Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
It surprised very few people who follow state politics when the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Jack Latvala‘s bid for governor on Saturday.
Latvala officially launched his campaign in August at a fire station in South Florida. The FOP’s future endorsement was foreshadowed by the strong presence of first responders who attended Latvala’s campaign kickoff that day.
As a state Senator, Latvala has stood up for the retirement system as it pertains to first responders, as well as introduce legislation that helped create the Florida Law Enforcement Officer alert system, among several other initiatives.
“It’s been a constant battle to ensure that we don’t reduce the pensions that they work for, especially in the middle of the game, as others have proposed doing,” Latvala said. “It’s important they get compensated for putting their lives on the line every single day when they go to work.”
With 104 FOP lodges throughout the state, the official endorsement from the powerful police union brings with it more than 22,000 members whose votes may be cast in favor of Latvala come next year.
“This is a big boost to my campaign,” Latvala said. “This is the first endorsement in this race of a significant size membership organization and I am so appreciative of them honoring me with this endorsement.”
Whether or not the FOP’s endorsement was a gimme for Latvala, Saturday’s announcement demonstrated:
— Latvala has earned the mantle of being the ‘law-and-order candidate.’ While crime is no longer the pressing issue it was twenty years ago, being ‘tough on crime’ has long been a hallmark of GOP policy. The police unions’ endorsements will provide Latvala with the inside track to voters who consider public safety their top concern.
— Latvala has the ability to command attention from the state’s political press corps, which, as we’ve joked, is one of Latvala’s most important constituencies. When the FOP’s endorsement came off embargo, several media outlets were ready with their stories — a sign that Latvala knows how to deal with competitive reporters hungry for a scoop. Despite his gruff exterior (or maybe because of it), the Pinellas Republican interacts with the media better than almost all of his opponents, Republican or Democrat.
— Latvala will likely garner the most endorsements of any Republican candidate; Associated Industries of Florida and the NRA will likely back Adam Putnam and Americans for Prosperity would almost certainly support Richard Corcoran, were he to run, but Latvala will undoubtedly be most editorial boards’ preferred choice, as he also will be of many mid-major statewide organizations, many with whom Latvala has built decades-long relationships. We’re not just talking about the unions, either.
Of course, Latvala needs to be careful about overplaying the endorsement card with the Republican primary voters who increasingly abhor any signal from a candidate that they are part of the establishment.
But Latvala can worry about that later. For now, he’s locked up the support of an important ally. With this kind of endorsement and with the amount of money he’s raising, Latvala’s building a campaign for the long-haul.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @RepJanetCruz: As community leaders, we must use our positions to raise awareness & help others. Proud to help our Puerto Rican neighbors as they recover.
— @NewsofStJohn: St. John, an island in the US Virgin Islands, has been without power since September 6. Please keep loving & supporting us. Please retweet.
— @JimmyPatronis: Firefighters lay their life on the line when they report for duty. Today we honor the heroes who didn’t make it home
— @ShevrinJones: I am begging @and @ to PLEASE ask DCF to extend the days for the FL Disaster Assistance Program.
— @ArekSarkissian: @reiterated help to @ @ as they prepare to maintain order @ Oct. 19 event w/ @ and protesters.
— @AdamPutnam: The old truck has covered lots of miles this week. We’re just 30 mi from home & got a flat. Pulled out the jack & tire iron & got to work!
— @JoeReedy: Alabama vs. Miami in Atlanta on Jan. 8?
