Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.27.20

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Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

When Fred Piccolo steps into the Governor’s Office Monday for his first day as communications director, he’ll be taking the reins at a low point in the Governor’s public image.

After enjoying months as one of the nation’s most popular Governors, Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ approval rating has tanked throughout the year. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is claiming the lives of an increasingly higher number of Floridians each day, and blame is falling on the Governor for reopening too quickly and refusing to issue a mask mandate.

Fred Piccolo will have his work cut out for him. Image via Mary Beth Tyson.

Stepping into the Governor’s Office during the pandemic “is daunting, definitely a challenge,” Piccolo said. But he is armed with four years of experience taking an aggressive approach to communications for outgoing House Speaker José Oliva and former Speaker Richard Corcoran, spearheading the narrative through social media.

“The story that Florida can tell here is a relatively good one,” Piccolo said. “But there is no good news here. Any death is tragic.”

For the Governor’s Office and executive agencies, a move toward social media means adapting written news releases into multimedia packages fit for the “30-second YouTube culture” that requires attention-grabbing content.

And Piccolo says DeSantis is open to resetting the relationship with the media, which he said has been unfairly critical of the Governor or falsely characterized him as in lockstep with President Donald Trump.

“I’ve never seen the office be the puppet of the President,” Piccolo said.

Part of the new media approach would be making the Governor available for one-on-one interviews with the press.

Despite the busy week of personnel announcements, which included the departure of Deputy Chief of Staff David Clark, the Governor faces backlash over reopening schools and his refusal to issue a mask mandate, Chief of Staff Shane Strum insists everything is normal in the Governor’s Office.

Staff typically remain a year, no more than a year and a half, he added. And with the direct transition from Legislative Session to pandemic response, many who would have otherwise left the office in March stayed on over the last several months.

Rather than fearing unsteady leadership in a time of crisis management, Strum says Floridians should view the flurry of changes within the Governor’s Office as DeSantis’ ability to recruit top talent. And with Piccolo’s “creative talent” in social media and infographics, Strum called the hire “a new opportunity to get a better understanding of the comms shop.


@realDonaldTrump: The 2020 Election will be totally rigged if Mail-In Voting is allowed to take place, & everyone knows it. So much time is taken talking about foreign influence, but the same people won’t even discuss Mail-In election corruption. Look at Patterson, N.J. 20% of vote was corrupted!

@NYCMayor: After CONDEMNING racism, the next step isn’t inviting it to your pitcher’s mound. To the players that knelt for the BLM movement, we applaud you. To the execs that have aligned with hatred, you are on the wrong side of history and morality.

@KevinCorke: Now may be a good time to remember that a #Gallup general election #poll released July 26, 1988, gave Michael #Dukakis a 17-point lead over George H.W. #Bush, the Republican nominee. In November, Bush won 426 Electoral votes and carried 40 states

@Atrupar: “‘Everyone in the media was saying FL was going to be like NY or Italy, & that hasn’t happened,’ DeSantis said in April The # of cases in FL now eclipses NY by more than 3,300. FL has 168k more cases than Italy, a country w/about 3 times the population”

@AnniePNJ: I’m presumptive positive for COVID-19 and having a rough time. I’ve never felt worse in my entire life. I’ll be out of commission for a while while I try and knock this virus out of my system. Until then … keep up with the PNJ team for all things rona

@FLSecofState: We are expecting higher vote-by-mail participation this year than we have in previous years. Due to this, @GovRonDeSantis has extended the period that Canvassing Boards may begin canvassing vote-by-mail ballots. This extra time will help to ensure a smooth and secure election.

Tweet, tweet:


NBA season restart in Orlando — 3; Beyonce‘s “Black is King” visual album debuts — 4; NHL resumes — 5; Florida primaries for 2020 state legislative/congressional races — 22; Florida Bar exams begin online (rescheduled) — 23; Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee begins — 23; Indy 500 rescheduled — 27; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 28; NBA draft lottery — 29; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 32; U.S. Open begins — 35; “A Quiet Place Part II” premieres — 39; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 40; Rescheduled date for French Open — 55; First presidential debate in Indiana — 64; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 67; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 68; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 71; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 77; Second presidential debate scheduled at Miami — 80; NBA draft — 81; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 81; NBA free agency — 84; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 87; 2020 General Election — 99; “Black Widow” premieres — 103; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 105; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 116; “No Time to Die” premieres — 116; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 127; “Top Gun: Maverick” premieres — 149; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 195; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 361; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 369; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 466; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 564; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 606; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 648; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 802.


Coronavirus: Fewer new cases, deaths, but Florida still adds more than 9,000 positive tests” via The Florida Times-Union — Florida recorded generally lower COVID-19 numbers in Sunday’s report from DOH but still added more than 9,000 additional positive tests, while the Jacksonville area reported a notable decrease in coronavirus deaths after adding 25 fatalities in the two prior reports. Northeast Florida recorded only one net additional COVID-19 death after the health department had added a record 16 deaths for Duval County in Saturday’s report and nine in Friday’s edition. DOH reported 423,855 total cases of COVID-19 across the state, an increase of 9,344 compared to Saturday’s report. The number of new cases added is the fewest since July 14, while the number of new deaths is the fewest since July 13.

Florida’s coronavirus rates are beginning to level off, but they are still rather high. Image via AP.

Florida one of a dozen states with declining COVID-19 infections” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida’s Rt, or effective reproduction number, is 0.99 according to, meaning the virus’ spread is slowing. Of those dozen states, Florida ranked 11th. Founders of Instagram created, putting their data talents into online pandemic tracking using data from At the start of June, when cases skyrocketed from 1,000 diagnoses per day to ten times that, Florida’s Rt was 1.36, one of the worst in the nation. By the end of the month, that metric had fallen to 1.oo. That rate fell to 0.98 in the first week of July but is currently 0.99. Florida also had an Rt below 1.00 between March 28 and May 6.

Coronavirus ravaged Florida, as Ron DeSantis sidelined scientists and followed Donald Trump” via Cleve Wootson, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Lori Rozsa and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — As Florida became a global epicenter of the coronavirus, DeSantis held one meeting this month with his top public health official, Scott Rivkees. His health department has sidelined scientists, halting briefings last month with disease specialists and telling the experts there was not sufficient personnel from the state to continue participating. “I never received information about what happened with my ideas or results,” said Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist whose regular calls with the health department ended June 29. “But I did hear the Governor say the models were wrong about everything.” As the virus spread out of control in Florida, decision-making became increasingly shaped by politics and divorced from scientific evidence.

Survey: Florida voters part ways with President and Governor on coronavirus” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Floridians line up with a majority of voters nationwide to give a thumbs-down to Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But they part with voters in other states when the question is whether they support their Governor’s response to the public health emergency, according to data from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project. Less than half of respondents, or 47%, approve of DeSantis’ coronavirus response, compared to 60% of voters nationwide when asked whether they approve of their own Governor’s policies to curb the spread of the virus. Another 7% in Florida said they weren’t sure.

Florida COVID-19 test results lag, adding to confusion and worry” via Naseem Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — As demand for testing increases, labs across the nation are experiencing backlogs. The sheer number of tests has become so overwhelming that state officials are no longer encouraging everyone to get tested. Public health experts say the widespread delayed results undercut the purpose of testing, which is to quickly identify people who are infected and isolate them to prevent the spread of the infection. “People act differently when they know they have something,” said Dr. Edgar Sanchez, an infectious disease physician at Orlando Health. “That’s one of the key things of controlling this disease, just from a pure human behavior standpoint. … It’s hard to convince people otherwise when they don’t see the positive test.”

