Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.26.20

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

In 1970, before there was Disney World or Interstate 4, four lawyers in not-all-that-big Orlando teamed up to create what has now become the GrayRobinson law firm, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on Wednesday.

Today, Orlando is the third most-visited city in the U.S. And GrayRobinson’s stats aren’t all that bad either: 262 lawyers and lobbyists, offices in Washington, D.C., and 14 Florida cities from Tallahassee to Key West, one of the state’s top-billing lobbying practices, and a slew of honors for the firm and individual attorneys.

But GrayRobinson’s Managing Partner, President and CEO Dean Cannon draws a straight line for today’s success right back to the man he considers a mentor, founding partner and chairman emeritus Charlie Gray.

GrayRobinson chairman emeritus Charlie Gray helps celebrate the firm’s 50th anniversary.

“Literally, as a first-year lawyer, I remember thinking ‘Man, I’d like to be like that Charlie Gray guy when I grow up,’” Cannon reflected. “He’s a great lawyer, but he’s also politically connected and active in the community.”

Within 18 months, Cannon would join GrayRobinson, working in the same department with Gray beginning in 1995.

“He introduced me to this concept — which I think is one of our great strengths — first, you’ve got to be a great technical expert, and there’s also a natural kinship between law, politics, and community participation. That’s true at the local level, the state level, and the federal level,” said Cannon, a former House Speaker.

The firm has seen robust growth over the last 25 years, much of it fueled by the acquisition of established firms in other communities throughout the state, a practice Cannon calls “a big part of our success.” One of those acquisitions was Cannon’s Tallahassee-based lobbying practice in 2016, bringing him back into the GrayRobinson fold.

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Sen. Ben Albritton said Tuesday that he tested positive for coronavirus.

The positive test, along with others for his wife and family, came about two weeks ago.

Albritton said he was “incredibly blessed” to have the support of dozens of people in the local community and political circles who helped him and his family. All have since recovered.

“God took very good care of us,” he said.

Albritton shared the news because, like the other lawmakers who have firsthand experience with the virus, he wanted the public to know that it’s “no joke.”

‘It’s no joke.’ Ben Albritton experiences COVID-19 firsthand.

“This is not just the flu,” he said. “It should be taken seriously … people should follow CDC guidelines … wear a mask.”

The admission makes Albritton the fourth lawmaker known to have contracted the virus after Sen. Rob Bradley and Reps. Randy Fine and Shevrin Jones.

Albritton’s warning about the seriousness of the virus echoes the sentiments of the lawmakers who came down with it before him — Jones put out a daily video journal on his Twitter describing his experience while Fine livestreamed on Facebook to warn others of the devastating effects of COVID-19.

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Breaking overnight — Rep. Anthony Sabatini’s crusade against masks suffered another loss after Circuit Judge David Frank ruled in favor of Gadsden County’s ordinance. Tuesday’s ruling marks the fifth time a judge has rejected the Lake County lawmaker’s argument that mask ordinances are unconstitutional. However, Frank delivered a second blow to Sabatini, telling him he could face judicial sanction if he continues filing anti-mask lawsuits.

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First on #FlaPolGeorge Meros joins Shutts & Bowen” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Meros Jr. has joined the Shutts & Bowen’s Tallahassee office as a partner. Meros brings more than three decades of experience in appellate law, governmental affairs and regulatory compliance with him to the firm. He has represented public and private clients in complex, high-stakes cases. In addition to lobbying for civil justice reform in Tallahassee, Meros was lead counsel for the Florida House of Representatives as it defended Florida’s redistricting plan. His keen understanding of the public sector and extensive experience in high-profile matters will expand both the litigation and government advocacy capabilities at Shutts & Bowen, the firm said in a news release. Meros, A Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent attorney, is the second major addition at Shutts & Bowen in recent weeks. He follows Julissa Rodriguez’s addition to the firm’s Appellate Practice Group. Rodriguez is the former Greenberg Traurig Miami Appellate Chair.

Congratulation to George Meros, who is joining Shutts & Bowen as a partner in its Tallahassee office.

— PANDEMIC POLLING —

With COVID-19, Floridians are finding themselves in uncharted territory; polling and data collection must act quickly to understand what is to come from these changes.

“We’ve been surveying large, random samples of Florida voters weekly since the pandemic exploded in mid-March,” writes Sachs Media’s Karen Cyphers. “Our goal was, and still is, to glean what people are thinking and feeling through these crazy times, and to see what trends may take shape.”

Feelings about the pandemic mostly fall along partisan lines, although everyone appears to be “frustrated and worried” in varying degrees. And when cases spike, Cyphers writes, negative emotions increase.

Over the past few months, a clearer picture is starting to appear — the practice of survey research is beginning to shift. Cyphers points to several notable trends in data collection:

— Response rates are spiking. It could be boredom, increase device use, or just the need to talk to someone. Surveys open and close in a shorter period.

— The representation is up as well. Samples have become increasingly diverse, as young voters — usually a challenging demographic to gauge — are stepping up in larger numbers.

— But political representation has dropped. “Typically, our breakdowns of Rs, Ds, and NPAs fall close to their share of the general population, with Republicans responding to surveys just slightly less than Democrats,” Cyphers says. “But not lately.”

What does this mean? Why are Republicans less likely to give opinions? This reluctance is similar to 2016 when Republican polling participants were hesitant to express their preference for Donald Trump; he won despite lower poll numbers compared to Hillary Clinton.

Another noticeable change — more angry responses and suspicion over the wording of questions, suggesting pollsters have a partisan slant. It is yet another strategy to account for during this long, and frequently frustrating pandemic.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Very appreciative that @CNN covered the vast majority of the Republican Convention last night. That was really good for CNN, while at the same time being good for our Country. Thank you!

@RealDonaldTrump: For our Country to be sending 80 million UNSOLICITED BALLOTS is very unfair and a road map to disaster. Even recent small and easier to control elections which did this are a catastrophic disaster. Fraudulent & missing Ballots like never seen before. 20% and 30% off. STOP!

@SamStein: I think the first rule when covering either of these conventions is to remind yourself that you’re not the target audience. The second is to remind yourself that you’re not a professional theater critic. The third is to remind yourself that you’re not always right.

@JoeLockhart: How is it Republicans are so concerned about violence in mainly peaceful protests because it threatens American lives but think wearing a mask, that saves lives, is a matter of personal freedom.

@NikkiFried: Jewish voters see past the lies and false promises Trump has spewed during his first term. And as he uses America’s top diplomat to further his partisan agenda, we will continue to see through his smoke and mirrors. We are not single-issue voters.

@JenLux: I desperately miss the boss’s courage & voice in our country’s conversation and not a day goes by without thinking where we’d be if he were still with us. Thank you for tirelessly encouraging us to serve a cause greater than ourselves

@AngieNixon: Way to change the narrative. How about the Senator focus on fixing the systemic issues he helped perpetuate as governor and now in the senate? By the way, he should ask his friends to fix the still broken unemployment system that is affecting the entire state.

Tweet, tweet:

 

— DAYS UNTIL —

Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 2; U.S. Open begins — 4; Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” rescheduled premiere in U.S. — 7; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 10; Rescheduled date for French Open — 32; First presidential debate in Indiana — 34; “Wonder Woman 1984” premieres — 37; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 38; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 41; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 42; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 47; Second presidential debate scheduled in Miami — 50; NBA draft — 51; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 51; NBA free agency — 54; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 55; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 57; 2020 General Election — 69; “Black Widow” premieres — 73; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 75; College basketball season slated to begin — 76; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 86; “No Time to Die” premieres — 86; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 99; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 165; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 177; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 310; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 331; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 338; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 436; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 534; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 576; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 618; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 771.

— CONVENTION NOTES —

Political stunts, missed opportunities, and compassionate conservatism” via Tim Alberta of Politico — Finally, someone made the convention feel conventional. After two nights of unusual programming — a blend of obsequious Trump tributes, apocalyptic warnings and inspired testimonials from average Americans — first lady Melania Trump restored a sense of normalcy Tuesday, closing the GOP convention’s second act with a speech that was remarkable for its restraint and deliberate adherence to etiquette. “I don’t want to use this precious time attacking the other side, because as we saw last week that kind of talk only serves to divide the country further,” she said. “I’m here because we need my husband to be our president and commander in chief for four more years.”

