Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.28.19

Sunburn Orange Tally (4)
Sunburn ... starting your day with all you need in Florida politics.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Future of Florida Forum starts today in Orlando.

From infrastructure and workforce education, to tourism and criminal justice, the annual event promises a comprehensive look at all the challenges Florida will face in the coming years.

Over two days, elected officials, business leaders and state agency heads will update attendees on the state of the state.

For the next two days, the Florida Chamber will examine the state’s future.

Monday’s lineup includes Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who will speak about cyber fraud; Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who will focus on the emerging hemp industry; and Attorney General Ashley Moody, who will outline state constitutional issues.

The 2019 edition of the forum will also provide insight into the progress the state has made — and the challenges it still faces — since the release of the Chamber’s Florida 2030 research project annual event since the release of the Florida Chamber’s Florida 2030 project.

The massive research project measured numerous metrics affecting the quality of life in the Sunshine State, including high school graduation rates, employment trends, poverty, housing sales and tourism.

While there are many positive trends in the economy and in educational attainment, there is still adversity to overcome. This week, the Florida Chamber will go beyond the raw numbers to look at what the state and private business can do to make sure Florida is on track for a bright future.

Future of Florida Forum to feature educational trailer on drug abuse — The Florida Chamber of Commerce will welcome the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI) of Florida and the RALI CARES educational trailer to the Future of Florida Forum. RALI Florida is an alliance of local, state, and national organizations committed to addressing the epidemic of substance misuse in the state. The RALI CARES trailer provides A3 an interactive experience within the setting of a teenager’s bedroom. Attendees will learn from retired law enforcement about the possible warning signs of substance misuse, with a particular emphasis on issues in the business setting. The Forum begins today from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and continues on Tuesday from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, One Grand Cypress Boulevard, Orlando.


Florida’s teachers’ union is coming to the Florida Capitol, part of a statewide bus tour with 50 stops in every corner of the state to talk about funding for public schools.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Another day … another photo emerges showing Gov. Ron DeSantis with the two South Florida businessmen indicted by federal prosecutors in New York on charges of funneling foreign money into U.S. political campaigns.

— The Florida Chamber Foundation starts its two-day “Future of Florida Forum” in Orlando, with a roster of high-profile state leaders on the dais.

— Two Republican Senators team up to file a bill requiring Florida employers to use the federal E-Verify system on all new hires. Big business doesn’t like it, and it’s a rare day when the Legislature does something they don’t like.

— The Governor and state lawmakers will spend a lot of time during the 2020 Legislative Session talking about the environment, but Sierra Club’s Frank Jackalone says it may already be too late to save Florida (as we know it). Sunrise takes a deep dive into some very gloomy predictions.

— A true Florida couple: A Pinellas County man and woman have been arrested on drug possession charges after deputies in Texas discovered methamphetamine disguised as laundry detergent during a traffic stop on Interstate 10.

To listen, click on the image below:


—@realDonaldTrump (Oct. 22, 2012): Stop congratulating Obama for killing [Osama] bin Laden. The Navy SEALs killed bin Laden. #debate

@SenRickScott: [Abu Bakr al-] Baghdadi’s death is great news for the security of the US & our allies. To our enemies, this is a reminder that there’s nowhere you can go, there’s nowhere you can hide. We won’t stop until justice is served. Today the world is a little safer, a little kinder, a little more free.

@MarcoRubio: The U.S. operation which killed the founder & leader of #ISIS is a very significant achievement which ALL Americans should take pride in & the world should be grateful for. It will not end ISIS, but it is a major blow to its propaganda & recruitment efforts.

@NoahGrayCNN: A source familiar tells me President [Donald] Trump is expected to sit in a suite behind home plate here at Nats park tonight for Game 5 of the World Series with “friendly members of Congress” including Congressman Steve Scalise, Sen. Lindsay Graham, and Congressman Matt Gaetz.

@BillGalvano: Glad to hear President [Donald] Trump announce the successful raid against Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. I’m grateful for our courageous Special Operations Forces, our intelligence community, and all others involved in the successful mission last night.

Tweet, tweet:

@AGAshleyMoody: The @DEAHQ National Rx Drug #TakeBackDay is over, but my commitment to fight the opioid crisis and stop teen vaping remains strong. I want to thank everyone who participated today, and if you would like to learn more about how to join our fight, visit

@JimmyPatronis: Proud to join members of @FloridaPBA to talk about an important issue — their access to vital PTSD benefits. These brave men & women put their lives on the line to protect FL & that’s why we fought for essential benefits to help with the challenges of their profession.

Tweet, tweet:

@LoriBerman: Today, we ought to #PauseWithPittsburgh and remember the lives of those taken from us at the #TreeofLifeSynagogue in an anti-Semitic act of violence and hate. The love, faith, and peace they demonstrated throughout their lives is their legacy- love will always triumph over hate.

