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 SaintPetersBlog.com, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog 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.

Last Call for 5.23.18 — 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

The state’s medical marijuana regulators are holding rule-making hearings Thursday — seemingly without addressing two major concerns from lawmakers.

The hearings, which begin at 9 a.m., cover changes to the application process to become a medical marijuana provider, and to some legal definitions.

A new proposed rule, however, still includes a $60,000 “nonrefundable application fee” to become a marijuana provider, and doesn’t remove provisions for “contingent” licenses.

The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee (JAPC) has objected to both, saying they weren’t mentioned in state law passed to ‘implement’ Florida’s constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis.

The committee, which ensures that agencies write rules that line up with statutes passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, has long had problems with medical marijuana rule-making.

Its coordinator, Kenneth Plante, sent a letter earlier this month to the Department of Health’s top lawyer, asking whether the Department was simply “refusing to modify the rules.” It regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Health Department spokesman Devin Galetta has said the agency is “committed to pushing forward … and look(s) forward to working with JAPC to finalize these rules as quickly as possible in order to meet our goals.”

The hearings take place at the Betty Easley Conference Center, Room 148, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

Evening Reads

Federal judge says Trump violates First Amendment by blocking critic on Twitter” via The Associated Press

Oil drilling ban in eastern Gulf is shot down” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott overrules elections chief, directs Florida to seek cybersecurity money” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s insurance overseer, once sanctioned in apparent insurance glitch” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Publix boycott movement forces tough decisions” via Gary White of The Ledger

Feds are investigative cracks in the FIU bridge — cracks they didn’t want public to see” via Andres Viglucci and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald

Vern Buchanan continues steady TV ad campaign” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Airport mass shooter Esteban Santiago ‘wasn’t really thinking about it’ when he killed five” via Paula McMahon of the Sun Sentinel

City looks for answers after zombie alert sent to residents” via The Associated Press

NFL owners approve team-by-team anthem policy, will allow players to remain in locker room” via Mark Maske of The Washington Post

Quote of the Day

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand … may stay in the locker room … Today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it.” — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a statement released by the league.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Florida Power & Light will host a breakfast and tour of the FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center in Putnam County. The breakfast is at 9 a.m., followed by a media tour at 10:30 a.m., starting at the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, 1100 Reid St., Palatka.

The Florida Development Finance Corporation Board of Directors will hold a workshop, followed by a board meeting. The workshop is at 9 a.m., with the board meeting at 2 p.m., both at Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, 225 East Coastline Dr., Jacksonville.

The Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use will hold two hearings about proposed rules related to medical-marijuana treatment centers. They begin at 9 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

The Florida Transportation Commission will hold a conference call and discuss issues such as construction delays created by utility companies. That’s at 10 a.m. Call-in number: 850-414-4973. PIN: 223188.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, is slated to take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Sulzbacher Village, which will provide housing for low-income women and families. That’s at 10 a.m., Sulzbacher Village, 5455 Springfield Blvd., Jacksonville.

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

Orlando-area entrepreneur and Democratic candidate for Governor Chris King will continue his statewide “Turning the Tide” tour on criminal justice reform. He meets with North Florida faith leaders at 3:15 p.m., Mount Sinai Baptist Church, 2036 Silver St., Jacksonville. He later will address Jacksonville Democrats on his reform plan, 6:30 p.m., Florida Coastal School of Law Atrium, 8787 Baypine Road, Jacksonville.

The Florida Department of Transportation will hold an open house on plans to add two new lanes to eight miles of State Road 60, between County Road 630 in Polk County and the Kissimmee River Bridge in Osceola County. That’s at 5 p.m. Westgate River Ranch, Main Hall, 3200 River Ranch Blvd., River Ranch.

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa, who is running in Senate District 18, will hold a campaign event. She’s expected to be joined by attorney Bob Buesing, who had planned to try to unseat GOP Sen. Dana Young in the district. He dropped out of the race after Cruz announced her candidacy. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Pane Rustica, 3225 South MacDill Ave., Tampa.

A campaign event will be held for Democrat Darryl Block, running in Seminole County’s House District 29. Block is trying to unseat Republican Rep. Scott Plakon. That’s at 7:30 p.m., CJ’s Italian Kitchen, 165 Wekiva Springs Road, #119, Longwood.

Funeral services scheduled for John Morroni

Funeral services for longtime Pinellas County politician John Morroni have been scheduled for June 1.

From 9:00 am to 10:15 am, a viewing will be held at the David C. Gross Funeral Home in St. Petersburg, 6366 Central Ave, followed by an 11:00 am funeral mass at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in St. Pete Beach, 445 82nd Ave.

Morroni died Sunday evening at Suncoast Hospice in the company of his family and loved ones, ending his decade-long battle against a rare form of cancer. He was 63.

The veteran politician served in the Florida House in the 1990s and was elected to the Pinellas County Commission in 2000, serving as its chair in 2005, 2012 and 2015.

Last March, he announced he would not seek a fifth term on the Commission, ending a 25-year career in elective office. It’s unclear at this point when Governor Rick Scott will appoint someone to fill out the remaining portion of Morroni’s term.

A tale of two campaign finance stories by the Tampa Bay Times

As I continue to extol how shopping truly is a pleasure at Publix – and why its campaign contributions to Adam Putnam do not warrant a full-scale boycott of the grocery store – the Tampa Bay Times, which first reported about the scope of Publix’s support of Putnam, has published another campaign finance story which, when contrasted with the Publix-Putnam report, demonstrates how the newspaper can put its thumb on the (deli?) scale when it wants to.

Emily Mahoney, of the combined Times/Herald (Herald/Times?) Tallahassee bureau, reports that South Florida toy executive Jay Foreman contacted former U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and David Jolly this week with a pledge to back their potential bipartisan bid for Florida governor and lieutenant governor.

“I think it’s a great idea and a great opportunity for Florida, which is a swing state in so many ways, to show the country that this model works,” Foreman said.

Foreman is the CEO of Basic Fun!, a Boca Raton “toy and novelty company.” Foreman, a Democrat, told Mahoney he’s a longtime supporter of Murphy’s and even held a fundraiser for him during one of his runs for Congress.

Now, because Foreman’s company makes Lite-Brites, K’nex, and My Little Pony, the Times is having some fun with this story.

There’s a picture of Rainbow Dash (one of my daughter’s favorite ponies) accompanying the blog post. A Times editor tweeted about “Bronies” when referencing the article (although I’d suggest he be careful with that description – read more about the bizarre world of bronies here.)

The piece makes campaign finance sound as if it could be fun if only the “spirit of friendship” (that’s a My Little Pony reference) were involved.

That’s because the Times and its reporters, for the most part, love the fantasy of a bipartisan ticket. The reality is a Murphy-Jolly ticket has as much chance as winning as spotting a purple unicorn.

Because the Times wants to see something like Murphy-Jolly 2018 happen, it frames the story of Foreman pledging to donate to them in a flattering light.

Yet, because Publix has donated several hundred thousand dollars to its hometown ally Adam Putnam, something nefarious must be afoot.

Do your own comparison: Here’s Foreman saying he’s ready to donate up to $40,000 to Murphy-Jolly and he gets to give pie-in-the-sky quotes like, “I see two guys with fresh ideas and fresh faces.”

Why isn’t the story framed as ‘South Florida business executive wants to bankroll long-shot campaign’?

Why doesn’t the Times do the math and point out the fact that if Foreman were to give $40,000 to Murphy, that would be one individual giving almost a tenth of what Publix – a multi-billion dollar company that employs thousands of individuals – gave to Putnam?

Because doing so would not fit the Times’ narrative.

The Times is making a big deal out of Publix’s support for Putnam (which is comparable to the average household annually giving three cents to a cause or candidate) while applying a soft-focus sense to a donor wanting to give money to two candidates the Times would like to see enter the 2018 race for governor.

Harry Cohen - Tampa City Council

Harry Cohen launching mayoral campaign June 6

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen will officially kick off his campaign for Tampa Mayor with a June 6 fundraising reception.

The kickoff event will be held at the Tampa Museum of Art, 120 Gasparilla Plaza, from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Supporters interested in attending can send an RSVP to Harry@Harry2019.com.

Cohen filed for the race to replace exiting Mayor Bob Buckhorn on the last day of March. He faces former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, Michael Hazard, Topher Morrison, philanthropist David Straz, fellow Tampa Councilman Mike Suarez and former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik.

Cohen, a two-term city councilman, has earned a reputation for being a prolific fundraiser, and it looks to be well-deserved given his first full-month campaign finance report. As of April 30, he had raised $190,000 for his campaign and had $187,930 cash on hand.

That puts him behind only Castor in the crowded mayoral race. She had raised about $225,000 through the same date and had $218,537 in the bank, though a large portion of that money was raised in the months leading up to her announcing for the race. Turanchik has raised about the same amount as Cohen, but over 100 days instead of 30.

The mayoral election will be held March 5, 2019, when Tampa holds its municipal elections. Also slated for the ballot are several city council seats. The new mayor and councilmembers will take office on April 1, 2019.

The invitation to Cohen’s fundraiser is below.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.23.18

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

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

And so the well-timed attacks against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson continue. 

A complaint, filed Tuesday by Alan L. Swartz, a Pinellas accountant, takes umbrage with an April 6 Nelson townhall held at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, or PSTA, in St. Petersburg. 

Swartz charges that the event was carried out in Nelson’s capacity as a U.S. Senator, but instead served only to aid Nelson’s re-election campaign. That, Swartz claims, is a violation of federal laws limiting the scope of taxpayer-backed Senate resources.

Ryan Brown, Nelson’s Senate-side communications director, disagreed.

“This was an official event organized by official staff,” Brown told Florida Politics. He suggested that other members of the media have dismissed a similar complaint as “bogus” and that covering the story follows the mantra of being “all about the clickbait.”

At the crux of Swartz’ complaint is correspondence (subjected to public records requests) sent between PSTA and Nelson’s Senate office. 

Local media coverage, Swartz asserts, proves that the event was for campaign purposes — not official business. An article from the Tampa Bay Times about the event was titled, “Bill Nelson, in campaign mode, talks guns at St. Pete town hall.” It’s cited in a footnote in the complaint. 

Nelson is quoted in the Times’ story saying, “Whoever my opponent is, I always take them very seriously and I run like there’s no tomorrow.” Swartz relies on this, in part, to allege the townhall was a campaign event. It is not clear whether Nelson was prompted by a reporter to speak about campaign-specific details or whether he did so with volition.

It’s just another timely attack as the incumbent fights against Scott for his seat in 2018, following a different complaint filed last week alleging Nelson leveraged his power to get a lower valuation on a property he owns, so he could pay less yearly in property taxes. Nelson himself dismissed that charge as a perennial issue. 

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @Dshesgreen: @SpeakerRyan on possible push to oust him from Speaker’s post: “Obviously I serve at the pleasure of the members … but I think we all agree the best thing for us is to completely our agenda” and not have a divisive leadership election distract from that.

— @FrancesRobles: The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reports that 99% of its customers have gotten their power back. (So that’s about 14,700 customers to go!) Sylvia Martínez, the lady in San Lorenzo we featured in our recent report, got her power back this weekend after nearly 9 months

— @AndrewGillum: Tomorrow, all across America, little girls who look like mine will wake up to a country where they can be anything, including a Governor. Congratulations to my dear friend @staceyabrams! What a victory. Onto November!

