Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.19.18
Colorful beach chairs on caribbean coast

Colorful beach chairs

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

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

Just a reminder: The Florida Chamber Foundation will hold this year’s Future of Florida Forum on Sept. 26-27, or next Wednesday and Thursday, in Orlando. (If you’re like us, you’ve probably already booked your room.)

It’s where “Florida’s business community will gather elected officials, legislators, and industry leaders to discuss the issues that matter most to Florida’s long-term future,” according to a news release.

Plans include the release of the ‘Florida 2030’ report, which “seeks to outline a blueprint for Florida’s future and how our state addresses challenges and opportunities,” and the 2018 Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Rick Scott speaks at the Future of Florida Forum 2016.

Also, there’ll be a two-day Florida Healthcare Workforce Session, “where we will cover discussions on the trends impacting health care practitioners, from workforce shortages, aging populations, coming innovations and technological advances, laws and regulations around residency requirements.”

Other topics “range from talent and workforce needs, current and future cybersecurity risks, to paving pathways to economic prosperity, Florida’s future water needs, autonomous vehicles, (and) building up women in leadership.”

Invited speakers include Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jimmy Patronis, GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, GOP Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell, DEO chief Cissy Proctor, and many more.

The event will be at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando. Click here for the full agenda, and email [email protected] for more information.


@MitchellReports: It is difficult to rewatch the questioning of #AnitaHill by the late GOP Sen Arlen Specter @Maddow now playing. I cannot imagine what it was like for her to live through that hearing and its aftermath. The most searing experience I ever had as a congressional correspondent

—@DrNealDunn: Happy 71st Birthday to the @usairforce. Thank you to the men and women in our United States Air Force and thank you to those who serve at Tyndall Air Force Base in the Second District for pledging your lives to serve and protect this great nation.

@StephenKing: In 2012, Richard “Red Tide Rick” Scott cut $700 million from the Florida Water Management District. Now the Gulf Coast is suffering what may be the worst red tide bloom in history. Empty beaches and restaurants. Trump loves this guy. Do you?

—@MarcACaputo: I know it’s fashionable for ignorant people to scream “fake news” when the facts make them uncomfortable, but let’s be utterly clear on this point: The DeSantis campaign is not denying that Trump is miffed.

@SteveLemongello: More than 60 percent of Trump voters believe “much fewer” than 3,000 people died after Maria, 27 percent “not sure.” Only 10 percent or less of Trump voters believe the 2,975 number accepted by Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis and other Florida Republicans

—@JamesGrantFL: No matter how attractive somebody can make “Medicare for All” or “Universal Healthcare” sound … What they’re really selling you is an oligarchy to replace a monarchy. It’s not more empowerment for you the consumer; it’s actually much less.

@JeffSchweers: A primary night tweet by the City of Tallahassee congratulating Mayor @AndrewGillum for winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination does not violate the city’s ethics code, the independent ethics board ruled.

@JebBushWendy Grant was an exceptional woman and passionate leader who had a heart for service and for people. Columba and I were lucky to count her as our friend for so many years. Prayers and hugs for all of Wendy’s friends tonight.

—@RepLoisFrankel: Wishing all those who observe #YomKippur an easy & meaningful fast. On this Day of Atonement, let’s take the time to reflect on the challenges we face and recommit to working together towards a flourishing, more peaceful world for all people. G’mar Hatima Tova.

—@CallTallahassee: The Syracuse performance lands Florida State at number 22 of The Bottom 25 and last in the ACC Atlantic. Meanwhile, a solid Northern Illinois University victory over CMU bounced the Huskies off The Bottom 25 and into first in the MAC West. Huskies at Doak Saturday WOOF WOOF


First general election mail ballots go out — 3; First day of fall — 3; Future of Florida Forum — 7; Government shutdown — 11; FSU vs. UM football game — 17; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 20; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 34; MLB World Series begins — 35; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 36; Early voting begins — 38; Halloween — 42; General Election Day — 48; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 62; Thanksgiving — 64; Black Friday — 65; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 69; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 146; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 167; 2020 General Election — 776.


