Florida Politics Archives - Florida Politics

Delegation for 9.18.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Nelson would be happier than most with Kavanaugh delay

Senate Republicans hoping the Judiciary Committee would hunker down and vote out the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, now realize they have one more desperate roadblock to sidestep. With a name now attached to the woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct more than 30 years ago, the committee’s scheduled Thursday vote is now in jeopardy.

Now there is a name attached to Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser: Christine Blasey Ford.

For those old enough to remember back to October 1991, they might be uttering Yogi Berra’s line about “déjà vu all over again.” It was that autumn 27 years ago when law professor Anita Hill rocked Capitol Hill with accusations of sexual impropriety against nominee Clarence Thomas.

After lamenting a “high-tech lynching,” Thomas was ultimately confirmed by a 52-48 vote. Before allegations by the California research psychologist against Kavanaugh became public last week, many were predicting a similar vote when the nomination came before the full Senate.

Calls to delay Thursday’s vote quickly began with Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin taking the lead. Other Democrats followed, but retiring Arizona Republican Jeff Flake said the accusations needed to be addressed and fellow committee Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he would “gladly listen,” and “compare that against all other information we have received about judge Kavanaugh.”

“If the committee is to hear from Ms. (Christine BlaseyFord, it should be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled,” said Graham.

Through her attorney, Ford has indicated a willingness to testify before Congress.

Democrats have long hoped to drag out the confirmation process until after the midterms, if at all possible. Should the “blue wave” occur and sweep out the GOP majority, Kavanaugh’s nomination would be doomed.

That would be just fine with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is engaged in a tight race against Gov. Rick Scott. While some red-state Democrats running for re-election will find it politically healthy to vote for Kavanaugh, Nelson is in a tougher spot.

While some Trump-voting Democrats might hold a “no” vote against him, enough of the Democratic base could turn on him if he votes for the nominee. A recent poll revealed that 80 percent of Florida voters would not base their vote on this issue, but 31 percent of Democrats said they would be “less likely to vote for Nelson if he votes to confirm Kavanaugh.”

On Monday, Nelson called for an “investigation” into the allegations. He also affirmed his readiness to meet with Kavanaugh, a meeting he has “requested four times.”

This is the era of the “#MeToo” movement, where women are coming forward, and now believed, with accounts of harassment and assault perpetrated on them by powerful men. Bipartisan efforts to further mainstream the issue continue in Congress (see below)

Such a movement did not exist in 1991 while the Thomas hearings were in progress.

Kavanaugh has a letter of support signed by 65 women who knew him during his high school days saying Ford’s accusation does not fit the Kavanaugh they knew then or know now.

This will be a big week for the future of Kavanaugh and the person who nominated him, President Donald Trump. If there are further delays by the end of the week, Nelson will consider it a victory.

Rubio campaigns for Tennessee Senate candidate

During the campaign for Nelson’s Senate seat, Scott and his surrogates have regularly criticized the incumbent Democrat on his three terms in office. One of those critics has not been Marco Rubio, who pledged not to attack the state’s senior Senator and is keeping that pledge.

To help the GOP keep their Senate majority, Rubio traveled to Tennessee in support of his party’s candidate, Rep. Marsha Blackburn. In support of Blackburn, Rubio warned that her opponent, former Gov. Phil Bredesen, is “trying to pull a fast one.”

Marco Rubio says former Gov. Phil Bredesen is trying to pull ‘a fast one’ on Tennessee voters.

Bredesen is one of those Democrats who tell voters “they are middle of the road, moderate, work with both sides,” he told a Blackburn campaign event in Brentwood, Tenn. Those promising moderation, Rubio said, “when they get to D.C., they vote 99.9 percent of the time with people that Tennessee would never vote for if they ran for office, here.”

Rubio praised Blackburn as “a great candidate,” while her opponent “is trying to pull a fast on you.”

A spokeswoman for Bredesen responded in a statement: “Just like Governor Bredesen, Tennesseans are independent thinkers who can make up their own minds and don’t need to be told what to do by out-of-state politicians.”

The latest Real Clear Politics average of polls shows the race as a dead heat.

 Scott distances himself from Trump in new Spanish ad

Following Trump’s much-panned comments regarding the Puerto Rican death toll estimates, Scott was in the position of publicly disagreeing with the President. Now he has released a new Spanish-language ad that looks to put some space between himself and Trump.

The ad, titled “Compromiso,” features Scott speaking in Spanish about his promise to put voters in front of partisan politics.

“When I don’t agree with what President Trump does or says, I’ve said it,” Scott begins.

To view the video, click on the image below:

“My only commitment is with you,” he continued. “For me, what’s important is that your family have the best opportunities. I ask for your vote so that together we can make Washington work for our families.”

Following Hurricane Maria last year, Scott and Nelson received similar levels of approval for their handling of Puerto Rican evacuees into Florida. The two candidates are also in a dead heat among Latino voters.

House, Senate negotiators agree to avoid shutdown

One of the issues now destined to play a minor role in the fall campaigns is the seemingly never-ending threat of a federal government shutdown. A stopgap spending bill was agreed upon by House and Senate negotiators late last week which would keep the money flowing until December 7, will be voted on this week in the Senate and next week in the House.

This action is usually necessary when Congress cannot agree on spending bills, forcing either a stopgap measure or a massive omnibus spending bill covering multiple agencies. Last year, the $1.3 trillion price tag of the omnibus bill brought Trump to pledge he would never sign another one like it.

Matt Gaetz is no fan of stopgap budget measures.

This year, Congress is doing a much better job of getting the individual spending bills debated and passed. The deadline is October 1, but when it became apparent a few would remain, the desire to prevent a shutdown prompted the stopgap measure.

All of that depends upon whether Trump will sign the bill, but negotiators have been told he would approve it. It will be attached to funding bill covering the Department of Defense and other programs, making a veto highly unlikely.

Previous stopgap or omnibus spending bills have met opposition from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is one of those who oppose such legislation on principle, but with Congress on track to complete the bills before the year ends, conservatives may wind up supporting it in the end.

Voting “no” on defense funding might be difficult as well.

Chief Justice flexes muscle in ‘dark money’ case

Candidates from both sides have long complained about third party attacks from organizations funded in part by anonymous donors contributing “dark money.” As one organization was about to unwillingly reveal their donors after a federal appeals court refused to issue a stay on a lower-court ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts stepped in, blocking the ruling.

The affected party in the case was former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove and his Crossroads GPS organization that was trying to influence a 2012 Ohio U.S. Senate race. Those involved with these organizations argued that if the ruling stood, a chilling effect on independent expenditures might have followed.

Chief Justice John Roberts blocks a court ruling on anonymous ‘dark money.’

“Upon consideration of the application of counsel for the applicant and the response filed thereto,” Roberts wrote in his brief order, “it is ordered that the order of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, case No. 16-259, is hereby stayed pending further order of the undersigned or of the Court.”

Third party groups such as Majority Forward is one of many that have become involved in campaigns around the country. While both parties benefit from the secret resource, Majority Forward came to the rescue of a prominent Floridian.

As Scott was dramatically outspending Nelson earlier this year, it was the $2.7 million provided by the dark money group that kept the three-term Democrat from being totally overwhelmed by Scott’s advertising onslaught.

While Scott is expected to be well-funded, other Republicans are expected to take full advantage of current law. Democrats are outraising Republicans, including incumbents, in several races around the country as they seek to regain the majority in both the House and Senate.

Murphy, Curbelo warn of  ‘deep fakes’

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Kendall and Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy from Winter Park have both expressed concerns about “deep fake” videos. Both have also called on intelligence leaders to assess the potential threat.

Curbelo and Murphy signed a letter with Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff from California calling on Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to publicly report on the implications of new technology potentially affecting affairs in a democracy.

Florida lawmakers call on Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to investigate ‘deep fake’ videos.

“You have repeatedly raised the alarm about disinformation campaigns in our elections and other efforts to exacerbate political and social divisions in our society to weaken our nation,” the letter reads. “We are deeply concerned that deep fake technology could soon be deployed by malicious foreign actors.”

‘Deep Fake’ videos are created by an artificial intelligence-based human image synthesis. It is used to combine and superimpose existing images and video onto source images or videos. Essentially, it is designed to put the likeness of a selected person on video to make it appear that person was doing something they were not.

“Deep fake technology can be used by our enemies to undermine our nation’s security and democracy, which is why the Intelligence Community must provide a comprehensive report to Congress on the threat posed by deep fake technology,” said Murphy, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

“We need to know what countries have used it against U.S. interests, what the U.S. government is doing to address this national security threat, and what more the Intelligence Community needs to effectively counter the threat.”

Curbelo agreed with Murphy claiming that fake video technology has the potential to disrupt every aspect of society, including elections.

“With implications for national security, human rights and public safety, the technological capabilities to produce this kind of propaganda targeting the United States and Americans around the world is unprecedented,” Curbelo said.

Webster praises passage of VA funding

Last week, a series of spending bills were approved and sent to Trump for his signature. Among those was a bipartisan VA funding bill that earned effusive praise from Republican Rep. Daniel Webster of Clermont.

Webster was laudatory of the process that led to passing the spending bills. Funding for federal agencies has recently been lumped into huge spending packages.

Daniel Webster is celebrating the passage of a VA funding bill.

“For the first time in 8 years, Congress is not funding these agencies through what is commonly called a Continuing Resolution — a slush fund that allows the agencies to follow their own path independent of proper congressional oversight,” Webster said in a news release. “There is more work to be done if Congress is serious about reducing the spigot of spending, which requires returning to the budget process our Founding Fathers envisioned.”

Among the areas covered includes funding to enhance the VA’s electronic records system, enhanced mental health treatment, infrastructure upgrades to combat cyberattacks from hostile nations, and funding for family housing.

In addition to funding military construction and the VA, the three-bill spending package also includes funding for energy and water, along with appropriations for the legislative branch. The Senate approved the measure 92-5 while the House voted 377-20 in support.

Democratic poll gives Carlson one-point lead in CD 15

Republican Ross Spano is heavily favored to win the District 15 House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Dennis Ross, but a poll conducted by Spano’s opponent says it is anyone’s race. According to an internal poll, Democrat Kristen Carlson leads Spano by one point, 48-47.

New Democratic polling gives Kristen Carlson a slim lead in CD 15.

Carlson outraised Spano by nearly $100,000 during the primary campaign, but Spano had a $60,000 advantage in cash on hand as of the last FEC fundraising report on August 8.

Carlson is a former prosecutor and general counsel to the Florida Department of Citrus. Spano is a state representative who was backed by Rubio in last month’s primary.

The Larry Sabato Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report list the race as “Likely Republican” while Roll Call’s Nathan Gonzales rates it as Solid Republican.

The survey contacted 400 likely voters with a 4.9 percent margin of error.

 Mast named subcommittee chair

For the second time this year, Republican Rep. Brian Mast has taken on a different role in his committee assignments. On Monday, he was named the chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster.

Mast’s appointment is effective immediately and lasts through the end of the 115th Congress, which occurs in January 2019. He replaces Duncan Hunter of California, who was indicted on multiple charges of campaign finance fraud.

Brian Mast moves up to a new leadership role.

“Oversight of the Coast Guard and the nation’s maritime transportation system is a vital responsibility of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,” said Shuster. “Brian is an effective member of this subcommittee and has a firm grasp of the issues. He understands the critical nature of the Coast Guard’s missions and is ready to take the gavel.”

In May, Mast was appointed to the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He welcomed his new role in a statement.

“Maritime transportation is a critical issue for Florida, and the Coast Guard has an important presence in our state, which is why I asked Chairman Bill Shuster for the opportunity to take on leadership of this subcommittee,” Mast said. “The Coast Guard plays an essential role in maintaining the rule of law on our waterways, including securing our borders and enforcing marine pollution laws. Working together, I’m confident we can ensure they have the tools they need to succeed at these critical missions.”

His future in keeping the gavel depends on first defeating Democrat Lauren Baer in November and the Republicans maintaining a majority in the House.

Frankel, women’s caucus hold hearing on workplace harassment

As the anniversary of the Harvey Weinstein assault allegations approaches, the House Caucus for Women’s Issues recently hosted a hearing about what has become the #MeToo movement. The hearing was appropriately titled “#MeToo, What’s Next? Turning a Movement into Action.”

Caucus members heard from leaders from some industries to discuss ways to promote respect and dignity in the workplace, and ultimately to find innovative and creative solutions to the problem of workplace harassment. The hearing was hosted by caucus co-chair Lois Frankel and the caucus leadership group consisting of bipartisan Members of Congress.

Lois Frankel is turning the #MeToo movement into action.

“Women, like men, go to work to take care of their families,” said Frankel, a Democrat from West Palm Beach“Sexual harassment is a real economic issue and a big factor that’s holding women back from opportunities and advancing in their careers. We heard the wisdom of our panelists on some solutions, and I hope measures going through the House like reauthorizing VAWA, banning mandatory arbitration, boosting spending for the (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission), and passing the EMPOWER Act will help create safer workplaces.”

This is the third hearing in a series of hearings on sexual harassment in the workplace conducted by the caucus. The first hearing focused on sexual harassment in the service sector and the second heard from survivors and experts from fields where women are often outnumbered.

South Florida Republicans join call for new Violence Against Women Act

With the issue surrounding sexual harassment and sexual violence playing out in the Kavanaugh hearings, legislation combating the menace was set to expire on September 30. As Congress is dealing with preventing a government shutdown (see above), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the law will receive the same extension until December 7 as the stopgap spending bill.

Before its inclusion in the funding bill, 46 Republicans called on Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to reauthorize the law. In a letter, the signees said VAWA “has helped to protect and support millions of Americans who have faced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

Several members of the South Florida delegation are calling to renew the Violence Against Women Act.

Among delegation Republicans signing the letter included Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, as well as Carlos Curbelo of Kendall.

“This is not a partisan issue,” the letter continued. “VAWA has been continually reauthorized on a bipartisan basis in Congress. We must act now to strengthen and maintain this critical law.

Congress first passed the VAWA in 1993 and most recently reauthorized it in 2013. Along with passing other spending bills, it is likely to be reauthorized during a lame-duck session of Congress in November or December.

Mucarsel-Powell under attack from multiple angles 

Florida’s 26th Congressional District Democratic candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is the target of numerous attacks on behalf of Curbelo as well as another from his campaign. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is revisiting allegations of ties between her and a Ukrainian oligarch named Ihor Kolomoisky.

Mucarsel-Powell has already faced scrutiny over her husband’s work for Kolomoisky during the Democratic primary. She called the ad “a complete lie.”

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell faces digital attacks on several fronts.

radio ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund tried to link Mucarsel-Powell to Kolomoisky as well. The NRCC ad, titled “Connection,” has brought attention to the claims again.

It claims Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign “has received thousands in contributions from Kolomoisky’s associates.”

Also, Curbelo is criticizing his opponent for accepting money from the BOLD PAC, chaired by Democratic Rep. Tony Cardenas. Cardenas was accused of molesting a 16-year-old girl in 2007, which he denies.

BOLD PAC, which serves as the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, also contributed $5,000 to Mucarsel-Powell’s campaign. The caucus denied admission to Curbelo in 2017.

On this day in the headlines

September 18, 1978 — President Jimmy Carter announced to the world Sunday night that a “framework for peace” in the Middle East has been reached at a summit meeting with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin. Carter said the documents signed by the two leaders at Camp David “will provide that Israel may live in peace within secure borders.”

The agreement calls for a five-year transition period during which Palestinians will “retain full autonomy.” It also allows Israel to station troops at locations within the West Bank and Gaza.

September 18, 2012 — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is dealing with a new headache as a video surfaced of him telling wealthy donors that almost half of Americans “believe they are victims.” Romney told the gathering “there are 47 percent of people who are with (Barack Obama), who depend on government, who believe they are victims.”

The campaign went into damage control putting out a statement that Romney “wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy.” An Obama adviser said the Democratic campaign might use Romney’s comments from the fundraising video in television advertisements.

 

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.18.18

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

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

Look for lobbying behemoth Ballard Partners to announce today that it has hired Christina Daly, who oversaw the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice as it dramatically expanded its effort to divert nonviolent youth away from brick-and-mortar facilities and into treatment and community services. Hailed by Gov. Rick Scott as “a national leader in reform of a comprehensive juvenile justice system,” Daly stepped down from the agency in July.

Christina Daly is joining Ballard Partners.

Six months ago, Florida Democrats said they were looking to shake up the makeup of the state Senate. Seven weeks out from Election Day, the chances of that happening are dwindling.

A trio of new polls commissioned by Florida Politics shows Republican Sens. Dana Young and Kelli Stargel leading in their re-election bids, while former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper has pulled ahead of former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the race to succeed Jack Latvala.

The leads aren’t big, but if a “blue wave” is coming there’s little evidence of it in these polls.

Young, the most endangered of incumbent Senators, leads Janet Cruz, the most accomplished of the Democratic Party’s recruits, by three points in the race for Tampa’s Senate District 18. In Lakeland-based Senate District 22, Stargel holds a 7-point lead over retired circuit court judge Bob Doyel a month after his camp was pushing internal poll numbers showing him on top in the Republican-leaning district.

In Pasco- and Pinellas-based Senate District 16, Hooper now holds a slim lead over Murphy. Polls showed the inverse no less than a month ago, and the district has perhaps the best chance of flipping out of the bunch. After all, there’s no incumbent and Murphy does have a track record of overcoming the odds in red districts.

Fundraising only compounds the results. In each of the three districts measured, the Republican holds a massive fundraising lead — Young has more than $1.8 million banked to Cruz’ $150K; Stargel’s got Doyel beat $455K to $124K, and Hooper is walloping Murphy with $515K on hand to her $102K.

Barring a miracle, Florida Democrats are in the same position they find themselves in every off-year election: Outmatched and holding on to hope for a win at the top of the ticket.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MissMayn: It would be nice if a Supreme Court nominee were scrutinized as hard a guy who was shot in his own apartment.

—@SBG1: Seems worth noting there is not a single Republican woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee as it figures out how to deal with this Kavanaugh situation. Not a single one. In 2018. Seems like not too much has changed since Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings.

—@SenBillNelson: I’m still waiting for a meeting with Judge Kavanaugh I’ve requested four times. I have a number of questions for him. Meantime, I agree there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him. I believe the people involved should appear before the Judiciary committee.

@DavidJollyFL: The allegations are serious. Ford first raised them 6 years ago to a counselor who took written notes. There are other conservative jurists whose confirmation would not be questioned for decades. For the good of the court, Kavanaugh should do the right thing and withdraw.

—@RepLoisFrankel: Slashing the number of #refugees we take in during the worst refugee crisis in modern history won’t make us safer, and shutting the door to thousands of displaced people — many of them women and children fleeing war, famine, & violence — is cruel and simply un-American.

—@Fineout: So does @RonDeSantisFL have access to a jet now? His campaign says he will be in Valparaiso and Tampa tomorrow — at events that are only about 4 hours apart.

@Fineout: Gillum, FWIW, has said that @FLGovScott should not appoint the outgoing 3 Supreme Court justices who are scheduled to leave in January. When asked today, he said that is different because their positions are not vacant while the city manager job is

@TravisPillow: At a minimum (assuming no incumbents lose), we’re looking at 17 new governors after November’s elections. That’s a lot of opportunities for education policy shake-ups

@ArekSarkissian: Quote highlight from today’s @HealthyFla meeting on dosing: “CBD and THC are two totally different things. People aren’t going to take CBD and run kids over … but THC is different. It just is.” Said Dr. Mark Moore, a Tallahassee physician prescribing medical cannabis.

—@Rob_Bradley: Looks like @Jaguars are on their way to being America’s Team.

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 4; First day of fall — 4; Future of Florida Forum — 8; Government shutdown — 12; FSU vs. UM football game — 18; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 21; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 35; MLB World Series begins — 35; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 35; Early voting begins — 39; Halloween — 43; General Election Day — 49; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 63; Thanksgiving — 65; Black Friday — 66; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 70; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 147; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 168; 2020 General Election — 777.— TOP STORY —

Down it goes: Florida bar exam pass rate plummets again” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The number of first-time Florida bar exam takers who pass has slipped 4 percent from last year to 67.2 percent from 71.3 percent, according to the state’s Board of Bar Examiners. Results for the July 24-25 examination were released Monday. Overall, 3,249 people sat for the bar exam, of which 2,228 were taking it for the first time. The latest pass rate has actually lost ground from two years ago, going a whole percent lower than the 68.2 percent from July 2016, records show. Florida International University College of Law again retained the No. 1 spot regarding highest pass rate, with 88.1 percent, bumping up from 87.8 percent last July. Nova Southeastern University College of Law saw the biggest decrease year-over-year, dropping a little more than 27 percentage points, to 42.9 percent from 70.2 percent.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Bill Nelson calls for investigation into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh; no response yet from Marco Rubio, Rick Scott” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Nelson tweeted that Kavanaugh and alleged victim Christine Blasey Ford should testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Through her attorney, Ford has agreed to do just that, according to reports. Ford told The Washington Post over the weekend that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when the two were high school students in suburban Maryland. She described a sexual assault encounter in detail, alleging that an intoxicated Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes and attempted to pull off her swimsuit.

Rick Scott campaign stop proceed by red tide protesters” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Protesters jammed the sidewalk and spilled into the street around Mojo’s Real Cuban, forcing Scott to enter the restaurant through the back door and leave the same way after just 10 minutes as members of the crowd shouted “coward.” Scott didn’t take any media questions during the brief, tumultuous event and did not give a speech to the group of a few dozen supporters gathered inside the restaurant.