— @RepTomGraves: We all know someone who was taken too soon by cancer, Alzheimer’s or some other deadly disease. As @POTUS said in his #SOTU, every terminally-ill patient should have the #RightToTry lifesaving innovative drugs. #S204 provides options & hope for those who exhaust other treatments

— @JohnMorganEsq: Always follow the money. The implementation of #MedicalMarijuana in Florida is so incompetent that it must be intentional. I believe that failure rests squarely w/ @FLGovScott. The buck stops here. This will be a HUGE election issue in the FL Senate race.

— @Fneout: Overheard: Reporter asks @LaurenSchenone about being at an official news conference being held soon w @FLGovScott — “Thought you were on the campaign side,” reporter asks. “I am,” she responds. “It’s a public event.” Schenone worked in comms office, switched to Scott’s campaign

— @JKennedyReport: As a former @Mets fan, I know how @FLHouseDems feel: Mathematically eliminated in bid for gaining enuf sigs to force a special session. With two days still to go in balloting.

— @Laforgia_: I’ve said this before. But I miss living and being a reporter in South Florida every single day.

— @TonyDungy: I guess you know that you’ve made it when you become the answer to a Jeopardy question

Tweet of the Day:

 

— DAYS UNTIL —

Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 2; Memorial Day — 5; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 17; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 19; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 20; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 22; Father’s Day — 25; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 30; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 36; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 46; MLB All-Star Game — 55; Deadline for filing claim bills — 70; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 70; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 71; Start of the U.S. Open — 96; Primary Election Day — 97; College Football opening weekend — 99; NFL season starts — 106; Future of Florida Forum — 126; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 153; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 154; General Election Day — 167; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 267; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 286.

— TOP STORY —

Once at odds, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell plot path to hold Congress” via Julie Bykowicz and Mike Bender of The Wall Street Journal — Now, the two men are talking nearly daily about saving the Republican majority this fall, with the White House engaging more directly in fundraising and strategic efforts led by [Senate Majority Leader] McConnell, people close to both men said. Democrats need a net gain of just three seats to retake control of the chamber in November’s midterms. “They’ve been on [a] good footing,” a senior administration official said. … The improved relationship with Mr. McConnell was born out of the fight for tax legislation last year, aides said. Both realized they needed to work together to pass a bill, and they established trust in the process.

Odd couple: Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell team up.

—“House ratings changes: GOP fortunes improve in four districts” via David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

First on #FlaPol — “Bill Nelson’s Brevard County property valuation challenged” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A Brevard County taxpayer is challenging Nelson‘s appraisal of land he owns there, alleging it has been undervalued for years, costing the county “hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions” in under-taxation. It’s not a new issue, and Nelson dismissed the complaint as something that comes up from political opponents in every election, while he insisted the property’s appraisal is appropriate as the land’s use is for grazing cattle. The complaint was filed last week by James Peter Fusscas of Malabar … It charges that Nelson’s property has been far undervalued, with the office listing the land’s market value at $3,038,750, while assessing its value for tax purposes at only $210,630, when Nelson had once listed the property, and a smaller adjacent parcel, for sale for at nearly $10 million.

Every election cycle, Bill Nelson’s Brevard County property comes under scrutiny.

“With Rick Scott on defense, reports show Florida woes for not expanding Medicaid” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida — Two new reports that highlight Florida’s decision to not expand Medicaid found it left the state with more women at risk for mental health problems and significantly increased the number of uninsured overall across the state. The pair of separate reports lands in the middle of campaign season as Gov. Scott, a former hospital executive, is running for U.S. Senate and has been defensive over his long health care record. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Florida has the third-highest percentage of uninsured adults in the country: 20.1 percent in 2017. That’s up from 19.8 percent in 2016. The average percentage of uninsured adults in non-expansion states was 19 percent in 2017, more than double the average uninsured percentage in expansion states: 9.1 percent. And while non-expansion states’ uninsured percentages are ticking up, expansion states’ uninsured percentages are continuing to decline.

As warnings of election hacking escalate, Florida looks to be inviting target” via Ledyard King of USA TODAY — Russian hackers targeted Florida’s election in 2016 and there’s new worry a similar attempt could happen again this year. Trump administration officials warned congressional lawmakers in a classified, closed-door briefing Tuesday about another wave of potential threats targeted at state and local elections this year around the country. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the meeting’s primary aim was to spell out the resources the federal government can provide to prevent such attacks, such as technical assistance, and to urge lawmakers to “raise awareness” with state and local elections officials about ways to protect the integrity of the voting system. There was no specific mention of Florida, where a Tallahassee-based company that provided election-related software to most of the state’s 67 supervisors of elections offices was reportedly targeted by the Russian military during the 2016 election cycle.

Florida Democrats want Ron DeSantis to disclose Elliott Broidy connections” via Florida Politics — The Florida Democratic Party is pointing to a report from The Associated Press about Broidy lobbying in favor of anti-Qatar policies in Washington in order to ingratiate himself with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and possibly nail down up to $1 billion in business deals. “New reports have raised the chilling prospect that Ron DeSantis’ outspoken opposition to Qatar was part of a quid-pro-quo with one of his leading donors, Elliott Broidy. DeSantis should immediately disclose whether he had any conversations with Broidy about U.S. policy toward Qatar. Floridians deserve a governor who will stand up for them — not someone who is controlled by DC lobbyists and foreign governments,” said FDP spokesperson Kevin Donohoe. FDP then openly questions whether DeSantis’ hardline stance on Qatar may have been due to direct lobbying from Broidy, who is also a member of DeSantis’ national finance team.

Mentioned by @FlaDems — “Trump gushes about DeSantis: “He’s always helping me on television. He’s so great” — At a White House ceremony, Trump once again gushed about DeSantis saying “Where’s Ron DeSantis? He’s always helping me on television. He’s so great. Thank you, Ron.” Rumors swirl about a possible Trump visit to Florida to campaign for DeSantis. Trump has loomed large in Florida’s Republican gubernatorial primary — and both DeSantis and Adam Putnam have been jockeying for the president’s support. Last week, The New York Times reported that the Putnam campaign was backchanneling to Vice President Mike Pence to stop Trump from further supporting Ron DeSantis. DeSantis told the Tampa Bay Times that he had the President’s full support. A few days later, Trump mysteriously said (via telephone) that he was planning to come to Florida for a “special event” — immediately leading to speculation that he would soon hit the campaign trail for DeSantis. That speculation only increased when Congressman Matt Gaetz — one of the President’s most vocal supporters — took to the alt-right Breitbart News to formally endorse DeSantis and slam Putnam as a “Trump shade-thrower.”

Road to November goes through Panhandle: Adam Putnam toured Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City as part of his Florida Jobs First Agenda.

Spotted on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Republican David Jolly and Democrat Patrick Murphy, trying to build momentum for their possible ‘Purple Ticket’ run for governor and lieutenant governor. As the Miami Herald explained the plan, “Murphy, a Democrat, would run for governor and would nominate Jolly, a Republican, as his running mate after making it through the primary.”

Florida A&M alumni group plans governor’s race candidate forum in Orlando” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The FAMU NAA’s Gubernatorial Candidates Forum is scheduled to be held Saturday at the Rosen Centre on International Drive. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has confirmed he will attend. No other candidates were yet listed as attending or accepting the invitation. Other events at the convention include the FAMU President’s Luncheon, Distinguished Alumni Awards Black-Tie Gala, and Fundraising Luncheon and Parade of Giving. State Rep. Ramon Alexander, a FAMU alumnus, will deliver the keynote during the luncheon.

More Florida Sheriffs endorse Ashley Moody for AG — Moody announced the endorsement of three more Sheriffs, bringing the total than 39 — more than 80 percent of Republican sheriffs statewide — in her bid for Attorney General. New additions to list are Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister; Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter and Jefferson County Sheriff Alfred Kenneth “Mac” McNeill Jr.

Congressional candidate under fire for saying Puerto Rican evacuees shouldn’t vote in Florida” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Amid the blowback at his remarks, political newcomer John Ward clarified his comments to stress that he believes Puerto Rican voters are U.S. citizens and that they should be allowed to register to vote in Florida if they decide to become permanent residents of the state. Now Ward is in damage-control mode as he tries to blunt the effects on his campaign of his remarks last month. The controversy erupted almost immediately after a voter asked: “A lot of Puerto Ricans have moved either temporarily or permanently to Florida. How do you respond to them when they say that they need more help and that the aid to Puerto Rico is not enough?” Said Ward at the April event: “First of all, I don’t think they should be allowed to register to vote. And it’s not lost on me that, I think, the Democrat Party’s really hoping that they can change the voting [registration] in a lot of counties and districts. And I don’t think they should be allowed to do that.”

John Ward is facing blowback for comments about Puerto Rican evacuees in Florida.

Bob Cortes backs colleague Fred Costello in CD 6 — “As a colleague, as a friend, and as a Puerto Rican American, I strongly support Fred Costello’s candidacy for Congress. Sadly, his primary opponent has made it clear he does not believe Puerto Ricans should be allowed to exercise their rights as American citizens,” state Rep. Cortes said in a statement. Costello, a former Republican state representative, faces Ward in the GOP primary, and Democrats Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch in the general election to replace DeSantis.

Darren Soto gets highest rating from Polk progressives — U.S. Rep. Soto received the highest rating offered by the Polk County Progressive Democratic Caucus of “Strongly Progressive,” according to his campaign for re-election in Florida’s 9th Congressional District. Soto is in a primary with former Congressman Alan Grayson of Orlando, who left the district seat in 2016 for an unsuccessful run for the Senate. The winner of the primary will likely win in November since CD 9 is heavily Democratic in registration.

Lauren Baer gets Palm Beach, Treasure Coast endorsements for CD 18 — New endorsements for Democrat Baer include State Attorney for Palm Beach County Dave Aronberg, state Sen. Lori Berman; state Rep. David Silvers; St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky; Palm Beach Gardens Councilmember Rachelle Litt; former Mayor of Palm Beach Gardens Eric Jablin; Treasure Coast Black Chamber Founder and President Chauncelor Howell; Puerto Rican Association for Hispanic Affairs President Robert Roldan and Vice President of Puerto Rican Association Jacquelene Burke.

David Richardson again hammers CD 27 opponent Donna Shalala in new ad” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Richardson is out with another campaign ad slamming Democratic primary opponent Shalala, this time over her ties to the Lennar Corporation and donations to Republican politicians. It’s the third ad targeting Shalala launched by the Richardson campaign this week. The Lennar Corporation, based in Miami, is one of America’s biggest homebuilders. Shalala served on the board of Lennar from 2001 to 2012. The ad says Shalala “sold out progressive values for personal profits. Shalala gave thousands to pro-gun, pro-life, anti-gay Republicans, profited off the housing crisis, made millions from health insurers and opposed Medicare-for-all.” The new ad also attacks Shalala for her past political donations to Republican campaigns.

To view the ad, click the image below:

Democrats reserve $1.9 million in Miami TV airtime ahead of 2018 election” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced Tuesday that it reserved $1.9 million in the Miami market ahead of Election Day 2018. The Miami reservation, part of a $12.6 million nationwide ad buy … It’s not clear yet which Democrats stand to benefit from the outside television presence. The GOP equivalent of the DCCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee, previously announced a $3.2 million ad reservation in the Miami media market in March as part of a $46.3 million ad buy nationwide.

Happening tonight:

Lone Democrat drops out of HD 64 race” via Florida Politics — Democrat Heather Kenyon Stahl is ending her campaign for House District 64, the Tampa-based seat held by Republican Rep. James Grant. In her announcement, posted on Facebook, Stahl thanked her supporters before citing a new job and her husband’s ongoing health problems as reasons for her exit. “Over the past month, I have obtained a new job which provides great health benefits and allows me to work from home. I have not spoken about this a great deal but my husband had a health scare last year that has left him with cognitive issues (he is on full disability). Being able to work from home allows me the ability to be there if he needs me,” she wrote. She closed by pledging to remain involved in Democratic causes and to help other 2018 Democratic candidates in their races this election cycle.

