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Is faulty polling fueling Florida Democrats’ optimism in Dorothy Hukill-Mel Martin race?

Florida Democrats touted some impressive poll numbers in Republican-leaning state Senate races last week, but now that the sunshine pumping has worn off it looks like there’s some serious flaws in those numbers.

To recap, the Florida Democratic Party pointed to a handful of Change Research polls that showed showing Melissa “Mel” Martin leading incumbent Sen. Dorothy Hukill by a couple points in SD 14; Faith Olivia Babis leading Republican state Rep. Joe Gruters in the race for SD 23 by 3 percentage points; and Robert Levy only trailing state Rep. Gayle Harrell by a few points in SD 25.

Change Research has been given some credibility as of late for being the only pollster to correctly predict Andrew Gillum’s win in the Democratic primary for Governor. Of course, that feat is seldom mentioned alongside the disclaimer that Gillum’s campaign cut a check for $4,600 to commission that poll.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something nefarious going on with the DC-based polling outfit, but for a company that pitches itself as providing precise measures on the cheap thanks to online polling, those state Senate results deserve some extra scrutiny.

Take SD 14, for example. Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill absolutely destroyed her Democratic challenger two years ago, earning more than two-thirds of the vote in the Brevard- and Volusia-based seat on Election Day. But in 2018, Martin is supposedly leading Hukill by a basket in a seat that also voted for Donald Trump carried the by 17 points.

No offense to Hukill, whose 14-year career in the Legislature shows she’s tuned in to her constituency, but a tomato can with an “R” next its name on the ballot could probably hang on to SD 14.

According to the Survey Monkey poll that produced Martin’s lead, it seems that’s pretty close to what happened: The one question that truly mattered in the poll — whether voters prefer Hukill or her opponent — mislabeled their party affiliations.

incorrect party poll

Then there’s the Change Research poll that showed David Holden within striking distance” in his bid to oust U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney in Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

Holden’s campaign issued a necessary disclaimer — one week after touting the results — that the race was only close “after people were informed of Frances Rooney’s record and David Holden’s plans and positions. Before receiving that information the poll showed people favoring Holden by 42 percent to Rooney’s 51 percent.”

Whether Florida Democrats knew about the screwup in the SD 14 poll or were oblivious, it’s kind of hard to understand their optimism for a clean sweep of the Senate when public polls of their absolute top targets show their recruits are, at best, trading blows with the Republicans they’re looking to unseat.

Even Ft. Lauderdale Sen. Gary Farmer is drinking the Kool Aid — and spending beaucoup bucks chasing rainbows.

That’s not an outlandish statement when it comes to Amanda Murphy, who barely trails Ed Hooper in SD 16, nor Janet Cruz, who was three points back from Tampa Sen. Dana Young in the last measure of SD 18.

But Lindsay Cross? She is in no way, shape or form leading or within the margin of error in SD 24. The most recent public poll of that contest found St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes up 2-to-1 over Cross, who, to her credit, wasn’t planning on running for public office a few months ago.

There were glimmers of hope for Carrie Pilon, who polled well enough when Election Day was six months out, but she never broke through the margin of error in SD 24.

With Election Day only six weeks away, it might be time to stop talking about expanding the map and start helping out the candidates who stand a chance.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.26.18

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

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

The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Future of Florida Forum kicks off in Orlando this morning, bringing together business leaders and elected officials together to discuss the future of the Sunshine State, from housing to health care.

Earning the top billing for day one of the two-day event is Gov. Rick Scott, who is set to receive the Chamber’s “Spirit of Free Enterprise” award. Attorney General Pam Bondi is also slated to be inducted into the business group’s Women’s Hall of Fame this evening.

Rick Scott, Pam Bondi are featured guests at the 2018 Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum.

But it’s not all pomp — though execs from businesses such as Bank of America and Florida Power & Light and elected leaders including state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and state Rep. Danny Burgess will speak and participate in thought-provoking panels, it’s the State of Florida that will truly take center stage.

Armed with the Chamber’s Florida 2030 research report, set to release with the start of the forum, those leaders will expound on the blueprint for Florida’s future from tackling the challenges it faces to seizing on its innate opportunities.

With that research in hand, expect expert opinions on each of the Chamber’s “six pillars” to cement a bright future from the Panhandle to the Keys: Talent development and education, innovation and economic development, infrastructure and growth, the business climate and competitiveness, governance systems, and quality of life.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@TheRickWilson: If the Founders traveled forward in time and discovered we were arguing about the virginity of a Supreme Court nominee, I suspect they would beat us all.

@MichaelCBender: President Trump considering keeping on Rosenstein, he tells adviser. Meeting on Thursday afternoon for Trump to hear [Rod] Rosenstein’s side of the story, officials said. “The president is genuinely conflicted,” said one person who has spoken to POTUS.

@mkraju: I just asked Sen. Lisa Murkowski, key GOP swing vote, if there should be a full FBI investigation into allegations from [Brett] Kavanaugh‘s past. ‘It would sure clear up all the questions, wouldn’t it?’ she said.

@NPRKelly: I asked Anita Hill is she ever regrets coming forward, given how it’s defined her life. “No,” she says. “It is true that it’s redefined my life in many ways, but in the end, I still have the power to define who I am and what my life stands for.”

@MattGaetz: I worry that leadership wants to send us home at the end of the week, tell us to go campaign for the midterms, and that we won’t really get these answers. Rosenstein’s impeachment can be brought up for a vote by any member of Congress at this point.

@ScottforFlorida: As I have always said, the will of the Puerto Rican voters should be respected — and it’s clear they have voted in favor of statehood. I look forward to continuing to work with @ricardorossello @LuisRiveraMarin @RepJenniffer in FL and in Washington to fight for PR.

@Jason_Garcia: Rick Scott is governor today because of his tough immigration rhetoric. (That @MarcACaputo-cam footage of [BillMcCollum flipping on the Arizona law was the most devastating ad ever.) And then instead of an Arizona law and E-Verify, Scott gave in-state tuition to undocumented kids.

@MDixon55: I bet the Florida governor’s race and US Senate race will both be pretty close #analysis

— DAYS UNTIL —

Government shutdown — 5; FSU vs. UM football game — 10; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 14; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 27; MLB World Series begins — 29; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 29; Early voting begins — 31; Halloween — 35; General Election Day — 41; Florida Blue Florida Classic: FAMU vs. BCU — 52; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 55; Thanksgiving — 57; Black Friday — 58; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 62; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 139; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 160; Captain Marvel release — 163; 2020 General Election — 769.

— TOP STORIES —

Midterm spending to rival presidential year” via Sara Fischer of Axios — Spending on political ads for the midterms ($2.9 billion) will be nearly as high as presidential-election spending two years ago ($3 billion), estimates MAGNA, the media and research arm of Interpublic Group … This year’s midterm spend is up so much compared to the 2014 midterms due to more competitive races.

Tom Steyer to spend millions backing Andrew Gillum in Florida” via Alexander Burns of The New York Times — Steyer, the billionaire investor and Democratic activist, has directed his political operation to spend more than $5 million aiding Gillum’s campaign for Governor, an enormous investment that will test whether fired-up Democratic voters can flip control of a state long dominated by Republicans. Steyer, who is based in California and has crusaded since last year for Trump’s impeachment, said in an interview that he would spend more money in Florida this fall than any other state. He endorsed Gillum in the Democratic primary and hailed him as a model for the national Democratic Party. In the interview, Steyer praised Gillum for having endorsed impeachment, though he said that had not been a “litmus test” for his support.

Tom Steyer is pledging another $5 million to Andrew Gillum’s campaign.

Gillum, Bill Nelson hold slight leads in latest Florida poll” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The new NBC/Marist poll recorded Democrat Gillum with a 5-percentage point advantage over Republican Ron DeSantis in the race for governor. Likely voters were willing to back the Tallahassee mayor by a margin of 48-43 percent. It’s the eighth consecutive poll where Gillum held a slight lead over DeSantis, a former three-term congressman. In the Senate fight, which has implications for which party will control that chamber next year, Democratic Sen. Nelson leads Republican Gov. Scott 48-45 among likely voter

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

Slash and burn: Nothing positive in latest Ron DeSantis, Gillum ads” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The RGA released a spot called “Too Radical.” It highlights what it a spokesman for the Republicans called Gillum’s “unwavering support for the radical Dream Defenders.” Dream Defenders organizes efforts to end police brutality against people of color and to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Excerpt: “These radicals argue for quote ‘a border-free tomorrow’ … that ‘police and prisons have no place in justice.’ Later, the Republican Party of Florida, issued a positive ad, called “Way of Life.” It portrays DeSantis as a champion of the environment who, as governor, would clean up waterways, restore the Everglades, fight red tide and complete the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. It’s the same strategy the Republican side used 10 days ago. The Republican Governors Association issues an attack ad against Gillum and the state Republican Party issues an ad playing up DeSantis.

To view “Way of Life,” click on the image below:

To view “Too Radical,” click on the image below:

Florida Democrats hold events to bash DeSantis on health care” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The issue has become central to the Florida Governor’s race, with Democrats taking every possible opportunity to bring up DeSantis’ vote for the 2017 American Health Care Act … they were on the offensive again, launching a new television ad and staging events around the state to highlight what they claim is the former Congressman’s record of undermining protections for people with pre-existing conditions. “When campaigning for the U.S. Senate in 2015, he said, ‘I am committed to the full and complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said at a news conference of Democratic elected officials. “And he meant it.” Also in St. Petersburg were Kristen King, the wife of Democratic lieutenant governor nominee King, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Democratic state senate candidate Lindsay Cross. Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gillum also held events in Miami and West Palm Beach to talk pre-existing conditions.

Kristen King joined Congressman Charlie Crist, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman at an event in St. Petersburg at Community Health Centers of Pinellas at Johnnie Ruth Clarke.

Parkland parent shames Gillum for fundraiser with ‘Coward of Broward’ Scott Israel” via Troy Kinsey of Spectrum News 13 — Seven months after the tragedy in Parkland, what began as a grassroots movement to reform Florida’s gun laws is becoming a prime topic on the road to the Governor’s Mansion … Now the debate is intensifying, the state GOP seizing on a Gillum campaign Friday fundraiser attended by Broward County Sheriff Israel … accused by critics of failing to act on warning signs that could have prevented the Parkland shooting and then bungling the response. DeSantis says if he were governor now he would suspend the sheriff from office and Republicans say it is ‘offensive’ and ‘disgusting’ for Andrew Gillum to stand with the ‘Coward of Broward’ … For many voters, what happened back in February is personal. Which is where Andrew Pollack comes in, his daughter Meadow was killed in Parkland … Now’s he’s going public with contempt for Gillum telling the Democratic nominee, “Andrew … you are a socialist that uses the deaths of children to advance your political agenda.”

To view the story, click on the image below:

RGA spending on Governor’s race approaches $5 million” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The group has so far sent $4.8 million to a Florida political committee called Florida Facts, and has said it will spend up to $10 million backing DeSantis’ bid against Democrat Gillum. The Democratic Governors Association is also heavily involved in the Florida gubernatorial battle, so far giving $2 million directly to a Gillum political committee. The first TV advertisement paid for through “Florida Facts” continued Republicans’ effort to cast Gillum as a “socialist” who is too far left for Florida general election voters.

What happened to Chris King’s ‘bullet tax’?” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — King was asked about the bullet tax after he made an appearance in West Palm Beach to denounce Republican nominee DeSantis on health care. “Part of what happens when you lose an election and you now have a new boss is he sets the ultimate priorities,” King said. “And as we’re assimilating, it doesn’t appear that that one has moved forward into the general election.”

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Rick Scott: A model of inconsistency as Florida governor” via Steve Bousquet and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — He embraced environmental stands he once opposed, softened his hard-line stand on immigration, championed more money for schools he tried to cut, signed new gun restrictions he once opposed and changed course twice on expanding health care coverage under Medicaid — opposing it, favoring it, then opposing it again in the face of certain political defeat. “He has evolved,” said J.M. (Mac) Stipanovich, a strategist and lobbyist who advised two former Republican governors. “If you wrote a profile of Rick Scott in his first year in office and you wrote one this week, you’d be describing two starkly different men.” Stipanovich said Scott’s evolution has been driven by politics.

Nelson jumps to seven-point lead over Scott in new Florida poll” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — In a new Quinnipiac University poll of Florida’s big-spending Senate race, Nelson’s advantage — a net 7-point shift in his favor since Quinnipiac last surveyed the race just after the Aug. 28 primaries — comes on the heels of two major developments: the contentious nomination hearings for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Democrats’ ability to start evening up the score in TV ad spending. In the poll of 888 likely Florida voters, Nelson leads 53-46 percent. The error margin is plus or minus 4 percent, so Nelson’s lead is still not outside the margin of error. Nelson and Scott were each tied 49-49 percent in Quinnipiac’s last poll released Sept. 5.

Tweet, tweet:

’These numbers should sound the alarm for Nelson’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Scott holds a double-digit lead over Democrat Nelson among Hispanic voters 50 and older in a new Florida poll, the latest sign that Nelson is struggling to rally Hispanic voters behind his reelection bid. Scott’s support is buoyed by strong Cuban-American backing and decent favorability ratings among Puerto Rican voters, who tend to support Democrats. Without a greater foothold among Hispanic voters, Nelson is at risk in a Senate race that is essential to Democratic hopes of winning a Senate majority this fall. The Republican governor’s 14 percentage-point advantage among older Hispanic voters in the Senate race stands in stark contrast to the essentially tied gubernatorial contest in which Republican DeSantis has a slim lead of 2 points over Democrat Gillum, according to the AARP/Univision/Bendixen & Amandi International survey.

Here comes promised Democratic hits on HCA, wealth against Scott” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Long before Scott entered Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Democrats vowed they would attack him for his leadership of the scandal-plagued Hospital Corporation of America and his prospering personal finances since then. A new ad delivers on that pledge. Majority Forward is launching a new television commercial in Florida painting Scott as “a shady millionaire” who got rich as his company was investigated for massive Medicare fraud [and found guilty after he left it,] and then got richer as governor when his investments prospered under his state policies. Scott resigned from HCA in 1997, more than 20 years ago — and well before he ran for Florida Governor. The company has undergone several changes since then.

To view “Soared,” click on the image below:

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Florida Republicans break with Trump on divisive issue of Puerto Rico statehood” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s midterm candidates have spent months courting Puerto Rican voters they are hoping will turn out for them this November — some of them choosing to break with Trump on stances they believe to have the support of Puerto Ricans in the state. Some Republican Boricuas here think it’s not enough. “The Republican Party’s platform [on statehood] is useless if we don’t have a leader that gets behind that,” said Peter Vivaldi, a former Republican Florida Senate candidate and local community leader. “If we’re not going to be treated equally, are you going to cut ties with Puerto Rico, or what are you going to do?”

Former state Senate candidate Peter Vivaldi is among the Republicans breaking away from Donald Trump on Puerto Rico statehood.

Tsk, tsk, Blaise —GOP leaders close dinner, meeting to press” via the News Service of Florida — Florida Republican leaders will gather this weekend at Walt Disney World for a major fundraising event. But the Republican Party of Florida’s “Victory Dinner” will be a private affair. The dinner Saturday night at the Grand Floridian Resort and the party’s quarterly meeting, which starts Friday at the nearby Contemporary Resort, are closed to the press, said Yohana de la Torre, a spokeswoman for the party. The closure follows a recent trend. Last year’s “Statesman’s Dinner,” which was held at the Grand Floridian and featured a speech by Vice President Mike Pence, was also closed to the media. Prior party events have been open.

Personnel note: Sean Shaw for AG brings on Julia Gill Woodward, Shellie Levin” via Florida Politics — Shaw has brought on longtime Gwen Graham staffer Gill Woodward and Alex Sink for Governor alumna Levin as senior finance consultants. Woodward, a graduate of Florida State University, was Graham’s campaign manager during her 2018 bid to become Florida Governor. Levin, an attorney whose political beginnings date back to 1997, when she began working for EMILY’s List, a national group that helps elect pro-choice Democratic to public office. In 2010 she joined former CFO Sink’s gubernatorial campaign, serving as deputy campaign manager where she was tasked with restructuring the finance team that ended up raising more than $40 million for the statewide campaign.

Jeremy Ring returns fire with list of dodgy Jimmy Patronis donors” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Ring, the Democratic nominee for Florida Chief Financial Officer, is hitting back hard against a website that highlights his supporters with criminal pasts. Now, Ring is playing the same trick with Patronis’ donors, some of whom have faced their own criminal charges. Jeffrey Bragg: In 2003, Bragg settled a case after facing allegations that he harmed investors by signing misleading flood insurance documents. Mike Horner: A former state representative who resigned his post in 2012 after an investigation pegged him as a client at an Orange County brothel. Jay Odom: A GOP donor who was previously indicted over federal campaign finance allegations. He has put forward a whopping $5,000 to Treasure Florida. Thorsten Pfeffer: Co-owner of a club in Panama City Beach who faced charges he used to club to distribute drugs. Ring’s campaign promises “more to come” regarding Patronis’ donor base.

Former Republican state representative Mike Horner was outed as one of Jimmy Patronis’ ‘dodgy donors.’

Big money backs ballot measures” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — MARSY’S LAW: Part of a national movement to boost crime victims’ rights, Amendment 6 on the November ballot had already drawn $30.37 million as of Sept. 14. Almost all of the money backing the Florida measure, $30.045 million, has come from the national Marsy’s Law for All Foundation … Another $325,000 has come from Henry Nicholas. GAMBLING BATTLE: Amendment 3, which is designed to make it harder to expand gambling in the state, has drawn millions of dollars from supporters and opponents. Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. and the Seminole Tribe of Florida have combined to contribute $26.43 million to the political committee Voters in Charge. FELONS VOTING: Buoyed by money from the American Civil Liberties Union and a series of other large donors, the political committee Floridians for a Fair Democracy is seeking to pass a proposed constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 4. Floridians for a Fair Democracy had raised $14.4 million as of Sept. 14 to get the measure on the ballot and to try to pass it. The ACLU had contributed $3.8 million in cash and had made hundreds of thousands of dollars in in-kind contributions. GREYHOUND RACING: Animal-rights groups have tried for years to convince lawmakers to stop greyhound racing in Florida. An effort known as the Committee to Protect Dogs had raised about $2.3 million as of Sept. 14 to bolster efforts to pass the amendment, with $1.5 million coming from the Doris Day Animal League. The group Grey2K USA had added more than $480,000.

Voters in Charge ramps up in Panhandle — Voters in Charge, the political committee sponsoring the Yes on 3 campaign, unveiled a group of Panhandle-area leadership committees in the effort to put Florida voters in charge of casino gambling decisions in Florida. Florida Panhandle Chairs: Collier Merrill, President of Merrill Lands and former Florida House Majority Leader Jerry Maygarden. Panhandle Committee Members: Mayor Ashton Hayward; state Rep. Clay Ingram; former House Speaker Allen Bense; Sheriffs David Morgan of Escambia County, Larry Ashley of Okaloosa County, Michael Adkinson of Walton County, Mike Harrison of Gulf County and Lou Roberts of Jackson County.

Amendment 13 backer calls claim that dog racing ban could threaten hunting ‘outrageous, false’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Carey Theil, senior adviser for the Yes on 13 campaign, replied to an alert put out by Marion Hammer, past president of the NRA and executive director of the United Sportsmen of Florida. Her alert to members charged that the amendment’s language declaring “the humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida” could lead “extreme animal rights organizations” to “immediately begin work to ban all hunting and fishing.” Theil responded that the claims are outrageous, fearmongering, and false, that the amendment is entirely and exclusively about greyhound racing, and that the Florida Supreme Court has agreed with that after hearing similar assertions in court hearings and filings challenging the amendment this summer. “It’s now clear that opponents of Amendment 13 are incapable of debating the merits of commercial dog racing. In recent days, they have started to circulate a series of falsehoods,” Theil said in a written response.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, PART 2 —

David Shapiro bashes Vern Buchanan over red tide crisis” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Shapiro is turning the tables on his Republican opponent in Florida’s 16th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Buchanan, blaming Buchanan’s policies for exacerbating the red tide crisis. Shapiro, who earned the Democratic nomination last month, argues Buchanan is actually part of the problem in a new ad called “Clean.” “When you see these signs, it means more than a lost day at the beach,” Shapiro says in the ad. “It’s costing us jobs. Vern Buchanan took over $100,000 from big sugar special interests and voted to weaken regulations that fight the pollution that make red tide worse. I’ll protect local jobs that depend on clean water and beaches, not the special interests that are ruining our economy and costing us jobs.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Joe Biden endorses Lauren Baer — The former Vice President said: “Lauren Baer is exactly the kind of leader we need in Washington. Having served six years as a senior adviser in the State Department during the ObamaBiden Administration, she knows what it takes to get things done. I know that Lauren will fight every day for all the residents of Florida’s 18th district. No matter your race, religion, or age, no matter who you are, or who you love, Lauren will have your back. It’s time we elect leaders who put the people first, not special interests.”

— DOWN BALLOT —

—“Kayser Enneking bounces back in SD 8 money race” via Florida Politics

—“Is faulty polling fueling Florida Democrats’ optimism in Dorothy Hukill-Mel Martin race?” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

—“David Perez puts a dent in Manny Diaz’s fundraising advantage” via Florida Politics

New polling shows Tracye Polson, Wyman Duggan neck-and-neck in HD 15 — In House District 15, the battle between Democrat Polson and Republican Duggan is down to the wire … An internal poll from SEA Polling and Strategic Design showed Duggan up two points (41-39) in what many see as a swing district. The same poll gives Gov. Scott a six-point lead over incumbent Nelson for Senate 49-42 percent, with Democrat Gillum two-points over Republican DeSantis in the Governor’s race, 48-46 percent. The survey also indicated that voters could move from Duggan to Polson when issues are presented to contrast the candidates.

Duggan back on air with GOP support, new Jax endorsement” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Duggan, is back on the air this week for the first time since the primary. Paid for by the Republican Party of Florida, the 15-second spot is evidence that the GOP is engaged to keep outgoing Jay Fant‘s seat. The ad introduces a new endorsement: Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams joins Duggan’s political patron, Mayor Lenny Curry, in backing his bid. The spot hits some biographical points, including Duggan’s stint in the United States Marine Corps, before moving on to issues, such as “priority funding for public school students” and “more resources to fight crime.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

You thought you knew these candidates? In House District 38, it’s Tent Killer challenging Little Danny” via CT Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Most everybody knew John David Hayes simply as “David’’ until 1982. The then-21-year-old skydiving enthusiast, however, made a bad landing on his 11th jump in Alberta, Canada, and soon everyone started calling him something else. “TK.” “Tent Killer,’’ said Hayes, recalling how he missed the landing zone and squashed someone’s temporary living quarters. Daniel Wright Burgess Jr., 32, has been “Danny’’ since his election to the Zephyrhills City Council at age 18. He has been Zephyrhills mayor and a practicing attorney and now is a two-term state representative and the recently hired manager of the future operations division of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office. Hayes and Burgess are not strangers. Burgess said they’ve worked together on legislation dealing with workers’ compensation and on coordinating a relief effort to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Irma. “I like Danny. He’s really a good guy,’’ said Hayes. “I just disagree with him on all of his policies.’’

—“Mike La Rosa’s war chest continues to overwhelm Barbara Cady’s campaign finances” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—“Bobby Olszewski swamping Geraldine Thompson in campaign cash” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Shawn Harrison leads in HD 63 battleground, but tuned-in voters favor Fentrice Driskell” via Florida Politics — The SEA Polling & Strategic Design survey, commissioned by the Florida Democratic Party, found Harrison with a 45-39 percent edge, but among voters who rated their attention and interest in the Nov. 6 general election as high his standing slips. To that end, voters with the highest level of interest — measured from one to five — favored Driskell by a 58-31 percent margin. Lumping in the four-out-of-five crowd sees Harrison’s share slip to 29 percent while Driskell’s position holds firm.

Jennifer Webb leads Ray Blacklidge by double digits in new HD 69 poll” via Florida Politics — The SEA Polling & Strategic Design survey found Webb with a 48-33 percent lead over Blacklidge with 19 percent of voters unsure. When it came down to the issues, Webb’s positions were seen in a substantially more favorable light than those of her opponent. Once informed of each candidate’s platform, Webb surged to a 58-36 percent lead.

