Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 401

Peter Schorsch

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

Last Call for 10.22.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

A proposed constitutional amendment to increase the homestead property tax exemption is failing, according to results of a new poll.

A survey by St. Pete Polls shows that nearly 49 percent of voters asked said they had already voted for it or planned to.

Amendments need no less than 60 percent approval, however, to be added to the state constitution.

Another 35 percent said they voted against it or planned to, and another 16 percent still hadn’t decided how or if they would vote on what’s “Amendment 1” on the statewide ballot.

Here’s the fine print behind the poll: It was “conducted through an automated phone call polling system.

“The results were then weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of the active general election voter population for the state of Florida. The weighting demographics used were: Political party, race, age, gender and media market.

“The voters polled were chosen at random within the registered voter population within the state of Florida. Voters who said they were not planning to vote were excluded from the results … The scientific results … have a sample size of 1,575 and a 2.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.”

Evening Reads

Republicans hold cash edge heading into final stretch if the midterms” via Kenneth Vogel and Rachel Shorey of The New York Times

How to win Florida” via Michael Grunwald of POLITICO

15 days out — Joe Biden time in Florida” via Steve Schale for his blog

Joe Biden lays it out in Tampa: ‘You will never vote in an election that’s more important’” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott camp disputes poll showing Bill Nelson ahead in Senate race” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Ron DeSantis backs out of meeting with USA Today network” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat

These people have little chance of being governor. Here’s why they’re running anyway.” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald

The battle over Florida’s proposed greyhound racing ban has one side accusing the other of employing ‘the worst of modern politics’” via Kirby Wilson of Tampa Bay Times

New poll shows Ross Spano 6 points up in CD 15 contest” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Lindsay Cross ad: ‘Put a scientist in the Senate’” via Janelle Irwin of Florida Politics

Who are professional women, moms duking it out in unusually clean Florida House 54 race?” via Laurence Reisman of the TC Palm

As HD 15 race gets pricey, Wyman Duggan holds cash lead” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Quote of the Day

Andrew Gillum “signed a pledge to cut police funding and support a group that says, ‘police and prisons have no place in justice,’ (and) that ‘police were never meant to serve us.’ It’s dangerous.” — Florida Police Benevolent Association President John Kazanjian.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council will meet and discuss issues such as the implementation of a new law aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Florida Department of Health, 4025 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission will continue two days of interviews of candidates to replace Chief Judge Leslie Rothenberg and Judge Richard Suarez. That’s at 8:30 a.m., DLA Piper LLP, 200 South Biscayne Blvd., 25th floor, Miami.

The Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors, which makes decisions about how to spend money in Northwest Florida from a Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement, will meet in Okaloosa County. That’s 11 a.m. (Central time), Warriors Hall Community Center, 201 Stillwell Ave., Crestview.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will appear at an Orlando rally for the re-election campaigns of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Also expected to take part in the event is Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. That’s at 3:45 p.m., Cheyenne Saloon, 128 West Church St., Orlando.

Republican Ashley Moody and Democrat Sean Shaw, who are running for Attorney General, will participate in a one-hour debate that will be shown live on Bay News 9 in Tampa and Spectrum News 13 in Orlando. That’s at 7 p.m., Bay News 9. Tampa.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.22.18

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

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

If the goal of either side in the Florida Governor’s debate Sunday night between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis was to change minds, that probably didn’t happen.

During a spirited hour-long debate on CNN in which no punches were pulled, both candidates to be Florida’s governor kept their respective cool, got in their talking points and attacks, and dodged issues they didn’t want to directly address.

DeSantis kept up the line of attack he has used throughout the campaign, namely that Gillum is a corrupted socialist who wants to ruin the state with massive tax hikes while dodging a corruption investigation by the FBI.

Gillum countered that DeSantis is a corrupted Donald Trump acolyte who is controlled by the National Rifle Association.

That’s what they have been saying about each other since the August primary, and with the election now about two weeks away they didn’t deviate. Both men were prepared, they didn’t commit a grievous blunder during the spicy back-and-forth that could have led to a disastrous headline.

Each man was well-coached to deflect attacks and ready to sprinkle in a snappy one-liner that just might appear in a TV commercial in the closing days of the campaign.

So, here’s a random sampling of things that jumped out:

Favorite zingers

From Gillum: “If the congressman is elected, which he won’t be, he will worship at the feet of Donald Trump.”

From DeSantis: “If you believe with that record that he (Gillum) ain’t gonna raise your taxes, then I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona I’d like to sell you.”

Sunday night’s debate may not have changed many minds.

Monkey business

DeSantis was asked by moderator Jake Tapper, who did a good job of keeping things on track, to explain his “monkey it up” comment about Gillum and the state’s economy on the day after the primary election. It was widely panned as a racist dog whistle.

“Here’s the deal. You look at my record. When you’re down-range in Iraq, it didn’t matter your race. We all wore the same uniform. We all had that American flag patch on our arm. And that was the end of story. You look at me as a prosecutor working with law enforcement. It didn’t matter the race of the victim. We were there to support the race of the victim. So, Floridians can know that I will be a governor for all Floridians.”

Gillum’s counter: “The congressman let us know exactly where he was going to take this race the day after he won the nomination. The monkey up comment said it all. He has continued throughout the course of this campaign to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin. … The only color the people of the state of Florida care about is the blue-green algae that is flowing out of the state.”

Was the original question answered?

Not really.

Parkland

DeSantis is loved by the NRA.

Gillum is not.

That’s an issue.

After the slaughter of 17 innocents at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the state adopted modest gun control restrictions – opposed, strongly, by the NRA. DeSantis said as governor, he would have vetoed the law.

Why?

After invoking the shooting at the congressional softball game, DeSantis dodged the question, saying the shooter who “should have been convicted of a crime” and “he should have been Baker-Acted.”

Um, Congressman? While there were warnings about the mental state of confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, he hadn’t done anything that would have led to a conviction before entering the school. And the state’s Baker Act law would have allowed him to be held only 72 hours for observation.

Gillum’s counter: “He is wholly owned by the NRA.”

What now?

No doubt, both sides believe they won this debate, but I really think the people of Florida did.

Both men were pointed in their barbs, but it didn’t get out of control. They made their points, and it’s up to the viewer to agree or not. It was lively, and I don’t think either man got rattled by the other.

It was healthy. It was informative.

In the end, we were given a good look at both men and what they stand for. That’s what debates are for.

Debate tweets:

—@JimRosicaFL: Sorry, just broke up a cat vs. chihuahua fight, and now it’s bathtime. Is there a political debate or something going on tonight? 

—@JacobEngels: Not gonna lie. @AndrewGillum has a better cut on his suit/style far exceeds @RonDeSantisFL… who looks a little tubby.

—@JoshSidorowicz: Lots of people already noting the contrast in candidates’ opening statements. DeSantis went on attack against Gillum. Gillum responds: “wow, that was quite a mouthful” and leaves it at that.

—@NewsbySmiley: Tapper asks why DeSantis is wrong that Gillum’s a socialist. Sidebar: Before this debate, a PAC aired an ad that basically said all Democrats are socialist, and told viewers electing Democrats will give them a screaming Nancy Pelosi with a massive gavel

@JacobOgles: Fun fact. Disney got rid of the old FastPass system and now has people sign up for particular times to ride. In other words, a waiting list.

@SteveBousquet: Ron DeSantis sidesteps CNN’s question on whether he agrees with $15 minimum wage at Disney; says it’s an “incentive for automation”

@DeFede: Here is the line of debate so far. @AndrewGillum: “The Congressman let us know exactly where he would take this race the day after he won the nomination. The monkey up comment said it all. And he has only continued in the course of his campaign to draw all the attention …” … “… he can to the color of my skin. And the truth is I’m black. I’ve been black all of my life. So far as I know I’ll die black.” My guess is he had that line ready to fire as things heat up.  @RonDeSantisFL stopped smiling at that point.

@Rob_Bradley: This is a good debate. Jake Tapper is doing what a moderator should do-letting it be about the candidates, not him, but keeping things moving.

@DeFede: It is clear @RonDeSantisFL and @AndrewGillum do not like each other. This is a bloody affair. Not sure what voters are learning. 

—@TalesDarkSide: “I am black, I’ve been black and I far as I know I’ll die black.” — Mayor Gillum, I straight did my entire Black History Month *praise lap* and it’s only October.

@GrayRohrer: Fun fact: the governor of Florida has no affect on immigration enforcement

@PatriciaMazzei: DeSantis has turned pretty much every question into an attack on Gillum. (Which Gillum predicted in advance of the debate.) DeSantis asks Gillum questions; Gillum says, “You can proceed with your time.”

@JamilSmith: It is notable that @AndrewGillum calls @RepDeSantis “Congressman” and DeSantis calls him “Andrew.” Gillum is still Mayor of Tallahassee, and DeSantis is not even a Congressman anymore. It is clear what his word choice implies.

—@AdamGoodman3: @CNN #FLGovDebate Tonight’s bottom line: @RonDeSantisFL effectively stoked & stroked his base but lost visual battle on TV. Despite some tough moments, @AndrewGillum looked at ease and in command; and his closing statement was a winner.

—@realDonaldTrump: Ron @RonDeSantisFL DeSantis had a great debate victory tonight against Andrew Gillum, a mayor who presides over one of the worst run, and most corrupt, cities in Florida. Ron will build on the great job done by Governor Rick Scott. Gillum will make Florida the next Venezuela!

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING. Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!

—@MattYglesias: “If you want change, you should vote instead of yelling at politicians in restaurants” would be a more compelling in a system where getting more votes than the other guy guaranteed electoral victory.

@NateSilver538: If a pollster publishes a poll that looks like an outlier, the right move is to: 1) Be happy that the pollster was willing to publish it. It means they’re doing honest work. 2) Put it in the average. Don’t ignore it, but also don’t assume it’s the new normal.

@NickGourevitch: I don’t claim to know what will happen in two weeks (spoiler: nobody does) but I’m pretty sure nobody truly understands the turnout dynamic this year. I’m a pollster telling you that polls are flawed tools at telling you what the turnout dynamic will be.

@GBennettPost: Shades of @CharlieCrist — an electric fan on stage at @AndrewGillum rally in Riviera Beach.

—@DavidJollyFL: Just gonna say it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with confronting elected officials in public. Nothing. Zero. We should do more of it. It is who we are as Americans. Channel Thoreau. Do it. No politician was conscripted to serve. They asked for the opportunity.

@Poniewozik: If I could change one thing in media, it would be: no news outlet, ever again, would base its policy on perception and “How will this make us look?” It serves no one, we get too cute by half, we look phony — because it IS phony — and bad-faith critics will attack us regardless.

@NateMonroeTU: I’ve been a reporter for the better part of a decade — so no grizzled vet — but @JSOPIO is easily, by far, full stop the most secretive, least open police department I’ve ever seen. It’s a huge problem in a county that leads the state in the murder rate.

—@GrayRohrer: Ah, so I see Kirk Herbstreit talked trash about UCF in the morning yesterday day then saw his alma mater get stomped by a team in black and gold at night. Karma, bitch.

— LATEST TURNOUT FIGURES —

Through this weekend, more than 877,000 ballots had completed their round trips and were back in the hands of county supervisors of election. Republicans, as is tradition, led the overall VBM tally with 386,101 ballots returned — 44 percent of the total — while registered Dems were 5 points back and independents made up nearly 18 percent of the vote so far.

The overall returns represent a little over a quarter of mail ballots sent out and roughly an eighth of the 7 million votes expected to be cast by pencils down on Nov. 6. In 2014, the most recent comparable election, Floridians returned nearly 1.2 million mail ballots.

Though the Friday tally wasn’t particularly large, there were a couple of noteworthy stats among the stacks of mail. Chief among them: Bay County processed its first ballots. The Panhandle county was among the hardest hit when Hurricane Michael tore through Northwest Florida two weeks ago. Gulf and Liberty counties, however, are still yet to show up on the statewide box score.

Happening today — Early voting begins in several counties across the state, including Alachua, Bradford, Broward, Charlotte, DeSoto, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Gadsden, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jefferson, Lake, Lee, Leon, Levy, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie and Taylor. Counties statewide are required to start early voting Oct. 27, but they have authority to start as early as today.

— BATTLE OF THE POLLS 

Just ahead of Sunday night’s CNN debate in Florida’s gubernatorial contest, a trio of new polling shows wide fluctuation in the race, ranging from a double-digit lead for Gillum to a slight advantage for DeSantis, which led to disputes and doubts over methodology.

A CNN poll released Saturday gives Gillum a 12-point advantage over DeSantis, resulting in immediate pushback from Republicans, who said it “polled an electorate never seen in Florida.” The survey of registered voters, taken Oct. 16-20, shows Gillum winning 52 percent of the vote over DeSantis’ 42 percent. Another 5 percent reported no opinion and 1 percent said they would not vote for either candidate.

Ahead of Sunday night’s CNN debate, polls in the Florida gubernatorial race were all over the map.

The DeSantis camp criticized the CNN poll for a sample size that gave Democrats a 3-percent edge in a nonpresidential election. Pollsters SSRS said the sample included 32 percent Democrats, 29 percent Republicans and 39 percent independent of third-party voters.

That NPA turnout, DeSantis officials said, also seemed unrealistically high, as independents never outnumber Democrats and Republicans at the poll in a Florida statewide election.

To counter, an internal poll touted by Team DeSantis gives the Republican a two-point edge over Gillum, 47 to 45 percent, with another 7 percent unsure. In the polling memo, campaign chair Susie Wiles said her pollsters surveyed potential voters over three consecutive nights in advance of the debate.

“This survey included over 2,000 live interviews with a projected universe reflecting a historic midterm election turnout among Democratic and women voters,” Wiles wrote. “In short, this assumes a challenging electoral scenario for Republicans, but one we are presently rising above. We currently show Ron with a 47 percent — 45 percent lead. Ron’s lead is larger at +7 percent among voter that have already cast vote by mail ballots.”

Meanwhile, well-regarded Florida pollster Tom Eldon of SEA Polling has come out with a new statewide survey Sunday that gives Gillum a six-point lead over DeSantis, 48-42 percent, with 10 percent undecided. Taken Oct. 17-20, pollsters asked 600 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent. Propelling Gillum is strong support among NPAs, women and Hispanic voters, Eldon’s polling memo said.

>>>Keep in mind that during the GOP primary, it was DeSantis’s internal polling, not any public polling, which was the most accurate about the state of that race.

— MORE GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

Trump tweets that Andrew Gillum runs ‘one of the worst’ cities” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The president of the United States took to Twitter at 10:56 a.m. Saturday and called Tallahassee one of the “worst & most corrupt cities in USA!” Trump appeared to have wanted to boost the campaigns of DeSantis for Governor and Gov. Scott for the U.S. Senate, while throwing a jab at Gillum without naming him. But in doing so, he placed Tallahassee front and center in a social media firestorm that pitted city critics with passionate defenders who call Tallahassee home. Gillum quickly responded, suggesting the tweet was cowardly. “When you lie about me from the most powerful office in the world and still don’t have the courage to @ me …” Gillum said while retweeting the president’s tweet.

Gillum releases tax returns, calls on Ron DeSantis to do the same” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gillum filed joint returns with spouse R.J., and the two reported a combined income of $480,000 for the two years. His spokeswoman immediately called on Republican nominee DeSantis to follow suit. “Mayor Gillum took an important step in being transparent and open with Floridians by releasing his tax returns, and now, it’s time for Ron DeSantis to do the same,” said Communications Director Johanna Cervone. “Floridians deserve transparency, honesty and integrity from their next governor, which is exactly what Andrew Gillum has done as Mayor and what he’ll do as Governor.”

DeSantis is ‘uniquely dislikable candidate,’ says Gillum” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — “They have a uniquely unlikeable candidate. He’s easily dislikable,” said Gillum. “I don’t think anybody could spend a lot of time with him and walk away feeling inspired or encouraged or believe that he in some way knows what it means to live their life. They realize they can’t package him in that way … I’ve heard from Republican members of Congress (DeSantis would) go on these congressional trips with them, and he’d put on his headphones and not talk to them the entire time.” The Tallahassee mayor’s tough comments came, ironically, as he sought to contrast his campaign largely focused on his agenda for Florida with DeSantis’ largely focused on attacking Gillum. He predicted Republicans and DeSantis would spend the remaining 17 days of the race trying to push down turnout by attacking him.

DeSantis keeps up negative (and false) attacks on Gillum in Tampa” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — In Tampa, an enthusiastic crowd made up largely of grass-roots campaign workers crammed into a tiny GOP campaign office suite for an appearance by DeSantis, his wife Casey and Rep. Matt Gaetz. For about 20 minutes, they heard DeSantis launch one attack after another. DeSantis used the same attack themes, many of them distorted or false, that has been a staple of ads run on his behalf against Gillum by Republican Party organizations. He said Gillum is a socialist who’s hostile to law enforcement, intends to take away people’s Medicare and veterans’ health benefits, has made Tallahassee “the most crime-ridden city in Florida,” and plans “a 40 percent tax increase” for Florida. “I’m the only candidate (for governor) who can credibly say he’s not under investigation by the FBI,” he added, referring to an investigation of Tallahassee city government.

Ron DeSantis continues to insist on spreading false attacks on Andrew Gillum, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Remaining mum on amendments” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — But don’t look for some of the state’s top politicians to help you sort out the ballot. Gov. Scott and the two main candidates running for governor have voiced opinions on only a handful of the measures on the ballot. Both Scott and fellow Republican DeSantis, for example, oppose Amendment 4, while Democrat Gillum strongly supports the measure. If passed Amendment 4 would allow most former prisoners, except for murderers and those convicted of sex offenses, to have their voting rights restored after they serve their sentences. DeSantis has expressed concerns about Amendment 3. Both Scott and Gillum have kept silent on the measure. Scott has said he plans to vote for Amendment 9, a proposal put on the ballot by Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission that deals with both oil drilling and vaping. Neither DeSantis nor Gillum has taken a stance on the measure.

Gillum wants criminal justice reform. DeSantis wants mandatory minimums. Here’s how the candidates differ” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union — To Gillum, the state is wasting money locking up people who deserve second chances. To DeSantis, any retreat from the state’s tough-on-crime policies is an offense to police and will reverse the state’s 50-year low crime rates. Gillum, the Tallahassee Mayor, talks about criminal justice in an aspirational tone. He talks of reforming the state’s bail system, of investing in re-entry services, of ending mass incarceration. DeSantis, the former congressman who until recently represented the suburbs south of Jacksonville, avoids offering his own policy proposals, instead invoking fear that any change to the status quo will threaten Florida’s safety. Gillum never mentioned DeSantis in his speech, but DeSantis inveighed against Gillum in nearly every sentence. He said that Gillum was not only incompetent, but that Tallahassee’s high crime rate “flows from his radical ideology.”

Election ad pitch to young voters: ‘Our chance to finally elect Florida’s first black Governor’” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The political organization NextGen Florida is spending $1.2 million on the ads, which will run through Election Day. The pair of ads is running on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, Hulu, Vevo, Spotify, Pandora, Google search and the gaming platform Twitch. Targeting young voters, the ads are more direct than traditional television advertising. NextGen said the ads utilize research-based messaging to reach their intended audience: 1.8 million young Floridians. The organization’s research found that effective messages include explaining to young people that politicians won’t listen to their needs if they don’t vote; that, as the largest eligible voting bloc, they have the power to bring about change are the most; and that encouraging people to make a plan to vote on Election Day works.

Hillary Clinton to keep low profile in race for Governor” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Clinton is coming to Florida next week to support Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum — but don’t expect the campaign to make a big deal about it. Clinton will hold closed-door fundraisers in support of Gillum but no public events … Gillum announced last month that he would campaign Oct. 23 with Clinton in South Florida, adding that he was “honored to have Secretary Clinton join me.” That wasn’t greeted well by some Gillum supporters, who wrote on Twitter that Gillum would be making a mistake by appearing with Clinton. “Gillum’s already got South Florida in the bag,” Miami filmmaker Billy Corben wrote on Twitter. “Why polarize? Even Hillary voters don’t want to see or hear from her again.”

Alt-right Florida GOP operative complains he was assaulted while taunting people at Gillum” rally via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — An Orlando-based Republican consultant and member of the far right Proud Boys group, attended Andrew Gillum’s women’s rally in Tampa Friday night, shouting into a megaphone about billionaire liberal George Soros as Gillum addressed the crowd. Video footage showed several people shoving the man, Jacob Engels, and/or trying to knock the megaphone from his hands. Engels, a provocateur and close associate of fellow InfoWars contributor Roger Stone, used to attack Republican DeSantis during the GOP primary. He said a “violent mob” of Gillum supporters assaulted him Friday, part of a narrative many Republicans across the country are using lately about Democrats. Engels also accused Gillum supporters of being homophobic because he is gay.

Assignment editors — Republican Lt. Gov. nominee Jeanette Nuñez hosts a meet-and-greet, 5 p.m., Havana Jax Café, 2578 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Rick Scott has millions invested in Puerto Rico electric company” via Dan Christensen of FloridaBulldog.org — The Governor and his wife have untold millions of dollars invested in the commonwealth’s devastated electric company … via AG Superfund, a New York hedge fund which with other large investors issued $9 billion of credit to the government-run Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA. Those bond investors were enticed by the island’s lucrative tax breaks. In July, Gov. Scott’s blind trust valued its AG Superfund holdings as worth between $1 million and $5 million. He also disclosed that four trusts and a family partnership in the name of First Lady Ann Scott valued their investments as being worth over $1 million each — meaning the Scotts’ total investment in AG Superfund is at least $5 million.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority employees fix power lines in San Juan, Oct. 19. (Image via Xavier Garcia/Bloomberg News)

Revealed: Scott’s financial link to botched SunPass contract” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott has financial ties to the vendor that operates the troubled SunPass toll-collection system. Here’s how public documents explain the latest link: By late June, records show, a manager of a hedge fund called Highline Capital Management held 7 million shares of stock worth $127 million in Conduent Inc. Scott and his wife Ann have invested at least $5 million in the fund managed by Highline. A Conduent subsidiary, Conduent State and Local Solutions, won a $287 million Florida contract in 2015 to manage SunPass. The contract, which has grown to $343 million, was awarded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) whose secretary is appointed by Scott. Direct oversight of Conduent is the responsibility of the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, an arm of FDOT. Scott attended a Senate campaign fundraiser in Dallas in May at which his hosts included Darwin Deason, a Texas investor and a major shareholder in Conduent.

Red-tide awakening: How Florida’s environmental woes could hurt Scott in Senate race” via David Knowles of Yahoo News — “It impacted a few media markets where swing voters live — Tampa, Fort Myers, and West Palm Beach,” Democratic strategist Steve Schale told Yahoo News. “There are voters who have voted for both Nelson and Scott in those markets.” After the Army Corps of Engineers released water tainted with a different microorganism, blue-green algae, from Lake Okeechobee in the wake of Hurricane Irma last fall, the red tide, which can stain the ocean a rusty-brown hue, got much worse. Schale thinks the duration of this year’s red tide has left Scott vulnerable: “These voters have been living with algae for many years now, and for Scott, who talks about getting things done, the fact nothing has changed on algae, and red tide goes right at his strength.”

