Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.4.21

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Who's up, down, in and out — your morning tipsheet on Florida politics.

So, you think your vote doesn’t count, right?

Candidates in Florida’s 20th Congressional District will disagree with you.

The top two candidates in Tuesday’s Democratic primary to fill the seat of the late Alcee Hastings were separated by a mere dozen votes out of 49,002 that were cast in the 11-candidate race.

Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness had 11,644 votes to 11,632 for progressive activist Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick. The other nine candidates in the field were far behind.

Your vote doesn’t count? A dozen votes may decide the CD 20 race.

That total is likely to change in the coming days, but either way, it appears to be well within the margin to trigger a recount in this heavily Democratic district.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that Broward County has 14 provisional ballots and about 20 mail ballots with signature defects. Broward also sent 553 ballots overseas, but only 27 have been returned. The deadline for the overseas ballots to arrive is Nov. 12.

That’s a lot of variables in a race this close.

Holness, a fixture for years in Broward politics, is generally considered a moderate. Cherfilus-McCormick, however, is unabashedly progressive.

She blanketed local television with ads promising $1,000 a month to people making less than $75,000 a year. She proposed to pay for the program by raising taxes on corporations.

Even if she wins this election, that idea has less than an ice cube’s chance on the surface of the Sun of becoming reality. It did, however, make enough of a splash to get her this far in the battle to succeed Hastings, an icon in South Florida politics.

The winner advances to the General Election on Jan. 11 against Republican Jason Mariner.

Big money overpowers apathy in a flawed special election” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Nine votes. For now, that’s all that separates the two top Democratic finishers in a special election in South Florida’s 20th Congressional District. The outcome is not yet clear, but this much seems certain: Holness or Cherfilus-McCormick is headed to Capitol Hill in January to take the place of the late Rep. Hastings in an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Democrats had an unusually large field of 11 candidates to choose from, but most voters, unimpressed or disinterested, skipped the race and stayed home. At times, it seemed there were more candidates than voters. The two finalists are flawed in very different ways, and the unofficial results reaffirm the influence of big money in a low-turnout election.


—@AshleyMoodyFL: Congratulations to @GlennYoungkin, @WinsomeSears and @JasonMiyaresVA! Virginians have chosen freedom and said no to big government. Florida stands with you, and I look forward to working together.

@CharlieCrist: Americans made their voices heard yesterday and we have one year to roll up our sleeves and get to work. I’m running for Governor because Floridians deserve and demand results — better jobs, lower prices, and schools where students and teachers thrive.

@JimmyPatronis: The woke-defund the police crowd just got a gut check this evening, and I love it! People love police because they want to live in safe communities. Simple as that. #BackTheBlue

@RepGregSteube: The voters in Minnesota have spoken and have rejected the radical and dangerous Defund the Police movement. Inhibiting law enforcement only exacerbates crime rates and puts public safety at risk.

@michaelgwaltz: The American people have spoken — and now Dems are reintroducing the SALT tax provisions that will give tax breaks to the top 5% of earners in high tax states in the Northeast (aka their political donors). So much for Biden’s plan to tax the rich.

@BenDiamondFL: “The news comes days after Roger Stone threatened to challenge (Ron) DeSantis if he didn’t conduct an election audit.” This should tell you everything you need to know about the Governor’s latest anti-voter proposal.

@JaredEMoskowitz: Get stuff done. It’s that simple.

@sparksjls: If I was the Democratic Party, I would simply pass the bills that are wildly popular and will improve folks’ lives and then run on them the next election.

@fineout: Meanwhile, @FLSecofState Laurel Lee — has launched a new page dedicated to election integrity that says the 2020 election was “accurate and transparent” in Fla. Page says dept. got 262 fraud complaints in 2020, forwarded 71 to authorities

@OWillis: Too many liberals think running ads is the whole ballgame. If it were, Michael Bloomberg would have been the nominee last year

@RosemaryOHara14: I recently donated to @UF and was discussing a legacy gift. Today, I requested @PresidentFuchs remove my name from all fundraising databases. I am appalled by his decision to prohibit paid faculty testimony in #Florida’s election law case. His explanation is beneath his office.


The Blue Angels 75th anniversary show — 1; Disney’s ’Eternals’ premieres — 1; ’Yellowstone’ Season 4 begins — 2; ’Disney Very Merriest After Hours’ will debut — 4; U.S. to lift restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers — 4; Miami at FSU — 6; ‘Hawkeye’ premieres — 10; Special Session on vaccine mandates begins — 11; ExcelinEd National Summit on Education begins — 14; FSU vs. UF — 23; Florida Chamber 2021 Annual Insurance Summit begins — 25; Jacksonville special election to fill seat vacated by Tommy Hazouri’s death — 33; Steven Spielberg’s ’West Side Story’ premieres — 36; ’Spider-Man: No Way Home’ premieres — 43; ’The Matrix: Resurrections’ released — 48; ’The Book of Boba Fett’ premieres on Disney+ — 55; CES 2022 begins — 62; NFL season ends — 66; 2022 Legislative Session starts — 68; Florida’s 20th Congressional District Election — 68; Special Elections in Senate District 33, House District 88 & 94 — 68; Florida TaxWatch’s 2022 State of the Taxpayer Day — 69; Joel Coen’s ’The Tragedy of Macbeth’ on Apple TV+ — 71; NFL playoffs begin — 72; XXIV Olympic Winter Games begins — 92; Super Bowl LVI — 101; Daytona 500 — 108; St. Pete Grand Prix — 115; ‘The Batman’ premieres — 121; ’Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 184; ’Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 204; ’Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 210; ’Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 246; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 258; ’Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 337; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 365; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 372; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 407; ‘Captain Marvel 2’ premieres — 470; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 624. ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 715; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 995.


All politics is … — “The Democrat shouted ‘Trump, Trump, Trump!’ But that’s not what voters wanted to hear” via Nolan Finley of the Miami Herald — Democrat Terry McAuliffe ran a nationally focused campaign, centered on constantly raising the specter of Donald Trump and the Capitol riot. But this election was about local issues, or in this case, about how the Democrats’ national woke agenda impacted people at the local level. McAuliffe had a comfortable lead. And then school started. Parents angry and frustrated about mask mandates and race-based curricula forced on their children started packing school board meetings. Their anger crystallized when Attorney General Merrick Garland sicced the FBI on parents who spoke out at the meetings, labeling them domestic terrorists. Instead of stepping away from that obvious land mine, McAuliffe jumped on it. He made one of the most suicidal comments ever by a politician when he declared: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Parents were not willing to hand over their children to the state and walk away.

Terry McAuliffe went national when voters wanted to stay local. Image via AP.

It turns out that the GOP can be energized without Donald Trump” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — It didn’t take long for Trump to take credit for Youngkin’s victory in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. At 9 p.m., before most outlets had called the race, Trump’s political action committee released a statement on his behalf, thanking his “BASE for coming out in force” to support Youngkin. After all, without him on the ballot, Republicans got wiped out in 2018, in part because Republicans weren’t as motivated as Democrats to vote. In every one of Virginia’s 133 counties and cities, Youngkin outperformed Trump’s 2020 margins. Part of that is almost certainly that 2020 Joe Biden was more appealing than 2021 McAuliffe. But part of it, too, was that Youngkin managed to have broader appeal than Trump himself.

