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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.4.20

Your day is better when you start it with a first read on what’s happening in Florida politics.

With Terrie Rizzo stepping down, elected Democrats begin to coalesce around former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz as their next party chair.

Diaz was the first of several Democrats expected to announce bids to run the Florida Democratic Party. He’d been seen as a heavy favorite even before Rizzo’s political hara-kiri.

Now, current and former elected officials from all corners of the state are rallying behind him.

Now that Terrie Rizzo is out, will Manny Diaz jump in?

The South Florida Democrat touted a volley of endorsements Friday, including nods from Sens. Audrey Gibson, Perry Thurston, Janet Cruz, Victor Torres, Annette Taddeo, Lauren Book, Shevrin Jones and Loranne Ausley — a full half of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

“Manny will do the work every day to build a party focused on coalition building and grassroots organizing that engages and mobilizes diverse communities across the state,” Gibson said.

“He brings exactly the kind of leadership we need at the Florida Democratic Party and is committed on day one to building a bench of candidates around our party platform of inclusion and helping Floridians by creating jobs, ensuring health care, investing in education, and building small businesses.”

His supporters in the House include Reps. Dan Daley, Nick Duran, David Silvers, Matt Willhite and Allison Tant, herself a former FDP Chair.

Also behind him are Orange County Property Appraiser Amy Mercado, Miami Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, Osceola County Commission Chair Viviana Janer, former U.S. Rep. Carrie Meek, former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, former Sen. Oscar Braynon and former Rep. Javier Fernandez.

The party chair race comes after Democrats ceded substantial ground in the state House and dropped a seat in the Senate despite record spending and projecting confidence they could close the gap in both chambers. In addition to the state legislative bloodbath, Florida Democrats also lost two incumbent members of Congress.

>>>“Terrie Rizzo stepping down from Florida Democratic Party chair” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In a surprise to almost no one, Florida Democratic Party Chair Rizzo informed other party leaders late Thursday that she will not seek another term. Rizzo’s tenure started on positive notes as the party showed strongly in the 2018 elections. That election’s results were mixed. But after the previous few years, mixed results were an improvement for Democrats. That wasn’t the case in the 2020 elections, where the results were nearly all bad for Democrats in a year when its hopes were set on gaining across the board. Candidates already have been emerging to run in January for the Democrats’ chair, whether Rizzo sought reelection or not.


President Donald Trump may be on his way out the door, but he still has appointment powers.

On Thursday, he used them to name two-dozen people to various boards. Among the names: Brian Ballard.

The Florida lobbyist was one of four appointments to the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

As Donald Trump heads out, he gives Brian Ballard a special honor.

The Kennedy Center is one of the premier venues in the nation’s capital. It is home to a concert hall, opera house and the Eisenhower Theatre, with more to come as the complex undergoes a nine-figure expansion and renovation.

Kennedy Center board members serve 6-year terms and are responsible for maintaining and administering the center as “a living memorial to John Fitzgerald Kennedy.”

In addition to presidential appointments, a handful of top government officials are granted seats on the board, including the current secretaries of State and Education. All living former first ladies are also granted the position of Honorary Chair.

Ballard is one of the top lobbyists in Florida and has made a case for the same title at the federal level since expanding his firm, Ballard Partners, to Washington shortly after Trump’s inauguration.

In addition to Ballard, Trump appointed Pamella DeVos, Robert Castellani and Mary Helen Bowers to the Kennedy Center board.


Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis are hosting a Holiday Reception at the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday.

“The First Lady and I would like to thank you for all your hard work on behalf of the Republican Party of Florida. We would like to show our appreciation by asking you to join us at a Holiday Reception at the Governor’s Mansion,” an invitation from DeSantis reads.

Ron and Casey DeSantis kick off the holiday season with a breakfast reception.

The event will be held from 9:30 a.m. — 11 a.m. The guest list will be limited to the Republican Party of Florida State Executive Committee members.

The event is a late addition to the agenda for the RPOF Winter Quarterly Meeting, which runs from Friday through Sunday in Tallahassee. To squeeze it into the schedule, the Executive Board meeting originally in that time slot will be moved to 7 a.m.; otherwise, the schedule is unchanged.

Event details note that parking is near the Governor’s Mansion is limited, so attendees can opt to take a shuttle from Hotel Duval. The service starts at 9 a.m. and ends at noon.


@JoeBiden: Once a vaccine is ready and approved, @KamalaHarris and I are going to ensure it’s distributed equitably, efficiently, and free of charge to every American.

@ForecasterEnten: [Joe] Biden won 306 electoral votes. He won by ~7 million votes nationally. The allegations the President makes about irregularities/fraud are unsubstantiated and a lie. It’s absolutely nuts that 1 month after the election, Trump has still not conceded.

@SenRickScott: Almost one year ago, three U.S. sailors were killed and several others were wounded in the terrorist attack at NAS Pensacola. I thank my colleagues for passing this resolution to condemn the horrific act of violence and remember the innocent lives taken that day.

@GovRonDeSantis: Glad to see J. Henry’s Barbershop going strong and am glad it and other FL small businesses will remain OPEN! Also happy to announce that I will be appointing John Henry to the Barber Board for the State of Florida.

@CarlosGSmith: 10,870 new coronavirus cases in Florida today. Highest number since July. 18,874 Floridians dead. Wear a damn mask and take responsibility for yourself since your Governor won’t.

