Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.24.18

Famous lighthouse at Key Biscayne, Miami

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

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

Good Monday morning. In case you didn’t notice, the first ballots of the general election have been cast. According to the Division of Elections, four Democrats and one Republican had returned vote-by-mail ballots and that more than 1.5 million vote-by-mail ballots had been requested.

There are 43 days until Election Day, and almost all of the national polls are forecasting a wave election cycle for the Democrats. But as I wrote last week, something weird is happening in Florida. The top of the ballot is, at best, a mixed bag for Democrats with Bill Nelson tied or narrowly trailing Rick Scott and Andrew Gillum with a just-outside-the-margin-of-error over Ron DeSantis.

Down the ballot, Florida Republicans are in better shape than expected. U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo is still polling ahead of his Democratic challenger and in CD 27, the Democrat nominee, Donna Shalala, is working hard to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Meanwhile, baseline polling in the five competitive state Senate races favors the Republicans, although some Democrats, such as Amanda Murphy, are in good shape.

Expect the temperature to rise in almost every competitive race, from DeSantis vs. Gillum on down. The bulk of those vote-by-mail ballots go out next week. Campaigns have until then to define their opponents. So look for the TV ads to transition from colorful, positive spots to grainy black-and-white ones.

As for what the Big 4 campaigns — Ron DeSantis, Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson, Rick Scott — are thinking, we asked a top insider from each camp to share with us their perspective.

The DeSantis campaign believes it has Gillum right where it wants him. “He’s unknown to most of Florida voters, and once you inform them of his radical policies coupled with the ongoing investigations into City Hall in Tallahassee, his numbers drive down significantly. Even after not being touched for the majority of the (primary) campaign, a national environment that slightly favors Democrats and almost universal positive coverage of him from the national news outlets hailing him as the next Obama, he can only manage a margin of error lead. This race is going to start shifting, and it’s going to start shifting quickly.”

Gillum’s campaign says its running like the polls are flipped. “Our whole theory here is we are giving people something to vote for, not just against, and that’s not going to change from now through Election Day. The incoming enthusiasm, volunteers, and resources have been unprecedented — but we aren’t taking anything for granted. We know how close this will be — it’s Florida, after all.”

Nelson’s team feels confident after withstanding a barrage from Scott and his allies. “Scott has spent $50 million to Sen. Nelson’s $8 million and hasn’t moved the numbers. Sen. Nelson’s still up by one or two. Meantime, Scott has had the worst weeks of his campaign, having been booed out-of-town in Venice, having canceled a stop in his hometown, and getting clobbered by the Sun-Sentinel editorial. Today it was reported he made money off underwater homeowners mortgages.”

Inside Scott World, they’re relieved that “the blue wave hasn’t hit Florida” which they credit “in part due to the strength of the Scott campaign and in part due to the weakness of Bill Nelson’s lackluster campaign. Nelson has nothing to run on but the fact that he’s been there for a long time. He has no major accomplishments to his name. He excites no one. And five weeks from Election Day, no one knows where he is every day.” With an almost limitless budget, the Scott campaign will continue to pound Nelson. “It’s going to be a brutal five weeks.”

I’d really enjoy learning where you think the races stand right now. Share your opinions (in confidence) by emailing me at [email protected].

Fresh poll: Andrew Gillum leads Ron DeSantis, Bill Nelson/Rick Scott tied” via the University of North Florida — New polling of 616 likely Florida voters from the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab reveals Democrat Gillum leading and Republican DeSantis close behind, 47 to 43 percent, with 10 percent undecided. Among Democrats, 85 percent plan to vote for Gillum, 6 percent for DeSantis and 9 percent don’t know. Eleven percent of Republicans will vote for Gillum; 81 percent for DeSantis; 8 percent don’t know. As for the Senate race, incumbent Democrat Nelson is in a dead heat with Republican Gov. Scott at 45 percent each, with 8 percent unsure. Of likely Democratic voters, 78 percent say they will go for Nelson, while 9 percent for Scott; 13 percent don’t know. Among Republican respondents, 12 percent say they will vote for Nelson, 83 percent for Scott and 4 percent don’t know. Taken Sept. 17-19, the poll’s margin of error is ± 3.95 percentage points.


@RealDonaldTrump: I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!

@KattyKayBBC: I have had 3 teenage kids, I’m not sure any of them would have put a (drunken) party into their calendars. This doesn’t mean the party did or didn’t happen, or that the assault did or didn’t happen. It just means teenagers don’t tend to make a written note of everything they do.

—@ShevrinJones: As someone who was sexually abused as a teenager, it sucks to know you have to deal with the thought of what happened to you, and later have to convince ppl you’re not lying. I believe Dr. Ford!

@Griffins1991: Strive to find friendships in your life that are as supportive and loyal for you as Republicans are for sex predators and racists.

—@KevinCate: While @RealDonaldTrump is holding rallies to register insults, @MichelleObama is holding rallies to register voters. Because she knows that if we vote, we win! If we vote, we win!

—@CarrieNBC: New NBC/WSJ poll shows congressional preference among registered voters at D+12, the highest of the cycle. (52% D, 40% R).

@JuanPenalosa: Note to reporters debating a #BlueWave in FL: I encourage you to scroll through @FlaDems twitter feed then hop over to @FloridaGOP twitter. Who has the better ground game?

—@Fineout: So @FloridaGOP just sent out a release that showed 5 people protesting @AndrewGillum at a fundraiser in Broward

— @Drogonthedread: The crowd booed Donna Shalala (at the FIU vs UM game Saturday)

— @SteveSchale: Who says bipartisanship is dead? The Bipartisan @BusyBeeCaucus has its own parking spot now.


