Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 246

Peter Schorsch

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

Sunburn for 6.20.17 — Georgia on our mind; DSCC smacks Rick Scott; New mailers in SD 40; Dale Swope takes helm at FJA; Happy b’day Matt Harringer

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

We love Florida politics, but today all eyes (including ours) will be on the special election to replace Rep. Tom Price in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The race — which pits Democrat Jon Ossoff against Republican Karen Handel — is one of the most expensive House races in U.S. history, with the Associated Press reporting an estimated $50 million will be spent on the race.

It’s also one of the first big tests for President Donald Trump and the Republicans hold on Washington, D.C. A Republican has held the seat since 1979, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Price, who left the post to become Trump’s Health and Human Service Secretary. But as Nate Silver with FiveThirtyEight points out, the congressional district has changed a bit over the years.

Jon Ossoff greets thanks volunteers at a campaign office in Chamblee yesterday. Photo credit: Joe Raedle of Getty Images.

Silver points out that the district went for Mitt Romney by 23 percentage points in 2012, the same year then-President Barack Obama won by 4 points nationally, making it “27 points more Republican than the country as a whole.”  In 2016, however, it picked Trump over Hillary Clinton, by 1.5 points in an election where Clinton won by 2 points. As Silver notes that made the district “only 3 to 4 points more Republican than the national average.”

The race isn’t just a test for Republican, it’s also an early chance for Democrats to prove they can flip a district, especially going into the 2018 midterms. Ossoff, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, leads Handel 49 percent to 47 percent.

“Democrats sweat the details in Georgia special election” via Gabe Debenedetti of POLITICO – Democrats are closer than they ever could have imagined to winning a House seat in the Republican suburbs of Atlanta, and dealing a resounding blow to Trump. But they’re also gripped by anxiety about what happens if they fall short Tuesday. A loss in Georgia’s special election here could leave the party demoralized, with little to show for all the furious organizing, fundraising and spending in a handful of congressional special elections in the early months of the Trump administration.

– “A pro-Donald Trump group is using Barack Obama’s voice out of context in radio ad for Georgia’s special election” via Andrew Kaczynski of CNN

– “Early-vote turnout soars in Georgia special election via Scott Bland of POLITICO

– “High-stakes referendum on Donald Trump takes shape in a Georgia special election” via Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of The New York Times

– “The Dems’ new midterm challenge: replicate Jon Ossoff’s success” via Alex Roarty of McClatchy

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DSCC releases new digital ad taking aim at Rick Scott health care” via Florida Politics — The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is once again targeting Gov. Rick Scott over his support of the Republican health care agenda. The committee announced Monday it was launching full-screen, Google takeover ads featuring new versions of a DSCC called “The Price” aimed at Scott’s support of the health care plan and its impact on Florida families. The ad, which the national Democratic organization says will reach targeted voters in Florida who make up key elements of the 2018 midterm electorate, is part of an ongoing six-figure digital ad buy. The 30-second spot features images of a man and woman selling their vehicle and jewelry, before appearing at the hospital bed of a child. At the end of the advertisement, the words “What will Rick Scott’s health care plan cost you?” flash across the screen. Click on the ad below to watch.

“Endorsement watch: Al Jacquet supports Andrew Gillum” via Florida PoliticsState Rep. Jacquet on Monday announced his support of Tallahassee Mayor Gillum for Democratic governor in 2018. “Andrew brings a fresh perspective, energetic spirit, and the bold leadership our state desperately needs in order to best address our economic issues,” said Jacquet, a Lantana Democrat. “It’s time to stand up to special interests whose only concern has been filling their own pockets.” Jacquet is an attorney who speaks four languages and has served as vice mayor of Delray Beach.

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will take part in a small business roundtable at Molds Unlimited 7620 West 2nd Court in Hileah. The event opens to the media at 10:50 a.m., with media gaggle at 11 a.m. Media interested in attending should RSVP to by 8 a.m.

Matt Caldwell releases video highlighting #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour — The North Fort Myers kicked off his kicked off #2LaneTravels Work Days at Key Largo Fisheries in Key Largo on Friday. The statewide tour is a chance for Caldwell to showcase the industries that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees. “The people who end up at top are the ones who started in the mail room,” he said in an interview after working skinning yellow tails and weighing shark carcasses. “For me, the same thing is true here, if I can do the best job I can … if I’m blessed to come out on top, I have to understand (the jobs).” … For Caldwell, the work days serve a dual purpose. While it helps it him better understand Florida, he’s also hopeful it will help Floridians better understand what the Agriculture Commissioner does. “When you go around and try to explain to people who aren’t farmers, I remind them of the show Dirty Jobs,’” he said. “Pretty much everything he does is what the Commissioner’s Office oversees.” Caldwell said he expects future work days to include working on cattle ranches, with timber crews, and in tire shops. Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Pinellas, Pasco sheriffs back Ashley Moody for AG — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco announced this week they were backing the former Hillsborough  in her race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2018. “We need to continue these aggressive, common-sense initiatives and there is no one better suited to do that than Ashley Moody,” said Gualtieri, who also praised Bondi’s work as attorney general in his statement. “She is a proven prosecutor and experienced leader in the legal community. She knows what it takes to protect our state and she has my full support.” Nocco said he was support Moody for “Attorney General because she shares my priorities and has the experience, knowledge, and determination to keep our state safe and support our law enforcement community and its quest to protect Floridians.”

Democrat Pam Keith to seek U.S. House seat of GOP’s Brian Mast” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Keith, a former U.S. Navy and NextEra Energy attorney who impressed progressive activists with her 2016 U.S. Senate bid, will run for the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast congressional seat held by freshman Rep. Mast. “He is a follower in Congress,” Keith said of Mast. “When his constituents were begging to talk to him and tell him why the vote to repeal Obamacare was a horrible idea … he wasn’t even willing to listen to them.” Trump carried District 18 with 53 percent of the vote, but Keith believes the president will be a liability for Mast. “Congress is supposed to be a check on the power of the executive branch and Congress is not doing that. We’ve not seen Brian Mast stand up to anything at this point,” Keith said.

New round of mailers target Alex Diaz de la Portilla in SD 40” via Florida Politics — Making A Better Tomorrow has released two more mailers in the Senate District 40 race. In one ad, the Venice-based political committee claims Diaz de la Portilla “is completely unfit to hold public office.” The mailer points to his failure to report hundreds of campaign contributions and personal financial strife, among other things, as reasons why the group says he is “unfit to lead.” A second mailer, which hit mailboxes last week, claims Diaz de la Portilla “has hurt Florida’s seniors.” The ad reads: “First Alex Diaz de la Portilla cut $2.5 million from programs benefiting Florida seniors, including home car for the elderly, community care and Alzheimer’s disease initiative programs. Then he turned around and cut funding to nursing homes. As if that’s not bad enough, Diaz de la Portilla cut Medicaid payments and imposed higher taxes on facilities that care for seniors.”

Jose Felix Diaz: I’ll return money from Miami developer under investigation ‘if they’re guilty’” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Republican candidate for Senate, is “closely” monitoring a federal affordable-housing investigation now examining the largest real estate developer in South Florida, the Related Group, which gave Diaz and his political committee $5,000 this month. “There was no way I could have known” about the investigation, said Diaz, who is running in the District 40 special election. The Miami Herald revealed the investigation on Thursday. The Feds are focusing on the Related Group and its involvement in a low-income apartment building for seniors in Miami’s Shenandoah neighborhood. … On June 6, Related Urban Development Group cut a $3,000 check to Diaz’s political committee, Rebuild Florida, according to the committee’s finance records. A day later, it gave $1,000 directly to Diaz, as did Fortune Urban Construction, Related Group’s wholly owned contractor. “If they’re guilty of any crime, obviously I will return” the money, Diaz said. “In our system, the premise is you’re innocent until you’re found guilty.”

Save the date: Jason Fischer will host a kick-off fundraiser for his 2018 campaign at 6 p.m., Monday at Acosta Corporate Headquarters, 6600 Corporate Center Parkway in Jacksonville. The event will be chaired by Rep. Paul Renner, former Ambassador John Rood, former Education Commissioner Jim Horne. The host committee, according to the invitation, includes Tim Baker, Marty Fiorentino, Mori Hosseini, and Brian Hughes. Special guests include Mayor Lenny Curry, Sens. Aaron Bean, Rob Bradley, and Travis Hutson, and Reps. Cord Byrd, Travis Cummings, Jay Fant, Bobby Payne, Cyndi Stevenson, and Clay Yarborough.

Fourth Republican, Bruno Portigliatti, qualifies for HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising —  Portigliatti, of Orlando, is chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, a global online university. He also helps manage real estate enterprises for his family’s Portigliatti Group LLC. He joins Kissimmee chamber of commerce chief John Newstreet, former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski, and emergency and urgent care physician Dr. Usha Jain as having qualified for the Republican primary ballot. The other three qualified by petition earlier this month. Qualification closes at noon Tuesday for the special election, set to replace former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, who resigned to take a judicial appointment.

Daniel Perez takes double-digit lead over Jose Mallea in HD 116 poll” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News — Political newcomer Daniel Perez is leading his GOP primary opponents by double-digit numbers in the race to replace Jose Felix Diaz in Florida’s 116th House District. According to a poll released Monday, voters would select lawyer Daniel Perez over Miami-Dade Republican Jose Mallea by a 24 percent margin, with 37 percent saying they support Perez while 13 percent would vote for Mallea. When voters were given both positive and negative statements about the two candidates, including their personal backgrounds, issue positions and list of endorsements, Mallea’s lead decreased while Perez’s lead increased to 50 percent.


Assignment editors: Gov. Scott is expected to speak during the New York State Republican Gala at 7 p.m. at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, 811 Seventh Ave. in New York. Lara Trump is also scheduled to attend.

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was presented on Monday with all enrolled bills from the 2017-A Special Session, LobbyTools reported. He has until Tuesday, July 4, to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his signature. The bills are SB 8-A, which implements the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana; SB 6-A, which tweaks public records law related to cannabis users’ caregivers’ information; HB 3A, which boosts public education funding; and HB 1A, which funds tourism marketing and economic development.

“Judge reverses himself, decides ‘pre-reveal’ machines are slots” via Florida PoliticsIn a stunning reversal, a Tallahassee judge on Monday decided he had gotten it “wrong the first time around” and decided that games known as “pre-reveal” are in fact illegal slot machines. Circuit Judge John Cooper, however, was quick to say his change of mind was not influenced by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, but rather by further argument on how pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games actually play. The Tribe’s lawyer had said that allowing the machines, which look and play like slots, violates their exclusive right to offer slot machines outside South Florida, imperiling the state’s cut of the Tribe’s gambling revenue. “That’s a political issue,” Cooper said.

“State tells court to deny Gretna’s request for rehearing” via Florida Politics – Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office told the state Supreme Court on Monday to turn down a request from a North Florida racetrack in a case over whether pari-mutuels can add slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them. Last month, the court unanimously ruled against Gretna Racing, meaning that gambling facilities in Gadsden County and in seven other counties that passed referendums allowing slots will not be able to offer them. The court’s unanimous decision found that “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.” The state’s response called Gretna’s arguments for rehearing “improper and meritless.”

State health insurance examined – The Office of Economic and Demographic Research will discuss state employee health insurance at a meeting starting 9 a.m. in Room 117 of the Knott Building.


Rick Scott tries to lure ‘upset’ Connecticut firms” via Susan Haigh of The Associated Press – Scott met with community and business leaders in Norwalk. Scott’s visit comes as health insurer Aetna Inc. considers relocating its longtime headquarters from Hartford. Scott says he would “love every company in Connecticut” to think about moving to Florida, where he says taxes and regulations have been cut since he first took office. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s spokeswoman says “it’s no wonder” Scott would look to Connecticut and be “envious” of its’ high quality of life, good schools and skilled workforce.

