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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.16.18  

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

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

As usual, veteran columnist and Florida Politics’ own Joe Henderson puts the right to President Donald Trump’s wrongheaded attacks on the Fourth Estate:

“The job of the free press is to find out stuff the public needs to know, make sure it’s accurate, and then share that information with the people.

“A lot of times the mission means upsetting the powerful and those who support them. These days, it means enduring taunts of ‘fake news’ and people who believe reporters deliberately publish fiction designed to destroy, in this case, Trump and his administration.

“To some, the ‘media’ is even a faceless, soulless agent of the deep state out to ruin the country, but it is none of those things. It is the firewall that protects democracy from the scoundrels and con artists.”

Here’s the payoff: “So, that’s why Florida Politics has joined with newspapers, online outlets, and other media around the country to denounce what The Boston Globe has called a ‘dirty war against the free press.’ ”

As The Blaze explains, news outlets across the country “have agreed to participate in a national campaign orchestrated by Marjorie Pritchard, the deputy managing editor at The Boston Globe.

“The campaign will galvanize opinion writers and editorial boards to unite against President Trump’s attacks on the media … “Pritchard’s campaign (is) titled, ‘We are not the enemy of the people.’ ”

Read more of Henderson’s column here. And here are highlights from other outlets:

— Opinion editor Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register says it’s not “Attack Trump Da.” “We agree that media outlets should avoid being drawn into a feud against the president over this issue or any other,” she said, adding that they can defend the First Amendment “while remaining true to the journalistic principles of accuracy, fairness and objectivity.”

— Colleen McCain Nelson, the editorial page editor for the Kansas City Star, says editorial boards across the McClatchy chain — like the Miami Herald, the Charlotte Observer and the Idaho Statesman — are being encouraged to publish one editorial: “We want to underscore for our readers that McClatchy journalists are in fact delivering real news every day, holding government officials and institutions accountable.”

— The Chicago Sun-Times said it believed most Americans know that Trump is talking nonsense.

— In St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch called journalists “the truest of patriots.”

— The Fayetteville, N.C. Observer said it hoped Trump would stop, “but we’re not holding our breath. … Rather, we hope all the president’s supporters will recognize what he’s doing — manipulating reality to get what he wants.”

A free press needs you” via The New York Times editorial board — Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the “enemy of the people” is dangerous, period. These attacks on the press are particularly threatening to journalists in nations with a less secure rule of law and to smaller publications in the United States, already buffeted by the industry’s economic crisis. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to your local papers. Praise them when you think they’ve done a good job and criticize them when you think they could do better. We’re all in this together.

Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy” via the Tampa Bay Times — Trump attacks the media that provides fact-based, independent journalism and holds the powerful to account in communities around the nation. Trump calls journalists “the enemy of the American people.’’ He regularly refers to “fake news’’ and the “fake news media.’’ Those assaults by the president cannot be brushed aside as theatrics, particularly when some of his strongest supporters embrace them and copied by politicians in Florida and elsewhere. That’s why the Tampa Bay Times joins more than 200 newspapers throughout the nation Thursday in a rare, coordinated response to Trump’s systematic effort to discredit journalists and independent news gathering. A free press builds the foundation for democracy. Citizens depend on honest, independent media for accurate information they need about their government, their elected leaders and their institutions. That is just as important in Tampa Bay and communities across the nation as it is in Washington, and the Times takes that responsibility seriously … our goal is to inform readers and make a difference in our community. Far from being enemies of the people, we live in the same neighborhoods as our readers, eat in the same restaurants and shop in the same stores. Our kids attend the same schools, we get stuck in the same traffic jams, and we worry about hurricanes hitting home.

Trump and the enemies of the people” via David Remnick of The New Yorker — Nearly every day, Trump makes his hostility clear. He refers to reporters as “scum,” “slime,” and “sick people.” They are cast as unpatriotic — “I really think they don’t like our country,” he says. They are “trying to take away our history and our heritage.” Trump has smeared critical news organizations as “fake news,” a term gleefully adopted by PutinBashar al-Assad, and other autocrats who are delighted to have their own repressive reflexes endorsed by an American President. Trump has threatened to sue publishers, cancel broadcast licenses, change libel laws. He betrays no sense of understanding, much less of endorsing, the rudiments of American liberty. By casting the press as an “enemy,” Trump is not merely joining a long list of Presidents who have bristled at criticism. He goes much further than his predecessors, including paranoiacs like Richard Nixon … Trump’s rages are public. They are daily. And they are part of a concerted effort to undermine precepts of American constitutionalism and to cast his lot with the illiberal and authoritarian movements now on the rise around the world.

Counterpoint — “America’s newspapers just played right into Trump’s hands” via Jack Shafer of POLITICO Magazine — A spectacle will unfold as 200 or more editorial pages will heed the call sounded by Boston Globe op-ed page editor Marjorie Pritchard to run editorials opposing Trump’s unrelieved press-bashing. Most journalists agree that there’s a great need for Trump rebuttals. But this Globe-sponsored coordinated editorial response is sure to backfire: It will provide Trump with circumstantial evidence of the existence of a national press cabal that has been convened solely to oppose him. When the editorials roll off the press, all singing from the same script, Trump will reap enough fresh material to whale on the media for at least a month. His forthcoming speeches almost write themselves: By colluding against me, the fake media proved once and for all, that they are in cahoots with the Democrats and have declared themselves to be my true political opposition.


