Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.3.18
A general view of the Florida Capitol early in the morning Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce again asks: Is Florida ready to take on poverty to ensure a more prosperous future?

“There are thousands of business leaders across Florida who get accused of not stepping up to the call on issues like prosperity,” said Mark Wilson, president & CEO of the Chamber.

“It’s been my experience that 100 hundred percent of the time, when business leaders are exposed to the data … 100 percent of the time they step forward and say ‘I didn’t know that, now that I do, what can we do about it?’ ”

On Thursday at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, members of the business, political, and academic community will meet for the second year in a row to discuss ways to boost prosperity for all Floridians.

The dozens of scheduled speakers include former House Speaker Will Weatherford, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and Mel Martinez, Chairman, Southeast U.S. and Latin America, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a former U.S. Senator and HUD Secretary.

“Nearly one in four Florida children live in poverty,” the Chamber reports. “Five million Floridians are on food stamps, and more than half of all Florida students are eligible for free and reduced lunches and more than 3.3 million Floridians don’t know where their next meal will come from.

“The Florida Chamber believes social safety nets are needed and necessary to help bridge the crises, (and) the goal of these programs should be to get Americans who have fallen on hard times back on their feet.

“Florida’s business community can help break this cycle and create greater opportunities for the next generation. By incorporating greater educational opportunities and allowing free enterprise to create more private-sector jobs, we can make generational poverty a thing of the past and the American Dream of economic freedom a reality.”

Click here to visit the site for a list of events and scheduled speakers, and for registration information. Click here to view a highlights reel from last year’s summit.

Will Weatherford continues quest to reduce generational poverty” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — Everybody needs a real chance at having a secure future, the former Speaker will tell those attending the Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity. The way to do that is to attack the issue of generational poverty. That won’t be easy. “When people hear about 4 percent unemployment rates, or the stock market performing well, or real estate doing well, they forget there is a large section of the population that doesn’t have a large portfolio. They might not have real estate,” Weatherford said. It’s a serious problem in Florida. “Poverty is a problem that has plagued society as far back as history goes,” he said. “I don’t know that there is a way to completely eradicate it, but we should be creating a society where someone born into poverty doesn’t have to stay that way. It won’t happen overnight.” Weatherford said that education doesn’t necessarily have to come from college to create opportunity. “It all starts with choice. It’s about empowering kids and parents to see there are multiple pathways to success,” he said. “Your child does not have to go to college to be successful in life. There are other avenues that are available to them.”


@AP: BREAKING: Contradicting president, Giuliani says Trump repaid Michael Cohen for $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

@MarcoRubio: Although written by intern at Politico, this article is a reminder of how difficult it can be to discuss public policy in political press. Not only did I not back down on tax cut, I doubled down & added detail for rationale

@LearyReports: .@NancyPelosi tells @TB_Times editorial board that she wishes Alan Grayson chose to run in a different district instead of challenging @DarrenSoto. Hopeful of taking seat held by “my girlfriend” @RosLehtinen, Curbelo, Mast, DeSantis. Says “Florida is key” to taking back House.

–@KirbyWTweets: .@AndrewGillum on @kanyewest: “He thinks he’s free. And his comments yesterday make it very very clear that he’s not free. At all. And not woke, not awoken, not even sleep walking.”

@LaurenceReisman: Can’t wait to see what’s next for @joenegronfl. He’s grown a lot as a legislator in the dozen or so years I’ve covered him. I’ve admired his conservative pragmatism.


Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 1; Mother’s Day — 10; Deadpool 2 release — 15; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 22; Memorial Day — 25; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 40; Father’s Day — 45; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 50; Deadline for filing claim bills — 90; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debates — 90; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debates — 91; Start of the U.S. Open — 116; Primary Election Day — 117; College Football opening weekend — 119; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 173; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 174; General Election Day — 187; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 287; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 306.


