Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.8.20

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All the news that fits, and more: Your first look at Sunshine State politics and policy news.

President Donald Trump will highlight his environmental agenda as he campaigns in Jupiter today.

The White House says Trump will stop in Florida to remind voters there of his conservation and environmental protection efforts in the Everglades region.

Donald Trump will visit Jupiter to talk about environmental issues. Image via AP.

For the federal budget year beginning Oct. 1, the White House said, Trump asked Congress for $250 million in annual funding to accelerate the construction of infrastructure for the Everglades as part of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration. The project aims to improve the Everglades by enhancing regional water storage capacity and reducing harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee.


The Joe Biden campaign said Monday that VP nominee Kamala Harris will campaign Thursday in Miami.

It will be Harris’ first in-person appearance in Florida since becoming the Democratic Party’s Veep nominee.

Doug Emhoff and VP candidate Kamala Harris are coming to Florida. Image via AP

Her husband, Doug Emhoff, will accompany her. Emhoff kicked off a “Believers for Biden” series of virtual events on Aug. 28 with Jewish leaders.


It’s Wilton Simpson vs. Gary Farmer. Read here.


“The weakest of weak teas.”

That’s how a top Democratic strategist describes the less-than-full-throated support by Florida House Victory for Democratic incumbents in battleground districts.

Dylan Sumner, a partner at Deliver Strategies and one of Florida’s top Democratic vendors, recently emailed a dire warning: “Unless [House Victory] quickly embarks on the greatest surge in financial support of House Dems over the next four weeks, the Dem. field is on a trajectory for the lowest amount of resources in targeted races in the modern political era.”

In at least six districts, there has been little or no financial support to Democratic candidates, with 22 “battleground” districts getting less than $384K combined. Many within the Party privately share these concerns, and some candidates already assume Party help will not be forthcoming at all, at the same time fearing being outspent by Republican opponents.

But not everyone is predicting doom.

“Major spending typically comes closer to the elections, too, so ideally that’s what we’ll see,” Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani said. “I’m sure more will come in the coming weeks.”

For a breakdown of where the Democratic money races stand so far, read the full post here.

>>>Speaking of House campaigns … it’s official; vaunted field organizer Kevin Sweeny is helping Chris Sprowls retain (and build out?) the GOP advantage in the Florida House. Sweeny is a veteran of Florida politics, having managed campaigns and legislative affairs for a variety of interests, first as a consultant with Public Concepts in West Palm Beach, then as chief of staff to Rep. Stan Mayfield and Sen. Charlie Dean, campaign manager to Dean and Sen. J.D. Alexander, and leading the political and legislative charge at FJA. “Kevin Sweeny is a friend and the best grassroots operative in Florida politics,” says Speaker-designate Sprowls. “We are pleased to have him as part of our 2020 House Majority Team.”


Prayers for the departed — Christopher Benjamin’s wife, Carleen Aneesa Nelson-Benjamin, dies weeks after his election to Florida House” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Miami Gardens Democrat wrote on a Facebook post a summary of his wedding vows, closing with the phrase “All I am is for you.” Nephew Zamir Brown, a policy analyst with The National Health Law Program, confirmed the death in an Instagram post. “Auntie Carleen Aneesa Nelson-Benjamin, there are no words that could ever amount to the love and healing you gave to this world and everyone you came in contact with. You were too great for this world and this world did not deserve you. May Allah grant you the most beautiful palace and an exalted status in paradise. Ameen.” On Aug. 18, Benjamin won election in House District 107.

RIP to Carleen Aneesa Nelson-Benjamin, wife of Christopher Benjamin, who died this week. Image via Facebook.


Are you ready for some football?Republican Fantasy Football League — Tuesday night marks the draft of the 24th season of the Republican Football League. Started at the RPOF in 1997, when Lawton Chiles was Governor and Bill Clinton had been reinaugurated, but the Florida GOP had just won a majority in the Legislature the year before. Each year, the winner earns the Madden Trophy. Among this year’s players are Slater Bayliss, Chris Brown (Commissioner), Steve and Brandi Brown, Chris Clark, Tom DiGiacomo, Eric Eikenberg, Randy Enwright, Towson Fraser, Clint Fuhrman, Mike Hanna, David Johnson, Jamie Miller, Jim Rimes, Bob Sparks, Todd Thomson and Cory Tilley.


@SarahHuckabee: The Atlantic story on @realDonaldTrump is total BS. I was actually there and one of the people part of the discussion — this never happened. I have sat in the room when our President called family members after their sons were killed in action, and it was heart-wrenching …

Tweet, tweet:

@RichardCorcoran: Thanks to @GovRonDeSantis Friday Night Lights is alive and well in Florida! Suwannee Bulldogs v. Santa Fe Raiders.

@Conarck: Lots of wide-open spaces in South Beach. I asked a couple of masked people on a stroll what they expected to see. They said a lot more crowds. That’s due to the virus or the weather? “In Miami? the weather,” one said. “No one gives a shit about the virus,” the other agreed.

@FloridaGOP: We oppose Amendment 3, which has been FALSELY described as simply opening primaries in FL. Not true. It abolishes party primary elections and limits voter choice. Proponents are blatantly misleading the public through offensive targeted ads. Vote NO on 3.


2020 NFL Season begins — 3; Walmart Amazon Prime competitor, Walmart+, will launch nationwide — 8; Rescheduled date for French Open — 14; First presidential debate in Indiana — 22; “Wonder Woman 1984” premieres — 25; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 26; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 29; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 30; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 36; Second presidential debate scheduled in Miami — 38; NBA draft — 39; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 39; NBA free agency — 41; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 43; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 46; 2020 General Election — 57; “Black Widow” premieres — 60; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 64; College basketball season slated to begin — 72; “No Time to Die” premieres — 74; Pixar’s “Soul” premieres — 74; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 85; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 86; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 153; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 165; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 298; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 319; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 326; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 426; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 522; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 564; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 756.


More Americans predict Donald Trump will win the presidential debates than Joe Biden, poll shows” via Maureen Groppe and Sarah Elbeshbishi of USA Today — Could the debates do for Trump what the conventions didn’t? A poll indicates many voters think that’s possible. A greater share — 47% — predicted Trump will win the debates than the 41% who said Biden will. That’s despite the fact that only 33% of respondents who watched at least some of the conventions said the political events made them more likely to support Trump; 37% said the conventions made them less likely. Independents picked Trump over Biden as the likely winner of the debates by 10 percentage points: 47%-37%.

Most voters think Donald Trump will win the debates over Joe Biden.

Trump plays defense with the military weeks before election” via Lara Seligman of POLITICO — Trump is once again fending off a fresh set of attacks from the military, this time as he’s forced to explain away allegations that he disparaged fallen and wounded service members, just before a critical stretch of the election. Still, it’s a difficult situation for Trump, who from the beginning of his presidency has surrounded himself with military trappings and boasted about “rebuilding” the armed services. Experts and former top military officials say the quotes from the article are dangerous not just for losing actual voters tied to the military — but potentially turning off a narrow slice of undecided voters who may not love either 2020 candidate but still revere troops and veterans.

Biden aiming ads at military families” via Alexi McCammond of Axios — Biden‘s campaign is seizing on new accusations about Trump insulting veterans, investing heavily in ads to sway voters around military bases in five swing states. “Protect Our Troops,” an ad that debuted earlier this year highlighting Biden’s family connections to the U.S. military and plans to support troops, will relaunch this week as part of a $47 million ad buy across TV, digital and radio. Voters living near bases like Fort McCoy in Wisconsin or Fort Bragg in North Carolina will see the ad on Facebook and Instagram. The campaign is targeting households in a 50-mile radius of military bases in those two swing states, as well as Arizona, Pennsylvania and Florida. The ad follows a report that cites multiple unnamed sources and alleges Trump privately referred to American soldiers who’ve died in war as “suckers” and “losers.” Trump and several current and former aides on the record have denied the report, while some news outlets report confirming portions of it.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Trump fixates on the promise of a vaccine — real or not — as key to reelection bid” via Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post — Trump is so fixated on finding a vaccine for the novel coronavirus that in meetings about the U.S. pandemic response, little else captures his attention, according to administration officials. Trump has pressed health officials to speed up the vaccine timeline and urged them to deliver one by the end of the year. He has peppered them with questions about the development status and mass-distribution plans. And, in recent days, he has told some advisers and aides that a vaccine may arrive by Nov. 1, which just happens to be two days before the presidential election. Trump’s desire to deliver a vaccine by the time voters decide whether to elect him to a second term is in part a campaign gambit to improve his standing with an electorate that overwhelmingly disapproves of his management of the pandemic.