New Bill Nelson ad labels Scott as ‘Red Tide Rick’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Nelson is going into the swamp for his new television commercial attacking Scott over his past problems in the private sector, his finances and environmental record, labeling him, “Red Tide Rick.” The 30-second commercial, “Swamp,” features talking cartoon frogs that keep croaking, “Rick” and “Scott” each time a narrator rolls out an allegation about Nelson’s opponent. “Now our Florida is poisoned with toxic algae,” the narrator declares. “He’s so slimy. Let’s leave him in Tallahassee. We can’t trust Red Tide Rick.” “Nope,” croaks one of the frogs.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Scott ad touts he’s ‘Good for Florida’ — In the latest 30-second spot, Scott says: “Florida needs a Senator who will work with the President of the United States.” “That may seem obvious,” he adds, “but Bill Nelson refuses to work with the president on anything — even issues that really matter to Florida. … As for me, I’ll work with President Trump when he’s doing things that are good for Florida and America … And when I disagree, I have the courage to say so.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

LIBRE Action rolls out pro-Scott bilingual ads — The ads from the conservative Hispanic group, one each in English and Spanish, are focused on building support for Gov. Scott in his race for the U.S. Senate. In a statement, LIBRE Action Senior Adviser Daniel Garza said: “Latino families across Florida are eager to support a candidate who is focused on real solutions that address the challenges we face as a community and as a nation. Gov. Scott has been a champion for Latinos and a partner on the issues that matter most. He has shown his commitment to effectively serving a broad and diverse constituency, which includes engaging and listening to the concerns of our Latino community.”

To view the Spanish version, click on the image below:

To view the English version, click on the image below:

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Assignment editors — Former Vice President Joe Biden visits Florida to campaign for Nelson, Gillum, and other candidates on the Florida Democratic Party’s “Winning Ticket.” Biden will headline a Tampa rally, open to the public, the same day early voting starts in several counties across the state. Press preset begins 9:45 a.m., doors open 10:30 a.m., preprogram is 11:30 a.m., the main program begins noon, University of South Florida, East Gym, 12301 USF Maple Dr., Tampa. Media RSVP here.

Interest in midterms surges, boosting Trump approval rating” via Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal — A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found … nearly two-thirds of registered voters showed a high level of interest in the election — the highest ever recorded in a midterm election since the Journal/NBC poll began asking the question in 2006. “It’s a barnburner,” Bill McInturff, a GOP pollster who conducted the survey with Democrat Fred Yang, said of the surge of voter interest. “There’s a switch that’s been flipped … They are engaging in the campaign and the process.” Also helping Republicans is a rise in President Trump’s job-approval rating to 47%, the highest mark of his time in office, with 49% disapproving his performance. That is an improvement from last month, when 44% approved and 52% disapproved of his performance. Democrats still lead on the question of which party should control Congress. Among poll respondents identified as likely voters, 50% prefer Democrats, while 41% prefer Republican control, about the same as in last month’s poll. Among all registered voters, a broader group of respondents, Democrats’ advantage over the GOP is narrower — 48% to 41%.

Assignment editors — The Florida Democratic Party hosts an early voting event for senior citizens featuring state Sens. Victor Torres and Linda Stewart, Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill and Florida CFO candidate Jeremy Ring, 10 a.m., Beardell Senior Center, 800 South Delaney Ave, Orlando.

Happening today — The NAACP joins other civil-rights groups for a news conference about an initiative to turn out minority voters. Featured speakers include Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Barbara Watson, 10 a.m., Florida Asian Services Center, 659 N.E. 125th St., North Miami.

For Our Future Florida doubles down on staff ahead of early voting – Progressive group For Our Future Florida said it’s doubled up on Sunshine State staffers ahead of early voting getting underway in some of the state’s largest counties Monday. For Our Future Florida has already been pounding the pavement in all corners of the state for weeks, but after expanding to 1,250 field staffers, which gives it the largest on-the-ground operation among PACs playing in Florida’s 2018 elections. Those numbers, which don’t include its volunteer recruits, give the group enough manpower to rap on more than 300,000 doors a week, a threshold it eclipsed last week. “The scale of this program is due to the fact that we’ve been on the ground, organizing in communities since we launched in 2016. We never left. That work has enabled us to build relationships and create a statewide volunteer program dedicated to working on the issues that matter to Floridians,” state director Ashley Walker said.

Sean Shaw invokes father, PBA to counter ‘cop killer’ sympathy accusation; Ashley Moody sticks by ad” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida Police Benevolent Association leaders defended Democratic Attorney General candidate Shaw against allegations he supported going easy on a “cop killer.” Shaw and the law enforcement leader also invoked the memory of Shaw’s father while dismissing the new attack. “We know from firsthand experience that Representative Sean Shaw, like his father Justice [LeanderShaw, fully supports law enforcement officers and their families,” said Mark Puckett, executive director of Florida’s PBA. The defense follows a fresh ad questioning if Shaw would support law enforcement. The TV ad says Shaw “backed reduced punishment for a cop killer.” Shaw labeled the ad a “misleading and reckless” attack by Republican Attorney General candidate Moody.

Matt Caldwell, Nikki fried question each others’ allegiances in Agriculture Commissioner race” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, defended his environmental record and ties to the National Rifle Association during a debate with Democrat Fried in the contest for state Agriculture Commissioner. Caldwell and Fried faced off on “Facing South Florida” on CBS4 in Miami for the only debate of the race. Caldwell, who has been endorsed by the NRA with an “A+” rating, was asked by debate host Jim DeFede if he was too close to the group to regulate weapons. “No one should get a license if they are not qualified for it,” Caldwell said. “And if somebody is not doing their job, they should get fired.” Fried said the department under Adam Putnam “was beholden” to the NRA and that Caldwell has been “dismissive” of the licensing issue. She said the state should consider putting licensing under a law enforcement agency such as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “I think we need to start that conversation to make sure we are doing it in an effective and accountable manner,” Fried said.

Assignment editors — Marsy’s Law for Florida, the group advocating crime victims’ rights through Amendment 6, will host a public early voting rally featuring special guests including former Miami Heat basketball players, entertainment by The Old Skool Gang and free food, 4 p.m., Miramar Branch Library, 2050 Civic Center Pl., Miramar.

— MORE NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Sanjay Patel launches digital ad in CD 8 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The two-minute, 17-second video offers a montage of images of Florida’s Space Coast and Treasure Coast from Kennedy Space Center rocket launches to beaches; of struggles, of someone suffering health problems in a bed, dead fish, and toxic algae; and also of Patel himself, in contemplation, and meeting with voters. The video has a distinctive progressive Democratic theme of the powerless against the powerful, summed up with his observation, “It’s time to prove that the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Kristen Carlson outraising Ross Spano in U.S. House race, polls tight” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Democrat Carlson expanded her fundraising lead over Republican Spano in Florida’s 15th Congressional District race during August and September, as one top analyst forecast the race razor close. Carlson pulled in $579,017 for a total so far of $905,567, including $92,114 from herself, and showed $502,151 in cash. Spano raised $191,530 for a total $439,952, including $104,500 from himself, and showed $165,613 in cash — but also debts of $165,366 to campaign vendors. Polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com rates Spano ahead by less than 2 points and gives Carlson a 40 percent chance of winning in the GOP-leaning district.

Brian Mast, Lauren Baer: National groups pumping more money into 18th District congressional race” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm — The GOP’s Protect the House donated $96,000 to Rep. Mast‘s re-election campaign in September, bringing his total to $190,000 — the most the group has donated to any of the 26 candidates it’s trying to elect to retain control of the House. Vice President Mike Pence and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy launched the fundraising committee to help especially vulnerable candidates. So why has Protect the House poured the most money into Florida’s 18th Congressional District race, when nonpartisan political analysts have long maintained Mast will win? Both parties have promoted both candidates as “crucial” for House control. Increased ad spending is often a sign a race is growing more competitive, but because it’s less than a month before the election, it could be a sign campaigns are simply emptying their coffers, said Spiro Kiousis, a University of Florida professor who studies political communications.

Carlos Curbelo, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell fling attacks during English-language TV debate” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — And though WPLG’s Michael Putney led off the debate with health care, Mucarsel-Powell went immediately on the attack, blasting a protest by Republicans and far-right activists against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this week at a campaign event Mucarsel-Powell attended with Donna Shalala. Curbelo condemned the protest and said he had no connection to it, but also took a shot at Mucarsel-Powell for promoting a campaign event with Rep. Barbara Lee, a liberal member of Congress who praised Fidel Castro after his death in 2016. Lee’s scheduled appearance sparked the protest, but she ended up as a no-show at the event. As Putney and Milberg attempted to move through a variety of policy issues like health care, taxes, and guns, the debate careened from the protest attack to Curbelo attacking Mucarsel-Powell for “not working in three years” and Mucarsel-Powell attacking Curbelo for an attack ad against her that depicts a man holding a gun. Mucarsel-Powell said her son was watching baseball the other night when the ad came on, and it upset him.

Hecklers curse and call Nancy Pelosi a ‘communist’ as far right disrupts a political event” via Eli Rosenberg of The Washington Post — It was yet another incident that stoked fears that the country’s bitter and emotional political environment is at risk of leading to violence. The video shows a small group of protesters cursing at Pelosi and calling her a communist in English and Spanish, as she enters an event Wednesday in Coral Gables to campaign for Democrat Donna Shalala in Miami. “You don’t belong here,” one says, telling her to get out in Spanish: “Afuera!” After Pelosi calmly walks by them and enters the building, people bang on the door. “Open up! It’s the Proud Boys in here,” one says, referencing the far-right group that was implicated in a street brawl in New York last weekend. “Socialism sucks,” others chant.

Demonstrators chant outside where Nancy Pelosi spoke at a get-out-the-vote event for Florida Democratic congressional candidates Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. (Image via Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)

Donna Shalala, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will not return money from Castro-supporting lawmaker” via Martin Vassolo and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Barbara Lee never came to Miami. But the mere mention of the California lawmaker’s name on the programming flier for a campaign event in Coral Gables was enough to trigger a protest, a call for South Florida Democratic candidates to divest from her campaign contributions and an attack ad from a Super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan. The congresswoman, who turned heads in 2016 by praising former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro after his death, was listed as an expected guest at a “Get Out the Vote” event on news releases issued by the campaigns of Democrat Shalala and Mucarsel-Powell. Despite the protest flare-up outside the event Wednesday — a crowd of mostly Cuban-American demonstrators yelled and waved anti-Communist signs — Shalala and Mucarsel-Powell said they would not return the $5,500 Lee donated to their campaigns ahead of the November election.

New Spanish-language ad: Shalala should be ‘ashamed’— “Castro” is the new ad in Florida’s 27th Congressional District from the Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC endorsed by House Republican leadership. The 60-second Spanish-language spot attacks Shalala for campaigning with “political ally” Barbara Lee, the California Democrat who said Fidel Castro’s death should be mourned and lobbied President Obama to oppose sanctions on the Maduro regime in Venezuela: “Donna Shalala is not from Miami … she doesn’t speak Spanish … and she doesn’t understand our community.” The radio ad will run in the Miami media market. Listen to the ad here.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Conservative committee sends ‘sexist’ Amanda Murphy attack mailer” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee this week sent out a demeaning attack ad against Democrat Murphy, who faces Ed Hooper for Senate District 16 in north Pinellas. On one side is the image of a young girl wearing a larger than life bow on her head while crying. Next to her, it says, “career politician Amanda Murphy behaves like a spoiled child.” On the other side is a claim: “Amanda Murphy throws a fit when she doesn’t get her way … because Amanda Murphy is good at making a spectacle but fails when it comes to making a difference.” The mailpiece does not make any specific reference to “fits” she has thrown or offered any action to back up the assertion she behaves like a “spoiled child.” In the era of “#MeToo,” the ad might appear to some as tone deaf.

Conservatives ‘sexist’ ad attacking Democrat Amanda Murphy.

Realtors roll out more House endorsements — Florida Realtors PAC announced four more candidate endorsements for the Florida House: Chuck Brannan in House District 10; Anthony Sabatini in HD 32; Mike Beltran in HD 57 and Ray Blacklidge in HD 69. The full Florida Realtors® PAC 2018 general election endorsement list can be found at pac.floridarealtors.org.

National GOP group names Ardian Zika among ‘Races to Watch’ — Republican State Leadership Committee honored Zika in its “18 in ’18 Races to Watch” List. “Republicans at the state level would not be reaching historical highs, without the growing diversity of our party, and candidates like Ardian Zika. Ardian represents the best from our Future Majority Project (FMP) and Right Women, Right Now (RWRN) initiatives. The RSLC has invested over $20 million in these initiatives since 2011, electing 500 new female and 100 new diverse office holders in the process,” said Matt Walter, President of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Stockton Reeves’ new TV ad paints Anna Eskamani as radical” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The new commercial, running on Orlando cable, draws stark contrast, depicting Eskamani with chaotic shots of her speaking at a rally, and of other people rioting; and then of himself with shots of him with his wife and two young children, and calm pictures of happy people. “This district isn’t home to extremists. But it is home to independent leader Stockton Reeves,” the commercial states. Eskamani dismissed the commercial as “laced with lies and dog whistling.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

— AFTER MICHAEL —

Hurricane victims’ biggest fear: ‘people are going to start forgetting’” via Glenn Thrush and Alan Blinder of The New York Times — Many in Jackson County are simply not ready for the hurricane relief to end. There is a feeling, fair or not, that officials are moving too fast, chasing the image of normalcy before a real recovery has taken root. That feeling of being hurried, and eventually left behind — the normalizing of a catastrophe — is a growing worry for people who are caught between a short-attention-span country that has seen one disaster after another and the long-term effort it takes to rebuild battered lives. Marianna, with a population of about 10,000, was hit almost as hard by Hurricane Michael as Panama City was … Downtown Marianna still looks like London after the Blitz. There are signs that the region is slowly recovering. Power has returned to downtown Marianna, allowing a few stores to reopen, including the gas station and the Winn-Dixie supermarket. “It does a lot of good for people to look out and see the glow of those lights at night,” said Louis Roberts III, the county sheriff.

’Mexico Beach Strong’: An obliterated community vows to rebuild after Michael” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Hurricane Michael destroyed Mexico Beach physically, but residents will be damned if the wake of that monster crushes its spirit. Survivors who have lost everything hope one thing is spared: the charm that kept Mexico Beach an off-the-beaten-path bastion of The Other Florida. “We really hope — we know it’s probably not going to happen — but we really hope it stays the same,” Julie Gardner said. “We don’t want to be commercialized. We don’t want a bunch of chains coming in here. We want it to stay a little mom and pop little town. Mexico Beach relies on the thousands of summer tourists to support the economy. It is unknown when it will be possible for them to come back. But it will happen, people here say. Eventually. Right now, their task is to hold each other up.

Mexico Beach residents vow they will rebuild. (Image via USA TODAY)

Panhandle medical care on life support after Michael” via Brendan Farrington and Jay Reeves of The Associated Press — Panama City’s two major hospitals, Bay Medical and the 216-bed Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center, still aren’t admitting patients. Only emergency room services are available at either facility. Patients with the most serious needs are being sent to other hospitals by ambulance or helicopter. Both hospitals are receiving help from Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, which set up air-conditioned tents in parking lots and operate something like the military field hospitals depicted in the old television series M*A*S*H. Besides the care they’d provide on a typical basis, like treating strep throat, doctors and nurses also are treating many people with storm-related injuries and health conditions. While they aren’t admitting patients, the hospitals are stabilizing people with serious injuries or illness and transporting them to hospitals outside the heavily damaged areas.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai eases up on criticisms to Michael response” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Federal Communications Commission chairman Pai praised Florida’s first responders and telecommunications companies Friday — a positive change in tone from earlier this week. The chairman was in Tallahassee Friday afternoon, meeting with state officials at the emergency operation center discussing the response to Hurricane Michael. In a statement, the chairman took a different tone. He demanded the nation’s wireless carriers compensate Florida customers with free cellular and data service, and slammed the companies for failing to restore service to the Florida Panhandle quickly. Pai said that the companies’ failure was “completely unacceptable” and said he plans to launch an investigation. He told reporters Friday that he was happy to see telecom companies react to his statement and contribute resources to local relief efforts.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai changed his tune on wireless carriers after a visit to the Florida EOC in areas impacted by Hurricane Michael. (Image via Twitter)

Michael struck at the worst time for Florida and Georgia pecan, cotton farmers” via Mark Hinson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Go south on the path of the storm and the story gets more depressing when you talk to survivors who own land or work on farms. The Georgia Department of Agriculture said this week that losses are between $2.3 billion and $2.8 billion. From the car, whizzing by Highway 91, the cotton fields look fine, even though the eye of Hurricane Michael went straight through the farm communities. Upon closer inspection, many of cotton puffs and unopened bolls are in the dirt. Some of the cotton plants were sprayed with a chemical before Hurricane Michael to make them more sturdy against the winds. It worked, and it did not. “It could not have happened at a worse time,” land renter and veterinarian Dr. Cleve Bridges said of the cotton crop near the banks of the Chattahoochee River. “It was prime harvest time.”

VISIT FLORIDA plans $9M marketing push to counter Michael” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The taxpayer-funded tourism agency’s executive committee voted Friday to support a plan that includes highlighting what has reopened in areas hit by the deadly Oct. 10 storm in Northwest Florida. The plan also seeks to call attention to other areas of the Panhandle, such as Pensacola, that were largely unscathed and deliver a message that “the rest of Florida is wide open for business.” “If we do not manage the customer perception, it could be very devastating to our economy if they think that (hurricane damage) is very widespread,” said committee member Dan Rowe, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau.

10 days after hurricane, football offers a welcome escape” via David Brandt of The Associated Press — Under the bright sunshine at Tommy Oliver Stadium in downtown Panama City, a small return to regular life had already begun. For a few hours, football was important again. And the Dolphins were ready to punch back against the Pensacola Tigers. In many ways, it was almost shocking to see football being played in the midst of such widespread devastation. From the higher seats of the stadium, the effect on Panama City was evident, with debris, utility crews and snapped pine trees as far as the eye could see. It was a joyful gathering where everyone forgot their worries. Fans, football players, cheerleaders and band members from several area schools were at the game. “Man, this is great,” said Nate Starr, the lead game official whose home in Callaway was heavily damaged during the storm. “It gets the community together. We’re all family now.”

Ships wrecked on Dog Island in 1899 unearthed by Michael” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Ships that washed ashore on Dog Island during the 1899 Carrabelle Hurricane were unearthed completely by Hurricane Michael’s vicious storm surge last week. It’s unclear which of the 15 ships, or how many, that grounded on the Franklin County barrier island during the storm 119 years ago were unearthed. Sitting on the Gulf of Mexico side of the island, the wooden ships now rest in plain view near the west end of the island.

Happening today — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam meets with Gulf County officials and tour areas hit by Michael, 11 a.m., Gulf County Emergency Operations Center, 1000 Cecil G. Costin Sr. Blvd., Port St. Joe.

— STATEWIDE —

Happening today — Representatives of Equality Florida and other groups will deliver letters to Gov. Scott’s office to request protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer state employees, 1:15 p.m., outside the Governor’s office, The Capitol.

Florida county dedicates new Civil War memorial” via The Associated Press — A new monument in Tampa was erected with a nod to those who fought for both the Confederacy and the Union. The new memorial features two granite obelisks mounted with informational plaques and separated by a few dozen feet of blue marble meant to symbolize the Hillsborough River. Until Saturday, Veterans Memorial Park included monuments honoring local veterans from nearly every major American conflict — but no major monument dedicated to the Civil War.

Fire blazes at Santa’s Enchanted Forest, video shows” via Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — Flames and billowing smoke coming from Santa’s Enchanted Forest in Southwest Miami-Dade could be seen Sunday from the Palmetto Expressway. Helen Avendano, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Fire Department said a call came in at about 7:30 p.m. reporting trees and bushes were on fire at the amusement park. It appeared that the fire had been started by a power line, she said. The fire was out by about 8 p.m., Avendano said. No injuries were reported and the extent of the damage was not immediately known.

— OPINIONS —

Don’t let the gambling industry confuse you on Amendment 3. It’s not about schools” via Fabiola Santiago for the Miami Herald — The latest tactic of the gambling lobby comes by way of ads that tell you a Yes vote would be an anti-schools vote. Nonsense. Schools have both state and local budgets that fund them. As for the size of the state’s tax dollar pot, there’s already plenty of gambling in Florida that generates revenue — including the state lottery, which funds education, although not at the levels originally promised. If you want to help better fund schools in Miami-Dade, for example, vote to give teacher pay raises on referendum #362. But don’t fall for the line that gambling funds education. Gambling funds crime and corruption; you can’t hire enough law enforcement to keep up.

Greg Munson: Four nonpartisan principles on Florida water” via Florida Politics — Whoever wins Florida’s upcoming elections will — or should — face difficult decisions on Florida’s water supply, water quality and environmental restoration. After nearly two decades engaged in the controversial debates about Florida’s water and environment, and a substantial amount of time in the outdoors, I offer a few nonpartisan principles to those newly elected: Collaboration is more effective than confrontation; Beware of the “fix du jour;” Don’t demonize the opposition; Follow the science. Following these recommendations is the easy part. Actually, balancing the food, power, water, and goods we need with the environmental impacts is where the buck stops.

Michael Williams: Hurricane Michael showed how we bend but don’t break” via The Capitolist — We live in the Big Bend area of Florida. It gets its name from the way the coast bends around from north-south to east-west. But after seeing what I’ve seen over the past week, I think there’s another reason. When I was helping my parents clean up, only one tree was down in their backyard. When I went to take a closer look, I saw this. The tree had fallen down on another tree, bending it over just to the point of breaking. When I saw that I immediately thought, “Wow. This is the perfect image of our community.” As soon as the hurricane passed, first responders and utility workers were out in the streets doing their jobs, trying to return people to a little bit of normalcy. We are a Big Bend people. We support those around us and serve even when it feels like one more thing could make us break, but we don’t. We just bend a little more.

Will Weatherford: Let voters decide on expanded gambling” via Florida Politics — After spending eight years in the Florida Legislature, the last two serving as speaker of the House, I came to a conclusion about the future of casino gambling in Florida. Some decisions are better put into the hands of the people. Casino interests have become one of the most powerful special interest groups in Tallahassee. The pressure they apply to the political process is nonstop. It is why, almost every legislative session, we see casino expansion on the agenda. If nothing more, taking gambling off the political agenda will allow lawmakers to focus on the issues that matter most to their constituents. Voters know when to say when. They serve as a check and balance on the political process. Voter control works. That is why I proposed restoring it in 2014 and why I support Amendment 3 now.

