Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.18.21

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Wake up right: Get your scoops and other news about Florida politics.

Good Monday morning.

Take a moment today to consider the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

How we can follow the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” via The Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Dr. King gave his life in service to the nation. Decades after his death, that contribution continues. Today’s holiday has evolved into a national day of service, a fitting legacy for a man who worked selflessly for the betterment of all Americans. King never lived to see the racial unity he so fearlessly advocated for in his time. King recognized the cause of justice would be waged over the long arc of history. King paired his challenge of the status quo with a simple message: What are you going to do about it? For him, speaking out was only the first step in creating a more just, inclusive society. To that end, the evolution of the King federal holiday into a national day of service is a perfect way to carry on his legacy.

Today, America honors a great man who worked tirelessly for the betterment of us all. Image via AP.

‘We’re stronger together.’ The Martin Luther King holiday’s renewed importance following Capitol attack” via C. Isiah Smalls of the Miami Herald — With the FBI’s warning of subsequent acts of domestic terrorism leading to Wednesday’s inauguration, Miami Gardens Councilman Robert Stephens and others say the upcoming MLK holiday celebrating unity and nonviolent protest have a renewed relevance. “Dr. King taught about bringing us together and solving our differences so that we can continue to carry out the integrity of this nation,” Stephens said. To honor King, the Councilman will be going door to door, passing out personal protective equipment as a way to “remind residents that we haven’t forgotten them,” he added.

Honoring Dr. King will go virtual this year, from parades to Kamala Harris presentation” via Devoun Cetoute and Carli Teproff of The Miami Herald — MLK Day is known as a day of service. In fact, it’s the only national holiday designated as a national day of service to reflect King’s legacy as a religious leader, educator and civil rights leader. And while things have changed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations, schools and other groups are finding ways to honor King, whose birthday was Jan. 15, 1929. He would have turned 92. 5000 Role Models will hold its 28th Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast at 9 a.m. Monday, although it will be virtual this year. Among the speakers will be Vice President-elect Harris.

Where King and Coretta Scott King met and studied, a memorial will rise” via Philip Marcelo of The Associated Press — A major memorial honoring MLK and Coretta Scott King is moving forward in Boston, where they met and studied in the 1950s. King Boston, the privately funded organization coordinating the estimated $9.5 million project, said this week that fabrication of a roughly 22-foot-high bronze sculpture depicting four arms embracing is expected to begin in March after years of planning. When unveiled late next year, “The Embrace” will be one of the country’s largest new memorials dedicated to racial equity, the organization says. It will be installed on Boston Common near the site of a 1965 rally and march led by King, who would have turned 92 on Friday.

This artist’s rendering provided by MASS Design Group illustrates a proposed monument entitled “The Embrace,” consisting of four 22-foot-high intertwined bronze arms to celebrate the meeting of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Image via AP.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

Tweet, tweet:

—@JHoganGidley: Statement On President [Donald] Trump’s Impeachment Defense Team: President Trump has not yet made a determination as to which lawyer or law firm will represent him for the disgraceful attack on our Constitution and democracy, known as the ‘impeachment hoax.’ We will keep you informed.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@MattKLewis: The radical right has declared war on liberal democracy, and conservatives are generally underwhelmed. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the urgency? There is no realization that the revolution will eventually devour them. Appeasement is feeding a crocodile and hoping he eats you last

@RepStephMurphy: A security clearance is a privilege, not a right. If an American participated in the Capitol attack — or if they subscribe to the dangerous anti-government views of QAnon, which has been linked to that attack — then they have no business being entrusted with our nation’s secrets.

@TasneemN: Per Twitter spox, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene‘s account “has been temporarily locked out for multiple violations of our civic integrity policy.”

@MarcACaputo: Argue lockdowns all you want, but stop with the suggestion that COVID deaths are no big deal About 400k Americans have died from its complications and, while I haven’t seen the estimates, I imagine most of those people would be alive today were it not for this virus

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

The 2021 Inauguration — 2; Florida Chamber Economic Outlook and Job Solution Summit begins — 10; Super Bowl LV in Tampa — 20; Daytona 500 — 27; “Nomadland” with Frances McDormand — 33; 2021 Legislative Session begins — 43; “Coming 2 America” premieres on Amazon Prime — 47; “The Many Saints of Newark” premieres — 53; 2021 Grammys — 55; ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ premieres — 67; “No Time to Die” premieres (rescheduled) — 74; Children’s Gasparilla — 82; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 89; “A Quiet Place Part II” rescheduled premiere — 94; “Black Widow” rescheduled premiere — 109; “Top Gun: Maverick” rescheduled premiere — 165; Disney’s “Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” premieres — 173; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 186; “Jungle Cruise” premieres — 193; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 219; “Dune” premieres — 257; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 289; Disney’s “Eternals” premieres — 291; “Spider-Man Far From Home” sequel premieres — 333; Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” premieres — 326; “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” premieres — 431; “Thor: Love and Thunder” premieres — 473; “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” sequel premieres — 627.

— AMERICA IN CRISIS —

Damning — “Donald Trump allies behind rally that ignited Capitol riot” via Richard Lardner and Michelle R. Smith of The Associated Press — Members of Trump’s failed presidential campaign played key roles in orchestrating the Washington rally that spawned a deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol, according to a review of records, undercutting claims the event was the brainchild of the President’s grassroots supporters. A pro-Trump nonprofit group called Women for America First hosted the “Save America Rally” on Jan. 6 at the Ellipse, an oval-shaped, federally owned patch of land near the White House. But an attachment to the National Park Service public gathering permit granted to the group lists more than half a dozen people in staff positions for the event who just weeks earlier had been paid thousands of dollars by Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. Other staff scheduled to be “on-site” during the demonstration have close ties to the White House.

The Capitol riots had some help from key figures in the Donald Trump campaign. Image via AP.

Proud Boys, seizing Trump’s call to Washington, helped lead Capitol attack” via Georgia Wells, Rebecca Ballhaus and Keach Hagey of The Wall Street Journal — On Jan. 3, three days before the attack on the Capitol, Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right organization known as the Proud Boys, shared a cryptic post on the messaging app Telegram: “What if we invade it?” The message was sent to his more than 7,000 followers on the app, with the first reply reading “January 6th is D day in America.” Messages show the group repeatedly invoking Trump’s rhetoric in the weeks leading to the Jan. 6 protest as they built momentum toward what became a violent showdown. Investigators have said they are scrutinizing online messages like these as they attempt to determine the planning and intent of those involved in the attack on the Capitol.

Before the Capitol riot, calls for cash and talk of revolution” via David D. Kirkpatrick, Mike McIntire and Christiaan Triebert of The New York Times — Much is still unknown about the planning and financing of the storming of the Capitol, aiming to challenge Trump’s electoral defeat. What is clear is that it was driven, in part, by a largely ad hoc network of low-budget agitators, including far-right militants, Christian conservatives, and ardent adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory. The sheer breadth of the movement suggests it may be far more difficult to confront than a single organization. On an online ride-sharing forum, Patriot Caravans for 45, more than 4,000 members coordinated travel from as far away as California and South Dakota. Some 2,000 people donated at least $181,700 to another site, Wild Protest, leaving messages urging ralliers to halt the certification of the vote.