Kamala Harris says she won’t take Trump’s word on vaccine efficacy” via Sydney Maki of Bloomberg — Harris told CNN that she wouldn’t take Trump’s word alone on the efficacy of a coronavirus vaccine. “I would not trust Donald Trump, and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he’s talking about,” Harris said in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I will not take his word for it.” Trump has accused employees at the U.S. FDA of attempting to sabotage his reelection by slowing down coronavirus research. Concern about pressure from the White House to speed up the vaccine’s development and approval pushed drugmakers to plan a public pledge to not send any Covid-19 vaccine to the FDA for review without extensive safety and efficacy data. Still, health officials inside the Trump administration have said the process will be based entirely on science, and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, a Trump appointee, has said he wouldn’t participate if he thought a vaccine were being rubber-stamped.

How Trump’s billion-dollar campaign lost its cash advantage” via Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Brad Parscale, the former campaign manager, liked to call Trump’s reelection war machine an “unstoppable juggernaut.” But interviews with more than a dozen current and former campaign aides and Trump allies, and a review of thousands of items in federal campaign filings, show that the President’s campaign and the RNC developed some profligate habits as they burned through hundreds of millions of dollars. Since Bill Stepien replaced Parscale in July, the campaign has imposed a series of belt-tightening measures that have reshaped initiatives, including hiring practices, travel and the advertising budget. Under Parscale, more than $350 million — almost half the $800 million spent — went to fundraising operations, as no expense was spared in finding new donors online.

Brad Parscale once called the Donald Trump reelection machine a ‘juggernaut.’ That may not be the case. Image via AP.

Why Biden could still lose the suburbs to Trump” via David Siders of POLITICO — A raft of recent polls suggest Trump’s law-and-order rhetoric, amplified by the Republican National Convention and turmoil in Kenosha, Wis., is doing little to cut into Biden’s lead. But in swing state suburbs, local party officials are meeting the Labor Day start of the fall campaign with an undercurrent of uneasiness about how quickly Trump shifted the focus of the campaign to public safety — and away from the more damaging discussion of his erratic response to the coronavirus pandemic. Interviews with more than two dozen Democratic Party officials and strategists in the suburbs reflect confidence in Biden’s ability to compete with Trump on issues surrounding this summer’s civil unrest, but also widespread concerns about the political volatility — and potential allure — of the president’s law-and-order message.

There are promising signs everywhere. Yet Florida Dems remain ‘terrified.’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Biden has a marginal lead over Trump in polls here. Last month, for the first time in at least a decade, more Florida Democrats cast primary election ballots than Republicans. Democrats also dominated voting by mail and became competitive in several red districts where they didn’t have a prayer before. Yet for all of those promising signs, they’re haunted by the uneasy feeling that Trump will win anyway in November. “The more positive the news about how we’re going to win, the more terrified we get,” said Kevin Cate, a veteran Democratic strategist.

Biden lags among Florida Hispanic voters” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Biden is underperforming among Florida Hispanic voters while Trump has marginally increased his numbers from 2016, according to a new poll in the must-win battleground state for the president. Biden leads Trump among Hispanics by 53-37% in the poll conducted for Equis Research, a Democratic Latino research firm. While his advantage seems large, Biden’s 16-percentage point margin spells potential trouble for him because it’s 11 points lower than what Hillary Clinton received in 2016 exit polls, when she lost the state to Trump. At the same time, Trump is running slightly ahead of his statewide Hispanic performance in 2016 by about 2 points thanks to increased backing from conservative Cuban American voters and additional support from a broader coalition of Latino voters, specifically men, whom the president’s campaign has courted.

— “Christian Ulvert headlines new Florida hires to help Biden expand Hispanic outreach” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

To reach Hispanic voters in Florida, presidential campaigns turn to Bad Bunny” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — In the fight for Hispanic votes in Florida, the latest weapon is Puerto Rican trap singer Bad Bunny. Both presidential campaigns are making a play for Hispanic voters in Florida and also in Arizona by launching dueling videos featuring the Puerto Rican rapper’s music. Florida is home to over a million Puerto Ricans, many of whom live in Central Florida, and make up nearly a third of eligible Hispanic voters living in the state. The musical outreach effort comes as polls in the battleground states show Democratic presidential nominee Biden’s lead over Trump slightly shrinking.

At least 4 boats sink during ‘Trump boat parade’ in Texas, officials say” via Bryan Pietsch and Aimee Ortiz of The New York Times — The authorities rescued numerous people from the waters of Lake Travis in Texas on Saturday after at least four boats sank at an event promoted as a Trump Boat Parade, officials said. The Sheriff’s Office in Travis County received “multiple” calls of boats in distress starting at 12:15 p.m. local time, a spokeswoman, Kristen Dark, said. Christa Stedman, a spokeswoman for Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services, said no injuries had been reported. Firefighters pulled “numerous” people out of the water, said Braden Frame, president of the Lake Travis Fire Fighters Association. It was not clear how many had needed rescuing, he said.

Hundreds of boaters gather in Choctawhatchee Bay for Trump flotilla” via Nick Tomecek of the NWF Daily News — Choctawhatchee Bay was packed with hundreds of boaters Saturday eager to show their support for Trump. Boats of all sizes adorned with American flags and various Trump memorabilia participated in the Emerald Coast Florida Trump Flotilla near the Brooks Bridge. The flotilla moved west toward Navarre to join with another boat parade to attempt a Guinness Book of World Records’ “World’s Largest Boat Parade” entry. Trump supporters were also stationed on the Brooks Bridge, waving at passing motorists and the flotilla as boats made their way underneath. The Trump event was organized by Anne Ziegenhorn and Deidre Cannon, co-administrators of the “I’m a Florida Trump Girl” Facebook page.

A Trumptilla along the Emerald Cost attempted a world record for boat parades. Image via Walton Sun.

Trumptilla II: President’s backers are loud and proud during Intracoastal boat bash” via Larry Keller of The Palm Beach Post — The circus arrived in Jupiter on Monday. Not under the Big Top, but on water and in the air, as supporters of Trump’s reelection bid held a boisterous procession in watercraft that ranged from a jet ski to yachts and party boats rented for the event. But first, four parachutists dropped from the sky, unfurling “Trump 2020” and American flags. Choppers flew noisily overhead, with one toting a U.S. flag. Two drones hovered above the scene. The boating extravaganza was similar to the first “Trumptilla” that came together May 3 at the same location.


In a new campaign spot, Vern Buchanan is touting a list of bipartisan accomplishments, including 22 legislative initiatives signed into law under three Presidents.

The Longboat Key Republican is featuring his record in “Vern Gets it Done,” the second digital ad in this campaign cycle. The video follows a commercial launched last week that highlights Buchanan’s efforts to help the family of a Bradenton soldier killed in a tragic training accident.

According to a campaign statement, since coming to Congress in 2007, Buchanan passed legislation ranging from the first-ever federal penalty for animal cruelty to addressing the opioid crisis. The campaign contrasts Buchanan’s record with former presidential candidate Ron Paul, who served in Congress for 22 years and only passed one bill.

The spot also features testimonials from community leaders, including Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston and Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, both praising Buchanan for his ability to “break through the Washington gridlock” to get things done for his region.

“He’s not a ceremonial Congressman; he’s a working Congressman,” Poston says in the ad. “You have to be concerned first and foremost about your community and not yourself. Vern sees that.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

— 2020 — 

September surprise: Florida tries to awaken millions of nonvoters” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida — Better late than never. In the coming days, Florida will turn to the Postal Service for more help but this isn’t about mail-in ballots. It’s about being able to vote. The state will send about 4 million postcards to people living here who are not registered to vote. The message in English and Spanish will be that they should go to the online voter registration website and sign up for the 2020 election. It’s unprecedented. In the nation’s largest swing state, with its history of razor-thin margins and reputation for trying to suppress turnout, this long-awaited effort to expand the pool of eligible voters could shake things up with eight-and-a-half weeks to go. Why would Republicans do it when the latest poll shows the race in Florida between Trump and Biden a dead heat?