Joe Negron to leave Senate earlyvia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Senate President Negron tendered his resignation from elected office to Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday, to be effective Nov. 6, “the same day his term as Senate President ends.” Despite his current and final term not ending till 2020, Negron had telegraphed his decision his recent months in ‘exit interviews’ he gave to state news media, including Florida Politics. He was last elected in 2016. “I have always been a big believer in term limits,” the Stuart Republican said in a statement. “…The way I see it, I actually received an extra year because I came to the Senate in a Special Election in 2009. The additional two years of my final term were added only through the vagaries of reapportionment litigation.”

Negron retirement opens new swing Senate seat on Treasure Coast” via Matt Dixon and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida —  Roughly 60 percent of the Treasure Coast district lies in Democratic-leaning St. Lucie County, but 30 percent is in a ruby-red slice of Martin County, with the remainder in a tiny portion of Palm Beach County. Like any open state Senate seat in a swing region, a crowded list of potential candidates is already being discussed on both sides. For Republicans, potential candidates include state Reps. Gayle Harrell and MaryLynn Magar; Martin County School Board member Rebecca Negron, who is Negron’s wife; and Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard. On the Democratic side, state Rep. Larry Lee Jr. and St. Lucie County Tax Collector Chris Craft is on the proverbial short list. Democratic state Senate campaigns thus far have been at a perpetual money disadvantage to the state Senate Republicans, which could play a big factor.


New television ads target Bill Nelson” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – A super PAC that was once aligned with Florida Gov. Rick Scott is launching a new television ad that goes after U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. The New Republican super PAC is spending $2.4 million to air an ad that contends Nelson has not accomplished anything during his lengthy time in office. The ad is scheduled to start airing next Monday. The ad echoes criticism that Scott has already leveled at the incumbent Democratic senator by noting how much Nelson has been paid during his political career.

Click here to view the ad.

Rick Scott pushing ‘supermajority’ proposal for Congress tax hikes” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Scott, who pushed for such a measure with the Constitution Revision Commission, now contained in Amendment 5 going before voters this fall, touted the tax proposal as the first component of his “Make Washington Work” plan, announced in a campaign stop in Medley. Scott said he would push for a proposal to require two-thirds approvals for any federal tax or fee increase … he characterized himself as a governor championing tax cuts while charging that his opponent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has voted in favor of higher taxes and fees more than 300 times: “I know that many people will say this cannot be done, or that this has been proposed and failed before. That way of old thinking by career politicians is what has allowed Washington to become so dysfunctional.”

Taxing talk: Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott on Wednesday rolled out the second part of his “Make Washington Work” plan: To require a two-thirds vote of each chamber of Congress to approve any tax or fee increase. (A similar proposal for the Florida Legislature is on November’s ballot as a constitutional amendment.)

Scott inks agreement with NRSC via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Scott has inked a fundraising agreement with the National Republican Senate Committee, the Washington-based group that will play a big role in his race. The deal is not with Scott’s official Senate campaign, but through a separate joint fundraising committee called the “Rick Scott Victory Fund,” which was created April 10, the day after Scott announced he was running, according documents filed with the Federal Election Commission on April 19.


Voters overwhelmingly support felon voting rights amendment” via Florida Politics — Nearly three-quarters of Florida voters say they would support a ballot amendment to restore voting rights to ex-cons, a new poll found. The survey, conducted jointly by North Star Opinion Research and EMC Research, found that supermajority support for the measure regardless of the political party. “This amendment has the strong bipartisan support needed to pass with Florida’s 60 percent threshold,” North Star’s Dan Judy. “Regardless of party, gender, race, or region of the Sunshine State, Floridians strongly support Amendment 4.” Democrats were the most supportive, with 88 percent in favor, followed by independent voters at 78 percent and Republican voters at 61 percent. That puts all three categories above the 60 percent mark needed to make the state constitution.

Assignment editors — The Florida Chamber of Commerce will make a special announcement with Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, joined by former House Speaker Will Weatherford, Chamber Board of Directors member Tracy Duda Chapman and Chamber President Mark Wilson. News conference begins 10 a.m. at the Rosen Plaza Hotel, Ballroom B, 9700 International Dr. in Orlando.

