Charlie Crist – Florida Politics

Personnel note: Philip Levine names two deputy campaign managers

Democrat Philip Levine’s gubernatorial campaign is bringing in a couple of deputy campaign managers to bolster its operations in the South Florida and Tampa Bay regions.

Campaign manager Matthew Van Name said Friday that West Coast area director Jocelyn Mund is moving up to the deputy campaign manager position for Tampa Bay, and former SEIU political director Alex Ring would fill the same role for South Florida.

“Jocelyn’s keen understanding of the Tampa Bay area allowed us to put down roots in the community early, where we continue to build a real network of grassroots support and grow our engagement in local events. She is motivated, highly skilled, and will enhance our campaign’s organizational strengths as we move towards August,” Van Name said.

“Alex will build on our campaign’s strength in South Florida and work to bring Mayor Levine’s message directly to voters. His breadth of experience in the region strengthens our dynamic approach to continue building the infrastructure necessary to win in August and November, and deliver a win for the working people of Florida.”

Prior to joining Levine’s campaign, Mund managed outreach and public events for the St. Petersburg area in her role as Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s deputy finance director. Ring’s background includes the SEIU job and three years as the legislative assistant to Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne during his first stint in the House.

Both newly deputized campaign operatives touted the Levine platform in a press release announcing personnel move.

“This election is a pivotal moment for our state — it’s an opportunity to take Florida in a new direction and elect a Governor who will put people over power,” Mund said. “Floridians are fed up with Tallahassee’s top-down, controlling approach, Mayor Levine will bring the government back to the people.”

Ring added, “This year unequivocally brings the best opportunity for Floridians to change the course of history in Florida and elect a Governor who will empower working families by investing in public education, preserving the right to unionize, and ensuring access to healthcare is a fundamental right. Mayor Levine is the right leader at the right time — he has the experience and proven record of success to build a Florida that works for all.”

Levine is running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando-area businessman Chris King in the Democratic Primary to replace termed-out Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Levine leads the Democratic field in fundraising thanks to hefty self-funding and also has a narrow lead in the most recent poll of the primary race, though more than 40 percent of voters were undecided.

Belinda Keiser’s Democratic donations may trouble SD 25 Republican voters

Keiser University Vice Chancellor Belinda Keiser announced her bid for Senate District 25 Tuesday, but her past political contributions to Democrats should raise some questions about her attractiveness to Republican primary voters.

SD 25, held by exiting Senate President Joe Negron, covers St. Lucie and Martin counties as well as a piece of northern inland Palm Beach County.

Keiser University’s home base is also in Fort Lauderdale, though it has campuses all over the state, so a donation or two to Democrats in the largely blue South Florida county could be spun by Keiser as being pragmatic — in the age of Donald Trump, she may well say it’s evidence that “our system is broken” and, as a businesswoman, she had to do it.

That might serve as adequate cover for her donation to U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Keiser’s Parkland home in Congress. Ditto for her contribs to CD 20 U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, whose district includes Keiser University’s main campus, or Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who represents neighboring CD 23.

That same logic could apply to the checks she wrote former U.S. Reps. Peter Deutsch, Ron Klein and Robert Wexler, but at that point the “had-to-do-it” column is overfilled to the point of bursting.

Assuming Republican voters can look past those, which is a big ask, there’s a veritable host of candidates Keiser has supported that simply won’t be glossed over.

Keiser has cut checks to the failed presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Al Gore, to St. Petersburg U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. To top it all off, she’s donated to the Democratic National Committee and former California U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Sure, Charlie was a Republican once. And yes, he’s one of the Sunshine State’s most likable pols — he could teach a masterclass in retail politics. But that kind of logic won’t play well among Rick Scott voters. Same goes for Nelson. It doesn’t matter that SD 25 voters re-elected him by 10 points in 2012 — Keiser’s task of making them remember that is doomed in an election year where Nelson is standing in the way of a Scott Senate campaign.

And those Clinton and Gore donations. Yeesh. That’s going to be a hard one to sell in a district that voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

Then there’s the donations to Boxer and the DNC. There is simply no way to sidestep those.

A Republican who gives to their Democratic congressman? Fine. No GOP candidate is going to take down Deutch, anyway. A Republican who prefers Clinton to Trump? Not the best look in a primary campaign, but she’s definitely not alone on that one.