Future of Florida Forum — 2; Government shutdown — 7; FSU vs. UM football game — 12; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 16; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 29; MLB World Series begins — 31; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 31; Early voting begins — 33; Halloween — 37; General Election Day — 43; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 57; Thanksgiving — 59; Black Friday — 60; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 64; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 141; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 162; Captain Marvel release — 165; 2020 General Election — 771.


Internal GOP poll: ‘We’ve lost the messaging battle’ on tax cuts” via Sahil Kapur and Joshua Green of Bloomberg Politics — A survey commissioned by the Republican National Committee has led the party to a glum conclusion regarding Donald Trump’s signature legislative achievement: Voters overwhelmingly believe his tax overhaul helps the wealthy instead of average Americans. By a 2-to-1 margin — 61 percent to 30 percent — respondents said the law benefits “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle-class families,” according to the survey, which was completed on Sept. 2 by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies. The result was fueled by self-identified independent voters who said by a 36-point margin that large corporations and rich Americans benefit more from the tax law — a result that was even more lopsided among Democrats. Republican voters said by a 38-point margin that the middle class benefits more.

—“House control edges toward Democrats — CBS News poll” via CBS News

—“Fox News poll: Health care boosts Democrats in upcoming midterm elections” via Dana Blanton of Fox News

—“NBC News/WSJ poll: Democrats hold the advantage in November’s elections” via Mark Murray of NBC News


DeSantis calls Gillum ‘far-left’ at Sarasota rally” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — With shouts of “lock him up” ringing out and a contingent from the far-right “Proud Boys” group looking on in the crowd, … DeSantis ripped into his Democratic opponent Saturday as “a guy who has never met a tax he wouldn’t hike.” … The Republican Party of Sarasota organized the rally for DeSantis. Sarasota GOP Chairman Joe Gruters said he does not know the Proud Boys. “I don’t know anything about them,” he said. “My thing is love your neighbor. There’s no place for hate in the party.” Gruters added that the chants of “lock him up” regarding Gillum were inappropriate. … “This is the same group who attacked us in the primary,” said DeSantis communications director Stephen Lawson. “To think we have any affiliation with this group is absurd. We had a great event today, and the fact that this is what the press wants to focus on is ridiculous.”

A contingent from the far-right Proud Boys group attended a rally for Ron DeSantis on Sunday. Photo credit: Zac Anderson.

— “In Sarasota, DeSantis promises to monitor how polluters feed red tide” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

— “DeSantis: Environmental records differ on climate change, algae blooms” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm

What did DeSantis do during his tour in Iraq?” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times — Few details have been divulged about DeSantis’ time in Iraq … He arrived in the fall of 2007 as part of “the surge” of nearly 30,000 U.S. troops, whose mission was to quell insurgencies that turned cities like Fallujah into bloody battle zones. DeSantis helped ensure the missions of Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets in the Western Euphrates River Valley were planned according to the rule of law and that captured detainees were humanely treated, said his commander at the time. It was up to DeSantis, the lone lawyer with the Judge Advocate General Corps., or JAG, to not only assure these men were treated humanely and interrogated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and U.S. military regulations, but to make sure that, when warranted, they were handed off to the proper legal authorities in Iraq for prosecution in that country’s nascent judicial system.

Team DeSantis announces new stats and staff” via Florida Politics — Since Sept. 1, Team DeSantis has made more than 100,000 phone calls and knocked on more than 40,000 doors to spread the word for the Ponte Vedra Congressman’s campaign. The team’s “multimillion-dollar field program” also saw them add another half-dozen directors to handle various aspects of the general election campaign. Samantha Mims has been hired on as data director; Patrick Johnson is the new director of advance; Tyler Russel was named surrogate director; Courtney Veatch will direct the campaign’s Election Day operations; and Peter Cuderman and Cody Hanshaw will each oversee a team of deputies in their roles as coalitions director and field director, respectively.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will visit Performance Feeders Inc. joined by members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), 9:30 a.m., 251 Dunbar Ave., Oldsmar. Then, the Republican gubernatorial candidate will appear at the West Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, 3 p.m., 401 N. Flagler Dr., West Palm Beach.

Tweet, tweet:

GOP governors pour more money into Florida” via the News Service of Florida — The Republican Governors Association funneled another $2.41 million to Florida … Between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, the association put the money into “Florida Facts,” a type of entity known as an electioneering communications organization. Florida Facts during the same time frame spent $2.51 million, with most of the money going to California-based Target Enterprises, LLC for television ads. The Republican Governors Association in early August also put $2.45 million into Florida Facts, which during the same period spent $2.35 million.

New GOP website blasts Gillum for ‘lobbyist slush fund’” via Florida Politics — The Republican Party of Florida launched, a website that calls on Gillum to “tell the truth about his luxury Costa Rica vacation in 2016,” as well as a “suspicious” $15,000 deposit. “Ask yourself this question … would you trust an elected official that has a suspicious $15,000 deposit made into his personal account?” RPOF Chair Blaise Ingoglia said. Earlier this month, Gillum’s campaign unintentionally released personal bank statements which show Gillum receiving a $15,000 deposit during a period under investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics. The bank statement in question covers April 21 to May 23, 2016, during which Gillum took a questionable May 2016 trip to Costa Rica.

