Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
Take a moment to look at The County Election by George Bingham
George Caleb Bingham painted a series of canvasses celebrating elections in newly created states along the western frontier.
Here, gathered around the polling place is a crowd of characters, including the happy drunk whose vote has been bought with liquor and the downcast loyalist whose candidate has lost and who bows his head with more than a hangover. The sole African-American, excluded from the voting process, stands at the left edge of the canvas serving hard cider. Women are notably absent from the scene.
Bingham himself was a disappointed politician, denied election to the Missouri statehouse in 1846 by crooked dealing. He swore never to get involved in politics again, but, in the end, he found himself addicted to the competition, was elected a legislator in 1848, and served as state treasurer during the Civil War.
— PREDICTIONS —
Now, as much trouble as they will get me in, here are my predictions:
Democratic gubernatorial primary: Gwen Graham six points ahead of Andrew Gillum, then Philip Levine.
Republican gubernatorial primary: Ron DeSantis 59 percent, Adam Putnam 39 percent.
Sean Shaw, Nikki Fried win in cakewalks.
Ashley Moody by five over Frank White.
Matt Caldwell, narrowly, over Baxter Troutman and Denise Grimsley.
The rest of the night should go as planned. I think you’ll see a lot of 60-40 wins in some of these primaries.
John Waltz will win the GOP primary in CD 6, as will Mike Miller in CD 7. Greg Steube will win a tough primary in CD 17, while I predict Neil Combee will emerge from the primary for the seat Dennis Ross is vacating.
Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Lauren Baer, and Donna Shalala will win the Democratic primaries in their respective races (kudos to David Richardson for giving Shalala a run for her money in CD 27.)
Gayle Harrell will handily defeat Belinda Keiser in the SD 25 GOP primary. Nick DiCeglie and Ray Blacklidge will win tough Republican primaries in Pinellas Co.
It’s actually noteworthy what’s not happening today. There aren’t a host of state Senate primaries doubling as proxy fights in a scrum for the Senate presidency. There aren’t many of those brutal House races where the Florida Chamber and Disney square off against the trial lawyers at the Florida Justice Association.
Even though there are more than sixty races the staff of Florida Politics is tracking, we really don’t think there will be many surprises.
FP has 15 reporters and contributors covering the results of these races with the goal of providing the most comprehensive coverage of any media outlet. Be sure to check in often at FloridaPolitics.com and Orlando-Rising.com as well as our Twitter feeds at @Fla_Pol and @PeterSchorschFL.
Good luck to all of you today.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@realDonaldTrump: Rick Scott of Florida is doing a fantastic job as Governor. Jobs are pouring into the State and its economic health is better than ever before. He is strong on Crime, Borders, and loves our Military and Vets. Vote for Rick on Tuesday!
—@realDonaldTrump: Congressman Ron DeSantis is a special person who has done an incredible job. He is running in Tuesdays Primary for Governor of Florida …. Strong on Crime, Borders and wants Low Taxes. He will be a great Governor and has my full and total Endorsement!
—@BobBuckhorn: The flags at THIS government building shall remain at half-staff until after his service. It is the least we can do to honor his service to our country.
—@MCIMaps: Again might be some early votes yet to be processed, but right now the in-person early vote total is 51.6% white and 35.7% African-American for Democrats. In 2016 August primary it was 51.9% white and 36.6% African-American. So basically the same
—@GwenGraham: I am disgusted to hear that @‘s campaign signs were vandalized with messages of hate. I stand united in condemning this hatred and will continue to celebrate the historic diversity of our party’s candidates for governor.
—@StephenLawsonFL: Unlike @, we (Ron DeSantis campaign) chose not to politicize a tragedy. This is a sad attempt to score a quick political point while families are still grieving. Shame on you.
—@JimmyMidyette: Hate seeing all the satellite news trucks on Water Street and Hogan Street. Feels like we’re a city under siege.
—@GoMeteoric: A quick shoutout to all my friends on both sides of the aisle. Tomorrow will be the culmination of a lot of time away from loved ones and a lot of hard work. You can’t all win but I hope you are proud of the efforts you’ve made for FL and the nation.
—@JoeReedy: Shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of Churchill Downs’ John Asher. He was a great man and ambassador for the Commonwealth, the track and all of horse racing.
— LATEST TURNOUT FIGURES —
More Floridians have voted before Tuesday’s elections than in past primaries, yet hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots have not been returned by voters.