Florida collects more data on COVID hospital patients than it shares with the public” via Ben Conarck and Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — The state agency that tracks COVID-19 hospitalization data gathers far more information than it shares with the public, including how many patients are suspected to have the disease but haven’t yet tested positive, how many are in intensive care beds and how many are on ventilators. The Agency for Health Care Administration also tells Florida hospitals in its data reporting guidelines dated April 19 to exclude from official COVID hospitalization numbers people who tested positive for the coronavirus but are being treated for other medical issues — even heart attacks and strokes, which are two conditions that can be associated with complications from the disease.

When an ‘accident’ and COVID-19 collide in death data” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today — Sixty people are in the Florida Medical Examiners Commission’s COVID-19 database whose manner of death is classified as “accident,” but whose likely “cause” of death also includes COVID. They make up just 1% of the 5,233 coronavirus deaths recorded by medical examiners statewide. Medical examiners keep a separate tally of COVID-19 deaths than the Florida Department of Health. Differing protocols and quirks of how each state agency deems a death COVID, or not, has fueled suspicions. When motorcycle accidents, severe falls, head injuries and fractured hips in the very elderly and ill wind up among the COVID “accidents,” some wonder if a form of “COVID inflation” might be at play, perhaps due to financial or other motives beyond public health.

Florida mistake on child COVID-19 rate raises question: Can Florida’s numbers be trusted?” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An error by the Florida Department of Health produced a COVID-19 positivity rate for children of nearly one-third, a stunning figure that played into the debate over whether schools should reopen. A week after issuing that statistic, the department took it back without explanation. The next weekly report on children and COVID-19 showed the rate had plunged to 13.4%. The department blamed a “computer programming error” for the mistake. Experts said the change and the failure to explain it to the public calls into question the state’s data at a time when accurate and trustworthy information is crucial to a society grappling with an unprecedented health crisis.

How Florida is failing to protect prison staffers from COVID” via Samantha Gross and Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — All across the state, a separate group of Floridians — 96,000 of them — are locked away. They are sequestered from visitors and are getting COVID-19 as it spreads among them. Prisons have not been allowed visitors or extra activities like religious services since March. Just like in long-term care facilities, the staff who work at the prisons also can be transmitters of the disease. Without proper protection and with no testing requirements whatsoever, they are scared of becoming victims, too. “Officers are throwing up in the corner, still being told they are OK to work,” said the Florida Police Benevolent Association’s James Baiardi, who represents corrections officers. “They have no feeling of protection … they feel like nobody cares about them.”

Santa Rosa County’s deaths Sunday include seven inmates at the Blackwater River Correctional Facility in Milton.

COVID spike causes ‘near-shutdown’ of courts” via John Torres of Florida Today — The decision to cancel all jury trials and take the 18th Judicial Circuit back to phase one in the wake of rising COVID- 19 numbers, is putting a strain on an already backlogged criminal court docket. The impact means many poor defendants are stuck in county jail and the prosecutor-defense deals that keep the criminal justice system moving are harder to reach without in-person meetings. Not to mention traffic court is facing a 1,000-case backlog and court staff have faced layoffs and soon might be handed furloughs. The right to a speedy trial remains suspended by the order of the Florida Supreme Court. Public Defender Blaise Trettis calls it “a near shutdown of the criminal justice system.”

Florida tourism struggles to balance commerce, safety in era of coronavirus” via Jim Abbott of the Daytona Beach News Journal — Even in a pandemic, Florida still attracts tourists. Even as the state has become a hotbed for the novel coronavirus, it remains a favored destination, a scenario that tourism and medical experts agree could result in more spread without consistent adherence to public health guidelines.

Florida’s top regulator looking at how to open bars safely” via The Associated Press — Halsey Beshears, secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said he planned to start setting up meetings with owners of bars and breweries across the state later this week to discuss how they can reopen without spreading the virus. Late last month, Florida banned alcohol consumption at its bars, for the second time this year, in response to a spike in the number of coronavirus cases. “We will come up with a Safe, Smart and Step-by-step plan based on input, science and relative facts on how to reopen as soon as possible,” Beshears tweeted.


CDC issues coronavirus guidelines for reopening schools” via Caitlin McCabe and Leslie Brody of The Wall Street Journal — The CDC encouraged U.S. schools to reopen for in-person learning this fall, updating its guidelines as the nation’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 145,500 and several states reported record single-day fatalities. The health agency, under pressure from the White House to support the opening of schools, added language in its recommendations stressing the importance of children returning to classrooms. The revised materials also said COVID-19 poses lower risks for children than for adults and that limiting instruction to remote learning could hurt students. Yet the CDC also kept most of the previous version of its guidelines, including advising schools that decide to reopen to take steps like increasing physical distance between students.

Richard Curtis carried school supplies including masks as he brought children to their first day of school at Alcoa Elementary School Wednesday in Alcoa, Tennessee. Image via AP.

Sorry, parents and kids, your school probably won’t be open this fall” via Megan McArdle of The Washington Post — Last month, I offered some bad news for megacity office workers: You’re probably not going back anytime soon. Today, I have to break it to the parents among them that I suspect your kid isn’t going back to school this year, either. Some of you already knew that, because your district has announced it will be 100% online. To the rest of you, let me explain why I think your district is going to follow suit. Yes, I know that, under what appears to be heavy pressure from Trump, the CDC has revised its older, more conservative guidelines to urge schools to reopen. But that’s a description many states don’t currently fit.


Why is COVID-19 hitting Broward County’s Black population so hard? One mother lost two children, both of them only in their 20s” via Skyler Swisher and Adelaide Chen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As protesters call attention to injustices in the criminal justice system, the pandemic is shining a light on long-standing racial health disparities, said Joseph West, a professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Services. “Systemic racism is real,” he said. “Housing segregation is real. Food deserts are real. It becomes compounded and generational.” Blacks have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other existing health conditions that put them at a greater risk of dying of COVID-19, regardless of age. What’s created that divide is a lack of access to health care, poverty, racism and distrust of the medical system, West said.

’The fun police’: County coronavirus compliance team spot checks businesses” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — Unsuspecting diners and drinkers at Boynton Beach’s Hurricane Alley stopped to stare at the six-strong team that had just arrived unannounced. A tabletop of three gawked, holding up their phones to record the group made up of law enforcement, code enforcement and an assistant county administrator. Having toured as part of Palm Beach County’s COVID-19 Education Compliance Team more than once, the reaction from the patrons at the popular eatery was nothing new, quipped Boynton Beach Police Sgt. Henry Diehl. If someone was trying to reclaim some normalcy by grabbing a bite to eat in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the team’s brief presence was surely a reminder that it is not business as usual.

Workers praise Disney virus safety, but will visitors come?” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — On the one hand, the lack of crowds means more opportunities to go on rides without long waits. On the other hand, Connecticut and Florida have implemented pandemic-related quarantines for each other’s residents and visitors, and the worry whether the Disney “magic” will get lost with mandatory mask-wearing for visitors and workers, temperature checks and no parades, fireworks shows or up-close “meet-and-greets” with costumed characters.

Safety at Disney has replaced some of the events, firework shows, and character meet-and-greets.