Matthew Van Name, who most recently worked for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine’s political committee, is now Deputy Director for For Our Future Florida. The progressive advocacy group recently announced it reached a new milestone in its canvassing efforts across the state, having knocked on more than 500,000 doors. Van Name also has been U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and was formerly the Florida political director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). For Our Future Florida describes itself as “a grassroots organization that advocates for policies that benefit families and communities in Florida, including creating shared economic prosperity, building strong public schools, addressing climate change, supporting racial justice, and protecting immigrant communities.”

In other news, just in case you missed it, Democratic smart guy Christian Ulvert is now working for Tallahassee Mayor Gillum’s campaign to become the first Democrat elected Governor since Lawton Chiles. Ulvert, who happened to be a senior adviser to Levine, will handle Spanish-language media for Gillum. Levine finished third in this year’s Democratic primary for Governor; former Congresswoman Gwen Graham came in second.


Donald Trump rails on Ron DeSantis over Hurricane Maria flap” via Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The president has told close associates in recent days that he views DeSantis — who won his Aug. 28 GOP primary thanks to Trump’s strong support — as profoundly disloyal for distancing himself from the president’s assertion that Democrats inflated the Hurricane Maria death toll for political purposes. “Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,” the DeSantis campaign said last week after Trump tweeted that “3000 people did not die” in Puerto Rico. Trump’s comments unnerved Republicans across Florida, which is home to a burgeoning Puerto Rican population, leading DeSantis and other Republicans — including Senate hopeful Scott — to publicly break with the president’s remark.

Trouble in paradise? Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump don’t see eye-to-eye on Hurricane Maria death toll numbers in Puerto Rico.

Andrew Gillum, DeSantis offer sharply different school plans” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — In a news conference in Tallahassee, Gillum defended his proposal to provide a minimum $50,000 starting salary for teachers by increasing the state corporate income tax by $1 billion. DeSantis released a detailed education plan, including a measure that would require 80 percent of school funding to be spent in classrooms and not on administration. He said the plan could help boost teacher pay. Republicans have been criticizing Gillum’s plan to increase the corporate income tax rate from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent to raise $1 billion for schools, providing money for teacher pay and early-education programs. DeSantis’ campaign policy statement said his plan would “cut bureaucratic waste and administrative inefficiency and ensure that money is being spent where it matters most.”

Assignment editors — DeSantis and running mate Jeanette Nuñez will visit the Deeper Root Academy in Central Florida, 10 a.m., 1450 Citrus Oaks Ave., Building 200, Gotha.

Now it’s a party: Gillum to attend Miami-Dade Democrats’ gala” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Miami-Dade Democratic Party has announced Gillum will appear at the group’s Blue Gala event scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29. Gillum will be joined by keynote speaker Julian Castro, rumored to be a potential 2020 presidential candidate, along with several other Democratic lawmakers. The Blue Gala serves as an annual fundraiser for the Miami-Dade Democrats. The group pledges that “every dollar raised will go to get-out-the-vote for Gillum, Bill Nelson, and Democrats up and down the ballot,” according to a news release on the event.


Rick Scott: Brett Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford ‘must receive a fair hearing’” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — Scott, trying to unseat Nelson in November, weighed in this morning on Ford‘s accusation that Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her as a high school student in the early 1980s. “Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious,” Scott said in a statement that also rips California Sen. Diane Feinstein and Nelson. “The Judiciary committee needs to seek the truth here,” Scott said. “Truth is not partisan, and truth is more important than politics. These very serious allegations should have been investigated months ago. But Democrat Senator Feinstein pulled a slick Washington trick and intentionally hid this from the Senate during the hearings. Dr. Ford must receive a fair hearing; her allegations are very serious.”

Rick Scott says Brett Kavanagh, accuser deserve a “fair hearing.”

Court keep Scott records ruling on hold” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A Tallahassee appeals court agreed to extend a hold on a Sept. 5 ruling that mandated Scott provide the requested information to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been wrangling with the Scott administration over a canceled Medicaid contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The 1st District Court of Appeal also agreed to expedite Scott’s challenge to Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson’s Sept. 5 ruling that said Scott should turn over the information. The order extending a stay on Dodson’s ruling negates a move by attorneys representing the foundation to have Scott found in contempt of court and fined $1,000 for each day he didn’t provide the information. “This earned him a brief reprieve from the contempt,” said Tallahassee attorney Ryan Andrews who is handling the public-records case for the foundation.

