Sunburn Archives - Florida Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

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

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

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

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

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

— DAYS UNTIL —

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

— TOP STORY —

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

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

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

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

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

To view the exchange, click on the image below:

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

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

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

To view the ad, click on the image below:

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

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

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

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

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

Tweet, tweet:


— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To view the ad, click on the image below:

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

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

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

— $$$ —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— STATEWIDE —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— D.C. MATTERS —

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

Rod Rosenstein is staying put, for now.

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

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

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

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

— TWEET, TWEET —

— OPINIONS —

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

— MOVEMENTS —

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

— ALOE —

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

Will drones be replacing Epcot IllumiNations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— DAYS UNTIL —

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

— TOP STORY —

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

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

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

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

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tweet, tweet:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

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

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

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

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— DOWN BALLOT —

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

So says Lauren Baer, at least.

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

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

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

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


Happening tonight:

Fitzenhagen fundraiser 9.24.2018

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

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

— THEN VERSUS NOW —

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

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

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

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

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

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

— STATEWIDE —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— D.C. MATTERS —

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

The hits keep coming for Brett Kavanaugh.

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

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

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

Feds launch audit of Keys debris contracts” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — The audit follows a written request by the eleven Florida Democrats in Congress who called on the IG to initiate a review, arguing “tens of millions of federal taxpayer dollars are being squandered.” In their letter, the Florida Democrats cited the results of a CBS Miami investigation which found one of the companies the state selected after the storm had no previous emergency debris removal experience, while more qualified firms were prevented from even submitting bids. An analysis found the governor’s emergency contracts will end up costing taxpayers an additional $28 to $30 million. “An OIG audit would go far to restore public confidence that taxpayer funds spent on disaster relief will not be allocated inappropriately or inefficiently,” the members of Congress wrote.

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

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

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

— OPINIONS —

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

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

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

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

— MOVEMENTS —

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

Congratulations to Carmine Marceno.

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

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

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

— ALOE —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— DAYS UNTIL —

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

— FIRST IN SUNBURN —

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

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

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

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

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

— HE SPEAKS —

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

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

Ron DeSantis is talking. And talking.

Here are some highlights: 

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

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

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

— TOP OF THE BALLOT —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

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

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

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

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

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

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

— WINNING TICKET —

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

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

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

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

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

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

— TROLL WARS —

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

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

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

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

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

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

— STATEWIDE —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida man gardening ‘au naturel.’

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

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

— WEEKEND MEDIA —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

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

Virginia Haworth: Florida State College at Jacksonville

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

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

— ALOE —

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

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

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

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

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

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:

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

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

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

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

Andrew Gillum leading Ron DeSantis for Governor?

Rick Scott’s lead over Bill Nelson shrinking?

What is happening in Florida Politics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— DAYS UNTIL —

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

— TOP STORY —

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

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

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

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happening tonight:

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

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

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

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

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

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

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

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

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

To view the ad, click on the image below:

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

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

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

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

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, PART 2 —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— STATEWIDE —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— FLORIDA WATER WOES —

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

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

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

— SWEPT AWAY —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— OPINIONS —

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

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

— MOVEMENTS —

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

Congratulations to Beau Beaubien.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

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

Brian Ballard, William Turbeville, Ballard Partners: GreenPointe Holdings

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

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

Michael Brawer: Association of Florida Colleges

Chip Case, Capitol Advocates: American Houndsmen Federation

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Town of Jupiter Island

Charles Dudley, Floridian Partners: Capital Wealth Advisors

Michael Gugig: Transamerica Life Insurance Company

Dan Lopez: Best Buy

Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: Baltimore Orioles

— ALOE —

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

Mark your calendars: Mickey Mouse Oreos are coming soon.

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

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

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.19.18

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

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

Just a reminder: The Florida Chamber Foundation will hold this year’s Future of Florida Forum on Sept. 26-27, or next Wednesday and Thursday, in Orlando. (If you’re like us, you’ve probably already booked your room.)

It’s where “Florida’s business community will gather elected officials, legislators, and industry leaders to discuss the issues that matter most to Florida’s long-term future,” according to a news release.

Plans include the release of the ‘Florida 2030’ report, which “seeks to outline a blueprint for Florida’s future and how our state addresses challenges and opportunities,” and the 2018 Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Rick Scott speaks at the Future of Florida Forum 2016.

Also, there’ll be a two-day Florida Healthcare Workforce Session, “where we will cover discussions on the trends impacting health care practitioners, from workforce shortages, aging populations, coming innovations and technological advances, laws and regulations around residency requirements.”

Other topics “range from talent and workforce needs, current and future cybersecurity risks, to paving pathways to economic prosperity, Florida’s future water needs, autonomous vehicles, (and) building up women in leadership.”

Invited speakers include Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jimmy Patronis, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, GOP Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell, DEO chief Cissy Proctor, and many more.

The event will be at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando. Click here for the full agenda, and email kbustamante@flfoundation.org for more information.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MitchellReports: It is difficult to rewatch the questioning of #AnitaHill by the late GOP Sen Arlen Specter @Maddow now playing. I cannot imagine what it was like for her to live through that hearing and its aftermath. The most searing experience I ever had as a congressional correspondent

—@DrNealDunn: Happy 71st Birthday to the @usairforce. Thank you to the men and women in our United States Air Force and thank you to those who serve at Tyndall Air Force Base in the Second District for pledging your lives to serve and protect this great nation.

@StephenKing: In 2012, Richard “Red Tide Rick” Scott cut $700 million from the Florida Water Management District. Now the Gulf Coast is suffering what may be the worst red tide bloom in history. Empty beaches and restaurants. Trump loves this guy. Do you?

—@MarcACaputo: I know it’s fashionable for ignorant people to scream “fake news” when the facts make them uncomfortable, but let’s be utterly clear on this point: The DeSantis campaign is not denying that Trump is miffed.

@SteveLemongello: More than 60 percent of Trump voters believe “much fewer” than 3,000 people died after Maria, 27 percent “not sure.” Only 10 percent or less of Trump voters believe the 2,975 number accepted by Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis and other Florida Republicans

—@JamesGrantFL: No matter how attractive somebody can make “Medicare for All” or “Universal Healthcare” sound … What they’re really selling you is an oligarchy to replace a monarchy. It’s not more empowerment for you the consumer; it’s actually much less.

@JeffSchweers: A primary night tweet by the City of Tallahassee congratulating Mayor @AndrewGillum for winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination does not violate the city’s ethics code, the independent ethics board ruled.

@JebBushWendy Grant was an exceptional woman and passionate leader who had a heart for service and for people. Columba and I were lucky to count her as our friend for so many years. Prayers and hugs for all of Wendy’s friends tonight.

—@RepLoisFrankel: Wishing all those who observe #YomKippur an easy & meaningful fast. On this Day of Atonement, let’s take the time to reflect on the challenges we face and recommit to working together towards a flourishing, more peaceful world for all people. G’mar Hatima Tova.

—@CallTallahassee: The Syracuse performance lands Florida State at number 22 of The Bottom 25 and last in the ACC Atlantic. Meanwhile, a solid Northern Illinois University victory over CMU bounced the Huskies off The Bottom 25 and into first in the MAC West. Huskies at Doak Saturday WOOF WOOF

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 3; First day of fall — 3; Future of Florida Forum — 7; Government shutdown — 11; FSU vs. UM football game — 17; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 20; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 34; MLB World Series begins — 35; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 36; Early voting begins — 38; Halloween — 42; General Election Day — 48; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 62; Thanksgiving — 64; Black Friday — 65; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 69; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 146; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 167; 2020 General Election — 776.

— FIRST IN SUNBURN —

Matthew Van Name, who most recently worked for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine’s political committee, is now Deputy Director for For Our Future Florida. The progressive advocacy group recently announced it reached a new milestone in its canvassing efforts across the state, having knocked on more than 500,000 doors. Van Name also has been U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and was formerly the Florida political director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). For Our Future Florida describes itself as “a grassroots organization that advocates for policies that benefit families and communities in Florida, including creating shared economic prosperity, building strong public schools, addressing climate change, supporting racial justice, and protecting immigrant communities.”

In other news, just in case you missed it, Democratic smart guy Christian Ulvert is now working for Tallahassee Mayor Gillum’s campaign to become the first Democrat elected Governor since Lawton Chiles. Ulvert, who happened to be a senior adviser to Levine, will handle Spanish-language media for Gillum. Levine finished third in this year’s Democratic primary for Governor; former Congresswoman Gwen Graham came in second.

