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Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email about final weeks of the 2020 campaign — 9.27

It’s a big night for Sunday TV.

Good morning and welcome to “Brunch,” a pop-up email for the final weeks of the 2020 Election.

Congratulations Gators and Hurricanes fans. Our apologies to Seminole Nation, or at least what’s left of it. As the Tallahassee Democrat noted, Saturday’s game made it abundantly clear that Florida State has years to go before it is again a relevant football program. On social media, more than one loyal Nole has half-jokingly suggested that FSU use the coronavirus pandemic as a reason to shut down the program before it takes on the world-beaters at Clemson.

Also on Saturday, voters were voting. The Department of State reported Saturday that more than 6,600 vote-by-mail ballots have already been returned.

Please take a moment to read our choices for the Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics.

I know it’s Football Sunday, but keep your eyes on MLB today as my St. Louis Cardinals face off against Matt Dixon’s Milwaukee Brewers for the final spots in the playoffs. If the Brewers beat the Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds lose, all three teams will be exactly .500 and the Cardinals will have to make up a doubleheader versus the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

The Bucs play the Broncos at 4:25 p.m. Tom Brady and Co are giving 5.5. points. I don’t know about that so much as I like the over (42). The over has hit in 14 of the past 16 Buccaneers games.

Tonight, I am looking forward to the debut of two must-see television events, “The Comey Rule” and the fourth season of “Fargo.” “The Comey Rule”isn’t flawless — it uses an unfortunate framing device — but the casting nearly is from top to bottom, headlined by Jeff Daniels as James Comey and Brendan Gleeson as Donald Trump, who gets beyond the tics and mannerisms to deliver a fully realized performance, writes Brian Lowry. Foremost, the miniseries focuses on the no-good-options scenario that the FBI faced in 2016, which is apt to provide more nuance to the understanding of Comey’s role without changing many hearts or minds.” Click here to read re Lowry’s full review. FX is dropping the fourth season of “Fargo” more than three years after the last one, with Chris Rock in a strong dramatic role. “It’s beautifully made, but moves at what feels like a snail’s pace, so it’s possible to luxuriate in the atmosphere while still grousing about the slow-moving story …”

The Comey Rule may not be flawless, but the top-notch casting is.

Thank you for taking the time to read this edition of “Brunch.” Enjoy your Sunday.

— Florida reacts to Barrett nom —

Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, capping a dramatic reshaping of the federal judiciary that will resonate for a generation and that he hopes will provide a needed boost to his reelection effort.

The reaction to Trump’s choice from Florida’s politicians is, as expected, breaking along partisan lines.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio: “Judge Barrett is a well-qualified, highly respected nominee, and that’s why the Senate previously confirmed her … I believe Judge Barrett would make an excellent Supreme Court justice, and I look forward to once again supporting her nomination in the U.S. Senate.”

Amy Coney Barrett is the chosen replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Now it is up to the Senate. Image via AP.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott: She is a brilliant legal mind who understands the proper and distinct roles of the three branches of government.”

State Rep. Paul Renner: “President Trump continues to keep his promise to appoint highly qualified judges to the federal bench. Judge Amy Coney Barrett is an extraordinary legal mind that will uphold the rule of law, is committed to the Constitution, and has the right experience to become our next Supreme Court Justice. Senate Democrats should participate in a fair and open confirmation process. Americans reject their dangerous threat to pack the Supreme Court if they gain a majority after the November election, something that should give all Americans pause when they cast their ballots. President Trump also used this vacancy to showcase another rising star from Florida — Judge Barbara Lagoa. Judge Lagoa has distinguished herself as a public servant who respects the rule of law through her opinions on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the Florida Supreme Court. Floridians should be proud of Judge Lagoa’s accomplishments and recognize that she will continue to be a leading jurist for many years to come.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: “Trump and Senate Republicans are ruthlessly exploiting this vacancy amid an ongoing presidential election and a deadly health pandemic. Senate Republicans, after refusing to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee eight months before an election are making this hypocritical power grab in clear defiance of the will of the American people, and an affront to people’s sense of fairness. At bottom, this craven court-packing push is fueled by Republicans‘ drive to dismantle health care protections that 135 million people with preexisting conditions, including me, rely upon, as well as to subvert reproductive rights. And Trump openly stated he wants his third pick to protect him if he loses the election. This will come to be regarded as an illegitimate lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court that erodes confidence in the institution, and one that voters will revolt against at the ballot box.”

>>>The Republican National Committee is putting Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation fight front and center with voters just weeks before Election Day. The confirmation battle will be featured in a new $10 million RNC digital ad campaign to encourage battleground state voters, including in Florida, to return vote-by-mail ballots or go to the polls. The national party, in concert with President Trump’s campaign, is planning local events and protests across the country to support Barrett’s confirmation as well. The party is also incorporating Barrett’s nomination into its scripts that staffers and volunteers use when calling or knocking on voters’ doors, with a focus on social conservative Catholic and evangelical voters.