Fact-checking Gillum’s claim that he was sued by NRA and gun lobby over Tallahassee ordinance” via Miriam Valverde of PolitiFact Florida — Gillum said that the NRA and the gun lobby sued him “all because in my city we refused to repeal an ordinance which said you couldn’t shoot guns in city parks.” Gillum was among Tallahassee elected officials sued by two gun rights groups for not repealing a decades-old ordinance restricting the use of firearms in city parks. The local ordinance had been deemed null and void by state law and not been enforced. The NRA supported the groups and filed an amicus brief, but it was not a formal party in the litigation. Other gun rights groups were the plaintiffs. Gillum’s statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. We rate it “Mostly True.”

Gillum pays extra taxes on his Tallahassee home, records show” via The Associated Press — A review of property and tax records shows that Gillum is paying extra taxes when he doesn’t need to. The Tallahassee mayor has failed to claim a homestead exemption on a nearly 3,200-square-foot home he owns with his wife … When asked about it this week, Gillum was unaware he had not claimed an exemption for the house he bought for more than $400,000 in late 2014. “Is that right?” Gillum said. “I need to find out if that’s the case. I should be taking advantage of it.” The oversight is unusual since records show that Gillum had received a homestead exemption for a decade on his previous home located a mile away … Gillum paid about $500 more in taxes last year because he did not file for the exemption.

Dade teacher’s union endorses Gillum — Gillum is receiving the endorsement and support of the United Teachers of Dade, a union representing over 30,000 teachers and education support professionals. In its approval, the union cited Gillum’s commitment to protecting teachers and ensuring Floridians have access to quality education. “After two decades of failed education reform that have hurt Florida’s kids, communities, and placed our education system 45th in the nation, it’s time for change. Andrew Gillum understands that education is the cornerstone of democracy and a strong economy. We need a Governor that fights for everyone, especially our most vulnerable. Our kids deserve the best, let’s give them Andrew Gillum” said United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats.

—“’Moms for Gillum’ rally in Orlando” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel

—“This Gainesville political dynasty introduced Gillum to politics” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times

Happening today — Gillum will appear at a rally with the Human Rights Campaign, SAVE and Equality Florida, 2:30 p.m., SAVE headquarters, 1951 N.W. Seventh Ave., Miami.


Falling homeowner rates in Florida cloud Scott’s campaign message” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — From the soaring pre-recession days, when easy credit pushed housing numbers to new highs, the percentage of Florida households owning homes has now plunged to its worst level ever seen, with data going back more than three decades. The drop in home-owning may be a reality check in a state where Scott’s campaign to unseat three-term Democratic Nelson is anchored on the governor’s success at sparking job growth and cutting unemployment after entering office in the depths of the recession.

New Scott ad attacks ‘No Show’ Nelson for ‘three-day workweek’ — A new ad from the Scott campaign claims that as Republican candidates nationwide struggle to hold back the “blue wave,” Scott is surging ahead. The ad notes that the blue wave “hasn’t hit Florida,” due partly to the strength of the Scott campaign and partly because of the “weakness of Bill Nelson’s lackluster campaign.” As a narrator says in the 30-second spot: “46 years in politics, but Nelson’s never held a real job,” and that Nelson was absent for national security hearings 21 percent of the time.”

To view “No Show,” click on the image below:


Hillary Clinton-backed super PAC targets Florida minorities in $3.7M ad campaign” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The super PAC that backed Clinton announced it’s trying to boost African-American and Hispanic turnout through a campaign on health care, minimum wage and what it calls Florida’s “racist ‘stand your ground’ law. Priorities USA’s support of Nelson and Gillum’s campaign for governor is crucial to Democratic efforts in Florida … Democrats are slightly less concerned with African-American turnout this election because Gillum is expected to drive turnout as the first black Democratic Party nominee in the state’s history. Still, apathy among young voters of any color has bedeviled the party as well, and to that end, one of Priorities USA’s commercials features a young black man talking into the camera as if he’s Face Timing the audience on his smartphone.

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

To view “Bill Knows,” click on the image below:

Spending on controversial 3-pack ads nears $11M this cycle” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The ads allow statewide political parties to support three candidates in one piece of advertising, either on television or by mail. Under Florida law, including three candidates allows the party to pay for advertising to support a candidate without the spending counting as a contribution to that candidate … there are caps on how much state parties can give directly to campaigns, but those caps are not worked against when a three-pack is used … the biggest individual three-pack buy so far in 2018 has come from the Republican Party of Florida, which spent $8.9 million on three-pack ads listing DeSantis, and GOP state Reps. Dane Eagle and Byron Donalds. On the other side, the Florida Democratic Party has spent nearly $2 million on a three-pack slate that includes Gillum, CFO candidate Jeremy Ring and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried.

Personnel note: Mitchell Berger tapped as Democratic Coordinated Campaign Finance Chair — The Florida Democratic Party recently announced Berger’s appointment. He’ll help raise money for the Coordinated Campaign, a statewide effort to elect Democrats up-and-down the ballot. The South Florida attorney has been involved with the Party for years, including serving as the Democratic National Committee’s Federal Victory Chair in 2000, co-leader of the Campaign For Change in 2008 and as a member of the National Finance Board of Obama Victory Fund. Berger also was involved in litigation over the 2000 presidential recount. “I am proud to be able to contribute to the efforts the party is doing to elect bold and progressive leaders,” he said in a statement. “From Andrew Gillum‘s historic election to the re-election of Senator Bill Nelson, and with the balance of the House and Senate hanging on Florida’s efforts, the work we are doing could not be more important.”

