Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.4.18
Sunset at a crowded Naples Pier at 878 5th Ave South in Naples, Florida on January 22, 2012

Sunset at Naples Pier

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

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


Tropical Storm Gordon is continuing to strengthen and is expected to become a hurricane late Tuesday when it hits the central U.S. Gulf Coast, including coastal Mississippi. From there, it is forecast to move inland over the lower Mississippi Valley on Wednesday.

Gordon formed into a tropical storm near the Florida Keys early Monday as it lashed the southern part of the state with heavy rains and high winds.

In this image released by NOAA’s GOES-16 on Monday,  Tropical Storm Gordon appears south of Florida.

The storm was centered 280 miles (450 kilometers) east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, forecasters said early Tuesday morning. Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 65 mph (100 kph).

A hurricane warning was put into effect for the area stretching from the mouth of the Pearl River in Mississippi to the Alabama-Florida border. As much as 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain could fall in some parts of the Gulf states through late Thursday.


Over the next few days, Florida Politics is partnering with St. Pete Polls and Empowering Wellness — the newly formed medical-marijuana advocacy group — to offer exclusive polling data, analysis and content, all with a spotlight on medical cannabis.

The goal of Wellness Week is to bring our loyal fans the most up-to-date info on the major statewide contests on the November ballot, the politics of cannabis in Florida, and highlight the “Champions of Wellness,” a group of congressional lawmakers who have shown their dedicated support of medical marijuana policies in Washington. Among those Champions are U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Darren Soto.

Medical cannabis could be a problem for Rick Scott. (Image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

To kick off Wellness Week, we begin with a fresh poll in the U.S. Senate race, showing a virtual tie between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott — each at about 47 percent, well within the survey’s margin of error of over 2 percent. The poll, conducted Aug. 29-30 with 1,755 likely Florida voters, had Nelson leading by only a single tenth of a point, and just 5 percent undecided.

As for the focus of Wellness Week — medical cannabis — Floridians are somewhat united in the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes, a trend that could spell problems down the road for Scott.

Polling found 74 percent of likely voters approve allowing the use of medical marijuana if recommended by a doctor; 20 percent disagree, and 5 percent were unsure. Additionally, 66 percent are OK with smokable cannabis, a major sticking point for opponents of the law.

Where Scott runs into difficulty: 45 percent of respondents disapprove of the Governor’s job on implementing Florida’s medical marijuana law (Amendment 2 passed in 2016 by 71 percent of Floridians) while just 30 percent approve. Another 26 percent were unsure.

When pollsters told voters that Scott opposed medical marijuana and delayed enforcement of the law, his support dropped significantly; 49 percent of respondents said they were less likely to support Scott in his Senate bid.

On the November ticket, it’s clear marijuana could play a significant role — Wellness Week examines just how significant that role will be. Stay tuned.


Gubernatorial candidates must choose a running mate — 2; NFL regular season starts — 2; First general election mail ballots go out — 18; First day of fall — 18; Future of Florida Forum — 22; FSU vs. UM football game — 32; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 49; MLB World Series begins — 49; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 50; Halloween — 57; General Election Day — 63; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 77; Thanksgiving — 79; Black Friday — 80; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 84; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 161; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 183; 2020 General Election — 791.


Mike Pence to raise money for Rick Scott’s Senate bid in Orlando” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — The Sept. 6 event is being hosted by Palm Beacher Darlene Jordan, a key Republican money-raiser, and by Texas investor and GOP moneyman Tom Hicks, according to invitations sent to GOP activists. It’s a relative bargain as fundraisers go, with “suggested contribution levels” of $250 for individuals and $500 for sponsors.

Democrats: Medicare fraud is ‘fungus’ Scott will never get rid of” via Alexandra Glorioso and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The legacy of Scott’s leadership of Columbia/HCA — once the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain before it ousted Scott and settled the largest health care fraud fine in history at the time — underpins his political identity. The company is the origin of his fabulous wealth, which has allowed him to pump $106.5 million of his own money into his campaigns, $20.6 million of which he has dropped so far on his Senate bid against Nelson. Some of his donors this year are old friends from Columbia/HCA. And Democrats aren’t letting the issue go, either. “Columbia/HCA is like a fungus he’ll never get rid of,” said John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster for the Senate Majority PAC, which supports Nelson.

