Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray, and Jim Rosica
GOV. RICK SCOTT ORDERS FLAGS TO HALF-STAFF IN WAKE OF BRUSSELS ATTACKS via Christina Webb of the Palm Beach Post – The flags will be at half-staff until sunset Monday, according to a proclamation signed by Scott. Scott also tweeted a response to the attacks, saying he is thankful to military and law enforcement officers “for keeping us safe.”
TWEET, TWEET: @KionneMcghee: FL Senator Dwight Bullard was in the area where the bombings occurred in Brussels. He is safe.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING — HILLARY CLINTON, DONALD TRUMP TRADE WINS WITH RIVALS IN WESTERN STATES
Under a fresh cloud of overseas violence, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton traded wins with their chief rivals on Tuesday and attacked each other’s worldviews as the 2016 presidential contest turned into a clash of would-be commanders in chief.
While both front-runners scored victories in the night’s biggest prize of Arizona, Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders won caucuses in Utah and Idaho and Republican Ted Cruz claimed his party’s caucuses in Utah.
The victories kept Clinton and Trump from dominating another election night, but they both maintained a comfortable lead in the race for delegates that decide the presidential nominations.
Long lines and frenzied interest marked primary elections across the three Western states as the world grappled with a new wave of bloody attacks in Europe. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for blasts in Brussels that left dozens dead and many more wounded.
“This is about not only selecting a president, but also selecting a commander in chief,” Clinton said in Seattle as she condemned Trump by name and denounced his embrace of torture and hardline rhetoric aimed at Muslims. “The last thing we need is leaders who incite more fear.”
Trump, in turn, branded Clinton as “Incompetent Hillary” as he discussed her tenure as secretary of state. “Incompetent Hillary doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” the billionaire businessman said in an interview with Fox News. “She doesn’t have a clue.”
The back and forth between the front-runners came on a day when voters were eager to make their voices heard in the 2016 election.
In Utah, caucus-goers were dispatched by poll workers to local stores with orders buy reams of paper and photocopy fresh ballots amid huge turnout. The state Democratic Party’s website crashed due to high traffic.
In Arizona, voters waited two hours or more in some places to cast primary ballots, while police were called to help control traffic.
As voters flooded to the polls, the presidential candidates lashed out at each other’s foreign policy prescriptions, showcasing sharp contrasts in confronting the threat of Islamic extremism.
CRYPTICT TWEET OF THE DAY: @realDonaldTrump: Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a G.Q. shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!
MOST REPUBLICANS FEEL EMBARRASSED BY CAMPAIGN, POLL SAYS via Patrick Healy and Megan Thee-Brenan of The New York Times – [T]hree-quarters of Republican primary voters expect Trump to be their party’s nominee. … Half of all voters said they would be scared if Trump were elected president, and another 19 percent said they would be concerned. … Thirty-five percent of all voters said they would be scared if Clinton won in November, and 21 percent said they would be concerned.
TRUMP IS THE MOST UNPOPULAR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SINCE THE FORMER HEAD OF THE KU KLUX KLAN via Emily Guskin of The Washington Post – Trump’s unfavorable rating stood at 67 percent — two-thirds of all Americans — in a March Post-ABC poll, including 56 percent who had a “strongly” unfavorable impression of him. Just 3 in 10 had a favorable impression of Trump (15 percent “strongly”). American politicians tend to be more unpopular than usual these days, but it’s hard to overstate how bad Trump’s numbers are with all Americans. In fact, Trump’s highly negative ratings appear to have no equal among major party nominees in presidential campaigns over the past 32 years. If it weren’t for Trump, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton would be running up against records for unpopularity. Her 53 percent unfavorable mark in August essentially matched … Mitt Romney’s high of 52 percent in March 2012 and is more than 10 points higher than the most negative marks for Barack Obama and John McCain during the 2008 campaign. Clinton’s mark is similar to then-President George H.W. Bush’s brief high of 53 percent unfavorable during his unsuccessful re-election campaign in July 1992.
JEB BUSH ENDORSES TED CRUZ via CNN – Bush endorsed Cruz on Wednesday morning, calling his former rival for the Republican presidential nomination a “principled conservative” and urging fellow Republicans to reject Donald Trump as the next GOP nominee. “Ted is a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests,” Bush said in a statement. “Washington is broken, and the only way Republicans can hope to win back the White House and put our nation on a better path is to support a nominee who can articulate how conservative policies will help people rise up and reach their full potential.”
