Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.16.20

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Who's up, down, in and out — your morning tipsheet on Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

🔥 — Hot off embargo is a new poll of the presidential race in Florida from Mason-Dixon. Per pollster Brad Coker, Joe Biden maintains a narrow lead over Donald Trump, 48%-45%.

New polling gives Joe Biden a slight lead in Florida.

🌀 — It was difficult to make Hurricane Michael recovery in the first months after the hurricane hit the Panhandle. Two years later, most policymakers have moved on. That’s why the Department of Economic Opportunity’s intent to award Horne LLP the contract to manage the $735 million recovery fund is troubling, to say the least. Read my full blog post here.

🚌 — Every now and then, the staff of Florida Politics commits an extraordinary act of journalism. Jacob Ogles’ deep-dive into issues of race — and racism — in the Taylor County Schools System is worthy of your time.

📅 — Mark your calendars for next Friday at 1 p.m. when I will be moderating a debate between Democrat Javier Fernandez and Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez. The event is hosted by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. Register here.

👶 — Congratulations to our friends:


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A name matters. It is the beginning of one’s identity. The inception of one’s story. When we thought about names for our first child, we wanted to choose something that spoke to who we are. Keegan is my middle name. Rhodes is a type of piano which speaks to our love of music. It is also an island in Greece which speaks to my family’s heritage. With our second child, we wanted to choose a name that spoke to why we are who we are. We are and we create to champion unity with the desire to bring peace to our city. We want to constantly be brave when there are hard seasons and times of drought. Oliver comes from olive tree which symbolizes peace and brave means to show courage. We want to tell our kids to be brave, not be careful when they leave the house. Being careful never gets you anywhere. Now we have three kids. So the conversation turns to who we want our kids to be. We have been blessed with some incredible family, who all have similar and different characteristics that have molded and shaped our lives and our families. We want our kids to love and care for people the way we have been loved and cared for. We want them to find the positive things in life and to make the most of every situation. We want them to be strong and passionate. On October 13, 2020, Charlie Alexandra came into the world. Charlie is a derivative of Charles. Charles happens to be the middle name of both Chelsea’s dad and my brother. Kevin is the life of the party and knows how to have a good time, but he also knows how to fight for those he loves and care for the people that mean the most to him. Garron is compassionate and loving, making sure everyone gets along but has what they need. Alexandra comes from my grandmother. The strongest and most stubborn Greek matriarch, she was the kindest soul who sought to love and care for those around her, while being strong and determined to make the most of every situation, even when faced with the hardest of time. We can’t wait for you to meet her.

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Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum — 4; HBO debuts 2000 presidential election doc ‘537 Votes’ — 5; third presidential debate (tentative) at Belmont — 6; “The Empty Man” premieres — 7; 2020 General Election — 18; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 25; FITCon Policy Conference begins — 27; The Masters begins — 27; NBA draft — 33; Pixar’s “Soul” premieres — 35; College basketball season slated to begin — 40; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 47; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 47; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 62; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 70; Greyhound racing ends in Florida — 76; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 114; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 125; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 139; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 168; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 259; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 266; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 280; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 288; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 385; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 388; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 420; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 484; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 537; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 718; 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 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 Thursday, the CNN average has Biden moving up to 54% 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 Thursday, Biden increased to an 87 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 26.7%, while Florida is second with 14.7%. Wisconsin dropped to 12.9 % Other states include Michigan (12.1%), North Carolina (5.6%). Minnesota (5.1%), Arizona (4.7%) and Nevada (3.0%).

Polling is giving Joe Biden the edge over Donald Trump. Image via The Wall Street Journal.

PredictIt: As of Thursday, the PredictIt trading market has Biden rising to $0.66 a share, with Trump holding steady at $0.40.

Real Clear Politics: As of Thursday, the RCP average of polling top battleground states has Biden leading Trump 51.7% to 42.3%. The RCP average now has Biden averaging +9.4 points ahead.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball — With 19 days to go before the election, Biden’s lead in the presidential race remains steady, although his national lead is bigger than his leads in the most crucial swing states. In the Senate, Republicans appear to be getting some traction against Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, although Peters remains favored in our ratings. Overall, the Senate battlefield continues to expand, with Republicans having to play more defense in places like Alaska and Kansas. Eight House rating changes largely benefit Democrats.

The Economist: As of Thursday, 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).


Joe Biden has 11-point lead over Donald Trump less than three weeks to Election Day” via Eliza Collins of The Wall Street Journal — Biden holds a double-digit lead over Trump less than three weeks from Election Day, a new poll of registered voters finds. Biden is ahead by 11 points in the national survey, 53% to 42%, following a tumultuous few weeks that included Trump’s nomination of federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court; the candidates’ contentious, televised debate and the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis and hospitalization. The survey finds Trump rebounding from a 14-point deficit earlier this month in a poll taken immediately after the debate with Biden, but still in a weaker position than in September when he trailed the former Vice President by 8 points.

Biden routs Donald Trump in September fundraising, $383M to $248M,” via Zach Montellaro of Politico — President Trump, the Republican National Committee and affiliated joint fundraising committees raised $247.8 million in September, Trump’s campaign announced, leaving him at a significant cash deficit to former Vice President Biden entering the final stretch of the 2020 election. Biden’s campaign and affiliated committees raised a record $383 million in September, and they had $432 million in reserves at the end of the month, his campaign announced. Tim Murtaugh, the director of communications for Trump’s campaign, said Trump had the resources necessary to win the election, despite Biden’s financial dominance.