Tweet, tweet:

@AlexTDaugherty: Zero Floridians will serve as committee chairs or ranking members in the House of Representatives next Congress after Democrats and Republicans finalize their leadership teams.

@VoiceofFLBiz: Huge thank you to Governor @GovRonDeSantis for speaking to AIF members. We appreciate you keeping our state open for business. “Everybody is essential. Every job is essential. If it is your business, that’s essential.” We couldn’t agree more.

Tweet, tweet:


Florida Chamber Foundation’s virtual Transportation, Growth and Infrastructure Solution Summit begins — 4; the Electoral College votes — 10; “Death on the Nile” premieres — 13; NBA 2020-21 opening night — 18; “The Midnight Sky” with George Clooney premieres on Netflix — 19; “Wonder Woman 1984” rescheduled premiere — 21; Pixar’s “Soul” premiere (rescheduled for Disney+) — 21; Greyhound racing ends in Florida — 27; Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections — 32; the 2021 Inauguration — 47; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 65; Daytona 500 — 72; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 76; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 90; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 119; Children’s Gasparilla — 127; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 134; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 210; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 217; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 231; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 239; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 263; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 333; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 337; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 339; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 371; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 435; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 488; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 669.


—“Florida Senate rolls out education committee assignments” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

—“Senate Appropriations Committee, subcommittee assignments announced” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

—“Central Florida Senators given presence on budget, environment, oversight” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Jeff Brandes kicks off AV summit, talks climate change and cars” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Sen. Brandes hosted a conversation on the future of electric vehicles to kickoff the 2020 Florida Automated Vehicles Summit, an event that assembles industry leaders from around the world to address technology, operations and policies that affect emerging autonomous vehicle infrastructure. This year, the FAV is taking place virtually through a five-part series that will run from December through April 2021. The kickoff presentation, “Cars & Climate: How Big Tech, Fleets, and Cities Drive the EV Revolution,” was led by Adam Jonas, managing research director at Morgan Stanley. The discussion recognized that cities need money and infrastructure to begin addressing emissions.

Jeff Brandes talks about the future of self-driving vehicles to kick off the 2020 Florida Automated Vehicles Summit.

Disgraced Republican lawmaker planted no-party candidate in key Senate race, sources say” via Ana Ceballos and Samantha J. Gross of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau — Over drinks at an Irish pub in Seminole County, as television screens began to show the latest election results for key state Senate races, former Miami state Sen. Frank Artiles was getting excited. Miami Republican Ileana Garcia, a first-time candidate, was leading Democratic incumbent Sen. José Javier Rodriguez to represent Miami-Dade’s Senate District 37. It was tight, but she was winning. And Artiles wanted to brag. Artiles boasted that he planted a no-party candidate in the Miami-Dade Senate race, which Garcia won after a three-day recount by just 32 votes out of more than 215,000 cast. When asked by the Herald about his involvement in the no-party candidate’s race Thursday, Artiles did not respond.


Florida reports almost 11,000 new COVID-19 cases, most since late July” via Marc Freeman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — COVID-19 cases are exploding again in Florida, with 10,870 new infections reported by health officials Thursday. That’s the most cases on a single day since the state reported 12,199 on July 25. New infections dropped after that, leveling off at about 2,300 cases a day during the first week in October. But the state has experienced an upward trend for the past six weeks, as signs show the coronavirus is spreading and more people are getting swabbed. Almost 147,000 residents were tested for the disease on Wednesday, either for the first time or for a retest.

Secrecy and spin: How Florida’s Governor misled the public on the COVID-19 pandemic” via Mario Ariza, David Fleshler, and Cindy Krischer Goodman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Throughout the COVID-19 crisis in Florida, DeSantis’ administration engaged in a pattern of spin and concealment that misled the public on the gravest health threat the state has ever faced, a South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation has found. DeSantis, who owes his job to early support from Trump, imposed an approach in line with the President’s views and his powerful base of supporters. The administration suppressed unfavorable facts, dispensed dangerous misinformation, dismissed public health professionals, and promoted the views of scientific dissenters who supported the Governor’s approach to the disease.

A new report blasts Ron DeSantis for misleading Floridians on the ‘gravest health threat the state has ever faced.’ Image via Getty.

Firefighters should be among first for COVID-19 vaccine, Jimmy Patronis stresses to CDC” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Patronis sent a letter to the CDC on Thursday, urging them to reconsider guidance that excludes firefighters from the first wave of COVID-19 vaccinations. This week, the CDC ranked health care workers and long-term care residents as the highest-priority group for vaccine distribution. Notably absent among the first recipients: Firefighters, law enforcement, and other first responders. “Frankly, treating our heroes as though all they do is shoot water from a truck demonstrates an incredible lack of understanding of what is expected of today’s professional firefighters,” Patronis wrote to Robert Redfield, a CDC doctor.

Firefighters are involved throughout the life-support process, says Jimmy Patronis. It’s why they should be the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Image via CFO Office.

Florida next to last in paying unemployment benefits during the pandemic” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida was the second-worst state in the nation at paying benefits on time, federal data shows. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, just 36% of Floridians who filed for benefits received their first payment within three weeks this year. That’s a rate so pitiful that only Hawaii did worse. Like many other states, the coronavirus pandemic crippled Florida’s unemployment system, causing the state’s website to melt down from the historic rise in jobless claims. During April, May and June, the state started paying just 28% of claims on time. The Department of Labor considers 87% of first payments within two to three weeks “acceptable.” Seven states were able to hit that mark this year. The national average was 66.8%.

