Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.18.20

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Heat up your day with a dose of Sunburn, the premier first read of Florida politics and policy.

Ballard Partners remains the firm to beat in lobbying compensation.

The firm founded by Brian Ballard reported nearly $4.4 million in third quarter lobbying pay, besting its total from the second quarter when it reported $4.2 million in receipts.

The performance once again assuages fears that the pandemic is taking a toll on the state’s top lobbying firms’ bottom lines.

The new reports show Ballard Partners earned $2.34 million in legislative lobbying fees and another $2.02 million in executive branch lobbying fees. Last quarter, it earned $2.3 million and $1.9 million, respectively.

Brian Ballard’s Ballard Partners is once again at the top in lobbying compensation for Florida.

Lobbying firms report their pay in ranges covering $10,000 increments. Florida Politics uses the middle number of each range to estimate total revenue for the quarter.

Coming in close behind was Capital City Consulting, which reported $3.57 million in receipts — $1.89 million lobbying the Legislature and $1.67 million lobbying the Governor and Cabinet.

The second-place finish for Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace and the rest of the CCC team was a rung above last quarter when the firm came in at No. 3 behind The Southern Group.

Though The Southern Group’s $3.49 million in Q3 puts it inches behind CCC, range reporting shows the firm may have held on to No. 2.

CCC may have earned $5 million at the top end while TSG could have maxed out at $5.31 million.

As in past quarters, Ron Book’s agile firm took the No. 4 spot, largely due to a strong legislative compensation report from him and partners Rana Brown and Kelly Mallette.

That half the ledger showed $1.61 million in earnings. It was coupled with a $500,000 executive branch lobbying haul, making for a $2.11 million quarter.

The No. 5 spot is traditionally a dogfight between Greenberg Traurig and GrayRobinson. This quarter was no different.

Based on median earnings, GrayRobinson gets the W. Firm President Dean Cannon and his team notched $1.01 million in the executive and $975,000 in the legislative, putting them just shy of $2 million and within arm’s reach of Book.

Meanwhile, Greenberg Traurig posted $1.8 million in revenues — $1.14 million in the Legislature and $660,000 in the executive branch.

In other notes:

📢Chris Sprowls’ Organization buzzwords: Speaking for the first time as House Speaker, Sprowls touched on issues relating to law and order, the COVID-19 pandemic, “cancel culture,” and Twitter shenanigans. During his lengthy remarks, Sprowls mentioned the ongoing pandemic eight times, Twitter four times, and cancel culture twice in a speech that carried the GOP torch while dancing carefully on socially relevant topics like defunding the police and weaponizing social media.

🦠 — Testing, testing, testing: All but four House members were tested before Tuesday’s Organization Session, including all 78 House Republicans. Anyone present in the chamber tested negative. Seven members were excused from the session because they either tested positive or had close contact with someone who had. Those include Rep. David Borrero, Adam Botana, Demi Busatta Cabrera, Mike Giallombardo, Michelle Salzman, Geraldine Thompson and Jackie Toledo. All but one, Thompson, are Republicans.

😷U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley COVID-19 positive: The senior Senator from Iowa announced via Twitter Tuesday he had tested positive for coronavirus. Grassley said he is following doctors’ orders and CDC guidelines as he continues to quarantine. The Senator said he is “feeling good” and plans to keep up his work from home in Iowa.


@RealDonaldTrump: I have reversed the ridiculous decision to cancel Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery. It will now go on!

@MrDanZak: Update from U.S. District Court in Williamsport, Pa., one of the [Donald] Trump campaign’s last stands: [Rudy] GIULIANI: “I’m not sure what ‘opacity’ means. It probably means you can see.” JUDGE [Matthew] BRANN: “It means you can’t.”

@RonBrownstein: Is Joe Biden ready to cope with an entire party committed to ignoring reality and corroding democratic institutions to placate its hard-core base, even at the price of undermining the response to the coronavirus outbreak? Is American society ready for the implications of that?

@AttorneyCrump: Congrats @CedricRichmond — announced today as Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. In this new position, he’ll lead @JoeBiden’s effort to create an open and transparent government that works for ALL of its people! #WeThePeople

@GOPLeader: This is the most united & energized I have ever seen House Republicans. We delivered a historic political upset fueled by conservative women, minorities, and veterans. And we’re just getting started.

@GovRonDeSantis: Enjoyed attending today’s organization sessions & I look forward to working with Speaker @ChrisSprowls & President @WiltonSimpson during the 2021 Legislative Session. We have a lot of work to do on behalf of the people of Florida to power our state’s economic recovery.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@ZachBorenstein: I still don’t understand how COVID is worse than ever after we’ve tried everything from pretending it’s over to pretending it never happened


College basketball season slated to begin — 7; Atlantic hurricane season ends — 12; Florida Automated Vehicles Summit — 14; the Electoral College votes — 26; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 29; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 34; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 37; Pixar’s “Soul” premiere (rescheduled for Disney+) — 37; Greyhound racing ends in Florida — 43; Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections — 48; the 2021 Inauguration — 63; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 81; Daytona 500 — 88;“ A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 92; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 106; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 134; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 226; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 233; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 247; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 255; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 289; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 349; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 352; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 355; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 387; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 451; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 504; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 685.