Bill on a barge: The NRSC and Rick Scott for Senate campaign teamed up this weekend on a floating reminder of Bill Nelson’s record that cruised downtown Miami and Miami Beach.

Could Andrew Gillum victory give boost to Bill Nelson?” via John Kennedy of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — “Absolutely, Nelson will get an edge because of Gillum,” said Shane Rogers-Mauro, with Indivisible South Florida, a progressive advocacy group whose statewide organization endorsed Gillum in the primary. “Rick Scott already is not popular with Democrats, and with a lot of independents. But Gillum will bring more and more minority voters into the election in November, and they’ll also vote for Nelson,” he said. The Scott campaign, however, said it isn’t worried about a surge of black Democratic voters. A post-primary memo from Scott campaign manager Jackie Schutz Zeckman cast doubt about any signs of a Democratic blue wave, noting that 100,000 more Republicans cast ballots in Tuesday’s contests. Nelson had benefited before from a rise in minority voting, easily winning a third term in the Senate in 2012 when President Obama helped drive black turnout in his re-election campaign.

Despite Tweet, Jeff Greene says claims he would fund Nelson’s Senate campaign were mischaracterized” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Greene is backtracking on a documented promise to fund Nelson’s campaign if Greene won the primary, saying that someone on his “team” sent a July tweet doubling down on that claim. He’s also pulling the plug on a fund that he said would be used to help down-ballot Democrats this year. Funding Nelson first emerged during a July 18 debate, when it appeared that Greene said that if he won the Democratic primary, he would fund all of Nelson’s campaign against Scott, who has vastly outspent Nelson so far. In an interview, Greene offered up the observation that media reports of that claim were mischaracterized. He said he never intended to write a check to float Nelson’s campaign, but rather if he were the nominee, he would have helped boost Nelson’s campaign because he would self-fund, thus not competing with Nelson for donors. “The Bill Nelson thing was a big misunderstanding. I never said I would pay for Bill Nelson’s campaign,” Greene said. “I never told anyone to vote for me based on money I’d give to him or other candidates.”

Democrats Anna Eskamani and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson works the crowd at the Orlando Labor Day barbecue at Lake Eola.

Reinvigorated Cape Canaveral could boost Senate campaigns” via James Dean of FLORIDA TODAY — Four years after the retirement of NASA’s shuttle program, billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin promised more than 300 high-paying jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment, and a brighter future for the Cape as a commercial launch base. For Scott, it was the latest in a series of feel-good job announcements showing Brevard County on the rebound, with Space Florida, his statewide aerospace development agency, playing a key role in fine-tuning the deal. But behind the scenes, insiders credited Nelson and his clout with saving a deal that nearly collapsed, by nudging the Air Force to make Launch Complex 36 a viable commercial option after the first-choice launch site fell through at the last minute. In the close race for the Senate seat Nelson has held since 2000, perceptions of which candidate deserves more credit for a reinvigorated Cape, and which would continue to grow Florida’s role in a transforming space industry, could prove pivotal.

Assignment editors — Scott will join Florida veterans in Jacksonville and Fort Myers areas for an announcement, 10 a.m., Vac-Con Inc., 969 Hall Park Road, Green Cove Springs.


Gillum vs. Ron DeSantis race makes Florida nation’s partisan petri dish” via Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post — A Gillum victory in November would help make the case that the Democrats’ best hope for winning in 2020 is with a steadfastly liberal candidate running full speed against everything Trump represents; for Republicans, a win by DeSantis would be seen as a sign that the Donald Trump brand is not as fragile as the president’s national approval ratings would suggest. These hot takes, however, ignore the other big reality of Florida politics: More than a quarter of its 13 million registered voters have declared themselves as having no party affiliation. Because Florida primaries are closed, none of them voted Tuesday. Given such a stark choice in November, it remains to be seen how they will go. University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who directs a project compiling national election statistics, noted that the state’s unaffiliated voters tend to be younger and Hispanic, which means Gillum starts with “a relative comparative advantage.” The only thing that is clear about this matchup is that the next nine weeks are going to be ugly.

Andrew Gillum prepares for an appearance on Meet The Press.