—“Heather Fitzenhagen keeps well ahead of Parisima Taeb in fundraising” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Meet the ultra-organized teenager masterminding Parkland’s midterms push” via Dave Cullen of Vanity Fair — I’ve spent six months covering Jackie Corin, who is one of the lead organizers for March for Our Lives (MFOL). I have seen her stressed and overloaded, bending but never breaking. Jaclyn Corin, more comfortable as Jackie, has a presence — and relentless tenacity. Jackie was elected freshman-class vice president, and president of her sophomore, junior, and now senior classes. She knows how to get things done. Corin helped create #NeverAgainMSD, which evolved into MFOL. She will never command a stage like Emma González, match the fire of David Hogg’s Twitter feed, or keep the faithful giggling like Cameron Kasky, who delighted in telling reporters that he thought up the name #NeverAgain while sitting on the toilet in his Ghostbusters pajamas. But Jackie is a natural implementer and a driving force behind the scenes.

— STATEWIDE —

Alage crisis task force proposed — again” via Chad Gillis of the Naples Daily News — Scott said last week he wants the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and others to develop a red tide research center, and that he wants the state to again fund a task force aimed at studying causes and impacts of harmful algal blooms like red tide and blue-green algae. FWC should also ask for more money, Scott said in a news release. But some local environmental groups say these problems could have been averted years ago by cutting off pollution at its source. “I had a little bit of mixed feelings about it because it appears to be more of a political stunt,” said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani. “I don’t think with the existing budget they can do anything meaningful; so whatever governor assumes office after the election, that’s where the direction will have to come from.” Cassani said Scott had eight years to re-establish the harmful algal bloom task force, which started in 1999 but was defunded in 2001.

Charlie Crist urges federal consumer watchdog to investigate Marlin Financial” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — Crist is calling for the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to investigate Marlin Financial, saying he was “disturbed” by a recent Tampa Bay Times’ investigation into the online auto finance company. Crist asked Mick Mulvaney to investigate Marlin, which has operated across Florida, for potential “unfair, deceptive and abusive practices” and other possible violations of federal law. “Should any of the outrageous behaviors reported by the Tampa Bay Times violate federal consumer financial protection laws, I urge you to hold the company accountable and make its victims whole,” he said. An investigation by the Times found that Marlin customers felt forced into purchasing an optional product that can push the interest rate on the company’s loans far beyond state limits.

Charlie Crist is calling for a federal investigation into shady dealings at Marlin Financial.

Citizens touts post-Irma financial strength” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Citizens Property Insurance has incurred $1.81 billion in losses from Hurricane Irma and handled an estimated 70,800 claims, which has led the state-backed insurer to go outside to cover nearly one-third of its storm-related costs. But Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Montero told Citizens’ Audit Committee the insurer’s financial picture is “incredibly strong” despite the losses due to Irma. With more than two months remaining in the 2018 hurricane season, Montero pointed, for example, to a $6.5 billion surplus and $2.2 billion in coverage through state’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which provides relatively low-cost reinsurance. The estimated number of claims for last year’s Irma represents about 16 percent of the 442,629 policies that Citizens had as of Aug. 31. As part of its response to Irma, Citizens expects to receive $534.7 million from the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and an additional $126.4 million from private reinsurers. The company pays for reinsurance coverage — essentially insurance for insurers — so it doesn’t have to dip deep into its surplus.

Supreme Court sets arguments on FPL plume costs” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments Feb. 6 in a dispute about whether Florida Power & Light should be able to recoup money from customers for a project stemming from a saltwater plume that moved from an FPL plant into nearby groundwater. The court issued an order that scheduled arguments in a challenge filed by the state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers in utility issues. The case centers on a December decision by the Florida Public Service Commission that would allow FPL to collect at least $176.4 million for the project. The South Florida Water Management District in 2013 determined that “hypersaline” water from a cooling-canal system at FPL’s Turkey Point complex in Miami-Dade County had moved off-site.

Republicans and Democrats gathering for medical marijuana” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — The medical marijuana advocacy group Empowering Wellness will host a bipartisan conference in St. Petersburg Oct. 6 featuring marijuana friendly elected officials and industry representatives wanting to expand patient access to cannabis. Co-sponsors include U.S. Reps. Crist and Darren Soto, and state Sen. Jeff Brandes. “It is a pleasure to launch our first Empowering Wellness event with distinguished champions for medical marijuana from either side of the aisle,” Ben Pollara, co-founder of Empowering Wellness, said in a statement. “If we remove the legal stigma around medical marijuana, thousands of American suffering from chronic pain stand to gain——from cancer patients to our veterans to children suffering from chronic seizures. This conference represents a continuation of that important conversation.”

Judge backs ex-softball coach on retirement benefits” via the News Service of Florida — An administrative law judge said the state should restore retirement benefits for a former longtime Gulf Coast State College softball coach who was accused of taking meal money that had been provided for players. Susan Painter, who coached at the Panama City school for 21 years, pleaded no contest to a grand-theft charge. The plea led to the state Department of Management Services saying that Painter should lose her benefits under the Florida Retirement System. Painter filed a challenge, and Administrative Law Judge Lawrence Stevenson issued a 17-page recommended order that sided with her. The case stemmed from Painter’s handling of money during a 2014 trip to Las Vegas, where her team played in a tournament. “No showing was made that Ms. Painter acted willfully and with intent to defraud the public or the public employer of the right to receive faithful performance of her duties,” Stevenson wrote.

— LOCAL —

Miami named worst city for renters in the U.S. for the second year in a row” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — A new study by the website Apartment List shows that 62.7 percent of renter households in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach in 2017 were cost-burdened — which means they paid more than 30 percent of their income on rent. That’s only a tiny improvement from 2016, when 62.8 percent of South Florida households were cost-burdened. According to the study, which uses data from the U.S. Census, 33.8 percent of renter households in the Miami metro area are severely cost-burdened — or spending more than half their income on rent.

Man threw other man ‘face first’ off bridge, Daytona Beach police say” via Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — A Daytona Beach police officer arrested a man after spotting him throwing another man “face first” off the Main Street Bridge and 30 feet into the water … Derrick Goodin, 21, was charged with aggravated battery causing bodily harm, battery and disorderly conduct. “He jumped over the bridge,” Goodin told police. But Daytona Beach Police Officer Christopher Maher told a different story. And his body camera video also appeared to show Goodin pushing a man off the bridge.

To view a video of the incident, click on the image below:

Markeis McGlockton was turning away when Michael Drejka shot him, new documents claim” via WTSP — Newly-released documents support prosecutors’ previous claim that McGlockton was backing up and turning away from Drejka when Drejka shot him outside a Clearwater convenience store. Drejka has been charged with manslaughter. He was released on bond but his case has reignited a nationwide debate over Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, which the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office previously cited as a reason not to arrest Drejka right away. “Markeis McGlockton immediately backs up when confronted with the firearm,” the documents said. “As he backs up to his vehicle he begins to turn toward the front of the store away from the shooter.”

119 cases dropped involving fired Jackson County Deputy Zachary Wester” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Prosecutors in the 14th Judicial Circuit have dropped charges in a grand total of 119 cases after finishing their review of arrests involving a former Jackson County deputy accused of planting drugs on motorists. The charges involved everything from misdemeanor and criminal traffic offenses to felonies, including possession of methamphetamine and other controlled substances. All of the cases involved former Deputy Wester, who was fired Sept. 10 and remains under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. On Tuesday alone, some 49 cases were dismissed after a short proceeding before Jackson County Judge Wayne Mercer in a near-empty courtroom. The state began dismissing cases on Sept. 13 that Wester either initiated or was heavily involved in.

— OPINIONS —

Why Scott will struggle to win — and could lose — in Martin County” via Gill Smart of TCPalm.com — Martin County has a huge Republican plurality … But come November, I expect Martin County voters to act like a bunch of liberals. Which is to say that in certain key races, I don’t see how the Republican candidate wins anything close to a 2-1 margin. Some GOP candidates might not win Martin County at all. This has nothing to do with any “blue wave.” Rather, it’s all about the “green wave” — the sorry state of our waters, and the likelihood voters will punish those they deem responsible for it. First and foremost among them: Scott. In fact, I’m going to edge out onto a limb and predict that Scott — Florida’s Republican governor, now looking to unseat Democratic Sen. Nelson — will fare poorly in Martin County. Maybe very poorly. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Nelson took the county.

— MOVEMENTS —

Appointed — Ashley Coone to Florida Gulf Coast University Board of Trustees.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Robert Beck, Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: The Arcanum Group

Melanie Bostick, Jennifer Green, Timothy Parson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Florida Sheriffs Association, Uber Technologies and Affiliates

Heather DiGiacomo: Department of Juvenile Justice

Meghan Hoza, Ken Pruitt, The P5 Group: Indian River State College Foundation, Ruffin Acquisitions, Treasure Coast Food Bank

Julia Juarez, JEJ & Associates: The Nemours Foundation

Theodore Mannelli: 11th Judicial Circuit State Attorney

Frank Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: Kalkomey Enterprises

— ALOE —

Kangaroo escapes from South Florida sanctuary” via The Associated Press — Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were hunting for the 5-year-old kangaroo named Storm in an area of Palm Beach County known as Jupiter Farms. Eric Westergard, the owner of the sanctuary, said he doesn’t know how Storm escaped but noticed the kangaroo missing Tuesday morning. After the escape, Storm was spotted by a man walking his dog and a mother and son in Jupiter Farms.

Weeki Wachee’s mermaids to swim in Sea Life Orlando tank” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The famed underwater performers from Weeki Wachee Springs State Park will swim among the permanent residents of the International Drive attraction, with performances at the top of every hour from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily through Oct. 21. They will be doing meet-and-greets from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. It could be a good chance to see the mermaids in action, which is thought to be their first performances in Orlando. The swimmers will not be performing at Weeki Wachee from Nov. 26 to March 15 because of renovations to their underwater theater.

Weeki Wachee Mermaids will be taking their show to Orlando temporarily.

Happy birthday to Cynthia HendersonClay Ingram‘s better half LeslieTanya Jackson, and Lori Weems.

Last Call for 9.25.18 — 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

A new poll from Quinnipiac University gives Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson a seven-point lead, the biggest cushion any poll has shown in the U.S. Senate battle with Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

The poll shows Nelson being lifted by independent voters, and by women, who are increasingly breaking toward the incumbent Democrat.

Quinnipiac found Nelson ahead 53 percent to 46 percent overall, one of the few major poll results this year showing a lead outside a margin of error.

In the Quinnipiac poll, conducted Thursday through Monday of 888 Florida likely voters, Nelson had a 56-40 lead among independent voters, and a 58-41 lead among women.

The previous Quinnipiac poll in the race, taken three weeks ago, had the two in a dead heat overall, 49 to 49.

Scott and Nelson each previously peaked with six-point leads in other polls, but neither could sustain it.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Future of Florida Forum will kick off in Orlando tomorrow morning, bringing together the state’s business leaders and many of Florida’s top elected officials for an event which seeks to outline a blueprint for Florida’s future and how the Sunshine State will address the challenges and opportunities it faces over the coming decade.

Among the highlights slated for the first day of the forum are presentations by leaders at Bank of America, the Lumina Foundation and the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, with Zephyrhills Rep. Danny Burgess and Naples Sen. Kathleen Passidomo also scheduled to participate in two of the many panels discussing the future of Florida’s workforce.

Gov. Rick Scott will also be in the room to receive the Chamber’s “Spirit of Free Enterprise” award, as will exiting Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is scheduled to speak at the Chamber’s Women’s Hall of Fame Dinner, where she will become the newest inductee.

Evening Reads

If Brett Kavanaugh falters, could it open the door for this Florida justice?” via Steve Bousquet and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times

‘These numbers should sound the alarm for Bill Nelson’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Rick Scott: A model of inconsistency as Florida governor” via Steve Bousquet and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

It had to happen: A political ad about that controversial beach access bill” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott vs. Nill Nelson: Who are the outside groups spending millions on the Senate race” via Steve Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

Seventh-generation Floridian wants to be Agriculture Commissioner. Meet Matt Caldwell.” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald

A closer look at Florida Constitutional Amendment 5” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

Two months before election, Gus Bilirakis tries to tweak flawed opioid law he backed” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times

Latest poll shows Tracye Polson and Wyman Duggan running neck-and-neck in HD 15.” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

Shawn Harrison leads in HD 63 battleground, but tuned-in voters favor Fentrice Driskell” via Florida Politics

Jennifer Webb leads Ray Blacklidge by double digits in new HD 69 poll” via Florida Politics

Hey kids, you really stick at this voting business” via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times

Meet the ultra-organized teenager masterminding Parkland’s midterms push” via Dave Cullen of Vanity Fair

Port Tampa Bay marks 1 million cruise passengers in a year for the first time ever” via the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

 “If you wrote a profile of Rick Scott in his first year in office and you wrote one this week, you’d be describing two starkly different men.” J.M. (Mac) Stipanovich, a strategist and lobbyist who advised two former Republican governors, in this profile of the Governor.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets to receive staff presentations about red tide, proposed budget requests for next year and boating access and enforcement. The board will also consider a request from Gov. Scott to create a Florida Center for Red Tide Research and re-establish the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force. That’s at 8:30 a.m. Florida Public Safety Institute Conference Center, 85 Academy Dr., Havana.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on whether a Tampa Christian school should have been allowed to offer a prayer over a stadium loudspeaker before a state high-school football championship game. Cambridge Christian School filed a lawsuit against the Florida High School Athletic Association and appealed after a U.S. district judge upheld a decision blocking the offering of a prayer over the loudspeaker before the 2015 game in Orlando. That’s at 9 a.m., U.S. Courthouse, 300 North Hogan St., Jacksonville.

Citizens Property Insurance Board of Governors meet in Central Florida. That’s at 9 a.m., Sheraton Orlando North, 600 North Lake Destiny Dr., Maitland.

Florida’s Consumer Health Information and Policy Advisory Council, which deals with issues related to public reporting of health care data, meets in Alachua County. That’s at 10 a.m., Well Florida Council, 1785 N.W. 80th Blvd., Gainesville.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.25.18

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

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

We’re now six weeks out from Election Day and even though the national sentiment is 2018 will be a wave year for Democrats, Florida’s shown only a twinkling of the so-called “blue wave.”

Still, looking past the tough U.S. Senate race at the top of the ballot, Florida Democrats see more than a few legitimate pickup opportunities in the state House, where Republicans have held a commanding majority for a couple of decades.

Anna Eskamani, a Democratic candidate in one of the banner races for a so-called ‘blue wave’ in Florida. 

There are plenty of banner races that have gotten attention. Anna Eskamani has raised beaucoup bucks primed to flip HD 47, Emma Collum is keeping it competitive in HD 93, Trayce Polson looks like a threat to upset Wyman Duggan in HD 15 and then there’re all the seats that have eluded Democrats in Miami-Dade, where the thought is even a “blue ripple” could send some lawmakers packing.

But Florida Democrats are also eyeing some sleeper races across the state that they believe could crack the GOP’s near-supermajority in the state House.

In HD 69, Jennifer Webb went unchallenged in August and is sitting pretty while her Republican opponent, Ray Blacklidge, is trying to temper some of his far-right rhetoric from the primary election and there’s a similar situation in HD 63, a perennial swing seat where incumbent Republican Shawn Harrison is facing Fentrice Driskell.

Other lesser-funded candidates are also turning heads in districts once seen as stretch goals.

In the Orlando area, there’s a feeling that despite their six-figure campaign accounts, Bob Cortes and Scott Plakon are taking their eyes off the ball while their constituents are starting to pay more attention to Joy Goff-Marcil and Tracey Kagan.

If Florida Democrats get results reflecting even half of their current optimism, they might be taking more than a bite out of the GOP’s 30-seat majority.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

—@ryanbeckwith: Good afternoon. The midterm elections are 43 days from now. The top story is … (motions vaguely around) all this.

@AmyEWalter: Combine the already fraught & polarized issue of sexual harassment w/ polarized SCOTUS confirmation & social media =unpredictable & unprecedented hearings next week. You’d be wise not to try to ‘game out’ the political repercussions.

@Amy_Sisskind: If the NYT had retracted their story over the weekend, after reporting based on a source INSIDE the room by WAPO and NBC News indicated Rosenstein was being sarcastic, Trump wouldn’t have a pretext to fire Rosenstein. Instead, NYT doubled-down.

@DaneEagle: Saddened by the loss of @AprilFreemanFL. She was always kind & fair to me, and she focused on our similarities rather than our differences, even though we represent different parties. No doubt she loved her community. My prayers are with her family.

@JaysonSt: Every day when I look at the standings, it’s hard to miss that the #Indians & #Rays have the same record. But they haven’t had the same schedule! So one team could easily win the World Series. And the other could finish 18 games out of 1st. Have to admit I feel for the Rays.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Future of Florida Forum — 1; Government shutdown — 6; FSU vs. UM football game — 11; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 15; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 28; MLB World Series begins — 30; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 30; Early voting begins — 32; Halloween — 36; General Election Day — 42; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 56; Thanksgiving — 58; Black Friday — 59; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 63; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 140; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 161; Captain Marvel release — 164; 2020 General Election — 770.

— TOP STORY —

U.S. House candidate April Freeman dies suddenly” via the News-Press.com — “It’s with great sadness that I feel I must inform all of you that my beloved wife April passed away suddenly last night. To all of her family and friends here on Facebook, my heart aches with you,” her husband wrote on her Facebook page. Freeman, 54, won the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 17th Congressional District on Aug. 28 and was facing Greg Steube in the general election. Freeman was a perennial candidate in Southwest Florida, losing U.S. House races to Curt Clawson in 2014 and Tom Rooney in 2016. She also ran for Cape Coral Mayor last year.

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

Andrew Gillum’s own chief of staff criticizes Tallahassee crime rate” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Voters in Tallahassee received mailers in recent days indirectly attacking the Democratic gubernatorial nominee’s record on fighting crime in the city, where he has been mayor since 2014. The two mail pieces were sent by Dustin Daniels, a mayoral candidate who was Gillum‘s top aide until March. “Tallahassee had the highest number of murders in history last year and we top the state for the highest crime rate,” read one of the mail pieces. “We must do better.” The rebuke from a longtime top staffer only serves to amplify ongoing criticism from Republicans that Tallahassee has been overrun with crimes committed on Gillum’s watch. The mayor’s foes point to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which shows Leon County, in which Tallahassee is the only major city, led the state in violent crimes last year and recorded an increase in homicides, which jumped from 12 to 22. Overall, however, both violent and property crimes fell across the county.

Not helping: Former Andrew Gillum staffer (and current mayoral candidate) Dustin Daniels is running on Tallahassee’s high crime rate.

Ron DeSantis tees off on Gillum’s ‘anti-Israel associations’ — During a news conference at Performance Feeders, Inc., DeSantis blasts a reporter, calling out the media for failing to report on Gillum’s anti-Israel associations. “Have you asked Gillum why he had CAIR — the Council of American/Islamic Relations — to Tallahassee in 2016?” DeSantis asked. “He spoke to welcome them, they were an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial … the largest terror financing trial in history.” Why were they in Tallahassee? “To protest the anti-BDS legislation.” DeSantis was referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a global campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets what the campaign describes as “[Israel’s] obligations under international law.”

To view the exchange, click on the image below:

Matching money keeps flowing to DeSantis, Gillum” via the News Service of Florida — Gillum got $233,765 and DeSantis received $79,484 … The program, which matches individual contributions of $250 or less, has now distributed $5.68 million to nine candidates for governor and Cabinet positions, including four candidates who lost in primary elections. Gillum has received a total of $854,396 through the program, and DeSantis has pulled in $1.23 million.

DeSantis, Gillum funnel money to parties” via the News Service of Florida — The Gillum committee, known as Forward Florida, sent $2 million to the Florida Democratic Party in a transaction dated Sept. 12, while the committee Friends of Ron DeSantis contributed $2 million to the Republican Party of Florida on Sept. 13. The Gillum committee reported collecting $1.77 million in contributions from Sept. 8 through Sept. 14, with $1 million of that amount coming from the Democratic Governors Association. The DeSantis committee reported raising $2.6 million during the same period, with $1.5 million coming from Palm Beach County resident Laura Perlmutter, the reports show.

New Gillum ad attacks DeSantis on health care, pre-existing conditions — “Everybody” highlights DeSantis’ record of “taking healthcare away from Floridians” by demanding “any new health law eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions” — going so far as to tell cancer patients without insurance should just “go to the emergency room.” Campaign spokesperson Joshua Karp says: “Andrew Gillum will always fight for what’s best for Florida, including expanding Medicaid to 800,000 people and protecting those with preexisting protections. The choice in this election is clear — Andrew Gillum will always stand up for everyday Floridians.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Assignment editors — The Gillum campaign will hold events to highlight health care positions, in contrast to Republican DeSantis, joined by state Sen. Oscar Branyon, state Reps. Cynthia Stafford and Nick Duran and SEIU Florida President Monica Russo, 11 a.m., SEIU Local 1991, 1601 NW 8th Ave., Miami. Later, the campaign will join with state Sen. Bobby Powell, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Mark Bernard, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, Palm Beach Gardens City Commissioner Rachelle Litt and other health care professionals, 1 p.m., SW corner of 14th St. and N Flagler Dr., 200 14th St, West Palm Beach.

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

Bill Nelson campaign unveils two new ads — One and highlights the job Scott has done as Governor, While the other issues a call to Floridians to look beyond rigid ideologies employed by politicians who seek to divide the electorate. Both 30-second spots began airing throughout Florida over the weekend. “Speak” details how the green algae crisis fouling Florida waters stems from Scott’s failed environmental policies. The ad also cites media investigations into how Scott enriched himself in office — and how he hid it from the public. “Strapped,” is a call for independence and non-partisanship on the part of political leaders and citizens. “We’re all in this together. If we just remembered that, we’d get a lot more done,” Nelson says in the ad.

To view “Speak,” click on the image below:

To view “Strapped,” click on the image below:

Tweet, tweet:


— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

ICYMI from last night’s “Last Call”Bruce Nathan, the Stuart man now suing to get back on the ballot for Governor as a no-party affiliated (NPA) candidate, knows he’s in a David-versus-Goliath battle with the state. And that’s why he’s doing it. “Somebody finally has to make this stand, (to say) that the Division of Elections doesn’t have the final word,” he told Florida Politics after a Monday afternoon bench trial. “It’s time for us, the people, to take our country back, our state back. The government has run over us.” Nathan is suing the Division of Elections to get on the November ballot as an NPA candidate for governor, even though he lost the GOP primary for the office in August.

Bruce Nathan wants inclusion on the 2018 ballot, one way or the other.

GOP Cabinet candidates bring in cash” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — State Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican running for Agriculture Commissioner, has raised more than $1 million for his campaign account and the committee Friends of Matt Caldwell since the Aug. 28 primary elections … But the reports filed before the Friday deadline are more than $500,000 short of that mark, at least in part because they do not reflect some large contributions. In the race for attorney general, Republican Ashley Moody reported raising a combined total of $91,875 for her campaign account and the committee Friends of Ashley Moody from Sept. 8 through Sept. 14. Democrat Sean Shaw reported raising $82,344 in the same period for his campaign account and the political committee Sean Shaw for Florida. In the race for state chief financial officer, Republican incumbent Jimmy Patronis widened his fundraising edge over Democrat Jeremy Ring. Patronis reported picking up $28,090 during the Sept. 8 to Sept. 14 period for his campaign account and the committee Treasure Florida, compared to $3,975 raised by Ring.

Leading gun-safety groups endorse Sean Shaw for AG — Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and volunteers with the Florida chapter of the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense joined Democratic Attorney General nominee Shaw at the Tampa Courthouse to announce its endorsement of Shaw for Attorney General. Everytown for Gun Safety Fund spokesperson Molly Corbett said: “Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund is proud to endorse gun safety champion, Representative Sean Shaw. In November, Americans will elect leaders like Rep. Shaw who will stand up for their safety.”

GOP pollster Jim McLaughlin talks AG race” via Fox News — “Everyone’s focused on the Governor’s race and the Senate race, but the Attorney General race really matters,” said McLaughlin, president of McLaughlin & Associates and a nationally recognized Republican pollster. “The Republicans are fired up about their candidate, Ashley Moody … Sean Shaw’s never prosecuted a case in Florida, and I think that’s going to become an issue there … I think at the end of the day, it’s Florida, [Moody’s] not going to run away, it’s going to be very competitive, but I give her the edge.”

