Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.14.20

Sunburn Orange Tally (3)
Your morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

🎂 — Happy birthday to one of the nicest men (I don’t care what you say, Chris Spencer) in Florida politics, our friend Shane Strum.

Chief of Staff to the previous three Governors of Florida, Shane Strum turns 51 today. Photo by Mary Beth Tyson.

🔥 — Please read my op-ed in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Why no outrage from Gov. DeSantis about planned violence against fellow governors?

🎙️ — This podcast with Adam Smith and pollster Ryan Tyson is a must-listen. Tyson doesn’t make predictions, but in this interview, he comes pretty close to forecasting what he thinks will happen on November 3.

😷 — If you read one article about the coronavirus pandemic, make it David Wallace-Wells’ piece for New York Magazine, The third wave of the pandemic is here.

⏲️ — How soon until José Oliva is no longer House Speaker? Given these ridiculous comments, not soon enough.

⏰ — Remember to set your alarm set for 3 a.m. for the debut of this:


Tweet, tweet:

@SenateMajLdr: Judge [Amy Coney] Barrett is just as brilliant and impressive as advertised. She is clearly qualified. She’s committed to fairness and impartiality. And she clearly understands the job of a judge under the Constitution is to apply the law and not impose personal policy views.

@EWErickson: A presidential rally in middle Georgia three weeks before the election is typically not a good sign.

@ChrisSprowls: Amendment 3 could shut out entire viewpoints from the electoral system — it’s a political roulette wheel.

—@realannapaulina: Press release regarding election interference will be tomorrow. This will set the precedence for future legislation. Politicians talk. I don’t. I believe in the first amendment & the sanctity of the election process. I’m taking this fight to the Supreme Court.

@RPerrinRogers: Hey @JimmyMidyette, as if your blatant lies about my spouse aren’t enough — stop robocalling me. I’m not a Duval voter. I don’t care about you, or your grandmother’s opinion of you


Stone crab season starts — 1; NBA free agency (tentative) — 4; Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 6; HBO debuts 2000 presidential election doc ‘537 Votes’ — 7; third presidential debate (tentative) at Belmont — 8; “The Empty Man” premieres — 9; 2020 General Election — 20; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 27; The Masters begins — 29; NBA draft — 35; Pixar’s “Soul” premieres — 37; College basketball season slated to begin — 42; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 49; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 49; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 64; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 72; Greyhound racing ends in Florida — 78; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 116; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 126; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 141; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 170; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 261; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 268; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 282; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 290; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 387; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 390; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 422; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 486; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 539; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 720; Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” premieres — TBD.


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 President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe 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 Tuesday, the CNN average has Biden staying 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. As of Tuesday, Biden is still at an 86 in 100 chance of winning compared to Trump, who remains at a 13 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 24.7%, while Florida is second with 16.1%. Wisconsin dropped to 14.2 % Other states include Michigan (11.1%), Minnesota (5.6%), North Carolina (4.8%). Arizona (4.5%) and Nevada (3.1%).

Polling in battleground states shows Joe Biden holding on to the lead. Image via AP.

PredictIt: As of Tuesday, the PredictIt trading market has Biden dropping to $0.65 a share, with Trump holding steady at $0.40.

POLITICO: Arizona is a full-fledged electoral battleground in 2020, even though Republicans have carried the state in five straight presidential races. Something to watch: In the 2018 Senate race, Republican Martha McSally led the vote count on Election Day, but late-tabulated ballots put Democrat Kyrsten Sinema over the top. A protracted count is likely again this fall. As Biden has surged to a national lead, most high-quality polls show him with a significant lead in Michigan. Polls show Biden with a 5-10 point lead in Pennsylvania — the largest swing state other than Florida.

Real Clear Politics: As of Tuesday, the RCP average of polling top battleground states has Biden leading Trump 51.6% to 41.6%. The RCP average now has Biden averaging +10 points ahead.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball — There is now a very strong relationship between the outcomes of presidential and Senate elections. We can therefore predict the results of the 2020 Senate elections based on recent presidential polling in the states. Analysis of this polling data indicates that Democrats are likely to achieve a net gain of between one and eight seats with the most likely result a net gain of five seats, which would give them a 52-48 seat majority.

The Economist: As of Tuesday, their model is still predicting 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 better than 9 in 10 (91%) versus Trump with less than 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 1% (less than 1 in 20).


New research explores authoritarian mindset of Donald Trump’s core supporters” via Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post — The Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been a catastrophic failure, with researchers at Oxford University estimating that its mismanagement of the crisis resulted in nearly 60,000 preventable deaths. And yet, despite the tumult of the past eight months, Trump’s favorability numbers have barely budged: His approval rating hovers in the low 40s, just as it has most of his presidency. As the economy cratered and COVID-19 mortality skyrocketed, the Trump faithful stuck with him, lending credence to his infamous 2016 campaign boast that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody” and not lose any support.

Donald Trump tosses face masks into the crowd as he arrives for a campaign rally at Orlando Sanford International Airport. Researchers are looking into why Trump supporters are so loyal, despite the last tumultuous eight months. Image via AP.