Joe Biden says Virginia race wasn’t blowback against him” via Colleen Long and Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press — Biden said Wednesday the Democrats’ setbacks in Tuesday’s elections underscore that the Party needs to “produce for the American people,” but he pushed back against the notion that the off-year election results were a repudiation of his presidency. Biden suggested that his inability to get Congress to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure deal and a $1.75 trillion package of social and climate programs ahead of the voting didn’t make a difference. “I think we should have passed it before Election Day, “ Biden said. ”But I’m not sure that I would have been able to change” people’s minds in Republican-leaning areas either way. He added that “people are upset and uncertain about a lot of things,” including the pandemic, the job market, and the price of gasoline.

The 2021 backlash was far bigger than the 2017 backlash against Trump” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Neither Virginia nor New Jersey are yet done counting votes from Tuesday’s General Election. A lot can still change. But what we already know suggests that both states saw voters shift to the right dramatically — far more than they shifted to the left in 2017 in response to Trump’s election. This is obvious at the state level, of course. Biden won both states by double-digit margins. The gubernatorial results in each state suggest a shift of a bit more than 10 points. In 2017, both states elected Democrats after supporting Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016. The shifts to the left then were much more modest: a bit under four points in Virginia and a negligible amount in New Jersey.

A sobering reality hits Democrats after election losses” via Dan Balz of The Washington Post — Youngkin’s victory over McAuliffe in Virginia’s gubernatorial Election was not a total surprise. But the full impact of the loss in a state that Biden won by 10 points just 12 months ago, along with a far closer gubernatorial race than anyone expected in New Jersey, which Biden won by 16 points, triggered alarms across the Party. Next year, the entire Democratic Party will face the voters, with Republicans more confident than ever that they have the issues, whether education, inflation or the border, as well as the strategy and a strong tail wind to drive Democrats from power in the House and Senate. How quickly Democrats absorb Tuesday’s results and begin to respond will determine how well they can hold down expected losses in 2022.

The Democratic unraveling began with schools” via Zachary D. Carter of The Atlantic — Youngkin’s victory was about schools. It wasn’t about Trump, inflation, defunding the police, Medicare for All, or Biden’s infrastructure agenda. It wasn’t really about critical race theory or transgender rights — though those issues shaded the situation a bit by highlighting anxieties surrounding the education system. Fundamentally, the contest was about schools — specifically, how many parents remain frustrated by how public schools have handled the coronavirus pandemic. Whether the Virginia results translate to other states will depend on how schools in those states reacted to the spread of COVID-19 and whether a major national issue can take the place of these local frustrations in voters’ minds.

Florida Republicans giddy about 2022 as Democrats struggle in Virginia, New Jersey” via Alex Daugherty and Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Miami Herald — U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, doughnut in hand on Wednesday morning, smiled as he described election night as his “Super Bowl.” The Miami Republican saw his Party flip the high-profile Virginia Governor’s race and nearly score a major gubernatorial upset in New Jersey — and the GOP performed well in competitive down-ballot races across the country, including a Black woman Lt. Gov. in Virginia and a Cuban American Attorney General who is on the verge of winning in the same state. The major takeaway for Díaz-Balart? Voters rejected government control. “The American people don’t welcome, never bought into this agenda of the government running everybody’s lives,”

It was Super Bowl Tuesday for Mario Díaz-Balart. Image via AP.

Reeling Democrats see threat to House and Senate control as Republicans crack their 2020 coalition” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Democrats reeling from the Party’s showing on Tuesday night were sharply critical of its direction and agenda, concluding it threatens to devastate their efforts to hold on to the House and Senate next year much as it dragged down this year’s candidates. There were also repudiations of liberal efforts in varied races, including in Minneapolis, where voters spurned an attempt to replace the police department with a comprehensive safety agency. The circumstances in the two governor’s races all but confirmed the collapse of the coalition that propelled Democrats to power during the Trump administration and Biden to the presidency in 2020.


Ron DeSantis proposes law enforcement office in ‘election integrity’ follow-up” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — DeSantis hopes to create an election-fraud investigation office as part of another proposed election law package, the follow-up to legislation currently facing legal challenges. During a rally in West Palm Beach on Wednesday, the morning after Election Day, the Governor told supporters he seeks another “election integrity” measure. DeSantis’ proposal includes establishing a statewide law enforcement office to investigate and prosecute election crimes and fraud. The Governor complained that local law enforcement offices don’t always enforce election crimes because of apathy, workload, or lack of experience. “If someone’s ballot harvesting, you report it to these people, and this is their sole job,” DeSantis said.

Ron DeSantis wants to call the ‘election police.’ Image via AP.

Princeton legal scholar advises UF to back off restricting professors in suit against state” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — A free-speech legal scholar from Princeton University told Florida’s top public university administrators Wednesday he believes the University of Florida should allow its professors to weigh in on any litigation regardless of whether they would be paid and regardless if it’s against the state, saying to do otherwise would impinge on their First Amendment rights. “I urge universities here in Florida and the University of Florida to get this controversy behind it as quickly as possible by simply interpreting the conflicts [of interest] in a way that do not distinguish paid or unpaid, and would give broad permission to testify as to what you are in fact an expert on,” Robert George, a prominent Princeton professor of politics and conservative legal scholar, said.

Gabriella Passidomo nomination passes first Senate panel” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A Senate panel gave the first OK Tuesday for Passidomo to serve on the Public Service Commission. Among those casting yea-votes was Passidomo’s mother. Passidomo is the daughter of Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican who is the Senate President-designate and who sits on the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, the panel that heard Gabriella Passidomo’s confirmation on Tuesday. DeSantis appointed Gabriella Passidomo to be a Commissioner in May, selecting her from a pool of nine applicants. The position pays nearly $136,000 per year.

Beach smoking change clears first Senate committee” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An effort to make more Florida beaches cigarette-free cleared its first Senate committee Wednesday morning. The Senate Community Affairs Committee voted unanimously to advance legislation (SB 224) to allow cities and counties the right to regulate smoking in public beaches and parks. Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, has pushed for years to give that right back to local governments. He noted his home community of Sarasota previously had a ban on smoking on the beach, but a lawsuit in 2013 made clear the right to regulate smoking lays firmly with the state. He noted many beach rankings, including the Florida International University-based Dr. Beach annual listings, give points for beaches remaining smoke-free. “There’s no reason we can’t get those points and be No. 1 year after year,” Gruters said.

Joe Gruters wants forced vaccinations out of Florida law” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Amid an emergency, Florida’s Department of Health can mandate citizens receive vaccines. Sen. Gruters wants that ability taken away. The Sarasota Republican on Tuesday filed legislation (SB 734) removing any language about vaccines or vaccinations from powers in a public health emergency. It’s an identical bill to House legislation (HB 6009) filed in August by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Howey-in-the-Hills Republican, that still awaits an agenda in the House Pandemics and Public Emergencies Committee. Florida law today allows broad powers to demand citizens receive medical attention during a pandemic. Gruters’ bill only impacts the ability to require individuals to receive vaccinations. The only change to the relevant statute, at least as the bill is written today, is to remove five mentions of vaccines.

Senate bill would slash mandates at nursing homes” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Nursing home residents could have the time spent with licensed nurses reduced by more than 113% under a proposal filed by Sen. Ben Albritton. Skilled nursing facilities currently are required to provide residents with 3.6 hours of licensed nursing care per day, of which 2.5 hours can be provided by a certified nursing assistant. SB 804 would reduce the 3.6-hour nursing care requirement to one hour. And in place of the 2.5 hours of CNA care, Albritton’s bill would allow nursing home facilities to provide what is called 2.5 hours of “direct care,” instead. AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson told Florida Politics Wednesday the bill all but removes the “nursing” requirement from Florida’s nursing homes and that his association opposes the measure.