Ron DeSantis trashes Adam Putnam on immigration” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — “We are very different on our approach to illegal immigration,” DeSantis said in an interview with conservative radio host John Fredericks. The issue has been seen as a Republican primary weakness for Putnam who, as a member of Congress, took some votes seen by some in the party as supporting “amnesty.” In the interview, DeSantis specifically pointed out Putnam’s support of legislation spearheaded by Sen. John McCain that included a guest worker program for undocumented immigrants across all industries, and a separate 2013 bill by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that offered a pathway to citizenship. At that time, Putnam was the state’s agriculture commissioner, not a member of Congress. But he publicly supported the plan. DeSantis said he disagrees with Putnam on the mandatory use of E-Verify, a program used to verify the legal status of those seeking work through a federal database. The issue in Florida does not fall along traditional party lines. The business community and sugar industry, both of whom support Putnam, oppose mandatory E-Verify because they fear it will crimp the flow of cheap labor.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will meet with members of the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association in Miami beginning noon, 1821 SW. 9th St. in Miami.

Philip Levine taps Bob Sciranko as Broward Regional Area Director — “Bob’s deep experience in Broward County will enhance the strength of our robust South Florida engagement plan as we work to bring Mayor Levine’s message directly to the people of Florida,” said Levine campaign manager Matthew Van Name. “We’re excited to have him join Team Levine as we continue to expand and develop a dynamic campaign infrastructure built to engage with voters in communities throughout every region of our state.” Most recently, Sciranko served as field director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. Previously, he worked as Eastern Broward County organizing director on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and on Charlie Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign for Northern Broward County. He also served as a deputy field organizer on President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Assignment editors — Levine will speak at a town hall in Orlando, part of the Central Florida Grassroots Progressives’ Meet the Candidate Series. Town hall begins 7 p.m., First United Unitarian Church, 1901 E. Robinson St. in Orlando.

Jeremy Ring earns police union endorsement in CFO race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Ring picked up the support of the Florida Police Benevolent Association. In a statement, PBA President John Rivera said, “Senator Jeremy Ring is a passionate advocate for Florida’s law enforcement and correctional officers. He was our champion in the Florida Legislature.” Ring, a former Parkland resident, represented northern Broward County in the Florida Senate from 2006 to 2016. Rivera went on to say that Ring’s “innovative mind and tenacity helped usher in major positive changes for the officers and their families. We are proud to endorse Jeremy Ring for Chief Financial Officer.”

CD 27 hopeful David Richardson launches Puerto Rico listening tour” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The two-day visit will deal in part with the island’s recovery following Hurricane Maria. Richardson is set to meet with Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and other officials to discuss the impact of relief efforts eight months after the island was struck. Richardson blamed the White House for the assistance gap, saying South Floridians are in part “responsible for calling out the Trump administration’s mistreatment of Puerto Rico” due to a large number of Puerto Ricans who call South Florida home.

All that campaign cash and no campaign. What’s a Miami politician to do?” via David Smiley and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — For weeks, state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez and Miami Commissioner Ken Russell dealt with the same question: would they continue to campaign for Congress even though it would cost them their current elected positions? Now that they’re out, they’ve got a new problem: What are they going to do with all that campaign money? Rodríguez and Russell both dropped out of the race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a decision predicated by a new Florida law that requires local and state politicians to resign if they want to campaign for a federal office with an overlapping term. Between the two of them, they walked away from the campaign with as much as $700,000 combined. Neither Rodríguez nor Russell could say exactly what would happen with every dime. But both men plan to refund contributions to anyone that wants their money returned — while leaving open the possibility that they’ll keep some of it on hand for a future run.