— “Randy Fine draws a second challenger in HD 53” via Orlando Rising

Controversial comments from HD 98 candidate Michael Gottlieb could cause problems with Democratic voters” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Like many defense attorneys, Gottlieb has handled his share of unsavory cases … But it’s Gottlieb’s comments outside the courtroom that could raise more serious questions for voters. In 2016, Gottlieb defended a cop accused of raping a woman during a traffic stop. In a separate civil suit, to which Gottlieb was not a party, that officer was forced to pay $4.5 million in damages by a federal judge. Gottlieb responded to the judge’s ruling, saying, “There was only one side of the story. There was nobody there discrediting them,” referring to the victims. “There’s always another side to the story.” In 2013, Gottlieb represented Doug Eaton, a photographer accused of possessing child pornography and having sex with a 15-year-old prostitute. Gottlieb admitted his client hired the young girl through an escort service but said it wasn’t Eaton’s fault the girl was underage. Then there is the case of Augustine Bollo, a Weston podiatrist who was convicted of molesting a 15-year-old girl in 2016. Bollo was a longtime friend of the victim’s family and accused of paying the girl to get her to stay silent. “I know his wife and family fully support him and stand by him,” Gottlieb said.

Tweet, tweet:

 

Miami election results

Tweet, tweet:

 

Correction: Michael J. Chitwood is sheriff of Volusia County. He was misidentified in Tuesday’s SUNBURN. We regret the error.

— WHITE FLIGHT —

To move the needle in 2018 and 2020, Democrats want to capture more white voters.

That’s easier said than done, writes political researcher Joshua N. Zinghe for The Washington Post, as whites have been fleeing the Democratic Party for quite some time.

“The decrease in white support for the Democratic Party is one of the most important trends in U.S. politics,” Zinghe writes. “This shift in white voting behavior is the result of changes of the parties’ positions and the country’s demographics.”

One reason why: Polarization. Masses pick a side, rather than hang around in the middle. “Republicans are conservatives and Democrats are liberals.” And that explains some of what’s caused white voters to leave the Democratic Party.

Catch-22: As the percentage of white voters decreases in total, more have “shifted rightward” on economic issues in response. “Overall, the Democratic Party has made inroads among socially liberal whites while losing social and economic conservatives.”

Times change: “The demographics of the white voters who are likely to support Democrats are different from the white voters who supported the Democratic Party in previous decades.” Democrats now are a party of “professional-class whites and members of ethnic and racial minority groups” who live in states unhelpful for winning the presidential electoral college.

— STATEWIDE —

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will hold a job creation event, 8:15 a.m., Pratt & Whitney, 17900 Beeline Hwy. in Jupiter. Later, the Governor will honor Florida veterans with a Governor’s Veteran Service Award ceremony, 2 p.m., CW Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center, 2801 Grand Ave., Pinellas Park.

Florida’s early voting ban on campus challenged in court” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — The complaint filed by the League of Women Voters seeks to strike down a controversial interpretation of Florida’s early voting laws by Scott’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Detzner’s office issued an opinion in 2014 that the Legislature’s expansion of early voting sites to include “government-owned community centers” does not include the student union building on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. The city of Gainesville asked if the Reitz Student Union building on the UF campus could serve as an early voting site in 2014. The state said no. As a result, the lawsuit claims, many young people will find it “difficult, and in some cases, impossible” to vote in 2018.

Assignment editors — Conservatives on the Right Side of Quality, a coalition of center-right conservatives committed to championing the potential of every individual — including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) — will hold a reception in Tampa; doors open 5:30 p.m., program begins at 6 p.m., Centre Club, 123 S. Westshore Blvd., Eighth Floor, Tampa. Scheduled to appear are state Sen. Dana Young and state Reps. Chris LatvalaAmber Mariano, and Jackie Toledo as well as Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist.

Dana Young among the Florida conservatives entering the fight to support ‘the potential of every individual,’ even the LGBTQ community.

‘Framers’ of schools amendment seek role in court battle” via the News Service of Florida — Some members of the 1998 Constitution Revision Commission are seeking to file a brief in the Florida Supreme Court as part of a legal battle about whether the state is meeting its constitutional duty to provide a high-quality system of public schools. … the former commissioners filed a motion Tuesday asking for approval to file a friend-of-the-court brief. A footnote in the motion indicates 10 former commissioners want to join in the brief, including former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan and former House Speaker Jon Mills. The motion came in a long-running legal battle led by the group Citizens for Strong Schools, which argues that the state has failed to comply with the 1998 voter-approved amendment. The 1998 constitutional amendment says it is a “paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

Horse breeders, track battle over slots license” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Thoroughbred breeders and trainers are accusing gambling regulators of erring when they allowed Calder Race Course to keep its lucrative slot-machine license after demolishing the grandstand where bettors once watched horses compete. But during an administrative hearing, lawyers for Calder accused the horsemen of trying to force the track to build a glitzy new stadium despite the dramatic decline in horse betting that prompted the destruction of the aged facility two years ago. The challenge highlights the growing tension between the greyhound and horse industries and racetrack operators, who have sought to do away with live racing while keeping more-profitable gambling activities such as slots and poker, a process known as “decoupling.” Under Florida law, slot-machine gaming areas must be “contiguous and connected to the live gaming facility.” The complaint alleges that the renewal of Calder’s slot-machine license after the grandstand was torn down amounts to an “unadopted rule.”

Tribe continues challenge to state utility taxes” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The Seminole Tribe of Florida has gone to a federal appeals court as part of a long-running legal dispute about whether the tribe should be shielded from state utility taxes on electricity used on reservation land. Lawyers for the tribe last week filed a notice of appeal after a federal judge refused to reconsider his decision to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Seminoles against the Florida Department of Revenue. The notice of appeal does not detail the arguments that the tribe will make to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But U.S. District Judge Robert Scola dismissed the lawsuit because he said it essentially involved the same issues as an earlier case in which the appeals court rejected the tribe’s challenge to state utility taxes.

Florida marks milestone in Everglades python control program” via Jennifer Kay and Josh Replogle of The Associated Press — The state has been paying a select group of 25 hunters to catch and kill the invasive snakes on state lands in South Florida since March 2017. On Tuesday, the 1,000th python collected in that program was measured and weighed at the South Florida Water Management District’s field office in Homestead. Half the 1,010 pythons harvested by hand as of Tuesday have been females, which can produce up to 70 eggs each year.

Florida hits a python hunt milestone.

Miami Beach considers taking over scandal-plagued North Bay Village” via Brittany Shammas of the Miami New Times — Since revelations surfaced last year of a blackmail plot against a commissioner with an undisclosed arrest for cocaine in his past, scandal after scandal has rocked tiny North Bay Village, a two-island town on the 79th Street Causeway. Now Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola is proposing a dramatic fix: He wants his city to take over the troubled village. “Frankly, North Bay Village residents that I’ve spoken to, they’re so exasperated with their government, they are so frustrated with their government, that they’re looking for a solution,” he says. “And I think some of them love the idea of the cachet of Miami Beach’s moniker.” At least one person does not love the idea: North Bay Village Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps, who, not coincidentally, has been at the heart of most of the local turmoil. Among other things, the mayor fired a cop who was investigating a blackmail plot in which she was labeled a “person of interest” and threatened to sue a local blogger covering the case.

Void the warrant and destroy the records. So says lawyer of Hernando County commissioner up on prostitution-related charges” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — Citing jurisdictional and procedural mistakes, the attorney for suspended Hernando County Commissioner Nick Nicholson is seeking to void the warrant for his arrest on prostitution-related charges and to erase all records of his arrest. In a motion filed last week, attorney Peyton Hyslop argued that Nicholson’s arrest warrant, handled by the Circuit Court, was incorrectly filed because “a circuit judge has no authority to hear or try a case that only accuses misdemeanors.’’ The warrant also does not list the county where it was issued, as required by law, Hyslop said. According to arrest records, the warrant was issued in Marion County rather than Hernando County. Hyslop asserted that the court erred in issuing a warrant instead of a simple summons, because “the judge had no reason to believe that the person against whom the complaint was made will not appear upon a summons.”

All Children’s CEO: Not telling parents about needle left behind was ‘complete failure’” via Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times — The only operations currently being performed in the Heart Institute are “low complexity ones,” Dr. Jonathan Ellen told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board. They are all being led by a surgeon who is flying in from Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. “We’ve shut our program down as low as we can go,” he said. Ellen also addressed a state review that found the hospital failed to properly report two cases in which surgical needles were left behind in patients. In one case, the report said, the hospital did not tell the child’s parents. The fact that the family was not told, he said, was “a complete failure … I can’t sit here and defend it in any way, shape or form. … That broke my heart. That’s the reality.”

Orlando Police Department is one of the first in the nation to test real-time facial recognition” via Larissa Hamblin of Orlando Weekly — By using Amazon Rekognition, OPD can spot people in real time, in contrast to the former method of comparing still photos to a person’s mug shot. Orlando Police Department said in a statement that the system is still in the “pilot program” phase and is not being used as an investigative tool quite yet. The technology also has not been set up in public spaces and there is still no word on when it will be implemented. To use Amazon Rekognition, a photo must be uploaded as a comparative device for the system to base its search on. According to Amazon, it can “detect, analyze, and compare faces for a wide variety of user verification, cataloging, people counting, and public safety use cases.” Currently, there are no laws in place regarding the practice of real-time facial recognition and it has not been tested in high court.

— CRIME RATE REMAINS LOW —

Gov. Scott announced 6-percent drop in crime in 2017 for the Sunshine State” via Tyler White of First Coast News – Gov. Scott announced Tuesday in Jacksonville that the state’s crime rate dropped 6 percent in 2017, a 47-year low for the Sunshine State. On top of that, Scott said violent crimes were down 3 percent in the same time period. He also lamented on the loss of law enforcement across the state this year, holding a moment of silence for those who died in the line of duty. “Every time this happens, a family is tragically impacted,” Scott said. “These tragedies have been horrible for our state.” The Tallahassee Democrat reports the state prison system has cut programs aimed at dramatically reducing substance abuse, assisting in mental health issues and providing re-entry programs to fill a $28 million hole in the budget. When asked if he feels the cuts would impact the gains he’s helped facilitate in crime reduction across the state, Scott said he feels it could be a concern, but cited that recidivism is down and crime rates have continued to drop.

