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Jeremy Matlow

Jeremy Matlow releases second ad for Tallahassee Commission bid

Jeremy Matlow, one of five candidates running for Seat 3 on the Tallahassee City Commission, released his second video ad of the campaign cycle this week.

“We’re proud to share our bold vision for a City that works for everyone. It reflects our people-powered, grassroots approach to building a winning campaign,” Matlow said in announcing the new video. “Whether it comes to growth management, affordable housing, or making our CRA work properly again, we are challenging the status quo and bringing the people’s voice to City Hall.

“From the way we run our campaign, to the way we’ll collaborate with our neighborhoods on all sides of the City to run our local government, we want people to know we’re doing things differently — business as usual just won’t do any longer.”

The 80-second video, titled “Tallahassee is my home,” features Matlow describing his fondness for the city he grew up in before pitching himself as a much-needed change agent for City Hall.

“Tallahassee is my home. I grew up here. I graduated from public schools here,” Matlow says in the video. “Growing up it was just my mom raising my brothers, my sisters and me. I love Tallahassee, that’s why I stayed here. To raise my family here and start Gaines Street Pies here. This is a beautiful city, with a great community. Tallahassee is my home, but something has got to change.”

Matlow later adds that “it cannot be business as usual any longer, because if we want meaningful change we need to turn the system upside down.”

The new video follows up another released by the Matlow campaign back in March. That video focused on the living conditions in the city’s southside, where Matlow grew up.

Matlow is running against Lisa Brown, Richard Garzola, Alexander Jordan and Bill Schack for the seat currently held by Commissioner Nancy Miller.

The Matlow campaign said it’s confident in its chances to win the seat outright on the Aug. 28 ballot, however, if no candidate receives more than half the vote in that election, the top two finishers will go head-to-head on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Commission elections are nonpartisan, though Matlow is a lifelong Democrat. Brown is a former Republican who switched her voter registration to unaffiliated last year in preparation to run for office in the Democratic-leaning city.

Matlow, who has pledged to only accept donations from individuals, was leading the money race through May with nearly $100,000 raised via 600 donors and $75,000 of that in the bank. Brown has raised a little over $20,000 and has $18,650, while Schack has raised $16,500 and has $5,850 banked.

Jordan has not been a candidate long enough to file a campaign finance report.

The video is below.

Ron DeSantis unleashes on Adam Putnam ahead of $12M ad buy

On Saturday morning, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis made his pitch for the GOP nomination for Governor in a familiar place: Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra.

With him, serving as hypeman: regular Fox News collaborator and Congressional colleague Rep. Matt Gaetz.

The bad news for the campaign: a 15-point deficit (32 to 17 percent) in recent polls from Fox News and the Florida Chamber.

The good news: a silver bullet, in the form of the Pres. Donald Trump endorsement tweet. DeSantis’ team expects that the co-branding with Trump will erase that lead quickly

DeSantis’ visit to Sawgrass, the first of three stops Saturday, was very much the kickoff of a new, active phase of the campaign, one in which the candidate will spend $12 million on an ad buy starting Monday. He will also have the support on the ground of Fox News endorsers, such as Sean HannityMark LevinJudge Jeanine, as well as President Donald Trump and his namesake son.

Will this push be enough? DeSantis, whose strategy thus far has been less headline-grabbing than Putnam’s, short on in-state endorsements, believes that it will — and that he will be vindicated in choosing to ramp up the campaign comparatively later than Putnam did.

“I appreciate that people spent a lot of money in April and May, which my opponents did attacking me,” DeSantis said in a media availability after his remarks.

“We have a liftoff from the President, we have a debate [next week],” DeSantis added. “You’re going to see a very aggressive campaign when people are paying attention, and I think a couple of weeks from now you’re going to see a very different thing.”

“I’ve been building for the moment. I have not been out wasting money,” DeSantis said, a “deliberate strategy that will pay off.”

From there, DeSantis addressed Putnam’s contentions that he’s just looking for a better job (rooted in this being the second time in two years DeSantis abandoned the House seat to pursue higher office).

