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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.8.20

Don’t miss your first look at stories driving today’s agenda in Florida politics.

Breaking — “Donald Trump says he won’t take part in virtual debate” via Axios — President Trump told Fox Business’ Maria Baritomo on Thursday that he will not take part in a virtual second presidential debate.  “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. It’s not what debating is all about. … It’s ridiculous,” the President said. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, who also tested positive for coronavirus, said in a statement that the campaign will “pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.” Stepien also claimed that Trump “will have posted multiple negative tests prior to the debate,” which has never been publicly confirmed by the president’s doctors.

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Duval County voters are primed to pass two referendums by resounding margins.

A new poll from the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab found 69% of Duval voters plan to vote for the proposed half-cent sales tax to fund public school capital improvements. Just 28% plan to vote against it.

Likewise, the poll showed more than three-quarters support for a referendum to allow the Jacksonville City Council to appoint or remove JEA board members. Just 20% disagree.

“Jacksonville is very supportive of investing in their public schools, something we have consistently seen in our polling over the years,” said PORL director Dr. Michael Binder. “Regarding the JEA referendum, it is not surprising voters want to diversify oversight of the JEA board after the last year that JEA has had.”

While the referendums indicate an appetite for change, head-to-head polling of races on the ballot shows a desire to stay the course.

In Florida’s 4th Congressional District, for example, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford leads Democrat Donna Deegan by a 57%-38% margin.

Incumbent John Rutherford holds a solid lead over Donna Deegan in Florida’s 4th Congressional District.

Meanwhile, Jax Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams are showing signs of a rebound after a summer slump. The new poll shows Curry bouncing back to 47% approval from 45% in June, and Williams spiking to 55% from 45%.

“Regarding the approval ratings, the changes are pretty minimal for Curry, which is kind of surprising after the up and down summer with the RNC,” Binder said. “Sheriff Williams’ net positive job approval is up to plus 14, which is more in line with previous polls. It is likely the protests of the spring temporarily brought down his ratings.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

—@realDonaldTrump: Mike Pence WON BIG!

Tweet, tweet:

@ShevrinJones: Why when a black woman speaks with confidence and stands her ground, she’s labeled as attitudinal or arrogant? @KamalaHarris was neither tonight. She was knowledgeable, prepared, and she called BS when she heard it. #VPDebate

@JaredEMoskowitz: Thanks to the partnership with @HHSGov on testing, we are happy to report the Fly is NEGATIVE!!!🎆🎆🎆🎆🎆

Tweet, tweet:

@Poniewozik: It’s not a shocker that somebody with COVID should sound so winded, but it kind of clashes with the whole “I’m totally cured now, COVID’s no biggie anymore!” messaging.

@AdamParkhomenko: The president of the United States is having a total freak out and the people who cover him are acting like it’s totally normal.

@MaxASteeele: Pouring one out for @steveschale who is legally obligated to rain on every single “double-digit race in Florida!!!” parade that gets going on this here website.

@FredPiccoloJr: Just to be clear. Sports franchises, like most businesses under phase 3 can do as they see medically and safety-wise in their best interests. There is no state clearance or anything of the sort.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Amazon’s annual Prime Day begins — 5; Apple announces new iPhone — 5; NBA season ends (last possible date) — 6; stone crab season starts — 7; second presidential debate (tentatively) scheduled in Miami — 7; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — 8; NBA free agency (tentative) — 10; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 12; HBO debuts 2000 presidential election doc ‘537 Votes’ — 13; third presidential debate (tentative) at Belmont — 14; “The Empty Man” premieres — 15; 2020 General Election — 26; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 33; The Masters begins — 35; NBA draft — 41; Pixar’s “Soul” premieres — 43; College basketball season slated to begin — 48; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 55; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 55; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 70; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 78; Greyhound racing ends in Florida — 84; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 122; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 135; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 150; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 176; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 267; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 274; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 288; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 296; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 393; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 396; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 428; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 492; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 545; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 726.

— DEBATE NIGHT IN AMERICA —

Mike Pence clashes with Kamala Harris and evades question on peaceful transfer of power” via The New York Times — About halfway through Wednesday’s debate, Pence — a seasoned and sly veteran of high-stakes political theater — was asked whether President Donald Trump had a plan to protect patients with pre-existing conditions if he succeeded in killing the Affordable Care Act. His response was a master class in evasive rhetorical jujitsu: First, the vice president ignored the question (the White House has not, in fact, come up with a plan), then launched into a long defense of his anti-abortion views and, for his dismount, demanded that Harris say if she supported a plan to “pack” the Supreme Court. Time and again, Pence, whose deliberate Midwestern delivery masks a switchblade-quick political mind, seamlessly changed the subject when cornered by an inconvenient query.

Mike Pence listens as Kamala Harris speaks during the vice-presidential debate at Kingsbury Hall on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Image via AP.

Pence, Harris spar over COVID-19 in vice-presidential debate” via Steve Peoples, Kathleen Ronayne, Michelle L. Price and Jill Colvin of The Associated Press —Trading barbs through plexiglass shields, Pence and Harris turned the only vice presidential debate of 2020 into a dissection of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Harris labeling it “the greatest failure of any presidential administration.” Pence acknowledged that “our nation’s gone through a very challenging time this year,” yet vigorously defended the administration’s overall response to a pandemic that has killed 210,000 Americans. The meeting, which was far more civil than last week’s chaotic faceoff between Trump and Joe Biden, unfolded against an outbreak of coronavirus now hitting the highest levels of the U.S. government. Republicans desperately want to cast the race as a choice between two candidates fighting to move the country in vastly different directions.

Post-debate CNN poll: Harris seen as winner in a contest that matched expectations” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN — Harris did improve her favorability rating among those who watched, according to the poll, while the debate was a wash for Pence. In pre-debate interviews, 56% said they had a positive view of Harris, which rose to 63% after the debate. For Pence, his favorability stood at 41% in both pre- and post-debate interviews. Both vice-presidential candidates are broadly seen as qualified to be president: 65% said Pence is qualified to serve as commander in chief should that become necessary, 63% said the same of Harris.

The only story that matters — “A fly sat atop Pence’s head for two minutes during the VP debate.” via Reid Epstein of the New York Times — Pence, his hair perfectly coiffed, never reacted to the fly’s appearance on the right side of his head. It stood out against his bright white hair, standing still for the most part but moving around slightly before, well, flying away. A local TV news reporter from California clocked the fly’s screen time on Pence’s head at 2 minutes, 3 seconds. While Pence spent most of the 90-minute debate avoiding direct questions posed by the moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, the fly brought up a slew of questions of its own. Who will play the fly on “Saturday Night Live”? Is the fly liable to catch the coronavirus that has infected so many top Trump administration officials? Was the fly breaking debate protocols by not wearing a mask?

Tweet, tweet:

— THE MODELS —

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

CNN Poll of Polls: As of Wednesday, the CNN average has former Vice President Biden remaining at 53% compared to a steady 42% for Trump. The CNN Poll of Polls tracks the national average in the presidential race. They include the most recent national telephone surveys meeting CNN’s standards for reporting and which measure the views of registered or likely voters. The poll of polls does not have a margin of sampling error.