— “Crime in Florida, Tampa Bay region decreased in 2017” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times

— “Crime rate takes another drop in Manatee. Not so everywhere on the beach” via Jessica De Leon of the Bradenton Herald

— “Crime rate down, but Leon County still tops state” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat

— “Crime rates drop in Tallahassee” via Mariel Carbone of WCTV

— “Escambia and Santa Rosa crime rates are dropping, but not as quickly as the rest of Florida” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News Journal

— MUST-READ —

Gun violence’s distant echo” via Eli Saslow of The Washington Post — “And here’s something you don’t hear every day,” the radio host said. “We apparently have a liberal gun protest happening right here in Gillette [Wyoming].” If America had in fact begun to reconsider its relationship with guns after two decades of escalating mass shootings, then a crucial test was now arriving in the rural West, where that relationship has long been inseparable. Wyoming has more guns per capita than any other state, with sales rising in each of the past five years, and more than 80 percent of adults in Campbell County have firearms in their homes. In the days since the march, the “Campbell County Ten” had become the object of profane graffiti, the inspiration for a rival Freedom March and the favorite target of a new Instagram account, “Campbell County Students for America” … For his part, Alan Engdahl had considered grounding [his 16-year-old daughter] Moriah for skipping school [to take part in the march] but decided against it. “I’m pretty sure the rest of Wyoming is going to punish her for me,” he said, so instead he had chosen to needle Moriah at every opportunity … “Win any popularity contests at school today?” he asked her. She rolled her eyes and ignored him, so he tried again. “Did you manage to get everyone’s guns yet?” he said. “How many times do I have to tell you it’s not about that?” she said. “We’re just pushing for more safety, a little more control.” “That’s a bad word,” Alan said. “First, it’s gun control, then it’s confiscation. I don’t know where you learned any different.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Inside the Trump tweet machine: Staff-written posts, bad grammar (on purpose), and delight in the chaos” via Annie Linskey of The Boston Globe — They overuse the exclamation point! They Capitalize random words for emphasis. Fragments. Loosely connected ideas. All part of a process that is not as spontaneous as Trump’s Twitter feed often appears. Some staff members even relish the scoldings Trump gets from elites shocked by the Trumpian language they strive to imitate, believing that debates over presidential typos fortify the belief within his base that he has the common touch. His staff has become so adept at replicating Trump’s tone that people who follow his feed closely say it is getting harder to discern which tweets were actually crafted by Trump sitting in his bathrobe and watching “Fox & Friends” and which were concocted by his communications team. Staff-written tweets do go through a West Wing process of sorts. When a White House employee wants the president to tweet about a topic, the official writes a memo to the president that includes three or four sample tweets, according to those familiar with the process.

Gaetz, DeSantis join call for 2nd special counsel” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Gaetz and DeSantis joined a group of Republicans in demanding a second special counsel to investigate what they say are widespread abuses of power at the Justice Department and FBI in probing the Trump campaign and Russia. The move comes as Trump escalated his complaints about Robert Mueller‘s probe into the 2016 election and Russian interference. Trump and his team have begun to assert that a spy was inserted into the campaign. “If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I hope they weren’t.” In fact, as The New York Times reported, “FBI agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign.”

Matt Gaetz, Ron DeSantis are among the Republicans calling for a second special counsel.

Marco Rubio on Donald Trump’s China approach: ‘not winning’” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Republican has all but directly challenged Trump on the issue (we’ve asked his office about any communication) and he said: “We will begin working on veto-proof congressional action” to uphold tough penalties against telecommunications company ZTE. Rubio tweeted: “Sadly #China is out-negotiating the administration & winning the trade talks right now. They have avoided tariffs & got a #ZTE deal without giving up anything meaningful in return by using N. Korea talks & agriculture issues as leverage. This is #NotWinning.”

Marco Rubio, Mario Diaz-Balart want Trump to charge Cuba’s Raúl Castro for ‘96 shootdown of planes” via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida — … that killed four Cuban-Americans. “We urge you to direct the Department of Justice to review whether Raúl Castro should be indicted for the illegal and heinous act of shooting down in international waters two American civilian aircraft flown by Brothers to the Rescue on February 24, 1996,” Rubio and Rep. Diaz-Balart wrote Tuesday. “The Cuban operative ultimately responsible, then-Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Raúl Castro, was never indicted.” At the time, former President Bill Clinton was considering a rapprochement with Cuba. But after the shooting, which happened during an election year, Clinton reversed course to appeal to Florida’s influential Cuban-American community and signed into law the codification of the embargo in the Helms-Burton Act, which was drafted by Diaz-Balart’s brother, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who was then a congressman. The law remains in effect today.

Assignment editors — Faith and community leaders meet to denounce Rep. Brian Mast‘s vote on the House Farm Bill and call on Sens. Rubio and Nelson to vote “no” on any legislation that makes cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), included in the Farm Bill. News conference begins 11:30 a.m., St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, 921 Orange Ave., Fort Pierce.

— OPINIONS —

Lauren Book: Controversial ‘show dogs’ sends disturbing message to kids — skip this at the box office” via Florida Politics — Recent controversy surrounding the soon-to-be-released movie “Show Dogs” makes it clear that sexualized content — made worse under the guise of humor — has no place in children’s movies. I am extremely alarmed by reports that a character in the movie was instructed to essentially tolerate having their private parts touched, sending a disturbing message to young moviegoers. Show Dogs is about a police dog who goes undercover in a dog show to find a missing panda … the hero prepares to compete in a dog show by learning how to prance, show, and even stay completely still while his private parts are being inspected and touched — something he is alarmed about and does not wish to do. The trainer explains this a natural part of showing dogs (and it is) and to go against his instincts by finding a “Zen place” as a distraction from the groping. This has no place in a movie for children and parents should avoid taking their child to see it unless the scene is removed before its Friday release. In this case, it’s OK if someone touches your private parts because it’s part of the “show” and it’s just silly fun. But it’s actually called grooming and is a frequent tactic used by predators to keep victims quiet, questioning their fear.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note – AT&T has appointed Troy McNichols as its new Vice President External Affairs for Florida. Nichols will lead a team responsible for representing AT&T with local governments across Florida, along with state officials in Tallahassee. “Troy brings a distinctive expertise to the Florida team along with his fundamental understanding of the communications challenges we face in Florida,” said Joe York, president of AT&T Florida, Puerto Rico & USVI. “Troy’s desire to serve the state of Florida is invaluable and his experience in Government and knowledge of our local communities is an excellent combination that will enable him to collaborate with community leaders and lawmakers statewide to ensure Florida is positioned to be a leader in connectivity and technology growth.”

Earnings:

—“Colodny Fass earns up to $960K in Legislative Session fees” via Florida Politics

—“Cynergy Consulting duo earns up to $350K in Q1” via Florida Politics

—“Dean Mead rakes in up to $500K in first-quarter fees” via Florida Politics

—“Floridian Partners cracked $1M in first-quarter earnings” via Florida Politics

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Paul BradshawMatt BrockelmanChristopher DudleyMercer FearingtonJames McFaddinClark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Full Potential Management dba Acorn Health, Justin Williamson, Public Trust Advisors, Kumballistic

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Ocala Horse Properties

Fred Dickinson, PooleMcKinley: Pearson Education

Dan McCrea: Florida Voters Coalition, VerifiedVoting.org

Douglas Russell, D. Russell & Associates: Seaside Town Council, Spark Therapeutics, U.S. Ecogen

Nancy Valley: KPMG

— ALOE —

Disney World pictures from 1972: What the Magic Kingdom looked like after 6 months” via Roger Simmons of the Orlando Sentinel — My grandparents, Sibyl and Maurice Brown, retired to Lake County from Miami in the late 1960s. After her death in 2004, I ended up with more than 50 of her Kodak Carousel slide trays (each holding 80 slides) plus a dozen or so old cigar boxes full of slides … What was their trip to Disney World like 46 years ago? As soon as they were in the park, my grandfather — wearing a cowboy hat that I’ve never seen before — quickly lights up a cigar. It was the early ’70s after all. Besides seeing someone smoking on Main Street, the other thing that surprised me is the lack of visitors in the park. But while going through the pictures and focusing on all the things that have changed at the Magic Kingdom since my grandparents’ visit, my 21-year-old son — who’s been to Disney more times than I can remember — offered a different perspective. As I was showing him the pictures, he was amazed at how many things look exactly the same today — Main Street USA, Cinderella Castle and the Jungle Cruise ride, for example.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Despite Walt Disney’s wishes, you can now buy alcohol at every Magic Kingdom restaurant” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — Has there been a backlash to the slow integration of alcohol at the Magic Kingdom? “None whatsoever, zero,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., a Cincinnati-based consulting firm. “Today, alcohol is perceived differently than it was 60 years ago, that’s for sure. At one time nobody served alcohol. But it does have a higher profit margin than anything, including food.” For some longtime Disney fans, it was sad to see Walt Disney’s wishes for an alcohol-free park disappear, said Robert Niles, found and editor of Theme Park Insider. “Anytime Disney makes a change it gets a social media backlash,” Niles said. But once the reality showed no spike in drunken incidents, he said, Disney fans accepted the change.

What Chris Carmody and Mike Griffin are reading — “Gators to face USF in football in 2022, 2023, 2025” via Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Gators and USF Bulls agreed to a three-game series in football, beginning in 2022 in The Swamp. UF announced the two schools also will play 2023 in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium and again in Gainesville in 2025 … UF athletic director Scott Stricklin called the series “a unique scheduling opportunity” between schools separated by just 125 miles along I-75. Gators’ coach Dan Mullen noted the potential impact on recruiting. “The Tampa/St. Petersburg area is an important recruiting footprint for us and our players will love playing another game in an NFL stadium,” he said.

Happy birthday belatedly to Sam Ard, our ol’ friend Jordan Raynor, and the incredible Eileen Stuart of Mosaic. Celebrating today is Kevin Reilly.

Last Call for 5.22.18 — 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

The League of Women Voters of Florida says the state’s decision to not allow early voting on college campuses is unconstitutional, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Tallahassee.

The League and six students — one from FSU and five at the University of Florida — sued Secretary of State Ken Detzner in his role as Florida’s chief elections officer.

The 49-page complaint (available to read here) seeks a court order barring Detzner from “enforcing his interpretation of the Early Vote Statute” that doesn’t allow early voting in buildings on campus.

In 2014, the city of Gainesville sought guidance from Detzner over whether UF’s student union building could be used as an early voting site.

He said no, “opin(ing) not only that the student union was not a permissible early voting site, but that no ‘college- or university-related facilities’ could be used as early voting sites,” the complaint says.

It adds that in doing so, Detzner — who reports directly to Republican Gov. Rick Scott — “acted with the intent, at least in part, to suppress the vote of young voters in Florida.”

Nope, said Scott spokesman John Tupps: “In fact, students at the University of Florida can vote at multiple locations on campus …” (True, they just can’t vote early on campus.)

“The political organization and the partisan D.C. lawyers that filed this frivolous lawsuit know that under Gov. Scott’s leadership, he’s made it easier for Floridians to vote,” Tupps added. “This political group waited four years to challenge this interpretation. This is obviously an election year gimmick to distort the facts.”

Evening Reads

Donald Trump’s team gets payback for Marco Rubio on Venezuelan assassination plot” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Dramatic bodycam footage shows gunbattle at Trumps’ Doral hotel” via David Ovalle and Charles Rabin of the

What Florida Democrats can learn from tonight’s Georgia governor primary” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

Chris King shakes up Democratic primary in governor race” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Bloody Democratic primary looms in race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

Congressional candidate John Ward is under fire for saying Puerto Rican evacuees shouldn’t vote in Florida” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Brian Mast, Bill Posey, others urge feds to suspend bonds for Brightline” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Judge faces discipline for racially derogatory remarks” via the News Service of Florida

Void the warrant and destroy the records. So says lawyer of Hernando County commissioner up on prostitution-related charges” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times

Pest alert triggered in Florida after rare fruit fly find” via Pal Rusnak of Growing Produce

Quote of the Day

“It is agriculture, (a) cow pasture for 60 years. This comes up every election.” — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, after the lodging of a complaint that undeveloped property he owns in Brevard County is being undervalued for tax purposes.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Commission on Offender Review will meet in Charlotte County and consider numerous parole cases. That’s at 9 a.m., Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, 7474 Utilities Road, Punta Gorda.