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

Donald Trump rails on Ron DeSantis over Hurricane Maria flap” via Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The president has told close associates in recent days that he views DeSantis — who won his Aug. 28 GOP primary thanks to Trump’s strong support — as profoundly disloyal for distancing himself from the president’s assertion that Democrats inflated the Hurricane Maria death toll for political purposes. “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,” the DeSantis campaign said last week after Trump tweeted that “3000 people did not die” in Puerto Rico. Trump’s comments unnerved Republicans across Florida, which is home to a burgeoning Puerto Rican population, leading DeSantis and other Republicans — including Senate hopeful Scott — to publicly break with the president’s remark.

Trouble in paradise? Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump don’t see eye-to-eye on Hurricane Maria death toll numbers in Puerto Rico.

Andrew Gillum, DeSantis offer sharply different school plans” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — In a news conference in Tallahassee, Gillum defended his proposal to provide a minimum $50,000 starting salary for teachers by increasing the state corporate income tax by $1 billion. DeSantis released a detailed education plan, including a measure that would require 80 percent of school funding to be spent in classrooms and not on administration. He said the plan could help boost teacher pay. Republicans have been criticizing Gillum’s plan to increase the corporate income tax rate from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent to raise $1 billion for schools, providing money for teacher pay and early-education programs. DeSantis’ campaign policy statement said his plan would “cut bureaucratic waste and administrative inefficiency and ensure that money is being spent where it matters most.”

Assignment editors — DeSantis and running mate Jeanette Nuñez will visit the Deeper Root Academy in Central Florida, 10 a.m., 1450 Citrus Oaks Ave., Building 200, Gotha.

Now it’s a party: Gillum to attend Miami-Dade Democrats’ gala” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Miami-Dade Democratic Party has announced Gillum will appear at the group’s Blue Gala event scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29. Gillum will be joined by keynote speaker Julian Castro, rumored to be a potential 2020 presidential candidate, along with several other Democratic lawmakers. The Blue Gala serves as an annual fundraiser for the Miami-Dade Democrats. The group pledges that “every dollar raised will go to get-out-the-vote for Gillum, Bill Nelson, and Democrats up and down the ballot,” according to a news release on the event.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Rick Scott: Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford ‘must receive a fair hearing’” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — Scott, trying to unseat Nelson in November, weighed in this morning on Ford‘s accusation that Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as a high school student in the early 1980s. “Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious,” Scott said in a statement that also rips California Sen. Diane Feinstein and Nelson. “The Judiciary committee needs to seek the truth here,” Scott said. “Truth is not partisan, and truth is more important than politics. These very serious allegations should have been investigated months ago. But Democrat Senator Feinstein pulled a slick Washington trick and intentionally hid this from the Senate during the hearings. Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious.”

Rick Scott says Brett Kavanagh, accuser deserve a “fair hearing.”

Court keep Scott records ruling on hold” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A Tallahassee appeals court agreed to extend a hold on a Sept. 5 ruling that mandated Scott provide the requested information to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been wrangling with the Scott administration over a canceled Medicaid contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The 1st District Court of Appeal also agreed to expedite Scott’s challenge to Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson’s Sept. 5 ruling that said Scott should turn over the information. The order extending a stay on Dodson’s ruling negates a move by attorneys representing the foundation to have Scott found in contempt of court and fined $1,000 for each day he didn’t provide the information. “This earned him a brief reprieve from the contempt,” said Tallahassee attorney Ryan Andrews who is handling the public-records case for the foundation.

Ann Scott’s loan to accountant for Governor’s blind trust may have broken state law” via Dan Christensen of FloridaBulldog.org — Ann Scott’s loan to Cathy Gellatly was disclosed in late July in a federal financial disclosure form filed by Scott as he runs for the U.S. Senate … the loan could have been for as much as $250,000. Gellatly is an accountant at Hollow Brook Wealth Management, the New York boutique investment firm that acts as the trustee of Gov. Scott’s blind trust. Previously, Gellatly was for more than a decade the corporate accountant for Scott’s private investment firm, Richard L. Scott Investments. Florida’s qualified blind trust law prohibits public officers from attempting to influence the management of assets in the blind trust. Likewise, the law generally forbids public officers or persons with a “beneficial interest” in the blind trust, in this case Ann Scott, from having “any direct or indirect communication with the trustee with respect to the trust.”

—“Gov. Scott cancels Naples campaign event after red tide protesters confront him in Venice” via Lisa Conley of the Naples Daily News

’Nelson? … Nelson?’ Scott calls out Bill Nelson’s absences in new ad” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The ad, titled “Empty Chair,” highlights Nelson’s numerous missed Senate Armed Services Committee meetings during his time in the U.S. Senate, and once again bashes Nelson for his lengthy political career. “Bill Nelson’s been running for office in Florida since 1972,” the ad’s narrator begins. “Can you name one thing he’s done? I’ll keep waiting … Bill Nelson votes his party line 89 percent of the time, and that’s when he bothers to show up at all. Nelson skipped 45 percent of the hearings on national security. National security! Bill Nelson doesn’t write laws; he doesn’t even show up. Bill Nelson’s chair is empty. Even when he’s in it.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Polls spell trouble for Nelson despite strong fundamentals, FiveThirtyEight saysNate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight put out a new ranking of incumbent Democratic Senators’ re-election odds, and Nelson was named the “most vulnerable” of the two dozen Dems seeking another term in November … “It might seem surprising that the fundamentals calculation regards Florida’s Bill Nelson as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, since Florida is quite purple and there are Democrats up for re-election in some genuinely red states” … “Nelson has a very good challenger in Florida Gov. Rick Scott; one way our model accounts for candidate quality is by looking at the highest elected office the opponent has held, with races against current or former governors or senators falling into the top category.” FiveThirtyEight also notes the fundraising advantage Scott has given himself by whipping out his checkbook, and states that despite the “fundamentals” of the race — non-polling indicators such as fundraising totals, past margins of victory and incumbency — showing Nelson up 7 points over Scott, only focusing on the polls tells a different story. FiveThirtyEight’s current polls-only estimate predicts Nelson will lose by a tenth of a point on Election Day.

Progressive group pledges support for Nelson, Lauren Baer” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Progressive Turnout Project (PTP), a Chicago-based group aimed at helping elect Democratic candidates, says it will put money toward digital get-out-the-vote efforts supporting the campaigns of Nelson and Baer. The group has raised nearly $14 million this election cycle according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Now, PTP says it will contribute $1.8 million of that to get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts, which will help a total of 31 candidates nationwide. Alex Morgan, the organization’s executive director, says they believe they can make an impact in what could be a pair of close races.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Nancy Soderberg releases 2 ads focusing on health care” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In the first, “Hung Up,” Soderberg talks about her difficulties in getting health insurance with diabetes, considered a pre-existing condition. “I helped start the conversation that brought peace to Northern Ireland, and I was one of the first to say, ‘Let’s get bin Laden,’” Soderberg says. “But when I called numerous insurance companies looking for health coverage, they hung up on me because I have a pre-existing condition. That shouldn’t happen. The second ad, “Unavailable,” criticizes the 2017 Republican health care plan, which would have repealed the Affordable Care Act, and ties it to her Republican opponent Michael Waltz, who said he backs repealing the ACA.

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

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

Stephanie Murphy touts congressional pay-freeze, no-budget no-pay bills” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A new television commercial being launched by Democratic U.S. Rep. Murphy touts legislation she backed to tighten accountability in Congress by restricting pay and future lobbying careers. “We have got to hold Congress accountable,” she declares. The 30-second commercial, “Accountable,” includes video of Murphy first teaching responsibility to her children, saying they can’t get their allowances if they don’t first do their chores. And then she draws a parallel with Congress, saying members must be held accountable for their jobs. The commercial is running in the Orlando market, and a 15-second version will launch as a digital ad on the internet.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Pasco Sheriff endorses Gus Bilirakis — Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco is endorsing Tarpon Springs Republican Bilirakis for re-election to Congress. “Gus is a strong advocate for our Veterans and law enforcement,” said Nocco. “Whenever we need him, we know Gus is there for us. I enthusiastically endorse Gus and look forward to continuing to work with him to make sure Pasco County is a safe place to live, work and raise a family.” Bilirakis responds: “Sheriff Nocco is a proven leader who has made the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office one of the best in the nation. I am humbled by his support, appreciate his friendship and look forward to continuing our partnership to keep our neighborhoods safe.”

