Peter Schorsch – 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 — 7.17.18

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

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

Before news of Brett Kavanaugh‘s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Americans for Prosperity reportedly “prepared to commit seven-figures to support a nominee in the mold of Neil Gorsuch.”

And with news this morning that AFP is launching a multimillion-dollar campaign to encourage the U.S. Senate confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh, it appears the Koch-backed group wasn’t lying.

As part of a robust digital and direct mail effort in Florida, AFP-FL is committing at least six figures of that seven-figure national sum to call on voters to contact U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and tell him to vote in favor of President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court pick.

Among the campaign collateral: a new thirty-second digital ad, a website and mailers. Direct mail pieces will be sent to voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Dakota — all of which are states where President Donald Trump won in 2016 and have at least one sitting Democratic Senator.

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is renowned for his demonstrated commitment to defending the Constitution and interpreting the law as written,” AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson said. “President Trump succeeded in nominating a jurist who exercises judicial restraint and doesn’t legislate from the bench, and that is exactly why Senator Nelson should confirm this nominee to replace Justice [AnthonyKennedy.”

Watch the digital ad, a first in Sunburn exclusive, here.

 

Pardon us, while we attend to some housekeeping …

Jacob Ogles joins Extensive Enterprises Media — Ogles will be covering breaking news over the weekend. Most recently, he covered the big boost that Rick Scott’s Victory Fund got from oil, sports, and prison moguls. He also wrote about U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio filing a bill to woo Canadian snowbirds for longer visitsCampaigns should contact him as news breaks on Saturdays and Sundays, and to update us about canvassing, weekend rallies, and the like. Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

Peter Schorsch appears on ‘The Rotunda’ podcast, FiTV’s ‘Mid-Summer Primary Election Update’ — The Florida Politics publisher talks with The Rotunda’s Trimmel Gomes to share his predictions on the campaign trail, including a likely win for Gov. Scott against Sen. Nelson’s re-election efforts. “Also, is the race for Governor over for Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam? As the dark cloud from the Russia investigation continues to grow, would President Trump’s endorsement still give Rep. Ron DeSantis a boost? Schorsch also combs through the field of Democrats for the best contender.” Also, Peter sits down with Brad Swanson of Florida Internet and Television “to give a midsummer update on primary season. Hear what candidates he believes can go the distance, the Trump effect on Florida politics, and much more.”

Here are a couple of recent Schorsch hot takes:

—”Jim Waldman’s campaign is so bad, I’m rooting for Gary Farmer

—”HD 115 hopeful Jose Fernandez may not be best for GOP, trial lawyers

—”The unwanted return of Jeff Ashton

Also, a top-of-Sunburn birthday shout-out to one of the true class acts in Florida politics: Our friend, Robert Watkins, who along with his wife Nancy, is one of the true power couples. Robert’s stewardship as a member of the board overseeing Tampa International Airport is part of the reason why @FlyTPA is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best. Happy birthday, Robert.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@VP: Our @POTUS is now on his way home from a historic trip to Europe. And the truth is, over the last week, the world saw once again that President Trump stands without apology as the leader of the free world.

—@SenBillNelson: The president’s refusal to acknowledge that Putin interfered in our elections should alarm us all. Putin is a threat to our democracy and our upcoming election, that’s a fact. The president’s unwillingness to stand up to him and defend our nation is unacceptable and embarrassing.

@CarlosCurbelo: Do not apologize for our country. Past presidents have tried that, and it does not go over well with most Americans including this one.

@JoeGruters: I fully trust that our President @realDonaldTrump knows exactly what he was doing and that it is all part of America’s and his larger plan.

@DanRather: No American president has ever appeared as a supplicant to a hostile foreign power who attacked us (an attack that the intelligence community says is ongoing). Until now.

—@HoarseWhisperer: I’m old enough to remember when Republicans banned the Dixie Chicks for criticizing America while overseas.

@Fineout: Story about ongoing beach access fight going on in Fla. Panhandle in wake of new Fla law. Daily News reporter quotes Louisiana tourist who says they will never visit Walton County again after deputies asked them to move from their spot on the beach

@Scott_Maxwell: The company just asked us to update our “emergency contacts” in case we’re ever gunned down in the newsroom. Happy Monday!

— TWEET OF THE DAY —

 

— DAYS UNTIL —

Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 1; Florida Chamber Global Florida Webinar — 7; MAKE MORE Manufacturing Summit — 14; Deadline for filing claim bills — 17; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in West Palm Beach — 16; Florida’s back to school sales tax holiday begins — 17; Republican gubernatorial debate in Jacksonville — 22; School begins in the first 19 Florida districts — 24; Start of the U.S. Open — 41; Primary Election Day — 42; NFL season starts — 42; College Football opening weekend — 44; Labor Day — 48; Future of Florida Forum — 71; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 108; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 99; General Election Day — 112; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 133; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 210; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 231; 2020 General Election — 840.

— TOP STORY —

Lawmakers call Donald Trump’s performance at news conference with Vladimir Putin ‘bizarre,’ ‘shameful’” via Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered a strongly worded statement, saying there’s “no question” that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and noting that U.S. intelligence agencies and a House panel agreed. “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Ryan said, in what was, for the mild-mannered speaker, akin to a reprimand. Ryan said Russia “remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.” Other high-profile Republicans also expressed dismay. “I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. “This is shameful.”

Even Republicans are calling the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin news conference ‘bizarre.’

Vladimir Putin must think people in Florida are dumb” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Remember that Russian simulation showing missiles raining down on Florida? Despite a very clear view of Florida, Russian President Putin today denied it was even Florida. “There was not a caption saying Florida. They could — take a more careful look at it. There was never a caption, ‘Florida,’ ” Putin told Chris Wallace of Fox News. “No, but you can see it on the map,” Wallace replied. “It was flying over the eastern coast of — no, no, no, it couldn’t be seen on the map,” Putin said. “Just take a closer look, and don’t try to scare your population with make-believe threats. And now — I’m pretty sure I can give you as a present this footage.”

— “Florida lawmakers blast Trump for not calling out Putin” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Nelson wants to put the ‘freeze’ on Russia” via Florida Politics — Nelson is calling on Congress “to enact additional economic sanctions on Russia for their interference in the 2016 elections, and even suggested freezing the bank accounts of some of Russia’s most senior leaders,” according to a Monday news release. Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement: “I hope that we are going to insist that the White House enforce all of the economic sanctions that the Congress has already pushed through that the White House has been very slow to enact. And I hope this Congress is also going to enact more economic sanctions and get it to where it will really start causing a crimp in the step of the Russian leaders,” added Nelson, who faces a re-election challenge from term-limited Republican Gov. Scott. “Why not start freezing the bank accounts of some of the highest leaders?”

NFIB backs Scott over Nelson” via the Sunshine State News — National Federation of Independent Business President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan announced the NFIB FedPAC’s endorsement at a media event in St. Petersburg: “Gov. Scott has been a true champion for small business during his time as Florida’s governor, and we believe he will continue to deliver for small business in the U.S. Senate … Gov. Scott has a tremendous record of cutting taxes for small business, saving Florida businesses more than $7 billion over the last seven years … We believe Gov. Scott will be a great U.S. Senator, and we look forward to witnessing his continued work on behalf of small businesses in Florida and beyond.”

In the ‘mix’: Gov. Rick Scott joined small business leaders at Dairy Mix in St. Pete to announce the National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) endorsement of his campaign for U.S. Senate.

First in Sunburn — Scott blasted for ‘shadowy, dark money’ link to NRA — Last week, POLITICO Magazine posted a deep-dive expose of OnMessage, the prominent Washington D.C.-based Republican media shop, and how it is “almost undisguisable” from Starboard Strategic, an unknown firm with nearly no presence, but one significant client — the National Rifle Association. “Well-established and well-connected, OnMessage is as transparent as Starboard is opaque,” writes POLITICO’s Mike Spies. “What the Federal Election Commission and the public do not know is that the two entities appear to be functionally one and the same.” According to a former employee, the NRA tapped Starboard to perform pro-Scott work for his Senate bid. “Scott’s chief political adviser is Curt Anderson, a partner at both OnMessage and Starboard, and Scott’s Senate campaign has signed up OnMessage as a contractor.” This questionable link between the two firms and its connection to Scott and the NRA has raised the ire of several Florida Democrats, including Congressman Ted Deutch and state Reps. Shevrin Jones and Carlos Guillermo Smith. “America’s campaign finance laws are a mess,” Deutch says. “The bar for ethical and legal conduct is laughably low, and yet, it looks like Rick Scott may have been one of several Republicans who found a way to sneak under that low bar. What’s worse is that this shady politicking is funded with gun lobby money.” Jones blasts the report as describing “potentially unlawful coordination between the NRA and Rick Scott … Scott was once again taking care of his donors and benefactors, rather than Floridians.” Smith adds: “Rick Scott let 612 days between Pulse and Parkland pass without any attempt to address gun violence. Scott has always been the NRA’s darling, but this reporting shows just how deep in bed he continues to be with the group. Yet, this is typical Rick Scott.”

Democrats fret as Scott’s cash haul comes into full view” via Matt Dixon a politico Florida — “He’s putting up the type of numbers that can tilt the whole playing field,” said state Rep. Evan Jenne, a Democrat from deep blue Broward County. Scott has a deluge of cash support from his official campaign and from outside groups that are helping fund it. The surge to Scott’s campaign, as documented in new campaign finance reports, puts stress on national Democrats eager to knock him off. Groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are fighting Senate battles in swing states across the country but will need to keep serious resources in Florida to help counter Scott’s spending. Scott’s official campaign alone raised $10.7 million, a massive quarterly haul, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. Leading the way for Scott was Ken Griffin, who heads Chicago-based global equity firm Citadel and is worth an estimated $8 billion. He leads the national finance team for New Republican, but also kicked in $5 million in personal money to the super PAC, its largest contribution.

Scott on his wealth: ‘I don’t know how they invested the dollars’” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — “I put all my assets in a blind trust. So I don’t know how they invested the dollars,” Scott told reporters in St. Petersburg. It was Scott’s first public comment on the issue since the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported on a windfall of up to $550 million from a single transaction, the sale of a Michigan plastics company. “I might have been the only person that did that, and I did that because I don’t want to have any conflicts,” Scott said. A reporter asked Scott if he’s “a bit out of touch” when his bottom line grew by an estimated $82 million in a single year. His reply: “Let’s look at my background. I never knew my Dad. I lived in public housing growing up. I had a wonderful mom who worked hard to make sure I could prosper. She said, ‘I want you to do well in school, I want you to be an Eagle Scout.’ She made sure I went to church a lot, and she told me I had to get out of the house to make any money.”

Happening today — The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a dispute about whether Gov. Scott has properly complied with the state’s financial disclosure requirements. Tallahassee attorney Donald Hinkle filed a lawsuit last year alleging that Scott has not adhered to the state’s “Sunshine Amendment,” which requires elected officials to disclose details of their personal finances. Arguments begin 9 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will join small business leaders for an announcement, 9:30 a.m., Restaurant Equipment World, 2413 N. Forsyth Road, Orlando.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Poll shows Trump endorsement gives Ron DeSantis an edge in Florida governor’s race” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – DeSantis has opened up a 12-point lead in Florida’s Republican race for governor, according to a new independent poll that indicates Trump is the key to his success. … Among those likely voters who have a history of going to the polls, DeSantis’ lead is even bigger: 47 percent to 30 percent.

Putnam ad blasts Ron DeSantis on Social Security, Medicare” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Putnam’s ad attempts to divide DeSantis from his main endorser — someone very popular among Republican seniors — President Trump. “Congressman DeSantis voted to cut Social Security and Medicare … That’s not what Trump wants,” Vernon Elarth of Sun City Center states in the ad. The 30-second spot, “Seniors First,” is the first ad Agriculture Commissioner Putnam launched directly attacking DeSantis (or even acknowledging him). It comes as the most recent polls show DeSantis surging dramatically in popularity since their nationally-televised debate in Orlando. In the retirement-rich Sunshine State, Putnam’s campaign is pouncing, citing three recent DeSantis budget votes, contending each could have cut Medicare or Social Security. In fact, all three measures failed.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

 

Florida Home Builders PAC endorses Putnam — The political action committee, which seeks to “ensure a favorable environment for the home building industry,” endorsed the Republican Putnam on Monday. Florida Home Builders Association (FHBA) President Greg Matovina said ‘it is not often when we can identify someone who understands how to balance the necessary ingredients of less regulation, a dynamic workforce, storm resiliency, a sound environment, fraud enforcement and affordability. The FHB PAC did an excellent job in their selection of candidates who demonstrate not only an understanding of critical issues to the industry but also the ability to effectuate public policy toward the fulfillment of that favorable environment.” In a statement, Putnam said he’s committed to Florida having “the skilled workforce and labor that can meet the rising demand as we develop and build in our state. That’s why my number one priority as Governor will be to strengthen workforce training … putting vocational, career and technical education back into middle schools and high schools.'”

DeSantis camp claims offer to bring Donald Trump Jr. to The Villages was turned down” via the Villages-News.com —  DeSantis won’t be at The Villages Republican Club’s meeting Wednesday to debate rival Putnam. But the Congressman would have brought Trump Jr. if “the leadership” of The Villages Republican Club had agreed to it … “We were offered a debate/forum on that date at The Villages, to which we responded that the Republican Party of Florida sanctions all debates and that we were unavailable because we were planning an event with the president’s son,” Press Secretary David Vasquez said. “The real story here is that The Villages turned down an event with the president’s son — which will now be held in Orlando.”

Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum will tour Orlando International Airport with SEIU 32BJ workers to learn more about their working conditions, wages and benefits, 2:15 p.m., Orlando International Airport, Terminal B, Door 12 (Departures Level by American Airlines, curbside check-in). Later, Gillum will make a major announcement, 5 p.m., 1001 N. Orange Avenue, Orlando.

Gwen Graham is endorsed by Alex Sink” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times – Graham is now counting among her supporters the last Democrat elected to Florida’s Cabinet, former CFO Alex Sink — a name that still haunts some Democrats. “It’s an honor to have Alex Sink’s support,” Graham said in a statement Tuesday. “She has been a trailblazer for Florida women in business and public service — and I wish I were running today to serve as Florida’s second woman governor.” Sink served as the state’s chief financial officer from 2007 to 2011, the last Democrat to win a seat on the Florida cabinet. But it’s her failed campaign for governor that still frustrates some in the party.

Gwen Graham launches first ads in Jacksonville, West Palm Beach markets — Graham is expanding TV advertising beyond the I-4 corridor, where she’s been up with a heavy presence. The new ad, “Lessons,” introduces Graham as a mother, former PTA president, congresswoman and daughter of popular former Governor and Senator Bob Graham. Like previous ads, the new spot contrasts 20 years of Republican rule with Graham’s progressive priorities of restoring public schools and expanding health care. “Everything I do is through the prism of being a mom,” Graham says in the ad. “The Florida Legislature have not taken Medicaid expansion. They have hurt education. They have used the lottery to reduce funding — but we’re gonna take it back.” Among the four markets, Graham will have spent $3.85 million by the end of this week far less than self-funders Jeff Greene ($7.6 million) and Philip Levine (more than $15.6 million) — but recent public polling shows Graham within the margin of error for leading the primary.

To watch the new ad, click on the image below:

— “Philip Levine talks I-4 expansion, Visit Florida, courts” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Happening Wednesday:

Frank White declines interview with Tampa Bay Times editorial board” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — In a letter addressed to Tampa Bay Times editor of editorials Tim NickensWhite makes it clear that he believes the opinion branch of the newspaper is one-sided and unfair to conservatives. “While I appreciate your invitation to sit before the Times Editorial Board to have my conservative views mocked and ridiculed, I respectfully decline,” the letter reads. “Just as I would not seek an endorsement from Emily’s List or the ACLU, I do not wish to receive yours.”

Assignment editors — Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Denise Grimsley will speak at the Republican Club of West Volusia’s monthly meeting, 11:30 a.m., Fans Central Station, 614 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand.