The Florida Public Service Commission will hold events in Hillsborough County to provide information to senior citizens about issues such as energy conservation, applying for the Lifeline program and avoiding utility scams. That’s at 10 a.m., Brandon Senior Center, 612 North Parsons Ave., Brandon. Also, 1 p.m., Ruskin Center, 905 Sixth St. S.E., Ruskin.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will hold a post-session “impact” conference related to lottery operations. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

A “Governor’s Veterans Service Awards” ceremony will be held in Pinellas County. That’s at 2 p.m., C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center, 2081 Grand Ave., Pinellas Park.

The Florida Department of Financial Services will hold one in a series of “Be Scam Smart” workshops to help seniors avoid financial scams. That’s at 6:45 p.m. Central time, St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church, 1 St. Francis Dr., Gulf Breeze.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.22.18

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

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

Food for thought. Yes, Publix has donated what seems to be a significant amount of money to Adam Putnam in recent years — but not when you do the math.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the supermarket behemoth has donated $670,000 to Putnam over the last three years. In that same time, Publix’s gross revenue has been approximately $105,000,000,000. That means Publix has donated 0.00063% of its revenue to the Polk Republican.

According to the Census ACS 1-year survey, the median household income for Florida was $50,860 in 2016. Multiply that by three years (assuming the MHI hasn’t varied greatly) and you have $152,580 in aggregate median household income in the Sunshine State over the last three years.

If the median household were to donate to a candidate or a cause at the same rate Publix has donated to Putnam over the last three years, it would amount to three cents in annual giving.

Three cents.

Now, imagine if some of the people you regularly do business with told you they were boycotting your shop, firm, or small business over how you spent three cents a year.

That’s how ridiculous the idea of #BoycottPublix is … not that folks don’t have the right to vote with their wallets by protesting against a company’s social behavior … just that it’s stilly to judge an incredibly well-respected, Florida-based company based on actions which do not even equate to a rounding error.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenBillNelson: The president has been bluff and bluster on trade — now it appears China has gotten the best of him. No advance on trying to stop unfair trade with China.

—@LedgeKing: @RepMattGaetz, fierce critic of Russia probe, says having @POTUS sit down for an interview with the Special Counsel would be a”terrible miscalculation” that would extend the Russia investigation — not shorten it — and open up the probe in new directions.

—@RichardCorcoran: Reading @politicofl article by @Mdixon55 exposing @RepDeSantis largest donor as an ATM to liberal Democrats (including Bill Nelson). As a conservative, it’s a very disturbing article

—@MattGaetz: Yeah…..it would be totally wrong for a great conservative Republican like Richard to accept money from a dem mega-donor … #ForThePeople

@TroyKinsey: FL Alcohol & Drug Abuse Assoc. today is calling on @FLGovScott to forestall @FL_Corrections cuts by week’s end: “Governor, you have the ability to exercise your executive authority to address this problem through a one-time appropriation from the state’s reserve funds.”

@Netflix: President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have entered into a multiyear agreement to produce films and series for Netflix, potentially including scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries, and features.

Our favorite tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 3; Memorial Day — 6; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 18; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 20; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 21; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 23; Father’s Day — 26; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 31; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 37; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 47; MLB All-Star Game — 56; Deadline for filing claim bills — 71; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 71; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 72; Start of the U.S. Open — 97; Primary Election Day — 98; College Football opening weekend — 100; NFL season starts — 107; Future of Florida Forum — 127; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 154; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 155; General Election Day — 168; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 268; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 287.

— TOP STORY —

FPL parent to buy Gulf Power in multibillion-dollar deal” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The parent company of Florida Power & Light will buy Northwest Florida’s Gulf Power as part of a $6.475 billion deal. NextEra Energy Inc. plans to buy Gulf Power, the Florida City Gas natural-gas company and ownership interests in two power plants from The Southern Company. The purchase of Gulf Power and the stakes in the power plants, which are subject to federal approval, are expected to close during the first half of 2019, while the Florida City Gas purchase is slated for the third quarter of 2018, according to a NextEra Energy announcement. The deal would expand NextEra Energy’s already-massive footprint in the state. Its Florida Power & Light subsidiary is by far the largest electric utility in Florida, serving nearly 5 million customers. Gulf Power, with about 450,000 customers in eight counties, is the largest utility in the Panhandle.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Scott blitzes Florida with TV ads. Nelson holds off. That’s how Scott won last time.” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Bill Nelson is an incumbent without the advantages of incumbency. Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat is in a career-defining U.S. Senate race against Gov. Rick Scott, a multimillionaire with unlimited campaign cash and nearly universal name recognition in the state, for better or worse. And so far, Scott is attempting to define Nelson through $8 million in television ads across the state, including Spanish-language ads in Miami. The early TV blitz raises the question: When is Nelson going to respond? “The question is not how much money you have or how much money you spend but what is effective,” Nelson said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office while Scott was crisscrossing Florida switching between his official office and campaign mode. “And so, to be determined. But I’m choosing not to use my hard-earned dollars now.” Nelson declined to say when he will spend his money and what type of message he plans to communicate to voters. But timing a television pitch too late could be Nelson’s undoing.

Dems join Senate TV war with $2.2 million pro-Nelson ad” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — The biographical spot, called “Served,” highlights Nelson’s Army service and flight on the Space Shuttle and his opposition to privatizing Social Security and Medicare. Nelson’s support for Obamacare is described as “stopp(ing) insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.” Scott and Republicans have been attacking Nelson as a pro-Nancy Pelosi “party-line politician.” In a sign those attacks might be hitting home, the new pro-Nelson ad calls the incumbent “one of America’s most independent senators” and says he “serves all of us.” The ad also says Nelson “puts Florida first,” echoing a frequent Democratic refrain that Scott is self-serving. To view the ad, click the image below:

Nelson keeps siding with Republicans on awful stuff” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — As truly, utterly and monstrously terrible as Gov. Scott is, you’ll never see the Times or Herald refer to him as a canvas sack full of sea lampreys with a Navy hat glued on top … So if those same reporters are writing that, despite your 30-plus-year career in politics, “nothing particularly major stands out despite the long tenure,” you probably have a big problem on your hands. That’s exactly the case for the bowl of lukewarm cornmeal that is Nelson, who has somehow become the state’s top-ranking Democrat despite being an utterly boring pile of nothing the entire time … Nelson has repeatedly pissed off his Democratic base in the middle of what many people expect to be a Democratic wave election spurred by anti-Trump sentiment. In 2018 alone, Nelson has voted to deregulate big banks and confirm Gina Haspel, the new CIA director who previously tortured people.

Tweet, tweet: 

Why deep blue Broward looms large in Florida’s U.S. Senate race” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — In the last midterm in 2014, the statewide voter turnout was 50.5 percent, but it was 6 points lower in Broward, 44.5 percent, and Scott beat Charlie Crist statewide by 64,145 votes. Scott won statewide by 1 point. The fact that Scott got 30 percent of the Broward vote might be enough for him to ignore the state’s second-largest county. But he gave a well-received speech at the Broward Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner with a crowd of 400 GOP activists … The last time Nelson was on the ballot in Broward, in 2012, he got a mother lode of 511,000 votes (about 3,000 more than President Obama got on the same ballot). But that was not a midterm, obviously, and voter turnout was dramatically higher.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Spotted: Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum in POLITICO, ‘Can the black candidate win?’ Democrats out to prove it in 2018” — A network of Democratic donors and operatives are organizing an ambitious effort to elect African-American candidates for governor and Congress in 2018 — politicians who have often been overlooked by the party’s predominantly white leadership in past years … Tallahassee Mayor Gillum (is) among several promising black candidates running for governor this year, and they have attracted the most interest from the donors and organizations … Gillum has caught the attention of progressives during his campaign, winning endorsements from the likes of the Bernie Sanders-inspired Our Revolution group. And though Gillum hasn’t come close to matching his opponents’ fundraising, one of the biggest donors in the Democratic Party has taken notice: Financier George Soros contributed $450,000 to causes supporting Gillum so far this year.

Ron DeSantis committee gets $200K from large Democratic donor” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Andy Khawaja gave DeSantis’ political committee $100,000, his first Florida contribution, and a company he’s affiliated with, E-Payment Solutions, Inc. gave another $100,000 to the committee in February. His first name appears as Ahmad in campaign finance records. Khawaja, CEO and founder of Allied Wallet, has almost exclusively been a Democratic donor in the past. He and his company gave nearly $6.5 million during the 2016 election cycle to Democratic interests, including more than $1 million to a committee supporting Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid. This election cycle, he and his company have already given $1 million to Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democratic U.S. Senate candidates, including Sen. Nelson. The super PAC is funding $2 million in ads supporting Nelson, calling him “one of America’s most independent Senators.” Brad Herold, a DeSantis adviser, said it’s a sign that some Democrats are “disaffected.”

Democratic supporter (and Ron DeSantis donor) Andy Khawaja.

Gwen Graham brings passionate authenticity to her run for governor” via the Reggie Connell of the Apopka Voice — In a word, Graham is real. That may seem like a strange way to begin a feature on a candidate running for the Governor of Florida, but it describes her well. And in a time in politics when candidates take polls to decide which color tie to wear, real is unusual. Real is unreal … Despite her casual approach, Graham is a competitor. In 2014, during what could be described as a wave election for Republicans, and in a section of Florida that can also be described as a reliably Republican region, Graham was one of only two Democrats in the nation to defeat a Republican incumbent. How did she do it? Graham says it was people skills, interpersonal relationships and honesty. There is no candidate in history that does not include honesty, and ‘doing what they say they are going to do’ as part of their core beliefs. But with Graham, there is an authenticity to those words that makes her believable.

Shoppers begin Publix boycott as chain continues supporting Adam Putnam for governor” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — A handful of state advocacy groups have gone to social media — Twitter in particular — urging shoppers to “#BoycottPublix” this Memorial Day weekend. Some people have decided to boycott the store indefinitely, or until it withdraws $670,000 it has given to Putnam, a longtime Republican politician who drew ire after he called himself “a proud NRA sellout” and opposed Florida’s new, stricter gun purchasing laws in the wake of the Parkland school shooting. “Prior to social media, it was much harder to aggregate a bunch of people to take action,” said Thomas O’Guinn, a professor of marketing with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Consumers are starting to realize the new source of power they have.” Last week Publix responded to the Twitter backlash, posting it considers a number of factors when supporting a candidate and has never given money to the National Rifle Association. In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, it called Putnam the hometown candidate who is “pro-business.”

Opening doors: Republican candidate for Governor Adam Putnam joined supporters Monday morning to open the campaign’s new Brandon office.

Philip Levine campaign adds staff for North, South Florida — New hires for the Levine for Governor campaign include Megan Sirjane-Samples as North Florida Area Director and Chris Hudtwalcker as Miami-Dade Area Director. Sirjane-Samples previously served as a Legislative Advocate for the Florida League of Cities; Hudtwalcker worked as a legislative assistant to state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, managing the legislative and political affairs. Hudtwalcker also was Rodriguez’s campaign manager during the 2016 election.

Denise Grimsley picks up more Sheriff endorsements — Grimsley announced four more Florida Sheriffs are endorsing her bid for Agriculture Commissioner: Darryl Daniels of Clay County; Mike Harrison of Gulf County; Bobby McCallum of Levy County; and Mike Chitwood of the Volusia County. They join 10 other Sheriffs already backing Grimsley.

Assignment editors — Grimsley will speak at the Miami Young Republicans meeting, 6:30 p.m. Eastern, Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center, 1465 SW. 8th St., Suite 106, Miami.

