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Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email about final weeks of the 2020 campaign — 9.20.20

Rest in power, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

With just 44 days left before Election Day, “Brunch” — our pop-up email delivered on Sunday mornings — is back for the next six weeks. Thank you for making us a part of your weekend routine. We promise to keep this email as light and fluffy as a Belgian waffle, while still making it essential reading. (P.S. we have one ad slot up for grabs for the next five weeks; message me if you are interested in reserving the space.)

Like so many of our fellow countrymen and women, we are deeply mourning the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We took our daughter, Ella Joyce, to the St. Petersburg vigil held in Ginsburg’s honor last night. Her passing only serves to make this next presidential election all the more critical. Rest in power, RBG.

Rest in power to an icon of American jurisprudence … and feminism.

Trump announced late Friday he would be visiting Jacksonville next Thursday at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event are available at the president’s campaign website.

Click here to read who are the Winners and Losers of the Week in Florida politics.

Today’s NFL sked for Florida: All three games are at 1 p.m.: The Steve Schale’s Jags take on the Titans (-7.5), the Panthers come to Tampa Bay (-8.5) to face the Buccaneers, and Fred Piccolo’s Buffalo Bills (-5.5) visit the Dolphins. I’ll give the points with the Titans and Bucs, and take the Dolphins plus the points.

— The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards will be air tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC. As a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the event will be held virtually, with nominees filmed remotely from their homes. I’m rooting for “Schitt’s Creek,” “Better Call Saul,” and “Watchmen” to take home the hardware. As for who else might win, be sure to read Alan Sepinwall’s primer here.

— Late-night call — 

After Justice Ginsburg died Friday evening, President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags at half-staff. But the process to lower flags across the state meant public servants had late nights to honor the Supreme Court giant properly.

DeSantis heard the news with the public as he returned to the Governor’s Mansion following an afternoon in Hernando County. Shortly after 10 p.m., DeSantis tweeted his condolences to Ginsburg’s family and friends and ordered flags statewide to be lowered to half-staff an hour later.

Ordering flags lowered means ASAP, not the following morning. Calls immediately went out to the Department of Management Services team and maintenance supervisor James Harrison, who drove 35 miles from Wakulla to lower flags in the Capitol Complex. That included climbing the ladder to the cupola atop the Historic Capitol Building.

Flying flags at half-staff (especially ASAP) can be much more of an ordeal than you would think.

According to the U.S. flag code: “The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.”

For Associate Justices, the flag remains lowered until interment — for current and former Presidents, 30 days; for Vice Presidents, current and retired Chief Justices, and the House Speaker, 10 days; for department and military secretaries, former Vice Presidents and Governors, also until interment; for members of Congress, the day following their death.

>>> DMS Deputy Chief of Staff Cody Farrill says the efforts in Tallahassee and across the state speak to how hard the department works, often unseen, to serve the state. In this case, that meant honoring Ginsburg’s life.

— Exclusive first-look at ‘Firebrand’ —

Matt Gaetz’s new book Firebrand: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the MAGA Revolution,” drops Sept. 22, and we have an exclusive preview of three Florida-centric chapters. In today’s Chapter 5, Enemy of the People, Gaetz takes a verbal sledgehammer to the media. Here are a few highlights:

— “President Trump called the media the “enemy of the people” one month after taking the oath of office. He set off four years of the media, pretending to be afraid that Trump would gut the First Amendment and censor any news he didn’t like. Trump didn’t have to censor the press to expose their stupidity. He prefers jousting with them to show just how dumb they can be.”

As Donald Trump’s ‘warrior,’ Matt Gaetz developed a flair for the dramatic. Image via AP.

— “To make [the] news, you must break rules and above all be interesting. President Trump is nothing if not interesting. He makes the news because he breaks the news. He doesn’t worry the public will be offended by him because he knows that the American people are already mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.”

— “This is conscious, paid-for propaganda. And ultimately, the target isn’t Trump. It’s you. The media want to mislead you. They really are your enemy, and they are armed and very dangerous.”

— “Fox News continues to benefit from the talent choices made by (the late Roger) Ailes. Sean Hannity provided the pivotal platform to deliver the facts, winning nightly ratings during the most critical moments of the Trump presidency. Judge Jeanine (Pirro) drove home key themes weekly. Tucker Carlson mocked the absurd claims of the opposition with biting zest. Laura Ingraham set debate panels that were critical to [winning] nightly. Martha MacCallum offered a newsy chance to get information into the bloodstream. Lou Dobbs attacked Republicans who wandered. Each piece was vital to success in its own way.”