Two months before election, Gus Bilirakis tries to tweak flawed opioid law he backed” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — On Sept. 5, two months before Election Day where he’s running for a seventh term, Bilirakis filed a bill to clarify a 2016 law he co-sponsored that made it nearly impossible for the Drug Enforcement Administration to intercept suspicious shipments of prescription drugs. The new law in 2016 made the DEA prove a “substantial likelihood of an immediate threat,” a far higher bar that gave drug companies a freer reign … Now Bilirakis’ bill offers a change the Department of Justice requested, which would allow the DEA to freeze sketchy shipments based on “probable cause” of an immediate threat. But two irreversible things occurred between when the drug industry’s lobbying for the original law heated up in 2014 and Bilirakis’ change of heart: Bilirakis, a Republican from Palm Harbor, accepted $40,000 from the same drug companies Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi would later say “caused the opioid crisis.” And more Floridians died.

Assignment editors — Congressman Charlie Crist joins St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Kristen King, City Council Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and community members for a news conference calling out DeSantis’ votes in Congress to take away health care protections for pre-existing conditions, 10:45 a.m., outside of Community Health Centers of Pinellas at Johnnie Ruth Clarke, 1344 22nd Street South, St. Petersburg.

Two months before election, Gus Bilirakis tries to tweak flawed opioid law he backed” via Tracy McManus of the Tampa Bay Times – On Sept. 5, two months before Election Day where he’s running for a seventh term, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis filed a bill to clarify a 2016 law he co-sponsored that made it nearly impossible for the Drug Enforcement Administration to intercept suspicious shipments of prescription drugs. For 40 years, the DEA had authority to halt shipments that posed ‘an imminent danger’ to the public. The new law in 2016 made the DEA prove a ‘substantial likelihood of an immediate threat,’ a far higher bar that gave drug companies a freer reign as the opioid crisis ravaged the nation.

New ad highlights Vern Buchanan’s record on red tide — A new campaign ad premiering this week from the Buchanan campaign highlights the Longboat Key Republican’s record on red tide and toxic algae. The ad focuses on Buchanan’s leadership in the bipartisan fight in Washington against red tide. In 2007, Buchanan worked with Tampa Bay Congresswoman Kathy Castor to provide $90 million in federal money for red tide research. Recently, Buchanan got legislation signed into law to increase funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by $8 million and voted earlier this month for an additional $15 million to help the Army Corps of Engineers fight toxic algae. Buchanan is also the only Florida Republican — one of just two nationwide — to be endorsed by Oceans Champions, the first environmental organization of its kind focused solely on oceans and ocean wildlife.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Enabled, not disabled: Candidates run to raise disability rights awareness” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Faith Olivia Babis and Kathy Lewis attended the same conferences for advocates for the disabled before either became a political candidate. Now the two hope to join forces in the state Senate. Babis, a peer mentor at the Suncoast Center for Independent Living, hopes to make history this year as the first physically disabled person elected the Florida Legislature. After state Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, resigned his seat in state Senate District 23, Babis became the only Democrat to file in an election scheduled this November. She faces state Rep. Joe Gruters. Lewis won a Democratic primary in state Senate District 20 over Joy Gibson, but now faces former Senate President Tom Lee in a district that Trump won 52-44.

Red tide helps drive the debate in HD 74 race” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — During the Republican primary — in which James Buchanan bested North Port Vice Mayor Linda Yates — talk centered more around the need to widen River Road, to establish a hospital in North Port and the need to ease the shortage of skilled labor for local manufacturers. While education, infrastructure and River Road are still important in the debate, the need to establish a way to mitigate the impact of red tide and minimize its recurrence have come to the forefront. Democratic candidate Tony Mowry and independent candidate Robert Samuel Kaplan both cite addressing environmental concerns high on their list of goals, should they make it to the state Legislature. Mowry, Kaplan and Buchanan agree that fixing the environment and improving water quality is a bipartisan issue.

Jeb Bush endorsing Javier Henriquez for HD 114 — Former Florida Gov. Bush is the latest high-profile endorsement for Enriquez, coming on the heels of support from Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Congressman Carlos Curbelo, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, State Rep. Manny Diaz, and former State Sen. Miguel Díaz de la Portilla. “Javier Enriquez is a bright, young leader,” said Bush. “His deep roots in the community combined with his strong work ethic and genuine concern for his neighbors and fellow citizens make him the right choice for District 114, and I’m glad to endorse him.”

— $$$ —

—“Million-dollar man: Matt Caldwell banks $1M for general election” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“In Tampa, Dana Young crushing Janet Cruz in money race” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics

—“Jeff Brandes increases fundraising lead over Lindsay Cross” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics

—“David Santiago maintains major cash lead in HD 27” via Florida Politics

—“David Smith nears $250K raised for HD 28 bid” via Florida Politics

—“Scott Plakon adds $16K, Tracey Kagan adds $4K in HD 29 battle” via Orlando Rising

—“Florida GOP antes up for Bob Cortes’ re-election bid” via Florida Politics

—“Tyler Sirois raises $5,100, Mike Blake $1,485 in HD 51 contest” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—“Thad Altman fundraising keeps him behind Seeta Begui in HD 52 money race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—“Doubled up: Toby Overdorf still leads Matt Theobald in fundraising” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Mike Caruso reduces cash-on-hand gap with Jim Bonfiglio” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Outpaced: Chip LaMarca has 6-to-1 money lead over Emma Collum” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“HD 103: Frank Mingo overcomes Cindy Polo in latest fundraising” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Happening today — Naples Republican Bob Rommel holds a fundraiser for his re-election campaign in Collier County’s House District 106, 5:30 p.m., Edgewater Beach Hotel, 1901 Gulf Shore Blvd., Naples. Democrat Sara McFadden is challenging Rommel.

Save the date — Former state Rep. Ray Pilon will “knock it out of the park” in House District 72 with a BBQ and Baseball event Friday, September 28, 5:30 p.m. at Extra Innings, 717 Cattlemen Rd., Sarasota. RSVP with Kelly Erwin at K3erwin@aol.com.

— STATEWIDE —

Target, Walmart file rule challenge for ‘whiskey and Wheaties’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Target, TopGolf and Walmart are heading to court to get an administrative law judge to give them what Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t: The ability to sell whiskey and Wheaties in the same store. The two big-box retailers and the “golf entertainment” chain, which has five locations in Florida, late Monday filed an administrative challenge … At issue: The state’s obscure, 24-year-old “Restaurant Rule,” which restricts eateries and other businesses that have ‘consumption on premises’ liquor licenses from selling anything other than items “customarily sold in a restaurant.” … The current end game is that retailers selling ready-to-eat food … would be able to use consumption on premises licenses normally granted to restaurants to avoid the prohibition on selling booze in the same space as other goods.

Despite loud objections from JEA, Plant Vogtle gets OK from Georgia power agency” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — The Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia was under pressure from the state’s most powerful politician, Gov. Nathan Deal, to move ahead with the Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project despite a raft of cost increases and time delays, and over the objections of JEA, which holds a 2008 purchase-power agreement obligating Jacksonville ratepayers to subsidize and eventually purchase power from the reactors. That obligation is set to cost JEA in excess of $2.5 billion. A recently announced cost increase to the some $27 billion Vogtle project triggered a vote among the co-owners on whether to keep moving forward. Ninety percent ownership interest is required to keep the reactors on track.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal helped ram through a deal on the nuclear Plant Vogtle.

Florida ‘best and brightest’ bonus lawsuit heads to mediation” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — A year-old case contending Florida’s “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program discriminates against educators of a certain age or race is headed to mediation in November. The complaint focuses on the part of the 2015 program that relies upon college entry exam scores, which many teachers — particularly those who entered the profession through a community college program — do not necessarily have. Federal Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida has dismissed parts of the case, filed by the Florida Education Association and select teachers against the state Department of Education and the 67 school districts. He still left room for the plaintiffs to continue their case in an amended fashion, which they have. Participants are waiting to see if Hinkle will grant the teachers class-action status against the department.

Hearing set on workers comp rate cut” via the News Service of Florida — The state Office of Insurance Regulation has scheduled an Oct. 17 hearing on a proposal that could lead to an average 13.4 percent reduction in workers’ compensation insurance rates next year … The National Council on Compensation Insurance, which proposes rates annually for workers’ compensation insurers, filed the proposed rate decrease last month. The Office of Insurance Regulation will review the details of the proposal and decide whether to approve the cut or request changes. The rate decrease is proposed to start taking effect in January.

Class action lawsuits rejected on insurance costs” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt with what is known as “force-placed insurance,” which occurs when people with mortgages do not buy property-insurance coverage. Lenders then buy coverage and pass along the costs to the borrowers. Four Florida residents and a Pennsylvania resident filed class-action lawsuits in 2015 against two mortgage-servicing companies and American Security Insurance Co., alleging a scheme that led to inflated charges for force-placed insurance. At least in part, they alleged that Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC and Caliber Home Loans, Inc. received rebates from American Security Insurance, the force-placed insurer, but didn’t pass along those savings to the borrowers. The lawsuits, which became consolidated, included a series of allegations, including breach of contract, racketeering, violation of the Federal Truth in Lending Act and violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. But the appeals court, in a 28-page majority opinion, upheld decisions by a U.S. district judge in South Florida to dismiss the cases.

Shooter in Clearwater parking space incident makes bail” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Michael Drejka, the man who shot and killed Markeis McGlockton in a case that set off a national debate about self-defense in July, was released from the Pinellas County Jail. Drejka paid bail, according to jail records. He was being held on $100,000 bail on a manslaughter charge. He was booked into the jail more than a month ago, on Aug. 13.

Airbnb report: Vacation rental home activity surges in rural Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Airbnb’s business in the Sunshine State’s 32 counties designated as “rural” by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity saw $24.7 million in business for the company’s host renters over the past 12 months. The report says those hosts welcomed 125,000 guests, a 110-percent increase in year-over-year growth in business activity. The report indicated that three counties, Walton, Flagler and Nassau, dominated the rural county vacation rental business, hosting 94,000 of those guests. Nine other counties had at least 1,000 Airbnb guests during that period.

Happening today — James Sweeney, chief economist for Credit Suisse, is the featured speaker at the meeting of the Economic Club of Florida, noon, FSU Alumni Center, 1030 West Tennessee St., Tallahassee.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Rod Rosenstein to stay in job for now, will meet with Trump Thursday, White House says” via Devlin Barrett, Ashley Parker, Carol Leonnig and Rosalind Helderman of The Washington Post — Multiple officials said that during a series of conversations over the weekend between and among White House and Justice Department officials, it appeared Rosenstein planned to resign Monday, in the wake of reports that he had once suggested secretly recording the President and mounting an effort within the Cabinet to remove him from office. During some of those conversations, Rosenstein indicated that his resignation might be warranted to end the controversy, according to people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. When Rosenstein went to the White House Monday morning, senior Trump advisers expected him to resign … A Justice Department official, however, said that he had no intention of resigning but went there with the expectation he would be fired.

Rod Rosenstein is staying put, for now.

In Robert Mueller’s crosshairs — Roger Stone, the interview” via Patrick Slevin.com — Stone, who has a 40-year relationship with Donald Trump, reveals that he may go bankrupt after it’s all done in defending himself against the Mueller investigation (or “witch-hunt”) as well as who he now supports in the Florida Governor’s race. In the in-depth interview, Stone shares insights on Mueller’s methods, Trump, Guccifer 2.0, the mainstream media, his legal/financial challenges ahead and assessment of Andrew Gillum.

Stone sought contact with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, email suggests” via Ali Dukakis of ABC News — The July 31, 2016, email appears to be an explicit attempt by Stone to connect with Assange using [JeromeCorsi and [TedMalloch as intermediaries. … The email was sent just nine days after WikiLeaks made public the first batch of stolen Democratic Party documents allegedly obtained by hacker Guccifer 2.0, later identified as Russian state hackers. It appears to bolster the assertion that Stone, a prominent Trump ally, was attempting to communicate with Assange about the politically explosive leaks.

Trump an ‘absolute no’ on Puerto Rico statehood” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In an interview with Geraldo Rivera, Trump said he was an “absolute no” when asked about statehood for the island, currently a U.S. commonwealth. “With the mayor of San Juan as bad as she is … Puerto Rico shouldn’t be talking about statehood until they get some people that really know what they’re doing,” Trump said, according to a Toronto Star transcript. Trump called San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been outspoken in criticizing the Trump administration for its handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, “that woman” and “incompetent.”

One and done could be donevia Florida Politics — Some NCAA men’s basketball programs are infamous for their “one and done” players, the “diaper dandies” who spend a year in a collegiate apprenticeship before moving to the NBA. New legislation from U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a former college baller who spent some time in the pros and in the coaching ranks, would change that. HR 6749 would eliminate the National Basketball Association “one-and-done” rule, which requires American players to be at least 19 and to spend a year in college. The rule has been a “burden” on college programs’ recruitment budgets, Lawson posits.

— TWEET, TWEET —

— OPINIONS —

Joe Henderson: What if all politicians were like Tony Dungy?” via Florida Politics — We take a momentary pause from political campaigns, but not necessarily from politics, to pay proper homage to Dungy and the impact he has had on Tampa and beyond. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor Monday night at Raymond James Stadium, and no one deserved it more. The Ring is symbolic of his football success, of course, but anyone who knows Dungy understands football is just part of his legacy. “Tony Dungy’s impact on the Buccaneers and the Tampa Bay community is not measured in terms of wins and losses,” Bucs owner and Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer said. “Tony transformed our entire organization and established a winning culture that set the foundation for the most successful era in our franchise’s history. Through his exceptional leadership, Tony set a new benchmark for excellence on and off the field that we still strive to achieve to this day.” He left with class and honor and returned to Tampa with more of the same after his coaching days were done.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Brittany Dover, Jeremy Sheftel join Matt Caldwell campaign” via Florida Politics — Dover has joined Republican Caldwell’s campaign for Agriculture Commissioner as Deputy Finance Director, and Sheftel is now on board as Deputy campaign manager, the campaign announced Monday. “We have raised over $1 million in contributions in the three short weeks since the primary election,” campaign spokesperson Brian Swensen said in a statement. “It is a testament to the amount of support Matt has as we travel the Sunshine State, engage with Floridians and build our grassroots campaign,” he added. “We will work tirelessly toward victory in November.”

— ALOE —

Goodbye ‘IllumiNations,’ hello drones?” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Disney announced last week that the long-running show will be closing at the end of summer 2019 as part of Epcot’s larger transformation. Its as-of-yet unnamed replacement will debut “immediately after,” Disney said. While Disney has promised the new show will stay “true to the original vision of the park,” designer Don Dorsey expects the replacement will be focused on Disney characters — like recent Epcot additions like “Frozen After Ever” have been. Disney has worked with drones before in a 2016 Christmas show at Disney Springs. It had also filed for patents back in 2014 for drones featuring large LED screens and capable of controlling puppets.

Will drones be replacing Epcot IllumiNations?

Disney World changing ticket prices and how to buy them” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World is changing its ticket structure by moving to date-based pricing that reflects the expected demand on specific days. The changes and additions, including the price to enter the parks, kick in Oct. 16. At that time, a one-day, one-park ticket price will become between $109 and $129. The current range is between $102 and $129, depending on the season schedule. Another change is that the admission to Magic Kingdom park will again be the same as at Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom … Magic Kingdom prices have had a small per-day premium for the past two years. Ticket purchases will still be available at park gates, guest relations, Disney’s call-in reservation center, and third-party vendors.

Disney Magic to host TCM Classic Cruise” via Hal Boedeker of the Orlando Sentinel — The channel for vintage movies will mark its 25th anniversary by bringing back the TCM Classic Cruise. The event will unfold for five nights on the Disney Magic next year. TCM billed it as “the majestic Disney Magic.” The dates: Oct. 22-27, 2019. You’ll find details at tcmcruise.com. TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz will serve as cruise host. TCM promised “appearances by legendary classic film stars, screenings of great movies, unique presentations with film experts, in-depth interviews, Q&A sessions, trivia games and more.”

Happy birthday to our wonderful friend, Christina Johnson. Also celebrating today are Travis MitchellTara Reid, and one of Pinellas’ best, Nancy Riley.

Last Call for 9.24.18 — 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

Bruce Nathan, the Stuart man now suing to get back on the ballot for governor as a no-party affiliated (NPA) candidate, knows he’s in a David-versus-Goliath battle with the state.

And that’s why he’s doing it.

“Somebody finally has to make this stand, (to say) that the Division of Elections doesn’t have the final word,” he told Florida Politics after a Monday afternoon bench trial. “It’s time for us, the people, to take our country back, our state back. The government has run over us.”

Nathan is suing the Division of Elections to get on the November ballot as an NPA candidate for governor, even though he lost the GOP primary for the office in August.

The longtime physical therapist, who’s never before held elected office, argued his own case Monday, schooling himself in the law over the last week, he said.

“We’re all no party affiliates first, then we put a party on top of that,” he told Circuit Judge Karen Gievers.

But to lose a partisan primary and then stay on the ballot as an NPA candidate for the same office subverts the process, argued Ashley Davis, an attorney for the state.

Allowing him on the ballot would render the primary election “superfluous,” she said. “ … He has been eliminated from the race. He cannot (now) recast his candidacy as an NPA.”

Gievers said she will get a ruling out as soon as possible but “probably not today.”

“I would like to see a little more gravitas,” Nathan said after the hearing, referring to the state’s roughly 3.5 million registered NPA voters. “There should be more ability for us to have a say.”

Evening Reads

Donald Trump and Rod Rosenstein to meet Thursday after Rosenstein weighted resignation” via Kevin Johnson and David Jackson of the USA Today

If Rosenstein is out, this official from Florida recount could step in” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

Trump and Disney: It’s not the first time politics sneaks into theme park” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel

New Bill Nelson ads attack Rick Scott, reflect on space flight” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Nelson’s campaign to donate rest of donations it received from Al Franken PAC” via Ashley Killough, Ryan Nobles and David Wright of CNN

Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis funnel money to political parties” via the News Service of Florida

GOP Cabinet candidates bring in cash” via The News Service of Florida

A closer look at Florida Constitutional Amendment 4” via Julie Hauserman of the Florida Phoenix

Feds launch audit of Keys debris contract” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami

Darren Soto looks like a growing factor in Florida politics” via Kevin Derby of the Florida Daily

April Freeman, Democratic candidate for CD 17, dies unexpectedly” via WWSB ABC 7

Report: ‘True cost of government’ has state $11.6 billion in the red” via John Haughty of Florida Watchdog

Florida ‘Best and Brightest’ bonus lawsuit heads to mediation” via Jeff Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times

Sheriff: Pasco deputy kills wife, himself, leaving 4 kids” via The Associated Press

Tallahassee reconsidering change to bar hours yet again” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat

Look up: It’s a full harvest moon tonight” via WFTS

Quote of the Day

“We’ll be determining what’s going on. We want to have transparency, we want to have openness.” — President Donald Trump to reporters Monday, after reports that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will meet later this week.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Department of Children and Families will help host meetings that are part of an outgrowth of an executive order signed by Gov. Rick Scott that called for better collaboration with law-enforcement agencies. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Land O’ Lakes Community Center, 5401 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., Land O’ Lakes. Also, 2 p.m., Department of Children and Families, 33 Brent Lane, Pensacola.

James Sweeney, chief economist for Credit Suisse, is slated to speak to the Economic Club of Florida. That’s at noon, FSU Alumni Center, 1030 West Tennessee St., Tallahassee.

State Rep. Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican, is slated to raise money for his re-election campaign in Collier County’s House District 106. Democrat Sara McFadden is challenging Rommel in the Nov. 6 election. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Edgewater Beach Hotel, 1901 Gulf Shore Blvd., Naples.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.24.18

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

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

Good Monday morning. In case you didn’t notice, the first ballots of the general election have been cast. According to the Division of Elections, four Democrats and one Republican had returned vote-by-mail ballots and that more than 1.5 million vote-by-mail ballots had been requested.

There are 43 days until Election Day, and almost all of the national polls are forecasting a wave election cycle for the Democrats. But as I wrote last week, something weird is happening in Florida. The top of the ballot is, at best, a mixed bag for Democrats with Bill Nelson tied or narrowly trailing Rick Scott and Andrew Gillum with a just-outside-the-margin-of-error over Ron DeSantis.

Down the ballot, Florida Republicans are in better shape than expected. U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo is still polling ahead of his Democratic challenger and in CD 27, the Democrat nominee, Donna Shalala, is working hard to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Meanwhile, baseline polling in the five competitive state Senate races favors the Republicans, although some Democrats, such as Amanda Murphy, are in good shape.

Expect the temperature to rise in almost every competitive race, from DeSantis vs. Gillum on down. The bulk of those vote-by-mail ballots go out next week. Campaigns have until then to define their opponents. So look for the TV ads to transition from colorful, positive spots to grainy black-and-white ones.

As for what the Big 4 campaigns — Ron DeSantis, Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson, Rick Scott — are thinking, we asked a top insider from each camp to share with us their perspective.

The DeSantis campaign believes it has Gillum right where it wants him. “He’s unknown to most of Florida voters, and once you inform them of his radical policies coupled with the ongoing investigations into City Hall in Tallahassee, his numbers drive down significantly. Even after not being touched for the majority of the (primary) campaign, a national environment that slightly favors Democrats and almost universal positive coverage of him from the national news outlets hailing him as the next Obama, he can only manage a margin of error lead. This race is going to start shifting, and it’s going to start shifting quickly.”

Gillum’s campaign says its running like the polls are flipped. “Our whole theory here is we are giving people something to vote for, not just against, and that’s not going to change from now through Election Day. The incoming enthusiasm, volunteers, and resources have been unprecedented — but we aren’t taking anything for granted. We know how close this will be — it’s Florida, after all.”

Nelson’s team feels confident after withstanding a barrage from Scott and his allies. “Scott has spent $50 million to Sen. Nelson’s $8 million and hasn’t moved the numbers. Sen. Nelson’s still up by one or two. Meantime, Scott has had the worst weeks of his campaign, having been booed out-of-town in Venice, having canceled a stop in his hometown, and getting clobbered by the Sun-Sentinel editorial. Today it was reported he made money off underwater homeowners mortgages.”

Inside Scott World, they’re relieved that “the blue wave hasn’t hit Florida” which they credit “in part due to the strength of the Scott campaign and in part due to the weakness of Bill Nelson’s lackluster campaign. Nelson has nothing to run on but the fact that he’s been there for a long time. He has no major accomplishments to his name. He excites no one. And five weeks from Election Day, no one knows where he is every day.” With an almost limitless budget, the Scott campaign will continue to pound Nelson. “It’s going to be a brutal five weeks.”

I’d really enjoy learning where you think the races stand right now. Share your opinions (in confidence) by emailing me at saintpeter4@gmail.com.

Fresh poll: Andrew Gillum leads Ron DeSantis, Bill Nelson/Rick Scott tied” via the University of North Florida — New polling of 616 likely Florida voters from the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab reveals Democrat Gillum leading and Republican DeSantis close behind, 47 to 43 percent, with 10 percent undecided. Among Democrats, 85 percent plan to vote for Gillum, 6 percent for DeSantis and 9 percent don’t know. Eleven percent of Republicans will vote for Gillum; 81 percent for DeSantis; 8 percent don’t know. As for the Senate race, incumbent Democrat Nelson is in a dead heat with Republican Gov. Scott at 45 percent each, with 8 percent unsure. Of likely Democratic voters, 78 percent say they will go for Nelson, while 9 percent for Scott; 13 percent don’t know. Among Republican respondents, 12 percent say they will vote for Nelson, 83 percent for Scott and 4 percent don’t know. Taken Sept. 17-19, the poll’s margin of error is ± 3.95 percentage points.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!

@KattyKayBBC: I have had 3 teenage kids, I’m not sure any of them would have put a (drunken) party into their calendars. This doesn’t mean the party did or didn’t happen, or that the assault did or didn’t happen. It just means teenagers don’t tend to make a written note of everything they do.

—@ShevrinJones: As someone who was sexually abused as a teenager, it sucks to know you have to deal with the thought of what happened to you, and later have to convince ppl you’re not lying. I believe Dr. Ford!

@Griffins1991: Strive to find friendships in your life that are as supportive and loyal for you as Republicans are for sex predators and racists.