Trump struggles to mount clear closing argument against Biden, careening toward Election Day with disjointed message” via Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Less than three weeks before Election Day, Trump’s lack of a consistent and coherent closing argument is alarming some Republicans, raising fears among his allies that his undisciplined approach to campaigning could render him a one-term President. In the final stretch of the race, a trio of long-standing challenges converged to create a daunting barrier to Trump’s reelection: the inability to drag down Biden’s favorability ratings, the lack of a clearly articulated ­second-term agenda, and a pandemic that continues to upend American life.

‘He’s getting a bit desperate’: Trump tramples government boundaries as election nears” via Natasha Korecki and Anita Kumar of POLITICO — The farther behind Trump has fallen in the competition for campaign dollars, the more he’s milked government resources to make up the difference. Millions of boxes of food doled out to needy families, with letters signed by the president taking credit stuffed inside. An $8 billion program for drug-discount cards to seniors featuring Trump branding, intended to arrive before the Nov. 3 election. A $300 million advertising blitz to “defeat despair” over the coronavirus pandemic, the biggest threat to Trump’s reelection. The actions are just the latest examples of how the President has eviscerated the traditional boundaries separating politics from government.

For Donald Trump, desperation is starting to set in. Image via AP.

Trump’s attacks on Obamacare could cost him in Texas and Florida” via Mark Kreidler of Capital and Main — The Trump administration’s repeated attacks on the ACA have provoked a movement that might cost him Florida. “Latino families in Florida are facing the brunt of this crisis on every level, from health care to their pocketbooks,” said Abel Iraola, a spokesman for the Florida office of NextGen America. “I think in this election you find that what Latino voters are worried about is how they’re going to protect their families while working essential jobs, how they’re going to afford health care if they need it. The public health infrastructure is so weak due to Republican refusal to expand Medicaid or address serious deficiencies in the system that it makes it hard to separate the economic argument from the health one. All of it is on the ballot.”

Trump targets Ocala and other Florida exurbs, hoping to repeat his 2016 winning strategy” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Trump’s fly-in campaign rally in Ocala on Friday is targeting rural and exurban voters, a bloc that in 2016 helped put him over the top in Florida. But this year, Democrats are hoping to eat into his margins there, doing just well enough to help Biden take the state. Both campaigns view a victory in Florida as crucial to winning the White House. In 2016, Trump exceeded 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s votes by the tens of thousands in exurban counties, including Lake, Marion, Volusia, Brevard, and especially Hernando and Citrus north of Tampa. That enabled him to pull ahead of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by almost 113,000 votes and win the state by 1.2 percentage points.

Mike Pence spoke at a Cuban memorial. But his Miami speech was to a broader audience” via David Smiley, Bianca Padro Ocasio, and Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — In an indication of how important Florida’s most populous county is to Trump’s reelection and the opportunity it still represents for the campaign when it comes to Miami Latinos, Pence traveled to the edge of the Everglades Thursday to deliver an anti-socialism-themed speech in front of the Memorial Cubano in Tamiami Park. The Vice President delivered a speech about the pandemic, court-packing and religion, but returned again and again to a condemnation of Biden’s record on Latin America and praise for Trump’s hard-line stance against the region’s strongmen.

—”‘The polls are wrong!’ Pence and Trump campaign drum up South Florida support with Sunshine State up for grabs” via Skyler Swisher and Ben Crandell of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“‘God has his hands in this election.’ From boat parades to prayers, Trump campaign blitzes South Florida to prove pollsters wrong,” via the South Florida Sun Sentinel — With the battle for Florida intensifying and votes already being cast in record numbers, President Trump’s campaign fired up South Florida supporters Thursday with prayers, a boat parade and a vice presidential promise to fight for freedom in Venezuela and Cuba. Vice President Mike Pence proclaimed “que viva Cuba libre” (long live free Cuba) to about 200 supporters at the Memorial Cubano, a monument in Miami-Dade County honoring Cubans who died under Fidel Castro’s dictatorship.

Today’s schedule — Trump will leave Dora at 11:40 a.m. and travel to Fort Myers. He will give a speech about protecting seniors at the Caloosa Sound Convention Center and Amphitheater at 1:30 p.m. He will depart at 2:40 p.m. en route to Ocala, where he will speak at a campaign rally at 4:15 p.m. at the Ocala International Airport. Afterward, he will travel to Middle Georgia Regional Airport in Macon, Ga. He will attend another campaign rally at 7 p.m. Afterward, he will return to Washington. He will arrive at the White House at 10:30 p.m.

Assignment EditorsRichard Grenell, a former ambassador and the Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Peace Negotiations, will headline a ‘Trump Pride’ event in Tampa at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The deadline to request media credentials is 5 p.m. Friday.

How the mask became a symbol of Biden’s campaign” via Annie Linskey of The Washington Post — As the campaigns barrel toward the finish line, masks have become the ultimate symbol of the divide between the candidates, with Biden wearing one seemingly at every turn and Trump mocking him for it. But although surveys show most Americans side with Biden on the issue, the politics were not always so clear and Biden’s early embrace of mask-wearing was as much a reflection of personal health concerns as a political calculation, according to people familiar with his decision-making. At the time, Biden’s critics believed he’d given them an easy target. The politics of masks were shifting in Biden’s favor, however.