@Redistrict: After today’s changes, @CookPolitical rates 37 GOP-held seats as Toss-Ups or more vulnerable (Lean/Likely Dem), nearly double the 20 we counted in January.

@NateSilver538: A fun forecasting factoid is that if you forecast the Democrats to win the House and Republicans to win the Senate, you’re probably going to be wrong on at least one of those forecasts. On the bright side, it’s quite unlikely that you’ll be wrong about both.

@ScottforFlorida: I’m happy to welcome Princess Madeleine and her family to Florida! Just more proof that our state is the best place in the world.

@KevinCate: I know @Twitter doesn’t vote, but if it did, @AndrewGillum would win by a lot. He’s up to almost 11 million ORGANIC impressions in the last 28 days.

@SenBillNelson: The oil industry is reportedly pushing a new plan to drill closer to Florida’s coast. We’re not going to let that happen. We’re not going to let them take away the military’s testing & training range in the Gulf. We’re not going to let them drill closer to Florida’s beaches.

@FLPhoenixNews: Former Fl Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottcamp (now oil industry PR guy) told reporters today that 2010 BP oil spill “didn’t even reach the shores of Florida.” Um … what??

@Foswi: Gov. Scott put a career prosecutor in the bench who happened to be the daughter of one of his go-to litigators. Don’t blame South Florida for this. It has enough problems.

@Fineout: New head of Fla’s Office of Safe Schools says all 67 sheriffs in Florida have said the same thing: Not enough funding was provided by #FLLeg when it passed the school safety bill

@MDixon55: Been an “anal bleaching,” diploma-faking-to-the-point-the-university-had-to-chime-in kind of week in Florida politics. How’s your state doing?

@TheRickWilson: This is the highlight of my professional life. I’ve just been given the numbers for the August 26th, 2018 New York Times Book Review rankings. #EETD is #1 in hardcover+ebook total sales. It is #3 in hardcover sales.


Early voting, mail ballots top 700,000” via the News Service of Florida — More than 26,000 people have voted early in counties where the option is already available, while nearly 700,000 have returned vote-by-mail ballots, according to numbers posted by the Florida Division of Elections. Early voting has started in 18 of the 67 counties. Of the 26,318 people who had voted early, 13,340 were Democrats, and 11,288 were Republicans. The rest of the people going to early-voting sites were registered without party affiliation or with third parties. Counties were allowed to begin early voting Monday, and all counties are required to offer it starting Saturday.


Start of the U.S. Open — 11; Primary Election Day — 12; College Football opening weekend — 14; Labor Day — 18; Gubernatorial candidates must choose a running mate — 21; NFL regular season starts — 21; First general election mail ballots go out — 37; Future of Florida Forum — 41; FSU vs. UM football game — 51; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 68; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 69; General Election Day — 82; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 96; Black Friday — 99; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 103; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 180; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 201; 2020 General Election — 810.


Oil companies ask Florida lawmakers to unlock offshore drilling” via Ben Lefebvre of POLITICO — The effort, which would potentially bring oil rigs as close as 75 miles to Florida beaches, comes just seven months after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke promised that the state was “off the table” for offshore drilling. And it could complicate Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, whose opposition to drilling off the coast has been a main theme of his decades in Congress. But the expansion would aid Trump’s effort to increase U.S. oil and gas production, in what he calls a bid for American “energy dominance.” Energy lobbyists and trade associations believe Zinke left some wiggle room in his comments, and they are trying to persuade Florida lawmakers to sign on to possible compromises, including allowing drill rigs to operate up to 75 miles off the state’s Gulf Coast, lawmakers and industry sources said. That would be down from more than 200 miles under an existing drilling moratorium.


Meanwhile … Jared Moskowitz endorses Gwen Graham — State Rep. Moskowitz, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and outspoken leader for gun safety, said in his endorsement: “As students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to begin a new school year, we must not be afraid to talk about the pressing need to pass additional common-sense gun safety. This issue is just as important today as it was on February 14 … In the days after the shooting, Gwen came to Parkland to show her support for the students, for our community and for common sense gun safety. I am proud to support her today because I know she has what it takes to ban the sale of military-style assault weapons and implement universal background checks.”

Happening tonight:


Poll commissioned by unnamed group shows Philip Levine with slight lead on Graham” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The poll was conducted by Democratic pollster Tom Eldon, who would not say who paid for the numbers. It has Levine up 30-28 over Graham among those who say they have already voted, and 31-24 with those who expressed a high degree of interest in Democratic primaries. The poll, which used a 600-person sample and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, has Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum coming in third and Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene coming in fourth among both groups. The poll is contrary to some recent public polls that had Graham leading the primary field. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has Graham up seven percentage points, including winning the past three publicly released polls of the race. Levine had not won a poll included in that average since mid-June when he led the field by two percentage points.

