Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.23.20

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Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Good Friday morning.

🌧️ — Not Reagan’s morning: After its “Mourning in America” ad launched The Lincoln Project to fame this election cycle, the group of Never Trump Republicans is now airing “Mourning in Florida” — shared first with Florida Politics — spotlighting how Donald Trump‘s policies have hurt Floridians. A play on Reagan’s “Morning in America,” the new ad, and its added ‘u,’ reshape the Reagan years’ sunny optimism into a portrait of an administration that brings gloom.

To watch “Mourning in Florida,” click on the image below:

🗳️ — No Trump mail ballot this year: Trump will vote Saturday in Palm Beach County, his official Florida residence. Four years ago, he voted by mail, but after making a fuss over mail ballot fraud, the President will cast his ballot in person as his campaign carries out “Trump the Vote” rallies throughout the state.

🖥️— Zoom in: Senate District 39 candidates Ana Maria Rodriguez and Javier Fernandez will square off in a virtual debate for one of the state’s hottest Senate races this cycle today at 1 p.m. Register here for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce sponsored event. Bonus: I’m moderating, so expect some zingers.

🙏🏼— Hope, but no change?: Florida House Democrats may have a reason for hope, courtesy of Matt Isbell of MCI Maps, who is releasing his 2020 Florida House Ratings, pointing out several pickup opportunities and GOP tossups. One caveat: All told, a Blue Wave may not mean the chamber changes hands. Read the deep insight here.

⚾— Play ball!: After back-to-back games, the Tampa Bay Rays return from their Thursday breather tonight for Game 3 of the World Series with the best pitching matchup of the series. The Rays’ will start Charlie Morton as Walker Buehler takes the mound for the Dodgers. Tied in the series at one apiece, now’s the time to Rays up!


@RealDonaldTrump: [Barack] Obama is campaigning for us. Every time he speaks, people come over to our side. He didn’t even want to endorse Sleepy Joe. Did so long after primaries were over!

@RealDonaldTrump: The GREAT Bobby Bowden, one of the best coaches EVER in College Football, on his full recovery from Covid-19 “… America is the greatest country this side of heaven. I’ve had a chance to get a lot of wins in my life, but I really wanted to win this one because I wanted to be around to vote for President Trump.” Over 300 wins and 2 National Championships. Thank you to Florida State for giving us, Bobby Bowden!

@JoeBiden: Donald Trump has a dog whistle about as big as a foghorn.

@JoyAnnReid: Trump calls himself “the least racist person in this room.” I don’t even have a comment.

@DDale8: From a lying perspective, Trump is even worse tonight than in the first debate.

@TheRickWilson: Trump saying he could raise money if he wanted to is the Canadian Girlfriend of campaign finance.

@TimAlberta: So… unless Trump finds new and creative ways to bring it up, the Hunter/China issue fizzled without a memorable moment.

@CarlosGSmith: When the moderator asked if you win, on inauguration day, what would you say to Americans who didn’t vote for you? Trump answers by going off on an anti-Biden anti-Democrat rant— which of course, is EXACTLY what he would say.

@JosuaGreen: Trump might as well be speaking Swahili — no one but the most devoted Fox watcher can possibly follow what he’s saying

@MegynKelly: Trump won this debate, handily. Biden wasn’t a force at all. Trump was substantive, on-point, well-tempered. Definitely helped himself, when it mattered most.

@JulianZelizer: It’s a mistake for Biden just tries to run out the clock. The best sports teams always stay on offense even in the final minutes of a blowout (ok every now and then I need to throw in some sports analogies).

@DDiamond: Near-universal praise for moderator Welker underscores she’s the lone reporter to escape the curse of being a 2020 presidential moderator. Two moderators got steamrolled and third would-be moderator got suspended from C-SPAN. Once-glamorous job carries new risks in Trump era.

@JayRosen_NYU: Little glimpse into flood-the-zone as political method. Saturate your speech with things the establishment press can’t verify. Maximize conflict with their evidentiary standards. Whichever way they react — not covering, fact checking —makes for grievances you can bring to market.

@MichaelKruse: The Villages? Pensacola? On the second-to-last Friday before Election Day?

@AGearan: For better or for worse, we are at the Borat point in the election. Trying to figure out what follows Borat in the natural progression. Suggestions welcome.

@WhitmerThomas: If Abraham Lincoln was alive today he’d be watching Borat 2

Tweet, tweet:


2020 General Election — 11; NBA 2020-21 training camp — 18; FITCon Policy Conference begins — 20; The Masters begins — 20; NBA draft — 25; Pixar’s “Soul” premieres — 28; College basketball season slated to begin — 33; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 40; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 40; the Electoral College votes — 52; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 55; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 63; Greyhound racing ends in Florida — 69; the 2021 Inauguration — 89; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 107; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 118; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 132; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 161; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 252; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 259; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 273; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 281; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 378; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 381; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 413; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 477; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 530; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 711.


A mandate to be less like himself? It can be said that Donald Trump tried” via Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — He succeeded at various points in acting like the type of person he claims to disdain: a typical politician in a debate. He spoke with an inside voice while saluting his own pandemic response. He interrupted far less. He thanked the moderator for letting him chime in and did not sound sarcastic while doing so. And it is far from certain that he helped himself enough anyway. But in a moment of relentless national upheaval, manifesting in protest, public health crisis and immense financial turmoil, Trump also could not help but accentuate the most essential qualities of his tenure, reverting to fits of magical-thinking-aloud and grievance-stuffed nonrestraint.

— “Trump claims COVID “will go away,” Biden calls his response disqualifying” via Fadel Allassan of Axios

— “Biden to Trump: ‘I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life” via Axios

4 takeaways from the final 2020 presidential debate” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — 1. Trump offers no course correction on coronavirus. It wasn’t quite “it will go away,” as Trump spent much of the early outbreak saying. But the subtext was the same: Trump fudging and making up the details and downplaying the threat. 2. Biden sharpens his coronavirus closing argument. Biden responded to Trump’s “learning to live with it” by pointedly saying: “People are learning to die with it.” 3. Trump tries to make an issue of Hunter Biden, in fits and starts. 4. A better debate. There were far fewer interruptions and there was a far more substantive exchange on the issues. It was far from the dumpster fire that the last debate was.

It was a much better night, for both candidates and America. Image via AP.


Peggy Noonan: “Biden has a formidable lead, but not a flawless campaign. And a few signs point in Trump’s direction.”

Jake Tapper: Trump “didn’t set himself on fire like he did at the first debate.” And/but “I don’t see anything that will change the trajectory of the race in a significant way.”

Judy Woodruff: “This was much closer to a real debate than what we saw the last time… A much more valuable debate for the American people than what we heard in the first debate.”

CNN poll: Joe Biden wins final presidential debate” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN — Viewers once again said that Biden‘s criticisms of Trump were largely fair (73% said they were fair, 26% unfair), and they split over whether Trump’s attacks on Biden were fair (50% said yes, 49% no). That’s a more positive outcome for Trump. In a CNN Instant Poll after the first presidential debate, just 28% said they thought the President had won the debate, and 67% called his criticism of Biden unfair. All told though, the debate did not do much to move impressions of either candidate.

Kid Rock, golfer John Daly asked to mask up at final presidential debate” via Nexstar Media Wire — Golfer Daly and musician Rock spaced themselves a couple of seats apart at the final presidential debate between former Biden and Trump on Thursday, but masking up appears to have taken a little convincing. Getty Images photographer Chip Somodevilla captured images of the celebrity Trump supporters browsing their smartphones without masks before the event in Nashville. According to captions on Somodevilla’s photos, the entertainers — known for partying and bending norms — had to be asked to mask up before the candidates took the stage. While the masks were finally put on, the social distancing measures didn’t last long, as evidenced by a profanity-laced tweet sent by Daly a short time later.



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 former Biden are performing 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 dropping slightly to 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 Thursday, Biden is still at an 87 in 100 chance of winning than Trump, who is now at a 12 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 25.9%, while Florida is now second at 15.9%. Wisconsin is third with 13.7%. Other states include Michigan (9.3%), North Carolina (5.8%), Minnesota (5.6%), Arizona (5.2%) and Nevada (3%).

