Sunburn for 7.31.17 – Adam Putnam’s pandering; Francis Rooney launches re-election; SD 40 epilogue; GPD takes on Pres. Trump; Happy b’day Kristen Knapp


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

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

Good morning and happy birthday to Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam.

So what do you get the politician who seems to be pandering about everything?

We’ve been fans of the Polk County Republican for a long time; we even make the “Fresh from Florida” recipes his office shares. But ever since Putnam became an official candidate for Florida governor, he has been so afraid of becoming the Jeb Bush of 2018, that he is now jeopardizing the solid reputation he’s built through three decades of public service.

There’s no doubt that Putnam is the runaway frontrunner in the governor’s race and not just for the Republican nomination, but the overall race. But he seems to be so afraid of being outflanked on the right by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, that he is contorting himself into something almost unrecognizable.

On Friday, Putnam channeled his inner Donald Trump and tweeted:

Putnam’s tweet raised eyebrows among several longtime observers of Florida politics.

From a prominent Republican lobbyist and former chief of staff to Gov. Bob Martinez:

From the wife of former U.S. Rep. David Jolly:

From a veteran newspaper columnist who leans center-right:

From a self-described “Follower of Christ” and “conservative Republican”:

Meanwhile, the lawmaker son of Jack Latvala (who himself is expected to run for governor) continues to effectively troll Putnam on social media:

Three months ago, we first noticed Putnam’s sharp turn to the right when he asked his Twitter followers for their thoughts on sanctuary cities in Florida.

Perhaps Putnam’s tweets are an honest attempt to gauge his followers. Even if its not, there’s nothing wrong with tacking to the right in advance of a bruising GOP primary. In fact, in doing so, Putnam proves he may not suffer the same fate as Bush (who was outflanked on the right).

While Putnam may not be our first choice for Florida governor, we would be satisfied seeing him in the Governor’s Mansion. But we don’t want to see him get there by leaning so far to the right that common-sense Republicanism gets lost in the shuffle.

We’re rooting for the best version of Adam Putnam.

Leadership lost as Putnam is proud to be a ‘sellout’” via the Pensacola News-Journal editorial board – In an embarrassing blip of social media that did not come from the president, Putnam, tweeted: “I’m a proud #NRASellout!” This may be perfectly predictable behavior from a Republican vying to become Florida’s next governor. But it’s hardly a declaration of leadership or individualism. Nor is it a declaration of proper conservative principles which are supposed to uphold local autonomy over top-down government rule-making. Ironically, in his obsession to be seen as the most conservative Republican in what’s sure to become an extremely competitive race, Putnam is behaving like a loyalty-pledging collectivist willing to brand himself with whatever his bureaucratic bosses at the NRA tell him to. It’s cheap and pointless politics and a leading gubernatorial candidate should display more philosophy, substance and statesmanship than what’s evident in Putnam’s sorry show.

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State hands over some voting information to Donald Trump commission” via Florida PoliticsSarah Revell, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, said that the state turned over information that is already public. This would include the names of voters, as well as information on whether they had voted in recent elections … Detzner told The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that Florida law prohibits the state from turning over driver’s license information or Social Security numbers. A group including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sued to stop the state from turning over information. A federal judge ruled the state could proceed as long as it only handed over what was already public record.

GOP tries to tie Bill Nelson to single-payer concept” via Ledyard King of – A Republican ploy to force Nelson and other Senate Democrats to decide whether they backed a single-payer health care system didn’t quite work out … An amendment this week to the GOP health care bill would have created a completely government run health care system, also known as Medicare for all. It was sponsored by Montana Republican Steve Daines in an effort to smoke out Democratic support for a program Republicans consider radical and exorbitant — and a great issue to hang around vulnerable Democrats in next year’s election … But Nelson and the other Democrats didn’t bite. They voted “present” (instead of “yea” or “nay”) at the urging of Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who favors the concept but objected to the GOP tactic.

Richard Corcoran’s committee picks up $100K from an unlikely donor” via Florida Politics – Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA cut the check to Corcoran’s committee, “Watchdog PAC” … The personal injury firm has given similarly large contributions in the past, but never to a GOP committee. The Florida Democratic Party has been on the receiving end of three of the five six-figure checks the law firm has handed out in the past, including one for $118,000 last election cycle. The firm has a similar Democratic tilt in its past contributions to individual candidates, which are limited to much smaller amounts. Including the mysterious six-figure contribution Watchdog PAC had raised $208,500 through July 26, according to the unofficial tally on the committee’s website. In June, the committee brought in more than $2 million.

