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Sunburn for 7.7.17 – John Morgan’s world; Shake-up in Andrew Gillum campaign; Phil Levine’s big haul; Kim McDougal to GrayRobinson; R.I.P. Frank Matthews

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


Morgan plays hero to the ‘71 percenters’ – “Compassionate capitalist” Morgan came to Tallahassee Thursday morning, holding court for the cameras soon after he sued the state over not allowing medical marijuana to be smoked. Pay no attention to the fact that Morgan had electronically filed his lawsuit an hour before: It was about speaking to and “for the people.” “Today is a day that should not have been necessary,” he said outside the Leon County Courthouse. “The people of Florida knew exactly what they were voting on … the vast majority, if not 100 percent, knew that smoke was included” … “I’m right, and 71 percent of the people of Florida know I’m right,” he said. He also plans to add more marijuana-using patients as plaintiffs, including people suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Attorney John Morgan filed suit challenging the ban on smokable medicinal marijuana. Photo credit: James Call.

Drug Free America calls  lawsuit ‘disappointing’ – Morgan’s lawsuit against the state for not allowing medical marijuana to be smoked is “disappointing,” but “not surprising,” said the head of the Drug Free America Foundation on Thursday. “It is obvious that the goal of the Legislature, which puts the health and safety of all Floridians first, is in clear conflict with his plans to profit from the sale of marijuana in the state,” said Calvina Fay, the foundation’s executive director, in a statement. Morgan previously has “acknowledged a business plan to acquire an existing grower,” but avoided questions about details.

“John Morgan for Governor? Still might happen, he says When asked Thursday whether he was still contemplating a run for governor, Morgan told reporters about his warning to his pal, House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “I told Richard Corcoran, the worst thing you could do to boost me is to limit smoke,” he said in Tallahassee, shortly after suing the state because it doesn’t allow medical marijuana to be lit and inhaled … “I never thought I’d be the main bankroller of it all,” he said. “I think it’s crazy what the Legislature has done to give me this platform … I’m going to take this wherever it leads me.” He added later, “I’m going to think about it.”

‘Living wage amendment’ is in progress” – Morgan told reporters in Tallahassee his planned constitutional amendment guaranteeing a “living wage” was “being drafted.” The amendment would raise the minimum wage in Florida, now at $8.10, which is above the federally-mandated hourly wage of $7.25. “Whether you’re a Bernie Sanders voter or a Donald Trump voter, the thing people are most mad about is when they come home at night, they’re worse than when they left,” he said. “The reason is, they’re not paid fairly.” Morgan hasn’t decided what the right hourly wage is, he added: “I have to figure out what I think will pass.”

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“End Citizens United endorses Bill Nelson’s re-election” via Florida Politics – ECU, which describes itself as a “grassroots-funded organization” gave its imprimatur Thursday to the incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator’s re-election in 2018. “Senator Nelson understands that the disastrous Citizens United decision put a price tag on our elections, putting our government in the hands of the highest bidders,” said Tiffany Muller, the group’s president and executive director. “ECU looks forward to our continued work with Senator Nelson to give a voice to Americans who feel shut out of our democracy by ending the corrosive influence of unlimited and secret money in our politics.” Citizens United was a 2010 Supreme Court decision, deregulating campaign spending by organizations.

Andrew Gillum campaign loses its finance director, Brice Barnes” via Florida Politics – “Brice is transitioning out,” a source inside the Gillum campaign explained … Barnes’ exit from the campaign is being described as amicable. Brad Kennedy, who up until last week was Gillum’s deputy finance director, has also left the campaign. He’s now working for Democratic CFO candidate Jeremy Ring, confirms Ring spokesman, Anthony Pardal. Also handcuffing Gillum’s campaign has been a series of unforced political errors, including the exaggeration of the number of donors it has received contributions from and the suggestion that it is using without authorization the email database of former Governor Crist. Barnes is not responsible for any of those issues, but it is her job to raise money and, well, if no money is coming in, a change had to be made.

“Local elected officials endorse Gillum” via Florida Politics – The Tallahassee mayor picked up several endorsements Thursday, including Broward County School Board Member Rosalind Osgood, Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson, Dania Beach Mayor Tamara James, Lauderdale Lakes Commissioner Sandra Davey, and Dania Beach Commissioner Bobbie Grace. “As Governor, he’ll rebuild our economy so it works better for everyone, protect and expand access to healthcare, revitalize public education for our students, and finally confront the climate change crisis,” they said in a statement.