The mask has become a political winner for Joe Biden.

Where a potential Biden administration’s stimulus money would go” via Felix Salmon of Axios — The Biden administration’s top priority, after virus control, will be “building a fiscal bridge to the other side of the crisis.” That’s what Jared Bernstein, a senior Biden economic adviser, told an IIF conference this week. Biden has a very large and complex Building Back Better agenda, which includes some 800 different policy proposals and will cost some $3 trillion. But before even getting started on that, the Biden team plans to spend a lot of money on a short-term stimulus package. In the fight over a potential stimulus package, the Trump administration is refusing to funnel money to state and local government. By contrast, says Bernstein, that will be top of the list for a Biden economic stimulus, because it comes with a high “fiscal multiplier.”

Justice Democrats go all-in on Biden” via Holly Otterbein of POLITICO — A leading progressive group that attacked Biden in the primary is launching a six-figure ad buy aimed at electing him this fall. Justice Democrats, the organization that recruited Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to run for Congress, is airing a new digital spot in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Arizona as part of its effort to support Biden. The ad buy marks the first time the group is spending money to back Biden, which it is doing through an independent expenditure. The digital ad features a fed-up mother who lost her job because of the coronavirus and is caring for her child at home, all while being frustrated by Trump’s management of the pandemic.

To mobilize Puerto Rican voters stateside, the Biden campaign is trying to reach Puerto Ricans on the island.” via The New York Times — Biden’s campaign has introduced new digital and print ads aimed at mobilizing Puerto Rican voters in swing states. But the ads are not running in Florida or Pennsylvania, where Democrats are heavily targeting Puerto Ricans. They’re running in Puerto Rico. The campaign hopes to build on the deep ties among the vast Puerto Rican diaspora, which outnumbers the roughly 3.2 million Puerto Ricans who live on the island. Those on the island cannot vote for President; those in the states can. “Hazlo por mi,” the people in the ad urge their relatives and friends — do it for me.

Biden campaign takes campaign message to rural Florida voters” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — While the battle for Florida heats up in Miami-Dade County and the I-4 corridor, Biden‘s campaign reached out Thursday to rural voters in North Florida. Biden for President Florida hosted a virtual roundtable highlighting what the campaign views as the former Vice President’s strengths for rural Florida and advocacy for the middle class. On top of trade wars and tariffs, Democrats said Trump‘s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened Florida’s agricultural economy. The agriculture industry is usually Florida’s second-largest industry behind tourism and hospitality. But while agriculture is now the top sector with tourism plummeting amid the pandemic, the industry has still recorded half a billion dollars in losses since March.

Kamala Harris suspends travel after two in her orbit test positive for the coronavirus” via Chelsea Janes and Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Harris canceled her travel through this coming weekend after two people who were around her tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday night, the campaign announced Thursday, another twist in a race that has been repeatedly shaken by the pandemic. Harris, a Senator from California who had taken a break from the campaign trail this week to participate in confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Barrett, tested negative for the virus Wednesday and Thursday, the campaign said.

Michael Bloomberg teams up with top Latino group for Florida ad buy” via Sabrina Rodriguez of Politico — Latino Victory Fund and billionaire Bloomberg are launching a $2.4-million digital ad campaign to get Florida Latinos out to the polls to defeat President Donald Trump in his must-win state. Democrats have been scrambling in recent days to increase their neighborhood canvassing and get-out-the-vote efforts amid concerns from party strategists and officials in Florida about the absence of a Joe Biden ground game due to the pandemic. Against that backdrop, Florida Republicans have managed to cut into Democrats’ longtime statewide voter registration advantage this year.


To watch the latest Spanish-language Biden ad, click on the image below:

Democrats enlist Barack Obama in new ‘vote early’ adObama is appearing in a new digital ad launched by the Democratic National Committee in Florida and other swing states urging people to vote early. In the 30-second spot, the former President ties the voting call to the momentum he references from the racial equality protest movement, though he does not explicitly mention it. “There will always be reasons to think your vote doesn’t matter — that’s not new. What is new is a growing movement for justice, equality, and progress on so many issues,” Obama says. The commercial does not mention Biden nor Trump, nor any other candidates. The ad will run on digital platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Hulu, and YouTube.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


Florida acts to remove felons from voter rolls as election looms” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — Florida will seek to push former felons from voter rolls if they have outstanding court debts, a surprise, late-hour move that comes after more than 2 million people already have voted in the presidential battleground. The announcement, which was distributed to local election officials but not the wider public, drew immediate pushback from county election supervisors and suspicion from Democrats who say it could be used to challenge the eventual election results. The move is one of the state’s most consequential actions to meet the terms of a 2019 law on felon voting rights. Democratic attorney Mark Herron called the action “smelly” and said it could be used by the Trump campaign to challenge election results.

36,000 immigrants in Florida won’t get their citizenship in time to vote, data shows” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — The staggering government data — analyzed by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Boundless Immigration, a nonpartisan tech company that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship — shows that immigration policies implemented by the Trump administration since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis slowed down naturalization applications, creating a record backlog in a time when naturalization applications have skyrocketed. The desire to vote in November’s election, along with the fact that the administration will soon nearly double the naturalization application fee, has also pushed people to submit sooner than later, experts say. Before the pandemic, the time to process an application had doubled under Trump — averaging 10 months last year, with much longer waits in some regions.

