Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.29.20

Sunburn Orange Tally (3)
Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Democrats hit big VBM milestone — The Florida Democratic Party is announcing a major milestone: One-million more Democrats have enrolled in vote-by-mail than in 2018. “It’s pretty incredible to reach this milestone,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo. “It shows that the enthusiasm is there — Democrats are more motivated than ever to vote, and to do it early to ensure their vote counts. It’s also a testament to the work Florida Democrats have been doing to increase voter turnout.”


Hours after Hurricane Sally ravaged the Florida Panhandle, Florida’s Division of Emergency Management reached out to Uber seeking assistance in moving much-needed food and water supplies to the Pensacola area.

The ask? How many Uber Freight trucks and drivers could be secured in a matter of hours. Not too much of a heavy lift for Uber Freight. In just a few short hours, drivers from Florida and Georgia answered the call, with 11 truckers ready to roll by late afternoon.

The Florida Department of Emergency Management is working with Uber Freight to deliver much-needed supplies to regions ravaged by Hurricane Sally.

“Uber Freight is unique in our ability to place a request through the app to reach independent operators and carriers at a moment’s notice,” said Dan Fedor, Enterprise Executive for Uber Freight. “Similar to one requesting a traditional Uber driver from their smartphone, the Uber Freight app is designed specifically for moving product.” 

Uber Freight worked hand-in-hand with DEM and the Florida National Guard to move nearly 900,000 pounds of food and bottled water, with staging trips from Lakeland to Orlando, to Tallahassee, to Pensacola for immediate delivery over the weekend — 22 trips in total.

And the cost to the State of Florida? Absolutely nothing.


@RealDonaldTrump: The Ballots being returned to States cannot be accurately counted. Many things are already going very wrong!

@Redistrict: At this rate, there’s still time for 5-7 more major bombshells to not upend the race between now and November.

@HollyOtterbein: In June, the NYT/Siena poll found 55 percent of PA voters trusted President [Donald] Trump to do a better job of handling the economy, compared to 40 percent for Joe Biden. Today’s NYT/Siena poll finds Biden has cut into that lead significantly — 49 percent trust Trump, 47 percent Biden.

@BlakeHounshell: I do not understand the purpose of news outlets endorsing candidates. Voters don’t distinguish between reporting and editorial sides of the newsroom. hurts the credibility of the reporters.

@MediumBuying: The Trump campaign is also again canceling TV ad schedules that had been booked in Ohio for 9/29-10/5

@steveschale: Our PA poll from 6 weeks ago is similar. +9, but basically same on white, NPA, W col+. The more things change, the more they stay the same

Tweet, tweet:

@DaNumbersGuy: Florida voter turnout composition for the evening of 9/28: Democrats 16,122 (52.42%) Republicans 8,731 (28.39%) NPA 5,467 (17.78%) Others 433 (1.41%). Turnout .221% with 30,753 voters voting. Numbers lopsided because of Palm Beach. #flapol #election2020


Preakness Stakes rescheduled — 4; Ashley Moody’s 2020 Human Trafficking Summit — 7; first vice presidential debate at the University of Utah — 9; Amazon’s annual Prime Day begins — 14; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 15; second presidential debate scheduled in Miami — 16; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 17; NBA free agency (tentative) — 19; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 21; HBO debuts 2000 presidential election doc ‘537 Votes’ — 22; third presidential debate at Belmont — 23; “The Empty Man” premieres — 24; 2020 General Election — 35; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 42; The Masters begins — 44; NBA draft — 50; “No Time to Die” premieres — 52; Pixar’s “Soul” premieres — 52; College basketball season slated to begin — 57; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 64; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 64; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 79; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 87; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 131; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 144; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 159; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 276; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 283; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 297; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 305; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 402; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 405; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 437; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 501; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 554; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 735.


No handshakes, limited audience: COVID-19 shapes final Donald Trump-Joe Biden debate talks” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Representatives for Trump and Biden have hammered out the final details for tonight’s debate, a showdown that will be heavily shaped by the coronavirus pandemic. The two sides have decided to forego the traditional pre-debate handshake in light of the virus, according to a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations. They also won’t do an elbow-bump, a coronavirus-era handshake substitute which both campaigns saw as awkward. Neither Trump nor Biden nor the debate moderator, Fox News host Chris Wallace, will wear masks. And unlike past presidential debates, there will be a limited audience of only 75 to 80 people, all of whom will be tested before attending the debate.

No handshakes, no masks: COVID-19 will shape the Donald Trump/Joe Biden debate. Images via AP.

—“Biden and Trump should fear the viral debate moment, pros warn” via Ryan Teague Beckwith of Bloomberg

How the Biden-Trump debate will play on TV (Don’t expect fact-checks)” via Michael M. Grynbaum of The New York Times — Wallace does not hold mock debates. Instead, the “Fox News Sunday” anchor and presidential debate moderator has been honing his questions at his weekend home on the Chesapeake Bay, before he flies to Cleveland to take charge of the opening bout between Biden and Trump. Tuesday’s debate, which airs commercial-free from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern time on every major network, is likely to attract a television and livestreaming audience of close to 100 million for the kind of civic gathering increasingly rare in a polarized, pandemic-stricken age. A fragmented news media means that many voters will consume the Biden-Trump clash through a preferred, possibly biased lens, be it partisan cable news stations, custom-tailored social media feeds, or online outlets that cater to ideological tribes. But the few-frills format of Tuesday’s debate is a break from highly produced events, like virtual conventions and overloaded primary debates, that have otherwise defined the major television moments of the 2020 presidential race.

Why Chris Wallace won’t be the Trump-slaying moderator liberals crave” via Jack Shafer of Politico — He knows how to talk to the wonks without losing the people in the cheap seats. All this would appear to make him a brilliant choice as the moderator of the first Trump-Biden debate. A review of his performance in the 2016 debates, in which he grilled Trump and Hillary Clinton and separated the pair whenever they clinched in cross-talk shouts, produces a different assessment. To his credit, in 2016, Wallace never receded into the wallpaper as perennial debate moderator and paladin of the milquetoast, PBS’ Jim Lehrer, reliably did. But neither did Wallace impose on Trump and Clinton his usual unyielding discipline as he pursued them.

How Biden is preparing for the biggest debate of his life” via Shane Goldmacher and Katie Glueck of The New York Times — Biden was frustrated as he tried last year to prepare for an unwieldy debate season that stuffed as many as 11 other Democratic rivals onto a single stage. At some mock sessions, he was flanked by “Elizabeth Warren,” played by Jennifer Granholm, the former Governor of Michigan, and “Bernie Sanders,” portrayed by Bob Bauer, the former White House counsel, as they peppered him with progressive lines of attack. Biden lamented privately to advisers that it was nearly impossible to debate with such a crowd. “If you had a debate with five other people, you might actually get a chance to say something,” Biden told donors in Hollywood last fall. He would deliver more forceful performances as the field narrowed, he promised. Now, Biden will get his chance. The former Vice President will debate Trump for the first time on Tuesday, a date circled for months as one of the most consequential on the 2020 political calendar, and one of a dwindling number of chances for Trump to chip into Biden’s lead in the polls.

Biden camp clapback: Trump’s best debate case ‘made in urine’” via Marc Caputo — The 2020 campaign for the White House has reached the bizarre stage where the President wants his opponent drug tested before they debate and his rival’s campaign responds with a potty joke. This latest in the race began Sunday morning when Trump used his Twitter feed to amplify unfounded statements that Biden takes performance-enhancing drugs before their first faceoff Tuesday night. “I will be strongly demanding a Drug Test of Sleepy Joe Biden before, or after, the Debate on Tuesday night. Naturally, I will agree to take one also,” Trump wrote. “His Debate performances have been record-setting UNEVEN, to put it mildly. Only drugs could have caused this discrepancy???” Even Biden had to chuckle at Trump’s latest taunts, although the Democratic nominee opted against saying anything when a reporter asked him later Sunday about the President’s demand.

