Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.16.18
A view of the Capitol from Apalachee Parkway Wednesday morning, Oct. 11, 2017 in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Florida Legislature

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

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

Chris King is making his move.

King, who consistently polls behind at least two of the four other Democratic gubernatorial candidates in the 2018 election, is airing a new 30-second ad Wednesday in television markets peppered across the state.

The ad demonstrates the King campaign’s ability to capitalize on momentum; the spot follows just one day after the candidate unveiled an ambitious, progressive and multi-faceted criminal justice plan — which attracted the attention of some of the state’s largest media outlets.

King’s ad is set to air in Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Panama City and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce television markets.

The ad opens with a waiter asking a politician if he’d like more sugar. The politician responds, “Yes, of course!” And the waiter fills the politician’s cup with an excessive amount of sugar.

Then, in a voiceover, King is heard saying, “It’s the same old politics. Big Sugar buys influence in Tallahassee and pollutes our environment.” When he enters the frame, he says, “I’m Chris King and I won’t take a dime from them.”

The message is intended to highlight King’s sugar-free stance, which he declared almost immediately after entering the race. All of the Democratic candidates have since announced they would not take money affiliated with the sugar industry. Former Congresswoman GwenGraham, however, received $17,400 from what’s been described as ‘big sugar,’ but donated that money to the Indian Riverkeeper and Redlands Christian Migrant Association and pledged to not take any more money from the sugar industry.

The rest of the ad is made up of calls for progressive policies, including the expansion of Medicaid, funding for affordable housing and making community college and public trade school free.

“If you want new leadership and fresh ideas,” King says at the end of the commercial. “I’m ready to fight for you.”


@RealDonaldTrump: Can you believe that with all of the made up, unsourced stories I get from the Fake News Media, together with the $10,000,000 Russian Witch Hunt (there is no Collusion), I now have my best Poll Numbers in a year. Much of the Media may be corrupt, but the People truly get it!

@GwenGraham: Ramadan Mubarak to all of our friends observing the month of #Ramadan across Florida!

@MarcACaputo: After (Gina Haspel) nomination was assured by other Democrats, Nelson pulls a Nelson

@DavidHogg11: Guess I’ll be getting my chocolate chip muffins elsewhere from now on. Common @Publix (re: it’s support of Adam Putnam)

@JThalji: For the last time people there are more #pubsub options than just chicken tenders.

—@PaulMyberg: Nick Saban to @GeorgeSchroeder on UCF’s national title: “I guess anybody has the prerogative to claim anything. But self-proclaimed is not the same as actually earning it.”

@AdrienneLaF: This is amazing. “The Oxford English Dictionary includes about 150 quotations from [Tom] Wolfe’s writings, and in many cases, he is the earliest known source for words and phrases that have worked their way into the lexicon.”


Deadpool 2 release — 2; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 9; Memorial Day — 12; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 24; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 26; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 27; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 29; Father’s Day — 32; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 37; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 43; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 53; MLB All-Star Game — 62; Deadline for filing claim bills — 77; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 77; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 78; Start of the U.S. Open — 103; Primary Election Day — 104; College Football opening weekend — 106; NFL season starts — 113; Future of Florida Forum — 133; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 160; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 161; General Election Day — 174; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 274; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 293.


Florida sues drug industry for addiction crisis” via John Kennedy of the Gatehouse Capital Bureau — Attorney General Pam Bondi sued opioid manufacturers and distributors Tuesday, claiming the addiction crisis coursing through the state stems from the industry’s “strategic campaign of misrepresentations” about painkilling medication. Officials charge that the drug companies violated consumer protection laws by falsely downplaying the risk of addiction while promoting the benefit of opioid use. Pasco County — where the lawsuit was filed — joined neighboring Pinellas County in 2016 in having the state’s highest number of oxycodone deaths, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Along with Purdue Pharma, other manufacturers named include Endo Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon and Allergan. Opioid distributors sued by Florida are Amerisource Bergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health, McKesson Corp. and Mallinckrodt LLC.