Donald Trump uses Republican convention to try to rewrite coronavirus history, casting himself as lifesaving hero” via Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post — Faced with a pandemic that has killed more than 175,000 Americans, President Trump used glitzy video and misleading testimonials to spin a tale of heroism and resolve far removed from the grim reality of a country in the throes of an uncontrolled public health crisis. At the Republican National Convention, Trump was hailed as a bold and lifesaving leader who “was right” on the novel coronavirus while Democrats, doctors and pundits were wrong from the beginning.

‘Fighting for you’: First Lady makes her case for Trump vote” via Steve Peoples of the Associated Press — First Lady Melania Trump portrayed her husband as an authentic, uncompromising leader in a Rose Garden address as President Donald Trump turned to family, farmers and the trappings of the presidency to boost his reelection chances on the second night of the scaled-down Republican National Convention. Mrs. Trump offered a polished portrait of Trump’s presidency Tuesday night that was often at odds with the crises, division and unforgiving actions of his administration. But it was part of a broader effort to show a more forgiving side of a combative president who will soon face the voters.

Lt. Gov. Nunez, Pam Bondi present stark visions in RNC spotlight” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Bondi focused her attack on Democratic nominee Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden, whom Republicans yearn to make a central issue of the campaign. Using the kind of pitched rhetoric familiar to those who followed her career in public life and as a commentator, the lawyer-turned-lobbyist took a star turn as a prosecutor, indicting the Bidens while extolling the President, in a choice between who is “saving” and who is “swindling” America. … The Lieutenant Governor posited a stark choice between a “dark road of chaos and government control or freedom and opportunity.” To that end, Donald Trump, for whom “our country yearned” in 2016,  “a leader who would work tirelessly,” who has “shown unwavering resolve in confronting tyrants in Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, and China.”

GOP faces questions about vetting after abruptly canceling convention speaker who promoted anti-Semitic tweet” via Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — The Republican Party’s choreographed coronation of President Trump at its convention this week was quickly upended by controversial remarks — both new and in the past — by speakers, including one who encouraged her Twitter followers to read an anti-Semitic QAnon conspiracy theory. The missteps — particularly the speaking role assigned to Mary Ann Mendoza, whose appearance at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday was abruptly canceled — served as another distraction to the GOP’s four-day political festivities and raised concerns about how rigorously the speakers were vetted by party and campaign officials before the convention.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Donald Trump goes dark on TV as early voting looms” via Alex Isenstadt of Politico —Trump is getting pummeled on the TV airwaves, alarming Republicans and prompting the president’s allies to plead for outside help. August has been a blowout: Trump has been outspent on TV more than 2-to-1 over the past month, according to the media tracking firm Advertising Analytics. And in the last two weeks, Joe Biden is outpacing the president more than 5-to-1. The shortfall comes at a pivotal moment in the campaign, with Joe Biden essentially monopolizing TV advertising in key battlegrounds before the start of early voting. The president is not slated to be on the airwaves anywhere during the final week of the month, as Republicans hold their convention.

Trump campaign manager: Mail-in voting state states that have used it before” via Caitlin Oprysko of POLITICO — “I think in the states in which mail-in voting has already occurred, it’s fine by me,” Bill Stepien said in an interview with POLITICO Playbook authors Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman. “They’ve shown in most instances that it works — it’s been proven over years.” Stepien went on to say that the campaign’s issue with mail-in voting lies largely with governors looking to implement or expand the practice with little time to prepare ahead of November’s election, singling out Democratic leaders in particular. “I think our concern on the campaign is when 80 days, 90 days out from Election Day, you have Democrat governors changing the rules,” he argued, calling it “a scary proposition.”

Bill Stepien says the mail-in voting system has worked well in states that have used it before. 

‘It’s been COVID, COVID, COVID’: pro-Trump super PAC plans ad blitz on the economy” via Gabby Orr of POLITICO — America First Action, the largest super PAC supporting Trump’s reelection, is about to go all-in on the economy. Even as voters cope with the ongoing blows from COVID-19, the group is betting that most Americans will still vote their pocketbooks this November, supporting the candidate they believe is best equipped to rebuild an economy that has been devastated by coronavirus-related shutdowns and faltering consumer confidence. Next week, the PAC will launch an $18.6 million ad buy across North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania questioning Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s plan to fix the economy.

Trump’s scare tactics aren’t working on women in the suburbs” via Michael Kruse of POLITICO — The suburbs make up the terrain on which the coming election almost certainly will be decided. The suburbs almost always are a political battlefield, or at least have been for the past generation or more. And if Trump can’t win or even loses a sufficient slice of his support in Cornelius, one of the whitest and most reliably Republican of the key suburbs in this critical swing state, he probably can’t win North Carolina, according to pollsters and strategists. And if he can’t win North Carolina, they say, he probably can’t win reelection. Hence the message he’s been delivering with increasing frequency and ferocity of late, appealing to the “Suburban Housewives of America,” charging that Biden wants to “destroy your neighborhood and your American dream.” The response I got from actual suburban women here on Monday, though, was a mixture of eye-rolls, laughter and confusion.

‘He’s going to be unleashed’: Republican DOJ appointees urge against Trump second term” via Natasha Korecki of POLITICO — A group of onetime Republican presidential appointees who served as senior ethics or Justice Department aides are endorsing Biden for president, warning that Trump has “weaponized” the executive branch and is putting in peril the legitimacy of the Justice Department. “I think a lot of us are extremely alarmed, frankly, at the threat of autocracy,” Donald B. Ayer, former deputy attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration, said in an interview. “He’s going to be unleashed if he gets a second term. I don’t know what’s going to stop him.”

Trump campaign spends big on criminal justice online ads” via Sara Fischer and Alayna Treene of Axios — In an effort to lure voters around issues like race relations, the Trump campaign has poured big money into Facebook ads about criminal justice reform. It’s a huge departure from his monthslong campaign strategy of targeting hard-line supporters with ads discussing topics like the “fake news” media and immigration. Now, the campaign is pushing more aggressively to address newer issues that experts think voters will consider more seriously in November. Top Republicans think that the election will hinge on four key issues — the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, China and race. Polling suggests that the president’s campaign fails miserably on race relations.

How Trump’s hard line against immigration could hurt him in Florida” via Sabrina Rodriguez of Politico — Trump has long touted his policy on Venezuela as part of his commitment to fight socialism, but he has repeatedly refused to offer Venezuelan exiles protection from deportation. With the election less than three months away, Trump has made Latinos in South Florida central to his reelection in the battleground state, repeatedly sending top administration officials down to Miami to tout his hard-line against Cuba and Venezuela. The Republican National Convention will feature the two countries, as multiple speakers discuss their experiences with socialism — and warn that Democrats would replicate the hard-left policies of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.

Calling Colombians: With Florida in play, Trump and Joe Biden reach out to a Latino ‘sleeping elephant’” via Tim Padgett of WLRN — Colombians are the third largest Latino community in Florida, behind Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Yet you don’t see U.S. presidential candidates making pilgrimages to Kendall to eat Colombian buñuelos the way they trek to Little Havana to drink Cuban coffee. That lack of attention to Colombians seemed to change a lot last week. Trump’s National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien, traveled to Bogotá to meet with Colombian President Iván Duque and discuss Trump’s new multibillion-dollar financing initiative to promote democracy and economic growth in Latin America — especially in Colombia. But politically, O’Brien’s more important stop was the day before — in West Palm Beach, where he unveiled the initiative to Colombian expats.

Trump’s fights are their fights. They have his back unapologetically.” via Trip Gabriel of The New York Times — As Trump takes center stage at the Republican National Convention this week, he maintains a core of rock-solid supporters who believe he is fighting in America’s best interests and has achieved many of his goals, which are their goals too. He has aggressively cultivated these voters over the last few months with scathing criticism of vandalism that has occasionally arisen from mostly peaceful protests calling for racial justice, and by boasting that, pre-coronavirus, he had built an economy second to none. For Democrats and many independents, Trump has shattered the norms of presidential behavior with racist tweets and divisive policies; his use of federal agencies to advance his personal interests; and, perhaps most important, his detachment from managing the pandemic, which has killed more than 175,000 Americans.

A set of core supporters will always have Donald Trump’s back.

Assignment editors — Florida Trump Victory will host a MAGA Meet-Up at its field office in Tallahassee, featuring Congressional candidate Byron Donalds, 12:45 p.m., 2121 W. Pensacola Street, Unit 1B, Tallahassee.

