Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.24.20

Sunburn Orange Tally (1)
Get ‘burned first: Here’s your AM review of the news driving Florida politics.

The Florida Conference of Black State Legislators (FCBSL) is partnering with the Florida Legislative Black Caucus to host a two-day information and celebration event Thursday and Friday. Activities include a free public Chairman’s Welcome reception at 6 p.m. Thursday at downtown Tallahassee’s Doubletree Hotel.

The Florida Conference of Black State Legislators (FCBSL), partnering with the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, is hosting a two-day information and celebration event.

At noon Friday, the Annual Kershaw-Cherry Legislative luncheon will be at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center at 505 W. Pensacola St. The keynote speaker is retired Army Lt. General Gwendolyn Bingham, who was deployed to Kuwait and Afghanistan in 2010 in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Bingham broke barriers as she served the country with distinction throughout a 30-year career in the U.S. Army. She has received numerous awards, including the 2019 White House Correspondents “Be Fearless” award.

The Civic Center also will be the site of the Annual Scholarship Gala Celebration at 8 p.m. With the theme Harlem Nights, dress for the evening is period or cocktail attire.

For tickets to the luncheon and scholarship gala, visit the event website.


Please read my latest blog postShould Margaret Good run for reelection? It’s a no-brainer” — When Good won the special election for House District 72 two years ago, it made national news. It was evidence that the “blue wave” might just hit Florida. Though she’s still eligible to run for another three terms in the state House, Good has her eyes on Florida’s 16th Congressional District. To many, myself included, it’s a fool’s errand. Incumbent Rep. Vern Buchanan has held the seat for more than a decade. In fact, CD 16 may be more of a stretch for Democrats this cycle. At least that’s what new polling shows with the ultra-popular Buchanan up 20 points. Simply put, Good’s aspirations aren’t realistic.


Check out this op-ed, which popped exclusively on late last night:

Setting the record straight on disaster recovery funding in Florida” via Ken Lawson for Florida Politics — When I met with Gov. Ron DeSantis about taking on the role as Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, he told me helping Floridians recover from Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew, Irma and Michael were my No. 1 priority. I took this order seriously. What did we learn? We learned that after a storm, many of the dedicated, hardworking individuals who are responsible for long-term recovery efforts at the local level are also doing several other jobs and wearing multiple hats. We found that many communities did not have the capacity to administer the enormous amount of funding coming to our state. Accordingly, our team is providing ongoing technical assistance to these communities who are administering the funds locally.

Ken Lawson and his team are working on long-term hurricane recovery. 

That op-ed is in response to …

Florida slow to distribute disaster recovery cash — The DEO has been sitting on nearly $900 million in disaster recovery block grants that were approved by the federal government over the past three years, Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida reports. Of the $891.5 set aside, just $29 million had been used as of Jan. 1. Most of that money went to a consulting firm tasked with helping DEO navigate the grants. The funds are separate from the $735.5 million in disaster recovery grants the state expects to receive in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. The lack of disbursement has led some local leaders to ask DeSantis if they can manage the money rather than housing it under DEO.


VISIT FLORIDA is looking for support in the legislature. The state will abolish the tourism marketing agency later this year if lawmakers don’t act.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Headed for the House floor after clearing all its committees is a bill to increase penalties for bear poachers.

— Also House-floor-bound is a bill that says insurance companies cannot get access to your genetic code.

— Republican leader Dane Eagle — in his term-limited last year in the House — tells Sunrise his job is a bit like herding cats. He’s currently running for a seat in the U.S. House, where we’re sure it’s nothing like that.

— An automotive edition of Florida Man features a carjacker armed with a lighter and a DUI suspect busted with a load of poop in his pants.

To listen, click on the image below:


@JonathanVSwan: @mattgaetz tells me this about [Donald] Trump’s defense team’s performance so far: “They know our side is allowed to use video too, right? They’re doing very well on the facts, but we could use a little less Atticus Finch and a little more Miss Universe in the presentation. We have video of people saying ‘no bribery,’ ‘no extortion,’ ‘no pressure,’ ‘no crime.’ It is compelling, often from the Democrats own witnesses. We should use it.”

@RepValDemings: Fair trials have witnesses and documents. The American people know it.

@RetiredOrrin: A fundamental flaw in many Warren/Sanders proposals: promising to pay off student loan debt will purchase votes, it will also alienate many who struggled to pay off their own Also: higher taxes for middle-class families to pay for wealthy kids’ education

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@CarlosLCurbelo: Again, #FL26 will be a big race to watch this fall now that @MayorGimenez is officially in. Look for major investments from both @NRCC @dccc.

@RenzoDowney: State employee bargaining committee co-chair @EdEhooper1 says his joint-committee will send letters to @Rob_Bradley and @Travis_Cummings asking their appropriations committees to adequately address wage adjustments for state workers

Tweet, tweet:

@Carlos_Frias: Today’s Miami city commission is brought to you by Kafka.

@MarcACaputo: The friends who abandon you weren’t really friends after all. You were just a means to their ends whose usefulness expired like food they left in the fridge for too long. Try to thank them for not wasting your time more.


Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit — 4; New Brexit deadline — 7; Super Bowl LIV in Miami — 9; Great American Realtors Day — 10; Iowa Caucuses — 10; Eighth Democratic presidential debate in Manchester — 14; Capitol Press Corps press skits — 17; New Hampshire Primaries — 18; Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for MLB Spring Training — 18; South Beach Wine and Food Festival — 26; Ninth Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas — 26; Roger Stone’s sentencing — 27; Nevada caucuses — 29; “Better Call Saul” Season 5 premiers — 30; 10th Democratic presidential debate in Charleston — 32; South Carolina Primaries — 36; Super Tuesday — 39; Last day of 2020 Session (maybe) — 49; Florida’s presidential primary — 53; “No Time to Die” premiers — 73; Florida Chamber Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 112; “Top Gun: Maverick” premiers — 154; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 171; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” premiers — 175; 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo start — 182; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 207; First Presidential Debate in Indiana — 249; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 213; First Vice Presidential debate at the University of Utah — 257; Second Presidential Debate scheduled at the University of Michigan — 265; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 272; 2020 General Election — 284.


House athlete pay plan would include ‘Bill of Rights’” via News Service of Florida — Athletes at Florida universities and colleges would get a “bill of rights” guaranteeing financial aid and health coverage as part of a House draft proposal intended to allow athletes to cash in on their names and images. The plan, released by the House Commerce Committee, outlines potential compensation for “name, image, likeness or persona” but maintains that pay for on-field performance would remain prohibited. “It’s really a bill of rights, and it’s focused on their time while in school,” Commerce Chairman Mike La Rosa said. The idea of allowing off-field compensation for college athletes has drawn support from DeSantis, a former college baseball player.


In eye of legislative storm, VISIT FLORIDA seeks to rally support” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis and Bill Galvano want to keep it around, a point they made during “Tourism Day” this week. House Speaker José Oliva is unconvinced. And VISIT FLORIDA CEO Dana Young notes that the last cut, to a $50 million annual budget, is still being processed by the agency. Under the microscope, the board convened at the Hotel Duval, a short walk from the Capitol. Despite the doom and gloom of the news cycle, the mood mixed practiced optimism with the reality that funding is not assured. Young was pointing out growth sectors in pitches to legislators, noting that increases in everything from “millennial adventure seekers” to Canadians and international visitors mean more revenue for the state.

Ron DeSantis speaks at Florida Tourism Day. Image via Dana Young/Twitter.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will make a major announcement, 9:30 a.m., Baker Park, Eva Sugden-Gomez Center, 50 Riverside Circle, Naples.

Assignment editors — First Lady Casey DeSantis will hold a news conference to highlight the Department of Education Reading Scholarships and announce several pilot programs, 8:45 a.m., Leroy Collins Leon County Public Library, 200 West Park Avenue, Tallahassee.

’I am a solid no.’ Florida GOP chairman shuns bill to expand gun background checks amid conservative backlash” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — State Sen. Joe Gruters doubts the measure has the votes it needs to pass, despite getting support from Republican Senate President Galvano. “I am a solid no,” Gruters said. “We’ll see what happens, but in its present form, I would expect it will have a very hard time moving through the process.” His comments come as conservatives and gun-rights supporters are on the defensive in Florida and other states where guns are being debated. Galvano has thrown his support behind a bill that seeks to close the so-called gun show loophole. That provoked a barrage of criticism from NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, Donald Trump Jr., Parkland parent Andrew Pollack, Rep. Gaetz, and other members of Galvano’s party.

Florida Republicans to vote on E-Verify — Republican Party of Florida leaders will vote Monday on whether to support implementing E-Verify in Florida, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. RPOF Chair and Sarasota Sen. Gruters has called for county chairs to meet and asked them to vote for a resolution supporting E-Verify, a priority of DeSantis. Republican lawmakers are divided on whether to implement the system to checks the immigration status of job seekers. Some Republicans, including Gruters, are pushing legislation that would only require the use of E-Verify for public employers.

Issue of parental consent for minors creates rift among House Democrats” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — House Democratic leader Kionne McGhee announced the caucus would not take a position this week on the fast-moving bill. The measure (HB 265) would require parental consent before minors could undergo abortion procedures. Rep. Kim Daniels is co-sponsoring the bill for the second straight year. Daniels, an evangelical, said personal experience led her to that position, one that she believes should be respected in the “big tent” of the Democratic Party. Daniels had an abortion at the age of 15, without her mother’s consent. It was botched. Daniels, with fellow Democratic Rep. James Bush III, said there could ultimately be six or seven Democrats who share her position, which is that minors should have parental consent for abortions.


DNA privacy proposal heads to House” via The Associated Press — Legislation to bar insurance companies from using home genetic testing kits in making underwriting decisions is headed to the House floor, after a panel voted unanimously in favor of the proposal. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Chris Sprowls has called the measure a matter of privacy over a person’s genetic code amid the growing popularity of over-the-counter DNA kits. Some companies market their tests as a way to discover genetic markers associated with certain conditions and diseases. The proposal seeks to outlaw life, disability and long-term care insurers from denying policies or setting premiums based on markers that might be discovered through DNA home kits. A marker does not necessarily mean a person will develop the corresponding disease.

Chris Sprowls’ DNA privacy bill is hitting the House floor.

