Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
In news that will come as a surprise to no one, Democrat Lori Berman easily defeated Republican Tami Donnally in the Tuesday special election to fill the Senate District 31 seat vacated by former Sen. Jeff Clemens last fall.
With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Berman, had captured 75 percent of the vote in Senate District 31, according to unofficial totals posted on the state Division of Elections website.
Top notes: Her election will make 14 women in the state Senate and cuts the Republican advantage in the chamber to 23-16. The SD 16 seat left empty by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala’s resignation will remain vacant till November.
Berman’s victory had been a foregone conclusion since the early stages of the race. Shortly after Clemens resigned over the public revelation he’d had an affair with a lobbyist, it looked like Berman would face a serious primary challenge from former Rep. Irv Slosberg.
The Boca Raton Democrat did as much to Clemens in the 2016 race, using nearly $1.9 million of his own money to bolster his insurgent campaign, though he ultimately received less than a third of the vote in the three-way primary race.
His decision to step aside and endorse his former House colleague turned the Democratic Primary into a mere formality — Berman dominated in both fundraising and name recognition and cleaned up with nearly 96 percent of the vote in her head-to-head against the fledgling campaign of first-time candidate Arthur Morrison.
Despite breaking the low bar set by Morrison in the primary, Donnally’s candidacy was no more of a threat to Berman’s Senate hopes.
Unlike the 2017 special election for SD 40, or the pending special in HD 114, SD 31 is a Democratic stronghold. No Republican challenged to Clemens in the 2016 race and the seat voted plus-25 for Hillary Clinton — one of her best margins among the 19 state Senate districts she carried.
Also unlike the HD 114 race, Berman’s victory serves more of a purpose than providing another data point for Democrats’ forecast of a “blue wave.” The Lantana lawmaker will get to be just that for the 2019 and 2020 Legislative sessions before she must re-enter campaign mode.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @LearyReports: Huckabee says WH has been advised president has authority to fire Mueller, vs. ordering Rosenstein to do so.
— @Taniel: It must be said that the Bill Nelson-Rick Scott Senate race will be decided in highly nondemocratic conditions. Florida disenfranchises 10% of its voting-age population & 21% of adult African Americans.
— @PodSaveAmerica: We would prefer Rick Scott not get elected to the Senate because he’s a right-wing ideologue whose policies hurt Florida and the country.
— @NewsBySmiley: In Hialeah, @FLGovScott speaks in Spanish about Jeri Bustamante, an aide who just died in a bit crash. She was teaching him the language. Scott’s pretty unflappable, but he looked a bit misty for a second.
— @BaseBallot: Vern Buchanan probably isn’t in danger, but he’s very smart to run a proactive campaign. Some GOPer somewhere won’t and will lose bc of it.
— @RepJimBoyd: We’ve made great strides in curbing the #opioidcrisis through legislation and funding, but our work is nowhere near done. Thank you @adamputnam for visiting Sarasota to learn how the crisis has impacted our region and thank you @SarasotaSheriff for hosting
— @RepJanetCruz: I’m proud of my record of standing against disastrous policies that have led to our children feeling unsafe in their schools and an economy that only works for the very wealthy — leaving more and more Floridians behind.
— @MCIMaps: Lori Berman has secured 75% of the vote in Florida’s SD31. This is the highest share for any Democrat in at least the last decade. A 13 point improvement over Clinton
— @JuanPenalosa: # Math: @ & @ had a huge win in FL Senate District 31 #. Democrats make up 46% of the SD31 electorate, Republicans make up 24% of it. Senator-elect @ won by FIFTY POINTS. Way higher margin than D to R breakdown
— @AndrewPollackFL: We’re not the Democratic Party. We’re not the Republican Party. We’re the Human Party. We all need to come together and discuss school safety!
— DAYS UNTIL —
Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 4; NFL Draft begins — 15; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 16; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 22; Mother’s Day — 32; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 44; Memorial Day — 47; Father’s Day — 67; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 72; Deadline for filing claim bills — 112; Start of the U.S. Open — 138; Primary Election Day — 139; College Football opening weekend — 143; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 195; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 196; General Election Day — 209; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 309; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 328.
— DAY 2 OF NELSON V. SCOTT —
Senate Republicans blast Nelson in new ad — The National Republican Senatorial Committee is releasing a new digital ad reminding Florida voters that Democrats promised to repeal bigger paychecks, wage increases, new job opportunities and employee bonuses coming from Republican tax reform. According to a statement from NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin, Nelson rejected the tax cuts to stand with his “out of touch” Democratic Party bosses. The digital ads will lay out the benefits folks see from the tax cuts, and the threat Nelson’s push to repeal the tax cuts poses to Floridians’ new economic opportunities. The 15-second Facebook ad and six-second YouTube bumper ad are part of a five-figure buy.
To view the ad, click the image below.
“The Parkland effect: Student-made parody trumps Scott’s Senate ad” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Dylan Baierlein, a student at Stoneman Douglas … released a video on his Twitter account Tuesday morning parodying Scott’s digital ad accompanying his entrance into the U.S. Senate race on Monday. Scott’s ad on his campaign account is floating around 38,000 views … Baierlein’s mashup has more than 90,000 views. Baierlein’s video takes Scott’s original ad and superimposes satirical text — such as “thank god” when Scott says it’s his last year as Governor — and articles critical of Scott, including his administration’s deletion of voicemails from nursing home administrators in the wake of Hurricane Irma. At the end of the video, Scott’s “let’s get to work” catchphrase is attributed to “Rock Skort.” David Hogg, regarded as a thought leader for the grassroots activity emanating from the South Florida high school, hasn’t formally endorsed a candidate — but he’s made it clear that he’s anti-Scott. On Tuesday, quoting Baierlein’s video, he tweeted “#notscott” to his roughly 750,000 followers.