Amendment 13 backers join legal forces — The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), “the nation’s pre-eminent legal advocacy organization for animals,” said it had endorsed the friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Animal Law Section of The Florida Bar. “The voters of Florida are entitled to make the decision on whether or not to ban dog racing,” ALDF executive director Stephen Wells said in a statement. “The Florida Greyhound Association filed this litigation in a desperate move to ensure that the will of the voters is not heard.” Amendment 13, put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), aims at ending commercial dog racing in the state. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks. The proposal needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution. The ALDF also is trying to get a Florida Orca Protection Act introduced as legislation in 2019. The bill would ban the use of orca whales in theatrical performances in the state.

Committee To Support Greyhounds announces digital billboard campaign — The committee, dedicated to “preserving the tradition of Florida greyhound racing and educating Florida voters on these amazing canine athletes,” on Monday announced a digital billboard campaign called “Meet The Athletes.” The billboards are “currently located around Florida to allow voters to have a chance to ‘meet’ the hounds,” the committee said. “Each featured greyhound is a current racer whom voters can see run and race at greyhound tracks around the state.” … Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Newcome said in a statement: “As we have done from the beginning, we invite all of the public and reporters to please come to a track and see these amazing dogs in person. Watch them do what they love to do — run and race, and possibly meet a greyhound up close and personal. You will see they are truly ‘America’s Best Kept Dogs.’ ” The billboards and the latest digital ad titled “Unlucky 13” are here.

Gus Bilirakis sends out news release inflating amount of local fundraising support” via Tracy McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Between April and June, Bilirakis raised $355,000 for his re-election bid, “almost 90 percent of which came from Floridians,” claimed the campaign statement titled “Local Support Flowing for Bilirakis.” There is one problem: The accomplishment is utterly inflated. A review of Bilirakis’ finances shows that of the $355,000 raised in the second quarter, only 62 percent even came from individuals. The rest came from political committees, almost all out of state. When asked about the discrepancy, campaign manager Towson Fraser said he “made a mistake during the editing process.” Fraser, a longtime lobbyist, clarified he should have said about 90 percent of individual contributions, not total money raised, came from Floridians. But even that is unclear.

Mario Diaz-Balart brings in over $500k in contributions” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Incumbent U.S. Rep. Diaz-Balart closed out his second quarter of fundraising by taking in just over $507,000, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. In total, the Republican’s campaign maintains more than $1.6 million still on hand. That’s more than quadruple the amount reported by his Democratic opponent, Mary Barzee Flores, who has just under $400,000 on hand. Expect that gap to close, however, as Barzee Flores’ totals have not yet been updated with her second quarter fundraising numbers. Barzee Flores is the only candidate in either party who filed to run against Diaz-Balart in Florida’s 25th Congressional District.

Shady oligarch’s firm paid Dem candidate’s husband $700,000” via Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast — There’s another apparent connection between Ukrainian oligarch named Ihor Kolomoisky in American politics. A number of businesses linked to the oligarch have hired the attorney Robert Powell, the husband of Democratic House of Representatives candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Just one of those firms paid Powell at least $700,000 over two years, according to public records. Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who focuses on Russia and Ukraine, said the link is concerning, citing accusations that Kolomoisky has been involved in billion-dollar criminal schemes and contract killings. He called the ties “highly suspicious.”

Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.

David Richardson embarking on two-day tour of Cuba” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Rep. David Richardson kicked off a two-day listening tour in Cuba’s capital today as he continues to campaign in the race for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The Richardson campaign says the focus of the Havana tour is “to learn more about economic and societal developments in the wake of changes in U.S. relations with Cuba.” Richardson currently represents House District 113, which includes Miami-Dade County’s Little Havana. CD 27 also covers Miami Beach and Kendall. “A half-century of isolation did not achieve progress for the everyday Cuban, so I fully support a position of engagement with Cuban civil society,” said Richardson of his overall vision on U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Dana Young lands firefighter support in SD 18” via Florida Politics — The Florida Professional Firefighters and Tampa Firefighters Local 754 are the latest first responder groups to endorse Young, who had previously earned the support of several other first responder groups, including five police unions. “The 25,000 men and women of the Florida Professional Firefighters and Paramedics are proud to endorse Senator Dana Young for re-election,” said Rocco Salvatori, vice president of the Florida Professional Firefighters. “She stands up for Firefighters in the Florida Senate, and we proudly stand with her.” “We as representatives of Tampa Firefighters, Local 754, take great pleasure in endorsing your candidacy for 2018 Florida State Senate, District 18,” said Tampa Firefighters President Stephen Suarez and secretary Ken Huff in a joint statement.

FMA endorses Daphne Campbell for re-election — The Florida Medical Association PAC is endorsing Democrat state Sen. Campbell in her bid for another term in Senate District 38. FMA PAC President, Dr. Mike Patete said in a statement: “The FMA PAC happily endorses Sen. Daphne Campbell for re-election. As a member of the health care team, Sen. Campbell has a deep understanding of the issues that affect the physician community. We hope to continue working with her as we strive to make Florida the best state to practice medicine.” Campbell is facing former prosecutor Jason Pizzo in the Democratic primary for the seat covering parts of Miami-Dade County.

Florida Medical Association PAC endorses Robert Asencio” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Incumbent state Rep. Robert Asencio earned another boost in his re-election bid, pulling in support from the Florida Medical Association PAC. The group serves as the political arm of the Florida Medical Association, which advocates on behalf of the state’s medical and osteopathic physicians. “The FMA PAC proudly endorses Rep. Robert Asencio for re-election,” said Dr. Mike Patete, the group’s president. “As a member of a key health care committee in the House, we have gotten to know Rep. Asencio and worked together with him on important legislation. We hope to continue this collaboration next session.” Asencio, a Miami Democrat, represents House District 118, which covers a portion of Miami-Dade County including Tamiami and Kendall. He is on the Health Quality Subcommittee, among others.

Meanwhile … “Judge weighs campus early voting sites” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Florida elections officials were wrong to block on-campus early voting sites in Gainesville and Tallahassee, lawyers for the League of Women Voters of Florida told a federal judge. But attorneys representing the state argued there was no indication that college students — or anyone else — would have voting rights abridged due to an advisory opinion under scrutiny in the federal lawsuit filed this year by the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker gave no indication how he would rule after hearing nearly three hours of arguments in the case, which involves the state’s position about early voting locations at the University of Florida and Florida State University.

— OWNING EVERYONE IN BUZZFEED —

Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia is simultaneously an enemy of the left and his own party’s establishment, but that hasn’t held him or the state’s GOP back.

A new BuzzFeed feature story depicts Ingoglia as an agent of outrage, walking readers through his controversial Sunshine Summit guests and providing contextualization to his bumpy rise to power over RPOF.

Blaise Ingoglia, ‘agent of outrage.’

Writer Henry J. Gomez describes Ingoglia’s rule as a Trumpian microcosm. “Under Ingoglia, the Republican Party of Florida — historically a lever of the establishment machine and controlled by governors like Scott and Jeb Bush — has turned into a kind of rogue outfit more suited to the antagonistic politics of the moment.”

D’Souza: Inviting Dinesh D’Souza caused controversy, but the ensuing criticism only fueled Ingoglia. “He said he hadn’t known about D’Souza’s tweets before the invitation. Besides, he thought, D’Souza had apologized. And if that wasn’t good enough for the politically correct liberals, then all the better.”

Scott’s no-show: Ingoglia dismissed the Governor’s absence as a decision Scott made to dedicate more time to campaigning. Gomez recalls Ingoglia’s defeat over Scott’s hand-picked RPOF chair which was followed by Scott and Florida’s Senate Republicans withdrawing “their political operations and money from party headquarters in Tallahassee.”

What’s next: Whether Ingoglia seeks reelection in January depends on the upcoming election and Trump’s plans. “If the new governor wanted me to stay, and if the president asked me to stay to shepherd the party through his election,” Ingoglia told Gomez, “then it’s a different conversation.”

— STATEWIDE —

Ex-supervisor in Putnam’s gun-license unit warned of ‘gross misconduct,’ sued and got $30,000 settlement” via Steve Bousquet and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — In a whistleblower lawsuit filed in a Leon County circuit court, the former chief of the Bureau of License Issuance, Xenia Bailey, said she was threatened with retaliation for saying workers were deficient in processing licensing applications, and that her bosses told her she “worked for the NRA (National Rifle Association).” The agency denied most of Bailey’s allegations in court filings. But in a settlement signed in 2016, the agency agreed to pay $30,000, without admitting wrongdoing, including a $10,000 lump sum payment to Bailey and $20,000 for her attorney’s fees and costs. The agency’s elected leader, Putnam, announced his bid for governor six months after settling.

Adam Putnam’s gun-licensing unit had issues right up to his campaign launch for Governor.

Court to move forward with ‘Jane Doe’ issuing gun case” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A federal appeals court cleared the way for considering a dispute about whether two teens can remain anonymous in a challenge to a new Florida law that raised the minimum age to buy rifles and other long guns. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a two-page document that said it “appears that this court has jurisdiction to consider this appeal,” though it said a final determination on that jurisdiction would be made later by a panel of judges who will hear the anonymity issue. The appeal stems from a ruling in May by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that a 19-year-old Alachua County woman, identified as “Jane Doe,” could not remain anonymous as a plaintiff in a National Rifle Association challenge to the gun law.

Native American farmer suing state over marijuana licenses” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A Destin lawyer has sued the Department of Health, saying a medical marijuana license preference for black farmers should include “Native American farmers and ranchers.” Donivon Craig Tingle filed suit in Okaloosa County Circuit Civil court last month. The suit was disclosed in a departmental “legal updates” email on Friday — the same day officials said they also will begin the process of issuing four more provider licenses now that the number of “qualified, active patients” is over 100,000 … Tingle’s not just an attorney; he says he too is a Native American farmer and was a plaintiff in another lawsuit that charged the federal government with discrimination in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Loan Program.

Media seek Florida school shooting suspect’s statement” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — Media organizations asked a judge to order public release of much of Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz’s statement to investigators after the Valentine’s Day massacre that killed 17 people. Attorneys for The Associated Press and other media outlets asked Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to allow disclosure of the statement under public records law. Attorneys for the 19-year-old Cruz wanted the entire statement suppressed, contending it would improperly influence jurors in his trial. The judge did not immediately rule. Media lawyer Dana McElroy said the only portions that should be suppressed are any comments that appear to be a substantive confession, but not the entire statement. She said Florida’s broad public records law requires that much of it be disclosed even in high-profile cases such as this.

Customary use battle reaches boiling point in Walton County” via Annie Blanks of the Northwest Florida Daily News – The Turgeon family from New Orleans was sitting on the beach on a hot Tuesday morning watching their young children play in the sand, when they were approached by a Walton County sheriff’s deputy. The Turgeon family, who said they were confused about signage and were unaware of where the “public” beach met the “private,” was one of many caught in the crosshairs of the new customary use law that went into effect July 1. Walton County became the hotbed for customary use discussions in the state of Florida in 2016, when commissioners approved an ordinance based on the customary use concept that beach areas have been publicly accessed for as long as humanity has been around, and should therefore remain open to visitors without interference. Two weeks ago, the State Attorney’s Office said it would be unfair to prosecute trespassing cases until a court decides whether or not customary use applies on private property in Walton County.

Is algae at head of St. Johns River tied to sludge?” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — Activists and politicians both pushed the state to do something about bright green, potentially toxic algae covering Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River County, where the St. Johns begins flowing more than 300 miles to Jacksonville and the ocean. “We’re seeing green algae throughout the headwaters,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, who told state officials this spring that algae-feeding phosphorus and nitrogen might be seeping into the lake from a minimally cleaned variety of sewage sludge that’s spread over nearby ranch land. State officials have pointedly not blamed the algae on sludge but said the Department of Environmental Protection and St. Johns River Water Management District will jointly study the problem in water that’s normally clean enough to drink straight from the lake. DEP put a six-month freeze on the use of minimally cleaned sludge — sometimes called biosolids or Class B sludge — at a ranch near the lake. County commissioners started discussing a six-month moratorium for the entire county last month but have moved cautiously to avoid any legal landmines.

As political tension rises, emergency motion filed in suit over City Council replacement” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — The Northwest Jacksonville resident suing Gov. Scott over his increasingly controversial appointment of a Mandarin Republican to represent a mostly Democratic City Council district filed a motion asking a judge to put the case on an emergency track. Political tension escalated over the issue at a news conference where the resident, Brenda Priestly Jackson, a former Duval County School Board member, and local Duval Democratic Party officials slammed Scott, as well as Mayor Lenny Curry for an appointment they said was tantamount to the disenfranchisement of the mostly black voters in Council District 10. Scott, who suspended Reggie Brown and Katrina Brown from the council last month after they were indicted on federal fraud charges, appointed Terrance Freeman as a temporary replacement for Reggie Brown, the same day Freeman said he moved to the district from his Mandarin home. Scott, who visited a Jacksonville business in District 10 while campaigning for U.S. Senate, said his appointment of Freeman “followed all the rules.”

Norman Braman gets a ‘lift’ from the state — The billionaire auto dealer has won approval from the state for an exemption from elevator regulations at his Braman Bentley Rolls-Royce Porsche dealership in Palm Beach County. Braman was granted a variance because he “demonstrated that the purpose of the underlying statute has been met and that (he) would suffer a substantial hardship if required to comply,” said a Monday notice in the Florida Administrative Register. Braman sought to be exempted from installing elevator “platform guards and bottom car clearances.” A design flaw was found only after construction, his petition said, and “current structural elements” at the dealership cost “in excess of $8 million.” The dealership tried to conform the elevator to the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines but couldn’t “due to varying elevations.” Instead, Braman had asked to use a “retractable toe guard,” a platform-type device often used for uneven floors. “No comments were received in response to the petition,” Monday’s notice said.

Tampa provocateur charged in fracas over racist slur returns to corner, claims self-defense” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — Tony Daniel is undeterred. Three days after his arrest on an assault charge, the 60-year-old race-baiting provocateur was back on the same street corner, shouting into a megaphone and holding a large sign with the same racial epithet that sparked the fracas. He said he plans to fight the charge “vigorously.” … A motorist captured the encounter on video … It initially shows Daniel holding a sign, nearly as tall as he, that says, “Homeless (N——) go back to Africa.” Standing nearby are the two women, later identified as Nayvia Tukes, 20, and Rowshana Tukes, 41, both of Brandon. When Daniel points the megaphone in their direction, the younger woman marches toward him. That’s when Nayvia Tukes slapped the sign … The video shows Daniel yanking the sign back and pushing the megaphone into her face. Police said he hit her with it. Then the older woman punched Daniel in his right eye. He lashed out at the two with the megaphone, striking Rowshana Tukes in the head, the report said. According to the report, Daniel struck the woman on the head several more times as she retreated toward her vehicle.

— BITTERSWEETNESS IN PUERTO RICO —

As Boricuas inch toward normalcy on the island, it’s difficult for them not to fear the future.

Reports Danica Coco for The Associated Press, “Lights are slowly coming on for the more than 950 homes and businesses across Puerto Rico that remain without power in hard-to-reach areas. Repair crews are sometimes forced to dig holes by hand and scale down steep mountainsides to reach damaged light posts.”

But it’s hard for some to celebrate the progress. As one source tells Coco, “If another storm comes through, we’re going to die. There’s no money left here.”

No backup: Gov. Ricardo Rossello has informed islanders that there are no backup grids in case of power loss. Some 47,000 customers lost power in July when the remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl swept through.

Turmoil at the top: Complicating things is a turnover problem at PREPA, the island’s utility authority. Coco notes that issues with finding good leadership at the utility come as it tries to prepare an island for a storm in the middle of the hurricane season.

Silver linings: Despite a sense of instability, “Puerto Ricans in the remote areas that recently had electricity restored are happy they can go back to their previous lives and no longer have to drain savings to fuel generators.”

— OPINIONS —

Joe Henderson: Has Trump become liability for top GOP Governor wannabes?” via Florida Politics — I wonder if Putnam and DeSantis are feeling a little queasy. It was a quite the global spectacle, watching Trump all but genuflect to Russian “President” Vladimir Putin, but it had to be worse for Putnam and DeSantis right here in our little corner of the planet. Both men have been unflagging in their bro-love for Trump in the lead-up to the Aug. 28 Republican primary. DeSantis has been saturating TV with ads trumpeting his endorsement by “the big man himself” while Putnam hasn’t let that little detail derail his undying allegiance to the “commander” in chief. While that strategy may appeal to Trump’s true believers who turn out for the primary, it becomes problematic in the general election. After the President’s inept performance in his face-to-face with Putin was widely panned, even by many Republicans, close association with Trump, while always a risky election-year strategy, may be downright toxic now. That sets up a dilemma for DeSantis and Putnam.