To view Nocco’s video endorsement, click on the image below:

Tracye Polson takes off gloves in new HD 15 ad” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — “What side is lobbyist Wyman Duggan on?” That’s the question posed by the first television ad from Republican Duggan’s opponent in the House District 15 general election, Democrat Polson. The 30-second spot contends that “Duggan worked to sell JEA, raising rates, costing the city millions every year” and “wants politicians to appoint our school board.” Polson, meanwhile, draws a contrast to that world of influence with her upbeat narration, noting she stands “with students, who deserve great public schools; with an elected school board, with law enforcement … and as a cancer survivor and health professional, with patients … My opponent can stand with the other lobbyists. I’ll always stand with Florida’s families.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

David Shapiro wants legal cannabis for veterans” via Billy Cox of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Democrat Shapiro, the Siesta Key attorney running against incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan, favors removing marijuana’s Schedule 1 status, which equates the plant with heroin and as something more dangerous than Schedule II cocaine. Buchanan says more research into medical marijuana is warranted, and he does not support changing cannabis’ status. “I think he didn’t hear the stories of the people who were at that symposium you held the other day,” said Shapiro, referring to Buchanan’s position and a Sept. 6 panel discussion stemming from “Warriors Rise Up.” “And the fight of the families of these individuals who went to war for us, and come home and actually take their lives — 20 a day. And the stories are the same across the country. That’s a study in and of itself.”

Shapiro’s son has long rap sheet and a history of racist comments” via Florida Politics — the register of 28-year-old attorney Adam Shapiro’s moving violations ranges from the mundane, such as not having his driver’s license or proof of insurance on hand during traffic stops, to the troubling. In 2012, Shapiro was cited for driving with an open container, and in 2014 he crashed his car while fumbling with his cellphone, causing property damage and injury. Shapiro’s social media history, however, is simply sickening. Among the veritable flotilla of Facebook faux pas are posts where he uses the term “wigger” — a malapropos portmanteau to describe white people who “act black” — as well as other words that require far less linguistic analysis. There’s a diatribe where Shapiro expresses hatred for non-English speakers and another where it’s unclear whether he intended to belittle the LGBTQ community or to broadcast an earnest proposition via an entirely inappropriate medium.

José Oliva, Rob Bradley committees start September strong” via the News Service of Florida — Oliva’s committee, known as Conservative Principles for Florida, reported raising $75,000 from Sept. 1 through Sept. 7 and had nearly $943,000 in cash on hand at the end of the period. Included was a $50,000 contribution from the MHD Committee for Responsive Government, which is linked to the Metz, Husband & Daughton legal and lobbying firm. Bradley’s committee, known as Working for Florida’s Families, reported raising $66,000 from Sept. 1 through Sept. 7 and had about $783,000 in cash on hand at the end of the period. The Bradley committee received contributions including $25,000 from the health insurer Florida Blue.

Keith Perry under fire for Facebook ads on Gainesville utility” via Florida Politics — Gainesville voters will decide in November whether to change the governance of their municipal utility and Republican Sen. Perry of Gainesville has been using advertising — some say deceptively — in a push to get the measure passed. The utility, Gainesville Regional Utilities, is currently under the control of the Gainesville City Commission, but the referendum would transfer its governance to a new panel. That would include five members, appointed by the City Commission, who could serve up to three four-year terms. The measure has been panned by city commissioners, as well as the area’s only Democratic member of the Legislature, Alachua state Rep. Clovis Watson. Despite the opposition, Perry has made posts on social media claiming that Gainesville City Commissioners Harvey Ward and Adrian Hayes-Santos had joined him in backing the referendum.

Tweet, tweet:

GOP leaders boost Dana Young re-election bid” via the News Service of Florida — Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano of Bradenton and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson of Trilby, funneled $100,000 in early September to the effort to re-elect Sen. Young in one of the most closely watched legislative races of the year … The Galvano-led political committee Innovate Florida contributed $75,000, while the Simpson-led committee Jobs for Florida added $25,000. The contributions, dated Sept. 6, went to the committee Friends of Dana Young. Young is battling House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in Hillsborough County’s Senate District 18.

Happening today — Republican Ben Albritton and Democrat Catherine Price, running against each other for Senate District 26, will appear at the Tiger Bay Club of Polk County, 11:30 a.m., Bartow Civic Center, 2250 South Floral Ave., Bartow. Albritton and Price a running to replace state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring in the district that covers DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk counties.

Happening tonight:Pizzo fundraiser 9.19.2018

Anna Eskamani TV ad links tribute to mother and commitment to health care” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The 30-second television commercial, “Fighting for Our Health,” starts out covering much of the same ground as the biographical video Eskamani launched last week on the internet, telling of her mother Nasrin Vishkaee Eskamani‘s story working hard at multiple minimum-wage jobs and then getting cancer, battling it for five years but dying when Anna Eskamani was 13. The commercial will air on cable in the Orlando market. “Countless families like mine struggle to pay for health care,” Eskamani says, as the video turns from reflections on her mother to shots of the daughter in campaigning mode. “So I won’t stop fighting for quality, affordable health insurance, including coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Brad Drake plans 2020 House re-election bid” via the News Service of Florida — State Rep. Drake, a Eucheeanna Republican, opened a campaign account to run again in House District 5, which is made up of Holmes, Jackson, Walton, Washington and part of Bay counties … Drake joined Rep. Sam Killebrew, of Winter Haven, Rep. Ben Diamond, of St. Petersburg, Rep. Michael Grant, of Port Charlotte, and Rep. Evan Jenne, of Dania Beach, in opening accounts to run again in 2020.

— STATEWIDE —

State red tide funding soars to $13 million” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Scott is putting another $4 million toward red tide funding for local communities impacted by the outbreak. The announcement brings the total Florida Department of Environmental Protection funding available so far to $13 million. The DEP has already awarded $1.3 million to Pinellas County and more than $1.5 million to Sarasota County and last month declared a state of emergency. “In Florida, we know that when red tide makes it to our shores, as it has for generations, this naturally-occurring algae can have unexpected and prolonged impacts on our Gulf Coast,” Scott said in a statement.

Florida prison rejects letters from reporter asking about strike activity” via Ben Conarck of the Florida Times-Union — Officials at Okeechobee Correctional Institution, northwest of Port St. Lucie, rejected the letters, which asked questions about whether inmates had participated in strike activity and if they were retaliated against for doing so. The letters were determined to pose a “threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives of the correctional system, or the safety of any person,” according to a form included in the returned mail. After reviewing the correspondence, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections today said the letters were “rejected in error.” The letters were sent in Times-Union-marked envelopes and clearly marked as being from a reporter. The Times-Union wrote to the two men because their names appeared in mailings about the September 2016 prison strikes.

Officials at Okeechobee Correctional Institution refused a letter from Florida Times-Union reporter Ben Conarck. (Image via Florida Times-Union)

Regulators renew emergency rule on race-dog drug testing” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Gambling regulators on Tuesday again said they were “renewing” an emergency rule that allows them to continue testing racing greyhounds for drugs, including cocaine. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, posted a “notice of renewal” in Tuesday’s Florida Administrative Register. The emergency rule on “Procedures for Collecting Samples from Racing Greyhounds” was adopted late last December. In Florida, 11 tracks still conduct live dog racing. An administrative law judge struck down the testing program, saying it was invalid.

Spotted: State Reps. Chris Sprowls, Heather Fitzenhagen, Brad Drake and Holly Raschein this past weekend at the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association’s Annual Conference at the Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg.

Miami Beach gets backing in minimum wage fight” via the News Service of Florida — Former Florida State University President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte and a group of law professors from across the country received approval to file a brief at the Florida Supreme Court backing Miami Beach in a legal battle about a local minimum wage. The Supreme Court approved a request by D’Alemberte, a former dean of the FSU College of Law, and the professors to file a friend-of-the-court brief. Miami Beach is asking the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that blocked a local minimum wage from taking effect. The city in 2016 approved an ordinance that had been planned to set the minimum wage in the city at $10.31 an hour this year, with annual incremental increases to $13.31 an hour in January 2021. But opponents, including the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, challenged the legality of the local minimum wage.

What Courtney Coppola is reading: “Louisiana regulators remove patient cap on marijuana doctors” via The Associated Press — Amid concerns about bottlenecks to access, Louisiana regulators agreed Monday to loosen limits on how many medical marijuana patients doctors authorized to dispense cannabis can treat. Louisiana’s State Board of Medical Examiners voted 8-1 to remove a cap established in 2016 that limited physicians to 100 medical marijuana patients. People seeking the treatment pushed elimination of the cap, worried they would have difficulty getting the medication when it becomes available later this year, estimated around November. Dr. Victor Chou, who has opened a medical marijuana clinic in Baton Rouge, reached the patient cap months ago and said hundreds of people are on his waiting list: “Many of them feel locked out because they either cannot find physicians or the physicians they find already have hit the 100-patient limit.”