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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Putnam’s digital consultant also behind ‘Liberal Latvala’ campaign” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The brief digital ad campaign attempting to brand Latvala as “Liberal Latvala” was put together by a well-known digital media firm also doing work directly for the gubernatorial campaign of Agriculture Commissioner Putnam. The committee that paid for the ads — United Conservatives for Florida — is run by Mac Stevenson, a longtime Putnam adviser … Putnam’s campaign said it knew nothing about the effort to brand Latvala, a Republican also running for governor, as a liberal. Along with the committee that paid for the ads being run by one of his consultants, the vendor who put together the campaign, Harris Media, also offers a clear link to Putnam’s team. September expenditure records show the committee paid Texas-based Harris Media nearly $5,000 for the digital media attack. That prominent Republican digital firm has also been paid nearly $230,000 for digital and advertising work directly from Putnam’s campaign, and another $152,188 from his political committee, Florida Grown PC.
— “Is Adam Putnam indirectly in bed with Germany’s far-right?” via Florida Politics
Putnam to campaign in Gilchrist — Putnam will hold a campaign stop in his bid for governor at the Gilchrist County Republican Executive Committee’s annual “Stars of Freedom Dinner.” Event begins 6 p.m. at Seven Hills Farm, 3270 County Road 337 in Trenton.
“Chris King to roll out jobs and economic policy this month” via Florida Politics — “Too many people are stuck in low-paying jobs, and they’re not moving up the ladder,” King said in a video. “So we’ve got to move fast to create a more fair and homegrown economy that creates the type of jobs that support Florida families.” King highlighted that half the jobs in the state pay less than $15 an hour, a figure many state and national Democrats have said is the minimum living wage for employees. “Our No. 1 priority as a state — my No. 1 priority as your next governor — is to do something about this,” he said. King added that the Sunshine State was at the “back of the pack in almost every economic and quality of life measurement” and said Florida is in last place among the 10 most populous states when it comes to wages, incomes and per capita GDP. The would-be governor’s policies include “investing in and lifting up and caring for” small businesses. King said he is confident helping grow small business will bring living wage jobs to the state due to his experience with his own business, Elevation, which provides affordable housing options to seniors in the southeastern United States.
— “Pam Keith gets backing from Florida NOW in bid for congressional seat” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics
“Ed Hooper lands endorsement from Bill Galvano” via Florida Politics — “Having served the community most of his life, Ed Hooper understands the issues that face Senate District 16. Ed is known for being a champion of economic development, job creation, and quality education for our kids,” Galvano said in a news release. “The election of Ed Hooper to the Florida Senate will be beneficial to not just his constituents, but all residents of the great state of Florida.” Hooper is running for the seat currently held by Clearwater Republican Sen. Latvala, who is termed out of the Senate and running for Florida governor in 2018.
Spotted at Saturday night’s Bruno Mars concert in Orlando: Sens. Galvano, Rob Bradley, David Simmons, and Kelli Stargel, Leticia Adams, Adam Babington, Kelly Cohen, Andrea Reilly, Stephanie Smith, and Kate Webb.
“David Rivera proves elusive to U.S. Marshals” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The U.S. Marshals have attempted to serve the Miami Republican with a summons tied to a Federal Election Commission lawsuit since July, but have been unable to find him. He’s also running for an open 2018 Florida House seat. “The Commission’s diligent efforts to serve Rivera have been thwarted so far by Rivera’s apparent evasion of service,” wrote FEC attorney Greg Mueller in an Oct. 12 request for more time to serve Rivera. “Rivera is almost certainly aware of this lawsuit.” The FEC is suing him in Miami federal court over an alleged illegal campaign finance scheme that led to two people serving jail time. Under the allegations, Rivera was part of a scheme to funnel campaign contributions to Justin Lamar Sternad, a straw candidate running against Democrat Joe Garcia in the 2012 Democratic primary for the South Florida congressional seat Rivera then held. The move was designed to weaken Garcia, who would later beat Rivera in the general election. Both Sternad and Ana Alliegro, a GOP operative working with Rivera, did jail time. Rivera was not charged but is now being sued by the FEC over the issue. The target of multiple federal and state criminal and civil investigations, Rivera has remained a step ahead of the law for years.