To watch video of the encounter, click on the image below:

Tweet, tweet:

Meanwhile … what Nancy Watkins is reading — E-Filing for Senate campaign finance reports is close to becoming a reality” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — The final conference agreement for the first minibus appropriations package, HR 5895, includes a provision that would require Senate candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically, according to Sen. Steve Daines, chairman of the Legislative Branch appropriations panel, who pushed it over the finish line. “I fought to include language to increase transparency and access for U.S. Senate campaign finances, and after today’s announcement, we’re one step closer,” Daines, a Montana Republican, said in a statement. “I look forward to getting this through the House, the Senate, and on to the president’s desk for signature.”

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

The politics of debates: Ron DeSantis agrees to face off with Andrew Gillum” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat DeSantis … said Monday he will debate Democrat Gillum “whenever possible.” The Tallahassee mayor had pushed DeSantis over the weekend to appear on the same stage with him and talk policy. Gillum had accepted invitations from Univision, Leadership Florida and CNN. Sunday, he chastised DeSantis on Twitter for having yet to accept any of the invitations. DeSantis responded Monday. And when he did, he upped the ante and agreed to five debates.

Ron DeSantis agrees to as many as five debates with his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum.

Hurricane politics: When Andrew Gillum and Rick Scott clashed” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Despite its relatively weak wind strength, Hurricane Hermine packed enough punch to knock out power for several days to most of the capital city Tallahassee, then governed by a little-known Mayor named Gillum. But the slow process of picking up after the storm was quickly mired in criticism of how long it took to turn the power back on. Gillum struggled to weather allegations that the city rejected help from power companies and the state to score political points, and the delays led to a publicized spat between Gillum and Gov. Scott … Now two years later, Gillum’s experience stands out. The storm’s aftermath pitted the young, rising Mayor against the state’s top politician in a clash that, though it simmered down, left bruises. “There’s been a false narrative created about that incident that’s extremely unfortunate,” said Barry Moline, then the executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, who helped manage the city’s power recovery after the storm. “I’ve been involved in a lot of hurricane restorations … I had never seen politics enter any hurricane restoration until that moment.”

Gillum campaign says attacks casting him as anti-Israel are ‘irresponsible’” via David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times Painted by conservative outlets and his Republican foe as anti-Israel, Gillum … is stressing his opposition to a movement to financially punish the state of Israel and explaining his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while on the stump. Gillum … says that he’s been against the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement during the entirety of his gubernatorial run, despite what he calls inaccurate reports of a shifting stance. A campaign spokesman … also explained that Gillum’s association with organizations that back the BDS movement or oppose anti-boycott legislation shouldn’t be construed as support for those positions.

Gillum beefs up campaign staff” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Gillum unveiled a 19-person leadership team on Monday night. Familiar names — like staffers from failed primary campaigns and from other Democratic politicians and groups — fill out the squad. There are also carry-overs from Gillum’s primary team. At the helm of operations is Brandon Davis, the newly named campaign manager. Davis fills the vacancy created by the firing of Brendan McPhillips, who was let go shortly after Gillum’s upset primary victory. Davis is a decorated Democratic strategist.

DeSantis spoke to group whose founder says devout Muslims can’t be loyal Americans” via Trevor Aaronson of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting — DeSantis spoke in October 2017 at a conference of an anti-Muslim group that critics call extremist and whose founder argues devout Muslims cannot be loyal Americans. DeSantis’ address to ACT for America is evidence of another meeting with groups known for controversial views, including a conference last year featuring speakers who have defended a candidate accused of child molestation, suggested killing Muslims and argued that women are less likely to be in leadership roles because of “biological causes.” Founded in 2007, ACT for America promotes itself as the “largest national security grassroots organization.” ACT refers to the organization’s former name, American Congress for Truth. The group has built a reputation for lobbying state legislators to ban Sharia law and has referred to Islam as “Islamofascism.” Brigitte Gabriel, the Lebanese-American Christian who founded ACT for America, has used the organization to lobby for intolerance of Muslims in the United States, criticizing cities with large Muslim populations for serving halal meals at schools and advocating for strict policies that limit the number of Muslim immigrants. During a 2007 lecture, Gabriel said a devout Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”

Brigitte Gabriel (left) is the founder and president of the anti-Muslim grassroots group ACT for America.

DeSantis touts $12M he says campaign, Florida GOP raised since primary night” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Leading the way is $7.6 million raised by the RPOF, according to the DeSantis campaign. RPOF has not had to post a campaign finance report since election night. A political committee run by DeSantis has raised $3.4 million, and his campaign has raised $1 million, his campaign said … For RPOF, the $7.6 million in nearly three weeks would be one of its most prolific fundraising periods in years … RPOF has struggled to raise money and has been a marginal part of the overall Republican playbook in Florida. DeSantis’ campaign is engaged with the party, underscoring the fundraising boost that comes when a gubernatorial candidate or governor engages in fundraising. Gillum’s campaign got credit immediately after the primary, including $1 million from the Democratic Governors Association and a huge chunk from state trial lawyers. Last week, DGA announced it was giving a second $1 million check to Gillum’s campaign.

DeSantis, Gillum pile up matching funds” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis and Gillum continue to be the biggest beneficiaries of Florida’s matching-funds program, which has doled out $5.36 million to statewide candidates this year. DeSantis received $96,938 from the program Friday, while Gillum got $62,390, according to figures posted online by the state Division of Elections. DeSantis has received an overall total of more than $1.152 million from the program, which matches individual contributions of $250 or less. Since winning the Aug. 28 Republican primary, DeSantis has received $176,426 from the state. Among the nearly 2,000 separate contributions that came into DeSantis’ campaign from across the country during the first week in September, about 1,800 were of $250 or less. Gillum has now received $620,631 through the matching-funds program, including $125,567 since the Aug. 28 primary. In September’s first seven days, Gillum received 13,661 contributions of $250 or less.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will visit the Okaloosa STEMM Academy in Valparaiso and the Franklin Middle Magnet School in Tampa: 8 a.m. Central time, Okaloosa STEMM Academy, 379 Edge Avenue, Valparaiso; 2 p.m. Eastern time, Franklin Middle Magnet School, 3915 21st Avenue, Tampa.

— ‘REACH’ RACE —

The Florida Democratic Party says it’s knocked on 2 million doors in the 2018 election cycle. 

That’s a bit more than the Republican Party of Florida and Republican National Committee, which claim to have together knocked on 1.7 million doors. The GOP ground troops touted a weekend of action yesterday that resulted in more than 80,000 voters contacted. 

But the Democrats, who hold the intangible doors-knocked lead, say they’ve held similar action-focused weekends consecutively. 

More numbers: In total, the state Democratic Party claims to have reached more than 8 million voters this cycle. That includes doors knocked, calls (3.8 million) and text conversations (2.2 million).

Dem perspective: “Our candidates are offering a bold vision for Florida’s future, and we are taking that message to voters in every corner of Florida,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo.

GOP perspective: “The Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Florida are organized, energized and ready to send Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum packing this November,” said RNC spox Joe Jackson.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Republican ‘Victory Dinner’ to take place in Orlando” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — On Saturday, Sept. 29, Republicans from across the state will come together at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for the 2018 Victory Dinner, the Republican Party of Florida announced …“Donors and influential grassroots operatives” are expected to attend, according to the party. It’s considered the Florida GOP’s largest fundraising event. RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement he is excited and ready to ride a “red wave” to victory.

‘Bundled’ amendments prevent ballot fatigue, state saysvia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics Florida’s solicitor general Monday asked the Florida Supreme Court to allow three proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot. Solicitor General Amit Agarwal, who filed an initial brief, appealed a lower court’s decision blocking the ballot measures. Agarwal reports to Attorney General Pam Bondi. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers had found that the three proposals — including a measure that would ban offshore oil drilling and ban vaping in workplaces — improperly “bundled” unrelated issues. Why not, Agarwal suggested, since the Framers did the same thing. “Our constitutional history is replete with examples of situations in which voters have been asked to vote up or down on bundled provisions addressing distinct rights and issues — including the ratification of the Constitution and the First Amendment,” he said.

Happening today:

Matt Caldwell pulls in $165K in early September” via the News Service of Florida — The one-week haul included contributions of $25,000 from Atlanta-based fuel and convenience-store company RaceTrac, $25,000 from the Florida Phosphate Political Committee and $10,000 from Tampa-based TECO Energy … Caldwell, who spent nearly all of the $2.6 million he raised before winning a four-way primary on Aug. 28, had a combined $198,981 on hand as of Sept. 7 in his campaign account and the committee Friends of Matt Caldwell. Caldwell’s fundraising helped bring him more in line with Democratic candidate Nikki Fried, who ended the first week of September with about $227,000 on hand in her campaign account and the political committee Florida Consumers First.

New CD 12 ad says Gus Bilirakis ‘is addressing the real issues’” via Florida Politics — The ad, titled “Fighting for Warriors,” features a veteran, Bryan A., speaking about the lawmaker’s efforts and features clips of Bilirakis walking alongside Bryan and shaking hands with a number of military veterans, young and old. “I served in the Army for 14 years. I was both a print photojournalist and then a Green Beret. Now I run a nonprofit called the Veterans Alternative,” Bryan A. says in the ad. “These alternative treatment options are saving warriors’ lives. I’m thankful that we have Gus. He is addressing the real issues that we’re facing.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Florida Chamber endorses 16 more legislative candidates” via Florida Politics — Among those getting the nod in round three was state Rep. Gayle Harrell … Lake Clarke Shores Democratic Rep. David Silvers and Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite. Among the non-electeds … House District 69 candidate Ray Blacklidge and House District 93 candidate Chip LaMarca. Other candidates getting the nod … HD 10 Republican Chuck Brannan … HD 51 Republican Tyler Sirois … HD 73 Republican Tommy Gregory. The remaining endorsements went to HD 32 Republican Anthony Sabatini, HD 103 Republican Frank Mingo, HD 28 Republican David Smith, HD 71 Republican Will Robinson, HD 105 Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez, HD 62 Democratic Dianne Hart and HD 119 Republican Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin.

Jeff Brandes says he will hold politicians accountable in new SD 24 ad” via Florida Politics — The 30-second ad features shots of Brandes walking with and talking to employees of a lumber yard and touts the values instilled in him when he worked for his family’s business. “My grandfather started our family lumber business nearly 70 years ago. He taught me to work hard, to stand up for what’s right and to never give up,” Brandes says in the ad. “Today, I’m holding bureaucrats and politicians accountable, so we can create better jobs, provide safe, 21st-century schools and protect families and seniors. And if the politicians don’t wake up, I’m taking ‘em to the woodshed.” The ad disclosure indicates the spot was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a PAC chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano which supports GOP state Senate campaigns.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Happening today:

Happening today — Democrat Jennifer Webb kicks off her general election campaign for House District 69, 6 p.m., Iberian Rooster, 475 Central Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

— STATEWIDE —

NRA blasts Bill Galvano over donation from gun-control group: ‘Our Second Amendment rights were sold’” via Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — Incoming Senate President Galvano is getting hit from the right over a donation to his political committee from the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund. The pro-gun control organization gave $200,000 to Galvano’s Innovate Florida committee, according to state filings dated Sept. 4. Galvano, a moderate, voted for SB 7026, the 2018 law that raised the minimum age a person is allowed to buy a gun, created a three-day waiting period to buy any firearm, banned bump-stock sales and allowed armed staff in public schools. The National Rifle Association blasted Galvano, writing that he “calls himself a Republican.” “B-7026 contained three major gun control provisions and was rammed down the throats of Senate and House Republican legislators,” the email from Marion Hammer read. “Looks like our Second Amendment Rights were sold for a large contribution from anti-gun former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.” Galvano told the Times he stands by the donation.

Tweet, tweet:

Report details charter school closures” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — A new report from a Tallahassee-based research group raises questions about the growing role of charter schools in Florida, including citing the closure of 373 charter schools since 1998. Ben Wilcox, research director for the group Integrity Florida, said the closure of charter schools has averaged nearly 20 a year “and that comes with a cost to taxpayers.” “When a charter school closes, it is often difficult to get taxpayer funds back,” Wilcox said. “A closure can cause severe problems for a school district which must absorb the displaced students.” As of the 2016-2017 academic year, some 284,000 students, or about 10 percent of Florida’s 2.8 million students enrolled in the pre-kindergarten-through-high school-system, attended charter schools. The 654 charter schools receive public funding but can act more independently than traditional public schools. The report showed 160 charter schools failed between 2012 and 2017, with 35 closing in 2015-2016.

State looks to bolster redfish amid red tide fight” via the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is directing $1.2 million for research and production of redfish at a facility at Port Manatee … the money will help the commission address the effects of red tide on redfish in coastal areas. Red tide recently has led to widespread fish kills in Southwest Florida. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission facility at Port Manatee spawns and raises hatchery fish.

St. Petersburg ranks best in Florida for immigrant inclusivity” via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times A new study singles out St. Petersburg as the top-ranked city in Florida for promoting the economic well-being of immigrants, but Mayor Rick Kriseman thinks more can be done. Kriseman on Monday celebrated the city’s No. 13 ranking nationwide but called for additional policies to help immigrants launch businesses and encourage international students to stay and work locally after graduation. The Mayor’s comments came as he released the results of a first-year study from the New American Economy that found immigrants have a “substantial impact” on St. Petersburg’s economy, owning more than 2,100 businesses and paying about $550 million annually in taxes.

Jim DeFede, CBS4 management accused of bullying and harassing veteran reporter” via Brittany Shammas and Jerry Iannelli of Miami New Times After working as a TV reporter in Los Angeles, Michele Gillen joined WFOR, Miami’s CBS affiliate in 1997. Since then, she’s been nominated for 46 regional Emmys and won 25. But she says her career as an investigative reporter suffered due to a culture of sexism, bullying, and harassment at the network. … In the lawsuit, Gillen singles out local CBS anchor and investigative reporter DeFede for allegedly routinely bullying her. DeFede, who joined CBS Miami after working at Miami New Times and the Miami Herald, began as Gillen’s junior colleague in the station’s investigative unit.

— OPINIONS —

American democracy is in crisis” via Hillary Clinton for the Atlantic — Our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back … Trump doesn’t even try to pretend he’s a president for all Americans. It’s hard to ignore the racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says. Often, it’s not even subtext. When he says that Haitian and African immigrants are from ‘s***hole countries,’ that’s impossible to misunderstand. Same when he says that an American judge can’t be trusted because of his Mexican heritage. None of this is a mark of authenticity or a refreshing break from political correctness. Hate speech isn’t “telling it like it is.” It’s just hate.

Will Donald Trump regret endorsing DeSantis?” via Carl Jackson of TownHall.com — DeSantis relied far too heavily on Trump’s endorsement, as well as his national television appearances on Fox News with conservative giants Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. At times, it has felt like he’s been running for a safe seat in Congress, rather than for Florida’s top job. Many Republican voters here in Orlando I’ve spoken to have asked me “Where is DeSantis? Is he holding any events? Is he even on the campaign trail?” DeSantis has a lot of ground to cover, and he’s behind the eight ball. DeSantis has been a great conservative congressman, but outside of garnering Trump’s endorsement, he hasn’t run a very good campaign. Regardless, he has my vote for Florida’s next governor because I know what’s at stake. However, given the razor-thin margins by which Scott’s races for Florida’s top job were decided, DeSantis can’t afford to leave any vote on the table. So far, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency within his campaign, and that needs to change today.

Joe Henderson: Candidates should let it rip at Governor’s debate” via Florida Politics — You can’t have a major political campaign unless candidates debate, right? Usually, they are over-scripted, overhyped and underperforming, but a Florida Governor’s debate between Gillum and DeSantis should be memorable. You would assume someone will be trying to convince Gillum it is his chance to show voters he is not, as DeSantis has painted him, a tax-loving far-left wacko … he should go for it. And for DeSantis, it’s a chance to show voters he can be his own man if he is put in charge of the state and not just a Trump Mini-Me … That’s why I believe sparks should and will fly when these two. They offer completely different visions for the state, and it could (cross your fingers) get testy. But that’s what we all should want. Game on, gentlemen. You want to be Governor? No holding back.

Patricia Brigham: League of Women Voters makes no apologies for exposing deception” via Florida Politics — Erika Donalds, a sponsor of the now-defunct Amendment 8, was right when she recently wrote that the League of Women Voters of Florida “cheered the end” of the bundled education amendment. Amendment 8 was written to confuse. It was “log-rolled” with three separate issues — civics classes for middle school students, term limits for school board members, and the giveaway of local control to an unknown legislative-created entity for the purposes of creating new charter schools. Voters would not have known that sticking third point because the language was misleading and didn’t spell out just what the CRC was trying to do. The Florida Supreme Court saw right through it and struck it from the Nov. 6 ballot. Yet Donalds claimed the League was “disenfranchising” voters, a laughable accusation. The League of Women Voters has a long and proud tradition of sticking up for voting rights and transparency in government. Our primary mission is to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government. We achieve that mission by holding those in authority accountable to the voters. The process of the CRC was a sham — skirting Sunshine laws and ignoring repeated warnings from a whole host of organizations who raised concerns about their process and product.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Meredith Beatrice lands at Florida GOP” via Florida Politics Beatrice, 30, is now Communications Director for the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), Chairman Ingoglia announced Monday. Beatrice, who most recently handled media for GOP Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam‘s unsuccessful run for governor, “will be focused on Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign,” Ingoglia said. “Understanding the importance of this election cycle, Meredith will be a great asset to our success, especially in retaining the Governor’s Mansion,” he added in a news release. “We welcome her to the RPOF and look forward to the integral role she will have in media strategy.”

Congratulations to Meredith Beatrice.

Mike Weinstein retiring after high-impact career at Jacksonville City Hall” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Weinstein, whose long career at City Hall put him in the thick of historic initiatives such as the Better Jacksonville Plan and pension reform, is retiring as chief financial officer. Most recently, Weinstein came up with the idea for using future revenue from a half-cent sales tax to help pay for the city’s pension obligation, a concept that Mayor Lenny Curry embraced and carried to a successful outcome by winning support from voters in a referendum. Curry said Monday that Weinstein has been “both trusted adviser and friend” since 2015, when the two bonded after Curry won election and was preparing to take office. “His expertise and depth of knowledge helped me prepare balanced budgets that met our city’s priorities, create a solution to the pension crisis, and set Jacksonville on a sound financial path,” Curry said in a statement.

— ALOE —

Epcot’s IllumiNations is ending in 2019, Disney says” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel Epcot’s IllumiNations — the longtime fireworks show has entertained millions of visitors since 1999 — will end in the second half of 2019, Disney announced. The laser and fireworks show featuring a 350,000-pound Earth Globe and torches will be replaced by a new fireworks show, although Disney did not offer many details about what the replacement will be. Disney made the official announcement Monday on its park blog. But the news was not unexpected. There has been speculation that IllumiNations was going to be phased out among theme park followers.

Epcot IllumiNations is nearing the end of its run.

There’s one black Trans Am left from ‘Smokey and The Bandit.’ It’s retired in Miami” via David Neal of the Miami Herald — Many hard-core fans of Burt Reynolds’ most iconic movie, 1977’s “Smokey and The Bandit,” know that none of those cool black Pontiac Trans Ams with gold trim survived the stunts in the film. Luck, and a mother who is a big Reynolds fan, brought Fort Lauderdale resident Dave Martino together with the 1976 Trans Am that Pontiac retrofitted as a 1977 Trans Am for its annual brochure. That’s where Reynolds and director Hal Needham saw the car and decided that a Trans Am had to be the car running blocker for the semi-truck carrying bootleg Coors beer from Texarkana to Atlanta. Martino has paperwork from Pontiac proving the car’s lineage, as well as the best endorsement of all: Reynolds himself.

Happy birthday to state Rep. Bob CortesReggie Garcia, Brock’s better half, Jennifer Mikosky, and Corinne Mixon of lobbying firm Ecenia Rutledge.

Last Call for 9.17.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Since 1998, more than 373 charter schools have closed their doors in Florida, “causing problems for some school districts,” according to a new Integrity Florida report released Monday.

The number of for-profit charter schools continues to grow at a rapid pace each year and now makes up nearly half of all charter schools in the state, the group said Monday.

“Florida is averaging almost 20 charter school closures per year and that comes with a cost to taxpayers,” said Ben Wilcox, Integrity Florida’s research director, in a news release.

Added Alan Stonecipher, the organization’s research associate: “Floridians and their elected officials need to think about where this is heading, and whether we’ll end up with a parallel, duplicative education system, or a unified system as the (state) constitution requires.”

Key findings include:

— The charter school concept has evolved into “a competitive relationship between charters and traditional schools, rather than a cooperative one.”

— “Lax regulation of charter schools has created opportunities for financial mismanagement and criminal corruption.”

— “Local school boards have seen reduced ability to manage charter schools in their districts.”

School choice advocate John Kirtley, a venture capitalist long involved in education reform efforts, was mentioned in the report on his fundraising for the cause.

“The Florida teachers union is one of the largest spenders in state political races — they spent over $2.5 million in 2016 alone, more than double what FFC spent,” referring to his “Florida Federation for Children,” Kirtley told Last Call in an email.