State workers tell Gov. DeSantis they’re not safe from coronavirus at work” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A group of Florida Department of Health workers are awaiting a response from DeSantis to their coronavirus concerns at state offices in the Capital Circle Office Center in southwest Tallahassee. They wrote to DeSantis Friday about a lack of concern among supervisors and an inability to enforce social-distancing guidelines and other safety precautions to stop the spread of the virus. The letter, submitted anonymously by “Concerned State Employees,” said at least one DOH employee’s family member has died from COVID-19. And when “management” was alerted about confirmed cases and employees being exposed to the contagious virus, “nothing was done.”

Bay County prison confirms bulk of new COVID-19 cases, most reported locally in single day” via the Panama City News-Journal — According to the Florida Department of Health in Bay County, the new cases include 284 inmates and 14 staff at Bay Correctional Facility, a private prison in Panama City. The majority of the cases in Saturday’s report have not yet been marked in the health department system as “Corrections.” The county’s total case count as of Saturday is 2,862, including 2,804 residents and 58 nonresidents. The health department also reported a new COVID-19 patient death on Saturday. The new death was a 67-year-old county resident, diagnosed with COVID-19 on July 10. Fifteen residents with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic began.

Panama City Mayor Brudnicki returns to work after bout with COVID-19” via Jacqueline Bostick of the Panama City News Herald— Mayor Greg Brudnicki is back at the office. After spending about a week in quarantine, the mayor has returned to work at City Hall. He tested positive for COVID-19 on July 13 and then tested negative twice that Thursday and the following Monday. He said he noticed symptoms similar to a sinus infection on July 11 after gardening. Staying home from church that Sunday, Brudnicki said he began taking antibiotics he had on hand and his wife’s hydroxychloroquine — an immunosuppressive drug used to treat and prevent malaria. The drug gained new popularity recently when President Donald Trump promoted the benefits.

Walton has legally defensible option for mask ordinance” via Jim Thompson of the North West Florida Daily News — In the face of some public pressure for a countywide mask ordinance at their July 14 meeting commissioners requested a report from Assistant County Attorney Heather Christman on the enforceability and other aspects of a potential countywide mask ordinance. “It is my opinion, given proper findings (the factual basis upon which any commission decision would be made), the BCC (Board of County Commissioners) has a defensible basis to adopt an emergency mask ordinance to protect public health, safety and welfare during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Christman wrote in a Thursday memorandum to commissioners. More specifically, the memorandum suggests that the commission use a Leon County mask ordinance as a template for any local emergency ordinance they might want to enact.

Fort Braden program director dies after COVID-19 battle, 2nd at school lost to the coronavirus” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Fort Braden School Principal Jimbo Jackson informed teachers and staff of the death of Karen Bradwell in an email this morning. Bradwell, who managed the Pioneers After-school Mentoring Program, died Saturday. Jackson said Bradwell, 53, served at the school alongside him for 25-plus years. Her death came a week after a fellow employee at the school, Jordan Byrd, 19, died from COVID-19. “With great respect to our Governor and state leaders, I have to look into the eyes of my school family of students and teachers and say I cannot guarantee your safety in this environment,” Jackson said in his email.

Karen Bradwell, 53, who managed the Pioneers After-school Mentoring Program (P.A.M.P.) at Fort Braden School, died after contracting COVID-19. She is the second employee taken by the coronavirus in about a week span. Image special to the Tallahassee Democrat.

—“Beloved Sarasota High School teacher dies of COVID-19” via Laura Finaldi of the Sarasota Herald Haven Tribune


Poll: Support for Donald Trump’s handling of coronavirus pandemic hits new low” via Allie Bice of POLITICO — Just 32% of Americans say they support his strategy. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found support for the President’s handling of the pandemic has dipped among Republicans, with 68% now approving of his handling of it. The poll also found that 81% of Republicans approve of the President’s overall job performance, contradicting a claim Trump repeatedly makes that his approval within his own party remains steady at 96%. The poll found the support of the President’s handling of the economic crisis has dipped, too — with just 38% of Americans now saying the economy is good, down from 67% in January, before the pandemic’s spread.

Donald Trump’s approval of his handling the coronavirus crisis is hitting a new low. Image via Reuters.

A vaccine reality check” via Sarah Zhang of The Atlantic — Nearly five months into the pandemic, all hopes of extinguishing COVID-19 are riding on a still-hypothetical vaccine. And so a refrain has caught on: Normal life is on the other side, and we just have to wait — until we have a vaccine. Feeding these hopes are the Trump administration’s exceedingly rosy projections of a vaccine as early as October, as well as the media’s blow-by-blow coverage of vaccine trials. Each week brings news of “early success,” “promising initial results,” and stocks rising because of “vaccine optimism.” But a COVID-19 vaccine is unlikely to meet all of these high expectations. The vaccine probably won’t make the disease disappear. It certainly will not immediately return life to normal.

Houston, Miami, other cities face mounting health care worker shortages as infections climb” via Frances Stead Sellers and Abigail Hauslohner of The Washington Post — That need is especially dire for front-line nurses, respiratory therapists and others who play hands-on, bedside roles where one nurse is often required for each critically ill patient. It is far more difficult to stretch the human workers needed to make the system function. “At the end of the day, the capacity for critical care is a balance between the space, staff and stuff. And if you have a bottleneck in one, you can’t take additional patients,” said Mahshid Abir, a senior physician policy researcher at the RAND Corporation and director of the Acute Care Research Unit (ACRU) at the University of Michigan. “You have to have all three … You can’t have a ventilator, but not a respiratory therapist.”


White House pushes narrow virus aid; Nancy Pelosi blasts GOP delay” via Lisa Mascaro and Darlene Superville of The Associated Press — House Speaker Pelosi on Sunday assailed Republican “disarray” over a new pandemic relief package as the White House suggested a narrower effort might be necessary, at least for now. The California Democrat panned the Trump administration’s desire to trim an expiring temporary federal unemployment benefit from $600 weekly to about 70% of pre-pandemic wages. “The reason we had $600 was its simplicity,” she said from the Capitol. The administration’s chief negotiators — White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — spent a few hours at the Capitol later Sunday to put what Meadows described as “final touches” on a $1 trillion relief bill Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to bring forward Monday afternoon.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi listens to a question from a reporter during a news conference on Capitol Hill. Image via AP.

Steven Mnuchin: Virus aid package soon, $1,200 checks by August” via Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — Mnuchin said Republicans were set to roll out the next COVID-19 aid package Monday and assured there was backing from the White House after he and Trump’s top aide met to salvage the $1 trillion proposal that had floundered just days before. Mnuchin told reporters that extending an expiring unemployment benefit — but reducing it substantially — was a top priority for Trump. The secretary called the $600 weekly aid “ridiculous” and a disincentive for people to go back to work. He also promised a fresh round of $1,200 stimulus checks would be coming in August.

Good news: The economy usually recovers quickly once pandemics end” via Laird Easton for The Washington Post — A period of acute economic hardship, potentially reaching catastrophic levels in some parts of the world, certainly seems to be inevitable. What will be the long-term effects? A historical perspective yields an unexpected insight into the question of the economic consequences of pandemics. the historical record in the 6½ centuries since the Black Death, at least in Europe and North America, suggests that the long-term economic effects of pandemics have been insignificant. The reason for this is a mystery: Partly, it may be because plagues kill people but not capital; partly, it may be because life is better for survivors. But this should not be seen as a prediction of the coronavirus pandemic’s economic consequences.