— MOVEMENTS —

First in Sunburn –Personnel note: Jim Boxold named Capital City Consulting managing partner” via Florida Politics – Former Transportation Secretary Boxold, who’s been with the governmental affairs firm Capital City Consulting since January 2017, now is the firm’s managing partner. He now oversees human resources, administrative employment, firm efficiencies and processes, and workload management, the lobbying concern said in a press release. “Our firm is growing rapidly and growth requires better organization, processes and human resource management,” said Nick Iarossi, co-founder. “We are fortunate to utilize Jim’s past experience managing one of the state’s largest agencies at Capital City Consulting.”

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Lisa Aaron, Lisa Aaron Consulting: Microsoft Corporation

Mike CorcoranJeff JohnstonAnita BerryMatt BlairAmanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Sharon Morrow as Personal Representative of the Estate of Thomas Morrow

Elizabeth Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: Kyra Solutions

Marty FiorentinoJoseph MobleyMark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Uber Technologies and Affiliates

Carole Green, Capitol Strategies Consulting: The Centers

Jennifer Green, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Uber Technologies and Affiliates

Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: Palm Beach Aggregates

— ALOE —

Hulk Hogan returns to the WWE after a three-year suspension” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — A racial tirade caught on tape caused World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. to cut ties with Hulk Hogan in 2015. But now the WWE has decided that Hogan, who helped turn the company into the biggest wrestling promoter in the world, has done enough to prove he is a changed man. While Hogan’s role with the company has yet to be announced, WWE said it is welcoming him back. “This second chance follows Hogan’s numerous public apologies and volunteering to work with young people, where he is helping them learn from his mistake,” the WWE said in a statement announcing Hogan would be returned to its Hall of Fame, from which he’d been erased. The tan, bleached-blonde 64-year-old former grappler whose real name is Terry Bollea said he is grateful for another chance.

A rare face-to-face encounter with the elusive Florida panther” via Carlton Ward Jr. for National Geographic — It’s taken me 20 years to get this photo. For the past two years, I have been focused on the endangered Florida panther — the last big cat in the eastern United States and a subspecies of cougar. Today, there are approximately 200 panthers — up from just 30 in the early 1990s — surviving primarily in the Everglades at the southern tip of Florida. To be recovered from endangered status, there need to be three times as many panthers distributed across a much larger landscape. I was on my way to change the batteries and cards in my camera trap when I saw a panther sitting in the dirt road 200 yards ahead of me. When the panther sat down 20 yards away and looked straight at me, I was ready. I focused on her eyes and captured the moment she gave me. A rare glimpse into the soul of wild Florida.

A female Florida panther stares at the photographer in Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples on June 22, 2018. (Image via National Geographic)

Happy birthday to the man who makes the trains run on time, Phil Ammann, as well as Ballard Partners’ Chris DorworthJoe McCann, and Juan-Carlos Planas.

Last Call for 7.16.18 — 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

Activist Gary Stein says he’s “saddened and concerned over the response from the Governor’s Office” to rallies he organized last week to encourage Gov. Rick Scott to drop appeals of lawsuits involving medicinal cannabis.

The state is appealing two high-profile cases: Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner’s circuit court win to grow and juice his own medicinal cannabis, and plaintiffs backed by Orlando attorney John Morgan who won a decision allowing them to smoke medical marijuana.

Both rulings have been challenged by the state’s Department of Health, which regulates the drug through the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, and reports to Scott.

A statement from Scott’s office called Wednesday’s protests in Tallahassee, Orlando and West Palm Beach “disingenuous,” adding that “more than 130,000 patients have access to (medical marijuana) treatment by more than a thousand doctors.”

But, in his own statement, Stein said he stands by his position that “qualified patients across Florida need homegrown and smokable medical cannabis.”

The governor’s position is itself “disingenuous,” Stein said, adding it was “mean-spirited” and “misleading.”

As held by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, “the constitutional amendment … does not allow the government to exclude any form of the medical herb, including the right to use in smokable form and home-grow to juice the plant,” he said.

Moreover, “the number of patients mentioned — 130,000 — has already been discredited by the OMMU … as being inaccurate.

“The most recent number of active, qualified patients released by the OMMU is 109,163,” he said. “Had the registry number been an accurate reflection of the number of patients, the OMMU would have been mandated to release applications for new Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) as early as April 20, which did not occur.”

Stein said he “hoped that our respectful rallies would open a dialogue that would result in the governor reconsidering his position on the appeals of these cases. They are life and death situations for … hundreds of thousands of Floridians, who desperately await these cases to be resolved.”

Evening Reads

Ron DeSantis calls Trump-Putin appearance a missed opportunity — to blame Obama” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Ex-supervisor in Adam Putnam’s gun-license unit warned of ‘gross misconduct,’ sued and got $30,000 settlement” via Steve Bousquet and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

How one man owned the libs and the establishment — and took over the Florida Republican Party” via Henry Gomez of BuzzFeed

Florida’s constitutional amendments are a mixed bag” via Jason Garcia of Florida Trend

Florida suspends payment to SunPass contractor until tolling system is fixed” via Hannah Denham of the Tampa Bay Times

Court to move forward with ‘Jane Doe’ issue in gun case” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

A Miami Democrat heads to Cuba on the congressional campaign trail” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

GOP environmentalists today: As rare as a Florida panther” via Julie Hauserman of the Florida Phoenix

Conspiracy theorist QAnon promoted, then deleted, by Hillsborough County GOP” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s coral disease outbreak is most ‘extensive’ ” via Sean Kinane of WMNF

Quote of the Day

“Just as I would not seek an endorsement from Emily’s List or the ACLU, I do not wish to receive yours.” — Republican candidate for governor Frank White, declining an invitation to be interviewed by the Tampa Bay Times editorial board.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss bond rates in the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) program. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a dispute about whether Gov. Scott has properly complied with the state’s financial disclosure requirements. That’s at 9 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

The Florida Department of Children and Families will help host meetings in Central Florida that are part of an effort to better coordinate behavioral-health services. That’s at 9 a.m., Titusville Library, 2121 South Hopkins Ave., Titusville. Also, 1 p.m., Valencia College, School of Public Safety, 8600 Valencia College Lane, Orlando.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss issues related to unclaimed property. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

Gov. Scott will join small business leaders in Orlando for an undisclosed announcement. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Restaurant Equipment World, 2413 N. Forsyth Road, Orlando.

Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Denise Grimsley will speak at the Republican Club of West Volusia’s monthly meeting. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Fan Central Station, 614 South Alabama Ave., DeLand.

The Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council will interview a short list of candidates for two seats on the Public Service Commission. That’s at 1 p.m., Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Orlando International Airport, 1 Jeff Fuqua Blvd., Orlando.

Marili Cancio, a candidate in state Senate District 40, and Maria Elvira Salazar, a candidate in Congressional District 27, are slated to speak to the Old Cutler Republican Women’s Club. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Brio Tuscan Grille, 8888 S.W. 136th St., Miami.

Democrat Joy Gibson, running in state Senate District 20, is slated to speak at a meeting of the Rainbow Ridge LGBTA Democratic Caucus of Polk County. That’s at 6:30 p.m., The Rib House, 2918 South Florida Ave., Lakeland.

Democratic candidate for Governor Jeff Greene and state Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, are expected to speak at the Rusty Gordon LGBTA Democratic Caucus. That’s at 6:45 p.m., Compass Community Center, 201 North Dixie Highway, Lake Worth.

Rep. Javier Fernandez will hold a town-hall meeting on gun safety. That’s at 7 p.m., Riviera Presbyterian Church, 5275 Sunset Dr., Miami.

HD 115 hopeful Jose Fernandez may not be best for GOP, trial lawyers

It comes as no surprise that Republican Jose Fernandez is drawing the support of many of the state’s biggest trial lawyers in his bid for House District 115.

But does he represent the best choice for the GOP?

Fernandez is himself a lawyer who heads his own personal injury litigation firm, and is one of four candidates seeking the GOP nomination to succeed term-limited state Rep. Michael Bileca.

Backers include Democrat mega-donor Robert Rubenstein of Miami and newly sworn-in president of the statewide trial bar, Lake “Trey” Lytal of Palm Beach.

Despite the support, the Fernandez firm’s involvement in and handling of a 2016 lawsuit brought by his former office manager, a 52-year-old female, should raise serious concerns about his viability as a candidate, particularly in the wake of the national #MeToo movement as well as the Florida Legislature’s own grappling with sexual harassment scandals.

The suit alleges that mistreatment came at the “hands of specifically but not limited to (firm employee and supervisor) Anthony Soto and Jose Fernandez.”

In summarizing the alleged mistreatment, Fernandez’s office manager testified that Soto — whom she says publicly called her the “old lady of the firm” — would show “inappropriate sex videos to staff members.”

When she complained and refused to participate, he made numerous age-related discriminatory comments.

The suit continues: Upon returning from hospitalization after a stroke, “Soto accused her of fraudulently providing her doctor’s note,” and required her to work off-the-clock to catch up on work missed while on medical leave.

However, it was Soto’s conduct related to a female client that became “the main thing” that bothered the complainant about the work environment at Fernandez’s firm.

During deposition, the woman described in lurid detail what concerned her most:

“[Soto’s] sexual comments and videos. He also had a one-night stand with a client and then refused to talk to her. He bragged about it and when she would come in we had to talk to her.

“I couldn’t believe it and felt that he had crossed the line as an attorney. He also filmed himself with girls and showed people the video.

“The one thing that bothered me the most was when he asked my son in my presence if he had ever had a bl**job, because he knew some girls he could call that would come to the office and give him one.

“Needless to say, my son was embarrassed.”

Faced with such explosive testimony, attorneys from Fernandez’s firm fought back again, attempting to have it excluded from the pending trial by arguing it had “no relevance.”

Despite their efforts, there was even more evidence of discriminatory attitudes and biases.

The woman also testified that Soto had previously instructed her not to hire African-Americans and retaliated when she objected to this racially biased request.

Every step of the way, attorneys at Fernandez’s firm fought the former employee, even going as far as trying to get the suit dismissed by way of using her application for disability benefits submitted after suffering a stroke, being forced to work off the clock and her subsequent termination.

Even though the suit ultimately settled last year, the #MeToo movement has brought increased scrutiny on the issue of sexual harassment (as well as other bad behavior) in the workplace.

It’s also time to call the men out — particularly those seeking elective office — who ignore the treatment (or mistreatment) subordinate women in their employ.

Jeff Greene joins Gwen Graham atop Democratic primary field, new poll shows; Philip Levine slips to third

There is a new front-runner in the Democratic primary for Florida governor. Well, more like a new co-front-runner.

Billionaire Jeff Greene, who joined the race just last month, has rocketed into first place, according to a new survey from St. Pete Polls and commissioned by Florida Politics.

Greene is at 21.6 percent — a tenth of a percentage point higher than former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham. 

“This poll confirms what I’ve seen firsthand campaigning across the state: Voters are sick and tired of politicians making false promises, and want to see a leader who can produce results,” said Greene in a statement. “The Democratic base is clearly looking for someone who can win in November and take on Trump, and Tallahassee Republicans in defense of Florida’s families.

“These results are exciting, but as we continue to reach voters from Key West to Pensacola, and Tampa to Titusville, I want folks to know one thing: We’re just getting started,” Greene added.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who has already spent millions of his own money on a barrage of TV ads and who has been the leader in other recent polls, is in third place at 19.4 percent.

The poll does not have good results for Andrew Gillum, who, in recent weeks, seemed to be gathering momentum just as thousands of ballots are being mailed to overseas and early voters. The Tallahassee Mayor has seen his campaign account infused with the financial support of billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros, among others. Gillum is in fourth place in this poll at 10 percent.

Far off the field is Orlando entrepreneur Chris King, who has also been up on TV and has earned kudos, even from his opponents, for his smart policy positions. He’s at 3 percent.

Of course, the true leader in this poll remains “Undecided,” as one in four Democratic voters do not yet know who they will vote for in the primary.

With three candidates within two points of each other and a fourth (Gillum) with a natural base that represents a large swath of the Democratic Party, the race is anyone’s to win.

Powering Greene’s lead is high favorable-to-unfavorable ratio with respondents. He’s at 45/16, just as Graham is at 43/13. Interestingly, Levine has the best favorable rating at 49/14.

The fundamental weakness of Gillum’s campaign to-date — that he hasn’t had the resources to introduce himself statewide — is apparent in the fave/unfave numbers. Sixty-one percent of Democratic primary voters are unsure how they feel about Gillum, the highest number of the field.

King’s favorable ratings remain an enigma. As with other surveys from different shops, King is upside down at 15/18. This really doesn’t make sense. As Democratic consultant and Gillum advisor Kevin Cate has noted on Twitter, King, while relatively unknown, is probably the most affable candidate in the field, with a beautiful family and a storybook career. There’s no reason not to like this guy, yet Democratic primary voters seem not to.

Further breaking down the poll’s numbers, it’s clear where Greene is winning — and why Graham and Gillum should be worried.

Greene has a slight lead over Graham with female voters — 22 to 21 percent. Graham, the only woman in the field, has made women’s issues central to her campaign.

Likewise, Greene is winning with black voters, capturing 23 percent of this demographic. Levine is actually second here, while Gillum is third. This might suggest that too many black voters, traditionally loyal to one of their own, don’t know enough about Gillum.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted July 14-15 and includes only responses from those voters who said they were planning on casting a ballot. The poll has a sample size of 1,314 providing a 2.7 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.16.18

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

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

There is a new co-front-runner in the Democratic primary for Florida governor.

According to the latest survey from St. Pete Polls and commissioned by Florida Politics, billionaire Jeff Greene, who entered the race just last month, has joined former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham atop the field as the campaign enters its final weeks.

Greene is the slight leader at 21.6 percent, while Graham is at 21.5 percent. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is at 19.4 percent.

Despite an infusion of financial support from billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is still at 10 percent, while Orlando entrepreneur Chris King is stuck at 3 percent.

Florida Politics will have more on this poll later in the day.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@realDonaldTrump: These Russian individuals did their work during the Obama years. Why didn’t Obama do something about it? Because he thought Crooked Hillary Clinton would win, that’s why. Had nothing to do with the Trump Administration, but Fake News doesn’t want to report the truth, as usual!

@MarcoRubio: Several wks ago I personally told #Nicaragua F.M. Denis Moncada Colindres that opportunity still existed to avoid cycle of conflict with U.S. if they held early & fair elections. But Ortega/Murillo regime responded with more violence making very clear the path they have chosen

@SenBillNelson: The violence perpetrated by the Ortega regime is reprehensible and it must not be tolerated. It’s eerily similar to that of Maduro and Castro. The American people stand on the side of the Nicaraguan people. They deserve to have their voices heard.

@AmbCTrujillo: The OAS will continue to meet this week and address the deteriorating situation in Nicaragua. The Government’s violent repression through the use of sandanista maras is unacceptable. The US will hold violators of human rights accountable. #SOSNicaragua

@ChrisKingFL: From toxic algae to rising seas, Florida’s environment is at risk. As governor, we’ll ban offshore drilling, take on Big Sugar and make protecting our environment a priority again.

@JimRosicaFL: Outgoing Fla. House Speaker @richardcorcoran financial disclosure now online, shows net worth of almost $344K.

@AGGancarski: Looks like @ScottforFlorida planning an afternoon political event in @TFreemanJax district 10. #JaxOnTheRise

@NewsbySmiley: Miami 2018: The highest-profile opponents of the city’s latest controversial development deal are **{rubs glasses, squints}** Jorge Perez and @Manny_A_Diaz

— DAYS UNTIL —

Florida Chamber Environmental Permitting Summer School — 1; MLB All-Star Game — 1; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 2; Florida Chamber Global Florida Webinar — 8; MAKE MORE Manufacturing Summit — 15; Deadline for filing claim bills — 18; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in West Palm Beach — 17; Florida’s back to school sales tax holiday begins — 18; Republican gubernatorial debate in Jacksonville — 23; School begins in the first 19 Florida districts — 25; Start of the U.S. Open — 42; Primary Election Day — 43; NFL season starts — 43; College Football opening weekend — 45; Labor Day — 49; Future of Florida Forum — 72; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 109; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 100; General Election Day — 113; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 134; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 211; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 232; 2020 General Election — 841.

