Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics

Peter Schorsch

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

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.20.18

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

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

Andrew Gillum leading Ron DeSantis for Governor?

Rick Scott’s lead over Bill Nelson shrinking?

What is happening in Florida Politics?

A new survey from Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics shows Gillum with a six-point lead over his Republican opponent, DeSantis.

The results showed Gillum earning 50 percent of the vote, with DeSantis sitting at 44 percent.

What should worry the GOP: That lead is outside the survey’s four-point “credibility interval,” indicating Gillum’s lead is legitimate.

Wait, there’s more: The newest poll from the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative shows Gov. Scott up by less than a percentage point in the race to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Nelson.

That’s a drop from Scott’s six-point lead in the previous FAU BEPI poll. The latest version of the group’s survey has the Republican Scott earning 42 percent of the vote while Nelson, a Democrat, nabs just over 41 percent.

The same survey also showed Gillum ahead in the race to be Florida’s next Governor. The poll shows Gillum with 41 percent; DeSantis with 38 percent.

As Yeats wrote, “Surely some revelation is at hand …”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenFeinstein: President Trump, Dr. Blasey Ford did not want her story of sexual assault to be public. She requested confidentiality and I honored that. It wasn’t until the media outed her that she decided to come forward. You may not respect women and the wishes of victims, but I do.

—@ChrislHayes: In the last 24 hours many conservatives have seem to have convinced themselves that Blasey Ford’s reticence to testify one-on-one w [Brett] Kavanaugh on Monday means she’s lying.

—@ScottForFlorida: Disgusting #SaltBae served a lavish steak dinner to [Nicholas] Maduro and his thugs. Since Maduro has become President, meat consumption is down over 25% in Venezuela, and millions are starving. This is what happens under socialism.

@Fineout: @ByDaveBerman reports that during a Titusville campaign stop that @FLGovScott is now calling both @SenBillNelson & @AndrewGillum “socialists.” Says they both want “big government and socialism.” Apparently, Scott did not really explain what he meant by the comment.

—@Fineout: Not yet released on his schedule, but @FLGovScott will be in DC on Friday where he is scheduled to speak at the Values Voter Summit. Schedule has him going on right after Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.

—@MeredithMBeat: .@AndrewPollackFL: “It is absolutely disgraceful that @AndrewGillum would campaign with Sheriff [ScottIsrael. Gillum is siding with Sheriff Israel above the interests of our students and citizens, making our schools and communities less safe.”

—@GrayRohrer: Reminder: Last FAU poll before primary had Gillum tied for third w/[Jeff] Greene at 11 pct; and a “dead heat” in GOP gov primary. DeSantis won by 20 pts.

—@PatriciaMazzei: So here we are. Dems thought they had FL27 in the bag and a likely pickup in FL26. Now they have work to do in FL27 and Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo appears to be leading in FL26. Florida rarely conforms to easy political narratives.

@CarlosGSmith: This week, our office joined @Vamos4PRAction to help 22 Puerto Rican families displaced by #HurricaneMaria apply for desperately needed services. One year later, many families live in motels, without stable housing or income. We will NOT leave them behind. Seguimos pa’lante!

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 2; First day of fall — 2; Future of Florida Forum — 6; Government shutdown — 10; FSU vs. UM football game — 16; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 19; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 33; MLB World Series begins — 34; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 35; Early voting begins — 37; Halloween — 41; General Election Day — 47; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 61; Thanksgiving — 63; Black Friday — 64; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 68; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 145; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 166; 2020 General Election — 775.

— TOP STORY —

Yard signs: Florida Realtors announce general election endorsements” via Florida Politics — Republican gubernatorial nominee DeSantis … state Rep. Matt Caldwell for Agriculture Commissioner … CFO Jimmy Patronis, the only incumbent Cabinet member, remains the Realtor-backed pick for the general election, as does Republican Attorney General nominee Ashley Moody … “As Realtors, we pride ourselves on our long-standing efforts to defend private property rights, promote community prosperity and preserve a professional climate that ensures the economic growth of Florida,” said Florida Realtors PAC chair Ann DeFries. Further down the ballot, the Republican nominees in the most competitive state Senate districts — Sen. Keith Perry in SD 8, former state Rep. Ed Hooper in SD 16, Sen. Dana Young in SD 18, Sen. Kelli Stargel in SD 22 and state Rep. Manny Diaz in SD 36 — all retained their endorsements from July.

Mail ballots have higher rejection rates, and they vary widely by county” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — A study of Florida’s past two presidential elections finds that mail ballots were more likely to be rejected than votes cast at early voting sites or on Election Day. The study also found that mail ballots cast by youngest voters, blacks and Hispanics were much more likely to be rejected than mail ballots cast by white voters, and that those voters are less likely to cure problems with their ballots when notified by election supervisors than other voters. About 1 percent of all mail ballots cast are rejected and not counted … that rate is about 10 times higher than for voters voting either at an early site or on Election Day. Pinellas, the county where voting by mail is promoted more than anywhere else, also had one of the lowest rejection rates in Florida in 2016.

ACLU wants more rules in review of mail-in votes” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The civil rights group also warned that young voters and minorities appear to have a greater chance of having their mail-in ballots rejected, according to a report based on the 2012 and 2016 elections. The ACLU is asking the county elections supervisors to agree to a single set of guidelines to address the issue of ballots that have been rejected because of mismatched signatures. The group wants to ensure that the ballots get counted. The ACLU’s request is grounded in a report that found a higher rejection of ballots cast by mail in the 2012 and 2016 elections than ballots cast by voters at an assigned precinct or early voting location. The report, titled “Vote-By-Mail Ballots Cast in Florida,” found county supervisors don’t all use the same coding to document the reasons a vote-by-mail ballot was rejected.

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

Ron DeSantis says nothing has changed with Donald Trump” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “I don’t think anything has changed. I think we’re good,” the Republican nominee for Governor said. POLITICO reported that insiders say the president was furious with the congressman, calling him disloyal for backing Trump’s claims that his political enemies are exaggerating Hurricane Maria death tolls. Last week, DeSantis tweeted he saw no reason to dismiss estimates that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the massive hurricane one year ago, as well as during the long recovery for much of the year in which parts of the island were without power, clean running water and health care services. When asked if he thought Trump would still campaign for him, DeSantis replied with one word: “Sure.”

Ron DeSantis says there is ‘no change’ in his relationship with Donald Trump.

Parkland dad rips Andrew Gillum for taking support from Broward Sheriff Scott Israel” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Andrew Pollack, the father of slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Meadow Pollack, is ripping gubernatorial candidate Gillum for accepting financial support from Broward Sheriff Israel. Following a Sun-Sentinel report that Israel is among a group of Broward politicians fundraising for the Democratic nominee Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Pollack issued a statement through the Republican Party of Florida in which he partially blamed Israel’s “leadership” for his daughter’s death. Israel has been the subject of public and political scorn amid scrutiny of the law enforcement response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland high school, during which communications broke down, and a BSO deputy waited outside the building where the attack occurred instead of entering and trying to stop the shooter.

Madea cuts a check: Tyler Perry slides Gillum $100K” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — For actor, playwright and filmmaker Perry, the six-figure check amounts to a rounding error in his personal finances. The man behind the commercially reliable Madea character was worth $600 million, according to Bankrate.com, as of last year. What’s clear: Gillum’s inspirational story, along with his presence and viability as a candidate, resonate with deep-pocketed celebrities just as they do the George Soros– and Tom Steyer-types who played a major role in pushing the Tallahassee Mayor to a primary victory that few pundits saw coming.

Corey Booker, Phil Murphy to raise cash for Gillum” via Matt Friedman and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Gillum will be the “special guest” at a Sunday fundraiser in Edison, New Jersey with a host committee that includes Sen. Booker, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Donald Milford Payne, both New Jersey Democrats. The fundraiser at the Pines Manor party venue benefits Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida. Tickets range from $250 to $5,000, according to the invitation.

Corey Booker, Andrew Gillum set to fundraising in New Jersey this weekend.

FEA committee spends $100,000 to back Gillum” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Education Association Advocacy Fund sent $100,000 to a Gillum political committee known as Forward Florida … Gillum and DeSantis launched competing education plans Wednesday. Gillum, in part, wants to provide a minimum starting salary of $50,000 for teachers and would boost the state’s corporate income tax to fund it. DeSantis, meanwhile, released a plan that includes requiring 80 percent of school funding to be spent in classrooms and not on administration. He said the plan could help boost teacher pay. But the FEA, the state’s major teacher’s union, was highly critical of DeSantis’ plan.

Assignment editors — DNC Chair Tom Perez, Lt. Governor nominee Chris King, Congressman Darren Soto, Haines City elected officials and community leaders will appear at a Florida Democratic Party “Rural Tour” stop, 11 a.m., Lake Eva Community Center, 555 Ledwith Ave., Haines City.

Happening tonight:

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

Bill Nelson disputes ‘vulnerable’ claim, says he’s ‘going to win’ ” via Florida Politics — Sen. Nelson is vying for his fourth term in office; however, one national outlet rates him as the “most vulnerable” Senate incumbent. Per Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight, Nelson is the “most vulnerable” Democratic senator on the 2018 ballot, plagued by “a very good challenger in Florida: Gov. Rick Scott,” a Naples Republican. We asked Nelson on Wednesday if he was vulnerable, given the bleak FiveThirtyEight assessment. “FiveThirtyEight also says I’m going to win,” Nelson said, drawing laughter from those around him.

Despite ‘vulnerabilities,’ Bill Nelson is still confident he will win.

Hounded by protesters, Rick Scott moves on red tide” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Two days after protesters angry over red tide led Scott to cancel a campaign event, the governor unveiled a plan to work with scientists to combat the algae plaguing the Gulf Coast and killing off marine life. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will work with scientists from the University of South Florida and the Mote Marine Laboratory, a Sarasota-based nonprofit research outfit, to conduct experiments using forms of clay designed to counter red tide’s effects. “In Florida, when we are faced with challenges, we take action to engage innovative solutions that best fit our needs — and our fight against red tide is no different,” Scott said in a released statement. “This partnership of world-renowned scientists is an important step forward as we look for ways to mitigate the impacts of red tide and help our impacted communities quickly recover.”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Major Ashley Moody donor charged in pump-and-dump scheme” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — According to a complaint brought against Barry Honig, he and a ring of South Florida investors orchestrated a classic pump-and-dump scam. Moody campaign officials say they are refunding Honig’s contributions and disassociating from him completely, but the micro-cap fraud case draws fresh questions how Moody as attorney general might treat white collar crime should more donors come under scrutiny. SEC officials say Honig and other investors arranged the discount purchase of stock in three different companies, then engaged in deceitful trading to create the illusion of market activity. The group of investors sold the stock at inflated prices, reaping millions at the expense of duped investors. Only Honig donated to the Friends of Ashley Moody committee. In the past, he has given to congressional campaigns for former Republican U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite and retiring GOP U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Ashley Moody donor Barry Honig is accused of ‘pump-and-dump.’

Sean Shaw announces general election finance team” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Shaw announced more than 20 names for his newly formed General Election Finance Committee … The campaign’s senior adviser, Dan Newman, will lead the finance committee efforts with Capital City Consulting’s Justin Day, Merlin Law Group founder William Merlin and former CFO Alex Sink serving as co-chairs … “I am thrilled to have this impressive list of Floridians supporting my campaign and helping to push us toward a historic victory,” Shaw said. The remainder of the list consists of business leaders, attorneys, and elected officials, including former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and St. Petersburg state Rep. Ben Diamond … Shaw faces Republican nominee Moody, a former circuit court judge, in the general election.

Democrats just spent another six-figure sum on an ad about Vern Buchanan’s yacht” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — A Democratic-leaning SuperPAC, Change Now, began airing a new television spot in Tampa highlighting Buchanan‘s purchase of a luxury boat on the same day he voted for the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “He helped write the new tax law — that’s a windfall for himself,” the narrator in the ad, which is part of a six-figure buy, says. “Hours after the bill passed, Vern Buchanan bought himself a new yacht.” According to an Axios report, Change Now is funded by a coalition of labor, environmental and other Democratic-leaning groups. The League of Conservation Voters and the Service Employees International Union are two primary contributors to the group.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Francis Rooney’s opponent says he’s within striking distance in deep-red CD 19” via Florida Politics — Long odds haven’t crushed Democratic nominee David Holden’s hopes of flipping the district. In a news release, his campaign touted a new online poll conducted by Change Research showing him trailing Rooney by a single point and calling on the incumbent to join him in a public debate. “We have the strongest grassroots movement Southwest Florida’s seen in decades,” Holden said. “We’re going to close that 1-percent gap and then some. We’re less than 50 days out from Election Day and with the momentum we’ve built up to this point, we’re going to flip Southwest Florida and implement the solutions our community needs.” Holden’s campaign didn’t include the full results of the Change Research poll … With a sample size of 468 registered voters in the district with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Donna Shalala in tight congressional race, new polls showvia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A pair of internal campaign polls obtained by POLITICO suggest a surprisingly close race in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The race has long been considered one of Democrat’s best pickup opportunities in 2018. Those chances were seemingly strengthened when Shalala won the crowded Democratic primary last month. But a new internal poll from Republican Maria Elvira Salazar shows Shalala trailing by nine points. A separate internal from Shalala’s own campaign bodes somewhat better for the Democrat. It shows Shalala ahead by four points.

Florida Democrats say their state Senate map is still expanding” via Florida Politics — Despite recent public polls showing Democratic candidates down by a hair in some of the Florida Democratic Party’s major state Senate targets, the party is pointing to new measures that show another three more chances to overtake Republican-held districts. “While the focus has been on the State Senate Districts most affected by the Fair Districts Amendments, new polling from Change Research shows that a Blue Wave is forming across Florida that could propel Democrats to the majority in 2018,” a Wednesday FDP email reads. FDP says voters have soured on Trump, whose brief tenure has been “continually defined by his pettiness, inability to govern, rampant sexism, and general air of incompetence.” When it comes to the Republican stranglehold on the state government, FDP is betting voters are just as weary.

