Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.17.21

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

Good Friday morning.

Let’s start the day on a nice note.

Congratulations — Dr. Julia Nesheiwat and Col. Michael Waltz were married recently in an intimate ceremony with family.

Congratulations to two great Floridians!

Nesheiwat served as Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and had held senior roles in the George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations. Waltz, represents north-central Florida in Congress, is a combat decorated Green Beret, former businessman, and a Colonel in the National Guard. Both are proud Army veterans.


DeSantis’ war on mask and vaccine mandates may be a loser, but voters are lining up behind his plan to recruit police officers with a new incentive package.

The proposal, unveiled by the Governor last month, would offer a $5,000 signing bonus to entice new officers, create a scholarship program to cover police academy or state college tuition, and set up a relocation support program to lure experienced police from other states.

A poll of Florida voters commissioned by multistate think tank Foundation for Government Accountability found all three prongs above water.

The scholarship program was the biggest hit, by far.

Seven in 10 voters said they supported a plan that paid for college by offering work-study programs in law enforcement, while just 16% said they opposed it. The support was bipartisan, too, with Republicans and Democrats both crossing the 70% threshold. Independents were slightly less keen on the idea at 63%-20%.

Ron DeSantis’ backing the blue is a winning issue.

Providing state college scholarships sans work-study requirements enjoyed majority support as well. A similar system that would pay the state college rate to attend private academies was above water 47%-34%.

The signing bonus package was significantly less popular but still snagged plurality support with 48% in favor and 29% opposed. But the pitch cracked support along partisan lines — while 60% of Republicans and 50% of independents approved, just 32% of Democrats backed it.

The floated options to recruit out-of-state officers received tepid approval. Voters were 46%-39% in favor of waiving the $100 law enforcement exam fee and 42%-31% in favor of waiving up to $1,000 in equivalency training program fees for prospective transplants.

Still, voters agreed by a 37-point margin with the Governor’s premise that there is a law enforcement shortage and that the state needs to take action to address it.

Cor Services conducted the poll of 523 likely voters Aug. 23-25. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.29%.


Time magazine released its 100 Most Influential People of 2021 this week, and one Floridian made the list.

Well, two if you count newish resident and reigning Super Bowl champ Tom Brady.

But with a residency requirement, the Sunshine State’s lone representative on the annual list was Tallahassee attorney Ben Crump.

Ben Crump is the only honest-to-goodness Floridian to make Time’s most influential list. Image via AP.

One could argue a couple of other Floridians deserved a spot on the list, but none can deny that Crump’s recognition is undeserved. The Florida State University law school graduate was already among the most recognized civil rights attorneys in the country heading into 2020.

But last year saw him work three of the most high-profile cases involving Black Americans who died at the hands of police — the killings of Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright and George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose death sparked protests across the globe last summer.

TIME notes that his representation made a guilty verdict against officer Derek Chauvin — the officer who killed Floyd — possible, calling it “a flicker of hope that the change that both the world and grieving families were calling for might be possible on a wider scale.”

The magazine also praised Crump for his client service outside the courtroom, describing him as a pillar of support long after his work representing them was over.


@HeerJeet: We’re in a weird space where Trump has been effectively neutralized a cultural force in the broader world but remains a feared & shaping force in GOP politics.

@GarrettHaake: The organizer of Saturday’s pro-insurrectionist “Justice for J6” rally tells me they’re currently expecting ~700 people (that’s what they’re permitted for). Speakers include two Republican congressional candidates, but no sitting members of Congress.

@ajchavar: Please look at the numbers and get vaccinated. 1/500 Americans — 663,913 human beings — have died from this virus. The vast majority of people have, and who will die, are not vaccinated. Among the vaccinated, there are only 750 documented deaths from COVID-19, mostly edge cases.

@ChrisLHayes: I think I’ve come to believe that even if the COVID death toll was *ten times* what it currently is, the politics of all of it wouldn’t be appreciably different.

@ByronDonalds: Thank you to the 👑, @NICKIMINAJ, for standing strong. Big Tech & health “experts” hate dissent. They’ll get in your business & coerce your decision-making. Nicki Minaj said HELL NO, & now she’s on the chopping block. Big mistake, don’t come after Nicki.

Tweet, tweet:

@skidmorekelly: @AnthonySabatini welcome to the neighborhood! Location, location, location! Perks: being steps away from Morris Hall, quick access to parking garage, less frequented bathrooms, inside stairway to EL, secret ice machine, and friendly neighbors. #ADAaccessible #newlyrenovated

Tweet, tweet:

@AnUncivilPhD: A pox on the person(s) who ripped off nearly 5000 #comics, pulps, and related materials from the special collections at Florida State University.


Alabama at UF — 1; Dolphins home opener — 2; Jaguars home opener — 2; 2022 Legislative Session interim committee meetings begin — 3; The Problem with Jon Stewart premieres on Apple TV+ — 13; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 14; Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary party starts — 14; MLB regular season ends — 16; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 21; ‘Dune’ premieres — 35; World Series Game 1 — 39; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 40; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 40; Georgia at UF — 43; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 46; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 46; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 49; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 49; ‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 51; ‘Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 52; Miami at FSU — 57; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 62; FSU vs. UF — 71; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 75; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri‘s death — 81; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 84; ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 91; ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 96; ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 99; NFL season ends — 114; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 116; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 116; NFL playoffs begin — 120; Super Bowl LVI — 149; Daytona 500 — 156; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 189; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 233; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 252; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 258; “Black Panther 2” premieres — 294; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 306; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 385; “Captain Marvel 2” premieres — 420.


State passes 50,000 total coronavirus deaths” via David Schutz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida passed 50,000 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, 535 days after the state recorded its first death, as the state increased its overall death county by 1,554. The state also reported 9,760 new confirmed cases of the virus, a drop from the past two days that sunk the seven-day average to 11,816, the lowest since July 22. A large number of newly reported deaths were spread out over the past two weeks. Deaths are counted on the day they occur, not the day they are reported, and can take up to two weeks or more to be reflected in the data. At least 2,400 Floridians have died through the first two weeks of September.

Florida reaches a grim COVID-19 milestone. Image via AP.

Florida’s county-level COVID-19 death reports publicly available for first time in months” via Frank Gluck and Chris Persaud of the Fort Myers News-Press — Figures on COVID-19 deaths in Florida’s counties quietly rematerialized this week on a federal website tracking the pandemic, more than three months after state officials stopped publicly reporting the information. The CDC now shows seven-day mortality figures for counties, but only for a recent week. For months, the CDC site showed zero deaths for all counties in Florida, though aggregate death numbers for the state were available. The state of Florida stopped reporting county-level data in early June. Most local public health officials won’t release it.


As demand skyrockets, Joe Biden administration caps shipments of COVID-19 antibody treatment” via Skylar Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Biden administration is capping the supply of a COVID-19 treatment heavily promoted by DeSantis as demand soars in states hit hard by the delta surge. DeSantis has opened 25 clinics across the state that provide Regeneron’s antibody cocktail at no cost to patients, but state officials are concerned about new supply limits implemented this week by the federal government, Pushaw. Federal health officials are setting Florida’s weekly supply of monoclonal antibody treatments at 30,950 doses.

Joe Biden is limiting Florida’s share of monoclonal antibodies. Image via AP.

Ron DeSantis bashes reduction in COVID-19 treatment flowing to Florida” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — DeSantis vowed Thursday to “work like hell” to overcome the federal government’s plan to reduce Florida’s shipments of monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19, which have proved a boon to reducing the number of deaths from the virus. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will, at least temporarily, set the rules for distribution of monoclonal antibodies instead of allowing states, medical facilities and doctors to order them directly. And that will likely mean Florida will get less of the monoclonal antibodies, maybe half what the state has been getting, DeSantis said. “There’s going to be a huge disruption, and Florida is going to suffer as a result of this,” he said.

