Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been 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.

The latest on NFL vs. Trump: NFL to air unity ad in response to Trump

1:00 p.m. – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a tweet that the league will re-air a unity television advertisement Sunday night that it first ran during February’s Super Bowl.

The one-minute spot called “Inside These Lines,” will be shown during the Sunday night game between the Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins.

Over images and video of NFL players embracing one another on the field, the narrator says “Inside these lines, we don’t have to come from the same place to help each other reach the same destination.”

Goodell said that President’s Trump’s remarks about the NFL demonstrated “an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL.”

12:49 p.m. – Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagilabue called President Donald Trump’s comments on NFL players “insulting and disgraceful.”

Tagliabue, who was in Charlotte, North Carolina, as a guest of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, spoke to the media before Carolina’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

“For me to single out any particular group of players and call them SOB’s, to me, that is insulting and disgraceful,” Tagliabue said. “So I think the players deserve credit for what they do. And when it comes to speech they are entitled to speak. And we are entitled to listen. We are entitled to agree or disagree. But we’re not entitled to shut anybody’s speech down. Sometimes you don’t like what you hear and that is true in life in lots of contexts, but you can’t shut people down and be disgraceful when you are doing it.”

Richardson is not making a statement on the Trump’s remarks, per team spokesman Steven Drummond.

12:12 p.m. – The Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to stay in their locker room for the national anthem before their game against the Chicago Bears, coach Mike Tomlin has told CBS.

The move was apparently in reaction to President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire players who kneel for the national anthem.

Several players from the Jaguars and Ravens decided to kneel in the first NFL game of the day in London. Then Tomlin said his players would not be on the sideline at Soldier Field in Chicago for the anthem.

11:45 a.m. – A handful of Miami Dolphins players are wearing black T-shirts supporting free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick during pregame warm-ups.

The shirts have “#IMWITHKAP” written in bold white lettering on the front.

Kaepernick was the first athlete to refuse to stand during the national anthem as a protest. This season, no team has signed him, and some supporters believe NFL owners are avoiding him because of the controversy.

Among the players sporting the shirts before their game against the New York Jets are wide receiver Kenny Stills, running back Jay Ajayi and offensive linemen Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James. Stills, also a team captain, posted a photo on Twitter of himself wearing the shirt, along with the post: “In case you didn’t know!”

11:35 a.m. – Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan calls it a privilege to stand arm-in-arm with players during the national anthem in London.

Khan stood between tight end Marcedes Lewis and linebacker Telvin Smith at Wembley Stadium and then released a statement to express his support for players. Coaches and other team personnel from both teams did the same before the game against the Ravens.

About two dozen players on both teams kneeled, something President Donald Trump has said owners should fire players for.

“It was a privilege to stand on the sidelines with the Jacksonville Jaguars today for the playing of the U.S. national anthem at Wembley Stadium,” Khan said. “I met with our team captains prior to the game to express my support for them, all NFL players and the league following the divisive and contentious remarks made by President Trump, and was honored to be arm in arm with them, their teammates and our coaches during our anthem.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

Is this the year Felix Garcia goes free?

A deaf man from Tampa who claims innocence for his role in a 1981 murder will be back up for parole Tuesday.

Felix Garcia, who turns 56 next month, is serving a life sentence in the death of Joseph Tramontana Jr.

His case will again go before the Florida Commission on Offender Review, which will consider whether to release him on parole.

Florida abolished parole in the 1980s, but inmates whose crimes were committed before Oct. 1, 1983 are still eligible.

Garcia has long claimed that his brother and sister framed him and they have since admitted to doing so, even while he remains behind bars.

That’s despite a seven-hour alibi that places him six miles away from the crime scene with his girlfriend, their 6-month-old daughter, his girlfriend’s mother, and—at least briefly—with a Domino’s Pizza delivery man.

But Garcia, sitting in a Tampa courtroom in 1983, says he could not understand the proceedings, in part because he was not provided a sign-language interpreter.

He had a 4th-grade reading and comprehension level. He experienced the entire trial as “incoherent noise,” his advocates say.

He answered “yes” to indicting questions because he thought his cooperation would speed up the trial, so he could go home sooner.

When Felix saw his sister Tina take the stand, he assumed she was doing so to come to his defense. On that, too, he was wrong.

The main piece of evidence against Felix: A pawnshop ticket that his brother Frank asked Felix to sign. It was for a ring that Frank had taken from the murder victim.

Knowing nothing about the ring’s origins but willing to oblige, Felix’s information was filed with the ring at the Tampa Gun and Pawn Shop.

That would forever change his life.

His brother Frank was convicted as well, though on lesser charges. Over time, Frank and Tina each came clean. In 1989 and again in 1996, Frank Garcia admitted under oath that Felix had nothing to do with the shooting or robbing of Tramontana. In 1996, Tina did the same.

Those attempts to absolve Felix were in vain.

Still behind him are Pat Bliss, a retired paralegal who has been working to secure Felix’s freedom for years; Reggie Garcia (no relation), a clemency expert who’s been representing Garcia for free; and Sachs Media Group, providing media relations pro bono.

Garcia last was up for parole in November 2014, when the commission turned him down but agreed to reconsider his case in another three years.

That time is now. And the time for justice for Felix Garcia, inmate #482246, is long overdue.

Tom Knight backs James Buchanan in HD 72 special election

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight is backing James Buchanan in the special election for House District 72, which was vacated by Alex Miller on Sept. 1.

“I know James will give law enforcement the support we need to keep our community safe.  He stands with us, so I will stand with him,” Knight said in press release.

Knight joins other area Republicans, including future Senate President Bill Galvano and state Rep. Jim Boyd, in endorsing Buchanan, who is the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

“Tom Knight is beloved by our community and is one of the most respected Sheriff’s in our state. I am proud to have him on our team,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan, who filed for HD 72 within an hour of Miller announcing her resignation, is the only Republican in the race.

Buchanan is an alumnus of Florida State University and the University of South Florida, where he earned an MBA. He has worked as a real estate agent since 2006 and is longstanding member of the National Association of Realtors, Florida Association of Realtors, as well as  the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

Also running for the Sarasota County seat is Libertarian Alison Foxall and Democrats Margaret Good and Rita Jouniari, who announced her candidacy Friday.

Gov. Rick Scott set the primary election for Dec. 5, with the general election to follow on Feb. 13. The deadline for candidates to enter the race is Sept. 28.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Fences make happy code enforcers

The first sentence of a Reason blog post this week got House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s attention: “Mere hours after Hurricane Irma, Miami-Dade County was ticketing residents for building code violations on their wrecked properties.”

The House’s graphics team soon was on the case, producing an infographic based on the story, first reported by WSVN-TV.