Nearly 1.86 million votes had been cast as of Monday morning, with almost 1.2 million vote-by-mail ballots returned and another 658,800 ballots cast at early-voting sites, according to the Florida Department of State via The News Service of Florida. Florida has 13 million registered voters. Two years ago, 1.82 million votes were cast before the primary. In 2014, the number was 1.2 million.
Democrats, with a weekend surge in, cast 317,499 ballots at early-voting locations and had submitted 491,810 vote-by-mail ballots. Republicans had accounted for 557,121 votes by mail and 296,585 early votes. People registered with third parties or who are unaffiliated accounted for 44,716 early votes and 150,077 votes through the mail. At the same time, nearly 1.39 million requested vote-by-mail ballots had not been returned to elections supervisors, including more than 1 million to voters of the two major parties.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has provided daily updates on early voting statistics, has attributed the number of unreturned mail-in ballots to people possibly remaining undecided about candidates in key races.
“Sarasota and Manatee seeing strong voter turnout” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — “We are on pace to have a record turnout for this primary election,” said Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner. Turnout stands at 18.1 percent in Sarasota County and 17.7 percent in Manatee County. Voter turnout during the 2014 primary — the last midterm election — was 21.3 percent in Sarasota County and 20.6 percent in Manatee. Turnout during the 2016 primary was 26.1 percent in Sarasota and 26.9 percent in Manatee.
— DAYS UNTIL —
College Football opening weekend — 2; Labor Day — 6; Gubernatorial candidates must choose a running mate — 9; NFL regular season starts — 9; First general election mail ballots go out — 25; First day of fall — 25; Future of Florida Forum — 29; FSU vs. UM football game — 39; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 56; MLB World Series begins — 56; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 57; Halloween — 64; General Election Day — 70; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 84; Thanksgiving — 86; Black Friday — 87; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 91; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 168; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 190; 2020 General Election — 798.
“Cyberthreats abound as Florida gets ready to vote” via Steve Bousquet and Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — It will be the most thorough test of voting operations since Russian operatives tried to hack Florida voting rolls before the 2016 presidential election. But it’s not one election, it’s 67 — one in every county from the Keys to Pensacola. As counties plan for what’s often a low-turnout election, they have spent millions of dollars safeguarding computer servers, installing surveillance cameras and card readers, building security barriers and training workers to detect threats they can’t see. “We want to make sure that our employees know what a phishing email looks like,” says Lisa Lewis, supervisor of elections in Volusia County, a county the Russians targeted two years ago. “If there’s no subject line, I tell people, ‘Don’t open it.’ ” … “We must remain vigilant,” Gov. Scott told election supervisors in a letter, placing the responsibility clearly on them. “You are each tasked with a sacred duty to protect the right of Florida voters.”
— FINAL HOURS —
“Overkill? Ron DeSantis gets last-minute support via Donald Trump robocall” via Florida Politics — In the new call, Trump again makes his case for the Ponte Vedra Republican. The call, possibly overkill, comes after recent polls of the Republican primary showing the third-term Congressman swamping Polk County’s favorite son by more than 20 points. After introducing himself, Trump says “my friend, Ron DeSantis, is running for Governor of the great state of Florida … I love Florida. I fully endorse Ron in tomorrow’s election. Ron is a strong, solid conservative. He stood with me to build the wall, which is under construction right now, fight crime and cut taxes — all things that we’re getting done, and all with Ron’s help,” Trump says in the recording.
To hear the robocall, click on the image below:
“On campaign trail, Democrats confront, GOP dodges, Jacksonville shooting” via Steve Contorno and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — While Republicans steered their campaigns away from the shooting and the issue of gun violence, Democrats seized on it. In some cases, they added events in Jacksonville to emphasize the tragedy. In canceling their campaign events in Jacksonville, GOP candidates Putnam and DeSantis cited sensitivity to the victims and wanting to avoid interfering with ongoing law enforcement efforts. They instead stumped in other parts of Florida. “At the end of the day something is wrong in society if you’re going to let some video cause you to do something like that,” said DeSantis. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do on a variety of things.” While Putnam didn’t campaign in Jacksonville, he visited as Commissioner of Agriculture, along with Attorney General Pam Bondi. By comparison, the five Democrats were eager to address the shooting and the larger issue of gun violence.