Agriculture Commissioner candidates tangle over debate schedule” via Samantha Gross and Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Rep. Matt Caldwell challenged his Democratic opponent to debate — but Nikki Fried‘s campaign contended they’ve already offered dates to debate that the Caldwell campaign declined. In a letter to Fort Lauderdale attorney and marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried, Caldwell proposed two debates: one on CBS4 in Miami, and the second at an undetermined location. The Miami date, moderated by CBS4 reporter Jim DeFede, has not yet been set. “Voters deserve to know where we stand,” Caldwell wrote. But Fried spokesman Max Flugrath said the Democratic candidate had already offered dates to debate that had been rejected: “Nikki Fried stands ready to debate the issues and in the past week alone, agreed to two dates on which to do just that — yet on both, the Caldwell campaign declined any availability.”

Sean Shaw says he’ll scuttle marijuana smoking ban appeal if elected — The Democratic candidate for Attorney General held a news conference Friday at a Tampa marijuana dispensary. The state is now appealing a circuit judge’s decision that the ban in state law on smoking medicinal cannabis is unconstitutional. Attorney General “Pam Bondi has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars (on) ridiculous appeals that deny so many needy Floridians access to smokable marijuana, appeals that she knows are meritless and contrary to the will of the voters,” Shaw said. “ … Why are we continuing to fight a losing battle? … The day I take office, those appeals will end. It’s time to make a change and move away from the type of policies and provisions that politicians like Pam Bondi, and my (Republican) opponent Ashley Moody, offer.” Another appeal of a ruling allowing ‘home grow’ of medical marijuana also is pending.

Happening today — Shaw joins Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and members of the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America for an announcement, 10:30 a.m., Edgecomb Courthouse, 800 East Twiggs St., Tampa.

New Jimmy Patronis website attacks Jeremy Ring for ‘criminal, scandalous’ donors — details donations Ring has received from “criminal and scandalous donor friends.” The website outlines Florida Department of Law Enforcement findings on how Ring paid a Democrat operative to impersonate CFO Patronis to obtain his protected personal information. The Patronis for CFO campaign will promote the site as part of their $500,000 digital advertising campaign. Patronis’ campaign Communications Director Katie Strickland said: “Senator Jeremy Ring is risky and reckless. His connections to criminals and scandalous donors yet again reveals his stunning lack of judgment. Florida can’t risk its finances on reckless Jeremy Ring.”

Blocked from ballot? Supreme Court asked to stop amendments” via The News Service of Florida — Arguing that the measures would violate First Amendment rights, an attorney urged the Florida Supreme Court on Friday to uphold a lower-court ruling that would block three proposed constitutional amendments from going before voters in November. Joseph Little, a retired University of Florida law professor and constitutional scholar, filed a 50-page brief after Bondi’s office Monday requested that the Supreme Court allow the ballot measures to move forward. The Supreme Court has not said whether it will hold oral arguments in the case, which stems from ballot proposals approved this year by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

New polling finds high support for Amendment 4 restoring felon voting rights” via the University of North Florida — When asked whether they would vote “yes” or “no” on Amendment 4, which seeks to restore the voting rights of former felons, a poll likely voters from the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab, 71 percent of likely voters claimed they would vote “yes,” with 21 percent voting “no.” Only 8 percent were unsure. Regarding race, 82 percent of African-American respondents said they would vote “yes,” while 69 percent of white respondents and 65 percent of Hispanic respondents claimed they would vote “yes.” When asked about the most important problem in Florida, education — 20 percent — led the way, followed closely by health care and environment with 18 percent. The poll of 616 likely Florida voters taken Sept. 17-19 has a margin of error of ± 3.95 percentage points.

Happening today — Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers will hold a hearing in a lawsuit filed by Bruce Nathan, a physical therapist from Stuart who finished seventh out of eight candidates in last month’s Republican gubernatorial primary and is now trying to run as an independent, 3 p.m., Leon County Courthouse, 301 South Monroe St., Tallahassee.


Lauren Baer labels Brian Mast as ‘toxic’ on new website” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The site is called “Brian Mast Is Toxic” … Baer’s campaign says each day it will list a new “anti-environmental” vote cast by Mast during his time in Congress. “Florida 18 can’t afford an election-year environmentalist who panders to the big polluters who line his campaign coffers and only pays attention when his poll numbers are down,” said Baer. On Saturday, the site chose to highlight Mast’s vote supporting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which contained a provision opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

So says Lauren Baer, at least.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry among key Obama-era officials endorsing Baer — Baer’s campaign released three endorsements from Obama administration national security officials in Baer’s bid to unseat Mast: Kerry, former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power, and former State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan. Kerry: “Lauren Baer was a member of my Policy Planning staff from February 2013 through July 2016, during which time she was my senior adviser on human rights and international law. Lauren provided trusted counsel on a range of critical national security issues, and I witnessed firsthand her fierce advocacy for our values on the world stage. She speaks out, and she fights for what’s right. I know that Lauren is a woman of principle who will do exactly the same in Washington.” Power noted that Baer was her Senior Policy Advisor: “I watched her every day fight for what was right, promoting the kind of U.S. leadership abroad that our children can be proud of. She has the strong moral compass and the resolve to cut through Washington’s red tape and improve the lives of her constituents … she didn’t rest until she got the job done, and as a member of Congress, I know she won’t rest until Washington is working for all of us again.” Sullivan added: “Lauren Baer was an important voice on key national security issues at the State Department and will be an important voice on those same issues in Congress. Lauren joined the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff in January 2011 to serve as Secretary Clinton’s senior adviser on democracy, human rights, and international law, a role she held for the remainder of the Secretary’s tenure. At a time when the threats to our national security are grave … her knowledge, experience, and judgment will be an asset to the people of Florida’s 18th District and the country as a whole.”