‘I feel left behind.’ How people with disabilities are coping with the pandemic” via April Rubin of the Miami Herald — Giovana Izzo hasn’t seen her son, Antonio, since March. For the past four months, he has lived in a group home around the clock. And his family is feeling the consequences of the separation, his mom said. Before the pandemic, he’d spend every weekend back home with his parents and three younger siblings. They’d laugh at how he loved to sing in the shower and talk about the public transit system. During the week for the past four years, Antonio, who has autism, lived at a group home in the Redland. But COVID-caused isolation has created loneliness in him and his family. It’s just one of the many challenges that people with disabilities have faced during the pandemic.

For Guatemalans in Florida, essential work leads to a coronavirus outbreak” via Kevin Sieff of The Washington Post — More than 30% of those tested in Palm Beach County’s Guatemalan-Mayan community — a population of around 80,000 — have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, three times the state average. Many believe the infection rate to be far higher. Of 130 families enrolled in an early childhood education program through Lake Worth’s Guatemalan-Maya Center, for example, 80 have been infected. The same thing happened in Indiantown, the mostly Guatemalan community 45 minutes west of Palm Beach, where many of Florida’s first Indigenous Mayans arrived in the 1980s, fleeing their country’s civil war. Officially, 10% of the city has tested positive for the virus, among the highest rates in the state.

Florida’s Guatemalan community has become a coronavirus hotspot.

Dogs can sniff out coronavirus infections, German study shows” via Iain Rogers of Bloomberg — Dogs with a few days of training are capable of identifying people infected with the coronavirus, according to a study by a German veterinary university. Eight dogs from Germany’s armed forces were trained for only a week and were able to accurately identify the virus with a 94% success rate, according to a pilot project led by the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover. Researchers challenged the dogs to sniff out COVID-19 in the saliva of more than 1,000 healthy and infected people. “We think that this works because the metabolic processes in the body of a diseased patient are completely changed,” Maren von Koeckritz-Blickwede, a professor at the university, said in a YouTube video about the project.

An artist painted 1,800 flowers and shipped them across the country to a hospital hit by COVID-19” via Kathy Free of The Washington Post — Michael Gittes’s artwork has been shown in museums and art galleries around the world, but the Los Angeles artist is perhaps most proud of his latest project — on display in the apartments and office cubicles of almost 2,000 hospital workers in Brooklyn, N.Y. In early July, Gittes, 32, filled a truck with 1,800 paintings he had completed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and had them shipped 2,777 miles to Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood — hit hard this spring by COVID — 19. “I wanted every single employee — all 1,800 — to have a painting to show how much they are loved and appreciated,” said Gittes, who spent more than three months painting about 100 flowers a day, using a syringe as “a symbol of healing.”


Trump’s fragmented pandemic response may undermine push to address racial disparities” via Laura Barrón-López and Alice Miranda Ollstein of POLITICO — In late April, a coronavirus research team from the Centers for Disease Control fanned out across two predominantly Black counties in Georgia, going door to door in face shields asking for samples of blood with little prior warning. The plan backfired. Community advocates said they fielded call after call from scared Black residents who were reminded of the Tuskegee syphilis study conducted on African Americans from 1932 to 1972. The episode was emblematic of the federal government’s ongoing failures to address the huge racial and ethnic disparities that have persisted throughout the coronavirus pandemic. The episode was emblematic of the federal government’s ongoing failures to address the huge racial and ethnic disparities that have persisted throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Donald Trump’s patchy coronavirus response can be counted among the reasons for racial unrest.

Push to remove Confederate statues stalls in rural America” via Rebecca Santana and Jonathan Drew of The Associated Press —At least 63 Confederate statues, monuments or markers have been removed from public land across the country since George Floyd’s death on May 25, making 2020 one of the busiest years yet for removals. Most were removed by government officials, though protesters have toppled some. All but eight have come down in cities or metropolitan areas larger than 50,000 people. Most of the areas lean politically left, with 41 of the monuments removed in counties or equivalent areas that voted Democratic in the 2016 presidential election. Still, in a sign that the removal movement might be spreading, local governments in several less populous areas of Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina have recently approved removals but not yet taken down the monuments.

Protest, counterprotest remains peaceful at site of Confederate monument in St. Augustine” via Annie Hammock of First Coast News — Protesters holding signs that said Black Lives Matter were greeted by counterprotesters holding Confederate flags at the site of a fenced-in and hidden Confederate monument in St. Augustine’s downtown plaza on Sunday. Former County Commissioner John Reardon, who provided First Coast News with video, said people who want to keep the monument in place numbered about 10 times the people who called for it to be removed, something the city commission has already approved in a 3-2 vote. There were some “heated” verbal exchanges, Reardon said, but generally, the two sides remained peaceful. He said he was proud to see people who disagree so broadly with each other stand calm in the face of opposition.

Panama City Beach police to wear body cameras” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Officials approved a request for proposal to find a firm to kit members of the Panama City Beach Police Department with body cameras. For ChiefDrew Whitman, the addition will not only help keep his officers safe, but residents as well. “In today’s society, it’s a hot topic,” Whitman said on the cameras. According to the meeting’s agenda, recordings from the cameras will make prosecuting and preparing for cases easier. It also cited a study from the University of Nevada, which states that there’s a significant reduction in complaints of police misconduct and police use of force when the cameras are worn.

ProPublica posts NYPD records, bypassing judge’s blockade” via The Associated Press — Days after a federal judge paused the public release of New York City police disciplinary records, a news website has published a database containing complaint information for thousands of officers. ProPublica posted the database Sunday, explaining in a note to readers that it isn’t obligated to comply with Judge Katherine Polk Failla’s temporary restraining order because it is not a party to a union lawsuit challenging the release of such records. ProPublica said it excluded allegations that investigators deemed unfounded from the material it published. In all, the searchable database contains 12,056 complaints against 3,996 active NYPD officers.

Breonna Taylor protest brings Black, white militias to Louisville” via The Associated Press — Hundreds of armed, predominantly Black, activists demanded justice for Breonna Taylor during peaceful demonstrations Saturday in her Kentucky hometown that drew counterprotesters from a white militia group. Police closed streets and set up barricades to keep the two groups apart as tensions remained on edge in Louisville, where protests have flared for months over the death of Taylor, a Black woman killed when police busted into her apartment in March. By the time Black activists arrived in the heart of downtown Saturday afternoon, most of the white militia members had already left. Police in full riot gear looked on. Earlier in the day, three people were accidentally shot at a park where Black activists had gathered, police said.

Couple banned by Walmart after wearing Nazi flag face mask at Marshall, Minnesota store” via Howard Thompson of Fox 13 Tampa Bay — Police say the couple has been issued trespass notices. Officials said they are banned from visiting any Walmart facility for at least a year. Video posted on social media showed the couple going through a checkout lane on Saturday with the masks that featured the Nazi swastika flag. Onlookers appeared shocked by the masks and demanded the couple to remove them. The woman seen wearing the mask argued she wasn’t a Nazi and indicated she was wearing the flag as a protest against socialism in America. Saturday marked the first day of Minnesota’s mask mandate, requiring face coverings be worn in public places. However, Walmart’s mask policy took effect on Monday.

