Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.23.22

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You can't start your day without the morning review of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Thursday morning.

Andrew Gillum awoke on Election Day in 2018, expecting to be Florida’s Governor-elect by the time he went to sleep.

He led in the polls and seemed to have momentum. Floridians seemed eager to move on from the chaos of President Donald Trump by rejecting his hand-picked gubernatorial candidate, Ron DeSantis.

Well, we know what happened. DeSantis surprised the pollsters, winning by about 32,000 votes after a recount of about 8 million ballots. Trump emerged more popular in Florida than ever.

And Gillum? It keeps getting worse.

A tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.

The U.S. Department of Justice indicted him Wednesday on federal election-related charges that could put him in prison for 20 years or more.

The 21-count indictment alleges, among other things, that Gillum and longtime campaign associate Sharon Lettman-Hicks, between 2016 and 2019, conspired to commit wire fraud by soliciting money on “false and fraudulent promises.”

Translation: federal investigators claim Gillum lied.

That would have been during the time Gillum ran for Governor.

He knew he was under investigation but ran anyway. He upset Gwen Graham in the Democratic Primary, who likely would have had a better chance to beat DeSantis.

Gillum denied the charges.

“Every campaign I’ve run has been done with integrity. Make no mistake that this case is not legal; it is political,” he said in a statement.

“Throughout my career, I have always stood up for the people of Florida and have spoken truth to power. There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the Mayor of Tallahassee. They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now.”

Political?

This is a federal indictment, not from the state.

But everyone gets their day in court, and Gillum surely will get his.

In the meantime, though, he continues a stunning fall from grace. The former Tallahassee Mayor was a rising star in the Democratic Party, even after losing the Governor’s race. It didn’t take long for that to unravel.

In March 2020, a little more than a year after DeSantis took office, Miami Beach police found Gillum incoherent in a hotel room with bags of suspected crystal meth. Three men, one passed out, were with him. Gillum said he was at a wedding reception and drank too much but denied doing drugs.

He was not arrested.

Later, Gillum tried to launch a drive to increase Democratic voter registration, but with limited success. For the first time since records were kept, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in Florida.

Let’s not even go into the political end of things. At this point, it would be ridiculous to entertain the notion of any political comeback for Gillum. He has more pressing matters, such as staying out of prison.

Still, it’s hard not to wonder what might have been if Gillum won. Republicans will say the state dodged a cannonball when DeSantis topped Gillum, and considering everything, they might be right.

Imagine if this formal accusation came down as Gov. Gillum was running for re-election.

Better yet, don’t. We’ve had enough things to worry about without adding something that didn’t happen to the list.

___

In 2018, Gillum lost to DeSantis by about 32,000 votes. He was a popular nominee in many Democratic areas of the state, including Tallahassee, where he spent 15 years in local elected office, serving as a City Commissioner and later as Mayor.

And, as the party’s nominee for Governor, his support four years ago was hard-sought among Democratic candidates, including current Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow.

Matlow was often seen alongside Gillum four years ago as they both campaigned for office. Various pictures on Matlow’s social media accounts show him with Gillum at the FAMU homecoming parade, in front of the state Capitol, and marching together through the city with a crowd carrying a mix of “Rattlers for Gillum” and Matlow campaign signs.

The first-term Commissioner even used one of those photos in a direct mail ad that tied his campaign hopes directly to Gillum.

A direct mail ad produced by the Jeremy Matlow campaign.

“Gillum for Florida. Matlow for Tallahassee. Matlow will continue Tallahassee’s work as we bring it home for Florida,” the mailer reads, with a nod to Gillum’s campaign slogan.

Matlow, of course, is not accused of wire fraud. He has also not been accused of knowing about the crimes Gillum allegedly committed during the 2018 campaign cycle. However, Matlow’s bromance could come back to haunt him as he gears up for a re-election bid against David Bellamy.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@JohnJHarwood: whatever its other consequences, the Jan. 6 committee is pushing the national political conversation toward clearer distinctions between truth and lies, right and wrong, people who actually uphold American values and dangerous frauds who trash them for power or money or both

@Steve_Vladek: Stop calling them “alternate” electors. It’s not like Hawaii in 1960 when two slates were duly certified. These were random-ass people who met in a room and declared themselves to be something they weren’t, then fraudulently tried to get counted as representing what they didn’t.

