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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.26.19

Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Home sweet home?

President Donald Trump is undoubtedly hoping for a warm welcome Tuesday night, as he holds his first Florida rally since declaring the Sunshine State his new permanent residence.

He’s dubbed the event a “homecoming” rally.

Trump will speak to supporters at the BB&T Center in deep-blue Broward County, where he lost by more than 25 percentage points in 2016.

Mixed in the faceoff between Donald Trump supporters and protesters at the President’s “homecoming rally” in deep-blue Broward County will be the infamous Baby Trump balloon.

And Democrats are already pushing to respond. The Florida Democratic Party is organizing a “Defeat Trump” rally outside the BB&T Center. Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose district houses the site of Tuesday’s rally, is expected to attend.

Once inside, Trump will likely be greeted by his faithful supporters as he attempts to push back against House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into the President’s conduct regarding Ukraine.

It will be the first rally held by Trump since the public witness interview process ended late last week.

Tuesday night’s event will be part of Trump’s “Keep America Great” tour, which aims to build support for Trump and other Republicans in upcoming elections.

But a couple of recent stops haven’t entirely paid off. Trump’s tour took him to both Kentucky and Louisiana ahead of high-profile gubernatorial elections in those respective states. Republicans lost both of those elections.

The President won’t be stopping in South Florida to stump for any immediate elections. But Florida will figure to be a critical state in the 2020 presidential contest once again.

That explains the Trump campaign’s decision to pay increasing levels of attention to Sunshine State voters.

In addition to Tuesday’s rally, the Trump 2020 campaign has also begun placing radio ads in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. Those ads are targeting the black community as Trump seeks to repeat his 2016 victory in Florida.

Trump will also appear at the Republican Party of Florida’s Statesman’s Dinner on Dec. 7 in Miami. That event, however, will be closed to the press.

So look for Trump to let the sparks fly while the cameras are trained on him Tuesday night. At the very least, it’ll give you something to talk about (or avoid at all costs) during dinner on Thursday.

Sunrise expects big crowds, traffic gridlock for ‘unprecedented’ Trump rally” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Sunrise is expecting heavy traffic near the arena and the nearby Sawgrass Mills mall with “tens of thousands” of people expected to attend, according to an advisory issued by the city. The Sawgrass Expressway near the arena will be closed to commercial trucks during the afternoon rush hour, and drivers can expect significant delays with traffic merged into one lane, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Traffic is expected to be heavy throughout the day with the arena parking lot opening at 7 a.m., and the arena’s doors opening to Trump fans at 3 p.m.

Democrats allege Trump has ‘betrayed’ Floridians ahead of his South Florida visit” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — During a morning conference call, Democratic U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Wasserman Schultz took Trump to task over his push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, his 2017 tax bill and his immigration policy. One topic that didn’t come up was Trump’s policy toward Ukraine that has led to an impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House. “Before he settles into his fake permanent home in our state, he really needs to do a neighborhood apology tour here first,” Wasserman Schultz said at the outset of the call. “There’s no one in Florida that Trump hasn’t betrayed or abandoned.”

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

As discussed above, Trump visits South Florida for his own version of a “homecoming rally” in his newly adopted state; Democrats are bringing the Baby Trump Balloon as part of the protest.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Two people well-known in Florida political circles were featured in a CBS 60 Minutes report about Russian interference in U.S. elections.

— The commission charged with screening applicants for the Florida Supreme Court will be working through the holidays to try to fill two new vacancies at the high court.

— Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is issuing a fraud warning for Thanksgiving.

— Florida Politics’ new reporter Renzo Downey stops by to talk about his new gig.

— A Florida man was busted for armed robbery while wearing an unusual mask — he was exfoliating. 

To listen, click on the image below:

— DAYS UNTIL —

TaxWatch 40th Annual Meeting — 6; Florida Chamber’s Transportation, Growth and Infrastructure Summit — 9; UK votes on Brexit — 18; Sixth Democratic debate — 23; “The Rise of Skywalker” premiers — 24; College Football National Championship — 48; 2020 Session begins — 49; Florida TaxWatch State of the TaxPayer Dinner in Tallahassee — 50; New Brexit deadline — 66; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 68; Great American Realtors Day — 69; Iowa Caucuses — 69; New Hampshire Primaries — 77; Nevada caucuses — 88; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 108; Florida’s presidential primary — 112; “Black Panther 2” debuts — 162; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin — 239; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 273; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 316; First Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 324; Second presidential debate at Belmont — 331; 2020 General Election — 343.