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Al Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: AFIMAC Global

Nick Iarossi, Ashley Kalifeh, Capital City Consulting: Hygea Holdings

Andrew Kalel: Criminal Conflict & Civil Regional Counsel Region Four, Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel Second District

Sean Pittman, Pittman Law Group: Trulieve

Lincoln Quinton, NorthPointe: New Home Title

Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: National Council of State Boards of Nursing

Clark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Validity Diagnostics

— ALOE —

What Michelle Todd is reading — “UCF is the best college football team in Florida. So, where’s the respect?” via Marc Tracy of The New York Times — Florida, after all, has the highest percentage of high school players who are recruited by Division I teams, the most blue-chip recruits of any state, and is by many other metrics the best state in the country in which to set up a college football team. And that makes UCF the current definition of disruption in college football. Still, undefeated UCF is probably the fourth- or fifth-best-known team in the state, a directional university celebrating its 50th anniversary, whose football program has played in college sports’ top tier for barely two decades. Three years ago, UCF went 0-12. Yet the No. 10 Knights are, for a second year in a row, the best team in the state and one of the best anywhere else. In the last five years, they have won two New Year’s Day bowl games. They hold the longest active winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision, at 19 games. “I often say that reputation lags reality,” said Dale Whittaker, the UCF president. He was referring to the university as a whole, but it might apply to the football team especially.

UCF is Florida’s best football team. So, where’s the love?

Disney Princess Kristen Bell has some real concerns about ‘Snow White’ and consent” via Lindsey Bever of The Washington Post — Bell, who provided the voice of Princess Anna in Disney’s animated film “Frozen,” told Parents magazine that when she reads “Snow White” to her two young daughters, she poses a question: “Don’t you think that it’s weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission? Because you cannot kiss someone if they’re sleeping!” She told the magazine she also warns her 3- and 5-year-old daughters not to take apples — or anything else — from strangers. “Every time we close Snow White I look At my girls and ask ‘Don’t you think it’s weird that Snow White didn’t ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got the apple?’ I say, ‘I would never take food from a stranger, would you?’ And my kids are like, ‘No!’ And I’m like, ‘OK, I’m doing something right.’”

Why Spaceship Earth may miss Disney World’s 50th anniversary” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Disney news site WDW News Today reported earlier this month that Spaceship Earth would be undergoing a major overhaul, closing in early 2020 and not reopening until the second half of 2022, in time for Epcot’s 40th-anniversary celebration. This would mean the ride housed in the iconic Epcot structure would be closed through the resort’s 50th anniversary year … the rumored Spaceship Earth plans would deviate from the timeline of other Disney World projects — including Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy coaster and Ratatouille ride — which are all supposed to be ready in time for 2021. “They don’t want any construction happening for the 50th. That entire year, they don’t want any construction on any of the parks,” an Epcot cast member, who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly, told Orlando Rising. “If you have hopes of anything being made, it would have to start in time to open for the 50th, and I think they have their hands full right now.”

There’s a rumor that Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth could be closed for the park’s 50th anniversary.

Wet and mild: Warm winter predicted for much of the U.S.” via The Associated Press — Tampa meteorologist Jennifer Hubbard said the Tampa Bay area could expect mostly the same, with mild winter temperatures near or slightly above average, as well as more rain than usual. Hubbard said the bay area’s streak of record-breaking hot weather in October is not related to El Nino, but is instead caused by a combination of factors, such as dry high pressure in the area the past few weeks — which blocks rainfall — easterly winds and little sea breeze. “All of that together, we basically bake,” Hubbard said.

Happy birthday from the weekend to Cameron Yarbrough and state Rep. Larry Lee Jr. Celebrating today is our brilliant friend, Tony Carvajal of the Florida Chamber Foundation, former Sen. Nancy Detert, and Watson Haynes.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Forgotten no more

The Forgotten Coast, coined for the swath of shore stretching Mexico Beach to St. Marks, suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Michael.

But thanks in part to the efforts of two Tallahassee creatives, the region won’t be left behind.

In the days following destruction, Jesse Taylor, a local graphic designer with Marketing for Change, teamed up with Alex Workman, of We Are The Workmans and Aerial Tallahassee, to design a memento for the devastating storm.

The final product: a campaign titled “Never Forgotten Coast,” brandishing an outline of the Sunshine State with a heart intersecting the Big Bend and Panhandle regions affected by the hurricane. The campaign name is complemented by an infinity symbol seen from where the heart intersects the coastline.

‘Never Forgotten Coast’ is a reminder of the urgency in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Michael.

Taylor told us the message isn’t Florida-specific. Instead, it’s something that anyone watching the news around the nation can recognize — the regional slice of life hit hardest by Hurricane Michael.

On their own time, Taylor and Workman crafted the campaign with a sense of urgency. “It was important to get the message out there as soon as possible,” Taylor told us.

While a long road of recovery awaits some of the areas of the Forgotten Coast, the campaign’s reception has been stellar.

Workman and Taylor already have received more than 600 orders for their premier product, a T-shirt (available here) displaying the impactful design. All of the proceeds will go to Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe nonprofits aiding in relief efforts.

In the capital city, the image has galvanized the community. Taylor and street artist group BAET Collective have finished a mural on a building on Adams Street south of Monroe at Catalina Cafe’s new headquarters.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

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

Take 5

Scott issues hurricane update — As of Friday morning, the climbing death toll attributed to Hurricane Michael had risen to 24 in Florida, 34 nationwide. A sweeping update issued from Gov. Rick Scott’s desk Friday highlighted the state’s ongoing efforts across the regions hit hardest by the storm’s path, which made landfall more than a week ago in Mexico Beach. Approximately 7 million meals, 2 million gallons of water and 3 million pounds of ice are being distributed, according to Scott. As of Friday morning, 105,648 residences were still without power. Thirteen shelters currently operating under the state’s direction are inhabited by 2,393 Floridians. Currently, there are no fuel shortages in the affected areas. “Governor Rick Scott is in constant communication with federal, state and local emergency management officials and state agency leaders to ensure that communities impacted by Hurricane Michael are receiving the resources they need,” reads a media release accompanying the update. Peruse the extent of the state’s full recovery and relief efforts here.

State extends early voting — Supervisors of elections in eight Florida counties Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington can now extend early voting, beginning next Monday, under an executive order issued by Gov. Rick Scott this week. The order extends the registration date for poll watchers to noon, Oct. 26, 2018. In the named counties, which were hit particularly hard by the Hurricane Michael, vote-by-mail ballots can be forwarded to different addresses. Fax and email ballots were not permitted, as they remain “an unreliable method for returning ballots,” according to the Department of State. “The Department shares the Governor’s commitment to ensuring that all registered voters from counties devastated by Hurricane Michael are able to exercise their right to vote safely and securely in the upcoming General Election,” Secretary of State Ken Detzner said.

Next Governor will name new justices — A long-disputed legal battle over who has the authority to name three new Supreme Court justices came to a close this week when the high court ruled that outgoing Gov. Scott cannot appoint replacements for the court’s three upcoming vacancies. “The governor who is elected in the November 2018 general election (most likely Democrat Andrew Gillum or Republican Ron DeSantis) has the sole authority to fill the vacancies that will be created by the mandatory retirement of Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince,” the court’s one-page unsigned order said. Scott has publicly said he’d replace the departing jurists. The successful challenge to his remarks was brought forth by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.

Senate seeks halt to harassment probe — The state Senate request to end an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation into a top aide’s sexual harassment and retaliation claims will be heard Tuesday. The Senate’s legal complaint, filed earlier this month, counters that “the ongoing EEOC action violates the Florida Senate’s sovereign and constitutional rights,” including “violat(ing) the Senate’s sovereign immunity.” Rachel Perrin Rogers, chief assistant to Senate Republican Leader and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, says former Sen. Jack Latvala repeatedly groped her and made unwelcome comments about her body over a four-year period. The Senate is seeking a “temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction” to suspend that inquiry. The Tuesday hearing will be procedural in nature rather than focused on substance, according to U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle.

Session shaped by hurricane remains uncertain — Incoming legislative leaders Sen. Bill Galvano and state Rep. Jose Oliva told The News Service of Florida this week that they’re prepared to convene lawmakers to address needs prompted by Hurricane Michael. Gov. Scott and state agencies have the authority to request legislative relief, despite the 2019 Legislative Session’s March start date. “If the governor identifies an unmet need that requires swift legislative action, we will certainly work with him to address it,” incoming Senate President Galvano told The News Service. “In the here and now, if the governor or any agency needs resources or assistance for issues created by Hurricane Michael, the Florida House stands ready to help,” Oliva said.

State leaders criticize telecommunications post-Michael

After Hurricane Michael left crippled communications infrastructures throughout the state, some state leaders are voicing their frustration.

“Families understand that the telecommunications industry, like the power companies and other services, experienced catastrophic damage to vital infrastructure — but that does not change our expectation that each telecommunications company will be open and communicate a clear plan on how they intend to quickly restore service while treating families fairly,” Gov. Scott said in a strongly worded media release this week.

CFO Jimmy Patronis meets with Donald Trump during a tour of damage from Hurricane Michael. Patronis asked the FCC this week to help harden wireless communication networks in case of disaster.

Scott also outlined expectations he has for telecoms companies. Among his demands: the ability to switch providers without penalty, bills waived for October for families affected by the storm, and an open and transparent plan to restore power.

In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis expressed the need to better prepare telecommunications infrastructure for catastrophes.

“After more than a week of wireless service failures in Hurricane Michael’s hardest hit areas, I urge you to recommend industry-wide measures that would help prevent downed telecommunications for extended periods of time,” wrote Patronis. “FCC recommendations on best practices to preposition equipment so companies are prepared to come in and make repairs quickly after a hurricane passes, for example, could ultimately save lives by getting communications back up to aid first responder search and rescue operations.”

Florida timber suffers billion-dollar damage

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is pegging Hurricane Michael’s toll on Florida’s timber industry at $1.3 billion.

“This is a catastrophic loss to the forest industry in the Florida Panhandle,” said Commissioner Putnam said. “We are committed to helping Florida recover from this devastating storm and will continue to work closely with the agriculture industry on hurricane-related damage assessments.”

Florida’s timber industry could take a multibillion-dollar hit from Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane Michael, which made landfall more than a week ago as a Category 4 storm, swept through nearly three-million acres of forestland, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the Florida Forest Service.

The Big Bend and Panhandle counties in the storm’s path: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington — all among some the top timber-producing counties in the state.

“As the downed forest debris dries, the potential for wildfire conditions increase,” said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “It is critical for the Florida Forest Service to continue clearing trees and hurricane debris from roadways to re-establish fire lines and accessibility to timberlands.”

Long-term caregivers, heroes of the storm

Among those most affected by Hurricane Michael’s devastation were long-term caregivers in Florida’s Panhandle.

During the Category 4 storm, the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) set up shop at the state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), working in partnership with the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Health to keep member centers informed and ensure each facility followed established emergency preparedness plans.

Working tirelessly to keep residents safe, long-term caregivers were among the true heroes of Hurricane Michael.

Before, during and after Michael, FHCA continued to work with federal, state, and local government officials as well as transportation and utility partners to coordinate evacuations and power restoration.

In a natural disaster of this magnitude, where everyone faced extreme challenges, those in the long-term care profession worked tirelessly to meet the unique needs of each resident who was affected by this historic storm.

As a result, FHCA caregivers brought every resident safely through the hurricane, even as their own homes were without power, damaged and belongings swept away. In response to Michael, the FHCA is continuing to gather and deliver essential supplies to facilities in affected areas from Marianna to Panama City to Blountstown.

FHCA is committing to supporting them and their families while they continue to ensure Florida’s long-term care residents are safe and secure during this demanding time.

Instagram of the Week

State-backed program offers hurricane housing solution

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is helping families displaced by Hurricane Michael find affordable rental housing through online tool Socialserve.

Together, the two entities will conduct “extensive and frequent surveys with rental property owners in the impacted counties regarding available and suitable housing for households that cannot return to their homes,” according to the state.

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is ready to help families impacted by hurricane Michael find affordable housing. (Image via Naples Daily News)

“Florida Panhandle families have had their lives turned upside down by this monstrous storm,” said Florida Housing Director Trey Price. “Florida Housing stands at the front lines efficiently providing long-term housing assistance and resources to those in need.”

Gov. Scott added that the service “will help many Floridians get back to a sense of normal life sooner.”

Florida residents displaced by Hurricane Michael can visit the affordable rental housing locator service here to find available units in Florida.

Health department: ‘Drain and cover’ after Michael

The Florida Department of Health is reminding Floridians to take precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses as counties impacted by Hurricane Michael continue to clean up.

“Drain” any standing water, the health department advises. “It only takes a bottle cap of water for some mosquitoes to breed and multiply,” reads an alert from the agency.

Health department officials are reminding Floridians to drain any standing water to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

“Cover” skin with clothes or repellent, and doors and windows with screens, the agency advisory continues.

“Although there are currently no areas of active, ongoing transmission of Zika in Florida, it is important to remain vigilant to protect ourselves and neighbors from mosquito bites in and around our homes,” adds the health department.

Old tires, playgrounds, gutters and troughs are among many household items that can harbor mosquito breeding sites. The department has created a public service announcement on the Drain and Cover method, available here.

Florida Lottery: ‘Win big this weekend’

Two state-run lotteries are offering a combined $1.47 billion jackpot this weekend.

The Mega Millions lottery recently rose to an estimated $1.0 billion, and the Powerball jackpot rose to $470 million, according to the Florida Lottery.

This week’s Mega Millions is reaching the one-billion-dollar mark.

Both lotteries start at $40 million and roll until someone wins. Floridians can win the Mega Millions by matching five white ball numbers (1-70) and the golden Mega Ball number (1-25). Powerball players can win by matching the five white ball numbers (1-69) and the red Powerball (1-26).

There are more than 13,000 Florida Lottery retailers peppered across the state. The Mega Millions jackpot number was pulled Friday night. The Powerball jackpot drawing will be Saturday evening.

Police chiefs make mark in post-Michael relief

A group representing some of Florida’s first responders deployed members from locations across the state after Hurricane Michael came through Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend areas.

“Hurricane Michael was the first Category 4 storm on record to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle and it devastated several communities in its path,” Florida Police Chiefs Association President David Perry said in prepared remarks.

FSU Police Chief David Perry praises the influx of law enforcement officers to help the Panhandle after Hurricane Michael.

“Just as they did before and during the storm, men and women in law enforcement and public safety continue to answer the call to protect and serve during the recovery efforts.”

Perry, who serves as the Florida State University Police Chief, said hundreds of sworn personnel from the FPCA traveled to impacted areas following the storm.

“These officers are working with local law enforcement and state agencies to distribute supplies, keep people safe on our roadways, answer calls for service, perform welfare checks, and maintain a public safety presence in areas with infrastructure damage and limited communication,” he added.

Analysis: High school students lack access to necessary coursework

Nationwide, millions of students lack access to courses that would help them transition into college or a career, according to a new report from ExcelinEd.

“For example, not a single state offers Algebra I or Biology in all high schools,” said ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque. “Additionally, the data reveal a disturbing pattern of inequity: as the percentage of minority or low-income populations in schools increases, access to core courses decreases.”

A new report finds high schools lacking in the coursework needed to successfully transition to college or the workforce.

After analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection, ExcelinEd also found that access to education is inequitable. “It is worse for schools with high populations of minority students and schools with high populations of low-income students,” reads the report.

The solution? The group recommends states individually audit course offerings and levels of access; inform families of courses necessary for students to achieve beyond high school; and identify policy solutions to help reduce access problems.

The full report can be viewed online here.

Walmart mobile pharmacy sets up shop in Marianna

Walmart is offering a unique service for those who are unable to get needed medicine in Marianna, which suffered extensive damage after Hurricane Michael hit the community last week.

Located at 2255 Highway 71, the Walmart mobile pharmacy seeks to help offset patient demand while the Marianna Walmart Supercenter gets back on its feet.

It will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., providing prescriptions, immunizations and general resources for those affected by the storm. According to the retailer, it is capable of issuing up to 3,000 prescriptions per week. It is 53 feet in length and 17 feet wide, boasting a waiting area and space for immunizations.

A temporary solution: Walmart deploys its mobile pharmacy trailer to Marianna.

The makeshift solution, announced Tuesday, prompted a commending response from Gov. Scott.

“Thank you to [Walmart] for opening your mobile pharmacy in Marianna to support FL families impacted by Hurricane Michael that are in need of prescriptions, immunizations and resources,” Scott tweeted.

Uber, Lyft chip in hurricane relief

Two private-sector ride-sharing companies did what they could to help those displaced or stranded after Hurricane Michael.

Shortly after the storm, Uber began offering free rides up to $25 each to and from state-approved evacuation shelters in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. The service is ongoing, under the promotion code “MICHAELSHELTER.”

Uber, Lyft offer free rides to state-approved evacuation shelters for Hurricane Michael.

Similarly, Lyft offered rides up to $15 each across Panama City, Tallahassee and Albany, Georgia. That promotion ended Friday, Oct. 12.

According to Uber, teams had coordinated “with local officials to understand where these services can be most helpful.”

Before the storm made landfall, Lyft says it “donated to a Relief Rides program and partnered with United Way’s 2-1-1 program to help those in need evacuate.”

Study ranks Florida 23rd in ‘political engagement’

The Sunshine State isn’t the best but is far from the worst in terms of how politically engaged its electorate is.

A new study out this week from personal-finance website WalletHub put Florida at the 23 spot in “2018’s Most & Least Politically Engaged States.

That’s better than some of the state’s larger counterparts like Texas, New York and California, which ranked 41, 44 and 24, respectively. But Florida lags well behind Washington, D.C., Maine and Utah — the top three finishers.

Florida falls somewhere in the middle, in terms of political engagement (or lack thereof).

“In order to determine where Americans are most involved in politics, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 10 key indicators of political engagement,” the company’s Communications Manager Diana Polk wrote in an email. “They range from ‘percentage of registered voters in the 2016 presidential election’ to ‘total political contributions per adult population.’”

On average, ‘blue states’ were more politically engaged than ‘red states,’ according to WalletHub. A little more than 60 percent of the country’s electorate participated in the 2016 election, compared to 36 percent participation in 2014’s midterm.

FSU film student wins Student Academy Award

Shae Demandt is the latest rising star of Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts.

Earlier this month, Demandt secured the Student Academy Award in the Alternative category for her documentary, “Reanimated.” One of just 20 students from around the world to win, Demandt is now also eligible to compete in the Oscars. She is the ninth student in the college’s history to receive the honor.

FSU film student Shae Demandt gives a speech as she accepts her Student Academy Award in Beverly Hills. (Image via FSU)

“Reanimated” zeros in “on the long-shuttered Miami Marine Stadium, once a prized and popular 6,500-seat venue for boat races, concerts, rallies and sporting events,” according to the university. Abandoned after the 1982 Hurricane Andrew swept through the area, the stadium has since evolved into “a barren cement behemoth gleaming with vivid art.”

In her acceptance speech, Demandt said that during her childhood she would let her imagination run in order to “escape the real world.”

“However, when you get older you’re forced to stay in the real world and you have to leave that part of your childhood behind,” she continued. “But as I got older, I realized that filmmaking could be the part — could be the medium — where I could relive my childhood fantasies.”

Relief fund helps FSU med students

A fund has been established to help medical students, faculty members and staff of the Florida State University College of Medicine who have been left reeling after Hurricane Michael.

John P. Fogarty and Alma Littles, respectively the dean and the assistant dean of the college, sent a memo this week announcing the creation of the fund.

Dean of FSU College of Medicine John Fogarty announced a fund to aid students, faculty and family affected by Hurricane Michael.

“In the past week, some at the College of Medicine have seen trees slice buildings in two. Some have lost family homes to ferocious winds. Some have gone days without air conditioning or news from the outside world. Some have lost a refrigerator full of food and can’t afford to replace it. More than one person experienced a death in the family,” the memo said.

The FSU College of Medicine established a “rural medical education program” in Marianna in 2005. It offers students the opportunity to spend their third year of medical school in a rural community.

Marianna was one of several rural Northwest Florida communities in the path of the deadly storm, which made landfall last week in Mexico Beach with 155 mph sustained winds, making it just shy of a Category 5 storm.

“This somber occasion provides an opportunity to also give thanks that we are part of a College of Medicine centered on a mission of togetherness and service. We thank you for being a part of our family,” the memo about the fund said.

 ‘48 Hours’ to spotlight Tallahassee murder

CBS mystery show “48 Hours” will examine the enigmatic murder of Mike Williams at the 10 p.m. slot this Saturday.

Williams went missing more than 17 years ago, but his body wasn’t discovered until last year, after Tallahassee real estate appraiser Brian Winchester confessed to shooting Williams during a duck hunting trip at Lake Seminole in Jackson County.

After 17 years, Mike Williams’ cold case finally heats up.

Winchester claimed that Williams’ wife, Denise, was a co-conspirator. Denise Williams’ trial is set for December.

Featured prominently in the hourlong special is Jennifer Portman, who covered Mike Williams’ disappearance for the Tallahassee Democrat and currently serves as the paper’s news director.

A preview of the special is here.

Capitol Directions

The News Service of Florida and Tallahassee correspondent Michael Moline also contributed to this week’s edition.

Broward quietly approves questionable contract for problematic Chinese buses

During its Oct. 9 meeting, the Broward Board of County Commissioners approved a questionable contract to purchase 15 electric buses from BYD, the controversial Chinese bus maker under fire for a poor track record and numerous performance issues.

Despite widespread reports of BYD buses’ structural, mechanical, and safety issues — which the L.A. Times outlines in a May 2018 exposé regarding the Chinese auto company — Broward commissioners voted to purchase the electric vehicles by “piggybacking” off an existing contract with the state of Georgia, bypassing their own competitive procurement process.

With almost no notice (as if to avoid much scrutiny), the item to approve the purchase was placed on the Commission’s “supplemental agenda” at nearly the very last minute, leaving little to no opportunity for public input.

This decision demonstrates a blatant disregard for transparent government.

On Nov. 6, Broward’s electorate will vote on a transit surtax that intends to fund a range of transportation improvements. Are voters expected to entrust their money to officials showing no openness, who inconspicuously approve multimillion-dollar deals without consulting the citizens they represent?

Like all governments, Broward should prioritize accountability, openness, and the well-being and safety of its residents. This fishy deal with BYD, whose buses have been the focus of many performance and safety concerns, tosses those all aside, bringing to mind images of the smoke-filled rooms in which Chicago’s 20th-century politicians brokered backdoor deals.

Broward’s vote is particularly curious in light of the numerous stories, like that featured by the L.A. Times, which provide far-reaching insight into BYD’s dubious strategies to court political allies, detailing the inadequate performance of its buses in cities across the country.

Time and again, BYD vehicles faced criticism for shoddy construction, cracked frames, insufficient range, and a tendency to stall on hills.

“BYD’s electric buses are contending with a record of poor performance and mechanical problems,” writes Paige St. John. Transit agencies and operators in Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Anaheim, and Martha’s Vineyard, to name a few, have contended with “unreliable” BYD buses that stall on minor hills, require more costly maintenance than competitors’ vehicles, and struggle to run in hot weather.

Buses in Los Angeles “managed fewer than 400 miles between road calls, requiring emergency service or a return to the garage 10 times worse than the rest of the fleet,” St. John notes.

In fact, shortly after receiving their first shipment of buses from BYD, Los Angeles transit officials decided to take these “unsuitable” vehicles out of operation, as they required an “extensive campaign of retrofits, modifications, and upgrades to correct irregularities.”