The push for a $15 minimum wage in Florida is on and these groups are leading the fight” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — A coalition of progressive groups, social justice activists and labor organizations are joining forces to fight for a $15 minimum wage in November. The combined effort, to be announced Wednesday, will kick off with a series of protests and rallies throughout Labor Day weekend. On Thursday morning, local fast-food workers will go on strike and caravan from one Tampa McDonald’s to another. “This pandemic has shown, clearer than ever, that our system is broken, especially for Black and brown essential workers,” said Gail Rogers, a 60-year old McDonald’s worker in Tampa who is coleading the coalition. “No essential worker should be making poverty wages, plain and simple.”

The fight for a $15 minimum wage is on in Florida.

Assignment editors — Florida Legislative Black Caucus Chair Sen. Bobby Powell and Caucus leaders including former Rep. Sean Shaw, Sen. Randolph Bracy, Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, House Minority Leader-Designate Bobby Dubose and Rep. Dotie Joseph will hold a virtual news conference to discuss their concerns about Florida’s Open Primaries ballot initiative, Amendment 3, noon, registration available here.

Poll: CD 4 incumbent John Rutherford leads Democratic challenger Donna Deegan by 27 points” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — In a survey conducted Sept. 2 by St. Pete Polls, Rutherford is the choice of 62% of the 1,037 likely voters polled, while Deegan lags far behind with the support of just 35%, with the remainder undecided. The district, which includes Nassau and some of Duval and St. Johns counties, 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 with 170,254 Democrats, with independents and third-party registrants making up the balance. Rutherford is outperforming even Trump, who leads Biden 60% to 36%.

Brian Mast trusts Trump’s actions over ‘anonymous sources’ in magazine article” via Christine Stapleton and Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — Republican Rep. Mast said he remains unfazed in his support of President Trump despite accusations in a bombshell magazine article that Trump privately disparaged military service members. Mast, who is scheduled to meet Trump in Jupiter, said the president has always “looked me in the eye and sincerely thanked me for my service.” Trump will be in northern Palm Beach County to promote his administration’s environmental record. He will tout the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation Mast championed in Congress, during an event at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse.

Lara Trump campaigns for bigoted conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer” via Rachel Olding of the Daily Beast — Trump’s daughter-in-law knocked on doors in Florida on Tuesday for Loomer, the bigoted conspiracy theorist and notorious internet troll vying for a seat in Congress. Before she won the Republican primary in Florida’s deeply-blue 21st District, Loomer was most famous for chaining herself to Twitter’s front door while wearing a yellow Star of David, spreading conspiracy theories about the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, being permanently banned from Uber Eats for calling for an Uber without a Muslim driver, and bragging about being a #ProudIslamophobe. None of that has discouraged Trump’s campaign surrogate Lara Trump from hopping aboard the Loomer train.

Lara Trump has jumped on the Laura Loomer train.

Larry Sabato predicts tough reelection race for Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell — Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” now sees the race for Florida’s 26th Congressional District as a tossup. The shift was announced Thursday. Sabato’s House race rating system had previously pegged the district as leaning Democratic. Mucarsel-Powell is competing against Republican candidate Carlos Giménez, who currently serves as the Miami-Dade County Mayor. In late July, analysts at the Cook Political Report also shifted the race from “leaning Democratic” to a “tossup.” Mucarsel-Powell won the seat from Republican Carlos Curbelo in 2018 by just 2 percentage points. Mucarsel-Powell herself has previously predicted the race will be “one of the toughest” in the nation. Her district covers parts of Miami-Dade County as well as Monroe County.

On the floor for the Red Pill Roadshow, a QAnon tent revival” via Claire Goforth of the Daily Dot — On Aug. 25, some of the biggest names in QAnon attended the Red Pill Roadshow at the Jacksonville Ice & Sportsplex. QAnon is a conspiracy theory that a Satanist pedophile cabal controls the world. They believe Trump is at war with this cabal, sometimes called the Illuminati. The Red Pill Roadshow was equal parts spectacle, lunacy, and convention — but mostly grift. There’s a growing grifter class of QAnon personalities. For their marks, the QAnon faithful, the show was a chance to mingle with other members of the quasi-religious conspiracy theory community. It was kind of sad to see them taken advantage of. Originally planned when the Republican National Convention was to be held in Jacksonville, organizers soldiered on, undeterred, after the RNC moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Chris King seeking to elevate Democrats in ‘Gillum-King’ districts” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — King is pursuing a new effort in Florida Democratic Party politics by hosting online forums with legislative candidates in districts held by Republicans, but in which the Andrew Gillum-King ticket did well in 2018. King has launched a series of social media forums he calls “Let’s Talk.” He’s seeking to lend his support by providing opportunities for Democratic candidates to introduce themselves to his followers. To date, a half dozen such forums carried on Facebook and Twitter platforms have averaged more than 12,500 views each. His staff said there were 20,000 for an August 23 forum that featured Julie Jenkins running in House District 60 and Jessica Harrington running in House District 64. King’s effort is focused in seven districts that Gillum and he carried at the top of the ticket, but which Republicans won in district elections in 2018, plus a handful more Republican-held districts where the Gillum-King ticket came close.

Chris King is looking to turn Republican districts that leaned Democrat in the Gubernatorial election.

Residents of east Seminole question if Jason Brodeur will protect rural zone” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Two years ago, as a member of the Florida House, Brodeur voted four times for legislation that would have helped the proposed River Cross development sidestep county rules meant to protect rural lands in eastern Seminole County. Brodeur, a Republican who is now running for a seat in the Florida Senate in one of the most hotly contested elections in the state this year, said he voted for the controversial legislation by mistake and that he is committed to protecting Seminole County’s rural boundary. But activists who have been fighting the River Cross plans for years are skeptical — especially because Brodeur is a longtime friend and political ally of Chris Dorworth, the lobbyist and former legislator who is the developer of River Cross and who is continuing to pursue the massive project.

HD 42 candidates Barbara Cady, Fred Hawkins paint differing pictures of Hawkins’ record” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Suspended Republican Osceola County Commissioner Hawkins proudly points to his support for the controversial Osceola Parkway extension through Split Oak Forest as a win-win; the sometimes-troubled NeoCity high-tech manufacturing center is a long-term project worth continued support. They all are all positive developments presented as evidence of his effectiveness in 12 years on the Commission. Frustrations, Cady said, come from people who feel their needs have not been addressed as the bulldozers roll. Lending some extra drama to the election, Hawkins was arrested June 21 after the FDLE investigated an incident at an election meeting of the Turnberry Reserve Homeowners Association in Osceola County. It led to DeSantis suspending him from office.

In Central Florida state House race, Geraldine Thompson and Bruno Portigliatti offer different approaches to crises” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Offering their own approaches and priorities to fix the health and economic impact, Rep. Thompson and Portigliatti are battling for that challenge. For Thompson, the impacts are exacerbations of chronic problems that already needed more attention before the coronavirus crisis. Now, more than ever, she says, the district needs an advocate for such things as issues ranging from livable wages to expansion of health care access, public education support to investment in affordable housing. For Portigliatti, the priority is getting the economy safely rebooted. Then many of the other issues can be addressed in a healthy environment. That makes the election more critical, he says, made worse, because many people do not believe they’re being represented.

>>First in Sunburn — a look at Portigliatti’s TV ad debuting today.

Familiar community voices Daisy Morales, Jesus Martinez battle for open HD 48” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Morales, a supervisor in the Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District, has been active in community and Democratic Party affairs, focusing on the environment and social services. A New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, she’s worked for the U.S. Navy and other federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and Department of State. “The people know me, and I know them,” Morales said. “I know their needs.” Republican Martinez is a real estate mortgage broker, a church pastor, a former Spanish radio and TV show host, and a mentor to youth. Last year the Trump administration brought him to the White House to serve in a conference advising on Hispanic concerns.

Rene Plasencia, Nina Yoakum offer experience or new direction in HD 50” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Now is not the time to bring a new person in House District 50 and replace someone with strong experience, growing authority, and the ears of Legislature leaders, contends Republican Rep. Plasencia. “This is the point where government experience matters,” he says. Experience, authority and closed-door meetings with party leaders are not serving the people of HD 50 if the results leave people with public policies and decisions that are not helping them, charges Democratic candidate Yoakum. “I have a lot of energy, empathy and passion for this job,” she says. “I will vote the way my constituents want me to vote. I will vote to make it a better place for teachers, for helping professions.