With his background, Alex Penelas should consider a hard pass on SD 36” via Florida Politics — As mayor of Miami-Dade from 1996 to 2004, Penelas’ earned a dubious reputation, which in today’s political environment should be a disqualifier for elective office. During his time in office, Penelas became a significant part of the corrupt political landscape, featured prominently in 1998 by The New York Times. One most notable example was Penelas’ failed effort in 1999 to increase taxes to relieve traffic congestion — while facing accusations of corruption. As a result, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle called for a special prosecutor to review allegations of campaign finance law violations. Former State Rep. Annie Betancourt described the situation a little blunter — the campaign was “money laundering.” And according to The Floridian, while Penelas may offer Democratic name recognition and fundraising prowess in the SD 36 race against Manny Diaz, he also seems more than willing to “sacrifice the little guy for personal gain.” With a questionable record stretching back decades, it may be good for Penelas to consider a hard pass in SD 36.

Happening tonight:

As Anna Brosche mulls challenge, Lenny Curry hauls in $250K more for re-election bid” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Jacksonville Mayor Curry raised over $250,000 in April, his second straight strong month after a $1.5 million March. The breakdown: $46,000 for the campaign (bringing its total raised to just over $300,000) and $206,000 for the “Jacksonville on the Rise” political committee (pushing it over $1.45 million raised or transferred from other committees). All told, Curry is positioned by the end of May to clear $2 million raised. Big donors in April include John Campion ($50,000), and Black Knight Financial Services, Fidelity Information Services and Borland-Groover Clinic ($25,000 each).

Democrats: Sunshine Summit speaker Dan Bongino is bad, too” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — The Florida Democratic Party criticized Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent and Republican pol who has tried — and failed — to capture high-profile elected seats in Maryland and Florida and is scheduled to speak at the Orlando GOP conference this summer. The party claims Bongino “like the [DineshD’Souza, has a record of publicly disparaging Marjory Stoneman Douglas students.” A news release from the Democrats cites a Daily Beast article recounting a Bongino appearance on Fox News. Writer Matt Wilstein titled the piece, “Fox News Mainstreams Conspiracy Theory About Parkland Students. The Democrats also are using it as a means to call out Republican gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who appeared alongside Bongino Tuesday on Fox’s “Hannity” with host Sean Hannity. The discourse focused on the Robert Mueller investigation.


Cuts to prison drug programs draw criticism” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — As Florida continues to deal with an opioid crisis, state corrections officials are moving ahead on a plan to cut substance-abuse services to make up a shortfall in health care funding for the prison system. The state Department of Corrections announced the plan Tuesday evening, saying services had to be cut to shift money to the health care program, where there is a $55 million shortfall. The agency projects it will need an additional $28 million in 2018-2019 to fund the new contract and will have to offset $26.8 million in rising costs for pharmaceuticals. Reductions will be felt across the state, impacting some 33 community providers that offer substance-abuse services and other programs, ranging from life-skills development to job placement, designed to help prisoners successfully return to society once they have served sentences. The cuts include a 40 percent reduction in funding for substance abuse and mental-health treatment for prisoners returning to their communities … In the prisons, another $7.6 million in substance-abuse services will be eliminated.

State officials won’t release crucial FIU bridge records. Now the Miami Herald is suing” via Nicholas Nehmas of the Miami Herald — On Wednesday, the Herald filed suit against FDOT in Tallahassee’s Leon County Circuit Court to compel the release of emails, meeting minutes and other records relating to the bridge’s design and construction. “These records are critical to helping us understand how this tragedy occurred and what can be done to prevent a similar incident in the future,” Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, the Herald’s executive editor, said in a statement. The Florida International University bridge came crashing down at 1:47 p.m. March 15. Days earlier, cracks had been observed in the $14.3 million structure. On the morning of the collapse, FIU held a two-hour meeting with its engineers and FDOT to discuss whether the cracks presented a safety risk. The Miami Herald requested records from that meeting, as well as other relevant documents.

Jimmy Patronis calls for more transparency in lobbying Citizens Insurancevia Florida Politics – Chief Financial Officer Patronis has told the state’s insurer of last resort that those who lobby Citizens Property Insurance Corp. should be required to disclose their efforts. Patronis sent a letter to Citizens president and CEO Barry Gilway on Wednesday, with a copy to board chair Christopher Gardner. “Transparency should be a key component to any organization,” Patronis wrote. “Currently, lobbyists are not statutorily required to disclose their efforts on behalf of clients and private interests they represent before Citizens … Florida’s state-backed insurer should be subject to the same rules as state agencies and organizations such as water management districts.”