The debates are over; will it move the needle?

PredictIt: As of Thursday, the PredictIt trading market has Biden slipping to $0.645 a share, with Trump rising to $0.41.

Real Clear Politics: As of Thursday, the RCP average of General Election top battleground state polling has Biden leading Trump 50.7% to 42.8%. The RCP General Election polling average has Biden at +7.9 points ahead.

The Economist: As of Thursday, their model predicts that 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 is now less than 19 in 20 (93%) versus Trump with better than 1 in 20 (7%). They still give Biden a greater than 99% chance (better than 19 in 20) of winning the popular vote, with Trump at only 1% (less than 1 in 20).


Trump aims for adulation. Biden goes virtual. The two presidential candidates are running vastly different campaigns as Election Day nears” via Sean Sullivan, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Anu Narayanswamy and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — Trump has been spending heaps of cash staging crowded rallies designed to motivate his most fervent fans. Biden has been holding smaller, less expensive events and investing aggressively in television ads and virtual gatherings. The divergent approaches reflect the thinking on each side. Biden campaign officials say they feel strongly about running a campaign safely — and their posture underscores their belief that Trump’s widely criticized handling of the pandemic is the decisive issue in the election. Trump, meanwhile, has been determined to project strength during a crisis, which he often does by flouting the advice health of experts and basking in support of his most ardent fans.

Joe Biden is running a vastly different campaign compared to Donald Trump. Image via AP.

Can Trump win? Yes. But the path is narrow and difficult.” via Adam Nagourney of The New York Times — Trump’s victory in 2016 is remembered for defying polls and stunning Democrats. He prevailed with a piercing outsider message on jobs, immigration, China and trade. He restrained himself on Twitter in the final weeks while portraying his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as hostile to the economically disenfranchised blue-collar voters flocking to his rallies. His campaign worked systematically to drive up margins of white voters in battleground states that Democrats had largely taken for granted. Trump’s obstacles are considerably higher this time. He is an unpopular incumbent in the midst of a pandemic and an economic decline. He is facing a much different opponent, Biden, who has carefully studied mistakes Mrs. Clinton made in 2016.

‘Warning flare’: New swing-state data shows massive Democratic early-vote lead” via Marc Caputo and Zach Montellaro of Politico — Democrats have opened up a yawning gap in early voting over Republicans in six of the most crucial battleground states — but that only begins to tell the story of their advantage heading into Election Day. In a more worrisome sign for Republicans, Democrats are also turning out more low-frequency and newly registered voters than the GOP, according to internal data shared by Hawkfish, a new Democratic research firm, which was reviewed by Republicans and independent experts. The turnout disparity with new and less-reliable voters has forced Republican political operatives to take notice.

My wild two weeks inside the Trump campaign bubble” via Ryan Lizza of POLITICO — As the likelihood of Trump losing the election has grown, the quantity of misinformation has increased exponentially. Trump’s greatest frustration is that this sealed info-bubble that he has created is no longer amplified by traditional media. Just in the last few days, Trump has described the press as “dumb bastards,” “sleaze,” “crooked,” and “real garbage.” But at a Trump rally, the most privileged spot is reserved for national TV networks, which are afforded a riser in front of what the campaign seems to regard as the second-class media outlets. Fox has started carrying the events live again, but other networks rarely do, which enrages Trump, who has needed the larger audience that cable TV brings him.

The fear behind Trump’s obsession with immunity” via Michael Kruse of POLITICO — Trump has been talking a lot of late about immunity. “I’m immune,” he told Maria Bartiromo on Fox News six days after his release from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he had received treatment after falling ill with the coronavirus. “The president,” the President added, “is in very good shape to fight the battles.” Trump is talking most literally about his recovery from COVID-19. It’s a ready way for him to boast about his vigor and virility. He is, after all, a 74-year-old man who reportedly contemplated ripping off his dress shirt to reveal a Superman top upon his exit from the hospital.

Trump administration has known for weeks that Iran, Russia hacked local governments, officials say” via Ken Dilanian of NBC News — National security adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters Thursday that Iran and Russia got the data by hacking local governments. In a technical alert issued Thursday, the FBI and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said that hackers working for the Russian government had broken into several local government networks and that as of the beginning of October had stolen data from at least two of them. In at least one instance, the hackers could crawl the victim’s computer network to access a wide array of information. While the agencies said they had yet to see the hackers intentionally disrupt election operations, they said hackers “may be seeking access to obtain future disruption options.”

Trump seeds the ground for possible loss with personal attacks” via Nancy Cook and Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Down in the polls and short on cash, Trump and his team are ramping up their attacks on debate organizers, journalists and social media platforms in a bid to cast the final days of the 2020 race as “rigged” and “biased” against them. It’s a combative strategy of attacking pundits and political arbiters drawn from the 2016 campaign when Trump first presented himself as an outsider eager to disrupt national politics and Washington’s mores. It’s an effort to reframe poor polls and an onslaught of critical advertising while simultaneously keeping attention away from top-of-mind issues like the coronavirus and a still-struggling economy.

Trump and Obama expected to battle for votes in South Florida Saturday” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Saturday is shaping up to be a battle of presidents in South Florida. Obama will campaign for Biden in Miami. Just up the road in Palm Beach County, Trump is planning to vote early in West Palm Beach as part of a two-day campaign blitz to win Florida again in November. The details of the events are being ironed out. The Biden campaign has not announced where the Obama event will be held in Miami and whether it will be open to the public. The Trump campaign has not announced whether the President will rally supporters or make remarks after he casts his ballot Saturday. A White House spokesman confirmed Thursday that Trump would early-vote in West Palm Beach.

Trump, Biden campaigns lawyer up to take the election to court in Florida, rest of U.S.” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — Trump and Biden are still battling to get votes. Still, they’re also signing up thousands of lawyers and poll watchers in Florida and throughout the country in anticipation of a slew of legal challenges that could prevent the outcome from being known for weeks after Election Day. Barry Richard, a Tallahassee lawyer who represented Bush in the 2000 case, said legal issues would likely be easier to sort out this time because the butterfly ballots with “hanging chads” that made determining voter intent difficult during the 2000 recount are gone. In addition to the lawyers, poll watchers have signed up for each campaign in record numbers. There are 434 poll watchers for Trump in Orange County, and 368 for Biden.

Biden says he would create bipartisan commission to study court system ‘because it’s getting out of whack’” via John Wagner of The Washington Post — Biden said in an interview excerpt released Thursday that he would create a bipartisan commission to study the court system “because it’s getting out of whack.” The Democratic presidential nominee, who has avoided answering whether he would want to expand the Supreme Court by adding more justices, said in the interview with “60 Minutes” that the commission would look at that issue among others and make recommendations in 180 days. “What I will do is I’ll put together a national commission of bipartisan commission of scholars, constitutional scholars, Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative,” Biden told interviewer Norah O’Donnell.

Jeb and George Bush stay silent on Biden endorsement while speaking out against Donald Trump” via Emily Czachor of Newsweek — Although Jeb and George W. Bush have criticized President Trump throughout his term in office and reportedly decided months ago not to vote for him, the siblings and politicians have not formally endorsed Biden’s campaign. Their failure to do so has brought a wave of disapproving comments on social media over the past several days, with some pointing out that an endorsement from George, the only living former Republican president, could help the Democratic nominee.

Footage of Biden comforting school shooting victim’s son goes viral and breaks hearts” via Mikey Smith of the Mirror — A clip of Biden comforting the son of a school shooting victim has re-emerged online – and touched thousands of viewers. The footage shows the former Vice President attending a 2018 memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida. Hixon was one of 17 people murdered in a shooting spree at the school. He died trying to disarm the gunman. In the video, Biden asks who Hixon’s family are — and is introduced to his wife. “God love you,” Biden says as he turns to walk away. But from behind the camera, a distressed voice says, “I wanted to…”

It’s the pandemic, stupid: Florida election comes down to COVID-19, strategists say” via Christine Sexton of the Tampa Bay Times — Democrats, buoyed by gains in the 2018 elections, at one point saw the future of Obamacare as a driving issue in this year’s campaigns. But with less than two weeks left before the Nov. 3 general election, Republican and Democratic strategists say the election isn’t about broad policy issues like health care, the environment, gun control or immigration. Instead, it’s about fighting the coronavirus, which means different things for different Florida voters based on their political affiliations, ages and livelihoods. That poses a challenge for Republicans, especially since Trump has, in many ways, tried to downplay the impact of COVID-19, which has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States.

