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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.24.20

Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Florida voters are clamoring for clean energy, be it solar, wind, or something else.

A new poll released by Conservatives for Clean Energy-Florida found voters — by an overwhelming margin — prefer an “all of the above” approach when it comes to replacing fossil fuels with something cleaner.

Floridians are looking for anything as an alternative for fossil fuels.

Still, the Sunshine State wouldn’t be living up to its name if solar wasn’t a focus, and the majority expressed interest in expanding Florida’s solar energy production as part of an overall clean energy strategy to reduce the state’s dependence on carbon-based energy.

This general favorability also carried through to specific energy policies like net metering for solar energy users. For example, 77% of respondents supported the concept of net metering to give solar energy users a billing credit based on the energy they feed back into the grid.

“The polling numbers show that more and more Floridians understand the varied economic and environmental benefits of clean energy,” said George Riley, executive director of CCE-Florida. “These are the same individuals that have the capability to make waves at the ballot box this fall as they consider the importance of energy to their personal lives.”

According to the poll, there may be waves indeed — 73% of respondents said that they would be more likely to vote for a political candidate that supported increasing the development and use of renewable energy resources like solar energy.

The sentiment held across party lines, with four out of five self-described moderates and more than half self-described conservatives agreeing that a candidate’s stance on clean energy would impact how they vote.

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Tim Sadberry is the new staff director for the Senate Appropriations Committee, replacing Cynthia Sauls Kynoch in the role.

“Tim Sadberry has many years of state budget experience. His reputation, integrity, and work ethic precede him. We have a very difficult job ahead of us and I am pleased that Tim has joined the team,” incoming Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson said.

The new post is a homecoming of sorts for Sadberry, who worked as the committee’s Deputy Chief of Staff from September 2016 through January of last year.

His resume also includes stints as a staffer on the Senate Civil and Criminal Justice Appropriations subcommittee and the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

Most recently, Sadberry served as the Chief Financial Officer for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, where he was responsible for overseeing the agency’s budget and administrative operations.

Additionally, the Florida State University alumnus has also held positions at several other state agencies, including the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Department of Management Services.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@CindyMcCain: My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is @JoeBiden.

@Deepa_Shivaram: A reminder that it has been 42 days since [Kamala] Harris was tapped as the VP pick. There are 42 days until Election Day. The Senator has not once formally taken questions from the press.

Tweet, tweet:

@NateMonroe: The transformation of Ron DeSantis from a pragmatic, even kind of likable Governor — who seemed to recognize the limitations of his razor-thin margin of victory over a self-described socialist — to a full-blown George Wallace-style election prop completed this week.

@Aronberg: Spoiler alert: There’s nothing improper about donating to pay off court fees so indigent returning citizens can register to vote. In fact, some would call it a #Mitzvah.

— DAYS UNTIL —

First presidential debate in Indiana — 5; Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 9; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 12; first vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 14; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 20; second presidential debate scheduled in Miami — 22; NBA draft — 22; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 22; NBA free agency — 24; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 26; HBO debuts 2000 presidential election doc ‘537 Votes’ — 27; third presidential debate at Belmont — 28; “The Empty Man” premieres — 29; 2020 General Election — 40; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 48; The Masters begins — 49; “No Time to Die” premieres — 57; Pixar’s “Soul” premieres — 57; College basketball season slated to begin — 62; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 69; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 69; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 84; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 92; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 136; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 149; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 164; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 281; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 288; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 302; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 310; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 407; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 410; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” — 442; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 506; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 559; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 740.

— SALLY —

Nikki Fried urges Donald Trump to approve major disaster declaration for Hurricane Sally” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Agriculture Commissioner Fried penned a letter to Trump on Wednesday, urging him to approve a Major Disaster Declaration request for Hurricane Sally impacted counties. A major disaster declaration would make a variety of federal assistance programs available for area residents and public infrastructure reconstruction. “This approval and a subsequent USDA Secretarial disaster declaration are critical for those impacted to receive federal resources needed to recover, including our agricultural producers in the Panhandle who experienced significant crop losses due to this storm,” Fried wrote. Fried also sent letters to DeSantis, the USDA Farm Service Agency, the Florida State Executive Director, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, and other Panhandle Congress members.

Nikki Fried urges Donald Trump to declare a federal ‘major disaster’ declaration for recovery from Hurricane Sally. Image via AP.

Okaloosa emergency crews responded heroically during Hurricane Sally action” via Tom McLaughlin of Northwest Florida Daily News — Prestorm preparation for a worst-case scenario and a Floridian knack for riding out a storm gave rescue workers the leg up they needed to come through without loss of life or even serious injury. However, there were a couple of close calls that required heroics on the part of first responders. Perhaps the most harrowing rescue took place Wednesday about noon at Horsehead Creek near Laurel Hill when a vehicle was swept off the road in heavy rain and into the swiftly rising water. Charles Rainey and Randall Hatfield, two Almarante Fire Department volunteers, and the county’s Swift Water Rescue Team led the rescue effort, according to Charles Carroll, Almarante’s fire chief. They were assisted by other members of the department.

Perdido Keys?! Sally cuts eastern tip of barrier island into three sections” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — Hurricane Sally gouged three breaches into the eastern tip of Perdido Key, separating the isolated stretch of barrier island into three small islands. The impacted area is undeveloped, sandy shoreline east of Johnson Beach and just south of Robertson Island. Even before the hurricane, the region was inaccessible by road and was primarily used by hikers and boaters as a recreation spot for camping, kayaking and swimming. The three new channels created by Sally may make the farthest corner of the island even more remote. The impacted area is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and Park Superintendent Dan Brown said it was not the first time this has happened.

Navarre Beach lost about 100 million cubic yards of sand during Sally” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — Navarre Beach lost an estimated 100 million cubic yards of sand during Hurricane Sally, and officials are racing to tally the full extent of the damage to secure as much funding as possible to restore the beach. The sand loss is the worst at the easternmost and westernmost points of the beach, officials said. There, at high tide, there’s only about 30 feet of beach in between the mean high water line and the dunes; the sand is gray and hard, and the dunes are clearly eroded. “There’s a lot of damage on the west and east end, but if you walk in the middle of the beach, it looks like it was untouched,” said Santa Rosa Commissioner Dave Piech.

Navarre Beach lost millions of cubic yards of sand due to Hurricane Sally. Image via WUWF.

‘Miniaturized canyon’ left in Pace neighborhood after Sally washout” via CD Davidson-Hiers of the Pensacola News Journal — When Cassie and James Nisewonger went to sleep Sept. 15, the vacant lot next to their home in Pace was a normal subdivision lot, covered in grass. But as Hurricane Sally stomped through the Panhandle on Sept. 16, the yard fell away as if a trapdoor had opened in the ground. Left behind was a massive washout that swallowed their mailbox, their yard and ate away at the pavement from the cul-de-sac in front of their house. The lot next door was gone. Six days later, what looks like a miniaturized canyon roughly 75 feet from their house was still widening with every rainfall. “Basically, our whole lives are on pause,” Cassie said a week after the storm hit.

Emergency teams continuing survey of Walton hurricane damage” via Jim Thompson of Northwest Florida Daily News — Federal and state disaster assessment teams are continuing to work in Walton County in the wake of Hurricane Sally. In the meantime, county public works crews are making progress in getting flooded and otherwise damaged roads reopened. Some motorists, however, have gotten impatient with the progress of work on local roads, and are moving barricades to get through — or at least, try to get through — closed sections of local routes. “Even those Type 3 barricades (tall metal barricades with orange and white strips painted with reflective paint), if somebody wants to move them, they can move them,” said Buddy Wright, program manager for the county’s public works department. “We’ve had a few of them stolen,” he told Walton County commissioners this week.

