Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.23.19

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The state Senate plans to meet for four hours today, starting at 2 p.m., to deliberate whether to remove or reinstate suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Here’s the rundown: 

Getting started: Sen. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican, will start the floor session off with a prayer, followed by Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, leading the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Setting the tone: Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, will “give some opening remarks, just setting out the schedule for the day,” said Katie Betta, the Senate’s spokesperson. 

Suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel will learn if the Senate upholds his removal from office. Image via Colin Hackley.

In the hot seat: former Republican lawmaker Dudley Goodlette, whom Galvano appointed as a hearing officer in the matter, will then be on the floor to answer questions from senators. (Goodlette already recommended Israel be reinstated.) 

Making rules: Rules Committee chair Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican, will discuss her committee’s recommendation. By a 9-7 party-line vote on Monday night, it bucked Goodlette and approved a motion to remove Israel — a Democrat — from his post. 

Judgment day: Senators will debate the Rules report and vote on Israel’s fate. Up or down, the Secretary of the Senate will send the decision to the Secretary of State’s office, to be formally communicated to Israel and GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis

Of course, should Israel be removed — likely given the GOP majority in the chamber — he will still be free to run again for the post in 2020. And he’s said he would. 

So what if he wins? Not his problem, DeSantis told reporters Tuesday. 

The voters of Broward County will “be responsible for whatever decision is made in that respect,” he said. “ … It’s not going to be something that is going to matter to me either way. I mean, I had to make the decision I had to make; those folks can make whatever decision that they want to make.”


It’s been a little over a month since Sen. Gary Farmer told his fellow Senate Democrats that he separated from his wife and started a relationship with a Tallahassee lobbyist.

Farmer, the Senate Democratic Leader-designate, didn’t have a lot to say publicly, though he did drive one point home, telling reporters that he remains “fully focused on helping our caucus win more Democratic seats next November.”

If he is genuinely focused, then what goes on in his personal life is his own business. But recent campaign finance reports make don’t inspire confidence in his ability to grow the Democratic caucus in 2020.

 Between July 1 and Sept. 30, the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, chaired by Farmer, raised just over $211,000 while spending more than $217,000. For those who don’t feel like doing the arithmetic, that’s a net negative of $6,000 for the third quarter.

— FDLCC — the primary funding vehicle for Democratic state Senate campaigns — had less than $20,000 in the bank heading into October.

There’s more than a year to go before the 2020 election, and Farmer could very well be able to turn it around this quarter. But it would be a sucker bet to think he’ll catch up to the fundraising juggernaut that is Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson.

The Simpson-led Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee posts banner reports quarter after quarter. Their newest reports show $2.9 million in contributions and $920,000 in spending — it has $2.5 million banked

That puts more races than Senate District 39 — expected to be the most competitive of the bunch — on the table for Republicans.

But FDLCC? It would be a miracle if that bank balance could cover half a radio ad for Javier Fernandez’ SD 39 bid.


To most, seeing Florida GOP Chair and state Sen. Joe Gruters in the same room with FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo would be grounds for a spit take.

After all, it’s never happened before. Until now.

U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe (center) strikes a bipartisan pose with Joe Gruters and Terrie Rizzo.

The two Party heads were invited to sit down with U. S. Attorney Larry Keefe of the Northern District of Florida, and they answered the call.

What was important enough to get both of them at the same table? Election security.

Though there’s no indication votes were changed in the 2016 election, there is evidence that two county Supervisors of Elections offices were hacked by Russians ahead three years ago.

With that in mind, both sides of the aisle have a vested interest in making sure all Floridians who can legally vote can do so without issue, and that then those votes are cast they’re tallied up correctly.

One doesn’t need to look too far back to see just how close Florida elections can be — the U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner races all headed to a recount last year.

Details on what Gruters, Rizzo and Keefe discussed during their meeting are scant, but they may not be for much longer.

Come Nov. 1, Keefe will hold a news conference in Tallahassee alongside a diverse lineup of federal, state and local officials to who are all focused on making sure Florida’s 2020 election is secure.


As discussed above, the Florida Senate will decide the fate of former Broward Sheriff Israel — and it looks like a partisan vote, meaning he probably won’t be getting his job back.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— As for those Ukrainian businessmen associated with Rudy Giuliani, who have been accused of funneling foreign money into U.S. elections — DeSantis says one of them sought an appointment to his transition team.

— Several former death row inmates who were exonerated visited Tallahassee to ask the Governor to spare the next inmate scheduled to die in Florida.

— A contentious bill that, if passed, would force girls to get parental permission before getting an abortion has cleared its sole committee in the Florida House. Opponents claim its part of a campaign to roll back abortion rights for everyone, not just minors.

— The latest in Florida Man news: Investigators in Boynton Beach are searching for a man who managed to steal more than one thousand dollars’ worth of scotch from a liquor store — by smuggling the booze in his pants.

To listen, click on the image below:


@AlexWagner: Just to be clear, the “radical unelected bureaucrats” refers to Bill Taylor, a West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran and Ukrainian ambassador appointed by George W. Bush—who was asked (again) to serve his country by a GOP congressman turned Secretary of State named Mike Pompeo.