Corcoran tweeted it with the message: “Revealed: Hours after Hurricane Irma hit, Miami-Dade County issued 857 known notices that could result in fines. Outrageous.”

Hours after Irma struck Miami-Dade County, code enforcement was on the march.

The Reason post had focused on resident Celso Perez, who “was helping his neighbors remove some fallen trees blocking their street when a county code enforcer rolled up and issued him a safety notice for having a downed fence.

“ … The official told Perez that the downed fence — which encloses a pool — was a safety hazard, and that if it wasn’t fixed by the time he returned, Perez would be hit with a fine. The official then hung the safety citation on the portion of Perez’s fence that remained standing, leaving him and his neighbors to finish clearing the debris from their street.”

The blog opined: “it’s quite possible that Perez and the other people might have more pressing things to do right after a hurricane than bring their homes back up to code. You know: clearing the streets, seeking medical attention, checking in on family members, trying to find food.”

The county, in a follow-up statement to Reason, defended its actions: “We were looking to advise residents of the following hazards on their properties that they may not have been aware of, but that pose a life safety threat: damaged structures that rendered them unsafe, unsecured pools with no barriers, electrical hazards (downed lines, damaged meters) and gas hazards (damaged meters).

“If any of these hazards were found, our inspectors gave out a safety notice, which is neither a notice of violation warning nor a citation. That means there is no fine attached. The safety notices given to property owners identify the hazard, steps that should be taken to correct the hazard, and who to contact for additional information.”

As Perez put it: “All the stores were closed. It’s not like I can go to Home Depot and find some temporary barrier.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jim RosicaPeter Schorsch, Scott Powers, Michael Moline and Andrew Wilson.

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

Irma’s effect still felt — The hurricane that ripped through the state has still left more than 30,000 homes and businesses without power at last count. Thousands of Floridians need help with insurance claims; some are still in need of food and shelter. Gov. Rick Scott and other officials continue touring the state to view the damage. Scott said he’d like to see storm-battered Key West “open for business” within two weeks, but tourism officials say it could take longer. Some tourism hot spots have started to reopen in the Lower Keys, as electricity is back for more than 90 percent of Monroe County.

Citrus in dire straits — A long wait may be ahead for broad federal relief for Florida’s beleaguered citrus industry, “decimated” by Irma at the start of the growing season, according to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The agriculture industry — the state’s second-largest industry after tourism — could be at the mercy of Congress to land broader federal assistance for ravaged crops. “Comparable disaster assistance programs, to what we’ve seen in the past, will now require an act of Congress,” Putnam, a former member of the U.S. House, said. “And as a recovering congressman, I can assure you that nothing moves as fast as we’d like in Washington.”

Florida becoming redder — Republicans are boasting they have taken voter-registration edges over Polk and Volusia County Democrats, continuing a trend of trimming a once-sizable advantage for Democrats statewide. With Polk and Volusia counting slightly more Republicans than Democrats in registration data recorded through Aug. 31, the Republican Party of Florida says it’s flipped 12 counties to a Republican advantage in two years. But it’s not just there. Democrats in August 2013 had more than 500,000 statewide registered voters over Republicans. With the latest count, the Democrats advantage was cut nearly in half to just 275,000.

Miami-Dade election nears — The special election for Miami-Dade County’s Senate District 40 is Tuesday. Republican Jose Felix Diaz, Democrat Annette Taddeo and no-party candidate Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth are vying for the seat. Diaz got a boost this week with an endorsement from his hometown newspaper, the liberal-leaning Miami Herald editorial board. But Taddeo came back Wednesday with an endorsement from former Vice President Joe Biden, who recorded a get-out-the-vote call for her. The winner will replace ex-Sen. Frank Artiles, who stepped down in April after a controversy over his use of racially-charged language with two black lawmakers.

Constitutional panel gets ready — The Constitution Revision Commission is gearing up for its first committee week, starting Monday in the Capitol. Among those meeting: Rules and Administration, Executive Committee, Bonding and Investments, Declaration of Rights, Finance and Taxation, and General Provisions. All meetings are open to the public and will be live-streamed by The Florida Channel. The commission is formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. Any amendments put forward by the panel must be approved by at least 60 percent of voters statewide on the 2018 ballot to be added to the constitution.

Rick Scott visits Irma shelter with Homeland Security chief

Rick Scott and Elaine Duke meet with state and local officials in Monroe County.

Gov. Rick Scott visited a Monroe County hurricane shelter this week alongside U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke and American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern.

After visiting with families at the shelter, Scott and Duke split off to meet with state and local officials about recovery efforts in the Keys. Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, was one of the areas hardest hit by Irma.

As of Friday, power had been restored to about 94 percent of accounts in the county, but there is still a long road to ahead before the Keys are back to normal.

Able Trust honors Jack Latvala

A group that helps disabled Floridians land jobs handed its “Senator of the Year” award to Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala this week, citing the Senate Appropriation Chair’s commitment to their cause.

The Able Trust gave Latvala the award during a ceremony in Orlando Friday morning.

Jack Latvala is recognized as “Senator of the Year” by the Able Trust.

“People with disabilities have been greatly served by Senator Latvala’s continued public service,” said Karen Moore, who chairs the Able Trust’s board of directors.

Moore added that Latvala, who is running for Florida governor in 2018, has shown his commitment to helping Floridians with all types of disabilities and has shown “steadfast support” for the Able Trust while in the Legislature.

Food assistance on the way

State and federal officials are starting a “Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program” in the 48 counties most affected by Hurricane Irma, a news release said.

“We are working around the clock to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Irma,” Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll said. “We encourage those in need of food assistance to preregister if possible through the website so we can quickly serve those in need.”

To qualify, applicants must be financially eligible, have lived or worked in one of the counties declared for FEMA Individual Assistance Sept. 5, and not be receiving food assistance through the regular Food Assistance Program.

Details on local Food for Florida sites will be posted on the Food for Florida website as they become available.

‘Sanctuary cities’ bill in Senate

Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Aaron Bean filed a bill this week that would outlaw “sanctuary” designations and fine cities that don’t fall in line.

The “Rule of Law Adherence Act” (SB 308) would force local governments to follow federal immigration laws and require full compliance with detention requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Cities that don’t toe the line could face fines of up to $5,000 for each day they keep “sanctuary” policies on the books.

Bean filed a similar measure in the 2017 Legislative Session that didn’t make it through committee. The House companion got through with a party-line vote but wasn’t taken up in the Senate.

At the time, critics slammed the measures for unfairly targeting minorities and claimed that forced compliance without funding for enforcement was an unfair burden on local governments.