Spotted: Gillum in a New York Times story titled, “Blue Cities Want to Make Their Own Rules. Red States Won’t Let Them.” It discussed how “Republican-controlled state legislatures have intensified the use of what are known as pre-emption laws, to block towns and cities from adopting measures favored by the left.” Gillum was quoted as saying, “It is about power, and I think it’s about wielding power at any cost. That’s it.” Gillum “formed a national group to fight pre-emption laws this year.”

John Newstreet gets retailers’ group’s endorsement in HD 44 race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Republican Newstreet continues to roll in the business association endorsements … picking up the backing of the Florida Retail Federation. Newstreet is vying to win the Aug. 15 Republican primary to fill the empty HD 44 seat for western Orange County. He faces Bobby Olszewski, Bruno Portigliatti, and Usha Jain in that contest, with the winner set to take on Democrat Paul Chandler in October. Newstreet is president and chief executive of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, and already has received the backing of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the West Orange Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Florida Retailers Association.

“New TV ad attacks GOP Miami House candidate over residency” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – The ad by Jose Mallea attacks Daniel Perez, his Republican rival competing in the House District 116 primary. “He said his opponent Jose Mallea didn’t live in the district,” the ad narrator says. “Lie. It’s actually Perez who doesn’t live in the district — unless he lives in a house with no roof.” The Kendall home where Perez says he lives has no roof and is under construction, the Miami Herald reported. Perez listed the home on campaign documents and his voter registration and gets a homestead exemption on the property.

Click on the image below to watch the ad.


Eyeing gubernatorial bid, Phil Levine’s political committee raises $2 million in June” via Florida Politics – A nearly $2 million boost brings the total for his political committee to about $4 million. Officials with the Levine campaign were quick to note that this number is double what officially announced Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has raised so far. The Mayor — a Democrat and close friend of former President Bill Clinton — remains noncommittal about entering the Governor’s race and has even floated the idea of running as an independent. “Mayor Levine is focused on traveling the state to talk with Floridians who are eager to see fresh leadership with a record of getting things done,” said Christian Ulvert, an adviser to Levin. “As he continues to hear from Floridians, Mayor Levine is more committed than ever to ensure Florida is best positioned to be the future state and June is proof positive that his message is being well received.”

First in Sunburn – Former circuit court judge Ashley Moody will report that she raised over $600,000 during her first month campaigning to be Florida’s next Attorney General. Her figures include $490,000 in donations to her campaign and $113,000 in contributions to her committee.

Continuing strong fundraising effort, Charlie Crist adds more than $550K during second quarter of 2017” via Florida Politics – Crist has more than $1.1 million cash-on-hand for his re-election bid … leading the Florida congressional delegation in fundraising and was one of the top Democratic fundraisers overall during the first quarter of 2017, outperforming incumbents from both parties. Although throughout his career, Crist has always been a prodigious fundraiser — most notably as Florida governor and candidate for U.S. Senate — one reason for this most recent fundraising success could be traced to an overwhelmingly positive message, particularly in the push for more civil discourse in politics. “As public officials, I believe we have a responsibility to try to lead by example,” Crist said recently … He co-sponsored a measure to designate July 12 — in a nod to the Bible  — as a National Day of Civility.


Florida will hand over some voting information to commission” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Secretary of State Ken Detzner …  wrote a letter to the vice chair of the commission saying that the state will only hand over information that is already considered a public record. This would include the names of voters, as well as information on whether they had voted in recent elections. Detzner said in his letter that Florida law prohibits the state from turning over driver’s license information or Social Security numbers. He also said they would not turn over the names of voters whose information is currently confidential, such as judges, prosecutors or police officers. “We are glad to continue following Florida’s public records law by providing the requested information to you that is publicly available,” Detzner wrote to Kris Kobach, the current Secretary of State from Kansas who is on the commission. Detzner did add, however, that “the responsibility for the accuracy and fairness of our election process in Florida lies on us, not with the federal government in Washington.”

Tweet, tweet:

Jeremy Ring joins Dems’ calls that Rick Scott not release voter rolls to Donald Trump” via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsRing contended that the governor’s “No. 1 job is to protect Floridians” and that the privacy of millions of Floridians is at risk. “As a candidate for chief financial officer, as a Floridian and — above all — as an American, I am strongly opposed to the administration’s request, and frankly downright offended at Gov. Scott’s refusal to immediately reject and condemn it,” Ring stated in a news release. “Where is Rick Scott to protect Floridians? Instead of leading, Gov. Scott has sat back while 41 other states — led by both Republicans and Democrats — have outright rejected the administration’s request. I join these states in their opposition to the administration’s request.”

