Nikki Fried’s official entry into the 2022 Governor’s race will come as no surprise. Some might say she has been running for that job since the day she took over as Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner.
But can she win?
Well, sure. This is politics, and anything can happen. Besides, why would she take on something as grueling as a campaign against a popular governor if she believed otherwise?
That said, she enters this race facing long odds, starting with what could be a tough campaign against Charlie Crist in the Democratic primary. This isn’t Crist’s first rodeo, you know, and no one is smoother on the campaign trail than genial Charlie.
Also, a St. Pete Polls survey gave Crist a decisive edge over Fried: 55%-22% among likely Democratic voters. The main takeaway from that poll is that Democrats, by a wide margin, don’t believe she can beat Ron DeSantis.
That said, Fried shows the ability to energize supporters in a way Crist does not. Plus, she won’t carry the label of “same ol’, same ol'” in a way that Crist 3.0 might. People know Charlie, which can be equal parts blessing and curse.
It’s no small feat, either, that Fried is the first Democrat since Alex Sink in 2006 to win a statewide race in Florida. Let’s not forget that.
In the 2018 election, Fried ran a focused, disciplined campaign. The Agriculture Commissioner oversees background checks for people who want to purchase guns. Fried smartly hammered home the breach in that area under former Commissioner Adam Putnam.
That was key, especially considering that the awful memory of the Parkland massacre was still fresh in people’s minds.
Fried also championed medical marijuana, which played well with farmers.
However, supporters of DeSantis might actually celebrate her campaign for two reasons.
First, they don’t believe any Democrat can derail the DeSantis juggernaut. He’ll have more money in the bank than he can spend and unlimited free media on Fox. And, in their minds, he has a great story to tell — despite what Fried will say.
And second, Fried’s candidacy could help Republicans retake the Agriculture Commissioner’s post. It’s tough to tell what they would like more — winning that Cabinet position, or ridding themselves of Fried. She has been a consistent thorn to DeSantis since she landed in Tallahassee.
Fried is a relentless critic of DeSantis on just about everything. He responded by essentially freezing her out, especially after she took him on over his COVID-19 response.
As the state’s highest-ranking Democrat, Fried’s words carried her to this moment. People paid attention to her jabs, which annoyed DeSantis. She even made Crist sharpen his attacks on the Governor, which is not something Charlie does naturally.
It’s one thing to be an outspoken voice of opposition, though, but quite another to win the Governor’s chair. To that end, Fried has some cards to play.
She got a break when Val Demings decided to run for Marco Rubio’s U.S. Senate seat. That race has the potential to galvanize Democrats in a way few things have, and Fried could benefit from that.
Demings and Fried should join at the hip throughout the campaign. Together, they can drive minority turnout by reminding those voters of the new restrictive DeSantis-backed voting bill. A large turnout would be great news for both Demings and Fried.
And despite DeSantis’ increasing popularity and national profile, he has some vulnerability.
His victory lap on COVID-19 never mentions that nearly 37,000 Floridians died because of the virus.
DeSantis also wielded a heavy hand against local community regulations on the pandemic. The state’s unemployment system melted down during the crisis, leaving thousands of displaced workers in the lurch.
Another potential line of attack on DeSantis is whether he intends to be a four-year Governor if elected to a second term. That 2024 presidential lure might be impossible to resist.
Meanwhile, Fried can go into some of the deepest red rural counties in Florida and maybe find some support there from farmers. Those are the counties where Republicans win statewide elections, often by razor-thin margins. Chipping away at support there could make a difference.
Yeah, it’s a long shot.
Then again, so was the idea that Fried could win a statewide race in the first place.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
President Biden and Vice President Harris participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Biden's Memorial Day address pic.twitter.com/dq4Ru9lgtq
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 31, 2021
—@SenSanders: Let’s be clear. If 10 Republican Senators cannot even vote for a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection, 10 Republican Senators will not vote for anything meaningful to improve the lives of the American people. We must abolish the filibuster & act now.
“The numbers presented a staggering portrait of loss: 35 blocks burned to the ground; as many as 300 dead; hundreds injured; 8,000 to 10,000 left homeless; more than 1,470 homes burned or looted; and eventually, 6,000 detained in internment camps.” https://t.co/zncdh9MX9m
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 25, 2021
—@ChuckGrassley: There is history on history channel. WWII. Finally
—@RedSteeze: Facebook is also not allowing dissenting views opposed to anything the CDC or United States government is stating. That’s a huge problem no one is addressing. The CDC has been backtracking and getting things wrong since last year.