DeSantis was right about monoclonal-antibody therapy” via Charles C.W. Cooke of the National Review — Two months ago, DeSantis was being roundly castigated for promoting the use of Regeneron’s monoclonal-antibody treatment as part of his state’s efforts to fight COVID-19. DeSantis’ critics were desperate to find something sinister in the push and threw out every charge they could dream up. At first, the line was that Regeneron’s treatment didn’t work. Then, it was that Regeneron’s treatment worked fine, but represented a dangerous distraction from the vaccine. And, finally, it was that Regeneron’s treatment was part of a corrupt plot to enrich DeSantis’ donors.

AG Ashley Moody suing Biden administration over COVID-19 vaccine mandate” via WFLA — Moody will be joining two dozen Republican attorneys general are warning the White House of impending legal action if a proposed coronavirus vaccine requirement for as many as 100 million Americans goes into effect. The letter sent Thursday is the latest in GOP opposition to sweeping new federal vaccine requirements for private-sector employees, health care workers and federal contractors announced by Biden earlier this month. The requirement, enacted through a rule from the OSHA, is part of an all-out effort to curb the surging COVID-19 delta variant.

Florida leads nation in nursing home resident and staff COVID-19 deaths” via Hannah Critchfield of the Tampa Bay Times — More nursing home residents and staff died of COVID-19 in Florida during four weeks ending Aug. 22 than in any other state in the country. Florida accounted for 21% of all nursing home resident deaths due to the virus nationwide. The data shows the state with 17% of staff deaths nationally during this time. “These sadly predictable data trends are also preventable,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida state director, in a news release. “The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated.” A total of 237 seniors and 13 staff in the state died during this period.

Scott Rivkees does not have to testify in school mask case — An administrative law judge ruled that exiting Surgeon General Rivkees does not have to testify in the ongoing challenge to a Department of Health rule blocking school board mask mandates. As reported by Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, Rivkees was shielded from testifying the case, brought forward by the NAACP and five school boards, by what’s known as the “Apex Doctrine” — a judicial rule that protects top-level officials from being deposed in court. “[The school boards and NAACP] have failed to establish that there is not enough time to complete the discovery required to establish the justification required to depose Dr. Rivkees under the Apex Rule,” Judge Brian A. Newman wrote in a Thursday ruling.

Scott Rivkees gets a pass on testifying.

Physicians group poll finds strong support for masks in schools” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A new poll commissioned by the Committee to Protect Health Care finds strong support for mask mandates in schools and opposition to DeSantis‘ policies. The committee is an organization of doctors that has been allied with Democrats since forming in 2016 to oppose Trump and has been strongly critical of DeSantis’ policies. Its new poll found that 73% of Florida voters say local school districts should implement mask mandates, while just 25% oppose such measures. The poll also found 52% of Florida voters disapproving of DeSantis’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 45% approved.


‘Our guard was down’: Family of six contracts COVID-19 after child’s sleepover; dad, 33, dies” via Jorge Milian of The Palm Beach Post — David Dalloo and his wife Sherica thought they were doing the right things to avoid getting infected with COVID-19. But they overlooked something that proved fatal. Sherica believes a 9-year-old boy, who was COVID-19 positive but asymptomatic, unknowingly spread the virus to all six members of the Dalloo household during a one-night sleepover in their Boynton Beach home on July 31. Sherica believes a 9-year-old boy, who was COVID-19 positive but asymptomatic, unknowingly spread the virus to all six members of the Dalloo household. David died on Aug. 28, three weeks after he walked into the hospital.

—“‘Heartbroken’: TPD, community mourns after death of 38-year-old Officer Clifford Crouch” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat

Brevard County schools report fewer COVID-19 cases, but rates still higher than last year” via Bailey Gallion of Florida Today — Brevard Public Schools reported fewer cases than it did earlier this fall in its twice-weekly COVID-19 update, with 213 reported infections of staff and students, and 616 quarantines from Friday to Tuesday. The increase was far less than the district saw toward the end of August before the School Board put in place a mandatory mask policy. Cases peaked on Aug. 27, when the district reported 784 cases from Aug. 23 to Aug. 26 and 4,021 quarantines. Of the 213 cases reported Wednesday, 190 were students. Most of the quarantines, 423, were due to contact with a case at school rather than at home or in the community.

COVID-19 cases in Brevard schools are down, but still pretty high. Image via AP.

Pinellas considers $750 incentive for employees in vaccine push” via Lauren Peace of the Tampa Bay Times — Pinellas County is gearing up to incentivize vaccination against COVID-19 for all county employees. During a Thursday meeting, County administrator Barry Burton asked Commissioners to consider spending up to $4 million for vaccine incentives using funds from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress and signed by Biden earlier this year. If Commissioners approve the incentives, employees who get vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who have already taken the shot will receive $750 from the county by the end of 2021.

—“Florida county-by-county COVID-19 death data shows new numbers in Tampa Bay” via Sam Sachs of WFLA

Sarasota store suing Florida surgeon general over proof of vaccination ban” via Laura Finaldi of Florida Politics —One bead store in Sarasota says a state law against requiring proof of vaccination for customers makes operating impossible. Bead Abode, a Sarasota retailer that sells beads and craft supplies, is suing the state surgeon general as the head of the Florida Department of Health over a statute that prevents businesses from asking customers to prove that they’re vaccinated before they enter a store. In its lawsuit, Bead Abode argues that because of its “reputation and expectation for health and safety,” and because its classes can be two hours long and involve close contact between customers, a requirement that customers be vaccinated makes sense


Socialism in the crosshairs as DeSantis honors Cuban American fighter with freedom medal” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis awarded Cuban American soldier and intelligence officer Félix Rodríguez with the Florida Medal of Freedom Thursday, for defending freedom in his birth country, his adoptive country and abroad. Rodríguez served the CIA as a member of the Bay of Pigs Invasion and as a lead operative in the capture and execution of Che Guevara. The Cuban exile became a U.S. citizen and then a colonel in the Vietnam War, where he flew 300 helicopter missions and was shot down five times. He repeatedly infiltrated Cuba and was also involved in the Iran-Contra affair in Nicaragua. The Legislature established the Florida Medal of Freedom in 2020.

Ron DeSantis awarded the second-ever Florida Medal of Freedom to Felix Rodríguez, a Bay of Pigs Invasion veteran. Image via CBS.

Assignment editors — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, will hold a roundtable discussion with parents whose children would benefit from the $820 million in available Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) funding. Fried will also be joined by Rep. Fentrice Driskell and anti-hunger advocates from Bread for the World, Florida Impact to End Hunger, and Hyde Park United Methodist Church. The roundtable will be followed by a COVID-19 update, noon, Children’s Board of Hillsborough, 1002 East Palm Avenue, Tampa. The event will be livestreamed a

After 33 years, parents of brain-damaged kids get to express disgust with Florida program” via Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — The parents of children born with catastrophic brain damage who were stripped of the right to sue were offered a measure of consolation Thursday for the first time in more than three decades: They were given the chance to speak. About a dozen mothers and fathers addressed the administrators and governing board of Florida’s Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, or NICA, at a meeting held via the internet. Many of the parents said they had suffered silently for years as the program fought over benefits that could have relieved the considerable burden on the children and families NICA served.