To read the entire chapter, visit

GOP not sweating mail votes factor —

Democrats boast they’re whipping up a massive storm of mail votes to pour into the General Election and flood Republicans’ mail vote efforts. But Republicans show little concern for what Democrats are doing.

— Republicans used to dominate mail voting in Florida. Democrats now boast a 700,000 vote advantage in mail ballot requests.

— “That’s nice,” said Susie Wiles, Florida senior adviser to Trump’s reelection campaign in Florida. “You have to do something. If you don’t canvass or call, you might as well get voters who are already registered to vote to vote with absentee ballots. And that’s what they did.”

Donald Trump’s lead in Florida, Susie Wiles, is not sweating the Democratic push for ‘absentee ballots.’

— Say “absentee ballots.” Trump vilifies mail ballots, contending there’s a difference between those and the good “absentee ballots.” Democrats roll their eyes, insisting they’re synonymous. But within the Trump campaign, they say “absentee ballots,” or “A.B.s.”

— Trump Victory suggests absentee balloting in voter contacts, encouraging Republicans to sign up “if they so wish,” said Alex Garcia, Trump Victory regional political director.

— They don’t so wish, for the most part, Wiles said. “We saw in the Presidential Preference Primary and also in the primary in August that our voters just prefer, at least now, to vote in person.”

— Biden ad appeals to vets —

A new ad from Joe Biden targets Trump following multiple reports he called American soldiers “losers” and “suckers.” The ad will air in Florida and features Retired Air Force Brigadier General John Douglass, who grew up in the Sunshine State

— Douglass was tasked with personally informing families who lost loved ones in the line of duty. The 30-second ad is titled “Knock on the Door,” referencing Douglass’ service as a casualty notification officer.

— “When you’re walking up to knock on that door, you’re already grieving for the family,” Douglass says in the ad. “These military families suffer. Those spouses are not suckers. And those children are not losers.”

— The ad references an Atlantic report — confirmed by multiple different outlets — that Trump called soldiers “losers” and “suckers” and had trouble understanding why service members would sacrifice their lives. Trump has denied the anonymously-sourced reports.

— “It’s obvious that this President has no real empathy,” Douglass nevertheless argues in the ad. “It just shows he doesn’t get it.”

Biden will spend $65 million on an ad blitz this week across digital and TV outlets. “Knock on the Door” is one of several sports airing as part of that campaign and will target markets with large numbers of military families.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

— Demings doing her thing — 

Maybe she didn’t get the VP nod, but there are no sour grapes for U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who will help boost Biden’s Black-voter outreach efforts with a virtual event later today.

— The event won’t run afoul of the brunch hour, or the ensuing food coma. It’s slated for 3:30 p.m.

The (virtual) doors open at 3:30 p.m., but participants will need to sign up to tune in. It’s open to the public, and there’s no cover charge.

No sour grapes for Val Demings.

The rank and file can sign up online. Media can, too, but they’ll need to stand in a separate line.

Demings is top-billed, but she’ll take the stage alongside Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, another Black Democrat working to ensure the Black community turns out for Biden in November, and her Duval district is key to the ticket’s success.

— The ‘grandma’ vote —

What’s the best way to get Southwest Florida seniors to listen to a Democrat? Talk about your grandchildren. Jill Biden, in a virtual Fort Myers videochat, stressed her family when appealing to voters.

Young grammy: Joe Biden’s second wife and eight years his younger, Jill Biden would become a grandmother to her stepson Hunter’s first child, who was born when she was age 20, something she brought up in the webinar.

Jill Biden tries to appeal to the grandma demographic.

Easing fears: “I was young when my first grandchild was born. The idea of becoming a grandmother was uncomfortable … but once I saw Naomi, my thoughts and fears just disappeared.”

The appeal: But of course, the nostalgia served a purpose. Biden transitioned into stressing how this is an election for grandchildren’s future. “It’s their education, their climate, their future that’s on the line,” she said.

Must-see TV

Hopefully, you aren’t tired of political ads, because state legislative and congressional candidates are dumping millions to inundate broadcast and cable stations with 30-second spots this week. Here’s a preview of what you can expect to see while channel surfing this week.

SD 9: Florida Republicans’ Senate campaign put another $45,000 into ads supporting Republican former Rep. Jason Brodeur. In total, $254K in ads will air this week across SD 3, SD 9 and SD 39. FRSCC has spent $1.37 million on TV so far this cycle, while FDLCC has spent $780K.