@Thor_Benson: It’s quite possible Trump made the “lynching” remark to distract us from Ambassador William Taylor’s testimony today. He knows it’s going to be one of the worst ones yet for him.

@JebBush: The President is not a victim. He should be the most powerful person on the planet. To equate his plight to lynching is grotesque.

@RepKarenBass: You are comparing a constitutional process to the PREVALENT and SYSTEMATIC brutal torture of people in THIS COUNTRY that looked like me?

@MZanona: @GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy on [Donald] Trump comparing impeachment to a lynching: “That’s not the language I would use,” he says. “I don’t agree with that language, pretty simple.”

@MaryEllenKlas: Attorney for @GovRonDeSantis says there’s now ‘a new standard that sheriffs are going to be held to that level of responsibility’ and maybe that’s why @SheriffPinellas didn’t want to remove @ScottJIsrael

@AGAshleyMoody: When websites like Craigslist, eBay and Facebook allow alcohol sales on their platforms — licensing laws and consumer protection efforts are often violated. That’s why I am calling on these companies to take action to prevent illegal online alcohol sales.

@SkipFoster: Look, Urban Meyer is never going to coach at FSU. Sheesh.

@Dlb100b: David Coburn is a lot of things. An eloquent speaker he is not.

@Jon_E_Johnson: Random but I thought it was pretty cool … Today, if you add your age + the year you were born, you will get 2019. This only happens once every 1,000 years.


Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 5; Brexit scheduled — 8; The Florida Chamber’s Insurance Summit — 12; 2019 General Election — 13; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 15; “The Mandalorian” premieres — 20; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 25; Fifth Democratic debate — 28; “Frozen 2” debuts — 30; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 40; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 58; College Football National Championship — 82; 2020 Session begins — 83; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 84; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 102; Great American Realtors Day — 103; Iowa Caucuses — 103; New Hampshire Primaries — 111; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 142; Florida’s presidential primary — 146; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 196; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 275; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 307; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 350; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 358; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 365; 2020 General Election — 377.


Ron DeSantis: Indicted Rudy Giuliani associate sought transition committee post” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Lev Parnas, a U.S. citizen originally from the Ukraine and one of the two indicted South Florida businessmen accused of funneling foreign money into U.S. elections, helped host two fundraisers for DeSantis and donated $50,000 to his campaign through a Delaware corporation. After he was elected governor, DeSantis established several transition advisory committees, each devoted to different policy areas, that met for several weeks to provide recommendations for his agenda on each topic. DeSantis appointed the members. Parnas’ request to serve on one of those committees, which had not been previously revealed, indicates a direct attempt to influence DeSantis’ early policy positions. The two men had also pursued breaking into Florida’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry, but were unsuccessful.

Lev Parnas requested to serve on one of Ron DeSantis’ transition committees, indicating a direct attempt to influence early policy positions.

Indicted Giuliani associate taps Manafort attorney” via Josh Gerstein of Politico — Fruman, one of the two associates of Giuliani facing criminal charges, has retained a lawyer who is also representing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Fruman, who is set to be arraigned on campaign finance-related charges Wednesday in federal court in New York, is expected to be represented by Todd Blanche, a former federal prosecutor.

Rudy Giuliani Ukrainian associates rebuffed by Florida medical marijuana industry — The two men accused of trying to introduce foreign money into U.S. politics failed to get a foothold in Florida’s medical marijuana industry. As reported by Arek Sarkissian and Natalie Fertig of POLITICO Florida, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman spent “months trying to invest millions of dollars in a cannabis venture” in an attempt to buy a Florida medical marijuana license, but were stopped when industry executives discovered they clearly “didn’t know what they were doing.” “They just want to be that cool investor that goes home to their family on the holidays and is like, ‘Hey, I own a cannabis business,’” one executive in the deal told POLITICO. “They were very concerned about perception.”


If Scott Israel wins 2020 Broward sheriff election, DeSantis won’t suspend him again” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — “No, no, no. The people can make that decision going forward,” DeSantis told reporters. The Florida Senate is scheduled to vote on upholding Israel’s suspension through the end of the sheriff’s current term. The Senate Rules Committee voted to recommend removing Israel, a precursor to the outcome. Israel has already filed paperwork to raise money as a 2020 candidate for sheriff and says he’s running. “As is his right,” DeSantis said. “There is nothing in the [Florida] Constitution that bars someone from then seeking the same office again and so totally has a right to do it.”

Does Israel’s removal rewrite the rules for Florida’s sheriffs?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The handling of Israel’s suspension by the governor and Senate has created what the governor’s attorney called a “new standard” by which to hold sheriffs accountable. It also unleashed a flurry of new questions: What is acceptable use of executive authority for political gain? What does this do to the standards Florida sets for its elected sheriffs? And is the removal of Israel a one-off situation, colored by the pain of a terrible tragedy and rarely expected to happen again?