‘Ain’t no hurricane going to stop Joe Patti’s’: Pensacola landmark rebounding from Sally” via Colin Warren-Hicks of the Pensacola News Journal — Joe Patti’s Seafood bore a beating, but the iconic Pensacola seafood market expects to survive the hit dealt by Hurricane Sally. “We got it on the chin,” saidFrank Patti Jr. about storm damage sustained by his family’s business. “But it wasn’t a knockout punch.” Storm surge from the hurricane last week rushed into Joe Patti’s and filled parts of its facilities with upwards of a foot of water. The business lost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” worth of perishable seafood, according to Joe Patti’s seafood buyer Mike Parker.

Meanwhile … “Fall hurricane outlook: Florida has a 50/50 chance at another strike” via Ryan Truchelut of WeatherTiger — Florida hurricane climatology has three distinct peaks. The first, in mid-June, is driven by weak but wet Gulf Coast tropical storms; the second in early and mid-September is associated with the overall peak of the season and long-tracking threats from the east. The third peak is in mid-October, with late-season landfalls focused on South Florida and the Florida Gulf Coast. Hurricane impacts in these areas are as common in October as September. Current anomalies in the Atlantic closely resemble the historical September SST pattern most strongly correlated with a busy final third of hurricane season. Predictive analytics indicate that an additional hurricane strike somewhere in Florida is as likely as not before the end of the season.

— 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 Wednesday, the CNN average is steady with Joe Biden still leading at 51% compared to 44% for Trump. The CNN Poll of Polls tracks the national average in the presidential race. They include the most recent national telephone surveys meeting 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 Wednesday, Biden is staying 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 34.6%, while Florida comes in second with 11.9%. Other states include Wisconsin (9.6%), Michigan (6.4%), Arizona (6.3%), North Carolina (5%), Nevada (3.5%) and Minnesota (3%).

In a survey of recent polling, Joe Biden remains the favored candidate.

PredictIt: As of Wednesday, the PredictIt trading market has Biden dropping slightly to $0.58 a share, with Trump moving up to $0.46.

Real Clear Politics: As of Wednesday, the RCP average of polling top battleground states gives Biden a lead over Trump 50% to 42%. It is the first time Biden has hit the 50% mark. The RCP model has Biden averaging at +7.1 points ahead.

The Economist: As of Wednesday, their model still predicts Biden is 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 85%; Trump’s chances are around 1 in 7 or 15%. They still give Biden a 97% chance (better than 19 in 20) of winning the most votes, with Trump at only 3%.

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Florida is about to mail out 5 million ballots, testing Biden and Trump’s strategies” via David Smiley, Aaron Leibowitz and Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — For months, Trump and Biden, the Democratic nominee, have strategized on voter turnout, election officials have braced for an autumn like no other, and the U.S. Postal Service has vowed to be ready to handle a record number of mail ballots going out in the nation’s largest swing state. Now it’s time for millions of Floridians to vote. Starting Thursday, and continuing for seven days, more than 4.7 million domestic mail ballots will go out to Florida voters, marking the unofficial start of the state’s marathon 40-day election. More than 1 million of those ballots will be mailed in Miami-Dade and Broward counties alone.

What to look for in the Trump-Joe Biden debates” via Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg — We’re within a week of the presidential debates, and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who will moderate the first round, has now released some likely topics. To begin with, debates typically don’t have a significant effect on the election outcome. That’s not surprising. Most attentive voters are partisans and have already decided to support their party’s candidate. The smaller number of attentive voters who have decided to defect have generally done so by now. And the even smaller group who really have no party preference? They, too, may well have decided by this point. Most of the undecided voters by now are those who don’t typically pay much attention to politics, and hardly any of them will watch the debates. Most people who do watch, moreover, will conclude that the candidate they like won the debate, although sometimes comments by pundits afterward may shift their views.

There will be several things to watch out for in the first Joe Biden/Donald Trump debate.

Trump and Biden in tight races in Florida, Arizona” via Scott Clement, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin of The Washington Post — Trump and Biden are locked in close races in Florida and Arizona, according to a pair of Washington Post-ABC News polls in two Sun Belt battlegrounds that the President won in 2016 that are crucial to his hopes for reelection in November. In Florida, likely voters split 51% for Trump to 47% for Biden, while registered voters split 47% for Trump to 48% for Biden. In Arizona, Trump’s margin is even smaller, at 49% to Biden’s 48% among likely voters. Among Arizona’s registered voters, Trump is at 47% and Biden at 49%. All these differences are within the polls’ margins of sampling error.

“Trump 4 points ahead of Joe Biden in Florida; poll shows first lead in state for President all year” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For the first time in 2020, a major, reputable public opinion poll finds Trump leading Biden, the Democrat, in Florida. The Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday shows likely Florida voters favoring Trump over Biden 51%-47%. Statistically, with the poll’s margin of error at plus or minus 5 percentage points, the two candidates are tied. One poll isn’t conclusive. Polling from different pollsters on different days produce different results. For months, highly rated independent polls have had varying, generally small, leads for Biden. A CNBC/Change Research survey released Wednesday showed Biden ahead by 3 points, 49%-46%. A St. Pete Polls survey also showed Biden leading by 3 points, 50%-47%.

Trump rails on crime-plagued, liberal cities. Jacksonville might surprise him” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — When Trump stops in Jacksonville on Thursday for a campaign rally, he will confront a certain version of the boogeyman he has frantically railed against to throngs of his hotblooded supporters: A major city choking on violent crime. But unlike the urban hellscapes of Trump’s fever dreams, Jacksonville is no liberal bastion. Here, every lever of power is firmly controlled by Republican politicians. And the precipitous uptick in violent crime in recent years is not the result of draconian cost cuts imposed on the police, or indifference from city officials to law and order. Jacksonville just passed a budget that will spend a whopping $484 million,  nearly 40% of its total $1.3 billion municipal budget,  on the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office next year. That comes after several years of increased spending on the police.

While Donald Trump blames ‘Democratic-run’ cities for an increase in crime, Republican-led Jacksonville could come as a surprise. Image via WJCT.

Trump’s courtship of Florida Latinos continues Friday with an event in Miami” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Trump will meet Friday with Hispanic voters in the Miami area, according to his campaign. After holding a political rally in Jacksonville Thursday night, the President will travel to Miami-Dade County, where he will participate in a Latinos for Trump roundtable, his campaign announced Wednesday. The campaign did not specify a location for the 10 a.m. event. Trump’s appearance continues his aggressive courtship of Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade, where a recent Bendixen & Amandi International poll found the President splitting the Latino vote with Democratic presidential nominee Biden. Statewide polls have found Biden leading Trump with Hispanic voters, but with less support than what 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had when she lost Florida to Trump.

President’s trademark in Cuba is trademark Trump. His tough talk to exiles is all an act” via Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald — The revelation that Trump registered his Trump trademark in Cuba in 2010 to build hotels and golf courses on the island confirms one more time what more than a dozen people who know him have told me over the years: He’s a man with no principles. Before he hired a Cuban attorney to register his business in Cuba, Trump had vowed to a Cuban American audience in Miami that we would not invest on the island while the Castro dictatorship remained in power. “I will go when Cuba is free,” he said in a speech to the Cuban American Foundation in 1999.

‘Biden has no ground game in Florida.’ Will Mike Bloomberg’s money change that?” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Progressive activists backing Biden in Florida made millions of phone calls, sent hundreds of thousands of text messages and written thousands of letters to convince voters to support the Democratic presidential nominee. But one thing they’re largely not doing — and growing increasingly worried about — is talking to voters face-to-face. With the number of coronavirus cases down from their July peak in Florida, the state’s largest left-leaning grassroots organizations and political field operations are making a last-minute push to get back in front of voters in a crucial battleground state where President Donald Trump’s campaign has been on the ground since June.

