Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.2.18

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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.


Let’s begin this morning with fresh, exclusive polling on three battleground state Senate seats, SD 16, 18, & 24. The outcome in these three races will likely decide the direction of the Florida Senate. The results may also indicate whether a blue wave is forming or if the red wall is holding.

Right now, it’s appears to be some of both.

In SD 16, the seat previously held by Jack Latvala, Republican Ed Hooper and Democrat Amanda Murphy remain deadlocked, with Hooper at 45 percent and Murphy at 43 percent. The good news here for the GOP is that this race has shifted ever so slightly to Hooper.

In SD 18, incumbent Republican Dana Young now trails Democrat Janet Cruz by a point after entering the candidate qualifying period with a nine-point lead. Of significance, Cruz has clarified how her name will appear on the ballot, dropping her second last name, “Rifkin.”

And in SD 24, incumbent Republican Jeff Brandes is still ahead of Democrat trial lawyer Carrie Pilon, 46 percent to 41 percent, which is down from the nine-point lead he held at the end of May, but still outside the margin of error.


@Carl_Hiaasen: My brother Rob also would have wanted me to honor — before I mentioned him — the other Capital Gazette staffers who tragically lost their lives on Thursday: Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendi Winters. Our family grieves profoundly with theirs.

@maggieNYT: As he sifts through SCOTUS choices, Trump has been telling people he wants someone with a degree from Harvard or Yale, per a source familiar with the conversations.

@KKfla737: Another Rick Scott ad in Spanish — this time at halftime of #FRAARG on Telemundo/CH 51 in south Florida. Still have yet to see a single ad from any Democratic candidates during the #WorldCup — I’m watching the tournament in Spanish. Multiple Scott ads every day

@BrowardPolitics: All five of the party’s candidates for governor spoke at @FlaDems #LeadBlue18 dinner. @AndrewGillum got by far the strongest applause on his way up, during and after.

@Scontorno: At RPOF Sunshine Summit, Dinesh D’Souza said if you changed “Jews” to “top 1 percent” in Nazi platform, it would get thunderous applause at the 2020 DNC and it reads like something Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders would write.

@Fineout: Hmm, so you are really just 12 donors away from your fundraising goal? …

—@Falklands_Utd: Don’t cry 4-3 Argentina

@LennyCurry: I have decompressed many days quietly & alone watching & absorbing the joy from Anthony Bourdain @PartsUnknownCNN– I’m watching tonight. It’s different knowing the end. The end is a mystery impossible to grasp. Stop the mystery. If u need help call 800-273-8255


Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 6; MLB All-Star Game — 15; Deadline for filing claim bills — 30; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 31; Start of the U.S. Open — 56; Primary Election Day — 57; College Football opening weekend — 59; NFL season starts — 57; Future of Florida Forum — 86; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 113; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 114; General Election Day — 127; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 227; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 246.


Florida Democrats look for depth and clarity in the blue wave” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — The pull-and-tug in Florida’s minority party was subtle as party leaders met in Hollywood for their annual leadership conference. Despite optimism following a spate of victories in competitive special elections — and an urgency to defend moderate Sen. Bill Nelson against Gov. Scott — friction exists about how to take back the Governor’s Mansion and emerge from years of impotence in a bellwether state. The push to move the party away from some corporate money and toward populist positions has encountered some resistance. The Democrats running for governor, for instance, have all sworn off money from Big Sugar, but the party named U.S. Sugar as a sponsor for its gala. Nevertheless, everybody in Hollywood was on the same page about the importance that Democrats fare better in 2018 than in 2016.

Over 1500 Democrats came together in South Florida over the weekend for campaign training, organizing sessions, and strategy meetings at the Florida Democratic Party’s Annual Leadership Blue weekend.

—“Florida Democrats rally against child separation policy in Hollywood” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Democratic gubernatorial campaigns hold meet-and-greet with activists” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Maggie Hassan fires up Gwen Graham rally in Hollywood” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Chris King looks to differentiate himself from Democratic field” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Philip Levine talks issues from leadership blue conference” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Florida GOP defiant amid ‘blue wave’ talk” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Even as Democrats tout their strong candidate recruiting and string of victories in bellwether races over the last 18 months, there have been some encouraging signs for Florida Republicans. “Actually, we’re feeling pretty good,” said Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Michael Barnett, pointing to Donald Trump’s approval rating in Florida, which topped 50 percent in a recent poll, and the fact that the unemployment rate in the state is at lows not seen since before the Great Recession. “He’s energizing the right,” said Volusia County GOP Chairman Tony Ledbetter, an early Trump supporter. While some Republicans worry that Trump is distracting from their efforts to highlight the economy and tax cuts by picking fights on Twitter and advancing divisive policies, such as separating children from parents who cross the border illegally, Ledbetter said the president is following the same playbook he did to win the 2016 election by rallying the base. “President Trump is creating the red wave for November,” he said.

— “Pledging allegiance to Trump in the Sunshine State” via Rosie Gray of the Atlantic

Tweet, tweet:


Scott rich and getting richer — worth $232M” via The Associated Press — Scott filed financial information with the state that lists his net worth at more than $232 million, or an increase of more than $83 million from a year ago. That includes his $14 million beachfront house in Naples and a $1.5 million Montana vacation home. He also has $215 million in a blind trust. Scott and his wife have spent more than $80 million on his two campaigns for governor.

