she said, using the term of disparagement invented by Republicans … Nelson “can either stay silent and be in favor of organized fraud by the Democrat Party (sic), or he can do the right thing and demand the immediate resignation of Florida’s Democrat Party (sic) Chair,” she added.

More ‘vitriol’ than 2000 in current recount” via Florida Politics — Barry Richard, representing Democrat Gillum as the recount progresses, has a unique perspective on these matters. In 2000, Richard was George W. Bush‘s lawyer. Unlike 18 years ago, Richard’s client may not prevail. And beyond that, he found it “disturbing” that “people are a lot nastier today, both the voters and the candidates,” exhibiting more “vitriol” than even that fever-pitch Presidential year. The recount is but one concern; another was structural: There are “no consistent standards from county to county. That’s a violation of everybody’s equal protection rights.”

Scott campaign raises $1.4 million to support ballot battles” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics. — Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign has pulled in more than $1.4 million to support his legal and public relations battles over Florida’s vote recounts in that race. “Scott will continue to aggressively fight to defend the will of Florida voters, and Florida Finance Chairwoman Darlene Jordan and National Finance Chairman Thomas Hicks will continue to oversee fundraising efforts in support of this mission,” his campaign declared. Through the latest publicly available reports posted with the Federal Election Commission, Scott’s campaign had raised almost $68 million, and more than $51 million of that came from Scott’s personal wealth. Nelson’s campaign, by comparison, raised just under $25 million, but it all was from outside sources. Thursday’s announcement regarding the $1.4 million in new money to support the recount efforts did not indicate whether any of that money was donated by Scott.


Ron DeSantis emerges on top in Florida as Nelson-Scott race goes to manual recount” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — DeSantis’ election night lead held, and he now has officially beat Democrat Gillum, an outcome that was largely expected. To qualify for a manual recount, a race has to be within a .25 margin or less; after the machine recount, DeSantis maintained a .41 percent lead. Gillum refused to concede Thursday. “A vote denied is justice denied — the State of Florida must count every legally cast vote. As today’s unofficial reports and recent court proceedings make clear, there are tens of thousands of votes that have yet to be counted,” he said in a statement. “We plan to do all we can to ensure that every voice is heard in this process.” “I invite Mayor Gillum to join me in the days ahead in a conversation about the future of our great state,” DeSantis said in a statement after the results were finalized. “We have both traveled the state and met Floridians from all walks of life.” The biggest election now headed to a hand recount is the U.S. Senate race, where Nelson continues to trail Republican Gov. Scott by more than 12,000 votes. With more than 8 million total cast, it’s well within the .25 margin for a hand recount.

After a machine recount in the Florida Governor’s race, Ron DeSantis is finally declared the official winner.

Nikki Fried clings to recount lead; Matt Caldwell alleges Broward counted late ballots” via Jacob Ogles at Florida Politics — Attorneys for Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Caldwell say Broward County collected and counted thousands of votes after the election was over. That’s enough to chip at or even erase Democrat Fried’s current lead. Results from a statewide recount show the Democratic candidate leading Caldwell by 5,307 votes, a slightly narrower lead than the 5,326-vote gap reported in the initial tabulation of the race. Caldwell’s legal team sued last week for records from Broward County, the seeming ground zero for Florida’s latest statewide recount news extravaganza. Those records were only turned over last night at 8 p.m. The records showed more than 17,000 vote-by-mail ballots came in on Election Day or after, said Caldwell attorney George LeMieux. Of those, 6,873 did not get logged until after 7 p.m., after polls closed.


DeSantis vetting chief of staff candidates, including some familiar names” via Florida Politics — At least four people are in the running to become DeSantis‘ chief of staff: Kathy MearsScott RossScott Parkinson, and Shane Strum. DeSantis “has discussed the position with all four,” one source said during an interview in Orlando where dozens of Adams Streeters are meeting for a handful of postelection conferences, though “he still plans to talk to more.” Absent from the list is Susie Wiles, the veteran Jacksonville political operative who took the helm of Donald Trump’s Florida campaign, and more recently assumed the chair of DeSantis’ campaign for Governor during the final stretch.


No talk of special session” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — In the bubbled world of Tallahassee, rumors started to spread before the polls closed of North Carolina-style special sessions by outgoing GOP politicos in case Democrats won statewide races. With Fried ahead in the unofficial vote tallies for Agriculture Commissioner, such chatter intensified, especially over the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ handling of concealed-weapon licenses. So far, however, there is no formal sign of a special session. “There have been no plans or discussions, in any way, with respect to a special session to address any issue with the Department of Agriculture,” Fred Piccolo, a House spokesman said when asked about the issue. Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for incoming Senate President Bill Galvano gave a similar response. “No. President-Designate Galvano has not been not involved in such a discussion,” Betta said.

No, there will be no Special Session to deal with a Democratic Agriculture Commissioner, says incoming Senate President Bill Galvano. (Image via Herald-Tribune)

Dane Eagle, Ray Rodrigues take on new roles in final state House terms” via Sara Jarvis of — Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican, will be the new House Majority Leader under new Speaker of the House Jose Oliva, of Miami Lakes. Eagle will replace Rodrigues of Estero, who will chair the Health and Human Services Committee. Eagle, who was previously the Majority Whip, said his new position will allow him to do “a great amount of good” for Southwest Florida. He said he and the leadership team will pursue policies to give the area more relief, adding that water quality issues will be especially important to him in his new role. “We’ll be doing everything we can to bring those issues to the top, as long as they’re good for all of Florida, which they will be,” Eagle said.

Wyman Duggan won’t be HD 15 short-timer” via Florida Politics — In the expensive and brutal race in House District 15, Republican Duggan defeated Democrat Tracye Polson by 51 percent to 49 percent. Duggan, a connected land-use attorney backed by a wide swath of Jacksonville’s political establishment, is uniquely positioned to advocate for the city’s interests. Unlike predecessors, he sees the seat as more than a steppingstone. “It’s been a long time since somebody’s done the whole eight years.” The Representative-elect sees the role as “an opportunity to serve Jacksonville, this region, and the district, and to pass the baton.”

Bob Buckhorn appoints first member to All For Transportation oversight committee” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Tampa Mayor Buckhorn has made the first appointment to the All For Transportation oversight committee that will act as a steward of taxpayer revenue funding transportation and transit improvements in Hillsborough County. Buckhorn appointed former Florida Senator Arthenia Joyner to the committee. “Throughout her time in the Florida Legislature, Senator Joyner proved to be a tireless fiscal steward for our community while being laser-focused on fighting for the needs of Tampanians, not only in her district but across the region,” Buckhorn said …. The committee will eventually consist of 16 nonelected officials appointed from a variety of boards and elected officials. Mayors of all three Hillsborough cities … each get an appointee. Buckhorn gets a second appointee because the city’s population exceeds 200,000.