’Parents Bill of Rights’ wins bipartisan backing in first House stop” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — A bipartisan majority offered its strong support for legislation deemed the “Parents Bill of Rights” by sponsor Rep. Erin Grall. With HB 1059, Grall aims to create a new chapter of state law that has a core goal of describing parents’ fundamental rights to control their children’s education, health care and other aspects of upbringing. It stresses that the government may not infringe upon such rights without “demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest” in a very narrow way. The bill would require, among other things, school district procedures for parents to opt their children out of lessons and materials they find objectionable.


House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, 8 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

Happy Physician Anesthesiologists Week — DeSantis’ official proclamation recognizes the role of physician anesthesiologists “as a medical doctor who specialize in anesthesia care, pain management and critical care medicine.” Additionally, the Governor outlined the importance of Physician Anesthesiologists Week as “an opportunity to recognize the significant role physician anesthesiologists play in Florida’s health care system and the impact they make in our families and communities.”


Assignment editors — Attorney General Ashley Moody will host a news conference, along with Miami-Dade County officials and authorities, regarding anti-human trafficking efforts ahead of Super Bowl LIV, 2:45 p.m., Port of Miami-Terminal E, 1265 N. Cruise Blvd., Miami.

Nine Supreme Court nominees sent to DeSantis” via the News Service of Florida — They are: John Couriel, an attorney with the Miami firm Kobre & Kim; Renatha Francis, a Palm Beach County circuit judge; Jonathan Gerber, a judge on the 4th District Court of Appeal; Jamie Grosshans, a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal; Norma Lindsey, a judge on the 3rd District Court of Appeal; Timothy Osterhaus, a judge on the 1st District Court of Appeal; Eliot Pedrosa, a Miami-Dade County attorney who is United States executive director of the Inter-American Development Bank; Lori Rowe, a judge on the 1st District Court of Appeal; Meredith Sasso, a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal.

Supreme Court finalist from PBC couldn’t take job for six months” via Jane Musgrave of the Palm Beach Post — Circuit Judge Francis, along with 4th District Court of Appeal Judge Gerber, were among nine candidates a committee selected for Gov. Ron DeSantis to consider for two vacancies on the state’s highest court. Unlike Gerber, who previously served on the county’s circuit bench, or any of the other candidates from throughout the state, Francis can’t immediately join the court. According to the Florida Constitution, a Supreme Court justice must have been a member of the Florida Bar for 10 years.

Renatha Francis, a Jamaican American judge for the Palm Beach County Circuit Court, is on the shortlist for Florida Supreme Court. Image via Jamaica Beacon.

Justices back away from major death penalty ruling” via News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court said Thursday that unanimous jury recommendations are not necessary before death sentences can be imposed, as justices backed away from a 2016 decision that revamped the state’s capital-punishment system. The 4-1 ruling offered a clear picture of how much the Supreme Court had changed since last January when a conservative majority took control after the retirements of longtime justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince. Thursday’s majority opinion said the court “got it wrong” in 2016 when it required changes such as unanimous jury recommendations on death sentences. The 2016 ruling came as judges, lawyers and state leaders tried to move forward after the U.S. Supreme Court had found Florida’s death-penalty system unconstitutional.

Human trafficking continues to be a growing problem in Florida” via Kelsey Sunderland of WFLA — The St. Petersburg Police Department announced the establishment of a regional human trafficking task force after the agency received a $741,556 federal grant. Data from the U.S. State Department reports an estimate of between 18,000 and 20,000 human trafficking victims each year. Last year’s 767 reports of human trafficking led to the identification of 1,771 victims, 506 traffickers, and 306 trafficking businesses. More than a fifth of human trafficking victims in Florida are children, and the majority are female. According to a study of the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking task force cases, 83% of sex trafficking victims identified in the United States were U.S. citizens.

Parents want book exploring sexuality removed from high schools” via Lois K. Solomon of the Sun Sentinel — A condom. An abortion. Bisexuality. Expletives. They’re all on the pages of ‘Little & Lion,’ by Brandy Colbert, a novel read by high school students in the Palm Beach County School District. Shocked by the book’s content, some infuriated parents are asking the School Board to pull the book from its approved list of reading materials.


DeSantis called on to block another Everglades oil drilling plan” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Environmentalists called on DeSantis to step in to stop another oil drilling plan in the Everglades, one potentially much bigger than the one he halted last week with the announcement of a land buyout in western Broward County. A letter to the Governor urged him to stop a Texas company’s oil exploration activities at Big Cypress National Preserve, a land of forest and swamp on the northwest border of Everglades National Park. Burnett Oil Co. holds state and federal permits to look for oil across 110 square miles of the preserve by using heavy trucks that vibrate metal plates against the ground to detect the presence of oil.

Oil drilling has been going on for years at Big Cypress National Preserve. Image via National Park Service.

Brevard County Commission rejects loosening rules designed to protect wetlands” via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY — After a 1½-hour discussion, commissioners voted unanimously to direct the county’s Natural Resources Management Department to study two related matters further, and report their findings to commissioners later this year. Commissioner Kristine Isnardi left the possibility open for wetlands rules changes in the future — at least for parts of the county. Isnardi said she believes the current rules sometimes interfere with people’s property rights. “Obviously, there needs to be some changes made,” Isnardi said. “I definitively think that we need to fix this wetlands code.”