As Medicaid rolls swell, managed care open enrollment begins” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — With Florida’s Medicaid enrollment reaching an all-time high, the state is opening a window to allow nearly 4 million people who rely on the safety net program to change which health plan they are enrolled in. State officials announced Friday the 60-day open enrollment period in the mandatory Medicaid managed care program begins Oct. 1 in Southeast Florida, where 1.2 million people in Medicaid Regions 9, 10 and 11 will be allowed to either stay with their current health care plan or switch providers. The most recent data shows that about one in three people enrolled in the mandatory Medicaid managed care program live in one of those three regions.

State agency pushes for Medicaid funding increase, but is mum on pay raises” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The state Agency for Persons with Disabilities submitted an ambitious legislative budget request calling for more than $25 million in additional funding to reduce the lengthy waitlist for the Medicaid iBudget providing home-based care, $2 million to hire more nurses to care for those who are institutionalized and more than $16 million to make capital improvements at state-owned institutions. But advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities worry the budgetary wish list by APD Director Barbara Palmer doesn’t include a request to increase the amount the state spends to pay direct service providers who work with the 35,000-plus clients served by the iBudget.

Facing fierce criticism, head of Florida’s troubled program to aid brain-damaged kids quits” via Carol Marbin Miller and Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald — On the eve of what was expected to be a contentious board of directors meeting, the head of Florida’s compensation program for brain-damaged children has abruptly resigned. Kenney Shipley, who has overseen the Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, or NICA, for nearly two decades, announced her resignation in a letter Wednesday. It takes effect on Jan. 4, 2022, though Shipley intends to claim accrued leave time after an interim director is appointed. “I feel grateful and honored to have been able to serve the very special families that I have worked with over the years,” Shipley, who was paid $176,900, wrote in her letter.

Jane Castor not invited to Gov. DeSantis announcement, but not sulking” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — When Gov. Ron DeSantis made a major announcement of sped-up highway improvement plans in Tampa on Monday, he was flanked by House Speaker Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor, Senate President Wilton Simpson of Trilby, Florida Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault and a crew of construction workers. Who was missing? Tampa Mayor Castor. “We didn’t know about it,” Castor spokesman Adam Smith said of the news conference. Why wasn’t Castor invited? DeSantis’ press office didn’t respond to emails and calls asking.


Voters’ groups challenge Republicans on redistricting as high-stakes map-drawing kicks off” via John Kennedy of the USA TODAY Capital Bureau — Florida lawmakers take their first steps Monday toward redrawing political boundaries in the nation’s biggest presidential swing state, but voters’ groups are already testing the Republican-led Legislature. A coalition led by organizers of the Fair Districts amendments in the state constitution is calling on lawmakers to use current, court-approved congressional and state Senate districts as the baseline for whatever changes are made during the redrawing of new maps. Otherwise, they fear lines will be unlawfully set that favor ruling Republicans. Senate Redistricting Chair Ray Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, prompted the demand, saying that lawmakers will “start with a blank slate.” Ellen Freidin, CEO of Fair Districts Now, said that view is misguided.

Ray Rodrigues is raising the ire of Fair District supporters. Image via Colin Hackley.

Joe Gruters, Randy Fine spark up beach smoking ban for 2022 Session” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Will 2022 be the year when Florida headline writers retire all butts on beaches puns? Sen. Gruters hopes so. The Sarasota Republican, for the fourth consecutive Session, filed legislation (SB 224) to allow a prohibition of smoking at parks, including beaches. Like legislation filed last year that died after clearing two Senate committees, his bill would empower local governments to pass local rules. Rep. Fine filed a companion bill (HB 105) in the House, where the bill only cleared one stop in the 2021 Session. Gruters, who has worked closely with Fine on other environmental legislation, feels happy working with the Representative again, he said. “I’m trying to get this out of the blocks and moving early,” Gruters said of his approach with the bill this year.

After relocation to House basement, Anthony Sabatini squeals about fellow Republicans” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — New room assignments have one Republican House member fuming at Speaker Chris Sprowls. Rep. Sabatini, a second-term Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, expressed a level of dissatisfaction with a new office directory released Wednesday for the Florida House. “RINO Speaker of the House in Florida, beta Chris Sprowls (the guy who kills the Pro-Life, Pro-2A and E-Verify Bills each year) moved my legislative office because he’s BIG mad I call him out,” Sabatini tweeted on Thursday. The new office assignments put the sophomore lawmaker in 29H, or the lowest floor of the Florida House building. The only other lawmaker based on that floor is Rep. Kelly Skidmore.

Florida Chief Investment Officer Ash Williams to retire at end of September” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) leader Williams will retire at the end of the month after more than a decade of service. DeSantis and the Cabinet will likely tap an interim replacement next week at the upcoming Cabinet meeting. The meeting is Sept. 21 at 9 a.m. Williams oversaw billions worth of state assets, including the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund and the Florida Retirement System, during his tenure as the state’s Chief Investment Officer. With more than 900,000 enrollees, the Florida Retirement System is the fifth-largest public pension fund in the nation. William’s final day is Sept. 30. Pensions and Investments, an online publication, reports what prompted his retirement were requirements within the state’s deferred retirement program.

Ash Williams is making his exit from the Florida Capitol.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Katie Crofoot: Executive Office of the Governor

Aaron DiPietro: Florida Family Action, Florida Family Policy Council

Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: Gartner Consulting

Daniel Olson, Meenan PA: American Family Life Assurance Company, Brighthouse Financial, Discount Tire, Florida Fire Sprinkler Association, Florida Insurance Council, NAIFA-Florida, Prime Therapeutics, Service Contract Industry Council, Tower Hill Insurance Group

Katie Webb, Amanda Fraser, Colodny Fass: PreCheck Health Services

— 2022 —

Charlie Crist bests Nikki Fried in August fundraising” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — U.S. Rep. Crist nosed out Fried in fundraising efforts last month, campaign finance reports show: He raised more than $700,000 to Fried’s $418,000 as of Aug. 31. After expenses, Fried has more cash on hand going forward, $2.82 million to Crist’s $2.48 million. Crist announced his candidacy in May, and Fried announced in June, but her political committee, Florida Consumers First, raised money a year before she announced. Neither have anywhere close to the amount the PAC for DeSantis has raised. In August alone he raised $5.5 million, for a total of $96 million.

Charlie Crist fundraises well, but nowhere close to Ron DeSantis.

House candidate threatens lawsuit against DeSantis over unfilled legislative seats” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Rick King is threatening a lawsuit against DeSantis to force the Governor to set up Special Elections for a set of unfilled seats in the Legislature. King is competing in House District 88, which Rep. Omari Hardy currently represents. But Hardy is one of three state legislators who resigned their seats to run in the Special Election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings in Florida’s 20th Congressional District. State law requires elected officials to resign their current seats to pursue a different office. While DeSantis has set up Special Election dates for the CD 20 contest, he’s yet to announce a timeline to replace the three state lawmakers who recently resigned.

CD 20 candidates talk vaccine mandates, court-packing at two-part virtual candidate forum” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — With just seven weeks to go until Primary Election night, 10 candidates running to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings gathered for a virtual forum Wednesday night to discuss their top issues. The 10 candidates who attended Wednesday were split into two groups, taking questions from lawyers Yolanda Cash Jackson and Nicholas Johnson, who served as moderators. The first group featured Trinity Health Care Services CEO Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, lawyer Elvin Dowling, Rep. Omari Hardy and Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. All four Democrats agreed that COVID-19 vaccines should be mandatory. They support Biden’s recent push to force companies to require vaccinations for workers or implement weekly testing.