Drake Buckman, Fiona McFarland prepare for battle in deep purple HD 72” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sarasota once again finds itself as the center of one of Florida’s hottest legislative races. Buckman, a Sarasota Democrat, faces McFarland, a Sarasota Republican, in deep purple House District 72. Already, there’s tenseness in the air, as the longtime trial lawyer gears up to face the already running campaign machine behind a Trump-connected political newcomer. “I’m expecting to get slandered. I’m anticipating it,” said Buckman. “But we are moving forward and have got support from every neighborhood in this district.” McFarland, meanwhile, sounds boisterous as she readies for the final weeks of the campaign. “I feel like we have put in a good amount of work to connect with voters and get out and talk to people.


Weekend COVID-19 reporting lull brings 1,838 cases, 22 deaths” via Florida Politics staff reports — State health officials on Monday reported 1,838 total COVID-19 diagnoses and 22 fatalities tied to the virus, a continuation of favorable trends for Florida. The Department of Health now shows that 648,269 people, including 639,166 Floridians, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the Sunshine State. With the newly confirmed deaths, 12,023 people have died in Florida, including 11,871 residents. Those updates come in the 24 hours since DOH and the Division of Emergency Management released their previous report Sunday morning. Over the last seven days, the death toll has grown by an average of 98 residents, down from a peak average of 185 a month ago. Monday also marks the first time since deaths surged in Florida that the average daily death toll fell below 100.

Ron DeSantis builds up comeback message as COVID-19 ticks down in Florida” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis has been crisscrossing Florida and handing the microphone to coaches ready to play ball, brewers eager to pour pints again, and a doctor with controversial views who has the president’s ear. The story DeSantis wants to tell: Florida has the novel coronavirus under control, and the state’s quarantine-weary everyday Joes and Janes think it’s time to get back to normal. Florida’s tourism-based economy is firing back up, and better days are ahead, DeSantis has stressed in panel discussions held from Miami to Jacksonville. “We will never do any of these lockdowns again,” DeSantis said during a stop in The Villages. “I hear people say they will shut down the country, and honestly I cringe.” The governor’s efforts to put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror come as Trump and his Democratic opponent Biden are effectively tied in Florida ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Ron DeSantis is strongly suggesting Florida has coronavirus under control.

DeSantis itching to reopen just about everything but Florida’s government” via  Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Gov. DeSantis is pushing to reopen Florida to help the state emerge from the coronavirus shutdown, but the government he oversees remains largely closed. There hasn’t been an in-person Cabinet meeting since February. The Capitol remains shut down to the public. State workers are still operating under social distancing restrictions and mask-wearing guidelines. But the governor has insisted on opening schools for in-person learning, allowed visitors for nursing homes, encouraged theme parks to expand attendance caps, invited more tourists to the state and is looking at reducing restrictions on bars and restaurants.

DeSantis wants a closer look at local mask orders. Counties and cities shrug.” via Charlie Frago, Tracey McManus, Barbara Behrendt and Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — For months, DeSantis has said counties and cities should take the lead in deciding whether to require people to wear masks. On Friday, though, his office sent out a letter requesting the state’s 67 counties send him copies of their mask orders and other coronavirus pandemic measures they’ve taken. State and local governments have battled for years over who calls the shots where and who controls what. Often, the term “home rule” is used to defend the powers of county and municipal governments. And, in recent years, county commission chambers and City Halls have reverberated with that phrase as local officials assert state overreach.

Florida is privatizing state-run COVID-19 testing sites” via Ben Conark and Daniel Chang of the Tampa Bay Times — Less than two months after state-run COVID-19 testing sites were overwhelmed with demand amid a surge in new infections, Florida officials are turning to a single private vendor to reduce operating costs for the sites, beginning with a Broward County site at the busiest intersection in Pembroke Pines. The state will consolidate vendors for nurses, equipment and lab work at the testing site at C.B. Smith Park, according to Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz. “We are right sizing the testing sites,” he said, adding that the division is cutting costs as demand for tests has waned. He said the state is looking to make similar changes at other state-run testing sites.

State, federal testing rules raise questions” via The News Service of Florida — Florida’s long-term care industry and a top state regulator are befuddled by what appears to be competing state and federal regulatory requirements for conducting coronavirus tests of visitors and staff at long-term care facilities. The issue involves whether a rule published by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conflicts with three state emergency rules and a new executive order lifting a moratorium on visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The federal rule requires testing, with the frequency dictated by coronavirus positivity rates in the counties where facilities are located. The state rules require testing of facility staff every two weeks.

As Florida’s jobless website crashed, state lawmakers scrambled to help” via Lawrence Bower of the Tampa Bay Times — In the first four months of Florida’s pandemic-triggered unemployment crisis, state lawmakers and their staff referred at least 60,000 jobless Floridians to the state’s unemployment agency for help filing for and receiving state benefits, department data shows. As millions of desperate out-of-work Floridians looked for a way to receive benefits through the state’s broken website, their desperation prompted many to turn to their state local lawmakers’ offices, typically staffed by just three or four people, including the lawmaker. All 159 state lawmakers and their staffs responded and sent names, detailed unemployment information and contact information to the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, according to department data from March to June obtained through a public records request.

Chris Latvala hospitalized again due to COVID-19” via Allison Ross of the Tampa Bay Times — State Rep. Latvala has been hospitalized for a second time due to COVID-19. “I am back in the hands of medical professionals at Largo Medical (Center),” Latvala wrote on his Facebook page. “This is the hardest thing I have ever faced in my life.” In a text message Saturday afternoon, Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who represents Florida’s 67th House District, confirmed he was still hospitalized, but did not provide more details about his symptoms. Latvala announced nearly a week ago that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Best wishes to Chris Latvala, who is back in the hospital with COVID-19.

Food licenses used to open Florida’s bars get mixed reviews, some say a gimmick” via Dara Kam of Florida Today — Folks are bellying up to the bar as taverns throughout the state are getting libations flowing again through a process some industry insiders are branding a gimmick. Bar, pub and tavern owners are selling hot dogs, cold sandwiches and Hot Pockets so they can reopen under an approach authorized by DeSantis’ administration amid the coronavirus pandemic. Crafty pub owners are adding simple fare to suds and shots after getting licensed to sell prepared food, but critics scoff at the state’s approach. “I didn’t do anything different but put a damn Crock-Pot on my bar,” Becky Glerum, the owner of Paddy Wagon Irish Pub in Plant City, told The News Service of Florida a day after she reopened her business this week.


Between COVID-19 and layoffs, schools may not have enough teachers to get through the year” via Bracey Harris and Neal Morton of the Pensacola News Journal — Each year, the Clark County School District in southern Nevada relies on substitutes like Valenzuela to fill hundreds of teacher vacancies and cover day-to-day teacher absences. The district also recruits educators from overseas and brings recent retirees back to the classroom temporarily. Those patchwork solutions, however, may be in jeopardy, as the ongoing pandemic and deepening recession throw new challenges at school districts trying to stanch teacher shortages across the country. A potential exodus of older educators susceptible to the coronavirus and those with existing health problems may fuel already high turnover. A full third of teachers told Education Week they were somewhat or very likely to leave their job this year — compared with just 8% who leave the profession in a typical year.

South Miami Senior High student arrested in some cyberattacks against Miami schools” via Colleen Wright and Erin Doherty of the Miami Herald — A 16-year-old student at South Miami Senior High has been arrested in connection with some of the cyberattacks that have throttled Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ first week of online learning. The school district made the announcement via email around 9:30 a.m. Thursday. The email included the arrest affidavit, which shows an arrest was made 2:43 a.m. Thursday by Miami-Dade Schools Police. According to the affidavit, the student admitted to using a tool, the name of which was redacted in the report, to attack the school district’s network. According to the report, the student admitted to launching eight attacks beginning Wednesday morning at a location between Zora Neale Hurston Elementary and W.R. Thomas Middle.

Police are accusing David Oliveros, a junior at South Miami Senior High, of eight cyberattacks against the District. Image via Miami-Dade Corrections.

