Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.11.21

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Here's your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Good Monday morning.

We have four personnel notes and a wedding to start the day.

Ballard Partners is setting up shop in the Bay State.

The Florida-based firm went national in 2017 and quickly established itself as one of the top players on K Street. In 2020, it went international with an office in Tel Aviv. Now it’s cutting the ribbon on an office in Boston.

Ballard Partners has tapped Eugene O’Flaherty, the former Corporation Counsel for the city of Boston, to run the new operation.

Eugene O’Flaherty helps Ballard Partners establish a Boston toehold.

“Along with our offices in Washington, D.C., Florida and Israel, having an office in Boston will provide our clients with greater reach across multiple jurisdictions,” firm founder and President Brian Ballard said.

“We are honored that Gene will be leading our Boston office, given his remarkable career in public service to the State of Massachusetts as a legislator and as Corporation Counsel to the City of Boston.”

As Corporation Counsel, O’Flaherty was the chief legal officer for former Boston Mayor and now U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh. In that role, he managed an office of 60 lawyers, paralegals and administrative staff.

O’Flaherty previously served in the Massachusetts House for 17 years, where he chaired the state’s Judiciary Committee and held the vice chairmanship on the Banks and Banking Committee.

Also joining the Ballard Partners Boston office is Stephen Passacantilli, who previously served as Special Assistant to Walsh, providing transitional assistance for the new mayoral administration and coordinated communication between the Boston City Council and elected officials of the state’s Boston Delegation.


Walt Disney World and Disney Signature Experiences announced a trio of new additions to their government relations and external affairs teams on Monday.

Elizabeth Watkins joins the Walt Disney World government relations team as Senior Manager of Government Relations and will lead all local government and industry relations.

Watkins most recently worked on the Orlando Health government relations team. Before that, she served as the Florida Grassroots Manager for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, where she oversaw a series of successful public health-related ballot initiatives throughout the 2018 election cycle.

Stefanie Steele joins the external affairs team as Senior Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility, leading CSR local initiatives for Walt Disney World.

She most recently served as Director of Government Relations for Project Lead the Way and before that Senior Manager of Government Relations for Florida Virtual School. Stefanie joins incredibly talented CSR professionals, including Steven Miller, Senior Manager for issues management, and Nelson Placa, Senior Manager for CSR and community engagement.

Disney Signature Experiences, meanwhile, added Beth Thibodaux to its Public Affairs team as Director of External Affairs and Corporate Citizenship.

Elizabeth Watkins, Stefanie Steele and Beth Thibodaux are the new powerhouse government relations team at Disney.

In her new role, she will lead strategic corporate citizenship and government relations efforts to support all Disney Signature Experiences businesses, including Disney Cruise Line and the Disney Vacation Club.

The new team members come as WDW celebrates its 50th anniversary and Disney Cruise Line resumes sailings from Florida.

As part of its 50th-anniversary celebration, Walt Disney World recently announced $3 million in grants to local nonprofits. These grants will help support the mission of six organizations, helping to support important causes and inspire a world of difference for children and families throughout the Central Florida region.


LSN Partners is announcing today that Gabriel “Gabe” Groisman has joined the firm as a partner.

Groisman is a well-known attorney, advocate, public speaker, and writer who is also the current Mayor of Bal Harbour. At LSN Partners, he will use his experiences, skill set, and network to assist clients in government affairs at the state and national levels.

His addition bolsters LSN Partners’ thriving tech startup and international practices. He will continue to work with many global technology companies and help them navigate the procurement and regulatory affairs processes in the U.S.

Gabriel “Gabe” Groisman is Bal Harbour Mayor and now part of LSN Partners.

Groisman simultaneously joins Llorente & Heckler as a practicing attorney and partner.

“Gabe is a passionate, motivated and hardworking individual. He is a welcomed addition to our exceptional team of professionals,” said founder and managing partner Alexander Heckler.

His hire marks a continuation of LSN’s expansion this year. Last month, bipartisan, full-service consulting firm announced nine additions to the team, including a trio of hires at its Washington D.C. office and several others who will bolster its presence in South Florida.

Groisman comes to LSN from a prestigious law firm where he was a partner and co-chair of the firm’s trade secrets and intellectual property group.

He is a strong advocate for Israel and is a highly sought-after public speaker on fighting antisemitism, the BDS movement and related topics.


Chris Hodge joins UF/IFAS as the new assistant director for the UF/IFAS Office of Government Affairs. Hodge has spent the last several years working in the House as the legislative assistant to Rep. James Buchanan, the current chair for the House Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee. In his new role, Hodge will assist UF/IFAS Government Affairs Director Mary Ann Hooks in navigating the legislative process through monitoring key legislation, higher education funding and implementing strategies to expand governmental partnerships. He will also coordinate the UF/IFAS Council on Agriculture, Research, Extension, and Teaching.


Spotted at the wedding of Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida at Casa Cien in San Miguel de Allende: Jason Delgado, Samantha Gross, Natalie Kato and Tim Nungesser, Elizabeth Koh, Emily Mahoney, Samantha Gross, Zac Sampson, and Tori Schneider.

Congrats to the newlywed couple!


@AlCardenasFL_DC: Getting a little tired of “tell-all” books by former (Donald) Trump loyalists trying to make money and cleanse themselves of the stench; mostly the former. Specially those who did not say anything till after Nov. ‘20 elections

@DLeonhardt: In coming weeks and months, it is possible that the virus will surge again — or keep receding. We don’t know, and we do not have to pretend otherwise. We do not have to treat COVID as a character referendum.

@NaKoleWatson: I don’t think folks realize that 600,000+ people have died. Everything isn’t about “folks don’t wanna work.” Over 600,000 people have died. They worked somewhere.

@JimmyPatronis: Three years after Hurricane Michael, my love for Northwest Florida has only grown. This is God’s country, and our people are strong and resilient. If you haven’t visited recently, please bring your family down to the Gulf Coast soon. We’d love to have you.

@EWErickson: My father-in-law has COVID. He was vaccinated. Went for an infusion and the nurse told him she had two more rounds she could give, and the (Joe) Biden Admin wouldn’t send any more because @GovKemp won’t do a vax or mask mandate.

@AllenWest: I can attest that, after this experience, I am even more dedicated to fighting against vaccine mandates. Instead of enriching the pockets of Big Pharma and corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, we should be advocating the monoclonal antibody infusion therapy.