Assignment editors — The Biden for President Florida and Florida Democratic Party will be holding two events: ‘Letter to the editor training’ featuring former Sen. Bill and Grace Nelson with Florida seniors on Social Security and health care; a conversation with Floridians who have fled dictatorships on ‘Trump’s authoritarian tactics and assault on American democracy.’ For times, details or to RSVP, click here.

— JOINING FORCES —

Gun safety activist group Everytown Victory Fund is partnering with Priorities USA Action, the political arm of progressive advocacy and grassroots organization Priorities USA, to spend $6 million on a Florida campaign to defeat Trump.

According to a joint statement, the advertising campaign includes $4 million for TV, which will run in the Orlando and Tampa media markets, and $2 million in digital ads, which will run statewide.

This media buy is Everytown’s first ad spend in Florida this election cycle, and its first major buy in the presidential campaign.

Everytown Victory Fund is partnering with Priorities USA Action for a major media buy in Florida.

“Trump has chosen the gun lobby over the safety of the American people at every turn,” said Everytown Victory Fund chief John Feinblatt. “Together with Priorities, we’re going all-in to make sure Trump’s a one-term president. Everytown has an aggressive plan to mobilize voters in Florida, who know the pain of gun violence all too well and are poised to play a decisive role in electing Joe Biden, a proven gun sense champion.”

In a recent Civis Analytics poll of 13 battleground states, including Florida, the issue of gun safety was among the most impactful at moving voters to support Biden. Another survey, this one from Equis Research, shows that Latino voters in Florida consider opposition to background checks on gun sales to be the most disqualifying position for a candidate.

Florida’s media campaign is a part of the two groups’ commitment to spending $60 million on the 2020 election, more than double what they spent the 2018 midterms.

— 2020 —

Political ads in Florida already top 2016 totals” via Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout of POLITICO — A pandemic and presidential politics have made 2020 an unpredictable year in Florida, but there’s one thing the Sunshine State can count on this fall: A record-breaking deluge of political ads is coming. Florida, the battleground state likely to make or break Trump’s reelection chances, will be awash in television ads as part of a frantic effort to win the state’s 29 electoral votes. The $137 million spent so far in Florida tops second-place Pennsylvania, which has seen $101 million in ad spending, and already has surpassed the total of $133 million spent in Florida in 2016. As the nation’s largest swing state, Florida has long been a target for national candidates and committees.

Florida is a must-win state for Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and the ad buying proves it. Image via AP.

Report shows 18,000 mail-in ballots rejected in Florida in March primary, and 538,000 nationwide” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — A report estimates 18,000 mail-in ballots were rejected in Florida in the March presidential primary, with more than 558,000 rejected nationwide. The report, which comes amid attempts by Trump to inaccurately portray mail-in voting as “fraud,” instead shows a much greater danger of legitimate ballots not being counted. The report, by National Public Radio, showed a much higher rejection rate nationwide in the presidential primaries than the more than 318,000 rejections in 2016.

Truce reached in ballot images battle” via Jim Saunders of The News Service Of Florida — A legal fight about whether elections supervisors in eight large counties should be required to preserve digital ballot images will be put on hold until after the November elections, but the images would be available if Florida needs a recount in the race between Trump and Biden. Attorneys for Democratic plaintiffs announced an agreement to temporarily halt the dispute involving elections supervisors in Broward, Orange, Lee, Duval, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Miami-Dade counties. The announcement came after the supervisors last week filed a notice of appeal following a Leon County circuit judge’s refusal to dismiss the lawsuit.

‘Lifelong Republican’ turned Democrat faces long odds against Matt Gaetz” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — “Immature, dishonorable and a bad leader.” Those are the words Democrat challenger Phil Ehr has used to describe Gaetz. Ehr’s harsh critique is hardly remarkable, particularly in this era of gloves-off politics. Perhaps more remarkable, however, is the way Ehr has portrayed himself to the voters who elected Gaetz in 2017. In his bid for Congressional District 1, Ehr will need to tap into the district’s deep pool of Republican voters to unseat Gaetz. Swaying the right-leaning district, however, will be no small task. What’s more, the last Democrat to run for the seat, Jennifer Zimmerman, fell short with only 32% in 2018. In 2016, Democratic challenger Steven Specht garnered only 31% of the district’s vote.

GOP has high hopes of taking down Stephanie Murphy” via Mike Synan of Florida Daily — If Republicans want to take back the U.S. House in November, they will likely need more than one Florida congressional seat to do it. One seat they hope to gain is the one currently held by U.S. Rep. Murphy, which includes all of Seminole County and the northern and eastern portion of Orange County. To win the seat, Republican voters picked Dr. Leo Valentin in a close primary earlier this month. “We’re really energized, and I think the sentiment that comes to mind is grateful for everyone that put their time and effort into achieving this victory,” Valentin said.

Meet Anna Paulina Luna: The Republican trying to wrest CD 13 from Charlie Crist” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — While the seat has been Crist’s since 2016, Luna may give him a run for his money, literally, on a challenging campaign trail. Luna’s primary win came in a quick turnaround leading up to the August election. Luna is the first formidable opponent Crist has faced since he was first elected to Congress in 2016. Luna isn’t a run-of-the-mill politician, who is what the GOP is counting on to help her oust the incumbent. She is using what sets her apart to her advantage — she identifies with the traditional democratic base and urban communities in ways a lot of Republicans lack. To have a shot, Luna will have to stretch her appeal across party lines.

Anna Luna is one of the GOP opponents who are backing term limits.
Anna Pauline Luna is looking to unseat Charlie Crist in CD 13.

Luna hosted panel at We Build The Wall event” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — She led a panel discussion on border security at an event hosted by the nonprofit, whose leaders were indicted last week on charges that they defrauded donors. We Build The Wall raised more than $25 million to fund a privately-built section of border wall. The nonprofit hosted the three-day event last July in Sunland Park, New Mexico. It was called Symposium at the Wall: Cartels, Trafficking and Asylum. Last week, We Build The Wall’s leaders, including President Donald Trump’s former adviser Stephen Bannon, an Air Force veteran and a Florida venture capitalist, were indicted by federal prosecutors.

Brian Mast’s old social media posts about sex with 15-year-old girls, rape surface in South Florida re-election fight” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel — Mast joked about rape and referenced sex with 15-year-old girls in old Facebook comments to a friend who is now his campaign manager. The messages were posted years ago, but they’ve surfaced in Mast’s tough re-election fight against Democratic challenger Pam Keith. One of the comments involves a Feb. 23, 2009, photo of a bar outing posted by Rocco LeDonni, who is now Mast’s campaign manager. The photo was taken during LeDonni’s vacation to South Africa. Mast commented, “im so proud of you… i hope you hook up with at least fifteen 15 year olds over there…. its legel there right.” Two years later, LeDonni asked in a May 20, 2011, post: “Anyone have any good pick up lines for this weekend considering according to the crazy christian radio guy the world may end on sunday?” “How about don’t turn this rape into a murder,” Mast responded. In a statement Tuesday, Mast apologized for the posts. “A decade ago when I was in the Army, and following my injury, I made disgusting and inappropriate jokes that I am embarrassed to have associated with my name today,” he said. “I am sorry about that part of who I was, and I strive every day to be a better example for my kids.”

Far-right candidate Laura Loomer is outraising incumbent Democrat Lois Frankel in her run for Congress” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Loomer is banned from social media, but she’s still been able to haul in more campaign cash than incumbent Democrat Frankel. Loomer has raised nearly $1.2 million since she launched her campaign in August 2019. That’s about $300,000 more than the $856,823 Frankel has raised. Loomer has raked in that cash thanks in part to a national right-wing following generated through provocative stunts. Loomer once chained herself to Twitter’s New York City headquarters to protest what she considers to be social media censorship. Despite Loomer’s fundraising success, she will have a tough time unseating Frankel in the Nov. 3 election. Hillary Clinton won the Democratic-leaning district by nearly 20 percentage points over Trump four years ago.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell prepares for tough fight against Carlos Giménez in CD 26” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be at the forefront of voters’ minds at the ballot box this fall. Giménez will be in a unique position, having helmed Florida’s most populous county, which also hosted the biggest concentration of coronavirus cases in the state. That’s not entirely the Mayor’s fault. Proximity allows the virus to spread, meaning larger metropolitan areas have consistently been hit harder than rural ones, on average. Mucarsel-Powell has acknowledged the Mayor’s high name-ID in the district could benefit him in the General Election. Nicole Rapanos, a Giménez campaign spokesperson, also pointed to a Republican-backed survey showing positive numbers for Giménez.

