Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.20.20

Sunburn Orange Tally (7)
Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Ballard Partners is still the top-earning lobbying firm in the state, and there’s still little evidence the pandemic has taken a toll on firms’ bottom lines.

New compensation reports show the firm founded by Brian Ballard collected an estimated $4.2 million in fees for the April through June reporting period — $2.3 million lobbying the Legislature and $1.9 million lobbying the executive branch.

Ballard Partners is again the highest compensated lobby shop in the state.

Though Ballard Partners’ median pay is slightly below what they reported in the same quarter last year, the 2019 Legislative Session fell mostly in the second quarter while the 2020 Session was entirely in the first quarter.

The figures are a near match to Q2 2018 — the last time the Legislative Session concluded before the start of the second quarter.

Most other top firms posted the second quarter in line with their historical numbers, including The Southern Group, which maintained its No. 2 position for yet another quarter with $3.7 million in receipts.

Founder Paul Bradshaw, Rachel Cone, Kelly Cohen, Nelson Diaz, Seth McKeel and the rest of the team collected $2.2 million in the Legislature and another $1.4 million lobbying the executive branch.

Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace led the Capital City Consulting lobbying corps to a close third place with earnings of $3.4 million — $1.9 million through legislative lobbying and $1.5 million through executive lobbying.

Ron Book again fell in the same weight class as the megafirms, collecting more than $2.2 million in fees last quarter. As usual, the bulk of his income — $1.8 million — was listed on his legislative lobbying report.

GrayRobinson, helmed by former House Speaker Dean Cannon, took fifth place in overall compensation with $2 million in earnings last quarter. Not just a match, the figure represents a step up from its earnings in the same quarter of last year.


A hectic night, indeed — Correction: In Wednesday’s Sunburn, we referred to the “worst concession speech ever.” Well, it wasn’t. Yes, it may have been a vitriolic speech, but it wasn’t a concession. Lloyd Dabbs is the Democrat who will be facing Republican Rep. Thad Altman as he seeks another term in HD 52 in November. We apologize and regret the error.


Tweet, tweet:

@RealDonaldTrump: Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES — They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS. Get better tires for far less! (This is what the Radical Left Democrats do. Two can play the same game, and we have to start playing it now!).

@ScottforFlorida: Marco [Rubio] is right. Steve Schmidt has always hated conservatives. His opinion is meaningless. Telling a Cuban-American leader like @marcorubio that he would have supported Castro is offensive and idiotic.

@SamanthaJoRoth: .@mattgaetz — the Florida playmaker? Almost every candidate Gaetz endorsed won their primary against an establishment GOP candidate. “If I am able to add a little bit of help to get them over the line, I’m just proud to be on their team,” he told me.

@ByronDonalds: Thankful to have @DaneEagle‘s support and endorsement. Together we will defend liberty and ensure we take back the House and reelect President @realDonaldTrump. #FL19

@StPetePolls: This one looks like it might set a new record for how small of a vote share a winner needs in a Florida primary, <22% #FL19

@ShevrinJones: You know a candidate is tired when they miss a call from @PeteButtigieg. Mayor Pete, thank you for the phone call and your support. You’ve paved the way for so many, and I’m proud to serve ALL people with you, not just in Florida, but across this country. #WEthePEOPLE

@ScottFranklinFL: A big thanks to @mattgaetz for being my Wingman in this election! With your help, we defied the odds. After we win in November, I look forward to working with you and @realDonaldTrump to #KeepAmericaGreat2020

@willsommer: Twitter won’t unban Laura Loomer, even after she won a GOP primary last night. Twitter statement: “We do not plan to reverse that enforcement action.”

@JimmyPatronis: Congratulations to @MarvaPreston14, @Jenn_Bradley, @RepAnaMaria, @JimBoydFL, and @isayray on your hard-fought victories! I look forward to working with you all. Onward to victory this November!

@Rob_Bradley: Breaking ground on the new @PaceCenter Clay was the culmination of a lot of hard work from so many great friends! Proud to join the first Clay board chair (and next Senator from SD5) @jenn_bradley as well as my legislative partners @Travis_Cummings and @bobbypaynefl. #ForTheGirls

@fineout: Hearing all sorts of interesting stuff going on in Wakulla County where right now 4 votes separate two candidates for property appraiser … and some things are going on with mail-in ballots that were initially ruled invalid …

@AlexBerenson: The stunning decline in Florida COVID hospitalizations continues — down almost half from peak. As with Arizona/Texas, little change in overall hospital use on either the way up or down. Maybe one day some smart, nonpartisan epidemiologists/physicians will try to figure out why.

@JoeNBC: “Saving Freedom” tells of [Harry] Truman’s improbable rise from being a failed haberdasher to becoming the most influential foreign policy president in the postwar era. In staring down Stalin, Truman created an international order that guaranteed America’s success and the Soviet’s fall.


Regal Cinemas reopen in U.S. — 1; Indy 500 rescheduled — 3; Republican National Convention begins in Charlotte — 4; NBA draft lottery — 5; Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 9; U.S. Open begins — 11; Christopher Nolan‘s “Tenet” rescheduled premiere in U.S. — 14; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 16; Rescheduled date for French Open — 31; First presidential debate in Indiana — 40; “Wonder Woman” premieres — 43; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 44; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 47; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 48; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 53; Second presidential debate scheduled in Miami — 56; NBA draft — 57; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 57; NBA free agency — 60; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 61; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 63; 2020 General Election — 75; “Black Widow” premieres — 79; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 81; College basketball season slated to begin — 82; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 92; “No Time to Die” premieres — 92; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 105; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 171; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 183; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 316; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 337; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 344; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 442; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 540; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 582; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 624; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 777.


‘He’s destroyed conservatism’: The Republican case against Donald Trump’s GOP” via Michael Grunwald of POLITICO — Stuart Stevens spent four decades helping Republicans, a lot of Republicans, win. He’s one of the most successful political operatives of his generation. Stevens now believes the Republican Party is, not to put too fine a point on it, a malign force jeopardizing the survival of American democracy. He’s written a searing apologia of a book called It Was All a Lie that compares his lifelong party to the Mafia, to Bernie Madoff’s fraud scheme, to the segregationist movement, even to the Nazis. He’s pretty disillusioned. While Stevens is one of the most prominent “Never Trump” Republicans, and It Was All a Lie is predictably scathing about the failures of Trump, the book does not blame Trump for the failures of the party he leads.

Former Republican operative Stuart Stevens says Donald Trump has ‘destroyed conservatism.’

Trump’s praise of anti-Muslim GOP candidates isn’t a coincidence — and it isn’t subtle” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Trump for the second time in one week promoted the primary victory of a conspiracy-theorist, anti-Muslim Republican House candidate. Last week, it was Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon supporter. This week, it was Laura Loomer, another fringe figure in today’s Republican Party. And to hear White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tell it, it’s just an unhappy coincidence. “The president routinely congratulates people who officially get the Republican nomination for Congress,” Two parts of this strain credulity. The first is the idea that this is just Trump “routinely” congratulating Republicans. McEnany’s comments suggest, inexplicably, that Trump was somehow continually unaware or not apprised of this backlash when he retweeted Greene’s congratulations for Loomer.

Convention’s big message: Joe Biden is a good guy” via Matt Viser of The Washington Post — The second night of the Democratic National Convention picked up where the first left off, with speaker after speaker praising Biden as an empathetic figure, a caring leader and, above all else, a “decent” man. The speeches, video montages and photos aimed at solidifying that image came as the Trump campaign released new ads this week aimed at making Biden appear senile, radical or worse. Party conventions are often about humanizing the candidate, but the effort has taken on a special resonance this year, as Trump’s reelection may depend on persuading voters to dislike Biden even more than they dislike the unpopular incumbent. Republicans four years ago successfully made Hillary Clinton a hated figure to many voters, and this year’s Democratic convention represents an intensive effort by the party to avoid a repeat by portraying Biden as a compassionate, caring figure, even if not the most exciting.

