Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
Logic testing and hardball tactics marked the start of Florida’s first statewide recounts in 18 years.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign filed two new lawsuits Sunday, one demanding law enforcement impound and secure voting machines, tallies and ballots in Broward and Palm Beach counties any time they were not actively in use. Democrats decried the move as akin to “Latin American dictators.” But Attorney General Pam Bondi wants officials taking a hard look at election irregularities in the Democratic counties and referring potential infractions to the Office of Statewide Prosecution.
Another lawsuit demanded any votes tabulates in Palm Beach County after Saturday’s reporting deadline to the state for an initial ballot count get tossed from official totals. That initial tabulation of votes shows Scott with a 12,562-vote lead on Democrat Bill Nelson. The 0.15-percent margin of victory easily falls within the 0.5-percent trigger for a statewide recount.
“Sen. Nelson is clearly trying to commit fraud to try and win this election,” Scott told Fox News Sunday.
But Nelson countered: “If Rick Scott wanted to make sure every legal ballot is counted, he would not be suing to try and stop voters from having their legal ballot counted as intended.”
Meanwhile, Palm Beach County supervisor Susan Bucher told CNN “it’s impossible” her county will meet a Thursday deadline to complete a machine recount, something on-the-ground election observers from both parties confirm.
That’s bad news for any votes at the bottom of the pile. Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell tells Florida Politics that whatever’s ready when the deadline comes must stand.
“Florida law clearly states that if a county does not submit their results by the deadline then the results on file at that time take their place,” she says.
Meanwhile, the race for Governor remained squarely in recount range as well, but unlikely to flip with Republican Ron DeSantis leading Democrat Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes or 0.41 percent. DeSantis maintained a steady hand this weekend, even as Gillum retracted his concession. The Republican called election results “clear and unambiguous” but has filed no litigation.
As for one Democrat leading a statewide contest, Agriculture Nikki Fried declared victory, boasting just a 5,326-vote or 0.06 percent lead over Republican Matt Caldwell, who has his own litigation pending.
Meanwhile, candidates in state Senate District 18 and in state House districts 26 and 89 quietly wait for recounts to conclude respectively in Hillsborough, Volusia and, yes, Palm Beach counties.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@RealDonaldTrump: Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!
—@DavidHogg111: Crazy that Trump is talking more about Broward County now than when 17 people were shot and killed here.
—@TowsonFraser: Broward County, you’re why we can’t have nice things in Florida! My social media feed is supposed to be full of people complaining about Christmas decorations in stores, not politics!
—@TedDeutch: Congratulations to @on your big win! It’s about time Floridians had a leader responsible for our firearm permitting process who is committed to our safety and following the law, rather than following NRA marching orders!
—@Redistrict: Staggering: if every uncalled race breaks as I expect, House Dems’ class of 61 freshmen would include *35* women & just 19 white men. By contrast, Republicans’ class of 31 would include 29 white men & just *one* woman.
—@ida_v_e: My sister’s opponent @has yet to call @ to congratulate her on an incredible & hard-fought victory, though he & the @ were more than happy to spend $500K+ on false attack ads & claims of “restoring civility” in politics.
—@MDixon55: How is everyone holding up as the first @-less election cycle in decades comes to an end?
—@EmilyDuda7: I know you all think FSU lost last night. but they’re still tallying up the points down in Broward so really we won’t know who won for another 2 weeks.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Florida Blue Florida Classic: FAMU vs. BCU — 6; Elections Canvassing Commission meets to certify official General Election results — 8; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 8; Thanksgiving — 10; Black Friday — 11; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 15; 2019 Session Interim Committee Meetings begin — 30; 116th Congress convenes — 52; Florida’s Inauguration Ceremony — 77; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 92; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 113; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 117; Iowa Caucuses — 448; 2020 General Election — 722.
— THE RECOUNT —
“Miami-Dade begins race to recount 800,000 ballots in three close Florida elections.” via Pedro Portal of the Miami Herald — Florida’s most populous county including Miami-Dade launched a recount Saturday afternoon for an estimated 813,000 ballots after state officials ordered recounts in the races for U.S. Senate, Governor and Agricultural Commissioner.