On Wednesday, Bush again emphasized his disapproval of Trump, the GOP front-runner, and warned that if the New York businessman secures the Republican nomination, Democrats will win the White House in November. “For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies,” Bush said in the statement.
EPILOGUE – MARCO RUBIO WAS FIRST CHOICE OF BUSH DONORS, BUT NOT ONLY ONE via Penelope Overton of the News-Press.com – Rubio raised almost twice as much money in his home state as the closest Republican rival in February, according to the latest campaign finance reports. About half of it came in the nine days after Bush decided to drop out of the race. And campaign finance reports released March 20 show that Rubio wasn’t the only presidential candidate to financially benefit from Bush’s withdrawal from the race. Cruz, Ben Carson and John Kasich all netted political contributions from former Bush supporters at the end of February, but none as much as Rubio. Even Hillary Clinton benefited from Bush’s withdrawal
HOW FLORIDA DELEGATES TO THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION WILL BE CHOSEN via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – Delegate rules include this: “No later than one week after the presidential preference primary, each Republican presidential candidate whose name appeared on the ballot may submit a list of proposed delegates and alternate delegates from among that candidate’s supporters to be considered as candidates for election.” Of the 99 delegates, three are automatic delegates — [Blaise] Ingoglia, party chair; Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee; and Peter Feaman, national committeeman from Florida. The rest of the 96 are tied to Florida’s 27 congressional districts. Each congressional district is awarded three delegates and three alternate delegates chosen by the chair, state committeeman and state committeewoman of each county that comprises that congressional district. “It doesn’t matter if there are 10 counties within a congressional district or two,” Ingoglia explained. “Each congressional district gets three delegates and three alternates.” When the selection is complete, there are 81 delegates (plus 81 alternates) from the 27 districts. Added to that are the three automatic delegates (Ingoglia, Day and Feaman), bringing the voting total to 84. What remains are 15 delegates and 15 alternates chosen as at-large delegates.
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TRUMP CAMPA SAYS $25,000 CHARITY CONTRIBUTION TO PAM BONDI WAS A MISTAKE – via David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post – Aides to Trump said this week that his charitable foundation made a mistake when it donated $25,000 to a political committee backing Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a potential violation of federal rules prohibiting charities from aiding political candidates. The Donald J. Trump Foundation compounded the error by not listing its 2013 gift to the pro-Bondi group, And Justice for All, in its filings with the IRS that year, the aides said. The charity listed a $25,000 donation to an unrelated group with a similar name, Justice for All. But that group, a Wichita-based nonprofit, said it never received any money from the foundation.
Trump’s campaign spokeswoman and the treasurer of his foundation said they were unaware of the charity’s mistakes until Monday, when they were notified that a left-leaning watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, had filed a complaint with the IRS. Both said there was no intent to deceive the IRS, and they blamed the problems on a series of clerical errors.
ALAN GRAYSON, RON DESANTIS AMONG U.S. SENATE CAMPAINGS WITH MOST DEBT via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Democrat Alan Grayson’s campaign has nearly $200,000 in credit card debt, while Republican Ron DeSantis’ campaign has $236,000 in debt, mostly tied to unpaid vendor invoices for mailers and fundraising expenses. That number puts both campaigns in rarified air. The only other active 2016 U.S. Senate campaigns with more debt are those of Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold ($328,371) and California Democrat Kamala Harris ($302,438). Senate campaigns from previous election cycles, or incumbents not running in 2016, have larger amounts of unretired debt, but those candidates are not running this election cycle.
Grayson’s $192,215 in debt is all tied to Chase, American Express and Citi bank credit cards. Grayson’s campaign did pay off more than $26,000 on those cards during the last reporting quarter, cutting into what was nearly $220,000 in debt. He did not incur any additional debt during the last reporting period. The campaign says some of the debt is accrued from past congressional campaigns, which used the same committee.
MY TAKE: SO DID CARLOS LOPEZ CANTERA CAMPAIGN OR NOT WHILE IN DC? via Florida Politics – Did Lopez-Cantera campaign while he was in D.C. even though, after the terrorist attacks in Brussels, he said he wasn’t? One thing is for certain: The L.G. was in D.C. A video shows him arriving at a building with a sign for Fiola restaurant, which is located in the nation’s capital. We also know that a fundraiser was scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at the offices of Clark Hill (located in the same building as Fiola) … CLC’s campaign for the U.S. Senate had planned a $500-a-head luncheon hosted by D.C. insiders Charlie Black, Cesar Conda and Charlie Spies. Asked if it was appropriate to be campaigning on the day of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, the Lieutenant Governor says, “No one is campaigning.” Hmmm.