—@Craig_A_Spencer: Just leaving a long day in the ER. Today marks 4 shifts in a row without a single COVID case. It’s much better like this.
—@AGGancarski: I don’t know if I’ve seen “excited” in the context of a judicial appointment press release before.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Florida TaxWatch Spring Meeting and PLA Awards — 1; ‘Loki’ premieres on Disney+ — 8; Father’s Day — 19; F9 premieres in the U.S. — 24; ‘Tax Freedom Holiday’ begins — 30; Fourth of July — 33; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 38; MLB All-Star Game — 42; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 52; second season of ‘Ted Lasso’ premieres on Apple+ — 56; the NBA Draft — 62; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 64; ‘The Suicide Squad’ premieres — 70; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 84; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 94; NFL regular season begins — 100; Broadway’s full-capacity reopening — 105; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 111; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 115; ‘Dune’ premieres — 122; MLB regular season ends — 124; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 129; World Series Game 1 — 147; Florida’s 20th Congressional District primary — 154; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 154; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 157; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 171; San Diego Comic-Con begins — 178; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 192; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 199; NFL season ends — 222; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 224; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 224; NFL playoffs begin — 228; Super Bowl LVI — 257; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 297; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 339; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 402; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 493; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 528.
“As pandemic wanes, Ron DeSantis seizes national stage” via The Associated Press — Now that the pandemic appears to be waning and DeSantis is heading into his reelection campaign, he has emerged from the political uncertainty as one of the most prominent Republican Governors and an early White House front-runner in 2024 among Donald Trump’s acolytes. He has remained defiant in the face of continued attacks on his hard-line opposition to mask mandates and lockdowns. “Hold the line. Don’t back down,” he told a party fundraiser in Pittsburgh. “And in the state of Florida, with me as Governor, I have only begun to fight.” Toppling DeSantis will be “a tall order,” said Ryan Tyson, a Republican pollster. “The Democrats fail to understand that the state of Florida is changing under their very noses.”
— STATEWIDE —
“DeSantis takes on how racial history is taught in Florida schools” via John Kennedy of the Tallahassee Democrat — DeSantis is poised to declare victory on another front in what critics call a culture war, with his administration expected to approve new limits on how racial history is taught in Florida schools. The Republican governor has spent weeks ridiculing “critical race theory,” which examines the role race has played in shaping American history and modern society. Now, a rule going before the Florida Board of Education on June 10 is intended to endorse DeSantis’ view that teachers should not be “indoctrinating kids with fad-ish ideologies.” Sounding alarms about critical race theory has emerged as a key talking point nationwide for Republican candidates courting culturally conservative voters.
“Transgender athlete ban hits DeSantis’ desk” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A bill that includes a provision banning transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports was moved to the Governor’s desk Friday. DeSantis has until June 12 to sign or veto the bill. The much-talked-about ban on transgender athletes came back from the presumed dead this Session in the form of a last-minute amendment tacked onto a bill that makes changes to charter schools, Senate Bill 1028. That bill is what’s sitting on DeSantis’ desk. DeSantis, in a Fox News interview in April, said he would sign the ban. But LGBTQ advocacy groups, who strongly opposed the Legislation this Session, are still pleading with the Governor to reconsider.
“Florida lawmakers call for firings, prison reform in the wake of leaked beating video” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald — Sens. Jason Pizzo and Shevrin Jones joined Rep. Dianne Hart on Friday in calling for meaningful prison reform after footage leaked from a facility north of Fort Myers revealed the beating of a handcuffed inmate by five officers clad in tactical gear. The calls came after a special report was published on the handling of Michel Hernandez, who was restrained with handcuffs cinched to his stomach with a chain, known as a “black box,” as well as leg shackles, when he was beaten multiple times. Although the use of force was deemed appropriate by the Florida Department of Corrections, other use-of-force experts and former Florida prison officials concluded that the officers used excessive force and inaccurately described what precipitated the clash.
To watch the video, click on the image below:
“What to do about compulsive gambling? Maybe next year, say lawmakers” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Left on the table in last week’s whirlwind Special Session: What to do about the spread of compulsive gambling that will inevitably be a side effect of Florida’s gambling expansion. Most likely, it will be one of the first issues the Legislature takes up in the 2022 Legislative Session. While the Legislature pushed through the Seminole Compact and gambling bills to support it, the matter of dealing with compulsive gambling drew debate but no action. As roulette wheels start spinning and craps dice start tumbling, more Floridians will lose rent money, child support money, or a semester’s tuition. Richard Pinsky, a lobbyist for the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, warned that “thousands and thousands” of Floridians will fall into compulsive gambling problems.