Tweet, tweet:

@SkipFoster: Seeing FSU -1 vs. Canes? Hmmmm.


The Florida Chamber’s Insurance Summit — 7; 2019 General Election — 8; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon starts — 10; “The Mandalorian” premieres — 15; New season of “The Crown” streaming on Netflix — 20; Fifth Democratic debate — 23; “Frozen 2” debuts — 25; TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 35; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 53; College Football National Championship — 77; 2020 Session begins — 78; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 79; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 97; Great American Realtors Day — 98; Iowa Caucuses — 98; New Hampshire Primaries — 106; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 136; Florida’s presidential primary — 141; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 191; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 270; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 302; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 345; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 353; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 360; 2020 General Election — 372.


Personnel note: Alia Faraj-Johnson opens own firm” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Faraj-Johnson, a veteran of the Jeb Bush administration who was most recently with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, is hanging out her own shingle. Tallahassee-based Alia Strategic Group will offer strategic counsel, political consulting, crisis communications and media relations, among other services … “Launching Alia Strategic Group gives me the ability to provide strategic communications services to political candidates and elected officials along with my existing corporate clients,” she said. “I’m also excited that I will be able to continue collaborating with Hill+Knowlton Strategies on several high profile accounts as we head into the 2020 Legislative Session.”

Congratulations to communications veteran Alia Faraj-Johnson, who is hanging out her own shingle.


ICYMI — Arrested Rudy Giuliani associates were VIPs at Ron DeSantis’ inauguration” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Pictures taken at the Jan. 8 inauguration show Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman mingling in an area cordoned off for an exclusive crowd of dignitaries, elected officials, lobbyists and family. They are wearing suits and sunglasses as they rub elbows with some of Florida’s most influential people. Their proximity to the festivities wasn’t a coincidence. In last-minute preparations before DeSantis was sworn in, the head of his inauguration team told event organizers to reserve seats near the front for a select group of people. Parnas and Fruman were on the list.

Happening today — Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez will take part in a panel discussion on domestic violence, 10 a.m., Florida International University, Graham Center, 11200 S.W. Eighth St., Miami.

Peter O’Rourke investigation blindsides Florida GOP” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — A blistering federal report accusing O’Rourke of wrongdoing had rocked the Republican Party of Florida and raised questions about whether officials knew about the investigation when they chose O’Rourke to lead the Party. DeSantis put him in charge of the state Party in August at the urging of Trump. The 100-page O’Rourke report landed on a Republican Party already gripped with infighting and coping with an underwhelming response to its Statesman’s Dinner, a big annual fundraiser that has yet to attract a keynote speaker and is drawing fewer sponsors than expected. “People are mostly shocked,” said a campaign consultant who has long worked with the state Party.

Byron Donald honors Donald Trump at South Carolina forum — State Rep. Donalds presented the 2019 Bipartisan Justice Award to Trump, who was the keynote speaker at the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum in Columbia, South Carolina. Donalds is the Director of Political Outreach and Strategy of the 2020 Bipartisan Justice Center, the forum’s host. “President Trump’s leadership on the issue of criminal justice reform has been tremendous,” Donalds said. “He has clearly seen how important it is for us to take a good, hard look at the ways our justice system is failing both victims and offenders and make bold changes to balance the scales of justice.”

Florida pre-K issues leave lawmakers with long to-do list” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — According to a 2018 analysis of states’ preschool programs done by Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research, Florida only meets two out ten national “quality standards” for its program. Florida does not require its preschool teachers to have bachelor’s degrees, for example. Despite its importance, preschool has not historically received much of the education policy spotlight in the state Legislature compared to K-12 or higher education — and it definitely receives less funding. But early education advocates are hopeful that the 2020 Legislative Session will change that. The first hurdle lawmakers will likely have to address is the disagreement on how to measure students’ success.

Joe Gruters tilts at ‘dark money’ windmill” via Lauren Ritchie of the Orlando Sentinel — So-called “dark money” donations that don’t have to be reported to campaign finance authorities is a two-edged sword — it can be used to help a candidate or to smear one anonymously. Gruters wants to stop this practice. “Right now, legislators can’t take a cup of coffee from a lobbyist without breaking the law, but here, someone can run $50,000 through the process and use it against you or on your behalf, and no one will know,” the Republican Senator. Gruters for the fourth year in a row has filed a bill that would stop allowing campaign donations to flow through one political committee after another, getting progressively “cleaner” and unidentifiable even after the first rinse.

‘It’s a mockery of the system’: Joe Gruters is taking another stab at eliminating dark money in campaigns. Image via Colin Hackley.