Gwen Graham joins ‘Rebuild 850’ efforts after Hurricane Michael” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former U.S. Rep. Graham is joining efforts to rebuild the Panhandle after Hurricane Michael, taking a leadership position with the Rebuild 850 initiative. Graham, who finished second in this year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, will serve as a co-chair for the group along with GOP former Florida House Speakers Allan Bense and Will Weatherford. Rebuild 850 urges people to donate, volunteer, and invest in the region hit hardest by the storm. The organization attempts to coordinate the efforts of various groups such as Volunteer Florida, the Florida League of Cities, the American Red Cross, and many others. “The people of North Florida have always been proudly self-reliant, but in the unprecedented aftermath of Hurricane Michael, they need all of Florida to pull together on their behalf,” Graham said.

Important deadlines approach for hurricane survivors in Florida” via WJHG — Disaster Unemployment Assistance: Survivors in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington Counties have until Nov. 14 to apply. Survivors in Leon County have until Nov. 16. Blue Roof program: Deadline to submit a Right of Entry (ROE) is Nov. 16. Homeowners must sign an ROE form to allow government employees and contractors onto their property to assess damage and install the temporary covering. Applying for disaster assistance is a two-step process. First, register for assistance, then submit your SBA disaster loan application. The deadline to apply for SBA is Monday, Dec. 10. You can register for assistance by any of these ways: Log onto Call 800-621-3362. If you use 711 or VRS or require accommodations while visiting a center, call 800-621-3362. Toll-free numbers are open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Longtime Lake County state Rep. Everett A. Kelly dead at 92” via Frank Stanfield at The Daily Commercial — Kelly, former longtime member of the Florida House of Representatives, a pharmacist, conservationist and outdoor writer for The Daily Commercial, died Tuesday. He was 92. Kelly, a Democrat who served in the House for 22 years, was speaker pro tem for two years in 1990-91. He had a knack for getting appropriations for Lake County. The auditorium at Lake-Sumter State College is named in his honor. Legend has it that he was the one in Tallahassee who was able to pull the strings so that The Villages could build the golf cart bridge over U.S. Highway 441, the first of its kind.

RIP: Longtime Lake County state Rep. Everett Kelly has passed at age 92. (Image via Daily Commercial)

A good time to drill” via Florida Politics — As Florida waited to find out the eventual results of its recounts, the Florida Petroleum Council urged renewed consideration of offshore drilling. The timing is interesting, as presumed Gov.-elect DeSantis said he would “utilize his unique relationship with President Trump and his administration to ensure that oil drilling never occurs off Florida’s coastlines.” The industry group asserted potential revenue of $2.5 billion as a result of offshore leasing.

FITCon 2018: Cable industry making strides in diversity, inclusion” via Florida Politics — The cable industry is moving in the right direction when it comes to engaging women and minorities in content and employment, but there’s more work to make the industry even more equitable. Florida Internet and Television’s FITCon 2018 kicked off Thursday with a with a panel chaired by state Rep. Mike La Rosa that brought a diverse group of cable veterans together to reflect on the past 40 years of diversity and inclusion efforts as well as what needs to happen over the next 40. Former Charter Communications VP Mike Robertson said when he entered the cable industry in the late 1970s that there was no lack of innovative thinkers, but there wasn’t a focus on diversity and inclusion.

Hearing set in Senate discrimination case” via the News Service of Florida — Judge Robert Hinkle this week scheduled the hearing after canceling arguments that had been planned for Nov. 8, according to an online docket. Legislative aide Rachel Perrin Rogers filed a discrimination complaint in January with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Senate filed a lawsuit in Hinkle’s court seeking a preliminary injunction to block an administrative law judge from requiring the Senate’s participation in the EEOC case. The Senate contends, in part, that it is protected by the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity, though EEOC lawyers are fighting the Senate on the issue.

Scott schedules execution in 1992 murder” via the News Service of Florida — After the Florida Supreme Court cleared the way, Gov. Scott scheduled a Dec. 13 execution for a Death Row inmate convicted in the 1992 murder of a Miami-Dade County woman. Scott signed a death warrant in July and initially scheduled the execution of Jose Antonio Jimenez in August. But the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution so it could look further at issues in the case. The Supreme Court on Oct. 4 lifted the stay, allowing Scott to reschedule the execution. Jimenez, now 55, was convicted in the killing of 63-year-old Phyllis Minas during a burglary, according to court documents.

Deadly FIU bridge suffered from design flaws, feds say” via Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald — The two-page report by the National Transportation Safety Board stops short of blaming the design errors for the bridge’s collapse, which killed six people, including an FIU student. But the investigative update bolsters conclusions reached by independent bridge engineering experts consulted by the Miami Herald and others posting in online professional forums. Three experts consulted separately concluded that design flaws at the north end of the unfinished bridge’s 174-foot span over Southwest Eighth Street were likely a leading contributor to the collapse. The NTSB brief echoes what the experts told the Herald after examining publicly available engineering calculations and plans for the bridge: Design errors meant that a key structural connection in the span, a point at which a diagonal strut identified as Number 11 met the deck of the bridge span and a vertical column, was too weak to support the large forces it was supposed to withstand.

A preliminary federal investigation found design flaws in the FIU bridge, which collapsed earlier this year, killing six people.

Conservative group takes Tampa conversion therapy ban challenge to federal court” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A conservative advocacy group is in federal court this week trying to overturn Tampa’s ban on conversion therapy in which counselors seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The group Liberty Counsel filed suit last December after Tampa City Council unanimously approved the ban and implemented harsh fines for counselors who violated it. Now the group is getting their day in court describing the ban as one that blocks minors from “seeking to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors or identity.” The Tampa ban applies only to minors and was adopted after numerous accounts nationwide of children who claimed to be psychologically scarred from the practice, which was forced upon them by parents, guardians or church leaders. Numerous medical groups have denounced the practiceIt’s banned in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

Trial ordered in employment dispute at Navy’s cybersecurity school” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — A company that provides cybersecurity training at the Navy’s Joint Cyber Analysis Course in Pensacola will get a trial on its claims that four employees violated an agreement not to seek work with other subcontractors at the school. Circuit Judge John Miller of Pensacola accepted at face value claims that Epsilon Inc. had initiated job offers to Paul HutchinsonKurt BernardJasper Stone, and Michael Flemming, who’d worked for Convergent Technologies IncThe 1st District Court of Appeal noted that Hutchinson had complained about his unhappiness with CTI to an Epsilon employee, raising a “reasonable inference” that he “might have been complaining just a little too loudly about employment woes with CTI in a working environment where everyone involved knew there was more than one subcontractor on the job to hear their protests.”