Janet Cruz nabs gun violence prevention endorsement — The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence endorsed Cruz in her bid to unseat Sen. Dana Young in the Tampa district. The group criticizes Young for not supporting legislation banning assault weapons and praises Cruz for her leadership on “sensible gun reform. The campaign is the nation’s longest-serving gun safety organization and is affiliated with the Million Mom March.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, PART 2 —

Wilton Simpson funnels $550,000 to Senate GOP committee” via the News Service of Florida — Majority Leader Simpson’s political committee, known as Jobs for Florida, sent $550,000 last week to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee … Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano chairs the committee, which is pouring money into efforts to elect Republican candidates in November. Galvano is slated to become president after the November elections, with Simpson expected to follow in 2020 if the GOP maintains control. Simpson’s Jobs for Florida committee also raised $130,000 last week and had about $1.57 million in cash on hand as of last Friday, the report shows. Contributions included $50,000 from United States Sugar Corp. and $25,000 from the tobacco company Altria Client Services.

Florida Senate candidate touts honors from Trayvon Martin Foundation — but misspells name” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Mariana “Marili” Cancio has long been a supporter of local anti-violence groups, financially funding hotel rooms and T-shirts while successfully advocating for a witness protection law last year. The Republican candidate for the Florida Senate District 40 race touted that work on a recent mailer. On one side … the mailer said Cancio’s efforts were recognized by Sears’ organization and the Trayvon Martin Foundation. But the foundation’s namesake, who was from Miami and became the face of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign when his murder was publicized in 2012, was misspelled on the mailer. Trayvon was spelled with an “e.” “That’s definitely not the spelling,” said Kat Tynes, spokeswoman for the Trayvon Martin Foundation based out of Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. “it just takes a few seconds to do some research just to make sure the research is accurate.”

Mariana “Marili” Cancio’s mailer has an unfortunate typo. (Image via the Miami Herald)

GOP ad rips Florida House Democratic hopeful Anna Eskamani for ‘extremely vulgar’ language” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — The ad, funded by the Republican Party of Florida, depicts Eskamani hoisting a megaphone and quotes her saying “I don’t take [expletive] ever,” “Look at the [expletive] we have to put up with,” and “[Expletive] the patriarchy.” It also questions if Eskamani “is the example our leaders should be setting for our children?” and says, “she’s everything wrong with politics today.” … “It won’t work, but this mailer has some truth to it, because I refuse to back down when it comes to fighting for the hardworking families of Orange County, and I’m not going to take advice from [opponent StocktonReeves or the entrenched lobbyists who back him,” Eskamani said in an email to supporters.

Unfriended: Former candidate sues over fib to get access to his Facebook posts” via Florida Politics — David Vogel, a former Democratic candidate for the Florida House who ran unsuccessfully against state Rep. Chris Latvala, is suing a former Latvala campaign staffer, the Tampa Bay Times and a Times reporter. That’s after the campaign worker convinced Vogel to accept a friend request on Facebook by telling him falsely she had never heard of her then-boss. Latvala’s campaign later shared and the Times published demeaning posts Vogel made, calling Republicans names and insulting  Trump supporters and religious followers. Vogel is suing for an unspecified amount of damages. Latvala called the suit frivolous and said Vogel was a sore loser.

Happening tonight — Candidates Will RobinsonRay Pilon and Tommy Gregory will appear at a meeting of the Sarasota Republican Club, 6 p.m., Marina Jack, 2 Marina Jack Plaza, Sarasota. Robinson is running for an open seat in HD 71; Pilon is challenging Democratic Rep. Margaret Good in HD 72, and Gregory is running for an open seat in HD 73.

Happening tonight — Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez hosts a fundraiser in her bid for House District 105, 6 p.m., Biscayne Brewing, 8000 NW. 25th St., Suite 500, Doral.

— STATEWIDE —

Appeals court ready to consider pregame prayer” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Nearly three years after Christian schools from Tampa and Jacksonville squared off in a high school football championship, a federal appeals court is poised to hear arguments about the constitutionality of a decision that prevented the schools from offering a prayer over the stadium loudspeaker before kickoff. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in a case filed by Tampa’s Cambridge Christian School against the Florida High School Athletic Association. A federal judge last year upheld a decision by the association to prevent a prayer over the loudspeaker at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium before a December 2015 championship game between Cambridge Christian and Jacksonville’s University Christian School. Cambridge Christian appealed, arguing the decision violated First Amendment rights. But the association, which governs high school sports in Florida, said it is a “state actor” and that the “nature of speech occurring over the public-address system is government speech.”

A Division 2A football championship game last December between Tampa’s Cambridge Christian and University Christian School of Jacksonville sparked the court case over pregame prayer. (Image via WUSF)

Committee raises money to fight tax amendments” via the News Service of Florida — A union that represents government workers has sent $200,000 to a newly formed political committee that opposes two tax-related constitutional amendments on the November ballot. The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees contributed the money Sept. 7 to the committee Floridians for Tax Fairness … Floridians for Tax Fairness filed initial paperwork with the state on Sept. 5 and indicated it would oppose Amendment 1 and Amendment 5. Those amendments, placed on the Nov. 6 ballot by the Legislature, would lead to a $25,000 increase in the homestead tax exemption and would require two-thirds votes of the House and Senate to raise taxes or fees in the future.

Groups seek to lift stay in conservation money case” via the News Service of Florida — Arguing that time “is of the essence,” environmental groups requested that a judge lift a stay of a ruling that found state lawmakers did not properly carry out a 2014 constitutional amendment that requires spending on land and water conservation. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson in July ruled in favor of groups such as the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Florida Defenders of the Environment, which filed a lawsuit arguing that lawmakers had improperly diverted money to purposes other than conservation. But the state quickly appealed, a move that led to an automatic stay of Dodson’s ruling. The environmental groups said they filed a motion in Leon County circuit court arguing that the automatic stay should be vacated and pointed to issues such as an outbreak of toxic algae in waterways in Southeast and Southwest Florida.

Obamacare had little effect on timing of workers’ comp claims, study says” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — An insurance industry analysis undermines any assumption that employees delay reporting weekend injuries into the workweek to take advantage of workers’ compensation benefits. Were that true, one might expect the number of workers’ comp claims filed during the workweek to have declined since the Affordable Care Act brought 8 million people into the ranked of the insured. That didn’t happen, according to an analysis by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI — an industry data clearinghouse that recommends premium levels in states including Florida. The study did find a slightly higher number of claims reported on Monday than any other day of the week. But there was no noticeable change after the ACA took effect — not any day of the workweek.

JEA wants federal regulators to intervene on Plant Vogtle dispute” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — It’s not clear if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will agree to hear JEA’s case. The federal agency regulates the sale and transmission of electricity across state lines and reviews some corporate transactions and activities. But it does not oversee the construction of power plants or the operation of nuclear facilities, nor does it regulate municipal power agencies like JEA and the Georgia agency it’s feuding with. Alan Howard, the chairman of the JEA board of directors, told his counterpart at the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia in a Tuesday letter that a hearing by the regulatory commission would place the burden on MEAG to prove its purchase-power agreement with JEA has reasonable terms and conditions. He “We do not believe MEAG can meet this burden,” Howard wrote.

Memo to City Attorney: personal use of airport parking pass a no-no for VIPs” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Parking passes issued to city, county and other officials for the Tallahassee International Airport can only be used for official government business, the Independent Ethics Board advised in an email to the City Attorney. “If the passes are utilized for other purposes, they may be considered a gift and treated accordingly,” Julie Meadows-Keefe wrote to Cassandra Jackson. The issue came up after the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Mayor Gillum had used his free airport parking pass 96 times — almost twice a week between March 2017 and April 2018. He didn’t report the use of the parking passes as gifts.

Miami-Dade County adds early voting site at FIU” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade voters looking to skip the line on Election Day just got some good news, as Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Wednesday announced the creation of a new early voting site on the campus of Florida International University. Previously, campuses were barred from serving as early voting locations. That ban was struck down in July. Though the new site at FIU will make it easier to vote for the more than 50,000 students enrolled there, as well as faculty and staff, the site will be open to all voters in the county. The polling place will be located at the Student Access Center at FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique campus.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced on-campus early voting locations at Florida International University.

UCF leader responsible for misspent $38M on academic building received glowing reviews” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Former University of Central Florida President John Hitt rated his chief financial officer as “outstanding” in nearly every area of his annual evaluation, as he had for each of the last 12 years. “He enjoys my full trust and confidence,” Hitt wrote in February 2008, the most recent time he provided written comments in Bill Merck’s review. But last week, Merck resigned after taking “full and immediate responsibility” for the misuse of $38 million from state funds designated for operating expenses on the construction of a new academic building, according to UCF President Dale Whittaker, the former provost who succeeded Hitt in July. The university’s Board of Trustees will meet Thursday with an Atlanta-based law firm hired to untangle the mess. Merck, 73, consistently received outstanding marks in his annual evaluations, according to his personnel file, which the university released.

Pinellas County strikes bed tax deal with VRBO, HomeAway and other Airbnb competitors” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — The bed tax is a 6 percent charge to visitors on their room stays. The bulk of the bed tax Pinellas County collects comes from hotels, but Airbnb remitted close to $1.9 million to the county last year. “We have pursued agreements for years, and recently, these online companies realized how much of a benefit it is to the property owners if those owners do not have to handle the taxes themselves,” tax collector Charles Thomas said in a statement. The new agreement means Pinellas County users of TripAdvisor and Expedia’s subsidiaries — HomeAway.com, VRBO.com, FlipKey.com, VacationHomeRentals.com, VacationRentals.com, HouseTrip.com, HolidayLettings.co.uk, and Niumba.com — all will have taxes remitted for them.

What Mike Griffin is reading —USF students petition to change the school’s new logo” via Kelsey Sunderland of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — It may not be what University of South Florida administrators had in mind when they launched the new slogan “Be Bullish,” but students are making their voices heard in an attempt to change the school’s freshly unveiled logo. Garnering more than 1,800 signatures by Wednesday afternoon, a Change.org petition directed toward USF’s president Judy Genshaft asks the school to return to its previous logo. Complaints were varied across social media, with comments on everything from the less-than-traditional colors to the design of the school’s bull mascot, which was compared to that of wealth management company Merrill Lynch.

— FLORIDA WATER WOES —

Following fertilizer leads to farms, golf courses, landscaping amid algae blooms” via David Dorsey of News-Press.com — One of the suspected culprits of the toxic algae blooms that have plagued South Florida waterways since June can be traced to farms and groves, lawns and golf courses, landscaping and Orlando theme parks. Even local governments may be feeding the blooms. Septic tank leakage has factored as well. And, environmental experts said, climate change behind fiercer storms and increased heat can bear some blame. But the trail to the truth, like the polluted water itself, appears murky. Following the fertilizer leads to asking: What’s the line between having healthy farms and grass with having healthy waterways? “The answer to that is you get phosphorous in the soil down to moderate amounts that are adequate for crops but not so high that they pollute the water,” said Steve Carpenter, who studies soil at the University of Wisconsin.

Alico water farm gets South Florida Water Management District permit for $124M project” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — The South Florida Water Management District approved a permit for a controversial 35,192-acre water farm that will cost taxpayers $124 million over 11 years. The water farm on Alico Inc. land in Hendry County is designed to prevent water from the Caloosahatchee River from polluting the estuary near Fort Myers, much like the Caulkins water farm does for the St. Lucie River in Martin County. A TCPalm investigation in December 2015 found the Alico project would cost much more per gallon of water than Caulkins. The Caulkins project costs taxpayers $233 for every 1 million gallons of contracted water storage; Alico’s 2014 contract would cost $356 for the same amount of water. Storing 1 million gallons on publicly owned land costs less than $25, according to an audit of the district’s Dispersed Water Management Program.

State loses millions when water farms cease” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — Florida already has spent $3 million on three pilot water farms, despite a state auditor urging they be sited on public lands, not private. If legislators examined two particular projects — Caulkins Citrus Co. in western Martin County and Alico Inc. in Hendry County — they’d find their costs and effectiveness vary, as the state negotiates contracts individually rather than having set standards … critics rail against Alico’s proposed water farm, calling it a $124 million boondoggle. The district is only just now vetting the project’s technical details — such as making sure it can hold all the water Alico officials say it can — a year after approving the 11-year contract.

— SWEPT AWAY —

A lost beach is the subject of the first installment of a three-part series from the Orlando Sentinel examining Hurricane Maria, which made landfall in Puerto Rico one year ago today.

“The surf town of Rincón wasn’t the hardest-hit municipality in Puerto Rico,” writes Sentinel reporter Bianca Padró Ocasio. “ … But the storm has hastened Rincón’s steady loss of something fundamental to its community: the beach.”

Electricity poles and lines lay on the road after Hurricane Maria, which hit one year ago this week.

Nearly half of the 8-mile stretch of sand was eroded during the storm. “We used to play baseball with four bases on those beaches,” recalls one source to the Sentinel.

Oceanfront woes: Tres Sirenas, a boutique hotel on the beach, closed for 10 months. “Insurance paid only half of the damage they claimed. They had to take out a small business loan and invest tens of thousands of dollars of their own money.”

‘Dr. Beach’: A nickname for Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a coastal expert at Florida International University. He calls the eroded coastline in Puerto Rico a ‘cautionary tale’ for anywhere else.

Florida connection: Similar erosions in the Sunshine State occurred in Big Pine Key in South Florida after Hurricane Irma tracked across the state, a source tells the Sentinel.

— OPINIONS —

What candidates aren’t saying about Lake Okeechobee crisis” via Randy Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As candidates try to blame someone else for the Lake Okeechobee algae crisis, here are two truths: Florida can’t fix this recurring problem without a massive public investment, and Gov. Scott’s solution is the worst idea. When rain fills the lake high enough to threaten the Herbert Hoover Dike on the southern side, the Army Corps of Engineers releases water east and west. The water carries pollutants and slams coastal estuaries that support marine life and water-related businesses, including real estate. To understand the challenge, you need to understand that Lake Okeechobee is the midpoint of a hydrological system. It starts south of Orlando, at the headwaters of the Kissimmee River, and ends in the Keys, at Florida Bay. Water quality has become a major issue in the races for governor and Senate. DeSantis, who hardly mentioned Florida during the Republican gubernatorial primary and never championed environmental issues in Congress, visited the Everglades last week.