Sarasota County to Siesta Key couple: Tear down beach barrier” via Carlos Munoz of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County Environmental Protection Division told Michelle and Greg Olson in a letter that their rope fence installed in December and a rock barrier that has been in place since 1974 violates county codes. Since buying a $3.5 million home on the beach in May 2017, the couple has called police 120 times to report criminal mischief on their property near Siesta Key Beach Access No. 1. Footage taken from August to December 2019 shows late-night partying, people urinating and vandalizing their property, and having sex on the beach behind their home — an area they claim is private property.


John Roberts comes face to face with the mess he made” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — Roberts’s captivity is entirely fitting: He is forced to witness, with his own eyes, the mess he and his colleagues on the Supreme Court have made of the U.S. political system. As representatives of all three branches of government attend, the living consequences of the Roberts Court’s decisions, and their corrosive effect on democracy, are plain to see. Ten years to the day before Trump’s impeachment trial began, the Supreme Court released its Citizens United decision, plunging the country into the era of super PACs and unlimited, unregulated, secret campaign money from billionaires and foreign interests. The consequences? Falling confidence in government, and a growing perception that Washington had become a “swamp” corrupted by political money, fueled Trump’s victory.

The chickens are coming home to roost for Chief Justice John Roberts.

Matt Gaetz sees ‘brush back’ in being kept off Donald Trump’s impeachment team” via Melanie Zanona and Marianne Levine of POLITICO — Gaetz was in the mix to become one of Trump’s impeachment advisers to assist the White House with messaging and strategy throughout the Senate impeachment trial. But Gaetz did not make the final list. Gaetz is unsure why. “I don’t know why it would serve someone in the White House to manufacture a divide between the president and one of his best communicators during impeachment,” Gaetz said. When asked to respond, legislative affairs director Eric Ueland mentioned Gaetz’s support for a House resolution to halt further U.S. military action against Iran. Gaetz had also lobbied some of his fellow House Republicans to back the measure after Democrats added one of his amendments.

Florida AG Ashley Moody adds her name to letter urging Senate to reject Donald Trump’s impeachment” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — Moody joined 20 other attorneys general from states that Trump won in 2016, writing that the “impeachment proceeding threatens all future elections and establishes a dangerous historical precedent.” “This partisan political effort undermines the democratic process, both now and in the future,” the letter sent to Senators reads. “The House unilaterally rewrites the constitution, without the people’s consent to amend it. It weaponizes a process that should only be initiated in exceedingly rare circumstances and never for partisan purposes.”

Robert Hyde, impeachment probe figure who texted of tailing Ukraine ambassador, is a DeSantis donor” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Like his associate Lev Parnas, Hyde has a penchant for posing with high-ranking GOP officials and posting them on his social media accounts, including some with DeSantis. He also donated $3,000 to DeSantis’ campaign on Jan. 17, 2018. Hyde’s WhatsApp messages discussing surveilling Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, were released by a U.S. House panel. Yovanovitch was the subject of a campaign to oust her by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. “Her phone is off. Computer is off. She’s next to the embassy. Not in the embassy. Private security. Been there since Thursday,” Hyde wrote to Parnas, “They know she’s a political puppet. They will let me know when she’s on the move.” “Perfect,” Parnas replied.


Donald Trump administration finalizing Medicaid block grant plan targeting Obamacare” via Dan Diamond of POLITICO Florida — CMS Administrator Seema Verma plans to issue a letter soon explaining how states could seek waivers to receive defined payments for adults covered by Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. An announcement is tentatively slated for the end of next week, more than one year after Verma and her team began developing the plan. Capping Medicaid spending, even among just Obamacare’s expansion population, would be a major transformation of how the federal government finances the safety net health care program that has grown to cover about 1 in 5 Americans. The plan is guaranteed to enrage critics and invite attacks from Democrats in an election year.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo targets Venezuelan, Cuban regimes amid Florida visit” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Pompeo called the Venezuelan political situation “a crisis of historic proportions” shortly before he sat down with DeSantis in Miami. But Pompeo gave no hints about whether the Trump administration would grant Venezuelan refugees temporary protected status, or TPS in a phone interview. “I had the opportunity to meet with President Guaidó just this past week,” Pompeo said of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, recognized by the U.S. and other nations as Venezuela’s president over socialist Nicolás Maduro. “I’ll share with [the roundtable] the conversations that I had with him and how it is that the United States can work to create opportunity for the Venezuelan people … [and] convince Maduro that it’s time to go.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ron DeSantis held a roundtable discussion with Venezuelan exiles.

Trump’s Doral resort spikes its room rates ahead of his RNC visit” via S.V. Date of Huffington Post — The president’s Miami golf resort that puts money into his pocket more than doubled its room rates just before the White House announced his Thursday visit ― possibly increasing taxpayer costs for staff who must travel there in advance.

— 2020 —

RNC will flood battleground states with staffers to boost Donald Trump” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — With the new wave, the committee will have over 600 staffers spread out across the nation. Party officials, who noted they had already knocked on a million doors, said the canvassers would be promoting GOP candidates up and down the ballot. Republicans, who are expected to spend in seven figures to fund the deployment, are capitalizing on a vast resource advantage over Democrats. Through November, the RNC had seven times as much cash on hand as its Democratic counterpart. Trump is developing a behemoth of a political operation: The reelection effort and the Republican National Committee raised a combined $463 million in 2019 and had nearly $200 million on hand going into this year.

