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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 8.24.20

Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

First in Sunburn — Ballard Partners is launching a new financial services group and it’s bringing on former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to lead it.

“Jeff Atwater has one of the most distinguished records in public service in the history of our great state, having served in the Florida House, Florida Senate, as CFO, and as a senior executive in one of Florida’s top public universities,” said Brian Ballard, the firm’s president and founder. “We are honored that Jeff has decided to join our stellar team of professionals, and to launch our firm’s Financial Services Group.”

Jeff Atwater makes the jump to Ballard Partners.

Atwater, a banker by trade, began his political career on the North Palm Beach Village Council in 1993.

In 2000, Atwater ran for House District 83, defeating Democrat Pam Dunston and independent Michael Danchuk. Two years later, he launched a bid for Senate District 25, covering Palm Beach and Broward counties. While running unopposed in the primary, Atwater faced off against longtime Democratic state Attorney General Bob Butterworth in the general. In a year bolstered by the strong electoral performance of then-Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, Atwater solidly defeated Butterworth. He ran unopposed in 2004 and defeated Democrat Linda Bird in 2008. That year, Atwater began a two-year term as Senate President.

In 2010, Atwater became Florida CFO, succeeding Democrat Alex Sink, and winning reelection four years later. During his tenure as CFO, he worked closely with the insurance industry to fight fraud and abuse, utilizing his extensive experience as a banker. In 2017, the term-limited Atwater announced he would step down as CFO 23 months early to become Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Chief Financial Officer at Florida Atlantic University.

“I am delighted to join Brian and the exceptionally talented group at Ballard Partners,” Atwater said, “and I am looking forward to serving the firm’s clients in the banking and insurance industries and leading the firm’s Financial Services Group.”

Over the past four years, Ballard Partners has also established itself as a premier firm at both the national and international levels.

Since expanding to the nation’s capital, the firm has quickly risen to the top on K Street thanks to allard’s ties to the Donald Trump administration. He chaired the Trump Victory organization in Florida during the 2016 presidential election.

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First in Sunburn — Statecraft Digital has added Scott Kosanovich as a partner, the Democratic political communications firm announced Monday.

Kosanovich most recently worked as the Florida state director for Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 presidential campaign, but his campaign resume extends back nearly a decade when he served as Florida deputy state director for President Barack Obama’s grassroots organization Organizing for Action.

Among his signature wins is the 2013 special election that saw former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy win a special election to flip House District 36.

Congratulations: Statecraft Digital adds Democratic operative Scott Kosanovich as a partner,

He later went on to lead Florida House Victory, the campaign arm for Democrats in the state House.

During the 2018 cycle, Kosanovich ran the first-ever statewide field program focused entirely on the State House. It resulted in flipping eight Republican seats and a pair of wins in hotly contested special elections.

“I’m excited to be joining the already amazing team at Statecraft Digital and look forward to continuing to build on the already historic work they have been a part of,” Kosanovich said.

The Clearwater resident and St. Petersburg College alumnus joins a team that includes managing partner Chris Mitchell and partner Anna Breedlove.

In his new role, Kosanovich will be focusing on growth and account management for Statecraft.

“We are excited to welcome Scott to the Statecraft family. He brings vast experience, passion, and talent that will be a great addition to our team. I look forward to once again working with Scott to elect Democrats up and down the ballot for cycles to come,” Mitchell said.

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Welcome to the world:

 

For the record, Julia won’t be eligible to run for president until 2056.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: Actually, I think I’m leading in the Polls!

@JamesHohmann: The president’s political advisers believe that making people believe a vaccine is imminent by Election Day — whether true or not — is key to his prospects for winning.

@ClaudiamConwayy: i’m devastated that my mother is actually speaking at the RNC. like DEVASTATED beyond compare

@LtGovNunez: Excited to join President @realDonaldTrump and many of our party’s patriots to address this nation on Tuesday night during the Republican National Convention!

@Fineout: Missed this from last night — @VernBuchanan — who is being challenged by [Margaret] @GoodforFlorida — was one of 26 Republicans who voted for the $25 billion postal service bill being pushed by Democrats. 3 Fla. Republicans did not vote on the bill

@ClayTravis: Florida update: percent positive today is 4.89%. This means the “outbreak” is officially over in FL with a fraction of NY & NJ’s death rate. Should be top story in country after months of FL fear porn. But most in media will completely ignore it.

@ScottMendelson: So, that trailer for the [Zack] Snyder Cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE looks like … the same movie? Lots of deleted scenes from the marketing campaign but otherwise it looks like alternate takes of existing scenes.

Tweet, tweet:

 

— DAYS UNTIL —

Rev. Al Sharpton’s D.C. March — 4; U.S. Open begins — 6; Christopher Nolan‘s “Tenet” rescheduled premiere in U.S. — 9; Rescheduled running of the Kentucky Derby — 12; Rescheduled date for French Open — 34; First presidential debate in Indiana — 36; “Wonder Woman 1984” premieres — 39; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 40; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 43; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 44; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 49; Second presidential debate scheduled in Miami — 52; NBA draft — 53; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 53; NBA free agency — 56; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 57; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 59; 2020 General Election — 71; “Black Widow” premieres — 75; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 77; College basketball season slated to begin — 78; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 88; “No Time to Die” premieres — 88; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 101; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 167; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 179; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 312; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 333; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 340; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 438; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 536; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 578; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 620; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 773.

— CONVENTION NOTES —

Donald Trump looks to Republican convention for campaign reboot” via Philip Rucker and Dan Balz of The Washington Post — Republicans will open their national convention Monday with an urgent mission: To convince voters pessimistic about the state of a country battered by the novel coronavirus, economic recession and racial upheaval that Trump deserves four more years at the helm. Convention organizers say the president and his surrogate speakers will showcase optimism and inspire hope in a time of worldwide despair, with programming planned around themes of “promise,” “opportunity” and “greatness” for the United States in a second Trump term.

Donald Trump is looking toward the RNC to revitalize his campaign. Image via AP.

Republicans rush to finalize convention (‘Apprentice’ producers are helping)” via Michael M. Grynbaum and Annie Karni of The New York Times — Democrats set a high bar last week for the pandemic-era political convention, dispensing with cheering crowds in favor of a virtual pageant that encompassed passionate speeches, a charming cross-country roll call vote, vignettes from an Oscar-winning filmmaker and a low-fi fireworks display above a parking lot. A few hiccups aside, even jaded network executives conceded the party mostly pulled it off. Now it’s the Republicans’ turn in the prime-time spotlight — and the party led by a former reality TV star is rushing to measure up. Two producers of “The Apprentice,” where Trump rose to TV stardom, are involved in the planning. Sadoux Kim, a longtime deputy to the “Apprentice” creator Mark Burnett, is a lead consultant on the production. Kim once served as a Miss Universe judge when Trump owned the pageant. Chuck LaBella, a former NBC entertainment executive who helped produce “The Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump,” is also on the payroll.

Democrats question whether Donald Trump is breaking the law with RNC speech” via Anita Kumar of POLITICO — A House committee is questioning whether Trump might be breaking the law next week if he orders government employees to assist in his Republican National Convention speech. Trump will formally accept his party’s presidential nomination next Thursday from the White House, an unusual choice that raised ethical concerns because of the Hatch Act, a law restricting federal employees from engaging in certain political activities. But House Democrats are also apparently asking questions about whether Trump might be breaking a separate law that forbids the coercion of federal employees to conduct political activity.

In year of virtual politics, Republican delegates flock to Charlotte convention” via Annie Karni of The New York Times — The convention unfolding in Charlotte is nothing like anyone envisioned more than two years ago when the city was selected to host a raucous gathering to renominate Trump. There were going to be parties and after-parties, and the city expected $200 million of economic impact. But despite the pandemic upending carefully laid convention plans for both parties, there is, against all odds, still a convention in town. It is modest and contained in a COVID-19-tested bubble inside the Westin hotel and the Charlotte Convention Center down the street. It’s not what Americans will see next week when the Republicans stage a prime-time program on television, where Trump will deliver his renomination speech from the White House.

Tweet, tweet:

 

Florida’s Pam Bondi, Jeanette Nuñez, Matt Gaetz to address Republican National Convention” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Two of Florida’s most prominent Republican women will address the party faithful and the country at next week’s national convention. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez and former Attorney General Pam Bondi are scheduled to speak Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention, the second day of the four-night confab. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican and one of Trump’s top allies in Congress, will speak on Monday night. Meanwhile, some of the biggest names in Florida politics don’t have any announced role at the convention, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. The inclusion of Núñez on the program is noteworthy given her past aversion to Trump.

Trump campaign launches massive digital ad buy for convention week” via Alayna Treene of Axios — The Trump campaign is going all in on digital advertising for the Republican National Convention, with plans to again take over the YouTube masthead and flood Facebook, Google and streaming services like Hulu with pro-Trump messaging. The big picture: The massive digital ad buy — which is in the high seven figures, according to the campaign — will complement the Trumpian production planned for each night of the convention this week. The goal is to inundate Americans on TV and online throughout the convention.

Spectrum Networks to provide extensive Florida-centric RNC coverage — Spectrum Networks will provide comprehensive, cross-platform coverage of the Republican National Convention August 24 through August 27. Through its 30-plus linear news networks and the Spectrum News app, a new digital news platform, Spectrum News will host a lineup of exclusive programming to highlight the national issues that are most relevant to local communities. Spectrum News’ local political programs will include “Political Connections” hosted by Bay News 9 anchor Holly Gregory in Tampa Bay, and News 13 anchor Ybeth Bruzual in Orlando. On the Spectrum News app, Chief National Political Reporter Josh Robin will provide in-depth coverage from a national perspective, including a nightly blog with live reporting and analysis, and a recap of the previous night’s main takeaways each morning.