The four issues besides coronavirus that Democrats are hammering in their convention” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — 1. Health care coverage: Talking extensively about protecting people’s current access to health care worked for Democrats in 2018, and there are signs it can work for Democrats now. 2. Racial justice: George Floyd’s brother spoke on the first night. In her speech, Michelle Obama brought up Floyd’s and other Black Americans’ deaths at the hands of police. 3. Women’s rights: This is not quite as overt an issue, but it helped Democrats enormously to message it. 4. Gun control: Suddenly, gun control has the potential to be a winning issue nationally for Democrats.

Clinton’s bittersweet return to the Democratic Convention” via Lisa Lerer and Glenn Thrush of The New York Times — Clinton is, by all accounts, reassured by the Biden-Kamala Harris ticket. But her return to center stage at the convention, four years after becoming the first woman to win the nomination of a major party, is bittersweet. Had things turned out differently, Clinton would be preparing her second acceptance speech. Instead, she has spent the last several days putting the finishing touches on a speech aimed at making a case for Biden and Harris. This moment is uniquely emotional for Clinton and the tens of millions who propelled her to a popular-vote majority of nearly three million in 2016, but a loss in the Electoral College. It is both a reminder of a job some allies still maintain was unfairly taken and the wave of feminist activism sparked by her loss.

Hillary Clinton’s return to the DNC was bittersweet.

— 2020 —

Trump endorses CD 13 GOP nominee Anna Paulina Luna” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Luna caught Trump’s attention after she defeated Amanda Makki in the Republican primary. Luna, a staunch Trump ally, will take on incumbent Charlie Crist in the November General Election. Her win came in a quick turnaround leading up to the Primary Election. Luna defeated Makki, the GOP establishment favorite, with 36% of the vote. Makki earned just 29%. Trump announced his endorsement via Twitter. “Great WIN Anna! Watched your race from beginning, very impressed,” Trump’s tweet reads.

Anna Luna is one of the GOP opponents who are backing term limits.
Donald Trump gives the thumbs-up to Anna Paulina Luna in CD 13.

Record-setting primary gives way to big Nov. 3 matchups in Central Florida” via Steven Lemongello and Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — A record-setting primary turnout in Florida has set the scene for a November general election that could shatter even more records, and the presidential campaign isn’t the only big race that will be on Central Florida ballots. Voters will decide Nov. 3 a state Senate race in Seminole County that could determine control of the chamber. They also will decide if the region’s three incumbent Democratic members of Congress get third terms. A Republican-held seat in Congress is now wide-open after incumbent Ross Spano lost his primary. Almost 3.9 million people voted in Florida’s primary election, for a turnout of more than 28%. That’s the biggest primary turnout in 18 years.

Ross Spano paid the price for messing with Grady Judd” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — Criminals in Polk County know better than to mess with Sheriff Judd. Now, soon-to-be-former U.S. Rep. Spano knows it too. Spano’s demise was all but assured after Judd endorsed Scott Franklin in the CD 15 Republican primary, which covered parts of Polk, Hillsborough, and Lake counties. It’s worth wondering if the same fate awaits Democrat Alan Cohn, who defeated Adam Hattersley in that primary. We’ll get to that in a minute. First, though, let’s look at the CD 15 numbers from Tuesday. Spano won 57% of the vote in Hillsborough and had 257 more votes than Franklin in Lake. But Franklin walloped him in Polk by 5,725 votes out of 23,053 that were cast.

Brian Mast, Pam Keith release dueling ads ahead of General Election matchup” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Mast and Keith are each going on the offensive after they emerged from their respective party primaries Tuesday in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. Mast and Keith both coasted in their respective races. Mast beat back a primary challenge from retired police sergeant Nick Vessio. He defeated Vessio 86%-14% with a few votes still left to count in Palm Beach County. Keith won an open primary for the Democratic nomination, topping attorney Oz Vazquez 80%-20%. Nonparty affiliated candidate K.W. Miller has also qualified in the CD 18 contest. Mast and Keith will be the two most viable competitors, however. Wednesday morning, Mast released an ad targeting Keith just hours after she secured the Democratic nomination.

Dane Eagle endorses Byron Donalds in CD 19” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Eagle, who finished a close second place in Tuesday’s primary, has endorsed Donalds in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. “Byron Donalds is the Republican nominee, and he has my full support as we head into November to keep Florida red and reelect President Donald Trump!” Eagle wrote on Facebook. Eagle, now Florida House Republican Leader, was one of the first to jump into the race for Congress after Rep. Frances Rooney announced he would not seek a third term. In the end, Eagle finished second in the Republican primary Tuesday night, winning 21.85% of the vote to Donalds’ 22.6%.

—“Darren Aquino wants recount after 8th place finish” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell ad argues Carlos Giménez is ‘too corrupt for Congress’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — After Giménez secured the Republican nomination in Florida’s 26th Congressional District Tuesday, Mucarsel-Powell announced a new ad hammering Giménez ahead of their matchup. The two will face off in the November election after Giménez defeated Omar Blanco in the GOP primary Tuesday. Mucarsel-Powell and Democratic allies have tried to tag Giménez with the ‘Corrupt Carlos’ nickname. The new ad continues that effort, as it attacks Giménez over his sons’ lobbying work. “In the world of ‘Corrupt’ Carlos Giménez: the father, ”Corrupt’ Carlos, and the sons, C.J. ‘El Favorito’ and Julio ‘El Niñito’, were connected to shady deal after shady deal, getting rich on our tax dollars,” the ad’s narrator begins.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:



‘We had worked hard:’ Ron DeSantis applauds Laurel Lee’s Primary Election oversight” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis applauded Secretary of State Lee Wednesday for her oversight of the Florida 2020 Primary Election. “We had worked hard,” DeSantis said. “[The] Secretary of State helping our Supervisors with making sure their systems were good and I think they did a really good job. We’ll learn if there was anything to do for additional support before the General Election.” Lee’s office overcame myriad COVID-19-related challenges ahead of the Tuesday primary. In the end, she reported the 2020 primary was carried out smoothly across the state with only a few isolated instances that were ultimately remedied. Notably, she also told reporters late Tuesday that combined voter turnout was “higher than average” despite a “light to medium” in-person voter turnout on Election Day. DeSantis noted the rise and importance of early-voting and mail-in ballots in Florida.

Ron DeSantis touts a smooth primary election.

With presidential election on horizon, Florida primary turnout highest in 18 years” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — With more than 28% of Florida voters casting ballots, Tuesday’s pandemic-shaded elections drew the biggest state primary turnout in 18 years — setting the stage for what could be another record mark in November. The dog days of summer Florida primary can prove a tough sell to voters. But almost 3.9 million voters cast ballots in the primary — almost 1 million more than during the 2016 presidential year. The turnout also was the largest in a presidential year Florida primary since 1992, when 35% of voters cast ballots. About 1.1 million people voted at the polls Tuesday. Much of the primary turnout increase was powered by the 2.3 million vote-by-mail ballots submitted, which represented about 59% of all votes cast.