Tweet, tweet:

As Trump heads to Doral, Florida Republicans send a message on climate change” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — With the 2020 election gearing up, some Florida Republicans are saying the party should emulate its state leaders, who have begun to address climate change, and even some Republicans in Congress, who are developing a strategy to appeal to voters worried about the environment. “To ignore the issue and call it a hoax when in fact, Republican leaders in Florida are beginning to broach the issue seems very out of step,” said Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, who helped pull together the loosely organized effort. On Wednesday, former Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Colleen Castille published an op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat encouraging her fellow Republicans nationally to follow Florida’s lead.

Why Joe Biden’s rivals can’t break his lock on black voters” via Laura Barrón-López of POLITICO — The reluctance to consider candidates other than Biden was borne out in interviews with dozens of black voters in South Carolina over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend and is confirmed in polling. Time and again, African American voters said it isn’t that they don’t like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. But they know what they’re getting with Biden, who has a relationship and familiarity with black voters, especially older black voters, that extend beyond his time as Barack Obama’s No. 2. And they’re wary that the two progressives can deliver the sweeping remake of the government they’re selling.

Kamala Harris is said to be weighing an endorsement of Biden” via Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — Such a move could lift Biden’s campaign and perhaps do even more to enhance Harris’s chances of becoming vice president, but it could also anger her liberal base in California. An endorsement by Harris, if she wades into the primary race at all, would be unlikely to happen until after the Senate impeachment trial. “Sen. Harris remains focused on the ongoing impeachment trial of President Trump,” said Chris Harris, a spokesman for the Senator. “No decisions have been made about whether she will endorse, which candidate, nor when an endorsement decision will be made.”

Kamala Harris is considering a Joe Biden endorsement.

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg tries on economic populism” via Sally Goldenberg of POLITICO — Gone are the strident defenses of the rich for their contributions to the economy, and the spats with working-class unions that came to sculpt Bloomberg‘s public persona during his three terms as New York City mayor. In their place, he is making assertions that sound more like Bernie Sanders than Wall Street’s defender in chief. “Too much wealth is in too few hands, and too few places as well. We have an economic inequality that’s distributed unfairly across this country,” he declared in a speech in Chicago. And during a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, he said the next president must “make the issue of economic inequality a top priority.”

What Kevin Cate is reading —Does Tom Steyer have real momentum or just a ton of money?” via Evan Halper of the Los Angeles Times — As a campaigner, his personal politicking is uneven, and he is prone to rambling. His one viral moment came when Steyer was caught on camera post-debate, awkwardly trying to greet rivals Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Steyer knows something about organizing in minority communities. In the years before running for president, he built a national advocacy machine that galvanized community activists, registered young voters, and persuaded Californians to raise billions in taxes — all to advance the causes of social justice, action against climate change, and affordable health care. Although Washington insiders generally dismiss his recent momentum as likely to be short-lived, some of this area’s political denizens aren’t so sure.

Black lawmakers’ presidential endorsements are the most spread-out they’ve been in recent history” via Eugene Scott of The Washington Post — Black lawmakers — and some rather high-profile ones — are making headlines for the diversity of their support, raising the question: What impact could this have on the black electorate? Seeing black lawmakers come out to support an array of candidates — particularly those who don’t have much backing among black voters — has the potential to encourage black voters, arguably the most influential voting bloc on the left, to consider candidates they may have previously overlooked. The endorsements have been more widely spread in 2020 for a couple of reasons. The candidate field — initially more than 25 candidates — and the CBC — now more than 50 members — are among the largest in Democratic primary history.

Tech companies volunteered to beef up presidential campaigns’ cybersecurity” via Alexa Corse of The Wall Street Journal — They join a growing number of firms offering protection on a nonpartisan basis, a trend that has gained steam in the past 18 months or so since federal regulators eased rules to make such offers permissible under campaign-finance laws. The Federal Election Commission made policy changes after urging from nonprofits and technology companies, including Microsoft Corp. Campaigns have struggled to make their information more secure in part because of budget pressures and the fast-moving nature of a campaign. “Any dollar that a campaign spends on extra levels of cybersecurity is a dollar they’re not spending on voter contact and getting their candidate elected,” noted Matt Rhoades, campaign manager for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

This Florida mayor has the same job as Pete Buttigieg. Could he be president?” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — A parking lot wall is painted with a mural that challenges Keith James each time he looks out his second-story window at city hall. Dear West Palm Beach… Dream bigger. The words crossed James’ sight line this month as he practiced his first annual address as West Palm Beach’s mayor. James, 61, outlined his vision for the thriving coastal community. Keep crime low. Focus on the economy and environment. Fight homelessness. He fussed over a line addressing the city’s poverty rate. After 40 minutes of rehearsing and rewriting, James needed a break. Had he ever considered what it would take to run for president? “I couldn’t even imagine,” James said.