Supreme Court greenlights judge-lawyer Facebook friendships” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — A divided Florida Supreme Court has given judges permission to maintain Facebook friendships with trial attorneys, settling a divide between lower state appeals courts and siding with the majority of courts and ethics overseers in other states. The majority opinion, by Chief Justice Charles Canady, noted that the court hasn’t considered actual friendships between judges and attorneys who appear before them ground for the judges to recuse themselves absent additional evidence of conflicts of interest. Justice Barbara Pariente … argued in a dissenting opinion in favor of automatic recusal whenever a judge is Facebook friends with a litigant.

Praise for defendant brings rebuke for Miami-Dade judge” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — The Supreme Court has OK’d a public reprimand for Miami-Dade County Judge Deborah White-Labora, concluding she tarnished her position by writing a character reference for a defendant in a federal prosecution. “Accordingly, we hereby command Judge Deborah White-Labora to appear before this court for the administration of a public reprimand at a time to be established by the clerk of this court,” the justices said unanimously Thursday in an unsigned opinionThe judge, who once ran the county’s drug court and now presides over a domestic-violence calendar, had entered into a stipulation agreement with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, acknowledging wrongdoing and accepting the public reprimand. “Although we recognize that Judge White-Labora’s conduct was well-intentioned, as Judge White-Labora understands by her agreement to the violations and discipline, her conduct is prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct,” the high court said.

Years after the ribbon cutting, USF sorts out a funding mix-up with one of its buildings” via Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — A state-ordered review of construction funding at Florida universities has uncovered a multimillion-dollar funding snag at the University of South Florida that officials there are not fully explaining. The mix-up involves the $21.7 million Dr. Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions, a research facility completed in 2010 on the USF Tampa campus. The review found that USF spent $6.4 million in unauthorized funds to complete the center, a problem the university blamed on a donor who failed to come through with promised contributions for the building. Was that donor Patel, the prominent Tampa doctor and philanthropist whose name is on the center? The university is not saying, and Patel insists he gave exactly what he had pledged. Now, USF leaders are making plans for a formal internal review of what happened. Patel is the only publicly known donor to the center.

Happening Saturday  — The 2018 annual ‘Feeding Tampa Bay’ food giveaway, sponsored by state Rep. Danny Burgess, will be held this weekend and needs volunteers. Email or if interested, 9 a.m., Dade City Business Center (front parking lot), 15000 Citrus Country Drive, Dade City.


Trump picks another Mar-a-Lago member for ambassador” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — Trump nominated couture handbag designer Lana Marks, a resident of Palm Beach and member of the Mar-a-Lago Club, as ambassador to South Africa. Marks, 64, is the fourth member of Trump’s private club, Mar-a-Lago, that he has tapped for an ambassadorship. Other club members recruited by Trump for top diplomatic posts include: Robin Bernstein, a founding member of Mar-a-Lago and staunch supporter and defender of the president, as ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Philanthropist Patrick Park, who once claimed that most of the 200 fundraisers he hosted were at Mar-a-Lago, was picked as ambassador to Austria but cited family responsibilities when he turned down Trump’s invitation. Brian Burns, a major Trump donor, also declined a post as ambassador to Ireland for health reasons.

Custom handbag designer Lana Marks, a member of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, is now an ambassador to South Africa.


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Frank Alcock, assistant professor of political science and environmental studies at New College; Katie Sanders, managing editor at PolitiFact; Mike Fasano, Pasco County tax collector; and Tara Newsome, attorney and professor at St. Petersburg College.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: This week’s In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres will discuss the Florida election recount process. Joining Walker-Torres are Aubrey Jewett, a political-science professor at the University of Central Florida, and Ryan Tyson, vice president of political operations at Associated Industries of Florida.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: The latest on Florida’s election recount; Hillsborough County voted to improve roadways, All for Transportation officials Christina Barker and Brian Willis will explain what comes next; PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim made in a meme about Sen. Ted Cruz.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC)Gary Yordon will host a panel with Steve VancoreSean Pittman and Screven Watson.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXTRick Mullaney, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute; Chris Hand, attorney Democratic voting observer; Jerry Holland, former Duval Supervisor of Elections; and Bert Ralston, a Republican strategist.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will focus on the ballot recount following the midterms. Plus, the roundtable takes on the news of the week.

— ALOE —

’Toxic’ is Oxford Word of the Year. No, we’re not gaslighting you.” via Jennifer Schuessler of The New York Times — Katherine Connor Martin, the company’s head of U.S. dictionaries, said there had been a marked uptick of interest in the word on its website over the past year. But the word was chosen less for statistical reasons, she said than for the sheer variety of contexts in which it has proliferated, from conversations about environmental poisons to laments about today’s poisonous political discourse to the #MeToo movement, with its calling out of “toxic masculinity.” In fact, Martin said, the committee initially considered choosing “toxic masculinity,” until it realized how widespread “toxic” itself had become. “So many different things,” she said, “are tied together by the word.”

Widespread use of the word ‘toxic’— as in ‘toxic masculinity’ — made it Oxford’s 2018 Word of the Year. (Image via Petros Karadjias/Associated Press)

Retailers optimistic about holiday season” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Sunshine State sellers should beat 2017’s year-end shopping sales, according to the Florida Retail Federation, the state’s premier vendor association. That’s welcome news to Florida retailers, who typically rely on the swift-approaching days of festivities for 20-40 percent of their yearly sales. And “this time of year shines the spotlight even brighter on retailers and their impact,” FRF President and CEO Scott Shalley told reporters. FRF anticipates holiday sales to increase 4.5 percent from last year, a result of strong statewide economic indicators like low unemployment, record-breaking tourism and healthy consumer confidence. “Holiday shopping is vital to the success of Florida’s retail industry and we are excited about the continued growth in sales for 2018,” added Shalley.