So far, Texas-style abortion bill in Florida seems headed nowhere in the Legislature” via Issac Morgan of Florida Phoenix — It’s been nearly two months since Texas began enforcing the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the nation. A few weeks later, a copycat bill landed in the Florida Legislature. Like the Texas version, the measure would ban abortions after about six weeks and rely on private citizens to enforce it by suing individuals helping women secure abortion services. But since state Rep. Webster Barnaby filed HB 167 on Sept. 22, no companion bill has appeared in the Florida Senate. Barnaby’s bill has been routed to the House’s Professions & Public Health Subcommittee but hasn’t come up yet. Barnaby remains the lone sponsor. Meanwhile, two powerful Republicans have expressed opposition to relying on private citizens, rather than public officials, to enforce any abortion ban.

—”Lawmakers propose bill to support students with epilepsy” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics

Dana Trabulsy files bill to include history of African American cemeteries in public schools” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Trabulsy Tuesday filed legislation to encourage Florida public schools to teach children the history of local African American cemeteries. The bill would add one sentence to the existing Florida statute on the teaching of African American history. “Members of the instructional staff are encouraged to include the history of local African American cemeteries in the study of the history of African Americans when practicable,” the sentence reads. The bill comes after the 2019 discovery of a forgotten African American cemetery beneath a Tampa Heights neighborhood. That find spurred the search and eventual discovery of more African American cemeteries around Tampa Bay and Florida.

Dana Trabulsy wants Florida students to learn about African American cemeteries. Image via Colin Hackley.

Lawmakers briefed on state contractor audit” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel updated lawmakers Wednesday on the progress of a sweeping financial audit targeting hundreds of state contractors. DeSantis ordered the audit in February 2020 after news reports revealed exorbitant payouts to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence leadership. The audit called for a review of three categories: organizations with a public-private agreement with a state agency, organizations that receive 50% of funding from the state or federal government, and contracted organizations that exceed leadership compensation limits. In all, state agencies are locked into a sole-source, public-private agreement with 166 unique agencies. Another 561 entities, meanwhile, receive 50% or more of their budget from the state or from a combination of state and federal funds.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Robert Beck, PinPoint Results: University Area Community Development Corporation

Charles Chapman IV, C4 Strategies: Florida League of Cities

Carlecia Collins, GrayRobinson: STEPS

William Johnson, Aeropandion: Melbourne Orlando International Airport

Lori Killinger, Kasey Lewis, Chris Lyon, Lewis Longman & Walker: Shef

Victoria Price: Florida Public Utilities

David Ramba, Evan Power, Cameron Yarbrough, Ramba Consulting Group: Lakeport Water Association, Petland

Lisa Saliba: Department of Transportation

Lauren Trevathan, Capitol Alliance Group: League of Women Voters of Florida

Stephen Winn, Stephen R. Winn and Associates: Union County Sheriff’s Office

Legislative committee meeting schedule:

— The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee meets for an update on the state’s pretrial release system, 9 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee meets for an update on the “livable communities” initiative by AARP and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, 11 a.m., Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

— The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee meets to discuss electronic textbooks, 11 a.m., Room 404 of the House Office Building.

— The Joint Legislative Budget Commission meets to discuss budget-related changes, 11:30 a.m., Room 412 of the Knott Building.

Farewell — The family of former Rep. Bill Hager invites you to celebrate his life on Thursday, Nov. 18. Hager, who served Florida House District 87 from 2010 to 2018, died Wednesday in North Dakota. He was 74. Before winning a House seat, Hager served on the Boca Raton City Council from 2002 to 2009 and was Deputy Mayor from 2004 to 2005. Before coming to Florida, Hagar was Iowa Assistant Attorney General from 1975 to 1976, the first Deputy Commissioner for the Iowa Insurance Department for the subsequent two years, and Iowa Insurance Commissioner from 1986 until 1990, when he moved to Boca Raton. The Celebration of Life begins at 6 p.m., Advent Lutheran Church, 300 E. Yamato Road, Boca Raton.


Florida COVID-19 update: 1,804 cases added to tally; hospitalizations still on the decline” via Devoun Cetoute of the Miami Herald — Florida reported 1,804 COVID-19 cases and no new deaths on Tuesday. The Florida Department of Health will most likely add more deaths to Tuesday’s total, increasing it from zero. The state has done this in the past when it has added cases and deaths to previous days during the pandemic. In all, Florida has recorded at least 3,654,441 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 59,499 deaths. On average, the state has added 81 deaths and 1,607 cases per day in the past seven days. There were 1,865 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida. COVID-19 patients take up 3.43% of all inpatient beds in the latest report’s hospitals, compared to 3.51% in the previous day’s reporting hospitals.

Children’s COVID-19 vaccines are arriving in Florida. Schools will have them next week. Here’s how parents can make appointments.” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — COVID-19 vaccine supply for children will be plentiful in South Florida, with pharmacies, hospitals and even local schools announcing they all plan to offer the shots. The demand for children’s COVID-19 vaccines is high: The initial rush started Wednesday with parents making appointments to get their young children ages 5 to 11 vaccinated. Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens allowed parents to make appointments online for slots beginning on Saturday. And by midmorning, many of the weekend times were filled. Through its partnership with the Florida Department of Health in Broward, Broward County Public Schools will make vaccines available to children 5 to 11 at district elementary and middle schools as early as next week.

It’s time for the kids! Image via AP.

Broward teachers got their shots, and a bonus, too” via Brooke Baitinger of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Most of Broward County’s public school teachers and district staff received their COVID-19jabs with a $250 bonus as a reward. Almost 19,000 employees qualified for the vaccine incentive in total — 10,716 teachers and 8,278 non-teachers. That’s nearly 75% of the district’s teachers and 68% of district staff. The School Board offered the bonus to encourage all 27,989 employees to get vaccinated. The incentive was available to any employee who received a vaccine by Oct. 20. The numbers were not broken down by school or grade. The incentive money adds up to about $4.7 million.

‘We’re losing kids’: Monroe County School District concerned about truancy” via Charlotte Twine of Keys Weekly — At the Oct. 12 and Oct. 16 Monroe County School Board meetings, board members and staff said that they are concerned about students’ “chronic absenteeism” and truancy. The staff is actively taking steps to address the problem. “I’m concerned because we’re losing kids” to truancy, said Board Member Mindy Conn at the Oct. 12 meeting. Mike Henriquez coordinates the alternative education department and works on student attendance and truancy for the school district. He explained that the difference between a child who is “chronically absent” and a child who is “truant” is that a truant child has had 15 unexcused absences within 90 days and therefore has been “flagged” for a more formal process.

A place to reset: Teacher wellness lounges installed in some schools” via Brett Shweky of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hoping to provide a way for teachers to de-stress during work, the American Heart Association recently installed wellness lounges for staff at seven schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties. In the program’s inaugural year, Nob Hill (Sunrise), Tamarac, Peters (Plantation), Lauderhill Paul Turner and Colbert (Hollywood) elementary schools were selected in Broward County, while Indian Pines Elementary (Lake Worth) and Royal Palm Beach High School were chosen in Palm Beach County. Acknowledging the challenges teachers and school staff faced over the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Heart Association made the wellness lounges possible with the help of its Heart Walk sponsor, Cleveland Clinic.