Florida may get state bovine

Forget state birds, flowers or butterflies: state Rep. MaryLynn Magar says Florida needs a state cattle breed.

The Tequesta Republican filed a bill for the 2018 Legislative Session this week, HB 155, that would name the Florida Cracker the state’s “heritage cattle breed.”

Could MaryLynn Magar make the Florida Cracker the state’s official bovine?

The Florida Cracker, also known as the Florida Scrub or simply the Cracker cow, has a long history in the Sunshine State. The small, horned and hardy cattle breed was brought to Florida by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, making them one of the oldest breeds in the U.S., and the trend toward larger and larger cattle for beef production has made the Florida Cracker one of the rarest breeds as well.

If approved, the Florida Cracker’s designation would put it in the same company as several other official state flora and fauna — the American alligator, the Florida panther, the manatee and the dolphin, to name a few.

Citizens says: Avoid AOB ‘scams’

State-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is hoping to deter policyholders from opting for a quick fix post-Irma by urging them to avoid assignment of benefits “scams.”

Assignment of benefits, or AOB, is a practice where policyholders can sign away their insurance policy to a third party that will make needed repairs and attempts to collect the cost from the insurer later — often by taking them to court.

Citizens said “unscrupulous contractors and repair companies thrive in the frenzied days following any storm” and warned policyholders to be on the lookout for contractors operating without a license or any “deals that sound too good to be true.”

The insurer of last resort said customers should call them first after any home damage, with CEO Barry Gilway adding that Citizens’ “claims representatives are ready to help. All you have to do is call.”

Get your tetanus booster before Irma cleanup

The Florida Department of Health said Floridians should take some extra precautions before jumping feet first into their post-Hurricane Irma cleanup.

Chief among the department’s advice: Ask your doctor if it’s time for a tetanus booster.

Booster shots for tetanus, the bacteria that causes lockjaw, typically last 10 years. Tetanus can be found in soil, dust, manure and, as FDOH warned, could be prevalent in floodwaters brought on by Irma.

Before Irma cleanup, a tetanus booster may be a good idea.

Due to the risk, FDOH recommends all cleanup be done with waterproof gloves and rubber boots. If an accident happens, clean any wounds with soap and disinfected or bottled water before seeking medical attention.

DOH said Floridians with up-to-date vaccinations still need to take care when working out in the heat. The department said workers should drink plenty of water even if not thirsty, wear lightweight clothes and sunscreen, and make sure to take breaks inside the A/C.

FWC cancels Okeechobee meeting

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission nixed a two-day meeting scheduled for next week in Okeechobee, citing Hurricane Irma.

“FWC’s top priority is to provide significant resources to the statewide efforts to help our citizens and visitors recover from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Irma,” the commission said on its website. “In order to assure all resources are focused on recovery efforts, the FWC Commission meeting that was scheduled for Sept. 27 and 28 has been canceled.”

With the September meeting scratched off the calendar, the only remaining commission meeting this year is set for Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 in Gainesville.

FWC relaxes fees post-Irma

Gov. Scott told the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ease up on regulations and waive fees for the South Florida commercial fishing industry as it tries to bounce back from Hurricane Irma.

“Hurricane Irma affected nearly our entire state, and we are aggressively working to make sure the every family and industry has the ability to recover quickly. This week, I’ve traveled across the state to tour damage and hear directly from families and communities on what we can do to help. Florida’s commercial fishing industry plays a large role in our economy, and I am proud the FWC can waive fees and reduce regulations so they can get back to work,” Scott said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will ease up on regulations and waive fees post-Irma for the South Florida commercial fishing industry.

Among the temporary rule changes is an extension of the renewal period for some commercial fishing permits set to expire Sept. 30 and delaying the deadline until Dec. 1 for commercial lobster harvesters in Collier, Dade and Monroe to tag their traps.

Fees for replacement trap tags have also been waived.

FWC chairman Brian Yablonski said the commission was “glad to reduce these regulations and waive fees,” and agreed with Scott that the move will help Florida fishermen and women to get back on the water.

Florida Chamber forum next week

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s Future of Florida Forum is coming to Orlando next week to discuss issues facing the state and ask “Is Florida Ready?”

Key speakers heading to the JW Marriott Grande Lakes for the Wednesday and Thursday event include gubernatorial candidate and Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam, Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis, Enterprise Florida head Pete Antonacci, Visit Florida chief Ken Lawson, DEO Director Cissy Proctor and Education Commissioner Pam Stuart.

Topics include the state’s cradle to career continuum, Hurricane Irma recovery, an update on the Florida 2030 Initiative, a special Florida Women’s Hall of Fame presentation, and the Constitution Revision Commission.

Registration and agenda info is available on the Chamber’s website. Those who can’t make it or can’t stick around for the whole thing can check out the Chamber’s livestream.

Leon County pushes back budget hearings

With the Jewish holy day of Rosh Hashana earlier this week and Hurricane Irma’s effects still lingering, Leon County said rescheduled a pair of public hearings on millage rates.

The tentative millage rate hearing scheduled for Sept. 20 was moved to Sept. 26 at 6 p.m., while the hearing on final millage rates originally scheduled for Sept. 26 was also moved back a week to Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.

The county said it took the Florida Department of Revenue’s advice in rescheduling the hearings, both of which will be held in the County Commission chambers on the fifth floor of the Leon County Courthouse, 301 S. Monroe St.

There will be time for public comment at both hearings. Those looking for more info can reach out to county community relations contact Mathieu Cavell via (850) 606-5300 or

Leon County: Bring us your trash

It’s been nearly two weeks since Hurricane Irma barreled through Florida, but there’s still plenty of debris to be carted off throughout the state. Luckily, Leon County Emergency Management said residents will still be able to slough off that extra yard trash free-of-charge through Sept. 24.

The Solid Waste Management Facility, 7550 Apalachee Parkway, will be open Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., while the rural waste service centers in Woodville, Fort Branden and Miccosukee will be open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Those who can’t cart away their own debris can wait for curbside collection, which is set to start up this week and will keep going until all the waste is collected. The county put out a guide to help residents do their part in keeping the curbside collection process moving smoothly.

Tallahassee going solar

After months of preparation, City of Tallahassee crews and Origis Energy will be installing the first of 230,000 solar panels on a new “solar farm,” according to a news release.

“Once in service, these solar panels will produce 37 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year — enough to power 3,400 homes and businesses in the Capital City,” it said.

The city’s solar farm will be on the southside, off Springhill Road. It’s expected to be completed this winter. When finished, the 20-megawatt solar farm, near the Tallahassee International Airport, will be one of the biggest in the Sunshine State.

A second 40-megawatt solar farm is planned.