But in what world is someone who cuts checks to the DNC and boosts the campaign accounts of out-of-state Democrats considered anything other than a Democratic fundraiser? Not this one.

Good luck, Belinda. You’ll need it.

Nancy Pelosi in St. Pete tonight to raise money with Charlie Crist

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will join U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in St. Petersburg Wednesday for a high-dollar fundraiser benefiting the campaign arm of Congressional Democrats.

“Right now, we’re on offense holding Donald Trump and congressional Republicans accountable for their reckless agenda. Across the country, Americans of all walks of life are standing up and saying no to the Republican vision,” the former House Speaker wrote in the invite.

“Countless supporters have stepped up to fight back. We have the momentum, and we need to do everything we can to take advantage of it. We will take back the House this year, but we need to make sure we have the resources to do it.”

The event will run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Petersburg home of Kathy and Joe Saunders.

More details are only available after an RSVP, but prospective attendees will need to get their checkbooks ready — the bottom-level donor will need to shell out $2,500 to make the DCCC’s “supporter” list.

The suggested donation levels only go up from there, topping out at $33,900 for a seat in the “Speaker’s Cabinet.”

The invite is below.

DCCC invite 5.2.2018

Let voters decide on felons’ voting rights, advocate says

The man behind a proposed constitutional amendment to restore ex-cons’ voting rights wants voters — not “politicians” — to decide the issue.

Desmond Meade, who’s backing this year’s “Voting Restoration Amendment,” on Wednesday said an appellate court should issue a “stay” in a separate but related federal lawsuit on restoring felons’ voting rights.

The proposal, which will be Amendment 4 on the November statewide ballot, would automatically give back voting rights to felons, save for those convicted of murder and sex offenses. They also must have served all their prison time and probation and paid restitution to victims.

“Current law outlines a difficult process to restore an individual’s eligibility to vote, and Judge (Mark) Walker recently determined that the restoration process is arbitrary and unconstitutional,” Meade said in a statement.

“The problem is that without Amendment 4, any fix still leaves this decision in the hands of politicians and a person’s eligibility to vote should not be left up to politicians and election cycles,” he added. It needs 60 percent approval for addition to the state’s governing document.

In a series of harshly worded rulings, Walker — a U.S. District judge in Tallahassee — found the state’s vote-restoration process violated First Amendment rights and equal-protection rights. Last month, he gave Scott and the board until Thursday to overhaul what the judge called a “fatally flawed” process and rejected a request by Bondi to put his order on hold.

Scott and the board immediately appealed Walker’s decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and asked that court to put a stay on what the governor’s office branded a “haphazard clemency ruling.”

Late Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott‘s office announced a 9:30 p.m. Wednesday out-of-calendar meeting of the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jimmy Patronis, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The next regular meeting had been set for June 14.

The meeting “will give the 11th Circuit as much time as possible to issue a ruling, while still allowing the Board to meet the lower court’s deadline,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said. “We are anticipating that the 11th Circuit will rule soon, but if a stay is not issued, the meeting agenda will be for the Board to consider how to respond to the lower court’s decision.”

Under the current process, felons must wait five or seven years after their sentences are complete to apply to have rights restored. After applications are filed, the process can take years to complete. There’s currently a backlog of 10,085 pending applications, according to the Florida Commission on Offender Review.

“Recent polls indicate over two-thirds of Florida voters overwhelmingly support the amendment,” Meade said. “Let’s take matters into our own hands and vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 4 to give Floridians who have made past mistakes the eligibility to vote only after they have completed their full debt to society …”

“These are our family members, friends, and neighbors that have paid their full debt to society and earned the opportunity to participate in and give back to their communities.”

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. 

#TheDaySunburnWentDark

If you were expecting to read SUNBURN as you usually do on a weekday morning, this isn’t it.

Nor will Takeaways from Tallahassee, our weekend newsletter, appear in your inbox Saturday.

Both of those products are “going dark,” as they say, today and tomorrow as a message to the four leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor, after their debate this week.

Here’s why: It’s one thing to not know that Janet Cruz is the outgoing House Democratic Leader, or what the precise amount of education spending is in the state budget.