Candidates voice broad support for Biden’s agenda in part two of CD 20 forum” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Several Democratic candidates in the race for Florida’s 20th Congressional District jostled to tap into Biden’s base Wednesday evening during the second half of a virtual candidate forum. While the first group of candidates to debate Wednesday night largely framed themselves as the rightful successor to former U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, those in the forum’s second group were most vocal about endorsing the President’s legislative agenda. The second portion of the debate featured state Rep. Bobby DuBose, retired college administrator Phil Jackson, former U.S. Department of Labor investigator Emmanuel Morel, Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, former state Rep. and Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor and state Sen. Perry Thurston.

Two national groups endorse Aramis Ayala in CD 10” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Two more national progressive organizations have endorsed Ayala in her bid for the seat opening in Florida’s 10th Congressional District, her campaign announced Thursday. Democrats Serve and Way to Lead announced their support for Ayala based on her work as the first Black State Attorney in Florida history and her commitment to supporting “transformative change” in Congress. Ayala, who served one sometimes controversial term as a pro-reform State Attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit in Orlando, seeks the congressional seat vacated by three-term Democratic Rep. Val Demings, representing western Orange County.

Aramis Ayala gets the nod from a pair of national Democratic groups.

Mystery group behind ads in key Senate race may have been led by Republican strategist’s son” via Jason Garcia and Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — When Democrats tried to sue political committee “Floridians for Equality and Justice,” the lawsuit stalled because process servers couldn’t find its chairperson — someone named Stephen Jones who had not previously chaired a political committee in Florida. But court records in Alachua County show a 24-year-old Stephen Stafford Jones in Gainesville whose signature an expert said matches the Stephen Jones signature on the committee’s election filings. That Stephen Jones is the son of William Stafford Jones, a prominent political consultant in Gainesville who has done work with Data Targeting Inc. — the Gainesville-based firm that oversaw strategy for Republican Senate campaigns across Florida last year, including the SD 9 race where Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur defeated Democrat Patricia Sigman.

For your radar — “GOP online donation platform tweaks fees, sending millions more to midterm campaigns” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Republicans are making a small change to their online fundraising program that could have a significant impact on the Party’s finances heading into the 2022 midterm election. WinRed, the GOP’s principal small-dollar donation processor, is lowering the fees it charges candidates and committees for each contribution they receive through the platform. The shift could result in millions of dollars more being funneled into campaign coffers next year. Under the new plan, which WinRed President Gerrit Lansing outlined in a memo sent to senior Republicans this week, the platform will charge a flat 3.94% fee per donation. The for-profit outfit had been charging 3.8% per contribution, plus another 30 cents until this point. The change will go into effect on Jan. 1.


At the besieged FDA, ‘it never stops!’ as decisions loom on boosters, pediatric shots and more” via Laurie McGinley and Dan Diamond of The Washington Post — Peter Marks, the FDA official overseeing coronavirus vaccines, was preparing for a critical meeting on booster shots later in the week when he received a text from a friend: “Oh, my God, it never stops!” Marks asked what the friend was referring to. “The Lancet article,” came the reply. The article was a shock. The medical journal Lancet had just published a review by an international roster of scientists, including Marks’s top two vaccine officials, who argued forcefully against administering boosters to the general public, at least for now. The FDA is scheduled to meet Friday with its vaccine advisory committee to discuss whether to approve a Pfizer-BioNTech booster.

Small agency, big job: Biden tasks OSHA with vaccine mandate” via Paul Wiseman of The Associated Press — The OSHA doesn’t make many headlines. Charged with keeping America’s workplaces safe, it usually busies itself with tasks like setting and enforcing standards for goggles, hard hats and ladders. But Biden this month threw the tiny Labor Department agency into the raging national debate over federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The President directed OSHA to write a rule requiring employers with at least 100 workers to force employees to get vaccinated or produce weekly test results showing they are virus-free. The assignment is sure to test an understaffed agency that has struggled to defend its authority in court.

Joe Biden puts the onus of vaccine mandates on the relatively small agency OSHA.

The coronavirus death toll is approaching the 1918 flu pandemic — with some key caveats” via Aaron Blake of The Washington Post — The United States just hit a grim milestone when it comes to the toll of the coronavirus, with now 1 in 500 Americans having died. But for some, an even-grimmer milestone is fast-approaching: When the death toll exceeds the 1918 influenza pandemic. We’re currently on pace to surpass the 675,000 deaths that have been attributed to the last comparable pandemic in the coming days. The Washington Post’s tracker shows more than 668,000 deaths so far, with a still-increasing seven-day average of nearly 1,800 deaths per day. That means we’re likely to hit that number by early next week.

The best way to avoid new COVID-19 variants is to delay booster shots” via Sarah Todd of Quartz — The hope is that booster shots might offer added protection against the virus. But some scientists say that right now, the best protection against delta and other variants isn’t prioritizing booster shots but making sure that everyone in the world has the opportunity to get their first doses. “If you want to change the arc of the pandemic, vaccinate people who are unvaccinated,” says Paul Offit, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for wealthy countries to put off distributing booster shots through the end of the year in the interest of getting vaccine supplies to people in low-income nations.

Sorry, a coronavirus infection might not be enough to protect you” via Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic — Immune cells can learn the vagaries of a particular infectious disease in two main ways. The first is bona fide infection, and it’s a lot like being schooled in a war zone. Vaccines, by contrast, safely introduce immune cells to only the harmless mimic of a microbe, the immunological equivalent of training guards to recognize invaders before they ever show their face. With SARS-CoV-2, we’ve been lucky: Both inoculation and infection can marshal stellar protection. No one can agree whether a past infection can sub in for one inoculation, two inoculations, or none at all — or just how much immunity counts as “enough.” The experts do converge on this: Opting for an infection over vaccination is never the right move.

Most states have cut back public health powers amid pandemic” via Lauren Weber and Anna Maria Barry-Jester of The Associated Press — Republican legislators in more than half of U.S. states are taking away the powers that state and local officials use to protect the public against infectious diseases. A review of hundreds of pieces of legislation found that, in all 50 states, legislators have proposed bills to curb such public health powers since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While some Governors vetoed bills that passed, at least 26 states pushed through laws that permanently weakened government authority to protect public health. An executive order, ballot initiative, or state Supreme Court ruling limited long-held public health powers in three additional states. More bills are pending in a handful of states whose legislatures are still in session.

Pushback on mask mandates is weakening the government’s ability to provide public safety.

—”Montana’s largest hospital close to rationing lifesaving care” via Vincent Del Giudice of Bloomberg

—“Idaho moves to ration medical care statewide amid surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations” via Meryl Kornfield, Paulina Firozi, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit and Lateshia Beachum of The Washington Post

—“L.A. County will require proof of vaccination at drinking establishments.” via Alyssa Lukpat of The New York Times

—”Mississippi Surpasses New Jersey as worst state for COVID-19 deaths” Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg

Thanksgiving turkey shopping has already started — for supermarkets” via Jaewon Kang of The Wall Street Journal — For U.S. consumers, Thanksgiving is still two months away. At grocery chain Tops Markets LLC, Jeff Culhane was shopping for turkeys last winter. Tops and other U.S. supermarket operators started purchasing turkeys, spices and cranberry sauce early this year, aiming to avoid shortages that left some store shelves empty in 2020. Grocery chains are struggling with supply-chain challenges ahead of what is typically their busiest time of the year, and some executives said they are preparing for consumers to host larger gatherings than they did late last year. However, it is becoming unclear how people will spend holidays as the delta variant drives COVID-19 cases higher.