Disney union takes credit for Universal raising minimum wage to $12” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — After winning their own fight for higher wages, the UNITE HERE union representing hospitality workers at Disney World held a rally demanding Universal employees get the same raise. At the same time workers marched, Universal appeared to meet some of their demands, announcing it will raise starting wages at its Orlando resort to $12 per hour in February. Universal spokesman Tom Schroeder told the Orlando Sentinel it was a “long-planned” decision. But It’s also not unexpected. While employees at Universal, SeaWorld Orlando and other area resorts aren’t unionized like their counterparts at Disney World, they have followed the Mouse’s lead when it comes to compensation.

Happy birthday to Johnson & Blanton’s Darrick McGhee.

Last Call for 11.15.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

ICYMI — Ron DeSantis has lined up some solid candidates, including familiar names from the Capitol, to be his chief of staff. Click here to find out who’s in the running so far.

A federal judge today rejected U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s request to extend the 3 p.m. recount deadline. So, it’s looking like counties that failed to meet the deadline will have to report their pre-recount numbers as their election results.

The end is in sight. And we think it’s fitting to take a step for a minute. Instead of talking about the recount itself, let’s talk about what it actually means for Florida.

The two apparent takeaways: The Sunshine State electorate is divided and its election laws need a realignment.

Don’t take our word for it, that’s the consensus from David Johnson, Kevin Cate and Steve Schale — three top strategists from both sides of the aisle who were more than intimately involved in this year’s election.

“Right now we’re finding out that we can wrestle with laws that we have,” Johnson, a Republican political consultant, told a Tallahassee Tiger Bay audience Thursday. “The good news is [the election] will end, the bad news is we’re going to have to redo some things.”

His legislative forecast: “I think we’ll have a great opportunity in this Session to address some of those failings.”

Kevin Cate, a Democratic media consultant hired by Andrew Gillum’s campaign for Governor, spoke to the likely losing margin of the race — less than a half-percent, or in his words: zero percent when you round.

On the back end, Cate suggested, both sides likely won’t be able to point out the causal winning or losing factor.

“I think it would be disingenuous for anyone to point to any particular moment,” Cate said.

In the words of Schale, a Democratic strategist known notably for his work on President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns: “We are a deeply divided country, and we live in a state where people come from all over the country, so we’re a deeply divided state.”

So, expect some changes to related statutes. But bet big on more recount-triggering margins in the future.

Evening Reads

Federal judge rejects Bill Nelson’s request to give counties more time to finish recounts” via Steve Bousquet and Elizabeth Koh of the Times/Herald

Judge allows late voter fixes for bad signature ballots” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

How about now? Winning first recount, Rick Scott asks again for Bill Nelson to concede” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Bill Nelson campaign wants state to turn over names on rejected ballots” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida

More ‘vitriol’ now than in 2000 recount: Andrew Gillum’s lawyer” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Janet Cruz-Dana Young race heads to manual recount in Hillsborough” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Dems planned to use altered forms to fix mail ballots across state after deadline” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News

Florida students overseas skeptical their votes will count” via Samantha Gross of the Tampa Bay Times

Broward County finishes its recount of top Florida races minutes before state deadline” via Lisa Conley of the Naples Daily News

‘We broke down:’ Why Palm Beach County won’t meet recount deadline” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Sloppy signatures, late ballots highlight perils of voting by mail” via Anthony Man and Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel

Special session unlikely for Ag. Commissioner concealed-weapons purview” via the News Service of Florida

Supreme Court greenlights judge-lawyer Facebook friendships” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

New push for offshore drilling as Florida awaits recount results” via Florida Politics

Chasing the Saudi government’s connection to a Sarasota gated community and the 9/11 attacks: Bob Graham doggedly chases the truth” via Lucy Morgan for the Florida Phoenix

Quote of the Day

Bill Nelson has “to decide if he wants to preserve his legacy and go out with dignity or if he wants to forever be remembered as the guy that liberal interest groups used in an effort to win the presidential election two years early.” — Chris Hartline, spokesman for Scott for Florida.

Bill Day’s Latest


Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida State University Board of Trustees will meet after holding committee meetings Thursday. That’s at 8:15 a.m., Florida State University, Augustus B. Turnbull III Conference Center, 555 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.           

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will continue a four-day meeting in Broward County. Among the topics Friday will be a review of recommendations and findings for a January report. That’s at 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss interest rates used for appropriations, including bond rates in the Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO, program. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Economic Estimating Conference will analyze issues related to the Florida economy. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will release the October unemployment figures at 10 a.m.

Looking Ahead

The 2018 annual ‘Feeding Tampa Bay’ food giveaway, sponsored by state Rep. Danny Burgess, will be held this weekend and needs volunteers. Email or if interested. It starts Saturday at 9 a.m., Dade City Business Center (front parking lot), 15000 Citrus Country Drive, Dade City.

Ron DeSantis vetting chief of staff candidates, including some familiar names

At least four people are in the running to become Ron DeSantis‘ chief of staff: Kathy Mears, Scott Ross, Scott Parkinson, and Shane Strum, according to sources familiar with the interview process.

DeSantis “has discussed the position with all four,” one source said during an interview in Orlando where dozens of Adams Streeters are meeting for a handful of post-election conferences, though “he still plans to talk to more.”

Absent from the list is Susie Wiles, the veteran Jacksonville political operative who took the helm of Donald Trump’s Florida campaign, and more recently assumed the chair of DeSantis’ campaign for Governor during the final stretch.

Wiles is expected to return to her position as managing partner in Ballard Partners‘ Jacksonville office after the inauguration, a source familiar with Wiles’ thinking told Florida Politics.

The chief of staff position would be Wiles’ for the taking and while she is determined to assist the Governor-elect build out a capable executive branch, she’s looking forward to being back int he private sector.

Here’s a little background on the four contenders being discussed:

— Mears, chief legislative affairs officer for Florida State University, previously served as chief of staff to two consecutive Florida House speakers, Will Weatherford (2012-14) and Steve Crisafulli (2014-16).

Mears also has been a top advisor to former Senate Presidents Ken Pruitt and Tom Lee, was deputy chief of staff to former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, served as campaign communications director to Congressman Daniel Webster, and was a vice president at On 3 Public Relations in Tallahassee.

— Ross, an early DeSantis supporter and top lobbyist at Capital City Consulting, was Deputy Secretary at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, serving as the chief regulator for gaming, alcoholic beverages and tobacco, hotels and restaurants, condominiums, timeshares, and mobile homes.

He also was Director of Government Relations for “one of the world’s largest gaming and entertainment companies,” as well as Executive Director of the Florida Student Association, an association compromised of more than 300,000 members across the state of Florida.