— TOP STORY —

Primary season heats up in Florida as absentee ballots go out” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner mailed 1,400 primary ballots to military and overseas voters Friday. Absentee ballots for everyone else will start going out July 24. In Florida’s 2016 primary, 61 percent of Republicans voted early or absentee, compared with 64 percent of Democrats. That means the primary campaigns could be won or lost well before Election Day. “It’s not just Election Day anymore,” Turner said. “People start voting many weeks before Election Day.”

Happening today — U.S. District Judge Mark Walker holds a hearing in a lawsuit filed in May against Secretary of State Ken Detzner by the League of Women Voters of Florida and others who argue the state should allow early voting sites on state university and college campuses, 9 a.m., United States Courthouse, 111 North Adams St., Tallahassee.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Rick Scott Victory Fund reports $3.1 million” via ProPublica — The fundraising panel, a joint committee with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, benefits Scott’s election to the U.S. Senate. The organization posted its first filing with the Federal Elections Commission. Top donors include developer/Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, advertising firm honcho Jordan Zimmerman, sugar baron Jose Fanjul, and homebuilder Carlos Beruff. Beruff most recently chaired the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission after Scott‘s appointment.

Energy execs set fundraiser for Scott” via Nick Bowlin of E&E News — Scott will lunch in Oklahoma City next week with a handful of high-powered energy industry executives. An invitation to the fundraising lunch lists a who’s who of Oklahoma oil and natural gas executives, many with tight relationships to the administration and other top Republican candidates. They include Larry Nichols, co-founder and former CEO of Devon Energy Corp.; Republican mega-donor Harold Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources Inc.; Rick Muncrief, chairman and CEO of WPX Energy Inc.; and Mike Cantrell, former president of Oklahoma Basic Economy Corp. and chairman of Cantrell Investments LLC, an oil and gas firm. Also on the list is Joe Craft, president and CEO of Alliance Resource Partners LP, one of the nation’s largest coal companies. The lunch will take place in Vast, a downtown Oklahoma City restaurant set in the Devon Energy Center building, which includes the corporation’s headquarters.

Scott helps donors who pad his campaign accounts, critics say” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Scott has spent more than $10 million in his campaign for U.S. Senate so far on a slew of ads, attacking his opponent as a career politician and pledging to “make Washington work.” Floridians won’t know who is bankrolling the ad blitz until his first campaign report is published. But Democrats and ethics watchdogs contend Scott’s message belies his administration’s history of taking actions that benefit campaign donors, saying he wants to swap the “swamp” in Tallahassee for the one in Washington. When Scott won the 2010 GOP primary for governor, using $75 million of his own wealth to upset establishment favorite Bill McCollum, he declared Tallahassee lobbyists were “crying in their cocktails.” Once Scott took office, he started taking money from big-spending political donors. Scott took in millions from the corporate interests with business in the Capitol such as Walt Disney Co., large sugar corporations and major utilities that typically donate to those in power. But he also took money from lesser-known companies who ended up benefiting from a change in the administration’s policies.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will join business leaders for two announcements: 11:15 a.m., Dairy-Mix Inc., 3020 46th Avenue North, St. Petersburg; 4:45 p.m., GT AirInject Inc., 136 Ellis Road N., Jacksonville.

In Little Havana, Bill Nelson shrugs off polls that give Scott edge with Puerto Ricans, Cubans” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — An FIU poll released in June of 1,000 Puerto Ricans living across Florida — the majority of whom registered as Democrats — gave Scott a sizable lead in name recognition (70 percent of respondents said they had heard of Scott, compared to 50 percent for Nelson). Scott also edged out Nelson in a measure of who was viewed more favorably (37 percent “very good” for Scott, compared to 20 percent for Nelson). On Wednesday, a new poll from WSCV-Telemundo 51 that queried 696 likely Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade and Broward counties gave Scott a three-point lead over Nelson, although among Cuban voters — historically reliable in elections — Scott held an 18-point lead. During a media gaggle after the canvassing event, Nelson downplayed the importance and fickleness of polls, while noting an NBC News/Marist Poll released in June gave him a four-point edge over Scott among registered voters. He also said Hispanics cared about issues he would champion, like preserving the Affordable Care Act, curbing gun violence and keeping sea-level rise at bay.

Knocking on doors: U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada joined Bill Nelson this Saturday to rally supporters and volunteers in Little Havana before joining them to knock on doors.

Majority PAC reports $2.6 million ad buy for Nelson” via ProPublica — The buy was by Waterfront Strategies for Nelson’s re-election bid, and was posted late Saturday. According to the Center for Public Integrity, “the media buying firm serves primarily Democratic-aligned super PACs and nonprofits. It’s the preferred vendor for Majority PAC and House Majority PAC — the super PACs aimed at securing Democratic seats in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

New Ron DeSantis add touts endorsement by ‘the big man himself’ — The 30-second spot debuting over the weekend promotes DeSantis’ military career, serving as a prosecutor “who dealt with terrorists in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba,” his ranking as “Florida’s top conservative,” and the endorsement from “the big man himself,” President Donald Trump.

To watch “The Big Man,” click on the image below:

Thank you, Captain Obvious — “Time for Adam Putnam to start worrying” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — Putnam has drawn thousands of Republican activists to rallies and barbecues across the state … blown away all Florida money-raising records … led Republican rival DeSantis by 15 to 17 percentage points — a blowout — in the last three public polls conducted by experienced Florida pollsters. On the ground, however, it feels like the race is shifting decidedly toward DeSantis. “I’m also torn between Ron DeSantis and Adam, because I know Adam so well,” Robin Lester of Tampa told me last week, echoing several other women at her table during a Florida Federation of Republican Women dinner. These should be rock solid Putnam voters, women who have been active in the GOP long before the Tea Party and Trump acolytes came to dominate the grassroots. Many have known Putnam personally for years.

Happening Wednesday — Donald Trump Jr. joins DeSantis with special guests Judge Jeanine Pirro and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Wednesday, July 18, doors open 1 p.m., BB King’s Blues Club, 9101 International Dr., #2230, Orlando.

Gwen Graham’s potential ‘game change’: abortion rights and gender” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida — “It’s time we have a changed world where women are equally represented in any conversation about our health care options,” Graham told reporters at an abortion rights event she held in Tallahassee. “The stakes were always high, but now they’re even higher to make sure that we elect a woman governor of Florida that’s going to fight for a woman’s right to control her own body.” Asked if she believed that she was more qualified than her male opponents to discuss the issue, Graham didn’t miss a beat: “Yes.” Graham, who at the first debate drew attention to her gender by saying it was “Gwen and the men,” is making the issue — and abortion rights specifically — more central to her campaign, particularly as women candidates nationwide fare well in Democratic primaries. Democratic pollster Tom Eldon, unaffiliated with any of the candidates, said the issue of abortion rights is critical for Graham, especially since women are expected to account for as much as 60 percent of the party’s primary vote.

Bob Graham sees Florida impact in Supreme Court nomination” via Douglas Ray of the Gainesville Sun – The former governor and U.S. senator from Florida, whose daughter is a Democratic candidate for governor, said the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the nation’s highest court could ultimately bring the fight over abortion rights back to the state level. “The threat is sufficiently real that it deserves to be closely monitored,” Graham said. Many social conservatives hope Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh, announced Monday, can put a deciding vote on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 45-year-old decision that prohibits states from restricting access to abortion. “The focus would then shift back to the states. How the governor and the legislature respond to that will determine what happens in Florida,” Graham said. He said his daughter, Gwen Graham, has promised to veto any legislation “that unduly restricts a woman’s right to choose.”

Panama City mayor backs Graham” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki cited her congressional service … Graham was elected to Florida’s 2nd Congressional District in 2014 … CD 2 encompasses Panama City. “Representing Panama City in Congress, Gwen Graham always put people first. She worked on behalf of Florida’s men and women serving in uniform. Gwen fought to ban oil drilling off our beaches. And she brought more than $2.5 million back to veterans, seniors and families,” Brudnicki said. “Her service to our state has earned my support and I’m excited to vote for her this August and November.” This isn’t the first time Brudnicki has waded into Graham’s politics. He supported her opponent, then-incumbent Steve Southerland, during Graham’s 2014 congressional bid.

Happening today — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King speaks at a meeting of the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee, 6 p.m., IBEW Union Hall, 966 North Liberty St., Jacksonville.

No shortage of ads ahead of Florida 2018 midterm election” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine isn’t lacking for new ideas on ads in his quest to be the Democratic nominee for governor — he’s run out 18 different television commercials ahead of the Aug. 28 primary. The latest is, well, a bit out of the ordinary, to be polite. It begins with Levine’s mother saying, “Really, Carole, a headband?” It then shows Carole in a headband and turquoise bowling shirt holding a fluorescent green ball. She says, “Bowling is my game, girls.” Not to be outdone by Levine in creativity, billionaire Democratic candidate for Governor Jeff Greene sent out a mail piece showing a photo of President Trump slumped eyes closed in a chair with a partially-eaten Big Mac on his knee. Cartoonish dream clouds rise above him. The last is a scratch-off game. “What is Trump’s worst nightmare?” the flyer asks. “Scratch here to find out!” Once scratched, it reveals “Jeff Greene for Florida.”

Click on the image below to watch Levine’s ad:

Assignment editors — Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody joins Fraternal Order of Police Florida First Vice President Lonnie Miller and Jacksonville FOP Lodge 5-30 President Steve Zona for a news conference, 4 p.m., FOP Jacksonville Lodge 5-30, 5530 Beach Blvd.

Moody drops new ad touting career as prosecutor, not politician — Moody’s new 30-second spot reminds voters that, as a prosecutor, she is “not a politician,’ and is the only candidate for Attorney General who actually “put criminals behind bars.” She also focuses on her endorsement from current AG Pam Bondi (who is shown in a brief shot with Trump) and is backed by “nearly 90 percent of Florida’s Republican sheriffs.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Personnel note: Melissa Sellers Stone Joins Frank White’s AG campaignStone, CEO of Cavalry Strategies and former chief of staff and campaign manager to Gov. Scott, is joining White’s campaign for Attorney General. Stone will focus on strategic coalition building. The announcement comes on the heels of growing momentum for the campaign, including new polling showing White with a seven-point lead, endorsements from Florida Right to Life PAC and 15 conservative leaders from across the state, and the release of a new contrast ad, “Judgment Matters.” “Melissa is a conservative warrior who’s been on the front lines of campaigns here in Florida and across the country and we are excited to have her on the team,” White said. Stone previously served as the Director of Regional Media for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, and before that as Communications Director for Governor Bobby Jindal in Louisiana.

Florida police union endorsing Jimmy Patronis for CFO” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police (Florida FOP) is backing Jimmy Patronis in his bid to remain Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. Patronis is running for election against Democrat Jeremy Ring, a former state senator. Richard Paul Dembinsky also qualified as a write-in candidate. Patronis, a Republican, was appointed by Gov. Scott last year to replace CFO Jeff Atwater, who stepped down early to become CFO of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Scott had previously tapped Patronis, a former state representative, for the state’s Public Service Commission and Constitution Revision Commission. He left both panels upon becoming CFO. “The Florida State Fraternal Order of Police are proud to endorse and stand with Chief Financial Officer Patronis in his bid to continue as CFO,” said Florida FOP President Robert Jenkins.

— NOTES FROM CAMPAIGN TRAIL, PART 2 —

First in Sunburn — 8isGreat.org announces summer fundraisers in Tampa, Jacksonville — A prominent group of supporters of Constitutional Revision Amendment 8 will gather in Tampa and Jacksonville this summer to raise funds for 8isGREAT.org. The host committee for the Tampa fundraiser includes Speaker Richard Corcoran, presumed 2021 Speaker Chris Sprowls, and fellow Tampa-area Rep. Jamie Grant. They are joined by two area businessmen, John Kirtley and Carlos Beruff, to raise funds for the passage of Amendment 8. Carlos Beruff also served as Chair of the CRC, which placed the amendment, with seven others, on the November ballot. Supporters will gather in Tampa July 26 and Jacksonville Aug. 20. For more information, contact info@8isGREAT.org.

Greyhound racing-ban group releases still more endorsements” via Florida Politics — The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign on Friday announced another round of endorsements. They include current and former lawmakers, greyhound groups, editorial boards, animal welfare organizations, and a local animal shelter, the campaign said in a release. The group is promoting passage of Amendment 13, put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). The proposal, which needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution, aims at ending commercial dog racing in the state. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks. “Progressives and conservatives don’t agree on much these days, which is why the growing bipartisan support behind the #YesOn13 movement to end inhumane greyhound racing is so incredible,” said state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, in a statement.

‘Warrior’ Matt Gaetz gets official thumbs-up from Trump” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Gaetz has long been aboard the Trump train, and now Trump is returning the favor with an endorsement of the congressman’s re-election campaign. “Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida is one of the finest and most talented people in Congress,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Strong on crime, the border, illegal immigration, the Second Amendment, our great military and vets, Matt worked tirelessly on helping to get our massive tax cuts. He has my full endorsement!” Gaetz, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, has been a loyal backer of Trump’s. That’s especially true regarding the Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Nancy Pelosi endorses Al Lawson’s re-election — in Alvin Brown’s hometown” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Brown, running for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, only had to walk a few blocks from his own campaign headquarters to see House Minority Leader Pelosi endorse incumbent U.S. Rep. Lawson. Lawson said he brought Pelosi to Jacksonville not to clown Brown, but to “let people know we’ve been up there working hard for them” … “We’ve been able to get a great deal accomplished, and we wouldn’t be able to accomplish that without a great relationship with the Leader,” Lawson said. “For her to come here, it’s truly an honor.” Pelosi would not criticize Brown, saying she’s “here to support Mr. Lawson,” citing “courageous votes” and “his leadership” on tough bills.

Winning combination? U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed U.S. Rep. Al Lawson for his re-election campaign for Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Spotted — Republican Mike Waltz, the former senior counterterrorism adviser who is a candidate in Florida’s 6th Congressional District to succeed DeSantis, on Fox News discussing election meddling ahead of Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

—“Nancy Soderberg nears $1M on hand for CD 6 campaign” via Florida Politics

—“Stephen Sevigny adds $350K, union endorsement in CD 6” via Florida Politics

His Ph.D. is from a diploma mill. But candidate stands by his work” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — The three letters were displayed prominently on George Buck’s campaign website, right after his name: Ph.D. There’s no question that Buck, a Republican primary candidate for U.S. House District 13 — the seat currently held by incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist — received a doctoral degree. However, there are questions about the legitimacy of the school that conferred it. Buck, 62, went to LaSalle University, a defunct correspondence school in Louisiana. About six months after he got his Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration in January 1996, FBI agents raided and shut down the school on suspicion it was defrauding students. In an interview, Buck believes his doctorate is legitimate because of the work he put into his dissertation. He showed a bound copy of the document, entitled Target: Main Street, USA (Is Government Ready for Urban Violence or Terrorism). It was 307 pages and included a bibliography that cited 14 articles, seven reports, three books and three transcripts as sources. “I feel comfortable saying that I did the work for the Ph.D.,” Buck said, “and I had no intent to defraud anybody, and I worked very hard for that.”

—“Charlie Crist raised $386K, sent $200K to DCCC in Q2” via Florida Politics

—“Gus Bilirakis posts strong Q2 fundraising report” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Gloves off: Greg Steube slams Julio Gonzalez as ‘Never Trump’ Republican” via Florida Politics — Gonzalez and Steube are the two leading Republicans in the race for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, which is open in 2018 due to the retirement of current U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney. Steube’s attack included screenshots of five tweets, all from March 2016, where Gonzalez states his opposition to the eventual president using the “#NeverTrump” hashtag. In three of the tweets, the Venice Republican — who has since festooned his twitter bio with the “#MAGA” hashtag — expresses his support for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who was still competing for the GOP nomination at the time. Rubio has endorsed Gonzalez in the CD 17 race. In one tweet, Gonzalez says “Trump is no conservative.” In another, he says “the fact that Trump is still in the race is deplorable.”