Assignment editors — Levine will visit early voting sites in Miami Beach and Tampa, 12 p.m., Miami Beach City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach; 4:30 p.m., Cyrus Green Center, 2101 East Dr., Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tampa. Later, Levine will speak at the Political Salsa 2018, hosted by the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida, 8 p.m., Acacia Banquet Hall, 1865 N Ecknolockhatchee Trail, Orlando.

Here’s what we would have asked if Andrew Gillum didn’t scrap the editorial Board Q&A” via the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board — The list of questions we had prepared for Gillum was similar to those the other four Democratic candidates for governor answered (even Greene, who entered the race in its very late stages, found time to sit down with our editorial board). We would have asked Gillum about his proposed $1 billion corporate tax increase. His views on the environment. The impact of his $15 minimum wage on employment. Where he falls on the ideological spectrum. And other general policy questions. Then, as we did with the other candidates, we would have tailored questions to his campaign. Admittedly, this particular candidate provides the most fodder for our questioning, partly because he has a long, detailed record as mayor of the city whose name appears on our flag. And partly because, to be perfectly frank, the mayor has been a bit of a lightning rod during his tenure.

Gillum puts progressive ‘chance’ ad on TV” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Gillum is launching his “Chance” commercial — citing progressive causes from gun control to abolishing and replacing ICE, ending “Stand Your Ground” to impeaching Trump … The TV buy will be limited, as is Gillum’s campaign fund, with an initial five-figure purchase to place the commercial on TV in West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Tampa … The campaign seeks to tie in with the Tallahassee mayor’s rallies set for Friday in Tampa and Orlando with progressive Democratic lion U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

To view the ad, click on the image below:


Hospitality union launches ad bashing Graham on megamall” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida’s major labor union for hospitality workers, UNITE HERE, is launching a new television and internet commercial attacking Graham over her family’s involvement in the American Dream Miami megamall. The 30-second spot, “Mega Mall Millionaire Gwen Graham,” from the union’s political action committee, charges that she has a $14 million stake in her family company, which is selling land for the controversial mall being planned in Miami-Dade County. “While Gwen and her family make millions, Florida will be stuck with poverty wage jobs, endangered wildlife, and massive traffic congestion,” a narrator charges in the ad. And it charges that would be happening even though she is campaigning on improving wages and protecting the environment.

To view the ad, click on the image below:


Can a billionaire’s private school become a model for public education in Florida?” via David Smiley and Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times — Billionaire developer Greene is an unconventional Democrat running an unconventional campaign for Florida governor. So, naturally, his ideas on how to change Florida’s vast public education bureaucracy stem from an unconventional place. Standing in a former West Palm Beach car dealership that he converted two years ago into a schoolhouse, Greene explains how the future of Florida’s schools lies in shrinking class sizes, replacing letter grades with detailed evaluations and adopting the latest technologies. After all, he says, those are some of the reasons The Greene School is a model for the rest of the state. “It’s not that difficult to make changes in education,” Greene says matter-of-factly — even though he was so underwhelmed by the state of Palm Beach County schools two years ago that he went ahead and built his own.

Assignment editors — Greene will be in the Orlando and Sarasota areas for campaign events: 9 a.m., breakfast with local leaders of the Jewish community, Roth Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando, 851 N. Maitland Ave., Maitland; 12:30 p.m., lunch with church leaders, Chef Eddie’s Restaurant, 595 W. Church St., Orlando; 4 p.m., private event at the Mote Marine Lab, 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy., Sarasota; 5:15 p.m., Lido Key Beach walk, 400 Benjamin Franklin Dr., Sarasota; 6 p.m., Hispanic Democratic Caucus meet-and-greet, Darwin Evolutionary Cuisine, 4141 S. Tamiami Trl., Sarasota.

Democrats tell Florida mayors they support local rule” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Businessman Greene, former U.S. Rep. Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Levine all told the Florida League of Mayors they support “home rule” — the idea that cities should have more power to regulate activities within their borders. Over the last two decades, Republicans have controlled both the Legislature and the governor’s mansion and have banned cities from enacting ordinances in several areas, including guns, the minimum wage and plastic containers. All criticized the Legislature and Gov. Scott for not fully funding a law enacted after February’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre that requires all public schools have at least one police officer, armed guard or armed staff member on campus whenever they are open. Millions of those costs have fallen to school districts and cities. The two Republican candidates, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Democratic businessman Chris King were invited to speak but had scheduling conflicts.

Outlier: New poll has Florida GOP gubernatorial primary in statistical tie” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — New polling has Putnam in a statistical dead heat with DeSantis in Florida’s GOP gubernatorial primary, numbers contrary to recent polling that has had DeSantis pulling away. The poll has DeSantis ahead by 2 points, 40-38, which is within the margin of error, with 16 percent of the poll’s 558 likely Republican primary voters undecided. That’s well within the poll’s 5.2 percent margin of error. “It seemed as if [DeSantis] had all the momentum, and this race was all over but the shouting, as they say,” University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett told Orlando’s My News 13, which commissioned the poll. “But it appears that it actually much closer.”

Adam Putnam meets with Panhandle-area law enforcement at 98 Bar-B-Que in Santa Rosa Beach.