“We want to send a strong message that this is not right,” Bondi said Tuesday. “We can’t put a monetary value on loss of life.”


Bill Nelson to vote for Donald Trump’s CIA Director pick” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Nelson announced he will vote for Gina Haspel to lead the nation’s foreign intelligence arm … Haspel will likely be confirmed by the U.S. Senate later this week after about a half-dozen Democrats who, like Nelson, are running for reelections in states won by Trump, said they would vote for her. Nelson’s announcement comes after he met one-on-one with Haspel on Tuesday. The former deputy CIA director’s nomination has come under scrutiny from some Republicans and Democrats over her connections to torture while she worked overseas during the George W. Bush administration. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, Nelson’s likely opponent in November, called on Nelson to divulge his stance on Haspel last week and criticized Nelson for “slow walking” her nomination.

Gina Haspel gets the reluctant nod from Bill Nelson.

Nelson files financial disclosure as Scott waits until late July” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Nelson, who earns $174,000 as a senator, draws a state pension from his time in the Legislature and as a state treasurer, insurance commissioner and fire marshal, a post he was elected to in 1994. He reported property valued between $1 million and $5 million in Brevard County (where he draws an agriculture exemption) as well as another undeveloped plot worth up to $500,000. In 2017, Nelson sold a number of IRA holdings and purchased mutual funds. According to a 2015 report from, Nelson had a minimum net worth of $1.3 million and a maximum of $6 million.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will visit two Jewish day schools to highlight the $2 million for security funding in the state budget. The News conferences are 10:45 a.m., Torah Academy of Boca Raton, 3881 NW 3rd Ave., Boca Raton, and 4 p.m., Chabad Naples Jewish Community Center, 1789 Mandarin Road, Naples.


AP, Fox News launch new exit polling project” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO — AP VoteCast will combine traditional, probability-based polling with an online, opt-in survey of voters in targeted states. It will measure the preferences and opinions of those who have or will cast ballots in this year’s midterms, and also non-voters about why they chose not to turn out. The project is being launched in conjunction with Fox News — with both news organizations abandoning the embattled model of in-person exit polling that has dominated election nights for decades. “It’s sort of been a constant search to get the right approach and the right methodology to get the best results on Election Day,” said David Scott, AP’s m managing editor.

If Mike Pence wants to keep Trump out of Fla. gov. primary, he should show him this story” via Florida Politics — Vice President Pence is reportedly putting his thumb on the scale for Putman over Ron DeSantis in the Republican primary for Florida governor. There is an easy way to do it … simply show Trump this POLITICO Florida story — “DeSantis rented condo owned by campaign donor after redistricting.” Once redistricting moved DeSantis out of his old district — and after a failed 2016 bid for U.S. Senate — he needed quick action for his re-election bid to Florida’s 6th Congressional District, a seat DeSantis held since 2012. As Matt Dixon notes: “DeSantis decided to move into a Flagler County condo whose owners include Kent Stermon and Matt Connell, both executives at Total Military Management … a third-party relocation service for U.S. military personnel.” Total Military Management is a longtime registered congressional lobbyist for defense-industry issues. Federal records show Sterman and Connell, along with a super PAC associated with the company, gave DeSantis’ campaign almost $60,000 for his congressional campaign.

If Mike Pence wants Donald Trump to cool on Ron DeSantis, it’s easy to do.

Hispanic group kicks off voter registration campaign in Florida” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In Venezuela, Samuel Vilchez Santiago’s parents were political activists prosecuted by the government in part for their work registering voters. Santiago was at Ana G. Mendez University for the kickoff of UnidosUS’s “Power of 18” nonpartisan voter registration drive, aimed at registering 50,000 new voters in Florida by October and 100,000 nationwide. UnidosUS … is the largest Hispanic advocacy group in the nation and has previously conducted registration drives out of its Orlando and South Florida offices in 2016. This year, though, the focus is on young would-be voters, with about 880,000 Hispanic U.S. citizens turning 18 every year, according to UnidosUS. By 2024, that number will be 1 million. The thousands of evacuees from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria … have also increased the number of eligible voters in Florida. Puerto Ricans, as U.S. citizens, can register to vote immediately.