How the Trump campaign used big data to deter Miami-Dade’s Black communities from voting” via The Miami Herald — Trump’s team knew they couldn’t win the 2016 election simply by persuading people to vote for Trump. They also had to make sure Clinton supporters didn’t come out to the polls. So the campaign and its allies used big data to target Black communities along Miami-Dade County’s historically disenfranchised Interstate 95 corridor. There, residents became some of the 12.3 million unwitting subjects of a groundbreaking nationwide experiment: A computer algorithm that analyzed huge sums of potential voters’ personal data decided they could be manipulated into not voting. They probably wouldn’t even know it was happening.

Donald Trump Jr. thrills supporters with drive-by in Jupiter” via Sam Howard of The Palm Beach Post — As campaigns fan out across the country during the presidential election’s final weeks, two prominent members of Trump’s team made an impromptu appearance Wednesday in Jupiter. Trump Jr., and senior campaign adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle, his girlfriend, and a former Fox News personality, briefly greeted pro-Trump demonstrators at the busy intersection of Military Trail and Indiantown Road at about 5:30 p.m. “It was completely unknown to us that he was coming by,” attendee Samantha Wright said. “One minute we were waving flags … and next thing we know there are … black SUVs pulling up.” Willy Guardiola, who organizes Trump rallies in Palm Beach County, believed Trump Jr. was in town for a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago.

Donald Trump Jr. wowed supporters with a Jupiter drive-by.

False political news in Spanish pits Latino voters against Black Lives Matter” via Patricia Mazzei and Jennifer Medina via The New York Times — Even by the permissive standards of partisan talk radio, the grave warning from the host of a program on a popular Spanish-language station in Miami one afternoon in September was outlandish. Carinés A. Moncada, the host, claimed that Black Lives Matter’s co-founder practiced “brujería” — witchcraft. “And whoever votes for Biden, unfortunately, is supporting that,” she concluded. Some of the most insidious messages disseminated to Spanish speakers across the country, like the one shared by Moncada, are intended to pit Latino and Black voters against one another by using racist language — sometimes veiled, sometimes not — to cast those who protest police violence as untrustworthy and dangerous.

Mayor John Dailey endorses Biden in the ‘most important election in a lifetime’” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee Mayor Dailey endorsed Biden for President Wednesday afternoon and issued a call for all Tallahassee registered voters to cast ballots in the 2020 election.  Dailey, a lifelong Democrat who drew Republican support in his 2018 run for Mayor, has held non-partisan elected offices for the past 14 years, three terms as a Leon County Commissioner and as Mayor since 2018. But he said, while local government is about the delivery of services, the state and federal governments are much more political in serving the public. This year, he explained, he was compelled by the pandemic and the lack of federal support for local governments to enter the partisan battle for President.

I knew ‘Proud Boys’ voter intimidation email was bogus, UF student from Palm Beach County says” via Eliot Kleinberg of The Palm Beach Post — When Lillian Rozsa got the so-called Proud Boys email, she said she knew better. Still, the University of Florida law student and Dreyfoos School of the Arts graduate said Thursday that “it was shocking and scary.” The email appeared to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of confrontations. Rozsa pointed out what’s obvious to most: The threat is bogus on many levels. “I knew whoever wrote this was making threats they couldn’t deliver,” she told The Post on Thursday. But, she said, “it’s probably going to reach people who aren’t as aware of election laws as I am.” If she pursues a career in politics, Rozsa said, it won’t be right away. First, she wants to be a prosecutor.

Paid by Marva Preston, Republican, for Florida Senate.


Hunter Biden and The New York Post star in a new Trump ad.” via Linda Qiu of The New York Times — In the last throes before Election Day, President Trump’s campaign has returned to a familiar theme with its latest campaign ad: the foreign business dealings of Hunter Biden. The President and his allies repeatedly have — and sometimes inaccurately — raised the issue for two years, and an unsubstantiated New York Post story about Hunter Biden has provided another round of ammunition. The story’s key allegation — that Joe Biden, while serving as vice president, met with an adviser to a Ukrainian company on whose board Hunter Biden sat — comes from an email that The Post obtained. The ad first aired in Washington.

Trump ad says, ‘Biden will raise your taxes’ — The Trump campaign is pushing a new ad claiming Biden would raise taxes. The bluntly titled “Joe Biden will raise your taxes” opens with a clip of the former VP saying, “if you elect me … your taxes will be raised, not cut.” The clip features a jump cut. Left on the cutting room floor is that Biden is directing those comments to the lone attendee at a February campaign rally who said Trump’s tax plan benefitted him. The ad then claims household incomes would fall by $6,500 a year while utility bills and gas prices would skyrocket under Biden’s tax plan.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Independence USA ad bashes Trump administration for secret deportations — Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC is airing a Spanish language ad, “Deported,” highlighting the Trump administration’s secret deportations of Venezuelans. The ad relies on a letter New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez wrote to the State Department last week, revealing that documents received by his “confirm that U.S. deportations to Venezuela continued via third countries at least until March 2020.” A translation of the ad reads, “Under Nicolás Maduro, the people of Venezuela are suffering. And what has Trump done? Deportations and blocked the temporary protection status.” The ad is running in the Miami market on broadcast and cable through Election Day.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Republican Voters Against Trump puts $500K into swing state ads — Republican Voters Against Trump is putting $500,000 into an ad campaign criticizing the Trump administration’s pandemic response. The ad features whistleblower Olivia Troye, Pence’s former Homeland Security Adviser, and lead staffer on his COVID-19 task force. She said her time serving was “shocking” because while the task force knew that COVID would become a pandemic, the President didn’t want to impact his success in an election year negatively and preferred to ignore the information. She claims Trump said, in reference to his supporters, “Maybe this COVID thing is a good thing. I don’t like shaking hands with these disgusting people.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


Suspicious vote-by-mail envelop forces evacuation” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A voter who put a mail ballot into a zip-sealed plastic bag and then placed that it in the official vote-by-mail envelop caused a bit of a scare and an evacuation Thursday at the Orange County’s Supervisor of Elections Office. The bulkier-than-normal vote-by-mail envelope wouldn’t go through the machine that opens them. When someone tried to open it by hand and had more trouble, and encountered the plastic lining inside, the message was “uh-oh.” This year, of all years, tensions run high regarding elections and safety. The envelope was left for the bomb squad to investigate. The warehouse where Orange County’s vote-by-mail processing occurs was evacuated during the 3 p.m. hour.

Orange County Supervisor of Elections building briefly evacuated after suspicious package found, cops say” via David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando police said there was no hazardous material in a suspicious package found outside the Orange County Supervisor of Elections office on Kaley Avenue. The building was briefly evacuated, and police closed Kaley and Lucerne Terrace while they investigated. According to the Orlando Fire Department, a ballot was found inside a zip-locked bag in the processing area. Because they didn’t know where the bag came from, employees called the police as a precaution. Early voting was not affected, according to Bill Cowles, Orange supervisor of elections.

Voter suppression was spark that ignited Ocoee Massacre. A century later, Florida’s Black voters are still facing obstacles” via Desiree Stennett of the Orlando Sentinel — On Election Day in 1920, White mobs lynched a Black man in Orlando and burned countless homes in Ocoee, eradicating wealth and livelihoods while silencing the town’s Black community so completely that it is still impossible to know how many of its residents were killed. It started with a Black man attempting to exercise his right to vote. A century later, the Ocoee Massacre is still the largest recorded Election Day violence episode in U.S. history. Still, it is also part of a broader legacy that persists today: Florida’s history of suppressing Black votes. The suppression of Black voters in Florida has taken many forms: horrific acts of violence, overt intimidation, and veiled legal, financial and educational hurdles, such as poll tax laws.