“Future looks good for fantasy sports games in Florida” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Legislature’s rejection of a fantasy sports bill turned out to be just what the fantasy sports business needed. Officially, the big fantasy sports companies such as FanDuel, DraftKings, and Bet MGM lost big, twice, in the Special Session. The Seminole Compact now explicitly defines fantasy sports, saying they are games of skill, not games of chance. That means the unregulated, yet unauthorized business that’s been operating for many years in Florida now is officially defined by the state of Florida, because the Legislature ratified the Compact, and Ron Desantis signed it. With that, the businesses can continue to do what they’ve been doing without the previously lingering fear that some rogue State Attorney or crusading Attorney General might try to charge operators with practicing a form of unauthorized, regulated gambling.
“Florida drivers can start using hazard lights in rain July 1” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Beginning July 1, unless DeSantis vetoes the measure, Florida drivers will be allowed to use hazard lights on roads with speed limits at or above 55 mph when the conditions create “extremely low visibility.” For years, the Florida Highway Patrol has warned motorists that using hazard lights while driving is confusing, that troopers look for the flashing lights to see if a driver needs help, and that hazard lights can override the car’s turn signals, making it dangerous to change lanes. The lights were only supposed to be used when stopped on the side of the road or during a funeral procession. But Florida’s law was an outlier. Just 10 states prohibit using hazard lights while driving, according to AAA.
“State investigators side with Jimmy Patronis over Ron Rubin’s counterpunch” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — After investigating allegations the state fired a former Office of Financial Regulation head in retaliation for complaints he made against Chief Financial Officer Patronis, state legal experts have found no wrongdoing on Patronis’ part. Rubin, ousted as OFR Commissioner in 2019 over sexual harassment allegations, leveled his own claims against Patronis for bribery and corruption and, later, public records violations for the release of the harassment complaint. Rubin claims he was removed for blowing the whistle over malpractice in the Department of Financial Services and OFR. He then asked Attorney General Ashley Moody to open a criminal investigation into Patronis. The general counsel to the 2nd Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney’s Office sent a letter to the state attorney recommending the office close Rubin’s counterclaim.
“‘She was gone, instantly’: Florida hurricane victims recall dangers” via Joe Mario Pedersen of the Orlando Sentinel — Since 1991, 464 Floridians have been either killed directly or indirectly by tropical-storm-related activity. Research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found the most dangerous weapon of a hurricane is water. The major player responsible for those deaths was storm surge, which accounted for 49% of hurricane-related deaths nationally. NOAA’s analysis also found that more than half of deaths associated with water were vehicle-related. While those numbers are lower in Florida, at least 54 cases directly associated with drowning are listed as the probable cause of death in the last 30 years, making it one of the chief reasons people die during or after a storm in the state.
Happening today — The Atlantic hurricane season begins. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a 60% chance of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), with six to 10 reaching hurricane strength (winds of 74 mph or higher) and three to five considered major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or higher).
Assignment editors — Sen. Rick Scott marks the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season with a tour of the National Hurricane Center in Miami with Director Ken Graham followed by a media availability, 2:40 p.m. Eastern time, 11691 S.W. 17th St., Miami. RSVP to [email protected] for more details.
— CORONA FLORIDA —
“Battle for the seas: Cruise lines prepare to sail, but clash with DeSantis looms” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The restart of cruising in Florida could have been smooth sailing. Instead, uncertainty reigns, thanks to DeSantis’ decision to file a lawsuit challenging the CDC’s authority to dictate how and whether cruise ships can operate in the state. The two sides have been ordered into mediation, but legal experts say the dispute could linger long past the summer. Fort Lauderdale could become a flashpoint in the conflict as early as next month. Just one cruise line, Celebrity Cruises, has announced that it’s been approved by the CDC to depart Port Everglades in June. The ship would be the first to sail from the Broward County port since March 2020.
“Former health department employee Rebekah Jones granted official whistleblower status” via Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — Jones is officially a whistleblower under Florida law, the Office of the Inspector General told her attorneys Friday. A letter from Inspector General Michael J. Bennett said Jones’ complaint demonstrates “reasonable cause to suspect that an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor has violated any federal, state or local law, rule or regulation.” Whistleblower status offers Jones certain protections under Florida law, including the potential for reinstatement or compensation should the ongoing investigation find the department retaliated against Jones for the concerns she raised last year. “It’s pretty huge,” Jones said. “This isn’t vindication, but this is a start. It’s a big push forward.”