@BenBeckerANJax: I have obtained this email sent by Jacksonville Aviation Authority COO Tony Cugno to the JAA board of directors regarding the delays at JIA on Friday that refutes “rumor” of an organized walkout by controllers regarding vaccination mandate


’Succession’ returns — 6; ’Dune’ premieres — 11; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ returns — 13; World Series Game 1 — 15; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 16; Florida TaxWatch’s annual meeting begins — 16; Georgia at UF — 19; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 22; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Primary — 22; The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 25; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 25; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 27; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 28; Miami at FSU — 31; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 34; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 38; FSU vs. UF — 47; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 51; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 57; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 61; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 67; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 72; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 79; CES 2022 begins — 86; NFL season ends — 90; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 92; Florida’s 20th Congressional District election — 92; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 93; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 95; NFL playoffs begin — 96; Super Bowl LVI — 125; Daytona 500 — 132; St. Pete Grand Prix — 139; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 165; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 209; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 228; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 234; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 270; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 282; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 361; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 396.


Joe Biden is first President to mark Indigenous Peoples Day” via Zeke Miller and Ellen Knickmeyer of The Associated Press — Biden issued the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day, lending the most significant boost yet to efforts to refocus the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus toward an appreciation of Native peoples. The day will be observed on Oct. 11, along with Columbus Day, which is established by Congress. While Native Americans have campaigned for years for local and national days to recognize the country’s Indigenous peoples, Biden’s announcement appeared to catch many by surprise. “This was completely unexpected. Even though we’ve been talking about it and wanting it for so long,” said Hillary Kempenich, an artist and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

Joe Biden issues the first-ever presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples Day.

Tensions persist between legacy of Christopher Columbus, native people” via The Associated Press — Monday’s federal holiday dedicated to Columbus is highlighting the ongoing divide between those who view the explorer as a representative of Italian American history and others horrified by an annual tribute that ignores native people whose lives and culture were forever changed by colonialism. Spurred by national calls for racial equity, communities across the U.S. took a deeper look at Columbus’ legacy in recent years, pairing or replacing it with Indigenous Peoples Day. But activists, including members of Native American tribes, said ending the formal holiday in Columbus’ name has been stymied by politicians and organizations focusing on Italian American heritage.

—”‘A monument to genocide’: Tampa’s defense of its Christopher Columbus statue is a disgrace” via Justin Garcia of Creative Loafing

Retailers want nothing to do with Columbus Day” via Jennifer A. Kingson of Axios — The Columbus Day sale, a longtime ritual for car dealers and department stores, is dead. Retailers are moving away from big sales events in general, and are especially eager to distance themselves from this particularly disputatious federal holiday, which falls on Monday. For years, states and municipalities have started renaming “Columbus Day” as “Indigenous Peoples Day” to protest the legacy of colonialism that hangs over Columbus’ so-called “discovery” of America. Fewer people get a day off work for Columbus Day than in the past, so they don’t have a long weekend to go shopping.


Civil rights restored for Florida voting rights leader Desmond Meade. ‘This is good.’ ” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — The civil rights of Florida voting icon Meade were restored this week, allowing him to run for office, serve on a jury and take the bar exam. Meade, one of the architects of the 2018 constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to many Floridians with felony convictions, announced on Saturday in a video posted to Twitter. “Wow. Wow,” he said. “Another chapter in the journey. Another, I guess, example of perseverance.” In March, his rights were restored under a new state clemency process approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet.

Desmond Meade gets his rights back — finally. Image via Getty.

Ron DeSantis decries ‘significant headwinds’ of inflation, says it’s out of state’s control” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis warned of “significant headwinds” of inflation. “Those are, I think, are beyond our control at the state level,” the Governor cautioned about inflationary pressures during a news conference in Bay Country Friday. Worries about inflation becoming a longer-term reality for the economy are reflected in the bond market. The yield on the 10-year Treasury has jumped from 1.32% to as high as 1.54% during the past two weeks. Analysts warn that persistent inflation could continue crimping companies’ bottom lines and consumers’ willingness to spend, which would mean a continued slowdown for economic growth.

DeSantis policy moves often followed by fundraising pitch” via John Kennedy of the USA TODAY Network — When Gov. DeSantis ordered Florida’s secretary of state to investigate Facebook, alleging it may have manipulated 2020 elections in the state, he made sure his donors didn’t miss the news. Forty-eight hours after the Republican Governor dispatched Laurel Lee on a search for evidence of what he labeled “Big Tech interference,”  an email blast went out from DeSantis’ fundraising team to potential contributors. With more than $53 million in cash on hand, DeSantis’ re-election campaign is steadily fishing for more money, increasingly using his recent policy actions as bait.

—Gov. DeSantis will hold a press conference at the Winter Haven City Hall. 10 a.m.

Nikki Fried opposes water injection plan for Piney Point” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A plan to inject the industrial wastewater from Piney Point underground has some environmentalists alarmed. Now, Fried has filed an objection to the plan with the Department of Environmental Protection. “It defies all logic for this agency to approve a permit, for the first time ever, to deep well inject heavy metals, radioactive byproducts, and other phosphate mining hazardous waste from Piney Point into the aquifer, risking further environmental contamination as well as potential contamination of the local water supply,” wrote Fried.

Sports gambling won’t start when Florida said it could. But it’s in the cards, so here’s what you should know” via Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Thousands of Floridians had visions of scurrying up to a betting window and placing a legal wager on an NFL or college football game. Others had visions of sitting at home, sipping on a beverage and placing a bet on their cellphone, tablet or laptop. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which owns the Hard Rock Casinos and is running the state’s sports gambling operation, never planned to start sports betting on Oct. 15, according to Seminole gaming spokesman Gary Bitner. The Seminoles said they wouldn’t begin sports gambling before Oct. 15, but they never established a specific starting date, and still haven’t. They’ve said only that sports gambling would begin “in the fall.”


Proposed ban on no-cash businesses could cost violators up to $10K” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — In recent years, a growing number of businesses are forgoing cash, a trend that’s only accelerated during the pandemic. While that arrangement works for people with the benefit of having numerous payment options, it excludes some of Florida’s less well-to-do residents, said Democratic state Rep. Matt Willhite. On Wednesday, Willhite filed HB 233, which would require businesses operating at physical locations, whether fixed in brick-and-mortar stores or in mobile spaces, to accept paper and coin tender as payment for any tangible good or service. Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones filed a companion bill in the Florida Senate.

Cash is king for Matt Willhite and Shevrin Jones.

Tina Polsky, Kelly Skidmore propose out-of-state fee waivers for college students in sober living homes” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — The Sunshine State has a billion-dollar drug treatment industry, particularly South Florida, where thousands arrive yearly from across the country to get clean and renew their lives. For some, that means pursuing college or vocational degrees. For those who don’t live here, however, that also means paying out-of-state fees. Two South Florida state lawmakers want to change that. This week, Sen. Polsky and Rep. Skidmore introduced twin bills that would waive out-of-state fees for up to 50 college-age students living in recovery residences or sober living homes. “Anything we can do to help those in recovery attain their education goals and strive toward a better future is a win-win for them, society and Florida Colleges,” Polsky said.