Attorney General hopefuls disagree on opioid lawsuit timing” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Attorney General Pam Bondi is drawing praise from Republicans seeking to replace her after the term-limited state Cabinet member last week took on opioid manufacturers in court. However, Democratic candidate Sean Shaw … questioned a delay in launching a lawsuit to try to crack down on drug companies in the opioid epidemic causing an average of 15 deaths a day in Florida. And fellow Democratic attorney-general candidate Ryan Torrens, a Hillsborough County lawyer, said he’d immediately launch a criminal investigation into the actions of pharmaceutical executives if he is elected in November. Republican candidate Jay Fant said Bondi is right to take legal action “if malfeasance has occurred” and that he’d use every tool available to go after companies that mislead the public, fuel the opioid crisis and contribute to deaths. And Republican candidate Ashley Moody said people responsible must be held accountable regardless if it is “an individual doctor knowingly and wrongfully prescribing drugs or some of the largest companies in the world engaged in the conduct described” in Bondi’s lawsuit.

’Political hitman’ gunning for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen seat shows lighter side in campaign commercial” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Stephen Marks, a veteran campaign operative who 10 years ago published a book on his exploits as a “political hitman” for the Republican Party, is showing a lighter side of himself in a new commercial as he runs for the party’s nomination to replace Ros-Lehtinen in Congress. Marks, the first to go on air in the Republican primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, explains in a 60-second ad that he decided to run after his parents recently died. His father died as a result of “malicious” medical malpractice, he says, and his mother soon after following a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. The ad, which began airing a week ago in English and Spanish and will continue running this week, is the first on TV in the primary. It’s a crowded field, also featuring Elizabeth AdadiBruno BarreiroAngie ChirinoMichael OhevzionMaria PeiroBettina Rodriguez AguileraMaria Elvira Salazar and Gina Sosa.

CD 27 candidate Stephen Marks: ‘The government killed my parents.’

Happening today — Delray Beach Republican Mike Caruso holds a kickoff event in his bid for House District 89. Term-limited Republican Rep. Bill Hager currently hold the Palm Beach County seat. The event begins at 6 p.m., Museum 66, 2051 High Ridge Road, Boynton Beach.

— STATEWIDE —

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will honor Florida veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award. The ceremony begins 2:45 p.m., National Guard Armory, 401 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand.

Drug and alcohol advocates to Scott: ‘We have yet to hear’ from you” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (FADAA) sent a second letter to Scott, urging him to take action to forestall reductions and eliminations of dozens of local substance abuse and re-entry programs to help close a $28 million operating deficit in the prison system. “We have yet to hear from your office … we are all running out of time to prevent cuts to vital programs,” wrote the group’s executive director, Mark Fontaine. “Now is not the time to take a step back … Without treatment, inmates and probationers are at higher risk to commit crimes and use drugs, undoing the progress Florida has made over the last 15 years in reducing recidivism rates and lowering the prison population … While these cuts may look like a quick fix to a budget shortfall, in reality, they will only exacerbate the problem.” The Legislature has until Friday to object to the program cuts. Both houses have to lodge objections, otherwise, the cuts will take effect.

Mark Fontaine of the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association.

Price tag for restricting felons’ rights after prison put at $385 million a year” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Florida lost an estimated $385 million a year in economic impact, spent millions on court and prison costs, had 3,500 more offenders return to prison, and lost the opportunity to create about 3,800 new jobs. Those are just some of the conclusions of a new economic research report prepared by the Republican-leaning Washington Economics Group of Coral Gables for proponents of Amendment 4, the proposal on the November ballot that asks voters to allow the automatic restoration of civil rights for eligible felons who have served their sentences. The Washington Economics Group estimates that the passing of Amendment 4 would result in $385 million in annual economic benefits to Florida taxpayers from two sources: reduced court and prison costs through a decline in recidivism, and increased earning power through improved employment opportunities.

School boards continue battle over controversial law” via the News Service of Florida — School boards from across the state have gone to the 1st District Court of Appeal as they continue to challenge a controversial 2017 law that includes steps to boost charter schools. Eleven districts signed on to notices indicating they will appeal an April 17 ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper that upheld the law. The legal battle centers on a measure, commonly known as HB 7069, that was a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran … The wide-ranging law included changes such as requiring county school boards to share local property-tax revenues with charter schools for building-related expenses. It also set the stage for adding new charter schools — dubbed “schools of hope” — that will serve students whose traditional public schools have been considered low-performing. School boards filed the lawsuit last year arguing, at least in part, that HB 7069 infringed on their constitutional authority to operate public schools within their districts. But Cooper rejected the school boards’ arguments.

DOE releases draft rules for ‘Hope Scholarship’ — The state Department of Education on Monday released draft rules on “Hope Scholarships,” which would grant K-12 students who are bullied in public schools tuition assistance to help them attend private schools. The proposed rules lay out requirements for organizations to administer the scholarships and for private schools to accept the funds. Forms for public school principals to use in catalog incidents were also included in the release. The department will discuss the draft rules in a June 6 rule development workshop. The Hope Scholarship program was included in HB 7055, the omnibus education bill passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Scotearlier this year. The program was a top priority for Speaker Corcoran.

Tally shows GOP opposition to Special Session” via the News Service of Florida — The Department of State released results from lawmakers who had responded to a poll on a Special-Session request by Rep. Shevrin Jones and Rep. Nicholas Duran. As of 4:30 p.m. Monday, 27 House members had voted in favor of a Special Session, while 36 had voted against the idea. Three-fifths of the members of each Republican-dominated chamber must support the request for a Special Session to be held. For the House, that means support from at least 70 of the current 117 members. The Senate needs 23 yes votes from the current 39 members. Republican Reps. Julio Gonzalez and Kathleen Peters have joined House Democrats in supporting the proposal. With just 13 members of the Senate responding as of Monday afternoon, the tally was seven Democrats for the special session and six Republicans opposed, with the opponents including Senate President Joe Negron and incoming President Bill Galvano.

Spotted at Senate President-designate Galvano’s “Phil Galvano Annual Golf Classic” this past weekend: Outgoing House Speaker Corcoran, Speaker-designate Jose Oliva, past Senate President Andy Gardiner, as well as Sens. Aaron BeanLizbeth BenacquistoRob BradleyJeff BrandesAnitere FloresDenise GrimsleyDebbie MayfieldKathleen PassidomoKeith PerryDarryl RousonDavid SimmonsPerry ThurstonDana Young. Also, House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues, Rep. Joe Gruters, former Sens. Chris Smith and Nancy Detert, former Speakers Dean Cannon and Lee Moffitt, former Reps. Susan GoldsteinDoug HolderEd Hooper and Rob Schenck.

Prep for hurricanes, PSC reminds Floridians” via Florida Politics — With last year’s Atlantic storm season among the strongest, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) urges residents to prepare now for the 2018 hurricane season, which runs June 1-Nov. 30. The commission, which issued a news release Monday, regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities. “Hurricane preparedness should top our to-do lists,” said PSC Chairman Art Graham in a statement. “Preparation is the best protection against dangerous storms. Build an emergency storm supply kit, gather important utility contact information, and prepare your home to help keep your family protected.”

Judge faces discipline for racially derogatory remarks” via the News Service of Florida — A Miami-Dade County circuit judge could face a 30-day suspension without pay and a public reprimand … Circuit Judge Stephen Millan has acknowledged making the remarks and conducting what is known as an improper “ex parte communication” with the attorney, an investigative panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission said in the documents. In one instance, Millan used the racial epithet “moolie” to describe an African-American defendant during a one-on-one conversation with the defendant’s lawyer. In another instance, while on a break with attorneys in his chamber, Millan instructed a bailiff to return to the courtroom and retrieve his wallet because he didn’t “trust it in there with those thugs,” the investigative panel wrote in its findings and disciplinary recommendations.

Jacksonville sues Councilwoman Katrina Brown over unpaid debt” via Eric Wallace of News 4 Jax — In 2012, the city loaned $380,000 to CoWealth LLC, which is owned by Brown and her mother Joann. The company took out loans to finance opening a barbecue sauce manufacturing plant on the Westside that was supposed to create 56 jobs. According to the lawsuit, called a complaint for breach of guaranty of payment, the company hasn’t made any loan payments since Jan. 1, 2017, and the company owes more than $357,000 in principal and interest. On April 24, a law firm hired by the city sent Brown a letter demanding payment within 15 days.

Katrina Brown is going to court.

Esteban Santiago researched layout of Los Angeles airport days before Fort Lauderdale shooting, feds say” via Paula McMahon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Santiago used his cellphone to look up a map of the LAX airport Jan. 3, 2017, prosecutors wrote in court records. They did not elaborate on why Santiago traveled instead to South Florida. That same day, Santiago purchased a one-way ticket on a Delta flight from Anchorage, Alaska, where he lived, to Fort Lauderdale, via Minneapolis. The flight departed Jan. 5 and landed in Fort Lauderdale around lunchtime Jan. 6. Santiago, 28, is expected to plead guilty to multiple charges this week and will be sentenced to five life terms plus 120 years in federal prison, according to court records. Santiago has agreed to plead guilty to five counts of committing violence causing death at an international airport and six counts of committing violence causing serious bodily injury at an international airport. If his convictions or punishment are ever withdrawn or overturned, the feds have retained the right to reconsider seeking the death penalty in the future, according to the terms of the plea agreement.

Flags at half-staff for Texas school shooting victims — Gov. Scott ordered flags at half-staff in Florida, in solidarity with Texas as it mourns 10 dead there, after another high school shooting spree … “I spoke to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and offered any assistance or support they may need in response to this horrific act of violence against innocent students, teachers, and law enforcement,” he said … To “honor and remember” the victims at the Santa Fe High School on May 18, he directed the U.S. and state flags “to be flown at half-staff at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida … The flags shall be lowered immediately and remain at half-staff until the expiration of President Donald Trump’s national directive, until sunset on Tuesday, May 22,” he said.

Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz made cellphone video of himself” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Cruz made three video recordings of himself on his cellphone around the time of his deadly rampage, according to a summary of evidence turned over to his lawyers by prosecutors in the case. “Three video statements made by the defendant on his cellphone” were included, according to the summary. It’s not clear when Cruz recorded the videos — he was arrested more than an hour after the shooting stopped. The evidence will not be released to the public immediately — clerk’s office employees are legally required to redact certain information, which could take several days.

— FUTILITY —

Policymakers can do as they see fit to prevent school shootings, but without passing further gun restrictions, it could all be for naught.

That’s the suggestion made in a recent story in The Atlantic by Barbara Bradley Hagerty. People can sometimes see the ‘red flags,’ though in many cases it’s not so black and white. For instance, people had mixed feelings about alleged Santa Fe shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis.

And that’s just one example Hagerty uses to suggest that “in the end, there’s not much that anyone can do to stop a determined shooter, aside from preventing him from getting a gun in the first place.”

Denial: “Parents are often confused and overwhelmed by their child’s behavior, but they grow used to it, tolerate it, adjust their lives around it, and attempt to cope with it alone,” writes Hagerty in describing how some children ‘slip through the cracks.’

Defense: Policymakers look to enhance families and schools to prevent school shootings. Though ‘family’ had not prevented the deadliest school shootings since 1999.

Deadliness: Stemming access to stronger firearms, it seems, would be an effective approach to preventing deadly shootings. AR-15s, one source tells Hagerty, are so much more lethal. “You don’t have to hit the target straight on to kill a person. If you’re shot in the torso, it will kill you.”

— COUNTY CONTROL —

As the school year winds down and the nation finds itself reeling from another shooting, counties in the Sunshine State are moving apace to make changes to prevent another school tragedy.