’Keep Our Constitution Clean’ nears signature requirement” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — As of Wednesday afternoon, political committee Keep Our Constitution Clean had 686,029 verified petition signatures. The signature tally has climbed quickly this month, with more than 100,000 signatures verified in the past two weeks, though it still needs about 80,000 more to go before voters. Amendment sponsors must gather 766,200 signatures to make the ballot, a number pegged to 8% of votes cast in the most recent presidential election. The deadline for the remaining signatures to be verified is Feb. 1. Keep Our Constitution Clean’s proposal would require future amendments be passed by voters twice before inclusion in the Florida Constitution.

Congressional candidate Gavin Rollins, consultant Tim Baker offer conflicting accounts of split in CD 3” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Republican race to replace Rep. Ted Yoho in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District continues to have a compelling narrative. The latest news item started with a POLITICO item this morning: the parting of the ways between a candidate and his high-profile consultants. “Less than three weeks after announcing his campaign for the 3rd Congressional District … Rollins’s key consultant team members have left his campaign. That includes general consultant Tim Baker, fundraiser Kevin Hofmann, and communications adviser Erin Isaac,” the tout sheet declaimed. Rollins avoided such narrative detail in a text: “Our campaign did not have any official contract with Data Targeting, and we decided not to hire them for consulting services, but we wish them well.”

Gavin Rollins (pictured) and consultant Tim Baker have parted ways. 

Charlie Crist campaign brings solid Q4, with $2.8M on hand” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — St. Petersburg Democrat Crist took in more than $372,000 in the fourth quarter for his reelection bid, lifting his campaign cash on hand to $2.8 million. The Cook Political Report rates Florida’s 13th Congressional District as “solid blue.” “We’re doing the people’s work in Washington to reduce the cost of health care, protect our environment and social security, and care for our veterans,” Crist said in a statement. “This outpouring of support will help us continue that work and communicate a positive vision for the future of Pinellas County.”

Dan Severson closes 2019 with $103K cash on hand” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Severson started 2020 with six figures for his run to succeed U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney. Most of that comes out of pocket. The former Minnesota state Representative reported a $101,500 candidate loan, the bulk of the $107,531 in total receipts. He also put in $1,681 through a candidate contribution to his own campaign. “This is an important race, and I am making an investment in the people of Southwest Florida,” Severson said at the time.

Miami-Dade Mayor links congressional rollout to Donald Trump. First a tweet, then a handshake.” via Douglas Hanks and David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Carlos Giménez greeted Trump at Miami International Airport in a high-profile welcome arranged by the White House as the Republican Mayor runs for Congress three years after saying he was voting for Hillary Clinton. Gimenez was at the bottom of the stairs and shook Trump’s hand when the president stepped off Air Force One at 5:40 p.m. at the county-run airport on his way to a Republican event booked at the president’s Doral golf resort. Gimenez’s official welcoming role for Trump came hours after he thanked Trump on Twitter while announcing his entry into the Republican primary for the District 26 seat held by one-term Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.


Former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold has died” via Andrew Pantazi, Mark Woods, Nate Monroe and Steve Patterson of the Florida Times-Union — Godbold, who rose from a poor childhood in public housing on the city’s Northside to the pinnacle of power in City Hall, whose populist 1980s administration permanently transformed the city with high-profile development projects, parks, festivals and other initiatives, and whose acid tongue far outlived his political career and continued to shape politics for decades, died. Godbold, a former City Council president, became Mayor in 1978 after then-Mayor Hans Tanzler resigned. He was reelected a year later and served as Mayor until 1987. “Jacksonville just lost its best friend,” longtime political adviser Mike Tolbert said, “and so did I.”

Former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold has passed.

Ethics commission seeks to strengthen oversight powers in wake of JEA experience” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville Ethics Commission moved to solidify Ethics Director Carla Miller’s oversight of city business dealing after she faced resistance in monitoring what went on inside closed-door negotiating meetings over the potential sale of JEA. Miller recounted to the commission that she wasn’t sure until just before her flight took off last month to Atlanta, where JEA held several days of meetings with bidders, that JEA would allow her to sit in on the meetings. She told the commission that City Council President Scott Wilson was ready to bring emergency legislation before council to ensure she could take notes at the meeting. “That was a fight,” Miller said.” … It should not happen ever again.”

Political consultant unfazed by JEA investigation” via Jim Piggott of News4Jax — Tim Baker is a political consultant who worked on Mayor Lenny Curry’s campaigns and whose name was recently attached to the JEA saga. JEA has said that former CEO Aaron Zahn considered hiring Baker to help with a potential sale, that did not happen. Speaking with News4Jax, Baker said he’s not worried about the council’s investigation. “I am a private citizen of Duval County, and I am not worried about myself whatsoever,” Baker said. Incidentally, the man leading the special committee is Council Member Rory Diamond, a former federal prosecutor who hired Baker to run his campaign when he ran for City Council in 2019.

St. Johns County Commission still wants to buy JEA assets in its county” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — The Commission voted to negotiate to buy JEA’s water and sewer system assets within the northern part of the county where JEA has about 35,000 customers. JEA opened the door for St. Johns County to purchase those assets when JEA put the county on notice that it needed to decide if it would exercise a right to purchase that piece of JEA’s service territory. The trigger was a provision in a 1999 agreement that allowed JEA to provide water and sewer service across a fast-growing swath of St. Johns County. In exchange for getting the right to that service territory, JEA agreed that if JEA decided to sell the utility, St. Johns County would have the right of first refusal.