Why did Broward Senators vote to reinstate Scott Israel as sheriff?” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel — Removal of Israel means he would be deemed responsible for what happened at the school, (Lauren) Book reasoned, making it harder to make charges stick against Peterson, who faces several criminal charges related to his failure to act. … During the Rules Committee marathon, Farmer and (Perry) Thurston made it clear they had problems with the way the case against Israel was proceeding. Explaining their votes, they said it was important to consider all of Broward, whose residents elected Israel as sheriff, rather than just the voices that want him permanently removed.

— “Broward sheriff’s removal is more political act than justice for Parkland parents” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald

DeSantis wants Broward sheriff gone. So do I. But it’s wrong to overturn valid elections” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — I can’t vouch for Broward County Sheriff Israel. I don’t think I want him in office. But here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter what I think. I didn’t elect him. One specific group of people did — the voters of Broward County. That’s why it’s so troubling to see politicians attempt to override a valid vote to oust a duly elected official who hasn’t even been charged with a crime, much less convicted of one. It’s a wicked precedent — something you might expect in a third-world country where rulers pick and choose which elections to uphold. Yet it’s playing out in Florida right now.

Scott Israel may deserve to be removed, but perhaps it should be the decision of voters.
DeSantis: Non-violent felons should get more than just voting rights restored” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis said that as leader of the state’s Board of Clemency, he would be “comfortable” changing the clemency rules to expand nonviolent felons’ civil rights well beyond the right to vote, which Floridians granted last year with the passage of Amendment 4. “I think we should have a streamlined process where you can restore the right to be on a jury and restore the right to serve in office” after felons finish their sentence, DeSantis said.

Cabinet approves Panhandle land deal” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet agreed to spend $1.095 million for 6.4 acres along the Gulf Coast if the federal government covers at least half the cost. State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, noting the Northwest Florida land may be difficult to develop, said he had “reservations” about spending the money without a guarantee of the federal offset. The area within the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve in Gulf County is subject to a 2015 agreement between the U.S. Air Force and the state Department of Environmental Protection that could result in a restrictive easement being placed over the land to protect the Air Force’s flight operations.

Happening today — Attorney General Ashley Moody, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen, Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom and Alzheimer’s Community Care President and CEO Mary Barnes will talk with reporters about the Silver Alert program, 11:30 a.m., Plaza Level Rotunda, the Capitol.

Florida House ready to take up parental consent for abortion” via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press — Girls younger than 18 would need consent from a parent or guardian before getting an abortion under a bill approved by a Florida House committee Tuesday that will head to a full chamber vote when the annual session begins in January. The bill was given only one committee stop — a rarity for legislation and a signal that it’s a high priority for Republican House leadership. The House Health and Human Services Committee approved it on a party-line vote. The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Erin Grall would require a minor to get written, notarized permission from a parent or legal guardian to obtain an abortion. Florida already requires that doctors notify parents before performing an abortion on a minor, but parental consent isn’t required. The House passed an identical bill earlier this year, but the Senate refused to consider it.

School choice, HBCU support top education priorities for Florida’s Legislative Black Caucus” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Members of the group, which includes 21 House members and six senators, emphasized the importance of education to their communities. But in a nod to the growing support for issues such as private school vouchers for low-income families, the caucus straddled the fence when it comes to PreK-12 education goals. “We believe in investing in public education,” said Rep. Bruce Antone, who serves as the ranking minority member of the House Education Committee. “And we also believe in school choice.” Antone paused, and added, “But in terms more so of school choice, in the public school system.” He referred to offerings such as magnet schools and, to a lesser degree, charter schools.

Telehealth bill praised at Senate hearingArt Cooksey, CEO and Founder of Let’s Talk Interactive, praised the passage of 2019’s House Bill 23 at a meeting of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. Cooksey’s company makes machines that allow for teleconferencing between mental health professionals and those seeking their services. “You’re putting together those rails that are really in need to take a technology like this, make sure it’s HIPAA-compliant, make sure that we’re staying within the health care regulations that we need to stay within so that this is safe, it’s secure and it’s a new way for people to connect.” In August, his company’s portals were added to schools throughout the North Florida region impacted by Hurricane Michael.


Democratic lawmakers want to ban conversion therapy” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — It’s a practice discredited by the psychiatric community and by pediatricians. That’s partly because of the damaging psychological trauma from telling a child their very impulses are abnormal. And it’s also because it’s quack medicine with a very low success rate. “It’s not conversion. It’s not therapy,” said state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez. “By and large, it doesn’t work. But that’s not even the big issue. To suggest any conversion can happen is to suggest there is something wrong with a minor.” Yet, practicing conversion therapy remains legal in 34 states, including Florida. Rodriguez wants to change that. He’s sponsoring legislation (SB 180) in the Senate that would bar licensed professionals from offering the so-called therapy to children.