Bill O’Reilly, Britney Spears and celebrations galore: The parties that went poof at RNC” via Tim Funk and Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer — Former Fox News star Bill O’Reilly was set to hold court for a night at Spirit Square. The jokesters at “The Daily Show” had booked the Knight Theater for a week of taping. There was talk of maybe Toby Keith headlining a concert at the Knights’ uptown ballpark. At the Billy Graham Library, a prayer breakfast was scheduled. And to officially welcome the thousands of out-of-town guests the Charlotte 2020 Host Committee had planned a nearly $2 million “Southern Comforts” party, complete with beach music and bluegrass, every style of Carolina barbecue, and bags of swag that included a tiny NASCAR-styled stock car.

— CONVENTION RESPONSE — 

The Democratic National Committee is going on the offensive as the Republican National Convention begins.

The DNC announced Monday that it’s plastering the front page of the Orlando Sentinel’s website with digital ads calling out Trump’s “failed” coronavirus response, which has resulted in nearly 600,000 coronavirus cases and more than 10,000 deaths statewide.

“COVID-19 is still spiking. This administration failed us,” read the ads, direct readers to an online petition.

The Florida Democratic Party will boost the narrative Monday during a 9:30 a.m. press call where U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala and other top Democrats will paint the convention as a distraction from Trump’s “chaotic leadership” and how it has hurt Florida families. The DNC War Room will follow up with a Monday call featuring U.S. Rep. Val Demings.

Two new DNC digital ads to premiere during the Republican National Convention.

“Nothing Republicans say at their chaos convention can erase Trump’s failed leadership — including his incompetent handling of the coronavirus which has cost too many Floridians their lives and jobs,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez said.

“What we won’t hear at this week’s GOP Convention are the stories of Floridians who’ve been hurt by Trump’s broken promises — like the seniors who are worried about his attacks on Social Security and Medicare, the families who see no plan to safely reopen schools, or those with preexisting conditions who don’t want Trump to take away their health care in the midst of a pandemic.

“The Republican chaos convention is going to remind Floridians exactly what they don’t like about Trump, and in November voters will hold him accountable.”

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Trump obliterates lines between governing and campaigning in service of his reelection” via David Nakamura of The Washington Post — Trailing in the polls and struggling to find a message, Trump is leveraging one of the most powerful assets he has left in service of his reelection bid, obliterating the lines between governing and campaigning and testing legal boundaries in ways that go well beyond his predecessors. In recent weeks, Trump has acknowledged he was opposed to funding for the U.S. Postal Service because he does not want the money used for universal mail-in voting. He sent Homeland Security authorities to quell social justice protests in what he termed “Democrat cities.” He signed a stream of executive orders that circumvented Congress and delivered overtly partisan speeches at official White House functions, including a 54-minute Rose Garden monologue blasting Democratic rival Joe Biden last month.

In a speech in the Rose Garden, Donald Trump spent nearly an hour blasting Joe Biden.

Trump’s suggestion of deploying law enforcement officials to monitor polls raises specter of voting intimidation” via Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky of The Washington Post — More than 30 years ago, a Republican Party program that dispatched off-duty police officers to patrol polling places in heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods in New Jersey triggered accusations of voter intimidation, resulting in a federal agreement that restricted for decades how the national GOP could observe voting. Now, two years after those limits were lifted, Trump has revived the idea of using law enforcement officers to patrol polling places, invoking tactics historically used to scare voters of color. In an interview Thursday with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump described law enforcement officers as part of a phalanx of authorities he hopes will monitor voting in November. “We’re going to have everything,” the president said. “We’re going to have sheriffs, and we’re going to have law enforcement, and we’re going to hopefully have U.S. attorneys and we’re going to have everybody, and attorney generals. But it’s very hard.”

‘It was great’: In leaked audio, Trump hailed low Black turnout in 2016” via Nolan D. McCaskill of POLITICO — In a private meeting inside Trump Tower days before his inauguration, Trump told a group of civil rights leaders something most Republicans wouldn’t dare publicly acknowledge: lower turnout among Black voters did, in fact, benefit him in the 2016 presidential election. “Many Blacks didn’t go out to vote for Hillary ‘cause they liked me. That was almost as good as getting the vote, you know, and it was great,” the president-elect said, according to an audio recording of the meeting. Three-and-a-half years later, those comments take on new weight, as Democrats and Republicans battle over restrictions on voting amid a historic pandemic.

Trump campaign’s hopes rest on boosting white working-class turnout” via Aaron Zitner and Alex Leary of The Wall Street Journal — Not long ago, white working-class voters flooded to the polls in unusually large numbers to help the GOP win the White House. But that year wasn’t 2016. It was 2004, and the president they turned out to reelect was George W. Bush. Today, Bush’s achievement in driving turnout suggests an opportunity for another Republican reelection bid. Trump’s campaign has said its strategy is to boost voter registration and turnout among the people who most support him, a goal distinct from trying to persuade undecided groups or Democrats to move his way. An analysis of voter data shows that the opportunity, at least on paper, is substantial. White voters without four-year college degrees, often called the white working class, make up the largest share of nonvoters in many battleground states, and Bush showed that it’s possible to boost turnout significantly among that group.

A glimmer of hope for Trump? How George H.W. Bush mounted a comeback in 1988” via Adam Nagourney of The New York Times — Bush was in trouble. It was July 1988 and Michael Dukakis, the Democratic candidate for president, was on a roll after his party’s convention in Atlanta. A Gallup poll showed Bush trailing by 17 points. But he had a road map to victory. The Bush campaign proceeded, as Lee Atwater, the campaign manager, put it, “to strip the bark off the little bastard,” beginning in force with Bush’s hammer of a speech at the Republican National Convention in August through Election Day. Bush not only overcame Dukakis’s summer polling advantage, but defeated him handily: by 53 percent to 46 percent. He won 40 states.

How Joe Biden could still lose” via Mike Murphy of The Washington Post — After three hard years of fuming over Trump, it has been a reassuring summer for Democrats. The Biden campaign had a strong convention, capped by a best-of-career speech by Biden. Party fundraising is surging, and the polls look excellent. But a good campaign is a paranoid campaign, especially 70 days before an election. So even though I think Biden is likely to win, I’m spending my time worrying about how he could lose. Here is what could go wrong: Biden could still fumble the definition war. Opinions of Trump are etched in stone; we love him or we hate him. Right now, the haters are in the majority and polls show the country is itching to fire him. Trump could try to improve his image, but his braying tone and clumsy tactics never change. Don’t count on the Donald to heal himself. But if Trump is well defined, Biden and Kamala Harris are not. Heading into next week, the Trump strategy is brutally simple: change the focus from firing Trump to fearing Biden and Harris.

Joe Biden could still lose this thing. Image via AP.

Florida veers to Trump-Biden matchup facing a flood of ads, as voters consider key amendments” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — With the primaries over, a frenetic fall campaign is just beginning with millions of dollars worth of political ads expected to flood the critically important Orlando market in advance of the presidential election on Nov. 3. But the race between Trump and former Vice President Biden will look different from past campaigns, as the giant rallies are likely replaced by smaller, sometimes virtual affairs amid the coronavirus pandemic. At least some of the focus will turn to constitutional amendments on the ballot that, among other things, could raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, change the way Florida runs elections and limit how amendments are approved in the future.

Democrats see racism in GOP mispronunciations of ‘Kamala’” via Sara Burnett of The Associated Press — Bantering during the final night of the Democratic National Convention, actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang repeatedly got the name of “our current Vice President” wrong. Was it “Mika Pints?” or “Paints?” Or maybe “Ponce,” Yang suggested. “Oh, some kind of weird foreign name?” Louis-Dreyfus asked. “Yeah, not very American sounding,” Yang replied. It was a quick bit of satire with a pointed message from Democrats: When top Republicans — including Trump and Vice President Mike Pence — mispronounce Democratic vice presidential nominee Harris’ first name, it’s not just disrespectful, it’s racist.

Twitter flags Trump tweet about ballot drop boxes, says it violates rules about dissuading voting” via Kate Conger of the Orlando Sentinel — Twitter hid one of Trump’s tweets behind a notice warning users that the message violated company rules against dissuading people from voting. Trump posted the tweet, which said that ballot drop boxes were not being sanitized to prevent the coronavirus and could be used for fraud, about five hours before Twitter took action Sunday. Twitter has begun enforcing its rules more strictly against Trump as the presidential election approaches. In May, Twitter added fact-check labels to two of Trump’s tweets that contained misinformation about mail-in voting. Twitter escalated its efforts Sunday, hiding Trump’s message behind a warning that said it “violated the Twitter rules about civic and election integrity.”

Jeff Flake joins over two-dozen former GOP members of Congress to launch ‘Republicans for Biden” via Brooke Singman of Fox News — More than two-dozen former Republican members of Congress threw their support behind a “Republicans for Biden” effort being launched by the Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign to engage potential GOP supporters this November. The announcement comes on the first day of the Republican National Convention, as delegates prepare to formally re-nominate President Donald Trump. In their respective convention agendas, each party has sought to showcase converted supporters. Joe Biden‘s list of Republican supporters, shared first with Fox News, includes a number of well-known Trump critics, most notably former GOP Sen. Flake of Arizona.