– “Seminole elections supervisor says people are calling to get off voter rolls” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics


In an exclusive to Sunburn, a release will go out later today announcing that Dr. Kim McDougal has joined GrayRobinson as a Senior Director of Government Affairs.

Sources close to McDougal tell Florida Politics that after her final day at the Governor’s Office, she was approached with many offers from top firms in Florida lobbying ranks, and even some startup firms looking to grow their footprint, but McDougal ultimately chose GrayRobinson.

“I was honestly overwhelmed by all of the people who reached out,” said McDougal. “All of the firms I spoke with had an amazing story to tell and their own successes to tout, but I decided to join GrayRobinson because of their multi-faceted approach to advocacy and their extensive footprint all across Florida, in addition to the well-respected team that I will be joining.  I am excited for what’s to come.”

McDougal, 54, began her public service with the state in 1989 and served in each role as an at-will state employee. She served as Gov. Scott’s Chief of Staff since April 2016. Before that, she was Deputy Chief of Staff, Legislative Affairs Director and Education Policy Coordinator. McDougal also served on Scott’s re-election campaign as a policy advisor. McDougal also has worked in various leadership roles at the Department of Education, including Governmental Relations Director and Senior Policy Advisor for several Commissioners of Education.


New gambling deal leaves racetracks and Seminoles at odds” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – The state agreed not to appeal a 2016 court decision that allowed the Seminoles to offer blackjack through 2030. In return, the tribe will make revenue-sharing payments to the state until the end of the 2018 legislative session — but only if Florida “takes aggressive enforcement action” against designated player games that operate as banked card games at pari-mutuel casinos around the state. But the pari-mutuel industry maintains its games are in keeping with state regulations, leaving the state in the position of cracking down on a practice that the industry says is perfectly legal. The Palm Beach Kennel Club, Miami’s Magic City Casino and Pompano Beach’s Isle Casino all offer some form of the games. Casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade offer slot machines, unlike the rest of the state, which make the card games less popular. The Seminole Tribe is supposed to have the exclusive right to offer banked card games — games in which every player plays against the dealer instead of playing against each other as they do in poker.

Billion-dollar lawsuit claims state broke higher education promises” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – Two siblings who graduated from the University of Florida say the state short-changed them on their education. Alexis S. Geffin, UF 2017, has teamed up with her brother, Ryan J. Geffin, UF 2016, in a lawsuit to claim they did not receive the intended benefits of more than $1 billion in private donations to Florida colleges and universities. Alexis is a sports reporter in Wausau, Wisconsin, while her brother pursued graduate studies at UF. The siblings who grew up in Weston filed the suit last week in Leon County. It seeks to force the state to abide by four separate state laws that obligate the state to “match” private donations to state colleges and universities.

First in Sunburn – “House releases video on Schools of Hope plan” via Florida Politics – The House of Representatives on Thursday posted another video, which promotes its Schools of Hope plan, in which privately-run charter schools may supplant failing public schools in the state. The proposal, championed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, would provide alternatives to chronically failing schools, often in poor areas, though it was reported that many of the charter-school concerns the bill to tailored to aren’t interested in coming. The schools would be within five miles of, or in the zones of, existing traditional public schools that have repeatedly earned low grades under the state’s school grading system. More than 100 schools statewide have been consistently ranked as low performing for more than three years.

Click on the image below to watch the video.

House posts wacky ‘mash up’ video” via Florida Politics – The latest addition, also posted Thursday, to the House’s video collection features a ‘mash up’ of videos, including members being asked a variety of questions, starting with, “Who Would You Add to Mount Rushmore?” Currently depicted in the South Dakota national memorial are U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Suggestions included Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan andfrom state Rep. Shawn Harrison—William Henry Harrison, because he “only served for 30 days and therefore could do no damage.” (Indeed, poor Harrison died of pneumonia a month after taking office.) The nearly six-minute clip ends with a blooper reel, because obviously someone didn’t watch enough Burt Reynolds movies growing up.