FiveThirtyEight.com: As of Wednesday, Biden has moved up to an 84 in 100 chance of winning compared to Trump, who slipped to a 15 in 100 shot. One model still has no Electoral College victory, bringing the election to the House. FiveThirtyEight also ranked individual states by the likelihood of delivering a decisive vote for the winning candidate in the Electoral College: Pennsylvania leads with 25.6%, while Florida moves back to second with 16.9%. Wisconsin dropped to third with 15.1 % Other states include Michigan (8.5 %), Arizona (5.3%), Minnesota (4.3%), North Carolina (4.3%) and Nevada (3.2%).

Polling gives a nearly consistent lead to Joe Biden over Donald Trump.

PredictIt: As of Wednesday, the PredictIt trading market has Biden rising to $0.68 a share, with Trump holding steady at $0.36.

Real Clear Politics: As of Wednesday, the RCP average of polling top battleground states widens Biden’s lead over Trump 51.6% to 41.9%. The RCP average also has Biden averaging at +9.7 points ahead.

The Economist: As of Wednesday, their model predicts Biden is “very likely” to beat Trump in the Electoral College. The model is updated every day and combines state and national polls with economic indicators to predict a range of outcomes. The midpoint is the estimate of the electoral-college vote for each party on Election Day. According to The Economist, Biden’s chances of winning the electoral college has remained steady at 9 in 10 (91%) versus Trump with 1 in 10 (9%). They still give Biden a 99% chance (better than 19 in 20) of winning the most votes, with Trump at only 2% (less than 1 in 20).

— PRESIDENTIAL —

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by 12 points nationally” via Jonathan Easley of The Hill — Biden leads Trump by 12 points in a new national survey from Rasmussen, the conservative outlet that has historically found the race to be closer than other pollsters. Among likely voters, Biden takes 52% support in the latest Rasmussen survey, compared to 40% for Trump. Trump’s collapse in the poll is significant because the president has often pointed to the survey as an example of how he was performing stronger than other polls give him credit for. Biden is bolstered in the latest survey by an 18-point advantage among independent voters.

Biden leads Trump in Nevada and the two are tied in Ohio, polls show” via Reid J. Epstein and Isabella Grullón Paz of The New York Times

—”Q-poll has Joe Biden up by 11 points in Florida. Um, not buying it” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics

Trump is canceling TV ads in midwest states that made him President” via Henry J. Gomez of BuzzFeed News — Trump’s reelection campaign is slashing television spending in the Midwest, canceling millions of dollars in advertising in states that carried him to victory in 2016. He’s been off the local airwaves completely in Iowa and Ohio. The campaign also has given up at least $2 million worth of reservations in both Michigan and Wisconsin since early September. And in Minnesota, a state Trump almost won four years ago and has expressed confidence in flipping, his team already has chopped about $5 million from its projected fall TV budget.

A bullish Biden campaign invades Trump territory” via Scott Bland and Elena Schneider of POLITICO — In a move that would have been far-fetched even a few months ago, Biden is set to spend $6.2 million on ads in the state over the next month, attempting to put the state in play for the first time in decades. The latest polling averages show Trump leading by only 2 to 3 points in Texas, and Biden’s push there illustrates both how much the state has changed and how much the political environment is tilting against Trump less than a month from the Election Day. Perhaps even more astounding: Trump doesn’t have the money to counter the cash-flush Biden on TV.

Joe Biden trails Donald Trump by only a couple of points in Texas. And that’s saying something.

Trump’s corrupt schemes to save himself keep blowing up in his face” via Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — When you step back and survey the last two years of U.S. politics, one of the biggest storylines that come into view is this: One after another, a whole string of deeply corrupt schemes that Trump has hatched to smooth his reelection hopes have crashed and burned. In all these cases, Trump has either blown up the schemes himself or compounded the damage they did to him when they self-destructed. In some cases, he did both. Meanwhile, Trump has also managed to wreck numerous opportunities that he could have easily turned to his political advantage.

In Central Florida, Latino evangelicals could give Trump a boost” via Jose A. Del Real of The Washington Post — While the GOP’s traditional strength among Cuban Americans is well understood, the party’s appeal to born-again religious voters of Caribbean and Latin American descent in recent years has received far less attention. Now, Republicans hope these voters will further chip away at the margins of Biden’s support in Florida among Latinos. Despite the administration’s hard-line immigration policies and much-criticized response after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, some recent polls have shown the president narrowly beating Biden among Latinos overall in Florida. That message has resonated with some voters, even though Biden is a moderate Democrat who has rejected many ideas from his party’s left flank, such as defunding the police and the “Green New Deal.”

‘Cuba is no closer to democracy.’ In Miami, Biden attacks Trump’s plan in the Americas” via David Smiley, Bianca Padró Ocasio and Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — In his first visit to Miami in more than a year, Biden — the Democratic presidential nominee — attacked Trump’s hard-line policies in the Americas, saying his opponent’s tough talk and steep sanctions have only entrenched Cuba’s Communist government. “The administration’s approach is not working. Cuba is no closer to democracy than it was four years ago,” the former vice president said from a mostly empty gymnasium at José Martí Park in Little Havana, the historic heart of Miami’s Cuban exile community. “There’s more political prisoners. The secret police are as brutal as ever. And Russia is once again a presence in Cuba and Havana.”

While in Miami, Joe Biden takes aim at Donald Trump’s record on Cuba. Image via AP

Mike Pence to stop at The Villages and Orlando Saturday as part of ‘Operation MAGA’ tour” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Pence will be in Florida on Saturday to host two campaign events for Trump 2020. Pence will kick off the day by hosting a ‘Latinos for Trump’ event in Orlando at 1 p.m. Saturday at Central Christian University. This will be followed by ‘Make America Great Again!’ event with the Vice President at The Villages at 3:30 p.m. The visit is part of Trump’s campaign “Operation MAGA,” an effort to keep the GOP presidential bid afloat while the President is treated for COVID-19. The mission includes Trump’s top surrogates, such as Pence and Donald Trump Jr., continuing to host in-person campaign appearances just days after a potential super-spreader event at the White House.

Personnel note: Franco Ripple joins Biden campaign Ripple announced Wednesday that he has joined the Biden-Harris campaign as its North Florida Director. Ripple said he is on leave from his position as communications director for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a position he has held since Fried took office in January 2019. Before his current position, Ripple was vice president of public relations firm CATECOMM. He is also a former spokesperson for the Florida Democratic Party’s state House campaign arm and an alum of Obama’s 2008 campaign in Florida.

Election officials are preparing for potential unrest at the polls” via Jennifer Steinhauer and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times — In a dozen battleground states, the NAACP has thousands of volunteers preparing to monitor voting lines, all to encourage anyone facing harassment to stay in line and to aggressively use social media to amplify their reports. Another group is taking the unusual step of training volunteers to physically block intimidators. Trump has sought to enlist both the full force of the federal government and some state government allies into his efforts to sow discord around the election, falsely insisting that mail-in voting is rife with fraud, cheering on the construction of new barriers to voting and encouraging supporters to monitor polls, possibly with the threat of violence.