Rick Scott has 232 million reasons to smile.

Poll of Puerto Ricans in Florida has good news for Dems — and for Scott” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Good news for the Democrats: 57 percent of surveyed Puerto Ricans in Florida said they were most likely to vote for Democratic candidates. Just 7 percent said they were most likely to vote for Republican. Good news for the Republicans: The poll has some positive signs for Gov. Scott, the GOP candidate challenging U.S. Sen. NelsonEduardo Gamarra, a political-science professor at Florida International University, said the poll was conducted May 10-20 with live callers speaking to 1,000 respondents by telephone. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Though 43 percent of Puerto Ricans who came to the state before 2012 view him negatively, compared with 55 percent who see him positively, those who have arrived since view the governor much more positively. Scott was rated positively by 82 percent of people who arrived in 2017 and 2018, 81 percent of those who arrived in 2015 and 2016, and by 79 percent of those who arrived from 2012 through 2014. About 8 percent to 10 percent said they didn’t have an opinion about Scott.

—“Nelson calls on Scott to help Puerto Rican hurricane survivors avoid eviction” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Scott to visit troops in Kuwait” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – He’ll travel to Camp Arifjan and Camp Buehring, where troops from the Florida National Guard and Army Reserves from Orlando are currently stationed. “Gov. Scott will be meeting with servicemen and women, and military officials. He will also be bringing these troops some reminders of home this Independence Day. A more detailed schedule will follow,” read an announcement.


Gubernatorial campaign contributions halfway to topping 2014’s record $150M” via John Haughey of Florida Watchdog — With nearly three months to go before the August 28 primaries and six months before the Nov. 6 general election, campaign spending in the governor’s race has already eclipsed half of the record $150 million expended when incumbent Gov. Scott defeated former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2014. Through May, the two leading Republican candidates — two-term Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis — had collectively raised $42 million for their campaigns, including $4.6 million last month. Meanwhile, the four primary Democratic candidates for governor — Gwen Graham; Andrew Gillum; Philip Levine; Chris King — together raised $4.4 million in May and have about $34 million in their collective elections budget.

Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam hold the lion’s share of campaign cash.

First on #FlaPol —Putnam doubled DeSantis in June fundraising” via Florida Politics — From June 1 through June 22, Putnam raked in almost $2.1 million — $1.8 million through his political committee, Florida Grown, and another $283,000 through his official campaign account. DeSantis’ total came in at $1.12 million, including $821,000 in contributions to Friends of Ron DeSantis and another $298,000 in campaign dollars. To date, Putnam has raised $32.7 million for his gubernatorial bid compared to about $12 million for DeSantis, whose total was buoyed last month by a $1.1 million transfer from his now-defunct congressional re-election fund.

GOP gubernatorial debate planned for South Florida canceled, organizers say” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Organizers canceled a Republican gubernatorial debate planned for August 1 in South Florida … The Florida Press Association, the host of the event, wrote in an update that the Republican Party of Florida had notified the association that its candidates would not participate in the statewide televised debate. Putnam and DeSantis clashed in a Fox News debate on Thursday in Orlando. They are set to meet again Aug. 8 in Jacksonville in a debate hosted by Jacksonville University and WJXT Channel 4.

— “Who des the Florida House Speaker support for governor? Depends which one you ask.” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times

Conservative ‘warrior’ attacks Naples Daily News, reporter” via Florida Politics — “Journalism is dead,” says a tweet blasting former Florida Politics correspondent Ana Ceballos, now the Tallahassee-based reporter for the Naples Daily News. The David Horowitz Freedom Center went on the attack this week over her “partisan hit piece” on Congressman and Republican candidate for Governor DeSantis. That article noted DeSantis “accepted a paid trip to attend a conference featuring speakers who have defended a candidate accused of child molestation, suggested killing Muslims and argued that women are less likely to be in leadership roles because of ‘biological causes.’” The event was organized by — you guessed it — the David Horowitz Freedom Center, “established by right-wing provocateur David Horowitz.” We’ll just note, among other things, the news release says she wrote that DeSantis himself “suggested killing Muslims,” when the story doesn’t say that. Otherwise, we’ll let Horowitz and/or his minions hoist themselves on their own petard.

Candidates for Governor vow changes on immigration” via Ana Ceballos and James Call of the Naples Daily News — Although a governor has little power over enforcement of immigration, Florida’s gubernatorial candidates are making promises that might be hard to keep and making proposals that could push the boundaries of state authority on the issue. Republican candidates are embracing Trump‘s agenda to close the borders and crack down on immigration. One is calling for a broad national plan that would help Florida businesses benefit from legal immigrant labor. The other is promising to adopt strict requirements that state companies verify an applicant’s legal status before hiring them. Democratic candidates are blasting Trump’s policies, promising to work at the state level to derail efforts to detain undocumented immigrants, create protections for those who came here illegally as children and leave alone communities that might want to limit cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain and deport those living here. Once elected, Florida’s governor will work with a Republican-controlled Legislature that in recent years has tried, and failed, to pass hard-line immigration proposals.