— LEG. CAMPAIGNS — 

Legislative candidates hold online day of action for Climate and Defense Initiative” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Democrats running for Florida Legislature are amplifying an environmental message starting Tuesday. The Florida Climate and Defense Initiative held a “Day of Action.” In the pandemic era, that means 24 hours of social media activism. “This is being championed by young progressive because it is our generation who will be most affected by climate change,” said Rock Aboujaoude, a Democrat running in House District 10 and the initiative’s chief architect. More than 40 candidates for Congress, Senate or House signed on to boost the climate agenda. That included seven listed as “framers” for the initiative, including Senate candidates Rachel Brown, Heather Hunter, Steven Meza and Katherine Norman and House candidates Aboujaoude, Elijah Manley, Anselm Weber and Lloyd Dabbs.

—”Jason Brodeur gets Florida Chamber’s nod for state Senate bid” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Jason Brodeur gets thumbs-up from the Florida Chamber.

Firefighter unions back José Javier Rodríguez in SD 37” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Two influential firefighter unions are endorsing Rodríguez as he seeks reelection to Senate District 37. The Florida Professional Firefighters (FPF) and the South Florida Council of Fire Fighters (SFCFF) are backing Rodríguez over his Republican opponent, Ileana Garcia. Both organizations are nonpartisan and have endorsed members of each party in the past. “Sen. José Javier Rodríguez has a proven track record of support and appreciation for the work firefighters and first responders put in every day,” said FPF President David Perez. “The Florida Professional Firefighters strongly endorse Sen. José Javier Rodríguez for reelection to District 37 and welcome his return to Tallahassee as a passionate ally for our members and all organized labor.”

— DOWN BALLOT —

Bruce Antone shouldn’t be in Orange School Board runoff, primary loser claims” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — A candidate who lost his race for the Orange County School Board in last week’s primary election still wants Antone knocked off the ballot, arguing the longtime state legislator is ineligible to run for the school board because he does not live in the district he wants to represent. Antone, who could not run for his Florida House seat again because of term limits, on Aug. 18 came in second in the three-way race for the school board’s District 5 seat. Vicki-Elaine Felder, a veteran teacher, came in first. Since neither won at least 50% plus one vote, Felder and Antone are to be in a runoff in November. Michael Scott finished third last week and so was eliminated from the race. But he thinks Antone was wrongly on the ballot and is continuing the pursue the lawsuit he filed last month that challenges Antone’s candidacy.

Bruce Antone has no place in the Orange School Board runoff, the primary loser says. 

Election law violation hearing set for PAC led by Eric Robinson” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Florida Elections Commission soon will consider whether a political committee run by Robinson violated election law. Robinson, who lost his reelection bid on Tuesday, chairs the “Making a Better Tomorrow” committee, which is the subject of a complaint scheduled to be heard by the Elections Commission on Aug. 26. The accusation against Making a Better Tomorrow is for alleged election law violations stemming from the 2017 Sarasota City Commission election. The complaints alleged that former candidate Martin Hyde, the Sarasota GOP and two committees chaired by Robinson schemed to get around a prohibition on partisan campaigning in city races, which technically are nonpartisan, by moving money from Hyde to a political committee and ultimately to the party, which paid for a mailer saying the party backed Hyde.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

After months on lockdown, Florida forges plan for visitation at elder-care centers” via John Pacenti of The Palm Beach Post — Jerome Mazursky didn’t know if his wife, Rosalyn, recognized him as her husband anymore after eight years in an elder-care center. What he did know is his daily visits to the nursing home made her smile, despite the Alzheimer’s disease slowly robbing her of life. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and he was no longer allowed to see his wife of 66 years after the Governor banned visitation to long-term care facilities because of COVID-19. Mazursky pleaded with management at the Vi at Lakeside Village nursing home near Lantana to allow him to visit her, even through a window. They refused, he said. “It was like dealing with a corporation,” he said.

Assignment editors — The Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long-Term Care Facilities will hold a meeting, 11 a.m. The meeting will be streamed and be available on The Florida Channel. Public comment has been made available through an online portal, which can be found here.

Former Florida health official, Google working on COVID-19 dashboard for US schools: 5 details” via Laura Dyrda of Becker’s Hospital Review — Former Florida health department data expert Rebekah Jones is teaming up with Google and FinMango, a nonprofit organization, to develop a COVID-19 monitor to track cases emerging in schools throughout the U.S., according to a report. The website, called The COVID Monitor, will track cases from kindergarten through colleges across the nation. The site will include COVID-19 data from across the web, gathering information from news stories, health departments and news releases. The website also will accept anonymous tips from teachers and work to verify the information with school districts before reporting on the confirmed cases.

Rebekah Jones is working with Google on an accurate COVID-19 dashboard. Image via Rebekah Jones.

Prison virus toll keeps climbing” via The News Service of Florida — Florida corrections officials reported 77 new coronavirus cases among prisoners and staff, as well as two more inmate deaths related to COVID-19. The number of inmates who have died from complications of COVID-19 climbed to 86 on Tuesday, with 40 percent of the deaths occurring in the month of August. Three correctional officers also have died after contracting the deadly respiratory illness this month. Since Monday, an additional 35 inmates and 42 workers have tested positive for the virus. In total, 15,401 inmates and 2,455 corrections workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in March, according to data by the state Department of Corrections.

UF part of convalescent plasma trial” via The News Service Of Florida — University of Florida Health enrolled two patients in a national clinical trial about convalescent blood plasma and whether it can reduce the effects of COVID-19. UF Health is one of 50 medical centers nationwide taking part in the clinical trial, which is expected to enroll 600 patients. Enrolled patients must have a mild form of COVID-19 but be at risk of developing more severe cases because of immunity issues, their ages, lung disease or diabetes, Lisa Merck, a physician who is vice-chair of research in the UF College of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine and site principal investigator, said in a prepared statement.

— BACK TO SCHOOL? —

Department of Health says school COVID-19 numbers published in error” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — One day after the Florida Department of Health published a report saying Duval County had 24 school-related positive COVID-19 cases and three college-related cases in less than two weeks, the agency removed the reports from its website. Monday, The Florida Times-Union reported on a new, school-focused COVID-19 report published on the Florida Department of Health’s website. The report said 559 COVID-19 cases related to elementary, middle and high schools were recorded between Aug. 10 and Sunday. It also said an additional 1,351 elementary, middle and high school-related COVID-19 cases were recorded by the department between March 1 and Aug. 10. Now, Alberto Moscoso, the Florida Department of Health’s director of communications, says the report was a draft and “inadvertently made available.” The link to the report now leads to a 404 error page.

School reopening ruling appeal, triggering stay” via The News Service Of Florida — A day after a Leon County circuit judge rejected an order by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran that schools reopen for in-person learning, attorneys for the state have quickly taken the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal. A notice of appeal was filed at the Tallahassee-based appeals court. The filing triggered an automatic stay that puts on hold the ruling by so circuit Judge Charles Dodson, who issued a temporary injunction against major parts of the order. The notice of appeal did not detail arguments that the state will make at the appeals court. It also was not immediately clear how long it will take the court to consider the case.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran gets a slapdown by a Loen County judge. 

Thousands of students leave Broward elementary schools” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Thousands of elementary school students have left Broward schools this year, likely due to the district’s decision to start all classes online. Some families are choosing home schooling or charter schools, while others may be just delaying their child’s education until school campuses reopen to students. Broward started its new school year Aug. 19, the first in South Florida. Palm Beach and Miami-Dade schools start online Aug. 31, so it’s unclear whether they will see similar declines. Enrollment in Broward’s district-run schools is down to about 215,000. That’s a decline of about 7,600 students, or 3.5%, from last year. Most of the students — about 5,100 — are in elementary schools, representing a 5.5% drop.