Other transit agencies across the country have wrestled with comparable issues.

Operators in both Anaheim and Denver complained of BYD’s deficient door and HVAC systems.

And in Albuquerque, thanks to the delayed shipment of BYD buses that presented  performance and safety deficiencies, Mayor Tim Keller stated that his city’s much-anticipated bus rapid transit (BRT) project turned out to be “a bit of a lemon.

Adding insult to injury, Broward’s decision to contract with BYD comes as Congress looks to ban the purchase of Chinese buses through Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds. The proposed ban seeks to curb Chinese companies’ shady, aggressive efforts to dominate transit manufacturing with often subpar trains and buses.

While the ban would disallow any future purchase of BYD buses, it would also have the potential to derail pending procurements, as well as prohibit the purchase of replacement parts for vehicles already in operation.

So, as Congress seeks to address Chinese companies’ production and sale of deficient vehicles, Broward chooses to cozy up with one of the primary offenders.

All in all, this suspicious, under-the-radar move to purchase buses from BYD makes little sense.

Recent reports, in addition to experiences of transit agencies across the country, suggest that Broward is on track to place riders in unreliable, poorly built, and unsafe vehicles. This move is particularly strange in light of the impending ban on the use of FTA funds to purchase such vehicles, which speaks to the quality (or lack thereof) of BYD product.

Decisions like Broward’s lead voters to lose trust in government and elected officials.

As our representatives and stewards of tax dollars, politicians should not quietly ram through multimillion-dollar contracts of such importance. Instead, they should welcome public involvement, demonstrating a genuine commitment to transparency.

Of course, what would also be nice is they purchase buses that actually work.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.19.18

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

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

Earlier this week, Florida Politics reported on poll results from two state Senate races Florida Democrats were targeting as part of their effort to flip that chamber. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the numbers in Senate Districts 8 and 22 are not promising.

But it’s a different story in Senate District 16, where Democrat Amanda Murphy is running against Republican Ed Hooper. According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, the race is a real dogfight heading into the final days of the campaign. The two former lawmakers are separated by two points, with Hooper at 48 percent and Murphy at 46 percent. And that’s with a sample that some would consider generous to the Republicans.

The race is even closer among those who have already voted: Hooper and Murphy both receive 48 percent.

The Democrats ambitions of taking the Florida Senate are likely out of reach this cycle, however, if they want to narrow the margin, they’ll have to make some tough decisions, such as giving up on some candidates who just can’t win and devoting the resources they would have spent there to places like SD 16.

We’re very happy about this — “St. Pete Polls added to RealClearPolitics political polling averages” via Florida Politics — The polling operation founded by Matt Florell more than 5 years ago is now included in RealClearPolitics averages of Florida’s U.S. Senate race between incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott as well as the Governor’s race between former Congressman Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. “We’re excited to have our polls be included as part of the RealClearPolitics polling averages,” Florell said. “It’s great to see all of our hard work being recognized by one of the most popular political news organizations in the country.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: All Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don’t, they will after I speak to them. I am in total support. Also, Democrats will destroy your Medicare, and I will keep it healthy and well!

@Fineout: What Gov. Scott did not do – postpone election beyond Nov. 6. Fla. law allows governor to delay elections due to emergency, but it’s an open legal question on whether states can do that for fed elections.

@ScottMaxwell: The @OrlandoSentinel’s editorial endorsements are out: – Gillum – Nelson – Murphy All Dems. So yeah, “liberal media.” (Of course, people also screamed that when paper endorsed Romney … and went 50 yrs straight for GOP…and was 1st to call for Bill Clinton‘s impeachment. But yeah)

@CharlieCrist: Excited to welcome my friend and the next Governor of the great State of Florida @AndrewGillum to my hometown tomorrow. Doors open at 11am — see you there, St. Pete!

—@BSFarrington: Something I never, ever expected. Open a press release about the hurricane and there’s @wakullawriter and @FLGovScott arms around each other’s backs and smiling. I guess disasters can bring people together.

@AGGancarski: “The five B’s of public speaking are simply ‘be brief, brother, be brief'” – @AndrewGillum

@DavidABergstein: One problem with the text I just received warning me to vote because of the Democrats is that I’m a Democrat

@JimmyPatronis: Just got word that: 2/3 of Panama City Beach has been restored, there will be WiFi on wheels at the Walmart in Lynn Haven, and anywhere that Xfinity shows up on WiFi, anyone can access for 2 hours.

—@FLMolly: I’m going to be dropping off a load of dog food and other pet supplies at Costco in Tallahassee today – where there’s a coordinated collection of anything and everything you’d like to send to those in need in the Panhandle. Won’t you join me? Every little bit helps.

@PaulFlemming: Think we’ve got a new tagline for Tallahassee. From @PatriciaMazzei and @mattfleg‘s NYT profile of the mayor and gubernatorial candidate, this description: “A community of students, families and a striking number of mattress stores.”

@RWoolington: Some personal news: I am very excited to say that I will be joining the investigative team @TB_Times next month. I am so grateful to be joining such an amazing team and a newsroom that I have long admired.

— LATEST TURNOUT FIGURES —

— TOP STORY —

7 reasons why it’s silly to count out Ron DeSantis in the Florida Governor race” via Peter Schorsch – 1 .Donald Trump is strong, maybe at his strongest in some time; 2. The polls have stabilized for DeSantis; 3. The down-ballot polls show little indication of a “Blue Wave”; 4. Gillum did not receive a hurricane bump; 5. DeSantis has all the money in the world; 6. DeSantis has stopped serving the ball into the net; 7. Republicans are doing what they do during early voting.

— AFTER MICHAEL —

Search and rescue teams complete sweeps in the Panhandle” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — As of a briefing Thursday morning, the state’s count of deaths attributable to the storm was 17, with 12 of those in Bay County. Local officials have confirmed at least eight more deaths, including 3 in Jackson, 2 more in Gadsden and three additional deaths in Bay. The final “secondary” search — which involves dogs and shoring up collapsed buildings — was “100 percent” completed overnight, though a few teams with dogs remain on the ground. State officials said that with the search and rescue missions complete, they are shifting gears toward recovery efforts and disaster assistance, particularly in the hardest hit counties.

Tweet, tweet:

Florida to bend voting rules in counties hit by hurricane” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — With tens of thousands throughout the region still without power, Florida Gov. Scott relaxed or waived voting rules for eight counties hammered by Hurricane Michael last week. Scott’s order represents a delicate balancing act for the Republican governor since most of the Panhandle counties affected by the decision are GOP strongholds that usually deliver thousands of votes for Republican candidates. Scott himself is challenging Democrat U.S. Sen. Nelson in a closely watched race that could help decide control of the U.S. Senate. … Using his emergency power as governor, Scott relaxed rules on early voting, including limits on where local election officials are normally allowed to set up early voting sites.

Michael insurance claims quickly pile up” via the News Service of Florida — Nearly 70,000 insurance claims had been filed, with estimated insured losses of $680.7 million, according to data posted online by the state Office of Insurance Regulation. Insurers reported 69,950 claims as of 1:45 p.m. Wednesday. The storm caused widespread damage in the Panhandle and the state’s Big Bend before continuing into Georgia. The vast majority of claims filed as of Wednesday — 54,607 — involved residential property. Of that number, 52,452 claims remained open, the data shows.

Where’d you hear that? A rumor mill churns amid hurricane Michael’s rubble” via Alan Blinder of The New York Times — Misinformation, well-intentioned or otherwise, is common in disasters, fueled by human nature and a speak-now-assess-later approach that has only been magnified in an era of text messages and social media posts. Making matters particularly difficult in Florida is the scale of the disaster, the delay in resuming cellular service and the fact that what is true in one county is not necessarily so in another. The speculation starts in lines for food and water, gas and generators, where statistics and facts can inadvertently begin to merge into a grim mythology. The solution for some is to try to avoid information entirely: “I don’t even listen to the radio right now,” said Ryan Fountain, whose home in a nearby town suffered minor damage.

Officials still mum on status of Tyndall’s F-22s” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — More than a week after Michael made a direct hit on Tyndall Air Force Base, neither the Air Force nor members of Florida’s congressional delegation who could be contacted are providing any specific information on the numbers, or the fates, of the F-22 Raptor fighter jets left behind as the base was evacuated in advance of the hurricane’s arrival on the northeastern Gulf Coast. Fifty-five of the fifth-generation stealth tactical fighter aircraft are based at Tyndall, and various reports indicate 33 of the planes were flown elsewhere as Hurricane Michael approached the base, home to the 325th Fighter Wing. Using those figures, as many as 22 of the base’s F-22s were left behind to ride out the storm.

An aircraft hangar damaged by Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force Base.

State marshals support to rebuild Air Force Base” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Members of the Florida Defense Support Task Force, a legislatively mandated panel within the economic-development agency Enterprise Florida, expressed a need to expand support from the state’s congressional and legislative delegations. Despite Pentagon officials saying they intend to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base, concerns linger that the 29,000-acre facility in southeastern Bay County could face downsizing or closure. The base employs about 11,000 military and civilian personnel. Tom Neubauer, task force vice chairman, said during a conference-call meeting that efforts are underway to add to a show of support that was sent last week to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Pentagon Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein by U.S. Sens. Nelson and Marco Rubio, and U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican whose district includes the base. “We’re just trying to get that put together now in the form of a formal declaration from all of our delegation across the state,” Neubauer said.

Heartbreaking — “Homeless baby, family shelter at Walmart” via David Goldman and Jay Reeves of The Associated Press — Their home full of soggy furniture and mosquitoes, Wilmer Capps was desperate to find shelter for his wife and their son Luke, born just three days after Hurricane Michael ravaged the Florida Panhandle. So Capps, his wife Lorrainda Smith and little Luke settled in for the longest of nights in the best spot they could find: The parking lot of a Walmart store shut down by the storm. On a starry night, mother sat in the bed of the family’s pickup truck. Dad sat in the dark and pondered how it could be that his son’s first night out of a hospital could be spent outside a big-box retailer because of a lack of help. “It really upset me, man, because I’ve always been the type of person who would help anyone,” Capps said. “We had everything. Full-time job, a place to live. One day we had it all, the next we had nothing,” said Smith. “This is not what I thought I’d be bringing him back to.”

Lorrainda Smith sits with her 2-day-old son, Luke, in a parking lot after their home was damaged from Hurricane Michael and they were told a nearby shelter was closed, in Panama City. (Image via AP)

Community health centers still open in areas affected by Michael” via Florida Politics — A little over a week after Michael ravaged Northwest Florida, the Florida Association of Community Health Centers said it’s still helping treat patients affected by the storm. “Our Community Health Centers are always prepared to serve patients even following a major natural disaster,” said Andrew Behrman, president and CEO of FACHC. “Community Health Centers specialize in providing integrated care that addresses the unique needs of patients in more rural, diverse, and medically underserved areas. With our mobile medical units on the ground, we will be providing treatment, even in areas that have suffered the most during this storm.” In addition to the mobile units in Callaway and Quincy, FACHC has another eight facilities that have reopened and are ready to accept patients. A full list of those locations is available on FACHC’s website.

Duke seeks pause in sending bills in hard-hit areas” via the News Service of Florida — Duke Energy Florida is seeking state approval to suspend sending bills to customers in counties that sustained heavy damage in Hurricane Michael until the utility finishes restoration work in the counties. Duke, which provides service in hard-hit Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla counties, said in a filing at the state Public Service Commission that hurricane damage has made delivering mail difficult. “Roads are impassable due to residual flooding and the large quantity of debris that remains on the roads,” the filing said. “As a consequence, the U.S. Postal Service does not have safe physical access to the residences of these customers. Due to this reason, the U.S. Postal Service cannot deliver bills to these customers.

Healthy Kids premiums waived in 12 counties” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Healthy Kids Corp. Board of Directors approved a plan to waive children’s health-insurance premiums for three months in counties that sustained heavy damage in Hurricane Michael. The move will waive premiums for children enrolled in the Healthy Kids, MediKids and Children’s Medical Services programs. The waiver will be for November, December and January in Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon, Wakulla and Taylor counties. The move will apply to 5,604 children, most of whom receive subsidized insurance coverage because of their family income levels. About 325 children are in families that pay the full premiums.

FSU explains decision on football game, homecoming as it helps with Hurricane Michael relief” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University is in position to assist people — including FSU students, faculty and staff — impacted by Hurricane Michael. That’s why FSU President John Thrasher believes Saturday’s football game against Wake Forest and surrounding homecoming events can help promote and share the most effective ways to support those in need. Thrasher has been criticized by some who believe the game and events should not be held as the Panhandle recovers from the catastrophic Category 4 hurricane that struck a week ago.

Hurricane Michael: What if it had hit Tampa Bay?” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — The death toll would have been catastrophic, and the damage far greater than what occurred in the Panhandle, according to experts. If such a Michael-like hurricane did hit … Pinellas County would be cut in half by the storm surge. St. Petersburg would suffer a 23 feet surge, while downtown Tampa would see a 26-foot surge with water flooding the lower stories of some downtown office towers. Inland areas would wind up underwater as well because the surge would push Tampa Bay inland. The Howard Frankland and Gandy bridges and the Courtney Campbell Causeway would all suffer structural damage and possibly have their approaches washed away. The scouring winds and waves would destroy 470,000 homes and 10,000 businesses, the study found. About 2 million people would require medical care, and the estimated death toll would be about 2,000 people — slightly more than the 1,817 who were killed by Hurricane Katrina.

Could Michael get reclassified as a stronger hurricane? It wouldn’t be the first.” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — In the hyperdata world of hurricane forecasting, where history is written in millibars and miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center’s 168-year record of Atlantic storms stands as an invaluable index to meteorologists, the insurance industry, government planning departments and, of course, weather geeks. What’s less known: It gets tweaked a lot. Since 2008, hurricane researchers have added new storms to the record almost every year, uncovering more information in old ship and weather records that more often than not depict mightier storms. … Hurricane Michael, which hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm, now enters that record, and in the coming months will get a hard second look.

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

Tom Steyer to donate another $2 million to Andrew Gillum” via Ryan Nobles of CNN — Steyer is personally donating $2 million to Gillum’s “Forward Florida” political action committee, which is aligned with the Gillum campaign. Through his organization, “Need to Impeach,” he is directing a massive direct mail pitch to 300,000 Florida voters that have signed up to support his effort to impeach President Donald Trump. The mail piece makes specific reference to Gillum’s support of impeachment. Another organization funded by Steyer, NextGen America, has already spent more than $5 million on efforts to get Gillum elected. “If you were going to choose a single race that has the most national significance, it would be the governor’s race in Florida,” Steyer said.

Tom Steyer continues to go big for Andrew Gillum.

Ron DeSantis won’t disclose details of taxpayer-funded travel in Congress” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News — While in Congress, DeSantis spent more than $145,000 in taxpayer money for travel, including trips to New York to appear on Fox News as he increased his public profile before his campaign to become Florida’s next governor. But DeSantis is refusing to release records detailing that travel. The former House member who has argued members of Congress should not receive special treatment is using a special exemption given to members of Congress that allows them to withhold public records. “It’s a voluntary choice he is making. He could certainly choose to tell us more to clear up how he spent his time and taxpayer money,” said Lisa Gilbert, the vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen, a nonprofit watchdog group.

New ad from Republican governors asks, ‘Is Gillum caught up in corruption?’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Republican Governors Association (RGA) continues to capitalize on the ongoing FBI probe in Tallahassee, asking in a new ad if Gillum is “caught up in corruption.” The ad hits Gillum, the Democratic candidate for Governor, for his alleged proximity to the investigation, though it’s not clear whether Gillum is actually a target of the investigation. Still, the RGA is attempting to paint Gillum as dirty in its new 30-second spot titled “Corruption.” Gillum is currently competing in the Governor’s race against former Republican U.S. Rep. DeSantis. “Tallahassee’s paper says 20 FBI agents have spent two years investigating the city in Mayor Andrew Gillum’s tenure,” the ad’s narrator begins. “Is Andrew Gillum caught up in corruption? You decide.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Gillum begins his closing argument in St. Petersburg” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gillum gingerly steps back onto the campaign trail Friday with a St. Petersburg College town hall meeting that ties the devastation of Hurricane Michael into the closing argument of his campaign. In the afternoon, he is scheduled to campaign in Tampa. The 39-year-old Tallahassee mayor had suspended campaign activities before and after Hurricane Michael struck north Florida, and his St. Petersburg Q&A with voters marks his return to the campaign trail after 11 days. Gillum has sought to run a campaign more positive than negative, promoting his progressive ideas for Florida more than attacking Republican nominee DeSantis.

Assignment editors — Gillum will hold a town hall to discuss his vision for Florida as it relates to climate change, rising sea levels and resiliency, 10:30 a.m. (doors open to the public 11 a.m., event begins 11:30 a.m.), St. Petersburg College, Gibbs Campus Music Center, 6605 5th Avenue North, St. Petersburg.

Happening today:

Meanwhile … Former U.S. Senator backs Reform Party ticket for Governor — Former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Mike Gravel is endorsing the Reform Party candidates for Florida Governor. “I am pleased to put my full support behind Darcy Richardson and Nancy Argenziano on the Reform Party ticket in Florida,” Gravel said. “Republican and Democratic elites have rejected the empowerment of regular citizens at every turn.” From 1969 to 1981, Gravel served as the U.S. Senator from Alaska and is best known for his role in the release of the Pentagon Papers and for helping to end the military draft during the Vietnam War. “I’ve admired Senator Gravel since the early 1970s and I’m deeply honored and humbled to have his support,” said Richardson. In 2008, Gravel left the Democratic Party and joined the Libertarian Party, highlighting his agreement with their stance on foreign policy and the failed drug war.

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

Did Mitch McConnell just cut Bill Nelson a huge break by foreshadowing Medicare cuts?” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — McConnell said this week that cuts to entitlement programs — Washington-speak for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are necessary due to rising federal deficits. “It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future,” the Kentucky Republican told Bloomberg News. Nelson doesn’t expect that will go over well in Florida, home to 1.9 million Medicare recipients and where nearly one-in-five residents retirement age or older. “Mitch McConnell made a big mistake yesterday: he gave away his real intentions,” Nelson said. “You let the seniors of this state know the Majority Leader is thinking about cutting Social Security and Medicare, they’re not going to be too happy.”

Nelson shifts focus to campaign: I’ve ‘done everything I can do’ to help Floridians affected by hurricane” via Jeffrey Cimmino of the Washington Free Beacon — “I’m going to campaign,” Nelson said. “I’ve spent the last week in the Panhandle in those storm-ravaged counties, and have done everything I can do and they know to call me if they are getting any hiccups. But in the meantime, I’m going to continue to make my case to the people.” Nelson met with scientists and gulf businesses in St. Petersburg in his first appearance outside the Florida Panhandle since the storm hit last week. During his appearance in St. Petersburg, Nelson criticized the environmental record of his Republican opponent, Gov. Scott. Unlike Nelson, Scott has stayed in North Florida to oversee recovery efforts. “I’m going to say this. We’ve got to let folks know that this man helped us,” Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young said of the Republican candidate.

New Nelson ad talks ‘independence’ — In “Closer,” Nelson asks a question: “Who has the independence to put Florida first?” … “When President Trump as for something that’s good for him and bad for Florida, I’ll know what I do. I’ll say no. And we all know what Rick Scott will do.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Florida handed $200 million to Rick Scott donor amid massive contribution to Scott’s Super PAC” via Matthew Cunningham-Cook of The Intercept — The transactions came in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Scott ran the pro-Trump Super PAC at the same time he served as a trustee of the State Board of Administration. The SBA manages the state’s investments, about 80 percent of which are for the state pension fund’s 1 million members and retirees. On September 26 of that year, Stephen Feinberg, the CEO of the sprawling private-equity firm Cerberus, donated $500,000 to Rebuilding America Now, Scott’s pro-Trump Super PAC. One week later, the SBA made a $200 million commitment to a high-fee, high-risk Cerberus fund, Cerberus FSBA Levered Loan Opportunities Fund LP. Feinberg made another $975,000 contribution to Scott’s Super PAC one month later, on November 3, making Feinberg its fifth-largest donor. Scott is one of three trustees of the SBA, but neither the SBA investments nor the Cerberus donations appear to violate any state or federal rules. And the Cerberus investments represent a small fraction of the Florida pension fund’s more than $150 billion in assets.

Scott’s post-Michael media mentions jump 400 percent” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – When Scott announced earlier this week that he would step away from the campaign trail to focus on the recovery from Hurricane Michael, the Republican traded in stump speeches and retail handshakes in the U.S. Senate race for a benefit no other Florida politician can claim: Endless free media exposure. The decision, made three weeks before election day, appears to being paying off. Since the massive storm rammed into the Florida Panhandle on Oct. 11, Scott was either mentioned or interviewed on television 6,417 times, a massive spike compared to his pre-storm exposure, according to media monitoring services TVEyes and Critical Mention. By comparison, Nelson was mentioned 1,119 times during the same period.

— PROGNOSIS? —

The U.S. House has more of a chance to go blue in three weeks than it does to stay red, according to Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political forecasting service published by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. 

“A race-by-race analysis of Democratic House targets shows the party is close to winning the majority, but they do not have it put away, in our judgment, with Election Day less than three weeks away,” writes managing editor Kyle Kondik.

A 23-seat net gain is needed, and “barring a big, positive late change in the political environment in favor of Republicans, the bare minimum for Democratic House gains is in the mid-to-high teens,” Kondik continues. 

Of course, there are some Florida kinks in the Democrats’ plans. 

‘Heartburn’ in CD 27: Nationally, Democrats sought to take over four open seats where their candidates were favored. But in CD 27, where Democrat Donna Shalala is vying to replace retiring Republican incumbent Ileana RosLehtinen, there have been a few speed bumps. “If Democrats flub any of these four races, FL-27 is the one they would lose, and the uncertainty there is what could cause the Democrats to come up short in this category.” 

Elsewhere: Republican South Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo’s seat is “Lean Republican,” per the Crystal Ball. He’s holding up better than other Hillary Clinton-won districts that Democrats are targeting. Democrat Stephanie Murphy’s seat remains “Likely Democratic.” 

No surprise: Statewide, the hotly contested races for Governor and the U.S. Senate are tossups, per the Crystal Ball. 

 — NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Elizabeth Warren endorses Nikki Fried for Ag. Commissioner” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The gesture marked the first major endorsement that Warren, Massachusetts’ senior U.S. Senator, issued personally for any statewide candidate seeking office in Florida. “The status quo has failed the people of Florida,” Warren said. “Big polluters control the state’s water policy and the NRA runs the concealed weapons permit process. “It’s time to elect a leader who will stand up to corporate greed and help Floridians in the fight to take their state back. “Nikki Fried is that fighter, she will make sure the voices of regular people can finally be heard over special interests — I’m proud to endorse her for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”

Elizabeth Warren calls Nikki Fried a “fighter … [who] will make sure the voices of regular people can finally be heard.”