— A MAN IN FULL —

After 17 years at The Times (First “St. Petersburg,” then “Tampa Bay”) and many more elsewhere in journalism, Steve Bousquet is hanging up his keyboard.

The newspaper announced Tuesday that its Tallahassee bureau chief will depart the fold after the November election. Though it’s not a retirement, his next move was not disclosed.

Times managing editor Jennifer Orsi broke the news to staff in an internal memo, saying in part that the news veteran, who turns 65 next year, “will long be remembered and impossible to replace.”

Scrum of Florida reporters, including Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet (center). (Image via Bill Cotterell/Tallahassee Democrat)

“He has helmed projects like the deep dive into Gov. Scott’s jobs agenda and exposed how Florida’s top officials used the state’s plane for private purposes,” she wrote. “He has covered elections and election tampering. As [Deputy Managing Editor for Metro, Politics & Business] Amy Hollyfield put it: Steve is ‘capable of writing any story at any time.’ ”

Bousquet’s “many television appearances hearken back to the early part of his career as a reporter for WPLG in Miami,” Orsi added. “After that, he worked for many years in South Florida and in Tallahassee for the Miami Herald, including contributing to the paper’s book on the 2000 presidential recount.”

He joined the Times in 2001 after 17 years at The Herald.

“Former Tallahassee Bureau Chief Lucy Morgan lured him away from the Herald to join us, where one day he would oversee a joint bureau partnering his current and former employers,” Orsi wrote.

Bousquet, a University of Rhode Island graduate, also got a master’s degree in history from Florida State University. He has contributed to two editions of The Almanac of Florida Politics.

Longtime Tallahassee PR man Ron Sachs has known Bousquet since the 1980s, “when we both worked in the golden-era newsroom of WPLG-Channel 10, the ABC station in Miami-Dade/Broward that was then owned by the Post-Newsweek company.” His nickname around the newsroom, playing off his last name, was “Biscuit.”

“He was a rock star from his earliest days there and throughout his storied career,” Sachs said. “He is the single best and most amazing example in the country of a crackerjack, decorated broadcast journalist who most effectively made the transition to being a kick-ass newspaper journalist.

“ … He has performed at the highest level and stayed at the top of his field — there are few others like him today,” Sachs said.

— D.C. MATTERS — 

Political nonprofits must now name many of their donors under federal court ruling after Supreme Court declines to intervene” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Robert Barnes of The Washington Post — The high court did not grant an emergency request to stay a ruling by a federal judge in Washington who had thrown out a decades-old Federal Election Commission regulation allowing nonprofit groups to keep their donors secret unless they had earmarked their money for certain purposes. FEC Chairwoman Caroline Hunter said that the names of certain contributors who give money to nonprofit groups to use in political campaigns beginning Wednesday would have to be publicly reported. Hunter and other conservatives warned that the decision could have a chilling effect just as the fall midterms are heating up. “It’s unfortunate that citizens and groups who wish to advocate for their candidate will now have to deal with a lot of uncertainty less than two months before the election,” Hunter said.

Marco Rubio Twitter-shames chef ‘Salt Bae’ for feeding brutal dictator” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Rubio railed against the celebrity chef known as “Salt Bae” for posting social media videos of him obsequiously feeding lamb to Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, whose nation is reeling from a food-shortage crisis and failed-state economy. “I don’t know who this weirdo #Saltbae is, but the guy he is so proud to host is not the President of #Venezuela. He is actually the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat only once a day & infants are suffering from malnutrition,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. About 15 minutes later, he pointed out that “this guy @nusr_ett who admires dictator @NicolasMaduro so much actually owns a steakhouse in, of all places, #Miami” — which is home to one of the nation’s largest communities of Venezuelan exiles — and the Republican Senator included the phone number and address of the Nusr-Et restaurant on Brickell Avenue. The chef — whose real name is Nusret Gökçe — moments later deleted the videos of him, clad in black and wearing sunglasses at night, gyrating his hips as he sliced lamb chops for the paunchy cigar-puffing dictator at one of his restaurants in the chef’s native Turkey. Gökçe is famous as a social media phenomenon which was the basis of a meme for the dramatic way he salts meat, giving him the nickname “Salt Bae.”

Marco Rubio blasts Chef ‘Salt Bae’ on Twitter, posting his Miami restaurant’s address and phone number.

Rubio wants Justice Department to investigate John Kerry’s recent dealings with Iran” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Kerry, the architect of the Iran Nuclear Deal that most Republicans oppose, was President Obama‘s top diplomat during the latter half of his administration. The Boston Globe reported in May that Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif more than a year after leaving office to discuss ways to keep the deal intact. In recent days, current Secretary of State and Rubio ally Mike Pompeo blasted the meetings as “beyond inappropriate,” and Trump took to Twitter to voice his displeasure.

Francis Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart vowed to fight to solve Florida water woes” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — “Just know we’re not going to rest,” said Rep. Diaz-Balart to hundreds of Realtors at an event organized by a new Water Quality Advisory Task Force created by the Naples Area Board of Realtors. Local Realtors aren’t concerned only about the environmental effects of algae blooms, but also the effects they’re having on the local economy. Some agents have seen sales and rental contracts canceled or put on hold, especially in Lee County, where blue-green algae tied to Lake Okeechobee discharges invaded the Caloosahatchee River and its canals. Now that more than $514 million in federal funding has been secured to speed up the repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, the Florida delegation can move on to other important water-related issues, such as Everglades restoration, Diaz-Balart said.

Feds fine contractors behind deadly FIU bridge collapse for ‘serious’ safety violations” via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — The contractors who designed and built the disastrous Florida International University bridge have been cited by federal authorities for several “serious” safety violations and face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. OSHA cited five companies for seven worker-safety violations, fining them a total of $86,658 in proposed penalties. The companies are designer FIGG Bridge Engineers; builder Munilla Construction Management; Bolton Perez & Associates, which provided engineering and inspection services; Structural Technologies, which specializes in post-tensioning work on bridges; and a concrete contractor, the Structural Group of South Florida. (That last company, based in Homestead, doesn’t appear to be connected in corporate records to Structural Technologies, a national firm.)

— OPINIONS —

Historic midterm trends tell us … Nothing” via Doug Usher of Real Clear Politics — A quick look at House turnover in midterms since 1960 reveals one thing: uncertainty. The average midterm House loss for the sitting president’s party is 22 seats. Yet the actual numbers have been all over the map, ranging from +8 in 2002 for George W. Bush to -63 in 2010 for Obama. GDP growth was at 4.2 percent in the second quarter — the highest since 2014 — which should help Republicans, right? Yes, that’s a strong number. But looking at second-quarter GDP over the past 58 years shows no correlation to House gains or losses. Trump’s approval rating is in the low 40s — which means a blue wave is coming. Possibly — but not necessarily. When the president is sitting above 50 percent approval, his party tends to perform better — with a range of -12 to +8. None of those numbers would flip the House.

Legislators, step up and save the land and water conservation fund” via Richard King for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — During my tenure at NPS, I bore witness to natural wonders, the beauty of which is impossible to describe in words. That’s why I am increasingly troubled by reports that Congress may not act to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a vital conservation program which is set to expire on Sept. 30. Since 1966, LWCF dollars have helped protect and enhance important places in every state in our great nation, from wildlife refuges to local ball fields, and everything in between. That’s why it should come as no surprise that LWCF has enjoyed wide bipartisan support for decades — especially since the program draws absolutely no tax dollars from our pockets. Instead, LWCF invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing into communities across the country. The impacts of losing the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Florida would be nothing short of catastrophic for our lands and waters and the communities that depend on them.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Nick Van Der Linden takes over comm’s for Department of HealthVan Der Linden was recently named the agency’s interim Communications Director. He first joined the department in 2014 as a Public Information Specialist, his online bio says. “He had an active role in the daily operations of the media office, including the management of media inquiries and responses,” it says. Later that year, Van Der Linden stepped in as interim Deputy Press Secretary and speechwriter. He also has served as an operations manager with the Bureau of Performance Assessment and Improvement. Van Der Linden received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Auburn University in Alabama. He replaces Devin Galetta, now deputy communications director to CFO Jimmy Patronis.