EMILY’s List, Ruth’s List tout two dozen victories in legislative primaries” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — EMILY’s List listed off 17 women it has backed who are heading to the general election in state legislative races across the state. The candidates include Patricia Sigman, the party-backed candidate who won the primary for Senate District 9. Other Senate candidates include Reps. Loranne Ausley and Tina Polsky, who got by primary challengers in safe Democratic seats. Ruth’s List also highlighted Sigman and Polsky. “Republicans spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative attack ads against Patricia Sigman, but voters ignored them. We look forward to flipping this seat come November and getting one step closer to a majority in the Florida Senate,” said Barbara Zdravacky, Ruth’s List Florida’s interim CEO.

Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus celebrates ‘incredible primary night’” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus celebrated victories for a half-dozen candidates it endorsed in the primary elections. The wins came in races across the state and included a pair of challengers who knocked off incumbents that had made anti-LGBTQ remarks. In the HD 14 Democratic primary, Angie Nixon ousted Rep. Kim Daniels, who deviated from her Democratic colleagues on several issues, notably, she sponsored the House bill requiring minors get a parent to sign off before they can get an abortion, in addition to expressing anti-LGBTQ beliefs. In HD 88, Lake Worth Beach Commissioner Omari Hardy dispatched Rep. Al Jacquet, who sparked outrage for his repeated use of homophobic slurs, one was directed at Hardy. The fallout from that incident resulted in him stepping down from his spot on the House Rules Committee.

‘People are tired of it’: Homophobia is a big loser in Florida primary” via Kirby Wilson and Samantha J. Gross of the Tampa Bay Times — This week’s primary was a historic day for equal rights in Florida. Michele Rayner, who won Tuesday’s Democratic primary that clinched the race for House District 70, is believed to be the first out queer Black woman elected to the Florida Legislature. And Shevrin Jones, a gay state Representative, notched a convincing victory in the Democratic primary for Senate District 35. With only a write-in candidate opposing him in the November general election, he’ll become the state’s first openly gay Senator. Other LGBTQ victories came in the form of notable defeats. At least three incumbent candidates with anti-LGBTQ track records lost their primaries: Democratic Rep. Al Jacquet, Democratic Rep. Kimberly Daniels, and Republican Rep. Mike Hill.

Pasha Baker takes HD 28 Democratic primary” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Sanford community activist Baker won the House District 28 Democratic primary Tuesday, setting up a match with Republican Rep. David Smith in the Seminole County district. Baker, who runs nonprofit groups in Sanford, topped Casselberry cybersecurity business owner Lee Mangold by less than 1% of the vote Tuesday, winning by 109 votes out of more than 13,000 cast in the district. That’s over the 0.05% threshold mandating a recount, but below 1% In another Seminole County primary for a Florida House sprat, Republican Rep. Scott Plakon easily defeated Luther Dowe of Longwood, 83-17. That cements a rematch with Democratic challenger Tracey Kagan of Longwood in Florida’s House District 29. Plakon defeated her in 2018.

Congratulations to Sanford community activist Pasha Baker, who won the House District 28 Democratic primary.

— “Meet Mike Beltran, a Republican running for House District 57” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

With support from Parkland families, Christine Hunschofsky emerges as heavy favorite for HD 96” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — After winning the Democratic primary in House District 96 Tuesday night, Hunschofsky is looking like the heavy favorite in November’s General Election. According to Tuesday’s unofficial results, Hunschofsky defeated her Democratic opponent, Saima Farooqui, 72%-28%. That pits Hunschofsky against write-in candidate Muhammad Amin in the fall. Hunschofsky was helped by a last-minute endorsement from Stand With Parkland, an organization created by parents who lost children in the 2018 Parkland shooting. Hunschofsky served as Parkland’s Mayor during that attack, in which 17 people died. “Christine has been a vital and active participant in our community for over 15 years, and has provided exceptional leadership as the Mayor of Parkland through both good times and tragedy,” read a Monday statement from the group.

Money isn’t everything: Primary voters soundly rejected deep-pocketed anti-agriculture attacks” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — When people are hurting and facing the very real prospect of losing their business, their job, or even their loved ones to COVID-19 — combined with widespread social unrest — voters seemed more interested in candidates focused on the core issues impacting them right now. The outcome of Tuesday’s election should serve as a cautionary tale for candidates and consultants alike: It’s not a good idea to attack the industries playing a vital role during a global pandemic. More importantly, all the money in the world won’t help if voters aren’t interested in your message.


Daniella Levine Cava internal poll gives her 11-point lead in runoff versus Steve Bovo” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Fresh off clinching a spot in the Miami-Dade County mayoral runoff, the Levine Cava campaign released an internal poll showing her leading that November contest by 11 points. Levine Cava and Bovo secured spots in the runoff Tuesday night, topping former Mayor Alex Penelas and the rest of the seven-person field. Levine Cava’s internal survey, conducted by Change Research, shows her leading Bovo 39%-28% with 33% of voters still undecided. The survey ran from Aug. 3-6, before Tuesday’s election contest. According to the Levine Cava campaign, they sought to test hypothetical General Election matchups, including a potential faceoff between Levine Cava and Bovo. The race features an interesting dynamic. Though the mayoral race is technically nonpartisan, Levine Cava and Bovo have both clearly carved out ideological lanes.

Daniella Levine Cava is taking the lead in a runoff against Steve Bovo.

Alachua County elections show Black women gaining power” via Douglas Ray of the Gainesville Sun — The August primary that wrapped up Tuesday — 100 years to the day since women were assured the right to vote — saw women win nearly every race where they challenged men, with particular success for Black candidates, in Alachua County. Yvonne Hinson, a Democrat, clinched a seat in the state House of Representatives. Mary Alford had a commanding win over incumbent Mike Byerly for a seat on the County Commission. Anna Prizzia beat two male challengers in the Democratic primary for another seat on the Commission. “Gainesville certainly has a lot of progressive people. Progressive people want to see women in leadership and African Americans in leadership. So when you put those things together, it’s a winning combination,” said Pegeen Hanrahan, Mayor from 2004-2010.

Recount will be Saturday for Broward Supervisor of Elections race” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The only Broward race with results so close that it triggered a recount is, ironically, the race for Supervisor of Elections. A recount will happen Saturday in a process expected to take at least eight hours. Of the six-person race for the job, Joe Scott is leading with 24.84% of the vote or 51,557 votes. Chad Klitzman received 24.54% of the vote or 50,950 votes. If the difference is less than 0.5% that means a machine recount, which happens in this situation, said Steven Vancore, a Broward elections spokesman. If the difference is less than 0.25%, there will be a hand recount. There are still uncounted votes in Broward.

What Bill Nelson is reading: Clovis Watson defeats Sadie Darnell for sheriff” via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville Sun — Rep. Watson defeated incumbent Alachua County Sheriff Darnell by 20 points in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The race was marked by attacks claiming Darnell “sold out” the Democratic Party by endorsing now-U. S. Sen. Rick Scott over incumbent Nelson two years ago. Nelson featured prominently in mail pieces reminding Democrats of Darnell’s endorsements. One mailer read: “Sadie Darnell turned her back on un when she chose Rick Scott over Bill Nelson. She picked a side. Now it’s your turn.” The former Senator also lent a hand to Watson by recording a phone call with his wife, Grace Cavert. Former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham did the same. As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold … or, on Election Day.

Public defender candidate fired the morning after losing Broward primary” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It didn’t take long for the knives to come out for Ruby Green, the assistant public defender who lost to Howard Finkelstein’s chosen successor Tuesday night. Finkelstein fired Green Wednesday morning in a terse email. “Thank you for your service,” the email began. “Your services are no longer required. Your termination is immediate.” Green began working for the Public Defender’s Office eight years ago and was one of three candidates seeking to replace Finkelstein, who is retiring after 16 years in the job. Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes won handily, with Green finishing second and former Broward Circuit Judge Tom Lynch coming in third.