Florida Chamber backs Matt Caldwell for Ag. Commissioner” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Caldwell has hauled in a new endorsement from the Florida Chamber of Commerce as he continues his campaign to be Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner. Caldwell is competing against Democratic nominee Fried. But the Florida Chamber argues Caldwell’s experience makes him the superior candidate. “Matt Caldwell is a seventh generation Floridian with roots firmly planted in Florida’s agriculture community,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “His public service and dedication to ensuring Florida’s job creators and our economy remain strong are priorities that are good for Florida families.”

Gun safety group to spend additional $1.8M on Fried, Sean Shaw campaigns” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control group co-founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said that in addition to throwing $2 million behind Democratic candidates seeking Florida cabinet positions, it will be dedicating $1.8 million solely to agriculture commissioner nominee Fried and attorney general hopeful Shaw. The organization supports “gun-sense” candidates like Fried, who called for a full audit of the concealed-weapons permit process, and Shaw. Fried’s call for reform has been a marquee issue on her campaign. Fried, who owns a gun and has a concealed-weapons permit, released a video and letter last month distancing herself from the NRA with a clear message: “I won’t be beholden to you.” The agriculture commissioner’s office oversees the concealed-weapons permitting process.

Poll: Overwhelmingly, Florida voters want to expand Medicaid coverage” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — If you wonder about the constant health care talk from Democratic candidates this year, a newly released national Kaiser Health Tracking Poll that included an oversampling of Floridians shows why … 59 percent of Floridians want to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income people, and 34 percent want to keep it as it is today … 44 percent of registered voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate who will protect the Affordable Care Act, and 38 percent said they would be more likely to back a candidate wanting to repeal it … 43 percent of Florida voters support passing a national health plan — “Medicare-for-all” — and 33 percent oppose it … 69 percent would be more likely to support a candidate who wants to maintain protections for pre-existing conditions, and 55 percent of residents said they had a family member with a pre-existing condition.

Happening today — State political candidates and committees face a deadline to file reports showing finance activity through Oct. 12.

Realtors put another $2.9 million into ballot measure” via the News Service of Florida — The industry group Florida Realtors last week contributed another $2.9 million to a campaign aimed at passing a property-tax proposal on the November ballot. The group as of Friday had sent an overall total of $9.56 million to a political committee known as Amendment 2 is for Everybody. The political committee spent nearly $1.12 million from Oct. 6 through Friday, with most of the money going to advertising, and had about $2.3 million in remaining cash on hand. The proposal, which will appear as Amendment 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot, would extend a property-tax cap for commercial and other non-homestead properties.

Does congressional candidate Michael Waltz’s company still hold ‘women-owned’ status?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Waltz, CEO for Metis Solutions, won the Republican nomination to succeed DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District. He faces Democrat Ambassador Nancy Soderberg. And for eight years, he has worked at Metis Solutions, a company founded in 2010 by Mary Beth Long, the first woman confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Secretary of Defense. The business provided strategy and policy support to military and corporate clients, and since 2012 pulled in more than $100 million in federal contracts, mostly through the Defense Department. But Long in 2016 sold Metis in a private equity deal. Long could not be reached for comment but her staff said they did not believe she had any more ownership in the company. Now Waltz serves as CEO, Long’s former job. A search of federal contracts for Metis Solutions continues to show “women-owned” status still on many projects, even some contracts that started as recently as last month.

Is Mike Waltz’s company still considered ‘woman-owned’ since it was sold in 2016?

Steve Scalise to rally for Mike Miller in Orlando” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Scalise, of Louisiana, was seriously injured in a shooting at a congressional baseball game practice last year. He will be joined at the 10:30 a.m. rally at Orlando Executive Airport by Central Florida officials and first responders. The event is open to the public. Miller is running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which includes Seminole County and parts of Orange County.

New Chris Hunter ad says Gus Bilirakis ‘sold out’ to drug companies” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “Gus Bilirakis inherited his seat in Congress, took more drug money than any current Florida Congressman, then sponsored the law that let drug companies push more opioid pills,” the ad begins. Bilirakis was one of six co-sponsors of the 2016 “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act” that scaled back the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ability to halt shipments of drugs that posed a danger to the public. “As a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, Chris Hunter put crooked drug company executives behind bars,” the ad went on to say. The “Sold Out” ad paid for by Hunter’s campaign indicated Bilirakis accepted $80,850 from drug companies.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Charlie Crist has $2.3M banked for CD 13 re-election bid” via Florida Politics — Crist added more than $188,000 to his campaign account between early August and the end of September … $114,000 of that cash via individual donors, including $104,000 contributions exceeding the threshold requiring donor names to be disclosed. Two dozen of those donors chipped in $2,700 apiece, the maximum allowable individual contribution to a congressional campaign. The balance of the new receipts came in from PACs, with the National Association of Realtors Political Action Committee leading the way with a $5,000 check. Other household names on his list were AFLAC, AT&T, Merck, UnitedHealth Group, Wells Fargo and UPS.

Clean energy advocacy group to launch ad blitz supporting Carlos Curbelo” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) is a Washington, D.C.-based group which aims to support Republicans who push for clean energy policies in Congress. The organization endorsed Curbelo back in June during the primary campaign. Now, it’s dropping $221,000 on a radio, digital, mail and phone ad buy supporting Curbelo against Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. CRES is linking to a new 30-second spot on its website titled “Independent Voice,” highlighting Curbelo’s environmental record.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

New DCCC Spanish-language ad blasts Maria Salazar as #ConTrumpNoConMiami — A new ad from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee paints “#BravoTrump Salazar” as “completely in line” with Trump’s policies “both on Twitter and IRL (in real life, not the retiring Congresswoman).” The new ad also highlights how she has been endorsed by a group that wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

— DOWN BALLOT —

What Evan Power is reading – “Hardee County ballot blunder could impact statewide races via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Bob Cortes shares son’s story, his commitment to free-market health care, in Spanish radio ad” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In the 60-second radio ad, Cortes, a New York native and running for re-election in House District 30, speaks about how he and his wife Virginia were living in Puerto Rico when they realized their son needed more medical help than he could receive on the island. So, they moved to Central Florida where he received such care, although he eventually succumbed. The story is of the Cortes’s first son, Bob Jr., who was born with cerebral palsy and died in 1990. Through the struggle, Cortes became appreciative of the free-market health care system and quality of care his son received, and the struggle has led to his commitment to it, he says in the commercial. The ad also is an homage to family.

Bob Cortes goes on the radio to tell his story of personal struggle.

Tony Mowry confronts James Buchanan about district-hopping” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Democrat Mowry started a Tiger Bay forum in Sarasota by attacking Republican opponent Buchanan’s perpetual candidacy. “He’s a wealthy politician looking to buy his way into office,” said Mowry. “It makes me angry he thinks he can run in multiple parts of the county after trying his hand in multiple districts.” Buchanan in February lost a special election in Florida House District 72 to Democrat Margaret Good. Buchanan ran in that race after initially filing to run in District 71, but then changing seats after the resignation of state Rep. Alex Miller. Now he’s running in District 74. But Buchanan, who grew up in the district, said he never expected to find himself running in three districts within two years. “When I ran in District 72, it was a humbling experience, an incredible experience,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on running again.”

Internal poll shows HD 115 race could come down to the wire” via Florida Politics — The race to succeed term-limited Republican Rep. Michael Bileca in House District 115 is shaping up to be closer than expected, according to a new poll commissioned by allies of Democratic nominee Jeff Solomon. The Kitchens Group poll found voters in the district the heretofore GOP-leaning district are split down the middle, 45-45 percent, over whether they want a Republican or Democrat to represent them in the state House next year. Another 8 percent of voters said they didn’t see a difference between the two major parties while 2 percent said they were unsure which they preferred. When Solomon and Republican nominee Vance Aloupis were pitted against each other by name, Solomon came out on top 47-42 percent with 11 percent undecided. In both instances, independent voters made the key difference.

Holly Raschein airs first TV ad in re-elect bid — The Key Largo Republican is airing her first TV spot of the cycle, running throughout her Florida Keys and South Miami-Dade House District 120. In the ad, Raschein reminds constituents of her fifteen years of service — first as a legislative aide to a Republican (the late Ken Sorensen), and then to a Democrat (Ron Saunders), before running for the seat herself in 2012. She stresses experience and knowledge are essential to successfully represent this unique district, and that she’s always ready to “work with anyone, anytime, for our home district.”

To view “All of Us,” click on the image below:

Charter schools aren’t included in school ballot measure. They’re not happy about it.” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Several charter schools operated by the Miami-based charter conglomerate Academica have been sharing a critical flier informing parents that charter schools will not benefit from the Miami-Dade County Schools property tax referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot. “Many of you have asked about the Miami-Dade School Referendum Question and what it means for your child’s school,” the flier read. “Therefore, we’d like to provide you with the latest information.” … Although the flier does not oppose the referendum, in bold, it reads, “The School Board has not committed to share this money with your child’s school, or any other public charter school, at this time.”

— EDITORIAL ENDORSEMENT ROUND-UP —

The Orlando Sentinel unveiled three endorsements for Democrats in closely watched races this cycle. The opinion branch of the paper is supporting Democrat Gillum over Republican DeSantis in Florida’s race for Governor, writing, “It’s time for a change. Time for some new ideas.” The team is backing Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Nelson, in part because it is very anti-Scott: “If anything, Scott will further the political tribalism that’s dividing this country, to the peril of us all.” Further down the ballot, Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, of Orlando, received the paper’s support. Murphy “will serve her constituents well in these troubled times,” writes the editorial team.

TCPalm, which covers the Treasure Coast, backed Republican incumbent Congressman Brian Mast over Democratic challenger Lauren Baer “because he has devoted his first term to demonstrable action on the environmental crisis facing District 18, where toxic blue-green algae tainted our waterways again this year.”

— STATEWIDE —

Happening today — The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will release September unemployment figures, 10 a.m.

PSC opens fresh hearings into sale of Vero Beach’s municipal utility to FPL” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Thursday’s hearing centered on the Civic Association of Indian River County’s challenge to a $116.2 million “acquisition adjustment” that FPL would levy against its ratepayers. “They’re saying that without these special favors that they want from the commission that they just can’t do the deal,” said Lynne Larkin, an estates and transactional attorney and former city commissioner representing the watchdog group in her first foray into utility regulation. “Our position is that there hasn’t been enough negotiation, and enough putting your foot down and saying, ‘Yeah, you can make this better,’” she said. “This deal can go forward. But, for some reason, the will of our government has not been such to put their feet to the fire.”

Tests confirm red tide on Brevard County beaches” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today — Tests this week confirmed that the same red tide blooming in Southwest Florida over the past year has indeed struck the Space Coast, raising the specter of more dead fish, beachside coughs and disappointed tourists on the horizon. Onshore winds could continue to push patches of the toxic algae from the Gulf Stream to Brevard County beaches this week, forecasters said. And conditions here have been ripe for red tide, biologists add, because coastal waters are chronically primed by the nutrients the algae thrives upon — partially served up by us in the form of fertilizers and sewage.

— OPINIONS —

Leo Longworth, Matthew Surrency: Don’t be misled — Amendment 1 is a tax shift, not a tax cut” via Florida Politics — Our state politicians are calling Amendment 1 a “tax cut,” but it’s actually a tax shift. A few property owners will benefit, but millions of us will pay for it. Amendment 1 would give a tax break to only one-fourth of those who own Florida properties. That means three-quarters of us would NOT benefit. We believe Florida’s tax system should work for all homeowners, across the board, not just a few. Why should the state politicians get to pick who wins and who loses? As leaders of statewide organizations, we’re hearing from our peers, and they know this plan doesn’t work. Most of us would carry a bigger tax burden … perhaps even a property tax hike. If you rent, you’re not off the hook either. Landlords are likely to pass on their increased share of the property tax burden to their tenants. Don’t be led astray by the false promise of Amendment 1. Vote No.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Veterans Florida launches search for new executive director — Veterans Florida, a nonprofit corporation that assists veterans in the transition to civilian life, named Career Services Program Director Joe Marino as interim executive director. Mariano succeeds Bobby Carbonell, who recently stepped down to become Innovation Program Officer at the Air Force National Guard. The Veterans Florida Board of Directors is currently searching for a permanent replacement and is accepting applications from interested individuals on the group’s website. “I’m very proud of the accomplishments that Veterans Florida made during my time as Executive Director,” Carbonell said. “It was a privilege to work alongside the Veterans Florida staff and Board of Directors as we carried out our mission to place veterans in new careers, help them start new businesses and market Florida as the nation’s most veteran-friendly state.”

Bobby Carbonell, the newly named Innovation Program Officer at the Air Force National Guard.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian BallardChristopher Hansen, Ballard Partners: Cardinal Health

Frank Bernardino, Anfield Consulting: Shark Allies

Rachel ConeMercer FearingtonJames McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: Validity Diagnostics

Chris Snow: Utilities Inc. of Florida

Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalition

— WEEKEND TV —

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, political consultant April Schiff, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith and Zac Anderson, political editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: This week’s show will discuss Amendment 13, which would phase out commercial dog racing and wagering in Florida by 2020. Joining Walker-Torres are Longwood Mayor Ben ParisKate MacFall, co-share of the Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign; Sonia Stratemann, vice chair of Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign; and Paul Hawkes, Florida Greyhound Association.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A discussion with Attorney general candidates Sean Shaw and Ashley Moody. Also, PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim made against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon will speak with attorney Sean Pittman and News Service of Florida political reporter Dara Kam.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will talk recovery efforts in the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael. Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), will discuss how she turned the tragic death of her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll, into the national nonprofit 501(c)3 veterans service organization. Martha Mertz, founder, ATHENA International, will discuss eight principles of the ATHENA Leadership Model and her journey in creating the internationally acclaimed program. Also appearing is Ellen Sullivan, director of the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg host a debate between candidates for Florida’s 26th Congressional District: incumbent Republican Congressman Curbelo and Democrat challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Also, an interview with Republican gubernatorial candidate DeSantis.

— ALOE —

Disney building new resort on former River Country site” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — A new resort and Disney Vacation Club property will open at Walt Disney World in 2022 on what was once the home of River Country water park. Sandwiched between Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, the deluxe resort will be “nature-inspired” to blend in with its surroundings along Bay Lake. It will include more than 900 hotel rooms and DVC villas — but contrary to rumors reported about the project in recent months, it will not be entirely for DVC members. “This resort experience will be a celebration of Walt Disney’s lifelong love and respect for nature, with some fun and even surprising accommodation types that families will find irresistible,” said Terri Schultz, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Vacation Club. The new resort has not yet been named.

River Country’s Slippery Slide Falls in 1977 (Image via Florida Memory Project)

Hi Mickey, ‘Bye Mickey: 6 Disney parks on 2 coasts in 1 day” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — Heather and Clark Ensminger breathed sighs of relief when their Los Angeles-bound plane took off from Florida on time: Their biggest hurdle was now eliminated for achieving their goal of visiting six Disney parks on two coasts in one day. They succeeded Wednesday, visiting four Disney parks in the Orlando, Florida, area and two in Anaheim, California, with a 2,500-mile cross-country flight and two time zones in between, all within 20 hours. A camera crew from Disney World’s publicity office tracked them down for an interview, and they were stopped by Disney guests who recognized them from media reports. They also updated friends and fans of the Disney parks throughout the day, with posts on a Facebook page for Heather Ensminger’s travel-agent business. “A couple months ago, I was having a hard time with the anniversary of my dad’s death and my husband began planning the trip without letting me know,” Heather Ensminger said.

Universal: Butterbeer sales top 20 million” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Butterbeer sales at Universal Orlando have topped to 20 million mark, the resort says. That’s a lot of foamy mustaches on muggles. The beverage first went on sale at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in 2010. Butterbeer sales passed the 1 million mark the next year. The drink — which has a butterscotch/shortbread cookie flavor — comes in frozen and hot varieties as well as the original recipe, which was approved by “Harry Potter” mastermind J.K. Rowling. It has since been introduced as an ice cream flavor and is served at Universal’s Wizarding World attractions in California and Japan.

Welcome to the world Timothy Raymond Spencer, the first son of Gina and Chris Spencer. He was born at 4:05 p.m. Wednesday afternoon (hours after Chris, a lobbyist with GrayRobinson, met with gubernatorial candidate DeSantis). Baby and mom are happy and healthy.

Tweet, tweet:

Happy birthday to our friends Tiffany Carr and Rick Lindstrom, state Rep. Ramon Alexander and WFSU-FM’s Tom Flanigan.

Last Call for 10.18.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Recently proposed rule changes from the state’s Department of Transportation revealed an existing regulation we didn’t know about:

You can’t campaign for office on Florida’s Turnpike. Nor can you stump for anyone else.

“No person shall at any time or in any manner electioneer on any part of the Turnpike System for or against any party ticket or any candidate for nomination, or officer on any party ticket,” the rule says.

That even includes, for this year, proposed constitutional amendments.

No one can advocate “for or against any proposition of any kind or nature to be voted upon at any election.”

Of course, other rules are more commonplace: “The consumption of alcoholic beverages (and) brandishing of weapons by any person is prohibited on the Turnpike.”

Also, leave the greenery alone.

“No person shall disturb, tamper with or attempt to destroy, injure or deface, damage, mutilate or remove any … trees, flowers (or) shrubs.”

Evening Reads

More than 200 Florida Insiders overwhelmingly think hurricane helped Rick Scott campaign” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott hammers Bill Nelson for hitting the trail again” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Nelson shifts focus to campaign: I’ve ‘done everything I can do’ to help Floridians affected by hurricane” via Jeffrey Cimminio of Washington Free Beacon

Florida handed $200 million to Scott donor amid massive contribution to Scott’s Super PAC” via Matthew Cook of The Intercept

The sexual harassment case Scott won’t talk about” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida

Andrew Gillum, a Florida insider running as a progressive outsider” via Matt Flegenheimer and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times

Ron DeSantis’ fundraising letter comes with a crisp $1 bill” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Everglades Trust board member disagrees with backing DeSantis” via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville Sun

Donna Shalala walks into anti-Castro buzzsaw” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Democratic candidates for Congress have raised a record-shattering $1 billion this election” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee

Contrast drives HD 15 race between Wyman Duggan, Tracye Polson” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

In House 36, it’s youthful incumbent vs. life-experienced activist” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times

Double fault: Florida House candidate suspended from HOA & tennis club” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

‘A disservice to our voters’: Election supervisors discuss long ballots, bundled amendments” via Sam Turken of WLRN

Houses intact after Hurricane Michael were often saved by low-cost reinforcements” via The Washington Post

For the families of people in prison, hurricanes bring extra panic and uncertainty” via Daniel Gross of The New Yorker

Hurricane Michael: Here’s how we reported from Mexico Beach” via Doug Clifford and Zach Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times

How Florida relies on immigrants” via Mike Vogel of Florida Trend

Orlando airport chairman Frank Kruppenbacher’s global travels span 100 days and $100,000” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel

Florida ticket wins $2 million as Powerball jackpot swells to $430 million” via Doug Phillips of the Sun Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“There are challenges just getting water and food there, certainly. One of the biggest problems we are encountering is communications within some of these counties. The cellphone towers are out. The internet is out. There are a lot of communications issues that we are trying to overcome.” — Mark Earley, Leon County Supervisor Elections, commenting to The News Service of Florida on the impending difficulties for precinct locations and early-voting sites in counties affected by Hurricane Michael.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

State political candidates and committees face a Friday deadline to file reports showing finance activity through Oct. 12.

Florida’s proposed constitutional amendments are the topic at Café con Tampa’s weekly meeting, co-hosted by the League of Women Voters of Florida and the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce. That’s at 8 a.m., upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

The Florida Commission on Ethics will meet. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

The Department of Economic Opportunity will release the September unemployment figures. That’s at 10 a.m.

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum will hold a town hall and conversation climate change, rising sea levels and resiliency. That’s at noon, St. Petersburg College, Gibbs Campus Music Center, St. Petersburg.

Former state Rep. Ray Pilon will join supporters for a sign waving event in his campaign for House District 72. That’s from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., corner of Bee Ridge and Beneva Road, Sarasota. Signs will be provided.

Looking Ahead

The New College of Florida Board of Trustees is set to meet Saturday. That’s at 9 a.m., with full board starting about 11:30 a.m., New College of Florida, Sudakoff Conference Center, 5845 General Dougher Place, Sarasota.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist hosts a Military Academy Day event Saturday for students interested in attending one the nation’s service academies, featuring representatives from the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, and the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. That’s at 10 a.m., USFSP Kate Tiedemann College of Business Auditorium, 700 4th Street South, St. Petersburg.

The Republican Party of Miami-Dade County holds a rally Sunday hosted by state Sen. Rene Garcia, with special guests Ron DeSantis, state Reps. Manny Diaz Jr. and Bryan Avila as well as Vice Mayor Frank Mingo. That’s at 2 p.m., Hialeah Park, 2200 E. 4th Ave., Hialeah. There will be complimentary food and beverages.

Gubernatorial candidates DeSantis and Gillum hold their first head-to-head debate, to be moderated by Jake Tapper and to be shown on CNN. That’s Sunday at 8 p.m. broadcast from the local PBS studio in Tampa.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.18.18

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

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

Mail ballots have been trickling into county supervisor of elections offices since mid-September, and while there’s only evidence of a “blue ripple” so far, the door hasn’t closed on the 2018 election living up to the hype.

As of Monday, more than 450,000 mail ballots had been returned, and registered Republicans lead Democrats by more than 35,000 votes. But more important than how many ballots have completed their round trip is where they’re coming from.

So far, traditionally Republican strongholds in Southwest Florida have been leading the way in returns, helping the GOP rack up that lead while the deep-blue counties in South Florida have only tallied a handful of ballots.

Looking at the numbers, Florida Democrats say everything is pointing to a favorable cycle for them, highlighting stats including a 6-point bump in Democratic returns in Sarasota County as well as smaller boosts in Charlotte and Lee counties.

The party is also pointing touting its turnout lead among young and Hispanic voters, and the Sunshine State’s perennial minority party is holding out hope that the extra 500,000 unreliable Dems who asked for a mail ballot this year follow through at 2014 rates. If they do, they’ll even up the score with the GOP.

Still, Team Blue’s optimism is nothing more than reading tea leaves with nearly three weeks left on the clock. Overall turnout is only at about 3.5 percent so far, and Democrats have come away with egg on their face after touting gains in crimson country — they outperformed in the mail vote in Sarasota County in 2016, too, and nobody needs a refresher course on how turned out.

Except possibly the Florida Democratic Party.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Congressman Neal Dunn (@DunnCampaign) of Florida has done an outstanding job at everything having to do with #MAGA. Now working hard on hurricane relief and rebuild. Strong on Crime, strong on Borders, loves our Military and our Vets. Neal has my highest Endorsement!

@LearyReports: Former Sen. Bob Graham on CNN says Saudi controversy is good reason to bring conclusion to questions about Saudi role in 9/11.

@TroyKinsey: Dem strategist @steveschale on state of the #flgov & #flsen races on Election Day -20: “Republicans are seeing turnout where they want to see it & Democrats are seeing better overall return rates than four years ago, leading to a much closer margin than existed on day 20 in 2014.”

@Fineout: Evergreen tweet about debates You say either and I say either, You say neither, and I say neither Either, either neither, neither Let’s call the whole thing off

@MDixon55: Right now an undecided voter in Pinellas County: “man, I really think candidate x is right on this whole debate date fight. I’m going to vote for them.”