Jason Pizzo wants water safety added to school curriculum” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — That measure (SB 608) will serve as a companion bill to legislation introduced by Democrat James Bush III (HB 325) in the House. “Each school district shall incorporate age-appropriate water safety instruction into the health education curriculum for students in grades kindergarten through 12,” the bill reads. Included as part of that instruction is “the proper use of flotation devices, awareness of water conditions, how to respond if caught in a rip current, the proper supervision of swim areas, safe behaviors in and around the water, the importance of pool barriers and fencing, the importance of formal swim lessons, the importance of avoiding alcohol and substance use with water recreation.”

Jayer Williamson seeks funding for Farm Share” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Williamson, a Pace Republican, filed an appropriations request (HB 2317) for Farm Share. He wants $5.4 million from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services budget for a program. That’s on top of nearly $3 million budgeted this fiscal year. “Farm Share has historically been reimbursed for costs incurred to acquire and distribute food,” Williamson wrote in a funding request. He noted Farm Share has historically provided for communities in need and then been repaid later. “They do not receive the allocated legislative dollars unless the services are performed first. Therefore, penalties are not needed since if the deliverables are not met, no money is paid.”


The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 9 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

On the House Health Quality Subcommittee agenda, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees and others talk about the dangers of vaping, 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will meet to discuss resiliency plans for climate change, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee meets to discuss energy technology, 9 a.m., 306 House Office Building.

Maj. Gen. James Eifert, adjutant general of the Florida National Guard, will give an update to the House Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, 9 a.m., 12 House Office Building.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss money for opioid response, 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

The House Business & Professions Subcommittee meets to discuss vaping, nicotine dispensing devices and regulation of tobacco products, 12:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 12:30 p.m., 404 House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee meets to hear a presentation from the Department of Transportation, 12:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate will hold a floor session to decide whether to reinstate or remove suspended Broward County Sheriff Israel, 2 p.m., Senate chamber.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets, 3 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

On the agenda of the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee is health issues for student-athletes, 3 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee meets to discuss the impacts of Hurricane Michael on the local workforce, 3 p.m., 12 House Office Building.


Old fashion turkey and rice soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; Mediterranean tabbouleh; tropical fruit salad; deli board, lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses & breads; grilled marinated breast of chicken, honey mustard glaze (on side); tilapia with macadamia nut crust with papaya basil cream; slow-cooked beef stew; rice pilaf; grilled zucchini fries; summer squash casserole; warm peach cobbler for dessert.


Death row exonerees ask DeSantis to halt execution” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — Four former Florida death row inmates, all wrongfully convicted and later set free, signed and personally delivered a letter Tuesday to the office of Gov. DeSantis imploring him to stop the Nov. 7 execution of James Dailey. The group reiterated concerns that Dailey might be innocent of the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio in Pinellas County. “As you know,” they wrote, “each of us, and all of the other men who make up the 29 death row exonerees in Florida, are living proof that our court system does make mistakes. If innocent people can make it onto death row, what would prevent an innocent person from being executed?”

Supreme Court urged to weigh First Amendment issues” via the News Service of Florida — Arguing that the case threatens to “chill expression and political activity throughout this state,” attorneys for a prominent South Florida environmentalist filed a brief urging the state Supreme Court to take up a case about First Amendment rights and allegations of malice. Attorneys for Maggy Hurchalla filed a brief as they seek to convince the Supreme Court to overturn a 4th District Court of Appeal ruling that upheld a $4.4 million verdict against her in a dispute stemming from a project that included limerock mining. A three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected arguments by Hurchalla, sister of the late U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, that the First Amendment protected her communications with Martin County officials about the project.

Ballooning overtime pay in Florida prisons: One of the myriad problems facing the state’s corrections crisis” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the Florida Phoenix — Last year Florida paid $77 million in overtime to staff its state prisons, an exploding price tag stemming from the inability to hire and keep correctional officers at the state’s Department of Corrections. Why is this happening? The problem begins with starting salaries of just $33,500.

A guard allegedly beat a Florida inmate. The victim happened be a lawmaker’s ex in-law” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Miami Herald — Dianne Hart would like to think that Tuesday’s arrest of a corrections officer who brutalized a Florida inmate — an inmate who just happened to be Hart’s former brother-in-law — had nothing to do with her status as a state Representative who has crusaded on behalf of prison reform. But she knows the families she talks to, who tell her they have seen their imprisoned loved ones beaten and abused with no such outcome, may be skeptical. The alleged attacker of Carlton Hart will be dismissed, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Dangerous but disarmed: How Florida has confiscated thousands of guns” via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s Risk Protection Court was created last year to take guns from people judged too dangerous to have them. Once, this would have seemed unlikely in the “Gunshine State,” known for lawmakers in lockstep with the National Rifle Association. But since Florida enacted its “red flag” law in March 2018, thousands of guns have been given up or taken by authorities. The tipping point: Seventeen dead at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Since then, through August 2019, 2,654 people in Florida have been ordered to turn over their guns and ammunition and banned from having any more for up to a year. No one appears to be keeping a statewide count of how many guns have been collected.