Florida lawmakers convene in Tallahassee, clouded by virus and economy” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Florida Legislature convened Tuesday for a postelection organization session, with the spread of the coronavirus and economic collapse shadowing lawmakers who had not met in eight months. Palm Harbor Republican Sprowls presided as newly sworn-in House Speaker. Across the Capitol Rotunda, new Senate President Simpson picked up the gavel for the first time in command. Seven Florida House members were excused from Session because they had tested positive earlier or after traveling to the capital or exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Wilton Simpson takes the gavel as Senate President. Image via @FLSenate/Twitter.

Florida lawmakers convene and make it official: Containing COVID-19 not their problem” via Mary Ellen Klas, Ana Ceballos and Kirby Wilson of Miami Herald — Florida lawmakers convened for the first time in eight months Tuesday as Republican leaders gave only brief mention to the issue on the minds of all Floridians while acknowledging a $5.4 billion budget hole created by the pandemic. Lawmakers swore in 10 freshman senators and 41 freshman House members and named Simpson as Senate President and Sprowls as speaker of the House of Representatives. And although lawmakers didn’t talk about it, they faced it. In speeches before their mostly masked colleagues, both Simpson and Sprowls spoke of the value of family and the complex issues ahead of them.

Chris Sprowls delivers law and order message during opening Organization Session message” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Wielding the gavel for the first time as House Speaker, Sprowls used his opening address to the new class of lawmakers to share a message of law and order, but to also acknowledge concerns about police brutality and systemic issues within law enforcement. Sprowls opened the House’s 2021 Organization Session Tuesday to a different sort of fanfare than lawmakers are accustomed. “I regret that circumstances have muted our celebration today,” Sprowls said, referencing COVID-19 restrictions that limited the typically robust attendance. Sprowls urged respect for law enforcement and cautioned against painting all officers with the same brush.

Sprowls champions free speech over ‘cancel culture’ in opening remarks” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — In his opening remarks as House Speaker, Sprowls criticized “cancel culture ” and defended Florida as a place that still values free speech. Sprowls’ cultural critique came Tuesday during the 2021 Organization Session. There, the former prosecutor accused “weak” university leaders and “cowardly” executives of abetting cancel culture. He also pointed his finger toward the “elite” and “powerful,” who he alleged help amplify it. “I do believe that this is still a state where we value free speech, where we recognize good people of good intent can disagree on matters of politics or faith without resorting to personal attacks,” Sprowls said.

Democratic leaders say Sprowls ‘glossed over’ COVID-19 in opening remarks” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — House Democrats on Tuesday accused House Speaker Sprowls of glossing over the pandemic during his opening remarks at the 2021 Organization Session. Speaking at a news conference after the session, House Minority Leaders Bobby DuBose and Evan Jenne said they wished Sprowls offered more details about his plan to manage COVID-19 and the state unemployment system. “I didn’t really hear anything substantive on COVID other than an admission that it’s been a tough time for Floridians,” Jenne said.

Chris Sprowls makes his first speech to the Florida House as Speaker. Image via the Tallahassee Democrat/Tori Lynn Schneider.

Wilton Simpson eyes education funding amid budget woes” via Dara Kam of The News Service of Florida — Facing a $5 billion reduction in estimates of state revenue, Senate President Simpson warned that austerity measures — including potentially the first public university tuition increases in a decade — are on the horizon. Simpson’s comments came as the Trilby Republican took up the mantle as leader of the Senate during an Organization Session. Financial fallout from the pandemic will dominate the regular 2021 Legislative Session, Simpson and his counterpart, House Speaker Sprowls, noted. “We will tighten our belts,” Simpson told Senators after being sworn in as President. “We have less revenue; therefore we will have less government.” Simpson floated the possibility of slashing funding for the state’s K-12 system, pointing to increases in public school spending over the past dozen years.

Florida environmentalists want Legislature to create climate change committee” via Zachary T. Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times — As two Tampa Bay leaders take control of the Florida Legislature, a group of environmental advocates is asking them to create a committee on climate change to tackle what it considers “the single biggest threat facing Florida.” In a letter Tuesday, Florida Conservation Voters executive director Aliki Moncrief asked Rep. Sprowls, the new House Speaker, and Sen. Simpson, the new Senate President, to select a group of lawmakers from both chambers to focus on the issue.

State Sen. Ray Rodrigues admitted to hospital after COVID-19 diagnosis” via WINK News — State Sen. Rodrigues has been admitted to the hospital more than a week after testing positive for COVID-19. He told WINK News on Nov. 9 that he was scheduled for a medical procedure and a COVID-19 test beforehand came back positive the previous weekend. At the time, Rodrigues said he wasn’t experiencing any symptoms and was quarantining. He said Tuesday that he went from being asymptomatic the first five days to getting hit with all the symptoms during the last 10. Rodrigues attended an event at The Ranch in Fort Myers on election night, Nov. 3, along with other GOP candidates and supporters.


Florida adds 7,459 coronavirus cases, 86 deaths Tuesday” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida added 7,459 coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing the total number of infections recorded statewide to nearly 900,000 cases. Since March, 897,323 cases of the virus have been identified across the state. The weekly case average increased Tuesday to about 6,450 cases announced per day, around where the average was in mid-August. The state also announced 86 deaths, bringing the weekly death average up to about 57 people announced dead per day. In total, 17,861 people have died from the virus in Florida. The state processed just under 95,000 coronavirus tests Monday, with a daily positivity rate of about 9%.