Yesterday, I saw the greatest campaign announcement ever. See for yourselves! pic.twitter.com/hvYb78hb21
— Black Lives Definitely Do Matter (@dylbaier) April 10, 2018
“Federal complaint alleges Scott’s PAC illegally skirted fundraising restrictions” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — The Democratic-leaning group End Citizens United alleges in its new FEC complaint that Scott’s New Republican PAC was merely a means for Scott to skirt federal restrictions on unlimited donations and corporate donations while he put the pieces in place to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Nelson. Prospective candidates exploring possible campaigns are supposed to create “testing the waters” committees that must abide by contribution limits of $2,700 per individual. The complaint states: “[It] appears as if Scott consented to the Committee spending funds on behalf of his candidacy, triggering candidacy for Scott on a date earlier than the one he declared. But regardless of when he triggered candidacy, it appears as if he has been using the Committee to improperly pay for expenses associated with his exploratory activities and his candidacy for Senate.” The Scott campaign scoffed: “Typical Democrat smear tactics.”
“Mitch McConnell, Haley Barbour holding Washington fundraiser for Scott as he prepares to ‘shake that place up’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Scott, who kicked off his Senate campaign promising to “shake up Washington,” will attend a Washington fundraiser next week at the office of BGR Group, a firm founded by former Mississippi Gov. and Republican Governors Association Chairman Barbour. Those who will be in attendance include Senate Minority Leader McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which will play a big role in Scott’s race … Scott’s early campaign message has been to hammer “career politicians” and to cast himself as a political outsider. “We don’t need another politician in Washington, it’s full of politicians, and that’s why it’s broken,” said the two-term governor set to raise campaign contributions from a group of prominent Washington lobbyists and politicians. “It’s time to shake that place up,” he said.
“Scott mostly fulfills promise to create 700,000 jobs in 7 years” via PolitiFact — Scott made job creation a cornerstone of his two campaigns for governor and promised in 2010 to create 700,000 jobs in seven years … Those job gains, Scott said, would be on top of nearly 1 million jobs economists predicted would be added to the state no matter who was elected governor. With the seven-year benchmark behind us, we wondered how his promise ended up on our Scott-O-Meter … Scott remains 200,000 jobs short of his goal. Technically, Scott’s seven-year cutoff for this promise ended in January 2018, with a total of 1.47 million added jobs. That means he fulfilled 86 percent of his promised jobs … Scott promised to create 700,000 jobs on top of the 1 million jobs that would already be created in seven years, but he finished 200,000 jobs short of that total. That said, his original promise is mostly fulfilled. That’s our definition of “Promise Kept.”
“Email insights: State workers blast Scott for ‘record of failure’” via Florida Politics — “Not once as governor did Scott take the lead in investing in Florida’s services and those who provide them. He looked at the men and women who wake up every day and make Florida happen as his enemy,” said AFSCME, which represents 100,000 Florida workers. “His policies had such a dramatically negative impact on the state that even he had to sign into law, and in some cases even propose, greater investment in those who interact with some of the state’s more vulnerable citizens.” Ketha Otis, a Vocational Rehabilitation Technician and president of AFSCME Local 2862, said that she and her fellow state employees are not going to let the two-term governor “falsely portray his slash and burn record.” Otis slammed Scott for pursuing “partisan goals” and bringing low-paying jobs to the Sunshine State in the wake of the Great Recession.
Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will hold a pair of “Let’s Get to Work” rallies in Melbourne and Jacksonville as part of his U.S. Senate campaign kickoff. At 9:15 a.m., Scott will be at Classic Wood Flooring, 3115 Aspinwall Ave. in Melbourne. Later, the Governor will host a 2:45 p.m. event at Ring Power, 8040 Philips Hwy. in Jacksonville.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“‘Best month yet’: Adam Putnam rakes record cash in March” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics – Putnam had his highest fundraising month in March, grossing $2.28 million between his campaign account and his Florida Grown PAC. The Florida Division of Elections database shows Putnam raised $504,464 for his campaign account last month. His PAC numbers, reported Friday, showed a March tally of $1.77 million.
“Ron DeSantis says he’d have vetoed gun law, removed Sheriff Scott Israel” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis, a self-described “big Second Amendment guy,” says he would have vetoed the historic Florida gun-control law passed in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. During a South Florida campaign stop, DeSantis also said, if he already were governor, he would have suspended Broward Sheriff Israel over his agency’s actions leading up to and during the Feb. 14 shooting. “I would have vetoed it,” DeSantis said in a brief interview after he spoke to several hundred people at the Palm Beach County Donald Trump Club. DeSantis said he would have told the Legislature to send him parts of the legislation that enhanced school security and mental health programs — but not restrictions on guns that he views as infringements on the Second Amendment.
“National EPA chief controversy could impact DeSantis in governor’s race” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — The national media scrutiny focused on Scott Pruitt, the embattled chief of the EPA, could have a significant impact on DeSantis and his bid to become the GOP nominee in the 2018 Florida Governor’s Race … The accusations against both men involve renting a condominium from campaign donors or lobbyists. Pruitt is under fire for having potentially rented a condo from the family of a Washington D.C. energy lobbyist at below-market rates. The rental agreement required Pruitt to pay $50 per night, which on a monthly basis amounts to about $1,500 in rent. Some argue that is far below market rates in expensive cities like Washington D.C. Pruitt maintains he did nothing wrong, and the White House is standing by him even while digging deeper to make sure there is no impropriety. But that potential scandal hits very close to home for DeSantis, and the more attention Pruitt gets, the more relevant the charge against DeSantis becomes … DeSantis rented a condo from campaign donors who are executives at a federal defense contractor. According to online documents, the company has federal contracts worth millions of dollars to provide relocation services to Department of Defense personnel.
“Welcoming the troops home: Latest Gwen Graham ‘workday’ at USO in Pensacola” via Dan McAuliffe of Florida Politics – Alongside United Service Organizations, a nonprofit tailored to help America’s military service members, Graham greeted troops, staffed the information desk, and helped prepare care packages at Pensacola International Airport.
