Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.14.18

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 tidings came early.

This year’s social media-based benefit for Tampa’s Metropolitan Ministries — “Recount The Turkeys” — raised more than $17,000 and 850 turkeys for needy families.

It’s the fourth year in a row former House Speaker Will Weatherford has partnered with Florida Politics to help raise money for the charity during the holiday season.


Several Florida politicians answered Weatherford’s call to make sure no family goes without a holiday meal this Thanksgiving. Among those donating were Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Lauren Book, former Speakers Richard Corcoran, Steve Crisafulli, Dean Cannon, Larry Cretul, John Thrasher, and Tom Feeney, House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

#RecountTheTurkeys was a resounding, bipartisan success.

“Once again, it’s nice to see that some things aren’t partisan,” Weatherford said. “I am glad that the season of Thanksgiving can still bring people of different backgrounds and politics together to help those in need …

“God bless Metropolitan Ministries and all the great work they do!”

“This has been the quickest, most efficient and most impactful Florida recount,” added Tim Marks, President/CEO of Metropolitan Ministries. “Thank you Peter, Will and your network of leaders for helping us #BringHope for at-risk families.”   

P.S. Happy 39th birthday to our great friend, Speaker Weatherford.


@ATompkins: One thing that is missing in the whole @CNN and @Acosta press credential story. The Secret Service has narrow and specific criteria for denying credentials. And it has nothing to do with rudeness and microphones. I believe CNN will/should win this lawsuit hands down.

—@realDonaldTrump: When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida? The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to “find” enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!

@MaggieNYT: Ted OLSON, who Trump praised in one of his Fla tweets and who Trump tried repeatedly to hire for his own personal legal team (Olson said no), is repping CNN in suit against the White House re Acosta hard pass.

@MarcoRubio: Incompetent law breaking election officials lead to chance for lawyers to steal an election Dem lawyers aren’t here to make sure every vote is counted. They’re here to get as many votes for their client as possible counted & get as many votes for opponent as possible thrown out

@MDixon55: We have reached the “is an x in an oval a vote” point in #FloridaRecount

@ElizabethRKoh: Re: Bay County ballots, elections supervisor Mark Andersen tells me he still intends to include emailed/faxed ballots in his count to the state, though decision is up to the county canvassing board, meeting Thursday 4 p.m. Board includes him, a judge and county commission chair.

@Fineout: On a conference call with reporters set up by Scott campaign — U.S. Rep. @FrancisRooney said it sounds “pretty ridiculous” that the Bay County elections supervisor allowed people to email their ballots

— @PatriciaMazzei: No one warns you in journalism school that one day you will be on the floor of a county elections office, scarfing down Trinidadian curry while a recount is underway, TV cameras are on and lawyers are running around

@APStyleBook: We don’t say “preheat the oven to 350 F.” Instead, we just heat the oven. You’re getting it up to temperature, so you’re heating it. This applies whether you’re making turkey for a crowd or just throwing in a frozen pizza. We won’t judge.

@MadisonSocial: Executive decision was made today- March 9 is the 3rd Tallahassee Wine Mixer and the $35 unlimited wine sampling ticket will include a shirt. Also, VIP tickets this year will include one-hour early entry and unlimited charcuterie


Florida Blue Florida Classic: FAMU vs. BCU — 4; Elections Canvassing Commission meets to certify official General Election results — 6; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 6; Thanksgiving — 8; Black Friday — 9; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 13; Partial government shutdown — 23; 2019 Session Interim Committee Meetings begin — 28; 116th Congress convenes — 50; Florida’s Inauguration Ceremony — 75; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 90; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 111; ‘Captain Marvel’ release — 115; Iowa Caucuses — 446; 2020 General Election — 720.


Florida recount update: Machine recounts underway. Some counties might not finish in time” via John McCarthy of the Tallahassee Democrat — Saturday’s preliminary totals showed Gov. Rick Scott leading the incumbent Democrat by 0.15 percentage points in the Senate race, Republican former congressman Ron DeSantis ahead of Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 0.41 points in the governor’s race and Democrat Nikki Fried in front of Republican Matt Caldwell by 0.06 percentage points in the agriculture commission race. By law, the recounts must be completed by 3 p.m. Thursday. But as of Tuesday, it was unclear whether all of the state’s 67 counties would meet the deadline. In Miami-Dade, the state’s largest county, election officials began doing the prep work of separating the first page of ballots — which contains all of the contested races — last week when it became obvious the recounts would be coming. That allowed the county to start the recount Saturday.

Employees of the Broward County Supervisor of Election’s office in Lauderhill count ballots. (Image via Getty Images)

Early recount total show little change” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Recounts wrapping up in small and mid-sized counties are showing few changes to initial results in the races for Governor, U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner. But bigger counties still have until Thursday afternoon to complete the state-mandated recount process. In Leon County, where elections officials completed running more than 140,000 ballots through tabulating machines, the candidates in the major statewide races all lost several votes. Recounted numbers in Citrus County found two additional votes each for DeSantis, Scott and Caldwell. In Alachua County, Nelson’s lead over Scott among county voters grew by 26 votes. Gillum, down by 33,684 in the unofficial statewide numbers, gained 12 votes in Alachua County in his race with DeSantis. And Fried, up 5,326 votes statewide on Saturday, gained 26 votes in Alachua County.