DeSantis doesn’t believe Putnam, a child of privilege (in his telling), has room to talk.

“Adam Putnam has been running for office since he was 22,” he thundered.

“[Putnam] has not had a career outside of politics, he inherited his money, he was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. I’m somebody who was a blue-collar kid. I started making six dollars an hour. I worked myself. I got nothing handed to me,” DeSantis said.

“I had one of the best resumes in the country when I came out of school. I could have made a lot of money. Instead, I volunteered to serve in the Navy. Deployed to Iraq, served in Guantanamo, served in some of our bases here in Florida,” DeSantis said.

“This guy is the consummate career politician, and he’s exactly what’s wrong with modern politics,” DeSantis added.

“Adam says he knows so much. He’s never served in uniform,” DeSantis said, “and the decisions he’s made — if you know so much about Florida, why do you oppose E-Verify?”

“The lack of judgment, time and time again, shows me that he really doesn’t know what taxpayers and voters want. He knows Florida from the perspective of a career politician and what the power brokers in Tallahassee want, not what the actual voters want,” DeSantis said.

“Adam is the toast of Tallahassee, the insider class,”  DeSantis added. “On Duval Street, he will beat me in the vote. But the ones the insiders want aren’t always the ones the voters want.”

“If you want proof of that, look at Rick Scott in 2010. To a man, they opposed him,” he concluded. “And look at the good job Gov. Scott has done.”

Court backs mobile home association in blasting damage

An appeals court Friday upheld a ruling that a mining company should pay for damage that blasting caused to a lake at a nearby mobile-home community in Miami-Dade County.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with the Gateway Estates Park Condominium Association, which argued that blasting by SDI Quarry caused damage to the bank of a lake at the Gateway Estates mobile-home community.

Administrative Law Judge John Van Laningham ruled in favor of Gateway Estates and awarded $840,000 in damages. SDI Quarry, also is known as Atlantic Civil Inc., challenged Van Laningham’s ruling, arguing in part that it was not proved that blasting caused the damage. But the appeals court rejected the arguments.

“We conclude that competent substantial evidence supports the administrative law judge’s finding that appellant’s blasting activities were a contributing cause of the damage to appellee’s lake,” said the 13-page main opinion, written by Judge Harvey Jay and joined by judges T. Kent Wetherell and Scott Makar. “The administrative law judge correctly concluded that this was sufficient to subject appellant to strict liability because blasting is an ultrahazardous activity.”

Makar, however, wrote a concurring opinion that said he “reluctantly” agreed. Makar pointed, in part, to a lack of scientific standards for determining if the blasts caused damage to the lake.

“Some will decry reliance on testimony by property owners that blasting was coincident with their damages, citing self-interest and bad science; others will applaud that such testimony and the administrative law judge’s reliance on ‘common knowledge and ordinary experience’ provide a necessary dose of reality to counter lifeless scientific data that lacks context,” Makar wrote. “A skeptical few might go so far as to say that a Magic-8 Ball would be just as accurate in deciding causation, perhaps justifying greater scientific standards or a court-appointed expert to assist the judges. Such is the current state of debate about causation and seismological liability science, which hasn’t changed much in 50 years.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Injured worker loses appeal on positive drug test

A divided appeals court Friday upheld a decision to deny workers’ compensation insurance benefits to a hospital housekeeper who tested positive for marijuana after falling on the job and dislocating her shoulder.

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled against Bonita Brinson, who was employed by Hospital Housekeeping Services, LLC, and was working at Capital Regional Medical Center in Tallahassee when she was injured, according to court documents.

Brinson was taken to a medical clinic after she fell and provided a urine sample, which tested positive for marijuana.

Friday’s ruling said state workers’ compensation insurance law presumes in such cases that injuries were caused primarily by the influence of drugs.

Workers can overcome that presumption by presenting “clear and convincing evidence” that drugs did not contribute to the injuries, the ruling said.

The majority opinion said Brinson failed to overcome the presumption.