“Chris King: The contest is only beginning” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King opened his new campaign headquarters in Orlando Tuesday with a declaration he has only found his stride since the response to the Parkland tragedy. King also vowed the campaign has only just begun.
“Andrew Gillum class for brining along ‘people in the gap’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Gillum threw down the progressive populist gauntlet Tuesday evening in Orlando, reminding an audience that he’s the only non-millionaire Democrat in the governor’s race and contending he’s the only one who can convince “people in the gap” to turn out to vote. Appearing at an an organization kick-off rally held at The Abbey, a popular Democratic watering hole in downtown Orlando, Gillum discerned himself as the only non-millionaire among major Democratic candidates… He then chipped at their commitments to progressive Democratic ideals. He mocked Levine as someone who can “just write checks” to find a campaign, and Graham for having a “famous family.” … “What is at stake are the people in he gap, the people who lose when we lose elections,” Gillum said. In the end, Gillum charged, his Democratic rivals are not the kind of candidates who can inspire the large numbers of disillusioned Democratic voters to turn out to vote.
Ag Commissioner candidates add campaign cash – Three Republicans vying to replace Adam Putnam as Ag Commissioner in the fall piled on contributions last month. Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley posted about $92K in new money between her campaign and PAC and Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell added $48K the across his. As sitting lawmakers, neither could hit the trail before the 2018 Legislative Session ended March 11. That wasn’t so for Former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman who, with the benefit of a full 31 days to fundraise, brought in $19K for his campaign and $35K for his committee, while chipping in another $100K of his own money – of the $3 million he’s raised, $2.7 million has come from his own bank account. A fourth Republican, Mike McCallister, entered the race in mid-March but filed a waiver for his first report.
First in Sunburn: Philip Levine taps Jonathan Santiago as Central Florida Regional Coordinator — “[Santiago] is a veteran of Central Florida politics whose organizing and grassroots knowledge will enforce the campaign’s mission to reach voters in every community across the state,” said Matthew Van Name, Levine’s campaign manager. Santiago worked as an organizer in the Central Florida region on the last two statewide operations with the Hillary for America’s 2016 Florida team and Crist for Governor in 2014. “I am fired up and ready to get to work to elect Mayor Philip Levine as our next Democratic Governor of Florida because his record shows someone who will fight for all communities, including mine,” Santiago said. “We saw firsthand last year how Mayor Levine stepped in to help mobilize relief efforts for Puerto Ricans and took on Trump when his administration failed to act swiftly.”
“Sean Shaw raises $211K for AG bid in March” via Florida Politics — “The support our campaign has received over the last month is a clear sign of the enthusiasm Floridians have for returning the office of the Attorney General back to the people, where it belongs,” Shaw said. The campaign said $168,000 of the March haul came in through Shaw’s campaign account, while another $43,000-plus was raised through his supporting PAC, Sean Shaw for Florida. It shows eight contributions, with a $15,000 check from Tampa law firm Swope, Rodante P.A. topping the list. Florida Voter’s Fund chipped in $10,000, while real estate developer Peter H. Leach & Associates and the Florida Alliance for Better Government gave $5,000 apiece.
Government not the answer, Frank White touts in new digital ad — Government intervention is not always the best way to go, the Republican Attorney General hopeful declares in a new campaign video. “We have to keep Florida as one of the best places in the country to do business,” White says in a 30-second ad, titled “Support for Florida Businesses and Jobs,” which boasts his “A” rating from the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “We don’t always need to step in and solve a problem,” White adds. “Sometimes the ways we try to solve problems actually makes things worse. Government isn’t always the answer to every single problem in society.”
Click on the image below to watch the video:
Nancy Soderberg posts ‘impressive’ 1Q fundraising — Soderberg announced her campaign raised $375,000 in the first quarter of 2018, bringing the total raised to $920,000 in her bid for Florida’s 6th Congressional District. Alexa Sheryll, Soderberg’s campaign manager, said: “While the Republican Congress is voting to cut health care for millions of people in Florida, raising health care premiums and running up an additional $1.5 trillion in national debt — Nancy Soderberg is offering a better choice and that’s why her campaign continues to grow and gain momentum.” Soderberg was recently named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” list making it one the top 33 races nationwide. She is also endorsed by EMILY’s List.
“Vern Buchanan announces TV ad buy for CD 16 re-election” via Florida Politics — The campaign said it placed an ad buy more than $200,000 to air the commercial, entitled “Independent Leader Fighting for You,” on local TV stations. The ad is Buchanan’s second of the 2018 cycle. “Vern has a long and consistent record of independent leadership important to his district,” said Max Goodman, Buchanan’s campaign manager. “Whether it’s working across the aisle to protect our shorelines, making sure kids in low-income households have access to affordable health care, or leading the fight to stop animal cruelty, Vern has always put the interests of his community before all others.” The 30-second features the six-term congressman walking through town stopping to talk with constituents. Buchanan is likely to face Democrat David Shapiro in the November general election.
To view the ad, click the image below:
“Steny Hoyer sought to clear Florida primary field” via Marc Caputo and Heather Caygle of POLITICO Florida — House Minority Whip Hoyer flew to South Florida last weekend and met with first-time candidate Matt Haggman to pressure him to withdraw from the race and run in a neighboring district against GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart … The trip was the latest in a series of Democratic Party efforts to cull crowded candidate fields and clear a path to the general election for the establishment’s preferred candidates — typically those seen by party officials as best suited to win in November. Hoyer’s coffee-shop diplomacy failed to convince Haggman, who is one of seven candidates in the Democratic-leaning Miami district trailing the front-runner, Donna Shalala. “We are running in District 27,” Haggman’s campaign, which didn’t deny having district-switching talks with Hoyer, said in a written statement to POLITICO. “I don’t talk about my private meetings, but we did talk,” Hoyer told POLITICO when asked about his discussion with Haggman over running in the nearby 25th Congressional District. Asked about meeting Haggman in a Fort Lauderdale coffee shop that wasn’t in either district, Hoyer tersely said: “we did.”