Former sex workers see value in Florida’s mandated sex trafficking education” via Ryan McKinnon of The Associated Press — This month, Florida became the first state in the nation requiring sex-trafficking education as part of every student’s curriculum. “Tragically, human trafficking is an epidemic in our country,” DeSantis said of the new rule. “Children of all ages need to know and understand the hazards of human trafficking and how to protect themselves from dangerous predators.” The new policy requires every school district to implement age-appropriate lessons about the dangers of one of the state’s fastest-growing industries. “I think it is going to be an eye-opener for our students,” said Valerie Ellery, the Florida Department of Education’s new Human Trafficking Education Specialist. “We are very grateful we are able to have this rule passed so we can start doing education.”

Former sex worker Kimberly Weller believes schools should do more to educate about sex trafficking.

Rehearing rejected in conservation funding fight” via the News Service of Florida — An appeals court has refused to reconsider a decision that backed Florida lawmakers in a battle about conservation funding. With no explanation, the 1st District Court of Appeal issued an order denying a request by environmental groups for a rehearing in the case. A three-judge panel of the appeals court on Sept. 9 overturned a ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, who said lawmakers improperly diverted money that flows from a 2014 constitutional amendment designed to boost land and water conservation. The appeals court said Dodson erred when he ruled that money from the amendment could only be used on property purchased after the voter-approved measure took effect.


William Taylor testifies about deep-seated push for Ukraine quid pro quo” via Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Taylor prompted sighs and gasps when he read a lengthy 15-page opening statement, two of the sources said. Another person in the room said Taylor’s statement described “how pervasive the efforts were” among Trump‘s allies to convince Ukrainian officials to launch an investigation targeting former Vice President Joe Biden and another probe centering on a debunked conspiracy theory regarding the 2016 election. Taylor also described the extent to which military assistance to Ukraine and a potential White House meeting with Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart were tied to those investigations.

Ambassador William Taylor offered the most explosive testimony in Donald Trump’s impeachment investigation.

50 percent support impeaching Donald Trump and removing him from office” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN — Half of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS from Oct. 17-20; 1,003 adults with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent, a new high in CNN polling on the topic and the first time that support for impeachment and removal has significantly outpaced opposition.” Forty-nine percent said Trump “used his office improperly to gain a political advantage against a potential 2020 opponent in his interactions with the President of Ukraine.” At the same time, “more now say Trump did not use the presidency improperly (43 percent, up from 39 percent), as the share who are undecided on the question dipped. That shift was largely driven by a 16-point increase in the share of Republicans who say Trump didn’t improperly use the presidency (from 71 to 87 percent).”

Assignment editors — Congressman Matt Gaetz will lead a delegation of Republican members of Congress to the House Intelligence Committee deposition, where they will demand increased transparency and inclusion in the impeachment process from House Democrats, specifically Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chairman Adam Schiff, 9:45 a.m., outside HVC-304, Washington D.C.

— 2020 —

Trump’s rallies aren’t a sideshow. They are the campaign.” via Michael Bender of the Wall Street Journal — Trump’s rallies played a central role in his first victory. With an existential threat to his presidency looming, they are, in many ways, more important than ever. Rallies let the president “cut through all of the noise” in Washington about impeachment and speak unfiltered to his supporters, said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump-campaign communications director. “Rallies were always an integral, main part of the campaign strategy, but now it makes communicating with people directly that much more important,” he said. “It’s also important for the president’s supporters to see him out there fighting.” Trump rallies are more meticulously produced than the loose and thinly staffed events of four years ago.

This is not a sideshow. This is the Donald Trump campaign.

CNN poll: Joe Biden’s lead in Democratic primary hits widest margin since April” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN — Former Vice President Biden’s lead in the race for the Democratic nomination has rebounded, and now stands at its widest margin since April, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. Biden has the support of 34% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, his best showing in CNN polling since just after his campaign’s formal launch on April 25. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are about even for second, with 19% and 16%, respectively.

Pete Buttigieg focus groups found being gay ‘a barrier’ for black South Carolina voters” via David Catanese of The State — Internal focus groups conducted by Buttigieg’s presidential campaign this summer reveal a key reason why he is struggling with African-American voters: many see his sexuality as a problem. The 21-page report, conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group with black Democratic South Carolina voters in mid-July and obtained exclusively by McClatchy, found that “being gay was a barrier for these voters, particularly for the men who seemed deeply uncomfortable even discussing it. … [T]heir preference is for his sexuality to not be front and center.” While the report stated that Buttigieg’s sexuality was not a “disqualifier” for these voters, some of the focus group participants questioned why Buttigieg even brought it up.

Puerto Ricans want to boost their political voice in Florida. Can this help Democrats?” via Luisita Lopez Torregrosa of NBC — Puerto Ricans in this city, who have long felt like a sideshow in Florida politics, are mobilizing to gain a larger voice at the ballot box, motivated in part by the devastation and the response to Hurricane Maria, which “showed our powerlessness,” as one attorney and activist says.