Ann Scott’s loan to accountant for Governor’s blind trust may have broken state law” via Dan Christensen of — Ann Scott’s loan to Cathy Gellatly was disclosed in late July in a federal financial disclosure form filed by Scott as he runs for the U.S. Senate … the loan could have been for as much as $250,000. Gellatly is an accountant at Hollow Brook Wealth Management, the New York boutique investment firm that acts as the trustee of Gov. Scott’s blind trust. Previously, Gellatly was for more than a decade the corporate accountant for Scott’s private investment firm, Richard L. Scott Investments. Florida’s qualified blind trust law prohibits public officers from attempting to influence the management of assets in the blind trust. Likewise, the law generally forbids public officers or persons with a “beneficial interest” in the blind trust, in this case Ann Scott, from having “any direct or indirect communication with the trustee with respect to the trust.”

—“Gov. Scott cancels Naples campaign event after red tide protesters confront him in Venice” via Lisa Conley of the Naples Daily News

’Nelson? … Nelson?’ Scott calls out Bill Nelson’s absences in new ad” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The ad, titled “Empty Chair,” highlights Nelson’s numerous missed Senate Armed Services Committee meetings during his time in the U.S. Senate, and once again bashes Nelson for his lengthy political career. “Bill Nelson’s been running for office in Florida since 1972,” the ad’s narrator begins. “Can you name one thing he’s done? I’ll keep waiting … Bill Nelson votes his party line 89 percent of the time, and that’s when he bothers to show up at all. Nelson skipped 45 percent of the hearings on national security. National security! Bill Nelson doesn’t write laws; he doesn’t even show up. Bill Nelson’s chair is empty. Even when he’s in it.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Polls spell trouble for Nelson despite strong fundamentals, FiveThirtyEight saysNate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight put out a new ranking of incumbent Democratic Senators’ re-election odds, and Nelson was named the “most vulnerable” of the two dozen Dems seeking another term in November … “It might seem surprising that the fundamentals calculation regards Florida’s Bill Nelson as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, since Florida is quite purple and there are Democrats up for re-election in some genuinely red states” … “Nelson has a very good challenger in Florida Gov. Rick Scott; one way our model accounts for candidate quality is by looking at the highest elected office the opponent has held, with races against current or former governors or senators falling into the top category.” FiveThirtyEight also notes the fundraising advantage Scott has given himself by whipping out his checkbook, and states that despite the “fundamentals” of the race — non-polling indicators such as fundraising totals, past margins of victory and incumbency — showing Nelson up 7 points over Scott, only focusing on the polls tells a different story. FiveThirtyEight’s current polls-only estimate predicts Nelson will lose by a tenth of a point on Election Day.

Progressive group pledges support for Nelson, Lauren Baer” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Progressive Turnout Project (PTP), a Chicago-based group aimed at helping elect Democratic candidates, says it will put money toward digital get-out-the-vote efforts supporting the campaigns of Nelson and Baer. The group has raised nearly $14 million this election cycle according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Now, PTP says it will contribute $1.8 million of that to get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts, which will help a total of 31 candidates nationwide. Alex Morgan, the organization’s executive director, says they believe they can make an impact in what could be a pair of close races.


Nancy Soderberg releases 2 ads focusing on health care” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In the first, “Hung Up,” Soderberg talks about her difficulties in getting health insurance with diabetes, considered a pre-existing condition. “I helped start the conversation that brought peace to Northern Ireland, and I was one of the first to say, ‘Let’s get bin Laden,’” Soderberg says. “But when I called numerous insurance companies looking for health coverage, they hung up on me because I have a pre-existing condition. That shouldn’t happen. The second ad, “Unavailable,” criticizes the 2017 Republican health care plan, which would have repealed the Affordable Care Act, and ties it to her Republican opponent Michael Waltz, who said he backs repealing the ACA.

