Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.21.22

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

Good Monday morning.

A top of the ‘burn happy birthday wish to Speaker-Designate Paul Renner.

Happy birthday, Paul Renner.


Like many of you, I am consumed by what is happening in Ukraine. I won’t pretend to be an expert on foreign policy, but I believe nothing less than the future of the Free World is at stake In Eastern Europe.

Unfortunately, there Is not much many of us keyboard warriors can do. Fortunately, there are people like Zachary Burgart, a medically retired Force Reconnaissance Marine who is on the ground in Ukraine. The Washington Post on Sunday published his searing account of what it’s like over there: “I trained Ukrainians to fight Russia. I’ve never seen a war like this.

“We had no idea what this war would look like, but we knew what to look out for in a combat zone, and we wanted to use our skills in combat medicine & resource coordination to help people.”

I was so taken aback by the elegance and power of Burgart’s account that I tracked him down on Twitter to ask what I could send him and where I could donate to support his team’s efforts.

Surprisingly, he responded and directed me to the Overwatch Foundation, a nonprofit made up of former elite Military Special Operators and other military veterans to provide critical disaster relief and high-value humanitarian support to those in times of crisis.

I donated what I could. Hopefully, they will put the money to good use.

Please read that Washington Post story and consider joining me to donate to Burgart’s efforts. If you are uncomfortable with that, but still want to provide some support to relief in Ukraine, consider donating to Catholic Relief Services, a trusted charity doing effective work in that country.

Thank you.


First in Sunburn — Dozens of Florida Sheriffs endorse Wilton Simpson for Ag Commissioner — Fifty-nine Florida sheriffs are standing for Senate President Simpson in his bid for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The Florida Police Benevolent Association had also recently come out for the Trilby Republican.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said: “Simpson has firmly stood with law enforcement in this mission and understands that protecting our communities and our future will allow Florida to continue to prosper.”

Big gets: Wilton Simpson captures endorsements from the lion’s share of Florida Sheriffs.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd added: “His leadership is why Florida crime is at a 50-year low. Wilton is a PROVEN LEADER who cares about your safety and well-being. He has always supported law enforcement, and that is exactly why I support Wilton.”

“The law enforcement officers protecting Florida’s communities put their lives on the line each and every day to ensure our families are safe, and I am proud to have their support,” Simpson responded. “As others have tried to defund the police, I fought to ensure Floridians in uniform have the support and resources they need to do their jobs.”

Read the entire list of Sheriffs endorsing Simpson here.


@Eric_Adelson: I don’t know who needs to hear this, but (Vladimir) Putin has been a war criminal for a while.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@JayObTV: Scooplet: @GovRonDeSantis and fmr President Donald Trump briefly met at a Mar-a-Lago Republican donor event last night, per two sources. Conversation only lasted a few moments — during which Trump congratulated Florida’s First Lady on beating breast cancer.

@JosephBHarding: The last time we saw Hollywood stars and @espn this united, they were obsessed over disrespecting our flag. Conservatives are on the right side of history again!

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:


House GOP retreat in Ponte Vedra Beach — 2; the third season of ‘Atlanta’ begins — 2; season two of ‘Bridgerton’ begins — 4; The Oscars — 6; ‘Macbeth’ with Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga preview performances on Broadway — 8; Florida Chamber’s 2nd Annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability begins — 8; Grammys rescheduled in Las Vegas — 13; John Dingfelder to be replaced on Tampa City Council 一 17; MLB Opening Day — 17; ‘Better Call Saul’ final season begins — 28; Magic Johnson’s Apple TV+ docuseries ‘They Call Me Magic’ begins — 32; 2022 Florida Chamber Transportation, Growth & Infrastructure Solution Summit — 38; ‘The Godfather’ TV series ‘The Offer’ premieres — 39; 2nd half of ‘Ozark’ final season begins — 39; federal student loan payments will resume — 41; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 46; Florida TaxWatch’s Spring Meeting — 51; ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ starts on Disney+ — 65; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ premieres — 67; ‘Platinum Jubilee’ for Queen Elizabeth II — 73; California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota hold midterm Primaries — 78; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 110; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 123; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 141; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 165; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 199; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 217; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 236; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 239; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 246; ‘Avatar 2′ premieres — 271; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 335; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 351; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4’ premieres — 368; 2023 Session Sine Die — 411; ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 494; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 578; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 858.


Florida claimed it couldn’t say whether child was abused to death. Here’s what evidence said” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald For more than a year, the Florida Department of Children and Families refused to release records on the death of Rashid Bryant, saying there had been no determination that the 1-year-old died of abuse or neglect. Facing a lawsuit, the department also claimed that the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office had asked DCF not to release the records because the case was still under investigation. The records in a child death case don’t become public until abuse or neglect are determined.

The brief life and heartbreaking death of Rashid Bryant was yet another system failure.