Joe Biden making increasingly aggressive pitch to moderate voters” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Biden is making an increasingly aggressive pitch to moderate voters, seeking to capitalize on anger at Trump and cement a broad base of support anchored in the center of the political spectrum. The former Vice President’s strategy was apparent on Monday as he campaigned in Ohio, a state Trump won decisively four years ago thanks to White working-class voters. In the last few weeks of the campaign, Biden is trying to convince these swing voters that Trump let them down amid signs that the President’s support has eroded.

Biden says he’s ‘not a fan of court-packing’” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Biden, who for weeks has avoided saying whether he supports expanding the Supreme Court, said Monday that he is “not a fan” of the idea that has gained steam in his party’s liberal wing. “I’ve already spoken on — I’m not a fan of court-packing. But I’m not — I don’t want to get off on that whole issue,” Biden said in an interview with WKRC-TV in Cincinnati. “I want to keep focused.” Biden has faced growing questions from the news media about his position, and Republicans have criticized his refusal to take a public stance. His remarks went well beyond what he has said in recent weeks, showing his strong skepticism on the proposal.

Florida could seal Trump’s fate on Election Night” via Joshua Green of Bloomberg — Trump has a lot to worry about right now, but winning Florida should be at or near the top of his list. There’s no realistic path to reelection for him without it. In 2016, Trump carried Florida by crushing Hillary Clinton among voters ages 65 and older, who, exit polls showed, supported him by a 17-point margin. But seniors are a group that’s moved away from Trump during his presidency, and even more so with the onset of COVID-19. Early returns in senior-heavy Florida suggest they may vote in historic numbers. That would seem to be bad news for Trump.

Democrats dominate early voting in Florida” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Republicans typically hold a slight edge in absentee ballot returns in Florida elections. But this year, there’s been a stunning development. For the first time ever at this stage of a general election, Democrats here are outvoting Republicans — and by a mammoth 384,000-vote margin through Tuesday. The unprecedented early voting numbers have electrified Democrats in President Trump’s must-win swing state, but Florida campaign veterans warn that it’s too early for the party to celebrate. “There’s a big wave of Republicans coming. And frankly, that’s a data point that a lot of people tweeting about this fail to realize,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic operative.

Trump puts mask politics at center stage in Florida” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Trump was in Florida Monday playing campaigner-in-chief for a crowd of thousands of mask-less supporters packed into an airport hangar in suburban Orlando. Trump, himself maskless, was back on the campaign trail 10 days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, which he used to make his case for reelection to battleground state voters deeply divided over the government’s handling of the pandemic. The coronavirus, which has killed more than 15,000 Floridians, is not something to be feared, Trump said. It’s something the administration has already defeated.

FAU poll: Biden regains lead over Trump in Florida” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — Three weeks before votes are counted, Biden has opened up a 51% to 47% lead over Trump in Florida, according to a new Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative poll. “The big thing for most people is that, in a state that Trump must win, Biden has moved a little bit ahead,” said Kevin Wagner, a professor of political science at FAU and a research fellow of the Initiative. FAU’s latest survey mirrors what other polls have recently shown, that Biden holds a lead over Trump that’s greater than the margin of error. But the gap between the two rivals in FAU’s poll is less than what other polls have found.

Biden aims to erode Trump’s support among older voters in Florida” via Patricia Mazzei and Thomas Kaplan of The New York Times — Biden turned his attention on Tuesday to older Americans, making a case in South Florida that President Donald Trump viewed seniors as “expendable” and that they were paying the price for the president’s poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “The only senior that Donald Trump cares about — the only senior — is senior Donald Trump,” Biden said in a speech at a community center in Pembroke Pines, a city in the vote-rich Democratic stronghold of Broward County.

Trump to make campaign stop in Fort Myers on Friday” via WINK — Trump will visit downtown Fort Myers on Friday, according to a local government official familiar with the plans. It’s likely to be earlier in the day, as Trump is scheduled to be in Ocala at 4 p.m. and in Georgia at 7 p.m.

Mike Pence to campaign in Miami” via The News Service of Florida — Vice President Pence will make appearances Thursday in Miami, as Trump’s reelection campaign ratchets up its focus on Florida. Pence is slated to take part in a 12:30 p.m. event at Memorial Cubano, followed by making a 2:30 p.m. appearance at Lubavitch Educational Center, according to an announcement Tuesday from the Trump campaign. Pence’s appearances will come the day before Trump holds a rally Friday in Ocala. Also, Trump is slated Wednesday to speak remotely to members of the Economic Club of Florida and five other economic clubs across the country. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Biden campaigned Tuesday afternoon in Broward County. The appearances point to Florida’s role as a key battleground in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Mike Pence is making the latest of many campaign visits to Florida.

‘With Trump it’s simple: You’re expendable.’ Biden rips POTUS in seniors event” via David Smiley, Joey Flechas and Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — With Florida Democrats voting by mail at a record pace, Biden dove into deep blue Broward County Tuesday in the hope of expanding his pre-Election Day lead over Trump. Biden began his afternoon with a speech in Pembroke Pines designed to undercut Trump among senior voters by ripping his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. From there, he planned to hold a get-out-the-vote rally in Miramar as part of a national effort by his campaign and the Democratic National Committee to encourage voters to make a plan to vote.