— CORONA LOCAL —
“South Florida’s sewage will tell us when the pandemic is over” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — After long, tedious months of monitoring the spread of COVID-19, the best answers may come in our sewage. Researchers say sewage monitoring could become the primary tool Florida uses to gauge whether COVID-19 vaccines are working and the pandemic is under control, or whether vaccine-resistant variants are emerging and a booster is needed. Counties like Miami-Dade and Broward now test wastewater weekly. People excrete the coronavirus in their feces and urine before showing symptoms, so wastewater acts as an early warning for potential outbreaks, said Helena Solo-Gabriele, professor of environmental engineering and associate dean of research for the College of Engineering at the University of Miami. Wastewater monitoring could become the only way to catch emerging, aggressive COVID-19 strains before they spread.
“Police officer’s battle with virus prompts others to get vaccine” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — As an avid runner in good health, 37-year-old Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy Cory Gray saw no reason to get a coronavirus vaccine. “What could possibly happen if I get COVID-19?” Gray asked himself. The answer was always the same: Nothing. Then, he read a letter from a fellow officer who has been in Wellington Regional Medical Center for three weeks, struggling to breathe as doctors try desperately to save his life. The excruciatingly detailed account of what happens when the virus finds its way into the lungs gave Gray a starkly different answer to the question he’d been asking himself. “The alternative is death,” Gray said. To even his wife’s surprise, he drove to a CVS and got a shot. That was the hope of the officer who wrote the letter, describing how a small cough rapidly developed into a hellish battle to survive.
“Tampa Bay assisted-living company one of few to mandate staff vaccinations” via Bailey LeFever of the Tampa Bay Times — The majority of Florida long-term care staffers were not vaccinated against the coronavirus at last count earlier this month, but one company with three assisted-living facilities in Tampa Bay “couldn’t be happier” with its decision to mandate staff vaccinations. Atria Senior Living announced on Jan. 11 that all staffers be fully vaccinated, said spokesperson Bill Todd. Atria has two facilities in Hudson and one in Spring Hill. At the time, Atria was aware of only one other national senior living company, Juniper Communities, that had mandated staff vaccinations, he said.
— CORONA NATION —
“U.S. COVID-19 cases near pandemic low as travel picks up for Memorial Day weekend” via Nicolas Vega of CNBC — The 11,976 new cases reported on May 29 were the lowest since March 23, 2020, when 11,238 new cases were reported, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average of 21,007 is the lowest since March 31 of last year, when it was 19,363. Friday also saw the TSA report the highest number of travelers since the pandemic began, with more than 1.9 million people taking to the skies for the long weekend. At the same point last year, the TSA counted just 327,000 passengers at its checkpoints. The CDC recently said fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most settings, though masks are still required on airplanes, buses, trains and public transportation.
“Mobile vaccination units hit tiny U.S. towns to boost immunity” via Scott Sonner and Sam Metz of The Associated Press — In tiny towns, churches, ballparks, strip clubs and even marijuana dispensaries, officials are setting up shop and offering incentives to entice people as the nation struggles to reach herd immunity. In Nevada, health officials acknowledge they’re unlikely to hit their initial goal of vaccinating 75% of the population believed necessary to reach herd immunity. Ironically, their push in northern Nevada is headquartered at the Reno Livestock Events Center. Officials acknowledge persuading the vaccine-hesitant to get shots won’t get easier. As a result, officials have been preparing similar pop-up events in urban centers, suburban neighborhoods and unconventional venues ranging from a Las Vegas strip club to a Sparks truck stop along an interstate that runs to Utah.
— CORONA ECONOMICS —
“Paycheck Protection Program closes to new applications” via Amara Omeokwe of The Wall Street Journal — The federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program closed to new applications Friday as funding was on track to be exhausted. That marked the end of a $961 billion emergency effort that helped millions of small businesses survive the pandemic but was dogged by fraud claims and criticism that it didn’t reach the neediest businesses. The program had been scheduled to end on May 31, but the Small Business Administration said in a notice to lenders that “due to the high volume of originations today, the portal will be closing for new originations” that evening. As of May 23, the SBA had approved 11.6 million PPP loans totaling roughly $796 billion across the program’s first round, from April to August last year, and its second round, which began in January.
— MORE CORONA —
“COVID-19: Wuhan lab leak is ‘feasible,’ say British spies” via Larisa Brown of The Times — British intelligence agencies now believe it is “feasible” that the pandemic began with a coronavirus leak from a Chinese research laboratory. In a significant sharpening of tension with Beijing, they are investigating a possible leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which Beijing angrily insists was not the source of the virus that has caused more than 3.5 million deaths and is still raging globally. They do so as controversy grows about the alleged silencing of scientists who wanted an investigation of the lab-leak theory.