Thousands of mail-in ballots have been initially rejected in Florida. But there’s still time to fix them.” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Thousands of mail-in ballots sent in by Florida residents have been initially rejected for signature errors and other mistakes. However, election experts say there is still plenty of time to make those votes count. The problem is that millions of Floridians are voting by mail for the first time because of concerns about the coronavirus and election security in general. Voters still have plenty of time this year to fix any error with their ballot, with the deadline extended by the Legislature to Nov. 5. “Check your emails, check your text messages, check your phone, find those phone calls and listen to voicemails, check your mail,” said Seminole elections supervisor Chris Anderson. “Get those cure affidavits back to the supervisor.”

— 2020 — 

America in line” via Arelis Hernández of The Washington Post — An average of 10,000 people an hour cast ballots across Harris County that day, and by the end of the week, more than half a million people had voted, a spike of 40% over 2016. The “blowout” numbers and a small number of technical problems with older voting machines led to some long lines, even though the county had tripled the number of polling locations this year, with 122 spread across the sprawling county, according to Lizzie Lewis, a spokeswoman for the Harris County clerk.

Experts give assurances as election looms” via Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida — Supervisors of elections, legal analysts, and voting-rights organizations are holding news conferences, urging journalists to assure voters that processes are in place for a smooth election, even if the results might not be known on Election Day. “This will not be a repeat of 2000. Second, I don’t anticipate any serious problems this year in Florida and probably in any states,” attorney Barry Richard told reporters during a video conference. In the two decades since the 2000 recount, Florida scrapped punch-card ballots that resulted in controversial “hanging chads” that made the state an international laughingstock and initiated several other changes designed to reduce the risk of election disasters.

Florida’s Tik-Tok generation is showing up at the polls this year. Will they be the difference?“ via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — A generation more familiar with Tik-Tok, Instagram and XBox has the potential to make the difference in Florida’s toss-up presidential race between two seventy-somethings. Younger voters have been registering and casting ballots in bigger numbers than previous years and, if the presidential race in Florida is as close as polls predict, it will be decided by the margins. There about 1.1 million additional new Florida voters between 18 and 34 in 2020 than there were in 2016, according to state data provided to the political parties and reviewed by TargetSmart, a Democratic firm.

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action accuses Matt Gaetz of promoting ‘White nationalism’ — A national organization, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, released an ad Tuesday targeting U.S. Rep. Gaetz for “promoting White nationalism and antisemitism.” The ad, titled “Getting to Know Matt Gaetz,” aims to “educate voters” on Gaetz’s controversial history. The ad will be featured on digital platforms and will target swing voters within the Republican Congressman’s district. The organization’s video cites, among other things, Gaetz’s 2018 invitation of a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union address.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Internal poll shows Vern Buchanan with 15-point lead over Margaret Good” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An internal poll from U.S. Rep. Buchanan’s campaign shows the incumbent leading Good by 15 percentage points. Survey results from highly-respected Data Targeting peg Buchanan winning 53% of the vote to Good’s 38%. That puts the Republican’s lead outside the poll’s 4.9% margin of error. Good, a Democratic state lawmaker, was recruited by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to challenge Buchanan in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. In recent weeks, the campaigns have posted dramatically different internal polling on the state of the race.

No, right-wing congressional candidate Laura Loomer is not a Democrat” via Wells Dusenbury, Eileen Kelley and Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Someone is trying to trick Democrats into casting a vote they certainly would regret: for far-right-wing conspiracy theorist Loomer. A blue card passed out to voters in Palm Beach County lists which Democrats to vote for, but it includes the Republican Loomer instead of her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel. Every other candidate on the card is a Democrat. Loomer? Most definitely not. No one is admitting to the trickery. Not the Republican Party and not Loomer, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The card has been distributed to voters at early voting sites in Lantana and Greenacres, according to the Palm Beach County Democratic Party.

Welcome to Florida’s Hendry County, home of heartland values and small-town tension” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times — Citrus haulers and pickup trucks kick up eddies of dust along 80 East. Past Alva, where civilization seems to drop away, Fort Myers’ concrete softens into lush green and longleaf pines. Gravel lanes vanish into distant ranches. Twenty minutes later, there’s LaBelle. Charlie Harris, 33, drives this way most mornings to open up Bridge Street Coffee & Tea, though everybody calls it Charlie’s. His mom’s side goes way back here. He learned to drive on 20 acres of cow pasture, strapped into a makeshift swamp buggy. He spent summers running iced gator hides and flesh across the family farm. He likes to show friends the hidden Florida.

What is a boricuada? Campaign calls on Puerto Rican voters to show meaning of the word with a huge election turnout” via Ingrid Cotto of the Orlando Sentinel — Boricuas, the people of Puerto Rico and their descendants, display behaviors that they see as unique to their community: applauding when the plane lands, a coffee sock can be more valuable than the latest Keurig and mentioning ‘El Cuco’ to control a misbehaving child. Whether living on the island or in a U.S. state, Puerto Ricans can identify and call out these behaviors with the term “Boricuadas.” A campaign to mobilize the Puerto Rican vote is calling for a “Boricuada” at the polls. The initiative “Vota Boricuada” highlights “the surprising and unique qualities of the Puerto Rican people” in a humorous tone that delivers “a deep message,” said Mijente Support Committee’s community engagement manager Marlena Fitzpatrick.

TV lawyers call for help in voter protection: ‘Actually, we can’t do it’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — If you’re a real-life lawyer, there’s a chance TV lawyers are calling for your help with the election through a lawyers’ public service organization that is working with Democratic Party voting organizations to ensure voting rights. “Your honor: Permission to treat Miss Vito as a hostile witness,” pleads Quincy Tyler Bernstine, who plays Tameika Washington on “POWER.” Wait, wait. That’s not what they’re asking for. “Calling all lawyers,” calls Christine Baranski, Diane Lockhart, on the “Good Fight.” “Not fake, make-believe, phony lawyers like me,” concedes Josh Charles, Will Gardner on “The Good Wife.” “We need lawyers,” says Raúl Esparza, Rafael Barba from “Law & Order SVU.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

New ad buys

SD 39: Republican Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez spent $35K on cable ads running in the Miami market through Election Day.  Also, FDLCC bought 30K in cable ads supporting Democratic Rep. Javier Fernandez. They will run through Oct. 25

CD 3: Republican Kat Cammack has made a $40K buy for cable ads running through Oct. 27. She has now spent $73K on ads this cycle. Democratic nominee Adam Christensen has spent $49K.

CD 13: Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist made a $50K broadcast buy from for ads running through Election Day in the Tampa market. He has now spent $1.81M on ads. Republican challenger Anna Paulina Luna has spent $756K.

CD 15: Republican Scott Franklin has placed $11K on cable ads running through Oct. 30. He and supporting groups have now spent $683K this cycle. Democratic nominee Alan Cohn has spent $981K.

CD 16: Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan spent $18K on radio ads running through Election Day in the Tampa market. He has now spent $1.4M on ads. The DCCC made a $38K broadcast buy for ads supporting his challenger, Democratic Rep. Margaret Good. Good and the DCCC have spent a combined $1.4M this cycle.

CD 18: Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast has placed $52K on broadcast through Oct. 25 in the West Palm Beach market. This brings his total for the election to $1.25M. Democratic challenger Pam Keith has spent $724K.

CD 19: Democratic nominee Cindy Banyai spent $10K on broadcast ads. They will run through Nov. 2 in the Ft. Myers market. She has now spent $28K this cycle. Republican nominee Byron Donalds has spent $149K.


Complaint alleges Patricia Sigman sponsored nonexistent FDLCC event” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A complaint filed with the Florida Elections Commission claims Sigman illegally funneled $75,000 in campaign funds to the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. The complaint, filed by Gregory Dielh of Apopka, points to an expenditure made on Sept. 22 through Sigman’s official Senate District 9 campaign account. The expenditure is marked down as an “event sponsorship,” but Dielh alleges there was no event to sponsor. “I have personally reviewed all available records, and there is no reference to an FDLCC event that Patricia Sigman’s campaign could have sponsored. The expenditure violated section 106.08, Florida Statutes,” he writes.