Chris King says his ‘bold and progressive’ plan as governor now includes abolishing the death penalty and legalizing recreational marijuana” via Mitch Perry of WMNF — Labeling it as “incredibly bold,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate King unveiled a criminal reform package on Tuesday that included a call to end the death penalty and full support for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Florida. The boldest issue that King is taking on is his call to eliminate the death penalty, which historically Florida voters have supported, though recent polls indicate that stance is changing, at least in more urban areas. “I recognize that this is probably not the politically smart thing to do,” he admitted. King is also now also calling for the legalization of marijuana, a policy change from a month ago, when he essentially punted the issue when it was discussed during a gubernatorial debate in Tampa … As is the case with his argument in abolishing the death penalty, King noted the disproportionate rates of people of color who get cited for smoking pot vs. whites.

Tide’s a-rolling: Democratic candidate for Governor Chris King kicked off his statewide “Turning the Tide” tour in St. Petersburg by laying out his policies, including reform of Florida’s criminal justice system. Democratic Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw also attended.

Assignment editors — King takes his “Turning the Tide” tour on criminal justice reform to Brevard County. At 7:30 p.m., King will be at the Viera Government Center Building C, 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Melbourne.

Personnel note: Meredith Beatrice joins Putnam campaign as communications director — The former spokeswoman for the Constitution Revision Commission will next handle communications for Republican Putnam’s campaign for Governor. “He’s one of Florida’s great leaders and I’m excited to join the team,” Beatrice told Florida Politics. She starts Monday. Amanda Bevis retains her role as senior communications and policy adviser. “We’re proud to continue building our team with strong professionals who know Florida and we’re glad to have found the right person,” she said. Beatrice previously was a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner before joining the CRC. She got her start in politics as an intern for GOP U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Assignment editors: Putnam continues his ‘Florida Jobs First’ tour. At 3 p.m., he’ll be at VOXX Automotive, 2351 J Lawson Blvd., Orlando.

Assignment editors: Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Denise Grimsley will speak at the Walton Republican Women Federated Luncheon. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Cantina Laredo, 585 Grand Blvd., Miramar Beach.

TaxWatch stumps for property-tax cap on November ballot” via Florida Politics — Asked for a 30-second ‘elevator speech’ on why voters should choose ‘yes’ for Amendment 2 in November, Florida TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro didn’t blink. “If you don’t vote ‘yes,’ either you or your neighbors will see massive tax increases and great deal of property tax dissatisfaction … anger even, if we see property taxes jump by 20 percent,” he said Tuesday, at a news conference in Tallahassee. The proposed constitutional amendment by the Legislature would cap property tax hikes at 10 percent on properties that don’t have a homestead exemption, such as vacation homes, apartment complexes and undeveloped lots. “If approved, the amendment removes the scheduled repeal of such provisions in 2019 and shall take effect Jan. 1, 2019,” according to the ballot summary. Voters passed a non-homestead 10 percent tax cap in 2008.

New ad targets Brian Mast’s vote to repeal Obamacare” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new ad by liberal advocacy group “Floridians for a Fair Shake” has taken aim at Republican U.S. Rep. Mast and his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The ad, titled “Richest,” focuses on the effect the repeal would have had on older Americans, allowing them to be charged up to five times more for health insurance than other age brackets … “Congressman Mast talks a good game on health care, but his voting record belies his words,” said Bill Sauers, an advisory committee member of Floridians for a Fair Shake. “We’re exposing his real record — that he’s collecting obscene amounts of cash from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and in exchange, they get to gouge aging Floridians.”