To view the video, click on the image below:
“’It’s impossible’ to finish recount by deadline, Palm Beach County election supervisor says” via Gregory Krieg of CNN — The election overseer for a critical county in Florida confirmed what observers in both parties had begun to predict: There is no way Palm Beach County’s machine recount will be finished by the Thursday deadline. “It’s impossible,” said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. The prediction came as a rare point of agreement between Democrats and Republicans in the state, who have engaged in a tense fight since Tuesday’s election brought tight margins in statewide races. Sarah Revell, the communications director for the Florida Department of State, told CNN’s Ana Cabrera that if a county does not submit its results by the deadline, “then the results on file at that time take their place,” she said.
Questions linger about legitimacy of Broward ballots” via Lulu Ramadan of the Palm Beach Post — Broward elections chief Snipes delivered the county’s vote totals to the state officials ahead of the noon deadline Saturday, but accusations that the results included “illegal” votes suggests more criticism and doubt is on the horizon. No sight better captured Florida’s election frenzy than the dueling protests outside the Broward County elections warehouse, and the equally contentious battles happening within it. William Scherer, an attorney for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott, called into the question the legitimacy of election results in Broward County, a Democratic stronghold. At issue were 205 provisional ballots Snipes accepted despite the fact that at least 20 of them were deemed ineligible by the Broward County Canvassing Board. Snipes did not say how the ineligible ballots ended up in a pool of tabulated votes, or exactly how many there were. She had a choice, she said, to reject all 205 ballots or accept them.
— “‘Incompetence’: Broward election chief likely to be forced from office by Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida
“Rick Scott wants cops to ‘impound’ voting machines, Democrats call him a dictator” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Scott wants recount efforts in Palm Beach and Broward counties handled like a crime scene, arguing in court filings that past election mishaps in those counties warrant the involvement of law enforcement. His latest legal efforts have sparked intensified sniping between Republicans, who want voting machines in counties with histories of election problems protected, and Democrats, who say Scott is acting like a “Latin American dictator.” Scott asserts that election officials in Palm Beach and Broward counties can’t be trusted with voting equipment in large part because of past election woes associated with Broward County Supervisor of Elections Snipes and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.
“Scott’s monitors agree with state cops: no Florida voter fraud” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Gov. Scott asked state law enforcement to investigate Broward County election officials because of potential “rampant [voter] fraud,” even though monitors from his own administration say they have seen none in that county. “Our staff has seen no evidence of criminal activity at this time,” Department of State spokeswoman Sarah Revell wrote in an email. That assessment, which was first reported by the Miami Herald, jives with that given by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which said … it has also seen no allegations of fraud.
“Scott continues election fraud claims but offers no evidence on Fox News” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Scott continued to make the claim even though his own staff at the Secretary of State’s office confirmed that they have not found “any evidence of criminal activity at this time,” and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it isn’t investigating any suspected fraud. Because of mismanagement problems during previous elections at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office, the state had official observers deployed there during the election, and that was before it became clear the U.S. Senate race, as well as the races for governor and agriculture commissioner, were so tight it triggered an automatic recount under Florida law. Scott asked several times in the Fox interview about where “93,000” votes came from in Broward and Palm Beach counties in the days after election night. Nelson’s legal team has said that the increase comes simply from all votes being counted up until the noon Saturday deadline for all supervisors of elections to produce unofficial results.
“Advocacy groups tell Scott he should remove himself from recount process” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — The League of Women Voters Florida and Common Cause sent letters to Scott calling on him to “immediately relinquish authority and remove yourself from any person or agency responsible for the processing and counting of ballots from the Nov. 6 general election.” The two groups said Scott improperly threatened “a show of force” by asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate vote counting in Broward County.