Kellyanne Conway to leave the White House at the end of the month, citing the need to focus on her family” via Ashley Parker of The Washington Post —Conway, a senior adviser to President Trump and one of his longest-serving aides, is leaving. Conway, whose title is counselor to the president, was Trump’s third campaign manager in 2016 and the first woman to successfully manage a presidential bid to victory. She joined the White House at the start of Trump’s term and has been one of his most visible and vocal defenders.

Trump-Biden sign fight leads to punch, arrest in DeBary” via Frank Fernandez of The Daytona Beach News-Journal —The political tension erupted recently over a pair of competing political signs along South Shell Road when the Trump supporter punched his neighbor, according to a police report. Anthony “Tony” Vullo, 55, was charged with misdemeanor battery after the incident on Friday afternoon. Vullo was released on his own recognizance the next day from the Volusia County Branch Jail and ordered to stay clear of his neighbor, Joseph Lebert, 48, according to court records. Lebert told a deputy that another neighbor alerted him Vullo had taken Lebert’s Biden sign and tossed it into Lebert’s yard, a report said.

— 2020 —

Postal Service will prioritize ballots over other mail, postmaster general testifies” via Jacob Bogage, Elise Viebeck, Michael Brice-Saddler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee of The Washington Post — Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told lawmakers Friday that ensuring the safe and timely delivery of election mail was his “sacred duty,” disputing accusations his controversial cost-cutting agenda was politically motivated even as he reiterated his intention to execute it after the November election. In sworn testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, DeJoy said postal workers would continue to prioritize election mail ahead of other first-class mailings, an informal but long-standing practice. “I’d like to emphasize there has been no changes of any policies in regard to election mail for the 2020 election,” DeJoy said, adding later that the agency would deploy “processes and procedures to advance the election mail, in some cases ahead of first-class mail.”

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy promises to prioritize mail-in ballots, but questions about delays remain. Image via Getty.

Donna Deegan finally gets her one-on-one versus John Rutherford” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Former broadcast journalist Deegan, who had no opposition in her party’s primary last week, will take on the incumbent Republican, former Jacksonville Sheriff and current U.S. Rep. Rutherford. The district is set up as a safe Republican seat, giving the Congressman a structural advantage demographically. GOP voters account for 297,712 of the district’s 607,634 registered voters, compared to 170,254 Democrats, with independents and third-party registrants making up the balance, according to August 2020 book closing reports. In addition to having a registration advantage, the Congressman also has the money lead. Rutherford had roughly $750,000 on hand in the pre-primary report, and Deegan had nearly $300,000. Both have raised money since, with Deegan saying she had $340,000 on hand earlier this month.

Charlie Crist responds to Trump dig” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Crist responded to Trump’s tweet endorsing his GOP opponent Anna Paulina Luna for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Crist, who sent the tweet Thursday morning, pointed to the President’s enactment of one of the incumbent’s latest bills: the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act. Trump approved the bill a little less than two weeks ago. “Mr. President, judging by your tweet you may have been busy or didn’t read my bill, but your signature enacted my bipartisan Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act 12 days ago,” Crist tweeted. “I’ll work with anyone to help our veterans — even you.” The incumbent Democrat called attention to the legislation because Trump criticized Crist’s efforts on veterans’ rights.

Can Pam Keith help Democrats regain CD 18, or is their former hold gone for good?” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democrats selected former Navy JAG Officer Keith to challenge Brian Mast. Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy narrowly won the seat that cycle, defeating Republican candidate Allen West by less than a percentage point. Murphy cruised to reelection in 2014, winning by nearly 20 percentage points. When Murphy mounted a Senate bid in 2016, the seat was left open once again. Mast went on to win the open race by more than 10 percentage points — a net shift of 30 percentage points toward Republicans in just two years. Keith must make up a large margin, and she’s currently trailing big time in the money game.

Emerging from a crowded CD 19 field, here’s the path Byron Donalds beat on his way to national esteem” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Donalds said the pandemic created more obstacles to the campaign than anything else. “COVID threw a big wrench into it and made it difficult to organize. We didn’t have an election office, and usually, that becomes a hub of energy that created connectivity with volunteers. We did it in a digital framework, and that’s one thing that threw me for a loop.” Even Donalds’ former opponents say the Naples Republican holds national star potential. “He should be flown around the country and appear with Trump at every rally,” says a rival consultant. While the district tilts deep red (Francis Rooney won with 62% of the vote in 2018), Donalds faces Democrat Cindy Banyai in November.

—“Trump calls to congratulate Donalds on CD 19 win” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—”Analysis: Donalds, Banyai prevailed in Southwest Florida congressional primaries despite being outspent” via Ryan Mills of the Naples Daily News

Conservative think tank asks FEC to probe tech bans on Laura Loomer” via Cristiano Lima of POLITICO — A conservative think tank on Thursday called for the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether tech companies including Facebook, Twitter and Uber are violating campaign finance laws by keeping far-right activist and congressional candidate Laura Loomer off their platforms. Loomer, a right-wing agitator who this week clinched the Republican nomination in Florida’s 21st Congressional District, has been kicked off major platforms that also include Instagram, PayPal and Venmo for making incendiary and anti-Muslim remarks online. In a letter to the FEC, the right-leaning American Principles Project says the companies’ right to ban Loomer should be reevaluated due to her primary win.

A conservative think tank is coming to argue for lifting Laura Loomer’s social media bans.

Judge orders new cost estimate for elections proposal” via Jim Saunders of The News Service of Florida — Judge Charles Dodson issued a ruling that said the estimate, which would be presented to voters in the Nov. 3 general election, is “not clear.” Lawyers for the state quickly filed a notice of appeal at the 1st District Court of Appeal. The proposed constitutional amendment, backed by the political committee All Voters Vote, would allow registered voters to cast ballots in primary elections regardless of party affiliation — a major change from the state’s long-standing system of generally limiting primaries to voters registered with parties. Under the proposal, which is opposed by the state Republican and Democratic parties, the two candidates getting the most votes in each primary would advance to the general election.

— LEG. CAMPAIGNS — 

Florida Chamber makes bipartisan endorsements for six Senate incumbents — The Florida Chamber of Commerce endorsed a bipartisan list of six Senate incumbents running for reelection: Sens. Doug Broxson (SD 1), Travis Hutson (SD 7), Randolph Bracy (SD 11), Debbie Mayfield (SD 17), Joe Gruters (SD 23) and Gayle Harrell (SD 25). According to the chamber, these Senators have a strong track record of increasing access to health care, working to reform the state’s legal system, and fighting “job-killing regulations.” These endorsements are based, in large part, on Senator’s grades earned on The Florida Chamber of Commerce Legislative Report Card.

Drake Buckman wants to debate Fiona McFarland right the heck now” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Buckman said he’s ready to start debates now in House District 72. He challenged McFarland to four one-on-one debates on key issues. “While Fiona was sparring with her primary opponents on who could be the most right-wing, most pro-DeSantis candidate, I was talking to the people of 72 and finding out what is most important to them, not what is important to the special interests that Fiona would like to serve,” he said. McFarland emerged as the Republican nominee after a close primary on Tuesday, during which she and Donna Barcomb debated over abortion and police support. McFarland’s team didn’t jump at the chance for debates immediately but looked forward to engaging Buckman, who was the only Democrat to file for the open seat and, therefore, did not face a primary.

Drake Buckman wants to debate Fiona McFarland right now. Image via Facebook.

— DOWN BALLOT —

—“Winners and losers in the Tallahassee and Leon County primary election” via Tallahassee Democrat staff reports

Jennifer Jenkins beats Tina Descovich in big upset: politics or pandemic?” via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of Florida Today — Jenkins’ ousting of Descovich from the Brevard School Board District 3 seat by nearly 10 percentage points was the only upset of last week’s Space Coast elections. Observers say it’s a strong indicator of the impact that mail-in voting and the coronavirus pandemic has had on local politics. It might also signal that a philosophical shift in how the five-member board makes policy for Brevard Public Schools is coming. On election night, with just the early and mail-in votes counted, Jenkins had a 20 percentage point lead over Descovich with 10,686 votes to 7,347.

Jennifer Jenkins wins the Brevard School Board District 3 seat. What role did the pandemic play? Image via Facebook.

Ballots still being counted in Palm Beach County to break near-tie in judge’s race” via Kristina Webb of The Palm Beach Post — A recount of more than 263,000 ballots that started Friday to determine who will face an incumbent judge in November’s general election will continue into Sunday. The fate of two challengers trial attorney Adam Myron and Assistant Attorney General Caryn Siperstein hangs in the balance, with the winner running Nov. 3 against Judge Jaimie Goodman for a seat on the Palm Beach County Circuit Court bench. A machine recount of the more than 263,000 ballots cast countywide, which began with about nine hours of counting on Friday, wrapped up around 6 p.m. Saturday, with a manual recount beginning either later Saturday or on Sunday, Supervisor of Elections Wendy Sartory Link said. Machines did not detect a vote on more than 18,000 of the ballots cast in the race. Under Florida law, those ballots must be counted by hand because the finish in the race for second place fell within 0.25 percent.

‘It’s bizarre’: Candidate paid for a manager and mailers. Why didn’t he report it?” via Aaron Liebowitz of The Miami Herald — Looking at the campaign finance reports filed by recent Bay Harbor Islands Town Council candidate Roger Santana, you wouldn’t know he ran much of a campaign at all. Back in March, Santana reported lending $3,250 to his own campaign, then paying that money to himself for the stated purpose of “campaign mgr.” Then, for 10 straight reporting periods leading up to the Aug. 18 election, Santana filed waivers indicating that no money had come into or out of his campaign.