— PRESIDENTIAL —
“Joe Biden leads predecessors in nominations, lags behind in confirmations” via Ken Thomas of The Wall Street Journal — President Biden has nominated agency heads and leadership throughout the federal government at a faster clip than his recent predecessors. But a large portion of the President’s choices await Senate confirmation. More than four months into his presidency, Biden has made 244 cumulative nominations to Senate-confirmed positions, more than double the number made by President Trump at this stage of the administration. But while Biden’s cabinet nominees were confirmed relatively quickly, he trails those three in overall Senate confirmations at this point of his presidency, clearing 53 of his nominees so far. Biden’s nominations also had to compete with an impeachment trial and the passage of a new round of spending on the coronavirus during the beginning of the year.
“‘Assault on democracy’: Biden torches Texas voting bill” via Ben Leonard of POLITICO — Biden on Saturday laid into a Texas bill adding new voting restrictions, calling it “wrong and un-American.” “It’s part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year — and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans,” Biden said in a statement. The proposed legislation, which passed Texas’ House earlier this month, would restrict Sunday voting, when many Black worshippers vote, bar drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting locations, and give more access to partisan poll watchers, among other things. The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to pass the legislation, and Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will sign it.
“Biden aims to rebuild and expand legal immigration” via Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times — If Biden gets his way, it will soon be far easier to immigrate to the United States. There will be shorter, simpler forms and applicants will have to jump through fewer security hoops. Foreigners will have better opportunities to join their families and more chances to secure work visas. A draft blueprint maps out the Biden administration’s plans to significantly expand the legal immigration system, including methodically reversing the efforts to dismantle it by Trump, who reduced the flow of foreign workers, families and refugees. In almost every case over the last four years, immigrating to the United States has become harder, more expensive, and longer.
“Biden is getting a big bounce with Hispanics” via Harry Enten of CNN — Hispanic voters were one of Biden‘s biggest weaknesses in the 2020 election. Although sources differ on his exact margin, Biden’s advantage with Hispanics was the worst for a Democratic presidential nominee since 2004, even as he had the strongest performance overall for a Democrat since 2008. Biden’s approval rating with Hispanics stands at 72% compared to a 55% overall approval rating. Even controlling for a higher approval rating overall, Biden has had a disproportionate rise in support from Hispanics. He’s now doing 17 points better with Hispanics than overall, while he was doing 10 to 14 points better with them in the 2020 election.
“For Biden, the White House is ‘a Monday-through-Friday kind of place’” via Kate Bennett of CNN — In all, Biden took more than 8,000 of Amtrak roundtrips to Wilmington during his 36 years in the Senate and, though less frequently, his eight years as Vice President, no small feat for a busy politician. Since taking office four months ago, the President has spent more weekends away from the White House than he has stayed there, almost three times as many. Counting this Memorial Day weekend, Biden has been in Wilmington nine weekends and passed five weekends at the presidential retreat, Camp David, in rural Maryland. Biden’s instinct is to get away from the White House for a weekly breather. One person said it’s the escapism aspect of getting away from “the office” that drives him to seek another location.
Happening today — Americans for Prosperity-Florida will hold a media event to criticize Biden’s infrastructure spending proposal, featuring AFP President Tim Phillips, 6:30 p.m., Naples Hilton, 5111 Tamiami Trail North, Naples.
— EPILOGUE TRUMP —
“Polls find most Republicans say 2020 election was stolen and roughly one-quarter embrace QAnon conspiracies” via Ariel Edwards-Levy of CNN — Most Americans reject QAnon-linked conspiracy theories and believe that Trump lost legitimately in 2020, a set of new polling finds. But a substantial minority within the Republican party endorses some of those theories, and most continue to baselessly question the outcome of last year’s election. About one-quarter of Republicans, 23%, agree with a set of conspiratorial beliefs linked to the QAnon movement. Among the full American public, 14% mostly or completely agree with all those statements, with a broad majority saying they disagree.
“Shadow primary: GOP 2024 hopefuls dive into House races to get around Donald Trump” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Sen. Tom Cotton is heading to Iowa this summer, but he won’t be campaigning for himself, at least not officially. Cotton is part of a growing list of potential Republican presidential hopefuls diving headfirst into the battle for the House majority in 2022. By throwing themselves into House races, potential candidates are currying goodwill with lawmakers and activists, testing out campaign themes and introducing themselves to voters around the country who will eventually determine the party’s next presidential nominee. It’s a way to put themselves out there without poking the eye of former President Trump, who has made clear that he’s interested in a comeback bid.