Jennifer Webb files three Gulf Beaches infrastructure spending bills” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The first (HB 2421) is an appropriations request for $1 million. If approved, it would pay for sewer Inspection after the construction of a new sanitary sewer force main under and adjacent to Gulf Blvd. The project would also reduce or eliminate the potential for sanitary sewer overflows. The second bill (HB 2423) is the most significant request, $2.5 million for road construction that would also take place after the city’s new sewer force main is complete. The last (HB 2425) is an appropriations request for $1.3 million that would pay for “citywide curb and roadway improvements to include 115th Ave. Roadway Improvement and for the Dolphin Drive Curbing and Roadway Improvement, which are “shovel ready.”

Delegation meeting — The Leon County legislative delegation meets for a public hearing ahead of the 2020 Legislative Session, 5 p.m., Leon County Courthouse Commission Chamber, 301 South Monroe St., Tallahassee.


The Florida Education Association “Fund Our Future” bus tour enters its second week with events in Leon County and a full schedule of stops, ending the week in Hernando County. Today, the tour will take part in a Little Free Library dedication, 10:15 a.m. Eastern time, Pineview Elementary School, 2230 Lake Bradford Road, Tallahassee.

The next stop on the FEA bus tour — Tallahassee.

Also — The Associated Industries of Florida holds its annual conference; scheduled speakers include DeSantis; Attorney General Moody; Agriculture Commissioner Fried; Sen. Bill Montford; Reps. Jason Shoaf and Randy Maggard; Enterprise Florida President and CEO Jamal Sowell; and state Chief Resilience Officer Julia Nesheiwat, 9 a.m., Augustus B. Turnbull III Florida State Conference Center, 555 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.


Amendment 4 confusion remains as leader of campaign plans to cast his first vote in Orlando” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — As Desmond Meade prepares to vote next month for the first time, thousands of former felons like him can’t go to the polls, and many only think they can’t. “We get calls throughout the state from people who are unsure about whether they can vote because of fines and fees,” said Meade, who spearheaded the Amendment 4 push last year to restore voting rights to ex-felons. “And we analyze their files, and we come to find out … they don’t have any fees or fines.” The election calendar presses on anyway. And early voting in for the city elections in Orlando begins whether the state is ready or not.

Desmond Meade — the leader of the campaign that successfully passed Amendment 4 — is preparing to cast his first vote. Image via Getty.

Judge: Florida Corrections Department incorrect in censorship of magazine, must pay $1.2 million” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Prison Legal News, a criminal-justice magazine for inmates, was awarded $1.2 million in attorney fees by a federal-district court in Tallahassee. The nine-year-old lawsuit centered on the Florida Department of Corrections rejection of all issues of the 72-page publications based on the content of its advertisements. Florida is the only state which censors the 30-year old publication because of ads for phone services, pen-pals and postage stamps. Four years ago, the district court held that DOC’s censorship guidelines did not violate First Amendment rights but that they did violate Prison Legal News’ due process rights when officials failed to provide adequate notice the magazine was rejected.

Divvying up Medicaid patients could spark debate” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — An algorithm that dictates assignment of many Medicaid patients to health plans could cause another high-stakes tussle among plans that have received an estimated $90 billion worth of contracts to manage care in Florida’s Medicaid program. The state Agency for Health Care Administration submitted a report this month outlining options the Legislature could consider to make the process more “equitable” for health plans. If approved by lawmakers, the proposals could help managed-care plans that entered Florida’s market as a result of a process that led to awarding Medicaid contracts last year.

In vacuum of state anti-discrimination laws, some employers act to protect LGBTQ workers” via Bailey Gallion of FLORIDA TODAY — For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in Florida, finding workplace acceptance is a tricky thing — without state laws to protect them from discrimination, they must rely on employers to protect them and create an accepting environment. Some local employers accomplish that. Others don’t. Under state law, employers can still fire LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) employees due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. But employers are improving, activists say; many have adopted anti-discrimination policies stating they won’t discriminate against LGBT employees. Brevard School District, for example, passed a nondiscrimination policy for LGBT teachers, students and staff in July. But many private schools don’t have any such policy.

SpottedMarc Dunbar in “Legalized sports betting is expanding nationally and Vegas supports the effort” via Republic Online (Kansas) — Dunbar, a Florida-based attorney in the gaming industry, said … high tax rates hurt operators, and therefore consumers. He pointed out that sophisticated computer technology allows operators to detect trends and balance risk — as well as protect consumers … Dunbar said “regulatory or tax handcuffs” will aid exploitation. “You need only look around the world to see ways that it can happen — if not sports betting, then lottery or horse racing,” he said. “If you don’t allow tech companies to invest in more product, they will not be able to be as sophisticated as the people who want to cheat the game.”

Gaming industry attorney Mark Dunbar says high tax rates hurt operators, and the costs are passed on to consumers.