Joe Scott holds onto primary win in tight Broward supervisor of elections race, recount confirms” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Scott survived a daylong vote recount Saturday to retain his victory as the Democrats’ nominee for Broward County Supervisor of Elections. On Tuesday, Scott led a six-way race with 24.84% of the ballots, or 51,557 votes. Chad Klitzman received 24.54% of the vote, or 50,950 votes. That triggered a machine recount after the difference between the top candidates turned out to be less than .5%. The recount involved a rereading of cartridges in all 577 of the county’s precincts. “No change — same result,” said Steven Vancore, spokesman for the elections office. “The man who finished first is still first. Typical Florida. At least we got it right and the recount went well.”

Special effort by Broward postal workers made sure 1,225 ballots arrived in time to be counted” via Anthony Man of the Orlando Sentinel — Employees of the U.S. Postal Service in Broward County, realizing they had hundreds of ballots that wouldn’t make it back on time, reached out to the Supervisor of Elections Office on Tuesday to make sure they’d make in by the deadline. It worked. After the call came in about 5 p.m., the Elections Office sent couriers to Post Offices in Fort Lauderdale and Hallandale Beach to pick up the ballots, said Vancore, spokesman for Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci. There were 1,200 in Fort Lauderdale and 25 in Hallandale Beach. If the postal workers had followed normal procedures, the 1,225 ballots would have been sent to the Postal Service sorting center in Miami-Dade County the next day. They wouldn’t have made it back to the Supervisor of Elections Office by the deadline.

Tie! Hardee County Commission election goes to hand-count after both candidates receive 1,531 votes” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The contest is between incumbent Commission Chair Colon Lambert and former County Commission Office Manager Sandy Meeks. The pair and a third-party Republican candidate waged the closest of elections last week. Final count after the machine count: Lambert, 1,531 votes; Meeks, 1,531 votes; and Donald Samuels, 1,092 votes. Samuels is out. There are no other candidates, so this was an open primary election. Winner take all. The fate of Lambert and Meeks and the District 1 seat in Hardee County rests on whether there are any ah-ha moments in the canvassing board’s examinations of 80-some ballots.

At least $17 million spent in Collier, Lee primary elections and likely far more” via Ryan Mills of the Naples Daily News — The candidates directly spent more than $11.5 million in their races, and most of that, or more than $6.9 million, was spent in the Republican primary for the region’s open congressional seat. That race has been reported to be the most expensive congressional race in Florida and one of the biggest money GOP House primaries in the nation so far this year. A Federal Election Commission website shows just over $1 million in spending by outside groups. But the FEC records don’t yet include spending from August, when political committees plastered the airwaves with ads. Outside groups likely dropped millions of dollars into the nine-candidate Republican congressional race, which was won by Donalds with 22.6% of the vote.

Byron Donalds wins one of the most expensive GOP races in the country. Image via Donalds campaign.

Charles Elliott wins Santa Rosa County School Board seat by 21 votes in recount” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — A recount Saturday confirmed that Elliott will be the new Santa Rosa County School Board member for District 4. The unofficial results of the Aug. 18 primary election saw Elliot take 16,699 votes (50.07%), while his challenger, Felicia Fortune Northcutt, won 16,654 votes (49.93%). The margin of victory, 0.2% (or 47 votes), was a slim enough to trigger an automatic recount. Elections staff spent Saturday conducting a machine recount of all 33,000-plus ballots cast in the race, then completing a manual recount of approximately 2,700 ballots where voters selected either both or neither of the candidates. Ultimately, the recount determined Elliott received 16,698 total votes, while Fortune Northcutt received 16,677 total votes, this time putting Elliot ahead by just 21 votes. Still, it was enough to solidify his win.

— “Alachua County election worker tests positive for COVID-19” via Jacquie Franciulli of WCJB

— GAME ON —

Miami-Dade County mayoral candidate Daniella Levine Cava is naming her senior leadership team ahead of the General Election.

Christian Ulvert, president of Edge Communications, will remain a senior adviser and chief strategist for Levine Cava’s campaign. Scott Arceneaux and Stephanie Bromfield, veterans of Levine Cava’s pre-primary run, will also stay on as senior advisers.

Joining them will be strategist Alex Miranda, who’s worked with Republican candidates in the past such as future House Speaker Daniel Perez.

Daniela Levine Cava staffs up in her runoff with Steve Bovo.

Levine Cava has carved out her lane as the more liberal option in the race. She’ll face off on Nov. 3 against fellow Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, who has garnered much Republican support.

Democratic consultant Jon Adrabi of LSN Partners is also coming aboard. He worked on Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 presidential campaign.

Courtney Whitney will continue leading Levine Cava’s financial operation. Levine Cava was one of the top fundraisers of the race ahead of the Aug. 18 primary as she and Bovo edged former Mayor Alex Penelas for the two runoff slots.

Veronica Pizzorni, who worked as Penelas’ director of campaign operations, is now joining Levine Cava as a deputy campaign manager. She’ll serve alongside Manny Orozco, who is occupying that same role.

“I am excited for our expanded team as we grow our coalition of support across Miami-Dade County,” Levine Cava said Monday.

“We’ve seen how the pandemic exposed the income inequality in our neighborhoods and how too many families cannot afford to live here because wages are stagnant, and the cost of living continues to rise. As Mayor, we will reverse this trend so our young families can look forward to a brighter future filled with hope and promise.”

— EXCLUSIVE POLLING —

Janet Long, Charlie Justice narrowly lead Republican challengers in Pinellas commission races” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, Long faces a potentially close race in District 1 against former Rep. Larry Ahern. Long, a Democrat, leads with 46% of the vote compared to Ahern, a Republican, with 43%; 11% of respondents are still undecided. In District 3, Justice, a Democrat, leads Republican challenger Tammy Vasquez 46% to 42%. In that race, 12% said they were still undecided. Not surprisingly, the poll falls mostly along party lines. Among Democrats polled, 76% support Long with only 15% supporting Ahern; 17% of Republicans support Long. The similar is true for Justice’s race where 16% of Republicans support Vasquez while 19% of Republicans support Justice.

New polling: Democrats Janet Long and Charlie Justice narrowly lead their Republican challengers in the race for Pinellas County Commission.

Bob Gualtieri, Julie Marcus hold healthy leads for Sheriff, Supervisor of Elections” via Janelle Irwin Taylor Florida Politics — According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls. Republican Sheriff Gualtieri leads his Democratic challenger Eliseo Santana with 56.5% of the vote compared to Santana’s 34%. More than 9% of voters are still undecided. Supervisor of Elections Marcus, who was recently appointed to fill the position after her predecessor, Deborah Clark, retired, 47% to 41% lead over Democratic challenger Dan Helm. Nearly 12% of voters in that race are still undecided. Both candidates enjoy overwhelming support from within their own parties, but claim a healthy portion of voters from opposite parties and independent voters.

Laura Hine leads Stephanie Meyer in race for Pinellas County School Board seat” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Public schools advocate Hine has a healthy lead over Meyer in the runoff for Pinellas County Schools Board District 1. Hine leads Meyer 37% over 30%, according to a new survey from St. Pete Polls. Still, 33% of voters are undecided. The two are running to replace School Board member Joanne Lentino who is not seeking reelection. While the race is nonpartisan and candidates’ political affiliations won’t appear on the ballot, the race pits conservative ideologies on education against more progressive views.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida again tops 100 corona deaths; hospitalizations fall” via The Associated Press — Florida reported mixed statistics on the coronavirus outbreak Saturday, as it again recorded more than 100 deaths but also saw its number of infections and hospitalizations continue their fall. The state recorded 106 confirmed coronavirus deaths Saturday, the 17th time in August that the state has exceeded 100 recorded fatalities in a day. The state is recording an average of 156 coronavirus fatalities per day this month, which likely makes COVID-19 the state’s No. 1 killer during that period. Cancer and heart disease each average about 125 deaths per day, according to the Florida Department of Health. The next three deadliest infectious diseases, flu/pneumonia, AIDS and viral hepatitis, average about 10 fatalities per day combined.

—“Florida’s coronavirus cases top 600,000” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post

State eyes ‘inconsistent’ COVID-19 rules” via Christine Sexton of The News Service Of Florida — Expect a panel appointed by DeSantis to make recommendations on how to reopen nursing homes to visitors in the coming days. Don’t be surprised, though, if the recommendations issued by the Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long Term Care Facilities go beyond visitation to include fixes to the state’s inconsistent COVID-19 testing policies. To help free up space in hospitals and to ensure that people receive care in the most appropriate settings, the state last month published an emergency rule that allowed hospitals to discharge nursing home residents based on their symptoms. The July rule replaced a previous emergency rule that required residents to have two negative tests 24 hours apart before transfer.

Florida will examine contradictory rules on COVID-19 ahead of reopening nursing homes to families.

Florida hospitals lose billions due to pandemic measures” via The Associated Press — Florida hospitals say they have collectively lost nearly $4 billion in the past four months because of the coronavirus. Even with financial aid from the government, hospitals around the state said they are hemorrhaging money due to increased staffing costs, testing and other protective equipment, along with lost revenue from patients delaying care or canceling elective surgeries. “The COVID-19 pandemic has financially shocked our health care system,” Florida Hospital Association’s Interim President Crystal Stickle said in a statement Friday. The group represents over 200 hospitals and estimated projected losses through August at $7.4 billion. The state health department reported Friday 4,684 new confirmed cases and 119 new deaths from the virus.