— 2022 —

DeSantis says Republican ‘wave’ is building in 2022, will be bigger than 2010” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis joined Fox and Friends Wednesday after what he described as a Republican wave in off-year gubernatorial elections in Virginia and potentially New Jersey. DeSantis, who likes to say he’s “standing in the way” of the Biden administration, exulted as Tuesday night’s vote showed that message resonated even in states that were decidedly pro-Biden a year before, and that historically perform Democratic. He predicted a historic wave election next year. “And if you go back to the 2010 wave that Republicans had, I think there’s more dissatisfaction with what’s going on now in D.C. today than there was this time in that election cycle. And that is good news for Republicans. And that is bad news for Joe Biden and his regime,” DeSantis added.

DeSantis goes on the offensive: ‘I’ve only begun to fight’” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — DeSantis embarked on a conservative crusade Wednesday, rallying supporters against Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, news media, Silicon Valley and more. “I’ve only begun to fight in the State of Florida!” DeSantis exclaimed to a cheering West Palm Beach crowd. DeSantis blasted Fauci and Silicon Valley’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Big Tech, he argued, is censoring the truth about the Wuhan Institute of Virology. DeSantis also bashed Fauci over reports detailing the mistreatment of puppies during experiments funded by the infectious disease doctor. In one instance, a Fauci-led agency funded research allowing scientists to force-feed experimental drugs into 44 beagle puppies before killing and dissecting them.

The gloves are coming off. Image via AP.

DeSantis embraces ‘Let’s Go, Brandon’ chant meant as a vulgar insult of Biden” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis embraced a viral chant meant as a vulgar insult of Biden and had a protester tossed out during an official event that turned into a campaign rally at the West Palm Beach airport Wednesday. At an event to announce his desire for more election law changes, DeSantis referred to Biden as “Brandon,” a reference to the viral “Let’s Go, Brandon” chant popularized in conservative media. The chant is code for “F*** Joe Biden,” and stems from a reporter at a NASCAR event saying during a TV interview with driver Brandon Brown that the “F*** Joe Biden” chant heard in the background was the crowd saying, “Let’s Go, Brandon.”

Happening tonight:

Democrat Tahitiana Muñoz-Chaffin challenging Fred Hawkins in HD 42” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Muñoz-Chaffin, a St. Cloud real estate agent with a background in law enforcement, is challenging Republican Rep. Hawkins in House District 42. Muñoz-Chaffin ran unsuccessfully last year for the Osceola County Commission. In many ways her new quest for HD 42 is a continuation of that effort, pursuing what she said are critical needs for infrastructure resources throughout the district, from road expansions to water quality, as well as commitments to affordable housing and emergency services support. Hawkins represented Osceola County Commission District 5 before he was elected in 2020 to represent HD 42.

Palm Beach County seeks to create a Hispanic-majority Commission district” via Hannah Morse of the Palm Beach Post — A Hispanic-majority County Commission district is just on the horizon in Palm Beach County. After deliberating over two proposed draft maps to redraw the boundaries of the county’s seven districts on Tuesday, Commissioners signaled support for a map that may see the population of District 3, currently represented by Mayor Dave Kerner, become 50.21% Hispanic. In this proposal, all the Commission districts will geographically stretch in some places and contract in others. But the ones set to go through likely the biggest transformations are Districts 2 and 3, the former’s seat held by Commissioner Gregg Weiss.


Why was the COVID-19 death toll so high at some veterans’ homes?” via Tiffany Stanley of The Washington Post — Across the country, state veterans’ homes were among the most dangerous long-term-care facilities during the pandemic. More than 145 veterans died in two homes in New Jersey. One hundred and twenty-one at a New York home. Dozens more in Hawaii, Illinois and Oklahoma. Seventy-six veterans died in one Massachusetts facility, where two officials were later indicted on still-pending charges of criminal neglect. The country’s 160 state veterans’ homes are not run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, despite the fact that they are the largest institutional long-term-care provider for veterans.

COVID-19 is slamming veterans’ homes. Why? Image via USA Today.

Did COVID-19 change how we dream?” via Brooke Jarvis of The New York Times — Analysis of the dreams that followed the Sept. 11 attacks found that the aftermath affected Dreamers differently. First responders and survivors often dreamed realistic versions of the trauma they had experienced, but even people who had merely watched the attacks on television experienced a surge of anxiety dreams and nightmares. As the novel coronavirus spread, the first thing almost every dream researcher noticed was that for many people, their dream worlds seemed suddenly larger and more intense. One study of more than 1,000 Italians living through strict lockdown found that some 60% were sleeping badly — pre-pandemic, only a third of Italians reported trouble sleeping — and they were also remembering more of their dreams than during normal times and reporting that those dreams felt unusually real, emotional, and bizarre.


Fed dials back bond purchases; plots end to stimulus by June” via Nick Timiraos of The Wall Street Journal — The Federal Reserve closed a chapter on its aggressive, pandemic-driven stimulus when it approved plans Wednesday to begin scaling back its bond-buying program this month amid concerns that inflationary pressures could last longer than officials expected earlier this year. Fed officials agreed to wind down their $120-billion-a-month asset-purchase program by $15 billion each in November and December, a pace that could phase out the purchases entirely by next June. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said officials had pulled forward, relative to market expectations earlier this year, the potential end-date for the bond-buying program in case they decide they need to raise interest rates next year to cool down the economy if inflationary pressures broaden.

Jerome Powell assures investors that inflation is being monitored. Image via WSJ.

October consumer sentiment tumbles signaling a continued slow economic recovery” via Perry Liebovitz of UF News — Consumer sentiment among Floridians dropped for a third consecutive month in October to 71.3, down 3.6 points from a revised figure of 74.9 in September and down 5 points from the pandemic low recorded in April 2020. All five components that make up the index declined. Floridians’ opinions about their personal finances now compared with a year ago decreased one point from 71.4 to 70.4. Opinions were split by demographics with women, people older than 60, and people with annual income under $50,000 reporting more-favorable opinions to the former component and people with annual income under $50,000 expressing slightly more optimistic views to the latter.

American Airlines’ cancellations are a window into why people are so upset with the economy” via Helaine Olen of The Washington Post — While many on Twitter spent the past weekend calling for the firing of a Southwest Airlines pilot who allegedly broadcast the anti-Biden meme “Let’s go Brandon” over his plane’s speaker system, far fewer commented on the full-on consumer catastrophe unfolding at another carrier. American Airlines canceled more than 2,000 flights beginning Friday. Would-be flyers reported missing funerals and vacations, not to mention running up unexpected hotel bills. Skimpflation is a hotel that no longer offers daily housekeeping. It’s also the bank that doesn’t employ enough phone operators. Or it’s the airline, such as American, that can’t hire back workers fast enough post-COVID-19 slow down, so a weather issue in a hub city throws the lives of thousands of people into chaos.

In a ‘workers economy,’ who really holds the cards?” via Emma Goldberg of The New York Times — With the country’s labor force down by more than 4 million people and resignations at a high, employers are desperate to make hires. In August, one in 14 hospitality workers quit their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a quit rate more than 50% higher than before the pandemic. Flush with options and frustrated after laboring through lockdowns, workers are feeling a sense of possibility. Some are resigning. Some are waiting for a prime gig. Others are flexing their muscles — requesting raises or remote work options — while still clocking in. Employers note the jump in demands, and in some cases catering to it, during a power shift they realize may be long-lasting.