— Strum is senior vice president for South Florida’s Memorial Healthcare System.

Before that, he was vice chancellor of business development for Keiser University and was a transition adviser to Gov. Rick Scott. Strum also was chief of staff to former Gov. Charlie Crist.

— Parkinson was DeSantis’ congressional chief of staff and also has been Deputy Legislative Director to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

He also was Executive Director of the Republican Study Committee, a “caucus of conservative members of the Republican Party in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.15.18

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

A top of Sunburn, welcome to the world greeting to Olivia Grace Logan, the beautiful daughter of Katie Ballard and Brian Logan, born Sunday at 10:07 a.m. Mom says everyone is doing well and is so in love.

A top of Sunburn scoop important to those in the legislative process: House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva has named Carol Gormley, a highly regarded health care expert and legislative staffer, as his chief of staff. Read more about the hire here.

Florida Internet & Television (FiTV) will hold its second annual 2018 Florida Internet & Television Conference, known as “FITConFL.”

Formerly known as the Florida Cable and Telecommunications Association’s Annual Meeting, it’s been reimagined and redesigned to facilitate leading policy and industry discussions for the evolving internet and television industries, the organization said in a news release.

CableLabs CEO Phil McKinney will keynote the newly reimagined and redesigned Florida Internet & Television Conference — FITConFL.

“On the heels of Florida’s historic 2018 statewide election, FITCon Florida will give you the opportunity to join Florida’s top industry leaders to receive updates on recent state and federal legislative & regulatory policy developments impacting our industry; learn the state of telemedicine and meeting consumer demand for connectivity; hear from experts on meeting workforce challenges; explore what’s next for connected cities; and much more,” it said.

Florida House members Randy Fine, Jason Fischer, Jamie Grant, and Mike La Rosa, all with backgrounds in state technology and innovation policy, will each moderate a panel with industry leaders to discuss issues critical to the internet and television industry.

In addition to panels, the conference will feature keynote speaker Phil McKinney, CEO of CableLabs, who will “reveal new and coming developments in robotics, cybersecurity, AI and the cloud.”

The two-day conference starts Thursday at the Hilton Bonnet Creek in Orlando.


@SamStein: TRUMP: “If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID”

—@MarcoRubio: What is crooked cannot be made straight, and you cannot count what is not there. Ecclesiastes 1:15

@MarcEElias: You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. Exodus 23:1

@ScottForFlorida: I recused myself from certifying results on the Elections Canvassing Commission in 2014, and I will do so again this year. This is nothing new. Bill Nelson is confused and doesn’t even know how Florida works- I have no role in supervising/ overseeing the ongoing recount process.

@Fineout: Right now the U.S. Senate is scheduled to convene on Jan. 3, 2019. Scott’s term as governor does not end until the following week. By law, he cannot serve 2 offices at same time. Yet Scott — who has declared himself the winner in race — has not turned in resignation letter

@SteveBousquet: Florida reports 3,688 mail ballots rejected so far in 45 counties, and 93 rejected provisional ballots. Figures from state Division of Elections. Sen. Bill Nelson, trailing Gov. Rick Scott by 12,562 votes in Senate race, wants these votes to count. The list came out in court.

@Daniel_Sweeney: .@BrowardVotes reports that machine recount will be completed early in the morning Thursday. Consensus among the lawyers and election observers in the room is an 11:30 a.m. over/under.

@MDixon55: Boy, would have been cool if we could have hammered out all these apparent “disenfranchising” laws, you know, before the election.


Florida Blue Florida Classic: FAMU vs. BCU — 3; Elections Canvassing Commission meets to certify official General Election results — 5; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 5; Thanksgiving — 7; Black Friday — 8; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 12; Partial government shutdown — 22; 2019 Session Interim Committee Meetings begin — 27; 116th Congress convenes — 49; Florida’s Inauguration Ceremony — 74; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 89; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 110; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 114; Iowa Caucuses — 445; 2020 General Election — 719.


Judge to decide on allowing late voter fixes for bad signature ballots” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — County election officials are largely winging it when they determine whether a signature on a mail or provisional ballot doesn’t match what’s on file for a given voter, an attorney for Bill Nelson‘s re-election campaign and Florida Democrats told a federal judge Wednesday. “There are defects inherent in the process,” attorney Uzoma Nkwonta said to Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, mentioning an absence of handwriting standards to guide county canvassing board members, who ultimately make the call on whether a signature doesn’t match. But Mohammad Jazil, who represents Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s chief elections officer, said Nelson’s solution was untenable: Lifting the state’s deadline to still allow voters to prove they are who they say they are. “If we start changing the rules midstream, it undermines” people’s faith in the electoral process, Jazil said. Walker did not rule from the bench at the end of the nearly five-hour hearing; he also did not give a timeline for his decision.

Florida’s midterm election recount continues making waves in Broward County … and federal court.

Ballot signature battle draws judge’s ire” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — “I’m being asked to rewrite the election code of the state of Florida, one piece at a time,” U.S. District Judge Walker groused during a five-hour hearing about the state’s process for handling mismatched signatures on mail-in and provisional ballots. Voters whose mail-in ballots come in after the deadline — or who cast provisional ballots on Election Day — aren’t afforded the same opportunity. And county canvassing boards, which decide whether ballots are legitimate, handle the mismatched signatures differently, lawyers for Nelson and the Democrats argued during the hearing. It was not immediately clear when Walker will rule on the ballot-signature issue … 45 of Florida’s 67 counties have rejected 3,668 ballots due to mismatched signatures, according to Maria Matthews, director of the state Division of Elections.

Federal judge considers more time for voters with rejected ballots” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — A federal judge likely will not toss the state’s policy on signatures used to validate mail-in and provisional ballots, but he was also uneasy about offering at least 4,000 people another month to defend votes rejected by county canvassing boards. Walker held short of ruling from the bench after a four-hour hearing in Tallahassee federal court. Lawyers for Nelson’s campaign and the Florida Democratic Party Executive Committee asked Walker to delay the state’s ongoing recount by a month to allow thousands of voters to plead cases before county canvassing boards. But lawyers for Scott believe the Legislature should address the state’s signature verification policy next year.