Nancy Pelosi says any lawmaker who helped insurrectionists could face criminal prosecution” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Speaker Pelosi said lawmakers found to have aided any aspect of the mob violence and insurrection that overran Capitol Hill last week could face prosecution. “If in fact it is found that members of Congress were accomplices to this insurrection, if they aided and abetted the crime, there may have to be actions taken beyond the Congress in terms of prosecutions,” Pelosi said at a news conference, choking up at times as she decried the racism and bigotry some of the rioters displayed openly on Capitol grounds. Pelosi said she’s tapping a retired lieutenant general, Russel Honoré, to conduct a thorough review of Capitol security measures ahead of Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

Off-duty police were part of the Capitol mob. Now, police are turning in their own.” via Kimberly Kindy, Kim Bellware and Mark Berman of The Washington Post — During the chaos at the Capitol, overwhelmed police officers confronted and combated a frenzied sea of rioters who transformed the seat of democracy into a battlefield. Now police chiefs across the country face the uncomfortable reality that members of their own ranks were among the mob that faced off against other law enforcement officers. At least 13 off-duty law enforcement officials are suspected of taking part in the riot, a tally that could grow as investigators continue to pore over footage and records to identify participants. Police leaders are turning in their own to the FBI and taking the striking step of reminding officers in their departments that criminal misconduct could push them off the force and behind bars.

Pushed to the edge by the Capitol riot, people are reporting their family and friends to the FBI” via Hannah Knowles and Paulina Villegas of The Washington Post — In relationships already strained or severed, last week’s violent spectacle of democracy under siege has pushed some people to take a drastic new step: warning law enforcement. Anguished Americans are turning in friends and family for their alleged involvement in the Capitol riots, contributing to more than 100,000 tips submitted to the FBI and playing a role in at least one high-profile arrest. For months the informants say they have watched helplessly as loved ones embraced far-right ideology and latched onto conspiracy theories, from QAnon to viral-video claims of a coronavirus “Plandemic.” Extremism has thrived in the Trump era and under pandemic lockdowns, experts say, with more people isolated at home and misinformation rampant online.

U.S. charges man accused of smashing glass at Capitol just before fatal shooting” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — Federal prosecutors have arrested a Kentucky man who they allege was part of a violent crowd that stormed the House Speaker’s Lobby during the breach of the U.S. Capitol, smashing a window with a flagpole moments before Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot, court filings show. An FBI charging affidavit alleges that Chad Barrett Jones is the man shown in video at Babbitt’s left on Jan. 6, wearing a red-hooded jacket and gray skullcap and striking the lobby door’s glass panels as a mob chanted “Break it down!” and “Let’s f—–g go!” Jones allegedly used a flagpole to break the glass

Several more Capitol rioters have been arrested including man who carried a Confederate flag inside building.” via Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Adam Goldman, Katie Benner and Mike Ives of The New York Times — A man seen holding a Confederate battle flag, a person identified as striking a police officer with a flagpole and a retired firefighter identified as having thrown a fire extinguisher at officers were among those arrested Thursday for their role in the riot at the U.S. Capitol last week. In Texas, a federal prosecutor also said on Thursday that a retired Air Force officer who stormed the Senate chamber dressed in military-style clothing and holding zip ties had intended to “take hostages.” The retired officer, Larry Rendell Brock, was arrested in Texas on Sunday on one count of unlawfully entering a restricted building and another of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, the Justice Department said at the time.

The FBI arrested Kevin Seefried, who carried a Confederate flag inside Capitol Hill. Image via CNN.

Capitol rioter who smoked pot in Senator’s office arrested” via William Turton and Kartikay Mehrotra of Bloomberg — One of the supporters of Trump who entered the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 has been arrested and charged with violent entry and interfering with the certification of the 2020 vote. Brandon Fellows of upstate New York, was arrested late on Saturday. Fellows previously said he had “no regrets” for having entered the Capitol through a broken window, roaming the halls, and smoking a joint in the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon. In his garbled, minutelong recording, Fellows said he turned himself in “for supporting the Constitution,” and that he’s committed to continuing his fight.

For those who quit Trump after riot, critics say it’s too little and four years too late” via Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — The violent insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, incited by Trump just 14 days before the inauguration of Biden, set off a dramatic wave of resignations and attempts at distancing, from Cabinet secretaries to former senior advisers to West Wing aides. For critics of Trump and his allies, the public denunciations and resignations are too little, too late, more performative outrage than genuine remorse or consternation. They greet the moves with skepticism, arguing that many seemed intended as a résumé-burnisher by White House officials preparing to reenter the job market after as many as four years in the Trump administration.

Lincoln Project video accuses Trump allies of Jim Crow racism” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In one of its most savage attack yet on Republican congressional allies of Trump, The Lincoln Project has released a new video that charges Sens. Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Ron Johnson and Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Jim Crow-style racism. The 60-second “Which Side” video declares the quartet who challenged Biden’s election are leaders of what the Lincoln Project dubs the new “Jim Crow Caucus.” The video contends that they intend to disqualify and therefore disenfranchise Black voters whose choices made big differences in the election outcomes in states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Lincoln Project video appeals to corporate America and other political donors, urging them to do what many corporations already have: reconsider providing financial support to such politicians.

What Ashley Moody should be reading — “Actions by GOP attorneys general could damage credibility” via Geoff Mulvihill of The Associated Press — By supporting efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election, most of the nation’s Republican state attorneys general may have undermined their offices’ long-held special status in federal courts. In December, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed legal papers attempting to overturn the presidential election results based on unfounded claims of election fraud in four states that voted for Biden. The Republican attorneys general for 17 other states made legal filings supporting his effort, which the U.S. Supreme Court rejected. An affiliated group, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, helped pay for promotional efforts to get people to attend Trump’s rally. The controversy prompted the AG association’s executive director, Adam Piper, to resign.

Will Ashley Moody get pushback for her role in the attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s election? Image via AP.

U.S. pundits keep comparing Washington to a war zone. People who know war disagree.” via Miriam Berger of The Washington Post — A massive security operation is underway in Washington ahead of President-elect Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, two weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. As images of National Guard troops circulate online, some in the United States have compared the capital to a war zone. The commentary has drawn pushback from people who have lived or worked in areas actually beset by conflict, who say such remarks are misleading and trivializes the reality of war. On Friday, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer tweeted a picture of members of the U.S. National Guards standing in a street with the caption: “It reminds me of the war zones I saw in Baghdad or Mosul or Falluja. So sad.” “HOW is the current situation in DC Baghdad??,” demanded a Twitter user named Soroya.

Small numbers of protesters gather at fortified U.S. capitols” via The Associated Press — Small groups of right-wing protesters gathered outside heavily fortified statehouses around the country Sunday as National Guard troops and police kept watch to prevent a repeat of the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol. There were no immediate reports of any clashes. Security was stepped up in recent days after the FBI warned of the potential for armed protests in Washington and at all 50 state Capitol buildings ahead of Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. A few people demonstrated in some capital cities, with crowds of only a dozen or two, while streets in many other places remained empty.