Donald Trump suggests Joe Biden was using ‘performance-enhancing’ drugs, floating the idea of a urine test.

Poll shows most Americans want debate to ‘stick to facts’” via Noah Pransky of NBCLX — As Trump and Biden prepare for their first debate, most Americans want their 2020 presidential candidate to always tell the truth on the debate stage, rather than simply saying what he needs to win. However, Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to signal their preferred candidate should say anything necessary to win the debate, even if it’s not always true. A new NBCLX/YouGov poll found 83% of respondents saying they had a preferred presidential candidate said “always telling the truth in the debate” was more important than their candidate saying “what he needs to say to win the debate.” That includes 88% of those who identified as Democrats, 81% who identified as independent, and 75% who identified as Republicans.

How an ex-Bernie Sanders digital guru and the creator of the Barack Obama ‘Hope’ poster will be trolling Trump as he motorcades through Cleveland for the debate” via Tina Sfondeles and Kayla Epstein of Business Insider — When Trump makes his way to the first presidential debate in Cleveland, he’ll be greeted by a billboard featuring an artist rendering of his face screaming above a sea of graves. It’s a haunting representation — and direct finger-pointing at Trump — for the more than 203,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 this year. It’s unlikely Trump in his fast-moving motorcade will even see the billboard. But that’s not really the entire point either. This is part of a larger national campaign called RememberWhatTheyDid. Scott Goodstein, a former digital strategist on the Obama and Sanders presidential campaigns, is one of three organizers spearheading the project funded by his super PAC Artists him United for Change.

Trump, Biden have few Americans to persuade in debates” via Joshua Jamerson of The Wall Street Journal — Fewer Americans say the presidential debates are important for how they vote than at any time over the past 20 years, leaving Trump and Biden with a small pool of viewers who could be swayed in their first televised faceoff Tuesday. After the coronavirus pandemic prevented many normal campaign activities and forced both parties’ conventions to be held virtually, the debates will likely be the biggest televised political events leading up to the Nov. 3 election. Both campaigns say they will be important. Still, more than 70% of Americans say the debates won’t matter much to them, a recent poll found, including 44% who say they will not matter at all to their choice, a record high dating to 2000. Most people say they have already made up their minds, and even big events like the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have not led many to say they will change their votes so far.


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

CNN Poll of Polls: As of Monday, the CNN average is steady with Biden dropping a point to 51% compared to 43% 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. As of Monday, Biden increased a bit to a 78 in 100 chance of winning compared to Trump, who remained steady at a 22 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 31.5%, while Florida comes in second with 11.1%. Other states include Michigan (9.8%), Wisconsin (9.7%), Arizona (5.7%), Ohio (4.6%), North Carolina (4.5%) and Minnesota (3.7%).

Heading into the debates, a survey of polling gives Joe Biden a slight lead. Image via AP.

PredictIt: As of Monday, the PredictIt trading market has Biden moved up to $0.58 a share, with Trump dropping to $0.44.

Real Clear Politics: As of Monday, the RCP average of polling top battleground states gives Biden a lead over Trump 49.7% to 42.9%. The RCP average also has Biden averaging at +6.8 points ahead.

The Economist: As of Monday, their model 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%.


Two-thirds of voters don’t expect to know Biden-Trump winner on election night” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — Most voters believe they’ll have to wait past election night to find out whether Trump or Biden has won the 2020 race, according to a new poll. The poll found that just 20 percent of voters said that they believed the winner of the presidential election will be called on election night, while 66 percent said they expect it to happen sometime later. A plurality of voters said they think the election will be resolved within a week: 19 percent believe it will be the next day (like the 2004 contest between President George W. Bush and John Kerry), and 26 percent believe it will be between two and seven days after the polls close. An additional 21 percent of voters believe the period of uncertainty will stretch past one week.

The undecideds: Sure, Biden and Trump are very different. But maybe neither is right for the job.” via Marc Fisher, Christine Spolar and Amy B Wang of The Washington Post — Maybe the debates will help, but for now, Karen and Marlin Boltz remain genuinely stymied. The couple voted for Trump four years ago, but they can’t stand how he’s divided the country and emboldened white supremacists. They like Biden, but recoil at the idea of higher taxes and bigger spending. The Boltzes, who live in a rural area half an hour outside Pittsburgh, find themselves squarely between their children. Their son who lives next door is more conservative than they are and supports Trump. Their daughter in Seattle and their son in Chicago, whom they hope to see soon happily married to his male partner, are adamant that Trump be removed.

—“If race comes down to Omaha, poll shows Biden has an edge” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times

New Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump’s reported $750 income tax payments” via John Bowden of The Hill — A new ad from Democratic presidential nominee Biden‘s campaign targets Trump over details about his tax payments reported by The New York Times on Sunday. The ad, released on Twitter by the Biden campaign late Sunday evening just hours after the Times’s bombshell report was published, features the faces of a number of U.S. taxpayers and their corresponding tax burdens, before comparing their payments to the $750 reportedly paid by Trump during his first year in office. It features no narration. The ad is the Biden campaign’s first official comment on the story reported Sunday by the Times, which detailed the numerous financial loopholes pursued by the President to reduce his tax burden, including writing off some expenses such as his own hairstyling costs as business-related.

Ethics experts see national security concern in Trump’s debt” via Aamer Madhani and Deb Reichmann of The Associated Press — The politically damaging revelations about Trump’s tax avoidance, however, are perhaps less concerning than word the President is holding hundreds of millions of dollars of soon-to-mature debt, ethics experts said. “Americans should be concerned about the President’s debt because it’s a national security risk for our country,” said Donald Sherman, deputy director of the nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “Why would banks assume the risk on these loans?” said Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics attorney in Republican George W. Bush’s White House. “Or did someone else quietly assume risk of that loan for the bank to make it happen?”

Republicans greet the news of Trump’s tax avoidance with silence.” via The New York Times — Republican lawmakers reacted with nearly complete silence on Monday to a New York Times investigation that revealed Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 and that he oversees a network of businesses that are riddled with debt and losing hundreds of millions of dollars. Spokesmen for Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the top two Republicans in the Senate, declined to comment on the article Monday. A Republican involved in writing tax law, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Monday afternoon that he had read the Times article, but declined to comment on how little Trump paid in taxes. “The thought that comes to my mind is how come it’s taking the I.R.S. so long to get the audits done,” he told reporters.

Big money flows to Trump to counter Mike Bloomberg” via Alex Isenstadt of Politico — The newest super PAC supporting Trump’s reelection has spent more than $80 million in the last month, providing a badly needed boost to the President as his campaign faces a cash crunch and he confronts an avalanche of liberal money. Preserve America, an outfit that has the backing of GOP megadonors, has suddenly become one of the biggest outside group spenders of the 2020 campaign. Its most recent investment is a $25 million TV ad buy featuring a Kenosha, Wisconsin man accusing Democrat Joe Biden of refusing to stand up to rioters who burned down his small business.

Ex-White House aide launches ads aimed at getting mothers to vote for Trump” via Nolan McCaskill and Daniel Lippman of POLITICO — An alumna of Trump’s White House is launching a new political action committee on Monday with a seven-figure national TV and digital ad campaign to bolster Trump’s support with a key demographic: moms. Moms for Safe Neighborhoods — a group founded by former White House aide Jessica Anderson that goes by MOMS for short — is investing $3 million in an ad campaign targeting suburban moms. The group will air a 30-second spot on networks and shows that appeal to suburban women, such as NBC’s “Today,” A&E, Bravo, Lifetime, E!, Oxygen and select shows on Fox News.

Trump suggested naming his daughter Ivanka as his running mate in 2016, according to new book by Rick Gates” via Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger of The Washington Post — As Trump’s top campaign aides began a discussion in June 2016 about who the presumptive Republican presidential nominee should select as his running mate, the candidate piped up with an idea. “I think it should be Ivanka. What about Ivanka as my VP?” Trump asked the assembled group, according to a new book by his former deputy campaign manager Gates, set to be published Oct. 13.