There were ample red flags. He was the toddler son of parents who had been the subject of two dozen abuse or neglect reports. Mother Jabora Deris could give no clear, consistent answer to what had happened. Although Deris acquiesced to the caseworker’s insistence that she go to Jackson North Medical Center, no X-ray occurred. No one insisted on one, including the caseworker who accompanied her. Rashid was too young to speak for himself.

A trove of records from the Department of Children and Families that detail Rashid’s short life and painful death shows that nobody in authority asked probing questions that might have saved him. And Deris kept changing her story — offering three different versions of what happened.

Circuit Judge Barbara Areces, after reviewing the file, said what DCF was claiming wasn’t true at all and ordered the records released. The records showed why she ruled the way she did: Less than a week after Rashid’s death, DCF had filed a petition in court, seeking custody of his siblings; DCF’s formal investigation concluded shortly after a medical examiner’s report was released in June 2021 that allegations of medical neglect, bone fractures, and death were “verified, based on the ME’s final report.” Another DCF report on Rashid’s death noted that: “A child has died due to the parents’ lack of judgment in decision-making.”


COVID-19 data shows indoor masking not needed in Florida, but virus may again be on rise” via Chris Persaud of The Palm Beach Post — The CDC effectively lifted indoor masking recommendations this week for all of Florida’s counties even as parts of the state are detecting spikes of coronavirus levels in their sewage. Until Thursday, CDC officials classified 10 of Florida’s 67 counties as places where COVID-19 poses a high threat to hospitals, and therefore recommended residents wear masks indoors. Now that those counties, clustered near Alachua County and bordering Georgia, have been downgraded to medium-risk areas, no Floridians live in a county where federal health experts recommend indoor masking. But some sewage systems in Florida detected an increase of the coronavirus’ genetic fragments in their wastewater systems between Feb. 28 and March 14, the CDC reports.

Ron DeSantis promised to cut school testing by 75%, but does FSA overhaul actually do that?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — When DeSantis announced legislation to end the dreaded Florida Standards Assessments (FSA), he boasted the proposal would reduce testing in schools by 75%. It’s unclear whether the bill he signed on Tuesday will achieve that reduction. In fact, there’s disagreement over whether it will reduce testing at all. Sponsor Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. says it certainly will. The unions representing teachers in Miami-Dade County and Florida say it won’t. A definitive answer isn’t available yet. Senate Bill 1048 leaves a lot for the Department of Education to iron out, including the length and format of the new assessments that will replace the FSA. The Herald reported that the state has yet to pick a vendor to create the assessments, which will be computer-based when they roll out in the 2022-23 school year.

Manny Diaz and Ron DeSantis promise to cut standardized testing. What comes next?

DeSantis replaces Sumter County Commissioners facing felony perjury charges” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Three months after police arrested a pair of Sumter County Commissioners accused of lying under oath, DeSantis has appointed their replacements. DeSantis’ office announced the appointments on Friday. One, Diane Spencer, is a retired lawyer who currently serves on the board of supervisors for the North Sumter County Utility Dependent District. Before retirement, she worked as a claim attorney for the insurance company State Farm. The other appointment, Roberta Ulrich, is a retired mathematician whose background includes work in the private and public sectors. Both women are residents of The Villages.

US education secretary to Florida LGBTQ kids: Got your back” via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press —In another clash between President Joe Biden’s administration and DeSantis, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona spoke with LGBTQ students to say the federal government supports them even if the Governor does not.

DeSantis vs. Disney showdown bolsters Governor’s standing in GOP” via Steve Contorno of CNN — Months before Disney CEO Bob Chapek tiptoed into a roiling debate in Florida and before the legislation that opponents would call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill was even filed, DeSantis delivered a threat to business leaders who got in his way. “If you are in one of these corporations, if you’re a woke CEO, you want to get involved in our legislative business, look, it’s a free country,” DeSantis said last June. DeSantis this month made clear he wasn’t bluffing. A day after Chapek publicly condemned a controversial Florida bill that would ban classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity before fourth grade, DeSantis ripped Disney to a room of supporters.

It’s not just ‘Don’t Say Gay.” Florida also ordered Disney to alter its diversity training” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — For decades, Disney and Florida politicians have had a symbiotic relationship, like dung beetles and skunk cabbage. Much like the beetles pollinate the foul-smelling plants, Disney would fertilize the politicians’ campaign accounts with cash, top it off with free hotel rooms and park passes, and then the politicians would do whatever Disney wanted. Disney got tax breaks, incentives, taxpayer-funded advertising, even a law guaranteeing companies would never have to offer employees paid sick time if they didn’t want to. Basically, the two sides were political cronies who swapped favors for cash.

Disney sorry about performance by Texas high school drill team” via The Associated Press — Officials at Walt Disney World said Friday that a performance by a visiting Texas high school drill team that used American Indian stereotypes, including chants of “scalp them,” doesn’t reflect the Florida resort’s values. The performance this week in the Magic Kingdom by the “Indianettes” drill team from Port Neches-Grove High School “did not reflect our core values, and we regret it took place,” Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said in an emailed statement. An audition tape that the school had provided to be selected to perform at the theme park resort was inconsistent with the actual performance, the statement said.