To view “Hung Up,” click on the image below:

To view “Unavailable,” click on the image below:

Stephanie Murphy touts congressional pay-freeze, no-budget no-pay bills” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A new television commercial being launched by Democratic U.S. Rep. Murphy touts legislation she backed to tighten accountability in Congress by restricting pay and future lobbying careers. “We have got to hold Congress accountable,” she declares. The 30-second commercial, “Accountable,” includes video of Murphy first teaching responsibility to her children, saying they can’t get their allowances if they don’t first do their chores. And then she draws a parallel with Congress, saying members must be held accountable for their jobs. The commercial is running in the Orlando market, and a 15-second version will launch as a digital ad on the internet.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Pasco Sheriff endorses Gus Bilirakis — Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco is endorsing Tarpon Springs Republican Bilirakis for re-election to Congress. “Gus is a strong advocate for our Veterans and law enforcement,” said Nocco. “Whenever we need him, we know Gus is there for us. I enthusiastically endorse Gus and look forward to continuing to work with him to make sure Pasco County is a safe place to live, work and raise a family.” Bilirakis responds: “Sheriff Nocco is a proven leader who has made the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office one of the best in the nation. I am humbled by his support, appreciate his friendship and look forward to continuing our partnership to keep our neighborhoods safe.”

To view Nocco’s video endorsement, click on the image below:

Tracye Polson takes off gloves in new HD 15 ad” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — “What side is lobbyist Wyman Duggan on?” That’s the question posed by the first television ad from Republican Duggan’s opponent in the House District 15 general election, Democrat Polson. The 30-second spot contends that “Duggan worked to sell JEA, raising rates, costing the city millions every year” and “wants politicians to appoint our school board.” Polson, meanwhile, draws a contrast to that world of influence with her upbeat narration, noting she stands “with students, who deserve great public schools; with an elected school board, with law enforcement … and as a cancer survivor and health professional, with patients … My opponent can stand with the other lobbyists. I’ll always stand with Florida’s families.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

David Shapiro wants legal cannabis for veterans” via Billy Cox of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Democrat Shapiro, the Siesta Key attorney running against incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan, favors removing marijuana’s Schedule 1 status, which equates the plant with heroin and as something more dangerous than Schedule II cocaine. Buchanan says more research into medical marijuana is warranted, and he does not support changing cannabis’ status. “I think he didn’t hear the stories of the people who were at that symposium you held the other day,” said Shapiro, referring to Buchanan’s position and a Sept. 6 panel discussion stemming from “Warriors Rise Up.” “And the fight of the families of these individuals who went to war for us, and come home and actually take their lives — 20 a day. And the stories are the same across the country. That’s a study in and of itself.”

Shapiro’s son has long rap sheet and a history of racist comments” via Florida Politics — the register of 28-year-old attorney Adam Shapiro’s moving violations ranges from the mundane, such as not having his driver’s license or proof of insurance on hand during traffic stops, to the troubling. In 2012, Shapiro was cited for driving with an open container, and in 2014 he crashed his car while fumbling with his cellphone, causing property damage and injury. Shapiro’s social media history, however, is simply sickening. Among the veritable flotilla of Facebook faux pas are posts where he uses the term “wigger” — a malapropos portmanteau to describe white people who “act black” — as well as other words that require far less linguistic analysis. There’s a diatribe where Shapiro expresses hatred for non-English speakers and another where it’s unclear whether he intended to belittle the LGBTQ community or to broadcast an earnest proposition via an entirely inappropriate medium.

José Oliva, Rob Bradley committees start September strong” via the News Service of Florida — Oliva’s committee, known as Conservative Principles for Florida, reported raising $75,000 from Sept. 1 through Sept. 7 and had nearly $943,000 in cash on hand at the end of the period. Included was a $50,000 contribution from the MHD Committee for Responsive Government, which is linked to the Metz, Husband & Daughton legal and lobbying firm. Bradley’s committee, known as Working for Florida’s Families, reported raising $66,000 from Sept. 1 through Sept. 7 and had about $783,000 in cash on hand at the end of the period. The Bradley committee received contributions including $25,000 from the health insurer Florida Blue.

Keith Perry under fire for Facebook ads on Gainesville utility” via Florida Politics — Gainesville voters will decide in November whether to change the governance of their municipal utility and Republican Sen. Perry of Gainesville has been using advertising — some say deceptively — in a push to get the measure passed. The utility, Gainesville Regional Utilities, is currently under the control of the Gainesville City Commission, but the referendum would transfer its governance to a new panel. That would include five members, appointed by the City Commission, who could serve up to three four-year terms. The measure has been panned by city commissioners, as well as the area’s only Democratic member of the Legislature, Alachua state Rep. Clovis Watson. Despite the opposition, Perry has made posts on social media claiming that Gainesville City Commissioners Harvey Ward and Adrian Hayes-Santos had joined him in backing the referendum.