Assignment editors — Putnam hosts a North Florida grassroots breakfast, 8:30 a.m., The Landing Family Restaurant, 3445 US-90, Lake City.

GOP governors sink money into Florida ads” via the News Service of Florida — The Republican Governors Association funneled $2.45 million into the state … The association sent the money Aug. 2 to Florida Facts, which was formed in July as what is known as an “electioneering communications organization.” Also on Aug. 2, Florida Facts paid $2.25 million to California-based Target Enterprises, LLC for placement of television ads and other services. Florida Facts also paid $100,000 to Maryland-based OnMessage, Inc., a media and consulting firm that has done work for outgoing Gov. Scott. The Florida Facts organization shares a Washington, D.C. address with the Republican Governors Association, records show

Ashley Moody wins new round of straw polls — Republican Attorney General candidate Moody notched three more straw poll wins: the Tampa Chamber of Commerce Hob Nob, the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Hob Nob, and the DeLand Chamber of Commerce & Orange City Alliance Political Hob Nob. Moody also won the South Lake County Hob Nob the day before. “As former judge Ashley Moody travels the state, her conservative message is resonating with Republicans and business leaders across the state as evidenced by the overwhelming number of straw polls won at the local and regional levels,” said campaign manager Nick Catroppo. “Whether at Republican executive committees, Hob Nobs, political rallies or chambers of commerce, when Ashley Moody’s name is on the ballot, voters support her years of experience as a business attorney, prosecutor, and judge in her bid to become Florida’s next Attorney General.”

Ryan Torrens strikes back, sues Sean Shaw for libel” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Democratic candidate for Attorney General Torrens has countersued primary opponent Shaw for libel, saying Shaw injured his “reputation in the legal profession and as a candidate for public office.” Shaw sued first last month to have Torrens kicked off the ballot, alleging the Tampa lawyer only qualified to run because of an “illegal campaign contribution” to pay the qualifying fee. Torrens later said it was a self-loan — his wife had written the check from their joint account. Torrens lodged the counterclaim in his answer to Shaw’s complaint, filed Tuesday in Leon County Circuit Civil court. Both men are lawyers. “By erroneously raising these false claims (in his lawsuit), my opponent falsely and frivolously challenged my integrity as a professional and as someone aspiring to public office, and that of my wife,” Torrens said in a statement.

Nikki Fried lobbying, GOP donations questioned by activists in Agriculture Commission primary” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — At various points from 2012 to 2016, Fried was registered to lobby for HCA, the hospital chain founded by GOP Gov. Scott that paid a $1.7 billion fine to settle Medicaid fraud allegations under his watch. She also was registered for Walt Disney Co., which liberal activists have bashed for paying low wages to employees; Dosal Tobacco, Duke Energy and other companies. “They say you’re defined by the company you keep, and Nikki Fried has long chosen to keep company with the rich and powerful over workers,” said Fred Frost, Florida campaign lead for the Communications Workers of America. “As someone running in a Democratic primary at a moment when we need real Democrats now more than ever, she has some real explaining to do about how her past choices and what they say about her values in a year where we need a blue wave in deeds and not just words.” Fried, 40, is a Broward County resident who lobbied for the Colodny and Fass law firm, which has dozens of clients in the corporate world. She says she was a junior lobbyist at the firm, which registers all of its lobbyists for all its clients.

—“Charlie Crist, Lois Frankel endorse Fried for Agriculture Commissioner” via Florida Politics


Realtors plow money into property tax measure” via the News Service of Florida — Florida Realtors put another $500,000 into an effort to pass a constitutional amendment that would extend a property-tax cap for commercial and other non-homestead properties, according to a finance report posted on the state Division of Elections website. Florida Realtors contributed the money to a political committee known as Amendment 2 is for Everybody, bringing to the total contributed by the group to $1.56 million. The Legislature placed the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

As deep-sea drilling issue bubbles, ‘explore offshore’ to make affirmative case” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The American Petroleum Institute believes there’s a case to be made for expanding offshore drilling. And API offshoot “Explore Offshore,” billed as a “bipartisan coalition,” is poised to make that argument. The group, rolled out just hours after POLITICO reported an industry interest in drilling within 75 miles of shore, has some star power associated with it. Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson is national co-chair. State co-chairs are likewise known quantities, in former Puerto Rico Sen. Miriam Ramirez and former Florida Lieutenant Gov. Kottkamp. Kottkamp and Ramirez both offered enthusiastic advocacy for drilling, with Kottkamp noting the importance of lobbying local elected officials.

Former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp.

Greg Steube leads Julio Gonzalez by 23 points in new CD 17 poll” via Florida Politics — The poll, conducted by WPA Intelligence, found the first-term state Senator with a 39-16 percent lead over Venice state Rep. Julio Gonzalez, with 5 percent favoring Charlotte County activist Bill Akins and 40 percent undecided. The survey also measured name ID for Steube and Gonzalez, and found the former was known by nearly four-fifths of voters in the district and was seen favorably by a margin of 41-17 with the remainder not offering their opinion. About three-quarters of voters were familiar with Gonzalez, an improvement of 28 points since July 16, but his favorability has risen along with his recognition. He was underwater 19-33 in favorability.