Many Florida caregivers are suffering from burnout, local agencies say” via Bailey LeFever of the Tampa Bay Times — More than 2.9 million people in Florida care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other ailments, according to AARP. For many who care for ailing loved ones, the pandemic-induced isolation has increased the stress and loneliness they felt before COVID-19 hit in March. Many caregivers and their loved ones are in the age group most vulnerable to the coronavirus, so they are unable to go out, said Kathleen Winters, director of the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Family Organization. Winters’ office is receiving more calls from caregivers who simply want to talk to someone or get quick advice. Before COVID-19, the office might get one or two calls a week; now they’re getting them every day, Winters said.


Larry Robinson: FAMU extending online instruction for start of spring semester” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida A&M University is extending remote learning time for students returning for the spring semester, mirroring an announcement earlier this week at Florida State University. Classes for the spring semester begin on Jan. 6 and were originally planned to be held remotely for the first three days. But that has been extended through Friday, Jan. 15, FAMU President Robinson said in a release. “In an effort to safeguard the health of our campus community, Florida A&M University will expand the period of remote learning to start the Spring 2021 semester,” Robinson said.

Pinellas County has a problem: Bob Gualtieri weighs in on climbing COVID-19 numbers” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Sheriff Gualtieri came down hard on Pinellas County bars and restaurants following an investigation that showed a rising trend of establishments not in compliance with COVID-19 ordinances. The Sheriff scrutinized businesses for not meeting staff masking requirements, not distancing tables by at least and allowing patrons to congregate. “If we don’t change the course, we will end up in a bad place, and there are very simple things that we can do — that we have to do,” he said. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office investigated in an attempt to pinpoint how and where cases may be spreading.

Businesses not following COVID-19 ordinances are among the reasons Pinellas County has a major problem, says Bob Gualtieri.

‘Do the right thing.’ Pinellas leaders beg for coronavirus restriction compliance” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies will deploy across Pinellas County on Friday reminding business owners of their obligation to enforce the county ordinance requiring patrons to social distance from strangers and wear masks while not eating and drinking. The wake-up call comes as coronavirus caseloads and deaths have spiked over the past month, and officers have witnessed blatant violations of the mandate in bars and restaurants. Guatieri said misunderstanding has spread since DeSantis lifted coronavirus-related restrictions on business capacity and operations. The order removed municipalities’ ability to impose fines on individual violators. However, it did not eliminate the ability to penalize businesses that fail to enforce the ordinance in their establishments.

Tampa Bay could have vaccines by next week. Hospitals say they’re ready.” via Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa General Hospital and AdventHealth Tampa have the space to store tens of thousands of vials, top administrators said Thursday. They’ll distribute first to front-line health care workers, following federal guidelines, and have plans in place to get the drug where it needs to go next. DeSantis said Wednesday that he expects the Food and Drug Administration to approve the Pfizer vaccine next week. Tampa General President and CEO John Couris said he expects vials to arrive by Dec. 15, if not sooner. The state may ask his hospital, one of five tapped to receive the vaccine first, to administer the drug to health care workers from other facilities in the area.

East Lake Fire Commissioner arrested in Key West after mask ordinance violation” via Tracey MacManus of The Tampa Bay Times — James Dalrymple was arrested in downtown Key West and charged with obstruction of justice after an incident that unfolded after he refused to wear a mask as required by city ordinance. According to a Key West Police report, officer Leonardo Hernandez saw a group walking south on Duval Street around 6:40 p.m.  After the officer asked them to put on masks, which the city requires while outside of residences, Dalrymple, 64, responded that “the governor’s order says we do not have to,” according to the incident report.


Joe Biden says he will ask Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days he’s in office” via Dan Merica of CNN — President-elect Biden  told CNN’s Jake Tapper he will ask Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days after he takes office, in a sign of how Biden’s approach to the virus will be dramatically different from President Donald Trump‘s response. “Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction,” Biden said. Biden’s his first joint interview with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris since winning the election comes as they build their administration and outline the policy priorities that will define their first year in office.

Vaccine rollout barrels on with health disparity in backseat” via The Associated Press — Getting a COVID-19 vaccine to the right people could change the course of the pandemic in the United States. But who are the right people? As the decision looms for President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration, a new analysis argues for targeting the first vaccines to the same low-income Black, Hispanic and Native American households that have disproportionately suffered from the coronavirus. If the shots get to the right people, the benefits could extend to the entire nation: Fewer people would get sick, hospital capacity would improve and more of the economy could reopen. Lives would be saved.

As a vaccine rushes to market, the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates a strong disparity with minority communities. Image via AP

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton volunteer to get coronavirus vaccine publicly to prove it’s safe” via Jamie Gangel and Shelby Lin Erdman of CNN — The three most recent former Presidents hope an awareness campaign to promote confidence in its safety and effectiveness would be a powerful message as American public health officials try to convince the public to take the vaccine. Freddy Ford, Bush’s chief of staff, told CNN that Bush had reached out to Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx to see how he could help promote the vaccine. Clinton’s press secretary told CNN he too would be willing to take the vaccine in a public setting to promote it. Obama, in an interview with SiriusXM host Joe Madison scheduled to air Thursday, said that if Fauci said a coronavirus vaccine is safe, he believes him.