A Texas cheerleading team is leaving Disney red-faced.

ESPN announcers have moment of silence during NCAA women’s basketball games to protest ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill” via Jonathan Tully and Dan Rorabaugh of the Tallahassee Democrat — During the opening day of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, two ESPN announcers launched a silent protest against Florida House Bill 1557, titled the “Parental Rights in Education” but dubbed by critics the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. At the start of the second half of the game between top-seeded South Carolina and 16th-seeded Howard, Carolyn Peck and Courtney Lyle spoke in “solidarity and support” of their Disney colleagues in opposition to the bill. The two announcers then went silent during gameplay. The silent protests resumed Saturday, including during the All-Florida matchup between the Florida Gators and UCF Knights when Pam Ward and Stephanie White followed suit.

‘Ghost’ candidate scandal operative linked to Orange property appraiser election” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A political consultant who was recently identified as a target of Miami prosecutors investigating Florida’s “ghost” candidate scandal was also involved in a major ad campaign to oust then-Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh in 2020. Longtime Democratic fundraiser Dan Newman is being investigated for “possible violations of Florida elections laws and campaign finance laws,” according to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. The South Florida investigation concerns a trio of independent candidates who filed to run in 2020 Florida Senate races and were promoted by a flood of ads paid for by Grow United, a dark-money nonprofit into which Newman raised nearly $1 million that year.

GOP’s Christian Ziegler rallies Party after trans woman wins national swimming title” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Ziegler, the vice-chair of the Republican Party of Florida, sent out a message to supporters Friday decrying a historic win by a collegiate transgender swimmer. The current Sarasota County Commissioner suggested Emma Weyant, a University of Virginia swimmer hailing from his home county, was “robbed on national TV last night.” That’s after Lia Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania swimmer, became the first transgender athlete to win a Division I national championship swimming championship and the second to win a championship in any sport across all divisions. Thomas’ win in the women’s 500-yard competition Thursday night led to a charged-up email from Ziegler.


Teachers get caught in the middle of Florida’s culture war bills” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — Two major pieces of legislation pushed by DeSantis and approved by the Florida Legislature have put public school teachers in the crosshairs of the Republican-waged culture wars and created confusion over just what they can teach in class, critics say. Passed mostly along party lines by the GOP-controlled Legislature, the bills have not yet been sent to the Governor’s Office as of Friday. If signed into law as expected, they would restrict what teachers can say about sexual orientation, gender identity, racism and White privilege, as well as give parents more say on banning what they consider to be objectionable learning material.

Fentanyl test strips could reduce overdoses, deaths. Legislature said no to legalizing them” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — With overdoses and deaths caused by fentanyl surging several of South Florida’s most prominent elected officials sought a change in state law to legalize inexpensive test strips that can detect its presence, a step they said could save thousands of lives. Dave Aronberg, the Palm Beach County state attorney; Congressman Ted Deutch and state Sen. Shevrin Jones pushed for the change. Republicans blocked the legalization effort just 18 hours after dramatic headlines and television coverage of a Wilton Manors spring break house party gone wrong, with six people hospitalized from exposure to fentanyl in cocaine.

Shev Jones and Ted Deutch pushed for lifesaving fentanyl testing strips. Lawmakers shot the idea down.

The secrets they keep from us in Tallahassee” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida politicians are very good at keeping secrets from us. They ought to be. They’ve had so much experience at it. In the session that ended last Monday, state legislators approved or extended 25 more exemptions to a public records law that was once considered the best of its kind in the country. Those 12 new loopholes and 13 extensions add to the growing wall of secrecy between the people and their government. Shhh. We’re choosing a new President at your daughter’s state university. We’ll let you know who the finalists are after the backroom deal is cut. All quiet. We’re about to execute a death row inmate, but it’s secret, because international drug companies that provide Florida the chemicals used in a lethal injection don’t want it known. Year after year, this problem gets worse. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Lawmakers swap Mayo Building removal with replacement study” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Instead of spending more than $2 million to immediately move 272 employees out of the Nathan Mayo Building, which houses the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, lawmakers decided to put $1 million toward studying a replacement for the 85-year-old structure. In its initial budget, the House included $2.1 million for the Department of Management Services to bid for office space to house employees while a new building is constructed. But in negotiations with the Senate, which didn’t include that provision in its initial budget, the plan was converted to use $1 million for a study “for the planning, design, and engineering of a new department facility located at the Conner Complex.” The Conner Complex includes another Agriculture Department building about 4 miles east of the state Capitol.