Florida adds nearly 7,500 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. Image via AP.

Hospitals at capacity? With no restrictions, dire coronavirus warning for Florida” via Anastasia Dawson of the Tampa Bay Times — More than 1 million people in the U.S. tested positive for the novel coronavirus in just six days, ballooning the nation’s overall caseload past 11 million and sending more than 73,000 people to hospital intensive care units. By Monday evening, the coronavirus had been blamed for more than 246,000 U.S. deaths, according to the CDC. But in Florida, where the number of coronavirus infections remains the third-highest in the nation, bars and schools remain open, and restaurants continue to operate at full capacity. Soon, health officials warned, that means hospitals will be at full capacity, too.

As COVID-19 surges, Florida sticks to no statewide restrictions” via Arian Campo-Flores of The Wall Street Journal — As new coronavirus cases soar to record highs around the U.S., many states are reimposing restrictions on daily life. Not Florida. Ron DeSantis is sticking to one of the most permissive approaches to the pandemic, allowing bars, restaurants, theaters and theme parks to operate at full capacity. He has vowed the state would never again implement lockdowns. Local governments’ ability to enforce mask mandates and other restrictions is constrained under an executive order he issued in September. And he has spotlighted researchers who advocate pursuing herd immunity by allowing younger and less-vulnerable people to move about normally and expose themselves to infection.

Florida remains adamant about mask mandates, restrictions.

COVID-19 resurgence could worsen with Thanksgiving travel, health director warns” via Austen Erblat of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — With COVID-19 cases on the rise and Thanksgiving coming up next week, South Florida health officials are urging families to keep their holiday travel and gatherings to a minimum. “I’m very concerned with the holidays,” said Dr. Alina Alonso, Palm Beach County’s health department director. “I’m very concerned that so many people are going to be traveling.” The demand for COVID-19 tests has risen in Palm Beach County as more people prepare to travel from Florida to other states. Appointments are required for tests at the county’s test site at the FITTEAM Ballpark in West Palm Beach and are encouraged at other sites.

As coronavirus cases climb in Florida, health department top spokesperson resigns” via Cindy Krischer Goodman and Mario Ariza of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — With the pandemic worsening in Florida, the person in charge of reminding residents to wear a mask and stay six feet apart has abruptly resigned. Alberto Moscoso, the chief public information officer for the Florida Department of Health throughout the pandemic, bowed out Nov. 6 amid a reshuffling of personnel at the state agency. He would not elaborate on why he left or where he was going. In a statement, Fred Piccolo, a spokesperson for Ron DeSantis, did not provide a specific reason for why Moscoso resigned. Piccolo said that Moscoso would be moving to a new position in state government. Neither Moscoso nor Piccolo could say what that was.


Secret COVID-19 meetings will be opened up for review, new Broward Mayor says” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward’s mayors no longer will be meeting privately to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, the newly appointed county mayor said Tuesday, vowing to open the talks up for public review. Steve Geller, who was sworn in as county mayor Tuesday, pledged to open up meetings in which hospital executives and health officials often discuss the state of the pandemic with dozens of mayors across the county. “I see absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be open to the media,” Geller said Tuesday. In past months, the COVID-related talks have touched on a range of issues, such as beach openings, curfews, mask rules, restaurant hours and business restrictions.

New Mayo Clinic voice test could detect COVID-19” via Liz Collin of CBS Minnesota — As Director of Cardiovascular Research at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Amir Lerman believes we are just beginning to understand what he calls a new era in medicine, one that artificial intelligence is making sense of. “The body is sending us a lot of signals that we’re not paying attention to,” Dr. Lerman said. “When we talk about voice, it’s not exactly what you and I can hear. The voice is a spectrum of a lot of frequencies,” he added. Case studies at Mayo Clinic have honed in on those frequencies, identifying certain vocal biomarkers to screen and detect patient health. From pulmonary hypertension to dementia, depression, and now COVID-19.

The Mayo Clinic is using voice patterns to diagnose a range of disorders — including COVID-19.

Lee schools push to start rapid COVID-19 tests this week as spread on campuses rises” via Pamela McCabe of the Fort Myers News-Press — Lee County school officials confirmed Monday that there’d been a rise in COVID-19 cases, including where the virus has spread from person to person on school campuses in the past two weeks. And the district is pushing forward with a plan to use its 2,000 rapid tests to symptomatic students and employees as early as Wednesday. Lee Health staff will administer the 15-minute tests five days a week. At the same time, Lee County is being asked to approve $250,000 of its federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to cover the labor through December. During Monday’s school board workshop, the topic came up where the elected officials were updated on the plan to offer the tests on campus.

John Thrasher urges FSU students to stay home after Thanksgiving break until Spring semester” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — As students at Florida State University prepare to leave Tallahassee next week for Thanksgiving break, FSU President Thrasher is urging them to stay home until the start of the Spring semester. In his message to the campus, Thrasher also told students, “if you go home for the Thanksgiving break, please stay there until the start of the Spring semester” on Jan. 6. Students at Florida State and Florida A&M University begin Thanksgiving break next Tuesday. At FSU, students can return to their residence halls for Monday, Nov. 30, when classes resume online for the rest of the semester.