COVID-19 hamstrings long-term care advocate program — Thousands of Florida nursing home residents without friends or family have been cut off from their only link to the outside world — the network of volunteer advocates who regularly check on them. Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO is reporting that nearly 60% of the state’s 140,000 long-term care residents rely on the Florida Long-term Care Ombudsman Program, staffed by volunteers who advocate, provide companionship and serve as watchdogs for the nursing home industry. Since the coronavirus pandemic began in early March, Sarkissian notes, facilities have refused entry to these volunteers, isolating thousands of seniors.

Florida TaxWatch releases COVID-19 fiscal recovery recommendations” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — As the COVID-19 pandemic heads toward its sixth month and the Sunshine State faces continued economic effects, Florida TaxWatch released its list of recommendations for economic recovery. TaxWatch assembled its COVID-19 Taxpayer Task Force in May to gather recommendations to lessen “financial and administrative burdens” on taxpayers caused by the pandemic and help the economy recover. A list of 18 mostly temporary suggestions addresses the needs of impacted taxpayers while 11 suggestions could improve the economy in the long term by making it more attractive to business and new residents. “Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in our state, Florida TaxWatch has worked vigorously to develop and propose constructive policy recommendations to guide Florida forward and ensure the best possible response to the fiscal uncertainty presented by this crisis,” TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro said in a statement.

— BACK TO SCHOOL? —

U.S. faces back-to-school laptop shortage” via Jocelyn Gecker and Michael Liedtke of The Associated Press — Schools across the United States are facing shortages and long delays, of up to several months, in getting this year’s most crucial back-to-school supplies: the laptops and other equipment needed for online learning, an investigation has found. The world’s three biggest computer companies, Lenovo, HP and Dell, have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops, in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers, according to interviews with over two dozen U.S. schools, districts in 15 states, suppliers, computer companies and industry analysts. As the school year begins virtually in many places because of the coronavirus, educators nationwide worry that computer shortfalls will compound the inequities — and the headaches for students, families and teachers.

Richard Corcoran says no-show teachers could be ‘terminated’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Noting that Florida is a “strong right to work state,” the Commissioner of Education said teachers who don’t show up to work because of coronavirus concerns could be “terminated.” Corcoran, on Fox News Friday afternoon, laid down the law to potentially restive teachers in a four-minute segment with host Bill Hemmer. “Any teacher that doesn’t show up to work … whatever that minimal less than 1% of teachers that don’t show up, then they get terminated,” he added, with his voice raising an octave as he said the word terminated. Hemmer summed it up as Corcoran saying “if you don’t show up, you don’t get your job.” The Commissioner didn’t challenge that read.

On Fox News, Richard Corcoran made a controversial statement about ‘no-show’ teachers, to the dismay of many.

Education Commissioner: There’s no risk of lives lost due to in-person learning” via Travis Gibson of News4Jax — Education Commissioner Corcoran appeared on cable news networks Friday to address a pending lawsuit brought against him by the state’s largest teachers union over his decision to reopen schools. During interviews on Fox News and CNN, Corcoran again defended his decision to issue an emergency order that requires that local schools resume in-person learning this month amid the coronavirus pandemic. The teachers union, the Florida Education Association, alleges that a July 6 emergency order issued by Corcoran requiring brick-and-mortar schools to reopen five days a week in August violates the state Constitution’s guarantee of “safe” and “secure” public education. Schools risk losing funding if they don’t comply with Corcoran’s order, which teachers’ attorneys called “financial bullying.”

How to safely reopen Florida’s schools” via Charles Lockwood for the Tampa Bay Times — For those families opting to return children to in-person (brick and mortar) class instruction, evidence-based policies must be in place to ensure students are provided a safe and controlled environment where they can maximize their educational experience. We must universally require face coverings, ideally with 2 ply cotton and not gators. Parents and teachers should also demand and implement physical distancing at schools, “cohorting” students to reduce the risk of viral dissemination across the entire school, and staggered school starts to reduce crowding. There must also be aggressive hand hygiene, rigorous cleaning of public surfaces, and well-maintained air conditioning units with abundant access to outside air.

A judge faces a crucial decision amid COVID-19, a Constitutional clash and power over public schools” via Danielle J. Brown of the Florida Phoenix — In Florida’s state capital, Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dodson faces a daunting task. He’s taking on a clash between the language of the Florida Constitution and the powers of local school boards, against a state emergency order that mandates school buildings be open at least five days a week during the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators, parents and students are struggling to traverse a terrain that is complicated by the pandemic, with some districts this month already seeing cases of COVID-19 crop up in school buildings. More schools will open this week.

Principals say Lee County’s in-person summer school made them feel ‘ready’ for back-to-school” via Pamela McCabe of the Fort Myers News-Press — There are many what-ifs surrounding teaching and learning in the new COVID-19 landscape, where students are required to wear masks, sit farther away from each other and follow new rules in school for the sake of public health. But Lee County principals who opened their schoolhouses for a three-week, in-person summer school program say the experience has helped them feel ready for what’s to come. “We’ve had a dry run with a handful of kids and we’re ready for them,” said Jackson Morgan, principal of Lehigh Elementary School.

Children’s health insurance affected by COVID-19” via Christine Sexton of The News Service of Florida — There is a growing fear that families dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot qualify for low-cost children’s health coverage offered in state programs yet may not easily transition to Medicaid. “We are hearing from people who have always had stable health insurance and a good income,” said Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families at the University of South Florida. “Now, all of a sudden, they have to apply and they are trying to fill out Medicaid applications and they don’t know what they are doing.” State economists are predicting that as many as 58,876 fewer children will enroll in the Florida KidCare program this year than previously anticipated.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Miami ICU nurse: I have never in my life seen so many deaths” via Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press — Their final breaths are tormented. Rublas Ruiz has seen too many of them, the last gasps of 17 men and women who died of the coronavirus. A 41-year-old ICU nurse in Miami’s Kendall Regional Medical Center, Ruiz has witnessed the desperate, pleading, wide-eyed, barely-there gasps. “The fear in their eyes when they can’t get enough air. They are so scared,” he says, quietly. “Their eyes are big, desperate to get the oxygen and that makes me so sad.” He sits on their bed, grasps their hand, strokes their cheek and prays. Anything to soothe them. Often, he ducks away to sob in the bathroom. It is a rare moment alone, when he can cast off the brave countenance. As many as 10 patients have died in his ward in a single week. At one point, he started counting, “and then I stopped doing that because there were so many.”

Rublas Ruiz is an ICU nurse in Miami’s Kendall Regional Medical Center. Image via AP.

39 days in hospital, two near-death moments” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — When former Delray Beach Mayor Jeff Perlman was wheeled out of his room at Bethesda Hospital East this week, dozens of nurses and doctors lined the hallway and cheered. Behind a mask and sitting in a wheelchair, the stocky 55-year-old business owner cried. “I love you all. You’re heroes. You’re heroes,” he said, his voice cracking. “I’m going to tell the world you saved me.” Perlman, who spent 39 days in the Boynton Beach hospital recovering from COVID-19, wasn’t exaggerating. Twice during his stay, he said he was convinced he was going to die. While he has had asthma for years, he said it was mild and rarely bothered him. “I felt like I had gotten hit by a truck,” he said. “I never had that feeling before, of suffocating.” Within days, he was in the intensive care unit as doctors struggled to figure out ways to help him combat the disease. But his condition continued to worsen. While the use of convalescent plasma is experimental, his doctors said it could save his life.

‘If they only knew what could happen’: Boynton pilot warns others to take COVID-19 seriously after symptoms last for months” via Jodie Wagner of The Palm Beach Post — “I thought it was blown out of proportion,” said the pilot, who asked to be identified by his first name, Greg, for this story. “Until you actually get it and you’ve seen it firsthand, that’s what changes your mindset on everything. “I wouldn’t wear a mask. I didn’t think I was going to get it, and now I just look at people not wearing masks and I cringe inside. If they only know the potential of what could happen.” Greg was flying regularly in the early days of the pandemic and decided to visit a casino amid a hectic travel schedule. He did not wear a mask. Several days later, he began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. He tested positive for the virus a few days later. For the past month, Greg has worked with trainers every other day and he said his stamina and muscle tone have improved.

When will Palm Beach County playgrounds reopen, and what will it look like when they do?” via Kristina Webb of The Palm Beach Post — Throughout Palm Beach County, a grim reminder of the novel coronavirus pandemic sits tucked away in parks, shrouded in orange fencing or yellow caution tape. Playgrounds in the county have remained shuttered since March, the “closed” signs outside providing a stark contrast to the colorful slides and obstacles within. With Palm Beach County considering a move into Phase 2 of reopening, some parents are asking why playgrounds remain closed and what it might look like when they reopen. But most if not all have gone untouched since March as officials have tried to rein in the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

When Palm Beach County opens playgrounds, what will they look like?

In the midst of a pandemic, a push to lure tourists back ‘with open palms’” via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — The Palm Beach County tourism industry in February stood ready to once again break records. But the coronavirus pandemic’s sting in March — the month where tourists flocking to beaches historically deliver the highest bed tax collections of the year — snatched from local tourism officials any and all hope. Jobs were cut, restaurants and hotels closed then reopened to a dismal reception, and the bed tax dollars collected with each hotel stay slowed to a trickle. Those dollars, topping $54 million last year, pay to promote Palm Beach County, but they also support beach restoration and other programs and provide $13 million a year to pay off the annual debt for the county’s newest ballpark and its downtown convention center.

