Peter – Florida Politics

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.19.18

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

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

Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican, is asking for prayers as wife Susie enters hospice.

Her “Alzheimer’s has advanced considerably,” he said on Facebook yesterday. “She is now at the very end stage … Starting today, she is under hospice care in our home, and it appears that her time with us will be short.”

Scott Plakon and his wife Susie.

Susie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in late 2014. It’s “an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks,” according to the National Institute on Aging.

Plakon first served in the House 2008-12, then returned in 2014. As he once told our Scott Powers, Susie’s symptoms were “generally mild and progressing very slowly … I told a few people at (a 2016 political) event about her diagnosis, and they were surprised because they did not notice it.”

That July, however, a motorist ran a red light and struck their car. The impact appeared to accelerate her Alzheimer’s symptoms, Plakon said. Adding to that, she suffered a seizure at home about two months later, hit her head and had bleeding on her brain.

Plakon, a devout Christian, says he’s leaning on God during this trial, following his wife’s example. The couple has six children; they’ve been married for over three decades.

“I have never met another person that has walked closer and had a more intimate relationship with Jesus than Susie Plakon,” he wrote on Facebook. “She soon will be in God’s presence and experience beauty, joy, love and peace that our earthly minds cannot even begin to comprehend.

“I have never been more sure of anything.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: 3.4 million jobs created since our great Election Victory — far greater than ever anticipated, and only getting better as new and greatly improved Trade Deals start coming to fruition!

@MarcoRubio: I know for a fact #Putin interfered in 2016 & we should punish it. But while we can’t change the past we can influence the future. So let’s pass the #DeterAct to try & prevent Putin interference in 2018 & beyond.

@AlCardenasFL_DC: Since there is zero political/diplomatic logic to what the President has said today in Helsinki, other possible reasons for those statements are highly troubling & any member of his administration not publicly disavowing them or resigning; should be held complicit.

—@SenBillNelson: Just filed a bill to impose sanctions and freeze assets of Nicaraguan officials responsible for the violence against protesters. Ortega and his thugs must be held accountable for the abuse and murder of Nicaraguan people exercising their rights.

@MDixon55: It is packed house at @BBKingsOrlando for @RonDeSantisFL rally. Henceforth, all political events should be held at Blues bars

—@SteveSchale: Those rising DeSantis numbers as the RGA dealing with serious @GwenGraham anxiety about Florida again, as they have attacked her twice today. If you want to know who they are scared of facing in November, well, they haven’t attacked anyone else since at least April.

@BrowardPolitics: Awful. Jumping around asking each candidate different questions is a strange “debate” format.

—@JuanPenalosa: Want to give a shout out to the press for covering the @FlaDems Gov Debate in #SWFL — I may occasionally push back on stories, but without an independent press corp we wouldn’t be America.

—@BuceRitchie: Did you know Florida DEP has a campaign encouraging you not to use plastic straws because they are a pollution threat? Neither did I.

—@JimRosicaFL: One thing I learned back in my @tbocom days: For every claim that dog racing is dying, @jackcoryatpa has a photo of a grandstand filled to the brim with track-goers.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Florida Chamber Global Florida Webinar — 5; MAKE MORE Manufacturing Summit — 12; Deadline for filing claim bills — 13; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in West Palm Beach — 14; Florida’s back to school sales tax holiday begins — 15; Republican gubernatorial debate in Jacksonville — 20; School begins in the first 19 Florida districts — 22; Start of the U.S. Open — 39; Primary Election Day — 40; NFL season starts — 40; College Football opening weekend — 42; Labor Day — 46; Future of Florida Forum — 69; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 106; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 97; General Election Day — 110; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 131; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 208; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 229; 2020 General Election — 838.

TOP STORY

Democrats talk algae, quality of life issues in Fort Myers Governor debate” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — As the five dominant Democrats running for Governor shared a debate stage in Fort Myers, discharges from Lake Okeechobee rose to the top of a list of progressive causes discussed. The debate participants universally promised to fight Big Sugar and find solutions to the closely watched environmental issue. “If you don’t have the political courage to stand up to the industry that has had a vice grip on environmental politics in the state of Florida for 20 years, paying off politicians all throughout the state of Florida, you are now willing to hold this office,” said Orlando businessman Chris King. All the candidates promised not to take sugar money. King zinged former Rep. Gwen Graham for accepting money in the past, but she noted that one had all gone to help the Indian River Lagoon. “I am proud sugar money is being used to clean up the mess they created,” Graham said.

Not every candidate offers his own money to help candidates in other races on the ballot. Jeff Greene just did” via Adam Smith and Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times – “I will spend my own money to get out there and fight these Republicans, and I will back up the downticket races so we turn Florida blue — not just in the governor’s race, but in the Senate race and in the House race,” said Greene, who in one month has spent more than $9 million to become a leading contender in the five-person primary. “I am committing to helping Democrats up and down the ballot if I’m the nominee. It’s time for Democrats to have the resources they need to,” Greene reiterated on Twitter after the debate.

Tweet, tweet:

WINK News FL Dem gubernatorial debate is one of the worst I’ve had to witness. It’s not a debate. It’s a forum of unchallenged talking points. Moderators are racing through a list of questions & so few Qs are being answered on ag, transportation, insurance, medical marijuana etc.

— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) July 18, 2018

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Tom Steyer’s NextGen America ground troops begin their march into Florida for Andrew Gillum” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — “As we battle for the heart and soul of this nation, Andrew Gillum is the kind of leader we need on the front lines,” Steyer said in announcing his endorsement of the Tallahassee mayor last month. “He’s someone we can trust to do the right thing, to put the people before the powerful, and who is unafraid to stand up for justice, now when we need it most. Those who are willing to act courageously and stand up for what is right, are those who will shape the political landscape of the country, and that’s why we’re taking this unprecedented step to make sure Andrew is representing the Democratic Party in November.” Organizers with NextGen America intend to reach out to populations that they say historically haven’t been engaged much in statewide campaigns, such as communities of color and young voters. NextGen cites its work last year in the Virginia governor’s race as evidence that the group’s approach is effective.

Chris King’s daughter stars in new ad — The new TV ad from Chris King for Florida, “Mary Grace,” features his 9-year-old daughter to help share her dad’s progressive policies on gun safety, health care, and Florida’s environment. The 30-second spot will air in the Jacksonville, Orlando and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce television markets.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

— “Chris King promotes new health care platform on statewide tour” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida

Donald Trump Jr. joins Fox News team campaigning for Ron DeSantis” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — The younger Trump, accompanied by girlfriend and Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, appeared with DeSantis at an afternoon event. Trump Jr. was also scheduled to attend an evening fundraiser with DeSantis. DeSantis has been a frequent guest on Fox News programs to defend the president and criticize special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe … shortly after the president stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and gave equivocal remarks about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, DeSantis appeared on Fox to assert that Russia’s actions didn’t influence the election’s outcome and occurred while Barack Obama was president. “We have to stay engaged,” Trump Jr. said. “Don’t take it for granted. Just because — and I see all the MAGA hats and I feel all the love in this room — just because Donald Trump isn’t on the ticket doesn’t mean that everything that he has accomplished is not on the ticket. It is.”

“Packed house!” Republican candidate for Governor Ron DeSantis thanks a crowd in Orlando, where he stumped with Donald Trump Jr.
“I’m your guy”: GOP candidate for Governor Adam Putnam, along with state Sen. Travis Hutson, met with supporters for another “Up & Adam” breakfast in Flagler Beach on Wednesday.

Assignment editors — Attorney General Pam Bondi will join her fellow Florida Cabinet member, Adam Putnam, for the grand opening of Team Putnam Orlando Campaign Office, 2:30 p.m., 660 W. Fairbanks Ave., Suite 1, Winter Park.

Matt Caldwell rolls out more Florida endorsements — The new names were added to the growing list of conservative leaders and organizations endorsing Caldwell for Agriculture Commissioner, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Congressman Matt Gaetz, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) and the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA). New endorsements includes: Sheriff Rick Ramsay, Monroe County; Sheriff Mike Scott, Lee County; former Sheriff Bob White, Pasco County; Tax Collector Rhonda Skipper, Walton County; Clerk of the Circuit Court Alex Alford, Walton County; Property Appraiser Ken Wilkinson, Lee County; Clerk of the Circuit Court Linda Doggett, Lee County; Clerk of the Circuit Court Ronnie Fussell, Duval Clerk; Property Appraiser Carey Baker, Lake County; former Tax Collector Mike Corrigan, Duval County; former Clerk of the Circuit Court Gail Wadsworth, Flagler County; County Commissioner Stacy White, Hillsborough County; County Commissioner Gavin Rollins, Clay County; County Commissioner Henry Dean, St. Johns County; County Commissioner Jeb Smith, St. Johns County; Councilman Matt Schellenberg, City of Jacksonville.

Frank White’s pro-life CRED earns him Family Research Council backing” via Florida Politics — The new endorsement came in from the political arm of the staunchly-Christian-conservative Family Research Council, which takes hard-line stances against abortion and LGBTQ rights and in favor of increasing the role of Christianity in public life. “During Rep. Frank White‘s tenure in the Florida House of Representatives, he has stood boldly for life, family, and religious liberty. As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, he sponsored a bill that requires HHS to partner with organizations that support and promote childbirth. He also supported a bill that allows parents to challenge politicized public-school curricula, a bill that provides pregnancy and wellness services to women in need, and a bill that bans dismemberment abortions,” said Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president of FRC Action PAC.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, PART 2 —

Democratic challenger Sanjay Patel outraises Bill Posey in quarter for CD 8” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Patel raised $101,000 in the second quarter of his campaign for Florida’s 8th Congressional District, besting incumbent Republican Posey‘s fundraising efforts by more than $30,000. At the end of June, Posey, the five-term congressman from Rockledge, still possessed a significant campaign cash advantage over the newcomer candidate, with $642,000 in the bank compared with Patel’s $160,000. Yet the positive quarter led Patel to declare momentum in a district that Republicans have owned for many years. Patel’s first-quarter report was the best by a Democrat in that district in this century, and Patel’s campaign topped that in the second quarter. During the second quarter, Patel picked up $101,067 for his campaign, for a two-quarter total haul of $192,178. Posey picked up $67,775 in the April-June fundraising period, giving him $548,888 raised during this election cycle.

Sanjay Patel leaves Bill Posey lagging in CD 8.

National Democratic committee targets Republican Gus Bilirakis’ seat as winnable” via Tracy McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added District 12 to its Majority Makers list, a collection of 56 Republican seats across the nation identified with the potential to flip blue. DCCC spokeswoman Amanda Sherman said Bilirakis‘ 2017 votes to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act and to pass Trump‘s controversial tax bill make District 12 a likely target. Sherman said the district also is in play because of the legitimacy of Democratic challenger Chris Hunter. “There is a path for a Democrat there, and we think Chris Hunter can build on that with his profile,” Sherman said of the district, which covers all of Pasco and northern parts of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Fundraising magic disappears for Debbie Wasserman Schultz foe Tim Canova” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On June 30, Canova’s campaign reported just $9,010 cash in its bank account. On the same date two years ago, Canova had more than 100 times as much cash on hand: $986,345. His campaign had $20,061 in debt two years ago, which could easily have been paid off with his available cash. His current campaign debt is $50,061. Canova, a professor of law and public finance at Nova Southeastern University, is mounting his second attempt to unseat Wasserman Schultz, who is seeking an eighth term representing the Broward/Miami-Dade County 23rd Congressional District.

Florida Medical Association endorses Ed Hooper for SD 16 — FMA PAC is endorsing Republican former state Rep. Hooper for the open seat in Senate District 16. FMA PAC President, Dr. Mike Patete said: “The FMA PAC is proud to endorse Ed Hooper for Senate District 16. During his time in the House, the FMA worked very closely with him and he was a stalwart on issues of importance to the medical community. We hope to continue that relationship into the Florida Senate.” The SD 16 seat includes parts of Pasco and Pinellas counties, which opened after the resignation of state Sen. Jack Latvala.

FMA PAC prescribes a second term for Gary Farmer” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The political arm of the Florida Medical Association endorsed Farmer over former Rep. Jim Waldman in the Democratic primary for Senate District 34. “The FMA PAC is honored to endorse Senator Farmer for re-election. We have worked closely with him on issues of importance to us and look forward to continuing that work to make Florida the best state to practice medicine for physicians and the patients we serve,” said committee president Mike Patete. … Farmer was elected to the Florida Senate in 2016 after taking 43 percent of the vote in a three-way primary against former Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed and Waldman, who finished third with a smidgen over 28 percent of the vote. … Waldman, a Coconut Creek attorney, has neither attracted donors nor anteed up in the weeks since he announced he wanted a rematch by issuing a missive attacking Farmer … As it stands, Farmer has more than $120,000 in hard money at the ready and another $470,000 in his political committee, while Waldman has less than $6,000 in the bank, nearly all of it loans.

Who you know: Wyman Duggan ad highlights Lenny Curry connection” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Duggan released the first television ad in the competitive three-way Republican Party primary in House District 15. Central to the ad: one of his key supporters, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. Curry vouches for “principled conservative” Duggan, stressing the importance of “having conservatives we can trust fighting for our shared values.” The ad asserts that the NRA endorses Duggan, stands with President Trump and opposes “sanctuary cities,” of which there are none currently in Florida. Duggan will be up on television through the primary, with this and other spots.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Judge is slated to hear House qualifying dispute” via the News Service of Florida — Judge John Cooper issued an order scheduling the hearing in the lawsuit filed by Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat running in state House District 47. Eskamani contends that her Democratic primary opponent, Lou Forges, did not properly qualify because his wife notarized paperwork submitted to the state Division of Elections. Eskamani argues that state law bars such notarization by spouses and that Forges should be decertified as a candidate — arguments that Forges disputes. Democrats are seeking to capture the seat, which is open because Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park is running for Congress.

— A WINNING STRATEGY —

Democrats might have a saving grace in one succinct message: Republicans are corrupt.

That’s according to a recent poll, published by the progressive Center for American Progress Action Fund, that found 54 percent of voters in 48 Republican-held congressional districts feel Republicans are more corrupt than Democrats (46 percent felt the other way).

Reports Natasha Korecki for POLITICO, “Those are welcome numbers to Democrats who have struggled to find their messaging in the run-up to the midterms. In May, the party signaled an effort to tap the “culture of corruption” theme …”

The impetus: A spokesman for the poll linked the newfound sentiments to corruption exposed in the Trump administration. Among the running tally of casualties: former Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Encouragement: Fortunately for Democrats, the party already has made a point of highlighting possible corruption in the GOP tax reforms, by which some members of Congress benefitted. Notes Korecki, “The polling suggests that the Republican tax cuts — and loopholes tapped by some of the same members who voted for the plan — may be an area ripe for exploitation.”

But: It’s a matter of perception. Republicans are using the same tax reforms to re-elect or elect their party’s candidates this cycle. Per Korecki, “Last week, Vice President Mike Pence pointed to a humming economy and the Republican tax plan as marquee selling points as he toured a series of competitive Midwestern House districts to boost candidates.”

— STATEWIDE —

Scott urges approval of citrus money — The Governor said he “urged the (state) commission charged with granting spending authority to approve $340 million in federal funding to aid Florida’s citrus growers.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the federal funding to aid the citrus industry’s recovery from Hurricane Irma. The Florida Legislative Budget Commission will consider the money Thursday. The block grant for Florida citrus is part of a more than $2.3 billion federal package approved earlier this year. “We will keep fighting for this important industry and the many families whose livelihoods depend on the success of Florida agriculture,” Scott said.