Federal pandemic business loans saved 3.3 million Florida jobs” via Alex Daugherty, Rob Wile and Ben Wieder of the Tampa Bay Times — The Paycheck Protection Program meant to keep workers employed at small businesses during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic saved 3.3 million jobs in Florida, according to new data on borrowers and loan amounts released by the Small Business Administration. The SBA released data in July that showed the program saved 3.2 million jobs in Florida. But the data released over the summer only included the names of loan recipients who got more than $150,000. The data released by the federal government on Tuesday included all loan recipients’ names and provided an updated look at a program that was extended until August. The total spent on the Paycheck Protection Program in Florida was $31.93 billion.

Florida’s participation in the Paycheck Protection Program saved more than 3 million jobs.

New unemployment claims drop during Thanksgiving week” via Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — Another 712,000 Americans filed new unemployment claims during Thanksgiving week, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor. That number wiped out two straight weeks of increases, during which the number of new jobless claims rose to 787,000. It remained more than three times higher than Thanksgiving week a year ago. In all, 20.16 million Americans received some form of unemployment insurance for the week ending Nov. 14. The number of new claims filed in Florida last week was 20,787, down from a revised total of 26,931 the week before. To date, the state has funneled more than $18.9 billion to 2.12 million claimants, most of that in federal funding.


Spit in a tube and mail it in: A new frontier in coronavirus testing” via Miriam Jordan of The New York Times — A handful of communities across the country have rolled out the first do-it-yourself home saliva tests, which require users to simply dribble into a test tube, seal it and send it to a lab. As the tests become widespread, they could provide a less-uncomfortable alternative to nasal swabs and enable more people to safely return to work and school in the months before a vaccine is widely available. Public health officials have long hoped that combining the ease of saliva sampling with at-home collection would open important new windows into the spread of the virus.

Carnival cancels cruises through February; Mardi Gras debut in Port Canaveral pushed to April” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Carnival Cruise Line is the latest cruise line to further push any return to sailing, canceling all its sailings through February, and delaying the debut of new ship Mardi Gras from Port Canaveral until April. The announcement came one day after both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean announced they too would not sail until at least March 1. Disney Cruise Line has yet to cancel its February sailings, while MSC Cruises still has January itineraries available to book on its website. Carnival already had announced it was only planning a return to service from Port Canaveral, PortMiami and the Port of Galveston with a limited fleet. The rest of its ships were already on hold.

Carnival Cruise Line’s extended cancellations are the latest sign that the cruise industry’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic won’t be in the immediate future. Image via AP.

Eight months after all cruises were canceled, customers still wait for refunds. Here’s what you can do.” via Ron Hurtibise of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Eight months after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down cruising around the world, customers are still waiting for refunds of money they paid for canceled cruises. Complaints about delayed refunds are coming into the Florida Attorney General’s Office. The number of consumers angry enough to file complaints with the attorney general represents just a fraction of those frustrated by delayed refunds. Jim Walker, a Miami-based maritime law attorney, says that frustrated customers have little to no recourse because terms and conditions of their cruise tickets don’t require cruise lines to provide any compensation for canceled cruises prohibit customers from suing over cancellations.

The newest hotel amenity? Virus-scrubbed air” via DNYUZ — When the coronavirus first hit, hotels quickly adopted enhanced cleaning polices. But as research on virus spread has shifted focus from surface contact to airborne transmission, some hotels and cruise ships are scrubbing the very air travelers breathe with a variety of air filtration and treatment systems. With the new air-scrubbing campaigns, hotels are following airlines, many of which have hospital-grade, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that are said to be over 99% effective in capturing tiny virus particles, including the coronavirus. Hotels and cruise ships can more easily ensure social distancing than airplanes, but, given the recent research on the importance of enhanced air filtration, some add air-cleaning dimensions to their HVAC systems.

Ho, ho — Whoa! COVID-19 keeping most Santas at a distance” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Putting hundreds of kids daily onto Santa’s lap to talk into his face — that’s not happening for most. The physical attributes that make the perfect Santa align perfectly with those that make COVID-19 especially deadly. That has spurred creativity in Santa’s workshops. Santas conducting in-person visits use some combination of masks, the outdoors, barriers and distance for safety. Others are doing virtual visits, where children chat with Santa online for prices typically ranging from $20 to $100, depending on the length and extras, such as whether customers want a recording. Some Santas are taking the season off.

Santa Claus in the age of coronavirus. Image via AP.


The Wisconsin Supreme Court refuses to take up Donald Trump’s election case.” via Reid J. Epstein of The Tampa Bay Times — The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected the Trump campaign’s lawsuit that aimed to invalidate more than 200,000 votes cast in two of the state’s Democratic bastions, closing off yet another legal avenue by which the outgoing President has tried to overturn the results of the general election. The conservative court’s 4-to-3 vote to decline to take the case puts a stop to one part of a multipronged attempt by Trump and his supporters to upend the legality of Wisconsin’s entire system of absentee voting, which the Trump campaign had sought to cast as violating state law.

Wisconsin wants nothing to do with Donald Trump’s election fraud claims. Image via AP.

