Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.16.18

Florida Capitol 3

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

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

There is a new co-front-runner in the Democratic primary for Florida governor.

According to the latest survey from St. Pete Polls and commissioned by Florida Politics, billionaire Jeff Greene, who entered the race just last month, has joined former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham atop the field as the campaign enters its final weeks.

Greene is the slight leader at 21.6 percent, while Graham is at 21.5 percent. Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is at 19.4 percent.

Despite an infusion of financial support from billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is still at 10 percent, while Orlando entrepreneur Chris King is stuck at 3 percent.

Florida Politics will have more on this poll later in the day.


@realDonaldTrump: These Russian individuals did their work during the Obama years. Why didn’t Obama do something about it? Because he thought Crooked Hillary Clinton would win, that’s why. Had nothing to do with the Trump Administration, but Fake News doesn’t want to report the truth, as usual!

@MarcoRubio: Several wks ago I personally told #Nicaragua F.M. Denis Moncada Colindres that opportunity still existed to avoid cycle of conflict with U.S. if they held early & fair elections. But Ortega/Murillo regime responded with more violence making very clear the path they have chosen

@SenBillNelson: The violence perpetrated by the Ortega regime is reprehensible and it must not be tolerated. It’s eerily similar to that of Maduro and Castro. The American people stand on the side of the Nicaraguan people. They deserve to have their voices heard.

@AmbCTrujillo: The OAS will continue to meet this week and address the deteriorating situation in Nicaragua. The Government’s violent repression through the use of sandanista maras is unacceptable. The US will hold violators of human rights accountable. #SOSNicaragua

@ChrisKingFL: From toxic algae to rising seas, Florida’s environment is at risk. As governor, we’ll ban offshore drilling, take on Big Sugar and make protecting our environment a priority again.

@JimRosicaFL: Outgoing Fla. House Speaker @richardcorcoran financial disclosure now online, shows net worth of almost $344K.

@AGGancarski: Looks like @ScottforFlorida planning an afternoon political event in @TFreemanJax district 10. #JaxOnTheRise

@NewsbySmiley: Miami 2018: The highest-profile opponents of the city’s latest controversial development deal are **{rubs glasses, squints}** Jorge Perez and @Manny_A_Diaz


Florida Chamber Environmental Permitting Summer School — 1; MLB All-Star Game — 1; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 2; Florida Chamber Global Florida Webinar — 8; MAKE MORE Manufacturing Summit — 15; Deadline for filing claim bills — 18; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in West Palm Beach — 17; Florida’s back to school sales tax holiday begins — 18; Republican gubernatorial debate in Jacksonville — 23; School begins in the first 19 Florida districts — 25; Start of the U.S. Open — 42; Primary Election Day — 43; NFL season starts — 43; College Football opening weekend — 45; Labor Day — 49; Future of Florida Forum — 72; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 109; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 100; General Election Day — 113; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 134; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 211; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 232; 2020 General Election — 841.


Primary season heats up in Florida as absentee ballots go out” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner mailed 1,400 primary ballots to military and overseas voters Friday. Absentee ballots for everyone else will start going out July 24. In Florida’s 2016 primary, 61 percent of Republicans voted early or absentee, compared with 64 percent of Democrats. That means the primary campaigns could be won or lost well before Election Day. “It’s not just Election Day anymore,” Turner said. “People start voting many weeks before Election Day.”

Happening today — U.S. District Judge Mark Walker holds a hearing in a lawsuit filed in May against Secretary of State Ken Detzner by the League of Women Voters of Florida and others who argue the state should allow early voting sites on state university and college campuses, 9 a.m., United States Courthouse, 111 North Adams St., Tallahassee.


Rick Scott Victory Fund reports $3.1 million” via ProPublica — The fundraising panel, a joint committee with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, benefits Scott’s election to the U.S. Senate. The organization posted its first filing with the Federal Elections Commission. Top donors include developer/Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, advertising firm honcho Jordan Zimmerman, sugar baron Jose Fanjul, and homebuilder Carlos Beruff. Beruff most recently chaired the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission after Scott‘s appointment.

Energy execs set fundraiser for Scott” via Nick Bowlin of E&E News — Scott will lunch in Oklahoma City next week with a handful of high-powered energy industry executives. An invitation to the fundraising lunch lists a who’s who of Oklahoma oil and natural gas executives, many with tight relationships to the administration and other top Republican candidates. They include Larry Nichols, co-founder and former CEO of Devon Energy Corp.; Republican mega-donor Harold Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources Inc.; Rick Muncrief, chairman and CEO of WPX Energy Inc.; and Mike Cantrell, former president of Oklahoma Basic Economy Corp. and chairman of Cantrell Investments LLC, an oil and gas firm. Also on the list is Joe Craft, president and CEO of Alliance Resource Partners LP, one of the nation’s largest coal companies. The lunch will take place in Vast, a downtown Oklahoma City restaurant set in the Devon Energy Center building, which includes the corporation’s headquarters.