Tweet, tweet:

GOP leaders boost Dana Young re-election bid” via the News Service of Florida — Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano of Bradenton and Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson of Trilby, funneled $100,000 in early September to the effort to re-elect Sen. Young in one of the most closely watched legislative races of the year … The Galvano-led political committee Innovate Florida contributed $75,000, while the Simpson-led committee Jobs for Florida added $25,000. The contributions, dated Sept. 6, went to the committee Friends of Dana Young. Young is battling House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in Hillsborough County’s Senate District 18.

Happening today — Republican Ben Albritton and Democrat Catherine Price, running against each other for Senate District 26, will appear at the Tiger Bay Club of Polk County, 11:30 a.m., Bartow Civic Center, 2250 South Floral Ave., Bartow. Albritton and Price a running to replace state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring in the district that covers DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk counties.

Happening tonight:Pizzo fundraiser 9.19.2018

Anna Eskamani TV ad links tribute to mother and commitment to health care” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The 30-second television commercial, “Fighting for Our Health,” starts out covering much of the same ground as the biographical video Eskamani launched last week on the internet, telling of her mother Nasrin Vishkaee Eskamani‘s story working hard at multiple minimum-wage jobs and then getting cancer, battling it for five years but dying when Anna Eskamani was 13. The commercial will air on cable in the Orlando market. “Countless families like mine struggle to pay for health care,” Eskamani says, as the video turns from reflections on her mother to shots of the daughter in campaigning mode. “So I won’t stop fighting for quality, affordable health insurance, including coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Brad Drake plans 2020 House re-election bid” via the News Service of Florida — State Rep. Drake, a Eucheeanna Republican, opened a campaign account to run again in House District 5, which is made up of Holmes, Jackson, Walton, Washington and part of Bay counties … Drake joined Rep. Sam Killebrew, of Winter Haven, Rep. Ben Diamond, of St. Petersburg, Rep. Michael Grant, of Port Charlotte, and Rep. Evan Jenne, of Dania Beach, in opening accounts to run again in 2020.


State red tide funding soars to $13 million” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Scott is putting another $4 million toward red tide funding for local communities impacted by the outbreak. The announcement brings the total Florida Department of Environmental Protection funding available so far to $13 million. The DEP has already awarded $1.3 million to Pinellas County and more than $1.5 million to Sarasota County and last month declared a state of emergency. “In Florida, we know that when red tide makes it to our shores, as it has for generations, this naturally-occurring algae can have unexpected and prolonged impacts on our Gulf Coast,” Scott said in a statement.

Florida prison rejects letters from reporter asking about strike activity” via Ben Conarck of the Florida Times-Union — Officials at Okeechobee Correctional Institution, northwest of Port St. Lucie, rejected the letters, which asked questions about whether inmates had participated in strike activity and if they were retaliated against for doing so. The letters were determined to pose a “threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives of the correctional system, or the safety of any person,” according to a form included in the returned mail. After reviewing the correspondence, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections today said the letters were “rejected in error.” The letters were sent in Times-Union-marked envelopes and clearly marked as being from a reporter. The Times-Union wrote to the two men because their names appeared in mailings about the September 2016 prison strikes.

Officials at Okeechobee Correctional Institution refused a letter from Florida Times-Union reporter Ben Conarck. (Image via Florida Times-Union)

Regulators renew emergency rule on race-dog drug testing” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Gambling regulators on Tuesday again said they were “renewing” an emergency rule that allows them to continue testing racing greyhounds for drugs, including cocaine. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, posted a “notice of renewal” in Tuesday’s Florida Administrative Register. The emergency rule on “Procedures for Collecting Samples from Racing Greyhounds” was adopted late last December. In Florida, 11 tracks still conduct live dog racing. An administrative law judge struck down the testing program, saying it was invalid.

Spotted: State Reps. Chris Sprowls, Heather Fitzenhagen, Brad Drake and Holly Raschein this past weekend at the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association’s Annual Conference at the Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg.

Miami Beach gets backing in minimum wage fight” via the News Service of Florida — Former Florida State University President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte and a group of law professors from across the country received approval to file a brief at the Florida Supreme Court backing Miami Beach in a legal battle about a local minimum wage. The Supreme Court approved a request by D’Alemberte, a former dean of the FSU College of Law, and the professors to file a friend-of-the-court brief. Miami Beach is asking the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that blocked a local minimum wage from taking effect. The city in 2016 approved an ordinance that had been planned to set the minimum wage in the city at $10.31 an hour this year, with annual incremental increases to $13.31 an hour in January 2021. But opponents, including the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, challenged the legality of the local minimum wage.