Biden and the claim he ‘opposed taking out Osama bin Laden’” via Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post — A reader contacted The Fact Checker saying he and his wife had recently visited an area near Pittsburgh and were moved to request a fact check. “Before the holiday we saw on TV wall-to-wall ads — trust me, every hour on all stations — on how Vice President Biden opposed taking out Osama bin Laden,” the reader wrote. “Some of these ads are with wounded veterans or relatives of deceased soldiers pronouncing Biden ‘too soft’ to lead, unwilling to stand up, etc. The theme is clear.” These ads are being aired by Preserve America PAC, which has said it would air a $30 million advertising blitz attacking Biden. There are four ads, such as this one, mostly featuring wounded veterans but also the parents of Kayla Mueller, a human rights activist killed in Syria in 2015. Biden is vulnerable on bin Laden, mostly because of the way he has described his own advice to President Barack Obama. Earlier this year, we gave Biden Three Pinocchios when he denied having told Obama not to go after the al-Qaida leader at the time Obama’s advisers were debating the issue.

Cindy McCain formally endorses Joe Biden” via Tarini Parti of The Wall Street Journal — Cindy McCain, the wife of the late GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona who was a frequent critic of Trump, officially endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Biden Tuesday night. “My husband John lived by a code: country first,” Mrs. McCain said in a statement and in a series of tweets. “We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is Joe Biden.” Cindy McCain added that although she and Biden didn’t always agree on issues, “he is a good and honest man. He will lead us with dignity.” “She didn’t support Donald Trump in 2016 either, and he’s President now,” said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh. The McCains in 2016 withdrew their support for Trump.

In a rebuke of Donald Trump, Cindy McCain endorses Joe Biden.

Republicans hope Supreme Court fight boosts Trump’s reelection bid, helps GOP hold Senate majority” via Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey and Paul Kane of The Washington Post — Republicans are shifting their campaign focus toward the looming Supreme Court fight over replacing the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in hopes that it will inject a last-minute boost into Trump’s reelection bid and the battle for the Senate majority. But some in Trump’s orbit are questioning that strategy, privately fretting that the move to quickly confirm a conservative replacement for the liberal icon will backfire and energize the left in key battlegrounds states. And behind the scenes, some Senate GOP advisers also acknowledge that this could spell bad news for at least two GOP incumbents, Susan Collins in Maine and Cory Gardner in Colorado, fighting for their political lives in Democratic-leaning states, even as they predict it could bolster other vulnerable senators.

Treasury yields would jump on a Democratic sweep, Goldman says” via Vivien Lou Chen of Bloomberg — Treasury yields would be jolted higher by Democrats winning the U.S. presidency and control of both houses of Congress, say Goldman Sachs Group Inc. strategists Praveen Korapaty and Avisha Thakkar. In a note published Wednesday, they said the benchmark 10-year note’s yield could rise 30 to 40 basis points over the month following the Nov. 3 election. The adjustment would reflect the possibility of substantially higher federal spending, they said. The 10-year yield, around 0.68% on Wednesday, has been stuck in a tight range as volatility in the world’s biggest debt market hovers near a record low, suggesting traders expect little movement until the election.

— NEW ADS —

New Trump ad blasts Biden record on Puerto Rico — Trump’s reelection campaign Wednesday put out a new Spanish language TV ad titled “Reconstruyendo,” claiming Biden’s policies have devastated Puerto Rico’s economy and led businesses to relocate to China. Trump, the ad contends, has delivered record investments in Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and has worked to bring the pharmaceutical industry back to the island. “Like a typical politician, Joe Biden pretends to care about Boricuas when he needs our votes, but during his five decades in Washington he never did anything for us except vote to eliminate Section 936, which collapsed our economy,” said Juan Carlos Benitez of Latinos for Trump. The ad will run on TV and digitally in “key areas” of Florida.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

DNC ad makes final push for voter registration — The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday announced new digital ads aimed at getting more voters on the rolls. The ads direct viewers to IWillVote.com, where they can learn how to register to vote or check their registration status. The ad features the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, speaking about the right to vote, referring to it as “the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.” The ads will run on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube as part of a seven-figure investment in voter registration across in battleground states, including Florida.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

— 2020 — 

Vote-by-mail ballots start to go out Thursday” via The News Service of Florida — Potentially millions of ballots could hit the mail starting Thursday for the Nov. 3 general election in Florida. County supervisors of elections are required to send out their first big batches of vote-by-mail ballots between Thursday and Oct. 1. Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said in a news release that his office will put more than 355,000 ballots in the mail on Thursday. Hillsborough County has already sent out more than 6,800 ballots to overseas and military voters. Overall, more than 4.7 million vote-by-mail ballots have been requested by Florida’s 13.89 million voters. As of Wednesday, Democrats statewide had requested 2.18 million ballots to 1.48 million sought by Republicans.

Poll: Minimum wage amendment poised to pass” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An amendment increasing Florida’s minimum wage appears poised to pass. But measures changing how Florida conducts primary elections and amends the state constitution face a difficult road. That’s according to results from a statewide St. Pete Polls survey. The poll shows nearly 65% of voters ready to vote yes on Amendment 2, which would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. Around 23% of voters would vote against the measure if the election were held today, and nearly 13% remain undecided. Still, the level of support easily clears the 60% threshold required for voters to amend Florida’s Constitution. The ballot initiative from Florida For A Fair Wage has been a top priority for influential Orlando attorney John Morgan and has been cleared by the Florida Supreme Court for the November ballot.

DCCC adds Alan Cohn to Red to Blue program to flip CD 15” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is adding Cohn to its Red to Blue program, spotlighting Democrats’ hope that Florida’s 15th Congressional District is ripe for flipping. Cohn is running in CD 15 against Republican Scott Franklin who ousted incumbent Ross Spano in the Aug. 18 Republican primary. Cohn defeated fellow Democrat Adam Hattersley for his party’s nomination. The DCCC’s Red to Blue program is a highly selective effort that provides Democratic candidates in flippable districts with financial and institutional resources to help grow Democratic representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The program provides funding as well as strategic guidance, staff resources and candidate training.

New ad touts Vern Buchanan as bipartisan champion — A new ad from U.S. Rep. Buchanan’s reelection campaign pitches the longtime Republican congressman as the bipartisan choice for Florida’s 16th Congressional District. “It’s a record of accomplishment few can match. Vern Buchanan is rated as one of the most effective and bipartisan members of Congress. Twenty-two bills signed into law under three presidents from both parties,” a narrator says. “Bills protecting veterans, strengthening Medicare, safeguarding the environment, even preventing cruelty to animals. No matter the issue or the odds Vern Buchanan gets the job done for Florida and America.” Buchanan faces Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good on Election Day.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Partisan groups continue going negative in CD 26 contest” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new slate of negative ads is dropping in the race for Florida’s 26th Congressional District as opposing partisan groups look to push their candidate of choice. The race features Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell defending her seat against Republican candidate Carlos Giménez, who currently serves as the Miami-Dade County Mayor. Two groups released negative ads, with one ad each going after Giménez and Mucarsel-Powell. Wednesday morning, another pair of attack ads dropped as the race for one of the most competitive congressional seats in the state heats up. The Congressional Leadership Fund announced a new ad Wednesday titled, “Warlord.” The ad largely rehashes an attack pushed during Mucarsel-Powell’s 2018 congressional bid focusing on her husband, Robert. According to a Daily Beast report, Robert Powell worked as an attorney at several firms owned by a Ukrainian man named Ihor Kolomoisky.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Florida AG calls for criminal inquiry into Michael Bloomberg’s $16M felon voter donation” via Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Florida‘s Republican attorney general on Wednesday urged the FBI and state authorities to investigate former New York Mayor Bloomberg‘s pledge to spend $16 million helping convicted felons regain their voting rights in the nation’s largest swing state. Ashley Moody said in a letter to top law enforcement officials that she was asked by DeSantis, another Republican, to review the donation Bloomberg announced on Tuesday. Moody said she quickly decided additional scrutiny was warranted. The move comes just two weeks before Florida’s voter registration deadline and 12 days after a federal appeals court upheld a restrictive new state law that requires former felons to clear court debts before registering to vote.