“Ms. Brinson’s witnesses left open the question of whether she was under the influence when the accident occurred,” said the opinion, written by Judge Timothy Osterhaus and joined by Judge Joseph Lewis. “They didn’t know whether the drugs in her system contributed to her injury, and so failed to testify effectively for purposes of rebutting (the legal) presumption.”

But Judge Scott Makar wrote a lengthy dissent that pointed to a lack of evidence that she was under the influence of drugs.

“At a minimum, the expert testimony and scientific evidence at trial debunked the widespread misconception that testing positive for marijuana use necessarily correlates with intoxication or influence at the time of the accident,” Makar wrote. “To the contrary, as her expert explained, the drug test that Brinson was required to take detects only inactive metabolites, the presence of which proves only that the employee — at some indeterminate and potentially distant point in the past — had marijuana in her system; it does not itself prove, or even infer, impairment at the time of the test or the accident.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Democrats hope health care will be political elixir

One of the more-dramatic moments of Rick Scott’s time in office came in 2013 when he held a late-afternoon press conference at the Governor’s Mansion to declare his support for Medicaid expansion.

The prospect of Scott supporting a key element of Obama’s health-care overhaul was at one time unthinkable. Scott, a former health-care executive, had been a leading critic of “Obamacare” even before he started his first campaign for Governor.

But the Republican Governor would eventually flip again on the issue and declare his opposition to Medicaid expansion when it was proposed by the Florida Senate. The opposition of Scott and the GOP-dominated House forced the Senate to scrap the idea.

Now, Democrats eager to reclaim the Governor’s Mansion and defeat Scott in his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat have decided that Medicaid and health care are issues to run on.

Gwen Graham, who is among the Democratic candidates running for Governor, launched a television ad this week that calls it “disgusting” and “an absolute failure of the Republican Legislature” that Medicaid expansion was rejected.

Down in West Palm Beach, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo held a press conference with U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and others to hammer home the need for Medicaid expansion. Democrats say they plan to hold similar events in the coming weeks.

It’s not yet clear, however, if Medicaid expansion will have a major impact on the elections in a year when issues such as immigration and Donald Trump are dominating the political landscape. Democrat Charlie Crist, who challenged Scott in 2014, tried to make Medicaid expansion a major part of his campaign platform that year and lost.

Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat, maintained that health care is on the minds of voters and that Democrats want to remind them that Republicans have said “no, no, no.”

“If you believe in health care as a basic right and that regardless of your income you should be able go to a doctor and get medicine if you need it, then you have to vote Democrat,” Frankel said.

Meanwhile, the left-leaning group Floridians for a Fair Shake this week released a television ad that features twin sisters Susan Stutz of Port St. Lucie and Paula Albright of Palm City talking about surviving cancer. The ad goes after Republican Congressman Brian Mast on health-care issues and is expected to run in the West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce media market — as Democrats target Mast’s seat in that area.

Personnel note: Trey Lytal becomes FJA President

As Lake H. “Trey” Lytal, III came of age, his father Lake Lytal, Jr. was rising in the ranks of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers (now the Florida Justice Association) and eventually became president of the group in 1994.

After graduating from Florida State University and receiving his law degree from Stetson University, Trey Lytal became an attorney. He is managing partner with Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath in West Palm Beach.

During a ceremony at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach at FJA’s Annual Convention, 47-year-old Lytal became president of the Florida Justice Association — sworn in by his father.

Lytal succeeds Tampa’s Dale Swope, of Swope/Rodante, P.A., as president of the organization.

Lytal noted how he appreciates the trust FJA’s members have placed in him. He also emphasized the importance the 2018 election will be to FJA’s mission to protect citizens’ civil justice accountability rights.

“When you grow up understanding how important this organization is for our clients and our law practices you will never take it for granted, and being the first son of a past president is truly an honor,” he said.

“We protect cornerstone American rights and support Republicans and Democrats who support our mission. We must elect leaders who will uphold citizens’ rights under U.S. Constitution’s 7th Amendment right to jury trial and the Florida Constitution’s rights to access to the courts and right to a jury trial.”