$5 million of your taxes spent on Florida campaigns … so far” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — That’s enough to hire 140 new teachers. Or the same number of highway troopers. Either cause seems nobler than helping candidates beat the snot out of each other. Yet that’s what’s allowed by Florida’s “Public Campaign Finance” system … trough-gorging is a bipartisan affair. And the candidates are on track to suck up a record number of your tax dollars this cycle. It was envisioned as a way to encourage candidates to limit their fundraising and rely upon donations from individual Floridians, providing matching money of up to $250 for each donation. But the system jumped the rails. Now candidates can raise up to $25 million — plus take unlimited donations in separate committees — and still qualify for matching public assistance. It’s like providing food stamps to tycoons.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Beau Beaubien joins DeSantis campaignBeaubien has left the Attorney General’s Office to become political director for Republican former Congressman DeSantis‘ campaign for Governor. From DeSantis adviser Brad Herold: “From grassroots advocacy to election law to legislative affairs, Beau is an effective and proven operative. Beau’s extensive relationships in Tallahassee and throughout our state will prove immensely valuable and we are excited to have him onboard.” Beaubien had been Special Counsel for Attorney General Pam Bondi since January. Before that, he was an associate at the Coates Law Firm in Tallahassee, focusing on ethics and elections law. He’s been a Legislative Intern at the Florida House of Representatives and a Florida Gubernatorial Fellow at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Beaubien got his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 2005, and a law degree from Florida State University in 2012.

Congratulations to Beau Beaubien.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Melissa Akeson, The Rubin Group: OX Bottom Mortgage, Sandco

Brian Ballard, William Turbeville, Ballard Partners: GreenPointe Holdings

Robert Beck, Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: The Arcanum Group

Paul Bradshaw, Matt Brockelman, Chris Dudley, Allyce Heflin, Jerry McDaniel, Seth McKeel, Southern Strategy Group: Association of Florida Colleges, Palm Beach State College Foundation

Michael Brawer: Association of Florida Colleges

Chip Case, Capitol Advocates: American Houndsmen Federation

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Town of Jupiter Island

Charles Dudley, Floridian Partners: Capital Wealth Advisors

Michael Gugig: Transamerica Life Insurance Company

Dan Lopez: Best Buy

Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: Baltimore Orioles

— ALOE —

Oreo is dropping limited-edition Mickey Mouse cookies” via Just Disney — Usually for your birthday, you get a cake, some balloons, and maybe a cute card. But, if you’re Mickey Mouse, you get an Oreo in your honor. The new cookies are birthday-cake flavored, because DUH, and will feature three different designs of him per package on the chocolate wafers. The exterior comes in white Oreo packaging with confetti on it, plus a photo of the man of the hour, Mickey Mouse. There’s no date yet when these Mickey Oreos will be out on shelves, but Mickey’s birthday is Nov. 18 — so mark your calendar.

Mark your calendars: Mickey Mouse Oreos are coming soon.

Tervis to give away 10,000 free tumblers in Florida” via WFLA — Florida-based Tervis is giving away 10,000 exclusive reusable tumblers on Thursday, Sept. 27. What’s the catch? All you have to do is sign the #TakeYourTervis pledge to stop using disposable cups and receive one free tumbler (while supplies last). Tervis says it “is committed to making a positive impact on our oceans and environment by reducing waste.” The offer is available at all Florida stores and online: Tampa — 2223 N. West Shore Blvd, Suite 105. Sarasota — 319 John Ringling Blvd, St. Armand’s Circle. Osprey — 928 S. Tamiami Trail. The Villages — 1109 Main St.

Happy Birthday to state Sen. Dorothy Hukill and state Reps. James Grant and Frank White.

Last Call for 9.19.18 — 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 Wednesday ruling from the Department of Revenue was a mixed bag for Calder Casino on its request for a tax break on its slot machines.

The Miami Gardens track, formerly known as Calder Race Course, no longer runs its own live horse racing. It does offer slots and electronic table games.

It leases 122 of its 1,100 slot machines from vendors, paying both state and local tax. State law caps taxes collected on the first $5,000 worth of “tangible personal property.”

As reported in the Aug. 2 “Last Call,” Calder had asked for each of its three slots leases to be considered separately to fall under the $5,000 cap, instead of lumped together as a “single sale,” easing its tax burden.

To simplify the department’s ruling this week, it found that one of the leases qualifies for a tax break, and part of a second lease does, but a third does not.

So how much will Calder save?

The invoices themselves were not disclosed because Calder claimed a “trade secrets” exemption under the state’s public records law.

But getting the break would “represent a substantial and material value to the petitioner’s business,” Calder’s initial filing said.

Evening Reads

Something very weird is happening in Florida politics …” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Busted: Top TB Times reporter smears Rick Scott record with bogus economic data” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist

Online scammers once ripped off Ann Scott, stole $350,000” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Ron DeSantis; Bill Posey receive 0 on environment voting scorecard; Brian Mast also scores low” via the TC Palm

Parkland dad calls Andrew Gillum’s fundraiser with Broward’s sheriff ‘absolutely disgraceful” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

A closer look at Florida Constitutional Amendment 1” via Diane Rado of the Florida Phoenix

David Shapiro denounces sons offensive comments” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Democrats fear Donna Shalala campaign is in ‘sleep mode’ while challenger surges” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Unfriended: Former candidate sues over fib to get access to his Facebook posts” via Janelle Irwin of Florida Politics

Poverty rate in Florida dips to lowest level since Great Recession, census says” via the Sun-Sentinel

Red tide reaches the Panhandle” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat

Tampa Bay businesses feel Red Tide’s sting: ‘Our sales are going to be our lowest ever’” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times

Why politics feel realer now” via A.G. Gancarski for Folio Weekly

Quote of the Day

“I don’t think anything has changed. I think we’re good.” — GOP gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, on reports that President Trump was upset with him after he contradicted Trump’s lowball claim on Hurricane Maria’s death toll in Puerto Rico.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Department of Children and Families will hold a community meeting and a Broward Area Refugee Task Force meeting to discuss refugee services. That’s at 10 a.m., Urban League of Broward County, 560 N.W. 27th Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

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

DNC Chair Tom Perez, Lt. Governor nominee Chris King, Congressman Darren Soto, Haines City elected officials and community leaders will appear at a Florida Democratic Party “Rural Tour” stop. That’s at 11 a.m., Lake Eva Community Center, 555 Ledwith Ave., Haines City.

Republican House candidates Will Robinson, Ray Pilon and Tommy Gregory are expected to take part in a meeting of the Sarasota Republican Club. Robinson is running for an open seat in House District 71; Pilon is challenging Rep. Margaret Good, a Sarasota Democrat, in House District 72; and Gregory is running for an open seat in House District 73. That’s at 6 p.m., Marina Jack, 2 Marina Jack Plaza, Sarasota.

Personnel note: Beau Beaubien joins Ron DeSantis campaign

Beau Beaubien has left the Attorney General’s Office to become political director for Republican former Congressman Ron DeSantis‘ campaign for Governor.

From DeSantis adviser Brad Herold: “From grassroots advocacy to election law to legislative affairs, Beau is an effective and proven operative.

“Beau’s extensive relationships in Tallahassee and throughout our state will prove immensely valuable, and we are excited to have him onboard.”

Beaubien had been Special Counsel for Attorney General Pam Bondi since January. Before that, he was an associate at the Coates Law Firm in Tallahassee, focusing on ethics and elections law.

He’s been a Legislative intern at the Florida House of Representatives and a Florida Gubernatorial Fellow at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Beaubien got his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 2005, and a law degree from Florida State University in 2012.

Something very weird is happening in Florida politics …

If you pay close attention to the national political reporters, a blue wave the size of the one that capsized the Poseidon is about to usher in Democratic control of the U.S. House and possibly the Senate.

The significant forecasters, including Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight, the Cook Political Report, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball basically give the Democrats a 3-in-4 chance of retaking the House in November.

Of course, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast gave Hillary Clinton a 7-in-10 chance of winning the presidential election in 2016, but where the election cycle stands now, it just feels like a wave election, at least nationally.

In Florida, however, something very weird is happening.

With less than fifty days before the general election, Florida voters, in typical Florida voter fashion, are poised to send a very mixed message to Tallahassee and Washington.

Inexplicably, there is both a blue wave developing at the top of the ballot, but there is also a very definitive red wall forming down ballot.

Consider:

Andrew Gillum is inarguably leading the race for Florida Governor. He’s led in every public poll since winning the primary election on August 28. The latest number, via a Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics poll released Wednesday, gives the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee a six-point lead over Republican Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis isn’t floundering, but he is, as some in his own campaign said, “sucking wind.”

Despite knowing since late June that he would be the GOP nominee, he has struggled to put forth a compelling policy platform (although he rolled out some education proposals on Tuesday) and can’t seem to go a day without running into a racially charged backstory.

Tuesday may have been the worst day yet for his campaign as POLITICO reported that DeSantis had angered the one election god he’s prayed to since entering the race: Donald Trump. The President has been privately criticizing DeSantis and accusing him of disloyalty after the former congressman publicly broke with him over the official death toll in Puerto Rico.

Like LBJ and Walter Cronkite, if DeSantis loses Trump, well …

There’s more than enough time for DeSantis to right the ship, especially since there are so many lines of criticism by which to attack Gillum. But three weeks after the primary, DeSantis still seems to be getting his sea legs.

It’s really not unfair to say that he appears to be the least-ready-for-primetime gubernatorial candidate since Bill McBride‘s run in 1998.

Yet while Gillum has an early lead over DeSantis, it would appear Gillum’s fellow Democrat, Bill Nelson, is about to be bounced from office.

Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is out with a new ranking of incumbent Democratic Senators’ re-election odds, and Nelson is the “most vulnerable” of the two dozen Dems seeking another term in November

“It might seem surprising that the fundamentals calculation regards Florida’s Bill Nelson as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent since Florida is quite purple and there are Democrats up for re-election in some genuinely red states” … “Nelson has a very good challenger in Florida Gov. Rick Scott; one way our model accounts for candidate quality is by looking at the highest elected office the opponent has held, with races against current or former governors or senators falling into the top category.”

FiveThirtyEight also notes the fundraising advantage Scott has given himself by whipping out his checkbook and states that despite the “fundamentals” of the race — non-polling indicators such as fundraising totals, past margins of victory and incumbency — showing Nelson up 7 points over Scott, only focusing on the polls tells a different story.

FiveThirtyEight’s current polls-only estimate predicts Nelson will lose by a tenth of a point on Election Day.

Gillum wins. Zig.

Scott wins. Zag.

The back-and-forth between Democrats and Republican continues through the rest of the statewide races. Republican Ashley Moody leads Democrat Sean Shaw in the Attorney General race. But Democrat Nikki Fried looks ready to “upset” Republican Matt Caldwell in the Agriculture Commissioner contest. Meanwhile, Republican Jimmy Patronis is favored to defeat Democrat Jeremy Ring.

Zig. Zag. Zig.

Perhaps more interesting — or is it confounding? — is what is taking place down the ballot.

Despite all of the talk of a blue wave crashing into congressional politics, Florida’s delegation looks like it will, on a partisan level, remain the same (even if there are some new faces).

In battleground CD 26, which Axios just labeled as one of 8 races that will determine if this really is a wave election, Republican Carlos Curbelo holds a three-point lead over Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell according to a new poll by The New York Times. New polling in CD 27, which Clinton carried by nearly 20 points two years ago, shows that Republican Maria Elvira Salazar has caught Donna Shalala, the Democratic nominee, “sleeping.” According to Marc Caputo of POLITICO, Salazar leads the former Clinton Foundation head by 7 points in a poll conducted for the Republican’s campaign that was completed Thursday.

In a poll from Shalala’s campaign, completed Sept. 1, the Democrat leads Salazar by four percentage points.

If Republicans hold on to CD 26 and, miraculously, CD 27, there will be no way to define this year as a wave election. Period.

But just as CD 26 and CD 27 zig and zag, other congressional seats which shouldn’t be in play are precisely that. There’s polling in CD 7 (held by Democrat Stephanie Murphy) showing that race close. There’s also interesting numbers coming out of red meat CD 15. And national Democrats will bet the money in their PredictIt accounts that Republican incumbents Gus Bilirakis and Vern Buchanan are vulnerable.

So maybe a wave IS gonna strike, just not in the places the experts expect.

If the congressional races are scattershot, the five or six races that will determine control of the Florida Senate should provide some comfort for Florida Republicans. According to new surveys from St. Pete Polls, the baselines in SD 8, 16, 18, and 22, all indicate that the Republican red wall may bend, but is not ready to break.

Take a look at the numbers in SD 8, where incumbent Republican Sen. Keith Perry has a big lead over Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking in the race for the Gainesville-based seat. If you look at the sample behind that poll, you’ll see that it skews to Democrats and independents. Yet Perry is eleven points ahead.

It’s difficult to make heads and tails out of numbers like those.

So put all of the numbers into one perspective.

There you’ll see that Florida voters are poised to elect a Democratic governor to succeed a Republican one; that GOP governor is likely to upset the Democratic U.S. Senator. Republican congressional candidates are holding tight in places they should be losing, but Democrats are competitive in places they sometimes don’t even field a candidate. Meanwhile, the Republican state legislators who so often draw the ire of the editorial boards are in strong positions against the best crop of Democratic state Senate candidates seen in some time.

Sure the polls are very likely to change between now and Nov. 6. But as it stands right now … blue wave … red wall … whatever … something weird is happening in Florida politics.

Gary Pruitt

Court records show Hillsborough Sheriff candidate Gary Pruitt is a deadbeat dad

Gary Pruitt’s career at the Tampa Police Department is his main selling point in his bid for Hillsborough County Sheriff, but a look over his personnel file and Hillsborough Circuit Court records shows a wanton disregard for the rules and, in some cases, the law.

Pruitt, who is running as a Democrat, says he’s “passionate about serving the citizens of this county” and has made the case that rank and file law enforcement officers are workhorses who go uncelebrated, even among their co-workers, despite getting the job done.

In his words, “those in the ranks sergeant and below do 90 percent or more of the service to the citizens but receive less than 10 percent of the respect from staff.”

But as the old saying goes, respect is a two-way street. And when Pruitt was a corporal at TPD, he showed little deference to the rules governing romantic relationships in the workplace.

According to internal affairs records from 2011, Pruitt flagrantly broke the rules regarding fraternization between officers — and he violated his supervisory responsibilities to do so with a woman, Kimberly O’Connor, who held a lower rank than he did.