— CRISIS —
“Four more indicted in alleged Jan. 6 Oath Keepers conspiracy to obstruct election vote in Congress” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — Joseph Hackett, Jason Dolan, and William Isaacs each face multiple counts in an indictment handed up Wednesday and unsealed Sunday in Washington. The three appeared Thursday before U.S. magistrates in Tampa, West Palm Beach and Orlando. The name of a fourth defendant not known to be in custody was redacted. Attorneys for Dolan and Isaacs did not respond Sunday to requests for comment. No attorney for Hackett was listed. Hackett, a chiropractor who attended previous Oath Keepers events and a Florida firearms training school, was in federal custody as of Friday evening, online records show. Isaacs was released. The detention status of Dolan was unclear.
“Tampa man to take plea deal in Jan. 6 attack on U.S. Capitol” via Natalie Weber of the Tampa Bay Times — Paul Allard Hodgkins is set to appear before U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss in a virtual plea hearing that will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, according to court records. Hodgkins is one of more than 400 defendants from across the country who have been charged in connection with the Capitol riot and are being tried in the District of Columbia. Prosecutors have reportedly started offering plea deals to rioters. Tampa defense attorney Patrick Leduc, representing Hodgkins, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office offered his client the chance to plead guilty to one charge and dismiss the other four. However, the attorney did not say what the sentencing range was.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Val Demings working with Texas Republicans on reentry training, reducing recidivism” via Kevin Derby of Florida Daily — Demings and U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls brought out the “Second Chance Opportunity for Re-Entry Education (SCORE) Act.” The bill “will establish a new grant program to promote reentry training and reduce recidivism among nonviolent inmates.” Demings served more than 25 years in law enforcement, rising to serve as Orlando’s police chief. Nehls served in law enforcement for three decades, including as sheriff of Fort Bend County. The bill would have the U.S. Department of Justice create a “new grant program for eligible county jails to establish career and technical training programs, focused on technical trades, such as welding, HVAC, plumbing, and other career training, to assist individuals with reentry.”
“Frustrated mayors call on Rep. Brian Mast to stop ‘antagonistic rhetoric’ on Lake O algae crisis” via Denise Sawyer of CBS 12 — A letter signed by the mayors of the lakeside cities of Okeechobee, Moore Haven, Clewiston, South Bay, Belle Glade, and Pahokee was emailed to Congressman Mast, asking Mast to not “politicize” the Lake Okeechobee algae issue for the sake of a “photo op,” rather than meeting with mayoral leaders of the cities surrounding the Lake to bring about tangible change. The mayors believe this is a critical time in the algae crisis to strike a fair balance among the stakeholders instead of striking a nerve with “antagonistic rhetoric.” But it seems that Mast’s public attacks on Lake Okeechobee’s management have led to some change. He’s recently introduced legislation to clean up Lake O’s water and alert people of possible health hazards.
— LOCAL NOTES —
“Police release video of gunmen, vehicle at scene of Miami-Dade rap concert mass shooting” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade police on Monday released new surveillance video of the weekend mass shooting that killed two people and injured 21 others outside of a rap concert in Northwest Miami-Dade. The video shows the three gunmen in ski masks and hoodies getting out of a white Nissan Pathfinder, which police say was stolen several weeks ago. They run out of the camera’s view, toward the El Mula Banquet Hall, near the Country Club of Miami. The stolen SUV was found Monday afternoon submerged in a canal in the area of Northwest 154th Street and Second Avenue. Police are still trying to find the shooters.
*RELEASE OF VIDEO SURVEILLANCE* We are releasing video footage of the vehicle/subjects involved in the shooting that occurred in Northwest Miami-Dade on 5/30/21 that left two deceased and 21 others injured. Anyone with information is URGED to contact @CrimeStopper305 immediately. pic.twitter.com/X2jlxYFrEL
— Miami-Dade Police (@MiamiDadePD) May 31, 2021
“‘The Profit’ host Marcus Lemonis offering $100,000 for help in rap concert shooting” via Asta Hemenway of the Miami Herald — Lemonis, millionaire and CEO of retail company Camping World, is offering $100,000 to anyone who helps Miami-Dade county police arrest and convict the suspect or suspects in a Sunday mass shooting outside a rap concert. Lemonis, known for his show “The Profit,” announced the reward on Twitter Sunday. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava thanked him and wrote in a tweet, “I know with your help and great generosity we can bring these killers to justice.” In another tweet, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez wrote that he is “grateful for this contribution.” He added, “this is our community; we are stronger together. We need our county to step up with information.”