It’s another to admit that, either as novice or career politicians, your “morning reads” don’t include SUNBURN, POLITICO Playbook, the Tampa Bay Times — the largest circulation newspaper in the state — or any state-centric news source.

As I wrote earlier this week, “ … not one of the four candidates, when asked what was the first thing they read in the morning, mentioned the state’s largest newspaper. Can you imagine Bob Graham, Jeb Bush, or Charlie Crist not mentioning the Times?”

And The Times needs all the eyeballs it can get. This same week, we learned the paper plans to lay off around 50 people “after new tariffs sent the price of newsprint skyrocketing,” according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal. (I’m still miffed The Times didn’t break its own layoffs story, instead of merely announcing two promotions that same day, but that’s for another rant.)

Here’s how The News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam put it in the lede of her debate story:

“Three of the four Democrats vying to replace Rick Scott as governor of the third-largest state in the nation get their news first from The New York Times, and only one, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, relies on his hometown paper [the Tallahassee Democrat] to find out what’s going on in the world.”

Moreover, Orlando businessman Chris King said his first morning read is The Sayfie Review, which typically isn’t updated until 6 a.m. or later.

So I asked myself, “why do we bother?”

Why do me and my staff, POLITICO Florida aces Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon, and all the other scribes who labor to put out morning newsletters summing the political and other news of the day — often with exclusives — do it?

After all, three of the four top Democratic contenders to become the state’s next chief executive admit their go-to in the AM is a newspaper produced roughly 1,000 miles away from the Florida state line.

Even the Democrat, lucky to have the talent of longtime newsmen Jeff Schweers and Jeff Burlew, too often relies on News Service wire copy for politics and government news in its own front yard. (Disclosure: Don’t get me wrong, it’s good stuff; we’re a subscriber.)

But staff reporters — like our Scott Powers in Orlando, A.G. Gancarski in Jacksonville, and Jim Rosica in Tallahassee — also beat their brains to get news of local and statewide import and scoops on the competition.

I guess I just answered my own question.  

We all do it to inform and enlighten this state’s elected officials, their staff, candidates, campaign professionals, lobbyists, nonprofit groups and anyone else, anywhere, willing to give us their email address or visit, in our case, Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

Let’s not forget the Orlando Sentinel (looking at you, Mr. King), the Miami Herald (ahem, Mr. Levine) or a host of other local news sources that produce frequently-updated websites, blogs, newsletters, podcasts and other vehicles to get pertinent news to those who want to consume it.

How about crediting the hard work of veteran John Kennedy? He rose like a phoenix from his ignominious layoff at The Palm Beach Post to report for The Florida Channel and now as Tallahassee correspondent for GateHouse Media’s Florida newspapers, soon to include — oh, the irony — The Palm Beach Post.

No, that work doesn’t seem to break into the Democrats’ headspace. I won’t get into the staff members of those very candidates who pester and plead with us to get their news releases and campaign updates into SUNBURN and/or on our sites.

In fact, we were deluged with emails of post-debate spin trumpeting “bold proposals” and “debate victory,” while blasting opponents’ “poor record” and “misleading statements.” Even as I type, those campaigns are sending advisories about upcoming appearances of their candidates.

C’mon folks.

So that’s why SUNBURN, save for this editorial, and Takeaways from Tallahassee are going dark today and tomorrow.

Yes, we’re as guilty as anybody else for sometimes shedding more heat than light, to mangle T.H. White.

But all of us working in Florida’s news business collectively aspire, in our “newsman’s cart,” to “hurry from hamlet to hamlet … undertaking to purvey all that the human mind need know or the human soul craves, to that day’s date,” as Frederic Jesup Stimson said.

If only the Democratic candidates gave a damn about our wares.

Charlie Crist, Carlos Curbelo push bipartisan bill on misleading, foreign political ads

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo have joined 16 other members of Congress to sponsor a bipartisan bill that would seek to stymie foreign political online advertising like that alleged in the 2016 campaign by Russia.

The bill, House Resolution 4077, dubbed the “Honest Ads Act,” seeks to improve disclosure requirements for political digital advertising so that other countries or their agents cannot seek to influence American elections by buying advertising on social media or elsewhere online.