FBI screens U.S. troops for possible insider threats ahead of inauguration” via The Washington Post — U.S. defense officials say the federal government is conducting insider-threat screening on the 25,000 National Guard troops who have begun flowing into the nation’s capital to secure the inauguration, as concerns intensify about extremism in the ranks. The extra precaution comes after a number of pro-Trump rioters involved in storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 turned out to have military ties, raising questions about extremist sentiment within the armed forces. Dozens of people on a terrorist watch list were in Washington as the deadly riot unfolded.

— FLORIDA ANGLE —

After Capitol riots, Trump’s Florida supporters huddle online, plan and wait” via Steve Contorno, Claire McNeill and Kavitha Surana of The Tampa Bay Times — With Inauguration Day just ahead, and right-wing calls-to-arms swirling online, Americans are bracing for another rocky and portentous week in U.S. democracy. Florida lawmakers were told to avoid the statehouse in Tallahassee. The U.S. Capitol has been fortified by fences, razor wire and soldiers, including members from Florida’s National Guard, in anticipation of more threats. Trump, his approval ratings at a low point, urged for calm in a video message to his supporters. Many fear the reprisal of violence. They wonder how a nation can root out extremism that is becoming ever more mainstream, while Trump’s mercurial brand of politics appears pervasive.

The Florida National Guard has been called to protect the state Capitol. Image via Florida National Guard.

Florida’s Capitol complex was active Sunday but with police, not protesters” via Mary Ellen Klas and Ana Ceballos of The Miami Herald — Law enforcement from around the state was on high alert at Florida’s Capitol complex Sunday, but there were no protesters and, except for the presence of officers on the roofs of the buildings and the sound of a law enforcement helicopter hovering, it was a sleepy, cool morning in the state that in three days will become the permanent home to outgoing President Trump. “I hope you’re going to be very bored today,’’ said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen as he emerged from the Old Capitol after a series of meetings with dozens of law enforcement officials who had assembled in the Capitol complex.

Daniel Baker, suspect in Florida Capitol threats, described as ‘model tenant’ by landlord” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — “He’s a model tenant,” said Susanna Matthews, who owns the High Road building where Baker has lived since October. “He was a joy, very intelligent, very well-read and well-spoken. Considerate of the others who live here, quiet, well-behaved, paid his rent on time. What else can I say?” Matthews, who is 80 and blind, was stunned when FBI agents with guns drawn descended Friday morning on the brick apartment building. “The FBI scared the hell out of me,” she said. “It seems like a strange way to run a railroad. I guess everybody’s on high alert.”

— IMPEACHMENT —

Democrats wrestle with length of Trump trial” via Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — Democratic lawmakers eager to punish Trump for his role in fomenting last week’s deadly attack on the Capitol are grappling with how elaborate and lengthy a Senate trial should be, as Biden ramps up pressure on Congress to swiftly implement his ambitious agenda. Few if any Senate Democrats want a lengthy impeachment proceeding, Senators and aides said Friday, particularly as Biden faces a raft of crises with potentially no Cabinet secretary in place on the first day of his presidency, a break from past practice. Some have suggested the trial be put on pause to first tackle confirmations and pandemic relief.

Joe Biden is urging Congress to put his agenda into action quickly. Image via AP.

—“Lindsey Graham asks Chuck Schumer to hold Senate vote on canceling impeachment trial” via Nolan D. McCaskill of POLITICO

Small numbers of protesters gather at fortified U.S. Capitols” via The Associated Press — Small groups of right-wing protesters gathered outside heavily fortified statehouses around the country Sunday as National Guard troops and police kept watch to prevent a repeat of the violence that erupted at the U.S. Capitol. There were no immediate reports of any clashes. Security was stepped up in recent days after the FBI warned of the potential for armed protests in Washington and at all 50 state Capitol buildings ahead of Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. A few people demonstrated in some capital cities, with crowds of only a dozen or two, while streets in many other places remained empty.

Republicans call for unity but won’t acknowledge Joe Biden won fairly” via Amy B Wang of The Washington Post — The call for unity came from one of Trump’s most loyal supporters in Congress, Rep. Jim Jordan, nearly a week after a pro-Trump mob rampaged the U.S. Capitol in a riot that left five people dead. The committee chairman, Rep. Jim McGovern, pressed him on one point. Hadn’t Jordan and more than 140 other Republicans given oxygen to the false conspiracy theory pushed by Trump that motivated the Capitol rioters when they had voted to object to certifying the electoral college results? McGovern’s question was met with 17 seconds of silence before Jordan said Biden would indeed be inaugurated President, a clear dodge of the question about the nature of Biden’s victory.

— CORONA FLORIDA —

Florida reports 11,093 new COVID cases as positive rates; hospitalizations trend down” via David J. Neal of The Miami Herald — The state of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 11,093 new cases, as the positive test rates and current hospitalizations headed downward, except not in Miami-Dade. The case count was the lowest single-day total since 10,603 on Jan. 3, also a Sunday. The number of deaths, however, continued a monthlong trend of total deaths in the triple digits. Miami-Dade and Broward added just under one-third of the new cases and a tick more than one-third of the new deaths. For the novel coronavirus pandemic, Florida has had 1,571,279 cases, 24,137 resident deaths, and 24,515 total deaths.

This is a ridiculous suggestionRon DeSantis’ office: Publix’s $100,000 contribution to PAC not linked to COVID-19 vaccine program” via Gary White of The Ledger — DeSantis has been a regular presence lately at Publix grocery stores. In Ocala, DeSantis held a news conference last week inside a Publix to announce that the state had formed a partnership in which the pharmacies at stores in four counties would deliver COVID-19 vaccinations. This week, DeSantis has spoken outside Publix stores throughout the state, including the Panhandle, Sumter and Collier counties, to promote an expansion of the program, which as of Wednesday, included more than 100 stores in 10 counties. Those appearances came a month after Publix’s political action committee contributed $100,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC.

The connection between Ron DeSantis donations and Publix locations with COVID-19 vaccines is spurious. Image via WESH.

As many Black Floridians die, very little COVID-19 vaccine gets to them” via Wayne Washington and Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Black Floridians have accounted for less than 5% of the more than 775,000 residents who got the first doses of coronavirus vaccine, state figures show, intensifying concerns that wariness of the vaccine coupled with uneven distribution of it are further marring a rollout in the Sunshine State that has largely been panned. Through Thursday, State Department of Health figures don’t specifically include Hispanics, a stunning omission given that they account for more than a quarter of the state’s population. As is the case across the country, COVID-19 has brought disproportionate suffering to Hispanics in Florida. Hispanics, 26.4% of the state’s population, accounted for 31.4% of those hospitalized.

With state officials mum, Floridians aren’t being told about a public health threat: A troubling new COVID-19 strain” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — On New Year’s Eve, a more contagious strain of COVID-19 that first appeared in the United Kingdom emerged in Florida, with the state health department tweeting information on Florida’s first case. That one case has now jumped to 22 cases as of Thursday, the nation’s second-highest number. Only California has more cases, 32, according to the federal CDC. The Florida Department of Health’s tweets on New Year’s Eve provided some details about the case in Martin County, north of Palm Beach County. And health officials and lawmakers held a news conference on Jan. 2 about the Martin County case. But ever since then, the public has been in the dark, with state officials mum about the troubling new cases that can spread more easily and make more people ill.