“David Shapiro raises $401K in first quarter in CD 16 campaign” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Shapiro, a lawyer from Siesta Key, finished 2017 having raised $250,000 since entering the race in October, with just over $191,000 in the bank. His campaign reported that the first-quarter 2018 haul is the largest a Democratic challenger has ever raised in the district. Democrats Jan Schneider and Calen Cristiani, both of Sarasota, also have filed for the race. Republican incumbent Vern Buchanan’s re-election campaign said last week that its first campaign finance report of 2018 would show $470,000 raised during the first three months of the year.
“Debbie Mucarsel-Powell raises $500K in quarter to fund Carlos Curbelo challenge” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — … bringing the candidate’s campaign account to $920,000. Mucarsel-Powell, a former associate dean of Florida International University’s College of Medicine, has about $700,000 cash on hand, according to her campaign. The Democrat will need all the money she can raise to knock off the Republican incumbent, even in a left-leaning district during a midterm election that historically favors the minority party. A poll commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee showed Mucarsel-Powell down five points to Curbelo (45-40) last month. The DCCC was positive about the results, given that Mucarsel-Powell has spent little on her campaign and has run for office only once before, in 2016. But Curbelo’s district performed an average of 6 percentage points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, so Curbelo is polling ahead of the Democratic average in the district according to the DCCC’s own polling.
“Michael Hepburn files for SD 37, but will remain in CD 27 race” via Florida Politics — Hepburn told Florida Politics that his decision to file for Senate District 37 — the seat currently held by primary rival Jose Javier Fernandez — was not an indication he was looking to end his congressional bid. He also stressed he filed for 2020, not 2018. The latter could be an option if, as mandated by the new resign-to-run law, JJR opts to vacate the seat this month in order to stay in the CD 27 race. One former CD 27 candidate, Republican Raquel Regalado, also has her eyes on SD 37. She filed for the seat in February and had raised $10,500 for her campaign. Hepburn, a University of Miami academic adviser, said he thought his campaign was “in a good position to win” the eight-person Democratic Primary or, at the very least, place a close second.
“Janet Cruz officially announces challenge to Dana Young” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — “I’m running because Tampa Bay families deserve a leader who will fight for them in Tallahassee — not sell them out to big donors,” said Cruz, who has spent the last eight years in the Florida House, including the last two as minority leader. Democrat Bob Buesing, whom Young defeated in her last race, is also a candidate for the seat, but he is expected to withdraw. Many in the party see Cruz as a much stronger candidate in a district that is considered a possible top pickup for the party. Between her campaign fund and an affiliated political committee, Young has $963,000 in the bank.
— “Young has $950K on hand for SD 18 re-election” via Florida Politics
“Jeff Brandes bolsters re-election bid with $300K of own money” via Florida Politics — Brandes made a statement with his March fundraising report, which comes one week after Democratic trial lawyer Carrie Pilon filed to run against him in Senate District 24. Brandes’ report saw the longtime lawmaker plunk down $300,000 of his own money just days after Pilon’s candidacy was leaked by the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate campaign arm. The single self-contribution equals Brandes’ total fundraising for the 2012 campaign that sent him to the Senate. The report also shows 13 other contributions, including four checks for the maximum campaign donation of $1,000.
— “Democrat Tracye Polson claims $30K March fundraising in HD 15” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics
— “Anna Eskamani crosses $200K mark in HD 47” via Florida Politics
First on Orlando Rising — “Teresa Jacobs, rumored for school board run, sets announcement” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Jacobs has called a news conference on her next political move amid widespread speculation that she’s preparing a run for the countywide chair of the Orange County School Board. Jacobs is set to leave the mayor’s office due to term limits at the end of 2018 after eight years as the dominant, full-time chief executive of Orange County government. She has not publicly acknowledged interest in the school board chair’s position but has been considering options for nearly a year to stay in public office. She has called a 2 p.m.news conference for the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office, a likely site to reveal her political ambitions. Incumbent Orange County School Board Chair Bill Sublette is not seeking re-election.
“That driver is jamming traffic — he’s probably filming a campaign ad” via Reid Epstein of The Wall Street Journal — Video ads of political candidates driving are a popular campaign gimmick, intended to show they are regular folks … A bipartisan convoy of more than 40 incumbents and challengers … gab and grip the wheel in campaign ads, enough drivers to field a lineup for the Indianapolis 500. The driving gimmick is meant to convey a sense of accessible authenticity — someone caught by the camera in a workaday moment. The idea is to evoke trust and familiarity, a common touch … No candidate wants to make the same mistake as Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, who acknowledged just before launching the 2016 presidential campaign that she hadn’t driven since 1996.
— NEWS DESERTS —
In counties with low news subscription rates, support for Trump prevailed in the 2016 election.
That’s the gist of a new POLITICO report that examined the relationship between voting patterns and subscription rates across the country. In areas with higher concentrations of readers, Trump faltered when compared to Mitt Romney’s 2012 performance. In what POLITICO describes as “news deserts,” Trump saw fantastic jumps in support.
“Voters in so-called news deserts — places with minimal newspaper subscriptions, print or online — went for him in higher-than-expected numbers. In tight races with Clinton in states like Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, the decline in local media could have made a decisive difference,” write POLITICO’s Shawn Musgrave and Matthew Nussbaum.
Correlation: The report shows a relationship, not a cause or determining factor. But, the “links were statistically significant even when accounting for other factors that likely influenced voter choices, such as college education and employment.”
Trump Times: Musgrave and Nussbaum quote a source in the story who claims Trump was a “most trusted source for news” to many voters, a factor ballooned by his 50 million Twitter followers.