Voters without masks will be allowed into polls on Election Day, Broward officials say” via Lisa J. Huriash and Andrew Boryga of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — After touting the safety of voting sites, Broward election officials now say they won’t stop people from voting if they don’t wear masks. The statement from the Broward Elections Supervisor stunned legal experts who say permitting maskless voting would clearly conflict with COVID-19 court rulings that already have upheld mask laws. The Broward County Supervisor of Elections told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that it cannot turn away anti-maskers who are eligible to vote in the Nov. 3 presidential election: They have a right to vote under federal law. And elections officials argue that outweighs any local law on masks.

— LEG. CAMPAIGNS —

South Florida police unions back Democratic incumbent José Javier Rodríguez in SD 37” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Two police unions are endorsing Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez in a high-profile South Florida Senate race. The Florida Fraternal Order of Police and the South Florida Police Benevolent Association both announced Wednesday they are supporting Sen. Rodríguez. Republican candidate Ileana Garcia and nonparty affiliated Alex Rodriguez are also seeking the seat. “In law enforcement, our top priority each day is to serve the citizens of our community by putting their well-being first,” said Al Palacios, president of the FOP, Lodge 133. “Sen. José Javier Rodríguez has been a strong partner in carrying out that mission and we are proud to support his reelection to District 37.”

South Florida police unions give the nod to José Javier Rodríguez in his bid for reelection.

Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Patrick Henry stress bipartisan messaging in battleground HD 26” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Fetterhoff never had any reason to think reelection would be easy. Former Rep. Henry knows firsthand that’s never the case in House District 26. After Fetterhoff unseated Henry by 61 votes in 2018, it became all the more clear this jurisdiction remains one of Florida’s hottest battlegrounds. With a rematch in November, the now-incumbent believes her record will stand up with voters and help her win by a larger margin. “We’ve done a great job over the past two years, and we were obviously more effective than Patrick Henry his two years,” she said. But the Democrat feels confident as he looks to retake his office. “She’s more afraid of me than I am of her,” he said.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Daniella Levine Cava drops Spanish-language ad touting support from Annette Taddeo” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic Sen. Taddeo is featured in a new Spanish-language ad supporting Levine Cava in the Miami-Dade County mayoral race. Taddeo endorsed Levine Cava in Aug. 2019, making her an early Levine Cava backer. “She is the embodiment of good government and a true champion of the people,” Taddeo said at the time. “I am excited to campaign side-by-side with Daniella and make history as we elect Miami-Dade’s first woman as our next Mayor.” Now, Taddeo is featured in a 30-second spot set to run on Spanish-language radio.

To hear the ad, click on the image below:

Everglades trust endorses Levine Cava in Miami-Dade mayoral race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Everglades Trust, a nonpartisan environmental group, is endorsing Levine Cava for Miami-Dade County Mayor. “No region in Florida has more to gain by a stable, healthy Everglades ecosystem, or stands to lose more, than the people and economy of Miami-Dade County,” said Everglades Trust Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell in a Wednesday statement. “The Everglades and coastal estuaries do not care about partisan politics, and neither does the Everglades Trust. We are calling on Democrats, NPAs, Republicans — all voters — to get behind a clean water champion and elect Daniella Levine Cava as the next Mayor of Miami-Dade County.”

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Support for Ron DeSantis’ COVID-19 response split even” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Approval for DeSantis‘ COVID-19 response broke even in a poll released Wednesday, a slight recovery after ticking below 50% in recent polling. That’s according to the latest in a series of CNBC and Change Research battleground state polls released twice per month. The latest iteration saw the Governor’s approval rating on the issue elevate from 48% to 50% in the last two weeks. Opposition fell from 52% to 50%. Amid his calls in recent months to reopen schools, support for the Governor’s coronavirus fell to 42% in August, the lowest level since the pollsters asked the same question in mid-April. In that first poll, he also recorded 42% support. DeSantis’ recent low appears to have mostly recovered. The survey took results from likely 2020 voters Sept. 18-20. Between that survey and the previous one Aug. 4-6, the pandemic largely continued to subside in Florida.

A recent survey splits voters’ opinion on Ron DeSantis and his COVID-19 response

Group offers proposal for liability protections” via The News Service of Florida — Forty lobbyists and association representatives met over the summer to discuss ways to protect businesses from what some fear will be a flood of lawsuits related to COVID-19. Co-chaired by Marc Salm, vice president of risk management at Publix, and William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, the group, dubbed the RESET Task Force, finalized a proposal that would exempt “essential businesses” from any COVID-19 related litigation and would change litigation rules for “nonessential businesses” that could be sued. The task force is not proposing that the changes be applied retroactively to cover businesses. Essentially, the group is proposing that scores of businesses identified as “essential” in executive orders issued by DeSantis be given immunity from COVID-19 related suits.

DEM employees can’t double-dip on COVID-19 and Sally ‘extraordinary pay’” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Division of Emergency Management employees that received extraordinary pay for COVID-19 in a week cannot also receive extraordinary pay for Hurricane Sally. Emails obtained by Florida Politics show the policy outlined by the Division apply to career service personnel, who are the majority of employees and selected exempt service employees, which include middle management workers. Those additional hours instead count toward regular hours, according to DEM’s Deputy Director Kevin Guthrie. “If you are CS/SES and you are claiming more than six hours in extraordinary pay per week in COVID-19 extraordinary pay, you are not eligible for Sally extraordinary pay,” reads one of Guthrie’s emails. Similar to overtime, extraordinary pay is 1.5 times the rate of regular pay.

— CORONA LOCAL —

Miami ALF shut down for breaking COVID-19 rules and endangering residents, state says” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — A small assisted living facility in Southwest Miami-Dade was ordered to shut down this week over several COVID-19 violations, including failing to properly care for residents with symptoms and allowing people who tested positive to enter. The 24-hour, six-bed ALF at 5111 SW 112th Ave. was licensed to Kevin’s ALF Corp. The for-profit corporation is registered to Zairys Garit, who is also listed as its president, according to records from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations. Inspectors with Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees assisted living facilities, visited the ALF last Wednesday to conduct a survey. The emergency order was signed and filed in Tallahassee Monday by the agency secretary.

Judge to decide whether schools are safe to open” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A judge is expected to rule soon whether it’s up to the courts to decide if Palm Beach County schools are safe to open. A six-hour hearing was held Wednesday afternoon and evening over a lawsuit seven teachers filed against the school district. Palm Beach Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley gave the parties 24 hours to submit additional briefs. His ruling could come Friday or early next week. Kelley asked questions that suggested he may believe the decision on whether to open schools, as well as whether to allow teachers to work remotely, is best left up to local school boards. The lawsuit was filed Friday in hopes of preventing school opening. Kelley allowed the school to open at least temporarily until he made a final ruling. Students returned to campus Monday.

— MORE LOCAL —

More than 15,700 OCPS students want to return to campuses next month” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — More than 15,700 students in Orange County Public Schools want to return to campuses in October, a switch that means fewer teachers will be able to work from home, the district announced late Tuesday. About 70% of the school district’s students have been doing school online since classes began in August, a choice parents made because of concerns about the coronavirus. The district let parents make a new choice for the second quarter of the school year, which begins Oct. 13. Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said 15,792 students want to return to “brick and mortar” campuses next month. That amounts to about 13% of the 122,469 students who had been doing online lessons at home through the district’s LaunchEd platform.

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Jenkins says nearly 16,000 students want to return to brick-and-mortar schools. Image via I4 Business Magazine.