Tallahassee becomes ground zero for recount battles in federal court” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — As of Tuesday morning, there were three legal actions filed in the U.S. District Court’s Northern District. By the end of the day, a flurry of other cases was on the docket, bringing the total to seven. And all of them are landing on the desk of Chief Judge Mark Walker, who has ruled against Gov. Scott several times in astringent, colorfully worded opinions. The legal actions deal with a range of legal issues from mismatched signatures to vote-by-mail deadlines to whether Gov. Scott — a candidate for U.S. Senate — should recuse himself from the recount process. Four of the suits were brought by Nelson or entities acting on his behalf, including the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and VoteVets, a political committee that represents military veterans.

’Magic words,’ consistency rule targeted in Bill Nelson’s recount lawsuit” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — The federal lawsuit, filed in Tallahassee, takes aim at two specific standards — one called the “magic words” requirement and the other called the “consistency” requirement — and says they violate First Amendment free speech rights and 14th Amendment equality protections. Nelson’s suit says the rules passed by the Florida Department of State unconstitutionally disenfranchise voters and aren’t consistent or fair. For instance, voters who mistakenly circle their choice of candidate but then bubble in their choices in other races won’t have their vote counted. But voters who mistakenly circle their candidate of choice and either don’t vote in other races or fail to bubble-in their choice in those other races will have their votes counted. The so-called “consistency” requirement unfairly disadvantages one class of voters over another, the suit says.

Nelson sues for extension; Chuck Schumer calls for Rick Scott recusal” via Ledyard King of USA TODAY — With a Thursday deadline looming, Nelson’s campaign has filed a federal lawsuit to extend the unevenly conducted statewide recount of his re-election race. The lawsuit seeks to give elections officials in each of Florida’s 67 counties adequate time to finish “a legally mandated and accurate recount,” according to the senator’s campaign. A hearing could be held as early as Wednesday. “Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, we should all be able to agree that the goal here is to have a complete and accurate count of all lawful ballots and to ensure that count is done accurately,” Marc Elias, the lead lawyer for Nelson’s recount efforts, told reporters on a conference call. Nelson’s campaign filed the lawsuit in federal court in Tallahassee only hours after he joined Senate Democratic Leader Schumer at a Capitol Hill news conference and demanded Scott withdraw from any oversight role of the state’s election recount.

Schumer sees Nelson victory after recount” via Burgess Everett of POLITICO Florida — Schumer and Nelson laid into Scott for making claims of “voter fraud” and charging that Democrats want to “steal” the election from him. And Schumer was characteristically sunny about Nelson’s prospects despite being behind by a significant margin before the recount. “Republicans know that if this recount is conducted fairly and thoroughly that Sen. Nelson has an excellent chance of being reelected,” Schumer said. “If this is done fair and square, we believe Sen. Nelson has an excellent chance, a much greater than half chance of being reelected.” The two senators took no questions, but a Democratic official said that they believe a number of ballots discarded by machines in Democratic areas will help boost Nelson in a hand recount.

Chuck Schumer and Bill Nelson exude confidence over the Florida Senate race recount. Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Donald Trump tries to crank up the pressure: ‘When will Nelson concede in Florida?’” via Rebecca Morin of POLITICO Florida — “When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida? The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to ‘find’ enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!” the president tweeted. The president, without evidence, has repeatedly accused Democrats of “election theft” in that Senate race and has said the election should be called in Scott’s favor.

Scott’s team has no interest in seeing recount deadlines extended” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Speaking for Scott, Republican U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney insisted the recounts must proceed by law, a reference to the fact that Florida law requires the machine recounts to complete by Thursday, and for completion of the anticipated hand recount for the U.S. Senate race by Sunday. He was backed by Tim Cerio of GrayRobinson, one of the lawyers on the Scott campaign, who said that everything Scott’s campaign is doing in court is seeking to make sure current laws are followed. “I think it would be absolutely outrageous that once again in this country that we would ignore law,” Rooney said.

Scott won’t commit to certifying recount results if he loses, top adviser says” via Aaron Rupar of Vox — Scott’s senior campaign adviser, Brad Todd, repeatedly refused to commit to certifying the results of Florida’s U.S. Senate election, during CNN interviews, if Scott ends up losing in a recount to Nelson. “You talk about having to make a decision — the governor has a decision to make,” CNN’s Chris Cuomo said to Todd. “Is he going to do that [certify the results] or will he recuse himself, because of his own conflict in this?” “The governor respects the process. He respects the law in Florida,” Todd said. “Even if he loses?” Cuomo interjected. “He’s not going to lose unless they steal it from him in court,” Todd replied. “The governor is going to be the senator.”

Scott’s campaign sues Hillsborough County supervisor of elections” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections is not allowing elections observers to stand in the physical room where recounts are taking place, Gov. Scott alleged in a lawsuit. Instead, they’re being forced to watch the recounts from an adjacent room through a transparent window. Scott’s lawyers — in conjunction with lawyers from the National Republican Senatorial Committee — say that’s a violation of state law. Under Rule 1S-2.031(2) and (3) of the Florida Administrative Code, the lawsuit alleges, representatives for the Scott campaign — as well as the campaigns of any of the other candidates in races that are undergoing recounts — should be allowed into the room where any recount is taking place. If a judge were to find in favor of Scott, the SOE would be forced to allow campaign representatives into the same room as the recount.