To watch the video, click on the image below:


Trump signs pack of orders aimed at slashing drug costs” via Sarah Owermohle of POLITICO — The orders demand that U.S. health agencies end “global freeloading” on U.S. innovation through lower pharmaceutical prices and eliminate rebates that drugmakers pay to Medicare Part D plans. While Trump called the so-called favored nations rule — linking seniors’ costs for certain medicines to lower prices paid abroad — the “granddaddy” of the policies announced, he promised to drop the plan if pharmaceutical companies could present a better option within the next month. Executives are meeting at the White House on Tuesday. The orders are not immediately enforceable.

President Donald Trump speaks during an event to sign executive orders on lowering drug prices. Image via AP.

College student visa: Trump admin bars new foreign students taking online classes in US” via Chris Quintana of USA Today — New international college students won’t be allowed to come to the U.S. this fall if their courses are only online, Trump’s administration said in guidance issued Friday. Students from abroad who had enrolled in spring classes and already had student visas may remain in the country or come back after summer vacation, even if their university is offering only digital classes. ICE’s guidance comes after a bitter dispute between the nation’s colleges and the federal government. It’s a clarification of previous guidance, but it’s likely to prompt complaints and a scheduling scramble from some universities. A previous rule would have effectively barred international students from the country if their university only offered digital classes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida loses House seats with Trump order” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — If Trump succeeds in getting immigrants in the country illegally excluded from being counted in the redrawing of U.S. House districts, California, Florida and Texas would end up with one less congressional seat each than if every resident were counted. Without that population, California would lose two seats instead of one, Florida would gain one seat instead of two and Texas would gain two seats instead of three, according to the analysis by Pew Research Center. Additionally, the Pew analysis shows Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio would each keep a congressional seat they most likely would have lost during the process of divvying up congressional seats by state, known as apportionment.

Gus Bilirakis embraces aide with background in Sons of Confederate Veterans” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Bilirakis voted with the majority of the House to remove statues honoring Confederate figures from Capitol grounds. In a statement, the Palm Harbor Republican said he wants to see Confederate flags and memorials moved to museums and believes “in the value of an ongoing dialogue on these issues.” Bilirakis, who is running for an eighth term this year, is among the elected officials nationwide publicly reassessing the place of Confederate monuments and symbols amid the ongoing dialogue regarding systemic racism. While he has supported the removal of Confederate symbols from public spaces, Bilirakis employs inside his office a Congressional aide with a background in the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Vern Buchanan staffer passes away after battle with COVID-19” via WWSB — Longboat Key Congressman Buchanan announced Friday that one of his field representatives passed away after a battle with COVID-19. Gary Tibbetts, a field representative for the congressman, was being treated at Manatee Memorial Hospital after a positive diagnosis of the novel coronavirus. “Gary was the consummate professional and true professional in every sense of the word,” wrote Buchanan in a Tweet. “He touched so many lives and was loved and respected by those who knew him.” A spokesperson for the office previously told ABC7 that Tibbetts had not had recent contact with the Congressman or his staff.

Longtime Vern Buchanan staffer Gary Tibbets dies from COVID-19. Image via Bradenton Police Department/Twitter.

Assignment editors — Ahead of Mike Pence’s visit to Miami, Congresswoman Donna Shalala; Sen. José Javier Rodríguez; Rep. Javier Fernández; Karla Hernández-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade; Jessica Harringon, Tampa teacher and Keegan Schlake, Orlando teacher, will join a virtual news conference to highlight the Trump administration’s failure to address the COVID-19 pandemic properly, 10 a.m. To participate, please register here.


Jimmy Patronis intervenes, says Citizens Florida may reconsider plans to drop unpaid policies next month” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Patronis offered a ray of hope to thousands of Floridians, suggesting that Citizens Property Insurance Corp. no longer intends to end its moratorium and cancel any unpaid policies next month. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is a not-for-profit company created by the Florida Legislature in August 2002 to provide property insurance protections to people unable to acquire coverage in the private market. The corporation planned to cancel policies without payment on Aug. 15, leaving policyholders potentially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic without coverage amid a hurricane season forecast to produce above-normal activity.

Jimmy Patronis is urging Citizen’s Property Insurance to rethink dropping unpaid policies.

With the economy tanking, more people seeking unclaimed cash” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Florida Chief Financial Officer Patronis said the state is setting records for the amount of money being returned to people since the pandemic began. “We pushed out over $38 million just in the month of March. That’s the second-highest month in the history of the program,” Patronis said. “Just during the COVID-19 pandemic time, we’ve pushed out almost $124 million. That’s $124 million that’s going back into the economy.” There are millions of accounts with unclaimed property. It could be a savings account someone forgot, a car insurance refund, inheritances and more. For Trump, the state’s website lists unclaimed checks that FedEx tried delivering to a $10 million house he owns near his Mar-a-Largo resort. The amount? $354.69.

Citizens Property Insurance chairman got millions in no-bid state coronavirus contracts” via Daniel Ducassi of Florida Bulldog — Citizens chairman Adrien “Bo” Rivard III runs Panama City-based Consolidated Disaster Services (CDS), a company that has secured at least seven agreements with the state since March worth more than $10 million to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical equipment to support the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Rivard, a partner at the Panama City law firm Harrison, Rivard, Duncan and Buzzett, was appointed to the Citizens board by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in April 2019. Patronis, a Panama City Republican, named him chairman six months later. Rivard’s firm, in which a prominent Panhandle political family has a financial interest, contracted with the state in March to provide N95 masks at a highly inflated price.

DOT attorney accused of public records violations — Records show longtime Florida Department of Transportation general counsel Erik Fenniman instructed others to skirt public records law. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, he created a system referred to as FERP, an acronym for “Fenniman Email Reduction Plan.” The system encouraged DOT employees to write opinions on politically sensitive topics and print them out and speak to others in-person so there would be no “paper trail.” Emails are public records, and other DOT employees worried that Fenniman’s policy was an illegal attempt to stifle public records requests.

“’Nobody wins by killing each other’: Two people shot to death in nine-hour span in Tallahassee” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Chaos broke out early Saturday morning when a massive after-hours party in the parking lot of a southside Tallahassee gas station turned violent, with one man shot and killed. It was the second fatal shooting in the capital city in a span of nine hours and the fourth in the last month. Around 6:15 p.m. Friday, a man was found shot and killed in the parking lot of University Courtyard Apartments on South Adams Street. Hours later, around 2:45 a.m. Saturday, police responded to a shooting at the Rattler Gas Station on West Orange Avenue, where a large crowd of revelers gathered.

— “Hundreds on scene, few leads: TPD pleads for community help after shooting at parking lot party” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat

A Florida family opted for restorative justice over the death penalty for the man who murdered their mom. What happened next made them question the very meaning of justice.” via Eli Hager of The Marshall Project — On Sept. 12, 2018, the five adult children of Debbie Liles waited in the prosecutor’s office in Jacksonville to meet the man who one year earlier had bludgeoned their mother to death with a golf club. Wearing his Sunday suit, her husband Mike could hardly keep his head up as he walked through security — the violent killing of his wife of 41 years had hobbled him physically and mentally. The defendant had agreed to tell Mike and his family everything about the murder and to plead guilty. In return, he would be spared the death penalty and instead spend his life in prison — but only if the Lileses felt satisfied that he had told the truth.