For 40 years TaxWatch has promoted fiscal prudence” via Steve Bornhoft of 850 Business Magazine — Florida TaxWatch each year presents Principal Leadership Awards to nine educators — three each at the elementary, middle and high school level — who have brought about transformational change in once-struggling schools. And, for 30 years, it has celebrated, with TaxWatch Productivity Awards, state employees who find ways to improve services, increase efficiencies and save tax dollars. Public education is a chief focus; in every county in Florida, the school district is the largest or second-biggest employer. “It’s big business, but most of the time, the people running our schools have no business acumen,” said TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro. Other priorities for TaxWatch include Everglades restoration; economic development; maintenance of Florida’s environmental quality and infrastructure expansion and upkeep.


Insurance policyholders being left behind following major storms” via Craig Drillich for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (FAPIA) is concerned about a recent statement by the state’s top state insurance regulator that he struggled to “think of a single instance” where an insurance company had failed to timely pay a claim within 90 days, as required by law. This statement is deeply disturbing, particularly since data provided by the insurers confirm that to this day over 100,000 Floridians are still waiting for their Hurricane Michael (2018), Irma (2017) and even Matthew (2016) claims to be paid and resolved. The truth is that there is only one entity controlling the purse strings and deciding what will be paid and when it will be paid and that is the insurance company.

Insurance companies hold all the cards when it comes to the payout of hurricane claims, leaving policyholders on the hook. 

’Words can’t really describe it’: Port St. Joe still bears physical, mental scars from Michael” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Michael hit during high school principal Josh Dailey‘s first year leading the same school he graduated from. “We’re still dealing with the effects every single day,” Dailey said. He sat in his office in Port St. Joe High School and recalled the days just after the Category 5 hurricane. “Words can’t really describe it.” A year later, the school, which was built in 1968, still has a roof missing and issues with mold. The district estimates more than $15 million in damages. Throughout the community, from a church on the water to a historically black neighborhood in the north, the struggle continues.

FWC: Florida black bears made such a successful comeback, it now must curb the population” via Ed Killer of TC Palm — Florida’s black bear population has rebounded from 300 in the 1970s to over 4,000 today, and their numbers could swell to an estimated 11,000 by 2026.


Judge says impeachment inquiry is legal and justifies disclosing grand jury material” via Tammy Kupperman, Joan Biskupic, Ariane de Vogue and Manu Raju of CNN — A federal judge gave a legal endorsement to the House Democrats’ impeachment probe into Trump and ordered the Justice Department to release grand jury information redacted from special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation. The ruling is a blow to the Trump administration’s claims that the House is not conducting a valid impeachment inquiry since there’s been no formal vote to authorize the probe. In a lengthy opinion, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said the House clearly is conducting an impeachment inquiry. “(A)n impeachment trial is an exercise of judicial power,” Howell wrote.

Gordon Sondland told House panels Trump’s Ukraine pressure was quid pro quo” via Rebecca Ballhaus of The Wall Street Journal — Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told House committees that he believed Ukraine agreeing to open investigations into Burisma Group — a gas company where Democrat Joe Biden’s son once served on the board — and into alleged 2016 election interference was a condition for a White House meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Asked by a lawmaker whether that arrangement was a quid pro quo, Sondland cautioned that he wasn’t a lawyer but said he believed the answer was yes. Trump has repeatedly denied the existence of a quid pro quo related to his push for Ukraine to open investigations.

Gordon Sondland tells the House that Donald Trump’s Ukraine pressure was indeed a quid pro quo.

In impeachment inquiry, Republican lawmakers ask questions about whistleblower, loyalty to Trump and conspiracy theories” via Greg Miller and Rachel Bade of The Washington Post — Republican lawmakers have used the congressional impeachment inquiry to gather information on a CIA employee who filed a whistleblower complaint, press witnesses on their loyalty to Trump and advance conspiratorial claims that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 election. The Republicans have refrained during hearings from explicitly accusing the individual of filing the explosive complaint with the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general two months ago. But the questions have been interpreted as an attempt “to unmask the whistleblower,” whose identity is shielded under federal law. Republicans appear to be seeking ways to discredit the whistleblower as well as other witnesses “by trying to dredge up any information they can,” one official said.

Vern Buchanan’s impeachment balancing act” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — “Do you think the process that the President’s going through in Washington is fair?” Buchanan asked the crowd at the Sarasota Republican Club’s monthly meeting. “No!” audience members yelled out. “It’s the most disastrous thing I’ve ever seen,” Buchanan said. “There’s no due process, everything’s held secretively. It’s unbelievable. They get witnesses in there, then they leak out whatever information they want to put out to the process.” Buchanan’s comments reflect a common GOP complaint about the closed-door meetings that are being used to gather witness testimony in advance of public hearings. The reality is that while Buchanan is a critic of the impeachment process, he also is not out front trying to disrupt the process.