Paradigm shift: Political operatives likely already assumed the phenomenon was fact, even before POLITICO’s research validated it. From a former press secretary for Clinton on post-Trump politics: “One of the big challenges … is to identify and promote a message that is compelling, if not provocative almost, such that it is sufficiently viral that it transmits itself and does not rely on the old guard media outlets … but rather, it travels on its own based on the virality of it.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Enterprise Florida plans Qatar mission to explore investment” via Gulf Times — Enterprise Florida plans to organize a business mission to Qatar to explore investment opportunities in the country, said CEO Peter Antonacci. He said this after meeting the Minister of Economy and Commerce Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani on the sidelines of the “Economic Tour” in the U.S. During the meeting, they discussed the prospects of cooperation in many fields and highlighted the investment incentives provided by Qatar as well as the initiatives launched by the country to support the private sector and attract foreign investments. Antonacci presented the investment opportunities in the State of Florida and ways to establish investment partnerships across different fields. He also expressed his desire to organize a visit by a delegation of businesspersons from Florida to Qatar to learn about the investment opportunities in the Gulf country, and also to promote products and services offered by companies in Florida.
“Marc Dunbar fires back after latest John Sowinski salvo” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Gaming industry lobbyist Marc Dunbar is asking No Casinos head John Sowinski whether he’s “ready to end the games.” Dunbar’s latest “open letter” to Sowinski, released Monday, is the third in an exchange between the two over the proposed “Voter Control of Gambling” constitutional amendment, also known as “Amendment 3” … Sowinski had argued that the amendment would retroactively undo any gambling expansion approved by state lawmakers between now and then. Lawmakers recently considered but are now silent on a Special Session on gambling after they failed to pass any related legislation this Regular Session. “You obviously missed or intentionally glossed over the comments of your own lawyer who stated quite succinctly: ‘First of all, this amendment is not retroactive as has been suggested in some of the papers,’ ” Dunbar wrote.
“Irma insurance losses pegged at nearly $7.4 billion” via the News Service of Florida — … down more than $600 million from a February estimate as claims continue to be filed and closed, according to information posted by the state Office of Insurance Regulation. The vast majority of claims involve residential property, with most in southern parts of the state. More than 56 percent of claims have been closed with some payment. Another 32 percent were closed without money changing hands, often because damage totals fell below hurricane deductibles. State-backed Citizens Property Insurance this month noted that it was revisiting about one-third of its 66,761 claims from the storm. Citizens had closed about 90 percent of its claims from the September storm and had made payments on about 54 percent of the closed claims.
“Workers’ comp panel OKs reimbursement increases for medical providers” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — A state board on Tuesday approved updated reimbursement rates for medical providers, hospitals, and ambulatory care centers that would add $144 million to Florida’s workers’ compensation costs. The Three-Member Panel, which oversees medical reimbursement under the workers’ comp system, unanimously approved the new rates during a public hearing in Tallahassee. The rates need approval by the Legislature — not a certainty by any means, given that the lawmakers last acted on the panel’s recommendations in 2014. Those rates took effect in 2015.
Let us sell whole-plant medical marijuana, company says — Surterra Wellness, a medical marijuana provider, says it’s “joined the fight to allow direct-to-patient sales of full cannabis plants,” according to a Tuesday news release. Surterra filed a “petition to intervene” in an administrative challenge by Trulieve, another Florida provider, to let medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) “sell whole-plant cannabis.” Patients “should be able to obtain cannabis in any format their doctor thinks will work best to treat them,” said Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann in a statement. “The cannabis plant is medicine in its most natural form, and if DOH will allow it, we will provide it for patients.” As an example, Bergmann said many patients turn whole plants into juice, “packed with nutrients and beneficial cannabinoids, without causing any psychoactive effects for patients.”
“Marijuana provider: State’s pesticide regulation too ‘stringent’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — If a pesticide is good enough for organic crops, it’s good enough to be used on medicinal pot, a Florida medical marijuana provider says. Liberty Health Sciences, a Canadian concern operating in the U.S., last week filed an administrative challenge over a Florida Department of Health proposed rule on marijuana pesticides. Within days, however, both sides agreed to a cease-fire, Division Of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) records show. They asked Administrative Law Judge June McKinney to call off an April 23-24 hearing. That’s because Office of Medical Marijuana Use regulators were “continuing to evaluate the Proposed Rule in an effort to resolve the (company’s) concerns,” according to a filing. McKinney agreed but ordered both sides to file a status report on the case by May 7.
“Forecast a glimmer of good news for citrus growers” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — A forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed this season’s projected orange crop holding steady for the third consecutive month. The estimate followed an announcement by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue that anxiously awaited disaster-relief programs for farmers who suffered damages in Hurricane Irma will be in place by mid-July. “After a season of crisis, our industry finds hope in a new bloom, a new crop, disaster relief on the horizon and the opportunity a new season brings,” Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, said in a prepared statement. Despite the latest outlook, the citrus industry, which has been fighting the deadly citrus-greening disease for a decade and then was ravaged by Irma in September, continues to be on a pace to produce the lowest citrus counts since World War II.
“Court takes aim at ruling on ‘deer dog’ hunting” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A divided appeals court overturned a ruling that would have forced state game officials to rein in “deer dog” hunting that some Northwest Florida residents argue has infringed on their property and created a nuisance. The ruling by a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal came after a long-running legal battle involving the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and people who own property adjoining the state Blackwater Wildlife Management Area. “Deer dog” hunting, as the name implies, involves hunters using dogs to flush out deer and has long been allowed in the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area. But the legal battle stems from hunters and dogs trespassing on adjoining private land, with property owners alleging they have been threatened by hunters and have been subject to other problems such as graffiti and arson.