Michael Bloomberg gives $500,000 to Miami-Dade Dems to spur turnout” via The Associated Press — Bloomberg is donating $500,000 to juice Democratic turnout in Miami-Dade County, a place where the party must bank a massive number of votes if it hopes to win the pivotal swing state of Florida. The donation, the largest ever made to the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party, could not only lift Joe Biden’s chances of winning the state, which would all but eliminate Trump’s path to a second term. The effort to increase turnout also could improve the fortunes of Daniella Levine Cava, Democratic candidate for county mayor, whose victory could have statewide and national implications that transcend the local nature of the office.

Get ready for a strange election night” via Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg Opinion — First, a really good point from the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman: It is absolutely imperative that every news outlet prepare viewers for the reality that unprecedented partisan polarization of early/EDay votes makes lopsided batches of results expected, not suspicious, on Nov. 3. Second, a word of caution about first impressions of election problems. What may seem really weird, and possibly a sign of trouble, might not be. Listen to the experts, not to partisans. Third, almost 11 million ballots have been accepted so far, with a solid majority of states already receiving absentee ballots (mailed or dropped off), in-person early votes, or both.

Majority of Israelis prefer Trump over Biden — poll” via Cody Levine of The Jerusalem Post — A new poll published by I24News and conducted by the Direct Falls Research Institute on Monday found that 63.3% of Israelis prefer the reelection of Trump, compared to 18.8% who prefer Biden. Respondents indicated that a majority believe Trump will be a better president for the State of Israel, a minority of Israelis said the same about Biden. 10.4% of respondents said that both candidates would be equally good for the State of Israel, while 3.1% said neither. Israelis were also asked about the personal ties between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and its potential impact on US-Israel relations, with some 50.9% of respondents saying that the election of Biden will harm future relations between the two countries.


Trump ad blasts Biden’s silence on court-packing — The Trump campaign launched an ad denouncing Biden’s refusal to answer whether he would pack the Supreme Court. “For 150 years the supreme court has had nine seats, but the radical left wants to pack the court with liberal judges and Joe Biden won’t tell us where he stands,” the ad narrator states. “Biden doesn’t believe the voters deserve to know. After 47 years in Washington, Biden is too arrogant to answer and too weak to stand up to the radical left.” In contrast, Trump’s campaign asserts that the President “has been absolutely transparent” in his plans for the court. The campaign did not specify where the ad would air or on what mediums.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Barack Obama urges Floridians to make a voting plan — Former President Obama is amplifying the DNC’s call for Floridians to make a plan to vote in a new ad. “History shows that the easiest way to make sure that you and your friends vote is to make a plan. And when it comes to voting this year, having a plan has never been more important,” Obama says in the ad. He then encourages Floridians to visit to learn about the different options to cast their ballot and make a plan to vote. The video highlights how Florida voters have several options to conveniently cast their ballot, including early voting, mail voting, or in-person voting on Election Day.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Biden targets Millennial men with GOTV ad series — The Biden campaign is rolling out a series of ads featuring millennial men in conversation and a rap battle ad with Ultimate Rap League, as the campaign continues its efforts to mobilize Black voters to vote. The “Conversation Series” highlights four young Black men discussing issues impacting Black communities. The campaign said each ad in the series started running on TV, radio and digital nationwide and in all battleground states on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the rap battle spot features rappers Charlie Clips and DNA debating over whether their vote matters in this election. The four-minute video is being cut into 60-second clips and airing on digital platforms.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


To watch the ad, click on the image below:

America Ferrera encourages Latinos to vote in new DNC ad — A new digital ad from the DNC features actress Ferrera urging Latino voters to show turn out in the election. “It has never been more important for you to exercise your right to vote than this year. There’s a lot on the line in this election, especially for our community,” the film and TV star says. She then reiterates a common thread in the latest volley of DNC ads by asking viewers to visit or its Spanish-language sister site An English language version of the ad will run in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia. A Spanish language version will run in Arizona and Florida.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


Priorities USA Action, Latino Victory Fund play ‘Deal Or No Deal’ in new ad — Priorities USA Action and Latino Victory Fund released a new Spanish-language ad contrasting Trump’s “record of failure on every front” with Biden’s “strong track record of steady leadership and his unique fitness for this crucial moment in our country’s history.” The ad, “Deal Or No Deal,” a narrator exclaims “no deal” after every ding against Trump, while each Biden selling point is followed by an enthusiastic “deal.” The ad will air on TV in Florida as part of the PACs’ partnership with billionaire Bloomberg, who has committed $100 million to help Biden win the Sunshine State.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


— 2020 — 

Cook Political Report moves Senate races in Texas, Georgia, Alaska toward Democrats” via Zack Budryk of The Hill — Cook changed its rating for Alaska’s Senate race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.” In Texas, Cook also shifted the race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.” Cook also shifted Georgia’s Senate special election from “lean Republican” to “tossup.” Georgia will also hold a standard Senate election for its other seat, which is also listed as a “tossup.” Last week, the nonpartisan handicapper shifted the South Carolina Senate race from “lean Republican” in favor of incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham to a “tossup,” giving Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison a boost.