“Gwen Graham committee gets late cash infusion” via the News Service of Florida — Graham’s political committee raised $3.3 million in the closing weeks of the primary campaign, with big chunks coming from Emily’s List, teachers’ unions and Graham’s father, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, a new finance report shows. The committee Friends of Gwen Graham raised the money from Aug. 11 through Thursday and spent nearly $3.37 million during the period. The biggest chunk of money, $750,000, came last week from Emily’s List, which works nationally to elect Democratic women candidates who back abortion rights. The committee also received $500,000 from Bob Graham; $400,000 from a National Education Association fund; $150,000 from the American Federation of Teachers; and $50,000 from the Florida Education Association. Gwen Graham also contributed $250,000 to the committee, the report shows.
“Jeff Greene on primary eve: ‘We’re not throwing any towels in’” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — “I know the polls are showing us down. The Gravis poll shows us No. 2 behind Gwen. I’m hoping that our ground game, which has been much, much, much stronger than hers … I’m hoping that will make the difference despite what some of these polls say, we’re going to pull this out and win.” He was referring to a Gravis Marketing survey that showed Graham with 26 percent and Greene with 19 percent. Greene, a billionaire, had scheduled a primary night party at a hotel he owns, the Tideline Ocean Resort & Spa in Palm Beach. On Monday, the campaign said, he would watch the results from home — an announcement that generated a flurry of online discussion about the implications.
“’Disgusting’: Swastikas painted on Philip Levine’s campaign signs in St. Pete” via Zachary Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — According to Max Flugrath, a campaign spokesman for Levine, campaign signs were vandalized with swastika symbols at the southeast corner of 66th St. N and Tyrone Boulevard, outside Bond Diamonds, which is now defunct. “As Governor, I will never be held hostage to hatred, or bigotry, or intolerance,” Levine said in a statement. “Never. All candidates should speak out against this intolerable behavior. We are better than the haters, bigger than the bigots, and tomorrow we will show them why.” The vandalism got a swift response from St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman (echoed by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn): “Disgusting. Whoever did this clearly doesn’t understand St. Pete and what we’re all about. All who come to live, work, and play are celebrated in the Sunshine City, regardless of who you love or pray to. But if your mindset leads you to do this — we don’t want you here.”
“Court gives reprieve to Attorney General candidate” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Democratic primary for attorney general is back on, at least for now, with the 1st District Court of Appeal issuing a temporary stay that allows votes to be counted for candidate Ryan Torrens. The stay by the Tallahassee-based appeals court was accompanied by an “expedited” review of a ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers that ordered Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County, off the ballot for improperly writing a check that helped him cover the qualifying fee for the race. State Rep. Shaw, a Tampa Democrat running against Torrens in Tuesday’s primary, filed the lawsuit seeking to have Torrens decertified as a candidate. The outcome of the case could be decided after Tuesday’s voting. During a news conference outside his law office in Tampa, Torrens expressed confidence in his chances at the polls, though Gievers’ ruling spread “a very negative view” of his campaign.
Election Protection, other groups join to offer legal help to voters — Legal volunteers will staff the nonpartisan Election Protection hotlines live on Tuesday, 7 a.m. till 10 p.m. Eastern time, to answer questions and assist voters encountering problems voting. “The Election Protection 866-OUR-VOTE hotline is a resource for all eligible voters who face problems registering or voting, seek to report complaints or ballot shortages, or otherwise need information to meaningfully participate in elections in their community,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Election Protection stands ready to help ensure that everyone has the opportunity to exercise the right to vote.”
— WHERE THEY’LL BE —
Assignment editors — Gillum and wife R. Jai will vote and hold media availability: Voting, 11 a.m., Good Shepherd Catholic Church Polling Location, 4665 Thomasville Rd, Tallahassee; election night watch party, media load-in 5:30 p.m., Hotel Duval, 415 N. Monroe Street, Tallahassee. Risers, multi-box, and filing station will all be available on a first come, first served basis to RSVP’d media.
Assignment editors — Graham will kick off Election Day by serving café con leche to early morning voters, 8:30 a.m., Versailles, 3501 SW. 8th St., Miami.
Assignment editors — Greene will vote in Palm Beach County as well as other events: Voting at 11 a.m., Palm Beach Central Fire Station, 355 South County Road, Palm Beach; ice cream social at 12:45 p.m., Oceanway Community Center, 12215 Sago Ave. W., Jacksonville; rally at 2:30 p.m., Caribbean Sunshine Bakery, 2528 W. Colonial Dr., Orlando; rally at 4:15 p.m., 175 Fontainebleau Blvd., Ste 1-N6, Miami.