Rick Scott keeps shooting off recount lawsuits.

Amid recounts, Scott claims victory, sets trip to Washington” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Scott isn’t waiting to declare victory and “make Washington work” — a key slogan and platform of his campaign. “We won the election,’’ Scott told The Washington Post. “I’m looking forward to being up there. … I’ve got a very specific agenda I’ve put out of what I want to accomplish.’’ Part of Scott’s visit will include orientation for freshman members of Congress, but so far there’s no word on which committees he’ll sit on. Meanwhile, he and his team are continuing their campaign to get Nelson to throw in the towel.


Matt Caldwell doesn’t want to win recount by ‘legal loophole’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Caldwell says he thought it was mathematically impossible for him to lose the Florida Agriculture Commissioner race when he declared victory a week ago. He was up 40,000 votes and believed about five Broward County precincts and a maximum 33,000 votes remained untabulated. Now he’s 5,326 votes behind Democrat Nikki Fried and wants to know how that happened. “I think voters deserve a straight answer,” Caldwell said. “Where did 80,000 votes come from?” For Caldwell, though, getting a full accounting of all votes will be essential even if he ends up losing the election. “I have zero interest in winning this election on a legal loophole,” he said.

Jim Bonfiglio recount lawsuit ‘removed’ to federal court” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the Palm Beach County canvassing board, and Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Bucher were listed as defendants. Detzner now argues the lawsuit belongs in federal court, filing what’s known as a “notice of removal.” The Secretary of State noted Bonfiglio’s concerns that the Palm Beach County may not complete a recount of the HD 89 race before the deadline under Florida law. Bonfiglio’s arguments come down to claims that his rights under due process and equal protection provisions in the U.S. Constitution are being violated. Thus, Detzner argues, a federal court is the proper venue for the case. In his lawsuit, Bonfiglio highlighted comments by Bucher that Palm Beach may not be able to complete all of its recounts by the deadline of Thursday at 3 p.m. The Democrat demanded that deadline is extended.

Florida’s effort to find noncitizen voters had slim results” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — The results of the Scott administration’s push did not come anywhere close to finding that many noncitizens. Spurred on directly by Gov. Scott shortly after he was elected governor, the state began looking to see if there were ineligible voters on the rolls. An initial list that was not widely distributed turned up nearly 182,000 people, but state officials called the list obsolete and did not use it. State officials instead whittled it down and gave the names of more than 2,600 voters to local election supervisors who were asked to check them. Voters who did not respond to supervisors could ultimately be removed from the rolls. After checking the names against the federal database, the Florida Department of State in September 2012 identified 207 ineligible voters.

As recount politics heat up, two election officials are the targets of online harassment” via Craig Timberg and Beth Reinhard of The Washington Post — Several pro-Trump Facebook pages and one Twitter account posted the home address and phone number of the Broward County election supervisor who has been the target of blistering criticism from the president and other Republicans amid highly politicized vote recounts. Posting the home address of Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes — a tactic called “doxing” — often is a step toward harassment of people in the public spotlight and is prohibited by Facebook, Twitter and most other online platforms. Facebook confirmed it had removed personal information about Snipes after the incident was reported to the company. It also confirmed a similar incident involving Palm Beach County’s Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher, whose home address and phone number also were posted on a Facebook page.

In the chaos of recounts, Brenda Snipes gets doxxed, threatened.

’It is time to move on’: Brenda Snipes talks about leaving elections post in Broward” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — “I think I have served the purpose that I came for, which is to provide a credible election product for Broward,” she said. The decision isn’t final, she said, because she still has to talk to her family about it. Snipes’ announcement came after a reporter asked her response to a tweet from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who appointed Snipes, calling for her removal from office. “There is no question that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes failed to comply with Florida law on multiple counts, undermining Floridians’ confidence in our electoral process,” Bush tweeted.

Assignment editors —State Sen. Lori Berman, Rep. Bobby Powell, and FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo will hold a “Count Every Vote” news conference to discuss the latest efforts of the recount in Palm Beach County, 11:15 a.m., Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office, 240 S Military Trail, West Palm Beach.

Assignment editors — The Win Justice coalition and elected officials will join voters outside of the Broward Supervisor of Elections office to tell stories of disenfranchisement, unreasonable signature rules, and misinformation that led to the inability to cast a ballot, 11:15 a.m., Broward Supervisor of Elections, 1501 NW. 40th Ave., Lauderhill.


Concentrated chaos

The Florida recount might be just the tip of the iceberg for bad news in Broward County.

Writes Michael Grunwald for POLITICO Magazine: “Once again, America’s eyes have turned to Broward County, Florida. And once again, America’s eyes are rolling.”

Among the area’s unique attributes: Perennial ballot office issues, the Parkland shooting and subsequent revelations of governmental inadequacy, a disproportionate share of political scandals and a resident by the name Roger Stone, currently a reported subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. 