“Senate campaign chief: Scott ‘right to be upset’ with vote in Florida” via Brett Samuels of The Hill — Sen. Cory Gardner, the head of the GOP Senate campaign committee, attacked Florida election officials in the middle of a heated Senate race between incumbent Nelson and Scott. Gardner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that there is evidence officials violated the Florida state constitution in Tuesday’s midterm elections. “I understand Gov. Scott’s frustration, that there are people who are breaking the law, violating the constitution in Florida in Broward County, in Palm [Beach County]. And so I think he’s right to be upset,” said Gardner, who is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
To view Gardner’s comments, click on the image below:
“Pam Bondi rips FDLE over elections investigation” via the News Service of Florida — In an unusual move, Bondi publicly criticized Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen for not pursuing an investigation into alleged irregularities in the handling of election ballots in Broward and Palm Beach counties. An FDLE spokeswoman said Friday that the agency was working with the Florida Department of State “and will investigate any allegations of criminal activity or fraud. We do not have an active investigation at this point.” Bondi wrote in her letter to Swearingen that she was “deeply troubled” and that his “duty is not limited to investigating allegations made by the secretary of state.” She also said FDLE had pointed to a lack of a written complaint in deciding not to pursue an investigation.
“Judge rebukes Palm Beach County elections head over duplicated ballots” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Circuit Court Judge Krista Marx said Palm Beach County elections chief Bucher should have submitted improperly completed ballots to the county’s Canvassing Board, instead of allowing her staff to make decisions on voter intent and fill out duplicate ballots to feed through machines. “Everything I have says the Canvassing Board must make the determination not your staff members. … The language is unambiguous that it is for the canvassing board to make the determination,” Marx said.
— MORE RECOUNT —
“Donald Trump accuses Democrats of ‘election theft’ in Florida Senate race” via Caitlin Oprysko of POLITICO Florida — Trump’s unloading began Friday morning as he spoke to reporters while leaving for Paris. … As Trump prepared to board the transatlantic flight, he told reporters that there “could be” intervention by the federal government. “All of a sudden they’re finding votes out of nowhere,” Trump claimed, noting that Scott’s lead in the Senate race has been narrowing with each batch of votes reported by the two heavily Democratic counties. In a tweet posted aboard Air Force One, Trump called the snafu “an embarrassment to our Country and to Democracy” and asked why elections officials there “never find Republican votes.” “[Scott] easily won but every hour it seems to be going down, I think that people have to look at it very very cautiously,” he said, following up on Twitter by appearing to joke that the issues in Florida — and a similar controversy in Georgia’s still-undecided Governor’s race — could be attributed to Russian interference.
“Pallets of ballots: Matt Gaetz makes the case to remove Brenda Snipes” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Gaetz said the boxes upon boxes of paper behind him on the truck approximated the more than 80,859 ballots that “materialized out of thin air” in Broward County and were added to statewide vote totals since Election Day.
To watch Gaetz’s video, click on the image below:
“Florida can (re)count on Elizabeth Warren” via Joe Battenfeld of the Boston Herald — Warren sent a fundraising appeal to her supporters, urging them to donate to help Democratic Sen. Nelson’s bid for a recount … “Bill Nelson will need an army of volunteers and lawyers to make sure every vote is counted fairly,” she wrote. “And Bill Nelson’s campaign has already spent every penny it could to get people to the polls on Tuesday. Will you dig deep one more time to support Bill Nelson’s campaign?” Warren is hoping the answer is yes, but her motives seem less than selfless. She’s eager to help out Nelson and Florida Democrats to gain important brownie points in the party for her own expected White House campaign.
“Jemele Hill says she was almost kept from voting in Orlando over a tweet” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Hill, a former Orlando Sentinel sportswriter who has owned a home in Orange County for years, wrote in an article in The Atlantic that when she showed up at her polling place, “I found that I had been kicked off the registered-voter roll.” After being allowed to fill out a provisional ballot, Hill wrote she was later called by a Supervisor of Elections office staffer who told her a tweet she had written a few days earlier “had been brought to their attention.” “I had written that I had recently moved to Los Angeles, but was returning to Florida for early voting so I could vote for Andrew Gillum …” Hill wrote. “Being a journalist means signing up for life as a nomad. I’ve lived in three different cities this year alone. I’ve lived in six different cities over the course of my 21-year career in journalism.”