U.S. unemployment claims rise after hitting pandemic low” via Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits moved up last week to 332,000 from a pandemic low, a sign that the spread of the delta variant may have slightly increased layoffs. Applications for jobless aid rose from 312,000 the week before. That was the lowest level since March 2020. Jobless claims, which generally track the pace of layoffs, have fallen steadily for two months as many employers, struggling to fill jobs, have held on to their workers. Last week’s increase was slight and may be temporary. The four-week average of jobless claims, which smooths out fluctuations in the weekly data, dropped for the fifth straight week to just below 336,000. That figure is also the lowest since the pandemic began.


Biden’s ‘incomprehensible’ travel ban on European visitors widens trans-Atlantic rift” via Adam Taylor of The Washington Post — Last week, France became the latest European nation to issue travel restrictions on unvaccinated American visitors. The move prompted outraged responses from some, but many Europeans seemed to believe that the move was America’s just deserts. The issue for wary Europeans isn’t just the United States’ persistently high national coronavirus case numbers, or the lingering pockets of anti-vaccination sentiment that have seen an immunization front-runner become a laggard. It’s that most Europeans, vaccinated or not, have been banned from the United States since March 14, 2020: more than 550 days and counting.

U.S. travel restrictions on European visitors are confusing, troubling.

Patients and doctors who embraced telehealth during the pandemic fear it will become harder to access” via Frances Stead Sellers of The Washington Post — Across the country, in urban and suburban settings, federal and state regulators issued scores of waivers to telehealth access and coverage rules, making it easier for hospitals, health centers and clinics to offer a wider range of remote services and be reimbursed for delivering them. Experts say that a question that remains to be answered is how many rules will tighten once the public health emergency is over. This summer, more than 430 health-related organizations, including hospitals, professional bodies, and patient advocacy groups, urged congressional leaders to keep the gateways to telehealth open, arguing that much of health care delivery has moved online “not only to meet COVID-19-driven patient demand, but to prepare for America’s future health care needs.”

Study: Democratic support shifts to suburbia, wanes in urban centers amid COVID-19 pandemic” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics+ — There was an assumption among observers leading into the 2020 General Election that in counties where more Americans died from COVID-19, more voters would support Biden, who promised to take stronger steps than his opponent to stifle the virus. But the opposite ended up happening, according to a peer-reviewed study by Northwestern University, which found an inverse relationship between county coronavirus death rates and increased Democratic voter turnout. Researchers at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine examined voting and COVID-19 death data for 3,104 counties, representing more than 322 million Americans, to calculate changes in the Democratic vote from 2016 to 2020.

Childhood obesity in U.S. accelerated during pandemic” via Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press — A new study ties the COVID-19 pandemic to an “alarming” increase in obesity in U.S. children and teenagers. Childhood obesity has been increasing for decades, but the new work suggests an acceleration last year, especially in those who already were obese when the pandemic started. The results signal a “profound increase in weight gain for kids” and are “substantial and alarming,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Alyson Goodman of the CDC. An estimated 22% of children and teens were obese last August, up from 19% a year earlier.


Biden approval drops to lowest of presidency” via Chris Kahn of Reuters — Public approval of Biden has dropped to the lowest level of his presidency, with Americans appearing to be increasingly critical of his response to the coronavirus pandemic. The national poll, conducted Sept. 15-16, found that 44% of U.S. adults approved of Biden’s performance in office, while 50% disapproved and the rest were not sure. Biden’s popularity has been declining since mid-August as the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed and as COVID-19-related deaths surged across the country.

Joe Biden’s popularity is taking a dive.

Biden $3.5T plan tests voter appeal of expansive gov’t role” via Lisa Mascaro of The Associated Press — Biden’s “build back better” agenda is poised to be the most far-reaching federal investment since FDR’s New Deal or LBJ’s Great Society, a prodigious effort to tax the rich and shift money into projects and programs touching the lives of nearly every American. The thousands of pages being drafted and debated in Congress are the template for grand ambitions of the Biden agenda, total funding of Democratic orthodoxy. The plan envisions the government shoring up U.S. households, setting an industrial policy to tackle climate change, and confronting the gaping income inequality laid bare by the COVID-19 crisis.

Biden turns up pressure on Democrats balking at spending bill” via Nancy Hook and Josh Wingrove — Biden ratcheted up pressure on congressional Democrats on Thursday, as discord within the Party threatened to derail critical pieces of his economic plan, including lowering prescription drug prices and some of his proposed tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans. “For a long time, this economy’s worked great for those at the very top,” Biden said in a speech Thursday at the White House. “This our moment to deal working people back into the economy.” Biden faulted Republicans for attacking his plan, but his remarks were aimed to unite Democrats around the struggles of middle-class families.

Mark Milley wanted to save us from Donald Trump. Instead, he enabled Biden’s military debacle in Afghanistan.” via Marc A. Thiessen of The Washington Post — Gen. Milley has some explaining to do, and not just about his phone calls with a Chinese general. Milley told Nancy Pelosi he agreed that Trump was “crazy” and made senior officers at the National Military Command Center take an “oath” not to execute Trump’s order for a nuclear strike without consulting him first. The idea that Trump would start a nuclear war is ludicrous; one of his proudest achievements is being the first President since Ronald Reagan not to start a new war — even though he is not in the military chain of command. When Milley appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28, he will have to answer for his astonishing actions and explain why they did not usurp civilian authority.

Mark Milley has some explaining to do. Image via AP.

The D.C. media comes for Biden” via Peter Hamby of Puck News — For new Presidents, there’s some built-in goodwill to start, which may even last through those precious first 100 Days, unless you do a Muslim ban or something. Then the reality of governing starts to set in. The President’s popularity begins to fade — a fresh angle for a press blob that has no interest in nuance or long-term thinking, but simply who is up and who is down, until the storylines reset each Monday. The rhythm has now come for Biden, suddenly an unpopular President after a boastful start to the summer. Biden was boasting a 54% approval mark and a disapproval rating of only 40% just three months ago. But the summer has been ghastly.


The perils that the book ‘Peril’ reveals should be investigated by Congress” via The Washington Post editorial board — There are many ways to destroy a constitutional democracy. One is by partisan mob attack on its electoral processes, of the kind that Trump incited at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Another is through military encroachment on civilian authority, in the name of national salvation or some other ostensibly higher cause. Outright physical destruction might come from war, intended or due to miscalculation, with a nuclear-armed foe. All of these risks are swirling through the debate over the recent conduct of Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as reported in “Peril,” a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Post.

The latest book on Donald Trump’s last days shows exactly how much peril our democracy was in.

The right-wing media is helping Trump destroy democracy. A new poll shows how.” via Greg Sargent of The Washington Post — When future historians seek to explain the United States’ perilous slide toward authoritarianism in the 21st century, they will grapple with the role played in all these events by Fox News and the right-wing media. Simply put, those actors are helping Trump and his movement threaten democracy, in a way that will likely continue getting worse. A new poll raises anew the question of how much damage they will do over the long haul. The poll’s major finding is that people who rely heavily on Fox News and other right-wing media are overwhelmingly more likely to believe the election was stolen from Trump than those who do not.

Ohio House Republican, calling Trump ‘a cancer,’ bows out of 2022” via Jonathan Martin of The New York Times — Calling former Trump “cancer for the country,” Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, said in an interview he would not run for reelection in 2022, ceding his seat after just two terms in Congress rather than compete against a Trump-backed primary opponent. Gonzalez is the first, but perhaps not the last, of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to retire rather than face ferocious primaries next year in a Party still in thrall to the former President. The Congressman emphasized that he was leaving in large part because of family considerations and the difficulties that come with living between two cities.

Anthony Gonzalez has had enough of Donald Trump’s GOP. Image via AP.

