Sunburn for April 22 – Where does Gwen Graham go from here?
U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham


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.


Specifically, the 53-year-old Democratic congresswoman declared she’s thinking about a run for Governor in 2018 because, really, where else does she have to go?

Her current position, as north Florida’s 2nd Congressional District seat holder, is now out of reach. It was redrawn in a court-ordered redistricting scheme from a Democratic-favoring to a Republican-leaning area she’d surely lose this November after one term in office.

So politically, what else was there for her to do? Run for Tallahassee city commission? A county commission seat?

School board? She was a school district attorney.

What about a state House race? Tallahassee’s Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda is term-limited but Graham may not want to take on Loranne Ausley, the fellow Democrat who previously held the seat and wants it back.

Anyway, all that might be a waste of the statewide ID that still comes with the Graham political brand. Her father, Bob, was Florida’s Democratic governor 1979-87 and a U.S. senator for 18 years after that.

He led the Select Committee on Intelligence in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and co-chaired the presidential commission that looked into the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The elder Graham is still in the news, most recently campaigning for the declassification of government records that may show a connection between the Saudis and the 9/11 terrorists.

So what’s a scion to do? Shoot for the moon. Gwen Graham still has millions in her federal campaign coffers she could kind of, sort of transfer to a state race.

And she has the right-of-center cred statewide voters like: She voted for the controversial Keystone Pipeline and for clawbacks of measures meant to prevent a reoccurrence of last decade’s Wall Street abuses.

In the middle of the classic “Sinatra at the Sands” album, Frank Sinatra cuts loose between songs in a 12-minute monologue.

He apologizes to the audience for inconveniences from renovations then ongoing at the legendary Las Vegas casino-hotel: “Now, to get back to the building … and at the moment, there ain’t noooo place else to go.”

So it is with Graham, trapped (at least for now) in a race that may be beyond her reach with the ghost that is her family name.

— “Florida pols react to Graham’s announcement” via Ryan Ray

— “Graham’s potential bid for governor has pros and cons” via the Tallahassee Democrat

— “Graham’s short-lived congressional career” via National Journal

FUN FACT ABOUT GRAHAM’S DECISION via Smart Politics – Graham is just the second sitting freshman Florida U.S. Representative to not seek re-election to Congress out of 136 delegation members to serve in the chamber since statehood.

HOW GRAHAM’S ANNOUNCEMENT IS PLAYING  Tampa Bay Times, Graham says she is ‘seriously considering’ running for governor – “… follows what a news release deemed ‘a long, chaotic redistricting battle which transformed the 2nd Congressional District from a fair, moderate district into two extreme, partisan districts.’” Roll CallGwen Graham ‘seriously considering’ run for governor – “Democrats are expected to net one seat from Florida’s new map. The removal of some of Tallahassee’s black voters from Graham‘s 2nd District would have made it nearly impossible for her to hold the seat.” South Florida Sun SentinelGwen Graham drops re-election bid, considering run for governor – “Party leaders were talking about her potential run for governor even before she was sworn in to her first House term last year … ‘There is a Bob Graham network that she can inherit and reawaken.’” The HillFlorida Dem won’t seek House re-election, floats run for governor – “Public servants must focus on the job they’re elected to do, so I will spend the remainder of my term fully representing you in Congress, but I will not seek re-election while considering this next step of service.” The Crowley Report, Will Gwen Become the Third Graham to run for Florida governor? – “Let’s start with this premise – yes she is running. This will bring great joy to many Democrats who look at a very thin field of potential candidates with the most notable being Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.” Tallahassee DemocratGwen Graham might run for governor – “Republicans pounced. Evan Power, chairman of the Leon County Republican Party, said Graham made the right decision to not run in an overwhelmingly Republican district. But he suggested her blame for the redistricting changes was misplaced.” Creative Loafing Tampa, Gwen Graham is likely to run for Gov in 2018, but what about Bob? – “Being able to leave office in January 2017 to potentially focus on running gives her an edge, at least over the likes of Buckhorn and [AdamPutnam, we reckon …” Palm Beach PostSen. Jeremy Ring also considering governor’s race, joining Gwen Graham – “Graham’s possible entry isn’t an obstacle, Ring said … ‘It comes down to three things: experience, message and how much money can raise … I think nobody can match me on two out of three of those things.’”