Palm Coast taxpayers contributed to Mayor’s, manager’s San Francisco conference trip” via Matt Bruce of the Pensacola News-Journal — Mayor Milissa Holland and City Manager Matt Morton racked up nearly $2,000 in taxpayer expenses when they attended a San Francisco conference in November 2019. At the conference, Holland and Morton extolled the virtues of Palm Coast’s citizen communications system, known as “Palm Coast Connect.” Their presentation resembled a sales pitch. The cost for the trip would have been more had not unspecified “friends” picked up the pair’s hotel expenses in San Francisco, according to travel expense reports Holland and Morton filed after the trip. Those unnamed friends, it turns out, were Coastal Cloud, the Palm Coast-based company that employs the Mayor and is also working with the city to operate Palm Coast Connect.

Strip club discrimination case revived” via the News Service of Florida — A state appeals court revived a lawsuit that alleges an Orange County strip club improperly discriminated against two women who were barred from entering the establishment because they were not with a man. Anita Yanes and Brittney Smith filed the lawsuit accusing Rachel’s Adult Entertainment and Steakhouse of violating Orange County ordinances because it denied them access based on their sex, according to a panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal. A circuit judge agreed with Rachel’s that the ordinances were “preempted” by a state law known as the Florida Civil Rights Act and dismissed the case. Yanes and Smith appealed the dismissal.

A court revived the lawsuit brought on by two women denied entry to Rachel’s Adult Entertainment and Steakhouse in Orange County. Image via Google Maps.

Tampa General, USF pair up for major medical school center” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The new collaboration will create one of the largest academic medical centers in Florida, providing seamless, comprehensive care for patients, according to a statement from John Couris, TGH President and CEO, and USF President Steven Currall. “This is a great day for health in Tampa Bay,” Couris said. “TGH, USF, and our private practice physicians have always had the most success when working together to improve health in Tampa Bay. Now that we are more strategically aligned, we can create a powerhouse that delivers world-class health care on the west coast of Florida.” The new combined model will help reinforce academic research and clinical care, and deliver state-of-the-art care and treatments.


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Beyond Finance and its Affiliates

Jason Gonzalez, Shutts & Bowen: Air Methods

Mike Grissom, Becker & Poliakoff: Quest Management Group

Matthew Holliday: NCH Healthcare System

Thomas Sri: Raytheon Technologies Corporation

— 2020 —

’Make America Normal Again’: Trump backers plead for a virus plan” via Anita Kumar of POLITICO — Trump’s political allies, alarmed by his sinking poll numbers, are warning that the President’s best chance to get reelected is to outline more detailed plans to conquer the coronavirus he keeps trying to wish away. They are advising him to offer people something concrete they can look to as the pandemic surges in dozens of states, eroding months of progress “The message has to be about the path forward,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally.

Donald Trump supporters are pleading for the President to produce a comprehensive virus plan. Image via AP.

Trump’s COVID failures reshape race and lift Joe Biden” via Adam Nagourney of The New York Times — With his sudden embrace of masks and the canceling of the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Trump has reluctantly conceded to the reality of a political landscape that has been transformed by disease and fear. A pandemic that once struck Democratic states like New York and California has moved with alarming force into red America and helped to recast his contest with Biden. The President’s handling of the virus is shaping up as not only a policy failure, but also a political one. Rather than strengthening his position against Biden, Trump’s response to the virus appears to have created a backlash among voters — one that has only elevated his opponent.

—“CNN polls: Biden leads in three key states Trump won in 2016” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN

—“Biden leads Trump in battleground Arizona” via Mark Murray of NBC News

Biden’s campaign is ‘suppressing the Hispanic vote’ in Florida, an internal letter claims” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — The seven-page internal letter contains eight allegations from field organizers about what they say is a lack of a “fully actionable field plan” from the Biden campaign as it transitions into the Florida party to coordinate voter outreach efforts. This letter comes as recent polls show enthusiasm about voting among Latinos in battleground states like Florida could be waning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the claims: mistreatment of field organizers, relocating trained staff members without explanation, lack of organizing resources and taking on volunteers who are then left in limbo.

From police chief to VP? Inside Val Demings’ unlikely path” via Alexandra Jaffe and Tamara Lush of The Associated Press — Val Demings has already been Vice President. In 1972, the future Florida congresswoman was a young Black girl struggling to make friends at a predominantly White Jacksonville high school. She and her best friend, Vera Hartley, created the Charisma Club. Hartley was president and Demings was her second-in-command. “We created an environment of inclusion,” Hartley said, recalling how she and Demings invited White students to join. Then “we were able to get into other clubs.” Nearly four decades later, Demings is again being considered for Vice President — this time by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Biden. But she’s also facing scrutiny, particularly over her four years as Orlando’s police chief.

She had no remorse’: Why Kamala Harris isn’t a lock for VP” via Politico — When former Sen. Chris Dodd, a member of Biden’s vice presidential search committee, recently asked Kamala Harris about her ambush on Biden in the first Democratic debate, Dodd was stunned by her response.“She laughed and said, ‘that’s politics.’ She had no remorse,” Dodd told a longtime Biden supporter and donor, who relayed the  exchange on condition of anonymity. “Dodd felt it was a gimmick.” Dodd’s concerns about Harris were so deep that he’s helped elevate California Rep. Karen Bass during the vetting process, urging Biden to pick her because “she’s a loyal No. 2. And that’s what Biden really wants.”


—“How the Republican National Convention came undone” via Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Annie Linskey of The Washington Post

Trump’s convention cancellation is costing GOP donors millions” via Kristen Welker, Carol E. Lee, Shannon Pettypiece and Monica Alba of NBC News — Of the $38 million raised by the host committee for the convention’s original location — Charlotte, North Carolina — the majority has been spent, Republican officials said. The host committee in Jacksonville, Florida, where Trump had moved the convention, raised an additional $6 million, but GOP officials said much of that money remains. Now, the President’s team is searching not only for a new stage from which he can deliver a speech accepting his party’s nomination for a second term, but also a way to appease Republicans who have nothing to show for their donations.

The cancellation of the RNC in Jacksonville will cost GOP donors millions of dollars. Image via AP.

Republican Party officials hid COVID-19 mask purchases by labeling them ‘building maintenance’ in federal disclosures” via Dave Levinthal of Business Insider — Think “building maintenance,” and you probably imagine plumbing, a new coat of paint, or replacing the toilet paper dispenser. But when the Republican National Committee in June spent more than $14,000 on “building maintenance,” none of its facilities were getting a face-lift. Instead, the RNC purchased face masks designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to Insider interviews and a review of federal campaign finance disclosures released earlier this week. The RNC ordered the masks at a time when Trump and other prominent Republicans were refusing to cover their faces in public. The purchases reveal that Republican leaders were taking the coronavirus more seriously than they’d been publicly letting on.

Not even crocodile tears as the GOP leaves Jacksonville” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — Losing a national political convention would normally be a terrible blow to a city’s civic pride, an embarrassment to party leaders hoping for a publicity boom and a bitter economic setback for businesses missing out on a quick infusion of tourism cash. But you’ve seen guys cancel endoscopy appointments with more regret than Trump, Republican Party leaders and city officials could muster last week in announcing the GOP national convention won’t be coming to Jacksonville. As if he’d just learned that timing is everything in politics and theater, Trump said it’s just not the time to draw 15,000 or so merrymakers — undoubtedly including a bunch of riled-up protesters — to town. Ya THINK? Really?


Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly hints at possible run for Governor or U.S. Senate” via Spencer Fordin of Florida Politics — Former U.S. Rep. Jolly may have some bigger moves in his future. Jolly, the U.S. Rep. for Florida’s 13th Congressional District from 2014 to 2017, indicated on Twitter Sunday morning that he’s considering a run for Florida Governor or the U.S. Senate in 2022. A tweet from TV personality Lea Black kicked off the idea. Black, a member of the cast of The Real Housewives of Miami, tweeted that she thought Jolly should run for Governor. And Jolly, about five hours later, replied to her tweet. “Thank you Lea. Very kind,” he tweeted at 7:05 a.m. “Haven’t ruled it out, but strongly considering the U.S. Senate seat in ’22.”

GOP congressional primary between Ross Spano and Scott Franklin turns nasty” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — The Republican congressional primary with Lakeland city Commissioner Franklin challenging incumbent Rep. Spano is turning nasty, as each candidate attacks the other’s credentials as a conservative and Trump supporter, and Franklin highlights the apparent criminal investigation of illegal loans to Spano’s 2018 campaign. In new digital ads, Spano attacks Franklin as a “never Trumper” and a liberal, claims Franklin supports “open borders,” and bashes him for voting to remove a Confederate memorial statue — all falsely, Franklin’s campaign says, with some evidence. One Franklin ad, meanwhile, splashes the word “CRIMINAL” in bold type over Spano’s face; another says he “engineered an illegal contribution to his campaign to win an election.” Neither candidate is anywhere close to liberal or even moderate.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Charlie Crist launches reelection bid in a very 2020 way: via Zoom” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — But the virtual nature of the event didn’t interfere with the sacrosanct tradition of choosing campaign rally music. The tunes of George Michael’s “Freedom! ’90” echoed through the computers of more than 70 Pinellas Democrats and supporters who joined to wish the second-term congressman, one-time Governor and former Republican well. After that, Pinellas County Commissioners Ken Welch and Janet Long and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman showered praise on the Congressman.

Casey Askar’s ex-wife claimed he tricked into a divorce, then left her for his secretary” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Court filings by Askar’s ex-wife say the candidate tricked into a divorce with startlingly low alimony. Along the way, he made her move to Florida before evicting her from the home they shared. In a 2012 court motion, Susana Abo (then Susan Askar) accused her ex-husband of demanding she sign divorce papers as a way of shielding financial assets in her name. The couple continued living together and raising their children. The whole time, she claimed, she expected to remarry later legally. But a couple of years later, after the family relocated to Bonita Springs, Casey Askar wanted to end the relationship completely. Askar’s campaign now dismisses the accusations as those of a woman jilted.

Internal poll shows Dane Eagle narrowly leading CD 19 GOP field” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An internal poll from Eagle’s campaign shows him leading the field in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. The survey, conducted by Gainesville-based Data Targeting, shows that if the Republican primary were held today, 23% of respondents would vote for the Cape Coral lawmaker. Behind Eagle, the poll shows 21% favoring state Rep. Byron Donalds, 19% supporting Naples physician William Figlesthaler, 15% choosing Naples businessman Casey Askar and 14% uncertain. The poll, conducted July 23, included responses from 282 voters. Pollsters report a margin of error of 5.7%. That’s a margin larger than Eagle’s lead over his two closest opponents in the poll. But pollsters also asked respondents to list their second choices, and Eagle once again led there.

Super PAC ad paints Eagle as RINO suck-up” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics —“Dane Eagle’s running on the slogan ‘Experience Matters,’” a narrator notes. “If you are looking for someone with experience giving illegal immigrants handouts, taking away your Second Amendment rights and sucking up to RINO Republicans for a leadership spot, then yeah, vote for Dane Eagle.” The ad then shows a series of photos with Eagle, the current House Republican leader, alongside a series of Democratic and Republican figures unpopular with GOP primary voters this year, including former Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, along with Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the only Republican Senator to vote for impeaching Trump.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Irv Slosberg self-funding spree continues, as outside money still favors Tina Polsky” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former Rep. Slosberg is pouring another $272,000 of his own money into the race for Senate District 29, as he attempts to self-fund his way to victory in the Democratic primary. Slosberg picked up just $25 in independent contributions, as he’s largely shirked outside money during his run. He’s now dumped more than $780,000 of his own funds into the race as he battles Rep.Polsky for the Democratic nomination. Polsky secured nearly $69,000 during the period between her campaign and political committee as Slosberg continues to focus on self-funding. Slosberg has been spending heavily, burning through more than $200,000 in the one-week span ending July 17. Polsky also spent big during the period, dropping nearly $109,000.

Democrat Javier Fernández adds $26K to lead SD 39 field in fundraising once again” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic Rep. Fernández added more than $26,000 in the most recent reporting period according to financial documents submitted Friday. The Fernández campaign collected more than $8,500 from July 11-17 in his bid for the Senate District 39 seat. Florida Future, a committee affiliated with Fernández, added another $17,500. That haul comes after the Fernández operation added $131,000 in his previous financial reports. Fernández has picked up his money operation after consistently trailing Republican Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez in fundraising prior to the turn of the year. Rodriguez added just $7,700 during the most recent one-week period between her campaign and political committee.

—“Florida doctors back Tracie Davis reelection in HD 13” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

Kelly Skidmore tops Michael Weinstein in HD 81 fundraising for second straight period” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Skidmore added that money through her campaign from July 11-17. The Florida Education Association Advocacy Fund donated $1,000 to Skidmore’s campaign. The Florida OB/GYN PAC also added $1,000, as did U.S. Sugar. That $10,000 haul was enough to top her opponent in the Democratic primary, attorney Weinstein. Skidmore has added nearly $55,000 between her campaign and political committee, Floridians for Early Education, since declaring her candidacy in late May. Weinstein added just $6,200 during the period. U.S. Sugar donated $1,000 to his campaign as well.


Miami-Dade could have historic election for women in 19th Amendment’s centennial year” via Maya Lora of the Miami Herald — While Raquel Regalado opted to run for the District 7 County Commission seat rather than repeat a run for Mayor in 2020, three other women — political newcomers Monique Nicole Barley and Ludmilla Domond and District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava — are vying for what would be a historic victory. There are Commission seats up for grabs in all odd-numbered districts, with women on the ballot in four of the seven races. If women win all four races with viable female candidates, that will bring the Commission to six men and six women. A woman would also have to take the District 8 seat vacated by Levine Cava to capture a 7-6 majority.

A win for Daniella Levine Cava as Miami-Dade Mayor could be part of an historic situation for women.

Political fraud: ‘Unity’ mailer divides Broward Democrats” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A highly misleading campaign piece is making the rounds, targeting Black voters in the Aug. 18 primary election. It’s so deceptive that leading elected officials and a respected pastor call it a fraud and are warning voters not to buy the deception. Voters should heed these warnings. Labeled “Black Community Voter Guide,” the piece emphasizes the word “unity” to suggest — falsely — that the Black community is united behind every candidate highlighted in the piece. Other Democrats are listed along with their opponents but conspicuously are not endorsed. The piece snubs Black incumbents as Reps. Bobby DuBose, Shevrin Jones, Anika Omphroy and Sen. Perry Thurston. “It’s misleading to our community,” Thurston told me.

