Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
Democrats are continuing and sharpening their attacks on Rick Scott while Florida’s Republican governor bides time in a no-comment period until his big announcement Monday when he’s expected to declare his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Thursday is launching a new website “SelfServingScott.com” anticipating Scott’s candidacy. The site lays out several of the Democrats’ attacks on Scott, claiming he will say and do anything to help himself at Floridians’ expense.
The rollout of the site continues an aggressive anti-Scott campaign Democrats began last month as it became increasingly apparent Scott would soon formalize his long-known intentions to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. The attacks come in the period when Scott and many of his advisers and allies are reluctant to respond, lest they acknowledge a Senate candidacy before it can be rolled out with a splash. Scott has called for a special announcement Monday.
Three weeks ago, the DSCC released two digital videos alleging that Scott had used his tenure as governor to increase his personal wealth and that he’d had several instances of forgetting or losing information that some charged could have been key evidence of crimes. Last week the Florida Democratic Party organized a news conference to charge that Scott had been avoiding accountability on tragedies. On Wednesday, American Bridge released a memo detailing what it called weaknesses Democrats could exploit in Scott.
The new DSCC site features the two videos the committee already has released attacking Scott and links to several pages going into details on allegations the Democrats are making about his seven-year tenure as governor, and what they say will happen if he runs for the U.S. Senate.
Among the Democrats’ allegations:
— That he personally made lots of money on investments as wages remained low in Florida.
— That his business holdings make him a walking conflict of interest, and that he has kept his finances secret through his blind trust.
— That his offer for nursing home directors to call his cellphone in a crisis, combined with his alleged failure to respond to such calls, may put some blame on him for the tragic deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after Hurricane Irma last September.
— That Scott supported drilling near shores and beaches even as he has claimed to oppose it in more recent times.
— That he broke a promise to expand Medicaid health care to 800,000 Floridians.
— That he let 612 days pass between the Pulse and Parkland mass murders without taking any action regarding gun violence.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @RepJohnLewis: 50 years ago today, I learned the painful news that my friend, my mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, TN. He was my brother, my leader — that day it felt like something died in all of us.
— @DavidJollyFL: This trade war is going to make it pretty viable to beat Trump in a Republican primary in Iowa in 2020.
— @RosLehtinen: The administration’s activation of the #NationalGuard to reinforce our border is an expenditure that does not utilize taxpayer dollars wisely. Mobilization of the National Guard should be used for true national emergencies, not a political imperative.
— @SenBillNelson: Six months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, many of our fellow American citizens are still without electricity. I’m joining colleagues to call for new hearings on the recovery efforts, amid reports that utility repair workers are being sent home before the job is done.
— @AGGancarski: Always hilarious when I try to interview a first-time candidate and they stall and say they’ll call back at some point. There are dozens of candidates. There’s one of me. And it’s late in the day and late in the week, so don’t waste my time. Capiche?
— DAYS UNTIL —
Gov. Scott’s ‘big announcement’ — 4; Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 10; NFL Draft begins — 21; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 22; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 28; Mother’s Day — 38; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 50; Memorial Day — 53; Father’s Day — 73; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 78; Deadline for filing claim bills — 118; Start of the U.S. Open — 144; Primary Election Day — 145; College Football opening weekend — 149; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 201; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 202; General Election Day — 215; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 315; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 334.
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— TOP STORY —
“Florida challenges order to make voting rights changes” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — Attorney General Pam Bondi, acting on behalf of Gov. Scott and the state’s clemency board, appealed the judge’s decision to block the state’s current system of forcing ex-felons to wait at least five years before they can ask for the right to vote. U.S. District Mark Walker had given Scott and state officials until April 26to create a new process, but attorneys working for Bondi asked that Walker’s order be placed on hold while the case moves to a federal appeals court in Atlanta. “People elected by Floridians should determine Florida’s clemency rules for convicted criminals, not federal judges,” said John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott. “The governor will always stand with victims of crime. He believes that people who have been convicted of crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence, should demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime while being accountable to our communities.” Hours after the appeal was made, Walker turned down Florida’s request to put the case on hold and said this “court does not play games.”
— TWEET OF THE DAY —
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Voter restoration legal fight spills over into governor’s race” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — As Republican politicians trade legal barbs with a federal judge over the state’s process for returning voting rights to felons who have served their time, the issue is poised to be a big political issue in this year’s midterm elections. The reaction was largest in the state’s nationally watched governor’s race. Republicans supported the state’s appeal, arguing the current system is constitutional and should be kept in place. Democrats hammered Gov. Scott and Attorney General Bondi, both of whom are part of Florida’s Executive Clemency Board, saying the system they oversee is discriminatory. The order to overhaul the clemency process came from U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who says forcing felons to ask for restoration of their rights in front of a four-person panel made up of the state’s most high-profile politicians is unconstitutional.