Judge schedules hearing on Caldwell’s challenge in tight Ag Commissioner race” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – A state judge has scheduled a hearing for Thursday on former Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell‘s lawsuit claiming possible illegal conduct in Broward County’s vote-counting process. Caldwell declared victory late on election night, but Democrat Nikki Fried took the lead two days later as votes in Broward and Palm Beach counties still were being counted. She leads in the unofficial results by 5,326 votes, or .06 percent, as a machine recount is continuing. Caldwell sued on Nov. 9 and filed an amended complaint on Nov. 11 alleging past misconduct by Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes.

Federal prosecutors reviewing altered election documents tied to Florida Democrats” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The Florida Department of State last week asked federal prosecutors to investigate dates that were changed on official state election documents, the first voting “irregularities” it has flagged in the wake of the 2018 elections. The concerns, which the department says can be tied to the Florida Democratic Party, center around date changes on forms used to fix vote-by-mail ballots sent with incorrect or missing information. Known as “cure affidavits,” those documents used to fix mail ballots were due no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 5 — the day before the election. But affidavits released on Tuesday by the DOS show that documents from four different counties said the ballots could be returned by 5 p.m. on Thursday, which is not accurate. DOS officials have repeatedly told the media that the monitors they sent to Broward County saw no election fraud. It wasn’t until Tuesday that the office revealed publicly that it had turned over information to federal prosecutors. The information was sent on Nov. 9 by Bradley McVay, DOS’ interim general counsel, who asked that the altered dates be investigated.

Marco Rubio dials down tone in official comment on Florida recount” via Florida Politics — “I’m not against the recount. A recount is mandated by law and should happen. The recount should happen, and every legal vote should be counted, but what we should not see happen here is that somehow lawyers are able to find federal judges that change Florida election law after the election, go in and basically order the state of Florida to ignore its own laws,” Rubio said. “You cannot change the rules of the game after the game in order to win, because that would be stealing an election and that would be unacceptable.” In terms of tone, however, Rubio shows a moderation in his official persona that he has not exhibited in media appearances, including television and social media.

Marco Rubio is toning down the rhetoric over Florida recount, just a bit.

Joe Henderson: Pam Bondi puts ‘bully’ back in bully pulpit” via Florida Politics — She basically has turned the job into a partisan political weapon with her demand for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate alleged and unspecified “voter fraud” in South Florida. Bondi said in a letter on Sunday she was “deeply troubled” by the “announcement” allegedly from FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen “that you will not pursue any investigation or inquiry into clearly documented irregularities in the conduct of election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties in the 2018 election.” Swearingen shot back that he was “deeply troubled” by Bondi’s letter because, he wrote, “I have made no such announcement.” The implication of Bondi’s original letter … Without saying it out loud, what she really meant is that buster, Scott better win this election, and it’s Swearingen’s fault if Nelson finds enough votes in the recount to change the result. That, folks, is what weaponizing the Attorney General office looks like. It is putting the “bully” in Bondi’s bully pulpit.

Tweet, tweet:


Last week she worked for a Democratic campaign. Now she’s applying at Costco.” via Molly Redden of HuffPost — The boom-and-bust nature of campaign life is part of what makes a career in politics so unsustainable for so many. At the end of each midterm election, up to 20,000 people suddenly lose their jobs. The luckiest staff members are hired as congressional aides or legislative assistants. Consultants return to their corporate and advocacy clients. And the rest scramble to figure out what’s next. No good data exist to measure the effect of these boom-and-bust cycles on the efficacy of campaigns themselves. Nearly everyone acknowledges that the job is not sustainable for the workers; it’s why campaign work is so often described as “a young person’s game.” But, over the course of the election, many campaign workers argued that the inability to retain people of talent and experience leads to weaker campaigns. People of color, who tend to lack the safety net of their white peers, say the lack of stability is also part of why campaigns are so homogenous.


Citizens avoids major hit in Michael” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Citizens had 3,189 claims as of Wednesday from the monster storm, and estimates that it will end up with $142 million in paid losses and expenses. Damage to mobile homes has accounted for more than half of Citizens’ claims. The Citizens claims and estimated losses are only a fraction of the overall tab for insurers after Michael. As of Friday, insurers had reported 119,160 claims from the storm with total estimated insured losses of $2.94 billion, according to the state Office of Insurance Regulation website. Claims numbers and estimated losses have steadily increased. As an example, they were at 115,423 claims and $2.6 billion in estimated losses as of Nov. 6. The Citizens numbers offer a rough glimpse, however, of how most homes in some of the counties sustained damage. Citizens had 378 personal-lines policies in Gulf County as of Sept. 30 and had 343 claims from the county. Similarly, Citizens had 257 personal-lines policies in Jackson County and had 216 claims. Citizens’ business is most heavily concentrated in South Florida and the Tampa Bay region.

Parkland shooter’s internet history riddled with searches about other mass shootings” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida — Nikolas Cruz researched countless mass shootings and weapons, frequented porn sites and read about homicidal urges before killing 17 people on Feb. 14, according to a presentation during a Parkland Commission meeting. Sprinkled throughout these troubling searches were inquiries typical for a teen boy, such as how to get a girlfriend or how to not be afraid of girls. At one point, Cruz searched for a therapist to cure his homicidal thoughts. “The only thing I can really get from it is he was obsessed with [committing a school shooting] and it was playing over and over in his head,” said commissioner Melissa Larkin-Skinner, a licensed mental health counselor. “Maybe some part of him wanted help.” Commissioners have until Jan. 1 to compile a report to Florida lawmakers that likely will shape school safety, mental health and other policies for next school year.

Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz’s internet browsing history was like any other teenager, with some notable exceptions.

Happening today — The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission continues a four-day meeting with topics including testimony by Broward County schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and possibly former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson, 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

Pam Bondi, prosecutor in ‘Stand Your Ground’ clash” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Bondi is seeking to block Miami-Dade County’s top prosecutor from getting involved in a Florida Supreme Court case and supporting arguments that a 2017 change to the “stand your ground” self-defense law is unconstitutional. Bondi’s office filed a document opposing a request by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to take a friend-of-the-court position in the case. Fernandez Rundle has asked the court for permission to “adopt” the position of the League of Prosecutors-Florida, which argues the controversial 2017 change is unconstitutional. The newly filed document said Bondi is Florida’s chief legal officer and that she — and not the state attorney — represents the state in such cases. It said granting Fernandez Rundle’s request would “serve no purpose other than to circumvent Florida law, which grants the attorney general, not the state attorney, the authority to speak for the state in its appellate courts.”

Happening today — The Capital Tiger Bay Club will discuss the 2018 elections, with panelists expected to include Republican strategist David Johnson, Democratic strategist Steve Schale and Brian Burgess, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Capitolist, 11:30 a.m., Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.