Richard Corcoran to Hillsborough schools: Stop blaming the Legislature while you waste money” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times – As it attempts to put its financial house in order, the Hillsborough County School District is being made a poster child for runaway public school spending. The accuser: Corcoran, a driving force behind this year’s sweeping public education bill. His message: The bill (HB 7069) is not why district officials are struggling to pay their expenses. Rather, Corcoran told the Tampa Bay Times, “it’s their bloat, inefficiency and gross over-spending. Their problem is their mismanagement.” But Corcoran insisted that politics had nothing to do with his remarks. “It’s not over how they’re treating me, it’s absolutely over their gross mismanagement,” he said.

Former Miami administrator’s suspicious land deal under state investigation” via David Ovalle, David Smiley and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald – As a former Miami city official, politically connected construction consultant Ola Aluko boasts years of experience putting together complex development deals and handling millions in government grants. But in one small land deal that turned a six-figure profit, Aluko’s role was curiously obscured. A few years back, he bought a small tract of vacant land in Overtown for $39,000, creating a shell company to do it. Six months later, the shell company filed paperwork installing a new manager — a 23-year-old Miami woman. The next day, the company flipped the parcel for $150,000. The new buyer? St. John Community Development Corporation, a venerated Miami nonprofit — whose president happens to be Aluko. Today, St. John is pursuing a tax-subsidized affordable housing project on the site.

Uber driver cited $250 in Miami for not speaking English” via The Associated Press – Miami-Dade officials say Carmen Hechavarria received a ticket after dropping off passengers at the Miami International Airport. A county ordinance says drivers of ride-hailing apps must be able to communicate in English. Uber spokesman Javi Correoso said the app allows people to communicate even if they don’t speak English. It is how foreign-language speakers and deaf drivers can sign up … 54-year-old Hechavarria was fined after she couldn’t understand when an officer greeted her … Hechavarria speaks Spanish.


Little Marco Rubio shrinks down to Donald Trump’s size” via Richard Cohen of The Washington Post – The pliable Republican senator from Florida and the deranged president of the United States now get along. It was only a bit more than a year ago that they were hurling verbal spitballs at one another … It is refreshing, in an aerosol sort of way, to have that squabble behind us and the room fumigated. Only Trump remains, spewing resentful tweets from somewhere in the White House. I could say that it is a good and wholesome thing to return to yesteryear, when the day’s rancorous politics ended with bourbon and branch and the camaraderie that comes from acknowledging that the real enemy is not across the aisle, but the American people. They can vote you out. But with Trump, there is no going back to the old ways. Just as “Macbeth doth murder sleep,” so has Trump broken Washington.

Rick Scott’s double-whammy against public education in Florida” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board – Nice work, Governor … Scott vetoed most of the policy initiatives sought by Senate President Negron in hopes of catapulting Florida campuses into the nation’s top tier of public universities. That included expansions of the Bright Futures merit-scholarship program and funds to attract world-class professors and researchers and reward top-performing medical, business and law programs. Scott did this because he thought the universities were benefiting at the expense of the 28 state colleges. It’s true that the state colleges fared badly in Tallahassee this spring. But the way to fix those shortcomings is to address them next year — not punish universities for the advances they managed to make. Since when it is wise to throw out the baby with the bathwater? More galling is Scott’s embrace of House Bill 7069, which was rightly reviled by school boards, superintendents, classroom teachers and parents throughout the state. With Scott’s signature, $140 million of public money will be set aside to subsidize privately owned charter schools that can set up near struggling traditional public schools and call them “Schools of Hope.”

Joe Henderson: Corcoran did more than change Florida education, whipped teachers union too” via Florida Politics – Alex Sink made a point that Democrats may finally have a cause to rally around in this state. She referred to HB 7069 (or, as I like to call it, “The Let’s Bust the Teachers’ Union Act”) pushed through by House Speaker Corcoran and signed into law by Gov. Scott. It is the biggest push yet by the Legislature to expand private charter schools with money from the public education budget. I won’t say Corcoran doesn’t care about public education. I won’t even say charter schools don’t have some benefit. But I will say that if you peel back the layers of how we got here, the Republican victory dance is as much about the whipping they inflicted on the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, as it was the expansion of charters. This was Corcoran showing the union who is boss.

Joe Negron got played — Florida public schools pay price” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board – Negron so badly wanted his top priority this year that he failed to do what citizens expect of the Legislature’s upper chamber: stop bad things from happening … sometimes, doing the right thing means being willing to sacrifice your pet project. But after securing his first priority of the session — a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee — Negron fiercely sought his second: a sweeping higher education bill meant to help certain state universities attain “elite” status, while putting community colleges back in their place … HB 7069 was a tough sell in the more-measured Senate. But to secure his pet priority, Negron pushed it through. So, it was something of a stunner this week when the governor vetoed Negron’s priority, and signed Corcoran’s bad bill. In fact, it was a whiplash moment in the topsy turvy world of Florida politics.


“Art Graham, Ron Brisé seek reappointment to Public Service Commission” via Florida Politics – The Nominating Council for the commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities, announced Monday it was “accepting applications to fill two vacancies.” Those refer to the seats now held by Commissioners Graham and Brisé, whose terms are up at the end of the year. A spokeswoman for the commission later said that both men “notified the Nominating Council, as required by law, that they are both seeking reappointment.” The next terms start Jan. 2, 2018. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate. The pay is $131,036 per year.

Personnel note: Dale Swope named president of Florida Justice Association” via Florida PoliticsTampa attorney Swope has been named the 58th president of the Florida Justice Association, the group announced in a press release Monday. Swope took the presidency at the Association’s 2017 Annual Conference in St. Pete Beach last week. The group is the only statewide professional association dedicated to trial attorneys and their clients in the state. “I’m honored my colleagues have placed their trust in me to lead the Florida Justice Association at this consequential time for civil justice in our state and country,” Swope said after being sworn in.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Leslie Dughi, Greenberg Traurig: Vertical Bridge Holdings

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: Docusign, Inc.

Richard Pinsky, Akerman: AmDev International

David Shepp, Southern Strategy Group: PuppySpot Group, LLC

— ALOE —

Skateboarders planning ‘rogue’ mission to build concrete ramp in Havana” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times – Organizers say the plan is to convert an unused drainage ditch on the outskirts of Havana into a skate park with a mini ramp. The effort, they say, does not include seeking approval from authorities in the communist nation. “We are renegades,” said Michelle Box, executive director of Skatepark of Tampa and its associated charity, Boards for Bros. … the Tampa contingent is joining a campaign spearheaded by a Miami skateboarding charity that has been distributing skateboards in Cuba since 2009 … to coincide with international Go Skateboarding Day. “It’s being celebrated around the world,” said Box … “It’s a day to throw down the laptops and skate all day. That’s the impetus and reason and timing for this.” The mission will last 10 days.

Universal plans two hotels on former Wet ‘n Wild site” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Two hotels with 4,000 rooms, three pools and a parking garage will fill the 36-acre former home of Wet ‘n Wild. The plans will be considered by Orlando’s Municipal Planning Board before heading to Orlando City Council members for review July 10 and July 24. City documents provide a first glimpse of the development that sits a mile and a half east of the theme park on I-Drive. Universal has requested the property be rezoned from AC-3 (commercial) to a planned unit development. They also need a waiver to allow the parking garage to front on I-Drive. Current zoning requires parking garages be built on the back of developments in the Metropolitan Activity Center, which has the highest intensity of development outside of downtown Orlando. If approved, city staff has recommended the garage be screened and designed so it doesn’t look like a parking structure.

Website ranks Orlando as best U.S. place for video gamers” via The Associated Press – WalletHub said Orlando’s number of video game stores per-capita and its number of arcades helped push it to the top of the list for the 100 largest cities in the nation. Other cities in the top 5 rankings were Seattle, Austin, New York and Atlanta. The website also considered the share of residents owning smartphones, the number of annual comic book or sci-fi conventions and internet quality.

Happy birthday belatedly to people whom I don’t often agree with but are very good at their jobs: Brian Hughes and Mary Ellen Klas. Celebrating today is Matt Harringer, our friend Todd JoskoEd Miyagishima, and top fundraiser Ieva Smidt.

Kartik Krishnaiyer, one of Florida’s leading progressive bloggers, to take hiatus from political writing

It was a really bad weekend for Florida progressives; not just because the Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Gala ended in racially-tinged acrimony.

Kartik Krishnaiyer, one of Florida’s leading progressive bloggers and publisher of the award-winning Florida Squeeze website, wrote Friday he was “stepping away from covering party politics or Democratic Party happenings.”

At a time when President Donald Trump is advancing a reactionary, neo-nationalistic brand of GOP politics and Florida Republicans are beginning to demonstrate there is a shelf-life to one-party rule in the state, Krishnaiyer’s withdrawal from blogging and writing is a genuine blow to the progressive cause.

However, according to Krishnaiyer’s final post, Democrats and progressives only have themselves to blame for isolating a blogger once recognized by The Washington Post as one of the best state-based blogs in Florida.

“Whenever we publish work on the GOP, its excessive right-wing policies or hypocrisy they generate FAR less traffic than critiques directed at accountability of Democratic officeholders or the Democratic Party itself,” Krishnaiyer writes.

Krishnaiyer no longer wants to be a party to the Democrat-on-Democrat crime.

“It seems so many in our party live in a bubble, and while there’s a hunger for real talk on how to fix it, many of our articles just seem to create more acrimony and tribalism within the party. It at times gives aid and comfort to malcontents and gadflies with agendas that aren’t positive for the party or a progressive ideology while making little impact on those in power.”

What Krishnaiyer wrote Friday seemed to be on full display come Sunday when, as Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida first reported, Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel was forced to apologize for racially-tinged remarks directed at black lawmakers who were upset with Bittel for allowing event planners to skip a feature to recognize state House and Senate Democrats.

“A party that, despite constant losses, puts the ethnic and gender profile first and a candidate’s qualifications, loyalty and ideology second isn’t an entity worth fighting to reform any longer,” Krishnaiyer wrote presciently.

Krishnaiyer, a staunch Democrat, began his political advocacy in the mid-90s as president of the University of Florida College Democrats. By 1998, he was active in the governmental and public relations sectors, where he stayed for a decade on political campaigns, nonprofits and advocacy organizations.

Before becoming a consultant, Krishnaiyer served as a staffer in the Florida House, acting as a political director for both organizations and campaigns. He played a role in the 2000 Presidential recount in Palm Beach County, working on behalf of the Palm Beach Democratic Party. He was statewide field coordinator for the Florida Democratic Party working through the DEC Chairs Association during the 2002 election cycle. He ran several local campaigns in both 2002 and 2004 in Palm Beach, Broward also in Central Florida.

In addition to his political work, Krishnaiyer has been a major figure in soccer reporting from 2007  to 2013, returning to political punditry in 2012 writing for the Political Hurricane. He founded the Florida Squeeze in 2013.

Krishnaiyer now serves as the managing editor and podcast co-host for World Soccer Talk, an international soccer blog. He is the author of “Blue with Envy,” a book about Manchester City Football Club, and is a regular contributor to the Florida Politics email digest Jacksonville Bold.

It’s unclear what will happen to The Florida Squeeze without Krishnaiyer’s writing propelling it forward. To be honest, the volume and quality of the site’s content dropped off considerably since winning The Washington Post recognition. It should have parlayed the accolade into a larger footprint in Florida politics.

But, for whatever reasons, that never materialized.

Still, the site continues to be widely read within Florida Democratic and progressive circles. It has an active comment section where insiders, in mostly anonymous fashion, spar with each other. And with a wide-open Democratic primary for governor and other statewide offices, the Squeeze could have offered an arena where Democratic activists and thinkers shaped the big debates of the 2018 cycle.

Unfortunately, that does not look like it will happen.

On a side note, Krishnaiyer’s stepping away from the table is more evidence that Florida’s fledgling political blogosphere died a long time ago. It’s no longer enough to call this website a blog, nor is The Sayfie Review, with its complete lack of original content, a blog.

No, a blogosphere is/was something that was populated by wonderful, interesting sites like The Political Hurricane/The Florida Squeeze: mostly non-commercial platforms giving voice to a broad array of opinions. They weren’t always the best-edited websites, and sometimes they looked as attractive as a dog’s breakfast, but they were worth reading.

