Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.16.20

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

Joe Biden is ahead in Florida, but not by much.

Gone are the days of dubious polls predicting a double-digit win for Biden — something most plugged in Floridians warned was farcical over the summer. Now that Election Day is in sight, we’ve made it back to tossup territory.

Fresh polling from the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative shows the former Vice President leading President Donald Trump by three points, 49%-46%, with the balance undecided.

Joe Biden holds a slight lead over Donald Trump in Florida.

FAU’s results were mirrored in a Monmouth University poll that also dropped Tuesday. That measure predicted that, in a low turnout scenario, Biden would land a three-point win. If turnout trends higher, Monmouth predicts a 50%-45% result, advantage Biden.

Monmouth’s measure gives Biden more room for growth, however, with just 40% of Florida voters saying they were “not at all likely” to vote for him compared to 49% who said the same about the President.

In a vacuum, the polls are a double shot of good news for Team Biden, but the top-line has tightened considerably over the past few months — the last FAU BEPI survey in May found Biden leading Trump by six points, 53%-47%. Trump’s gains didn’t go unnoticed.

“Florida continues to be too close to call, but the enthusiasm still favors President Donald Trump, and that could be the difference,” said Kevin Wagner, a professor of political science at FAU and a research fellow of the Initiative. “With only 5% of the voters undecided, this election is less about persuasion and more about turnout.”


The Cybersecurity Forum 2020 kicks off today.

The event, co-hosted by the Foundation of Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, FloridaMakes and the Workers’ Compensation Institute will provide a comprehensive look at current technology and advancements in cybersecurity as it pertains to Florida business, such as defending from attacks by hackers, pirates, and foreign government agents.

Wednesday’s agenda starts with a primer on how businesses can protect their data, identify threats and respond to cyber breaches.

The curriculum will be covered in a series of panel discussions. The first, beginning at 9 a.m., will see top tech minds provide a “Long View on Cybersecurity” — or, how companies can best leverage solutions like artificial intelligence and machine learning to protect themselves.

Other panels will cover the financial risks of a cyber breach, how to predict the consequences of a breach, and familiarize attendees to new cybersecurity standards. There’s an addition for the times, too — AIF’s Tom Feeney will moderate a panel on the “lessons learned from the pandemic crisis” in the afternoon.

The day concludes with a keynote address from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who in addition to being Florida’s senior Senator is the Acting Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

To watch a promo for the event, click on the image below:



@DaveWeigel: Nothing would shock me more, not even learning about the existence of aliens or that fire really can’t melt steel, than 2020 being a “low turnout” election. People have been storming the polls for low-stakes primaries all year!

@Scontorno: On the road to the event, Trump supporters far outnumbered the handful of Biden backers who showed up to wave flags/hold signs/etc.

—@GovRonDeSantis: This week I was proud to recommend Judge Renatha Francis as a federal-district court judge candidate to President @realDonaldTrump & had the opportunity to appoint Judge Jamie Grosshans as Florida’s next Supreme Court Justice. Thank you for your service to our great state!

@RepMattGaetz: Politicians have made it easier and easier to access student loans while at the same time making it harder to get rid of the debt. Those two forces combined have essentially created a generation of indentured servants.

@NewsBySmiley: If a poll is released and no one writes it up, did it really happen?


Rescheduled date for the French Open — 4; First presidential debate in Indiana — 13; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 17; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 20; First vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 21; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 27; Second presidential debate scheduled in Miami — 29; NBA draft — 30; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 30; NBA free agency — 32; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 34; Third presidential debate at Belmont — 36; 2020 General Election — 48; “Black Widow” premieres — 51; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 56; The Masters begins — 57; College basketball season slated to begin — 64; “No Time to Die” premieres — 65; Pixar’s “Soul” premieres — 65; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 77; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 77; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 100; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 144; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 157; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 289; New start date for 2021 Olympics — 310; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 318; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 418; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 514; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 567; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 748.


To get a fair idea of how the presidential race is playing out, state polling is the way to go — particularly in battleground states like Florida. There are outlets that offer a poll of polls, gauging how Trump or Biden are doing in select areas, then averaging the polls to get a general idea of who leads nationwide. Sunburn will be updating these forecasts as they come in:

CNN poll of polls: As of Sept. 13, the CNN average gives Biden a 51% chance of winning, with Trump at 43%. As of Tuesday, Biden has a 75 in 100 chance of winning compared to Trump, who has a 24 in 100 shot. Even though the top-line numbers haven’t changed all that much, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been movement at the state level. FiveThirtyEight also ranked individual states by the likelihood of delivering a decisive vote for the winning candidate in the Electoral College: Pennsylvania leads with 31.7%, while Florida comes in second with 15.2%. Other states include Wisconsin (9%) Minnesota (5.2%), Michigan (6.2%), Arizona (6.1%) and North Carolina (4.5%).

Most polls put Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump, particularly in battleground states.

PredictIt: As of Tuesday, the PredictIt trading market has Biden in the lead, at $0.59 a share, with Trump priced at $0.44.

Real Clear Politics: As of Tuesday, the RCP average of polling top battleground states gives Biden a 49.7% likelihood of winning, with Trump getting 42.9%. Every poll used in the RCP model has Biden up from anywhere between 2 and 13 points.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball: One thing both sides agree on is that the race in the swing states will, on the whole, be closer than the national vote. In the polling averages, Joe Biden leads by 7-8%. Yet Biden’s lead in most swing states is smaller, and sometimes considerably smaller, than his national edge. Therefore, if the contest truly tightens in the next seven weeks, then Biden’s hold on some of the swing states will likely fall to a few points or less — and the makings of another Trump upset will emerge. This is the scenario that keeps hope alive in the Trump camp and causes Democrats to lose sleep with nightmarish flashbacks to 2016.


First ballots submitted in General Election” via The News Service Of Florida — The state Division of Elections posted that 42 vote-by-mail ballots have returned, with most of them in Flagler and Monroe counties. Supervisors of elections must send requested vote-by-mail ballots to stateside and overseas military members, along with overseas citizens, no later than 45 days before an election. The first big batches of vote-by-mail ballots for the Nov. 3 election will be sent out by county supervisors between Sept. 24 and Oct. 1. Of the first ballots returned, 19 were by Democrats, 17 were by Republicans, one came from a third-party voter and five were from voters without party affiliations. As of Tuesday morning, almost 4.28 million of the state’s 13.89 million voters had requested vote-by-mail ballots.

How Mike Bloomberg’s $100 million Florida bet may shape campaign” via Alexandra Jaffe and Brian Slodysko of the Associated Press — When the billionaire ended his presidential campaign in March, he pledged to spend “whatever it takes” to help Democrats defeat President Donald Trump. Less than two months before the election, he’s finally coming through. Facing questions about whether he would fulfill his promise, Bloomberg over the weekend moved to direct $100 million to Florida alone in support of Joe Biden. It’s a massive sum on par with the resources he poured into helping Democrats retake the House in 2018 and could put Trump on defense in a state that is critical to his reelection.