— 2020 — 

GOP slashes Democrats’ voter advantage in Florida going into the election” via David Smiley and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Heading into the Nov. 3 election, Florida Republicans are as close to parity with Democrats among registered voters as they’ve been in half a century or more. The Florida Division of Elections on Thursday posted the final numbers for 2020 voter registration in the nation’s biggest battleground state. Republicans now head into Election Day with 5,169,012 voters and Democrats with 5,303,254, a difference of just 134,242. The deadline to register was Oct. 6. Those figures are good news for Trump, who beat 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by 112,000 votes despite his party having 330,428 fewer registered voters than Democrats.

Tyler Perry backing ‘Souls to the Polls’ events in 25 Florida counties” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Perry is helping finance a series of events throughout Florida starting Oct. 24 that will organize “Souls to the Polls” efforts reconfigured for social distancing during the coronavirus crisis and pledges to help turn out at least 250,000 Black voters. In an effort Perry largely funded, a writer, director, producer and actor, the Equal Ground Education Fund announced Thursday that it is spending $500,000 to organize “Park & Praise” events at sites in 25 counties, where people can come, drop off mail ballots, and share in entertainment and faith. The drive-in efforts are being organized with the recognition that traditional “Souls to the Polls” events, busing voters from churches, are ill-advised during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tyler Perry is backing a Florida ‘Souls to the Polls’ campaign.

The push for a $15 minimum wage in Florida was winning. Can it survive COVID-19?” via Steve Contorno and Helen Freund of the Tampa Bay Times — When the state locked down nursing homes this summer to block out the coronavirus, NiQwana Church was one of the few people her patients saw most days. “We had to be the ones who were there for them, to tell them everything is OK,” Church said. During the pandemic, when many businesses closed or sent employees to work from home, Church’s job at a Pinellas County nursing home was deemed essential. To Church, her pay, less than $15 an hour at the time, suggested she was anything but.

Republicans make voter gains in every close congressional district” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republicans’ efforts to hold their congressional seats in purple districts and flip any of the Democrats congressional seats got across-the-board boosts with the GOP’s dominant voter registration efforts over the past 10 weeks. Republicans made voter registration gains in every purple congressional district in Florida since the last time the Florida Division of Elections locked in the vote registration, on July 20. Those congressional districts that were leaning red got redder. Those leaning blue got more purple. Of Florida’s 27 congressional districts, there were only 11, following voter registration book closing for the Aug. 18 primary, in which the gaps of voter registration favored one party or the other by less than 10 percentage points.

Hack sends Florida congressional candidate’s web traffic to a Viagra sales site” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democrat Clint Curtis‘ congressional campaign could use a little, um, lift, but not like this. Curtis, running against Republican Rep. Michael Waltz in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, thinks he has had the Google links to his campaign and law firm hacked, redirecting all traffic Thursday morning to a site advertising Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications. The whistleblower lawyer and frequent Democratic candidate for elected office appeared to be two-parts upset and one-part amused. He suggested his campaign must be making someone nervous enough to go to significant effort to derail it. The Google media office said Thursday that the problem was not on their end.

Brian Mast adds $1.2M for CD 18 bid, tops Pam Keith by nearly $400K” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rep. Mast has added another $1.2 million for his reelection bid in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. That gives Mast more than $5.2 million raised overall this cycle. Keith showed nearly $840,000 raised during the newest period, which covered activity from July 30-Sept. 30. She fell about $400,000 short of Mast’s haul during the same span. Keith emerged to take on Mast after defeating Oz Vazquez in the Democratic primary. As of Sept. 30, she’s raised just $1.1 million overall. That puts her more than $4 million short of Mast. She’s also facing a big deficit in available cash. Mast holds more than $1.7 million as of Sept. 30 for the campaign’s final stretch. Keith retains just over $106,000 as of that date.

Brian Mast posts some significant numbers, putting him ahead in the CD 18 money race.

Parents of FIU bridge collapse victim ask Democrats to remove footage in TV ad” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Orlando and Gina Duran, whose 18-year-old daughter Alexa was one of six victims of the bridge collapse, say they want the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to remove a five-second video clip of the bridge collapse from the ad. The DCCC, a national organization that seeks to elect Democrats to the House, launched the ad in English on Sept. 22 and in Spanish on Sept. 24, part of an effort to brand Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez, a Republican who is running for Congress against Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, as “corrupt.”


Patrick Henry wins Daytona Beach Chamber straw poll for HD 26 — Attendees at a recent Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce Hob Nob preferred former Democratic Rep. Henry over freshman Republican Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff by a 53%-47% margin in the race for HD 26. Henry held the seat before Fetterhoff ousted him in a close election the last cycle. Henry said he was honored to win the poll. “It is telling that while my opponent might have the endorsement of the state organization, our local Chamber, comprised of various businesses and community leaders placed their confidence in me based on the results of the straw poll,” he said. “When I return to Tallahassee, I will continue to fight for a stronger economy powered by small businesses and livable wage jobs.”

Patrick Henry takes a local Chamber straw poll over Elizabeth Fetterhoff.