ON GRAHAM’S ANNOUNCEMENT, WHO SCOOPED WHOM? via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The admittedly inside-the-Tallahassee-bubble question is, who got the scoop: POLITICO Florida or the Tallahassee Democrat, Graham’s hometown newspaper? For the record, Graham’s own email announcing her consideration of a run was received at 7:08 a.m.

But POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo had it in his Thursday morning Playbook email, crowing he had it first. received that email at 7:01 a.m. Caputo’s separate post on the Graham news is timestamped 5:37 a.m. “Remember you read the above story on POLITICO Florida, and not in other major Florida pubs first,” he wrote in Playbook.

Not so fast, said Tallahassee Democrat executive editor William Hatfield. The newspaper’s website posted a story early Thursday headlined “Gwen Graham announces possible run for governor.” In a Facebook post, Hatfield wrote, “This scoop went live on at 5 a.m.”

INBOX — “Gov. Bob Graham exclusively joining ‘Meet the Press’ this Sunday”

MEANWHILE … JEREMY RING ALSO FLOATING RUN FOR GOVERNOR IN 2018 via Florida Politics – Ring said he’ll throw his hat in the ring as well. “No door is closed for me. I am considering it, yes, and am in an exploratory phase,” said Ring, a former Yahoo! executive and moderate-leaning lawmaker, though he added, “I can’t imagine having a decision in 2016.” Ring came out of the gate criticizing [GwenGraham for saying she was “disappointed” in the congressional redistricting decision that split her 2nd Congressional District in half, essentially evaporating her chances at re-election in the 13-county Panhandle district. “The redistricting was done by the courts, and it’s not a conservative court. To blame the legislature, was someone disingenuous when you think all the court battles out there,” said Ring. “The court pretty much did the Legislature’s job but in the video, she blames the Legislature.” Ring is not well-known outside of his South Florida district, but in 2018, who knows what voters’ predilections will be?

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PATRICK MURPHY ATTACKED OVER CONTRIBUTIONS FROM FATHER’S COMPANY via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – The single-candidate Super PAC, Floridians for a Strong Middle Class, has taken in almost a million dollars since it was formed last year to back Murphy … Coastal Construction Group of Miami, headed by Murphy’s father Thomas Murphy, donated $300,000 to the PAC March 31 … Murphy gave an individual donation of $200,000 to the PAC in December. “He’s a shareholder in a company that gives a huge donation to his super PAC,” [AlanGrayson said. “It reeks of hypocrisy and desperation for someone who claims he wants to overturn Citizens United. I can’t wait to hear the ethical and verbal contortions that the misnamed entity that funds him, End Citizens United PAC, does to try and explain this away.” Murphy spokeswoman Galia Slayen said that it was “not just disappointing, but frankly typical that Alan Grayson would partner with Republicans to attack a fellow progressive.” “Our campaign follows the spirit and letter of the law and for Alan Grayson to throw mud on this issue is absurd,” Slayen said.

RICK SCOTT HEAPS PRAISE ON CARLOS BERUFF via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott once again insisted on Thursday night that he has no favorite in the race for the U.S. Senate. But in a speech in Sarasota, he heaped plenty of praise of Manatee County developer Carlos Beruff and highlighted parts of his resume in surprising detail. “I want to wish Carlos Beruff unbelievable success,” Scott told more than 450 people, including Beruff, at a hotel ballroom in downtown Sarasota.

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Beruff will be in Daytona Beach and Spring Hill; Carlos Lopez-Cantera will be in Tampa; Republican Todd Wilcox will be in Hernando.

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND: Matt Gaetz, a candidate in Congressional District 1, will kick off his one-day Fight Washington Bus Tour on Saturday, April 23, at 9 a.m. at the Grand Dunes Condominium, 219 Scenic Gulf Drive in Miramar Beach. He’ll then head to KC’s Sandbar and Grille, 190 Miracle Strip Parkway in Fort Walton Beach at 11 a.m., before heading to Helen Back, 8651 Navarre Parkway in Navarre at 2 p.m. The Fort Walton Beach Republican will end the tour at 4 p.m. at The Fish House, 600 S. Barracks St. in Pensacola. To attend the event, RSVP to Ryan Smith at [email protected].

ANDER CRENSHAW CONTINUED FUNDRAISING UNTIL RETIREMENT ANNOUNCEMENT via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Crenshaw’s campaign was raising large sums of money and paying political consultants until just before he decided to retire after eight terms in Congress. The Jacksonville Republican raised $179,850 during the first three months of 2016, the sixth-most of Florida’s 27-member delegation. Some of the members who raised more are in heated re-election fights, not something Crenshaw expected to face. “Ander and [the] campaign were planning on running again until his announcement earlier this month,” said Barbara Riley, a Crenshaw spokeswoman. “As stated in his April 13 announcement, he made the decision over the Easter recess.”