Trump’s 2016 campaign listed millions of Black voters it wanted to stop from voting, leak reveals” via Jamie Ross of the Daily Beast — Over three million Black voters in key states were identified by Trump’s 2016 campaign as people they had to persuade to stay at home on Election Day to help him reach the White House. The revelation comes from an enormous data leak obtained by the British news network Channel 4. It shows that, four years ago, the Trump campaign prepared files on almost 200 million American voters and separated some out into eight different categories. One such category, assigned to 3.5 million Black voters, was titled: “Deterrence.” The leaked database was reportedly used by Trump’s digital campaign team, which was critical to Trump’s narrow victory. Channel 4 News has a track record of exposing the unethical practices of Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct British digital black-ops firm that harvested the Facebook data of tens of millions of voters for the use of Team Trump.

Anti-Trump and former GOP strategists join Hispanic groups targeting Florida voters” via Mary Ellen Klas and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — The effort to defeat Trump in Florida and mobilize the Hispanic vote for Biden has led to some strange bedfellows. An anti-Trump political committee, The Lincoln Project, run by current and former Republicans, announced Monday it has joined with three Democrat-leaning groups, including a veteran Latino outreach coordinator for Sanders, to target Hispanic voters and counter the messaging of the president’s campaign. The team of former rivals includes Mi Familia Vota, UnidosUS Action Fund, and Nuestro PAC, which was founded by Sanders’ former political adviser, Chuck Rocha. The four groups will host a bipartisan virtual town hall on Wednesday as part of their voter mobilization effort and multimedia marketing campaign.

Police took 10 guns from Trump associate’s Florida home after wife showed them bruises” via David Smiley and Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — Fort Lauderdale police confiscated 10 guns Sunday from the home of Trump’s former reelection campaign manager after his wife told them he was suicidal, hits her, and racked and loaded a handgun during an argument, according to newly released police reports. Brad Parscale was involuntarily hospitalized under Florida’s Baker Act by officers and taken to Broward Health Medical Center Sunday after barricading himself in the $2.4 million home he shares in Fort Lauderdale’s Seven Isles with his wife, Candice. In reports released Monday, police documented a tense scene in which Parscale, after possibly firing a shot inside his house, refused to leave and was ultimately tackled by SWAT officers on his driveway when he emerged shirtless with a beer in his hand. “I initiated a double leg takedown,” wrote Sgt. Matthew Moceri, one of the responding officers, noting that the 6-foot-8-inch Parscale towered over him and ignored his commands to get down.

Former Donald Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale had something of a meltdown. Image via AP.

A Doral street divided by political views — Latinos for and against Trump” via Natalia Clement and Amber Amortegui of WLRN — Supporters and protesters gathered in front of Trump National Doral resort on Friday, where Trump spoke at a Latinos for Trump roundtable. NW 87th Avenue was politically divided between the two groups. About 25 Trump supporters rallied at the corner directly in front of the property. Tera Chaparro, a 36-year-old Pembroke Pines resident, said she and her husband, Frank, support Trump and everything he stands for. What attracts them the most about the President is his anti-abortion stance and protection of the Second Amendment, she said. Chaparro said she is upset that other Latinos are choosing to vote for Biden.


Democrats’ ad talks of Trump SCOTUS pick ‘gutting’ ACA, preexisting conditions — A new Democratic ad features Samantha McGovern, the mother of a child with a preexisting condition whose family members survived COVID-19. She talks about her fears about the impact on her family as “Trump rushes to confirm a Supreme Court justice who could gut the Affordable Care Act,” leaving as many as 133 million Americans — including McGovern’s daughter — at risk of being denied care.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


The potential flaw in Democrats’ plan to make this Supreme Court fight all about health care” via Amber Phillips of The Washington Post — Talking about health care has been a potent political message for Democrats in recent years, and it’s their main focus as Republicans race to fill a Supreme Court vacancy weeks before the presidential election. But Democrats are sending a somewhat incongruous message when they talk about health care and the court: They largely acknowledge that they can’t stop judge Amy Coney Barrett’s speedy confirmation and that they also can’t stop a conservative court’s consideration in November of whether the Affordable Care Act should stand. But they’re wielding health care to try to get people to the polls anyway, as a sort of protest vote.

Amy Coney Barrett and a conservative SCOTUS will consider ending the ACA. Democrats hope that will spur a protest vote. Him Image via AP.

For conservative Christian women, Amy Coney Barrett’s success is personal” via Ruth Graham of The New York Times — Barrett’s nomination pleased many conservatives, who see in her legal credentials and judicial philosophy the potential for her to be the next Antonin Scalia, a solidly conservative presence on the court for decades. But for many conservative Christian women, the thrill of the nomination is more personal. Judge Barrett, for them, is a new kind of icon — one they have not seen before in American cultural and political life: a woman who is both unabashedly ambitious and deeply religious, who has excelled at the heights of a demanding profession even as she speaks openly about prioritizing her conservative Catholic faith and family. Judge Barrett has seven children, including two children adopted from Haiti and a young son with Down syndrome.

Barrett tied to faith group ex-members say subjugates women” via Michael Biesecker and Michelle R. Smith of The Associated Press — Supreme Court nominee Barrett has close ties to a charismatic Christian religious group that holds men are divinely ordained as the “head” of the family and faith. Former members of the group, called People of Praise, say it teaches that wives must submit to the will of their husbands. Barrett, a federal appeals judge, has not commented publicly about her own or her family’s involvement, and a People of Praise spokesman declined to say whether she and her husband are current members. But as recently as 2017, Barrett served as a trustee at the People of Praise-affiliated Trinity Schools Inc., according to the nonprofit organization’s tax records and other documents reviewed by The Associated Press. 

The false link between Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale, explained” via Constance Grady of Vox — On Saturday, Trump chose Notre Dame law professor and federal appellate judge Barrett as his nominee to take Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court. The news threatens to reignite a storm of controversy around Barrett’s religion that has been building since 2017. Barrett is a devout Catholic. She has written before about her belief that Catholicism should affect a judge’s jurisprudence, and Democrats discussed her views widely when she was nominated to the federal bench in 2017. In a moment that has become infamous on the right, Sen. Dianne Feinstein declared that “the dogma lives loudly within you” during Barrett’s hearing, a phrase some conservatives took to be an attack on Barrett’s Catholicism. Barrett is also part of a small Catholic group known as People of Praise, and that’s where her religious affiliations get especially touchy.


Mail ballots pour into elections offices across Florida” via Zac Anderson of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Mail ballots began pouring into elections offices across Florida Monday as nervous voters rushed to get them in early, with many hand-delivering their ballots to dropbox locations. A steady stream of voters descended on the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections downtown office Monday and dropped their ballots into a shiny silver metal box in the lobby marked “official vote-by-mail ballot dropbox.” More than 5 million ballots — including 141,804 in Sarasota County and 112,412 in Manatee County — have been mailed to Florida voters, with the bulk of them going out last week. Many arrived in mailboxes over the weekend. Monday was the first day to return them in person. About 2,500 Sarasota County voters returned their mail ballots Monday, including retired nurse Patricia Flynn.

— 2020 — 

Amendment 2: Supporters, opponents of a $15 minimum wage square off ahead of election” via Britt Kennerly of Florida Today — If voters give Amendment 2 the OK, the minimum wage will rise to $10 on Sept. 30, 2021, and by $1 each year until it reaches $15 in 2026. A recent Florida Pulse forum, hosted by the USA TODAY Network-Florida, invited supporters and opponents to square off on the proposed constitutional amendment, which, if successful, would be the first of its kind in the nation. The measure needs 60% of voter support to pass. Passing the amendment is about “compassion and decency,” attorney John Morgan said, noting that “40% of Americans don’t have $400 in case of emergency.” That number comes from a 2019 Federal Reserve survey. On the flip side, the measure is a recipe for disaster, say some in the hospitality industry.