Port Orange teacher’s aide dies from COVID-19, brother dies a day later” via LobbyTools — A teacher’s aide at an elementary school in Port Orange has died after contracting COVID-19, the Volusia County school district said. Her brother, an emergency medical worker, died a day later. Teaching paraprofessional Shyla Pennington died with COVID-19 on Saturday, Volusia school officials said in a news release. She had been a teacher’s assistant in the district for 18 years. It wasn’t clear in information from the district whether Pennington had been working at Sugar Mill since schools reopened, where she may have contracted the virus, or what steps may have been taken by school officials to determine whether others were in contact with her. The school was open this week.

— CORONA NATION —

U.S. cases rise 0.6%; France imposes new limits” via Bloomberg News — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said a recent uptick of COVID-19 cases in neighborhoods of south Brooklyn requires “urgent action.” Missouri’s Governor said he has tested positive for the virus. France imposed new restrictions on bars and public gatherings in several cities as it tries to tamp down a resurgence of the virus. The U.K.’s Chancellor of the Exchequer canceled his planned fall budget and prepared to set out a fresh round of job-support measures, a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Britons to work from home to curb an outbreak. Johnson & Johnson has begun dosing as many as 60,000 volunteers in a study of its COVID-19 vaccine, the first big U.S. trial of an inoculation that may work after just one shot.

Thousands of American troops to take part in COVID-19 early-detection study” via Ben Kesling and Nancy A. Youssef of The Wall Street Journal — Thousands of Defense Department personnel are slated to take part in a COVID-19 early-detection study that looks to identify troops with barely perceptible symptoms and quarantine them early. If successful, the study, which will collect data on the troops, could point the way to a widely used, noninvasive method of detecting COVID-19 symptoms even before a patient feels sick. Researchers said they hope to learn more through the study about what it means to be asymptomatic. Officials plan for more than 5,000 largely U.S.-based troops in the coming weeks to join a joint study between the Defense Department and Koninklijke Philips NV, a global health technology company, to use bio-measuring devices like smartwatches that identify people infected with COVID-19, quarantine them and treat the illness.

Thousands of Defense Department personnel will take part in a COVID-19 early detection study. Image via Bloomberg.

FDA poised to announce tougher standards for a COVID-19 vaccine that make it unlikely one will be cleared by Election Day” via Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Washington Post — The F.D.A. is expected to spell out a tough new standard for an emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine as soon as this week that will make it exceedingly difficult for any vaccine to be cleared before Election Day. The agency is issuing guidance to boost transparency and public trust as it approaches the momentous decision of whether a prospective vaccine is safe and effective. Public health experts are increasingly worried that Trump’s repeated predictions of a coronavirus vaccine by Nov. 3, coupled with the administration’s interference in federal science agencies, may prompt Americans to reject any vaccine as rushed and potentially tainted. The stakes are high: polls show the relentless politicization of the race to develop a vaccine is taking its toll. Pew Research Center recently reported that the percentage of people who said they would get the vaccine if it were available today has dropped to just over 50% from 72% in May.

Single-dose vaccine tested as U.S. experts say no corners cut” via The Associated Press — A huge international study of a COVID-19 vaccine that aims to work with just one dose is getting underway as top U.S. health officials sought Wednesday to assure a skeptical Congress and public that they can trust any shots the government ultimately approves. Hopes are high that answers about at least one of several candidates being tested in the U.S. could come by year’s end, maybe sooner. “We feel cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe and effective vaccine, although there is never a guarantee of that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, told a Senate committee. But Trump is pushing for a faster timeline than many experts say is adequate to fully test the candidates. On Wednesday he tweeted a link to news about the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine study and said the Food and Drug Administration “must move quickly!” “President Trump is still trying to sabotage the work of our scientists and public health experts for his own political ends,” Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, said before ticking off examples of pressure on the FDA.

A single-shot coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson will be tested in 60,000 people” via Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Washington Post — The first coronavirus vaccine that aims to protect people with a single shot has entered the final stages of testing in the United States in an international trial that will recruit up to 60,000 participants. The experimental vaccine being developed by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is the fourth vaccine to enter the large, Phase 3 trials in the United States that will determine whether they are effective and safe. Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer of J&J, predicted that there may be enough data to have results by the end of the year and said the company plans to manufacture 1 billion doses next year. Three other vaccine candidates have a head start, with U.S. trials that began earlier in the summer, but the vaccine being developed by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies, a division of J&J, has several advantages that could make it logistically easier to administer and distribute if it is proved safe and effective.

Anthony Fauci to a meddling HHS official: ‘Take a hike’” via Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic — In an email to The Atlantic, Fauci directly addressed the two Trump-administration officials at the center of the recent controversy around political interference in the efforts of scientists and public-health experts to inform Americans about the pandemic: Michael Caputo, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, and Caputo’s former science adviser, Paul Alexander, who attempted to censor what scientists, including Fauci, said about the coronavirus. In the email to Madrigal, Fauci wrote: “Caputo enabled Alexander. Alexander is the one who directly tried to influence the CDC (he may have succeeded, I cannot really say) and even me (I told him to go take a hike).”

Anthony Fauci tells an HHS official attempting to muzzle him to ‘take a hike.’

Feared coronavirus outbreaks in schools yet to arrive, early data show” via Laura Meckler and Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post — Thousands of students and teachers have become sick with the coronavirus since schools began opening last month, but public health experts have found little evidence that the virus is spreading inside buildings, and the rates of infection are far below what is found in the surrounding communities. This early evidence, experts say, suggests that opening schools may not be as risky as many have feared and could guide administrators as they chart the rest of what is already an unprecedented school year. “Everyone had a fear there would be explosive outbreaks of transmission in the schools. In colleges, there have been. We have to say that, to date, we have not seen those in the younger kids, and that is a really important observation,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Coronavirus worsens segregation at schools — School segregation is getting worse and coronavirus is to blame. As reported by Maya King and Nicole Gaudiano of POLITICO Pro, students of color attending school in-person are showing up to campuses that lack proper coronavirus safety precautions and those that choose to attend virtually are falling victim to the digital divide — one in three Black, Latinx and Native American families do not have high-speed internet access at home. Conversely, in wealthy, often majority-White school districts, students are attending school in small “learning pods” which cost parents hundreds or thousands of dollars. “COVID isn’t just revealing racial inequities, it’s reproducing it. It’s making it worse,” said Cornell University professor Noliwe Rooks.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Popcorn farmers are sitting on mountains of unsold popcorn, in part due to closed movie theaters” via Michael Hollan of FOX 13 Tampa Bay — The popcorn market may have popped. With movie theaters shut down, people are obviously eating less movie theater snacks. This has left the farmers who supply theaters (and other venues) with a massive surplus of unsold food. Popcorn farmers who typically sell to movie theaters and other venues (bars, concert halls, sporting events, etc.) are struggling amid the pandemic. For these farmers, the summer months usually mean big business. But this year, it’s a different story. While microwave popcorn brands have reportedly seen sales surge, many farmers who provide corn to theaters and other similar venues (typically in 50- to 100-pound bags) don’t have the equipment or infrastructure to switch their sales models.

Closed movie theaters are causing a glut of unused popcorn.

— MORE CORONA — 

France raises its COVID-19 alert level in several areas.” via The New York Times — France raised its COVID-19 alert level in a number of areas across the country Wednesday, and the authorities ramped up restrictions on public gatherings in several cities to prevent the health system from buckling under an influx of patients. The new measures, which will take effect in the coming days, include the total closure of all bars and restaurants in the cities of Aix-en-Provence and Marseille and a ban on public gatherings of more than 10 people in Paris and a handful of other French cities. Olivier Véran, the Health Minister, said at a news conference Wednesday evening that the situation in France was “continuing to deteriorate.”