— NEW ADS —

Trump ads bash Biden’s record on Puerto Rico — The Trump campaign is running new TV and radio ads highlighting Biden’s record on Puerto Rico. The ads are narrated by Puerto Ricans who were raised on the island and now live in the continental United States. The two spots allege Biden did nothing to help Puerto Rico during his 47 years in public office and highlight his vote to eliminate Section 936, which the Trump campaign claims destroyed the island’s economy and sent its pharmaceutical industry to China. The ads are airing on television, radio, and digital platforms in Puerto Rico, Florida and other key markets.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

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To watch the ad, click on the image below:

America First Action puts $13M into anti-Biden ads — America First Action PAC launched a new ad bashing Biden for his plan to undo the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The ad features a small-businessman, Andres, who says “it really scares me when a politician like Joe Biden says he’s going to raise our taxes.” The spot is backed by a $12.7 million spend that will see the ad air on digital, cable and broadcast in the Miami, Orlando and West Palm media markets through Election Day.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

The latest from The Lincoln Project — The Never Trumpers released this new spot right after the VP debate ended called, “Gasping For Air“:

— VOTERS ARE VOTING —

— 2020 — 

Federal judge sets Thursday hearing to consider whether to extend Florida voter registration” via Dara Kam of News Service of Florida — A federal judge has fast-tracked a lawsuit seeking to extend the time for Floridians to register to vote in the November presidential election, after the state’s online system repeatedly crashed in the hours leading up to a registration deadline Monday. DeSantis’ administration extended the registration deadline until 7 p.m. Tuesday because of the problems, but voting-rights groups quickly filed a lawsuit alleging the extra time was inadequate. Voting rights organizations are asking Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to extend the deadline for two days after he issues an order in the lawsuit. Walker set an 8 a.m. hearing for Thursday to consider the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction.

Ariana Grande wants her fans to vote. Her tweet may have brought down Florida’s website” via Skylar Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida election officials have been puzzled by an “unprecedented” surge in online traffic that overwhelmed the state’s voter registration website Monday night and prompted the extension of the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 3 presidential election. The volume of traffic even led election officials to work with law enforcement to rule out a cyberattack. One possible but less nefarious explanation: Grande tweeted a message about 3 p.m. Monday encouraging her fellow Floridians to register to vote. She has more than 77 million Twitter followers, and her tweet was subsequently retweeted nearly 7,000 times.

Ariana Grande tweeted her fans to register to vote; the Florida website crashed. Image via AP.

Tens of thousands registered to vote when Florida extended its deadline” via Allison Ross of the Miami Herald — More than 40,000 people may have registered to vote in the amount of time the state’s voter registration deadline was extended Tuesday, an attorney representing Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee told a federal judge. During a hearing over a lawsuit that seeks to extend the voter registration deadline further, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker pushed the state for details about how many Floridians may have been affected by outages to the state’s online system before the initial deadline of midnight Monday. The state on Tuesday reopened the registration deadline for several hours. But voter registration groups quickly filed a lawsuit saying at least a two-day extension was needed.

Florida and FBI huddle to game worst-case Election Day scenarios” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — Florida election supervisors huddled with the FBI and state and local law enforcement on Wednesday to game a series of nightmare scenarios heading into Election Day. The scenarios envisioned “American Patriots” protesters blockading polling places, ransomware hitting election servers, mail-in ballots mysteriously disappearing, and fake social media accounts warning that polling locations had been turned into coronavirus testing sites, according to an agenda of the meeting. Secretary of State Lee told election supervisors on the video conference that the exercise was designed to prepare for “worst-case scenarios.”

Alan Grayson endorses opponent in CD 6 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Leave it to Democratic former Rep. Grayson to campaign a little differently. On Wednesday, Democratic congressional candidate Clint Curtis announced that Grayson has endorsed him in Florida’s 6th Congressional District. Technically, Grayson is Clinton’s opponent. Grayson is a write-in candidate in CD 6. He did not drop out to make the endorsement. The CD 6 seat belongs to Republican Rep. Michael Waltz. Waltz appears pretty secure in his reelection bid. The district has an 8-point Republican lean on voter registrations. Waltz has raised more than 100 times as much campaign money as Curtis. Last time out, Waltz’s Democratic opponent, former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, spent millions of dollars on a campaign and had strong backing from the national party and its allies. Yet he beat her 56%-44%.

Congressional Leadership Fund rolls out new ad in CD 26 — The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican Super PAC, launched new ads in 21 U.S. House districts nationwide, including in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. The CD 26 ad hits Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell for her alleged ties to Ukrainian billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky. “Americans just can’t risk Democrats’ dangerous agenda that will not only upend the American way of life but put our jobs, financial well-being and personal safety at risk,” CLF Communications Director Calvin Moore said in a release announcing the ad buy.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell pumps another $143K into ads — Democratic U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell expanded her broadcast ad buy in the Miami market by $142,902 on Wednesday. Her campaign to hold Florida’s 26th Congressional District has now put $444,865 into the ad buy, which started Oct. 7 and continues through Oct. 27. Mucarsel-Powell faces Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez in November and most pollsters consider her to be Florida’s most vulnerable Democratic incumbent this cycle. Only CD 15 has higher odds to flip, though there is no incumbent running in that district.

Facebook says it will block political ads after polls close on Election Day” via Sara Fischer of Axios — Facebook says it plans to temporarily stop running all social issue, electoral, or political ads in the U.S. after the polls close on November 3. The notice comes two weeks after Google informed its advertisers that it would implement a similar rule. Facebook says the goal of the new policy is to reduce opportunities for public confusion about results or messages that misinform the public about election outcomes. Facebook says advertisers can expect this ban to last for a week, although the timeline is subject to change. The company says it will also update its policies to ban implicit calls by users to engage in malicious “poll watching” — visiting a polling place to intimidate voters.

Election stress disorder spreading across U.S. as therapist warns anxiety worse than 2016” via Stephanie Stahl of CBS Philly — A new round of election stress disorder is spreading across the U.S., according to experts. They say the tension is even worse this time because of the coronavirus pandemic. Stress levels have been sky-high for months now. We’ve been dealing with the coronavirus since March and tensions have escalated the last few weeks before the election. “I’m getting a lot of emergency calls of resentment or anger,” therapist Dr. Steven Stosny said. Stosny says stress over the election is causing many Americans to fight with their spouses, friends and co-workers. During the 2016 election, he coined a term for it: election stress disorder. And he says, this year, the anxiety is even worse.

‘The country’s lost its mind’: Polls warning of civil war, violence shows deep partisan chasm over election” via Ledyard King of USA Today — A new poll shows a large swath of Americans harbor deep reservations about the election results weeks before Election Day and are concerned about what actions people might resort to as a consequence. The YouGov poll of 1,999 registered voters found that nearly half – 47% – disagree with the idea that the election “is likely to be fair and honest.” And that slightly more than half – 51% – won’t “generally agree on who is the legitimately elected president of the United States.” The online poll was conducted Oct.1-2 and has a margin of error of +/- 2.56 percentage points.