Geraldine Thompson, Bruno Portigliatti trade barbs over court appointment, assisted living facility violations” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The head of a chain of assisted living facilities and a local for-profit university is challenging a longtime incumbent to represent southwest Orange County in the Florida House. Rep. Thompson, a Windermere Democrat, is seeking her fifth term in the House, while Portigliatti, a Republican, is hoping to flip House District 44, which takes in much of southwest Orange County, including suburban areas such as Windermere, Dr. Phillips, Lake Buena Vista and the theme parks. The race is among the most closely watched in Central Florida, with Republicans trying to win back a seat they lost in 2018 when Thompson received 51.3% of the vote and defeated incumbent Bobby Olszewski. Democrats have a slight registration advantage in the district.


Florida reports 3,356 new COVID-19 cases ― the highest daily tally since Sept. 19” via Andrew Boryga of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida on Thursday reported its highest daily tally of new COVID-19 cases since last month. The state saw 3,356 new cases of COVID-19 and 144 additional deaths. The latest figures came as health officials warn they expect a rise in new coronavirus cases to happen this month, reversing a downward trend in the data. The tally for reported new cases is the highest since Sept. 19, when Florida reported 3,573 new cases. On Oct. 11, the state reported more than 5,000 cases, but officials said this was due to reporting errors. Most of the deaths on the state’s daily statistical tallies didn’t happen in the past day. There usually is a lag of several weeks between the date of death and confirmation as a virus fatality.

Nikki Fried launches ‘Mask Up Florida Week’ in October” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Fried is pleading with Floridians to mask up. On Thursday, she proclaimed Oct. 16 to 23 as “Mask Up Florida Week” in the Sunshine State. The weeklong proclamation aims to remind Floridians that masks can save lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m proud to proclaim ‘Mask Up Florida Week’ to raise awareness on the effectiveness of mask-wearing and to encourage everyone to do their part to help beat COVID-19,” Fried said in a statement. Mask Up Florida Week is part of the Commissioner’s Be SMART Florida awareness campaign. The campaign, which digitally launched in August, encourages Floridians to do their part to contain the virus. The SMART acronym asks Floridians to social distance, mask up, avoid crowds, remember to wash hands, and throw away disposable PPE items.

Nikki Fried wants Florida to mask up. Image via Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Florida recreational hockey game spread COVID-19” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida — A recreational hockey game this summer in the Tampa Bay region resulted in 15 cases of COVID-19 in men between the ages of 19 and 53 and provides scientists with evidence that the virus can spread at indoor sporting activities. Fourteen of the 22 men on two hockey teams became ill within five days of the June 16 game, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s publication “Morbidity and Mortality.” A worker at the ice rink also became infected. The men playing in the recreational hockey game did not wear cloth masks on the rink or in locker rooms to try to limit the transmission of the virus, according to the report.

Goodbye, sunny Florida. Hello, frigid winter. COVID-19 strands Canadian snowbirds.” via Paul Vieira of The Wall Street Journal — For the first time in a quarter-century, Carol Barlow and her husband, Dale, won’t escape the Canadian winter. Normally, the Barlows climb into their car in November and high-tail out of Davidson, Saskatchewan, a farming town in the Canadian prairies where the winter temperature averages about 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Their destination is sunny Mesa, Arizona, where they own a mobile home. Like many of the million-strong flock of Canadian snowbirds, the Barlows have been thwarted by the coronavirus. In March, the U.S.-Canada border was closed to land crossings by tourists going either direction. A reopening isn’t immediately in the cards, Canadian officials have said, and the federal government has a travel advisory discouraging all nonessential travel abroad.


The COVID-19 fall surge is here. We can stop it.” via Derek Thompson of The Atlantic — COVID-19 cases are rising in parts of New York City, and the mayor is threatening business and school closures. Trump is comparing the coronavirus pandemic to the seasonal flu on Twitter. Hundreds of thousands of deaths since the pandemic began in March, we seem to be right back where we started, like passengers trapped on a demonic carousel. This week, Anthony Fauci warned of a new surge in cases, as Americans move from the virus-dispersing outdoors into more crowded and less-ventilated public spaces in colder months. Thanks largely to new treatments and more knowledge about this virus, hospitalization-fatality rates have declined across Europe and the United States.

Hospitals search for enough beds and nurses as virus rebounds” via Dan Goldberg of Politico — The coronavirus is engulfing big city hospitals in states including Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana that are running low on nurses and beds and are being forced to set up overflow facilities. With new daily U.S. cases surpassing 62,000 on Thursday, the prospect of swamped intensive care units is prompting some governors who previously resisted public health orders to weigh new restrictions to ease pressure on their health care systems. The University of Utah Health System, one of the largest hospitals in the state, reported its ICU is 95 percent filled.

Anthony Fauci says the current fall surge can be stopped.

Americans critical of Trump handling of virus” via Julie Pace, Hannah Fingerhut and Nathan Ellgren of The Associated Press — Less than three weeks from Election Day, majorities of Americans are highly critical of Trump’s handling of both the coronavirus pandemic and his own illness, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey found 65% saying Trump has not taken the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. seriously enough. The poll, which was taken a week after Trump disclosed his own COVID-19 diagnosis, also shows that 54% of Americans disapprove of how the White House handled the episode. Seventy-four percent of Americans say the country is heading in the wrong direction, including half of Republicans.