Click on the image below to watch the video:

NRA slams Miami judge over ‘Stand Your Ground’ burden of proof ruling” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch said Florida lawmakers overstepped their boundaries in shifting the burden of proof in “Stand Your Ground” cases, contending the responsibility to shift the burden of proof actually rests with the Florida Supreme Court rather than state legislators. “As a matter of constitutional separation of powers, that procedure cannot be legislatively modified,” Hirsch wrote … former NRA president and current Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer said Hirsch had crossed the line of a simple legal ruling into political territory — all on his own accord. “This is a whole new level of judicial activism,” Hammer told SSN. “Judge Hirsch made a unilateral decision to attack the constitutional authority of the Legislature to pass laws even though neither of the attorneys in the case asked him to rule on such an issue … Frankly, I don’t ever remember seeing a trial judge blatantly create issues and controversy, in a case where none exists.”

Court’s hospital ruling could cost Sarasota County millions” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – The Florida Supreme Court upheld a 2003 state law that directed the county to reimburse private hospitals for providing care to indigent patients. Justices, in a 5-2 ruling, overturned an appeals-court opinion that said part of the law was unconstitutional because it singled out private hospitals in Sarasota County. The 2003 measure was passed as what is known as a “special law,” dealing only with Sarasota County, rather than a general law that would apply to hospitals throughout the state. Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Englewood Community Hospital and the former Venice Regional Medical Center — now Venice Regional Bayfront Health — are the winners at this point in the case. They challenged the 2015 ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal that declared the reimbursement requirement an improper “special law” because it would single out private hospitals in the county for payments.

Enjoy hell …Stepfather arrested after boy found severely malnourished: ‘He is not my responsibility’” via Christal Hayes of the Orlando Sentinel – A man was arrested after his 5-year-old stepson was found severely malnourished, couldn’t speak or stand and was still using diapers … Brian Hall, 29, faces charges of failing to report suspected child abuse. His wife, Naomie Hall, 24, was arrested June 29 after investigators with the Florida Department of Children and Families stopped by her home to follow up on a child-neglect investigation … Officials found the boy eating pieces of cereal off the carpet, which was filthy, according to an arrest affidavit. He was dehydrated, had dry skin and weighed only 24.9 pounds, which police said did not register on a growth chart for his age. Brian Hall arrived moments after investigators showed up, telling authorities “He is not my responsibility. I’m not his father. I come from a rich and white family,” according to an arrest affidavit.

ISIS-linked group claims hack of Leon County website” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat –Up for only minutes on the Leon County home page, the message accompanied by a photo of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and audio of a 1964 Ronald Regan speech was gone as quickly as it appeared. Leon County Administrator Vince Long said no information was compromised and the hack appears to be a random, surface-level breach of the website. Important data are hidden behind a separate firewall. Internal and contract digital security workers are addressing the hack. “It appears that it was a defacement of the website, which in the realm of hacking is a bit more superficial in terms of the integrity of the information on our website,” Long said. The message said the website was “hacked by Moroccan Islamic Union-Mail. The time of the monopoly of nuclear weapons is over. If North Korea is bombed, Washington will be bombed too. It is stupid for America to be ruled by an idiot like Trump and remember the North Korean it is ruled by Kim, the wise man who is not afraid of anyone.”


Jack Latvala throws familiar jabs at Adam Putnam, Richard Corcoran” via Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times – Let’s hope he enters the race — if for no other reason than for entertainment value. With the ever-grumpy Latvala in the race, this could turn out to be the Florida political equivalent of Reservoir Dogs. The Grinch of Clearwater launched a rocket across the bows of both Putnam and Corcoran a few days ago during a television interview in Miami on Facing South Florida … Latvala noted Putnam has been a career politician who was first elected to the Florida House at the age of 22 before serving 10 years in Congress and then becoming agriculture commissioner. And as for Corcoran? So scary. Latvala dismissed Corcoran as — wait for it — a money-grubbing, litigious (cue The Phantom of the Opera theme) dreaded trial lawyer. Oh, the evil of it all! Latvala pointed to his experience as owner of a printing company, as well as other interests, as resume points that ought to put him head and shoulders above those mere dilettantes … That sort of contrast sounds swell as a campaign sound bite.


Rick Wilson, Steve Schale discuss politics in the age of Trump” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – These two men, who became friends after connecting on social media, have over 50 years of combined experience in politics. But they had never been interviewed together until Thursday’s conversation … streamed live on Facebook and Periscope. Schale and Wilson discussed data-driven elections, voter trends, the 24-hour news cycle and which candidates are likely to enter state and federal races in 2018 and 2020. Then they responded to questions from the audience posed across various social media platforms.