Save Florida Jobs ad warns voters about Amendment 3’s fine print — A political committee opposing the $15 minimum wage amendment’s urged voters to read the fine print on the ballot before ticking a box. The 18-second ad by Save Florida Jobs cites ballot language associated with Amendment 2 that warns of higher taxes and loss of government services if passed. The attack ad comes less than three weeks before Florida voters will decide on Amendment 2. If passed, the amendment would bump the minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2021. It would then rise $1 each year until it hits $15 in 2026. The constitutional amendment will require at least 60% approval from voters to pass.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Party-backed lawsuit attempts to derail amendment to let all voters vote in primaries” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Faced with a constitutional amendment that threatens to undermine political party dominance over legislative races, a bipartisan pair of legislative leaders announced a lawsuit financed by the GOP was filed in the Florida Supreme Court asking the court to remove Amendment 3 from the November ballot. The citizen initiative known as All Voters Vote asks voters to end the practice that prevents anyone who has not registered with a party from deciding who runs in the general election.

Magic Johnson lends star power to All Voters Vote initiative” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — In a no-frills video, the All Voters Vote campaign launched its first ad of the election Tuesday highlighting support from Johnson. “Amendment 3 guarantees that all voters can vote. Amendment 3 will ensure that politicians listen to everyone. Join me in supporting amendment 3 and let all voters vote. It’s simple, it’s common sense and, well, it’s magic,” Johnson says in the 30-second spot. Titled, “It’s Magic,” the video contains just one shot of Johnson sitting against a bare taupe wall wearing a gray sports blazer with a white undershirt.

New ad buys:

CD 4: Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford made a $109K buy for a broadcast flight running through Oct. 19. Rutherford has now spent $596K on ads this cycle. Democratic challenger Donna Deegan has spent $410K, including $233K on ads yet to air.

CD 7: Republican Leo Valentin made a $42K buy for broadcast ads running through Oct. 19 and added $3K to his cable buy, which also runs through Oct. 19. Valentin has now spent $158K on ads this cycle. Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy has spent $66K.

Leo Valentin makes another big ad buy in his bid to unseat Stephanie Murphy. 

CD 13: Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist cut $499 from his Oct. 13-19 broadcast buy in the Tampa market. He has spent $1.72M on ads this cycle, including $771K on ads that have yet to air. Republican nominee Anna Paulina Luna has spent $600K.

CD 26: House Majority PAC, which supports Democratic congressional candidates, redirected $827K in prior Miami market ad buys to the race for CD 26, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is running for reelection against Republican Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez.

CD 27: House Majority PAC cut $1.89M from their broadcast flight running through Nov. 2 in the contest for CD 27, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala faces Republican Maria Elvira Salazar.


Wilton Simpson, Chris Sprowls raise big in last week of September” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Cash continues to flow into political committees chaired by incoming Senate President Simpson and House Speaker-Designate Sprowls, new finance reports show. Reports spanning Sept. 26 through Oct. 2 show Sprowls’ committee, Floridians for Economic Freedom, reeled in nearly $158,000 across a dozen checks. He has raised nearly $5.5 million through his political committee since it launched five years ago. It entered October with nearly $3 million in the bank. Simpson, who will take over as Senate President in November, raised about $81,000 through his main political committee, Jobs for Florida. Jobs for Florida has now raised more than $16 million since it was founded in 2013. It entered October with just over $1 million on hand.

Wilton Simpson and Chris Sprowls post some big numbers in September

GOP continues to dominate Senate fundraising in Southwest Florida” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — In Southwest Florida’s Senate contests, Republicans enjoy some of the strongest financial advantages in state politics. Estero Republican Ray Rodrigues stands out, with $565,585 raised for an open Senate District 27 seat. That’s the fifth-highest contribution tally in Florida among Senate campaigns and the highest for any candidate not in a race identified by either party as a battleground. He spent most of that in the Republican primary when he defeated fellow state House member Heather Fitzenhagen. He now has $25,336 left in cash on hand as he faces Democrat Rachel Brown.

Fred Hawkins Jr. applies for pretrial diversion, could get cop-impersonation charge dropped” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — State House candidate and suspended Osceola Commissioner Hawkins has applied for a pretrial diversion that could lead to his felony charge of impersonating a law enforcement officer being dropped, court records show. Hawkins was arrested in July following an investigation into a November incident in which he flashed an honorary Osceola County Sheriff’s Office badge, declared he was “a sheriff,” and pushed his way past a security guard who wouldn’t allow him into a Turnberry Reserve Homeowner’s Association meeting.

Fred Hawkins makes a deal to drop charges he impersonated an LEO.

Anthony Rodriguez adds more than $100K in newest two-week financial reports” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Rodriguez topped $100,000 in the latest two-week fundraising period as he seeks to defend his House District 118 seat against Democratic candidate Ricky Junquera. Rodriguez got a big assist from the Republican Party of Florida, which donated $25,000 to his campaign. Even without that cash influx, a haul of nearly $76,000 would still mark the best fundraising period this cycle for Rodriguez. Junquera also notched his best fundraising period, adding more than $57,000. That’s an impressive number for the Democratic challenger but still falls short of the incumbent’s total.