Hillsborough, Pinellas schools move forward with reopening plans after judge says order to open schools was unconstitutional” via Daniel Figueroa IV of WMNF — The Hillsborough and Pinellas County school boards met one day after a judge said Education Commissioner Corcoran’s order to reopen schools in August was unconstitutional. The ruling was discussed at the meetings but no action was taken. On Monday a Leon County judge ruled in favor of the Florida Education Association’s assertion that Corcoran’s order to open schools was unconstitutional. Hillsborough School board attorney Jim Porter said the ruling is good news. Has to be a limit and has to have a balance. “The judge recognized that the decision about opening schools and running of schools belongs solely and squarely with local school boards, not in Tallahassee,” Porter said. So that’s a big win in the idea of local government control. That’s a very positive ruling.”

Pinellas School officials celebrate first-day success despite positive COVID-19 cases in schools” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Michael Greco applauded the district for what he described as a successful first day. That praise came despite reports late Monday that three students and three staff members tested positive for COVID-19, affecting at least three schools and one district facility. The meeting had almost no discussion about the newly reported cases. Three speakers showed up for public comment at the meeting to speak on general topics, those not included on the agenda. Of those, two spoke out about the new cases and questioned what School Board members planned to do to continue keeping students, teachers and faculty safe. None of the board members present responded and adjourned the meeting immediately following comments.

Polk schools: Boone Middle School, Bartow schools warned of COVID-19 cases” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Ledger — It took exactly one day after the start of the school year for COVID-19 to enter Polk County public schools.  District officials emailed a letter to the parents of Haines City’s Boone Middle School on Monday evening and Bartow HighSchool/Bartow International Baccalaureate/Summerlin Academy on Tuesday to let them know that “an individual… has tested positive for COVID-19.” “Any students or staff members who have been in close contact with this individual will be directly contacted within 24 to 48 hours to discuss how long they should self-quarantine and other health-related instructions,” district officials wrote. They are prohibited by federal law from identifying the infected person.

Universities try to stem coronavirus cases” via Ana Ceballos of The News Service of Florida — University officials have started suspending fraternities and punishing students who flout coronavirus-safety measures, as schools grapple with cases of the virus at the beginning of the fall semester. University of Miami President Julio Frenk said students have already been evicted from their dorm rooms and suspensions have been initiated for violations that could potentially put other people at risk of getting sick. Florida State University President John Thrasher was “deeply concerned” that clusters of students were defying the university’s health guidelines by holding house parties and participating in large gatherings without wearing face masks or social distancing. One “open house party” held on Sunday led to the arrests of seven students,

The University of Miami confirmed more than 140 COVID cases during its first week back” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — The University of Miami announced Friday that four students living in the dorms had tested positive for COVID-19, but didn’t mention that more than 130 other people had also tested positive during the first week of the fall semester. The public only found out about the additional novel coronavirus cases Monday, when the private university based in Coral Gables released an online COVID-19 dashboard to track how the health crisis impacts UM. “We are making decisions for the entire community, but members of the community also need to make their own decisions, and they need to make decisions based on information,” said President Julio Frenk in a news release. “The worst you can do in an emergency is not communicate truthfully because that gets people much more anxious than knowing what is actually happening.”

11 arrested at a house party thrown by banned FSU fraternity” via The Associated Press — Eleven people were arrested Sunday in connection with a party hosted by a fraternity that was banned by Florida State University for hazing and alcohol violations earlier this year, campus police said. Police arrested seven students affiliated with Alpha Tau Omega fraternity on charges of hosting an open house party where alcohol was served to minors, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Four of those arrested were charged with underage possession of alcohol. The arrests came as the university grapples with keeping students safe as they return to campus during the coronavirus pandemic. Campus police said in a report that they saw two women leaving the party with drinks around 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

FGCU fraternities suspended after hosting parties” via The News Service of Florida — A week after resuming in-person classes, Florida Gulf Coast University suspended two fraternities for hosting large parties over the weekend that appear to have violated the school’s coronavirus-related guidelines. “After what seemed to be a good start to the fall semester under modified conditions, some of our students reportedly have chosen to ignore their responsibility to the university community and our neighbors,” FGCU President Mike Martin said in a prepared statement. Martin said the fraternities were suspended after university officials received reports of large parties on Friday night. Martin said the party organizers and participants put the university “at risk of having to close the campus and convert to fully online class delivery.”

— CORONA LOCAL —

South Florida COVID-19 infections remain low as officials weigh further reopening measures” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — COVID-19 infection rates in South Florida have been dropping for weeks. Now, chatter is heating up about additional reopening measures as officials weigh safety risks. The share of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has been dropping in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties for weeks. The same is true for the raw number of new infections, aside from one blip last week in Miami-Dade where a lab submitted weeks-worth of data all at once. Hospitalizations are also plummeting in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Broward has not seen as consistent a drop just yet, though numbers are down there from last week to this week. That’s led officials to float reopening more portions of the region’s economy to help workers and businesses get back on track.

Restaurant dining rooms set to reopen soon in Miami-Dade as COVID spread eases” via Douglas Hanks, Carlos Frías and Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade will let restaurant dining rooms reopen Aug. 31 after nearly two months of emergency closures to fight the spread of COVID-19, loosening the rules as the county’s infection rate hovers near the redline level of 10%, according to people briefed on the pending change. The move by Giménez follows pressure from city leaders, restaurant owners and others. Hours before Giménez made his announcement, Hialeah’s Mayor declared he would order city police to stop enforcing county restrictions that since July 9 have banned most indoor dining at commercial establishments. Giménez’s decision, shared with city mayors and restaurant owners in private calls Tuesday, sets up another test for Miami-Dade as it recovers from its second surge in COVID cases.

Maimi-Dade restaurant dining rooms are set to reopen.

Palm Beach County weighs plans for Phase 2 reopening; playgrounds open Thursday” via Wells Dusenbury and Lois K. Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Kids enjoying playgrounds. School buses doing test runs. Officials readying to reopen school buildings. Momentum kept mounting Tuesday for Palm Beach County to move into Phase 2 of reopening from COVID-19. County and school district officials made a wave of announcements, giving one of its largest overviews yet of what the next stage of reopening will look like. A Phase 2 reopening would mark the next stage in this pandemic, further loosening restrictions and allowing certain businesses and retail establishments to operate at reduced capacities. A date hasn’t been decided for Phase 2, but the county’s reopening plans have kept growing as the rate of new cases and hospitalizations declines.

Seminole Tribe to complete reopening casinos” via The News Service of Florida — The Seminole Tribe announced its Immokalee casino and hotel will reopen Monday, the last of the tribe’s properties to restart operations after being shut down March 20. Safety measures will require temperature checks and wearing masks for guests to enter. Occupancy is limited to 50%. Plexiglas barriers have been set up to create separation between players at table games, and “alternating” slot machines have been deactivated to ensure social distancing, according to the tribe’s website. When the shutdown occurred, the tribe said it employed 14,000 people in the state.

— MORE LOCAL —

Orange County mask enforcement takes gentle approach — for now” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Inspectors assigned to the compliance teams say they understand the awkwardness spawned by a pandemic that has forced business owners accustomed to striving to make customers happy to also serve as mask police. Businesses deemed to be out of compliance are admonished in writing, directed to review face-masking and other safety requirements posted on the county’s website and warned to expect a follow-up visit. But the county often uses a light touch even with those who aren’t following the rules. “We don’t want to make things worse for anyone,” said Tim Boldig, the county’s interim code-enforcement chief and supervisor of the five, three-person compliance teams that call on restaurants, gyms and other businesses.

Martin County Commissioners pass new mask mandate” via Scott Sutton of WPTV — Martin County leaders passed a new mask mandate Tuesday after the first one expired earlier this month. The new ordinance passed by a vote of 3-2. Commissioners Sarah Heard, Ed Ciampi and Doug Smith voted to support the measure while Commissioners Stacy Hetherington and Harold Jenkins voted against the ordinance. The first mask mandate expired on Aug. 7 and was replaced with an ordinance that simply encouraged people to wear a face covering. The new mandate includes several exemptions and required a simple majority vote in order to pass. Offenders who do not abide by the ordinance can be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $250 for the third offense and each subsequent offense.

Venice approves 30-day mask ordinance on 4-3 vote” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — An ordinance requiring masks to be worn in public where social distancing cannot be enforced will be in effect in the city of Venice for the next 30 days, following a 4-3 vote by the Venice City Council. Council Member Helen Moore, who voted against the ordinance during the first-reading at an Aug. 3 special meeting, proved to be the swing vote, as she joined Mayor Ron Feinsod and fellow council members Rich Cautero and Mitzie Fiedler in support of the ordinance. Because only five council members were present at the Aug. 3 reading, the ordinance advanced on a 3-2 vote. Moore said that an email from administrators of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System urging support of the mask ordinance, “was impactful to me.” The ordinance — modeled after those enacted in the city of Sarasota and town of Longboat Key — contains 14 exemptions, including ones for exercise and medical need.