CD 13: U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist plunked down another $50K for ads running this week on broadcast and cable in the Tampa market. The total spend for Sept. 22-28 is now $165K, and the campaign has another $1.57 million reserved for future weeks.

Batten down the hatches: Charlie Crist is joining a tsunami of political ads.

CD 16: State Rep. Margaret Good anted up $202K for broadcast ads set to air Monday through Sunday in the Tampa market. This flight brings her total for the election in Florida’s 16th Congressional District to $782K.

CD 21: U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel has placed a second ad buy for broadcast ads in the West Palm Beach market airing Saturday through Election Day. The Democratic incumbent’s new buy clocks in at $141K, $35K of which will air this week. Cycle-to-date, she’s put $343K into ads.

CD 22: In a terminal of “why even bother,” Republican Jim Pruden added $1K to his broadcast flight on the big three 24-hour news networks for a total spend of $6K. The ads backing Pruden, who is challenging Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, will air between Sept. 21 and Sept. 27.

CD 26: U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has a monster slate of ads dropping. The action includes a joint $650K spend with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for a now-through-Oct. 6 flight, $245K from DMP’s campaign for broadcast ads through Election Day, and a separate DCCC buy for $354K. All told, DMP and outside groups backing her have reserved $7.52 million in ads this cycle. Meanwhile, Carlos Giminez’ will air $26K in ads this week while the Congressional Leadership Fund has put $458K behind him for broadcast ads airing through Election Day. His bid now has $4.86 million in reservations to date.

CD 27: Republican Maria Salazar placed her first ad buy of the cycle, measuring at $948K. It starts Tuesday and runs through Election Day. The NRCC has also reserved $1.27 million TV time through November. The two entities combine to $2.2 million in ads this cycle. U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, meanwhile, bolstered her broadcast buy in the Miami market with another $19K, bringing her weekly flight to $200K. Between her campaign and House Majority PAC, her reelection bid has purchased $2.4 million in ads this cycle.

— First look: CD 18 poll —

Republican Rep. Brian Mast secured reelection in 2018 by a comfortable 8-point margin in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. A new survey from St. Pete Polls shows he’s headed for a similar victory in 2020.

— The results: Mast is earning 50% support in the survey while his Democratic opponent, Pam Keith, is securing just 42%. Nonparty affiliated candidate K.W. Miller pulled in only over 2%. Another 5% of respondents were undecided.

— Mast enduring through controversy: Mast has faced calls to resign after apologizing over decade-old social media posts where he joked about sleeping with 15-year-olds and rape. The new survey shows voters sticking with the incumbent despite Trump underperforming in the district.

Despite some controversy, new polls show Brian Mast cruising to victory for reelection.

— Presidential contest: The poll showed Biden with 48.5% support and Trump with 48.2% inside CD 18. That’s a significant shift from 2016 when Trump topped then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton 53%-44% in the district. This cycle, though, Keith is running well behind Biden’s numbers.

— Survey data: The poll ran on Friday, Sept. 18, and sampled 1,149 likely voters. It has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

— For your radar: HD 89 numbers —

One of the closest races in the state’s last cycle took place in House District 89. Republican candidate Mike Caruso took the open seat over Democrat Jim Bonfiglio by 32 votes out of more than 78,000 cast. A new survey shows the race is set to be tight once again.

— The two are statistically tied in the survey from Florida Watch and Progress Florida. Caruso holds a slight over Bonfiglio, 45%-42%, but that’s well within the survey’s margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

A new survey shows Mike Caruso in a tight race with Jim Bonfiglio.

— The bad news for Bonfiglio is he’s underperforming Democratic presidential nominee Biden, who leads Trump 52%-44% in the district. HD 89 happens to contain Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, which now serves as his primary residence.

— On the flip side, Bonfiglio has room to grow among Biden supporters. The survey shows 92% of Trump voters are supporting Caruso, while 77% of Biden voters are backing Bonfiglio.

— Bonfiglio should woo some of those Biden backers to narrow the gap, while Caruso could struggle to build up his lead given he’s already secured most of the Trump supporters. The generic legislative ballot also shows Democrats with 45% and Republicans with 44%.

All signs point to this being another tight race. Bonfiglio topped Caruso in the most recent fundraising reports as well. If he can put that money toward wooing Democrats in the district, this race could once again be among the state’s closest contests. 

— Blues boot camp — 

It’s not easy being blue in Southwest Florida. Democratic candidates in virtually every race of significance are long shots, and donors know it. But in response, they have banded together more than ever before.