Anna Eskamani promotes Republican attack mailers making her look ‘fierce AF’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Mailers alleging Eskamani curses too much won’t quiet the Democrat, who spent Saturday morning knocking on doors in House District 47 as part of a “Day of Action.” Republicans so far paint Eskamani as a vulgar potty-mouth and sent a mailer earlier this week with an “explicit materials” warning that quotes Eskamani uttering such obscenities as “F*CK the patriarchy” (asterisks included in the mailer). But so far, Eskamani has drawn attention to the materials, suggesting she sees as much benefit as damage from the attacks. She tweeted Friday: “Is it just me, or does this second attack mailer make me look fierce AF? #P*ssyPower #Flip47 #HD47 #sayfie #flapol”

Eskamani clears $420K for HD 47 bid — Eskamani has surpassed $420,000 in total fundraising in her bid to take over House District 47 from exiting Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Congress. As of Sept. 14, the Planned Parenthood exec had brought in more than $336,000 in hard money and tacked on another $39,000 in committee cash, but her overall numbers have shot up by another $45,000 last week according to a Monday press release. … “I am thrilled to have raised more than $420,000 in our bid to serve House District 47 and am honored that our donations include gifts from Democrats, Republicans, and from those with no major party affiliation,” Eskamani said. … The funding update came alongside another announcement —Team Eskamani has also knocked on more than 22,000 doors in the district, and is celebrating what they’re billing as a debate win against Republican nominee Stockton Reeves.

Tweet, tweet (and remember Berny Jacques lost to Nick DiCeglie in a tough primary):

Happening tonight:

Fitzenhagen fundraiser 9.24.2018

Emma Collum blasts ‘repugnant’ Republicans defending Brett Kavanaugh” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Collum is bashing Republican House members who signed a letter urging the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court — despite an allegation of a decades-old sexual assault. Christine Blasey Ford alleges Kavanaugh drunkenly accosted her at a party when the two were back in high school. Ford recently agreed to testify in front of senators next week regarding her allegations. Kavanaugh also said he will testify and has denied the claims by Ford. The letter from House Republicans, signed by 73 members, did not mention the allegation. Rather, Republican lawmakers emphasized Kavanaugh’s professional background and positive personal anecdotes to explain their support for his nomination. “This letter is a repugnant show of partisanship over empathy and decency,” said Collum, currently running for the open seat in House District 93.

A Broward Democrat is challenging a Republican incumbent for a Hialeah House seat” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald — A Broward County resident and political newcomer is challenging incumbent Bryan Avila … Democrat Rizwan Ahmed’s campaign is a long shot in the solidly Republican House District 111, but the 51-year-old real estate agent from Pakistan said he hopes voters will identify with his immigrant background. The district, which is more than 90 percent Hispanic, is home to many immigrants. “I believe that the voters in my district and quite frankly across the country feel ignored by their representatives,” Ahmed said. “We are running a campaign focused on the people. Their dreams, their concerns, their needs. We have listened to what they’re saying.”


Democrats say the state’s been under “20 years of Republican rule” like it’s a bad thing. 

Is it? The Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith and Langston Taylor attempt to answer by examining economic and social indicators.

“Objectively measuring changing quality of life in a state is an imperfect exercise, of course,” the two note. 

‘Tale of two Floridas’: Crime rate is low, some education indicators are promising, the unemployment rate is great, and the credit ratings are near-perfect. But, “44 percent of households can’t afford basic needs such as food, housing, child-care, health care, and transportation, according to a United Way study.” 

Tale of two candidates: Per Gillum, “We’re going to show up (and vote for change) because we’re in a state where 44 percent of the people — working people — say that they cannot make ends meet at the end of the month. We’re going to show up because we believe you should only have to work one job, and not two or three jobs, to be able to take care of yourself and your family.” Per DeSantis, “Florida has a trillion dollar economy now. We have investment coming in on a daily basis. My opponent, Andrew Gillum, would really want to stop that and reverse all the progress we’ve made.”

Across the nation: Florida ranks first in the number of people moving in and out, just like it did in 1999. The income per capita ranking, when compared to other states, has decreased. So has public school teacher salary. But violent crime rates and graduation rates have both improved. 


Raoul Cantero to represent panel and Supreme Court dispute” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission unanimously agreed to have former Supreme Court Justice Cantero defend the commission in a lawsuit that challenges Gov. Scott’s authority to appoint three new members of the high court. The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause filed the lawsuit, after Scott initiated the Judicial Nominating Commission process to move forward with replacing justices Barbara ParienteR. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who will be forced to leave the Supreme Court in January because of a mandatory retirement age. The Supreme Court has given the defendants — Scott, the Judicial Nominating Commission and commission Chairman Jason Unger — until Wednesday to file a response to the complaint, which asks the justices to block Scott from moving forward with the replacements.

The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission unanimously chose former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero to defend them.