Scott signs death warrant in 1992 murder” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Nearly 26 years after a woman was beaten and stabbed to death in her Miami-Dade County home, Gov. Scott said her murderer should die by lethal injection on Aug. 14. Scott signed a death warrant for inmate Jose Antonio Jimenez, who was convicted in the October 1992 killing of 63-year-old Phyllis Minas, whose neighbors heard her shout, “Oh God! Oh my God!” during the attack, according to court documents. Jimenez, now 54, would be the first inmate put to death by lethal injection in Florida since Feb. 22 … Jimenez also would be the 28th inmate executed since Scott took office in 2011 — the most of any Florida governor since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, a state Department of Corrections list shows. Scott signed the death warrant after the Florida Supreme Court on June 28 rejected an appeal by Jimenez, who was convicted of the murder in 1994.

Jose Antonio Jimenez is set for an Aug. 14 execution.

’Look right into my soul,’ Florida politician said. But he was lying, ethics board alleges” via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — Michael Grieco, a former Miami Beach commissioner and current candidate for Florida’s House, was lying to the public when he denied involvement in a campaign fundraising operation last year and beseeched Miami Herald reporters to “look right into [his] soul” for the truth, the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust alleged. In a closed-door meeting, the ethics commission found probable cause to charge Grieco with two counts of violating a Miami-Dade County charter provision that prohibits municipal officials from “knowingly furnish[ing] false information on any public matter.” The commission also said Grieco broke a Miami Beach ethics ordinance against soliciting city vendors for campaign funds. Grieco, who faces voters in a late August Democratic primary, has 21 days to dispute the charges and ask for a hearing or settle the matter with an admission of guilt.

One of Florida’s largest medical marijuana businesses forced to stop processing pot” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Surterra, one of the state’s largest medical marijuana treatment centers, has been forced to stop processing cannabis — halting its production of new items — after it failed to meet a food safety inspection deadline in a little-noticed provision of state law last week. The requirement, which mandates that medical marijuana treatment centers complete third-party inspections in the first year to ensure “good manufacturing practices,” caught several businesses by surprise earlier this month when the Department of Health indicated that it was enforcing the provision in letters sent out July 6. The inspection requirement, which was part of the Legislature’s implementing bill broadly authorizing medical marijuana last year, went unnoticed or ignored by some businesses because they misconstrued it as part of the statute’s guidelines on edible medical marijuana. The Department of Health has still not cemented rules pertaining to edible forms.

Battling an image problem, Broward schools seeks public relations exec for up to $175,000 a year” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The school district is advertising for a chief public information officer who can find ways to “champion a favorable public image and brand for the district” and can “bring to life the many stories” of the school district, according to a job posting. The job pays between $104,836 and $174,870. The school district has suffered many public relations hits since the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, which left 17 people dead. School Board members have complained that the district needs to be more aggressive in defending itself against negative news coverage.

For the first time, a David Beckham stadium proposal will go to voter referendum in Miami” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Miami commissioners voted to hold a November referendum to ask voters if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham’s ownership group to build a commercial and soccer stadium complex on the city’s only municipal golf course, Melreese Country Club. The pivotal vote capped a week of controversy over the preliminary details of the vote, highlighting the level of distrust associated with stadium deals in Miami. Commissioner Ken Russell, believed to be the swing vote on the five-member commission and the reason the commission postponed last week’s vote until Wednesday, voted in favor of sending the issue to the voters after receiving some verbal and some written concessions he demanded from the Beckham group. In that 3-2 vote, commissioners Manolo Reyes and Willy Gort dissented. “I had resigned myself to voting no,” Russell said during the break. “All the issues I demanded concessions for were issues the residents had brought for me.”

—D.C. MATTERS —

A critical factor in 2020: Democrats make significant cut to caucus states” via Ruby Cramer of BuzzFeed News — By next year, Democrats could see the number of caucus states cut in half. Four states have already moved from a caucus system to a traditional primary: Maine, Minnesota, Colorado, and, as of last month, Idaho made the switch. Party officials say two more states — Nebraska and Washington — are now considering the same change. And as Democratic Party members prepare to adopt changes to the nominating process at their annual summer meeting next month — including a new rule to “encourage” the use of primaries over caucuses “whenever possible” — caucus states may face new outside pressure to embrace state-run primaries. The shift could leave just seven caucus states on the nominating calendar. For more than 20 years, Democrats have held caucuses in no fewer than 14 states.

Assignment editors — Sen. Rubio speaks at the Heritage Foundation on “deep fake” technology, which manipulates audio and video of real people saying or doing things they never said or did, 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, Lehrman Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE., Washington D.C.

Democrats call for federal audit of Keys debris contract” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — Expressing concern Florida will seek “reimbursement for potentially wasteful debris removal contracts,” Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri demanded to know when the Federal Emergency Management Agency first learned about these agreements and how it will determine if the costs in those emergency contracts “are necessary and reasonable.” On Wednesday, the eleven Democratic members of Congress from Florida sent their own letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General arguing “tens of millions of federal taxpayer dollars are being squandered” and requested the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conduct an audit. “An OIG audit would go far to restore public confidence that taxpayer funds spent on disaster relief will not be allocated inappropriately or inefficiently,” the members of Congress wrote.

Email we didn’t open — “Pee-proof underwear company icon sends “Endurance Packages” to women senators urging them to protect women’s rights, block [BrettKavanaugh’s appointment to SCOTUS” via Unbendable Media

— OPINIONS —

Alex Sink: Donald Trump’s stumbles should help Gwen Graham, all Dems” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — Sink is the only Democrat to win a Florida statewide election in this century when she beat Tom Lee in the race for chief financial officer in 2006. So, when she says she knows what Graham faces in her campaign to be Florida’s next Governor, it carries considerable weight. “My advice for the primary would be to focus on her two or three strongest issues that appeal to voters, especially those who are concerned about the right of privacy and the right of a woman to control her own body.” … “One of the things we have as Democrats, going off the last 48 hours (with Trump), oh my God,” she said. “If we can’t see what’s going on in the nation right now, then we’re pitiful. Period.”

Just say no: A disgraceful assault against Floridians” via Mark Howard of Florida Trend — The difference between the 1997-98 commission and the 2017 -18 commission isn’t the level of political calculation in the mix. It’s the level of sheer gutlessness and cynicism on the part of the current commission and its string-pullers. The current commission took a collection of individual proposals and turned them into steaming piles of confusion, lumping multiple measures willy-nilly into single amendments. They clearly didn’t trust the voters to evaluate each idea on its own merits, hoping we’d be willing to swallow controversial proposals if they’re sugarcoated in feel-good provisions. And so we get to vote on a proposed amendment that incongruously couples three issues: A guarantee of benefits for the families of first responders killed on duty, along with a measure restricting universities’ ability to levy fees — and a third that restricts the activities of state colleges. Another proposal also squeezes three ideas into one amendment: A measure that does away with an outdated law barring some immigrants from owning property; a housekeeping measure involving criminal laws; and another removing the language related to high-speed rail — which voters have already repealed — from the constitution.

Net neutrality debate could strike a blow to Florida’s economy, local job creation” via Brad Swanson for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Rather than embrace a return to the internet’s original “light touch” style of regulation formed during the Clinton administration, some members of Congress recently launched a Congressional Review Act (CRA) process, an ill-conceived, rarely used stunt, to force a vote to reinstitute Title II rules. Make no mistake about it: restoring Title II regulations would have an unwelcome impact on the lives and livelihoods of resident Floridians. Despite these realities, the CRA passed the Senate and is now headed to the House. Title II regulations are designed to regulate utility industries, where consumers have one choice, or else. The ISP industry, on the other hand, offers millions of customers across America a smorgasbord of wired, wireless and satellite-enabled choices in how they access the internet. These regulations at minimum are categorically inappropriate for this dynamic, market-driven industry. Worse, under Title II, future administrations could introduce billions in new regulations to ISP companies and passed-on costs to the businesses and households they serve.

Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — To his credit, Gov. Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapons permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor has a duty to reassure Floridians that this serious state obligation is being performed responsibly. If Putnam is confident the applications to carry concealed guns are being processed appropriately, he should welcome an outside review that could ease growing concerns about the potential for mistakes that could wind up endangering Floridians. There are more than enough revelations about shortcomings in the processing of concealed weapon permits to justify an independent investigation ordered up by the governor. The growing concern comes at an awkward time for both Republicans, with Scott running for the U.S. Senate and Putnam running for governor. But an independent look could clear the air and benefit them both. Most importantly, it could reassure Floridians that the Agriculture Department is properly staffed and diligently processing concealed weapons permits with the care and thoroughness that responsibility requires.

— MOVEMENTS —

Florida Municipal Electric Association elects new officers — Assuming leadership roles at FMEA are President Joel Ivy, general manager for Lakeland Electric; President-elect Mike Poucher, utility director for Ocala Electric Utility; Vice President Allen Putnam, managing director of Beaches Energy Services in Jacksonville Beach; and Secretary-Treasurer James Braddock, director of support services and internal auditing for the City of Wauchula. FMEA is the statewide trade association representing Florida’s public power utilities. The association “represents and advocates for member cities’ interests on a wide variety of state and federal issues, provides education and training for members and serves as a clearinghouse for industry news and information,” it said in a news release.

Ballard Partners adds three clients to its DC roster” via Florida Politics — Ballard Partners Washington, D.C. operation added another three clients over the past week … The first was Singani 63, a New York-based beverage company backed by Academy Award-winning film director Steven Soderbergh that is trying to popularize a type of Bolivian liquor made from grapes. … The second was Coral Gables-based Cyxtera Technologies, a cybersecurity firm that provides a variety of services to help its clients “keep pace in a climate of unprecedented cyberthreat, rapid change and constrained resources.” … And on Monday, Ballard added Turkish state-owned bank Halk Bankasi, which has run into a bit of trouble as of late. In January the bank’s head of international operations, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, was sentenced to 32 months in prison by a US judge after he was convicted of helping Iranians skirt US sanctions by laundering more than $1 billion in oil revenue.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian BallardChristopher Hansen, Ballard Partners: Longevity Health Plan

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Terrace of Kissimmee

Jennifer Green, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Uber Technologies and Affiliates

Allison LibyLiby-Schoonover, Metz Husband & Daughton: Asian-American Hotel Owners Association

Robert Reynolds, Robert R. Reynolds & Associates: Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center

Dale Whittaker: University of Central Florida

— CANDIDATE EMERGING FROM OFR HOPEFULS —

Some of the smartest people along Adams Street in Tallahassee are now calling attention to one of the 58 candidates who applied to head the state’s Office of Financial Regulation (OFR).

That’s Ronald Rubin of Washington, D.C., who among many other things is a former enforcement attorney at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In fact, he was one of the agency’s earliest employees.

Who the heck is Ronald Rubin?

Who is this guy? According to his bio, he “played an important role in building the CFPB’s enforcement capabilities, and drafted critical internal procedures.”

Since leaving the bureau in late 2012, he “has represented several clients in their CFPB investigations and examinations” at the Hunton & Williams firm in Washington.

What’s his background? Previously, Rubin “was a criminal prosecutor, an enforcement attorney at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, senior special counsel at Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and a managing director on Wall Street.”

He got his undergraduate degree from Brandeis University, an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Does he have any Florida connection? Rubin volunteered on Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign. He was an assistant prosecutor in Fort Lauderdale in the mid-1990s. He’s still licensed to practice law here, as well as in New York, D.C., Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and California.

Does he have any hobbies? He has been a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Weekly Standard and Bloomberg, his resume says. He also played ice hockey in college.

— ALOE —

Netflix releases first look at reset ‘Narcos: Mexico’” via Jackie Strause of the Hollywood Reporter — After three seasons of exploring the cocaine war in Colombia in both the pre- and post-Pablo Escobar world, Narcos underwent a reset for its fourth season to explore the origins of its next threat in the drug war: Mexico’s Guadalajara cartel. The cartel series moved production to Mexico City, suffering the death of a location scout in the process, and brought in new stars Michael Pena and Diego Luna as leads. The announcement marked the end of main character Javier Pena’s story — and phasing out for leading man Pedro Pascal. Now Netflix has confirmed that the series is officially resetting as Narcos: Mexico and will launch as a new original series later this year … Narcos: Mexico will explore the origins of the modern drug war by going back to its roots, beginning at a time when the Mexican trafficking world was a loose and disorganized confederation of independent growers and dealers.

SeaWorld wrapping up construction on new raft ride” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — The Infinity Falls raft ride at SeaWorld Orlando has reached its final height of 67 feet … a specific opening date has yet to be announced. Cranes lifted the final piece of the 41-ton “whimsical” steel tower into place over the weekend. The 67-foot tower will house the ride’s elevator-like lift system. The actual drop guests will experience is 40 feet — which SeaWorld says earns Infinity Falls the title of world’s tallest river rapids attraction. “Aboard the rides 8-passenger circular rafts, riders will embark on an adventure through a lush rainforest environment inspired by some of the world’s most incredible freshwater ecosystems,” SeaWorld said in a news release. “The new attraction will feature dynamic drops and turns, interactive water elements, and allow visitors to experience the feel of exhilarating rapids.” Infinity Falls will anchor a new area of the park designed to look like a “basecamp” of explorers and scientists. Along with the ride, this section will feature interactive exhibits pushing SeaWorld’s message of conservation for freshwater ecosystems.

The 67-foot tower of SeaWorld’s Infinity Falls.

What Ron Sachs is reading — “Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway show is coming to Netflix” via Sam Barsanti of AV Club — Netflix is going to be releasing a filmed version of the show Dec. 15 — the night of the very last performance. The Netflix version (like the Broadway show) will feature Springsteen playing acoustic songs and telling stories from his Born To Run biography, many of which are “often very poignant.” In a statement, Netflix head Ted Sarandos said, “This groundbreaking experience defies the boundaries of theater, concerts and film, and will give our global audience an intimate look at one of the biggest cultural icons of our time.”

Last Call for 7.18.18 — 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

He’s not going anywhere, a Tallahassee judge told lawmakers.

Circuit Judge Charles Dodson this week denied a request from House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to take himself off an environmental funding lawsuit.

On June 28, Dodson had granted a “final (summary) judgment for (the) plaintiffs” in a case over how lawmakers fund environmental conservation. Summary judgments allow parties to win a case without a trial.

The legislative leaders later asked Dodson to disqualify himself, saying he violated their constitutional rights “in multiple ways, and over repeated objections.”

The suit, first filed in 2015, was over the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1, passed by almost 75 percent of voters the year before.

The measure requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years.

Advocates — including the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club — sued, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate.

Dodson agreed, declaring a laundry list of 2015 and 2016 appropriations unconstitutional.

Lawmakers have since asked for a rehearing in the case, which Dodson will likely deny, setting the case up for appeal.

Evening Reads

Amid cyber-worries, election tensions persist between counties and state” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Pam Bondi to campaign for Adam Putnam in Orlando” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Weeks after allegations surfaced, Ron DeSantis still silent on Jim Jordan” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Greene sinks millions into campaign” via The News Service of Florida

Philip Levine and business partner sell properties for $69 million” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald

Matt Gaetz says he’s done appearing on Alex Jones’ show” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Carlos Curbelo set to introduce carbon tax bill Monday” via Amy Harder of Axios

FDOT internal SunPass emails reveal attempt to hide problems” via Noah Pransky of 10 News

Teen allegedly raped by University of Miami football players sues school” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times

MLB player poll: Rays (and Marlins) fans are the ‘worst’” via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“(Adam) Putnam’s own self-inflicted wounds have left him exposed.” — Liberal activist group American Bridge, in a mailer out this week on the GOP candidate for Governor.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

 

Wake Up Early?