DeSantis: Gillum wants to turn Florida ‘into Venezuela’” via John Bowden of The Hill — DeSantis told host John Catsimatidis in an interview airing Sunday on AM 970 in New York that Gillum, who is backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and advocates for more left-leaning proposals such as “Medicare for all” and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is an “untraditional” opponent. “I would say it’s very untraditional for Florida, [though] not anything to do with me, I’m a solid conservative in the Reagan tradition, and I’ve been supportive of the president’s agenda,” DeSantis said. “This Andrew Gillum, he’s on the far-left socialist fringe,” DeSantis continued. “He’s a Bernie Sanders, [AlexandriaOcasio-Cortez type candidate.” … “If you have a guy like this enacting a socialist agenda it’s going to absolutely destroy all the progress that Florida has made,” he added. “He wants to turn Florida into Venezuela.”

’We Negroes’ robocall is an attempt to ‘weaponize race’ in Florida campaign, Andrew Gillum warns” via Cleve Wootson of The Washington Post — The minute-long audio clip is a clear sign of how quickly racism has entered the contest to determine who will lead Florida. “Well, hello there,” the call begins as the sounds of drums and monkeys can be heard in the background, according to The New York Times. “I is Andrew Gillum.” “We Negroes … done made mud huts while white folk waste a bunch of time making their home out of wood an’ stone.” The speaker goes on to say he’ll pass a law letting African Americans evade arrest “if the Negro know fo’ sho’ he didn’t do nothin’.” In a statement, Gillum’s spokesman, Geoff Burgan said: “This is reprehensible — and could only have come from someone with intentions to fuel hatred and seek publicity. Please don’t give it undeserved attention.”

Racists behind anti-Gillum calls could soon face the music” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Virginia entertainer Justin Beights, a resident of Charlottesville, says he wants to fight back against the hate that’s smeared his own hometown by ridiculing racists where they live, and racist attacks on Gillum may fuel further interest in his anti-Nazi campaign. Scott Rhodes, the podcaster behind the Road to Power website, made national headlines and briefly took over the dialogue in Florida’s gubernatorial contest by funding robocalls belittling Gillum, Florida’s first black major party nominee for governor. Now, Beights turned his attention squarely at Rhodes. He’s organizing an Oct. 9 event outside Rhodes’ home, where he wants clowns with accordions putting a message of non-hate on full blast. “When he decided to mess with my hometown, I decided to get involved,” Beights told the Bonner County Daily Bee. “I figured I would use my First Amendment rights to do the same thing that Scott Rhodes has been doing all across the country.” Beights looks to set a world record for the length of a mass accordion-playing performance — 9 days, 9 hours and 9 minutes.

Gillum says he’ll release receipts from New York, Costa Rica trips with lobbyists soon” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Gillum gave three national television interviews Sunday morning. In all three, he fielded questions about the status of the FBI corruption probe into his city government. But on Meet the Press, Gillum also offered some new information, saying he planned in coming days to release receipts related to two trips he took in 2016 that have come under scrutiny in the press coverage of the probe. In May of 2016, Gillum reportedly vacationed with friends and lobbyists Sean Pittman and Adam Corey in Costa Rica. It was on that trip that Corey scheduled a meeting between Gillum and an undercover FBI agent posing as a developer via an online calendar invite … Sunday on NBC, the mayor said he would provide evidence that he paid his way on the New York and Costa Rica trips as soon as a Tallahassee ethics board wrapped up its investigation this week.

Gillum: Gwen Graham in the mix for LG pick” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – Speaking to media Monday in Jacksonville, Gillum didn’t sound like he was done with his vetting process. Yet, despite the sometimes chippy nature of the primary sparring between the two camps, Graham (the presumptive nominee until the ballots started rolling in from metropolitan areas) could be on the ticket, Gillum said. Gillum described the LG pick as his “number one priority at this time.” “Gwen is in the mix, of course,” Gillum said. “I’d say anyone who ran for governor is also in the mix.”

They didn’t vote for governor in the primary, but they’re key to winning in November” via Steve Contorno, Langston Taylor and Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida just concluded one of the most expensive and divisive primaries in its history. Yet still to be heard from are Florida’s 3.5 million no party affiliation voters, a growing, unpredictable bloc that will now determine the direction this bellwether state takes in November. The share of no party affiliation voters in a state of 21 million is larger now than at any point in the last two decades — 27 percent of all registered voters. So who are these no-party-affiliation voters? They are more likely to be white than Democrats but more likely to be a minority than Republicans. They are more often Hispanic than the average voter. The three counties with the highest share of NPAs are three of the four with the highest Hispanic populations — Osceola, Miami-Dade and Orange. Like Republicans, half are men, half are women.