— CORONA LOCAL — 

Duval Schools says spike in COVID-19 cases prompted by ‘expedited’ reporting” via Emily Bloch of The Florida Times-Union — Wednesday evening, when Duval Schools families refreshed the district’s COVID-19 dashboard, they saw a massive spike in cases. But the district says it’s because of the new, more proactive way they’re reporting things, not a school-specific case surge. Instead of waiting for confirmation from the local Department of Health, Duval County Public Schools announced Wednesday that it will start reporting potential COVID-19 cases into its system as soon as officials become aware of a case. The change took effect Wednesday night, with 170 new cases populating for one day. In a post to its website, the district said that this will help families and the community make informed decisions and with overall transparency.

As seniors scramble to get COVID-19 vaccines, Southwest Florida’s underserved communities feel left out” via Frank Gluck of The Naples Daily News — Getting a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in Southwest Florida right now is like winning the lottery, even for the most tuned-in and affluent of seniors. But for those with less access to health care, technology and transportation, vaccination may be an even longer shot. Many people in the region’s underserved communities are at higher risk of dying from the virus and need the vaccine the most. Some lack reliable cars, family help, and basic news about the virus. Others have health problems that put them at risk but are not yet in the 65-and-older age group that makes them eligible right now for the vaccines.

The push to vaccinate seniors first leaves some communities feeling like they are missing out.

City of Sarasota asks governor for 8,000 vaccine doses to hold mass vaccination event” via Louis Llovio of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The city of Sarasota wants to vaccinate 8,000 people at a two-day event in February and is asking the state for help to pull it off. The city has sent a letter to DeSantis requesting he send enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for the two-day mass vaccination that would be held at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The letter, mailed Friday, was signed by the city’s Mayor, interim City Manager and several medical professionals. Hagen Brody, the city’s mayor, said there had been no response from the Governor though it was likely that he hasn’t even received it yet. An electronic copy of the letter will be sent Tuesday.

We asked how hard it is to get a vaccine in South Florida. You answered. And answered.” via Samantha J. Gross of The Miami Herald — Hundreds of readers who responded to a request to share their stories of attempts to get vaccines in South Florida. Many said using online portals was nearly impossible, and the long waits for vaccines have been hard to endure. And those responses don’t take into account the unknown numbers of seniors who don’t know how to sign up using the internet or don’t have family and friends who can help them. Since the vaccines started going into arms late last month, 96,576 people have been vaccinated in Miami-Dade, which has a population of more than 2.7 million, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. That’s about 3.6% of the population. In Broward, which has a population of about 1.9 million, 71,194 people have been vaccinated, or 3.7%.

‘You are violating my rights!’ Florida woman jailed (again) for refusing to wear a mask” via The Orlando Sentinel — Cindy Falco Dicorrado may have wanted a bagel at an Einstein Bros. Bagels near Boca Raton, but she may have had to settle for eating one in a Palm Beach County jail the next morning. Dicorrado, who lives in Boynton Beach, was arrested Thursday morning after she refused to leave an Einstein bagel shop at 9795 Glades Rd. because she refused to wear a mask. There is a mask mandate in Palm Beach County due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is currently surging in Florida. Palm Beach County has had more than 96,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,000 deaths since the novel coronavirus pandemic began. But Dicorrado, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office probable cause affidavit, was inside the bagel shop “screaming” at customers and employees “you are violating my rights” and “you are violating the constitution” after manager Ann Marie Campian repeatedly asked her to wear the required mask.

— CORONA NATION —

The COVID-19 death toll is even worse than it looks” via Paul Overberg, Jon Kamp, Daniel Michaels and Lindsay Huth of The Wall Street Journal — The recorded death count from the COVID-19 pandemic as of Thursday is nearing 2 million. The true extent is far worse. More than 2.8 million people have lost their lives due to the pandemic, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from 59 countries and jurisdictions. This tally offers the most comprehensive view yet of the pandemic’s global impact. Deaths in these places last year surged more than 12% above average levels. Less than two-thirds of that surge has been attributed directly to COVID-19. Public-health experts believe that many, if not most, of the additional deaths were directly linked to the disease.

—“400,000: The invisible deaths of COVID-19” via Marc Fisher, Lori Rozsa, Mark Kreidler and Annie Gowen of The Washington Post

COVID-19 deaths are much worse than they seem.

Trump admin enlists private firm to review some COVID-19 tests” via David Lim of POLITICO — The Department of Health and Human Services is paying a private firm to review the accuracy of some COVID-19 tests, the latest example of the department’s political leadership attempting to bypass scientists at the FDA. The idea behind the last-minute contract, announced days before Trump leaves office, is that HHS would use the review to issue emergency use authorizations for the tests without input from FDA. The current skirmish concerns tests that labs develop for their own use, which have been a particular point of contention between HHS and FDA during the pandemic.

Experts warn of vaccine stumbles ‘out of the gate’ because Trump officials refused to consult with Biden team” via Laurie McGinley, Amy Goldstein, Lena H. Sun and Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — The last time a presidential transition began during a national emergency, the outgoing Bush administration set aside partisanship to work closely with incoming Barack Obama officials on how to deal with the economic collapse. “Everyone was completely responsive to any question,” said Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council under Obama. “They talked to us about major decisions.” That smooth handoff is in stark contrast to what is happening now as Biden prepares to assume power during a double-barreled crisis involving a lethal virus and its economic fallout that experts say demands close cooperation. Instead, the Trump administration has balked at providing access to information and failed to consult with its successors.

Biden picks former FDA Chief to lead federal vaccine efforts” via Sheila Kaplan and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times — Biden has asked Dr. David Kessler, a former head of the FDA, to oversee the effort to accelerate the development, manufacture and distribution of coronavirus vaccines. Dr. Kessler, a pediatrician and lawyer who headed the F.D.A. during the presidencies of George Bush and Bill Clinton, has been a key adviser to Biden on COVID-19 policy and co-chair of the transition team’s COVID-19 task force. He will replace Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a researcher and former drug company executive. According to a Biden transition spokesman, Dr. Kessler will share top responsibilities for the initiative with Gen. Gustave F. Perna, who will continue as chief operating officer.

Joe Biden taps David Kessler, a former head of the FDA, to oversee the vaccine effort. Image via AP.

Moderna CEO says the world will have to live with COVID ‘forever’” via Berkeley Lovelace, Jr. Of CNBC — The CEO of COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna warned Wednesday that the coronavirus that has brought world economies to a standstill and overwhelmed hospitals would be around “forever.” Public health officials and infectious disease experts have said there is a high likelihood that COVID-19 will become an endemic disease, meaning it will become present in communities at all times, though likely at lower levels than it is now. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel appeared to agree Wednesday that COVID-19 will become endemic, saying “SARS-CoV-2 is not going away.”