Happening today — House Minority Co-leader Evan Jenne hosts a virtual news conference, 10 a.m. Zoom link here. The event will also be livestreamed on The Florida Channel.

Tallahassee may join in legal challenge to Florida ‘anti-riot’ law” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — City Commissioners will consider whether to mount a legal challenge, focusing on provisions in the law that allow Gov. Ron DeSantis to alter local government budgets should they decide to reduce funding for their police department. In the 2022 budget passed last month, Tallahassee commissioners approved an extra $3 million in funding, a total of $62.2 million, for the Tallahassee Police Department. But a legal analysis by groups opposed to the law concluded that HB1 created “a process through which the state can usurp control of the municipal budget and unilaterally revise the budget with binding effect on the municipality.”

Negotiated health care rule-making committee named, prepared to meet” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The Agency for HealthCare Administration released the names of the medical and nursing experts who will serve on a 17-member committee meant to “negotiate” new rules to regulate operation of intensive care units for some of the state’s sickest newborns. Retired Judge Gregory P. Holder will serve as the mediator of the panel. Holder was a Hillsborough County Judge for 26 years before retiring and joining Zinober Diana & Monteverde P.A. in Tampa. Though it’s rarely used, Florida law allows agencies to enter into a negotiated rule-making process “when complex rules are being drafted, or strong opposition to the rules is anticipated. Under the process, the agency is required to appoint a “committee of interested persons” and to publicly post the list of representatives.


For first time in months, less than 5% of Florida COVID-19 test results are positive” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — The state Department of Health reported Friday that 4.8% of tests results over the past seven days confirmed the presence of the airborne pathogen. Health experts have recommended average positivity rates remain below 5% for at least two weeks before considering the virus under control. The last time Florida met that threshold was June 25. But Florida health officials also reported 11,339,967 residents had been fully vaccinated, more than 30,000 fewer than last week. It’s the first time the state reported a drop in the rate of residents fully inoculated.

COVID-19 positive tests continue to nose-dive.

Average daily case count hits three-month low with 3,141 new cases reported Saturday” via David Schutz of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida reported 3,141 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, sending the seven-day average to its lowest level in three months as the delta surge seemed all but over. The state also increased its COVID-19-related death count by three on Saturday. 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. The average for new cases is down to 3,403 as of Saturday, and the average for deaths based on the date reported held at 200, unchanged for the third consecutive day. There have been more than 3.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, and at least 56,413 Floridians have died since the start of the pandemic.

ICYMI — “Florida’s Board of Education approves cutbacks to 8 school districts over mask mandates.” via Johnny Diaz of The New York Times — The political battle in Florida over masks in schools escalated this week, as the state Board of Education voted to authorize sanctions on eight local school districts for not following instructions from DeSantis’ administration that make masks optional. The eight districts, whose boards all voted to require masks in school buildings, could face cutbacks equal to their school board members’ salaries unless they show within 48 hours that they comply with state orders. The districts are in Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach counties.

Rate of COVID-19 nearly double for Florida school districts without mask mandates, report says” via Kate Santich and Cindy Krischer Goodman of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida school districts without mask mandates have been hit with nearly twice as many COVID-19 infections in students as districts that required masks, and the gap increased to nearly 3½ times during the peak of the pandemic in August. The 54 school districts with parental opt-outs or no mask mandates have seen an average decrease of 65% in case positivity from the week ending Aug. 19, when most schools started, to the week ending Sep. 30. As of this week, children make up more than a quarter of new COVID-19 cases nationwide, and fewer than half of eligible kids 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

‘An insane amount of money’: Florida’s demand for travel nurses raises concerns of price gouging” via Liz freeman of the Naples Daily News — Florida hospitals are facing skyrocketing costs for temporary contract nurses as the COVID-19 pandemic burns out longtime staff members and workforce shortages continue to worsen. As staffing agencies for travel nurses double and triple their fees to hospitals, the Florida Hospital Association is tracking complaints of price gouging in other states. Hospitals in Florida have responded to staffing shortages differently, but nearly every hospital uses travel nurses to combat the shortage and handle surging patient volumes due to the pandemic. The cost hospitals are paying for travel nurses is a huge concern.

Meanwhile … “Babylon Bee backs DeSantis in fight against Big Tech censorship” via Brian Flood of Fox News — Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon announced his satirical website has filed a brief to support DeSantis’ Big Tech crackdown legislation. “We face some of these censorship problems; we’ve faced challenges with fact-checks being abused to try and get us de-platformed and knocked off the platform. There are new policies now that are aimed at curbing and minimizing hate speech, but really they’re going to affect satire like ours because they consider some of our jokes ‘punching down’ because we aim at some of their sacred cows,” Dillon said on “Fox & Friends First.” Dillon feels that the controversial Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 is not being used properly.

To watch the interview, click on the image below:


South Florida COVID-19 positivity rates still dropping, now at lowest levels since June” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The case positivity rate — which measures the share of tests coming back positive — has dropped for seven consecutive weeks in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. That metric has now fallen for eight straight weeks in Broward, showing a consistent trend that cases are on the downswing. The weekly positivity rates in Broward and Palm Beach counties — 4.3% and 5%, respectively — are at their lowest levels since the final week of June. Miami-Dade’s case positivity rate sat at just 2.9% from Oct. 1-7. That’s the lowest figure since the second-to-last week of June.

A rare breakthrough case: COVID-19 kills ex-Post employee, a fully vaxxed 58-year-old man” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — Vincent Konidare did everything he was supposed to do. When Florida opened up COVID-19 vaccinations in March to residents younger than 65, he seized the opportunity. The 58-year-old father of two got a dose of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson formula. But on Aug. 2, he tested positive for COVID-19, his daughter Valerie Konidare said. It happened a day or two after a visit from her brother’s friend, who felt sick and later tested positive, she said. Eight days later, he was hospitalized at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. After weeks of struggle, Vincent Konidare died in the early morning of Sept. 19.

Vincent Konidare was a former Palm Beach Post manager who did everything right and still died from COVID-19. Image via Palm Beach Post.

COVID-19 made life more difficult. For Miami’s poor, it can be excruciating. Here’s why” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Before COVID-19, about 485,000 Miami-Dade households, or about 54% of the county’s families, were already struggling to meet the most basic of essentials: sufficient food, paying bills, and keeping ahead of health-related challenges. The novel coronavirus made daily life even more difficult for everyone, especially for those with limited income. Some revelations from a cross section of Miami-Dade families are eye-opening. Nearly half Miami-Dade’s households had members who said they could not come up with a fast $400 to pay for an unexpected emergency during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. More than half Miami-Dade’s households are bringing in less income today than they were nearly two years ago when the pandemic arrived.