There was a time, less than six years ago, when prominent Florida political blogger, Kenneth Quinnell, actually staged an awards contest to recognize the best of blogging in the state. There were more than 150 websites which merited consideration!

Those were the days.

After a while, though, many amateur writers lost interest in blogging. “Why am I writing all of this if no one is reading it?” is the question which probably kills off most blogs.

The New York Times reported at the end of the blog era that 95 percent of blogs are essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

My friend Kartik Krishnaiyer tried his damnedest to fulfill his blogging dream. But in the end, it went unfulfilled. And we are all the worse for that.

Gwen Graham taps Julia Gill Woodward to serve as campaign manager

Gwen Graham has tapped a longtime aide to run her 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

Julia Gill Woodward is taking over the reins of Graham’s gubernatorial campaign. Woodward has a long history with the former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee, serving both on her 2014 congressional campaign and working as her chief of staff.

“As a ninth-generation Floridian, Julia Woodward knows this state as well as anyone,” said Graham in a statement. “In 2014, she guided our team to victory in one of the most competitive races in the entire country. I’m confident, under her leadership, we will be ready to defeat any Republican and turn Florida blue.”

A Florida State University graduate, Woodward served ran Graham’s 2014 congressional campaign. She stayed on with Graham, a Democrat from Tallahassee, once she was elected, serving as her chief of staff. Her husband even gained notoriety for doing a backflip during the biennial office lottery, a good luck charm  since Graham was picked sixth and got her first choice of office.

Before joining the Graham campaign, she spent a year as the deputy campaign manager and the finance director for Keith Fitzgerald’s 2012 congressional bid. She also served stints as the statewide political director for Loranne Ausley’s CFO bid and the deputy finance director for the Florida Democratic Party.

While Woodward has effectively been running the campaign since Graham announced her bid, the announcement that she is taking over formally in the role of campaign manager comes a little over a month after the departure of Beth Matuga. The Democratic operative left the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate Victory arm to work for Graham, but left shortly after Graham’s campaign launched.

Sunburn for 6.19.17 — Speaker’s race insights; Richard Corcoran takes on the world; Fla. Dems being Fla. Dems; Ryan Duffy to U.S. Sugar; Loving Old Florida

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Joe Biden and 1300 Democratic activists gathered in Hollywood this past weekend to plot how to end a 20-year string of Republican governors in 2018. Marco Rubio has been omnipresent on television screens since Friday when Donald Trump announced that he’s “cancelling” Barack Obama’s policy toward Cuba. And Richard Corcoran continues to make the case for this past legislative session being “the most transformative and transparent in the Legislature’s history.” But even with all of this happening, the most-trafficked story on is the one we published Friday afternoon.


The first-term state Representative currently commands a majority of his 26 colleague’s votes, after Melbourne’s Randy Fine put aside his own bid to be Speaker on Friday and decided to take on the role of kingmaker.

To reach the conclusion about the state of the race, interviewed no less than 18 members of the freshman class, as well as reviewed a cache of member-to-member emails and text messages provided to the media organization by several different members.

In addition to picking up Fine, Jason Fischer now says he is firmly in Renner camp.

Supporters of Jamie Grant, Renner’s chief rival for the Speaker’s post, dispute this count and contend that neither candidate has the support of a majority of the class. They add that Grant actually has more definitive votes in his pocket than Renner.

Representative Randy Fine talks during the Health Quality subcommittee meetings in the House Office building at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee.

— Both sides concede Bob Rommel is in Renner’s column. That’s 13 very likely votes for Renner.

— In addition to his solid 9, Grant is counting on the support of Erin Grall once she is eliminated on the first or second ballot.

— POLITICO’s Matt Dixon, who is also closely following the Speaker’s race, says he has the same whip count.

— This leaves Thad Altman, Byron Donalds (after he is eliminated on the first or second ballot), Mel Ponder, and Cyndi Stevenson as the deciding votes. Fine thinks he can bring Altman over to Renner and Renner’s team is confident Stevenson is now with them.

— Since our story Friday, we’ve heard some rumblings that Rick Roth is not happy being put into any candidate’s column.

— Grant is far from ready to give up. In fact, he probably think he still has the votes to win. He’s also planning to work the next two weeks to win over undecided voters.

— Two smart questions: 1) Will members listed in the FP article as supporting Renner get cold feet? 2) Will current House leadership, said to favor Grant, intercede on his behalf and with who?

— More interesting reads about the Speaker’s race:

>>>”Tempers flaring as Speaker’s race barrels to conclusion” via Florida Politics

>>>”Randy Fine explains to colleagues why he dropped out of Speaker’s race” via Florida Politics

>>>“Why Does James Grant believe he’s above the Law?” via Nick Tomboulides for Sunshine State News

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With the Special Session in the rearview mirror and House Speaker Corcoran’s top priority now signed into law, Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau takes a look a closer look at the Land O’Lakes Republican, and his actions during the 2017  Session.

In her story, Klas writes that Corcoran would likely win the part as “the most interesting man in Tallahassee.” … Corcoran said he was motivated by “principle, always principle,” and thought the 2017 Session “was the most transformative and transparent in the Legislature’s history.”

But as Klas notes many of the policy measures pushed by Corcoran appeared to be contradictory. He pushed new budget rules prohibiting last-minute insertion of projects into the budget, but left a “loophole that allowed Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to force the approval of 15 so-called ‘conforming bills’ that had not been reviewed, screed or approved by any committee in its entitery or by both chambers.”

— He also suggested rules prohibiting members of House leadership from campaigning for higher office while in the House, then created his own new political committee, which he might use for a statewide run for governor. And after he pushed the House to strip funding from Enterprise Florida, then helped orchestrate a way to rescue the program that Klas describes as “a way the legislatively inexperienced governor had rarely seen.”

— Money quote from someone who knows the pressures of being Speaker: “Richard is capable of fighting on multiple fronts simultaneously,” said Tom Feeney, who Corcoran worked for as a legal counsel. “But he’s enough of a strategist that when some of those battles played out, he was constantly adjusting his priorities based on his best opportunity.”

Corcoran: Legislators represent people better than local governments” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – “If you are a special interest or you are somebody that wants to curry favor, it is generally much more difficult in a comparative scale to get something through in the state government that would affect the state than it is the local government,” the Pasco County Republican told about 100 people gathered for the weekly Cafe con Tampa breakfast in South Tampa. “To get something through on a local level you have to win over seven or five people. To get something through in Tallahassee, you’ve got to get something through one chamber with 120 people, something through another chamber that has 40 people, and then you have an executive with veto power. The greater input from more and more people, as our founders thought, that scrutiny allows there to end up being a better and better product.”

Open-government group seeks lawmakers’ text messages” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – The First Amendment Foundation sent a letter to House Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron asking them to produce text messages sent by lawmakers. The texts were first requested by Matt Dixon. “It is incumbent on each government official — in this case, each legislator subject to the request — to make a search for responsive records on his or her personal device,” FAF president Barbara Petersen wrote. State law requires text messages discussing government business to be available to the public whether they are sent on a government-issued cellphone or personal device.

Pasco County Republican Richard Corcoran spoke to more than 100 people gathered for the weekly Cafe con Tampa breakfast in South Tampa.


“Rick Scott asked to respond to judicial appointments lawsuit” via Florida PoliticsThe Florida Supreme Court has asked Gov. Scott to respond to a lawsuit claiming he doesn’t have authority to appoint three new justices on the last day of his term. The court on Friday gave Scott till July 5 to file a response, with the League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause having a July 17 deadline to reply to Scott’s filing … Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name the replacements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince. They face mandatory retirement on the same day—Jan. 8, 2019—that is Scott’s last in office as governor … The (lawsuit) says Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day all three retire, and their terms last till midnight.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference to discuss his economic development mission to Connecticut at 11 a.m. at the Norwalk Inn & Conference Center, 99 East Ave. in Norwalk, Conn.

Gradebook podcast: Sen. Jack Latvala explains what happened with HB 7069” via Jeffrey S. Solochek with the Tampa Bay TimesLatvala usually gets a warm reception at Florida School Boards Association events. On Friday, the Pinellas County Republican faced some chilliness over HB 7069, the major education bill that some said he didn’t do enough to stop as Appropriations chairman. … These days in the Legislature, Latvala said, there are “a dwindling number of people who care about public schools,

Tampa Bay lawmakers express regrets over legislative session” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – State Sen. Darryl Rouson told the Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum he was “bringing home apologies that we cost you $70,000 a day in a special session to do what we should have done in the first regular session.’ … “As a citizen, I’m embarrassed about the performance of our Legislature over the last three or four years,” said Rep. Dan Raulerson. “I think everybody’s upset.” … State Sen. Tom Lee said the Legislature’s failure to handle the marijuana bill properly was because of influential special interests who “locked the process up.”… “This didn’t turn out to be about the patients. It turned out to be about the licensees who were going to win,” he said. “That’s just the process that we’re in right now, and I apologize for that.”

– “After shifting alliances, dark clouds await in the next legislative session” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Carlos Trujillo got last-minute budget language OK’d to punish Miami developer” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The Florida Housing Finance Corporation board, appointed by Gov. Scott, voted in March to ban Pinnacle Housing Group from seeking state funds for two years. That was after federal prosecutors said a company affiliate inflated costs related to projects funded through the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The company signed a deferred prosecution agreement, was fined $1 million and returned $4.2 million in funds … The FHFC board voted 4-2 for the two-year ban, while the staff had recommended a five-year ban and a halt in funding for “pipeline projects” — meaning those projects already given early approval. Trujillo agreed the punishment was not strong enough, so he asked for language to be placed in the state budget to overrule the board vote.

Dan Raulerson: All legislators should be armed” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – A pro-gun rights Tampa Bay area state legislator, commenting on the Virginia shooting at a congressional baseball practice, said in a forum the shooting shows people should carry guns in public – even at swimming pools or playing softball. “Each one of those congressmen should be carrying a weapon,” responded state Rep. Dan Raulerson. “We all should be carrying a weapon.” He didn’t respond to comments from the crowd that it would be difficult to carry a gun while playing softball. Reactions of the legislators at the forum displayed partisan reactions to the shooting – Democrats saying it showed the need for tighter gun laws and Republicans saying it shows more people need to carry guns.


Driving the day –Florida Democrats erupt as Stephen Bittel apologizes for racially-tinged comments” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The comments were directed at Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, who is black, and members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. They came during a heated exchange before a keynote speech by Joe Biden at the Leadership Blue Gala … It started because the Secret Service needed to tweak the event to accommodate Biden’s schedule. Because of the change, Bittel allowed event planners to skip a feature to recognize state House and Senate Democrats. That change of plans, however, was not relayed to the elected officials … stuck waiting to go onstage. “I was calm until I was shit-talked,” Braynon said. “I just said that I did not think that Joe Biden was going to leave if we allowed for 10 minutes to give recognition to our members onstage … I was dismissed.” The exchange between the two was calm until, Braynon said, Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book relayed to him that Bittel was blaming the escalating situation on him and the black caucus. “He said I’m acting like a 3-year-old. He said the black caucus members were acting like 3-year-olds and childish,” Braynon said. “I was visibly upset. Others were visibly upset.”

’We are better than this,’ impassioned Biden tells Florida Democrats” via Patricia Mazzei and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – Without ever mentioning President Donald Trump, Biden rejected the new president’s rhetoric and assured Democrats there is a way for them to recover their political standing. “The state the nation is today will not be sustained by the American people,” Biden said. “We are better than this.” At times funny, at times so serious he was whispering, Biden spoke to Democratic activists in Hollywood for more than 50 minutes, sounding like a potential candidate for president in 2020 — or at least like one the party’s most impassioned messengers for 2018. Biden began by making a case for the re-election of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who will likely face his biggest challenger yet next year in Republican Gov. Scott. “No one, no one, no one has ever questioned his word when he’s given it, and no one, no one that I’ve met in my entire time in the Senate and eight years as vice president doesn’t respect Bill for his moral courage and his physical courage,” Biden said. “Bill, I’ll come back to Florida as many times as you want — to campaign for you or against you, whichever helps more.”

Leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor agree on big issues” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – It was literally a love fest when the three leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and businessman Chris King — got together for a forum. Gillum, Graham and King agreed on expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage, restoring voting rights to ex-felons, banning fracking, spending more money on public education and placing less emphasis on high-stakes testing. Beyond all the agreement and good feelings, each candidate contended that he or she is best positioned to win the governorship in 2018 after five straight victories by Republicans.

SHOT: “Andrew Gillum looks like Democrats’ best hope for governor, but will email scandal hurt him?” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

CHASER:It’s unclear how Adam Smith decided Andrew Gillum is Florida Democrats’ ‘best hope’” via Florida Politics

Phil Levine laying low in gubernatorial race” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Miami Beach Mayor isn’t officially running for anything (right now), so he’s on a different wavelength than his would-be Democratic competitors. “I’m still thinking, I’m still exploring,” he said right before the official festivities at the FDP’s Leadership Blue Gala. Of course, the question might be how well Levine might be received in a Democratic forum, considering he talked openly in Tampa last month of running as an independent. On Saturday, he was trotting out what has become his adopted title — Radical Centrist. “We’ll see where my product sells best,” is all he would say when asked if he was serious about going the indie route.

Florida Democrats announce new vehicle to try to get more of them elected to state Senate” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens announced the creation of a new campaign to help get more Democrats elected to the Florida Senate in 2018 and beyond. “Flip Florida Blue” will set out initially to invest resources to win the special election in Miami-Dade’s Senate District 40 seat formerly held by Hialeah Republican Frank Artiles … The next goal is ambitious: Clemens says there are 6-7 targeted Senate Districts in the 2018 cycle they hope to flip, adding to the current roster of 15 Democrats … One of them will undoubtedly be SD 18, which could see a rematch between GOP incumbent Dana Young and Democrat Bob Buesing. Last fall, Young won the race by seven points, with independent Joe Redner getting 9 percent. Redner said that if Buesing mounts a campaign in 2018, he will not run for the seat.

– “Alex Sink: Anger over HB 7069 could be Dems winning issue in 2018” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics


Don Gaetz: And now, the next governor of Florida…” via the Pensacola News-Journal – It is expected that Adam Putnam will be the winner of the 2018 Republican primary for governor. Many of those taking this same bet think Gwen Graham has the inside lane for the Democratic nomination. But if conventional politics takes a holiday next year in Florida … gubernatorial politics could be a knockdown drag out between extremes, not a contest among the presumed. The upside of Adam Putnam is his downside. It’s his turn, which may not be to his advantage. Remember, it was Bill Gunter’s turn, Buddy MacKay’s turn, Bill McCollum’s turn, Alex Sink’s turn et al. Putnam’s been in the gubernatorial waiting room for 15 years. Putnam’s two very likely GOP rivals, State House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senator Jack Latvala, will hit refresh on Putnam’s voting record every morning. Can hits below the waterline, even from lesser-financed opponents you don’t take seriously, make a difference? Ask Jeb Bush. Is Putnam fated to stumble? Hardly. Is he a cinch? Hardly.

First on #FlaPol – Julia Gill Woodward to manage Gwen Graham’s gubernatorial campaign – Woodward is taking over the reins of Graham’s gubernatorial campaign. Woodward has a long history with the former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee, serving both on her 2014 congressional campaign and working as her chief of staff. “As a ninth-generation Floridian, Julia Woodward knows this state as well as anyone,” said Graham in a statement. “In 2014, she guided our team to victory in one of the most competitive races in the entire country. I’m confident, under her leadership, we will be ready to defeat any Republican and turn Florida blue.”

Graham picks up Nan Rich’s endorsement” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Gwen Graham has the integrity and ideas, the leadership qualities and real-life experiences to end the Republicans’ nearly two-decade hold on the governor’s office and put Florida on a progressive path forward,” Rich stated in a news release … “Gwen is the only Democrat for governor who has run against a Republican and won. Gwen is the only candidate for governor who has worked on the front lines of our public school system. She has been an advocate for women and children — and while in Congress she returned more than $2.5 million to seniors, veterans and families. Gwen is the only candidate for governor with a vision and actual plans to protect our environment and build an economy that works for everyone,” Rich added.

Gillum campaign takes heat for use of Charlie Crist’s email list of donors” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida Gillum is being accused by some Democrats of using the email fundraising list compiled by Crist without permission, a claim that brings more unwanted attention to the rookie statewide candidate’s campaign. “My understanding is that that may have occurred,” Crist said. “I’m not sure how, but I’ve heard that.” He added that people have reached out to him to inform him that Gillum has been using his donor list. “They seemed more angry about it than I am,” said Crist, who was elected last fall to Congress. Of the campaign’s roughly 5,300 total contributions, more than 800 are donors who also gave to the Crist campaign … A vast majority of those were very small-dollar donors, a very good indication they gave to the campaign as the result of a fundraising email. It’s not uncommon for campaigns to trade or swap fundraising email lists with other campaigns, but Crist said he has not heard from the Gillum team about using his list.

Tweet, tweet:

Baxter Troutman opens iGrow PC to fund Agriculture Commissioner bid — State records show Troutman launched iGrow PC, a state political committee. He filed a statement of solicitation with the Division of Elections on June 14, two days after he filed to run for the statewide seat. POLITICO Florida first reported the creation of Troutman’s political committee. Troutman filed the necessary paperwork to run for Agriculture Commissioner on June 12, and opened his campaign account with a personal contribution of $2.5 million.

Tom Rooney backs Ben Albritton for Florida Senate — The Okeechobee Republican announced he was throwing his support behind Albritton in his race to replace Sen. Denise Grimsley in Senate District 26. “Ben Albritton is a tireless and dedicated servant leader committed to strengthening our communities,” said Rooney. “I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Ben on issues important to our region, and I am confident he will continue the tradition of excellent representation Denise Grimsley has provided.” 

Jim Boyd stockpiling cash for likely 2020 Senate bid” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Campaign finance reports reveal that Boyd’s political action committee has raised $109,511 since the beginning of the year, and now has $177,932 in cash on hand. Boyd is interested in the state Senate seat currently held by Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who will become Senate president next year. Galvano won’t leave office until 2020, but getting started early and building up a big war chest could help Boyd scare off potential challengers.

Qualifying starts in HD 44 — A two-day qualifying period in the special election to replace former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle in House District 44 starts on Monday and runs through noon on Tuesday. Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican, resigned to become a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal. A special primary has been scheduled for Aug. 15, with a special election on Oct. 10. Republicans Usha Jain, John David Newstreet, Bobby Olszewski, and Bruno Portigliatti; and Democrats Paul Jason Chandler and Nuren Durre Haider have filed to run.

Happening today – SD 40 candidates’ debate — The Women’s Republican Club of Miami Federated is scheduled to host a debate for the Republicans running in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. Republicans Jose Felix Diaz, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Lorenzo Palomares are running for the seat. The debate kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at Miami Dade College’s Kendall Campus, Building R, 11011 S.W. 104th St. in Miami.


On CNN’s “State of The Union,” Jake Tapper asked Rubio how he would react if Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller and/or U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein:

“Well, first of all, that’s not going to happen. I don’t believe it’s going to happen. And here’s what I would say. The best thing that could happen for the president, and the country, is a full and credible investigation. I really, truly believe that.

“If we want to put all this behind us, let’s find out what happened, let’s put it out there, and let’s not undermine the credibility of the investigation.

“And so, my view on it is that’s the best thing that could happen for the president and for the country, and I believe ultimately that’s what will happen, irrespective of all the other stuff that’s going on out there.”

Rubio said about the same thing to John Dickerson of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” when asked about Trump calling the investigations a “witch hunt.”

“Well, I know he feels very strongly about it. My advice to the president is what I communicated publicly. The way I’ve tried to communicate to everyone on this issue. And that is this. It is in the best interest of the president and the country to have a full investigation.”

Later, Rubio talked with Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” about circumstantial evidence of a link between the Russia investigation and possibly softening sanctions.

“I could understand how some people would make that argument. I could also tell you though that I personally believe that at the core of the resistance is not the president. And I don’t think the president himself has a problem with additional sanctions on Russia.

“I think the concern actually comes from the State Department and for the following reason: they argue that they are trying to get the Russians to be more cooperative on a number of fronts and that this could set us back.”

Rubio cautions against rushing health care in Senate” via Hanna Trudo of POLITICORubio cautioned against fashioning health care legislation “behind closed doors” in the Senate and rushing it to the floor for a vote. “The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote on the floor,” the Florida Republican said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” … “Every camera in the world’s going to have to see what’s in it,” he said. Rubio was responding to remarks from his colleague, Sen. Ron Johnson, who took issue with the clunky process of moving a health care proposal in the Senate. Rubio added that while he doesn’t take issue with the ongoing meetings about new health care legislation, the final version “cannot be rushed to the floor” … “Ultimately,” he said, “we’re all going to see what’s in it.”


If you read one thing –A mother’s death, a botched inquiry and a Sheriff at war” via Walt Bogdanich of The New York TimesRusty Rodgers did not fit everyone’s image of a law enforcement officer, particularly in deeply conservative northeast Florida … in January 2011, came the call that would upend his life. Go to St. Augustine, he was told, to reinvestigate the death of 24-year-old Michelle O’Connell, shot while packing to leave her deputy sheriff boyfriend, Jeremy Banks. The fatal bullet came from his service weapon. Agent Rodgers had been summoned here twice before to answer questions about cases involving the St. Johns County sheriff, David B. Shoar … with crucial evidence missing or unexamined, Agent Rodgers had to make sense of the mess. And that meant possibly antagonizing one of Florida’s most powerful sheriffs. A mercurial leader, unctuous one moment, bitingly critical the next, Sheriff Shoar didn’t countenance challenges to his authority. He had resisted the O’Connell family’s demands for an outside review of the case for nearly five months. When the sheriff finally agreed, his office had one requirement — that Agent Rodgers, and only Agent Rodgers, conduct the investigation. It took the agent only two weeks to find evidence that fundamentally changed the complexion of the case. “I realized I’m dealing with a whole different set of facts, quite truthfully malice and wickedness,” he told state officials … His answer was a scathingly personal yearslong attack on Agent Rodgers — a campaign that put the outsize powers of a small-town sheriff on full display and ultimately swept up nearly everyone in its path.

Hack attacks highlight vulnerability of Florida schools to cyber crooks” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald – Two months before the U.S. presidential election, international hackers slipped into the computer systems of at least four Florida school district networks in the hopes of stealing the personal data of hundreds of thousands of students. They infected the systems with malware … that turned off the logs recording who accessed the systems, according to United Data Technologies, the Doral-based cybersecurity company that investigated the incidents. For three months, the hackers probed the systems, mapping them out and testing their defenses. At one point, they even posted photos of someone dressed as an ISIS fighter on two school district websites. They weren’t just looking for the names of kids and valuable Social Security numbers … The hackers were also searching for some way to slip into other sensitive government systems, including state voting systems.

’Grayest’ state ranks 46 for long-term health care” via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post – the state with a higher shareholder residents ranks among the worst at meeting their needs for long-term care, a new scorecard says. Senior advocacy group AARP said Florida has slipped to 46th among the states in a study that measures factors such as the cost of private nursing-home care as a percentage of annual household income, the number of private long-term care insurance policies in effect [among others].

“Lawyers to face off in hearing over ‘pre-reveal’ games” via Florida PoliticsLawyers for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and companies behind what are known as “pre-reveal” games—a name they apparently disdain—will appear Monday afternoon in a Tallahassee courtroom. Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed to hear argument on why he should reconsider his previous ruling that the stand-alone consoles aren’t illegal slot machines … The machines—offered mostly at bars and taverns—look and play like a slot machine, Cooper had reasoned, but don’t fit the legal definition of gambling because the player always knows whether he or she is a winner or loser. The Tribe has countered that Cooper’s decision “upends the Compact,” the 2010 agreement between the Tribe and the state for exclusive rights to offer certain gambling in return for a cut of the revenue. (It) believes the machines are slots, which violates its exclusivity. That could cost the state “multi-billions of dollars” by entitling the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue.