Both Republican and Democratic protestors converged on the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office. (Image via WLRN)

No surprise: It was anticipated that Broward Supervisor of Elections Snipes might mess things up again. “In recent years, her office has sent out mail-in ballots that were missing a constitutional amendment, improperly opened ballots in private, and illegally destroyed ballots from Wasserman Schultz’s 2016 congressional race.”

Who’s to blame?: Maybe not the Democratic Party, per se, but a lack of political competition. “I’ve watched the Democrats in Broward get very comfortable with power,” a former Dem operative tells Grunwald. “There’s no accountability, because there’s no competition.”

Stranger than fiction: The Parkland tragedy and the Broward ballot snafu collided this week “when it came out that Nikolas Cruz, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas gunman, registered to vote while awaiting trial in the Broward County Jail.” “My editor would never let me get away with this stuff,” a local fiction writer tells Grunwald. “She’d say: ‘Come on. Crazy is OK, but this is too crazy.’”


Court backs Ryan Torrens in qualifying dispute” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned a ruling in a lawsuit that contended Torrens had improperly qualified for the ballot. The lawsuit, filed by Torrens’ Democratic opponent for Attorney General, Sean Shaw, led to a messy end to their primary-election campaign. The lawsuit alleged that Torrens had written a $4,000 check in his wife’s name to his campaign account. Shaw argued that the check was improper and had been used in June to cover Torrens’ election-qualifying fee. Individual donors, other than candidates, are limited to contributing $3,000 in statewide races. Just days before the Aug. 28 primary, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers agreed with Shaw and disqualified Torrens as a candidate. A three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected Gievers’ decision and said in a footnote that the case was not moot because of “potential incidental consequences that may arise out of the trial court’s decision in this case.”

Too little, too late: Ryan Torrens gets a court victory.

Does Adam Hattersley victory signal inroads for Democrats in east Hillsborough?” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — One of the biggest surprises of Election Day for local politicos was the election of Democrat Hattersley to state House District 59 over Republican Joe Wicker. “Particularly western Brandon has been moderating for years and the conservative base eroding,” said state Sen. Tom Lee who also once represented much of the area. Hattersley was an ideal candidate for such a district: a moderate, a nuclear submarine and Iraq deployment veteran, former Naval Academy instructor and small-business owner from the military enclave of Riverview. Moreover, the election “was a bloodbath for Republicans in Hillsborough County,” with a Democratic turnout boosted by numerous black and female Democrats on the ballot, Lee said.

Tampa’s mayoral race will be the next election pivot” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — So far the field includes a wealthy philanthropist, two Tampa City Council members, a former police chief, a former Hillsborough County Commissioner, a small business consultant, and a community activist. David Straz, whose namesake graces Tampa’s performing arts venue, is self-funding a campaign with coffers padded well beyond that of any other candidate. His spending could be a game changer in a race in which he would otherwise likely not be very competitive. Far behind in the money race is former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor. Castor has raised far more than any other candidate, except Straz. She’s in a crowded class of political superstars who, together, will give Straz a run for his money. Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen has raised just shy of $100,000 for his campaign. That haul includes a $1,000 contribution from former Tampa Mayor Sandra Freedman and another from her husband, Michael Freedman.


Ousted Democratic chairman allegedly propositioned female employee, called himself a ‘sapiosexual’” via Jessica Lipscomb of the Miami New Times — Stephen Bittel, a real estate billionaire who enjoyed a short reign as head of the Florida Democratic Party before resigning in disgrace last fall, sexually harassed a female employee by describing his sexual partners’ pubic hair, describing his pornography preferences, offering to take her shopping for lingerie, and touching her toes on his private jet, according to a new complaint filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. The allegations were described in a disturbing 27-page lawsuit filed Friday by 34-year-old Andrea Molina, who worked for five years as director of acquisitions for Bittel’s real estate firm, Terranova. Bittel resigned last November following six former Florida Democratic Party staffers and consultants described him as misogynistic and demeaning. Though the women did not accuse Bittel of inappropriately touching or threatening them, they described a pattern of behavior that created a hostile environment for female employees. Molina’s lawsuit adds more credibility — and detail — to the women’s complaints.

A newly filed lawsuit against Steven Bittel helps support accusations that helped oust him as Florida Democratic Party leader.

Ron DeSantis names transition staff members” — The latest staff members were James Blair, director of policy; Chris Clark, director of recruiting; Drew Meiner, director of operations; Amanda Emmons, director of scheduling; Ben Gibson, general counsel; Dave Vasquez, press secretary; and Claire Whitehead, assistant to Casey DeSantis, the wife of DeSantis. Blair is a longtime adviser to House Speaker Richard Corcoran; Clark served as chief of staff to former Senate President Don Gaetz; Meiner is a former deputy campaign manager for operations for the DeSantis campaign; Emmons is a former staff assistant for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio; Gibson is a former deputy general counsel to Gov. Scott; Vasquez is a former campaign manager for state Rep. Bob Cortes; and Whitehead is a former appointments analyst and regional representative for Scott.