“Traffic ticket firm asks justices reject bar case” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Bar in January filed a petition requesting that the Supreme Court issue an injunction against TIKD Services LLC. But in a 19-page document, TIKD disputed arguments that it practiced law without a license and asked the Supreme Court for a summary judgment ruling and a dismissal of the Bar’s claims. TIKD, which was created in 2016, operates an online service in which motorists can upload pictures of tickets, according to the document filed at the Supreme Court. TIKD performs a statistical analysis after receiving tickets and determines whether to provide its services to motorists. If it accepts a ticket, TIKD charges a fee and pays an attorney to represent the motorist. TIKD also pays fines or court costs if tickets are not dismissed, the document said. “This is not a complex case,” TIKD attorneys Christopher Kise and Joshua Hawkes wrote. “The undisputed facts establish respondents (TIKD and the firm’s founder) do not engage in any acts constituting the unauthorized practice of law, and they do not employ or control the licensed, independent Florida lawyers who provide legal advice and representation to TIKD customers.”
Airbnb announces Charlotte County bed tax agreement — With the tax agreement in place, the County will be able to benefit from more people visiting Charlotte County and staying longer through home sharing. Effective May 1, Airbnb will automatically collect and remit local taxes for all taxable bookings on the Airbnb platform in the County, making the process seamless and easy for both Airbnb hosts and the City. Airbnb has proactively partnered with over 370 local governments throughout the U.S. to collect and remit taxes, making the process seamless and easy for hosts to pay their fair share while contributing new revenue for local governments. In Florida, the Company has been collecting and remitting state sales taxes on all statewide Airbnb bookings since 2015. Charlotte County now represents the 40th Florida county where Airbnb will collect and remit local tourist development taxes (otherwise known as the bed tax) — a list that already includes neighboring Lee, Sarasota, Hendry, DeSoto and Glades.
“How developers discovered Tampa’s ‘best-kept secret’” via Nick Madigan of The New York Times — A forecast by Dodge Data & Analytics predicts that $13 billion will be spent on development in the Tampa Bay area — which includes Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg — through 2022. That figure, for both new construction and renovations, includes apartments, condos and commercial and institutional buildings. The most ambitious of the projects is Water Street Tampa, a $3 billion, multiuse development covering 16 blocks on and around the city’s downtown waterfront. The project is being underwritten by Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture of Cascade Investment, owned by Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, and Jeffrey Vinik, the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team … streets are being designed with driverless cars in mind and parking structures that could be converted to other uses. Renderings of the project show wide, verdant sidewalks, with bustling businesses, cafes, shade trees and children running through fountains. The developer estimated that 23,000 people will fill the Water Street area every day, as residents, visitors or workers.”
“Miami-Dade County approves moving forward on FPL wastewater agreement“ via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – A plan to use treated wastewater to freshen Florida Power & Light’s troubled nuclear cooling canals will move forward, for now, without meeting strict water standards set for nearby Biscayne Bay. On Tuesday, Miami-Dade commissioners authorized the county staff to negotiate the deal, but put off setting the standards. Instead, terms of the costly treatment will be ironed out as the utility and the county staff work out details. Any project will ultimately come back to commissioners for final approval. But by then, critics worry it may be too late.
“Miami students walk out to protest off-campus gun violence” via The Associated Press — Hundreds of students have walked out of their Miami high school to protest gun violence after four current or former classmates were shot off campus. The students chanted “no justice, no peace” and carried “enough is enough” signs outside Northwestern Senior High School. They staged the protest after the weekend shooting deaths of 17-year-old Kimson Green, a 10th-grader who was about to become a member of the National Honor Society, and 18-year-old Rickey Dixon, a former Northwestern student. Two other current or former classmates were wounded. The shooting happened Sunday at an apartment complex in the Liberty City neighborhood, which is plagued by gun violence. No arrests have been made.
“North Miami Beach mayor quits office, gets house arrest in campaign finance case” via Jay Weaver and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — George Vallejo accepted the deal, which was negotiated in advance of his being charged with two first-degree misdemeanors by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office. Vallejo pleaded guilty to filing a false report on a $5,000 expenditure by a political action committee and authorizing an illegal expenditure in that amount by the committee during his 2015 reelection campaign. Under his agreement, Vallejo was granted a withhold of adjudication that will allow him to erase his criminal record when his probation is completed.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Betsy DeVos calls Florida a ‘bright spot’ in test results” via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO Florida — “The report card is in, and the results are clear: We can, and we must, do better for America’s students,” DeVos said in a statement. Fourth- and eighth-graders’ scores on National Assessment of Educational Progress stayed about the same overall compared with the last administering of the test in 2015. Florida saw notable improvements in fourth- and eighth-grade math and eighth-grade reading. Duval and Miami-Dade counties in Florida also saw increases in fourth-grade math. DeVos has visited schools in the Sunshine State many times in her short tenure as Education secretary. “Florida leaders, administrators and, most importantly, teachers are to be commended for their continued efforts on behalf of students,” she said. “Florida has been at the forefront of bold, comprehensive education reform for decades. From accountability to literacy, to teacher certification and recognition, to providing parents more freedom to select the learning environment that best fits their students’ needs, Florida is rethinking education.”
What Chris Hudson is reading – “How a Koch-backed veterans group gained influence in Washington” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Lisa Rein and David Weigel of The Washington Post — In the end, David Shulkin‘s refusal to pursue greater outsourcing of health care for veterans — the top priority of the Koch-backed Concerned Veterans for America — further alienated him from the group’s allies in the Trump administration and contributed to his ouster, according to officials familiar with the situation. The VA secretary’s fall underscores the growing clout that CVA is wielding in the Trump era through a national grassroots network and sympathetic officials in the White House. What began as a savvy political strategy — tapping veterans as a potent constituency and seizing on bureaucratic failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs to hammer the Obama administration — has transformed CVA into one of the most muscular arms of the conservative Koch network. Since its formation seven years ago, the group has racked up major legislative victories and poured at least $52 million into campaigns and policy work, according to tax filings.