Chris King brings on experienced campaigner Josh Romero as new political director” via Florida PoliticsRomero most recently worked as Florida Deputy Political Director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and as field director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. He has also held campaign positions with Democrats Bob Poe, Annette Taddeo, and Kendrick Meek. “I chose a political newcomer over the established names in this race because I believe Chris’s message is what the Democratic Party needs right now to break the one-party GOP rule in Tallahassee,” Romero said. After the usual requests for campaign contributions, he told supporters what drew him into the Orlando entrepreneur’s camp. “I joined this campaign because I believe in Chris’s vision — supporting a homegrown Florida economy, investing in affordable housing, ending discrimination, and so much more,”

“Francis Rooney launches re-election campaign, answers questions about business ties” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily NewsRooney’s family-owned construction company has been awarded $41.2 million in federal contracts since he announced his first bid for office in May 2016, federal contracting data show. But, it has come at a big cost to his campaign. To comply with federal conflict of interest laws governing members of Congress, Rooney’s campaign has paid the D.C. law firm of Jones Day $134,103 since 2016 to advise him … Only 21 campaigns in both the House and Senate reported more in legal fees than Rooney’s over the same period. “I wanted to make sure (the law firm) understood exactly what the companies did and exactly what they suggested that I not do,” Rooney said. Rooney, who launched his re-election campaign in Bonita Springs, acknowledged he still owns Manhattan Construction along with his family. But, he said, he has removed himself from the business, and it’s now being run by his oldest son, Larry.

After fundraising scandal, Michael Grieco expected to drop bid for Beach mayor” via Nicholas Nehamas and Joey Flechas of the Miami HeraldGrieco would instead run for his current commission seat, potentially throwing that race into disarray, one of the sources said. “He’s following his heart,” said a donor to his campaign … The donor said that he heard the news directly from Grieco and that the decision seemed to be final. Grieco’s withdrawal would leave his main opponent, former state Sen. Dan Gelber, as the only candidate for Beach mayor with name recognition and a sizable war chest. Two other candidates, marketing professional Daniel Kahn and biking activist Kenneth Bereski, remain in the race. Grieco’s campaign came under fire after the Herald revealed his ties to an outside political fundraising group. The group, People for Better Leaders, raised money from Beach bigwigs, including developers, lobbyists and city vendors. Grieco strongly denied any connections to it.


Ask the team that helped propel Jose Felix Diaz to victory in his Senate District 40 primary how they did it, and their answer is simple: They just had the better candidate.

That might be true, but it also only tells part of the story.

The affable 37-year-old state Representative didn’t find himself up against a political novice, instead he faced a member of a South Florida political dynasty hoping to make his way back to the Florida Legislature. An early poll indicated the Miami-Dade Republican wasn’t well-known in the district, and showed him trailing Alex Diaz de la Portilla by 36 points.

Yet when the polls closed on July 25, Diaz crushed his opponents, receiving nearly 58 percent of the vote. Diaz de la Portilla, a former state representative and state senator, received about 26 percent; while Republican Lorenzo Palomares, a longshot candidate, pulled in about 17 percent.

“Pepi Diaz is one of the best candidates anyone can work for,” said Anthony Pedicini, a Tampa-based political consultant. “He’s meticulous. He’s smart. He outworked Alex.”

Outworking his opponents meant spending a lot of time and resources on the ground, all in a very short period of time.

Steve Marin, a Miami-based political consultant, has been been on Team Diaz since his first campaign. That history between the men let them easily slip back into campaign mode, something that was necessary with such a shortened election cycle. But Marin said that shorter window was really one of the only things that differentiated this campaign from others he worked on with Diaz.

“It’s not much of a change, it’s just the speed of things. It’s trying to condense everything,” he said. “I think the days get longer. You have to walk, you have to do fundraising, you have to produce, you have to sit with folks. Instead of doing a production at noon, you may have to push it out. Walking it at a certain time.”

David Custin, another Miami political consultant who worked on Diaz’s campaign, said the team set up a “central command-type structure” to make sure there was a coordinated push to get their message across.

Custin, who has been running campaigns in Miami-Dade for more than two decades, agreed the reason they came out on top was because they “had a better candidate.” But, he also acknowledges there was something else that helped Team Diaz secure a 32-point victory over Diaz de la Portilla: They had the resources, and “spent the money properly.”

Having the money allowed the team to get the message out about who Diaz was. It also gave them plenty of means to highlight Diaz de la Portilla’s record.

“When we were down … in early June, there was no fear, there was no panic,” said Custin. “Alex has name ID and a history, but it was bad.”

Pedicini said there appears to be a move afoot to say good-bye to the old guard, saying the “days of the old families and the old ways of doing things” are on their way out.