— LEG. CAMPAIGNS —

—“Republican Ray Rodrigues faces newcomer Democrat Rachel Brown” via Brittany Carloni of the Naples Daily News

Jennifer Webb, Jessica Harrington ‘outraged’ over their unsanctioned use in Democratic ad blasting Bob Gualtieri” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Florida Democratic Party paid for mailers and a television ad attacking Pinellas County Sheriff Gualtieri for, in its view, downplaying rape accusations and not filing charges against rape victims. While they attack Gualtieri, the ads support his Democratic challenger, Eliseo Santana. The mailers list FDP recommended candidates Harrington in Florida House District 64 and Rep. Webb in House District 69. The television ads show both women. Neither gave approval for their name or likeness to be used in the ads. Webb not only condemned the ads but rescinded her endorsement of Santana.

Questionable flyers from Eliseo Santana lost him at least one endorsement.

Sibling dispute: HD 67 challenger Dawn Douglas settled nasty lawsuit with sister over late mother’s property” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — At the end of last year, Douglas settled a lawsuit claiming she had taken advantage of her mother’s deteriorating mental capacity to acquire her mother’s property. Douglas’ sister, Denise Lute Ehrlich, filed suit against Douglas in Pinellas County Court last February as the attorney-in-fact on behalf of Douglas’ mother, Frances Marie Kotsch. Douglas admitted the dispute was heated, and that both she and her sister acted out of turn at times. Douglas used her power of attorney to execute a quitclaim deed on “Ms. Kotsch’s only asset of any substance,” according to the now-settled suit.

Happening today — HD 72 candidates Fiona McFarland, a Republican, and Drake Buckman, a Democrat, are scheduled to appear at an online meeting of the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club, noon. Register at zoom.us/webinar/register.

Survey shows Democrats could flip Trump’s state House district this fall” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new survey shows Democratic Jim Bonfiglio leading GOP Rep. Mike Caruso in the state House District that encapsulates Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago resort. That resort now serves as the President’s primary residence. Bonfiglio’s 2-point lead is well within the survey’s margin of error. But it shows Democrats should make this contest competitive once again after Caruso won the open seat in 2018 by just 32 votes out of more than 78,000 cast. St. Pete Polls found 47% of House District 89 voters plan to support Bonfiglio this fall. Caruso earned 45% support while the remaining 8.5% of respondents were undecided.

— DOWN BALLOT —

In Miami-Dade mayoral race, COVID-19 is the top worry and a Democrat is ahead, poll says” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — The two candidates for Miami-Dade mayor enjoy lopsided support from their political parties, and that’s pushed Daniella Levine Cava into a lead over Esteban “Steve” Bovo Jr. in the officially nonpartisan race between the county commissioners. With mail-in balloting underway in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans, the poll casts Bovo as the underdog in a race to be the county’s mayor after term-limited Giménez prepares to leave office after nine years. The findings show more support for both candidates since the first Bendixen poll of the fall race four weeks ago, when Levine Cava led by seven points.

COVID-19 has propelled Democrat Daniela Levine Cava to a lead over Steve Bovo.

If voters approve, Wolfsonian expansion would kick bakery owners out. No one told them” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — When they moved from France to Miami six years ago, Miriam and Matthieu Bettant dreamed of someday opening a bakery. Last year, they set up shop in South Beach. They had hoped to run their business there for another 30 years. But the proposed expansion of the Wolfsonian-FIU museum would displace the Bettant Bakery and a neighboring restaurant, leading to the demolition of the retail spaces owned by the Florida International University Foundation. The museum’s renovation plan can only proceed if a majority of Miami Beach voters support the project in a citywide referendum in November. But no one told the Bettants.

Downtown Clearwater advisory board election brings more Scientologist candidates” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Downtown property owners will vote next week to fill two seats on the Downtown Development Board, an advisory body that provides grants and marketing to businesses. As in the last election, the vote could increase representation on the board of members tied to downtown’s largest and most influential property owner, the Church of Scientology. Property owners within the development board’s boundaries will consider four candidates: Real estate broker Ray Cassano, real estate broker Terry Novitsky, fitness professional Derek Williams and real estate investor Nick Petrantoni. Cassano, the only incumbent and Novitsky, are members of Scientology. Williams and Petrantoni are not. The two top finishers would get elected.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

COVID-19 death toll is closing in on 15,000 Florida resident deaths” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — The Florida Department of Health on Wednesday reported 14,904 resident deaths, up from 14,767 the day before. The agency has touted a “steady decline in the number of reported Florida resident deaths who were previously diagnosed with COVID-19.” It also compared the second week of August compared to the second week of September, showing a 74% decrease in the average number of reported COVID-19 related deaths. Still, the actual number of deaths are still rising in Florida, with concerns by some that reopening businesses and schools may not have been the best strategy.

Inside a Florida hospital, coronavirus cases wane as strained staff brace for a fall surge” via Abigail Hauslohner of The Washington Post — Nearly two dozen people critically ill with the novel coronavirus were recently being treated at Tampa General Hospital, 10 of them on ventilators. More than a dozen others with noncritical cases filled beds in a dedicated ward. In the emergency room, someone sick with the virus showed up about every hour. This is what a lull looks like. Florida was a hot spot of the coronavirus pandemic this summer. More than 722,000 Floridians have so far been infected with the virus — with a daily high of more than 15,000 cases reported July 12. The state’s intensive care units, including those at Tampa General, were pushed to the brink as the virus spread out of control.

After testing mishap, Quest is still vying for coronavirus testing business in Florida” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — A month ago, Gov. DeSantis cut ties with Quest Diagnostics, the commercial laboratory responsible for handling the vast majority of Florida’s coronavirus testing caseload. The company reported a 75,000-test backlog to the Florida Department of Health in one day, skewing the state’s daily tracking of COVID-19 infections, deaths and positivity rate. Stripped of its contract to work with the state government, Quest is now marketing in Florida and offering rapid COVID-19 tests to patients through its own private business.

Dolphins to keep stadium capacity at 13,000 despite governor’s decision” via Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated — The Dolphins announced on Wednesday they will continue to host only 13,000 fans per game at Hard Rock Stadium for the remainder of 2020 despite a ruling from Gov. DeSantis. The Governor announced Phase 3 of Florida’s re-opening amid the COVID-19 crisis on Sept. 25, which included the re-opening of stadiums within the state to full-capacity. Florida is home to three NFL teams, as well as a number of college football teams. Hard Rock Stadium has a capacity of 65,000, but the Dolphins opted to keep their capacity at 13,000 for Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks.

Inside a Florida hospital, coronavirus cases wane as strained staff brace for a fall surge” via Abigail Hauslohner of The Washington Post — Nearly two dozen people critically ill with the novel coronavirus were recently being treated at Tampa General Hospital, 10 of them on ventilators. More than a dozen others with noncritical cases filled beds in a dedicated ward. This is what a lull looks like. Florida was a hot spot of the coronavirus pandemic this summer. The state’s intensive care units, including those at Tampa General, were pushed to the brink as the virus spread out of control. The spike came weeks after Gov. DeSantis quickly reopened much of the state, casting it as a return to normalcy.

Naples Mayor tests positive for COVID-19” via WINK News — Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann has COVID-19. Her symptoms are mild and she’s still working virtually. But today’s city council meeting will be different: Anyone going will have their temperature checked, and fiberglass partitions will separate council members. The city also encourages mask-wearing and social distancing at the meeting on top of the daily cleaning protocols taken. Heitmann is attending the meeting virtually. The city says someone in her family tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday. That’s when she and two staff members with whom she had been in close contact got the first round of tests.

Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann has COVID-19, although it seems to be a mild case. Image via Naples Daily News.

Miami schools welcome back their largest wave of students in second ‘smooth reopening’” via Colleen Wright and David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — Every public school in the nation’s fourth-largest school district opened to greet all elementary school students plus students in grades 6, 9 and 10. They joined 20,000 students in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade plus students with disabilities on a modified schedule who returned to school Monday. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said no significant or systemic issues were detected. Buses were on time and students were fed breakfast. He did note some issues with a handful of schools that reported early-morning delays with the district’s online portal. “Today was the day we braced ourselves for,” said Carvalho, declaring a smooth reopening. “I am reasonably happy and satisfied.”

With holidays on the horizon, COVID-19 still being spread in Okaloosa County” via Tom McLaughlin of Northwest Florida Daily News — Okaloosa Countians continue to share COVID-19 with one another at an alarming rate, and this week Health Department Director Dr. Karen Chapman warned residents to “consider CDC guidelines” in planning holiday celebrations. In her weekly report sent out Tuesday, Chapman said that for the past four days the county had seen a decline in the percentage of those tested turning up positive for the coronavirus. The numbers actually dropped below the goal of 5 percent on Oct. 3-4, but “as of yet no sustained decline over a two-week period” has been confirmed. “COVID-19 transmission continues,” Chapman reported. The number of cases reported in the county has averaged about 30 per day since Sept. 21.

Florida State eases COVID-19 restrictions, will allow groups of 50 to gather at events” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Following reports of the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests on campus dipping to 2.02 %, Florida State University is relaxing its restrictions on student gatherings. Vice President for Student Affairs Amy Hecht sent out a memo to students saying student organization gatherings of 50 people or fewer is now allowed. The university previously has limited student organization gatherings to 10 or fewer on campus. The news comes one day after the FSU community was hit with the news that FSU President John Thrasher and his wife, Jean, were isolating at after both testing positive for COVID-19.

Bar license suspensions lifted after summer crackdown” via Jim Turner of the Tallahassee Democrat — Drinks can flow at establishments where alcohol licenses were pulled this summer when the state cracked down on violations of coronavirus rules. Nine alcohol license suspensions issued by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation between June 22 and Aug. 10 have been lifted, department spokesman Patrick Fargason said in an email Tuesday. “As of Friday, October 2, 2020, all nine (emergency suspension order) cases have been resolved through a final order; therefore, the nine ESOs that were entered have been vacated, and the suspensions have been lifted from each license,” Fargason said.

— COVID 45 —

Trump may have COVID-19, but many of his supporters still scoff at masks” via Trip Gabriel of The New York Times — On the day that Trump defiantly left the hospital where he was being treated for a coronavirus infection and returned to a White House that appears to be one of Washington’s most contagious hot spots, backers of the president in rural Pennsylvania showed no signs of questioning their own defiance of experts’ advice on how to limit the virus’s spread. Voters who support the president falsely claimed that data from the CDC on deaths and cases were wrong, that getting the virus was no worse than getting the flu, and that it was introduced and kept in the spotlight only by Trump’s Democratic opponents.

Even though Donald Trump has COVID-19, his supporters still mock mask-wearing.

Trump says contracting the virus was ‘a blessing from God’ and hails an unproven drug as ‘a cure.’” via Maggie Haberman and Katie Thomas of The New York Times — Trump on Wednesday released a direct-to-camera video address to the nation in which he called getting the coronavirus “a blessing from God,” calling the unapproved drug a “cure” and saying he would provide hundreds of thousands of doses of unapproved drugs to Americans free of charge. “I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it,” Trump said in the nearly five-minute video, released after nearly two days out of public view and just over three hours before Vice President Pence was scheduled to debate the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Harris of California.

COVID-19 survivors see callousness, not compassion, in Trump’s bout with the virus” via Griff Witte of The Washington Post — Ken Holmes, a retired maintenance worker in Wisconsin, never had much in common with Trump, or much affection for him. But when the president caught a potentially lethal virus that had nearly killed Holmes this year, the 64-year-old saw a rare opportunity for connection. Trump, Holmes thought, might finally understand what he had come to learn through painful experience: The novel coronavirus is a monster that commands respect. “He can still make this right,” Holmes thought. But then Trump stood on the White House balcony Monday night, theatrically ripped off his mask while gasping for breath, and proclaimed the virus was nothing to fear.

The creepy Trump meme taking over Twitter” via Kaitlyn Tiffany of The Atlantic — When Trump announced that he and his wife, Melania, had tested positive for COVID-19, the replies were full of well-wishing, as well as admonishments from others for not being careful. Less expected was a whole host of messages full of indecipherable hexes, pictures of demons, and cursed images of all kinds. “The dead are resurrected day and night without anyone knowing,” reads one tweet written in Punjabi and paired with an image of what appears to be a young female ghost. Others are in Amharic, an Ethiopian language, and say things like “Arise from the ashes of your wickedness and repent before our Lord Lucifer pays your debts.”

White House security official contracted COVID-19 in September” via Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg —  A top White House security official, Crede Bailey, is gravely ill with COVID-19 and has been hospitalized since September, according to four people familiar with his condition. The White House has not publicly disclosed Bailey’s illness. He became sick before the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event President Trump held to announce his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that has been connected to more than a dozen cases of the disease. A White House spokesman declined to comment on Bailey. He is in charge of the White House security office, which handles credentialing for access to the White House.

— CORONA NATION —

Trump administration to penalize hospitals for pandemic data gaps” via Melanie Evans of The Wall Street Journal — Hospitals that fail to provide data to the federal pandemic response effort will face penalties starting in January, the Trump administration said, as federal officials also unveiled plans to expand surveillance to include flu tracking. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus coordinator, and top officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services publicly announced the changes Tuesday, saying they were critical to the continuing U.S. response. Hospitals will be asked to report on flu patients and deaths starting mid-October on a voluntary basis, but the data will later become required, under the announced changes.

Deborah Brix announced penalties for hospitals that fail to provide coronavirus response data. 

Cheap, rapid, at-home tests could rival a vaccine in the fight against COVID-19. Why can’t Americans get them?” via Ken Alltucker of USA Today — Even as advocates cite bureaucratic red tape blocking fast and cheap home coronavirus tests, the federal government’s regulatory agency overseeing testing says it will be flexible and encourage developers to seek approval. The FDA issued a document on July 29 calling for home tests to correctly identify the virus at least 90% of the time. But a high-ranking FDA official overseeing testing told USA TODAY the agency will consider tests with lower sensitivity. Advocates say rapid and cheap home tests might be as important as a vaccine in the fight against COVID-19, even though the tests are less accurate than lab-based PCR tests that cost $100 or more.

‘It is a slaughter’: Infectious disease icon asks CDC director to expose White House, orchestrate his own firing” via Brett Murphy and Letitia Stein of USA Today — Dr. William Foege, a renowned epidemiologist who served under Democratic and Republican presidents, detailed in a private letter he sent last month to CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield his alarm over how the agency has fallen in stature while the pandemic raged across America. Foege, who has not previously been a vocal critic of the agency’s handling of the novel coronavirus, called on Redfield to openly address the White House’s meddling in the agency’s efforts to manage the COVID-19 crisis and then accept the political sacrifice that would follow.