Alyssa Farah resigns as White House communications director in tacit nod to Donald Trump’s loss” via Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — White House communications director Farah resigned Thursday after 3½ years in the Trump administration. Farah, 31, began her White House tenure as press secretary under Vice President Mike Pence before joining the Defense Department as press secretary last September, and she returned to the White House as communications director in April. She is the first person to serve in these three roles in one administration, and the youngest Pentagon press secretary. Farah’s departure, with little over a month remaining in Trump’s administration, amounts to a tacit acknowledgment that Trump lost.

DeSantis tells Trump to ‘fight on,’ takes aim at science and has beef with John Roberts” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — DeSantis told a private gathering of political donors and corporate executives that he has urged Trump to “fight on” to overturn November’s election results. In wide-ranging remarks made in person behind closed doors at a meeting of the Associated Industries of Florida, DeSantis dismissed the risks of the coronavirus, contradicted science, and targeted U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts. He also defended Trump’s attempt to fight the results of the election.

Local Republican attorney under investigation for alleged voter fraud attempt in Georgia” via The Panama City News-Herald staff reports — A Bay County attorney is under investigation after he allegedly attempted to register to vote in Georgia with no intention of living there and instructed fellow Republicans to do the same. Private attorney Bill Price had registered to vote in Paulding County, Georgia, on Nov. 8, a day after he was recorded on video telling Bay County GOP members that he was moving to the state just to participate in January’s runoff election for two U.S. Senate seats. Price was then recorded encouraging members there to do the same and explain how. One report states that it confirmed that Price used his brother’s Georgia address to register and swore an affidavit that he was a Georgia resident and eligible to vote.


Jeff Zients, Vivek Murthy tapped to head up Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response” via Alice Miranda Ollstein and Tyler Pager of POLITICO — Transition co-chair and former Obama administration official Zients is set to serve as the White House’s COVID-19 coordinator and Murthy, the former U.S. Surgeon General under Obama, will return to that role, but with a broader portfolio that will include acting as the top medical expert and public face of the effort. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a co-chair of Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, will also take a key role in the administration’s response, focused on health disparities. Biden’s team plans to roll out these and other health care personnel announcements as soon as this weekend.

Joe Biden fills out his COVID-19 response team with several players from the Barack Obama administration. Image via AP.

Anthony Fauci to have first “substantive discussions” with Biden transition officials” via Grace Segers of CBS News — Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, said he would meet with members of Biden’s transition team on Thursday to discuss the incoming administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci, the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director, said that he had spoken to Biden’s incoming Chief of Staff Ron Klain a few times already. However, he said these conversations were not “substantive.” He added that he expected to have a substantive conversation on Thursday. He will be speaking with Biden’s “landing team” of officials who will discuss the new administration’s priorities to ensure a smooth transition.

Biden eyes defeated candidates — including Donna Shalala — for key administration roles” via The Associated Press — Biden is eyeing several Democrats who lost congressional reelection races last month for key positions in his administration. They include outgoing Reps. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, Shalala and Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama. Their consideration continues a long Washington tradition of defeated politicians seeking shelter in a new White House. Landing a new administration job can both position the losing candidates for future campaigns and provide the incoming President with important relationships on Capitol Hill. “It’s good to have people who know how to roam the halls of Congress,” said Andrew Card, who directed George W. Bush’s transition and later served as the Republican President’s Chief of Staff.


Trump aide banned from Justice after trying to get case info” via The Associated Press — The official serving as Trump’s eyes and ears at the Justice Department has been banned from the building after trying to pressure staffers to give up sensitive information about election fraud and other matters she could relay to the White House. Heidi Stirrup, an ally of top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, was quietly installed at the Justice Department as a White House liaison a few months ago. Within the last two weeks, she was told to vacate the building after top Justice officials learned of her efforts to collect insider information about ongoing cases and the department’s work on election fraud. Stirrup is accused of approaching staffers in the department demanding they give her information about investigations, including election fraud matters.

A Donald Trump aide was booted from the Justice Department building after attempting to elicit sensitive information. Image via AP.

Pro-Obamacare group urging Rick Scott to support coronavirus relief” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — An organization established to support the Affordable Care Act is running a digital advertising campaign urging people to convince Republican Sen. Scott to support emergency funding for health care. Save My Care, a self-described grassroots organization established in 2016, runs the ads on social media targeting the Senator as Congress renews activity on a new relief bill to address the increasing coronavirus crisis. The ads call for Scott to support federal funding for hospitals and front-line health care workers and for unemployment insurance, relief areas that Democrats have pushed hard since May. Republicans have been reluctant to endorse those areas.

Trade, defense and special interests? Matt Gaetz says the right and left have common ground” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Gaetz wants populists in Congress on the right and the left to work together against the party establishments on trade, defense and special interests, the Pensacola Republican said Wednesday. In an evening appearance on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Gaetz U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna of California as his inspiration to swear off donations from PACs. Wednesday evening’s show highlighted possible common ground between progressives and a new age of conservatives in the vein of Trump. Even with Trump set to leave the White House in January, the Representative suggested Trump has made a lasting impact in the nation’s capital with a stronger anti-war, anti-globalization coalition.

House Democrats elect Rosa DeLauro as next House Appropriations chair” via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO — House Democrats elected Rep. DeLauro as the next chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee, bestowing the 77-year-old ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the long-sought gavel to steer the lower chamber’s spending bills in the next Congress. DeLauro won in a 148-79 caucus-wide vote after vying for the top spot for more than a year against Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Marcy Kaptur. Allies of Wasserman Schultz had insisted that the race was narrowing in recent weeks. Kaptur dropped out of the race at the last minute and backed DeLauro, giving the Connecticut Democrat an edge against Wasserman Schultz.