‘Slaves built the Capitol’: Advocate for abandoned Black cemeteries criticizes lawmakers” via Fresh Take Florida — A leading advocate for abandoned Black cemeteries sharply criticized Florida lawmakers for killing a bill that would have helped identify, protect and restore burial grounds across the state. “I want to know, many of these legislators, where are they from?” asked Gloria Jefferson Anderson, leading the cemetery restoration project in Tallahassee. “Abandoned and Historic Cemeteries” bill, sponsored by Rep. Fentrice Driskell, passed unanimously in three House committee hearings. Both Republicans and Democrats supported it. But it was pronounced dead earlier this month without a full House vote. Cruz has said that, based on estimates by state archaeologists, there are nearly 3,000 abandoned African American cemeteries in Florida that have yet to be identified.

Conservation advocates praise death of bill they say would have hurt seagrass — and manatees” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Marine conservation advocates at Ocean Conservancy praise lawmakers for killing a bill they say could have killed seagrass, manatees, and Florida’s water quality. The legislation (SB 198/HB 349) allowed the state to grant easements on state lands often submerged under fresh or tidally influenced waters. While the easements would have been for seagrass mitigation banks, Ocean Conservancy and other organizations like the nonprofit argue the bill would have permitted the destruction of seagrass in exchange for replanting efforts that have largely proved unsuccessful. The bills, filed by Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez and Rep. Tyler Sirois, passed one committee in the House and Senate but came to a halt in mid-January.

Environmentalists are cheering the death of a bill from Ana María Rodríguez and Tyler Sirois.

Bobby Payne proud of tax package, says social issues ‘overblown’” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — During a Legislative Session marked by deeply personal debates over social issues, Rep. Payne’s focus was on something that would’ve been more of a headline-grabber in any other year for a Republican majority, the annual tax package. “I spent, as the Ways & Means Chair, most of the year working on the tax package,” Payne, a Palatka Republican, said Friday. Payne noted lawmakers wanted to make sure they had the chance to return dollars to taxpayers after two years of emergency budgeting related to the coronavirus pandemic. He also wanted to allow Floridians to spend those dollars in the state’s great outdoors, getting children ready for school and hardening their homes. The home-hardening provision was a priority of Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.

Happening tomorrow The Tampa Bay Chamber holds its 2022 legislative wrap-up, featuring Sens. Jeff Brandes and Janet Cruz; Reps. Mike Beltran, Ben Diamond, Dianne Hart, Traci Koster, Andrew Learned, Amber Mariano, Lawrence McClure, Jackie Toledo, and Susan Valdes. Moderated by Peter Schorsch, 7:30 to 9 a.m., University Club, 201 N. Franklin Street, Suite 3800, Tampa.

—2022 —

Assignment editors Charlie Crist will spend the day campaigning: Cuban sandwich shop visit with Rep. Valdes, 10:30 a.m.; Tampa labor leaders’ meeting, 11:15 a.m.; Tampa “Faith Leaders for Crist” endorsement event, 12:30 p.m.; and Tampa Unidos Con Crist, 2 p.m. RSVP for locations to [email protected]

Assignment editors Nikki Fried will speak to the Democratic Club of North Florida, 7 p.m. Zoom link here. Meeting ID: 83584804789.

Hackers hijack Nikki Fried’s campaign Twitter account” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — Hackers on Saturday hijacked the campaign Twitter account of Fried. The verified account, seized in a phishing attack, is now on the fritz. Hackers are posting a string of tweets promoting the sale of non-fungible tokens or NFTs. They’ve also rebranded the profile, leaving no trace of Fried other than the original Twitter tag. The account now features a banner and profile picture depicting cartoon characters wearing comically themed hats. The phrase “SKULLTOONS” spans across the top. Fried’s campaign team acknowledged the breach shortly after the incident. The incident strikes a blow to the heart of Fried’s fundraising operation: social media. The campaign’s strategy leans heavily on it, and often sends messages to followers asking for donations.

Nikki Fried gets hacked.

‘It’s choose your fighter time’: Matt Gaetz announces re-election campaign” via Sierra Rains of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Rep. Gaetz announced Saturday that he will be running for re-election this year. Gaetz confirmed that he will be fighting to keep his seat in the U.S. House as he met with a crowd of supporters during the grand opening of his campaign office at 24 Hollywood Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach. “It’s choose your fighter time,” Gaetz told the crowd. “I’m your Florida man. I’m ready to take the fight to Washington and I hope you’ll fight with me.” There had been speculation about whether Gaetz would vie for another term in office after he said he was considering stepping down from his seat at a political rally in his hometown of Niceville about a year ago.

More endorsements roll in for Jared Moskowitz’s bid for Congress” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Thirteen elected officials from Broward and Palm Beach counties and beyond became the latest to announce support for Moskowitz. That’s in addition to 50 current and former elected officials from the Broward County School Board on up to Congress who agreed that there’s nobody better than Moskowitz to represent Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. The Democrats cited Moskowitz’s positions on criminal justice, women’s reproductive rights, and the preservation of democracy itself as the reasons for their endorsements. ” … Florida needs strong Democrats who can fight against malicious attacks on our rights and on our democracy,” said Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz. “Jared grew up in Democratic politics and served our Democratic Caucus well in Tallahassee while I was the House Democratic Leader. When he’s elected, I know that he’ll continue his work to help Democrats win elections across our state.”