What Andrew Gillum is reading — “Black vote surges in Ga. primary: Meanwhile, proportion of white voters continues to decline” via Mark Neisse of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Don’t know Jeff Greene? You soon will, says Democratic candidate for governor” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — “I’m still weighing and learning as much as I can about his candidacy,” said Edgardo Hernandez of West Palm Beach, after a long one-on-one conversation with Greene. It’s Greene’s wealth — he’s worth $3.3 billion — that makes him a serious candidate even with his late entry to the race. If he’s the nominee, Greene said he’d match the spending of the Republican nominee for governor. “I will put up whatever it takes, dollar for dollar, toe to toe.” Greene barely registers in the polls — 4 percent in an NBC News/Marist Poll — but said he’s poised to win the Aug. 28 primary. He pointed to the big leader in the same poll: the 47 percent of Democrats who are undecided. “They’ve seen our TV commercials. Now they’re seeing me up front and close,” he said. “We’re going to be traveling the state aggressively and making ourselves available so that every Floridian who wants to can see me and meet me and make a decision if I’m their best choice.”

Who is Jeff Greene? You may find out very soon.

Alex Sink endorses Nikki Fried for Agriculture Commissioner” via Florida Politics — Sink, “the last Democratic member of the Florida Cabinet,” has endorsed Democrat Nikki Fried to be the next Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Sink, of Thonotosassa, was the state’s chief financial officer 2007-11. She ran for governor in 2010 and lost narrowly to incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott. “I trust Nikki Fried to steer this state in the right direction,” Sink said in a Friday email. “I am certain that she will do what’s right for all Floridians and that’s why I’m endorsing her … We need her to protect our civil rights and preserve public lands.” Fried, a lawyer and lobbyist specializing in medical marijuana clients, filed to run for Agriculture Commissioner this month after flirting with a run for governor. She so far has focused on gun control and — unsurprisingly — easing access to medicinal cannabis.

Click on the image below to watch a video of Sink endorsing Fried:

Family separation case splits Attorney General candidates” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Florida would join a coalition of states suing the Trump administration over the separation of undocumented immigrant families if two Democrats running for attorney general had their way. Republican candidates Ashley Moody, a former Hillsborough County circuit judge, and Frank White, a state lawmaker from Pensacola, were highly critical of the lawsuit filed Tuesday by 17 states with Democratic attorneys general … On the Democratic side of the race, state Rep. Sean Shaw of Tampa tweeted, “As our next AG, I will stand on the side of these families & join this lawsuit immediately,” “We must #EndFamilySeparation & protect these children!” Shaw continued in the tweet. Democrat Ryan Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County, called the lawsuit “courageous” against a “cruel and illegal policy.”

First in Sunburn — Sean Shaw releases first ad of AG bid — Tampa Democratic state Rep. Shaw’s campaign launched its debut bio ad Monday, titled “Meet Sean Shaw — This is how we win.” The 60-second spot “tells the story of a campaign based on the needs of the people, not what the experts or the big special interests believe the Attorney General should be focusing on,” according to a release. “When I launched this campaign, my only concern was the needs of the people of Florida,” Shaw said. “When the experts said to stay silent, I vowed to be the loudest voice in the room on the issues that truly matter, because that’s how we’re going to win this campaign.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Restaurants are becoming battleground for politics and social issues” via Wayne Price and Suzy Fleming Leonard of FLORIDA TODAY — There’s a real concern these days that restaurant operators are having to become referees as political and social fissures grow and heated passions work their way into eateries. And some restaurant owners, and employees, are taking it upon themselves to be the arbiter of what political beliefs and expressions customers are allowed if they wish to eat at an establishment. The actions seem to toss on its head the age-old axiom of “the customer is always right,” with some in the hospitality industry becoming downright inhospitable to customers of varying political beliefs. How did restaurants become a staging area for heated political debate? In some ways they have always have been, said David Kincheloe, president of the Denver, Colorado-based National Restaurant Consultants. It has just never been magnified the way it is now.


Lawsuit over dog-racing ban heads to court” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A group that supports a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit betting on greyhound racing won’t be allowed to enter a case against the ban, a Tallahassee judge ruled Friday. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers denied a motion to intervene from the Committee to Protect Dogs, but said it could file a friend-of-the-court brief, as can the Animal Law Section of The Florida Bar. Amendment 13, put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), aims at ending commercial dog racing in the state. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks. The suit was brought by the Florida Greyhound Association.

Legal battle over racing-dog videos stays heated” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Supporters of a constitutional ban on betting on greyhound racing have fired back with their own letter after ban opponents served a cease and desist letter on the group. The upshot: The Committee to Protect Dogs on Friday said the videos — made by artist Jeff Sonksen — used in an online ad by the Protect Dogs — Yes on 13 campaign aren’t copyrighted. And even if they are, they fall under what’s called the “fair use” exception. Amendment 13, placed on the November statewide ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw betting on dog races in Florida beginning in 2021. Greyhound owners and breeders, who oppose the ban, have challenged the proposed amendment in court; a trial is set for next month in Tallahassee. Proposed amendments need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.