@JasonFurman: Whatever you thought of the merits of a gas tax holiday in February, it is a worse idea now. Refineries are even more constrained now so supply is nearly fully inelastic. Most of the 18.4 cent reduction would be pocketed by industry — with maybe, a few cents passed on to consumers.

@DavidABergstein: The ham-handed way Rick Scott has worked to elevate his own profile at the expense of working at the NRSC is one of Senate Democrats’ great advantages.

@TravisAkers: I supported Andrew Gillum in 2018. I do not regret that because we did not know at the time what we did not know. But at some point, you have to accept responsibility. You can’t continue to blame “political attacks” for actions that you clearly knew were unethical and illegal.

@RealJacobPerry: Andrew Gillum was a scam from day one. Literally, everyone knew it, and no one cared because too many people were in on the grift. And now we will have President DeSantis because of it. Congratulations, everyone. Hope you spent that money well.

@KevinCate: Couldn’t be any more disappointed.

@BriceBarnes: When people wonder why you left a campaign.

@ClayTravis: Disney stock is now the same price, $94 a share, as it was on January 5th of 2015. That’s 7.5 years of complete immobility in the stock price, also, coincidentally, when cord-cutting began.

Tweet, tweet:

@MDixon55: A lot has already been said about this indictment, but fact mega national Dem donor Donald Sussman was “defrauded” as part of this isn’t going to help the 2022 version of Florida Democrats and their national $ problem

@chris_minor10: Lady out at Tom Brown Park is cranking out laps around the park with a 20 oz Milwaukee’s Best Tall Boy. She’s on her second (not lap). And here I am for the last 25 min making up reasons not to get out of the car and run in the heat. I think she’s onto something.

— DAYS UNTIL —

2022 Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Solution Summit — 5; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 16; 36th Annual Environmental Permitting School — 26; 2022 Sunshine Summit begins — 29; San Diego Comic-Con 2022 — 30; Beyoncé rolls-out seventh solo studio album ’Renaissance’ — 36; Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner novel ‘Heat 2’ publishes — 48; FRLA’s Operations and Marketing Summit — 55; FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon2022, begins — 55; ‘House of the Dragon’ premieres on HBO — 59; 2022 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 69; ‘Andor’ premieres on Disney+ — 69; ‘The Lord of the Rings’ premieres on Amazon Prime — 71; NFL Opening Night: LA Rams vs. Buffalo Bills — 77; 2022 Emmys — 81; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 106; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 123; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 124; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 124; ‘Black Panther 2’ premieres — 140; FITCon 2022 begins — hundred 47; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 147; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 151; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 151; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 152; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 160; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 160; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 174; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 238; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 256; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 274; 2023 Session Sine Die — 316; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 316; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 344; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 400; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 484; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 645; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 764.

—TOP STORY —

Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis’s 2018 rival, is charged with conspiracy and fraud” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — The charges appear to stem from a federal investigation into Tallahassee City Hall that began in 2015 and involved undercover FBI agents posing as developers. Revelations from the investigation, including that Gillum had socialized with the undercover agents in New York, where they took a boat ride to the Statue of Liberty and saw the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” were an issue in the 2018 campaign.

DeSantis said at the time that Gillum could not be trusted to run the state.

Gillum, who did not disclose the gifts at the time as required by state law, paid a $5,000 Florida ethics fine in 2019.

What could have been: Is it political or did Florida dodge a bullet?

The 21-count indictment against Gillum shows that a grand jury filed the charges against him June 7. Also charged was Sharon Lettman-Hicks, a confidant of Gillum’s since college. According to the indictment, she used her communications company to disguise fraudulent payments to Gillum as part of her payroll.

In a statement, Gillum said he had run all his political campaigns “with integrity.”

“Make no mistake that this case is not legal; it is political,” he said. “There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the Mayor of Tallahassee. They found nothing then, and I have full confidence that my legal team will prove my innocence now.”

Click here to read the indictment versus Gillum.

How it’s playing: The downfall of Andrew Gillum

NBC News: Gillum, DeSantis’ 2018 opponent, indicted for wire fraud, false statements — “ … he began phoning friends frantically about the criminal case when he was informed that his indictment was imminent. ‘He’s down. He’s sad. He feels beat up.’” NPR: Florida’s former Democratic “rising star” is indicted — “It’s another low point for Gillum, who just four years ago was a rising star in the Democratic Party … he was popular and charismatic but had long been connected with federal investigations. While Mayor, he faced scrutiny for trips paid for by lobbyists and special interests.” Miami Herald: Gillum’s indictment is just more bad news for Florida Democrats — “There can be no dispute that another round of negative publicity from Gillum’s problems … is the last thing Democrats in Florida needed.” Business Insider: Gillum pleads not guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges — “Prosecutors alleged that Gillum (used) influence as Mayor and a rising Democratic Party star to solicit grant money under the pretense of campaigning or providing voter education services, when really, they were using the money for their own ‘personal benefit.’” BET: Gillum arrested by feds on fraud charges — “Gillum and Lettman-Hicks conspired to commit wire fraud by unlawfully soliciting and obtaining funds from various entities and individuals ‘through false and fraudulent promises and representations that the funds would be used for a legitimate purpose.’” The Wall Street Journal: Gillum, former Florida gubernatorial candidate, is indicted on fraud charges — “Gillum also said, ‘There’s been a target on my back ever since I was the Mayor of Tallahassee.’” Tallahassee Democrat: Gillum shackled, mostly silent during first appearance and corruption case — “Todd Yoder, who represented Gillum during the appearance, said the two continue to work together under a contract with a foundation, though he didn’t mention it by name.” People: Gillum charged with wire fraud, making false statements — “With criminal charges now on the table, any chance of a political future for Gillum looks increasingly slim.”

—”Gillum pleads not guilty” via Gray Rohrer and Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

Tweet, tweet:

—2022 —

2024 poll: DeSantis edges Donald Trump in New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary” via Paul Steinhauser of Fox News — A public opinion survey in New Hampshire, the state that for a century has held the first primary in presidential race, indicates that DeSantis has a razor-thin margin over Trump in a hypothetical 2024 GOP primary matchup. 39% of likely Republican primary voters in the Granite State would support DeSantis, with 37% backing the former President. Respondents were provided a list of potential contenders for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, and DeSantis’ margin was well within the survey’s sampling error.

Ronny and Nancy of Tallahassee” via Tina Nguyen of Puck News — A few months back, a GOP operative told me about an old employee who had sought a job with DeSantis. The employee had already been through multiple rounds of interviews and passed background checks. Having been deemed worthy of a meeting with the principal, he was called in for one last evaluation. To his surprise, this final interview was not with DeSantis. It was with his wife, Casey. When I mentioned that anecdote to a GOP consultant, he remarked that he had heard similar stories about the “DeSantii” interview process — not just for potential employees, but for vendors and contractors, too. This consultant hypothesized that the couple are strongly aware they could be targets for graft, an endemic problem in the post-Trump Republican ecosphere.

Activist sues DeSantis for surveilling him, barring him from press conferences” by Joshua Ceballos of the Miami New Times

—”Jacksonville University invites candidates for Governor, other offices, to fall debates” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union

Mark Lombardo says Matt Gaetz can ‘no longer get the job done’ in CD 1” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Republican congressional candidate Lombardo has released a new ad for his campaign to oust U.S. Rep. Gaetz in Florida’s 1st Congressional District. Lombardo, a former U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam, entered the race June 15 and pledged to put $1 million into his campaign. This week, the Pensacola Republican launched his first TV ad. “When I was living in a trailer in Pensacola, flying combat missions in Vietnam, or helping grow FedEx into an American icon, I never thought I’d run for Congress, but when I learned that Matt Gaetz hired pedophile Jeffrey Epstein‘s attorney to defend himself against sex trafficking, I knew he could no longer get the job done,” Lombardo says in the 30-second ad.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Scott Franklin makes $32K ad buy in CD 18 — U.S. Rep. Franklin’s campaign has placed a $31,597 ad buy in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The flight will pay for cable ads to run on ESPN, Fox News, HGTV, TBS, TNT, USA, and other networks from June 23-July 13. According to AdImpact, the media buy directs $21,427 to run ads in the Tampa media market and $10,170 in the Fort Myers media market. This is Franklin’s first cable flight of the 2022 election cycle.

Jared Moskowitz tops 100 endorsements with his latest round of supporters” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A new round of announcements from major public-sector unions — including those representing police and firefighters — and South Florida elected officials has just put Moskowitz over the 100-endorsement mark. The official count is 101 from multiple organizations, current and former elected officials, and civic leaders. The Democratic candidate’s endorsers include people from the mainstream establishment wing of the Democratic Party and its progressive wing. The newest endorsements, which the campaign is announcing Wednesday, include the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3080 and the Florida State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Happening tonight:

— MORE 2022 —

’Team Gaffney’ focus of first TV ad in SD 5 race” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney’s first television ad of the Senate District 5 campaign is a positive spot that accentuates his family ties and dedication to being a political team. player. Gaffney stresses the “Team Gaffney” concept in much of his campaign marketing, and the ad focuses on that team spirit, lauding the candidate’s parents and including shots of his brothers in sports uniforms from “FAMU, the University of Florida, and the NFL.” “Perseverance, dedication, and long hours: that is what it takes to succeed on the field,” the narrator intones. “Reggie Gaffney will put in the work again as your state Senator. No one will work harder for Jacksonville than Team Gaffney.”

‘Team Gaffney’ breaks out with the first TV spot in his Senate bid.

#FlaPol gets results — “Alex Newman withdraws from HD 28, clearing way for Tom Leek” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Newman has withdrawn from the race for House District 28, clearing the way for Rep. Leek to win election in the Central Florida district. The Ormond Beach Republican submitted a letter of withdrawal Wednesday. “I, Alex Newman, am hereby withdrawing from the race for Florida House District 28 in the 2022 election cycle, effective immediately, if it is still possible to remove my name from the ballot,” the letter reads. Newman officially entered the race in May, though his campaign started raising money and sending communications to voters and potential donors about a week prior, which is illegal under Florida elections law.

Former Haines City Mayor fails to qualify for state House race” via Gary White of The Ledger — Friday at noon was the deadline for candidates to submit qualifying material to the state. The Division of Elections posted names of some candidates as “active” Friday, only to remove them later as it pared the list to confirmed qualifiers. The most dramatic reversal involved Horace West, a former Mayor and City Commissioner in Haines City. West planned to run as a Democrat and would have faced the winner of a Republican Primary between Republican Rep. Josie Tomkow of Polk City and Bill Olson of Davenport. Tomkow now serves in District 39 and is seeking a third term. It appears that West’s candidacy was undone by an error on a check he wrote to cover qualifying fees.

More results from #FlaPol — “Is another candidate, Austin Brownfield, doomed for switching parties too close to qualifying?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Brownfield, a Safety Harbor Republican, switched political parties in March. That would make him ineligible to run in a Republican primary against Adam Anderson in House District 57. That’s a problem because a new Florida law requires candidates to be registered members of their chosen political party at least 365 days before the beginning of the qualifying period. Brownfield told Florida Politics he feels led astray by the Florida Division of Elections and frustrated by a law that apparently left no window for him to run this year. “All I wanted to ever do was represent the people and serve this country,” he said.

‘I have no choice but to run’: Linda Chaney picks up challenge from Democrat Janet Varnell Warwick” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — After spending most of the pre-qualifying period unopposed, incumbent Rep. Chaney has picked up a General Election opponent, Varnell Warwick. A St. Petersburg Democrat, she filed to run against Chaney for House District 61 on June 8, days before the qualification deadline. She told Florida Politics she had not planned to run until she learned Chaney was unopposed. “It was never my intention to also serve in public office,” Varnell Warwick said, citing her busy career as a lawyer. “But Florida is heading to a very bad place. I have no choice but to run. Voters deserve a choice, and we did not have one in our district.”

Janet Varnell Warwick saw no choice but to run.

Vicki Lopez’s exit from Senate race shakes up HD 113 contest” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A Republican newcomer to the race to represent House District 113 in central Miami-Dade County edged out the Democrat in May fundraising if you don’t count the refunds in her expense column. Lopez switched out of Senate District 38 and made the race for HD 113 a four-way contest against two Democrats and one Republican. The switch made her HD 113’s candidate with the most money to spend. Between Lopez’s personal account and her political committee, Common Sense Government, Lopez has $156,748 in her campaign kitty, including a $50,000 loan she made to her campaign. Lopez is going to need all the help she can get. This district leans Democratic. The outgoing, term-limited Representative is a Democrat, and Isbell’s data shows that Joe Biden won here by 11.5 points over Trump.

— STATEWIDE —

Casey DeSantis is ‘fit to fight,’ visits NWFL to announce child protective services program” via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News — DeSantis declared herself “fit to fight” Wednesday at the Air Force Armament Museum, where she announced an initiative to recruit former military, their spouses and law enforcement into the field of child protection. Florida’s First Lady, who is transitioning back into public life following a battle with breast cancer, came to Eglin Air Force Base to announce a state initiative called Continue the Mission. Child protection investigators are on the front line for the state’s Department of Children and Family Services as they interact with families, DeSantis told a crowd of about 60 people. They see abuse and neglect regularly and often act as a liaison between their clients and outside agencies.