PBC public schools will reopen campuses Sept. 21” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — DeSantis has given Palm Beach County public schools permission to postpone reopening campuses until Sept. 21, offering a lifeline to a school district struggling with communication and personnel problems. The Friday extension came the same day the governor approved the county’s move to the second phase of the state’s reopening plan, a step that would have required campuses to welcome back students Sept. 15. DeSantis’ extension buys the public schools an extra week to prepare for the return of perhaps 100,000 students to its roughly 180 campuses. Tens of thousands more students are expected to continue learning online. After concluding no school board vote was necessary, district administrators announced the new reopening date to parents and employees Friday evening. The county’s public schools “will reopen brick and mortar schools to in-person instruction on Monday, September 21,” the message said.

‘I’m disgusted’: School board skewers district’s treatment of high-risk employees” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — Stunned Palm Beach County School Board members ripped school district leaders Wednesday after learning they failed to set up a process for employees with health concerns to request to work from home when campuses reopen. With in-person classes expected to begin in less than two weeks, district leaders admitted they had not yet put together a system for teachers and other school employees to apply for remote work if they face elevated health risks from COVID-19. Echoing complaints last week by the teachers union, board members accused Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy’s administration of deceiving them about the possibility that some employees would be granted permission to work from home.

Olympia High School closes campus after 6 COVID-19 cases, Orange district says” via Lisa Maria Garza and Leslie Postal — Olympia High School is temporarily closing its campus and switching entirely to online learning after six COVID-19 cases were confirmed within the school, district officials said Sunday. It is the first Orange County public school to shut down because of virus cases. Harmony Middle School in Osceola County announced its two-week closure on Aug. 28 after 10 staff members either tested positive for the coronavirus or needed to be tested because they’d been in close contact with an infected employee. Orange County Public Schools said in a statement on Sunday that Olympia will be closed from Sept. 8 through Sept. 18, and on-campus students will shift to the district’s virtual program LaunchEd@Home.

Doctor calls Baker High School football game ‘Super-Spreader’” via Jamarlo Phillips of Action News Jax — High school football is officially back. But in Baker County, not all suggested COVID-19 safety measures were followed at Friday night’s game against Bradford. The two teams faced off in front of stands packed with fans, and there weren’t many masks or much social distancing in place. “It is a critical lack of leadership from the top down to the bottom up,” said Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen. Video of fans posted to Action News Jax’s Twitter page has reached nearly 2 million views overnight. No school or county rules and policies were broken. However, the video shows most people right next to each other with no face coverings.

PCPS student numbers drop, could impact state funding by millions” via Kimberly C. Moore of The Lakeland Ledger — The enrollment numbers are coming in and they are alarming for those who understand how Polk County Public Schools receives state funding. The district has seen a drop in enrollment of 7,590 students from last school year thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic that has kept children at home to learn online or switch to smaller charter or private schools. Since Florida funds school districts based on student enrollment, it could mean a drop of $56.4 million if the Florida Legislature doesn’t continue a stopgap measure put in place by state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran as part of his emergency order to districts to return to in-person learning. “Commissioner Corcoran issued an emergency order that preserves funding continuity by addressing issues related to declining enrollment as well as changes in the delivery of instruction to our students,” said state Sen. Kelli Stargel, the chairwoman of the powerful Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

This luxury Disney World resort wants to home-school your kids” via Natalie B. Compton of The Washington Post — Hotels and resorts across the country are pulling out all the stops to make up for lost business during the pandemic. They are offering work-from-home amenities. They are housing college students. They were even offering luxury quarantine packages. With millions of children going to school remotely this fall because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is now trying to corner the very stressed-out parent market by tempting them with “schoolcation” promotions. It’s school, at a luxury resort, with Disney World in your backyard (if you can afford it). Can real school ever feel special again? “This new offering exclusively for our Resort guests will be both helpful to parents, as well as something really fun for kids to experience,” said Thomas Steinhauer, the resort’s general manager, in a news release.


Labor Day weekend typical of pre-COVID holiday” via Jim Thompson of NWF Daily News — A tourist season that foundered early, but rebounded as state and local restrictions imposed as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have been lifted or eased, posted a strong Labor Day holiday weekend performance. Across the area, the weekend featured the crowded beaches and bumper-to-bumper traffic along U.S. Highway 98 that marks the last long weekend of the summer in typical years — although, for some this year, the beaches of Northwest Florida wouldn’t have been a typical destination. Several miles east, at the Miramar Regional Beach Access on Scenic Gulf Drive in Walton County, Ashton Kennedy was enjoying time away from Baton Rouge. In Louisiana, he explained, strict COVID-19 protocols, including a mask-wearing mandate, are in place. So, he said, a visit to Florida, with fewer restrictions, was a nice change of pace.

COVID-19, a stigma to many, quietly taking toll on South Florida’s Haitian community” via Jacqueline Charles and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Fritzner Fabre, a health care aide who cared for coronavirus patients, spent his final days holed up in a ramshackle North Miami-Dade efficiency, coughing and wheezing. He was 41 when he died at the hospital. Another Miami man, architect Pierre Martin, suffered from heart troubles and diabetes. Believing he’d simply caught a cold, Martin refused to go to the hospital until it was too late. He was 69 when COVID-19 killed him. Then there was Pastor Marcel Métayer, who kept his Fort Lauderdale Baptist church open as a spiritual haven for the local Haitian-American community, even as the coronavirus surged during the summer. The faithful noticed Métayer, 63, gasping during his sermons. He died on July 28.


Workers reveal Disney is covering up its COVID-19 cases” via Tarpley Hitt of The Daily Beast — Four sources familiar with the matter said that Disney has kept the total number of positive cases at the district under wraps, alerting unions only to the positive test results of their members — often days after the fact, risking further exposure — and leaving workers to guess for themselves why colleagues disappeared for days at a time, or why 11 people from the 12-person Horticulture Irrigation team didn’t show up to work for a full week. “Basically all of our COVID information has come from word-of-mouth,” said Alicia, the spouse of a cast member whose contract prohibits them from speaking to the press, “co-workers texting each other, co-workers talking to each other, and things that my [spouse] has seen on the job. None of this is from any of the managers. Disney management is not really officially acknowledging that any of this is happening.”

Workers are accusing Disney of hiding true COVID-19 numbers.

Another death in Jackson County, a virus hotspot” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Tallahassee Democrat — A 54-year-old Jackson County man died of the coronavirus, the state health department reported. Officials say he had come into contact with someone positive for the virus. He now is the 69th person in Jackson County to have succumbed to the virus. The pandemic has brutalized Jackson, a county of fewer than 50,000 people. In August, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the Panhandle county was among the nation’s Top 10 coronavirus hotspots. Part of the problem likely is the above-average number of prisons, where social distancing is difficult and sometimes impossible.

Lakeland commissioners vote on extension of city’s mask mandate” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Ledger — Lakeland’s mask mandate is set to expire at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Whether to mask up, or cast them off, is expected to be a hotly debated issue.  The city commission will meet virtually at 3 p.m. to debate whether to extend the ordinance requiring facial coverings be worn in indoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible for 27 additional days through Oct. 5. The issue has been pushed to the top of the city’s agenda. Commissioner Stephanie Madden asked to hear opinions from health care officials regarding whether masks are still necessary as the city’s daily new COVID-19 infection rate is trending downward.

FSU beginning random COVID-19 testing; students who don’t comply face possible sanctions” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Random COVD-19 testing for asymptomatic students, faculty, and staff on Florida State University’s campus will begin Sept. 14 and continue this fall. The goal is to test at least 5% to 10% of those who are on campus daily based on the average from the prior week, Renisha Gibbs, associate vice president for human resources and finance and administration chief of staff said in a campus memo. “Each week, students, faculty, and staff who are engaged in on-campus activities will be randomly selected to participate and notified by email and MyFSU push notification on Sunday with a reminder sent Monday. Those selected will be directed to make a testing appointment at the Tucker Civic Center,” Gibbs said. Appointments must be scheduled no later than Tuesday, and specimen collection must be completed by Friday of that week.