— TOP STORY —

As Donald Trump stages Florida homecoming rally, he motivates Republicans — and Democrats” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Trumps “homecoming rally” in Sunrise should lure both supporters and critics of the president to the BB&T Center. Thousands of Trump supporters are expected to join in a celebration of the commander-in-chief and his quiet decision last month to switch his place of residency from Manhattan to Palm Beach, while outside, Democratic Party staffers and activists plan to greet them with a giant inflatable Trump baby. “He is the main motivator on both sides,” Democratic strategist Craig Smith, who set up a GoFundMe account to pay for the giant Trump balloon, said Tuesday in an interview. “He will be the issue in 2020.”

Donald Trump rallies seem to bring out the best in both sides.

— DATELINE: TALLY —

Ron DeSantis ties E-Verify to public safety” via Bobby Cania Calvan of The Associated Press — DeSantis is pushing lawmakers to require all employers to use a federally operated electronic database, known as E-Verify, to weed out people who are not authorized to work in this country. “It’s about fairness for lawful immigrants and native-born workers, and it’s about public safety,” DeSantis said in a statement released after a news conference in The Villages launching his latest push to win passage for the E-Verify system. Joining DeSantis at his media event were parents who say loved ones were killed by immigrants in the country illegally. One woman said her daughter died in a traffic accident involving an immigrant living here illegally.

Ron DeSantis makes a case for E-Verify in The Villages.

Tweet, tweet:

 

Drugs, guns, crime: DeSantis’ case for immigration bills draw fire” via Emily Mahoney of the Tamp Bay Times — Nearly a year since DeSantis came into office, it’s no surprise that he’s urging state lawmakers to make a crackdown on hiring undocumented workers a top priority in January’s legislative session. One of DeSantis’ most-repeated campaign promises last year was that he would ensure businesses would be required to check the immigration status of new hires via an online system called “E-Verify.” Support for the program has become an established doctrine for the GOP. Yet during a Monday news conference, DeSantis took a hard-right turn, citing examples of violence and crime committed by undocumented immigrants as a rationale for the program, an argument that immigration advocates likened to the divisive rhetoric of Trump.

DeSantis expands early voting in Gulf, Bay counties” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida —DeSantis today issued an executive order to expand early voting in two Republican-leaning Panhandle counties hammered by Hurricane Michael. The order allows election officials in Bay and Gulf counties to pick one or more additional early voting locations or relocate and consolidate locations as needed. The two counties were hit particularly hard by the storm, which made landfall in October 2018.

Cabinet sets meeting on financial regulator” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis and the Cabinet will hold the Dec. 2 meeting by telephone to discuss the appointment of the next Office of Financial Regulation commissioner, according to an agenda posted on the Cabinet website. DeSantis, Attorney General Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried will participate in the 1:30 p.m. call. Following a meeting of Cabinet aides, DeSantis’ director of Cabinet affairs Beau Beaubien said, “stay tuned” when reporters asked about the vacant position. The issue of filling the position was not on the agenda for the Dec. 3 regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting.

State fights cities, counties on gun law” via News Service of Florida — Pointing to a “hierarchical relationship” with local governments, the state late Friday asked an appeals court to uphold a 2011 law that has threatened tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun regulations. Lawyers in the offices of Moody and DeSantis filed a 42-page brief arguing that the 1st District Court of Appeal should overturn a circuit judge’s ruling that said parts of the law were unconstitutional. The Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties on Monday filed a document requesting approval to submit a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the dozens of local governments and officials challenging the law.

Bill Montford to make final stand for state worker pay raise” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Twice reelected with just token opposition, Montford, a Democrat, has a nagging feeling he’s failed state workers who have supported his political ambitions since he served on the Leon County Commission in the mid-1980s. State workers received just one stand-alone, across-the-board pay raise in the decade Montford has represented them in the Legislature. “I’ve let them down. In 10 years, I couldn’t get that done, and that weighs heavily on me,” said Montford — the Senate Democratic Leader pro tempore — in an interview. Republican former Gov. Rick Scott, current GOP Gov. DeSantis, and the Republican leaders of the Legislature all stiffed workers for a pay increase.

Jason Pizzo joins Dan Daley, Scott Plakon on measure requiring vets to report suspected animal abuse” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The measure is dubbed “Allie’s Law” after a Boston terrier from Orlando who survived abuse. According to a group pushing for the proposal, that abuse was recognized by a veterinarian but never reported. That’s because Florida law does not place a duty on vets to report suspected abuse. Allie’s Law would change that. State Rep. Daley and Plakon have filed already filed a version of the measure in the Florida House (HB 621). “The cycle of abuse must end. Animal abuse is an indicator that a home is not safe and is usually correlated with family dysfunction, including domestic, child, and elder abuse,” Daley said in a statement on the bill.