Steven Mnuchin says Trump to lean on Mitch McConnell if stimulus deal reached” via Steven T. Dennis, Billy House and Justin Sink of Bloomberg — Mnuchin told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday that Trump will personally lobby to get reluctant Senate Republicans behind any stimulus deal they reach. Trump said he’s willing to go beyond the $1.8 trillion offer for a virus relief plan that’s already been offered by the administration, but Senate Majority Leader McConnell rejected that, saying GOP lawmakers won’t go along. Mnuchin in a call with Pelosi Thursday “indicated that the President would weigh in with Leader McConnell should an agreement be reached,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted.

Steven Mnuchin tells Nancy Pelosi that Donald Trump will lean on Senate Republicans to get a stimulus deal pushed through.

Weekly jobless claims up in Florida, nation” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Florida received an estimated 44,795 first-time unemployment claims during the week that ended Oct. 10, up from 42,306 in the prior week. The state had been recording fewer than 40,000 new claims a week through September, but it has seen increases as industries such as tourism continue to struggle despite efforts to revive the economy. Nationally, an estimated 898,000 initial claims were filed during the week that ended Oct. 10, up from 845,000 the prior week. The four-week average for new claims was 866,250, up 8,000 from the four-week average the previous week. The national numbers are seasonally adjusted, while state-by-state figures released by the Department of Labor are not.

Cruise cancellations further damage Florida’s struggling tourism industry” via Briona Arradondo of Fox 13 Tampa Bay — As cruise lines extend cancellations, Florida‘s port-of-call cities, including Tampa, continue to take economic hits. This month Norwegian, MSC, Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines have canceled voyages through November, and some companies like Carnival Cruises are holding off passengers through early 2021. Fewer people mean less money flowing into the Bay Area economy, and tourism leaders said cruises are a selling point for Tampa. “Lots of different things are impacted by a tourist deciding they’re going to take a cruise out of Tampa and enjoy the destination,” said Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. Corrada said cruise passengers spend money at local restaurants and attractions and help the hotel industry.


COVID-19 outbreaks led to dangerous delay in cancer diagnoses” via Anna Wilde Mathews and Mike Cherney of The Wall Street Journal — A decline in mammograms and other screening procedures after the coronavirus pandemic struck is leading to missed and delayed cancer diagnoses, according to data from insurance claims, lab orders, Medicare billings and oncology-practice records, an emerging pattern that is alarming oncologists. Hundreds of thousands of cancer screenings were deferred after worries about COVID-19 shut down much of the U.S. health care system starting this spring. Because many cancers can advance rapidly, months without detection could mean fewer treatment options and worse outcomes, including more deaths.

COVID-19 is leading to a significant drop in cancer diagnoses, and that is not good.

Coronavirus study finds air on planes is safer than homes or operating rooms” via Chris Woodyard of USA Today — A new study conducted for the Department of Defense adds credence to the growing belief that airline passengers face minimal risk of contracting coronavirus when flying. The study found the risk of aerosol dispersion was reduced by 99.7% thanks to high air exchange rates, HEPA-filtered recirculation and downward ventilation found on modern jets. Investigators looked at the impact of an infected passenger on others seated in the same row and those nearby in the cabins of Boeing 767s and 777s. Those two aircraft types are widebodies typically used for long-haul flights where a virus would be expected to spread more easily.


Vietnam helicopters, trade war marketing, hemp: FDACS submits budget requests for fiscal year” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on Thursday submitted its budget request for the fiscal year 2021-2022, which included dollars to replace Vietnam-era helicopters, money to market amid a trade war and funding for hemp inspections. In all, FDACS’s Legislative Budget Request amounts to roughly $140 million. The total consists of $70 million in General Revenue funds, $70 million in State Trust Funds and $10 million in Federal Grants funding. Notably, the budget request is 46% less than last year’s request. It comes as the state faces a projected $5.5 billion revenue shortfall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

From helicopters to marketing, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released a laundry list of asks for the upcoming fiscal year.

How are Florida’s high school seniors going to go to college if they can’t take SAT?” via Ana Ceballos and Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Miami Herald — Many high school seniors are facing a pandemic-induced hurdle as they prepare to apply to college: They’ve not been able to take the required standardized tests. The virus forced many schools to cancel SAT and ACT tests, and Florida public universities require those test scores for admissions. Unlike most other states, Florida has refused to back away from that requirement. As a result, parents and students have been anxious as the Nov. 1 deadline to apply approaches. In South Florida, fewer tests were available to students than in other parts of the state. Some students traveled out-of-county to take tests.

Florida universities getting fewer applications for 2021” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — Fewer high school seniors are applying to Florida’s universities this fall, and admissions officers say the cancellation of SAT sessions and college information nights, along with other disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, are likely to blame. Florida is the only state in the country where colleges still require traditional incoming freshmen to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission. At the University of Central Florida, applications are down 21% and 50% fewer students have submitted SAT scores to the school compared with last year. “We are concerned about what we’re seeing,” said Gordon Chavis, UCF’s associate vice president of enrollment services, on Wednesday during a presentation to the university’s Board of Trustees.

University of South Florida closing College of Education” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Faculty at the University of South Florida learned Wednesday that the university will be eliminating its College of Education, a program that had once been the fifth largest college of education in the country. The systemwide program had more than 2,200 students and 130 faculty members, according to its website. The program at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus had shrunk over the years, as fewer students across the country have been interested in entering the field of teaching. University Provost Ralph Wilcox made the announcement during a faculty meeting on Wednesday, catching faculty off guard.