Bring a newbie hunting or fishing

Saturday is National Hunting and Fishing Day and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission want Florida outdoorsmen to “create new conservationists” by bringing a pal or two on their weekend excursions.

“Not only do hunting and fishing allow you to connect with nature on a profound level, those who take part in these activities also contribute to conservation,” FWC Director Nick Wiley said. “Every time someone buys a firearm, ammunition, archery equipment or fishing tackle, they are contributing to science-based fish and wildlife management through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program.”

Buddy up! Saturday is National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Such purchases fund the program, as do fees from hunting and fishing licenses, which Wiley said “is critical for conserving fish and wildlife” in the Sunshine State.

FWC encouraged any sportsmen or women who have an extra seat on their boat or a little extra space in their hunting stand to pledge to bring someone along.

Those who do will be eligible to win prizes including a VIP package for the Richard Childress Racing weekend or an “Ultimate Outdoor Experience” at the Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri — just be sure any companions grab a license online before they reel in a whopper.

First responders fish for free

Gov. Scott said this week that Sunshine State law enforcement and first responders don’t have to worry about grabbing a fishing license before heading out for some R&R post-Hurricane Irma.

“Before and after Hurricane Irma, Florida’s brave law enforcement officers and first responders have been tirelessly working around the clock to meet the needs of our families and communities. Even as their own families were evacuating or working to begin the recovery process, they have been putting their own lives on the line to keep our state safe,” Scott said when he announced rule change.

One good thing about Hurricane Irma: First responders fish for free. 

FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski added he hopes “this small token of appreciation will give these dedicated men and women an opportunity to get a break” from the stress brought on by the storm.

Scott said the deal applies to both freshwater and saltwater fishing, and that it will last through the end of June 2018. The licenses cost $37 each for Florida residents, or $54 for an “Avid Angler” license, which bundles freshwater and saltwater permits.

The Associated Press and the News Service of Florida contributed to this edition.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Jacksonville Bold for 9.23.17 — Recovery mode

After a two-week sabbatical, Jacksonville Bold returns this week — with much of the content dealing with a city battling back from well-documented storm impacts (massive flooding in areas, power outages, et al.)

And, like Bold, the city is coming back.

Before the Jaguars kicked off Sunday, power was substantially restored (though it seemed to have come at the expense of efficiency on offense). Debris is piled by curbs, waiting for pickup. Life is moving on — though some of those who suffered most grievously during the storm are still waiting for a helping hand from government.

Charlotte Glaze gives Donna Lamb a teary hug Monday as she floats out some of her belongings in floodwaters from the Ortega River in Jacksonville. Photo via AP.

The question going forward, into next Tuesday’s budget vote and beyond: How will the city shoulder a second straight year of significant storm-related costs?

The capital improvement program was already big-spending and ambitious ($131M). Other adds were equally bold: a proposal for 100 new cops, and a proposal to spend $8M for capital improvements at the private HBCU, Edward Waters College.

As John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

But that quote was never intended to apply to municipal budgets; however, Jacksonville City Council members will be compelled to balance what happened this month with long-range planning made before Irma was even conceived.

Paul RyanFlorida delegation talk Irma

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Appropriations Chair Rodney Freylinghausen aren’t usually in Bold, but they are this week — as they visited Jacksonville as part of a three-stop tour with the Florida Delegation to discuss Irma relief.

The national figures didn’t talk to the local press (small market blues?), but Florida U.S. Reps, such as Ron DeSantis, had a consistent message: Northeast Florida cities will get what’s coming to them from FEMA.

Florida Delegation: Help is on the way from D.C.

“One of the things we’ve been impressing on the federal government is these communities are having to spend a lot of resources on things like debris removal. They need to have that money reimbursed in a timely fashion,” DeSantis said.

“You still have a lot of localities that are waiting to be reimbursed for Matthew,” DeSantis added. “That’s a bureaucratic process that’s got to be improved. We’ve been talking to and engaging FEMA about that.”

Rep. John Rutherford also noted that funds are in fact available … good news for budget hawks in City Hall.

Al Lawson fights for Jax FEMA funds

Last week saw politicians coming through Jacksonville for photo ops and to survey the damage. Perhaps the most unheralded visit was that of Rep. Lawson, who dropped into City Hall last week and talked to the Mayor about getting Jacksonville money … from Hurricane Matthew.

Al Lawson visits storm-damaged Ribault area in Jacksonville last week.

“I talked to the Mayor,” Lawson said, “and what I told him is that I know there’s some $26 million that the city hasn’t gotten from FEMA for the last hurricane, Matthew. That’s one of the things that we’re working on to try to make sure they get those funds, because of the devastation in this area.”

“Our goal is to get the resources down here quickly as possible,” Lawson said.

Regarding backlogs with FEMA payouts, which can take years, Lawson noted that “this hurricane affected the whole state, and one of the things we need to do on the federal level is get that money released earlier.”

Lawson has worked, since beating Corrine Brown in the 2016 Democratic Primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, to build up local bona fides and ward off a potential local challenge. As of the end of June, the first-term Democrat had nearly $150,000 cash on hand for his next campaign.

Lawson promised us that Speaker Ryan would come to visit … and he was as good as his word, as you read above.

Rutledge Pearson Post Office?

Pushing for federal funds is one way Lawson is localizing his approach; pushing to name a local post office after one of the most influential civil rights leaders in regional history is another.

Sunshine State News reports that Lawson seeks to rename the Kings Road post office after Rutledge Pearson; this play is backed by most of the Florida Congressional Delegation, with Rep. Ted Yoho the sole Northeast Florida exception.

Fifty years after his suspicious death, Rutledge Pearson is still remembered.

“Rutledge Pearson, a Jacksonville native, was an American history teacher, civil rights leader and distinguished baseball player,” Lawson said last week. “His legacy in Jacksonville, especially in the fight for civil rights, is long-lasting and this is a fitting way to honor his contributions to our community.”

Pearson was a former head of the state NAACP and instrumental in Jacksonville’s struggle toward integration. He died 50 years ago in a car accident in Tennessee.

Hold my mule

The reviews are coming in for Shirley Caesar’s fundraising gig for Corrine Brown — and the Florida Star, closely aligned with Brown throughout her career, gave Caesar high marks this month.

“Selling out 2,000 seats at Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church. Before Shirley Caesar anointed the attendees with her presence. Guest had the pleasure of enjoying the small business Pop-up shop and praising with live entertainment from Phillip Mercer, Abyssinia Choir, Robert Hayes (Classical Mime), and Najee Ward,” the Star reports.

Corrine Brown’s post-prison future may be in concert promotion.

Nothing like the classical mime to warm up the crowd.