— PRESIDENTIAL —

Trump prepares to offer clemency to more than 100 people in his final hours in office” via The Washington Post —Decisions are expected to be announced Monday or Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the plans. Trump met Sunday with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, daughter Ivanka Trump and other aides for a significant amount of the day to review a long list of pardon requests and discuss lingering questions about their appeals, according to the multiple people briefed on the meeting. The President was personally engaged with the details of specific cases, one person said.

Trump will leave office with his lowest approval rating ever.” via Annie Karni of The New York Times — Throughout four years of scandals and investigations, Trump has maintained an approval rating that rarely budged from a 10-point band between 35 and 45%. Nothing he could say, do or tweet appeared to dramatically change public opinion of him. But the events of Jan. 6 appear to have damaged him in his final days in office in a way that finally moved the needle. Trump is set to depart office on Wednesday with an approval rating of 29%, the lowest of his presidency. About 75% of the public said Trump bore some responsibility for the violence and destruction of Jan. 6.

Donald Trump’s popularity is cratering. Image via AP.

Trump leaves behind a Republican Party both broken and still in his grip” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — There are many parts of the legacy Trump will leave behind when his term ends Wednesday. One of them is a broken Republican Party. In four years, Trump ideologically twisted a party that once had a coherent conservative governing philosophy, which he does not. He put a vise grip on the party’s grassroots and persuaded many of them to believe that truth does not matter. He opened up the party’s coalition to an emboldened White supremacist movement. More significant for the party’s future than the 10 who voted to impeach was that there were still 197 Republicans who voted not to impeach. However uncomfortable they were with Trump’s role in the mob action, as some expressed, they nonetheless marched in lockstep as they have for four years.

Trump to flee Washington and seek rehabilitation in a MAGA oasis: Florida” via Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker of The Washington Post — Trump will leave Washington this week politically wounded, silenced on social media and essentially unwelcome in his lifelong hometown of New York. By migrating instead to Palm Beach, Florida., Trump plans to inhabit an alternative reality of adoration and affirmation. The defeated president will take up residence at his gilded Mar-a-Lago Club, where dues-paying members applaud him whenever he eats meals or mingles on the deck. He is sure to take in the same celebratory fervor whenever he plays golf at one of the two Trump-branded courses nearby. In Florida, Trump will be living in a veritable MAGA oasis, to use the acronym for his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. South Florida has fast become a hub of right-wing power brokers and media characters, and some of Trump’s adult children are making plans to move to the area.

—”Pro-Trump Miamians gather in support of the outgoing president days before inauguration” via Taylor Dolven and Douglas Hanks of The Miami Herald 

—”Trump rallies held across South Florida to ‘support the real President’” via Wayne K. Roustan of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel

One last group of rallies in South Florida for ‘the real President.’ Image via AP.

Latino leaders call out Trump disinformation campaign in Miami Spanish-language media” via Lautaro Grinspan of The Miami Herald — Latino leaders from more than 20 local advocacy groups have denounced the spread of misinformation in South Florida Spanish-language media, warning in an open letter that “hateful rhetoric can have deadly consequences.” Since a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, resulting in five people’s deaths, including a Capitol Police officer, several popular Spanish-language AM radio stations and YouTube shows have amplified conspiracy theories about the riot and disseminated unfounded allegations of voter fraud. In the days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack, a listener used an afternoon show on WWFE’s La Poderosa 670 AM to advertise her plan to lead a caravan of Miami-based Trump supporters to Washington for the planned protests.

— TRANSITION —

Biden wins wide approval for handling of transition, but persistent GOP skepticism on issues will cloud the opening of his presidency” via Dan Balz, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin of The Washington Post — Two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the transition ahead of his inauguration Wednesday, but mixed confidence in his leadership on major issues along with Trump’s hold on the Republican Party present sizable challenges for the early days of the new administration. Biden enters office with 49% of Americans confident that he will make the right decisions for the country’s future, compared with 50% who take the opposite view. The 49% represents much greater trust than Trump’s 38% mark four years ago but much lower than the 61% who expressed trust in Obama’s decisions.

Joe Biden gets kudos for his transition effort, but the GOP will not make it easy. Image via AP.

Undeterred, Biden will push unity in a capital locked down after an insurrection” via Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — Biden will assume the presidency at the peak of a deadly pandemic in a city on lockdown, its streets cleared and many subway stations closed, with about 20,000 National Guard troops patrolling against domestic terrorism and in front of a U.S. Capitol still under repair after a violent insurrection. But rather than pivot his plans after the recent riot at the U.S. Capitol, advisers say he has scripted inaugural events built around the same unifying themes of post-partisanship and governmental competence that undergirded his campaign. Biden’s answer to the roughly 1 in 3 Americans who doubt his legitimacy and a departing president who refuses to formally hand off power will be a program of nationally televised inaugural broadcasts anchored around the country’s potential to unite in the face of crisis.

Biden outlines ‘Day One’ agenda of executive actions” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — In his first hours as president, Biden plans to take executive action to roll back some of the most controversial decisions of his predecessor and to address the raging coronavirus pandemic, his incoming chief of staff said Saturday. The opening salvo would herald a 10-day blitz of executive actions as Biden seeks to act swiftly to redirect the country in the wake of Trump’s presidency without waiting for Congress. Following his inauguration, Biden will end Trump’s restriction on immigration to the U.S. from some Muslim-majority countries, move to rejoin the Paris climate accord, and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel. Those are among roughly a dozen actions Biden will take on his first day in the White House. Other actions include extending the pause on student loan payments and actions meant to prevent evictions and foreclosures for those struggling during the pandemic.

—“Biden to name another Barack Obama veteran as CIA deputy director” via Martin Matishak of POLITICO 

—”Biden nominates top House Appropriations aide for OMB deputy director” via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO

Biden’s looming war on White supremacy” via Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic — For four years, Trump downplayed the risk of white-supremacist violence and denied that racial bias is pervasive in law enforcement. In a single, searing day, the assault on the U.S. Capitol exposed the price of both of those choices and may have provided Biden new political momentum for reversing direction on each front. At once, the rioters demonstrated how much the threat of white extremism has metastasized under Trump, while the restrained police response vivified a racial double standard in policing. The attack could also make it tougher for congressional Republicans to resist the Biden administration’s expected efforts to dramatically increase enforcement against White supremacists through the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Joe Biden will face a battle with White supremacy. Image via AP.

Lin-Manuel Miranda will appear in Biden’s prime-time inauguration TV special” via Hunter Walker and Brittany Shepherd of Yahoo! News — Biden is not throwing away his shot to celebrate his inauguration. While the traditional inaugural balls are not taking place due to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden’s inaugural committee has planned a star-studded prime-time special to mark the swearing-in on the evening of Jan. 20. On Sunday, the committee announced additional participants in the program, including Miranda, creator of the smash Broadway hit “Hamilton.” According to the committee, Miranda will “recite a classic work during the program.” Other newly announced participants in the special include NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, chef and philanthropist José Andrés, labor leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first woman to serve as general manager of a Major League Baseball team.