Joe Biden targets vets, Hispanics during first Florida visit as Democratic nominee” via Zac Anderson, Antonio Fins and John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Biden used his first trip to Florida since becoming the Democratic presidential nominee to try to make up ground with Hispanic voters and hammer Trump on veterans issues, particularly his alleged comments denigrating American war dead. Biden returned multiple times to reports that Trump described dead soldiers as “losers” and “suckers,” which were relayed to the Atlantic Magazine by anonymous sources and confirmed by other media outlets. The former vice president said during a veterans roundtable in Tampa that wounded soldiers often told him they wanted to return to their units and asked if that sounds “like the heart and the grit and patriotism of a sucker or a loser?”

Joe Biden tears into Donald Trump during a visit to Florida to talk with veterans and military personnel. Image via AP.

In Tampa, Biden hits Donald Trump for remarks on veterans” via The Associated Press — Biden tore into Trump for his reported remarks referring to fallen soldiers as “suckers” during a Tuesday campaign visit to Tampa. “Nowhere are his faults more glaring and more offensive, to me at least, than when it comes to his denigration of our service members, veterans, wounded warriors who have fallen,” Biden said at a campaign event with veterans at Hillsborough Community College. It marked Biden’s latest reaction on remarks describing offensive comments by the president toward fallen and captured U.S. service members, including calling World War I dead at an American military cemetery in France “losers” and “suckers” in 2018. Trump has denied the remarks. But the reported comments have given Biden an opening to press what Democrats believe may be an opening among veteran voters and military families, who broadly supported Trump in 2016.

’A heart pumping blue blood:’ How fast-growing Orlando threatens Trump’s reelection” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — The President must-win Florida to capture a second term. But the increasingly Democratic Orlando region stands in his way as one of the few places in Florida with a bench of Democratic officials and a grassroots infrastructure to go along with it. As a result, the Biden campaign and Florida Democrats think it can help deliver the crowning blow to Trump in November. That’s what brought Biden to Central Florida Tuesday, where he had a campaign stop in the Puerto Rican-heavy city of Kissimmee. While the visit was ostensibly about connecting with Hispanic voters in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the bigger target was populous Orange and Osceola counties, which have taken on heightened significance in 2020.

Scientific American backs Biden in first-ever endorsement” via Nick Niedzwiadek of POLITICO — It’s the magazine’s first-ever White House endorsement in its 175-year history. The magazine’s editors wrote that they felt “compelled” to back Biden in his effort to unseat Trump. Scientific American cited Trump’s handling of COVID-19 and his skepticism of expert opinion and mainstream science on issues like climate change as the impetus for its decision. “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people — because he rejects evidence and science,” editors wrote for its October issue.

We’re seeing a lot less of Trump’s rallies on TV news in 2020” via Jeremy Barr and Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post — You’re seeing a lot less of President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies on television this presidential cycle. Particularly when they’re held indoors, during a pandemic, like his campaign stop in Henderson, Nevada, on Sunday night. Compared with coverage of Trump’s rallies during the 2016 election cycle, the major broadcast and cable news networks have been far less likely to go live with him on the stump. The one holdout has typically been Fox News, though the President’s favorite channel has lately been prone to cut in and out through parts of the speech that meander or conflict with its high-rated prime-time pundits. But when the President spoke at the Xtreme Manufacturing facility on Sunday, even Fox didn’t broadcast it.

—“Trump says he’ll be on Fox & Friends every week — but host Steve Doocy doesn’t agree to have him” via The Week

Trump says football is ‘boring as hell,’ even as he stumps for more football” via Cindy Boren of The Washington Post — Trump returned to one of his favorite themes on the first Sunday of the NFL season, saying the sport is “boring as hell” in a campaign rally in Henderson, Nev. He made his point as he urged people to settle in and get comfortable, offering his rally as a diversion. “What do we have? Football’s boring as hell,” he told the crowd that had gathered at Xtreme Manufacturing just outside Las Vegas, where the Raiders have relocated. “It’s just not the same, right?” That continued a theme sounded by the president’s son, Eric Trump, who tweeted last week that “football is officially dead” after a report that Dallas Cowboys players had been given a “green light” to protest during the national anthem to raise awareness of social injustice and police brutality. “So much for ‘America’s sport.’ Goodbye NFL … I’m gone,” he added.

—“Trump shockingly shares post calling Joe Biden a ‘PEDO’ with ‘misleading’ vid of ex-VP whispering into woman’s ear” via Nicole Darrah of The U.S. Sun

Trump campaign hiding payments to top adviser embroiled in child support battle” via S.V. Date of HuffPost — Trump’s reelection campaign is hiding what it pays a top adviser who claims he speaks to the president daily and who is embroiled in a long-running dispute with a former lover over how much child support he can afford to pay. Jason Miller, who joined the reelection team in late spring after he served as an informal adviser since 2017, has not once appeared in the 2020 campaign’s filings on its expenses with the Federal Election Commission. If Miller can be shown to have a higher income than he has detailed, a court could force him to pay more child support.

Pam Bondi to rally ‘Women for Trump’ in Jacksonville” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Though Tuesday may have belonged to the Biden campaign, with the candidate finally visiting Florida, the Trump campaign plans a Wednesday surrogate counterpunch. Bondi, along with Lara Trump and campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson, will be at Jacksonville’s Downtown Hyatt Regency Wednesday at 10 a.m. rallying a “Women for Trump” meeting. For Bondi, who is now with the Trump-connected Ballard Partners, the Jacksonville stop offers her the latest opportunity to provide some quotable red meat lines on behalf of the President. At last month’s Republican National Convention, Bondi focused her attacks on Biden and Hunter Biden, the somewhat-less-mentioned son of the nominee, whom Republicans seek to make a central issue of the campaign.

Ivanka Trump and Bondi to hold Tampa event on Thursday” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The Trump campaign is calling the event a “political fireside chat.” Ivanka Trump will also be attending a fundraiser in Florida the same day. “Florida holds a special place in my heart and I am excited to visit Tampa once again to support my father’s campaign,” she said in a statement. She last visited Tampa in 2018, when she accompanied her father during a signing ceremony at Tampa Bay Technical High School for a bill that reauthorized $1.2 billion in spending for technical education.

Ivanka Trump will join Pam Bondi for a ‘political fireside chat’ in Tampa this week. Image via AP.

Assignment editors — Biden for President Florida hosts a “We Know Joe” Rural Kick-Off Call with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Sen. Audrey Gibson, and local small business owners and farmers, 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. Interested media should RSVP here no later than 9:30 a.m. Eastern time. Members of the public who wish to attend can RSVP here.

Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin decided the 2016 election. We’ll have to wait on them in 2020.” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — The most important states in the 2016 election are among the least likely states to count their votes and declare a winner on election night this year. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are expecting huge surges in ballots cast by mail in 2020, like most states preparing to vote during the coronavirus pandemic. But all three Midwestern battlegrounds, which Trump flipped in 2016 to win the White House after years of Democratic presidential victories there, are among the states where local election officials are not allowed to start processing mail ballots until Election Day, according to a POLITICO review of election rules in 13 key states.

Close contest in Wisconsin; in Minnesota, not so much: Poll” via Gary Langer of ABC News —In Wisconsin heading into the final seven weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign, women, suburban residents and independents are among the groups lifting Joe Biden to a substantial lead in Minnesota, according to new ABC News/Washington Post polls. President Donald Trump benefits from much greater enthusiasm among his supporters, who are far more apt to plan to vote on Election Day. That makes Biden’s ability to mobilize early and absentee voting central to the outcome. Results are similar among the broader pool of registered voters, with Biden-Trump at 50%-46% in Wisconsin and 57%-40% in Minnesota in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.

— 2020 — 

Poll: Democrats plan to mail ballots much earlier than Republican voters” via Noah Pransky of NBC LX — The partisan war over how voters cast ballots in a pandemic isn’t just leading more Democrats to plan on voting by mail this fall; it’s also leading far more Democrats than Republicans to heed United States Postal Service warnings to play it safe and get ballots in the mail well before Election Day. An NBCLX/YouGov poll of 3,244 U.S. adults, conducted between Sept 11-14, reveals 65% of Democrats who say they plan to vote by mail expect to send their ballots off at least a month before Election Day, compared to just 49% of independents and 40% of Republicans who responded the same way. Only 8% of Democrats who said they’ll vote by mail plan to wait until the last week before Nov. 3 to cast their ballots, compared to 14% of independents and 18% of Republicans.

Tweet, tweet:


Miami Democrat latest target of attack mailer aimed at state party’s taking PPP loan” via Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — A South Miami-Dade candidate hoping to flip a competitive Senate seat has become the latest target of a GOP-backed political mailer that criticizes the Florida Democratic Party and by association, its candidates, for taking $780,000 in federal coronavirus stimulus funds for small businesses earlier this year. A mailer that reached voters in Senate District 39, which encompasses parts of southern Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, reads: “Javier Fernández has our tax dollars in his war chest!” It calls on Fernandez, a Democrat who early on criticized the party’s decision to take the money, to “return the money now!”

’Challenging my Jewishness’: Randy Fine, Ben Marcus spar in wake of Abraham Accords” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The historic occasion of the Abraham Accords was one of celebration for many Florida Republicans. Reps. Fine and Jason Fischer said they were thrilled to be at the event, but not too long after the normalization deal was signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, hostilities broke out on Twitter between Fine and Fischer’s Democratic opponent in the November election, Marcus. By the end, Fine was saying that Marcus was “challenging his Jewishness,” in an exchange full of sharp elbows and personal attacks. “Challenging my Jewishness. Perhaps I think it best to keep my politics out of my congregation. I thought you Democrats were all about separation of church and state.”

Randy Fine and Jason Fischer at the signing of the Abraham Accords. Image via Twitter.

Scott Plakon, Tracey Kagan spar over rural boundary, pandemic leadership” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A progressive attorney is challenging a conservative stalwart to represent western Seminole County in a rematch of a close 2018 contest for a seat in the Florida House. Republican Plakon narrowly edged out Democrat Kagan with 51% of the vote two years ago, but the tide could turn this year as both sides are expected to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars campaigning in the closely watched race. Kagan said she decided to try again, in part, because of the challenges facing the state as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. If Plakon wins reelection, it would be his fourth and last term representing District 29. “I’d like to help us solve one more crisis,” Plakon said.

What Tom Piccolo is readingPoll: Democrat Julie Jenkins leads incumbent Jackie Toledo by six points in bellwether HD 60 matchup” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Signaling a tight race and a potential upset, Jenkins leads incumbent Republican Rep. Toledo by six points according to a new poll. A St. Pete Polls survey among 466 likely HD 60 voters showed Jenkins leading outside the margin of error, 48% to 42% with 10% undecided. It’s a remarkable shift in a district Toledo won in 2018 by four points and in 2016 by 14 points and where Republicans carry 37% of registered voters compared to just 33.5% for Democrats. The poll suggests that what Democrats have been hoping that Trump would negatively affect down-ballot races is happening. Trump narrowly claimed the district over Hillary Clinton in 2016 by less than a point, but is far behind former Vice President Biden in the latest poll by seven points, with Biden claiming 51% of the vote to Trump’s 44%. Only 3% of voters are undecided in the district while only 1% plan to vote third party.

—“Republicans enjoy a cash advantage in most (but not all) Southwest Florida’s House races.” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“Cash surge from Florida Democrats helps Ricky Junquera add $32K for HD 118 bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Alexandria Suarez endorses Jim Mooney for HD 120 — If August had gone her way, Suarez would be on the November ballot for House District 120. But with Suarez missing out on the GOP nomination, she’s urging voters to pick the next-best candidate. To her, that’s Mooney, who defeated her and another candidate in a close Republican primary. “Jim Mooney is a public servant and man of high ethical standards,” Suarez said. “Jim has been a longtime resident of the Keys who has served our community well and I believe he will do a great job for us in Tallahassee.” HD 120 covers Monroe County and part of Miami-Dade. The seat is currently held by Rep. Holly Raschein who is term-limited. Mooney faces Democrat Clint Barras in November.

Alexandria Suarez is endorsing her former opponent for HD 120.


With seven weeks to go until Election Day, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is highlighting more than a dozen candidates running to flip or hold onto state legislative seats in the fall.

“We’re going on offense across the country, and Florida is no exception,” said DLCC President Jessica Post. “Floridians are tired of extremist one-party rule in Tallahassee, and I’m so proud of the incredible group of challengers who have stepped up to hold the GOP accountable. Gov. DeSantis had one of the worst coronavirus responses in the nation, and it’s time to elect a Legislature that’s serious about tackling the issues we face.”

Many of the Spotlight candidates are incumbents running for reelection in swing districts, including Reps. Joy Goff-Marcil, Geraldine Thompson, Jennifer Webb, Delores Johnson and Cindy Polo. Also making the DLCC list are Reps. Loranne Ausley and Javier Fernandez, who are running for Senate.

Cindy Polo is among the Democrats going on the offensive in a variety of legislative campaigns throughout the state.

Non-incumbents getting a shoutout include Kayser Enneking in HD 21, former Rep. Patrick Henry in HD 26, Tracey Kagan in HD 29, Andrew Learned in HD 59, Jim Bonfiglio in HD 89 and Patricia Sigman in SD 9, one of the Senate districts where Democrats are confident they score a flip.

The DLCC rolled out the list with a heavy dose of optimism, claiming that Democrats are “within striking distance of majorities in both chambers” despite a 71-46 split in the House. It is closer in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 23-17 advantage heading into an election with two competitive seats on the board.