“In Congress, Adam Putnam voted against troops guarding the Mexican border” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — In 2004, Congress passed an amendment as part of the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 … “authorized the Secretary of Defense to assign members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, under certain circumstances and subject to certain conditions, to assist the Department of Homeland Security in the performance of border protection functions.” Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation resoundingly supported the security measure, with one exception: Putnam … one of only 20 House Republicans to vote against the amendment. This issue is especially relevant in light of President Donald Trump deciding to station troops on the southern border as a block against illegal immigration … effectively continuing a policy more than a decade old.
Worth the click — “’Please share with Carlos’: Pam Bondi’s staff knew of citizen complaint over Putnam’s land deal” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — POLITICO Florida reported about a land deal that made the family of Putnam $25 million, one that was facilitated by legislation he helped pass in 1999 as a state lawmaker. “The exact law created in the Putnam-sponsored bill was cited as justification in July 2005 when the water management district passed a resolution that signed off on the deal that paid Putnam Groves $25 million for land assessed at $19 million … Putnam was in Congress at the time, and told the Palm Beach Post in 2012 he had nothing to do with the negotiations.” Jack Nelson, chair of the Highlands County Tea Party, sought an investigation from Gov. Scott and AG Bondi … Nelson emailed a complaint to Bondi’s office. Her chief of staff at the time was made aware of it. According to emails requested under Florida’s public records laws, Jason Rodriguez forwarded Nelson’s complaint to Catherine Crutcher on Jun. 15, 2012, writing: “Please share with Carlos.” Carlos, in this case, is Carlos Muniz, who would eventually become Bondi’s chief of staff in 2013.
Assignment editors — Putnam will participate in the 2018 ‘Lay of the Land’ Candidate Summit Luncheon, beginning 1:30 p.m. at the Omni Orlando Resort, 1500 Masters Blvd. in ChampionsGate.
“Gwen Graham gets approval from ‘Moms Demand Action’ gun reform group” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Graham is getting a “Gun Sense Candidate” rating from the national group Moms Demand Action, which was formed after the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre to urge gun law reforms. “Moms never forget. Moms never give up. Every mother’s top priority is defending the safety and well-being of their children and families,” Graham stated in a news release. “As governor, I will never forget. I will never give up. I will protect children across the state by passing common-sense gun safety once and for all.” Graham is the first candidate in the race to get the Moms’ seal of approval.
Lauren Baer exceeds $1M in fundraising — Democratic congressional candidate Baer raised more than $450K of that in the first quarter of 2018 in her bid for Florida’s 18th Congressional District. “We are so grateful for the grassroots support we’ve received throughout this campaign,” Baer said. “To the literally thousands of people who have donated, thank you. I pledged back in February not to accept money from corporate PACs, and I am proud that not one dollar has come from their coffers. This campaign will always be about representing FL-18 voters, not special interests, and I look forward to working hard for them every day.” Baer, who is seeking to unseat Republican Brian Mast, pledged not to accept money from corporate PACs.
“Donna Shalala reports $1.17 million haul in 3 weeks” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Shalala‘s campaign wouldn’t say how much the candidate contributed to herself, but some rivals suspected she chipped in about $500,000 of her own money. Even if she did raise a little more than $600,000 from donors, it’s still a larger sum raised in an entire quarter than the other seven Democratic candidates in the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
“No change of plans (yet) from Bob Buesing” via Florida Politics — Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young could see one re-election challenger swapped for another … Young currently faces Tampa attorney Buesing, who finished second in the four-way race for Senate District 18 in the 2016 cycle, and there are rumors he’s agreed to step aside to make way for Tampa Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz. In a statement to Florida Politics, Buesing neither confirmed nor denied he’d exit the race, instead saying he’d wait on Cruz to make a move. “My goal has always been electing a Democrat to this seat who will serve the people of Hillsborough County well in Tallahassee,” he said. “To that end, I announced my candidacy last January and have run a campaign based on the values and ideas that I believe represent the will of the people in this District. Should Janet Cruz decide to file, then I will make the best decision for my friends, family, and the constituents of Senate District 18.”