Anna Eskamani clears $150K raised for HD 47 reelection bid — Rep. Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat, said that she’s racked up $150,000 in contributions for her HD 47 reelection campaign. The fundraising announcement follows Eskamani’s recent campaign kickoff, which she called “a true reflection of our movement and commitment to the people of House District 47. Our campaign has always been grounded in people power, and together we’re sending a message to Tallahassee that prioritizes the needs of everyday Floridians above all else. I am grateful to our incredible donors, supporters, and volunteers who continue to stand with us, and propel us toward victory in 2020.” Eskamani is currently the only candidate running for HD 47, which she won by 15 points last year.

Happening tonight:



Susan Valdes to launch reelection campaign next week” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Democratic Rep. Valdes is hosting her campaign kickoff reception Oct. 30 at Maikel’s Kitchen #3 from 6-7:30 p.m. Valdes assembled an all-star host committee for the event including current and former elected officials at the local and state level. The list includes every single member of Tampa City Council — Bill Carlson, Joe Citro, Luis Viera, John Dingfelder, Charlie Miranda, Guido Maniscalco and Orlando Gudes — as well as former City Council members Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen. Cohen is now running for Hillsborough County Commission. Valdes is also receiving support from Tampa Bay area Senators Janet Cruz and Darryl Rouson as well as Reps. Fentrice Driskell, Dianne Hart, Adam Hattersley, and Wengay Newton.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla accused of trespassing, voter intimidation at senior housing complex” via Manuel Madrid of the Miami New Times — A get-out-the-vote effort turned ugly after Diaz de la Portilla and a handful of individuals campaigning for him showed up at an Allapattah public housing complex. A disagreement about whether Diaz de la Portilla had permission to campaign on the premises — and whether his team illicitly coerced voter activity — ultimately led Miami police to respond. The dispute began at Three Round Towers, a trio of apartment buildings for the elderly. That evening, members of Diaz de la Portilla’s entourage knocked on multiple doors inside the high-rise complex, according to the president of the building’s association, 75-year-old Miriam Rodriguez. Rodriguez says residents complained to her that the campaign workers were scaring them and “forcing [them] to vote for de la Portilla.”


Tampa Bay business community rallies behind All For Transportation as Supreme Court appeal looms” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Tampa Bay Partnership and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. are supporting the All For Transportation sales surtax currently being challenged in the Florida Supreme Court. The groups filed a brief Tuesday outlining why they think justices should uphold the tax approved by Hillsborough voters last November. If the court is unwilling to reinstate the entire charter, also known as Article 11, the group asks justices to uphold Article 11 as Hillsborough County Judge Rex Barbas severed it. “We are proud to stand with All for Transportation and the business community in defending Hillsborough voters’ decision to improve transportation last November,” said Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. CEO Craig Richard.

Miami-Dade approves $76 million to bring Brightline trains to Aventura Mall” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Brightline trains could be running from downtown Miami to Aventura within a year after Miami-Dade commissioners approved paying $76 million to build the for-profit rail company a station connecting to the Aventura Mall. The lopsided vote came despite concerns about fares being too pricey for everyday commuters and what the deal with the company behind Virgin trains would mean for the prospects of the Tri-Rail commuter line ever starting service along the same corridor. But with transit ambitions stalled or subdued across Miami-Dade, commissioners seized on a rail option that brought no yearly operating costs or need to build new tracks.

For $76 million, Brightline will have a stop at the Aventura Mall.

Mayor Jerry Demings leads Orange County tourism entourage to London” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Demings will lead a Central Florida delegation to London next month to promote tourism. The first-year Mayor and Roseann Harrington, his chief of staff, will accompany an entourage of Visit Orlando staff to the annual World Travel Market trade show. During his four-day junket, Demings is expected to meet with tourism and airline executives, including representatives of British Airways, Norwegian Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways. He also has scheduled appointments with writers who cover international consumer travel.

NAS Pensacola commander says state of Escambia County schools drives away families” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — The commander of Naval Air Station Pensacola says the state of some Escambia County schools is forcing service members to choose between serving their country or sacrificing their children’s education. Capt. Tim Kinsella raised the issue at the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce’s state of the military luncheon last week when he said many military members with families try to avoid being transferred to Pensacola because of the poor schools around the base. “People shouldn’t have to sacrifice their children’s education to serve their country, and sometimes that’s how they feel,” Kinsella said.

Studer Family Children’s Hospital delivers top-notch care to Northwest Florida children” via Florida Politics — Where a family lives plays a major role in getting quality medical care for their child, especially if they are struggling with a major illness. There’s no shortage of dedicated children’s hospitals in Tampa, Orlando or South Florida. But north of Florida’s Turnpike, the options start thinning out. In Northwest Florida, there’s only one option: Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart. Without it, Panhandle families would need to travel 350 miles to get to a dedicated pediatric hospital. Simply put, the hospital is fully dedicated to providing the best possible care for children, no matter what it takes. And it — like all Ascension facilities — delivers care without regard for a patient’s ability to pay.


Hearing set in Parkland school shooting case” via the Associated Press — The hearing Wednesday likely concerns the setting of timelines leading up to the planned January trial of the 21-year-old Nicholas Cruz. It also could involve a discussion of the possible use of the insanity defense. Although Cruz has pleaded not guilty, his lawyers say he would admit to the crimes in exchange for a life prison sentence. Prosecutors say they are pursuing the death penalty.