Long-awaited accreditation for Florida Poly marks school as ‘serious and legitimate’” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times – In being granted initial regional accreditation to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Poly can assure current and future students it has the proper credentials to award quality degrees. “Accreditation signals to prospective students and faculty that we are serious and legitimate contenders in the world of higher education,” President Randy K. Avent said in a news release, calling the milestone “the biggest yet” for the college. Accreditation also allows students to get federal financial aid, such as student loans and need-based Pell Grants, and opens the door to federal research funding.


Carol Bowen: Florida construction marketplace healthier thanks to new legislation” for Florida Politics – The Associated Builders and Contractors … are pleased to report that new legislation will now strengthen competition and reduce abusive litigation in Florida’s multibillion commercial and public construction markets. We also want to thank Gov. Scott for his support of these two pro-business, pro-consumer bills. With the help of Rep. Jayer Williamson and Sen. Keith Perry, ABC successfully landed House Bill 599 (Public Works Projects), which will promote a more open, honest and competitive bid process for public construction projects where state dollars represent 50 percent or more of the funding. With the support of Rep. Tom Leek and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, ABC also brought home House Bill 377 (Limitations on Actions other than for the Recovery of Real Property), which helps clarify when and how Florida’s 10-year statute of repose begins to run on a completed project.


“Florida Bar holds annual convention this week” via Florida PoliticsThe Bar‘s Annual Convention begins Wednesday at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, with “a focus on the future of the legal profession and the challenges lawyers face,” the organization said in a press release. On Friday, Miami attorney Michael J. Higer will be sworn in as the Bar’s 69th president, and West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer will be become the Bar’s president-elect. She’ll assume the presidency next June. The Bar is charged with regulating the state’s 104,000 licensed attorneys.

“Pam Bondi’s net worth rises to $1.7 million, report shows” via Florida PoliticsAttorney General Bondi has reported her latest net worth at nearly $1.7 million, according to her 2016 financial disclosure filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics. Her net worth now has risen from the $1.4 million reported in 2015 and from the almost $781,000 she reported for 2012, the earliest disclosure still publicly available on the commission’s website. Bondi’s reported worth was a little over $472,000 in 2010 when she first ran for office. Her net worth jumped significantly in 2013 after she inherited from the estate of her father, Joseph Bondi, an author, educator and former Temple Terrace mayor. He died that January.

“Personnel note: Karl Rasmussen leaving Governor’s Office” via Florida PoliticsRasmussen, Gov. Scott’s deputy chief of staff, is departing the Governor’s Office for a lobbying job at the Meenan Law Firm, name partner Tim Meenan confirmed Friday … Rasmussen, a deputy chief of staff since late 2014, will focus his lobbying efforts in some of the same subject areas he now covers for the governor, including environment and health care, according to Meenan … “What clients look for are effective solutions to their problems,” (he) said. “I think Karl bolsters our ability to really reach into a large number of state agencies and the Legislature.” Rasmussen begins as a government consultant for the firm on June 28.

Personnel note: Ryan Duffy joining U.S. Sugar” via Florida Politics – Ryan Duffy, who joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies after serving as former House Speaker Will Weatherford‘s spokesman, now will be heading to U.S. Sugar as its Director of Corporate Communications, the company announced Friday.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Fred Dickinson, Erik Kirk, Will McKinley, PooleMcKinley: Gigamon, Inc.

— ALOE —

What Laura Jolly is reading –Former Delaware TV sports journalist, ex-Clearwater mayor Brian Aungst recognized by Phillies” via Meghan Montemurro of the Delaware News Journal – A John Dickinson High School grad and former Wilmington University baseball player, Aungst‘s journey took him from Delaware to Florida. It was there, as Clearwater’s mayor for six years (1999-05), Aungst was instrumental in the city’s economical development and facilitating the partnership between Clearwater, Pinellas County and the Phillies in the building of what is now known as Spectrum Field. Aungst and his wife of 41 years, Karen, were recognized before Friday’s Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park as Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater for 2017. Aungst, 63, fired a strike to the Phillie Phanatic as Karen, who is battling brain cancer, looked on. They were chosen by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce for their highest honor.

Greyhound races are a thing of the past. Here’s why Florida still hasn’t learned that.” via Duncan Strauss of The Washington Post – Florida is an outlier. The state is home to 12 of those greyhound tracks, which keep hosting races even as crowds and profits dwindle. When Atascocita Laden crossed the finish line, only about 20 spectators were trackside. The Palm Beach Kennel Club and its peers collectively lose about $30 million each year on dog racing … This confounding situation is the result of a weird wrinkle in Florida law that requires the tracks to offer dog racing to operate their highly lucrative card rooms. The Florida legislature, seeking to limit the number of card rooms statewide, passed a statute in 1997 that stipulated licenses would go only to existing “pari-mutuel” betting facilities — horse tracks, jai alai courts and, yes, dog tracks. The result is that the 7,000 or so racing greyhounds in Florida are running merely to keep the poker tables full. These days, the Palm Beach Kennel Club — a sprawling compound that also features simulcasts of horse racing held elsewhere, an enormous poker room, two restaurants and multiple concession stands — offers 15 dog races daily, with an additional 15 Friday and Saturday nights. On that Sunday, the grandstand above Atascocita Laden was a vast sea of empty seats, but the poker-room tables were packed.

Old Florida never gets old” via Vereen Bell Jr. of Garden & Gun – The high point of a day of fishing out of Shell Island Fish Camp … has always been the going out, past the convergence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers, both icy cold and spring fed, past the no-wake zone into the open spread of the river between the marshes where the guide kicks the big Yamaha into high gear and you are planing across dark silken water, the sun rising to the left behind the St. Marks lighthouse, flights of brown pelicans headed for work ahead of you, ospreys already out looping and circling and searching, a bald eagle hunched on an oyster bar, at once insouciant and wary as you pass. The smell of salt air abruptly becomes richer as you approach the open water and then peel off into the east or west flats of Apalachee Bay … Shell Island — the heart and soul of it — exists pretty much as it has since the early 1950s … Shell Island is and always has been a family business, so naturally they say that when you come there, you become family, too. It’s a place where you feel thousands and thousands of people’s memories to be floating around in the air visiting each other. But it’s also a place where memory can be suspended, and you are just there, free of anxiety and attachment for the time being. And you start thinking about those cabins under the live oaks, and of porch swings and Adirondack chairs.

The Shell Island Fish Camp. Photo credit: Alicia Osborne.

Happy birthday belatedly to Brett Doster, Toby Philpot and Donna Main. Celebrating today is the great Lyndsey Brzozowski of Bascom Communications and Consulting and our man in Jacksonville, A.G. Gancarski.

Epilogue: Randy Fine explains to colleagues why he dropped out of Speaker’s race

Rep. Randy Fine has officially dropped out of the Speaker’s race, telling his colleagues he would rather be a “member of a unified team than the leader of a fractured one.”

In a lengthy email to his classmates Friday night, the Brevard County Republican explained why initially got into the Speaker’s race and why — with just two weeks until the June 30 vote — he was dropping that bid.

“A large part of the reason I decided to run is that in my 20+ year business career, I’ve always operated inclusive, collaborative, empowered teams, and it was something I wanted to see in the Florida House. I didn’t want to be the ruler, and I didn’t want to be ruled. I spent a lot of time running under the old rules, and in fact, spent significant amounts of my own money helping many of you, and raised $100,000 of additional money that went to your campaigns directly. Make no mistake – I wanted to be Speaker, but even more importantly, if I was going to spend the next eight years doing this, I wanted to be part of a great team,” he wrote in email, obtained by

“But my thought process started to change a few months ago, and in fact, I know the actual date – April 12th. On that day, just halfway into our first session, I saw what I thought was great camaraderie and class spirit rent by an effort that ended up dividing the class in two. Our group has not been the same since, and we all know it. We can’t even seem to keep our emails to ourselves.”

The race, which had been largely been happening behind the scenes, shot into the limelight in April, after state Rep. Alex Miller sent a text message to Rep. Joe Gruters that essential said the race was narrowing to a choice between Rep. Ralph Massullo and Rep. James Grant.

Gruters altered Rep. Paul Renner, who then then called a meeting, which was attended by about 15 members of the 27-member freshman GOP class, to address his colleagues about his interest in the Speaker’s race. Supporters of Renner believed Miller’s text might have violated new GOP rules, which prohibit soliciting support for a leadership contender.

Grant and Renner are considered the leading contenders for the Speaker’s race. Reps. Byron Donalds and Erin Grall have also announced their candidacy.

Fine said as the June 30 vote approaches, he became “increasingly concerned that the absence of clear rules to establish a winner that all of us could buy into — which I would note that we still do not have — we would become a fractured class, with a protracted Speaker’s Race, where no one, at least for some time, could get a majority.”

“I’m not interested in being part of that,” he wrote. “I’d rather be a member of a unified team than the leader of a fractured one.”

Fine said there were personal considerations to his decision as well. He said he misses his family, and the time away has “taken a real toll on our family.”

“My oldest is nine, but will be 16 at the end of our eight years. How much of those precious years do I want to miss? Those of you who know me know that my life revolves around the twin suns (or sons) of Jacob and David,” he wrote. “And I’m definitely not interested in spending time away from them to participate in a class fratricide.”

Fine also wrote that the family’s home was destroyed in October by Hurricane Matthew and the ensuing weather. While they had hoped it could be repaired quickly, Fine said it appears the house will need to be torn down, redesigned and entirely rebuilt.

“I believe God has a plan for each of us, and to a large degree, I believe His decision to put us through this dislocation was a message,” he wrote. “So I have decided to step away from it. I’m not going to call for us not to have a secret ballot, or attempt to call the question, or anything of the kind. I also believe that if it is over – if we want any shot of returning to an April 11th world – we should pull together. We should put Team over self.”

Fine did not disclose in his email who he planned to support in the Speaker’s race, saying he didn’t “want there to be any hint that I’m trying to influence anyone else to do anything they think is best.” On Friday, reported Fine is likely to support Renner for Speaker.

“I know there is a lot to process, but as we look to get together in a few weeks, I hope it can be in the spirit of unification,” wrote Fine.

Florida Democrats raise more than $1 million from weekend gala as they eye 2018 opportunities

The Florida Democratic Party is wrapping up a successful weekend after having hosted their annual Leadership Blue Gala at the Westin Diplomat.

This year’s Leadership Blue Gala raised over $1 million dollars with over 1300 attendees.

“I am thrilled to announce that the Florida Democratic Party raised over $1 million at our annual Leadership Blue Gala. 1300 people attended to join Democrats from across the state as we continued our mission to turn Florida blue. Vice President Biden capped off a successful weekend with an unprecedented program and wildly successful fundraising.” said FDP Chair Stephen Bittel.

Florida Democrats hosted dozens of speakers, meetings and forums this weekend before the Saturday evening gala headlined by Senator Bill Nelson and Vice President Joe Biden.


Takeaways from Tallahassee — Pulse killings bump up Florida’s murder stats

Couched in the latest crime statistics is a sobering reality: “The attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando helped drive up Florida’s murder rate in 2016 to its highest level since 2008.”

The Associated Press noted that fact as Gov. Rick Scott trumpeted this week that “Florida’s crime rate is now at a 46-year low,” according to a press release.

“Statewide there were 1,108 murders, including the 49 who were fatally shot last June at the Pulse nightclub,” the AP reported.

Scott did note the Pulse tragedy in his statement: “In 2016, Florida’s law enforcement was tested like never before…

“From the horrific terror attack at Pulse Nightclub to Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew, Florida’s men and women in uniform have answered the call,” he said. “I want to thank all of our law enforcement for putting their lives on the line to keep Florida’s families safe. Our state’s continuously decreasing crime rate is a reminder of the dedication and hard work Florida’s law enforcement officers show every day.”

Monday marked the one-year anniversary of a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead and dozens others injured. The attack on the nightclub helped drive up Florida’s murder rate to the highest levels since 2008. (Photo via Scott Powers.)

He went on to note the “more than $4.9 billion in public safety in the Fighting for Florida’s Future budget.”