Duval Schools’ Diana Greene named Florida Superintendent of the Year” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Greene was on a Zoom conference call for the Florida Association of District School Superintendents and Florida School Boards Association when she let a wide grin unfold from the corners of her mouth. From the confines of her office, the Duval County Public Schools Superintendent was named Florida’s 2021 Superintendent of the Year. She is the second Black woman and 33rd superintendent to receive the award since its inception. “I am grateful and truly humbled to accept this honor because it is a reflection of the great work and accomplishment of everyone at Duval County Public Schools,” Greene said. “It is an honor for our team — Team Duval — and the entire community, which is really embracing and supporting our schools.”

Congratulations to Duval Schools Superintendent Diana Greene, named Florida Superintendent of the Year.


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Bradley Burleson, Ballard Partners: SOMA Global

Dean Cannon, Kirk Pepper, Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: JEA

Marti Coley Eubanks, PinPoint Results: Cold Box Express

Cynthia Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: Florida Professional Vacation Rental Association, Kognito Solutions


The field is set to replace former Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners will consider seven candidates to replace Levine Cava. Commissioners are scheduled to hold a Monday, Dec. 7 vote to decide among that field and appoint a new commissioner to a term ending in 2022. Candidates faced a deadline to submit their applications to be considered for the appointment. Commissioners can also consider the four applicants who had already declared as candidates for the 2022 race, when the seat was next scheduled to be open. In fact, the Commission had debated whether to limit their selection to that field of four. On Tuesday, the body decided to open up the field, but those who backed the limit may still lean toward those four.

Things are falling into place to find a successor for former Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. Image via Miami-Dade County.

Residents sue city that turned a deaf ear to their public comments about noise” via Joey Flechas and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Three Miami residents are suing the city after commissioners chose not to hear their public comments on a recent change to the city’s noise ordinance, a measure that attracted more than eight hours of recorded comments that all went unheard Nov. 19. The plaintiffs say the city violated their constitutional rights to free speech and equal legal protection, as well as their statutory right under Florida law to be heard by their local elected officials. During the Nov. 19 meeting, city attorney Victoria Méndez advised commissioners they did not need to hear eight hours and 52 minutes of public comments submitted before the meeting because they were pretty much all the same.

NAS Pensacola attack anniversary: Purple Heart ceremonies and public vigil planned” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — The anniversary of the terrorist attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola that killed four people, including the shooter, and wounded eight others will be marked this weekend across Pensacola. The attack was carried out by a gunman who was a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force and enrolled in pilot training at the base. The attacker was killed by Escambia County Sheriff’s Office deputies who responded to the scene. A Navy investigation published earlier this month revealed that the attacker self-radicalized while undergoing aviation training in Pensacola.

Skanska now building Pensacola Bay Bridge ‘at a loss’ as repairs continue on schedule” via Annie Blanks of the Pensacola News Journal — The Pensacola Bay Bridge is still on track to be completed no later than March 2021 despite rumors to the contrary, said Rep. Alex Andrade at a town hall meeting in Gulf Breeze about the bridge closure. The bridge has been closed since Sept. 16, when at least two Skanska barges struck the bridge and several spans collapsed into the water. Andrade dedicated a large portion of the town hall to “rumor control,” addressing things he’s heard from constituents regarding the bridge closure and its repair timeline. Andrade said he invited Skanska to his town hall, but the company did not want to send a representative to address the public.

Tracy Caruso, wife of Rep. Mike Caruso, submits 1K signatures supporting Delray Beach mayoral bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Tracy Caruso says she’s submitted enough signatures to qualify in her bid to oust Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia. Caruso is the wife of Republican Rep. Mike Caruso, who represents House District 89. In early November, Tracy Caruso filed paperwork to mount a mayoral run. On Thursday, Caruso said she submitted 1,000 petitions supporting her candidacy for Delray Beach Mayor. Candidates are required to submit just 250 petitions to qualify for the contest.

Jacksonville City Council fails to advance $233.3 million Lot J subsidy to final vote” via Christopher Hong of the Florida Times-Union — The Jacksonville City Council on Thursday failed to advance a proposed $233.3 million incentives package for Jaguars owner Shad Khan‘s Lot J development. However, team representatives said they would continue to work toward having the deal ready for a final vote next week. While City Council President Tommy Hazouri decided not to advance the bill to a final vote during Tuesday’s meeting, the council could still force a vote during the meeting with a 13-vote majority; the same two-thirds majority needed to approve the deal. It’s likely an attempt to force a final vote to be made, as Khan’s development team and Mayor Lenny Curry have both pushed hard for the council to vote on the deal Tuesday.

UNF poll shows majority of Jacksonville residents oppose Lot J development deal” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — A UNF poll found that 54% of Jacksonville residents strongly or somewhat oppose the city providing $233 million toward the Lot J development proposed by Jaguars owner Shad Khan and The Cordish Companies near TIAA Bank Field. Another 43% were strongly or somewhat supportive. Michael Binder, director of the UNF Public Opinion Research Lab, said that when it comes to council members who did not start out strongly for or against the deal, public opinion about the proposed deal could be a factor in how they ultimately vote. The UNF poll likewise showed opposition to taxpayers’ prospect of paying several hundred million dollars at some point in the future to renovate or replace TIAA Bank Field.