Assignment editors — Putnam will be making stops along the I-4 corridor: Sign waving, 8:15 a.m., 1800 Sand Lake Road, Orlando; sign waving, 10:45 a.m., Brandon Boulevard and Brandon Town Center Drive, Brandon; voting, 3:15 p.m., Asbury United Methodist Church, 1650 S Jackson Ave., Bartow; election night party, 6 p.m. (Doors open to media; RSVP only), The Terrace Hotel, 329 E Main St, Lakeland.
It’s not the party, it’s the after party: Where to find candidates on election night — On Tuesday, election night parties will be held all over Florida. For some, it’s a chance to pop some champagne corks, celebrate and gear up for the general election. For others, it will be a somewhat more somber affair, the last hurrah of a long, hard-fought primary campaign. Want to party like a politician? For a rundown of where many candidates will be as the polls close, click here and here.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Public financing before primaries hits $4.84 million” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis drew the largest amount of public matching funds last week, as the overall total going to statewide candidates before Tuesday’s primary elections neared $5 million. DeSantis and three other gubernatorial candidates — Republican Putnam and Democrats Gillum and Graham — have combined to receive nearly $3.73 million in public funding since late July. Overall, the state has handed out $4.84 million so far for the 2018 elections. For the 2014 primary and general elections, Florida sent out $4.3 million to candidates using the program. In 2010, 10 candidates received $6.1 million from the program. The program has long faced criticism, including from a couple of candidates in this year’s elections who call the distributions a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“Bruce Nathan to GOP nominee: Make me running mate or feel my wrath” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan on Monday announced he plans to switch his party designation and run for governor as an independent on the general election ballot — unless the Republican nominee picks him as a running mate. A news release from Nathan’s campaign suggests that, should the Stuart Republican switch to a no-party-affiliation candidacy and move to the November ballot, he could have an impact on the race’s outcome even if he does not win. “If all of Bruce’s voters vote for him in another tight November general election (and he will likely get many more, due to less competition and the ability to raise money), this would likely alter the outcome of the November election,” reads a release sent by Jason Gilbert, Nathan’s campaign manager and chief strategist.
“Poll: Nikki Fried up big in Democratic primary for Ag. Commissioner” via Florida Politics — The St. Pete Polls survey shows Fried with 44 percent support among likely Democratic primary voters, giving her a double-digit lead over the combined tally of her competitors, environmental scientist Roy David Walker and Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter, who came in at 20 percent and 11 percent, respectively. About one in four Democratic primary voters said they were undecided. When it comes to early voters, who made up 53 percent of the sample, Fried goes from a plurality to an outright majority — 54 percent of Democrats who have already cast their ballot picked Fried, compared to 21 percent who chose Walker and 11 percent who chose Porter. Undecided was king among the 47 percent of Democrats who plan to vote but haven’t done so yet. Following the 36 percent who are unsure about their pick is Fried, who scoops up 34 percent of the yet-to-vote crowd while Walker snags 19 percent and Porter holds at 11 percent.
Sean Shaw takes solid lead in new polling of Democratic AG race — The St. Pete Polls survey gives Shaw nearly 50 percent support among likely Democratic primary voters, a more than 30-point lead over Ryan Torrens, who came in at just over 20 percent. About 30 percent of Democratic primary voters who already cast ballots claimed they were undecided. As for early voters, who made up 53 percent of the sample, Shaw goes up to 60 percent of Democrats, compared to 20 percent who chose Torrens and 20 percent undecided. Among the 47 percent of Democrats who plan to vote but haven’t done so yet, 42 percent were undecided, 38 percent are going for Shaw and 20 percent for Torrens.
“Al Lawson tries to fend off Alvin Brown” via the News Service of Florida — Lawson, who served nearly three decades in the Florida Legislature and lives in Tallahassee, is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Brown, 56, the first African-American elected as Jacksonville Mayor. Both candidates take similar positions that reflect the voters in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which sprawls across eight North Florida counties, running 206 miles from the urban neighborhoods of Jacksonville west to the rural enclave of Gadsden County near Tallahassee. Brown and Lawson said they would support impeachment proceedings against Trump. They oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act and want to expand health care programs. They support efforts to curb student debt and to improve economic opportunities, particularly in rural areas. But despite those similarities, Brown has campaigned aggressively against Lawson. Earlier this year, Brown’s campaign slammed Lawson as “Trump’s favorite Democrat,” after Lawson applauded during the president’s State of the Union speech. Lawson said he reacted because Trump was talking about lower unemployment rates for minorities.