“This investment includes a pay increase to support Florida’s sworn law enforcement officers, a comprehensive pay plan for correctional officers that will make Florida’s prisons safer, re-entry program funding that will reduce recidivism and increased funding for prevention programs targeting at-risk youth,” the governor said.

But even without the Pulse shooting, the AP reported, “the number of murders would have been up slightly from 2015, when 1,040 people were murdered.”

Add this: “The number of murders caused by firearms was also up — even without the Pulse shootings. In 2015, firearms were used in 767 murders. That increased to 847 in 2016.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

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

“Victory is mine” — A few days after the end of a three-day Special Session, Gov. Scott hit the road, crisscrossing the state as part of a five-city “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory Tour.” Scott touted the Legislature’s decision to increase spending for K-12 public education, fully fund Visit Florida, and set aside $85 million for a newly created Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, his one-time legislative foe, at his side for several stops. “None of this would have happened without the support of the speaker who worked hard all session,” said Scott; while Corcoran said it was “great to partner with the governor.” Senate President Joe Negron didn’t tag along on the tour. A spokeswoman for the Stuart Republican said he had already departed for a prior commitment in California before the scheduled was finalized, but looked forward to “attending future events with the Governor and Speaker Corcoran to discuss the important accomplishments of the 2017 Session.”

Gov. Rick Scott touted his legislative victories, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran by his side, during a one-day, multi-city tour this week. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

You win some —  After weeks of saying he was reviewing a wide-sweeping education bill (HB 7069), Gov. Scott signed the measure just four days after the House sent it to him for his consideration. The controversial bill, among other things, steers more public money to privately run charter schools, requires recess in elementary schools, makes changes to the state’s standardized testing system, and sets aside money for teacher and principal bonuses. The measure was a top priority for House Speaker Corcoran, who said the so-called “Schools of Hope” provision would transform the state’s schools. The legislation was sharply criticized, with school superintendents and other public school advocates calling on the governor to veto it. This law will significantly hurt our public education system, rather than providing our teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed,” said Rep. Shevrin Jones, the ranking Democratic member on the House Education Committee, in a statement.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a wide-sweeping education bill during a stop in Orlando this week. The controversial measure was a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran. (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

You lose some — While a top priority for Speaker Corcoran got a thumbs up this week, Senate President Negron wasn’t so lucky. Gov. Scott vetoed a wide-sweeping higher education bill (SB 374) that he said “impedes the ability of state colleges to meet the needs of the communities and families they serve.” The bill, among other things, enhanced policy and funding options for state universities to “recruit and retain exemplary faculty, enhance the quality of professional and graduate schools, and upgrade facilities and research infrastructure.” It also restructured the governance of the Florida College System and modified “the mission of the system and its institutions.” Scott said the legislation, a top priority for Negron, impedes the State College System’s mission by capping the enrollment level of baccalaureate degrees and unnecessarily increasing red tape.” Negron said he fundamentally disagreed with the idea that the bill made “positive changes to our universities at the expense of Florida’s community colleges.”

Some the courts decide – The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause asked the state Supreme Court to issue a ‘writ of quo warranto’ against the governor, claiming he doesn’t have authority to appoint three new justices on the last day of his term. Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name the replacements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince. They face mandatory retirement on the same day—Jan. 8, 2019—that is Scott’s last in office as governor. The lawsuit says Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day all three retire, and their terms last till midnight. Later in the week, Scott was given till July 5 to file a response.

It’s a law — Gov. Scott signed a slew of bills into law this week, including a measure (SB 90) that implements the 2016 solar tax break constitutional amendment. Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, it expands the definition of renewable energy source devices and, among other things, exempts renewable energy devices from tangible personal property taxes. He also signed a bill (SB 494) championed by former Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner (and sponsored this year by Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Bobby DuBose) that would allow more people wrongfully convicted and imprisoned to be compensated by the state; a bill (SB 1018) to increase public notification of pollution incidents; a bill (HB 493) directing the Department of Transportation to study the viability and cost of creating a statewide system for the designation of safe school crossing locations;  and a bill (SB 398) capping fees and revising the requirements for issuing estoppel certificates. Scott also signed into law a measure (HB 477) aimed at combatting the state’s opioid crisis. The law, among other things, enhances penalties for fentanyl abuse and its derivatives. “This legislation was my top priority this session—because it gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools we need to combat the trafficking of fentanyl and save lives,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi.

SPF K-12

Parents of fair-skinned kiddos, rejoice! Sunscreen is now allowed at school.

Tucked into the wide-sweeping education bill signed into law by Gov. Scott this week was a provision that allowed students to “possess and use a topical sunscreen product while on school property or at a school-sponsored event without a physician’s note or prescription.” The sunscreen, according to the provision, must be regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration for over-the-counter use.

The Governor’s decision to sign the bill into law means Florida is now the fifth state to adopt similar measures that aim to make sure children are protected from sun exposure while in school. The proposal — which was similar to ones adopted by Alabama, Arizona, Utah and Washington — have been backed by the American Dermatologic Surgery Association and the Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery.

“Creating a culture of sun-safe behavior in our youth is an important part of how we can reduce the risk of skin cancer,” said Dr. Thomas E. Rohrer, the president of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association, in a statement. “As dermatologic surgeons, we must help the public understand the real risks of excessive sun exposure and how to mitigate them.”

According to the ASDSA, the provision is needed because some schools across the nation require children to bring a prescription in order to bring and use sunscreen. The ASDSA worked with multiple agencies, including the American Medical Association, to show why the provision was needed.

“Increasing access to sunscreen in our schools is an important step in the uphill battle against skin cancer,” said Dr. Terrence Cronin, Jr., the president of the FSDDS and the state affairs chair for the ASDSA. We must continue to be proactive in our efforts to lessen the risks associated with harmful sun exposure.”

Skimmer crack down

You can breathe a sigh of relief next time you head to the gas pump.

Gov. Scott signed a bill (HB 343) into law recently that updates Florida statutes to enhance protections from new methods of credit card theft.

Sponsored by Rep. Robert Asencio, measure, which goes into effect Oct. 1, identifies the scanning and skimming devices used by criminals to steal consumer information and conduct credit card fraud. It also criminalizes fraudulent activities, and aims to protect Floridians who rely on the safe use of their credit cards.

“Credit card fraud and identity theft are too common in our state,” said the Miami Democrat in a statement. “This legislation will update our laws to keep up with the underhanded methods of criminals and ensure they are held accountable for their actions.”

By the numbers

Two thousand cupcakes. Sixty-six new members. One vote.

Those are just a few of the big numbers from the 2017 Legislative Session, at least according to Moore Communications Group. The statewide communications agency released its annual “other” session wrap-up, which looks at a few of the other capital city watchers might have missed while they were watching all the action the floor.

Take for instance the number of cupcakes handed out on Epilepsy Awareness Day. According to MCG, the folks behind Epilepsy Awareness Day handed out purple cupcakes on April 18.

(Graphic via Moore Consulting Group)

Feb. 23 was the busiest day in LobbyTools history, according to the MCG analysis, with 1,082 individual bill actions added to the system within 24 hours.

In the age of social media, it’s no surprise that Moore Communications has the lowdown on the number of tweets sent this session. According to MCG, there were 51,208 tweets sent about the 2017 Legislative Session.

Welcome to the board

There’s a few new members of the Board of Occupational Therapy Practice.

Gov. Scott announced this week that he appointed Dr. Daniel Calvo and Tameka German to the Board of Occupational Therapy Practice, which oversees the licensure and regulation of occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants.

Calvo, a 39-year-old from Lakeland, is the regional consultant of clinical services for Accelerate Care Plus. He fills a vacant post, and was appointed to a term ending Oct. 31, 2017.

German, a 39-year-old from Tallahassee, is the owner of Premier Therapy Services. She succeeds Tammy McKenzie, and was appointed to a term ending Oct. 31, 2020.

Both appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Congratulations, Mr. President (and Madame President-elect)

You might want to start calling Michael Higer “Mr. President.”

Higer, a partner on Berger Singerman’s dispute resolution team, will be sworn in as the 69th president of The Florida Bar when the bar holds its annual convention in Boca Raton next weekend.

Higher is a member of the Bar’s Board of Governors, and serves on its executive committee. He is a former chairman of the Bar’s Business Law Section, and served as the chair of Bar’s special committee on gender bias, which recently issued a 12-point plan to address bias and promote inclusion.

Born in Miami Beach, Higer got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law. He joined Berger Singerman in 2015, after stints at Jacobsen Schwartz Nash Block & England; Coll Davidson Carter Smith Salter & Bartkett; and striking out on his own to form Higer Lichter & Givner.

The Bar will also swear in Michelle Suskauer as the president-elect during its annual convention. Suskauer will take the reins in June 2018.

Money for an apprentice

Rep. Asencio is hoping he and Gov. Scott can find common ground in the governor’s favorite four letter word — J-O-B-S.

The Miami Democrat is asking Scott to set aside $12.75 million from the $85 million in the newly created Florida Jobs Growth Grant Fund for apprenticeship programs. The request is similar to an amendment proposed by Asencio during the three-day special session earlier this month, which would have set aside money for an apprenticeship program.

Rep. Robert Asencio is asking Gov. Rick Scott to set aside $12.75 million for apprenticeship programs. The request is similar to an amendment proposed by Asencio during the three-day special session. (Photo via the Associated Press)

“The Governor will soon have the final version of the bill on his desk and the ability to allocate funds to invest in our youth and our entire state’s future,” said Asencio in a statement. “From South Florida, to the Space Coast, to even the White House, everyone is laser-focused on the incredible benefits apprenticeship programs will have on our country’s working families. We cannot afford to let this opportunity pass us by.”

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that cut back the federal government’s role in creating and monitoring apprenticeship programs. The order also doubled the amount of money for apprenticeship grants to $200 million a year, up from about $90 million a year.

“I call on Governor Scott to allocate $12.75 million, the amount my amendment intended to provide for apprenticeship programs, from the $85 million in discretionary funds in Florida tax dollars,” said Asencio. “This will help not only hundreds of people in South Florida, but many more across the entire state through public-private partnerships. It’s time we invest in working Floridians and give them the opportunity to better themselves and our state.”

Celebrating a golden anniversary

The Florida Bar is raising a glass to more than 250 attorneys who have dedicated 50 years to the practice of law.

The Bar will honor 254 attorneys during luncheon at The Florida Bar Annual Convention at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. In order to be recognized, attorney need to be members in good standing of the Florida Bar, active or inactive, and attain their 50th anniversary of admittance to the practice of law in 2017.

Honorees include Baya Harrison III, Stewart Parsons, Peter Spriggs, and Barry Richard.

As our Jim Rosica once wrote about him for The Tampa Tribune, Richard “is one of the Greenberg Traurig law firm’s powerhouses, perhaps most notable for representing then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential-election challenge in Florida. But (he) also represented the defendant in a dispute over royalties lodged by funk-music legend George Clinton in Tallahassee federal court.”

Richard now represents the Seminole Tribe of Florida in its fight over blackjack with the state, and the Florida Lottery in its court battle against House Speaker Richard Corcoran over a $700 million contract for new equipment.

Richard is married to Allison Tant, the former head of the Florida Democratic Party.

High fives all around

Work it — You’d be hard pressed to call this millennial lazy.

Gov. Scott presented Joe Sleppy with the Young Entrepreneur Award during the Cabinet meeting this week. Scott honored the 21-year-old for his work to create Capacitech Energy, an Orlando-based technology company. Founded in 2016, Capacitech Energy is focused on helping power electronic manufacturing companies reduce the size and cost of their products.

“It’s exciting to see a young entrepreneur pursue his passion for technology and build a small business in Florida,” said Scott. “Joe’s hard work and dedication lands him on the path for continued growth and future success.”

Scott also presented Partners in Association Management with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award. Founded in 1998, the Tallahassee-based company provides management services to state, regional and national associations.

Creating a sanctuary — Kelly Kowall created a sanctuary for families in need.

Five years later, she’s being honored for the help she’s provided to so many others.