Assignment editors — Fox News host Sean Hannity and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz will join DeSantis for a campaign tour around Florida: 10 a.m., Sanibel Harbour Marriot, 17260 Harbour Pointe Drive, Fort Myers; 2 p.m., Marriot Waterside Tampa, 700 S Florida Ave., Tampa; 5:30 p.m. Central time, New World Landing Event Space, 600 S Palafox St, Pensacola.

—“ Meet the Democrats hoping to beat Matt Gaetz” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell takes aim at Carlos Curbelovia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — As Democrats hope to take back the House in November, South Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Curbelo is facing challenges from both sides of the aisle as he fights for re-election. Florida’s 26th Congressional District, which Curbelo represents, is one of 23 House districts that elected a Republican representative despite also voting for Hillary Clinton. That’s evidence of a base of Democratic support large enough to propel a Democrat to victory. Indeed, CD 26 is one of the Democrats’ most sought-after districts in 2018. One of the contenders for the seat is Mucarsel-Powell, who is competing with Demetries Grimes for the Democratic nomination. She has been named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program, which aims to support candidates in competitive districts throughout the midterms. Mucarsel-Powell was one of several congressional candidates who appeared at POLITICO’s “The Deciders” series, held at the InterContinental Hotel in Miami, and she didn’t hold back in her criticism of Curbelo.

David Richardson targets Donna Shalala at Miami POLITICO event” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — With less than two months to go until the Florida primaries, Richardson is continuing to hammer Shalala in the race for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Richardson spoke with politics writer Marc Caputo Friday at POLITICO’s “The Deciders” series event at the InterContinental Hotel in Miami. He’s one of five Democrats competing for the CD 27 seat, including Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Shalala. Richardson seemed confident a Democrat would win the open seat, held for decades by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “I think that this seat will definitely flip and it will be a Democratic seat.”

Donna Shalala speaks at the POLITICO Election Powerbook briefing. (Image via POLITICO)

Congressional candidate says NBC Miami rejected campaign ad over Spanish content” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Matt Haggman, a Democrat running for Congress in Miami, ripped NBC’s Miami affiliate after he says they refused to run a campaign commercial because it includes 10 seconds of his wife speaking Spanish. But the station says his facts are all wrong. According to Haggman’s campaign, he purchased airtime on the station recently in order to run a 15-second commercial. But Brian Svoboda, an attorney representing Haggman’s campaign, says the campaign was told by its media buyer that WTVJ “would not run the advertisement because of a general policy that disfavors Spanish-language advertising.” An NBC6 spokesperson said in a statement that Haggman’s campaign was completely wrong and that the ad would run. “The Haggman campaign’s information is inaccurate,” said the statement. “We do accept Spanish-language ads, and NBC6 accepted the Haggman campaign’s ad.”

First in Sunburn — Florida retailers back Dana Young — The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) PAC is endorsing Young for re-election in Senate District 18. “Senator Young has supported and sponsored legislation that has helped to modernize the retail industry in Florida,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “We’re proud to support her campaign and look forward to working with her on additional ways to help Sunshine State retailers in her return to the Senate.” Young chairs the Senate’s Health Policy Committee, and is a member of the Commerce & Tourism, Communications, Energy & Public Utilities and Regulated Industries committees.

Carrie Pilon craters in SD 24 money race” via Florida Politics — Pilon narrowly outraised incumbent Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes in April but followed that up with an underwhelming performance in May. Her newest report, which covers the first three weeks of June, is more than underwhelming — it’s abysmal. The St. Petersburg trial lawyer showed just $6,730 in hard money fundraising and tacked on another $3,000 through her political committee, Moving Pinellas Forward. Her burn rate was similarly small, which would only be a good thing if the election was a year or more away. But it’s not. As it stands, Pilon has raised about $141,000 between her campaign and committee and has about $131,000 banked.

Disqualified House candidate upset that missing notary seal cost him spot on ballot” via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY — Thomas “Pat” O’Neill is pretty upset about the turn of events — and is letting the head of the agency that runs elections in Florida know just how he feels. O’Neill, a former Rockledge City Council member, was planning to run as a Republican candidate for Florida House in Central Brevard’s District 51. But he was ruled ineligible because he didn’t have the notary seal on the document in question, even though he submitted that document and the other required paperwork in advance of the June 22 deadline. In a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, O’Neill wrote: “I am truly disappointed in the customer service provided by the Bureau of Elections, and simply frustrated, as there is no remedy available to me for the poor service I received.” O’Neill said he hopes his letter will persuade Detzner to overturn the decision, but is not counting on it.

NRA endorses Jeff Mann for HD 56” via Florida Politics — Mann is a lifetime Republican who owns and runs Mann Septic in Bartow. He has also served 15 years as government relations chairman for the Florida Onsite Waste Water Association. He faces fellow Republican Melony Bell, also of Bartow, in the Aug. 28 primary. HD 56 is one of five contests, including three in the Tampa Bay area, to have its primary election locked down by a write-in candidate.