Coronavirus social distancing dispute at Publix ends with 75-year-old getting punched” via Patricio G. Balona of The Dayton Beach News-Journal — An elderly man who recently had heart surgery was attacked at a grocery store parking lot in Daytona Beach Shores on Sunday after asking a woman in the store to maintain social distance from him because of coronavirus concerns, police said. Police are looking for the suspect who hit and threatened to kill him, said Daytona Beach Shores police Capt. Mike Fowler. A woman cut in close behind him, and, concerned about social distancing because of his recent heart surgery, the victim asked the woman to follow the markings on the floor that indicated how far away she needed to be, a report shows.

— CORONA NATION —

FDA chief issues mea culpa for his plasma treatment claims” via Caitlin Oprysko of POLITICO — FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn issued a mea culpa late Monday, conceding that he had overstated the benefits of convalescent plasma as a treatment of coronavirus at a news conference last weekend with Trump. Hahn had been the subject of intense criticism following his appearance Sunday alongside the president. While the therapy is considered safe, plasma has not yet been proven effective against the coronavirus. But in announcing the Food and Drug Administration’s granting of an emergency use authorization for the treatment on Sunday, the White House billed the decision as a “historic announcement.”

Stephen Hahn says ‘my bad’ for touting plasma treatment for COVID-19.

Genetic data show how a single super-spreading event sent coronavirus across Massachusetts — and the nation” via Sarah Kaplan and Chris Mooney of The Washington Post — None of the biotech executives at the meeting noticed the uninvited guest. They had flown to Boston from across the globe for the annual leadership meeting of the drug company Biogen, and they were busy catching up with colleagues and hobnobbing with upper management. For two days they shook hands, kissed cheeks, passed each other the salad tongs at the hotel buffet, never realizing that one among their number carried the coronavirus in their lungs. By the meeting’s end on Feb. 27, the infection had infiltrated many more people: a research director, a photographer, the general manager for the company’s east division. They took the virus home with them to the Boston suburbs, Indiana and North Carolina, to Slovakia, Australia and Singapore. Over the following two weeks, the virus that circulated among conference attendees was implicated in at least 35 new cases. In April, the same distinctive viral sub-strain swirled through two Boston homeless shelters, where it infected 122 residents.

New virus hot spots: U.S. islands from Hawaii to Puerto Rico” via Simon Romero and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — The U.S. Virgin Islands is halting tourism for a month, hoping against hope to keep out new cases of the coronavirus. Puerto Rico’s Senate is closed after several high-ranking officials came down with COVID-19. Hawaii is facing a surge in new infections. Guam is enduring its most restrictive lockdown since the pandemic began. For months, United States islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific avoided much of the agony unleashed by the coronavirus across parts of the mainland, due in part to their early mitigation efforts and relative ease in sealing off borders. But now the state of Hawaii and these territories are emerging as some of the most alarming virus hot spots in the United States, revealing how the coronavirus can spike and then rapidly spread in places with relaxed restrictions, sluggish contact tracing and widespread pressure to end the economic pain that comes with lockdowns.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

As permanent economic damage piles up, the COVID-19 crisis is looking more like the Great Recession” via Andrew Van Dam of The Washington Post — Long-term unemployment helped define the Great Recession. Countless networks, relationships and skills that bound employee to employer were ripped apart in the global financial crisis. It took about eight years for the unemployment rate to recover from that brutal dislocation. Now economists fear it’s happening all over again. The devastating surge in unemployment in March and April was supposed to be temporary, as businesses shuttered to avert the greatest public health crisis in more than a century. Most workers reported they expected to be called back soon. But nearly half a year later, many of the jobs that were stuck in purgatory are being lost forever

The COVID-19 economic recession could become permanent, many fear.

New thinking on COVID-19 lockdowns: They’re overly blunt and costly” via Greg Ip of The Wall Street Journal — In response to the novel and deadly coronavirus, many governments deployed draconian tactics never used in modern times: severe and broad restrictions on daily activity that helped send the world into its deepest peacetime slump since the Great Depression. The equivalent of 400 million jobs have been lost worldwide, 13 million in the U.S. alone. Global output is on track to fall 5% this year, far worse than during the financial crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund. Despite this steep price, few policymakers felt they had a choice, seeing the economic crisis as a side effect of the health crisis. They ordered nonessential businesses closed and told people to stay home, all without the extensive analysis of benefits and risks that usually precedes a new medical treatment. There wasn’t time to gather that sort of evidence: Faced with a poorly understood and rapidly spreading pathogen, they prioritized saving lives.

America’s Southern tourist towns brace for a COVID-19 winter” via Breanna T. Bradham of Bloomberg — When Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, told Spring Break visitors to leave back in March, politicians and business owners thought a brief closure would save the tourist town’s summer season. So about a month later, state and local officials began to let visitors return, despite warnings from medical experts that it was far too soon for America to lift so-called lockdowns. As thousands in the Northeast were dying from the novel coronavirus, thousands of tourists started to stream back to hotels, shops, restaurants and bars along Myrtle Beach’s shoreline. And the pathogen spread there, too. Summer tourism adds up to $7 billion in annual revenue for Myrtle Beach, a favorite vacation spot for Americans in the mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states.

Debt has skyrocketed amid COVID-19. Metro Miami ranks as nation’s second-highest” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — How are the tens of thousands of Miami-area residents struck by layoffs and business declines getting by? Lending group LendingTree is out with a report that suggests one big clue: plastic. The company reported last week that Miami has seen the second-highest growth of nonmortgage debt since the start of the pandemic, at 6.3% Winston Salem, N.C., came in at No. 1, with growth of 6.6%. Miami also has the largest average balance increase — $2,150 — among the 100 largest U.S. metros, the group said. The average for all metros was $732. Miami-area residents increased their credit card spending, on average, by $210, or 2.4%, between January and June 2020. Many locals also bought cars. Auto debt increased about 6% during the same time period.

— MORE CORONA — 

They beat COVID-19, but debilitating effects and economic costs may linger for years” via Lisa Du and Suzi Ring of Bloomberg — It’s now known that SARS-CoV-2 will leave a portion of the more than 23 million people infected with a litany of physical, cognitive and psychological impairments, like scarred lungs, post-viral fatigue and chronic heart damage. What’s still emerging is the extent to which the enduring disability will weigh on health systems and the labor force. That burden may continue the pandemic’s economic legacy for generations, adding to its unprecedented global cost — predicted by Australian National University scholars to reach as much $35.3 trillion through 2025 as countries try to stop the virus’s spread.

Those who survived COVID-19 are still struggling.

‘A lot of variables’: New research into popular gaiters highlights challenges of testing mask safety” via Allyson Chiu of The Washington Post — “I never in a million years expected ‘Gaitergate,’ ” said Warren Warren, one of a study’s authors. The controversy stemmed from one part of the peer-reviewed study in which the researchers, described by Warren as laser experts, tested a common type of neck gaiter made of a thin polyester spandex material using the contraption they created. They observed that the single-layer gaiter appeared to perform slightly worse than their no-mask control group, leading the researchers to suggest that the porous fabric may be producing smaller respiratory droplets that can hang around in the air longer. The result of the gaiter test was highlighted by the scientists in interviews as well as in a video about the study produced by the university.

Flu-season testing delays could make it easier for the virus to spread undetected.” via The New York Times — Come fall, the rise of influenza and other seasonal respiratory infections could exacerbate already staggering delays in coronavirus testing, making it easier for the virus to spread unnoticed, experts said. In typical years, doctors often don’t test for flu, simply assuming that patients with coughs, fevers and fatigue during the winter months are probably carrying the highly infectious virus. But this year, with the coronavirus bringing similar symptoms, doctors will need to test for both viruses to diagnose their patients, further straining supply shortages. Testing for individual viruses poses many challenges for doctors and laboratory workers already fighting their way through supply shortages. Several of these tests use similar machines and chemicals, and require handling and processing by trained personnel.