Gov. Scott and Volunteer Florida CFO Chester Spellman presented Kowall with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award during the Cabinet meeting this week. Kowall, the founder and president of My Warrior’s Place in Ruskin, received the award for her work to help families who are mourning the loss of a veteran or first responder.

“Volunteer Florida is honored to recognize Kelly for her invaluable work to provide members of the military, veterans, and military families with a place to recover from traumatic events or the loss of a loved one,” said Spellman.

Kelly Kowall, the founder of My Warrior’s Place, was recognized for her work to “help those who are mourning the loss” of a veteran or first responder. (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

My Warrior’s Place was founded in 2012 after Kowall’s son, Army Specialist Corey Kowall, died in Afghanistan in 2009. The Ruskin retreat is a sanctuary that provides reprieve and support services for veterans, active-duty military members, first responders, and Blue, Silver, and Gold Star families grieving over losses or recovering from PTSD. Trained instructors and assistants teach multiple grief and bereavement coping mechanisms, including referrals to resources for continued progress outside of the retreat. The retreat has provided service to more than 5,000 individuals.

“I’d like to thank Kelly for her selfless service to help those who are mourning the loss of our brave and courageous veterans and first responders,” said Scott. “I applaud her continued efforts to honor the lives of our veterans, and provide a place for families and friends to find peace through their grieving process.”

Thanks, teach — The school year has come to an end, but that didn’t stop Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet from tipping their hats to a group of educators this week.

Scott presented seven educators with the Governor’s Shine Award during the Cabinet meeting. The award is presented to teachers and administrators in Florida who make significant contributions to the field of education.

“The hard work and commitment of these outstanding educators has been recognized in their schools and districts and I’m proud to present them with the Governor’s Shine Award,” said Scott. “I applaud their dedication to ensuring students across Florida are prepared for success in college and a future career.”

All of the teachers honored this week were the 2017 District Teachers of the Year and the 2018 State Teacher of the Year finalists.

Scott recognized Latrece Brown of Duval County, Katelyn Fiori of Indian River County, Juan “Diego” Fuentes of Martin County, Janeen Gibson of Hardee County, Tammy Ross Jerkins of Lake County, Lyndita Saunders of Collier County, and Kristen White of Santa Rosa County.

Advocacy honored — For more than two decades Ben Ritter has worked on behalf of veterans with disabilities. And this week, Gov. Scott took a minute to give Ritter a round of applause for his service.

Scott presented Ritter, a former non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps., with the Governor’s Medal of Merit during the Cabinet meeting this week. Scott, a Navy veteran, thanked Ritter for his service and his “commitment to advocating for veterans and citizens with disabilities.”

“Ben’s dedication to improving the lives of those with disabilities is humbling,” said Scott. “I’m honored to present him with the Medal of Merit today for his service and positive impact on the lives of countless Floridians.”

Ben Ritter was honored by Gov. Rick Scott for his work on behalf of disabled veterans. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

Ritter lost the use of his legs during an unsuccessful back operation in 1988. In 1997, be began working in Tampa representing veterans with disabilities, serving as the government relations director for the Florida Gulf Coast Paralyzed Veterans of America from 1997 until 2012 and as an American Disabilities Act Consultant to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

Ritter currently serves as on the Hillsborough County Veterans Council, is co-chairman of the Tampa Mayor’s Alliance for Persons with Disabilities, and is a member of the local Military Officers Association of America Chapter and Hillsborough County Alliance for Citizens with Disabilities.

“Ben’s passionate advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities is well known and respected in Florida’s veteran community,” said Lt. Col. Glenn Sutphin, the executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “His tireless efforts to help drivers with disabilities resulted in Florida’s gasoline stations displaying their phone numbers on gas pumps for pumping assistance.”

Financial clarity

Students heading to college fall will have a little better understanding about their financial future, thanks to a new law signed into law this week.

Gov. Scott signed a bill (SB 396), sponsored by Sen. Dorothy Hukill and Sen. Aaron Bean, that requires colleges and universities to provide students with financial information about their student loan debt.

“An affordable education allowed me and my family to live the American dream, so ensuring that every Florida student understands the costs of higher education is very important to me,” said Scott in a statement. “This bill is another step in the right direction and builds on our college affordability bill enacted in last year and our fight to hold the line on tuition, making it possible for more students to get a great education in Florida.

Under the law, which goes into effect July 1, schools are required to annually provide students with an estimate of the total amount a student has borrowed in student loans; the student’s potential loan repayment amount; an estimate of the monthly loan payment amount; and the percentage of the borrowing limit the student has reached at the time the information was provided.

“Student loan debt is growing every second and every second students are putting themselves further into debt for their education,” said Hukill in a statement. “Our students need to be as informed about their debt and what it will cost over the life of the loan as they would be when they buy a car or a house.”


Working together — When it comes to a workforce development, it’s all about collaboration.

That’s the idea Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, wanted to get across during the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Learners to Earners education summit this week. The annual conference aims to connect the state’s business community, workforce professionals and education leaders to talk about ways to prepare Florida students for the future.

Proctor said while it is important for students to continue their education, the “responsibility doesn’t fall on students alone.” She encouraged employers to make investments in training, have conversations about what degree programs are working for them, and what type of opportunities they can provide to meet the needs for the jobs of the future.

“We know there are many paths to prosperity,” she said. “Getting a great education is step one.”

The future is now — Mary O’Hara-Devereaux had a message for educators and business leaders this week: Stop talking about the future like it’s something that is still to come.

“I think it’s very important for leaders to remember the future is already here, it’s not just evenly distributed,” said O’Hara-Devereaux, the CEO of Global Foresight, a think tank and strategic consulting firm. “2030 is only 12 years away. The changes that are out there are huge. We will have more disruption in the next 12 years, more advances in the next 12 years than in the past 20 years.”

As one of the nation’s leading futurists, O’Hara-Devereaux has been featured on Bloomberg TV, Fox, and NPR. During her speech to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Earners and Learners summit this week, O’Hara-Devereaux talked about the laws of the future she bases her ideas off of.

Those laws include if “something big is going to happen, it’s got to start some time,” and “how will you live.”

Extraordinary contributions honored —Education Commissioner Pam Stewart tipped her hat to more than three dozen Florida business this week for their contributions to public education in the Sunshine State.

Stewart presented 44 companies with the Commissioner’s Business Recognition Award during the Florida Chamber Foundation’s annual Learners to Earners Summit this week.

“I am pleased to present these businesses with the Commissioner’s Business Recognition Award as a token of our appreciation for their ongoing support,” said Stewart in a statement. “Strong partnerships between the education and business communities are essential to student success, and I hope more businesses will take advantage of this mutually beneficial opportunity.”

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart speaks during the Florida Chamber Foundation Learners to Earners Education Summit. (Photo by Colin Hackley/Florida Chamber Foundation)

Stewart highlighted several companies during her presentation, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, which has invested $6 million into its five-year “Build the Thunder Program.” Through the program, the Lightning donates hockey gear to underprivileged children and seeks to teach them critical life skills.

Stewart also highlighted The Green Bag Project, which is supported by Lowe’s and helps to ensure students in need in Osceola County have food when school is out, like during holiday breaks and on weekends.

She also applauded Ajax Building Corporation’s working in Pinellas County, which has dedicated more than $1 million in time, labor and resources to transform a vacant school building into The Starting Right Now facility, which serves homeless and unaccompanied youth.

Make it affordable

A new law could help promote affordable housing in Florida.

Gov. Scott signed a bill (HB 421) this week that extends the use of self-insurance funds to public housing entities with interest in public housing housing investments. The law, which goes into effect July 1, authorizes a variety of companies to join the same self-insurance fund as the authority that owns or governs them.

“Working to find solutions that will make more affordable housing opportunities available for Florida’s working families is imperative to strengthening our state’s economy and communities,” said Rep. Sean Shaw, who sponsored the legislation in the House. “This important piece of legislation will give Floridians a chance to begin planning a path to economic security. I’m proud to have been a part of building consensus across party lines to help strengthen families across our state and I thank the governor for signing it into law.”

One stop pick-up

Need to pick up a bunch of prescriptions? Have no fear, soon might be able to do it all in one stop.

Under a bill (SB 800) signed into law by Gov. Scott his week, health insurers would be prohibited from denying patients the ability to receive a partial refill of a prescription if they choose to enroll in a medical synchronization program through their pharmacy. The law, sponsored by Sen. Doug Broxson and House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, will allow more patients to synchronize their prescriptions.

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz talks with House Speaker Richard Corcoran during the 2017 Legislative Session. Cruz sponsored legislation, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott this week, that allows more patients to synchronize their prescriptions (Photo by Colin Hackley.)

The lack of synchronization in prescription fill dates has been identified as one of the major contributors to medication non-adherence. That can lead to poor health outcomes for patients, and an estimated $300 billion a year in avoidable costs to the U.S. health care system, according to Cruz’s office.

“This new law is an invaluable tool for elderly and chronically ill patients in Florida who find it burdensome to make multiple trips to the pharmacy each month,” said Cruz. “Medication synchronization will lead to better health outcomes and longer lives for thousands of Floridians who are in need of continuing care.”

Summer #SuitsForSession

Remember those suits you donated to during the 2017 Legislative Session? Volunteer Florida wants you to know what happened to them.

The statewide volunteer organization announced it plans to spend the summer highlighting the individuals who were impacted by the #SuitsForSession Capitol service project.

“By highlighting the stories of people across Florida who were personally impacted by #SuitsForSession, we hope to spark a discussion about ways in which the private sector, public sector, and volunteers can innovate to help job-seekers gain self-sufficiency,” said Volunteer Florida CFO Chester Spellman in a statement “Entering or re-entering the workforce can be overwhelming, especially for those experiencing homelessness, health issues, or other challenges. Our goal is to support job-seekers by providing not only professional attire, but a sense of self-confidence.”

The annual clothing drive collected more than 3,200 items of new or gently-used professional attire, which was then sorted and distributed to Chapman Partnership in Miami, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, ECHO Outreach Ministries in Tallahassee, Bridges of America, and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program.

Chairwoman of the board

Kudos, Carol Dover!

The Florida Agriculture Center & Horse Park’s Board of Directors announced this week that it unanimously selected Dover, the president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, to serve as its chair. Dover, who has served on the board since its inception, will serve the remainder of the current term, which ends Dec. 31.

“Every challenge presents an opportunity, and as I serve in this new role, I’m determined to reinvigorate our stakeholders, promote a positive workplace culture, and maintain fiscal responsibility and transparency,” said Dover in a statement. “As a passionate equestrian, I’m excited to work together with our local and state partners to effectively promote FHP as the premier venue for agricultural, equine, and community events.”

The 500-acre multi-purpose facility is located in Ocala-Marion County and provides a world class setting for equestrian events throughout the year. The center includes a 79,500-square-foot all weather arena, seven regulation dressage arenas, and over 100 obstacles and stabling.

Dover has served as the president and CEO of the FRLA since July 1995.

Art City, USA

Tallahassee residents love art — or at least they love shopping for it.

That’s according to a report from Artfinder, an online marketplace, which looked at the art buying habits across the United States. The recent report found Tallahassee was the No. 1 art buying city, with 1,303 pieces of art bought per million inhabitants in 2016.

“We are now seeing a new generation and a new kind of art buyer emerging,” said Artfinder CEO Jonas Almgren in a statement. “Our audience are typically younger than those who buy from galleries, and they don’t necessarily classify themselves as ‘collectors’ — they’re not buying for investment, they’re buying because they want something handmade by a real person on their wall, something no one else has got.”

New Haven, Conn. ranked No. 2 on the Artfinder list, followed by Anaheim, Calif. in the No. 3 spot. Tampa came in fourth with 789 pieces of art bought per million inhabitants in 2016; and and Raleigh, North Carolina rounded out the Top 5. Miami landed in the Top 10 with 620 pieces of art bought per million inhabitants in 2016, according to the Artfinder research.

Vacation state of mind

Floridians are ready for a vacation.

A new survey from AAA – The Auto Club showed 67 percent of Floridians are planning to take at least one vacation this summer. The survey found that a majority of travelers are planning at least on vacation ranging from three to eight days, and about 21 percent of Floridians are taking a vacation longer than 21 days.