No. 2 finisher in Broward’s Supervisor of Elections race rules out Congressional run” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Chad Klitzman has Obama administration cred, Ivy League degrees and an impressive showing on his first try for elected office. But the young lawyer said he’s decided not to run for the seat that Democratic U.S. Rep. Deutch will be vacating at the end of his seventh term. Klitzman had been on a list of possible candidates poised to make a run to represent Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. In the heavily Democratic district that straddles Palm Beach and Broward counties, whoever wins the Democratic nomination for the seat is considered a shoo-in for the job.

Assignment editors — Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis will hold a news conference to discuss his plans regarding the upcoming race for Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, 2 p.m., 2301 Wilton Drive. RSVP to [email protected]

—”Alina García closes distance in SD 38 contest with $100K in Feb. contributions” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Hang with Nick Iarossi:

How the GOP’s dirtiest slur got a new life” via David Siders of POLITICO — In speeches, ads, and social media, it is fast becoming the defining smear of the 2022 Primary campaign season: RINO. The acronym, short for ‘Republican-In-Name-Only,’ is hardly new. But Trump’s frequent use of the term has given it a new life, weaponizing a description once largely reserved for party moderates and turning it into a slur to be avoided at all costs. The mushrooming of the insult is measurable. In 2018, during the last midterm election, RINO barely registered as a mention in TV ads. But so far, in 2022, candidates have already spent more than $4 million on TV ads employing RINO as an attack. Today, reflecting the GOP’s murkier ideological grounding in the Trump era, it’s a term reserved almost exclusively for lack of fealty to Trump.

Florida’s feuding Democratic factions hold historic meeting amid ‘existential threat’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Florida Democrats are mounting what could be their last stand. Nearly 100 party leaders, donors and consultants quietly met in Miami to plot a path back to relevance in the state, which has handed them a multidecade-long string of gutting political losses. It was one of the largest strategic gatherings of Florida Democrats in recent memory, a nod to the desperate situation they find themselves in, with Republicans increasingly consolidating their hold on one of the largest battleground states. “It has never happened where this number of groups and individuals and programs were all in the same room,” said Sean Shaw, a former Democratic state Representative.


The Senate’s Supreme Court peacekeeper prepares for his moment” via Marianne Levine and Burgess Everett of POLITICO — Dick Durbin is a patient Senator. And his restraint will be tested during this week’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Republicans telegraphed for weeks that they wouldn’t put up a major fight against Jackson in the Durbin-chaired Judiciary Committee. Then came their soft-on-crime attack. Just five days before the first Black woman nominated to the high court is set to appear before the panel, Sen. Josh Hawley rolled out a lengthy broadside against her record on sentencing in child pornography cases. The argument that Jackson’s light on sex offenses, already vocally rebutted by Democrats, is expected to be a leading GOP charge against Jackson when her hearings begin Monday.

Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Guantánamo clients an issue for GOP” via The Associated Press — President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee will face sharp questions from Republican lawmakers this coming week about the work she did as a public defender representing four Guantánamo Bay detainees. Some Republicans say Judge Jackson has a record of “defending terrorists” and plans to raise questions about it at Senate hearings on her nomination. The criticism comes even as prominent Republicans have previously defended those who represented Guantánamo detainees, saying ensuring everyone access to a lawyer is a fundamental part of the American legal system. Jackson was nominated to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, and her selection fulfills a campaign promise by Biden to name the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.

Ketanji Brown Jackson may have some explaining to do. Image via AP.

Michael Waltz: Biden’s actions to support Ukraine have been ‘heartless’” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Rep. Waltz says the Biden administration’s approach to Russia’s war on Ukraine has been stronger with words than actions. In an interview following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy‘s address to Congress a day earlier, Waltz has been making the case the United States should support Poland supplying its neighbor with MiG-29 fighter planes to counter Russia’s aerial assault on Ukraine’s cities and civilians. He followed that by saying Russia President Vladimir Putin — like other dictators — is empowered by his adversaries’ weakness.

Maria Salazar was ill-prepared to talk about Ukraine. Tucker Carlson went for the jugular” via the Miami Herald editorial board — At another point in time, Carlson’s dressing down of Miami U.S. Rep. Salazar’s gaffe about the war in Ukraine would’ve been entertaining material for late-night comics. But in a time of international crisis, her words and her grasp of a serious national security issue matter. She needs to know what she’s talking about. And she doesn’t. When the reporter asked if she knew a no-fly zone could mean “conventional warfare with Russia,” she replied, “I don’t know what it will mean, but, you know, freedom is not free.”