Matt Gaetz, Democratic ally back veterans’ marijuana bills” via Colin Young of the News Service of Florida — Gaetz joined with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts to prepare three bills that seek to learn more about how veterans use cannabis, to prepare better medical-marijuana education for providers and to protect the benefits of veterans who use marijuana. “Our veterans are seeking alternative options to opioids and we should be supporting their desires not to be addicted to painkillers. Let’s not kid ourselves, people are using marijuana — including our veterans,” Moulton said. “We have an obligation to regulate it and make it as safe as possible.” One bill, according to Moulton’s office, would amend and codify an existing VA policy to protect a veterans’ benefits if they discuss their medical use of marijuana with providers. Moulton’s office said: “not all health care providers respond in a standard way and veterans still fear and experience repercussions of some kind.”

Massachusetts Democrat Seth Moulton is teaming up with Matt Gaetz to back a veterans’  medical cannabis bill.

Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be on Capitol Hill to testify about his concerns over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s potential negative economic impact on Florida’s produce industry. Putnam will be before the U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, D.C.


The real Florida recount fraud” via The New York Times editorial board — In Florida, no one has offered evidence of widespread election fraud, and the recount is mandated by law and was ordered by the Florida secretary of state. Yet Scott said of Nelson, the three-term Democratic Senator he’s hoping to unseat, “Senator Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to try to win this election.” Sowing doubt in the integrity of the recount is part of a Republican strategy that involves lawyers and operatives on the ground, much like what happened in the 2000 election, and a preview of what’s likely to happen leading up to the 2020 election. For all the fact-free doomsaying about rigged elections, democracy did remarkably well last week. For that we do have evidence: National turnout was the highest ever for midterm contests in the modern era, states made the franchise more accessible for millions and gerrymandering took a hit at the ballot box.


Chris Hudson moves up to AFP national post” via Florida Politics — Hudson, state director for Americans For Prosperity-Florida, will now become AFP’s vice president of State Government Affairs. Hudson has been the group’s top Florida operative since 2014. Skylar Zander, AFP-FL’s deputy director and chief legislative architect will become interim state director. Hudson’s new role will be to drive national policy priorities “across the 36 states where AFP has had a permanent presence” according to a statement released Wednesday. Americans For Prosperity is the key political arm of the Koch Network; AFP-FL is its signature grassroots organization. “I’ve learned a lot over my four years with the Florida Chapter,” Hudson says. “I’m looking forward to sharing those lessons with our teams across the country to help drive significant policy victories that promote the principles of a free and open society by reducing barriers, so all Americans can achieve their highest potential.”

Movin’ on up: Chris Hudson takes on a new national role at AFP.

Personnel note: Hannah Kaplan Plante joins Step Up for Students — She’ll be the organization’s new Manager of Legislative Affairs. Kaplan Plante has over six years of legislative and political experience, both in the private sector and in government. She graduated Florida State University with a degree in Political Science and International Affairs, while working as an intern for Sen. Bill Montford’s re-election. She continued to work in his Senate office as an executive assistant. She later got her master’s degree in Applied American Politics and Policy at FSU. Kaplan Plante worked for the Farm to School Program at the Florida Department of Agriculture before moving to the Florida Chamber of Commerce. There, she worked on both the political team and governmental affairs team. Most recently, she was a member of the governmental affairs team, working on a variety of issues including education.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Keith Arnold, Brett Bacot, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Bruno Home Performance, PCE Systems, The Simmons Group Consulting,

Kaitlyn Bailey, Edward Briggs, Kaitlyn Gardner, Natalie King, Ronald Pierce, RSA Consulting Group: Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA), United Way Suncoast

Megan Fay, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Jeff Greene, Jeff Greene & Associates: Green Roads West

Hannah Plante: Step Up for Students

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA)

— ALOE —

Disney parks chief talks Guardians coaster, Skyliner gondolas at IAAPA” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Bob Chapek, the head of Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products division, made several announcements about upcoming additions to Walt Disney World at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo. Chapek emphasized how Disney parks are challenging their own rules to avoid becoming complacent, including on ride technology. The Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster currently under construction at Epcot was cited as one example, with Chapek calling it a “storytelling coaster,” where the ride vehicles will not always face forward but instead focus on action happening around the track. “You’ll be fully immersed in the story from the minute you launch,” Chapek said. The other announcement was narrowing the opening window for the Disney Skyliner system. Now set to open in fall 2019, this gondola system will offer guests at four Disney hotels (Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation, Pop Century and the under-construction Riviera) another transportation option to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. “Riding the Disney Skyliner will offer guests a whole new way to experience Walt Disney World with unique vistas only available from the sky,” Chapek said. “You’ll definitely want to have your cameras out.”

Grab your cameras: The Disney Skyline promises spectacular views of Epcot.

Legoland Florida shares more news about new rides coming this spring” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — It was a closer look into the 7-year-old theme park’s plans for the expansion, which officials have said represents Legoland Florida’s biggest investment since its debut. The announcement, which also included confirmation of a previously revealed on-site hotel, came at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions show being held in Orlando. Lego Movie World will feature three major rides: Unikitty’s Disco Drop, Masters of Flight and Battle of Bricksburg. The Disco Drop is a swift drop tower based upon the ruler of the fictitious Lego kingdom that elevates passengers before jolting them with a swift drop, spins and other movements. Battle of Bricksburg is a water ride that where riders will protect the Lego world from alien invaders using water cannons. Masters of Flight will place riders in a triple-decker couch as it soars through scenes based on The Lego Movie’s world. “We are lucky to have a strong intellectual property,” said Keith Carr, project director for Merlin Magic Making. “It helps us as we create the storylines.”

Happy birthday to Wayne BertschTrimmel Gomes, the Chairman Evan PowerRodney Barreto (who I should have named a winner in my post-election list of Winners and Losers for all the money he raised for the Ron DeSantis campaign), and Max Steele.

Personnel note: Jose Oliva names Carol Gormley as chief of staff

Carol Gormley, a veteran legislative staffer, will be chief of staff to incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva, according to an email sent to members by the Speaker’s Office on Wednesday.

Gormley is a highly-regarded health care policy expert who has worked for both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

She’s not a household name outside of Tallahassee, but Gormley is regarded as one of the most influential legislative bureaucrats in the Capitol.

As a House staff director, she has played an influential role in health issues such as Medicaid.