— STATEWIDE —

So is the SunPass Saga finally over?” via Noah Pransky of Florida Politics —  Five-hundred and forty-five days. That’s how long it’s been since the state initiated what was supposed to be a six-day overhaul of its SunPass electronic tolling system. But despite the Sunday release of an inspector general’s report, detailing how numerous failures by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and its contractors resulted in a system meltdown and more than a year’s worth of technological and customer service nightmares, it doesn’t appear the SunPass Saga is in Florida’s rear-view mirror just yet. Yet, Floridians still don’t have answers as to whether Conduent will pay restitution to the state for the approx. $50 million in tolls expected to go uncollected because of more than a year’s worth of account disruptions.

Florida workers see health insurance taking a bigger bite of their paychecks” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — The state is one of five where middle-income families average spending 14 percent or more of their income on out-of-pocket insurance costs, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

Foster kids at risk as caseloads grow for child protective investigators” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Roughly 25 percent of investigators in Hillsborough County and 40 percent in Pasco are juggling more than 20 cases at a time. Twelve is the number suggested by the Child Welfare League of America, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that advocates for best practices in foster care. Highly stressed investigators are more likely to quit, said Christine James-Brown, president and CEO of the Child Welfare League. There is also more risk that investigators will make mistakes or take shortcuts. At least four investigators in the Tampa Bay region were arrested this year for falsifying records, including one who faked the result of a mother’s drug test.

Brightline deaths prompt ‘concern’ from DeSantis, oversight letter to FDOT” via Bob Wile of the Miami Herald — In response to the ongoing spate of fatal accidents along the Florida East Coast rail corridor, DeSantis has asked Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault to look into the issue. “Public safety is paramount with regards to Florida’s transportation systems,” a spokesperson for the governor said. At the same time, the Florida Transportation Commission has sent a letter to FDOT over passenger-rail safety concerns. Ron Howse, chairman of the commission that serves as the citizen’s oversight board over FDOT, said in the Nov. 4 letter that he was “recently made aware of concerns from citizen advocacy groups related to rail safety in the state.”

Ron DeSantis is calling on Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault to take a closer look at Brightline safety.

As Florida tourism flourishes, number of hotel and restaurant inspectors shrinks” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — A Florida sanitation and safety inspector faces felony charges after he was accused of coercing a hotel restaurant manager to have sex with him. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation sanitation and safety specialist, Brian Connolly, remained employed by the agency for four months after Orlando police charged him with battery, false imprisonment and unlawful compensation for official behavior. “Absent other factors and given current trends, the division will continue to struggle to meet the performance standards for these measures,” the inspector general wrote. “Our office recommended that the division explore additional methods to address their high turnover rate in order to meet the statutory performance standards for the food service and lodging inspection measures.”

What José Oliva is reading: “Report: UWF ‘demonstrating an inability to manage’ Complete Florida Plus” via Florida Politics — According to a Florida College System report, the University of West Florida should no longer host the Complete Florida Plus Program. The report, prepared by the Learning Resources Standing Committee, says UWF is “demonstrating an inability to manage” the program, which oversees Florida Virtual Campus and the Florida Academic Library Service Cooperative, among other things. Additionally, the report claims UWF’s stewardship of the program has proven costly. “UWF currently charges the maximum overhead amount for managing the CFPP program at 5%. With the CFPP funding allocation form the Legislature at approximately $23,000,000, the overhead charge to the program is more than $1,000,000 per year for UWF. The committee goes on to say the state Department of Education is better equipped to host the program.

— MOTHER NATURE —

Hurricane season 2019 closes this week, and Florida avoided the worst” via Joe Mario Pederson of the Orlando Sentinel — The season was predicted to be unremarkable, but It was anything except boring. Not only was tropical activity above average, but historical milestones were made with events such as Category 5 Hurricane Dorian reaching maximum sustained winds of 185 mph — the strongest ever recorded for a storm that made landfall. There were 20 organized storms in 2019, with 18 earning names, but none of them made landfall in Florida, although some came close. Of all named storms, six developed into hurricanes.

Unlike the Bahamas, Florida escaped the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season relatively unscathed.

Supreme Court urged to decide conservation dispute” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Florida Defenders of the Environment are asking justices to decide a long-running dispute on how state lawmakers carried out the 2014 constitutional amendment. The environmentalists took the case to the Supreme Court after the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with lawmakers in September. The amendment required setting aside a portion of real estate documentary-stamp tax revenues in what is known as the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for conservation efforts. Environmentalists contend the money was supposed to go to buying and managing additional property. But the appeals court said a Leon County circuit judge erred when he ruled money from the amendment could only be used on land purchased after the measure took effect.