Big money didn’t pay off big in key primary races” via Andrew Pantazi of the Lakeland Ledger — Out of six statewide cabinet primaries, four were won by a candidate who was outspent. Another was won by a candidate who spent about the same as her opposition, and only Sean Shaw, the Democratic nominee for Attorney General, outspent his primary opponent and won. “We sure as hell spent a lot more money than most people do on field,” said Brian Swenson, the campaign manager for Matt Caldwell. “TV alone wasn’t going to win it, it had to be a combination of hard work, consistent conservative messaging and we really did a hybrid of new forms of communication and old forms of communication.”

Sean Shaw didn’t need boatloads of cash to win his primary for Attorney General. (Image via WMNF)

Citrus leaders ‘start from scratch’ after Adam Putnam’s loss in Florida governor’s race” via Eve Samples of TCPalm — The large “Putnam for governor” sign on a chain-link fence encircling Riverfront Packing Company will soon come down. That will be the easy task for Dan Richey, president and CEO of the Vero Beach-based citrus company, one of the largest grapefruit packers in Florida. The challenge will be determining how to pivot after Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary. The question looms large for Richey and other Florida agriculture leaders in the wake of victories from Democrat Gillum and Republican DeSantis, who handily defeated Putnam. As Richey put it the day after the primary election, “I thought I was in touch with politics. I woke up this morning and said, ‘I don’t have a clue.'” He asked himself, “What happened to my party? Who hijacked it? And what’s going on on the other side, too?” “I think we’re going to have to lick our wounds a little bit,” he says. “The industry did not support either one of those candidates. We’re going to start from scratch.”

Matt Caldwell won 43 counties, key urban areas” via the News Service of Florida — State Rep. Caldwell, who topped three opponents in the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner, won 43 of the state’s 67 counties, including his home county of Lee and urban centers of Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Broward and Orange counties. Caldwell received 34.6 percent of the 1.5 million votes cast statewide in the primary, enough for a nearly eight-percentage-point victory. In a review of county-by-county numbers, Caldwell also won in Volusia County, swept the Treasure Coast counties of Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie and carried numerous rural counties across the northern part of the state. Caldwell also finished second in 18 other counties, including Escambia, Duval and Hillsborough. State Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican who finished second Tuesday with 26.63 percent of the vote, was the top vote-getter in nine counties: Glades, Calhoun, DeSoto, Hendry, Gulf, Okeechobee, Hardee, Highlands and Bay. Former state Rep. Baxter Troutman, who heavily self-financed his campaign and finished just behind Grimsley in the statewide vote with 26 percent, won in 15 counties, including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Duval and Polk.


Marco Rubio endorses Jimmy Patronis for CFO — “Today, I am pleased to announce my support and strong endorsement for Jimmy Patronis to remain Florida’s Chief Financial Officer,” Rubio said in a statement. “Jimmy Patronis is someone voters can trust to effectively manage our state’s finances. Through his unwavering dedication to protecting Florida consumers and instrumental advocacy on behalf of our first responders, he has earned our vote this November.”

Jeremy Ring ad calls out ‘Chief Fraud Officer’ Jimmy Patronis” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Titled “Redefining CFO,” the 30-second spot seeks to put a new spin on that acronym when it comes to incumbent Patronis’ time on the job. “Jimmy Patronis misusing taxpayer resources: Florida’s Chief Fraud Officer,” the ad’s narrator begins. “Patronis thought he could get away with breaking the law, using taxpayer resources for his own crass political purposes. That got him slapped with a formal ethics complaint. POLITICO even caught him red-handed lying about it after the fact. Jimmy Patronis, CFO: Chief Fraud Officer.” The ad refers to reporting by POLITICO which showed Patronis crashed a state-owned vehicle while “heading to a business whose address corresponds with that of his political consultant, Melissa Stone.” That’s despite his agency generally prohibiting the use of those vehicles for personal use.

To view the ad, click on the image below:


Statewide ‘Yes on Amendment 6’ ad buy launched” via Florida Politics — Marsy’s Law for Florida launched a statewide television and digital advertising campaign, asking voters to support Amendment 6, which would “place clear, enforceable victims’ rights in the state constitution.” The amendment, which also would raise judges’ retirement age from 70 to 75, has been ruled off the ballot after a court challenge, but that decision is under appeal. “Marsy’s Law for Florida has been embraced by Floridians from every walk of life — from state leaders to local elected officials to law enforcement to the victims and families who have experienced the trauma of crime firsthand,” said Greg Ungru, Marsy’s Law for Florida State Director. Videos began airing this week on television stations and running on digital and social media platforms in markets across the state, the organization said.