Jeff Brandes a headliner at self-driving car demo” via Florida Politics — Brandes will be on hand for a three-day event in Tampa next week where the public can take a spin in a self-driving car. The Society of Automotive Engineers’ inaugural SAE Demo Day, May 9-11, will allow attendees to ride down Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in a self-driving car outfitted by Virginia-based robotics software company Perrone Robotics. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority is also a partner in the event. “I am incredibly grateful that SAE International is bringing this self-driving ‘hands off’ demo to Tampa Bay. Our residents will be able to experience the future of transportation and provide feedback that will be invaluable to industry leaders and policymakers as we chart a course toward the shared, electric and autonomous future,” Brandes said.

Sun-Sentinel apologizes after running front-page gun ad below Parkland story” via Tim Elfrink of the Miami New Times — Two sides of the paper collided in a spectacularly ill-thought-out front page that included stories about a Stoneman Douglas fundraiser and the guilty plea of a mass shooter who killed five at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport — both printed just above a glaring, neon-orange ad for a gun show. After an outcry from Stoneman Douglas families, the paper quickly apologized and announced it would stop printing gun ads for the moment. “It’s a mess. It’s horrible,” says Julie Anderson, the Sun Sentinel’s editor-in-chief. “We’re taking every step possible to make sure our editorial staff always see ads before publication, so something like this doesn’t slip through.” In her statement, publisher Nancy Meyer said: “We deeply regret placement of a gun advertisement on our front page Wednesday morning. It has been against our policy to run gun and other types of controversial advertising on our front page.”

John Stemberger predicts ‘death’ of Boy Scouts – In a Wednesday email, Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, informed his membership of an AP report that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was removing “boy” from its name. The decision to “drop the male designation” in its name “signals the final death of an American institution,” he wrote. “It’s simply stunning that a leading youth organization, (to) which parents have entrusted the protection of their children for over a century, has now opted to again appease LGBT activists rather than follow clear, common-sense best practices for child protection and do what’s truly in the best interest of the boys … Having fully joined the sexual revolution, the BSA has become merely a youth group with neckerchiefs further promoting moral and gender confusion in society.” In 2013, after the BSA voted to admit boys who identify as gay, the Council was “instrumental in leading the launch of Trail Life USA, a national Christian scouting movement,” it said.

What Hard Rock chairman Jim Allen is reading: “Rumor: Signs Point to Cosmopolitan Sale to Hard Rock International” via Vital Vegas – “It’s the juiciest rumor we’ve heard in weeks: The Cosmopolitan [a Las Vegas Strip hotel and casino] is strengthening its bottom line for a potential sale to Hard Rock International … Cosmopolitan ownership reportedly brought in a company specializing in business efficiency and steps have been taken to make the resort more appealing to a surprise suitor … Details are few about the potential sale to Hard Rock, but who has time to wait for a news release? Don’t be surprised if there’s official news of a sale in the near future.” The company is now fully controlled by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.


The effects of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act already are showing in school districts across the state — for better or for worse.

One narrative: school districts are short on cash and cops. Superintendents foreshadowed these concerns almost immediately after the bill was signed into law. Last week, the Tampa Bay Times’ Emily Mahoney reported results of a survey dispersed to districts by the Miami Herald/Times bureau, confirming issues in just short of half of the counties in the Sunshine State.

“Nearly every county that responded has a shortfall of funding compared to what it will cost to properly secure the schools with how much the state provide,” wrote Mahoney. In the days since, more local coverage illustrates how the Parkland school safety reforms are unfolding in each district.

In Brevard: Caroline Glenn of Florida Today reports residents are battling fiercely in town halls over whether to arm teachers.

In Hernando: School Board members are considering a half-cent sales tax or an increase in the property tax rate to make up more than $22 million mandated by the state to harden schools, reports Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times.