Judge sets retrial date for Katherine Magbanua in Dan Markel killing” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson set an April 13 trial date for Magbanua, whose charges in the murder of Florida State law professor Dan Markel ended in mistrial earlier this month.”

Florida Bar moves to suspend lawyer facing 31 complaints. But no one can find him.” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — José Angel Toledo is the subject of 31 disciplinary complaints filed with the Bar by his clients and one medical provider, according to a petition the Bar filed with the Florida Supreme Court. Toledo “appears to be causing great public harm,” according to the petition. Toledo, 45, is the ex-husband of state Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican. A warrant has been issued for José Toledo’s arrest for contempt of court over his failure to pay his ex-wife $122,000 in overdue family support. Her lawyers filed a document in August saying they believe he may have left the country. Jackie Toledo has no idea where he is, according to the records.

Termination looms for ex-Spanish River high principal in Holocaust uproar” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — The chief executive of Palm Beach County’s public schools is moving to fire former Spanish River High School Principal William Latson over his controversial comments about the Holocaust. Superintendent Donald Fennoy told Latson in a letter that he will recommend his termination to the county school board Oct. 30 after a school district personnel investigation found grounds to fire him. “I hereby inform you that there is ‘just cause,’ which can be substantiated by clear and convincing evidence, to warrant your termination from your position as a principal,” Fennoy wrote. The letter does not detail the investigation’s findings but accuses Latson of violating the school district’s code of ethics and the state’s code of professional conduct for school principals.

The most Floridish story of the day —  “Mojo the iguana was a jail pet. Then an inmate fed him alive to a gator, police said” via Gwen Folosa of — A Florida Keys inmate decided to rid Key West of one more iguana. He fed it alive to an alligator at the sheriff’s petting zoo, police said. His fellow inmates ratted him out for the killing. … But Mojo the iguana — a large dominant male red and green reptile who had a stump for a tail — wasn’t just any iguana. … Mojo was a 13-year resident of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm and one of the many pets tended to by several jail inmates who are locked up next door.


Joe Henderson: Trump reelection advantages should worry Dems” via Florida Politics — There are a couple of radar blips that should encourage Republicans and scare the bejeebers out of Democrats. POLITICO reported that the President and the Republican National Committee had raised more than $300 million this year. It’s a staggering number. That is more than any other sitting president at this point in the campaign. Trump has $158 million cash on hand. “The resources he has will be put to work anywhere and everywhere that he feels like he can scare up electoral votes, and Democrats will never catch up. It’s just too much money,” Democratic strategist Chris Lippincott told POLITICO. “That’s real trouble … I’m not here to curse the dark, but it’s dark.”

That stink you’re smelling is DeSantis’ money problem” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — DeSantis has a money problem. Not a lack of cash. More like a stench from money he’s getting and the manner he’s raising it: DeSantis’ political committee had received a $50,000 donation in 2018 from two South Florida men — one born in Ukraine, the other in Belarus — who have since been charged with federal campaign finance violations. This follows revelations that DeSantis’ political committee — Friends of Ron DeSantis — had developed a shopping list for meeting opportunities with the Governor or his wife. Those two examples smell like broccoli gone bad, and the stink could start clinging to a Governor who is enjoying bipartisan support and goodwill after eking out a win over his Democratic opponent last year.

After Amendment 4 ruling, what’s next for ex-felons’ voting rights?” via Danielle Lange for the Orlando Sentinel — What about the up to hundreds of thousands of Floridians who, like these 17 individuals, are otherwise eligible to vote but have outstanding legal debt they cannot pay? In the first instance, the judge left it to the state to create a process for them to prove their inability to pay, register and vote. The secretary of state and Governor have signaled that they intend to comply with the court’s order. To do so, they must, per the court’s order: “put in place an appropriate procedure through which an individual plaintiff may register and vote if otherwise qualified and genuinely unable to pay outstanding financial obligations.”

Should Parkland shooting cost former Sheriff Israel his job?” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The Florida Senate will vote on whether to permanently remove or reinstate former Broward County Sheriff Israel, whom DeSantis removed from office in the wake of the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. At issue is not only Israel’s fate but the Senate’s use of its authority to effectively invalidate the voters’ will by removing a locally elected official and enabling the Governor to fulfill a campaign promise. Senators should base their decision today on the facts, not partisan politics or the understandable grief of the Parkland community. They should make independent decisions without regard to partisan politics — and they should give greater weight to the findings of an independent special master who said flatly the Governor did not make his case.