He also is founder and chairman for Step Up for Students, a school choice scholarship program initiated by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Parents who want choices, particularly low-income parents, have no means to counter that spending,” Kirtley added. “That’s the role of The Florida Federation for Children. We invest in the process on behalf of those parents.”

Added Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member and charter school founder, “This report tries to use a few bad apples to define all charter schools.

“The truth is, the majority of charter schools are great examples of student success and school resourcefulness,” she said. “Charters are achieving results for students with fewer dollars — that’s not debatable …

“And charter schools are in fact the most accountable type of public school in Florida, because parents can remove their children at any time, and if they fail two years in a row, they close.”

For the full Integrity Florida report, click here.

Evening Reads

Bill Nelson calls for investigation into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh; no response from top Republicans” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Citizens rising up against the Florida Legislature, Rick Scott, and private property zealots” via Julie Hauserman of the Florida Phoenix

Scott campaign stop in Venice besieged by protesters slamming governor over red tide” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Ron DeSantis spoke to group whose founder says devout Muslims can’t be loyal Americans” via Trevor Aaronson of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

DeSantis says he won’t accept sugar money. He was endorsed by a group fueled by it” via Emily Mahoney and Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times

DeSantis, Andrew Gillum pile up matching funds” via The News Service of Florida

Scott Israel helping Gillum raise money” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

Race for Governor could have a big financial impact on companies in the education market” via Sean Cavanagh of Education Week

Two debates planned between DeSantis, Gillum” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell criticized for taking PAC money linked to politician accused of molesting teen” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Florida Democrats get schooled on how to be winning candidates” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

Florida Republican Party says it raised $7.6M in two weeks” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Florida workers comp rates going down again, but future challenges remain” via Amy O’Connor of the Insurance Journal

Mike Weinstein retiring after high-impact career at Jacksonville City Hall” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union

Down it goes: Florida bar exam pass rate plummets again” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Quote of the Day

“Socialism is a dead-end street. While I don’t think that Andrew Gillum would like to see empty store shelves and people starve in the street, that is ultimately what it comes to … Every time we’ve seen it tried, it failed.” — GOP Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell asked about the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Department of Children and Families will hold another in a series of meetings across the state about infant and early childhood mental health. That’s at 9 a.m., Valencia College, School of Public Safety, 8600 Valencia College Lane, Orlando.

The St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet in Clearwater at 9 a.m., St. Petersburg College, Clearwater Campus, 2465 Drew St., Clearwater.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Duval and Pinellas counties. That’s at 10 a.m., Lane Wiley Senior Center, 6710 Wiley Road, Jacksonville. Also, 1 p.m., Clearwater Countryside Library, 2642 Sabal Springs Dr., Clearwater.

Former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, the Republican nominee for Attorney General, will raise money during an event in Tallahassee. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Governors Club, 202 South Adams St., Tallahassee.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.17.18

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

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

The Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all 2-0, while the Florida State Seminoles are 1-2 after losing to lowly Syracuse.

What more proof do you need that this will be a wave election in November?

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@BrianStelter: It sounds like Christine Blasey Ford agonized over what to do. Whether to speak out on the record. With rumors spreading and reporters knocking, she decided to speak publicly: “I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.”

@MDixon55: Lots of @ScottforFlorida ads during @BadgerFootball game. I’d just like to say I’m honored the campaign was thinking of me

@SteveSchale: DeSantis only has two demands: he gets to participate by remote from a Fox News studio, and no gotcha Florida questions, like “how would you improve Florida schools?”

@BradHerold: Um, didn’t we just do a 30 min sit down with @bsfarrington? We also did three open press events TODAY, while rolling out our first policy paper this week. I think we’ve shown an eagerness to talk about our positions and look forward to debating @AndrewGillum

—@JimmyPatronis: We placed our 1st TV commercial during college football this year, I’m glad we placed it in the 1st half of the @FSUFootball instead of the 2nd half.

—@Scott_Maxwell: I’m not a reporter. I’m an opinion columnist. You’re going to find opinions in opinion columns. It’s like complaining about groceries in a grocery store.

@Finebaum: This Florida State football program is officially on life support. Willie Taggart has been an abject disaster.

@WayneMcGaheeIII: State of the #FSU program right now: We have had 2,000 people look up Willie Taggart‘s contract today from our story from December of last year. Apparently, a lot of people have been looking that up today.

@BrodyLogan: Miami vs. FSU is going to be broadcast on those screens at gas station pumps

— DAYS UNTIL — 

First general election mail ballots go out — 5; First day of fall — 5; Future of Florida Forum — 9; Government shutdown — 13; FSU vs. UM football game — 19; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 22; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 36; MLB World Series begins — 36; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 37; Early voting begins — 40; Halloween — 44; General Election Day — 50; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 64; Thanksgiving — 66; Black Friday — 67; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 71; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 148; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 169; 2020 General Election — 778.

— TOP STORY —

The economy is humming, but Donald Trump is tweeting. Republicans are worried” via Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of The New York Times — Republican leaders do agree on one surprising element in the battle for Congress: They cannot rely on the booming economy to win over undecided voters. To the dismay of party leaders, the healthy economy and Trump have become countervailing forces. The decline in unemployment and soaring gross domestic product, along with the tax overhaul Republicans argue is fueling the growth, have been obscured by the president’s inflammatory moves on immigration, Vladimir Putin and other fronts, party leaders say. These self-inflicted wounds since early summer have helped push Mr. Trump’s approval ratings below 40 percent and the fortunes of his party down with them. “This is very much a referendum on the president,” Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said of the November election. “If we had to fight this campaign on what we accomplished in Congress and on the state of the economy, I think we’d almost certainly keep our majority.”

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

Andrew Gillum demands three debates; Ron DeSantis wants ‘probably more’” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — “Florida voters deserve the chance to hear from Mayor Gillum and Congressman DeSantis about the critical issues facing our state,” senior Gillum adviser Scott Arceneaux said. “Mayor Gillum looks forward to sharing his vision for Florida that lifts people up, with higher wages, more money for schools, and affordable health care. We hope that Congressman DeSantis will join us, though it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to answer a single question about his nonexistent campaign platform.” Asked about this, DeSantis said he is “hellbent” on debating Gillum and would probably agree to more than three debates. The more they debate, DeSantis said, the better for him. “I definitely want to do debates. It’s very, very important, particularly for a candidate like Andrew who nobody thought could win the primary. He did not face scrutiny of his record. He didn’t face a single dollar in negative advertising, I don’t think,” DeSantis said after a picnic with Republican veterans. “I had $17 million between U.S. Sugar and Putnam. So, I think it’s very important that Floridians have a clear sense of our visions for Florida, our leadership.”

Ron DeSantis rallied with supporters at the Seminole County Victory HQ.

DeSantis veers into the absurd in bid to raise fear and doubt on Gillum” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis suggested that a Gov. Gillum would usher in a state income tax and be soft on child molesters. Gillum does call for raising Florida’s corporate tax rate two percentage points to 7.5 percent to boost education funding, including raising minimum teacher salaries to $50,000 per year. He has said nothing about a state income tax, which would be virtually impossible to enact even if he wanted to. DeSantis said that if Gillum refused to work with immigration authorities — something the mayor never said — a convicted child molester could be released onto Florida’s streets after completing his sentence rather than being sent back to his home country. In making preposterous, hypothetical allegations about Gillum freeing child molesters, DeSantis made it easier for Gillum to push back.

DeSantis dodges question about Trump’s Hurricane Maria death toll tweet” via Amanda Castro of ClickOrlando.com — Saturday marked the first time the public has heard from the Republican gubernatorial candidate following Trump’s tweet this week in which he denied the death count of nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans from Hurricane Maria. DeSantis dodged News 6’s questions about the tweet. “I think it was a devastating storm. I think there was a lot of loss of life. I think I made my point clear. I also think the Democrats tried to politicize all of this stuff,” DeSantis said. DeSantis also refused to respond to the report that Louis Marin, the vice chairman of Orange County’s Republican Executive Committee, posted social media conspiracy theories, saying he shared them as a way to have an open discussion and debate online. “I’m not going to get sidetracked into focusing on somebody who put something stupid. Half of the crap on Facebook is crap. Give me a break. We got to stop doing that, and I’m not going to let people try to impute things to me that I didn’t say or do. I’m going to focus on these issues that are important,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis blocks fundraiser over ‘hurtful and disgusting racial slurs’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — DeSantis’ decision to block former state Rep. Ralph Arza from the post underscored the sensitivity the Republican’s campaign has to racial issues after Democrats blasted the candidate as a “racist” for using the phrase “monkey this up” in relation to his opponent. “Ralph Arza’s name was removed because of hurtful and disgusting racial slurs that he has used in the past. He is not affiliated with our campaign,” the DeSantis campaign said in a written statement. In 2006, Arza was accused of calling Miami-Dade County’s first black schools chief a “black piece of s—” in Spanish. Arza was then criminally charged with witness tampering and intimidation, but he struck a plea deal just before the 2006 November by agreeing to retire from office and not run for reelection. His name appeared on the ballot, but the votes counted for another stand-in candidate.

Running mate: GOP Lieutenant Governor candidate Jeanette Nuñez takes a pic with supporters at a Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff event in Orlando.

’The primary is behind us’: Richard Corcoran now backing DeSantis” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Corcoran’s endorsement did not help Adam Putnam in the primary. However, despite the rhetoric of the summer, Corcoran found his way toward backing DeSantis (“chihuahua a**“ notwithstanding). On Sept. 12, Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC ponied up a relatively modest $22,625 to Friends of Ron DeSantis. That’s technically more than the $20,000 the PAC gave to Putnam’s Florida Grown committee earlier this year.

Jackie Pons got the all clear. Could that happen for Gillum in FBI probe?” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gillum has called on the FBI to publicly state he is not a focus of its investigation into local public corruption. But that’s not likely to happen soon, if ever. Gillum’s situation in some ways parallels that of former Leon County Schools Superintendent Pons, who ran for re-election in 2016 amid a long-running FBI investigation. Pons earlier this year met with Acting U.S. Attorney Chris Canova, who later called him to say the investigation was over and no charges would be filed. Canova never confirmed that publicly. And the FBI has said nothing about the Pons probe. But news about the FBI ending its investigation into Pons surfaced over the summer nevertheless.

Republicans pan Gillum’s plan to raise corporate tax” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — Gillum has called for a stunning 40 percent increase in Florida’s corporate income tax — which he wants to use to raise $1 billion more for education, including $50,000 minimum starting salaries for teachers. The Republican Governors Association is now seizing on the idea, ridiculing it in a new TV spot as a “disaster for the economy.” Florida’s biggest business groups also have begun sharpening their attacks. “National headquarters of companies in this state are focused on this like a laser beam,” said Tom Feeney, a former Republican Florida House speaker and president of Associated Industries of Florida, whose members include some of the state’s biggest companies. He said Gillum’s proposal has spawned “terror” in boardrooms and is fueling business support for Republican DeSantis, who has said little about his economic plans, other than embracing most of the tax-and-regulation-cutting policies advanced by Scott over the past eight years. “Punishing corporations by taking money out of the pockets of job-creators is going to have a chilling effect on this state’s economy,” Feeney added.

—“Gillum video promises opportunity campaign pushes back at tax critics” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

Rick Scott launches new Spanish-language ad distancing from Trump” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In the new ad, “Commitment,” Scott says in Spanish, “When I don’t agree with what President Trump does or says, I’ve said it. My only commitment is with you … For me, what’s important is that your families have the best opportunities,” he said. “I ask for your vote so that together we can make Washington work for our families. I’m Rick Scott, and I approve this message because I know that with your help, we’ll keep on working.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Déjà vu all over again: Scott says Bill Nelson has done ‘nothing’ for ‘Lake O’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Scott spot throws back to a 1990 Nelson ad, in which the Senator vowed to “fight to stop the poisoning of lakes and streams across this state. Lake Okeechobee is dying because of the massive dumping of pollutants.” Alas, contends the ad, Nelson “failed … couldn’t get anything done” and is “all talk, no action.” The Scott campaign has been messaging on Nelson’s lack of efficacy on this issue for the better part of the summer. Days after the Scott ad dropped, Nelson responded with his own buy, pinning the blame on the “man-made crisis” on Gov. Scott.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Jeb Bush: Nelson ‘will always vote for more taxes’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Bush stumped Saturday on behalf of one of his successors, Gov. Scott … And while Bush’s governorship overlapped with Nelson’s first term, he did not express much nostalgia from the podium. “With all due respect to the incumbent, the United States Senator, what has he done?” Bush asked. “I’ve been waiting. I can’t think of anything. He must have done something.” Then he answered his own question. “Yes, he has,” Bush said. “He has voted for every liberal idea that has made it harder for us to progress as a nation.”

Fred Guttenberg endorses Nelson for Senatevia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed seven months ago in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, endorsed Nelson at an event Friday afternoon. The event was held at the Marriott Coral Springs. Guttenberg followed the announcement with a Twitter post reiterating the endorsement, noting several other Parkland families were also in attendance. U.S. Rep Ted Deutch, who serves the 22nd Congressional District, which covers Parkland, also spoke to the crowd gathered at the Marriott. “Don’t let people tell you the issue of gun violence has fallen by the wayside,” Deutch said, according to Kara Voght of Mother Jones. “It’s not what I see; it’s not what I hear.”

— EYE OF THE BEHOLDER —

When Scott touts his economic successes, some data points go unmentioned. 

“Jackson County, an hour west of Tallahassee, is one of three dozen counties that had fewer jobs in 2017 than it had in 2007,” reports Steve Bousquet for the Tampa Bay Times.

In Jackson, there are fewer jobs than were a decade ago. And the small population has a higher rate of poverty than the state as a whole.

Response: Scott, when asked about how his job-growth narrative didn’t fit rural counties, dismissed the idea as a “Democratic talking point.” 

Politics: Jackson is solidly conservative. Scott’s won the county twice, and Trump got nearly 70 percent of the vote there in 2016. 

Pending matters: The county’s requested $5.9 million through the $85 million job growth grant fund. Scott has discretionary power over the fund.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Gambling industry ponies up to fight amendment” via the News Service of Florida — Faced with a proposed constitutional amendment that could make it harder to expand gambling in Florida, the gambling industry early this month put another $1.25 million into a political committee fighting the November ballot measure, according to a newly filed finance report. The money was contributed from Sept. 4 to Sept. 7 to a committee known as Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3, Inc. Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International and Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, Inc. each contributed $500,000, while the South Florida Racing Association added $250,000. The committee, which started in July, had raised $3.52 million as of Sept. 7 and had spent $91,868, the report shows. The committee opposes a proposed constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 3, that has been heavily backed by Disney Worldwide Services, Inc., and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Adam Smith’s Winner of the Week in Florida politics: Amendment 4The ballot initiative to automatically restore the voting rights of ex-felons who have completed their sentences (not murderers or sex offenders) has produced a virtual miracle in today’s political climate: Consensus support from both left and right wings. The conservative, billionaire Koch brothers formally joined the likes of Ben and Jerry and the ACLU in supporting the amendment. “In the Sunshine State, Floridians are permanently excluded from voting because of a prior felony conviction — one of only four states with a lifetime ban. If we want people returning to society to be productive, law-abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens,” said the Koch-funded group, Freedom Partners.”

Lauren Book says ‘it’s time for equal rights’ in new Marsy’s Law ad” via Florida Politics — In the 30-second ad, Book describes the court system from her perspective as a sexual assault survivor and asks viewers to vote for the measure, also known as “Marsy’s Law.” “I’m a survivor of childhood sexual assault from the time I was 10 until I was 16. Every. Single. Day,” Book says. “The court process was difficult and painful. It can completely destroy a victim. You’re not informed of court dates, denied the chance to tell your story, and the person that did this to you has stronger rights than you … The scales of justice in Florida are not balanced. It’s time for equal rights. Please, vote yes on Amendment 6.” The ad was paid for by Marsy’s Law for Florida, the main political committee backing the amendment. Recent filings posted on the Federal Communications Commission website show the committee has made multiple TV buys in Florida this week and the committee said the ad is part of its statewide advertising campaign.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Happening today — Democratic Chief Financial Officer candidate Jeremy Ring will speak at a meeting of the Duval County Democratic Party meeting, 6 p.m., IBEW union hall, 966 North Liberty St., Jacksonville.

Outside groups spent $1.2 million to help Darren Soto defeat Alan Grayson” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Apparently highlighting the outside help for Soto was the George Soros — backed Latino Victory Fund, which claimed on primary day that it had pumped more than $500,000 into media buys to support Soto on Spanish-language media. FEC records also show Latino Victory Fund also was not alone in spending to either support Soto or oppose Grayson, and perhaps not even the most generous toward Soto’s candidacy. FEC records show Latino Victory Fund spending $415,000 through the primary, while Progress Tomorrow Inc. spent $544,000. The total for outside spending to support Soto or oppose Grayson was $1.18 million, potentially more than Soto might have spent through his own primary campaign fund, though the final numbers are not yet in for his official campaign’s account.

Shock poll: Kristen Carlson leads Ross Spano in first poll of CD 15 battle” via Florida Politics — A new internal poll released by Democrat Carlson shows her with a 1-point lead over Dover state Rep. Spano among voters living in CD 15, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties. The poll, released by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, conducted live interviews with 400 CD 15 voters with a sample that was 36 percent Democrat, 42 percent Republican and 22 percent with no party affiliation. When asked how they would vote generically, respondents favored Republicans 42-36 percent. However, that margin tightened to 48-47 percent in favor of the GOP when respondents were asked how they would vote in a generic congressional race. When the names of the two candidates were revealed, respondents said they preferred Carlson by a point, 48-47 percent with 5 percent undecided. Also noted by the Carlson campaign was her 10-point lead among unaffiliated voters, who favored the former prosecutor and General Counsel for the Florida Department of Citrus over Spano, a third term state lawmaker, 54-44 percent.

DCCC and David Shapiro drop $900K on ad blitz in CD 16via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is joining with Shapiro on a $900,000 ad campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. Both Shapiro and the DCCC will put $450,000 toward the new ad campaign. The 30-second spot, titled “Rig,” focuses on Buchanan’s purchase of a yacht on the same day House Republicans passed the first version of their tax cuts bill last year. It was later reported that Buchanan received a loan for that purchase from a company who was also lobbying in support of the bill.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

In heavily weighted live polling, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell leads Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District” via The New York Times — Be cautious with these results. They are heavily weighted compared with most of our polls, which makes them less reliable. Mucarsel-Powell leads 48 percent compared to 45 percent for Curbelo with 7 percent undecided. Given expectations, our poll may be a good result for Democrats so far. But remember: It’s just one poll, and we’ve talked to only 334 people. Each candidate’s total could easily be seven points different if we polled everyone in the district. And having a small sample is only one possible source of error. As we reach more people, our poll will become more stable, and the margin of sampling error will shrink. The margin of sampling error on the overall lead is 13 points, roughly twice as large as the margin for a single candidate’s vote share. One reason we’re doing these surveys live is so you can see the uncertainty for yourself. Even if we got turnout exactly right, the margin of error wouldn’t capture all of the error in a poll. The simplest version assumes we have a perfect random sample of the voting population. We do not.

Janet Cruz mailers blame school lead, A/C woes on Senate opponent Dana Young” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — In two campaign mailers, Democrat Cruz blames Republican Young for air conditioning failures and lead in drinking water in Hillsborough public schools, saying Young’s past votes to cut school budgets are responsible. Cruz says education funding is the central issue in her campaign to take Young’s District 18 state Senate seat … The mailers say Young “slashed Hillsborough schools funding (and) teacher pay” and “forced our kids into schools with no A/C and lead in the water.” The mailers cite Young’s 2011 vote on a state budget that, according to PolitiFact, included $1.3 billion in K-12 funding cuts.

Happening tonight:FRSCC fundraiser invitation

Meanwhile … a campaign note from a galaxy far, far away: “NJ vote-by-mail law confuses voters, election staffvia The Asbury Park Press — Letters sent out to explain a new law that automatically signs up some voters for vote-by-mail ballots are causing confusion across New Jersey. Some voters say they don’t understand how they were signed up for vote-by-mail ballots, while others say the messages county clerks sent out may end up discouraging people from voting. “With all of the accusations of voter suppression, we should be making it easier not harder,” said Jane Kleinman, a Red Bank voter who received one of the letters. “It’s creating confusion rather than clearing up confusion.”

— STATEWIDE —

Deal on local property tax rates helped stabilize Florida’s budget” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — A leading Senate budget writer claimed vindication Friday in a lingering dispute with House leaders over whether to allow local school boards to capture all of the value of rising property values when setting local tax rates. Rob Bradley, co-chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, underscored the point during a presentation on the state’s three-year fiscal outlook by Office of Economic and Demographic Research director Amy Baker. Baker, the Legislature’s chief economist, expects state revenues to grow by 3.3 percent or so through each of the next three fiscal years. That works out to about $1 billion per year, suggesting a stable budget picture through the near future.

Education board backs $673 million boost for schools” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Board of Education advanced a $21.8 billion request for public school funding in the next budget year, including a $200 boost in per-student funds and increased funding for school safety initiatives. Highlights of the 2019-20 budget proposal include: An overall $673 million, or 3.5 percent, increase, compared to the current budget for the 67 school districts; an increase in per-student funding from $7,407 to $7,607; $101 million increase to pay for an additional 13,680 new students expected in classrooms next fall. In total, there will be nearly 2.9 million students in the K-12 system next year; $100 million increase in the “safe schools” initiative, boosting total funding to $262 million. The funding allows districts to hire sworn law enforcement officers to protect school campuses.