Lights, camera … COVID-19! The perils of shooting amid a pandemic” via Bryn Elise Sandberg of the Hollywood Reporter — As Hollywood forges its way back into production in the midst of a pandemic, industry leaders say that embarrassing oversights like these are all but inevitable in a situation as complex and unprecedented as this, but that shouldn’t deter efforts to get cameras rolling again. “Logistics for production shoots are complicated to begin with. Add the extra layer of all the safety protocols and testing that has to be figured out and, yes, you’re going to have some of it fall through the cracks,” says California film commissioner Colleen Bell. “None of this is easy — but frankly, I give the industry a lot of credit for adapting so quickly.” Indeed, after months of planning and schedule shifting, filming is starting to kick up in earnest. All the major studios are said to have projects in various stages of production, and it’s beginning to add up: Los Angeles has seen a 40% increase in film permit requests from July to August.

California Film Commissioner Colleen Bell describes the significant challenges of restarting the industry amid COVID-19. Image via Variety.

Adam Silver says next NBA season will likely start in 2021” via Tim Reynolds of NBA.com — NBA Commissioner Silver said Tuesday that his “best guess” is that next season will not start until at least January, plus acknowledged that the later-than-usual schedule could mean top U.S. men’s players miss next summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Silver, a guest in a series of panel discussions on CNN, did not indicate that any decisions are finalized. The league was originally hoping for a Dec. 1 start to next season, then shifted its focus to the chance of a late December start, and now the target has apparently moved again. “I continue to believe that we’re going to be better off getting into January,” Silver said in a discussion with Bob Costas during part of the “Citizen by CNN” event. “The goal for us next season is to play a standard season … an 82-game season and playoffs. And further, the goal would be to play games at home arenas in front of fans, but there’s still a lot that we need to learn.”

Cruise lines won’t allow passengers to roam freely in port cities when sailings resume” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Forget the tequila shots, straw markets and jewelry stores. If cruise lines are allowed to resume operations anytime soon, passengers won’t be permitted to roam freely around port cities. Proposals to limit the spread of COVID-19 call for allowing passengers to disembark only if they are signed up for an excursion sponsored by the cruise line, one of a series of health protocols developed by an industry eager to resume operations after a six-month COVID-19 shutdown. Will passengers be eager to board ships that they won’t be allowed to leave unless they pay for an excursion? “I wouldn’t like that at all. That would stop me from cruising,” said Scott Braun, a Miami resident and avid cruiser.

— STATEWIDE —

Appointed Joshua Hawkes to the 2nd Circuit Court, Jennifer Swenson to the 10th Circuit Court, Gilberto Perez to the 20th Circuit Court, Stefanie Morris to the Leon County Court, and Barry Dickson to the Escambia County Court.

IBM drops challenge the Medicaid contract” via The News Service of Florida — IBM has withdrawn its challenge to a decision by the state Agency for Health Care Administration to award a major Medicaid contract to Deloitte Consulting. A notice was filed at the state Division of Administrative Hearings that said IBM had voluntarily dropped its protest. The technology contract, which is estimated to be worth $135 million, has drawn scrutiny because the 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, which unsuccessfully sought the Medicaid contract, filed separate challenges to the Agency for Health Care Administration’s decision. Accenture also withdrew its challenge this month.

Still no answers from task forces looking into proposed Florida toll roads” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — More than a year after convening, the three toll road task forces charged by the Florida Legislature to evaluate and make recommendations on the state’s most ambitious public works project in decades still have no answers to fundamental questions. No demonstration of need. No final route selected. No cost estimate. No feasibility study to show if it will even pay for itself. “The biggest takeaway is this is a project of hundreds of millions of dollars and no demonstrated need for the roads. And we can’t guarantee the roads will pay for themselves,” said Lindsay Cross, government relations director for Florida Conservation Voters.

Happening today — A task force of the Florida Department of Transportation will hold a meeting to discuss one of three M-CORES toll road projects — the plan to extend the Suncoast Parkway from Citrus County to Jefferson County. The meeting begins at 9 a.m. Register online at FloridaMCORES.com/events-calendar. The meeting is also open to the public at the Lafayette County Courthouse County Commission room, 120 West Main St., Mayo, or at Madison Golf & Country Club, 445 Country Club Road, Madison.

Citizens insurance grows amid ‘unhealthy’ market” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway pointed to problems due primarily to litigation and rises in costs of reinsurance. “The growth is becoming extraordinary,” Gilway said during an online meeting of the Citizens Board of Governors. “And you can gloss over these numbers, but the impact they have on the overall operations is significant.” After peaking near 1.5 million policies in 2012, Citizens has spent years trying to shed policies and move them into the private market. A healthy number for Citizens is considered around 420,000 policies — roughly the amount it had in 2019. But Gilway said Citizens likely will be above 540,000 policies by the end of this year, moving from 4% of the market to 5%.

Citizens Property Insurance head Barry Gilway warns of an ‘unhealthy’ market.

Richard Corcoran encourages ‘everyone’ never to read The Washington Post and The New York Times” via Danielle Brown of Florida Phoenix — At a public board meeting, Education Commissioner Corcoran said he would encourage everyone “never to read” The Washington Post or The New York Times. Those two storied newspapers have won numerous Pulitzer Prizes over the years. But in a new era of “fake news” during the Trump administration, media outlets have been assailed by critics. Corcoran’s disparaging remarks came during a State Board of Education meeting, when Corcoran, a Republican and former state House Speaker, spent time to criticize the media over education coverage. “You’re going to see reports from time to time … the reporting on this is just all off,” said Corcoran. Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association (FEA), said that Corcoran’s tendency to disparage the media falls in line with methods from DeSantis and Trump.

Florida Council of 100 releases study showing ‘rigor gap’ in Florida classrooms” via redefinED — A detailed study by the Florida Council of 100 in cooperation with the Florida Department of Education includes data indicating the state can do more to align efforts on student growth by helping students and families in real-time. Coming on the heels of last year’s dismal National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, the study shows a substantial “rigor gap” between the grades Florida high school students receive and their mastery of content required to pass end-of-course exams in Algebra I and Grade 10 English Language Arts. Among the findings: Seventy-two percent of English 2 students and 55% of Algebra I students who did not pass the corresponding end-of-course exam received a course grade of C or higher.

As choice expands, public schools keep rising” via Ron Matus in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida recently got good news about its public education system that, unfortunately, few Floridians got to hear: Sunshine State schools, the butt of jokes 20 years ago, now rank No. 3 in America in K-12 achievement, according to no less a fair judge than “Education Week.” No. 3? Florida? The rankings are based on a thoughtful mix of academic gauges, including graduation rates, the results on college-caliber Advanced Placement exams, and math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress. Florida’s No. 3 ranking (behind Massachusetts and New Jersey) is its highest ever, after more than a decade in or near the Top 10.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump says no meeting planned with Barbara Lagoa for Supreme Court, she is on his list” via Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — Trump said he does not have a meeting planned with Judge Lagoa but she is on his list for a nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. He said there were five women candidates that he was considering for the vacancy and he would announce the nominee on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the White House. “I think it will be a great nominee, brilliant nominee,” Trump said a news conference. When asked whether he would be meeting with Lagoa, Trump said, “She is on my list, I don’t have a meeting planned, but she is on my list.” The president had earlier this week suggested they might meet in Florida. But White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said in an earlier statement Wednesday that “there are no plans to conduct interviews in Florida.”

Donald Trump has not yet met with Barbara Lagoa, a possible candidate for the Supreme Court. Image via AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee.

Trump’s businesses raked in $1.9 billion of revenue during his first three years in office” via Dan Alexander of Forbes — Trump never really got out of business. Sure, he handed day-to-day management of his companies to his children, like a lot of tycoons who get preoccupied with other interests late in life. But the president held on to ownership of his assets after taking office, ensuring that he would continue to generate money while serving in the White House. From 2017 to 2019, the president’s businesses raked in an estimated $1.9 billion of revenue. It’s a significant sum, no matter how you look at it. Documents from various sources help show where the money comes from and roughly how much of it turns into profit. An analysis that relies on those documents and conversations with industry experts, broken down for the first time in the forthcoming book White House, Inc., provides an unprecedented look at the President’s finances, which he has worked so hard to shield from public scrutiny.