Has crime gone up or down in Tampa? State attorney candidates differ.” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — Crime and criminal justice reform have become a centerpiece issue in some of this year’s local political campaigns. And depending on which candidates you hear, you might think the Tampa Bay area is an oasis of peace or that it is overrun with violent criminals. Nowhere is this contrast more apparent than in the race for Hillsborough State Attorney. The incumbent, Andrew Warren, who for the past four years has championed his brand of progressive justice, says his policies have resulted in a dramatic drop in crime.


Medical examiner, Democrats bash House Speaker memo questioning Florida coronavirus death stats” via Gray Rohrer and Naseem S. Miller of the Orlando Sentinel — A Central Florida medical examiner and House Democrats slammed a report released by the Florida House on Tuesday that along with a memo from Speaker Oliva cast doubt on the official COVID-19 death statistics reported by state health officials. “Number one, I don’t need a politician to tell me how to do my job,” said Dr. Joshua Stephany, chief medical examiner for Orange and Osceola counties. “And as far as overcounting or undercounting … I think in the long run, it evens out.”

José Oliva questions COVID-19 death counts, which didn’t go over well in the medical community.

Coronavirus infections trend back toward the young in Florida” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — COVID-19 has increasingly infected younger people over the past 10 days in Florida, reversing the dominating trend in September, when more coronavirus cases spread to older people. People younger than 40 have made up at least half of newly reported viral infections between Oct. 5 and Tuesday, the state health department’s daily data shows. Half the new infections reported since Saturday were in people 38 or younger. The last time the median age of new cases was that low was Sept. 20, five days before Ron DeSantis allowed bars and restaurants to fully reopen.


California officials to visit Florida to observe theme park reopening measures” via Ashley Carter of Spectrum News 13 — California Gov. Gavin Newsom is sending a team to Florida to see how health and safety measures have been implemented at theme parks like Walt Disney World since reopening. Newsom made the comments during a COVID-19 update on Monday. During the Q&A portion of the update, Newsom was asked about what he’s learned from other states in regard to their approach to reopening theme parks. Since reopening in mid-July, Disney World’s theme parks have had several measures in place, including mandatory face masks, temperature checks, capacity limits and social distancing protocols. Orange County health officials have previously said that no COVID-19 outbreaks have been linked to any Central Florida theme parks since their reopening.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom sends a team to Florida to get a feel for how reopening theme parks would go.

Prisons chief offers encouragement amid COVID-19” via The News Service of Florida — Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mark Inch called a reduction in COVID-19 cases “encouraging” — but also acknowledged that the pandemic remains a threat. Inch said in the memo that he hopes to “never see another two months like this past July and August,” when cases spiked in the corrections system before declining in September. He said the improvement contributed to his decision to allow visitation to resume at prisons after being suspended for months to try to prevent the spread of the disease. “Am I trying to say the pandemic is over and paint you a rosy picture? No, quite the opposite,” Inch wrote. “We are still in a serious pandemic, and we cannot let down our guard.”

Florida Gators suspend football activities after COVID-19 spike, 19 positive cases” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Gators have suspended all football activities because of a spike in positive COVID-19 tests, UF athletic director Scott Stricklin announced. In test results available as of Monday, UF reported five new positives in the football program in the past week, according to its weekly update. By late Tuesday afternoon, that number was up to 19, as first reported by The Alligator and confirmed by the Tampa Bay Times. Stricklin said in a statement that because of the “increase in positive COVID tests among players this week” team activities were being paused out of an “abundance of caution.”

FGCU offers asymptomatic testing to Eagle Hall residents after rise in COVID-19 cases” via Pamela McCabe of the Fort Myers News-Press — A rise in positive COVID-19 cases in a dorm at Florida Gulf Coast University has led officials to offer asymptomatic testing to residents. Testing began Friday afternoon at Eagle Hall, one of five residential buildings that make up the South Lake Village housing community on campus. As of Friday, the university was aware of 10 students who had tested positive in Eagle Hall. All of those students were in isolation. Another 19 residents were quarantined due to having close contact with people who had tested positive. “We are asking all Eagle Hall students to be tested and are pleased with the response,” said Susan Evans, vice president and chief of staff for the Fort Myers university.

UCF blames bars, social gatherings for spike in COVID-19 cases” via Catherine Matos of the Orlando Sentinel — COVID-19 cases at UCF more than doubled last week, with 152 students who tested positive, another 61 students with self-reported positive tests, and five teachers who also tested positive, according to UCF. After contact tracing, UCF identified surrounding bars as being the primary source of infection. “Eating and drinking in indoor social settings like bars, restaurants and gatherings without face coverings is where our tracers find most of our new positive cases,” UCF reported. UCF spokeswoman Rachel Williams said Orange County’s Florida Department of Health is notifying the businesses connected to the current cases.

Bars could be one of the reasons COVID-19 is spiking at UCF.

Sarasota anti-mask parents raise $11,000 for lawsuit against schools” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — People opposed to the Sarasota County School Board’s mask policy have raised more than $11,000 to hire an attorney as the group’s organizers prepare to sue the district over the issue. Over a few weeks, mask opponents have rallied, with parents showing up at board meetings and speaking during public comment periods against the district’s mandatory face coverings. A GoFundMe campaign promising to pay the entire cost of a lawsuit brought in $11,275. “We are taking action to have the mask mandate decision reversed immediately for the physical, emotional and social well-being of our children. The decisions made by the board are not in the best interest of the people they serve,” the petition states.