—“Biden-Harris team unveils inauguration playlist” via Joseph Choi of The Hill

— D.C. MATTERS —

Diminished Trump leaves a vacuum for 2024 hopefuls” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Trump’s would-be Republican successors see an opening. As the politically diminished President prepares to leave office following a deadly pro-Trump riot at the Capitol and an impeachment vote backed by 10 GOP House members, ambitious Republicans are taking steps to burnish their own profiles and present themselves as future leaders of the party. While some are gradually separating themselves from the President, others are publicizing plans to bolster the party as it heads into the post-Trump era. Some are even sparring with other potential 2024 rivals in plain sight, marking a strikingly early start to public presidential maneuvering.

Rick Scott’s rocky start atop GOP Senate campaign arm” via James Arkin of POLITICO — Scott has been chair of the Senate GOP’s campaign committee for all of one week, and some Republicans are already concerned that Scott has dug the party a hole for the 2022 midterms. Scott officially took over the National Republican Senatorial Committee after the GOP’s two losses in Georgia gave Democrats control of a 50-50 Senate. Scott faced swift backlash from Democrats and private concern among Republicans over his vote against certifying Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes last week after the deadly riot at the Capitol. Some Republicans fear that his vote, the general antipathy toward the GOP among some donors right now, and the party’s disappointing losses in Georgia will combine to hamper the NRSC at the outset of the cycle.

Republican losses in Georgia and riots at The Capitol pose challenges to Rick Scott as he leads the GOP Senate fundraising arm. Image via AP.

Ivanka Trump’s political future comes into sharper focus” via Meredith McGraw, Marc Caputo and Sam Stein of POLITICO — When Trump incited a mob riot on Capitol Hill last week, he didn’t just complicate his own political future, he scrambled the political career arcs of his kids as well. At least three Trump family members are either considering runs for office or being urged to do so, according to well-connected GOP operatives and Trump family allies. Top party officials say that Lara Trump, wife of the President’s son Eric, is actively contemplating a run for the Senate in North Carolina, where an open seat awaits in 2022. “It’s real, and she is legitimately interested in it,” said one Trump family political adviser. The President’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is eyeing a future in politics as well, though allies say it’s unclear when or what office he’d seek after he passed on running for the Senate in Wyoming this last cycle.

After uproar, Loews cancels fundraiser for Josh Hawley at Universal Orlando’s Portofino Bay hotel” via Steven Lemongello of The Orlando Sentinel — Loews Hotels on Saturday canceled a planned fundraiser at its Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando for U.S. Sen. Hawley, who spearheaded the objections to Biden’s win in Congress on Jan. 6. Hawley was also shown in a photo raising his fist in solidarity with pro-Trump protesters on Capitol Hill before the violent assault on the Capitol building. The event was listed as being by a Hawley-affiliated political committee, Fighting for Missouri, which raised more than $272,000 for Hawley in the 2020 election cycle. Hawley does not face reelection until 2024. The event was to cost $5,000 in contributions for a family, $3,000 for a couple, and $1,000 for an individual, according to the flier.

Charlie Crist introduces bill to award Capitol police officer Congressional Gold Medal” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Crist joined Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace in filing a bipartisan bill to award U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal. Officer Goodman protected the Senators, staff and reporters inside the Senate chambers during the Capitol breach by luring a violent mob away from the unguarded entrance. A video of his actions has circulated across the country, showing Goodman making the quick decision to lead to mob up the stairs and opposite the path to the chamber. “He’s a hero,” Crist said in a news release. “The U.S. Capitol was under attack by armed, violent extremists, and Officer Eugene Goodman was the only thing standing between the mob and the United States Senate.”

Charlie Crist is calling for a Congressional Gold Medal for Eugene Goodman. Image via Twitter.

Florida Republicans issue litmus test on Cuba, Venezuela policies for Biden nominees” via Michael Wilner and Nora Gámez Torres of The Miami Herald — Three Republican lawmakers from Florida are asking the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to reject Biden’s nominees unless they agree to take a tough stance on Cuba and Venezuela. Reps. Michael Waltz, Maria Salazar and former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez drafted the letter to the Senate panel just days before it is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing on Biden’s nominee for secretary of State, Antony Blinken. “We respectfully request you reject nominees that do not provide assurance that American foreign policy will be firmly rooted in promoting democracy, economic liberalization, and basic civil liberties, given the human rights abuses in Cuba and Venezuela,” the lawmakers wrote.

— DATELINE TALLAHASSEE — 

First on #FlaPol — “Halsey Beshears to step down as DBPR Secretary” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) Secretary Beshears will step down on Jan. 29, citing personal health issues. Beshears, a former state Representative from North Florida who was appointed by DeSantis in December 2018, said in a letter Friday that he has “been dealing with health issues” for the past two months. “It is in the best interest of my health, my family, and the department that I focus my full attention on getting well,” Beshears wrote. “We have a strong leadership team in place that will continue operations daily until Gov. DeSantis places his next appointee,” an agency email said.

Citing health concerns, Halsey Beshears is stepping down from the DBPR. 

Legislature returns, but Democrats question focus of GOP leaders” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — With Florida’s troubled unemployment benefits system and calls for moratoriums on utility shut-offs and evictions drawing scant attention — and similarly few mentions of skyrocketing Medicaid needs — Democrats worry that the priorities of GOP leaders won’t meet those of many Floridians. “There’s a disconnection with everyday people,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, who introduced legislation to expand unemployment benefits dramatically. For now, Republican leaders say cuts will be necessary, even though already struggling schools and health and human services would be the biggest targets since they draw the bulk of state dollars.

Annette Taddeo looks to shield candidates from emerging ‘deepfake’ technology” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — New legislation from Democratic Sen. Taddeo looks to regulate the use of “deepfake” technology when used in campaign materials. The technology can be used as a sort of advanced CGI to make it look like an individual said or did something they did not do or say. So far, the emerging technology has mostly been used in obviously manipulated videos to demonstrate its potential. But in theory, videos could be crafted to fool viewers into thinking a candidate backed a controversial position or made an offensive statement, and the technology will only improve over time.

Michele Rayner, Shervin Jones file bill to end qualified immunity” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Rep. Rayner and Sen. Jones filed legislation to end qualified immunity for government employees. The bills, HB 261 and SB 670, would allow a person to more easily pursue legal action against a government employee for wrongdoing. Currently, qualified immunity shields government workers from being held personally liable in suits where they are accused of violating someone’s rights. While a person may pursue legal action against the governmental body for an employee’s actions, it is difficult to file a civil suit against an individual government employee. Florida’s modern qualified immunity doctrine stems from a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case. Under the law, a case can only progress if a court can establish the government worker violated a “clearly established” statutory or constitutional right.

Michele Rayner and Shevrin Jones filed bills allowing civil action against law enforcement officers who violate a person’s rights.

Local projects proposed amid budget woes” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Proposals range from the $25,000 sought by Rep. Eskamani for an adult-literacy program in Central Florida (HB 2017) to $7.2 million sought by Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. to continue funding the Veterans Access Clinic at Nova Southeastern University (Senate form 1000). Other examples include requests for $250,000 to help fund septic-to-sewer conversions in Collier County (HB 2045); $300,000 to help elevate Bonita Springs homes flooded by Hurricane Irma in 2017 (HB 2043); and $200,000 to promote swimming lessons for children in Pasco, Pinellas, Manatee, Hillsborough, Broward and Miami-Dade counties (Senate Form 1007). This year may be a little tougher, as lawmakers face an estimated $2.75 billion shortfall as they prepare to negotiate a 2021-2022 budget.