ICYMI elsewhere, because this was purposefully not given to Florida Politics: “Personnel note: Steve Schale joins Tallahassee lobbying firm” — The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners on Tuesday announced the addition of Schale, a Democratic strategist and consultant. “We have admired Steve’s vast and nuanced understanding of Florida politics over the years, and we are excited to have him join our family,” said senior partner Al Cardenas, a former chair of Florida’s Republican Party. “Steve’s thoughtful and methodical approach to advocacy makes him a perfect fit for our team.” In 2008, Schale directed the Obama/Biden campaign in Florida, returning in 2012 as a Senior Advisor to the re-election, a news release said. He was a Senior Advisor and national spokesperson for the effort to draft Joe Biden for President in 2016. Today he provides advice to many clients, including companies like Walt Disney World, AT&T, State Farm, and the Florida Hospital Association.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Davis Bean, John Delaney, The Fiorentino Group: Estuary

Dean Cannon, Kirk Pepper, GrayRobinson: Cassidy Holdings

Claudia Davant, Amanda Gorman, Adams St. Advocates: Florida Afterschool Network, HealthPlan Data Solutions

Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: City of New Port Richey

Dan Lopez: Best Buy

Jessica Love, GrayRobinson: Centene D/B/A Sunshine Health

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Kalkomey Enterprises

Jason Welty: Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation

Linda Chapin, Harold Mills to lead Jerry Demings transition team” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The bipartisan, 37-member team is full of leaders of Central Florida businesses and nonprofits including those from Walt Disney World, Adventist Health System, Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, Tavistock Group, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida, and Full Sail University. Also on board are some major political and public policy influence leaders such as Tim GiulianiDerek BruceAngel de la PortillaJim PughWayne Rich, and Kelly Cohen. Their focus will be to provide counsel to Demings as he lays the groundwork to reorganize the Orange County Mayor’s Office and the county administration in advance of his December swearing-in to succeed eight-year Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

— ALOE —

SeaWorld, ex-execs must pay $5M to settle ‘Blackfish’ claim” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — SeaWorld and two former executives agreed to pay more than $5 million to settle federal fraud claims that they misled investors about the negative impact the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” had on business. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed the complaint in federal court in New York as well as the proposed settlements, which are subject to court approval. The SEC’s complaint alleged SeaWorld and former CEO James Atchison made misleading and false statements or omissions in SEC filings, earnings releases, and calls about the documentary’s impact on the company’s reputation and business from December 2013 to August 2014.

Watch the first trailer for Captain Marvel, Marvel’s next big film” via Andrew Liptak of The Verge — There’s a lot of anticipation for this movie after the end of Avengers: Infinity War. During the end credits scene, we saw Nick Fury send out a message via a pager before he dissolves into dust. Before the scene ends, we get a glimpse of the screen, featuring Captain Marvel’s trademark logo. Clearly, Captain Marvel is going to play a big part in what’s to come in the next Avengers film. Earlier this month, Entertainment Weekly ran a big feature on the film, officially showing off Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) in her costume for the first time. The feature showed off some new details about the film, explaining that Danvers will already have her powers. (This won’t be an origin story.) She’s left Earth to join a team known as Starforce, which is led by a character played by Jude Law. The 1990s-set film will also feature a younger Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), and it will feature Danvers’ time as a pilot for the U.S. Air Force.

To view the trailer, click on the image below:

Happy birthday to Kate Bascom‘s dad, Mike, as well as Ali Glisson of Strategic Property Partners, the indispensable Andy Marlette, and Josh Wolf.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.11.18

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

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

We apologize for today’s late Sunburn, but with a hurricane bearing down on the East Coast and today being the anniversary of the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, we just didn’t want to get out of bed. Anyway, here is the latest.

Hurricane Florence has slightly increased in speed as it heads toward the U.S. East Coast.The National Hurricane Center said Tuesday morning that Florence is moving toward the west-northwest near 15 mph (24 kmh) and the storm will continue a slight increase in speed during the next couple of days.

The Miami-based center says the storm’s center was located about 410 miles (660 kilometers) south of Bermuda and about 975 miles (1570 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 140 mph (220 kph) as it moved west-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).

Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station. Photo credit: AP.

Rick Scott offers help to states as hurricane looms” via the News Service of Florida — Scott offered resources and assistance to the governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia as Hurricane Florence threatened the Southeast U.S. coast. Florida Division of Emergency Management officials have also been in contact with South Carolina … Due to the storm, Scott waived weight requirements for emergency supply and response vehicles through Sept. 17 and put the Florida National Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law-enforcement officers on standby to help in areas affected by the storm.

Hurricane Florence undercuts Miami Beach convention bid” via Natasha Korecki and David Siders of POLITICO Florida — Hurricane Florence isn’t great for Houston. But it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Miami Beach. The two cities are finalists to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention. While both face the threat of flooding and downpours as the storm gains steam this week, it’s Miami Beach that has the most to lose. Five Democrats with knowledge of the selection process tell POLITICO that at least some site committee members consider the race to be between Houston and Milwaukee. And that was before this week’s threatening weather. Heat, humidity and hurricanes were already among the factors weighing against Miami Beach. Some members worried about traffic and Miami Beach’s hard-partying reputation, which might muddy convention messaging. They’re also not crazy about the consideration of cruise ships as options for housing some delegates. Finally, there’s sensitivity to hosting yet another convention in the Eastern time zone while trying to portray a party that’s not anchored on the coasts.

Flags at half-staff to honor victims of Sept. 11, 2001 — Gov. Scott ordered flags at half-staff Tuesday “in honor and remembrance of the victims of 9/11.” The governor directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff “at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the state of Florida,” he said in a statement. The flags will remain at half-staff until sunset. His Patriot Day proclamation is here.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

—@AdamSmithTimes: 2 lines from @SenBillNelson in today’s @TB_Times edit board I’ve not heard from other candidates: 1. “Check the Federal Register.” 2. “Remember Smoot-Hawley”

@MarcACaputo: Not being part of a do-little Congress that specializes in making you take bad votes that can haunt a campaign seems like kind of a no-brainer, especially if the candidate is leaving Congress anyway in January

@Fineout: A governor can’t appoint someone to a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. It can only be filled by election. Article I Sec. 2.

@Rob_Bradley: Congratulations to @USouthFlorida on its huge jump in the public university rankings! The region owes a huge thanks to @DanaYoungFL for being a tireless and effective advocate for the Bulls.

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 11; First day of fall — 11; Future of Florida Forum — 15; Government shutdown — 20; FSU vs. UM football game — 25; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 28; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 42; MLB World Series begins — 42; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 43; Halloween — 50; General Election Day — 56; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 70; Thanksgiving — 72; Black Friday — 73; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 77; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 154; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 176; 2020 General Election — 784.

— TOP STORY (WE GUESS) —

Ron DeSantis resigns from Congress to focus on run for Governor” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeSantis has announced his resignation from Congress in order to focus his efforts on campaigning against Democrat Andrew Gillum to be Florida’s next Governor. “One of my guiding principles during my tenure in Congress has been to protect the taxpayers that I represent,” begins DeSantis’ resignation letter. It was sent to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. “As the Republican nominee for Governor of Florida, it is clear to me that I will likely miss the vast majority of our remaining session days for this Congress. Under these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to accept a salary.” DeSantis noted his resignation would be retroactive to Sept. 1.

Ron DeSantis bows out of Congress to focus on the Governor’s race.

>>>Burn via Volusia County Democratic Chair Jewel Dickson: “It’s a good thing that Ron DeSantis’ resignation received so much attention from the press because, otherwise, the people of District 6 would never have realized he was gone. DeSantis has spent his time in DC voting to take away our Medicare, cut our Social Security, and raise our health care costs. DeSantis never listened to the people of this district — because he didn’t care about us. DeSantis avoided town halls, refused constituent meetings, and then voted against our interests in Washington. It’s always been easier to find him on Fox News than anywhere in Volusia County. Ron DeSantis quit on his constituents years ago — and he won’t be missed.”

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

DeSantis reels in most matching funds” via the News Service of Florida — Florida’s matching-funds program pumped $142,665 more into the governor’s race on Friday. The program, which matches contributions of $250 or less for gubernatorial and Cabinet candidates who qualify, sent a check worth $79,488 to DeSantis and $63,177 to Gillum. DeSantis, a Northeast Florida congressman, has now received $1.055 million from the program, while Gillum, the Tallahassee Mayor, has collected $558,241 … Former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, the Republican candidate for attorney general, received $35,574 on Friday. She has received $380,175 from the program. Her Democratic opponent, state Rep. Sean Shaw, didn’t get a check on Friday but has received $222,702 from the state.