Jeff Mann gets the nod from the NRA. (Image via The Ledger of Lakeland)

Susan Valdes lashes out after ‘gotcha’ video” via Florida Politics — A video of the 14-year Hillsborough School Board member saying she was open to campaign contributions from charter school companies made waves in education circles, and Valdes is now changing course with a pledge to reject charter school donations. The video, recorded at a meeting of the Hillsborough County Democratic Caucus, was the result of “ambush tactics” by the campaign of Democratic primary rival Mike Alvarez. “A recent ‘gotcha’ video was created by the Michael Alvarez campaign in which Susan Valdes was ambushed regarding whether or not she would accept money from certain entities. Susan Valdes would like to make her intentions clear and from her, not a covert video,” the release said. Valdes also described Justin Diaz, the man who recorded the video, as someone who “hides cameras and badgers opponents.”

Melissa Howard earns backing of Carlos Lopez-Cantera” via Florida Politics — “Howard is the business owner, community leader, and conservative champion that will best serve her constituents in District 73. I am pleased to endorse Melissa’s campaign to continue the pro-growth policies that have led to historic economic growth and prosperity in Florida,” Lopez-Cantera said. Lopez-Cantera is Howard’s biggest endorsement yet. He joins Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who was briefly a candidate for HD 73, in endorsing Howard. Incumbent state Rep. Joe Gruters has not issued a formal endorsement yet, though he is serving as treasurer for the Howard campaign.

Game changer: Emma Collum lands $200K ‘angel donation’ in HD 93” race via Florida Politics — Collum’s campaign said an “angel donor” has stepped in with a $200,000 soft-money donation, instantly erasing the fundraising gap between her and her Republican opponent, Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca. Florida Politics learned that the donor was hedge fund manager S. Donald Sussman, a resident of HD 93 and significant Democratic benefactor making a total of $40 million to various Democratic super PACs affiliated groups. In 2016, The Washington Post reported that Sussman — founder of the Paloma Fund — gave $21 million to Priorities USA, the top super PAC supporting Clinton’s presidential bid.


“This is serious” via the Adam Putnam campaign; “We won the debate” via the Ron DeSantis campaign; “Just to be clear” via Brendan McPhillips of the Andrew Gillum campaign; “The biggest moment in this race” via the Gillum campaign; “Do you have Andrew’s back, friends?” via the Gillum campaign; “Here’s how it looks” via Zach Learner of the Chris King campaign; “real quick” via the King campaign; “Don’t wait,” via Jon Stewart of the King campaign; “Our next deadline” via Matthew Van Name of the Philip Levine campaign; “Fwd: Our next deadline” via Christian Ulvert of the Levine campaign; “We just have to fight that much harder” via the Sean Shaw campaign; “We can’t do this without you.” via Andrea Jahna of the Denise Grimsley campaign; “I trust Nikki Fried to lead in Florida” via Alex Sink for the Nikki Fried campaign; “One day left.” via the Fried campaign; “We have till MIDNIGHT to reach our goal.” via the Fried campaign; “Big Week” via Becky Troutman of the Baxter Troutman campaign; “It’s a two front battle” via the Darren Soto campaign; “Why is it a dogfight?” via Harry K of the Soto campaign; “Please give $8” via the Soto campaign; “June is almost over …” via the Greg Steube campaign; “Trumpiest Congressman” via the Matt Gaetz campaign; “Let’s Finish June Strong” via Korey of the Alvin Brown campaign; “$60 for 60” via the Brown campaign; “please read” via the Mary Barzee Flores campaign; “Fwd: please read” via the Flores campaign; “There’s no time to gnash our teeth” via the David Shapiro campaign; “already see the district flipping” via the Andrew Learned campaign; “Only 1 Day remaining” via the Emma Collum campaign; “Hey, are you still with us?” via Terrie Rizzo of the Florida Democratic Party; “this could mean Scott is toast” via FDP; “we’re fighting on all fronts” via Juan Peñalosa of FDP; “Florida Elections HQ” via FDP; “Democracy is not about one party dominating” via Audrey Gibson for the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.


By electing a non-Hispanic, Democratic county commissioner, voters in Little Havana last week joined a growing list of electorate groups that have recently shocked the nation.

Eileen Higgins’ victory in the race for the Miami-Dade County Commission seat adds a bit of nuance to the ‘blue wave’ some speculate is forming behind the 2018 midterms: Voters could be beginning to place party-affiliation over ethnicity, writes Patricia Mazzei for The New York Times.

Eileen Higgins’ surprise victory in Miami-Dade County, is seen as an omen for Democrats.

As one veteran Republican political consultant told Mazzei, “if Hispanic voters can no longer be counted on to favor Hispanic candidates, then an increasing number of districts here might start performing as they do in state and national elections: blue.”

Reversing course: Miami-Dade was a Democratic stronghold before the Ronald Reagan-inspired, anti-communist messaging that turned Cuban-Americans to the right, notes Mazzei. Now, the tables could turn again. “History is repeating itself — it’s the changing of the guard in Miami-Dade that’s likely going to propel the rise of the Florida Democratic Party,” Higgins’ campaign head Christian Ulvert told Mazzei.

Demographics: Older, reliably red Cuban-American voters still reside in Little Havana. But some have left, and the area is also home to more blue-leaning Hispanic groups. One source in the story said a Cuban sandwich in Little Havana will “be made by a Guatemalan, or a Honduran, or a Mexican, or a Nicaraguan.”

Looking ahead: The area’s congressional district, CD 27, is expected to go blue in November. None of the Democratic candidates vying to replace retiring incumbent Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are Hispanic.