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

NRCC, DCCC exchange shots in South Florida congressional race” via the Sunshine State News — Carlos Curbelo is now running for a third term and the Democrats have their eyes on taking him down. While he does face a primary from retired Navy officer Demetries GrimesDebbie Mucarsel-Powell, who ran for the state Senate two years ago, is the favorite in the Democratic primary. That being the case, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) took aim at Mucarsel-Powell at the end of last week. The NRCC featured an article from The New York Times on how a group of Democrat donors in New York was bundling campaign donations to candidates in close races. Curbelo, who faces a primary challenge from teacher Souraya Faas, drew fire from the Democrats … The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) noted that Republican U.S. Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, who is running for the U.S. Senate, asked to be removed from Curbelo’s immigration reform bill to help DREAMers. Despite that, Curbelo’s PAC is backing McSally in her Senate race.

— “South Florida congressmen endorse Tina Polsky in HD 81 race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Polk Democrat Robert Doyel gets the unthinkable: party support” via Bill Rufty of Florida Politics — Former Circuit Judge Doyel, a Winter Haven Democrat and candidate for Senate District 22, is receiving what no other Polk County Democrat has received in more than two decades: support from his state party. No Democrat from Polk County — the historic home of three Democratic governors and four U.S. Senators along with one speaker of the House and three Senate presidents in the 20th century — has served in either chamber of the Florida Legislature since 2000. This year, Doyel is receiving support and the party has marked his race against incumbent state Sen. Kelli Stargel as viable. He noted he had his campaign up and running several weeks before state party interest. Doyel has support from the state party, the Florida Senate campaign committee, and several noted consultants.

Robert Doyel is the first Polk Democratic candidate in two decades to get state Party backing.

Bernie Fensterwald withdraws from Senate race” via the Tampa Bay Reporter — Fensterwald explained his decision in a statement: “Approximately 10 months ago, I undertook a quixotic journey to become the next Florida State Senator from District 16. I believed that I had a narrow path to victory over Ed Hooper in November and I was gaining traction … Over much of this time, I heard rumors that certain anonymous, well-funded establishment Democrats sought an alternate candidate who they felt had a better chance of victory than I. Last Wednesday [May 9], those rumors became reality. After consulting with family, friends and supporters, I have concluded that I no longer have any discernible path to victory.” Fensterwald’s departure from the race leaves Democrat Amanda Murphy and Republicans Hooper and Leo Karruli in contention.

It’s abundantly clear who is supporting Carrie Pilon’s SD 24 bid” via Florida Politics — A deep-dive into her campaign finance report reveals that most of Pilon’s support is coming from one specific constituency — trial lawyers. For its first reported month, Pilon’s campaign touted raising $104,433 between the campaign account and an associated committee, Moving Pinellas Florida. Not mentioned … of the $54,433 raised by the campaign, over 70 percent of that was directly from trial attorneys and associated organizations. And Moving Pinellas Forward received just a single $50,000 contribution — from “Florida for All, Inc.,” a well-known pass-through for trial attorneys and out-of-state Democratic activists. Another clue to who is the source of her support is on the invite for the campaign kickoff event; the host committee is a large group of current and former attorneys.

—“Manny Diaz campaign crosses $500K mark in contributions” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Local mayors stand with Jason Pizzo for SD 38 — Pizzo, a former prosecutor running in the Miami-Dade area Senate District 38, announced the endorsements of several local mayors: Enid Weisman of Aventura; Bal Harbour Assistant Mayor Seth Salver; Bay Harbor Islands Mayor Stephanie Bruder and Vice Mayor Joshua FullerMac Glinn of Miami Shores; Beth Spiegel of North Miami Beach; Surfside Mayor Daniel Dietch and Vice Mayor Daniel Gielchinsky; former Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner. “It’s time we have fresh leadership in Tallahassee fighting for our community, instead of their self-serving interests,” Pizzo said in a statement. “As we grow our coalition of support, I’m thankful to have the support of area mayors who recognize a need for a new direction, and I look forward to continuing our service to the people of Miami-Dade County.” Pizzo faces incumbent State Sen. Daphne Campbell in the Democratic primary.