—“Steube swamps Gonzalez in CD 17 fundraising” via Florida Politics

Cook shifts House race of lawmaker who bought multimillion-dollar yacht away from GOP” via Ben Kamisar of The Hill — The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has shifted its prediction for Rep. Vern Buchanan‘s congressional seat toward Democrats after a report that he bought a yacht on the same day the GOP’s tax cuts passed the House. Cook, a popular elections handicapper, shifted Buchanan’s race from a “likely Republican” seat to a “lean Republican” seat. The analysts also moved four other congressional races in favor of Democrats. Local media reports have publicized a new disclosure Buchanan made that shows a purchase from Ocean Alexander, a yacht company, of between $1 million and $5 million on the day of the vote.

Downgraded: Vern Buchanan’s ill-timed yacht purchase is having political consequences.

Mary Barzee Flores raises $450,000 in first quarter running against Mario Diaz-Balart” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Barzee Flores will likely have less cash to spend than Diaz-Balart, who reported $1.1 million on hand at the end of March, though she will likely have the backing of national Democrats and outside groups that can inject money into the Miami-to-Naples district. Her campaign says they have around $650,000 on hand.

Dana Young expands cash lead over Janet Cruz” via Florida Politics — Young’s campaign said it brought in $22,900 in hard money between June 23 and July 6 but did not say how much it had on hand at the end of the reporting period. Finance reports for her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, show another $79,000 raised during the same stretch for a total haul of $101,900. The committee had $1.05 million in the bank on July 6. Cruz, meanwhile, added $11,145 in hard money and tacked on another $5,000 for her political committee, Building the Bay PC. She has now raised more than $433,000 since entering the race in mid-April. She had $400,472 on hand between the two accounts at the end of the reporting period.

Florida retailers endorse Mel Ponder for re-election — The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) PAC is endorsing incumbent Ponder for House District 4, which covers Okaloosa County. “Representative Ponder is a successful small business owner and fought on behalf of the thousands of other small business owners throughout Florida during his first term in the House,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. In the release, the FRF praised Ponder, who started his own small business to train and support local marketplace and business leaders and individuals and noted how he ministers others of faith to make a difference in their communities. He also previously served as Mayor of Destin.

Tom Leek cracks $200K raised for HD 25 re-election” via Florida Politics — The Ormond Beach Republican, currently in his first term representing House District 25, brought in nearly $47,000 in hard money between June 23 and July 6. That makes for more than $200,000 in total fundraising for his re-election bid thus far. The new report shows 80 contributions, including 34 for checks for $1,000, the maximum allowable campaign contribution for state legislative races. Additionally, more than 60 percent of the money raised over the two-week stretch came in from businesses and individuals within Volusia County while less than 30 percent of the campaign cash came from Tallahassee.

—“GOP interests, donors power Democrat Kim Daniels fundraising in HD 14” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

Nick DiCeglie ready to ‘clean things up’ in Tallahassee” via Florida Politics — Belleair Bluffs businessman DiCeglie is rolling out his first ad in the race to succeed term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern in Pinellas County’s House District 66. The 30-second spot, titled “Cleaning Things Up,” is already out digitally and the campaign said it would begin running on cable networks next week. The ad begins with the Pinellas GOP chair on the job with his waste management company Solar Sanitation. “I’ve made it my business to clean things up in Pinellas County, now it’s time to clean things up in Tallahassee,” he says in the ad before a narrator takes the reins and touts DiCeglie’s conservative credentials.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

— STATEWIDE —

Paging Christina Daly — “As staffer laughed, boy was sexually assaulted at Florida juvenile program” via Howard Cohen of The Miami Herald — The Walton Academy for Growth and Change is supposed to provide a “secure residential treatment program for males, ages 13 to 18,” according to law enforcement in the Florida Panhandle town. But the DeFuniak Springs facility, which is run by a company called Rite of Passage for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, was the site of a sexual attack and battery on a 15-year-old boy on July 5. The incident led to an investigation and the arrests of four juveniles and one adult employee, who was accused of facilitating the assault. The incident was captured on surveillance video and corroborated by witnesses, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office said: “The … victim had been sexually assaulted by several other juveniles. It was later discovered an employee watched and appeared to be laughing while the incident took place.”

Attack on teen in foster care raises questions of responsibility” via Tessa Duvall of The Florida Times-Union — When a child gets into trouble, makes a mistake or is even the victim of a crime, a common reaction is: “Where were the parents?” But what about when the child is in the care of the state and living at a state-contracted group home? Who is responsible then? That question has been highlighted by the struggles of a 15-year-old boy who discusses that issue and others in a viral Facebook video. In it, he describes a sexual assault at a nearby park that was detailed in a police report — an assault for which the head of the Jacksonville group home where the boy lived accepts no responsibility. “If a child leaves their sphere of protection, and doing what they want to do,” said Panama Youth Services CEO Willie Green, “oftentimes they put themselves at risk.” He later added: “This kid was supposed to be home and he left the home. There was no reason for him to leave the home. When you leave the home, you put yourself at risk.”

How Florida could have prevented the current SunPass mess” via Hannah Denham of the Tampa Bay Times — The contractor the state picked in 2015 to operate SunPass, a subsidiary of a Xerox spinoff called Conduent State & Local Solutions, has a track record of mishandling customer service while updating tolling systems in at least seven other states. Conduent took an average of two years to sort through unprocessed charges and get online tolling working again in other states. That’s two years of unprocessed charges, lawsuits, audits, ethics investigations, legislative amnesty programs, fines and suspended contracts. After electronic tolling outages in other states, some customers who did not receive an initial bill were hit months later with tens of thousands of dollars in charges and late fees. They were often invoiced for the wrong charges. Bank accounts and car payments for some customers were suspended because of the pending debt.

Overlooked deadline could stop some medical marijuana processing in Florida” via Elizabeth Koh of The Miami Herald — About half of the 13 Florida businesses allowed to grow, process and sell medical marijuana could be suspended from processing cannabis because of a little-noticed deadline in state law requiring food safety inspections — even though edible forms cannot be sold in the state. The requirement mandates that those medical marijuana treatment centers complete third-party inspections in the first year to ensure “good manufacturing practices,” but it went largely ignored or unnoticed by some centers because the Department of Health has still not cemented rules relating to edible medical marijuana. But in letters sent last week by the department, the state indicated it intends to enforce the provision that any business complete the certification within the first year or stop operating its processing facilities immediately.

Lawmakers way more money for state pot office” via the News Service of Florida — The state Office of Medical Marijuana Use is asking lawmakers to set aside an additional $13.29 million to help pay for regulating the medical-marijuana industry and covering litigation costs. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission will take up the proposal during a meeting at the Capitol … The office, which is part of the Florida Department of Health and has sometimes clashed with lawmakers, says it expects costs of more than $14.2 million during the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which started July 1. But the new budget included $935,400 for the operations, according to information submitted to the legislative budget commission. The largest chunk of the expected costs, $7.34 million, stems from plans for the office to issue licenses to an additional four medical-marijuana firms.

Marion Hammer files suit against mediator, demands $1 million” via Jeffrey Schweers of Tallahassee Democrat — Hammer, the longtime voice of the NRA in Florida and one of the most influential gun lobbyists in the nation, is demanding $1 million in a libel and slander suit filed Friday in federal court in Leon County against alternative dispute mediator Lawrence T. Lol” Sorensen and three others. Hammer, 79, claims the defendants crossed the line when they called her profanity-laced, unprintable names. “The Defendants have transcended mere criticism and employed threats, harassment, and personal abuse to try to humiliate and intimidate Hammer in a manner that is utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the lawsuit said.

Marion Hammer takes aim with a slander suit.

State law that targets teachers unions appears to be increasing membership” via Lois Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A new state law that sets a minimum membership level for teachers’ unions appears to be increasing enrollment in unions around the state. Participation in Miami-Dade’s teacher’s union jumped from 44 percent last year to about 50 percent now, spokeswoman Sonia Diaz said. Broward’s membership has hit 65 percent, union President Anna Fusco said. And Palm Beach is holding steady at 56 percent, said Justin Katz, Classroom Teachers Association president for Palm Beach County schools. The law, passed by the Legislature earlier this year, requires teachers unions to maintain membership of at least 50 percent of a district’s teaching staff or the union risks disbandment. If the unions are decertified, they no longer can bargain collectively for teachers in their district.

Study projects rising medical inflation through next year” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — An insurance industry analysis projects medical inflation of more than 2 percent through the end of 2019, chiefly because of improved treatment quantity that is driven by hospital consolidation. What that means for Florida’s workers’ compensation system remains unclear, according to a briefing paper, “The Impact of Hospital Consolidation on Medical Costs,” published by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI. The organization, which in Florida proposes workers’ compensation insurance premium levels to state regulators, plans additional study into that question.

Lawsuit: Governor’s pick to replace suspended Jacksonville City Councilman is unlawful” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — A Jacksonville woman sued Scott, claiming that he unlawfully replaced suspended City Councilman Reggie Brown with a nonresident of Brown’s Northwest Jacksonville district. Scott, who suspended Brown and Katrina Brown from the council last month after indictments on federal fraud charges, appointed Terrance Freeman as a replacement on July 10, the same day Freeman said he moved to the district from his Mandarin home. However, the lawsuit filed by Brenda Priestly Jackson, a former Duval County School Board member who also applied to replace Reggie Brown, claims Scott appointed Freeman before he officially became a resident of District 10. The lawsuit asks a judge to declare Freeman’s appointment unlawful and remove him from office. Jackson said Scott’s selection of someone who had never lived in the district was de facto voter disenfranchisement.

Airbnb tried to get a Miami lawsuit against a major landlord thrown out. A judge said no.” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald — A local case between vacation rental platform Airbnb and one of the nation’s largest residential property landlords, Aimco, will move forward after a Miami judge ruled against throwing the lawsuit out. Aimco sued Airbnb in February 2017 for allegedly failing to stop its users from subletting apartments at three rental buildings in Miami and Miami Beach … Denver-based Aimco claimed there have been “dozens, if not hundreds” of subleases at its properties through Airbnb, a practice banned by the leases at the three condo towers and that Aimco believes Airbnb has the power to eliminate but hasn’t. Airbnb has tried to get the case, and another similar one in Los Angeles, dismissed, claiming it is protected under the 1996 Communications Decency Act and therefore not liable for what its hosts post on the platform.

’Indictment Eve’? Charges could come soon in FBI probe, experts say” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Last week’s flurry of activity at the federal courthouse in Tallahassee signaled what could be the beginning of the end of the FBI’s long-running investigation into local public corruption. An executive with Waste Pro USA was spotted going into the U.S. District Courthouse on Tuesday and Wednesday when a federal grand jury convened behind closed doors to hear evidence in the corruption probe. He was accompanied by an Orlando lawyer who specializes in white-collar criminal defense. Attorneys for former City Manager Rick Fernandez arrived at the courthouse on Wednesday but wouldn’t say whether their client testified before the grand jury. “This is classic,” said David Moye, a Tallahassee attorney and former federal prosecutor. “Sounds like we’re at or near the eve of indictment day.”

— WALKING WHILE BLACK —

A former Biscayne Park police chief told subordinates to target blacks and pin crimes on them, the Miami Herald reports.

Per Charles RabinJay Weaver and David Ovalle, “In a report from that probe, four officers — a third of the small force — told an outside investigator they were under marching orders to file the bogus charges to improve the department’s crime stats.” Only one officer recalls being told to target blacks.

The testimony was unearthed after former police chief Raimundo Atesiano and two officers were charged with falsely pinning four burglaries on a teenager.

Former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano.

Arrest to impress: The “bogus charges” ordered by Atesiano were tailor-fitted to please village leaders. “During his roughly two-year tenure as chief, 29 of 30 burglary cases were solved, including all 19 in 2013.”

The captain, too: Former Biscayne Park Capt. Lawrence Churchman reportedly acted as Atesiano’s enforcer. “The captain has said on several different occasions he doesn’t want any n—–s, f—–s or women b—–s working at Biscayne Park,” one officer complained.

As it stands: Cpl. Nicholas Wollschlager, who allegedly gave orders to arrest suspects, is second-in-command at the unit.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Nelson, Rubio file bill wooing Canadian snowbirds for longer visits” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Nelson and Rubio filed The Canadian Snowbird Act, legislation that would let older Canadian visitors to the United States stay here as long as eight months without being considered residents. “It’s no secret that Canadians love to visit Florida in the winter,” said Nelson. “The millions of Canadian snowbirds who visit our state each year play an important role in our state’s tourism-driven economy. Allowing them to stay even longer is a win for them and for the local economies they visit.” under current law, Canadians who come to the U.S. and stick around for longer than six months will be considered full-time residents of the U.S. and must pay income tax on their entire annual income, even money made in Canada. If the new bill becomes law, Canadian citizens over the age of 50 could stay here for 240 days, or eight months, though they are expressly prohibited from working for American employers or seeking public assistance in the U.S.

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson are calling all Canadian snowbirds to stay just a little longer.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest victim is Gaetz: ‘They totally got me’” via Gordon Resnick of The Daily Beast — Initially contacted about the possibility that Baron Cohen may have duped him, ahead of the premiere of Who Is America?, the comedian’s new Showtime series, Gaetz couldn’t recall any such instance. “You had me racking my brain but not that I’m aware of,” he initially said. But hours later, Gaetz had a revelation. “They totally got me,” he wrote in a message. “I now remember an interview I gave regarding Israel and I now believe that was Sacha Baron Cohen,” Gaetz, a self-described Baron Cohen fan, said in a subsequent phone call. Part of what jogged his memory of the conversation was one particular request made by the interlocutor. “There were points in the interview where he wanted me to like hold up images of weapons systems and endorse those weapons systems,” the congressman recalled. “And I said, I would not do that, of course. I don’t know these weapons systems; I’m not going to talk about them.”

What Celeste Philip is reading — HHS plans to delete 20 years of critical medical guidelines” via The Daily Beast — The Trump administration is planning to eliminate a vast trove of medical guidelines that for nearly 20 years has been a critical resource for doctors, researchers and others in the medical community. Medical guidelines are best thought of as cheat sheets for the medical field, compiling the latest research in an easy-to-use format. The database is known as the National Guideline Clearinghouse [NGC], and it’s scheduled to “go dark,” in the words of an official there, on July 16. Medical guidelines … aren’t something laypeople spend much time thinking about, but experts like Valerie King … said the NGC is perhaps the most important repository of evidence-based research available: “Guideline.gov was our go-to source, and there is nothing else like it in the world.”

— OPINIONS —

Alico’s storage project benefits Caloosahatchee” via Remy W. Trafelet for News-Press.com — Alico Water Resources fully supports Scott’s state of emergency declaration and shares his commitment to restoring the Caloosahatchee’s health and combating the algae blooms plaguing our water. Saving the Caloosahatchee watershed will require all of us to work together and take decisive action to stop the all too common algae blooms and fish kills. At Alico Water Resources, we are committed to doing our part. That is why we have dedicated our 35,000 acre-property in Hendry County to a dispersed water management project, the single largest and most cost-effective project of its kind in the country. The Caloosahatchee watershed needs relief from harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges. Our dispersed water management project represents a major piece of that puzzle by storing and treating approximately 92,000 acre-feet — or 30 billion gallons — of water that would otherwise discharge to the watershed. The project stores 46,000 acre-feet of water and removes nutrients from another 46,000 acre-feet of water.

Education amendment looks deceptive” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Amendment 8 on the ballot seems bland enough, proposing eight-year term limits for all school board members and directing the Legislature to pass laws for “the promotion of civic literacy” among students. Oh, and then there’s this other little line that says county school boards “shall operate, control, and supervise all free public schools established by the district school board within the school district.” It’s what you call snooker. You see, school boards already operate, control and supervise the public schools in their counties, but adoption of this amendment would seemingly limit their authority to only those schools established by each county government. In other words, charter schools and other private operations, set up by companies that give big campaign contributions to governors and legislators, would be beyond the governance of your local, elected county school board members. Rather than justifying their qualification and necessity at the local level, where board members know the needs of children and teachers, the privateers could just go to the state level and get the go-ahead to set up shop.

— MOVEMENTS —

Appointed — Mitchell Bishop to the Union County Court; James Rasmussen (reappointed) to Florida Prepaid College Board; Dan Leben to the Florida Keys Community College District Board of Trustees; and Daniel O’Keefe to the Seminole State College District Board of Trustees.