What Courtney Coppola is reading: “Louisiana regulators remove patient cap on marijuana doctors” via The Associated Press — Amid concerns about bottlenecks to access, Louisiana regulators agreed Monday to loosen limits on how many medical marijuana patients doctors authorized to dispense cannabis can treat. Louisiana’s State Board of Medical Examiners voted 8-1 to remove a cap established in 2016 that limited physicians to 100 medical marijuana patients. People seeking the treatment pushed elimination of the cap, worried they would have difficulty getting the medication when it becomes available later this year, estimated around November. Dr. Victor Chou, who has opened a medical marijuana clinic in Baton Rouge, reached the patient cap months ago and said hundreds of people are on his waiting list: “Many of them feel locked out because they either cannot find physicians or the physicians they find already have hit the 100-patient limit.”


After 17 years at The Times (First “St. Petersburg,” then “Tampa Bay”) and many more elsewhere in journalism, Steve Bousquet is hanging up his keyboard.

The newspaper announced Tuesday that its Tallahassee bureau chief will depart the fold after the November election. Though it’s not a retirement, his next move was not disclosed.

Times managing editor Jennifer Orsi broke the news to staff in an internal memo, saying in part that the news veteran, who turns 65 next year, “will long be remembered and impossible to replace.”

Scrum of Florida reporters, including Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet (center). (Image via Bill Cotterell/Tallahassee Democrat)

“He has helmed projects like the deep dive into Gov. Scott’s jobs agenda and exposed how Florida’s top officials used the state’s plane for private purposes,” she wrote. “He has covered elections and election tampering. As [Deputy Managing Editor for Metro, Politics & Business] Amy Hollyfield put it: Steve is ‘capable of writing any story at any time.’ ”

Bousquet’s “many television appearances hearken back to the early part of his career as a reporter for WPLG in Miami,” Orsi added. “After that, he worked for many years in South Florida and in Tallahassee for the Miami Herald, including contributing to the paper’s book on the 2000 presidential recount.”

He joined the Times in 2001 after 17 years at The Herald.

“Former Tallahassee Bureau Chief Lucy Morgan lured him away from the Herald to join us, where one day he would oversee a joint bureau partnering his current and former employers,” Orsi wrote.

Bousquet, a University of Rhode Island graduate, also got a master’s degree in history from Florida State University. He has contributed to two editions of The Almanac of Florida Politics.

Longtime Tallahassee PR man Ron Sachs has known Bousquet since the 1980s, “when we both worked in the golden-era newsroom of WPLG-Channel 10, the ABC station in Miami-Dade/Broward that was then owned by the Post-Newsweek company.” His nickname around the newsroom, playing off his last name, was “Biscuit.”

“He was a rock star from his earliest days there and throughout his storied career,” Sachs said. “He is the single best and most amazing example in the country of a crackerjack, decorated broadcast journalist who most effectively made the transition to being a kick-ass newspaper journalist.

“ … He has performed at the highest level and stayed at the top of his field — there are few others like him today,” Sachs said.


Political nonprofits must now name many of their donors under federal court ruling after Supreme Court declines to intervene” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Robert Barnes of The Washington Post — The high court did not grant an emergency request to stay a ruling by a federal judge in Washington who had thrown out a decades-old Federal Election Commission regulation allowing nonprofit groups to keep their donors secret unless they had earmarked their money for certain purposes. FEC Chairwoman Caroline Hunter said that the names of certain contributors who give money to nonprofit groups to use in political campaigns beginning Wednesday would have to be publicly reported. Hunter and other conservatives warned that the decision could have a chilling effect just as the fall midterms are heating up. “It’s unfortunate that citizens and groups who wish to advocate for their candidate will now have to deal with a lot of uncertainty less than two months before the election,” Hunter said.