Scott helps donors who pad his campaign accounts, critics say” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Scott has spent more than $10 million in his campaign for U.S. Senate so far on a slew of ads, attacking his opponent as a career politician and pledging to “make Washington work.” Floridians won’t know who is bankrolling the ad blitz until his first campaign report is published. But Democrats and ethics watchdogs contend Scott’s message belies his administration’s history of taking actions that benefit campaign donors, saying he wants to swap the “swamp” in Tallahassee for the one in Washington. When Scott won the 2010 GOP primary for governor, using $75 million of his own wealth to upset establishment favorite Bill McCollum, he declared Tallahassee lobbyists were “crying in their cocktails.” Once Scott took office, he started taking money from big-spending political donors. Scott took in millions from the corporate interests with business in the Capitol such as Walt Disney Co., large sugar corporations and major utilities that typically donate to those in power. But he also took money from lesser-known companies who ended up benefiting from a change in the administration’s policies.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will join business leaders for two announcements: 11:15 a.m., Dairy-Mix Inc., 3020 46th Avenue North, St. Petersburg; 4:45 p.m., GT AirInject Inc., 136 Ellis Road N., Jacksonville.

In Little Havana, Bill Nelson shrugs off polls that give Scott edge with Puerto Ricans, Cubans” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — An FIU poll released in June of 1,000 Puerto Ricans living across Florida — the majority of whom registered as Democrats — gave Scott a sizable lead in name recognition (70 percent of respondents said they had heard of Scott, compared to 50 percent for Nelson). Scott also edged out Nelson in a measure of who was viewed more favorably (37 percent “very good” for Scott, compared to 20 percent for Nelson). On Wednesday, a new poll from WSCV-Telemundo 51 that queried 696 likely Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade and Broward counties gave Scott a three-point lead over Nelson, although among Cuban voters — historically reliable in elections — Scott held an 18-point lead. During a media gaggle after the canvassing event, Nelson downplayed the importance and fickleness of polls, while noting an NBC News/Marist Poll released in June gave him a four-point edge over Scott among registered voters. He also said Hispanics cared about issues he would champion, like preserving the Affordable Care Act, curbing gun violence and keeping sea-level rise at bay.

Knocking on doors: U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada joined Bill Nelson this Saturday to rally supporters and volunteers in Little Havana before joining them to knock on doors.

Majority PAC reports $2.6 million ad buy for Nelson” via ProPublica — The buy was by Waterfront Strategies for Nelson’s re-election bid, and was posted late Saturday. According to the Center for Public Integrity, “the media buying firm serves primarily Democratic-aligned super PACs and nonprofits. It’s the preferred vendor for Majority PAC and House Majority PAC — the super PACs aimed at securing Democratic seats in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.”


New Ron DeSantis add touts endorsement by ‘the big man himself’ — The 30-second spot debuting over the weekend promotes DeSantis’ military career, serving as a prosecutor “who dealt with terrorists in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba,” his ranking as “Florida’s top conservative,” and the endorsement from “the big man himself,” President Donald Trump.

To watch “The Big Man,” click on the image below:

Thank you, Captain Obvious — “Time for Adam Putnam to start worrying” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — Putnam has drawn thousands of Republican activists to rallies and barbecues across the state … blown away all Florida money-raising records … led Republican rival DeSantis by 15 to 17 percentage points — a blowout — in the last three public polls conducted by experienced Florida pollsters. On the ground, however, it feels like the race is shifting decidedly toward DeSantis. “I’m also torn between Ron DeSantis and Adam, because I know Adam so well,” Robin Lester of Tampa told me last week, echoing several other women at her table during a Florida Federation of Republican Women dinner. These should be rock solid Putnam voters, women who have been active in the GOP long before the Tea Party and Trump acolytes came to dominate the grassroots. Many have known Putnam personally for years.

Happening Wednesday — Donald Trump Jr. joins DeSantis with special guests Judge Jeanine Pirro and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Wednesday, July 18, doors open 1 p.m., BB King’s Blues Club, 9101 International Dr., #2230, Orlando.