Website calls Republican Congressional candidate a ‘criminal,’” via Meryl Cornfield of the Sun Sentinel“The website ‘‘ isn’t what you’d think. It’s an attack on Republican Congressional candidate Javier Manjarres paid for by the committee of one of his primary opponents, Nicolas Kimaz. The site claims Manjarres is a ‘criminal’ and an ’embarrassment to the party.’ Manjarres, who runs the conservative blog Shark Tank, has been involved in several court cases but has never been convicted of a crime. In fact, the charges — including attempted murder — were dropped by prosecutors or the court.

Democrats eager for a blue wave admit Carlos Curbelo is beating them” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — With two-and-a-half months until Election Day, polling from Republicans and Democrats shows Curbelo with a lead over his likely Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in a district that Hillary Clinton won by more than 16 percentage points over Trump, and Curbelo isn’t running television ads yet. A poll released by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, an organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives, shows Curbelo with a seven-percentage-point lead over Mucarsel-Powell among 500 likely voters. The DCCC touted their poll, which was conducted a month ago, by arguing that the race became tied after voters heard basic biographical information about Curbelo and Mucarsel-Powell.

Dana Young endorsed by Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce” via Florida Politics — “Senator Dana Young has the full endorsement of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and its statewide membership,” said Julio Fuentes, founder and president of FSHCC. “Senator Young’s leadership has benefited not just her constituents in her Tampa district, but Floridians across the state. “Our chamber is very selective when it comes to endorsing candidates for office, but in Senator Young’s case, we were impressed with how she represented a diversity of interests and diversity of people,” Fuentes continued. “Dana Young has our support for re-election to the Florida Senate. We look forward to working with her on behalf of thousands of Hispanic business owners across the state.”

Save the date — Young fundraises in her re-election bid to Senate District 18. Wednesday, Aug. 22, 5 p.m., Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club, 1601 S. MacDill Avenue, Tampa. Information/RSVP with Kristin Lamb at or (850) 339-5354.

Mike Alvarez rolls out new digital ads in HD 62 primary” via Florida Politics — Tampa Democrat Alvarez has launched a new digital ad campaign that contrasts his record against that of his chief rival in the Democratic primary for House District 62, School Board member Susan Valdes … one half of the ad featuring a full-color shot Alvarez and a caption saying he “hired people from our own neighborhoods,” and the opposite half featuring a red-tinted picture of Valdes and a caption saying she “fired people to protect her political career.” The Alvarez campaign said the Valdes portion of the ad relates to a lawsuit filed by a former Hillsborough Schools employee who said she was fired after refusing to go along with an effort by Valdes’ to get one of her friends a district job. The Alvarez campaign also highlighted Valdes’ role in closing the school district’s construction department to avoid questions on shoddy work performed by campaign donors she steered contracts to.

Tampa Democrat Mike Alvarez’s new digital ad campaign that contrasts his record against that of Susan Valdes.

New poll: Nick DiCeglie trouncing Berny Jacques in HD 66” via Florida Politics — The new survey out of St. Pete Polls found DiCeglie, also the chair of the Republican Party of Pinellas County, with 44-30 percent lead over Jacques, the first-in candidate in the race to replace term-limited Rep. Larry Ahern. Quite a few of those polled, 42 percent, say they’ve already sent in their ballots. Among that crowd, DiCeglie’s lead inches up to 51-34, with the balance undecided. The remaining 58 percent of voters — those who plan to vote but haven’t done so yet — still favor DiCeglie, though by a tighter margin.

Happening today — The League of Women Voters of Lee County hosts a candidate forum in House District 79 with Republicans Matthew Shawn Miller of Alva and Spencer Roach of North Fort Myers, who are competing in the primary to replace term-limited state Rep. Matt Caldwell. The forum begins 6 p.m., North Fort Myers Recreation Center, 2000 North Recreation Parkway, North Fort Myers. The GOP primary winner will face Democrat Mark Lipton of North Fort Myers.

He was an H.S. band director; she was a student. Then they got married. Now he’s running for Pasco School Board” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Before Kenneth Mathis launched his candidacy for the Pasco County School Board, he was under investigation into whether he had a sexual relationship with a student while serving as the band director at Land O’ Lakes High School. A review of Mathis’ personal file reveals he was under investigation in 2015 after a new teacher hired by the district told officials she’d had an inappropriate relationship with Mathis. Amarilys Barbosa was a member of the high school band from 2003-2007, the same period Mathis served as band director. Mathis told investigators the relationship between the two never turned physical until years after she graduated. However, uncovered messages exchanged by the two reference an intimate relationship dating back potentially to her time in high school. On Dec. 6, 2012, the two discussed a maturation of their current relationship in a lengthy online conversation, which included one revealing exchange: Barbosa: “I think we needed the four years apart to get us where we are now … I just didn’t feel this way the first time around.” Mathis: “Was I your sex toy?” Barbosa: “Sometimes I felt that way”


Expanding on its slew of endorsements released on Saturday, the Miami Herald editorial board is recommending Levine as the Democratic option for voters on Aug. 28 because “he will be an assertive and clear-eyed leader for South Florida” as well as the entire state.