@PeterSchorschFL: We’ve reached the point in #FlaPol where the Republican Attorney General (@PamBondi) is calling on the Democrat Gov. nominee (@AndrewGillum) to denounce a video from a rapper (@Tip)

@AshleyDii: At the City Commission meeting this evening, about six people have already gotten up and spoken highly about the city of Tallahassee’s response to #HurricaneMichael.

@JudyWoodruff: “the mental wounds can often be the tougher thing to deal with,” says Army veteran @RepBrianMast who lost limbs in Afghanistan – talking w/ @NickSchifrin about how prevalent PTSD is @NewsHour tonight

@SenatorGainer: Comcast has sent the Xfinity “WiFi on Wheels” or “WoW” van to provide free wireless internet service so residents and emergency personnel can stay connected. The vehicle is set up at the Lynn Haven Walmart Supercenter. The customized van is outfitted with six WiFi access points.

@CraigTimes: You can tell it’s fall in #Florida when the license plates change color.

— LATEST TURNOUT FIGURES —

— DAYS UNTIL —

MLB World Series begins — 5; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 6; Early voting begins — 9; Halloween — 13; General Election Day — 19; Florida Blue Florida Classic: FAMU vs. BCU — 30; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 33; Thanksgiving — 35; Black Friday — 36; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 40; 2019 Session Interim Committee Meetings begin — 54; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 117; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 138; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 141; 2020 General Election — 747.

— TOP STORY —

Odds are, your next Governor will be a Democrat” via Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight — Democrats Andrew Gillum of Florida and Stacey Abrams of Georgia are striving to become the first African-American governors of their respective states and the first elected anywhere in the South since Douglas Wilder of Virginia in 1989. Gillum has had a small but fairly consistent lead in the polls, and our model gives him a 70 percent chance (about 7 in 10) of winning.

— AFTER MICHAEL —

‘Flying cow’ brings cell service back to Mexico Beach via Florida Politics — Telecom giant AT&T is getting Mexico Beach residents back in contact with the outside world thanks to a piece of tech it calls a “Flying COW.” The Flying COW is a specialized drone, not a winged bovine, and the name is an acronym for “Cell on Wings.” Still, measuring in at five feet in length on the broadside, the flyer is considerably larger than a typical drone. The device comes as Mexico Beach residents struggle to get in contact with family and friends in the wake of Hurricane Michael, which hit the Bay County town head on when it made landfall last week … When it’s at its maximum altitude, AT&T says the Flying COW can provide coverage in an area up to 40 square miles.

Flying COW
AT&T is providing cell service for Mexico Beach residents with a high-tech drone called “Flying COW.”

Gulf Power Co. making progress in power restoration — Some 95 percent of customers in Jackson and Holmes counties had lights on, the company said Wednesday. In its coverage area north of Interstate 10, including Bonifay, Chipley, Campbellton, Caryville, and Graceville, thousands of restoration crew members from 15 state bested the company’s estimates by a full 24 hours. “Restoring power to these storm-devastated areas takes a massive coordinated effort,” vice president for power delivery Adrianne Collins said. “Everyone involved in this restoration has been encouraged by the support they have felt from our customers, and the entire team is humbled to be part of the effort.” Gulf Power hoped to bring customers around Vernon and Caryville online by Thursday night, and in Panama City by Oct. 24. Click here for a map.

Tallahassee power outages drop below 1,000 customers, now more than 99 percent of city customers have power” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — As of 7:40 a.m., the city’s outage map showed 840 customers without power. Hurricane Michael, which made landfall a week ago in Mexico Beach, knocked out power to 114,000 of the city’s 117,000 customers, or some 97 percent. The latest numbers show more than 99 percent of city customers now have power. Meanwhile, Talquin Electric reported this morning that more than 75 percent of its customers in four counties have power. Some 12,690 of Talquin’s 52,033 customers were still without power, according to the cooperative’s outage map.

’One nail at a time’: Port St. Joe recovery from Hurricane Michael may take years” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Everywhere you look, people are collecting what possessions the sea didn’t take. Furniture and photo albums washed for blocks in the more than 10-foot storm surge. Neighbors help each other clear trees and debris. The worry is that Port St. Joe will be forgotten amid the intense attention being paid to places such as nearby Mexico Beach, where the Category 4 storm exploded onto land and the well-known tourist destination of Panama City. “They call this a Forgotten Coast for a reason,” said First United Methodist Church of Port St. Joe Pastor Geoffrey Lentz, whose house was destroyed. “But Mexico Beach, St. Joe Beach, Port St. Joe Beach are going to need a lot of help for the long haul. I want the story to be told that we’re here and we’re going to recover.”

Hurricane Michael insurance claims continue to mount — The number has hit 57,850, the Office of Insurance Regulation reported Wednesday. The agency is making carriers report claims data every day as the state responds to the Category 4 storm. Only 1,713 had been closed already — that is, paid. There were 1,062 closed claims — those not paid. Residential property claims accounted for the bulk of the claims, at 45,975. Commercial property claims numbered 1,285, and private flood claims 35.

Healthy Kids could waive premiums in hard-hit areas” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Healthy Kids Corp. Board of Directors is expected to consider waiving children’s health-insurance premiums for three months in a dozen counties slammed last week by Hurricane Michael. Gov. Rick Scott, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior are backing the move, which could waive premiums for about 5,600 children in three insurance programs. Most of the children are in subsidized programs in which they qualify for low-cost health insurance because of their family income levels, while about 325 children are in families that pay the full premiums. The proposed premium waiver would be for November, December and January in Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon, Wakulla and Taylor counties, according to a letter that Senior sent to Florida Healthy Kids Corp. CEO Rebecca Matthews.

Amid squalor and debris, Michael’s survivors cling to motel” via Jay Reeves of The Associated Press — Simply getting through the day is a struggle at the American Quality Lodge, a low-rent motel where dozens of people are living in squalor amid the destruction left by Hurricane Michael … winds of as much as 155 mph ripped much of the roof off the two-story redbrick motel, which is just miles from the white sands of Panama City Beach. The place looks absolutely shattered … Rooms reek with the pungent smell of wet clothes and perspiration; windows are missing from many. Long-term residents abandoned blown-out rooms for ones with fewer leaks or doors that will shut. Other people simply showed up from surrounding areas and settled in. Some asked permission; others didn’t. Residents say police and firefighters have been by to make sure the people are safe, but these survivors say they didn’t bother to report any of the lootings at the motel because the first-responders seem so busy.

Simply getting through the day is a struggle at Panama City’s American Quality Lodge. (Image via AP)

Michael’s most vulnerable evacuees make Pasco shelter their new home” via Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — The state asked Pasco County to open its special needs shelter late Sunday for patients and evacuees from the Panhandle. By Monday, the cots were filled with patients who fled hospitals, medical facilities and their own homes rendered powerless by the monster storm. For many evacuees, this is the third shelter they’ve been in. They brought with them a host of medical complications, anger, fear and questions: When will they be able to return home? And is there anything for them to return home to? Aside from addressing patients’ medical needs, those who staff the shelter are working to make the evacuees feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment, and keep them from focusing on what might await them back home. High stress can exacerbate medical problems, so it’s important that patients “feel our compassion,” said shelter nurse Amy Bowen.

Florida towns face dark weeks without power. ‘This isn’t a restore. This is a rebuild.’” via Samantha Gross and Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — Major utilities say it will still take weeks to repair downed lines and poles and reconnect customers — and that’s only for the homes and businesses in good enough shape to “take electrical service.” The reality is that mass damage left by Michael — which left a monster 80-mile-wide path of ruin — means it may take even more time to turn the lights back on in damaged structures. Leaders in some counties are warning it could take up to a month to fully restore power to what is still standing and far longer for homes that were leveled and needed to be rebuilt. The utilities also face a daunting challenge reassembling the shattered grid. Gulf Power spokesman Rick DelaHaya said there’s a lot that can’t be salvaged: “This isn’t a restore … this is a rebuild.”

Remediation contractors insist AOB deals getting bum image” via Florida Politics — Amid post-Hurricane Michael warnings to homeowners against signing any assignment of benefits (AOB) agreements comes a defense of these contracts from the Restoration Association of Florida. “We are extremely concerned about multiple advisories warning homeowners not to sign any contracts containing an assignment of benefits (AOB) language,” association spokeswoman Amanda Prater said. “The assignment of benefits language is perfectly legal and is an extremely common insurance practice. Many homeowners we are meeting with understandably do not have the money to pay out of pocket for emergency services such as water dry-out, mold, tree service, roof repairs, etc. … The AOB language is there to allow covered repairs to be made to one’s property immediately — and the contractors will bill the homeowner’s insurance company directly.”

Best intentions: When disaster relief brings anything but relief” via CBS News — “Generally after a disaster, people with loving intentions donate things that cannot be used in a disaster response, and in fact may actually be harmful,” said Juanita Rilling, former director of the Center for International Disaster Information in Washington, D.C. “And they have no idea that they’re doing it.” Rilling has spent more than a decade trying to tell well-meaning people to think before they give. “The thinking is that these people have lost everything, so they must NEED everything. So people SEND everything. You know, any donation is crazy if it’s not needed. People have donated prom gowns and wigs and tiger costumes and pumpkins, and frostbite cream to Rwanda, and used tea bags, ’cause you can always get another cup of tea.”

Thanks, but no thanks.

FSU medical school setup relief fund” via the News Service of Florida — A fund has been established to help medical students, faculty members and staff of the Florida State University College of Medicine who have been left reeling after Hurricane Michael. John P. Fogarty and Alma Littles — the dean and the assistant dean of the college, respectively — sent a memo announcing the creation of the fund. “In the past week, some at the College of Medicine have seen trees slice buildings in two. Some have lost family homes to ferocious winds. Some have gone days without air conditioning or news from the outside world. Some have lost a refrigerator full of food and can’t afford to replace it. More than one person experienced a death in the family,” the memo said.

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

FPL and Republican PACs are funding misleading anti-Andrew Gillum Facebook ads” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — For years, a 501(c)(4) “dark money” nonprofit called Florida Strong has been supporting Democratic candidates across the state. Though the secretive group has been more than deserving of its own criticism over the years, there’s apparently now a second and perhaps even shadier organization called “Florida Strong” funded by right-wingers operating in the state. The new PAC is now running a bunch of awful, anti-Gillum ads that falsely refer to the Tallahassee Mayor as a “socialist,” among other insane attacks. Perhaps most misleadingly, the PAC is also sponsoring Facebook ads asking users to click to see which “award” Gillum recently received. The website redirects to a single page showing a fake award congratulating Gillum for Tallahassee’s high crime rate. The site is clickbait.

Among other things, Andrew Gillum now must deal with clickbait, fake sites.

SEIU Florida ad buys to support Bill Nelson, Gillum — Instead of traditional TV advertising, SEIU Florida State Council will be launching two separate health-care-related video ad buys supporting Nelson in the U.S. Senate and Gillum for Florida Governor, which will appear on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. The first, “Fight Back,” blasts “Trump’s candidate Ron DeSantis” for putting health care coverage at risk for those with pre-existing conditions. “Protect Health Care” warns voters that Scott will “raise health care premiums and take away coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

To view “Fight Back,” click on the image below:

To view “Protect Health Care,” click on the image below:

Jeanette Nuñez, Chris King attack roles expand after Hurricane Michael” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Hurricane Michael has brought out the running mates working double-time in attack mode, as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gillum took off more than a week to focus on hurricane recovery efforts, and Republican gubernatorial nominee DeSantis turned much of his focus into relief supply drive efforts. “Never in the history in the state of Florida has a candidate for governor run on a platform to increase taxes 40 percent. It is mind-blowing that we could even consider giving Andrew Gillum our vote when all he wants to do is overburden us with more taxes,” Núñez said at a small Spanish-language church, Iglesia Puertas Del Cielo, full of energized Republicans in DeLand. Núñez has sharpened her slicing and dicing skills through eight years in the Florida House. King sharpened his plan in 18 months in a sometimes-nasty Democratic gubernatorial primary. “Ron DeSantis has been running for governor for 261 days. We’re 20 days from the election, and he still doesn’t have a plan for health care! Can you imagine that?”

Assignment editors — Ron DeSantis’ wife Casey will join state Rep. Halsey Beshears of Monticello for a tour of Gulf County: 11 a.m. central time, Gulf County Emergency Operations Center, 1000 Cecil G. Costin, Sr. Blvd, Building 500, Port St. Joe; noon central time, Port St. Joe Middle School/High School, 100 Shark Drive Port, St. Joe.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will speak at the Duval County Victory Dinner, 8 p.m. Eastern time, Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, 300 A Philip Randolph Blvd., Jacksonville.

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

Records sought for correspondence between Rick Scott’s official office, campaign” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — A photo of Gov. Scott acting in his official capacity following Hurricane Michael made its way into an ad for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign. That’s not sitting well with a liberal Super PAC invested in Florida’s closely watched top-ticket races. American Bridge 21st Century filed a three-pronged public record request with the Governor’s Office. The group wants any email correspondence between the state and the campaign from the past week, along with any mentions of visual materials of Hurricane Michael recovery efforts and a list of any “filming expenses” incurred by Scott’s state office.

Somehow, this image of Rick Scott surveying Hurricane Michael damage made its way into a campaign spot.

Scott, Nelson fault each other for canceled CNN debate” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — One of the most bitterly disputed features of Florida’s U.S. Senate race is if or when the candidates will convene to talk about real issues. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Nelson and Republican challenger Gov.  Scott have swapped accusations of debate dodging since the summer. The latest development: a canceled CNN forum, prompting more sparks to fly in the debate debacle. Scott’s campaign wanted to reschedule the debate for Oct. 25 and early this week began suggesting Nelson would back out. That’s precisely what Nelson did, according to Scott’s campaign.

Can Nelson tastefully change the subject from Hurricane Michael? He’s trying.” via Steve Contorno and Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — The 76-year-old Democrat said it’s time for voters to hear from him with less than three weeks until all ballots are cast. “I’m going to campaign,” Nelson said. “I’ve spent the last week in the Panhandle in those storm-ravaged counties, and have done everything I can do, and they know to call me if they are getting any hiccups. But in the meantime, I’m going to continue to make my case to the people.” Scott has taken a different approach. Though his U.S. Senate campaign continues to assail Nelson via television airwaves, the 65-year-old Republican governor is bunkering down in North Florida indefinitely to focus on recovery efforts, avoiding traditional events — reporters and other issues, too — for the foreseeable future.

Super PAC backing Scott’s Senate effort raises $7M” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — New Republican is headed by longtime Scott adviser Melissa Stone, but can’t coordinate with the official campaign. That, however, has not stopped a long list of big-time Florida GOP donors from giving to the committee, which has raised nearly $17 million this election cycle. The biggest check during the most recent reporting period was $2.5 million from Kenneth Griffin, the billionaire founder of Chicago-based hedge fund Citadel LLC and the super PAC’s finance chairman. Overall this cycle, Griffin has given $7.5 million to the committee. Other large donors during the latest reporting period include: $375,000 from the Alliance for Consumer Protection; $350,000 from the Consumer Policy League; $250,000 each from Christopher and Jude Reyes, brothers and co-chairs of Reyes Holdings, one of the nation’s most extensive beer and food distributors; $250,000 from J.W Chiles, who runs a private equity firm; and $250,000 from Conservatives for Better Leadership, an Alabama-based dark money group.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Steve Schale’s take 20 days out — We are 20 days from the start of Florida State basketball season, and since that 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time game tip happens to fall one hour after the midterm polls close in the central time zone in Florida, that means it is election memo time! Compared to this day in the election in 2014, two things stand out: One, far fewer ballots have been returned. At this point, just under 870,000 ballots had been returned. And secondly, the Republicans, while leading now, were leading by considerably more in 2014. The GOP advantage is being driven by very robust return rates in southwest Florida — basically the Fort Myers media market. This is the heart of the Republican base, and it was an area that was both robust for Scott in 2014, and Donald Trump in 2016. Republicans have about a 4 percent edge in all ballots mailed, but about a 5.3 percent edge in ballots returned, however, both parties have seen about a quarter of their ballots returned. Sarasota tends to be an indicator for Democrats of good things. Right now, in Sarasota, Democrats are not only returning ballots faster than Republicans as a percentage — more Democrats have actually voted than Republicans. I will watch this going forward.

Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg mayors endorse Sean Shaw — “I can confidently say that he is the most qualified candidate in the Attorney General’s race by leaps and bounds and will build a better future for all Floridians,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said: “As Attorney General, I know that Sean Shaw will be a fierce advocate for the rights of all Floridians and vigorously defend our constitution. I look forward to working with Sean to turn our state blue.” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman added: “I have watched firsthand as Sean has fought for the rights of all Tampa Bay residents. I look forward to working with Sean to ensure that every Floridian has access to the American dream.”

Mayors Rick Kriseman, Bob Buckhorn join Buddy Dyer to endorse Sean Shaw. (Image via WUSF)

Justices OK ‘bundling,’ amendments will go to voters” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — The Florida Supreme Court cleared three proposed constitutional amendments for the Nov. 6 ballot, narrowly rejecting a challenge by retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead that they improperly bundled multiple items. In an unsigned opinion, the majority ruled that the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) was within its authority under state law, and the state and U.S. constitutions, to lump disparate ideas into what became Amendments 7, 9, and 11. The vote was 4-3. Such “logrolling” is improper when done by the Legislature or citizen initiative. But the CRC process “embodies adequate safeguards to protect against logrolling and deception,” the opinion says. The challenge had argued such bundling violates voters’ First Amendment right “to cast a meaningful vote on each independent and unrelated proposal.” The majority said that was “a novel theory with no apparent support in the law.”

Supreme Court details clash over education ballot measure” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — After saying last month that it was blocking a controversial education measure from the November ballot, the Florida Supreme Court has released details of the ruling that show sharp differences about a proposal that one justice said would have brought a “monumental” change to the state Constitution. Justices, in a 4-3 decision, said the proposed constitutional amendment had “defective” ballot wording that would not inform voters of the measure’s “true meaning and ramifications.” The ruling centered on how the proposal would have affected the creation of charter schools — a hot-button issue in Florida’s education system. The proposal linked three issues: imposing term limits for school boards, requiring the promotion of civic literacy in schools and changing part of the Constitution that gives school boards the power to operate and control schools in their districts.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, PART 2 —

Nancy Pelosi is coming to Orlando, but not to campaign for Stephanie Murphy, campaign says” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Republican state Rep. Mike Miller seized on a Washington Post report that Pelosi would be in Central Florida this week, campaigning for Democrats, and presumably his opponent, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Murphy. Miller’s campaign called Pelosi’s visit a “stealth mission to Central Florida,” alleging she was coming to the region to raise money for Murphy and Democrats. “Why would Stephanie Murphy hide the fact her party’s leader will be in town raising money that will benefit her campaign?” Miller asked in a statement. However, Murphy’s campaign said Pelosi’s visit wasn’t to campaign for the incumbent, adding that Murphy was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at the Seminole County School Administrators Legislative dinner and also had a media event addressing protecting the environment.

Nancy Pelosi is coming to Orlando, but not for what you think.

Bill Posey ramps up re-election campaign money in CD 8 race” via Florida Politics — Republican U.S. Rep. Posey had the most significant fundraising drive yet for his re-election campaign during August and September, bringing in $182,000 to fuel his battle with Democratic challenger Sanjay Patel in Florida’s 8th Congressional District … Going into October, Posey had raised $780,000 in this election cycle and spent $642,000 of that, including $170,000 during the Aug. 9-Sept. 30 period, according to campaign finance reports. That left him with $650,000 left to spend in October and early November. Patel brought in $76,000 in August and September. With the $39,000 his campaign raised before the pre-primary Aug. 8 reporting deadline, Patel has managed to attract six-figure contribution money in consecutive quarters. In the second quarter of 2018, he outraised Posey.

Lauren Baer raises more than $1.7M, besting Brian Mastvia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Even by the high standards set by other South Florida Democrats, Baer had an impressive third quarter of fundraising, pulling in more than $1.7 million. That was more than enough to top a strong quarter from her Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Mast, who earned more than $980,000 in donations. Despite losing the fundraising period to Baer by more than $700,000, he beats her by a similar margin in cash on hand. Mast maintains more than $1.4 million in cash, while Baer has just over $770,000 available.

Mary Barzee Flores on top in latest CD 25 fundraising” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Another South Florida Democrat has topped a Republican incumbent in fundraising during the third quarter for the 25th Congressional District. Barzee Flores led Mario Diaz-Balart in the latest fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Barzee Flores brought in just over $640,000 July 1-Sept. 30. Diaz-Balart came up more than $200,000 short of that, hauling in just over $410,000. While Barzee Flores may be feeling confident about her recent fundraising, she’s still well behind in cash on hand for the remaining few weeks of the campaign. Diaz-Balart has banked more than $1.3 million, while Barzee Flores’ stash sits at just over $410,000.

Donna Shalala leaves Maria Elvira Salazar in the dust, by more than $400K” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Shalala raked in the dough during the third quarter, hauling in more than $1 million in her bid for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. That puts her well ahead of her Republican opponent, Elvira Salazar, who earned just over $560,000. The latest reports filed with the Federal Election Commission cover the period of July 1 to Sept. 30. Shalala maintains a lead in cash on hand as well. The Democrat has nearly $440,000 available while Salazar is sitting on just over $380,000.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Bobby Olszewski TV commercial promotes community pride, unity” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The 30-second spot features images of Central Florida points of pride including theme parks, the University of Central Florida, Kennedy Space Center, and of happy people, as the freshman Florida House member narrates a message of unity in divisive times. “While there are some who try to divide us, there is so much that can unify us,” Olszewski starts. As he speaks and the images of Central Florida roll through in rapid fire, so do text messages highlighting some of Olszewski’s work, Republican Florida Legislature’s talking points of policy achievements, and other statements, such as “Record K-12 Education Funding,” “Record Tourism Numbers,” “Florida is #1 in Higher Education,” “Florida Records the Largest Net Job Gain in the Nation,” and “Fighting for Our Veterans and Seniors.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Happening today — Candidates for two open state House seats will appear at the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club meeting. Democrat Tracy Pratt and Republican Will Robinson are seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Jim Boyd in House District 71. Republican James Buchanan, Democrat Tony Mowry and unaffiliated candidate Robert Kaplan are seeking to replace Rep. Julio Gonzalez in House District 74, noon, Michael’s on East, 1212 East Ave. South, Sarasota.

For what it’s worth: Former Rep. Gonzalez endorses Buchanan — Gonzalez is backing Buchanan to succeed him in state House District 74: “James has the right background and conviction to make him a key player in fashioning policy beneficial to our region. After my numerous discussions with him, I am confident that there can be no better-qualified individual to continue to provide strong conservative representation that will lower taxes, create more jobs, and improve our standard of living.” Buchanan, a local real estate agent and the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, previously ran in neighboring HD 72 but lost a special election earlier this year to now-Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good. Gonzalez gave up his seat for an unsuccessful run for Congress.