With Trump expected at Game 5, the Nationals and MLB prepare for a presidential visit” via Chelsea Janes and Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post — Presidential visits are part of D.C. baseball tradition. Trump will attend his first Nationals game as President, but he will not throw out the first pitch. Trump does not plan to arrive in time to see that first pitch; he is planning to arrive after the game begins. Trump made that decision to alleviate the crush of fans entering the ballpark with higher security constraints. The past few days have included coordination among the Nationals, league officials and the White House advance staff to plan for the President’s visit.

Donald Trump attends Game 5 of the World Series but breaks with tradition by not throwing the first pitch.

Who will take up Francis Rooney’s environmental mantle? Advocates hope climate, water quality remain priorities” via Amy Bennett Williams of the Fort Myers News-Press — Environmentally, Rooney was a rare bird. A former oil company executive who sponsored an offshore drilling ban, a one-time climate change denier who became a carbon tax champion, Rooney was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican politician who ecological advocates describe with profound affection — and growing wistfulness. Professor Mike Savarese, the program coordinator of FGCU’s Marine and Earth Science department, has worked with Rooney on climate change issues. He describes the congressman as a rebel with the courage of his convictions, “incredibly committed, with idealism and a lot of integrity to stand up for climate,” Savarese said — “the only one in the House that’s really stepped up to do this.” Even the environmental advocates who don’t rave about Rooney acknowledge that he ran against the current Republican grain.

— 2020 —

How South Florida’s exotic cast of political characters fuels Trump’s reelection bid” via Mark Caputo of POLITICO — Campaign manager Brad Parscale is a new resident of Fort Lauderdale, where the campaign’s chief pollster, Tony Fabrizio, and on-again, off-again adviser Roger Stone also reside. Two of Trump’s lawyers representing him amid his impeachment saga, Jane and Martin Raskin, hail from Coral Gables. Mar-a-Lago, is not far from the Boca Raton offices of the National Enquirer — which went so far as to spearhead a “catch and kill” propaganda scheme in 2016 to hush women who allegedly had affairs with Trump — and the influential conservative publication Newsmax, whose CEO, Christopher Ruddy, has known Trump for years.

How Trump’s campaign manager — South Florida’s Brad Parscale — learned to navigate and thrive in the inner circle” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Anu Narayanswamy of The Washington Post — When Parscale was looking for advice about how to navigate Washington, D.C., after running the digital strategy for Trump’s upstart presidential campaign in 2016, the brash political newcomer turned to a Beltway power couple. Katie Walsh and Mike Shields, both former chiefs of staff at the RNC, advised him on how to make the most of his new perch, he said. Since then, the three have helped each other flourish inside the Republican Party ecosystem, recommending each other’s services to top GOP officials and candidates. Together, the trio have broad influence across the party — drawing millions of dollars from 23 party committees and organizations since the beginning of 2017, according to campaign finance filings and people familiar with their work.

Brad Parscale is among the cast of characters from South Florida that are fueling Donald Trump’s reelection bid.

’We are asking you to dig deep’: Joe Biden seeks to steady finances as allies fret” via Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times — In a memo to top bundlers this week, Biden’s campaign manager, Greg Schultz, sought to allay growing concerns that Biden is facing a cash crunch and won’t be able to stay competitive with his rivals. “We will have the resources we need to execute our plan,” Schultz wrote. “We’re asking you to dig deep.” The Biden campaign is racing to contain the fallout from revelations that his campaign is spending more money than it is taking in. Biden’s cash on hand — $9 million — is a fraction of what Bernie Sanders ($33.7 million) and Elizabeth Warren ($25.7 million) have banked. He even has less on hand than Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Kamala Harris, who are well behind him in the polls.

Biden names Jackie Lee of Orlando as senior adviser in Florida” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Lee, a founding partner of JLee Strategies in Orlando, had previously served on the Florida leadership team for former President Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012. “From prominent state legislators to statewide figures to distinguished community leaders, Vice President Joe Biden has earned the support of Floridians from across the state, and I am honored today to officially become a part of Team Joe,” Lee said in a statement. “Sunshine Staters know that Joe will fight to protect their health care, ensure everybody can be a part of the middle class, and restore the soul of the nation. Florida is a crucial state in this primary — and one that Joe Biden can and will win.”


Happening tonight:

Pro-Trump Republican leader considers election challenge to Parkland Senator who voted to reinstate Scott Israel as sheriff” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Joe Budd, an early and continuing supporter of Trump, said he’s considering a 2020 election challenge to state Sen. Kevin Rader after the Senator voted this week against removing Scott Israel as Broward County sheriff. “The people deserve a choice,” Budd said in an interview. He said he hasn’t thought about running until all the attention started being paid to the Israel case. “I really expected Kevin would have broken with the party, being that’s in his district,” Budd said.