Tweet, tweet:


Scott, Cabinet poised to take up FPL projects” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Scott and the Cabinet released an agenda for a Nov. 20 meeting that includes proposed “certification” of FPL’s plan for a 1,200-megawatt plant in Broward that has drawn opposition from the Sierra Club. Under state law, Scott and the Cabinet serve as a siting board that has authority to decide whether power-plant projects should move forward. Administrative Law Judge Cathy Sellers in July issued a 129-page recommended order that urged Scott and the Cabinet to approve certification for the natural-gas plant, which would replace two older generating units at what is known as FPL’s Lauderdale site in Dania Beach and Hollywood. The Sierra Club raised a series of objections, focusing heavily on greenhouse-gas emissions that would come from the new plant.

Jimmy Patronis’ office won’t weigh in on pot farm fire control — The State Fire Marshal’s Office, headed by CFO Patronis, this week declined to offer an opinion on whether to exempt a proposed “marijuana grow and processing facility” from the state’s fire code requirements. Dale E. Fey Jr., Fire Marshal at The North Collier Fire Control and Rescue District, had filed a petition for what’s known as a “declaratory statement,” used to get an interpretation of a statute, rule, or order from a state agency. Patronis’ office declined, saying it “lacks authority to issue the requested declaratory statement.” The property in question, in Immokalee, is registered to Oakes Farms Tomato Repack LLC, which wanted to claim an “agricultural exemption … to avoid complying with Fire and Life Safety codes.” A Department of Health spokesman has said it wasn’t “a proposed facility of any current MMTC (medical marijuana treatment center), but may be a location not yet submitted, or a location of a proposed MMTC applicant.” Oakes Farms did not respond to a request for comment.

Four people knew what happened in a room at a Florida psychiatric hospital. One is dead.” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald — Surveillance video captured what happened at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 12 in the moments before a developmentally disabled man broke his neck at a Panhandle psychiatric hospital: one staff member shoved the resident into his room. Two other employees quickly followed. They remained in the room for several minutes. It’s what happened inside Reginald Schroat’s bedroom that remains a mystery. After the three staffers left his room, the 40-year-old man summoned help, saying he could no longer move his legs. Surveillance cameras are not allowed inside living quarters at the state-operated Florida State Hospital. That means only four people know what happened inside Schroat’s room that day. And one of them is dead, the victim of a broken neck. “It’s wrong,” said Ethel Siegler, Schroat’s mother. “Something is very fishy there.”

Department of Health gets win in trauma case” via the News Service of Florida — A state appeals court sided with the Florida Department of Health in a long-running dispute about proposed rules for determining whether trauma centers should be allowed to open — though a law passed this year mostly made the issue moot. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal overturned a 2017 decision by Administrative Law Judge Garnett Chisenhall, who tossed out the proposed rules. The case is part of years of legal battles involving the hospital industry and the Department of Health about opening trauma centers in various parts of the state. The actions focused heavily on a law that limited the number of trauma centers statewide to 44 and divvied up trauma centers among 19 regions.

Teresa Jacobs wraps up 16-year run with Orange County government” via Steven Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — A small stack of tissues close by, Jacobs dabbed tears from her eyes occasionally during Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, her last after an eight-year run holding the mayoral gavel. The meeting, also the last for three other exiting board members, was filled mostly with routine county business, including two proclamations, some advisory board appointments, a briefing about other Florida governments pursuing lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for the opioid crisis and land-use and rezoning matters. Jacobs, who created a task force several years ago to address the deadly opioid crisis in Central Florida, suggested the board wait and let the next commission decide if the county should pick a legal fight with drugmakers. “As late as we are in the hour of my term, I feel like it would be inappropriate to make a decision about moving forward,” said Jacobs, who in August was elected Orange County School Board chair, a term that begins Nov. 19.

One last meeting: Teresa Jacobs ends her 16-year tenure in Orange County government. (Image via Orlando Sentinel)

Pot on the go: Central Florida’s first drive-thru dispensary opens in East Orlando” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel — Curaleaf is bringing its second Central Florida dispensary to 775 N. Semoran Boulevard in a former Chase Bank location. It will be the second drive-thru dispensary in the state for Curaleaf. Customers can either phone in orders or place them online. “It’s there for ease of access,” said Vinit Patel, Curaleaf’s regional dispensary operations manager. “Of course, we want first-time customers to visit us inside.”

NASCAR offers to acquire the owner of Daytona International Speedway” via Patrick Thomas of The Wall Street Journal — The offer values the owner of the racetrack — home of the Daytona 500, the most prestigious NASCAR race — at $1.85 billion. NASCAR offered to buy the outstanding shares of publicly held International Speedway Corp. for $42 per share, about 7.5 percent more than the shares’ closing price on Friday. The deal also would combine NASCAR and International Speedway into a privately held entity owned by the France family, which controls both companies. The offer by NASCAR is pending approval by shareholders who own most of the common shares of International Speedway that the France family doesn’t own.

Snubbed by Amazon: Lack of LGBTQ protections hurt Florida, group says” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Online retail giant Amazon won’t be setting up its new headquarters in any Florida city. Why? Equality Florida is pointing to the absence of statewide nondiscrimination policies for the LGBTQ community. Under current state law, it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT individuals in employment, housing and public accommodations. In a USA TODAY analysis of cities that didn’t make the cut, the publication faulted Miami’s transportation network, along with Florida’s lack of uniform LGBTQ protections. “The reality is the patchwork quilt of municipalities with full protections next to ones with none is unacceptable,” said Nadine Smith, who heads Equality Florida, the state’s leading LGBTQ rights organization.