When bonuses and raises aren’t enough, try manicures and free clothes” via Suzanne Kapner and Chip Cutter of The Wall Street Journal — David’s Bridal tried the usual methods to recruit and retain workers in a tight labor market, including raising wages and offering cash bonuses for referrals. Then the wedding dress retailer decided on a different approach: inviting employees to model in its advertising. Companies across industries are dangling new incentives to counteract a labor shortage that has made it harder for U.S. employers to find and hold on to workers. JBS USA Holdings is helping to build homes for employees to buy. Levi Strauss is offering free computer coding classes. Target, Walmart and Amazon are offering to help pay for college. Staffers at Chicago technology firm project44 can use a company-subsidized van — complete with a bed, a toilet and shower, and Wi-Fi — so they can combine work with family road trips.

Don’t buy Zillow Homes’: A tale of failure, mistrust and hot housing markets” via Claire Ballentine and Charlie Wells of Bloomberg — It has been a tumultuous few days for the real estate company. On Tuesday, the firm announced it would shut down its much-vaunted house-flipping arm and cut its workforce by 25%. Voyeuristic Zillow usage surged during the pandemic. So-called Zillow Surfing became such a trend that Saturday Night Live mocked Americans’ obsession with looking at other people’s properties in a February skit simply called “Zillow.” But such surfers may have started to perceive a dark side beneath the slick app, as many fans of digital platforms ranging from Facebook to TikTok also have of late. Home prices in the U.S. have been surging, fueling unease about the role large companies — particularly those like Zillow with access to reams of browsing data — might have on the housing market.

Butterball CEO: Small turkeys for Thanksgiving will be harder to find” via Talia Kaplan of Fox 13 — Butterball CEO Jay Jandrain said Thanksgiving turkeys will be harder to find this year and also noted that it’s “reasonable to expect” higher prices amid supply chain issues. Jandrain said that “we don’t expect there to be a shortage overall, but we do see there will be fewer small turkeys this year.” He recommended that consumers “go out to the stores and get them as early as you can.” Supermarkets started purchasing turkeys, spices, and cranberry sauce early this year, noting that the goal was to avoid shortages that left some store shelves empty last year.


COVID-19 cases rise in Europe for 5th consecutive week” via The Associated Press — The number of coronavirus cases has risen in Europe for the fifth consecutive week, making it the only world region where COVID-19 is still increasing, the World Health Organization reported Wednesday. In its weekly report on the pandemic, the U.N. health agency said new cases jumped by 6% in Europe compared to an 18% increase the previous week. According to the report, the weekly number of new infections in other regions either fell or remained about the same. The sharpest drop was seen in the Middle East, where new cases decreased by 12%. Overall, 3 million new weekly cases were reported globally, the report states. The number of deaths from COVID-19 worldwide rose by 8%, driven mainly by Southeast Asia, where deaths spiked by 50%.

COVID-19 is on the rise overseas. Image via AP.

The WHO grants Covaxin, a COVID-19 vaccine developed in India, emergency authorization.” via Sameer Yasir and Hari Kumar of The New York Times — The World Health Organization on Wednesday granted emergency authorization to Covaxin, the first coronavirus vaccine developed in India and to get the designation, providing a major boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has stressed his intention of making the country’s pandemic prevention effort self-reliant. The vaccine was developed by Bharat Biotech, an Indian drug company, and the Indian Council of Medical Research, a government body, and is the eighth coronavirus vaccine to receive the global health body’s green light. The WHO said Covaxin had a 78% efficacy against COVID-19 and should be administered in two doses four weeks apart to adults, noting that the vaccine’s easier storage requirements might be convenient for poor and developing countries.


Biden administration orders federal agencies to fix hundreds of cyber flaws” via Dustin Volz of The Wall Street Journal — The Biden administration on Wednesday issued a sweeping new order mandating that nearly all federal agencies patch hundreds of cybersecurity vulnerabilities that are considered significant risks for damaging intrusions into government computer systems. The new requirement is one of the most wide-reaching cybersecurity mandates ever imposed on the federal government. It covers about 200 known security flaws identified by cybersecurity professionals between 2017 and 2020 and an additional 90 discovered in 2021 alone that have generally been observed being used by malicious hackers. Those flaws were listed in a new federal catalog as carrying “significant risk to the federal enterprise.” The directive applies to all executive branch departments and agencies except for the Defense Department, CIA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Joe Biden orders the U.S. to tighten up its cybersecurity. Image via AP.

The U.S. blacklists the NSO Group, an Israeli spyware firm.” via Ana Swanson of The New York Times — The Biden administration blacklisted the NSO Group, an Israeli cyber-surveillance company, on Wednesday, saying that the company had supplied spyware that was used by foreign governments to “maliciously target” government officials, businesspeople, academics and journalists. The company makes a sophisticated surveillance system known as Pegasus, which has been under scrutiny for years for its ability to stealthily extract sound recordings, photos, contacts, text messages, and other information from targeted smartphones. In July, a consortium of media outlets reported that the app had been used extensively to hack smartphones owned by journalists. “Our technologies support U.S. national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime, and thus we will advocate for this decision to be reversed,” NSO said in a statement.


How Chuck Schumer’s left turn shaped the Democratic agenda and set up a chaotic final scramble over Biden proposals” via Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post — As the coronavirus pandemic began to ravage the United States in the spring of 2020, Sen. Schumer gathered some leading liberal economists to meet virtually with top Senate Democratic leaders and staffers to think through the federal government’s response. That posture represented an unmistakable evolution for Schumer, who spent years advocating for modest, poll-tested policies. Schumer has firmly cast his lot with a growing liberal bloc in his caucus that is increasingly comfortable with a more muscular federal government and the higher taxes and spending needed to underpin it.

Chuck Schumer’s left turn causes chaos among Democrats. Image via AP.

Janet Yellen says the U.S. will help raise $500 million for green bonds.” via Lisa Friedman and Eshe Nelson of The New York Times — Treasury Secretary Yellen said the United States would support a financing mechanism that aims to direct $500 million a year to move developing countries away from coal-based energy and toward wind, solar and other low- and zero-carbon energy sources. Speaking at the United Nations climate talks in Glasgow, Yellen acknowledged that while wealthy countries have promised billions of dollars to tackle climate change, the real cost is in the trillions. “I agree we all must do more, and the United States is stepping up,” Yellen said. But, she added, “the gap between what governments have and what the world needs is large, and the private sector needs to play a bigger role.”

Senate Republicans block debate on a third major voting rights bill” via Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post — Wednesday’s vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — named after the civil rights icon and former congressman who died last year — fell short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed, 51-49. Only one Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted to advance it. After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused the Senate GOP of “implicitly endorsing these partisan Republican actions to suppress the vote and unravel our democracy” and pivoted to attacking the filibuster, the 60-vote supermajority rule that allowed the minority to prevail. “Anyone who has been here for more than a few years knows, the gears of Senate have ossified,” he said.

Hispanic Democrats warn of the perils of dropping immigration proposals from Biden’s domestic spending bill” via Marianna Sotomayor and Maria Sacchetti of The Washington Post — Democrats who have been frustrated by the lack of progress on making sweeping changes to the immigration system are warning party leaders that Congress needs to include something in Biden’s signature domestic policy package for the immigrant communities it has promised to help and is counting on to show up in big numbers in the 2022 midterm elections. What should be included continues to be a subject of intense debate because of a complicating set of factors that include what policies would comply with the Senate rules governing the bill and the reluctance of vulnerable Democrats to endorse anything they worry Republicans will attack them for on the campaign trail.