Eli Lilly asks FDA to authorize COVID-19 antibody drug” via Peter Loftus of The Wall Street Journal — Eli Lilly & Co. said it has requested U.S. authorization of the emergency use of an experimental antibody-based treatment for people with recently diagnosed, mild-to-moderate COVID-19, following positive results from clinical testing. The Indianapolis-based company said it is seeking the authorization for its drug, code-named LY-CoV555, which was derived from a blood sample of one of the earliest U.S. survivors of COVID-19. If cleared, it could be the first to treat less severe cases of COVID-19. The few other therapies authorized for COVID-19 treatment, including remdesivir from Gilead Sciences Inc., target hospitalized patients with more serious cases.

Eli Lilly seeks permission on a COVID-19 antibody drug.

Wisconsin activates field hospital as COVID-19 keeps surging” via Todd Richmond of The Associated Press — Wisconsin health officials announced that a field hospital will open next week at the state fairgrounds near Milwaukee as a surge in COVID-19 cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals. Wisconsin has become a hot spot for the disease over the last month. Health experts have attributed the spike to the reopening of colleges and K-12 schools as well as general fatigue over wearing masks and socially distancing. State Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm told reporters during a video conference that the facility will open on Oct. 14. Only 16% of the state’s 11,452 hospital beds were available as of Tuesday afternoon.

Hosting during a pandemic: 30% of Americans will take guests’ temperature before allowing them in” via John Anderer of StudyFinds.org — A new survey of 2,000 Americans finds parties are going to be very different this holiday season. Thirty percent of respondents plan on setting up a mandatory “temperature check” at their front door for all guests. In all, 70 percent say that hosts this year are under much more pressure to keep everyone safe during parties. Over half of those surveyed (54%) say they plan on enforcing strict social distancing rules the next time they host a shindig. Many others (46%) are putting together comprehensive lists of their party guests; so it will be easier to contact trace in the event someone tests positive for COVID-19.

— CORONA ECONOMICS — 

Goldman offers less-dire view of pandemic’s U.S. economic damage” via Olivia Rockeman of Bloomberg — The U.S.’s economic scarring from the pandemic is much less severe than initially feared, Goldman Sachs Group’s economics team said in a note that offered an upbeat take on America’s situation. Commercial bankruptcy filings are below the pre-pandemic level, business closures have proved temporary and unemployment has fallen sharply, which bode well for medium-term recovery prospects, economists said in the note. A vaccine, combined with further fiscal support next year, is expected to limit long-term damage and keep the economy on track for a recovery that could recover “much more rapid than usual,” they said.

Millions brace for more layoffs, hunger and utility shutoffs as stimulus talks break down” via Eli Rosenberg and Heather Long of The Washington Post — Americans left in the lurch by President Trump’s sudden decision to abandon negotiations over a long-delayed stimulus package expressed disbelief, disgust and desperation about Trump’s abrupt move. More than a dozen unemployed workers and struggling business owners affected by the move said that while they are familiar with Washington dysfunction, they are stunned by the latest decision by Trump and Republicans to break discussions off. Many said they are counting on an influx of financial support, as they watched bank accounts dwindle since the expiration of most of the previous aid programs in August.

More Disney World layoffs revealed: 8,857 part-time union employees are losing their jobs” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — About 8,857 part-time Disney World union employees furloughed during the coronavirus pandemic will now be laid off as the theme park cuts about 20% of its workforce. Late last month, the Walt Disney Co. announced it was laying off 28,000 people across its theme park division nationwide, although details were not given how many people would be affected in Orlando. Disney later notified the state that about 6,700 nonunion employees at Disney World were losing their jobs as of Dec. 4 as a part of the 28,000 total. Wednesday’s announcement of the 8,857 part-time jobs now brings the total known layoffs to more than 15,500 at Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney is laying-off even more employees.

Pandemic takes toll on employer-sponsored insurance” via The News Service of Florida — The coronavirus-induced recession nationally has displaced 7.7 million workers who had employer-sponsored health insurance, a new study shows. Conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and the Commonwealth Fund, the analysis also found that 6.9 million dependents were covered, bringing the potential number of people losing employer-sponsored insurance to more than 14 million. “This study illustrates how the country’s predominantly job-based health insurance system leaves workers and their families at risk of losing coverage during a severe economic downturn,” Sara Collins, Commonwealth Fund vice president for health care coverage, access and tracking, said.

— MORE CORONA — 

Even mild COVID-19 infections can make people sick for months” via Jason Gale of Bloomberg — Two-thirds of patients who had a mild-to-moderate case of COVID-19 reported symptoms 60 days after falling ill when more than a third still felt sick or in a worse condition than when their coronavirus infection began. Prolonged symptoms were more likely among patients aged 40 to 60 years and those who required hospitalization, according to the staff at Tours University Hospital, who followed 150 noncritical patients from March to June. Their study adds to evidence that a proportion of the 35 million people known to have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus worldwide will suffer lingering effects weeks to months later.

Chris Christie remains hospitalized with COVID-19 in New Jersey” via Carl Campanile and David Meyer of the New York Post — Christie remained hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday for the fourth straight day. The one-time presidential candidate has been at Morristown Medical Center since Saturday afternoon. Insiders said Christie is holding up, and has been taking phone calls. “He’s in good spirits and getting good care,” said a source familiar with his condition. Christie has asthma, a respiratory condition that makes him more vulnerable to coronavirus complications, and is playing it safe, the source said. “The governor is doing fine. He’s just being cautious,” another insider said.

Paris hospitals are feeling the strain from a new influx of patients.” via Aurelien Breeden, Isabella Kwai and Christopher F. Schuetze of The New York Times — More than 40% of patients hospitalized in intensive care units in the Paris region have COVID-19, the French authorities said this week, warning that local hospitals were coming under increasing strain from an influx of new cases. Over 2,300 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized in Ile-de-France, the region that includes the French capital and that is the country’s most populated. Nearly 450 of them are in intensive care, and some hospitals have started to defer surgeries to make additional room. Aurélien Rousseau, the head of the health authority for Ile-de-France, warned that COVID-19 patients could take up half of all intensive care units within the next 10 to 15 days if new restrictions put in place don’t make an impact.

Paris hospitals are beginning to get overwhelmed.

Italy makes face masks mandatory, even outdoors, around the country.” via Gaia Pianigiani of The New York Times — The Italian government announced a new order making face masks mandatory around the country on Wednesday, including in outdoor areas when social distancing cannot be maintained, in an effort to stem the second wave of virus cases. The decree was approved in Parliament on Wednesday despite opposition from right-wing lawmakers. Over 40 members of the body were themselves in quarantine this week after three members tested positive for the virus. Italy has reported 17,252 cases over the last seven days. While the numbers remain far below the devastating first wave in the spring, the country has seen cases rise 58% over the last two weeks, raising concern among health experts.