Gus Bilirakis ad touts bipartisan effectiveness — “Always” is a newly released 30-second campaign spot for the Tarpon Springs Republican’s reelection campaign referring to Bilirakis as “Florida’s most bipartisan Congressman,” and his work toward better health care, protecting natural resources, and expanding testing for COVID-19.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

New CD 15 ad shows Scott Franklin ‘ready to serve again’” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Republican Franklin released a new ad to boost his bid in the race against Democrat Alan Cohn for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. The 30-second commercial, titled “Ready to Serve Again,” showcases Franklin’s service as a former Naval Aviator, having served for 26 years. The ad, narrated by Franklin, walks through him putting on his U.S. Navy uniform. “I was recalled to active duty after 9/11,” Franklin starts in the ad. “The morning I deployed, I woke to find my little girl fast asleep just outside my bedroom door … worried she wouldn’t get to say goodbye.” The ad then cuts to Franklin outside a home, introducing himself. “Once again, our country is in crisis,” he ends the ad. “Once again, I’m volunteering to serve.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Donna Shalala, again, failed to disclose stock sales in violation of federal law” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald —Shalala failed to publicly report two stock sales, a violation of federal disclosure law for the second time in five months. Earlier this year, she acknowledged that she had failed to report 556 stock sales. In the most recent failure to disclose financial information, Shalala said she failed to disclose two stock sales of Tegna, a broadcast, digital media and marketing services company based in Virginia. The first sale, on April 1, 2019, was valued between $15,001 and $50,000 and the second sale, on March 31 of this year, was valued between $1,001 and $15,000.

New ad buys — Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan spent $34,849 on a broadcast flight in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. The ads will run Tuesday through Monday. Also, in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and the Democratic National Campaign Committee have placed a $295,258 buy for broadcast ads that will run between Oct. 7 and Oct. 27.

Judge rejects GOP challenge to universal voting by mail” via Randall Chase of The Associated Press — A Delaware judge has rejected a challenge by the state Republican Party to the constitutionality of a new law allowing universal mail balloting. The judge denied the GOP’s request for an injunction to prevent vote-by-mail ballots from being counted in the November election. The judge said the General Assembly’s decision to use its emergency powers to declare that mail voting was necessary to protect public health and ensure the continuity of governmental operations during the coronavirus epidemic was not “clearly erroneous.” Julia Klein, an attorney representing the GOP, said the law impermissibly expanded the constitutional allowances for casting absentee ballots. State attorneys, meanwhile, argued that courts are required to give deference to decisions of the General Assembly.


Marva Preston says Loranne Ausley should not be held responsible for alleged racist family history” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The report by The Capitolist alleges Ausley’s ancestors bought, owned and sold slaves in the 1800s. The report also alleges Ausley’s ancestors, who reached generational wealth through slave ownership, actively opposed desegregation through the 1970s. In a statement, Preston, who is Black, said Ausley should not be held responsible for her family’s past. “I don’t believe that we should indict individuals based on the actions of their ancestors,” she said. “Like Dr. [Martin Luther] King said, ‘I have a dream that one day the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.’”

Joe Gruters coasts ahead on water message for first TV ad” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sen. Gruters turns his eyes to the water in his first television ad ahead of the General Election. The Sarasota Republican is trumpeting passage of legislation increasing fines by at least 50% for sewage spills, including from government-owned utilities. “Joe Gruters knows what a healthy environment means — for our economy, for our family, for our quality of life,” a narrator says in the ad. “That’s why Joe brought the hammer down on polluters who infect our water with raw sewage.” That references a bill Gruters sponsored that Ron DeSantis signed into law in June. The ad shows Gruters taking his family on a boat and coasting around Sarasota Bay. Besides being an environmental treasure within Senate District 23, it’s a water body suffering from sewage spilled into local waterways from city and county sewage systems.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Danny Burgess surpasses $300K, spends $55K in largest spree this cycle” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Republican nominee Burgess and Democratic opponent Kathy Lewis both saw their highest spending report this period as the two face off for Senate District 20. Burgess dominated this period, which spanned Sept. 5 through Sept. 18. The Republican candidate raised $59,450, his second-highest haul after raking in $60,505 in June. This significant fundraising period brought Burgess’ campaign past the $300K mark, as his campaign has now collected $331,740 since its start in June. Lewis had her highest fundraising period, too, although the numbers are a tough comparison to her opponent’s. Lewis raised $13,804 this period, bringing her total fundraising to $57,840. Lewis also gave $248 to her own campaign this period.

Ileana Garcia still lagging behind José Javier Rodríguez in SD 37 fundraising” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The latest fundraising reports show Democratic Sen. Rodríguez maintaining his fundraising edge over Republican challenger Garcia, as Garcia raised less than $4,400 in the most recent two-week period. Those reports cover financial activity from Sept. 5-18. The incumbent has routinely topped Garcia in the money game. But Garcia’s latest numbers aren’t just low when compared to her opponent. They’re low even when compared to her own previous fundraising. In the prior two-week span, Garcia raised more than $26,000. It’s true that was among her best fundraising periods of the cycle. But even looking at Garcia’s previous two-week hauls, her latest haul is arguably her worst of the cycle, coming just weeks before the Nov. 3 General Election. Garcia raised more than $7,400 from June 13-26. That total dropped to just under $5,000 from June 27-July 10. Over the next two-week span, she raised more than $6,000. All of those totals top Garcia’s newest numbers.

Ana Maria Rodriguez expands cash-on-hand lead in SD 39” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Republican Rep. Rodriguez continues to build up a large cash lead over her Democratic opponent as she seeks the Senate District 39 seat. Rodriguez added nearly $88,000 in the most recent fundraising period covering Sept. 5-18. She’s competing against Democratic Rep. Javier Fernández and nonparty affiliated candidate Celso Alfonso for the open SD 39 seat. Rodriguez pulled in nearly $51,000 through her campaign. Her political committee, Ethics and Honesty in Government, added another $37,000. She now retains close to $680,000 in those two accounts for the final weeks of the campaign. Fernández is sitting on just under $175,000 between his campaign and Florida Future, a political committee backing his bid. Alfonso holds less than $1,000. The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee also pitched in more than $47,000 in in-kind contributions to assist the Rodriguez campaign. Those costs covered consulting and research services.

Kayser Enneking crosses $600K raised in HD 21” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Gainesville Democrat Enneking has raised more than $600,000 for her bid to unseat Republican Rep. Chuck Clemons in House District 21, new campaign finance reports show. During the Sept. 5-18 reporting period, Enneking added $50,000 to her campaign account and $24,500 to her political committee, Florida Knows Excellence. Clemons, meanwhile, pulled in $28,500 through his campaign account and $4,500 through his political committee, Florida Shines. With the nearly $75,000 in new money, Enneking has raised $603,836 in all. She has about $347,000 on hand. Her early September campaign report included more than 850 contributions, many of them for $1. Enneking showed a $15,000 contribution from the Florida Democratic Party as well as 10 $1,000 contributions from individual donors, the maximum allowable for state legislative candidates.

David Smith drops $150K on TV in HD 28 contest” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republican Rep. Smith is putting his big campaign money advantage to use, buying $150,000 worth of TV advertising earlier this month to support his reelection bid in House District 28. Smith, empowered with one of the most robust campaign finance accounts of any House of Representatives candidate in Florida, spent more than $160,000 in the two-week period ending Sept. 18, according to the latest reports posted by the Florida Division of Elections. Of that, $150,000 is going to television advertising, starting on cable channels and digital platforms such as Hulu and Sling. Smith also is challenged with one of the most difficult reelection efforts. He faces Democrat Pasha Baker, a businessperson and a nonprofit executive from Sanford. Smith has raised more than $398,000 overall for his reelection, including $29,485 in the two-week period that ended Sept. 18. That included 22 maximum $1,000 checks from various companies and political action committees, notably representing utility, medical, beer, and private prison interests.