The Midwest and West are driving a surge in U.S. cases.” via Mitch Smith and Zach Montague of The New York Times — Sixteen states each added more new cases in the seven-day period ending Monday than they had in any other weeklong stretch of the pandemic. North Dakota and South Dakota are reporting more new cases per person than any state has previously. And in Wisconsin, home to 10 of the country’s 20 metro areas with the highest rates of recent cases, crews are preparing a field hospital at the state fairgrounds. About 50,000 new cases are being reported each day on average in the United States for the week ending Monday. That is still far less than in late July when the country averaged more than 66,000 daily cases. But the country’s trajectory is worrisome — and worsening.

‘An unbelievable chain of oppression’: America’s history of racism was a preexisting condition for COVID-19” via USA Today — As the country cries out for a vaccine and a return to normal, lost in the policy debates is the reality that COVID-19 kills far more people of color than white Americans. This isn’t a matter of coincidence, poor choices or bad luck, it’s by design. With nearly 1,000 people a day dying from the virus and scientists scrambling to grasp exactly how the virus spreads and kills, federal and state data has not provided enough demographic detail to show the full impact on communities of color. The race and ethnicity of people who contract the virus is known in 52% of cases, according to the CDC.

The pandemic has been particularly hard on communities of color. Image via AP.

‘Like we’re going into quarantine’: Americans plan to stockpile food this fall over fears of COVID-19 surge, election unrest” via Aimee Picchi of USA Today — Slightly more than half of Americans in a recent poll from Sports and Leisure Research Group, Engagious and ROKK Solutions, say they already have or plan to stockpile food and other essentials. The chief reason: fears of a resurgent pandemic, which could lead to disruptions such as new restrictions on businesses. On Oct. 2, the number of COVID-19 cases in the USA was its highest in almost two months.

COVID-19 prolongs wait at fast-food drive-thrus. Which ones are longest?” via Jim Weiker of USA Today — The coronavirus pandemic has led to longer waits at fast-food drive-thrus this summer. According to the 2020 SeeLevel HX Annual Drive-Thru Study, the average drive-thru wait at 10 top fast-food restaurants this summer was 5.95 minutes, about 30 seconds longer than a year ago. At Wendy’s, Baconator and Frosty fans waited 5.98 minutes on average, a minute longer than last summer, according to SeeLevel HX, an Atlanta-based consumer research firm that has been doing the review for 20 years. The fastest chain was KFC, where diners got their orders in 4.72 minutes. On the other end, by a wide margin, was Chick-fil-A, where drivers waited an average of 8.15 minutes, according to SeeLevel HX.


America’s true unemployment rate” via Felix Salmon of Axios — A person who is looking for a full-time job that pays a living wage but who can’t find one is unemployed. If you accept that definition, the true unemployment rate in the U.S. is a stunning 26.1%, according to an important new data set. The official unemployment rate is artificially depressed by excluding people who might be earning only a few dollars a week. It also excludes anybody who has stopped looking for work or is discouraged by a lack of jobs or by the demands of child care during the coronavirus crisis. If you measure the unemployed as anybody over 16 years old who isn’t earning a living wage, the rate rises even further, to 54.6%. For Black Americans, it’s 59.2%.

AMC theaters says cash resources to be ‘largely depleted’ by end of 2020 or early 2021” via Georg Szalai of The Hollywood Reporter — Movie theater giant AMC Theatres said on Tuesday that its “existing cash resources would be largely depleted by the end of 2020 or early 2021” if current trends persist. Thereafter, to meet its financial obligations “as they become due, the company will require additional sources of liquidity or increases in attendance levels,” it said, adding: “The required amounts of additional liquidity are expected to be material.” Major movie releases that were previously scheduled to be released in the fourth quarter have either been rescheduled for 2021 or slated for streaming releases, “leaving a reduced slate of movie releases for the remainder of the year, and release dates may continue to move,” AMC said.

AMC Theaters are running out of cash and could be completely depleted by the end of the year.

Fear is killing movie theaters. That’s a tragic mistake.” via Sonny Bunch of The Washington Post — Normally snoring in a movie theater would be an annoyance, one typical of the moviegoing experience. Now, however, the snorer feels like a health risk. Now we have to worry about ourselves, our friends, our elderly relatives, regardless of how much of a risk there actually is. It’s not the fault of theaters that this worry is there: We in the media have done a poor job relaying the facts about transmission statistics in theaters, and politicians like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have done little to dispel that fear, seemingly deciding that it’s fine if theaters die. And fear is hard to reason with. It turns out that fear may end up being the theater-killer as well.