Gwen Graham’s potential ‘game change’: abortion rights and gender” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida — “It’s time we have a changed world where women are equally represented in any conversation about our health care options,” Graham told reporters at an abortion rights event she held in Tallahassee. “The stakes were always high, but now they’re even higher to make sure that we elect a woman governor of Florida that’s going to fight for a woman’s right to control her own body.” Asked if she believed that she was more qualified than her male opponents to discuss the issue, Graham didn’t miss a beat: “Yes.” Graham, who at the first debate drew attention to her gender by saying it was “Gwen and the men,” is making the issue — and abortion rights specifically — more central to her campaign, particularly as women candidates nationwide fare well in Democratic primaries. Democratic pollster Tom Eldon, unaffiliated with any of the candidates, said the issue of abortion rights is critical for Graham, especially since women are expected to account for as much as 60 percent of the party’s primary vote.

Bob Graham sees Florida impact in Supreme Court nomination” via Douglas Ray of the Gainesville Sun – The former governor and U.S. senator from Florida, whose daughter is a Democratic candidate for governor, said the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the nation’s highest court could ultimately bring the fight over abortion rights back to the state level. “The threat is sufficiently real that it deserves to be closely monitored,” Graham said. Many social conservatives hope Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh, announced Monday, can put a deciding vote on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 45-year-old decision that prohibits states from restricting access to abortion. “The focus would then shift back to the states. How the governor and the legislature respond to that will determine what happens in Florida,” Graham said. He said his daughter, Gwen Graham, has promised to veto any legislation “that unduly restricts a woman’s right to choose.”

Panama City mayor backs Graham” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki cited her congressional service … Graham was elected to Florida’s 2nd Congressional District in 2014 … CD 2 encompasses Panama City. “Representing Panama City in Congress, Gwen Graham always put people first. She worked on behalf of Florida’s men and women serving in uniform. Gwen fought to ban oil drilling off our beaches. And she brought more than $2.5 million back to veterans, seniors and families,” Brudnicki said. “Her service to our state has earned my support and I’m excited to vote for her this August and November.” This isn’t the first time Brudnicki has waded into Graham’s politics. He supported her opponent, then-incumbent Steve Southerland, during Graham’s 2014 congressional bid.

Happening today — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King speaks at a meeting of the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee, 6 p.m., IBEW Union Hall, 966 North Liberty St., Jacksonville.

No shortage of ads ahead of Florida 2018 midterm election” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine isn’t lacking for new ideas on ads in his quest to be the Democratic nominee for governor — he’s run out 18 different television commercials ahead of the Aug. 28 primary. The latest is, well, a bit out of the ordinary, to be polite. It begins with Levine’s mother saying, “Really, Carole, a headband?” It then shows Carole in a headband and turquoise bowling shirt holding a fluorescent green ball. She says, “Bowling is my game, girls.” Not to be outdone by Levine in creativity, billionaire Democratic candidate for Governor Jeff Greene sent out a mail piece showing a photo of President Trump slumped eyes closed in a chair with a partially-eaten Big Mac on his knee. Cartoonish dream clouds rise above him. The last is a scratch-off game. “What is Trump’s worst nightmare?” the flyer asks. “Scratch here to find out!” Once scratched, it reveals “Jeff Greene for Florida.”

Click on the image below to watch Levine’s ad:

Assignment editors — Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody joins Fraternal Order of Police Florida First Vice President Lonnie Miller and Jacksonville FOP Lodge 5-30 President Steve Zona for a news conference, 4 p.m., FOP Jacksonville Lodge 5-30, 5530 Beach Blvd.

Moody drops new ad touting career as prosecutor, not politician — Moody’s new 30-second spot reminds voters that, as a prosecutor, she is “not a politician,’ and is the only candidate for Attorney General who actually “put criminals behind bars.” She also focuses on her endorsement from current AG Pam Bondi (who is shown in a brief shot with Trump) and is backed by “nearly 90 percent of Florida’s Republican sheriffs.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Personnel note: Melissa Sellers Stone Joins Frank White’s AG campaignStone, CEO of Cavalry Strategies and former chief of staff and campaign manager to Gov. Scott, is joining White’s campaign for Attorney General. Stone will focus on strategic coalition building. The announcement comes on the heels of growing momentum for the campaign, including new polling showing White with a seven-point lead, endorsements from Florida Right to Life PAC and 15 conservative leaders from across the state, and the release of a new contrast ad, “Judgment Matters.” “Melissa is a conservative warrior who’s been on the front lines of campaigns here in Florida and across the country and we are excited to have her on the team,” White said. Stone previously served as the Director of Regional Media for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, and before that as Communications Director for Governor Bobby Jindal in Louisiana.

Florida police union endorsing Jimmy Patronis for CFO” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police (Florida FOP) is backing Jimmy Patronis in his bid to remain Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. Patronis is running for election against Democrat Jeremy Ring, a former state senator. Richard Paul Dembinsky also qualified as a write-in candidate. Patronis, a Republican, was appointed by Gov. Scott last year to replace CFO Jeff Atwater, who stepped down early to become CFO of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Scott had previously tapped Patronis, a former state representative, for the state’s Public Service Commission and Constitution Revision Commission. He left both panels upon becoming CFO. “The Florida State Fraternal Order of Police are proud to endorse and stand with Chief Financial Officer Patronis in his bid to continue as CFO,” said Florida FOP President Robert Jenkins.