In the Republican primary, the South Florida newspaper is backing DeSantis, noting that Republicans “can vote with confidence that he will represent their interests.”

In state Senate District 38, the Herald is supporting Democratic challenger Jason Pizzo in his quest to unseat incumbent Democrat Daphne Campbell, writing the election gives voters a chance to “tell this compromised politician [Campbell] that her time is up.” In the Democratic primary for SD 36, the Herald is backing Julian Santos “for the financial experience in state government that he brings.”

In the battle for state House District 89, The Palm Beach Post is recommending Democrats pick Ocean Ridge Mayor James Bonfiglio, noting “he would raise teachers’ salaries by taxing legalized marijuana and sports betting.” The Post is backing Matt Spritz for the Republican nod in the same race, citing his belief that “constituents want action on the opioid crisis, beach renourishment and business issues including property taxes and the commercial real estate tax.”


A majority of Republicans think the media is the “enemy,” according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

Of the Republicans surveyed, 51 percent agreed “the media is the enemy of the people rather than an important part of democracy.” The GOP respondents were the only ones to feel that way, with 31 percent of the same sample dissenting.

Meanwhile, a broader swath of American voters (65 percent) indicated that the “media is an important part of democracy.”

Impending doom? Trump’s criticism of the media concerns 44 percent of American voters, according to the same poll. They believe it could “lead to violence.” Fifty-two percent did not feel the same way.

Bipartisan fretting: Democrats felt the criticism could lead to violence 76 — 21 percent. Republicans vice versa 80 — 14 percent.

Twitter-in-chief: “American voters say 66 — 26 percent that Trump should stop tweeting from his personal Twitter account,” according to Quinnipiac. “Republicans are divided as 44 percent say tweet and 47 percent say stop.”


Cost to protect Rick Scott rises to $2.5 million” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Protecting Gov. Scott cost the state $2.5 million last fiscal year, up from $2.3 million the year before. That’s according to a new report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The combined cost to guard the governor, First Lady Ann Scott, their family, and the Governor’s Mansion and grounds was roughly $3.25 million in 2017-18, up more than a quarter-million dollars from 2016-17 ($2.99 million). The Annual Report of Transportation and Protective Services also shows individual costs for 37 protective details for “visiting dignitaries.”

Scott and wife invested in parent company bidding on Tampa high-speed rail” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Scott said in June he believes a high-speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa is a good idea and, in a quiet testament to his confidence in the project, he and his wife last year invested at least $3 million in a credit fund for All Aboard Florida’s parent company, Fortress Investment Group, according to recently disclosed financial documents. The Scotts’ investment in Fortress Secured Lending Fund — the credit and lending division — produced at least $150,000 in income last year, according to Rick Scott’s 2018 federal financial disclosure report. He was required to file the report last month to run for U.S. Senate.

State urges justices to allow dog racing measure” via the News Service of Florida — Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office filed a 44-page brief urging the Florida Supreme Court to allow a proposed ban on greyhound racing to go on the November ballot. The brief urged justices to overturn a ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who said the proposed constitutional amendment included misleading language and should not go before voters. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case Aug. 29. “This (Supreme) Court has long maintained that the amendment process is ‘the most sanctified area in which a court can exercise power,’ and a proposed amendment should be submitted to the electorate unless its ballot language is ‘clearly and conclusively’ defective,” Bondi’s office said in the brief. “Because the ballot language at issue in this case fully informs the electorate of the proposed amendment’s chief purpose and is not misleading, Florida’s voters have a right to consider its merits and cast their vote.”

SunPass customers can see toll charges in account in real time” via Jessi Minneci of WFLA-AM — The Florida Department of Transportation cleared the backlog of transactions caused when the vendor Conduent failed to transition customers to a new centralized system properly. The agency says it fined Conduent nearly $800,000 in damages. Later this week, FDOT will announce the process for SunPass users to get reimbursed for overdraft fees caused by Conduent’s failures.

Florida Board of Education supports funding flexibility as it discusses budgets” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Though they wondered where they might find the money for any added expenses, board members stressed the need to increase teacher salaries to keep them in the schools and fight back a growing shortage. They also noted the importance of meeting the full price tag schools face as they work to become more secure, as mandated after the February school shooting in Parkland. The actual numbers seemed elusive, several on the board observed. They asked for more detailed information, so they could home in on a figure to ask lawmakers to target. And then they should get out of the districts’ way, and let them make decisions, they suggested. “Flexibility is something we should have for districts,” said vice chairman Andy Tuck, a former Highlands County School Board member.

State audit: Ineligible kids get private-school scholarships anyway” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — Some Florida students who weren’t eligible for private-school scholarships got the money anyway, due to “human errors” and outdated information used to calculate awards, a new state audit shows. The nonprofit Step Up for Students, Inc., acknowledged concerns and made a variety of fixes, in part saying that “appropriate corrective actions were taken with individual team members,” according to responses provided in the audit released earlier this month by Florida’s Auditor General office. The auditor general report concluded that Step Up “over awarded” scholarships by about $420,000 for 248 students in 2015-16 and 2016-17. In other words, “If done correctly, those kids would have received $420,000 less over the two-year period,” said Patrick Gibbons, public affairs manager at Step Up. Another 32 students receiving scholarships were “under awarded” by $53,589, according to the auditor general report.