In Duval: The school district approved a plan to staff every elementary school with “an armed school safety assistant,” reports Kent Justice of WJXT.

Deadlines: Districts have until July 1 to designate a ‘school safety specialist’ and determine how many people will participate in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program. By August, each district should have conducted a security risk assessment for each public campus. And schools have until September to establish a threat assessment team with expertise in mental health counseling.


Marco Rubio walks back criticism of GOP tax law” via Quint Forgey of POLITICO Florida — “On the whole, the tax cut bill helps workers. It’s just not massive tax cuts to multinational corporations that do it,” Rubio wrote in an op-ed for National Review … “Overall, the Republican tax-cut bill has been good for Americans. That is why I voted for it,” he added. “But it could have been even better for American workers and their families.” That assessment marks a stark departure from Rubio’s awkward rebuke of the law in an interview with The Economist, in which the Florida Republican questioned how much the legislation is really helping the working class. “There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers,” Rubio told The Economist. “In fact, they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.”

Former congressman Jeff Miller emerges as a leading contender for Trump’s VA” via Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and John Wegner of The Washington Post — Miller, who chaired the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs before retiring from Congress last year, is considered a leading candidate to become President Trump’s next nominee for VA secretary, according to people familiar with the matter. The Florida Republican, who spent 16 years in Congress and now works in Washington as a lobbyist, met with officials in the White House vetting office … he expects to meet with Trump in coming days. A senior administration official who confirmed Trump’s interest in Miller said a decision is not expected before next week.

Matt Gaetz signs letter nominating Donald Trump for Nobel Prize” via Florida Politics — “We, the undersigned members of the United States Congress, respectfully nominate Donald J. Trump to receive the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his work to end the Korean War, denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, and bring peace to the region,” the letter reads. The one-pager goes onto chronicle Trump’s dealings with the two Koreas, saying his administration “successfully united the international community, including China, to impose one of the most successful international sanctions regimes in history” and highlighting South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s recent statement that Trump should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The letter concludes: “We can think of no one more deserving of the [Norwegian Nobel] Committee’s recognition in 2019 than President Trump for his tireless work to bring peace to our world.” Indiana U.S. Rep. Luke Messer penned the letter with Gaetz and another 16 representatives signing on in support.

Spotted — Gaetz on Fox News with Shannon Bream to discuss the call to impeach deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. To watch the video, click here.


Many GOP politicians dislike Trump. They’re terrified to admit it” via David Jolly for The Washington Post — In speaking with my former Republican colleagues still in Congress, the one consistent refrain I hear is, “I’m just keeping my head down, trying not to get noticed.” Some have privately told me that serving in Congress during the Trump administration is “miserable.” Moreover, a colleague who has decided to call it quits confessed that he is doing so to try to salvage his political career by not being forever branded a “Trump Republican.” … these politicians are engaging in what can only be considered a sort of personal catharsis, not an act of political courage. It’s obvious why GOP lawmakers remain silent. This is Trump’s Republican Party, and his approval numbers among Republican voters sit close to 90 percent. Cross him, and you risk the wrath not only of the president but also of the electoral base that he has cultivated to wrest control of the party.

— “GOP guest column: Fact-check on Kanye, black workers rightly stuck to facts” via David Jolly for PolitiFact


Capitol shoeshine guy gets ‘rousing ovation’ at FAPL interview – The Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists, which is doing its first candidate interviews, had Tony Knox on Wednesday, an insider tells us. Knox, now running a longshot independent bid for governor, has long shined shoes in the Capitol during the annual Legislative Session. “He received a rousing ovation at the end, after talking about his life as an observer of things in the Capitol for several decades,” our source tells us. “He spoke eloquently about raising his eight children and his love for Florida.” The Tallahassee Democrat published a profile of Knox last June. His slogan? “Let’s Make Florida Shine Again!”