David Fairey takes on Tommy Gregory, Florida’s ‘broken system’ in state House campaign” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald — “We tell our kids all the time that they need to get involved if they want to change the system,” said Fairey, who is running as a Democrat against first-term Rep. Gregory in House District 73, which includes parts of eastern Manatee and Sarasota counties. And Fairey, who works as a CFO at a Sarasota-based internet marketing company, says he has firsthand knowledge of just how broken the system is. A lack of affordable housing and the weight of student loan debt are issues that Fairey is familiar. Solving issues surrounding gun safety, health care and economic reform are Fairey’s top priorities. Democrat, Republican or independent, Fairey says, these are issues that everyone wants to figure out.

Tensions over Broward sheriff’s ouster preview brutal election campaign ahead” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Scott Israel was removed after 22 Senate Republicans and three Democrats decided he was guilty of incompetence and neglect of duty for his agency’s handling of two mass shootings. The evidence showed that eight deputies refused to charge the school and confront the gunman. But the Senate’s own expert concluded that those were individual failures that did not justify removing Israel from office. Parkland families disagree. Broward’s chief law enforcement officer is chosen in partisan elections, and today’s Broward is a majority-minority community where 39 percent of Democratic voters self-identify as black. Scott’s core argument of “don’t take my vote” is sure to resonate across Broward.

The contentious removal of former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel may just be a foreshadowing for an equally contentious 2020 race. Image via Colin Hackley.

This Miami commissioner gave a candidate in another district a six-figure check” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Having a strong political alliance could be priceless to some elected officials, but Miami Commissioner Ken Russell has put his number on it — $150,000. In September, Russell pumped the six-figure sum into the political committee for Eleazar Meléndez, the commissioner’s former chief of staff and a candidate in the District 1 race. Russell moved the money from his committee, Turn the Page, to Meléndez’s committee, Vision with Action. Russell has raised $584,000 for his committee since it opened in 2018, with $100,000 of that coming from his abandoned congressional run in 2018. The donation to Meléndez is the committee’s single largest expenditure, and it’s this municipal election’s most public case of a sitting commissioner involving himself in another district race.

With experience and baggage, Alex Diaz la Portilla runs for Miami’s District 1 seat” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Vying for the most local level of public office, Diaz de la Portilla said he’s on the path toward victory. “Experience matters,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “This is not an entry-level job.” Diaz de la Portilla might have the most experience and money, but he also carries the most baggage. He was arrested in Boston seven years ago after police said he acted “belligerently” when he and a guest were told to leave after they ignored orders to stop smoking in a hotel room. His ex-wife accused him of stalking after they separated. Public records show that in January, a home he owned with his ex-wife was foreclosed — a “personal matter” stemming from a bad divorce, he says. A mortgage foreclosure sale has been delayed due to a court battle over attorneys’ fees.

Macri defeated in Argentine elections, Colombia makes history and Uruguay heads to runoff” via Jim Wyss of the Miami Herald — The reelection of Argentina’s pro-business president, Mauricio Macri, appears to have been sabotaged by a tanking economy and the resurrection of one of the country’s most polarizing politicians. With 88% of the ballots counted, authorities said Alberto Fernández, a lawyer and former chief of staff, won Sunday’s race with 47.8% of the vote versus Macri’s 40.8%.


’No real help’ available for thousands struggling in Central Florida’s opioid crisis, research finds” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Prescriptions for opioids have plummeted in Central Florida in the past 18 months, but the number of overdose deaths is down only modestly because of a “flood” of powerful illicit fentanyl into the region. Those are the key findings of a sweeping report by UCF researchers for Project Opioid, an initiative launched in January. “All of the complications involved with this boil down to a simple math problem,” said Kendall Cortelyou-Ward, director of the health care informatics master’s program at the University of Central Florida. There are too many people that have opioid-use disorder — some 69,000 in our region — and there’s not enough medication-assisted treatment for them.

JEA executives’ retention bonuses seen by some as incentive to sell utility” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — Thirteen senior administrators at JEA, including CEO Aaron Zahn, who has led the charge to explore privatization, are all in line to receive six-figure bonuses if JEA is sold. The bonuses are equal to each member’s salary, putting Zahn’s at $524,000. JEA describes the payouts as “retention bonuses” that could help prevent a brain-drain of employees from leaving as the utility faces an unknown future. However, some council members are concerned that people deeply involved in the decision-making process have so much to gain from a certain outcome. “It’s concerning because it’s evidence there’s an incentive to sell the JEA,” said City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor.

A retention bonus for executives like JEA CEO Aaron Zahn may be coming in the utility’s privatization.