Cabinet eyes properties in Dixie, Desoto counties” via the News Service of Florida — A pair of land deals covering nearly 10,000 acres in Dixie and DeSoto counties, at a combined cost of $8.5 million, will go before DeSantis and the Cabinet on Dec. 3. The Lyme Cross City Forest Company deal in Dixie County carries a price tag of $2 million. The proposal would establish a conservation easement for 5,785 acres of timberland that is within the Lower Suwannee River and Gulf Watershed Florida Forever project. The land acquisition is intended to protect and enhance water quality and enhance management practices of the ongoing silviculture operation. The Cabinet is also slated to act on a proposed $6.5 million deal for 3,891 acres in DeSoto County.

Indian River Lagoon health improves, but still ’poor’” via Jim Waymer of FLORIDA TODAY — “When you hit rock-bottom, you can really only go up from there,” said Leesa Souto, executive director of the nonprofit Marine Resources Council. The MRC announced early findings of its second-annual lagoon report card at a fundraiser in Melbourne Beach. As the group pieces together 2017 sea grass and water quality data from state agencies, MRC’s early findings point to a few bright spots, Souto said, including a “tiny improvement” in water quality in some areas. But the overall picture remains bleak. “What we found was what we expected,” Souto said. “Water quality really hasn’t changed. Seagrasses continue not to proliferate. They continue to decline. I think we saw pretty much the same, scores for sea grass for the entire lagoon.”

Calhoun commissioners push back against environmentalists as final permitting nears for oil wells” via Lynn Hatter of WFSU — Calhoun is supportive of Cholla Petroleum’s exploratory wells despite pushback from environmentalists. The Texas-based company Cholla Petroleum is seeking permission from Florida’s environmental agency to drill six exploratory wells in Calhoun County. The permits have been in the works for more than a year, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection could give the Texas-based company final approval to drill the exploratory wells in the coming days. Environmentalists worry drilling could impact the region’s drinking water supply and ecosystem.

Nikki Fried urges consumers to look for Florida lettuce” via the News Service of Florida — Agriculture Commissioner Fried urged people to look for the “Fresh From Florida” logo on romaine lettuce after federal health officials issued a warning about an E.coli outbreak that is likely from the Salinas growing region of California. “We strongly advise consumers to seek romaine lettuce with the “Fresh From Florida” logo, ensuring it’s Florida-grown, and avoid products that state and federal inspectors have found to carry a risk of illness,” Fried said in a prepared statement. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory regarding an E. coli outbreak that has affected up to 40 people across 16 states. More than half have required hospitalization.

— PEACHY —

Former White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with House subpoena, judge rules” via Spencer Hsu and Ann Marimow of The Washington Post — U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington found no basis for a White House claim that the former counsel is “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony,” setting the stage for a historic separation-of-powers confrontation between the executive and legislative ­branches of the ­government. The House Judiciary Committee went to court in August to enforce its subpoena of McGahn, whom lawmakers consider the “most important” witness in whether Trump obstructed justice in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump blocked McGahn’s appearance, saying McGahn had cooperated with Mueller’s probe, was a key presidential adviser, and could not be forced to answer questions or turn over documents. Jackson disagreed.

With testimony over, work begins on key impeachment report” via Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press — On Monday, hundreds of pages from Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff’s intelligence committee were being compiled into an exhaustive report that will begin to outline whether Trump engaged in “treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors” by withholding $400 million in aid as he pushed Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden. The report may come as soon as next week. There are rising political stakes for all sides. Americans remain deeply split over the impeachment question, despite hours of sometimes riveting testimony, and the country’s polarization now seems to foreshadow an outcome: Democrats are poised to vote to impeach the president while Republicans stand firmly with Trump.

With the impeachment testimony mostly over, Adams Schiff’s work is just beginning.

House Intelligence Committee in possession of video, audio recordings from Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas” via Katherine Faulders, John Santucci and Allison Pecorin of ABC News — The material submitted to the committee includes audio, video and photos that include Giuliani and Trump. It was unclear what the content depicts, and the committees only began accessing the material last week. “We have subpoenaed Mr. Parnas and Mr. [Igor] Fruman for their records. We would like them to fully comply with those subpoenas,” House Intelligence Committee ChairmanSchiff told CNN, with a committee spokesperson adding they would not elaborate beyond the chairman’s comments. Sources tell ABC News the tapes were provided as part of that congressional subpoena issued to Parnas, and the former Giuliani ally also provided several documents both in English and Ukrainian to the committee in two separate productions.