The Economic Estimating Conference will discuss interest rates used in appropriations. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Florida Defense Support Task Force, which works on preserving and expanding military installations, will meet. That’s at 9 a.m., Hampton Inn and Suites Miami South-Homestead, 2855 N.E. Ninth St., Homestead.

The Economic Estimating Conference will discuss Florida economic issues. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission will meet and take up a series of issues, including a proposal to set aside nearly $13.3 million to help fund operations of the state Office of Medical Marijuana Use. That’s at 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Florida Transportation Commission will hold a conference call, with the agenda including a discussion of the state’s most dangerous roads and highways. That’s at 10 a.m. The call-in number is 850-414-4978 and the participant code is 181217.

Attorney General Pam Bondi will join her fellow Florida Cabinet member, Republican gubernatorial candidate Putnam, for the grand opening of Team Putnam Orlando Campaign Office. That’s at 2:30 p.m., 660 W. Fairbanks Ave., Suite 1, Winter Park.

Democratic candidates in Florida’s 27th Congressional District are slated to debate in Miami-Dade County. That’s at 6 p.m., St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 2750 McFarlane Road, Miami.

Mario Diaz-Balart running scared in CD 25

Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida’s 25th Congressional District hasn’t faced a real challenger in a decade.

But the last few days indicate that won’t be the case in 2018.

It also seems clear that Diaz-Balart’s been caught flat-footed by his new(ish) opponent, former judge Mary Barzee Flores, who exited the Donna Shalala-dominated CD 27 Democratic primary on the last day of qualifying to instead take on Diaz-Balart.

To wit, in his first fundraising quarter with Flores in the race, Diaz-Balart – an 8-term congressman with plum committee assignments – barely bested his new opponent. Mario put up a respectable $508K haul for the period, but Flores was nipping at his heels with over $450K raised by her campaign.

Sure, he’s got roughly a million bucks more on-hand than Flores, but considering his incumbency, seniority and longevity in Miami, his numbers just don’t seem impressive. And if you dig deeper, they become less so.

First, Diaz-Balart has essentially zero small donors to his campaign. His latest FEC report lists a mere $850 in “unitemized” contributions under $200. Flores literally outraised him in this category by a factor of over 100-to-1, pulling in roughly $86,000 in grassroots donations during the same period.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a metric that translates to votes, but it is a significant funding source that Flores can repeatedly tap between now and November, while Diaz-Balart mostly relies on max-out donations from wealthy individuals and corporate PACs.

Speaking of corporate PACs, Diaz-Balart has really cleaned up with them. Over $250,000 – almost half his total – came from the PACs of big companies, and their trade associations. PAC or person, the money spends the same, no doubt, but this kind of fundraising is increasingly becoming a political liability for politicians. Liberal, conservative and especially, independent-minded voters, associate PAC donations with a corrupt political establishment. The “swamp” in our current parlance.

If the mere idea of PAC dollars carries some political downside in a competitive race, the particulars of Diaz-Balart’s haul are even worse.

Indian casinos in Alabama and Oklahoma, defense contractors, and dozens of similar avatars of corporate greed are listed throughout his report.

Oh, and despite the obvious (obvious!) political implications in the Hispanic-heavy, moderate, 25th District, Mario even took a $1000 from the NRA’s “political victory fund.”

Putting aside the money, let’s talk for a moment about Diaz-Balart’s first ad, released this morning in POLITICO Florida Playbook.

To begin with, it’s a personal attack on Barzee Flores and not a very strong, or easy to understand one, at that. After three decades in office and nearly two decades in Congress, what does it say about your record when your campaign’s initial communication to voters doesn’t, well, mention your record?

I thought it was ill-advised when (now retiring) U.S. Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen employed a similar strategy in her 2016 campaign against Scott Fuhrman – but it made far more sense than it does here. It was much closer to the election, and Fuhrman had horrific negatives (DUIs, fleeing the scene of an accident) that made for great, vicious, effective attack ads.

With $1.6 million on hand, a spectacular, baked-in advantage of name I.D., not to mention Republican registration in the district, why even acknowledge Flores at all?

And what the heck is this ad even about?

I’ve watched it a few times and here’s what I can gather:

– Flores tweeted something at some point about Trump pulling out of the Iran deal.
– Flores’ husband and brother run a criminal defense firm in Miami.
– Flores is a terrorist.

If my summation didn’t make sense, don’t watch the ad, you’ll be even further confused.

But what’s most confusing and confounding to me, is why Diaz-Balart didn’t lead with something gauzy, hyperlocal and nonpartisan, like the $1.5 million of ads he did the last cycle to defeat a Democratic opponent with less than $40,000?

Going back to what I mentioned a few paragraphs previous, Flores has a broad base of small, online donors. This type of ad hominem, personal attack is precisely the sort of thing that inflames the grassroots to click “donate.”

In fact, I’d be shocked if her campaign hasn’t already rung that bell by the time this story publishes.

If Diaz-Balart actually puts money behind this ad on television, he erodes two of his biggest strengths — cash-on-hand and name I.D. — by putting Flores front and center and giving her grassroots apparatus a shot in the arm to send out a million urgent email appeals for donations and volunteers.

Finally, Mario Diaz-Balart should pay heed to what’s been happening on the ground in his home base, and most prominent portion of District 25, Miami-Dade County. As The New York Times’ Patricia Mazzei pointed out in her excellent, recent analysis of political trends in Miami, not only have Cuban Republicans been losing elections of late that would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago, but Cuban Republicans from dynasty families (Diaz de la Portilla, Bruno Barreiro, Tomás Regalado) have been particular losers.

One can’t help but think that Mario’s older, better looking, more talented brother, former congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place. But Mario isn’t Lincoln.

And he’d better hope like hell he doesn’t end up Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.18.18

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

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

And now there are five.

The five top Democratic candidates for Governor will debate 7 p.m. Wednesday at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Cohen Center in Fort Myers. The event will be broadcast live on WINK News in Southwest Florida and on Winknews.com.

“This will be the first time all five Democratic candidates — Andrew GillumGwen GrahamJeff GreeneChris King and Philip Levine — will share a stage for a formal debate,” the release said. “After Wednesday, there is one more scheduled debate before the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.”

Here we go again.

“Taking back the Governor’s Mansion is critical to ensuring a better future for all Floridians,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo. “Thankfully, we have been gifted with an amazing group of Democratic candidates.”

The last time Floridians elected a Democrat to the Governor’s Mansion was in 1994.

“We are confident that, once voters hear what our candidates have to say, they will be as optimistic as we are about our chances to take back Florida,” Rizzo added.

So what are the top 5 things to look for in Wednesday’s debate?

—A question we’ve asked before: Will anyone truly shine? Is this Greene’s breakout moment? If so, on what issue? If not him, who?

—Who will be first to capitalize on the perception that Republican candidate Adam Putnam is running his Division of Licensing, which includes concealed carry permits, like the Keystone Kops?

The latest revelation: An ex-supervisor “warned of ‘gross misconduct,’ sued and got a $30,000 settlement,” the Times reported, adding her bosses told her she “worked for the NRA.”

—Will there be any solutions offered to deal with the explosion of algae in Lake Okeechobee?

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency as the blue-green goo covered almost 90 percent of the 730-square-mile body of water in Central Florida.

—Who’ll stake out the most left-leaning position on something?

Gillum, for instance, has called for “legalizing recreational marijuana and taxing it to generate badly-needed new revenue.”

—Will anyone try to ‘nationalize’ the race by grabbing at the low-hanging fruit that is President Donald Trump?

Even Republicans are lambasting his Helsinki performance. Who’ll be the first Democratic gubernatorial hopeful to take a gratuitous potshot at the prez during the debate?

Stay tuned …

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@JohnJHarwood: Trump’s would/wouldn’t cleanup attempt good enough for Marco Rubio: “I’m just glad he clarified it. I can’t read his intentions or what he meant to say at the time. suffice it to say that for me as a policymaker, what really matters is what we do moving forward.”

@RonDeSantisFL: I’ve been blessed to meet many Floridians from across our state, but running into my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Centinaro, from Dunedin was awesome!

@LindaStewartFL: Governor Scott says he is reviewing my letter requesting a special investigation of concealed weapons report. It was riddled with errors.

@Fineout: Back in 2010 @FLGovScott proclaimed that lobbyists would be crying in their cocktails if he were elected. Today Scott appointed a whole bunch of lobbyists to key spots on the nominating commissions that will pick nominees for Florida judges

@GrayRohrer: DOH says it needs $13.2M in additional budget authority to implement the medical marijuana constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2016.

@AdamSmithTimes: Gentleman @ Hillsborough GOP meeting, after cordially addressing me as fake news reporter just told me: “Did you know that the original founders of St Pete Times were literally card-carrying communists?”

— DAYS UNTIL —

Florida Chamber Global Florida Webinar — 6; MAKE MORE Manufacturing Summit — 13; Deadline for filing claim bills — 14; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in West Palm Beach — 15; Florida’s back to school sales tax holiday begins — 16; Republican gubernatorial debate in Jacksonville — 21; School begins in the first 19 Florida districts — 23; Start of the U.S. Open — 40; Primary Election Day — 41; NFL season starts — 41; College Football opening weekend — 43; Labor Day — 47; Future of Florida Forum — 70; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 107; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 98; General Election Day — 111; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 132; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 209; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 230; 2020 General Election — 839.

— TOP STORY —

Outlier or not, new poll gives DeSantis a 20 point lead(!) over Putnam” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls found the Ponte Vedra Republican pulling a full 50 percent of likely GOP primary voters while the heretofore front-runner, Agriculture Commissioner Putnam, is registering at 30 percent. The new poll more than corroborates a measure from Fabrizio-Lee released earlier Tuesday that found DeSantis up 42-30 over Putnam, not to mention the many internal polls Team DeSantis has touted in recent weeks. There is no bright spot for Putnam in this poll. While the Bartow Republican was seen as favorable by 49 percent of those polled, his otherwise enviable plus-27 rating pales in comparison to DeSantis, who came in at 61-11 on the fave/unfave question. Perhaps more noteworthy is the towing capacity of Trump’s endorsement, which is undoubtedly DeSantis’ biggest asset in the race to replace Gov. Scott. DeSantis leads among every slice and subset of Republican voter.

Shocking: A Donald Trump endorsement does wonders for Ron DeSantis.

How guns are weighing down Putnam’s bid for Governor” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Putnam had hoped the issue of guns would give his Florida gubernatorial bid a lift, but it’s now tripping him up just over a month from the state’s Republican primary. The … current Florida agriculture commissioner has made his commitment to gun rights a central element of his political persona — even calling himself a “proud NRA sellout” … He found himself running away from the label, however, after a Florida high school mass shooting earlier this year. Then he was nagged by a steady drumbeat of reports over how his office mishandled reviews for some concealed weapons permits, mischaracterized an investigation into the situation and then withheld documents from the news media. Now Putnam is trailing his conservative primary challenger, DeSantis, in polls. And Scott added to Putnam’s woes Tuesday by saying the governor’s office is “looking into” calls from Democrats to investigate Putnam’s office.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Scott: ‘I disagree with the president’ on Vladimir Putin” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In a campaign stop for his drive to become Florida’s next U.S. senator, Scott sought to put daylight between himself and Trump, saying he disagreed with him on the positions he expressed in Helsinki toward Russia and its leader Putin. Scott essentially dodged that question, condemning Putin but declining to address Trump’s political embrace of the dictator in Helsinki. For that, Scott’s Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, charged that Scott was refusing to stand up to his “pal” in the White House. “I completely disagree. I disagree with the president,” Scott replied to a press question. “I think Putin, he’s not to be trusted. I’m very skeptical of him. I don’t think he’s a friend; he’s a foe. I think that there is clear evidence that he tried to meddle in our election.”

A crack of light emerges between Rick Scott and Donald Trump.

Scott’s use of blind trust challenged as illegal” via John Kennedy of GateHouse Media — An attorney who sued Scott arguing he is violating state law by refusing to detail his wide-ranging personal wealth asked an appellate court Tuesday to let his lawsuit continue. But the general counsel for the Republican governor, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, argued that the case should be dismissed. The Florida Commission on Ethics — not the courts — is where any financial disclosure challenge should be filed, said Daniel Nordby of the governor’s office. The Ethics Commission, whose members are appointed by Scott, has endorsed the use of a blind trust to report his annual disclosure. “I put all my assets in a blind trust, so I don’t know how they invested the dollars,” Scott told reporters following a campaign event in St. Petersburg. Don Hinkle, a Tallahassee lawyer and major Democratic fundraiser, disputes that and told the 1st District Court of Appeal that the state constitution requires “full and fair disclosure” by public officials, a provision approved in 1976 by voters as part of the state’s Sunshine Laws.

Assignment editors — Scott will join small business leaders to highlight the launch of his Small Business Coalition, made up of job creators from across the state. The first “Small Business Coalition Highlight Event” is at 9:30 a.m., Hialeah Meter Company, 450 W 28th St., Suite 4, Hialeah. The second is at 3 p.m., Capitol Lighting, 7301 North Federal Highway, Boca Raton.

Nelson feeling it from both sides on Brett Kavanaugh” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Nelson continues to face pressure from both sides on the Supreme Court vacancy as he appears to have retreated from certain opposition to Kavanaugh. Today, the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity announced a digital ad as well as a mailer calling on Nelson to vote to confirm Kavanaugh. That follows a previous ad from a different conservative group. On the other side, Organizing for Action, the spinoff of President Obama‘s political group, has mounted a telephone campaign. Nelson’s spokesman told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that the office has gotten about 1,700 calls since Kavanaugh was announced and that 200 were for the nominee and 1,500 against.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Koch-backed group creates new Florida political committee” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The committee will serve as the vehicle to funnel national donor cash to the gubernatorial bid of DeSantis. DeSantis has long been trailing Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam, who is the GOP establishment pick, in both the polls and money chase, but that front-runner status has quickly eroded as the primary fight heads into its final month. That dynamic is set to continue as Freedom Partners Actions Fund filed paperwork to create a Florida political committee that will serve as a vehicle for the national money the group attracts. Chairing the new committee is Mark Holden, senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Koch Industries, Inc, records show. It had been understood that the Freedom Partners Action Fund endorsement would mean national money for DeSantis, but the creation of the new committee is a concrete step toward that end.

Tom Steyer’s ‘NextGen Climate’ opens state-level political committee” via Florida Politics — NextGen Climate Action Committee was added to the Florida Division of Elections political committee database. The national version of the climate change-focused group is one of many operating under Steyer’s “NextGen America” banner. The committee listing for the Florida spinoff names Chris Fadeff as chairman. Fadeff serves as the chief financial officer and vice president of legal for NextGen America. He has worked for the advocacy group since 2013, the year it was founded. The committee’s treasurer is Rita Copeland, who holds the same position at the national NextGen Climate Action Committee according to Federal Elections Commission records.

Tom Steyer reaches deeper into Florida.