Walton County could perform vote recount for Commission contest; Okaloosa might, too” via Tony Judnich of the Northwest Florida Daily News — The Walton County Supervisor of Elections has tentatively set a vote recount for the District 1 County Commissioner contest. In Tuesday’s primary election, William “Boots” McCormick topped Lisa Johnson by 0.39% in the District 1 Commissioner race. State law triggers a recount when the margin of victory is equal to or less than 0.5% of the total votes cast. The recount is tentatively set for 8 a.m. Saturday. Unofficially, Mel Ponder defeated Parker Destin by 0.49% in the District 5 County Commissioner contest. By the end of the day Thursday, if the margin of victory is equal to or less than 0.5% of the total votes cast, the Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Office will schedule a recount, likely for Saturday.

Opponents of school reopenings faced an electoral reckoning Tuesday” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Even though there weren’t any questions about reopening schools on primary ballots, voters made their answer clear. Across the state, voters flocked to candidates who supported reopening school campuses this year and rejected those who pitched another nine weeks or more of virtual learning as the best course of action. The returns show that the sentiment is the same in red counties, blue counties, small counties and large counties: Parents want their kids in schools and anyone who stands in the way will face a reckoning at the ballot box.

April Schiff unseats key GOP operative, setting the stage for a change in leadership” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Schiff defeated incumbent GOP State Committeewoman Clarice Henderson Tuesday night, setting up what could be a shift in Hillsborough County Republican politics. Schiff earned 53% of the vote, according to unofficial election results with the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. Schiff is an ally of the Republican Party of Hillsborough County chair Jim Waurishuk, a controversial leader in the party who some have been bold enough to criticize. Waurishuk has drawn fire in the past for incendiary statements comparing Democrats to Nazis and calling the novel coronavirus a hoax.

St. Lucie County School Board: Two newcomers push incumbent, former politician to Nov. runoff” via Sommer Brugal of TCPalm — Two political newcomers pushed an incumbent and former politician to runoff elections after no candidate in either School Board race received the majority of votes Tuesday — a surprising outcome for some members of the community. Kathryn Hensley, current board vice-chair; and Jennifer Richardson, a property agent in Stuart, will face off for the District 4 seat, while Jack Kelly, a former Port St. Lucie Vice Mayor and Councilman; and Anthony Monds Jr., a former district teacher, will compete for the District 2 seat. The runoffs will be at the Nov. 3 general election.

Leanetta McNealy returns, Diyonne McGraw wins seat, gives school board a historic makeup” via Larry Savage of the Gainesville Sun — Diyonne McGraw‘s win over Khanh-Lien Banko in a close Alachua County school board race Tuesday resulted in a historic shift, with three Black women in line to sit on the five-person board. It was only two years ago, when Tina Certain won a spot, that for the first time the board had two Black members. Certain joined Leanetta McNealy, who Tuesday night won her third straight term. “I am so excited and very thankful for the community,” McGraw said. “This means they want change. Now it is time for me and the others to perform. There are two words that my mother taught me and my pastors tell me, I am a public servant. I am willing to be accountable to Alachua County.”

Recount triggered to determine winner of Santa Rosa County School Board District 4 seat” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — The Santa Rosa County School Board has one new member to help guide the school district through what is likely to be a transformative period of growth, and a second new board member is expected to be determined after a recount later this week. For the District 2 seat, challenger Elizabeth Hewey defeated incumbent Clifton “Buddy” Hinote. A second race for the school board District 4 seat between Felicia Fortune Northcutt and Charles Elliott was close enough to trigger an automatic recount, which will take place Saturday, according to the Santa Rosa County Supervisor of Elections. A difference of 46 votes divided the two candidates, according to the latest figures available as of Wednesday morning.

Why did Florida’s charter schools fund a campaign to get a former porn worker on the Orange school board?” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Yes, charter school companies including one that lists “integrity” as a key-value, funded a political committee that funded another, which labeled teacher Karen Castor Dentel “Public Enemy #1.” The campaign instead urged voters to elect hospitality worker Jonathan Hacker, who has written about his past in the “adult entertainment industry, doing videos and magazines.” The campaign called Hacker “the champion we need for our children” while claiming Castor Dentel “FAILS OUR KIDS.” It was like Bizzaro World.


Gov. and First Lady elevate substance abuse awareness amid pandemic” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — COVID-19 is subsiding in Florida, but the First Couple is raising the alarm on another rising health threat. Florida saw more than 60,000 overdoses last month, up significantly from a year prior, says DeSantis. Throughout the more than five months since health officials first identified COVID-19 outbreaks in Florida, overdose deaths have increased. “We’ve got to be able to dig in,” the Governor said. “We’ve got to be able to juggle multiple balls when it comes to health care.” His administration has made mental health a key issue, spearheaded by First Lady Casey DeSantis. A month ago, the First Lady made her first public appearance since the pandemic began and since giving birth to their third daughter. While mental health is multi-faced and the First Couple has held multiple roundtables on the topic in recent weeks, Wednesday’s panel at Advent Health in Altamonte Springs focused almost entirely on substance abuse.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and First Lady Casey DeSantis are raising the alarm on increased substance abuse amid the pandemic. Image via Colin Hackley.

With no moratorium in place for FL renters, ‘We expect a tsunami of evictions’” via Laura Cassels of Florida Phoenix — More than 800,000 renters in Florida are at risk of being evicted within weeks, a fallout framed by financial duress, the coronavirus crisis and little help from state and federal officials, according to lawyers and legal aid groups. With Florida’s limited state order on evictions expiring Aug. 31, those renters could be without homes if they don’t catch up on missed payments or reach agreements with their landlords or the courts, according to Jim Kowalski, president and CEO of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. Florida has 2.7 million rental units, according to U.S. Census data from 2018 and a great many “are at risk of eviction right now,” Kowalski said in a Florida Bar Foundation teleconference last week. “There is no functioning eviction moratorium in Florida as of August 1.” Instead, Florida’s executive order issued by DeSantis for the month of August blocks evictions only for renters who can convince a judge — on very short notice — that they continue to be adversely impacted by COVID-19.


Education officials offered guidance on handling virus” via Ana Ceballos of the News Service of Florida — At the heart of the guidelines is a “coronavirus symptomatic decision tree” that lays out who should be sent home, for how long, and for what symptoms, according to a 12-page report released by the Florida Department of Education. It While Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has acknowledged coronavirus cases are likely to occur when schools resume in-person instruction, the report spotlights the steps school officials should take when students and teachers get infected at school. “Simply being in the same classroom, building, or at the same event as a positive or symptomatic person does not mean someone must be contact-traced and self-isolated,” state officials wrote in the report, which was shared with Florida school superintendents.

Judge weighs whether schools ‘simply not ready’ to open” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — “We have no business opening schools by a certain deadline, and certainly not by Aug. 31,” Orlando pediatrician Annette Nielsen said during a daylong video hearing in a legal challenge to an emergency order by Corcoran requiring schools to reopen five days a week in August. “We’re simply not ready. We don’t have the things in place to open.” The Florida Education Association statewide teachers’ union last month filed a lawsuit alleging that Corcoran’s July 6 order violates the state Constitution, which guarantees Floridians the right to “safe” and “secure” public schools. The Orange County teachers’ union filed a similar legal complaint, and Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson consolidated the cases.

A court is moving ahead with a lawsuit against Richard Corcoran’s school reopening order.