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Sweeping measure address prescription pills” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Doctors would be limited to prescribing seven days’ worth of opioids for patients with acute pain and would have to check a statewide database before ordering most prescription pain medications, under a proposal filed in the House. The 114-page bill, sponsored by House Commerce Chairman Jim Boyd incorporates proposals put forward by Gov. Scott aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic that has engulfed the state. The proposal (HB 21) would limit doctors to writing prescriptions for three days’ worth of opioids, such as highly addictive oxycodone, unless the practitioner decides a seven-day prescription is “medically necessary to treat the patient’s pain as an acute medical condition.” For the weeklong supply, physicians would have to document the patient’s “acute medical condition and lack of alternative treatment options to justify deviation” from the three-day limit. Some doctors, especially those who work in emergency rooms, have balked at a three-day limit and the requirement for documentation, which they say would take away time from patients. Critics of a three-day limit also say that prescription-drug restrictions, while possibly stopping new patients from becoming addicted, won’t do anything to address the growing number of overdoses on heroin and fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid often mixed with heroin.
“State’s counsel accuses nursing home/ALF lobbyist of undermining emergency-generator rule” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida — The state’s counsel accused the top lobbyist for one of Florida’s largest nursing home and assisted living facility trade organizations of undermining Gov. Scott‘s proposed emergency rules requiring generators at such facilities following the deaths last month of 14 elderly residents at a Hollywood nursing home. Steve Bahmer, president and chief financial officer of LeadingAge Florida, contends that his organization supports the spirit of Scott’s rules but simply cannot meet them by the Nov. 15 deadline imposed by the governor. The state’s counsel, Steve Ecenia, wasn’t buying the argument. “I’m not sure that I believe they’re giving full-throated support to what the governor wants to do here. We think there may be efforts to otherwise act,” Ecenia told POLITICO during the second day of hearings in administrative court, where the nursing home industry and others are challenging Scott’s emergency rules order. During a heated cross-examination, Ecenia laid out what he thought Bahmer’s ulterior motive was in litigating Scott’s action: to “relieve them of any obligation to move forward and establish safe air conditions for residents of ALFs or nursing homes.” Bahmer responded: “Well, obviously I’m not a lawyer. I think it would probably relieve them of that requirement under the emergency rule.”
“Lawmakers eye student financial literacy requirement” via the News Service of Florida — Florida lawmakers will again consider a proposal that would require high-school students to pass a financial-literacy course before graduation. The Senate Education Committee this week unanimously passed a financial literacy bill (SB 88) spearheaded by committee Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill … Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen filed a House version (HB 323). The measures would require students entering ninth grade during the 2018-2019 school year to earn one-half credit in financial literacy and money management. The course would delve into issues such as types of bank accounts, managing debt and basic principles of insurance policies. The Senate passed a financial-literacy bill during the 2017 session, but the measure died in the House.
Daisy Baez to discuss ending child marriage — The Coral Gables Democrat will speak at an event that examines ending child marriage in Florida. Event begins 2:30 p.m. At Florida International University, GL 220, in Miami.
Kionne McGhee headlines march for better transit — The Miami Democrat will join leaders of groups such as the AFL-CIO and NAACP in a march calling for better mass transit options for Miami-Dade County. Event begins 4:30 p.m., and starts at Cutler Bay Town Center, 10720 Caribbean Blvd. in Cutler Bay.