Joe Gruters releases final TV ad for Senate race” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Gruters final message heading into Election Day is simple. “Joe Gruters gets the job done.” A 30-second video spot, which Gruters said will be his last before the election, focuses on his accomplishments in office. It started running on cable on Thursday. “Twenty-two bills in his first two years,” a narrator explains as Sarasota’s skyline rolls by. The Gruters ad focuses on his private-sector work as well as his public service.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


Duval County elections board: No one can object to its rulings or photograph its meetings” via Andrew Pantazi of The Florida Times-Union — The Duval County Canvassing Board, made up of Elections Supervisor Mike Hogan, City Councilman Michael Boylan, and senior county Judge Brent Shore, rejected requests from Duval County Democrats to allow observers to object to the board’s decisions. Observers can object if they believe a ballot was illegally cast. Still, if they believe the board is misconstruing voter intent, they will have to note the ballot number and potentially file a legal challenge if the number of contested ballots could change the outcome of elections. The canvassing board also prohibited photography and video-recording. It said it wouldn’t livestream the proceedings, even though it will limit the number of people allowed to watch the board process ballots.

Duval SoE Mike Hogan and the Canvassing Board nixed Democrats seeking to observe and photograph board meetings. 

Bill Braswell campaign email draws criticism in Polk County Commission race” via Suzie Schotelkotte of The Ledger — A campaign email touting the county’s efficiency in distributing federal COVID-19 pandemic relief funding has ignited a political spat between incumbent Polk County Commissioner Braswell and his challenger, retired Circuit Judge Bob Doyel. In his email, Braswell lauded the county’s efforts in channeling an estimated $85 million in federal CARES Act funding to assist 23,750 residents and 5,866 small business owners in Polk County. He ended the email by asking recipients for their votes. “The fact that someone running for elected office could use applicants’ information for personal or political gain is unbelievable,” he stated.


Florida reports 5,557 new COVID-19 cases, most in over two months” via Marc Freeman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida health officials reported 5,557 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the latest indication that infection totals are trending higher since earlier in the month. It’s the greatest number of new COVID-19 cases in one day since the state tallied 6,352 cases on Aug. 15. The seven-day average number of new cases in Florida was below 3,000 from Sept. 8 to Oct. 13. Since then, there have been five days with more than 3,000 new cases. Public health experts recently have expressed concern that Florida could be at risk of a new wave of infections, as much of the nation is experiencing.

Florida moves past New Jersey in COVID-19 deaths” via News Service of Florida — Florida has moved past New Jersey to have the fourth-highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the country, according to totals posted Thursday on a Johns Hopkins University website that tracks national and international data. The website showed Florida with 16,267 COVID-19 deaths, four more than New Jersey. According to numbers from the Florida Department of Health, the Florida total does not include 203 non-residents who have died of COVID-19 in the state. New York has had the most COVID-19 deaths, with 33,377, the Johns Hopkins website shows. It was followed Thursday by Texas, with 17,656 deaths, and California, with 17,238 deaths.

Ron DeSantis ambivalent on COVID-19 reporting frequency, but demands accuracy” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — With the Governor’s Office denying that a change in the frequency of COVID-19 is imminent, DeSantis expressed his ambivalence Thursday on whether that data should be released daily or weekly. Thursday marked the first time DeSantis fielded questions from the press since it was reported last week that the Governor’s Office was in early talks on when to scale back Florida’s daily coronavirus updates. Communications director Fred Piccolo has repeatedly said that change won’t be happening soon. There are no confirmed details on what could trigger a switch to weekly or semiweekly updates. DeSantis offered no details regarding his office’s discussions, saying instead, he had “no firm preference either way” regarding the reporting frequency.

Ron DeSantis is not quite sure he wants to change the frequency of reporting COVID-19 numbers but demands accuracy nonetheless. Image via Fox News Channel.

Gov. DeSantis defends Thanksgiving gatherings for the elderly amid COVID-19 pandemic” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Despite potential health risks, DeSantis on Thursday defended the prospect of Thanksgiving gatherings for those living within the state’s long-term care facilities. “We need to be able to have family connections,” DeSantis said. “This is very, very important. Not everyone who is in these facilities is on the brink of passing away.” He argued that individuals and their families best make decisions on health and risk. He also cited the increased availability of COVID-19 rapid test kits in Florida nursing homes to support his case. Florida since late September has received 400,000 rapid-test kits a week from the federal government. The kits have been used to detect COVID-19 infections at schools, senior centers, and long-term care facilities.


South Florida teachers are making their own personal protective equipment — against district rules” via Jessica Bakeman of WUSF — South Florida teachers have gone to some desperate lengths to stock up on personal protective equipment and other supplies since public schools reopened amid the COVID-19 pandemic: begging parents to send disinfectant wipes with their kids, crowdfunding for air purifiers, spending hundreds of dollars of their own money on plexiglass dividers, and building makeshift desk shields from materials like PVC pipes and clear shower curtains. Despite teachers’ protestations, school district officials maintain they’ve provided what educators need. They’ve dispatched millions of masks, face shields, gloves, scrubs, gowns and other items designed to protect teachers from contracting the coronavirus in the classroom.

Tampa Bay Bucs-Las Vegas Raiders game moved from prime time after COVID-19 test” via The Associated Press — The NFL has shifted the Las Vegas game against Tampa Bay out of prime time after several Raiders players have been unable to practice this week because of contact tracing from the coronavirus. The game in Las Vegas was originally scheduled to be played at 5:20 p.m. PDT Sunday night in the national television window on NBC but now has been moved to 1:05 p.m. PDT in a regional window on Fox. The game between the Seahawks and Cardinals in Arizona has been moved into the prime-time window. The league says the changes were made out of an “abundance of caution” to make sure a game would be available for Sunday night.

COVID-19 forced the Las Vegas Raiders-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game to be dropped from ‘Sunday Night Football.’ Image via AP.

How the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marked the end of the pre-pandemic era” via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times — The March timeline of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg belongs in a time capsule as the perfect summation of how quickly the novel coronavirus shut society down. On Tuesday of race week, Pinellas County had its first two positive cases. On Wednesday, Mayor Rick Kriseman said the race was still on, with fans. But by Thursday morning, spectators were barred from one of the Tampa Bay area’s biggest sporting events. And 23 minutes before noon Friday, a red flag ended the Grand Prix mid-session. From full-go to called-off in 48 hours. Instead of serving as the IndyCar Series’ season opener, St. Petersburg is set to crown its series champion Sunday in one of the area’s largest gatherings of the COVID-19 era.

Pensacola ends state of emergency over COVID-19, keeps mask order through December” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — The city’s state of emergency over the pandemic was set to expire Thursday unless extended by a vote of the City Council. Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson pulled the state of emergency extension from the agenda during the Monday agenda conference. Robinson said he didn’t believe COVID-19 was over, but he said people have to learn to live with it. “We’re going to have to learn to live,” Robinson said Monday. “There will be times where it is almost essential that everyone wears a mask, and then there’ll be times where it can be more lax.”

Plantation Council meeting is ‘porn bombed’” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Plantation’s virtual City Council meeting flashed to horrified members of the public with mouths open and their hands on their heads. A man’s voice was heard screaming expletives. The government meeting was abruptly stopped on Sept. 29 when it was “porn bombed” with screenshots and audio from porn videos. A Plantation police report was filed over the hacked meeting, and police Thursday said they are still investigating what happened. “Investigations of this nature take time,” said police spokesman Detective Robert Rettig. Council Member Denise Horland had called Plantation’s Sept. 29 virtual meeting. She had wanted to raise her “concern about what I perceive to be a toxic work environment.”


U.S. COVID-19 deaths are rising again, led by midwest, west” via Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg — COVID-19 deaths are increasing in the U.S. after months of decline, driven by sharp increases in the Midwest and select states in the West. The seven-day average of newly reported deaths on Wednesday hit the highest in a month, according to the COVID Tracking Project’s most recent data. According to the group, the country recorded 994 confirmed and probable deaths, pushing the seven-day average to 757. The numbers are about a third of April’s peaks, but appear to be starting a third ascent. The Dakotas and Montana have turned into the deadliest places per capita, based on the average in the past week, but deaths are also rising in the Northeast, albeit from a low base.