“Alan Grayson’s attempted comeback sparks fiery Democratic primary” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Grayson is banking on Central Florida Democrats wanting a quick impeachment vote on Trump, rather than taking the wait-and-see approach of Grayson’s congressional successor Darren Soto. In an exceedingly contentious Democratic primary, Grayson also views himself as better able to work the halls of Congress, where incumbent Darren Soto is wrapping up his freshman term, and confront issues of their district, such as securing housing and jobs for Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria. But to political experts, Soto appears to be a pretty good fit for the Democratic-leaning District 9 seat, bringing state legislative experience and Puerto Rican background to the race. Two years after giving up the seat to make a failed U.S. Senate bid, Grayson’s large persona remains out-front in the campaign in the district that includes Osceola County and parts of Orange and Polk counties. “Alan Grayson is involved, so that usually means there should be some fireworks,” said University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett.
“HD 64 candidate Terry Power escapes contempt of court finding” via Florida Politics — A Pinellas County judge declined to find House District 64 GOP candidate Terry Power in contempt as requested by his ex-wife’s divorce attorney, Power’s campaign announced Monday. There’s one catch: The motion to find him in contempt wasn’t on the agenda for the court hearing, which covered other matters. Also, Power said in a statement that his ex-wife’s “allegations were completely without merit, as I have a 100 percent compliance history with my court-ordered alimony obligations.” But his own attorney told the court Monday that Power indeed owed back alimony alleged by his wife. The only issue is whether he owes interest.
“Bill Nelson endorses Jerry Demings in Orange mayoral race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Demings, the Orange County sheriff, is facing businessman Rob Panepinto and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke in the nonpartisan election. “Jerry Demings is a trusted, respected leader who has spent his career keeping the people of Central Florida safe as a sheriff and as Orlando police chief,” Nelson stated in a news release issued by Demings campaign. “During his decades of service, Sheriff Demings has built coalitions to strengthen our community.”
“Charles McBurney and Maureen Horkan, two ex-prosecutors, compete for a circuit judgeship” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville’s sole circuit judge election gives voters the choice between a former prosecutor who became a national expert in prosecuting child pornography and a former legislator who has been recognized repeatedly by legal associations for his expertise. McBurney, a longtime Republican legislator and former Florida House judiciary chair, has emphasized the recognition he received in that role from the Florida Bar, the Jacksonville Bar Association and the associations that represent prosecutors, sheriffs, victims’ advocates and Florida’s elected clerks. Judicial seats are nonpartisan, and candidates are prohibited from talking about their political views. Circuit judges handle felonies, serious lawsuits, estates, juvenile crime and some appeals. From 1998 to 2011, Horkan worked as a prosecutor, becoming a frequently cited expert in child pornography prosecutions. At the Office of the Attorney General, she started a cybercrimes unit that opened offices across the state, and she helped draft three legislative bills focused on child pornography. In the judiciary, she said, “there’s room for improvement.”
“Parents of Parkland massacre victims seek school board seats” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Broward County school board races are usually niche affairs as passionate advocates futilely implore an indifferent public to care … But February’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School changed that as the parents of two victims and close friends of two others are vying for seats … Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina died in the attack, is challenging two-term incumbent Donna Korn for a countywide seat. Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa died, and Tennille Doe-Decoste, whose son’s best friend Joaquin Oliver also perished, are vying for an open seat representing the Parkland-area district that includes Stoneman Douglas. Elsewhere in the county, two-term incumbent Laurie Rich Levinson is being challenged by former Stoneman Douglas teacher Richard Mendelson, who was close friends with coach Aaron Feis, who died. The Broward Teachers Union has endorsed Korn and Levinson, while Stand with Parkland, a group composed of the 17 victims’ families, is calling for their ouster. The election is also a referendum on the leadership of Superintendent Robert Runcie, who is supported by the nine-member board’s majority but is criticized by some victims’ families over policies both before and after the shooting.