Mike Waltz, Stephanie Murphy seek to double Customs enforcement reach offshore” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Coast Guard only intercepts a 10th of the criminal activity it spots in waters off Florida’s coast. U.S. Reps. Waltz and Murphy hope a change in the nautical reach of Customs and Border Patrol will provide needed support. The Florida Congress members introduced bipartisan legislation that could double the contiguous zone defining law enforcement reach into U.S. waters. That would mean Customs enforcement could operate its air and marine operations 24 nautical miles from shore, instead of the 12-nautical-mile limit currently in place. “Right now, a real issue is that through radar and other types of surveillance assets we have, we know we are intercepting just a fraction of what we see coming in,” said Waltz.

Lois Frankel presses Army Corps to delay Lake O decision, Commander ‘confident’ in December timeline” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Frankel pushed for additional delays to the Army Corps’ new Lake Okeechobee regulation plan Wednesday as delegation members met in Washington, D.C., to discuss Florida water issues. Col. James Booth, who recently began serving as commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District, said the Lake Okeechobee Systems Operation Manual (LOSOM) will be complete by December despite a recent holdup. But Frankel raised additional concerns. That echoes concerns from other regions in the state as the Army Corps works on the new framework, which will govern, in part, where and how often water is distributed from Lake Okeechobee.

Lois Frankel tells the Army Corps to hold on. Image via AP.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz urges Army Corps to use infrastructure funding on Everglades projects” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — With Democrats still holding last-minute talks to approve Bidens infrastructure package, Rep. Wasserman Schultz says she hopes up to $5 billion will be available for Everglades restoration projects. Wasserman Schultz chaired a Wednesday meeting of the Florida congressional delegation where Col. James Booth, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District, was on hand to testify. Wasserman Schultz asked whether the Corps has discussed how new funds would be allocated and whether Everglades restoration projects would be prioritized. But Booth demurred, arguing that would be a decision for top Army Corps leadership. “I haven’t been involved in those discussions at the headquarters level on how they’re doing the allocations,” Booth said.


At least seven Jan. 6 rallygoers won public office on Election Day” via Amy B. Wang and Mariana Alfaro of The Washington Post — BuzzFeed News first reported last week that at least 13 Republicans who traveled to Washington on Jan. 6 to protest the results of the 2020 election were running for office this year. On Tuesday, three of those 13 Republicans — Dave LaRock, John McGuire and Marie March — were elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. According to HuffPost, other Jan. 6 rallygoers who won elected office Tuesday include Christine Ead for the Watchung, New Jersey, City Council; Natalie Jangula for the City Council in Nampa, Idaho; Matthew Lynch for the local school committee in Braintree, Massachusetts; and Susan Soloway for reelection to the board of directors in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.

DOJ seeks toughest Jan. 6 sentence yet for ex-MMA fighter who punched cop” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO — Federal prosecutors are seeking their stiffest sentence yet in a case stemming from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, recommending 44 months in jail for Scott Fairlamb, a former MMA fighter filmed punching a police officer in the head after breaching the building. Fairlamb, a Trump supporter and brother of a Secret Service agent, pleaded guilty in August to two charges: obstructing Congress’ effort to certify the 2020 election and assaulting a police officer. He’s the first of more than 100 defendants charged with assaulting and impeding police officers to face sentencing, and his case is likely to become a benchmark for the others.

Scott Fairlamb is facing nearly four years in federal prison.

Top Trump allies set up a ‘legal fund’ for Jan. 6 White House rally organizers” via Hunter Walker of Rolling Stone — According to multiple sources, Matt and Mercedes Schlapp have created a legal fund to pay for the defense of several people who have been subpoenaed by the House Jan. 6 select committee. The money would pay for counsel from the law firm of former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker. The fund will not help the hundreds of Trump supporters who have been charged with storming the building. The Schlapps and Whitaker are highly connected in elite Republican circles. Mercedes Schlapp served as director of strategic communications in Trump’s White House. Matt, her husband, is chair of the highly influential Conservative Political Action Coalition. Whitaker was acting Attorney General for just over three months, from November 2018 until February of the following year.


Trump campaign payments for ‘command centers’ at D.C. hotels could undermine executive privilege claim in Jan. 6 investigation” via Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, Emma Brown and Tom Hamburger of The Washington Post — It was a month after the 2020 presidential election, and Bernard Kerik was starting to panic. The former New York City police chief and his friend Rudolph Giuliani were shelling out thousands of dollars for hotel rooms and travel in their effort to find evidence of voting fraud and persuade state legislators to overturn Biden’s victory. Yet Trump’s campaign had turned down Kerik’s request for a campaign credit card. The bills went unpaid until after Fox News personality Jeanine Pirro went to bat on their behalf. Soon after, the campaign cut Kerik a check with Trump’s approval.

Trump and Republicans haven’t made a peep about voter fraud in Virginia since Glenn Youngkin won” via Eliza Relman and Sonam Sheth of Business Insider — On Monday, Trump said he was “not a believer in the integrity of Virginia’s elections.” The next day, he took credit for Republican Gov.-elect Youngkin’s win in the state. Following Trump’s lead, other Republicans and conservative pundits abandoned their claims that Democrats would steal the election immediately after Youngkin became the first Republican to win a Virginia gubernatorial election in over a decade. Trump credited himself and “MAGA voters” with delivering Youngkin a victory in Virginia, despite repeatedly suggesting that the election would be marred by fraud and abuse. “It is looking like Terry McAuliffe’s campaign against a certain person named ‘Trump’ has very much helped Glenn Youngkin,” he said in an email Tuesday night. “All McAuliffe did was talk Trump, Trump, Trump and he lost.”

Donald Trump stopped talking fraud after Glenn Youngkin won. Image via Fox News.

A new anti-Trump defamation suit shows one way forward against the Big Lie” via Jeremy Stahl of Slate — A lawsuit filed in a Philadelphia-based county court by James Savage, the Delaware County Voting Machine warehouse supervisor, alleges Trump, Giuliani and others they defamed him by suggesting he had personally added votes to Biden’s tally. Savage says that he has lost job prospects, his reputation in his community has suffered, he’s been personally accosted in the street, he and his family have received death threats, and he has suffered two heart attacks due to the Trump team’s fraudulent allegations. This newest suit follows similar lawsuits by voting companies Dominion and Smartmatic and at least one Dominion employee. It is further evidence that defamation law is beginning to play an outsized role in confronting the Big Lie.

NRA ran shell companies to illegally fund Trump and other Republicans, Giffords group alleges in suit” via Timothy Bella of The Washington Post — A gun-control nonprofit founded by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords filed a federal lawsuit against the National Rifle Association on Tuesday, alleging the group orchestrated an illegal, secret donation scheme involving millions of dollars that violated campaign finance laws and benefited then-candidate Trump and other Republicans. The nonprofit, called Giffords, alleges the shell companies affiliated with the NRA illegally coordinated with Republican campaigns to use the same personnel and vendors to run ads for GOP candidates, claiming the vendors were “functionally indistinguishable.” Campaign finance laws state that such a practice is illegal. The complaint came after a federal judge granted Giffords’s nonprofit the right to sue the NRA when the Federal Election Commission failed to act on previous complaints.


2021 hurricane season uses up name list for only third time in history but is it over?” via Kimberly Miller of the Palm Beach Post — The 2021 hurricane season will go down in history for its tropical fecundity, exhausting the storm names list for only the third time on record before easing into a sluggish finish. Wanda’s formation 1,000 miles west of the Azores on Halloween eve put this year in third place for cyclonic quantity behind the 30 named storms of 2020 and 2005’s 28 named storms. It also broke a storm drought that began Oct. 5 when Sam turned post-tropical, ending an extended period of Atlantic basin quiescence not experienced during October since 2007.