Rick Wilson, center, shares some front porch wisdom to Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union and Steve Schale.

“State opens application period to replace Jimmy Patronis on PSC” via Florida PoliticsThe Public Service Commission Nominating Council on Thursday began accepting applications to replace Patronis on the board that regulated investor-owned utilities. He stepped down to become the state’s new CFO. “This full-time position is appointed by the Governor, with term expiring January 1, 2019, with official headquarters in Tallahassee and an annual salary presently at $131,036,” the announcement said. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on July 28. “Applicants must be competent and knowledgeable in one or more fields which include but are not limited to public affairs, law, economics, accounting, engineering, finance, natural resource conservation, energy, or another field related to the duties and functions of the Commission.”

Florida Capitol, Miami-Dade and Palmetto Bay to mourn Betty Metcalf” – Gov. Scott is ordering flags flown half-staff at the Capitol, the Miami-Dade County Courthouse and the Palmetto Bay City Hall in honor of former state Rep. Metcalf, who died June 23 at age 95. Metcalf, a Democrat and clinical psychologist, represented Miami-Dade in the Florida House from 1982 to 1988. Among Metcalf’s accomplishments include legislation protecting children at daycare centers. During the 1970s, she also served as Florida president of the League of Women Voters.

“In memoriam: Frank Matthews, Hopping Green & Sams lobbyist” via Florida PoliticsMatthews, a lawyer-lobbyist with Tallahassee’s Hopping Green & Sams firm, died Thursday in Tampa after a “valiant battle against leukemia,” the firm announced on its website. He was 61. Arrangements are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Matthews’ memory to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James will discuss “New laws from the Florida Legislature for 2017 and their local impact” with attorney Shelli Freeland Eddie.

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 that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include Tampa Bay Times reporter Marlene Sokol; NPR TV and media critic Eric Deggans; Democratic state Sen. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg and Republican political consultant Chris Ingram.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on implementation of medical marijuana legislation in Florida. Scheduled guests are Republican State Rep. Kathleen Peters of South Pasadena and Democratic State Rep. Amy Mercado of Orlando.

Orlando Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy talks about her first six months in Congress and her journey from Vietnam War refugee to Capitol Hill.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy discusses her first six months in office, and legislation she’s introduced; PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about district attorneys and charges against illegal immigrants.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC) features hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore.

— ALOE —

Harry Potter, Abe Lincoln books on owners’ reading lists” via Joyce Rosenberg of The Associated Press – A book about marketing or managing employees may be the last thing small-business owners want to read on vacation. But some say they’ve found insight they can apply to their companies from the subjects of books they cracked just for the joy of reading — Abraham Lincoln, Harry Potter or a young woman in an alternative universe. Some of their recommendations: “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin … “Building and running a business is about relationships and bringing great minds together from all different backgrounds to be successful.” … “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood … “The fact that is set in a dystopian world where women are trophy wives, servants, or of breeding stock provides anyone reading it with a powerful feminist message” … “The Martian,” by Andy Weir … “It makes you think about who you’ve got in your corner, who you can depend on when things get tight.”

The post-review, post-premiere, post-finale world of Peak TV” via Tim Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter – In the last two years, television critics have definitively realized they can’t watch everything and there’s nobody left even willing to lie about it. Year-end best-of lists are all slapped with an asterisk that basically says, “These are the best shows that I actually saw.” If the critic’s conundrum was adjusting to a world where it was frustratingly impossible to watch every (scripted) thing after being able to do just that several seasons prior, for the average viewer it was an overwhelming sense of, well, being overwhelmed. That part, I don’t think, we’ve paid enough attention to. I’m still fascinated by what Peak TV means to the creators and writers who actually make it — this weird combination of increased opportunity, increased paychecks, decreased awareness from the public that you actually made something combined with increased awareness of a frightening new world where some platforms that paid you to make it don’t seem entirely keen on promoting it when you’re finished, or making it easy to find once they put it out into the ether. Yes, I’m infinitely fascinated by how f—ed up that situation is.

Happy birthday to three great men in The Process, the Florida Medical Association’s Tim Stapleton, Brad Herold, and the NFIB’s Tim Nungesser.

Written By

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.

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