— THE TRANSITION —
“Ron DeSantis calls election ‘clear and unambiguous’ ahead of recount” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “With the election behind us, it’s now time to come together as a state as we prepare to serve all Floridians,” DeSantis said in a video statement. “Since Tuesday night, that is what I have been doing and that is what I will continue to do in the days and weeks ahead as I prepare to take office as the 46th Governor of the State of Florida.”
To view the video statement, click on the image below:
— “As recounts rage on, Ron DeSantis begins transition to power” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times
“Here’s what we could expect DeSantis to do for Florida’s environment” via Eve Samples of the Tallahassee Democrat — “I am not a liberal environmentalist, and I’m never pretending to be,” he said Sept. 11 during a campaign stop when he toured a toxic algae-infested in Cape Coral. Like Teddy Roosevelt, he said, he sees the environment as “way of life.” Liberals are more “ideological” about the environment, DeSantis said. DeSantis’ 12-point plan promised he would advocate for Florida lawmakers to pass legislation that bans fracking “on day one” of his job as governor. The new governor can advocate all he wants, but bills to ban fracking died in 2016, 2017 and 2018 in the Florida Legislature. DeSantis’ plan called for centralizing enforcement of water quality standards so all efforts fall under the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. Now, some of that work falls to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“House budget chief Travis Cummings optimistic about DeSantis era” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — For DeSantis loyalists and Northeast Florida partisans both, the Cummings appointment is good news. He said he was “excited and fortunate” to be chosen, noting that while Northeast Florida is “well-positioned,” he has a holistic view regarding money for school safety and the environment in what otherwise will be a “pretty tight budget year.” One focus will be recovery from this year’s devastating Hurricane Michael. “The Panhandle continues to suffer,” Cummings noted. And after three straight years of catastrophic storms, the state will have to further refine plans regarding tropical weather emergencies. Cummings, entering year seven in the House, also will look for ways to increase school safety, a process began in earnest last year with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act.
“Andrew Gillum rescinds concession in Governor’s race” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — “I am replacing my words of concession in an unapologetic call that we count every vote,” Gillum said Saturday. Gillum blasted claims of fraud made by President Trump, Gov. Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio in the days after the Nov. 6 election. “We heard a chorus of voices — a chorus counting for the ending of counting in this process,” Gillum said. “What is their excuse for that? I’m not sure.”
>>>The Associated Press has retracted its decision in the Governor’s race: “The Associated Press is retracting its call in the race for Florida governor. The AP had declared Republican Ron DeSantis the winner over Democrat Andrew Gillum.”
“Nikki Fried declares victory in Cabinet race, announces transition team ahead of recount” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Fried told reporters that her announcement was not premature, and that “the process has a way of working itself out.” Her transition team, she said, will be led by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who represented the large agriculture community of Martin County.
— EPILOGUE —
“What the Florida midterms tell us about paying for our economic priorities” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — 1. For now, we’re OK with taxing ourselves. It’s a good time to vote on a tax increase. The economy is chugging along. Unemployment is low. Consumers remain fairly confident about the future. 2. But we aren’t so fond of Tallahassee politicians taxing us. Voters easily passed Amendment 5, which will require the Legislature to muster a two-thirds supermajority if it wants to impose, approve or raise state taxes or fees. 3. Enough of us were feeling bullish to forgo a tax break. Amendment 1 would have increased the homestead exemption by an additional $25,000, saving many homeowners about $200 to $350 a year depending on the value of their home and where they live. Of the 12 proposed constitutional amendments, it is the only one that failed.
“Just a middling turnout by South Florida voters would have turned election” via Fred Grimm for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Some 42.6 percent of Broward voters were no-shows. In what progressives billed as the most important midterm election in memory, an opportunity to repudiate the mendacity and bigotry and sexism and reactionary politics of the Trump regime, 503,000 voters from the most progressive county in Florida couldn’t be bothered. Only Miami-Dade managed a more dismal showing. In a county where 53.8 percent of the population is foreign-born after a campaign season turned rancid by the denigration of immigrants, 618,000 Miami-Dade registered voters still decided they had more pressing issues than attending to their civic obligations. The election turnout in Miami-Dade was depressing. In Broward, it was downright disgraceful.