Cuban migrant landings continue in the Keys. This time, five people made it on a raft” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Cuban migrants continue to reach the Keys by sea, despite the danger of using makeshift boats across the Florida Straits coupled with the strong likelihood that if they make it to land, they will be sent back. Early Tuesday morning, five Cubans on a homemade raft landed in Key West, the U.S. Border Patrol said. The group arrived by the Southernmost Point marker, the tourist landmark that resembles a giant buoy at Whitehead and South streets. They said they left Artemisa, Cuba, the day before, said Border Patrol spokesman Adam Hoffner. “Members of the group were interviewed and processed for removal proceedings,” Hoffner said in an email.

Five Cubans made landfall in Key West on a homemade raft. Image via U.S. Border Patrol.

Brightline wants another $1 billion in financing for Miami to Orlando” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Brightline is getting ready to ask for state and federal permission to raise another $1 billion through tax-exempt, private activity bonds to finish and improve its Miami to Orlando high-speed passenger train route now under construction. Buried within line-item details of the proposal, as outlined Wednesday by Swiatek and Brightline Holdings Chief Executive Officer Mike Reininger, was a small allocation, $20 million, to plan the company’s next big venture, a proposed high-speed rail line connecting Orlando International Airport to Tampa.

Manatee released into Martin County waters brings hope during a tough year for Florida icon” via Max Chesnes of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Hope comes in many forms. On Wednesday, hope was a rotund 735-pound manatee, swimming her way home after more than five months of recovery. “Sheep,” an 8-foot-long young adult female manatee, was released into Frazier Creek, a tributary of the St. Lucie River in Stuart. In May, she was rescued after a boat collision in Martin County left her weak and floating on her side. After being reported May 12 to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the manatee was relocated 110 miles south to Miami Seaquarium, where she’s spent the last half-year growing strength, adding fat to her frame and regaining her energy.

A surge of snowbirds arrives as South Florida’s peak season builds” via David Lyons and Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A strong winter season appears to be building in South Florida as snowbirds gear up to travel again, hotels report strong bookings and the region’s events scene regains traction after being sidetracked by COVID-19. The indicators are already present, with would-be visitors declaring their intentions to travel and businesses reporting upticks in patrons. Discover The Palm Beaches Florida, the tourism promotion arm for Palm Beach County, said Tuesday that it anticipates travel demand “to increase significantly,” breaking records in Jan. through March of next year. “With international borders reopening later this month, we expect to see a surge from our key international markets, specifically from Canada,” the agency said.


Daughter of Broward congressional candidate pleads guilty to COVID-19 relief fraud” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — One day after her father appeared to be winning a Democratic primary race for Congress, Broward County political consultant Damara Holness pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing $300,000 from a federal government program designed to aid small businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Holness is the 28-year-old daughter of Broward Commissioner Holness, who was narrowly leading the Democratic field to fill the late Hastings’ vacant seat after Tuesday’s special primary and may now face the Republican winner. Damara Holness was charged with one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud in August. As part of her guilty plea to that charge, she admitted lying about the financial needs of her Plantation consulting business to qualify for a federal PPP loan guaranteed by the SBA as part of Congress’ massive pandemic relief package.

As her father almost wins a seat in Congress, Damara Holness pleads guilty to scamming the COVID-19 relief program. Image via Facebook.

Miami-Dade hires former Alonzo Mourning charity director to run Black prosperity office” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County commissioners hired William Diggs, a veteran nonprofit executive who once ran Mourning’s foundation, to take over the county agency charged with promoting prosperity among Black residents and businesses. Diggs takes over the Miami-Dade Economic Advocacy Trust after the summer retirement of longtime director John Dixon. The Diggs appointment by a unanimous commission vote Tuesday places a well-known fundraiser in Miami-Dade’s Black philanthropic circles in charge of a county agency sometimes criticized as underutilized in promoting Black prosperity. A former director of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, an association of Black-owned businesses, Diggs also ran the Mourning Family Foundation, raising $12 million for the former Miami Heat star’s community charity.

Jupiter OKs $160K severance package for Town Manager after ouster. Here’s what’s next.” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — The Town Council has approved a $160,000 severance package for Jupiter Town Manager Matt Benoit, who resigned last week after town police officers and two former staff members went public with complaints of him creating “a hostile environment” for employees. Benoit’s last day will be Monday. An interim Manager will then lead the town’s 357 employees until a permanent one is hired. The process could take between six and nine months, Town Attorney Thomas Baird said. Town Council members agreed Tuesday to meet at 6 p.m. Monday to make the appointment and discuss how to search for a new permanent manager.

Appeals court upholds firing of principal who wouldn’t say Holocaust was a fact” via Andrew Marra of the Palm Beach Post — A principal fired after refusing to say the Holocaust was a historical fact has lost an appeal to win back his job. Wednesday, a state appeals court rejected former Spanish River High School Principal William Latson’s challenge to the Palm Beach County School Board’s decision to terminate him over his explosive remarks last year. The decision brings the two-year legal battle over Latson’s employment closer to an end, though the former principal can still appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. The administrator was first ousted in October 2019 after telling a parent via email he “can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee.”

Not so fast. Commission wants to vote on controversial Fort Lauderdale condo; critics say it’s too tall for historic neighborhood.” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A controversial condo tower proposed on the edge of one of Fort Lauderdale’s oldest neighborhoods will face an unexpected hurdle next month: A Commission vote. The $60 million project, a sleek tower slated for a half-acre parcel east of downtown along the New River, had already sailed through required approvals from other city boards. Foes complain the 77-unit tower is too tall, at nearly 140 feet, and will ruin Colee Hammock’s quaint neighborhood charm. Advocates — including Ben Sorensen, the neighborhood’s Commissioner — note the project meets zoning requirements. Those opposed to the plan gained a glimmer of hope late Tuesday when commissioners voted 3-2 to hold a hearing on the proposal on Dec. 7.

SpaceX recovery engineer fired for ‘inappropriate faces’ claims racial discrimination” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — As a SpaceX engineer, Ajay Reddy worked in the recovery program of using ships with big nets stretched above them to capture large pieces falling from rockets. Recovering “fairings” to be reused for the next rocket launch saved SpaceX millions of dollars. Reddy’s career at the aerospace manufacturer lasted seven months. The former fairing recovery engineer said he was wrongfully fired in May 2020. Reddy sued SpaceX, accusing the company of racial discrimination, paying him less, and treating him like a scapegoat because he is an Asian American of Indian descent, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court’s Orlando division. The company’s excuse was that he made inappropriate facial expressions during a group interview event, which Reddy denies.

Miami-Dade brain trust to examine in-city flying cars, cargo in ‘Urban Air Mobility System’” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Once solely an aspect of science fiction, the prospect of flying cars zipping across city skylines is close to actualization, experts say. When that day comes, Miami-Dade County plans on being ready. On Tuesday, Miami-Dade Commissioners directed Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s administration to create a working group focused on developing an implementation plan for an “Urban Air Mobility System.” Due in 120 days, the plan is to accommodate in-city airborne emergency services, traffic monitoring and management, public safety, cargo, and, yes, individual passenger travel and public transport within the county’s boundaries. An Urban Air Mobility System, or UAM, isn’t expected tomorrow. But it could be here by 2026.

Daniella Levine Cava looks to the skies in Miami-Dade County. Image via Twitter.