Associated Industries of Florida cancels 2021 legislative reception” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The Associated Industries of Florida canceled their 2021 Legislative Reception on Friday in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group announced the cancellation on its website, citing “current coronavirus pandemic restrictions” and an abundance of caution. “AIF has hosted the highly anticipated Welcome Reception honoring Florida Legislators on the evening before the first day of the legislative session for more than three decades,” the group said. The AIF, which coins itself as the “The Voice of Florida Business,” is a voluntary business lobbying group association established in 1920.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida economist to lawmakers: Strong growth not enough to cover budget deficit caused by COVID-19” via Lynn Hatter of WFSU — Florida leaders have known the state’s financial picture would be bad — the warnings were clear back in August when the two-year outlook plunged from a growth trend to a negative of $5.4 billion. It’s gotten better since then. Now, Florida appears to be only $3.3 billion in the hole. That’s bad, but not AS bad. “When we came back in December … the picture had improved, and we were able to restore, between this year and next, $2.4 billion,” state economists told the Senate’s Appropriations Committee last week. When state economist Amy Baker speaks, lawmakers listen, as they did when she gave an overview into how various parts of the state’s economy are doing. Consumers are nervous about spending, and tourism, the state’s biggest industry, also isn’t expected to get back to pre-pandemic levels for at least three years.

Amy Baker, Florida’s chief economic forecaster. When she speaks, lawmakers listen.

‘Something we’ve never done’: Florida schools drain reserves to feed kids at home” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO — A pandemic-driven budget shortfall across Florida school districts is threatening local meals programs, a core function whose funding is fanning a bitter political feud over how to direct precious money. Students are eating significantly fewer school meals across the 2020-21 academic year amid the monthslong public health crisis, but districts are collectively seeing a financial hole as deep as $370 million, according to Nikki Fried. Foodservice costs are higher this year in part because schools are sending thousands of meals home with students who are learning remotely. Schools changed how they serve meals to reach more students, especially with scores yet to return to their campuses and unemployment rates still soaring high above pre-pandemic levels.

Florida foster care agency has more staff, but serves fewer children, report says” via Christopher O’Donnell of The Tampa Bay Times — Over the past five years, state lawmakers have funneled an additional $10 million into its Guardian ad Litem Program, a state initiative to provide legal representation and advocacy for every child in foster care. But even as the program added almost 140 new staffers since 2016, the number of children it served fell by almost 10%, a new state report shows. In the 2020 fiscal year, one-third of kids had no guardian ad litem advocating for their interests, violating state law. The review also reported that Florida’s model of trained volunteers serving as guardians ad litem had shown mixed results in studies.

Trump loyalists Joe Gruters and Christian Ziegler reelected to top Florida GOP posts” via Zac Anderson of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A pair of ardent Trump supporters from Sarasota County will continue to lead the Republican Party of Florida in the wake of the riot at the U.S. Capitol that led to the President’s impeachment. Sarasota state Sen. Gruters was reelected Florida GOP chair Saturday, and Ziegler, a Sarasota County Commissioner, was reelected Party vice-chair. As Sarasota GOP chair, Gruters twice gave Trump the party’s “statesman of the year” award. He went on to co-chair Trump’s 2016 campaign in Florida before taking over as Florida GOP chair in 2019 and helping the President carry the state in 2020. Ziegler also has been a zealous backer of the President.

New chair orders deep staff cuts at Florida Democratic Party” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — The Florida Democratic Party terminated two-thirds of its staff as part of an overhaul being pushed into place by new party chair Manny Diaz. Party officials said the reduction from 19 full-time employees to six full-time employees was temporary while Diaz conducts a top-to-bottom review of operations. “To achieve great things sometimes you have to start over and build anew,” Diaz said in a statement. “As Chairman, I am committed to forging a new path that turns Florida Blue and that work is officially underway.”

Manny Diaz is taking an ax to the FDP overstaff. Image via AP.

CongratsU.S. Sugar’s Judy Clayton Sanchez reappointed to Agricultural Policy Committee — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer reappointed Sanchez, Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for U.S. Sugar, to the national Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade (ATAC) in Sweeteners and Sweetener Products. Sanchez’s term is through 2025.

— LOCAL NOTES —

‘It’s a little thumb sticking out in the Everglades’ — and its cost taxpayers millions in flood control” via Jenny Staletovich of WLRN — More than just another South Florida neighborhood with a flooding problem, Las Palmas has come to symbolize what happens when water managers try to negotiate with the Everglades and the price they pay: Flood control for the neighborhood that sits in the footprint of Everglades restoration has so far cost about $180 million, according to estimates by the national park. “It’s a little thumb sticking out in the Everglades,” Bob Johnson, a hydrologist and director of Everglades National Park’s natural resources center, said during a tour of the area last year. “It just shows you how anomalous this one area is, how hard it is for us to try to keep an area like this dry.”

Matt Carlucci will run for Jacksonville Mayor in 2023” via Christopher Hong of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville City Councilman Carlucci announced he intends to run for mayor in 2023, becoming the first candidate to enter what is expected to be a crowded race for the open seat. Carlucci, a 64-year-old Republican who lives in San Marco, said he wants to lead the city in a “new direction” dictated by public input and collaboration. “I think the people of Jacksonville are desperate for a new direction,” Carlucci said. Carlucci said he announced more than two years ahead of the election because he was simply ready to make the decision. However, recent developments at City Hall provided an opportune moment to launch a change candidacy built around transparency, public input and civility.

Matt Carlucci is taking the leap to become Jacksonville Mayor.

Former Tallahassee ethics officer Julie Meadows-Keefe charged with stalking” via Karl Etters of The Tallahassee Democrat — The City of Tallahassee’s first independent ethics officer was arrested Monday on charges of stalking the former city auditor. Meadows-Keefe, who just weeks ago settled a retaliation lawsuit against the city, is accused of cyberstalking Bert Fletcher, with whom she had a romantic relationship during their time at the city and afterward. The 51-year-old was charged by the State Attorney’s Office on the first-degree misdemeanor. In a court appearance Tuesday before Leon County Judge Augustus D. Aikens Jr., Meadows-Keefe was released on pretrial conditions that barred her from having contact with Fletcher or any of his family members and from using electronic devices with internet access except to conduct attorney business, banking, paying bills and for work.

Hillsborough GOP leader leaves Party because it’s not Trumpy enough” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — A member of the Hillsborough County GOP is leaving the party, but not for the same reason others are likely fleeing. The Hillsborough GOP’s “StratComms Director,” which stands for strategic communications, posted a lengthy letter on the group’s Facebook page Wednesday arguing the Republican Party no longer stands for freedom and limited government. The letter is not signed by name, and the Hillsborough GOP website does not have a listing for a StratComms Director; however, as of 2019, Brooke Emery held the title. Emery is closely aligned with the controversial local Party chair, Jim Waurishuk. Waurishuk declined to comment on the post or say whether Emery was its author. He offered only that the missive has since been taken down.