“A primary season so nasty, the local GOP leader takes to Facebook: ‘STOP NOW!’” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — A badly faked picture of Ronda Storms in a recliner eating chips. A phony copy of the elections supervisor’s official webpage. A lawsuit by an outraged legislative candidate. A Facebook invitation from a candidate’s father challenging an opponent’s backer to meet and duke it out. All are part of what some Hillsborough County Republicans are calling an unusually nasty primary election. “Instead of the usual occasional negative mailer, it’s a daily dirt barrage,” said Mark Proctor, a local Republican political consultant. “It’s a shame. It turns off voters,” Proctor said. Orders to knock it off are coming from the top. “I … demand the candidates, their campaigns and their political associates to IMMEDIATELY CEASE AND DESIST AND STOP NOW!!!” Hillsborough County GOP Chairman Jim Waurishuk wrote on the party’s Facebook page last week, angrily wielding the caps-lock key.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL, PART 3 —
“Judge strikes victims’ rights amendment from ballot” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — A Tallahassee judge on Monday ordered the Constitution Revision Commission’s proposed Amendment 6, which would guarantee crime victims’ rights and raise judges’ retirement age, stripped from the November ballot. “Because the title and summary do not meet the requirements of Florida laws … in fully, fairly, and accurately telling the voters the chief purpose of the proposed amendment, and because the title and summary are, in addition, misleading, the CRC’s proposal … does not meet ‘truth in packaging’ requirements for submission to the voters and must be removed from the ballot,” Circuit Judge Gievers wrote. This makes the second amendment that Gievers has ruled against: She already struck down a measure aimed at ending live greyhound racing in the state. That decision is now being appealed at the state Supreme Court, as this latest ruling will no doubt be.
“Deepwater Horizon oil spill didn’t really hurt Florida, pro-drilling leaders say” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp caused a furor recently when he claimed oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster “didn’t even reach the shores of Florida.” He now admits he was wrong. Sort of. “I guess I overstated it,” said Kottkamp, now leading a group seeking to open the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil exploration, said in an interview this week. His attempt to walk back the remark could offer a preview of the campaign to come as groups push to expand drilling in federal waters eight years later. He and another industry representative say the BP oil spill was more of a public relations disaster fueled by the television news media, rather than an environmental disaster. “Obviously, yeah, we had some oil, but nothing like what was being reported,” said Kottkamp, who was lieutenant governor at the time of the spill. “You would have thought that the entire state was covered in oil.” That comes as news to some of those who lived through it.
“House candidate spends campaign cash on haircuts, clothes and burritos” via Florida Politics — Amol Jethwani has been successful in getting young voters energized for down-ballot races in Gainesville, a quality that hasn’t gone unnoticed by established Democratic politicians such as St. Pete Mayor Kriseman, who has endorsed his bid for House District 21 … campaign finance reports for this first-time candidate show a troubling trend: Using donor money for personal expenses … a $344 trip to Dillard’s, a $30 trim at Hair Plus and $14 lunch at Chipotle. When it comes to the suit and haircuts, Jethwani does seem to take a Scott Maddox-like approach: It was necessary for the viability of his campaign. “The charges to Dillard’s and Zara were for formal clothing for campaign events — a suit and formal wear which I was not able to afford at the time as a student. In that same category, the haircuts expensed to the account were specifically for candidate appearance for campaign events and media production,” Jethwani said in a statement to Florida Politics.
“Knock on a half-million doors? No prob, For Our Future Florida says” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — “We’re leaving no stone unturned, talking with voters across the state — and as our volunteer program ramps up through Election Day, hundreds of Floridians will be channeling the tremendous progressive energy we’ve seen throughout 2017 and 2018 into turning out their family, friends and neighbors to the polls,” said Ashley Walker, the group’s state director. “As we work to re-elect Bill Nelson and to end Republican dominance of Tallahassee, FOF-FL is building a permanent, community-based progressive infrastructure across all of Florida.”
— THIS RACE MOVES FRONT AND CENTER WEDNESDAY —
“New ad buy blames Rick Scott for algae, red tide” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — A political committee affiliated with Senate Democrats is spending $2.9 million on an ad buy blaming Scott for coastal toxic red tide and algae blooms plaguing Florida’s waterways. Majority Forward, a 501(c)(4) group affiliated with the Democrat-leaning Senate Majority PAC, is buying ads that target Scott, who is seeking to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson in November. Its nonprofit status means the group does not have to disclose its donors. The ad shows newspaper opinion column headlines saying it is “fair to blame Rick Scott” and that the governor cut the budgets of state environmental agencies. “But Rick Scott gave corporate polluters like Big Sugar a pass — and we got this,” the ad says amid images of dead sea life. “So tell Gov. Scott clean up this mess.”