“Vanessa Baugh leaving Manatee Commission for state House bid” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — After six years in local government, Manatee County Commissioner Baugh, 64, Has filed to run for the District 73 state house seat covering eastern Manatee County and a portion of eastern Sarasota County. She will face off against Sarasota attorney Tommy Gregory in what is expected to be a hotly contested GOP primary. Democrat Liv Coleman also has filed to run for the strongly Republican-leaning seat. Baugh’s departure two years into her four-year commission term means the District 5 seat will be on the ballot in November, along with three other county commission seats.
Save the Date:
“Dustin Daniels, mayor’s chief of staff, launches campaign video” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Daniels, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s chief of staff, has released a video on Facebook … that all but suggests a run for office. Sources close to Daniels say he’s had very “intentional” talks with community leaders about making a mayoral run especially given all the dominoes that have fallen in the last week. Those dominoes include County Commissioner John Dailey announcing he will run for mayor instead of seeking re-election to his District 3 seat this year. Dailey’s announcement came on the heels of state Sen. Bill Montford‘s announcement that he would not run for mayor as was speculated for months. Daniels also has submitted his resignation as chief of staff, effective April 13. Starting April 16, Gillum’s communications director, Jamie Van Pelt, will take over as chief of staff.
“DNC official quits after uproar over ‘colored people’ remarks” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — A Florida Democratic National Committee member who offended African-Americans for using the phrase “colored people” resigned his office as the state party chairwoman and other officials called on him to quit — echoing the comments of his own wife, the Democratic Party chair in Duval County. “I misspoke and used language that was hurtful. I apologized and pledged that I would learn from my mistake,” John Parker said in a letter to local, state and national officials that resigned as the Duval County Democratic state committeeman and as a DNC member from Florida. “I understand my error perpetuates divisiveness and does not allow us an opportunity for the important types of meaningful discourse — a conversation our party must engage in sooner rather than later — that help us grow as individuals and a party protecting the dignity of all people,” he wrote. Parker had said he meant to say “people of color” instead of “colored people” and eventually apologized for his offhand remarks Jan. 22 after a local Democratic Party meeting in Jacksonville.
— CONSOLIDATION —
Twenty-four amendments won initial approval of the Constitution Revision Commission — but those ideas have since been downsized to 12 actual ballot items.
The CRC’s influential Style & Drafting Committee approved the multi-item package Wednesday, though it’s still a “starting point,” committee chair Brecht Heuchan told the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas.
Once the committee approves ballot titles and language, the full commission will be primed for a final vote on the proposals. Each item will need the approval of 22 members of the 37-person body.
Significant standalones: Six proposals were not grouped with others. That includes four less popular measures (proposals that advanced with fewer than 22 votes from the full body), including an immigrant employment verification plan, the elimination of the write-in loophole in elections, and a ban on greyhound racing.
Compromise: Some commissioners wanted each proposal to appear by itself on the ballot. Some wanted to save voters time by grouping everything together. Heuchan told Klas that he started the process thinking “everything should be grouped somehow,” but ultimately changed this approach after speaking with panel advisers.
Dilution: Klas wrote the committee “demonstrated how powerful it is” when it watered down an ethics package by removing a ban on local governments using taxpayer money to fund lobbyists to secure budget carve-outs.
— STATEWIDE —
Assignment editors — Gov. Scott visits Ponce Inlet to sign SB 1576, “Ponce’s Law” strengthening criminal punishments for animal abusers. Bill signing begins 8:45 a.m., Town of Ponce Inlet Council Chamber, 4300 South Atlantic Avenue in Ponce Inlet.
Putnam gives wildfire update — The Agriculture Commissioner on Wednesday announced that there are currently 29 active wildfires in Florida burning 33,973 acres. They include the Greenway fire, Collier County: 17,957 and 95 percent contained; Firebreak, Gulf County: 8,080 acres and 85 percent contained; Old Blade Line, Polk County: 450 acres and 60 percent contained; Mud Dauber Road, Polk County: 200 acres and 95 percent contained. Putnam oversees the Florida Forest Service, which includes wildland firefighters, is responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.
“TaxWatch finds $147.5 million in ‘turkeys’ in state budget” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Florida’s new $88.7 billion state budget contains 87 “turkeys” worth $147.5 million, Florida TaxWatch announced Wednesday, including nearly $120 million in transportation projects slipped in by state legislators without formal evaluation. That helped starve arts spending. The Department of State had ranked 489 cultural, museum, and other arts projects worth $41.6 million, but the Legislature appropriated only $2.6 million — 6 percent of the ask, TaxWatch said. The organization defines “turkeys” as “usually local member projects, placed in the final appropriations bill without being scrutinized and subjected to the budget committee process, or that circumvented established grant and other selection processes.”