DeSantis accuses John Brennan of being member of Communist Party” via Max Greenwood of The Hill — DeSantis accused Brennan on Monday of having been a member of the Communist Party during the Cold War, saying that the former CIA director lacks the credibility to discuss Trump’s meeting with his Russian counterpart, Putin. “John Brennan was a disaster as CIA director. He was a disaster as the counterterrorism official. He was a member of the Communist Party during the Cold War,” DeSantis said on Fox News. DeSantis’s comments came hours after Trump sat down with Putin in Helsinki for a highly anticipated summit. Brennan tore into Trump after the remarks … DeSantis’s allegation that Brennan was a member of the Communist Party hinges on the former CIA director’s admission that he voted for the Communist Party’s presidential candidate, Gus Hall, in 1976.

Happening today — Donald Trump Jr. appears with Republican gubernatorial candidate DeSantis, joined by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, 2 p.m., B.B. King’s Blues Club, 9101 International Dr., Orlando.

LGBT Democrats recommend Andrew Gillum” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Dolphin Democrats, the party’s LGBT political caucus in Broward County, is leaning toward Gillum … It’s a “recommendation,” not an “endorsement.” And it results from a relatively small straw poll of voting members at the organization’s July meeting. In local primary contests, the Dolphins endorsed two primary challengers, giving thumbs down to two incumbents currently serving in the state House of Representatives. In the statewide primaries, official endorsements won’t come until the end of July when the LGBTA Democrats from around the state meet in West Palm Beach. Still, a signal of support from the Dolphin Democrats, one of the party’s most active political groups in Broward is something each of the five Democrats for governor sought.

Sarasota teacher group endorses Philip Levine — The Levine for Governor campaign receive the endorsement of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association (SC/TA), an organization that represents the incredible teachers and educators of the Sarasota Public School District. The latest endorsement adds to a growing group of local leaders praising Levine’s call to fully fund public education in the state of Florida and pay teachers a nationally-competitive salary. Said Patricia Gardner, president of SC/TA: “Our biggest concern has been the lack of funding we receive from the Florida legislature, but now we are terrified by what we believe is a coming catastrophic teacher shortage. We need a strong Governor to address these problems and I believe Mayor Levine is that person.”

Jimmy Patronis continues to amass money for general election” via the News Service of Florida — CFO Patronis pulled in $222,361 in campaign contributions at the end of June and beginning of July as he continues to amass a sizable reserve for the November election. From June 30 to July 6, Patronis raised $47,611 for his campaign account and $174,750 with his political committee Treasure Florida. He had a combined $3.45 million on hand in the two accounts … Patronis’ numbers for the period included $50,000 from the health insurer Florida Blue; $46,350 from health care firms and physicians; more than $25,000 from financial-services companies; and $20,000 from telecommunications firms, including $5,000 from AT&T. He spent less than $20,000 from the two accounts during the reporting period.

Mudslinging mailer brands Ashley Moody as ‘soft on child predators’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — United Conservatives, a political committee supportive of Pensacola Rep. Frank White, dropped a bombshell on White’s opponent, former Hillsborough Judge Moody. The mailpiece hit: “Soft on crime … soft on child predators.” The media release from the committee: “Ashley Moody has a record of being soft on child predators as documented in court records and news outlets from her hometown. It is shocking that any judge would give less than the maximum sentence for a criminal convicted of committing horrific crimes against children. Moody has made excuses for these monsters and even recommended an adult-aged child molester be sent to a juvenile facility. Florida’s children deserve better and Florida’s parents deserve answers.” White is up seven points, 26 to 19, in the most recent public poll of the race. However, both candidates are well-capitalized … which suggests that perhaps there is still time for Moody to change the narrative.

 

Moody responds  Nick Catroppo, Moody’s campaign manager: “White’s entire career in law consists of a brief stop at a silk-stocking D.C. based law firm before he took a job at his in-law’s car dealership, which is now bankrolling his campaign. During that time, Ashley Moody faced down gang members, rapists, drug traffickers and violent criminals day in and day out as a federal prosecutor and judge. The contrast is as striking as the charges are ridiculous. Frank White has never put a criminal behind bars nor been in a courtroom. Ashley Moody has literally put herself in harm’s way in service to the safety of Floridians and bringing criminals to justice. Being Attorney General of Florida is a tough job and we need leaders who have experience on the front lines keeping this community safe; only Ashley Moody fits that criteria.”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, PART 2 —

Lawsuit challenges Marsy’s Law amendment” via the News Service of Florida — Lee Hollander, a criminal defense lawyer from Southwest Florida, filed the lawsuit late last week in Leon County circuit court challenging Amendment 6, which was placed on the general-election ballot by the state Constitution Revision Commission. The ballot summary is “misleading” because “it fails to inform voters that it will result in the loss of current constitutional rights of criminal defendants, purports to ‘create’ constitutional rights for victims of crime even though rights for crime victims already exist in the Constitution (and) fails to inform voters that it curtails time allowed for criminal appeals,” the lawsuit said. Hollander’s lawsuit means four of the eight ballot measures approved by the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years, are now being challenged in court.

Greyhound racing-ban group releases another round of endorsements” via Florida Politics — The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign Wednesday announced it had received endorsements from more current and former lawmakers, civic organizations, animal welfare organizations, and others. Among them: state Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican. “It’s time for Florida to move beyond mandated greyhound racing,” Young said. Usually, pari-mutuels in Florida are required to continue running live dog or horse races to have slots and card games. Attempts at “decoupling,” removing the live racing requirement, has failed in the Legislature in recent years. The campaign is promoting passage of Amendment 13, put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). The proposal, which needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution, aims at ending commercial dog racing in the state. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks.

Mike Miller launching first TV ad in CD 7 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Miller is taking to the airwaves first in the hotly-contested Republican primary race for Florida’s 7th Congressional District with a television commercial featuring Gov. Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio praising him. The 30-second TV spot, “They Both Like Mike,” is essentially a mashup of some video highlights from two internet ads that Miller’s campaign released this spring. It features Scott talking about Miller at an event the governor held in Orlando earlier this year, and then Rubio talking about Miller at a Miller campaign fundraiser. Rubio has endorsed Miller. Scott has not. Miller, of Winter Park, faces two other Republicans, Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill and Orlando lawyer Vennia Francois in the Aug. 28 primary for CD 7, which covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Two state pols endorse Donna Shalala for Congress” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former University of Miami President Shalala has been endorsed by a pair of state Democrats as she seeks a move to Congress. State Reps. Joe Geller and Javier Fernandez say they’re backing Shalala in the crowded Democratic primary in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. “Donna Shalala has the leadership and progressive values we need in Washington,” said Geller, who represents House District 100. “She has the experience and expertise to shake up Washington and get things done for the people of South Florida. As the former Ranking Member on the K-12 Subcommittee in the Florida House of Representatives, I admire her track record and her long fight for our children, and I look forward to working with Donna to improve our education system and implement policies that put our kids first.”

Berny Jacques tees up first TV ad for HD 66 bid” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Just days after his Republican primary rival hit the airwaves, Jacques is rolling out his own TV ad in the race to succeed term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern in HD 66 … The 30-second ad touches on most of the issues du jour for Republican primary voters set to the backdrop of Jacques speaking with Pinellas voters at a picnic table, working behind a desk and even holding a baby. … “As a former prosecutor, I know what it takes to keep us safe from criminals. Now, I want to protect Pinellas from politicians who are doing harm to our country,” Jacques says in the ad. … A narrator then takes the reins to tout the Seminole attorney’s conservative credentials. “Constitutional Conservative Berny Jacques. He’s A-rated by the NRA and supports term limits. Berny Jacques is a former prosecutor who supports President Trump and will fight illegal immigration and ban sanctuary cities in Florida,” the ad says. … Jacques faces Belleair Bluffs businessman Nick DiCeglie in the Republican primary for HD 66, a coastal Pinellas seat that leans Republican. … Through July 6, Jacques led the money race with more than $200,000 raised compared to $122,250 for DiCeglie.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Deede Weithorn earns endorsements from pro-choice groups” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former Miami Beach City Commissioner Deede Weithorn announced a new set of endorsements from pro-choice groups as she continues to run for House District 113. Weithorn secured support from both EMILY’s List and Ruth’s List, her campaign announced Tuesday. EMILY’s List aims to promote the election of pro-choice women throughout the country, while Ruth’s List does the same here in Florida. “Ruth’s List is proud to endorse Deede Weithorn for the Florida House of Representatives because we need more women in Tallahassee who will fight for reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work and paid family leave,” said Pamela Goodman, executive director of Ruth’s List Florida. “We know Deede will be a fierce advocate on these issues and an excellent representative for Miami Beach, downtown Miami and Little Havana.”

Rob Panepinto launches first Orange County mayoral commercial” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In the 30-second spot “Rise,” Panepinto, a Winter Park entrepreneur and area business leader, follows a basic introductory script, with standard images of him with his family, meeting with residents outdoors and in businesses, and talking in Lake Eola Park. “Orange County is on the rise and we have an opportunity to build an even better future for our families. I’m Rob Panepinto, proud husband and father, community leader and a businessman running to be your next mayor,” he says. “We must come together to build a stronger and more diverse economy with better-paying jobs, protect the safety of our neighborhoods by fighting violent crime. Join me and together we’ll build an even better Orange County.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

— PERSONAL PRAVDA —

It’s a bipartisan effort, but it’s not as heartwarming as you’d think.

Reports Sarah Fischer of Axios, “Politicians on the left and right are manipulating the news to bolster their election efforts with fake headlines, websites and articles.”

Manipulating headlines and using positive news snippets are old spin strategies, but the rise of digital media and the proliferation of online news sites has led some politicians to sponsor their own news organizations in an attempt to highlight their own work or paint their opponents in a negative light via a source that at face value appears to not be linked to any campaign.

Menendez media: New Jersey Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez launched a site called HealthNewsNJ.com. Fischer notes that one article, “How greedy drug company CEO Bob Hugin gouged cancer patients and enabled Donald Trump,” is a direct affront on Menendez’ challenger.

The GOP gazette: Both the Republican Governors Association and Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward have benefitted from shady websites. Ward touted an endorsement from a fake news publication, reported POLITICO, and the RGA set up its own biased medium, Free Telegraph.

Going forward: Be wary. The age of information is saturated with distortion. As the founder of Wired Magazine noted in Pew’s latest report on misinformation, “Truth is no longer dictated by authorities, but is networked by peers. For every fact, there is a counterfact, and all these counterfacts and facts look identical online, which is confusing to most people.”

— STATEWIDE —

What’s a slot machine? Florida court will decide” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — If a video game looks like a slot machine, plays like a slot machine, and pays out like a slot machine, is it still a slot machine if you know whether you’re going to win or lose? No, said an attorney for a Jacksonville company that distributes what are called “pre-reveal” games, which can be found across the state in bars and taverns. A three-judge panel for Tallahassee’s 1st District Court of Appeal heard argument in the case Tuesday. The games “preview” outcomes as to their winning or losing nature. Judge James R. Wolf said the case wasn’t really about knowing the outcome of any individual play, but whether there was unpredictability in the “entire course of play.” “I understand you don’t have to keep going, but come on, don’t make the argument they made in the trial court that people put money in just to see the fancy lights glow; that’s not why people put money in this machine,” he told Bryan DeMaggio, the attorney for Gator Coin II. “They’re putting money in this machine because of an unpredictable outcome that’s going to come up,” Wolf added. Other states, including Indiana and North Carolina, have found pre-reveal games to be illegal gambling.

When is a slot not a slot? A Florida judge will determine.

Judge dismisses red-light cameras class action suit — Following the lead of the Florida Supreme Court, a federal judge has dismissed a class-action lawsuit that challenged the way red-light camera programs have been operated throughout the state. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno last week issued a two-page order dismissing the case, which was filed in 2014. In the decision, Moreno cited a May 3 ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that rejected a motorist’s challenge to the red-light camera program in the city of Aventura. The federal and state cases focused heavily on questions about whether local governments had violated state law by giving too much authority to private red-light camera companies in operating the programs. But the Florida Supreme Court ruled that state law “authorizes a local government to contract with a private third-party vendor to review and sort information from red light cameras, in accordance with written guidelines provided by the local government, before sending that information to a trained traffic enforcement officer, who determines whether probable cause exists and a citation should be issued.”

Bill Galvano interview talks childhood, Senate presidency — Speaking with Florida Internet & Television from his law offices in Bradenton, Galvano reveals what it was like growing up Galvano. Some interesting tidbits: Bill Mote of Mote Marine is Galvano’s namesake; the likes of Tony Bennett and Morey Amsterdam, friends of his late golf pro father, ate dinner at the Galvano house; and one of his second-grade classmates would eventually become his wife. The interview comes just as he prepares to take the helm of the Florida Senate. Asked what message he wants to convey from day one, Galvano said he plans to do everything he can to empower his Senate colleagues. “We can only be successful collectively as a Senate if we make sure that the voices are heard throughout the state, and the individual senators are the conduits for those voices.”

To view Galvano’s entire interview with Brad Swansonclick the image below:

What Jack Latvala could be reading — “Misconduct allegations no obstacle for many state lawmakers” via Christina Cassidy of The Associated Press — Allegations of sexual misconduct against Kentucky lawmakers have become so common that the statehouse has seemed more like a frat house: Seven lawmakers have faced accusations, including four who settled secretly with a female legislative aide. Voters’ response? Mostly, keep them in office. Of the five lawmakers up for re-election this year, three easily made it through their party primaries and are favored to retain their seats in November. The other two chose not to run. It’s not just Kentucky. An Associated Press review finds that 25 state lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct are running for re-election or another office this year. Of those, 15 have already advanced to the Nov. 6 general election. Seven did not even face a challenger in the primary.

Former state Rep. Dwayne Taylor loses appeal in wire fraud case” via the News Service of Florida — A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected an appeal by former state Rep. Taylor, a Daytona Beach Democrat who was convicted last year on wire-fraud charges. Taylor was sentenced to 13 months in prison after being convicted on nine counts of wire fraud related to the personal use of campaign funds. In the appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Taylor’s attorney contended that the issue of “willfulness” had been improperly left out of instructions to the jury about the crime of wire fraud. The appeals court said it would not review what it described as “invited error.” Taylor, 50, who served in the state House from 2008 to 2016, is in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta and is slated for release in December, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Visit Florida: Nudist group ’embellished’ partnership” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The American Association for Nude Recreation Florida issued a statement touting a partnership with Visit Florida to increase a “niche marketing effort.” The statement, issued last week, boasted that in 2016, the nudist industry in the Sunshine State had a total economic impact of $7.4 billion. But Visit Florida says it doesn’t know where the stats came from. Executives also were unaware of the partnership statement from AANR Florida before being contacted by the Tallahassee Democrat. “It was embellished. We are not participating in any marketing collaboration with this organization,” said Stephen Lawson, vice president of communications for Visit Florida. “We were completely unaware that this news release was going out.” Lawson downplayed the relationship. He said the nudist group is a partner in that it paid $395 to Visit Florida for a “small business partner” designation.

Private polling boosted PBC schools’ push for a $150 million tax hike” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — The private poll, which surveyed about 400 county voters in early May, found that 59 percent supported raising a special property tax that provides extra money for public schools … Thirty-two percent of those polled were opposed and 9 percent were unsure. Voters’ support increased further after pollsters highlighted the tax hike’s potential benefits to schools, the summary showed. A month after the poll was conducted, Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy called for asking voters to quadruple the tax to boost teacher salaries and enhance school safety. The school board is expected to vote to put the proposed tax hike on the Nov. 6 ballot.