Investigators scrutinize Giuliani firm and donations to Trump super PAC as part of broad probe” via Devlin Barrett, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind Helderman and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The federal investigation into two associates of Giuliani is exploring a wide range of potential crimes — including wire fraud and failure to register as a foreign agent — as prosecutors dig into the pair’s interactions with the president’s personal lawyer and the main pro-Trump super PAC, according to people familiar with the investigation … As part of the probe, federal prosecutors are examining a raft of other potential crimes, including foreign lobbying registration violations, destruction or alteration of documents, aiding and abetting federal crimes, and foreign contributions to U.S. candidates.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Chinese woman who trespassed at Mar-a-Lago sentenced to eight months” via Nick Madigan and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — A Chinese businesswoman who unlawfully made her way into Trump’s resort earlier this year with a purse full of electronics was sentenced to eight months in prison. Because Yujing Zhang has already been in custody for more than seven months, she could be out in a matter of days. Judge Roy Altman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ordered her deported upon her release. Prosecutors asked for an 18-month sentence for Zhang, who was convicted of trespassing and lying to federal agents in September. The short trial failed to make clear whether Zhang was a befuddled tourist or a foreign spy.

Yujing Zhang, the Chinese woman convicted of trespassing at Mar-a-Lago, is sentenced to eight months, of which she had already served almost seven.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins bipartisan push to recover Holocaust-era insurance benefits” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic U.S. Rep. Schultz is sponsoring legislation that aims to help Holocaust survivors whose insurance documents were destroyed to collect on those policies through the U.S. courts. Republican U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Scott of Florida have already filed a version of the bill in the Senate. Rubio has worked on the legislation in the past with former lawmakers such as ex-Sen. Bill Nelson and retired U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada have joined the Senate version of the bill. Republican U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York is co-sponsoring the House version of the bill along with Wasserman Schultz.

Prison guards to aid undocumented immigrant crackdown” via News Service of Florida — Florida is poised to deputize state correctional officers as federal immigration agents at a state-run prison as part of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement program. The move by Florida has been “reviewed and approved” by a federal advisory board, and the state is now “awaiting official notification of the Memorandum of Agreement from ICE,” the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed to The News Service of Florida on Friday. “(Corrections) Secretary Mark Inch has made great progress in his collaborative relationship with ICE, and we are moving forward with this program,” Gov. DeSantis said in a statement. The push to participate in the program — known as 287(g) — was first made in April.

Melania Trump receives official White House Christmas tree” via The Associated Press — Members of the U.S. Marine Band played “O Christmas Tree” as a pair of horses named Cash and Ben trotted up the White House driveway pulling a green carriage that carried an 18 ½-foot (5.49 meter) Douglas fir. The towering tree will become the centerpiece of Christmas in the White House Blue Room. The First Lady appeared moments later, escorted by a military aide, and smiled, waved and chatted up the top-hatted men holding tight to the reins. She walked around the carriage and paused to look at the tree before posing for photos with the Pennsylvania farmer who donated it. Mrs. Trump wished everyone a “Merry Christmas” before going back inside the White House.

Melania Trump looks over the 2019 White House Christmas tree as it is delivered to the White House.

— 2020 —

Democratic hopefuls face growing scrutiny over health plans” via Stephanie Armour of the Wall Street Journal — Democratic presidential hopefuls are up against industry groups, Republicans and Democratic challengers criticizing their proposals to let people buy coverage in a government-run health plan. The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, an industry group that includes hospitals and insurers, recently released a study that found a public option would increase the number of people without health coverage. Other groups have also been publishing research critical of the proposal. During last week’s Democratic presidential debate, the Trump campaign sent emails saying Biden and Pete Buttigieg’s public-option alternatives “are designed to kill private health plans.”

Joe Biden’s senior Latina adviser quits in frustration” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Vanessa Cárdenas, the most senior Latina Biden staffer, resigned last week and has since changed her bio on Twitter to say she was “formerly with @joebiden.” Two friends familiar with her thinking told POLITICO that she felt the campaign wasn’t heeding her advice on immigration as she tried to reach out to Latino groups that have had long-standing concerns with the former vice president’s rhetoric and record stemming from the Obama administration. “The campaign is just hyper-focused on whites in Iowa and African Americans, and it placed less value on Latino outreach,” an immigration activist and friend who spoke with her told POLITICO.

Michael Bloomberg, Deval Patrick make Florida primary ballot” via Gary Fineout for POLITICO Florida — Florida Democrats gave state election officials a list of 18 candidates for the March 17 primary that includes the two late entrants into the race. Democrats had turned in a list in early November that didn’t include Bloomberg or Patrick, but the party was allowed to update the primary ballot ahead of the state-mandated Nov. 30 deadline. Florida law allows political parties to decide which candidates can appear on the primary ballot. State Democrats essentially put anyone on the ballot deemed a major candidate with national attention and national reach.

Michael Bloomberg has already made a splash in the Democratic presidential race, narrowly making the ballot in Florida’s primary.

Andrew Gillum: Bloomberg will be ‘held accountable’ for stop and frisk” via Zack Budryk of The Hill — Gillum said that former New York Mayor Bloomberg would have to answer questions about his implementation of the stop-and-frisk policy during his presidential run. “Stop and frisk, in spite of his apology, strikes really, really deep, and not just for New Yorkers but around the country,” Gillum said of the dubiously effective policy, which Bloomberg defended for years after leaving office but apologized for shortly before formally announcing his run.