The bill aims to expand existing Federal Election Commission disclosure requirements from applying just to “broadcasting stations, or in newspapers, magazines, or similar types of general public political advertising” to applying to “in any public communication.”

It also would require very large online platforms to “maintain, and make available for online public inspection a complete record of any request to purchase on such online platform a qualified political advertisement.”

“Radio, TV, and print political advertisements are required to be transparent — social media should not be exempt,” Crist stated. “Disclosure helps protect the integrity of our elections from foreign interference. This is a smart and much-needed bipartisan election reform.”

The effort is a response to increasing revelations that foreign agents, particularly from Russia, attempted to flood Facebook and other social media with unidentified political advertisements.

The bill is being pushed by Issue One, a nonpartisan, nonprofit government reform group, which has just published a white paper that found that 14 percent — a total of $1.4 billion — of the money spent on political advertising in 2016 went toward online political ads, but “because of legal loopholes and the nature of digital advertising, who paid for these ads designed to influence the election has been a secret.”

The bill’s preamble declares:

“It is the sense of Congress that the dramatic increase in digital political advertisements, and the growing centrality of online platforms in the lives of Americans, requires the Congress and the Federal Election Commission to take meaningful action to ensure that laws and regulations provide the accountability and transparency that is fundamental to our democracy;

“Free and fair elections require both transparency and accountability which give the public a right to know the true sources of funding for political advertisements in order to make informed political choices and hold elected officials accountable; and transparency of funding for political advertisements is essential to enforce other campaign finance laws, including the prohibition on campaign spending by foreign nationals.”

In addition to Crist and Curbelo, initial sponsors of the bill include Republican U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Leonard Lance of New Jersey, Tom Reed of New York, and David Young of Iowa; and Democratic U.S. Reps. Jim Costa of California, Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, Derek Kilmer of Washington, John Sarbanes of Maryland, Brad Schneider of Illinois, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Krysten Sinema of Arizona, and Tom Suozzi of New York.

Florida’s delegation presses for Kennedy Space Center launch support money for NASA’s next big rocket

Congressional letters signed by a large majority of Florida’s delegation are urging congressional leaders to support full funding not just for NASA’s next spacecraft and rocket but for critical upgrades at Kennedy Space Center to launch them.

The letters to chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees subcommittees overseeing space have drawn signatures of 21 of Florida’s House members and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and also have support of others who couldn’t appropriately sign because they’re on the committees, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The letters focus on the multi-billion dollar projects to build NASA’s big new rocket, the Space Launch System, and the Orion Spacecraft, which are to carry astronauts into deep space. That’s not new. But the letters give equal weight now to urging full funding for the related Kennedy Space Center upgrades, to exploration ground systems, and for a new mobile launcher, huge boons to the space business at Florida’s Space Coast.

A letter sent last month by U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, the Rockledge Republican who sits on the House Space Subcommittee, and co-signed by 10 other members of Florida’s delegation, urges $557 million for the exploration ground systems improvements in the 2019 federal budget, and another $17 million for other construction. It also calls for $150 million in 2019 to build a new mobile launcher that could support the SLS rocket for 40 years, a recent NASA policy direction change from plans now seen as problematic to retrofit the current mobile launcher. The letter also calls for another $2.15 billion for the SLS rocket development, and $1.35 billion for the final Orion crew vehicle development.

The rocket’s debut has been pushed back, but still is possible by the end of 2019, or in early 2020.

Most of the ground systems work has been underway for several years, but risks falling behind without full funding, and that could further delay the first launches of the SLS, even if the rocket and Orion spacecraft are fully developed and ready to go, the letters argue.

“The exploration ground systems are an indispensable part of the infrastructure of space exploration,” Posey’s letter states.

Posey’s letter drew signatures of 11 of Florida’s members of the House: Posey, Gus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Ron DeSantis, Neal Dunn, Matt Gaetz, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Daniel Webster, and Ted Yoho.

A follow-up letter from Republican U.S. Sen. Brian Babin of Texas, making the same pleas, included 163 members signatures from throughout the country, and drew most of the 11 Florida members who signed Posey’s letter, plus ten more from Florida: Al Lawson, Val Demings, Dennis Ross, Brian Mast, Francis Rooney, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch, Carlos Curbelo, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Three other House members from Florida, Tom Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are, like Rubio, on the main committee receiving the letters, and so do not sign under Congressional protocol.