— STATEWIDE —

Scott seeks backing on medical marijuana appeal” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — With a 5 p.m. Friday deadline looming, Gov. Scott has sought support from legislative leaders before appealing a Tallahassee judge’s order that critics say would create pandemonium in the state’s medical-marijuana industry if allowed to stand. Responding to Scott’s request, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, incoming Speaker Jose Oliva and other Republican House leaders urged the Governor to seek “immediate review by a higher court” of an order by Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, who ruled this month that a 2017 medical marijuana law was unconstitutional. The impending court deadline — and the Scott administration’s failure to file an appeal thus far — has sparked a buzz within the state’s lucrative and highly restricted medical-cannabis industry, where licenses have sold for upward of $60 million in recent months.

Rick Scott is enlisting Richard Corcoran, José Oliva to help in a medical marijuana appeal.

Appeals court rejects revoking nurse’s license” via the News Service of Florida — An appeals court said the Florida Board of Nursing went too far when it revoked the license of a nurse who took expired medications from a nursing home where she worked. A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal said the decision to revoke the license of Marie C. Cadet was a “higher than permissible penalty” and, as a result, violated her due-process rights. The court, in a five-page ruling, sent the case back to the Board of Nursing for reconsideration of the penalty. Cadet, a licensed practical nurse, admitted that she took expired prescription drugs from the nursing home because she could not afford her medications, according to the ruling.

Despite political winds, Florida Aquarium will keep working with Cuba to save reefs” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — As human contributions to climate change and U.S. relations with Cuba continue to divide the country, the Florida Aquarium is pushing ahead with a project that cuts across both issues. President and chief executive Roger Germann visited Havana to sign a new memorandum of understanding with Cuba’s National Aquarium enabling them to continue working together on restoring the coral reefs in Caribbean waters. “Every five years we can make adjustments as needed,” Germann said during a news conference at the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa. “The world is changing; the climate is changing; the Gulf of Mexico is changing.” As for working with communist Cuba, Germann said, “The countries may have some odds at times, but this memorandum of understanding is really critical to the benefit of Florida, to the benefit of both countries.”

— OPINIONS —

Diego Echeverri: DeSantis is the clear choice for Florida’s veterans” via Florida Politics — I first met DeSantis a couple of years ago in his Washington office during a meeting to discuss legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs. Most of the meetings our group had that day were with staff members, but Rep. DeSantis took time out of his schedule to meet with us face to face. DeSantis understands firsthand the sacrifice and service of Florida’s 1.5 million veterans. He is an Iraq War veteran who honorably served in the U.S. Navy as a judge advocate at Guantánamo Bay and alongside Navy SEALs in Fallujah. He served six years on active duty and continues to serve as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. On Election Day, I urge my fellow Florida veterans and military families to support Ron DeSantis for governor. We will be well-served in Tallahassee, as we have been in Washington, by this proven leader and unwavering champion.

Florida Supreme Court ruling makes governor’s race more important” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — In a terse, unsigned order, it ruled that Democrat Gillum or. Republican DeSantis will appoint three Supreme Court justices. Gov. Scott, whose term expires just as those three jurists will be forced into retirement by the constitution’s age limit, had asserted authority to name their replacements. The governor told the high court’s Judicial Nominating Commission to take applications and interview potential replacements for Justices Barbara ParientePeggy Quince and R. Fred Lewis. The Supreme Court ruled, however, that Scott lacked legal authority to set in motion the selection process, in anticipation of making the appointments before officially leaving office at the stroke of midnight between Jan. 7 and 8. The difference is much bigger than a Cinderella stroke of the clock on Inauguration Day. Pariente, Quince and Lewis make up three-fourths of what is considered the liberal bloc of the seven-member Supreme Court.

— MOVEMENTS —

Lobby Up: Hurricane cleanup firm AshBritt Environmental hires Ballard Partners” via Florida Politics — AshBritt Environmental, a “rapid-response disaster recovery and special environmental services contractor” in Deerfield Beach, has hired Ballard Partners’ namesake Brian Ballard and its Christina Daly Brodeur. Veteran influencer Ron Book also remains the company’s lobbyist, according to lobbying registration records accessed Wednesday. Daly Brodeur, formerly Secretary of Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice under Gov. Scott, joined Ballard’s firm last month. The new registration comes as the Gulf coast cleans up and starts rebuilding after category 4 Hurricane Michael ravaged it and a swath of North Florida last week.

Leroy Collins Institute renews eight board members — The Institute announced the board members have agreed to serve another three-year term with the nonpartisan statewide organization, “signaling a continued commitment to researching, developing and promoting forward-thinking public policies to solve key issues facing Floridians.” They are Jim Apthorp of Tallahassee, who co-founded the Institute in 1988; Rena Coughlin of Jacksonville; Rick Edmonds of St. Petersburg; Pegeen Hanrahan of Gainesville; Jim Ley of Sarasota; Audrey Moran of Jacksonville; Janet Owen of Orlando and Nicole T. Washington of Miami. “Each individual has contributed a wealth of knowledge, thought-provoking ideas and steadfast dedication to our organization throughout their term, and I am pleased to continue collaborating with them,” said Dr. Carol Weissert, Florida State University political science professor and Leroy Collins Institute director.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Lisa Aaron, Lisa Aaron Consulting: Step CG

George Oscar Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: Nucor Corporation, Waymo

Matt Brockelman, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Theatre Performing Arts Center

Carlos Cruz, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Insikt

Kari Hebrank, Wilson & Associates: Bermont Excavating

Brian Hughes: City of Jacksonville

Kim McDougal, GrayRobinson: Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities

— ALOE —

Wembley: Shahid Khan withdraws ‘divisive’ offer to buy national stadium from FA” via BBC Sport — Khan had offered £600M ($786M) for the national stadium, with the FA retaining the Club Wembley hospitality rights, valued at £250M to £300M ($327M to $393M). The move was “more divisive than expected,” said FA chief Martin Glenn. Khan has not ruled out making another bid in future if there is more support from FA Council members. The FA had said it would invest the proceeds of the sale into improving grassroots football facilities. Sports Minister Tracey Crouch told the BBC she was “very disappointed” by the decision, calling the offer “a huge opportunity to boost funding into the development and maintenance of artificial and grass pitches up and down the country.”

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan withdraws his offer to buy Wembley Stadium in London. (Image via Bob Self/The Florida Times-Union)

Box office: ‘Halloween’ to carve out huge $65 million-plus debut” via Rebecca Rubin of Variety —“Halloween” should keep powering the domestic market as Universal’s R-rated slasher film eyes a massive opening in the $57 million to $65 million range. The studio is cautiously anticipating a $50 million bow, though some industry analysts think it could rocket past $70 million when it debuts in 3,928 theaters. “Halloween” is also releasing in 21 international territories this weekend. Even the lower part of that range would easily shatter records for the best launch in the “Halloween” franchise. The 2007 reboot holds that distinction now with $26 million. “Halloween” also looks to notch one of the best starts for an R-rated horror film, joining the company of “It” ($123 million), “Hannibal ($58 million), and “The Nun” ($53 million). Given its $10 million production budget, the scary sequel is on track to be hugely profitable.

French steakhouse chain La Boucherie making U.S. debut near Universal Orlando” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel — French casual dining restaurant chain La Boucherie plans to make its American debut in Orlando’s Dr. Phillips neighborhood in November, just blocks from the Universal Orlando Resort theme parks. La Boucherie has about 150 locations in France and 50 outside France but hasn’t yet brought its affordable French steakhouse take to the United States. Phillip Hicks, general manager for the Orlando location, said it should open Nov. 7. La Boucherie is like the Outback Steakhouse of France, if Outback served foie gras and steak tartare.

It’s like Outback, but with foie gras.

Universal adds extra date for Halloween horror nights” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — The resort has added Tuesday, Oct. 30 as an event date “due to popular demand.” Guests who have already bought Universal’s Frequent Fear Pass, Frequent Fear Plus Pass and the Ultimate Frequent Fear Pass will have access to the park on the newly added night. Universal had previously scheduled the event to last for 36 nights at Universal Studios Florida after the late addition of two Wednesday dates in September. Two recent event dates — Oct. 12 and Oct. 14 — sold out. Universal has created space on its calendar to make the event last longer in 2019.

Happy birthday to GrayRobinson’s Tim Cerio, INFLUENCE 100 alum Marcus Jadotte, state Rep. Amber Mariano and the awesome Monica Rodriguez of Ballard Partners.

Last Call for 10.17.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Still another cryptocurrency filing is before state financial regulators, records reviewed Wednesday show.

Grapefruit Trading of Chicago — a “virtual currency trader” — filed another petition for a declaratory statement this month, according to the Office of Financial Regulation, under Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.

The question: Whether “conduct(ing) bilateral trades to buy or sell virtual currencies using US dollars or other virtual currencies falls under the Florida Money Transmitter Statute.”

The latest filing continues a lingering issue: Whether lawmakers in the 2019 Legislative Session will deal with the question of what’s ‘money.’

In June, Patronis rolled out a re-election campaign platform that includes regulating the cryptocurrency market. He soon announced Ken Lawson, CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, as his new volunteer “cryptocurrency adviser.”

Regulators under Patronis already have found that CoinFlip, another Illinois company that bills itself as America’s “leading bitcoin ATM operator,” doesn’t have to register as a state “money transmitter” to operate its crypto-money ATMs here.

Evening Reads

Nate Silver will make one firm prediction about the midterms. Most journalists won’t want to hear it.” via Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post

Hurricane aftermath threatens to unleash Florida election chaos” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

After Hurricane Michael, Rick Scott and Andrew Gillum could help each other win” via Gideon Resnick of The Daily Beast

To avoid conflicts, Scott created a trust blind in name only” via Kevin Sack and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times

Disaster politics on display: Raves for Scott in storm-battered Gadsden” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Al Lawson bonds with Scott over storm response” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

A troubling picture of Florida high school student performance: Will a new governor spark improvement?” via Diane Rado of the Florida Phoenix

Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria may prove pivotal in Florida elections” via Deborah Berry of USA Today

Florida Supreme Court rules three amendments will stay on ballot” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

The Miami Dolphins seem to be quietly fighting for Florida gambling” via Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg

Nancy Pelosi touts gun control in Broward visit with Parkland parents” via Martin Vassal of the Miami Herald

HOA group endorses a score of state legislative candidates” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

After almost 13 years, Miami man released and charges dropped for Liberty City murder” via Daniel Rivero of WLRN

Quote of the Day

“The ballot summary disguises this monumental change to our state Constitution by vaguely referring to school board ‘duties’ and using terms that voters would not easily understand …” — Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente, writing for a 4-3 majority in throwing out a proposed constitutional amendment related to charter schools.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Public Service Commission will hold a hearing on a proposed deal in which Florida Power & Light would buy Vero Beach’s city-run utility and charge FPL rates to Vero Beach customers. That’s at 9 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

The Florida Defense Support Task Force, which works on issues related to military bases and missions, will hold a conference call. That’s at 9 a.m. Call-in number: 1-800-501-8979. Code: 1869945.

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

Republican Greg Steube and Democrat Allen Ellison, both running in Florida’s 17th Congressional District, are slated to appear at the Tiger Bay Club of Polk County. GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney decided against seeking re-election in the sprawling district, which includes southern Polk County. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 500 West Stuart St., Bartow.

Candidates for two open state House seats are expected to appear at a Sarasota Tiger Bay Club meeting. Democrat Tracy Pratt and Republican Will Robinson are seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Jim Boyd in House District 71, which is made up of parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties. Republican James Buchanan, Democrat Tony Mowry and unaffiliated candidate Robert Kaplan are seeking to replace Rep. Julio Gonzalez in Sarasota County’s House District 74. Gonzalez ran for Congress this year. That’s at noon, Michael’s on East, 1212 East Ave. South, Sarasota.

A fundraising reception will be held for state Rep. Rick Roth, a Loxahatchee Republican running for re-election in Palm Beach County’s House District 85. He faces a challenge from Democrat Ellen Baker. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Vic & Angelo’s, 4520 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens.

GOP U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is slated to speak to the Sarasota Republican Club. Buchanan faces an election challenge from Democrat David Shapiro in Congressional District 16. That’s at 6 p.m., Marina Jack, 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota.

Post-Michael poll: Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis deadlocked; Rick Scott narrowly leads Bill Nelson

In the first poll since Hurricane Michael devastated the Panhandle — and changed the course of state politics — the race for Florida Governor is virtually tied.

Twenty days before Election Day, Democrat Andrew Gillum is at 47 percent, while Republican Ron DeSantis is at 46. However, among those who say they have already voted, DeSantis is at 49 percent, while Gillum is at 45 percent.

A similar scenario is set up for Florida’s U.S. Senate race — heading into the stretch in dead-heat fashion, according to the new survey by St. Pete Polls. Republican Gov. Rick Scott has a two-point lead over Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The poll comes with a definitive asterisk as respondents in portions of the Panhandle, specifically the Panama City media market, where Michael delivered his lethal blow, are under-sampled. A slight plurality of these voters typically supports Republican candidates.

Regardless, as Gillum and DeSantis try to find that pose looking still concerned about hurricane victims while scrambling for those last few votes, Florida appears headed toward the kind of election-night gubernatorial nail-biter the state saw in both 2010 and 2014 when Scott secured one-point victories only as final returns were posted.

There remain only a few of those last votes, according to the poll. Reform party candidate Darcy Richardson captures about 2 percent support in the Governor’s race poll, while 5 percent of Florida voters say they are still undecided.

The survey was conducted by St. Pete Polls, has a sample size of 1,974 respondents and has a 2.2 percent margin of error.

In the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, Scott is setting up for what might be another nail-biter for his own record. He has a narrow lead over Nelson, 49 to 47 percent. Scott is at 50 percent with those who have already voted.

Respondents were also asked to rate Scott and Gillum’s response to Hurricane Michael. While Scott received strong marks for his efforts, Gillum’s numbers are a mixed bag.

Sixty-one percent of voters approve of how Scott has handled the response to Michael, while 21 percent do not, and 18 percent are unsure. Gillum, the Mayor of Tallahassee, is at 44/30 approve/disapprove with 25 percent unsure.

Compared with previous polls, spreads have tightened in the battle for independent voters, and across nearly every demographic group in the new poll. Past polling showed independents breaking solidly for the Democrats Gillum and Nelson, but this poll shows Gillum with only a 2 percent advantage and Nelson with a 5 percent edge. In past surveys, women were also breaking decidedly toward Democrats and men toward Republicans, but this time, the differences were mostly statistically insignificant.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.17.18

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

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

The race for Florida governor is essentially tied according to the first public poll conducted after Hurricane Michael devastated the Panhandle — and changed the course of state politics.

Twenty days before Election Day, Democrat Andrew Gillum is at 47 percent, while Republican Ron DeSantis is at 46. However, among those who say they have already voted, DeSantis is at 49 percent, while Gillum is at 45 percent.

Reform party candidate Darcy Richardson captures about 2 percent of the vote, while 5 percent of Florida voters are still undecided.

The poll comes with a definitive asterisk as respondents in the Panama City area, where Michael delivered his lethal blow, are under-sampled. A slight plurality of these voters typically support Republican candidates.

The survey was conducted by St. Pete Polls, has a sample size of 1,974 respondents and has a 2.2 percent margin of error.

The poll also ballot-tested the U.S. Senate race between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson and asked about voters felt about Scott and GIllum’s response to Hurricane Michael. To read those results, please click here.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@APStylebook: Avoid the phrase “head to the polls.” It doesn’t account for the roughly 40 percent of the electorate that will cast a ballot before Election Day.

@SeungMinKim: It appears POTUS has been in quite a chatty mood lately.

@DeFede: This is the state of politics. On @cnn just now @WhiteHouse reporter @jeffzeleny said: “The many aides I talked to today simply did not want to address the question of horseface.” Let’s repeat that: “The question of horseface.” God save us.

@CHeathWFTV: If @ScottforFlorida can use pics of him flying over damage and handing out water, can @AndrewGillum use video of him cutting up trees with a chainsaw? If disaster response action pics are fair, then they are fair.

@JimRosicaFL: IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT FEMA ASSISTANCE, YOU DO NOW FROM THE SCREECHING @FLGovScott “GOVERNOR ALERT.”

@SchmitzMedia: FEC filings for #FL18 show @laurenbaer handily out-fundraised @BrianMastFL last quarter: about $1.4 million compared to Mast’s $687,000. Mast campaign still has more cash on hand – $1.4 million compared to Baer’s $774,000.

@NewsBySmiley: Tonight’s debate ended bizarrely, with Mayra Joli claiming that Salazar is funded by Illuminati.

—@Fineout: Six days after deadly Hurricane Michael ripped through Florida’s Panhandle nearly 137k customers in 11 counties remain without power. Several utilities have told state officials it will be at least 5 days before some of these customers get their electricity back

@LMower3: This is stunning. It will be a week tomorrow since #HurricaneMichael made landfall, and 98% of Calhoun County is still without power. Hurricane Irma outages weren’t nearly that bad 6 days later.

@Conarck: Washington Post has “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” TU’s new slogan should be, The Florida Times-Union: “Woke and broke.”

— LATEST TURNOUT NUMBERS —

 

— DAYS UNTIL —

MLB World Series begins — 6; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 7; Early voting begins — 10; Halloween — 14; General Election Day — 20; Florida Blue Florida Classic: FAMU vs. BCU — 31; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 34; Thanksgiving — 36; Black Friday — 37; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 41; 2019 Session Interim Committee Meetings begin — 55; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 118; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 139; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 142; 2020 General Election — 748.

— TOP STORY —

Death toll rises to at least 26 across the South after Hurricane Michael blamed for 16 deaths in Florida alone” via Jay Reeves of The Associated Press — Hurricane Michael killed at least 16 people in Florida, most of them in the coastal county that took a direct hit from the storm, state emergency authorities said Tuesday. That’s in addition to at least 10 deaths elsewhere across the South. The scope of the storm’s fury became clearer after nearly a week of missing-persons reports and desperate searches of the Florida Panhandle neighborhoods devastated by the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly 50 years.

— AFTER MICHAEL —

After Michael’s fury, hardest-hit counties say changes in voting are needed” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Tens of thousands of voters in one of Florida’s strongest Republican regions have not yet returned their mail ballots. Early voting in the hardest-hit counties is set to begin one week from Saturday, on Oct. 27. Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux, chairman of the state association of supervisors, wants Scott to issue an executive order that provides greater flexibility to counties. Lux suggested that one solution is to allow counties to shift to an extended early voting system in which fewer bigger sites will remain open through 7 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 6. Lux said mail ballots might need to be sent to different counties because of disruptions in mail service, and he said provisions must also be made to assist relief workers stationed far from home who want to vote, and for displaced patients of nursing homes.

FEMA chief makes surprise visit to staff in Panhandle: ‘I want you out on the street’” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — FEMA Administrator Brock Long made an impromptu visit to Mexico Beach on Tuesday, surprising city officials still scrambling nearly a week after the storm to streamline communications and resources. A makeshift city hall sign guided Long’s caravan through a neighborhood where a FEMA trailer sat out of sight of the main beach road. “You’re not doing any good here,” he said to a group of FEMA employees standing under a tent. “I want you out on the street.”

Blackout: Florida towns face dark weeks without power” via Elizabeth Koh and Samantha Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — A week after Hurricane Michael’s rampage, large swaths of the Florida Panhandle and tens of thousands of residents face a dark, powerless future. Major utilities say it will still take weeks to repair downed lines and poles and reconnect customers — and that’s only for the homes and businesses in good enough shape to “take electrical service.” The reality is that mass damage left by Michael — which left a monster 80-mile-wide path of ruin — means it may take even more time to turn the lights back on in damaged structures.

Lawmakers wait to see of storm action needed” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The next leaders of the Florida Legislature say they’re ready to assist Gov. Rick Scott or state agencies in the recovery from devastating Hurricane Michael. They just need to be asked. “If the governor identifies an unmet need that requires swift legislative action, we will certainly work with him to address it,” said incoming Senate President Bill Galvano. But Galvano and incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva are not expecting such action until more is known about the impacts of the storm. Michael plunged more than 400,000 utility customers into the dark and leveled homes and businesses in a deadly path that cut north across rural Panhandle communities into Southwest Georgia. “In the here and now, if the governor or any agency needs resources or assistance for issues created by Hurricane Michael, the Florida House stands ready to help,” Oliva said.

Verizon gives customer credits in Bay, Gulf counties” via the News Service of Florida — Under scrutiny for outages after Hurricane Michael, Verizon said Tuesday its customers in hard-hit Bay and Gulf counties will be automatically credited for three months of mobile service. In recent days, officials including Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — who are competing in the November election for Nelson’s Senate seat — have taken aim at Verizon’s storm response. “Verizon is 100 percent focused on repairing our network in the Florida Panhandle,” the company said in the news release. “We are making progress every hour, and we expect that trend to continue at a rapid pace. We won’t rest until service is completely restored.”

Tallahassee power restoration to be ‘substantially complete’ by Wednesday, a week after Michael” via Ashley White of the Tallahassee Democrat — On the morning of Day Six, 5,000 City of Tallahassee Utilities customers were still without power. Midtown and West Tharpe Street had a large number of the lingering outages Tuesday morning, according to the outage map. The map showed there were 5,304 homes and businesses still in the dark. By 4 p.m., that number was down to about 2,200 customers. “We know for those 5,000 customers that are out there, they’re frustrated,” said Rob McGarrah, the general manager of city of Tallahassee electric. “We are working to get them back on., but as we’ve talked. We have to go through the priority process to get on as many customers as we can the quickest.”

JM Family Enterprises donates $100,000 to American Red CrossBrent Burns, President and CEO of JM Family Enterprises, announced a $100,000 donation from the company to the American Red Cross to support disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Michael. The company is also matching up to $50,000 of associates’ contributions to four charities: American Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, Team Rubicon and the Florida Disaster Fund. Although company associates residing in Florida’s panhandle are safe, the storm severely affected states in which its dealer partners are located. JM Family’s subsidiary, Southeast Toyota Distributors, distributes vehicles, parts and accessories to 177 independent Toyota dealers in the five southeastern states. “Hurricane Michael was a devastating storm that left unimaginable damage in its wake,” Burns said. “Recovering from this level of storm can take months, even years. Responding to our communities during times of crisis is a part of who we are, and our thoughts will be with our neighbors to the north as they begin to recover and rebuild.”

UnitedHealth Group donates $500,000 to help residents of Florida Gulf coast region — UnitedHealth Group and its UnitedHealthcare and Optum businesses are donating $500,000 to help residents of the Florida Gulf Coast region recover and rebuild from Hurricane Michael. UnitedHealth Group will donate the funds to the Florida Disaster Fund. The company is matching dollar-for-dollar donations employees make to charities supporting recovery efforts. “We are deeply concerned for the people affected by Hurricane Michael, and we are committed to supporting local communities in the Gulf Coast region as they recover and rebuild,” said David S. Wichmann, chief executive officer of UnitedHealth Group. “We are also taking action to ensure the people we serve have access to the care they need, and have worked to ensure the safety and well-being of our colleagues in the region.”