’Millions of dollars of wasteful spending.’ A look at Gov. Scott’s post-Irma debris deals” via Jim DeFede of CBS4 — The governor’s emergency contracts will end up costing taxpayers an additional $28 million to $30 million … If the governor had instead used one of the companies already under contract with the state, it would have cost taxpayers as little as $13 million to do the same work. AshBritt, based in Broward County, is one of the largest disaster response firms in the country. Monroe County also had a contract with AshBritt that had been competitively bid before hurricane season started. The Florida Department of Transportation had six companies on standby, under their own pre-storm contracts, ready to go into the Keys to clear US 1. Three of those companies — Ceres Environmental, Bergeron Emergency Services, and AshBritt — had crews pre-positioned … Yet all of this planning was ignored. Rather than using Ceres, Bergeron or AshBritt, state officials quietly sent notices to a handful of companies, inviting them to bid on a new emergency contract. The state decided on two firms: MCM and Community Asphalt. (In an unrelated matter, MCM is currently under scrutiny for its role in constructing the FIU pedestrian bridge that collapsed in March killing six people.)

By using existing contractors, with already negotiated rates, Florida could have saved millions in post-Irma cleanup bills.

Counties fault Scott’s staff over voting money conditions” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida was awarded $19.2 million from the feds in March, and most of the money is to help counties fortify their voting equipment against the ever-present threat of cyberattacks from Russia and elsewhere, as they plan primary and general elections … counties accuse the state of slow-walking an application for federal help. Soon after the check arrived, the state told all 67 counties that they must file detailed applications for their share no later than July 18. In addition, the state said the cybersecurity money is for this election cycle only, and any money counties receive that is unspent must be returned to Tallahassee in November. This is known as a “use it or lose it” provision, which encourages counties to spend their money as fast as possible.

Bill Galvano, José Oliva look to trim lease tax” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Appearing at the state Republican Party’s “Sunshine Summit” in Kissimmee, incoming House Speaker Oliva and incoming Senate President Galvano outlined their expectations for the next two years, with many of the ideas a continuation of the direction of recent Republican-dominated legislatures. They talked of seeking further reductions in taxes and fees, improving security at ports and schools, upgrading transportation, water and electric infrastructure, expanding health care options and school choice and providing more career options for students by promoting skill-training and technology programs. Oliva said the biggest thing for lawmakers is to mostly “get out of the way.” Galvano expressed a desire to revisit the commercial lease tax, which will drop from 5.8 percent to 5.7 percent on Jan. 1 … “The commercial lease tax is one I think we need to take another hard look at,” Galvano said.

Florida Education Association ready to sue over union decertification portion of HB 7055” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — the FEA is about to make good on its pledge to sue the state over a new law that makes it easier to decertify teacher labor organizations. “My locals are all going to be over 50 percent,” FEA president Joanne McCall told the Gradebook. “This is about equity and fairness, and being targeted and singled out.” Lawmakers applied the new rule only to teacher organizations, and not to any other public employee groups. When the bill passed, McCall said, 17 local teacher organizations fell under the 50 percent membership threshold.

Florida prisons: Who profits when former inmates fail?” via Noah Pransky of WTSP — A number of recent cuts to Florida felon re-entry programs, designed to reduce recidivism, have amplified critics of the state’s commitment to lowering its felon recidivism rate. Under Scott, the DOC has also pushed controversial policies, such as limiting family visits in prison to every-other-week, instead of every week, as it had been. The agency said the policy was to address a contraband problem, but DOC statistics show only 2.5 percent of the contraband in prison comes from families; the overwhelming majority comes from staff, who are often underpaid and easily-convinced to smuggle in contraband. Instead, the restricted visitation policy will adversely impact families with a loved one in prison, and push many to a new video conference option, offered for a fee by private corporation JPay. The governor also has close ties to private prison provider GEO Group, a regular donor whose CEO hosted a fundraiser for Scott in 2014. And prisoner health care provider Centurian, one of the industry’s biggest political givers, got a $55 million bump in its contract this year.

Massive and toxic algae bloom threatens Florida coasts with another lost summer” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — This week, thick green blooms seeped down the rural Caloosahatchee River toward the southwest coast. More ooze piled up on the lake’s eastern banks, pushing against a gate leading to million-dollar waterfront homes and businesses along the St. Lucie River estuary. While state testing has so far confirmed only low amounts of toxic cyanobacteria, Calusa Waterkeeper, a nonprofit Fort Myers river watch group, posted sample results recently showing levels hundreds of times above what is considered the safe limits for human exposure in some of the hardest hit areas. If it continues, the summer of slime could have wide-ranging implications, from politics to business. Gov. Scott, who consistently cut funding to the state’s environmental regulators, issued emergency orders to state water managers to try to stop the spread of a nasty green wave that looms as a potential stain for his ongoing campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Whoa! State postpones controversial toll road through horse farms” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott’s office announced it is postponing any further work on a controversial toll road called the Coastal Connector that upset horse farmers in the Ocala area. The announcement was made in a letter from Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Dew to Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn saying that the state will put the Coastal Connector on the back burner, and instead focus on easing traffic problems on Interstate 75. In the past month, both the Marion County Commission and the Citrus County Commission have passed resolutions calling for the DOT to say whoa. Marion officials don’t even want the state agency to continue studying any of the routes through that region, much less begin construction.