Marco Rubio Twitter-shames chef ‘Salt Bae’ for feeding brutal dictator” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Rubio railed against the celebrity chef known as “Salt Bae” for posting social media videos of him obsequiously feeding lamb to Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, whose nation is reeling from a food-shortage crisis and failed-state economy. “I don’t know who this weirdo #Saltbae is, but the guy he is so proud to host is not the President of #Venezuela. He is actually the overweight dictator of a nation where 30% of the people eat only once a day & infants are suffering from malnutrition,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. About 15 minutes later, he pointed out that “this guy @nusr_ett who admires dictator @NicolasMaduro so much actually owns a steakhouse in, of all places, #Miami” — which is home to one of the nation’s largest communities of Venezuelan exiles — and the Republican Senator included the phone number and address of the Nusr-Et restaurant on Brickell Avenue. The chef — whose real name is Nusret Gökçe — moments later deleted the videos of him, clad in black and wearing sunglasses at night, gyrating his hips as he sliced lamb chops for the paunchy cigar-puffing dictator at one of his restaurants in the chef’s native Turkey. Gökçe is famous as a social media phenomenon which was the basis of a meme for the dramatic way he salts meat, giving him the nickname “Salt Bae.”

Marco Rubio blasts Chef ‘Salt Bae’ on Twitter, posting his Miami restaurant’s address and phone number.

Rubio wants Justice Department to investigate John Kerry’s recent dealings with Iran” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Kerry, the architect of the Iran Nuclear Deal that most Republicans oppose, was President Obama‘s top diplomat during the latter half of his administration. The Boston Globe reported in May that Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif more than a year after leaving office to discuss ways to keep the deal intact. In recent days, current Secretary of State and Rubio ally Mike Pompeo blasted the meetings as “beyond inappropriate,” and Trump took to Twitter to voice his displeasure.

Francis Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart vowed to fight to solve Florida water woes” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — “Just know we’re not going to rest,” said Rep. Diaz-Balart to hundreds of Realtors at an event organized by a new Water Quality Advisory Task Force created by the Naples Area Board of Realtors. Local Realtors aren’t concerned only about the environmental effects of algae blooms, but also the effects they’re having on the local economy. Some agents have seen sales and rental contracts canceled or put on hold, especially in Lee County, where blue-green algae tied to Lake Okeechobee discharges invaded the Caloosahatchee River and its canals. Now that more than $514 million in federal funding has been secured to speed up the repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, the Florida delegation can move on to other important water-related issues, such as Everglades restoration, Diaz-Balart said.

Feds fine contractors behind deadly FIU bridge collapse for ‘serious’ safety violations” via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — The contractors who designed and built the disastrous Florida International University bridge have been cited by federal authorities for several “serious” safety violations and face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. OSHA cited five companies for seven worker-safety violations, fining them a total of $86,658 in proposed penalties. The companies are designer FIGG Bridge Engineers; builder Munilla Construction Management; Bolton Perez & Associates, which provided engineering and inspection services; Structural Technologies, which specializes in post-tensioning work on bridges; and a concrete contractor, the Structural Group of South Florida. (That last company, based in Homestead, doesn’t appear to be connected in corporate records to Structural Technologies, a national firm.)


Historic midterm trends tell us … Nothing” via Doug Usher of Real Clear Politics — A quick look at House turnover in midterms since 1960 reveals one thing: uncertainty. The average midterm House loss for the sitting president’s party is 22 seats. Yet the actual numbers have been all over the map, ranging from +8 in 2002 for George W. Bush to -63 in 2010 for Obama. GDP growth was at 4.2 percent in the second quarter — the highest since 2014 — which should help Republicans, right? Yes, that’s a strong number. But looking at second-quarter GDP over the past 58 years shows no correlation to House gains or losses. Trump’s approval rating is in the low 40s — which means a blue wave is coming. Possibly — but not necessarily. When the president is sitting above 50 percent approval, his party tends to perform better — with a range of -12 to +8. None of those numbers would flip the House.

Legislators, step up and save the land and water conservation fund” via Richard King for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — During my tenure at NPS, I bore witness to natural wonders, the beauty of which is impossible to describe in words. That’s why I am increasingly troubled by reports that Congress may not act to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a vital conservation program which is set to expire on Sept. 30. Since 1966, LWCF dollars have helped protect and enhance important places in every state in our great nation, from wildlife refuges to local ball fields, and everything in between. That’s why it should come as no surprise that LWCF has enjoyed wide bipartisan support for decades — especially since the program draws absolutely no tax dollars from our pockets. Instead, LWCF invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing into communities across the country. The impacts of losing the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Florida would be nothing short of catastrophic for our lands and waters and the communities that depend on them.