—“Scott Plakon and Tracey Kagan stockpiling campaign cash in HD 29” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—“Rene Plasencia continues campaign fundraising advantage in HD 50” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Julie Jenkins refunds $10K after Democratic Party mistakenly donates” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Republican incumbent Jackie Toledo crossed the $400K mark in her campaign against Jenkins for House District 60. Toledo raised $31,990 in the most recent period, an amount that brings her total campaign fundraising to $409,845. Jenkins collected $14,194 in the same span of time, from Sept. 5 through Sept. 18, bringing her total contributions to $136,997. As far as donors, this period the Florida Democratic Party gave Jenkins a $10,000 boost, which was promptly refunded about four days later. When asked about the hefty refund, Jenkins said the party made the contribution in error, and thus the candidate returned the contribution. The contribution is not included in her $14,000 collection this period. Jenkins’ primary contributors were about 200 individuals, as well as several PACs such as EMILY’s List and Ruth’s List Florida.

Chip LaMarca rakes in another $120K to defend HD 93 seat” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Republican Rep. LaMarca is coming off one of his best fundraising periods this cycle, as he added more than $120,000 in the House District 93 campaign. That haul was thanks in part to a massive $40,000 contribution from the Florida Federation for Children PAC. The donation went into LaMarca’s political committee, Citizens Helping Improve Policy. The Florida Federation for Children aims to support lawmakers who support school choice options. LaMarca’s PC collected more than $76,000 from Sept. 5-18. His campaign added nearly $44,000 more. That was easily enough to top his Democratic opponent, former U.S. State Department Assistant Inspector General Linda Thompson Gonzalez. Thompson Gonzalez raised nearly $25,000 during the same period, less than a quarter of LaMarca’s haul.

Delores Hogan Johnson substantially grows cash lead as she defends HD 84” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Johnson jumped back into a money lead in her reelection effort in House District 84. Between Sept. 5 and 18, the Fort Pierce Democrat pulled in $19,172. Dana Trabulsy, the Republican challenger, raised $7,625 in the same time period. The incumbent raised $73,919 and holds $50,135 in cash on hand. The GOP candidate has collected a total of $68,343 and still has $42,605 in the bank. That means Johnson has significantly grown her resource advantage from a few weeks ago when Trabulsy was within a couple thousand of the sitting lawmaker in cash on hand. But the widening gap between the campaigns comes in part because Trabulsy invested in the race more aggressively in September. In the last reporting period, the Republican spent $6,950. As for sources of support, Johnson’s leap in contributions comes largely courtesy of $9,228 from the Florida Democratic Party in cash and in-kind support.

New Tom Fabricio ad claims Cindy Polo ‘betrayed us’ — Republican Fabricio released a new ad in the HD 103 race attacking Rep. Polo on her record. “Cindy Polo. Called untrustworthy and Florida’s worst legislator, Polo betrayed us with political games … voting against pay raises for teachers, health insurance for children, even hot meals for the elderly,” the ad says. “We need Tom Fabricio. Husband, father and award-winning volunteer for at-risk youth.” The ad also includes a nod from GOP Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., who asks voters to “please vote for my friend Tom Fabricio.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Annette Collazo now leads Alex Rizo in contributions, cash on hand after another big fundraising month” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democratic candidate Collazo is continuing her General Election fundraising spree, adding more than $49,000 in the most recent fundraising reporting period. Collazo is competing against Republican candidate Alex Rizo in the race to replace House Speaker José Oliva in House District 110. Collazo raised nearly $37,000 through her campaign from Sept. 5-18. Her political committee, Teachers to Tallahassee, added another $12,500. Rizo added nearly $17,000 during the same span. Collazo has now added more than $115,000 in contributions between her campaign and PC. She’s put in just over $3,000 in loans as well. Rizo has raised just over $104,000 overall. That marks the first time Collazo has surpassed Rizo in outside money raised overall.


Ballot measures in Pinellas, Hernando would boost teacher pay” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — If school district leaders across Florida have a regular complaint, it’s that the funding they receive doesn’t cover the costs of all they must do. The state approves mandates without money attached, restricts how money can be spent and controls local property tax rates. Added dollars come largely through increases in enrollment. To give themselves added flexibility, districts throughout the state have turned to local voters. In the past few election cycles, whether asked to increase sales taxes for capital projects or property taxes for general operations, voters have consistently delivered. The Pinellas and Hernando county school boards are hopeful that the winning streak continues in November.

Biscayne Park candidates face political divides and search for a village manager” via Karina Ellwood of the Miami Herald — With resignations, removals, arguments and lawsuits, Biscayne Park’s log cabin village hall has been filled with political drama in 2020. Sandwiched between Miami Shores and North Miami, the ebb and flow in this residential village will culminate November 3 when residents select three new commissioners from six candidates — including two incumbents — during the general election. The key issue candidates care about? Filling the village manager role after spending months without one.


Anthony Fauci says it’s ‘very concerning’ that Florida is reopening bars and restaurants at full capacity” via David K. Li of NBC News — Dr. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, called Florida’s full reopening of bars and restaurants “very concerning,” fearing it will spark more coronavirus outbreaks. The warning from Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, comes three days after DeSantis announced that his state was going into Phase 3 of reopening, lifting all restrictions on restaurants and bars. “Well that is very concerning to me, I mean, we have always said that, myself and Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the coordinator of the task force, that is something we really need to be careful about,” Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America, “because when you’re dealing with community spread, and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you’re really asking for trouble. Now’s the time actually to double down a bit, and I don’t mean close.”

Anthony Fauci says Florida’s full reopening plan is ‘very concerning.’

Phase 3 reopening makes it more difficult to enforce mask mandates” via Lia Fernandez of Tampa Bay 10 — As Florida advances to Phase 3 of its reopening plan, mask mandates across counties are becoming harder to enforce. The rules requiring face masks inside businesses and even outside where social distancing is not possible, like in the City of Sarasota, aren’t as straightforward anymore. DeSantis announced Friday that the state was entering the third and final phase of his plan for reopening, lifting all state-level restrictions on businesses. Counties can still mandate face masks, but the new order prevents local governments from collecting fines or penalties from people breaking those rules. “The practical effect of this is that the ordinance hasn’t been nullified, but has been reduced to a recommendation only,” City Attorney Bob Fournier told city commissioners in an email. City Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch says she has a call into the Governor’s office to learn more about what this means for their mask policy.

Officials report 738 COVID-19 cases in Florida, fewest since June” via Florida Politics staff reports — For the first time since June, health officials in Florida confirmed fewer than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases between daily reports. Monday’s update included 738 cases confirmed in the 24 hours since Sunday’s report. Overall, 701,302 people have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, including 8,340 non-Florida residents in the state. The last time fewer than 1,000 people tested positive between reports was June 2, when 617 people tested positive and before the surge of cases across the Sunbelt was apparent. The Department of Health typically reports fewer cases on Mondays, on which reports largely cover data confirmed over the preceding weekend. In total, 5.2 million Floridians have been tested for COVID-19, as have 21,002 nonresidents in the state. But DOH received results for 20,991 individuals Sunday, the fewest findings returned since June 1. That day’s results would largely have appeared in the June 2 report.

What Richard Corcoran is reading — “Florida schools reopened en masse, but a surge in coronavirus didn’t follow, a USA TODAY analysis finds” via Jayme Fraser, Mike Stucka, Emily Bloch, Rachel Fradette, Sommer Brugal of USA TODAY — Many teachers and families feared a spike in COVID-19 cases when Florida made the controversial push to reopen schools in August with in-person instruction. A USA TODAY analysis shows the state’s positive case count among kids ages 5 to 17 declined through late September after a peak in July. Among the counties seeing surges in overall cases, it’s college-age adults — not schoolchildren — driving the trend, the analysis found. The early results in Florida show the success of rigorous mask-wearing, social distancing, isolating contacts and quick contact tracing when necessary, health experts said.