—“Rick Scott’s ‘STOP PUTIN’ Act eyes crackdown on Russian oil companies” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Assignment editors U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor holds a media event to discuss funding for nine Tampa priorities in the omnibus funding package Biden signed into law this week, including $2,125,804 to help the University Area CDC finish the Cultural Campus Warehouse, 10 a.m., in front of the new mural at the University Area Cultural Campus, 137th Ave. and 20th St., Tampa. RSVP to [email protected].

Assignment editors U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar heads a roundtable with Administrator Isabel Guzman of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and business owners to discuss post-pandemic recovery challenges. Salazar will host a news conference with Guzman after the closed-press roundtable at 10:30 a.m. Details with RSVP to [email protected].


Ukrainians in Orlando say they’ll keep protesting until the war ends” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — With the war in Ukraine in its fourth week, Ukrainians in Orlando vowed to keep protesting Russia’s invasion and pressure lawmakers to help bring an end to the war. St. Mary Protectress Ukrainian Catholic Church in Apopka has led large demonstrations every Sunday at Lake Eola, where Ukrainians gather, hold flags, chant “Glory to Ukraine,” and sing their national anthem around the crowded park. “We will go on as long as it takes,” said Vasyl Boichook, St. Mary Protectress Ukrainian Catholic Church president. Boichook spoke with Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto to ask for more aid to Ukraine. Boichook said he wants to pressure legislators to send more help and establish a no-fly zone over the country, something the Biden administration has resisted.

Ukrainians in Central Florida are in it for the long haul. Image via WFTV.

‘Look in the eyes of the kids’: A Tallahassee doctor’s faith journey to help Ukraine refugees” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat — As Ukrainian children fled their homes into the unknown to escape the Russian invasion, their eyes and facial expressions told the same sobering story: Fear, uncertainty and sadness. “You look in the eyes of the kids …” Tallahassee family physician Dr. John Turner said. Turner spent three days last week at the Poland/Ukraine border, offering medical aid, clothing and support to refugees crossing the border. Those fleeing are mostly women and children because Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 are ordered to stay and fight the invading Russians. According to UNICEF, a Ukrainian child has become a refugee almost every single second since the start of the war last month.

Russian students at Florida State face financial troubles amid U.S. sanctions over Ukraine” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — Some Florida State University students feel the burn of U.S. sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian students at FSU say finances have become a major concern in recent weeks. Visa and Mastercard have blocked services to Russian financial institutions. Students with money in Russian banks find they can’t tap into those accounts to cover their expenses on U.S. territory. “Overwhelmed” and “disappointed” are words that FSU graduate student Oksana Kozlova used to describe her feelings.

Affordable housing ‘not surprisingly’ atop St. Pete resident concerns, community survey finds” via Daniel Figueroa of Florida Politics — Feedback from a series of “Community Conversations” held by St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch showed affordable housing is “not surprisingly” the top concern among residents in one of the country’s hardest-hit cities for inflation and rental increases. Welch held the conversations in mid-December, before being sworn in. The city Friday released the results of focus groups questioned during the events, as well as an action plan based on community responses. The conversations covered five topics: housing opportunities for all, equitable development and business opportunities, environment, infrastructure and resilience; education and youth opportunities; and neighborhood health and safety.

City Council to vote on redistricting map. Critics say it ‘dilutes Black voting strength’” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — A new map for Jacksonville City Council’s 14 districts is heading toward a final vote while a possible lawsuit looms from opponents who contend the city will retain boundaries that weaken the power of Black voters. The threat of a lawsuit comes from critics, including the NAACP and the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, who say the proposed map packs Black voters into four districts, so Black voters living elsewhere in Jacksonville have diminished clout in electing their preferred candidates to other council seats. “They should go back to the drawing board and start over again,” said Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition. “It dilutes Black voting strength, and that should not be the case.”

Is Jacksonville redistricting heading to court? Image via Andrew Pantazi/The Tributary.

Unflattering JEA documents became trail of breadcrumbs for federal prosecutors” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union A Wall Street analyst asking pointed questions. A New York lawyer’s warning. Spreadsheets tucked away in nondescript files. Those were among a series of JEA records that remained hidden until after the utility’s board of directors ousted its former CEO, Aaron Zahn, in early 2020 and canceled the botched effort to privatize the agency. And now, more than two years later, those documents appear to have been among the key pieces of evidence federal prosecutors used to build the criminal indictment against Zahn and former JEA CFO Ryan Wannemacher on conspiracy and wire fraud, which they unsealed last week. JEA executives either buried those documents or lied about their existence in real-time during the privatization campaign, but some of them surfaced later.


Donald Trump, American Freedom Tour visit Sunrise” via the Miami Herald — Trump returned to Broward County Saturday to speak to some of his most ardent supporters from the stage of FLA Live Arena at the American Freedom Tour, a private event where attendees paid up to $6,999 for seats and access to some of the Republican Party’s biggest names. Ahead of Trump, Pastor Mark Burns warmed up the crowd by falsely declaring that Trump won the 2020 election and leading a chant of “Trump won.” According to the private event’s Twitter feed, Conservative pundit Candace Owens called COVID-19 “a government virus.” Before the former President’s speech, his son, Donald Trump Jr., criticized the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan from the stage at FLA Live Arena.