Personnel note: Travis Pillow leaving Step Up for Students — Pillow is moving with his significant other to New Orleans, he tweeted last week. His last day was Friday. Pillow had been with Step Up for four and a half years. He was editor of redefinED, the organization’s news blog. The state-approved nonprofit scholarship funding organization helps administer two scholarships for Florida schoolchildren: the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program for low-income families and the Gardiner Scholarship for children with certain special needs. Pillow “spent his early professional career reporting on the inner workings of state government for a variety of news organizations, and became immersed in Florida’s education policy debates while covering schools and the Legislature for the Tallahassee Democrat,” his online bio says. No word yet on where he’ll be working in NOLA.

— ALOE —

Why Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge means the end of Star Tours” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is being hyped as one of the most immersive theme park experiences Disney has ever attempted. But when this new land opens in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the fall of 2019, another major “Star Wars” attraction will still exist outside this 14-acre expansion: Star Tours. Early rumors about the Star Wars project had placed the land in and around Star Tours in the Echo Lake area, but after Disney officially announced the project in 2015, its site was placed in the back of the park — meaning once the new land opened, Star Tours would look out of place, thematically speaking, disconnected from new attractions based around the same franchise. According to Bill Zanetti, a professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management teaching courses in theme park and attraction management, that thematic inconsistency will be enough motivation for Disney to shutter this Hollywood Studios staple.

Could this be the end of Star Tours?

Happy birthday from the weekend to our friends, Tom O’HaraTom Piccolo, and the legendary Ron Sachs. Celebrating today are former state Sen. J.D. Alexander, state Rep. Ross Spano, Florida Today’s Bob GabordiAlexis Lambert, Hillsborough Commission candidate Todd MarksAlix Miller, the handsome Ben Stuart, and Victoria Zepp.

Jim Waldman’s campaign is so bad, I’m rooting for Gary Farmer

As anyone who reads this site (or my tweets) will know, I’m no fan of Democrat state Sen. Gary Farmer.

That’s why I was excited to see Jim Waldman challenge Farmer to a rematch of their 2016 cage fight. But this week was not very good for Team Waldman. 

Last Wednesday, at what is the oldest, and probably the largest, gay Democratic club in Florida, Waldman showed up and promptly disqualified himself from consideration for an endorsement — because he failed to fill out the club’s questionnaire. (Stupid rule, maybe, but it’s their club and their rules.)

So what happened?

Waldman attempted to create a diversion by waving around one of Farmer’s mailpieces that noted that Waldman is a former Republican. He showed the evidence that Republican interests funded his last campaign, complete with Sun-Sentinel headlines. To a gay Democratic club? 

Rules number one and two: Never remind the crowd of your weaknesses or that your opponent is already defining you before even getting out of the gate.

Then Waldman called for a vote of no confidence for Farmer.  

Guess what happened?

The club voted UNANIMOUSLY to endorse Farmer. Ouch!

Now, after the latest campaign finance reports posted, Waldman’s situation gets worse.  

In his first reporting period, Waldman raised a mere $150. That’s not a typo. One hundred and fifty dollars. 

Jim, you are challenging a sitting senator. $150? At least “loan” yourself five figures to show commitment.

By way of reminder, it is worth noting that Waldman had to move into the district last time just to compete. And in a three-way primary, he came in third.

Farmer’s team is up and running (with four mailpieces already landing) and is about as fully-funded as need be, with almost $900,000 in hard and soft money already raised. 

For Waldman to compete in this come-from-behind sprint, he needs to be more than error-free; he just can’t be posting gadfly fundraising numbers.

I know I was not alone in hoping for a more competitive cage match. But after Waldman’s early stumbles, I’m taking my popcorn and moving on to a different event.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Hemp on horizon?

There appears to be a concerted effort between the state and federal government toward making industrial hemp a mainstream commodity.

At the end of June, the U.S. Senate passed the 2018 Farm Bill by an 86-11 vote. Among the provisions: language removing hemp, a cannabis plant material with low levels of THC, from the federal list of controlled substances, along with language validating state-backed plans for hemp programs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell championed the measure.

Mitch McConnell helped pass a Farm Bill that could promote hemp as a mainstream crop.

Meanwhile, Florida is making further progress with an industrial hemp pilot program. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has adopted rules implementing a 2017 law that allows the two Florida land grant universities — University of Florida and Florida A&M University — to develop public-private partnerships to produce hemp, analyze results and report back to the Legislature.

State Rep. Ralph Massullo and state Sen. Bill Montford brought forth the legislation. Dr. Jeffrey Sharkey and Taylor Biehl of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida helped author and support it.

While state lawmakers will have to review the results of the pilot program to determine whether hemp is a good fit for the Sunshine State, Biehl is optimistic and expects it to be a “new cash crop.”

“There are tons of ancillary products derived from hemp — whether in your shampoo or cosmetic lotions to CBD-oil and industrial products,” Biehl wrote to us in an email.

The hemp provision is not currently present in the House’s farm bill. However, Bloomberg Government reports that a conference committee should convene to iron out the difference soon.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Algal blooms become state emergency — Following reports of widespread toxic blue-green algae in South Florida, Gov. Rick Scott this week issued an emergency order in Glades, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties to combat the crisis. “Our state is once again facing a crisis from water releases controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “This has prompted me to issue an emergency declaration, so our state agencies can do everything in their power to minimize the harmful impacts these releases are having on our communities.” The emergency order brings summons state agencies to dedicate efforts toward mitigating the algal blooms. After Scott’s action, the White House Office of Management and Budget approved $1.6 billion worth of funding to complete the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, which is expected to lessen the amount of toxic water discharged from Lake Okeechobee. The dollars still need U.S. Senate approval. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began discharging water Friday from Lake Okeechobee after halting releases June 30.

Lawsuit targets education amendment — The League of Women Voters of Florida is challenging a proposed constitutional amendment on the basis that its ballot language is misleading. Amendment 8, as it will appear on the ballot, fails “to inform voters of the chief purpose of the revision, and are affirmatively misleading as to (its) true purpose and effect,” alleges the suit. Specifically, the language omits necessary details of a section of the amendment that would allow charter schools to open without local school board approval, the League claims. The current ballot summary reads, “The amendment maintains a school board’s duties to public schools it establishes, but permits the state to operate, control, and supervise public schools not established by the school board.” But League President Patricia M. Brigham says the “language is blatantly, and unconstitutionally, misleading.” The amendment was placed on the ballot via the 2017 Constitution Revision Commission. It will need 60 percent voter approval in November to pass.

Parkland panel meets again — The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, spawned by the Legislature following the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, met again this week continuing its fact-finding quest to determine what measures the state can take to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. The panel, which includes lawmakers, law enforcement, agency heads and citizens, turned its attention toward a pre-arrest diversion program in Broward County. The commissioners criticized the PROMISE program, in which the confessed shooter was once enrolled, for tallying offenses on a year-by-year basis. Pinellas County Sheriff and panel chair Bob Gualtieri called that aspect “unique” and members agreed it should change. Gualtieri also addressed the lack of uniformity in 911 communication systems and suggested consolidating them in the future.

Scott halts new beach law — Scott is directing state agencies to not restrict access to public beaches. His order follows reports this week that two women were told by law enforcement to leave a Walton County beach considered private property under a new law that took effect July 1. Scott signed HB 631 into law declaring that the legislation would not further restrict public access to beaches, but Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson told media earlier this week that in his county the new law meant residents could not be in backyard beaches without permission. “Unfortunately, the legislation has now created considerable confusion, and some have even interpreted it as restricting beach access,” Scott said of the new law he signed in March. He directed the state Department of Environmental Protection “to do everything in their power to advocate to keep our beaches open and public.” He added: “Also, I am putting a moratorium on any new state regulation that could inhibit public beach access and also urging local government officials to take similar steps to protect Floridians’ access to the beach.”

Gloomy citrus season wraps — The final citrus production forecasts for the state mark an end to one of the worst seasons in recent decades. The United States Department of Agriculture released its last forecast for the year Thursday, estimating Florida growers should finish the harvest with just under 45 million boxes of oranges. Before Hurricane Irma’s September landfall, Florida growers were on track to harvest 75 million boxes, according to private estimates. The final numbers reflect 30 million fewer boxes than those early estimates. Each box weighs 90 pounds. The storm flooded groves, devastated trees and damaged irrigation systems. Shortly after the storm swept through the state, authorities said its path “could not have been more lethal” to Florida’s citrus industry. Roughly $2.36 billion worth of federal remedy is expected to be made available to farmers in the coming months.

Scott honors 99-year-old WWII veteran

Gov. Scott this week presented the Governor’s Veterans Service Medal to Sidney Walton at the Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee.

Walton, 99, is one of the country’s oldest WWII vets. He enlisted in the Army in 1941 — just nine months before Japan’s strike on Pearl Harbor. He served five years in the service and then went on to study geology at Virginia Tech and later taught at Duke and NC State universities.

Walton’s visit with Scott is part of his No Regrets Tour that began in April. He intends to meet every state’s governor before his 100th birthday (Feb. 11, 2019).

Sydney Walton visits with Rick Scott as part of his No Regrets Tour, meeting with every U.S. governor before he reaches age 100.

According to the tour’s website, Walton missed a chance to meet with the last remaining Civil War veterans before joining the Army.

“It was a missed opportunity that he has regretted his entire life,” reads the copy on the website.

So far Walton has met with 12 governors. Scott has awarded nearly 15,000 veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Medal.

State faults ‘excessive speed’ for roller coaster crash

A recent roller coaster crash in Daytona Beach was the result of operator error, according to an investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The agency declared this week that “excessive speed” caused by the operator of the Sand Blaster Roller Coaster led to the June 14 derailment of the ride that left 6 injured.

Excessive speed, operator error, were factors in the derailment of a Daytona roller coaster.

“Operator error caused the Sand Blaster Roller Coaster derailment, which injured multiple people. We’ve issued subpoenas to obtain more information from the ride operator, and we will hold fully accountable those responsible,” Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam said in a prepared statement.

Putnam’s agency has issued subpoenas for additional records needed to conclude the investigation. The ride is shut down and “will remain out of operation indefinitely,” according to FDACS.

The findings were the result of a preliminary investigation into the incident and included details from a third-party engineer’s report.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Jacksonville City Council

Scott appointed Terrance Freeman and Ju’Coby Pittman. Freeman will serve during the suspension of City Councilmember Reginald Brown and Pittman will serve during the suspension of City Councilmember Katrina Brown, both appointments beginning July 10. Freeman, 43, of Jacksonville, is the regional director at Ygrene Energy Fund. Pittman, 54, of Jacksonville, is the president of Clara White Mission, Inc.

Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board

Scott appointed Scott Wiggins, and reappointed Ed Armstrong and Jeffrey Adams. Wiggins, 54, of Tampa, is a civil engineer and former investment banker. He succeeds Michael Babb and will serve a term through March 1, 2022. Armstrong, 61, of Dunedin, is an attorney with Hill Ward Henderson P.A. He is reappointed to serve a term ending March 1, 2022. Adams, 59, of St. Petersburg, is an attorney with Abbey Adams Byelick & Mueller, LLP. He is reappointed to serve a term ending March 1, 2022. The moves are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Union County Court

Scott appointed Mitchell D. Bishop. Bishop, 36, of St. Augustine, is an Assistant State Attorney for the 7th Judicial Circuit and a Judge Advocate for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. A graduate of Union County High School, he received his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and his law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law. Bishop fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Robert Bo Bayer.

Florida Prepaid College Board

Scott reappointed James Rasmussen. Rasmussen, 66, of Tallahassee, is the retired chief executive officer and president of SunTrust Bank South Florida. He received his bachelor’s degree from Bradley University and his graduate degree from Rutgers University. Rasmussen is reappointed to serve a term through June 30, 2021. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Florida Keys Community College District Board of Trustees

Scott appointed Dan Leben. Leben, 46, of Key Largo, is the owner of SmartScript Pharmacy. He received his bachelor’s degree from Marquette University. Leben succeeds Robert Stoky and will serve a term through May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Seminole State College District Board of Trustees

Scott appointed Daniel O’Keefe. O’Keefe, 62, of Longwood, is the Orlando Office Managing Partner at Moore Stephens Lovelace, P.A. He received his bachelor’s degree from Canisius College and his master’s degree from Florida State University. O’Keefe succeeds Wendy Brandon and will serve a term through May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Leadership changes hands at VISIT FLORIDA board

The new fiscal year brings with it a new board chair overseeing the state’s premier tourism-marketing agency.

Lino Maldonado has assumed the role of chair of the 2018-2019 VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors. She is the vice president of operations, growth and innovation for Wyndham Vacation Rentals North America.

Lino Maldonado (left) is being tapped to lead the VISIT FLORIDA board.

“Florida’s diverse tourism industry is well represented by those serving on our board and committees,” Maldonado said. “I look forward to working alongside my colleagues and the VISIT FLORIDA staff to ensure VISIT FLORIDA continues to serve as a catalyst for maximizing the tourism industry’s efforts to attract visitors from around the globe.”

Outgoing Chair Maryann Ferenc pointed to the successes of VISIT FLORIDA under her guard. Among them: securing $76 million in funding from the state during the 2018 Legislative Session, launching an affordable marketing cooperative, and setting tourism records in the Sunshine State.

“I believe we have positioned ourselves for the next great steps in our transformation,” Ferenc said.

Added VISIT FLORIDA CEO and President Ken Lawson: “As we move into a new year, I cannot think of a better successor than Lino Maldonado.”

DEM honored for Geographic Information Systems

ESRI, the global leader in “spatial analytics,” presented the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) with its Special Achievement in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Award (SAG) July 11 at the annual ESRI User Conference.

Florida’s emergency management system earned special recognition at the ESRI User Conference.

Selected from over 300,000 eligible candidates, FDEM received the award for its innovative application of mapping and data analytics in the field of Emergency Management.

“FDEM is a national leader in Emergency Management and that leadership includes our use of data and analytics to enhance our operational capabilities,” Director Wes Maul said. “I am proud of the hard work that this award represents and I am excited for our team to continue leveraging GIS technology as we accomplish our most critical missions.”

FDEM provided GIS leadership in preparation and response to Hurricane Irma. During the response, FDEM’s Web GIS preparedness resulted in the ability to rapidly launch more than 60 mission critical applications.

FDEM was one of over 180 organizations in areas such as commercial industry, defense, transportation, nonprofit work, telecommunications, and government to receive a SAG Award.

Florida Bar breaks down judicial races

Want to know more about the local judicial candidates who will appear on your ballot in August? Wondering what Florida’s lawyers think about the appeals court judges facing a merit retention vote?

Online and in print, The Florida Bar provides a wealth of information as part of its initiative to educate Florida’s voters about judicial elections. Detailed information on more than 100 county and circuit court judicial candidates is available now on The Florida Bar’s website.

The Florida Bar hands down decisions on judicial races across the state.

The opportunity to submit a judicial candidate voluntary self-disclosure statement was offered to all candidates for contested county and circuit seats. The 10-page statements give voters basic biographical information, legal experience and community work as well as a short essay on why candidates feel they would be good judges.

The Bar also has printed 100,000 copies of the “Guide for Florida Voters,” which is available at supervisors of elections offices throughout the state and at many public libraries. It also is available to civic groups upon request; email votersguide@floridabar.org.

The Bar’s “The Vote’s in Your Court” webpage is a go-to source for information on judicial merit retention. There, voters will find the “Guide for Florida Voters” (soon to be posted in Spanish as well), which answers many questions voters might have about merit retention.

There also are links to the Code of Judicial Conduct and biographies of the appeals court judges and one Supreme Court justice up for merit retention votes. A merit retention poll of Bar members will be completed in early September.

Election dates this year are Aug. 28 and Nov. 6. All county and circuit judicial races appear on the primary ballot, with runoffs in November. The merit retention vote is in November.

2018 Healthy Community Champions announced

The Florida Department of Health this week recognized 46 communities as 2018 Healthy Community Champions, those that “have implemented a variety of policies that have been shown to increase physical activity and improve nutrition.”

Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said: “Their efforts to implement policies that empower residents and visitors to improve their health are an important part of creating healthy environments throughout Florida.”

Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip names 2018 ‘healthy champions.’

The Healthy Community Champions highlight local governments that have focused on improving the “built environment.”