Happening tonight:

Light fundraising month for Orange County’s unopposed House incumbents” via Florida Politics — Contributions were sparse in April for five Central Florida lawmakers who are still unopposed in their re-election 2018 bids — Democratic state Reps. Bruce AntoneKamia BrownJohn CortesAmy Mercado and Carlos Guillermo Smith. Of the five, Brown posted the best report last month. She showed $5,485 in contributions, which brings her to-date fundraising total past the $20,000 mark as she goes for a second term in Orange County-based House District 45. Behind Brown were Mercado and Smith, who represent neighboring Orange County-based districts.

—“David Smith maintains tenfold lead in HD 28 race” via Orlando Rising

—“Tracey Kagan tops HD 29 Democratic field with first finance report” via Florida Politics

—“Bob Cortes cracks $100K raised for HD 30 re-election” via Florida Politics

Save the date — Republican Nick DiCeglie hosts a fundraising reception Wednesday, May 30, in his bid for House District 66. The event begins 5:30 p.m. at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 111 Central Ave.

Ray Rodrigues draws second Democratic foe” via the News Service of Florida — House Majority Leader Rodrigues of Estero faces a second Democratic opponent as he runs for a final term in the Florida House. Fort Myers Democrat David Benjamin Bogner opened a campaign account in Lee County’s House District 76, according to the state Division of Elections website. Bogner joined Fort Myers Democrat Neilson Cross Ayers, who opened an account last week.

Parkland parents who lost kids are running for school board” via Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — Ryan Petty, a telecom and technology entrepreneur, said he wants to help restore the Broward County School Board to its proper function as an oversight body for the administration, saying he thinks that has been lost. He is running for an at-large seat on the board, while Lori Alhadeff is running in the district that includes the city of Parkland, where Stoneman Douglas is located. “We’ve dedicated ourselves to change a system that would allow somebody like Nikolas Cruz to fall through the cracks,” said Petty, referring to the 19-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student whom police have identified as the shooter. Petty’s daughter Alaina and Alhadeff’s daughter Alyssa were two of 14 students and three school officials killed.


Assignment editors: Attorney General Bondi will present the 2017 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award in Tallahassee. That’s at 10 a.m., Cabinet Meeting Room, The Capitol.

A decade after scandal, Ray Sansom plots comeback” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — It has been nearly a decade since former Florida House Speaker Sansom resigned amid allegations that he misused his office to steer tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to a friend and a local college. Sansom, 55, relinquished his power as speaker, a step believed to be without precedent in state history. He stepped down in 2009 and returned to the Panhandle after a scandal that derailed the House for two years. Now the only legislative leader in modern times to resign from office is planning a possible comeback thanks to an antiquated system in which most county school superintendents in Florida are chosen by voters. Sansom confirmed he may run for Okaloosa County school superintendent in 2020. He said he will make a decision several months from now.

The return of Ray Sansom.

Nursing home records dispute ratchets up” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — An embattled Broward County nursing home has accused the Florida Department of Health of not properly complying with a judge’s order to turn over public records. Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is scheduled to hold a hearing on arguments by attorneys for The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills that the department should be held in contempt in the records dispute … The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has faced months of scrutiny and a state move to revoke its license after residents died following Hurricane Irma. The Sept. 10 storm knocked out the nursing home’s air-conditioning system, creating sweltering conditions that led to the evacuation of residents on Sept. 13. Authorities have attributed 12 deaths to the problems at the nursing home. Court documents have not spelled out why the nursing home wants the death certificates, but Lewis last month said the death certificates are public records and should be provided by the state.

All Children’s never told state about needle left in baby” via Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times — Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital broke Florida law by failing to tell regulators about two serious medical errors, according to a state report. The report … contradicts statements by the hospital last month that it notified the “right regulatory agencies” when mistakes were made by its heart-surgery unit. AHCA also cited the hospital for failing to tell the parents of one patient about an object left in their child after surgery. Last month, the hospital’s CEO, Dr. Jonathan Ellen, told the Times that the Heart Institute had experienced a string of “challenges.” But … he said: “If we found something that went wrong, we would notify our board, we would notify the right regulatory agencies, we would look at our processes.” The hospital later said that leaving a needle smaller than 10 millimeters is allowed under its policies … Under those circumstances, the hospital did not believe it was required to report to AHCA, it said at the time.