Parkland students start school year with tightened security” via Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — Some say they still won’t feel protected despite $6.5 million in security enhancements, including 18 safety monitors, new classroom locks, and upgraded video surveillance. All the students wore lanyards with IDs around their necks as they walked past a heavy police presence, in what has become their new normal. Volunteers greeted them with German shepherds, and a helicopter hovered overhead as a throng of media watched from across the street. Three school resource officers, three security specialists, and a dozen campus monitors will be on patrol. They’ll be keeping watch at new fences and gates at the beginning and end of the school day, keeping out all but staff and students wearing ID badges. At Stoneman Douglas, the tributes to victims have been removed, replaced with a single statue of an eagle hugging a heart.

Students arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school on the first day of school.

With vacation rentals now legal in Orlando, city offers amnesty period to rogue listers” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A new city ordinance took effect essentially legalizing vacation rentals in the City Beautiful. And now the city is trying to get the word out that rogue property owners who had been illegally running vacation rental homes have an amnesty registration period through October 1 to become legit under the new law. The new city ordinance requires full registration, an issue that’s been at the heart of state debates at the Florida Legislature the past three years, where proponents of vacation rentals have been pushing for rollbacks of local ordinances specifically targeting them, while cities and counties have argued they should have the ability to self-govern. Orlando’s law also applies within all residential zoning districts, but only for properties that are rented for 30 days or less; provided that the leased portion of the home is 50 percent or less of the total number of bedrooms in the residence, that there is only one booking at a time and that the owner lives on-site and is present when hosting guests. Orlando charges $275 for an initial registration fee. The city has opened a beta website for online registrations and information on rental homes.

Mayor to female commissioner: You make a living off anal bleaching. It’s a #MeToo moment, she says” via Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — When Hallandale Beach Mayor Keith London said “sphincter bleaching is a very up and coming business,” during the City Commission’s budget discussion, he may have been right. But whether he thought anal bleach had anything to do with public safety budgets — the topic being discussed — remains unclear. Why London thought it relevant, much less appropriate, to accuse a female commissioner of making her living from bleaching her own anus is even more baffling. “Was it getting my sphincter bleached, is that what I earned my income for?” London said to Commissioner Anabelle Lima-Taub, as the two exchanged personal attacks. “No that would be you.” … “Even if I was doing that for a living, that’s not appropriate,” Lima-Taub said. “For the sitting leader of a city to speak this way was completely inappropriate.”


The red tide plaguing Florida’s Gulf Coast isn’t an anomaly — it happens almost every year.

But this time around, it looks pretty bad, as evidenced by the images of fish, manatees, sea turtles and dolphins washing up on shore.

Could it be linked to climate change? In a new Washington Post storyAngela Fritz points to the affirmative.

Rising sea levels: Fritz notes the phenomenon linked to warmer global temperatures creates more shallow, warmer water along Florida’s coast. “As places such as Tampa, Miami and Charleston, S.C., lose shoreline, the ocean gains more shallow, warm water along the coast, and a larger area of highly favorable breeding ground for algae.”

More fuel: Increased CO2 levels gives plants and algae more power. Fritz writes, “Rapid growth is possible with higher levels of CO2, ‘especially toxic blue-green algae that can float to the surface of the water,’ according to the EPA.”

But: The “main culprit” of the algae blooms, Fritz contends, is “allowing nitrogen-rich material such as fertilizer to run off into natural water sources.”


Rick Wilson to come home for book signing at Tallahassee’s Midtown Reader” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — GOP strategist Wilson from 6 p.m. — 7:30 p.m. will be at Midtown Reader in Tallahassee to read from, discuss details and sign copies of his new nonfiction work, “Everything Trump Touches Dies.” Wilson, a regular guest for cable news and radio broadcast networks known for his fiery rhetoric, could attract a large crowd. Sally Bradshaw, owner and operator of the Midtown Reader, told us, “based on feedback, we’re expecting it to be a crowded event.” Calling Wilson “bright, clever and provocative,” Bradshaw said his popularity transcends the political spectrum because he’s a “truth teller.” A Tallahassee resident, the event could be a homecoming of sorts for Wilson, as he’s been busy racking up national media appearances. Released last week, “Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever” is a comprehensive and disparaging dissection of American politics in the age of Trump as told by a lifelong conservative, prolific Republican ad man and early leader of the ‘Never Trump’ movement.