The gut check Jacksonville’s consolidated government needs” via Nate Monroe of the Florida Times-Union — “Mayor John Peyton leveraged the power of consolidation to implement a high-fiber governing diet,” Chris Hand writes in the 50th-anniversary update to “A Quiet Revolution,” a detailed accounting of Jacksonville’s transformation into a consolidated government in the late 1960s. Hand believes in consolidation, but his contributions to this new edition add a much-needed and grounded assessment of Jacksonville’s modern history — including giving voice to skeptics and noting consolidation’s failures, particularly for black residents. This should help keep the book relevant as more people vocally question the much-touted reform that made Jacksonville one of the most populous cities in America. A straightforward reckoning of consolidation’s promises and its reality has long been overdue.

Redistricting criticism mounts as big vote nears” via Zac Anderson of the Herald-Tribune — The push by a majority of Sarasota County commissioners to redraw commission district boundaries ahead of the 2020 election increasingly is viewed with bipartisan skepticism, with some of the region’s leading GOP figures now saying they believe the districts are being gerrymandered to help incumbents.Half a dozen current and former GOP elected officials, party insiders and prominent local Republicans in Sarasota County said the current process appears like an attempt to protect certain commissioners, especially Republican Mike Moran. They fear the commission is losing credibility with the public and heading down a path that could lead to lawsuits.


I-4 Ultimate: Delays, overruns and deaths plague project” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Today, the 21-mile and $2.3 billion rebuilding of Interstate 4 through metro Orlando is slogging through rising costs to an uncertain finish date, with crews working day and night under the pall of repeated worker fatalities. “The construction process is now more than an inconvenience, it is endangering the lives of commuters, workers and visitors,” said U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat whose district covers the interstate from Sanford to Orlando. “We cannot tolerate any more delays. FDOT should be working with the contractor to ensure the project is completed promptly and safely.” Countless drivers can’t wait until the work is done, having had enough already of white-knuckle driving.

Warning Icon warns of abuse and neglect in nursing homes, including two in Pensacola” via Melanie Payne of the Fort Myers News-Press — Floridians trying to the right nursing home will no longer have to wonder if there’s been a recent incident of abuse, neglect or exploitation. When they look up the nursing home on the Medicare website, they’ll see an icon with a red circle surrounding a hand, palm forward and fingers up, in the “stop” position. The icon is the brainchild of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the government agency that maintains the Nursing Home Compare website. The icon will appear for one year on the information page of nursing homes where a patient was harmed because of neglect or was physically, mentally or sexually abused.

Sackler family company pays $7 million for mansion near Boca Raton” via Alexandra Clough of the Palm Beach Post — Members of the Sackler family, owner of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, are living near Boca Raton in a sprawling mansion bought for $7.4 million. The purchase is the second real estate investment by the Sacklers in Palm Beach County, a ground zero in the nationwide opioid crisis….The Florida Constitution provides for homestead protection for people who claim the property as their principal residence. The provision protects up to 160 acres of property outside of a municipality and up to half an acre within a municipality.

Rush Limbaugh, Gay Hart Gaines to be honored at Palm Beach event” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The National Review Institute is set to honor conservative radio host Limbaugh and Republican fundraiser and activist Gaines at its annual Buckley Prize Dinner. That dinner is named after conservative thought leader William F. Buckley, who launched the institute as well as the National Review magazine. This year, the group will hold the dinner at The Breakers in Palm Beach. The Buckley Prize Dinner will kick off Wednesday evening with a 6 p.m. reception, followed by the dinner and award presentations. According to the group’s organizers, about 450 people are expected to attend the dinner.

The National Review Institute will honor conservative firebrand Rush Limbaugh at its annual Buckley Prize Dinner.

Black Republicans form new group, ready to be ‘hated’ to win Trump reelection” via Abraham Mahshie for the Palm Beach Post — The idea came to her while watching African American pundits on MSNBC and CNN. “They speak as though they’re representing or speaking for the whole beehive community of African Americans,” said Cheryle Davis-Darrell, president of the newly formed Black African American Republicans Club of the Palm Beaches, or BAARC. That’s when she came to a realization: “I don’t think that way. A lot of people that I know don’t feel that way.” The longtime courthouse volunteer, guardian ad litem, and volunteer dispatcher at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office felt she could do more for the party than just attend Trump rallies.


The zombie campaign” via Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine — To anyone paying attention — the army of political professionals more wired to observe shortcomings than are those likely to actually vote for Biden or anyone else — it looks, unmistakably, like it’s happening again. His vulnerabilities are close to the surface. It’s not just his age itself. It’s his tendency to misspeak, his inartful debating style, and — most of all — his status as a creature from another time in the Democratic Party. It’s not just that the Biden of yesteryear sometimes peeks out from behind the No. 1 Obama Stan costume. It’s that the Biden of today is expected to hold his former self accountable to the new standards set by a culture that’s prepared to reject him.