— ISLAND UPDATE —
It’s been six months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, but an estimated 55,000 islanders still don’t have power.
According to Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, that’s a result of a lack of influence in Washington. He told POLITICO’s Off-Message podcast host Edward-Isaac Dovere that he wants to change that by voting in mass numbers in the 2018 midterm.
“Congressmen need to know that if we go to their office, they can’t just give us a happy talk, as has happened in the past,” Rosselló said during the episode. “So, if you’re going to give us happy talk and then take actions that clearly affect the people of Puerto Rico, then the only strategy that we have left … is to go to your districts.”
Eyes on Florida: The Sunshine State was home to many Puerto Ricans ahead of Hurricane Maria and has since seen a historic influx of islanders. Expect an uptick in voter registration drives in the state, ones that emphasize voting in the U.S. House and Senate races, Rosselló said.
It’s personal: Rosselló “has uncles who made it to March without any power at home, and employees in the governor’s office too,” according to Dovere.
Establishing power: Rosselló said he hopes Puerto Ricans can turn up at the polls in record numbers in 2018 and 2020, something that should encourage government leadership to initiate the island’s long-sought request for statehood. A secondary option could be recognizing Puerto Rico as its own country.
— OPINIONS —
“FBI raid on Michael Cohen is the most dangerous day of Donald Trump’s life” via Rick Wilson of The Daily Beast — Monday’s FBI raids on Cohen’s Rockefeller Center office, his hotel room, and his home all provided a proper dose of comeuppance to a man more accustomed to screaming threats, shittier legal theorizing, and putting his strip-mall law degree to work in service of Trump. Cohen … should be understood as an almost perfect metaphor for the Trump era, the Trump White House, and everything else orbiting this president like the hot chunks of waste spinning around the central oscillator at a sewage-treatment plant. He truly brings it all: the shoddy, hair-trigger temperament, the indifferent education and understanding of the world outside of dalliance-cleanup duty and real estate branding deals, the malfeasance, the petty corruption, general shitheel behavior, the impulsivity, the tantrum-as-negotiation style, and the overall sketchiness of the Trump administration. It was one thing for Cohen to pay Stormy [Daniels]’s $135,000 hush-money payment from his home-equity loan. It’s quite another when the most experienced and determined federal prosecutors are giving you an investigative colonoscopy. If you think for one moment there’s nothing dodgy and damaging against Trump in the files of Cohen, think again. Cohen was one of Trump’s most vulnerable and dangerous keepers of secrets. If Trump had a brain, he would have been terrified this moment would come. Cohen simply lived in a state of idiot hubris that it wouldn’t.
“Your money, their war. Pam Bondi, Scott fight judge’s order to follow Constitution on voting rights” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Our state is one of only three that bars many people convicted of a felony from voting — for the rest of their lives — unless they get personal permission from the governor and Cabinet. It’s also, as it turns out, unconstitutional. So said a federal judge in a scathing ruling a few weeks ago that called the state’s vote-denying “scheme” arbitrary, political and “nonsensical.” … “Florida strips the right to vote from every man and woman who commits a felony,” ruled Judge Mark Walker. “To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials …. No standards guide the panel … The question now is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It does not.” Still, Scott and Bondi are fighting to keep their extremist policy in place. These two rarely miss an opportunity to make the wrong decision on civil rights. Whether it is gay marriage or voting rights, they routinely treat the U.S. Constitution like toilet paper — and use your tax dollars to fight their legal battles. Equally galling, though, may be their alleged reason for doing so — that they claim they are standing with victims. Since when?
— MOVEMENTS —
“Allen Winsor, Wendy Berger picked to serve as federal judges” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Trump said he will nominate Winsor, a judge on the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal, to serve as a judge in the federal Northern District of Florida. Also, he chose Berger, a judge on the state’s 5th District Court of Appeal, to serve as a judge in the federal Middle District of Florida. Winsor was appointed in February 2016 by Gov. Scott to the 1st District Court of Appeal after a nearly three-year stint as state solicitor general in AG Bondi’s office. Scott appointed Berger in 2012 to a seat on the 5th District Court of Appeal, which is based in Daytona Beach and hears cases from a huge swath of Central Florida, stretching from Brevard County to Hernando County. Berger worked from 2001 to 2005 as an assistant general counsel for Jeb Bush, who then appointed her as a circuit judge in Northeast Florida’s 7th Judicial Circuit.
“Personnel note: ACLU of Florida’s Howard Simon to retire” via Florida Politics — Howard Simon, the longest-serving American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) official, is retiring at the end of the year. Simon spent the last 21 years as head of the ACLU of Florida and directed the organization’s Michigan office for 23 years before that. “His cumulative 44-year career … is the longest in the ACLU’s 98-year history,” the group said in a Monday news release. “It has been a thrill to be part of an organization that has so successfully defended and expanded human rights,” the 74-year-old Simon said in a statement.
“Duke Energy executive, former chamber leader part of USF task force on consolidation” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The University of South Florida appointed five members to the school’s Consolidation Planning, Study and Implementation Task Force … a sign that the university system is taking further steps to merge its campuses into one accreditation. The school is required to form the task force under Florida law approved this year mandating the school consolidate its accreditation, despite concerns from some St. Petersburg business, education and political leaders that the decision came too swift with little evaluation of potential consequences. Florida lawmakers pushed for consolidation because it would give the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses access to additional funding USF Tampa is receiving under pre-eminent status it achieved this year. Appointees include former Tampa Chamber of Commerce Chair Mike Griffin, Integral Energy Managing Partner Anddrikk Frazier, Duke Energy vice president of Government and Community Relations Melissa Seixas, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport President and CEO Rick Piccolo, and USF Honors College student Kayla Rykiel.