Another 46 COVID-19 cases in corrections system” via News Service of Florida staff reports — An additional 30 state prison inmates and 16 corrections workers have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall total to 19,389 since the pandemic started, according to state numbers released Monday. As of a noon Monday count, 16,267 inmates had tested positive, up from 16,237 on Friday. Meanwhile, 3,122 corrections workers had tested positive, up from 3,106 on Friday, according to the Florida Department of Corrections. The number of inmate deaths related to the virus remained at 131. Tests were pending Monday for 148 inmates, with 50 of them at Blackwater Correctional Facility in Northwest Florida.

Disability institution workers test positive” via News Service of Florida staff reports — Forty-two Agency for Persons with Disabilities staff members who work at two state institutions for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities have tested positive for the coronavirus, and one employee has died, according to the latest available data. Thirty-one of the employees work at Sunland Center in Marianna, the Friday data show, and another 10 Sunland staff members were being quarantined after exposure to the virus. Meanwhile, 11 staff members at Tacachale Developmental Disability Center outside Gainesville have tested positive for the virus, and nine other employees were being isolated, the data show. One Tacachale employee has died from the virus. The numbers come as the state scales back staff testing at facilities. The Agency for Health Care Administration announced Friday that it revoked an emergency rule that required staff testing at intermediate care facilities for people with developmental disabilities and that the facilities would no longer receive kits from the state to test staff.


Judge upholds, Lenny Curry extends Jacksonville mask mandate for COVID-19” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — A judge on Monday upheld the city of Jacksonville’s mask mandate, and Mayor Curry extended it for another 30 days to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Circuit Court Judge Katie Dearing ruled that Curry acted within his authority to issue the requirement in June. Dearing said it’s not the role of a judge to second-guess a decision made by another branch of government about a measure aimed at protecting the general public. The lawsuit filed by Jason French, who was represented by state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, wanted Dearing to issue a temporary injunction on grounds the mask requirement violated privacy rights and is not effective at curbing the spread of the virus. Dearing said “wearing a mask to prevent the spread of an airborne virus is no more intrusive than wearing a helmet” while riding a motorcycle.

Despite the Phase 3 reopening, Lenny Curry is extending Jacksonville’s mask ordinance. Image via Twitter.

Duval Schools announces updates on COVID-19 case tracking dashboard” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Duval County Public Schools’ self-reported coronavirus tracker comes with changes, limitations and later deadlines, a website update shows. On Monday, the school district quietly published edits to its COVID-19 dashboard saying the following: The dashboard only reports cases that “impact school operations”; charter school data will not be included, and the dashboard will be updated by “approximately 10 p.m.” instead of by “approximately 8 p.m.” The school district also removed a clause from its website that said “the date of the case is the date in which the district confirmed the results. This date may be different from the date of diagnosis or initial report.

’Why are we pretending it’s all over?’ Miami restaurants wrestle with new COVID rules” via Carlos Frías of the Miami Herald — Jimmy Flanigan walked into his family’s packed Flanigan’s Restaurant in Coconut Grove, three hours after DeSantis approved 10 % inside seating, and thought it looked too busy. “It was a little scary walking into a Flanigan’s after six months and seeing it full,” said Flanigan, CEO and president of the South Florida-based chain of 24 sports-bar-style restaurants. “It was too busy. So we backed off to 50%.” “To say it was confusing would be an understatement,” Flanigan said. “It was compounded by the fact that the Governor released the hounds without any warning.”

—“‘It’s the Wild West’: South Florida restaurants confused how to enforce COVID-19 rules during Phase 3” via Philip Valys and Rob Stafford Hagwood of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

No masks, no rules: Delray house cited after out-of-control party” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — The owner of a party house on the 100 block of Little Wood Lane has been cited by Code Enforcement for illegally operating a hotel and for renting the home to large groups that have caused havoc in the tony residential neighborhood. “It was like the Lake of the Ozarks,” said Gerard Dariano of the large party that occurred on the night of Sept. 20 and didn’t end until the following morning around 5 a.m. “Thirty to 40 people in their twenties partying, screaming, fighting, racing their cars on a residential street. No one socially distant. No masks.” Dariano, a surgeon, lives across the street from the house. He said he got so little sleep that Sunday night that he had to take the day off. Another family’s school-age child did not make it to school, he said.

Cops break up huge party of over 1,000 people at off-campus housing at FSU” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — A large gathering, with more than 1,000 people, was shut down by cops late Saturday night near Florida State University. The party was at an off-campus apartment complex called Tenn Street Apartments that saw at least 700 cars parked in the area, blocking travel lanes, cops said. The Tallahassee Police Department said that this bash was just one of a dozen large social events they broke up over the weekend, read a Facebook post from the agency.


Mask ordinance still in effect in Pensacola after DeSantis reopening order” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola’s mask ordinance is still in effect despite the fact that DeSantis’ executive order last week stripped away the city’s ability to issue fines to individuals who violate the ordinance. DeSantis issued the executive order Friday, which moved Florida into phase 3 of reopening after the coronavirus pandemic hit the state. Pensacola’s mask ordinance allowed for fines to be issued for violators, but as of Monday, the city had not issued any citations since the emergency ordinance went into effect in June, according to Pensacola Police Department spokesman Mike Wood. With DeSantis’ new executive order, fines appear to be off the table as a method to enforce the city’s mask order.

Ron DeSantis’ Phase 3 reopening plan gets some pushback from municipalities. Image via Colin Hackley.

Local municipalities adjusting to DeSantis moving Florida to Phase 3” via Tony Mixon of the Panama City News-Herald — Local governments have begun adjusting their operations after DeSantis announced on Friday that the state would begin Phase 3 of its plan to ease COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Panama City City Hall was reopened to the public on Monday for normal business hours. While the city still is encouraging the wearing of masks and has hand sanitizer available, employees won’t be taking temperature checks at the entrances. The lobbies of the police and fire departments for Panama City reopened as well. The Monday Morning with the Manager still was held virtually on Monday, but City Manager Mark McQueen will hold the Oct. 5 meeting in-person and via Zoom.

Will Canadian snowbirds still flock to Sarasota amid COVID-19?” via Laura Finaldi of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Scott Follows and his wife have been coming to Florida in the winter for six years, and Sarasota for three. When they’re in town, they watch live music at Stottlemyer’s Smokehouse, hang out with their friends at Sun N Fun RV resort and play pickleball, a common pastime for Southwest Florida snowbirds who come to the area every winter. But this year, there will be no beaches, no pool time, no socializing with fellow snowbird friends and definitely no pickleball. The possibility of contracting COVID-19 is enough to keep the Followses in Canada, even if it means enduring a cold, hard winter.


Trump warns of more coronavirus cases is new, rapid tests ship” via Kristin Brown, Justin Sink and Josh Wingrove of Bloomberg — “As younger and healthier people return to work, and as we massively increase testing capacity, we will identify more cases in asymptomatic individuals in low-risk cases. This should not cause undue alarm,” Trump said at an event in the White House Rose Garden. “The total number of cases is not the full metric of success,” Trump said. “Hospitalization capacity and mortality rates are far more instructive metrics. As we do more tests, you’re going to have automatically more cases.” The federal government announced that it will be distributing 150 million of the new tests, made by Abbott Laboratories, including 100 million that will be sent to states.

Alarming data show a third wave of COVID-19 is about to hit the U.S.” via Chris Wilson and Geoffrey Kluger of Time magazine — Heading into the fall and winter, there are clear signs of a third resurgence bearing a close resemblance to what we saw in early June. Since the most recent nadir on Sept. 9, when the national rate was at 34,300 cases a day, still a notch above the April peak, cases have risen to 45,300 a day, a 32% increase. The numbers paint an alarmingly familiar picture that spells trouble ahead, despite Trump’s repeated but false assertions that the country is “rounding the final turn” on the pandemic. “The latest information is that 90% of the country has not yet been exposed to the virus,” says Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Robert Redfield voices alarm over influence of Trump’s new coronavirus task force adviser” via Monica Alba of NBC News — The director of the C.D.C. has grown increasingly concerned that Trump, pushed by a new member of his coronavirus task force, is sharing incorrect information about the pandemic with the public. Dr. Redfield, who leads the CDC, suggested in a conversation with a colleague Friday that Dr. Scott Atlas is arming Trump with misleading data about a range of issues, including questioning the efficacy of masks, whether young people are susceptible to the virus and the potential benefits of herd immunity. “Everything he says is false,” Redfield said during a phone call made in public on a commercial airline and overheard by NBC News. Redfield acknowledged after the flight from Atlanta to Washington that he was speaking about Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases or public health. Atlas was brought on to the White House Task Force in August.