Florida State and coronavirus: 42 students, 5 employees tested positive this month” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Forty-two Florida State University students and five employees tested positive for coronavirus during the two-week period of Aug. 2-15, the Tallahassee Democrat has learned. The positive tests are out of 3,222 tests of students, faculty and staff during the same period. “The positivity rate is approximately 1.46% for the members of our campus community who have taken advantage of the free testing provided by Florida State University during this time,” FSU spokesman Dennis Schnittker said Wednesday. Residential students who test positive are moved to isolation for 14 days in the university’s designated COVID-19 residence hall or other isolation facilities. The university is providing appropriate services to ensure they are receiving the proper care during this period, Schnittker said.

Morning outages reported as Broward students return for online school” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Many Broward students and teachers started their new school year online Wednesday with few problems but occasionally spotty service. Many high school students were able to get on at 7:30 a.m. with no problems. But as elementary and middle school students started going online around 8:30 a.m., many experienced difficulties with Canvas, the district’s online portal. “At this time Canvas is experiencing some technical issues across the district. Please be patient as we are working to solve the problem,” said an email sent by administrators at Indian River Middle in Davie. “Continue to try and login, we appreciate your patience and understanding.”

City partners with Duval school district to offer free rapid COVID-19 testing for teachers, staff” via Jim Piggott and Travis Gibson of News4Jax — The $1.5 million project will also provide additional 25 nurses to the district as it prepares to welcome students back to campuses. The city is contributing $750,000 for the project, Mayor Lenny Curry said. If a teacher or staff member feels sick, they call ahead and now at seven high schools, there will be drive-thru testing just for them to be tested quickly. Depending on the outcome of that 24-hour test there are protocols now in place they will follow to inform those who may have been exposed.

Freshmen waited for their schools to share reopening plans. Then things got complicated.” via Lauren Lumpkin of The Washington Post — With roughly 80% of fall courses being offered online, the decision to live on or off-campus is largely up to the students, although on-campus housing has been pared back to create more singles. The flexibility allows students who are worried about living with other people or who have health issues to determine what’s best for them. The choice can also be overwhelming, particularly because the university has already told students it will not issue refunds if the pandemic forces the campus to close again. Now, with widespread unemployment and job insecurity caused by the pandemic, students are considering other options: community college, taking a gap year or staying close to home.


South Florida may move to Phase 2 soon, Governor says” via Brooke Baitinger, Lisa J. Huriash and Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida is on the verge of moving to Phase 2 of reopening from COVID-19 restrictions, allowing more flexibility for restaurants, stores and attractions, Gov. DeSantis said Wednesday. Citing “significant downward trends” in coronavirus cases, the governor said he is discussing the move with all three counties — Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade. “I’m not saying I’m going to do it today or we’re gonna do it tomorrow. … [But] these are sustained trends at this point and I think that that’s a good thing,” he said. According to guidelines from the state, a Phase 2 reopening allows certain businesses and retail establishments to operate at reduced capacities.

You can make more than $3,000 at a new COVID-19 testing site in Wynwood” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — You could make up to $3,250 to be a test case for coronavirus researchers at a new Wynwood COVID-19 testing site that opened Wednesday. The site, which will also provide free COVID tests through Sept. 15, has paid research opportunities that range from $400 to $3,250. But you have to first see if you qualify for one of the COVID-19 research studies and then complete that study to collect. The research will be conducted by Xera Med Research, the same company that is providing the free COVID-19 molecular/PCR tests at its site set up behind the Mana Convention Center at 2222 NW Fifth Avenue in Wynwood.

You can make some decent cash at a COVID-19 testing site. Image via AP.

Brothers donate 10,000 masks to Broward and Miami homeless shelters” via Brett Shweky of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For Luke and Hudson Elegant, the Miami Rescue Mission and Broward Outreach Centers have held a special place in their hearts for the past 12 years. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing unprecedented issues in the South Florida community, Hudson, 17, and Luke, 20, worked to donate 10,000 surgical masks to individuals in the homeless shelters. Since 1922, the Miami Rescue Mission and Broward Outreach Centers (Hollywood-Pompano Beach) have provided life-changing care and resources for the homeless in the area, such as personal hygiene items, counseling, substance abuse treatment and job opportunities.

Compassionate Center gets support to help residents during COVID-19” via Brett Shweky of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The city of Sunrise’s Compassionate Center recently became one of four support centers in the state to receive a $1,500 grant from the Florida League of Mayors and Business Watch. Since it was established in April, the center has served hundreds of residents, providing a one-stop location for individuals and businesses to contact for informational assistance in dealing with the public health and safety crisis of COVID-19. By pledging services, referrals and advocacy, the support center is made up of five city employees, including the city’s social worker and newly designated compassion officer.

More movie theaters in South Florida plan on reopening” via Rod Stafford Hagwood of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The chances of seeing a summer blockbuster movie in an actual cineplex got better this week. Well, at least in Broward County where independent theaters such as Paradigm Cinemas in Tamarac, Flippers Cinema in Hollywood, Paragon Theaters in Coral Springs and Davie, and the Swap Shop Drive-In theaters in Fort Lauderdale and Lake Worth already reopened. Cinemark Paradise 24 in Davie and Cinepolis Deerfield Beach have been cleared by the county to reopen, although neither’s website gives a date when that might happen. The Silverspot Cinema in Coconut Creek announced Wednesday that they will open Friday.

Coronavirus sinks 2020 Winterfest Boat Parade” via Rod Stafford Hagwood of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Chalk up yet another South Florida event canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was announced Tuesday morning that the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12, is a no-go due to “coronavirus concerns.” In fact, the Winterfest board of directors has put the kibosh on all Winterfest live events. This is the first time the flotilla of yachts and boats decked out in Christmas lights has been canceled since its inception in 1971. “Even after 9/11, we questioned it,” Lisa Scott-Founds, president and CEO of Winterfest, tells the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “But we wanted to be here for the community, [so] we changed our theme to reflect what was going on in the country.”

The Hard Rock Winterfest boat parade has been put on ice.

In Fort Lauderdale, new restaurant-bars to rise from two historic churches” via Ben Crandell of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A pair of Fort Lauderdale churches with histories stretching back nearly 100 years are being transformed into new places to congregate over bread and wine, finding second lives as restaurant-bars in two downtown neighborhoods bustling with youthful activity. Located in the heart of Flagler Village, at 441 NE Third Avenue, First Evangelical Lutheran Church is in the middle of a multimillion-dollar renovation of its interior that will yield a 220-seat restaurant, with an outdoor bar bracketed by a 3,000-square-foot landscaped terrace. The most controversial part of the remodel is work that will turn the main sanctuary of the church into a 5,000-square-foot nightclub.

Rick Kriseman teases lighter Covid-19 restrictions, braces for reopening schools” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Kriseman teased lifting restrictions on small social gatherings and public parks in the coming weeks on Wednesday as Pinellas County cases continue to decrease. However, the Mayor is not ready to make any moves yet, waiting until after Pinellas County schools reopen. “It’s really gonna be important for us to get a couple of weeks of school under our belt before we start having any serious discussions about any potential next steps,” Kriseman said. “What we’ve seen from other communities around the country that have reopened their schools, they’ve seen some spikes. We want to make sure that’s not something that happens here.”


NCH and city of Naples to team up on COVID-19 public health initiative” via Brittany Carloni of the Naples Daily News — The city of Naples and NCH Healthcare System are teaming up on an initiative to educate the public about best health practices to fight the coronavirus. The theme of the initiative is “All Heroes Wear Masks: It’s our Responsibility to Help Save Lives. Wear a Mask. Be a Hero,” according to information on the partnership from NCH. The NCH and city partnership will last three to four months. The educational initiative will inform people about the benefits of wearing masks, social distancing and other public health practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to information on the partnership.