NRA sway: For Florida officials, it’s always Hammer time” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Those who work in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services — the Florida agency that oversees gun permits — never know when National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer will command their attention — or what about. Nights, weekends and even holidays, she sends messages to senior department officials with complaints and demands. They often respond within minutes. Hammer’s singular power over lawmakers, especially Republicans, is the stuff of Tallahassee legend … Yet according to a review of hundreds of Hammer’s emails with the state’s Department of Agriculture, her sphere of influence stretches far beyond gun legislation. Emails from 2014 to 2017 show the lobbyist involves herself in a wide array of day-to-day tasks of an agency accused five years ago in a lawsuit of being run by the NRA. Brusque and demanding, the messages suggest Hammer is rarely told “no.”

More teachers, less tech, say parents wary of i-Ready” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The program i-Ready has exploded in popularity in Florida school districts. Closely linked to the Florida Standards Assessment, the program is being used in 57 of the state’s 67 school districts as a teaching and diagnostic tool that adapts as students use it and provide teachers with data on what state standards their classes need help with. Curriculum Associates, which makes i-Ready, reported that students using their product saw nearly 40 percent higher gains for English and math than students who received more traditional remediation … critics statewide see the program as a harbinger of a dystopian education future, in which teachers are replaced with computers and “learning” consists entirely of staring slack-jawed at a screen. “It is crap,” said Manatee County education activist Bridget Mendel, who regularly calls on school districts to spend money on reading specialists rather than computer programs.

Medical regulators propose penalties for not checking drug database” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Doctors and physician assistants could start facing fines and license revocations for not checking a state prescription drug database before they write a script. The state’s Board of Medicine last week also announced a related rule “to change penalties for prescribing medicinal drugs or controlled substances (that) demonstrates a lack of reasonable skill or safety to patients.” Florida recently passed a new law addressed at attacking the ongoing opioid crisis by thwarting “doctor shopping,” or patients seeking prescriptions for addictive drugs from multiple physicians. “Failure to consult the Prescription Drug Monitoring System, as required by” state law could result in punishment “from a letter of concern to a reprimand and an administrative fine of $1,000 to $2,500” for a licensed physician, the proposed rule says.

What happened to year-round Daylight Saving Time in Florida?” via Eryn Dion of the Panama City News-Herald — We reached out to Rep. Jay Trumbull, who represents Bay County in the Florida House to ask him what happened to the bill. As is so often the case, he said, they’re waiting on Washington for the official go-ahead. “From the state of Florida perspective, we’ve done everything we can do,” he said. “Now the bill goes to Congress, and we have a House member and a Senator introduce the same legislation on a federal level.” That, Trumbull said, is where the hang-up is. “It’s been introduced,” Trumbull said. “Senator Marco Rubio has the bill, and it’s in the Commerce Committee. It has been read multiple times, but there’s been no votes.” “We are just waiting on them to make a move,” he added.

Legendary Tampa criminal defense attorney Barry Cohen dies at 79” via Christopher O’Donnell and Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — The tenacious, canny criminal defense attorney took on pharmaceutical giants and law enforcement agencies. When judges and attorneys needed representation, they often reached out to him. “It’s a huge loss for the legal community and all of Tampa,” said Hillsborough County’s State Attorney Andrew Warren, whom Cohen had supported in his bid for office. “His legacy is as a fighter, standing up for the weak and the marginalized and those who needed help.” “One of Tampa’s treasures,” said Kevin Kalwary, a private investigator and former journalist who covered, worked with and had been friends with Cohen for 40 years. Cohen spent his last evening with his family and a few close friends. He had been mostly unconscious in recent days but rallied a little in those hours, his wife said.


Kavanaugh faces another allegation of sexual misconduct” via Axios — This one dating from his time as an undergraduate at Yale, according to a new report from The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer. The second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, claims that Kavanaugh waved his penis in front of her face while she was inebriated at a dormitory party during the 1983-1984 academic school year. She told Farrow and Mayer that she believes an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh’s actions is warranted.

The hits keep coming for Brett Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh accuser agrees to testify on Thursday” via Axios — Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, has officially agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday at 10 a.m. ET. Per Ford’s attorneys, no decision has been made about whether senators or staff attorneys will be asking questions. The committee has also refused to subpoena any witnesses, including Mark Judge, who Ford says was present in the room when Kavanaugh allegedly assaulted her.

—“Hundreds mark Hurricane Maria anniversary near Trump resort” via Ellis Rua of The Associated Press

What Scott Ross is reading —Sheldon Adelson sees a lot to like in Trump’s Washington” via Jeremy Peters of The New York Times — Adelson, in particular, enjoys a direct line to the President. In private in-person meetings and phone conversations, which occur between the two men about once a month, he has used his access to push the President to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and, more recently, cut aid to the Palestinians, according to people familiar with their discussions. Trump has done both, triggering a backlash from some American allies. Republican control of the House and the Senate is so vital to maintaining these policies, the Adelsons believe, that they have given $55 million in the last few months to groups dedicated to making sure it stays that way. That makes them not only the largest donors to national Republican electoral efforts in this election cycle, but the biggest spenders on federal elections in all American politics, according to publicly available campaign finance data.

Feds launch audit of Keys debris contracts” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — The audit follows a written request by the eleven Florida Democrats in Congress who called on the IG to initiate a review, arguing “tens of millions of federal taxpayer dollars are being squandered.” In their letter, the Florida Democrats cited the results of a CBS Miami investigation which found one of the companies the state selected after the storm had no previous emergency debris removal experience, while more qualified firms were prevented from even submitting bids. An analysis found the governor’s emergency contracts will end up costing taxpayers an additional $28 to $30 million. “An OIG audit would go far to restore public confidence that taxpayer funds spent on disaster relief will not be allocated inappropriately or inefficiently,” the members of Congress wrote.