“Corporal was having a close, personal relationship with a female on the squad that he also supervised,” the IA file reads. “This relationship had been going on for some time and was not disclosed to any other supervisors in the department nor was the relationship disclosed at all until it was blatantly obvious and after the corporal was questioned by his managers.”

The heart wants what the heart wants and there’s no stopping a couple intent on being together. That is, until the relationship produces a child. Once that happened, it appears as if Pruitt was more than happy to skip out on his paternal responsibilities.

According to a bundle of court documents filed between 2012 and 2015, Pruitt routinely shirked his fatherly duties — it took a court order to get him to submit to a paternity test, and he had no problem skipping out on paying $1,000 in pre-natal medical expenses before his daughter was even born, and was even dinged for using his TPD vehicle to show up to a civil mediation hearing.

Pruitt was just as dismissive about playing a part in his child’s development when the time came for swim lessons, and had no problem labeling O’Connor’s attempts to collect as bothersome.

At one point, Pruitt sent an email to the mother of his child with the subject line “*****YOU HAVE BEEN BLOCKED*****” and told her that “since you have ignored my repated (sic) requests to stop harassing me I have added you to my E-mail blocked list. Any future e-mails from you will be automatically deleted.”

If that seems harsh, he told O’Connor that he “absolutly (sic) hates communicating” with her and lobbed a further accusation that she was “having your cake and eating it too.” He added that “it would be cheaper” if he had his wife watch the child “instead of paying you all this money.”

Though he seemingly counted every nickel he had to outlay to support his progeny, by 2015 he was woefully behind on his child support payments. According to court documents, he was more than 30 days delinquent on $4,000 in child support payments to O’Connor.

As it stands, Pruitt has dumped $10,000 into his campaign to replace Sheriff Chad Chronister, though it seems there may be a better use of his funds. After all, his daughter’s hopes and dreams are no less important than his own.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.19.18

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

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

Just a reminder: The Florida Chamber Foundation will hold this year’s Future of Florida Forum on Sept. 26-27, or next Wednesday and Thursday, in Orlando. (If you’re like us, you’ve probably already booked your room.)

It’s where “Florida’s business community will gather elected officials, legislators, and industry leaders to discuss the issues that matter most to Florida’s long-term future,” according to a news release.

Plans include the release of the ‘Florida 2030’ report, which “seeks to outline a blueprint for Florida’s future and how our state addresses challenges and opportunities,” and the 2018 Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Rick Scott speaks at the Future of Florida Forum 2016.

Also, there’ll be a two-day Florida Healthcare Workforce Session, “where we will cover discussions on the trends impacting health care practitioners, from workforce shortages, aging populations, coming innovations and technological advances, laws and regulations around residency requirements.”

Other topics “range from talent and workforce needs, current and future cybersecurity risks, to paving pathways to economic prosperity, Florida’s future water needs, autonomous vehicles, (and) building up women in leadership.”

Invited speakers include Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jimmy Patronis, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, GOP Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell, DEO chief Cissy Proctor, and many more.

The event will be at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando. Click here for the full agenda, and email kbustamante@flfoundation.org for more information.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MitchellReports: It is difficult to rewatch the questioning of #AnitaHill by the late GOP Sen Arlen Specter @Maddow now playing. I cannot imagine what it was like for her to live through that hearing and its aftermath. The most searing experience I ever had as a congressional correspondent

—@DrNealDunn: Happy 71st Birthday to the @usairforce. Thank you to the men and women in our United States Air Force and thank you to those who serve at Tyndall Air Force Base in the Second District for pledging your lives to serve and protect this great nation.

@StephenKing: In 2012, Richard “Red Tide Rick” Scott cut $700 million from the Florida Water Management District. Now the Gulf Coast is suffering what may be the worst red tide bloom in history. Empty beaches and restaurants. Trump loves this guy. Do you?

—@MarcACaputo: I know it’s fashionable for ignorant people to scream “fake news” when the facts make them uncomfortable, but let’s be utterly clear on this point: The DeSantis campaign is not denying that Trump is miffed.

@SteveLemongello: More than 60 percent of Trump voters believe “much fewer” than 3,000 people died after Maria, 27 percent “not sure.” Only 10 percent or less of Trump voters believe the 2,975 number accepted by Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis and other Florida Republicans

—@JamesGrantFL: No matter how attractive somebody can make “Medicare for All” or “Universal Healthcare” sound … What they’re really selling you is an oligarchy to replace a monarchy. It’s not more empowerment for you the consumer; it’s actually much less.

@JeffSchweers: A primary night tweet by the City of Tallahassee congratulating Mayor @AndrewGillum for winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination does not violate the city’s ethics code, the independent ethics board ruled.

@JebBushWendy Grant was an exceptional woman and passionate leader who had a heart for service and for people. Columba and I were lucky to count her as our friend for so many years. Prayers and hugs for all of Wendy’s friends tonight.

—@RepLoisFrankel: Wishing all those who observe #YomKippur an easy & meaningful fast. On this Day of Atonement, let’s take the time to reflect on the challenges we face and recommit to working together towards a flourishing, more peaceful world for all people. G’mar Hatima Tova.

—@CallTallahassee: The Syracuse performance lands Florida State at number 22 of The Bottom 25 and last in the ACC Atlantic. Meanwhile, a solid Northern Illinois University victory over CMU bounced the Huskies off The Bottom 25 and into first in the MAC West. Huskies at Doak Saturday WOOF WOOF

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 3; First day of fall — 3; Future of Florida Forum — 7; Government shutdown — 11; FSU vs. UM football game — 17; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 20; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 34; MLB World Series begins — 35; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 36; Early voting begins — 38; Halloween — 42; General Election Day — 48; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 62; Thanksgiving — 64; Black Friday — 65; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 69; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 146; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 167; 2020 General Election — 776.

— FIRST IN SUNBURN —

Matthew Van Name, who most recently worked for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine’s political committee, is now Deputy Director for For Our Future Florida. The progressive advocacy group recently announced it reached a new milestone in its canvassing efforts across the state, having knocked on more than 500,000 doors. Van Name also has been U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and was formerly the Florida political director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). For Our Future Florida describes itself as “a grassroots organization that advocates for policies that benefit families and communities in Florida, including creating shared economic prosperity, building strong public schools, addressing climate change, supporting racial justice, and protecting immigrant communities.”

In other news, just in case you missed it, Democratic smart guy Christian Ulvert is now working for Tallahassee Mayor Gillum’s campaign to become the first Democrat elected Governor since Lawton Chiles. Ulvert, who happened to be a senior adviser to Levine, will handle Spanish-language media for Gillum. Levine finished third in this year’s Democratic primary for Governor; former Congresswoman Gwen Graham came in second.

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

Donald Trump rails on Ron DeSantis over Hurricane Maria flap” via Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The president has told close associates in recent days that he views DeSantis — who won his Aug. 28 GOP primary thanks to Trump’s strong support — as profoundly disloyal for distancing himself from the president’s assertion that Democrats inflated the Hurricane Maria death toll for political purposes. “Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,” the DeSantis campaign said last week after Trump tweeted that “3000 people did not die” in Puerto Rico. Trump’s comments unnerved Republicans across Florida, which is home to a burgeoning Puerto Rican population, leading DeSantis and other Republicans — including Senate hopeful Scott — to publicly break with the president’s remark.

Trouble in paradise? Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump don’t see eye-to-eye on Hurricane Maria death toll numbers in Puerto Rico.

Andrew Gillum, DeSantis offer sharply different school plans” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — In a news conference in Tallahassee, Gillum defended his proposal to provide a minimum $50,000 starting salary for teachers by increasing the state corporate income tax by $1 billion. DeSantis released a detailed education plan, including a measure that would require 80 percent of school funding to be spent in classrooms and not on administration. He said the plan could help boost teacher pay. Republicans have been criticizing Gillum’s plan to increase the corporate income tax rate from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent to raise $1 billion for schools, providing money for teacher pay and early-education programs. DeSantis’ campaign policy statement said his plan would “cut bureaucratic waste and administrative inefficiency and ensure that money is being spent where it matters most.”

Assignment editors — DeSantis and running mate Jeanette Nuñez will visit the Deeper Root Academy in Central Florida, 10 a.m., 1450 Citrus Oaks Ave., Building 200, Gotha.

Now it’s a party: Gillum to attend Miami-Dade Democrats’ gala” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Miami-Dade Democratic Party has announced Gillum will appear at the group’s Blue Gala event scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29. Gillum will be joined by keynote speaker Julian Castro, rumored to be a potential 2020 presidential candidate, along with several other Democratic lawmakers. The Blue Gala serves as an annual fundraiser for the Miami-Dade Democrats. The group pledges that “every dollar raised will go to get-out-the-vote for Gillum, Bill Nelson, and Democrats up and down the ballot,” according to a news release on the event.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Rick Scott: Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford ‘must receive a fair hearing’” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — Scott, trying to unseat Nelson in November, weighed in this morning on Ford‘s accusation that Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as a high school student in the early 1980s. “Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious,” Scott said in a statement that also rips California Sen. Diane Feinstein and Nelson. “The Judiciary committee needs to seek the truth here,” Scott said. “Truth is not partisan, and truth is more important than politics. These very serious allegations should have been investigated months ago. But Democrat Senator Feinstein pulled a slick Washington trick and intentionally hid this from the Senate during the hearings. Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious.”

Rick Scott says Brett Kavanagh, accuser deserve a “fair hearing.”

Court keep Scott records ruling on hold” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A Tallahassee appeals court agreed to extend a hold on a Sept. 5 ruling that mandated Scott provide the requested information to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been wrangling with the Scott administration over a canceled Medicaid contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The 1st District Court of Appeal also agreed to expedite Scott’s challenge to Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson’s Sept. 5 ruling that said Scott should turn over the information. The order extending a stay on Dodson’s ruling negates a move by attorneys representing the foundation to have Scott found in contempt of court and fined $1,000 for each day he didn’t provide the information. “This earned him a brief reprieve from the contempt,” said Tallahassee attorney Ryan Andrews who is handling the public-records case for the foundation.

Ann Scott’s loan to accountant for Governor’s blind trust may have broken state law” via Dan Christensen of FloridaBulldog.org — Ann Scott’s loan to Cathy Gellatly was disclosed in late July in a federal financial disclosure form filed by Scott as he runs for the U.S. Senate … the loan could have been for as much as $250,000. Gellatly is an accountant at Hollow Brook Wealth Management, the New York boutique investment firm that acts as the trustee of Gov. Scott’s blind trust. Previously, Gellatly was for more than a decade the corporate accountant for Scott’s private investment firm, Richard L. Scott Investments. Florida’s qualified blind trust law prohibits public officers from attempting to influence the management of assets in the blind trust. Likewise, the law generally forbids public officers or persons with a “beneficial interest” in the blind trust, in this case Ann Scott, from having “any direct or indirect communication with the trustee with respect to the trust.”

—“Gov. Scott cancels Naples campaign event after red tide protesters confront him in Venice” via Lisa Conley of the Naples Daily News

’Nelson? … Nelson?’ Scott calls out Bill Nelson’s absences in new ad” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The ad, titled “Empty Chair,” highlights Nelson’s numerous missed Senate Armed Services Committee meetings during his time in the U.S. Senate, and once again bashes Nelson for his lengthy political career. “Bill Nelson’s been running for office in Florida since 1972,” the ad’s narrator begins. “Can you name one thing he’s done? I’ll keep waiting … Bill Nelson votes his party line 89 percent of the time, and that’s when he bothers to show up at all. Nelson skipped 45 percent of the hearings on national security. National security! Bill Nelson doesn’t write laws; he doesn’t even show up. Bill Nelson’s chair is empty. Even when he’s in it.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Polls spell trouble for Nelson despite strong fundamentals, FiveThirtyEight saysNate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight put out a new ranking of incumbent Democratic Senators’ re-election odds, and Nelson was named the “most vulnerable” of the two dozen Dems seeking another term in November … “It might seem surprising that the fundamentals calculation regards Florida’s Bill Nelson as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, since Florida is quite purple and there are Democrats up for re-election in some genuinely red states” … “Nelson has a very good challenger in Florida Gov. Rick Scott; one way our model accounts for candidate quality is by looking at the highest elected office the opponent has held, with races against current or former governors or senators falling into the top category.” FiveThirtyEight also notes the fundraising advantage Scott has given himself by whipping out his checkbook, and states that despite the “fundamentals” of the race — non-polling indicators such as fundraising totals, past margins of victory and incumbency — showing Nelson up 7 points over Scott, only focusing on the polls tells a different story. FiveThirtyEight’s current polls-only estimate predicts Nelson will lose by a tenth of a point on Election Day.

Progressive group pledges support for Nelson, Lauren Baer” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Progressive Turnout Project (PTP), a Chicago-based group aimed at helping elect Democratic candidates, says it will put money toward digital get-out-the-vote efforts supporting the campaigns of Nelson and Baer. The group has raised nearly $14 million this election cycle according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Now, PTP says it will contribute $1.8 million of that to get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts, which will help a total of 31 candidates nationwide. Alex Morgan, the organization’s executive director, says they believe they can make an impact in what could be a pair of close races.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Nancy Soderberg releases 2 ads focusing on health care” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In the first, “Hung Up,” Soderberg talks about her difficulties in getting health insurance with diabetes, considered a pre-existing condition. “I helped start the conversation that brought peace to Northern Ireland, and I was one of the first to say, ‘Let’s get bin Laden,’” Soderberg says. “But when I called numerous insurance companies looking for health coverage, they hung up on me because I have a pre-existing condition. That shouldn’t happen. The second ad, “Unavailable,” criticizes the 2017 Republican health care plan, which would have repealed the Affordable Care Act, and ties it to her Republican opponent Michael Waltz, who said he backs repealing the ACA.

To view “Hung Up,” click on the image below:

To view “Unavailable,” click on the image below:

Stephanie Murphy touts congressional pay-freeze, no-budget no-pay bills” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A new television commercial being launched by Democratic U.S. Rep. Murphy touts legislation she backed to tighten accountability in Congress by restricting pay and future lobbying careers. “We have got to hold Congress accountable,” she declares. The 30-second commercial, “Accountable,” includes video of Murphy first teaching responsibility to her children, saying they can’t get their allowances if they don’t first do their chores. And then she draws a parallel with Congress, saying members must be held accountable for their jobs. The commercial is running in the Orlando market, and a 15-second version will launch as a digital ad on the internet.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Pasco Sheriff endorses Gus Bilirakis — Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco is endorsing Tarpon Springs Republican Bilirakis for re-election to Congress. “Gus is a strong advocate for our Veterans and law enforcement,” said Nocco. “Whenever we need him, we know Gus is there for us. I enthusiastically endorse Gus and look forward to continuing to work with him to make sure Pasco County is a safe place to live, work and raise a family.” Bilirakis responds: “Sheriff Nocco is a proven leader who has made the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office one of the best in the nation. I am humbled by his support, appreciate his friendship and look forward to continuing our partnership to keep our neighborhoods safe.”