Progressives, Hispanics are not ‘Latinx’ via Giancarlo Sopo for USA Today — Gender-nonconforming Americans should be treated with compassion and respect. If someone wants to be called Latinx, that is fine, but the label should not be forced upon all Latinos. Hispanic Americans face plenty of challenges. The last thing we need are progressives “wokesplaining” how to speak Spanish.

Joe Henderson: Despite opposition, open primary concept has some good points” via Florida Politics — The question of whether to open primaries to all registered voters has done the impossible. Republicans and Democrats are actually united around something besides mom and apple pie. They oppose open primaries. Republicans filed a legal brief against the “All Voters Vote” proposal. While there certainly are flaws in any open primary plan, I don’t agree that it would decimate voter choice. It would reduce party control over these elections, though. It also might give candidates a way out of conforming to the ideological checklist we have now. Deep blue progressive Democrats or NRA-regimented Republicans might not have oversized influence. There should be a way to maintain primary integrity without freezing out about a quarter of the registered voters.


Personnel note: Beth Frady joins Department of Transportation — In an email, Frady announced she was leaving the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, where she’s been Communications Director for the last four years, to work at FDOT beginning today. Frady also has been the Director of Public Relations for Enterprise Florida, where her then-boss — Ken Lawson — said she was “a dynamic communications professional who handles media relations with aplomb and coolness.” She also was Deputy Communications Director for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and an Accounts Coordinator at RB Oppenheim Associates, according to her LinkedIn page. 

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Christina Brodeur, Mathew Forrest, Kathy San Pedro, Ballard Partners: American Hotel and Lodging Association, Give America Hope, eMerge Americas, Habilitation Center for the Handicapped, Hope Statistics

Patrick Bell, The Legis Group: Adams Sanitation, Town of Jay

Andrew Ciafardini, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Fidelity National Information Services

Michael Corcoran, Matt Blair, Andrea Tovar, Corcoran Partners: American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Florida Chapter, Palm Beach County

David Custin, David R. Custin & Associates: FALCONTRUST AIR, Mbeach Consulting & Solutions

Mary DeLoach, The Southern Group: HISTORIC TOURS OF AMERICA, Ocean Reef Club

Jason Gonzalez, Shutts & Bowen: U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Scott Jenkins, Carlton Fields: Summit Industries Corporation d/b/a School Check IN

Joel Overton, James Card, Larry J. Overton & Associates: South Broward Hospital District

James Spratt, CAS Governmental Services: Sunshine State Biomass Cooperative

Dawn White: Baptist Health South Florida

Ian Whitney: City of Tampa

— ALOE —

‘Joker’ becomes the highest-grossing R-rated film ever” via Frank Pallotta of CNN Business — The film, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as a troubled man who turns into a killer clown, has made roughly $788 million at the worldwide box office, Warner Bros. confirmed on Friday. That is enough to eclipse the record set by “Deadpool,” which made $783 million globally when it came out in 2016. The film may be the highest-grossing R-rated film globally, but it still has a long way to before beating the highest-grossing R-rated film domestically. That record still belongs to Mel Gibson‘s biblical drama “The Passion of the Christ,” which made $370 million in North America in 2004. “Joker” has so far made $259 million in the U.S.

Tweet, tweet:

Florida’s favorite Halloween candy and other ways people spend money on the holiday” via Dian Zhang of GateHouse Media — Americans’ Halloween spending is projected to drop slightly, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. With an estimated $8.8 billion spent on candy, costumes, decorations and greeting cards, it’s still expected to be the third-highest figure in the survey’s 15-year history, just off the peak of $9.1 billion in 2017 and last year’s $9 billion. The average shopper plans to spend $86.27 this year, down 52 cents from last year. Every region seems to have a favorite sweet, so released a map showing each state’s top pick. In Florida, Skittles was the most popular candy, having sold 563,882 pounds. Ranking second and third are Snickers and Reese’s Cups.

You won’t want to leave to giant guitar hotel once you see its most amazing feature” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — We told you the pool was going to be ridiculous. And we were so right. But it’s even better than we imagined, and not just because apparently mermaids are floating around there waiting for you to throw them a fish or something. The pool is part of the Bora Bora experience, and we are obsessed with the Bora Bora experience, where you rent a “cabana” for day use. These are “cabanas” in the sense that the guitar is a “hotel” — which is to say not at all because both are SO MUCH MORE than we ever could have hoped for. The Bora Bora experience comes with a private bathroom, a private plunge pool and butler service.

The most amazing feature of the guitar-shaped Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood just might be the Bora Bora pool.


Celebrating today is one of the Legislature’s best, Rep. Byron Donalds. Also celebrating today is Jim Daughton of Metz Husband Daughton, Jonathan Foerster, and the legendary Bill Pfeiffer. 


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 Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

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

Sign up for Sunburn