In 2012, she jumped to the Senate to be a senior policy advisor to then-Senate President Don Gaetz. More recently, she was a senior policy staffer to immediate past House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The news upends conventional wisdom that Jason Rojas had been on track to be Oliva’s chief of staff when the Miami Lakes Republican takes over as Speaker for 2018-20.

Rojas, who also has been a House staff director, moved to the Republican Party of Florida last year to serve in a policy development role that was considered a stepping stone to the Speaker’s Office.

Last Call for 11.14.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

As of Last Call’s deadline, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker was still questioning attorneys in Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s lawsuit on ballots with mismatched signatures.

Nelson and the Democratic Executive Committee Of Florida want the deadline extended so voters have more time to fix invalidated provisional and mail-in ballots by proving they voted.

The Democrats’ attorneys are seeking a court order from Walker, telling the state to then accept those late ballots that are “cured.”

A Wednesday hearing expected to last two hours was at four hours and counting by late afternoon, with an increasingly cantankerous Walker throwing off a series of bon mots.

He first corrected his earlier comparison to election-related lawsuits increasing like Tribbles, a reference to an episode of the original “Star Trek” in which small alien creatures reproduce like rabbits.

“I should have said the lawyers are multiplying like Tribbles,” he said.

Later, he got testy when one lawyer tried to make a point that fatigue in election officials results in errors being made: “I can assure you the most tired person in the room is me, let’s move on.”

He referred to parts of Florida election law reminding him of his grandfather’s expression, “like hunting squirrels with a bazooka.”

And after a suggestion that signatures made electronically are the same as those made with pen on paper, he threw up his hands: “I feel like my head’s being shoved into a cow patty.”

Evening Reads

‘Stop lying’ about Florida recounts, Democrats warn Donald Trump” via David Smith of The Guardian

Federal prosecutors reviewing altered election documents tied to Florida Democrats” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Bill Nelson needs ‘royal flush’ in court cases, but will likely come up short” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Rick Scott to recuse himself from certifying results” via Gray Rohrer and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

Nelson sues over Florida hurricane victims fax, email voting” via Samantha Gross of the Times/Herald

Marco Rubio dials down tone in official comment on Florida recount” via Florida Politics

Third-party gubernatorial candidate rejects ‘spoiler’ argument” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Judge Mark Walker is at the center of Florida recount legal fight” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald

Brenda Snipes says invalid ballots ‘were never counted,’ contradicting her attorney” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald

Palm Beach County ‘in prayer mode’ to finish Senate recount by state deadline” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald

What happens if elections chiefs can’t make recount deadline? State says keep counting.” via Jenny Staletovich of the Tampa Bay Times

How the Collective PAC almost brought it home for Andrew Gillum” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

David Simmons selected Senate President Pro Tempore” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Chris Hudson moves up to AFP national post” via Florida Politics

More than 30 people didn’t report disturbing behavior by Nikolas Cruz before Parkland massacre” via David Fleshler and Brittany Wallman of the Sun-Sentinel

Quote of the Day

Andrew Gillum got more votes than any other Democrat in statewide history … Presidential-level support. The Democrats did all we think they could’ve done.” — Quentin James, founder of Collective PAC, dedicated to getting African-Americans elected.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

Florida Internet & Television (FiTV) will hold its second annual 2018 Florida Internet & Television Conference, known as “FITConFL.” That’s at 8 a.m., Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, 14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will continue a four-day meeting in Broward County. That’s at 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

The Florida Defense Support Task Force, which works on issues related to military bases in the state, will meet in Brevard County. That’s at 9 a.m., Courtyard by Marriott Cocoa Beach, 3435 North Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach.

The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Retirement Plan Committee will hold a conference call at 10 a.m. Call-in number: 1-866-574-0995. Code: 833028115.

The Florida Supreme Court is expected to release its regular weekly opinions at 11 a.m.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, will take part in an event in which the Fraternal Order of Police and the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation will dedicate 53 automated external defibrillators to local police departments. That’s at 11 a.m., Fraternal Order of Police lodge, 5530 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville.

Capital Tiger Bay Club will host a discussion about the 2018 elections, with panelists expected to include Republican strategist David Johnson, Democratic strategist Steve Schale and Brian Burgess, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Capitolist. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.

County elections officials face a 3 p.m. deadline to submit results of machine recounts from the Nov. 6 general election. Those recounts would be required in races where candidates were separated by 0.5 percent or less in preliminary returns.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be on Capitol Hill to testify about his concerns over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s potential negative economic impact on Florida’s produce industry. That’s at the U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, D.C.

It’s time for the Democratic Donor Alliance to show Stephen Bittel the door

It has been a year since former Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel resigned his post due to allegations over bizarre sexual behavior.

With a half-dozen FDP employees and consultants describing him as misogynistic and demeaning and sharing sordid stories about him having fake breasts on his desk and asking employees about their sexual proclivities. The scene was ugly, and it came during the peak of the still-roaring #MeToo movement.

The creep show that is Stephen Bittel is still roaring, too.

As reported by the Miami New Times, a new complaint filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleges the real estate billionaire sexually harassed a female employee by describing his sexual partners’ pubic hair and his pornography preferences, offering to take her on a lingerie shopping spree.

To top it all off, there was some unwelcome touching: He grabbed and fondled her feet on his private jet.

Filing the disturbing 27-page lawsuit is 34-year-old Andrea Molina, who worked for five years as director of acquisitions for Bittel’s real estate firm, Terranova. Combined with the FDP staffers who came forward last year, seven people have accused Bittel of misogynistic and demeaning behavior.

To be clear, Stephen Bittel has the right to his day in court. He has a right to be heard and, if falsely accused, the right to public vindication.

But when there’s this much smoke — and there’s about as much smoke here as there is in Southern California right now — it is a fair presumption that there’s at least a little fire.

With that, how can an organization with such a political and (now) public face as the Donor Alliance continue to allow Bittel to be a leading part of its team?

How can these good people — and this is not the place to name names — continue to affiliate and associate with a man who was so publicly ousted from the Chair of his own party and is now facing more ugly accusations?

With his name and his money being associated with several related political committees, nobody can easily claim he is not part of that group.

This is the post-Harvey Weinstein era. The post-Bill Cosby era. The post-Kevin Spacey era. The post-Louis CK era. If 2017 could be boiled down to two words: “Time’s Up.”

And when it comes to the Democratic Donor Alliance’s relationship with Bittel, there’s only one move. Tell him his time is up and to not let the door hit ‘ im on the way out.

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