“All in: Seminole Tribe says it will keep paying state” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Despite a legal right to cut off the money, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has decided to continue paying the state its share of Indian casino gambling revenue each month [now $19.5 million, with a balloon payment at the end of the fiscal year]. The Tribe “confirmed” its decision Tuesday night, according to its outside counsel, Barry Richard of the Greenberg Traurig firm, who participated in a conference call. “There is no plan to stop the payments,” Richard said Wednesday morning. “The Seminoles are perfectly happy with the relationship they have with the state … They don’t want to take advantage of the state economically any more than they want the state to take advantage of them. “It has never been in their mindset to stop or reduce payments just because they have a legal right to,” he said. Legislative leaders, who failed to agree on comprehensive gambling legislation this past Regular Session, have been considering a Special Session after House Speaker Richard Corcoran raised an alarm over the potential loss of revenue share from the Tribe.
“No Casinos: With Tribe’s decision, no need for Special Session on gambling” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The head of an anti-casino gambling organization has again written to top lawmakers, saying the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s commitment to keep paying gambling revenue share should shut down further talks on a Special Session. “Doesn’t today’s commitment by the Seminole Tribe to continue making compact payments resolve the potential revenue loss concern that legislative leaders said was the basis for holding a special session?” No Casinos’ president John Sowinski asked in a Wednesday letter.
“Court sides with cops on using biker photos in lobbying” via the News Service of Florida — Fighting a bill that would have allowed Floridians to openly carry guns, two Orange County sheriff’s officers in 2011 moved forward with a plan to give lawmakers a glimpse of some people who might be able to pack heat publicly. The officers pulled together booking or driver’s license photos of “one percenters” — members of motorcycle clubs … the use of the photos led to a lawsuit that resulted this week in a federal appeals court rejecting arguments by three members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club that the officers had violated a privacy law in using the photos. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Michael Fewless, who in 2011 was captain of the governmental affairs section of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and lobbied the Legislature, and John McMahon, an intelligence agent who selected and emailed the photos to Fewless.
“Comcast launches 1-gigabit internet service in Palm Beach County” via Doreen Christensen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Residential and business customers will now be able to plug into 1 gigabit-per-second internet services with existing cables in homes and offices in Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Martin counties, the company announced. The service, which costs $139.95 a month without a contract, also will be available in three other Treasure Coast counties, as well as parts of Brevard County. The service uses DOCSIS 3.1 technology to make it possible for Xfinity and Comcast Business internet customers to receive gigabit speeds over coax cable communication lines that most customers already have in their homes, Comcast said. Customers will need a new DOCSIS 3.1-capable modem, such as the xFi Advanced Gateway, to get the high-speed service.
— PARKLAND —
“Wounded teen who put cops on trail of Parkland shooter returns to school” via Anne Geggis of the Sun-Sentinel — Kyle Laman, 15, nearly lost a limb — if not his life — on the day Nikolas Cruz prowled the halls of the school, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others. “I just wanted to see some of my friends,” said Kyle, who will be facing more surgeries before he can walk again. He spent 16 days in the hospital before going home. On Monday, Kyle showed up to school accompanied by Coral Springs Police Sgt. Jeff Heinrich, the officer who found Kyle running on his injured foot in a field. Heinrich got him to paramedics after administering first aid. Kyle gave Heinrich a description of the shooter that was “spot on,” including where the shooter had been and what he was wearing, police said. “I saw other kids running, but Kyle was the first who was looking for an adult,” Heinrich recalled. Heinrich bandaged him up. In retrospect, he still can’t believe that the boy was running on that foot. “He severed one of the tendons that allows the foot to go up and down,” he said. “The doctors said they were amazed he was able to run also.”