Demand for coronavirus testing rises as Thanksgiving approaches” via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times — Coronavirus test sites in Tampa Bay see an increase in demand as case numbers rise across the state, and people hope to get results before Thanksgiving. The line for free coronavirus testing at Tropicana Field on Tuesday morning stretched more than 150 cars deep. Vehicles snaked around the parking lot before coming up to large white tents where medical professionals conducted tests. A man in military fatigues stood by the entrance, waving in cars and letting drivers know to expect a two-hour wait. Several turned around there or later left the line as it crawled forward. By 1:45 p.m., the site was at capacity and closed to anyone not already in line.


FDA allows first rapid virus test that gives results at home” via Matthew Perrone of the Associated Press — U.S. regulators allowed emergency use of the first rapid coronavirus test that can be performed entirely at home and delivers results in 30 minutes. The announcement by the Food and Drug Administration represents an important step in U.S. efforts to expand testing options for COVID-19 beyond health care facilities and testing sites. However, the test will require a prescription, likely limiting its initial use. The FDA granted emergency authorization to the single-use test kit from Lucira Health, a California manufacturer.

As Coronavirus cases surge, new antibody study shows young children may be less likely to spread virus; could spell good news for in-person elementary and middle school learning” via Asher Lehrer-Small of The 74 — The paper, published in the journal Nature Immunology, examined 47 youth and 32 adults who had been infected with the virus, finding a reduced antibody response among children. Counterintuitively, this result is good news for kids, as it indicates that COVID often did not take hold as strongly within children’s systems. “It does suggest that … as long as extensive precautions are taken, in-person learning may be possible,” Dr. Donna Farber, an immunologist at Columbia University and a co-author of the study, told The 74. This conclusion aligns with the friendly stances a number of prominent public health experts have recently taken toward school reopenings.

New studies show that young children are less apt to spread the coronavirus, a boost to those who seek in-person classes.


Hundreds of companies that got stimulus aid have failed” via Shane Shifflett of The Wall Street Journal — About 300 companies that received as much as half a billion dollars in pandemic-related government loans have filed for bankruptcy, according to an analysis of government data and court filings. Many of the companies, which employ a total of about 23,400 workers, say the funds from the Paycheck Protection Program weren’t enough to keep them going as the coronavirus and lack of additional stimulus payments weighed on their businesses. The total number of companies that failed despite getting PPP loans is likely far higher.

Hundreds of businesses that received PPP funds have closed permanently.

States plead for more federal help as coronavirus outbreak worsens, vaccine months away from distribution” via Geoff Mulvihill and Rachel La Corte of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — With more shutdowns looming and a vaccine months away from wide distribution, Governors across the U.S. are pleading for more help from Washington ahead of what is shaping up to be a bleak winter. Renewed restrictions on indoor businesses, overloaded hospitals, and the coming end of unemployment benefits for millions of Americans have led Governors to paint a dire picture of the months ahead unless the federal government steps in with more money and leadership to help them shore up their damaged budgets and beat back the resurgence of the coronavirus.


Immunity to the coronavirus may last years, new data hint” via Apoorva Mandavilli of MSN — Eight months after infection, most people who have recovered still have enough immune cells to fend off the virus and prevent illness, the new data show. A slow rate of decline in the short term suggests, happily, that these cells may persist in the body for a very, very long time to come. The research, published online, has not been peer-reviewed nor published in a scientific journal. But it is the most comprehensive and long-ranging study of immune memory to the coronavirus to date. The findings are likely to come as a relief to experts worried that immunity to the virus might be short-lived.

The pandemic safety rule that really matters” via Rachel Gutman of The Atlantic — There’s never a good time to get sick with COVID-19, but in the next few weeks it will be especially dangerous. America’s coronavirus epidemic is really bad right now. One-hundred-seventy-thousand-new-cases-a-day bad. Hospital-systems-on-the-brink-of-collapse bad. Some Americans live with roommates, some can’t work without child care, and some have to work in crowded conditions—everyone’s situation is different—but these basic tips can, we hope, be helpful in a variety of situations. My colleagues’ guidance boils down to this winter’s golden rule for interacting with anyone outside your immediate household: Don’t spend time indoors with other people.

Most Americans aren’t traveling for the holidays but if you do, CDC recommends a rental home” via Meg Shaw of News 5 Cleveland — A new survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association revealed 72% of Americans are unlikely to travel for Thanksgiving and 69% are unlikely to travel for Christmas. But that leaves some who will choose to hop on a plane or hit the road to see family and friends. If you’re part of the small population who plans to travel during the pandemic, the CDC said getting a rental home, like an Airbnb or VRBO, is safer than staying with friends or family or at a hotel. The agency said a rental makes it easier to limit contact with people who aren’t from your household, and they might also have more access to fresh air than hotel rooms.

The CDC suggests that travelers for Thanksgiving should minimize contact with family, friends, and stay at an Airbnb or similar rentals.

Billions in new cruise ships are ready to sail, with nowhere to go” via Fran Golden of Bloomberg — Normally, when a new ship wraps construction at a shipyard, it’s cause for a party, with executives in sharp suits and free-flowing Champagne. But when the sparkling 596-passenger ultraluxury ship Silver Moon joined Royal Caribbean Group’s elite Silversea Cruises brand in late October, there was little pomp and circumstance. No media were on hand at the Italian shipyard to ooh and ahh over such exquisite design features as bespoke Lalique panels in the French restaurant and handcrafted Savoir beds in the top suites. This time, even Royal Caribbean’s top brass bowed out of the celebration and teleconferenced from Miami.

No Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans in 2021, without ‘tremendous positive developments’” via Dave Cohen of WWL — The website for the city of New Orleans says there will not be any Carnival parades in 2021. “Parades of any kind will not be permitted this year because large gatherings have proved to be super spreader events of the COVID-19 virus,” according to the Mardi Gras frequently asked questions page on the city’s site. It is unclear if this is the city’s official position. Just yesterday, the Mayor asked the public for input on how to best carry out Mardi Gras celebrations in 2021. “I want to be very clear, Mardi Gras 2021 is not canceled,” the Mayor’s Director of Communications Beau Tidwell said. “It is going to look different. The Mayor has been very consistent about saying that at every stage.”


Joe Biden hopes to avoid divisive Donald Trump investigations, preferring unity” via Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker and Mike Memoli of NBC News — President-elect Biden has privately told advisers that he doesn’t want his presidency to be consumed by investigations of his predecessor, according to five people familiar with the discussions, despite pressure from some Democrats who want inquiries into Trump, his policies and members of his administration. Biden has raised concerns that investigations would further divide a country he is trying to unite and risk making every day of his presidency about Trump, said the sources, who spoke on background to offer details of private conversations.

Trump fires DHS cybersecurity chief who led election defense” via POLITICO — Trump has fired Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs, who led efforts to defend last week’s election against foreign interference and rejected Trump’s baseless claims of rampant voter fraud. Trump announced the firing in a tweet late Tuesday, saying it was “effective immediately.” Krebs, the director of DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, had been expecting to be fired since just after Election Day, people familiar with his thinking said. His agency’s Rumor Control website debunked several conspiracy theories being promoted by Trump and his supporters.

Donald Trump fires Christopher Krebs, the director of DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, by tweet (of course). Image via AP.

Trump faces approaching deadline for recount in Wisconsin” via The Associated Press — Biden defeated Trump in Wisconsin by more than 20,600 votes based on final canvassed totals submitted to the state elections commission on Tuesday, a report that starts the clock for Trump to file a recount as he has promised supporters. The canvassed totals show Biden beat Trump by 20,608 votes, which is a roughly six-tenths of a point margin, close enough for Trump to file for a recount. Biden widened his lead over Trump by 62 votes based on the canvassed results compared with unofficial totals posted by the counties before they were certified.

The most significant rebukes of Trump’s voter fraud claims” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — Trump isn’t exactly a man on an island when it comes to his voter fraud claims, at least not yet. Republican lawmakers are still, in many cases at least, “humoring him,” declining to subscribe to such baseless claims but also declining to directly dispute them, presumably for fear of Trump’s wrath. Elsewhere, the lack of backup is growing more conspicuous. Judges have repeatedly and overwhelmingly ruled against the Trump campaign’s claims of fraud. GOP election officials in key states have undermined them. And those around Trump have appeared to try to nudge him away from what could be a crisis for Biden’s transition to the Oval Office.

Twitter, Facebook CEOs defend election actions, promise more” via Marcy Gordon of The Associated Press — The CEOs of Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday defended their safeguards against disinformation in the presidential election, and promised Congress they would take vigorous action for two special elections in Georgia that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee they have strong programs in place to protect their platforms from being used to disseminate falsehoods or discourage people from voting in the Georgia elections. “You have an immense civic and moral responsibility,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, told the executives.

Financially troubled startup helped power Trump campaign” via The Associated Press — Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign was powered by a cellphone app that allowed staff to monitor the movements of his millions of supporters and offered intimate access to their social networks. While the campaign may be winding down, the data strategy is very much alive, and the digital details the app collected can be put to multiple other uses, to fundraise for the President’s future political ventures, stoke Trump’s base, or even build an audience for a new media empire. The app lets Trump’s team communicate directly with the 2.8 million people who downloaded it and, if they gave permission, with their entire contact list as well.

Florida election results certified” via the News Service of Florida — As legal battles and vote counts continue in other states, DeSantis, Ashley Moody and Jimmy Patronis on Tuesday quickly certified the results of Florida’s Nov. 3 general election. DeSantis and the two Cabinet members, acting as the state Elections Canvassing Commission, did not comment before agreeing in a conference call to certify the results. More than 11.14 million Floridians cast ballots in the election.

Would Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott yield in 2024 for Trump?” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — So Trump will leave office in January, run for the Republican nomination in 2024, and all those Florida hopefuls will put aside their presidential aspirations? Sure. One of those hopefuls, Sen. Rubio, said last week that Trump “will probably be the nominee” if he runs again. Don’t presume that Rubio wishes for this scenario. Ample evidence supports Rubio’s theory. Trump will retain a vast social media network through which he can appeal to his core cultists and keep trying to delegitimize the Biden presidency.

Will Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio step aside for Donald Trump in 2024?

If Miami-Dade goes more Republican, is Florida still a swing state?” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — In three statewide elections over the last four years, Miami-Dade County has voted as if it were three different places. In 2016, the county’s voters overwhelmingly rejected Trump in numbers not seen by a top-of-ticket Republican since the 1990s. Two years later, Republicans rebounded somewhat in Miami-Dade, with losses modest enough in the blue-leaning county to allow the GOP candidates for Governor and the U.S. Senate to win narrowly. And on Nov. 3, Trump pulled off a stunning turnaround in the county, performing like Republicans from a previous era of Florida politics as he added Florida to his win column in what was, by modern standards, a blowout.