Happening today — The Miami Herald will host a Florida Priorities Summit, which will include a series of panel discussions about solving policy issues facing the state. Among the participants will be state Rep. Holly Raschein of Key Largo, who will take part in a discussion about environmental issues, and state Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami and Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega, who will take part in a discussion about education issues, 8 a.m., University of Miami, Donna E. Shalala Student Center, 1330 Miller Dr., Coral Gables.

Assignment editors — Six local Collier County leaders will be recognized at the Naples Chamber of Commerce 2018 Excellence in Industry Awards, with a ceremony where former state CFO Alex Sink will be the keynote speaker, 8 a.m., Silverspot Cinema — Naples, 9118 Strada Pl. #8205, Naples.

Happening today — The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission continues a four-day meeting in Broward County. Topics include a presentation on the cellphone content and internet searches of alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz, 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

Happening today — The Florida Elections Commission begins a two-day meeting to interview candidates to become the commission’s executive director, 9 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.

Happening today — The Broward County legislative delegation will hold an organizational meeting ahead of the 2019 Session, 6 p.m., Broward College, Bailey Hall, 3501 S.W. Davie Road, Davie.


For Trump, even disaster response is colored in red and blue” via Matt Viser and Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — As California has convulsed in tragedy — a mass shooting and an outbreak of wildfires that included the deadliest in the state’s history — the president has not only offered little comfort; he has also heaped on criticism. He’s blamed the forest fires on “gross mismanagement,” threatened to withhold federal payments and instructed officials there: “Get Smart!” The disparity in the responses to red states and blue states is one that continues to exacerbate the nation’s partisan complexion, injected now even into natural disasters.

As Southern California burns, Donald Trump frames it in partisan terms.

Florida recount gives Pam Bondi a new shot at Trump’s inner circle” via Annie Karni and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Since the midterms, she has been serving as one of Trump’s point people on the ground there, remaining in frequent contact with the president and giving him personal updates. With a major cabinet shuffle underway — Trump is looking for replacements for both his Attorney General and his Homeland Security secretary — Bondi’s name is being talked about again. “He trusts her,” said Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser who lives in Florida. “They’ve always had an excellent personal rapport. She’s got a good TV presence; she’s very telegenic and that’s important to the president.”

Matt Gaetz photographed with Proud Boy in ‘Pepe the Frog’ shirt” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — The lawmaker, frequent Fox News guest and former InfoWars fan, represents Florida’s 1st Congressional District way up in the Florida Panhandle, which makes it all-the-more bizarre that Gaetz showed up at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office to videotape himself yelling at cops and investigating some random trucks outside the building. It was all part of what insiders have told Politico appears to be a coordinated Republican effort to, without evidence, accuse Democrats of election-rigging. But along the way, Gaetz — who is on Gov.-elect DeSantis’ “transition team” — stopped for a selfie with a dude in a Pepe T-shirt and Proud Boy hat.

The company you keep: Matt Gaetz is photographed with a member of Proud Boys, wearing a ‘Pepe the Frog’ T-shirt. (Image via Twitter)

Charlie Crist backs Nancy Pelosi for House Speaker” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — “Pelosi‘s pledge to be a transitional leader for House Democrats, focused not only on our legislative agenda, but on ushering and mentoring our next generation of leaders to carry our efforts forward for the longer run, is also a prudent and wise approach,” Crist said. Crist, who won re-election last week, declined to support Pelosi’s bid for another run at the speakership during his campaign, though he didn’t rule it out. “Before that’s an issue, we have to win back the majority,” Crist told the Times in September.

Vern Buchanan lays out plans for lame duck session” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — First, he wants to see a reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Trust, which expired at the end of September. Since the expiration of federal funding, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition estimates national parks have lost out on more than $107 million. Of course, Buchanan also wants to ensure funding for red tide research, some of which may end up happening in his district at Mote Marine Laboratory. Buchanan and Democratic Delegation co-chair Alcee Hastings backed a $100-million research package earlier this year that would fund red tide study. Buchanan sponsored the Thin Blue Line Act, aimed at increasing criminal penalties for cop killers. The bill passed the House but hasn’t passed the Senate yet. Buchanan would like the pill to get to the president’s desk before a new Congress gets sworn in. The same goes for the Dog and Cat Meat Prohibition Act, another bill he worked on with Hastings.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ted Deutch condemn latest Hamas attacks on Israel” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — With southern Israel under attack from rockets being shot from Palestinian controlled Gaza, the two South Florida congressional representatives who lead the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee expressed their support of that key American ally. Retiring U.S. Rep Ros-Lehtinen took to Twitter to weigh in on the attacks. “I support Israel’s right to defend herself from attacks by Hamas and other Gaza terrorist groups,” she wrote. “These rockets are falling on innocent Israeli communities and I urge responsible nations to condemn these terrorists and help put a stop to their bloodshed.” She was joined by U.S. Rep. Deutch who has often allied himself with Ros-Lehtinen in recent years on Middle Eastern issues. Deutch also took to Twitter to blame Hamas for the latest round of attacks.