Jose Oliva to lead investigation of misspent state money at UCF” via Florida Politics — Incoming House Speaker Oliva will take over chairmanship of the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee “to investigate the misuse of funds by the University of Central Florida,” term-limited Speaker Richard Corcoran announced Friday. The university’s chief financial officer, William Merck, stepped down Thursday after an audit revealed the school improperly used $38 million in state funding to construct a campus building. UCF President Dale Whittaker told the state university system’s Board of Governors on Thursday that the school has replenished the state money, while taking steps to investigate the problem and to prevent similar occurrences in the future. The use of state operating funds to build the 137,000-square-foot Trevor Colbourn Hall, which opened this semester at UCF, was in violation of state policy that restricts that money to activities like instruction, research, libraries, student services or maintenance.

Jose Oliva will head the House investigation into funding UCF’s Trevor Colbourn Hall (Image via Nick Leyva ’15)

Chris Latvala to propose child-welfare reform ‘Jordan’s Law’ in slain toddler’s memory” via WTSP News — Latvala said he plans to file “Jordan’s Law” in December. The proposed law is named after 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau, who was killed last month, allegedly by his birth mother, after being taken away from the foster family he had lived with most of his life. Latvala said the bill would provide more caseworkers for the Department of Children and Families and higher pay. He said each caseworker handles on average about 24 cases. The optimal number for each worker is 10, Latvala said experts told him. Latvala said the bill came about after a meeting with a 20-year-old mother who started a petition to reform child welfare laws in the state. The petition has garnered more than 20,000 signatures.

Customers say Marlin Financial’s auto loans are deceptive. Now the state is investigating” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — Marlin Financial has saddled desperate consumers with much more debt than expected, apparently breaking the law in the process, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found. The Times spoke with 20 Marlin customers, interviewed former employees and reviewed hundreds of pages of documents, from the company and public records from three states. Marlin has approved loans that are larger than it is licensed to make. Its debt cancellation policy … can push its interest rates over state limits. It has failed to give customers an opportunity to take belongings from repossessed cars … For more than a year, the company has largely slipped the notice of state regulators. Marlin is now the subject of a consumer protection investigation by the Florida Attorney General’s office. Based on customer accounts, according to experts, Marlin would be in clear violation of state law. Lenders are required to tell people where their cars are being held and give them an opportunity to take their belongings.

Marijuana smoking ban case smolders in appellate courtvia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The state constitution “creates a procedural right to seek treatment with smokable marijuana,” according to a new filing in an appeal by patients seeking to light up medicinal cannabis. Attorney Jon Mills filed a 48-page answer brief, in response to the state’s 57-page brief last month arguing that the smoking of medical marijuana should remain outlawed. The 1st District Court of Appeal case followed a May ruling by Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who said the smoking ban violates the 2016 constitutional amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters, that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Judge dismisses horse group’s challenge of Calder gambling permit via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A Tallahassee administrative law judge has booted a Florida horsemen’s group challenge of a South Florida track’s gambling permit. The reason: “Jurisdiction over the issuance of the summer jai alai permit being” contested in appellate court, not the Division of Administrative Hearings, Judge E. Gary Early wrote. “Thus, there is nothing for (the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association) to attack.” The case was against the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates gambling, and regarded Calder Casino’s summer jai alai permit. The pari-mutuel previously went by the name Calder Race Course.

Rays tickets could lead to disbarment of former Bradenton judge” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The Florida Bar now is seeking to disbar a former judge who accepted baseball tickets from a law firm representing a woman whose personal injury case he was presiding over. Circuit Judge John F. Lakin, elected in 2012, quit the bench in March 2016 … He’s a former legal analyst for Court TV and MSNBC and a past “Florida Super Lawyer.” Lakin’s resignation ended a judicial conduct inquiry, but The Bar filed its own discipline case against him. A referee recommended a 90-day suspension, followed by one year of probation. The Bar called that “too lenient.” Lakin “committed serious misconduct, which undermined the integrity of the judicial system,” its initial brief said. The “appropriate sanction … is disbarment.”

The Florida Bar is seeking stronger sanctions on Circuit Judge John Lakin, a past ‘Florida Super Lawyer,’ for improperly accepting baseball tickets. (Image via Bradenton.com)

Florida prisoner kills cellmate, gouges out eyes, wears ear on necklace, sources say” via the Miami Herald — An inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution’s annex was able to strangle and mutilate his cellmate, gouge out his eyeballs, wrap his blood-soaked body in a sheet and walk into the prison’s chow hall wearing the dead inmate’s ear strung around his neck before officers learned anything was amiss … The murder happened Thursday morning, hours before an apparently unrelated gang melee erupted in another building on the compound, located in Lake City, 50 miles west of Jacksonville. In that disturbance, two gangs — the Bloods and the Cutthroats — began stabbing each other with knives in a clash over smuggled contraband, a source said. Only one officer was in the control room — responsible for supervising scores of inmates at the time it happened in G Dorm of the main building, one of the sources said.

Did gunman open fire on Lake Worth transformer, blacking out city?” via Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post — Did a gunman try to sabotage the city’s electrical grid? Could the outage have been domestic terrorism? Knowing that gunmen had attacked electrical equipment in California and Arkansas in recent years, city utility officials said the unusual circumstances around the explosion gave them no choice but to consider foul play. The FBI was called. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation. The damaged transformer was sent to a forensic lab for analysis. Then, it happened again. On the night of June 20, another fireball lit the sky over the same substation: A second transformer had catastrophically failed, causing a citywide power outage for nearly seven hours. No suspicious holes were found on the second damaged device, which was directly next to the one that failed April 9. But that offered city officials little comfort … the other troubling reality is that attacks on power stations in North America are not unheard of.

— HISTORY LESSON —

There are centuries of history packed into a new piece for The Bitter Southerner.

The First Floridians” retells the origins of Fort Mose, once a Spanish slave sanctuary. But also recounts the more modern history of the man who unearthed the St. Augustine site: Jack Williams.

“In the story … one gathers a sense of St. Augustine as what it appears to have always been, at least since statehood: a city in deep turmoil, full of squabbling historians, with so much to be proud of and to preserve, so much that has been invented for effect, other parts it might like to bury, and an ultimately loose grip on the controls,” writes Jordan Blumetti.

Discovery: Williams purchased the tract believing that something significant lay within. He recruited the University of Florida to help him unearth the fort later.

Conflict: The state soon sought to purchase the site from Williams, though it consistently low-balled him. He refused to sell the property, and the state took him to court and won.

Character: Williams’ reputation was damaged by the high profile conflict with the state. Because of the nature of the property  a slave sanctuary he was pegged a racist.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Marco Rubio: Phil Bredesen tries to ‘pull a fast one’ in Dem Senate bid” via Jonathan Mattise of The Associated Press — Rubio said Democratic former Tennessee Gov. Bredesen is “trying to pull a fast one” on voters by promising to be moderate if he’s elected to the Senate in a critical race. He made the comments to reporters after attending a Tennessee campaign roundtable with Hispanic community members for Bredesen’s opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. Rubio praised the congresswoman as having the right background to contribute to what Republicans are doing in the Senate. Bredesen and Blackburn are locked in a tight contest to replace retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker.

Marco Rubio says former Gov. Phil Bredesen is trying to pull ‘a fast one’ on Tennessee voters.

Charlie Crist’s proposal adding seat belts the school buses takes on new life” via the Sunshine State News — Back in April 2017, Crist introduced the “Best to Use Safety (BUS) Belts Act” which would mandate that all new school buses have seat belts. Crist worked on the issue when he served in the Florida Senate. This week, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee brought out legislation to strengthen safety requirements on school buses, including provisions from the Best to Use Safety (BUS) Belts Act including Crist’s proposal that busses be “equipped with three-point belts and providing grants to upgrade existing buses with safety belts.” Crist pointed to recent bus crashes across the nation as to why his bill was needed.

Happening today — Republican operative Roger Stone will appear at the Palm Beach County Trump Club, 7 p.m., Palm Beach Kennel Club, 1111 North Congress Ave., West Palm Beach.

— OPINIONS —

Scott must answer for environmental malpractice” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board — Scott is trying to fool voters into thinking that Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democrat whom Scott is trying to unseat on Nov. 6, is to blame for the algae blooms. A Scott ad contends Nelson has done “nothing” for “Lake O.” It’s supposedly Nelson’s fault that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hasn’t limited water discharges or fixed the Herbert Hoover Dike. This is nonsensical double-talk. The dike’s condition and the rate of discharges have nothing to do with the pollutants in the water in Lake Okeechobee. Letting all that phosphorus and nitrogen into the water, to begin with — that’s the problem. And that’s on Scott. The same Scott, by the way, who didn’t buy an available 153,200 acres of U.S. Sugar land, which would have given that water someplace else to go. Backing off that deal, in 2015, was a blow to Everglades restoration. The list goes on.

Reggie Garcia: Amendment 4 will save taxpayers money, give felons a second chance” via Florida Politics — Called the “Voting Restoration Amendment,” a proposed constitutional amendment will grant most of the 1.7 million convicted felons the right to vote and help select their leaders for local, state and federal offices. Amendment 4 is good public policy and smart justice. Here’s why: Data from the Florida Commission on Offender Review proves that the vast majority of felons who get their voting and other civil rights back do not commit new crimes. They have learned their lesson and are trying to earn the second chance they have been given. The reduction in the number of reoffending felons will have a positive $365 million economic impact … How? By leading to fewer prisons and more jobs and positive economic activity. Reduced prison construction and staffing costs will save $223 million. Many of the affected individuals are our family members, neighbors, co-workers, high school classmates, church friends and mutual acquaintances of people we know. Except for their status as felons, they are regular Floridians who pay taxes, own homes and businesses, have kids, and contribute to our schools and communities.

Erika Donalds: Roadblocks re-energize reformers via Florida Politics — I cringed as the League of Women Voters cheered the end of Amendment 8 and their success in disenfranchising Floridians. Voters deserved to have a say in whether to allow the school district monopoly over schools to continue, but activist judges decided otherwise. The LWV patted themselves on the back while blocking mothers from voting on something most precious to them: the education of their children. Schools can look different and be a perfect fit for an individual child. Please stop fearing change. Schools of choice are real schools too, with real students and loving teachers. That is all that matters. Families want choices. Choices are working for students. We will find a way to give them the choices they deserve. You can be sure this is not the end. If anything, roadblocks re-energize reformers. And we have thick skin.

— MOVEMENTS —

Interim leader remains at helm of Financial Regulation” via the News Service of Florida — Florida appears likely to end the year with an interim commissioner at the Office of Financial Regulation, leaving the future leadership of the agency to the next governor and state Cabinet. Gov. Scott and the Cabinet in June appointed Deputy Commissioner Pam Epting to serve as interim commissioner. That move came after former Commissioner Drew Breakspear resigned under pressure from state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. The Cabinet drew 58 applications for the commissioner’s job, and interviews were conducted with five applicants. But Scott and the Cabinet have not named a commissioner.

Seems like interim Commissioner Pam Epting will be leading the Office of Financial Regulation just a bit longer.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Kaitlyn Bailey, Edward Briggs, Natalie King, Ronald Pierce, RSA Consulting Group: Family Health Source

Kendall Moore, Moore Law Group: Waste Management of Florida

Louis Rotundo: Celebration Pointe Holdings

William Scherer, Michael Dutko, Jordana Jarjura, Conrad & Scherer: NUCO CITRUS

Lincoln Quinton, NorthPointe: Vendita

— ALOE —

Hurricane Florence evacuees flee to Disney World” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — With the threat of Hurricane Florence, some East Coast residents have evacuated to the Orlando area, making trip reservations within a day or two, the kind of planning that normally takes months. Nine Orlando-area Rosen Hotels and Resorts properties will offer reduced rates for people affected by Hurricane Florence, the company announced. The “distress rate” also includes free lodging for pets with guests. “Friends and Family in the Carolinas,” wrote travel agent Meredith Maki, who runs Inspirely Travel in Charleston, South Carolina, that specializes in Disney vacations, on her Facebook page. “Why not evacuate to DISNEY?!?”

Who wouldn’t want to evacuate to here?

Vanilla could spice up Florida’s agriculture” via Ryan Ballogg of The Associated Press — Products like vanilla extract and beans that flavor ice creams and lace perfumes come from plants in the genus Vanilla, part of the orchid family. Florida’s farmers might want to look into the plant’s tasty potential as a valuable secondary crop. The spice could be nice for Florida’s agriculture and may help solve a budding global dilemma. Consumers take the world’s second most-prized spice (after saffron) for granted, but the vanilla industry is facing major challenges: Vanilla prices have skyrocketed in recent years as major food brands attempt to go all-natural, dumping the artificial flavor vanillin. Vanilla is now more valuable than silver, selling for around $600 a kilogram; climate change and geopolitical challenges are impacting world vanilla suppliers like Madagascar and Mexico, contributing to price rise and global supply instability.

Email away message of the day via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press: “Hello. So, unless Hurricane Florence zips over to Atlanta Saturday morning and parks itself there, I will be out of the office until Thursday, Sept. 20. But hopefully, we can get in and out of there without any problems and get up to the great state of Massachusetts, home of the Red Sox, some pretty amazing lobster rolls, scenic Cape Cod, the Berkshire Mountains, and the five-time Super Bowl champion Patriots. Not that we’re doing or seeing any of those things. We’re pretty much going to plant our butts in Wilbraham, the corporate headquarters of Friendly Ice Cream. I probably won’t be checking my email much, but if you really, really need me, call or text 850-591-5805. But remember, my parents might be napping, so try not to wake them up.”

Happy birthday to St. Petersburg City Councilman Charlie Gerdes, reporters Charlie Frago and Jeff Schweers, and the incredibly talented Mary Beth Tyson.

Delegation for 9.14.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Hurricane politics now a way of life

Among many lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina 13 years ago is that politics are a big part of natural disasters. Rightly or wrongly, depending on one’s view, then-President George W. Bush took a big hit on his approval rating based on how he was perceived to have handled preparations and the aftermath of the storm that devastated New Orleans.

Those criticizing Bush latched on to his praise for FEMA director Michael Brown. “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.” is still remembered.

Those supporting Bush and the FEMA effort eagerly repeated the admonition of Lt. Gen. Russel Honore as he rebuked some in the media about casting blame.

“You’re stuck on stupid” became a rallying cry.

Waves slam the Oceana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach, N.C. (image via ABC News)

In 2018, the politics began before Hurricane Florence even reached the shore. A Washington Post editorial — not an op-ed, an editorial — said President Donald Trump is “complicit” in extreme weather due to his skepticism on the role of humans in climate change.

The President also fired up his opponents by revisiting last year’s devastation of Puerto Rico brought on by Hurricane Maria. The purpose of an early week briefing was to demonstrate how his administration was ready for Florence, but all that was heard were the words “incredibly successful” when describing last year’s effort in Puerto Rico.

Shortly after that, a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 80 percent of Puerto Ricans have negative reviews of the administration’s response. More than 70 percent are critical of the Puerto Rican government’s response, with two-thirds unhappy with Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who recently reported the results of studies that increased the death toll estimate to nearly 3,000.

Trump’s Thursday tweet that the revised estimate was wrong and inflated, fanned the flames. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami said it takes “a warped mind” to doubt the figures, while Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando, an American of Puerto Rican descent, said Trump was “dancing on the graves” of those who perished.

Two of Trump’s most prominent backers, Gov. Rick Scott and Republican Congressman (and nominee for Governor) Ron DeSantis, both disagreed with Trump and did not question the estimates.

Which brings us back to Florence.

As the hurricane approached, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon accused the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of transferring nearly $10 million from FEMA and giving it to ICE.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson jumped in via Twitter.

“Less than a year after an unprecedentedly severe hurricane season — and just at the start of another — the Trump administration diverted nearly $10 million from FEMA, including its preparedness, response and recovery programs,” he said. “This is unacceptable!”

DHS did not dispute the interagency transfer but says none of those funds could have been used for hurricane preparation or response.

“The money in question, transferred to ICE from FEMA’s routine operating expenses, could not have been used for hurricane response due to appropriation limitations,” said DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton. “DHS/FEMA stand fiscally and operationally ready to support current and future response and recovery needs.”

In the end, if FEMA performs well, this will not be an issue. No matter what happens, the administration will be criticized for something while Trump and his team will say they did great.

While the politics continue outside of the Carolinas, Florida sends best wishes to those going through what our state endured last year.

Nelson, Scott agree on debate dates, networks

Nelson’s campaign has announced that there will be an October 2 debate vs. Gov. Scott, hosted by Telemundo in Miami. The event will be broadcast by network affiliates in Miami, Fort Myers, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach.

This debate will be the first of three between the two high-profile candidates. Scott, who entered the race in April, poses the first real threat to Nelson as they are tied according to a Quinnipiac poll released last week.

Scott has already attacked Nelson with an ad accusing him of debate dodging. Nelson outlined his acceptance of the debate as Scott “finally” agreeing to take the stage with him. Scott responded to Nelson urging him to accept the other two debates.

Serving as debate moderators will be Telemundo’s Marilys Llanos and Jackie Nespral, news anchor at WTVJ Channel 6. A second debate, to be shown on CNN on October 16, has been agreed upon, but with no further details yet available.

Nelson, Scott dueling education ads

A recent ad from Nelson criticized Scott’s record on education. The ad called “Math” says Scott’s policies have led Florida to a ranking of 40th in the nation when it comes to education.

“Less money for teachers, less money for students,” the ad states. “When it comes to public education, Rick Scott failed our kids.”

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

In rapid response, Scott launched his own ad called “First.” Nelson is not mentioned and instead shows Scott listing on a message board the areas in education where Florida ranks first among the 50 states.

The script asserts that Florida’s “strong economy” has led the state to lead in “fourth-grade reading and math scores … eighth-grade reading … High school AP classes and college education … ranked first in the nation.”

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

In a race expected to be among the most expensive, if not THE most expensive in the nation, the battle of the airwaves will continue until November 6.

Rubio praises protesting Dolphins player

Week Two of the NFL season got underway Thursday night, but the previous week seemed to center more on football and less on any protests conducted by players during the national anthem. One of those who did kneel was Miami Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills, who was praised by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio did not salute Stills for “taking a knee,” but instead tweeted support for the player’s service to the community. Stills spent 9/11 working with local area veterans, saying it was “powerful to be with them on this day.”

Miami’s Kenny Stills (left) and Albert Wilson kneel during the national anthem. (Image via Steve Mitchell/USA Today)

“You don’t have to agree with how or why he has chosen to exercise the 1st Amendment before every game to acknowledge the hours he gives voluntarily, on his day off, to serve his fellow Americans,” Rubio said in the tweet.

The two-term Senator says he does not agree with the anthem protests, but says players have a right to do what they are doing. While lauding Stills’ volunteer work is one thing, acknowledging the right of Colin Kaepernick to be an activist in the movement he started could be another matter to Rubio’s Republican and conservative base.

“Look, I support his right to stand for what he does. I don’t agree with what he did, but I support his right to do it,” Rubio said in May.

Republicans and conservatives hold up Kaepernick for special scorn after photos surfaced soon after he launched the kneeling movement showing him wearing socks depicting police officers as pigs. Rubio also told TMZ in May that Kaepernick deserves to be on a team.

The controversial quarterback has been out of football after opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.

Gaetz bill on cannabis research clears committee

The use of cannabis for research took another step forward on Thursday when the House Judiciary Committee approved the Medical Cannabis Research Act. The bill is sponsored by, and a top priority of, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach.

Gaetz has been a strong proponent of updating laws to further the use of medical marijuana around the country, as well as its use in research. He says legislation on this topic has not come out of Congress in 40 years.

Matt Gaetz’s medical cannabis research bill passes committee.

The bill has 40 co-sponsors comprised of 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans. The six Floridians signing on range from Republican Reps. Ted Yoho of Gainesville and John Rutherford of Jacksonville among conservatives, to progressive Democratic Reps. Darren Soto of Orlando and Alcee Hastings of Delray Beach.

Moderate Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall are also co-sponsoring the bill.

“We must ensure that an adequate and uninterrupted supply of research-grade cannabis is available to safe harbor provisions for research facilities,” Gaetz said before the hearing. “I am proud to lead the efforts to unlock cures through important scientific research.”

If enacted, the Department of Justice would be required to issue more licenses for cannabis research. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a hard-liner on legalizing marijuana.

Despite the insertion of a controversial provision precluding anyone with a felony or misdemeanor drug conviction from engaging in cultivation, the measure was reported out of committee on a voice vote.

Dunn’s veterans’ education bill moving in Senate

Nine months after passing the House 420-1, legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City is finally showing some movement in the Senate. The Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act, which would expand veterans’ job and educational opportunities, recently cleared the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The bill requires the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a veterans outreach plan and publish data on veterans’ participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields in its annual “Indicators” report.

Neal Dunn’s veteran education bill makes headway in the Senate.

It updates the NSF Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, fellowship program, and cyber grant programs to include outreach to veterans. Additionally, the bill tasks the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with examining how to increase veteran participation in STEM career fields.

“Our veterans deserve every opportunity to succeed when they enter civilian life and this important legislation is a step in the right direction by expanding educational and job opportunities for our heroes,” Dunn said in a news release. “With the surge in technology over the last decade, we desperately need more experts in the science and math fields. Our veterans are equipped to take on this challenge and many have already worked in the technology field while serving our country.”