Brown faces sentencing in mid-November. One hopes the anointing doesn’t have a shelf life.

Rick Scott: FEMA could offer ‘advance payments’

More good news and clarity on the reimbursement front.

Florida Gov. Scott is also on board — and may be able to help expedite requests.

“I talked to the Administrator of FEMA about this last week,” Scott said. “They can do advance payments.”

Scott noted caveats, such as “still having to go through the process,” and that — if the reimbursement is not approved — cities have to pay the feds back.

“What I’ve told everybody is get it to our office. I’ll get it to FEMA,” Scott added, “and what they’ve told me was they’d work with cities or counties to [make] advance payments.”

Gov. Rick Scott, CFO Jimmy Patronis and Rep. Ted Yoho were in Orange Park Tuesday.

Jacksonville, at last count, has somewhere around $150M between operating and emergency reserve accounts — a good chunk of change in a $1.27B general fund budget, but one with caveats — including statutory minimum levels that must be maintained.

Jacksonville is still awaiting reimbursements from the federal government — 75 percent of an approximate $50 million in storm-related damage. Application technicalities, such as Jacksonville’s local commitments to small and emerging businesses and locational criteria for vendors, apparently are not something the federal government honors.

Duval delegation talks Irma aftermath

“Unprecedented devastation” brought by Hurricane Irma occasioned a special press availability of the Duval Delegation late last week.

Most everyone on hand will go to bat for the district; however, details — beyond a Rep. Jay Fant bill to enhance criminal penalties for looting during states of emergency — were scant.

Jacksonville media members were delighted by a late Thursday afternoon press avail.

Rep. Cord Byrd, who represents Duval and Nassau, has spoken with Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. John Rutherford and Speaker Richard Corcoran about pushing the ball forward.

And Rep. Jason Fischer noted that “we as a state should do everything we can to fill the gaps left by” federal and local governments.

We asked Rep. Fant about the Speaker’s dispensation toward Jacksonville pushing for resources, given the tensions regarding Fant’s positions on Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, incentive programs the Speaker and allied vigorously worked to scuttle.

“Legislators may disagree on legislation,” Fant said, but all are “still teammates,” especially in light of the “catastrophic” Irma.

Notable: the Florida Times-Union had two reporters on hand, but ultimately saw little of reportable value in the event.

Did prophets see Irma coming?

We’re not sure if the Duval Delegation agrees with Rep. Kim Daniels about whether prophets saw Irma coming as a manifestation of God’s will. We didn’t have the heart to ask them.

“Nothing happens except God reveal it to prophets first,” Daniels observed as the death-dealing superstorm enveloped the peninsula.

The “carnally-minded” won’t understand where Rep. Kim Daniels is coming from.

We asked Daniels about these comments. To sum, she stands by the claim.

“I wouldn’t post it on Facebook if I didn’t believe it,” Daniels said, feet away from where a massive relief fund was being rolled out for the storm she said prophets knew would happen.

Her musings are “for spiritually-minded people,” Daniels said, “and you can’t explain spiritual things to carnally-minded people … And I’m sure you won’t understand it.”

We asked Daniels why God would want Irma to hit Florida.

Her response: “You pray and ask God that.”

Fundraising roundup

It was easy to lose track of Northeast Florida political fundraising during Irma’s Hell Week; however, we have you covered.

In fundraising for local 2019 races, Jacksonville City Council candidate Matt Carlucci again outclassed the field; of course, he will be taking a break the next couple of months, dealing with Irma claims in his capacity as a State Farm agent.

Matt Carlucci will have plenty of insurance claims to deal with this fall.

Though not a declared candidate yet for re-election, Sheriff Mike Williams’ committee is now over $100K cash-on-hand … with the bail bonds industry offering an assist.

In other committee news, Currys committee hauled in nearly a quarter-million dollars in August … and in the process, he paid back Jags’ owner Shad Khan for travel to three cities’ sports districts for eco dev ideas for the Shipyards.

And on the state level, committees for Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Paul Renner likewise had strong hauls. Attorney General candidate Fant struggled, while the man who hopes to replace him in HD 15 — lawyer Wyman Duggan — had a respectable first month of fundraising.

Irma may cost Jax more than Matthew did

Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer, Sam Mousa, was the first local official to give even a rough estimate of local budget impacts from Irma.

They won’t be pretty.

“We’re just beginning the recovery,” Mousa said, noting that damage could be “equal or a bit more than Hurricane Matthew.”

Sam Mousa spent part of his birthday talking Irma expenses this week.

Matthew cost the city $50M in general fund costs, and the city is still out $27M of unreimbursed FEMA costs; Mayor Curry said earlier this summer that the city could handle a Matthew-sized hit to the general fund, though it is uncertain what choices a “bit more” costs would require.

Worth noting: the city estimated, in the wake of Matthew, costs could be up to $100M; that estimate turned out — luckily for the city, given FEMA’s slow reimbursement — to be high.

“We’re still trying to get our arms around infrastructure damage,” Mousa said.

Curry still committed to kids’ program reforms

Of late, Jacksonville’s City Council committees have deferred Curry’s “Kids Hope Alliance” proposal.

But the bill isn’t dead, the mayor says. Rather, it’s being tweaked.

Council awaits the revised version of Lenny Curry’s latest reform proposal.

Curry called the Kids Hope Alliance bill “real reform,” saying “I will see it through to the end.”

“I’m not going weak on this,” he added.

Regarding discussion among some legislators that significant changes are needed to the bill to make it palatable, Curry stood his ground, saying the aftermath of Hurricane Irma led to a temporary pause in the reform push.

“I met with experts,” Curry said, “tweaking it. But the delay right now is storm-related.”

“Once we get through this hurricane stuff,” he added, “you’ll see the final bill and a discussion in city council in the near term.”

We asked if the entire seven-person board would be comprised of Mayoral appointees, as was the case in the originally filed legislation.

“I don’t want to speak to the final product until we get there,” Curry said, “but I think you’ll see that it accomplishes the intent that I said needs to be accomplished.”

Message discipline

Jacksonville got national coverage last week for massive flooding in downtown and beyond; while that had the benefit of getting Curry and various local journos into the national spotlight, that came at the potential expense of Jacksonville’s reputation for resilience.

In the Jax Daily Record, veteran journalist Karen Mathis asserts that “efficient recovery” involves getting the business community back on its feet — and that it needs to happen soon … and be messaged.

“Companies that want to expand and create jobs want to know that when disaster strikes, they will be able to quickly resume business and continue their payrolls, which is what their employees want, too,” Mathis writes.

“While Florida, Jacksonville and other cities are moving to reconnect people with access to their daily routines, media headlines might not relay that message nationally,” Mathis adds.