Experts project autumn surge in coronavirus cases, with a peak after Election Day” via Joel Achenbach and Rachel Weiner of The Washington Post — Infectious-disease experts are warning of a potential cold-weather surge of coronavirus cases, a long-feared “second wave” of infections and deaths, possibly at a catastrophic scale. It could begin well before Election Day, Nov. 3, although researchers assume the crest would come weeks later, closer to when fall gives way to winter. An autumn surge in covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, would not be an October surprise: It has been hypothesized since early in the pandemic because of the patterns of other respiratory viruses. “My feeling is that there is a wave coming, and it’s not so much whether it’s coming but how big is it going to be,” said Eili Klein, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Debate rages over whether FDA should use emergency powers to clear a coronavirus vaccine early” via Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Washington Post — A fierce debate has erupted over whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should use its emergency authority to clear a coronavirus vaccine before it is formally approved — a move opponents warn could pose safety dangers and inflame anti-vaccination sentiment but others say could save thousands of lives by speeding protection from the virus. With concerns growing about the politicization of the FDA amid a botched White House rollout of the agency’s emergency authorization of convalescent plasma and sharply criticized comments by FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, some scientists and bioethicists are demanding the agency forgo the use of its emergency authority for a vaccine.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn is caught in the middle of a fierce vaccine safety debate.

COVID-19 vaccine developers prepare joint pledge on safety, standards” via Peter Loftus and Jared S. Hopkins of The Wall Street Journal — Several drugmakers developing COVID-19 vaccines plan to issue a public pledge not to seek government approval until the shots have proved to be safe and effective, an unusual joint move among rivals that comes as they work to address concerns over a rush to mass vaccination. A draft of the joint statement, still being finalized by companies including Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Inc. and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, commits to making the safety and well-being of vaccinated people the companies’ priority. The vaccine makers would also pledge to adhere to high scientific and ethical standards in the conduct of clinical studies and in the manufacturing processes.

‘Small events add up to a lot’: Limited gatherings quietly emerge as source of coronavirus infections” via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today — Images of packed beaches, lakes and bars have made the rounds on traditional and social media for much of the summer, drawing scorn from those concerned about the coronavirus spreading among those crowds. Less prominent but also troubling are the growing instances of case clusters arising from smaller gatherings. Contact tracing yields information about the sources of infections as the USA, by far the world leader in total COVID-19 cases and deaths, grapples with how to keep its population safe while propping up a flagging economy. More than 182,000 Americans have been killed by the disease. The hasty reopening of businesses across much of the nation after the spring shutdown was largely blamed for a summer surge in infections, but social functions of various sizes among relatives, friends and co-workers may have been a contributing factor as well.


New jobless claims drop in Florida” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — The U.S. Department of Labor estimated Florida received 39,335 first-time unemployment claims last week. That was down from a revised 51,647 the prior week, when Florida also saw a decrease. Florida also had the biggest decrease in first-time applications for the second consecutive week. After Florida’s 12,312-claim decrease. Florida’s unemployment rate jump from 10.3% in June to 11.3% in July as the state grappled with a surge in COVID-19 cases early in the summer. That represented an increase of 122,000 people, putting the number of Floridians out of work at 1.125 million.

‘A tale of 2 recessions’: As rich Americans get richer, the bottom half struggles” via Megan Cassella of POLITICO — The path toward economic recovery in the U.S. has become sharply divided, with wealthier Americans earning and saving at record levels while the poorest struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table. The result is a splintered economic picture characterized by high highs and incongruous low lows in the stock market: Nearly 30 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, and the jobless rate stands at 8.4 percent. And that dichotomy, economists fear, could obscure the need for an additional economic stimulus that most say is sorely needed. The trend is on track to exacerbate dramatic wealth and income gaps in the U.S., where divides are already wider than any other nation in the G-7, a group of major developed countries. Spiraling inequality can also contribute to political and financial instability, fuel social unrest and extend any economic recession.

The current pandemic recession is not affecting everyone equally.

Trump’s rebound story meets mounting bankruptcies” via Ben White of POLITICO — While Trump prepares to promote an economic rebound, a wave of business failures is set to tell another story. Economic-relief money drying up in August and September will mark a final blow for some firms that had managed to hang on so far with government aid — which now appears unlikely to be renewed for weeks, if ever. Cold weather and flu season could end outdoor dining, halt other indoor activities and contribute to COVID-19 outbreaks at workplaces. And economists expect weak demand and tight credit — especially for smaller businesses — to add to the tens of thousands of firms that have already collapsed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while restraining entrepreneurs hoping to replace them.

Advertisers seek right to cancel TV spending as pandemic roils fall season” via Alexandra Bruell of The Wall Street Journal — Advertisers are pressing for unprecedented flexibility to back out of monthslong spending commitments with TV networks, concerned that the coronavirus pandemic is sapping the fall schedule of new programming and threatening the NFL’s season. By this time of year, advertisers usually have struck broad deals governing the TV season that starts each September. This year, the pandemic scrambled the equation, delaying those deals and introducing new risks for marketers, most notably, whether the content on which they want to advertise will even get aired. After several college-football conferences decided not to play in the fall, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. shifted some of its ad spending from college football to NFL games, said Chris Brandt, the company’s chief marketing officer. He now is asking networks for the ability to back out of those spending commitments if professional football games get canceled.

Airlines are removing seats to make space for gadgets and seafood” via Kyunghee Park, Layan Odeh and Richard Weiss of Bloomberg — Cargo, one of the least glamorous aspects of flying, is proving a rare ray of light for airlines amid the coronavirus gloom. The grounding of passenger planes at a time of increased demand for everything from medical supplies to iPhones has boosted freight rates. With much of the world’s population housebound and shopping online instead of hitting the malls, analysts see no letup in demand, particularly as the peak year-end holiday season approaches. “Airfreight is going to be a bright spot for carriers at least for this year because while borders are closed that doesn’t mean people aren’t buying,” said Um Kyung-a, an airline analyst at Shinyoung Securities Co. in Seoul.

Airlines are ditching passenger seating for cargo space.


Pandemic is threatening a decade of progress in child mortality rates” via Eileen Drage O’Reilly of Axios — Within a mere eight months, COVID-19 has damaged years of global progress in children’s health and other areas by disrupting essential health services in many countries. These disrupted services will result in a myriad near- and long-term health problems. The global health organization PATH points to a projected increase in deaths in children under the age of 5 that could erase up to a decade of progress, according to preliminary findings shared first with Axios. Decades of global progress in education, electricity access, and gender equality have been lost due to the pandemic. And, those most vulnerable will likely continue bearing the brunt of those costs.

COVID-19 could eclipse 9/11 in causing police officer deaths” via John Bacon of USA Today — Scores of law enforcement officials, from beat officers and detectives to border patrol agents and prison guards, have died of COVID-19. The Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring fallen officers, lists more than 100 who lost their lives to the virus. Spokeswoman Jessica Rushing said her organization has about 150 more such fatalities awaiting formal verification. In Glen Ridge, Officer Charles Roberts, praised by his peers as “the face of the police department” who had a smile for everyone, died in May. The tragic result is that line-of-duty officer deaths in 2020 have already exceeded the total from 2019 when gunfire and vehicle crashes accounted for two-thirds of the 147 fatalities counted by the Officer Down Memorial group.

COVID-19 may soon overtake 9/11 for police officer deaths.

The pandemic is ruining our sleep. Experts say ‘coronasomnia’ could imperil public health.” via Karin Bruilliard and William Wan of The Washington Post — As if the novel coronavirus has not already wrought devastation aplenty on the world, physicians and researchers are seeing signs it is doing deep damage to people’s sleep. “Coronasomnia,” as some experts now call it, could prove to have profound public-health ramifications — creating a massive new population of chronic insomniacs grappling with declines in productivity, shorter fuses and increased risks of high blood pressure, depression and other health problems. Even before the virus, lack of sleep was a simmering public-health crisis associated with a suite of maladies. Roughly 10 to 15% of people worldwide were suffering from chronic insomnia, the struggle to fall or stay asleep at least three nights a week for three months or longer. Crises such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks are known to trigger short-term sleeplessness.

Deep cleans and disinfecting mists might not keep us from getting the virus, but they sure make us feel better” via Maura Judkis of The Washington Post — Despite initial reports warning people that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted from contaminated surfaces, the C.D.C. has told Americans in no uncertain terms that the virus is primarily transmitted person-to-person, through breathing, speaking, shouting and singing. While it may be possible to catch the coronavirus from a doorknob or a package, it’s a long shot, and “not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” says the agency. Yet, six months into the pandemic, Americans seem determined to Clorox their way to absolution. They’re wiping down soccer balls, Lysoling beach chairs, touching PIN pads with “touch tools” and gloves, and cleaning bags of Tostitos with diluted bleach.