Castor announces $1.4 million reimbursement for local schools

Not only did Hurricane Maria force many Puerto Rican families to relocate to Florida, children of school age were placed in local schools throughout the state. Tampa was no exception and Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor sought reimbursement for the local school district.

Last week, she announced that Hillsborough County Public Schools will receive $1.4 million in federal reimbursement for costs incurred during the 2017-2018 school year for serving K-12 students displaced by the hurricane.

Kathy Castor is announcing $1.4 million in reimbursements for Hillsborough schools.

Hillsborough County Public Schools enrolled approximately 1,500 students displaced due to Hurricane Maria and 70 percent of students have remained in those schools for the new school year.

“Hillsborough teachers, caseworkers and the school district aided students and families from Puerto Rico to ensure that their education was not disrupted in the wake of one of the most serious disasters in American history,” Castor said in a news release. “I am very proud of their dedication to the education of these students and support for families.

Additionally, a total of $75 million funding is being disbursed to colleges and universities around the country that enrolled displaced students. The University of South Florida received about $171,000 for its work aiding displaced students.

Castor has been leading a Puerto Rico Recovery & Assistance Task Force made up of local and regional government, nonprofit and faith-based organizations to maximize collaboration and assist relocated families following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Mast touts compromise for South Florida reservoir

South Florida delegation members believe a major cause of the algae-infested water in their region is a giant step closer to being fixed. Earlier this week, Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Palm City announced a deal between the House and Senate to pass a bipartisan Water Resources Development Act that would, among other things, officially authorize building a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

The significance of that action is that instead of releasing the polluted water from the lake into local waterways, that water can be directed into the reservoir. It would also expedite an enhanced regulation plan for the lake.

Brian Mast seeks compromise for South Florida water woes.

The House had previously passed the bill in June but had not received a vote in the Senate.

“This bipartisan bill includes all of the Treasure Coast priorities from the version passed by the House on June 6, 2018 and also includes an updated bipartisan provision that I wrote with Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Bill Nelson to authorize the EAA Southern Storage Reservoir,” Mast said in a communication with constituents. “Getting this bill signed into law is absolutely critical in our fight for clean water.”

Mast said the compromise bill is expected to be voted on in both chambers during September.

 Wilson questions Trump’s fitness to lead

Things between Trump and Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson have been rather quiet since last year’s dust-up over a planned condolence call to the widow of Wilson’s Miami Gardens constituent. It got uglier when White House Chief of Staff John Kelly got involved.

Amarosa had faded from the headlines as well but reinserted herself. She released a secret recording of Trump talking about terrorists in Niger, the country where Wilson’s constituent, Sgt. LaDavid Johnson and three Army colleagues were ambushed and killed in October 2017.

Frederica Wilson believes Donald Trump is completely unfit for office.

On the recording, played on the television program, The View, Trump can be heard saying that being a terrorist is “the only thing” one can do in Niger to earn a living. He also said, “I wouldn’t want to be a terrorist right now.”

In describing his administration’s efforts to fight terrorism Trump further said, “you know people don’t say that’s the reason they’re there is because we forced them out (of the Middle East) and it’s not nearly as intense, but it’s pretty intense, you see that happening.”

Wilson took umbrage at those comments, claiming it represents another piece of evidence showing why Trump should not be President.

“The recording is yet another example of how unfit Mr. Trump is to serve as our nation’s commander-in-chief and how he cannot resist any opportunity to massage his insatiable ego by taking false credit,” she said in a statement. “Unlike the four men who lost their lives much too soon, hero is a word that will never be used to describe him.”

“Sgt. Johnson’s family is still waiting for answers about how La David got separated from his unit during the deadly ambush in Niger,” Wilson added.

Barzee Flores claims Diaz-Balart’s health care record is ‘hurting families’

Democratic challenger Mary Barzee Flores has introduced her first ad of the election campaign for District 25, criticizing incumbent Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart on his health care record. In a new ad in the new ad titled “Afford,” Barzee Flores blasts the incumbent for accepting contributions from drug manufacturers and his health care votes.

“When I was a teenager, my dad died because we couldn’t afford the health care he needed,” Barzee Flores says in the ad. “So, when Congressman Diaz-Balart takes over a hundred grand from drug companies, votes to let them raise prices and to take coverage away from people with pre-existing conditions, I know exactly how that’s hurting families.”

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

Barzee Flores went further in criticizing the veteran Republican.

“My opponent, Mario Diaz-Balart, has spent his 30-year political career looking out for the corporate special interests who’ve lined his pockets, not the working men and women of South Florida,” she said in a statement to Florida Politics.

The Diaz-Balart campaign responded harshly to the ad’s content.

“These are the type of lies you would expect from a radical,” the campaign statement read. “Mario has a record of supporting protections for pre-existing conditions, providing resources for mental illness, and seeking to lower skyrocketing premiums for hardworking Floridians.”

Barzee Flores’ ad comes after Diaz-Balart went after her in an earlier ad over cases handled by attorneys at her husband’s law firm.

House passes Ros-Lehtinen-named Israel security bill

As her career in Congress winds down, Ros-Lehtinen was honored by her House colleagues this week by naming legislation after her. A bill to enhance security assistance from the U.S. to Israel was renamed the Ileana Ros-Lehtinen United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018.

The original version was jointly introduced by Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton. Ros-Lehtinen is the chair and Deutch the ranking member of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Speaking on the House floor, Ros-Lehtinen said she was “humbled to have my colleagues rename bill after me.”

This bill codifies the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel that resulted in an unprecedented $38 billion in security assistance over ten years. The bill also ensures Israel has access to the weapons needed to defend itself against any and all threats, enhances Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge to better address evolving threats, and authorizes new cooperation on drones, space, and global humanitarian projects.

“My friend Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been a stalwart friend of Israel throughout her time in Congress, and it is a fitting honor that this bill to strengthen the US-Israel relationship bears her name,” Deutch said. “Israel is under constant threat from every direction. A threat to Israel, our strategic ally in a turbulent region, is also a threat to our national security. Enhancing Israel’s security is a step toward strengthening our own national security.”

On Wednesday the House passed the bill by a voice vote. The Senate passed the companion bill on August 1.

On this day in the headlines

September 14, 1993 — Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed their draft peace agreement at an emotional White House Rose Garden ceremony, an event that put a dramatic human face on their emerging reconciliation but also showed how difficult it may be to achieve a secure peace. Nudged by their host, President Bill Clinton, a somewhat reluctant Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and an eager PLO Chief Yasser Arafat shook hands before the world’s cameras.

But in words and symbolism, the ceremony, conducted before virtually the entire Washington political establishment, two past presidents and eight former secretaries of state, showed how difficult the road ahead may be. Clinton said the world was grateful for the important step taken by the two leaders adding “their tenacity and vision has given us the promise of a new beginning.

September 14, 2013 — American and Russian negotiators meeting in Geneva moved closer to an agreement that would ultimately strip Syria of its chemical weapons. After a marathon second day of talks between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, both sides expressed optimism.

A significant sign of movement at the U.N. came when the Obama administration effectively took force off the table in discussions over the shape of a Security Council resolution governing any deal with Syria. Obama reportedly maintained the right to respond without U.N. backing if Syria reneges on its commitment, but Russia would not allow a resolution to contain the authorization of force.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.14.18

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

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

ICYMI: Talk of porn, ‘sex toys and science’ spur lawsuit against Florida State’s medical school

Jokes by a med school professor about porn, sex toys and the Zika virus led to a lawsuit against Florida State University, according to a complaint filed in Leon County this week.

Christina R. Goswick-Childers, formerly an academic program specialist at the school’s College of Medicine in Tallahassee, filed sexual harassment and retaliation claims after she reported incidents and was let go last February, her suit says.

But the university on Thursday denied any discrimination or retaliation against her, countering with a 60-page dossier.

It says the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated her case and was “unable” to find any “violations” of federal discrimination law.

It also says she was terminated for “multiple egregious performance issues” and notes that the professor she complained about — Dr. Gregg Stanwood — was never her direct supervisor.

Goswick-Childers said her troubles began in February 2016, when Stanwood — a developmental neuropharmacologist and behavioral neuroscientist — joked in front of two other co-workers he couldn’t give Goswick-Childers his credit card information.

That was because he feared “she may use the card to purchase porn or online sex toys and his wife may find out,” according to the complaint.

After she reported the remark about two months later, “the (work) environment became hostile and extremely stressful” as Goswick-Childers “believed she would face retaliation.”

She said she did the following January, after a guest speaker “made reference to sex toys in (a) presentation (on the) Zika virus,” the suit said.

Stanwood told her in front of four others that “he had made a bucket list item of being able to introduce a speaker that incorporated sex toys and science.”

The rest of the story is here.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenBillNelson: The president’s comments on the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico are shameful. We deserve and expect more from someone who holds the highest office in our country.

@ScottforFlorida: I disagree with @POTUS — an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed. I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart-wrenching. I’ll continue to help PR

@AndrewGillum: No death is partisan, and our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserved better from @realDonaldTrump before, during, and after the hurricane.

@CHeathWFTV: “Every morning there is something new that the president tweets,” says @CortesBob “I have no reason to doubt the number of 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico”

@MahoneysTheName: In a statement, @RonDeSantisFL disagrees with Trump: “Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated.”

@FrancesRobles: On the Oct. 3 day Mr. Trump threw paper towels at a crowd in Puerto Rico, 121 people died in Puerto Rico, compared to 82 who died on that day the year before. That’s an increase of 39 people, or 47 percent.

@BiancaJoanie: Written statement from @ricardorossello: “I ask the president to acknowledge the magnitude of Hurricane Maria … we cannot allow for the response efforts to be politicized.

@StephenLawsonFL: Former FBI agent on AndrewGillum NYC boat trip with undercover agents: “We’re not going to let anybody on that boat that we don’t think is worthy of a criminal investigation, if we can help it.”

@KevinsiDonohoe: FDP just got back all our Adam Putnam records requests. Interesting timing — I wonder why they waited?

@DeFede: I’m glad @FLGovScott and @SenBillNelson will debate. Debates are good. But it bothers me that they go to @CNN and @wolfblitzer — it feels disrespectful to folks in Florida and to Florida journalists. I hope the debates between @AndrewGillum and @RonDeSantisFL will be different.
— @MDixon55: State of Florida’s public pension fund boosted by 300% its stake in New Media, better known as @GateHouse_Media. Company has been gobbling up newspapers and gutting them, or shutting them down. That includes several papers in Jacksonville, just ask @TimesUnionGuild 

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 8; First day of fall — 8; Future of Florida Forum — 12; Government shutdown — 17; FSU vs. UM football game — 22; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 25; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 39; MLB World Series begins — 39; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 40; Halloween — 47; General Election Day — 53; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 67; Thanksgiving — 69; Black Friday — 70; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 74; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 151; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 173; 2020 General Election — 781.

— TOP STORY —

Rejecting Puerto Rican death toll, Donald Trump accuses Democrats of inflating it” via Eileen Sullivan, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — Trump falsely accused Democrats of inflating the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, rejecting that government’s assessment that the storm had claimed nearly 3,000 lives. Trump said that the toll was only six to 18 dead after his visit following the storm, but that was at a time when the estimate of fatalities was changing. It rose to 34 in the hours after the president left the island. Trump said Democrats padded the death toll by including, for example, a person who died of old age “in order to make me look as bad as possible.” The National Hurricane Center, a federal agency, called the death toll “highly uncertain” in an April report and logged the official number at 65. The report noted: “Hundreds of additional indirect deaths in Puerto Rico may eventually be attributed to Maria’s aftermath pending the results of an official government review.” In August, after a thorough review, Puerto Rican officials accepted a revised estimate of the dead as 2,975. And lawmakers — Republican and Democrat — have accepted those findings.

Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that Democrats inflated the Puerto Rican death toll to make him look bad. Sad!

‘Mr. President. SHUT UP’: Florida Republicans pan Trump’s Puerto Rico conspiracy” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Florida Republicans are angered by Trump’s advancement of a conspiracy theory casting doubt on Hurricane Maria’s estimated death toll in Puerto Rico. They fear his comments will undo GOP inroads in the growing and increasingly influential Boricua community less than two months before Election Day. … “Mr. President. SHUT UP,” Alan Levine, a Republican appointed by Gov. Scott — a top Trump ally — to Florida’s university governing board, replied on Twitter. “Any death, whether one or 3,000 is a tragedy. That doesn’t mean you caused it, and it’s not about you. Show compassion for the families,” Levine wrote. “Learn what we can, so future response can improve. Honestly …”

Fact-checking the death toll estimates from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact — Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health relied on interviewing people and asking them about causes of death in their households. Researchers selected 3,300 randomly chosen households and found 38 deaths after the hurricane, including three from direct causes and 12 from interruption of necessary medical services. The Harvard researchers extrapolated based on that data about the number of “excess deaths” (the number of deaths compared with the same period during the previous year) and found a 62 percent increase in the mortality rate. The researchers concluded that there was a range of 793 to 8,498 deaths with a confidence interval of 95 percent. But it was that midpoint number of 4,645 “excess deaths” that drew most of the media attention. Since this story posted, another study attempting to approximate the death toll was commissioned by the government in Puerto Rico and published by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. The study released in August 2018 analyzed death certificates and other mortality data and found an estimated 2,975 excess deaths between September 2017 through the end of February 2018. The team compared the total number of deaths during that time to the expected number based on historical patterns and found that the number was 22 percent higher than would have been expected.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott ads go at it over Scott’s ties to Trump, Nelson’s time in Washington” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In a Spanish language ad released Wednesday, “Amigos,” Nelson’s campaign ties Scott to Trump and calls them “muy buenos amigos.” Scott was one of Trump’s earliest supporters but has noticeably distanced himself from Trump in past months, including not appearing at a Trump rally for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Tampa in July. Scott did not mention Trump in his speech at a luncheon for Vice President Mike Pence last week, though Pence said a Scott victory would help the Trump administration in Congress. The Scott campaign released a new ad, “Give ‘Em Hell,” designed to show Nelson as “a career politician.”

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

To view “Give ‘Em Hell,” click on the image below:

Lawsuit says Scott’s office won’t fulfill public records request” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — A lawyer who recently won a public records lawsuit against Gov. Scott sued his office again Thursday, accusing his administration of ignoring a separate request for public records needed in a pending legal case. “You must acknowledge the request and respond to the request in good faith,” Ryan Andrews said in a letter to Scott’s office included in a complained filed in circuit court. “Time is of the essence.” Scott’s office said its Office of Open Government did acknowledge the request. Andrews represents the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which recently lost a bid to renew a state health care contract. AHF protested the contract award, its case is pending before an administrative panel, and the case is set to conclude in less than three weeks. As part of its case, AHF wants records of communications between Scott’s office and dozens of health care lobbyists who represented rival vendors. The list of lobbyists includes Dean CannonAl CardenasMike CorcoranHayden DempseyNick IarossiFred KarlinskyLarry OvertonBill Rubin and Gerald Wester, among many others.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott makes another stop on his statewide “Make Washington Work” bus tour. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way, Clearwater.

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

What Andrew Gillum’s trip to New York City means in the FBI investigation” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Evidence shows that undercover agents organized the boat trip and other events in New York. Indeed, two agents were on the boat, unbeknown to Gillum. And if FBI agents organized the outing, it implies that their interest in Gillum had evolved into a “predicated” investigation, former agents told the Times/Herald. It would require the agents working the case to show their bosses that they have allegations or facts about criminal wrongdoing that would justify having Gillum aboard.

Gillum releases first TV ad recalling ‘grandmother’s voice’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Gillum is out with his first TV ad of the general election titled, “My Grandmother’s Voice.” Gillum begins the minute-long ad recounting advice given to him by his grandmother. He then explains how those messages motivate his run to be the state’s next Governor. “I can still hear my grandmother’s voice,” Gillum begins. “She’d say, ‘Go to school. Mind your teachers. Get your lesson. And one day, bring that education home. Bring it home for your little brother and your little sister who don’t know what an education is yet.’”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

GOP launches first DeSantis TV ad in general, references Dunedin baseball years” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — When DeSantis was 12 years old, he and the Dunedin Nationals baseball team went to the 1991 Little League World Series. The ad opens with a TV news report from the time, showing the young baseball players in a celebratory dog-pile. “We were only 12, but we learned to dream big, work hard and swing away,” DeSantis says in the ad, while standing in a room full of old baseball memorabilia (including a Tampa Tribune article from the time). “And that’s my plan as governor.” The closing line? “From Dunedin to Tallahassee, I’ll always to go to bat for Florida,” he says.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

DeSantis resignation ends dormant ethics complaint that raised questions about donors’ ties” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News — The complaint, which alleged DeSantis rented out a Palm Coast beachfront condo at a “well below fair market value,” did not advance to the U.S. House Committee on Ethics, which reviews claims against congressional members if warranted. But it raised questions about the three-term congressman’s close ties to two campaign donors, who work as top executives at Total Military Management, a Jacksonville-based defense contractor that has spent more than $700,000 since 2012 lobbying the federal government. With DeSantis out of Congress, those entities have now lost jurisdiction over the complaint.

’You might be a racist if your name is Ron DeSantis,’ asserts American Bridge” via Florida Politics — Liberal activist group American Bridge slammed DeSantis with a provocative new video. The title: “You might be a racist … if your name is Ron DeSantis.” DeSantis, whose campaign began with a warning that electing Democrat Gillum would “monkey this up,” has struggled to deflect Democratic criticism on the grounds of racial insensitivity. The American Bridge video opens with that quote, calling it an example of using “racial bullhorns” (a quote from Gillum as the controversy broke). From there, the group reminds voters of DeSantis being an administrator of a “racist Facebook page,” then splices in reportage of DeSantis speaking at four different conferences organized by conservative provocateur David Horowitz. “David’s done such great work, and I’ve been an admirer of an organization that shoots straight and tells people the truth,” DeSantis said.

To view the ad, click on the image below

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Latest poll: Ashley Moody leading Sean Shaw 46-44 for Attorney General” via Florida Politics — Republican candidate Moody is leading her Democratic counterpart Shaw in the 2018 race for Attorney General, according to the latest survey from St. Pete Polls. When asked, “If the election for Attorney General were held today, who would you vote for: Republican Ashley Moody or Democrat Sean Shaw,” 46 percent said Moody and 44 percent said Shaw, with roughly nine percent undecided. The poll was commissioned as part of “Wellness Week,” a collaboration between Florida Politics, St. Pete Polls and Empowering Wellness. The takeaway: Moody seems to be the one Republican leading in these polls; all of the others had Democrats ahead.

Koch-backed Freedom Partners endorses voting restoration amendment” via Florida Politics — The Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, chaired by Koch Industries VP Mark Holden, said that it was behind a 2018 ballot amendment that would restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. “We believe that when individuals have served their sentences and paid their debts as ordered by a judge, they should be eligible to vote,” Holden said in a news release. “In the Sunshine State, Floridians are permanently excluded from voting because of a prior felony conviction — one of only four states with a lifetime ban. “If we want people returning to society to be productive, law-abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens. We support the Florida Second Chances campaign, which would return the eligibility to vote to Floridians who have done their time and paid their debts in full. This will make our society safer, our system more just, and provide for real second chances for returning citizens,” he concluded.

Florida Dem slammed U.S. weeks after 9/11 attacks” via Brent Scher of the Washington Free Beacon — Less than a month had passed from September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Lauren Baer, then a student at Harvard University, was calling the American response to the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 a “moment of hypocrisy,” attacking its “shameful history,” and hoping for a “more humble and humane” America to emerge. Baer, who went on to work in the Obama administration as a senior adviser in the State Department under both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and is currently running for Congress, wrote a column every two weeks for the Harvard Crimson. Her October 10, 2001, column, “From Hypocrisy to Humanity,” was highly critical of the United States, criticizing some of those who responded to the attacks. “Some people speak of wanting an America to emerge from these events that is stronger and more proud,” Baer wrote. “I wish to see an America emerge that is humbler and more humane.” She also wrote that America had a “shameful history” of standing up for its values.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Florida Chamber endorses 16 more legislative candidates” via Drew Wilson of Florida PoliticsThe Florida Chamber of Commerce has put out its third wave of endorsements for state legislative seats … A handful of the Florida Chamber’s new endorsements are revisions reflecting a handful of surprise victories in the Aug. 28 primary election. “As we saw during the primary election, election outcomes can be unpredictable, but it’s our job to make sure that voters stay informed about the best possible candidates to move Florida forward,” said Marian Johnson. … Among those getting the nod in round three was state Rep. Gayle Harrell, who is running for SD 25 as well as incumbent Democratic Reps. David Silvers and Matt Willhite … Among the non-electeds earning the Chamber’s support were a pair of candidates who face tough battles in the fall: House District 69 candidate Ray Blacklidge and House District 93 candidate Chip LaMarca … Candidates getting the nod after their Chamber-backed rivals lost in the primary include HD 10 Republican Chuck Brannan, HD 51 Republican Tyler Sirois, and HD 73 Republican Tommy Gregory, who cruised in the primary after the Chamber’s first pick, Melissa Howardwithdrew from the contest after revelations she had faked a diploma from Miami University.