Bloomberg kicks off presidential run with $1M-plus ad buy on South Florida TV” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — Bloomberg’s campaign purchased $80,850 worth of airtime on WPBF Channel 25, the local ABC affiliate, for one minute ads to run through Dec. 3 — a couple of days after Trump will likely return to Washington. According to reports filed by Bloomberg’s campaign, the ads will target adults age 35 and up and will run for two weeks. Bloomberg’s ads can be seen starting as early as 5 a.m. during later shows such as The View, Ellen, Jeopardy, Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel. With Florida considered a key battleground state in the 2020 election, Bloomberg is also targeting other Florida markets. In Miami, Bloomberg spent over $1 million on ads to be aired by affiliates of the region’s four major networks on Friday.

— THE TRAIL —

Ross Spano probe yields talk of GOP primary challenge” via Gary White of the Lakeland Ledger — Spano has faced scrutiny since the November 2018 election over loans from friends that he converted into donations to his campaign totaling about $174,000. He had been facing an inquiry by the U.S. House Ethics Committee. On Nov. 14, the committee announced it was deferring to the federal Department of Justice as it conducts a criminal investigation. Neil Combee, a Lakeland resident and former state legislator who lost to Spano in the 2018 primary, said he has heard of a few Republicans considering a run against Spano in next year’s primary. “I do know that they have talked to me, and some of their friends have talked to me,” Combee said. “There are more discussions, and more consideration since it was announced there is a criminal investigation. I think that certainly caused people to start looking at the possibility and what they would need to do.”

Spano

Considering all his legal troubles, it may be a good bet that Ross Spano will soon face a Republican primary challenge.

Happening today — House Majority Leader Dane Eagle, who is running for Florida’s 19th Congressional District, will speak to the Cape Coral Republican Club, 7 p.m., Rusty’s Raw Bar, 4631 S.E. 10th Place, Cape Coral.

Andrew Gillum gives $150,000 to help Florida Democrats win state House seats” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Gillum’s political committee Forward Florida donated $150,000 to the House Victory Caucus, the arm of the Florida Democratic Party trying to shrink the Republican Party’s 26-person majority in the House of Representatives. “We are glad to invest in House Victory’s smart, grassroots operation that will win seats across Florida in 2020,” Gillum said in a statement. “Together, we’re going to fight to flip Florida blue next year — and I believe that we will win.” Gillum’s investment will be targeted to House seats he carried in 2018 but are represented in Tallahassee by Republicans. Democrats identified nine districts — including the 67th in Pinellas County currently held by Republican Rep. Chris Latvala — that fit the description.

Hillsborough County ads accountability measure for elections” via Mitch Perry of Bay News 9 — In Hillsborough County, an extremely tight state Senate race necessitated that office to conduct four separate recounts following the 2018 election. The frequency of those recounts is one reason why Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer has decided to implement a software program called ClearAudit, which uses digital images of every paper ballot to allow election officials to inspect ballots with questionable markings to verify votes quickly. “We’ve had recounts since I’ve been here constantly, so this is just a little more assurance to me and our staff to make sure that we’ve accounted for everything,” Latimer told Bay News 9 last week.

— LOCAL —

Former Mayor Jake Godbold to city Council on JEA sale: End this now!” via the Florida Times-Union — Godbold took out a full-page advertisement in the Times-Union calling on the Jacksonville City Council to put a stop to JEA privatization discussions. “End this now!” Godbold wrote in the ad that appeared on page A4 of the newspaper. The ad was titled: “An Open Letter to the Members of the City Council. From Former Mayor Jake Godbold” “The only good thing that has happened over the last several months because of the JEA’s idiotic campaign to sell the public utility to a private company is, it has united Jacksonville in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen.”

Former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold is urging the City Council to nix any discussion of privatizing JEA.

Hernando commissioner wants to change public land sales after accusations of cronyism” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — The Hernando County Commission didn’t do anything wrong, according to Commissioner Wayne Dukes. But he was dismayed at the backlash after a recent commission decision to sell nearly 40 acres of prospective parkland to the business of state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia. Ingoglia submitted an unsolicited bid for $408,000. The commission approved it several weeks later. Dukes urged a change in the process to help eliminate the public perception of cronyism. And he learned that the process changed after the sale to Ingoglia in a way that announces the parcel sales more publicly and likely will bring in more funds to the county.