Thirty-one senators including Nelson signed the Senate version, sent out Tuesday by Utah Republican Orrin Hatch.

Rubio’s office said he’s supportive, had an active role in pushing for $2.15 billion for the SLS rocket, $1.3 billion for Orion, and will “continue to push for increased funding in order to keep the ground system upgrades on track.”

Jeff Brandes expected to draw challenge from trial lawyer Carrie Pilon

St. Petersburg attorney Carrie Pilon is expected to challenge incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes in Senate District 24, according to planning documents obtained by Florida Politics.

Pilon, a St. Pete native, is a Stetson University law grad and also holds a bachelor’s and master’s in public administration from Florida State University. She runs an injury law firm with her husband, Chad Pilon.

According to a memo circulating among the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate Victory staff (which was inadvertently ((or was it?)) sent to a Florida Politics reporter), Pilon is set to announce her candidacy on April 2.

When the announcement drops, Ruth’s List, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard are on the short list for fundraising support and early endorsements.

The treasurer job will likely come down to Shelby Green or Laura Haggard.

Brian Doheny, a former FDP regional organizing director and alum of the Kriseman re-election campaign, is also expected to be an integral member of the Pilon campaign.

He’s penciled in to switch over from Matt Haggman’s campaign for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, where he serves as finance director, on April 7.

When Pilon enters, she’ll be the only candidate running against Brandes, who has held the SD 24 seat since it was redrawn in 2012. His 2018 bid is his last election before he runs into term limits.

FDP involvement in the SD 24 race indicates Democrats’ optimism the “blue wave” will make formerly non-competitive seats contestable – Brandes’ last major challenger was USF St. Pete Professor Judithanne McLauchlan, who ran in 2014 for the pre-redistricting SD 22.

She was considered a strong candidate in the 2014 cycle but fell far short in fundraising – bringing in $307,000 to Brandes’ $815,000 – and lost 58-42 on Election Day.

Brandes didn’t face a Democrat in the 2016 re-election campaign, which was brought about after Florida courts redrew the district maps. Depsite the lack of competition, SD 24 is considered competitive on paper.

GOP voters make up 37 percent of the Pinellas district’s electorate, compared to 33 percent for Democrats with the remainder registered as third- or no-party voters.

SD 24 would have gone for Barack Obama by about a point in 2012 and 2.5 points in 2008, though the seat went plus-7 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Brandes has raised $240,000 for his re-election bid and heading into March he had about $124,000 in the bank.

Philip Levine’s gubernatorial campaign brings in Adrienne Bogen as field director

The gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Philip Levine has hired Adrienne Bogen to be its statewide field director.

Bogen most recently managed the field program for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s successful re-election campaign last year. She previously has led organizing efforts for U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist‘s 2014 gubernatorial race, Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 presidential bid, and has worked in Texas, Virginia and New York.

“Our campaign continues to reach new milestones and it reflects our commitment to reach voters in every part of the state. We are excited to welcome Adrienne to our team as she leads an aggressive grassroots field program in all 67 counties of our state,” Matthew Van Name, Levine’s campaign manager, stated in a news release. “As our campaign moves full steam ahead to the primary and on to victory in November, Adrienne possesses the talent, leadership and local expertise to build our movement in every corner of our state, from the Panhandle down to the Keys.”

Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach, faces Winter Park businessman Chris King, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee in pursuing the Aug. 28 Democratic nomination. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Mayor Levine has shown he is ready to win this year and break the Republican control in Tallahassee with his vision for a state that invests in public education, delivers affordable health care, establishes a true minimum living wage and is committed to true reforms that make our state’s gun laws the safest in the country,” Bogen stated in the release. “I am excited to hit the ground running as we take our message directly to the voters with a true grassroots engagement program built from the bottom up.”

The Schorsch governing theory of Florida politics — Part 1

Once the hanky dropped on the 2013 Legislative Session, my family headed to St. Augustine Beach to recuperate from the 60 days of working in that pressure cooker.

Michelle and I had been married for just over a year and our daughter, Ella Joyce, was only months old. Our business was just starting to take off. It was an exciting time.