Critics: Amendment 6 language would confound ‘common sense’” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Ballot language for the Constitution Revision Commission’s proposed Amendment 6 disguises its curtailment of defendants’ rights with a promise to create procedural protections for crime victims, opponents argued in written arguments … In their answer to arguments the state submitted to the Florida Supreme Court the day before, the League of Women Voters and two private citizens attempted to refute Attorney General Pam Bondi’s suggestion that the court should trust voters’ common sense. The language, the critics’ brief argues, plays “hide the ball” with the voters. “The ballot title and summary … do not exhibit or disclose Amendment 6’s chief purpose, which is to significantly expand the rights of victims of crime, to prioritize those rights over those of the accused, and to subordinate the rights of the accused,” they contend in a brief signed by Tallahassee litigator Mark Herron. “Appellants have suggested that a voter with ‘a certain amount of common sense and knowledge’ would read the ballot title and summary ‘with common sense and in context,’” the brief argues.


Mike Miller starts CD 7 campaign in striking distance of Stephanie Murphy” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A new poll from St. Pete Polls shows Murphy with 47 percent of voter support and Miller with 46 percent, with just 7 percent undecided. According to the poll, Murphy actually has a lead in Seminole County, the district’s most reliable Republican base, while Miller leads in Orange County, where the district’s Democratic base is strongest. Murphy leads among Seminole County voters 50 to 44, while Miller leads in Orange County 48 to 43. The poll shows Murphy solidly leading Miller among independent voters: 57 percent favor her, 34 percent favor him. Otherwise, both of them are holding within their parties. Murphy has 78 percent of Democrats’ votes in the poll; Miller gets 77 percent of Republicans. Within the small demographic subsamples, there weren’t many significant differences between the two, but two groups were showing dramatic preferences: 88 percent of black voters want Murphy; 68 percent of young voters, under age 30, want Miller.

Working the holiday for workers: Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy working the crowd at the Orlando Labor Day barbecue at Lake Eola.

Brian Mast, Lauren Baer get national attention in CD 18 election” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm — Nonpartisan political analysts — Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections — predict Mast will win but faces a tough battle. But Baer could ride into the seat on an anti-Trump, pro-woman, pro-Democrat Blue Wave. Both campaigns are expected to focus on three main issues: the environment, health care and how to respond to Trump’s administration. Outside groups have paid close attention to the race. Conservative donors have rallied behind Mast, including Republican mega-donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and members of the DeVos family. A dark-money group affiliated with CLF, American Action Network, also has paid for ads applauding Mast’s support for the tax plan. After Baer won the Aug. 28 Democratic primary, party groups began rallying behind her, including Emily’s List, a group supporting pro-choice women candidates, and Swing Left, an organization focused on flipping Republican House seats.

FiveThirtyEight foresees trouble for Mario Diaz-Balart, Ross Spano” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — For the moment, the FiveThirtyEight only counts one district, Florida’s 27th Congressional District, as a “gimme” for Democrats to take away this fall. The site gives Democrat Donna Shalala a 39 out of 40 chance of flipping that district, where incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen last year announced her retirement. FiveThirtyEight analyst Nathaniel Rakish writes two more districts could easily become toss-ups or Democrat-favored in a “best-case scenario” for Democrats. Rakish says fundraising prowess got the site’s attention in CD 15. “It’s an R+13 district, but Republican incumbent Dennis Ross is retiring, and Democratic candidate Kristen Carlson has raised almost double the individual contributions that Republican Ross Spano has … Carlson likewise has a 1 in 4 chance of winning.” The FiveThirtyEight also gives Democrat Mary Barzee Flores a 1 in 4 chance of unseating Diaz-Balart.

Tweet, tweet:


Oops! State House District 56 results released erroneously” via John Chambliss of the Lakeland Ledger — Results in Polk County from the District 56 Republican primary race between Bartow septic tank business owner Jeff Mann and County Commissioner Melony Bell show that Bell won 67 percent to 33 percent. She collected 6,056 votes to Mann’s 3,040. There was one issue, though. The race didn’t count. The real election between the two isn’t until Nov. 6. That’s because the write-in candidate, David Joseph Patzer, 22, announced in July that he was withdrawing his candidacy after ballots had already been printed. The results weren’t supposed to be released. Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards said state officials told one of her managers that they had made a mistake by posting the results on the statewide elections website.