Curfew kerfuffle

The words “safe at home” had a new meaning in the wake of Hurricane Irma, as one Northwest Jacksonville apartment complex instituted a curfew.

Rep. Kim Daniels stopped by Washington Heights to see the curfew in practice.

Moncrief Road’s Washington Heights dropped a curfew over the weekend; the goal, “safety” in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Per Action News Jax, the curfew is somehow controversial with residents who had aversions to being locked in their houses past 8 p.m. every evening.

Washington Heights is one of a few Jacksonville complexes owned by Millennia Housing Management: the company took over the reins from troubled Global Ministries Foundation, which didn’t commit capital to physical improvements at complexes it owned around town (indeed, throughout the South).

Sewage slosh

In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, JEA faced opprobrium over sewage spills. Despite reinforcing its generator fleet, power failed at some locations in Hurricane Irma — and sludge seeped out onto Jacksonville streets.

Stews of sewage sludge coursed on Jacksonville streets after Irma.

First Coast News reports that “there were 57 known pollution incidents in Jacksonville during Hurricane Irma. More than 1.5 million gallons of sewage and wastewater was released out into the environment.”

FCN visited spills at a couple of locations, describing “a green, glistening stew of waste floating in the water of the creek and nearby roadside ditches” at one place near Fisher Creek on the Westside.

Jacksonville Councilman Bill Gulliford told us that sewage spills were one point of contention he had with the utility during this storm, in a wide-ranging interview that seemed to suggest JEA could use a different CEO.

When given a chance Monday to make critiques to JEA’s CEO at Council, Gulliford avoided this rhetoric; instead, he cast aspersions at an unnamed colleague, who allegedly gave a code for a Council-only conference call that wasn’t intended to be heard by media to a member of the press.

Meanwhile, Curry — when asked — sidestepped the question of whether JEA Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Paul McElroy deserves a bonus this year.

“Now is not the time” for such a discussion, he said.

Curry urges JEA to improve customer communications and to develop a plan to that end.

What Aaron Bean is up to next week

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, state Sen. Bean of Fernandina Beach will participate in the Leadership Nassau Youth Opening Day Lunch and speak with participants about the importance of leadership and public service.  The event begins 11:30 a.m. at the FSCJ Nassau Center, 76346 William Burgess Boulevard in Yulee.

One Spark flickers out for this year

Hurricane Irma is to blame for One Spark being pushed back until next year, WJCT reports.

The festival will be held at EverBank Field in April.

“We have received dozens of requests from applicants who have been impacted for extensions and help,” said One Spark Ventures President Chris Carter.

“Right now, we want to be respectful and mindful of our community and the hardships they face by allowing people the time they need to focus on their homes and families first,” Carter added.

One Spark has been in a gradual process of being scaled back in recent years; the hope is that in 2018 and beyond, the event will break-even.

No charges for Vernell Bing Jr. killer

Jacksonville activists sought charges in the police-involved shooting of Vernell Bing, Jr. — However, a year and a half after Bing’s death, those charges won’t come to pass, First Coast News reports.

The lawyer representing Bing’s family notes that civil charges are likely, however.

“While I’m sure folks are going to be very disappointed, very frustrated, that there is another criminal case of a police shooting of a young black man on the streets of Jacksonville, I can tell you we intend — if they didn’t criminally — we intend to hold him accountable civilly,” the lawyer said.

Likely, State Attorney Melissa Nelson will get pushback from local activists, but not the kind that will hurt her appreciably in a re-election bid.

For her part, Nelson noted that “we have conducted a thorough review of this shooting incident and determined the shooting was justified under applicable Florida law. We have established new protocols for both how we review officer-involved shootings and how we report our findings to the public. These new rules include the creation of an officer-involved shooting review team comprising investigators and prosecutors, who collectively, have more than 350 years of experience; the release of a comprehensive report detailing our analyses; and the simultaneous release of all relevant public records. These steps are taken to ensure accuracy in our findings and transparency in our work. This is the type of commitment the public expects and the type this office will maintain for years to come.”

Nelson has developed a pattern of messaging around controversial cases with an exhaustive amount of detail; this is no exception.

Shad Khan makes Forbes list of ‘best business minds’

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan was named one of The World’s 100 Greatest Living Business Minds by Forbes magazine. The magazine compiled the list for a special Centennial issue, which includes Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.

“My business goals have been consistent with my personal goals, and that’s to be distinctive and not only be unafraid of doing difficult things but commit to doing those things well so they can inspire others and make a difference in the lives of everyone,” Khan is quoted in the piece.

Shad Khan, one of the 100 Best Living Business Minds.

In addition to owning the Jaguars, Khan is CEO of auto-parts supplier Flex-N-Gate Corp., owns London’s Fulham Football Club and the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.

Khan bought the Jaguars in 2012 for $770 million, and according to Forbes, the club is now worth over $2 billion.

Jax Zoo Manatee Critical-Care Center welcomes first patients

Two manatees became the first patients at the new Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens $2 million Critical Care Center.

Dahlia Ghabor of the Jacksonville Business Journal reports: “Cassie and Buckeye weighed only 66 and 63 pounds when they were rescued. Now, Cassie is at 775 pounds and Buckeye at 625. The manatees will remain at the Jacksonville care center to continue their critical weight gain and monitoring until they are ready to be released in the winter.”

While the Center — one of four in the state — is not an actual zoo exhibit, visitors can view the recovery pool, which is adjacent to the Wild Florida exhibit.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens $2 million Manatee Critical Care Center accepted its first two patients.

Craig Miller, the Zoo’s curator of mammals and chair of the Manatee Rescue Rehabilitation Partnership and leader of the zoo’s Marine Mammal Response Team, tells the TBJ that the facility will help reduce transport time for injured manatees back to warm water release sites.

“I get the sense from talking to guests that the community is pretty excited about this, because it’s something in their backyard,” Miller said. “We’re pretty excited about being able to help these wild animals. That’s what it’s all about for so many of us in this field.”

Armada suffer historic collapse in 3-3 draw vs New York 

For most of the match in Brooklyn Sunday night, the Jacksonville Armada FC seemed sure of taking home three points Sunday. But the New York Cosmos made a surprising comeback to force a 3-3 draw at MCU Park. It matched the Cosmos biggest comeback in the modern NASL history — New York came back from 3 goals down Aug. 8, 2015, to draw Fort Lauderdale 3-3 in South Florida.

A trio of moves led to the first goal in the 13th minute. Jack Blake launched a corner kick toward the front of the goal and Kalen Ryden headed it straight to Ciarán Kilduff, who gave the Armada FC a 1-0 lead.