Despite emails, Citrus County not worried about New York Times controversy impact” via Eric Glasser of WTSP — The county’s Visitors Bureau is already getting communication from people who say they’re canceling their vacations and boycotting the county for what they see as politically motivated censorship. Rich Tomlinson, who lives in the area, told commissioners he doesn’t believe for a minute, calling the threats, “A bunch of hogwash.” Tomlinson doubts anyone will cancel their vacation to see the manatees or Crystal River’s natural beauty based upon the county commission’s decision last week to end the library’s subscription to the New York Times. Folks don’t come here because of politics, he says. “Not for the New York Times,” he adds. “But the manatees, nature and all of this.”

April trial date set for guards charged in Jeffrey Epstein death” via Larry Neumeister of The Associated Press — The guards after their arrest last week pleaded not guilty to lying on prison records to make it seem as though they had made required checks on the financier before he was found in his cell Aug. 10. New York City’s medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide.

Dengue virus is surging in Latin America. That’s bad news for Miami.” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Dengue virus is surging in Latin America at an inopportune time for Miami, with infections in those countries spreading rapidly just as many foreign-born South Florida residents are preparing to travel to their home countries for the holidays, public health experts are warning. That increases the likelihood that travelers will bring the disease back to South Florida when they return. The number of reported dengue cases in Miami-Dade County ticked up to 11 earlier this week. As of Nov. 11, the caseload in the greater Americas region — 2,733,635 — is the largest in history, exceeding the epidemic year of 2015 by 13%, according to the most recent report by the Pan American Health Organization, a public health agency.

What Kathryn Starkey is reading — Pasco tourism draws 1 million visitors in 2019” via CT Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Pasco County’s annual bed tax collections topped $3 million for the first time. Those visitors also spent an estimated $462.6 million during their stays on hotels, restaurants, shopping, entertainment and attractions. Pasco County drew more than 1 million tourists in the 2019 fiscal year, and the county’s annual bed tax collections topped $3 million for the first time. Those visitors also spent an estimated $462.6 million during their stays on hotels, restaurants, shopping, entertainment and attractions.

— MORE LOCAL —

Steven Meiner, David Richardson sworn in as Miami Beach’s newest commissioners” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Commissioners Richardson and Meiner became the newest members of the seven-person board during a swearing-in ceremony at a commission meeting. Richardson, a former state legislator, was appointed the city’s vice mayor. Richardson and Meiner were elected in the Nov. 19 runoffs. They replaced retiring Commissioners Joy Malakoff and John Elizabeth Alemán. Two other members of the board, Commissioner Ricky Arriola and Mayor Dan Gelber, were reelected and sworn-in to new terms. The departure of Malakoff and Alemán leaves Commissioner Micky Steinberg as the lone woman on the commission, a fact she brought up jokingly.

Willie Taggart never signed a final contract. Here’s why it could matter” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — Taggart spent his entire Seminoles tenure — from his hiring on Dec. 5, 2017, to his firing on Nov. 3 of this year — without ever signing a contract beyond the initial letter. according to FSU. “This is highly uncommon — a letter of intent or agreement without a formalized contract,” said Martin J. Greenberg, a Wisconsin-based attorney who founded Marquette University’s National Sports Law Institute. “It creates nothing but legal issues.” Those issues have the potential to linger even after Taggart’s dismissal and could affect discussions over his eight-figure buyout. The obvious problem of not having a formal contract is that, well, there’s not a formal contract.

Former FSU Coach Willie Taggart never signed a formal contract, which could be a problem. Image via Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports.

Florida city worker saves colleague’s life as they’re putting up town’s Christmas lights” via Tiffani Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — When Eddie Robinson, an equipment operator for the city of Stuart, saw his driver pass out at a train crossing, he pulled the man from the truck and performed CPR. The two Public Works employees had set out early Friday morning to put up Christmas decorations. “Within moments,” Stuart police officers arrived, found a pulse and resumed CPR, the department said.


— OPINIONS —

Mr. Trump, welcome home. Now, what will you do for Florida?” via Gil Smart of TCPalm — As Democrats try mightily to flip this state blue, Trump and the GOP will do everything in their collective power to keep it red. Trump’s campaign is reportedly planning on spending more than $200 million in Florida alone. The ongoing impeachment inquiry will rile up both Trump’s base and those who can’t wait to vote against him. Broad, national factors will be hugely influential in how Florida voters ultimately cast their ballots. But if Trump — or the eventual Democratic nominee — want to make inroads with Floridians still on the fence, they would be wise to address the issues that matter most right here at home. Take Everglades restoration.

Democrats hosed themselves — and democracy — in ballot-rigging scheme” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Nearly 70 years ago, Democrats in Florida came up with a devilishly ingenious way to rig election ballots in their favor. Instead of listing candidates’ names in alphabetical order, they passed a law that allowed Democrats to be listed first. Why does that matter? Because there’s an advantage to being listed first. It scores you more votes. Research shows that being listed first can be worth a 1- to 5-point bump in results. That seemed like a safe bet for Democrats back then since the state had elected Democratic governors for three straight decades. Except things changed. Republicans found their footing, winning the Governor’s race in 1986, again in 1998 and then every race for the last two decades.