Outback Bowl chooses Bay area IP lawyer as new chairman” via Frances McMorris of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — … giving the nod to Todd Timmerman, a partner in the intellectual property practice of Shumaker Loop & Kendrick LLP. Timmerman has been a longtime volunteer with the New Year’s Day college bowl game located in Tampa. He has also served on the board of directors since 2010, including as a former chair of the bowl’s team selection committee. “Todd has been an instrumental leader in our organization for many years,” said Jim McVay, president and CEO of the Outback Bowl, in a statement. Timmerman co-chairs Shumaker’s intellectual property law practice group with Charlotte partner Thad Adams.


Ronny Ahmed, the paraplegic victim of the 2014 Strozier Library shooting at Florida State University, continues to struggle through each day.

Ahmed’s life, as described in Tampa Bay Times writer Claire McNeill’s recent feature story, is plagued with distress — whether it be the knots in his stomach that require kneading or the challenges of continuing his education.

McNeill’s story shows that Ahmed’s also been forgotten, at least to some extent. He’s stopped much less on campus, and his heroic clout has waned.

Expectations: The story opens with McNeill describing Ahmed’s mindset as he prepares to speak at a post-Parkland rally. “He only agrees to these speeches because he doesn’t want to let people down. The world wants a certain kind of survivor.”

Conflict: Ahmed expects to graduate FSU in 2021, which McNeill notes is a full decade since he set foot on campus as a freshman. He’s also in the middle of suing the school.

Context: Wrote McNeill, “Before, he crocheted. He whittled wood and played piano. He taught himself to breathe fire and take apart circuit boards. He climbed Kilimanjaro and became an Eagle Scout. He knew all the secret places the deer gathered at Wekiwa Springs. He cared for run-over turtles.”

— ALOE —

Facebook commits to civil rights audit, political bias review” via Sara Fischer of Axios — To address allegations of bias, Facebook is bringing in two outside advisers — one to conduct a legal audit of its impact on underrepresented communities and communities of color, and another to advise the company on potential bias against conservative voices … The efforts are happening in response to allegations that the tech giant censors conservative voices and discriminates against minority groups. Facebook hopes the independent audit and formal advising partnership will show it takes these issues very seriously. Guiding the civil rights audit is Laura Murphy, a national civil liberties and civil rights leader. Murphy will take feedback from civil rights groups, like The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and advise Facebook on the best path forward.

Oculus Go is the first VR gadget you might actually buy” via Geoffrey Fowler of The Washington Post — Now VR’s getting another shot called the Oculus Go. This new headset is the product Facebook’s Oculus division should have sold the first time around. After testing one for a week, the Oculus Go is the first VR gadget I actually want to buy. It costs just $200. It has no cables. It’s easy to use. And it’s for more than just playing games. The Oculus Go doesn’t solve all the problems facing VR. You can teleport to new places, but you won’t forget you’re actually wearing goggles. And aficionados will be disappointed that the Oculus Go, in an effort to trim its price and bulk, offers less-sophisticated VR experiences than its predecessors. Yet the Oculus Go addresses what I think is a bigger issue: It’s accessible to people who aren’t super rich or super into video games and computers. And VR will become better when more than just geeks get involved.

Theme park wars: Disney, Universal and SeaWorld duke it out with new attractions” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Here’s what’s in store: Fast cars. Vin Diesel driving fast cars. Universal’s newest ride based off the popular “Fast & Furious” franchise is officially open to the public at Universal Studios. Disney wants to capitalize on the beloved “Toy Story” franchise when it opens an 11-acre land at Hollywood Studios. A Slinky Dog roller coaster — with a thrill level similar to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom — and an alien saucer attraction where guests spiral around on rockets are the two new rides when the latest expansion opens June 30. SeaWorld is in spending mode as it builds new rides across its parks to attract more visitors through the turnstiles … to open sometime this year are Infinity Falls, a river raft ride with a 40-foot drop at SeaWorld Orlando, and Ray Rush, a raft ride at the Aquatica water park.

Happy birthday to such a good guy, Donovan Brown. Also celebrating today are Bill Lewis, Tom Scherberger, and Rita Solnet.

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704