—@KevinCate: While @RealDonaldTrump is holding rallies to register insults, @MichelleObama is holding rallies to register voters. Because she knows that if we vote, we win! If we vote, we win!

—@CarrieNBC: New NBC/WSJ poll shows congressional preference among registered voters at D+12, the highest of the cycle. (52% D, 40% R).

@JuanPenalosa: Note to reporters debating a #BlueWave in FL: I encourage you to scroll through @FlaDems twitter feed then hop over to @FloridaGOP twitter. Who has the better ground game?

—@Fineout: So @FloridaGOP just sent out a release that showed 5 people protesting @AndrewGillum at a fundraiser in Broward

— @Drogonthedread: The crowd booed Donna Shalala (at the FIU vs UM game Saturday)

— @SteveSchale: Who says bipartisanship is dead? The Bipartisan @BusyBeeCaucus has its own parking spot now.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Future of Florida Forum — 2; Government shutdown — 7; FSU vs. UM football game — 12; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 16; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 29; MLB World Series begins — 31; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 31; Early voting begins — 33; Halloween — 37; General Election Day — 43; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 57; Thanksgiving — 59; Black Friday — 60; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 64; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 141; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 162; Captain Marvel release — 165; 2020 General Election — 771.

— TOP STORY —

Internal GOP poll: ‘We’ve lost the messaging battle’ on tax cuts” via Sahil Kapur and Joshua Green of Bloomberg Politics — A survey commissioned by the Republican National Committee has led the party to a glum conclusion regarding Donald Trump’s signature legislative achievement: Voters overwhelmingly believe his tax overhaul helps the wealthy instead of average Americans. By a 2-to-1 margin — 61 percent to 30 percent — respondents said the law benefits “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle-class families,” according to the survey, which was completed on Sept. 2 by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies. The result was fueled by self-identified independent voters who said by a 36-point margin that large corporations and rich Americans benefit more from the tax law — a result that was even more lopsided among Democrats. Republican voters said by a 38-point margin that the middle class benefits more.

—“House control edges toward Democrats — CBS News poll” via CBS News

—“Fox News poll: Health care boosts Democrats in upcoming midterm elections” via Dana Blanton of Fox News

—“NBC News/WSJ poll: Democrats hold the advantage in November’s elections” via Mark Murray of NBC News

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

DeSantis calls Gillum ‘far-left’ at Sarasota rally” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — With shouts of “lock him up” ringing out and a contingent from the far-right “Proud Boys” group looking on in the crowd, … DeSantis ripped into his Democratic opponent Saturday as “a guy who has never met a tax he wouldn’t hike.” … The Republican Party of Sarasota organized the rally for DeSantis. Sarasota GOP Chairman Joe Gruters said he does not know the Proud Boys. “I don’t know anything about them,” he said. “My thing is love your neighbor. There’s no place for hate in the party.” Gruters added that the chants of “lock him up” regarding Gillum were inappropriate. … “This is the same group who attacked us in the primary,” said DeSantis communications director Stephen Lawson. “To think we have any affiliation with this group is absurd. We had a great event today, and the fact that this is what the press wants to focus on is ridiculous.”

A contingent from the far-right Proud Boys group attended a rally for Ron DeSantis on Sunday. Photo credit: Zac Anderson.

— “In Sarasota, DeSantis promises to monitor how polluters feed red tide” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

— “DeSantis: Environmental records differ on climate change, algae blooms” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm

What did DeSantis do during his tour in Iraq?” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times — Few details have been divulged about DeSantis’ time in Iraq … He arrived in the fall of 2007 as part of “the surge” of nearly 30,000 U.S. troops, whose mission was to quell insurgencies that turned cities like Fallujah into bloody battle zones. DeSantis helped ensure the missions of Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets in the Western Euphrates River Valley were planned according to the rule of law and that captured detainees were humanely treated, said his commander at the time. It was up to DeSantis, the lone lawyer with the Judge Advocate General Corps., or JAG, to not only assure these men were treated humanely and interrogated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and U.S. military regulations, but to make sure that, when warranted, they were handed off to the proper legal authorities in Iraq for prosecution in that country’s nascent judicial system.

Team DeSantis announces new stats and staff” via Florida Politics — Since Sept. 1, Team DeSantis has made more than 100,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 40,000 doors to spread the word for the Ponte Vedra Congressman’s campaign. The team’s “multimillion-dollar field program” also saw them add another half-dozen directors to handle various aspects of the general election campaign. Samantha Mims has been hired on as data director; Patrick Johnson is the new director of advance; Tyler Russel was named surrogate director; Courtney Veatch will direct the campaign’s Election Day operations; and Peter Cuderman and Cody Hanshaw will each oversee a team of deputies in their roles as coalitions director and field director, respectively.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will visit Performance Feeders Inc. joined by members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), 9:30 a.m., 251 Dunbar Ave., Oldsmar. Then, the Republican gubernatorial candidate will appear at the West Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, 3 p.m., 401 N. Flagler Dr., West Palm Beach.

Tweet, tweet:

GOP governors pour more money into Florida” via the News Service of Florida — The Republican Governors Association funneled another $2.41 million to Florida … Between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, the association put the money into “Florida Facts,” a type of entity known as an electioneering communications organization. Florida Facts during the same time frame spent $2.51 million, with most of the money going to California-based Target Enterprises, LLC for television ads. The Republican Governors Association in early August also put $2.45 million into Florida Facts, which during the same period spent $2.35 million.

New GOP website blasts Gillum for ‘lobbyist slush fund’” via Florida Politics — The Republican Party of Florida launched ReleaseTheReceipts.com, a website that calls on Gillum to “tell the truth about his luxury Costa Rica vacation in 2016,” as well as a “suspicious” $15,000 deposit. “Ask yourself this question … would you trust an elected official that has a suspicious $15,000 deposit made into his personal account?” RPOF Chair Blaise Ingoglia said. Earlier this month, Gillum’s campaign unintentionally released personal bank statements which show Gillum receiving a $15,000 deposit during a period under investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics. The bank statement in question covers April 21 to May 23, 2016, during which Gillum took a questionable May 2016 trip to Costa Rica.

Fact-checking Gillum’s claim that he was sued by NRA and gun lobby over Tallahassee ordinance” via Miriam Valverde of PolitiFact Florida — Gillum said that the NRA and the gun lobby sued him “all because in my city we refused to repeal an ordinance which said you couldn’t shoot guns in city parks.” Gillum was among Tallahassee elected officials sued by two gun rights groups for not repealing a decades-old ordinance restricting the use of firearms in city parks. The local ordinance had been deemed null and void by state law and not been enforced. The NRA supported the groups and filed an amicus brief, but it was not a formal party in the litigation. Other gun rights groups were the plaintiffs. Gillum’s statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. We rate it “Mostly True.”

Gillum pays extra taxes on his Tallahassee home, records show” via The Associated Press — A review of property and tax records shows that Gillum is paying extra taxes when he doesn’t need to. The Tallahassee mayor has failed to claim a homestead exemption on a nearly 3,200-square-foot home he owns with his wife … When asked about it this week, Gillum was unaware he had not claimed an exemption for the house he bought for more than $400,000 in late 2014. “Is that right?” Gillum said. “I need to find out if that’s the case. I should be taking advantage of it.” The oversight is unusual since records show that Gillum had received a homestead exemption for a decade on his previous home located a mile away … Gillum paid about $500 more in taxes last year because he did not file for the exemption.

Dade teacher’s union endorses Gillum — Gillum is receiving the endorsement and support of the United Teachers of Dade, a union representing over 30,000 teachers and education support professionals. In its approval, the union cited Gillum’s commitment to protecting teachers and ensuring Floridians have access to quality education. “After two decades of failed education reform that have hurt Florida’s kids, communities, and placed our education system 45th in the nation, it’s time for change. Andrew Gillum understands that education is the cornerstone of democracy and a strong economy. We need a Governor that fights for everyone, especially our most vulnerable. Our kids deserve the best, let’s give them Andrew Gillum” said United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats.

—“’Moms for Gillum’ rally in Orlando” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel

—“This Gainesville political dynasty introduced Gillum to politics” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times

Happening today — Gillum will appear at a rally with the Human Rights Campaign, SAVE and Equality Florida, 2:30 p.m., SAVE headquarters, 1951 N.W. Seventh Ave., Miami.

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

Falling homeowner rates in Florida cloud Scott’s campaign message” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — From the soaring pre-recession days, when easy credit pushed housing numbers to new highs, the percentage of Florida households owning homes has now plunged to its worst level ever seen, with data going back more than three decades. The drop in home-owning may be a reality check in a state where Scott’s campaign to unseat three-term Democratic Nelson is anchored on the governor’s success at sparking job growth and cutting unemployment after entering office in the depths of the recession.

New Scott ad attacks ‘No Show’ Nelson for ‘three-day workweek’ — A new ad from the Scott campaign claims that as Republican candidates nationwide struggle to hold back the “blue wave,” Scott is surging ahead. The ad notes that the blue wave “hasn’t hit Florida,” due partly to the strength of the Scott campaign and partly because of the “weakness of Bill Nelson’s lackluster campaign.” As a narrator says in the 30-second spot: “46 years in politics, but Nelson’s never held a real job,” and that Nelson was absent for national security hearings 21 percent of the time.”

To view “No Show,” click on the image below:

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Hillary Clinton-backed super PAC targets Florida minorities in $3.7M ad campaign” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The super PAC that backed Clinton announced it’s trying to boost African-American and Hispanic turnout through a campaign on health care, minimum wage and what it calls Florida’s “racist ‘stand your ground’ law. Priorities USA’s support of Nelson and Gillum’s campaign for governor is crucial to Democratic efforts in Florida … Democrats are slightly less concerned with African-American turnout this election because Gillum is expected to drive turnout as the first black Democratic Party nominee in the state’s history. Still, apathy among young voters of any color has bedeviled the party as well, and to that end, one of Priorities USA’s commercials features a young black man talking into the camera as if he’s Face Timing the audience on his smartphone.

To view “Wake Them Up,” click on the image below:

To view “Bill Knows,” click on the image below:

Spending on controversial 3-pack ads nears $11M this cycle” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The ads allow statewide political parties to support three candidates in one piece of advertising, either on television or by mail. Under Florida law, including three candidates allows the party to pay for advertising to support a candidate without the spending counting as a contribution to that candidate … there are caps on how much state parties can give directly to campaigns, but those caps are not worked against when a three-pack is used … the biggest individual three-pack buy so far in 2018 has come from the Republican Party of Florida, which spent $8.9 million on three-pack ads listing DeSantis, and GOP state Reps. Dane Eagle and Byron Donalds. On the other side, the Florida Democratic Party has spent nearly $2 million on a three-pack slate that includes Gillum, CFO candidate Jeremy Ring and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried.

Personnel note: Mitchell Berger tapped as Democratic Coordinated Campaign Finance Chair — The Florida Democratic Party recently announced Berger’s appointment. He’ll help raise money for the Coordinated Campaign, a statewide effort to elect Democrats up-and-down the ballot. The South Florida attorney has been involved with the Party for years, including serving as the Democratic National Committee’s Federal Victory Chair in 2000, co-leader of the Campaign For Change in 2008 and as a member of the National Finance Board of Obama Victory Fund. Berger also was involved in litigation over the 2000 presidential recount. “I am proud to be able to contribute to the efforts the party is doing to elect bold and progressive leaders,” he said in a statement. “From Andrew Gillum‘s historic election to the re-election of Senator Bill Nelson, and with the balance of the House and Senate hanging on Florida’s efforts, the work we are doing could not be more important.”

Agriculture Commissioner candidates tangle over debate schedule” via Samantha Gross and Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Rep. Matt Caldwell challenged his Democratic opponent to debate — but Nikki Fried‘s campaign contended they’ve already offered dates to debate that the Caldwell campaign declined. In a letter to Fort Lauderdale attorney and marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried, Caldwell proposed two debates: one on CBS4 in Miami, and the second at an undetermined location. The Miami date, moderated by CBS4 reporter Jim DeFede, has not yet been set. “Voters deserve to know where we stand,” Caldwell wrote. But Fried spokesman Max Flugrath said the Democratic candidate had already offered dates to debate that had been rejected: “Nikki Fried stands ready to debate the issues and in the past week alone, agreed to two dates on which to do just that — yet on both, the Caldwell campaign declined any availability.”

Sean Shaw says he’ll scuttle marijuana smoking ban appeal if elected — The Democratic candidate for Attorney General held a news conference Friday at a Tampa marijuana dispensary. The state is now appealing a circuit judge’s decision that the ban in state law on smoking medicinal cannabis is unconstitutional. Attorney General “Pam Bondi has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars (on) ridiculous appeals that deny so many needy Floridians access to smokable marijuana, appeals that she knows are meritless and contrary to the will of the voters,” Shaw said. “ … Why are we continuing to fight a losing battle? … The day I take office, those appeals will end. It’s time to make a change and move away from the type of policies and provisions that politicians like Pam Bondi, and my (Republican) opponent Ashley Moody, offer.” Another appeal of a ruling allowing ‘home grow’ of medical marijuana also is pending.

Happening today — Shaw joins Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and members of the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America for an announcement, 10:30 a.m., Edgecomb Courthouse, 800 East Twiggs St., Tampa.

New Jimmy Patronis website attacks Jeremy Ring for ‘criminal, scandalous’ donors —RingsCriminalRing.com details donations Ring has received from “criminal and scandalous donor friends.” The website outlines Florida Department of Law Enforcement findings on how Ring paid a Democrat operative to impersonate CFO Patronis to obtain his protected personal information. The Patronis for CFO campaign will promote the site as part of their $500,000 digital advertising campaign. Patronis’ campaign Communications Director Katie Strickland said: “Senator Jeremy Ring is risky and reckless. His connections to criminals and scandalous donors yet again reveals his stunning lack of judgment. Florida can’t risk its finances on reckless Jeremy Ring.”

Blocked from ballot? Supreme Court asked to stop amendments” via The News Service of Florida — Arguing that the measures would violate First Amendment rights, an attorney urged the Florida Supreme Court on Friday to uphold a lower-court ruling that would block three proposed constitutional amendments from going before voters in November. Joseph Little, a retired University of Florida law professor and constitutional scholar, filed a 50-page brief after Bondi’s office Monday requested that the Supreme Court allow the ballot measures to move forward. The Supreme Court has not said whether it will hold oral arguments in the case, which stems from ballot proposals approved this year by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

New polling finds high support for Amendment 4 restoring felon voting rights” via the University of North Florida — When asked whether they would vote “yes” or “no” on Amendment 4, which seeks to restore the voting rights of former felons, a poll likely voters from the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab, 71 percent of likely voters claimed they would vote “yes,” with 21 percent voting “no.” Only 8 percent were unsure. Regarding race, 82 percent of African-American respondents said they would vote “yes,” while 69 percent of white respondents and 65 percent of Hispanic respondents claimed they would vote “yes.” When asked about the most important problem in Florida, education — 20 percent — led the way, followed closely by health care and environment with 18 percent. The poll of 616 likely Florida voters taken Sept. 17-19 has a margin of error of ± 3.95 percentage points.

Happening today — Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers will hold a hearing in a lawsuit filed by Bruce Nathan, a physical therapist from Stuart who finished seventh out of eight candidates in last month’s Republican gubernatorial primary and is now trying to run as an independent, 3 p.m., Leon County Courthouse, 301 South Monroe St., Tallahassee.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Lauren Baer labels Brian Mast as ‘toxic’ on new website” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The site is called “Brian Mast Is Toxic” … Baer’s campaign says each day it will list a new “anti-environmental” vote cast by Mast during his time in Congress. “Florida 18 can’t afford an election-year environmentalist who panders to the big polluters who line his campaign coffers and only pays attention when his poll numbers are down,” said Baer. On Saturday, the site chose to highlight Mast’s vote supporting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which contained a provision opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

So says Lauren Baer, at least.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry among key Obama-era officials endorsing Baer — Baer’s campaign released three endorsements from Obama administration national security officials in Baer’s bid to unseat Mast: Kerry, former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, and former State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan. Kerry: “Lauren Baer was a member of my Policy Planning staff from February 2013 through July 2016, during which time she was my senior adviser on human rights and international law. Lauren provided trusted counsel on a range of critical national security issues, and I witnessed firsthand her fierce advocacy for our values on the world stage. She speaks out, and she fights for what’s right. I know that Lauren is a woman of principle who will do exactly the same in Washington.” Power noted that Baer was her Senior Policy Advisor: “I watched her every day fight for what was right, promoting the kind of U.S. leadership abroad that our children can be proud of. She has the strong moral compass and the resolve to cut through Washington’s red tape and improve the lives of her constituents … she didn’t rest until she got the job done, and as a member of Congress, I know she won’t rest until Washington is working for all of us again.” Sullivan added: “Lauren Baer was an important voice on key national security issues at the State Department and will be an important voice on those same issues in Congress. Lauren joined the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff in January 2011 to serve as Secretary Clinton’s senior adviser on democracy, human rights, and international law, a role she held for the remainder of the Secretary’s tenure. At a time when the threats to our national security are grave … her knowledge, experience, and judgment will be an asset to the people of Florida’s 18th District and the country as a whole.”

Anna Eskamani promotes Republican attack mailers making her look ‘fierce AF’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Mailers alleging Eskamani curses too much won’t quiet the Democrat, who spent Saturday morning knocking on doors in House District 47 as part of a “Day of Action.” Republicans so far paint Eskamani as a vulgar potty-mouth and sent a mailer earlier this week with an “explicit materials” warning that quotes Eskamani uttering such obscenities as “F*CK the patriarchy” (asterisks included in the mailer). But so far, Eskamani has drawn attention to the materials, suggesting she sees as much benefit as damage from the attacks. She tweeted Friday: “Is it just me, or does this second attack mailer make me look fierce AF? #P*ssyPower #Flip47 #HD47 #sayfie #flapol”

Eskamani clears $420K for HD 47 bid — Eskamani has surpassed $420,000 in total fundraising in her bid to take over House District 47 from exiting Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Congress. As of Sept. 14, the Planned Parenthood exec had brought in more than $336,000 in hard money and tacked on another $39,000 in committee cash, but her overall numbers have shot up by another $45,000 last week according to a Monday press release. … “I am thrilled to have raised more than $420,000 in our bid to serve House District 47 and am honored that our donations include gifts from Democrats, Republicans, and from those with no major party affiliation,” Eskamani said. … The funding update came alongside another announcement —Team Eskamani has also knocked on more than 22,000 doors in the district, and is celebrating what they’re billing as a debate win against Republican nominee Stockton Reeves.

Tweet, tweet (and remember Berny Jacques lost to Nick DiCeglie in a tough primary):


Happening tonight:

Fitzenhagen fundraiser 9.24.2018

Emma Collum blasts ‘repugnant’ Republicans defending Brett Kavanaugh” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Collum is bashing Republican House members who signed a letter urging the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court — despite an allegation of a decades-old sexual assault. Christine Blasey Ford alleges Kavanaugh drunkenly accosted her at a party when the two were back in high school. Ford recently agreed to testify in front of senators next week regarding her allegations. Kavanaugh also said he will testify and has denied the claims by Ford. The letter from House Republicans, signed by 73 members, did not mention the allegation. Rather, Republican lawmakers emphasized Kavanaugh’s professional background and positive personal anecdotes to explain their support for his nomination. “This letter is a repugnant show of partisanship over empathy and decency,” said Collum, currently running for the open seat in House District 93.

A Broward Democrat is challenging a Republican incumbent for a Hialeah House seat” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald — A Broward County resident and political newcomer is challenging incumbent Bryan Avila … Democrat Rizwan Ahmed’s campaign is a long shot in the solidly Republican House District 111, but the 51-year-old real estate agent from Pakistan said he hopes voters will identify with his immigrant background. The district, which is more than 90 percent Hispanic, is home to many immigrants. “I believe that the voters in my district and quite frankly across the country feel ignored by their representatives,” Ahmed said. “We are running a campaign focused on the people. Their dreams, their concerns, their needs. We have listened to what they’re saying.”

— THEN VERSUS NOW —

Democrats say the state’s been under “20 years of Republican rule” like it’s a bad thing. 

Is it? The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith and Langston Taylor attempt to answer by examining economic and social indicators.

“Objectively measuring changing quality of life in a state is an imperfect exercise, of course,” the two note. 

‘Tale of two Floridas’: Crime rate is low, some education indicators are promising, the unemployment rate is great, and the credit ratings are near-perfect. But, “44 percent of households can’t afford basic needs such as food, housing, child-care, health care, and transportation, according to a United Way study.” 

Tale of two candidates: Per Gillum, “We’re going to show up (and vote for change) because we’re in a state where 44 percent of the people — working people — say that they cannot make ends meet at the end of the month. We’re going to show up because we believe you should only have to work one job, and not two or three jobs, to be able to take care of yourself and your family.” Per DeSantis, “Florida has a trillion dollar economy now. We have investment coming in on a daily basis. My opponent, Andrew Gillum, would really want to stop that and reverse all the progress we’ve made.”

Across the nation: Florida ranks first in the number of people moving in and out, just like it did in 1999. The income per capita ranking, when compared to other states, has decreased. So has public school teacher salary. But violent crime rates and graduation rates have both improved. 

— STATEWIDE —

Raoul Cantero to represent panel and Supreme Court dispute” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission unanimously agreed to have former Supreme Court Justice Cantero defend the commission in a lawsuit that challenges Gov. Scott’s authority to appoint three new members of the high court. The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause filed the lawsuit, after Scott initiated the Judicial Nominating Commission process to move forward with replacing justices Barbara ParienteR. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who will be forced to leave the Supreme Court in January because of a mandatory retirement age. The Supreme Court has given the defendants — Scott, the Judicial Nominating Commission and commission Chairman Jason Unger — until Wednesday to file a response to the complaint, which asks the justices to block Scott from moving forward with the replacements.

The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission unanimously chose former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero to defend them.

NRA sway: For Florida officials, it’s always Hammer time” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Those who work in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services — the Florida agency that oversees gun permits — never know when National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer will command their attention — or what about. Nights, weekends and even holidays, she sends messages to senior department officials with complaints and demands. They often respond within minutes. Hammer’s singular power over lawmakers, especially Republicans, is the stuff of Tallahassee legend … Yet according to a review of hundreds of Hammer’s emails with the state’s Department of Agriculture, her sphere of influence stretches far beyond gun legislation. Emails from 2014 to 2017 show the lobbyist involves herself in a wide array of day-to-day tasks of an agency accused five years ago in a lawsuit of being run by the NRA. Brusque and demanding, the messages suggest Hammer is rarely told “no.”

More teachers, less tech, say parents wary of i-Ready” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The program i-Ready has exploded in popularity in Florida school districts. Closely linked to the Florida Standards Assessment, the program is being used in 57 of the state’s 67 school districts as a teaching and diagnostic tool that adapts as students use it and provide teachers with data on what state standards their classes need help with. Curriculum Associates, which makes i-Ready, reported that students using their product saw nearly 40 percent higher gains for English and math than students who received more traditional remediation … critics statewide see the program as a harbinger of a dystopian education future, in which teachers are replaced with computers and “learning” consists entirely of staring slack-jawed at a screen. “It is crap,” said Manatee County education activist Bridget Mendel, who regularly calls on school districts to spend money on reading specialists rather than computer programs.

Medical regulators propose penalties for not checking drug database” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Doctors and physician assistants could start facing fines and license revocations for not checking a state prescription drug database before they write a script. The state’s Board of Medicine last week also announced a related rule “to change penalties for prescribing medicinal drugs or controlled substances (that) demonstrates a lack of reasonable skill or safety to patients.” Florida recently passed a new law addressed at attacking the ongoing opioid crisis by thwarting “doctor shopping,” or patients seeking prescriptions for addictive drugs from multiple physicians. “Failure to consult the Prescription Drug Monitoring System, as required by” state law could result in punishment “from a letter of concern to a reprimand and an administrative fine of $1,000 to $2,500” for a licensed physician, the proposed rule says.