To view Nocco’s video endorsement, click on the image below:

Tracye Polson takes off gloves in new HD 15 ad” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — “What side is lobbyist Wyman Duggan on?” That’s the question posed by the first television ad from Republican Duggan’s opponent in the House District 15 general election, Democrat Polson. The 30-second spot contends that “Duggan worked to sell JEA, raising rates, costing the city millions every year” and “wants politicians to appoint our school board.” Polson, meanwhile, draws a contrast to that world of influence with her upbeat narration, noting she stands “with students, who deserve great public schools; with an elected school board, with law enforcement … and as a cancer survivor and health professional, with patients … My opponent can stand with the other lobbyists. I’ll always stand with Florida’s families.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

David Shapiro wants legal cannabis for veterans” via Billy Cox of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Democrat Shapiro, the Siesta Key attorney running against incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan, favors removing marijuana’s Schedule 1 status, which equates the plant with heroin and as something more dangerous than Schedule II cocaine. Buchanan says more research into medical marijuana is warranted, and he does not support changing cannabis’ status. “I think he didn’t hear the stories of the people who were at that symposium you held the other day,” said Shapiro, referring to Buchanan’s position and a Sept. 6 panel discussion stemming from “Warriors Rise Up.” “And the fight of the families of these individuals who went to war for us, and come home and actually take their lives — 20 a day. And the stories are the same across the country. That’s a study in and of itself.”

Shapiro’s son has long rap sheet and a history of racist comments” via Florida Politics — the register of 28-year-old attorney Adam Shapiro’s moving violations ranges from the mundane, such as not having his driver’s license or proof of insurance on hand during traffic stops, to the troubling. In 2012, Shapiro was cited for driving with an open container, and in 2014 he crashed his car while fumbling with his cellphone, causing property damage and injury. Shapiro’s social media history, however, is simply sickening. Among the veritable flotilla of Facebook faux pas are posts where he uses the term “wigger” — a malapropos portmanteau to describe white people who “act black” — as well as other words that require far less linguistic analysis. There’s a diatribe where Shapiro expresses hatred for non-English speakers and another where it’s unclear whether he intended to belittle the LGBTQ community or to broadcast an earnest proposition via an entirely inappropriate medium.

José Oliva, Rob Bradley committees start September strong” via the News Service of Florida — Oliva’s committee, known as Conservative Principles for Florida, reported raising $75,000 from Sept. 1 through Sept. 7 and had nearly $943,000 in cash on hand at the end of the period. Included was a $50,000 contribution from the MHD Committee for Responsive Government, which is linked to the Metz, Husband & Daughton legal and lobbying firm. Bradley’s committee, known as Working for Florida’s Families, reported raising $66,000 from Sept. 1 through Sept. 7 and had about $783,000 in cash on hand at the end of the period. The Bradley committee received contributions including $25,000 from the health insurer Florida Blue.

Keith Perry under fire for Facebook ads on Gainesville utility” via Florida Politics — Gainesville voters will decide in November whether to change the governance of their municipal utility and Republican Sen. Perry of Gainesville has been using advertising — some say deceptively — in a push to get the measure passed. The utility, Gainesville Regional Utilities, is currently under the control of the Gainesville City Commission, but the referendum would transfer its governance to a new panel. That would include five members, appointed by the City Commission, who could serve up to three four-year terms. The measure has been panned by city commissioners, as well as the area’s only Democratic member of the Legislature, Alachua state Rep. Clovis Watson. Despite the opposition, Perry has made posts on social media claiming that Gainesville City Commissioners Harvey Ward and Adrian Hayes-Santos had joined him in backing the referendum.

Tweet, tweet:

GOP leaders boost Dana Young re-election bid” via the News Service of Florida — Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano of Bradenton and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson of Trilby, funneled $100,000 in early September to the effort to re-elect Sen. Young in one of the most closely watched legislative races of the year … The Galvano-led political committee Innovate Florida contributed $75,000, while the Simpson-led committee Jobs for Florida added $25,000. The contributions, dated Sept. 6, went to the committee Friends of Dana Young. Young is battling House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in Hillsborough County’s Senate District 18.

Happening today — Republican Ben Albritton and Democrat Catherine Price, running against each other for Senate District 26, will appear at the Tiger Bay Club of Polk County, 11:30 a.m., Bartow Civic Center, 2250 South Floral Ave., Bartow. Albritton and Price a running to replace state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring in the district that covers DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk counties.

Happening tonight:Pizzo fundraiser 9.19.2018

Anna Eskamani TV ad links tribute to mother and commitment to health care” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The 30-second television commercial, “Fighting for Our Health,” starts out covering much of the same ground as the biographical video Eskamani launched last week on the internet, telling of her mother Nasrin Vishkaee Eskamani‘s story working hard at multiple minimum-wage jobs and then getting cancer, battling it for five years but dying when Anna Eskamani was 13. The commercial will air on cable in the Orlando market. “Countless families like mine struggle to pay for health care,” Eskamani says, as the video turns from reflections on her mother to shots of the daughter in campaigning mode. “So I won’t stop fighting for quality, affordable health insurance, including coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Brad Drake plans 2020 House re-election bid” via the News Service of Florida — State Rep. Drake, a Eucheeanna Republican, opened a campaign account to run again in House District 5, which is made up of Holmes, Jackson, Walton, Washington and part of Bay counties … Drake joined Rep. Sam Killebrew, of Winter Haven, Rep. Ben Diamond, of St. Petersburg, Rep. Michael Grant, of Port Charlotte, and Rep. Evan Jenne, of Dania Beach, in opening accounts to run again in 2020.

— STATEWIDE —

State red tide funding soars to $13 million” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Scott is putting another $4 million toward red tide funding for local communities impacted by the outbreak. The announcement brings the total Florida Department of Environmental Protection funding available so far to $13 million. The DEP has already awarded $1.3 million to Pinellas County and more than $1.5 million to Sarasota County and last month declared a state of emergency. “In Florida, we know that when red tide makes it to our shores, as it has for generations, this naturally-occurring algae can have unexpected and prolonged impacts on our Gulf Coast,” Scott said in a statement.

Florida prison rejects letters from reporter asking about strike activity” via Ben Conarck of the Florida Times-Union — Officials at Okeechobee Correctional Institution, northwest of Port St. Lucie, rejected the letters, which asked questions about whether inmates had participated in strike activity and if they were retaliated against for doing so. The letters were determined to pose a “threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives of the correctional system, or the safety of any person,” according to a form included in the returned mail. After reviewing the correspondence, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections today said the letters were “rejected in error.” The letters were sent in Times-Union-marked envelopes and clearly marked as being from a reporter. The Times-Union wrote to the two men because their names appeared in mailings about the September 2016 prison strikes.

Officials at Okeechobee Correctional Institution refused a letter from Florida Times-Union reporter Ben Conarck. (Image via Florida Times-Union)

Regulators renew emergency rule on race-dog drug testing” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Gambling regulators on Tuesday again said they were “renewing” an emergency rule that allows them to continue testing racing greyhounds for drugs, including cocaine. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, posted a “notice of renewal” in Tuesday’s Florida Administrative Register. The emergency rule on “Procedures for Collecting Samples from Racing Greyhounds” was adopted late last December. In Florida, 11 tracks still conduct live dog racing. An administrative law judge struck down the testing program, saying it was invalid.

Spotted: State Reps. Chris Sprowls, Heather Fitzenhagen, Brad Drake and Holly Raschein this past weekend at the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association’s Annual Conference at the Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg.

Miami Beach gets backing in minimum wage fight” via the News Service of Florida — Former Florida State University President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte and a group of law professors from across the country received approval to file a brief at the Florida Supreme Court backing Miami Beach in a legal battle about a local minimum wage. The Supreme Court approved a request by D’Alemberte, a former dean of the FSU College of Law, and the professors to file a friend-of-the-court brief. Miami Beach is asking the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that blocked a local minimum wage from taking effect. The city in 2016 approved an ordinance that had been planned to set the minimum wage in the city at $10.31 an hour this year, with annual incremental increases to $13.31 an hour in January 2021. But opponents, including the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, challenged the legality of the local minimum wage.

What Courtney Coppola is reading: “Louisiana regulators remove patient cap on marijuana doctors” via The Associated Press — Amid concerns about bottlenecks to access, Louisiana regulators agreed Monday to loosen limits on how many medical marijuana patients doctors authorized to dispense cannabis can treat. Louisiana’s State Board of Medical Examiners voted 8-1 to remove a cap established in 2016 that limited physicians to 100 medical marijuana patients. People seeking the treatment pushed elimination of the cap, worried they would have difficulty getting the medication when it becomes available later this year, estimated around November. Dr. Victor Chou, who has opened a medical marijuana clinic in Baton Rouge, reached the patient cap months ago and said hundreds of people are on his waiting list: “Many of them feel locked out because they either cannot find physicians or the physicians they find already have hit the 100-patient limit.”

— A MAN IN FULL —

After 17 years at The Times (First “St. Petersburg,” then “Tampa Bay”) and many more elsewhere in journalism, Steve Bousquet is hanging up his keyboard.

The newspaper announced Tuesday that its Tallahassee bureau chief will depart the fold after the November election. Though it’s not a retirement, his next move was not disclosed.

Times managing editor Jennifer Orsi broke the news to staff in an internal memo, saying in part that the news veteran, who turns 65 next year, “will long be remembered and impossible to replace.”

Scrum of Florida reporters, including Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet (center). (Image via Bill Cotterell/Tallahassee Democrat)

“He has helmed projects like the deep dive into Gov. Scott’s jobs agenda and exposed how Florida’s top officials used the state’s plane for private purposes,” she wrote. “He has covered elections and election tampering. As [Deputy Managing Editor for Metro, Politics & Business] Amy Hollyfield put it: Steve is ‘capable of writing any story at any time.’ ”

Bousquet’s “many television appearances hearken back to the early part of his career as a reporter for WPLG in Miami,” Orsi added. “After that, he worked for many years in South Florida and in Tallahassee for the Miami Herald, including contributing to the paper’s book on the 2000 presidential recount.”

He joined the Times in 2001 after 17 years at The Herald.

“Former Tallahassee Bureau Chief Lucy Morgan lured him away from the Herald to join us, where one day he would oversee a joint bureau partnering his current and former employers,” Orsi wrote.

Bousquet, a University of Rhode Island graduate, also got a master’s degree in history from Florida State University. He has contributed to two editions of The Almanac of Florida Politics.

Longtime Tallahassee PR man Ron Sachs has known Bousquet since the 1980s, “when we both worked in the golden-era newsroom of WPLG-Channel 10, the ABC station in Miami-Dade/Broward that was then owned by the Post-Newsweek company.” His nickname around the newsroom, playing off his last name, was “Biscuit.”

“He was a rock star from his earliest days there and throughout his storied career,” Sachs said. “He is the single best and most amazing example in the country of a crackerjack, decorated broadcast journalist who most effectively made the transition to being a kick-ass newspaper journalist.

“ … He has performed at the highest level and stayed at the top of his field — there are few others like him today,” Sachs said.

— D.C. MATTERS — 

Political nonprofits must now name many of their donors under federal court ruling after Supreme Court declines to intervene” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Robert Barnes of The Washington Post — The high court did not grant an emergency request to stay a ruling by a federal judge in Washington who had thrown out a decades-old Federal Election Commission regulation allowing nonprofit groups to keep their donors secret unless they had earmarked their money for certain purposes. FEC Chairwoman Caroline Hunter said that the names of certain contributors who give money to nonprofit groups to use in political campaigns beginning Wednesday would have to be publicly reported. Hunter and other conservatives warned that the decision could have a chilling effect just as the fall midterms are heating up. “It’s unfortunate that citizens and groups who wish to advocate for their candidate will now have to deal with a lot of uncertainty less than two months before the election,” Hunter said.

Marco Rubio Twitter-shames chef ‘Salt Bae’ for feeding brutal dictator” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Rubio railed against the celebrity chef known as “Salt Bae” for posting social media videos of him obsequiously feeding lamb to Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, whose nation is reeling from a food-shortage crisis and failed-state economy. “I don’t know who this weirdo #Saltbae is, but the guy he is so proud to host is not the President of #Venezuela. He is actually the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat only once a day & infants are suffering from malnutrition,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. About 15 minutes later, he pointed out that “this guy @nusr_ett who admires dictator @NicolasMaduro so much actually owns a steakhouse in, of all places, #Miami” — which is home to one of the nation’s largest communities of Venezuelan exiles — and the Republican Senator included the phone number and address of the Nusr-Et restaurant on Brickell Avenue. The chef — whose real name is Nusret Gökçe — moments later deleted the videos of him, clad in black and wearing sunglasses at night, gyrating his hips as he sliced lamb chops for the paunchy cigar-puffing dictator at one of his restaurants in the chef’s native Turkey. Gökçe is famous as a social media phenomenon which was the basis of a meme for the dramatic way he salts meat, giving him the nickname “Salt Bae.”

Marco Rubio blasts Chef ‘Salt Bae’ on Twitter, posting his Miami restaurant’s address and phone number.

Rubio wants Justice Department to investigate John Kerry’s recent dealings with Iran” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Kerry, the architect of the Iran Nuclear Deal that most Republicans oppose, was President Obama‘s top diplomat during the latter half of his administration. The Boston Globe reported in May that Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif more than a year after leaving office to discuss ways to keep the deal intact. In recent days, current Secretary of State and Rubio ally Mike Pompeo blasted the meetings as “beyond inappropriate,” and Trump took to Twitter to voice his displeasure.