Trump’s tariffs impact hurricane shutters: prices up, availability down” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — The hurricane shutter industry, a niche market in storm-prone states, is a standout example of the early impacts of aluminum tariffs. While a hike in metal prices can more easily disappear in the price of a car with its thousands of moving parts, there’s no disguising a cost increase on a simple sheet of metal that’s 95 percent aluminum. “The impacts haven’t really started to sink in yet, I don’t think,” said Peter Quinter, chairman of the Customs and International Trade Law Group, and an attorney with the Miami-based firm GrayRobinson. “The shutters are like the canary in the coal mine.” Prices on everything from beer to Bentleys could increase said Quinter, who is representing a Palm Beach County aquarium company hoping to get an exemption from tariffs on fish tank air filters imported from China.

White House distances itself from reports that Trump could target Facebook, Google and Twitter with a new executive order” via Tony Romm and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — For weeks, top tech companies have been on edge, fearing that the Trump administration could seek to regulate the industry in response to the president’s tweets attacking social media sites for silencing conservatives online. Their worst suspicions seemed to come true with the emergence of a draft executive order that called for nearly every federal agency to study how companies like Facebook police their platforms and refer instances of ‘bias’ to the Justice Department for further study. But three White House aides soon insisted they didn’t write the draft order, didn’t know where it came from and generally found it to be unworkable policy. One senior White House official confirmed the document had been floating around the White House but had not gone through the formal process, which is controlled by the staff secretary. Asked about the document, deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said: “Although the White House is concerned about the conduct of online platforms and their impact on society, this document is not the result of an official White House policymaking process.”

Trump campaign aide Jason Miller exit CNN analyst job after accusations” via Brian Steinberg of Variety — Miller, a former senior communications staffer for Trump’s campaign, said he would step down following accusations regarding his behavior toward a woman he allegedly impregnated. “I have decided to step away from my role as a Political Commentator at CNN to focus on clearing my name and fighting the false and defamatory accusations being made against me,” Miller said via Twitter. He denied the allegations, and said he said the lack of veracity in the report “doesn’t matter however in the court of public opinion, where fraudulent statements and a lack of factual support rule the day as long as it fits into a tweet.”


Florida and the nation need Nelson in the U.S. Senate” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Nelson has been a workhorse, not a show horse, while Scott has spent the last eight years reaping headlines on a near-daily basis. Look closely, though, and those headlines tell the story of a governor who wouldn’t deserve re-election. Nothing in his record suggests he would do better as a senator. Given the sharply contrasting records of Scott and Nelson, the Senate campaign poses these questions: Which man can be trusted to stand up for the environment and Medicare against budget-cutters and special interests? Which man can be trusted to look out for the people, more than for himself? Which man is more likely to assert the constitutional duty of Congress — so wantonly abandoned under Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan — to rein in a reckless presidency? It’s not just the people of Florida who need Bill Nelson back in the Senate. It’s all the people of the United States of America.

Joe Henderson: Gina Sosa’s pathetic partisanship can’t be excused” via Florida Politics — Referring to allegations Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Blasey Ford while both were in high school, Sosa said, “Tell me what boy hasn’t done this in high school. Please, I would like to know.” Oh, I can think of many, many young men who never did what Kavanaugh is accused of doing — holding a girl down on a bed, trying to take her clothes off, and putting his hand over her mouth. Kavanaugh has strongly denied it ever happened, but that’s a separate issue from what Sosa’s defense. It’s one thing to believe Kavanaugh when he said this never happened. It’s quite another to say, as Sosa basically did, “Well, even if it did happen, so what?” You can’t excuse a remark like that.

End dog racing with (lucky) Amendment 13” via Fred Grimm for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Dog racing has become an economic absurdity, a flea-bitten pari-mutuel that costs Florida more — millions more — to regulate than the state collects from its cut of the revenue. Yet we keep it around, a refuge for the aged, an entertainment that ever fewer Floridians find entertaining, a pastime past its time, a dying, money-losing anachronism kept alive by fiat. But it’s not the irrational economics behind the push for Amendment 13. It’s the unseemly cruelty that has long tainted the industry. Voters are likely to kill dog racing because dog racing is killing dogs. And maiming dogs. And doping dogs with an astounding array of illegal drugs.

SeaWorld pays $5 million over bogus ‘Blackfish’ spin — and maybe got off easy” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — That’s how much SeaWorld and two former executives agreed to pay to settle federal fraud charges over lies the company told a few years ago when it claimed the movie “Blackfish” wasn’t affecting the park’s bottom line. When SeaWorld claimed “Blackfish” had no impact on its business, it sounded a bit like the mayor in “Jaws” claiming the giant shark wouldn’t hurt Amity Island’s summer season. Except there was a key difference: The mayor didn’t have to answer to stockholders. That’s where SeaWorld ran into problems … if you lie to investors and equity firms, well, people take that seriously. So, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission went after SeaWorld for trying to peddle giant loads of whale waste.


Carmine Marceno Jr. appointed Lee County Sheriff — Gov. Scott on Friday tapped Marceno, the current undersheriff in Lee County, to take over for Mike Scott, who retires effective Monday. “Sheriff Mike Scott has been dedicated to serving the people of Lee County for the past 30 years,” Scott said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service … With Undersheriff Marceno having nearly 20 years of law enforcement experience and having worked closely with Sheriff Scott, I am confident that he will work every day to protect and serve Lee County.” The 46-year-old Marceno, of Fort Myers, has been with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office since 2013. He received a U.S. Department of Justice Graduation Certificate from the FBI National Academy, the governor’s news release said.