The City of Naples is starting a campaign of COVID-19 awareness.

Third Florida corrections officer dies of COVID-19” via Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel — The third corrections officer working in Florida’s prison system that has been ravaged by coronavirus died last week, the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Wednesday. Officer Johnnie Brown, who had been with the agency for almost 15 years, died Aug. 10 after testing positive for COVID-19. His family reported his death to the agency. He worked at the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, where 36 staff and almost 200 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, according to DOC. He is the first to have died who worked or was incarcerated at that facility, according the Department of Health’s report on DOC deaths, though the report was not updated as of this week.

AMC Destin Commons 14 to open Thursday, with safety precautions, 1920 movie prices” via Tina Harbuck of the Northwest Florida Daily News — For the first time in more than five months, AMC Destin Commons 14 will open Thursday, but at limited capacity and with safety precautions in place. “As our guests return on our first day of resumed operations Aug. 20, we invite them to join us in celebrating a return to the movies, and in celebrating 100 years of AMC making smiles happen with movies at 1920 prices of only 15 cents each,” AMC CEO Adam Arron said. Some of the movie choices Thursday at 15 cents a ticket include The Goonies, Beauty and the Beast, Black Panther and Ghostbusters.

Orlando City to allow limited number of fans at home matches” via Julia Poe of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando City will welcome a limited number of fans back to matches at Exploria Stadium for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The club announced select fans can attend upcoming home matches against Nashville Aug. 26, Atlanta United on Sept. 5 and Inter Miami on Sept. 12. Orlando City did not disclose the number of fans it will admit to the stadium for each game, although a source previously told the Orlando Sentinel the club was hoping to welcome about 30% of the stadium’s 25,500 fan capacity. All fans in attendance will be required to wear masks, have their temperatures checked before entry, and stay socially distanced from anyone outside of their party.


Vaccine is likely to be available next spring, Trump administration adviser says” via By Miriam Berger, Brittany Shammas, Kim Bellware, Hamza Shaban, Darren Sands, Reis Thebault and Marisa Iati of The Washington Post — A vaccine for the novel coronavirus should be widely available next spring, the Trump administration’s top adviser overseeing vaccine development predicted Wednesday. Moncef Slaoui, co-director of Operation Warp Speed, told Business Insider that late-stage clinical trials of vaccine candidates from biotechnology companies Moderna and Pfizer are going “very well.”

Operation Warp Speed head Moncef Slaoui says a vaccine could be as soon as the spring. Image AP.

CNN Poll: Most Americans embarrassed by US response to coronavirus” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN — Nearly 7 in 10 Americans say the US response to the coronavirus outbreak makes them feel embarrassed, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, as 62% of the public says Trump could be doing more to fight the outbreak. The new poll finds disapproval of Trump’s handling of the outbreak at a new high, 58%, as the share who say the worst of the pandemic is yet to come has risen to 55% after dropping through the spring.  About 8 in 10 say they are angry about the way things are going in the country today, including an astonishing 51% who say they are very angry.

Bill Gates: If 30-60% of Americans take coronavirus vaccine, ‘exponential spread’ will stop” via Audrey Conklin of FOX Business — Microsoft founder Gates said Tuesday that even if a minority of the U.S. population gets a coronavirus vaccine once available, that will be enough to slow its spread within the country. Gates has been critical about the United States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the country has hope, he said, because he thinks that by 2021, once the FDA approves an effective vaccine, “it will bring the pandemic to an end.” He said even if only 30 to 60% of the population receive a vaccine, that could be enough to slow and eventually stop the spread. He also said that the U.S. needs a vaccine that is “inexpensive and highly dispersable,” adding that he thinks AstraZeneca is furthest along.


Americans surprise Wall Street with spending boom during coronavirus” via Anne Riley Moffat and Jordyn Holman of Bloomberg — Home-improvement chains Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Cos., everything stores Walmart Inc. and Target Corp., and of course online behemoth Inc. each beat analysts’ sales forecasts in the summer quarter — and by billions of dollars apiece. Companies that have been able to pivot quickly to more online sales or already had established apps for curbside pickup have done particularly well, plus those that cater to a bored American shopper looking to spend. The recent spate of robust retail earnings have shown the power of consumer resiliency and adaptability. They also reinforce the staggering unpredictability of pandemic times.

It is no accident that Target is a COVID winner” via Sarah Halzack of Bloomberg Opinion — The big-box giant recorded an eye-popping 24% increase in comparable sales from a year earlier, far higher than the 9% advance analysts had estimated and its all-time highest quarterly gain on that measure. Online sales soared 195%, including strong increases in its drive-up and pickup options. Meanwhile, comparable sales in its brick-and-mortar stores boomed 10.9%. Many shoppers have adapted to the COVID-19 era by gravitating toward stores where they can do one-stop shopping. In some cases, they may have been pushed in this direction initially by circumstance. Others are consolidating their trips out of a preference to avoid crowds and protect their health. That change in behavior has clearly been a boon for Target.

Target was able to take advantage of changes in shopping during a pandemic.

Tourist tax declines slow in Hillsborough and Pinellas” via C.T. Bowen and Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — Tourist tax dollars are starting to rebound in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, but both locations remain significantly down from the same time last year. Tourism taxes collected by Pinellas County were down about 24% in June compared to the same month a year ago. Tourism officials, however, said they had braced for worse. I’m so glad our projections were wrong,” Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater CEO Steve Hayes said during a video conference meeting Wednesday. Pinellas numbers for the month showed tourist tax collections at $4.3 million, down from $5.7 million in June 2019. With the recent boost and the strong start of the year pre-pandemic, the county’s overall tourism tax collections are about 23% below where they were at this point last year.


Hawaii won’t allow tourists until at least October because of coronavirus surge” via Shannon McMahon of The Washington Post — The move replaces a program that was set to allow entry with a negative test on Sept. 1 and comes after a recent surge in coronavirus cases that prompted the state to impose quarantine restrictions on inter-island flights between Kauai, Hawaii Island and Maui. All residents and non-tourist visitors will continue to be subject to a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine, according to guidelines. Officials say any potential new reopening date will be announced in advance to allow the islands’ hospitality and tourism staff time to prepare for an influx of visitors.

Hawaii is off-limits to tourists until at least October. Image via Getty.

Cuba is about to start testing its own COVID-19 vaccine, authorities say” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — Cuba will start testing its own COVID-19 vaccine candidate next week, according to the official Cuban registry of clinical trials. The vaccine, Soberana 01, was produced by the state-run Finlay Institute of Vaccines and will be tested during a phase I and II trial involving 676 adults between 19 and 80 years old. The results will not be published until February 2021. A phase I clinical trial evaluates a drug’s side effects and toxicity. If the results are good, the process can continue to a phase II trial to determine if the medication works. It’s unclear if a late-stage, phase III trial, usually involving thousands of people to test a vaccine’s effectiveness and safety in a larger population, will follow.

Florida woman accused of coughing in cancer patient’s face is offered deal on assault charges” via Tiffini Theisen of the Orlando Sentinel — A 52-year-old Florida woman accused of flipping off a fellow shopper and intentionally coughing in her face has been offered a deal on assault charges, according to news reports. Debra Hunter was shown in a June 25 video at the Pier 1 in the Jacksonville Town Center walking up to a second woman and deliberately coughing in her face after making a lewd gesture toward the camera. Prosecutors said the state is offering Hunter a multipart sentence that includes anger management, payment of $150 restitution, an apology letter and no victim contact.