Kilduff earned a brace in the 41st minute with his second goal of the night. Kilduff stole the ball from New York’s Danny Szetela and made a mazy run toward the goal, poking the ball past goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck for the second goal of the night.

New York was unable to capitalize on their limited opportunities and left the field trailing by two at halftime.

The second half began with back and forth action, but neither side found a goal until 20 minutes in. Zach Steinberger earned a penalty kick after going down inside the box, and Blake stepped up to the spot. He struck the ball past Zobeck for his eighth goal of the year ­— another new franchise record for the Armada FC.

The 3-0 lead for the Armada was short-lived, however.

The Cosmos’ Javi Márquez was first to chip away at Jacksonville’s lead. He cut the deficit by one for New York in the 79th minute after beating the Armada defense and slotting a shot home for a goal.

Ten minutes later, Ayoze tracked down a ball in the corner to keep it in play. Then he crossed it over to Eugene Starikov who headed it in just barely over goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell’s fingers. Entering second-half stoppage time, the Armada were handing on for dear life and eventually conceded.

In the final minute of the match, Juan Guerra took a shot just inside the 18-yard box to curl it into the back post and equalize the score.

Although leaving New York with a disappointing draw, the Jacksonville Armada remains one point above the Cosmos in the Fall Season and in fourth place in the combined standings, a position for a postseason slot in the Championship.

The Armada will now return home for two matches at Hodges Stadium. First, the team will face the Spring Champions, the Miami FC, Sunday, Sept. 24. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. and the club will also honor First Responders at the match. Then, the rescheduled match with Indy Eleven will take place Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m. The Armada have not played a home match this month due to Hurricane Irma’s impact on First Coast.

Black lawmakers: Rick Scott is suppressing the vote in SD 40 special election

With four days left before voters decide the winner of a heated contest for an open Senate seat in Miami, the Florida Legislative Black Caucus (FLBC) is accusing Gov. Rick Scott of suppressing the vote in District 40.

After power was knocked out in large parts of Miami-Dade County, Florida Democrats asked Scott to postpone the Sept. 26 special election between Democrat Annette Taddeo and Republican former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. Scott did not take up the request.

In a press release distributed Friday, the FLBC notes that many in the predominantly African American communities of Richmond Heights and West Perrine were still without power and struggling to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma.

“African American neighborhoods are disproportionately without power,” said state Senator Perry Thurston. “The Governor must extend the election to ensure that every constituency has an equal opportunity to vote. Refusing to extend this election while black voters are disproportionately without power is a blatant act of voter suppression to win a special election already suffering from low voter turnout. I am hopeful that the Governor will take this opportunity to advocate for the black community and ensure that our vote counts.”

So far, “there are no changes” for the Sept. 26 election, and early voting is still on at three public libraries, beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, according to Suzy Trutie, a deputy supervisor of elections for the county.

“All three early voting sites have power,” Trutie said in an email Thursday to the News Service of Florida.

J.C. Planas, a lawyer representing Diaz’s campaign, scoffed at the idea of postponing the election. Planas, whose home was without electricity this week, said he’s been in contact with elections officials — and visited the early voting sites — and “everything is ready to roll.”

Switching the election dates “would cause chaos,” Planas said.

“Everything’s fine. Everything’s working. There’s no reason not to start early voting this weekend,” he said.

Planas pointed out that Florida Power & Light has pledged to have electricity restored to the region by Sunday.

“If FPL doesn’t have power up by Sunday, then maybe we can have this discussion,” he said. “If there’s no power Sunday, there’s going to be mobs of angry people in the street and the election is going to be the last thing on people’s minds. We will have other issues.”

One member of the FLBC questioned why Scott has postponed elections in one part of the state, but not others.

“Postponing the election to give folks time to recover and rebuild is the right thing to do, but it didn’t matter to the Governor except in Ft. Myers and Cape Coral,” said state Senator Audrey Gibson. “Once again the Governor puts party before the people of Florida.”

Sunburn for 9.22.17 – NRSC does Bill Nelson wrong; Debris politics; Tim Tebow lends a hand; Ashley Moody’s big get; Last wknd in SD 40 spec. elex.

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

We like Katie Martin, the National Republican Senatorial Committees communications director, and usually enjoy her sharp-tongued releases. But her Thursday missive to the press, trying to link Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to the deaths of nine South Florida nursing home residents amid Hurricane Irma, strained credulity, to say the least.

Sen. Bill Nelson speaks with Kimberley Clayton and her son, Austin Rice, on Sept. 21, 2017, in front of the Percy Peak Gymnasium in Fort Pierce, one of the remaining shelters open for those displaced by Hurricane Irma. Photo credit: Patrick Dove.

— “Bill Nelson doesn’t want you to know that he has ties to Jack Michel, the owner of Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills nursing home,” she wrote. “The connection between the two goes way back with Michel giving Nelson a campaign donation in 2012.”

— We’re sure if you scour the contribution records of Nelson, or any Florida pol, you’ll find all kinds of post hoc nefarious connections, or just head scratchers. In politics, today’s friend can be tomorrow’s enemy (or headache), and vice versa.

— That’s not to say Nelson is above reproach. As the Tallahassee Democrat’s Bill Cotterell points out: “Just as the Republicans tried for years to make Benghazi an albatross around Hillary Clinton’s neck, Nelson will remind voters that Scott fired the (state’s long term care) ombudsman and made ‘regulation’ a dirty word.”

— To wit, “Nelson said this week that ‘all the phone calls that had been made that were not answered, both to the government as well as to the power company’, would surely ‘come out in the criminal investigation’ of the nursing home deaths,” referring to accusations that Scott didn’t return the nursing home’s calls for help.

— And let’s not forget President Donald Trump, who said, “I hope this man right here, Rick Scott, runs for the Senate” in 2018, during a visit to Florida after the storm. Way to stay focused on the tragedy. Mr. President. As Cotterell put it, “Would a Florida politician exploit a ghastly tragedy to look good, or to make an opponent look bad? … Has a bear got hair?”


— @Fineout: @PoliticsTBTimes asked 4 potential GOP candidates for governor their position on Graham-Cassidy. None of them answered.

@SenBillNelson: Spoke with Gov. of Puerto Rico yesterday. Offered to help however we can, as our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Puerto Rico.

@MarcoRubio#PuertoRico estamos contigo. Vamos a hacer todo lo posible para que reciban la ayuda que necesitan pronto #HuracanMaria

— @SunSentinel: 10th person dies in Hollywood nursing home tragedy

— @BryanAvilaFL: Enjoyed visiting residents @MiamiSpringsFL Senior Center, where I informed them of the available post-Hurricane Irma assistance programs.