— FOR YOUR RADAR —
Between the U.S. Senate showdown, a tight Governor’s race and potential changes to felon voting rights restoration, it’s hard to get a handle on all the activity in the Sunshine State.
In this week’s episode of The Rotunda, Trimmel Gomes finds the common thread.
The podcast features can’t-miss insights shared on FiTV from POLITICO’s Matt Dixon and blogger Brian Burgess, a former Scott spox, regarding the Governor’s Senate bid. And alongside veteran clemency attorney Reggie Garcia, who’s authored two books focused on restoring civil rights to felons, Gomes grabs the fine details of Florida’s voting rights restoration process, which currently looms in uncertainty.
Dixon’s take: “Governor Scott’s the best political animal the state has from a fundraising perspective, from being able to hit every media market in his private plane to a laser-like focus on his talking points … at the same time Nelson is a sort of folksy Democrat … he has had weak opponents, but he’s also won statewide races” when Republicans swept the same ballot.
From Burgess: “He is prepared … It will be a very tough race for [Scott], but Bill Nelson has never faced anything like what he’s about to face.”
Ex-con voting rights: “Do I think [the state] can improve the rules … absolutely,” Garcia said, regarding the long line of felons awaiting rights restoration. He said that could be accomplished by upping the frequency of meetings and handling some cases administratively.
— ALOE —
FJA Briefing now available on Amazon Alexa — Ryan Banfill, communications director for the Florida Justice Association, has been developing the project since December “working the bugs out.” The soft launch is completed, and users with Amazon Echo can now go to the Alexa app, search for “FJA Briefing,” enable it and hit play. “My wife is the voice,” Banfill says. “She’s a former Florida Public Radio reporter, so it’s really a family affair. It’s a labor of love for me as it takes me back to my reporting roots.”
“Disney-themed home carries big price tag” via Mary Shanklin of the Orlando Sentinel — A Windermere-area house known as the Mickey-and-Minnie house and filled with Disney memorabilia, wall treatments and mouse-eared light fixtures has hit the market for $880,000. The lakefront house with seven bedrooms in Orange County’s Summerport community pays tribute to Walt Disney World characters — from mouse silhouettes in the wood-floor stains to Tinkerbell staring down from the ceiling of a powder room, as shown in several of 79 photos on Zillow. Mickey and Minnie Baus, the couple that owns the property, were close to losing it three years ago when Deutsche Bank won a foreclosure and planned to auction off the house and its contents in January 2015. Court records show the owners came current on their payments and forestalled the sale of the two-story, cream-colored house. The couple purchased the home for $550,700 near the height of the market in 2005 with an adjustable-rate mortgage just before the housing market collapsed.
“Florida’s sex industry ‘in a panic’ after feds shut down notorious Backpage website” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — The feds have shut down Backpage, the classified ad service long derided as the go-to hub for human trafficking, particularly in South Florida. And they’ve indicted the website’s founders and employees, alleging the company raked in tens of millions while knowingly facilitating the prostitution of minors. It was billed as a resounding victory for law enforcement, but the demand for sex won’t stop. Critics say the site’s shutdown may make work more dangerous for women in Florida’s ever-thriving sex industry — and will push the business to murkier parts of the internet, complicating the job of local police officers who regularly scoured Backpage to find trafficking victims. “People are celebrating a hollow victory,” said Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, an author and criminology professor at George Mason University who serves an expert witness in human-trafficking cases. “Backpage was a honeypot for law enforcement. It was a centralized location where they could find ads and decide whether or not to initiate a sting.”
“NASA’s mission to touch the sun arrives in Florida” via Karen Fox of phys.org — NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for its launch to the Sun, scheduled for July 31, 2018 … It was transported to Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, where it will continue testing, and eventually, undergo final assembly and mating to the third stage of the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle. Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first mission to the Sun. After launch, it will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere — the corona — closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone. While facing brutal heat and radiation, the mission will reveal the fundamental science behind what drives the solar wind, the constant outpouring of material from the Sun that shapes planetary atmospheres and affects space weather near Earth.
“’Solo: A Star Wars Story’ will debut at Cannes Film Festival” via Nardine Saad of the Los Angeles Times — The spinoff prequel revolving around Han Solo’s youthful adventures is among this year’s official selections and will premiere out of competition, festival organizers announced … Director Ron Howard’s installment of the legacy franchise, which stars Alden Ehrenreich as the ace pilot, will screen at the Grand Amphitheatre Lumière at the Palais de Festivals, organizers said. Reports have indicated that the film will be shown on May 15, but Cannes officials and Disney have not yet publicly confirmed the date. The film opens in France on May 23, just before opening in U.S. theaters on May 25. The French Riviera celebration has previously showcased “Star Wars” fare, including 2002’s “Attack of the Clones” and 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith.
“Uber overhauls its app for drivers” via Kia Kokalitcheva of Axios — Earnings is by far the top area of complaints from ride-hailing drivers; just look at the headlines every time Uber or Lyft have cut fares. Uber says a new app is directly related to earnings as it’s how drivers do their work. “At the end of the day, drivers just want an app that’s reliable and just works,” Uber product manager Yuhki Yamashita told Axios. Uber says it focused cleaning up the interface and making sure each feature is more thoughtfully designed, though the new app’s overall concept isn’t much different from its predecessor. A pill-shaped counter at the top of the home screen shows the driver’s earnings, but it can be customized and even hidden altogether (drivers in some countries don’t want their income visibly displayed on their smartphones). Internet connectivity was also considered, which is especially important for drivers in emerging markets. Now, the app lets the driver end a ride after dropping off a passenger even if they’ve lost their connection, for example. The app will simply note the car’s GPS coordinates and update the information when it re-connects to the internet. Uber spent more than a year on the app since first deciding to redesign it in late 2016.
Happy birthday to one of the wittiest people in The Process, Chris Carmody of GrayRobinson. Also celebrating today are Betsy Collins and Dr. Lance DeHaven-Smith.