Donald Trump takes his show to Surfside. Image via AP.

Spring Break shooting on South Beach’s Ocean Drive sends three people to hospitals, cops say” via David J. Neal of the Miami Herald — An Ocean Drive shooting minutes into Sunday sent three people to hospitals, Miami Beach police said. It appears to be the first incident of gun violence resulting in injuries this Spring Break. Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez said when officers got to the 800 block of Ocean Drive, which is bookended by the News Cafe’s longtime spot on the south and the Waldorf Towers Hotel on the north, they found two people shot. As Miami Beach Fire Rescue took the two people to Jackson Memorial Hospital across the bay in Miami, Miami Beach’s Mount Sinai Hospital informed police about a man who arrived there with a gunshot injury. An early investigation, Rodriguez said, put him with the other two people hit with gunfire around 12:15 a.m. All three had non-life-threatening injuries, he said.

Miami Beach Mayor requests DeSantis to call for Special Session” via Caden DeLisa of The Capitolist — Mayor Dan Gelber on Friday penned a letter to DeSantis, requesting that he convene lawmakers in Tallahassee for a special session regarding property insurance in the state, claiming that the rising issue was not touched on by legislators. Florida’s property insurance has been especially volatile over the past year, losing a plethora of top policy writers, including the liquidation of St. John’s Insurance and a pause on new policies by a number of regional insurers. Florida’s capricious homeowner insurance market has led to a surge in policies at the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which was created under the pretense of it serving as a ‘last resort’ for consumers.

Missing a piece: Monroe County is still one Commissioner short after more than three months” via Nancy Klingener of WLRN — Eddie Martinez resigned from the Monroe County Commission Dec. 7, a little more than a year after his election. Martinez was part of a Republican sweep of the board, narrowly defeating incumbent Heather Carruthers, a Democrat, by 142 votes. Carruthers later sued, alleging that Martinez did not live in the district. Commissioners are elected countywide, but are required to live in the district. Carruthers dropped her suit after Martinez resigned. The resignation came after Martinez was arrested on a domestic battery charge in Hialeah. It was the second vacancy on the commission in 2021. Commissioner Mike Forster, who represented the Key Largo district, died in early September after contracting COVID-19. That time, DeSantis appointed former state Rep. Holly Raschein to the seat in less than three weeks.

Eddie Martinez’s seat remains unfilled months after his resignation. Why?

Shocking!Alfie Oakes arrested at South Florida casino, says the casino is a ‘sore loser’” via Rachel Heimann Mercader and Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Naples grocer Oakes faces a charge of disorderly conduct after an altercation took place at a South Florida casino, officials say. On Sunday, Oakes attempted to cash in casino chips at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, but he refused to provide identification, a Seminole Police Department spokesperson said. The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns the casino in Hollywood, which offers guests a selection of 3,100 slots, nearly 200 table games, and a 45-table poker room.


The truth has its moment” via Jonah Goldberg of The Dispatch I don’t think there’s any way to fix generalizing in politics, in part because generalizing is central to politics and political rhetoric. But if Americans had a better understanding of reality, they’d be more immune to the excesses that define our politics today. When voters are armed with facts, politicians are constrained in what they can lie about. Which brings me to another tool of elites: Claiming that “their people” are being oppressed, disrespected, or shortchanged. I have no problem with calling out injustice. In fact, I think it is a moral requirement. Where we run into problems is when elites care more about wielding the cudgel of “injustice” than actually dealing with the thorny, complicated, and often very inconvenient facts that yield said injustice, real or imagined. Many of our intellectuals are simply in the business of “organizing political hatreds.”


What do we do when people are equal, but not alike?” via David French of The Dispatch The 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause (which again reflects American morality) does not codify a principle that says, “all people will be treated equally at all times by all laws.” That would lead to absurd results. Instead, the legal and moral principle is a bit different — similarly situated people should be treated alike. When it comes to the ability to drive responsibly, children and adults aren’t similarly situated. But men and women are, regardless of race or sexual orientation. Indeed, many of America’s bigotries are in attempts to wrongly deny similarity. Why work so hard to deny similarity? Because the instant you grant that we are, for all relevant purposes, alike, then the powerful legal and moral imperative of equality locks in.

Congress must break the cycle of panic and neglect on COVID-19” via The Washington Post editorial board — Haven’t we been down this road before? The pandemic seems to be easing, the sense of urgency is lost, then another surge arrives. Suddenly, there are shortages of medicine and diagnostic test kits, and then recriminations: Why wasn’t the lull used as a time to make better preparation? Let’s finally ditch the needless cycles of panic and neglect. As a start, Congress must immediately provide funding to combat the pandemic in the months ahead. Unless Congress acts now, not later, but now, there won’t be funding for additional boosters, and the United States might be caught without any variant-specific vaccines.