>>>Americans for Prosperity — Florida will leverage the full weight of its permanent grassroots infrastructure to drive her confirmation to the high court, emails state director Skylar Zander. AFP-FL activists will continue to encourage their friends, family, and neighbors across the state to reach Sens. Rubio and Scott throughout Barrett’s confirmation process to urge a swift confirmation. AFP has set up a unique webpage at UniteForBarrett.com that empowers individuals to contact their senators, and phone and text grassroots outreach has already activated across the country.

And what about Lagoa? Well, there’s this nugget: When Brian Ballard, a top donor and Florida lobbyist, suggested that he liked the federal appellate judge, Trump said that Ballard should tell Lagoa that she would eventually have her time, two people familiar with the comments said.

Trump slipping in Duval? —

Trump’s support in Duval County is dropping as Joe Biden holds a small but statistically insignificant edge in the 2020 presidential contest. That’s according to a new St. Pete Polls Survey.

The results: With the President visiting Jacksonville, we decided to take the temperature of the region with just over a month until Election Day. St. Pete Polls found Biden securing 48.1% support to just 46.6% from Trump. That lead is well within the survey’s margin of error.

Donald Trump draws a crowd in Jacksonville, but his popularity in Duval may be slipping. Image via News4Jax.

Good trend for Dems: The results are good news for Democrats when compared to 2016. Trump won Duval County that year by a 48.5%-47.1% margin over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. That +1.4 margin for Trump is now at -1.5, a swing of nearly 3 percentage points.

How they’ll vote: Nearly 65% of Duval voters say they’ll vote in person this fall. The remaining 35% say they plan to vote by mail. Election officials began sending out those mail-in ballots this past week.

Approval ratings: The survey also asked respondents for their take on the tenures of Gov. Ron DeSantis and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. DeSantis had a +10 rating, with 51% approving and 41% disapproving. Curry’s rating sat at +4, with 43% approving and 39% disapproving.

The survey sampled 749 likely Duval County voters and had a 3.6-percentage-point margin of error. The poll ran on the day of Trump’s Jacksonville visit, Thursday, Sept. 24.

Biden’s Haitian outreach — 

The Joe Biden presidential campaign is looking to connect with the South Florida Haitian community. Karine Jean-Pierre, a Biden senior adviser and chief of staff to Biden’s VP pick, Sen. Kamala Harris, made the rounds on a series of Haitian radio programs in the region this past week.

On the Haitian American vote: “We understand, they understand that we can’t take any vote for granted and that in order to win Florida, we have to build a diverse coalition of voters, right, and it’s across the state, including Haitian Americans,” Jean-Pierre said. “There is so much at stake in the election and every vote makes a difference, and we have to make sure that we fight for the interest of the Caribbean community, that we fight for the interests of the Haitian community especially as we look at COVID-19 and how it has devastated communities across the spectrum.”

Joe Biden isn’t taking any voters for granted. Image via AP.

On Temporary Protected Status: “Joe Biden has committed to protecting TPS and Deferred Enforcement Departure holders from being returned to countries that are unsafe,” Jean-Pierre explained. “As he has said over and over again and will continue to say as President of the United States, he stands with the families in this country who have been impacted by Trump’s cruel immigration policies.”

On Trump’s record: “What Donald Trump has done has been devastating to our country and to our community, devastating,” Jean-Pierre said. “He has a complete disregard for the Haitian community, a complete disregard for the Black community at large, for the brown community at large. He does not care, and I think Joe Biden and Sen. Harris have a proven record, and just see what they have done and look at what their plans are.

Jean-Pierre made the comments in talks with stations stretching from Palm Beach to Miami-Dade counties. A study by Daniel Smith of the University of Florida showed Trump outperforming Mitt Romney with the Haitian community when comparing the results of the 2016 and 2012 presidential elections, though both earned a relatively low share of the vote overall.

>>>Assignment editors — The Biden campaign will hold news conferences in Fort Myers and Gainesville to encourage voters to cast ballots early by mail. Scheduled for the Gainesville news conference is HD 21 candidate Kayser Enneking and former state Rep. Cynthia Chestnut. The Fort Myers news conference begins at 11:45 a.m. Registration at docs.google.com/forms. Gainesville news conference begins at 12:45 p.m. Registration at docs.google.com/forms.

Black men, VOTE! —

That’s the name of a new get-out-the-vote initiative being launched by Rep. Shevrin Jones on behalf of the Biden presidential bid. The “Black men, VOTE!” campaign is being led by Jones, but also features Sens. Randolph Bracy, House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee and Rep. Ramon Alexander.