Al Jacquet reprimanded for misusing position to get a parking ticket voided” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel — A Palm Beach County ethics panel reprimanded State Rep. Jacquet for misusing his position when he was vice mayor of Delray Beach to get a $35 parking ticket voided. Jacquet settled ethics charges the panel had brought against him and agreed to pay a $300 fine. The Commission on Ethics found the violations were unintentional, but Jacquet admitted in the settlement agreement that he misused his position. He faced ethics charges of misuse of official position and corrupt misuse of office. Before being elected to the state Legislature in August, Jacquet served four years on the Delray Beach City Commission.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida expects hundreds of displaced Puerto Rican students” via The Associated Press — Most of the island’s 1,112 public schools are closed due to hurricane damage, and schools throughout Florida are preparing for the possibility that thousands of new students will come … Volusia County public schools’ spokeswoman Nancy Wait says the county overestimated the number of students they would receive, so she expects that they’ll have plenty of space. In central Florida alone, 292 students have enrolled in Orange County, and 150 in two other area counties. “We know it’s traumatic … we’ll do whatever we need to do to make sure they get in a classroom as soon as possible,” Wait said. The students from Puerto Rico will also be classified by Volusia County as homeless, meaning they won’t have to show birth certificates, immunization records and can qualify for free lunches and other programs.
“After Irma: Keys tourism push includes images of damage” via Jim Hayward of the Palm Beach Post — On the one-month anniversary of Hurricane Irma’s landfall in the Keys, the area’s tourism bureau posted a video showing the destruction caused by the storm. It was a unique way to draw visitors back to the resilient island chain at the southern tip of Florida. “This is a very unusual approach because I don’t think any tourism agency out there would show scenes of hurricane damage,” Andy Newman, spokesman for Monroe County’s Tourist Development Council, told the Miami Herald. “I think you need to be honest,” Newman said. “You have to show them where we started and how we are coming back out of the dark.”
“State parks take financial hit from hurricane” via the News Service of Florida — Three Florida parks in the Keys opened to the public Friday for the first time since Hurricane Irma, as the state looks at overall storm damage to its parks topping $55 million. John Pennekamp Coral Reef, Curry Hammock and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic state parks in Monroe County were reopened for day-use … just five state parks are still closed: Bahia Honda, Indian Key Historic and Long Key all in Monroe County; Faver-Dykes State Park in St. Johns County; and Hontoon Island State Park in Volusia and Lake counties. David Clark, acting deputy secretary of land and recreation at the Department of Environmental Protection, said Wednesday that the costs could grow. “As we continue with the assessments, I foresee that number continuing to increase,” Clark told the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. “Hopefully it will not break $60 million. But right now, it’s approximately $55 million.” One positive for the state is that the financial hit may have been tempered because September is historically the lowest month for revenue, at about $4 million annually, Clark said. The average in most other months is $6 million to $7 million, he said.
“Upset about remaining Irma debris? Have some patience, officials say” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — Based on numbers tracked for the county’s Solid Waste Authority, just under half of the debris generated by Irma has been cleared. About 1.4 million cubic yards of vegetative debris had been removed through Wednesday, according to the most recent report on the SWA’s website … SWA spokesman Willie Puz said the authority expects to have completed the first pass of debris collection in unincorporated parts of the county by the end of the week. “Our emergency contractors will begin a second pass at this time,” Puz said. “To put this in context, Hurricanes Francis and Jeanne in 2004 generated approximately the same amount of debris and took 87 days for a first pass or pickup. Hurricane Wilma in 2005 again generated approximately the same amount of debris, and it took 68 days for a first pass. Hurricane Irma generated almost the same amount of debris, and we are only on Day 29 and estimate the first pass will be completed for nearly all residents by (this) weekend.”
“Florida gun laws fail to block sales to dangerously disturbed people” via Megan O’Matz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida has repeatedly failed in its efforts to keep guns away from mentally ill people who are a danger to themselves or others, a Sun Sentinel investigation has found. The state’s strategy has been twofold. A decade ago, lawmakers banned gun sales to people who had been forcibly committed to mental hospitals. Four years ago, Florida broadened the ban to include those who voluntarily commit themselves for long-term psychiatric treatment. Florida court clerks have struggled with the initial law, taking up to three years to input thousands of names into the database used for gun-purchase background checks and entering incorrect information for hundreds of others, state audits concluded. Now doctors and hospitals are failing to flag the names of patients who should be prohibited from buying guns under the 2013 expansion of the law, the Sun Sentinel found. “If you’re a danger to yourself or others, you have no business getting out and being able to purchase firearms,” said Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. “There is nothing wrong with the law. What is wrong is the system is not working, and people are not following the law.”