“There’s a plan coming to stem gunfire in Miami-Dade County. What can government do?” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — In Miami-Dade County, elected leaders plan to spend millions of dollars this summer targeting another new normal: a relentless stream of shootings that accelerated over Memorial Day weekend as multiple people opened fire outside a nightclub in the Northwest area of the county. Two people died, and at least 20 others were wounded. The fatal violence punctuated a year of increasing alarm over a rise in shootings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Homicides were up 16% in 2020, with almost 25% of the victims under 21, according to a county summary from early May. “If we want to slow down the shootings over the summer, we are going to have to do the hard work,” County Commissioner Oliver Gilbert said about how to spend $10 million over the next two years to reduce gun violence.
“Thousands will descend on Miami for the world’s largest crypto conference. Is the hype real?” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Thanks to a confluence of the calendar, COVID-19 and Miami’s soaring reputation as a tech hub, organizers are expecting as many as 50,000 to descend on the county for Bitcoin 2021. Headliners include Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, legendary pro skater Tony Hawk and a cavalcade of crypto gurus. Kicking off Thursday, the event is already sold out. For Miami, the conference may also signal its emergence as a center for crypto and blockchain technology. Miami has experienced faster growth in its tech workforce in the past year than any other major metro. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has also been at the forefront of pushing Miami as a crypto hub, announcing initiatives to turn some parts of the city’s finances over to Bitcoin.
“‘What a difference a year makes’: Tourism making major comeback in Naples and Collier County” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — The Naples area, or Collier County, saw an “amazing April,” with every metric used to track tourism up from a year ago, by a startling percentage. That’s according to Anne Wittine, the director of data analysis for Research Data Services, the county’s tourism consultant. “What a difference a year makes,” Wittine said before drilling down into the telling numbers in a monthly report for April. Based on overnight stays in paid lodging, the report points to a strong recovery from the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on the travel and tourism industry last year. To that, Collier County Commissioner Andy Solis, chairman of the Tourist Development Council, said simply: “It’s good to hear.”
“Federal lawsuit means no answers soon on how Brevard County elections will change” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — Questions over how Florida’s new election law could impact a federal lawsuit has stymied Brevard County voters. A contentious new Republican-written law is already facing a slew of lawsuits from critics, who argue it would only further disenfranchise minority and low-income voters, those with disabilities and the elderly. The suits have embroiled local elections officials around the state and, in some cases, are having a chilling effect on the specifics about how local residents can expect voting procedures in their areas would change in the coming election. Local Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott and 66 other county supervisors of elections, have been named co-defendants in a pending federal suit.
“Melbourne airport changes name after settling fight with Orlando airport” via Monivette Cordeiro of the Orlando Sentinel — The Orlando Melbourne International Airport changed its name Friday, settling a yearslong fight with the larger Orlando International Airport over using the term “Orlando” in its branding. It will now be known as the Melbourne Orlando International Airport after a resolution between its operator, the Melbourne Airport Authority, and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which governs MCO. “Both airports value regionalism and share a common goal of providing world-class traveler experiences,” said Greg Donovan, executive director of the Melbourne Orlando International Airport. The two airports, which are more than 60 miles apart and in different counties, have been in a legal battle since 2019.
— TOP OPINION —
“Beware of ‘expert’ consensus. The COVID-19 lab leak theory shows why.” via Megan McArdle of The Washington Post — People who believe the coronavirus was manufactured in a lab haven’t been allowed to say so on Facebook since February until Wednesday, that is, when Facebook announced it was lifting the ban. Presumably, this has something to do with the wavering elite consensus on lab leaks. This consensus was never as monolithic as proponents claimed, nor as stifling as opponents now aver. The illusion of near-infallibility among experts promised certainty at a time when the world had turned out to be much less predictable than we’d thought. And of course, it was an easy way to avoid a nonstop game of whack-a-mole with the amazing series of false memes and “facts” that some conservative skeptics, including Trump, kept generating.
— OPINIONS —
“Time to give up on Marco Rubio, who will never do the right thing if there’s any risk” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Rubio declared on Twitter he’s a no vote on creating a commission to get to the bottom of the Jan. 6 insurrection. We always hold out hope Rubio will do the right thing, and he almost always disappoints. Rubio is afraid an honest inquiry would make his party look worse than it already does ahead of the midterm elections. Even more terrifying to him is the prospect of getting primaried if he stands up to the party. Just look at all the Trump family members flocking to Florida. It’s time to surrender any hope that Rubio will ever do the right thing if there’s any risk involved.