First in Sunburn — announces summer fundraisers in Tampa, Jacksonville — A prominent group of supporters of Constitutional Revision Amendment 8 will gather in Tampa and Jacksonville this summer to raise funds for The host committee for the Tampa fundraiser includes Speaker Richard Corcoran, presumed 2021 Speaker Chris Sprowls, and fellow Tampa-area Rep. Jamie Grant. They are joined by two area businessmen, John Kirtley and Carlos Beruff, to raise funds for the passage of Amendment 8. Carlos Beruff also served as Chair of the CRC, which placed the amendment, with seven others, on the November ballot. Supporters will gather in Tampa July 26 and Jacksonville Aug. 20. For more information, contact [email protected].

Greyhound racing-ban group releases still more endorsements” via Florida Politics — The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign on Friday announced another round of endorsements. They include current and former lawmakers, greyhound groups, editorial boards, animal welfare organizations, and a local animal shelter, the campaign said in a release. The group is promoting passage of Amendment 13, put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). The proposal, which needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution, aims at ending commercial dog racing in the state. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks. “Progressives and conservatives don’t agree on much these days, which is why the growing bipartisan support behind the #YesOn13 movement to end inhumane greyhound racing is so incredible,” said state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, in a statement.

‘Warrior’ Matt Gaetz gets official thumbs-up from Trump” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Gaetz has long been aboard the Trump train, and now Trump is returning the favor with an endorsement of the congressman’s re-election campaign. “Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida is one of the finest and most talented people in Congress,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Strong on crime, the border, illegal immigration, the Second Amendment, our great military and vets, Matt worked tirelessly on helping to get our massive tax cuts. He has my full endorsement!” Gaetz, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, has been a loyal backer of Trump’s. That’s especially true regarding the Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Nancy Pelosi endorses Al Lawson’s re-election — in Alvin Brown’s hometown” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Brown, running for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, only had to walk a few blocks from his own campaign headquarters to see House Minority Leader Pelosi endorse incumbent U.S. Rep. Lawson. Lawson said he brought Pelosi to Jacksonville not to clown Brown, but to “let people know we’ve been up there working hard for them” … “We’ve been able to get a great deal accomplished, and we wouldn’t be able to accomplish that without a great relationship with the Leader,” Lawson said. “For her to come here, it’s truly an honor.” Pelosi would not criticize Brown, saying she’s “here to support Mr. Lawson,” citing “courageous votes” and “his leadership” on tough bills.

Winning combination? U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed U.S. Rep. Al Lawson for his re-election campaign for Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Spotted — Republican Mike Waltz, the former senior counterterrorism adviser who is a candidate in Florida’s 6th Congressional District to succeed DeSantis, on Fox News discussing election meddling ahead of Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

—“Nancy Soderberg nears $1M on hand for CD 6 campaign” via Florida Politics

—“Stephen Sevigny adds $350K, union endorsement in CD 6” via Florida Politics

His Ph.D. is from a diploma mill. But candidate stands by his work” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — The three letters were displayed prominently on George Buck’s campaign website, right after his name: Ph.D. There’s no question that Buck, a Republican primary candidate for U.S. House District 13 — the seat currently held by incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist — received a doctoral degree. However, there are questions about the legitimacy of the school that conferred it. Buck, 62, went to LaSalle University, a defunct correspondence school in Louisiana. About six months after he got his Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration in January 1996, FBI agents raided and shut down the school on suspicion it was defrauding students. In an interview, Buck believes his doctorate is legitimate because of the work he put into his dissertation. He showed a bound copy of the document, entitled Target: Main Street, USA (Is Government Ready for Urban Violence or Terrorism). It was 307 pages and included a bibliography that cited 14 articles, seven reports, three books and three transcripts as sources. “I feel comfortable saying that I did the work for the Ph.D.,” Buck said, “and I had no intent to defraud anybody, and I worked very hard for that.”

—“Charlie Crist raised $386K, sent $200K to DCCC in Q2” via Florida Politics

—“Gus Bilirakis posts strong Q2 fundraising report” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Gloves off: Greg Steube slams Julio Gonzalez as ‘Never Trump’ Republican” via Florida Politics — Gonzalez and Steube are the two leading Republicans in the race for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, which is open in 2018 due to the retirement of current U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney. Steube’s attack included screenshots of five tweets, all from March 2016, where Gonzalez states his opposition to the eventual president using the “#NeverTrump” hashtag. In three of the tweets, the Venice Republican — who has since festooned his twitter bio with the “#MAGA” hashtag — expresses his support for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who was still competing for the GOP nomination at the time. Rubio has endorsed Gonzalez in the CD 17 race. In one tweet, Gonzalez says “Trump is no conservative.” In another, he says “the fact that Trump is still in the race is deplorable.”