Launch events: Jones will hold a 10 a.m. virtual news conference on Wednesday, Sept. 30 to launch the initiative. Later that day, Jones will join Biden’s African American Vote Director Cliff Addison for a 6 p.m. meetup with other Black officials and voters.

Shevrin Jones is urging Black men to get out and vote for Joe Biden.

Rep. Jones: “Every election is declared ‘the most important of our lifetime’ but never has that rung more true than now,” Jones said. “Donald Trump’s failure to contain COVID-19 and refusal to take this pandemic seriously has led to deeply-felt public health and economic crises that hurt Black communities in particular. I’m committed to doing everything I can to elect Joe Biden our next President because it’s long past time that we invest in the Black community.”

Sen. Bracy: “I’m excited to partner with the Biden-[Kamala] Harris team to engage more Black men in this election,” Bracy said. “Black men are an important pillar of our communities, and we need their voices heard in this election.”

Rep. Alexander: “We must vote to ensure we have a seat and a voice at the table to select leaders with a proven service and achievement record,” Alexander added. “The integrity of our democracy is at stake, vote for change in human dignity for our people and our community.”

Also participating in the effort are Sens. Oscar Braynon II, Bobby Powell and Darryl Rouson, Rep.-elect Kevin Chambliss, Miami Gardens Mayor and Miami-Dade County Commissioner-elect Oliver Gilbert III, Miami Gardens Councilman Reggie Leon and Coral Springs Commissioner Joshua Simmons.

— ‘Choice’ words — 

The Lincoln Project, a never-Trump group made up of experienced Republican operatives, is out with a new ad slamming the Senate’s efforts to push through a new Supreme Court nominee. The ad is titled, “The Choice,” and encourages voters to choose Joe Biden as the nation’s next President.

No holds barred: “Trump and his dangerous allies have pushed American to a breaking point,” the ad’s narrator begins, holding little back while the camera pans over Vice President Mike Pence and Republican Senators. “And now, in a desperate power grab, they’re willing to tear this country apart.”

Accusations of hypocrisy: Republican Senators have been skewered over their decision to block Barack Obama’s final nominee to the Supreme Court, yet move forward with Trump’s just weeks before voters decide on the President’s fate. The Lincoln Project’s new ad lays into Republicans over the flip-flop, arguing it will undermine Americans’ faith in government going forward.

More barbs: “They won’t stand for principles or precedent,” the ad’s narrator continues in a diatribe against the GOP-controlled Senate. “Their only loyalty is to power, position, and to their leader, to remake America in Trump’s image, no matter the cost.”

The choice: “The choice for Americans in this election could not be more clear,” said Reed Galen, co-founder of The Lincoln Project. “In their blind support of Donald Trump and his reelection, these Senators are no longer hiding that their loyalty is to the Republican Party, not the American people.”

To view ‘The Choice,’ click on the image below:

— Rampage! —

Republican Party of Florida Chair Joe Gruters remains confident not only that Trump will conquer the Florida vote in November but that the GOP will demolish Democrats in battleground districts.

Unleashing leadership: He credits the Senate President-Designate and Speaker-Designate for solid campaigns. “Wilton Simpson and Chris Sprowls are King Kong and Godzilla, annihilating swing districts,” Gruters said.

Joe Gruters is clearly confident of the GOP chances in Florida.

Senate smashing: Gruters, who serves in the Senate himself, feels confident Republicans will win defend red districts with strong candidates like Ana Maria Rodriguez in SD 39 and Jason Brodeur in SD 9 and may see Marva Preston win SD 3 and Ileana Garcia pull an upset in SD 37.

Housebreaking: He also sees reason to believe the GOP can expand it’s House majority. He’s paying close attention to Fiona McFarland, who could flip HD 72 in his Sarasota community, but also sees chances for pickups in Miami, especially in Trump can rally Hispanic voters on the right.

— Juicing enthusiasm: Gruters said the key this year will be supercharging turnout among Republicans. “This is not a persuasion campaign, it’s a turnout campaign, and that’s what our party has always done,” he said. “Our people are out pounding away.”

— Tough road for Amendments 3 & 4

While a St. Pete Polls survey commissioned by Florida Politics shows a minimum wage hike poised for passage, two other Amendments have a tough road ahead.

While both have more support than opposition, it takes 60% of voters approving of an amendment to change the constitution.

Amendment 3 would switch Florida’s party primary system to a Top Two election with all candidates sharing a ballot in August before a November runoff. But just 46% of Floridians like that idea and 35% are opposed.

Amendment 4 aims to “Keep Our Constitution Clean” by requiring amendments to be passed by voters twice. But only 44% of voters favor that idea and 31% plan to vote no.

In both cases, supporters will need to win over more than three-quarters of undecideds or change the mind of some preparing to vote ‘No.’