CDC warns of ‘distressing trend’ in COVID-19 cases as country heads into fall” via Erika Edwards of NBC News — Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC, said the agency had noted a “distressing trend” in which coronavirus case numbers are “increasing in nearly 75% of the country.” Much of the increase in cases is centered in the Midwest. States like Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin have recorded rises in COVID-19 case numbers in the last two weeks. Public health officials attribute the spikes, in part, to cooler weather that is forcing people indoors. “Smaller, more intimate gatherings with family, friends and neighbors may be driving infections,” Butler said while acknowledging public pandemic fatigue. “We get tired of wearing masks, but it continues to be as important as it’s ever been.”

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during a COVID-19 briefing at the CDC’s campus in Atlanta. Image via AP.

The worst virus outbreaks in the U.S. are now in rural areas” via Lauren Leatherby of The New York Times — The total number of coronavirus cases and deaths in rural places remains smaller than those in cities because of the comparatively low population in rural areas. But the rural share of the virus burden has grown over time. Now, about one in four deaths from the virus are recorded in a rural county. That stands in contrast to March and April, when almost every death was in a metropolitan area, as the virus tore through the Northeast, after early clusters in the Seattle area and populous parts of California. During the summer surge, rural outbreaks occurred more often than they had in the spring, but reported cases per million remained higher in cities and their suburbs than in rural counties.

The coronavirus surge that will define the next 4 years” via Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic — The United States is sleepwalking into what could become the largest coronavirus outbreak of the pandemic so far.  This third surge is far more geographically dispersed than what the country saw in the spring or summer, with no clear epicenter. The surge has also belied some of Trump’s predictions about the pandemic. The President has repeatedly said that only states led by Democrats have struggled with the virus. Since then, coronavirus infections have skyrocketed in rural America. But describing what’s happening now as simply a red-state surge would be too pat. Cases are now rising in all but nine states — meaning this surge is more widespread, and harder to explain than either of the earlier waves.

COVID-19 vaccine should be ready for most vulnerable late this year, for everyone by spring, HHS Secretary Alex Azar says” via Karen Weintraub of USA Today — At least one COVID-19 vaccine should be available as soon as the end of this year, and the general public should be able to get vaccinated by early spring, Azar said Wednesday. “There is hope on the way in the form of safe and effective vaccines in a matter of weeks or months,” said Azar, speaking in Atlanta at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the rare public briefing, Azar laid out a specific timetable that didn’t exactly match what the government has previously said. “We expect that we would have by the end of this year enough vaccine that is FDA-authorized to be able to vaccinate the most vulnerable individuals,” he said.

Gilead’s remdesivir is first virus drug to get FDA approval” via Robert Langreth of Bloomberg — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Gilead Sciences Inc.’s antiviral therapy remdesivir on Thursday, making it the first drug to obtain formal clearance for treating the coronavirus. Regulators had granted an emergency use authorization for remdesivir earlier this year, and since then, the drug has become a widely used therapy in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. It was given to Trump this month when he was diagnosed with the virus. The approval of remdesivir, sold under the brand name Veklury, will allow Gilead to market the drug and talk about its benefits to doctors, nurses, and patients.

Alex Azar says a vaccine should start rolling out by the end of the year.

CDC expands definition of who is a ‘close contact’ of an individual with COVID-19” via Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — Federal health officials issued new guidance on Wednesday that greatly expands the pool of people considered at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus by changing the definition of who is a “close contact” of an infected individual. The CDC’s change is likely to have its biggest impact in schools, workplaces, and other group settings where people are in contact with others for long periods of time. It also underscores the importance of mask-wearing to prevent spread of the virus, even as Trump and his top coronavirus adviser continue to raise doubts about such guidance.


Florida’s unemployment claims show steep decline, but the numbers disguise a problem” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — State applications for the week ended Oct. 17 dropped to 35,960, down by 25% from the previous week, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor. The total reversed two straight weeks of increases that reinforced economists’ beliefs that the recovery is slowing. The peaks and valleys in weekly claims disguise the numbers of people who remain out of work and still receive some form of financial assistance from their states or federal programs. “It is difficult to know exactly how many individuals are no longer qualifying for jobless aid and how many are going back to work when looking at these numbers alone,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.


Schoolchildren seem unlikely to fuel coronavirus surges, scientists say” via Apoorva Mandavilli of The New York Times — Months into the school year, school reopenings across the United States remain a patchwork of plans: in-person, remote and hybrid; masked and not; socially distanced and not. But amid this jumble, one clear pattern is emerging. So far, schools do not seem to be stoking community transmission of the coronavirus, according to data emerging from random testing in the United States and Britain. Elementary schools especially seem to seed remarkably few infections. The evidence is far from conclusive, and data collection and analysis flaws have tarnished much of the research. School reopenings are very much a work in progress. Still, many experts are encouraged by the results to date.

Children are not the COVID-19 super-spreaders they were thought to be.

Stop wiping down groceries and focus on bigger risks, say experts on coronavirus transmission” via Elizabeth Chang of The Washington Post — Although studies continue to show that the novel coronavirus can be detected on contaminated objects after days or weeks, a consensus has emerged among scientists that the virus is rarely transmitted through contact with tainted surfaces and that it’s safe to stop taking such extreme measures as quarantining your mail and wiping down your groceries. “To the best of my knowledge, in real life, scientists like me — an epidemiologist and a physician — and virologists basically don’t worry too much about these things,” said David Morens, a senior adviser to the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci.

Diners weigh the ethics, risks and responsibilities of eating inside restaurants” via Tim Carman of The Washington Post — As temperatures drop and patios start to close, diners across the country will soon have to make up their own minds. The CDC has issued only “considerations,” leaving safety protocols, sick leave policies, and customer behavior in the hands of local jurisdictions and individual owners. The protocols, as you can imagine, vary widely. The considerations begin with the personal and quickly expand to public concerns: worker welfare, lack of universal health care, restaurant survival, ventilation systems, government safety nets, questionable information sources and much more.

Southwest opens middle seats, leaving Delta, Alaska as holdouts” via Justin Bachman of Bloomberg — The middle seat has become a critical issue for airlines as coronavirus-wary leisure travelers straggle back onto planes. Southwest Airlines Co. said Thursday that it would begin filling middle seats on Dec. 1. The change leaves Delta Air Lines Inc. and Alaska Air Group Inc. as the only two major U.S. carriers that will keep those seats off-limits into early 2021. “It is a very safe environment with all of the air-filtering technology and wearing masks,” Southwest Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said after the carrier reported earnings. “The science supports that.”


Ron DeSantis committee rakes in $235,000” via The News Service of Florida — A newly filed finance report indicates the committee raised the $235,000 from Oct. 13 to Oct. 15, after raising $200,000 earlier in the month and $60,000 in late September. The latest contributions included $75,000 from the Florida Prosperity Fund, a political committee with ties to Associated Industries of Florida; $50,000 from health insurer Humana; $50,000 from the managed-care firm Centene Management Co.; and $50,000 from Ygrene Energy Fund, Inc., according to the report. DeSantis’ committee was largely idle from April through August, with new money coming from interest on a bank account during the period. As of Friday, it had nearly $7.5 million in cash on hand.

Ron DeSantis makes some sold bank. Image via AP.

AppointedChristopher Lazzara to the University of North Florida Board of Trustees; Joseph Conte to the University of Central Florida Board of Trustees.

What Jimmy Patronis is readingPaul Singer’s $41 billion hedge fund moving headquarters to Florida” via Hema Parmar, Katia Porzecanski, and Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg — Florida is luring its biggest name yet in hedge funds: Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. The $41 billion firm plans to move its headquarters to West Palm Beach from Midtown Manhattan, according to people familiar with the matter, joining a growing list of funds that have relocated to the Sunshine State. Florida has become a hot destination for hedge funds in recent years with no individual income taxes, estate taxes, or capital gains taxes. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that shift away from New York, the U.S. outbreak’s initial epicenter.