Former Trump aides to spearhead multimillion-dollar campaign against Biden economic plan” via Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — A new conservative coalition led by former Trump administration advisers plans to launch an up to $10 million campaign to attack Biden’s economic package as it advances through Congress. The effort, set to launch Friday, is being spearheaded by the America First Policy Institute founded earlier this year by former Trump officials, as well as conservative organizations such as the Conservative Partnership Institute, the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and FreedomWorks. Leaders of the campaign discussed plans to rally more than 100 conservative organizations and draw donors for advertisements and social media campaigns criticizing the Biden proposal in swing states.

Trump-era special counsel secures indictment of lawyer for firm with Democratic ties” via Charlie Savage of The New York Times — A prominent cybersecurity lawyer was indicted of lying to the FBI five years ago during a meeting about Trump and Russia, the Justice Department announced on Thursday. The indictment of the lawyer, Michael Sussmann, had been expected. Sussmann, of the law firm Perkins Coie, which has deep ties to the Democratic Party, is accused of making a false statement about his client at the meeting. Sussmann’s defense lawyers have denied the accusation, saying that he did not make a false statement, that the evidence he did is weak and that who he was representing was not a material fact in any case. They have vowed to fight any charge in court.


📰Lawmakers, staff recall the ongoing terror faced after Capitol riot: In an emotional, must-read collection of interviews with The New York Times, members of Congress and staff recall the haunting moments spent hiding from rioters on Jan. 6, and open up about how the day’s events have left them haunted.

The Jan. 6 riot shook many in The Capitol to the core. Image via AP.

Second alleged Oath Keeper in largest Capitol riot conspiracy case pleads guilty and will cooperate” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — Jason Dolan admitted Wednesday to two federal counts of conspiracy and aiding and abetting the obstruction of Congress as it met to confirm Biden’s 2020 election win, felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison. In a plea deal with prosecutors, both sides agreed that Dolan, who has no prior convictions, could face 63 to 78 months under advisory federal sentencing guidelines. However, the government agreed to request a lower term at sentencing for his “substantial assistance.”

DHS: Extremists used TikTok to promote Jan. 6 violence” via Betsy Woodruff Swan and Mark Scott of POLITICO — Federal officials warned law enforcement agencies this spring that domestic extremists had used TikTok in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 riots on the Capitol, including by promoting bringing guns to Washington that day, according to an internal government document, highlighting authorities’ growing concern over violent content on the video app. In the April 19 briefing, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis said American extremists used the Chinese-owned social media platform to recruit people to their causes, as well as share “tactical guidance” for terrorist and criminal activities.

Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers approve wide-ranging subpoenas for personal information of 2020 voters” via Elise Viebeck and Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post — Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania approved subpoenas for a wide range of data and personal information on voters, advancing a probe of the 2020 election in a critical battleground state Trump has repeatedly targeted with baseless claims of fraud. The move drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats who described the effort as insecure and unwarranted and said they would consider mounting a court fight. Among other requests, Republicans seek the names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses and methods of voting for millions of people who cast ballots in the May primary and the November general election.


House Jan. 6 panel seeking Pentagon records on Milley actions” via Billy House of Bloomberg — The select House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has asked the Pentagon for documents on the actions of Milley and other Defense Department officials in the aftermath of the deadly attack by a mob of Trump supporters. Milley feared Trump had gone into a serious mental decline after his November 2020 election defeat. The committee was already investigating the Pentagon’s actions to protect the nation’s security both before and after the insurrection.

Citing threats to national security, experts call Congress to pause tech ‘antitrust’ push” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — With a stern warning that new proposals in Congress could threaten America’s innovation and technological advantage worldwide, a group of national security experts urges lawmakers to hit the pause button on antitrust legislation. A new letter from several leading security experts flags the effort, saying that it could lead to myriad unintended consequences, risking both national and economic security if passed. As a global leader in innovation, America uses tech to protect citizens, defend allies and promote freedom, expression and association. The letter says a push for these anti-competitive legislative proposals could embolden China and allow U.S. foreign adversaries to dominate the technology landscape.

New Republican ad challenges Stephanie Murphy to stay a ‘no’ on budget bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Republicans are spending six figures on a new social media ad in Florida’s 7th Congressional District challenging Rep. Murphy to remain a “no” vote on the proposed $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. The 30-second ad from the Republican ally American Action Network is set to run for up to three weeks. The ad features a senior citizen named Ty Patten mulling how federal spending is driving inflation, making it tough for him to make ends meet in retirement.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:


More cats found alive after ‘heartbreaking’ Pet Alliance fire; nonprofit shelter will move to new site” via Kate Santich, Cristobal Reyes and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Seven cats were found alive in the charred remains of the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando’s main shelter Thursday morning following a late-night fire that killed 17 fellow felines and left workers and volunteers devastated. Orange County Fire Rescue and Orange County Sheriff’s deputies, the first to arrive on the scene Wednesday night, were able to evacuate all of the shelter’s 26 dogs safely. Initially, rescuers also were able to pull out about a dozen cats, whose housing was closer to the front of the building, where the fire started. Three cats were found alive early Thursday morning. Later, Orange County Sheriff’s Office K-9 units scoured the building and found another 16 cats among the debris — four of them alive.

Several more cats were found alive after the devastating fire at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. Image via Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Death of Hillsborough GOP member from COVID-19 causes financial problems for Party” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The Hillsborough County Republican Party alerted federal election regulators Tuesday that it may file its monthly campaign finance reports late because a key member of the organization died Saturday from COVID-19. Before his death, Gregg Prentice developed and maintained software that electronically tracked donations to the Hillsborough County GOP and supplied data for the organization’s monthly finance reports. None of the other officers knew how to operate Prentice’s software, the Party told the Federal Elections Commission. “We will be struggling to get all of this entered in the proper format by our deadline on Sept. 20, but we will try to do so with our best effort,” the Party wrote.

Ken Welch lands endorsement from Buddy Dyer” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Welch has nabbed another endorsement in his bid for St. Petersburg Mayor, this time, from Dyer. Dyer, a former state Senator, was first elected as Orlando’s Mayor in 2003. He has won all of his reelections by more than 20 points, claiming 72% of the vote in his most recent election in 2019. “I’m so proud to endorse Ken Welch to be the next Mayor of St. Petersburg,” Dyer said in a statement. In his endorsement, the Democratic Mayor emphasized collaboration between the Tampa Bay area and Orlando, which both sit along the crucial I-4 corridor. In his tenure, Dyer has overseen great expansions in sports, arts and culture in a city where business and population are also booming, despite recent setbacks related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawsuit seeks to remove former socialite from Miami Beach ballot due to residency dispute” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Less than a year before he finalized his candidacy for a Miami Beach Commission seat, former tabloid “It boy” Fabián Basabe was a registered voter in the neighboring town of Bay Harbor Islands, where he voted in November’s general election. That’s illegal, according to a lawsuit filed this week by a voter supporting Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian, who is running for reelection against Basabe in the city’s Group 2 race. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, asks that a judge remove Basabe from the Nov. 2 ballot and automatically hand Samuelian four more years on the City Commission.

Miami Commissioner Jeffrey Watson is running to hold on to District 5 seat” via Joey Flechas and C. Isaiah Smalls II of the Miami Herald — Miami Commissioner Watson, appointed by his colleagues in November after promising he would stay out of this year’s election, is running to hold on to the city’s District 5 seat. City records show he opened a campaign fundraising account and filed paperwork with the city clerk on Thursday, an official recognition of his campaign days after putting up a large billboard in Little Haiti promoting his reelection. In November, Watson pledged to sit out this year’s election to convince commissioners to appoint him. Watson said he was entitled to change his mind. A Commissioner who sought the commitment that Watson would only serve one year, Manolo Reyes, also changed his mind and said he’d support Watson’s candidacy.