What Chris Spencer is readingEncore at Wynn Las Vegas changes operating hours due to low demand” via Kaitlyn Olvera of KLAS Las Vegas — Beginning Oct. 19, Encore at Wynn Las Vegas will alter its operating hours due to low demand. The resort closed at noon Monday and will reopen at 2 p.m. every Thursday. Encore will operate on a five-day, four-night schedule “until consumer demand for Las Vegas increases,” Wynn announced Tuesday. Hotel guests will be able to check-in at Encore beginning at 2 p.m. on Thursdays, and the final checkout will be noon on Mondays. The Poker Room at Encore will temporarily move to Wynn Las Vegas beginning Oct. 19 and operate 7 days a week, the resort noted. All other amenities at Encore, including all restaurants, will operate during Encore’s revised business hours, Thursday to Sunday.


Trying to reach herd immunity is ‘unethical’ and unprecedented, WHO head says” via Antonia Noori Farzan and Miriam Berger — The head of the World Health Organization said Monday that allowing the novel coronavirus to spread in an attempt to reach herd immunity was “simply unethical.” The remark was a sharp rebuke of the approach amid mounting new infections around the world. Recent days have seen the most rapid rise in cases since the pandemic began in March. “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a Monday media briefing. “It is scientifically and ethically problematic.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calls the push for COVID-19 herd immunity ‘unethical.’

Scientists have a powerful new tool for controlling the coronavirus: Its own genetic code.” via Brady Dennis, Chris Mooney, Sarah Kaplan and Harry Stevens of The Washington Post — Experts cite this practice, known as “genomic epidemiology,” as one more tool the United States has failed to fully employ in the fight against the virus. Though it first sequenced the 3 billion-base-pair human genome 20 years ago and spends more on basic biomedical research than almost any other nation, the United States has yet to muster the kind of well funded and comprehensive national effort that could produce a more precise accounting of how COVID-19 is infiltrating communities around the country.

COVID-19 virus can survive up to 28 days, scientists say” via NBC News — The virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on bank notes, glass, and stainless steel for up to 28 days at room temperature, researches in Australia discovered. The study’s findings highlight the need to disinfect surfaces and to frequently wash hands. The 28-day time frame is longer than that of Influenza A, which can live up to 17 days on a surface.

Dutch woman dies after catching COVID-19 twice, the first reported reinfection death” via Amy Cassidy of CNN — An elderly Dutch woman has become the first known person to die from catching COVID-19 twice, according to experts, raising serious questions about how long immunity and antibodies can last. The woman suffered from a rare type of bone marrow cancer. Her immune system was compromised due to the cell-depleting therapy she received, the researchers at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands wrote in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. However, researchers said her natural immune response could still have been “sufficient” to fight off COVID-19.

J&J halts COVID-19 vaccine trial due to unexplained illness” via Bloomberg News — Johnson & Johnson halted clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine after a participant fell ill, the second time that a front-runner developer has paused testing in the race to create a viable immunization against the virus. The participant’s illness is being evaluated, the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company said late Monday, adding that it would share information after further investigation. J&J shares fell 2.4% in trading before U.S. exchanges opened. The vaccine is undergoing tests in as many as 60,000 volunteers from Peru to South Africa.

Johnson & Johnson paused its COVID-19 vaccine trials due to unexplained illnesses in participants.

U.S. pauses Eli Lilly’s trial of a coronavirus antibody treatment over safety concerns” via Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Christina Farr of CNBC — Eli Lilly’s late-stage trial of its leading monoclonal antibody treatment for the coronavirus has been paused by U.S. health regulators over potential safety concerns, the company confirmed. The ACTIV-3 trial is designed to test a monoclonal antibody developed by Eli Lilly in combination with remdesivir, an antiviral with emergency use authorization for the virus. It’s one of several ongoing trials that are part of the National Institutes of Health’s “Activ” program, which is designed to accelerate the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. It is also backed by Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to manufacture and distribute vaccines to fight COVID-19.


Jordan Belliveau’s mother sentenced to 50 years in 2-year-old’s murder” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — Charisse Stinson accepted a plea deal for killing Belliveau, her 2-year-old son. Stinson was charged with first-degree murder and making a false report to law enforcement. On Tuesday, she pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder and to the false report charge. In addition to prison, she’ll owe more than $28,000 in court and investigative costs. “For a while, I was so angry and bitter before I came to jail,” she told the court. “And now I’m free, mentally. I may not be free physically. But I want my mom to know that I am free mentally.”


As Trump flouts safety protocols, news outlets balk at close coverage” via Michael M. Grynbaum of The New York Times — Major news organizations have become increasingly wary of sending journalists to travel with Trump to White House events and campaign rallies, as the president and his aides continue to shun safety protocols after an outbreak of the coronavirus within their ranks. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post are among the major outlets that have declined to assign reporters to travel with Trump as he returns to the trail this week, saying they do not have an assurance that basic precautions will be taken to protect reporters’ health. Safety concerns may also complicate Trump’s tentative NBC town hall on Thursday.

While Donald Trump eschews safety protocols, major news organizations covering the President remain skeptical.

Assignment editors — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will announce a national grant competition funded through the department’s Economic Development Administration to support the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic and future pandemics, 1 p.m., The Palladium Theater, 253 5th Avenue North, St. Petersburg.