Jeff Brandes recalls ‘Right to Try’ law in new campaign ad” via Florida Politics — The new ad, titled “Right to Try,” features St. Petersburg osteopathic physician Rob Proietto speaking about Brandes’ role in passing a 2015 bill that authorized the use of experimental treatments and medications for terminally ill patients. “For a long time, patients fighting a life-threatening illness were also fighting a system that wouldn’t give them a chance,” Proietto says in the ad. “That’s why Jeff Brandes passed Florida’s ‘Right to Try’ law. Now, eligible patients with a serious medical condition can get access to experimental drugs or clinical trials. Critically ill patients have the right to try because Jeff Brandes is keeping hope alive.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Pam Dirschka calls out Rene Plasencia over skipping HD 50 forum” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Dirschka is calling out Plasencia for not committing to a candidates’ forum Monday and charging that he’s been avoiding face-to-face encounters with her, while Plasencia insisted he’s ready but that appropriate forums haven’t happened yet. “He’s a no-show,” Dirschka said. “I want a forum that is inside our district, where people who actually have an opportunity to vote for us can attend,” Plasencia responded. The Monday forum was set for Cocoa, outside of House District 50. Plasencia said he told organizers he would be willing to participate if the forum moved to a location inside HD 50. Hosting the forum is the League of Women Voters, Florida Today, and Eastern Florida State College. It is set for 7 p.m. at Eastern Florida State College’s Simpkins Center in Cocoa.

Frank Reddick crosses the aisle to back Shawn Harrison’s re-election bid in HD 63” via Florida Politics — Tampa City Councilors are chosen in nonpartisan elections, though Reddick is a Democrat and Harrison is a Republican. HD 63 is a swing seat that Harrison has held for three nonconsecutive terms. In 2018, he faces Democratic attorney Fentrice Driskell. “I have known and worked alongside Shawn Harrison for 12 years. Representative Harrison is a true bipartisan leader. He doesn’t just talk the talk. When Shawn was Chairman Pro-Tem of the Tampa City Council, he supported my efforts to make East Tampa a stronger community. When we asked for help to stop the evictions from Tampa Park Apartments, Shawn contacted HUD on our behalf, and together we were successful,” Reddick said.

Jennifer Webb passes Ray Blacklidge in total fundraising, cash on hand” via Florida Politics — The small-business woman raised about $7,900 from Aug. 24 through the end of the month, bringing her fundraising total to about $181,500 since she entered the race to succeed Peters late last year. That puts her ahead of her opponent by about $3,500 in campaign fundraising. “It’s clear that voters are attracted to our community-centered campaign, and they understand what’s at stake with this election,” Webb said in a news release. Thanks to one-time Democratic candidate Javier Centonzio stepping aside, Webb was able to make it through primary season without facing a challenger. Blacklidge wasn’t as fortunate.

Ben Diamond, Alex Andrade plan 2020 re-election bids” via the News Service of Florida — Diamond, who was first elected to the House in 2016, did not draw an opponent this year in Pinellas County’s House District 68. Andrade won an Aug. 28 primary over Republican Greg Merk and does not face a general-election opponent for an open seat in House District 2, which is made up of parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Also this week, Republican Zane Christian Matter opened a campaign account to run in 2020 in House District 50, which is made up of parts of Orange and Brevard counties. Rep. Rene Plasencia, an Orlando Republican, currently holds the seat.

Bill Carlson cracks $50K raised for Tampa City Council bid” via Florida Politics — Carlson posted another five-figure finance report for August, putting him far in the lead in the three-way race to succeed exiting City Councilman Harry Cohen, who is running in the crowded race for Tampa Mayor. Carlson started his campaign for the District 4 seat with a bang in June, bringing in more than $31,000 for his bid and followed it up with a healthy $8,145 in July and another $10,640 in his most recent report. The new money included a $500 check from Southern Strategy Group of Tampa, $500 from Tampa banker Henry Gonzalez and $150 from Orlando-based architect CT Hsu of CT Hsu + Associates as well as numerous individual donors.

Melissa Howard expected to serve probation over fake diploma” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — An investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has concluded that Howard “intended to defraud” when she touted a fake diploma from Miami University while running for the District 73 state House seat. Howard is expected to sign a deferred prosecution agreement that involves probation and community service. “The defendant Melissa Howard, intended to defraud and misrepresent her association and academic standing with Miami University,” wrote a Sheriff’s Office investigator. “Furthermore, the defendant produced the fictitious diploma and uttered it as being awarded to her as true, while knowing it to be false.” The deferred prosecution agreement allows Howard to avoid being formally charged with a crime if she does 25 hours of community service, pays certain costs and completes the terms of her probation.

— BLUE … SPIKE —

Whether a Democratic ‘blue wave’ will come in November is unknown.

But what’s certain is that more Democratic candidates are running for federal office this year than any party has put forth since 1980, reports Harry Stevens of Axios.

“The last time either party drew these many candidates was in 2010, when Tea Party rallies and grassroots opposition to President Obama brought a new generation of conservative Republicans to Congress,” writes Stevens.

Numbers: 1,706 Democratic candidates have been active this midterm cycle. The previous record since 1980 was in 2010, which saw 1,688 Republican congressional candidates registered with the FEC, according to Stevens.

Recent past: In 2016, there were more Republicans running than Democrats. That’s been the case since 2008, when the Democratic Party fielded 1,168 candidates, compared to the GOP’s 1,105.

Context: “The number of candidates in itself doesn’t guarantee election victories,” writes Stevens. “But it’s one more sign of how motivated Democrats are this year.”

— STATEWIDE —

Additional Florida utility crews head north to help with Florence recovery” via Florida Politics — “As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas, Florida public power has prepared to respond by engaging our network of mutual aid,” said Amy Zubaly, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association. “More than 200 crew members and equipment from 18 Florida public power communities are standing by to assist with power restoration efforts in North Carolina and South Carolina following the impacts of dangerous Hurricane Florence, which is expected to cause widespread power outages and massive property damage.” Also, Gov. Scott lifted weight limits on emergency vehicles headed north and placed Florida National Guard and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers on standby to assist with the recovery.

Adam Putnam to ‘work hard’ until the end” via the News Service of Florida — Asked for the second time in a week what is next for him, Putnam, a longtime elected official despite being only 44, maintained his goal is to “work hard” in his current job “to the very end.” “I went back to work the next morning,” Putnam said, referring to the day after the primary. “There’s a lot to be done.” Asked about remaining in public service, he said he’s “focused on being Commissioner of Agriculture.”

Enterprise Florida seeks ‘back channels’ to DeSantis, Gillum” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — “Obviously, Enterprise Florida, where we go will have a great deal (to do) with who wins the Governor’s race,” Executive Vice President Mike Grissom, who made the back channels reference, said without expounding on just how each candidate could be expected to reshape the agency. Enterprise Florida President and CEO Pete Antonacci expressed a little more confidence that there won’t be dramatic changes regardless of the winner of the Nov. 6 gubernatorial contest. “I continue to be optimistic about people when they are exposed to a set of facts, a set of facts could be persuasive,” Antonacci, who was Scott’s general counsel at the end of the Governor’s first term, told members of the public-private agency’s executive committee. “I think we’ll be able to persuade the next Governor of the value that this board provides and the value of the organization.”

Enterprise Florida knows one of its strongest advocates is term-limited and hoping to ascend to the U.S. Senate.

Superintendents: School security transfer ‘not yet ripe’” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — In a letter addressed to Scott, the Florida Association of District Superintendents President Richard Shirley writes: “We believe that all of the funds for school safety should be used in the year in which they were appropriated. “The funds remaining in the Guardian Program should not revert to the state General Revenue Fund.” Scott has repeatedly urged the Legislature in recent weeks to revisit the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, a fund for school districts that opt to arm non-teacher faculty. According to the Department of Education, just $9 million of the $67.5 million appropriations has been used by schools. Scott wants lawmakers to convene a special panel to unlock the remaining $58 million. However, both House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva and Senate President-elect Bill Galvano have pushed back against Scott’s request.

Red tide is weaker, but still hanging around Anna Maria Island. Is the worst behind us?” via Samantha Putterman of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee beaches were reported to have medium to very low levels of the algae, according to Wednesday’s red tide report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The numbers followed a similar report from the previous week. While the bloom appears to be weaker locally, it still extends from Pinellas County to northern Collier County along 120 miles of coastline, the FWC says. “Persistent surface currents — before, during and after the passage of Tropical Storm Gordon — likely played a role in transporting cells of K. brevis to the Northwest,” the FWC report says.

Legal battles mount over marijuana licenses” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Five wannabe operators who got shut out of the state’s first round of medical-marijuana licenses three years ago and recently were shot down a second time are asking a judge for help. But first, Administrative Law Judge G.W. Chisenhall has to settle an even more basic argument: How many licenses are up for grabs? Florida Department of Health officials maintain only two licenses are available under a 2017 law aimed at implementing a voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. The 2017 law was also intended to curb litigation related to the highly sought-after licenses. But the rejected applicants contend that, if they meet eligibility requirements under the law, they should get licenses, no matter what the number. The five applicants have filed administrative challenges seeking to overturn health officials’ decisions to deny them licenses.

Brightline charges on despite efforts to stop the train” via Mike Synan of FloridaDaily.com — Brightline is already up and running from West Palm Beach to Miami. The eventual plan is to run a train from downtown Miami to the Orlando International Airport. The train will not be a true high-speed rail system like what is found in China. However, the train will make the trip from Orlando to Miami in around three hours. To accomplish this, the train will have to reach speeds of 110 miles per hour in some parts of the stretch between West Palm and Cocoa and as fast as 125 miles per hour as it approaches Orlando on new tracks that will be built beside the Beachline. Opponents of the train told the FDFC that taxpayers should not have to pay for maintaining these crossroads. Several counties and cities along the route have a federal lawsuit against the train which is still working its way through the courts. St. Lucie, Martin and Brevard counties are all considering whether or not to try and get Brightline stopped in the courts. The problem remains to balance the need for a faster trip from Miami to Orlando with the time it would take to add a stop for the train at one or more of those cities along the coast.

State Sen. Debbie Mayfield argues for scrutiny of those higher speeds.

David Beckham, Trump — and the push to make Miami-Dade parks profitable” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Budget pressures are nothing new for municipal parks, but Beckham helped bring the issue into sharper focus this year in the Miami area. The retired soccer star and his partners are promising millions of dollars of revenue to Miami in exchange for converting a city golf course into a one-million-square-foot commercial complex and professional soccer stadium surrounding 58 acres of traditional parkland. Melreese Golf Course, a privately run 131-acre course, is one of the largest properties in the city’s parks system and cost Miami’s budget an average of $88,000 annually over the last five years, according to a breakdown released this week by the city manager’s office. Months before he joined the 2016 presidential race, Trump was hoping similar concerns would give his resort company control of the county’s premiere 18 holes: the Crandon Park golf course on Key Biscayne. His company offered to spend $10 million fixing up the course and pledged at least $100,000 a year to the county for running a course that was losing money. “I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE IT GREAT!” Trump wrote in a March 2015 letter to Gimenez. That deal fizzled, weeks before Trump announced for president in June 2015. But there’s still interest in a possible private-sector boost for public golf courses.

Miami Beach could soon arrest people operating Airbnb-like rentals without a license” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald — Commissioners voted to criminalize operating a business without a license after the second offense. The violation is currently punishable by a $1,000 civil fine, but if the new proposal passes a final vote in October, violators could face up to 60 days in jail for a third strike. Each day operating without a license is considered a separate offense, so unlicensed short-term rental hosts could be arrested for renting a property for three days or more. Miami Beach prohibits rentals of six months or less in most residential areas. Mayor Dan Gelber, who proposed the measure, said that criminalizing a third violation would give the city an extra tool to go after the operators of any type of unlicensed business. The city’s existing ordinance criminalizes unlicensed operations only for continued violations of 30 days or more, which can be difficult to enforce.

State challenged over Pasco hospice approval” via the News Service of Florida — The state Agency for Health Care Administration, which approved Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care of Pasco County, received challenges from The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and Compassionate Care Hospice of Pasco. The companies are challenging the preliminary decision to authorize Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care’s proposed $719,500 project and the state’s decisions to deny their license applications. Florida uses what is known as the “certificate of need” process to regulate new health care services and programs such as hospice. AHCA on March 30 published a need for one new hospice program in Pasco County beginning in July 2019. Ultimately, eight companies filed CON applications to provide the services.

Some of St. Cloud’s water is brown, but city says it’s safe to drink” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — The discoloring has been present in some St. Cloud homes since early last year. City officials blame it on a diminished polisher — which helps clean the water — at one of the city’s treatment plants, as well as issues with the resin used to filter out organic materials. Despite the water’s dingy tint, it’s safe to drink and use, officials said. “We recognize it’s inconvenient, but it’s safe,” public services director DiAnna Rawleigh said. The Osceola County city is moving forward with contracting repairs to the treatment plant to clean up the water and also is working with an engineering firm to ensure the facility is operating at peak efficiency, St. Cloud spokeswoman Krystal Diaz said.

UCF acknowledges misusing $38M in state funds for new building” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The money was used to build Trevor Colbourn Hall, an academic building that opened last month. The matter came to the Board of Governors at a meeting in Sarasota. The state funds can be used for expenses like instruction and maintenance, but not new construction. The university says it has replaced the money with funds from other sources. School leaders are also reviewing all other projects to make sure no others relied on misspent money. The UCF Board of Trustees approved the new building in May 2014 but didn’t know the source of the money used for construction, according to the university.

UCF’s now-controversial Trevor Colbourn Hall.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Matt Gaetz hobnobs with an alleged Holocaust denier. Again.” via David Corn of Mother Jones — In January, Rep. Gaetz, a conservative Republican firebrand from Florida, invited right-wing troll Charles C. Johnson to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. Johnson, a notorious social media figure accused of being a white nationalist, had been permanently banned from Twitter for declaring that he wanted to “take out” a leader of Black Lives Matter. And in early 2017, Johnson had come under fire for denying the Holocaust. Eventually, the controversy over Johnson attending the State of the Union passed. But two months ago, Gaetz and Johnson were together again — this time on a yacht in Newport Beach, California. The occasion was a July 20 fundraiser for Gaetz’s re-election campaign.

Matt Gaetz is hobnobbing (again) with noted white supremacist Charles Johnson.

— OPINIONS —

Pam Bondi: Bill Nelson is still dodging on Brett Kavanaugh” via the Washington Examiner — It is disappointing that Florida’s Democratic Senator, Nelson, has not made any good faith efforts to give a brilliant jurist the fair consideration he deserves from the U.S. Senate. Judge Kavanaugh is undeniably qualified for the Supreme Court bench. His professionalism has been commended by legal scholars, colleagues, and observers from both sides of the aisle. He has spent more than two decades in service to the American people, including in White House roles under former President George W. Bush. At first, Nelson said he would oppose the nominee before he even knew who it was. He later said he would hold off on deciding on Kavanaugh until actually meeting him. Yet he has even called Judge Kavanaugh a “right-wing extremist” in fundraising emails. Nelson and Senate Democrats have embarked on a senseless campaign to discredit Kavanaugh, despite finding nothing with which to discredit him.

Karen Halperin Cyphers: Does #MeToo reduce demand for a Bill Clinton endorsement?” via Florida Politics — I wanted to know how Floridians across the political spectrum would react to the question: Would an endorsement from the former president positively or negatively impact views toward the candidate he supports — with, and without, specific reference to #MeToo? It turns out that #MeToo matters — but not the same way for everyone. We found that a reference to the #MeToo movement: Dramatically increases negative views and decreases positive views among voters with no party affiliation (NPA). Has NO impact on the portion of Republicans who view a Clinton endorsement positively or negatively — not unexpected, given the low regard for Clinton among Republicans. Has NO impact on the portion of Democrats who would view a Clinton endorsement negatively. However, a large portion of Democrats do shift from positive feelings to “neutral” when the #MeToo movement is referenced. Interestingly, Democratic women have an even less negative response to the #MeToo reference than Democratic men. To me, these results suggest that Democrats are either in denial about the degree to which Clinton has “#MeToo-d” women, or it simply doesn’t matter to them.

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Brett Bacot, Marnie George, Michael Harrell, Jim Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: U.S. Hemp Roundtable

Jim DeBeaugrine, RFJ Governmental Consultants: Servium Group

Eired Eddy, St. Petersburg College

Marti Coley Eubanks, PinPoint Results: David H. Melvin

Brian Jogerst, BH & Associates: Kadel Torres-Oliver

Rebecca Kapusta, Department of Children and Families

Mark Minck: National Center for Life and Liberty

Travis Moore, Travis Moore Relations: Qualified Reporting Services

Rhett O’Doski, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Hilton

Foyt Tipton Ralston, Capitol Advocates: AgLogic

— WEEKEND TV —

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Republican lawyer Danny Alvarez, former Democratic CFO Alex Sink, Tampa Bay Times editorial writer Molly Moorhead, and commentator Barry Edwards.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: Joining Walker-Torres are Florida State Senator Linda Stewart, Florida State Representative Mike LaRosa, and John Sowinski of Voters in Charge. They will discuss Amendment 3 on the future of casino gambling throughout Florida.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: state Representative Ross Spano will discuss his campaign to represent U.S. House District 15; The latest from Tallahassee with Spectrum News Capitol Reporter Troy Kinsey; and PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim by Ron DeSantis about Andrew Gillum.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon will speak with Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida and political consultant Beth Matuga.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams; Rick Mullaney, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute; Matt Carlucci, former Jacksonville City Council President; and Earl Johnson Jr.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will focus on the midterm elections and ballot; the powerhouse roundtable will take on the week’s news.

— ALOE —

Hurricane Florence evacuees flee to Disney World” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — With the threat of Hurricane Florence, some East Coast residents have evacuated to the Orlando area, making trip reservations within a day or two, the kind of planning that normally takes months. Nine Orlando-area Rosen Hotels and Resorts properties will offer reduced rates for people affected by Hurricane Florence, the company announced. The “distress rate” also includes free lodging for pets with guests. “Friends and Family in the Carolinas,” wrote travel agent Meredith Maki, who runs Inspirely Travel in Charleston, South Carolina, that specializes in Disney vacations, on her Facebook page. “Why not evacuate to DISNEY?!?”

What Joe York is reading — “AT&T boss writes script for HBO: more data, more money” via Drew Fitzgerald and Shalini Ramachandran of The Wall Street Journal —AT&T Inc.’s boss said the company may shift resources to HBO from other parts of its newly acquired Time Warner business to step up programming investments and use data on its customers’ tastes and habits to inform its content bets, part of a plan to compete with streaming giant Netflix Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson also said the reams of data the telecom and television giant has — from the viewing preferences of its DirecTV subscribers to where customers take their phones — will help build up an advertising analytics business that could benefit the television industry more broadly, helping media companies compete with Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. “We think we have a couple of years window to stand this up and really make inroads,” Stephenson said in a wide-ranging interview. “I have yet to speak to a [chief marketing officer] or an advertiser who says, ‘I wish I could spend more money with Google and Facebook.’ That human being doesn’t exist.”

AT&T honcho Randall Stephenson.

Tamorrion Terry emerging into receiving threat Florida State needs” via Bob Ferrante of The Associated Press — “He’s a talented football player for us, a kid that can go up and attack the ball on one-on-one,” Florida State coach Willie Taggart said. “And a kid that can stretch the field for you as well. He had a great week of practice. And I think that’s why he had the game that he had, just his mentality where he went about practicing, and it paid off for him in the game. And hopefully a lot of our other guys learn from his example, come and locked into practice and you get the same results on the football field.” While the Seminoles (1-1) have struggled, generating just a field goal in the season-opening loss to Virginia Tech and needing a fourth-quarter rally to hold off Samford, the emergence of Terry is encouraging for a young receiving group that is still finding its way in Taggart’s Gulf Coast Offense. Florida State needs more performances like that from Terry and the rest of the receivers as the Seminoles look to jump-start the offense, beginning Saturday at Syracuse (2-0).

Happy birthday to Danny Martinez and the one and only Brian Pitts. Early birthday wishes to three good dudes, Brewster BevisChris Hudson, and Paul Seago.

Last Call for 9.13.18 – 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

Hearsay is generally inadmissible in a court of law. But it can be juicy.

Take this extended morsel, tucked into a filing at the Division of Administrative Hearings in a case lodged by The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) against the state over Calder Casino’s gambling permit.

The horse industry is in a battle for its life as track owners seek to get rid of live racing but hold on to lucrative games like slots and poker.

Here’s the thing: Dog and horse tracks in Florida generally are required to keep running live races to have slots and card games that usually make facilities more money. Calder, a Hallandale Beach facility that holds a limited schedule, is trying to ditch horse racing entirely to switch to jai alai.

It’s not alone, the FHBPA says.

“The FHBPA has heard that two other permitholders that operate slot machines in Broward County, i.e., the Mardi Gras greyhound track (now called “The Big Easy Casino”) and The Isle harness horse track (a.k.a “Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park”), either are considering or are intending to seek summer jai alai permits with the further intent to effectuate a permit swap to summer jai alai without impacting their respective slot machine licenses.

“If those permitholders are also able to swap their longstanding permits for a summer jai alai permit, then of the seven permitholders in Miami-Dade and Broward that are authorized to conduct slot machine gaming under … the Florida Constitution, six of the seven permitholders will become either jai alai permitholders or summer jai alai permitholders.

“Obviously, the switch to jai alai is not because of the popularity or profitability of jai alai; wagering records … demonstrate how extremely unpopular betting on jai alai games has become.