GOP lawmakers will write the budget their way” via Bill Cottrell of the Tallahassee Democrat — If the 2020 Legislative Session produces a budget with no general pay raises, which is likely, members will say they respect state employees and appreciate their good work. They’d love to improve their salaries and benefits, but … Well, the state just has so many other pressing needs; this is just not the year for it. That makes sense. But if they were honest about it, they’d admit why, year after year, they don’t give raises to state workers. First, they don’t want to. Second, they don’t have to. State workers aren’t going on strike — that would be illegal — and they have little political influence in the Capitol.

— MOVEMENTS —

Scoop —Peter Penrod takes over as CFO’s Chief of Staff” via Florida Politics — Penrod is now working as Chief Financial Officer Patronis’ Chief of Staff. Patronis announced the hire on Monday by way of an email to the Department of Financial Services staff. “I have a very exciting announcement to make about our team. Effective immediately, Peter Penrod will be serving as my chief of staff,” Patronis said. “With Peter in this new role, I am confident that we will enhance our ability to serve our great state. He has a strong legal mind, a solid track record of leadership, and an extensive background in public service. It’s clear he is committed to making sure the office builds on our successes.”

DOH announces new agency leadership” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees announced some new hires for top-level positions at the Florida Department of Health on Monday. Joining the Department of Health’s executive leadership team are Robert Karch, who will serve as the Deputy Secretary for Children’s Medical Services, and Shamarial Roberson, who will serve as Deputy Secretary for Health. “Florida needs strong and experienced leaders to lead our Health Department, and I am extremely pleased to see Dr. Karch and Dr. Roberson take on their new roles,” Rivkees said. “Both bring the right set of skills at the right time. They are extremely talented, and I look forward to working with them to continue to protect the health of all Floridians.”

— ALOE —

Publix commits to $4 billion in food donations” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Florida’s homegrown grocery giant plans to ante up in the fight against hunger. Publix announced Monday that will make $2 billion in food donations over the next decade. Combined with $2 billion in donations the company has made since 2009, it’s total efforts will meet $4 billion. “You can’t always see hunger, but it is all around us,” said Todd Jones, CEO of the Lakeland-based company. “As a food retailer, our greatest opportunity to give back is by helping to alleviate food insecurity. That’s why for more than a decade, we have worked to ensure millions of pounds of food have reached people in need in the communities we serve.”

Meet the millennial who designed Magic Kingdom’s new fireworks show” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — For more than a year, 30-year-old fireworks designer Tess Santore Bland choreographed the display on her computer. Now, on a chilly November night, she could see her designs unfiltered. “I love to watch it with people who haven’t seen it before,” Bland said. Would they catch any of the Easter eggs she threw in, like the five golden rings blasting in the sky in sync with the lyrics from The Twelve Days of Christmas? Would they see the outline of a green Christmas tree that appeared for an instant? Blogger Denise Preskitt, who runs MouseSteps.com, said she was eager for the holiday fireworks show to get an update. She left impressed by Bland’s work. The fireworks, Preskitt said, “are fantastic.”

Legoland Florida lays off ‘small number’ of employees, spokeswoman says” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — “We are restructuring our line of reports affecting 1% of our total employees in order for continued growth and financial success,” according to a statement provided by spokeswoman Chloé Boehm. She declined to say precisely how many people were laid off but called it a “small number of employees.” A few senior leaders were included in the layoffs, although Boehm would not give more details on which positions were cut. “None of the positions have primary duties dealing directly with our guests, and we remain committed to creating a memorable family experience,” Boehm said.

The only story that matters —World’s largest White Castle to open near Disney World as soon as 2020” via Austin Fuller of the Orlando Sentinel — The 4,500-square-foot restaurant was announced at an event at its future site at The Village at O-Town West, on Daryl Carter Parkway. It is expected to employ about 145 people. O-Town West developer Chuck Whittall said he planned for the ground to break on the project in about two months. “We have a lot of cool other things that we’re about to bring soon that people don’t know,” he said. “I can’t announce them yet, but we’ve got some really big announcements that are coming.” The Columbus-based company has been in business for more than 98 years and has more than 375 restaurants, mostly in the Midwest and the New York metropolitan area.

Look out Orlando, here comes the world’s largest White Castle, just outside of Walt Disney World.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Miami Beach Mayor and former Sen. Dan Gelber, Charlie Van Zant, Carlie Waibel, national press secretary for Amy Klobuchar, and, of course, the legendary Mac Stipanovich.

___

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

 

Written By

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.

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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, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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