Francis Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart vowed to fight to solve Florida water woes” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — “Just know we’re not going to rest,” said Rep. Diaz-Balart to hundreds of Realtors at an event organized by a new Water Quality Advisory Task Force created by the Naples Area Board of Realtors. Local Realtors aren’t concerned only about the environmental effects of algae blooms, but also the effects they’re having on the local economy. Some agents have seen sales and rental contracts canceled or put on hold, especially in Lee County, where blue-green algae tied to Lake Okeechobee discharges invaded the Caloosahatchee River and its canals. Now that more than $514 million in federal funding has been secured to speed up the repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, the Florida delegation can move on to other important water-related issues, such as Everglades restoration, Diaz-Balart said.

Feds fine contractors behind deadly FIU bridge collapse for ‘serious’ safety violations” via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — The contractors who designed and built the disastrous Florida International University bridge have been cited by federal authorities for several “serious” safety violations and face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. OSHA cited five companies for seven worker-safety violations, fining them a total of $86,658 in proposed penalties. The companies are designer FIGG Bridge Engineers; builder Munilla Construction Management; Bolton Perez & Associates, which provided engineering and inspection services; Structural Technologies, which specializes in post-tensioning work on bridges; and a concrete contractor, the Structural Group of South Florida. (That last company, based in Homestead, doesn’t appear to be connected in corporate records to Structural Technologies, a national firm.)

— OPINIONS —

Historic midterm trends tell us … Nothing” via Doug Usher of Real Clear Politics — A quick look at House turnover in midterms since 1960 reveals one thing: uncertainty. The average midterm House loss for the sitting president’s party is 22 seats. Yet the actual numbers have been all over the map, ranging from +8 in 2002 for George W. Bush to -63 in 2010 for Obama. GDP growth was at 4.2 percent in the second quarter — the highest since 2014 — which should help Republicans, right? Yes, that’s a strong number. But looking at second-quarter GDP over the past 58 years shows no correlation to House gains or losses. Trump’s approval rating is in the low 40s — which means a blue wave is coming. Possibly — but not necessarily. When the president is sitting above 50 percent approval, his party tends to perform better — with a range of -12 to +8. None of those numbers would flip the House.

Legislators, step up and save the land and water conservation fund” via Richard King for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — During my tenure at NPS, I bore witness to natural wonders, the beauty of which is impossible to describe in words. That’s why I am increasingly troubled by reports that Congress may not act to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a vital conservation program which is set to expire on Sept. 30. Since 1966, LWCF dollars have helped protect and enhance important places in every state in our great nation, from wildlife refuges to local ball fields, and everything in between. That’s why it should come as no surprise that LWCF has enjoyed wide bipartisan support for decades — especially since the program draws absolutely no tax dollars from our pockets. Instead, LWCF invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing into communities across the country. The impacts of losing the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Florida would be nothing short of catastrophic for our lands and waters and the communities that depend on them.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Nick Van Der Linden takes over comm’s for Department of HealthVan Der Linden was recently named the agency’s interim Communications Director. He first joined the department in 2014 as a Public Information Specialist, his online bio says. “He had an active role in the daily operations of the media office, including the management of media inquiries and responses,” it says. Later that year, Van Der Linden stepped in as interim Deputy Press Secretary and speechwriter. He also has served as an operations manager with the Bureau of Performance Assessment and Improvement. Van Der Linden received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Auburn University in Alabama. He replaces Devin Galetta, now deputy communications director to CFO Jimmy Patronis.

ICYMI elsewhere, because this was purposefully not given to Florida Politics: “Personnel note: Steve Schale joins Tallahassee lobbying firm” — The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners on Tuesday announced the addition of Schale, a Democratic strategist and consultant. “We have admired Steve’s vast and nuanced understanding of Florida politics over the years, and we are excited to have him join our family,” said senior partner Al Cardenas, a former chair of Florida’s Republican Party. “Steve’s thoughtful and methodical approach to advocacy makes him a perfect fit for our team.” In 2008, Schale directed the Obama/Biden campaign in Florida, returning in 2012 as a Senior Advisor to the re-election, a news release said. He was a Senior Advisor and national spokesperson for the effort to draft Joe Biden for President in 2016. Today he provides advice to many clients, including companies like Walt Disney World, AT&T, State Farm, and the Florida Hospital Association.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Davis Bean, John Delaney, The Fiorentino Group: Estuary

Dean Cannon, Kirk Pepper, GrayRobinson: Cassidy Holdings

Claudia Davant, Amanda Gorman, Adams St. Advocates: Florida Afterschool Network, HealthPlan Data Solutions

Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: City of New Port Richey

Dan Lopez: Best Buy

Jessica Love, GrayRobinson: Centene D/B/A Sunshine Health

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Kalkomey Enterprises

Jason Welty: Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation

Linda Chapin, Harold Mills to lead Jerry Demings transition team” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The bipartisan, 37-member team is full of leaders of Central Florida businesses and nonprofits including those from Walt Disney World, Adventist Health System, Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, Tavistock Group, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida, and Full Sail University. Also on board are some major political and public policy influence leaders such as Tim GiulianiDerek BruceAngel de la PortillaJim PughWayne Rich, and Kelly Cohen. Their focus will be to provide counsel to Demings as he lays the groundwork to reorganize the Orange County Mayor’s Office and the county administration in advance of his December swearing-in to succeed eight-year Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

— ALOE —

SeaWorld, ex-execs must pay $5M to settle ‘Blackfish’ claim” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — SeaWorld and two former executives agreed to pay more than $5 million to settle federal fraud claims that they misled investors about the negative impact the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” had on business. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed the complaint in federal court in New York as well as the proposed settlements, which are subject to court approval. The SEC’s complaint alleged SeaWorld and former CEO James Atchison made misleading and false statements or omissions in SEC filings, earnings releases, and calls about the documentary’s impact on the company’s reputation and business from December 2013 to August 2014.

Watch the first trailer for Captain Marvel, Marvel’s next big film” via Andrew Liptak of The Verge — There’s a lot of anticipation for this movie after the end of Avengers: Infinity War. During the end credits scene, we saw Nick Fury send out a message via a pager before he dissolves into dust. Before the scene ends, we get a glimpse of the screen, featuring Captain Marvel’s trademark logo. Clearly, Captain Marvel is going to play a big part in what’s to come in the next Avengers film. Earlier this month, Entertainment Weekly ran a big feature on the film, officially showing off Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) in her costume for the first time. The feature showed off some new details about the film, explaining that Danvers will already have her powers. (This won’t be an origin story.) She’s left Earth to join a team known as Starforce, which is led by a character played by Jude Law. The 1990s-set film will also feature a younger Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), and it will feature Danvers’ time as a pilot for the U.S. Air Force.

To view the trailer, click on the image below:

Happy birthday to Kate Bascom‘s dad, Mike, as well as Ali Glisson of Strategic Property Partners, the indispensable Andy Marlette, and Josh Wolf.

Adam Shapiro Kickoff Event

David Shapiro’s son has long rap sheet and a history of racist comments

The adult son of David Shapiro, the Democratic nominee in Florida’s 16th congressional district, has made several overtly racist, sexist, and xenophobic comments on his social media accounts — including using the “n” word and expressing hatred for non-English speakers.

Since his father launched his campaign to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, 28-year-old Adam Shapiro has been on the front lines, with his involvement ranging from introducing his old man at the campaign’s Manatee County kickoff to blasting off campaign fundraising emails under his own name.

Florida Politics reached out to the Shapiro campaign to discuss Adam Shapiro’s involvement but did not receive a response.

Professionally, Adam works as an attorney in the firm his father co-founded, Shapiro Goldman Babboni Fernandez & Walsh. Though his specialties include numerous types of motor vehicle cases — everything from representing drunken driving victims to those injured in trucking accidents — he has a robust rap sheet of reckless rides.

His register of moving violations ranges from the mundane, such as not having his driver license or proof of insurance on hand during traffic stops, to the troubling. In 2012, Shapiro was cited for driving with an open container and in 2014 he crashed his car while fumbling with his cell phone, causing property damage and injury.

For someone who makes his living representing clients in court, the most recent time he ran afoul of the law is the most maladroit of them all: Just last year he was ticketed for driving on a suspended license and went as far as requesting a trial before wasting the officer’s and the court’s time by pulling a no-call-no-show at his own hearing.

A lawyer who can’t be trusted behind the wheel is one thing. Shapiro’s social media history, however, is simply sickening.

Among the veritable flotilla of Facebook faux pas are posts where he uses the term “wigger” — a malapropos portmanteau to describe white people who “act black” — as well as other words that require far less linguistic analysis. Take this 2010 post where he fittingly exhibits the caricatured behavior attributed to the derogatory word referenced above:

Adam Shapiro n-word

Adam, whose level of white privilege would seemingly register on a Geiger counter, would probably point out that he didn’t use a “hard R” in that post — a critical distinction for the truly unremorseful. For the few who would buy that, there’s also a post where he showcases an alarming insensitivity to sexual assault.

Adam Shapiro sexual assault

Having a blasé attitude toward rape was cringe worthy before it was beaten to death by tween video gamers. It was vicariously embarrassing when hack comedian Dane Cook resorted to it after failing to evolve from his best tight five a decade ago.

But the hits keep coming. There’s a diatribe where Shapiro expresses hatred for non-English speakers and another where it’s unclear whether his intent was to belittle the LGBTQ community or to broadcast an earnest proposition via an entirely inappropriate medium.

Adam Shapiro xenophobia

Adam Shapiro LGBTQ

Brush all those aside. That’s a tall order, to be sure, but there’s one scrawl by Adam Shapiro that when viewed without the distraction of his juvenile foibles could perhaps cause the most strife between him and his would-be Congressman father. And it’s only two words long.

Adam Shapiro F--- Sarasota

Gee, Adam. Tell us how you really feel.

After the publication of this story, Adam Shapiro released a statement apologizing for his past remarks and said he would no longer play a role in his father’s campaign.

“I offer my sincere apologies for the offensive comments I made. Clearly, I had a lot of maturing to do and these thoughtless Facebook posts do not reflect who I truly am, or the lessons of discipline, respect, and kindness that my parents worked to instill in me,” he said. “To ensure that the things I wrote are not a distraction from my father’s campaign, I am stepping away and will no longer play a role in this race.”

David Shapiro also sent a statement condemning his son’s past behavior and calling for Buchanan to debate him on the issues facing CD 16 rather than focusing on family issues.

“As a parent, I’ve never accepted that kind of language in my home and I’m disappointed that Adam, in his youth, would make such offensive comments online. I know that those comments do not reflect the man he is today. But let me be clear, Vern Buchanan’s personal attacks on my family are disgusting. Vern has shown he will do absolutely anything to stay in power but this is a new low,” Shapiro said.

“He would rather capitalize on a serious matter that should remain between my kids, my wife and me, than to answer for his own lack of ethics and horrible voting record in Congress. Vern should debate me on the issues affecting our community instead of stooping to the shameful tactics he and his party are known for,” he concluded.

Last Call for 9.18.18 — 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 city of Pensacola is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve a cross, erected in a city park on the eve of World War II, that a federal appeals court has ruled must come down.

“Religious symbols aren’t like graffiti that the government has to erase as soon as someone complains,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the city.

“The Constitution lets the government recognize the important role of religion in our history and culture,” he added.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Sept. 7 that the city must remove the 34-foot wooden Latin cross that has stood in Bayview Park since 1941.

The American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation had challenged the structure on behalf of private citizens who considered it an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The city asked the Supreme Court to consolidate its case with an appeal involving a similar cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, that was erected as a World War I memorial.

Although agreeing that Supreme Court precedents demanded the Pensacola cross’s removal, two members of the three-judge 11th Circuit panel complained the result was “wrong” and called the high court’s jurisprudence a “hot mess.”

Evening Reads

Conservative publication to Marco Rubio: Don’t harass constituents on Twitter” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott: Brett Kavanaugh accuser ‘must receive a fair hearing’” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Scott accused of flouting Florida’s public records law” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

A bumpy campaign bus tour comes to a close for Scott” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Trump rails on top Florida ally over Hurricane Maria flap” via Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis quarrel over Israel to secure Jewish voters” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel

DeSantis camp tries to point environmental spotlight at Gillum’s record” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

In Tampa stop, Gillum running mate Chris King touts plan for billion-dollar schools investment” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s economy is booming, but not for everybody. How will that affect the Governor’s race?” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

Bill Galvano, NRA clash over political contribution” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Adam Putnam hired a donor’s 27-year-old son to a $91,000 job. There’s a Publix connection.” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Legal fight over Miami Beach minimum wage could have far-reaching impacts” via Gina Jordan of WFSU

SEC fines SeaWorld, ex-CEO $5 million over investor fraud allegations” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“I will make no apologies for the responsible steps we took in a bipartisan manner in the wake of the worst school shooting in our state’s history.” — Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, responding to the NRA’s Tallahassee lobbyist Marion Hammer, who criticized his political committee’s acceptance of a $200,000 contribution from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Citrus Commission will meet in Polk County and consider a proposed $17 million budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. That’s at 9 a.m., Florida Department of Citrus, 605 East Main St., Bartow.

Republican Ben Albritton and Democrat Catherine Price, running in Senate District 26, are slated to appear at the Tiger Bay Club of Polk County. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Bartow Civic Center, 2250 South Floral Ave., Bartow.

The Claims Committee of the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors will hold a conference call. That’s at 1 p.m. Call-in number: 1-866-361-7525. Code: 5219676193.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.18.18

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

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

Look for lobbying behemoth Ballard Partners to announce today that it has hired Christina Daly, who oversaw the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice as it dramatically expanded its effort to divert nonviolent youth away from brick-and-mortar facilities and into treatment and community services. Hailed by Gov. Rick Scott as “a national leader in reform of a comprehensive juvenile justice system,” Daly stepped down from the agency in July.

Christina Daly is joining Ballard Partners.

Six months ago, Florida Democrats said they were looking to shake up the makeup of the state Senate. Seven weeks out from Election Day, the chances of that happening are dwindling.

A trio of new polls commissioned by Florida Politics shows Republican Sens. Dana Young and Kelli Stargel leading in their re-election bids, while former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper has pulled ahead of former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the race to succeed Jack Latvala.

The leads aren’t big, but if a “blue wave” is coming there’s little evidence of it in these polls.

Young, the most endangered of incumbent Senators, leads Janet Cruz, the most accomplished of the Democratic Party’s recruits, by three points in the race for Tampa’s Senate District 18. In Lakeland-based Senate District 22, Stargel holds a 7-point lead over retired circuit court judge Bob Doyel a month after his camp was pushing internal poll numbers showing him on top in the Republican-leaning district.