BILL PHILLIPS DROPS CHALLENGE TO JOHN MICA via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democrat Bill Phillips of Orlando has dropped out of the Orlando-based Congressional District 7 race. His departure from the race means there now are no Democrats running to take on Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park. Phillips suspended his campaign in February, calling for someone else to take his place. No one has, and now he has quietly withdrawn, according to the Democrats.

— “Former Rep. Robert Wexler endorses Randy Perkins for Congress” via the Palm Beach Post’s George Bennett

DWS ATTACKS TIM CANOVA FOR TAKING MONEY OUTSIDE OF FLORIDA via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald — U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has attacked her Democratic challenger Tim Canova for having the bulk of his donations come from outside of Florida. Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor, raised about $559,000 in the first three months of 2016 as a first-time candidate. “There’s something you should know. First quarter fundraising numbers are in. One of my six opponents raised a large amount of money. But at least 90 percent of his cash is flowing in from donors outside of Florida. Also outsider SuperPACs have attacked me earlier than ever before,” Wasserman Schultz says in a campaign email.

FLORIDA MAN WHOSE GYROCOPTER LANDED BY U.S. CAPITOL GETS 120 DAYS BEHIND BARS via The Associated Press – Douglas Hughes was sentenced in federal court in Washington by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Hughes has said his April 2015 flight in the bare-bones aircraft, which began in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was a way to call attention to the influence of big money in politics. Hughes pleaded guilty in November to a felony for operating a gyrocopter without a license. Prosecutors asked he be sentenced to 10 months in prison, arguing that the former mail carrier from Ruskin … put countless lives at risk. Hughes’s attorneys argued he should be allowed to remain out of jail.

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: .@RepFitzenhagen apologies for breach of her official House email account. It was used to send a fundraising invitation yesterday … says a “unaffiliated supporter” ??? had access to her House email account – which was used to send out campaign email

*** Recognized each year as one of Florida’s most influential people in health care, Lars Houmann will share how leaders can better serve clients and employees through building healthier communities at the FAIF 2016 Health Care Affordability Summit to be held April 25-27, 2016, at the Orlando World Center Marriott.  Register today by visiting***

BILL NELSON FILES LEGISLATION TO PROVIDE $1.9B TO FIGHT ZIKA via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Sen. Nelson announced he planned to file legislation to provide the $1.9 billion the president has said is needed to fight the spread of the virus. The Florida Democrat took to the Senate floor on Thursday to make the announcement, saying he made the request after hearing “rumors that the appropriations committee is looking at a figure of $1.1 billion.” The call to fully fund the president’s request comes just days after Obama signed legislation that incentivizes drug makes to accelerate their search for a cure.

DAUGHTER’S EXPERIENCE MOTIVATES RICK SCOTT ON RAPE KIT LAWS via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott got the call no parent wants to hear … His daughter in her first year of college in Dallas was on the other end of the phone. “She said, ‘something very bad happened to me last night,'” Scott said recounting the story in Tampa where he was drawing attention to legislation to help speed the process of testing sexual assault kits. “Fortunately she was not raped. But she had a drug put in her drink. It put her in the hospital.” Scott used the personal story as a lead in to why Florida is becoming increasingly aggressive in testing sexual assault kits faster. In March, the Florida Legislature passed a budget that will boost funding for the state crime lab to process all crime evidence faster — including DNA samples from rape kits. And the budget dedicates more than $2 million this year as part of a three-year effort to reduce a startling backlog of 13,000 untested rape kits in Florida. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and victims’ advocates groups have been pushing for the testing to happen on all kits because they can help solve other crimes and even identify serial rapists. When the city of Houston tested 6,663 previously untested kits, they found 850 DNA matches that have led to more than two dozen convictions.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will honor Florida veterans at 9 a.m. at the Key West Naval Air Station’s Trumbo Point Annex in Key West. Members of the media should check in with Trice Denny at (305) 797-8560 upon arrival.