What happened to year-round Daylight Saving Time in Florida?” via Eryn Dion of the Panama City News-Herald — We reached out to Rep. Jay Trumbull, who represents Bay County in the Florida House to ask him what happened to the bill. As is so often the case, he said, they’re waiting on Washington for the official go-ahead. “From the state of Florida perspective, we’ve done everything we can do,” he said. “Now the bill goes to Congress, and we have a House member and a Senator introduce the same legislation on a federal level.” That, Trumbull said, is where the hang-up is. “It’s been introduced,” Trumbull said. “Senator Marco Rubio has the bill, and it’s in the Commerce Committee. It has been read multiple times, but there’s been no votes.” “We are just waiting on them to make a move,” he added.

Legendary Tampa criminal defense attorney Barry Cohen dies at 79” via Christopher O’Donnell and Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — The tenacious, canny criminal defense attorney took on pharmaceutical giants and law enforcement agencies. When judges and attorneys needed representation, they often reached out to him. “It’s a huge loss for the legal community and all of Tampa,” said Hillsborough County’s State Attorney Andrew Warren, whom Cohen had supported in his bid for office. “His legacy is as a fighter, standing up for the weak and the marginalized and those who needed help.” “One of Tampa’s treasures,” said Kevin Kalwary, a private investigator and former journalist who covered, worked with and had been friends with Cohen for 40 years. Cohen spent his last evening with his family and a few close friends. He had been mostly unconscious in recent days but rallied a little in those hours, his wife said.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Kavanaugh faces another allegation of sexual misconduct” via Axios — This one dating from his time as an undergraduate at Yale, according to a new report from The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer. The second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, claims that Kavanaugh waved his penis in front of her face while she was inebriated at a dormitory party during the 1983-1984 academic school year. She told Farrow and Mayer that she believes an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh’s actions is warranted.

The hits keep coming for Brett Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify on Thursday” via Axios — Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, has officially agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday at 10 a.m. ET. Per Ford’s attorneys, no decision has been made about whether senators or staff attorneys will be asking questions. The committee has also refused to subpoena any witnesses, including Mark Judge, who Ford says was present in the room when Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted her.

—“Hundreds mark Hurricane Maria anniversary near Trump resort” via Ellis Rua of The Associated Press

What Scott Ross is reading —Sheldon Adelson sees a lot to like in Trump’s Washington” via Jeremy Peters of The New York Times — Adelson, in particular, enjoys a direct line to the President. In private in-person meetings and phone conversations, which occur between the two men about once a month, he has used his access to push the President to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and, more recently, cut aid to the Palestinians, according to people familiar with their discussions. Trump has done both, triggering a backlash from some American allies. Republican control of the House and the Senate is so vital to maintaining these policies, the Adelsons believe, that they have given $55 million in the last few months to groups dedicated to making sure it stays that way. That makes them not only the largest donors to national Republican electoral efforts in this election cycle, but the biggest spenders on federal elections in all American politics, according to publicly available campaign finance data.

Feds launch audit of Keys debris contracts” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — The audit follows a written request by the eleven Florida Democrats in Congress who called on the IG to initiate a review, arguing “tens of millions of federal taxpayer dollars are being squandered.” In their letter, the Florida Democrats cited the results of a CBS Miami investigation which found one of the companies the state selected after the storm had no previous emergency debris removal experience, while more qualified firms were prevented from even submitting bids. An analysis found the governor’s emergency contracts will end up costing taxpayers an additional $28 to $30 million. “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.

Trump’s tariffs impact hurricane shutters: prices up, availability down” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — The hurricane shutter industry, a niche market in storm-prone states, is a standout example of the early impacts of aluminum tariffs. While a hike in metal prices can more easily disappear in the price of a car with its thousands of moving parts, there’s no disguising a cost increase on a simple sheet of metal that’s 95 percent aluminum. “The impacts haven’t really started to sink in yet, I don’t think,” said Peter Quinter, chairman of the Customs and International Trade Law Group, and an attorney with the Miami-based firm GrayRobinson. “The shutters are like the canary in the coal mine.” Prices on everything from beer to Bentleys could increase said Quinter, who is representing a Palm Beach County aquarium company hoping to get an exemption from tariffs on fish tank air filters imported from China.

White House distances itself from reports that Trump could target Facebook, Google and Twitter with a new executive order” via Tony Romm and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — For weeks, top tech companies have been on edge, fearing that the Trump administration could seek to regulate the industry in response to the president’s tweets attacking social media sites for silencing conservatives online. Their worst suspicions seemed to come true with the emergence of a draft executive order that called for nearly every federal agency to study how companies like Facebook police their platforms and refer instances of ‘bias’ to the Justice Department for further study. But three White House aides soon insisted they didn’t write the draft order, didn’t know where it came from and generally found it to be unworkable policy. One senior White House official confirmed the document had been floating around the White House but had not gone through the formal process, which is controlled by the staff secretary. Asked about the document, deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said: “Although the White House is concerned about the conduct of online platforms and their impact on society, this document is not the result of an official White House policymaking process.”

Trump campaign aide Jason Miller exit CNN analyst job after accusations” via Brian Steinberg of Variety — Miller, a former senior communications staffer for Trump’s campaign, said he would step down following accusations regarding his behavior toward a woman he allegedly impregnated. “I have decided to step away from my role as a Political Commentator at CNN to focus on clearing my name and fighting the false and defamatory accusations being made against me,” Miller said via Twitter. He denied the allegations, and said he said the lack of veracity in the report “doesn’t matter however in the court of public opinion, where fraudulent statements and a lack of factual support rule the day as long as it fits into a tweet.”

— OPINIONS —

Florida and the nation need Nelson in the U.S. Senate” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Nelson has been a workhorse, not a show horse, while Scott has spent the last eight years reaping headlines on a near-daily basis. Look closely, though, and those headlines tell the story of a governor who wouldn’t deserve re-election. Nothing in his record suggests he would do better as a senator. Given the sharply contrasting records of Scott and Nelson, the Senate campaign poses these questions: Which man can be trusted to stand up for the environment and Medicare against budget-cutters and special interests? Which man can be trusted to look out for the people, more than for himself? Which man is more likely to assert the constitutional duty of Congress — so wantonly abandoned under Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan — to rein in a reckless presidency? It’s not just the people of Florida who need Bill Nelson back in the Senate. It’s all the people of the United States of America.

Joe Henderson: Gina Sosa’s pathetic partisanship can’t be excused” via Florida Politics — Referring to allegations Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford while both were in high school, Sosa said, “Tell me what boy hasn’t done this in high school. Please, I would like to know.” Oh, I can think of many, many young men who never did what Kavanaugh is accused of doing — holding a girl down on a bed, trying to take her clothes off, and putting his hand over her mouth. Kavanaugh has strongly denied it ever happened, but that’s a separate issue from what Sosa’s defense. It’s one thing to believe Kavanaugh when he said this never happened. It’s quite another to say, as Sosa basically did, “Well, even if it did happen, so what?” You can’t excuse a remark like that.

End dog racing with (lucky) Amendment 13” via Fred Grimm for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Dog racing has become an economic absurdity, a flea-bitten pari-mutuel that costs Florida more — millions more — to regulate than the state collects from its cut of the revenue. Yet we keep it around, a refuge for the aged, an entertainment that ever fewer Floridians find entertaining, a pastime past its time, a dying, money-losing anachronism kept alive by fiat. But it’s not the irrational economics behind the push for Amendment 13. It’s the unseemly cruelty that has long tainted the industry. Voters are likely to kill dog racing because dog racing is killing dogs. And maiming dogs. And doping dogs with an astounding array of illegal drugs.

SeaWorld pays $5 million over bogus ‘Blackfish’ spin — and maybe got off easy” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — That’s how much SeaWorld and two former executives agreed to pay to settle federal fraud charges over lies the company told a few years ago when it claimed the movie “Blackfish” wasn’t affecting the park’s bottom line. When SeaWorld claimed “Blackfish” had no impact on its business, it sounded a bit like the mayor in “Jaws” claiming the giant shark wouldn’t hurt Amity Island’s summer season. Except there was a key difference: The mayor didn’t have to answer to stockholders. That’s where SeaWorld ran into problems … if you lie to investors and equity firms, well, people take that seriously. So, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission went after SeaWorld for trying to peddle giant loads of whale waste.

— MOVEMENTS —

Carmine Marceno Jr. appointed Lee County Sheriff — Gov. Scott on Friday tapped Marceno, the current undersheriff in Lee County, to take over for Mike Scott, who retires effective Monday. “Sheriff Mike Scott has been dedicated to serving the people of Lee County for the past 30 years,” Scott said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service … With Undersheriff Marceno having nearly 20 years of law enforcement experience and having worked closely with Sheriff Scott, I am confident that he will work every day to protect and serve Lee County.” The 46-year-old Marceno, of Fort Myers, has been with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office since 2013. He received a U.S. Department of Justice Graduation Certificate from the FBI National Academy, the governor’s news release said.

Congratulations to Carmine Marceno.

Personnel note: James Blair named to Enterprise Florida board — House Speaker Richard Corcoran appointed Blair, who’s long served as his political right-hand man, to the board of directors for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization. The appointment is effective Oct. 1. Corcoran went full frontal last year, deriding the organization as little more than a dispenser of “corporate welfare.” (Though a public-private partnership, it doled out mostly public dollars.) As a result of Corcoran’s bulldogging, the organization is now subject to heightened oversight. Corcoran, who is term-limited, leaves the House this year.

Another done (marijuana) deal: Trulieve finishes merger with Canadian concern” via Florida Politics — Trulieve, a Florida medical marijuana provider, and a Canadian mining company on Friday said they had completed their merger and will start trading stock publicly in Canada. Trulieve will begin trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) under the symbol “TRUL” on Tuesday, according to a news release. Toronto-based Schyan Exploration Inc. combined with Trulieve to become Trulieve Cannabis Corp. The new company’s CEO and board chairman is Kim Rivers, the head of the former Trulieve Inc., who now holds 159,867 of what are termed “Super Voting Shares” in the new company, or 18.75 percent, a company statement said.

Sachs Media named ‘PR firm of the year’” — Renowned industry Journal PR News named Sachs Media Group the “PR Firm of the Year” among firms its size in the U.S. Accepting the honor on behalf of the staff and firm was Sachs Media Group partner Michelle Ubben during an awards luncheon this week at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. In a news release, the company said it looks “forward to a bright future ahead working alongside so many talented individuals. We’re privileged to work with so many wonderful clients in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.”

— ALOE —

Celebration of life held for career public servant George Sheldon — The service was Friday at the Tampa Bay History Center in Tampa. Sheldon, 71, most recently had been head of the Our Kids nonprofit that provides child services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Keith Ward, chairman of the Our Kids board of trustees, said Sheldon had sustained a neck injury while exercising. Before Our Kids, he was director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services, and was the acting assistant secretary in 2011-13 for the federal Administration for Children and Families under President Barack Obama. Gov. Charlie Crist selected him to be Secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families in 2008-11. He also served in the state House, was an aide to then-state Sen. Reubin Askew, and was a deputy to Attorney General Bob Butterworth. Those who wish to do so are still asked to contribute to the George H. Sheldon Legacy Fund by clicking on the following link. The fund has been established to continue George’s mission of supporting foster youth programs and children’s advocacy.

A celebration of the life of George Sheldon. (Image via Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune 2016)

Program will spread orchids around Miami’s Coconut Grove” via The Associated Press — Government officials, botanists from Fairchild Botanical Garden and volunteers will mount 250 rare and endangered orchid seedlings onto tree trunks in the central part of the neighborhood. City Commissioner Ken Russell said in a news release that the “Million Orchid Project” is aimed at reintroducing rare and endangered orchid species that have become nearly extinct in South Florida. Schoolyards, hospitals and roadways are among the sites for the reintroduction initiative, which aims to have the first generation of re-established orchids blooming throughout the area within five years. Russell says the orchids’ return will reinforce the Grove’s reputation as a Garden District of the Miami area.

Publix allows store employees to grow beards” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel — The new policy, which goes into effect Sept. 29, is the culmination of a long debate with employees over the issue. Lakeland-based Publix has long forbidden beards for its store workers, with only conservative mustaches allowed, such as the pencil mustache founder George Jenkins sported. Non-store employees such as warehouse workers could wear beards. “We have been testing a new facial hair personal appearance standard in several districts throughout the company that has allowed male associates to wear facial hair, as long as the associate maintains a neat, clean, and professional appearance,” said a statement from Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens.

Snickers replaces Skittles as most popular Halloween candy in Florida” via FloridaDaily.com — Candystore.com released its latest look at the most popular Halloween candies with Skittles claiming the top spot followed by M&M’s, Snickers, Reese’s Cups and Starburst. Despite that, Skittles has been replaced as the most popular Halloween candy in the Sunshine State with Snickers claiming the top spot in Florida. More than 660,500 pounds of Snickers candy was sold in Florida last year, behind only California and Texas when it comes to the amount of candy sold. While Skittles gave up the top spot in the Sunshine State, it remains the second most popular candy for Florida residents to hand out to trick or treaters. Reese’s Cups placed third.

Walmart is teaming with a Seminole Heights chef to promote locally grown mushrooms” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — As niche and organic stores are on the rise, the retail giant is taking extra steps to let shoppers know about its local produce. That’s where Florida-grown Monterey Mushrooms and Seminole Height’s Rooster and the Till chef Ferrell Alvarez come in. “The variety of mushrooms they offer spoke to us,” Alvarez said. Walmart has been selling mushrooms from the Zellwood farm, outside Orlando, for at least the last decade. In June, Alvarez added a mushroom tartine dish to its menu to showcase Monterey’s offerings. “Consumers have a real connection with these chefs and restaurants, who are authentic influencers in their communities,” Walmart senior marketing director Ashley Gibbs said in a statement.

Rooster and the Till chef Ferrell Alvarez is working with Walmart on its selection of mushrooms.

Happy birthday from the weekend to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, Mario Bailey, John Fox, classy lady/top fundraiser Nicole Hagerty, Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, Kim Diaz Scott, and William Stander. Celebrating today is the super-sharp Javi Correoso of Uber, Minnie Cora Merritt of the Board of Governors, and Jocelyn Mund.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Signs of Session

Brian Pitts, a perennial presence in the halls of the Legislature, has readied 11 bill proposals ahead of the 2019 Legislative Session.

They cover a wide range of topics: Education, ethics, civil and criminal justice, and judicial reform. Pitts’ nonprofit Justice-2-Jesus this year is taking on a “controversial and aggressive bill package,” according to his website.

For some reason, early 20th-century activist Margaret Sanger is among the characters in 11 bill proposals from perennial Legislature gadfly Brian Pitts.

The proposals, all of which are sweeping, are available for “members to consider for sponsorship or amendments in existing bills which are filed.”

Some bills — as expected — are rife with hot-button ideas.

The education package if adopted in its entirety would require bible study and a brief meditation period. In high school, students would undergo a comprehensive “history of sex,” relating to “procreation versus recreation behaviors.”

Subjects would include the Comstock Act, the Hays Code, Margaret Sanger, the libido age, the “Kinsey Reports,” Hugh Hefner, the gay rights movement, and “Kama Sutra.”

Why? To also understand the “dangers, excesses, diseases, medicinals and protections which resulted during each period,” according to the proposed legislation.

But not all of Pitts’ ideas would spark contention.

Also included in the advocate’s education-reform bill: Provisions for a balanced curriculum including home economics, beefed up civics lessons and interpersonal conflict resolution training.

Increased accountability for jail inspections, clarifications on public meeting laws and codification of powers and duties of lawmakers are among Pitts’ other proposed changes to statutes and the Constitution.

With less than 50 days before Election Day, it’s hard to think about anything other than candidates and campaigns. But it’s comforting knowing people like Pitts already are looking ahead.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffeDrew WilsonJim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

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

Take 5

Judicial vacancies draw more legal action — Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida, groups that had previously challenged Gov. Rick Scott’s authority to nominate three new state Supreme Court justices on his last day in office, have again filed legal action on the matter. This time, the groups are asking Scott to prove he has the authority to convene the Judicial Nominating Commission, which he already has done. Scott also imposed a Nov. 10 deadline for the panel to finalize three to six selections for the upcoming vacancies. The groups argue that action is outside of his constitutionally delegated powers. Shortly after the writ of quo warranto was filed, the Supreme Court asked Scott to respond. In a statement to the press, Scott’s office called the new legal action “politically-motivated.”

Scott touts more than 1.6M jobs created — Florida businesses created 1,615,500 new jobs since December 2010, a month before Gov. Scott first took office, according to new data released by the state. The Governor announced the latest economic indicators Friday at Promise in Brevard, an assisted living community for young adults with special needs. Scott called the total jobs created a “milestone” in a prepared statement. He added: “Floridians should be proud of this accomplishment and the entire nation should take note: By cutting taxes and creating a positive environment for business, we’ve grown our economy.” In the same period, the unemployment rate fell from 10.8 percent to 3.7 percent, according to the state. That rate has outpaced the nation under Scott’s tenure.

State continues battling red tide — There were several developments this week in the state’s ongoing conflict with red tide, the annually occurring algae outbreak that’s caused massive fish and sea mammal kills on Florida’s Gulf Coast this year. Gov. Scott, who declared the outbreak a state emergency earlier this summer, doled out another $4 million to local communities to help curb red tide. So far, the Department of Environmental Protection has spent $13 million to fight the toxic algae. Scott also announced a partnership formed this week between researchers and scientists from DEP and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of South Florida. They’ll study the potential effectiveness of clay in battling the K. Brevis organism.

Brief filed in ‘bundling’ dispute — A challenge to three measures on the November ballot was spelled out in a 50-page brief filed with the state Supreme Court this week. Attorney Joseph Little, who represents retired Justice Harry Lee Anstead and another plaintiff in the lawsuit, claims the First Amendment “protects Florida voters from being forced to vote against their choices,” according to the News Service of Florida. At stake are three proposed amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, an appointed panel that meets every 20 years to revise the state’s governing document. Anstead and co-plaintiff Robert Barnas argue the amendments improperly “bundle” unrelated issues together. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers agreed when she blocked the amendments. The case passed through to the Supreme Court, which hasn’t indicated whether it will hold oral argument.

House Republicans pen support for Kavanaugh — Most Republicans in the state House this week signed off on a letter encouraging the U.S. Senate to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, the nominee of President Donald Trump. Kavanaugh had been primed for confirmation until recent allegations of sexual assault were levied against him. The accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, claims the incident occurred at a party while the two were in high school during the 1980s. There’s no mention of this allegation in the letter written by the GOP members of the Florida House, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Speaker-designate Jose Oliva, Speaker Pro Tempore Jeanette Nuñez and House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues. “If Judge Kavanaugh — with the combination of academic, professional, and personal achievements and successes — is not qualified to sit on the highest court in our land, then no one is,” reads the letter.

Scott: Plant City company to create jobs

MLMC Florida, an alternative-fuels technology manufacturer, will open its doors in Plant City, Gov. Scott announced this week.

It’s expected to create 45 new jobs from production to sales and logistics, according to the Governor’s Office.

‘Every job’s an opportunity’: Rick Scott touts 45 new alternative-fuel tech jobs in the Plant City area.

“Every new job is an opportunity for a Florida family to succeed in our state,” Scott said. “I’m proud to announce more job growth in Plant City, and I will never stop fighting to make sure that Florida continues to outpace the nation for job creation.”

The approximately 103,000 square-foot operation will work to turn waste — like Styrofoam, plastic films and wood materials — into clean fuel.

Last week, Scott announced that Beast Code LLC, a software company, opted to expand in Fort Walton Beach. With the increase in operations came another 40 jobs.

Four nominated for Ag. Hall of Fame

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced this week a short list of inductees into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Don BenninkRichard GaskallaSam Killebrew and Mike Stuart will be honored at an induction ceremony at the Florida State Fair’s Agricultural Hall of Fame banquet on Feb. 12, according to Putnam’s office.

“Agriculture is Florida’s oldest industry, and it continues to support our state’s economy thanks to the leaders who continue to grow, streamline and modernize the industry,” Putnam said. “I am honored to name the newest members of the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame to honor their outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.”

Florida’s industry elite attend the Agricultural Hall of Fame banquet in February 2018.

Each of the inductees is being recognized for their contributions to agriculture. Bennink’s career is distinguished because of his spearheading of genetic research and practices to advance dairy farming. Gaskalla for more than four decades worked to defend Florida’s crops from invasive pests and diseases.

In the 1950s, Killebrew patented a fertilizer hauler, known as “Killebrew.” His son, also named Sam, now serves in the Florida House. Stuart’s long career is marked by contributions to help streamline the produce trade.

Blount named 2018 Agriculture Woman of the Year

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam this week announced that Dr. Ann Blount has been named the 2018 Woman of the Year in Agriculture.

Blount has dedicated her career to researching and implementing innovative techniques to improve fall forage production in Florida’s southern coastal areas. The award, now in its 34th year, recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.

Ann Blount, 2018 Florida Woman of the Year in Agriculture.

She earned a Bachelor of Science in Crop Ecology from Texas A&M University. She continued her education at the University of Florida, where she earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics.

Blount has since spearheaded research of breeding efforts on physiological aspects of fall forage, specifically: developing improved bahiagrass, evaluating new perennial peanut varieties, and enhancing small grains and ryegrasses.

She joined the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in 1988, and she currently serves as an extension specialist and professor of forage breeding and genetics for the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, about 25 miles west of Tallahassee.

Blount has made significant contributions to the agriculture industry, such as six plant patents and plant variety protections, as well as 76 cultivars and germplasm releases and forages.

The Woman of the Year in Agriculture award is sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida State Fair Authority, and the award will be presented during the 2019 Florida State Fair in Tampa.

Instagram of the Week

The week in appointments

Lee County Sheriff

On Friday, Gov. Scott tapped Carmine Marceno Jr., the current undersheriff in Lee County, to take over for Mike Scott, who retires effective Monday. “Sheriff Mike Scott has been dedicated to serving the people of Lee County for the past 30 years,” Scott said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service … With Undersheriff Marceno having nearly 20 years of law enforcement experience and having worked closely with Sheriff Scott, I am confident that he will work every day to protect and serve Lee County.” The 46-year-old Marceno, of Fort Myers, has been with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office since 2013. He received a U.S. Department of Justice Graduation Certificate from the FBI National Academy, the governor’s news release said.

Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority

Scott reappointed Shaun Oxtal for a term ending July 2022. Oxtal, 31, is the managing director of Capright. He received his undergraduate degree from Florida State University.

Mid-Bay Bridge Authority

Scott reappointed Gordon FornellJames NeilsonJr., and Dewey Destin to the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority. Appointed for first terms are T. Patterson Maney and Victoria Harper. Fornell, 82, is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General. His term expires June 30, 2020. Destin, 33, is a former attorney and current council member for the City of Destin. His term expires June 30, 2021. Nelson, 81, is a retired Army Reserve Staff Sergeant. His term expires June 30, 2019. Maney, 70, is a retired Okaloosa judicial officer. His term expires June 30, 2019. Harker, 51, is a former special FBI agent. Her term ends June 30, 2021.

Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation

Scott reappointed Scot LaFerté, 53 and Bridget Pallango, 68, to The Able Trust board. Both terms expire Sept. 30, 2020. LaFerté is the senior vice president of human resources at Universal Orlando Resort. Pallango is the senior vice president of Goodwill Industries.

State launches rail-safety initiative

The Florida Department of Transportation is launching a locomotive-focused safety initiative. Be Rail Smart aims to reduce the number of railroad track incidents, according to FDOT.

News of the campaign is concurrent with National Rail Safety week, set to begin Sept. 23. The campaign also comes at a time when rail safety concerns are in the fore. Brightline’s high-speed trains have been involved in multiple fatalities as of late.

Campaign materials include a series of videos that are locally focused and tailored to different age groups. FDOT recommends sharing “What not to do on the tracks” with new drivers; “A race you won’t win” with young adults; “The Mile” with kids and teenagers; and “My Baby,” “Hide and Seek,” and “From a mile away” with adults.

Additionally, banners and brochures will be available at Tri-Rail stations Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties throughout this week.

Watch an example campaign video below:

Enterprise Florida, manufacturers join forces

The state’s jobs incentives agency is teaming up with manufacturers to help increase international appeal of goods produced in the Sunshine State.

In an agreement reached between Enterprise Florida and the Manufacturers Association of Florida, members of MAF are permitted to apply for the public-private agency’s export diversification grants.

Enterprise Florida’s Manny Mencia is helping businesses push the state’s export economy.

Enterprise Florida also says it will give priority to member manufacturers wishing to attend overseas trade missions and exhibitions.