“The summer travel season kicked off with the most Memorial Day travelers in 12 years,” said Vicky Evans, the assistant vice president of travel sales development for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “So far this year, AAA has also seen tremendous growth in travel bookings, compared to last year. This survey suggests that momentum will continue, creating the busiest summer travel season in more than a decade.”

About 30 percent of Floridians said they feel better about taking a vacation this year, compared to last. The report found 67 percent of Floridians said they’ll be heading to the lake or beach, 51 percent will be making their way to theme parks, and 41 percent are planning to go on ocean cruises.

Water world

Diver down — As scallop season approaches and more people hit the water, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to make sure Floridians stay safe diving this summer.

FWC officials are reminding Floridians to use a divers-down warning device whenever they are snorkeling or scuba diving.

A divers-down flag displayed on a boat must be at least 20-inches by 24-inches and displayed at a high point, where it can be observed from 360 degrees around the vessel. All divers must prominently display a divers-down devices in the area in which the diving occurs.

Diving? Make sure you use a dive flag to alert boaters. (Photo via FWC)

The FWC is also reminding boaters that vessels should make a reasonable effort to stay at least 100 feet away from a divers-down device within a river, inlet or channel. In open waters, vessels need to make a reasonable effort to stay 300 feet away. Divers should stay within the same distance of their displayed vehicle.

“Divers share the responsibility of boating safety with the boat operators,” said Capt. Tom Shipp with FWC’s boating and waterways section. “Diving without the divers-down symbol displayed or using it for reasons other than to inform others of the presence of divers is unlawful.”

The 2017 recreational scallop season for Dixie and parts of Taylor counties opened Friday and remains open through Sept. 10.

More snapper please — Love snapper? You now have more time to snag yourself some fresh fish for dinner.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced an additional 39-day season for recreational snapper fishing in Gulf of Mexico federal waters. The extended season is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Monday, Sept. 4, and includes Monday, July 3 and Tuesday, July 4 and Monday, Sept. 4.

“This major expansion of the federal red snapper season is great news for every community along Florida’s Gulf Coast. The red snapper season helps drive our economy and this extension will allow families and visitors to take advantage of red snapper fishing opportunities during Father’s Day and Fourth of July weekends,” said Gov. Scott. “I encourage every Floridian and visitor to get out on the water to enjoy Florida’s world-class fishing.”

A red snapper caught on a tagging trip off the waters of Panama City. (Photo via FWC)

This marks the longest Gulf federal red snapper season since 2013.

“An extended federal Gulf red snapper season will have a tremendous positive economic impact on Florida’s coastal communities, which depend on our state’s $9.6 billion sportfishing industry,” said Gary Jennings, director of Keep Florida Fishing, in a statement. “We appreciate efforts to expand access to our fisheries, and we will continue to push for improvements to federal management of recreational fishing.”

Here’s this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Paul Renner on cusp of winning 2022-24 House Speaker’s race

Jacksonville Republican Paul Renner could be on the cusp of winning an intra-party contest to determine who will serve as House Speaker beginning in 2022.

The first-term state Representative currently commands a majority of his 26 colleague’s votes, after Melbourne’s Randy Fine put aside his own bid to be Speaker on Friday and decided to take on the role of kingmaker.

“If the race is over, we should wrap it up for the betterment and unity of our class,” Fine told

Fine is now likely to support Renner when the House GOP freshman caucus convenes June 30 to select a leader.

To reach the conclusion about the state of the race, interviewed no less than 18 members of the freshman class, as well as reviewed a cache of member-to-member emails and text messages provided to the media organization by several different members.

Supporters of Jamie Grant, Renner’s chief rival for the Speaker’s post, dispute this count and contend that neither candidate has the support of a majority of the class. They add that Grant actually has more definitive votes in his pocket than Renner.

FP readily admits that this is but a snapshot of the current state of the race. Members have nearly two weeks to change their minds. And current House leadership, said to be partial to Grant, could intervene in an attempt to persuade members to back the Tampa Republican.

The GOP has a commanding majority in the Florida House, so whoever among the freshman class emerges as its leader is likely to become Speaker, beginning in 2022.

Whether the race is definitely decided or still up in the air, it is a remarkable turnaround for Renner who, only six weeks ago, was “on the ropes,” according to a report by POLITICO Florida.

In April, Renner called a meeting that was attended by about 15 members of the 27-member freshman GOP class. During the meeting, Renner reportedly addressed his colleagues about his interest in the Speaker’s race, which had lost some momentum since some of his backers lost their primaries in August.

But since then, Renner has rallied and Grant’s efforts have stalled, despite the fact that one of Grant’s chief competitors for what is described as the “anti-Renner” bloc, Frank White, declared he was not interested in becoming Speaker.

Byron Donalds and Erin Grall have also declared they are running for the position, but neither is expected to garner enough support to make it past the early rounds of balloting scheduled to occur when the class is scheduled to meet in Central Florida.

Based on’s own whip count, Renner has the definitive support of Chuck Clemons, Joe Gruters, Don Hahnfeldt, Sam Killebrew, Tom Leek, Stan McClain, Bobby Payne, himself, Rick Roth, and Clay Yarborough (10 votes).

Grant can count on Cord Byrd, himself, Michael Grant, Amber Mariano, Ralph Massullo, Alex Miller, Jackie Toledo, Frank White, and Jayer Williamson (9 votes).

Fine’s support gives Renner 11 votes.

Jason Fischer says he will back Renner, making it 12.

Both sides also concede Bob Rommel is in Renner’s column. That’s 13 very likely votes for Renner.

In addition to his solid 9, Grant is counting on the support of Grall once she is eliminated on the first or second ballot.

This leaves Thad Altman, Donalds (after he is eliminated on the first or second ballot), Mel Ponder, and Cyndi Stevenson.

According to sources close to Altman and Fine, Altman will support Renner now that Fine is with the Jacksonville Republican.

Donalds is a complete unknown; one source says Donalds is ideologically aligned with Grant (they also point out that Grant’s patron, Speaker Richard Corcoran, recently appointed Donalds’ wife, Erika, to the Constitution Revision Commission), while another says there is no way that Donalds can vote for Grant after “Text-gate.”

In April, state Rep. Alex Miller sent a text to Gruters that essentially said the race was narrowing to a choice between Massullo and Grant.

Gruters alerted Renner to the text, which ultimately led to that April meeting to discuss his candidacy. Supporters of Renner believed her text might have violated new GOP rules, which prohibit soliciting support for a leadership contender. At the time, she said what she wrote did not violate the rules.

Ponder is thought to be with Grant because the three members from Northwest Florida —Ponder, White and Williamson — are thought to be moving together (Williamson even said as much) but the District 4 representative has told both Grant and Renner that has not reached a final decision. Neither camp is counting on his vote because they do not want to spook him to the other side.

The final vote of the four, Stevenson, has been the most mercurial, but sources close to both Fischer and Stevenson insist they are a package deal, and Fischer is definitely for Renner. A handful of members tell that they have received calls from Stevenson that they describe as in favor of Renner.

Handicapping the race this year is slightly more complicated because new rules prohibit members from directly or indirectly soliciting or accepting any “formal or informal pledge of support” prior to June 30. The class also has agreed to vote by secret ballot, doing away with the pledge card system.

Those members who can’t attend the June 30 vote will be able to cast their vote through some type of direct communication to either Rep. Larry Metz or Republican Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues.

It’s unclear how Adam Smith decided Andrew Gillum is Florida Democrats’ ‘best hope’

Tampa Bay Times’ political editor Adam Smith just declared Andrew Gillum the Democratic frontrunner for Governor.

Based on what?

Before I go one inch further, let me say this. Gillum may be the frontrunner. He is a thoughtful progressive and charismatic speaker and if he can turn the ship of his campaign around, he could be the star many people already think he is.

However, as we sit here today, June 16, 2017, it is really hard to say that he is the “Democrats’ best hope.”

This claim is made without regard to any polling numbers and with, as the story notes, a series of out-of-the-gate problems; a “Mostly False” PolitiFact finding, an email scandal, an open criminal investigation and elections complaints.

Pause for a moment and consider the following three kind-of-important things Smith does not reference:

  1. The story ran on the same day Gillum’s hometown paper lead with the headline, “Leon has highest crime rate.” (This story follows the headline from a few weeks back about how Gillum’s city likewise has a serious crime problem.) That’s not good.
  2. Gillum has raised the least amount of money of the three Democrats currently running and one, Graham, has only been in the race for a little over six weeks.
  3. Gillum has spent more than his opponents and is currently spending more than he is raising (his soft account just posted that he spent over $100,000 already this month while raising only $10,000.) That is simply unsustainable.

So, by what metric does Smith make the frontrunner claim? Polling? No. Money? Um, NO! Press? Way no.

The claim is based on Smith’s opinion that Gillum is charming, charismatic and has more endorsements than his opponents.

But here’s where the Smith column truly confounds me. He references that Gillum got caught fudging numbers, is under investigation, used tax dollars to send political emails and hasn’t exactly managed the press effectively (well, except the Times apparently loves him.)

Yet, THAT series of negatives puts him at the front of the pack. How does this even make sense?

Look, I’m not saying Gillum is dead-man-walking. It’s too soon to tell. And I’m not picking any winners or even front-runners at this early stage.

But it’s really – REALLY – hard to say he is the “best” of the crew.

Tempers flaring as Speaker’s race barrels to conclusion

A group of House Republicans reacted strongly to a story about the House Speaker’s race, with one calling it “a shameful tool,” according to emails provided to the media organization.

The post in question, wrote state Rep. Mike Grant, “suggested Rep. (Cord) Byrd would be targeted for a primary challenge based on his vote for Speaker.”

First, here’s what the story actually said:

“We understand that there is one holdout: Rep. Cord Byrd, a regional anomaly in his support for Jamie Grant. One assumes the donor class is watching which way Byrd goes on this one. Even though he’s in the deepest of deep red seats, only one man is going to win what looks like a binary Speaker’s race. And for Northeast Florida, there is but one choice.”

In any case, Grant took it as a call to action.

“(W)hile Rep. Byrd knows, as do all of us, that (the) House Majority would willingly spend any amount of money to thwart these types of cowardly political ploys, I wanted to make unequivocally clear to each and every member of our great class, that should any one challenge, or threaten you with a challenge, know that I will spend whatever it takes personally to see you through the Primary,” he wrote.

Rep. Joe Gruters responded, “I hope everyone would be willing to join your efforts in trying to protect all of our classmates both now and after this election for speaker.”

He added that Byrd nor “anyone else is going to get targeted in a primary as a result of the upcoming vote and we will be united as a class moving forward no matter who wins.”

Rep. Paul Renner weighed in: “I agree with Mike that targeting any member of our class is unacceptable. I am certain we will do whatever is needed to support our classmates against any election challenge.”

He said, “Cord and I attended an event together in which we raised over 260K, dedicated resources to make sure that every member of our class returns. Next week our regional delegation is coming together again to raise money for House Campaigns, which will protect all of our incumbent members.”

“I will continue to raise the funds necessary to ensure the re-election of our entire class,” Renner concluded. “Together, I am confident we will have a successful 2018 election cycle.”

Rep. Ralph Massullo next weighed in, saying, “I couldn’t agree with you more and am honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and support our class and whatever member among us who may be the target of any special interest. We may not be family, but we certainly can be the next best thing…together.”

Rep. Bob Rommel finally said, “I agree we don’t need any outside threats that may want to influence the decision of any member. I will pledge to help any Republican who is threatened.

“On a side note,” he added, “someone has been leaking information about our private meetings and our private emails regarding this leadership race. If it is a House member or staff member, please stop.”

The Speaker’s race is barreling toward a vote later this month. Five members of the class —Grant, Renner, Byron Donalds, Randy Fine and Erin Grall — have all announced their candidacy.

A vote will likely take place in the Orlando area on June 30. Those who can attend the vote will be able to vote in person, while those who can’t are expected to be able to cast their vote through some type of direct communication to either Rep. Larry Metz or Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues.

The vote is expected to be conducted through secret ballot, not the traditional pledge card method.


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