Starbucks cafe’s COVID-19 outbreak spared employees who wore masks” via Heejim Kim and Sam Kim of Bloomberg — After a woman with the coronavirus visited a Starbucks cafe north of Seoul this month, more than two dozen patrons tested positive days later. But the four face mask-wearing employees escaped infection. The Aug. 8 outbreak in the South Korean city of Paju is another example of how rapidly the SARS-CoV-2 virus can spread in confined, indoor spaces — as well as ways to minimize transmission. With health authorities around the world still debating the evidence around face masks, the 27-person cluster linked to the air-conditioned coffee outlet adds more support for their mandatory use to help limit the spread of the COVID-19-causing virus. Guidance on face masks is being issued from Australia to Venezuela to help stem the pandemic, which has infected more than 23 million people and killed at least 810,000 worldwide.

KFC suspending use of ‘Finger-Lickin’ Good’ in advertising amid coronavirus pandemic” via Brett Molina of USA Today — Fried chicken chain KFC is hitting pause on one of fast food’s most popular slogans. The restaurant said it will suspend use of “It’s Finger-Lickin’ Good” in its advertising after 64 years. In a statement, KFC said during an unprecedented year during which the COVID-19 pandemic has upended businesses and lives around the globe, use of the slogan “doesn’t feel quite right.” “We find ourselves in a unique situation — having an iconic slogan that doesn’t quite fit in the current environment,” said Catherine Tan-Gillespie, global chief marketing officer at KFC, in a statement. “While we are pausing the use of It’s Finger-Lickin’ Good, rest assured the food craved by so many people around the world isn’t changing one bit.”


— D.C. MATTERS —

Assignment editors — Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy will hold a virtual roundtable with Floridians who have fled dictatorships, 12:30 p.m. Media interested in attending should RSVP here before 10:30 a.m. Members of the public who wish to attend can RSVP here.

With money and political power at stake, Florida census takers race the clock against a tighter deadline” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — After the U.S. Census Bureau shortened its deadline by a full month, door-knockers are having to work even harder to make sure Florida doesn’t lose out on millions of dollars in funding and perhaps even a congressional seat because of a severe undercount. An accurate Florida number also is in danger because of a controversial proposal by the Trump administration to estimate the number of undocumented immigrants and delete them from the official count, a practice many legal experts say is counter to the agency’s constitutional task of counting “all persons.”

— STATEWIDE —

AHCA didn’t investigate Deloitte’s past work — Agency for Health Care Administration negotiators did not investigate Deloitte’s work on the state’s failed unemployment system before awarding it a $135 million contract to build a database for the state’s Medicaid system, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. The UI system was overloaded in the early stage of the pandemic when many lost their jobs, however, AHCA negotiators say that failure has no bearing on the work the company will do under the new contract. “Lessons learned from DEO, I think, are going to be important. … If we end up with DEO,” said Damon Rich, the agency’s Medicaid bureau chief, according to transcripts of a July meeting. “But I think everything right now … would be more of sour grapes.”

The AHCA didn’t dig too deep in Deloitte’s background.

—”Competing companies detail protests against Deloitte getting new $135 million state contract” via Terri Parker of WPBF

Debate continues over expanded role for pharmacists” via Christine Sexton of The News Service of Florida — Members of the Florida Board of Pharmacy Rules Committee voted to add “heart failure” to a list of chronic conditions, enumerated in a proposed rule, that pharmacists could treat. The full Board of Pharmacy will consider the proposed regulation, which fleshes out a new state law that allows pharmacists who have written collaborative agreements with physicians to treat designated patients for chronic health conditions. The rule also would carry out another part of the law that allows certain pharmacists to test and treat patients for influenza, streptococcus, lice, skin conditions and minor, uncomplicated infections so long as the pharmacists have written protocol agreements with physicians.

TECO deploys 100 lineworkers to Louisiana” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — More than 100 lineworkers from TECO’s Tampa Electric made their way to Louisiana this week to support Entergy Louisiana to restore power after Hurricanes Laura and Marco hit the region. Hurricane Marco made landfall Monday night near the mouth of the Mississippi River. By then, it was a weak Tropical Storm with 40 mph winds dumping rain all along Florida’s Gulf Coast. But in a rare one-two punch, Hurricane Laura is coming in on the heels of Marco. This storm, which was just upgraded to a hurricane today, is forecast to be a Category 3 by the time it makes landfall on Wednesday night just to the West of Marco’s hit. Hurricanes are nothing new to Florida lineworkers. Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Michael the year after resulted in record power outages throughout the state, and Florida lineworkers were quick to respond. Thousands of lineworkers from across the nation also came to support Florida teams.

At Manatee County ranch, agricultural groups agree to collaborate on conservation” via  Emily Wunderlich of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — More than 60% of the country’s endangered species are found on private lands. On Monday, four national livestock and sportsman groups agreed the best way to protect them is through collaboration. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Public Lands Council, Safari Club International and Ducks Unlimited converged on Blackbeard’s Ranch in Myakka City to sign a memorandum of understanding that outlines their shared commitment to habitat and resource conservation. The memorandum identifies seven ways the private organizations will promote conservation. Among them: education and promotion of voluntary conservation programs, facilitation of partnerships, sharing of innovative and successful conservation efforts and increased public awareness.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Marco caused up to 2 feet of flooding in parts of Panama City Beach, 20 homes damaged” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Although Tropical Storm Marco made landfall yesterday evening near Louisiana, it reportedly caused up to 2 feet of flooding in areas across Panama City Beach. According to Kelly Jenkins, public works director and city engineer for PCB, the majority of yesterday’s flooding wasn’t caused by clogs pipes, but an overwhelmed stormwater system — one that’s seen around $2 million dollars in repairs over the last few years. “(The storm) hit an isolated area of the Beach really hard with a high intensity of rainfall in a very short period,” Jenkins said. “We saw flooding where we’ve never seen it before. “There’s not a lot that can be done for that,” she added.

TS Marco caused up to 2 feet of flooding IN Panama City Beach, damaging several homes. image via the Panama City News-Herald.

Marco broke Pensacola rainfall record, storms churn up high surf” via Jeff Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Northwest Florida received the bulk of rain from Tropical Storm Marco, setting the record for rainfall on Monday in Pensacola, despite the storm officially making landfall in Louisiana. The lasting impact in the Florida Panhandle of Marco and Hurricane Laura as it approaches Louisiana and Texas will be high surf and dangerous rip currents along the coast. Marco was torn apart by strong wind shear as it approached the Gulf Coast on Monday, sending most of its mass of rainstorms toward Florida while the core of the system with high winds moved northwest to make landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Tampa police seek reckless driving charge against man who drove through July 4 protest” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — Police are pursuing a reckless driving charge against a man they say drove through a protest on N Dale Mabry Highway on July 4, forcing people to jump out of the way to avoid being struck. Investigators turned over the case to the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office on Aug. 18, recommending that prosecutors pursue a criminal case against 21-year-old Noah Armstrong, said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan. “Even though you’re not allowed to block streets as pedestrians, you can’t just recklessly drive through people,” Dugan said. “We just felt like there was intent there and that’s why we decided to refer this to the State Attorney’s Office.” Dugan said investigators collected multiple videos of the incident and took statements from two “reliable and impartial” witnesses. According to a probable cause affidavit, Armstrong also admitted to the offense during an interview with investigators.

Milton’s solution to Black Lives Matter street mural controversy: An anti-racism art cube” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — The city of Milton has come to a compromise over the controversy stemming from a Black Lives Matter mural originally proposed for a city street by approving a four-sided cube that will be placed somewhere downtown and feature anti-racism artistic sentiments approved by the City Council. The cube project was proposed by Milton United, the new name for the group that first proposed the Black Lives Matter street mural. The new proposition, which was created in conjunction with city staff and presented to the City Council on Thursday night, involves an 8-by-8 foot cube with blank canvasses on all four side, that has been in city storage for the past two years. The council approved the concept at its Thursday committee of the whole meeting, in a rare instance of unanimous agreement after arguing about the street mural for several consecutive meetings.

Parkland school shooting case remains in limbo” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — The death penalty case against Nikolas Cruz in the 2018 massacre at a Florida high school remains in limbo. At a brief hearing Tuesday, no decisions were made on a trial date amid continuing obstacles because of the coronavirus pandemic. Cruz’s defense lawyers say they have almost no access to him in jail, nor do defense experts they insist must see him to build a case. “We’re in a worldwide pandemic. It’s just not safe to be doing that right now,” said defense attorney Melisa McNeill in the hearing, held remotely. “All of that, unfortunately, is on hold.”