South Florida’s beaches still set to open for Labor Day as hotels lower their prices” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Unlike past holidays during this pandemic, the upcoming Labor Day weekend will offer South Floridians more choices for outings. The latest state figures show COVID-19 has eased its grip on Florida. As a result, local governments are leaning toward leaving South Florida’s beaches open, and hotels are offering deals for a pandemic staycation. Their goal is to offer these amenities with the hope the public follows the rules on wearing masks and social distancing. Yes, so far, the beaches are scheduled to stay open for Labor Day after South Florida kept them closed over Independence Day as a precaution. But government leaders in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties are closely watching the COVID statistics that track new cases, positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

— CORONA NATION —

Poll: Most Americans embarrassed by U.S. response to coronavirus” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN Politics — Nearly 7 in 10 Americans say the US response to the coronavirus outbreak makes them feel embarrassed, 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. And as the virus has spread from the nation’s cities throughout its countryside, the number who know someone who’s been diagnosed with the virus has jumped dramatically to 67%, up from 40% in early June. And Americans are angry. About 8 in 10 say they are at least somewhat angry about the way things are going in the country today, including an astonishing 51% who say they are very angry.

Most Americans are embarrassed by the nation’s response to coronavirus. Image via AP.

The bully pulpit: Trump pushes Washington, but virus resists” via Jonathan Lemire and Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press — As Trump prepares to again accept the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday in a ceremony at the White House, he must convince an electorate that has largely disapproved of his handling of the pandemic that he is not to blame, deserves another term and that all the chaos has been worth it. “The future of our country and indeed our civilization is at stake on Nov. 3,” Trump said Friday. Trump has spent his presidency bending Washington to his will. He has transformed a public health crisis into a political litmus test. He has presided over a booming, if stratified, economy, and claimed he created it. He has again forced race to the center of the American conversation, using federal police to enforce his view. He has alienated historical allies and changed how much of the world views the United States.

Shot —Coronavirus vaccine is likely to be available next spring, Trump administration adviser says” via 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.” The announcement comes as the coronavirus death toll passed 169,000 in the United States, and more than 5.4 million cases have been reported.

Chaser —Trump pressures FDA, says ‘deep state’ slowing vaccine” via Drew Armstrong and Anna Edney of Bloomberg — For most of Trump’s administration, science-driven health agencies have faced less of the criticism and mistrust aimed at the spy agencies, the Justice Department and other parts of the federal government. But with Trump’s political future hinging on his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and his promise to bring forth a vaccine by Election Day on Nov. 3, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now facing the same sort of political pressure and rhetoric from the White House as those other parts of government. On Saturday, Trump suggested that employees at the FDA are attempting to sabotage his reelection by slowing down coronavirus research. In a tweet, Trump said members of “the deep state” at the FDA are making it hard for drug companies to “get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics” and “obviously” want to delay progress until after Nov. 3, Election Day. He tagged FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, appointed by Trump in 2019, in the tweet.

Before GOP convention, Trump pushes use of blood plasma treatment for COVID-19” via David Jackson of USA Today — The Trump administration has granted emergency use authorization for treatment using blood plasma, though more than 70,000 patients have already received it on an experimental basis. “This is a powerful therapy,” Trump said, describing the authorization as “a very historic breakthrough.” Trump and aides cast the news as a major therapeutic breakthrough, though some medical analysts said it’s already happening and that Trump’s demands to rush up some kind of cure for COVID-19 could lead to dangerous treatments of some patients.

Trump plots broad health data overhaul after troubled rollout of COVID-19 database” via Darius Tahir and Rachel Roubein — The Trump administration wants to overhaul how state and local health departments and providers report public health data to the government, a month after its separate, trouble-plagued rollout of a new coronavirus reporting system for hospitals. The new effort is billed as a necessary upgrade to an outdated system that still relies on faxes and paper records and has slowed efforts to track the spread of COVID-19. The project would be funded by money Congress gave the CDC in coronavirus relief bills; an HHS spokesperson declined to comment on any projected cost. But the timing and scope of the project are raising questions inside the government and health industry. Skeptics wonder why Trump’s health department is launching such large-scale initiatives during a pandemic when state and local systems are already hard-pressed. They also question if HHS has the know-how in place to accomplish the feat.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Unemployment claims jump back over 1 million; Florida’s claims rise, too” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — New unemployment claims are back on the rise. Seven days after the weekly number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment insurance dropped below 1 million for the first time since March, they jumped back into seven figures on Thursday, with 1.1 million new claims filed between Aug. 9 and 15. That remains below the four-week rolling average, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, but it’s still a week-over-week increase of 135,000. The overall number of new claims filed during coronavirus pandemic now sits around 57.4 million. Florida, too, has seen its number of new claims rise for the first time in a month. New claims for the week ending Aug. 8 were initially reported to be 55,106 but revised this week to 61,584.

Trump’s attempt to bypass Congress on stimulus is offering only limited economic relief” via Jeff Stein and Tony Romm of The Washington Post — Just two weeks after Trump approved executive actions aimed at bypassing stalled stimulus negotiations with Congress, only one state has said it is paying new jobless benefits, few evictions have been paused, and leading employers have made clear that workers will not benefit from the president’s new payroll tax deferral. After talks with congressional Democrats faltered, the president on Aug. 8 signed four executive actions aimed at staving off further economic turmoil. They included a $300-per-week benefit for jobless Americans after the previous enhanced benefits expired in late July. Trump also directed a deferral of payroll taxes, as well as a halt to evictions and a suspension of student loan payments. But Trump’s directives have so far produced limited economic relief for Americans hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, despite promises by top White House aides that help would come within weeks. By Friday, only Arizona had started sending the extra $300 to its residents.

Goldman says almost a quarter of temporary layoffs in U.S. to be permanent” via Reade Pickert of Bloomberg — The rehiring of temporarily laid-off workers will continue to bolster the U.S. labor market’s recovery in the months ahead, but Goldman Sachs Group Inc. expects almost a quarter of those layoffs to become permanent. In the early months of the pandemic, employers shed more than 22 million people from their payrolls. The staggering figure had a small silver lining: the majority of those layoffs were billed as temporary. More than 18 million people were classified as temporarily unemployed in April, the most on record.

Goldman Sachs estimates 25% of lost jobs will not be coming back.

‘Not just a low-wage recession’: White-collar workers feel coronavirus squeeze” via Megan Cassella of POLITICO — The coronavirus recession that began as a short-term shutdown devastating low-wage workers is now bearing down on white-collar America, where employers have been slower to rehire and job losses are more likely to be permanent. Lower-paid workers are losing their jobs at about three times the rate of higher-wage employees. But the drop in overall employment that white-collar industries like real estate, information and professional and technology services have seen in five months is already on par with or worse than the hits they took during the Great Recession, underscoring how even highly paid workers with the ability to telework are vulnerable now.

A Florida landlord got a big PPP loan. Tenants get rats, mold and evictions.” via Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Tzadik Management boasts a billion-dollar portfolio of residential complexes nationally, including at least 12 in Hillsborough County. Several in Hillsborough have been repeatedly cited by code enforcement. Federal records show Tzadik Properties, which lists the same address as Tzadik Management, recently received between $2 million and $5 million as an emergency loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, created to help companies avert layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic. The government doesn’t disclose specific loan amounts, only ranges. But while Tzadik got a bailout from the government, some of its residents could soon find themselves homeless. The company is threatening dozens of tenants with eviction, even though many said they lost their jobs to the coronavirus.

— MORE CORONA — 

Evidence grows that children may play a larger role in transmission than previously believed” via Ariana Eunjung Cha of The Washington Post — As schools reopen in parts of the United States, a study published Thursday found that some children have high levels of virus in their airways during the first three days of infection despite having mild symptoms or none at all — suggesting their role in community spread may be larger than previously believed. One of the study’s authors, Alessio Fasano, a physician at Mass General Hospital for Children, said that because children tend to exhibit few if any symptoms, they were largely ignored in the early part of the outbreak and not tested. But they may have been acting as silent spreaders all along. “Some people thought that children might be protected,” Fasano said. “This is incorrect. They may be as susceptible as adults — but just not visible.”

Children could be playing a bigger role in the transmission of coronavirus than originally thought.

As COVID-19 symptoms linger, demand for specialized clinics surges” via Sarah Toy of The Wall Street Journal — A backlog of patients is growing at new clinics dedicated to COVID-19 survivors who continue to have symptoms many weeks or months after getting sick. Some people who fell ill with the new coronavirus earlier in the year are still struggling with symptoms ranging from muscle aches to memory issues. Many of these patients say they have had trouble finding the resources they need to navigate lingering symptoms. The medical community is turning more research and clinical attention to this cohort of survivors, whom some doctors are calling long haulers and generally don’t consider contagious. Around the country, medical centers have begun setting up clinics focused on evaluating and treating COVID-19 patients reporting symptoms that last weeks or months after their initial illness or diagnosis. But the clinics are relatively new and hospitals are still adding resources, so waitlists can stretch months at the ones that exist so far.

Long-haulers are redefining COVID-19” via Ed Yong of The Atlantic — A few formal studies have hinted at the lingering damage that COVID-19 can inflict. Findings, though limited, are galling. They suggest that in the United States alone, which has more than 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, there are probably hundreds of thousands of long-haulers. These people are still paying the price for early pandemic failures. Many long-haulers couldn’t get tested when they first fell sick, because such tests were scarce. Others were denied tests because their symptoms didn’t conform to a list we now know was incomplete. When many long-haulers finally got tested weeks or months into their illness, the results were negative. Organizations and governments have been slow to recognize what long-haulers call “long COVID.”