Manny Mencia, senior vice president of international trade and development at Enterprise Florida, said the partnership “can strengthen Florida’s manufacturing sector and grow Florida’s export economy.”

“Their programs and grants are superior and bring a level of competitiveness to our state that is unmatched,” said MAF President Al Stimac. “MAF recognizes the vital role Enterprise Florida holds in our industry, and we value the successful partnership between our organizations.”

According to Enterprise Florida, the Sunshine State ranks among the nation’s top 10 manufacturing states. More than 360,000 people work in such industries throughout Florida.

Able Trust names Galvano ‘Legislator of the Year’

Kicking off Disability Employment Awareness Month in Orlando this week, The Able Trust presented its 2018 Ability Awards. And incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, was recognized by the nonprofit as ‘Legislator of the Year.’

Sue Homant, president and CEO of The Able Trust, said Galvano has been a steward to the organization. She also noted Galvano’s “stance on school safety during the 2018 Legislative Session, of which he was a leader, affects all students, including those with disabilities, and we applaud him for his tireless work.”

The Able Trust named incoming Senate President Bill Galvano as its 2018 ‘Legislator of the Year.’

“The Able Trust’s work connecting job seekers with businesses through community organizations has resulted in the employment of thousands of people with disabilities,” Galvano said. “I have known The Able Trust for many years and have long supported its successful efforts to make sure people with disabilities are a part of Florida’s workforce.”

Davis to host Duval baby shower

Expecting mothers in Duval County take notice: State Rep. Tracie Davis and the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Magnolia Project are hosting a community baby shower on Saturday in Duval County.

The event is open to all expecting mothers and mothers of newborns under two months old who live in the 32202, -04, -06, -08, -09, -19 and -54 ZIP codes.

It will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and smoothies will be available.

State Rep. Tracie Davis will be holding a districtwide baby shower this weekend.

Davis’ office says the goal of the event is to help women identify helpful tools for raising a happy and healthy infant. Breastfeeding, safe sleep, nutrition and yoga classes will be offered.

“Bringing our community together to provide our new and expectant mothers with the tools they need to care for their children is invaluable,” said Davis.

“For the second year in a row, it has been my pleasure to surround these families with the love, opportunity, and encouragement that is key to establishing a bright future for all our children.”

FHCA execs receive ‘gold standard’

Florida Health Care Association executives Bob Asztalos and Tom Parker have earned the Designated Professional Lobbyist certification from the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists.

In the Sunshine State, the designation is regarded as the gold standard for professionals who navigate the contours of the legislative process for their clients.

FHCA execs Bob Asztalos and Tom Parker earned the gold standard for advocacy.

Asztalos, FHCA’s chief lobbyist, is a veteran influencer in the health care industry. He’s advocated on related issues since 1985 and also serves as the chief emergency coordinator at FHCA.

Parker, FHCA director of reimbursement, acts as a liaison between FHCA and the state Legislature. He also coordinates with the state Agency for Health Care Administration, Department of Elder Affairs and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Goodbye Alachua … hello Orlando

That’s where the future lies for the Florida Citrus, Business & Industries Fund, a workers’ compensation carrier with more than 7,000 policyholders.

The corporate HQ move follows the decision to bring all marketing and underwriting work in-house, which the company says will boost efficiency. It means adding another two dozen jobs, with more expected in the years ahead.

“FCBI has always focused on serving small businesses that form the backbone of Florida’s economy,” chief executive officer Debra Ruedisili said. “We are a Florida-grown, Florida-focused company, that deeply cares about this state, its people and its economic health.”

The company has operated for more than 40 years, many of them under the FUBA Workers’ Comp brand.

The company originally focused on the citrus industry, but today covers retailers, construction companies, artisan contractors and service providers. It claims $102 million in assets, and boosted its policyholder surplus from $25 million to $35 million between 2017 and 2018.

Two fails for tort reformers

The Florida Justice Reform Institute struck out in two at-bats before the Florida Supreme Court, both on the same day, and both involving appeals from the 4th District Court of Appeal.

The institute filed friend-of-the-court briefs in both cases.

In both cases, institute President William Large argues, the court overstepped its jurisdiction by saying the intermediate appeals court in West Palm Beach had misread high court precedents when it really hadn’t.

Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large is zero for two with the Florida Supreme Court, both in the same day.

The court voted, 5-1, to reinstate an $18.5 million judgment against R.J. Reynolds for the daughter of a woman who died of lung cancer. The court concluded the daughter’s financial independence of her mother didn’t soften her pain and suffering.

The justices also voted, 4-3, to reinstate an $8.5 million bad-faith claim against Geico General Insurance Co. in favor of a policyholder who argued a claims adjuster botched negotiations with the family of a deceased motorcyclist.

“Our constitution gives the Florida Supreme Court limited authority of discretionary review,” Large said of the first ruling.

“Without an express and direct conflict between appellate decisions on the same question of law, the court’s decision to take up this case exceeded that authority. Their actions risk depriving litigants of the finality that the district courts of appeal are meant to bring.”

FSU finds new alumni president

The search for a new alumni relations head at Florida State University is over.

FSU this week named Julie Cheney the new president and CEO of the university’s Alumni Association. Cheney succeeds Scott Atwell, who had served up until May. Cheney will officially assume the role in November.

“Florida State alumni are passionate, and their involvement is key to advancing the mission and vision of our university,” Cheney said. “I can’t wait to get started.”

Julie Cheney is the newly named president and CEO of the FSU Alumni Association.

Cheney is a veteran of alumni relations. She’s formerly worked in related positions at the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina. In Tallahassee, she’ll be responsible for connecting more than 349,000 alumni with the university, while also increasing membership, managing the association’s finances and overseeing a 23-person staff.

“Julie Cheney’s broad experience in the many aspects of alumni relations will allow her to hit the ground running with an excellent understanding of best practices,” said Tom Jennings, vice president for University Advancement.

Study: Polarization could be good

Candidates who tout extreme positions on issues like immigration and abortion could be a better fit for their constituents, a new study from researchers at Florida State University suggests.

The researchers surveyed participants to determine how ideologically conservative or liberal each were. They assessed levels of agreement to statements like, “Same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.”

At a later date, the same subjects were presented with two hypothetical candidates. After reading through each candidate’s platform, the participants were asked which candidate they prefer. Another test presented to the subjects candidates who “matched” each participant ideologically, but strayed on the issues.

The result: Overarching ideological differences didn’t matter. The candidates’ preferences were largely tied to single issues, ones that are often polarizing.

“There’s a long strand of psychology and political behavior research that suggests citizens don’t really think ideologically, that they don’t evaluate candidates based on how liberal or conservative they are,” said researcher Dough Ahler, who is an assistant professor of political science at FSU. “When it comes to policy, what really matters are the individual issues.”

Goad appointed City Manager

Tallahassee city commissioners this week appointed Reese Goad to permanently fill the position of City Manager.

Goad, who had been interim city manager, was credited with making gains in crime reduction during his brief tenure. He assumed the role after former City Manager Rick Fernandez stepped down in the wake of allegations of accepting gifts in his official capacity.

Tallahassee welcomes a new City Manager, Reese Goad.

“With the Commission’s support, I am prepared to lead this organization into the future with a commitment to financial stability, high-quality service delivery and an unequivocal standard of ethical decision making,” Goad said in a statement.

As the city’s manager, Goad is responsible for making sure the everyday functions of the city go smoothly. He reports directly to the Tallahassee City Commission and oversees approximately 3,000 city workers. He’ll also work with an annual budget of around $900 million.

Capitol Directions

 

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.21.18

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

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

Autumn arrives Saturday at 9:54 p.m. EDT (that’s 8:54 p.m. CDT, 7:54 p.m. MDT and 6:54 p.m. PDT).

At a precise moment each September, on either the 21st, 22nd or 23rd, the sun appears directly above the equator, marking the exact time of the autumnal equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere.

Below the equator in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s known as the vernal or spring equinox and marks the beginning of spring. So if you’re in need of more guaranteed warmth and sunshine in the months ahead, head way down south to countries such as Argentina, South Africa or Australia.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for cool, fall-like weather the next couple of weeks here in the U.S., head for the Northwest or north-central states. Warmer-than-average temperatures are forecast for most of the eastern half of the U.S. for the final 10 days of September, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

The word equinox comes from the Latin words “aequalis” and “Nox,” meaning equal night. On the autumnal (and the spring) equinox, day and night are both roughly 12 hours long over most of the world.

Another equinox fun fact: On Saturday, the sun rises due east and sets in due west for most of the world, except at the North and South Poles.

Although some people claim that the autumnal equinox is the “official” start of fall, no administrative or political organization actually designates such.

Indeed, though astronomers say summer ends Saturday, meteorologists and climatologists say summer ended Aug. 31, the final day of the three hottest months of the year (June, July and August.)

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the summer of 2018 tied for the USA’s fourth-warmest summer on record, while the planet as a whole had its fifth-warmest summer on record.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@NWS: Florence analysis confirms extreme 3-day rainfall amounts exceeded 0.1% probability event expected in given year, or “1000-year” event.

—@SenBillNelson: Most Americans who died as a result of Hurricane Maria were not killed by storm surge, rain or wind, but rather as a result of an inadequate response by the federal government. Today, I urged FEMA to pay the full cost of Puerto Rico’s post-hurricane emergency recovery efforts.

@DarrenSoto: As a son of Puerto Rico, I take offense to Rick Scott using our people as a political prop for his stumbling campaign. We deserve better! 🇺🇸 🇵🇷

—@MarcACaputo: If Twitter existed during the Clarence Thomas hearings, Washington would’ve ignited

—@FordM: A lot of things have happened on this website over the years, but I’m pretty sure “using Google Maps and Zillow to strongly insinuate a random guy committed sexual assault in the early 1980s” is a first.

@Fahrenthold: At last, a spokesperson for @FloridaCrystals called back. BUT she was not authorized to answer questions. So Fla. Crystals is declining comment? No. She was not authorized to decline. I’d heard of no-comments. This was an anti-comment. I’m making journalism history here

@Fineout: Just a reminder — some GOP legislators, and initially @FLGovScott, had concerns about the prescription drug database and whether the state should even pay for it.

—@Scott_Maxwell: No one better epitomizes visual storytelling in Florida than @RedHuber. He has a gift for capturing joy, pain, beauty, energy — and oh-so-many bald eagles and space shuttles. After nearly 50 years, he’s earned the next chapter. But Red, we will miss you.

—@RicTampaBay: There you go #TampaBay! Last year we broke the record high for Sep. 20th with 94°. Today we smashed that record by another 2 degrees! Our top heat index today high 106°.

—@AbelHarding: If I want to drink out of a (plastic) straw that doesn’t ruin the taste of the drink I’m consuming, I’ll do so. Long live Florida.

— DAYS UNTIL —

First day of fall — 1; Future of Florida Forum — 5; Government shutdown — 9; FSU vs. UM football game — 15; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 19; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 32; MLB World Series begins — 34; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 34; Early voting begins — 36; Halloween — 40; General Election Day — 46; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 60; Thanksgiving — 62; Black Friday — 63; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 67; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 144; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 165; Captain Marvel release — 168; 2020 General Election — 774.

— FIRST IN SUNBURN —

Newly released surveys from Public Policy Polling (PPP) show Democrats either tightening margins (or leading) in three critical South Florida congressional races. Protect Our Care, a group advocating for the protection of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commissioned the poll of likely Florida voters, taken Sept. 17-19.

The largest gap — just five points — is in Florida’s 25th Congressional District, where incumbent U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart leads Democratic challenger Mary Barzee Flores 41 to 36 percent, with 22 percent undecided. The numbers represent a net gain of two percentage points for Barzee Flores since the last PPP poll in May showed her down seven points.

Next largest is Florida’s 18th Congressional District; incumbent Republican Brian Mast holds a three-point lead over Democrat Lauren Baer, 46 to 43 percent; 10 percent of respondents remain undecided.

Then there’s Florida’s 26th Congressional District, where PPP found Democrat Debbie Murcarsel-Powell leading incumbent Congressman Carlos Curbelo by a single point, 45 to 44 percent; 11 percent are unsure.

As for the ACA, most Florida voters surveyed in all three districts support keeping the health care law. In CD 25, 49 percent of respondents support the law; 37 percent say they oppose it and 14 percent were unsure. With CD 26, the approval gap is a full 18 points, with 53 percent approve, 35 percent opposed and 12 percent not sure. The same is in CD 18, where 51 percent of likely voters support keeping the ACA, with only 37 percent opposed and 12 percent are unsure.

— HE SPEAKS —

Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for Governor, is talking … and talking. 

In a 25-minute-long interview with the Tampa Bay Times, DeSantis gives his takes on a comprehensive list of Florida issues.

Ron DeSantis is talking. And talking.

Here are some highlights: 

Education: On Common Core, some of it’s “funny business,” DeSantis says. Charter school accountability, he adds, is market-dependent. “If a public charter school’s not doing a good job, people aren’t going to go there.” Concerning school funding, DeSantis says more money can come by expanding the economy and therefore taking in more revenue in already existing taxes. 

Race: ” … The Washington Post says it was, quote — ‘racially charged.’ That means they don’t have the goods to say it’s about race,” DeSantis says in response to questions about speaking at conferences attended by extremists. 

Amendments: Most proposed ballot items from the Constitution Revision Commission don’t belong in the Constitution, DeSantis says.

— TOP OF THE BALLOT —

Ron DeSantis faces questions about supporter’s racist slur” via Karen Zraick of The New York Times — POLITICO reported that a Republican activist who has donated more than $20,000 to Mr. DeSantis over the years used a vulgar, racist slur recently against former President Barack Obama on Twitter. The donor, Steven Alembik, had also lined up a speech for DeSantis at a pro-Israel event at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in February. Alembik told POLITICO that he had written the tweet in anger, and later deleted it. In an appearance at Florida International University in Miami, DeSantis disavowed the tweet. “I’m not responsible for it, reject it,” he told reporters. “We’re focused on our message, and we’re focusing on what we’re putting out.”

Ron DeSantis supporter Steven Alembik, author of several racist tweets against former President Barack Obama.

Jeb Bush, Richard Corcoran laud DeSantis’ education policy” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Republican nominee for Governor DeSantis rolled out an education policy this week that wasn’t too different from that of dispatched primary rival Adam Putnam, with emphasis on school choice (charter schools) and vocational training. As yet another signal of DeSantis being embraced by establishment Republicans, his campaign on Thursday rolled out endorsements from Gov. Jeb Bush (whose eight years in Tallahassee stressed educational reform, and who was the last conservative defender of Common Core) and House Speaker Richard Corcoran (who abandoned his own gubernatorial ambitions and backed Putnam in the primary) …. The Bush imprimatur is interesting here, given the former Governor spent a good portion of his 2016 Presidential run explaining away his own backing of Common Core. DeSantis, of course, wants to end Common Core …. Corcoran, who called DeSantis “visionless” just this summer, now believes DeSantis offers “bold education policy.”

DeSantis not returning cash to donor who called Obama N-word” via The Associated Press — Campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said that money they’ve already taken from Steven Alembik‘s company, SMA Communications, won’t be returned because it was already spent on the primary election. The Democratic-affiliated group American Bridge provided a screenshot of the Alembi’s tweet, in which he used profanity to describe Obama as a Muslim N-word. Lawson called the tweet “disgusting.” SMA Communications donated $2,000 to DeSantis’ campaign and $2,000 to DeSantis’ political committee. Another $11,000 in donations from Alembik and SMA were returned.

—“Trump made DeSantis in the Florida GOP primary but could sink him in November” via S.V. Date of HuffPost

—“DeSantis should study Florida Constitution, quit lying about Gillum” via Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times

Andrew Gillum fundraiser in building county might buy ‘looks bad,’ commissioner says” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Eight of the nine Broward County commissioners are co-hosting a fundraiser Gillum — at space donated by a property owner who wants the county to buy the same building for $24 million. The fundraiser is organized by Commissioner Dale Holness, who was one of Broward’s most prominent Gillum supporters. Holness is also the commissioner who raised the idea of buying the building in question, in the Spectrum Office Park in northwest Fort Lauderdale, with his colleagues last month. In a telephone interview, Holness said there’s no connection between the free space for the fundraiser from the building owner and the possibility of the county buying the building. “I see nothing where anyone is getting any personal benefit from it,” he said. Chip LaMarca, the only Republican commissioner, said the confluence of events “looks bad.”

Gillum, to make first Pinellas appearance since primary winvia Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Tallahassee Mayor Gillum is making his first campaign stop in Pinellas County since his surprise victory in the Democratic primary for Governor. Gillum and incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson are featured speakers at the Pinellas County ‘Democrats’ Wave to Victory’ dinner this Saturday at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon. The event is the party’s biggest fundraiser benefiting. Red tide will likely be a topic of conversation. Gillum is considering touring some of the devastation this weekend, according to campaign sources … Nelson’s race is one of the most important Senate races in the nation this year … Other guests at the Wave to Victory Dinner include Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw, CFO candidate Jeremy Ring, and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried. Congressman Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman are also attending. The event includes a cocktail hour from 6-7 p.m. and dinner and program from 7-10 p.m.

Bill Nelson is ‘tired of waiting’ to meet with Brett Kavanaugh, will make decision next week” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — “I’ll announce it,” Nelson said at a Hurricane Maria recovery meeting. “I have tried to see him for months. That is the respectful thing to do. And I am tired of waiting. So, today, we have requested again to see him next week. And if they ignore that request, I will make a decision.” Nelson says he has asked five times to see Kavanaugh, who has met with most Republicans and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the body responsible for confirmation hearings. Republicans want Kavanaugh’s accuser to testify Monday or else they are prepared to move forward with the nomination.

Assignment editors — SEIU announces its endorsement of Nelson for re-election, 2 p.m., UAW Local #788 Union Hall, 1825 West Oak Ridge Road, Orlando.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Ballots start to trickle in for November election” via the News Service of Florida — A division webpage said Thursday morning that four Democrats and one Republican had returned vote-by-mail ballots and that more than 1.5 million vote-by-mail ballots had been requested. Two of the Democratic voters who had already returned their ballots were from Monroe County, with the other two from Manatee and Leon counties. The Republican was from Lee County.

AIF committees back Republican Cabinet candidates” via the News Service of Florida — Associated Industries of Florida-linked committees known as Florida Prosperity Fund and Floridian’s United for Our Children’s Future gave $200,000 to Friends of Matt Caldwell … AIF-linked Voice of Florida Business Political Action Committee gave $115,000 to Friends of Ashley Moody … Floridian’s United for Our Children’s Future also gave $55,000 to Treasure Florida, a PAC supporting Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. Meanwhile, the Voice of Florida Business Political Action Committee gave a combined total of $100,000 to Innovate Florida, a committee led by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano and the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, also led by Galvano.

Matt Caldwell, Ashley Moody and Jimmy Patronis are among the Republican Cabinet candidates benefiting from AIF largess.

Crossing the aisle: Democratic sheriffs endorse GOP’s Ashley Moody for A.G.” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — In the bare-knuckled GOP primary race for Attorney General, former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Moody played up law enforcement backing to distinguish herself from opponents. Now the nominee, Moody continues to bank law enforcement endorsements — including eight Democrats from rural counties rolled out Thursday, bringing her total to 57 …. Democratic endorsements suggest that Moody will draw votes from Blue Dog Democrats as well as Republicans in her race against the Democratic nominee, state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa.

Another $800,000 funneled into Senate GOP committee” via the News Service of Florida — State Sen. Dana Young used her PAC to funnel $800,000 to a political committee led by Senate Republican leaders, according to a newly filed finance report. The PAC known as Friends of Dana Young contributed the money to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is led by incoming Senate President Galvano and is spearheading efforts to elect Senate candidates. The contribution was the latest example of how Republican leaders are using the committee as a war chest for the November elections.

’Dammit Dana’: Janet Cruz blasts opponent Dana Young’s education record” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “Dammit Dana, stop,” Cruz lamented at a news conference in front of Plant High School in South Tampa. Cruz was referring to Young’s track record voting in favor of school choice programs like vouchers and charter schools, which critics say funnel funding away from traditional public schools into corporate hands. Young responded to Cruz’s comments, arguing school choice programs are effective for children, particularly those who may not live near good schools. “Bottom line, no one can really say anymore what traditional education is because that rigid thinking does not help the students,” Young said.

— WINNING TICKET —

The Florida Democratic Party is appointing Mitchell Berger as Finance Chair for the Democratic Coordinated Campaign. Berger is a South Florida attorney who has been involved with the Democratic Party for years, including serving as the Democratic National Committees Federal Victory Chair in 2000, co-leader of the Campaign for Change in 2008 and as a member of the National Finance Board of Obama Victory Fund.

“There could not be a more exciting time to serve as Finance Chair of the Florida Democratic Party,” Berger said. “I am proud to be able to contribute to the efforts the party is doing to elect bold and progressive leaders. From Andrew Gillum’s historic election, to the re-election of Senator Bill Nelson, and with the balance of the House and Senate hanging on Florida’s efforts, the work we are doing could not be more important.”

Mitchell Berger, newly named finance chair of the Florida Democratic Party ‘Winning Ticket’ campaign.

“We are so thrilled to have Mitchell Berger as our Finance Chair at such a critical time for our party, our state, and our nation,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo. ” Florida Democrats began their field efforts late last year, we have won six special elections in a row, and have knocked more than 1.5 million doors and had the highest Democratic primary turnout since 1978. And now that Florida families have our winning ticket, the coordinated ground game is ready to deliver wins in November. I am confident that Mitchell will do everything he can to support our Winning Ticket and help take us over the edge in November.”

As Finance Chair, Berger will play a significant role in helping to raise money for the coordinated campaign, which is a statewide effort to elect Democrats up-and-down the ballot. Berger founded Berger Singerman in 1985 and is co-chair of the firm. He has over 30 years of successful representation in commercial disputes including Fortune 500 companies.

The “Winning Ticket” is the Florida Democratic Party coordinated campaign dedicated to supporting and electing a record number of Democrats in Florida in 2018, including Nelson, Gillum, Democratic cabinet nominees and thousands of Democrats from school board to the state Senate. The Florida Democratic Party and our Democratic candidates seek to run a presidential-level statewide ground game with paid organizers in every corner of the state for the first time in a midterm in recent history.

— TROLL WARS —

Facebook is finishing construction of a 16-desk, high-tech headquarters for safeguarding elections. 

“On one wall, a half-dozen televisions will be tuned to CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and other major networks,” write Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac for The New York Times. “A small paper sign with orange lettering taped to the glass door describes what’s being built: ‘War Room.’” 

What happens in the War Room will be a ‘last line of defense’ for Facebook engineers to quickly spot unforeseen problems on and near election days in different countries. (Image via The New York Times)

Context: Foreign influence peddlers have compromised Facebook in the past, using the platform to disseminate false and misleading information on candidates in the hopes of swinging elections. 

Tools: A new software allows the expected 20-person staff to track information spreading across social media. Dashboards give real-time updates to traffic on stories. 

‘Last resort’: If a problem gets to the war room, it’s bad. “Everything else we are doing is defenses we are putting down to stop this in the first place,” Facebook’s elections and civic engagement team leader says. 

— STATEWIDE —

March For Our Lives founder leaves the group, regrets trying to ‘embarrass’ Marco Rubio” via Alex Daugherty of the Tampa Bay Times — Cameron Kasky helped raise millions of dollars in a matter of days for a gun-control rally and confronted Sen. Rubio on television after the nation’s deadliest high school shooting. Now, Kasky is leaving the group. Kasky first announced his decision to leave March For Our Lives in an interview with Fox News Radio’s Guy Benson, where he also expressed regret for the way he talked to Rubio during a town hall event broadcast on CNN. “I look back on that and I say, you know what, there were people who had just been buried and when you’re looking at somebody that you find might in some way have been complicit in this murderer obtaining the weapon it’s hard not to say something like that,” Kasky said to Fox. “But, I went into that wanting less conversation and more to embarrass Rubio and that was my biggest flaw.”

No hard feelings: Cameron Kasky is leaving March for Our Lives, the gun-control group he helped found, and regrets trying to ‘embarrass’ Marco Rubio.