Spin ’em: Jacksonville race track appeals slot machine denial” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — In another gambling case that could reach the state Supreme Court, a Jacksonville casino is appealing the state’s ending of its quest for a slot machine license. Jacksonville Kennel Club, which does business as bestbet, filed a notice of appeal to the 1st District Court of Appeal on Tuesday after the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) turned down its slots application last month. The department regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering. Any addition of new slots also is opposed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which pays the state millions each year for the exclusive right to offer slots at its casinos outside South Florida. Moreover, a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November would require the statewide approval of voters before any expansion of gambling — and its backers say the measure would have retroactive effect.

FPL customers to get refund after Matthew charges” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Florida Power & Light has reached an agreement to refund $27.7 million to customers, in part because of an “over-recovery” of costs following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The agreement, announced between the Juno Beach-based utility and the state Office of Public Counsel, still needs approval from the Florida Public Service Commission, which could sign off next week. The Office of Public Counsel represents consumers in utility issues. FPL said if the deal is approved, a one-time refund would be applied to customer bills. For a residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month — a standard benchmark in the utility industry — the credit would amount to $3.18. The refund is tied to $316.5 million that the power company charged customers following the powerful October 2016 storm that ran northward along the East Coast without making landfall in Florida.

Inside Mosaic’s search for corporate real estate in Tampa” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The phosphate giant’s real estate search is in the preliminary stages, and office space across the county is in the running, Ben Pratt, Mosaic’s vice president of corporate public affairs, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal. “We are considering downtown Tampa as well as our existing office buildings in FishHawk and Highland Oaks,” Pratt wrote. Pratt said the size of Mosaic’s Florida headquarters is to be determined, though it’s rumored in commercial real estate circles to be looking for 30,000 square feet. In Minnesota, Mosaic’s corporate headquarters is in a suburban office park, where 150 employees work in 73,987 square feet … Mosaic isn’t yet saying how many people will work in the Tampa headquarters. At 200 square feet per employee — a rough estimate used by commercial real estate brokers — 150 people would require about 30,000 square feet. In the Tampa Bay region, 30,000 square feet is a sizable office lease.


Republican state Rep. Gayle Harrell recently lost her husband of 53 years.

In a column published in Sunshine State News, writer Nancy Smith, a close friend of Gayle and the late James Harrell, gives readers insight to just how strong the couple’s pairing was.

Backing each other in their individual endeavors, Smith writes the Harrells were always “selflessly, faithfully, tirelessly there.”

Gayle and Dr. James Harrell

Local hero: James Harrell was one of Stuart’s first doctors, “a true local hero in a small community that needed as many as it could get during its developing years.”

Struggle, triumph: Medical problems plagued James Harrell, and he underwent a kidney transplant 16 years ago — “enough time to see his four children grow up and the birth of his eight grandchildren.”

Touching text: Sent from Gayle Harrell to Smith, one text reads, “He was my rock and No. 1 supporter. He used to say that for years I was Dr. Harrell’s wife, but he was so happy to be Rep. Harrell’s husband.


Florida delegation holds hearing on oil drilling” via the News Service of Florida — VISIT FLORIDA President Ken Lawson and Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien, commander of the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, are among scheduled panelists for a Florida congressional delegation hearing on drilling off the state’s coasts. Also scheduled to appear during the hearing in Washington are Mark Alderson, executive director of the Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program, and Ken Milito, director of upstream and industry operations for the American Petroleum Institute. The hearing comes amid continued debate over plans by the Trump administration to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters off various parts of the country. The issue involves waters beyond the nation’s outer continental shelf — a jurisdictional term describing submerged lands 10.36 statutory miles off Florida’s West Coast and three nautical miles off the East Coast. Thursday’s one-hour hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building is set to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Marco Rubio files financial disclosure” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — For the second consecutive year, it does not include income from book sales (which Rubio used in part to pay off student loans). Rubio earned at least $1 million for his 2012 memoir “An American Son.” He has several bank accounts and college savings plans, plus a 2015 mortgage between $500,001 and $1 million. His wife earned income from a consulting business, JDR Events, but Rubio was required to show that it was more than $1,000.