— “Polk County election with no write-in was right on” via The Ledger editorial board


Scott administration tried to quiet veteran staffer’s transportation funding concerns” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — A veteran state transportation official says Scott administration officials ignored her concerns about Florida Department of Transportation budget practices after the agency’s head told her they couldn’t be addressed now because it’s an election year. The concerns about the existence of a reserve fund at the transportation department came from Teddi Pitts, executive director of the Florida Transportation Commission, a Scott-appointed panel that advises FDOT. Pitts outlined her whistleblower claims in a Jan. 28 letter to FDOT Secretary Mike Dew, a Scott appointee. Pitts sent the letter after failing to get answers she considered satisfactory to questions about specific FDOT budget practices. She says a large reserve fund the department sits on each year is not allowed to exist under state law, a sentiment with which the Scott administration disagrees.

Mike Dew knew about whistleblower claims on funding concerns as far back as Jan. 28.

Florida Carry sues FSU — again — over firearms on campus” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A gun-rights group is again suing over Florida State University’s guns-on-campus policy. Florida Carry sued the state university last week over its student conduct code, which was “amended” last June. It now wrongfully prohibits “the open possession of long guns, i.e. rifles and shotguns, in a vehicle unless they (are) concealed,” according to the complaint. The organization sued in Leon County, naming the university and its president — John Thrasher, a former Republican legislator — as defendants. FSU spokesman Dennis Schnittker said the university “doesn’t comment on pending litigation.” “Despite being well aware of what the … law says, FSU and President Thrasher continue to break the law by regulating guns and ammunition,” Eric Friday said in a phone interview. He’s a Jacksonville attorney and general counsel to Florida Carry.

How the FBI botched tips about the Parkland school shooter” via Paula McMahon and Brittany Wallman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The FBI mishandled two ominous tips to its national call center about Nikolas Cruz, the teenager who later gunned down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: Call-takers, classified as “customer service representatives,” are among the FBI’s lowest-paid employees, despite serving as the first line of defense against killers and terrorists while handling thousands of calls a day. Figuring out how they made decisions, including the botched Cruz case, has been impossible because no one was required to document precisely what information was considered. The most-detailed tip about Cruz seems to have been ignored partly because an earlier tip, which received only a cursory investigation, had already been rejected. With Cruz, the confusion is compounded because the call-taker and her supervisor give conflicting accounts of why the second tip was mishandled — each pointing the finger at the other. Now, FBI agents say they’re being forced to chase pointless tips in an overly cautious system that fears a repeat of the Cruz debacle.

Donna Korn keeps School Board win over Parkland dad Ryan Petty in recount” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — School Board incumbent Korn received 50.43 percent of the vote, compared with 30.97 percent for second-place finisher Petty, whose daughter, Alaina, was killed during the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. Elijah Manley, a third candidate, received 18.61 percent of the vote. Korn’s margin was large enough that a manual recount isn’t required. Petty issued a statement conceding the race to Korn: “We know improvements must be made in Broward schools. It should be clear that we desperately need change. Today, I congratulate Donna Korn, and ask her to faithfully represent all voters, including the nearly 50 percent of voters that raised their voices for change.”

Scientists: Lake Okeechobee runoff not causing, but may enhance, red tide” via Carlos Munoz of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — “What we are seeing now is not unprecedented, but it is bad,” said Vincent Lovko, a phytoplankton ecologist at Mote Marine Laboratory. He said cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) traveling from the Caloosahatchee includes nutrients used by other organisms in estuaries, seagrass beds and macro-algae and phytoplankton. The amount that actually makes it into the coastal systems is greatly reduced when it reaches the Gulf. Cyanobacteria’s effect is localized at the point of contact, Lovko said, and it doesn’t survive long in saltwater. Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River “brings a lot of freshwater with it,” the Mote scientist said. “Karenia brevis (red tide bacteria) is a marine organism; it doesn’t really like freshwater.”