For whatever reason, we thought it would be interesting to complicate our lives by Michelle running for a state House seat.

The Republican Party of Florida was looking for a candidate to challenge Dwight Dudley, a one-term incumbent who was not particularly well-liked in Tallahassee and was considered vulnerable in a non-presidential election cycle.

Michelle would have been the perfect challenger to Dudley. She’s a moderate Republican woman with strong connections to the Tampa Bay area and a reputation for loyalty and deeply-held convictions. That she had worked as a special adviser to then-Gov. Charlie Crist (and was based out of the USF St. Pete campus) only made her more attractive as a potential candidate.

For a moment, Michelle was excited by the idea, so we took the temperature of some of our friends in the political process. All of them thought Michelle would be a strong candidate. However, one friend informed us that incoming leadership of the House was recruiting another potential candidate they thought could win in a walk.

We spoke with then Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli and, indeed, the GOP was hoping that Bill Young Jr., son of the local legend C.W. “Bill” Young, would enter the race. It’s probably best if Michelle stands down, Crisafulli told us.

Fortunately for our family, that’s exactly what Michelle did, although she said then that it was a mistake to think Young would beat Dudley.

She was right, of course, about that: Billy Young turned out to be a very bad candidate. In fact, he’s one of the very few candidates for office I’ve ever met who gained weight, rather than lost it, on the campaign trail (an indication he was not opening enough time walking door-to-door.)

Michelle and I talked a lot about our future that week in St. Augustine. A point I made then to her was that as busy as the 2014 and 2016 election cycles would be for us (and, Jesus, had they been busier than we could have ever imagined), the 2018 election cycle would actually be even more chaotic.

What I predicted then is only more accurate today. It is already shaping up to be the busiest election cycle in Florida’s modern history. Busier even than 1994, when Jeb Bush emerged from a brutal gubernatorial primary to eventually lose to Lawton Chiles.

As it stands now, here’s the rundown:

— A competitive race for the U.S.  Senate likely pitting Democrat Bill Nelson against Republican Rick Scott.

— A wide-open race for the Governor’s Mansion, with competitive primaries on both sides of the ballot.

— Three competitive statewide races for spots on Florida’s Cabinet: Agriculture Commissioner, CFO and Attorney General.

— Four statewide voter initiatives.

— As many as a dozen constitutional questions put on the ballot by the once-every-twenty-years Constitutional Revision Commission.

— More competitive congressional and state legislative races than at any point since Republicans took over the state in the mid-1990s.

The ballot this November will take the average Floridian twenty to thirty minutes to read and complete.

And that’s what we know about today.

As has been said many times, Florida is the Chinatown of politics. Forget about trying to understand it.

But if you run a political website titled “Florida Politics,” this is a wonderful time to be alive.

Our site’s traffic was busier last week than all but one other week in our history. Last month was busier than any other month in our history. This month looks like it will be busier than last month. And there’s no reason to think next month won’t be busier than this month.

And yet … what happens in December 2018? The campaigns will be over. The 2019 Legislative Session will be months away. The presidential campaign, while talked about daily, won’t be for real for almost another year.

Won’t feast turn to famine?

No.

And not just because the average bear is more interested in politics than in half-a-century.

This is the first part of the Schorsch governing theory of Florida politics.

It all starts to go back to normal today.

Gov. Scott signed the $88 billion fiscal plan sent to him Wednesday. He is now officially a lame duck.

Don’t get me wrong, Scott still has enormous power. And it’s not out of the range of possibilities that the Legislature will be called into Special Session for some sort of crisis.

But, for the most part, the sun has begun to set on Rick Scott’s time in Tallahassee. And with that, everything will start to change.

Because none of the seven candidates expected to run for Florida governor can write a $72 million check to buy the Governor’s Mansion, as Scott did in 2010, the four pillars of political life in Florida will now begin rebuilding their stature in the state.

The lobby corps, the news media (as enervated as it is), the fundraising community, and the political parties should see their influence return in the coming months and next four years.

Lobbyists have been of little use to Scott because they were against him in 2010 and he’s never really forgotten that. Only a handful of big-name lobbyists have had access to Scott himself: Brian Ballard, Nick Iarossi, Fred Karlinsky, Bill Rubin, among a few others.