“Instead, it is the FHBPA’s position that the permitholders’ desire to switch to summer jai alai is caused exclusively by the fact that summer jai alai operations require the least amount of infrastructure and the least amount of dedicated real property and employ the cheapest form of labor—all of which results in the least amount of slot machine profits being spent by the permitholder to achieve the minimum pari-mutuel gaming activity necessary to satisfy the ‘live racing or games’ requirement for slot machine licensure.”

We called spokespeople for both The Big Easy and the Isle Casino — and got no response.

Evening Reads

‘Mr. President. SHUT UP’: Florida Republicans pan Donald Trump’s Puerto Rico conspiracy” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Bill Nelson is still dodging on Brett Kavanaugh” via Pam Bondi for the Washington Examiner

Morning Joe mocks Ron DeSantis for ducking tough questions on Florida issues” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

What Andrew Gillum’s trip to New York City means in the FBI investigation” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times

Andrew Gillum releases first TV ad recalling ‘grandmother’s voice’” via Ryan Nichol of Florida Politics

Ron DeSantis fundraising in Coral Gables next week with Jeb Bush” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

Republican group condemns Mike Hill’s primary campaign calling it ‘deceitful’ and ‘sexist’” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal

SEIU Florida announces $5M spend on November election campaigns” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

David Hogg, Emma González to headline voter registration rally in Tampa Saturday” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

State finance problems loom as next Governor comes into office” via Diane Rado of the Florida Phoenix

Florida trade mission to Dominican Republic organizing” via the staff of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Brightline charges on despite effort to stop the train” via Mike Sinan of Florida Daily

Soaring stock makes Darden Orlando’s first $15 billion company” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel

Miami Beach could soon arrest people operating Airbnb-like rentals without a license” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald

Quote of the Day

“I went back to work the next morning. There’s lots to be done.” —Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who lost this year’s Republican primary for Governor.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Statewide candidates and political committees face a Friday deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through Sept. 7.

The State Board of Education will meet in Collier County and take up numerous issues, including a 2019-2020 budget request for the education system. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Collier County School Board, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples.

A symposium will be held in Hillsborough County about sex trafficking in schools. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus, Auditorium, 4001 West Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, made up of House and Senate leaders, will receive a presentation about the state’s new “Long Range Financial Outlook.” The annual document analyzes past spending and future needs. That’s at 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.13.18

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

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

If the numerous polls since the primary elections weren’t enough of a clue, a new measure from the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows the gubernatorial race between Ponte Vedra Republican Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Democrat Andrew Gillum is a dead heat, with Gillum holding an inside-the-margin-of-error edge.

The Florida Chamber interviewed 514 Florida voters — 210 Democrats, 205 Republicans and 99 others — and found that Gillum led DeSantis 47-43 percent with 8 percent undecided and 2 percent preferring “someone else” from the five unaffiliated or write-in candidates who qualified for the election.

“Politically speaking, this is an interesting poll because most voters have learned a little about Ron DeSantis, yet most voters don’t know Andrew Gillum because he is a surprise winner and the most liberal of the Democrats on the ballot that ran in the primary election,” said Marian Johnson, the Florida Chamber’s senior VP of political strategy.

“It’s going to be interesting to see if Gillum, who is backing policies by Bill Nelson, yet supported by Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and George Soros will hold onto this lead while voters begin to understand his background and policies, or if Ron DeSantis and his policies will continue gaining popularity and propel him to succeed Governor [Rick] Scott as Florida’s next Governor. The election is more than 50 days away, and that’s a lifetime in Florida politics.”

That’s indeed a lifetime, and one unaccounted for factor is whether DeSantis, who kicked off his general election bid with what some saw as a racist “dog whistle,” can avoid the kind of racially charged gaffes that turn off the less rabid of those inclined to support a GOP nominee for Governor — his appearances as a speaker at conferences held by a man who has said African-Americans owe their freedom to white people inspire little confidence on that front.

The money race will be equally interesting. DeSantis won the Republican primary over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam despite a two-to-one fundraising deficit, and since winning the nom, his fundraising has been rather lackluster.

While Gillum chalked up more than $4 million in his post-primary reports, which included more than 27,000 individual contributions of $25 or less, DeSantis flatlined with about $522,000 raised, most of it from a handful of committee donors. Heading into September, Gillum had $4.23 million to spend to DeSantis’ $1.52 million.

As it stands, Gillum has the lead in both cash and polling, and if today were Election Day, he’d be “bringing it home.” Whether that changes — either due to revelatory info on the FBI probe in Tallahassee or DeSantis making another embarrassing appearance on FOX News — is in the candidates’ hands.

The poll also found seven out of the state’s 10 media markets were happy with the direction Florida was heading, though the four that weren’t — Broward/Miami, Palm Beach and Tallahassee — must-wins for any Democrat running statewide. The poll was conducted Sept. 6-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SteveLemongello: 538’s #FLSen forecast should just be a picture of them flipping a coin

—@GeoffBurgan: Down 4 in a GOP leaning poll? No wonder they’re going negative right out of the gate on @AndrewGillum

—@MarcACaputo: A little more about the poll showing Gillum over DeSantis. The Democrat’s big advantage: the gender gap is working in his favor and independents favor him by 13 points

—@JeffSchweers: Tallahassee @COTNews Commissioner Gil Ziffer gives Mayor @AndrewGillum credit for taking leadership role in reducing city’s crime rate, pushing to hire more officers and engage in community policing.

—@PPPapin: This is a hall of fame tropical weather outlook map right here. I’ve never seen anything like this! #Florence, #Helene, #Issac, #95L, #96L, & lets just throw in another 20% baroclinicity induced system for the heck of it. Yes its peak season, but this is getting ridiculous.

@SamantaJGross: Why isn’t @FLGuard deploying their high-water rescue (Zodiac) boats to the Carolinas? I was curious, too PIO says they can’t deploy unless @FLGovScott says to. The @USNationalGuard‘s policy is to take units from states that aren’t hurricane-prone like FL. You know, just in case

—@WCraigFugate: As stressful as this is, I have one more thing for your preparation checklist. Check on your neighbors. Some folks will need help they may not ask for. Too proud, too stubborn, or too scared.

—@FrancesRobles: At least 5 Cuban-Americans in Miami who oppose the embargo with Cuba and promote better relations with the communist government in Havana received surprise visits last week from FBI agents.

—@RudyGiuliani: Just met with @Mike_Miller_FL who is a great candidate in Florida CD 7. His opponent voted against major tax reduction. She will raise your taxes. He will support the lowest taxes possible. Support Miller in FL. I do.

—@JerryIannelli: There is a 100 percent chance the Miami Dolphins Victory Ax is used to commit a crime by 2019

— SCARY TWEET OF THE DAY —

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 9; First day of fall — 9; Future of Florida Forum — 13; Government shutdown — 18; FSU vs. UM football game — 23; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 26; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 40; MLB World Series begins — 40; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 41; Halloween — 48; General Election Day — 54; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 68; Thanksgiving — 70; Black Friday — 71; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 75; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 152; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 174; 2020 General Election — 782.


— TOP STORY —

Rick Scott’s blind trust mirrors hundreds of investments also held by wife“via Matt Dixon and Alexandra Glorioso of POLTICO Florida – Gov. Rick Scott’s blind trust, set up by the multi-millionaire to avoid perceived conflicts of interest, includes tens of millions of dollars in investments in the exact same companies as his wife, Ann. The holdings give the appearance of what one ethics attorney calls a “common investment strategy” that could undercut the intended independence of Scott’s trust, a POLITICO analysis of financial disclosure reports filed as part of Scott’s Senate campaign shows. Both the first lady’s investments and Scott’s blind trust holdings were revealed as part of federal financial disclosure forms filed in July. It’s clear from reviewing the holdings that actions Scott has taken during his nearly eight years as governor have affected companies in which Ann Scott holds an interest — which he could review as governor — and those held in the blind trust, in which a number of investments mirror those held by his wife.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Red tide and blue-green algae could block Rick Scott’s path to the Senate” via S.V. Date of HuffPost — Like millions of Floridians whose livelihoods are directly and indirectly tied to the state’s water quality, offshore fishing guide Larry Conley is watching his income dry up just as the man he and many others believe is responsible for the environmental calamity is seeking a new political office: Gov. Scott, who hopes to become Sen. Rick Scott. Will the algae disaster be enough to stop Scott, who won both his terms as governor with but the slimmest of margins? “I hope something does,” Conley said. Something may, but there are tens of millions, even a hundred million, reasons to believe that something may not: The piles of campaign dollars Scott has at his disposal to spread the message that ― despite his repeated weakening of environmental standards and enforcement programs ― the whole thing is actually the fault of the Democratic incumbent.

Florida Democrats report above-limit Nelson contributions, blame it on bookkeeping error” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida -The Florida Democratic Party says it will amend federal campaign finance reports after reporting nearly $60,000 in contributions to Nelson ‘s reelection campaign, which would be far above the threshold allowed by federal law. Reports filed over the past three months outlining FDP’s federal activities show nearly $58,000 in contributions to Nelson’s campaign for things like staff salary, health insurance benefits and fundraising, according to a POLITICO review of federal campaign finance reports.

Scott, Bill Nelson dueling campaign ads focus on education spending” via John Lucas of The Capitolist — Nelson’s ad claims budget cuts by Scott during his early years as governor resulted in reductions in per-pupil spending and teacher pay. “It’s no wonder why Florida ranks 40th in education, or why we’re experiencing a shortage of quality teachers,” the Nelson ad said. But, Scott’s ad, called “First,” the campaign says: “Florida’s incredible economic turnaround under Governor Scott has led to unprecedented achievement and funding for education in Florida.” “To pay for great schools, it takes a strong economy,” Scott says in the opening line of the new ad. Scott goes on to say that since Florida’s economic recovery, 4th-grade reading and math scores have become first in the nation. He says 8th-grade reading scores have climbed to first and high school AP classes and college education; both ranked first in the nation.

To view Scott’s ad, click on the image below:

To view Nelson’s ad, click on the image below:

New Nelson ads highlight Scott’s ‘poor job’ as Governor, self-enrichment — Two 30-second spots began airing throughout Florida. One, called “Know,” highlights Scott’s failures as governor including how he enthusiastically gutted environmental regulation that caused the toxic algae crisis plaguing Florida. The ad reminds people how Scott disgraced himself as a businessman whose company ripped off Medicare and U.S. taxpayers in one of the largest fraud schemes to date. It also cites media investigations into how Scott reaped a half-billion-dollar windfall from investments he hid from the public. The second spot, called “Amigos” — broadcast on Hispanic media across Florida — reminds voters how Scott raised $20 million for Trump’s election before Trump recruited Scott to run for Senate.

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

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

George W. Bush to headline Scott fundraiser in Palm Beach” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Former President Bush is holding a fundraiser for Scott in Palm Beach on Friday, according to an invitation to the event … The suggested donation to attend is $1,000. For $25,000, prospective donors can “chair” the event … the event is one of several Bush is holding for Republicans in important battlegrounds. Florida is one of a handful of states that could decide who controls the Senate in 2019.

Progressive group poll cautions Nelson against voting for Brett Kavanaugh” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The poll by YouGov Blue on behalf of Demand Justice suggests that politically, Nelson might find little to gain and potentially some votes to lose if he votes for Kavanaugh. In Florida, 80 percent of undecided voters answered that it would not impact their vote if Nelson decides to oppose Kavanaugh, according to a news release issued by Demand Justice. On the other hand, the survey finds that 31 percent of Florida Democrats say they would be less likely to vote for Nelson if he votes to confirm Kavanaugh. Influence Watch notes that Demand Justice was formed earlier this year as a nonprofit social welfare organization which hosts many similar advocacy groups advocating for a progressive-politics agenda, and emerged as one of the leading opposition groups to Kavanaugh’s nomination. The poll of 451 likely Florida voters was conducted Aug. 24-Sept. 1, and YouGov Blue cites a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

Fact-checking Scott and the risk to pre-existing condition protections” via Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact Florida — The Florida Democratic Party said, “Nearly 7 million Floridians have pre-existing conditions — but Scott and Florida Republicans wants to take away their health care coverage by ending the Affordable Care Act.” Scott says he’s in favor of preserving pre-existing condition protections, but he’s a longtime supporter of repealing the law that enshrines them, which means he’s pursuing a policy that endangers those protections. Meanwhile, the 7 million figure exaggerates the number of people who would be at immediate risk of seeing their coverage taken away shortly after an adverse court decision. That number might be closer to 2 million — a large figure, but substantially smaller than what the tweet said. We rate the statement Half True.

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

Ron DeSantis pledges Everglades help, oil-drilling opposition in environmental plan” via Marc Caputo and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — The release of DeSantis’ plan marks his first major policy announcement since winning the Aug. 28 GOP primary — amid a $10 million onslaught from U.S. Sugar — and coincides with an optics-filled airboat trip into the Everglades with “Alligator Ron” Bergeron, a colorful former state wildlife commissioner and construction contractor. The platform embraces some policies already in place, such as building a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee and suggests changes without providing specifics. DeSantis’ platform says that on “Day 1” he will “stop toxic algae discharges” and “send clean water south” to restore the Everglades. “The issues with Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades developed over the course of more than a hundred years,” DeSantis’ proposal says. “Politicians continue to propose one-off, shortsighted, band-aid ‘solutions’ that provide no relief to those subjected to red tide and algae clogged water.”

Republican governors ad pegs Andrew Gillum as ‘way out there’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Republican Governors Association is entering the Florida election with a television commercial declaring that Democratic nominee Gillum is so far out there, “he’s on another planet.” The new 30-second spot, “Too Far,” outlines Gillum’s positions favoring universal health care, a tax increase on corporations to pay for expanded education funding, and to abolish and replace the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and charges that he and his ideas go “too far” for Floridians. Two of those three items, involving health care and ICE, are federal matters, outside the power of the governor’s office, though Gillum has expressed his support for them.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

What Kevin Cate is reading — Viral videos are replacing pricey political ads. They’re cheaper, and they work” via The New York Times — These are not the stories that candidates usually turn to the camera and open up about in ads. One talked about her father’s violent temper and how she once watched him throw her mother through a plate-glass door. Another recalled watching his brothers struggle to find steady work because of their criminal records … For many of these Democrats who were running against better-financed rivals, the breakthrough moment came after they got personal in relatively low-cost videos that went viral, reaching millions of people. Using documentary-style storytelling, which can last for several minutes, candidates have found a successful alternative to the traditional model of raising huge sums of money that get spent on expensive, 30-second television commercials … For a fraction of the cost, these videos can help to spread a candidate’s story in a way that is easily shareable and can inspire donations.

Florida Supreme Court’s future part of the Governor race” via Randy Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In a 4-3 opinion, the Florida Supreme Court last week upheld the trial judge who ruled that Amendment 8 would have misled voters. Supporters called the proposal civic-minded education reform. In fact, Amendment 8 sought to promote charter schools over traditional public schools by removing any local oversight of charters. Three justices in that majority were Fred LewisBarbara Pariente and Peggy Quince. Their terms expire on Jan. 7, the day before Scott leaves office, because they will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70. Scott claims that he should fill those vacancies, not his successor. Democrats disagree. If Democrat Gillum beats Republican DeSantis, no one should expect similar collegiality between Gillum and Scott. Even if DeSantis wins, there might be a court fight. At stake is the privilege of choosing a near majority on the court. Here’s another potential twist. If Scott defeats Nelson, he will be sworn into the U.S. Senate four days before his term as governor ends. In that scenario, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera might try to appoint the new justices.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

“‘A mistake:’ Florida GOP candidates take risk in backing Scott’s medical marijuana smoking ban” via Marc Caputo and Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida – The Republicans running to succeed Gov. Scott, and those trying to hold onto Florida Cabinet seats, are all supporting his decision to fight medical marijuana patients in court — even though the politics of pot could work against the party this fall in Florida. A circuit court in May struck down a Scott-approved law banning the smoking of cannabis or its purchase in its common bud form; Scott is now appealing that ruling.

Supreme Court accepts ‘bundling’ challenge to constitutional amendments” via Florida Politics — The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously agreed to consider a challenge on whether three proposed constitutional amendments should be blocked from the November ballot. The court, however, postponed a decision “as to whether the case will be submitted … with or without oral argument,” its order said. Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed after Circuit Judge Karen Gievers found that the three proposals — including a measure that would ban offshore oil drilling and ban vaping in workplaces — improperly “bundled” unrelated issues. In her ruling, Gievers agreed with retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead and another plaintiff that such bundling would violate the First Amendment rights of voters, who could have conflicting views of issues in single ballot proposals.

Tax amendment backers make big ad buy” via the News Service of Florida — The committee known as Amendment 2 is for Everybody paid the money to the New York-based firm McLaughlin & Associates. The committee, which has been heavily funded by the industry group Florida Realtors, had nearly $400,000 in remaining cash on hand as of Friday … The proposed constitutional amendment would extend a property-tax cap for commercial and other non-homestead properties. Voters in 2008 approved a constitutional change that placed a 10 percent cap on annual increases in assessed values of non-homestead properties. The limit will expire Jan. 1 unless it is extended by voters through this year’s proposed constitutional amendment, which will appear on the ballot as Amendment 2.

Local elected officers launch Amendment 10 initiative” via Florida Politics — Some of Florida’s Sheriffs, Tax Collectors, Clerks of Circuit Court, Property Appraisers, and other supporters gathered at the Capitol Wednesday to kick off a “statewide education initiative” about Amendment 10, or the “Protection Amendment.” “The amendment safeguards the interests of Floridians by protecting our right to vote, our families, our tax dollars, and our veterans,” a news release said. “Amendment 10 keeps, and in some cases returns, the power into the hands of the people.” The state’s Supreme Court last week unanimously upheld a lower-court ruling approving the amendment, which would overhaul state and local governments by requiring certain offices now appointed to be elected. That means the constitutional change remains on the Nov. 6 ballot, though it still must be approved by no less than 60 percent of voters to take effect.

Mary Barzee Flores: Mario Diaz-Balart’s health care record is ‘hurting families’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Barzee Flores is out with her first ad of the general election campaign, hitting incumbent U.S. Rep. Diaz-Balart on his health care record. The two are competing in Florida’s 25th Congressional District after both candidates went through their respective primaries unopposed. Now Barzee Flores is seeking to go on the attack, critiquing the congressman in the new ad, “Afford.” The 30-second spot is set to air in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and Ft. Myers/Naples markets. The ad will run in both English and Spanish.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

New ad targets Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s ties to Ukrainian oligarch” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The National Republican Congressional Committee is out with a new ad revisiting allegations of ties between Mucarsel-Powell and a Ukrainian oligarch named Ihor Kolomoisky. Mucarsel-Powell, a candidate for Florida’s 26th Congressional District, faced scrutiny over her husband’s work for Kolomoisky during the Democratic primary this summer. She called the latest ad “a complete lie.” Mucarsel-Powell is competing against incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Earlier, a radio ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund attempted to link Mucarsel-Powell to the oligarch as well. Now, the NRCC is bringing attention to the claims once again in a new ad titled, “Connection.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Save the date:

Assignment editors — Representatives of Florida Conservation Voters, Sierra Club and former Tampa Bay Estuary Program executive director Holly Greening to endorse Lindsay Cross for Senate District 24, 11 a.m., Archibald Park Madeira Beach, 15100 Gulf Blvd., St. Petersburg.

Anna Eskamani campaign video pays tribute to her inspiration, her mother” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Eskamani is launching a social-media campaign video telling the story of her mother, an Iranian immigrant who pursued the American dream and laid the foundation for her daughter’s values, before dying young. The two-minute, 11-second video, “My Mother’s Name Is Nasrin” is produced to be both inspiring and heartbreaking, while telling the story of Eskamani’s parents coming to America, meeting, working hard, and raising a family in Orlando, and how her memory drives her daughter. After Eskamani announces she found her purpose, the video changes to mostly contemporary footage of Eskamani driving, making speeches, meeting with people, and contemplating her mother. The shots also feature a variety of ordinary HD 47 residents in settings ranging from workplaces to a Pulse memorial. The video’s message transforms into a campaign theme about what Eskamani said her purpose is.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

— STATEWIDE —

Florida agencies, utilities poised to provide hurricane help” via the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott said Florida state agencies and electric utilities are taking steps to provide help after Hurricane Florence hits land later this week. Scott’s office said Florida has sent two urban search-and-rescue teams to North Carolina and South Carolina; a nursing team of 29 people to North Carolina to help with special-needs shelters, and five ambulance teams to North Carolina to help with medical evacuations. The assistance also includes Florida utilities sending crews to help restore power after the hurricane and the state suspending requirements for transportation of animals to help in the movement of livestock from areas affected by the hurricane.

Officials release new details on Hamilton prison riot” via Ben Conarck of the Florida Times-Union — The riot that drew a heavy law enforcement response to a northeast Florida prison was triggered Friday by an inmate being gassed outside of a dormitory next to the recreation yard, officials said. The inmate at Hamilton Correctional Institute Annex was “being disruptive” and refused to comply with orders before he was gassed, according to a report by the Florida Department of Corrections. The incident at the facility located north of Live Oak was within view of some 100 inmates on the recreation yard being monitored by four staff members. “The inmates on the yard observed the use of chemical agent force and took exception to the actions by staff and began destroying property, breaking broomsticks, and surrounding the staff members that were assigned to the recreation yard,” the report said. After staff escaped from the yard, the Designated Armed Response Team deployed two flash bangs “to control the situation and prevent further damage to property,” the report said.