JEFF ATWATER OFFERS TWO NEW CANDIDATES FOR STATE INSURANCE POST via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Atwater offered up two new possible compromise candidates to be the state’s next insurance commissioner: Raymond Blacklidge and Belinda Miller. Atwater also re-nominated state Rep. Bill Hager … which means all three will attend Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, during which Scott and the Cabinet will evaluate the performance over the past year of Kevin McCarty, who has resigned. Blacklidge, 55, a resident of Madeira Beach in Pinellas County, describes himself as an insurance executive, business entrepreneur and consumer advocate, and he’s a lawyer. He is executive vice president, general counsel and board member of two insurance companies, American Traditions and Modern USA, and said he has 30-plus years of experience representing the property and casualty industry. Miller, 55, of Crawfordville, is a lawyer who has been McCarty’s chief of staff since 2003, supervising a staff of nearly 300 people. Her resume says she has “developed a deep understanding of the Florida insurance code, model laws and general corporate governance issues.” By law, Atwater and Scott must agree on a successor to McCarty, who has extended his resignation date from May 2 to 45 days after his replacement is appointed. Scott remains committed to Jeffrey Bragg … calling him “the best candidate” to succeed McCarty.

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: .@FLGovScott tomorrow will interview 4 applicants for insurance commissioner even though his office already forwarded Jeffrey Bragg … Rich Robleto, Carla D’Andre, David Altmaier & Chlora Lindley-Myers for insurance commish post


Charles Cliburn, New Capitol IT: GCOM

Geoffrey Verhoff, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld: Blackboard, Inc.

PERSONNEL NOTE — MAGGIE MICKLER DEPARTS STATE SENATE, HEADING TO DMS — The press secretary for the Senate’s Republican majority office announced her departure Thursday, saying she was taking an offer to be the Department of Management Services’ next director of communications. She starts April 25LaQuisha Persak replaces her as main press contact for the Senate R’s. She “will do a fantastic job assisting you with your communications inquiries,” Mickler wrote.

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FOR EARTH DAY 2016, SUGAR FARMERS CELEBRATE HISTORY OF SUSTAINABILITY, CONSERVATION via Florida Politics – As the global community celebrates Earth Day April 22, farmers for America’s largest sugar producer are highlighting their role in safeguarding South Florida land and water resources. Few agricultural companies have proved more diligent over environmental conservation than U.S. Sugar, the nation’s leader in growing and processing sugar cane, citrus and sweet corn. Throughout the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), U.S. Sugar and other farmers have employed various soil and water management techniques, ensuring the water leaving farms is cleaner than when it enters … over the past two decades, there has been an average 56 percent reduction in phosphorus flowing south. That number exceeds the 25 percent requirement set by the Everglades Forever Act of 1994. And in 2015, farmers in the EAA reached a milestone — 79 percent overall phosphorus reduction — the highest annual amount achieved to date. In addition to water conservation, sugar farmers have also pioneered several advances in green energy. One such example is bagasse, the fibrous byproduct created when the juice is extracted from sugar cane stalks which then is used as a clean-burning biofuel to power various sugar manufacturing facilities. An extensive railroad system also saves on diesel fuel, as well as minimize truck traffic, further reducing fossil fuel emissions. These activities are among the reasons U.S. Sugar farms enjoy some of the best air quality in Florida.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: “Speechwriters, Teleprompters? — Can we expect a new Donald Trump?“, with political analyst Larry Miller.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS Miami: Miami Mayor Carlos Jimenez and political consultant Roger Stone.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Prof. Susan MacManus of the University of South Florida, Tampa Bay Times columnist and former Sen. Paula Dockery, NPR TV/Media critic Eric Deggans, and La Gaceta publisher Patrick Mantiega.

On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: A discussion of recent Federal Communications Commission activity with University of North Florida Professor David Deeley, an interview with Jacksonville Suns owner Ken Babby, and a highlight of Fair Housing Month with Shannon Nazworth, head of Ability Housing of Northeast Florida.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay: An interview with U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy to discuss the issues, and why his primary opponent, Rep. Alan Grayson should quit the race following a report issued by the House Ethics Committee. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about Islamic terrorists coming into the country, and former Florida CFO Alex Sink and political analyst Chris Ingram search for Common Ground.

 The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon and Sean Pittman.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Political analyst and former Lt. Gov. Jennifer CarrollChris Hand, former City of Jacksonville Chief of Staff to Mayor Alvin Brown, and Duval Republican Chairman Rep. Lake Ray and Democratic Chairman Neil Henrichsen on upcoming changes to Northeast Florida’s congressional delegation.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Senator-to-be Frank Artiles, our dear, dear friends Apryl Marie Fogel and Mary Ellen Upton, as well as Doug Wheeler.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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