In Pasco- and Pinellas-based Senate District 16, Hooper now holds a slim lead over Murphy. Polls showed the inverse no less than a month ago, and the district has perhaps the best chance of flipping out of the bunch. After all, there’s no incumbent and Murphy does have a track record of overcoming the odds in red districts.

Fundraising only compounds the results. In each of the three districts measured, the Republican holds a massive fundraising lead — Young has more than $1.8 million banked to Cruz’ $150K; Stargel’s got Doyel beat $455K to $124K, and Hooper is walloping Murphy with $515K on hand to her $102K.

Barring a miracle, Florida Democrats are in the same position they find themselves in every off-year election: Outmatched and holding on to hope for a win at the top of the ticket.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MissMayn: It would be nice if a Supreme Court nominee were scrutinized as hard a guy who was shot in his own apartment.

—@SBG1: Seems worth noting there is not a single Republican woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee as it figures out how to deal with this Kavanaugh situation. Not a single one. In 2018. Seems like not too much has changed since Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings.

—@SenBillNelson: I’m still waiting for a meeting with Judge Kavanaugh I’ve requested four times. I have a number of questions for him. Meantime, I agree there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him. I believe the people involved should appear before the Judiciary committee.

@DavidJollyFL: The allegations are serious. Ford first raised them 6 years ago to a counselor who took written notes. There are other conservative jurists whose confirmation would not be questioned for decades. For the good of the court, Kavanaugh should do the right thing and withdraw.

—@RepLoisFrankel: Slashing the number of #refugees we take in during the worst refugee crisis in modern history won’t make us safer, and shutting the door to thousands of displaced people — many of them women and children fleeing war, famine, & violence — is cruel and simply un-American.

—@Fineout: So does @RonDeSantisFL have access to a jet now? His campaign says he will be in Valparaiso and Tampa tomorrow — at events that are only about 4 hours apart.

@Fineout: Gillum, FWIW, has said that @FLGovScott should not appoint the outgoing 3 Supreme Court justices who are scheduled to leave in January. When asked today, he said that is different because their positions are not vacant while the city manager job is

@TravisPillow: At a minimum (assuming no incumbents lose), we’re looking at 17 new governors after November’s elections. That’s a lot of opportunities for education policy shake-ups

@ArekSarkissian: Quote highlight from today’s @HealthyFla meeting on dosing: “CBD and THC are two totally different things. People aren’t going to take CBD and run kids over … but THC is different. It just is.” Said Dr. Mark Moore, a Tallahassee physician prescribing medical cannabis.

—@Rob_Bradley: Looks like @Jaguars are on their way to being America’s Team.

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 4; First day of fall — 4; Future of Florida Forum — 8; Government shutdown — 12; FSU vs. UM football game — 18; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 21; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 35; MLB World Series begins — 35; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 35; Early voting begins — 39; Halloween — 43; General Election Day — 49; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 63; Thanksgiving — 65; Black Friday — 66; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 70; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 147; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 168; 2020 General Election — 777.— TOP STORY —

Down it goes: Florida bar exam pass rate plummets again” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The number of first-time Florida bar exam takers who pass has slipped 4 percent from last year to 67.2 percent from 71.3 percent, according to the state’s Board of Bar Examiners. Results for the July 24-25 examination were released Monday. Overall, 3,249 people sat for the bar exam, of which 2,228 were taking it for the first time. The latest pass rate has actually lost ground from two years ago, going a whole percent lower than the 68.2 percent from July 2016, records show. Florida International University College of Law again retained the No. 1 spot regarding highest pass rate, with 88.1 percent, bumping up from 87.8 percent last July. Nova Southeastern University College of Law saw the biggest decrease year-over-year, dropping a little more than 27 percentage points, to 42.9 percent from 70.2 percent.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Bill Nelson calls for investigation into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh; no response yet from Marco Rubio, Rick Scott” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Nelson tweeted that Kavanaugh and alleged victim Christine Blasey Ford should testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Through her attorney, Ford has agreed to do just that, according to reports. Ford told The Washington Post over the weekend that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when the two were high school students in suburban Maryland. She described a sexual assault encounter in detail, alleging that an intoxicated Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes and attempted to pull off her swimsuit.

Rick Scott campaign stop proceed by red tide protesters” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Protesters jammed the sidewalk and spilled into the street around Mojo’s Real Cuban, forcing Scott to enter the restaurant through the back door and leave the same way after just 10 minutes as members of the crowd shouted “coward.” Scott didn’t take any media questions during the brief, tumultuous event and did not give a speech to the group of a few dozen supporters gathered inside the restaurant.

To watch video of the encounter, click on the image below:

Tweet, tweet:

Meanwhile … what Nancy Watkins is reading — E-Filing for Senate campaign finance reports is close to becoming a reality” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — The final conference agreement for the first minibus appropriations package, HR 5895, includes a provision that would require Senate candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically, according to Sen. Steve Daines, chairman of the Legislative Branch appropriations panel, who pushed it over the finish line. “I fought to include language to increase transparency and access for U.S. Senate campaign finances, and after today’s announcement, we’re one step closer,” Daines, a Montana Republican, said in a statement. “I look forward to getting this through the House, the Senate, and on to the president’s desk for signature.”

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

The politics of debates: Ron DeSantis agrees to face off with Andrew Gillum” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat DeSantis … said Monday he will debate Democrat Gillum “whenever possible.” The Tallahassee mayor had pushed DeSantis over the weekend to appear on the same stage with him and talk policy. Gillum had accepted invitations from Univision, Leadership Florida and CNN. Sunday, he chastised DeSantis on Twitter for having yet to accept any of the invitations. DeSantis responded Monday. And when he did, he upped the ante and agreed to five debates.

Ron DeSantis agrees to as many as five debates with his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum.

Hurricane politics: When Andrew Gillum and Rick Scott clashed” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Despite its relatively weak wind strength, Hurricane Hermine packed enough punch to knock out power for several days to most of the capital city Tallahassee, then governed by a little-known Mayor named Gillum. But the slow process of picking up after the storm was quickly mired in criticism of how long it took to turn the power back on. Gillum struggled to weather allegations that the city rejected help from power companies and the state to score political points, and the delays led to a publicized spat between Gillum and Gov. Scott … Now two years later, Gillum’s experience stands out. The storm’s aftermath pitted the young, rising Mayor against the state’s top politician in a clash that, though it simmered down, left bruises. “There’s been a false narrative created about that incident that’s extremely unfortunate,” said Barry Moline, then the executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, who helped manage the city’s power recovery after the storm. “I’ve been involved in a lot of hurricane restorations … I had never seen politics enter any hurricane restoration until that moment.”

Gillum campaign says attacks casting him as anti-Israel are ‘irresponsible’” via David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times Painted by conservative outlets and his Republican foe as anti-Israel, Gillum … is stressing his opposition to a movement to financially punish the state of Israel and explaining his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while on the stump. Gillum … says that he’s been against the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement during the entirety of his gubernatorial run, despite what he calls inaccurate reports of a shifting stance. A campaign spokesman … also explained that Gillum’s association with organizations that back the BDS movement or oppose anti-boycott legislation shouldn’t be construed as support for those positions.

Gillum beefs up campaign staff” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Gillum unveiled a 19-person leadership team on Monday night. Familiar names — like staffers from failed primary campaigns and from other Democratic politicians and groups — fill out the squad. There are also carry-overs from Gillum’s primary team. At the helm of operations is Brandon Davis, the newly named campaign manager. Davis fills the vacancy created by the firing of Brendan McPhillips, who was let go shortly after Gillum’s upset primary victory. Davis is a decorated Democratic strategist.

DeSantis spoke to group whose founder says devout Muslims can’t be loyal Americans” via Trevor Aaronson of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting — DeSantis spoke in October 2017 at a conference of an anti-Muslim group that critics call extremist and whose founder argues devout Muslims cannot be loyal Americans. DeSantis’ address to ACT for America is evidence of another meeting with groups known for controversial views, including a conference last year featuring speakers who have defended a candidate accused of child molestation, suggested killing Muslims and argued that women are less likely to be in leadership roles because of “biological causes.” Founded in 2007, ACT for America promotes itself as the “largest national security grassroots organization.” ACT refers to the organization’s former name, American Congress for Truth. The group has built a reputation for lobbying state legislators to ban Sharia law and has referred to Islam as “Islamofascism.” Brigitte Gabriel, the Lebanese-American Christian who founded ACT for America, has used the organization to lobby for intolerance of Muslims in the United States, criticizing cities with large Muslim populations for serving halal meals at schools and advocating for strict policies that limit the number of Muslim immigrants. During a 2007 lecture, Gabriel said a devout Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”

Brigitte Gabriel (left) is the founder and president of the anti-Muslim grassroots group ACT for America.

DeSantis touts $12M he says campaign, Florida GOP raised since primary night” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Leading the way is $7.6 million raised by the RPOF, according to the DeSantis campaign. RPOF has not had to post a campaign finance report since election night. A political committee run by DeSantis has raised $3.4 million, and his campaign has raised $1 million, his campaign said … For RPOF, the $7.6 million in nearly three weeks would be one of its most prolific fundraising periods in years … RPOF has struggled to raise money and has been a marginal part of the overall Republican playbook in Florida. DeSantis’ campaign is engaged with the party, underscoring the fundraising boost that comes when a gubernatorial candidate or governor engages in fundraising. Gillum’s campaign got credit immediately after the primary, including $1 million from the Democratic Governors Association and a huge chunk from state trial lawyers. Last week, DGA announced it was giving a second $1 million check to Gillum’s campaign.

DeSantis, Gillum pile up matching funds” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis and Gillum continue to be the biggest beneficiaries of Florida’s matching-funds program, which has doled out $5.36 million to statewide candidates this year. DeSantis received $96,938 from the program Friday, while Gillum got $62,390, according to figures posted online by the state Division of Elections. DeSantis has received an overall total of more than $1.152 million from the program, which matches individual contributions of $250 or less. Since winning the Aug. 28 Republican primary, DeSantis has received $176,426 from the state. Among the nearly 2,000 separate contributions that came into DeSantis’ campaign from across the country during the first week in September, about 1,800 were of $250 or less. Gillum has now received $620,631 through the matching-funds program, including $125,567 since the Aug. 28 primary. In September’s first seven days, Gillum received 13,661 contributions of $250 or less.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will visit the Okaloosa STEMM Academy in Valparaiso and the Franklin Middle Magnet School in Tampa: 8 a.m. Central time, Okaloosa STEMM Academy, 379 Edge Avenue, Valparaiso; 2 p.m. Eastern time, Franklin Middle Magnet School, 3915 21st Avenue, Tampa.

— ‘REACH’ RACE —

The Florida Democratic Party says it’s knocked on 2 million doors in the 2018 election cycle. 

That’s a bit more than the Republican Party of Florida and Republican National Committee, which claim to have together knocked on 1.7 million doors. The GOP ground troops touted a weekend of action yesterday that resulted in more than 80,000 voters contacted. 

But the Democrats, who hold the intangible doors-knocked lead, say they’ve held similar action-focused weekends consecutively. 

More numbers: In total, the state Democratic Party claims to have reached more than 8 million voters this cycle. That includes doors knocked, calls (3.8 million) and text conversations (2.2 million).

Dem perspective: “Our candidates are offering a bold vision for Florida’s future, and we are taking that message to voters in every corner of Florida,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo.

GOP perspective: “The Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Florida are organized, energized and ready to send Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum packing this November,” said RNC spox Joe Jackson.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Republican ‘Victory Dinner’ to take place in Orlando” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — On Saturday, Sept. 29, Republicans from across the state will come together at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for the 2018 Victory Dinner, the Republican Party of Florida announced …“Donors and influential grassroots operatives” are expected to attend, according to the party. It’s considered the Florida GOP’s largest fundraising event. RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement he is excited and ready to ride a “red wave” to victory.

‘Bundled’ amendments prevent ballot fatigue, state saysvia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics Florida’s solicitor general Monday asked the Florida Supreme Court to allow three proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot. Solicitor General Amit Agarwal, who filed an initial brief, appealed a lower court’s decision blocking the ballot measures. Agarwal reports to Attorney General Pam Bondi. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers had found that the three proposals — including a measure that would ban offshore oil drilling and ban vaping in workplaces — improperly “bundled” unrelated issues. Why not, Agarwal suggested, since the Framers did the same thing. “Our constitutional history is replete with examples of situations in which voters have been asked to vote up or down on bundled provisions addressing distinct rights and issues — including the ratification of the Constitution and the First Amendment,” he said.

Happening today:

Matt Caldwell pulls in $165K in early September” via the News Service of Florida — The one-week haul included contributions of $25,000 from Atlanta-based fuel and convenience-store company RaceTrac, $25,000 from the Florida Phosphate Political Committee and $10,000 from Tampa-based TECO Energy … Caldwell, who spent nearly all of the $2.6 million he raised before winning a four-way primary on Aug. 28, had a combined $198,981 on hand as of Sept. 7 in his campaign account and the committee Friends of Matt Caldwell. Caldwell’s fundraising helped bring him more in line with Democratic candidate Nikki Fried, who ended the first week of September with about $227,000 on hand in her campaign account and the political committee Florida Consumers First.

New CD 12 ad says Gus Bilirakis ‘is addressing the real issues’” via Florida Politics — The ad, titled “Fighting for Warriors,” features a veteran, Bryan A., speaking about the lawmaker’s efforts and features clips of Bilirakis walking alongside Bryan and shaking hands with a number of military veterans, young and old. “I served in the Army for 14 years. I was both a print photojournalist and then a Green Beret. Now I run a nonprofit called the Veterans Alternative,” Bryan A. says in the ad. “These alternative treatment options are saving warriors’ lives. I’m thankful that we have Gus. He is addressing the real issues that we’re facing.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Florida Chamber endorses 16 more legislative candidates” via Florida Politics — Among those getting the nod in round three was state Rep. Gayle Harrell … Lake Clarke Shores Democratic Rep. David Silvers and Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite. Among the non-electeds … House District 69 candidate Ray Blacklidge and House District 93 candidate Chip LaMarca. Other candidates getting the nod … HD 10 Republican Chuck Brannan … HD 51 Republican Tyler Sirois … HD 73 Republican Tommy Gregory. The remaining endorsements went to HD 32 Republican Anthony Sabatini, HD 103 Republican Frank Mingo, HD 28 Republican David Smith, HD 71 Republican Will Robinson, HD 105 Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez, HD 62 Democratic Dianne Hart and HD 119 Republican Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin.