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

Andrew Gillum goes high — and low — in two new ads” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Gillum is confronting Florida voters with mixed messages as he approaches the home stretch of his Democratic bid for Governor. Gillum’s campaign debuted two new ads on Tuesday, the three-week mark ahead of the Nov. 6 Election Day. One, a negative attack on his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis, criticizes the former congressman’s voting record on Medicare and social security. Another features one of his closest surrogates, wife R. Jai Gillum, who offers an overwhelmingly positive overview of her husband and his quest for the Governor’s Mansion.

To watch the first ad, click here.

To watch the second ad, click here:

More resiliency, preparation for high water needed, Ron DeSantis says” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — As Florida’s Panhandle staggers under damage inflicted by Hurricane Michael, the state should take steps to increase its resiliency and prepare for the effects of higher seas, Republican gubernatorial candidate DeSantis said Tuesday. The state can incentivize local governments to strengthen building codes, but decisions to increase construction requirements should be made locally, DeSantis told the Florida Times-Union’s editorial board. Asked if he acknowledged the human impacts on climate change, the former three-term congressman answered that “I think humans contribute to what goes on around us.”

Spanish spots forDeSantis” via Florida Politics — The Republican Party of Florida released on Tuesday a trio of Spanish-language ads on behalf of DeSantis. Making the pitches are two prominent Hispanic Republicans: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Puerto Rican Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón. Rubio actually recorded two spots, with the Congresswoman picking up the third. One Rubio pitch was soft-focus and positive, with Rubio maintaining DeSantis “understands the importance of the state helping your family prosper.” In his second spot, Rubio made a more express appeal to the base, warning of “special interests from the extreme left, that are not from our state, spending millions of dollars in the governor’s campaign race.” González-Colón, meanwhile, affirmed DeSantis’ credentials in her spot.

To watch the videos, click on the images below:

Sheriffs back DeSantis, bash Gillum” via Florida Politics — A group of Republican Sheriffs from Central Florida endorsed DeSantis for Governor on Tuesday, spotlighting the alleged “anti-police” radicalism of Gillum in the bargain. Ahead of the primary, Adam Putnam was the runaway choice of most Sheriffs and police unions. Since late August, however, their support has largely (with the exception of a handful of Democratic Sheriffs) fallen in behind DeSantis. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd distilled the pro-DeSantis case neatly: “When I looked at this election, I asked myself a simple question that every voter should ask themselves: Do you want a governor who is a decorated veteran and former prosecutor, or a governor who ignored pleas from police for more support and more officers while crime skyrocketed in his city?”

Everglades Trust endorses DeSantis — Everglades Trust Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell issued a statement supporting DeSantis: “For some, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the importance of Everglades restoration, and the critical point we’ve reached. The tragic symptoms of a fatally-flawed water management system, kept broken to appease the sugar industry, are on full display for the world to see. Dead sea life and closed beaches on both coasts of Florida cannot be Florida’s new normal. And the days of the Everglades serving as a mere bullet point in an environmental platform should be over. They are in desperate need of a hero — and they found one in Ron DeSantis. Ron understands the critical infrastructure projects that must be undertaken and expedited, with the ability to make them a top priority, and already has a track record of standing up to an industry that is physically and politically blocking the reconnection of Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades – Big Sugar.”

Assignment editors — West Palm Beach health care professionals will hold a news conference to highlight DeSantis’ record and refusal to release a health care plan after 260 days on the campaign trail, 10:30 a.m., lot across from St. Mary’s Hospital, corner of 49th Street & Greenwood Avenue, West Palm Beach. RSVP to press@andrewgillum.com.

Assignment editors — Democratic Lt. Gov. nominee Chris King joins health care professionals and local leaders for a news conference on running mate Gillum’s plan to expand access to affordable health care, 11:30 a.m., Barnett Park, 4801 West Colonial Dr., Orlando.

Happening today:

Assignment editors — Republican Lt. Gov. nominee Jeanette Nuñez will attend several events in Central Florida: 10 a.m., Meet Your Candidates Day Event, Osceola Council on Aging, 700 Generation Pt., Kissimmee; 11:30 a.m., Venezuelan Round Table, Amaretto Bistro Latin Cuisine, 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando; 2 p.m., meet & greet with Nuñez & Bob Cortes, Iglesia Puertas Del Cielo, 650 Doyle Road, Deltona; 5:30 p.m., annual members meeting, Greater Orlando Builders Association, 1953 Clayton Heritage Way, Maitland; 7:30 p.m., meet your candidates day event, South Side Umatilla Community Center, 17107 Ball Park Road, Umatilla.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Tweet, tweet — and a reminder that there are substantial policy differences between Bill Nelson and Rick Scott:

Bill Nelson raises $5M, spends $10M in last reporting period” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Nelson raised $5.2 million during the most recent reporting period, a massive haul for the veteran senator but well behind Scott, whose campaign is buttressed by his personal wealth. Nelson’s campaign spent more than $11 million during the most recent reporting period, which covers Aug. 9 through Sept. 30.

Bill Nelson camp: Rick Scott’s dodging voters” via Florida Politics — Since Hurricane Michael became an imminent threat and then made a catastrophic landfall last week, Scott has been in emergency management mode. The Scott campaign has already teased the possibility of Scott no longer appearing on the trail at all, with his wife Ann Scott serving as a surrogate — of the sort who can’t be expected to answer policy questions. However, contends Dan McLaughlin (an adviser and former spox for Nelson), Scott leaving the trail is simply a “cynical attempt to avoid facing voters.” “We’re not going to let Rick Scott hide from voters in the last three weeks of a major election — especially while he’s significantly increasing his negative TV attack ads,” McLaughlin vowed.

Scott uses storm relief in contrast ad” via Florida Politics — Scott is dedicated largely to post-Michael recovery these days, and a new ad from his campaign is designed to remind voters of that fact. One tripwire for this spot: a third-party group (VoteVets) accusing Scott of using his familiar Navy ball cap for political optics while he “cheated” veterans, in an ad that got national coverage in outlets like Fox News. Another tripwire: a senior Nelson campaign hand charging Scott with using storm recovery as a way to dodge voters and media on the campaign trail, while spending $18 million on ad buys … including negative ads targeted against the Democratic incumbent. The Scott campaign decried all of this, somehow invoking the Senate Minority Leader in the process.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

New commercial fills Bill Nelson’s suit with scary things” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The new 30-second television commercial “Lining” from New Republican Political Action Committee, the committee Republican Gov. Scott set up to support his U.S. Senate campaign, brings up all the charges previously pushed by the committee: Nelson voted to raise taxes; he’s collected government paychecks for 45 years, now totaling millions of dollars in pay; he voted to cut Medicare, and he made up a story about Russian interference … all because he’s confused.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

 — NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Progress Florida releases ‘Informed Voters’ Guide’ — The new guide, at www.FloridaBallotGuide.com, features the positions of not only Progress Florida, but also the recommendations of other good government, civic, and public interest watchdog organizations. To help voters make choices, the guide to the proposed constitutional amendments includes voting recommendations; short, easy-to-read, plain language explanations for each amendment; links to more in-depth information on each amendment provided by the League of Women Voters of Florida. Voters also can get the Voters’ Guide via mobile phone, by texting FLBALLOT to 30644.

Jimmy Patronis dominates in money chase in CFO campaign” via the News Service of Florida — Republican Chief Financial Officer Patronis and a closely linked political committee raised more than $950,000 during a two-week period in late September and early October, as Patronis continued to widen his financial edge over Democratic challenger Jeremy Ring, according to reports filed with the state Division of Elections. Patronis’ campaign raised $243,231 between Sept. 22 and Oct. 5, bringing the campaign’s overall total to $2.18 million since it began collecting contributions last November.

Foes of gambling amendment bringing cash” via the News Service of Florida — The committee Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3 had raised a total of $6.94 million as of Oct. 5. The contributions early this month included $750,000 from Gulfstream Park Racing Association and $100,000 each from FanDuel Inc. and DraftKings Inc. The committee also spent $1.367 million between Oct. 1 and Oct. 5, with most of the money going for advertising expenses. The committee is fighting a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot that would change the Florida Constitution and give voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state.

Marsy’s Law group offers crime victims’ pleas in new Amendment 6 ads” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The commercials are part of the $30 million campaign being run by Marsy’s Law for Florida, a group created to push for “Marsy’s Law” victims’ rights laws much like those adopted in California and other states, pushed for by the family of Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California college student murdered in 1983. For the two new Florida campaign TV commercials, the fifth and sixth from Marsy’s Law of Florida, the real-life Florida victims are Ann Rowe of Tallahassee and Mary Futrill Petersen. In the first new 30-second ad, Rowe tells her own story, about how she was brutally raped and beaten outside her Tallahassee home two years ago. In the other ad, Petersen’s mother, Francis Futrill of Jacksonville, tells of her daughter, who was murdered in her own bed in 2002, her body discovered the next day by her 8-year-old son. The case remains unsolved.

To view Rowe’s ad, click on the image below:

To view Futrill’s ad, click on the image below:

Stephanie Murphy swamping Mike Miller in CD 7 money race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democratic U.S. Rep. Murphy entered October with more than $1 million left to spend in her re-election bid, while her opponent Republican state Rep. Miller‘s campaign came into the home stretch almost broke. Miller managed to raise $304,000 since the pre-primary report filed Aug. 8, but he also spent a half-million dollars, in part on his Aug. 28 primary victory and in part on September and early October advertising to take on Murphy. As a result, his campaign had just $36,872 in the bank at the end of the third quarter … Murphy has both outraised and outspent Miller during the period, and still had $1.1 million in the bank left for more campaign spending on Sept. 30, according to the FEC reports. The latest reports show she raised $482,000 since the Aug. 8 pre-primary report and spent $967,000. Overall, Murphy has raised nearly $3 million; Miller, $869,000, including a $125,000 loan.

New DCCC ad on health care: ‘We can’t afford Brian Mast’via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has released a new ad hitting U.S. Rep. Mast on his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last year. Mast, the Republican incumbent in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, is attempting to defend his seat against Democratic challenger Lauren Baer. The DCCC’s new 30-second spot, titled “Down Here,” highlights Mast’s vote in the House to repeal the ACA and replace it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Ultimately, a similar bill failed in the Senate, killing the GOP’s efforts. “Health care matters here in Florida,” the ad’s narrator begins. “The minute he got to Washington, Congressman Brian Mast forgot that.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell ad features photo of slain father” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Mucarsel-Powell lost her dad at the age of 24 after he was gunned down in her native country of Ecuador. In her new 30-second ad, titled “Photo,” Mucarsel-Powell recounts that loss, and cites it as a motivator to strengthen gun control laws here in the U.S. “I never said goodbye,” Mucarsel-Powell begins, holding up a photo of her and her father. “My kids never met their grandfather. And this is the last photo I took with my father because he was killed by a criminal with a gun. So, when I tell you I’ll stand up to the NRA to protect our community, you can believe me.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Donna Shalala ahead by five in new DCCC poll” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new survey of Florida’s 27th Congressional District shows Shalala in the lead. That’s according to a poll commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which helps elect Democrats to the U.S. House. The survey puts Shalala at 44 percent. That’s 5 percentage points ahead of her Republican opponent, Maria Elvira Salazar, who sits at 39 percent. Mayra Joli, a non-party affiliated candidate, earned 6 percent. The remaining 10 percent of voters are undecided.

‘Monster’ much? PAC launched to bash Maria Elvira Salazarvia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Salazar is now being bashed by a former rival in the Republican primary for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Former candidate Stephen Marks, who came in fourth in the nine-person contest, has launched a new website and PAC, called MiamiAmerica. Marks’ aim appears to be hitting Salazar over her support, or lack thereof, of President Donald Trump. He also criticizes her conservative bona fides. The website aims to push voters toward third-party candidate Mayra Joli, who has made her support of Trump a pillar of her campaign. Among the claims made are that Salazar once called Trump a “monster,” that she does not see abortion as immoral, and that she proposed banning semi-automatic weapons.

‘Donna Shalala is our for herself,’ new ad arguesvia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) is going after Shalala over a 2006 janitor strike at the University of Miami, where Shalala served as president. The janitors sought a wage increase and the ability to unionize during the nine-week strike. At the time, janitors at the university were paid less than $7 per hour, according to reports at the time. The CLF, a super PAC aligned with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan that aims to elect Republicans to the House, recounts the episode in the Spanish-language ad, titled “$7.” “Donna Shalala is another politician who puts herself first,” the ad’s narrator begins in Spanish.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Sensing an upset, Paul Ryan-aligned super PAC attacks Donna Shalala” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Ryan, is running a Spanish-language ad targeting Shalala. The six-figure buy on TV and digital platforms is the super PAC’s first foray into retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s district, a Miami-based seat where Trump lost to Clinton by nearly 20 points. The ad titled “$7” tries to portray Shalala as out of touch with working-class voters in the district, noting that she lived in a mansion that eventually sold for $9 million while serving as the president of the University of Miami and led the university when its janitorial staff went on strike because their wages amounted to about $7 an hour. Shalala’s Republican opponent, former TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar, levied a similar attack on Shalala during a recent Telemundo debate.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

— DOWN BALLOT —

Second complaint filed against Janet Cruz” via David Bishop of FLANewsOnline.com — In a 51 page document sent to House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and obtained by FLA News, Tampa resident Rocio Paulsen alleges Cruz actually lives in the 7800 square foot home owned by her husband on San Miguel Street in Hillsborough County, which is outside the House District Cruz currently represents. Paulsen’s letter to Speaker Corcoran alleges Cruz violates legislative rules and the Florida Constitution. Cruz rents a 1000 square foot home on Fremont Avenue inside the House District 62 boundaries she’s elected to represent. Rep. Cruz’ is also registered to vote at the Fremont Avenue rental home. But the complaint to House Speaker Corcoran raises several discrepancies. Another person is also registered to vote at the Fremont Avenue rental property.

Happening tonight:

 

Linda Jack hits Amber Mariano for ‘failed representation’ in new ad” via Florida Politics — New Port Richey Democrat Jack is out with a new ad hammering Republican Rep. Mariano in her quest to flip House District 36. The ad, titled “Better Leadership for West Pasco,” says Mariano has come up short in fulfilling the promises she made during her successful ouster of former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy two years ago. “Amber Mariano promised to prioritize education, she promised to provide millions of dollars for flood relief, she promised to represent us. West Pasco deserves better leadership,” the ad narrator says, over a title card reading “failed leadership.” The ad then shifts focus to Jack, a musician, educator, and veterinarian who has been campaigning for the state House since June 2017.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Happening tonight:

Happening today — Republican Joe Wicker raises money for his campaign for Hillsborough County’s House District 59, 5:30 p.m., Curry Law Group, 750 West Lumsden Road, Brandon. Wicker and Democrat Adam Hattersley are competing to replace Rep. Ross Spano, a Dover Republican running for Congress.

Worth reading — How the gutting of the Voting Rights Act led to hundreds of closed polls” via Rob Arthur and Allison McCann of Vice News — In-person voting declined in Manatee County as a result of 30 percent reduction in the number of polling places proposed by supervisor of elections, Mike Bennett. A six-month investigation examined polling place data to determine that for every 10 polling places that closed in the rest of the country, 13 closed within the jurisdictions formerly under oversight. About a third of all counties that used to be subject to the Voting Rights Act reduced their number of polling places on average 2.6 percent from 2012 to 2016, compared to only a fifth of the rest of the jurisdictions in the country that closed 2.0 percent. Rapidly growing states like Arizona and Georgia closed around 150 polling places each, while a few states, including Virginia and South Carolina, opened additional polling places. VICE News also found that many of the closed polls were in neighborhoods with large minority populations within 18 counties in 13 states.

— KNOCK, KNOCK —

Who’s there? The Win Justice coalition. And its strategy is no joke.

The group is touting more than a million doors knocked as part of a seven-figure statewide canvass operation. It hopes to surpass the 1.3-million mark by Nov. 6.

The coalition is supporting Democrats at the top of the ticket like Nelson and Gillum, as well as Amendment 4 — the felon restoration push — and a “progressive ticket down the ballot.”

Coincidence?: Ahead of Gillum’s primary upset, the group passed the 500,000-door threshold, sharing a progressive message at every residence.

Familiar faces: Win Justice is comprised of SEIU, Planned Parenthood, Color of Change and Center for Community Change Action. It’s also looped in New Florida Majority, Organize Florida and Florida Immigrant Coalition Votes.

Expanding the base: “Canvass operations have been running in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, Osceola, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Alachua, Leon, and Duval since earlier this year,” according to Win Justice. In part, it hopes to “engage infrequent voters in millennial, Gen Z, Black, and Latinx communities.” The program has nearly 1,600 staff and paid canvassers across 22 offices.

— STATEWIDE —

State Senate now suing to stop federal harassment probe” via Florida Politics — A federal judge has set a hearing for next Tuesday in the state Senate’s lawsuit to put an end to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation into a top aide’s sexual harassment and retaliation claims. Rachel Perrin Rogers, the chief assistant to Senate Republican Leader and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, says former Sen. Jack Latvala repeatedly groped her and made unwelcome comments about her body over a four-year period. The Senate’s legal complaint, filled earlier this month, counters that “the ongoing EEOC action violates the Florida Senate’s sovereign and constitutional rights,” including “violat(ing) the Senate’s sovereign immunity.” The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The Senate is first seeking a “temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction” to suspend that inquiry.

Insurance office postpones summit — Turns out that actually coping with the insurance side of a significant natural disaster trumps talking about it. “The Office of Insurance Regulation is postponing the 2018 OIR Summit to focus on the needs of those impacted by this disaster,” “Team OIR” said in a note circulated Tuesday. The reference, to belabor the point, was to Hurricane Michael. “Please stay tuned for additional details,” the note continued. “We appreciate your understanding as we continue to assist our neighbors in the Panhandle.” This year’s iteration of the annual summit was to have been held Oct. 24-25 in Tallahassee, featuring remarks by Sen. Jeff Brandes and Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, and providing staff to brief industry players on the fine art of negotiating the regulatory structure. The office has been holding daily data calls for insurers to report claims to regulators. Additionally, “OIR team members will be actively working throughout the recovery phase with consumer advocates, industry stakeholders and entities licensed under OIR’s regulatory authority,” the agency website says.

Workers’ comp rate hearing scrapped because of storm” via the News Service of Florida — Pointing to a need to stay focused on the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, the state Office of Insurance Regulation has canceled a public hearing on a proposed reduction in workers’ compensation insurance rates. The office will accept written comments until Oct. 26 about the proposed 13.4 percent average rate decrease, which would take effect in January. The National Council on Compensation Insurance, which proposes rates annually for workers’ compensation insurers, has said the proposal is in line with trends in other states.

University performance funding set for changes” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — Florida university leaders want to revise the system’s performance-funding model, looking to eliminate a dreaded “bottom three” that annually denies state money to the lowest-performing schools. In this academic year, Florida A&M University, the University of North Florida and New College of Florida missed out on shares of $265 million in state performance funding because they were ranked in the bottom three on a 100-point scale … even though two of them, Florida A&M and the University of North Florida, improved their performances on an evaluation in June, while New College maintained its performance level from the prior year. But that penalty would be eliminated under a plan discussed by the Budget and Finance Committee of the university system’s Board of Governors during a meeting in Tampa. The plan is a response to a new state law directing the university system to develop a “performance-based continuous improvement model focused on outcomes that provides for the equitable distribution of performance funds.”

Zika cases rise; baby born with Zika syndrome” via the News Service of Florida — The number of reported Zika cases in Florida this year has increased to 80, while a baby has been born with a condition known as congenital Zika syndrome, according to newly updated information from the state Department of Health. The 80 cases reported Tuesday were up from 74 reported on Oct. 1, as a gradual increase in cases of the mosquito-borne disease continues. Zika is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects. The Department of Health said one baby has been born with the congenital Zika syndrome, which can involve brain damage and such conditions as microcephaly in which the skull has partially collapsed, according to a description on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

— OPINIONS —

Florida judge regrets sentencing man to die, says system is flawed” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Few things shore up a murder case like a confession. And in the case of a brutal double-murder in Seminole County, witnesses say a woman confessed to fatally stabbing the victims — the woman’s mother and grandmother — on five occasions. … Maybe it’s not shocking that a judge and jury convicted Clemente Javier Aguirre-Jarquin years ago — before someone else confessed and before evidence surfaced linking the confessor to the crime scene. … today, I can tell you about someone else who has stepped forward to say the effort to convict Aguirre-Jarquin has been fatally flawed — the judge who originally sentenced him to die.

Joe Henderson: Supreme Court ruling brings out Mini-Me in Ron DeSantis via Florida Politics — DeSantis hasn’t mentioned President Trump much now that the general election for Florida Governor is getting closer, but that might change after Monday’s stinging slap by the Florida Supreme Court at Gov. Scott. …. the state’s highest court ruled that Scott cannot nominate replacements for three justices set to retire at midnight on Jan. 8, 2019 … When in doubt, break out the boogeyman … DeSantis put on his best Mini-Me imitation after the ruling by quickly tweeting Gillum would be pressured by “out-of-state, radical groups” to appoint “activist judges” who would “legislate from the bench to fit their own ideology.” … I assume he means that would be any ruling with which he disagrees. … That is, of course, opposed to the good ol’ American conservative judges DeSantis would favor. … It’s the same fear-and-smear tactic President Trump used to push the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh … Anyone who opposed him, the president declared, and his supporters parroted, was part of a “liberal mob.”

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

George Oscar Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: Waymo

Brian Ballard, Christina Brodeur, Ballard Partners: AshBritt, Windstorm Mitigation

Rachel Cone, Chris Dudley, Mercer Fearington, Seth McKeel, Clark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Nucor Corporation

Megan Fay, Chris Schoonover, Nick Iarossi, Ashley Kalifeh, Ron LaFace, Capital City Consulting: Hygea Holdings

Paul Mitchell, Southern Strategy Group: IOA Re

Sean Pittman, Pittman Law Group: Uber Technologies and Affiliates

— ALOE —

Uber proposals value company at $120 billion in possible IPO” via Liz Hoffman, Greg Bensinger and Maureen Farrell of The Wall Street Journal — That eye-popping figure is nearly double Uber’s valuation in a fundraising round just two months ago and more than General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are worth combined. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley last month delivered the valuation proposals to Uber. These documents, which typically advise on how to position shares to potential investors, are a common step before banks are formally hired to underwrite IPOs. Bank presentations show Uber gathering momentum toward an IPO that is among the most hotly anticipated on Wall Street and Silicon Valley and could come sooner than expected as the new-issue market sizzles.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi talking IPO plans and the app’s new safety features.

Disney World raises theme-park parking prices” via Dewayne Bevil — The parking fee at Walt Disney World’s four theme parks has increased as of Tuesday. The standard charge is now $25, up from $22. It’s the second hike in parking charges at the resort this year. Preferred parking — slots closer to the entrance of the attractions — was increased to $50, up from $45. The changes coincide with Disney’s increased prices for its annual passes and a new date-specific strategy for theme-park admission. The changes coincide with Disney’s increased prices for its annual passes and a new date-specific strategy for theme-park admission.

Happy birthday to state Rep. Kristin Jacobs, former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, Mark Hollis, former Rep. Scott Randolph, and Ray Seaman.

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