Brightline financial documents reveal first quarter ridership, revenue” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm — Brightline carried 74,780 riders and collected $663,700 in ticket revenue in its first 2½ months of operation, according to financial documents … Month-by-month ridership and revenue from Jan 19, when initial service began between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, to March 31, the end of the first quarter, was: January: 17,800 passengers, $146,500; February: 24,100 passengers, $220,000; March: 32,900 passengers, $297,300. The financial documents — required by a continuing disclosure agreement associated with Brightline’s $600 million private-activity bond offering — revealed the less-expensive Smart service ticket was more popular than the more-expensive Select ticket, but not by much. The documents also showed Select generated significantly more revenue than Smart … Select: 34,200 passengers, $388,600; Smart: 40,600 passengers, $275,000.

It’s harder than ever to get into USF. Some worry about the downside.” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times — After years of effort, USF Tampa has been deemed a preeminent university, a lucrative state honor based on hitting goals on metrics like graduation rates. As the USF System unifies, leaders want USF to stay pre-eminent and keep those bonus dollars flowing. To do that, incoming fall students across all three campuses — not just Tampa anymore — need to average a strong academic profile: a 4.0 weighted high school GPA and a 1200 SAT. USF is aiming higher than that, a sign of its growing prestige and, for some, a cause for concern. That new target will be tougher at the regional campuses, which have generally been easier to get into. Now, with pressure on to maintain preeminence, USF St. Petersburg students admitted for fall 2019 will ideally average a 4.0 GPA and a 1240 SAT. State Rep. Wengay Newton stressed the need for access in poor neighborhoods. “Otherwise,” Newton said, “we will heed the results of not providing these opportunities for these students.”

What Kathy Mears is reading – Florida State touts highest 4-year graduation rate in state history” via Jake Stefan of News4Jax – Florida State University is boasting the highest graduation rate in state history: Seven out of 10 students finish within four years. The success was highlighted at the Board of Governors meeting Tuesday. “We’re proud of our progress and we don’t take it for granted and we certainly are not going to let our foot off the gas,” FSU President John Thrasher said.

Tampa Electric seeks approval for solar project” via the News Service of Florida — Tampa Electric Co. asked state regulators for approval to recoup money from customers to pay for five solar projects in Hillsborough and Polk counties. The utility filed the proposal at the Florida Public Service Commission, which last month signed off on a similar request for two solar projects in the first phase of Tampa Electric’s plan. The Public Service Commission in 2017 approved a settlement agreement that set Tampa Electric’s base electric rates until 2022. Part of that agreement allowed the utility to return to the commission to seek approval to recover money for solar projects.


Who’s holding immigrants in Florida? Private vendors, feds and county sheriffs, too.” via Alex Leary and Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — The outcry over child separation has revealed a disturbing bigger picture. America’s immigration enforcement system is a complex patchwork involving multiple federal agencies, local sheriffs, nonprofits and, increasingly, politically influential corporations like Florida-based GEO Group. The system exists in a bureaucratic netherworld. Undocumented children are overseen by a federal HHS division called the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Care can be outsourced, either to nonprofits or for-profit companies such as Comprehensive Health Services of Cape Canaveral, which runs the Homestead shelter under a contract worth more than $30 million. Many more undocumented adults are apprehended at the border, picked up after traffic stops or for committing a crime or simply swept up in raids across the country, which have grown more frequent since Trump took office. Some are held in county jails in Florida in such far-flung places as Crawfordville, Macclenny, Naples and the Keys, making it difficult for families to reach them.

Immigrant communities in Collier and Lee on edge after recent arrests by ICE” via Alexi C. Cardona of the Naples Daily News — Arrests this week and what some Collier and Lee County residents say has been an increased U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement presence has once again ignited fear in immigrant communities. ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias confirmed agents had made arrests in Collier County and other areas this week. Yglesias would not say how many people were arrested. Yglesias said this round of arrests is part of ICE’s “day-to-day operations.” Residents in Collier and Lee counties have reported on social media seeing ICE in Immokalee, Golden Gate, Naples Manor and Bonita Springs. Some people have posted photos they say show immigration police knocking on people’s doors and asking for identification of people on roadsides.

Scott Zeigler raises his fist as he holds his upside-down flag during a “Families Belong Together” rally Saturday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Over 700 marches and rallies were held across the country to protest the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Photo by Phil Sears.

Hundreds in Tampa Bay join many across America protesting separation of migrant families” via Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — About 500 people packed Gulfport Casino in the afternoon, many carrying signs criticizing the president, and hundreds more gathered outside Joe Chillura Courthouse in downtown Tampa that morning. The rallies were two of more than 700 across the nation — including one near the White House — supporting the Families Belong Together movement. Local officials at both Tampa Bay area events railed against Trump’s immigration policies and urged attendees to make their voices heard in upcoming elections.