Most governmental affairs firms have relied on a strategy of focusing on the Legislature while staying under the radar during the gubernatorial veto period. Some firms — Southern Strategy Group, GrayRobinson — have succeeded in their efforts to lobby the executive branch, but, for the most part, this is an administration that has been indifferent to Adams Street.

Before today, the lobby corps would have been unwilling to choose sides in the upcoming gubernatorial race, especially with Richard Corcoran looming as a possible candidate. But the smart firms will start making more significant investments in the candidates so that they are in on the ground floor with who they think will win.

Some firms will win, some will lose, but at least the game is being played again. Scott didn’t even roll out the ball.

The media has been kept at arm’s length by Scott ever since his early communications director, Brian Burgess, positioned velvet ropes between the Governor and the Capitol Press Corps. If Scott didn’t need the lobby corps, he needed the press corps even less.

The math was simple: He could write a check larger than the amount of earned media written against him. Also, the Governor’s Office made two smart decisions. One, it prioritized interactions with TV reporters, preferably those who were not plugged in enough to ask difficult questions, and two, it created a reverb chamber with the wire services.

By this I mean, most major announcements by the Scott administration were funneled to the Associated Press (which can’t editorialize the way Florida Politics, POLITICO, or the Times/Herald can and do). It is, in turn, relied on by many TV stations for their state government content. Once a TV station aired the AP version, the Governor’s Office would push out an ICYMI press release touting the story.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Don’t believe me. Consider this: Point to the one process story written about the Scott administration that details how the Governor makes a decision. You probably can’t. Because this is one of the most leak-proof administrations ANYWHERE IN THE COUNTRY. Donald Trump would give away Ivanka if he could have a White House that operates in the quiet way Scott’s office has.

More double-negative evidence: Point to the feature about anyone in Scott’s administration that includes an on-the-record response from the person profiled. Floridians knew/know virtually nothing about the chiefs of staff, key advisers, etc. who are in Scott’s orbit.

Because none of the seven gubernatorial candidates can’t rely just on paid media to get their message out, they have to create earned media. This instantly makes the press, specifically the Capitol Press Corps and other political journalists, relevant again.

Instead of being kept in the dark, as most journalists have been during the last seven years, now outreach to most favored reporters and bloggers is again part of the communications strategy. What Marc Caputo, Matt Dixon, David Smiley, myself, and others say about the gubernatorial and other races is more important than it was under Scott. A takedown in the press becomes fodder for fundraising emails and digital videos.

Speaking of fundraising emails, get ready to be inundated with them.

Not that you weren’t already, but none of the candidates running for Governor can self-finance in a way that allows them to bypass the need for small donors.

Under Scott, a meeting with him cost an interest group at least $50,000. Only a handful of Floridians or companies can afford that. But Putnam, Gillum, Graham, Levine, etc. are already touting the support they are receiving from donors who can only afford to write checks for $25 or $50.

Whereas Scott was only interested in receiving a $500,000 check from a utility company, almost all of the candidates running in 2018, whether it be for governor or state House, would be happy to receive a check for $500 or $1,000. This returns power to the fundraisers who specialized in bundling, say, 30 checks from a group of local professionals. The entire campaign finance system reverts to pre-2010 levels without Scott and his checkbook.

This brings me to my final point: Look for the return of the political parties.

No, they’ll never be as powerful as they were 20 years ago, but they certainly won’t do any worse than they have the last eight years. Especially the Republican Party of Florida, which has been so neglected by Scott that there are constant rumors that the party can barely make payroll.

Whoever wins their party’s nomination this fall will need the parties if they want to win the general. They will need the activists. They will need the party’s imprimatur. That shifts power back to the Republicans’ Blaise Ingoglia, the Democrats’ Terrie Rizzo, and the party chairs who will follow them.

I wanted to roll out this theory on the Ides of March because Scott’s tenure reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

“Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about.”

Scott, armed with his checkbook, has bestridden Tallahassee like Colossus, while we petty men and women have walked under his indifferent legs and peeped about.

With Scott’s exit, it’s time again for all of those in The Process to, as Cassius told Brutus, be masters of our own fates.

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