‘This election was incredibly taxing.’ How Miami-Dade voters are ready to move forward” via Krina Elwood of the Miami Herald — In Miami-Dade County, Trump’s strong showing with Hispanic voters, he lost the left-leaning county by just seven percentage points, helped push him over the top in Florida. But Biden still won, and in the aftermath of a tight election with record turnout, Miami-Dade’s voters, like voters in much of the country, are trying to see the way forward. Some Trump supporters in Miami-Dade remained skeptical of the results, even as Democrats felt a new sense of optimism. Many voters hoped a Biden administration would help unify the country. But often, as they contemplated the future, they worried that the divisions are too deep.

Vegas may be betting on a post-presidential divorce, but Melania Trump seems all in for her husband.” via Mary Jordan and Jada Yuan of The Washington Post — Is Melania Trump really looking forward to being rid of Trump as much as tens of millions of Americans are? Many who despise Trump imagine that his wife does, too. They point to a few videos of her seeming to refuse to hold her husband’s hand as proof. They also notice that Melania spends a lot of time apart from her husband, and she’s not as publicly affectionate with him as, for instance, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama or Jill Biden are with their husbands. Melania Trump keeps a small inner circle, but two people close to her said that she has shown no sign of leaving her husband, at least not any time soon.


Sen. Rubio for the first time calls Biden the ‘President-elect’” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — U.S. Sen. Rubio a step toward accepting the results of the election by calling Biden “the President-elect.” The Senator from Florida was asked by Capitol pool reporters Monday about U.S. Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine, possibly being a candidate for director of national intelligence under Biden. “Well, that’ll be the President-elect’s decision obviously,” Rubio said, according to NPR. The reference to Biden as President-elect puts Rubio with only four other GOP Senators as acknowledging the election results. Biden is set to get 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232.

— 2020 —

Senate Republicans credit aggressive tactics, data-driven decisions for victories” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Senate Republicans received a celebratory message as an expanded GOP caucus took the reins in the upper chamber. The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee released a victory lap message. The biggest takeaway was simple: Staying on offense, whether attacking Democrats on their own turf or exploiting mistakes by party leadership, means more Republicans swear in today than sat down two years ago, and that no GOP incumbents lost reelection bids. The memo credited a disciplined campaign strategy for a strong 2020 cycle, and even putting one primary challenge down.

Mysterious candidate who likely swayed tight Florida Senate race under investigation” via Samantha J. Gross and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — The razor-thin victory that delivered Latinas for Trump co-founder Ileana Garcia to the Florida Senate and ousted Democrat José Javier Rodríguez continues to raise eyebrows for one reason: a mysterious third candidate named Alex Rodriguez. Alex Rodriguez, a one-time mechanic with no history in local politics, never started a campaign website, attended no candidate forums, and received no donations, save for a $2,000 loan from himself. Mailers pitching his name sent to voters in the Coral Gables area were sent by a shadowy political group that, so far, has been untraceable. When a television reporter recently tracked Alex Rodriguez down, he pretended to be someone else.

José Javier Rodriguez is accusing opponent Alex Rodrigues of being a sham candidate to siphon votes.

New school board member sworn in; foes want her to resign” via Sonja Isger of The Palm Beach Post — Even as Alexandria Ayala was sworn in Tuesday as the newest member of the Palm Beach County School Board, her seat could be in the Governor’s crosshairs after she bought a home outside her district and attested in mortgage documents that she would be living there. Board members must, by law, live in the district they represent. Moving out forfeits the seat, and the Governor’s appointment must then fill such vacancies. Ayala contends she co-owns the house with her boyfriend but doesn’t live there. 

Miami-Dade School Board member collapses after his swearing-in ceremony” via David Goodhue and Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade School Board member Steve Gallon III collapsed right after delivering his swearing-in speech on Tuesday morning in the district’s auditorium. Gallon, who represents the county’s northernmost district, just wrapped up his speech when he passed out around 10:30 a.m. and fell to the floor. Moments before, while delivering his remarks, he complained about his voice becoming hoarse, and he grabbed a bottle of water. Minutes earlier, he was sworn in by his granddaughter, while his daughter stood by his side. After he fell, people gathered around to offer aid before paramedics arrived. The district’s live webcast of the event then went to a cartoon.


Trump’s Fed nominee stalls after Florida’s Scott misses vote for COVID quarantine” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Florida Republican Sen. Scott’s quarantine for potential COVID-19 exposure helped sink, at least temporarily, Trump’s Federal Reserve Board nominee who wants to return to the gold standard, a monetary system that links the value of the U.S. dollar to gold. Scott was one of two senators, along with Republican Grassley of Iowa, who missed Tuesday’s confirmation vote on Judy Shelton due to quarantining for coronavirus concerns. Shelton is a former Trump campaign adviser and critic of the Fed.

Self-quarantined Rick Scott missed an important vote, which caused a Donald Trump nominee to fail. Image via AP.