“State tries to scuttle matching-gift case” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — The state is asking a Leon County circuit judge to dismiss a case alleging the state has failed to match $460 million in private donations to universities and state colleges that were made under Florida’s matching-gift laws. University of Florida graduates and Florida State University donors filed separate class-action lawsuits, which were consolidated, seeking to force the state to come up with $600 million in matching funds for the gifts … lawyers for the state said the matching-gift laws are subject to annual budget decisions by the Legislature and it would violate the constitutional separation of powers if the judiciary ordered lawmakers to spend the money. Noting the “firm separation” of constitutional authority among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, the motion added: “Because plaintiffs’ requested relief would violate the separation of powers, it cannot be granted.” The state’s motion also attacked an alternate request for relief that asks the court to issue an order requiring the executive branch, including the governor, to make a request to the Legislature for the matching funds.
“Hate comes to Gainesville but scale of threat unclear” via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville Sun — Expect more than 500 law enforcement officers outside the Phillips Center on the University of Florida campus … Expect white nationalist Richard Spencer, surrounded by young men in white shirts and khakis. And expect a crowd of protesters nearby to shout them down. But, beyond that, much remains unknown about the event that has residents across Gainesville anxious that the city could become the next clash between extremists on the right and on the left. “There’s a possibility of real violence,” UF President Kent Fuchs told The Sun. “We are prepared for a Charlottesville but hope it will not be that.” To keep the peace, UF is closing roads through the southwest corner of the campus around the Phillips Center, where Spencer is set to speak from 2:30-4:30 p.m. A long list of prohibited items — including sticks, bags, bikes, masks and even water bottles — has been posted. Police will try to keep Spencer’s supporters and protesters separated. It is not clear that white supremacists and protesters will be contained there. Also, part of his strategy is taking advantage of facilities at public universities that face a high legal hurdle in denying him, and where he is guaranteed controversy that gets him in front of TV cameras and onto the front pages of newspapers. Spencer is seeking to speak next at Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati, and has threatened to sue if not permitted.
“A Gainesville brewery was trying to block hate with beer. Not so fast, Spencer says.” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Gainesville brewer Alligator Brewing offered a popular deal to its patrons: give it two tickets to the so-called “alt-right” leader’s speech at the University of Florida next week and it will give you a free draft beer. “We, unfortunately, can’t stop him from bringing his hate to Gainesville,” the message on Facebook read. “But we can empty the room so his disgusting message goes unheard.” The only problem with the much-lauded plan? Spencer knows about it. “We’re going to have a system in place to combat that,” said Spencer, who had seen the ubiquitous Facebook post himself.
Happening today — Jorge Labarga speaks on hurricanes at Harvard forum — Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Labarga joins Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht at a forum at Harvard Law School to talk how the legal system handled Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Forum begins 2 p.m. at Harvard Law School’s Wasserstein Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“In a sudden flurry, Donald Trump looks to deliver for his voters” via James Oliphant of Reuters — Trump took steps to dramatically undercut the Obamacare health system, sent notice he was willing to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, moved to roll back coal-plant limits, and again demanded a wall along the Mexican border. And on social media, the Republican president appeared to relish his feuds with the news media, senior Republicans in Congress, and National Football League players who have protested during the national anthem. In a sense, it was the vintage, freewheeling Trump: throwing red meat to his voter base, following his gut and haranguing his critics. But by the end of the week, he had made more progress in undoing the policy accomplishments of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, than he had in some time. At the same time, there is still chaos and uncertainty in the White House, so much so much so that Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, took the unusual step of telling reporters that he was not resigning. Meanwhile, the job status of his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, appears to remain tenuous … Trump this week was also sending a clear message: that he plans on doing as much as he can without waiting for Congress to act.