Hydroxychloroquine shouldn’t be used at all for COVID-19, IDSA says” via Jeannie Bauman of Bloomberg — Hospitals should drop using the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine altogether to treat COVID-19 patients, even if it’s in a clinical trial, according to new medical guidelines. The Infectious Diseases Society of America revised its COVID-19 treatment guidelines Friday, toughening its stance against the use of the anti-malarial drug that’s been widely touted by Trump as a way to deal with the pandemic. IDSA now recommends not to use hydroxychloroquine either by itself or along with the antibiotic azithromycin for patients with the coronavirus, even in hospitals. The society previously called for limited use of hydroxychloroquine in trials.


— D.C. MATTERS —

Federal budget watchdog group lauds Rick Scott, Stephanie Murphy” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Scott and Murphy have been named “Fiscal Heroes in Congress” by The Campaign to Fix the Debt, a nonpartisan federal budget watchdog group. Scott was one of eight Republicans plus six Democrats in the U.S. Senate to be selected. Murphy was one of 15 Democrats plus 12 Republicans and one Libertarian in the U.S. House of Representatives to be selected. They were the only Florida lawmakers. Fix the Debt is a project of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan group of politicians and economists. Its co-chairs are Republican former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Democratic former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny of Minnesota.

A federal budget watchdog group is praising both Stephanie Murphy and Rick Scott, among others.

House Ethics panel admonishes Matt Gaetz over Michael Cohen tweet” via Melanie Zanona of POLITICO — The House Ethics Committee formally admonished Rep. Gaetz for a threatening tweet about Trump‘s former lawyer and fixer — the lightest form of punishment that the panel can take. While the 10-member panel determined that the Florida Republican’s “actions did not reflect creditably upon the House of Representatives,” the committee also concluded in its report that he “did not violate witness tampering and obstruction of Congress laws” and declined to issue more severe sanctions against the Florida Republican.

‘Instant clout’: How Mar-a-Lago helped Steve Bannon and his team promote ‘We Build The Wall’” via Sarah Blaskey and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — These days, photos from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club are a currency, one with ever-increasing value. Veteran Brian Kolfage, who was charged Thursday with conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud, used Mar-a-Lago’s brand in 2019 to bolster the legitimacy of We Build The Wall, a GoFundMe page that ultimately crowdsourced more than $25 million to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. At a February 2019 Mar-a-Lago fundraiser for a Trump fan club called the Trumpettes, Kolfage was a guest of honor, receiving the group’s “American Hero” award and snapping a photo with the president’s son, Eric. That picture was then reposted on an Instagram page for We Build The Wall — with a caption that said nothing about the Trumpettes but did tag Eric Trump prominently.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida official at center of unemployment fiasco advised state on disputed $135 million contract” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s decision to award another $135 million contract to the company that built the state’s broken unemployment system has been denounced by DeSantis and state lawmakers. Yet the state didn’t just choose the same company that built the system back then. It also hired the same man who was supposed to make sure the system worked. In its latest mission to overhaul the state’s Medicaid data system, the Agency for Health Care Administration hired Tom McCullion as a private contractor to lead the effort, including the bidding process that led to the potential $135 million award to Deloitte Consulting.

DEO site may be prompting unemployment seekers to apply for incorrect programs, delaying benefits” via Victoria Price of WFLA — There is no timeline for when, or even if, the state will roll out the president’s proposed plan for additional unemployment benefits. A spokesperson for the governor’s office says they are still reviewing federal guidance to map out a financially feasible course of action. But the clock is ticking for many of Florida’s unemployed, as many have exhausted their traditional state benefits ahead of the state’s eviction ban expiring on Sept. 1. And WFLA has learned of what may be yet another system glitch further delaying some benefits. It appears that CONNECT, the state’s unemployment website, is prompting some recipients to apply for the wrong benefits wrong once they’ve maxed out the standard state unemployment compensation. Bart BonBrest of Tampa says it happened to him. When he exhausted his benefits a few weeks ago, an application for PEUC, or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, popped up on his CONNECT profile and he immediately applied.

Mike La Rosa picked for Public Service Commission” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — DeSantis named Central Florida real estate agent and legislator La Rosa to the Public Service Commission, putting his first mark on the powerful board that regulates electricity, water and natural gas in Florida. La Rosa, a Republican from St. Cloud, was selected Friday from a field of nominees that included Donald Polmann, the current PSC commissioner appointed by former Gov. Scott, who was hoping to be appointed to another four-year term. In addition to Polmann, the list included Key Largo state Rep. Holly Raschein and Thonotosassa state Sen. Tom Lee, all Republicans.

Ron DeSantis named Mike La Rosa to the Public Service Commission.

Ramon Alexander, Anthony Sabatini have a Twitter spat over who hates America” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — After two years, state Rep. Alexander has had enough of Rep. Sabatini. In fact, for the time being, the usually talkative Alexander has no interest in even sitting at the same table with the 31-year-old Sabatini. Alexander, the House Democratic Whip, said the Central Florida conservative firebrand crossed a line Election Day with a tweet in which Sabatini called Democratic lawmakers “nutjobs” who hate the country and want to burn it down. Alexander had quickly responded to Sabatini’s tweet. He asked the first-term lawmaker to be sure to remind him what he thinks about Democrats the “next time you try to sit next to me at the Capitol.”

Former Seminole Tax Collector Joel Greenberg facing sex trafficking charges” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Greenberg is facing sex trafficking charges related to a girl between the ages of 14 and 17 and is also accused of illegally using a state database to look up information about the girl and other people with whom he was engaged in “sugar daddy” relationships. The former Seminole County Tax Collector used his access as an elected official to look up information about the minor victim in The Florida Driver and Vehicle Information Database known as “DAVID,” including the girl’s photo and driver identification number, according to the indictment. He also used the database to look up other people, with whom he “was engaged with ‘sugar daddy’ relationships,” according to the document. A sugar daddy is a term that refers to a wealthy man who dates a younger woman and gives her gifts in exchange for companionship or sex.

Lynn Haven mayor and attorney resign after being federally indicted on 63 charges” via Jacqueline Bostick of the Panama City News-Herald — Lynn Haven’s mayor and attorney resigned on Thursday, a day after they were indicted on 63 federal crimes. The now former Mayor Margo Anderson and city attorney Adam Albritton submitted their letters of resignation on Thursday, effective immediately. While Albritton simply notified the city of his resignation, Anderson asserted her innocence. “I am innocent of the charges made against me; I want the City to be able to move forward in its recovery from Hurricane Michael and to be able to rebuild without continued negative media coverage,” she wrote. “My family does not deserve the continued attacks on us because I chose to serve as Mayor of the City.”

City of Jacksonville attorney: ‘Executive privilege’ claim doesn’t shield public records” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The city of Jacksonville’s top attorney says any claims of “executive privilege” invoked by a mayor or his staff do not extend to documents that are covered by the state public records law. The issue of whether and when executive privilege can be invoked has come up during an investigation by City Council into the failed attempt last year to negotiate a potential sale of JEA. It also could affect future investigations undertaken by the Council. A July 17 legal memo written by an attorney in the city’s Office of General Counsel determined that executive privilege can cover “any communications” between a mayor and his advisers, or “any communications” among the advisers about matters that fall within the mayor’s decision-making power.

Appeals court rejects insurer ‘AOB’ arguments” via The News Service of Florida — An appeals court rejected an insurer’s constitutional arguments about the use of a controversial practice known as assignment of benefits. Homeowner Wayne Parker filed a damage claim after the 2017 storm with his insurer, Anchor Property and Casualty Insurance Co., and then entered into an assignment of benefits agreement with Speed Dry, Inc. Under the agreement, Speed Dry would do repair work, handle claim negotiations and receive direct payment from the insurer. But Anchor Property and Casualty refused to pay Speed Dry, leading to a lawsuit.

State continues ‘hybrid’ meetings on toll roads” via The News Service of Florida — The next round of public discussions on controversial toll-road projects from Collier County to Jefferson County will again be held through a combination of online and in-person meetings because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Florida Department of Transportation announced that three “hybrid” meetings will be held next week. Task forces working on the projects will meet online before public-comment periods are held online and at designated physical locations. In advance of the meetings, the growth-management group 1000 Friends of Florida and the Sierra Club jointly released a report called “M-CORES: A Detour Around Accountability,” which questions the need and fiscal feasibility of the roads.

Florida Keys to release modified mosquitoes to fight illness” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — Sometime next year, genetically modified mosquitoes will be released in the Florida Keys in an effort to combat persistent insect-borne diseases such as Dengue fever and the Zika virus. The plan approved this week by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District calls for a pilot project in 2021 involving the striped-legged Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is not native to Florida. But it does transmit several diseases to humans, particularly in the Keys island chain where nearly 50 cases of Dengue fever have been reported so far this year. The plan by the Oxitec biotechnology company is to release millions of male, genetically-altered mosquitoes to mate with the females that bite humans because they need the blood. The male mosquitoes, which don’t bite, would contain a genetic change in a protein that would render any female offspring unable to survive — thus reducing the population of the insects that transmit disease, in theory.

Genetically modified mosquitoes will be released in the Florida Keys in an effort to combat persistent insect-borne diseases such as Dengue fever and the Zika virus. Image via AP.