Some leaders at the CDC are not thrilled with Scott Atlas and his misleading information.

A new analysis by the CDC shows that the virus is more common in teenagers than younger children.” via The New York Times — The rate of infections with the coronavirus in adolescents aged 12 to 17 years is about twice that in children aged 5 to 11 years, according to an analysis released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The finding is based on a review of 277,285 confirmed cases in children from March to September when most schools in the nation offered only remote learning or were closed. Along with other evidence about the incidence of coronavirus infections in those under age 19, the new figures suggest “young persons might be playing an increasingly important role in community transmission,” the authors wrote.

CDC’s credibility is eroded by internal blunders and external attacks as coronavirus vaccine campaigns loom” via Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — The CDC was created to stop deadly pathogens. It battled malaria and polio. It helped eradicate smallpox. It sent intrepid disease doctors to Africa to fight Ebola. Over the course of seven decades, it became the world’s most admired public health agency. The CDC had been preparing for decades for this moment, the arrival of a virus rampaging across the planet, inflicting widespread death and suffering. But 2020 has been a disaster for the CDC. The agency’s response to the worst public health crisis in a century has been marked by technical blunders and botched messaging. The agency has endured false accusations and interference by Trump administration political appointees.

New document reveals scope and structure of Operation Warp Speed and underscores vast military involvement” via Nicholas Florko of Stat — When Trump unveiled Operation Warp Speed in May, he declared that it was “unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project.” The initiative lacks the scale, and the degree of secrecy, of the effort to build the atomic bomb. But Operation Warp Speed is largely an abstraction in Washington, with little known about who works there other than its top leaders, or how it operates. Even pharmaceutical companies hoping to offer help or partnerships have labored to figure out who to contact. Now, an organizational chart of the $10 billion initiative, obtained by STAT, reveals the fullest picture yet of Operation Warp Speed: a highly structured organization in which military personnel vastly outnumber civilian scientists.


120 million rapid tests to be distributed to low- and middle-income countries, WHO says” via Siobhán O’Grady of The Washington Post — A new arrangement will allow for around 120 million rapid coronavirus tests to be distributed to low- and middle-income countries over the next six months, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced Monday. The antigen tests will cost around $5 each and provide results within 15 to 30 minutes, Tedros said at a news conference in Geneva, adding that he expects the price will be lowered further over time. The distribution will be made possible by a collaboration between two manufacturers and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he said. “This will enable the expansion of testing, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that do not have laboratory facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests,” Tedros said. WHO is still seeking to raise the necessary funds to buy all of the tests, he said.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says about 120 million rapid COVID-19 tests will go to low-and middle-income countries.

The FDA delays Inovio’s vaccine trial.” via The New York Times — Inovio Pharmaceuticals, a Pennsylvania firm whose CEO boasted to Trump in March that it was the world’s leader in coronavirus vaccines, said on Monday that it will delay the next stage of testing for its vaccine until addressing questions from the FDA. The company said the pause is not related to any serious side effects from the first phase of testing of its vaccine, which uses a DNA technology that stimulates a person’s immune system with some of the coronavirus’s genes. No DNA-based vaccine has ever made it to market for any human disease. The company is not able to start Phase 2/3 testing but its Phase 1 trial will continue, it said.

Those dying from COVID-19 are least likely to own life insurance” via Leslie Scism of The Wall Street Journal — U.S. life insurers are paying out far fewer COVID-19 death claims than initially expected, largely because the virus is disproportionately killing people with little to no insurance. In the past few weeks, many life insurance companies have sharply reduced estimates of their exposure, as measured by payouts per 100,000 U.S. COVID-19 fatalities. Estimates have come down by an average of 40% to 50%, according to Credit Suisse stock analyst Andrew Kligerman. Driving the rapid reduction in exposure are two groups: older Americans and minorities. Older people often have smaller policies than people who are still in the workforce. The latter typically buy policies to protect spouses and children against the loss of a breadwinner’s income.

What Kirsten Borman Dougherty wants you to readThe students left behind by remote learning” via Alex MacGillis of The New Yorker — Remote learning started in earnest on April 6th. For Shemar, that meant just four hours per week of live online instruction — an hour for each of the main subjects once a week, with nothing on Fridays. Shemar had an Xbox but no computer, so the pastor at our church, Rob Hoch, said that it would reimburse me for buying Shemar a laptop. I dropped it off at his grandmother’s house, and helped his mother load onto her phone the app, called Remind, that Shemar’s teachers used for communicating with families. It soon became clear that, even with the computer, this form of schooling wasn’t going to work for Shemar.


Rick Kriseman staffer tried to organize protests at DeSantis event — The Chief of Staff to St. Petersburg Mayor Kriseman attempted to organize a protest when DeSantis made a stop in the city to announce the state was entering Phase 3 of reopening, Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida reports. “Governor apparently coming to St. Pete around noon at Birchwood to cause trouble if you feel like secretly getting a group together,” Kevin King said in a text sent to Democratic Party activist Susan McGrath on Friday. “Could use some wear-a-mask signs. Or Fix Florida First.” Asked about the texts, King said “we mobilize advocates for causes all the time. We wanted p him eople to remind the Governor it’s important to wear a mask.”

A text from Rick Kriseman’s Chief of Staff calls on Democrats to protest Ron DeSantis’ St. Petersburg visit.


Demolitions begin at Pensacola Bay Bridge as FDOT looks to wrap up inspection” via Kevin Robinson of the Pensacola News Journal — Demolitions necessary to complete a damage assessment of the Pensacola Bay Bridge began Monday, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Hurricane Sally dislodged 22 construction and equipment barges owned by contractor Skanska USA, and several of the loose barges collided with the bridge and caused significant damage. The bridge has been closed since the collisions, and state officials have estimated the bridge will be out of service for an “extended” period of time. Currently, state officials said most of the bridge has been inspected, and they are hoping a damage assessment will wrap up this week.

An aerial drone photo of the extent of Hurricane Sally’s damage to the 3 Mile Bridge in Pensacola. Image via the Pensacola News Journal.

—“Hurricane Sally: Florida man tried to ride out storm on boat. He nearly died.” via Melissa Brown of the Pensacola News Journal

Oil washes up along 5 miles of Johnson Beach on Perdido Key 10 days after Sally” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Oil washed up along parts of a five-mile stretch of shore on Johnson Beach on Perdido Key on Saturday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Dustin Williams told the News Journal the oil was discovered Saturday, and samples were collected to determine the source of the oil. The Coast Guard investigates reports of oil pollution in U.S. waters. It’s unclear at this point if the submerged oil is from the 2010 oil spill that was stirred up from Hurricane Sally or if it is from another source. Williams said the Coast Guard will work with Gulf Islands National Seashore to ensure the pollution is cleaned up.

Florida’s hunt for Chinese Communist ties comes up empty-handed” via Daniel Rivero of WLRN — The state went looking for Chinese communist companies to hold accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic. It hasn’t found any. Florida sent letters to 100,000 businesses and entities registered as vendors with the state in June, asking if they were “owned or controlled by the Communist Party of China.” Months later, that hunt for Chinese communists has come up empty handed, with the state unable to cite a single company owned or controlled by the Communist Party of China that it has identified through the effort.