John Thrasher to relocate Francis Eppes statue, will seek OK to remove B.K. Roberts’ name at FSU law school” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Thrasher took swift action Tuesday announcing plans to remove a statue of Eppes from the Westcott Plaza and to seek legislative approval to erase former Florida Supreme Court Justice Roberts’s name from the main classroom building at the College of Law. Eppes, the grandson of President Thomas Jefferson, was a slave owner and sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. Roberts, a former state Supreme Court justice, was an avowed segregationist who used his position to thwart the efforts of an African American, Virgil Hawkins, to gain admittance to the University of Florida law school. Thrasher decided against the panel’s recommendation to remove the Eppes designation at Eppes Hall, which houses the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Thrasher said he expects the removal of the Eppes statue will be done “pretty quickly.” “I think the next thing to do is remove the statue and put it in a safe place and take some time to decide where we want to relocate it to,” he said, adding it could find a home in Eppes Hall or Dodd Hall on campus at some point.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Republicans accused Facebook, Google and Twitter of bias. Democrats called the hearing ‘dumb.’” via Tony Romm of The Washington Post — Lawmakers had convened the nearly three-hour session before the House Judiciary Committee to explore the “filtering” practices of major social media companies, where a mix of human reviewers and powerful yet secret algorithms review online content — a process meant to stifle offensive speech that even tech giants admit is not perfect. But GOP lawmakers … ultimately focused much of their efforts on highlighting what they perceive as bias against those on the political right — a charge the tech companies repeatedly denied. The line of questioning enraged committee Democrats … Many in the party also demanded Congress focus its time on more pressing issues, including Russia’s efforts to spread disinformation online. In response, though, tech companies once again sought to stress their neutrality.

Spotted — Congressman Matt Gaetz once again makes the rounds of Fox News to discuss Sacha Baron Cohen and the Lisa Page testimony: Fox Business with Lou DobbsFox News with Martha MacCullum and Fox & Friends.

Matt Gaetz is everywhere (at least for Fox viewers).

Green groups sue to block Trump’s offshore drilling plan in Gulf of Mexico” via CD Davidson-Hiers of Florida Phoenix — Four environmental groups filed a lawsuit today against the Trump administration for its decision to open more than 78 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling. Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of the other three groups. The suit comes after the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) announcement last week that it will offer drilling leases for sale on August 15. The lawsuit challenges that sale and a previous March sale of offshore leases. The suit charges that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management relies on flawed assumptions about safety regulations and royalty rates, and that several of the agency’s conclusions are based on policies that were in effect during the Obama administration, but have been rolled back or eliminated under Trump. The lawsuit also charges BOEM with significantly underestimating how the drilling would affect overall oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico and the effects on global climate change.

U.S. appeals court in Miami to consider how much public can be allowed to know about 9/11” via Dan Christiansen of FloridaBulldog.org — A federal appeals court panel will hear arguments in Miami about how much the public should be allowed to know about what led up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. At issue are records from the FBI’s secretive 9/11 Review Commission, also known as the Meese Commission, including reports about a Sarasota terrorism investigation the bureau once hid from both Congress and the 9/11 Commission. Florida Bulldog sued the government two years ago after the FBI did not respond to its 2015 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for commission records. The records were sought after the Meese Commission tried to discredit without much explanation a stunning April 16, 2002, FBI report the Bulldog had forced the FBI to release through an earlier FOIA suit.

Republicans say Marco Rubio’s bill is the way for Congress to deter Russian meddling” via Alex Daugherty and Lesley Clark of the Miami Herald — Trump supporters like Fox News host Laura Ingraham, moderates like Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Senate leaders like Mitch McConnell have all expressed support for Rubio’s bill, signaling that Congress could pass substantive legislation that would swiftly punish Moscow if U.S. intelligence determines that the Kremlin tries to meddle in future U.S. elections. The push by conservatives for a bill that was introduced in January by Rubio and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland comes a day after Trump and Putin met privately for two hours and the president said he believes Putin instead of U.S. intelligence over the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The joint news conference sparked widespread outrage and condemnation from Democrats and Republicans, though Trump tried to walk back his comments on Tuesday by saying he misspoke. Rubio and Van Hollen’s bill  the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act, is the first bill since the 2016 presidential election that sets specific punishments for the Russian government and other countries that interfere in U.S. political campaigns.

— OPINIONS —

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin: Two bullshit artists enter Helsinki, one comes out victorious” via Rick Wilson of The Daily Beast — The news conference showed us precisely what happened in that room. Trump sold out his country to Russia, then proudly affirmed it, live on camera. A former intelligence agency chief just asked me, “If the Russians didn’t write Trump’s talking points, how could you tell?” Trump didn’t just do it in the privacy of his treason boudoir; he walked out to the podium and sided consistently and passionately with Putin over America’s interests. Trump publicly stated he believes Putin is more trustworthy than America’s intelligence services. He refused to condemn any of Russia’s malicious, murderous, destabilizing behavior in the world, including its obvious and proven attacks on the United States and our allies. Before this dumbass Yalta even started, Putin held all the cards. Trump’s loyalty to Putin is so intense, and his distrust of his fellow Americans — both his advisers and our intelligence services — is so profound that he insisted on meeting with the Russian strongman behind closed doors. American national security officials, diplomats, and spies spent the weekend shitting a collective brick, begging an immovable Trump to please, please by all that is holy not sit alone in a room with the wily KGB officer turned dictator of the Russian klepto-state.

Why, now that I’m a parent, does summer break feel so much shorter?” via Jeff Vrabel of The Washington Post — In the present, summer lasts nine criminally abrupt weeks, many of which feel spent before they’ve begun. It’s mid-July and we’re talking to fence-neighbors about teacher preferences and bus schedules, all of us feeling the end closing in. With just a little effort, you can almost see the gathering of autumn clouds. Somebody changed summer. But did they? Are summers shorter? The short answer: Erm, no. They’re generally eight to 10 weeks long, depending on the number of breaks sprinkled throughout the school year. But we have what feels like a lot of them: fall break for a week, spring break for a week-plus, three days at Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas and two confoundingly useless days off in February, the planet’s least appealing vacation month for 6,000 years and running. And an informal poll of people eating cereal in my kitchen indicates that we’d happily trade those October and (heavy sigh) February breaks for increased time at the pool. Were summers longer when I was a kid? Nah. They were the same, but I’m pretty sure that I’ve adopted an evocative, convenient and largely invented memory of it, all sleep and sunshine and bad hair-metal CDs.

Interstate 4: Over budget, behind schedule and denying claims to damaged cars” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — As the Orlando Sentinel’s Kevin Spear reported: The $2.3 billion effort to overhaul the 21-mile stretch through Orlando is behind schedule, over budget and denying claims from motorists whose cars were damaged and disabled in the construction zone. Not cool, I-4. But those are just the latest developments. There are more details many people don’t know about this project. The latest reports suggest the project is already $100 million over budget … Hundreds of cars have been damaged in this construction zone — by everything from falling debris to barrels and cones in the wrong place. What tommyrot. When it comes to public projects and taxpayer dollars, full transparency is the only thing acceptable.

— MOVEMENTS —

Panel sends Gov. Scott six finalists for PSC vacancies” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — A state panel declined to choose among six candidates for the Public Service Commission, and instead voted unanimously to send all six names to Gov. Scott. The candidates include Julie I. Brown and Gary Clark, incumbent commissioners whose terms expire at the end of the year. The Florida Constitution forbids commissioners from serving more than three four-year terms. “I would like to suggest, for efficiency, that we can just submit them as a slate, with one vote,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel, chairwoman of the PSC Nominating Council, during a televised hearing in Orlando. First, the candidates had opportunities to pitch their qualifications during a joint job interview. The job pays more than $130,000 per year.

More candidates emerge for OFR post” via the News Service of Florida — Twenty more applications have come in from candidates seeking to replace former top financial regulator Drew Breakspear … Breakspear announced his resignation as commissioner this spring under pressure from state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. A more-permanent replacement is now expected to be named at the Aug. 14 Cabinet meeting. Among the recent applicants was Steve Petty, a former chief economist for Florida TaxWatch. Also applying recently was Monica Rutkowski, who is a principal with Mer/Risk & Regulatory Compliance Solutions in Tallahassee.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Al Cardenas, Slater BaylissStephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Barrett-Jackson

James Daughton, Warren HusbandDouglas Bell, Patricia Greene, Allison Liby-Schoonover, Aimee Diaz Lyon, Andrew Palmer, William Schuessler, Metz Husband & Daughton: Asian-American Hotel Owners Association

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Terrace of Kissimmee

Michael DobsonMartha EdenfieldCari Roth, Dean Mead: City of Indian Harbour Beach

Richard Fidei, Greenberg Traurig: Neptune Flood Incorporated

Kristin Strobel, BGR Government Affairs: Neurocrine Biosciences

— REST IN PEACE —

Legal titan Robert H. Traurig, co-founder of Greenberg Traurig law firm, has died” via Daily Business Review — Traurig, one of three lawyers who launched Greenberg Traurig in Miami, passed away Tuesday morning, the DBR has learned. Traurig, who passed away at the age of 93, founded Greenberg Traurig alongside Mel Greenberg and Larry J. Hoffman in 1963, according to the firm’s website. Their goal had been to establish a law firm that mirrored the collaborative spirit and client-oriented values of New York City law firms of that time, according to Greenberg Traurig marketing material. It would seem they succeeded, given the firm’s global status as one of the most powerful players in the legal sector. Today, the firm Traurig helped build employs 1,944 attorneys and is the ninth largest in the United States.

RIP: Robert Traurig, Co-founder, Greenberg Traurig.

— ALOE —

Disney details one death, 15 injuries in quarterly report” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — A 71-year-old man with a pre-existing heart condition died at the Blizzard Beach water park at Walt Disney World on June 10, one of 15 incidents Disney parks reported as part of the quarterly disclosure released by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The major parks in Central Florida report guests’ injuries and illnesses requiring at least a one-day hospital stay to FDACS as part of an agreement to avoid state inspections. The Orange-Osceola County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the man who died at Blizzard Beach as James Persons of Waterford, Pa. The report said he suffered a heart attack while in the park’s Melt-Away-Bay wave pool. The other incidents in the report ranged from guests feeling dizzy after riding Dinosaur in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Mad Tea Party in the Magic Kingdom to more serious accidents, like a 25-year-old man who broke his ankle on Typhoon Lagoon’s Mayday Falls tube slide. In a far-less common incident, the report said a 27-year-old woman went into labor on April 28 after riding Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Blizzard Beach: Not quite the happiest place on earth.
Scallop season returns to Pasco County” via Fox 13 — For the first time in decades, there will be a scallop harvest. Scott announced details Monday as local scallop lovers are getting their gear ready. At Sam’s Beach Bar in Hudson, you can get your scallops blackened, bronzed and fried. “If they are cooked right, you can cut them with a fork. They’re very tender,” Scott Robbins, who runs the kitchen at Sam’s Beach Bar. And, in a few days, you can also get your scallops out there in the water. The season runs from July 20-29. The region includes all state waters south of the Hernando-Pasco county line and north of the Anclote Key Lighthouse in northern Pinellas County and includes all waters of the Anclote River.

What Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen is reading — “Blackjack’s rise and fall shows what drives customers away” via Forbes — It’s the card game for intellectuals, mathematicians, and those who like a real chance at beating the house. For years it was obscure, then it was popular, and now it has faded. Blackjack is proof that it’s not really the product itself that matters — it’s what customers can do with it.

Happy birthday to one of our favorite members of the Tampa Bay delegation, state Rep. Jackie ToledoMaureen Ahern, state House candidate Jeremey Bailie, our brilliant friend Dex Fabian, and former Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant Richard.

Last Call for 7.17.18 – 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 Shots

Click here for the (surprising) results from our poll of the GOP primary for Florida governor.

Even nudity needs a lobbyist in Florida.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported Tuesday that officials at VISIT FLORIDA were clutching their pearls after The American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) Florida “tout(ed) a partnership with (the agency) to increase a niche marketing effort.”

The state’s tourism marketing agency was shocked – shocked – to learn that the ‘naturalism’ group was promoting itself as a VF partner.

“It was embellished. We are not participating in any marketing collaboration with this organization,” said VF spokesman Stephen Lawson.

Lawson “downplayed” the relationship, saying “the nudist group is a partner in that it paid $395 to VISIT FLORIDA for a ‘small business partner’ designation,” the Democrat reported.

Ramon Maury Jr., the lobbyist for AANR Florida, told the newspaper his client received a grant “to produce an electronic magazine for the purpose of promoting Florida naturalism to the globe.”

“It wasn’t an embellishment,” Maury said. “All we wanted to do was … attract more visitors to the state of Florida.”

Evening Reads

Rick Scott campaign promise to return phone calls draws criticism” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel

How guns are weighing down Adam Putnam’s bid for Florida governor” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Andrew Gillum sees his path in five-way primary” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Koch-backed group creates new Florida political committee” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Tom Steyer’s ‘NextGen Climate’ opens state-level political committee” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Can Democrats flip this Florida congressional seat? Fundraising suggests…perhaps?” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times

The Florida Legislature keeps stomping on local laws” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix

Details emerge of Volusia juvenile center rot: ‘We got all 3 officers trapped in there’ ” via Patricio Balona of the News Journal

FSU will relocate statue of slave owner, seek to rename law school” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

MLB commissioner confident Rays owner is ‘going to get’ stadium deal done” via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“He’s been a hypocrite.” —Rick Scott, referring to Bill Nelson, over Nelson using contractors instead of employees to run his campaign and thereby avoid payroll taxes and benefits costs.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The State Board of Education will meet in Central Florida and discuss issues such as the new “hope scholarship” program, charter-school cases from Palm Beach County and turnaround option plans for schools. That’s at 9 a.m., Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, 1500 Masters Blvd., ChampionsGate.

The Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors, which helps administer settlement money from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, will discuss a series of proposals. That’s at 10:30 a.m. Central time, Walton County Commission chamber, 571 U.S. 90 East, DeFuniak Springs.

Donald Trump Jr. is scheduled to appear at a campaign event with Republican candidate for governor Ron DeSantis. Also expected to appear are U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Fox News host Jeanine Pirro. That’s at 2 p.m., B.B. King’s Blues Club, 9101 International Dr., Orlando.

The Villages Republican Club, Villagers for Trump, the Sumter County Republican Executive Committee and the Republican Federated Women of The Villages will hold a forum for GOP gubernatorial candidates. Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam will participate. That’s at 3 p.m., The Savannah Regional Recreation Center, 1575 Buena Vista Blvd., The Villages.

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody holds a Gulfport fundraiser. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Pasadena Yacht & Country Club, 6300 Pasadena Point Blvd. S., Gulfport. Recommended contribution is $500.

Former Rep. Ray Pilon, a Sarasota Republican, will hold a campaign event in his bid to return to the Legislature in Sarasota County’s House District 72. Pilon is trying to unseat Rep. Margaret Good, a Democrat. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Extra Innings Sarasota, 717 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold a meeting about shore-based shark fishing. That’s at 6 p.m. State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Library and Learning Center, 5840 26th St. West, Bradenton.

The Women’s Foundation of Florida will hold a “Women on the Run” event in Palm Beach County to help mentor and train women to run for office. That’s at 6 p.m., Mandel Public Library, 411 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.

The five major Democratic candidates for governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Palm Beach real-estate investor Jeff Greene, Orlando-area entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine — will debate at 7 p.m., Florida Gulf Coast University, Cohen Center, 10501 FGCU Blvd. South, Fort Myers. The debate will be aired in Southwest Florida on WINK TV and will be streamed online at winknews.com.

You know who looovvveeesss that Ron DeSantis is up big over Adam Putnam?