Congratulations to Carmine Marceno.

Personnel note: James Blair named to Enterprise Florida board — House Speaker Richard Corcoran appointed Blair, who’s long served as his political right-hand man, to the board of directors for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization. The appointment is effective Oct. 1. Corcoran went full frontal last year, deriding the organization as little more than a dispenser of “corporate welfare.” (Though a public-private partnership, it doled out mostly public dollars.) As a result of Corcoran’s bulldogging, the organization is now subject to heightened oversight. Corcoran, who is term-limited, leaves the House this year.

Another done (marijuana) deal: Trulieve finishes merger with Canadian concern” via Florida Politics — Trulieve, a Florida medical marijuana provider, and a Canadian mining company on Friday said they had completed their merger and will start trading stock publicly in Canada. Trulieve will begin trading on the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) under the symbol “TRUL” on Tuesday, according to a news release. Toronto-based Schyan Exploration Inc. combined with Trulieve to become Trulieve Cannabis Corp. The new company’s CEO and board chairman is Kim Rivers, the head of the former Trulieve Inc., who now holds 159,867 of what are termed “Super Voting Shares” in the new company, or 18.75 percent, a company statement said.

Sachs Media named ‘PR firm of the year’” — Renowned industry Journal PR News named Sachs Media Group the “PR Firm of the Year” among firms its size in the U.S. Accepting the honor on behalf of the staff and firm was Sachs Media Group partner Michelle Ubben during an awards luncheon this week at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. In a news release, the company said it looks “forward to a bright future ahead working alongside so many talented individuals. We’re privileged to work with so many wonderful clients in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.”

— ALOE —

Celebration of life held for career public servant George Sheldon — The service was Friday at the Tampa Bay History Center in Tampa. Sheldon, 71, most recently had been head of the Our Kids nonprofit that provides child services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Keith Ward, chairman of the Our Kids board of trustees, said Sheldon had sustained a neck injury while exercising. Before Our Kids, he was director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services, and was the acting assistant secretary in 2011-13 for the federal Administration for Children and Families under President Barack Obama. Gov. Charlie Crist selected him to be Secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families in 2008-11. He also served in the state House, was an aide to then-state Sen. Reubin Askew, and was a deputy to Attorney General Bob Butterworth. Those who wish to do so are still asked to contribute to the George H. Sheldon Legacy Fund by clicking on the following link. The fund has been established to continue George’s mission of supporting foster youth programs and children’s advocacy.

A celebration of the life of George Sheldon. (Image via Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune 2016)

Program will spread orchids around Miami’s Coconut Grove” via The Associated Press — Government officials, botanists from Fairchild Botanical Garden and volunteers will mount 250 rare and endangered orchid seedlings onto tree trunks in the central part of the neighborhood. City Commissioner Ken Russell said in a news release that the “Million Orchid Project” is aimed at reintroducing rare and endangered orchid species that have become nearly extinct in South Florida. Schoolyards, hospitals and roadways are among the sites for the reintroduction initiative, which aims to have the first generation of re-established orchids blooming throughout the area within five years. Russell says the orchids’ return will reinforce the Grove’s reputation as a Garden District of the Miami area.

Publix allows store employees to grow beards” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel — The new policy, which goes into effect Sept. 29, is the culmination of a long debate with employees over the issue. Lakeland-based Publix has long forbidden beards for its store workers, with only conservative mustaches allowed, such as the pencil mustache founder George Jenkins sported. Non-store employees such as warehouse workers could wear beards. “We have been testing a new facial hair personal appearance standard in several districts throughout the company that has allowed male associates to wear facial hair, as long as the associate maintains a neat, clean, and professional appearance,” said a statement from Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens.

Snickers replaces Skittles as most popular Halloween candy in Florida” via — released its latest look at the most popular Halloween candies with Skittles claiming the top spot followed by M&M’s, Snickers, Reese’s Cups and Starburst. Despite that, Skittles has been replaced as the most popular Halloween candy in the Sunshine State with Snickers claiming the top spot in Florida. More than 660,500 pounds of Snickers candy was sold in Florida last year, behind only California and Texas when it comes to the amount of candy sold. While Skittles gave up the top spot in the Sunshine State, it remains the second most popular candy for Florida residents to hand out to trick or treaters. Reese’s Cups placed third.

Walmart is teaming with a Seminole Heights chef to promote locally grown mushrooms” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — As niche and organic stores are on the rise, the retail giant is taking extra steps to let shoppers know about its local produce. That’s where Florida-grown Monterey Mushrooms and Seminole Height’s Rooster and the Till chef Ferrell Alvarez come in. “The variety of mushrooms they offer spoke to us,” Alvarez said. Walmart has been selling mushrooms from the Zellwood farm, outside Orlando, for at least the last decade. In June, Alvarez added a mushroom tartine dish to its menu to showcase Monterey’s offerings. “Consumers have a real connection with these chefs and restaurants, who are authentic influencers in their communities,” Walmart senior marketing director Ashley Gibbs said in a statement.

Rooster and the Till chef Ferrell Alvarez is working with Walmart on its selection of mushrooms.

Happy birthday from the weekend to U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, Mario Bailey, John Fox, classy lady/top fundraiser Nicole Hagerty, Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, Kim Diaz Scott, and William Stander. Celebrating today is the super-sharp Javi Correoso of Uber, Minnie Cora Merritt of the Board of Governors, and Jocelyn Mund.

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.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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