A majority of Jacksonville residents are not thrilled with the Lot J proposal. Image via Jacksonville Jaguars.

Raydient seeks to end shady business as usual in Nassau County” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — In June, Florida Politics did an investigative series on what has been going on in Nassau County government. It includes concealing public records, meeting outside the sunshine, a commissioner living outside of his district, and a failed extortion attempt costing its taxpayers nearly $400,000 and climbing. All of this stems from or is tied to the case of Rayonier Inc. and Raydient LLC v. Nassau County. But while all eyes have been focused on the election and then Thanksgiving, there were major developments in the case. In late November, Raydient filed a deposition collected from Taco Pope, who has worked in multiple planning roles within Nassau County before becoming assistant county manager and now the county manager.

Jerry Demings picks Split Oak road supporter Victoria Siplin for CFX board” via Jason Garcia and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Mayor Demings appointed Commissioner Siplin to the board of the Central Florida Expressway Authority, an influential post helping to oversee an agency with 125 miles of toll roads across Central Florida. Demings, Siplin and outgoing Commissioner Betsy VanderLey were part of a 5-2 county commission majority that signed off on plans to let the expressway authority to build a roughly $800 million extension of Osceola Parkway through the southern portion of Split Oak. The road is a top priority of developer Tavistock and landowning entities controlled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which want to develop vast land holdings east of Orlando.

Orlando City Council to consider fate of sidewalk scooters. Another six months?” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Battery-powered scooters could remain on Orlando sidewalks next year, with the City Council set to vote on a plan next week to extend a test of the trendy, but sometimes controversial, machines through July. The program launched in January and eventually attracted a half dozen scooter providers, which distributed 1,700 of the brightly colored scooters throughout the city. In all, riders have taken more than 400,000 trips on the devices, meant as a low-cost option to help people get around town. The ordinance commissioners are due to vote on Monday the tweaked requirements of companies to rebalance their scooters each night, which means retrieving them from far-flung areas to deploy in more central spots.

UCF tables approval of financial support for UCF Athletics“ via Catherine Matos of the Orlando Sentinel — The UCF Athletics Association is asking for the deferral of $1 million in loan payments to the university over two years, an increase in its line of credit from $5 million to $8 million and a $3 million, 18-month loan. The Board’s Finance and Facilities Committee approved all three items in a meeting on Nov. 19, sending them for a final vote of approval at the Board’s meeting Thursday. At the meeting, it was announced that the items would not be considered because the university is exploring other options. A UCF spokesperson would not comment on what those additional options entail or when and by who these options were discussed.

Orlando ranked in top 5 of cities where expenses are rising in new survey” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — released a survey this week ranking Orlando No. 5 in cities where it is getting more expensive to live. Costs went up this year in the City Beautiful, despite the COVID-19 pandemic pushing the area unemployment rate over 10%. What’s more, the Orlando metro area was the only city in the Top 10 to have increased in every metric surveyed: groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care and miscellaneous expenses. In the Top 25 cities, Tampa was the only other city nationwide to hold that distinction. used data from the Council for Community and Economic Research, comparing cost-of-living indexes from the first quarter of 2020 with the third quarter.


This pandemic has exposed our nation’s broken caregiving system” via Melinda Gates with The Washington Post — As President-elect Biden prepares to take office under the shadow of interlocking public health and economic crises, I am one of many advocates hoping that he will elevate a new issue as a presidential priority by appointing a czar for caregiving. The coronavirus has laid bare what was painfully clear to many families already: The caregiving system in the United States is broken, and it is women who are paying the price. With child care centers closed, schools operating remotely and families caring for sick adults and aging parents at home, what was previously untenable has become almost impossible, especially for single mothers, essential workers and others working low-wage jobs with unpredictable hours.


Marco Rubio’s lurch toward Trumpist populism” via A.J. Kaufman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — I voted for Rubio in the 2016 Republican primaries, as did my wife and probably 80% of the conservatives I know. We canvassed for him and attended his rallies in three states. I thought — and still do — he’d be an unbeatable nominee and good President for many reasons. He’s young, Latino, incredibly articulate, well-informed on key issues, and neither from the fringe of the party nor a mushy moderate. Assuming he wins reelection to the U.S. Senate in two years, Rubio will most assuredly run for President again in 2024. Now, however, he’s rebranding and becoming more populist.


Gov. DeSantis faces accusations of spinning and misrepresenting the truth during the COVID-19 crisis. That’s the gist of a new report in the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, which concludes the Governor deceived Floridians about the real danger for political reasons … like talking about vaccines that are not available to divert your attention from the 19,000 fatalities and 1 million infections in the state.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— The Florida Division of Emergency Management will be working to distribute those vaccines — when they become available. Jared Moskowitz, who runs the agency, will discuss the pending vaccine.

— A COVID-19 vaccine would be pretty handy right now because the casualty count is surging in Florida. The Department of Health reported 100 more fatalities Thursday and 10,870 newly confirmed cases. We haven’t seen those sorts of numbers since the peak days of July.

— A federal appeals court hears the case of a woman who is suing to undo the once-secret plea deal that kept child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein out of federal prison. The Department of Justice says the lawsuit should be thrown out … but they apologized to Cheryl Wilde for the way prosecutors in Miami cut the deal without informing victims.