Miami tech jobs on the way, audit shows; but COVID-19, ‘virtual’ offices slow hiring” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — Last week, the Miami Herald’s “Tech Trail” examined how many tech jobs have been created so far since the Miami tech boom kicked off in earnest last December. The answer: It’s mostly too soon to say though experts said there is still enough to indicate that there is something to the Miami tech movement’s traction. In Follow The Sun’s first year, it successfully helped recruit 17 firms to move to or expand in the city’s urban core. That in itself represents a major achievement: Most economic development agencies consider themselves successful if they even get one relocator, and can spend large amounts to get them.

Miami’s road to becoming a tech hub hits a speed bump.

Lee Health COVID-19 hospitalizations fall below 100 for first time since mid-July” via Dan DeLuca of the Fort Myers News-Press — The decline in virus-related hospitalizations, which peaked at 690 patients on Aug. 25, is a signal the surge related to the delta variant is over, said Lee Health President & CEO Larry Antonucci. However, Antonucci cautioned the possibility of another COVID-19 surge in Southwest Florida remains a threat. “Getting vaccinated today, if you haven’t already done so, will help keep our community safe as we enter our seasonal months,” he said. “Getting vaccinated remains our best defense against the coronavirus.” The decline in hospitalizations has also resulted in a slowing of deaths related to COVID-19. Since Monday, Lee Health has reported five patient deaths due to the virus. The previous week, there were 71 COVID-19 deaths.

Sarasota-Manatee hospitals resume some elective procedures, a relief to many who have suffered” via Elizabeth Djinis of The Sarasota Herald-Tribune — As COVID-19 numbers soared and local hospitals filled with patients in August, many medical centers began postponing elective surgeries. Elective procedures at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota and Blake Medical Center are considered “those that can be safely delayed,” according to spokesperson Monica Yadav. Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System, Manatee Memorial Hospital, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Blake Medical Center and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center have all restarted at least some elective procedures.

— 2022 —

David Shor is telling Democrats what they don’t want to hear” via Ezra Klein of The New York Times — Biden’s agenda is in peril. Democrats hold a bare 50 seats in the Senate, which gives any member of their caucus the power to block anything they choose, at least in the absence of Republican support. But here’s the truly frightening thought for frustrated Democrats: This might be the high-water mark of power they’ll have for the next decade. That, at least, is what Shor thinks. If 2024 is simply a normal year, in which Democrats win 51% of the two-party vote, Shor’s model projects a seven-seat loss, compared with where they are now. First, educational polarization has risen sharply in recent years, particularly among white voters. The second problem Democrats face is the sharp decline in ticket-splitting, a byproduct of the nationalization of politics.

David Shor has a tough message for Democrats.

Charlie Crist corals two dozen South Florida endorsements” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Two dozen South Florida elected officials and community leaders are endorsing Crist for Governor, his campaign announced Thursday in Dania Beach with 18 of his new backers. “We need a bigger room to fit all the people endorsing Charlie Crist,” joked Steve Geller, Mayor of Broward County and a former state Senator. The endorsement span Broward County from Pompano Beach to Davie and Hallandale, and come from 12 of the county’s 31 municipalities. The latest round of endorsements adds to 66 elected officials and community leaders across the state who have already supported the Democratic candidate running to unseat incumbent DeSantis.

First on #FlaPol — “Ashley Moody raises $700K in first month of reelection bid” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Moody raised more than $700,000 in the first month of her official reelection campaign. Moody, who launched her bid for a second term on Sept. 1, raised $702,995 in September, increasing her head start as she looks toward 2022. The Republican Attorney General’s political committee, Friends of Ashley Moody, began September with more than $2 million on hand. Friends of Ashley Moody has now raised more than $7 million since it launched three years ago. Most of that flowed to the account in the lead-up to Moody’s 2018 win, but the account showed little activity after Election Day, raising $10,000 or so a month.

Blaise Ingoglia pulls in almost $218K in September” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — State records show Ingoglia’s September take includes $36,350 that went to his official campaign account, while his Government Gone Wild PAC raked in $93,000 and Friends of Blaise Ingoglia pulled in $88,250. Pull out expenses, and he maintains access to $1.65 million in cash on hand to support his Senate bid. The Spring Hill Republican in July filed to run in Senate District 10, though aware redistricting could substantially change jurisdictions. He’s reported significantly fundraising hauls each month since. His fundraising prowess comes from his stint as chair of the Republican Party of Florida from 2014 to 2018. He continues to chair the Hernando County Republican Executive Committee. Ingoglia has continued to run on a sharply conservative message.

First on #FlaPolKamia Brown racks up Senate endorsements: Lori Berman, Shevrin Jones, Vic Torres” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Brown received a lift to her Senate ambitions with critical endorsements from three sitting members of the upper chamber: Sens. Berman, Jones and Torres. Each is endorsing the Ocoee Democrat in the Senate District 11 contest. “I believe Kamia Brown would be an absolute asset in the Florida State Senate,” said Torres, a Kissimmee Democrat. “During her time as a Florida House Member, she has been a proven, positive leader in her community. That is why I am proud to endorse my friend, Kamia Brown, for Florida State Senate, District 11.” The timing of the endorsements comes days after Rep. Geraldine Thompson, herself a Senator from 2012 until 2016, jumped into the Democratic primary, making it a race.

—“Kathleen Passidomo, Joe Gruters show modest start for reelection. But what’s brewing statewide?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“Shane Abbott raises $16K in September for HD 5 campaign” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

—“Sean Shaw backs Lindsay Cross in HD 68 campaign” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

—“Will Robinson raises nearly $64K for HD 71 reelection campaign” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Hillary Cassel raises nearly $70K in September for HD 99 bid” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Cassel says she raised nearly $70,000 in September for her bid in House District 99 to replace outgoing House Democratic Co-Leader Jenne. The September haul marks Cassel’s best monthly fundraising total since March, which was her first full month as a candidate for the seat. “I’m humbled by the amount of support we received this past month. It’s yet another sign of our campaign’s momentum, which we’ve felt growing this entire year,” Cassel said in a written statement touting the September fundraising numbers.

Hillary Cassel posts a solid September.