‘I don’t need your instruction’: Sens. Sherrod Brown and Dan Sullivan argue over wearing masks” via Sarah Elbeshbishi of USA Today — The country’s tension over wearing masks reached the Senate floor Monday night. Sens. Sullivan and Brown got into a verbal scuffle when Brown asked Sullivan, who was presiding over the Senate at the time, if he would wear a mask. “I’d start by asking the presiding officer to please wear a mask as he speaks,” Brown said, donning his own mask as he made the request. As Brown began saying that he knows he can’t tell Sullivan what to do, the Republican cut him off, telling him that “I don’t wear a mask when I’m speaking like most Senators … I don’t need your instruction.”


Dave Kerner to remain Palm Beach County Mayor amid pandemic” via Hannah Morse of The Palm Beach Post — Like a commander in chief during wartime, Kerner’s leadership during the coronavirus pandemic was given a vote of confidence Tuesday as a split County Commission voted to break with tradition and give him a second term as mayor. In a 4-3 vote with key backing from newly installed Commissioner Maria Sachs, Kerner will continue as the face of Palm Beach County’s pandemic response in the ceremonial one-year role. Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth, who stood next in line and received the votes of Commissioners Gregg Weiss, Maria Marino and himself, remained as vice mayor. Kerner said he didn’t want his renomination to “be a distraction to the good work” that the county has done in the face of COVID-19.

Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner gets thumbs-up for another term. Image via the Sun-Sentinel.

Once dominated by Democrats, Florida Keys now in the red zone” via Nancy Klingener of WLRN — Of the four counties in South Florida, only one has mirrored the state’s results in the last four presidential elections, Monroe County. Florida was once a Democratic stronghold. And in Monroe County, Republicans rarely bothered to even run for office. Now, there are more registered Republicans than Democrats in the Keys and, as of this election, all five county commissioners will be Republicans. WLRN’s Nancy Klingener spoke with former state Rep. Ron Saunders about the shifting tides of politics on the island chain. Saunders is a veteran of Keys politics and represented the area in Tallahassee for a total of 14 years. 

She’s still a Hialeah girl — and, now, she’s Miami-Dade College president, too” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald — The controversial presidential college search took 19 contentious months. There was so much at stake. The county’s movers and shakers watched and faculty and students vehemently protested what became worrisome months of political, partisan wrangling over the leadership of Miami Dade College. But on Tuesday, the Board of Trustees unanimously chose educator Madeline Pumariega, a former MDC campus president, to replace the legendary Eduardo Padrón, who retired in August 2019 after serving as president since 1995. The Cuban American Pumariega becomes the college’s fifth president; another glass ceiling shattered in an institution billed as the most diverse in the nation. 

Fired FAU professor James Tracy loses appeal over dismissal; called Sandy Hook mass shooting a hoax” via Hannah Winston of The Palm Beach Post — The fired Florida Atlantic University professor who claimed the mass shooting that left 26 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax has lost his latest legal battle. On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued an opinion affirming previous rulings that Tracy, once a tenured communications professor at the Boca Raton-based university, was not fired in 2016 in retaliation for using his First Amendment rights. Tracy unsuccessfully sued FAU, claiming he was fired when he declared the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was a hoax on his blog, “Memory Hole.”

‘Patriot Front’ seeks to make a name for itself in Walton County” via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News — Stickers bearing the insignia of “Patriot Front,” an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “a White nationalist hate group” were used to vandalize Biden/Harris campaign signs in Walton County in the days ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Democratic Party officials estimated nine signs had been vandalized with stickers that said “Better Dead Than Red” or simply “Patriot Front.” Reports of threats were filed with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office on at least two occasions, Oct. 28 and Oct. 30. No arrests have been made and no one has claimed responsibility for the actions, according to officials at the Walton County Sheriff’s Office. Efforts to contact a Patriot Front spokesperson were not successful.

Ben Crump represents families of 2 teens fatally shot in Florida” via The Associated Press — Famed civil rights attorney Crump says he is representing the families of two Black teens who were fatally shot by a deputy along Florida’s Space Coast last week. Crump said in a statement Monday that he is representing the families of A.J. Crooms and Sincere Pierce who were fatally shot by a Brevard County Sheriff’s Office deputy Friday. The families still know very little about the circumstances of the teens’ deaths, Crump said. “These parents are heartbroken, as any parents would be. They deserve full transparency and speedy answers about who is responsible for the deaths and the circumstances surrounding their shootings,” Crump said.

Ben Crump is taking a case in Florida’s Space Coast over the shooting deaths of two Black men. Image via AP.

Operation Stolen Innocence: 170 people charged in Tallahassee child sex trafficking network” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A two-year investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department into the horrific sexual exploitation of a young teenage girl netted a staggering amount of arrests, with more than 170 people charged over recent months. On Tuesday, TPD Chief Lawrence Revell and state and federal officials announced Operation Stolen Innocence results, a highly secretive investigation into the commercial sex trafficking of the girl, who was 13 and 14 when the alleged offenses occurred. The investigation, which police officials declined to even acknowledge for months, was likely the biggest of its kind in Tallahassee history, Revell said.

Jane Castor’s tweaks to Tampa’s police review board disappoint activists” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — All summer the message from activists against police misconduct was clear: Tampa needs to improve its oversight of police officers. A large, passionate crowd of activists in June, and again in September, outlined a series of changes to the 11-member Citizen Review Board, including giving it subpoena power, an independent investigator and attorneys, and City Council control over its appointments. Mayor Castor’s administration promised to review and discuss with the police union and the ACLU before reporting back to Council members this month.