GOP pushes Amy Coney Barrett toward court as Democrats decry ‘sham’” via Lisa Mascaro, Mark Sherman and Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press — Republicans powered Barrett closer to confirmation Thursday, pushing past Democratic objections and other priorities during the COVID-19 crisis in the drive to seat Trump’s pick before the Nov. 3 election. The Senate Judiciary Committee set Oct. 22 for its vote to recommend Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate, with a final confirmation vote expected by month’s end. “A sham,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar. “Power grab,” protested Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “Not normal,” said Sen. Dick Durbin. Republicans eager to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg countered that Trump is well within bounds to fill the vacancy, and they have the votes to do it.

The confirmation hearing of Amy Coney Barrett is split sharply along partisan lines. Image via AP.

Disney fires back at Elizabeth Warren’s letter blasting the company’s 28,000 layoffs” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney Co. is fighting back after Sen. Warren wrote a scathing open letter this week that slammed the company for reinstating pay for senior executives who and other financial decisions benefiting shareholders before the company revealed massive layoffs. “Sen. Warren’s misinformed letter contains a number of inaccuracies,” the company said in a statement. “We’ve unequivocally demonstrated our ability to operate responsibly with strict health and safety protocols in place at all of our theme parks worldwide, with the exception of Disneyland Resort in California, where the State has prevented us from reopening, even though we have reached agreements with unions representing the majority of our Cast Members that would get them back to work.”


The worst story you’ll read today3-week-old baby sexually assaulted in Marion County foster home, lawsuit says” via Michael Braga of the Ocala StarBanner — A 3-week-old girl was sexually assaulted and battered in an Ocala area foster home, and child welfare officials could have prevented it from happening, according to a lawsuit filed last week in the Marion County Courthouse. Both Kids Central, the Ocala nonprofit agency charged with managing child welfare in the region, and The Centers, which offers case management services, knew that a 14-year-old boy living in the home had sexually assaulted other young children in the past. “This tragedy never should have happened,” said Stacie Schmerling, an attorney with Justice for Kids in Fort Lauderdale, who filed the suit against. “The family never should have been licensed to care for these vulnerable, nonverbal children.”

Pinellas group home workers terrorized, restrained disabled boy, lawsuit says” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Caregivers at The Ranch, a residential group home for children with physical and developmental disabilities, sometimes had trouble getting one boy to go to bed. So one of them would dress as the “boogeyman” to try and scare him to bed, according to a lawsuit filed in Pinellas County against The Arc Tampa Bay, a nonprofit group that runs the home. Other staff repeatedly warned the boy the boogeyman would attack him if he didn’t comply, the lawsuit states. Caregivers also used “bizarre and traumatizing disciplinary methods” including tying the boy’s hands, the lawsuit alleges. It does not give his name or age but states that he has suffered from night terrors and anxiety.

Hillsborough’s sheriff publicized a sex sting. Did it target gay men?” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister announced the September arrests of 11 men with a series of sound bites delivered via YouTube. “These men made these parks their personal playground for their deviant behavior. It will not be tolerated,” said Chronister. But these men weren’t accused of high-level felonies. Each of them, according to arrest reports, had gone to a local park and struck up a conversation with another man. Eventually, deputies alleged, both men would agree to have sex. One man turned out to be an undercover deputy. The other went to jail. The sting did not target anyone attempting to pay for sex. The men are not accused of human trafficking or forcing themselves on anyone, or crimes involving children.

In a new sting operation, Chad Chronister seems to be targeting conversations between gay men.


Trump is suffering from Trump derangement syndrome” via John F. Harris of POLITICO — Trump derangement syndrome is marked by a neurotic obsession with the President and his provocations, an inability to maintain an emotional detachment from his outlandish behavior, leading ultimately to distorted perceptions of reality. Trump backers love issuing a mocking diagnosis: You are letting him live in your head rent-free. Ha, ha! The taunt is effective because the targets often ruefully acknowledge it is true. The syndrome is related to another psychological concept in vogue in the Trump era, “gaslighting,” in which people are manipulated into questioning their own sanity.


The virus is still here. So is the need to act responsibly” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — New coronavirus cases are surging across the country as the nation enters the perilous approach of the fall and winter flu season. This is not the time for America to drop its guard, despite the poor examples set by the president, Florida’s Governor, and the University of Florida football coach. Local governments should keep mask orders in place, and businesses, public institutions, and residents need to do their part by acting responsibly. The nation’s failure to contain the outbreak, or even to devise a national testing policy, has been glaringly evident for months. But public health officials are rightly concerned that America is entering the cool-weather period with too high a baseline of cases.

Ignore last-minute theatrics. Amendment 3′s open primaries are just what Florida needs” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board — Just three weeks before Election Day, Florida politicians on both sides of the aisle filed a last-minute lawsuit Tuesday asking the state Supreme Court to strike one of six constitutional amendments from the November ballot. Justices should see this stunt for what it is: an act of desperation by those who thrive under Florida’s closed primary election system. Both Republican and Democratic politicians hate Amendment 3. That should say something to those in the middle, especially the nearly one-third of Florida voters registered as NPA, with no party affiliation. The two parties don’t want you to decide November’s two main nominees.


Florida’s death toll from COVID-19 is back in triple digits. The Department of Health reports 144 new fatalities and we’re closing in on 16,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, DeSantis claimed Florida is doing a better job protecting seniors in nursing homes than other states. But the AARP parsed the numbers, and they say Florida doesn’t measure up anymore.