Jeff Brandes says he will hold politicians accountable in new SD 24 ad” via Florida Politics — The 30-second ad features shots of Brandes walking with and talking to employees of a lumber yard and touts the values instilled in him when he worked for his family’s business. “My grandfather started our family lumber business nearly 70 years ago. He taught me to work hard, to stand up for what’s right and to never give up,” Brandes says in the ad. “Today, I’m holding bureaucrats and politicians accountable, so we can create better jobs, provide safe, 21st-century schools and protect families and seniors. And if the politicians don’t wake up, I’m taking ‘em to the woodshed.” The ad disclosure indicates the spot was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a PAC chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano which supports GOP state Senate campaigns.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Happening today:

Happening today — Democrat Jennifer Webb kicks off her general election campaign for House District 69, 6 p.m., Iberian Rooster, 475 Central Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

— STATEWIDE —

NRA blasts Bill Galvano over donation from gun-control group: ‘Our Second Amendment rights were sold’” via Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — Incoming Senate President Galvano is getting hit from the right over a donation to his political committee from the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund. The pro-gun control organization gave $200,000 to Galvano’s Innovate Florida committee, according to state filings dated Sept. 4. Galvano, a moderate, voted for SB 7026, the 2018 law that raised the minimum age a person is allowed to buy a gun, created a three-day waiting period to buy any firearm, banned bump-stock sales and allowed armed staff in public schools. The National Rifle Association blasted Galvano, writing that he “calls himself a Republican.” “B-7026 contained three major gun control provisions and was rammed down the throats of Senate and House Republican legislators,” the email from Marion Hammer read. “Looks like our Second Amendment Rights were sold for a large contribution from anti-gun former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.” Galvano told the Times he stands by the donation.

Tweet, tweet:

Report details charter school closures” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — A new report from a Tallahassee-based research group raises questions about the growing role of charter schools in Florida, including citing the closure of 373 charter schools since 1998. Ben Wilcox, research director for the group Integrity Florida, said the closure of charter schools has averaged nearly 20 a year “and that comes with a cost to taxpayers.” “When a charter school closes, it is often difficult to get taxpayer funds back,” Wilcox said. “A closure can cause severe problems for a school district which must absorb the displaced students.” As of the 2016-2017 academic year, some 284,000 students, or about 10 percent of Florida’s 2.8 million students enrolled in the pre-kindergarten-through-high school-system, attended charter schools. The 654 charter schools receive public funding but can act more independently than traditional public schools. The report showed 160 charter schools failed between 2012 and 2017, with 35 closing in 2015-2016.

State looks to bolster redfish amid red tide fight” via the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is directing $1.2 million for research and production of redfish at a facility at Port Manatee … the money will help the commission address the effects of red tide on redfish in coastal areas. Red tide recently has led to widespread fish kills in Southwest Florida. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission facility at Port Manatee spawns and raises hatchery fish.

St. Petersburg ranks best in Florida for immigrant inclusivity” via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times A new study singles out St. Petersburg as the top-ranked city in Florida for promoting the economic well-being of immigrants, but Mayor Rick Kriseman thinks more can be done. Kriseman on Monday celebrated the city’s No. 13 ranking nationwide but called for additional policies to help immigrants launch businesses and encourage international students to stay and work locally after graduation. The Mayor’s comments came as he released the results of a first-year study from the New American Economy that found immigrants have a “substantial impact” on St. Petersburg’s economy, owning more than 2,100 businesses and paying about $550 million annually in taxes.

Jim DeFede, CBS4 management accused of bullying and harassing veteran reporter” via Brittany Shammas and Jerry Iannelli of Miami New Times After working as a TV reporter in Los Angeles, Michele Gillen joined WFOR, Miami’s CBS affiliate in 1997. Since then, she’s been nominated for 46 regional Emmys and won 25. But she says her career as an investigative reporter suffered due to a culture of sexism, bullying, and harassment at the network. … In the lawsuit, Gillen singles out local CBS anchor and investigative reporter DeFede for allegedly routinely bullying her. DeFede, who joined CBS Miami after working at Miami New Times and the Miami Herald, began as Gillen’s junior colleague in the station’s investigative unit.

— OPINIONS —

American democracy is in crisis” via Hillary Clinton for the Atlantic — Our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back … Trump doesn’t even try to pretend he’s a president for all Americans. It’s hard to ignore the racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says. Often, it’s not even subtext. When he says that Haitian and African immigrants are from ‘s***hole countries,’ that’s impossible to misunderstand. Same when he says that an American judge can’t be trusted because of his Mexican heritage. None of this is a mark of authenticity or a refreshing break from political correctness. Hate speech isn’t “telling it like it is.” It’s just hate.

Will Donald Trump regret endorsing DeSantis?” via Carl Jackson of TownHall.com — DeSantis relied far too heavily on Trump’s endorsement, as well as his national television appearances on Fox News with conservative giants Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. At times, it has felt like he’s been running for a safe seat in Congress, rather than for Florida’s top job. Many Republican voters here in Orlando I’ve spoken to have asked me “Where is DeSantis? Is he holding any events? Is he even on the campaign trail?” DeSantis has a lot of ground to cover, and he’s behind the eight ball. DeSantis has been a great conservative congressman, but outside of garnering Trump’s endorsement, he hasn’t run a very good campaign. Regardless, he has my vote for Florida’s next governor because I know what’s at stake. However, given the razor-thin margins by which Scott’s races for Florida’s top job were decided, DeSantis can’t afford to leave any vote on the table. So far, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency within his campaign, and that needs to change today.

Joe Henderson: Candidates should let it rip at Governor’s debate” via Florida Politics — You can’t have a major political campaign unless candidates debate, right? Usually, they are over-scripted, overhyped and underperforming, but a Florida Governor’s debate between Gillum and DeSantis should be memorable. You would assume someone will be trying to convince Gillum it is his chance to show voters he is not, as DeSantis has painted him, a tax-loving far-left wacko … he should go for it. And for DeSantis, it’s a chance to show voters he can be his own man if he is put in charge of the state and not just a Trump Mini-Me … That’s why I believe sparks should and will fly when these two. They offer completely different visions for the state, and it could (cross your fingers) get testy. But that’s what we all should want. Game on, gentlemen. You want to be Governor? No holding back.

Patricia Brigham: League of Women Voters makes no apologies for exposing deception” via Florida Politics — Erika Donalds, a sponsor of the now-defunct Amendment 8, was right when she recently wrote that the League of Women Voters of Florida “cheered the end” of the bundled education amendment. Amendment 8 was written to confuse. It was “log-rolled” with three separate issues — civics classes for middle school students, term limits for school board members, and the giveaway of local control to an unknown legislative-created entity for the purposes of creating new charter schools. Voters would not have known that sticking third point because the language was misleading and didn’t spell out just what the CRC was trying to do. The Florida Supreme Court saw right through it and struck it from the Nov. 6 ballot. Yet Donalds claimed the League was “disenfranchising” voters, a laughable accusation. The League of Women Voters has a long and proud tradition of sticking up for voting rights and transparency in government. Our primary mission is to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government. We achieve that mission by holding those in authority accountable to the voters. The process of the CRC was a sham — skirting Sunshine laws and ignoring repeated warnings from a whole host of organizations who raised concerns about their process and product.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Meredith Beatrice lands at Florida GOP” via Florida Politics Beatrice, 30, is now Communications Director for the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), Chairman Ingoglia announced Monday. Beatrice, who most recently handled media for GOP Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam‘s unsuccessful run for governor, “will be focused on Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign,” Ingoglia said. “Understanding the importance of this election cycle, Meredith will be a great asset to our success, especially in retaining the Governor’s Mansion,” he added in a news release. “We welcome her to the RPOF and look forward to the integral role she will have in media strategy.”

Congratulations to Meredith Beatrice.

Mike Weinstein retiring after high-impact career at Jacksonville City Hall” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Weinstein, whose long career at City Hall put him in the thick of historic initiatives such as the Better Jacksonville Plan and pension reform, is retiring as chief financial officer. Most recently, Weinstein came up with the idea for using future revenue from a half-cent sales tax to help pay for the city’s pension obligation, a concept that Mayor Lenny Curry embraced and carried to a successful outcome by winning support from voters in a referendum. Curry said Monday that Weinstein has been “both trusted adviser and friend” since 2015, when the two bonded after Curry won election and was preparing to take office. “His expertise and depth of knowledge helped me prepare balanced budgets that met our city’s priorities, create a solution to the pension crisis, and set Jacksonville on a sound financial path,” Curry said in a statement.

— ALOE —

Epcot’s IllumiNations is ending in 2019, Disney says” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel Epcot’s IllumiNations — the longtime fireworks show has entertained millions of visitors since 1999 — will end in the second half of 2019, Disney announced. The laser and fireworks show featuring a 350,000-pound Earth Globe and torches will be replaced by a new fireworks show, although Disney did not offer many details about what the replacement will be. Disney made the official announcement Monday on its park blog. But the news was not unexpected. There has been speculation that IllumiNations was going to be phased out among theme park followers.

Epcot IllumiNations is nearing the end of its run.

There’s one black Trans Am left from ‘Smokey and The Bandit.’ It’s retired in Miami” via David Neal of the Miami Herald — Many hard-core fans of Burt Reynolds’ most iconic movie, 1977’s “Smokey and The Bandit,” know that none of those cool black Pontiac Trans Ams with gold trim survived the stunts in the film. Luck, and a mother who is a big Reynolds fan, brought Fort Lauderdale resident Dave Martino together with the 1976 Trans Am that Pontiac retrofitted as a 1977 Trans Am for its annual brochure. That’s where Reynolds and director Hal Needham saw the car and decided that a Trans Am had to be the car running blocker for the semi-truck carrying bootleg Coors beer from Texarkana to Atlanta. Martino has paperwork from Pontiac proving the car’s lineage, as well as the best endorsement of all: Reynolds himself.

Happy birthday to state Rep. Bob CortesReggie Garcia, Brock’s better half, Jennifer Mikosky, and Corinne Mixon of lobbying firm Ecenia Rutledge.

Last Call for 9.17.18 — 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

Since 1998, more than 373 charter schools have closed their doors in Florida, “causing problems for some school districts,” according to a new Integrity Florida report released Monday.

The number of for-profit charter schools continues to grow at a rapid pace each year and now makes up nearly half of all charter schools in the state, the group said Monday.

“Florida is averaging almost 20 charter school closures per year and that comes with a cost to taxpayers,” said Ben Wilcox, Integrity Florida’s research director, in a news release.

Added Alan Stonecipher, the organization’s research associate: “Floridians and their elected officials need to think about where this is heading, and whether we’ll end up with a parallel, duplicative education system, or a unified system as the (state) constitution requires.”

Key findings include:

— The charter school concept has evolved into “a competitive relationship between charters and traditional schools, rather than a cooperative one.”

— “Lax regulation of charter schools has created opportunities for financial mismanagement and criminal corruption.”

— “Local school boards have seen reduced ability to manage charter schools in their districts.”

School choice advocate John Kirtley, a venture capitalist long involved in education reform efforts, was mentioned in the report on his fundraising for the cause.

“The Florida teachers union is one of the largest spenders in state political races — they spent over $2.5 million in 2016 alone, more than double what FFC spent,” referring to his “Florida Federation for Children,” Kirtley told Last Call in an email.

He also is founder and chairman for Step Up for Students, a school choice scholarship program initiated by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Parents who want choices, particularly low-income parents, have no means to counter that spending,” Kirtley added. “That’s the role of The Florida Federation for Children. We invest in the process on behalf of those parents.”

Added Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member and charter school founder, “This report tries to use a few bad apples to define all charter schools.

“The truth is, the majority of charter schools are great examples of student success and school resourcefulness,” she said. “Charters are achieving results for students with fewer dollars — that’s not debatable …

“And charter schools are in fact the most accountable type of public school in Florida, because parents can remove their children at any time, and if they fail two years in a row, they close.”

For the full Integrity Florida report, click here.

Evening Reads

Bill Nelson calls for investigation into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh; no response from top Republicans” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Citizens rising up against the Florida Legislature, Rick Scott, and private property zealots” via Julie Hauserman of the Florida Phoenix

Scott campaign stop in Venice besieged by protesters slamming governor over red tide” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Ron DeSantis spoke to group whose founder says devout Muslims can’t be loyal Americans” via Trevor Aaronson of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

DeSantis says he won’t accept sugar money. He was endorsed by a group fueled by it” via Emily Mahoney and Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times

DeSantis, Andrew Gillum pile up matching funds” via The News Service of Florida

Scott Israel helping Gillum raise money” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

Race for Governor could have a big financial impact on companies in the education market” via Sean Cavanagh of Education Week

Two debates planned between DeSantis, Gillum” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell criticized for taking PAC money linked to politician accused of molesting teen” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Florida Democrats get schooled on how to be winning candidates” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

Florida Republican Party says it raised $7.6M in two weeks” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Florida workers comp rates going down again, but future challenges remain” via Amy O’Connor of the Insurance Journal

Mike Weinstein retiring after high-impact career at Jacksonville City Hall” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union

Down it goes: Florida bar exam pass rate plummets again” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Quote of the Day

“Socialism is a dead-end street. While I don’t think that Andrew Gillum would like to see empty store shelves and people starve in the street, that is ultimately what it comes to … Every time we’ve seen it tried, it failed.” — GOP Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell asked about the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Department of Children and Families will hold another in a series of meetings across the state about infant and early childhood mental health. That’s at 9 a.m., Valencia College, School of Public Safety, 8600 Valencia College Lane, Orlando.

The St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet in Clearwater at 9 a.m., St. Petersburg College, Clearwater Campus, 2465 Drew St., Clearwater.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Duval and Pinellas counties. That’s at 10 a.m., Lane Wiley Senior Center, 6710 Wiley Road, Jacksonville. Also, 1 p.m., Clearwater Countryside Library, 2642 Sabal Springs Dr., Clearwater.

Former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, the Republican nominee for Attorney General, will raise money during an event in Tallahassee. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Governors Club, 202 South Adams St., Tallahassee.

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