RACES GET LESS CROWDED AS CANDIDATES DROP OUT OF HD 8, HD 42 via Florida Politics – Marquise McMiller, the lone Republican candidate in heavily Democratic HD 8, dropped out after failing to bring in any contributions through five months in the race. He leaves Democrats Ramon Alexander, Clarence Jackson, Brad Johnson and Dianne Williams-Cox as well as no-party candidate Richard Burns in the race to take over for term-limited Democratic Rep. Alan Williams in the Tallahassee-based district. Former Tea-Party member John Ferentinos, who filed as a Democrat in the 2016 contest, also dropped out of House District 42, where current Rep. Mike La Rosa is seeking a third term … Democrat Bienvenido Valentin still stands.
SAVE THE DATE: Republican business executive Rebecca Smith is holding a fundraising reception Wednesday, March 30, in support of her campaign for House District 60. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Tampa Garden Club, 2929 Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa. RSVP with Michelle Kazouris at Michelle@CorcoranFirm.com.
FIFTH CANDIDATE ENTERS CROWDED HD 95 DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY via Florida Politics – … To replace term-limited Rep. Hazelle Rogers. Community activist and businesswomen Anika Omphroy filed for the race … joining fellow Democrats Patrick Jabouin, Robert Lee Lynch, Barrington Russell and Roxanne Valies. Omphroy is the founder of Gray & Omphroy Concepts, a production company that produced “The Mix Talk Show,” in which Omphroy was one of four hosts.
3 MORE JUMP INTO HD 108 CONTEST, DOUBLES DEMOCRATIC FIELD via Florida Politics – … to replace Rep. Daphne Campbell in the Miami-based seat. Moise Duge, Taj Collie-Echoles and Roy Hadermon filed … joining former Campbell campaign worker Fayola Delica, former North Miami City Councilwoman Marie Steril and immigrant rights activist Francesca Menes in the race. Haitian-born Duge, an alumnus of Florida A&M University and Florida International University, has worked as a school teacher and has held a pair of internships in the Florida Legislature. The other two filers have each run for the House before, and Collie-Echoles challenged Campbell in the 2014 cycle, but neither has made it further than the Democratic Primary.
2ND REPUBLICAN ENTERS MIAMI-DADE HD 112 RACE via Florida Politics – … currently held by Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, who is running for Senate. Rosa Maria Palomino joins fellow Republican Key Biscayne City Councilman Michael Davey … Palomino runs a marketing company, Tropical Nostalgia, and works as a producer for “Miami After Dark,” a radio program targeted at Miami professionals which airs on WZAB 880.
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TOP CANDIDATES FOR INSURANCE COMMISSIONER GET INTERVIEWS via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott interviewed former U.S. Treasury Department official Jeffrey Braggand David Altmaier, a deputy commissioner within the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Bragg, a Palm Harbor resident, is the former executive director of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program under President George W. Bush and in the 1980s administered the National Flood Insurance Program during the Ronald Reagan administration. Altmaier has held six different positions with OIR since 2008. He was promoted to Deputy Commissioner a year ago … Scott is set to interview State Rep. Bill Hager … for the post. Hager was the commissioner of the Iowa Department of Insurance from 1986 to 1990. [CFO Jeff] Atwater is scheduled to interview four employees who have worked under [outgoing Commissioner Kevin] McCarty. McCarty’s chief of staff Belinda Miller, chief actuary Eric Johnson, and deputy commissioners Rich Robleto and Altmaier.
LEADING INSURANCE COMMISSIONER CANDIDATE SOLICITED INDUSTRY FOR BUSINESS via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – A business owned by state Rep. Bill Hager has sent solicitation offers to insurers advertising him as an expert witness in any ongoing lawsuits. Hager — who is vice chair of the House insurance panel and a civil judiciary panel — is being interviewed by Scott to replace outgoing insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty … Hager defended the correspondence … saying he was simply participating in “the American free market.” In a follow-up text message … he said he would close his business completely if he were “fortunate enough” to be appointed commissioner. “That position does not tolerate any outside work,” he said in a text.