Moody’s: Florida now earns highest credit rating

Some good news for Florida’s credit ratings emerged Thursday, with upgrades across the board from Moody’s seemingly vindicating Gov. Rick Scott‘s approach to financial management.

Per a media release: Moody’s upgraded the state one notch from Aa1 to Aaa, with a stable outlook for the best rating possible, despite what is called an “aging population.”

“Florida’s general obligation debt upgrade to Aaa reflects a sustained trend of improvement in its economy and finances, low state debt and pension ratios, and reduced near-term liability risks via the state-run insurance companies. Florida’s economy is performing strongly in terms of job growth, and long-term growth prospects are favorable despite the challenges posed by an aging population base.”

Florida joins 14 other states with an Aaa rating. Scott has repeatedly asserted that under his watch, Florida shed $9 billion of debt ($5.5 billion in general debt, and $3.5 billion from the repayment of an unemployment compensation loan from 2009).

On Friday, Scott offered a lengthy statement on how his approach saved Florida’s economy.

“When I became Governor in 2011, Florida’s economy was in terrible shape. By December 2010, state debt and unemployment had skyrocketed, taxes had been needlessly hiked by more than $2 billion and frivolous spending was commonplace — all costing Florida families more than 800,000 jobs. Since day one, we’ve worked nonstop to reverse this course, and today’s rating from Moody’s demonstrates the success of Florida’s economic turnaround,” Scott asserted.

“The entire country should take note,” Scott added, citing the fulfillment of his agenda.

The Moody’s release lauds Florida’s “healthy reserves and historically strong governance practices and policies that are expected to continue,” and “consistently low debt and pension liabilities that compare well with other Aaa-rated states.”

Hurricanes have been an issue the last couple of years, but Moody’s trusts the state to deal with those impacts: “Florida’s exposure to storm-related costs and other climate risks is high, but the state’s economy and finances have proved to be highly resilient to storm events and also position it well for the challenge of adapting to longer-term climate trends.”

Florida’s pension liability of $16.5 billion is 35 percent of state revenues, which compares well to the 50-state median of 82 percent. Debt per capita is also below that median.

Also up: Florida’s Department of Management Services facilities pool revenue bonds and certificates of participation to Aa1 from Aa2; Department of Children and Families certificates of participation to Aa2 from Aa3; State Board of Education’s Lottery Revenue bonds has been upgraded to Aa3 from A1.

Papa John’s withdraws request for warmer pizza sauce

Papa John’s, the takeout and pizza delivery restaurant chain, has told state health regulators ‘never mind’ on its request to store its pizza sauce at higher temperatures.

A “closing order” from the Department of Health shows the company withdrew its petition for a variance — first reported by POLITICO Florida — from the state’s “safe temperature” refrigeration standard of “41 degrees Fahrenheit or below.”

The variance would have permitted Papa John’s sauce to be kept “equal to or less than 85 degrees” for up to 10 hours.

In a previous filing, Rita Palmer, the company’s director of “North American QA (quality assurance) Regulatory” had explained that if “the dough draws up or shrinks due to cold sauce, the overall appearance is not pleasing to our customers.”

But a May 8 letter to the department, released Friday, shows the company took back its request.

“Papa John’s current food safety practices meet the intent of … Florida Administrative Code,” Palmer wrote.

“Perishable food shall be stored at such temperatures as will protect against spoilage,” the state’s regulation says. 

Based on the company’s withdrawal, the Health Department closed the file May 24, spokesman Devin Galleta said.

Chris King digital ad offers his highlights from Democrats’ debates

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is launching a new digital video ad offering two minutes of his highlights from the three Democratic debates this month.

Swing for the Fences,” provides eight clips of King’s better moments in the debates, plus one of Democratic front-runner Philip Levine‘s response to a King attack that leaves Levine getting jeered. There’s also a shot of rival Gwen Graham looking annoyed as King makes an indirect attack on her. Democrat Andrew Gillum appears in some of the debate shots but doesn’t get a close-up or a line. Democrat Jeff Greene has not yet appeared in any debates.