Seminole commission primaries draw contributions from owner of land at center of River Cross proposal” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — The challengers in two Seminole County Commission primaries are drawing an infusion of cash from the owner of the land at the center of a controversial development — as well as support from a group of mysterious political action committees. Former WWE wrestler and Longwood Mayor Matt Morgan, who is challenging incumbent Bob Dallari in the Republican primary for the county’s District 1 seat has taken in $6,000 from real estate firms led by Kenneth Clayton. The same companies also gave $6,000 in $1,000 increments to Longwood Commissioner Ben Paris, who is vying to unseat incumbent Republican Lee Constantine in the District 3 primary.

Heather Post pushes for a campaign spending cap; 4 years ago, she set a Volusia spending record” via Casmira Harrison of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Volusia County Councilwoman Post this week suggested giving citizens a vote to cap campaign contributions. There is some irony in her suggestion, which other members of the County Council rejected. Four years ago, Post set a record for campaign spending in a council race. Most of her contributions at that time were large donations from developers, builders, hoteliers and other business interests. Post is running for reelection in District 4 against challenger Barbara Bonarrigo. But most of the larger contributors to Post’s 2016 campaign aren’t supporting her this time around, and some of those supporters have switched to Bonarrigo. Because there are only two people in the race, the pair will not square off during the Aug. 18 primary.


When leaders fail, the people must lead. Wear the masks” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — In closing his inaugural address on a frozen January morning in 1961, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed “a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” Then he famously spoke the words, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” What that calls for today, with our country wracked by a terrible disease, is the simplest of practicalities. Wear the damn mask. Practice social distancing. Don’t let anyone who doesn’t wear one get near you. Most of us do. But for so many others to still scorn that life-saving imperative signifies more than their own selfishness and ignorance.


Gov. DeSantis is letting fear — and the virus — win.” via Ted Deutch of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Beyond the very real anxiety for their health and financial security, Floridians are afraid that their Governor just doesn’t care enough. When FDR said, “the only thing we have to fear is … fear itself” it was a prelude to his first hundred days that ushered in the New Deal. He followed through on his inaugural promise to “recommend the measures that a stricken nation [amid] a stricken world may require.” But while DeSantis says we cannot “allow ourselves to become paralyzed by fear,” it is he and Trump whose politicization of this pandemic has made them powerless to lead our state and our nation to make hard choices that public health experts tell us will save lives.

Held back” via Dana Stevens of The Washington Post — The implicit bargain of the spring was that if everyone complied with the shutdowns, the isolation, the social distancing, the working-while-parenting disasters and the rest, the government would use that time to build enough testing, tracing and public health infrastructure so that students could safely go back to school in person in the fall. Instead, the administration is now employing the tactic of attempting to draw attention away from the pandemic. I can’t be the only parent who finds containing my anger about this to be a full-time job on top of the two I’m already performing poorly.

Coronavirus diaries: I am working rides at the reopened Disney World” via anonymous for Slate — As Disney cast members, we’re always told to be accommodating and do as much as we can for our guests. But the new safety procedures are the opposite. There’s no budging at all — it’s concrete. You can’t compromise at all when it comes to safety. It’s such a stressful and scary time. But I haven’t experienced any confrontations over masks or distancing yet. Most often I just see that people are wearing their masks but not wearing them correctly, with their noses out in the open, or they’ll have them completely under their chins and they’ll be carrying drinks. I sometimes get a little nervous during these conversations because it could escalate very quickly and possibly become dangerous for us.

Marsy’s Law doesn’t shield police from accountability” via Paul Hawkes for the Orlando Sentinel — Marsy’s Law for Florida was approved by a supermajority of Florida voters in 2018 because Floridians recognized the need for crime victims to have clear, enforceable rights and protections in our state constitution. One of those rights is to enable victims to prevent the automatic, public disclosure of personally identifiable information. Here’s what it does not do. In no way does Marsy’s Law shield police officers from accountability. If, after an investigation, a determination is made that a police officer has broken the law, they become the accused. At that point, their name must be released. To not do so in these types of cases would be a violation of Florida Sunshine Law.


The state reported 872 Floridians died of COVID-19 over the past week, the largest weekly toll since the pandemic began.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Florida recorded another 9,344 new cases of coronavirus Sunday, with almost 74,000 in the past week and that brings Florida’s total to almost 424,000 … more than any state but California.

— On Saturday, the Sunshine State passed New York for the No. 2 spot.

— Today, you’ll hear voices from the front line of the pandemic; these are the people who don’t get invited to the Governor’s press conferences. Dr. Mona Mangat is an allergy and immunology specialist in Saint Petersburg.

Kristina Hernandez is a laboratory medical technologist from Pinellas County, who is responsible for all those COVID-19 tests. She says the essential medical workers hailed as heroes aren’t getting hazard pay or even a raise when they’re risking their lives.

— Dr. Ronald Saff is an allergist in Tallahassee and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. Saff has been critical of the Governor’s response since the early days of the pandemic.

— Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried organized this “speak out.” Fried is an independently elected member of the state Cabinet who has been mostly ignored by the Governor during the pandemic.

— Checking-in with a Florida Woman who got the best of a 17-foot python.

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President Donald Trump will throw the first pitch for the New York Yankees next month, he announced yesterday.⁣ ⁣ Speaking during a White House coronavirus news briefing, Trump praised Major League Baseball for its efforts to return to business as normal amid the coronavirus pandemic. He applauded the league’s adaptations to open its drastically delayed season, including by playing in empty stadiums. Trump said he was eager to throw the first pitch on Aug. 15.⁣ ⁣ “The key is to get back to normal,” the president said. “Nobody wants to see this. I think it is really good that baseball is opening. It looks like football is opening. It looks like sports are opening. It’s a tremendous thing psychologically for our country.”⁣ ⁣ Trump made the announcement only hours before Anthony Fauci, one of the administration’s most recognizable figures in its coronavirus response, threw the ceremonial first pitch to mark Opening Day for the Washington Nationals. ⁣ ⁣ After the briefing, Trump and Baseball Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera joined a group of about 15 young players who were playing catch on the South Lawn. One of the players gave the president and Rivera a glove and ball, and they soon joined in. “There was nobody like Mariano,” Trump said as the two tossed the baseball back and forth. Link in bio for more.⁣ ⁣ 📷 Getty⁣ ⁣⁣

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Here’s why you can’t watch ‘Mulan’ on Disney+ right now” via Frank Pallotta of CNN — Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” and Disney’s “Mulan” have been delayed multiple times since the coronavirus pandemic began earlier this year. Amid those changes — and the frustrating process of moving the ball, only to move it again — why are these studios insisting on a theatrical release at such a fraught moment? Why not just put “Tenet” and “Mulan” on digital platforms and be done with it? I mean, that’s what “Trolls World Tour” did, and that worked out pretty well. Films like “Tenet” and “Mulan” are set up to be major global hits: They cost hundreds of millions to produce and hopefully will bring back billions in box office returns. And with all due respect, “Trolls World Tour” wasn’t.

There is a very good reason ‘Mulan’ won’t be on Disney+ anytime soon.

Universal Orlando says no Halloween Horror Nights in 2020” via Ashley Carter of Bay News 9 — “We know this decision will disappoint our fans and guests,” Universal said in a release Friday. “We are disappointed, too. But we look forward to creating an amazing event in 2021.” Universal said it would instead focus its energy on operating its theme parks for its day guests as new health and safety measures have been implemented.


Happy birthday to Jose Ceballos and Ryan Reiter. Belated wishes to Reps. Anika Omphroy andRichard Stark, Carol Bowen and Pete Murray.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

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