—“Steube swamps Gonzalez in CD 17 fundraising” via Florida Politics

Cook shifts House race of lawmaker who bought multimillion-dollar yacht away from GOP” via Ben Kamisar of The Hill — The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has shifted its prediction for Rep. Vern Buchanan‘s congressional seat toward Democrats after a report that he bought a yacht on the same day the GOP’s tax cuts passed the House. Cook, a popular elections handicapper, shifted Buchanan’s race from a “likely Republican” seat to a “lean Republican” seat. The analysts also moved four other congressional races in favor of Democrats. Local media reports have publicized a new disclosure Buchanan made that shows a purchase from Ocean Alexander, a yacht company, of between $1 million and $5 million on the day of the vote.

Downgraded: Vern Buchanan’s ill-timed yacht purchase is having political consequences.

Mary Barzee Flores raises $450,000 in first quarter running against Mario Diaz-Balart” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Barzee Flores will likely have less cash to spend than Diaz-Balart, who reported $1.1 million on hand at the end of March, though she will likely have the backing of national Democrats and outside groups that can inject money into the Miami-to-Naples district. Her campaign says they have around $650,000 on hand.

Dana Young expands cash lead over Janet Cruz” via Florida Politics — Young’s campaign said it brought in $22,900 in hard money between June 23 and July 6 but did not say how much it had on hand at the end of the reporting period. Finance reports for her political committee, Friends of Dana Young, show another $79,000 raised during the same stretch for a total haul of $101,900. The committee had $1.05 million in the bank on July 6. Cruz, meanwhile, added $11,145 in hard money and tacked on another $5,000 for her political committee, Building the Bay PC. She has now raised more than $433,000 since entering the race in mid-April. She had $400,472 on hand between the two accounts at the end of the reporting period.

Florida retailers endorse Mel Ponder for re-election — The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) PAC is endorsing incumbent Ponder for House District 4, which covers Okaloosa County. “Representative Ponder is a successful small business owner and fought on behalf of the thousands of other small business owners throughout Florida during his first term in the House,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. In the release, the FRF praised Ponder, who started his own small business to train and support local marketplace and business leaders and individuals and noted how he ministers others of faith to make a difference in their communities. He also previously served as Mayor of Destin.

Tom Leek cracks $200K raised for HD 25 re-election” via Florida Politics — The Ormond Beach Republican, currently in his first term representing House District 25, brought in nearly $47,000 in hard money between June 23 and July 6. That makes for more than $200,000 in total fundraising for his re-election bid thus far. The new report shows 80 contributions, including 34 for checks for $1,000, the maximum allowable campaign contribution for state legislative races. Additionally, more than 60 percent of the money raised over the two-week stretch came in from businesses and individuals within Volusia County while less than 30 percent of the campaign cash came from Tallahassee.

—“GOP interests, donors power Democrat Kim Daniels fundraising in HD 14” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

Nick DiCeglie ready to ‘clean things up’ in Tallahassee” via Florida Politics — Belleair Bluffs businessman DiCeglie is rolling out his first ad in the race to succeed term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern in Pinellas County’s House District 66. The 30-second spot, titled “Cleaning Things Up,” is already out digitally and the campaign said it would begin running on cable networks next week. The ad begins with the Pinellas GOP chair on the job with his waste management company Solar Sanitation. “I’ve made it my business to clean things up in Pinellas County, now it’s time to clean things up in Tallahassee,” he says in the ad before a narrator takes the reins and touts DiCeglie’s conservative credentials.

To view the ad, click on the image below:


Paging Christina Daly — “As staffer laughed, boy was sexually assaulted at Florida juvenile program” via Howard Cohen of The Miami Herald — The Walton Academy for Growth and Change is supposed to provide a “secure residential treatment program for males, ages 13 to 18,” according to law enforcement in the Florida Panhandle town. But the DeFuniak Springs facility, which is run by a company called Rite of Passage for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, was the site of a sexual attack and battery on a 15-year-old boy on July 5. The incident led to an investigation and the arrests of four juveniles and one adult employee, who was accused of facilitating the assault. The incident was captured on surveillance video and corroborated by witnesses, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office said: “The … victim had been sexually assaulted by several other juveniles. It was later discovered an employee watched and appeared to be laughing while the incident took place.”