“Rebekah Jones’ whistleblower win against DeSantis administration could be a win for all of us” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The DeSantis administration has worked long and hard to discredit Jones, fired last year from her job as a data analyst after she accused state health officials of pressuring her to manipulate certain coronavirus numbers. She has stood her ground for a year, and last week, Florida’s Office of the Inspector General firmed up the earth beneath her feet. Friday, the IG’s office told Jones’ attorneys that she is a whistleblower, officially. This will afford her certain protections, plus the possibility of reinstatement or compensation. The former health department staffer said that she was asked to skew data analysis to better mesh with administration policy and also to screen other statistics from public view.
“Florida’s social media law keeps lying politicians online” via Fred Grimm of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Up-and-comer DeSantis came to South Florida last week to champion the sacred right of politicians to propagate lies on social media. Theoretically, the bill DeSantis signed in a showy ceremony at Florida International University Monday was enacted to protect dishonest Florida politicians who otherwise might face expulsion from Twitter, Facebook or the like. But really, the Stop Social Media Censorship Act was fashioned with one very special liar in mind. The governor’s legislation would bar internet companies from suspending political candidates in the weeks before elections. The DeSantis theatrics were all about pleasing Trump, the all-powerful kingmaker who will choose the next Republican presidential nominee.
“Sickening drive-by shootings in Miami-Dade are not inevitable. It’s our duty to stop them” via the Miami Herald editorial board — All hopes for a relatively quiet Memorial Day weekend in Greater Miami died in a barrage of bullets, starting late Friday night in the Wynwood area. Two people were killed, and six others wounded. Unfortunately, it was not a one-off. It continued at a banquet-hall concert early Sunday morning in Northwest Miami-Dade County. Two more people died, three others are critical, and 17 were wounded. Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez came to the scene to denounce the violence. The suspects have been identified as three gunmen in ski masks and hoodies who ambushed a crowd leaving a rap album Sunday morning, unleashing a barrage of gunfire that left two dead at the scene. The shooters fled in a white Nissan Pathfinder.
“Give Broward voters a say on county mayor, once and for all” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Broward commissioners will soon decide whether voters should have the option of creating a full-time position of mayor, elected countywide. We recommend that commissioners give the people this modest and long-overdue option. The fact that a majority of Commissioners appear unwilling to give their constituents a chance to chart their political future is sufficient reason why change is needed. Repeatedly over four decades, charter review boards considered a countywide mayor only to reject it each and every time. Let everyone decide how Broward should be led, not a few politicians in the Governmental Center.
— ON TODAY’S SUNRISE —
As we noted above, it’s the first day of the 2021 hurricane season. It could get just as nasty as last year, which set all sorts of records in the Atlantic basin.
Also on today’s Sunrise:
— The official prediction from the National Hurricane Center is similar to 2020, with an above-normal number of storms. While we count on the Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service to give us adequate warnings when a storm heads this way, they rely on us to be prepared.
— One good thing about the new season: You can forget about storms named after letters in the Greek alphabet. Turns out there was confusion last year when storms were named Zeta, Eta and Theta.
— Speaking of confusion: There’s uncertainty in the cruise ship industry as they try to get back to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the vast majority of passengers and crew should be vaccinated before they set sail, but DeSantis issued an edict that no one has to show proof of vaccination and convinced the legislature to make that a law. The Governor also filed suit against the CDC to block any requirement for vaccine passports, so DeSantis is hoping they won’t have to fine the cruise lines $5,000 per passenger.
— But even if he loses, DeSantis says he’s not backing down on the fines for cruise ships that ask for proof of vaccination.
— Florida Man Matt Gaetz is at it again. The Panhandle Congressman suggests conservatives who oppose the liberals in Silicon Valley should do something about it … with guns.
— And finally, police are accusing a Florida Man of stealing ventilators that were supposed to be shipped to critical care patients in El Salvador last year.
To listen, click on the image below:
— ALOE —
“Tri-Eagle Sales dedicating portion of each Budweiser sale this summer to fallen soldier nonprofit” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — North Florida’s Anheuser-Busch distributor wants each Bud for you to help the families of America’s fallen soldiers. This summer, when beer drinkers purchase a Budweiser, Tri-Eagle Sales, the wholesaler servicing 14 counties in North and North Central Florida, will donate a portion of sales to the Folds of Honor program. Folds of Honor is a nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen or disabled service members. Tri-Eagle Sales has released a commercial highlighting the company’s veteran employees and retail Folds of Honor badge program. When a former Marine orders a Budweiser, he is given a badge to write down the name of a fallen soldier.
To watch a video spot honoring Memorial Day, click on the image below:
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Happy birthday to state Sen. Danny Burgess and the Tallahassee Democrat’s Jeff Burlew.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.