The department defines a built environment as the places where people live, work and play (e.g., homes, buildings, streets, open spaces and infrastructure), food environments (e.g., supermarkets, corner stores, farmers markets and food pantries), and other environmental influences (e.g., indoor/outdoor air and water quality, noise pollution and environmental toxins).

That can influence residents’ physical, nutritional, and mental health within their community through policies designed to provide adequate access to physical activity opportunities, adequate access to healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate foods, access to health care and a reduction or elimination of environmental health risks to the community.

The 2018 Healthy Community Champions are listed here.

Audubon: Everglades progress ‘great news’

Environmentalists are cheering the White House Office of Budget Management’s approval of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir, announced this week.

Among those in support is Audubon Florida, which has held a keen interest in the preservation of the Everglades.

“This is great news. With guacamole-thick algae plaguing waterways in America’s Everglades, Florida cannot afford any delays in advancing this critical Everglades restoration project,” said Celeste De Palma, Audubon’s director of Everglades policy.

Despite ‘avocado algae,’ restoration of the Florida Everglades is progressing.

De Palma said thousands of advocates called on behalf of Audubon to urge the Trump administration to approve the plan. She praised Gov. Scott, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, and Congressmen Brian Mast, Ron DeSantis and Francis Rooney. “They were instrumental in ensuring this project kept moving forward,” De Palma said.

Per Audubon: “The selected plan for the EAA Reservoir will reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries by 56 percent and cut the recurrence of discharge events by 63 percent. The project will also deliver an annual average of 120 billion gallons of clean water to the parched Everglades National Park and Florida Bay and significantly increase much-needed freshwater flows to the south during the dry season.”

The organization plans to remain an active supporting voice for the plan as the Senate takes up a vote on its version of the bill sometime this month.

Thrasher to decide on FSU namings, recognitions

Recommendations by a Florida State University panel to rename the main law school building, remove and curate a statue commemorating Francis Eppes, and rename a building honoring Eppes’ name now awaits action from university President John Thrasher.

“I want to thank the members of the panel for their time and efforts on these matters,” said Thrasher, who spawned the panel following last year’s riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, sparked by controversy over monuments glorifying the Confederacy. “Their work is important to the university, and I appreciate their willingness to research and make recommendations on these issues. I will review the report and carefully consider the panel’s recommendations.”

Francis Eppes may soon be persona non grata on campus.

Thrasher can accept, modify or decline the recommendations. The panel met nine times throughout the last academic year.

The 15-member committee determined Eppes, a former mayor of Tallahassee and grandson of Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves and is not credited with the founding of the seminary that eventually led to the university’s formation.

“Eppes should still be recognized, but in a manner that is consistent with an accurate representation of his contributions,” reads the panel’s report.

Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice B.K. Roberts wrote the state Supreme Court’s 1957 majority opinion to deny law school admission to an African-American student, Virgil Hawkins. The panel recommends renaming the law school building currently bestowed with Roberts’ name, and that a contextualized recognition of Roberts be placed somewhere else within the school.

FSU prof teaches civil rights history

A Florida State University professor is leading an effort to bring to life and celebrate the powerful contributions of 1960s civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, while empowering youth through the art of filmmaking.

Davis W. Houck, FSU’s Fannie Lou Hamer Professor of Rhetorical Studies in the College of Communication and Information, helped conduct a workshop with high school teachers in the Mississippi Delta to develop a K-12 “Find Your Voice” curriculum about the life of Hamer.

Legendary 1960s civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.

In addition, FSU School of Communication doctoral student Pablo Correa and alumnus Joseph Davenport taught a college-level media production course, “Find Your Voice Young Filmmakers Workshop,” to high school students.

“The Mississippi Delta has given me and my students so much. The filmmakers workshop and the ‘Find Your Voice’ curriculum are ways to give back to this unique part of the world,” Houck said. “Fannie Lou Hamer was born, raised and lived in the Delta. Teaching her story in a film and in schools provides a strong voice of resistance in today’s hard and perilous times.”

Houck collaborated on the “Find Your Voice” project with Maegan Parker Brooks, an assistant professor at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. They worked with seven teachers in Mississippi to design a K-12 curriculum that boosts students’ interest in the life of Fannie Lou Hamer. The professors will debut these lesson plans in October to celebrate what would have been Hamer’s 101st birthday.

The “Find Your Voice Young Filmmakers Workshop” taught by Correa and Davenport included 16 high school students from the Delta, including several from Gentry High School, which hosted the program in Indianola, Mississippi. The five-week workshop introduced students to all aspects of filmmaking, including composition, shooting, lighting, sound and editing.

Workshop participants tapped into those creative ideas during the course and produced their own documentaries. Their films will be shown during a public screening Saturday, July 14, at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola.

— Contributed by Dave Heller

Dedman School honors Bucs executive

Florida State University’s Dedman School of Hospitality has named Brian A. Ford Jr., the chief operating officer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as its 2018 Alumnus of the Year.

Ford received a bachelor’s degree in hospitality administration from FSU in 1989.

As the Buccaneers COO, Ford oversees the organization’s day-to-day business operations and community involvement. He works with owners to ensure the football team offers fans the highest quality experience.

Under his leadership, the Bucs have consistently earned top honors among NFL teams for customer service, frequently ranking No. 1 in the league’s annual ‘Voice of the Fan’ report.

Ford began his career with the Buccaneers in 2006. During his tenure, he has guided a $160 million renovation of Raymond James Stadium and the construction of a 100,000-square-foot indoor practice facility.

He will be honored during the school’s awards dinner Oct. 18.

Connect with Leon County ‘hotspots’

Leon County is providing residents with access to the internet by making mobile Wi-Fi hotspots available at any county library for check out, free of charge.

The hotspots will let patrons access high-speed internet service at home or on-the-go. The devices also will make it easy to browse the library’s online catalog, place a book on hold, or simply browse the internet and stay connected on social media.

LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library is a hot spot for hotspots.

In addition to browsing and selecting book options for check out, patrons may use the hotspots to download many of the library’s downloadable media options.

“The mobile hotspots address the changing needs of the community, providing access to dozens of online databases for research of all kinds with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger,” a news release said.

Mobile hotspots can be checked out for two weeks at a time to anyone with a Leon County library card and will provide up to 500mb of data per day. The devices are available at the Leroy Collins Leon County Main Library and all six branch library locations.

For more information or to place a hotspot on hold, visit www.LeonCountyLibrary.org.

ISF named Tallahassee family-friendly

For the second year in a row, ISF has been named a “Family Friendly Workplace” by the Family Friendly Workplace Task Force, which includes 31 members representing a variety of Tallahassee-area organizations diverse in both size and industry.

ISF is once again named one of Tallahassee’s ‘family-friendly workplaces.’

ISF is a Florida-based business with offices in Tallahassee and Jacksonville, Florida and Austin, Texas, providing information technology strategy and development with a focus on state government clients.

“Work-life balance is a vital factor of individual and family health, and ISF fosters this key value in support of our employees,” the company said in a news release.

“Our employee-focused culture with competitive compensation, opportunities for profit and merit-based bonuses, and our attention to employee career growth help to create an environment of sustainable productivity and professional growth.

“Our staff retention rates are more than twice the average for the information technology industry, and we are pleased to be recognized as a leader in family-friendly best practices and policies by this distinguished group.”

 ‘Pizza Pub’ coming to downtown

The Deck Pizza Pub will be unlike anything else in Tallahassee.

The owner of downtown’s Metro Deli told the Tallahassee Democrat Friday he’s opening “The Deck Pizza Pub” in the space that formerly housed The Southern Public House.

 

“This style of pizza that’s going to come out of that oven is going to be different from anything in Tallahassee,” owner Rob Bazemore told the Democrat, saying his pizza will be more “traditional.”

The College Avenue location also was briefly home to the Tucker Duke’s eatery, and before that was the longtime locale of Po Boy’s Creole Cafe.

Bazemore said he hopes to open by mid-August, adding that the deck will be an outdoor entertainment area for live music.

Capitol Directions

Personnel note: David Mica Jr. named CEO of Volunteer Florida

Volunteer Florida announced two recent changes to the organization’s leadership:

— Gov. Rick Scott appointed David Mica Jr. to serve as Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Florida.

— The Volunteer Florida Commission unanimously voted Autumn Karlinsky to preside as Chair for the 2018-19 year.

“Volunteer Florida is always ready to support our local communities, especially in times of need,” Scott said in a statement. “During last year’s devastating hurricane season, they coordinated with countless local organizations to make sure that families had what they needed.

Mica

“I know that David will work every day to build on these accomplishments by continuing to focus on helping our communities and everyone that calls Florida home.”

Mica served as chief of staff of the Florida Lottery since December 2016, stepping in as interim secretary between Tom Delacenserie and current Secretary Jim Poppell.

He also was director of legislative affairs for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and was a Gubernatorial Fellow in 2013-14.

*                   *                    *

Karlinsky

As a former Chair of the Volunteer Florida Commission, Karlinsky re-assumes the role with eight years of experience.

She maintains philanthropic positions in the Broward County community benefiting Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, Temple Dor Dorim and Imagine Charter School at Weston. Karlinsky also serves on the Board of Trustees for Florida House on Capitol Hill.  

She and her husband, insurance lobbyist and Scott confidant Fred Karlinsky, endowed the Florida State University College of Law Karlinsky Family Scholarship and the Karlinsky Family Student Lounge in the school’s Advocacy Center in Tallahassee. They live in Weston with their two children.

Last Call for 7.12.18 — 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

Another self-imposed deadline, another delay.

The federal government has again asked a Tallahassee judge to delay any rulings while it decides whether to get involved in a lawsuit over records on March’s pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University that killed six people.

U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Canova of the Northern District of Florida filed a notice Wednesday saying that although he expected to make a decision this week, “the review process is still ongoing.” The notice was not made available online until Thursday.

“The government will provide a further status update on or before July 25,” he added, “and respectfully requests that the court continue to defer ruling.” Federal law authorizes him to “attend to the interests of the United States in (any state) lawsuit.”

The case, which had been before Circuit Judge John Cooper, was reassigned to Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll as part of a routine judicial rotation by Chief Judge Jonathan Sjostrom of the 2nd Judicial Circuit.

The Miami Herald; its Capital bureau chief, Mary Ellen Klas; and Tallahassee correspondent Elizabeth Koh have sued the state’s Department of Transportation in Leon County Circuit Civil court, seeking “emails, meeting minutes and other records relating to the bridge’s design and construction.”

Some of those records “are the subject of a pending accident investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB),” Canova previously said. The March 15 collapse of the then-recently erected bridge killed six midday motorists or passengers, and injured nine others.

The bridge, spanning Tamiami Trail, was meant to connect the campus to student housing in Sweetwater. It happened “just days after cracks had been observed in the $14.3 million structure,” The Herald has reported.

In another letter, NTSB assistant general counsel Benjamin T. Allen explained to Cooper that his agency has “prohibited” FDOT from releasing certain investigative information “absent NTSB approval.”

At a previous hearing, Cooper called the NTSB an “indispensable party” and declined to dismiss the lawsuit. “He … ordered FDOT to send (a) letter asking NTSB to join the lawsuit as a party or file an amicus brief to defend its legal reasoning,” The Herald reported.

If NTSB declines, Cooper added, the state will tell it “we’re going to continue the party without you.”

The Herald is represented by Sandy Bohrer, a partner in the Holland & Knight law firm in Miami and co-chair of the firm’s National Media Team.

Evening Reads

In Senate race, Florida governor in balancing act with Donald Trump” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press

Date set for Donald Trump, Jr. to campaign in Florida for Ron DeSantis” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times

Mom outlines Philip Levine agenda in latest TV ad” via Mark Skoneki of the Orlando Sentinel

New White TV ad blasts Ashley Moody as ‘liberal judge’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Despite legal challenge, appointed Jacksonville City Councilors sworn in” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

State urges dismissal of challenge to gun law” via the News Service of Florida

League of Women Voters sues over education amendment” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Final forecast brings close to gloomy citrus season” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Lake Okeechobee discharges to St. Lucie River to resume Friday, Army Corps says” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm.com

Federal judge dismisses red-light camera class action against Florida municipalities” via Zach Schlein of Law.com

Quote of the Day

“When you get up over $250 billion, you will see an impact … Based on what we know today, that’s probably overly optimistic.” — Amy Baker, the Legislature’s chief economic adviser, on estimates of how much tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump will affect the national economy.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Guest speaker Susan Glickman, David Hastings and Yvette Arellano will discuss “Tampa’s Vulnerabilities in Facing Climate Change-Fueled Hurricanes” at the next Café con Tampa. Admission is $12, which includes a breakfast buffet. That’s at 8 a.m., Upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

The Association of Florida Colleges and the state Division of Florida Colleges will continue a two-day campus safety symposium in Volusia County. Titles of sessions are expected to include, “Developing Emergency Training, Exercises and Drills Within Your Community” and “Recognizing, Responding and Referring Students in a Mental Health Crisis.” That’s at 8:30 a.m., Daytona State College, Mori Hosseini Center, 1200 West International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach.

The Florida State Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) will make a special announcement with Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis at a news conference. That’s at 10:30 a.m., Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5-30, 5530 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville.

Republican candidate for Governor Adam Putnam will make an announcement relating to military and veterans, and be joined by Admiral Robert “Bob” Natter (Ret.) and others. This latest announcement comes after Putnam said he would create a new Veterans Task Force. That’s at 10:30 a.m., Five Star Veterans Center, 40 Acme St., Jacksonville.

First Lady Ann Scott and Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart will announce the 2019 Teacher of the Year at an awards gala. That’s at 7 p.m., Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, 1500 Masters Blvd., ChampionsGate.

State political candidates and committees face a Friday deadline to file reports showing finance activity through July 6.

Looking Ahead

State Rep. Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat running for attorney general, and Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo are expected to take part in a meet-and-greet event before a meeting of The Villages Democratic Club. Others expected include legislative candidates Gary McKechnie and Oren Miller and congressional candidate Dana Cottrell. That’s Saturday at 9 a.m., Colony Cottage, 510 Colony Blvd., The Villages.

Young continues her get-out-the-vote “Super Weekend.” It begins Saturday at 10 a.m., 809 S. Albany Ave., Tampa.

Fox News host Mark Levin joins Republican candidate for Governor Ron DeSantis for a meet-and-greet this weekend. That’s Saturday at 4 p.m., Trump National Jupiter Golf Club, 106 Bears Club Drive, Jupiter.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 7.12.18

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

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

Just in from the field is a new St. Pete Polls survey commissioned by Florida Politics that is sure to reset the current narrative in the GOP primary for Attorney General.

After being up on TV for more than a month — and with state Rep. Jay Fant out of the race — Pensacola lawmaker Frank White now has an outside-the-margin-of-error lead on former Circuit Judge Ashley Moody.

White is at 26 percent, while Moody is at 19 percent.

That’s a marked difference from St. Pete Polls previous temperature-taking of the A.G. race; in June (and with Fant still in the game), Moody was at 15 percent and White was a point behind her.

Also of note in this poll: check out White’s favorable/unfavorable numbers. He’s at 32/7, although Moody’s not too bad herself at 23/6.

With numbers like this, the question now becomes: When can Moody get up on TV? Because if she doesn’t soon, she may not be able to regain the lead.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenBillNelson: Good news in the fight against these algae blooms: The Army Corps just approved the EAA reservoir project that will help clean more water from Lake O and send it south, instead of east and west. Now with Corps’ okay, we can work to get this project approved by Congress this year.

–@marcorubio: I urge all Floridians to vote for @mattcaldwell_fl for Commissioner of Agriculture this August and November.

–@RepValDemings: .@KenDetzner should immediately request the full suite of election security services to ensure the integrity of our voting process. Russia attacked our 2016 election, and they’ll be back. Regardless of race, gender, sexual identity, ZIP code, or income, every vote must be counted

–@RepDeSantis: For 22 years, the families of Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, Carlos Costa, and Pablo Morales have sought justice. Failing to hold Raúl Castro accountable for his role in the murder of these men only serves as a message to our enemies that their crimes will go unchallenged.

@Shawnfor63: Please keep my friend and former competitor Rep. Mark Danish in your prayers as he recovers from a stroke.   He’s a good man notwithstanding his politics 🙂 Speedy recovery Rep!

@MaryEllenKlas: @SenBillNelson suggests naming the southern reservoir project, which received Army Corps support today, after environmentalist Nat Reed.