—“Robin Bartleman raises more than $15K in September for HD 104 reelection run” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Daniel Perez nears $1.4M raised for unopposed HD 116 reelection as redistricting nears” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Republican-leaning voters in Palm Beach County turned against Donald Trump. Florida GOP unfazed.” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — In Palm Beach County, where Trump cast his ballot a year ago in his new home state, which he comfortably won, and where he remains zealously popular among the GOP base. But even as he trounced Biden in the Sunshine State, Trump’s margins in precincts comfortably won by predecessor Republican nominees either shrank or went underwater. Yet, in Florida, Republican voters have abandoned their party in the first eight months of 2021 at a faster clip than Democrats have bolted from their party: 67,462 registered Republicans in January are no longer with the GOP, compared with 55,998 who are former Democrats.


Biden, a convert to vaccine mandates, champions compliance” via Zeke Miller and Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press — Biden championed COVID-19 vaccination requirements, determined that the roughly 67 million unvaccinated American adults must get the shot even as he acknowledged that mandates weren’t his “first instinct.” Biden had ruled out such requirements before taking office in January, but they now are a tactic he feels forced into using by a stubborn slice of the public that has refused to be inoculated and has jeopardized the lives of others and the nation’s economic recovery. In the coming weeks, more than 100 million Americans will be subject to vaccine requirements ordered by Biden.

Urging compliance is preferable to mandates, Joe Biden says. Image via AP.

Long-COVID-19 concerns help fuel Biden administration’s broad vaccine booster push” via Stephanie Armour and Felicia Schwartz of The Wall Street Journal — Emerging data indicating that a small percentage of vaccinated people develop long-term COVID-19 is helping drive the Biden administration’s push to roll out boosters broadly. Breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people remain rare, and long COVID-19 cases are more common in unvaccinated people. Yet, some federal health regulators see the new data as a reason to offer boosters more widely in the coming weeks. Other health experts say most people don’t need the extra doses. So far, however, extra doses of Pfizer’s shot are cleared only for seniors and certain high-risk adults.

Anthony Fauci says fine to trick-or-treat this year” via The Associated Press — The government’s top infectious diseases expert says families can feel safe trick-or-treating outdoors this year for Halloween as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. decline, especially for those who are vaccinated. Dr. Fauci said it’s an important time of year for children, so “go out there” and “enjoy it.” He added that people wanting to enjoy Halloween on Oct. 31 should consider getting the shots for that “extra degree of protection” if they are not yet vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines so far have been approved for people 12 years and older. The FDA plans a meeting in late October to consider Pfizer’s request for emergency use authorization of its vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops have not yet complied with vaccine mandate as deadlines near” via Alex Horton of The Washington Post — Overall, the military’s vaccination rate has climbed since August, when Defense Department leaders, acting on a directive from Biden, informed the nation’s 2.1 million troops that immunization would become mandatory, exemptions would be rare, and those who refuse would be punished. Yet troops’ response has been scattershot. Combined, the Army Guard and Reserve comprise approximately 522,000 soldiers, roughly a quarter of the entire U.S. military, and they account for nearly 40% of the 62 service member deaths due to COVID-19. Barely 40% are fully vaccinated.

Millions of kids’ coronavirus shots ‘ready’ to go; initial doses to be shared on a population basis” via Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post — Within days of regulators clearing the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine for younger children, federal officials say they will begin pushing out as many as 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine to immunize school-age kids across the United States in a bid to control the coronavirus pandemic. The kickoff of the long-awaited children’s vaccination campaign is expected as soon as early November. And this time around, the government has purchased enough doses to give two shots to all 28 million eligible children ages 5 to 11. Still, federal and state officials and health providers say that vaccinating children is likely to be a more challenging process than it was for adults and teens.

At least 140K U.S. children have lost caregivers to COVID-19. Children of color have taken the brunt of it.” via Nada Hassanein of USA Today — At least 140,000 children across the U.S. have lost a primary or secondary caregiver to COVID-19. The study highlights the pandemic-driven childhood crisis and its disproportionate impact. Researchers found children of color account for 65% of children orphaned from COVID-19 through June. That’s more than 91,000 children of color, compared to 51,000 White children. Using the United Nations Children’s Fund definition of orphanhood, the study found 1 in every 310 Black children lost a primary or secondary caregiver, compared to 1 in every 753 White children.

Many caregivers were lost to COVID-19, people of color were hit particularly hard. Image via AP.

State leaders unmoved by college outrage over lax COVID-19 rules” via Daniel Payne of POLITICO — Kirstyn Katherine Ahuero, a 20-year-old Texas A&M student from Fort Worth, died on Sept. 8 from complications related to COVID-19. A few days later, about 50 A&M students gathered on campus to read her obituary out loud. Their protest is one of many taking place on campuses across the country as the political fault line over COVID-19 protocols that has cleaved red and blue states extends to colleges and universities, with some enacting strict virus protection more in line with CDC guidance — and others remaining lax.


Weak September jobs report underscores Fed’s misdiagnosis of delta variant’s toll on the economy” via Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post — The weak September jobs report offered the latest sign of the coronavirus pandemic’s hold on major sectors of the economy, conflicting with the type of recovery the Federal Reserve forecast back when the nation was entering its recent surge in cases. A growing number of economists and experts acknowledge that the nation’s top economic policymakers underestimated the delta variant’s threat to job growth, inflation, global supply chains, and people’s own comfort levels going into the fall.

Many underestimated the pandemic’s effect on unemployment. Image via AP.

The scariest part of Halloween this year is the supply chain” via Alex Janin of The Wall Street Journal — Shoppers seeking witches, ghosts and severed heads to decorate their homes for Halloween are finding something truly scary this year: empty shelves. The supply-chain snarls that have shaped much of life in the pandemic are now responsible for Halloween décor and costumes shortages. Consumers and suppliers alike are getting creative and planning ahead. Some retailers are splurging on airfreight to avoid the backlog of container ships at U.S. ports. Other smaller shops buy vintage or used masks, costumes, and other paraphernalia from local collectors. They’re also buying old inventory for stores that went out of business during the pandemic.


Moderna, racing for profits, keeps COVID-19 vaccine out of reach of poor” via Rebecca Robbins of The New York Times — About 1 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine have gone to countries that the World Bank classifies as low income. By contrast, 8.4 million Pfizer doses and about 25 million single-shot Johnson & Johnson doses have gone to those countries. Of the handful of middle-income countries that have reached deals to buy Moderna’s shots, most have not yet received any doses, and at least three have had to pay more than the United States or European Union did. The Biden administration has grown increasingly frustrated with Moderna for not making its vaccine more available to poorer countries. Moderna is now scrambling to defend itself against accusations that it is putting a priority on the rich.