New CD 26 ad buy

The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) is committing another $1.2 million for ad space in the race for Florida’s 26th Congressional District. The CLF — a Super PAC aimed at electing Republicans to the U.S. House — is looking to help oust Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

— Money surge: That $1.2 million now brings the CLF’s total investment in CD 26 to nearly $4 million in total. The group also reserved $2.7 million in ad space in August.

— Going negative: Earlier this week, the group dropped a negative ad investigating the business ties of Mucarsel-Powell’s husband, Robert. He’s worked for companies tied to a violent Ukrainian businessman. Those ties were uncovered in 2018, though Mucarsel-Powell still went on to win the seat from a GOP incumbent.

The Congressional Leadership Fund is going big to oust Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

— Candidate of choice: The CLF is looking to prop up Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, who is running in the contest as a Republican. He’s term-limited after serving as Mayor for eight years.

— Close contest: Every dollar counts in this tight race, which has thus far has seen Mucarsel-Powell consistently outraise Giménez. Election forecasters consistently rate the race as a tossup. Mucarsel-Powell won in 2018 by just 2 percentage points.

— Priceless —

Senate District 3 has been in Democratic control since its inception, and no Republican has posed a legitimate threat until now. While Marva Preston is still a long shot to defeat Democratic Rep. Loranne Ausley, it won’t be for lack of trying.

Ausley released an ad earlier this month that was, for the most part, a one-woman show. The ad featured Ausley running, biking and swimming as she spoke about leadership in an understated tone that fits with the pandemic era.

Preston issued a cutting rejoinder by way of a Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee ad remixing Ausley’s 30-second spot with Mastercard’s iconic campaign of yesteryear.

The hit: “Premium swim skin with stretch woven Italian textiles: $300. Sapphire crystal watch in rose gold: $600. Aerodynamic performance bike: $6,000. Funding your political campaign with taxpayer dollars: Priceless.”

Florida Democrats’ PPP loan is still the focus, with the ad claiming the party funneled $100,000 in federal bailout money into Ausley’s campaign account. It’s a stretch, but one FRSCC has kept flexing with little pushback from FDP higher-ups, who have yet to answer many questions regarding the loan.

It’s the same strategy in SD 9, where they turned Patricia Sigman’s first ad on its head by tying her to the PPP loan. The scandal has also taken root in SD 39, which widely thought to be the most competitive Senate district on the November ballot.

Will it work? Maybe. SD 3 is decidedly blue, but as a former cop and an ordained minister, Preston has the provenance of a real-deal challenger. Ausley also fumbled the ball this week when she said she’d take campaign checks from anybody, no matter the cause or interest they represent. If Preston manages the scoop and score, it’ll be because ads like this one helped her along.

To watch Preston’s ad, click on the image below:

— Tweet, tweet —

— Kool Beanz returns —

After trying to navigate COVID-19 with a lockdown, takeaway service, a socially distanced opening, and finally, a full shutdown in July, one of Tallahassee’s favorite restaurants reopened for business Sept. 17.

— Locals rejoice: While several restaurants in the capital city closed permanently, Kool Beanz chef/owner Keith Baxter promised his restaurant — a Midtown favorite known for its casual vibe and creative menu — would return.

— Doggy delivery: Baxter was on the road transporting a dog to Jacksonville for a rescue group Friday when his manager texted him that DeSantis lifted restrictions, allowing restaurants to return to full capacity. He returned to discuss how the latest development will affect his restaurant with his staff, including three who worked with him for 24 years.

Kool Beanz has returned, to the delight of Tallahassee locals. Image via Facebook.

— A few changes: While Kool Beanz was closed, “we took the time to do some things that have been needed to be done operationally for a long, long time,” said Baxter. “Most of the changes we did behind the scenes.” The restaurant also added 24 spots to its outdoor seating area.

— Post-shutdown game plan: Baxter does not think customers will flood back to his restaurant at pre-COVID levels. “I need to think about that because it presents a whole new set of challenges,” he said. “Do you become the restaurant (that) has no social distancing (and) attract people who don’t (care) about it? Or do you stay loyal to the people who do?”

— On the menu: As always, the menu will change daily, although certain favorites such as Mojo Chicken, Flank Steak and Fried Oysters are always available. A la carte sides — mac and cheese, creamed spinach, maduros, fried yuca with mojo, and onion rings, plenty for two — proved popular during the takeout days and have been added to the menu.

— Dessert, anyone? Pastry chef Sylvia Gould, the first Tallahassee chef named as a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Award, has returned to create five select desserts a day.

No reservations. The funky, eclectic eatery is open for lunch Monday-Friday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Monday-Saturday for dinner from 5:30-10 p.m. and Sunday for brunch from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

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.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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