Marco Rubio’s curious summary of his committee’s Russia report” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — The Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan report that went significantly further than its predecessors in linking the 2016 Trump campaign to potential coordination with Russia. Rubio joined in a statement with five other committee Republicans in asserting something the report does not — that “the Committee found no evidence that then-candidate Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government.” The report we can see may not shed light on what specific evidence there is and how compelling it is. But it certainly indicates there is evidence that a close Paul Manafort ally might have been involved and even that Manafort himself could have been. Just because it may not be a smoking gun doesn’t mean it’s not evidence.


Meteorologists eyeing 3 — yes, 3 — tropical systems in the Atlantic” via Josh Fiallo of the Tampa Bay Times — The National Hurricane Center is monitoring three systems in the Atlantic that all have a chance of forming into tropical depressions or storms this week. Yes, three systems. But so far Florida is in the path of just one of the storms — Invest 98L, also called “Disturbance 2″ by meteorologists — is churning in the Atlantic. It has a 90% chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next day or two, according to the hurricane center’s Wednesday advisory. The hurricane center’s early models shows that it could potentially strike the state next week, perhaps Aug. 26. But there’s no way to tell right now what the strength of the system will be by then.

The tropics are heating up with three systems in the Atlantic — and one has a path aimed toward Florida” via Robin Webb, Brett Clarkson and Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The tropics are heating up with three disturbances moving through the Atlantic — two are likely to strengthen into tropical depressions with one forecast to move in the direction of Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center. One of the tropical waves is a fast-moving system located over the eastern Caribbean and has its sights set on Mexico or Central America, the hurricane center said. The other tropical wave was located about 1,000 miles east of the Windward Islands early Wednesday, making an approach toward the Caribbean Sea. Both are forecast to become tropical depressions this week, according to Wednesday’s 2 p.m. hurricane center advisory. A third wave developed over east Africa late Tuesday into early Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center shows NOAA is now tracking three disturbances in the Atlantic which could yield one and possibly two more tropical systems in the next few days.

Waterspout sweeps the coast, and more severe weather on the way to South Florida” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — A waterspout churning along the Golden Beach coastline captured the attention of social media and forecasters Wednesday afternoon. The waterspout was a part of lingering storms that have been sweeping South Florida, and other parts of the state, since Wednesday morning. A strong thunderstorm passing over parts of Miami, including Liberty City, and heading north had meteorologists concerned around 9 a.m. The National Weather Service issued an advisory to warn of potential funnel clouds associated with the thunderstorm, which was moving north at 15 mph. There is also some threatening weather in the upper Keys and South Miami-Dade, according to the service.

Appointed Emily Curington to the Lake County Court and Brett Szematowicz to the Pinellas County Court.

Florida chief justice apologizes for Bar exam failures” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Supreme Court’s chief justice apologized Wednesday for the state’s recent failure to administer the Bar exam for thousands of prospective lawyers. Chief Justice Charles Canady made the apology in a four-minute video released Wednesday afternoon. He vowed that the exam, which has been postponed multiple times, will occur in October. He also expressed a commitment to improve communications about the exams with the public. “We acknowledge and accept the criticism that has been directed at the court and the Board of Bar Examiners,” Canady said. “Our inability to offer the Bar examination in August was a failure. We apologize for that failure.”

Lynn Haven Mayor and attorney arrested on corruption charges” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Officers arrested Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson and City Attorney Joseph Albritton on corruption and fraud charges. The 64 federal indictments handed down are the latest allegations of misuse of public office to roil the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. “This indictment serves as a powerful message to all public officials and any other citizens who serves in a position of trust,” said Larry Keefe, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. The case is the follow-up to arrests made nine months ago in November 2019 involving five individuals, including Lynn Haven officials. The three pleaded guilty on charges related to $5 million in fraudulent invoices for hurricane recovery.

Attorneys for man slain by Orange sheriff’s deputy say bodycam shows he was no threat” via Grace Toohey and David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel — After reviewing the body-worn camera footage released Tuesday night, the attorneys who represent Salaythis Melvin, the 22-year-old man shot to death by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy, said he posed no threat to the deputy. “From what we’ve looked at so far and what we can see from our own eyes it’s clear that Salaythis Melvin was not a threat,” said Attorney Bradley Laurent at a news conference Wednesday. “It’s clear that he was just running. He was trying to get away.” Laurent spoke the day after the Orange County Sheriff’s Office released six body camera videos from the Aug. 7 encounter in the Florida Mall parking lot between deputies and the group of friends, though none clearly showed the shooting.

Pharmacist proposal draws renewed debate” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — After the state Legislature approved a law that expanded the types of health care that pharmacists can provide, a deal between physicians and pharmacists to fast-track collaborative practice arrangements might be unraveling. The Florida Board of Pharmacy announced this week that it was revisiting a proposed rule to include “heart/cardiovascular disease” and “mental health” on a list of chronic medical conditions that pharmacists would be authorized to treat. A meeting of the Board of Pharmacy Rules Committee has been scheduled for Aug. 24. Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine Chairman Joel Rose said adding the conditions to the proposal will cause delays in the rule adoption.

After judge’s rejection, internet cafe owners dropping lawsuit over Jacksonville ban” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Owners of some internet cafes shuttered by a Jacksonville law banning their use of “simulated gambling devices” are dropping a lawsuit they filed last year challenging the ban’s legality. The owners’ attorney had been trying since October to get a judge to block enforcement of a law that deemed their operations public nuisances. But after requests for an injunction were rejected for a third time last month, owners’ attorney Kelly Mathis and city attorney Tiffiny Pinkstaff jointly asked U.S. District Judge Brian Davis Tuesday to dismiss the lawsuit. Jacksonville’s City Council ordered all internet cafes using casino-style computer games to shut down last year, saying robberies and sometimes-fatal shootings at the businesses created a danger to the public.

Jacksonville’s Air National Guard lands new F-35 fighter jet after years of failed attempts” via Dan Scanlan of The Florida Times-Union — After a decade of failed efforts, the “Home of the Thunder” is getting ready to ride the Lightning as the U.S. Air Force plans the replacement of Jacksonville’s Air National Guard’s aging F-15C Eagles with the new F-35. The Air Force decision means the F-35 Lightning II fighter comes to the 125th Fighter Wing in 2024 after final efforts from lawmakers to get the supersonic aircraft here. The base is at the southwest side of Jacksonville International Airport. Fighter Wing officials announced the news on Facebook, saying it was based on “our professionalism and a legacy of excellence” in its mission after Air National Guard Director/Lt. Gen. Mike Loh released the decision.

Bonita Springs to borrow up to $5.1 million for land purchase required by BG Mines legal settlement” via Thaddeus Mast of the Naples Daily News — Bonita Springs is expected to take out a loan of up to $5.1 million to pay for land it is required to buy under a legal settlement with Bonita Grande Mine. The city council approved that staff work with Truist Bank, headquartered in North Carolina, to obtain the loan necessary to purchase 278 total acres of land on the former BG Mines property. The 1,268-acre former mine sits in northeast Bonita Springs and is not far from Citrus Park, a mobile home community north of Terry Street. Truist Bank is offering the city a 15-year loan with a fixed interest rate of 2.49%, Finance Director Anne Wright said.

Appeals court upholds suppression of Robert Kraft video” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — A state appeals court Wednesday said hidden-camera videos of Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and other men were improperly obtained and should be suppressed in prostitution cases involving Southeast Florida massage establishments. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal was a victory for Kraft, whose arrest in 2019 on misdemeanor prostitution charges drew national headlines. The panel upheld lower-court decisions to suppress the videos based, at least in part, on arguments that police violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches. Detectives monitored the video for five days, with cameras recording continuously. The ruling said police recorded at least 25 customers paying for sexual services.