Florida Democrats hit ‘right-wing extremist’ DeSantis on health care” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Florida Democratic Party (FDP) is out with a new campaign hitting Republican gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Rep. DeSantis on his long-running opposition to the Affordable Care Act. The FDP released a new video titled “DeSantisCare,” as well as a new website looking to highlight DeSantis’ health care record. We reached out to the DeSantis campaign for comment on the FDP’s efforts and are awaiting a reply. The video and website pose as mock ads for the new “DeSantisCare.” While purporting to sell viewers on the idea of DeSantisCare, the new video and site are littered with jabs at the Republican’s health care proposals.

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Assignment editors — DeSantis will attend the Tampa Hispanic Outreach Roundtable hosted by the Tampa Bay Hispanic Republican Leaders, 1 p.m., La Teresita Restaurant, Second Floor, 3248 W. Columbus Drive, Tampa.

Andrew Gillum could waive secrecy in ethics case but hasn’t yet” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — So far, Gillum has opted not to do so. However, his lawyer, Barry Richard of Tallahassee, said Gillum will waive secrecy eventually, perhaps after commission staff has prepared its report on the investigation. Gillum could lift that shroud of secrecy with the stroke of a pen. Under Florida law, officials facing ethics complaints must request in writing that the records and proceedings be made public. “The reason for the confidentiality is anybody can file anything with the commission,” Richard said. “And it’s not fair to the person complained against if all that stuff is made public before the commission makes a determination of probable cause. All you would be doing is … allowing candidates, for example, to use it as a weapon against their opponent by having people file stuff.”

Florida Conservation Voters endorses Gillum — The organization’s board of directors voted unanimously in favor of Gillum, the Democratic nominee and Tallahassee Mayor, citing his strong commitment to protecting Florida’s environment. “Mayor Gillum has proved that he has the leadership and vision to defend Florida’s environment,” said Aliki Moncrief, the executive director, in a statement. “Around the world, Florida is known for our beaches, parks, and remarkable natural areas. Sadly, we are also now known for letting entire ecosystems collapse due to lenient laws and little oversight. Mayor Gillum is the only candidate who has a plan to hold big polluters accountable and make sure we do everything in our power to protect our state from climate change and sea-level rise.”

Don’t forget Florida’s all-important white vote” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — They account for roughly three of every four voters in midterm elections, and they vote heavily Republican. How heavily is the difference between who wins and loses. “Having a surge in black voters is not significant because if you increase the black vote by 10 percent, it’s only 1 percent of the electorate,” said Democratic consultant Barry Edwards, who analyzed turnout by race over Florida’s last eight elections Among the 51 percent of voters who turned out in Florida’s last midterm election, 73 percent were non-Hispanic white voters, 10 percent Hispanic and 12 percent black. Given that the last two governor’s races were decided by a single percentage point, an energized African-American electorate can indeed decide an election. But in sheer numbers, white voters still matter most. Gillum has virtually no chance of winning a majority of white Florida voters. A key to a Democratic candidate’s victory in Florida and nationally is to limit the size of their loss among white voters.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

John Oliver took Scott to task for disenfranchising felons.” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Oliver called Florida the “disenfranchisement capital of America, noting how more than 1 million Floridians — and more than one in five black Floridians — can’t vote because they’re felons. The state is one of only a few that doesn’t automatically grant the right to vote upon completing a sentence. Oliver, in a brutal takedown of the process, said, “It’s like finishing a triathlon only for Scott to say, ‘No, it’s a quadathon. Now you have to learn Mandarin … It doesn’t really seem fair.”

To view the video, click on the image below:

Scott plays ‘keep away from Trump’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Scott — who was frequently by Trump’s side at the White House and at his resorts in Palm Beach and Bedminster, New Jersey, in 2017 — began putting more distance between himself and the unpopular president this year as he geared up for a Senate run that Trump himself had repeatedly urged him to make. Scott also chaired the super PAC backing Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. Now Scott seldom mentions the president and won’t commit to having an event with him specifically. “I want everybody that believes in what I’m going to do to come help me win,” Scott told a Tampa Bay Times reporter last week when asked if he would like to have Trump campaign for him. Scott isn’t completely snubbing the president. He flew down from Washington on Air Force One to Tampa with Trump in July and then accompanied Trump to an official presidential visit to Tampa Technical High School — an event where their exposure to TV cameras was limited.

It’s not Dunder Mifflin, but … : Gov. Rick Scott made a stop at Mac Paper in Jacksonville on his statewide “Make Washington Work” Bus Tour.

Federal complaint alleges Scott illegally benefited from anti-Bill Nelson Super PAC ads” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The complaint from End Citizens United, to be filed with the Federal Elections Commission, says that ads aired by New Republican PAC in May and June violated campaign finance laws because they helped Scott in his Senate race. Though the ads didn’t mention the Republican, they attacked Sen. Nelson … The timing of the ads were suspect, End Citizens United says, because they came just months after Scott stepped down as chairman of New Republican PAC. The complaint says that the timeline “demonstrates that Rick Scott began developing political and communications strategy for a potential campaign for Senate while serving as a chair of a super PAC that immediately after his announcement began running advertisements to aid his campaign.”

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will continue his statewide “Make Washington Work” bus tour, 2:15 p.m., Eisenhower Rec Center, 3560 Buena Vista Blvd., The Villages.

— MORE NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Sean Shaw comes out of primary with financial edge” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Shaw, the Democratic nominee for Attorney General, began the general-election campaign with a nearly $500,000 financial advantage over his Republican opponent, Moody. But don’t expect Moody, who depleted her cash in a grueling primary, to struggle to catch up. Moody’s campaign announced a Sept. 18 fundraiser at the Governors Club in Tallahassee. The invitation suggests a minimum contribution $3,000 for the event, which includes as co-chairs Brian Ballard … former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux; and lobbyist Michael Corcoran, brother of outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Shaw had about $470,000 in cash on hand in his campaign account and nearly $78,000 in the political committee Sean Shaw for Florida, according to his most recent filings.

In wake of bank account closures, Charlie Crist joins Nikki Fried in call for marijuana policy reform” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Fried teamed up with Crist in a call for reform of federal medical marijuana policy. Fried, a Fort Lauderdale-based lawyer, is one of the state’s most prominent lobbyists for expanding access to medical marijuana. Fried and Crist used the account closures to underscore their stance on protecting state programs from federal interference. Fried’s official campaign account was terminated twice in the past few weeks — once by Wells Fargo and once by BB&T. A review of Fried’s campaign finances shows a $1,000 donation from Savara Hastings, executive director of the Florida-based American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association and $3,000 from Jake Bergman, CEO and founder of Atlanta-based Surterra Holdings LLC. Fried said that since her account closures made national news last week, her campaign has been approached by other state-chartered credit institutions who have “offered an olive branch” … “The silver lining is that it became a national issue,” she said.

Charlie Crist, Nikki Fried team up for medical marijuana policy reforms.

Save the date — Republican Matt Caldwell will hold a campaign fundraiser and VIP dinner in his bid for Agriculture Commissioner, Thursday, September 20, Blackbeard’s Ranch, Myakka City. For more information, contact Sandy Taylor at (850) 570-9363 or Sandy@TaylorStratFlorida.com.

Jimmy Patronis continues building financial edge” via the News Service of Florida — State Chief Financial Officer Patronis began September with $4.37 million in two campaign accounts, with the addition of $180,900 in contributions in the days immediately following the Aug. 28 primary elections. The contributions included $25,000 from Miami-based Dosal Tobacco Corp. and $25,000 from the Coral Springs-based insurance company Pearl Holding Group. As of Aug. 31, Patronis had raised a combined total of $5.16 million for the two accounts. Since the primary, he also has received two checks worth a total of $8,010 from the state matching-funds program. In all, he has received $305,105 through the program.

PAC organizes to oppose tax amendments 1, 5” via Florida Politics — Two tax-related proposed constitutional amendments, placed on the November ballot by the Legislature, would shift the burden from the wealthy and corporations to working families, a newly formed political action committee complained Monday. Floridians for Tax Fairness, registered with the state on Wednesday by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Education Association, AFSCME, Progress Florida and Sierra Club of Florida, issued a written statement denouncing Amendments 1 and 5. Amendment 5 would make any legislation imposing new or increased taxes or fees contingent on a two-thirds vote by the House and Senate. “Passage of this amendment means any attempt to eliminate special tax breaks for profitable corporations would be easily blocked by a few bought-and-paid-for politicians,” the group said.