— The court hearing was conducted by Zoom, which included a four-minute gap when one of the judges disappeared from the screen. She was (of course) from Florida.

— And finally, a Florida Woman tried to get revenge on a romantic rival by posting her name, picture, address and phone number on a dating site — saying come on by for sex and meth — and a Florida man who finally knows he is NOT the son of William Shatner. It took him 36 years to find out.

To listen, click on the image below:


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 attorney Sean Shaw, independent journalist and columnist Lucy Morgan, South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Randy Schultz and Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A deep dive into the local COVID-19 response and how local entities balance the different state, county and local requirements and mandates. Joining Walker-Torres are Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: As Florida hits the million mark on COVID-19 cases, DeSantis stays strong on his opposition to lockdowns; and a one-on-one interview with Rep.-elect Andrew Learned on his goals for the Legislative Session.

Political Connections on Spectrum News 13 in Orlando: Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith will discuss DeSantis’ leadership during the pandemic and Florida’s response; U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan will discuss a bill that would allocate $9 billion to combat opioid addiction.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with Dr. Ed Moore.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: A focus on the proposal to develop Lot J in the TIAA Bank parking lot; Jacksonville Jaguars trying to develop entertainment space, etc. Guests include Lori Boyer, CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority in Jacksonville; Rick Mullaney, director of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute and Jacksonville City Council President Hazouri.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Guests include Paco Velez, president and CEO of Feeding South Florida and Madeline Pumariega, president of Miami Dade College.


Inside Florida Politics from GateHouse Florida: The Florida Legislature returned to Tallahassee for the first time since the spring to swear in new members and designate a new Senate President and House Speaker. Journalists Antonio Fins, John Kennedy and Zac Anderson discuss the agendas laid out by the new legislative leadership and what they had to say about the pandemic that’s still raging in this state, the latest surge in coronavirus cases and how DeSantis is responding and the ongoing saga within the Florida GOP over acknowledging Biden as President-elect.

podcastED: Stand Up for Students President Doug Tuthill talks with writer, lawyer and legal historian Natalie Wexler, author of “The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System — and How to Fix It.” Wexler argues in her book, published in 2019, that the modern “standard” approach to teaching only further increases inequities for students who do not begin their lives with education advantages at home.

Tallahassee Business Podcast from the Tallahassee Chamber presented by 223 Agency: Sue Dick welcomes Laura Johnson, founding artist and CEO of Coton Colors. They talk about what it is like operating a national brand through the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent grand opening of a flagship store in Tampa for their sister brand Happy Everything, and what the future looks like for this well-known and well-loved brand.

The New Abnormal with hosts Rick Wilson and Molly Jong-Fast: Trump is headed to Georgia, where there’s about to be a pair of special elections to decide the balance of the Senate. But don’t expect the President to really talk up his Republican, MAGA AF buds, George Conway says. “It’s better for him and better for his ego if they lose.” Trump has a problem, George explains. Well, two. First, “Republicans did better than he did” in the General Election. Not only does “that undercut his claim of fraud … it means that there were significant numbers of Republicans who couldn’t stomach him. And that’s the reason why he lost, and all these other people won.” So now Trump is hate-tweeting Georgia’s Republican Governor and Republican Secretary of State. And he’s doing his damnedest to tell his followers that their votes don’t count, that they’re sure to be stolen.

— ALOE —

Disney: Auction includes rare theme-park items, WWI sketches by Walt” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The next big Disney-driven auction features early writings and drawings from Walt Disney himself, alongside rare theme-park items and memorabilia from films. Van Eaton Galleries’ “Walt Disney: The Man, the Studio and the Parks” auction is scheduled for Saturday. Among the items up for auction are a scrapbook featuring 13 characters drawn in 1918 by teenage Walt Disney, serving in World War I. There’s also a handwritten picture postcard of Walt Disney wearing his Red Cross uniform standing in front of a WWI ambulance. From there, this auction works through the decades of Disney endeavors, climaxing with theme parks and Walt Disney World.

Disney artifacts and memorabilia are going up for auction on Walt Disney’s birthday, Dec. 5. Image via Facebook.

Taste test: Epcot festival celebrates holidays in new ways” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — It’s not the full-blown “fall, fall on your knees”-level Christmas celebration we’ve grown accustomed to at Walt Disney World, but there’s still a good deal of spirit to absorb during the Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. Music and food remain major players at the theme park, sometimes in unexpected places, this month. The Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays runs through Dec. 31. Activities are included in regular admission. Disney World continues to require date-specific reservations for its theme parks; those are available via Face coverings, temperature checks and other health and safety measures are enforced.

Tony Robbins puts money behind Cape Canaveral space balloon business” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — A startup business that wants to send people into space onboard balloons from Kennedy Space Center has a famous investor in the form of motivational speaker Robbins. According to a news release, space Perspective, which aims to carry up to eight passengers 100,000 feet above the Earth on tourism flights, received $7 million in investment from a group that includes Robbins. The company’s designs call for a 650-foot-tall balloon called Spaceship Neptune to ascend to an altitude of about 20 miles that would let passengers see the curvature of the Earth but is well below the Karman line, an internationally accepted threshold for space, which is 100 km, or 62 miles above the surface of the Earth.


Best wishes to U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney and Jason Rodriguez, state government relations manager for BayCare Health System.


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

Written By

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

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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

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