Enjoy your meal — quickly. Restaurants introduce time limits.” via Alina Dizik of The Wall Street Journal — When Kate Hayes showed up recently at a Chicago restaurant, she was surprised to learn that the wine-pairing dinner came with a 90-minute limit. Though it was a weekday and there were plenty of empty tables, the meal felt more like “Beat the Clock” than a leisurely catch-up. “I thought, OK, I’ve got to suck this one down before the next wine arrives,” says Ms. Hayes, the 33-year-old co-founder of a gifting company. To survive the pandemic, some restaurants are taking an unusual approach to hospitality: showing diners the door. They are limiting meals to 90 minutes or two hours to stay afloat amid capacity limits due to the virus.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida says it overpaid some unemployment benefits and wants money back” via Kirby Wilson of the Miami Herald — Since March 15, the Department of Economic Opportunity says it has paid out more than $17 billion in state and federal unemployment claims. As Florida’s economy is beginning to show signs of a resurgence, an untold number of Floridians are getting notices from the department notifying them that they were paid by mistake. Those people owe the state money. But officials at Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity won’t disclose how many owe the state a refund. A spokeswoman for the Department replied this week that calculating how much the state is owed in refunds would remove resources from paying unemployed Floridians their benefits.

Justices look again at high-stakes marijuana case” via News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court made the unusual move of hearing a second round of arguments in a challenge to a state law aimed at implementing Florida’s medical marijuana amendment. Tampa-based Florigrown LLC is challenging the 2017 law. Florigrown, whose owners include prominent strip-club operator Joe Redner, alleges the law improperly carries out the amendment. One part of the law requires medical marijuana operators to handle all aspects of the cannabis business, including growing, processing, distributing and selling. But Florigrown maintains “vertical integration” runs afoul of the constitutional amendment, approved by more than 71% of Floridians in 2016. Vertical integration limits the number of companies that can participate in the industry, the Tampa business contends.

Joe Redner gets another shot at the Florida Supreme Court.

Vetoed SHIP funds could jeopardize homebuyer education program” via Molly Duerig of Bay News 9 — HANDS, an agency certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, provides one-on-one counseling for clients as well as an immersive, 8-hour homebuyer seminar that features talks from Realtors, loan officers and home inspectors. “We’re here to educate them and kind of be a resource and a guide to them, to say OK, this is the next step,” said Amanda Hough, supervisor of housing counseling at HANDS. “We do an action plan with every client,” Hough said. HANDS, a nonprofit agency, is funded by a variety of grants and foundations, as well as with dollars from Florida’s SHIP. Gov. DeSantis decided in July to strip SHIP entirely from Florida’s budget.

Assignment editors — GrayRobinson, Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce and Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce host the virtual event ‘Purple State Politics: Discussing Florida’s Unique Geographical and Political Diversity’ moderated by shareholder Chris Dawson and featuring Reps. Alex Andrade, Dan Daley and Nick Duran, as well as HD1 candidate Michelle Salzman, 10 a.m. To register, visit gray-robinson.zoom.us/webinar/register.

Skanska a ‘very frustrating partner’ legislators say after Pensacola Bay Bridge meeting” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola legislators voiced frustration at Skanska’s lack of public response to the community’s concerns about the damage the Pensacola Bay Bridge suffered during Hurricane Sally. “This was a great positive, productive meeting full of a lot of consummate professionals, but there was one very notable absence,” Rep. Alex Andrade said following a closed-door meeting with the Florida Department of Transportation officials at Pensacola City Hall. “I would challenge any single person watching any of these videos in any of these streams to put a face to Skanska.”

State closes in on ‘once in a generation’ land deal” via The News Service of Florida — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced the closing on a long-sought 17,088-acre tract in Franklin and Wakulla counties that includes a restrictive easement for the U.S. Air Force. The $43 million deal with Ochlockonee Timberlands, a subsidiary of AgReserves, Inc., for the property was approved by DeSantis and the Cabinet on May 28. The purchase, the largest by the governor and Cabinet in more than a decade, was negotiated with The Nature Conservancy, which contributed $2.25 million for the transaction. Temperince Morgan, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida, called the deal a “once in a generation win for the environment, for the local community and for Florida.”

FWC puts hold on oyster harvesting decision” via The News Service of Florida — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission delayed a vote on finalizing a suspension of wild-oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay for five years. FWC Commission Executive Director Eric Sutton said some people in the Northwest Florida area have had late concerns and “we’d like to take some more time to shore up our communication with those concerned.” Sutton added that because the commission on July 22 backed an executive order to impose the ban, the delay doesn’t change the agency’s action, which is part of a $20 million effort to improve the oyster population and revitalize the collapsed fishery.

Appointed Elijah “Ed” Armstrong, III and John Mitten to the Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board; Angus “Gus” Andrews to the Northwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board.

— D.C. MATTERS —

‘Where are all of the arrests?’: Trump demands Bill Barr lock up his foes” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Trump mounted an overnight Twitter blitz demanding to jail his political enemies and call out allies he says are failing to arrest his rivals swiftly enough. Trump twice amplified supporters’ criticisms of Attorney General Barr, including one featuring a meme calling on him to “arrest somebody!” He wondered aloud why his rivals, like Barack Obama, Biden and Hillary Clinton hadn’t been imprisoned for launching a “coup” against his administration. The daylong run of tweets and retweets marked the most frantic stretch of Trump’s public activity since he left the presidential suite at Walter Reed Medical Center and returned to treatment at the White House.

AG William Barr is getting his marching orders to start locking up Donald Trump’s ‘enemies.’

— LOCAL NOTES —

Everyone is on 95. Except the police.” via Brittany Wallman, Megan O’Matz and John Maines of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In South Florida, Interstate 95 is loathed and for good reason. It’s the deadliest highway in the state, a lawless ribbon of asphalt that police have largely ignored, according to an investigation by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Dangerous and drunken drivers can speed or tailgate for miles without ever encountering a state trooper. Legislators and a host of governors have long ignored the danger on I-95, while the state approved dedicated patrols for other highways, including Florida’s Turnpike and Alligator Alley on Interstate 75. Even the less deadly Interstate 4 in Central Florida got its own unit of troopers 16 years ago.

I95 is hated in Miami, with good reason.

Investigators interview Orlando, Orange County mayors in airport probe” via Jason Garcia of the Orlando Sentinel —  Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings met last month with investigators looking into possible Sunshine Law violations on the board that runs Orlando International Airport. Carson Good, the chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s governing board, and airport Executive Director Phil Brown were also interviewed earlier in the summer. None of the four would discuss interviews in any detail. But Dyer said the probe is focused on a meeting in August 2019 in which the five gubernatorial appointees on the seven-member airport board attempted to replace the agency’s top attorney with two new lawyers who would have been given unadvertised, no-bid contracts.

Principal in Holocaust controversy rehired by school board in 4-3 vote” via Andrew Marra of The Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County School Board members voted 4-3 to give former Spanish River High School principal William Latson an administrative job and $152,000 in back pay, accepting a recommendation from an administrative law judge. Board members made clear they were reluctant to rehire an administrator who ignited a firestorm by refusing to call the Holocaust a historical fact in an email to a parent, then falsely blamed the parent for the controversy. But they said the judge’s recommended order gave them little leeway to ignore it. Refusing to rehire Latson could mean a lawsuit from him and another costly court battle. Already, district officials said, the school board had spent more than $106,000 defending his termination in administrative court.