FDP ad quotes Republican Mayors to hammer Carlos Giménez COVID-19 response” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Florida Democratic Party is out with a new digital ad highlighting Republican Mayors in Miami-Dade County who have criticized the county government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Giménez, the Miami-Dade County Mayor, is now running as a Republican for the seat in Florida’s 26th Congressional District against Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The critical quotes come from a late July League of Cities news conference featuring several local Mayors. The FDP ad cites comments from four Mayors, all Republicans, who argued Giménez was shortchanging them on federal relief money approved under the CARES Act. The Mayors claimed the county had said local governments would receive $135 million out of $474 million in available funds.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


Police reform? Not here, say Sarasota City Commission candidates” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The six candidates for the City Commission Nov. 3 election all said some form of police reform is not needed in Sarasota, despite recent cries from activists to the city’s current elected leadership to do otherwise. One candidate, former City Commissioner Terry Turner, even suggested that the “toxic” national environment surrounding law enforcement and calls for racial justice is somehow misguided in Sarasota. “People are asking questions because of that national environment,” said Turner, who is running for District 2, which largely encompasses downtown. “We need to guard against the calls to re-imagine the police or defund the police.”


Florida reports 145 new coronavirus deaths, 3,116 new cases” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Department of Health reported 3,116 new coronavirus cases and 145 new resident fatalities on Tuesday. To date, 668,846 people have been infected statewide, and 12,787 Florida residents have died due to COVID-19. With 158 nonresident deaths, the combined toll is 12,945. The case total rose over 3,000 for the third time in a week, although Monday’s case total of 1,736 was the lowest since June 11. Mondays in general, though, tend to have lower reported cases and deaths with a spike on Tuesdays. The DOH also hasn’t reported a daily infection increase above 10,000 since July 25 as state case totals have been dropping since the high of 15,300 reported positive COVID-19 results on July 12.

Survey shows Governor’s approval rating down even as COVID-19 numbers improve” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — DeSantis has seen his approval rating fall nearly 20 points since May following a summer surge in COVID-19 cases. Those metrics on the virus have since improved. The Governor’s approval ratings have not, according to the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative. DeSantis now has a net neutral approval rating, with 43% of voters approving of the Governor and 43% disapproving. That’s a sharp drop from his +19 approval in May, when 51% approved of his job as Governor and only 32% disapproved. The FAU BEPI findings mirror other surveys in recent months, which show the Governor’s support dropping consistently. The same can’t be said of Trump‘s approval, at least according to the FAU BEPI survey. Trump sits at a -2 rating in the latest version of the poll, with 47% approving of his job performance and 49% disapproving.

Even as COVID-19 numbers improve, Ron DeSantis’ popularity rating with Florida voters continues its fall. Image via Colin Hackley.

Florida: We can’t afford Trump’s jobless aid anymore” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — DeSantis is scrapping the extra $300 in weekly benefits because the state pays its unemployed workers too little to meet a 25% matching requirement. Florida appears to be the first state in the nation to halt the program because of its cost. Republican and Democratic state legislators were surprised by the DeSantis decision, which was revealed without fanfare. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed residents remain in desperate need of financial help due to the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic shutdown, and more than 3 million people in Florida have applied for some form of state or federal unemployment help since mid-March. “It’s baffling,” said state Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami Democrat.

Assisted-living facilities in Florida no longer have to test staff for the coronavirus” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Assisted-living facilities in Florida no longer have to test staff for the coronavirus after two emergency mandates from the Agency for Health Care Administration expired Sunday. The statewide orders were issued in mid-June and required nursing home and assisted-living facility staff to be tested every two weeks for COVID-19. Workers wouldn’t be let inside unless they had tested negative for the virus. Nursing home staff are still required to be tested under federal guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. But workers from assisted-living facilities won’t be, according to an alert AHCA sent to health care providers. “With the expiration of the state Rule 59AER20-4, assisted-living facilities will no longer be required to routinely test staff,” the state’s alert read.


Judges refuse to step aside from schools case” via The News Service Of Florida — After getting skipped over for a seat on the Florida Supreme Court, appellate judges Lori Rowe and Timothy Osterhaus refused to disqualify themselves from a legal battle about a state order to reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Florida Education Association and other plaintiffs last week filed a motion requesting that Rowe and Osterhaus step aside from the case, which is pending at the 1st District Court of Appeal. The request stemmed from the possibility that DeSantis — one of the defendants in the case — could consider them for a seat on the Supreme Court.

Thousands gone from Tampa Bay schools, early student counts show” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — As they prepared to reopen classrooms in August, school district officials across Tampa Bay made one point clear: They chose to do so, at least in large part, because of the money. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran told districts that their per-student funding would be protected at pre-coronavirus projections if they established plans that included in-person instruction from the outset of the academic year. Corcoran’s order also allowed districts to get full funding for the students regardless of whether they attended online or on campus. Or if they didn’t show up at all. And that is happening.

Richard Corcoran’s assurance that pre-coronavirus school funding would continue, even if students do not show up at all. And that is what’s happening. Image via The News Service of Florida.

Sarasota County School Board: Masks likely for entire year” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County School Board took steps toward extending an emergency temporary mask policy on Tuesday, advertising a new rule that would remain in place for the entire school year, if the board approves the policy next month. The board’s current 90-day mask policy will expire in November. The new proposed policy mirrors the current rule, which requires all students and staff to wear a mask while at school, with rare medical exceptions. Local health officials met with the board during a workshop, emphasizing that masks and social distancing have driven down the infection rate since it spiked midsummer, and telling the board there was no clear finish line in site at this point.

The dark side of campus efforts to stop COVID-19” via Grace Watkins of The Washington Post — As many college students returned to school during the past month, they were greeted by a new kind of campus police. Already equipped with military equipment and, in many cases, statewide jurisdiction, campus police have acquired new powers in the name of containing COVID-19. Departments are carrying out “policy enforcement for social distancing, face coverings” and “court-ordered or administratively ordered quarantine.” Many campus police are increasing their patrols both on and off-campus and partnering with municipal police to shut down student gatherings. Schools like the University of Notre Dame and Boston College have hired details of city or state police to supplement their campus police. Other departments are “actively involved in contact tracing” and investigating the identities of rule-breaking students. Some schools, like West Virginia University, have directed students to call the campus police to report distancing violations.

FGCU president says students could end up suspended for breaking COVID-19 rules” via Pamela McCabe of the Naples Daily News — Florida Gulf Coast University is seeing fewer reported COVID-19 cases on campus than other state universities, and it wants to keep it that way. Mike Martin, the president of the Fort Myers school, said he just filmed his 10th video update related to the coronavirus. In it, he urged students to fall in line with the new health and safety protocols that are meant to keep the virus from spreading. Those who refuse to do things like wear face masks, avoid crowds and practice distancing efforts could end up suspended — and not just from club life on campus. “For those who are not prepared to accept the realities of the time we live in, I don’t believe they are mature enough to be university students,” Martin said.


Why is Broward Mayor Dale Holness hiding information about COVID-19?” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Every week, Broward County invites the Mayors of its 31 cities and towns to join a conference call to discuss the most challenging public health crisis in Florida history: COVID-19. Broward Mayor Holness convenes the call and is often joined by County Administrator Bertha Henry, hospital executives, public health officials and business leaders. But Holness refuses to let you — and the news media, on your behalf — listen in. That needs to change. Now. With lives and livelihoods on the line, Broward citizens have a right to know what our elected leaders know, and what is being discussed or planned as a result.

Broward Mayor Dale Holness is hiding COVID-19 information. Why?

South Florida teens and young adults account for more new COVID-19 infections than any other age group” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida SunSentinel — South Florida is reporting most new coronavirus cases are among younger people, an uptick blamed on college campus spread as local school districts are preparing for a return to in-person classes. The latest data show 29% of new COVID-19 infections in Palm Beach County were among 15- to 24-year-olds, in a report Tuesday from the state Department of Health. That age range accounts for 23% of new cases in Broward, and 17% in Miami-Dade — higher than any other age group in those counties.

Coronavirus spread in young people worries county health director” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — With Palm Beach County schools set to reopen next week, the county’s health director said she has grave concerns that the mixing of students, teachers and other staff will accelerate the spread of the deadly coronavirus. In recent days, those between the ages of 15 and 25 have accounted for 33% of all new coronavirus cases, Dr. Alina Alonso said, pointing to charts from state health officials. With university students back in classes, Alonso there is no mystery about why cases among young people are soaring. “What is happening is they’re partying late at night, large congregations, house parties,” she told county commissioners. “They’re having fun like any in that age group like to do.” While young people are unlikely to suffer serious health consequences, they can spread the virus with tragic results.

County Commissioner’s daughter in hospital with COVID-19” via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — In a sobering warning to COVID-19 naysayers, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay announced Tuesday that her 19-year-old daughter tested positive for the virus and was in the hospital. She said she received a text message at 2 a.m. from her daughter, a University of Central Florida student, saying she had “excruciating shooting leg pains.” McKinlay’s daughter tested positive for the virus over the weekend, the commissioner said, and is being treated in an Orlando-area hospital emergency room. Her daughter returned to UCF last month to continue her studies in criminology. She has no underlying health issues and is “perfectly healthy,” McKinlay said. “When she texts me that she’s scared, I don’t want any other mother to ever have to get that text message and feel the way I feel right now,” McKinlay said.


Chris Latvala on his battle with COVID-19: ‘It’s literally the sickest I’ve ever been’” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — In late August, a friend of state Rep. Latvala gave the Pinellas County Republican some scary news. That friend tested positive for COVID-19 and had been in close contact with Latvala. He drove himself to the Largo Medical Center after phoning ahead to say he had been exposed to COVID-19. After being examined, he was admitted and stayed for three days before he was discharged. The virus was just getting started, though. At home, Latvala developed chest and other aches.

Chris Latvala on his battle with COVID-19: ‘It’s the sickest I have ever been.’

Downtown Orlando bars reopen on rainy Monday” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — On a rainy Monday evening, sounds of life began emanating from bars in downtown Orlando for the first time in months. Beginning Monday, DeSantis lifted restrictions on drinking establishments, allowing bars without food kitchens to reopen at 50% capacity indoors with people seated at socially-distanced tables for service. Many downtown bars still were not open, and the streets were relatively free of people, but it was unclear which establishments would have normally been closed on a Monday and the impact the day of the week may have had on turnout. This is the second time bars have been allowed to reopen during the pandemic. After being ordered to shutter on St. Patrick’s Day, bars were allowed to reopen on June 3, only for that privilege to be taken away a couple of weeks later due to a surge in cases.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to Pinellas: Don’t scrap masks. To bar owners? Watch it.” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Castor said lifting any local mask orders would be a “grave mistake,” and promised to lobby St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Pinellas County Commissioners to think twice about modifying or lifting that county’s mask order next month. The same goes for Pasco County, she said. Pinellas Commissioners had discussed possible changes in October at a recent meeting. Regional cooperation has never been more important, Castor said. The three-counties comprise a single commuting whole, with people working in one county and living in another. “The mission should go together,” she said, adding she intends to call Kriseman to discuss strategy. Her chief of staff John Bennett, a former Pinellas County assistant administrator, is also working the phones.

Gasparilla ‘a go’ for now as major parades face cancellations amid pandemic” via Jeff Patterson of WFLA — The Gasparilla Parade of Pirates is one of the largest single-day parade events in the United States. But will it still go on as planned in 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic? On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade will be a “virtual event” and spectators will not be present for the largest parade in the U.S. While the Rose Bowl Parade which is held on New Year’s Day in California canceled its annual parade in July. Tampa Mayor Castor says the 2021 Gasparilla parade scheduled for Jan. 30 is on for now. “Hopefully we’ll be able to have a vaccine and really with the wearing of the masks and everything that has been asked of our community and the way that our community has stepped up we will be able to have some form of a Gasparilla celebration,” said Castor.

Gasparilla is on, for now.

Immokalee could remain COVID-19 hotspot this fall, human rights group says” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is calling on state authorities to ramp up fighting COVID-19 so Immokalee doesn’t remain an infection hotspot when the population soon doubles. Roughly 15,000 migrant workers are starting their return for the fall harvest season and will stay until May in the rural farming community east of Naples. Crowded living and side-by-side work conditions make it ripe for the coronavirus to spread quickly, according to the human rights organization. The coalition predicted in April that Immokalee would become an epicenter for COVID-19 infection; there is risk of a second major outbreak without more help, coalition representative Nely Rodriguez said.

Manatee County officials credit mask mandate with slow decline of COVID-19 infection rate” via Emily Wunderlich of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — As COVID-19 positivity rates keep creeping downward in Manatee County, officials continue to emphasize the importance of wearing face coverings — and the possibility of another outbreak. “Masks are absolutely helping us control the spread of the virus in our community,” said Dr. Jennifer Bencie, head of the county’s Department of Health. “We are absolutely, in the last three to four weeks, seeing a change for the better, and I believe it is because we’re doing the preventive, mitigative measures that are necessary, including masks and social distancing,” she said. County commissioners extended the local state of emergency for another week and with it, the emergency resolution requiring masks in indoor spaces where social distancing is not possible. They also formalized an amendment to the resolution, excluding churches from the mandate.


Bob Woodward says there was ‘denial across the board’ in White House about severity of coronavirus” via Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post — Woodward said Tuesday that there was “denial across the board” among White House staffers about the severity of the coronavirus, and blamed Trump for being a “bulldozer” who rejects opposing views. Woodward, whose new book, “Rage,” is based in part on 18 on-the-record interviews with Trump, made the comments in an interview. “I think there was denial across the board,” Woodward told The Post’s Philip Rucker when asked whether White House staffers who also knew about the lethality of the virus denied its severity. He added that Trump is “a one-man band” who is “going to do what he wants to do on impulse or on information he has.”

The White House downplayed the severity of coronavirus ‘across the board,’ says Bob Woodward. Image via AP.

The biggest obstacle to a broadly deployed coronavirus vaccine: The GOP base” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — The Trump campaign and the Republican Party have launched an effort to attack Democrats as unnecessarily skeptical of whatever becomes of the coronavirus vaccine, sometimes going as far as to label them anti-vaccine. But even as they do so, their own base remains the most reluctant to take the vaccine, outpacing Democrats and independents in that regard. Last week, conservatives criticized Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris for saying she didn’t trust Trump on the vaccine. Harris said she worried health officials “will be muzzled, they will be suppressed, they will be sidelined” during the vaccine approval process.


While income in the U.S. rose in 2019, so did the uninsured” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit and the U.S. economy crashed, median household income was the highest ever on record, but the number of U.S. residents without health insurance also increased, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday. Median household income in 2019 was $68,703, an increase of 6.8% from the previous year. The poverty rate in 2019 was 10.5%, a decrease from 11.8% in 2018. It was the fifth consecutive annual decline in the national poverty rate, according to the Census Bureau. The number of people without health insurance increased last year to 29.6 million residents, or about 9.2% of the U.S. population from 28.6 million residents, or about 8.9% of the population, in 2018.

Incomes in the United States were on the rise, but so were the uninsured. Image via AP.

COVID-19-era economy in Florida ranked 19th best among 50 states” via The Center Square — With a June jobless rate of 10.4% and a five-year annualized employment growth rate of negative 0.7 percent, the Florida economy finished 19th best in a new ranking by the website 24/7 Wall St. The state’s annualized gross domestic product growth through the first quarter of this year stood at 2.8 percent, the financial news website reported, while its poverty rate came in at 13.6 percent. In ranking the health of state economies during the COVID-19 pandemic, 24/7 Wall St. looked at four metrics: the five-year GDP growth, employment statistics, the jobless rate and the poverty rate.

Raymond James to lay off 4% of workforce” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — Raymond James Financial has announced it’s laying off nearly 4% of its workforce. The financial services company began laying off hundreds of employees on Tuesday at locations around the country, including its St. Petersburg headquarters. As of Tuesday, the company had about 13,900 employees, including 5,000 in Tampa Bay. That would put the total number of layoffs at more than 500. A company spokesman declined to say how many local employees would lose their jobs, or where the losses would occur but said that the cutbacks would return the company to employment levels comparable to early 2019.

1,900 SeaWorld employees are laid off in latest cuts for the company” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Nearly 1,900 furloughed employees permanently lost their jobs this month at SeaWorld’s three Orlando properties, according to a state notice. The layoffs come as theme park attendance at SeaWorld Orlando reopened in June with limited capacity of 30% to 35% attendance during the coronavirus pandemic, the company disclosed to the National Labor Relations Board. Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment furloughed 95% of its company workforce during the pandemic. On Sept. 4, the company disclosed it was going to permanently lay off furloughed employees who hadn’t been called back to work yet, although SeaWorld did not say how many people were affected.

Federal money will pay for fourth week of benefits” via The News Service Of Florida — Florida has been approved for an extra week of $300 payments to jobless people through the federal Lost Wages Assistance program, the state Department of Economic Opportunity said. An original application was designed to provide additional money to eligible Floridians for the weeks ending Aug. 1, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15. The approval adds the week of Aug. 22. Trump issued a directive on Aug. 8 to use Federal Emergency Management Agency money for the program. Only Floridians who are eligible for at least $100 a week in state assistance and are out of work because of the pandemic are eligible for federal funding.

Total holiday spending seen rising this year, despite COVID-19” via Jordyn Holman of Bloomberg — Retail sales in the U.S. will actually grow this holiday season, according to new projections from Deloitte, despite ongoing economic uncertainty and higher unemployment brought on by the pandemic. Underpinned by e-commerce, spending will increase 1% to 1.5% in the November through January period, Deloitte said in a statement, with the total seen around $1.15 trillion. Growth at that rate would represent a slowdown from last year, which saw sales rise 4.1%, according to the National Retail Federation. “We just had a lot of fear and uncertainty behind us and I think there’s a chance we’ll spend,” Rod Sides, a Deloitte vice chairman, said in an interview.


25 years wiped out in 25 weeks: Pandemic sets the world back decades” via Caren Paun of POLITICO — In only half a year, the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out decades of global development in everything from health to the economy. Progress has not only stopped, but has regressed in areas like getting people out of poverty and improving conditions for women and children around the world, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation finds in its 2020 Goalkeepers report published Monday. Vaccination coverage, seen as a good indicator for how health systems are functioning, is dropping to levels last seen in the 1990s, it says. “In other words, we’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks,” the report says. “What the world does in the next months matters a great deal.”

—”Hong Kong reported zero new cases of daily community transmission” via The New York Times

—”New Zealand on Tuesday reported zero new cases of community transmission as it begins to loosen restrictions” via The New York Times

—”Sweden lifts ban on elderly care visits as coronavirus threat eases” via Claudio Bresciani of i24 news 


Florida’s new justice belongs to Christian group using law to ‘spread the Gospel’” via Mary Ellen Klas and Kirby Wilson of the Miami Herald — Grosshans, the last-minute choice of DeSantis to the Florida Supreme Court, is an anti-abortion defender who has been active in a number of Christian legal groups, including a powerful national organization whose mission is to “spread the Gospel by transforming the legal system.” Grosshans, from the Orlando suburb of Winter Garden, was named Florida’s seventh justice Monday, filling the vacancy created last year when Trump named two of DeSantis’ previous appointees, Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. This was the second time in Grosshans’ meteoric rise as a judge that she became a finalist for the state’s highest court. She first applied in December 2018, when there were three vacancies on the court, but DeSantis chose Lagoa, Luck and Carlos Muñiz instead.

Newly named Supreme Court Justice Jamie Grosshans is a member of a group devoted to using the law to preach the Gospel. Image via Colin Hackley.

State of emergency expanded for Hurricane Sally” via The News Service of Florida — More of Florida’s Panhandle was put under a state of emergency by DeSantis as a meandering Hurricane Sally continued to threaten the Gulf Coast. With the National Hurricane Center forecasting “historic life-threatening flooding” in some areas, DeSantis added Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Okaloosa, Walton, and Washington counties to an emergency order. Escambia and Santa Rosa counties were put under the order Monday afternoon. DeSantis also lifted tolls on the Garcon Point Bridge, which spans part of Pensacola Bay, until noon Wednesday.

Florida CFO mobilizes search and rescue teams as Hurricane Sally crawls toward Gulf Coast” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Two urban search and rescue teams will deploy to the Florida panhandle Thursday in response to Hurricane Sally, Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis announced. The two teams, staffed roughly by 100 fire service members, will provide lifesaving services and equipment to the area. Their capabilities, among others, include search and rescue, emergency medical care, and damage reconnaissance. The teams, which also possess swift-water capabilities, can coordinate operations with the Florida National Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. “With Hurricane Sally bringing massive storm surge and flooding to parts of the Panhandle this week, we have mobilized Florida’s Urban Search & Rescue Task Forces 3 and 5 in support of the recovery efforts following this storm,” Patronis said.

Hurricane Sally begins battering the Gulf Coast. Image via AP.

Deloitte Medicaid contract spurs challenges” via Jim Saunders of The News Service of Florida — The technology contract, which could be worth $135 million, has drawn scrutiny because the state Agency for Health Care Administration decided to award it to Deloitte this summer amid an uproar — and litigation — about problems with an online unemployment-compensation system that the company helped develop. IBM and Accenture LLP, which unsuccessfully sought the Medicaid contract, filed challenges to the Agency for Health Care Administration’s decision, with the cases sent Monday to the state Division of Administrative Hearings. While IBM’s challenge focuses on details of the contracting process, Accenture also raised the issue of the unemployment system and more broadly criticized Deloitte.

Appeals court eyes armed school ‘guardians’” via Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida — An appeals court heard arguments in a legal challenge to Duval County’s “school safety assistants.” A lawsuit filed in 2018 alleges that the program runs afoul of a long-standing state law banning people who aren’t law enforcement officials from bringing guns to schools. Duval County school officials, however, argued that a state law passed in the aftermath of the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland created an exemption for school guardians. Siding with the school board, Duval County Circuit Judge Robert Dees acknowledged that school guardians are not included in exceptions to Florida law allowing firearms on school campuses. But he found that the 2018 law authorizing guardians “in support of school-sanctioned activities” allowed school safety officers to be armed.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Sebastian Aleksander, The Aleksander Group: Gamma Defense, Omega ATC

Dane Eagle: Department of Economic Opportunity

Amanda Jay: ACT

Jim Rimes, Enwright Rimes Consulting: Conservatives for Clean Energy


Orlando’s ugly secret is out: Poverty thrives in the shadows of tourism” via Scott Maxwell of Florida Politics — For years, we’ve been writing about the impoverished working class that makes Orlando’s fantasy land run, the low-wage workers who scrub toilets and bus tables to keep tourists’ happy, only to live lives of destitution in the shadows of Cinderella’s castle. They are Orlando’s Shadow Class. And last week, The Washington Post told their depressing story in a painfully gritty piece titled: “A pandemic, a motel without power and a potentially terrifying glimpse of Orlando’s future.” Post readers responded with a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $80,000 for the featured 17-year-old from Kissimmee who works at Taco Bell and lives in fear of the gunfire and fights she hears outside the cheap motel rooms she has lived in for seven years now.

A new report by The Washington Post brings to light what residents of Orlando have known for years, poverty in the shadow of The Magic Kingdom. Image via the Orlando Sentinel.

Vern Buchanan: ‘Unconditional Surrender’ statue will stay on Sarasota’s bay front” via Timothy Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin has told U.S. Rep. Buchanan that the city’s iconic “Unconditional Surrender” sculpture will remain on the bay front. That announcement came in an afternoon tweet Tuesday from the congressman and well before Sarasota’s elected officials were poised to discuss the issue publicly. “Congratulations Tom, you and the city made the right decisions,” said Buchanan. “That’s what the people of our community wanted overwhelmingly.” Barwin, reached by phone, did not immediately respond to a phone call request comment. Per the city’s charter, the city manager cannot make policy decisions. In his tweet, Barwin allegedly told Buchanan that the sculpture would be moved temporarily during construction of a roundabout on Gulfstream Avenue and U.S. 41., but will be returned to the bay front area after the work is done.


Israel signs deal establishing formal ties with two Arab states at the White House” via Anne Gearan of The Washington Post — Trump presided over a White House signing ceremony Tuesday in which Israel established formal ties with two Arab states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in what Trump calls the flowering of his Middle East peace plan. The agreement, called the Abraham Accord in honor of the three Abrahamic religions rooted in what is now Israel and surrounding lands, lays the ground for diplomatic, economic and other ties between Israel and two Persian Gulf neighbors. “We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history. After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” Trump said, addressing a crowd on the South Lawn from a lectern set up on the balcony above. “Thanks to the courage of the leaders present, we take a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds can live together in peace and prosperity.”

The Abraham Accord signed at the White House brings formal ties between Israel and two Arab states.

St. Petersburg developer and Israel supporter Mel Sembler attends Abraham Accords signing” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — When Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain penned their historic diplomatic agreement deal on Tuesday, St. Petersburg development magnate, former ambassador and Republican fundraiser Mel Sembler was there. Sembler, 90, who is Jewish, has always been an outspoken supporter of Israel, and has accompanied several politicians to the homeland. His devotion to Israel has earned him wider notice. “I’m a good friend of Bibi Netanyahu’s, and many other prime ministers,” Sembler said. Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, was in Washington to sign the deal, along with Emirati Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, the foreign minister of Bahrain.

Nancy Pelosi says House to stay in session until COVID-19 relief bill done” via The Associated Press — Speaker Pelosi said Tuesday the House will remain in session until lawmakers deliver another round of COVID-19 relief. “We are committed to staying here until we have an agreement, an agreement that meets the needs of the American people,” Pelosi said. Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues on a morning conference call that “we have to stay here until we have a bill.” That’s according to a Democratic aide speaking on condition of anonymity but authorized to quote her remarks. Pelosi’s comments came as moderate Democrats signed on to a $1.5 trillion rescue package endorsed by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of about 50 lawmakers who seek common solutions to issues. The plan contains many elements of COVID rescue packages devised by both House Democrats and Republicans controlling the Senate, including aid to schools, funding for state and local governments, and renewal of lapsed COVID-related jobless benefits.


Report: Death penalty cases show history of racial disparity” via Colleen Long of The Associated Press — Black people have been overrepresented on death rows across the United States and killers of Black people are less likely to face the death penalty than people who kill white people, a new report found. The report from the Death Penalty Information Center is a history lesson in how lynchings and executions have been used in America and how discrimination bleeds into the entire criminal justice system. It traces a line from lynchings of old, where Black people were killed in an effort to assert social control during slavery and Jim Crow, and how that eventually translated into state-ordered executions. The federal government this year began carrying out executions again after a 17-year hiatus despite waning public support for the death penalty. The center, a think tank that studies both state and federal capital cases, wrote that capital punishment must be included in the discussion of the past.

A new report shows a history of racial disparity in death penalty cases. Image via AP.

In Florida, schools under pressure to get rid of police officers” via Jessica Bakeman of WLRN — After a school shooting left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the county sheriff’s office decided to arm its school-based deputies with automatic rifles. Nine days after the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said issuing the weapons was “a stopgap measure to create a heightened sense of security.” Olivia, a freshman at the time at another Broward County school, remembers getting off the bus and making eye contact with one of several police officers with AR-15s. She is one of many Black students who say the presence of armed law enforcement officers in schools makes them feel less safe.

Springtime Tallahassee retires controversial Andrew Jackson float” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — For the first time in its history, Springtime Tallahassee’s traveling float featuring Jackson will be removed and replaced with the Governor and first lady of Springtime. The move aligns with sweeping calls nationwide to remove controversial figures from public spaces, particularly those deemed racially offensive. Joel Jarrett, president of the Board of Directors for Springtime Tallahassee, said the decision was based on “everything going on in the world.” Some locals lambasted Jackson’s depiction in the parade since the former U.S. president owned roughly 160 slaves and signed the Indian Removal Act, also known as the “Trail of Tears.” The legislation displaced an estimated 60,000 Native Americans and is credited for 3,000 deaths between 1830 and 1850.

Lake Worth Beach commission ponders dumping Columbus Day for Indigenous Peoples Day” via Jorge Milian of The Palm Beach Post — Less than a month before Columbus Day, Lake Worth Beach officials are being asked how to reconsider the federal holiday. An agenda item on Tuesday’s city commission meeting proposes that Lake Worth Beach join a growing number of cities and states that have opted to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day and dump Columbus Day. Commissioner Omari Hardy thinks it’s time the city stop celebrating the Italian explorer. “It’s important not to honor dishonorable people,” Hardy said.


Brad Ashwell: All eyes on Florida’s online voter registration system” via Florida Politics — An unknown number of Floridians have had their rights denied because the state’s online voter registration (OVR) website has a history of crashing at critical points, suspiciously just before or on the deadline to register. It failed in 2018 during the high-volume days just before the primary election registration deadline, and again in October 2018, a day before the registration deadline for the general election. We can expect the unique challenges of this cycle to exacerbate online registration problems. We can reasonably expect an increase in last-minute activity as the deadline to register for the upcoming election on October 5 draws nearer. No aspiring voter should be silenced because the state can’t maintain a functioning website.


I never considered voting for Donald Trump in 2016. I may be forced to vote for him this year.” via Danielle Pletka of The Washington Post — I don’t need a bumper sticker or a lawn sign to convey my distaste for Trump — his odious tweets, his chronic mendacity and general crudeness. Over the past four years, like an oil slick that besmirches all it touches, Trump himself has managed to obscure his administration’s more-substantive accomplishments, such as focusing the world’s attention on China’s threat to global security and brokering a new era of Middle East peace. But I fear the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party even more.

Orlando’s ugly secret is out: Poverty thrives in the shadows of tourism” via Scott Maxwell of Florida Politics — For years, we’ve been writing about the impoverished working class that makes Orlando’s fantasy land run, the low-wage workers who scrub toilets and bus tables to keep tourists’ happy, only to live lives of destitution in the shadows of Cinderella’s castle. They are Orlando’s Shadow Class. And last week, The Washington Post told their depressing story in a painfully gritty piece titled: “A pandemic, a motel without power and a potentially terrifying glimpse of Orlando’s future.” Post readers responded with a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $80,000 for the featured 17-year-old from Kissimmee who works at Taco Bell and lives in fear of the gunfire and fights she hears outside the cheap motel rooms she has lived in for seven years now.

Boos aren’t necessarily a sign of racism” via Brent Batten of the Naples Daily News — Millions of sports fans want nothing more from the game than for their team to win and for their favorite players to dazzle them with their athletic ability. The fans who disapprove of protests taking the place of patriotism in the pregame and who tune out the in-game admonishments understand that those with a platform, like star athletes, have a right and even an obligation to speak out. They can and should use their position, their wealth and their influence to affect change because much remains to be done. But the supplanting of that message with moments traditionally reserved for patriotism and a game that has served as a diversion from such worries is too much for some. Hence the boos and the tuning out.


Florida is seeing another spike in COVID-19 fatalities. The Department of Health reported 150 additional fatalities Tuesday, raising the state’s death toll to 12,946.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The DOH also reported more than 3,100 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections since the start of the pandemic is just shy of 669,000.

— Gov. DeSantis expands the state of emergency for Hurricane Sally. Originally it was limited to the western end of the Panhandle. Now, the emergency zone includes everything from Pensacola to just west of Tallahassee.

— Speaking of storms, the Public Service Commission signs off on a deal to compensate Gulf Power for all the money they spent rebuilding their system after Hurricane Michael tore through the Panhandle almost 2 years ago.

 — Don’t feel too bad for power companies, though. They’re still getting almost $290 million.

— The first votes for Florida’s General Election have been cast — all 42 of them. These were the first of the mail in ballots reported to the state elections office.

— Joe Biden brings his presidential campaign to the Sunshine State, hosting a roundtable in Tampa to talk about our service members, and our President.

—Biden shares his thoughts on the military and Trump.

— And finally, a Florida Man was shot in the face after complaining about how long it was taking to get his smoothie. Plus, the story of three Florida teens who could become Florida Men. It all depends on whether prosecutors decide to try them as adults.

To listen, click on the image below:



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The Abraham Accords — in English, Hebrew, and Arabic — have been signed!

A post shared by The White House (@whitehouse) on

— ALOE —

Apple debuts discount watch, but no new iPhones … yet” via Michael Liedtke of The Associated Press — Apple introduced a cheaper version of its smartwatch, its latest attempt to broaden the appeal of its trendsetting products while many consumers are forced to scrimp during the coronavirus pandemic. Apple also took the wraps off a new high-end watch model, a next-generation iPad and a couple of new subscription services during a virtual event held Tuesday. The company normally also rolls out its new iPhones at this time of year, but production problems caused by the pandemic have delayed their release until at least October. CEO Tim Cook didn’t mention iPhones during Tuesday’s one-hour presentation recorded at the company’s massive, but now mostly empty, headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams unveils Apple Watch Series 6, a more affordable version of its smartwatch to help broaden the appeal to budget-conscious consumers during the pandemic. Image via AP.

Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights makes partial return” via The Associated Press — Universal Studios in Orlando will make two of its previously canceled Halloween Horror Nights haunted houses available to theme-park goers starting later this week. The theme park announced July 24 that it was canceling the popular extra-ticket Halloween event due to the coronavirus pandemic. Universal’s premier-level passholders who register for the event will have an opportunity to preview the houses called Revenge of the Tooth Fairy and Universal Monsters: The Bride of Frankenstein Lives on Friday afternoon, theme park officials announced. Regular theme park visitors will be able to view the houses on Saturday and Sunday for no additional charge. They will use Universal’s Virtual Line system once in the park to receive a time to go through the mazes.


 Celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, congressional candidate Alan Cohn, WFTV’s Chris HeathGhada Skaff Lieser, Wayne Mineo, former Rep. David Rivera, our friend Paul Seago, and Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.


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

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

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