Ex-congresswoman’s hearing plan for February” via the News Service of Florida — A federal appeals court has rescheduled a hearing in a challenge filed by former Congresswoman Corrine Brown after she was convicted in a charity scam. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week scheduled the arguments on Feb. 1 in Atlanta, according to an online docket. The court had earlier indicated it would hear the case in December but scrapped that schedule. Brown, 72, filed an appeal after she was convicted last year on 18 felony counts and sentenced to five years in prison.

Happening today — Former Congressmen David Jolly and Patrick Murphy will speak at a Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce breakfast event about “Why Gridlock Rules Washington and How We Can Solve the Crisis,” 7:15 a.m., Palm Beach Gardens Marriott, 4000 RCA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens.


Joe Henderson: Bay County voters show need for expanded options” via Florida Politics — It’s wonderful that while dealing with the catastrophe wrought by Hurricane Michael, more than 140 Bay County voters did their civic duty and found a way to cast a ballot in this election. And then, alas, their votes need to be disqualified. They were submitted by email or fax, and that’s not allowed under Florida law. Look, I get it — this was an extraordinary circumstance and Bay County Supervisor of Elections Mark Anderson was doing what he could to help those citizens regain a piece of normal by allowing them to vote. But the votes have to be cast within the rules, and those weren’t. I have a suggestion going forward, though: change the rules. At least seriously explore alternatives to traditional ballots. No, I’m not saying to let Fred from the hardware store send a fax or drop off a Post-it Note with some names scribbled on and call that his ballot. I am saying it’s time that Florida revisits the way elections are conducted and tabulated (yeah, I’m looking at you, Broward County) and get with the times.

Dan Backer: Americans spend more on Thanksgiving than election 2018” via Florida Politics — When it’s all said and done, America will spend roughly $3 billion on Thanksgiving dinners this year. That’s a whole lot of white meat and cranberry sauce — not to mention food comas. All in all, we’re talking well over $20 billion spent by advertisers and their customers in a sliver of late November. Election 2018 was even cheaper. The 2017-2018 election cycle — the most expensive midterm ever — cost a mere $5 billion over two years, a drop in the ocean compared to America’s Turkey Day shopping sprees. Is “money in politics” really so evil? Ads for Jeeps, Big Macs and Harry Potter spin-offs flood our airwaves to a much, much larger extent, with nary a peep from the Left. Only when the content has to do with border security or tax cuts — and not end-of-year lease deals — do liberal Democrats throw a hissy fit.

Sarah Catalanotto, Laura Hampson: After hurricane, air medical services was rural lifesaver” via Florida Politics — When Hurricane Michael ripped through our state last month as the third most powerful hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States, it left a trail of destruction and devastation in its path. Unlike Hurricane Irma last year, this storm hit predominantly rural areas, leaving already resource-strained communities in a state of even greater need. While the process of rebuilding will take months and many hands, we must recognize those who helped lessen the hurricane’s deadly impact and assist those who needed it most. Often overlooked, air medical providers and the flight crews who operate each aircraft are exactly those people. The bottom line is that air medical services are an increasingly important part of providing high-quality and timely access to health care for many rural residents, but the ultimate responsibility falls on every Floridian to recognize the benefits of these services and ensure that they remain available for the patients who need them.


Lauren Book honored at Glamour Magazine ‘Women of the Year’ ceremony” via Florida Politics — State Sen. Book was recognized “for her efforts to increase education and awareness of child sexual abuse prevention” at Glamour Magazine’s 2018 Women of the Year summit and awards ceremony in New York City. The Plantation Democrat on Monday received the L’Oreal Paris/Glamour “Heroes Among Us” Award, presented by actor/advocate Amber Heard, at the Monday ceremony … Book shared “her experience surviving childhood sexual abuse” and how it “propelled her to create positive change for others by working to prevent abuse and help survivors heal.” “It is a tremendous honor to be chosen to stand alongside these brave, powerful and outspoken women who have used their voices and actions to become agents of change,” Book said in a statement.

Activist and state Sen. Lauren Book is receiving even more accolades, this time named Glamour magazine Women of the Year.

Personnel move: ACLU of Florida announces new executive director — Dr. Micah Kubic, a “distinguished scholar, community leader and nonprofit administrator,” replaces retiring executive director Howard Simon, the organization said Tuesday. He starts in January. Kubic has been executive director of the ACLU’s Kansas affiliate for the last three years. “Under his tenure, the Kansas ACLU affiliate successfully led campaigns to protect voting rights, and advance criminal justice and racial justice reforms,” a news release said. “I am thrilled to come stand side by side with tens of thousands of ACLU supporters in Florida to do that work,” Kubic said. He also has been Legislative Director for the City Council in Kansas City, Missouri. Kubic has an undergraduate degree from George Washington University, and a master’s degree in political science and doctorate in Black Politics from Howard University.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff, Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: Modern Canna Science

Jonathan Kilman, Paul Lowell, Jon Yapo, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Insikt, Florida Chiropractic Association, Walgreen Company, Lyft, Starsky Robotics

Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: PCE Systems, The Simmons Group Consulting

Orlando Sentinel shakes up top: Nancy Meyer, Julie Anderson in; Avido Khahaifa out” via Scott Powers of Orlando rising — The Orlando Sentinel has moved former publisher Meyer back as publisher of the newspaper and also of the Sun-Sentinel, and named Anderson as editor-in-chief, ending the run of Avido Khahaifa in both positions. Meyer has been serving as general manager of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. She will now hold that post plus the publisher’s title at both papers. This is Meyer’s second time around as publisher of the Orlando Sentinel; she was the paper’s publisher in 2015-16, before being dismissed and replaced in that position by Khahaifa. She went to work for the USA Today Network, and Tribune Publishing brought her back in March, making her general manager for the company’s Florida papers. Anderson has been serving as editor-in-chief at the Sun Sentinel since March 1, and now will hold that post at both papers.