— SMOLDERING —

Why are so many Latinos obsessed with demonizing Black Lives Matter? It’s complicated.” via Tim Padgett of WLRN — Biden is expected to win the Latino vote big. But not so big in Florida. A new Florida International University poll gives Trump a 34-point lead with Cuban voters in Miami-Dade County. In another poll, Trump has two-thirds of Florida’s Venezuelan voters. Many Colombians support him as well. Among the reasons many Latinos here say they prefer Trump is that many have fled left-wing regimes in Latin America. And so this summer many Latinos started to loudly express contempt for — and falsehoods about — the Black Lives Matter (BLM) racial justice movement.

— TOP OPINION —

How Trump has made the country better off than it was four years ago” via Hugh Hewitt of The Washington Post — Have Trump and the Republicans helped you since they assumed office in 2017, or are you the same or worse off than you were nearly four years ago? My guess is that the President and the GOP have helped you. Yes, of course, count the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. But I think Trump has done as well as any President could have done — and better than Biden would have done. Now consider that you are much safer and more secure under this President than you were on Jan. 20, 2017, because of the military buildup Trump has overseen.

— OPINIONS —

Mike Pence’s re-election case” via the Wall Street Journal editorial board — The pre- and post-debate spin about Wednesday’s clash of vice-presidential candidates from the left was that it’s merely a sideshow. They say the appearance of rhetorical norms is an illusion with Trump at the top of the ticket. But Pence and Harris did a public service by offering a contrast on issues and values that voters aren’t getting from the media or the presidential candidates. The Vice President did as well as he could playing defense on the pandemic, especially with his accurate gibe that Biden’s policy sounds like policy plagiarism.

Collapse of Florida’s voter registration system reveals troubling state oversight” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Millions of people logged onto Florida’s online voter registration portal Monday to register to vote for the Nov. 3 election. As if on cue, the system crashed under the weight of civic participation. Frustrated users got error messages or were told to try later. Later? The window for signing up was midnight Monday and was closing fast. The fifth reported collapse of the system in three years reinforces three troubling perceptions. One, this state can’t manage technology. Two, the risk of a cyberattack persists. Or three, the Republicans who run Tallahassee don’t want more people voting.

Should Florida’s minimum wage be raised to $15?” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Raising the state minimum wage to $15 an hour sounds appealing. The hefty bump would increase the income of hundreds of thousands of Floridians. What’s not to like? Well, quite a bit, when you peel back the layers. The minimum wage debate is often cast as moral champions against unfeeling capitalists. But it’s far more complicated. There’s no glossing over that a $15 minimum wage creates winners, but it always creates losers. Raising the base wage by so much so quickly will increase costs for businesses. In turn, prices will rise, shifting some burden onto regular Floridians.

District 32 voters should choose Stephanie Dukes over Anthony Sabatini, the worst person in the Legislature” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The strongest evidence of Sabatini’s failure to represent his Lake County constituents is found in his Twitter account. Since the coronavirus outbreak, Sabatini has managed to post hundreds upon hundreds of tweets expressing his outrage over everything from masks to stay-at-home orders, including repeated, all-caps demands to “FIRE FAUCI.” How many times did the Republican tweet about the unemployment system that frustrated hundreds of thousands of desperate Floridians, who had lost their jobs and needed money to pay the bills? Not once, according to a search of his Twitter feed since March. Well, he did type the word “unemployment” one time to complain about the state’s order to close bars.

— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —

Florida reached another milestone in the fight against COVID-19, with more than 15,000 fatalities in the Sunshine State. Dr. Kitonga Kiminyo is an infectious disease specialist from Palm Beach County; he says we’re nowhere near the end of this

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The Florida Department of Health reported 139 additional fatalities from COVID-19 Wednesday and more than 2,500 new cases.

— Last night was the first (and only) debate between the vice-presidential candidates; Florida Democrats were lining up to attack Pence before it even started.

— South Florida Democrats are also piling on the President for saying he won’t talk about another coronavirus relief package until after the election, then apparently reversing himself during a tweetstorm.

— Miami Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson also has a new way to describe Trump — the “freeloader-in-chief.”

— Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp talks about facing the Florida Supreme Court to represent one of the groups suing over Florida’s medical marijuana law. He began by paraphrasing Shakespeare

— And finally, a Florida Man who ended up in jail after firing his AR-15 assault rifle when the census taker came calling.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Florida grapefruit season to start early October with a good outlook” via Sydney Allison of Fresh Plaza — The Florida citrus season is set to start early October, and for IMG Citrus, the projections for this coming season are looking good. Sydney Allison, IMG Citrus Director of Sales, shares: “The harvest has started now, and we are on track to begin packing October 5, so overall this season’s timing has been good and about a week ahead of last season for IMG.” IMG Citrus is a grower of fresh citrus in Florida, with over 10,000 acres of grapefruit, navel oranges, juice oranges, tangerines, and easy-peel mandarins. Florida has been getting consistent rain this summer, which has assisted in creating good growing conditions for the citrus crop.

‘The West Wing’ reunion adds Sterling K. Brown in a special role” via Meaghan Darwish of TV Insider — The West Wing is welcoming a new face for its upcoming October 15 reunion on HBO Max. A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote, which sees the return of most of the original main cast members, will include a staged presentation of the Season 3 episode, “Hartsfield’s Landing.” And some special guests are also entering the fold, including This Is Us favorite Brown in a key role. Brown addressed the news on Twitter, writing, “A true bucket list moment for yours truly! Thanks for the hospitality, #WestWing #Vote.” Orchestrated by Aaron Sorkin, the adapted theatrical episode will drop on the streamer just weeks ahead of the presidential election.

Sterling K. Brown will have a special role in the West Wing reunion. Image via AP.

Movie theaters welcome back public with private rentals” via Abraham Galvan of Miami Today — By creating safe environments for patrons, local movie theaters are slowly reopening and welcoming back the public with private screenings and facility rentals. An option that has always been offered, theater rentals are becoming the new way to enjoy the big-screen experience in a comfortable atmosphere among close friends and family members. The rentals are geared toward movie screenings, but customers can host a variety of events, such as birthday parties or company meetings, as long as no more than 20 people attend, he explained. “We want to give people in Miami an opportunity to kick back, relax and have fun in a safe environment,” said Javier Chavez, Coral Gables Art Cinema associate director.

Silver Slipper restaurant razed, remembered as longtime haven for the state’s politicos” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — After serving its last meal over a decade ago, the Silver Slipper restaurant finally passed into the ages as a heavy-duty crane clawed its building to rubble. The longtime steakhouse was razed; by Monday’s end, all that remained were piles of debris that hardly resembled the hidden haven it once was to politicians, lobbyists and reporters of yesteryear. In April 2009, it closed and was crowned Tallahassee’s oldest restaurant. In a capital city teeming with power brokers, the restaurant’s curtained booths offered privacy for cutting deals and forging alliances.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Matt Alford, the Executive Director at Drive Electric Florida, Rene Flowers, journalist Anne Geggis, the wonderful Vivian Myrtetus, Gordon Oldham, and FDP executive director Juan Penalosa.

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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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