Martha Haynie: Adam Putnam, Frank White should rescind endorsements from anti-LGBT hate group” via Florida Politics — Putnam’s campaign has come under fire over his support from the National Rifle Association … Now that he has accepted the endorsement of the anti-LGBT Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC), Putnam can add “proud hate group sellout” to his resume. White, a Republican candidate for Florida Attorney General and anti-abortion hard-liner, was also endorsed by the FFPC after receiving an A+ on their legislative scorecard. His acceptance of FFPC’s endorsement is tantamount to declaring legal war on LGBT Floridians and a woman’s right to seek an abortion. The FFPC and its leader John Stemberger have a long history of attacking the LGBT community with false claims and junk science. The Florida Family Policy Council is an offshoot of the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a hate group whose “specialty is defaming gays and lesbians.” And with the acceptance of FFPC’s endorsement, Putnam and White aren’t just declaring themselves opponents of abortion — they’re making clear that as Governor, Florida’s entire LGBT community would be treated as second-class citizens.

Carol Dover: Take action to protect Florida’s tourism industry” via Florida Politics — Our state’s largest industry is in danger as a result of the algal blooms caused when the federal government releases water from Lake Okeechobee into our rivers and estuaries. Gov. Scott has taken incredible steps in securing millions of dollars in state funding for repairs to the Herbert Hoover dike and billions for Everglades restoration projects. But the bottom line is that Gov. Scott, the SFWMD and Floridians cannot stop the algal blooms or minimize the damage to our environment and economy on our own. The federal government must take immediate and decisive action to help Florida. The federal government should immediately fully fund their half of the state-federal partnership for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. To date, the state has contributed more than $2.3 billion, but the federal government has contributed only $1.3 billion … the plan is still sitting in Congress, waiting on approval. Without Congressional approval, this key project is on hold, and the Lake Okeechobee discharges continue.


Florida Virtual School hires law firm to investigate complaints; general counsel Frank Kruppenbacher resigns” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — FordHarrison, a labor and employment law firm, was hired to make sure FLVS complies with the state’s whistleblower’s act, which protects public employees from retaliation if they report wrongdoing at their workplaces. FordHarrsion, which had some preliminary discussions with FLVS officials, in a letter to the chairman of the school’s board of trustees said the school is “in receipt of multiple employee complaints, which if substantiated,” might be within the scope of Florida’s whistleblower’s law. “FLVS must conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of the allegations and take appropriate action,” the letter said. That same day, the board also accepted Kruppenbacher’s resignation. When asked about the investigation, Kruppenbacher said, “I’m not commenting at all about the virtual school.”

Florida Virtual Schools general counsel Frank Kruppenbacher makes a hasty exit.

Personnel note: Devin Galetta now deputy comm’s to CFO Jimmy Patronis” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Galetta now is deputy communications director to Chief Financial Officer Patronis, reporting to Anna Alexopoulos Farrar … Galetta started at the Department of Financial Services when he was still in college at Florida State University, working as an administrative assistant, according to his LinkedIn page. He later became a Marketing and Communications Specialist there, before leaving in 2014. Galetta also has been Assistant Director of Media, Communications, and Marketing for FSU Libraries. He also was the state Health Department’s Media and Marketing Manager before a brief, recent run as the agency’s interim communications director.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Elizabeth Dudek, Greenberg Traurig: Oscar Insurance Company of Florida

RJ Myers, Suskey Consulting: Innocence Project

Drew Preston: Associated Industries of Florida

Shireen Sackreiter: Accenture

— ALOE —

Floridians are leading the call for an NFL boycott, study shows” via Florida Politics — According to a new study from, the offseason has done little to placate the most vocal among that crowd, many of whom live in the Sunshine State. The online sports betting outfit found more than 75,000 geotagged tweets calling for a boycott — they sussed them out through the presence of hashtags such as #BoycottNFL, #BoycottTheNFL, and #BoycottNFLsponsors — and plotted them on a map of the United States. The final results showed Florida had the highest volume of boycott-related tweets, with Maine, Mississippi, Arizona, Nevada rounding out the top-5.

Weekend hours for Capitol’s observation deck?” via WCTV Eyewitness News — Tallahassee resident Scott Sutor says the Florida Capitol’s 22nd floor, known as the Observation Deck, should be open on weekends. Currently, the entire Capitol building is only open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sutor wrote a letter to Gov. Scott on August 7, hoping to get the hours changed. In it, he says: “So that visiting family and friends will be able to see the beautiful view from the 22nd floor … A lot of people come here on the weekend, either for a sporting event, a convention, anything. If they want to go to the Capitol on the weekend, (they can’t) today. Maybe in the future,” he said. Sutor says it would benefit tourism in the capital city, as well as make it more convenient and enjoyable for residents and visitors.

Jack Dorsey says he’s rethinking the core of how Twitter works” via Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin of The Washington Post — Dorsey said he was experimenting with features that would promote alternative viewpoints in Twitter’s timeline to address misinformation and reduce “echo chambers.” He also expressed openness to labeling bots — automated accounts that sometimes pose as human users — and redesigning key elements of the social network, including the “like” button and the way Twitter displays users’ follower counts. “The most important thing that we can do is we look at the incentives that we’re building into our product,” Dorsey said. “Because they do express a point of view of what we want people to do — and I don’t think they are correct anymore.”


Happy birthday to:

That’s right; it’s Robert “Hawk” Hawken‘s birthday.

Also celebrating today are Matt Choy, the City of St. Pete’s Ben Kirby, and Rockie Pennington.

Written By

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.

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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, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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