Allen West, Texas GOP gubernatorial hopeful, has COVID-19” via The Associated Press — Tea Party firebrand West, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of Texas and a former Florida Congressman, said he has received monoclonal antibody injections after being diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia. The antibodies are used to treat those in the early stages of coronavirus infection. “My chest X-rays do show COVID pneumonia, not serious. I am probably going to be admitted to the hospital,” West wrote. “There’s a concern about my oxygen saturation levels, which are at 89, and they should be at 95.” He also said his wife, Angela West, also tested positive and has received monoclonal antibodies.

COVID-19 strikes Allen West. Image via AP.

GOP doc dispenses sketchy medical advice on virus immunity” via John Hanna of the Orlando Sentinel — Roger Marshall won’t let people forget he’s a doctor, putting “Doc” in the letterhead of his U.S. Senate office’s news releases. But when he talks about COVID-19 vaccines, some doctors and experts say the Kansas Republican sounds far more like a politician than a physician. He’s made statements about vaccines and immunity that defy both medical consensus and official U.S. government guidance. He’s aggressively fighting Biden’s vaccine requirements, arguing they’ll infringe on people’s liberties and wreck the economy. Critics say the lawmakers’ statements are dangerous and unethical and that Marshall’s medical degree confers a perception of expertise that carries weight with constituents and other members of Congress.

Traveling in Canada by plane or train? You’ll need to show proof of vaccination, starting Oct. 30” via Bailey Schulz of USA Today — Starting Oct. 30, the Canadian government will require all air travelers and passengers on interprovincial trains to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The new policy will affect all commercial air travelers, passengers on trains between provinces and cruise ship passengers. The government also requires employers in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors to establish vaccine mandates by Oct. 30. The vaccine requirement does not apply to travelers under 12. A short transition period will allow travelers who are in the process of getting vaccinated to board if they can show a molecular test within 72 hours of travel, but only through Nov. 30.

Restaurants spend big for upgraded outdoor dining with quicker service, elaborate décor for winter” via Alina Dizik of The Washington Post — Restaurant owners say they are better prepared this winter for the mass of pandemic-weary diners who still want an outdoor option. A year ago, restaurants threw together improvised tents, finicky propane heaters, and utilitarian patio furniture. Diners showed up, but even some who were eager for a safe way to dine felt like they were overpaying for a subpar experience. With more time to make arrangements, owners are making expensive bets on what diners want when temps go down. Some of them use the money to speed up service, add décor and invest in higher-quality permanent setups. Others are tweaking menus to offer warm, well-executed dishes and hot-themed drinks.


Biden faces shrinking timetable to salvage his agenda” via Jeff Stein and Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post — He faces daunting difficulties now that the recent dramas over his economic plans have left him just a few weeks to salvage his agenda, right his presidency and tackle problems that in some cases were years in the making. Democrats are pushing to pass his infrastructure bill by month’s end, following recent setbacks on Capitol Hill, along with a broad safety net package. The two bills include major climate provisions that Biden wants to tout at a global climate summit next month, and Democrats also want something to show Virginia’s voters before their Nov. 2 vote for Governor.

The clock is ticking for Joe Biden’s agenda. Image via AP.


Trump holds fast to his election lies as the GOP establishment hugs him tighter” via Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Nine months ago, Republicans were questioning Trump’s place as the lead fixture of their party. Saturday night provided the clearest evidence yet that they want him right there. Not one year removed from surviving a second impeachment, the former President rallied before thousands of his most loyal supporters across the Iowa state fairgrounds on a balmy Midwestern evening. He regaled them with his stories from the White House, his falsehoods and complaints about the 2020 election results, and his criticisms of the Biden administration on everything from immigration to the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a new Iowa rally, Donald Trump refuses to admit defeat. Image via CNN.

No. 2 House Republican refuses to say election wasn’t stolen” via Hope Yen of The Associated Press — Rep. Steve Scalise, repeatedly refused to say on Sunday that the 2020 election wasn’t stolen, standing by Trump’s lie that Biden won the White House because of mass voter fraud. More than 11 months after Americans picked their President and almost nine months since Biden was inaugurated, Scalise was unwilling during a national television interview to acknowledge the legitimacy of the vote, instead sticking to his belief that the election results should not have been certified by Congress. Scalise stated: “It’s not just irregularities. It states that did not follow the laws set which the Constitution says they’re supposed to follow.”

Report cites new details of Trump pressure on Justice Dept. over election” via Katie Benner of The New York Times — Even by the standards of Trump, it was an extraordinary Oval Office showdown. On the agenda was Trump’s desire to install a loyalist as acting attorney general to carry out his demands for more aggressive investigations into his unfounded election fraud claims. Trump’s proposed plan, White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued, would be a “murder-suicide pact,” Cipollone’s that night is among the new details contained in a lengthy interim report prepared by the Senate Judiciary Committee about Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to do his bidding in the chaotic final weeks of his presidency.

Republican Party leaders thrill thousands at American Freedom tour stop in Jacksonville” via Marilyn Parker of News4Jax — Thousands of people flocked to the Prime Osborn Convention Center for Day Two of the American Freedom Tour in Jacksonville. Donald Trump Jr., former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and other Republican Party leaders had the crowd surging with energy. Organizers said the goal of the two-day event was to promote a conservative agenda and protect America’s future. They said it meant a lot for them to have the tour make a stop in Jacksonville. Organizers said there was an emphasis on family, faith and unifying silenced voices.

Grifters gonna grift — “Corey Lewandowski demanded cash after MAGA-land kicked him to the curb” via Asawin Suebsaeng and Roger Sollenberger of the Daily Beast — Last week, Trump announced the exile of his confidant and former top campaign aide Lewandowski, with advisers banishing him from leading a major pro-Trump super PAC, following sexual misconduct allegations against the loyalist from a big GOP donor. Lewandowski, at first privately and then publicly through a lawyer, denied the details of the alleged incident. When that didn’t work, he resisted leaving. Lewandowski then subsequently settled on pitching Trumpworld a not-so-modest proposal: in exchange for his resignation, the super PAC and the pro-Trump team would pay him a large sum of money to go away.


Biden White House waives executive privilege for initial set of Trump-era documents sought by Jan. 6 panel” via Nicholas Wu, Kyle Cheney, Betsy Woodruff Swan, and Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — Biden will not invoke executive privilege to shield an initial set of records from Trump’s White House that’s being sought by congressional investigators probing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. “After my consultations with the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, President Biden has determined than an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the Documents,” wrote White House counsel Dana Remus in a letter to Archivist of the United States. Remus described the House Jan. 6 investigation as “unique and extraordinary,” justifying the decision to reject Trump’s request.

Donald Trump loses executive privilege for his involvement in the Jan. 6 riots.