Florida Supreme Court refuses to rehear Amendment 6 challenge — The justices made good on their promise not to reconsider their vote to keep Amendment 6, the proposed victims’ rights measure, on the ballot. Harvey Sepler, the attorney representing one of the two private citizens challenging the ballot title and summary language, tested the court’s determination in a motion filed Friday, the same day the court ruled. He argued that a strict reading of the Florida Constitution allows the CRC to offer amendments either to the entire document or a single part. That contradicted a line of precedents by which the high court has allowed the CRC to “bundle” multiple changes into single amendments. The justices disposed of the motion in a single sentence: “Pursuant to this court’s order dated Sept. 7, 2018, the motion for rehearing is hereby stricken as unauthorized.”

Assignment editors — A group of Florida’s constitutional officers — Sheriffs, Tax Collectors, Clerks of the Court, and Property Appraisers — are holding a news conference on Amendment 10, known as the Protection Amendment, to launch a statewide education initiative, 10 a.m., The Old Capitol (on the steps facing the courtyard). On-site contact: Nanette Schimpf (PIO for Florida Sheriffs Association) at (850) 528-2639.

Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 picks up firefighters’ endorsement — The campaign supporting passage of Amendment 13, which seeks to put an end to live dog racing in Florida, has been endorsed by the Brevard County Professional Firefighters, Local 2969. In a letter, President Richard Pierce told the group his organization “agree(s) that the protection of animal rights in this case is both an ethical and moral obligation. We support voting yes on Amendment 13!” The proposed constitutional amendment would ban wagering on greyhound racing beginning in 2021. It would not, however, affect other gambling now at race tracks.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Poll: Nancy Soderberg neck and neck with Mike Waltz” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and showed Waltz earning 47 percent of the vote to Soderberg’s 46 percent. The firm surveyed 400 likely voters Sep. 4-6. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points. While the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato both peg this as a “likely Republican” seat, FiveThirtyEight sees a closer race, projecting Waltz to win by less than four percentage points.

Nancy Soderberg is running neck-and-neck with Mike Waltz.

Soderberg campaign reaches $2M mark — The campaign of former U.S. Ambassador and Democratic congressional candidate Soderberg announced raised more than $2 million this cycle, with over 7,500 contributions and the majority of which $100 or under. Soderberg said: “Florida families in this district have made it clear they are ready for new leadership. They know they can count on me to protect protections for pre-existing conditions because I’ve lived with one. They know they can count on me to protect Social Security and Medicare instead of threatening to make deep cuts, because I listen to seniors who are worried about their ability to retire. I’m proud to fight for folks here and I’m proud of the movement we’re building together.”

Stephanie Murphy, Mike Miller campaigns tussle over debates” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — A spokeswoman for Miller said he’s agreed to invitations from WFTV-Channel 9, WESH-Channel 2 and the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida and claimed Murphy’s staff tried to limit the number of debates. A Murphy spokeswoman, however, said her campaign was proposing multiple debates across several different mediums, including broadcast, print and radio, and wasn’t trying to limit the number at all. In a statement, Miller said he’s “willing to debate my opponent as many times as we are invited, so I am hopeful that other highly respected media outlets like WKMG, Univision, WOFL, Spectrum13 and the Orlando Sentinel will sponsor or co-sponsor debates.”

Assignment editors — Murphy will honor Vietnam veterans as part of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, 10 a.m., Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8207, 1520 N. Ronald Reagan Blvd., Longwood.

Save the date:

BusinessForce endorses 12 in Central Florida races” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The organization that spun off from Orlando Inc., the Orlando Area Chamber of Commerce, recommended the election of Republican David Smith House District 28, and the re-elections of Republican state Reps. Scott Plakon in HD 29; Bob Cortes in HD 30; Jennifer Sullivan in HD 31; Mike La Rosa in HD 42; Bobby Olszewski in HD 44; and Rene Plasencia in HD 50. BusinessForce also made three endorsements in races for open seats on the Orange County Commission: Christine Moore in District 2; Mayra Uribe in District 3; and Susan Makowski in District 4. BusinessForce announced it was backing Jay Zembower in the District 2 race for the Seminole County Commission. And for the Orange County School Board, BusinessForce endorsed Melissa Byrd for the District 7 seat.

Julián Castro PAC backs Emma Collum in HD 93” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Opportunity First, a PAC created by former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Castro, has now thrown its support behind Collum in House District 93. Castro led HUD under the Barack Obama administration and has garnered buzz for a possible future presidential run. Now, his group has endorsed Collum in an effort to flip the HD 93 seat to the Democrats. “Emma is a strong leader that will spur economic progress, protect our most sacred rights and be a model for inclusive leadership,” Castro said in a statement.

— STATEWIDE —

USF trustees will move quickly to replace president Judy Genshaft” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times – As Genshaft announced on Monday that she would step down, Ramil, the retired president and CEO of TECO Energy, was among many local leaders wondering who could possibly fill the shoes of the only leader USF has known in nearly two decades. Ideally, he said, he wants a successor whose No. 1 priority is, like Genshaft’s, student success. Genshaft’s retirement has set in motion a national search for her replacement. And it will move fast, USF board of trustees Chairman Brian Lamb said. State rules require “transparent, robust” searches for public university presidents.

USF’s new leader will need political savvy, fundraising skill” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — The USF search will be watched closely by Florida business and political leaders. It will unfold at a critical time in the history of a school that began life in 1955, without a mascot or a student dormitory. USF has made major strides in its long-sought path to “pre-eminence,” which brings prestige and state money. It is aggressively conducting research that can lead to lucrative patents and is consolidating campuses, building a downtown Tampa medical school and trying to elevate an athletic program in a state devoted to the Seminoles and Gators. The next USF president might be an academic who’s worlds away, but history suggests it might also be a member of the Legislature or a homegrown political leader who can secure millions from the state Capitol. The search will be in the hands of 11 people on USF’s board of trustees, most of them with political ties to Gov. Scott

The replacement for USF’s Judy Genshaft needs political, fundraising savvy.

Federal judge dismisses lawsuit claiming beach access law creates ‘cloud’ over property — A federal judge has tossed out a Walton County property owner’s lawsuit challenging a controversial state law that could allow public access to the beach near his home. The Legislature earlier this year created a campaign issue when it passed FL HB 631 (18R), which overturned an ordinance in Walton County providing the public with “customary use” access to designated beaches on private property. The new law requires judicial approval of individual customary use designations. The Walton County Commission is considering seeking judicial approval for new beach access designations as provided in the law change. But property owner Walter W. Blessey Jr. asked a federal court to determine that the state law is unconstitutional. In an order, U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers said the county no longer has an ordinance in place affecting Blessey’s property. And the judge wrote that Blessey had offered no legal support for his claim that the state process has placed a “cloud” over his property. “Essentially, Blessey asks the court to address his constitutional challenge to the common law doctrine in the abstract, which it may not do,” Rodgers wrote.

Mike Huckabee’s role in pushing controversial beach access law” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Huckabee owns a beachfront home in Blue Mountain Beach, an upscale community in Walton. He is a man of strong opinions, and his view is clearer after an email exchange with Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo of Naples, sponsor of the Senate version of a beach access law (HB 631) that has stirred intense controversy. On Jan. 12, Huckabee wrote an email to Passidomo, thanking her for her sponsorship of a bill “involving the customary use abuse by Walton Co.” … “I’m one of those beachfront owners whose title goes to mean high water line,” he wrote. “Walton Co. taxes me on that property and I pay handsomely for it! I actually don’t mind people who simply want to enjoy the beach and certainly not walk on or past. … What beachfront owners object to is the illegal taking of taxed and titled property without compensation or even consideration. In fact, we are demonized as ‘greedy, selfish and rich’ owners who want to deprive the poor of their ‘rights.’”

Coalition aims to ban assault weapons by constitutional amendment” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Two organizations created in the aftermath of February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have joined together in an effort to ban assault weapons in the state of Florida. Americans for Gun Safety Now (AFGSN) and Ban Assault Weapons Now (BAWN) say they have combined forces to create a bipartisan coalition to ban those weapons, with the goal being passage of an amendment in 2020. BAWN had already announced the push for an amendment earlier this year. Now, AFGSN says it will join those efforts by “spending its resources educating Florida residents and opinion leaders on this critical issue,” according to a release obtained by Florida Politics.

More Florida counties are voting to raise local taxes for schools. Is it a message to lawmakers?” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times – Does Florida give enough money to its public schools, or not? That debate still rages, and is shaping up to be an issue in the governor’s race. But many voters have already addressed it more directly in the primary election, and many more will get the same opportunity in November. Around the state, even in some heavily conservative counties, voters are opening their wallets to lend extra support to their schools. Of 10 local education funding measures on the Aug. 28 ballot, every single one passed.