Interspersed in the video are text compliments lifted from media coverage about King’s debate performances.

King’s campaign said the ad would target Democratic voters on Facebook, statewide, as part of the campaign’s ongoing six-figure online media buy.

The ad shows King, the Winter Park entrepreneur, mentioning his positions on such topics as affordable housing, criminal justice reform, marijuana legalization, wage growth, immigration, and abortion.

“If you want the status quo, I’m not your guy,” King says in one of the debates, as the ad wraps up. “If you want to swing for the fences and dream again, I’m Chris King, and I want to be your governor.”

Henry Parrish

Campaign sign turned ‘flying disc’ causes social media ruckus

Cocoa Mayor and House District 51 candidate Henry Parrish has posted a video on Facebook showing a supporter of his opponent pulling up and flinging a Parrish campaign sign.

What’s raising eyebrows is who did the tossing: Veteran lobbyist Guy Spearman, whose Spearman Management office is right next door.

He supports Republican rival Tyler Sirois, executive director of Brevard-Seminole State Attorney Phil Archer’s office, in the race to succeed termed-out GOP state Rep. Tom Goodson.

“This is a video of our opponent’s main backer and financier illegally removing one of our campaign signs, legally placed with the landowner’s permission,” Parrish’s Facebook post says.

“My opponent and his supporters will do anything to beat us, including engaging in illegal activity,” the post goes on. “Who knows what they will do next. If you see someone removing a Henry Parrish sign or see some slanderous piece of mail, please call us immediately. This illegal behavior is a crime and will be reported.”

Spearman told Florida Politics that Parrish is in the wrong. He “readily admits” to slinging Parrish’s sign, saying it “was on my property. I’m sorry but you can’t put a political sign on my property without asking me.”

Parrish counters he had permission to place the sign, and said he’ll “stick with law and order.”

“My campaign will not tolerate criminal activity and dirty tricks from other campaigns,” he said in a phone interview. “I did file a report with Cocoa police.

” … This isn’t just somebody,” Parrish said of Spearman. “This is somebody politically and financially connected to my opponent. If I let this go, I’m not worth a hoot as mayor.”

Parrish also said the day before the sign removal, someone came into the bed-and-breakfast he operates and stole several campaign items. He said he doesn’t know who’s responsible. 

Spearman, who’s long been aligned with Democrats, noted Parrish’s sign appeared after he let Sirois put one of his signs on the other side of his building: “I mean, right after (Sirois) put up his sign, that other sign came up. Well, duh.”

Parrish is “a little bit desperate,” Spearman added. “Do I send stuff on Tyler to my lobbying friends? Sure I do. Have I sent anything negative on (Parrish)? Not so far. Now, that could all change.”

Meantime, Parrish called the incident “disheartening.” 

“This is definitely different from local politics,” he said. 

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Updated 3:30 p.m. — Parrish Campaign Team Leader David Bradford sends this message:

“I work next door to this building at The Parrish Grove Inn and assist with Mayor Parrish’s campaign. I wanted to provide you with some additional information that we provided to the police department that was not included in the article or on Facebook and led to Spearman admitting it was not his property and changing his story and admitting his wrong. In fact, he retrieved the stolen property from his garage (the stake) and the police returned it to us. Charges were filed yesterday.

“… Mr. Parrish owned this property previously and sold it to the current owner and has obtained permission every election to place it there. This was a temporary yard sign until Mayor Parrish had time to install his large (sign), which will be installed in this exact location tomorrow. It is a high traffic area and Mayor Parrish has had his signs there during his last two elections with no issues, however Spearman is spearheading Mr. Sirois’ campaign and (is) his biggest supporter ….

“… The property Mr. Spearman claims he also ‘owns’ when he refers to Mr. Sirois’ sign on the other side of the building is not owned by Spearman, but in fact by (someone else) who stated he did not give permission for Mr. Sirois to place his sign there and in fact had no knowledge it was there.”

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Gainesville correspondent Drew Wilson contributed to this post.

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