Hanging Together: Cindy Banyai, the Democratic nominee in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, knows from working in nonprofits the power of working together. “When you have little resources, the way to overcome that is collaborating with like-minded people,” she said.

With experience in nonprofits, Cindy Banyai knows how to collaborate with a wide variety of people.

— Party Time: The support extends to fundraising events. Banyai and Allen Ellison, the Democratic challenger in Florida’s 17th Congressional district, work with the No Dem Left Behind PAC. Ellison is holding a Blue gala with Senate District 23 candidate Katherine Norman in Sarasota as well.

— Rallying Troops: She’s led a boot camp of sorts, bringing Democrats like Senate District 27 nominee Rachel Brown and Fort Myers mayoral candidate Jacquelyn McMiller to door knock together and stump for each other strategically. McMiller notably has a shot and brings support from down-ballot programs with the Florida Democratic Party.

— Tax dollar dust-up — 

Miami-Dade County mayoral candidate Daniella Levine Cava is calling out her opponent, Esteban “Steve” Bovo, over accusations he’s using taxpayer dollars to help fund his run.

— The origin: The allegations stem from a Miami-Dade County text message campaign urging residents to complete the 2020 Census. Bovo, like Levine Cava, serves on the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners (BCC).

— What they say: Those text messages remind residents to complete the Census by Sept. 30, then read, “Stay safe. Comm. Bovo, BCC Census Liaison.” Bovo serves as the Census Liaison for the Commission.

Daniela Levine Cava and Steve Bovo get into a dust-up over taxpayer money for campaign ads.

— What’s the problem? At issue is whether including Bovo’s name in those taxpayer-funded public service announcements serve as a de facto way to promote his name ID in the upcoming mayoral race. Levine Cava’s team argues the outreach effort does just that.

— The accusation: “Steve Bovo continues to use his taxpayer-funded office to promote himself while ignoring the data points that show where Census participation is lacking,” said Christian Ulvert, a Levine Cava senior adviser. “Just like he masks his lobbying career and cashes in on his public office for his private clients, Steve Bovo is using the Census for personal and political gain.”

A similar spat took place in the race for Florida’s 26th Congressional District when Republican candidate and current County Mayor Carlos Giménez appeared in a county-funded TV ad — alongside Bovo — promoting the Census. Comcast offered similar ad rates to incumbent Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to avoid equal time concerns before ultimately pulling down the Census PSA altogether. 

— Instagram fun —

— Brunching out with Rochelle Koff — 

Despite the pandemic, several restaurant owners have decided to take a chance and open in Tallahassee since March. Here are some of these new venues.

Bourne BrilliantSisters Lyrica, Zaira and Nadira Leo, aged 13, 12 and 9 respectively (with help from mom) are offering their homemade, plant-based food, pastries and teas. Railroad Square Breezeway Market, 618 McDonnell Dr.; 850-391-8541.

Chuck’s Fish Fresh, Gulf fish stars at this upmarket downtown restaurant, with a bar and deck; dinner and brunch available (lunch to come). 224 E. College Ave.; 850-597-7506.

A dish from Chuck’s Fish new brunch menu. Image via Chuck’s Fish.

Kami Poke and Korean Kitchen — The casual spot features Korean favorites, sushi and poké bowls; currently takeout only. 1779 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-765-8272.

Max’s Cafe The small eatery specializes in Philly cheesesteaks, shakes and fries. 1600 W. Call St., Suite 104; 850-765-8413.

Midtown Noodles Bar The pan-Asian restaurant offers ramen noodle combos, along with Thai, Japanese, Korean and Chinese fare. 1660 N. Monroe St.; 850-999-3023.

Naantheless Serving Indian fast-food street food, this new spot was scheduled for a soft opening on Sept. 18; open initially for lunch weekdays. 2020 W. Pensacola St.

OverUnder Bar — Live music, piano, wine and food pairings set apart this two-story bar/restaurant in the former Wine Loft space. 1240 Thomasville Rd.; 850-597-7552.

Park’s Twisted Pizzeria and Grill — New York-style pizza, wings, sandwiches, burgers and brews are the staples here. 2819 Mahan Dr., Suite 110; 850-999-8147.

Sollie’s PizzaThe New York-style pizzeria also serves pasta, subs, calzones and strombolis. 4019 Fred George Rd.; 850-536-7288.

Volcano Hot Pot & BBQ — BBQ and make-your-own traditional Chinese soup. 1872 Thomasville Rd.; 850-222-6888.

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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