If you watch one thingKirk Herbstreit breaks down in tears talking about racism on ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’” via Cindy Boren of The Washington Post — The college football season has begun and, during an era of protests and a coronavirus pandemic, ESPN’s first Saturday telecast was anything but usual. The hosts were far apart, broadcasting from their homes rather than appearing before a boisterous, sign-loving crowd on a campus somewhere, and “College GameDay” devoted time to the protests of systemic racism and police brutality that have taken place across the country. Herbstreit broke down in tears as he spoke of the need to change. He shared a quote from Benjamin Franklin that he had been given by Stanford Coach David Shaw and he wondered what will follow, asking, “What will lead to change?”

Tweet, tweet:

Clad in riot gear, police arrest 15 people after clashes with protesters in Tallahassee” via Nada Hassanein of the Tallahassee Democrat — What began as a peaceful march on Saturday afternoon ended with more than a dozen arrests and heated clashes between officers and demonstrators in front of the Old Capitol building. The protest came a day after a Leon County grand jury chose to exonerate Tallahassee Police Department officers involved in the three lethal force shootings of Mychael Johnson, Tony McDade and Wilbon Woodard. Before marching from Bronough Street to Monroe Street, protest organizers reminded the crowd not to engage agitators or counterprotesters and to move off the streets and into the sidewalk when asked by police. At least a dozen were on the ground, several linking arms, as officers pulled on their arms and legs to separate them and take them into custody. In total, 15 were arrested, according to a City of Tallahassee news release sent out on behalf of the arresting agencies.

—“Andrew Gillum, Ramon Alexander speak out against police response to unpermitted protest” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

‘Our voice is crucial’: How Jacksonville’s young people are fighting for Black lives” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — In Jacksonville, young people’s quests for social justice and anti-racism takes many forms. Their paths to get where they are now look different, too — whether it’s through protests organized at school, registering to vote or participating in marches, people from different economic and cultural backgrounds are getting involved in the fight for social justice and equity — but they all have one commonality: they vehemently believe that Black Lives Matter. As the city’s youth enters voting age and adulthood, they’re coming to terms with the widespread systemic inequality people of color — especially Black people — face daily.

Activists call to cut policing in Orange schools, echoing national debate” via Cristóbal Reyes and Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Amid a national debate about police brutality, some Orange County activists want the county’s public schools to cut back on spending for school police officers and spend the money instead on counseling and mental health services for students. The Orange school district’s proposed budget, tentatively adopted in July and set for a final vote Tuesday, includes a $1.1 million hike for police services, much of that earmarked for school resource officers, often called SROs. The new money would pay for officers for three new campuses and cover increased expenses, but it would also allow the district to put a second police officer on five campuses — three middle schools, a K-8 school and an alternative school, according to a memo from district staff sent to school board members last month. The district then would have 256 SROs for 210 campuses, it said.

Black gun groups thrive across South Florida in times of civil unrest” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Black gun owners are finding camaraderie in groups forming across South Florida, one-stop destinations that let them address gun issues, learn self-defense and plan ways to volunteer in the community. They say these groups offer a strong alternative to the National Rifle Association, the politically powerful gun advocacy organization that has been engulfed in scandal in recent months. Feeling alienated by the NRA, they’re finding their own way to push gun rights locally. The groups have become timely during a period of civil unrest, as protests are staged across the country over the high-profile killings of George Floyd and other Black people. Gun ownership is not just about guns and bullets, “it’s a political statement,” says Travis Campbell, the president and founder of the Black Arms Gun Club of South Florida. The organization is based out of Miami but its members are from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, and the club meets at various shooting ranges in South Florida.

Black gun groups are increasing in popularity as civil unrest worsens. Image via WLRN.

Milton ‘Naked and Afraid’ man launches Florida chapter of Defenders of Freedom” via Savannah Evanoff of the NWF Daily News — Some people know Jamie Wells from his Milton edition of “Naked and Afraid.” A nude Wells spent two weeks in the wilderness documenting his experience on social media to not only entertain followers like the Discovery Channel’s survival series but also raise awareness for veteran suicide. And it did. Wells cites the statistic that 22 veterans on average lose their lives to suicide each day. But he realized he could do more. Wells is launching a Florida chapter of the nonprofit Defenders of Freedom with the motto “Action vs. awareness.” Wells originally planned to start his own nonprofit until he reached out to his friend Donna Cranston, the founder of Defenders of Freedom in Coppell, Texas. She suggested he start a local chapter instead.

Amid Kenosha unrest, Wisconsin suburbs become a crucial testing ground for Trump’s appeals to White grievance” via Robert Klemko and Robert Costa of The Washington Post — Four years after Trump stunned Democrats and won Wisconsin by a margin of 22,748 votes, or less than 1 percent, the state’s suburban counties around Milwaukee are once again a critical battleground in the presidential race — and, in the aftermath of recent events down the road in Kenosha, the unexpected crossroads of the nation’s reckonings on racial justice and Trump. In the towns and small cities near Lake Michigan, the White suburban voters who form the backbone of the Republican Party’s power base in Wisconsin are weighing the visceral White grievance appeals from the president against Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s calls for racial reconciliation.


What Jimmy Patronis is readingFlorida attracts more northerners” via Marcelle Sussman Fischler of The New York Times — In June, despite being reluctant to move away from their close-knit New Jersey family, they bought a home in Boca Raton, in a new development that is planned like a country club without the golf. And they are not alone. According to an August report, new contracts for single-family homes and condominiums continued to rise in five south and central west coast Florida counties — after having doubled in July. In Palm Beach County, new single-family and condo contracts remained significantly above levels from a year ago, with a 268% increase in single-family contracts over $1 million. In Miami-Dade, Pinellas, and Hillsborough counties, much of the annual gain was at higher price points. Brokers say that many of those moving to Florida are coming from northern cities.

DeSantis signs military veteran fraud protections, 9 other bills” via News Service of Florida — DeSantis signed 10 bills into law on Friday, including one to bolster fraud protections for military veterans. The governor’s bill action Friday came hours after he received the final 26 measures approved by lawmakers during the 2020 legislative session, which ended in May. The Florida Veterans Protection Act adds veterans to the existing “White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act.” The law makes it a first-degree felony victimize 10 or more veterans out of at least $50,000. The law, which goes into effect on Oct. 1, already applies to the victimization of 10 or more elderly individuals. Many of the bills DeSantis signed Friday focused on extending existing public records exemptions. DeSantis has now signed 187 bills into law from the 2020 session, including the $92.2 billion budget, and vetoed three measures.

Deloitte’s settlement with Rhode Island’s was not disclosed — Deloitte didn’t tell the Agency for Health Care Administration about a $30 million settlement with the state of Rhode Island before it was awarded a $135 million contract to build a Medicaid data “warehouse” for Florida. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, records submitted by Deloitte during the procurement process claimed the company had not faced any “administrative or nonadministrative sanctions” in the past five years. Florida requires vendors to disclose sanctions when they submit bids for state contracts, however, Deloitte claimed the sanctions records fell under a trade secret records exemption. AHCA negotiators awarded Deloitte a perfect score in the sanctions section of their bid, giving it an advantage over second-place bidder Accenture.

Deloitte’s big settlement with Rhode Island was never disclosed to Florida officials.

Lawmakers to look at state finances” via The News Service of Florida — A joint House and Senate committee will meet next week in Tallahassee to consider a detailed report about Florida’s finances. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission will meet Sept. 10 to receive a presentation about a draft long-range financial outlook. The report, which is produced annually, provides extensive information about state revenues and expenses and projections for the coming years. But lawmakers will face additional issues next week because of the pandemic, which caused state general revenue to fall about $1.9 billion below estimates in the recently completed 2019-2020 fiscal year. Also, general revenue is projected to be about $3.4 billion below earlier estimates in the fiscal year that started July 1.

First on #FlaPol —School safety official, former soccer player named Senate Sergeant-at-arms” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Damien Kelly — Florida’s top school safety official, a veteran law enforcement officer and a former professional soccer player — will be the Senate’s next Sergeant-at-arms. President-Designate Simpson‘s office named Kelly, who played soccer professionally before beginning his law enforcement career, as the next man tasked with protecting Florida’s upper house. “Damien Kelly is truly a fine public servant,” Simpson said in a statement. “His professionalism, cool temperament, management expertise, and decades of service in law enforcement is a perfect fit for the needs of the Senate at this time.”

NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer continues fight over emails” via Jim Saunders of The News Service of Florida — Hammer is continuing a legal battle against a California attorney who sent graphic emails to her after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Hammer’s attorneys this week asked the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to take up her case, alleging that attorney Lawrence Sorensen violated state laws about issues such as cyberstalking, harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The request came after a panel of the Atlanta-based appeals court last month upheld a district judge’s decision to dismiss the case. The case stems from two emails that Sorensen sent to Hammer that included photos of gunshot wounds, including fatal wounds suffered by President John F. Kennedy.

Happening today — The Florida Supreme Court will consider five cases, including an insurance dispute stemming from Hurricane Frances. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. is pushing back on the possibility of compensating owners of Brevard County apartment buildings for lost rental income from the 2004 storm. Arguments will be held by video conference, 9 a.m. Livestream information here.


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jason Allison, Robert Hosay, Foley & Lardner: Blue Prism

Brian Bautista, David Browning, Nelson Diaz, Clark Smith, The Southern Group: Caesars Enterprise Services, Vault Medical Services

Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Environmental Defense Fund

Robert Burleson, Jose Diaz, Ballard Partners: Barry University, Emerald Coast Striping

Christopher Dawson, GrayRobinson: Contact Network d/b/a InLine

Richard Pinsky, Akerman: GeoToll


Foley & Lardner attorney: Firm won JEA contract ‘solely’ due to personal relationships” via Christopher Hong of The Florida Times-Union — An attorney who was locked into a bitter internal dispute over who should get credit for his firm’s lucrative contract to help JEA with its attempted sale argued his case with a remarkable claim: The firm was hired “solely” because of his personal relationship with Herschel Vinyard, a now-fired JEA executive, as well as Vinyard’s personal relationship with the managing partner of the firm’s Jacksonville office. The Foley & Lardner attorney, Christopher Kise, who is a fixture in Florida Republican politics, took his argument a step further by claiming he was “primarily, if not solely” responsible for JEA hiring Vinyard in April 2019.

Investigation of North Port city manager reveals details of affair with subordinate” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A 59-page investigation of North Port City Manager Peter Lear documented both an affair with a subordinate and a plan to move her out from reporting to a potentially stern boss and create a new department under one of her former bosses — relocated to the third floor, near the city manager’s office suite. The inquiry, conducted by Fort Myers-based Sproat Workplace Investigations, may have detailed more. Still, founding partner Vicki Sproat noted an arbitrary Sept. 4 deadline imposed by the North Port City Commission on Aug. 17, cut things short.


Presidents are expected to set the national tone. What we got with Donald Trump has been catastrophic.” via The Washington Post editorial board — The great fear of these early Americans was that the presidency could fall into the hands of a demagogue: someone like the incumbent, Trump, whose impact on the nation’s political culture over the past three-plus years has been, if anything, more damaging than his impact on public policy. Where past occupants of the office have at least paid lip service to its inspirational aspects, and where both of his immediate predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, actively campaigned on themes of unity, Trump lives by a different credo: “When someone attacks me, I always attack back … except 100x more.” This is a formula for upwardly spiraling conflict. Consistent with it, Trump has used the bully pulpit — magnified by social media — to debase public discourse.


Trump puts Israel’s security in danger with deal to sell fighter jets to United Arab Emirates” via Debbie Wasserman Shultz for the Miami Herald — The normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is an important breakthrough, consistent with the long-term, bipartisan goals of several U.S. administrations. As important, it also appears to have ended the possibility of Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank, which Trump foolishly put on the table earlier this year. But the good news comes with a catch. UAE leaders have made clear they believe that they received a commitment from the Trump administration to purchase the American-made F-35 aircraft. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, signaled as much when he told Fareed Zakaria on CNN that the normalization deal “should increase the probability” that the UAE’s long-standing request to purchase the aircraft will be approved.

DeSantis’ emotional announcement seemed a rare, welcome and overdue display of empathy” via The Miami Herald editorial board — DeSantis choked up during a news conference last week. He took a timeout, several seconds of silence in front of the media, to compose himself before continuing to discuss his order to allow family members back into the nursing homes and assisted living facilities where their loved ones have been isolated … since March. The sight was, at once, heartwarming and heart-rending. We have no idea what exactly rendered him speechless that day, but it was a display of empathy that has been missing for far too long from his handling, and mishandling, of the coronavirus pandemic in Florida. “It weighs on me to think of people who passed away not just from COVID, but from natural causes, without being able to say goodbye. We had to do something,” DeSantis said.


Gov. DeSantis wants people to start vacationing in Florida again. Sunrise examines a new campaign encouraging Floridians to jump-start the tourism business by taking a staycation in their own state.

Also, on today’s Sunrise: 

— Florida’s Department of Health is reporting 22 more fatalities and almost 2,000 new coronavirus infections on Labor Day, as DeSantis says the numbers are looking better. There is, as usual, a caveat.

— One side of society that has the Governor’s attention — alcohol. Specifically, the bars and brew houses shut down after they were accused of spreading COVID-19 when restrictions were relaxed in May. DeSantis would like to find a way to get them back in business.

Trump visits Jupiter to talk about the environment. He wants to spend a quarter-billion dollars in next year’s budget on infrastructure projects for the Everglades. Democrats say that would be good if he hadn’t gutted the federal agencies that are supposed to be preventing pollution.

— Condolences to Rep. Benjamin of Miami Gardens, elected to the Florida House when he won the primary for HD 107 last month. His wife died over the holiday weekend.

— The Florida Supreme Court takes on a case that could impact your homeowner’s insurance. Citizens Property Insurance is being sued over claims from Hurricane Francis in 2004.

— Checking in with two Florida Men who had a really bad weekend — only one survived.

To listen, click on the image below:


— ALOE —

‘Tenet’ tallies $20.2M as Americans step back into theaters” via Jake Coyle of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In a litmus test for American moviegoing in the pandemic, Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” brought in an estimated $20.2 million through the holiday weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters. The result could be greeted as either the rejuvenation of U.S. cinemas — more Americans went to the movies this weekend than they have in nearly six months — or a reflection of drastically lowered standards for Hollywood’s top blockbusters given the circumstances. About 70% of U.S. movie theaters are currently open; those in the country’s top markets, Los Angeles and New York, remain closed. Theaters that are operating are limiting audiences to a maximum of 50% capacity to distance moviegoers from one another. “Tenet” played in 2,810 North American locations, about three-fourths of what most major releases typically launch in.

“Tenet” led the pack in a very restricted box office release. Image via AP/Warner Bros. Entertainment.

What James Miller is readingMichael Mann’s ‘Heat’ at 25: A newly relevant study in loneliness” via Marc Rivers of NPR — For the last few months, the threat of COVID-19 has forced millions of Americans to go against our biological and emotional needs and stay apart from one another. Physical touch has gone from comfort to taboo, other people represent potential dangers rather than safe havens. Feelings of impotence are bound up in our current state of loneliness, in the understanding that you, yourself, are not enough, even as you also understand that you’re unable to do anything about that.

Peloton plans sub-$3,000 treadmill and new high-end bike” via Mark Gurman of Bloomberg — Peloton Interactive Inc. is preparing to launch a cheaper treadmill and a new high-end bike, while cutting the price of its existing bike to stoke demand as many gyms remain closed, according to people familiar with the matter. The new treadmill, called Tread, will cost less than $3,000, compared with $4,295 for the current model. It will also be smaller and have a cheaper belt design like most other treadmills on the market versus the current model’s slat design. The existing Peloton treadmill will continue to be sold as the company’s high-end offering and will be renamed the “Tread+,” the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private product plans. The new stationary bike will be a premium offering called Bike+, and will likely cost more than the current $2,245 version. Peloton will then drop the price of the existing machine to less than $1,900, the people said. The shares fell almost 4% to $79.05 in early trading in New York.


Best wishes to former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, Sen. Anitere Flores, Rep. Thad Altman, former Rep. Ed Narain, former St. Petersburg City Councilman Jeff Danner, Karen Castor Dentel, and Sean Phillippi. Belated happy birthday wishes to Chris Cate, Melanie Griffin, Chris Hong of The Florida Times-Union, and Jenna Box Sarkissian.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

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