Congress’ Jan. 6 investigators face an inevitable reckoning with their GOP colleagues” via Kyle Cheney and Olivia Beavers of POLITICO — As congressional investigators accelerate their probe of Trump’s 2020 election challenges that culminated on Jan. 6, one thing is clear: All roads run through a handful of their GOP colleagues. And getting those Republicans to testify could get ugly. The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has so far avoided directly roping in fellow lawmakers, even as it homes in on Trump’s inner circle. Yet each of its investigative steps so far has further underscored the roles that Trump’s staunchest House GOP allies played in his bid to throw out the election results.

‘The intelligence was there’: Law enforcement warnings abounded in the run-up to Jan. 6” via Betsy Woodruff Swan of POLITICO — On Dec. 24, a private intelligence company that works with law enforcement issued a grave warning: Users of a pro-Trump internet forum were talking about turning violent on Jan. 6. “[A] supposedly violent insurrection by [Trump’s] supporters has ‘always been the plan,’” read a briefing by that company, SITE Intelligence Group. SITE sent this bulletin and others to its numerous subscribers, including U.S. federal law enforcement. They bolster the argument that Jan. 6 was not an intelligence failure.

Pro-Trump social media influencer and speaker at Jan. 5 rally pleads guilty to disorderly conduct in Capitol riot” via Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post — A social media influencer who spoke at a pro-Trump rally in Washington on Jan. 5 pleaded guilty Wednesday to disorderly conduct during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Brandon Straka, 44, a former New York City hairstylist, admitted in plea papers to recording himself during the Capitol breach in front of a mobbed entrance, urging a crowd to wrest away a riot shield from a police officer and shouting: “Take it! Take it!” At another point, Straka stood behind a crowd of people trying to push their way in, yelling, “Go! Go!” Straka, who launched the #WalkAway social media campaign, promoted himself as a gay former liberal and has encouraged voters to leave the Democratic Party.


U.S. investigators increasingly confident directed-energy attacks behind Havana Syndrome” via Andrew Desiderio and Lara Seligman of POLITICO — The U.S. investigation into the mysterious illnesses impacting American personnel overseas and at home is turning up new evidence that the symptoms are the result of directed-energy attacks. Behind closed doors, lawmakers are also growing increasingly confident Russia, or another hostile foreign government is behind the suspected attacks, based on regular briefings from administration officials — although there is still no smoking gun linking the incidents to Moscow. “Hopefully, we’ll make some headway because it’s a problem that’s escalating,” Senate Intelligence Vice Chair Marco Rubio said. “This is not something that’s happened in the past — it’s something that’s happened and is ongoing.”

Marco Rubio wants answers about the ‘Havana syndrome.’ Image via AP.

Marco Rubio presses Bureau of Prisons for answers on rape scandal at Florida’s Coleman prison” via David Ovalle of The Miami Herald — Rubio is demanding answers from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons over the scandal involving the sexual abuse of female inmates by officers at Coleman federal prison. In a letter to the bureau’s director, Rubio said he is “deeply concerned” about the failure to protect inmates from sex abuse at Federal Correctional Complex Coleman in Sumter County. He also asked pointed questions about the facility’s handling of a recent audit to review how it handles rape behind bars. One of the inmates, Carleane Berman, died of a drug overdose after her release and her father has publicly pushed for criminal charges against the officers who raped her.

Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Rubio advising group pushing for GOP diversity” via Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press — The Republican State Leadership Committee launched its “Right Leaders Network” last week. Its goal is “prioritizing electing more women, as well as candidates from communities of color and diverse backgrounds.” The effort aims to use former state-level politicians who ascended to higher office to mentor up-and-coming GOP leaders. That is part of the reason for its advisory council, whose leadership includes Sens. Rubio and Tim Scott, as well as former U.N. Ambassador and ex-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Josh Gottheimer’s new legislative director was paid $60,000 to lobby for Qatar and once worked for DeSantis’s House office” via Bryan Metzger of Business Insider — Gottheimer announced Jordan Colvin‘s hiring as his new legislative director on Friday. Colvin worked in the office of then-Rep. DeSantis office from May 2015 until July 2016, during which time DeSantis put forward a bill with Sen. Ted Cruz to suspend refugee admissions from Syria, Iraq and other Muslim-majority countries. More recently, Colvin worked for the Embassy of Qatar in the United States, where she lobbied members of Congress on behalf of the authoritarian Gulf state. Colvin’s prior work for Qatar could be awkward for the Congressman; in 2018, he joined with DeSantis and several other Republican lawmakers in calling Al-Jazeera a “state-controlled propaganda arm” of Qatar and demanding the network be investigated and listed as a foreign agent.


Lakeland campaign mailer raises questions of Polk Sheriff Grady Judd’s mayoral endorsement” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Lakeland Ledger — A campaign mailer sent out to hundreds of Lakeland households raised questions about whether Polk County Sheriff Judd has endorsed challenger Saga Stevin over incumbent Bill Mutz for the city’s Mayor. The mailer sent to homes about a week ago by the Saga for Lakeland campaign, reads, “Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs, Sheriff Judd and County Commissioner Neil Combee with Stevin.” A picture of Stevin with Judd is centered between photos with Wiggs and Combee. Both the former Mayor and Polk Commissioner have openly voiced their support for Stevin. “There are two people on either side who do endorse her,” Mayor Mutz said. “It was intentionally created to infer endorsement.”

Both sides of the Lakeland Mayor’s race are suggesting an endorsement from Grady Judd.

Vickie Cartwright asked to be named permanent Broward Schools superintendent” via Chris Perkins and Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Cartwright, who was selected in July to serve as the interim superintendent for Broward County Public Schools, could be appointed as permanent superintendent during Tuesday’s school board meeting. A request by School Board member Nora Rupert to make the change was added late Friday night to the agenda. “In her short time with Broward County Public Schools, she has performed incredibly well under crazy, tense events,” Rupert said. When Cartwright was hired, a provision prevented her, as interim superintendent, from applying to become permanent superintendent.

Brightline planning 320-mile Florida passenger rail route from Miami to Tampa by 2028” via Rick Neale of Florida Today — By 2028, Brightline hopes to launch higher-speed passenger train service along an $8 billion, 320-mile rail network stretching from Miami to Orlando to Tampa Bay. “We are challenging the way that we move between city to city. We are challenging the automobile,” said Mike Cegelis, Brightline executive vice president of infrastructure. Passenger service is expected to begin in early 2023 on the privately held company’s $2.7 billion extension linking South Florida with Orlando International Airport, which leads through Brevard County. Cegelis said crews have worked 4.3 million man-hours on this 169-mile project thus far, and more than 1,300 workers are on the job. Work is 63% complete.