“Did missing South Florida absentee ballots turn the tide?” via Tony Doris of the Palm Beach Post — State elections data indicate hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots mailed out were not returned, more than enough to have made the difference in Florida’s 2018 midterm election, where margins were so slender the governor’s and senator’s races are headed for recounts. The number of absentee ballots not returned was much higher than in the 2014 or 2016 general elections. And the data show that played to the benefit of Republican candidates, especially in heavily Democratic Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. In those South Florida counties, 174,649 ballots sent to Democrats weren’t returned. That’s 91,038 more than those not returned by Republicans. The three counties accounted for 86 percent of the statewide gap of 105,283 between Democratic and Republican vote-by-mail ballots not returned.
“Constitution panel ‘vindicated’ by Tuesday votes” via the News Service of Florida — It was the first time a ballot slate from the constitutional panel won full approval from voters, despite controversy over the combining of multiple issues in single ballot measures. This year’s panel also achieved ballot success while being the first commission to face a requirement that constitutional amendments receive approval from 60 percent of voters. That requirement was put in place in 2006. Former Senate President Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who served on the 37-member commission, said Tuesday’s outcome validated the work of the panel. “I think that does give a convincing answer to the many editorial boards around the state who trashed the CRC and criticized the way that it did business,” Gaetz said. “Our form of government is based on trusting the people and their ability to make choices at the ballot box. And apparently, that trust was affirmed by the constitutional amendment decisions that the voters
“How vote to end greyhound racing won and what comes next” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — The National Greyhound Association, the racing industry’s trade group, claims it passed because voters were “misled into supporting a measure that not only will cost thousands of jobs in the state, but one that opens the door for future campaigns to force the radical animal rights agenda on the people.” But the Yes on 13 campaign had something voters apparently found compelling: state reports of the dogs being injured or even dying on the track and in some cases the video footage to prove it. Florida’s 11 active dog tracks will have until Jan. 1, 2021, to phase out their live greyhound racing. They’ll still be able to race horses, if their tracks can accommodate the event, and they’ll still be able to have wagering on simulcast races from other tracks, including from dog tracks in the five remaining states where the practice is still active and legal.
“’Girl rescued at sea’ now riding high toward Democratic-controlled Congress” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — With Tuesday’s convincing re-election victory in a moderate district, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy finds herself as a potential rising power in the upcoming Democratic-controlled 116th Congress, especially if the party’s moderates try to take power. Murphy eased into office as a centrist and began appealing to the Republicans’ chamber-of-commerce wing, all the Republican vows to take back CD 7 started falling away. On one hand, Murphy has not endorsed the speakership bid of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and should she return to the speakership, Murphy’s lack of loyalty could cost her. On the other hand, Murphy has become a key member of so many centrist-Democratic and bipartisan groups, including the Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democratic Coalition, on both of which she co-chairs subcommittees, that her available vote in the speakership race could be a valuable get, worth negotiating for.
“After contentious election, Ed Hooper lays out Senate priorities” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — One of the Republican’s top priorities is reducing distracted driving. There have been several efforts in recent years to make texting while driving a ticketable offense. The Legislature approved making distracted driving a secondary offense in 2013. Hooper also wants to focus on education improvements including increasing funding for public education. In a detraction from some in his party, Hooper doesn’t agree that charter schools, which are often run by for-profit entities, should share half of the public school funding for school maintenance. Charter schools educate just 10 percent of Florida’s public school students. He does support maintaining Florida’s tax credit scholarship. That program allows businesses and individuals to deduct money from their taxes for making contributions into a fund that provides scholarships for low-income students to attend private school. Hooper also said he wants to crack down on fraudulent and rampant assignment of benefit claims in the insurance industry and reduce the cost of flood insurance for property owners.