The battle over water and public health returns to Tallahassee” via Howard Simon and John Cassani of the Tampa Bay Times — After the last prolonged outbreak of Red Tide and blue-green algae, it seemed every politician vowed to “do something.” But, shockingly, the Legislature failed to enact any legislation addressing the sources of nutrient pollution that fuel toxic algae blooms: agribusiness’ use of sewage sludge (biosolids) that seeps into the groundwater and water table, aging wastewater treatment plants that need upgrading, stormwater runoff and leaky septic tanks. The Governor’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force has prepared initial recommendations for the Legislature in 2020, which will make it harder for lawmakers to evade their responsibility. The task force report sets the inescapable factual context: “increased delivery of nutrients to Florida’s water bodies is widely recognized as the primary driver of algal proliferation …”

Debbie Wasserman Schultz chose to keep her breast cancer battle private – while in Congress” via Debbie Wasserman Schultz for Glamour — My story, like many others, begins with the words “You have breast cancer. I was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2005. Then in 2007, when I was only 41 years old, just after my first mammogram came back clean, I was doing a routine self-exam and found a lump. It turned out to be breast cancer. I also discovered that, like many other Ashkenazi Jewish women, I carry the BRCA2 gene mutation. That gene mutation made me more than seven times more likely to get breast cancer and 30 times more likely to get ovarian cancer before I turned 70 years old.


Personnel note: Jason Hand joins the Florida Senior Living Association — FSLA announced that it is bringing on Hand as its new Vice President of Public Policy and Legal Affairs. In his new role, he will be responsible for managing the legislative, regulatory and policy activities for FSLA, which represents professionally managed senior living communities offering independent, assisted living and memory care services. Hand’s resume includes 20 years of experience in creating and implementing state policy and high-profile projects within Florida’s legislative and executive branches. He comes to FLSA from the Department of Environmental Protection, where he led a team of attorneys responsible for the regulatory, proprietary, and restoration efforts for DEP’s water programs. Hand is a graduate of Mercer Law School, Florida State University, and Tallahassee Community College.

Congratulations to Jason Hand, the new Vice President of Public Policy and Legal Affairs for the Florida Senior Living Association.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Slater Bayliss, Steve Schale, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: APTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL

David Browning, Mercer Fearington, James McFaddin, The Southern Group: CleanFund Commercial PACE Capital, Motorola Solutions

Allen Boyd, Cannae Policy Group: Blue Cypress Grain

Matt Bryan, Daniel David, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff, Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: The College Board

Veronica De La Garza: American Diabetes Association

Doug Holder, Mike Fischer, The Legis Group: Dayspring Village, Seminole County Tax Collector

Lee Ann Griffin: Florida Senior Living Association

Kari Hebrank, Carlton Fields: Summit Industries Corporation d/b/a School Check IN

Nick Iarossi, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Florida Cultural Alliance

Jeff Johnston, Amanda Stewart, Johnston & Stewart Government Strategies: Florida Alliance for Healthy Communities

Ryan Matthews, Peebles Smith & Matthews: Florida Association of Professional Geologists

Tara Taggart: Florida League of Cities

Jason Winn, Winn Law: Florida Society of Hearing Healthcare Professionals

— ALOE —

Verizon will offer customers a year of Disney+ for free” via Todd Haselton of CNBC — The deal will be available to new and existing Verizon unlimited wireless customers, new FiOS home internet and 5G home internet customers, the company said. People who already preordered the Disney+ service are still eligible. The “purchase will be put on pause and resume after the Verizon promo period,” a Verizon spokesperson told CNBC. The offer will land Disney+ millions of early subscribers who may continue to subscribe after the first year, which is important since it will enter a crowded streaming market that includes Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and HBO Max.

Florida State AD shoots down Urban Meyer coaching rumor with bizarre hypothetical” via Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports — Rumors swirled this week that influential Florida State boosters are preparing to find ways for the program to move on from Willie Taggart and subsequently hire a coach who can compete at the highest level — including former Florida and Ohio State coach Meyer. Florida State athletic director David Coburn is having none of that, and he made that crystal clear while utilizing one of the more bizarre hypotheticals for this type of scenario — or really any scenario, for that matter. “If Coach were hit by a bus tomorrow, we would not target Coach Meyer, period,” Coburn told the Tallahassee Democrat. “I say that with all due respect to Coach Meyer, but we would not target Steve Spurrier either.”

South Florida’s secret eateries: Virtual and ghost restaurants now haunting food-delivery apps UberEats, DoorDash” via Phillip Valys of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Virtual spinoffs tucked inside real restaurants exist only to quickly deliver hot plates by UberEats and others. “[Boca Wings] brings us not much profit, maybe a couple hundred extra dollars every week,” said Hugo Jiang, 31, who has operated Sieng House for five years with his parents. “Most people don’t know about it unless you live near Boca and search ‘chicken wings.’ It costs me almost nothing, but it’s worth it because I get more sales, and I already carry all the ingredients.” Other restaurateurs, notably Food Network queen Rachael Ray, are experimenting with “ghost kitchens,” a sister to virtual restaurants, where meals are prepared in catering kitchens and food trailers strictly for online-only delivery.

The rise of food delivery service has resulted in an explosion of virtual and ‘ghost’ restaurants.


The best of birthday wishes to one of the brightest minds in Florida politics, John Sowinski. Also celebrating is state Rep. Patricia Hawkins-Williams.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

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

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

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