Bryan Avila nears $1 million for Miami-Dade Commission run” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — After raking in more than $140,000 in August, Rep. Avila is closing in on $1 million banked for his bid to replace Rebeca Sosa on the Miami-Dade Commission next year. Avila now has nearly $990,000 in-pocket more than a year from the election, thanks in large part to a spectrum of donors with whom he’s developed relations over his seven years in the House. Now the chamber’s Speaker Pro Tempore, he faces term limits in 2022 and will battle at least one opponent for Sosa’s nonpartisan seat representing the county’s 6th Commission District, independent candidate Ibis Valdés. Valdés has raised just over $49,000, including more than $17,000 last month, her largest haul since she launched her campaign in June, not counting a $15,000 self-loan.

‘Evil can never be dead enough.’ Sheriff’s charity sells T-shirts linked to fatal deputy-involved shooting” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Charity is selling T-shirts stemming from last month’s ambush-style shooting where a gunman opened fire on deputies after a traffic stop. The shootout left a deputy injured and the gunman dead off U.S. 192 near West Melbourne. The front of the $20 T-shirt depicts Sheriff Wayne Ivey‘s viral quote, “Evil can never be dead enough,” from his Sept. 9 Facebook video where he narrated dashcam footage of the fatal shootout. The back of the shirt shows the hashtag #Magdump and a spent magazine dropping from a handgun.

At funeral service, Tommy Hazouri praised as politician who lived out his destiny” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Hazouri‘s family and friends remembered him Thursday as someone whose talents and passions lined up perfectly with carrying out a whirlwind life of public service that spanned half a century. “If you believe in destiny, then you have to believe in Tommy’s life,” said Danny Lee, whose friendship with Hazouri went back 60 years. Hazouri, who died Saturday at 76, served in the state House of Representatives from 1974 to 1986, as Jacksonville Mayor from 1987 to 1991, on the Duval County School Board from 2004 to 2012, and as Jacksonville City Council member from 2015 until his death.

Former JEA No. 2, an Aaron Zahn confidant, talks with prosecutors amid investigation” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Melissa Dykes, JEA’s former chief operating officer, appears to have testified to a federal grand jury Thursday in connection with an ongoing and long-running criminal investigation into a botched effort to privatize the city-owned electric, water and sewer utility in 2019. Neither Dykes nor her attorney, Hank Coxe, made substantive comments outside the courthouse, where she spent most of the morning. Coxe said they were “not unhappy to be here,” and reiterated that Dykes has always been ready to work with the Department of Justice. Thursdays have typically been the days prosecutors have called witnesses to talk to the grand jury about JEA, though the flow of witnesses had dissipated in recent months.

State aid marks close to $2 million to benefit Jacksonville, Clay military bases” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — DeSantis outlined close to $2 million in state funding to benefit military bases in Jacksonville and Clay County during a visit to Camp Blanding this week spotlighting the state’s pro-military spending. The Governor touted the money from a string of separate grants totaling $3.4 million statewide, as evidence of Florida’s military-friendly stance. The money will be used locally, mostly to buy easements restricting development the state considers incompatible with base activities. The restrictions can be obvious, like paying to prevent construction near a base’s fence-line or can prevent less-obvious problems like development affecting flight patterns used by military jets training for missions.

Ron DeSantis announces millions in grant money to communities throughout Florida for military installations.

St. Johns River agency gets veteran leader as challenges grow; ‘plate is full,’ chair says” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — The St. Johns River Water Management District’s governing board has tapped a 31-year employee to lead the 531-person agency overseeing water supplies from the Georgia border to Vero Beach. Michael Register was approved unanimously as the new executive director during a board meeting Tuesday. He succeeds Ann Shortelle. Register, a professional engineer with a master’s degree in agricultural engineering, most recently ran the agency’s water supply planning division. That job involved overseeing bureaus that handle surface water and groundwater modeling and develop minimum flow and level standards for rivers and lakes.

Florida Ethics Commission finds probable cause Doug Underhill violated ethics law” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal — Escambia County Commissioner Underhill’s ethics problems just got worse. The Florida Commission on Ethics announced it had found there was probable cause to move forward on seven allegations against Underhill in three ethics complaints made against him last year. The commission has ordered a public hearing to take place to determine if Underhill violated the state’s ethics laws. Under the commission’s rules, Underhill could seek a settlement before a hearing is held. Underhill said he always invites scrutiny to the actions of public officials and he was looking forward to a hearing on the case.

First on #FlaPol — “After long delay, hearing in Universal ride injury suit begins” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The lawsuit filed by a Brazilian woman against Universal after her child was seriously injured on a theme park ride has faced lengthy delays from the pandemic, said attorneys on both sides who convened in court this week. The then 11-year-old boy crushed his foot and his leg at the end of the E.T. Adventure ride in 2019, his mother, Roberta Perez, filed that same year in Orange County Circuit Court. Since the accident, the boy has struggled to return to a normal life, the family’s attorney, Rachel Harman, told Circuit Judge Denise Kim Beamer during Wednesday’s court hearing. Both sides acknowledged the case has stalled with lengthy pandemic-related delays that are outside of their control.

ESPN’s Booger McFarland ready to replace Florida State coach Mike Norvell with Deion Sanders” via Erik Hall of the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger — ESPN football analyst Booger McFarland appeared on “The ESPN College Football Podcast” with Kevin Negandhi on Wednesday. The topic of Florida State football’s success under head coach Mike Norvell became a topic. FSU is 0-2 to start the 2021 season with losses to Notre Dame and Jacksonville State. Meanwhile, the Jackson State football team is 2-0 under head coach Deion Sanders. “Doesn’t it almost feel like Florida State and Sanders are on a collision course?” McFarland said. “Exactly!” Negandhi said.


The stolen-election myth has become an albatross for the GOP” via Rich Lowry for POLITICO Magazine — The best indication that Larry Elder was going down in the California recall wasn’t the polling, although that all swung the wrong way in the final weeks, but his suggestion late in the campaign that Democrats were going to steal the election. Preemptive excuse-making isn’t a sign of great confidence. Sure enough, incumbent Gov. Gavin Newsom cruised to a victory made a little easier, as it happens, by Elder’s insistence that Republicans were robbed in 2020 and about to be robbed again. To his credit, Elder graciously conceded, but his talk of stolen elections was arguably his biggest misstep. His landslide defeat is the latest evidence that the idea the 2020 presidential election was stolen is poison for Republicans.


Realtors sold us a bill of goods on affordable housing” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Two months ago, we published an editorial praising Florida’s Realtors for standing up to lawmakers who had plundered a trust fund intended for affordable housing. The statewide Realtors group bravely confronted the state by pressing ahead with a constitutional amendment campaign to make the Legislature spend that money on affordable housing alone. Cowed by criticism from influential lawmakers, the Realtors’ initiative collapsed, even after the campaign had raised $13 million to get the amendment on the 2022 ballot. Instead of standing up, the group slunk away with the promise of “pursuing a legislative solution.” If we’ve learned anything in Florida, legislative solutions mean helping special interests like Realtors make more money.

With Hazouri’s death, Jacksonville’s living memory and powerful voices fade” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — What made Hazouri charming was often what got him in trouble. What made him endearing also made him occasionally exhausting. What made him so many friends over his remarkable five decades in politics sometimes spawned powerful enemies: Hazouri, a man of many contradictions, always said what was on his mind loudly, publicly, to anyone who would listen. If I wrote a column about his one-time rival, former Mayor Jake Godbold, he’d razz me about it before sheepishly suggesting maybe I should write one about him, Hazouri, next time, since, didn’t I know it, he was the Mayor once too. Charming, exhausting. Exuding warmth, but always keeping score. Very Tommy.