Nikolas Cruz’s trial remains in limbo. Image via AP.

Feds: Florida prosecutor accepted tractor bribe before resigning” via Andrew Pantazi of The Florida Times-Union — The ongoing federal corruption investigation of Jeff Siegmeister, a former North Florida state attorney, led to the first charges last week, with prosecutors detailing how Siegmeister allegedly accepted a bribe in exchange for dropping a criminal case in Madison County. Former criminal defense attorney Ernie Page IV plans to plead guilty next Thursday to a conspiracy charge in federal court in Jacksonville, his attorney said. “Mr. Page is very sorry for the disappointment he has caused his family by his mistaken judgment in this matter,” attorney David Collins said. “A mistake only remains a mistake if it is not corrected. Mr. Page will make this right. Mr. Page will plead guilty next week as charged and assist the authorities in prosecuting other guilty people.”

Joel Greenberg pleads not guilty to sex trafficking charge” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Greenberg entered a plea of not guilty to six new charges, including sex trafficking allegations from federal prosecutors who said he illegally used a state database to look up information about a girl between the ages of 14 and 17 and others with whom was engaged in “sugar daddy” relationships. The former Seminole County Tax Collector waived his right to appear at an arraignment scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in the federal courthouse in downtown Orlando, according to the document filed by his attorney Vincent Citro. In all, Greenberg faces a total of 12 federal charges, including six from two previous federal grand jury indictments in June and July related to stalking a political opponent, identity theft and using his public office to create fake IDs. Greenberg also pleaded not guilty to those earlier counts.

— TOP OPINION —

Swampy Richard Corcoran keeps getting it wrong on schools” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Late last week, Florida Education Commissioner Corcoran went on Fox News and got a little carried away trying to act like a tough guy. Corcoran was pummeling one of his favorite punching bags when he boasted that he and DeSantis were ready and eager to fire any teachers who didn’t show up to work because of COVID-19 concerns. “Any teacher that doesn’t show up to work … they get terminated,” Corcoran declared. Now, first of all, by Corcoran’s own admission, hardly any teachers had even suggested they wouldn’t show. (“Less than 1%,” he said.) So this was bluster for bluster’s sake. More important, though, Corcoran doesn’t have the authority to fire these teachers … because they don’t work for him. Public schoolteachers work for locally controlled school boards.

— OPINIONS —

Not wasting time with this endorsement — Reelect Rep. Lois Frankel and defeat bigotry” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board — The reelection of Democratic U.S. Rep. Frankel of West Palm Beach is as vitally important to the nation as to the voters of District 21, to whom we strongly recommend her. In ordinary times, her record alone would earn her a fifth term, especially against the unqualified, unworthy and unwholesome opponent the Republican primary coughed up. Frankel’s career has been one of integrity and diligence as a Florida legislator, Mayor of West Palm Beach and four-term member of Congress. She holds one of the prized seats on the Appropriations Committee, where she has worked tirelessly to protect the Everglades and improve Florida’s ports. Her entire voting record mirrors the values of the vast majority of people in her district.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Education Commissioner Corcoran is appealing the ruling of a circuit judge who says his emergency order forcing schools to reopen classrooms or lose money violates the state Constitution. The President of the teacher’s union says they expected nothing less from a political appointee with no actual experience running a school.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The union is calling on Corcoran to drop the appeal and work with them to make schools safe before they reopen. But anyone who has followed the former House Speaker’s political career knows that’s highly unlikely. Corcoran thrives on confrontation.

— As Republicans hold their virtual convention, Democrats hold virtual news conferences to denounce the President and his allies — starting with the COVID-19 crisis and Florida’s failed unemployment system.

— The woman who heads the agency that regulates health care facilities in Florida says the COVID-19 crisis is subsiding at nursing homes and long-term elderly care facilities.

— Congressman Matt Gaetz speaks at the Republican National Convention. He’s best known as a die-hard supporter of Donald Trump who delights in his role as a provocateur and media troll — in other words, he’s a Florida Man. While few would confess to being Florida Man, Gaetz is no ordinary individual. 

— Speaking of Florida Man, a Florida Woman is accused of attacking her man because he was looking at porn.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Presenting Breonna Taylor for Vanity Fair’s September issue, “The Great Fire”: vf.com/thegreatfire Five months have passed since police killed Breonna Taylor in her own home, a violent crime that our September issue guest editor Ta-Nehisi Coates ascribes to a belief in Black people as a disaster, as calamity. “I don’t know how else to comprehend the jackboots bashing in Breonna Taylor’s door and spraying her home with bullets, except the belief that they were fighting some Great Fire — demonic, unnatural, inhuman.” Coates chose the “The Great Fire” as the theme for the issue, which assembles activists, artists, and writers to offer a portrait of hope in a world where the possibility of a legitimate anti-racist majority is emerging for the first time in American history. “Something is happening,” Coates writes, “and I think to understand it, we must better understand the nature of this Great Fire.” For his cover story, Coates tells Breonna’s story through the words of her mother. Also in the issue: an oral history of the historic days after George Floyd’s death; a portfolio of creatives and visionaries who capture the spirit — and urgency — of the moment; director Ava DuVernay’s conversation with revolutionary Angela Davis; and much more. Read “The Great Fire” now. Painting by Amy Sherald (who painted @michelleobama portrait) https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2020/08/september-2020-issue-the-great-fire #justiceforbreonnataylor #breonnataylor #justiceforelijahmcclain #vanityfair

A post shared by Kelly Cohen (@kelly_s_cohen) on

— ALOE —

How do you play soccer in a pandemic? Human foosball” via Juan Forero of The Wall Street Journal — In the newly devised human version of soccer, players stand in large, marked-off square quadrants on a field and can do little but kick the ball and pass it to their teammates. All five players on each team must remain in their squares or turn the ball over to opponents. The game is sweeping Rosario, the birthplace of soccer star Lionel Messi, and has caught the fascination of quarantine-weary Argentina. Other cities and towns also are forming teams. An accountant and self-described soccer fanatic, Andrea Ortenzi trained each week for matches on Saturday with her amateur team. But in quarantine, she and her teammates were limited to running in place and doing calisthenics as they watched each other on Zoom calls.

Lego’s next build: Worlds and characters created by its fans” via Sahil Patel of The Wall Street Journal — Seeking ideas for TV shows, digital videos and toy sets, Lego A/S is asking people to share their imaginings on a new platform set up for that purpose. Called Lego World Builder, the platform lets users propose story worlds, characters and other ideas by uploading concept art, videos and descriptions. Lego said it will buy the ideas it likes. Entertainment has long been important to the $21 billion toy industry, which also sells playthings based on popular Hollywood franchises as well as making TV series and movies about its own wares. Licensed “Star Wars” toy sets helped Lego rebound from near-bankruptcy in the early 2000s, while the success of “The Lego Movie” in 2014 helped usher in new products and an increase in revenue.

Fans will get a say in the next Lego build.

Netflix documentary in the works on civil rights attorney Ben Crump” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The yearlong project includes interviews from Crump’s law partners, investigators, family and community leaders in Tallahassee, where he’s headquartered. Crump and his team orchestrated logistics as thousands, including celebrities, mourned the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, whose controversial death in May while under arrest for passing a counterfeit bill in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sparked countless protests in the U.S. and a global end to police brutality. The film produced by #BlackAF and “Blackish” creator Kenya Barris is slated to debut next year. It will be directed by Nadia Hallgren, who netted two Emmy nominations for directing former First Lady Michelle Obama‘s Netflix “Becoming” documentary.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Sen. George Gainer andChristian Camara aka Reaganista.

___

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.


One comment

  • Ron Ogden

    August 26, 2020 at 8:00 am

    “The judge recognized that the decision about opening schools and running of schools belongs solely and squarely with local school boards, not in Tallahassee,” Porter said. So that’s a big win in the idea of local government control. That’s a very positive ruling.”

    Then, why do we need a state department of education–or a federal one for that matter? To mandate what we teach our kids? Nah, don’t think so.

    If local school boards and only local school boards decide when schools open and close, then local school boards and only local school boards decide teacher salaries, curriculum and pupil assignments.

Comments are closed.


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