Most Florida nursing homes don’t have required generators despite new law after Irma deaths” via Melanie Payne of the Fort Myers News-Press — More than three-quarters of Florida’s 684 licensed nursing homes haven’t fully complied with a state law requiring a generator capable of keeping temperatures at or below 81 degrees for 96-hours. Even with an extended Sept. 1 deadline, only 170 nursing homes have the generators. And just under half of the state’s 3,441 licensed assisted living facilities have fully complied with the installation requirement, according to information from the Agency for Health Care Administration, which licenses health care businesses such as nursing homes and assisted-living centers.

Patronis seeks roundtables on AOB reform — Florida’s Chief Financial Officer had called on Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to host the talks, to let stakeholders discuss the best ways to target assignment of benefits fraud and abuse. Patronis recently blocked a proposed rate increase that Citizens attributed to rising costs for fixing non-weather water damage, and to litigation. He noted that AOB lawsuits increased from 400 in 2006 to more than 28,000 in 2016. “When used correctly with reputable contractors, assigning your benefits over isn’t a bad practice,” Patronis said. “However, in the hands of bad actors who want to make a quick buck, that could mean skyrocketing insurance rates for everyone.”

Feces-filled sewage flooded the streets. The city did nothing for 10 days, records show” via Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — For ten days, untreated sewage leaked into flooded streets in the industrial zone of Opa-locka, a nearly-bankrupt South Florida city so dysfunctional it has spent the last two years under a governor-decreed state of emergency. Each day on their way to work, hundreds of people slogged through the murky, foul-smelling water, unaware of the increased risk of dysentery, E. coli, and meningitis. Miami-Dade County tests confirmed the early August floodwater near the pump contained 50 times the amount of fecal matter that would close a beach. (One test showed 3,450 enterococci — bacteria — per 100 mL of water. Beaches close at 70.) Now, the system is too deteriorated to be patched, and the city doesn’t have the money to replace it. Sometimes it doesn’t even have enough money to pay the county for water and sewer services.

Pre-reveal games company plans to continue appeal — The owner of the Jacksonville company that distributes “pre-reveal games” says her attorneys will ask an appellate court to reconsider its recent ruling against them. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal last month found that the specific version called Version 67 “is an illegal slot machine.” Gator Coin II’s Kathey Bright Fanning, daughter of the late founder Bud Bright, on Monday said her attorneys plan to file a motion for rehearing en banc, or before the entire 15-judge court. Their argument: The games “preview” outcomes as to their winning or losing nature, meaning there’s no element of chance. The panel, however, said: “The element of chance is inherent in it given that it has a preset win/loss ratio.” Fanning said whatever happens in the courts, she plans to return to Tallahassee next Session to persuade lawmakers to expressly legalize the machines: “The whole thing has gotten so crazy out-of-hand.”

Services set for longtime lobbyist Richard ‘Dick’ Hollahan” via the News Service of Florida — A funeral service is scheduled Wednesday in Bristol for Hollahan, who lobbied in the Capitol for decades before retiring in 2010. Hollahan, 86, died Friday in Tallahassee after a lengthy illness … The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Rock Bluff Assembly of God Church in Bristol. A Jacksonville native, Hollahan worked early in his career for Secretary of State Tom Adams and then became an assistant to House Speaker Fred Schultz, according to the obituary. Hollahan later lobbied for numerous clients.

— REMEMBERING IRMA — 

The path of Hurricane Irma last year spared many urban areas from utter destruction, but still left its mark on some rural Floridians’ homes and lives.

Lisa Marteeny lost her husband to the storm. Tina Collins suffered extensive flooding damage to her historic Southwest Florida home that’s slept former presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

Their stories are included in environmental reporter Amy Green’s latest piece for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Everglades City: The subject of the commemorative story “bore the brunt of this second landfall when the hurricane pushed a devastating storm surge into the remote village. Everything not on stilts flooded.”

Climate change: The flooding in Everglades City could’ve happened anywhere, Green writes. In a warming world, it’s something every coastal community in Florida fears. “There are a lot of different ways that if we acknowledge these problems now that we can actually help people save money, help keep people safer and make for a future where hopefully some of these events are less catastrophic,” Thomas Ruppert, a coastal planning specialist for Florida Sea Grant, tells Green.

The numbers: In Everglades City, “60 percent of homes were condemned,” according to Green. A year has passed since the storm struck the town, and nearly a quarter of residents have yet to return.

— OPINIONS —

On second thought, Scott’s Hurricane Irma response wasn’t so great” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Favorable first impressions last fall of his response before and after Irma helped Scott as he prepared to challenge Nelson. We noted at the time that the governor “quickly visited hardest-hit areas to focus relief efforts and share information.” At times, we said, Scott “presented not only as a leader, but a likable leader.” Since then, however, it has become clear that the governor didn’t perform very well. Let’s start with calls to that cellphone. Scott’s office deleted them. A spokeswoman claimed that the action was legal because the calls involved “transitory” information and thus did not need to be retained. “Each voicemail,” she said, “was collected by the governor’s staff and given to the proper agency for handling. Every call was returned.” Because of the deletion, however, there’s no way for the public to verify those claims, especially regarding the nursing home.

Joe Henderson: Judy Genshaft did what many believed impossible at USF” via Florida Politics — She has been relentless. Focused. She was the center of nearly every room she entered. She had a vision for USF that probably sounded ridiculous when she arrived on campus in 2000, but then made it happen. She wanted to turn an urban commuter college filled with nontraditional students into what it is today — a pre-eminent university with rigid admission and academic standards, an economic powerhouse, and focused on helping guide the Tampa Bay region into whatever the future brings. By any measure, she has succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations except maybe her own, but her era is coming to an end. On her watch, the six-year graduation rate from 38 percent to 70 percent. Admission standards got much tougher, a shock to some in the community who always looked at USF as a fallback option if their sons or daughters couldn’t get into Florida or Florida State. I’m sure she’ll be given all the appropriate honors and the proper send-off before she leaves. I have no doubt we’ll see her name on the side of a building or two at some point … all I have to say is this: good luck following this dynamo of a lady named Judy Genshaft.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Carlotta Stauffer retiring as PSC clerk — Stauffer, clerk to the Florida Public Service Commission, is stepping down effective Dec. 31, a commission spokesperson said Monday. Adam Teitzman, a former PSC attorney supervisor, is returning and will replace Stauffer upon her retirement. The commission regulates investor-owned utilities. Stauffer has been clerk since 2013, and was an executive assistant for the commission in 2011-13, according to her LinkedIn page. Before that, she was a senior management analyst supervisor at the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of State Lands and was an assistant to the DEP’s Deputy Secretary, among a string of state jobs going back to the 1980s. She’s also a Realtor and licensed real estate agent at Ochlockonee Bay Realty in Panacea.

Personnel note: Nichole Geary heads to Floridian Partners” via Florida Politics — Geary, formerly the Florida Department of Health’s (DOH) General Counsel, is joining Floridian Partners, LLC’s government affairs and law practice, the firm announced Monday. Geary, who will be in the firm’s Tallahassee office, will focus on health care policy, medical cannabis regulation, strategic business consulting, and general legislative and executive branch advocacy under the firm’s government affairs division. And, under the private practice of law division, Geary will join attorneys Charles Dudley and Jorge Chamizo, with whom she will focus on health care regulatory compliance and operations. “Nichole’s unique legal, regulatory, and public policy experience in both the private and public sector blend in very well with our firm culture of being subject matter experts and advocates for our clients,” said Dudley, Floridian Partners’ managing partner in Tallahassee.

Congratulations to Nichole Geary.

Personnel note: Tampa Bay Times’ Alex Leary heads to Wall Street Journal — Leary, the Times’ Washington, D.C. correspondent, will now be reporting there for The Wall Street Journal, he announced Monday on Twitter. Adam Smith, the political editor at the Times, also tweeted that the WSJ had hired one of “the nation’s best political reporters” with its decision to bring Leary on board. At the Journal’s Washington bureau, Leary joins Michael Bender, a fellow alumnus of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau. While in Tallahassee, Leary’s investigative reporting helped bring down former House Speaker Ray Sansom, who was eventually tried on corruption charges. The case was dropped mid-trial in 2011 when a judge ruled a key witness for the prosecution could not testify.

— ALOE —

Happy birthday to the Florida Justice Association’s Jeff Porter.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons