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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.22.20

Read all about it: Everything you need to know about the day in Florida politics.

The pandemic delivered a gut punch to the state and national economy, but Floridians still plan on making this Halloween a memorable one.

According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend $8.08 billion celebrating the holiday. That’s a significant decrease from the $8.78 billion consumers spent last year, but the decline isn’t as bad as once feared.

“Unsurprisingly, consumers are looking to make the most of every holiday during this unusual year. Florida retailers are prepared to meet the increased demand for candy, décor, costumes and more to ensure a safe and spooky holiday for all,” said Scott Shalley, President and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

Retailers expect Floridians to make the most of this very unusual Halloween. 

While the coronavirus hasn’t fully derailed holiday plans, three-quarters say the virus has made an impact, including for the 17% who say they plan to celebrate virtually.

To that end, the most common Halloween plans are of the “safer-at-home” variety, such as decorating the home (53%), carving pumpkins (46%), dressing up in costumes (46%) and dressing up pets (18%).

The survey also checked what costumes are hottest this year. As they have for the past decade, superheroes dominate the list.

Spiderman and Batman registered on their own, with a combined 3.1 million children planning to dress up as either the world’s greatest detective or a mediocre photographer who sticks to walls.

The top pet costumes in 2020 are pumpkins and hot dogs, followed by superheroes. About 3% say they’ll dress up their furry friend as a cat, exposing either a stunning lack of creativity or a growing acceptance for interspecific cosplay.

The NRF survey asked 7,644 consumers about Halloween shopping plans. It was conducted Sept. 1-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Conor64: If you’re down on 2020 — as I am! — one useful bit of perspective is to think of how much harder life was in the United States any year between, say, 1776 and 1945. If you’re behind [John] Rawls‘ veil of ignorance, you pick 2020.

@Kasie: Asked a source if RBG would be the first woman to lie in state at the Capitol “No of course not,” this person said quickly And it had not initially even occurred to me to ask the question. Surely there had been women to receive this honor before. Nope. RBG is the first.

@AnthonySabatini: GET IT DONE COCAINE MITCH!

@AGAshleyMoody: Great to see @GovRonDeSantis, @WiltonSimpson and @ChrisSprowls commitment to combating lawlessness and protecting our brave LEOs in FL. Leaders in cities that have been destroyed by riots should take note.

@KirbyWTweets: After a calamitous year, in which 13k people have died and countless more have struggled with the economic fallout of the coronavirus, Republican leaders gathered publicly to talk about the next legislative session for (I believe) the 1st time today. Their message: back the blue.

@PiersMorgan: The more COVID cases & hospitalizations rise, the more furious Covidiots become in insisting there is ‘NOTHING TO SEE HERE!’ Just staggering. This is self-evidently a very serious moment in the pandemic, but their crazed desire to be proven right overrides reality.

@GeoRebekah: I just found out about #COVID cases in my son’s school. from my own dashboard. @LeonSchools & @HealthyFla knew about the cases days ago. No email. No notice. Nothing. This is such a helpless feeling as a parent and it’s morally unacceptable for the state to behave this way.

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

First presidential debate in Indiana — 7; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 11; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 14; first vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 15; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 21; second presidential debate scheduled in Miami — 23; NBA draft — 24; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 24; NBA free agency — 26; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 28; HBO debuts 2000 presidential election doc ‘537 Votes’ — 29; third presidential debate at Belmont — 30; 2020 General Election — 42; “Black Widow” premieres — 45; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 50; The Masters begins — 51; “No Time to Die” premieres — 59; Pixar’s “Soul” premieres — 59; College basketball season slated to begin — 64; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 71; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 71; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 94; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 138; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 151; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 283; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 304; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 312; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 412; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 508; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 561; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 742.

— SCOTUS WATCH —

Donald Trump says he will ‘probably’ announce his Supreme Court pick on Saturday.” via The New York Times — Trump said Monday afternoon that he would “probably” announce his selection to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court on Saturday and that he would “much rather” have a vote on his nominee before the Nov. 3 election. Speaking to reporters at the White House before a trip to Ohio, Trump added that he was considering five women for the position, and that he had already spoken with some candidates. He said he expected to meet in person with some of them in the coming days. Asked about the timing of the vote, he said that there is “a great deal of time before the election” but that it would be “up to Mitch in the Senate,” referring to Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader.

Donald Trump says to make his Supreme Court pick as soon as Saturday. Image via Getty.

Mitch McConnell vows vote on Ruth Bader Ginsburg replacement as her death upends the 2020 race” via Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Ginsburg’s death instantly upended the nation’s politics in the middle of an already bitter campaign, giving Trump an opportunity to try to install a third member of the Supreme Court with just weeks before an election that polls show he is currently losing. The White House had already made quiet preparations in the days before Ginsburg’s death to advance a nominee without waiting for voters to decide whether to give Trump another four years. McConnell vowed Friday night to hold a vote on a Trump nominee but would not say whether he would try to rush it through before the vote on Nov. 3 in what would surely be a titanic partisan battle.

Trump jump-starts misinformation on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s ‘dying wish’” via Kevin Roose of The New York Times — Trump routinely passes along false and misleading information that has been circulating online. On Monday, he appeared to be the one starting it. Shortly before Ginsburg died, she made a request about what should happen to her seat on the Supreme Court. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new President is installed,” Ginsburg said, according to NPR, which reported that the 87-year-old justice dictated the note to her granddaughter, Clara Spera, in the final days of her life. But during a “Fox & Friends” interview on Monday morning, Trump claimed, without evidence, that Justice Ginsburg’s “dying wish” might actually have been written by a top Democrat like Rep. Adam Schiff of California, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York or Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

Why Ginsburg refused to step down” via Emily Bazelon of The New York Times — When I met Ginsburg for the first time in 2008, she took me to see a political cartoon that hung in a hallway outside her chambers at the Supreme Court. The cartoon depicted Belva Lockwood, a lawyer in her 50s, who was the first woman to argue a case before the court, in 1880. Ginsburg noted that the Supreme Court bar initially refused to admit Lockwood several years earlier. In response, Lockwood drafted and lobbied for a bill, which Congress passed, allowing qualified women attorneys to practice in federal court. When Ginsburg began law school at Harvard in 1956, she confronted the barriers of her own era, including queries from the dean about why she felt entitled to take a man’s spot in her class. Ginsburg’s commitment to her studies and later her work, and her conviction that other women had the same drive and capability, became the animating principles of her career.

Trump brags to Bob Woodward that he has ‘broken every record’ on appointing judges” via Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — As Trump prepares to announce a nominee to replace Ginsburg interviews reveal a President animated about remaking the courts and working with Senate Majority Leader McConnell to appoint conservative judges. Some of the conversations were chronicled in Woodward’s new book, “Rage,” while audio recordings of others were obtained by The Washington Post. “You know what Mitch’s biggest thing is in the whole world? His judges,” Trump said, explaining that faced with a choice between pushing 10 ambassadors or a single judge through the Senate, “he will absolutely ask me, ‘Please, let’s get the judge approved instead of 10 ambassadors.’ We need all.”

Trump spoke with Supreme Court candidates and may meet one in Miami” via Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — Trump said on Monday that he spoke with several candidates on his shortlist of candidates for the Supreme Court, and may meet one of them in Miami before naming his final choice at the end of the week. Before leaving the White House for Ohio, Trump told reporters that he had spoken with some of the candidates and planned to meet a few of them and confirmed that his list has narrowed to five women. One of them is Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban American born in Miami who is serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Trump said he could meet her while visiting Florida on Thursday and Friday.

Amy Coney Barrett, potential Supreme Court nominee, wrote influential ruling on campus sexual assault” via Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown of The Washington Post — Barrett led a three-woman panel of judges that said Purdue University may have discriminated against a male student accused of sexual assault when it suspended him for a year, a punishment that cost him his spot in the Navy ROTC program. “It is plausible that [university officials] chose to believe Jane because she is a woman and to disbelieve John because he is a man,” Barrett wrote in the case. On Saturday, Trump said he would nominate a woman in the next week to fill Ginsburg’s seat. In a call with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump mentioned Barrett and Barbara Lagoa, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11Th Circuit.

Amy Coney Barrett, shortlisted for the Supreme Court, would be only the fifth woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Image via AP.

Florida Republicans: Nominating Barbara Lagoa could clinch state for Trump” via Gary Fineout, Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of Politico — Leading Florida Republican politicians are launching an all-out effort to convince Trump to nominate federal Judge Lagoa to the U.S. Supreme Court — a move they say would boost his reelection chances in the must-win swing state. The biggest names in the Florida GOP are working behind the scenes to advocate for Lagoa: U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have sprung into action, along with Gov. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida campaign director Susie Wiles and the President’s former impeachment defense lawyer, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Marco Rubio encourages Trump to press forward with Supreme Court nomination” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — U.S. Sen. Rubio encouraged Trump on Monday to press forward with his nomination of a third Supreme Court justice — a decision that would shape the court for decades. Trump and Republican leadership are moving fast to fill the vacancy created by the death of Ginsburg. The decision to do so before the 2020 Presidential election has outraged some Democrats, who are calling foul after Senate Republicans in 2018 rejected to hold a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland because it was an election year. Rubio in a statement justified President Barack Obama‘s denied nomination and Trump’s pending nomination as part of the Constitutional process.

—“Sen. Chuck Grassley won’t oppose holding Supreme Court nomination hearings this year” via Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register

SCOTUS confirmation by Nov. 3 would be difficult but not unprecedented” via Laura Davison of Bloomberg — The U.S. Senate would have to move unusually quickly to confirm Trump’s planned replacement for Ginsburg to the Supreme Court before Election Day. Trump said he planned to announce his nominee on Friday or Saturday, which would be less than 40 days until the Nov. 3 election. Only two times since 1975 has the chamber been able to confirm a Supreme Court pick in less time. The late John Paul Stevens’ confirmation in 1975 took just 19 days, while former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor saw 33 days elapse from when she was nominated until a Senate vote in 1981. Ginsburg herself had the third-shortest wait in that time, 42 days.

How the GOP is trying to justify its Supreme Court reversal” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Four years after Senate Republicans declined to take up Obama’s nomination of Garland in a presidential election year because they said voters should decide the matter, they’re now casting that standard aside and pressing forward. McConnell’s team this weekend pointed to a number of times in 2016 when McConnell had mentioned the split. He regularly cited Grover Cleveland in 1888 as the last time a Senate controlled by the opposition party confirmed a nominee in a presidential election year. It would be irresponsible to leave the Supreme Court with eight seats, given that it may have a role to play in deciding the 2020 election, and having an even number could result in a tie.

— SALLY —

Worth the click —From flooded neighborhoods to damaged homes: See Hurricane Sally destruction in drone footage” via Nate Chute of the Pensacola News Journal

Not even NAS Pensacola thought Sally would be so bad. They’re picking up the pieces too.” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Pensacola, went to bed the night of Sept. 15 as many Pensacolians did — prepared to wake up the next day to a Category 1 hurricane that would dump lots of rain on the area, but hopefully move out without too much of a fuss. Instead, he woke up around midnight to a Category 2 storm howling outside his home at the base, ripping roofs off his neighbors’ homes and snapping trees like toothpicks in his front yard. When Kinsella was finally able to emerge from his home Wednesday morning, he saw a base in shambles. Power was out everywhere. Massive, 100-year-old oak trees were lying across the streets.

Many in Pensacola went to bed, only to wake up to Category 1 Hurricane Sally. Image via AP.

‘Survival was the main thing:’ Perdido River resident survives all-day ordeal to be rescued” via Madison Arnold of the Pensacola News Journal — Feeling like he was in the middle of a Weather Channel broadcast, Terryl Bechtol Jr. watched his neighbors’ son paddle a borrowed canoe to get to him as floodwaters were nipping at the bottom of his house on the Perdido River last week. That was the first part of his harrowing journey Thursday to be rescued from his home on River Annex Road that lasted an entire day as the river jumped its banks, quickly filled Bechtol’s yard and seemed determined to reach his house 12 feet in the air on stilts. It ended with Bechtol being rescued from his truck in the middle of the night just as floodwaters began to surround him.

Pensacola Bay Bridge repair delayed due to ‘unsafe diving’ conditions for assessment” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — It appears likely that the Pensacola Bay Bridge will take longer to repair than initially expected. After a loose construction barge owned by Skanska USA knocked a chunk of roadway out of the bridge Wednesday during Hurricane Sally, Florida Sen. Doug Broxson estimated at the time that the damage would take 30-60 days to repair. On Monday, following a meeting with Florida Department of Transportation officials, Broxson said the structure is “unsafe to dive under,” meaning forensic divers originally set to dive into the Gulf of Mexico early this week to properly assess the damage cannot do so at this time. “So, it’s delayed the complete appraisal needed to fix the bridge,” Broxson said.

Sally leaves Okaloosa parks drenched, battered” via Tony Judnich of Northwest Florida Daily News — Like various beaches, many parks in Okaloosa County took a beating from the storm surge, wind and rain of Hurricane Sally last week. The recreational areas that suffered include the Landing in downtown Fort Walton Beach and adjacent to the Santa Rosa Sound. A new boardwalk and sea wall are among the many upgrades the city eventually plans to make at the 6-acre park. The improvements have faced various delays, including the need by area contractors to focus on Hurricane Michael recovery projects in the Bay County area. Michael struck the region in October 2018.

Sally takes toll on St. Andrews State Park” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News Herald — Less than a week after Hurricane Sally collided with the Gulf Coast, piles of vegetation were strewed across the beach at St. Andrews State Park on Monday. While the park is a nice change of pace in an area dominated by development and expansion, it’s undeniably not “as pristine as it used to be,” said Paul and Carol Stewart, a couple visiting Panama City Beach from Missouri. Flooding from Sally washed out portions of the parks’ sand dunes and eroded sections of the beach. It was the latest hit to a park that’s struggled with more erosion since Hurricane Michael two years ago.

Hurricane Sally caused even more beach erosion in St. Andrews Park. Image via the Panama City News-Journal.

Homeowners struggle to reach Skanska as new aerial images show at least 20 barges displaced by Hurricane Sally” via Jake Newby of the Pensacola News Journal — An aerial map displaying the aftermath of Hurricane Sally’s destruction shows more barges than initially expected washed ashore in the Pensacola area last week. Imagery compiled Friday and Saturday by NOAA shows at least 20 barges scattered across the region. Some are lodged on the properties of homeowners near Pensacola Bay and others are in Milton, Gulf Breeze and many other spots across the greater Pensacola area. The barges belong to Skanska USA, the construction company building the new Three Mile Bridge. On Monday, Skanska released a statement to the News Journal saying “the vast majority of homeowners” have been contacted by the company and informed of a comprehensive plan that would guide them through the barge retrieval and insurance process.

— THE MODELS —

To get a reasonable 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 Monday, the CNN average still gives Biden the lead at 51% compared to 44% for Trump. The CNN Poll of Polls tracks the national average in the race for President. They include the most recent national telephone polls which meet CNN’s standards for reporting and which measure the views of registered or likely voters. The poll of polls does not have a margin of sampling error.

FiveThirtyEight.com: As of Monday, Biden stays steady at a 77 in 100 chance of winning compared to Trump, who has a 23 in 100 shot. FiveThirtyEight also ranked individual states by the likelihood of delivering a decisive vote for the winning candidate in the Electoral College: Pennsylvania leads with 32.6%, while Florida comes in second with 14.4 %. Other states include Wisconsin (9.6%), Arizona (6.7%), Michigan (5.6%), North Carolina (5.2%), Nevada (3.7%) and Minnesota (3%).

In polls of recent polling, Joe Biden is keeping his lead alive.

PredictIt: As of Sunday, the PredictIt trading market has Biden in the lead, at $0.58 a share, with Trump moving down slightly to $0.45.

Real Clear Politics: As of Monday, the RCP average of polling top battleground states gives Biden a lead over Trump 49.5% to 43%. Nearly every recent poll used in the RCP model has Biden up from anywhere between 5 and 9 points. A single poll (Rasmussen) has Trump up by one point.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball: The forecasts, considering the economic indicator’s problem this year, indicate that the national popular vote division should be very close. The four versions of the forecasts are quite consistent in predicting an even narrower popular vote margin for Biden than Clinton received in 2016 when she won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote. The electoral vote division in 2020 could easily go either way. With such a close election, our overheated political climate and the controversies sure to follow the additional adoptions of mail-in balloting as well as the many highly anticipated campaign events to come, the whole nation may be on blood pressure medication before this is over.

The Economist: As of Monday, their model thinks Biden is very likely to beat Trump in the Electoral College. The model is updated every day and combines state and national polls with economic indicators to predict a range of outcomes. The midpoint is the estimate of the electoral-college vote for each party on Election Day. According to The Economist, Biden’s chances of winning the electoral college around 6 in 7 or 86%; Trump’s chances are around 1 in 7 or 14%. They still give Biden a 97% chance of winning the most votes, with Trump at only 3%.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Joe Biden takes huge cash lead over Trump while outspending him 2 to 1” via Elena Schneider of POLITICO — For the first time this election, Biden is sitting on the biggest pile of cash and he’s vastly outspending Trump, too. Biden is entering the final stretch of the general election with $141 million more in the bank than Trump, a stunning reversal of fortunes from last spring, when Trump held a hefty financial edge as the nearly broke Biden emerged from the Democratic nominating contest. Biden and the Democratic National Committee, along with their affiliated joint-fundraising groups, have $466 million in the bank, according to a Biden campaign official, after raising a record-shattering $365 million last month. Trump and the Republican National Committee, meanwhile, are sitting on $325 million in the bank, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.

Joe Biden and the DNC, along with related joint-fundraising groups, now have $466 million in the bank, after raising an eye-opening $365 million last month. Image via AP.

— “The Trump campaign has cut air travel on Air Force One for its staff as it copes with a spending crisis” via Tom LoBianco of Business Insider 

‘It’s a big, big swing’: Trump loses ground with white voters” via David Siders of POLITICO — Trump is making modest inroads with Latinos. Polls suggest he’s pulling slightly more Black support than in 2016. But Trump is tilting at the margins with those groups. His bigger problem is the demographic that sent him to the White House: white voters, whose embrace of Trump appears to be slipping in critical, predominantly white swing states. In Minnesota, where the contest between Trump and Biden had seemed to tighten in recent weeks a survey last week had Trump running 2 percentage points behind Biden with white voters, after carrying them by 7 points in 2016. Even among white voters without college degrees, the President was far short of the margin he put up against Hillary Clinton there. It’s the same story in Wisconsin, where Trump won non-college-educated white women by 16 percentage points four years ago but is now losing them by 9 percentage points.

Biden leads Trump among Latino voters, poll shows” via Tarini Parti of The Wall Street Journal — Biden holds a significant lead over Trump among registered Latino voters, garnering 62% of support, compared with Trump’s 26%, according to a new poll. The survey finds Trump’s support among Latinos to be roughly in line with his standing in 2016. Former Secretary of State Clinton won 66% of the Latino vote, exit polls found that year, while Trump received 28%. About 12% of Latino voters remain undecided this year, the new survey finds. The poll includes some warning signs for Biden: Trump’s favorability among Latino voters has improved from four years ago. In September 2016, 78% had a negative view of him, compared with 56% today. Trump’s best opportunities to build support among Latino voters appear to lie with men and older voters. While 30% of the Latino electorate approves of Trump’s job performance, 34% of men and 36% of Latinos age 40 and older approve.

We’re not gonna be manipulated.’ Cracks form in Donald Trump’s Cuban American base” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Amid evidence Trump has significantly expanded his support among Miami-Dade’s traditionally conservative Cuban exile community, a counter-movement is afoot to show that there are thousands of Cuban-Americans in Florida who believe the President does not have their best interests at heart. Prominent exiles like former Republican Party of Florida chairman Al Cardenas criticized Trump’s authoritarian streak. Luis Santeiro, the Cuban American head writer of the groundbreaking 1970s Spanglish TV sitcom “¿Que Pasa, USA?” warned in an opinion piece “when we label someone we disagree with a communist, a fidelista or a reactionary, we only echo the intransigence of the regime we fled.”

Democrats’ Jacksonville push complicates Donald Trump’s path in Florida” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Democrats are carving inroads through the historically conservative city of Jacksonville, landing a handful of improbable political victories and framing a question for Election Day: Will Florida’s only Republican city fail Trump? The President must win Florida to return to the White House, but Republicans’ loosened grip on Jacksonville, the party’s only urban foothold in the battleground state, is complicating that political math. And it’s given Joe Biden a shot of confidence even as state and local Republicans vow to defend what long has been considered their political home turf. Jacksonville is “big and growing, it has an important media market, and has sort of been the tipping point over the past number of cycles,” said Susie Wiles, the Trump campaign’s senior Florida adviser. “The campaign won’t take any part of the state for granted.” But the area’s political identity is influenced of late by politically engaged Black residents, who make up nearly a third of the county’s population, and a steady flow of young professionals moving into Jacksonville.

Research group says Joe Biden needs 60% of Latino vote to win Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — If Biden takes at least 60% of Florida’s Latino vote, it will be hard for Trump to defeat him in the Sunshine State. That’s the conclusion of EquisLabs, a polling and research firm specializing in Latino voters, based on research it reported Monday with the Democratic group People for the American Way. In a press call, EquisLabs unveiled results from its research that shows the impact Latino voters can have in Florida as well as in several other swing states. Representatives of that firm and of People for the American Way said they weren’t interested in projecting a winner in each state, but in measuring the potential impact Latino voters could have on the outcome of the presidential contest. The presenters made the case that Latino voters clearly are decisive blocs in Florida, Nevada, and Arizona, but also have the potential to swing the outcomes in other states with much smaller Hispanic populations, such as Wisconsin and North Carolina.

Bloomberg’s $100 million coming to Florida with Latino voters as ‘centerpiece’” via Adrian Carrasquillo of Newsweek — The news that former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg was set to drop $100 million into the critical battleground state of Florida in the final 50 days, with a “focus” on Latino voters, set off a political earthquake in perhaps the most important state on the electoral map. Now Florida Democrats familiar with the plans say Latinos will be a “centerpiece” of the staggering late-stage investment. The hallmark of Bloomberg efforts is that they are very data-driven, sources said. The overarching Florida plan has been described as having a digital and television focus, with the announcement Thursday that the first $5.4 million will go to Priorities USA, the top super PAC backing Biden. The first ads focus on Trump‘s response to the coronavirus, a message which tested the best among those the Bloomberg team reviewed.

Tweet, tweet:

Mike Bloomberg raising millions to help Florida felons vote” via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press — Just days after after Gov. DeSantis won a court victory to keep felons from voting until they’ve paid off fines, restitution and court fees, Bloomberg has stepped in to help them pay off the debts. Bloomberg is part of an effort that raised more than $20 million dollars to help felons who have completed their prison sentences vote in the presidential election. That’s in addition to the $100 million he has pledged to help Joe Biden win Florida, a crucial state with 29 electoral college votes that President Donald Trump’s hopes will keep him in the White House.

North Florida Democrats ‘turn out the vote’ in ‘virtual bus stop’ for Biden” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A group of Democrats representing the Jacksonville and Tallahassee metro markets convened Monday virtually to make the case for their Party’s presidential nominee. U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, whose district spans I-10 between the metropolitan areas, was joined by Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, Rep. Ramon Alexander of Tallahassee, and Rep. Tracie Davis of Jacksonville. Lawson mentioned his long political career in introduction to what was a Congressional Black Caucus PAC “Get Out the Vote” event. “It’s up to us to get involved … to bring home the bacon,” Lawson said. “We have to get this message out.” “There have been many years that North Florida has been overlooked, but that’s not going to happen this time,” Lawson said.

Florida Scientologist becomes huge Trump donor” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Trish Duggan, a wealthy Florida Scientologist, has become one of the GOP’s top donors, including giving $4 million alone to a pro-Trump super PAC, campaign finance records show. Duggan and a trust in her name have each given $2 million to America First Action, the biggest Trump-aligned super PAC of the 2020 cycle. The group has spent more than $40 million on TV ads and airtime reservations so far this cycle in key swing states, including Florida. Duggan’s status as a top federal donor is new to the 2020 election cycle. She has not previously given federal contributions under her name, federal campaign finance records show.

Threats and invective hurled at health director who sought to postpone Trump’s Tulsa rally, emails show” via Joshua Partlow of The Washington Post — Three days before Trump’s first indoor campaign rally during the coronavirus pandemic, the director of the Tulsa Health Department marveled at the wave of abuse that was cresting in his direction. “It’s been crazy since the announcement of the presidential rally,” Bruce Dart wrote to a colleague. “It’s amazing how people strike out against anyone who they assume is not supportive of the President instead of listening to our messaging around staying safe in this pandemic.” Tulsa’s experiences before and after the Trump rally show the difficulty that many communities face in balancing the desire to protect residents from the pandemic while catering to a President and Republican Party that have consistently cast doubt on and flouted health recommendations.

Just her? —Betsy DeVos under investigation for potentially violating Hatch Act because of Fox News interview” via Daniel Lippman and Michael Stratford of POLITICO — The Office of the Special Counsel has started investigating Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for potentially violating the Hatch Act after she slammed Biden in a Fox News interview and her agency promoted it through official channels. The head of investigative watchdog blog Checks and Balances Project Scott Peterson said in an interview that OSC Hatch Act attorney Eric Johnson told him he had been assigned to investigate the matter. “We’ll investigate matters in your complaint,” Johnson told Peterson, recounting the conversation. “The incident seems very well documented.” Johnson also told him that because of remote work prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, the timeline for the investigation is uncertain.

— 2020 — 

For Our Future Florida crosses 2 million voter calls in 2020 — For Our Future Florida, the largest progressive organization in the Sunshine State, said Monday that it has made over two million calls and sent nearly 1 million texts to Florida voters this year, including over one million calls made since the final night of the Republican National Convention. For Our Future Florida said the metric shows the organization has been successful in shifting its efforts amid the pandemic. “We’re proud of the milestone, but these final six weeks are all-important. Everything we’re doing between now and Nov. 3 is to channel the energy we’ve witnessed over the last four years into getting folks out to vote for Vice President Biden and Kamala Harris,” For Our Future Florida communications director Blake Williams said.

Priorities USA Action boosting swing state Democrats with $7.5M ad campaign — Priorities USA Action announced a partnership with Senate Majority PAC on Monday that will see the two groups pump $7.5 million into a digital ad campaign aimed at boosting Black and Hispanic turnout. The program will cover the wide set of options voters have to cast their ballot this fall, including voting early in-person, returning ballots via mail or dropbox, or voting in-person on Election Day. The campaign will target seven states, including Florida, and will run from next week through Nov. 3. An ad set to air in Florida and other presidential battleground states, “Deflate,” will “remind voters of the chaos Donald Trump has created.” The ads are available in English and Spanish.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Carlos Giménez will return donation from publisher of racist and anti-Semitic content” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Giménez will return $5,600 in campaign donations from Demetrio Perez, Jr., the publisher of the Spanish-language newspaper LIBRE that printed columns containing racist and anti-Semitic content. Perez is a controversial former politician, felon and business owner who has become wealthy running a chain of private schools and a network of government-funded nonprofit programs across Miami-Dade County. He’s also a frequent GOP donor, though Giménez is the only federal, state or county-level candidate to receive money from Perez so far during the 2020 election cycle through July 29, according to a Miami Herald review of campaign finance records. Perez, Jr. and his son each donated $5,600 to Gimenez’s congressional campaign in March, the maximum allowed by federal law.

Advocates continue registering felons to vote after ruling requires all legal financial obligations” via Blaise Gainey of WLRN — Advocates are working to get as many felons registered to vote before the next election as they can. But a new ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is making that more difficult. It requires felons to first pay off all fines and fees tied to their sentences. “They’re ruling from the standpoint from what they see the requirement as. And they don’t see the requirement as a poll tax, they don’t see the requirement as something unreasonable,” said Michael Stone. “They see it as it’s a part of your sentence and you should complete that. And if that part of your sentence is completed it then you have nothing to complain about.” Stone is the President of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He’s speaking about the United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that requires felons to pay all of their fines and fees before registering to vote.

Paid in full: Now he can vote in Florida, thanks to the kindness of others” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Jeff Gruver can legally vote in November, thanks to the kindness of strangers. After learning about his case, a few benefactors came up with about $1,200 the money Gruver still owed in fines and fees from a long-ago felony drug conviction that stripped him of the right to vote in Florida. Gruver works at a homeless shelter in Gainesville and long ago overcame a drug problem. He registered to vote after the 2018 passage of Amendment 4, which restored the right to vote to 1 million-plus felons. But after the voters spoke, the Legislature and DeSantis made voting subject to the ability to pay all court fines and fees, not just restitution.

— LEG. CAMPAIGNS —

This is garbage — “Questions linger about Josie Tomkow’s residence after ticket shows Dade City address, not Polk” via Gary White of The Lakeland Ledger — When Rep. Tomkow headed to a fitness class on a Wednesday morning in September 2018, she first snatched the wrong purse and then drove too fast. A Lakeland Police Department officer stopped Tomkow for speeding that morning, and when she asked Tomkow for her driver’s license, the young Republican lawmaker realized it was not in the purse she had with her. Tomkow received two tickets, and the record of that encounter has fueled continuing questions about whether she has lived in her district for her entire time in office. Tomkow, then 22, had been elected nearly five months earlier to fill a vacancy in Florida House District 39. That district covers northern Polk County, stretching east into Osceola County. The citations that Tomkow received that morning listed her address as one in Dade City, which is outside the district’s boundaries. Florida’s Constitution requires that all legislators live in the districts they represent. Chris Cause, the Democrat who is challenging Tomkow in the November general election, said the matter of his opponent’s residence merits investigation.

Josie Tomkow is fighting off questionable claims that she does not live in her district.

With opponent dropping out, Angie Nixon in as HD 14 Representative-elect” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The November election in Jacksonville’s House District 14 between the Democratic nominee and a write-in opponent is no more, as NPA Nancy Kapetanovic dropped out. Nixon, who capsized two-term incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels in the August primary, is now officially unopposed in November. “Just received a call that my opponent withdrew. I’m slowly realizing that all of those years of organizing, was God preparing me for these upcoming legislative fights. The future of our children depends on these next few years. I don’t take this responsibility lightly,” Nixon tweeted. “Happy to be able to represent the district I grew up in. Let’s Flourish and fight back against systemic racism.” Despite the closed HD 14 primary contest, there was evidence change was coming ahead of the August vote. Daniels broke with the party on certain issues, most memorably by co-sponsoring a bill requiring parental consent for youth abortions that passed this year.

House District 28: Freshman David Smith tries to fend off progressive challenger” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Pasha Baker, who runs her family’s nonprofit museum is running against Smith, a U.S. Marine and business consultant. Both campaigns are already flooding the district with mailers, a sign of how narrowly Smith, a Republican, edged out Democrat Lee Mangold in 2018, capturing 51% of the vote. Baker said she sees seeking an elected office as an extension of her role in running the Goldsboro West Side Community Historical Association, which seeks to educate people about the history of Sanford’s Black community and advance local arts and culture. Smith touts his leadership as a first-term member of the House, where he said he was successful in passing 10 appropriations and six policy bills, though he said he has “unfinished business.”

Assignment editorsBeth and Jim Hobart will host a virtual house party for Rep. Anna Eskamani’s HD 47 reelection campaign featuring special guest Stan Van Gundy, 6 p.m. RSVP to attend the virtual house party here.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida COVID-19 cases appear to be leveling off after summer surge” via Eileen Kelley of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in Florida is holding steady since peaking in July — when more than 15,000 new cases were reported in a single day. The state on Sunday added 2,521 new cases and the number of newly reported deaths was in the single digits at nine. The state’s positivity rate stands at 4.64% for new tests reported in the previous 24-hour period. This is the ninth straight day that the rate has been below 5%, generally considered a key target figure when making decisions about resuming daily activities.

Florida college towns contributing to jump in COVID-19 cases in young people” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s college towns are contributing to the jump in coronavirus cases in young people. On Monday, Florida health officials reported 369 more young people in the 15-to-24 age group have been infected, making up 22% of all new cases. Almost half those new infections are in counties with major universities such as the University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida. In addition, South Florida, home to two state universities, reported 83 new cases in that age group from the day prior. Over the last four weeks, with students back on university campuses in Florida, young adults have played a major role in the spread of the infection in the state, more than 4,800 people ages 15 to 24 have been confirmed with the virus during that time period.

It seems there’s a generational divide in attitudes about coronavirus. Image via The Wall Street Journal.

— CORONA LOCAL —

South Florida reports two COVID-19 deaths as Florida adds 1,685 cases, lowest since June” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Florida’s Department of Health on Monday confirmed 1,685 additional cases of COVID-19, the lowest reported since June. Monday’s single-day count is lower than last Monday’s 1,736 confirmed cases and is the lowest seen since 1,371 cases were announced on June 10. The state has now confirmed a total of 685,439 COVID-19 cases. Also Monday, 21 Florida resident deaths announced, bringing the resident death toll to 13,317. Of the 21 resident deaths, two were in Broward County. The rest of South Florida did not report any additional deaths for the second day in a row, according to the Florida Department of Health. One new nonresident death was also announced, bringing the nonresident toll to 163.

Palm Beach County extends mask mandate for 30 days; no local deaths for second day in row” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — As summer drew to a close Monday, Florida’s coronavirus caseload continued to grow at a slower pace than at the height of the season. Palm Beach County reported on Monday no coronavirus deaths for the second day straight and fewer than 100 new infections for the first time since June 8, the Florida Department of Health said. The county’s day was in sync with totals across Florida, which saw only 1,685 cases statewide, about one-ninth as many as on the worst days of summer. The state recorded 21 deaths, one-tenth of what several July days brought. The numbers surfaced as the United States neared the milestone of 200,000 deaths from COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory ailment the coronavirus creates, and the world approached 1 million fatalities.

With coronavirus cases on the rise, Pasco opts to not adjust its mask order” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times — While Mike Napier of the Department of Health in Pasco County cannot say for sure why the COVID-19 numbers are on the rise, he told the County Commission on Monday that it “wouldn’t be the time to take the foot off the gas” and end Pasco’s mask mandate. County commissioners Jack Mariano and Mike Wells said they are anxious to see the end of the requirement that was enacted on June 23, but neither pushed for a vote to end the order. “I wish I had better news as far as what our cases have been for the last few weeks,” Napier said. He pointed out that while the number of new cases has varied day-to-day and was looking good earlier in the month, the trend lines are now heading up.

Pensacola Mayor says it’s time to repeal COVID-19 mask ordinance” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said he will ask the City Council to rescind the city’s mask mandate as daily COVID-19 hospitalizations have fallen to 50 people, marking the first time hospitalizations have been that low since June. “We will be asking Council to continue the state of emergency (on COVID-19),” Robinson said. “But we will be asking them to lift the mandate on the mask.” Pensacola has been under a mask mandate since late June when Robinson issued an emergency order requiring masks to be worn in indoor public spaces. The City Council later passed its own emergency ordinance that added fines for violating the order.

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson is looking to rescind the city’s mask mandate.

Leon County Schools: 40 students, 19 employees test positive for COVID-19” via Casey Chapter of the Tallahassee Democrat — Leon County Schools has had 40 students and 19 employees test positive for COVID-19 since early September, according to district officials. Roughly 140 students who may have been exposed in school have been sent home to quarantine, said Chris Petley, the district’s spokesman. Of those, none have shown symptoms or informed the health department or the school district about a positive test, he added. Because of how contagious the novel coronavirus is, it’s impossible to say exactly where someone may have contracted the virus, though Assistant Superintendent Alan Cox says he believes students have not picked up the virus while in classrooms.

School campuses open with few takers: Two-thirds of kids, 1 in 12 teachers stay home” via The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County’s public schools opened their doors to students for the first time in six months, and as expected, most students declined the invitation. Just a third of the school district’s 164,000 students elected to attend classes in person Monday on campuses radically transformed by pandemic safeguards, the district said. Those who did were greeted by masked teachers, mostly empty classrooms and a set of new rules to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infections.

— CORONA NATION —

CDC reverses itself and says guidelines it posted on coronavirus airborne transmission were wrong” via Tim Elfrink, Ben Guarino and Chris Mooney of The Washington Post — On Monday morning, the CDC edited its Web page describing how the novel coronavirus spreads, removing recently added language saying it was “possible” that the virus spreads via airborne transmission. It was the third major revision to CDC information or guidelines published since May. The agency had posted information Friday stating the virus can transmit over a distance beyond six feet, suggesting that indoor ventilation is key to protecting against a virus that has now killed nearly 200,000 Americans. The CDC shifted its guidelines Friday, but the change was not widely noticed until a CNN report on Sunday. Where the agency previously warned that the virus mostly spreads through large drops encountered at close range, on Friday it had said “small particles, such as those in aerosols,” were a common vector.

The N95 shortage America can’t seem to fix” via Jessica Contrera of The Washington Post — When the country was short of ventilators, the companies that made them shared their trade secrets with other manufacturers. Through the powers of the Defense Production Act, Trump ordered General Motors to make ventilators. Other companies followed, many supported by the government until the terrifying problem of not enough ventilators wasn’t a problem at all. But for N95s and other respirators, Trump has used this authority far less, allowing major manufacturers to scale up as they see fit and potential new manufacturers to go untapped and underfunded. The organizations that represent millions of nurses, doctors, hospitals and clinics are pleading for more federal intervention, while the administration maintains that the government has already done enough and that the PPE industry has stepped up on its own. And the longer the shortage lasts, the longer N95s will remain largely out of reach for millions of others who could be protected by them.

Production of N95 masks continues to be problematic.

How we survive the winter” via James Hamblin of The Atlantic — The cold reality is that we should plan for a winter in which vaccination is not part of our lives. Three vaccine candidates are currently in Phase 3 clinical trials in the U.S., and the trials’ results may arrive as early as November. But even if they do, it would not mean that a vaccine would be widely available. The virus is here to stay. At best, it would fade away gradually, but that would happen after, not before, the winter. The sooner we accept this, the more we can focus on minimizing the losses. Some of our fate is now inevitable, but much is not. There are still basic things we can do to survive.

A COVID-19 vaccine for kids may not arrive before fall 2021” via Carl Zimmer of The New York Times — The pandemic has many parents asking two burning questions. First, when can I get a vaccine? And second, when can my kids get it? It may come as a surprise that the answers are not the same. Adults may be able to get a vaccine by next summer. But their kids will have to wait longer. Perhaps a lot longer. Thanks to the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed and other programs, a number of COVID-19 vaccines for adults are already in advanced clinical trials. But no trials have yet begun in the United States to determine whether these vaccines are safe and effective for children. The search for a COVID-19 vaccine started as soon as researchers isolated the virus in January. Teams of developers across the world began creating vaccines based on different techniques. For example, some used inactivated coronaviruses that stimulated the immune system to make its own antibodies; others delivered viral genes into the body, triggering immune cells into action.

— MORE CORONA — 

Cruise lines agree to mandatory coronavirus testing, other safeguards to resume sailing” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — The plan for cruise lines to return to sailing has a road map, and it involves mandatory COVID-19 tests for everyone sailing and wearing masks. Cruise Lines International Association, the trade association for companies that include Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, Disney and MSC Cruises among others, made the announcement Monday, saying that all member lines had come to an agreement for some basic, but major components for any line’s safe return to cruising in North America amid the coronavirus pandemic. All U.S. cruises remain under a no-sail order from the C.D.C. that expires on Sept. 30. CLIA members, though, have also extended any plans to return to voyages until at least November. Before any line can sail, though, it must enact a CDC-approved plan for a safe return to sailing. Each line had already been working on their own plans, with one effort from Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings LTD, called the “Healthy Sail Panel” that formed last June releasing its report Monday with 74 recommendations.

As a condition of restarting, the cruise industry agrees to mandatory coronavirus testing. Image via AP.

Outlook not improving for beleaguered U.S. movie theaters” via Lindsey Bahr of The Associated Press — About three-quarters of the country’s movie theaters are open, but Americans are not going back in significant numbers in the COVID-era, even with new films coming into the marketplace weekly. The biggest movies continue to limp along. According to studio estimates Sunday, Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” earned $4.7 million in its third weekend from nearly 2,930 locations, Disney’s “The New Mutants” added $1.6 million in its fourth weekend, “Unhinged” brought in $1.3 million and Sony’s rom-com “The Broken Hearts Gallery” picked up an additional $800,000 in its second frame. And newcomers aren’t faring any better. The faith-based “Infidel,” which stars Jim Caviezel, did the best with $1.5 million from just over 1,700 theaters. This weekend also saw the limited release of two adult dramas, IFC’s “The Nest,” with Jude Law and Carrie Coon, and Bleecker Street’s “The Secrets We Keep,” with Noomi Rapace

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis proposes crackdown on protesters, penalties to cities that ‘defund’ police” via Kirby Wilson of the Miami Herald — DeSantis and some of the state’s top Republicans want to crack down on people who are involved in what DeSantis called “disorderly assemblies.” DeSantis, speaking at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Winter Haven on Monday, called for a law that would give felony penalties to protesters who block traffic and protesters who participate in gatherings of seven or more people that result in injuries or property damage. A driver who is forced to flee from a “mob” during an unlawful protest would not be liable for injury or death in a potential accident under the proposed law, according to a release from the governor’s office. Flanked by law enforcement officials and top Republican legislators, DeSantis said the proposal, the “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act,” would be a “focal point” of the state’s next legislative session. The Session begins on March 2.

Ron DeSantis brings the hammer down on ‘Defund the Police’ protests.

—“’It’s dog-whistle base stuff’: DeSantis launches Trump-styled protest crackdown” via Matt Dixon and Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida

He’s right — “I can’t see someone who throws a brick at law enforcement not getting six months without a mandatory minimum,” (Sen. Jeff) Brandes said, noting early Monday afternoon that he had not read the entire Republican proposal. “While I agree we have to support law enforcement 100%, we also have to recognize the right afforded to citizens to peacefully protest.”

Flashback — “GOP Brevard Commissioner, amid jokes about running over Orlando anti-Trump protesters: ‘I wouldn’t recommend using a snowplow.’” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

Nikki Fried blasts proposed ‘disorderly protest’ crackdown legislation — Agriculture Commissioner Fried released a statement against legislation proposed by the Governor that would up the penalty for crimes committed during protests. “Our Panhandle is recovering from Hurricane Sally. COVID-19 rages on, making children, families, school staff, and essential employees sick. We continue to see lives lost and rising cases in every age group. Over a million Floridians are unemployed, and our economy is facing years of recovery ahead,” she said. “Instead of prioritizing issues impacting people’s lives, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican Party of Florida are fearmongering at the expense of Floridians, and making a mockery of our legislative process to pull a political stunt for Donald Trump ahead of the 2020 election.” Fried said she condemns violence and looting, but called the bill “unconstitutional” and “a distraction.”

Fried lashes out on eve of Cabinet meeting” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Fried said DeSantis shouldn’t have been allowed to solely address issues such as an overwhelmed unemployment system, problems in health-care reporting, election security, and how federal CARES Act stimulus dollars will be spent by the state. “I didn’t want to have to do this today,” Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, said at the end of the one-hour online session. “When the body in which we serve, the Florida Cabinet, that you elect, doesn’t provide information and leaves state businesses pending for months, while canceling meeting after meeting, I have to step up and lead,” said Fried. “This isn’t hypothetical.”

Happening today — DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet will need to discuss several issues, including spending more than $9 million to keep 5,200 acres across five counties from development and consider naming a chief judge for the state Division of Administrative Hearings, 9 a.m., Cabinet meeting room.

Casey DeSantis announces $2M in mental health funding for rural county schools” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Florida will distribute $2 million in CARES Act funds for rural county school districts to bolster their mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the upcoming distribution during a roundtable Monday with state health care and education officials. Districts will be able to submit applications to cover services including broadband access, telehealth and expanded counseling staff. In the 2020-2021 state budget, Gov. DeSantis approved $100 million for mental health services. That’s a $25 million increase over the previous budget. The new funding, which comes from a pot handed down by the federal government, comes in addition to that $100 million.

First Lady Casey DeSantis is touting $2 million for mental health services rural county schools.

Investigation suggests former Kids Hope Alliance leader may have misused position” via Christopher Hong of The Florida Times-Union — The former leader of the Jacksonville Kids Hope Alliance may have misused his position by recommending an outside group donate to organizations led by his friends, according to an investigative report released Monday by City Hall’s inspector general. The report also described an agency disrupted by an estranged sexual relationship by Joseph Peppers, the agency’s former leader, and an unnamed member of the agency’s senior leadership team who reported directly to Peppers. In a separate report also released Monday, the inspector general determined Peppers’ allegations that Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration pressured him to give preferential treatment to politically connected nonprofits were “unfounded.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Robert Mueller prosecutor says special counsel ‘could have done more’ to hold Trump accountable” via Matt Zapotosky and Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A former prosecutor on special counsel Mueller’s team writes in a new book that the group failed to fully investigate Trump’s financial ties and should have stated explicitly that they believed he obstructed justice, claiming that their efforts were limited by the ever-present threat of Trump disbanding their office and by their own reluctance to be aggressive. In an explosive tell-all that offers the most detailed account yet of what happened behind the scenes during Mueller’s two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Andrew Weissmann writes of his frustration that the special counsel failed to subpoena the President and otherwise pulled punches for fear of incurring Trump’s wrath. He lays particular blame on Mueller’s top deputy, Aaron Zebley.

Andrew Wisemann, a Justice Department prosecutor on Robert Mueller’s team, was frustrated that they ‘could have done more’ to hold Donald Trump accountable. Image via AP.

In ‘power grab,’ Health Secretary Alex Azar asserts authority over FDA” via Sheila Kaplan of The New York Times — In a stunning declaration of authority, Azar barred the nation’s health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, from signing any new rules regarding the nation’s foods, medicines, medical devices and other products, including vaccines. Going forward, Azar wrote in a Sept. 15 memorandum, such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” The bulletin was sent to heads of operating and staff divisions within H.H.S. It’s unclear if or how the memo would change the vetting and approval process for coronavirus vaccines, three of which are in advanced clinical trials in the United States. Political appointees, under pressure from the President, have taken a string of steps over the past few months to interfere with the standard scientific and regulatory processes at the health agencies. For example, a much-criticized guideline on testing for the coronavirus was not written by CDC scientists and was posted on the agency’s public website over their objections. It was reversed on Friday.

— LOCAL NOTES —

FBI agents identify Cuban American man in Florida as prolific ISIS propagandist” via Ian Margol of Local 10 News — Jonathan Guerra thought that he was communicating with a romantic interest who he could involve in his efforts to promote multilingual ISIS propaganda, but the person in Miami who he was really sending information to was a covert FBI employee, according to the FBI. Guerra, who was born in Cuba and is a U.S. naturalized citizen, is also known as Abu Zahra Al-Andalusi, federal prosecutors said. While he enjoyed the safety of a home in Lee County’s Lehigh Acres community and vacationed with his family in Cancun, Mexico, Guerra was promoting suicide bombing, prosecutors said.

Proposed Miami-Dade property buyouts come to unexpected places” via Daniel Rivero of WLRN — Studies conducted by Miami-Dade have shown that increased inland flooding is indirectly tied to rising sea levels. As the sea levels rise, it pushes up the groundwater levels miles away from the shoreline, thanks to the porous limestone that South Florida is built upon. This means that when it rains, the water has nowhere to drain to and the result is flooding — like a cup filled past the brim. Areas that were previously drained by the existing canal network “may be more difficult to protect from flooding” because of this shifting reality, noted a 2016 study for Miami-Dade County’s sea-level rise task force. Several of the areas impacted by rising groundwater levels are in western Miami-Dade. The Miami-Dade properties are not bunched up together, making it more difficult to do something with the reclaimed land. Elsewhere in the state, buyout applications have included tracts of land strung together.

Flooding due to rising sea levels is forcing Miami-Dade County to consider buyouts in some unexpected areas, such as the unincorporated western part of the county. Image via Miami-Dade County.

Florida decision likely clears Pats owner of solicitation” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Florida prosecutors said Monday that they will not appeal a court ruling throwing out video recordings allegedly showing New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft paying for massage parlor sex acts, making it likely that misdemeanor charges against him and other customers will be dropped. Prosecutors decided that if they challenged last month’s 4th District Court of Appeal decision to the state Supreme Court and lost, it could have “broader, negative implications” on future law enforcement investigations, the Florida Attorney General’s Office said. The 4DCA ruling found that Jupiter police violated the rights of Kraft and the others when they secretly installed video cameras inside massage rooms at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in early 2019.

— SMOLDERING — 

Justice Dept. brands NYC an ‘anarchist jurisdiction,’ targets federal funds” via Steven Nelson of the New York Post — New York City was among three cities labeled “anarchist jurisdictions” by the Justice Department on Sunday and targeted to lose federal money for failing to control protesters and defunding cops, The Post has learned. Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Wash., were the other two cities on the list, which was approved by US Attorney General William Barr. “When state and local leaders impede their own law enforcement officers and agencies from doing their jobs, it endangers innocent citizens who deserve to be protected, including those who are trying to peacefully assemble and protest,” Barr said in a statement set to be released Monday. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,’’ the AG added.

AG William Barr is designating New York City as an ‘anarchist jurisdiction,’ and is threatening to withhold federal funds.

National group denounces ‘intolerant Left,’ rallies for Trump in Sarasota” via Emily Wunderlich of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The rallying cry was clear on Sunday: America needs saving from what activists described as the “destruction and division” being promoted by the left-wing. The “Rescue America” rally, hosted by the #WalkAway campaign, stopped by Marina Jack Bayfront Park in Sarasota for a boat flotilla, march and car caravan. Dozens of watercraft from yachts to Jet Skis propelled through the Sarasota Bay, greeted by a swarm of flags and cheers from supporters on the John Ringling Causeway.

— TOP OPINION —

What could possibly go wrong?” via Chris Anderson and Eli Saslow of The Washington Post — I’m supervising a presidential election, in Florida, in a potential swing county, with all kinds of voter distrust, while we’re also dealing with a pandemic. This job is a little like being a referee. If everything’s going well, most people don’t notice an election supervisor. But the crowd gets after you if there’s confusion and fear, and that’s what we’re living through now. I don’t blame people for being on edge. I try to put myself in their shoes. I’m a visual learner, so I took one of our rooms at work and staged it as a precinct. We ran through the whole voting process to assess the risks. We have 80 precincts in Seminole County, and every one needed a safety overhaul. I came up with a list of about 100 issues we needed to solve. I feel like MacGyver in this job. One problem solved, another 99 to go.

— OPINIONS —

Democrats, packing the court is a bad idea” via Ilya Shapiro of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The big question looming over McConnell’s promise to hold a vote on Trump’s nominee to succeed the late Justice Ginsburg is whether the Democrats, should they win both the White House and Senate, will then add more seats to the Supreme Court. Although Biden declined to join most of his fellow candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in endorsing court-packing, the political pressure to do so may be too much to resist come January. Indeed, the Constitution doesn’t specify the number of justices, but each expansion was historically accompanied by political mischief.

Colleges are making the coronavirus crisis worse” via Bloomberg Opinion editorial board — Across the U.S., the reopening of college campuses is fast becoming a new public-health crisis. The arrival of students for the start of the fall semester has caused COVID-19 infections to a spike in college towns from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Chico, California. Of counties where college students are at least 10% of the population, half have seen COVID cases hit their highest-ever levels in the past month. Given the lack of guidance from federal and state officials and the inadequacy of the U.S.’s testing system, mounting infections among college students were all too likely. College administrators failed to anticipate the scale of the outbreaks or develop plans for containing them. To protect students, faculty and residents of surrounding communities, colleges now need to curtail student activities and move classes online.

SLAPP suit against Florida environmental hero leaves her down, but not out” via Fred Grimm of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — But the sad lesson of Maggy Hurchalla’s environmental activism is that we best keep our objections to ourselves. Her fight against a Martin County rock mine has resulted in a $4,391,708 judgment. She had lobbied the County Commission against a 2012 proposal to quarry limestone on a 2,200-acre tract in the county’s western reaches. Lake Point Restoration planned to use the extraction pits to store and filter water, then sell that water back to the public. The company went hard after Hurchalla, filing a SLAPP suit (for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), which uses the prospect of legal costs to cow critics of major proposals in need of government approval. She was optimistic the U.S. Supreme Court would side with her.

— TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Gov. DeSantis is circling the political wagons around the thin blue line. He is proposing a new law to crack down on protesters looking to “Defund the Police” and stand with the men in blue. It would also provide new legal protections for Confederate statues.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— DeSantis calls it the “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act.” And it does nothing to address police violence against Black Americans, which inspired those protests in the first place.

— While her hubby was talking law and order in Winter Haven, first lady Casey DeSantis was back home at the Governor’s mansion … hosting a roundtable discussion on mental health issues faced by children who are back in the classroom during a pandemic.

— The Florida Cabinet meets today, but on the agenda, COVID-19 is nowhere to be found. So, Cabinet member and Agriculture Commissioner Fried held an alternative meeting to talk about the issue. She calls it the “Florida Cupboard Meeting.” He

— Speaking of COVID-19, the Florida Department of Health reports 1,685 new cases and 21 new fatalities.

— And finally, we meet a Florida Woman facing up to 10 years in jail for spreading COVID-19 in Bavaria, learning you don’t screw around with German authorities.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Will Halloween save Disney World, Universal, and SeaWorld?” via Rick Munarriz of The Motley Fool — You can’t blame Disney and rival Central Florida theme park operators for trying to make Halloween happen. This past weekend was the first one with a seasonal bent at Disney World, Comcast’s Universal Orlando, and SeaWorld Entertainment — and it was by most accounts a success. Folks were trick-or-treating through SeaWorld Orlando, enjoying last-minute jump scares at Universal Orlando walk-through attractions, and dressing up as their favorite characters at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. It seems like business as usual, but like any good Halloween disguise, it often masks what’s really going on underneath the costume.

Orlando theme parks are getting into the Halloween spirit, to the delight of parkgoers. Image via Orlando Universal Studios.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Mario Bailey, Chris Clark, and PR ace William Stander (shhh).

___

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

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and 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.

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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