Insurance, water issues on the table for Legislative Session” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson told business leaders that lawmakers meeting for the 2021 Session also would need to consider efforts to keep polluted Central Florida waters from flowing in Lake Okeechobee. “Three or four years ago, we did a bill that brought in more southern storage to that system. And what I believe is probably a flaw in our thinking, there was more of a political thought,” Simpson said during a brief video appearance at the end of the Florida Chamber Foundation’s three-day virtual Future of Florida Forum. Simpson and House Speaker-Designate Chris Sprowls spoke to business leaders as lawmakers prepare for the Session will likely be dominated by responding to the coronavirus pandemic’s financial impacts.

Pete Antonacci, John Van Laningham seek chief judge post” via Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida — Broward County Supervisor of Elections Antonacci and a long-serving administrative law judge have joined a list of candidates applying to become chief judge of the state Division of Administrative Hearings. Antonacci and Administrative Law Judge Van Laningham were among at least 10 candidates who had submitted paperwork for the post. DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet will appoint a chief judge from among the candidates. Antonacci, who was named Broward County elections supervisor in 2018 by then-Gov. Rick Scott has held a series of high-level jobs, including Palm Beach County state attorney, general counsel to Scott, and executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. He will leave his current position after the November elections.


Nancy Pelosi says ‘just about there’ on stimulus; Senate hurdle awaits” via Erik Wasson and Billy House of Bloomberg — Speaker Pelosi said she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are “just about there” on resolving a key piece of a coronavirus relief package, even as there are significant differences still being negotiated. Pelosi said she and Mnuchin were nearing agreement on allocating money for testing and tracing to safely reopen schools and the economy, a central element for the speaker in the talks. She said they still haven’t settled three of the main sticking points: Democrats’ demands for aid to state and local governments, school funding, and Republican insistence on a liability shield for employers.

Steven Mnuchin and Nancy Pelosi keep getting closer to a stimulus deal.

Emailed threats in Florida dry up as congressional delegation asks for FBI briefing” via Ana Ceballos and Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Threatening emails claiming to be from a pro-Trump group called the Proud Boys that were sent to voters in Florida and other states earlier this week appeared to have come to a halt after the FBI accused Iran and possibly Russia of being behind the attacks to influence the U.S. election. But U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Michael Waltz are now requesting an FBI briefing for the Florida delegation, and at least seven local election officials say they have not been given any information from authorities on the scope of the issue other than what has been publicly reported.

An angry Azar floats plans to oust FDA’s Stephen Hahn” via Adam Cancryn and Dan Diamond of POLITICO — Infuriated by the FDA’s defiance in a showdown over the Trump administration’s standards for authorizing a coronavirus vaccine, health Secretary Azar has spent recent weeks openly plotting the ouster of FDA chief Hahn. Azar has vented to allies within the Health and Human Services Department about his unhappiness with the top official in charge of the vaccine process, and discussed the prospect of seeking White House permission to remove him, a half-dozen current and former administration officials said. The discussions come amid deep frustration with Hahn over his insistence that a COVID-19 vaccine meets strict safety standards.

Florida lobbyist thrives in Trump-era Washington” via Brody Mullins and Julie Bykowicz of The Wall Street Journal — No lobbyist has benefited more in the Trump era than Brian Ballard, a longtime Florida political operative who didn’t have so much as an office in Washington four years ago. After raising millions of dollars for President Trump’s campaign and inauguration, Ballard opened a federal practice in early 2017, hanging his shingle a few blocks from the White House. Since then, Ballard Partners has collected nearly $75 million in fees from U.S. corporations, foreign governments, and other clients with fewer than a dozen lobbyists. Ballard is personally registered to represent 122 clients on more than 300 policy matters, the most of any registered lobbyist in Washington.


Delray Beach postpones ‘mini-trial’ on whether to fire suspended City Manager George Gretsas” via Mike Diamond of The Palm Beach Post — The hearing to determine whether suspended Delray Beach City Manager Gretsas should be fired has been postponed from Friday until Nov. 20 after Gretsas’ lawyer threatened to seek a court order to block the proceeding. At issue were 2019 emails and texts that Gretsas says Delray Beach has not yet provided. Gretsas asked for communications related to city business maintained on the private devices of Mayor Shelly Petrolia, Commissioner Shirley Johnson, City Attorney Lynn Gelin and City Auditor Julia Davidyan. The communications are needed for Gretsas to prepare his defense, his lawyer said. City officials say that more than 10,000 emails have been reviewed.

The ‘mini-trial’ of suspended Delray Beach City Manager George Gretsas has been put on hold. Image via Delray Beach Times.

Palm Beach County school superintendent criticized in performance review” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Donald Fennoy received a tough review during his second full year as Palm Beach County schools superintendent, with nearly half the School Board rating his performance subpar in a year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Fennoy received an overall rating of effective, but just barely. His score was 2.51 out of 4.0. A score below 2.5 would be “needs improvement.” It’s a big decline from last year when the School Board gave him a highly effective score of 3.5. Most board members voiced concerns about the district’s chaotic effort to close and reopen schools as the community battled COVID-19, although some cut him slack due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic.

Family of Nevan Baker says civil rights attorney Ben Crump to probe hanging death” via Grace Toohey of the Orlando Sentinel — Acclaimed civil rights attorney Crump plans to investigate the case of Nevan Baker, the Black man found hanging from a tree in an Orlando park earlier this month, according to his mother. Baker’s mom, Sharhonda James, said Thursday she has signed on with Crump’s team, who will conduct an independent investigation of her son’s death. OPD and the preliminary autopsy by the District 9 Medical Examiner determined Baker’s death was suicide. However, James said when she saw her son’s body, she saw swelling on her son’s face that worried her. She also still questions why her son, who she said was doing well and looking forward to future plans, would have killed himself.

Decades in the making, Welaunee plan faces unresolved challenges” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The idea that the vast Wealunee property in north Tallahassee would someday be primed for development has been on the table for about 30 years. But the last five months have been integral in shaping the future of how the community will move forward in planning for multiple new neighborhoods. Opponents continue to push for more study and time to get the Comprehensive Plan amendment just right by the end of the year. They say the current plan lacks specificity. A final adoption hearing has been set for Nov. 10 within a 13-day window between the Nov. 3 election and when new commissioners are sworn in, meaning at least two lame-duck Commissioners will have a say in the final approval.

Kennel Club plans layoffs as dog racing ends” via News Service of Florida — The St. Petersburg Kennel Club, which operates as Derby Lane, will begin laying off employees Dec. 27 after Florida voters in 2018 overwhelmingly approved a proposal to halt greyhound racing by the end of this year, according to a notice filed with the state Department of Economic Opportunity. Kennel Club Chair and President Richard Winning advised the state the layoffs would start Dec. 27 and continue through April. Winning said 51 employees would initially be let go, including nine dog handlers, 10 mutuel tellers, three TV crew members, and an announcer. Additional layoffs will continue through the first four months of 2021.

Derby Lane Rays
Derby Lane and the St. Petersburg Kennel Club are looking at trimming staff as greyhound racing ends.


If we truly want to give thanks to our loved ones this Thanksgiving, it might be best not to see them” via Leana S. Wen of The Washington Post — It’s time for Americans to plan for a very different kind of Thanksgiving. Many of us need to be prepared to accept a Thanksgiving where we do not see our loved ones in person or, if we do, only with serious precautions. I had hoped we wouldn’t get to this point. Until a few weeks ago, I thought there was a chance we could turn the trajectory of COVID-19 enough to lower the baseline of infection, allowing us to resume holiday gatherings. That didn’t happen. People who are already worrying about the holidays ahead may be facing resistance from family members who cherish tradition. This is the time to have difficult conversations because none of us want to host an event that could sicken those we care about the most.


Trump came out strong. But is it too late?” via David Siders of Politico — Had Trump debated three weeks ago the way he did Thursday, he might be in a better place. His defense of his handling of the pandemic was cogent. He aligned himself with the public health experts he’s previously attacked. He took credit for a robust stock market. But there was no winning this debate — not 12 days out from an election. Instead, the final 2020 debate functioned largely as one last, 90-minute distillation of everything that has burned Trump all year.

At 24 years old, I thought youth protected me from COVID-19. That idea got knocked out of me.” via Ashley Andreou of USA Today — I was diagnosed with COVID-19 in September. I am almost back to my pre-COVID-19 self, but, not unlike Trump, I was extremely privileged to have access to the knowledge and medical resources that I did during my illness. If people don’t have access to health care providers or mental health professionals, know how to strengthen their immune system, or understand the importance of monitoring their oxygen and temperature at home, their experience could be even more anxiety-inducing and medically dire.