Assignment editors — Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Randy Fine will hold a virtual conversation, 7 p.m. Organizers request attendees sign in 20 minutes before the start time at

Mike Pompeo to keynote Florida conservative Christian event, raising ethical & legal questions” via Jennifer Hansler of CNN — Secretary of State Pompeo is slated to keynote a gala event for a conservative Christian organization in Florida — an appearance that comes a month before Election Day and may violate legal and ethical guidelines. Not only is the top U.S. diplomat advertised as the featured guest at the Florida Family Policy Council’s 15th Anniversary Gala on October 3, but a “personal visit” with Secretary of State Pompeo is also included with a $10,000 table sponsorship. Tickets to a VIP reception featuring Pompeo are included in $5,000 and $3,000 table sponsorships and $500 VIP tickets, according to the organization. This could be a breach of federal regulations.


Lockheed Martin facility mishandled toxins, created ‘environmental nightmare,’ lawsuit claims” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — Defense giant Lockheed Martin created an “environmental nightmare” at its Orlando facility off Sand Lake Road by mismanaging hazardous toxins, which allegedly contaminated nearby workers who were later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, brain lesions, cancer and other diseases, newly filed lawsuits say. Orlando attorney Morgan said his firm filed two complaints Monday in federal court, including a class-action lawsuit, against Lockheed Martin on behalf of Golf Channel employees who worked near the site in Tangelo Park. “For a period of many years, the people at Lockheed Martin were conducting tests on bombs, delivery systems and missiles, and those toxins escaped,” he said.

Committee investigating JEA sale votes to subpoena firms linked to Tim Baker” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — A City Council committee investigating last year’s JEA sales attempt voted to subpoena two firms linked with Baker, a political consultant who had a contract with Florida Power & Light while he also went to a JEA meeting in July 2019 that laid the groundwork for putting the utility up for sale. The three-member committee’s recommendation will go to the council’s Rule Committee for a future vote by that group whether it will issue the subpoenas. It would be the first time for the Rules Committee to be involved in the investigation, and it is exceptionally rare for council to issue such subpoenas.

Eric Robinson investigated for ‘potential election criminal misconduct’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Robinson, a prominent Republican political committee chair, this month was under investigation for “potential election criminal misconduct.” The revelation came through an executive order by DeSantis reassigning the case to State Attorney Andrew Warren. The order was signed on Sept. 22. The matter moved from the 12th Judicial Circuit in Sarasota to the 13th Judicial Circuit in Tampa at the request of State Attorney Ed Brodsky, who utilizes Robinson’s services as his campaign treasurer. The order also states the State Attorney’s Office employs Robinson in a professional capacity. The Governor’s order allows any case the comes from an investigation to move ahead in the 12th Circuit rather than the one where Robinson lives. For his part, Robinson said he has no idea what prompted any criminal investigation.

Local GOP chair Eric Robinson is under investigation for ‘potential election criminal misconduct.’ Image via Sarasota Magazine/Salvatore Brancifort.

Okaloosa Sheriff joins Motorola 9-1-1 pilot program — The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is one of the first agencies in the country to implement a new Motorola Solutions 9-1-1 pilot program that allows citizens to send video, photographs, and recordings directly to dispatchers in the via their cellphones. Media sent to dispatchers is stored in a vault for access by OCSO supervisors to boost public and officer safety during an incident, and for evidentiary purposes. “There is nothing more important to a community’s public safety initiatives than ensuring its residents can provide critical information to a 9-1-1 operator in times of crisis,” said Lynne Houserman, Vice President of Emergency Call Handling, Software Enterprise at Motorola Solutions.

Plans for an Elon Musk-inspired 700 mph Hyperloop bullet train for Southwest Florida; and an Aldi alert” via Phil Fernandez of the Naples Daily News — Forget a boring old toll road. How about a privately subsidized bullet train for Southwest Florida instead? And when we say bullet, we mean 700 mph. That’s one fast-moving projectile, and that’s what’s being discussed at state and regional levels as a major proposal quietly moves forward. The Legislature appropriated an initial $1 million for the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority to take the lead in Florida in studying alternative transportation for the state, including the Musk-inspired Hyperloop bullet train. In a plan advanced by California-based Hyperloop TT, which already has development projects overseas, stops beyond Tampa Bay would include Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Venice and South Florida, essentially following I-75.


Trump just lost control of the game” via David Frum for The Atlantic — Remember: Back in 2015, when Trump announced his campaign for President, about one-third of Republicans condemned the distribution of wealth in the United States as unjust. Trump spoke powerfully to those voters. He told them a story about corrupt elites, symbolized first by his Republican rivals, then by Hillary Clinton. He told them that he had gamed the system better than anyone. The politically aware always recognized these claims of wealth and sacrifice were preposterously false. But they were central to Trump’s messaging. The definitive debunking of this lie does two things. First, it melts Trump’s support a little more. Second, the ink-on-paper confirmation of Trump’s indebtedness, tax-dodging, and all-around crookedness will get into Trump’s head.


Clarence Thomas should recuse himself if the Supreme Court has to decide the election” via Colbert I. King of The Washington Post — Trump makes no bones about why he wants Supreme Court nominee Barrett sitting on the bench by Election Day. An eight-member Supreme Court, which exists now, risks the possibility of a 4-to-4 tie should a dispute on election results land in the lap of the high court. True, five of the justices are on the conservative side, but Chief Justice John Roberts has, on occasion, joined the three remaining liberal justices. Trump is trusting that with Barrett, decisions are sure to land in his favor. Thus, Trump’s declaration: “I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.” However, it’s not a given that the full court will be in place to decide election-related cases affecting the fates of Trump and Democratic nominee Biden. Under the court’s recusal policy, a strong case can be made that Thomas should take no part in deciding cases that involve Biden. There are many doubts about how impartial Justice Thomas is.

DeSantis still thinks we have a right to give each other COVID-19 in Florida. This time, it’s students” via the Miami Herald Editorial Board — Managing Florida’s state university system is a herculean task in the best of times. Managing in the midst of the coronavirus crisis might be an impossible task, even for three wise men and 50 Nobel laureates. Still, the State University System’s Board of Governors is obliged to give it the old college try. Instead, the folks responsible for roughly 350,000 students at Florida’s 12 state universities have thrown up their hands and thrown in the towel. Last week, Miami Herald reporters Ana Ceballos and Karina Ellwood checked in on Florida’s university campuses, where the kids are learning way too much about how people in high places get away with passing the bucks and blaming the victims.


Florida is reporting a dramatic decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases and fatalities. But don’t get too excited: Monday’s numbers are always low because reports slow down over the weekend — it takes a day or two to catch up.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Gov. DeSantis is asking lawmakers to hold a Special Session after the November election to pass a bill cracking down on social justice protesters … but Democrats in the Legislature say he should use that time to fix a broken unemployment system that hasn’t worked since it was created almost a decade ago.

 — Speaking of unemployment, opponents of Amendment 2 on the November ballot are using all sorts of hyperbole to describe the proposal raising Florida’s minimum wage by a dollar a year until it reaches $15 an hour. They call it a ‘job killer.’

— But Rep. Anna Eskamani says it was the Legislature that inspired Amendment 2. Republican leaders bent over backward for business lobbyists, she says, while ignoring low-wage workers who are the core of the labor force, especially those in the hospitality trade.

— Eskamani replies to the parade of horribles from the opponents of the minimum wage amendment.

— And finally, we check in with Florida Man … the beer.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Universal shares numbers, details on VelociCoaster thrill ride” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando has unveiled new facts about its Jurassic World VelociCoaster ride, which is scheduled to open at Islands of Adventure theme park in the summer of 2021. They include numbers (up to 70 mph) and celebrity power (Chris Pratt and other movie stars). The new roller coaster, which the company officially acknowledged and identified Friday evening, will feature an original storyline about Jurassic World’s “carnivore explosion.” Among the coaster’s described maneuvers is a 360-degree barrel roll “just inches” above the Islands of Adventure lagoon. Park visitors can already see the rail in place for that part of the attraction over the water.

Universal Orlando announces details of the Jurassic World ‘VelociCoaster,’ opening summer 2021.


Happy birthday to our friend, Steve Schale, as well as former U.S. Sen. Bill NelsonDavid Bishop and Brian Graham.


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

Peter Schorsch

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


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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