New South Florida climate change financial report: Spend billions or lose much, much more” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — A new report commissioned by the South Florida Climate Compact found that if the region doesn’t adapt to climate change, the damage could exceed $38 billion by 2070. The estimated costs of adapting are also high. Elevating and floodproofing buildings alone could cost the four counties $4.4 billion by 2070. Other coastal protections, like adding sand to beaches and building berms, could cost $18.2 billion by 2070. But the price of not doing anything is much steeper. Raising and floodproofing buildings could avoid $18 billion in losses. Armoring the coast could avoid $39 billion in losses. Either batch of solutions could also create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the region. And those loss projections are an underestimate by any measure.

USF consolidation is hurting St. Petersburg campus, Pinellas leaders say” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has complained in recent days of declining enrollment, a lack of access for minority students, efforts to undermine the campus’ independence through the budget process, even the school’s new name. Since USF began operating as a consolidated university on July 1 after an extensive approval process, the university has been referring to its St. Petersburg location as a “campus.” Under state law, the mayor contends, it should be known as USF St. Petersburg. The new moniker shows a lack of respect, he said.

Rick Kriseman is concerned about declining enrollment at USFSP due to consolidation. 

Tourist brought AR-15 rifle, handgun to Disney World over worries about Orlando protests” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — A South Florida man brought an AR-15 rifle and 9 mm handgun with him on his Disney World vacation because he was worried about his family’s safety during the social justice protests in Central Florida last month, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. The 43-year-old Palm Beach Gardens man checked into the Polynesian Village Resort with his guns in a tennis bag on Saturday of the Labor Day holiday weekend, according to a newly released sheriff’s incident report. The man had a concealed-weapons permit and was not arrested, so the Orlando Sentinel is not identifying him. Disney stored his guns for him until the end of his trip.


Two years after Amendment 4 passes, Florida politicians keep bickering over ex-felons’ rights” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — It has been two years since Floridians voted overwhelmingly to restore civil rights to former felons who have paid all of their debts to society. Yet the political bickering and roadblocks continue. Most recently, Attorney General Ashley Moody asked state and federal authorities to investigate Bloomberg’s offer to pay fines and restitution costs for former felons looking to get their rights back. Think about that for a moment. Bloomberg offered to pay money that would go to victims. And to taxpayers. Yet Florida’s attorney general wanted to stop that.


Republicans are doing Biden’s work for him” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — It is far from clear how much in-person campaigning Trump is going to do in the coming weeks, but he is pulling ads down in key states and has walked away from the debate planned for Thursday. He is helping Biden, who has a double-digit national lead and comfortable leads in states that will get him beyond 270 electoral votes, run out the clock. This is as close to a unilateral surrender as we have ever seen in a presidential race. Trump is in a defensive crouch just as he needs to change the entire trajectory of the race.


Florida’s daily death toll from COVID-19 has crept back to triple digits, with 123 new deaths Tuesday. That brings the statewide total to 15,722.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The COVID crisis was front and center in Pembroke Pines as Biden delivered a speech aimed at Florida seniors. His basic message was that the only senior Trump cares about is Donald Trump and the President appears to have learned nothing after contracting the virus himself.

— Biden’s speech came one day after the President’s rally in Sanford — and two days before another Trump rally in Ocala.

— Saint Petersburg Congressman Crist is trying to gin up support for the Affordable Care Act. If the courts undo the ACA and insurance companies can discriminate against people with preexisting conditions again, Crist warns we’ll go back to the bad old days.

— Tallahassee’s political establishment is trying to convince the Florida Supreme Court to pull the plug on Amendment 3 before the election. The proposal would open primaries to all voters regardless of party affiliation. Politicians don’t like it.

— Sunrise takes a deep dive into complaints about Prop. 3 and hear from the group that put it on the ballot. They say the current system already disenfranchises millions of Florida voters simply because they don’t belong to one of the major political parties.

— And finally, two Florida Men in green uniforms were sent to investigate a traffic accident; they ran over the victim. It was good for them he was already dead.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Apple unveils new iPhones for faster 5G wireless networks” via Michael Liedtke and Tali Arbel of The Associated Press — Apple unveiled four new iPhones equipped with technology for use with faster new 5G wireless networks. There’s the iPhone 12, with a 6.1-inch display, the same as the iPhone 11 but lighter and thinner, starts at almost $800, and the iPhone 12 Mini, with a 5.4-inch display, at almost $700. A higher-end iPhone 12 Pro with more powerful cameras will cost almost $1,000; the 12 Pro Max, with a 6.7-inch display, will set buyers back almost $1,100. Apple said the phones should be more durable. In a move that may annoy some consumers, Apple will no longer include charging adapters with new phones.

The iPhone 12 will be equipped with the latest technology for 5G wireless networks. Image via AP.

Tampa may be the home of Florida’s biggest pumpkin” via Kelly A. Stefani of the Tampa Bay Times — Every year, Bearss Groves farmers market creates a giant fall display in their pumpkin patch. This year, owner Barry Lawrance reached out to friends and landed a 989-pound pumpkin. Lawrance said giant pumpkins are typically grown for contests at fall festivals. He can usually find 400- to 500-pound pumpkins in North Carolina. This year, many pumpkin festivals were canceled because of the coronavirus. A chain of friends associated with pumpkin contests led him to a monster pumpkin in Michigan.


Celebrating today is Slater Bayliss‘ better half, Sara, as well as Stephanie Rosendorf Diaz.


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

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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