— @Fineout: 11 days after #HurricaneIrma hit nearly 25k homes and businesses remain w/o power. 19k are in Lee & Collier counties in southwest Florida

— @SteveBousquet: Are debris removal firms engaged in price gouging? Attorney General Pam Bondi wants to know

— @RichardCorcoran: Revealed: Hours after Hurricane Irma hit, Miami-Dade County issued 857 known notices that could result in fines. Outrageous.

— @LegIQ: .@MiamiHerald endorses @josefelixdiaz in upcoming special election

@10NewsWTSP: Tomorrow (today) is the first day of fall in #Florida. Do you know what that means? NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. It’s still 90° outside.

Read more

Last Call for 9.21.17 — 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

Now we come to the payoff.

Campaign-finance reports are due Friday for the Sept. 26 special elections in Miami-Dade County’s Senate District 40 and House District 116.

Republican Jose Felix Diaz, Democrat Annette Taddeo and no-party candidate Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth are vying for the Senate seat. Republican Daniel Perez and Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon are running for the House district.

Most eyes are on the Senate race, however, to replace disgraced ex-Sen. Frank Artiles.

He stepped down rather than face a hearing that could have resulted in his expulsion. Artiles, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami-Dade County, made national news after he accosted two black lawmakers, reportedly calling one a “b****h” and a “girl” in a dispute over legislation at a private club in Tallahassee, and using a slang variation of the ‘N-word.’

As of Thursday, Diaz had won the numbers game, showing a total of $1.05 million raised, with Taddeo at just over $190,000. Schlaerth posted a little more than $500 in contributions and $3,200 in loans.

Diaz also got a boost this week with an endorsement from his hometown newspaper, the liberal-leaning Miami Herald editorial board.

A conservative Republican, (Diaz) is not always beholden to ideology,” the paper said. “He has shown several times over that he can legislate as a moderate, working across the aisle and seeking compromise to craft laws that have real-time, street-level effectiveness.”

Evening Reads

Fed says Harvey and Irma will have no lasting economic impact” via Jeff Cox of CNBC

Claims for U.S. jobless aid fall as hurricane impact recedes” via Paul Wiseman of The Associated Press

Health Secretary Tom Price’s trip to Florida raises new questions about spending” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Was it a crime? 10 patients at nursing home died after Irma” via the Associated Press

Local lineman dies working to restore power after Hurricane Irma” via WFTS

Sources: Family court judge tops list to fill U.S. attorney post in Miami” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Judge refuses to toss out ex-lawmaker’s conviction” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

Why Irma drained the water from Tampa Bay” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times

Irma may speed the end of orange juice, America’s biggest source of ‘fruit” via Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post

Quote of the Day

“I’m just doing my job … Always need a Plan B in this business.” — Agriculture Commissioner and candidate for Governor Adam Putnam, while serving breakfast to a group of Jacksonville elementary students on Thursday.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early

Steve Seibert, interim executive director at The Florida Humanities Council, speaks at Café con Tampa. Admission is $12 (cash only), with breakfast buffet included. That’s at 8 a.m., upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican, will speak at the Space Coast Symposium, hosted by the Greater Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce. That begins at 8 a.m., with the Hukill panel discussion at 11 a.m., Space Coast Convention Center, 301 Tucker Lane, Cocoa.

Associated Industries of Florida will hold the “Florida Water Forum,” with Sens. Rob Bradley and Debbie Mayfield, and Reps. Matt Caldwell and Rep. Jake Raburn, at 8:30 a.m., Loews Royal Pacific Resort, 6300 Hollywood Way, Orlando.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist will attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new veterans’ mental health center. It’s at 10 a.m., Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, C.W. Bill Young Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., Building 111, St. Petersburg.

The Florida State University Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet. The board holds committee meetings starting at 8:30 a.m., with a full board meeting at 12:30 p.m. That’s at FSU’s Turnbull Conference Center, 555 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.

Florida Sugarcane Farmers ready to ‘grow again’ post-Irma

Florida farmers may have just experienced the biggest crop loss event in state history, but Florida Sugar Farmers is determined to bounce back.

Our rural farming communities will recover, replant and we will grow again after #HurricaneIrma,” the group said on Facebook Thursday.

Florida Sugar Farmers included a video with the post that intercut descriptions clips of USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam and other public officials describing the record damage Irma brought to Florida’s agriculture industry.

“The devastation of this storm was probably greater and more catastrophic across this state than anything we’ve ever seen, and that’s what we want to come here to rectify,” Purdue said in the video. “We’ve flown over from Orlando down to see all the groves and the vegetables and the shade houses destroyed and roofs off dairy barns and things like that.”

Putnam, who is running for Florida governor, said the storm was a “widespread disaster that’s more than just what you’ll feel at the produce section of your grocery store.

Flanked by Putnam and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the video also included a clip of Perdue saying his department will “expedite as much as possible” whatever help they can pull together while appealing to Congress for more Irma relief.

“These people are used to getting up after they’ve been knocked down,” Perdue said. “They’ll do it again, but we need to help ‘em and that’s what USDA is going to do.”

In the same post as the video, Florida Sugar Farmers praised Perdue, Putnam and Rubio, as well as U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Tom Rooney, state Sen. Denise Grimsley for being elected leaders who support Florida farmers.

Watch the video on Florida Sugar Farmers Facebook page.

Nick DiCeglie to hold campaign kickoff Oct. 12

A kickoff fundraiser for Republican Nick DiCeglie’s bid for House District 66 will be held Oct. 12 in Bellair, his campaign announced Thursday.

The event is set to run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Bellair Country Club, 1 Country Club Lane. The campaign said formal invitations to the fundraiser will head out soon.

Those looking to attend can send an RSVP to Rick Porter at or by calling 407-849-1112. Those who can’t make it shouldn’t fret – just head over to his campaign website, which is already setup for secure contributions.

The Pinellas County Republican Party Chairman came out of the gate touting his extensive resume in the public and private sectors when he announced his HD 66 bid earlier this month.

In addition to running a lauded local business, Solar Sanitation, Inc., the 20-year Florida resident spent two terms chairing the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce, boasts a gubernatorial appointment to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and has served six years on the Indian Rocks Beach Planning and Zoning Board.

If Pinellas County voters send him to Tallahassee, he vowed he would put that experience to good use by promoting “individual liberty and a Republic that is smaller and smarter than it is today.”

DiCeglie is the second Republican to declare for HD 66, which covers western Pinellas County including Clearwater, Indian Shores and Largo.

He and Berny Jacques are running the GOP primary to replace termed-out Rep. Larry Ahern. Also running is Reform Party candidate Paul Bachmann, who filed in early August.

The invitation is below:

Nick DiCeglie Invitation - Oct. 22 2017

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