Dan Daley: An appeal to Floridians, regardless of party” via Florida Politics — We have never been more divided as a state or country. Much responsibility for that division falls at the feet of our current President. Time and again, Trump has had an opportunity to unite this country and has fallen short. Biden has the moral leadership, compassion, and determination to unite the country and heal the divisive wounds that plague our people. The past four years have shown just how much moral leadership matters. While Trump has played to our nation’s crudest sensibilities, Biden personifies a decent, moral life, both public and in private. He’s suffered greater loss than many could ever imagine. It’s why he loves the way he does, consoles the way he does, and leads the way he does.

Raising minimum wage would hurt Florida families, not help them” via Skylar Zander for the News-Press — The COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding shutdown threw our economy a curveball no one saw coming. While families, workers, and small businesses across the Sunshine State struggle to make ends meet, policymakers search for solutions that will help ease the burden. But we ought to be wary of any solution that promises a quick fix. On Election Day, Floridians will consider one such “solution” — Amendment 2, which would incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. But raising the minimum wage comes with a plethora of negative consequences that harm the very people it is intended to help. In the wake of the COVID-19 shutdowns, small businesses are already struggling to stay afloat.

Micah Kubic: Amendment 4 strips Floridians of our own power. Vote ‘no.’” via Florida Politics — If you are a Florida voter participating in the upcoming General Election, you are being asked to approve an amendment to the state constitution that will make it much harder to change that constitution in the future. It is a terrible idea that will only make it much more difficult and expensive for future Florida citizens to exercise the public’s will through grassroots initiatives. The proposed amendment would make it twice as hard and twice as expensive for grassroots efforts to overcome our political class’s narrow interests. It would also create extra costs to taxpayers by requiring unnecessary balloting. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida urges you to vote “NO” on #4.

On USF consolidation, don’t drop the ball now” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — The recent consolidation of the USF’s three campuses continues to be tumultuous. Everybody should agree that consolidation should lift all three campuses, not benefit the Tampa campus to the detriment of the St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee campuses. State Rep. Chris Sprowls and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who shepherded the consolidation legislation in 2018, must stay on top of the growing tensions. For years, the three campuses had separate accreditations, which granted the two smaller campuses more autonomy. During the lead up to consolidation in 2018, proponents argued that the campuses would benefit from USF Tampa’s status and additional funding as a preeminent university.


The Florida Department of Health has confirmed 5,558 new cases of COVID-19, the highest in more than two months. The state also reported 57 more fatalities.

 Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Gov. DeSantis travels to Fort Myers to announce the end of most state restrictions on nursing home visitation.

Trump is back in Florida today for rallies at The Villages in Central Florida and Pensacola in the Panhandle.

— The ghost of the 2000 Florida recount is still haunting the Sunshine State, but one of the key figures in that drama says it won’t happen again this year.

Barry Richard was the attorney for George W. Bush during the recount. He says Florida fixed its election laws. He’s more concerned about the President undermining the elections with all his complaints about voter fraud.

— Trump and Biden squared off in their final debate before Election Day. But wouldn’t you rather hear from Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry? Us too!

— Bottom Line on this election: Hiaasen and Barry say they’re expecting a Florida shitshow. They spoke at a virtual fundraiser for the First Amendment Foundation.

— You’ll also hear them sing a Florida Woman song at the end of the podcast. Remember… you’ve been warned.

To listen, click on the image below:


Dishonorable Mention: Rep. Chris Latvala, activist Becca Tieder, Ernest Hooper and communications expert Dr. Karla Mastracchio discuss politics and culture. The hosts discuss Amy Coney Barrett‘s SCOTUS nomination hearings and what this means for both parties going forward. Trump has been campaigning in Florida this week. Is the I-4 corridor even more important than usual come election day? They also talk about 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: Florida’s 14-day early voting period is underway, and Trump and former President Obama are campaigning in the state as they work to drive Republicans and Democrats to the polls. Journalists Zac Anderson, John Kennedy and Antonio Fins discuss the high-profile campaign events, numbers from the first few days of early voting, and Black voters’ importance for Biden.

podcastED: Step Up for Students President Doug Tuthill interviews school choice advocate Derrell Bradford, 50CAN executive vice president, about the organization’s advocacy for federal funding to build new education infrastructure and its goal of giving individuals power and money to shift the future of public education toward greater diversity and choice.

Tallahassee Business Podcast from the Tallahassee Chamber presented by 223 Agency: Sue Dick speaks with Katrina Tuggerson, president of the Capital Capital City Chamber of Commerce. Tuggerson talks about her career path, involvement in the community, and how it has shaped her work at the Capital City Chamber of Commerce.

The New Abnormal from host Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: Sacha Baron Cohen goes deep on all of the crazy things that happened during the filming of his Showtime series ‘Who Is America? ’— including truly incredible stories about his interactions with Sarah Palin, O.J. Simpson, Ben Carson and more. He also talks about interviewing Trump as Ali G. and reveals some big secrets behind his classic film ‘Borat.’ This episode was recorded in front of a live audience as part of the SAG Conversations series at the SAG-Aftra Foundation in Los Angeles on May 21, 2019.

The Yard Sign with host Jonathan Torres: Hosts Anibal Cabrera, Joe Wicker, Brittany Jean, and Torres discuss the Barrett confirmation hearings, latest polling, Hunter Biden and Trump Town Halls.


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 Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano; political commentator and consultant Barry Edwards; Tampa Bay Times Senior Deputy Editor for News Amy Hollyfield and POLITICO Florida senior reporter Marc Caputo.

Political Connections  Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Political analysts Ana Cruz and Berny Jacques will discuss the final presidential debate of 2020; a look at the first week of early voting in Florida and details on the local races in the Bay-area. Next week, Political Connections will also be presenting a nightly special edition on the upcoming elections.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: An hour-long special edition on Hispanic Voters and Election 2020. A panel of six Hispanic voters, two Republicans, two Democrats, and two NPAs will discuss the important issues and how they are shaping their decisions during the 2020 presidential election. Next week, Political Connections will also be presenting a nightly special edition on the upcoming elections.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Florida’s Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moscowitz, attorney Sean Pittman and Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce President Antonio Jefferson.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: The guest host is Rick Mullaney, the Public Policy Institute director at Jacksonville University. Guests include Gov. DeSantis and former Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Broward County Mayor Dale Holness; Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine; Republican Carlos Giménez, a candidate for Florida’s 26th Congressional District; Florida Democratic strategist Steve Schale and Republican Party activist Ed Pozzuoli.

— ALOE —

The Fast & Furious saga will reportedly end after 11th film” via Chris Perkins of Road & Track — Few would’ve imagined the staying power of a movie about street racing, but the Fast & Furious saga is still going strong, with the ninth installment, F9, set to premiere next May, 20 years after the first. At this point, I’ve been starting to think that the series will never end, though that might not be the case. Deadline reports that after F9, there will be two more main Fast & Furious installments, then that’s it. Universal Pictures is reportedly in talks with Justin Lin, who directed five of the nine installments thus far, including F9, to helm two more films to wrap up the main Fast & Furious series.

Eleven is enough: The Fast & Furious franchise will reportedly end with the 11th film.

Disney: Epcot arts fest set for January start” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney World has shared a few details about the upcoming Epcot International Festival of the Arts, including its dates. The event will run on Jan. 8-Feb. 22. A post on the official Disney Parks Blog lists many of the elements seen in previous arts festivals at the theme park, including 15 “food studios,” guest artists, a Figment-based scavenger hunt, artistic step-in photo opportunities, and a giant paint-by-number mural that involves crowd participation. Not on the list is the Disney on Broadway Concert series, which has featured singers from stage shows such as “The Lion King,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin” and others. The blog post’s musical references are for Epcot artists Mariachi Cobre and the JAMMitors.


Best wishes to our friend, the brilliant, John Sowinski as well as former U.S. Senator Mel Martinez and RepPatricia Hawkins-Williams.


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

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

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