Oceanfront Key West Margaritaville resort is opening soon — and now you can book a room” via Connie Ogle of FL Keys News — The new Margaritaville Beach House Key West is now accepting reservations in advance of its official opening. Located on Smathers Beach, the oceanfront hotel is currently operating as Barbary Beach House Key West, but on Nov. 15, guests will find a rebranded and upgraded resort with family-friendly amenities and new places to eat and drink. “Key West is the perfect location for our new Margaritaville destination, providing guests with a relaxing oasis to escape, unwind, and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle,” said general manager Jeremy DaSilva. The new hotel features 186 suites, plus a lagoon-style pool with entertainment and lawn games. Find a hammock and take a nap or hit the 24-hour fitness center. Or do what every tourist wants to do: Head to the beach for sun and sand.


An abnormal Republican Party was treated normally by voters in New Jersey and Virginia” via Perry Bacon Jr. of The Washington Post — Some voters may have switched from Biden to Youngkin, but it’s unlikely the huge McAuliffe shortfall in Fairfax was just about switching. Instead, it’s clear that lots of the people who voted for Biden did not participate in this election, while a smaller percentage of Trump voters sat out. Even though Youngkin isn’t as bad as Trump, he has nonetheless flirted with some of the worst of Trumpism, at one point refusing to acknowledge Biden won the election and throughout the election casting critical race theory as a threat. It would have been great if Virginia decisively rebuked a candidate who traffics in even small amounts of Trumpism. Perhaps that will come in 2022.


So what happens to Florida’s economy when low-wage workers can no longer afford to live there?” via Lizette Alvarez of The Washington Post — Florida’s affordable-housing problem, long shrugged off during the building boom of the 1990s and later the run-up to Great Recession, is now a full-blown crisis. Without workers, Florida’s tourism and service industries — in other words, its economy — will falter if people have to move elsewhere. The state’s relatively low wages simply can’t keep pace with the staggering jump in prices. Without government involvement, building sufficient affordable housing is a pipe dream. Developers are not going to forgo more lucrative options simply out of a sense of public spirit. But financial incentives, such as changes in zoning and land-use laws to encourage rehabbing existing buildings or constructing mixed-use housing, can induce some of them to build.

The kids can handle America’s real history. Why can’t adults?” via Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Tampa Bay Times — Maybe White students deserve more credit than they get. Maybe — apologies to The Who — the kids are all right. Kids are the one group that’s been largely missing from the nation’s rancorous and ongoing debate over the teaching of African American history. We’ve heard ad nauseam from lawmakers who say the subject must be banned because it makes white kids, yes, “uncomfortable.” And from parents who say it makes them ask painful questions. But we haven’t heard from the kids themselves. According to educator Leo Glaze, it’s not really because they’re too young. Rather, it’s because their elders themselves don’t know how to process America’s history of genocide, land theft, enslavement, rape, oppression and assault.

UF needs a new mascot. Ditch the Gator. Try the Lapdog.” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — It took the school 160 years to crack the top rankings among national universities — and about two weeks to totally tarnish that reputation. Now, alumni are not only questioning their donations; an accrediting board is investigating accusations that the university tried to ban professors from lending their expertise to a voting-rights case that might tick off the Governor and GOP legislators. That came on the heels of emails that revealed the school fast-tracked the hiring of a fringy, vaccine-questioning doctor from California whom DeSantis wanted as the state’s new Surgeon General. UF is looking less like a premier institution of higher learning and more like a pawn for political power brokers in Tallahassee.


Gov. DeSantis — who has praised Florida’s electoral process — is now calling for an elections police force to investigate fraud.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— A highlight of Election Day; Ken Welch is the new Mayor of St. Petersburg.

— And Facebook’s name change to Meta signals the launch of the Metaverse and new dimensions of the digital social experience.

— Today’s Sunrise Interview visits the Metaverse! Naomi Gleit, Meta’s vice president of Product and Social Impact talks about what to expect in the Metaverse.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

‘Eternals’ star Lauren Ridloff on playing Marvel’s first deaf superhero and the need to ‘normalize subtitles’” via Adam B. Vary of Variety — Cut to Ridloff, weeping in a darkened theater — “Tears of joy! Tears of joy!” — as she watched herself converse in American Sign Language with co-stars like Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani and Salma Hayek with nary a line of dialogue wasted to explain why. Ridloff isn’t just speaking symbolically when she says “Eternals” has been life-changing. While making the movie, she expressed frustration to Jolie that a scene in which she wasn’t facing the camera meant she didn’t know when the director called “Action.” Jolie suggested having a crew member use a laser pointer to signal when the scene was starting; a practice Ridloff immediately adopted on every project she’s worked on since. “It’s actually invaluable to my work now,” she says.

‘Eternals’ star Lauren Ridloff plays the MCU’s first superhero with deafness.

Disney World at 50: Antique carousel still makes the royal rounds” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The Fantasyland ride is well-traveled for something that just goes in circles. Its first home, under the name of Liberty Carrousel, was at Belle Island Park in Detroit. Then it was moved to Olympic Park in Irvington, New Jersey. That’s where it was purchased by Disney in 1967 and shipped to California before rehabbing and moving to Florida 50 years ago. Legend has it that Roy O. Disney, Walt Disney’s brother, noticed during construction that the carousel didn’t quite line up with the opening through the castle. He had it moved 8 inches to get it centered. Others say it was 2 feet. Either way, folks unhappy with the current nonalignment of Epcot’s ginormous “Harmonious” ring and Spaceship Earth and American Adventure, can point to this as precedent.

From BTS to ‘Squid Game’: How South Korea became a cultural juggernaut” via Choe Sang-Hun of The New York Times — South Korea has long chafed at its lack of groundbreaking cultural exports. For decades, the country’s reputation was defined by its cars and cellphones from companies like Hyundai and LG, while its movies, TV shows, and music were mostly consumed by a regional audience. Now K-pop stars like Blackpink, the dystopian drama “Squid Game,” and award-winning films such as “Parasite” appear as ubiquitous as any Samsung smartphone. In the same way, South Korea borrowed from Japan and the United States to develop its manufacturing prowess, the country’s directors and producers say they have been studying Hollywood and other entertainment hubs for years, adopting and refining formulas by adding distinctly Korean touches.

New cruise ship Celebrity Apex makes Florida debut” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Celebrity Apex, the sister ship to the groundbreaking Celebrity Edge, arrived to Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday for its christening. The ship was originally set to debut in March 2020, but several new vessels were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ship has already had sailings in the Mediterranean this year but now begins alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. Sailing from Port Everglades Terminal 25, which debuted its new look in 2018, Apex brings the design concepts that first came to Florida when Celebrity Edge arrived that year. That includes the Magic Carpet, the exterior elevator platform that performs multiple roles, acting as an innovative way for passengers to disembark and reboard the ship, but also doubles as an entertainment and dining venue.

$5M insurance payout awaits University of Florida’s Keyontae Johnson” via Mark Long of The Associated Press — A University of Florida basketball player who collapsed during a game last December is deciding whether to try and get medically cleared to play professionally or cash in a $5 million insurance policy. Two people with knowledge of Keyontae Johnson’s situation said that the senior forward’s policy went into effect in July 2020, five months before he crashed face-first onto the court at Florida State. Johnson’s policy provides him enough flexibility to take steps toward playing professionally and still reverse course and make an insurance claim, one of the people said. There’s no timetable or deadline for Johnson to decide on his future. If he doesn’t play again, Johnson has the lucrative policy to offset the loss of future earnings.


Celebrating today are lobbyists Robert Beck Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, Carlos Cruz, Angela Dempsey, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, Jamie Jacobs, Joe Marino and Rep. Felicia Simone Robinson. Belated wishes to Taylor Budowich.


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.

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