ESSENTIAL READING: “The Good, the Bad and the Interesting: Evaluating the applicants for Florida insurance commissioner” via Florida Politics
HOSPITALS FILE LEGAL CHALLENGES OVER HEALTH DEPARTMENT RULES ON TRAUMA CENTERS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Several hospitals filed legal challenges with the Division of Administrative Hearings … Broward, UF Health Jacksonville, and the Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County – operators of the Jackson Health System – are arguing against the proposed new rules published by the Department of Health last month for trauma centers allowed in 19 different areas. The hospital objections to the proposed rule include a possible reduction in the number of allowed trauma centers in their respective regions. UF Health Jacksonville also object to a proposed increase in the number of trauma centers in its five-county area.
SEMINOLE TRIBE’S LAWYER NOW WATCHING COURT CASES AFTER COMPACT’S DEMISE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – With a proposed $3 billion gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida having died this past legislative session, the tribe’s lawyer on Tuesday said its fight to keep blackjack in tribal casinos now moves to a federal court. That suit says the state violated a previous promise of blackjack exclusivity by allowing card games known as player-designated games, like player-banked poker. The tribe offers blackjack at several casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.
In a separate federal suit, the state alleged that the tribe’s ongoing offering of blackjack is technically unauthorized because one part of a previous agreement expired and Seminole blackjack now is illegal gambling. “The tribe’s position is, we’re entitled to continue with the card games,” Richard said. “We’ll see what happens. I think we have a good case.”
“But the tribe likes the deal we made,” he added. “We want to have a good relationship with the state and we’re still prepared to make that deal. But we’re not prepared to make it … by allowing any county that passed a referendum to have slots. That kills the deal because it’s not economically feasible for the tribe.”
IN DEPO, KEN LAWSON SAYS TRIBE ASKED FOR CARDROOM CRACKDOWN via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – In the deposition … Lawson revealed that during mediation with the state, the tribe “requested” that gambling regulators crack down on player banked games at pari-mutuels around the state. A spokesman for the Seminoles said it would be more accurate to say the tribe “asserted that the designated player games violate its exclusivity and the Tribe would have the right to stop making payments to the State if the games were allowed to continue in their current form.” Either way, Lawson obliged. As a result of the mediation, Lawson said his department got the ball rolling on creating a new rule. What came out of that process is a contentious rule banning designated player games.
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT TO HEAR OPEN CARRY CASE IN JUNE via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The Court will hear arguments June 8 in a challenge to a state law that bars people from openly carrying firearms. Justices issued an order scheduling the arguments in the challenge filed by Dale Norman, who was arrested in 2012 in Fort Pierce while openly carrying a gun in a holster. After a jury found Norman guilty of a misdemeanor charge, the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld the state law, ruling it does not violate constitutional rights to bear arms. Norman then appealed to the Supreme Court, which said in October that it would take up the case.
AT ‘EGGS & ISSUES’ BREAKFAST, VOLUSIA LAWMAKERS TALK ABOUT THEIR WORK via Larry Griffin of Orlando Rising – The session was, by all accounts, a success. Sen. Dorothy Hukill was in charge of financing the tax package … was very pleased with was the part of that package that allowed a permanent extension of a bill she introduced a few years ago to eliminate the sales tax on machinery and equipment used in manufacturing. Manufacturers, she said, were very happy — the jobs they generate are some of the highest-paying available, and it’s good for the economy overall. It was Sen. Travis Hutson‘s first legislative session, and one bill he spoke of with pride was SB-218, which stamped out EBT card “black markets.” Rep. Fred Costello said he supported a bill that many considered controversial — HB-191, which proposes a two-year moratorium on fracking and pre-empts responsibility to the state. His reason for it, he said, was that he didn’t think the ability to allow or ban it county-by-county had any good effects.
MY TAKE: TOM LEE APPLIES FOR POSITION OF “PAULA DOCKERY” via Florida Politics – Saying he has the requisite skillset to consistently complain about the current state of the Legislature and the Republican Party … Lee told reporters that he was applying for the position of “Paula Dockery.” After the former Senate President recently made a series of comments suggesting he might forgo re-election … several close associates suggested to Lee that there is an opportunity for him to be the next ex-lawmaker who makes a post-legislative career out of lamenting how things were better “back in the day.” Dockery, who served in the Florida Senate in 2012, is now a newspaper columnist who routinely criticizes the Republican-controlled Legislature. Dockery also makes frequent appearances on news programs where she is identified as representing the Republican point of view, then promptly takes a position counter to the rest of the party. “I’m not sure if I want to go full Paula,” Lee said, “but I certainly could talk a lot about how the legislative process I have been involved with for three decades is not the same as it once was — for reasons which have nothing to do with my continued presence.”