Israel honors Ileana Ros-Lehtinen at independence celebration” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Ros-Lehtinen was one of 70 Americans honored by Israel, as the country celebrated its 70th year of independence Monday night. South Florida’s Ros-Lehtinen was one honoree at a ceremony at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. Accompanying the designation was a video address from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he had high praise for the longtime GOP congresswoman. “I’ve known Ileana for many years. She’s outstanding,” Netanyahu said. “I don’t think Israel has ever had a better defender. I don’t think the truth has had a better defender.”

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was honored by Israel on the 70th anniversary of independence.

Prosecutors fire back at Corrine Brown on disputed juror” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Prosecutors are asking a federal appeals court to uphold former Congresswoman Brown’s conviction in a charity scam, blasting her arguments that a juror was improperly dismissed because he said the “Holy Spirit” told him Brown was not guilty. In a 62-page brief filed last week in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, prosecutors said a district judge acted properly in replacing the juror with an alternate and disputed that the decision violated the religious rights of the man, identified in court documents as Juror No. 13. “The decision to remove a sitting juror is a significant one that justifiably warrants careful, albeit deferential, review by this (appeals) court,” the document said. “The district court’s decision here handily withstands that review. The court took this issue very seriously and removed the juror only after having carefully considered whether that juror would be able to follow the court’s instructions and decide the case based on the evidence. And the court did so only after having concluded that the juror’s decision — that he had been told by the Holy Spirit, before deliberations had even begun, that Brown was not guilty of all 24 charged crimes — was not based on the juror’s evaluation of the sufficiency of the evidence.”

Builders’ plea to Congress: Rebuild Florida’s national parks infrastructure” via Florida Politics — Construction, engineering, and contracting firms urged Congress on Tuesday to begin paying off the $262.2 million maintenance backlog in Florida’s national parks. Organizations including the American Institute of Architects, the Florida Engineering Society, and Florida Transportation Builders signed an open letter marking “Infrastructure Week” — an effort by similar groups and labor unions to promote investment in national construction projects. “Rebuilding and fixing the National Park System will help to employ thousands of American workers, support continued tourism and economic development in hundreds of park gateway communities, and ensure that our national treasures are preserved for generations to come,” the letter says.

Assignment editors — U.S. Reps. Brian Mast and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii join Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) for a news conference with supporters of the Burn Pits Accountability Act, 10 a.m., House Triangle, U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C.


Joe Henderson: Voices of reason needed in gun debate” via Florida Politics — But the National Rifle Association likes to say it represents all law-abiding gun owners by protecting their Second Amendment rights, so it became a bit of a deal when the NRA’s new president, Oliver North, said the organization is facing “civil terrorism” from protesters. “They call them activists. That’s what they’re calling themselves. They’re not activists — this is civil terrorism. This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America,” he said in a recent interview with the Washington Times. “You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crow and those kinds of things — even there you didn’t have this kind of thing. We didn’t have the cyberwar kind of thing that we’ve got today.” He’s right. There wasn’t that “kind of thing.” There were lynchings. Just saying … Somewhere, somehow, voices of reason have to emerge in this debate. So, the question I have for you, gun owner, is simply this: How many of you will raise your hand and become that voice?

Voters should decide whether legal sports betting comes to Florida” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The Supreme Court reached the correct legal conclusion. The 6-3 opinion found unconstitutional a 1992 federal law that prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling, concluding the federal government had not chosen to regulate it and improperly interfered with the states’ right to regulate it themselves. Fortunately, the timing of the Supreme Court opinion should give Florida some breathing room. The Legislature is not in session, and legislative leaders could not agree on a new gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe that would have opened the door to a special session. It wouldn’t be politically prudent for state lawmakers to rush to Tallahassee for a special session on sports betting this close to the election. Second, there is an opportunity for Florida voters in November to make clear they want the direct authority to make decisions on casino gambling.