Robert Kraft gets a win against Florida prosecutors.

Would you pay a toll to enter the Keys? Money needed to fight sea-level rise, leaders say” via Gwen Filoas of the Miami Herald — It’s one of the most spectacular scenic drives in the nation: the Overseas Highway that leads down the Florida Keys to mile marker zero on U.S. 1. Under blue skies, you can drift down the highway, along a collection of bridges, with the ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. So should it be a free ride? No, Monroe County Commissioners said Wednesday. Once again, they are considering a toll for visitors — not residents. Those who work in the Keys but live on the mainland are also not targeted, County Administrator Roman Gastesi said. But don’t load up your SunPass account just yet.

Water advocates file sewage spill lawsuit against city of Largo” via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — Environmental advocates are suing the city of Largo, accusing officials there of violating the Clean Water Act by discharging contaminated water into Tampa Bay. The allegations parallel cases brought in recent years against St. Petersburg, Gulfport and Sarasota County, highlighting sewage overflows and other discharges that advocates say are tainted with chemicals, including nitrogen, in violation of permits. The lawsuit, filed in federal court by the Suncoast Waterkeeper, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper and Our Children’s Earth Foundation, aims to force Largo to improve its sewer system and cut down on pollution. A lawyer for Largo, in a response to the advocates, wrote that the city discharges wastewater to a retention pond in Feather Sound, not “navigable waters” regulated by the federal Clean Water Act.

Medical marijuana product recalled” via the News Service of Florida — Medical-marijuana company Alpha Foliage, Inc. has recalled a product that was dispensed to patients in July because of a mold fungus, the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medicaid Marijuana Use announced. Alpha Foliage, which does business as Surterra Wellness, was ordered to recall the product, Granddaddy Purple Whole Flower, due to high levels of Aspergillus, a common indoor and outdoor mold. The state also ordered the company to notify all patients who received it. A review of state records shows that Surterra Wellness dispensed 17,448,318 ounces of smokable whole flower medical marijuana, a little more than 545 tons, in July.


Micaela Kirwan: 100 years ago, women secured the right to vote. Now it’s time to secure the safety of our loved ones fighting endless wars.” via Florida Politics — Aug. 18, 2020, marks the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment securing women’s right to vote. A lesser-known fact about the success of the suffrage movement is that it was partially fostered by women veterans of the First World War. Today, there is another chance to speak up. Right now, men and women are still deployed to places like Afghanistan and Syria, in harm’s way and ready to come home. I realize that criticisms of the “war” is not a criticism of our troops, but rather of the bureaucrats and politicians who have mismanaged these conflicts for nearly two decades. Americans can no longer afford to spend billions of dollars chasing elusive outcomes and having undefined missions.


Hey, Central Florida voters, you did good in the primaries” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Congratulations, Central Florida. You did good Tuesday. The primary election results suggest voters weren’t in a mood to be fooled, manipulated or otherwise trifled with. They turned away candidates who said one thing but did another, candidates who indulged in dirty political games and incumbents who had overstayed their welcomes. One theory is that pandemic confinement gave voters more time to burrow into the candidates and races, raising their political IQ while lowering the effectiveness of campaign ads. We don’t know if that’s true, but we do know that many of the outcomes left this region — and some places around the state — better off than they were.

Huge mistake” via Dwight Dickerson for the Gainesville Sun — [Veterans Affairs] referred me to Transformations Treatment Center. Transformations is the first treatment center I came to where I really felt this could be my last one. They gave me back my integrity. It is a safe environment to learn and grow and their staff hands down sets them apart from other treatment centers. Their level of concern and care is so far above what I have experienced anywhere else. But I am told that Transformations might not be able to take referrals from the VA anymore because a new company is administering the program. This would be a huge mistake. Please, I urge the VA and those making the decisions to allow Transformations to continue to serve veterans.


Florida hits another grim milestone. The state Department of Health reported 174 added fatalities from COVID-19 Wednesday, increasing Florida’s statewide death toll to 10,106.

— Florida also added 4,115 new coronavirus cases Wednesday to push the statewide total to more than 584.000. And more than 53,000 COVID-19 patients are now hospitalized in the Sunshine State. But Gov. DeSantis says it’s an improvement.

— COVID-19 is getting all the attention now, but DeSantis would also like you to be aware of other problems that have dropped out of the headlines: like mental illness and opioid overdoses

James Lis of Orlando has spent more than 20 years teaching, but he’s going to resign if he is forced back into the classroom tomorrow. Lis was among the witnesses in a civil trial where the teacher’s union is challenging the state’s order forcing schools to reopen.

— A deep dive on the aftermath of Florida’s pandemic primary. Gov. DeSantis says everything went smoothly and voting rights advocates agree.

— But Brad Ashwell with All Voting is Local says the November election won’t be as easy unless the state makes changes.

— Check-in with a Florida Man accused of making repeated visits to his 7-year-old neighbor’s window — wearing nothing at all.

To listen, click on the image below:


— ALOE —

WWE signs long-term lease of Amway Center for TV shows” via Jay Reddick of the Orlando Sentinel — After more than five months sitting dormant, Amway Center will be buzzing with activity in the weeks to come, thanks to WWE. The wrestling promotion’s weekly Raw and Smackdown TV shows, along with its pay-per-view events, will air live from the arena beginning this Friday, WWE officials confirmed Monday. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said the agreement with WWE was for the next 60 days and will include additional safety precautions for WWE talent and staff. “We’re extremely grateful to have WWE choose the Amway Center to help keep our Orlando venues’ staff working during the pandemic,” Dyer said during a Monday news conference.

Orlando’s Amway Center, the new home for WWE shows.

See any UFO’s in Northwest Florida? Department of Defense officials want to know about it” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — If “the truth is out there,” as the tag line for the old “X-Files” TV series insisted, it might just be flying across Northwest Florida skies — and the government wants to know about it. Earlier this month, the Department of Defense, under some pressure from Congress, established an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force. In the dry words of a DOD news release, the department established the task force ” … to improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs.” But, perhaps more than just improving its understanding of UAPs, the task force wants “to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.”

Busch Gardens names new president” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — Busch Gardens has announced a change of leadership, moving Stewart Clark from his role as theme park president to a new role as senior vice president of Zoo Commercial Operations for SeaWorld Entertainment. Neal Thurman, most recently president of Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor Los Angeles, has been named the park president of Busch Gardens Tampa and Adventure Island. Thurman, who will start on Sept. 8, has run Six Flags’ most-visited theme park since 2018. He previously worked as park president for Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio.

Everglades Wonder Gardens CEO Thomas Hecker resigns” via Thaddeus Mast of the Naples Daily News — Hecker resigned as president and CEO of the Bonita Springs Everglades Wonder Gardens after reinvigorating the faltering historic landmark for nearly four years. “I have greatly enjoyed assisting the Gardens reaching its full potential, growing its support and increasing its educational offerings,” Hecker said, according to a news release. The Wonder Gardens was losing money and attendance was shrinking when Hecker took over in 2017. Brothers Bill and Lester Piper opened a roadside attraction called the Everglades Reptile Garden in 1936. Travelers on Old 41 Road could stop and see an array of animals, including alligators, for a 25-cent admission.


Happy birthday to U.S. Rep. Kathy CastorMark Bubriski of Florida Power & Light, Matt Florell of St. Pete Polls, Janelle Hendren, and Bethany Swonson.


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 Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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