Ascension Sacred Heart’s children’s hospital $85-million expansion” via Carlton Proctor of Florida Trend — Only a year after opening, Ascension Sacred Heart’s $85-million, 126-bed Studer Family Children’s Hospital in Pensacola is undergoing a growth spurt. Construction is underway on a $19-million pediatric intensive care unit that includes an operating room designed specifically for pediatric surgeries. Completion is expected in early 2021. In July, construction began on a pediatric oncology center, which will include accommodations for parents and siblings. The pediatric sleep center at Ascension’s Pensacola campus opened in July. The center will serve children with conditions such as sleep-disordered breathing, central apnea, behavioral sleep disorders, circadian rhythm disorders, insomnia, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome.

— TOP OPINION —

I mailed my ballot in on time. Florida tossed it. 2020 will be much worse.” via Kirk Nielsen of The Washington Post — Long before the pandemic and the pandemonium at the Postal Service, Florida had a ballot delivery crisis. In 2018, I mailed my ballot on Oct. 29, eight days before Election Day. Yet every time I checked the website of the Miami-Dade County Elections Department in the following week, I got bad news: “Ballot not tabulated.” Ten days later, I received scanned copies of each side of my ballot envelope. On one side, there was a Nov. 9 postmark. On the other, the Nov. 14 arrival date. My ballot had spent half a month traveling 10 miles across town. And I was in good company: 3,429 other people in Miami-Dade had sent ballots that were deemed late and thus not tallied, according to the late-ballot log I obtained from the Elections Department. Of those, 2,105 had postmarks on or before Election Day. One was postmarked Oct. 17. Statewide, county supervisors discarded more than 15,000 ballots for lateness, as required by Florida law.

— OPINIONS —

A second Trump term might injure the democratic experiment beyond recovery” via The Washington Post editorial board — After he is nominated at a pared-down Republican convention next week, Trump will make this argument to the American people: Things were great until China loosed the novel coronavirus on the world. If you reelect me, I will make things great again. Seeking reelection in the midst of the worst public health crisis and sharpest economic downturn of our lifetimes, this may, realistically, be the only argument left to him. But, fittingly for a president who has spoken more than 20,000 lies during his presidency, it rests on two huge falsehoods. One is that the nation, his presidency and, above all, Trump himself are innocent victims of COVID-19. In fact, his own negligence, ignorance and malpractice turned what would have been a daunting challenge for any president into a national disaster.

—“Save our democracy. vote for Biden” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board

Trump’s wish to ‘trade’ Puerto Rico should be wake-up call” via Maria Padilla for the Orlando Sentinel — It’s no surprise that the President would want to trade Puerto Rico as if he were playing a game of Monopoly, with little regard for the 3.1 million souls who reside in Puerto Rico. This is the language of colonization, the language of ownership and disregard. It has been thus for 122 years. The island’s one million mostly brown-skinned Puerto Ricans immediately were subjected to derogatory language created centuries earlier to effectively subjugate African Americans. Trump regressed to that time again, recently describing Puerto Rico as “poor and dirty.” The United States needs to do better. It can do better. It’s time the nation recognized, addressed and repaired its role as a colonizer.

‘Grim Reaper’ from beaches: DeSantis’ virus response is tragic” via Daniel Uhlfelder of the Orlando Sentinel — If a lawyer disregards the law, they are disbarred. If a doctor commits malpractice, they lose their license. But if a governor puts the lives of his constituents in danger by listening to the advice of Fox News figureheads over Florida public health officials, the remedy is much less clear. Such is the current situation of our state, which under the failed leadership of DeSantis has now found itself as a national epicenter of coronavirus. For much of the past year, I have dressed as the Grim Reaper to call attention to DeSantis’ premature decision to reopen beaches and businesses, but the governor’s disastrous response to the coronavirus goes much deeper than that. It starts with his base misunderstanding of the coronavirus and Florida’s unique vulnerabilities to it.

Help wanted: A Special Session on the unemployment crisis” via The Palm Beach Post editorial board — As our state enters its sixth month of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 1.1 million Florida residents remain unemployed. And those are just the people known to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). It doesn’t count those who have become so frustrated that they’ve given up on looking for a job. Or stopped applying for unemployment benefits. The latest figures from the state show that 1.89 million jobless residents have received at least some payment. Unfortunately, another 1 million applicants have never received a dime — one of the worst processing rates in the country. This has gone on far too long.

Musings on Florida and the politics of pythons” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — Everybody knows the python invasion is bad news. Heck, DeSantis even talked about wiping them out during his State of the State speech in January. Pythons are endangered in their native Southeast Asia but they’re thriving here. The first one showed up on the edge of Everglades National Park in 1979 — an 11-footer that someone had run over. Since then, the big snakes have spread all over South Florida and gobbled up everything in their path. For instance, four years ago, a biologist at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples was fishing around inside a 15-foot-long female python they’d caught when he told colleagues he had discovered something sharp. “He pulled out a complete set of bobcat claws.”

Michael Worley: Six digital lessons learned from the 2020 primaries” via Florida Politics — The 2020 Florida primary was one for the history books. Huge turnout, massive shifts in voting preference, and historic investments digital campaigning were the hallmarks of this election cycle.  Democratic strategist Worley breaks down some of the biggest lessons learned from Florida’s first post-COVID election, including how changing rules and ad platforms are impacting candidates up and down the ballot.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida’s Department of Health reports 51 new fatalities and almost 3,000 new cases of COVID-19. It’s certainly not good numbers, but it is an improvement. More than 600,000 Floridians have been infected and the death toll is at least 10,462.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Florida’s economic recovery stumbled in July. A new report from the Labor Department shows unemployment increased in July after a couple of months of gradual improvement.

— Officials at the Department of Economic Opportunity say they don’t know yet if the July rate was an aberration or if we’re entering the second wave of unemployment. Either way, Democrats say the Governor and the Republicans who control the state Legislature have screwed the pooch on COVID-19.

— A deep dive into the politics of unemployment during the COVID-19 crisis.

— More schools are opening their doors for in-person instruction … and universities are reopening for the first time since March. Sen. Janet Cruz says stand by for a new wave of infections — and fatalities.

— The teacher’s union has already filed suit over the forced reopening of schools; we’re still waiting on a ruling from a judge who heard the case last week.

— Democrats in the Legislature are also renewing their call for a Special Session to deal with unemployment, elections and myriad issues affected by the pandemic. They say the response from the Governor and legislative leaders is a violation of the state constitution.

— The latest with Florida Man, who lost his job as a city manager after being accused of battering a Councilwoman who voted against renewing his contract.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Now playing at the mall parking lot: Movies, drag shows” via Joseph Pisani of The Associated Press — After being closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, malls are bringing all types of drive-in entertainment to their massive parking lots, hoping to lure people back to their properties. A mall in upstate New York, for example, is hosting a drive-in wrestling match. Others around the country are bringing movies or magic shows that can be watched from a car. It’s a way to reintroduce people to the mall and eventually get them inside to shop, says retail consultant Kate Newlin. But that’s still a hard sell for anxious shoppers, especially with coronavirus cases spiking around the country. “Nobody wants to go there,” Newlin says about malls. “Nobody wanted to go there before COVID.”

Malls are bringing all types of drive-in entertainment to their massive parking lots, hoping to lure people back to their properties. Image via AP.

Robert Pattinson stars as the caped crusader in gritty first trailer of The Batman” via Georgia Slater of People — During DC Comics’ FanDome event, Warner Bros. Pictures released the first trailer for Matt Reeves‘ The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman. In the trailer, which featured a haunting version of Nirvana’s “Something in The Way,” Pattinson is seen as a much grittier Bruce Wayne, one with dark eyeliner and a serious demeanor. Also, fans saw the first look at Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. “It’s about the early days of him being Batman and he’s very far from being perfect,” direct Reeves said during the FanDome event on Saturday.

To watch the trailer, click on the image below:

 

Ben Affleck to return as Batman in upcoming ‘Flash’ movie that also will feature Michael Keaton as Dark Knight” via Anthony D’Alessandro of Deadline — Sources have confirmed that Affleck is returning as Batman in the upcoming Flash movie which Warner Bros. is putting into production. It is to be a cameo role. And, yes, Affleck will be playing the Dark Knight alongside Keaton’s Batman from the 1989 Tim Burton film, in what is billed by Flash director Andy Muscietti as a “substantial” part. The Flash is scheduled for release on June 3, 2022. Ezra Miller, who played Flash in Justice League, plays the title role. Despite being involved in early development on Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” Affleck stepped away from reprising the role in that movie in January 2019.

Watch the first trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League cut” via Julia Alexander of The Verge — After years of campaigning from fans, Snyder’s Justice League will see the light of day — and a first look trailer for the director’s version premiered today. Snyder brought the trailer for his panel at DC FanDome, a miniature version of San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H for fans of DC and Warner Bros.’ films. The trailer is set to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and follows the various members of the team as they slowly come together. Snyder fans who wanted more of Ray Fisher’s Cyborg, more Superman, Darkseid, and a more Snyder vibe to the film overall should be pleased. Snyder also confirmed his version will be released as four parts, with each installment running one hour. The team is also working on a distribution plan for countries where HBO Max isn’t available.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to state Sen. Rob Bradley, Pasco Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning, former state Reps. Dave Kerner and Leslie Waters, as well as Hillsborough County School Board member Steve Cona, Andrea BeckerFred Grimm, and TV’s Troy Kinsey.

___

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
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Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
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