It’s way too early to declare the race for Florida’s GOP gubernatorial nomination over, but with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis leading Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam by more than two touchdowns, there are a few people who have to looovvveee that DeSantis is up big.

First among them may be these folks:

capital city consulting

These are some of the lobbyists who work at Capital City Consulting, which is already one of the most powerful governmental affairs firms in Florida.

While they are smart enough not to put all of their eggs in one basket, they have some of the deepest connections to DeSantis World, including the fact that Scott Ross‘s wife, Ashley, is DeSantis’ chief fundraiser.

More important — and this is what this blog post is really about — Capital City recently hired Justin Day, one of the top DEMOCRATIC lobbyists in Florida.

Because if there is one cohort of people who really love that the Florida GOP is gonna get behind DeSantis instead of Putnam, it’s Florida Democrats!

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo and every other donkey in the Sunshine State are salivating at the prospect at running against DeSantis, whose calling card is that he’s backed by President Donald Trump.

You’ll never read me underestimating the political strength of Trump in Florida; this site was the first in the country to show a poll with Trump beating Jeb Bush in Florida AND in 2016 my forecast had Trump winning the state’s 29 electoral votes.

BUT, and especially after yesterday when Trump was essentially accused of treason, a Trump-backed DeSantis is a much better opponent for Democrats than a Florida First, relatively moderate Putnam.

If I were setting odds on the gubernatorial race, I’d say at this point the Democrats have a 60 percent chance of winning the Governor’s Mansion. PredictIt’s market on the race gives Democrats even better odds.

That’s why, if you want to know who REALLY lllooovvveeesss the news that DeSantis is clobbering Putnam, it’s this guy:

That’s Democratic lobbyist Steve Schale.

If a Democrat does win in November, folks like Day, Schale, Ana Cruz, Screven Watson and every other lobbyist who has quietly worn Donkey-monogrammed underwear for the last twenty years will be as sought after as left-handed pitchers.

Of course, some of these same folks were in a similar position in 2014 when Charlie Crist was a lock to knock-off Rick Scott.

The best thing about Ron DeSantis leading Adam Putnam by double-digits is …

Florida’s political class awoke this morning to news that U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis leads Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam by twelve points among registered voters in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

The independent poll from Tony Fabrizio also shows that among likely voters — and at this point in the election, that’s who matters — DeSantis’ lead is 47 to 30 percent.

Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of hand-wringing in Bartow and Tallahassee today. Meanwhile, DeSantis campaign manager Brad Herold may be unbearable by the time he’s done crowing about these numbers.

However, if there is one small pleasure we can all take away from the poll, it’s this … Remember when the DeSantis campaign’s internal polling was made public (first on Florida Politics)? Like Fabrizio’s survey, that poll showed DeSantis up by 17 points.

Well, here was the reaction to that survey from the Tampa Bay Times’ political editor:

Actually, what’s absurd is that the Times has not made a personnel change in Smith’s department.

Of course, Smith wrote a, um, riveting blog post yesterday about how now is the time for Putnam to start worrying.

Such bold analysis!

Here’s a quick rule of thumb: if Adam Smith tells you a team is a lock to win a game, bet the other way. If he gives you a tip on a stock to buy, short it.

He is literally the Eddie Mush of Florida politics.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.17.18

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

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

Before news of Brett Kavanaugh‘s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Americans for Prosperity reportedly “prepared to commit seven-figures to support a nominee in the mold of Neil Gorsuch.”

And with news this morning that AFP is launching a multimillion-dollar campaign to encourage the U.S. Senate confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh, it appears the Koch-backed group wasn’t lying.

As part of a robust digital and direct mail effort in Florida, AFP-FL is committing at least six figures of that seven-figure national sum to call on voters to contact U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and tell him to vote in favor of President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court pick.

Among the campaign collateral: a new thirty-second digital ad, a website and mailers. Direct mail pieces will be sent to voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Dakota — all of which are states where President Donald Trump won in 2016 and have at least one sitting Democratic Senator.

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is renowned for his demonstrated commitment to defending the Constitution and interpreting the law as written,” AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson said. “President Trump succeeded in nominating a jurist who exercises judicial restraint and doesn’t legislate from the bench, and that is exactly why Senator Nelson should confirm this nominee to replace Justice [AnthonyKennedy.”

Watch the digital ad, a first in Sunburn exclusive, here.

 

Pardon us, while we attend to some housekeeping …

Jacob Ogles joins Extensive Enterprises Media — Ogles will be covering breaking news over the weekend. Most recently, he covered the big boost that Rick Scott’s Victory Fund got from oil, sports, and prison moguls. He also wrote about U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio filing a bill to woo Canadian snowbirds for longer visitsCampaigns should contact him as news breaks on Saturdays and Sundays, and to update us about canvassing, weekend rallies, and the like. Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

Peter Schorsch appears on ‘The Rotunda’ podcast, FiTV’s ‘Mid-Summer Primary Election Update’ — The Florida Politics publisher talks with The Rotunda’s Trimmel Gomes to share his predictions on the campaign trail, including a likely win for Gov. Scott against Sen. Nelson’s re-election efforts. “Also, is the race for Governor over for Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam? As the dark cloud from the Russia investigation continues to grow, would President Trump’s endorsement still give Rep. Ron DeSantis a boost? Schorsch also combs through the field of Democrats for the best contender.” Also, Peter sits down with Brad Swanson of Florida Internet and Television “to give a midsummer update on primary season. Hear what candidates he believes can go the distance, the Trump effect on Florida politics, and much more.”

Here are a couple of recent Schorsch hot takes:

—”Jim Waldman’s campaign is so bad, I’m rooting for Gary Farmer

—”HD 115 hopeful Jose Fernandez may not be best for GOP, trial lawyers

—”The unwanted return of Jeff Ashton

Also, a top-of-Sunburn birthday shout-out to one of the true class acts in Florida politics: Our friend, Robert Watkins, who along with his wife Nancy, is one of the true power couples. Robert’s stewardship as a member of the board overseeing Tampa International Airport is part of the reason why @FlyTPA is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best. Happy birthday, Robert.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@VP: Our @POTUS is now on his way home from a historic trip to Europe. And the truth is, over the last week, the world saw once again that President Trump stands without apology as the leader of the free world.

—@SenBillNelson: The president’s refusal to acknowledge that Putin interfered in our elections should alarm us all. Putin is a threat to our democracy and our upcoming election, that’s a fact. The president’s unwillingness to stand up to him and defend our nation is unacceptable and embarrassing.

@CarlosCurbelo: Do not apologize for our country. Past presidents have tried that, and it does not go over well with most Americans including this one.

@JoeGruters: I fully trust that our President @realDonaldTrump knows exactly what he was doing and that it is all part of America’s and his larger plan.

@DanRather: No American president has ever appeared as a supplicant to a hostile foreign power who attacked us (an attack that the intelligence community says is ongoing). Until now.

—@HoarseWhisperer: I’m old enough to remember when Republicans banned the Dixie Chicks for criticizing America while overseas.

@Fineout: Story about ongoing beach access fight going on in Fla. Panhandle in wake of new Fla law. Daily News reporter quotes Louisiana tourist who says they will never visit Walton County again after deputies asked them to move from their spot on the beach

@Scott_Maxwell: The company just asked us to update our “emergency contacts” in case we’re ever gunned down in the newsroom. Happy Monday!

— TWEET OF THE DAY —

 

— DAYS UNTIL —

Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 1; Florida Chamber Global Florida Webinar — 7; MAKE MORE Manufacturing Summit — 14; Deadline for filing claim bills — 17; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in West Palm Beach — 16; Florida’s back to school sales tax holiday begins — 17; Republican gubernatorial debate in Jacksonville — 22; School begins in the first 19 Florida districts — 24; Start of the U.S. Open — 41; Primary Election Day — 42; NFL season starts — 42; College Football opening weekend — 44; Labor Day — 48; Future of Florida Forum — 71; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 108; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 99; General Election Day — 112; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 133; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 210; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 231; 2020 General Election — 840.

— TOP STORY —

Lawmakers call Donald Trump’s performance at news conference with Vladimir Putin ‘bizarre,’ ‘shameful’” via Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered a strongly worded statement, saying there’s “no question” that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and noting that U.S. intelligence agencies and a House panel agreed. “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Ryan said, in what was, for the mild-mannered speaker, akin to a reprimand. Ryan said Russia “remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.” Other high-profile Republicans also expressed dismay. “I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. “This is shameful.”

Even Republicans are calling the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin news conference ‘bizarre.’

Vladimir Putin must think people in Florida are dumb” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Remember that Russian simulation showing missiles raining down on Florida? Despite a very clear view of Florida, Russian President Putin today denied it was even Florida. “There was not a caption saying Florida. They could — take a more careful look at it. There was never a caption, ‘Florida,’ ” Putin told Chris Wallace of Fox News. “No, but you can see it on the map,” Wallace replied. “It was flying over the eastern coast of — no, no, no, it couldn’t be seen on the map,” Putin said. “Just take a closer look, and don’t try to scare your population with make-believe threats. And now — I’m pretty sure I can give you as a present this footage.”

— “Florida lawmakers blast Trump for not calling out Putin” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Nelson wants to put the ‘freeze’ on Russia” via Florida Politics — Nelson is calling on Congress “to enact additional economic sanctions on Russia for their interference in the 2016 elections, and even suggested freezing the bank accounts of some of Russia’s most senior leaders,” according to a Monday news release. Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement: “I hope that we are going to insist that the White House enforce all of the economic sanctions that the Congress has already pushed through that the White House has been very slow to enact. And I hope this Congress is also going to enact more economic sanctions and get it to where it will really start causing a crimp in the step of the Russian leaders,” added Nelson, who faces a re-election challenge from term-limited Republican Gov. Scott. “Why not start freezing the bank accounts of some of the highest leaders?”

NFIB backs Scott over Nelson” via the Sunshine State News — National Federation of Independent Business President and CEO Juanita D. Duggan announced the NFIB FedPAC’s endorsement at a media event in St. Petersburg: “Gov. Scott has been a true champion for small business during his time as Florida’s governor, and we believe he will continue to deliver for small business in the U.S. Senate … Gov. Scott has a tremendous record of cutting taxes for small business, saving Florida businesses more than $7 billion over the last seven years … We believe Gov. Scott will be a great U.S. Senator, and we look forward to witnessing his continued work on behalf of small businesses in Florida and beyond.”

In the ‘mix’: Gov. Rick Scott joined small business leaders at Dairy Mix in St. Pete to announce the National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) endorsement of his campaign for U.S. Senate.

First in Sunburn — Scott blasted for ‘shadowy, dark money’ link to NRA — Last week, POLITICO Magazine posted a deep-dive expose of OnMessage, the prominent Washington D.C.-based Republican media shop, and how it is “almost undisguisable” from Starboard Strategic, an unknown firm with nearly no presence, but one significant client — the National Rifle Association. “Well-established and well-connected, OnMessage is as transparent as Starboard is opaque,” writes POLITICO’s Mike Spies. “What the Federal Election Commission and the public do not know is that the two entities appear to be functionally one and the same.” According to a former employee, the NRA tapped Starboard to perform pro-Scott work for his Senate bid. “Scott’s chief political adviser is Curt Anderson, a partner at both OnMessage and Starboard, and Scott’s Senate campaign has signed up OnMessage as a contractor.” This questionable link between the two firms and its connection to Scott and the NRA has raised the ire of several Florida Democrats, including Congressman Ted Deutch and state Reps. Shevrin Jones and Carlos Guillermo Smith. “America’s campaign finance laws are a mess,” Deutch says. “The bar for ethical and legal conduct is laughably low, and yet, it looks like Rick Scott may have been one of several Republicans who found a way to sneak under that low bar. What’s worse is that this shady politicking is funded with gun lobby money.” Jones blasts the report as describing “potentially unlawful coordination between the NRA and Rick Scott … Scott was once again taking care of his donors and benefactors, rather than Floridians.” Smith adds: “Rick Scott let 612 days between Pulse and Parkland pass without any attempt to address gun violence. Scott has always been the NRA’s darling, but this reporting shows just how deep in bed he continues to be with the group. Yet, this is typical Rick Scott.”

Democrats fret as Scott’s cash haul comes into full view” via Matt Dixon a politico Florida — “He’s putting up the type of numbers that can tilt the whole playing field,” said state Rep. Evan Jenne, a Democrat from deep blue Broward County. Scott has a deluge of cash support from his official campaign and from outside groups that are helping fund it. The surge to Scott’s campaign, as documented in new campaign finance reports, puts stress on national Democrats eager to knock him off. Groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are fighting Senate battles in swing states across the country but will need to keep serious resources in Florida to help counter Scott’s spending. Scott’s official campaign alone raised $10.7 million, a massive quarterly haul, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. Leading the way for Scott was Ken Griffin, who heads Chicago-based global equity firm Citadel and is worth an estimated $8 billion. He leads the national finance team for New Republican, but also kicked in $5 million in personal money to the super PAC, its largest contribution.

Scott on his wealth: ‘I don’t know how they invested the dollars’” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — “I put all my assets in a blind trust. So I don’t know how they invested the dollars,” Scott told reporters in St. Petersburg. It was Scott’s first public comment on the issue since the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported on a windfall of up to $550 million from a single transaction, the sale of a Michigan plastics company. “I might have been the only person that did that, and I did that because I don’t want to have any conflicts,” Scott said. A reporter asked Scott if he’s “a bit out of touch” when his bottom line grew by an estimated $82 million in a single year. His reply: “Let’s look at my background. I never knew my Dad. I lived in public housing growing up. I had a wonderful mom who worked hard to make sure I could prosper. She said, ‘I want you to do well in school, I want you to be an Eagle Scout.’ She made sure I went to church a lot, and she told me I had to get out of the house to make any money.”

Happening today — The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a dispute about whether Gov. Scott has properly complied with the state’s financial disclosure requirements. Tallahassee attorney Donald Hinkle filed a lawsuit last year alleging that Scott has not adhered to the state’s “Sunshine Amendment,” which requires elected officials to disclose details of their personal finances. Arguments begin 9 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will join small business leaders for an announcement, 9:30 a.m., Restaurant Equipment World, 2413 N. Forsyth Road, Orlando.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Poll shows Trump endorsement gives Ron DeSantis an edge in Florida governor’s race” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – DeSantis has opened up a 12-point lead in Florida’s Republican race for governor, according to a new independent poll that indicates Trump is the key to his success. … Among those likely voters who have a history of going to the polls, DeSantis’ lead is even bigger: 47 percent to 30 percent.

Putnam ad blasts Ron DeSantis on Social Security, Medicare” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Putnam’s ad attempts to divide DeSantis from his main endorser — someone very popular among Republican seniors — President Trump. “Congressman DeSantis voted to cut Social Security and Medicare … That’s not what Trump wants,” Vernon Elarth of Sun City Center states in the ad. The 30-second spot, “Seniors First,” is the first ad Agriculture Commissioner Putnam launched directly attacking DeSantis (or even acknowledging him). It comes as the most recent polls show DeSantis surging dramatically in popularity since their nationally-televised debate in Orlando. In the retirement-rich Sunshine State, Putnam’s campaign is pouncing, citing three recent DeSantis budget votes, contending each could have cut Medicare or Social Security. In fact, all three measures failed.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

 

Florida Home Builders PAC endorses Putnam — The political action committee, which seeks to “ensure a favorable environment for the home building industry,” endorsed the Republican Putnam on Monday. Florida Home Builders Association (FHBA) President Greg Matovina said ‘it is not often when we can identify someone who understands how to balance the necessary ingredients of less regulation, a dynamic workforce, storm resiliency, a sound environment, fraud enforcement and affordability. The FHB PAC did an excellent job in their selection of candidates who demonstrate not only an understanding of critical issues to the industry but also the ability to effectuate public policy toward the fulfillment of that favorable environment.” In a statement, Putnam said he’s committed to Florida having “the skilled workforce and labor that can meet the rising demand as we develop and build in our state. That’s why my number one priority as Governor will be to strengthen workforce training … putting vocational, career and technical education back into middle schools and high schools.'”