Marco Rubio, Rick Scott make the case for Lagoa directly to Trump” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Florida’s two U.S. senators have made personal appeals to Trump to replace Ginsburg on the Supreme Court with Lagoa, a Miami native. In interviews with the Miami Herald, Republican Sens. Scott and Rubio said they spoke to Trump about their preference for Lagoa, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta and former Florida Supreme Court justice. Lagoa is considered a top finalist for the lifetime appointment along with Amy Coney Barrett, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago.

Matt Gaetz rips bandage off GOP voter suppression charade” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — In case there ever was any doubt, Florida Republicans really don’t want felons who served their time in prison to vote. Ever. They will do whatever they can get away with to keep that from happening. Don’t try to pretend they won’t. Oh, they might say otherwise when microphones are around, but Florida’s resident representative blabbermouth, U.S. Rep. Gaetz, ripped the bandage off that charade. He demanded an investigation into Bloomberg’s gambit to pay the fines and fees of some Florida felons. “It’s not every felon. It’s just those which they have specifically identified as the Biden voters,” Gaetz told Lou Dobbs on Fox Business. “That’s offering a bribe, an inducement, for someone to behave a certain way in voting.”

Matt Gaetz demonstrates that Florida Republicans have no desire for ex-felons to vote. Image via AP.

House passes Stephanie Murphy bill making Medal of Honor possible for Alwyn Cashe” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The possibility of a Medal of Honor for the late Army Sgt. First Class Cashe of Oviedo came a step closer Tuesday when the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill making it possible. By unanimous consent late Tuesday, the House passed House Resolution 8276, introduced by Democratic Rep. Murphy of Winter Park and co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Michael Waltz of St. Augustine Beach and Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas. HR 8276 would waive a five-year time statute of limitations that has expired for normal consideration for Medal of Honor awards by directly authorizing the President to award the medal “for acts of valor during Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Former South Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen under federal investigation” via Jim DeFede of CBS Miami — Former Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is under federal investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly spending campaign money on personal trips and vacations for her and her family, CBS Miami has learned. In recent weeks, former members of her staff have been subpoenaed to either provide records or appear before a grand jury regarding tens of thousands of dollars of expenditures by Ros-Lehtinen, including a 2017 trip to Walt Disney World with her children and grandchildren. The investigation is being run by the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. After announcing April 30, 2017, that she would not seek reelection in 2018, Ros-Lehtinen transferred more than $177,000 from her reelection campaign account to IRL PAC, a political action committee that she controlled.

— LOCAL NOTES —

Bay County debt committee approves $50 million bond to cover Hurricane Michael costs” via Tony Mixon of the Panama City News Herald — The Bay County debt committee has agreed to seek a $50 million bond to add onto the $250 million the county has already borrowed to cover Hurricane Michael expenses. The Bay County Commission must still give final approval for the bond. The county to date has paid back $100 million of the $250 million they’ve borrowed. The debt committee had three options to choose from and had a wide selection of competitive interest rates, according to County Manager Bob Majka. Out of the three, the committee chose a deal with Truist Bank out of Pensacola for $50 million on a 1.06% fixed interest rate. The interest rate is favorable in comparison $250 million the county borrowed after Hurricane Michael.

Hillsborough commissioners clash over economic incentives” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Not that Commissioners Sandy Murman and Pat Kemp were that chummy anyway. Murman, a Republican, is challenging the reelection of Kemp, a Democrat, in the race for the District 6 countywide commission seat in November. Murman must vacate her District 1 seat after 10 years because of term limits. A key difference is their stands on publicly financed incentives to private companies for economic development projects. Murman favors them, part of her laserlike focus on jobs. Kemp says she does so only in some targeted instances of recruiting industries offering high-wage employment. So, a dust-up over a planned Home Depot warehouse near Gibsonton and a second, smaller warehouse project provide political fodder for both.

There is no love lost between Pat Kemp and Sandy Murman.

Lifesaving drone could be coming to Manatee County 911 response system” via Lia Fernandez of WTSP — Manatee County leaders are partnering with a private drone company to become one of the nation’s first government agencies to use autonomous drones as part of a 911 emergency response. “I do believe that this is the future of public safety,” said Jake Saur, Manatee County’s public safety director. The drone is designed by an Orlando-based company called Archer First Response Systems. The founder and CEO of AFRS, Gordon Folkes, said this technology can save lives by getting the necessary equipment to victims quicker than ever before. “If this drone were to drop an AED, Narcan or a tourniquet the 911 telecommunicator would continue to instruct the caller or bystanders on how to operate that until EMS can arrive,” Saur said. In a 6-1 vote, Manatee County commissioners approved a one-year pilot program of the system.

— SMOLDERING — 

Allegations of racism have marked Trump’s presidency and become key issue as election nears” via Greg Miller of The Washington Post — In unguarded moments with senior aides, Trump has maintained that Black Americans have mainly themselves to blame in their struggle for equality, hindered more by lack of initiative than societal impediments, according to current and former U.S. officials. After phone calls with Jewish lawmakers, Trump has muttered that Jews “are only in it for themselves” and “stick together” in an ethnic allegiance that exceeds other loyalties, officials said. Trump’s private musings about Hispanics match the vitriol he has displayed in public, and his antipathy to Africa is so ingrained that when first lady Melania Trump planned a 2018 trip to that continent he railed that he “could never understand why she would want to go there.”

Allegations of Donald Trump’s racism is becoming a top issue in his reelection effort.

Anti-riot plan seems timed for election season” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — The Republican Governor had a problem in a big election year. It wasn’t the worst crisis confronting the nation, but it seriously offended a lot of people. Worst of all, his opponents were exploiting it politically, and there wasn’t much he could do to take credit for combating a situation steadily spreading across the state and nation. And so, about 50 years ago, Gov. Claude Kirk called a news conference and directed his general counsel to start filing “friend of the court” briefs in pornography prosecutions. Kirk went around the state, in that campaign year of 1970, declaring that he and President Richard Nixon would not let American youth be corrupted by films and magazines so shocking to the 1950s generation.

‘It’s undemocratic.’ Miami-Dade law enforcement, residents discuss proposed protest bill” via C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — DeSantis’ proposed bill to discourage violent protesters dominated conversation Wednesday during the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board meeting. For nearly an hour, representatives from several local law enforcement agencies and residents discussed the ramifications of this potential legislation. “What this legislation does is penalize those who are protesting police brutality,” Chire Regans, a teaching artist at Pérez Art Museum Miami, said. Formally called the “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act,” the bill would enact harsher penalties for destructive protesters. Blocking traffic without a permit and participating in assemblies of more than six people that end in injury or property damage would be considered felony offenses.

Polk Black Lives Matter group protests police brutality, Ron DeSantis bill cracking down on protesters” via Kimberly Moore of The Ledger — Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk held a protest at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office headquarters focused on proposed law-and-order legislation announced two days earlier at the same location by Gov. DeSantis: “Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act.” Led by Winter Haven pastor Clayton Cowart, president of the faith-based civil rights group Poor and Minority Justice Association, and Carl Soto, vice president of BLMRP, a group arrived in a hearse and carried an empty coffin into PCSO headquarters to protest police brutality and what they called “the murder of innocent Black people throughout the country.”