“Trump’s Obamacare order could roil Florida insurance markets” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — “It’s going to be devastating to the people that we work with,” said Anne Packham, marketing project director for Primary Care Access Network, a Central Florida-based group. The executive order removes $7 billion in subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions, paid to health insurers offering plans on Affordable Care Act exchanges. The subsidies help consumers pay out-of-pocket expenses for care. About 1.7 million Floridians receive coverage through the exchanges. Many of them receive subsidies that lower their monthly premiums, but those are unaffected by Trump’s order. Still, Democrats and health-care-access advocates are warning the change could lead to higher deductibles, pricing many people out of the marketplace. Most worrying is the prospect of younger, healthier consumers leaving the exchanges, leading to a smaller, older, sicker and more expensive risk pool.
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— OPINIONS —
“After Las Vegas, we must ban high-capacity magazines” via U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch for the Miami Herald — After the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, prognosticators had an unfair advantage. We’ve learned from our country’s recent history of gun violence what happens after. What we haven’t learned is how to stop repeating the cycle. This week, I joined Rep. Elizabeth Esty and several of my colleagues from the Nevada Congressional delegation — Reps. Dina Titus, Ruben Kihuen, and Jacky Rosen — to work toward interrupting the tragic cycle of inaction. We introduced the Keep Americans Safe Act to ban high-capacity magazines. Like bump fire stocks, high-capacity magazines are designed to make killing more efficient, and not much else. We admit that this legislation won’t fix everything and won’t end gun violence. It won’t address the majority of the 33,000 lives lost to gun violence every year in this country, half of which are suicides. But without 30-round magazines, mass killers would be forced to spend time reloading, precious time that could allow a victim to escape or law enforcement to intervene. If that time could help save at least one life, it would be worth it. Banning high-capacity magazines is not a bold new idea. These devices were illegal until 2004 when Congress allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to lapse. That was a mistake, and it’s time to correct it by renewing restrictions on these devices which have no purpose other than highly efficient murder. It’s time for Congress to do something about gun violence.
— MOVEMENTS —
Appointed — Kelley Sasso to the Deferred Compensation Advisory Council.
Good read about Marty Fiorentino via the Jacksonville Business Journal — In 2001, Fiorentino got his chance to leave his mark on Jacksonville. As chairman of the Jacksonville Port Authority, he oversaw the division of the agency into the Jacksonville Port Authority and the Jacksonville Airport Authority. He was appointed to the Port Authority and elected its first chairman. “That’s what I’m most proud of,” Fiorentino said. “There was a lot of debate in the community, but I think it’s been very successful. It happened a week after 9/11 when the world of aviation changed. It was important to have a board dedicated to the security and growth of the airport.” As president of The Fiorentino Group, one of the largest government affairs and business development firms in the state, he said his biggest challenge is to unplug from technology that allows instant communication 24/7. “When I started, a lawyer would send you a letter by mail, you would read, put it aside, think about it, draft a response and mail it back,” he said. “Today if you wait 24 hours to respond to a client, that’s too long.” Fiorentino said the future of his firm will be rooted in integrity and commitment to client service. “We have enjoyed incremental growth year after year. We don’t try to grow too fast. We are sensitive to service,” he said. “We want to over-service what we sell. We like to over-deliver on our promises, not over-promise on what we can deliver.”