Officials release new details on Hamilton prison riot last week. (Image via Florida Times-Union)

Florida uninsured rate increases, tops national average” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — More than 2.6 million people in Florida lacked health insurance at some point in 2017, according to data by the U.S. Census Bureau. That means about 12.9 percent of the state’s population last year was uninsured — up from 12.5 percent in 2016 — as Florida continued to be higher than the national average of 8.8 percent. “Florida is going in the wrong direction, and Florida already had a high uninsured rate, to begin with,” said Joan Alker, executive director and research professor at the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy. Nationally, the data showed that about 1 in 4 uninsured people were 26 to 34 years old, and about 1 in 5 uninsured people were ages 34 to 44. Data also indicated that the uninsured tended to have lower incomes and were more likely to have high-school educations or less. Florida had the fifth-highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation, with the higher states Texas (17.3 percent), Oklahoma (14.2 percent), Alaska (13.7 percent) and Georgia (13.4 percent).

Apply within: Panel starts process to replace Supreme Court justices” via Florida Politics — The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission on Wednesday announced it would start accepting applications to fill three upcoming vacancies. Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince face mandatory retirement on the same day that term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott will leave office. Under the state constitution, judges and justices face mandatory retirement at age 70. In Florida, judicial vacancies are filled by appointment by the Governor, from a list of applicants vetted and submitted by judicial nominating panels. “Based on the Supreme Court’s current composition, one seat must be filled by a qualified applicant who resides in the Third Appellate District (based in Miami); the other two seats are at-large,” a news release said. The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the state’s highest court.

Citizens Insurance eyes ‘assignment of benefits’” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway announced the state-backed insurer is working on the “logistics” for public roundtable discussions as a way to find solutions to the practice of “assignment of benefits.” The announcement came after a request by state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. “The bottom line is AOB abuse and runaway litigation threaten to raise premiums for many Citizens policyholders who otherwise would see their rates remain steady or go down,” Gilway said in a statement. Citizens and other insurers have contended that fraud and abuse in assignment of benefits have led to costly lawsuits and driven up rates. But contractors and plaintiffs’ attorneys argue the process helps to ensure that damage claims are paid correctly.

State Farm drops lawsuit over ‘AOB’ information” via the News Service of Florida — State Farm Florida this week dismissed a lawsuit that stemmed from a woman filing a public-records request for information that the company submitted to regulators about the controversial insurance practice known as “assignment of benefits.” State Farm filed the lawsuit in July against the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, arguing that the information should be shielded from disclosure because it is a trade secret and exempt from the state’s public-records laws. But in a one-page document, State Farm said it was dismissing the case because the public-records request was withdrawn. The Office of Insurance Regulation received the records request in June from Elizabeth Tuxbury, a graduate student at Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University who sought information submitted to the state after a “data call” of insurers. The document does not explain why the records request was withdrawn.

Horse group responds in challenge of Calder Casino gambling permit — A Florida Thoroughbred horsemen’s group told a Tallahassee judge not to throw out its challenge of a South Florida track’s gambling license, saying it hadn’t gotten proper notice of the state’s granting of the permit this February. The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) also argued that if its challenge is what’s called a “collateral attack” on Calder Casino’s summer jai alai permit, it’s allowed under state law. The administrative law case, against the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, has put a spotlight on the strain between the greyhound and horse industries and racetrack operators, who continue trying to get rid of live racing but hold on to lucrative games like slots and poker. Tracks in Florida generally are required to keep running live races to have slots and card games that usually make facilities more money. Calder, which holds a limited schedule, is trying to ditch horse racing entirely to switch to jai alai.

Calder Casino faces a ‘collateral attack’ from a Thoroughbred horseman’s group.

Initial brief filed in Miami Beach minimum wage casevia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — An initial brief has now been filed in a case before the Florida Supreme Court that could have far-reaching implications on local minimum wage ordinances. The Court agreed to hear the case, City of Miami Beach v. Florida Retail Federation, late last month. Now, attorneys for the City of Miami Beach have filed arguments that lower courts erred in their rulings striking down the city’s minimum wage ordinance, approved in 2016. A state law, passed in 2003, preempt local governments from deviating from the statewide minimum wage. But the city argues the Florida Minimum Wage Amendment, passed in 2004, overrode that 2003 law.

Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano will speak in Melbournevia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Napolitano is set to deliver a speech later this month at a Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida (RLCCEF) event in Melbourne. The RLCCEF will be hosting its annual Constitution Day Dinner on Sunday, Sept. 23. Napolitano will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. “Our purpose in putting on this dinner every year is to honor the Constitution, our Founders, the men and women of our armed forces and our first responders,” said Bob White, Chairman of the RLCCEF and the RLC Florida. “We’re very proud of the speakers we’ve brought to Brevard County in years past, but this year we’ve really outdone ourselves. Judge Napolitano is known as one of the foremost authorities on the Constitution.”

First in Sunburn –More marijuana dealmaking: Trulieve merging with Canadian company” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A Canadian mining concern this week said it had finalized a deal to merge with Trulieve, a Florida medical marijuana provider. Toronto-based Schyan Exploration Inc. will combine with Trulieve Inc. to become Trulieve Cannabis Corp. It will trade stock publicly in Canada. The agreement was announced Tuesday. The closing date for the transaction is expected to be “on or around” next Friday, a press release said. The full financial terms were not disclosed. It’s the latest big deal in the state’s now go-go medicinal cannabis market, seen as a potential multibillion-dollar industry by investors.

Jimmy Buffett signs licensing deal with medical marijuana firm” via Jeff Ostrowsky of the Palm Beach Post — Buffett will license his Coral Reefer brand to Surterra Holdings Inc. for a line of cannabis products including vape pens, gel caps, edibles and lotions … “Cannabis is good medicine and should be made available to all who need it,” Buffett said in a statement. Buffett considered deals with several cannabis companies but chose Surterra because it focused on health and wellness rather than recreation … Buffett would receive royalties from the deal but not a stake in the startup. Coral Reefer pot products will be available at Surterra stores in Florida starting next spring.

State divvies up money to curb bear-human conflicts” via the News Service of Florida — Eight counties and two cities will divide $500,000 the state has set aside to help reduce bear-human conflicts. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced the awarding of the “BearWise” funds, with the largest allocations going to Seminole County, Apopka and Santa Rosa County. Seminole County will receive $177,000 and the Orange County city of Apopka will get $85,000, with both planning to sell bear-resistant trash cans to residents at a discounted price. Santa Rosa County will get $58,000 to make dumpsters bear-resistant at restaurants and other businesses in southern parts of the county. The commission also is sending $25,000 to Lake County for discounted bear-resistant trash cans. Lake, Santa Rosa and Seminole counties and Apopka are getting 69 percent of the state agency’s money, which was approved by the Legislature and generated in part through the sale of “Conserve Wildlife” license plates.

— OPINIONS —

Joe Henderson: If Andrew Gillum is radical, so are lots of people” via Florida Politics — If I may offer just a tiny bit of advice to my GOP friends, it would be this: Be careful with all that “radical” talk. It’s not “radical” to say health care isn’t a privilege reserved for those who can afford good insurance. It’s not “radical” to say the failure to expand Medicaid to the neediest citizens is a moral failing by a government that should try to represent all the people. It’s not “radical” to say our public schools deserve better than they have gotten from a state government masking attacks on the teachers’ union as educational reform. Nor is it “radical” to question why Tallahassee, under Republican control for 20 years, has taken to slashing and burning environmental protections in a state where the great outdoors is kind of important. After controlling everything in Tallahassee for two decades, Republicans have become tone-deaf. They believe they’re responsible only to people who believe in the same things they do, and to hell with everybody else. That ignores the fact, by the way, that Scott won two elections to be Governor by about one percentage point each time.

Why state marijuana-impaired driving laws need reformvia Ian Stewart of Law360 — The expanding legalization of cannabis may be sending a message to drivers that marijuana is not as dangerous as previously thought. As noted in its July 2017 report to Congress, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cautions that this changing perception is likely impacting personal choices regarding marijuana use, and that “as more people choose to use marijuana, it is likely more people will drive impaired by marijuana.” This is borne out by recent studies that show an increasing national trend in marijuana use.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Teye Reeves joins Smith, Bryan & Myers” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Lobbyist Reeves has joined the Tallahassee firm of Smith, Bryan & Myers (SBM). “Teye has cemented herself as an ardent influencer in the Capitol,” said Matt Bryan, president of SBM, in a statement. “She has the ability to see an issue from all angles and effectively navigate it through the legislative and executive process. “We’re happy to have her as a part of our diverse team focused on providing complete and successful representation for our clients.” Added Reeves: “I’m excited to be joining Smith, Bryan & Myers. They have a stellar team approach with a reputation of getting things done for their clients. I look forward to being a part of the team.”

Congratulations to Teye Reeves.

Personnel note: Thomas Philpot named acting Deputy Secretary at DBPR — A department spokeswoman confirmed the move Wednesday. Philpot has been director of the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. He’ll fill in as Deputy Secretary of Business Regulation for Andrew Fier, who recently left to join the Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli law firm in Tallahassee. Philpot was most recently in the news for rejecting a request to install high-tech beer and wine vending machines in South Florida, a proposal opposed by lawmakers and industry groups.

Appointed — Heather Stearns to the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission; Anthony Waylon Graham to the 14th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; Vivian FazioAlice Sum and William McCormick to the 17th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; and Aaron Haak and Andrea Smith to the 20th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.

— ALOE —

Universal moving Christian music fest to February” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Universal Orlando’s annual Christian music festival, Rock the Universe, is being moved on the theme park’s calendar for 2019. The next edition of the festival will take place on Feb. 1 and 2 … its news release mentioned it might attract more youth groups to “enjoy a faith-filled weekend of live music, worship and theme park thrills” since most schools will be in session by the new dates. Attendees will have a chance to get autographs from top Christian artists and experience a candle-lighting ceremony on the night of Feb. 2 and a Sunday morning worship service. The announcement also included the reveal of six performers for next year’s event. The Friday, Feb. 1 lineup will feature LecraeMatthew West and Colton DixonSkilletBethel Music and Crowder will play on Saturday, Feb. 2.

New park president takes over at SeaWorld Orlando” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — SeaWorld park President Jim Dean has moved up to a position in SeaWorld’s corporate office. In turn, a corporate officer has now taken over the reins of the Orlando park. The new president is Mark Pauls, who had previously served as vice president of operations for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Pauls has also held leadership positions at two of the company’s parks in Virginia, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA. Dean, who had previously spent nearly seven years as park president of Busch Garden Tampa, had been in charge at SeaWorld Orlando since 2017.

’Wreck-It-Ralph’ VR attraction coming to Disney Springs” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — The “hyper-reality” attraction, as Disney calls it, will be named Ralph Breaks VR and be based on the upcoming Disney film “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” the second film to feature Ralph and his video game world. Ralphs Breaks VR is being built as a collaboration between Disney, ILMxLAB — the immersive entertainment division at Lucasfilm — and The VOID, the same partnership involved in the Star Wars: Secret of the Empire VR experience already operating at Disney Springs and at the Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney. “Our filmmakers and the terrific people at ILMxLAB have collaborated to bring an incredible hyper-real experience, for all ages, to The VOID,” said “Ralph Breaks the Internet” producer Clark Spencer on the Disney Parks Blog. “We can’t wait for people to be immersed in the worlds of the internet and online gaming with Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope.” An official launch date has not been announced. The film opens on November 21.

What’s in the Amazon box? Maybe a real 7-foot Christmas tree” via The Associated Press — Watch out for the 7-foot box on the doorstep. Amazon plans to sell and ship fresh, full-size Christmas trees this year … Christmas trees, including Douglas firs and Norfolk Island pines, will be bound and shipped without water in the usual sort of box. Amazon said they’d be sent within 10 days of being cut down, possibly even sooner, and should survive the shipping just fine … trees, wreaths and garlands will go on sale in November. Some will qualify for Prime free shipping, and Amazon will offer preorders so shoppers can choose a delivery date. A 7-foot Fraser fir from a North Carolina farm will cost $115, according to an Amazon holiday preview book. Also listed are a $50 wreath and a $25 red-leafed plant with a decorative candy cane speared into the soil.

That 7-foot Amazon box could be a Christmas tree.

Florence’s approach causes plethora of ACC schedule changes” via Aaron Beard of The Associated Press — The list of canceled games include No. 13 Virginia Tech’s home game against East Carolina, No. 14 West Virginia’s trip to North Carolina State and No. 18 UCF’s game at North Carolina. Virginia has moved its Saturday home game against Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee, with the Category 3 storm forecast to come ashore along the Carolinas’ coastline late Thursday or early Friday, bringing strong winds and heavy rain throughout the region. The schools with canceled games left open the possibility of trying to reschedule them for later in the season, but there’s no guarantee that will work. There certainly aren’t many easy options for rescheduling games. The best chance would come if the teams share an off week, but that’s not an option here. There’s also the weekend of Dec. 1 after the scheduled completion of the regular season, though that could conflict with conference championship games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers to unveil Bucs Beach at Raymond James Stadium” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The new beach-theme concept will be outside of the stadium’s gates, allowing anyone to enter when it debuts on Sept. 16, when the Buccaneers play the Philadelphia Eagles. “Bucs Beach is meant to create an experience in how we re-imagined the South Plaza space,” said Atul Khosla, Bucs chief corporate development and brand officer. “You will find everything from sand to the chairs, hammocks, tiki huts, local artists, food trucks, DJs entertaining the crowd and corporate partners activating in that space,” Khosla said. The concept is also open to naming rights, Khosla said. Bucs Beach cost more than $250,000, which the team covered.

Happy birthday belatedly to nice guy/top lobbyist Jeff Hartley, Siobhan Harley Kavanaugh, and Elizabeth Wester. Celebrating today are INFLUENCE 100’er Rosemary Goudreau O’Hara, Will McKinley, and David’s much better half, Melissa Joiner Ramba, who helps lead the Florida Retail Federation.

Last Call for 9.12.18 — 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

“The sign said you got to have a membership card to get inside,” the old song goes. Or at least a parking pass.

The state is prepared to spend up to $200,000 to replace signs at its downtown Tallahassee office buildings and parking areas.

The Department of Management Services, which acts as the state’s real estate manager, this week advertised bidding for “qualified signage fabrication and installation contractors.”

The scope of work includes a variety of signs, including not just those with the names of the various office buildings, but also ones for “Tow Away Zone,” “Do Not Enter,” and “Reserved Parking” on parking decks.

Judging by photos of current signs sent by DMS spokeswoman Nina Ashley, it’s time for a refreshing.

“In many of the pictures you can see the rusting and pitting on the signs being replaced, most if not all of which we estimate are at least 25 years old,” Ashley said.

Sealed bids will be “received, publicly opened and read aloud” at 2 p.m. Oct. 4 at the department’s office of Real Estate Development and Management in the Southwood office complex.

Evening Reads

Democrats won’t stop, can’t stop, spending big bucks on television ads” via Gideon Resnick and Sam Stein of The Daily Beast

Red tide and blue-green algae could block Rick Scott’s path to the Senate” via S.V. Date of Huffington Post

Andrew Gillum slightly ahead of Ron DeSantis in governor race, poll shows” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

Facing attacks over Tallahassee’s crime rate, Gillum lands endorsement from Hillsborough State Attorney” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

DGA gives Gillum another $1M as RGA hits the airwaves for DeSantis” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

DeSantis pledges Everglades help, oil-drilling opposition in environmental plan” via Marc Caputo and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

Bank account closures leave Nikki Fried reluctant to file reports” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida

With Amendment 10 safe on the ballot, advocated launch voter education push” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald

New Republican ad blasts Debbie Mucarsel-Powell for husband’s Ukranian connections” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano will speak in Melbourne” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Florida saw record high number of tourists in first half of 2018” via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News

AT&T plans to launch 5G in Orlando early next year” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel

Amazon’s Top 25 toys for the 2018 holidays” via Sonja Haller of USA Today

Quote of the Day

“Experts: Get out if you can.” — Wednesday’s front page headline of the Star-News (Wilmington, North Carolina) as Hurricane Florence approached.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The state university system’s Board of Governors will meet after holding a series of committee meetings. Committees start at 8:30 a.m., with full board at 2 p.m., New College of Florida, Harry Sudakoff Conference Center, 5845 General Dougher Place, Sarasota.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Broward, Pasco and Gulf counties.

— 9 a.m., Health Fair, 1176 N.W. 42nd Way, Lauderhill.

— 1 p.m., Pasco County Government Center, 8731 Citizens Dr., New Port Richey.

— 3 p.m., Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10069, 1774 Trout Ave., Port St. Joe.

The Florida Department of Children and Families will hold one in a series of meetings across the state about infant and early childhood mental health. That’s at 9 a.m., Florida Office of Early Learning, 250 Marriott Dr., Tallahassee.

The Florida Supreme Court is expected to release its regular weekly opinions at 11 a.m.

Lindsay Cross, Democratic candidate for Senate District 24, will hold a news conference to “announce her endorsement by influential Florida environmental groups and outline her plans to address the red tide and algae outbreak.” That’s at 11 a.m., Archibald Park (Madeira Beach), 15100 Gulf Blvd., St. Petersburg.

Fox News host Jeanine Pirro will appear at a meeting of the Trumpers Club Miami Dade. That’s at 6 p.m., DoubleTree by Hilton Miami Airport & Convention Center, 711 N.W. 72nd Ave., Miami.

Last Call for 9.11.18 — 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

First, a program note: Because today was Patriot Day, SUNBURN will not appear Wednesday. The state’s leading morning newsletter on Florida politics and policy will return Thursday.

So much for a “Victory Royale.”

A former janitor who cleaned Department of Revenue offices — and was charged with taking external hard drives from the desks of workers — pleaded ‘no contest’ to end the case, court dockets show.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Andru Reed, 22, reportedly said he was looking for video games. He was booked in April.

He has since pleaded out to 3rd-degree felony charges of “fraudulent modification of intellectual property” and “taking and damaging computer equipment,” records show.

Circuit Judge Frank Allman sentenced Reed to three years of probation, 500 hours of community service, and $620 in court costs.

Reed worked for a company that provided janitorial services to the department in Tallahassee’s Southwood office complex, an investigative report said.

On March 30, agents spoke with Reed at his Tallahassee home and found four hard drives, which “contained confidential taxpayer information,” according to an FDLE news release.

Reed “connected the hard drives to his Xbox to download video games without knowing what was on (them),” the release said.

Evening Reads

Donald Trump honors 9/11 victims in Pennsylvania in rare role as consoler-in-chief” via David Jackson and Susan Miller of USA Today

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski go to war with Don Jr. over Trump-9/11 analogy” via Matt Wilstein of the Daily Beast

Bill Nelson not on board with Andrew Gillum’s progressive proposals” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott touts education accomplishments in new ad” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Democrats even with GOP in Florida Senate spending since primary” via Mark Murray of NBC News

Ron DeSantis takes on Obama” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

DeSantis campaign names Bob Cortes as Puerto Rican outreach chair” Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Florida AFL-CIO endorses Nikki Fried in Agriculture Commissioner race” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times

Mary Barzee Flores: Mario Diaz-Balart’s health care record is ‘hurting families’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Florida’s felon disenfranchisement system under intense national glare” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Judge refuses to scuttle NRA lobbyist case” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

Sept. 11 also brings thoughts of hurricanes past, future, and climate change” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Another group aims at registering Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

Hurricane Florence grows in size, tropical depression likely in Gulf” via Kim Miller of the Palm Beach Post

Alligator called ‘Fat Daddy’ bites man grabbing golf disc from water” via Doug Phillips of the Sun Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“America’s future is not written by our enemies. America’s future is written by our heroes. As long as this monument stands, as long as this memorial endures, brave patriots will rise up in America’s moments of need, and they too will fight back.” — President Donald Trump, speaking at a memorial service on the crash site of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

Gov. Rick Scott will continue his statewide “Make Washington Work” bus tour. The next stop and rally is 8:30 a.m., Cheney Brothers, 2801 W. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala.

The Enterprise Florida Board of Directors will meet at 9 a.m., InterContinental Miami, 100 Chopin Plaza, Miami.

The VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m., Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, 1500 Masters Blvd., ChampionsGate.

The Florida Commission on Offender Review will take up parole cases from across the state. That’s at 9 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

A campaign to educate voters on Amendment 10 launches with a host of locally-elected constitutional officers, such as Sheriffs, Tax Collectors, Clerks of the Court, and Property Appraisers from around the state. That’s at 10 a.m., old Capitol (courtyard-side steps), Tallahassee. [Ed. Note — This ran in error in Tuesday’s SUNBURN; the event is Wednesday.]

The Triumph Gulf Coast Board will tour the Port of Panama City before holding a board meeting. Tour at 10 a.m. Central time, Port of Panama City, East Terminal, 400S East Ave., Panama City. Also board meeting at 1 p.m. Central time, Bay County Government Center, commission chamber, 840 West 11th St., Panama City.

The Florida Workers’ Compensation Joint Underwriting Association will hold an annual membership meeting and a Board of Governors meeting. That’s at 10 a.m., Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, 9300 Jeff Fuqua Blvd., Orlando.

The state university system’s Board of Governors will hold task-force and committee meetings in advance of a full board meeting Thursday. Meetings start at 12:30 p.m., New College of Florida, Harry Sudakoff Conference Center, 5845 General Dougher Place, Sarasota.

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