Lawsuit challenges Rick Scott’s Supreme Court appointments (again)” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — In a move that could determine the political balance of the Florida Supreme Court, two advocacy groups sued Scott, contending he doesn’t have the power to appoint three justices to replace three members who must retire on the same day Scott’s term expires. The justices rejected a similar previous suit as not ready for review because Scott hadn’t yet acted on the appointments. But last week Scott moved to convene the Judicial Nominating Commission to vet and recommend nominees, an action the League of Women Voters and Common Cause say oversteps his authority. The state constitution requires justices to retire once they turn 70 but allows them to finish a six-year term if they’ve already served half of it. As a result, Justices Barbara ParientePeggy Quince and Fred Lewis must retire by midnight Jan. 7, 2019, the same time Scott’s term ends. The retiring justices make up three votes on the 4-3 liberal majority on the court.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will announce Florida’s August job numbers, 10 a.m., Promise in Brevard, 4105 Norfolk Pkwy., West Melbourne.

Briefly considered for Lieutenant Governor candidate, Lauren Book explains her ‘contemplation’” via Jessica Bakeman of WLRM Miami — Sen. Book was floated as a potential running mate for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum — but she says she wouldn’t have accepted the offer if it had materialized. Book said Gillum did not officially ask her to be his running mate. But Book gave it “a lot of contemplation.” She decided giving up her Senate seat — plus her position as the Senate appointee on a panel investigating the Parkland shooting — would be too big a sacrifice. She said her work on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission “really changed my entire trajectory and path” and how she saw “the person I want to be, the educator I want to be, the parent I want to be, the legislator I want to be.”

73 Florida House Republicans sign letter supporting Brett Kavanaugh. Two from Tampa Bay didn’t sign.” via the Miami Herald — The letter, originated by House Speaker-Designate Jose Oliva went to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and three other senators Wednesday in advance of a key hearing set for next Monday. The GOP lawmakers called on senators “and in particular, Sen. Nelson, to confirm Judge Kavanaugh and allow him to begin his service as quickly as possible. Rep. Shawn Harrison said it was an oversight that he didn’t sign, and it should not be interpreted as a sign that he opposes Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Rep. Chris Latvala issued a statement saying: “While I believe Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed and the timing of this accusation is suspect, I think it’s important to gather all the facts.”

Nearly 75 Florida House Republicans are behind the nomination of Brett Kavanagh for the Supreme Court.

Florida hospitals get $1.1B in LIP money — Hospitals and medical facilities hitting the required thresholds for providing free care to uninsured patients will get $700 million in federal “low-income pool” matching funds to cover their costs. That cash is in addition to the combined $450 million raised by those facilities. Florida children’s, public and teaching hospitals that with an uncompensated caseload of 17 percent or more will get a combined $438 million of the total; private hospitals that hit the same mark will get $165 million combined; private facilities that missed the mark will get $14 million; and rural health centers and other federally qualified centers with an uncompensated caseload of 19.3 percent or more will receive $20 million.

Use of drug database increases amid opioid fight” via News Service of Florida — One of Florida’s main weapons to thwart “doctor shopping” has been expanding substantially after the passage of a tough new law aimed at addressing the continuing opioid crisis. State officials on Thursday said more than 92,000 health care providers had registered to use an electronic database that tracks patients who are prescribed controlled substances. The August total is more than double the number of providers who were registered to use the system the previous year.

ICYMI from last night’s “Last Call” — A Collier County fire official is seeking guidance from the State Fire Marshal’s Office on whether to exempt a proposed “marijuana grow and processing facility” from the state’s fire code requirements. Dale E. Fey Jr., Fire Marshal at The North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District, filed a petition for what’s known as a “declaratory statement” last month … The property in question, in Immokalee, is registered to Oakes Farms Tomato Repack LLC, according to Collier County property records … “This is not a proposed facility of any current MMTC [medical marijuana treatment center] at this time, but may be a location not yet submitted, or a location of a proposed MMTC applicant,” (Health Department) spokesman Nick Van Der Linden said … Fey wants to know whether the structure’s owners can claim an “agricultural exemption to avoid complying with Fire and Life Safety codes,” his filing said. The request was still pending as of Thursday.

Mold displaces Department of Environmental Protection workers” via Tallahassee Democrat — Thirteen Florida DEP workers, displaced by a mold infection at their Tallahassee offices, continued to work from home Thursday. Mold forced more than two dozen workers out of the Bob Martinez Center on Blairstone Road Monday. An employee had alerted DEP officials to what they described as a “mildew-like substance” in several offices of the complex last week. The Department of Management Services inspected and found the infection limited to the fifth and sixth floors. While dehumidifiers and air scrubbers were installed this week, DEP employees were displaced — 23 workers telecommuted from home and around town, while others found workspace elsewhere in the Martinez Center.

Mold is forcing the removal of employees from the Bob Martinez center in Tallahassee.

Former LCS employee sues Rocky Hanna, district over age discrimination and politics” via Ashley White of the Tallahassee Democrat — A lawsuit was filed in Leon Circuit Court by Stephen Shelton, the former LCS director of maintenance. The lawsuit claims Hanna and the district infringed on Shelton’s freedom of speech and elected not to rehire him because of his support of former Superintendent Jackie Pons. It also alleges they discriminated against Shelton because of his age. He was 66 at the time his contract was not renewed for the 2017-18 school year. Shelton’s replacement was 59 when he was hired.

Boca Raton man indicted in scheme to defraud Amazon of $229K in cash, merchandise” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Joseph Sides created hundreds of accounts with Amazon to order an array of gaming products, then conspired with others to defraud Amazon to obtain refunds and merchandise that he sold on the internet, a federal indictment said. The indictment, issued by the Northern District of Florida, said he created over 500 Amazon accounts using false names and setting up email accounts to go with them. “While current whereabouts of the Defendant is known, the public revelation of the Indictment could severely hamper law enforcement’s ability to apprehend defendant to answer the charges,” stated the motion requesting the indictment be sealed. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District said Sides was 24 and a resident of Boca Raton.

Plants, but no pants: Florida man gardens in the nude” via The Associated Press — Being in touch with nature is one thing. But gardening au naturel is quite another for some neighbors of a Florida man who’s been doing yard work in the nude. Miffed residents called the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, but the man continues to do yard work naked. Sheriff William Snyder believes the man’s refusal to wear clothes has breached two statutes: lewd and lascivious behavior and breach of peace. Neighbor Melissa Ny tells WPBF the man was bent over winding up a garden hose on Sunday evening when she put the trash out. Neighbor Aimee Canterbury says she’s just taught her six kids to look the other way if the neighbor is naked.

Florida man gardening ‘au naturel.’

Flags at half-staff for victims of Hurricane Maria” via Florida Politics — Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday ordered flags at half-staff “as a tribute to those who lost their lives during Hurricane Maria.” Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Capitol from noon Thursday to sunset. He did not make a statement to accompany his order. Scott was traveling to Puerto Rico on Thursday, the anniversary of Maria’s 2017 island landfall. He is scheduled to join Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and other island officials.

Assignment editors — Café con Tampa hosts “Brightline: Connecting Florida cities with high-speed rail” with Bob O’Malley, Brightline vice president of Government Affairs, 8 a.m., upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

— WEEKEND MEDIA —

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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Tampa Bay Times Deputy managing editor Amy Hollyfield, Florida Phoenix reporter Mitch Perry, Bay News 9/AM 820 News host Chris Ingram and Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: This week’s show will discuss the Florida Constitution Revision Commission’s vote to place Amendment 10, composed of four constitutional amendments, on the ballot. Joining Walker-Torres are Martin County Clerk of Court Carolyn Timmann, and Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A discussion on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the situation with his accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford coming forward; Nikki Fried will discuss her run for Agriculture Commissioner. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will discuss a claim made by Andrew Gillum on being sued by the NRA.

Politics on Your Side with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Reggie Garcia and Richard Harrison will debate the Felons Voting Rights in Amendment 4.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will speak with Bob McClure of the James Madison Institute and Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Guest is Darcy Richardson, Reform Party gubernatorial candidate. Discussing “Generation” and efforts to connect unemployed youth with training, then to employers: Brenda Ford of the New Town Success Zone; Phyllis Martin of the United Way of Northeast Florida; and Alex Rudnick of Generation U.S. Retail Program.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will focus on the upcoming November elections, including the race for Governor and Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Also, the powerhouse roundtable will take on the week’s news.

>>>Happening today — Former U.S. Reps. David Jolly and Patrick Murphy take part in a town-hall meeting on the SiriusXM POTUS radio station to discuss ideas for ending gridlock in Washington, 2 p.m., SiriusXM POTUS Channel 124.

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jorge Chamizo, Cory Guzzo, Floridian Partners: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Virginia Haworth: Florida State College at Jacksonville

Joe Clements, Matt Farrar launch new podcast — “Of Record” will “drill down on the latest in digital media,” a Facebook announcement said Thursday. “Sprinkled in are deep-dive interviews where small business owners, nonprofit leaders, and captivating characters will share real challenges of modern-day organizations,” Clements and Farrar wrote. “We’ll be giving away some of our best marketing ideas to these innovators for free, and you won’t want to miss these special episodes.” The two are co-founders of Strategic Digital Services, a Tallahassee-based tech company, and Bundl, an app that coordinates political contributions. iPhone and iTunes users can listen to episodes in the Podcast app by clicking here. Several episodes are already live.

“The Lede” newsletter calls it quits — Former News Service of Florida top editor Dave Royse has suspended his email newsletter, he wrote to subscribers Thursday. Royse, a former Associated Press reporter now in Chicago, edits the LedeTree website, which “covers emerging industries, technology, lifestyle and stories about a changing world.” He said “his email newsletter just isn’t getting enough attention, enough click-thrus and enough sharing, so he and LedeTree are shutting it down for now … LedeTree is still here, and I’m still here — it’s only The Lede newsletter that is taking a break. We’re hoping we can bring you some cool, interesting things in the near future …” LedeTree’s CEO is Ruth Herrle, formerly the News Service of Florida’s publisher.

— ALOE —

Amazon ramps up effort to make Alexa voice assistant more ubiquitous” via Ina Fried and Erica Pandey of Axios — So far, the company has announced, per CNBC: Amazon Basic Microwave, which will cost $59.99. Echo Wall Clock, at $30, to set timers and such. Alexa Smart Plug, which, for $25, will sync objects that are plugged into it with an Echo speaker. For example, you could plug in any old lamp and turn it into a smart lamp. A new Echo Dot, which will be 70 percent louder and come in different colors. It will cost $49.99. Echo Plus, at $149, with cleaner sound, better bass and an internal temperature sensor. Echo Input, a $34.99 product that will connect to existing speakers and Bluetooth devices. New Alexa capabilities. She’ll be able to tell when you’re whispering — and she’ll whisper back. She’ll also act on “hunches,” so if you tell her “good night,” she might turn off your lights and check if your doors are locked.

Hear Tom Petty’s nostalgic ‘Gainesville’ from ‘American Treasure’ box set” via Andy Greene of Rolling Stone — The upcoming Petty box set “An American Treasure” is an exploration of the singer’s catalog that skips past obvious hits in favor of lesser-known album tracks, alternate versions of familiar songs, great live moments, demos and even previously unreleased tunes. That’s the case with “Gainesville,” a song recorded during the Echo sessions in 1998 but never wound up on the album.

To listen to the track, click on the image below:

’Incredibles’ taking over Pixar Place” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — The former Pixar Place area in Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be rethemed after “The Incredibles” as one of many small changes Disney announced for its parks in 2019. In a Disney Parks Blog post about “new and limited time experiences” coming to Disney World next year, the area once built to look like Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California, will now be remade into a city block of Municiberg. The area will feature a character meet-and-greet with Edna Mode, the super suit designer from the films … guests should also be on the “look out for clues to the whereabouts” of Jack-Jack, the youngest in the Incredibles family. Pixar Place has been closed since July.

What Richard Reeves is reading —Watch the trailer for Season 5 of Chef’s Table” via Nikita Richardson of GrubStreet.com — There will, of course, be many, many slow-motion shots of food, contemplative stares into the distance, and globe-trotting trips to far-off places. But rather than just focusing on chefs making pretty food, this season will feature “chefs and cuisines whose stories have for too long been hidden,” according to Netflix. That includes an episode about Cristina Martinez, the chef and co-owner of South Philly Barbacoa, who is undocumented; slow-food advocate and chef Bo Songvisava of Thailand’s Bo.Lan; Spanish restaurateur Albert Adrià (formerly of El Bulli); and renowned Turkish chef and traditionalist Musa Dağdeviren.

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:

Happy birthday belatedly to Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News and Barry Shields, and the exquisite General Manager of the Governors Club. Celebrating today is Sen. Denise Grimsley (who we hope — HOPE — remains involved in politics), as well as our dear friend Chris Dudley of Southern Strategy Group and Carlo Fassi.

Last Call for 9.20.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

A Collier County fire official is seeking guidance from the State Fire Marshal’s Office on whether to exempt a proposed “marijuana grow and processing facility” from the state’s fire code requirements.

Dale E. Fey Jr., Fire Marshal at The North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District, filed a petition for what’s known as a “declaratory statement” last month with the Department of Financial Services (DFS), records show.

A declaratory statement “is used to obtain an interpretation of a statute, rule, or order from a state agency,” the Florida Bar Journal explains. “It is a means of resolving a controversy or addressing questions or doubts about the applicability of statutes, rules, or agency orders.”

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who heads DFS, also serves as State Fire Marshal. The petition was provided after a public record request to the department.

The property in question, in Immokalee, is registered to Oakes Farms Tomato Repack LLC, according to Collier County property records.

The Department of Health regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

“This is not a proposed facility of any current MMTC (medical marijuana treatment center) at this time, but may be a location not yet submitted, or a location of a proposed MMTC applicant,” department spokesman Nick Van Der Linden said.

A request for comment to Oakes Farms, also based in Immokalee, was sent Thursday.

Fey wants to know whether the structure’s owners can claim an “agricultural exemption … to avoid complying with Fire and Life Safety codes,” his filing said. The request was still pending as of Thursday.

Evening Reads

Florida House GOP: Brett Kavanaugh is ‘unquestionably qualified’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Democrats push Hurricane Maria response as campaign issue; Republicans cite efforts” via Scott Powers of POLITICO Florida

Ron DeSantis’s wife appeared at South Florida event alongside Obama “birther” tied to extremist group” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times

DeSantis on gambling, charter schools, differing from Rick Scott, and his concerns with student testing” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

DeSantis disavows donor’s racist tweet, knocks Salt Bae in Miami” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

A closer look at Florida Constitutional Amendment 2” via Diane Rado of the Florida Phoenix

Polling shows Florida voters’ support for banning assault weapons declines in months since Stoneman Douglas massacre” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

New Democrat state Representative facing trouble with re-election bid” via David Bishop of FLANewsOnline.com

UCF misspent additional $10 million on construction and equipment, leaders say” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel

Fired deputy under investigation for planting drugs” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat

Florida agriculture, natural resources and food industries grew from 2007 to 2016” via Southeast Ag Net

Quote of the Day

Ron DeSantis will work to ensure that our tax dollars will be prioritized to reduce teacher shortages and reward great teachers with great salaries, not to funding wasteful education bureaucracy.” — GOP House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who had called DeSantis “visionless” this summer before his primary win.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

State candidates and political committees face a Friday deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through Sept. 14.

Bob O’Malley will speak on “Brightline: Connecting Florida’s Cities with High-Speed Rail” at Café con Tampa’s next meeting. The cost at the door is $12, breakfast buffet included. That’s at 8 a.m., Upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

The Able Trust, which works to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities, will hold an event about the start of Disability Employment Awareness Month. Senate President-designate Bill Galvano is expected to attend. That’s at 9 a.m., Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, 9939 Universal Blvd., Orlando.

Gov. Rick Scott will announce Florida’s August job numbers. That’s at 10 a.m., Promise in Brevard, 4105 Norfolk Pkwy., West Melbourne.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is scheduled to release August unemployment figures at 10 a.m.

Tampa Tiger Bay Club will host a candidate’s forum for Senate District 18 with Democrat Janet Cruz and Republican Dana Young. Dr. Susan McManus will moderate. The cost for members and first-time guests is $25; nonmembers pay $35. At noon, the discount expires, and prices are $30 and $40, respectively. You must be a member to ask questions of the candidates. To purchase tickets, call (813) 507-9236. Registration opens at 11:30 a.m., Chester Ferguson Law Center, 1610 N. Tampa St., Tampa.

GOP former U.S. Rep. David Jolly and Democratic former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy will take part in a ‘town hall’ on the SiriusXM ‘POTUS’ radio station to discuss ideas for ending gridlock in Washington. That’s at 2 p.m., SiriusXM Channel 124.

Looking Ahead

A private seated lunch is scheduled Saturday with Democratic Cabinet nominees Jeremy Ring, Sean Shaw, and Nikki Fried at the home of JoAnne DeVries in Sarasota. Proceeds from the event go toward the “Coordinated Campaign,” which funds “boots on the ground” for Democrats, according to the invitation. RSVP through this link or email lfishman@floridadems.org. That’s at 1 p.m.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.20.18

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

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

Andrew Gillum leading Ron DeSantis for Governor?

Rick Scott’s lead over Bill Nelson shrinking?

What is happening in Florida Politics?

A new survey from Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics shows Gillum with a six-point lead over his Republican opponent, DeSantis.

The results showed Gillum earning 50 percent of the vote, with DeSantis sitting at 44 percent.

What should worry the GOP: That lead is outside the survey’s four-point “credibility interval,” indicating Gillum’s lead is legitimate.

Wait, there’s more: The newest poll from the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative shows Gov. Scott up by less than a percentage point in the race to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Nelson.

That’s a drop from Scott’s six-point lead in the previous FAU BEPI poll. The latest version of the group’s survey has the Republican Scott earning 42 percent of the vote while Nelson, a Democrat, nabs just over 41 percent.

The same survey also showed Gillum ahead in the race to be Florida’s next Governor. The poll shows Gillum with 41 percent; DeSantis with 38 percent.

As Yeats wrote, “Surely some revelation is at hand …”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenFeinstein: President Trump, Dr. Blasey Ford did not want her story of sexual assault to be public. She requested confidentiality and I honored that. It wasn’t until the media outed her that she decided to come forward. You may not respect women and the wishes of victims, but I do.

—@ChrislHayes: In the last 24 hours many conservatives have seem to have convinced themselves that Blasey Ford’s reticence to testify one-on-one w [Brett] Kavanaugh on Monday means she’s lying.

—@ScottForFlorida: Disgusting #SaltBae served a lavish steak dinner to [Nicholas] Maduro and his thugs. Since Maduro has become President, meat consumption is down over 25% in Venezuela, and millions are starving. This is what happens under socialism.

@Fineout: @ByDaveBerman reports that during a Titusville campaign stop that @FLGovScott is now calling both @SenBillNelson & @AndrewGillum “socialists.” Says they both want “big government and socialism.” Apparently, Scott did not really explain what he meant by the comment.

—@Fineout: Not yet released on his schedule, but @FLGovScott will be in DC on Friday where he is scheduled to speak at the Values Voter Summit. Schedule has him going on right after Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.

—@MeredithMBeat: .@AndrewPollackFL: “It is absolutely disgraceful that @AndrewGillum would campaign with Sheriff [ScottIsrael. Gillum is siding with Sheriff Israel above the interests of our students and citizens, making our schools and communities less safe.”

—@GrayRohrer: Reminder: Last FAU poll before primary had Gillum tied for third w/[Jeff] Greene at 11 pct; and a “dead heat” in GOP gov primary. DeSantis won by 20 pts.

—@PatriciaMazzei: So here we are. Dems thought they had FL27 in the bag and a likely pickup in FL26. Now they have work to do in FL27 and Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo appears to be leading in FL26. Florida rarely conforms to easy political narratives.

@CarlosGSmith: This week, our office joined @Vamos4PRAction to help 22 Puerto Rican families displaced by #HurricaneMaria apply for desperately needed services. One year later, many families live in motels, without stable housing or income. We will NOT leave them behind. Seguimos pa’lante!

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 2; First day of fall — 2; Future of Florida Forum — 6; Government shutdown — 10; FSU vs. UM football game — 16; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 19; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 33; MLB World Series begins — 34; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 35; Early voting begins — 37; Halloween — 41; General Election Day — 47; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 61; Thanksgiving — 63; Black Friday — 64; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 68; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 145; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 166; 2020 General Election — 775.

— TOP STORY —

Yard signs: Florida Realtors announce general election endorsements” via Florida Politics — Republican gubernatorial nominee DeSantis … state Rep. Matt Caldwell for Agriculture Commissioner … CFO Jimmy Patronis, the only incumbent Cabinet member, remains the Realtor-backed pick for the general election, as does Republican Attorney General nominee Ashley Moody … “As Realtors, we pride ourselves on our long-standing efforts to defend private property rights, promote community prosperity and preserve a professional climate that ensures the economic growth of Florida,” said Florida Realtors PAC chair Ann DeFries. Further down the ballot, the Republican nominees in the most competitive state Senate districts — Sen. Keith Perry in SD 8, former state Rep. Ed Hooper in SD 16, Sen. Dana Young in SD 18, Sen. Kelli Stargel in SD 22 and state Rep. Manny Diaz in SD 36 — all retained their endorsements from July.

Mail ballots have higher rejection rates, and they vary widely by county” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — A study of Florida’s past two presidential elections finds that mail ballots were more likely to be rejected than votes cast at early voting sites or on Election Day. The study also found that mail ballots cast by youngest voters, blacks and Hispanics were much more likely to be rejected than mail ballots cast by white voters, and that those voters are less likely to cure problems with their ballots when notified by election supervisors than other voters. About 1 percent of all mail ballots cast are rejected and not counted … that rate is about 10 times higher than for voters voting either at an early site or on Election Day. Pinellas, the county where voting by mail is promoted more than anywhere else, also had one of the lowest rejection rates in Florida in 2016.

ACLU wants more rules in review of mail-in votes” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The civil rights group also warned that young voters and minorities appear to have a greater chance of having their mail-in ballots rejected, according to a report based on the 2012 and 2016 elections. The ACLU is asking the county elections supervisors to agree to a single set of guidelines to address the issue of ballots that have been rejected because of mismatched signatures. The group wants to ensure that the ballots get counted. The ACLU’s request is grounded in a report that found a higher rejection of ballots cast by mail in the 2012 and 2016 elections than ballots cast by voters at an assigned precinct or early voting location. The report, titled “Vote-By-Mail Ballots Cast in Florida,” found county supervisors don’t all use the same coding to document the reasons a vote-by-mail ballot was rejected.

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

Ron DeSantis says nothing has changed with Donald Trump” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “I don’t think anything has changed. I think we’re good,” the Republican nominee for Governor said. POLITICO reported that insiders say the president was furious with the congressman, calling him disloyal for backing Trump’s claims that his political enemies are exaggerating Hurricane Maria death tolls. Last week, DeSantis tweeted he saw no reason to dismiss estimates that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the massive hurricane one year ago, as well as during the long recovery for much of the year in which parts of the island were without power, clean running water and health care services. When asked if he thought Trump would still campaign for him, DeSantis replied with one word: “Sure.”

Ron DeSantis says there is ‘no change’ in his relationship with Donald Trump.

Parkland dad rips Andrew Gillum for taking support from Broward Sheriff Scott Israel” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Andrew Pollack, the father of slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Meadow Pollack, is ripping gubernatorial candidate Gillum for accepting financial support from Broward Sheriff Israel. Following a Sun-Sentinel report that Israel is among a group of Broward politicians fundraising for the Democratic nominee Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Pollack issued a statement through the Republican Party of Florida in which he partially blamed Israel’s “leadership” for his daughter’s death. Israel has been the subject of public and political scorn amid scrutiny of the law enforcement response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland high school, during which communications broke down, and a BSO deputy waited outside the building where the attack occurred instead of entering and trying to stop the shooter.

Madea cuts a check: Tyler Perry slides Gillum $100K” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — For actor, playwright and filmmaker Perry, the six-figure check amounts to a rounding error in his personal finances. The man behind the commercially reliable Madea character was worth $600 million, according to Bankrate.com, as of last year. What’s clear: Gillum’s inspirational story, along with his presence and viability as a candidate, resonate with deep-pocketed celebrities just as they do the George Soros– and Tom Steyer-types who played a major role in pushing the Tallahassee Mayor to a primary victory that few pundits saw coming.