State lawmaker criticizes injured officer in school security debate” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — State Rep. Matt Willhite used a badly injured middle school police officer who had been hit by a pickup while directing school traffic as a reason to call out the Palm Beach County school district for wasting security funding, prompting outcry from the Florida Police Chiefs Association. In a Facebook post, Willhite said School District of Palm Beach County Police Officer Bob Keating should have been patrolling the entire campus of Wellington Landings Middle School. Instead, he was directing traffic on Dec. 15 when he was struck by a Ford F-150 driven by a distracted parent. “Maybe if the cop was doing his job as an SRO and not as a traffic director, he wouldn’t have gotten hit,” Wellington wrote in the post, using an acronym for school resource officer. “The Village of Wellington pays for crossing guards, and he works for the School District of Palm Beach County. His job is to protect the entire school campus and our children; not worry about getting cars out of the parking lot as he does every day.”

Alligator attacks are on the rise in Florida” via Daniel Figueroa of The Associated Press — Humans may be to blame. According to Inside Science, a science news publication, gator bites in Florida “have been on the rise, increasing from an average of just one every three years between 1988 and 1999 to about seven per year between 2000 and 2016.” Statistics from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission differ, but still, show an increase in the number of alligator bites suffered by humans since gators came off the endangered species list. Bites have increased from about six per year from 1971 through 1986 to about 10 per year from 1987 through 2017, according to FWC data. As population and development have increased in Florida, scientists say, so too have alligator attacks.

Happening today — The VISIT FLORIDA Executive Committee holds a conference call, 11 a.m. Call-in number: 1-888-354-0094. Code: 699912#.


Marco Rubio: Trump-Mexico trade deal leaves Florida farmers ‘out in the cold’” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — Rubio said he would have a hard time supporting the new trade pact Trump announced this week with Mexico. He joined Sen. Nelson in decrying the pact, which is intended to either replace or modify the North American Free Trade Agreement, commonly known as NAFTA. “They may not need our vote in order to get this thing reauthorized,” Rubio told CBS Miami. “But I’m going to have a big problem with a deal if it doesn’t take care of Florida’s farmers and bring some justice and fairness to this process. And frankly, I’ll be deeply disappointed because it will have left behind a key group in an important state.” Rubio said Florida growers had been a target for Mexico for years.


Jose Oliva: Confirm Brett Kavanaugh” via Florida Politics — If, as Justice Antonin Scalia said, “Our appointment and confirmation process has … evolved into a mini-plebiscite on the meaning of the Constitution whenever a new justice is to be seated,” then our freedoms, our Republic, and our Constitution could not be in better hands than with Kavanaugh. On paper, Judge Kavanaugh is eminently qualified. You would be hard-pressed to find a more qualified individual to serve on the nation’s highest court. But the reasons to confirm him go far beyond a stellar resume … a Justice faithful to the text of the Constitution will ensure our liberties and respect the freedoms that we all cherish. What more can we ask of a judge or any man?

Joe Henderson: Voters in the middle, where is your candidate?” via Florida Politics — There were about 3.5 million ballots cast last week in Florida’s primary election. That’s less than 30 percent of the state’s approximately 13 million voters, and those are the people who gave the rest of Florida voters this choice. Even more, nearly 3.5 million Florida voters have no party affiliation at all. Where does that leave people who might like some, but not all, of a candidate’s agenda? Maybe you support the Second Amendment but think that maybe after Parkland and other school and public massacres we ought to have tighter regulations. An early Public Policy Polling survey, commissioned by Democrats, showed Gillum with a decisive edge in voters with no party affiliation, probably as a reaction to the Trumpian controversies. I wouldn’t read much into that, though, because the full-blown attack ads haven’t started yet from either side. Those ads will be directly aimed at you, voters in the middle. They will leave you feeling there is no candidate you can fully support. Maybe there isn’t. The middle ground can be a lonely place.

Gary Yordon: An open letter to Gillum, from a lapsed supporter” via the Tallahassee Democrat — I didn’t vote for you, Andrew. I voted for Gwen Graham. I voted for Gwen because I believed she gave us the best chance to take back the governor’s mansion. I believe deeply in the issues you’ve embraced. I think public dollars should go to public schools. I believe health care is a right, not a privilege. I know helping less fortunate people is a strength, not a weakness. I believe our immigration policy is a national disgrace. Your bold stance on these issues wasn’t the problem. It wasn’t you, Andrew. It was me. The timing of your bus tour was impeccable. You struck just the right chord at just the right time … for the significance of your stunning victory to resonate throughout Florida, an extraordinary helping of humble should be your guiding light. A blessing isn’t less of a blessing because it was derived from hard work. And now, with all the rights of an admitted Johnny-come-lately, I selfishly want you to be there for me, despite my not being there for you. So if you wouldn’t mind cracking open that bus door, I’d sure like to grab a seat.