To view the ad, click on the image below:
“Rick and Ann Scott’s financial trail leads to Cayman Islands tax haven” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — The investments had a minimum total value of $25 million and a potential value of $62 million, according to the financial disclosure statement Scott filed last month … The 125-page statement included details of Scott’s blind trust, managed by a New York trustee who’s a former business associate of the governor’s. “The governor had no role in selecting that investment,” said a spokesman for Scott’s campaign, Lauren Schenone. Scotts’ assets totaled at least $255 million. Scott’s campaign said the principal place of business for one fund, Overlook 3G Investments, is Hong Kong. But the company’s website describes that fund as a Cayman Islands exempted limited partnership formed two years ago to invest in a Chinese utility company.
— STATEWIDE —
“Gunman at Jacksonville video tournament targeted his fellow gamers, police say” via Alan Blinder and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — “The suspect clearly targeted other gamers,” Sheriff Mike Williams of Jacksonville told reporters. “The suspect walked past patrons who were in other parts of the business and focused his attention on the gamers.” Police identified the two young men killed on Sunday as Elijah Clayton, 22, of Woodland Hills, Calif., and Taylor Robertson, 28, of Giles, W.Va. Another 10 people were injured in the shooting, while an 11th was treated for an injury that did not involve a gunshot. The mass shooting shook the gaming circuit of esports, a major industry where serious players, some of them former athletes, travel the country to compete in lucrative tournaments streamed live to online spectators. The Jacksonville event was a regional qualifying round for the Madden N.F.L. Championship Series, where regulars knew not only Clayton and Robertson but also the gunman, David Katz, 24, of Baltimore.
“NCCI recommends significant drop in workers’ compensation premiums” via Florida Politics — The ratings agency that recommends workers’ comp insurance premium levels in Florida on Monday recommended a 13.4 percent reduction, to take effect Jan. 1. A summary released by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, cites “continued significant improvement in loss experience.” “This is consistent with prior experience filings in Florida and in line with most filings submitted thus far by NCCI in other states in 2018,” the document says.
“Walt Disney World’s $15-an-hour wage could pave way for higher Central Florida pay” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — “I’m sure the folks at Universal are scratching their heads saying, ‘Oh crap, what do we do?’” said Duncan Dickson, an associate professor at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. “Everybody is chomping at the bit to get employees. Now, you’re in a bidding war. It’s going to be hard to recruit against Disney.” Walt Disney World Resort and its largest union reached a tentative four-year agreement that will gradually raise its starting minimum wage from $10 an hour to $15 by October 2021. “The ripple effect will go from Disney to Universal to SeaWorld to Legoland to the hotels to all the little attractions. It will be a seismic shift,” said John Morgan, who is pushing for a 2020 state ballot question to raise the minimum pay to $15. “This proves my point. Companies can pay people fairly and make a very good profit.”
What Marc Dunbar would be reading if he still represented Gulfstream: “Florida thoroughbred groups unite against Calder jai alai plan” via The Gainesville Sun — A trio of thoroughbred industry groups, including two based in Ocala, have filed their opposition to a plan by Calder Casino to abandon thoroughbred racing in favor of jai alai and still keep their lucrative casino, including Las Vegas-style slots. The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, Ocala Breeders’ Sales and Gulfstream Park all balked at Calder’s plan, which would take away millions from Florida thoroughbred purses. Calder, based in South Florida, is owned by Churchill Downs, which also owns the Kentucky Derby, one of the most prestigious thoroughbred races in the world.
“Jax hospital can verify records request in med mal suit” via Law360 — A Florida appeals court ruled last week that, during a pre-suit investigation under the state’s Medical Malpractice Act, a hospital can seek verification that a person requesting confidential medical records is legally authorized to do so. Such a move doesn’t waive its right to demand a written medical opinion from a plaintiff before he or she files suit. Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal quashed a lower court’s order that had denied Shands Jacksonville Medical Center Inc.’s bid to dismiss a medical malpractice suit over the October 2010 death of Regina Freeman.