DeSantis camp claims offer to bring Donald Trump Jr. to The Villages was turned down” via the Villages-News.com —  DeSantis won’t be at The Villages Republican Club’s meeting Wednesday to debate rival Putnam. But the Congressman would have brought Trump Jr. if “the leadership” of The Villages Republican Club had agreed to it … “We were offered a debate/forum on that date at The Villages, to which we responded that the Republican Party of Florida sanctions all debates and that we were unavailable because we were planning an event with the president’s son,” Press Secretary David Vasquez said. “The real story here is that The Villages turned down an event with the president’s son — which will now be held in Orlando.”

Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum will tour Orlando International Airport with SEIU 32BJ workers to learn more about their working conditions, wages and benefits, 2:15 p.m., Orlando International Airport, Terminal B, Door 12 (Departures Level by American Airlines, curbside check-in). Later, Gillum will make a major announcement, 5 p.m., 1001 N. Orange Avenue, Orlando.

Gwen Graham is endorsed by Alex Sink” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times – Graham is now counting among her supporters the last Democrat elected to Florida’s Cabinet, former CFO Alex Sink — a name that still haunts some Democrats. “It’s an honor to have Alex Sink’s support,” Graham said in a statement Tuesday. “She has been a trailblazer for Florida women in business and public service — and I wish I were running today to serve as Florida’s second woman governor.” Sink served as the state’s chief financial officer from 2007 to 2011, the last Democrat to win a seat on the Florida cabinet. But it’s her failed campaign for governor that still frustrates some in the party.

Gwen Graham launches first ads in Jacksonville, West Palm Beach markets — Graham is expanding TV advertising beyond the I-4 corridor, where she’s been up with a heavy presence. The new ad, “Lessons,” introduces Graham as a mother, former PTA president, congresswoman and daughter of popular former Governor and Senator Bob Graham. Like previous ads, the new spot contrasts 20 years of Republican rule with Graham’s progressive priorities of restoring public schools and expanding health care. “Everything I do is through the prism of being a mom,” Graham says in the ad. “The Florida Legislature have not taken Medicaid expansion. They have hurt education. They have used the lottery to reduce funding — but we’re gonna take it back.” Among the four markets, Graham will have spent $3.85 million by the end of this week far less than self-funders Jeff Greene ($7.6 million) and Philip Levine (more than $15.6 million) — but recent public polling shows Graham within the margin of error for leading the primary.

To watch the new ad, click on the image below:

— “Philip Levine talks I-4 expansion, Visit Florida, courts” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Happening Wednesday:

Frank White declines interview with Tampa Bay Times editorial board” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — In a letter addressed to Tampa Bay Times editor of editorials Tim NickensWhite makes it clear that he believes the opinion branch of the newspaper is one-sided and unfair to conservatives. “While I appreciate your invitation to sit before the Times Editorial Board to have my conservative views mocked and ridiculed, I respectfully decline,” the letter reads. “Just as I would not seek an endorsement from Emily’s List or the ACLU, I do not wish to receive yours.”

Assignment editors — Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Denise Grimsley will speak at the Republican Club of West Volusia’s monthly meeting, 11:30 a.m., Fans Central Station, 614 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand.

Amendment 13 backers join legal forces — The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), “the nation’s pre-eminent legal advocacy organization for animals,” said it had endorsed the friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Animal Law Section of The Florida Bar. “The voters of Florida are entitled to make the decision on whether or not to ban dog racing,” ALDF executive director Stephen Wells said in a statement. “The Florida Greyhound Association filed this litigation in a desperate move to ensure that the will of the voters is not heard.” Amendment 13, put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), aims at ending commercial dog racing in the state. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks. The proposal needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution. The ALDF also is trying to get a Florida Orca Protection Act introduced as legislation in 2019. The bill would ban the use of orca whales in theatrical performances in the state.

Committee To Support Greyhounds announces digital billboard campaign — The committee, dedicated to “preserving the tradition of Florida greyhound racing and educating Florida voters on these amazing canine athletes,” on Monday announced a digital billboard campaign called “Meet The Athletes.” The billboards are “currently located around Florida to allow voters to have a chance to ‘meet’ the hounds,” the committee said. “Each featured greyhound is a current racer whom voters can see run and race at greyhound tracks around the state.” … Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Newcome said in a statement: “As we have done from the beginning, we invite all of the public and reporters to please come to a track and see these amazing dogs in person. Watch them do what they love to do — run and race, and possibly meet a greyhound up close and personal. You will see they are truly ‘America’s Best Kept Dogs.’ ” The billboards and the latest digital ad titled “Unlucky 13” are here.

Gus Bilirakis sends out news release inflating amount of local fundraising support” via Tracy McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Between April and June, Bilirakis raised $355,000 for his re-election bid, “almost 90 percent of which came from Floridians,” claimed the campaign statement titled “Local Support Flowing for Bilirakis.” There is one problem: The accomplishment is utterly inflated. A review of Bilirakis’ finances shows that of the $355,000 raised in the second quarter, only 62 percent even came from individuals. The rest came from political committees, almost all out of state. When asked about the discrepancy, campaign manager Towson Fraser said he “made a mistake during the editing process.” Fraser, a longtime lobbyist, clarified he should have said about 90 percent of individual contributions, not total money raised, came from Floridians. But even that is unclear.

Mario Diaz-Balart brings in over $500k in contributions” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Incumbent U.S. Rep. Diaz-Balart closed out his second quarter of fundraising by taking in just over $507,000, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. In total, the Republican’s campaign maintains more than $1.6 million still on hand. That’s more than quadruple the amount reported by his Democratic opponent, Mary Barzee Flores, who has just under $400,000 on hand. Expect that gap to close, however, as Barzee Flores’ totals have not yet been updated with her second quarter fundraising numbers. Barzee Flores is the only candidate in either party who filed to run against Diaz-Balart in Florida’s 25th Congressional District.

Shady oligarch’s firm paid Dem candidate’s husband $700,000” via Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast — There’s another apparent connection between Ukrainian oligarch named Ihor Kolomoisky in American politics. A number of businesses linked to the oligarch have hired the attorney Robert Powell, the husband of Democratic House of Representatives candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Just one of those firms paid Powell at least $700,000 over two years, according to public records. Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who focuses on Russia and Ukraine, said the link is concerning, citing accusations that Kolomoisky has been involved in billion-dollar criminal schemes and contract killings. He called the ties “highly suspicious.”

Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.

David Richardson embarking on two-day tour of Cuba” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — State Rep. David Richardson kicked off a two-day listening tour in Cuba’s capital today as he continues to campaign in the race for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The Richardson campaign says the focus of the Havana tour is “to learn more about economic and societal developments in the wake of changes in U.S. relations with Cuba.” Richardson currently represents House District 113, which includes Miami-Dade County’s Little Havana. CD 27 also covers Miami Beach and Kendall. “A half-century of isolation did not achieve progress for the everyday Cuban, so I fully support a position of engagement with Cuban civil society,” said Richardson of his overall vision on U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Dana Young lands firefighter support in SD 18” via Florida Politics — The Florida Professional Firefighters and Tampa Firefighters Local 754 are the latest first responder groups to endorse Young, who had previously earned the support of several other first responder groups, including five police unions. “The 25,000 men and women of the Florida Professional Firefighters and Paramedics are proud to endorse Senator Dana Young for re-election,” said Rocco Salvatori, vice president of the Florida Professional Firefighters. “She stands up for Firefighters in the Florida Senate, and we proudly stand with her.” “We as representatives of Tampa Firefighters, Local 754, take great pleasure in endorsing your candidacy for 2018 Florida State Senate, District 18,” said Tampa Firefighters President Stephen Suarez and secretary Ken Huff in a joint statement.

FMA endorses Daphne Campbell for re-election — The Florida Medical Association PAC is endorsing Democrat state Sen. Campbell in her bid for another term in Senate District 38. FMA PAC President, Dr. Mike Patete said in a statement: “The FMA PAC happily endorses Sen. Daphne Campbell for re-election. As a member of the health care team, Sen. Campbell has a deep understanding of the issues that affect the physician community. We hope to continue working with her as we strive to make Florida the best state to practice medicine.” Campbell is facing former prosecutor Jason Pizzo in the Democratic primary for the seat covering parts of Miami-Dade County.

Florida Medical Association PAC endorses Robert Asencio” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Incumbent state Rep. Robert Asencio earned another boost in his re-election bid, pulling in support from the Florida Medical Association PAC. The group serves as the political arm of the Florida Medical Association, which advocates on behalf of the state’s medical and osteopathic physicians. “The FMA PAC proudly endorses Rep. Robert Asencio for re-election,” said Dr. Mike Patete, the group’s president. “As a member of a key health care committee in the House, we have gotten to know Rep. Asencio and worked together with him on important legislation. We hope to continue this collaboration next session.” Asencio, a Miami Democrat, represents House District 118, which covers a portion of Miami-Dade County including Tamiami and Kendall. He is on the Health Quality Subcommittee, among others.

Meanwhile … “Judge weighs campus early voting sites” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Florida elections officials were wrong to block on-campus early voting sites in Gainesville and Tallahassee, lawyers for the League of Women Voters of Florida told a federal judge. But attorneys representing the state argued there was no indication that college students — or anyone else — would have voting rights abridged due to an advisory opinion under scrutiny in the federal lawsuit filed this year by the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker gave no indication how he would rule after hearing nearly three hours of arguments in the case, which involves the state’s position about early voting locations at the University of Florida and Florida State University.

— OWNING EVERYONE IN BUZZFEED —

Republican Party of Florida chairman Blaise Ingoglia is simultaneously an enemy of the left and his own party’s establishment, but that hasn’t held him or the state’s GOP back.

A new BuzzFeed feature story depicts Ingoglia as an agent of outrage, walking readers through his controversial Sunshine Summit guests and providing contextualization to his bumpy rise to power over RPOF.

Blaise Ingoglia, ‘agent of outrage.’

Writer Henry J. Gomez describes Ingoglia’s rule as a Trumpian microcosm. “Under Ingoglia, the Republican Party of Florida — historically a lever of the establishment machine and controlled by governors like Scott and Jeb Bush — has turned into a kind of rogue outfit more suited to the antagonistic politics of the moment.”

D’Souza: Inviting Dinesh D’Souza caused controversy, but the ensuing criticism only fueled Ingoglia. “He said he hadn’t known about D’Souza’s tweets before the invitation. Besides, he thought, D’Souza had apologized. And if that wasn’t good enough for the politically correct liberals, then all the better.”

Scott’s no-show: Ingoglia dismissed the Governor’s absence as a decision Scott made to dedicate more time to campaigning. Gomez recalls Ingoglia’s defeat over Scott’s hand-picked RPOF chair which was followed by Scott and Florida’s Senate Republicans withdrawing “their political operations and money from party headquarters in Tallahassee.”

What’s next: Whether Ingoglia seeks reelection in January depends on the upcoming election and Trump’s plans. “If the new governor wanted me to stay, and if the president asked me to stay to shepherd the party through his election,” Ingoglia told Gomez, “then it’s a different conversation.”

— STATEWIDE —

Ex-supervisor in Putnam’s gun-license unit warned of ‘gross misconduct,’ sued and got $30,000 settlement” via Steve Bousquet and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — In a whistleblower lawsuit filed in a Leon County circuit court, the former chief of the Bureau of License Issuance, Xenia Bailey, said she was threatened with retaliation for saying workers were deficient in processing licensing applications, and that her bosses told her she “worked for the NRA (National Rifle Association).” The agency denied most of Bailey’s allegations in court filings. But in a settlement signed in 2016, the agency agreed to pay $30,000, without admitting wrongdoing, including a $10,000 lump sum payment to Bailey and $20,000 for her attorney’s fees and costs. The agency’s elected leader, Putnam, announced his bid for governor six months after settling.

Adam Putnam’s gun-licensing unit had issues right up to his campaign launch for Governor.

Court to move forward with ‘Jane Doe’ issuing gun case” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A federal appeals court cleared the way for considering a dispute about whether two teens can remain anonymous in a challenge to a new Florida law that raised the minimum age to buy rifles and other long guns. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a two-page document that said it “appears that this court has jurisdiction to consider this appeal,” though it said a final determination on that jurisdiction would be made later by a panel of judges who will hear the anonymity issue. The appeal stems from a ruling in May by U.S. District Judge Mark Walker that a 19-year-old Alachua County woman, identified as “Jane Doe,” could not remain anonymous as a plaintiff in a National Rifle Association challenge to the gun law.

Native American farmer suing state over marijuana licenses” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A Destin lawyer has sued the Department of Health, saying a medical marijuana license preference for black farmers should include “Native American farmers and ranchers.” Donivon Craig Tingle filed suit in Okaloosa County Circuit Civil court last month. The suit was disclosed in a departmental “legal updates” email on Friday — the same day officials said they also will begin the process of issuing four more provider licenses now that the number of “qualified, active patients” is over 100,000 … Tingle’s not just an attorney; he says he too is a Native American farmer and was a plaintiff in another lawsuit that charged the federal government with discrimination in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Loan Program.

Media seek Florida school shooting suspect’s statement” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — Media organizations asked a judge to order public release of much of Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz’s statement to investigators after the Valentine’s Day massacre that killed 17 people. Attorneys for The Associated Press and other media outlets asked Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer to allow disclosure of the statement under public records law. Attorneys for the 19-year-old Cruz wanted the entire statement suppressed, contending it would improperly influence jurors in his trial. The judge did not immediately rule. Media lawyer Dana McElroy said the only portions that should be suppressed are any comments that appear to be a substantive confession, but not the entire statement. She said Florida’s broad public records law requires that much of it be disclosed even in high-profile cases such as this.

Customary use battle reaches boiling point in Walton County” via Annie Blanks of the Northwest Florida Daily News – The Turgeon family from New Orleans was sitting on the beach on a hot Tuesday morning watching their young children play in the sand, when they were approached by a Walton County sheriff’s deputy. The Turgeon family, who said they were confused about signage and were unaware of where the “public” beach met the “private,” was one of many caught in the crosshairs of the new customary use law that went into effect July 1. Walton County became the hotbed for customary use discussions in the state of Florida in 2016, when commissioners approved an ordinance based on the customary use concept that beach areas have been publicly accessed for as long as humanity has been around, and should therefore remain open to visitors without interference. Two weeks ago, the State Attorney’s Office said it would be unfair to prosecute trespassing cases until a court decides whether or not customary use applies on private property in Walton County.

Is algae at head of St. Johns River tied to sludge?” via Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — Activists and politicians both pushed the state to do something about bright green, potentially toxic algae covering Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River County, where the St. Johns begins flowing more than 300 miles to Jacksonville and the ocean. “We’re seeing green algae throughout the headwaters,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, who told state officials this spring that algae-feeding phosphorus and nitrogen might be seeping into the lake from a minimally cleaned variety of sewage sludge that’s spread over nearby ranch land. State officials have pointedly not blamed the algae on sludge but said the Department of Environmental Protection and St. Johns River Water Management District will jointly study the problem in water that’s normally clean enough to drink straight from the lake. DEP put a six-month freeze on the use of minimally cleaned sludge — sometimes called biosolids or Class B sludge — at a ranch near the lake. County commissioners started discussing a six-month moratorium for the entire county last month but have moved cautiously to avoid any legal landmines.