Corey Booker, Phil Murphy to raise cash for Gillum” via Matt Friedman and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Gillum will be the “special guest” at a Sunday fundraiser in Edison, New Jersey with a host committee that includes Sen. Booker, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Donald Milford Payne, both New Jersey Democrats. The fundraiser at the Pines Manor party venue benefits Gillum’s political committee, Forward Florida. Tickets range from $250 to $5,000, according to the invitation.

Corey Booker, Andrew Gillum set to fundraising in New Jersey this weekend.

FEA committee spends $100,000 to back Gillum” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Education Association Advocacy Fund sent $100,000 to a Gillum political committee known as Forward Florida … Gillum and DeSantis launched competing education plans Wednesday. Gillum, in part, wants to provide a minimum starting salary of $50,000 for teachers and would boost the state’s corporate income tax to fund it. DeSantis, meanwhile, released a plan that includes requiring 80 percent of school funding to be spent in classrooms and not on administration. He said the plan could help boost teacher pay. But the FEA, the state’s major teacher’s union, was highly critical of DeSantis’ plan.

Assignment editors — DNC Chair Tom Perez, Lt. Governor nominee Chris King, Congressman Darren Soto, Haines City elected officials and community leaders will appear at a Florida Democratic Party “Rural Tour” stop, 11 a.m., Lake Eva Community Center, 555 Ledwith Ave., Haines City.

Happening tonight:

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

Bill Nelson disputes ‘vulnerable’ claim, says he’s ‘going to win’ ” via Florida Politics — Sen. Nelson is vying for his fourth term in office; however, one national outlet rates him as the “most vulnerable” Senate incumbent. Per Nate Silver‘s FiveThirtyEight, Nelson is the “most vulnerable” Democratic senator on the 2018 ballot, plagued by “a very good challenger in Florida: Gov. Rick Scott,” a Naples Republican. We asked Nelson on Wednesday if he was vulnerable, given the bleak FiveThirtyEight assessment. “FiveThirtyEight also says I’m going to win,” Nelson said, drawing laughter from those around him.

Despite ‘vulnerabilities,’ Bill Nelson is still confident he will win.

Hounded by protesters, Rick Scott moves on red tide” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Two days after protesters angry over red tide led Scott to cancel a campaign event, the governor unveiled a plan to work with scientists to combat the algae plaguing the Gulf Coast and killing off marine life. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will work with scientists from the University of South Florida and the Mote Marine Laboratory, a Sarasota-based nonprofit research outfit, to conduct experiments using forms of clay designed to counter red tide’s effects. “In Florida, when we are faced with challenges, we take action to engage innovative solutions that best fit our needs — and our fight against red tide is no different,” Scott said in a released statement. “This partnership of world-renowned scientists is an important step forward as we look for ways to mitigate the impacts of red tide and help our impacted communities quickly recover.”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Major Ashley Moody donor charged in pump-and-dump scheme” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — According to a complaint brought against Barry Honig, he and a ring of South Florida investors orchestrated a classic pump-and-dump scam. Moody campaign officials say they are refunding Honig’s contributions and disassociating from him completely, but the micro-cap fraud case draws fresh questions how Moody as attorney general might treat white collar crime should more donors come under scrutiny. SEC officials say Honig and other investors arranged the discount purchase of stock in three different companies, then engaged in deceitful trading to create the illusion of market activity. The group of investors sold the stock at inflated prices, reaping millions at the expense of duped investors. Only Honig donated to the Friends of Ashley Moody committee. In the past, he has given to congressional campaigns for former Republican U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite and retiring GOP U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Ashley Moody donor Barry Honig is accused of ‘pump-and-dump.’

Sean Shaw announces general election finance team” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Shaw announced more than 20 names for his newly formed General Election Finance Committee … The campaign’s senior adviser, Dan Newman, will lead the finance committee efforts with Capital City Consulting’s Justin Day, Merlin Law Group founder William Merlin and former CFO Alex Sink serving as co-chairs … “I am thrilled to have this impressive list of Floridians supporting my campaign and helping to push us toward a historic victory,” Shaw said. The remainder of the list consists of business leaders, attorneys, and elected officials, including former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and St. Petersburg state Rep. Ben Diamond … Shaw faces Republican nominee Moody, a former circuit court judge, in the general election.

Democrats just spent another six-figure sum on an ad about Vern Buchanan’s yacht” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — A Democratic-leaning SuperPAC, Change Now, began airing a new television spot in Tampa highlighting Buchanan‘s purchase of a luxury boat on the same day he voted for the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. “He helped write the new tax law — that’s a windfall for himself,” the narrator in the ad, which is part of a six-figure buy, says. “Hours after the bill passed, Vern Buchanan bought himself a new yacht.” According to an Axios report, Change Now is funded by a coalition of labor, environmental and other Democratic-leaning groups. The League of Conservation Voters and the Service Employees International Union are two primary contributors to the group.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Francis Rooney’s opponent says he’s within striking distance in deep-red CD 19” via Florida Politics — Long odds haven’t crushed Democratic nominee David Holden’s hopes of flipping the district. In a news release, his campaign touted a new online poll conducted by Change Research showing him trailing Rooney by a single point and calling on the incumbent to join him in a public debate. “We have the strongest grassroots movement Southwest Florida’s seen in decades,” Holden said. “We’re going to close that 1-percent gap and then some. We’re less than 50 days out from Election Day and with the momentum we’ve built up to this point, we’re going to flip Southwest Florida and implement the solutions our community needs.” Holden’s campaign didn’t include the full results of the Change Research poll … With a sample size of 468 registered voters in the district with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Donna Shalala in tight congressional race, new polls showvia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A pair of internal campaign polls obtained by POLITICO suggest a surprisingly close race in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The race has long been considered one of Democrat’s best pickup opportunities in 2018. Those chances were seemingly strengthened when Shalala won the crowded Democratic primary last month. But a new internal poll from Republican Maria Elvira Salazar shows Shalala trailing by nine points. A separate internal from Shalala’s own campaign bodes somewhat better for the Democrat. It shows Shalala ahead by four points.

Florida Democrats say their state Senate map is still expanding” via Florida Politics — Despite recent public polls showing Democratic candidates down by a hair in some of the Florida Democratic Party’s major state Senate targets, the party is pointing to new measures that show another three more chances to overtake Republican-held districts. “While the focus has been on the State Senate Districts most affected by the Fair Districts Amendments, new polling from Change Research shows that a Blue Wave is forming across Florida that could propel Democrats to the majority in 2018,” a Wednesday FDP email reads. FDP says voters have soured on Trump, whose brief tenure has been “continually defined by his pettiness, inability to govern, rampant sexism, and general air of incompetence.” When it comes to the Republican stranglehold on the state government, FDP is betting voters are just as weary.

Janet Cruz nabs gun violence prevention endorsement — The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence endorsed Cruz in her bid to unseat Sen. Dana Young in the Tampa district. The group criticizes Young for not supporting legislation banning assault weapons and praises Cruz for her leadership on “sensible gun reform. The campaign is the nation’s longest-serving gun safety organization and is affiliated with the Million Mom March.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, PART 2 —

Wilton Simpson funnels $550,000 to Senate GOP committee” via the News Service of Florida — Majority Leader Simpson’s political committee, known as Jobs for Florida, sent $550,000 last week to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee … Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano chairs the committee, which is pouring money into efforts to elect Republican candidates in November. Galvano is slated to become president after the November elections, with Simpson expected to follow in 2020 if the GOP maintains control. Simpson’s Jobs for Florida committee also raised $130,000 last week and had about $1.57 million in cash on hand as of last Friday, the report shows. Contributions included $50,000 from United States Sugar Corp. and $25,000 from the tobacco company Altria Client Services.

Florida Senate candidate touts honors from Trayvon Martin Foundation — but misspells name” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Mariana “Marili” Cancio has long been a supporter of local anti-violence groups, financially funding hotel rooms and T-shirts while successfully advocating for a witness protection law last year. The Republican candidate for the Florida Senate District 40 race touted that work on a recent mailer. On one side … the mailer said Cancio’s efforts were recognized by Sears’ organization and the Trayvon Martin Foundation. But the foundation’s namesake, who was from Miami and became the face of the #BlackLivesMatter campaign when his murder was publicized in 2012, was misspelled on the mailer. Trayvon was spelled with an “e.” “That’s definitely not the spelling,” said Kat Tynes, spokeswoman for the Trayvon Martin Foundation based out of Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. “it just takes a few seconds to do some research just to make sure the research is accurate.”

Mariana “Marili” Cancio’s mailer has an unfortunate typo. (Image via the Miami Herald)

GOP ad rips Florida House Democratic hopeful Anna Eskamani for ‘extremely vulgar’ language” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — The ad, funded by the Republican Party of Florida, depicts Eskamani hoisting a megaphone and quotes her saying “I don’t take [expletive] ever,” “Look at the [expletive] we have to put up with,” and “[Expletive] the patriarchy.” It also questions if Eskamani “is the example our leaders should be setting for our children?” and says, “she’s everything wrong with politics today.” … “It won’t work, but this mailer has some truth to it, because I refuse to back down when it comes to fighting for the hardworking families of Orange County, and I’m not going to take advice from [opponent StocktonReeves or the entrenched lobbyists who back him,” Eskamani said in an email to supporters.

Unfriended: Former candidate sues over fib to get access to his Facebook posts” via Florida Politics — David Vogel, a former Democratic candidate for the Florida House who ran unsuccessfully against state Rep. Chris Latvala, is suing a former Latvala campaign staffer, the Tampa Bay Times and a Times reporter. That’s after the campaign worker convinced Vogel to accept a friend request on Facebook by telling him falsely she had never heard of her then-boss. Latvala’s campaign later shared and the Times published demeaning posts Vogel made, calling Republicans names and insulting  Trump supporters and religious followers. Vogel is suing for an unspecified amount of damages. Latvala called the suit frivolous and said Vogel was a sore loser.

Happening tonight — Candidates Will RobinsonRay Pilon and Tommy Gregory will appear at a meeting of the Sarasota Republican Club, 6 p.m., Marina Jack, 2 Marina Jack Plaza, Sarasota. Robinson is running for an open seat in HD 71; Pilon is challenging Democratic Rep. Margaret Good in HD 72, and Gregory is running for an open seat in HD 73.

Happening tonight — Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez hosts a fundraiser in her bid for House District 105, 6 p.m., Biscayne Brewing, 8000 NW. 25th St., Suite 500, Doral.

— STATEWIDE —

Appeals court ready to consider pregame prayer” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Nearly three years after Christian schools from Tampa and Jacksonville squared off in a high school football championship, a federal appeals court is poised to hear arguments about the constitutionality of a decision that prevented the schools from offering a prayer over the stadium loudspeaker before kickoff. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in a case filed by Tampa’s Cambridge Christian School against the Florida High School Athletic Association. A federal judge last year upheld a decision by the association to prevent a prayer over the loudspeaker at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium before a December 2015 championship game between Cambridge Christian and Jacksonville’s University Christian School. Cambridge Christian appealed, arguing the decision violated First Amendment rights. But the association, which governs high school sports in Florida, said it is a “state actor” and that the “nature of speech occurring over the public-address system is government speech.”

A Division 2A football championship game last December between Tampa’s Cambridge Christian and University Christian School of Jacksonville sparked the court case over pregame prayer. (Image via WUSF)

Committee raises money to fight tax amendments” via the News Service of Florida — A union that represents government workers has sent $200,000 to a newly formed political committee that opposes two tax-related constitutional amendments on the November ballot. The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees contributed the money Sept. 7 to the committee Floridians for Tax Fairness … Floridians for Tax Fairness filed initial paperwork with the state on Sept. 5 and indicated it would oppose Amendment 1 and Amendment 5. Those amendments, placed on the Nov. 6 ballot by the Legislature, would lead to a $25,000 increase in the homestead tax exemption and would require two-thirds votes of the House and Senate to raise taxes or fees in the future.

Groups seek to lift stay in conservation money case” via the News Service of Florida — Arguing that time “is of the essence,” environmental groups requested that a judge lift a stay of a ruling that found state lawmakers did not properly carry out a 2014 constitutional amendment that requires spending on land and water conservation. Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson in July ruled in favor of groups such as the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Florida Defenders of the Environment, which filed a lawsuit arguing that lawmakers had improperly diverted money to purposes other than conservation. But the state quickly appealed, a move that led to an automatic stay of Dodson’s ruling. The environmental groups said they filed a motion in Leon County circuit court arguing that the automatic stay should be vacated and pointed to issues such as an outbreak of toxic algae in waterways in Southeast and Southwest Florida.

Obamacare had little effect on timing of workers’ comp claims, study says” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — An insurance industry analysis undermines any assumption that employees delay reporting weekend injuries into the workweek to take advantage of workers’ compensation benefits. Were that true, one might expect the number of workers’ comp claims filed during the workweek to have declined since the Affordable Care Act brought 8 million people into the ranked of the insured. That didn’t happen, according to an analysis by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI — an industry data clearinghouse that recommends premium levels in states including Florida. The study did find a slightly higher number of claims reported on Monday than any other day of the week. But there was no noticeable change after the ACA took effect — not any day of the workweek.

JEA wants federal regulators to intervene on Plant Vogtle dispute” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — It’s not clear if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will agree to hear JEA’s case. The federal agency regulates the sale and transmission of electricity across state lines and reviews some corporate transactions and activities. But it does not oversee the construction of power plants or the operation of nuclear facilities, nor does it regulate municipal power agencies like JEA and the Georgia agency it’s feuding with. Alan Howard, the chairman of the JEA board of directors, told his counterpart at the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia in a Tuesday letter that a hearing by the regulatory commission would place the burden on MEAG to prove its purchase-power agreement with JEA has reasonable terms and conditions. He “We do not believe MEAG can meet this burden,” Howard wrote.

Memo to City Attorney: personal use of airport parking pass a no-no for VIPs” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Parking passes issued to city, county and other officials for the Tallahassee International Airport can only be used for official government business, the Independent Ethics Board advised in an email to the City Attorney. “If the passes are utilized for other purposes, they may be considered a gift and treated accordingly,” Julie Meadows-Keefe wrote to Cassandra Jackson. The issue came up after the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Mayor Gillum had used his free airport parking pass 96 times — almost twice a week between March 2017 and April 2018. He didn’t report the use of the parking passes as gifts.

Miami-Dade County adds early voting site at FIU” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade voters looking to skip the line on Election Day just got some good news, as Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Wednesday announced the creation of a new early voting site on the campus of Florida International University. Previously, campuses were barred from serving as early voting locations. That ban was struck down in July. Though the new site at FIU will make it easier to vote for the more than 50,000 students enrolled there, as well as faculty and staff, the site will be open to all voters in the county. The polling place will be located at the Student Access Center at FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique campus.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced on-campus early voting locations at Florida International University.

UCF leader responsible for misspent $38M on academic building received glowing reviews” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Former University of Central Florida President John Hitt rated his chief financial officer as “outstanding” in nearly every area of his annual evaluation, as he had for each of the last 12 years. “He enjoys my full trust and confidence,” Hitt wrote in February 2008, the most recent time he provided written comments in Bill Merck’s review. But last week, Merck resigned after taking “full and immediate responsibility” for the misuse of $38 million from state funds designated for operating expenses on the construction of a new academic building, according to UCF President Dale Whittaker, the former provost who succeeded Hitt in July. The university’s Board of Trustees will meet Thursday with an Atlanta-based law firm hired to untangle the mess. Merck, 73, consistently received outstanding marks in his annual evaluations, according to his personnel file, which the university released.

Pinellas County strikes bed tax deal with VRBO, HomeAway and other Airbnb competitors” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — The bed tax is a 6 percent charge to visitors on their room stays. The bulk of the bed tax Pinellas County collects comes from hotels, but Airbnb remitted close to $1.9 million to the county last year. “We have pursued agreements for years, and recently, these online companies realized how much of a benefit it is to the property owners if those owners do not have to handle the taxes themselves,” tax collector Charles Thomas said in a statement. The new agreement means Pinellas County users of TripAdvisor and Expedia’s subsidiaries — HomeAway.com, VRBO.com, FlipKey.com, VacationHomeRentals.com, VacationRentals.com, HouseTrip.com, HolidayLettings.co.uk, and Niumba.com — all will have taxes remitted for them.

What Mike Griffin is reading —USF students petition to change the school’s new logo” via Kelsey Sunderland of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — It may not be what University of South Florida administrators had in mind when they launched the new slogan “Be Bullish,” but students are making their voices heard in an attempt to change the school’s freshly unveiled logo. Garnering more than 1,800 signatures by Wednesday afternoon, a Change.org petition directed toward USF’s president Judy Genshaft asks the school to return to its previous logo. Complaints were varied across social media, with comments on everything from the less-than-traditional colors to the design of the school’s bull mascot, which was compared to that of wealth management company Merrill Lynch.

— FLORIDA WATER WOES —

Following fertilizer leads to farms, golf courses, landscaping amid algae blooms” via David Dorsey of News-Press.com — One of the suspected culprits of the toxic algae blooms that have plagued South Florida waterways since June can be traced to farms and groves, lawns and golf courses, landscaping and Orlando theme parks. Even local governments may be feeding the blooms. Septic tank leakage has factored as well. And, environmental experts said, climate change behind fiercer storms and increased heat can bear some blame. But the trail to the truth, like the polluted water itself, appears murky. Following the fertilizer leads to asking: What’s the line between having healthy farms and grass with having healthy waterways? “The answer to that is you get phosphorous in the soil down to moderate amounts that are adequate for crops but not so high that they pollute the water,” said Steve Carpenter, who studies soil at the University of Wisconsin.

Alico water farm gets South Florida Water Management District permit for $124M project” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — The South Florida Water Management District approved a permit for a controversial 35,192-acre water farm that will cost taxpayers $124 million over 11 years. The water farm on Alico Inc. land in Hendry County is designed to prevent water from the Caloosahatchee River from polluting the estuary near Fort Myers, much like the Caulkins water farm does for the St. Lucie River in Martin County. A TCPalm investigation in December 2015 found the Alico project would cost much more per gallon of water than Caulkins. The Caulkins project costs taxpayers $233 for every 1 million gallons of contracted water storage; Alico’s 2014 contract would cost $356 for the same amount of water. Storing 1 million gallons on publicly owned land costs less than $25, according to an audit of the district’s Dispersed Water Management Program.

State loses millions when water farms cease” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — Florida already has spent $3 million on three pilot water farms, despite a state auditor urging they be sited on public lands, not private. If legislators examined two particular projects — Caulkins Citrus Co. in western Martin County and Alico Inc. in Hendry County — they’d find their costs and effectiveness vary, as the state negotiates contracts individually rather than having set standards … critics rail against Alico’s proposed water farm, calling it a $124 million boondoggle. The district is only just now vetting the project’s technical details — such as making sure it can hold all the water Alico officials say it can — a year after approving the 11-year contract.

— SWEPT AWAY —

A lost beach is the subject of the first installment of a three-part series from the Orlando Sentinel examining Hurricane Maria, which made landfall in Puerto Rico one year ago today.

“The surf town of Rincón wasn’t the hardest-hit municipality in Puerto Rico,” writes Sentinel reporter Bianca Padró Ocasio. “ … But the storm has hastened Rincón’s steady loss of something fundamental to its community: the beach.”

Electricity poles and lines lay on the road after Hurricane Maria, which hit one year ago this week.

Nearly half of the 8-mile stretch of sand was eroded during the storm. “We used to play baseball with four bases on those beaches,” recalls one source to the Sentinel.

Oceanfront woes: Tres Sirenas, a boutique hotel on the beach, closed for 10 months. “Insurance paid only half of the damage they claimed. They had to take out a small business loan and invest tens of thousands of dollars of their own money.”

‘Dr. Beach’: A nickname for Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a coastal expert at Florida International University. He calls the eroded coastline in Puerto Rico a ‘cautionary tale’ for anywhere else.

Florida connection: Similar erosions in the Sunshine State occurred in Big Pine Key in South Florida after Hurricane Irma tracked across the state, a source tells the Sentinel.

— OPINIONS —

What candidates aren’t saying about Lake Okeechobee crisis” via Randy Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As candidates try to blame someone else for the Lake Okeechobee algae crisis, here are two truths: Florida can’t fix this recurring problem without a massive public investment, and Gov. Scott’s solution is the worst idea. When rain fills the lake high enough to threaten the Herbert Hoover Dike on the southern side, the Army Corps of Engineers releases water east and west. The water carries pollutants and slams coastal estuaries that support marine life and water-related businesses, including real estate. To understand the challenge, you need to understand that Lake Okeechobee is the midpoint of a hydrological system. It starts south of Orlando, at the headwaters of the Kissimmee River, and ends in the Keys, at Florida Bay. Water quality has become a major issue in the races for governor and Senate. DeSantis, who hardly mentioned Florida during the Republican gubernatorial primary and never championed environmental issues in Congress, visited the Everglades last week.

$5 million of your taxes spent on Florida campaigns … so far” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — That’s enough to hire 140 new teachers. Or the same number of highway troopers. Either cause seems nobler than helping candidates beat the snot out of each other. Yet that’s what’s allowed by Florida’s “Public Campaign Finance” system … trough-gorging is a bipartisan affair. And the candidates are on track to suck up a record number of your tax dollars this cycle. It was envisioned as a way to encourage candidates to limit their fundraising and rely upon donations from individual Floridians, providing matching money of up to $250 for each donation. But the system jumped the rails. Now candidates can raise up to $25 million — plus take unlimited donations in separate committees — and still qualify for matching public assistance. It’s like providing food stamps to tycoons.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Beau Beaubien joins DeSantis campaignBeaubien has left the Attorney General’s Office to become political director for Republican former Congressman DeSantis‘ campaign for Governor. From DeSantis adviser Brad Herold: “From grassroots advocacy to election law to legislative affairs, Beau is an effective and proven operative. Beau’s extensive relationships in Tallahassee and throughout our state will prove immensely valuable and we are excited to have him onboard.” Beaubien had been Special Counsel for Attorney General Pam Bondi since January. Before that, he was an associate at the Coates Law Firm in Tallahassee, focusing on ethics and elections law. He’s been a Legislative Intern at the Florida House of Representatives and a Florida Gubernatorial Fellow at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Beaubien got his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 2005, and a law degree from Florida State University in 2012.

Congratulations to Beau Beaubien.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Melissa Akeson, The Rubin Group: OX Bottom Mortgage, Sandco

Brian Ballard, William Turbeville, Ballard Partners: GreenPointe Holdings

Robert Beck, Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: The Arcanum Group

Paul Bradshaw, Matt Brockelman, Chris Dudley, Allyce Heflin, Jerry McDaniel, Seth McKeel, Southern Strategy Group: Association of Florida Colleges, Palm Beach State College Foundation

Michael Brawer: Association of Florida Colleges

Chip Case, Capitol Advocates: American Houndsmen Federation

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Town of Jupiter Island

Charles Dudley, Floridian Partners: Capital Wealth Advisors

Michael Gugig: Transamerica Life Insurance Company

Dan Lopez: Best Buy

Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: Baltimore Orioles

— ALOE —

Oreo is dropping limited-edition Mickey Mouse cookies” via Just Disney — Usually for your birthday, you get a cake, some balloons, and maybe a cute card. But, if you’re Mickey Mouse, you get an Oreo in your honor. The new cookies are birthday-cake flavored, because DUH, and will feature three different designs of him per package on the chocolate wafers. The exterior comes in white Oreo packaging with confetti on it, plus a photo of the man of the hour, Mickey Mouse. There’s no date yet when these Mickey Oreos will be out on shelves, but Mickey’s birthday is Nov. 18 — so mark your calendar.

Mark your calendars: Mickey Mouse Oreos are coming soon.

Tervis to give away 10,000 free tumblers in Florida” via WFLA — Florida-based Tervis is giving away 10,000 exclusive reusable tumblers on Thursday, Sept. 27. What’s the catch? All you have to do is sign the #TakeYourTervis pledge to stop using disposable cups and receive one free tumbler (while supplies last). Tervis says it “is committed to making a positive impact on our oceans and environment by reducing waste.” The offer is available at all Florida stores and online: Tampa — 2223 N. West Shore Blvd, Suite 105. Sarasota — 319 John Ringling Blvd, St. Armand’s Circle. Osprey — 928 S. Tamiami Trail. The Villages — 1109 Main St.

Happy Birthday to state Sen. Dorothy Hukill and state Reps. James Grant and Frank White.

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