Herd immunity isn’t a strategy; it’s giving up on one” via David Shabtai of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — It is urgent we find a way to stop the spread or even slow COVID-19 down so that we can save lives. One novel suggestion that’s been floated is that if there were enough people who were immune to the virus, meaning that they could not be infected and transmit it to others, then the virus would have a hard time finding a new host, and the spread would grind to a slow halt. When there are enough immune people in the community, it’s described as having reached “herd immunity” or community immunity. Once a sufficient proportion of the population is no longer susceptible, an outbreak peters out. 


It’s time to hunker down” via Zeynep Tufekci of The Atlantic — The end may be near for the pestilence that has haunted the world this year. Good news is arriving on almost every front: treatments, vaccines, and our understanding of this coronavirus. Pfizer and BioNTech have announced a stunning success rate in their early Phase 3 vaccine trials—if it holds up, it will be a game changer. Treatments have gotten better too. A monoclonal antibody drug—similar to what President Donald Trump and former Governor Chris Christie received—just earned emergency-use authorization from the FDA. We have reasons to celebrate, but—and you knew there was a but—a devastating surge is now under way.

Cancel Thanksgiving” via James Hamblin of The Atlantic — The United States is now in what disaster-preparedness experts once modeled as a worst-case scenario. The curve is not flat, or even a curve. It’s almost a line that points straight upward. More than 1,000 Americans are dying every day, on average. Soon that number will likely hit 2,000. In this precarious moment, many Americans are planning to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday by traveling and having dinner with 10 or more people. If this were an outbreak movie, and the characters were congregating in multigenerational units indoors to have boisterous conversations over lengthy meals, you’d probably be yelling at your screen.

As COVID-19 has exposed, our obsession with economic growth is harming people” via Stephen Macekura of The Washington Post — President-elect Biden will face daunting economic challenges in office. The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to confront important lessons about our troubled economy, one of which should be front and center: Our decadeslong obsession with growth has masked an economy that has grown less fair and less capable of providing a good life for people all around the world. Gross domestic product, which measures the monetary value of all goods and services produced within a country, is a poor economic and societal health measure. During the 2010s, the GDP rose, but without lifting all Americans or even most Americans to a better life.


Florida’s Legislature concludes its one-day postelection Organizational Session.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Simpson is the new Senate President. The new House Speaker is Sprowls, who wants to stand up for police and patriotism while cracking down on what he calls the “Twitter mob.”

— Republicans (who control both chambers) spent a lot of time talking during the single-day Session, but Democrats say they barely mentioned the biggest issue of all: the pandemic that has killed almost 18,000 people in Florida.

— The Senate did observe a moment of silence for the people who died from COVID-19 … but we still have no idea what the Legislature is going to do about it. Florida reported 86 more deaths Tuesday and almost 7,5000 new cases.

— While other states are still counting, Florida’s Election Canvassing Commission signed off on the final counts in the Sunshine State. It took less than two minutes.

— And finally, events and two Florida Man stories: One featuring a Florida Woman who was busted by her own son; the other is a Florida Man who strapped a stolen utility pole to the roof of his car in hopes of selling it to a recycling company.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Fewer Floridians traveling for Thanksgiving” via John Hielscher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Travel over Thanksgiving will slump to a three-year low in Florida as more people choose to celebrate at home during the coronavirus pandemic. According to AAA, an estimated 2.8 million Floridians will travel during the Thanksgiving holiday next week, down by 150,000, or 5.4%, from last year. Air travel in Florida is forecast to plunge by 44% during the Wednesday-through-Sunday holiday. And those projections could be optimistic, AAA says, as wary Floridians monitor the public health landscape, including the rising COVID-19 positive case numbers, renewed quarantine restrictions and health notices from the CDC.

Christmas lights even before Thanksgiving: There’s a reason behind the ‘act of kindness,’ experts say” via Jordan Culver of USA Today — Families are hanging up holiday lights and putting out decorations before carving turkeys for Thanksgiving. Festive lights could take on an outsized role amid the coronavirus pandemic, with families more unlikely to travel to see loved ones. “On the surface, the first thing that you could argue, easily, is that lights, which obviously are associated with joy, and bring back a lot of good memories, are a way of alleviating depression, sadness, feeling down, anxiety, stress — all the things the pandemic has increased,” said Dr. Krystine Batcho, professor of psychology at Le Moyne College.

Christmas lights are going up earlier than ever this year.

Lego creates largest set ever: Rome’s Colosseum with 9,036 pieces” via Amanda Kooser of CNET — Your Lego figures are about to embark on heart-stopping adventures with chariot races and gladiatorial combat. But first, you’ll need to assemble 9,036 pieces to create the Colosseum in Rome, the “largest Lego brick set launched to date.” Architecture buffs as well as Lego fans will find plenty to admire here. “This epic Lego model features a recreation of the three distinct stories from the Colosseum, with each of these stories adorned with the columns of the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders,” Lego said in a statement Thursday when it unveiled the set. The Colosseum’s 9,036 pieces snatched the record for biggest Lego set from the 7,541-piece Star Wars Millennium Falcon released in 2017.


Best wishes to Rep. Geraldine Thompson, former Leon Co. Commissioner Bryan DeslogeMadeline Holzmann, as well as former state Senate candidate Dean Asher, and Gerald Wester of Capital City Consulting.


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 Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also 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.

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