@JeffBurlew: #Tallahassee lawyer Steve Andrews walked into the federal courthouse today but wouldn’t say whether his client, ousted City Manager Rick Fernandez, was appearing before a grand jury sorting through evidence in long-running public corruption probe.

@ChrisHongTU: The hate mail in response to the Times-Union’s new online paywall perfectly illustrates how badly newspapers screwed up by giving away their work online for so long. Readers are genuinely offended they must pay to read our work. Not sure how we put that cat back in the bag.

@rpetty: There are 17 families that can imagine the loss and pain. We wish that no one ever feel this pain or suffer as we still do. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure we are the last.

— THIS STORY WENT VIRAL —

Vern Buchanan bought yacht after voting for House version of GOP tax bill” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics – A recently filed financial disclosure shows U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan celebrated passing the House version of the Republican tax bill in quite the lavish way. According to the disclosure, Buchanan spent between $1 million and $5 million purchasing an Ocean Alexander yacht on Nov. 16, 2017, the same day he joined 226 other Republicans and no Democrats in voting for the first draft of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” The final tax bill passed Congress on Dec. 20 and was signed into law by President Trump two days later.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Rick Scott’s blind trust: Here’s what we know and what we don’t” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald -The reason Gov. cott’s net income rose 55 percent in 2017 has to do with electric cars, China partnerships, a company turnaround, and a single transaction that resulted in a revenue boost of as much as $550 million to the governor and his family. Continental Structural Plastics, a Michigan-based company that supplies lightweight plastic components to the automotive industry, sold for $825 million on Jan. 3, 2017, to a Japanese conglomerate. The company, bought by Scott in 2005 for an undisclosed price, was one of the largest assets in the millionaire governor’s portfolio. Documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Japanese Financial Services Agency, and the Florida Commission on Ethics — and reviewed by the Times/Herald — show that Scott and his family controlled 66.7 percent of CSP at the time it was sold, a transaction that Scott did not have to report on his annual financial disclosure form filed June 29.”

New Senate Majority PAC ad targets Rick Scott’s health care recordvia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics – A new ad by Senate Majority PAC (SMP) is hammering Gov. Rick Scott‘s record on health care, while claiming incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is the right choice in the 2018 race for U.S. Senate. SMP is a partisan group that aims to elect Democrats to the Senate. Its 30-second ad features Dr.David Woolsey, identified in the ad as a Florida ER doctor. Online records show he’s an internist affiliated with Miami Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. “We’ve got an opioid crisis, a doctor shortage, seniors struggling to pay for care,” Woolsey says. “But even with all that, Rick Scott vetoed millions in healthcare funds and refused federal funds that would’ve covered 750,000 Floridians.”

On Wednesday, Rick Scott held a “Let’s Get to Work” rally at the Hamilton County Veterans Memorial VFW Post 8095.

Scott slightly ahead of Nelson among South Florida Hispanics, new poll finds” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Scott’s 42 percent to 39 percent lead over Nelson among likely South Florida Hispanic voters is buoyed by strong support for the Republican governor by Cuban-American voters and relatively weak backing for the Democratic incumbent by non-Cuban Hispanic voters, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey conducted for Telemundo 51 in Miami. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. … Among Cuban-Americans, Scott leads Nelson 58 percent to 30 percent, with 12 percent undecided. Among non-Cuban American Hispanic voters, Nelson leads Scott 50 percent to 22 percent, with 28 percent undecided.

Assignment editors: Scott will host a “Let’s Get to Work” rally as part of his Senate campaign. Lake Butler Community Center, 155 NW 3rd St., Lake Butler. 10:00 a.m.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Gwen Graham accepts NARAL endorsement” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics – “As with every election year, all eyes are on Florida.” That was the message regarding a potential future fight for abortion rights at Wednesday’s Gwen Graham event in Miami. Graham gathered with supporters to accept the endorsement of NARAL, one of the nation’s largest pro-choice political action committees. NARAL National Political Director Nicole Brener-Schmitz spoke at the event, emphasizing the group’s focus on Florida. She called the gubernatorial race “one of the most important elections in the 2018 cycle.”

Graham’s family is now her biggest financial backer” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times – Graham‘s father is her biggest political asset, a popular former governor and senator with deep ties to power brokers in the state. But last month he became her biggest financial asset, too, giving another $250,000 to her campaign and becoming her top donor. He’s not the only Graham to give. Her campaign for governor is very much a family affair, with her Washington Post-linked relatives pitching in hundreds of thousands of dollars as well. Together, they make up the Graham campaign’s largest financial support network, about 7.5 percent of the $9.3 million she’s raised so far. (Her campaign notes that it’s not just her family – she has more donors overall than all of her Democratic opponents combined.)

First in Sunburn – Chris King up with new TV ad – In the ad, King lays out his ambitious proposals earning attention and praise across the state, from taxing bullets to reduce gun violence, to free community college and trade school, to criminal justice reform that legalizes marijuana and ends the death penalty. The 30-second spot will air in the Jacksonville, Orlando, Panama City, Tampa-St. Petersburg and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce television markets.

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

How Philip Levine made the money that’s financing his bid for governor” via David Smiley, Joey Flechas and Danny Rivero for the Miami Herald – A Miami Herald review of hundreds of pages of court and corporate filings and interviews with current and former Levine business partners reveal a complicated portrait of a businessman who through impeccable execution and timing built several successful companies from scratch. He also received steady support from a well-heeled family, had acrimonious splits with former partners and dealt with a controversy in Alaska involving allegations of strong-arm tactics by cruise-line shopping guides. The cruising industry remains one of Levine’s best sources of campaign cash. It’s also his biggest source of personal income, bringing him more than $3.6 million last year, according to his financial disclosures.

Marco Rubio endorses Matt Caldwell – Caldwell, a Republican running for Agriculture Commissioner, has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Rubio, his campaign said Wednesday. “As the most conservative candidate in the race, Matt Caldwell has been an unwavering supporter of the Second Amendment, consistently voted to cut taxes and reduce the size of government, and is a staunch supporter of the right-to-life,” Rubio said. “There is no harder working or more qualified candidate.” Rubio’s support adds to a growing list of endorsements for the current North Fort Myers state representative, including most recently the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) and Unified Sportsmen of Florida, Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA), and Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida.

Ross Spano backs former opponent for Attorney General” via Florida Politics – Former Attorney General candidate Ross Spano says he’s throwing his support behind Moody as she continues to pursue the Republican nomination in that race. Spano exited the contest back in April to run for Congress in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. He currently represents House District 59. Now, he says he’s backing Moody over White. “Ashley Moody is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and will always stand up for the rights of law-abiding gun owners and against the liberal gun control agenda,” Spano said.

Charter schools back amendment fight” via The News Service of Florida – Companies with ties to charter schools and a controversial federal visa program are providing the bulk of contributions to an effort to pass a constitutional amendment that would impose an eight-year term limit on school board members. Through June, the 8isGreat.org political committee has raised $54,532 in support of Amendment 8, state election records show. The amendment, which was approved by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, would impose term limits on school board members but would also provide more authority to the Legislature to create alternative public education initiatives, like charter schools. The amendment also would require civics literacy instruction in the public schools. Nearly three-quarters of the money raised by the 8isGreat group has come from companies involved with charter schools.

Stephanie Murphy passes $2 million mark in fundraising” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The amount raised from April through the end of June is her largest-ever quarterly take over her two election cycles, the campaign said. Murphy now has more than $1.6 million cash on hand after having raised a total of $2.2 million. “Our campaign is humbled by the outpouring of enthusiasm and support for Stephanie Murphy from people who know they are investing in a tireless advocate for central Florida families,” Murphy campaign manager Christie Stephenson said in a statement. Murphy … is running for re-election two years after defeating longtime Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica in 2016. Second quarter fundraising amounts for her Democratic primary opponent, former ACLU board member Chardo Richardson, and Republicans U.S. Rep. Mike Miller, businessman Scott Sturgill and former Senate adviser Vennia Francois were not announced or reported Wednesday by the Federal Election Commission.

Assignment editors: Murphy will be among the speakers at an event hosted by the group New Democracy. The event, which also will include other Democratic members of Congress from across the country, is titled, “Building New Democratic Majorities.” Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 8:30 a.m.

Carlos Curbelo rakes in $785,000 in latest fundraising quarter” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Curbelo has ramped up his fundraising as he tries to keep his Miami-to-Key West seat in GOP hands come November. The two-term congressman raised approximately $785,000 in the latest fundraising quarter from April 1 to June 30, and has $2.6 million on hand to spend about four months out from Election Day. Curbelo’s campaign said the quarterly haul is a record amount and he has about $500,000 more to spend than he did at this point in the 2016 election cycle, when he eventually defeated former Rep. Joe Garcia

Jeff Brandes piles on cash as Florida Democrats scramble to replace Carrie Pilon” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Brandes doesn’t know who he’ll be up against come Election Day, but that hasn’t stopped donors from pouring beaucoup bucks into his political committee. A newly filed campaign finance report for Liberty Florida shows the Senate District 24 incumbent reeled in a six-figure haul from a crop of well-known donors in the last week of June. Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a candidate for Senate President in 2022, chipped in $15,000 via her Working Together For Florida political committee and Miami-based air cargo company Florida Cargo Fresh matched her while U.S. Sugar and AIF-affiliated Floridians for a Stronger Democracy each showed up at the $10,000 level. The committee cash came a week before one-time challenger Pilon’s announcement that she would abdicate her spot on the ballot due to serious and unexpected health problems of a close family member.

Florida Retail Federation PAC endorses Rebekah Bydlak – The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) PAC on Wednesday announced its endorsement of Bydlak, a Republican running for House District 1, which covers part of Escambia County. “Rebekah is a successful and energetic candidate who has had the best interests of Floridians and business owners in mind during her professional career,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “Living on the Florida border, she knows firsthand how unnecessary taxes like the business rent tax have hurt Florida businesses and forced others to start somewhere else. Her fresh ideas and desire to make Florida the best place to live and work will be a big benefit to retailers when she’s a member of the Florida House.”

Study: Florida’s policies are keeping hundreds of thousands from voting” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida is not making it easy enough for you to vote, according to a new report from the liberal Center for American Progress. The new study, ‘Increasing Voter Participation in America: Policies to Drive Participation and Make Voting More Convenient,’ which was released Wednesday morning, details a number of policies states could enact to maximize voter turnout.”

— IS IT REALLY THAT TIME AGAIN? —

Is it really “that time” again?

…Yes, it’s budget time.

Planning for the 2019-20 state budget officially begins July 15, when instructions are due to agencies for their LBRs, or legislative budget requests, under state law.

But the Governor’s Office beat that deadline, issuing instructions this Wednesday.

That’s followed by an Aug. 1 deadline for filing claim bills (in the Senate), and then the Joint Legislative Budget Commission issues the Long Range Financial Outlook by Sept. 15.

State agencies have to submit their Legislative Budget Requests by Oct. 15, and so on.

Isn’t The Process grand? And we don’t even have Organization Session details yet!

— STATEWIDE —

Mike Grissom in Kenya? –Enterprise Florida plans trade mission to Africa” via News Service of Florida – Enterprise Florida is planning a fall export sales mission to Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Manny Mencia, senior vice president of international trade and development for EFI, said the mission is intended to bolster relations between Florida and two of the largest economies in East Africa. “Growth in the region is tremendous and companies there are very interested in forming partnerships with U.S. businesses,” Mencia said Wednesday in a press release. The public-private business recruitment agency has opened registration for the Nov. 2-9 trip that will target fields including agricultural machinery, aircraft parts, construction, medical equipment, energy, and waste-water management.

Lawmakers want judge tossed off environmental funding suit” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Saying he violated their constitutional rights “in multiple ways, and over repeated objections,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron asked a Tallahassee judge to remove himself from future proceedings in an environmental funding case. The legislative leaders filed their disqualification request with Circuit Judge Charles Dodson earlier this week. On June 28, Dodson had granted a “final (summary) judgment for (the) plaintiffs” in a lawsuit over how lawmakers fund environmental conservation. Summary judgments allow parties to win a case without a trial. A notice of appeal has not yet been filed, according to court dockets. But attorneys sometimes move for disqualification as a pre-emptive strike, to avoid having the same judge if a suit on appeal gets kicked back down to the lower-court judge for further action.

Court sides with FPL, Duke on nuclear costs” via News Service of Florida – A federal appeals court Wednesday backed Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy Florida in a class-action lawsuit that sought to recover money paid by utility customers under a controversial 2006 nuclear-power law. The law … has been highly controversial, as it allowed utilities to collect money for nuclear projects that might never be built. The lawsuit alleged that the law was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and that it is “preempted” under a federal law known as the Atomic Energy Act. The plaintiffs contended that, under the Atomic Energy Act, Congress did not intend for states to have a role in financing and promoting nuclear projects.“This is far from the case here,” the ruling said. … “Plaintiffs’ interests are well beyond the zone the (dormant Commerce Clause) is meant to protect.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

White House backs Everglades reservoir” via News Service of Florida – The White House has backed Florida’s effort to secure federal funding for a reservoir intended to move water away from Lake Okeechobee and reduce discharges that residents blame for repeated toxic algae outbreaks spreading on both coasts. The request by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to include funding for the roughly $1.6 billion Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, approved by the state Legislature last year, now heads to the U.S. Senate. The plan is expected to be included as part of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. The reservoir was a priority for Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican leaving office in November.

Matt Gaetz: People with ‘loose affiliation with the Deep State’ are ‘out to get’ Jim Jordan” via Josh Feldman of Mediate – Jim Jordan is a man of integrity and these attacks against him are a direct consequence of the outstanding oversight work that Jim Jordan is doing,” Gaetz said. “If Jim Jordan was not after the Department of Justice and the FBI, he would not be dealing with these allegations. They are totally false, I am confident in that to my core. And look, Lou, how is Jim Jordan supposed to prove that he didn’t know something 30 years ago when he was a 21-year-old assistant coach? It is an impossible position to be in and it’s outrageous and we have to confront it for what it is.

— OPINION —

Joe Henderson: Ken Hagan’s likely pitch for Rays stadium? It’s an investment” via Florida Politics – Perhaps no politician in Hillsborough County has been more identified with the effort to build a stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays than Ken Hagan. The veteran County Commissioner was key in trying to convince the Rays that Ybor City was the right place to put a stadium. What he does behind the scenes could decide whether the proposed $892 million ballpark is ever built. His absence at Tuesday’s pep rally/stadium unveiling at the Italian Club in Ybor was conspicuous. There certainly were many other public figures on hand … I called Hagan’s office Wednesday just to double-check that he wasn’t there – it was a crowded room – and it was confirmed. The aide said he had no idea why Hagan missed the party.

— ALOE —

Journalism award nominations sought by Florida Bar” via Florida Politics – The call for entries is out for The Parker Thomson Awards for Outstanding Legal Journalism in Florida and the Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award, The Florida Bar announced Wednesday. For the Thomson awards, work submitted for consideration (should) deal with law and lawyers, courts, law enforcement, the delivery of legal services, the effectiveness of the justice system, the work of the organized Bar or related matters … The Susan Spencer-Wendel Lifetime Achievement Award honors a retired or working journalist who has written or reported extensively in an outstanding fashion to educate citizens on the system of law and justice as it affects the people of Florida … The Parker Thomson and Susan Spencer-Wendel media awards will be presented at the Reporters’ Workshop dinner on Sept. 24 in Tallahassee. Winners will be notified in advance. For the nomination forms, click here.

What John Morgan is reading:Oklahoma Board of Health bans sales of smokeable marijuana” via The Oklahoman – Raymond Jennings credits smoking medical marijuana with helping him keep up the strength to survive his cancer battle. And he worries that other Oklahomans won’t have the same opportunity, after the state Board of Health this week voted to ban sales of marijuana flowers and leaves, the forms that patients can smoke. Jennings said he underwent three rounds of chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments to kill stage four squamous cell skin cancer. He said he’d never smoked and didn’t like the idea of using marijuana, but was so weak from being unable to eat that he agreed to try it. He received the marijuana in Colorado, where it already was legal. “I can tell you, without smoking marijuana, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

Happy birthday to INFLUENCE 100’er Jon Adrabi, former Senator John Grant, former AG Bill McCollum, and congressional candidate Bob Rackleff.

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