New and renewed lobbying registrations
Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: American Clinical Solutions
Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: City of Margate
Jose Diaz, Robert M. Levy & Associates: Military Family Connect
Michael Dobson, Dean Mead: Florida Ambulance Association
Leslie Dughi, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: MLU Services
Andreina Figueroa, ADF Consulting: Solidaridad Sin Fronteras
Susan Goldstein, Susan Goldstein Consulting: CannaRx
Phyllis Kalifeh: The Children’s Forum
Terry Lewis, Natalie Kato, Lori Killinger, Lewis Longman & Walker: Carlene Blunt
Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Quest Management Group, Inc
Ryan Matthews, Peebles & Smith: Ecology & Environment
Allen Mortham, Sandra Mortham, Mortham Governmental Consultants: Sunstate Academy
Steven Palmer, Forbes Tate Partners: Adapt Pharma
Louis Rotundo, Louis C. Rotundo: CRESCOlabs
Gary Rutledge, Diana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecenia: Center for Election Innovation and Research; US Iron
James Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Auto Club Group (AAA)
Steven Uhlfelder, Toni Large, Uhlfelder & Associates: Sunfest Herbs
— ALOE —
“New characters give ‘Thomas & Friends’ a jolt of girl power” via Joseph Pisani via The Associated Press — Mattel, the toy maker that owns the Thomas brand, will add two female main characters to the “Thomas & Friends” TV series next year. Nia and Rebecca will appear in each episode and help fix the gender imbalance at the shed where Thomas and the other main characters live: Three of the seven engines at Tidmouth Sheds will be female, up from just one. The gender shake-up is just one of the many changes coming to the 30-year-old show. Thomas visits real countries for the first time; the animation will move at a faster pace; there’s a new theme song; the characters will crack more jokes; and the narrator will be gone, replaced by the voice of Thomas. It’s all an effort to shake Thomas’ stodgy image, compete with flashier preschool shows and fight a drop in toy sales.
“Pluto no longer top dog at Disney” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — The theme park will welcome dogs to four hotels for the first time ever beginning Sunday. Dog lovers will find plenty of Disney perks for their four-legged friends. At check-in, dog owners will receive Pluto’s Welcome Kit, which includes a mat, bowls, a pet ID tag, disposable bags, puppy pads and dog walking maps. The kit also includes a Pluto “Do Not Disturb” door hanger to let hotel staff know that a pet is in the room. Disney has partnered with Best Friends Pet Care, an on-property, full-service facility that can provide pet daycare and other pet services, for a fee. Guests will also be able to purchase pet merchandise at the pet-friendly resorts. Here are a list of the hotels and the per night/per room pet-cleaning rates: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort $50. Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort $50. Disney’s Yacht Club Resort $75. Cabins at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort $50. A maximum of two dogs per room are allowed. Each guest room will have access to outdoor pet walkways for exercise and green spaces with pet relief areas.
“Want to be Santa? Be ready for tough questions and heartbreaking requests” via Christopher Spata the Tampa Bay Times — In the hotel’s meeting room, two dozen older, naturally bearded men and one “Clark Kent,” the industry term for fake beard wearers, sat in reindeer bowling shirts and red leather cowboy boots. They read textbooks titled Behind the Red Suit and scrawled pages of notes. They had come in search of answers to unexpectedly hard questions lobbed their way in the jolly red suit. At a shopping mall, surrounded by snow made of cotton, a little girl could turn him into putty. It was years ago after he’d retired from the police force. The girl sat on his lap, explained all she wanted for Christmas was her mother to come home. The woman had died in a car crash on Thanksgiving … Why do they do it? Santa Jay Hancock from New Port Richey leaned on a candy cane that was also a literal cane and called it “addicting” and a “high.” He loves walking up to a group of unruly children in a restaurant and seeing them instantly start behaving. He gives the parents a wink and slips them a business card. Santa Steve Rowland from Lake Wales is headed into his first season. He imagines the joy of walking into a hospital on Christmas Day. “OK, but don’t make it sound like we don’t want to make money,” said his Mrs. Claus, Jo Ann Rowland. “That’s part of it too.” My phone off 100 right There are heartwarming moments. But of course, it’s the “war stories,” as John Deane puts it, that linger for years.
Happy birthday belatedly to one of our favorites, Edie Ousley of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Celebrating today is my wonderful mother-in-law, Robin Todd, as well as Rep. Loranne Ausley Beth Switzer, and Carrie Patrick.
— Material from First Coast News used in this post.