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FPL FACES LAWSUIT OVER LEAKY NUCLEAR COOLING CANALS AT TURKEY POINT via Jenny Staletovich and David Smiley of the Miami Herald – Two environmental groups — the Tropical Audubon Society and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy — plan to sue Florida Power & Light over spiraling water pollution concerns that they contend the utility has known about for six years and regulators have failed to adequately address. “This isn’t some thing that just crept up on FPL,” said Laura Reynolds, former executive director with Tropical Audubon now working with the Southern Alliance. “They have made conscious decisions to manage this plant and put resources in some places and not in others. This is a growing problem.” The formal notice of intent to sue, sent to FPL and state and federal environmental regulators last week, argues that polluted canal water has seeped into Biscayne Bay and the Biscayne aquifer — Miami-Dade’s primary source of drinking water — in violation of FPL’s environmental permits and the U.S. Clean Water Act.
SABAL PIPELINE PROJECT FILES 160 EMINENT DOMAIN LAWSUITS via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel – A natural-gas pipeline project for Duke, FPL and Spectra has filed 160 eminent-domain lawsuits in Alabama, Georgia and Florida … [Seeking] to seize hundreds of acres from landowners, and more lawsuits may follow. The project, called the Sabal Trail Transmission pipeline, is targeting 25 properties in Central Florida, mostly in Osceola County. The pipeline company began filing the suits in federal court last week. Wealthy and famous landowners are among the targets, including fitness celebrity Brenda Dykgraaf, who owns vacant land in the path of the pipeline near Reunion. Another suit seeks to slice through the middle of the proposed Greenpointe Communities plan for 2,400 homes near Intercession City in Osceola County. The pipeline company insists that it already has federal and court authority to seize the property under the Natural Gas Act. Sabal claims its project must be under construction by June 21 and in service, by May 1, 2017.
FLORIDA STATE FAIR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR RESIGNED AFTER ACCEPTING RAYS TICKETS AND HOT TUB via Tony Marrero and Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida State Fair executive director Chuck Pesano resigned after a state investigation found that he used his position to funnel business to his family’s company, get Tampa Bay Rays tickets and have a hot tub installed in his Valrico home. The findings by a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Inspector General’s investigation put an end to an 11-year tenure for Pesano … Much of the investigation centers around Seventh Avenue Apothecary, a soy candle company in Ybor City that Pesano owns with his wife and daughter. Pesano suggested that employees at Cracker Country, a sprawling history museum on the fairgrounds, purchase candles from the family business to sell. An employee who ordered merchandise for Cracker Country told investigators she wasn’t told to purchase candles but felt obligated, even though they were not the type that would be found in the 1800s and early 1900s. Pesano also is accused of “inappropriately” receiving a Model 650 hot tub valued at $3,846.65 … accepted food, beverages and tickets to sporting events from Centerplate, an exclusive food service vendor of the Fair Authority and concessionaire to the Tampa Bay Rays.
PERSONNEL NOTE: JOSIE LEGIDO CORREA NAMED FLORIDA GROCERS ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR via Florida Politics – Correa is taking over as executive director of the state’s advocacy group for the $45 billion grocery industry … She replacing longtime grocery veteran Tom Jackson, who remains as a consultant. “Josie has extensive experience meeting the diverse needs of members and serving as a successful advocate for Florida’s retailers, including grocers,” said Randy Miller, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, the umbrella group for the grocer’s association.
APPOINTED: Dr. Kendral “Wayne” Adkisson to the Florida Humanities Council
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS: Darrin Taylor, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt: The Villages
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sen. Kelli Stargel.
THE POLITICAL POWER PLAY OF ‘BATMAN V SUPERMAN’ via Michael Calia of the Wall Street Journal – Superhero stories have always reflected the politics and cultural debates of their time … In “Batman v Superman,” several scenes and narrative threads resonate with contemporary concerns about terrorism, civil liberties and centralized power. The movie’s villain, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), is a billionaire scion who hates Superman, in part, because he’s an alien. In the biggest way, “Batman v Superman” is about the debate over a world power’s responsibility in moments of crisis. Batman is angry that one entity possesses all that power without any checks and balances, while the U.S. government, represented by a senator played by Holly Hunter, is uncomfortable with Superman operating with unilateral authority. Zack Snyder, who directed “Batman v Superman,” says the political ideas underpinning the main narrative — whether it’s a debate over civil liberties or a protester’s sign calling Superman an illegal alien — give moviegoers something more to think about, if they want to.