How will ‘bastion of freedom’ Florida react if new round of COVID-19, vaccines arrive?” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — Like just about everyone else, I am tired of the COVID-19 pandemic, and would like nothing better than to put away all my masks for good and not have to consider getting another vaccination booster. But I’m not a fool. And I fear that puts me at a greater risk because I live in Florida. That’s because the current lull in COVID-19 may be ending, and another wave might be on its way, one that this state is already politically obligated to ignore, no matter what the cost. Meanwhile, if the surge in Europe comes here as expected, the CDC may go back to stressing the former safety protocols for social distancing and wearing masks. DeSantis could help. But at this point, his political imperative of casting Florida as a “citadel of freedom” makes him more of a public health hazard than a public health leader.

Republicans are living in a Trumped-up dystopia — and everyone’s invited” via Lizette Alvarez of The Washington Post — When DeSantis and Florida’s conservative lawmakers finally shut down the 2022 state legislative session on Monday, I had a dispiriting epiphany. These state’s Republicans are living in a Trumped-up dystopia. My Florida boasts employers who know that the workplace should mirror society’s diversity. It’s a place where voter malfeasance is minimal and committed mostly by Republicans. And it’s a state where some people choose to get coronavirus vaccines and use masks as an act of kindness and consideration, not combat. Republican legislators seem to hope that their work this year will amount to a flashing neon “welcome” sign for fellow conservatives.

DeSantis, veto SB 1796; it puts our seniors and children at risk” via Heather Apicella for the Tallahassee Democrat — The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar finds itself in the position of respectfully asking DeSantis to veto Senate Bill 1796, dissolution of marriage. This harmful legislation would apply retroactively, has a serious impact on existing and pending awards of alimony, and affects court ratified marital settlement agreements. The bill also codifies a 50-50 presumption of time-sharing into Florida law. As family law attorneys, we collectively cannot sit idly by and watch as this policy potentially becomes law, as we believe it would do irreparable damage to the system. At the least, it will result in prolonged litigation, drive the cost of divorce up and cause backlogs in an already overburdened family court system.

Lawmakers fail to fight fentanyl overdoses, but Spring Break heroes come to the rescue” via the Miami Herald editorial board — We’re halfway through Spring Break. It’s party time, and drugs and alcohol are front and center. With 10 local drug overdoses, recently, we would hope that the young revelers flocking to Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale would think twice about buying cocaine or popping pills, especially since they could be laced with killer doses of fentanyl. The smartest likely don’t indulge at all. But then there are the others. This spike in victims aside, fentanyl already is Florida’s deadliest opioid. About 8,000 Floridians die annually of fentanyl overdoses. Dan Gelber, mayor of Miami Beach, where most Spring Breakers have congregated, told the Editorial Board his city’s first responders are bracing for a tense, busy few days. Gelber said the city is beefing up police and fire equipment to deal with possible overdoses.

GOP may be OK with Miami Senator’s vague apology. But voters get to decide” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Sen. Ileana Garcia won the election to represent Miami-Dade County’s District 37 by the thinnest of margins in 2020, 32 votes, and under tainted circumstances, when it turned out a sham, no-party candidate with the same last name as the Democratic incumbent was paid more than $40,000 to run as a spoiler in the race. Garcia has not been implicated in the vote-siphoning scheme. However, the sham candidate, Alexis Rodriguez, has pleaded guilty to accepting illegal campaign donations and lying on election forms. And former Republican state Sen. Frank Artiles is still awaiting trial on felony campaign fraud charges, with prosecutors alleging that he was behind the whole thing in a push to unseat Jose Javier Rodriguez.

— ALOE —

Baseball, bourbon, and cigars featuring Lou Piniella, Wade Boggs The Florida Sports Hall of Fame teams up with the Tampa Baseball Museum at the Al Lopez House for an evening celebrating Tampa’s history in baseball, cigar rollers, Latin cuisine and entertainment. The first-ever Baseball, Bourbon and Cigars will be Friday, March 25 at the Garden of the Ybor City Museum State Park. Two Florida Sports Hall of Fame members, manager Piniella (1997) and slugger Boggs (2003) will be in attendance along with a host of other MLB greats. The event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $150 per person and include food, drink and entertainment. Tables of eight can be purchased for $2,000. Tickets are limited and available here.

Baseball, bourbon, and cigars? Count us in!


Happy birthday to Lance Clemons, the great Richard Gonzmart, the incredible Francoise Haasch, former journalist Julie Hauserman, Chuck Hinson, and the legendary Mary Repper. Belated happy birthday wishes to INFLUENCE 100’er and our friend Eric Johnson, as well as  Johanna Cervone, Ben Friedman, Jay Galbraith, Allison North Jones, Sal Nuzzo, and Justin York.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Renzo Downey, Jacob Ogles, 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.


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, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

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