Personnel note: League of Women Voters of Florida announces hires — Stephanie Owens will be the League’s full-time Political Director. Owens most recently served as lobbyist for the League during the 2018 legislative session and the 2017-2018 Constitution Revision Commission proceedings. She held senior official positions in the Clinton and Obama administrations. Also, Lisa Calleja is coming on as Operations Director. She will oversee the day-to-day operations of the state League office as well as its voter registration and education efforts. Calleja’s career includes ten years with HD Supply Waterworks, a nationwide distribution company.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Megan Fay, Capital City Consulting: MiMedx Group

Marty FiorentinoJoseph MobleyMark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: St. Johns County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller

Kenneth GrangerDean IzzoScott Ross, Capital City Consulting: Qualtrics

Paul Mitchell, Southern Strategy Group: The Florida House Experience

Jennifer Kelly: Suwannee River Water Management District


— ALOE —

Crab claws put on pause — Stone crab season closed Tuesday, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. That means yesterday was the last opportunity to harvest those tasty claws — at least until Oct. 15, when the season reopens. Claws will still be available commercially, so long as they were entered into inventory ahead of today’s deadline. According to FWC, the five-month closure coincides with the peak of the species’ spawning season. Stone crab traps must be removed from the water within the next five days.

End of an era for THE PLAYERS Championship in May” via Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press — THE PLAYERS Championship, which has all the trappings of a major except public recognition as one, ended its 12-year run being played in May. Webb Simpson set or tied four records, one of which drained the former swamp of drama the TPC Sawgrass can deliver in any month. The idea behind moving to May was to give golf a big event every month starting with the Masters in April, to have better weather and more daylight, and to present a great chance at firm, fast conditions. This year’s edition was a mystery. Even without any rain, the course was never on the edge. With minimal wind, at least by Florida’s standards, the scores were unusually low. At one point in the final round, Jason Dufner made a birdie to break out of a 10-way tie for third by reaching 12-under par. There were 1,754 birdies for the tournament, breaking by 136 birdies the record from 1996.

Webb Simpson took apart the best field in golf at THE PLAYERS Championship.

New monorail fleet in the works? Disney World denies rumors” via Jim Hayward of the Palm Beach Post — Bob Gurr, an 86-year-old Disney legend who was hired by Walt Disney in the 1950s, appeared to confirm recent rumors during a question-and-answer session at the end of a panel discussion near Orlando on April 28. Later, however, Disney indicated that there are no immediate plans for new trains. The current fleet of 12 monorail trains at Disney World has been in service since 1989. Disney World’s futuristic monorail trains have come under scrutiny after several recent incidents that suggest they may be nearing the end of their lifespan. The resort is in the midst of many large construction projects — including theme park additions, hotel expansions, and the Disney Skyliner, a gondola-based transportation system.

What Marc Caputo is reading — “Twitter is going to limit the visibility of tweets from people behaving badly” via Alex Kantrowitz of BuzzFeed News — Twitter announced a massive change to the way its conversations will work, evaluating not just the content of individual tweets, but the way users behave more broadly on the service. Twitter will now use thousands of behavioral signals when filtering search, replies, and algorithmic recommendations. If it believes you are trying to game its system, or simply acting like a jerk, it will push your tweets lower down. It’s the biggest update so far in the company’s push to create healthier conversations. Among the signals Twitter will use: whether you tweet at large numbers of accounts you don’t follow, how often you’re blocked by people you interact with, whether you created many accounts from a single IP address, and whether your account is closely related to others that have violated its terms of service. The push is meant to get out ahead of problems that might normally result in an abuse report under the existing system.

Happy birthday to state Rep. Bobby Payne, journalist Kate BradshawMatthew Ubben, and Rick Watson.

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

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