Attack on teen in foster care raises questions of responsibility” via Tessa Duvall of The Florida Times-Union — When a child gets into trouble, makes a mistake or is even the victim of a crime, a common reaction is: “Where were the parents?” But what about when the child is in the care of the state and living at a state-contracted group home? Who is responsible then? That question has been highlighted by the struggles of a 15-year-old boy who discusses that issue and others in a viral Facebook video. In it, he describes a sexual assault at a nearby park that was detailed in a police report — an assault for which the head of the Jacksonville group home where the boy lived accepts no responsibility. “If a child leaves their sphere of protection, and doing what they want to do,” said Panama Youth Services CEO Willie Green, “oftentimes they put themselves at risk.” He later added: “This kid was supposed to be home and he left the home. There was no reason for him to leave the home. When you leave the home, you put yourself at risk.”

How Florida could have prevented the current SunPass mess” via Hannah Denham of the Tampa Bay Times — The contractor the state picked in 2015 to operate SunPass, a subsidiary of a Xerox spinoff called Conduent State & Local Solutions, has a track record of mishandling customer service while updating tolling systems in at least seven other states. Conduent took an average of two years to sort through unprocessed charges and get online tolling working again in other states. That’s two years of unprocessed charges, lawsuits, audits, ethics investigations, legislative amnesty programs, fines and suspended contracts. After electronic tolling outages in other states, some customers who did not receive an initial bill were hit months later with tens of thousands of dollars in charges and late fees. They were often invoiced for the wrong charges. Bank accounts and car payments for some customers were suspended because of the pending debt.

Overlooked deadline could stop some medical marijuana processing in Florida” via Elizabeth Koh of The Miami Herald — About half of the 13 Florida businesses allowed to grow, process and sell medical marijuana could be suspended from processing cannabis because of a little-noticed deadline in state law requiring food safety inspections — even though edible forms cannot be sold in the state. The requirement mandates that those medical marijuana treatment centers complete third-party inspections in the first year to ensure “good manufacturing practices,” but it went largely ignored or unnoticed by some centers because the Department of Health has still not cemented rules relating to edible medical marijuana. But in letters sent last week by the department, the state indicated it intends to enforce the provision that any business complete the certification within the first year or stop operating its processing facilities immediately.

Lawmakers way more money for state pot office” via the News Service of Florida — The state Office of Medical Marijuana Use is asking lawmakers to set aside an additional $13.29 million to help pay for regulating the medical-marijuana industry and covering litigation costs. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission will take up the proposal during a meeting at the Capitol … The office, which is part of the Florida Department of Health and has sometimes clashed with lawmakers, says it expects costs of more than $14.2 million during the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which started July 1. But the new budget included $935,400 for the operations, according to information submitted to the legislative budget commission. The largest chunk of the expected costs, $7.34 million, stems from plans for the office to issue licenses to an additional four medical-marijuana firms.

Marion Hammer files suit against mediator, demands $1 million” via Jeffrey Schweers of Tallahassee Democrat — Hammer, the longtime voice of the NRA in Florida and one of the most influential gun lobbyists in the nation, is demanding $1 million in a libel and slander suit filed Friday in federal court in Leon County against alternative dispute mediator Lawrence T. Lol” Sorensen and three others. Hammer, 79, claims the defendants crossed the line when they called her profanity-laced, unprintable names. “The Defendants have transcended mere criticism and employed threats, harassment, and personal abuse to try to humiliate and intimidate Hammer in a manner that is utterly intolerable in a civilized community,” the lawsuit said.

Marion Hammer takes aim with a slander suit.

State law that targets teachers unions appears to be increasing membership” via Lois Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A new state law that sets a minimum membership level for teachers’ unions appears to be increasing enrollment in unions around the state. Participation in Miami-Dade’s teacher’s union jumped from 44 percent last year to about 50 percent now, spokeswoman Sonia Diaz said. Broward’s membership has hit 65 percent, union President Anna Fusco said. And Palm Beach is holding steady at 56 percent, said Justin Katz, Classroom Teachers Association president for Palm Beach County schools. The law, passed by the Legislature earlier this year, requires teachers unions to maintain membership of at least 50 percent of a district’s teaching staff or the union risks disbandment. If the unions are decertified, they no longer can bargain collectively for teachers in their district.

Study projects rising medical inflation through next year” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — An insurance industry analysis projects medical inflation of more than 2 percent through the end of 2019, chiefly because of improved treatment quantity that is driven by hospital consolidation. What that means for Florida’s workers’ compensation system remains unclear, according to a briefing paper, “The Impact of Hospital Consolidation on Medical Costs,” published by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI. The organization, which in Florida proposes workers’ compensation insurance premium levels to state regulators, plans additional study into that question.