“Hillsborough now firmly blue” via Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Voters not only elected their first majority Democrat commission but also the first majority female board since 2004. And the county that overwhelmingly rejected a transit referendum in 2010 enthusiastically backed not one, but two new taxes for schools and transportation. Once considered a bellwether county, pundits say Hillsborough is now firmly blue. The shift is the result of a burgeoning young population in urban areas like downtown Tampa and Seminole Heights, and the spread of suburbs into once Republican strongholds in the east and south of the county. “We’re living in a Democratic county,” said Republican political consultant Anthony Pedicini, whose two commission candidates, Republican Todd Marks and Commissioner Victor Crist, both lost heavily in countywide races. The shift in Hillsborough’s politics was evident up and down the ballot.
“Gaming journalist Nick Sortal wins city council seat in Plantation” via Howard Stutz of CDC Gaming Reports — Sortal, a contributor to CDC Gaming Reports, was elected to the City Council in Plantation on Tuesday. Sortal is considered one of the most knowledgeable journalists on Florida gaming matters, tribal gaming, and regional casinos. He took a sabbatical from writing his once-a-week commentary back in July to campaign full-time for the Group 5 seat left vacant by the death of the previous councilman. Sortal won the two-person race by 279 votes — 14,580 to the 14,301 votes collected by Timothy Fadgen. He will be sworn in Nov. 16 and will serve the remaining two years of the term. “I’m ready to hit the ground running,” Sortal said.
“Danny Burgess, Bobby DuBose plan 2020 re-election bids” via the News Service of Florida — Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican who easily defeated unaffiliated candidate David “TK” Hayes, opened a campaign account to run again in Pasco County’s House District 38, according to the state Division of Elections website. Similarly, DuBose, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who was unopposed this year, opened a campaign account to seek another term in Broward County’s House District 94. Last week, Miami Democrat James Bush III, who was elected in the August primary, opened an account to run again in 2020 in Miami-Dade County’s House District 109, according to the Division of Elections website.
— STATEWIDE —
“Agriculture industry takes a big hit in hurricane” via the News Service of Florida — Florida’s agriculture industry suffered nearly $1.49 billion in damages from Hurricane Michael, with timber growers the hardest hit, the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said … estimated the economic losses for the timber industry at $1.3 billion, a figure the Florida Forest Service projected shortly after the storm. The rest of the numbers mostly align with figures presented by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in late October. Those numbers projected that nearly 1 million acres of crops such as cotton, nuts and vegetables, along with beef, dairy and other animal products, were damaged across 25 counties. In the department’s report, cotton damages were estimated at $49.9 million, cattle at $43 million, peanuts at $23 million and nurseries at $16 million.
ICYMI — “Prosecutors drop case against exonerated death-row inmate Clemente Aguirre-Jarquin” via Michael Williams of the Orlando Sentinel — Aguirre-Jarquin spent nearly 15 years behind bars — including 10 on death row — for the 2004 stabbing deaths of Cheryl Williams and Carol Bareis in Altamonte Springs. The decision by State Attorney Phil Archer’s office to drop the case came two years after the Florida Supreme Court overturned Aguirre-Jarquin’s conviction based on repeated confessions to the crimes by Samantha Williams, Cheryl Williams’ daughter and Bareis’ granddaughter — and days after new testimony surfaced that undermined her alibi. Aguirre-Jarquin walked out of a detention facility Monday afternoon, hugging members of his legal team and supporters. But his future remains unclear. (T)he U.S. Department of Homeland Security placed an immigration hold on the undocumented Honduran immigrant. He was released on bond.
Must read: “Starving for help: A search for mental health care ends tragically at the Putnam County Jail” via Ben Conarck of the Florida Times-Union — Gregory Allan Futch was physically and mentally ill when he was taken into custody by the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. When the deputies came, Vicki Futch expected them to take her mentally ill son to the hospital. She’d been in touch with a captain from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office about her son, trying to arrange an escort. But Greg was in a particularly agitated mood that day in late January. He became violent and struck Vicki, 80, across the face. Feeling as if she were out of options, Vicki Futch texted the captain again, but a deputy responded instead. He noted a mark on Vicki’s cheek, arrested Futch, and booked him into the county jail … Futch spent the next two weeks suffering in jail. Medical staff there logged behavioral and physical health episodes with regularity but were unable or unwilling to provide relief for Futch. By the time he was taken back to the hospital, Futch, at 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighed 100 pounds. Two days before he was arrested, he weighed 154 pounds, according to medical records. Futch died on Feb. 17.