Personnel note: Nick Van Der Linden takes over comm’s for Department of HealthVan Der Linden was recently named the agency’s interim Communications Director. He first joined the department in 2014 as a Public Information Specialist, his online bio says. “He had an active role in the daily operations of the media office, including the management of media inquiries and responses,” it says. Later that year, Van Der Linden stepped in as interim Deputy Press Secretary and speechwriter. He also has served as an operations manager with the Bureau of Performance Assessment and Improvement. Van Der Linden received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Auburn University in Alabama. He replaces Devin Galetta, now deputy communications director to CFO Jimmy Patronis.

ICYMI elsewhere, because this was purposefully not given to Florida Politics: “Personnel note: Steve Schale joins Tallahassee lobbying firm” — The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners on Tuesday announced the addition of Schale, a Democratic strategist and consultant. “We have admired Steve’s vast and nuanced understanding of Florida politics over the years, and we are excited to have him join our family,” said senior partner Al Cardenas, a former chair of Florida’s Republican Party. “Steve’s thoughtful and methodical approach to advocacy makes him a perfect fit for our team.” In 2008, Schale directed the Obama/Biden campaign in Florida, returning in 2012 as a Senior Advisor to the re-election, a news release said. He was a Senior Advisor and national spokesperson for the effort to draft Joe Biden for President in 2016. Today he provides advice to many clients, including companies like Walt Disney World, AT&T, State Farm, and the Florida Hospital Association.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Davis Bean, John Delaney, The Fiorentino Group: Estuary

Dean Cannon, Kirk Pepper, GrayRobinson: Cassidy Holdings

Claudia Davant, Amanda Gorman, Adams St. Advocates: Florida Afterschool Network, HealthPlan Data Solutions

Shawn Foster, Sunrise Consulting Group: City of New Port Richey

Dan Lopez: Best Buy

Jessica Love, GrayRobinson: Centene D/B/A Sunshine Health

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Kalkomey Enterprises

Jason Welty: Florida Clerks of Court Operations Corporation

Linda Chapin, Harold Mills to lead Jerry Demings transition team” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The bipartisan, 37-member team is full of leaders of Central Florida businesses and nonprofits including those from Walt Disney World, Adventist Health System, Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, Tavistock Group, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida, and Full Sail University. Also on board are some major political and public policy influence leaders such as Tim GiulianiDerek BruceAngel de la PortillaJim PughWayne Rich, and Kelly Cohen. Their focus will be to provide counsel to Demings as he lays the groundwork to reorganize the Orange County Mayor’s Office and the county administration in advance of his December swearing-in to succeed eight-year Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

— ALOE —

SeaWorld, ex-execs must pay $5M to settle ‘Blackfish’ claim” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — SeaWorld and two former executives agreed to pay more than $5 million to settle federal fraud claims that they misled investors about the negative impact the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” had on business. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed the complaint in federal court in New York as well as the proposed settlements, which are subject to court approval. The SEC’s complaint alleged SeaWorld and former CEO James Atchison made misleading and false statements or omissions in SEC filings, earnings releases, and calls about the documentary’s impact on the company’s reputation and business from December 2013 to August 2014.

Watch the first trailer for Captain Marvel, Marvel’s next big film” via Andrew Liptak of The Verge — There’s a lot of anticipation for this movie after the end of Avengers: Infinity War. During the end credits scene, we saw Nick Fury send out a message via a pager before he dissolves into dust. Before the scene ends, we get a glimpse of the screen, featuring Captain Marvel’s trademark logo. Clearly, Captain Marvel is going to play a big part in what’s to come in the next Avengers film. Earlier this month, Entertainment Weekly ran a big feature on the film, officially showing off Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) in her costume for the first time. The feature showed off some new details about the film, explaining that Danvers will already have her powers. (This won’t be an origin story.) She’s left Earth to join a team known as Starforce, which is led by a character played by Jude Law. The 1990s-set film will also feature a younger Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), and it will feature Danvers’ time as a pilot for the U.S. Air Force.

To view the trailer, click on the image below:

Happy birthday to Kate Bascom‘s dad, Mike, as well as Ali Glisson of Strategic Property Partners, the indispensable Andy Marlette, and Josh Wolf.

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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