In at least one case, reports Suzie Schottelkotte of The Ledger, the county (Polk) will make immediate changes for the remaining days of school this week.

Meanwhile, other counties still are polling public sentiment, asking whether parents, teachers and students would like to have non-law enforcement personnel carry firearms at school. And, should the former not be favorable, where the money will come from to staff armed officers at each school, a mandate included in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

Sheriff Grady Judd: The renowned Polk Sheriff told media Friday, “Today is the last afternoon in the Polk County school system that there won’t be armed security on every public campus.”

In Lake: Support is split for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, the optional plan to arm nonteacher personnel, reports Tom McNiff of the Daily Commercial. Currently, there aren’t any school resource officers at elementary schools, but additional funding to staff more SROs could come from municipalities within Lake.

In St. Johns: Colleen Jones of the St. Augustine Record reports, the Guardian Program is not favored, but the county still is unsure what it will do. “Some difficult choices will no doubt have to be made as both the St. Johns County school board and county commission begin drafting their 2018-19 budgets.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Man who stormed Trump resort booked into jail” via The Associated Press — Miami-Dade County jail records show 42-year-old Jonathan Oddi of Doral was booked Sunday evening while still wearing what appeared to be a hospital gown. Police say Oddi stormed the lobby of the Trump National Doral Golf Club carrying an American flag and shouting about the president. According to police, he fired at a chandelier before exchanging gunfire with officers, who shot him in the legs and took him into custody. Oddi was held without bond on charges of 2nd-degree attempted murder, aggravated assault with a firearm, burglary with assault, criminal mischief, grand theft and falsely pulling a fire alarm.

What Kevin Donohoe is reading — “The princes, the president and the fortune seekers” via Desmond Butler and Tom LoBianco of The Associated Press — After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business. To do that, the California businessman had helped spearhead a secret campaign to influence the White House and Congress, flooding Washington with political donations. Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears. Now, in December 2017, Broidy was ready to be rewarded for all his hard work. It was time to cash in. Broidy and Nader sought to get an anti-Qatar bill through Congress while obscuring the source of the money behind their influence campaign. A new cache of emails reveals an ambitious, secretive lobbying effort to isolate Qatar and undermine the Pentagon’s long-standing relationship with the Gulf country. The cache also reveals a previously unreported meeting with the president and provides the most detailed account yet of the work of two Washington insiders who have been entangled in the turmoil surrounding the two criminal investigations closest to Trump.

George Nader poses backstage with President Donald Trump at a Republican fundraiser in Dallas, Texas, October 25, 2017.

Florida delegation playing hardball to extend offshore drilling moratorium” via Jeremy Dillon of Roll Call — Emboldened by a Defense Department report that expressed worries about unfettered offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Florida’s House delegation is preparing to throw its weight around to win a multiyear extension of a moratorium off its coasts. The bipartisan commitment from the third largest congressional delegation … may affect the $708.1 billion defense authorization bill that is being considered by the Rules Committee ahead of a vote … That must-pass defense measure, as well as a comprehensive public lands energy bill moving out of the House Natural Resources Committee, could be a vehicle for an amendment to extend the moratorium. “I don’t see any light between Democrats and Republicans on this very passionate issue,” said GOP Rep. Vern Buchanan, the co-chairman of the Florida delegation. “We are the third largest delegation, and we have a lot of clout when we are united.”

Val Demings: Orlando is back in federal anti-terrorism grant program” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Demings and others from Central Florida have been fighting for several years to convince the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that rules it adopted for 2014 were unfair to cities such as Orlando that have enormous swells of tourism population, making them more likely targets. Orlando had received grants from the department’s Urban Area Security Initiative before 2014, but not since, even with the horrific 2016 attack on the city’s popular gay nightclub Pulse, which killed 49 people. Orlando will receive $1.5 million this year, announced Demings, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. The grant program was created to provide funding to help with anti-terrorism planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercises in urban areas which could be targeted. Since 2014 it has gone only to the nation’s largest cities.

Ted Deutch, Carlos Curbelo-led climate caucus urges budget help” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The bipartisan congressional Climate Solutions Caucus, led by Democrat Deutch and Republican Curbelo, is urging House budget leaders to remove provisions from 2019 budget proposals that would hamper climate change research and initiatives. The pair sent a letter to the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee asking they “oppose and remove any policy provisions or riders from the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bills that undermine efforts to confront climate change.” The letter was signed by 34 members of the Climate Solutions Caucus including Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Democrats Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist. “Climate change is already a threat to life and property, rising temperatures, sea levels and worsening impacts from severe weather events,” the letter states. “The bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, of which we are all members, is engaged in developing market-based solutions to address the critical issue of climate change.

The bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus.

Spotted: Carlos Curbelo in The Washington Post, “‘Just pure frustration’: How months of inaction led 20 Republicans to take a stand on immigration” — Nearly two dozen Republican lawmakers have now joined together, spurred by pressure back home and frustrated by the GOP leadership’s lack of action on a heated issue that has long stymied the party. They could represent the best chance that dreamers — beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — now have to secure legal protections under President Trump. They are pitted against the conservatives who dominate the Republican rank-and-file and have campaigned against “amnesty” for people who are in the country illegally … “You just wake up one day and realize that you’re running in place, and that’s when we got together and said it’s time to take this step,” said Rep. Curbelo, who filed the “discharge petition” that has prompted the showdown.

— OPINIONS —

Ernest Hooper: Vote against the politics of division” via the Tampa Bay Times — My friend says instead of boycotting Publix, people upset about the company’s support of gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam should back voter registration drives and get more people to the polls. I’m more upset about the pages he’s borrowed from Trump’s playbook than the money Publix gave him. His decision to smear “liberal elites” with misleading assertions leaves me wondering who Putnam is. In one commercial, he speaks of faith and in the same breath insults people who share a love for Florida but hold a different perspective on how to make it better. What faith tells people to rise up by putting others down with lies? Divisiveness will be on the ballot in a lot of forms this November, and if it wins — again — the state will struggle to right the ship.

Joe Henderson: Sure, young people are registering to vote, but for whom?” via Florida Politics — Idealistic young voters often feel neither major party listens to them, and they can be attracted to the message that a candidate out of the mainstream might offer. That’s where I think Republican gubernatorial candidate Putnam has been smart. He has become a champion of expanded vocational education in the state, even to the point of ridiculing the notion that everyone should go to college as some liberal elitist plot. I think that’s an issue that could resonate with young voters who see a job market that seems to offer them only service positions at $10 an hour. In close races, those voters can sink the hopes of a candidate from one of the established parties. Put another way, while major Republican candidates would love to have a big share of the youth vote, they’re probably OK if it goes to anyone else but a Democrat. That thought alone should keep Dems awake nights.

Rebecca McLaughlin: What Publix can learn from Chick-fil-A about handling political activists” via Florida Politics — First, never apologize for your political position. The best corporate example here is Chick-fil-A. Progressive activists disdain the company for its conservative, Christian values. Chick-fil-A, however, just keeps growing, even in places such as liberal Manhattan, because Chick-fil-A doesn’t apologize for its views. Apologies for intentional political stances only draw media attention, attract more activists, and make companies appear less authentic. Second, never say what your company did NOT do. In the @Publix tweets, Publix clarifies they do not support the National Rifle Association (NRA). By attempting to be unambiguous Publix actually reinforced the idea of a link between themselves and the NRA. By saying what the company doesn’t support, Publix issued a denial and in politics, denials look like guilt. Third, don’t respond to activists unless the media is directly asking for a response regarding the issue. The criticism of Publix could have been limited to a fringe social media campaign had Publix opted not to respond. By issuing a response, however, Publix created a mainstream media story that probably would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

— MOVEMENTS —

Appointed — Stephen Pitre to the 1st Judicial Circuit Court; Angela Mason to the Okaloosa County Court; Ramiro Christen Areces and Elijah Levitt to the Miami-Dade County Court.

He did it again: Ballard Partners scores another big client — Leonardo DRS, “the U.S. arm of Italy’s top defense, aerospace and security contractor,” hired the Ballard team for military procurement matters, O’Dwyer’s PR News reported Monday. Brian Ballard heads the lobbying team, along with Daniel McFaul, campaign manager for former Republican Congressman and now “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough. Earlier this month, Leonardo DRS replaced Northrop Grumman as incumbent on a $65M contract from the Navy and Japan for radars designed to detect low-flying cruise missiles. If all contract options are exercised, the pact’s value could increase to $265M. The firm also is “pitching the Air Force to build its next-generation trainer aircraft.”

Personnel note: Heather DiGiacomo to chief of staff at DJJ” via Florida Politics — DiGiacomo will be the Department of Juvenile Justice’s new chief of staff, effective July 2, Secretary Christina Daly announced in an internal email Monday. “Heather has also been a valuable member of the leadership team and was an instrumental part of the development and rollout of the Department’s ‘Roadmap to System Excellence,’ before her appointment as communications director in 2014 and then her dual role of deputy chief of staff in 2016,” Daly said. DiGiacomo replaces Fred Schuknecht, who … has agreed to stay on with DJJ in a part-time capacity. … “Over the next month and half, Fred and Heather will be working closely together to ensure a seamless transition,” Daly said. … Prior to joining DJJ, DiGiancomo worked at the Florida Juvenile Justice Association from 2011 through 2013 and at the Florida Association of Counties from 2006 through 2011. She is an alumna of Florida State University.

Heather DiGiacomo.

Personnel note: UF taps Mark Kaplan for government relations VP” via Florida Politics — Kaplan’s resume includes working as the global head of public affairs and chief communications officer for The Mosaic Company … He’s held that position since 2007, though Sunshine State politicos are more likely to remember Kaplan as former Gov. Jeb Bush’s chief of staff during his last three years in office and as the former executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. Kaplan’s connections to the Bush family remain strong more than a decade later. He has a seat on the board of The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and has served as its chair since 2017. Gov. Scott also appointed Kaplan recently to the Tampa Port Authority.

Spotted: Greenberg Traurig’s Barry Richard again listed in the Chambers USA Guide — Richard, a shareholder in the firm’s Tallahassee office, has been recognized as a ‘senior statesman’ in the guide since 2014. He was again listed in this year’s guide for appellate litigation and general commercial litigation. According to its website, Chambers and Partners, UK-based publisher of annual guides in several global markets, selects attorneys and practice areas for inclusion based on thousands of interviews with practicing lawyers and clients around the world. In the USA Guide, attorneys can also be designated as a “Star Individual,” “Eminent Practitioner,” “Senior Statesman,” “Up and Coming,” “Star Associate,” or “Associate to Watch” by market and practice.

—“Adams St. Advocates reeled in up to $300K in Q1” via Florida Politics

—“Anfield Consulting collects $655K in first quarter” via Florida Politics

—“Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney saw earnings boost in Q1” via Florida Politics

—“Capital City Consulting maintains top-tier status in Q1” via Florida Politics

—“Capitol Alliance Group nets up to $610K in Q1 lobbying pay” via Florida Politics

Volunteer Florida announces hirings, promotions — Among several moves announced Monday, Erin Sjostrom joins the organization as Chief Financial Officer, responsible for finances of both the Commission and Foundation. Previously, she worked for the State of Florida as the Director of Retirement as well as being on the Florida Prepaid College Board. She’s married to Jonathan Sjostrom, chief judge of the Tallahassee-based 2nd Judicial Circuit. Also, Audra Peoples is now External Affairs Director and Aly Coleman is External Affairs Coordinator. Savannah Kelly has been promoted to Executive Liaison and Legislative Coordinator, supporting the agency’s legislative initiatives and Cabinet Affairs. Erik Steffen is now Director of Information Technology, Tracie Lambright was promoted to Senior Financial Analyst, and Anitra Thomas becomes AmeriCorps Program Manager.