—“Thousands in South Florida and across U.S. march to protest immigration policies” via Wayne Roustan and Anne Geggis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

—“Hundreds in Brevard protest Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy” via Eric Rogers of FLORIDA TODAY

Trump’s stricter immigration enforcement a boon to GEO Group” via Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post — As the president pushes a more muscular approach to immigration enforcement, investors expect the business of incarceration for profit to grow more lucrative. Shares of private prison operator GEO Group jumped 11 percent in June, a month when stories of immigrant children being separated from their parents dominated the news — although the Boca Raton-based company has made a point of distancing itself from that contentious policy. “The facilities we manage on behalf of ICE do not and have never housed unaccompanied minors,” GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez said in a statement. Even so, GEO Group shares jumped June 20, after Trump said Immigration and Customs Enforcement would stop separating families caught crossing the Mexican border. Instead, ICE will hold parents and children together — a policy that creates new demand for detention centers.


Abortion fight looms in Florida with Justice Kennedy’s retirement” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – The Florida legislator who sponsored a controversial law to require that women wait 24 hours before having an abortion would push for an outright ban in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark abortion rights law, Roe v. Wade. In that way, Florida could prove to be a guinea pig among states that don’t have abortion bans on the books but whose conservative leaders have been seeking to restrict abortion access under the federal law that calls the medical procedure a constitutional right for women. … While the Florida law restricting abortions was blocked by state courts, its sponsor state Rep. Jennifer Mae Sullivan (R-Mount Dora), said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement offers an opening for even more aggressive legislation: an outright abortion ban in Florida. Kennedy has been a conservative swing vote who sided with liberal justices to uphold abortion rights in a 1992 challenge. “If federal law changed, I would look comprehensively at state statutes and the state constitution and look at the most strategic and streamlined process to protect life,” Sullivan told POLITICO in an interview.

Flood insurance and citrus greening money among ‘Farm Bill’ provisions” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — The Senate-passed Farm Bill includes a six-month extension of the National Flood Insurance Program and $125 million to address citrus greening — items championed by Sens. Nelson and Marco Rubio. Rubio co-sponsored the flood insurance extension, which was to run out July 31. He and other lawmakers are trying to get a six-year extension but that’s a bigger hurdle, and the extension would buy some time. Nelson highlighted a provision to provide scientists and researchers an additional $125 million to help find a cure to the deadly citrus disease.


Ed Moore: Need for civility crystal clear in this election season” via Sunshine State News — Increasingly as a society, we seem to descend into the dark maelstrom of incivility. Civil discourse has coarsened to the extent we grow concerned that common understanding of complex and vexing societal issues becomes impossible. Free and open debate is a hallmark of our republican values. The founding of our country was constructed upon a foundation built on challenging ideas and offering often highly conflicting ideas in the marketplace of conversation. We have, of late, strayed far from these ideals. Our nation has seen many kinds and levels of strife over our history, but in our modern era, we are sorely tested by the quick responses of reflexive social media, often without the depth of context nor the respect required for our words to be both received and digested. When we are all yelling, no one is listening.

Jackie Toledo: Enough is enough — put down the phone” via Florida Politics — I vow, as your representative, to once again make the case that Florida needs to address the epidemic of distracted driving with a hands-free bill to save lives and protect the ones we love. Distracted driving and the ubiquitous use of smartphones behind the wheel are leading causes for the rise in vehicle crashes in Florida and nationwide. Distracted driving-related crashes have also experienced a double-digit spike. In 2015, there were more than 45,000 distracted driving crashes in Florida, resulting in more than 39,000 injuries and more than 200 fatalities. As lawmakers, we have the ability to strengthen our laws and hopefully save lives.


Appointed — Julius Davis to the Florida Transportation Commission.

Personnel note: Kevin Sweeny named lighthouse trusteeSweeny, Operations Director for the Florida Justice Association, posted on social media last week that he had become the newest member of the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum Board of Trustees. It’s a “private, nonprofit museum dedicated to … discover, preserve, present and keep alive the stories of the ‘Nation’s Oldest Port’ as symbolized by our working St. Augustine Lighthouse,” its website says.

— ALOE —

How early is too early for Christmas decorations in Florida? Retailers say never” via Emilee Speck of — On the hottest day of the summer you can walk into Marge’s Specialties on Orange Blossom Trail and feel downright jolly. The decoration and home interior store is known as the “Largest Christmas Store” for a reason. Deck the hall year-round with abandon at Marge’s. The time is now for the Flagg Lane Lake Mary location of the At Home décor store. Smaller ornaments and other Christmas items are already out on the shelves. In July, the retailer will start rolling out Christmas trees. The Michaels Decor location in Winter Park is holding off until the end of summer to hang its stockings. They won’t have Christmas items until the end of July at the earliest.

The Christmas creep is now entering July.

Port Royal mansion fetches record-breaking $48.8 million” via Jennifer Beeson of — Southwest Florida’s most expensive listing has sold — again — this time breaking the record as the priciest home sale in Collier County’s history. The 9,394-square-foot beachfront Port Royal mansion at 2500 Gordon Drive in Naples sold for a record-breaking $48.8 million. It was listed at $60.9 million. Software mogul Art Allen purchased the six-bedroom, nine-bathroom, home from Miles C. Collier, grandson of the county’s founder, in 2007 for $40 million.

Happy birthday to James McFaddin of Southern Strategy Group and Sandi Poreda of Bulldog Strategy Group.

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

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
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