“Joe Henderson: After Florida primary election, time to swing back to the middle” via Florida Politics — After the primary fun, it’s often a shift back to moderation for the nominees. After appealing to the hard-core voters in the party well enough to secure the nomination, the battle for those 3.5 million voters who will decide the election, as well as those registered with a party but didn’t vote in the primary, forces the conversation back to the middle. Is this really the best way to conduct business, though? In the Democratic primary, in particular, candidates made promises to the base that will be extremely difficult to keep if they eventually are elected. Then there is DeSantis, leading the polls for the GOP nomination. He isn’t saying much at all unless the sentence can somehow be framed to include the words “Donald Trump.” I don’t know if you heard, but Trump endorsed DeSantis. At least for the nomination, that figures to be the only platform he needs. Well, after the primary is done we’ll hit the reset button and watch as the pendulum swings toward those voters, possibly in the millions, who haven’t made up their minds. After all, they are the ones who will decide the election, and history suggests they can be hard to please.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Why Tom Rooney said he prefers judicial bench seat over Congress” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — Saying he’s frustrated with Washington but wants to continue in public service, Rooney spent half an hour interviewing for an open Palm Beach County Court judgeship. He was one of 32 applicants under consideration by the county’s Judicial Nominating Commission, which planned to send a short list of recommended candidates to Gov. Scott by the end of the day. “As far as I can tell, the last time we had a sitting congressman apply for a judgeship was never,” commission member Robert Harvey told Rooney at the beginning of his interview. Asked why he wants to be a judge, Rooney pointed to his days as an Army judge advocate, providing legal representation to soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, and later prosecuting civilian crimes on the large military base. “I know that it’s sort of the cliché line,” Rooney acknowledged during his JNC interview. “But my son caught his first high school pass last week against Jensen Beach and caught a touchdown. If there was any validation I needed that this is where I should be, that was it.”
“Danny Burgess takes civilian job with Pasco Sheriff’s Office” via CT Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Burgess joined the Sheriff’s Office earlier this month as its manager of future operations, a newly created division in the agency. His annual salary is $85,000. Burgess’s new job with the Sheriff’s Office is a “professional and highly visible civilian position responsible for the administrative oversight, management, design, and quality control of the future operations division,’’ according to the job description. Burgess will coordinate with “other governmental agencies, colleges, universities, research institutions, nongovernmental organizations and private sector businesses to develop partnerships and further the mission of the future operations division.’’ Burgess, in a text message, said, “I am proud to stand with our first responders in this new role and look forward to helping the Sheriff’s Office strategically grow to meet the needs of our growing county.’’
— ALOE —
“Disney World rival shrinking at the worst time” via The Motley Fool — Momentum in the Central Florida battle for theme park supremacy is shifting back in favor of the mouse that started it all. Comcast’s Universal Orlando isn’t doing itself any favors by closing another long-standing attraction on Sept. 15: The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad, a stunt show that has been around since Islands of Adventure’s debut in 1999. There is no official word on what will replace the experience, but it’s just the latest attraction to get shuttered over the past year. … The timing is problematic in light of the area’s shifting landscape … With several tourist-grabbing upgrades and additions on the way at Disney World in the next couple of years, it’s going to be hard for Comcast to catch up as it fades in Disney’s rearview mirror.
“’Disney Play’ is the company’s Netflix competitor UPDATE: Nope” via Brian Heater of TechCrunch.com — It seems the original source of the report misconstrued a comment from Disney CEO Bob Iger, who was referring more broadly to “a Disney Play,” rather than giving a name to the service itself. A spokesperson for the service told TechCrunch, “A name for the upcoming Disney steaming service has not yet been announced” It’s been a full year since Disney first made public its intentions to go head to head with Netflix. In the intervening months, the media giant has started the process of pulling content from the streaming service, bit by bit. From the sound of things, however, it’s going all in on its plan to beat Netflix and its ilk at their own game. Along with an extremely strong slate of existing films, the company’s got some big titles just over the horizon. There’s Marvel’s Captain Marvel, the final installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy and surefire sequels like Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4. And then there’s the original content, led by a live-action Star Wars series helmed by Iron Man director, Jon Favreau (who’s also directing Disney’s upcoming Lion King remake).
What Stephanie Smith is reading: “Uber plans shift from cars to bikes for shorter trips” via Shannon Bond of the Financial Times — Uber is planning a shift in emphasis from cars to electric bicycles and scooters for shorter journeys as part of its long-term strategy … CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told the Financial Times: “During rush hour, it is very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks.” He admitted that in the short-term, the move would mean a further financial hit for a company that had losses of $4.5 billion last year. Uber first added e-bikes to its app in February and acquired the bike-sharing company Jump for about $200 million in April. Jump bikes are available in eight US cities, including New York, Washington and Denver.
Happy birthday to Andy Gonzalez of the Florida Realtors, the brilliant Alan Levine, Sandy Safley, and our dear friend, David Zachem.