Sarasota protesters marched in streets for George Floyd; proposed law would make that a felony” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — After Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Sarasota for a week of sustained demonstrations calling for racial justice. Aided by police, who blocked off roadways to prevent cars from converging on protesters, the crowds marched up and down Main Street, stalling traffic on that road and other busy streets, including U.S. 41, Fruitville Road and U.S. 301. Many of the protesters were high school and college students. A group of young women, college students who were friends from their days at Pine View School, knelt in the rain one day and chanted “I can’t breathe” as they blocked the intersection of Fruitville Road and U.S. 301. If new legislation proposed by DeSantis becomes law, those women could be charged with a third-degree felony if they obstruct traffic during an unpermitted protest in the future.

DeSantis’ protest bill questioned by Tampa Bay’s top cops, not just ‘far-left’” via Jack Evans, Kathryn Varn, Tony Marrero and Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — When Fox News’ Tucker Carlson asked DeSantis earlier this week who would oppose the protest-crackdown legislation DeSantis unveiled Monday, the governor had one answer: “The far left.” In the days since, opposition and reservations have come from politicians on that side of the aisle, not just the “far left,” but from a variety of Florida Democrats, and from elsewhere. Anti-racism protesters called it racist and dangerous. Defense attorneys said it goes too far. And even some of Tampa Bay’s top lawmen had mixed feelings. “Some things are there that would potentially make sense under the right circumstances,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. “But I can also see just some blanket categorical that would legitimately give people pause and give people concern where you wouldn’t just accept it as it’s proposed.”

New Port Richey Police say an officer who gave information to a ‘Back the Blue’ protester is no longer on the force” via Justin Garcia of Creative Loafing — The New Port Richey Police Department said it no longer employs an officer who allegedly gave a pro-police Facebook user information on the whereabouts of a Black Lives Matter demonstration. On Sept. 4, Facebook user Jason Guralny shared a picture of himself wearing military gear and multiple pistols, and posted, “So BLM is bringing a bunch of people to downtown NPR tonight??” Guralny wrote in the post, “Hold on, let me get dressed.” The caption included the hashtags #backtheblue, #notinourtown and #blackgunsmatter. In the comments captured in screenshots and shared by Black Lives Matter Pasco County, Guralny made threats toward protesters. Guralny’s threats were made toward a protest that was scheduled for that night. However, the event was canceled, but former New Port Richey police officer Corey Oliver jumped in the comments to casually give the armed vigilante police information.

Reports that city is ‘defunding’ its police department are ‘reprehensible’” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — City commissioners Tuesday blasted state Rep. Mike Caruso for claiming that the city is “defunding” the police. What he (Caruso) has done is “reprehensible,” said Mayor Shelly Petrolia, going on to say Caruso is “a candidate who uses lies and fears to advance himself.” “We are not defunding the police and he knows that. People are saying they will not patronize our downtown area because of what he has been saying and the way it has been picked up by the media.” The issue developed after The Palm Beach Post reported last week that the city was cutting $421,411 from the overtime budget of the police department. The budget document prepared for the city said the cuts will result in an increase in crime. Sims later retracted the comments, claiming they were mistakenly included in the budget document and should have been removed.

Mike Caruso is getting pushback for suggesting Delray Beach is ‘defunding’ its police force.

Desmond Meade says ‘resolve’ strengthen after pardon decision” via Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida — Meade, a former drug dealer who has garnered international accolades after leading the drive to pass a 2018 constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for felons, said he’s been waiting two decades to have his civil rights, which include the right to sit on juries and run for public office, restored. “If a person with my record would have to wait, what does that say for everyone else?” said Meade. “So, my resolve is strengthened.” Meade appeared before the state Board of Executive Clemency — comprised of DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet — to seek a pardon. But Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis raised questions about domestic violence incidents in the past involving Meade’s ex-wife and brother.

— TOP OPINION —

Florida’s cities aren’t burning down, Governor” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — DeSantis and two of the state’s top Republican leaders rubbed shoulders with law enforcement Monday to announce a crackdown on violent protests. Speaking at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, DeSantis called for a law in the 2021 legislative session that would hand felony penalties to protesters who block traffic without a permit and to those who gather in small groups at events that result in injuries or property damage. DeSantis said the measure would be a “focal point” of the legislative session that begins in March, and he also vowed to withhold state funding from any local government “that slashes the budget for law enforcement.” This is a solution in search of a problem. Though protests against police violence against Black Americans have become violent in some cities since demonstrations erupted across the country this summer, the protests across Florida and the Tampa Bay area have been largely peaceful.

— OPINIONS —

The election that could break America” via Barton Gellman of The Atlantic — The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery. Something has to give, and many things will, when the time comes for casting, canvassing, and certifying the ballots. Anything is possible, including a landslide that leaves no doubt on Election Night. But even if one side takes a commanding early lead, tabulation and litigation of the “overtime count” could keep the outcome unsettled for days or weeks.

Bloomberg raises big bucks to help Florida’s ex-felons vote. We’ll take a little credit for that” via the Miami Herald Editorial Board — Last week, the Editorial Board urged Bloomberg to “write a big old check” to help ex-felons in Florida vote in the presidential election. The editorial was picked up by several national outlets. This week, he announced that he has raised almost $20 million for the cause. Bravo! After decades of being denied the right to vote, most former prisoners in the state still are being denied access to the ballot box, even though, in 2018, a solid majority of voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing them to cast a ballot. DeSantis and the Republican Legislature erected what they knew would be a roadblock.

Florida’s hospitality industry creates opportunity; Amendment 2 kills it” via Mike Quillen and John Horne for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The restaurant and hospitality industry is deeply invested in creating long-term economic value in our communities. We are our nation’s second-largest private-sector employer; the largest employer of first-time job seekers and increasingly, the employer of choice for first-time job seekers, seniors and others seeking supplemental income. Not only do we employ on the front end of the economic spectrum; we recirculate economic stimulus through many farmers, ranchers and vendors. And we proudly give back to our communities, supporting schools, law enforcement, military, veterans and untold numbers of charitable foundations through our philanthropy. The nation’s hospitality industry is working hard to come back from COVID’s devastating economic downturn, but here in Florida, our gains will be lost and jobs will be destroyed if Florida voters pass Amendment 2. We urge Floridians to vote no on Amendment 2 because it hurts the workers it claims to help, drives up costs for everyone and will combine with COVID to devastate Florida’s economy long-term.

— SUNRISE —

Florida is preparing for the arrival of Trump. He’s holding a rally at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville — much to the dismay of some Florida veterans.

 Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Anyone attending the President’s rally will have to sign a liability waiver that takes away their right to sue if the contract COVID-19.

— Speaking of coronavirus, the Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran says the reopening of public schools has been a model for the rest of the country.

— As for those 18,000 students and teachers now in quarantine because of COVID-19, Corcoran says the health department is being too strict. He said that as the Department of Health reported 203 more fatalities from COVID 19 … and almost 2,600 new cases of coronavirus.

— A deep dive into the clemency hearing for Meade, a former felon who is executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. He asked for a pardon and it didn’t happen.

— And finally, a Florida Man who stole blood from a clinic … a veterinary clinic.

To listen, click on the image below:

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Bus-size asteroid to zoom by Earth, ducking below satellites” via Marcia Dunn of The Associated Press — An asteroid the size of a school bus is headed our way, but NASA says the space rock will zoom safely past Earth on Thursday. The newly discovered asteroid will come within 13,000 miles of Earth, well below many of the communications satellites orbiting the planet, scientists said this week. The closest approach will occur Thursday morning over the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Once it’s gone, the asteroid won’t be back to Earth’s neighborhood until 2041. Scientists estimate the asteroid is between 15 feet and 30 feet. By asteroid standards, that’s considered puny. Asteroids of this size hit Earth’s atmosphere and burn up once every year or two, said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There could be as many as 100 million of these little asteroids out there.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Jessica Love of GrayRobinson, as well as Javi Correoso of Uber, Minnie Cora Merritt of the Board of Governors, and Jocelyn Mund.

___

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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