Brevard conservatives ask: Where do we go from here?” Via Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon of Florida Today — Trump easily carried the Space Coast in the 2020 election, winning 57.6% of the vote to President-elect Biden‘s 41%. And at least based on interviews with Brevard’s GOP leadership, there’s no indication that support has cooled. The most dire prediction of where we go from here came from former Clerk of Courts Scott Ellis. He said he has believed for some time that the country is too polarized to stay together. “We will see a National Dissolution, the breakup of the United States into five or six smaller nations, in my lifetime,” he said, a sentiment he said he shared at a meeting of the Space Coast Patriots group earlier in the week.

Former Brevard Clerk of Courts Scott Ellis has some dire predictions for the GOP. Image via Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today.

Former Volusia Democratic chair: Party election should be invalidated” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Former Chair Jewel Dickson and others are raising objections over the election of 29-year-old Richard Thripp and his slate who swept into office behind the wind of dozens of new precinct committeemen and committeewomen during a Dec. 8 Zoom meeting that some members were not able to access. Their case consists of two claims. First, they say Thripp wrongfully dismissed the ballots of 13 committee members in declaring Valerie Duhl the winner of the state committeewoman race. Also, they are arguing that 62 precinct committee members — including Thripp — were improperly allowed to vote because the candidate oath forms they filed had been notarized illegally. Their proposed remedy is either tabulating the election without those ineligible members or holding a second election.

City’s Bike Week call crucial, coming soon” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Mayor Derrick Henry said his most difficult decision as the cities top elected official over the past eight years was made when he pulled the permit for the last day and a half of Bike Week last spring. Now, less than two months before Bike Week is slated to come back to life, Henry and the six Daytona Beach City Commissioners are about to decide if they’ll approve all city permits that turn main Street and Mary Bethune Boulevard into a congested cluster of motorcycles, vendors, bands and elbow-to-elbow visitors. The Commission vote on the master plan is normally fairly routine.

— TOP OPINION —

Worse than treason” via Tom Nichols of The Atlantic — Republicans in Congress are pretending to be seditionists — and so they have become, in fact, seditionists. No amount of playacting and rationalizing can change the fact that the majority of the Republican Party and its apologists are advocating for the overthrow of an American election and the continued rule of a sociopathic autocrat. Today, the “sedition caucus” includes at least 140 members of the House and at least 10 members of the Senate. Their challenge comes after weeks of insistence that the 2020 election was rigged, plagued by fraud, and even subverted by foreign powers. It is possible that the sedition caucus knew that all their challenges would fail. Indeed, shredding the Constitution purely for personal gain is perhaps the worst of the sins of the sedition caucus.

— OPINIONS —

Trump had the foresight to not be Black” via Leonard Pitts Jr. of The Tampa Bay Times — The moment Trump took office, he had already achieved the main thing Republicans needed after eight long years of economic growth, international respect and general competence. And your base, the folks who demanded “their” country back, the ones panicked at the idea of losing demographic dominance, could now rest easy at the ascension of a man who not only was not Black but who was lavish in his contempt for all people of color. It’s disappointing to have to offer this analysis on a weekend that celebrates the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream,” he famously said in 1963, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” You people often invoke that line in jeremiads against affirmative action.

It’s time for Republican elites to shut up and listen to the people” via Dana Milbank of The Washington Post — At this very moment, troops expected to number 20,000 are arriving in the national capital, and countless more in state capitals, to defend democracy against violent totalitarian thugs loyal to Trump. Now, fully 84,172,012 Americans have voted against Trump in the highest-turnout election in more than a century. President-elect Biden received more votes than any candidate in U.S. history. So, Republican elites, please: Spare us your lectures about how the liberal coastal elites don’t understand real Americans. It’s time for you to listen. You have manipulated millions into believing that their problems are caused by Black people, Brown people, immigrants, college-educated women, Muslims and Jews. You have condoned and normalized racism and vulgarity in the highest office in the land, allowing both to move from the fringes to the mainstream.

On MLK Day, remember that justice is nonnegotiable” via Kerry-Ann Royes of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” These words from Martin Luther King, Jr. still ring loud and true. And, while we have made progress as a community and a nation, it’s just not enough. Justice has to be chased every single day, and we, the South Florida community, must be unyielding in our action against systemic racism and its enduring legacy of suffering and inequality. Entering Black History Month in February should be a reminder that the struggle to end racism is centuries old. It is punctuated by repeated calls for advancement and unity and burdened with heartbreaking setbacks. We need only look at the violent riots at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. to understand how persistent racism is and how much work remains to be done.

2023 Jacksonville mayoral race begins, breaking status quo is emerging theme” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — City Councilman Carlucci announced his 2023 candidacy for Jacksonville mayor, offering a sharp break from the status quo and the leadership style of the term-limited incumbent, Lenny Curry, who saw his political power diminish markedly this week after failing to shepherd Jaguars owner Shad Khan‘s pet project, Lot J, through a successful council vote. Curry viewed Lot J as a potentially legacy-making project, and its demise has likely accelerated the timeline for other 2023 mayoral candidates to announce later this year. Carlucci, a Republican, is eyeing a consensus candidacy seeking to appeal to voters across the political spectrum, a narrow pathway that will be difficult to navigate in a partisan mayoral race.

— ALOE —

Florida’s Endless Summer specialty license plate takes down Gators during record year for sales” via Richard Tribou of The Orlando Sentinel — Florida had a record year for specialty license plate sales, and with it, the sun has set on the University of Florida as the No. 1 tag in the state. According to data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Endless Summer specialty plate that features a silhouetted surfer standing in front of a sunrise had the most active registrations at 93,155 as of Jan. 15. The total surpassed UF for the first time, which came in at No. 2 with 92,766. Helping Sea Turtles Survive is also right behind with 91,031 registrations. Overall, the state had 1,650,908 active registrations among 121 specialty tags. That’s the most ever, outpacing the previous annual high set in 2007.

After a year of record sales, here is Florida’s new champion specialty license plate.

Theme parks in 2021: Coasters, cars, fests, reopenings and crossed fingers” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — It makes sense for attractions to hover in wait-and-see mode after unstable 2020. But it leaves us with few firm dates and occasions to anticipate. So here’s what we’re wondering while wading into ’21. Islands of Adventure’s Jurassic World VelociCoaster is literally one to watch. Universal Orlando is allowing us to see what they’re up to, including recent testing of ride vehicles. Its debut is scheduled for “summer.” At Walt Disney World, work continues on Tron Lightcycle / Power Run, an indoor-outdoor thrill ride at Magic Kingdom, and on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the attraction inside the big sky-blue box at Epcot. It would not be shocking to see either slip into ’22.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Celebrating today is former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell, as well as good folks Brody Enwright and Sara Johnson. Happy birthday belatedly to our dear friend, Caitlin Murray, as well as three great Floridians, Jeff Johnson of AARP Florida, Brian Goldmeier, and Kaitlyn Bailey Owen of RSA 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 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.



#FlaPol

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Daniel Figueroa, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Mike Wright, and Tristan Wood.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




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