What Ben Diamond is reading —Consolidation concerns linger at USFSP” via Margie Manning of St. Pete Catalyst — There’s still a tremendous amount of anxiety about consolidation, according to a report at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus board meeting. Concerns about equity and organizational responsibilities linger, Raymond Arsenault, a history professor and president of the USFSP Faculty Senate, told campus board members. Board members also heard some encouraging numbers about student success, and got an update on construction projects on campus. USF President Steve Currall initially proposed a plan that was met with harsh criticism from St. Petersburg leaders and many USFSP faculty. He later revised it to retain some of the authority for regional chancellors on each campus.

Who knew Scientologists could hack —Tampa Bay Times hit by ransomware attack” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — “Fortunately we have a lot of plans for systems that go down, and we’re putting those in motion,” Times chief digital officer Conan Gallaty said. The Times planned to publish Friday’s edition with earlier deadlines. Ransomware infects machines through a variety of methods, such as malware hidden in targeted emails or by exploiting software vulnerabilities. It’s unclear how the attack on the Times was carried out, Gallaty said, but he does not believe the news organization was specifically targeted. “The focus for us is to fully recover and then work on further preventive measures,” he said. No data was breached.


Impeachment doesn’t require a crime” via The National Review editorial board — Attempts to impeach presidents have thus frequently combined charges of crimes with charges of noncriminal abuses. A categorical denial of the latter class of charge would do violence to the Constitution and one of its checks on presidential misconduct. Republicans would be better off arguing that in this case, the President’s behavior, while objectionable, should be left, as scheduled, to the judgment of the voters directly — an argument that already has the support of most voters in polls and accords with Senate Republicans’ actual beliefs. There is no need for constitutional contortions.


Trump’s trade deal with China is a great deal for Florida. Here’s how” via Wilton Simpson for the Bradenton Herald — With stronger protections for American companies in regard to intellectual property, a $200 billion commitment to purchase American goods and services — $32 billion of agriculture products alone — and a reduction in non-tariff barriers for the U.S. agriculture market means even more growth, opportunity, and prosperity for an already booming economy. But good news for the American people doesn’t end there. The Senate just passed the successfully negotiated U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade deal that will see the creation of over 176,000 new jobs for blue-collar workers and an additional $68 billion added to our economy. Together Florida has an estimated 232,000 jobs from exported goods and manufactured products. An increase in that would provide local jobs and continue to boost the economy.

Lawmakers should encourage strengthening our homes” via Bill Newton for the Palm Beach Post — After the devastation of Hurricane Michael, University of Florida professor David Prevatt surveyed the damage and wrote a report about the impact on Florida homes. Stronger building codes work, but even newer homes were damaged in Michael’s fierce winds. Surprisingly, some homes survived almost undamaged. Habitat for Humanity had built several homes that exceeded building codes by simply adding strategically placed nails, some small metal connectors, and window shutters that created a sealed package. That inexpensive change was enough that the homes withstood Michael’s 150-mph winds, well beyond the 120-mph required by Florida’s current codes. How to protect our homes from the unknown? Stronger building codes. We know they work, but getting there is complicated.

Not welcome: Gay students, parents are denied service in Florida’s publicly funded voucher schools” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — More than 80 schools with blatant discrimination policies that deny admission to gay children, expel or discipline students who reveal they’re gay and sometimes refuse to educate children of LGBT parents. These schools want public money. But they don’t want to serve all of the public. One school told a mother — a firefighter married to U.S. Air Force veteran — that her children were unfit to be educated there simply because the couple was two women. The two women served their country and community. But the school — which received $371,000 in state scholarship money last year — told the family to get an education elsewhere.

Has an editorial ever decided your vote?” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — For something that everyone agrees doesn’t matter much, the New York Times’ endorsement of two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination sure generated a big buzz. Political analysts, serious journalists and activists on both sides of the partisan divide offered expert insights on what impact the Times’ editorial endorsement of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar might have on the Iowa caucuses next month. There were wide-ranging opinions about not only the merits of the two candidates, but whether it was a cop-out for such a prestigious journal as the Times not to make one choice.


Spotted — Florida man Rick Wilson’s new book “Running Against the Devil” debuting at No. 3 on The New York Times print and eBook nonfiction bestseller list.


Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: Fresh off a trip to Tallahassee, WFTV education reporter Michael Lopardi joins the podcast to discuss the push for teacher pay raises and why the fight for more money may not get resolved even with the backing of the Governor.

Dishonorable Mention: State Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, former Tampa Bay Times Columnist Ernest Hooper, and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. Latvala had welcomed the Reverend Al Sharpton for an interview discussing teacher salaries while they were both in Tallahassee. This caused a lot of negativity on Twitter. Congressman Gaetz fired a negative tweet toward Latvala about this meeting and sparked a Twitter fight that resonated across the state and nation. Was he trying to fuel divisiveness? Tieder talks about her time on the #BestCoast. What needs to happen to discuss more about common ground and less about dividing us? The hosts talk about dependency on mobile devices and the Apple/Android battle.