‘A long night’: Five people injured in three overnight Tallahassee shootings” via Jeff Burlew and William L. Hatfield of the Tallahassee Democrat — Overnight gunfire in Tallahassee left five people injured in three separate shootings over an eight-hour stretch. The Tallahassee Police Department is investigating all three shootings, two of which occurred at or near Tallahassee landmarks. The bloodshed began at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, with a shooting at Griffin Heights Apartments on Basin Street. Responding officers found a man shot outside the complex. He was taken to a hospital with serious injuries. The next shooting happened five and a half hours later, around 2 a.m. Sunday, near Pasco and Liberty streets, about a block from Bragg Stadium. One of the shootings, which left the girl and two adult men injured, happened around 4:30 a.m. Sunday at Cascades Park.

It was a violent night in Tallahassee.

Walton County customary use case: Is it constitutional?” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Attorneys for some of the 1,194 Walton County homeowners whose properties would be affected by a declaration of customary use said they will challenge the constitutionality of the Florida Supreme Court’s “judicial adoption” of the doctrine at whatever court will allow them to do so. Attorney Eric Krebs argued on behalf of Walton County for the dismissal of two motions. Krebs said since the state Supreme Court issued a ruling in the 1974 Tona-Rama case that defined customary use as it applied to this state’s beaches, the high court would be the only judicial entity that could declare it unconstitutional.

What Fred Karlinsky is reading — “St. Regis project on Longboat Key to lift Sarasota’s national profile once complete” via Derrek Gillam of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The project’s development plans weigh well over a hundred pounds. The legal fees total well over seven digits. And the total cost could eventually come in well over half a billion dollars. Nevertheless, the St. Regis Residences and Hotel could break ground as soon as the end of this month, bringing with it a boost in the national profile for the entire region — not to mention the revival of a local property. The Colony, that once drew the President of the United States, as well as numerous other celebrities.


After Casey DeSantis’ breast cancer diagnosis, hope for recovery and adjustment of Florida policies” via The Palm Beach Post editorial board — The news of Casey DeSantis’ diagnosis leaves many who’ve looked to her as a role model apprehensive. At the same time, it stirs hope that her circumstances will stir Florida leaders, her husband first among them, to adjust their policies to help others of lesser means. In leaving billions of federal Medicaid expansion dollars on the table, Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott before him have let tens of thousands of vulnerable, lower-income Floridians go unprotected in ways they would not deign to abandon their own families. We hope that among the many people Casey DeSantis inspires during her breast cancer battle will be her husband, to finally expand Medicaid and give poorer women access to lifesaving breast cancer screenings.


Democrats, you’re in danger” via Charles Blow of The New York Times — I believe that the Democrats will have no choice but to pass something, no matter the size, because the consequence of failure is suicide. Democrats must go into the midterms with something that they can call a win, with something that at least inches closer to the transformations Biden has promised. But the budget isn’t the only issue. There is still a crisis at the border. But even if they succeed in passing both the infrastructure framework and the social spending bill, those investments may come too late to discharge growing dissatisfaction. An unpopular President with slipping approval numbers is an injured leader will little political capital to burn. Biden is better than Trump, but that’s not enough.

So, Florida schools need feds’ $2.3 billion, after all? We thought so, DeSantis” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Until Wednesday, Florida was the only state in the nation leaving billions of federal COVID-19 relief dollars for education on the table. The reason? School districts didn’t express a desire for that money. That happened because “No district has articulated a need for funding that cannot be met with currently available resources,” DeSantis’ spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said. The narrative pushed by the Governor didn’t hold water in Florida’s largest school district in Miami-Dade. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said that public schools need that money in one of the counties hardest hit by COVID-19. He added that officials from many districts asked the Florida Department of Education during several routine calls when the application process for the funds would begin.

A newspaper tries to make ends meet by asking for donations in honor of its reporters” via Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post — The unconventional fundraising effort organized to benefit the Tampa Bay Times feels at times like a sort of Yelp for journalism, with the campaign’s website gathering testimonials for its journalists that are the equivalent of 5-star ratings. The “It’s Your Times” drive allows philanthropic-minded readers to honor individual journalists with their donations. The campaign, which ends Friday, aims to raise $173,000, the equivalent of one week’s newsroom budget. The Tampa Bay Times, which has about 120 newsroom employees, recently scaled back production of its printed newspaper to two days a week and received an $8.5 million Paycheck Protection Act loan, a coronavirus bailout measure intended to help businesses hit by the pandemic.


Activist Meade is finally granted the restoration of his own civil rights.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

The economy is showing some signs of emerging from the drag of the delta variant, but the modest job gains aren’t enough for Sen. Scott.

And with the help of funds from the federal government, Gov. DeSantis marked the third anniversary of Hurricane Michael making landfall in Northwest Florida.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

Florida is the original home of national restaurant chains” via The Associated Press — The Whopper was born here. So was the Bloomin’ Onion. Anyone who has made then savored Reb Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits at home can thank the Florida original. A state known for its famous cartoon mouse, pristine beaches, and wild animal stories also served as the birthplace of some of the more popular restaurant and fast-food chains in the U.S. and beyond. Here are stories behind the more popular restaurants that originated in Florida.

Florida is the first home of The Whopper. Image via AP.

Monkey Island attraction getting a major makeover” via Nancy Kennedy of the Citrus County Chronicle — The primate residents of Monkey Island at the Florida Cracker Riverside Resort in Homosassa are getting an extreme makeover of their home that’s in need of repair. Thanks to the partnership between the nonprofit group Historic Monkey Island, Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative and the community, the monkeys’ new home will include air conditioning and heat, a new playground to keep them entertained and in tiptop shape and barriers around the island to protect them from overzealous kayakers and boaters. “They need a new home, a better home, so we formed this board a year ago,” said HMI board member Matt Lowman.

To celebrate 30 years, Halloween Horror Nights ups the terror game” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights are celebrating some dark milestones this year. On the event’s 30th anniversary, “We have more masks than we’ve ever had before,” said Charles Gray, the senior show director for Entertainment Creative Development at Universal Orlando Resort. Universal’s sculpting team worked from a backstage building and created 95 new masks from scratch — about 35% more from 2019. (Universal also recreated another 46 masks from old molds from past years.) They turned the clay into something terrifying, like a creature with multiple sets of eyes and a set of jaws that would make an alligator jealous.


Belated best wishes to state Rep. Ben Diamond, Clayton Clemens, Keyna Cory, Mike Grissom of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, Dave Mica, Jared Ross, Barry Rubin, Tia Mitchell, and Ron Watson. Celebrating today are Joni Branch of the Florida Education Association, Tom Derzypolski, co-founder of BowStern Marketing Communications, Kim McKeel, the legendary Lucy Morgan, and Anissa Raiford.


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.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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