“I think what they’re doing is creating a new dynasty,” he said.

Diaz crushed his GOP opponents, but he still has one more hurdle to face before taking up residency in the upper chamber: the general election. Diaz faces Democrat Annette Taddeo in theSept. 26 special general election. Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth, a no party affiliation candidate, is also running.


Guarding Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago has cost taxpayers $6.6M, report says” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – During his seven weekend trips to the waterfront Palm Beach property this spring … From deploying cutters, patrol boats, helicopters and anti-terror specialists to safeguard the luxury estate, the price tag comes close to $1 million for each trip.

Marco Rubio stakes out role in Congress as human rights champion” via Ledyard King of USA TODAYRubio, whose Cuban heritage has given him a personal connection to human rights abuses, has spent the past six months publicly flogging political crackdowns around the world, notably in Russia, China and Venezuela. For Rubio, there was a sense of not only justice but vindication. He’s spoken plenty of times on the Senate floor about abuses in a number of countries, often focusing on a specific individual for effect. But success is hard to measure. Many of those whom he’s advocated for remain in jail or under the boot of oppressors. A number have died. So he wasn’t sure how far his address on Aya and Mohamed would be circulated. “Sometimes you think to yourself: ‘well no one’s watching C-SPAN. I’ll give the speech but you know it’s not going to be reported on. No one’s going to blog about it. Nobody’s going to write an article about what I said’,” he said during a recent interview. “But when you actually hear that it mattered to someone halfway around the world, I just think it reinforces that what we do is important and that it does matter. And it commits you to doing more.” He has never met — and might never meet — the vast majority of the dissidents for whom he advocates.

Spotted – At California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham‘s 50th birthday fundraiser in D.C.’s Penn Quarter: Florida Reps. Brian Mast and Carlos Curbelo.


Rick Scott asks for rules review after shark video” via the News Service of Florida – “This week, an incredibly disturbing video was reported by the media showing individuals senselessly dragging a shark behind their boat at high speed,” Scott wrote to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski. “The brutality and disrespect shown to this animal is sickening and I am sure that you share my outrage over these individuals’ heinous actions.” The state agency is already investigating the incident. The governor, noting that some people “irresponsibly and recklessly abuse” the state’s natural resources, encouraged Yablonski to review state fishing regulations and laws to “ensure such inhumane acts are strictly prohibited.”

Happening today – The Revenue Estimating Conference examines “Article V” revenues, which help fund the state’s court system. Conference begins 9 a.m. at 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

Bring in the FBI, candidate says, to get to bottom of absentee fraud” via Lawrence Mower of the Palm Beach Post – An outside agency should step in and look into voter fraud in the August 2016 primary election after the State Attorney’s Office found fraud but no suspect, a candidate who raised alarms before the election said … Michael Steinger, who played a critical role in triggering the state attorney’s investigation last year when he hired private eyes and filed a complaint alleging fraud in the race between himself and state Sen. Bobby Powell, called the investigation’s report “bizarre.” State Attorney Dave Aronberg, he said, might have been compromised by investigating his fellow Democrats. “Somebody else should take a look at this investigation and begin to follow up,” said Steinger, speaking publicly for the first time since the August election. “Someone who is less attached … seems logical.”

Gainesville police rejection of Trump goes viral on Twitter” via The Associated Press – The Gainesville Police Department responded on Twitter to Trump‘s remarks in a speech in Suffolk County, New York … the president told law enforcement to not be “too nice” when dealing with handcuffed suspects. The comment elicited some applause. The Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement after Trump’s speech it “will not tolerate the roughing up of prisoners.” Gainesville’s department said it “rejects these remarks and continues to serve with respect.” The tweet was retweeted nearly 34,000 times … Department spokesman Officer Ben Tobias also tweeted that those who applauded “should be ashamed.” His tweet was retweeted more than 72,000 times.

Bribes to low-paid state worker key to $1 billion Miami Medicare fraud case, prosecutors say” via Jay Weaver of the Miami HeraldPhilip Esformes is a fabulously rich businessman who once made more than $10 million in a single year from his network of Miami-Dade nursing and assisted living facilities. Bertha Blanco, a former state administrator who lives in working-class Hialeah, made $31,281 a year overseeing inspections of the very same kinds of health care facilities in Miami-Dade. She was fired in late 2016 after working for 29 years at the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Esformes, 48, and Blanco, 66, lived worlds apart but federal authorities say they were linked in a long-running $1 billion Medicare rip-off. Esformes, charged last year in what has been touted as the nation’s biggest Medicare fraud case, supplied tens of thousands of dollars in cash to Blanco but never knew her. Prosecutors say the bribes were passed through four other people who have already pleaded guilty. Blanco, according to a new criminal case filed against her, was a small cog in the complicated operation, supplying confidential information on patient complaints and unannounced state inspections at Esformes’ facilities.