Appointed — Phillip Byrd and Kathy Sillings to the Northwest Florida Regional Housing Authority.

Former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney to ramp up lobbying work” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The next move of former Jacksonville Mayor and University of North Florida President Delaney: work with a strategic alliance between Rogers Towers and the Fiorentino Group. The Fiorentino Group has clients across the state, though Jacksonville-based groups make up the bulk of their client sheet. Delaney, who was also Jacksonville’s general counsel before becoming Mayor in 1995, brings a unique understanding to the game, having functioned at the highest level of city government and as a university president. After working only a couple of days a week through the summer to get acclimated, Delaney will ramp up his work Sept. 1. “Having fun,” he said. “What finally hit me last week was that I have no management responsibility for the first time in 35 years.”

John Delaney ramps up the move into the influence sphere.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

French Brown IV, Dean Mead: Motion Picture Association of America

Ken Granger, Capital City Consulting: Avesis Incorporated

Jerry Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Southeast Renewable Fuels

Bill Rubin, Melissa AkesonChristopher FinkbeinerHeather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: OX Bottom Mortgage, Sandco

Kenneth Wright, Shutts & Bowen: Speer Land Trust

Spotted — At the Florida Senate Republican fundraiser at the U.S. Open last week: Chris ClarkJim DaughtonHayden DempseyCharlie DudleyChris DudleySonya and Jeff HartleyMarva JohnsonJeff JohnstonRon LaFaceLogan McFaddinAndy PalmerAli and Chris SchoonoverTim StapletonHeather TurnbullKatie Webb.

— ALOE —


Happy birthday from the weekend to Rep. Emily Slosberg. Celebrating today are Rep. Evan Jenne and the smartest guy in any room, Ryan Tyson of Associated Industries of Florida.

Film on Gary Hart scandal — and the Miami reporters who caused it — premieres” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald — “The Front Runner,” the new movie starring Hugh Jackman that premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, wants to take audiences back to a time — specifically the spring of 1987 — when simple adultery was still enough to bring down a presidential candidate. Jackman stars as former U.S. Senator Gary Hart, who seemed destined to clinch the Democratic presidential nomination after declaring his candidacy in April 1987. But a report published in the Miami Herald less than a month later claimed Hart had spent the night with an unidentified woman in his Capitol Hill townhouse. The ensuing firestorm resulted in the end of Hart’s presidential campaign — and spurred a national debate about whether the sex lives of public figures were fair game for the press. The movie, directed by Jason Reitman (“Up In the Air,” “Thank You For Smoking”), is based on Matt Bai’s 2014 book “All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid.” The book argued the Miami Herald’s reportage marked the start of a decline in standards in newspaper journalism that quickly spread to magazines and television.

To view the trailer for “The Front Runner,” click on the image below:


Savour replacing Avenue Eat & Drink in Tallahassee — Local restaurateur Drew McLeod and Chef Brian Knepper have announced their first collaboration, Savour “Taste and See,” coming to the former Avenue Eat + Drink location on 115 E. Park Ave. in Tallahassee. The concept plans to bring a chic and eclectic dining experience to the downtown by taking classic fare and adding a locally sourced flair. Savour will strive to create organic, from scratch dining options all while driving price value … The bar will have a thoroughly curated wine list and an assortment of other spirits. Savour is looking to open its doors to the public on October 8.

Why Universal needs more hotel rooms” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — The opening of Universal’s Aventura Hotel gives Universal more than 6,000 rooms on its property, a 250 percent increase since 2013. Expanding too rapidly doesn’t appear to be an issue. Paul Sexton, vice president of Orlando hotel services firm HREC Investment Advisors, says the real issue is other developers aren’t building or expanding hotels fast enough to match the growth in visitors to Orlando, making it a necessity for Universal to expand on its own. “If Universal did not have those additional rooms, they would have a problem getting people into their parks,” Sexton told Orlando Rising. Research on the Orlando hotel market paints a similar picture. Hotel industry data obtained by Orlando Rising found the number of hotel rooms in the market has increased by only 1.1 percent between July 2013 and July 2018. But the number of visitors to the city has jumped by more than 26 percent since 2013, according to Visit Orlando, the city’s tourism association.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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