— What makes it important is the more staffers who get sick, the better the chances of infecting residents at nursing homes.

— Team Trump spends the day in Florida. While Trump was fundraising at Mar-a-Lago and doing a town hall in Miami, Pence told Hispanics in Miami-Dade the choice is Trump or socialism.

— A South Florida Congresswoman says Hispanics in Miami-Dade are being targeted with disinformation, and the FBI is on the case.

— Sunrise chats with a state lawmaker who wants to name the Devil Crab as Florida’s official state crustacean. Technically, there’s no such thing, deviled crab is a deep-fried treat made with blue crab and Cuban bread.

— Sen. Janet Cruz says she’s doing this to try to lighten the mood during a very stressful time — and she’s expecting a fight from the stone crab lobby.

— And finally, a Florida Man who supports Trump is accused of vandalizing a Trump campaign sign because he thought it makes the President look like a racist.

To listen, click on the image below:


Battleground Florida with Christopher Heath: Orlando businessperson Chris King entered politics in 2018 running for Governor and then as the running mate for Andrew Gillum. Now he’s working with the Democratic Party to win seats in Tallahassee and retake the White House. From political novice to just a few thousand votes away from being Florida’s Lieutenant Governor, King had a rollercoaster 2018. They talk about debates, crazy Florida polls, and why Democrats have struggled to win statewide.

Dishonorable Mention: Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. The hosts discuss Barrett’s SCOTUS nomination hearings, what they think will happen, and what this means for both parties going forward. Trump has been campaigning in Florida. Is the I-4 corridor even more important than usual come Election Day? The hosts discuss the University of Florida head football coach Dan Mullen‘s comments on inviting a full stadium of fans to their home games. How do we feel about full events at this time? How will we look back at total lockdowns during the pandemic? What is the best plan to keep businesses open and people feeling safe?

Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: Trump returned to the campaign trail this week in Florida for his first rally since being diagnosed with COVID-19. Biden also was in the state for an event targeting seniors. Journalists Zac Anderson, John Kennedy and Antonio Fins discuss all the twists and turns in the presidential race as Election Day approaches in America’s largest battleground state.

podcastED: Stand Up for Students President Doug Tuthill talks with Derrell Bradford, the executive vice president of 50CAN, a national advocacy organization that supports education choice policies on a state-by-state basis. Bradford’s straightforward analysis of complex education issues has earned him a sterling reputation in the education choice world, but his advocacy is personal. He recalls on the podcast a conversation between his mother and grandmother when he was growing up in southwest Baltimore about their decision to send him to a middle school out of his neighborhood zone to improve his educational outcome.

REGULATED from hosts Christian Bax and Tony Glover: The Future of Psychedelics in America with Dustin Robinson.

Tallahassee Business Podcast from the Tallahassee Chamber presented by 223 Agency: Tallahassee Chamber President Sue Dick highlights another Women-Owned business for National Women’s Small Business Month. Bonnie Davenport is the president and founder of BKJ Architecture and a Tallahassee native. She talks about what it’s like to be a leader in the male-dominated field, the impacts an architecture firm has on the community it serves and the potential ways the COVID-19 pandemic may affect the future of workspace design.

The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: Mehdi Hasan explains that Trump has become a template for a whole planet full of bad-faith actors and wannabe strongmen. Before he became the host of his own TV show in America, Hasan interviewed all sorts of international politicians. “What I noticed over the last few years is that they all now start talking like Trump. They all use the same verbal tics, the same ‘fake news,’ the same completely brazen lies,” Hasan tells Jong-Fast. “This is not a coincidence. People around the world have said, ‘well, it worked for Donald Trump. Why can’t it work for me?’ Of course, all politicians are b******t artists. But what’s different today, Hasan adds, “is the way in which Trump and co. have turned lying into not just an art form, but an instrument of power. They don’t lie just to get their way. They lie because they want to destroy our shared reality. They want to demonstrate their power. They want people to back them and say, yes, ‘I don’t believe my lying eyes.’”


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable featuring Sen. Wilton Simpson; South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial page editor Rosemary Goudreau O’Hara; La Gaceta editor and publisher Patrick Manteiga; Dr. Donna Petersen, Dean of the USF Health College of Public Health and chair of the COVID-19 Task Force.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A breakdown of the six constitutional amendments on the Florida ballot.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: A discussion about Amendment 2 on the minimum wage increase to $15 an hour; Spectrum News 13 reporter Stephanie Coueignoux will talk to experts on both sides of the issue; and a look at how the pandemic complicates the issue due to the economic challenges in the state.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with pollster Steve Vancore, All Voters Vote chair Glenn Burhans, and POLITICO Florida reporter Gary Fineout.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Rick Mullaney of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute, future House Speaker Paul Renner, and HD 24 candidate Adam Morley.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Sen. José Javier Rodriguez; Miami-Dade County Commission District 7 candidates Cindy Lerner and Raquel Regalado; Burhans and Miami Herald journalist David Smiley.


Best wishes to my wonderful mother-in-law, Robin Todd, as well as Rep. Loranne Ausley, Cesar Hernandez, Mark Maxwell, a partner SCG Governmental Affairs, Rebecca O’Hara, Carrie Patrick, Beth Switzer, and Becca Tieder.


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, 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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