DeSantis scores big on school tests, but what’s with the fines?” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — People might get whiplash from watching DeSantis in action this week. The man has been busy, decisive, and, as always, he appears to have no use for anyone who might disagree with him. Then again, there didn’t seem to be much dissent on some long-awaited news on Tuesday. The Governor basked in praise from all corners of the state as educators cheered … hey, wait a minute. Florida’s educators cheered a Governor they’ve been at odds with since, oh, forever? You betcha! DeSantis announced that he wants an end to the high-stakes, high-stress standardized year-end tests known as the Florida Standards Assessment. “This is a big deal,” DeSantis said, and he is correct

Don’t fret, DeSantis, Gators will unmask Alabama!” via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — Something tells me that this is the week Dan Mullen arrives, truly arrives, as one of the great coaches in college football. The Gators have been preparing for this game all offseason, have shown nothing in their first two games against two pushover opponents (FAU and USF), and will be energized and galvanized by a maniacal sellout crowd of 90,000-plus in the Swamp. The time is nigh for Mullen to finally get Saban and the 500-pound Bama baboon off his back. “I know you guys aren’t done yet,” DeSantis told UF officials. “Just imagine what a great week it would be if we could beat Alabama on Saturday?” The Gators are going to abide by your mandate and unmask the Crimson Tide.

Believe it or not, Wake Forest is Mike Norvell’s most monumental game as FSU coach” via Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel — Ron Zook never had a chance because the noise in the system started early in his tenure and got louder and louder every year. He was only at Florida for three seasons, never had a losing record, and went 16-8 in the SEC. The reason I bring this up is that FSU coach Norvell has entered the Zooker Zone. It’s why Saturday’s game at Wake Forest is the most critical game of Norvell’s short tenure at FSU. If the Seminoles win it, they can at least temporarily quiet the noise in the system. If they lose it, the noise in the system will increase and sound like an endless, earsplitting loop of Roseanne Barr singing the national anthem.


Black lawmakers are saying a ban on Critical Race Theory is a political spectacle that ignores U.S. history.

Also on today’s Sunrise:

— When it comes to the claim by Gov. DeSantis that people who have had COVID-19 now have very strong immunity, PolitiFact says that’s mostly true.

— Now DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio are lashing out at the Biden administration for rationing the COVID-19 antibody treatment they’ve been heavily promoting.

— Two Sunrise interviews today: Rep. Geraldine Thompson, offers a history lesson for her colleagues calling for a ban on Critical Race Theory. Then we have PolitiFact’s senior correspondent Jon Greenberg who has been tracking the Governor’s natural immunity claims.

To listen, click on the image below:


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at South Florida politics and other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of the Florida tourism industry and how the tourism-based economy shapes how we live, get paid, quality of life, political influences, and cultural change. Joining Walker are Sen. Ed Hooper and Amplify Florida CEO Amanda Payne.

Political Connections Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete and Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Rubio will discuss the withdrawal from Afghanistan, handling of the COVID-19 delta variant, and his 2022 race for reelection.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with Carrie Boyd of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Rep. Tracie Davis; Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association; and Mark Lamping, president, Jacksonville Jaguars and Iguana Investments.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Broward Mayor Steve Geller.

— ALOE —

What Frank Mayernick is reading — “Inside the studios’ (and Apple’s) frenzy to get Christopher Nolan’s next film” via Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter — Last week, studio heads including Universal’s Donna Langley, Sony’s Tom Rothman and Paramount’s Jim Gianopulos made the trek to Nolan’s compound in the Hollywood Hills. There, the execs read the filmmaker’s script for his latest project, centered on one of the fathers of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and then discussed conditions. By Sept. 14, Nolan decided, and Universal now finds itself in the enviable position of distributing the next film. He asked for total creative control, 20% of first-dollar gross, and a blackout period from the studio wherein the company would not release another movie three weeks before or three weeks after his release. Apple was ready to commit to a theatrical window but nowhere near what the filmmaker wanted.

Christopher Nolan’s latest movie sparks a bidding war, with lots of caveats. Image via AP.

Lottery for $10 ‘Hamilton’ tickets to Jacksonville performances opens Friday” via Tom Szaroleta of The Florida Times-Union — Tickets to see the highly anticipated run of “Hamilton” in Jacksonville are hard to come by, but a lucky few fans at each performance will be able to get in for, well, a Hamilton. A weekly digital #HAM4HAM lottery that rewards winners with $10 tickets to the Broadway blockbuster kicks off Friday. A limited number of tickets will be offered for each of the 24 performances scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 17 at the Times-Union Center. Three lotteries in all will be held, with each awarding tickets for a week’s worth of shows. The first, for tickets to Sept. 29-Oct. 6 performances, opens at 12:01 a.m. Friday and closes at 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23. Subsequent lotteries will be open on Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 for shows later in the run.

SeaWorld Orlando gets spooky with new Howl-O-Scream event” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The orcas are in for the night. Sesame Street is barricaded off and closed for traffic. These usually familiar sights of SeaWorld Orlando are now replaced with things more sinister: A chainsaw-toting man, zombies shuffling down the park’s paths, and a blood-splattered camper on the camping trip from hell. Welcome to the newest Halloween event in Central Florida. SeaWorld Orlando’s Howl-O-Scream is the park’s first-ever special ticketed spooky event and features four original haunted houses, interactive bars, two shows and scare zones. It debuted Friday and runs late-night through Oct. 31. Down the Interstate, Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights is celebrating its 30th year in business.

At Art Basel, hot paintings face off against house made of bread” via James Tarmy of Bloomberg — In 2004, the artist Urs Fischer started to build prototypes of a 16.4-foot-high gingerbread-style house made from about 2,500 loaves of bread. It was a process, he says, filled with trial and error: Binding agents including marzipan and raw dough were attempted and discarded (too unstable) until he discovered polyurethane foam was the ideal mortar. The house was constructed on an open outdoor lot in Vienna, where eventually, the daily delivery of dumpsters filled with bread began to draw attention from passersby. Their reaction, to Fischer’s surprise, was a combination of incredulity and outrage. “Austria’s a very Catholic country,” he says, “and everyone there thought the bread was somehow about the body of Christ.”

Survey says? Popular game show ‘Family Feud’ is searching for Tallahassee families” via Christopher Cann of the Tallahassee Democrat — Any quick-witted Tallahassee families looking for money or a new car? The daytime game show “Family Feud” is searching for families for an upcoming episode. There are some requirements: Families but consist of five members related by blood, marriage or adoption. Additionally, participants must be U.S. citizens or have permission to work in the country. Those running for political office are not eligible. Auditions will occur over Zoom and chosen families are eligible to win $100,000 and a brand-new car. This will not be the first time a Tallahassee family has appeared on the Steve Harvey-hosted show to guess the most popular answers in 100-person surveys.


Belated wishes to Jenna Tala of the Florida League of Cities. Celebrating today are Tampa Bay Times reporter Charlie Frago, J.T. Foley, former St. Petersburg City Council member Charlie Gerdes, Ashby Green, Tallahassee Democrat reporter Jeff Schweers, and INFLUENCE Magazine contributor Mary Beth Tyson. Celebrating this weekend are Mike Bascom, Beau Beaubien, Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. DeSantis, Anthony Close, former Rep. Bob Cortes, Reggie Garcia, Ali Glisson, Adam Hollingsworth, smart guy Steve Marin, Andy Marlette, the great Corinne Mixon, and our friend Alex Workman.


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

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as 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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.

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

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