Lawsuit: Governor’s pick to replace suspended Jacksonville City Councilman is unlawful” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — A Jacksonville woman sued Scott, claiming that he unlawfully replaced suspended City Councilman Reggie Brown with a nonresident of Brown’s Northwest Jacksonville district. Scott, who suspended Brown and Katrina Brown from the council last month after indictments on federal fraud charges, appointed Terrance Freeman as a replacement on July 10, the same day Freeman said he moved to the district from his Mandarin home. However, the lawsuit filed by Brenda Priestly Jackson, a former Duval County School Board member who also applied to replace Reggie Brown, claims Scott appointed Freeman before he officially became a resident of District 10. The lawsuit asks a judge to declare Freeman’s appointment unlawful and remove him from office. Jackson said Scott’s selection of someone who had never lived in the district was de facto voter disenfranchisement.

Airbnb tried to get a Miami lawsuit against a major landlord thrown out. A judge said no.” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald — A local case between vacation rental platform Airbnb and one of the nation’s largest residential property landlords, Aimco, will move forward after a Miami judge ruled against throwing the lawsuit out. Aimco sued Airbnb in February 2017 for allegedly failing to stop its users from subletting apartments at three rental buildings in Miami and Miami Beach … Denver-based Aimco claimed there have been “dozens, if not hundreds” of subleases at its properties through Airbnb, a practice banned by the leases at the three condo towers and that Aimco believes Airbnb has the power to eliminate but hasn’t. Airbnb has tried to get the case, and another similar one in Los Angeles, dismissed, claiming it is protected under the 1996 Communications Decency Act and therefore not liable for what its hosts post on the platform.

’Indictment Eve’? Charges could come soon in FBI probe, experts say” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Last week’s flurry of activity at the federal courthouse in Tallahassee signaled what could be the beginning of the end of the FBI’s long-running investigation into local public corruption. An executive with Waste Pro USA was spotted going into the U.S. District Courthouse on Tuesday and Wednesday when a federal grand jury convened behind closed doors to hear evidence in the corruption probe. He was accompanied by an Orlando lawyer who specializes in white-collar criminal defense. Attorneys for former City Manager Rick Fernandez arrived at the courthouse on Wednesday but wouldn’t say whether their client testified before the grand jury. “This is classic,” said David Moye, a Tallahassee attorney and former federal prosecutor. “Sounds like we’re at or near the eve of indictment day.”


A former Biscayne Park police chief told subordinates to target blacks and pin crimes on them, the Miami Herald reports.

Per Charles RabinJay Weaver and David Ovalle, “In a report from that probe, four officers — a third of the small force — told an outside investigator they were under marching orders to file the bogus charges to improve the department’s crime stats.” Only one officer recalls being told to target blacks.

The testimony was unearthed after former police chief Raimundo Atesiano and two officers were charged with falsely pinning four burglaries on a teenager.

Former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano.

Arrest to impress: The “bogus charges” ordered by Atesiano were tailor-fitted to please village leaders. “During his roughly two-year tenure as chief, 29 of 30 burglary cases were solved, including all 19 in 2013.”

The captain, too: Former Biscayne Park Capt. Lawrence Churchman reportedly acted as Atesiano’s enforcer. “The captain has said on several different occasions he doesn’t want any n—–s, f—–s or women b—–s working at Biscayne Park,” one officer complained.

As it stands: Cpl. Nicholas Wollschlager, who allegedly gave orders to arrest suspects, is second-in-command at the unit.


Nelson, Rubio file bill wooing Canadian snowbirds for longer visits” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Nelson and Rubio filed The Canadian Snowbird Act, legislation that would let older Canadian visitors to the United States stay here as long as eight months without being considered residents. “It’s no secret that Canadians love to visit Florida in the winter,” said Nelson. “The millions of Canadian snowbirds who visit our state each year play an important role in our state’s tourism-driven economy. Allowing them to stay even longer is a win for them and for the local economies they visit.” under current law, Canadians who come to the U.S. and stick around for longer than six months will be considered full-time residents of the U.S. and must pay income tax on their entire annual income, even money made in Canada. If the new bill becomes law, Canadian citizens over the age of 50 could stay here for 240 days, or eight months, though they are expressly prohibited from working for American employers or seeking public assistance in the U.S.

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson are calling all Canadian snowbirds to stay just a little longer.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest victim is Gaetz: ‘They totally got me’” via Gordon Resnick of The Daily Beast — Initially contacted about the possibility that Baron Cohen may have duped him, ahead of the premiere of Who Is America?, the comedian’s new Showtime series, Gaetz couldn’t recall any such instance. “You had me racking my brain but not that I’m aware of,” he initially said. But hours later, Gaetz had a revelation. “They totally got me,” he wrote in a message. “I now remember an interview I gave regarding Israel and I now believe that was Sacha Baron Cohen,” Gaetz, a self-described Baron Cohen fan, said in a subsequent phone call. Part of what jogged his memory of the conversation was one particular request made by the interlocutor. “There were points in the interview where he wanted me to like hold up images of weapons systems and endorse those weapons systems,” the congressman recalled. “And I said, I would not do that, of course. I don’t know these weapons systems; I’m not going to talk about them.”