“’It has to be perfect’: Putting out a yearbook after the Parkland shooting” via Patricia Mazzei and Sam Hodgson of The New York Times — At Stoneman Douglas High, where a former student is accused of killing 17 people in a deadly rampage, editors decided the shooting would not overtake their book. They insisted on preserving a record of the days that came before, the ones filled with the regular markers of high school life: Football games. Club activities. The Sadie Hawkins dance. But they also knew their classmates would keep their book for decades, lugging it with them from dorm rooms to first apartments and showing it to their own children, who would ask about the shooting at Parkland and the lives that had been lost. The book would have to tell that story, too. For several days in the aftermath, the staff allowed The New York Times to follow the group of 37 editors, designers, writers and photographers as they pulled together the book — choosing the photographs and laying out the pages and making the painstaking decisions on how to best honor the students and staff who had died. The 452-page book is scheduled to be published in May and distributed to more than 2,500 people.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Marco Rubio on gun control: It depends who he’s talking to” via Ashraf Khalil of The Associated Press — It was one week after the fatal shootings at a Parkland high school, and Republican Sen. Rubio was looking to show solidarity with an angry crowd of parents and students in his home state. He told them — and a national television audience — that 18-year-olds should not be able to buy a rifle and said, “I will support a law that takes that right away.” About 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) north, District of Columbia officials could only shake their heads in disbelief. The city already had a law barring 18-year-olds from buying rifles, yet Rubio was the main senator pushing legislation to end that ban, as well as D.C.’s prohibition of assault weapons. “Rubio’s gun bill should be a public embarrassment as well as a personal embarrassment to him,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington’s nonvoting delegate in Congress. Gun control has long been a sore point in relations between officials in this heavily Democratic city, home to some of the nation’s toughest gun control laws, and Republicans, who as the congressional majority has power over D.C.’s laws. Rubio, in particular, is seen as the villain. City officials accuse him of playing cynical political games with the lives of Washington residents to curry favor with the National Rifle Association.
“Rubio blames ‘bureaucracy’ for the wait on federal Irma funding” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — “It’s a pretty straightforward task,” Rubio said, standing in a trailer park in Marathon where a canal is still choked with debris and filth from the storm. “Get the money that we’ve already voted for down here, so they can hire people to clean this up.” People applauded. “Don’t clap yet, we’ve got to get the money,” Rubio said. “We just voted for the money; the hard part is getting the federal government to release it. We’ll keep banging on the door. There’s nothing else they can use the money for — it’s appropriated for this.” Rubio added, “Next time we get back here, these things will be cleaned up.”
— OPINION —
“Joe Henderson: FEA’s message: Seize the day at ballot box” via Florida Politics — FEA President Joanne McCall has a message for those in Tallahassee who pushed through major changes to the way public schools are funded and operate. “They say we are playing politics,” she told me. “We are playing politics, and the tide is turning in our favor. The public is with us. “We have 140,000 members and there are 2.8 million public school students in Florida versus 300,000 (students) in for-profit charter schools and 80,000 in voucher programs. We need to keep them angry about what’s going on.” Members are even considering applying grades to the candidates, similar to the tactic used by the National Rifle Association to identify those sympathetic to its cause. “If the Senate isn’t flipped, the governor can be the goalie who can veto and unwind the clock on policies from the Jeb Bush and Rick Scott era,” she said. “We’ll be looking for a pro-public education person.”
— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —
Joshua Aubuchon, Mark Delegal, Lawrence Sellers, Holland & Knight: Helena Agri-Enterprises
Braulio Baez, Katherine Pennington: Florida Public Service Commission
Paul Mitchell, Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: AF Group Insurance
— ALOE —
“Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden returns to practice for first time” via Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat — Longtime FSU head coach Bobby Bowden attended practice for the first time since his retirement eight years ago on special invitation from current head coach Willie Taggart. “It’s nice to be back,” Bowden said … “Glad to see (Taggart) in the job, glad to see the boys. It’s so great.” Bowden — who led FSU to 377 wins and a pair of national titles before he was forced out by the FSU administration after the 2009 season — gave FSU space throughout the Jimbo Fisher era. Taggart made it clear that Bowden was welcome on campus for practices and games whenever he wants to be there, ensuring that he will even hold a parking spot and a golf cart for him. … all it took was one look at his face to see how much being back meant to the man who made FSU what it is today.
“Meet the Tampa attorney who took charge at Augusta Monday” via Martin Fennelly Of The Tampa Bay Times — The new Chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, and with it the Masters, wears a 42-long jacket, including his green one that never leaves the premises. Monday was the first day on the job for Fred Ridley, 65, a highly successful Tampa lawyer and equally successful husband and father of three grown daughters. Ridley’s coming is unique. He is the first Augusta Chairman to have played in the Masters, which he did three times in the 1970s (three missed cuts). He won the 1975 U.S. Amateur championship. Ridley is also the last U.S. Amateur winner not to turn professional, choosing a law career. Bobby Jones never turned professional, either, and was a lawyer. The new Augusta Chairman was born in Lakeland and raised in Winter Haven, the only son of Polk County schoolteachers and administrators.
Happy birthday to three Tampa Bay politicos, Councilman Harry Cohen, Largo’s Michael Smith, and Pinellas Property Appraiser Mike Twitty.