As political tension rises, emergency motion filed in suit over City Council replacement” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — The Northwest Jacksonville resident suing Gov. Scott over his increasingly controversial appointment of a Mandarin Republican to represent a mostly Democratic City Council district filed a motion asking a judge to put the case on an emergency track. Political tension escalated over the issue at a news conference where the resident, Brenda Priestly Jackson, a former Duval County School Board member, and local Duval Democratic Party officials slammed Scott, as well as Mayor Lenny Curry for an appointment they said was tantamount to the disenfranchisement of the mostly black voters in Council District 10. Scott, who suspended Reggie Brown and Katrina Brown from the council last month after they were indicted on federal fraud charges, appointed Terrance Freeman as a temporary replacement for Reggie Brown, the same day Freeman said he moved to the district from his Mandarin home. Scott, who visited a Jacksonville business in District 10 while campaigning for U.S. Senate, said his appointment of Freeman “followed all the rules.”

Norman Braman gets a ‘lift’ from the state — The billionaire auto dealer has won approval from the state for an exemption from elevator regulations at his Braman Bentley Rolls-Royce Porsche dealership in Palm Beach County. Braman was granted a variance because he “demonstrated that the purpose of the underlying statute has been met and that (he) would suffer a substantial hardship if required to comply,” said a Monday notice in the Florida Administrative Register. Braman sought to be exempted from installing elevator “platform guards and bottom car clearances.” A design flaw was found only after construction, his petition said, and “current structural elements” at the dealership cost “in excess of $8 million.” The dealership tried to conform the elevator to the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines but couldn’t “due to varying elevations.” Instead, Braman had asked to use a “retractable toe guard,” a platform-type device often used for uneven floors. “No comments were received in response to the petition,” Monday’s notice said.

Tampa provocateur charged in fracas over racist slur returns to corner, claims self-defense” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — Tony Daniel is undeterred. Three days after his arrest on an assault charge, the 60-year-old race-baiting provocateur was back on the same street corner, shouting into a megaphone and holding a large sign with the same racial epithet that sparked the fracas. He said he plans to fight the charge “vigorously.” … A motorist captured the encounter on video … It initially shows Daniel holding a sign, nearly as tall as he, that says, “Homeless (N——) go back to Africa.” Standing nearby are the two women, later identified as Nayvia Tukes, 20, and Rowshana Tukes, 41, both of Brandon. When Daniel points the megaphone in their direction, the younger woman marches toward him. That’s when Nayvia Tukes slapped the sign … The video shows Daniel yanking the sign back and pushing the megaphone into her face. Police said he hit her with it. Then the older woman punched Daniel in his right eye. He lashed out at the two with the megaphone, striking Rowshana Tukes in the head, the report said. According to the report, Daniel struck the woman on the head several more times as she retreated toward her vehicle.

— BITTERSWEETNESS IN PUERTO RICO —

As Boricuas inch toward normalcy on the island, it’s difficult for them not to fear the future.

Reports Danica Coco for The Associated Press, “Lights are slowly coming on for the more than 950 homes and businesses across Puerto Rico that remain without power in hard-to-reach areas. Repair crews are sometimes forced to dig holes by hand and scale down steep mountainsides to reach damaged light posts.”

But it’s hard for some to celebrate the progress. As one source tells Coco, “If another storm comes through, we’re going to die. There’s no money left here.”

No backup: Gov. Ricardo Rossello has informed islanders that there are no backup grids in case of power loss. Some 47,000 customers lost power in July when the remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl swept through.

Turmoil at the top: Complicating things is a turnover problem at PREPA, the island’s utility authority. Coco notes that issues with finding good leadership at the utility come as it tries to prepare an island for a storm in the middle of the hurricane season.

Silver linings: Despite a sense of instability, “Puerto Ricans in the remote areas that recently had electricity restored are happy they can go back to their previous lives and no longer have to drain savings to fuel generators.”

— OPINIONS —

Joe Henderson: Has Trump become liability for top GOP Governor wannabes?” via Florida Politics — I wonder if Putnam and DeSantis are feeling a little queasy. It was a quite the global spectacle, watching Trump all but genuflect to Russian “President” Vladimir Putin, but it had to be worse for Putnam and DeSantis right here in our little corner of the planet. Both men have been unflagging in their bro-love for Trump in the lead-up to the Aug. 28 Republican primary. DeSantis has been saturating TV with ads trumpeting his endorsement by “the big man himself” while Putnam hasn’t let that little detail derail his undying allegiance to the “commander” in chief. While that strategy may appeal to Trump’s true believers who turn out for the primary, it becomes problematic in the general election. After the President’s inept performance in his face-to-face with Putin was widely panned, even by many Republicans, close association with Trump, while always a risky election-year strategy, may be downright toxic now. That sets up a dilemma for DeSantis and Putnam.

— MOVEMENTS —

First in Sunburn –Personnel note: Jim Boxold named Capital City Consulting managing partner” via Florida Politics – Former Transportation Secretary Boxold, who’s been with the governmental affairs firm Capital City Consulting since January 2017, now is the firm’s managing partner. He now oversees human resources, administrative employment, firm efficiencies and processes, and workload management, the lobbying concern said in a press release. “Our firm is growing rapidly and growth requires better organization, processes and human resource management,” said Nick Iarossi, co-founder. “We are fortunate to utilize Jim’s past experience managing one of the state’s largest agencies at Capital City Consulting.”

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Lisa Aaron, Lisa Aaron Consulting: Microsoft Corporation

Mike CorcoranJeff JohnstonAnita BerryMatt BlairAmanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Sharon Morrow as Personal Representative of the Estate of Thomas Morrow

Elizabeth Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: Kyra Solutions

Marty FiorentinoJoseph MobleyMark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Uber Technologies and Affiliates

Carole Green, Capitol Strategies Consulting: The Centers

Jennifer Green, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Uber Technologies and Affiliates

Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: Palm Beach Aggregates

— ALOE —

Hulk Hogan returns to the WWE after a three-year suspension” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times — A racial tirade caught on tape caused World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. to cut ties with Hulk Hogan in 2015. But now the WWE has decided that Hogan, who helped turn the company into the biggest wrestling promoter in the world, has done enough to prove he is a changed man. While Hogan’s role with the company has yet to be announced, WWE said it is welcoming him back. “This second chance follows Hogan’s numerous public apologies and volunteering to work with young people, where he is helping them learn from his mistake,” the WWE said in a statement announcing Hogan would be returned to its Hall of Fame, from which he’d been erased. The tan, bleached-blonde 64-year-old former grappler whose real name is Terry Bollea said he is grateful for another chance.

A rare face-to-face encounter with the elusive Florida panther” via Carlton Ward Jr. for National Geographic — It’s taken me 20 years to get this photo. For the past two years, I have been focused on the endangered Florida panther — the last big cat in the eastern United States and a subspecies of cougar. Today, there are approximately 200 panthers — up from just 30 in the early 1990s — surviving primarily in the Everglades at the southern tip of Florida. To be recovered from endangered status, there need to be three times as many panthers distributed across a much larger landscape. I was on my way to change the batteries and cards in my camera trap when I saw a panther sitting in the dirt road 200 yards ahead of me. When the panther sat down 20 yards away and looked straight at me, I was ready. I focused on her eyes and captured the moment she gave me. A rare glimpse into the soul of wild Florida.

A female Florida panther stares at the photographer in Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples on June 22, 2018. (Image via National Geographic)

Happy birthday to the man who makes the trains run on time, Phil Ammann, as well as Ballard Partners’ Chris DorworthJoe McCann, and Juan-Carlos Planas.

Last Call for 7.16.18 — 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

Activist Gary Stein says he’s “saddened and concerned over the response from the Governor’s Office” to rallies he organized last week to encourage Gov. Rick Scott to drop appeals of lawsuits involving medicinal cannabis.

The state is appealing two high-profile cases: Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner’s circuit court win to grow and juice his own medicinal cannabis, and plaintiffs backed by Orlando attorney John Morgan who won a decision allowing them to smoke medical marijuana.

Both rulings have been challenged by the state’s Department of Health, which regulates the drug through the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, and reports to Scott.

A statement from Scott’s office called Wednesday’s protests in Tallahassee, Orlando and West Palm Beach “disingenuous,” adding that “more than 130,000 patients have access to (medical marijuana) treatment by more than a thousand doctors.”

But, in his own statement, Stein said he stands by his position that “qualified patients across Florida need homegrown and smokable medical cannabis.”

The governor’s position is itself “disingenuous,” Stein said, adding it was “mean-spirited” and “misleading.”

As held by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, “the constitutional amendment … does not allow the government to exclude any form of the medical herb, including the right to use in smokable form and home-grow to juice the plant,” he said.

Moreover, “the number of patients mentioned — 130,000 — has already been discredited by the OMMU … as being inaccurate.

“The most recent number of active, qualified patients released by the OMMU is 109,163,” he said. “Had the registry number been an accurate reflection of the number of patients, the OMMU would have been mandated to release applications for new Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) as early as April 20, which did not occur.”

Stein said he “hoped that our respectful rallies would open a dialogue that would result in the governor reconsidering his position on the appeals of these cases. They are life and death situations for … hundreds of thousands of Floridians, who desperately await these cases to be resolved.”

Evening Reads

Ron DeSantis calls Trump-Putin appearance a missed opportunity — to blame Obama” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Ex-supervisor in Adam Putnam’s gun-license unit warned of ‘gross misconduct,’ sued and got $30,000 settlement” via Steve Bousquet and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

How one man owned the libs and the establishment — and took over the Florida Republican Party” via Henry Gomez of BuzzFeed

Florida’s constitutional amendments are a mixed bag” via Jason Garcia of Florida Trend

Florida suspends payment to SunPass contractor until tolling system is fixed” via Hannah Denham of the Tampa Bay Times

Court to move forward with ‘Jane Doe’ issue in gun case” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

A Miami Democrat heads to Cuba on the congressional campaign trail” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

GOP environmentalists today: As rare as a Florida panther” via Julie Hauserman of the Florida Phoenix

Conspiracy theorist QAnon promoted, then deleted, by Hillsborough County GOP” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s coral disease outbreak is most ‘extensive’ ” via Sean Kinane of WMNF

Quote of the Day

“Just as I would not seek an endorsement from Emily’s List or the ACLU, I do not wish to receive yours.” — Republican candidate for governor Frank White, declining an invitation to be interviewed by the Tampa Bay Times editorial board.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss bond rates in the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) program. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a dispute about whether Gov. Scott has properly complied with the state’s financial disclosure requirements. That’s at 9 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

The Florida Department of Children and Families will help host meetings in Central Florida that are part of an effort to better coordinate behavioral-health services. That’s at 9 a.m., Titusville Library, 2121 South Hopkins Ave., Titusville. Also, 1 p.m., Valencia College, School of Public Safety, 8600 Valencia College Lane, Orlando.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss issues related to unclaimed property. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

Gov. Scott will join small business leaders in Orlando for an undisclosed announcement. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Restaurant Equipment World, 2413 N. Forsyth Road, Orlando.

Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Denise Grimsley will speak at the Republican Club of West Volusia’s monthly meeting. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Fan Central Station, 614 South Alabama Ave., DeLand.

The Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council will interview a short list of candidates for two seats on the Public Service Commission. That’s at 1 p.m., Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Orlando International Airport, 1 Jeff Fuqua Blvd., Orlando.

Marili Cancio, a candidate in state Senate District 40, and Maria Elvira Salazar, a candidate in Congressional District 27, are slated to speak to the Old Cutler Republican Women’s Club. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Brio Tuscan Grille, 8888 S.W. 136th St., Miami.

Democrat Joy Gibson, running in state Senate District 20, is slated to speak at a meeting of the Rainbow Ridge LGBTA Democratic Caucus of Polk County. That’s at 6:30 p.m., The Rib House, 2918 South Florida Ave., Lakeland.

Democratic candidate for Governor Jeff Greene and state Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, are expected to speak at the Rusty Gordon LGBTA Democratic Caucus. That’s at 6:45 p.m., Compass Community Center, 201 North Dixie Highway, Lake Worth.

Rep. Javier Fernandez will hold a town-hall meeting on gun safety. That’s at 7 p.m., Riviera Presbyterian Church, 5275 Sunset Dr., Miami.

HD 115 hopeful Jose Fernandez may not be best for GOP, trial lawyers

It comes as no surprise that Republican Jose Fernandez is drawing the support of many of the state’s biggest trial lawyers in his bid for House District 115.

But does he represent the best choice for the GOP?

Fernandez is himself a lawyer who heads his own personal injury litigation firm, and is one of four candidates seeking the GOP nomination to succeed term-limited state Rep. Michael Bileca.

Backers include Democrat mega-donor Robert Rubenstein of Miami and newly sworn-in president of the statewide trial bar, Lake “Trey” Lytal of Palm Beach.

Despite the support, the Fernandez firm’s involvement in and handling of a 2016 lawsuit brought by his former office manager, a 52-year-old female, should raise serious concerns about his viability as a candidate, particularly in the wake of the national #MeToo movement as well as the Florida Legislature’s own grappling with sexual harassment scandals.

The suit alleges that mistreatment came at the “hands of specifically but not limited to (firm employee and supervisor) Anthony Soto and Jose Fernandez.”

In summarizing the alleged mistreatment, Fernandez’s office manager testified that Soto — whom she says publicly called her the “old lady of the firm” — would show “inappropriate sex videos to staff members.”

When she complained and refused to participate, he made numerous age-related discriminatory comments.

The suit continues: Upon returning from hospitalization after a stroke, “Soto accused her of fraudulently providing her doctor’s note,” and required her to work off-the-clock to catch up on work missed while on medical leave.

However, it was Soto’s conduct related to a female client that became “the main thing” that bothered the complainant about the work environment at Fernandez’s firm.

During deposition, the woman described in lurid detail what concerned her most:

“[Soto’s] sexual comments and videos. He also had a one-night stand with a client and then refused to talk to her. He bragged about it and when she would come in we had to talk to her.

“I couldn’t believe it and felt that he had crossed the line as an attorney. He also filmed himself with girls and showed people the video.

“The one thing that bothered me the most was when he asked my son in my presence if he had ever had a bl**job, because he knew some girls he could call that would come to the office and give him one.

“Needless to say, my son was embarrassed.”

Faced with such explosive testimony, attorneys from Fernandez’s firm fought back again, attempting to have it excluded from the pending trial by arguing it had “no relevance.”

Despite their efforts, there was even more evidence of discriminatory attitudes and biases.

The woman also testified that Soto had previously instructed her not to hire African-Americans and retaliated when she objected to this racially biased request.

Every step of the way, attorneys at Fernandez’s firm fought the former employee, even going as far as trying to get the suit dismissed by way of using her application for disability benefits submitted after suffering a stroke, being forced to work off the clock and her subsequent termination.

Even though the suit ultimately settled last year, the #MeToo movement has brought increased scrutiny on the issue of sexual harassment (as well as other bad behavior) in the workplace.

It’s also time to call the men out — particularly those seeking elective office — who ignore the treatment (or mistreatment) subordinate women in their employ.

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