— ALOE —

All-glass house to be built in Fort Lauderdale’s posh Las Olas Isles neighborhood” via Lisa Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Designed by Rex Nichols Architects, the home will feature an open floor plan with floor-to-ceiling, unobstructed views of the back garden. A wraparound, L- shaped pool, Jacuzzi and waterfall will be accessible through exposed sliding glass doors at the back of the home. Once completed in 2019, the 4,000-square-foot home could be listed for $3.5 million. “The walls are literally all glass,” said architect Rex Nichols. That includes all living areas such as the master suite, library and the bathrooms. What about privacy? The pool will wrap around the master bedroom and bathroom, and the landscaping will be a buffer. Landscaping and an “art wall” near the master bathroom is also intended to keep neighbors’ eyes out, Nichols said.

Fort Lauderdale’s new all-glass house. (image via Rex Nichols Architects)

Here’s where Tech Data, Publix fall on the new Fortune 500 list” via Margie Manning of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tech Data Corp. is No. 83 on the new Fortune 500 list. The Clearwater IT distributor with $36.78 billion in revenue, landed in the highest spot on the list for a Tampa Bay company, at least in recent years. Tech Data, which was No. 107 last year, advanced after an acquisition in February 2017, and surpassed the longtime local leader on the Fortune 500, Publix Super Markets Inc., for the first time. The companies on the 2018 list have a combined $12.8 trillion in revenue or two-thirds of U.S. GDP, and 28.2 million employees worldwide.

Happy Birthday to state Rep. Dane Eagle.

Last Call for 5.21.18 — 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

A bipartisan panoply of political stars came out this past weekend for the 22nd annual “Phil Galvano Golf Classic,” held at the Longboat Key Club and Resort.

The event is held in memory of Senate President-designate Bill Galvano’s late father — golf pro Phil Galvano — and raised $600,000 for the Manatee Education Foundation.

Spotted on the attendee list were Outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Speaker-designate Jose Oliva, and past Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Joining them were Sens. Aaron Bean, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley, Jeff Brandes, Anitere Flores, Denise Grimsley, Debbie Mayfield, Kathleen Passidomo, Keith Perry, Darryl Rouson, David Simmons, Perry Thurston, and Dana Young.

Also, House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues, Rep. Joe Gruters, former Sens. Chris Smith and Nancy Detert, former Speakers Dean Cannon and Lee Moffitt, and former Reps. Susan Goldstein, Doug Holder, Ed Hooper and Rob Schenck.

Legal and lobbying behemoth GrayRobinson was the title sponsor.

The elder Galvano, who died in 1996, wasn’t your run-of-the-mill golf pro. For a story on his background and achievements, check out this post from last year.

Evening Reads

Bill Nelson gets $2.2M in air support from Senate Democrats” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Ron DeSantis committee gets $200K from large Democratic donor” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Did Gwen Graham vote against President Obama 52 percent of the time?” via Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida

Patrick Murphy, David Jolly going national with TV appearances as speculation of bipartisan ticket grows” via Emily Mahoney of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Attorney General hopefuls disagree on opioid lawsuit timing” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Price tag for restricting felons’ rights after prison put at $385 million a year” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

School boards continue battle over controversial law” via News Service of Florida

FPL parent to buy Gulf Power in multibillion-dollar deal” via Jim Sauders of the News Service of Florida

Airbnb a boon for Florida seniors” via Chris Wille of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Rainy season arrives in full force in Sunshine State” via the Associated Press

Quote of the Day

“You just wake up one day and realize that you’re running in place, and that’s when we got together and said it’s time to take this step.” — U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, on filing a “discharge petition” in a showdown over DREAMers.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, will discuss the 2018 legislative session during a meeting of the Jacksonville Oceanside Rotary Club. That’s at 7:30 a.m., Atlantic Beach Country Club, 1600 Selva Marina Dr., Atlantic Beach.

The Florida Public Service Commission will hold an event in Hillsborough County to provide information to senior citizens about issues such as energy conservation, applying for the Lifeline program and avoiding utility scams. That’s at 11 a.m., Tampa Baptist Manor, 215 West Grand Central Ave., Tampa.

Gov. Rick Scott will honor Florida veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award. That’s at 2:45 p.m., National Guard Armory, 401 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand.

Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican running in Congressional District 17, is slated to speak to the North Port Area Republican Club. That’s at 5 p.m., Olde World Restaurant, 14415 Tamiami Trail, North Port.

A campaign kickoff event will be held for Delray Beach Republican Mike Caruso, who is running in state House District 89. The Palm Beach County seat is open because GOP Rep. Bill Hager faces term limits. That’s at 6 p.m., Museum 66, 2051 High Ridge Road, Boynton Beach.

Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Denise Grimsley is slated to attend the Miami Young Republicans Meeting. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center, Suite 106, 1465 SW 8th St., Miami.

Democratic candidate for Governor Chris King will address Broward County Democrats on reforming criminal justice in Florida. That’s at 7 p.m., Edwin F. Deicke Auditorium, 5701 Cypress Road, Plantation.

Enterprise Florida has secured space for a Florida section within the USA Pavilion for Hospitalar 2018, a health fair that is one of the largest in South America. That’s Tuesday through Friday in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Personnel note: Heather DiGiacomo to chief of staff at DJJ

Heather DiGiacomo will be the Department of Juvenile Justice’s new chief of staff, effective July 2, Secretary Christina Daly announced in an internal email Monday.

“Heather has also been a valuable member of the leadership team and was an instrumental part of the development and rollout of the Department’s ‘Roadmap to System Excellence,’ prior to her appointment as communications director in 2014 and then her dual role of deputy chief of staff in 2016,” Daly said.

“I have the utmost confidence in Heather’s continued dedication in her new role as chief of staff,” Daly added.

DiGiacomo replaces Fred Schuknecht, who decided to step down after more than 40 years in government work. His last reported salary was $111,999.

“Fred has been an important member of my leadership team, and I want to thank him for his dedication and many contributions to DJJ’s success,” Daly said.

“I am also grateful that he has agreed to stay on with DJJ in a part-time capacity to continue to work with us as we reform our juvenile justice system,” she said. “After his years of service to our great state, I very much appreciate his desire to spend more personal time with family.

“Over the next month and half, Fred and Heather will be working closely together to ensure a seamless transition, and I am extremely appreciative of their commitment to Florida’s youth and their families,” Daly said.

Prior to joining DJJ, DiGiancomo worked as the executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association from 2011 through 2013 and as the assistant to the executive director at the Florida Association of Counties from 2006 through 2011. She is an alumna of Florida State University.

 

Schism divides Florida Senate Democrats, while improving their chances of winning in November

The recent formation of two political committees by a handful of Senate Democrats is the latest, most indelible sign of a growing rift within the caucus — and yet the divide may be improving the minority party’s chances of retaking the chamber.

In late April, Friends of Kevin Rader PC was established by David Ramba, a prominent Tallahassee lobbyist who administers dozens of political committees on behalf of a broad range of political clients.

Also recently formed was Future Democratic Majority PC. In addition to Rader, it involves Sens. Randolph Bracy from Ocoee, Lauren Book from Plantation, Linda Stewart from Orlando, Bobby Powell from West Palm Beach, and Darryl Rouson from St. Petersburg.

Ostensibly, the purpose of the two committees is to raise funds and provide resource support for Rader, the incumbent Senators listed above, and the Democratic challengers in as many as seven Senate districts who are running in 2018.

But Democratic campaign consultants and other insiders see the creation of the two PCs — and the active fundraising efforts of Rader and his allies — as an indirect challenge to the leadership of incoming Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson, who was only this year designated for the position after Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens, himself to succeed current Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, was forced to resign from the Senate after being hamstrung by a sex scandal.

Their issues with Gibson aside, the coalition of Senators is also diametrically opposed to the ascendancy of Broward’s Gary Farmer, who has made no secret of his desire to follow (if not replace) Gibson.

“What Kevin is doing is about two things,” said one Democratic consultant who has clients in both factions. “It’s about a crisis of confidence in Audrey (Gibson) and a fear of what the caucus might become if Gary is eventually given the reins.”

Exacerbating the schism — or at least helping to underwrite it — is the fact that Gibson, Farmer and their allies are backed by two of the most important interest groups within Democratic Party politics: The trial lawyers and the teachers union.

Jonathan Ducote of Resonance Campaigns and a former political director for the Florida Justice Association is Gibson’s de facto field general, overseeing the effort to net the at least four battleground races that would wrest control of the Senate from the Republicans.

And therein lies the irony.

Florida Senate Democrats believe this cycle offers their best opportunity in years to win back the Senate President’s gavel, which they have not held since 1994. As reported previously by Florida Politics, there could be as many as seven seats in play this November.

State Rep. Janet Cruz has entered the race for SD 18, where she will try to pick off incumbent Dana Young, and trial lawyer Carrie Pilon is challenging Jeff Brandes in SD 24. The party likes its chances with the campaigns of Kayser Enneking and Bob Doyel, two first-time candidates challenging Republican incumbents Keith Perry and Kelli Stargel, respectively.

Democrats scored a recruiting win when former Rep. Amanda Murphy joined the race for the open seat in Senate District 16, once held by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala. Now the party is waiting to see if Alex Penelas, the former mayor of Miami-Dade County, will run for SD 36, where Republican Rene Garcia is term-limited.

Last month, Democrats were relieved when Jose Javier Rodriguez decided to remain in SD 37, giving the party a better shot of funding other campaigns.

Fundraising has been and is a concern for Gibson and Co. And while she may not like dissension in the ranks, having two groups of Senators pitted against each other is expected to benefit the caucuses’ coffers.

The vote on who will succeed Gibson has been postponed until after the November elections, giving both Farmer and those opposed to him the opportunity to demonstrate their fundraising prowess.

“If Gary was the Leader-designate, or if he was out of contention, half of the caucus would stop raising money for the group and just raise it for themselves,” observed a Democratic lobbyist, a member of a firm that recently met with Rader.

Said another Democratic campaign consultant, “The people who are benefitting the most from this civil war are Janet Cruz, Amanda Murphy, and anybody else running against a Republican.”

It’s not clear who Cruz, Murphy, or most of the other Democratic challengers would support, but if the Democrats to net the four seats necessary to force a power-sharing arrangement with the Republicans, it’s not even a lock that Gibson would serve as Senate President, suggested a Democratic consultant aligned with Rader’s faction.

Same goes if the Dems fall a seat short of their goal. All eyes would then turn to 2020, but the race for Leader-designate would probably blow up into a knock-down, drag-out fight between Farmer and Rader or Book.

A preview of what that fight would like was revealed earlier this year when Farmer was shamed into apologizing to Book after he made misogynistic remarks about Book’s ability to lead her colleagues and balance her responsibilities as a new parent.

One Senate Democrat who sees all of these machinations as a positive for the caucus is outgoing leader Oscar Braynon, who says it’s a “good thing that all of the committees are being formed.”

Braynon says that lobbyists who would like to donate to Democrats are under pressure from Republican leaders Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson not to give to the Democrats’ Senate Victory fund. Establishing individual political committees like “Friends of Kevin Rader PC” gives these potential donors the opportunity to support some Democrats without incurring the wrath of the GOP leadership.

Braynon was insistent that what is playing out is not about Gibson (“if she takes back the majority, good luck trying to tell her she can’t be Senate President”) but about the leadership race to succeed her.

It boils down to “really seven people who think one way and seven people who think the opposite.”

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