“Mass murderer Nikolas Cruz registered to vote in jail. A Parkland parent is enraged” via David Neal of the Miami Herald — Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, one of the 14 students Cruz confessed to murdering on his Feb. 14 rampage, tweeted his fury, referring to Cruz by his Broward County court case number: “I’m sick to my stomach. 18-1958 murdered 17 students & staff, including my daughter Meadow. Yet in July, Broward Sheriff @ScottJIsrael let people into the jail to get him & other animals registered to vote. The Despicable Democrats have no shame. Can’t let them steal this election.” Cruz registered on July 25 as a Republican, according to online state records. He used the address of the Broward County Jail, 555 SE First Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Cruz remains eligible to vote in Florida.
Happening today — The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will begin a four-day meeting which will include a presentation about 911 calls on the day of the shooting on February 14, 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.
“Felony theft threshold in Florida is lower than other states, bringing stiffer punishments” via Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida has the second-lowest threshold for felony theft in the country: Stealing anything worth more than $300 is felony grand theft. Only New Jersey’s is lower, at $200. And the threshold goes up as soon as you cross the Florida line: $1,500 in Georgia and Alabama, and $1,000 in Mississippi and Louisiana. The national median is $1,000, according to a 2018 Pew Charitable Trusts study. Once a person crosses the felony threshold, punishments become much more severe. Felony grand theft of $300 to $5,000 can get a defendant up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine, according to state law. It also means a lifelong record as a convicted felon.
“Marco cop cashed in personal time, bought condo after using other officers’ donated hours” via Devan Patel of the Marco Eagle — In an email to the City Council and city manager earlier this year, former Sgt. Micheal Vogel, who retired on May 10, made allegations of impropriety against current Sgt. Mark Haueter among a number of complaints lodged against the police department. Haueter, who required medical procedures two years ago to combat a form of mouth cancer and missed weeks of work, received 521 donated hours from officers, including Vogel, after Police Chief Al Schettino solicited donations in August 2016, public records show. “[…] These hours were donated by other officers and civilian employees for his cancer surgery,” Vogel wrote. “If he didn’t need them anymore they should have been saved for others or returned the hours back to the officers and civilians who graciously donated them. Instead, he cashed them in for his personal gain. I know for a fact that he used the donated time before using his own personal leave.” The practice is found in most state agencies, counties and cities in Florida where it is explicitly written that an employee must exhaust all of his or her personal leave hours before donated hours can be used.
“State gives final approval to double-digit workers’ comp rate cut” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — State regulators gave the final OK for a 13.8 percent decrease in Florida’s average workers’ compensation insurance premiums. The change takes effect Jan. 1. “Workers’ compensation insurance is a critical operating cost for business owners, and the 13.8 percent rate decrease approval will allow employers to support Florida’s families better, visitors and labor force,” Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier said. “This most recent decrease marks approximately $454 million in savings for employers and can help facilitate additional cost savings for the communities they serve,” he said.
— D.C. MATTERS —
Stephanie Murphy honors Florida WWI veteran in American cemetery in France — Congresswoman Murphy placed a wreath at an American cemetery in Paris at the gravesite of First Lieutenant Louis Alexander Torres, a Florida native who lost his life in World War I. Torres served in the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps and died on Sept. 1, 1918. Murphy traveled to Paris to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War I and to represent Florida in a bipartisan delegation who are meeting with French officials and private sector leaders. Said Murphy, whose family was rescued by the U.S. Navy when she was a baby and who worked as a national security specialist at the Department of Defense: “On behalf of a grateful nation and all freedom-loving people, thank you to America’s veterans and your families for your service to this nation and may God bless you all.”
Happening today — U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, will hold a news conference about the exit of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the effects on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, 10:30 a.m. Federal Courthouse, 701 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.