What Celeste Philip is reading — HHS plans to delete 20 years of critical medical guidelines” via The Daily Beast — The Trump administration is planning to eliminate a vast trove of medical guidelines that for nearly 20 years has been a critical resource for doctors, researchers and others in the medical community. Medical guidelines are best thought of as cheat sheets for the medical field, compiling the latest research in an easy-to-use format. The database is known as the National Guideline Clearinghouse [NGC], and it’s scheduled to “go dark,” in the words of an official there, on July 16. Medical guidelines … aren’t something laypeople spend much time thinking about, but experts like Valerie King … said the NGC is perhaps the most important repository of evidence-based research available: “ was our go-to source, and there is nothing else like it in the world.”


Alico’s storage project benefits Caloosahatchee” via Remy W. Trafelet for — Alico Water Resources fully supports Scott’s state of emergency declaration and shares his commitment to restoring the Caloosahatchee’s health and combating the algae blooms plaguing our water. Saving the Caloosahatchee watershed will require all of us to work together and take decisive action to stop the all too common algae blooms and fish kills. At Alico Water Resources, we are committed to doing our part. That is why we have dedicated our 35,000 acre-property in Hendry County to a dispersed water management project, the single largest and most cost-effective project of its kind in the country. The Caloosahatchee watershed needs relief from harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges. Our dispersed water management project represents a major piece of that puzzle by storing and treating approximately 92,000 acre-feet — or 30 billion gallons — of water that would otherwise discharge to the watershed. The project stores 46,000 acre-feet of water and removes nutrients from another 46,000 acre-feet of water.

Education amendment looks deceptive” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Amendment 8 on the ballot seems bland enough, proposing eight-year term limits for all school board members and directing the Legislature to pass laws for “the promotion of civic literacy” among students. Oh, and then there’s this other little line that says county school boards “shall operate, control, and supervise all free public schools established by the district school board within the school district.” It’s what you call snooker. You see, school boards already operate, control and supervise the public schools in their counties, but adoption of this amendment would seemingly limit their authority to only those schools established by each county government. In other words, charter schools and other private operations, set up by companies that give big campaign contributions to governors and legislators, would be beyond the governance of your local, elected county school board members. Rather than justifying their qualification and necessity at the local level, where board members know the needs of children and teachers, the privateers could just go to the state level and get the go-ahead to set up shop.


Appointed — Mitchell Bishop to the Union County Court; James Rasmussen (reappointed) to Florida Prepaid College Board; Dan Leben to the Florida Keys Community College District Board of Trustees; and Daniel O’Keefe to the Seminole State College District Board of Trustees.

Personnel note: Travis Pillow leaving Step Up for Students — Pillow is moving with his significant other to New Orleans, he tweeted last week. His last day was Friday. Pillow had been with Step Up for four and a half years. He was editor of redefinED, the organization’s news blog. The state-approved nonprofit scholarship funding organization helps administer two scholarships for Florida schoolchildren: the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program for low-income families and the Gardiner Scholarship for children with certain special needs. Pillow “spent his early professional career reporting on the inner workings of state government for a variety of news organizations, and became immersed in Florida’s education policy debates while covering schools and the Legislature for the Tallahassee Democrat,” his online bio says. No word yet on where he’ll be working in NOLA.

— ALOE —

Why Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge means the end of Star Tours” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is being hyped as one of the most immersive theme park experiences Disney has ever attempted. But when this new land opens in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the fall of 2019, another major “Star Wars” attraction will still exist outside this 14-acre expansion: Star Tours. Early rumors about the Star Wars project had placed the land in and around Star Tours in the Echo Lake area, but after Disney officially announced the project in 2015, its site was placed in the back of the park — meaning once the new land opened, Star Tours would look out of place, thematically speaking, disconnected from new attractions based around the same franchise. According to Bill Zanetti, a professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management teaching courses in theme park and attraction management, that thematic inconsistency will be enough motivation for Disney to shutter this Hollywood Studios staple.

Could this be the end of Star Tours?

Happy birthday from the weekend to our friends, Tom O’HaraTom Piccolo, and the legendary Ron Sachs. Celebrating today are former state Sen. J.D. Alexander, state Rep. Ross Spano, Florida Today’s Bob GabordiAlexis Lambert, Hillsborough Commission candidate Todd MarksAlix Miller, the handsome Ben Stuart, and Victoria Zepp.

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.

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