Strategic Digital Services launches new website — The company, which bills itself as “Florida’s leading digital agency for advocacy, corporations, and campaigns,” debuted the new site this week at “We think it’s pretty innovative and smart — like the team that makes up SDS,” said Joe Clements, who heads the firm with Matt Farrar. Aside from founding SDS, they created Bundl, an app that coordinates political contributions. And the dynamic duo also produces the “Of Record” podcast to “drill down on the latest in digital media.” An episode with Florida Politics publisher Schorsch is here.

— ALOE —

A look around IAAPA 2018” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — If you walk into the Orange County Convention Center this week, you’d forgiven for thinking you’re in an indoor theme park and arcade rather than a trade show. Tuesday was the first day the show floor was open at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) expo, with companies ranging from popcorn vendors to carnival ride operators to roller coaster designers shopping their wares to more than 35,000 professionals working in the theme park industry from over 100 countries. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment attracted the most attention as it hyped up 11 rides opening across its parks in 2019. Several of those are coming to Orlando — particularly the re-themed attractions in its Sesame Street area — but at the booth for Orlando-based Skyline Attractions, the focus is on the Tidal Twister roller coaster coming to SeaWorld San Diego next year.

You can be forgiven for mistaking this week’s IAAPA as an indoor theme park.

SeaWorld: adding more rides is ‘new strategy with a lot of energy to it’” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — As SeaWorld Entertainment’s monthslong upswing continues, the company is trying to position itself into 2019 by opening nine new attractions at its parks across the country. SeaWorld’s senior vice president of attractions Mike Denninger spoke about the company’s aims, while in the background workers constructed the full-scale buildings that will make up Sesame Street land at SeaWorld Orlando, another one of the new projects in the mix next year. “This is a new strategy with a lot of energy to it,” said,” Denninger said. He declined to say how much SeaWorld Entertainment is spending on the new rides other than it is significant and “one of our biggest years of investment.”

New film says the Miami Herald’s Gary Hart story transformed journalism. Did it really?” via Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald — How much of this is your fault, Tom Fiedler? Like the 2014 book it’s based on, journalist Matt Bai’s “All The Truth Is Out,” the film argues that Fiedler and the Herald changed the ground rules of journalism in a fundamentally awful way by staking out the Capitol Hill home of former Colorado Sen. Hart to see if he was spending a cozy and wifeless weekend with a woman who would soon be identified as 29-year-old model and bit-part actress Donna Rice. “The finest political journalists of a generation surrendered all at once to the idea that politics had become another form of celebrity-driven entertainment,” wrote Bai, “while simultaneously disdaining the kind of reporting that such a thirst for entertainment made necessary.” Fiedler himself agrees that something changed in journalism and perhaps politics too after the Hart story. “My two cents is that our story was part of an evolution in journalism, not a revolution,” he said.

’Game of Thrones’ returns in April 2019 — here’s what we know so far about the final season” via Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post — How long will this season last? The final season will just be six episodes long, which also makes it the series’ shortest. Seasons 1 through 6 of the show each had 10 episodes, while Season 7 had seven episodes. But the final season will also have longer-than-normal episodes, clocking in at 80 minutes each. Source material, please? Just like Seasons 6 and 7, the show writers don’t have the benefit of drawing upon George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. What should we expect, plot-wise? Entertainment Weekly went on set and revealed some basic plot points: In a callback to the start of the series, we’ll see a procession into Winterfell, but it’ll be with Daenerys and her army as they all hunker down for the threat north of the Wall. Also, Sansa is not happy about the whole Jon-bending-the-knee-to-a-Targaryen thing. Also, we’re expecting to finally get that big faceoff with the Army of the Dead, and a throwdown that made “Battle of the Bastards,” according to actor Peter Dinklage, “look like a theme park.”

To watch the GoT teaser trailer, click on the image below:

Start of stone crab season in Cortez is worst in recent memory” via Tim Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Theories abound, but one thing is for sure: The current stone crab season is off to one of its worst starts in recent memory for the oldest active fishing village in Florida. It’s that bad. “There’s nothing. There’s no crabs around because it’s all dead,” said John Banyas, a fourth-generation fisherman from Cortez. “The latest from our 400-trap haul was only 4 pounds, a record low in these local waters,” said Banyas. To harvest the 1,200 pounds of stone crab for the seventh annual Cortez Stone Crab & Music Festival, which continues Sunday, Banyas had to go as far north as Crystal River and Hernando Beach. “Except for the blue crab, nothing you’re eating here this weekend is local, I can tell you that,” said Banyas, who is also the founder of the festival.

Happy birthday to the brilliant Karen Cyphers, Brittney Metzger, the super sharp Debbie Millner, and Victoria Elliott York.

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, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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