Gradebook from the Tampa Bay Times with hosts Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey Solochek: Superintendent searches serve to remind us of the key role that a chief executive plays in leading a school district to success. Everyone wants a “unicorn” — that unique someone who can do it all. But it’s not always easy to find that person, as politics, loyalties, and other agendas can interfere. All that came into play as Hillsborough County, the nation’s seventh-largest school system, looked for its next leader. And it’s at issue in Pasco County, which elects its superintendent, as well. Sokol and Solochek discuss superintendent appointments and elections, and why they matter.

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida with hosts John Kennedy and Zac Anderson: The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., lashed out at Republican Florida Senate President Galvano recently over the issue of gun control. Anderson and Kennedy discuss the GOP feud over guns, along with some priority legislation for DeSantis that began moving through the Legislature this week.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: We told you back in May that 2020 would be a busy year for legislative proposals that affect the alcoholic beverage industry in Florida, and here we are! Bax and Glover team up to discuss the ten alcohol-related bills that have been filed at the Florida House and Senate, whether dogs or cats are better bar patrons, and the leading candidate for our 2020 Regulator of the Year award.


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Creative Loafing Tampa editor-in-chief Ray Roa; Tara Newsom, attorney and professor at St. Petersburg College; Patrick Manteiga, editor and publisher of Gaceta; Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of student-athletes and whether they should profit from their image or likeness. Joining Walker-Torres are state Sen. Randolph Bracy and state Rep. Byron Donalds.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show will feature a one-on-one interview with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman; state Sen. Janet Cruz will discuss education; Bay News 9 political reporter Mitch Perry will speak with candidates in Clearwater looking to serve on the City Council.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with pollster Steve Vancore and Jack Levine from the 4Generations Institute.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: A tribute to former Jacksonville Mayor Godbold (1978-1987) who died Thursday: Former Mayor Alvin Brown (2011-2015); Tom Wills, WJXT news anchor and a personal friend to Godbold; author Chris Hand, who was former Chief of Staff to Brown.

— ALOE —

The biggest celestial event of the year could happen tomorrow” via Marina Koren of The Atlantic — Sometime this week, you might walk outside in broad daylight, look up at the sky, and see a luminous orb as bright as a full moon. Only it wouldn’t be the moon. It would be something far more explosive: the dazzling aftermath of a cataclysm hundreds of light-years away. You’d be seeing the light from a supernova — the final, powerful flash of a dying star. Or … you might see the regular old sky. Supernovas are nearly impossible to predict. But astronomers have recently started discussing the rare possibility with a bit more enthusiasm than usual, thanks to some odd behavior elsewhere in the Milky Way.

The constellation Orion.

Universal: Nintendo will be a game-changer like Harry Potter at theme parks” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — “Based on our research, (Nintendo) is one of the biggest potential drivers of attendance that you could have of any intellectual property,” said NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke during a Comcast fourth-quarter earnings call. “It’s up there with Harry Potter. … Nintendo is very rarefied air.” Comcast is building Super Nintendo World in Japan that’s set to open this summer; the brand will also be coming to Universal parks in California and the third gate under construction in Orlando that opens 2023. Burke called the Japanese park “spectacular from a creative standpoint. It’s really unbelievable.” New smart wristbands will let Japan parkgoers interact with Super Nintendo World and get digital coins, similar to playing a video game.

FAMU’s marching 100 wins $25,000 HBCU challenge award from rapper Young Thug” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — During rehearsal at Bragg Stadium, it was announced the Marching 100 won the “‘Hot’ Battle of the Bands Challenge,” a digital campaign announced last fall by Atlanta rapper Young Thug and music executive Kevin Liles. The win means FAMU’s music department and band program will receive a $25,000 donation from Young Thug’s record label, Young Stoner Life Records, and Liles. The challenge invited all historically black colleges and university marching bands to produce a short video and share it on social media, showcasing their school spirit and talent with their best rendition of “Hot” recorded by Young Thug, Gunna and Travis Scott and featured on Thug’s “So Much Fun” album.


By renting their homes, locals will make $24 million as the Super Bowl comes to town” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — About 61,000 guests will fill Airbnb rooms in South Florida during the Big Game week of Jan. 27 to Feb. 3. With rooms going for an average of $170 per day in Miami-Dade County and $118 in Broward County, there’s definitely big money in renting out your home or apartment. So far, renters are on track to make $23.6 million during the week of the Super Bowl. And about 75% of units in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are already booked.

New Budweiser Super Bowl ad is anything but typical” via Gary Mills of the Florida Times-Union — Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty”), the spot pulls at the viewer’s heartstrings, much the same way the iconic brewer’s Super Bowl ads of past have — but without the Clydesdales, puppies and sentimental storylines. As the number of craft breweries continues to explode across the country, Budweiser celebrates its “typical American beer” label in the new ad. “We are proud to refer to Budweiser as a ‘typical American beer’ in this spot, as it is a badge of honor for us,” said Ricardo Marques, VP Marketing Core & Value brands at Anheuser-Busch.

To view the ad, click on the image below:


Best wishes to our man in South Florida, Alex Dominguez, as well as Dana Loncar, ace photographer Scott Keeler, and Karen Woodall, executive director of Florida People’s Advocacy Center. An early shoutout to a man in full, Gus Corbella of Greenberg Traurig.


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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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