Happening today – The South Florida Water Management District will begin the process of choosing a replacement for Executive Director Pete Antonacci, who was named president and CEO of Enterprise Florida. Meeting begins 4 p.m. at the SFWMD district headquarters, 3301 Gun Club Road In West Palm Beach.


President taps Seminole County businessman to African development Bank” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel J. Steven Dowd, 64, is the co-founder and manager of Ag Source LLC, a transportation, finance and agriculture logistics company based in Lake Mary … Dowd was registered as a Democrat in Seminole County from 1990 until Nov. 17, when he switched to the Republican Party — nine days after the presidential election. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will be the first U.S. director to the bank since late 2013. Former President Barack Obama’s 2014 nominee was not considered by the Senate.

Ethics panel approves former inspector general’s outside work” via the News Service of Florida – The state’s former chief inspector general will not have an ethical conflict if she works for a company with ties to a group that was once the subject of an investigation she was involved in, the Florida Ethics Commission unanimously ruled … Melinda Miguel, who resigned as Florida’s chief inspector general in April, sought the advisory opinion after explaining she planned to work for the Seattle-based Casey Family Program. The national foundation would be reviewing work by Our Kids Inc., the Department of Children and Families’ lead agency for community-based care in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Miguel said she played an “indirect” role in a DCF inspector general’s investigation into Our Kids after “whistleblowers” made allegations about the program in 2011. The Ethics Commission ruled that Miguel’s prior involvement would not violate a prohibition barring a former state employee from working for a company or organization that had a state contract that the former employee was involved in.

Appointed – Judge Charles Sniffen to the 12th Judicial Circuit Court; James Jefferson Goodman Jr., to the 14th Judicial Circuit Court.

AppointedLaTasha Green-Cobb to Florida Housing Finance Corporation; Jim Murphy to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Dean Cannon, GrayRobinson: Broward College Foundation, Inc. Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: The White House Boys

— ALOE —

How Disney’s Star Wars hotel will be an industry game changer” via Jim Carchidi of the Orlando business Journal – The future of immersive entertainment will start in Orlando and end at a hotel in a galaxy far, far away … The Star Wars expansion, officially dubbed Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, is designed to raise the theme park experience to an episode in a living adventure. For example, how well you perform a mission that’s part of one of the park’s dark rides will set off a series of cause-and-effect moments that extend throughout your day. Notice how the name “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” sounds like a movie or book title? The park will build your own personal Star Wars story. And spending the night in a Star Wars hotel means your story continues … when you exit the attraction you are going “home” to the Star Wars universe … that Star Wars hotel guests “wouldn’t deal with hotel employees; they’d interact with Star Wars creatures and droids” opens the door to a personalized multiday experience complete with time to chat, eye contact and being on a first-name basis.

This Florida attraction was named the world’s top amusement park by TripAdvisor” via Jennifer Sorenture of the Palm Beach Post – Universal’s Islands of Adventure was recently named the world’s top amusement park by TripAdvisor — marking the third consecutive year the Orlando-area attraction has earned the coveted title. Orlando’s Discover Cove took the second spot on the list, while Disney’s Magic Kingdom came in fourth place. Universal Studios Florida and Disney’s Animal Kingdom — both in Orlando — also made the list. For water parks, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Aquatica Orlando both ranked among the best in the world.

Twitter fails to grow its audience, again” via Sarah Frier of Bloomberg – A long-term turnaround depends on Twitter expanding its audience. That number stands at 328 million monthly active users — the same as in the prior quarter … Revenue fell 4.7 percent and the company’s net loss also widened, affected by a $55 million write-down of the value of its investment in SoundCloud, the German music streaming service. Twitter is still working to prove that it can build a sustainable, growing business. After hitting a plateau with its user base and struggling with a slowdown in sales, the company started narrowing its focus, shuttering businesses and teams that didn’t fit its goal of being a destination for live-event content. With a goal of reaching profitability, Twitter began investing heavily in video, aiming to draw a more mainstream set of users and premium advertising deals. The network now has a promising set of partnerships in its pipeline, but some investors are skeptical that Twitter will ever be much bigger than it is today. “It’s a niche platform,’’ said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research. “It always was and always will be.’’

Happy birthday to David Cardenas and the Florida Health Care Association’s Kristen Knapp.

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.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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