— OPINIONS —
“Fire Brenda Snipes” via the National Review editorial board — The supervisor of elections in Broward County does not deserve to be within a thousand miles of any election office anywhere in these United States. She should be fired at the earliest possible opportunity. This year alone, Snipes has been reprimanded by the courts twice: once, in May, for illegally destroying ballots during the 2016 Democratic primary, in violation of both state and federal law; and again, in August, for illegally opening mail-in ballots in secret. How long, we wonder, does it take to establish a pattern? It should be clear by now that Broward County has a systemic problem with its management of elections. On present evidence, if Brenda Snipes is to be removed from her role, it will once again be because the governor cries “Enough.” When Ron DeSantis takes office in January, he should fire Snipes. And when he has done that, he should insist that Broward County take a good, hard look in the mirror, the better to ask how long it wishes to remain a den of blustery incompetence, or worse.
“Tim Canova: I warned Rick Scott about Broward’s election swamp” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For two years, I have been warning that the Broward Supervisor of Elections office is a swamp of corruption. I’ve been urging Gov. Scott to fire Supervisor Brenda Snipes, clean out the office and start criminal investigations. I’m sure Gov. Scott now wishes he had heeded those warnings. I warned that if she were kept in office, there would be more official misconduct in elections. None of our law enforcement agencies — the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Attorney General or the U.S. Attorney for South Florida — were interested in starting criminal investigations. Sadly, I no longer trust any election result reported in Broward County. There needs to be an investigation of every election that’s taken place here.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Barry Richard — Gillum’s recount lawyer — takes leave from firm” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Richard, the veteran Tallahassee attorney now representing Democratic candidate for Governor Gillum during the gubernatorial vote recount, has taken a leave of absence from his law firm. That firm, Greenberg Traurig, adopted a leave policy for its attorneys taking on any matter “that might be controversial or disruptive,” Richard told Florida Politics Sunday morning. “The policy is, you take a short leave of absence and then return to normal,” he added. “It’s really not a big deal … This is probably going to be over next week.”
— ALOE —
“Watching TV or going online? Veterans help make it happen.” via Florida Politics — One in ten people employed by Florida’s internet and television industry are U.S. military veterans, according to a new mini-documentary produced by the Florida Internet & Television. Timed for a Monday release, the video helps commemorate Veterans Day. “You may know the members of Florida Internet & Television for our cutting-edge technology, our high-speed broadband, and all the ways we entertain and connect you,” says FIT President and CEO Brad Swanson, who introduces the video. “But what you may not know is our recruitment to recruiting, hiring and retaining military veterans.” The four-minute video tells the story of five vets — each employed by companies like Comcast or Charter Communications — and highlights the corporate support for military veterans and their families, through such benefits such as guard and reserve leave time, tuition assistance, military concierge services, and technician apprenticeships.
To watch the video, click on the image below:
What Michelle Todd is reading — “UCF Knights to host ESPN College GameDay, face off with Cincinnati in prime-time” via Iliana Limón Romero of the Orlando Sentinel — The Knights’ (9-0, 6-0) matchup with Cincinnati (9-1, 5-1) is set to kick off at 8 p.m. Saturday and air nationally on ABC. The game will determine the winner of the American Athletic Conference’s East Division title. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who has irked UCF fans with his criticism of their ability to compete for a College Football Playoff semifinal bid, helped announced the decision via video posted on the College GameDay Twitter account. “If you look at the slate of games, there’s one game that really stands out. And this fan base has been waiting for the last two years to recognize their program and bring College GameDay to Orlando. And this is the week that it happens,” Herbstreit said before touting the accomplishments of UCF and Cincinnati.
She said “Yes!” — Congratulations to Helen Boyer and Evan Ross on their engagement.
Happy birthday from the weekend to Rep. Bob Rommel, Pinellas Commissioner Pat Gerard and the incredible Samantha Sexton. Celebrating today is former L.G. Jeff Kottkamp, our good friend Taylor Biehl, my paisan Rep. Nick DiCeglie, Shawn Frost, and Lindsay Harrington.