Casey DeSantis is fit to fight for child protection.

Nikki Fried may recommend law, resource changes after Orlando ride tragedy” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — At a small community forum to review last March’s tragic death of a teenager on the FreeFall ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Fried said she might recommend law and resource changes. Fried stopped short of any specifics, saying that her department’s investigation of the March 24 death of Tyre Sampson remains underway, as does his family’s wrongful death lawsuit charging negligence by the park, ride operator and manufacturer. While declining to get into specifics of the investigation beyond the preliminary report and appendices posted online by her Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection, Fried declared, “We do not want this to happen again. That is my promise.”

Happening today — The Florida Transportation Commission meets, 10 a.m. Call-in: 850-739-5589. Conference ID: 137060070.

CDC: Historic outbreak of meningococcal disease among LGBTQ men in Florida” via Caroline Catherman and Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — At least six people in Florida have died in what the CDC called “one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in U.S. history,” with state and health officials and LGBTQ+ groups scrambling to alert the public about the deadly disease. As of Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health has recorded 10 deaths and 44 cases in 2022, more than double the annual average over the last five years: 13 of those were in Orange County, three in Seminole, three in Lake, and one in Osceola. At least 26 of those cases and six of the deaths have been linked back to the outbreak, CDC spokesperson Bert Kelly said. Typically, only about 2% to 3% of cases are due to outbreaks, the CDC says.

Surgeons for Safety aims to boost ‘Brazilian butt lift’ safety in Florida” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Surgeons for Safety, comprised of board-certified plastic surgeons, was formed shortly after the Florida Board of Medicine approved an emergency order introducing new regulations on the procedure. On Monday, the group and seven plastic surgeons asked Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal to block the emergency order. Dr. Constantino Mendieta, president of the Surgeons for Safety Coalition, said the new organization has goals beyond blocking the emergency order. “In addition to challenging the Board of Medicine’s Emergency Order based on its impacts on safety for patients, we intend to be a new voice in Florida’s health care industry that will seek to promote patient safety, and as the experts in this field, provide suggestions on how to meaningfully impact patient safety going forward,” he said.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Joe Biden pushes Congress for three-month gas tax holiday” via Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Lydia DePillis of The New York Times — With fuel prices near record highs, Biden on Wednesday urged Congress to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax and give Americans “just a little bit of breathing room,” even as the proposal faced dim prospects on Capitol Hill. In a speech from the White House, Biden asked Congress to lift the federal taxes, about 18 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24 cents per gallon of diesel, through the end of September, shortly before the fall midterm elections. The President also asked states to suspend their gas taxes, hoping to alleviate the economic pain contributing to his diminishing popularity.

First Lady Jill Biden coming to Florida for cancer initiative” via News Channel 6 — Biden will arrive at the Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach Thursday afternoon as part of the administration’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, according to a news release. Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm and Ambassador Nancy Brinker will join Biden for the initiative, which seeks to “highlight the importance of private-sector commitments and collaboration in the effort to end cancer as we know it,” the release says. Reports show the three women are set to tour FoundCare Palm Springs, which established a women’s health center offering breast and cervical cancer screenings.

Rick Scott: Texas GOP platform not ‘inclusive’ on homosexuality” via Jill Colvin of The Associated Press’ Jill Colvin —Scott, chair of the GOP’s Senate elections committee, on Wednesday criticized the Texas Republican Party’s new platform for not being ‘inclusive’ when it described homosexuality as ‘an abnormal lifestyle choice.’ Scott spoke to reporters at a breakfast just days after GOP delegates in the country’s largest red state approved the new platform, which also falsely labels President Joe Biden an ‘acting’ commander-in-chief and says that Texas ‘retains the right to secede from the United States.’ ‘My experience is, you know, the Republican Party is inclusive. And so I don’t — I wouldn’t have supported that, what they did,’ Scott said when pressed on the homophobic language, which he said was not inclusive. He also reiterated that he accepts Biden’s election.”

Tweet, tweet:

— JAN. 6 —

Jan. 6 panel revises hearing schedule, citing new evidence” via Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney of Florida Politics — Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, said Wednesday that significant new streams of evidence have necessitated a change to the panel’s hearing schedule, including the potential for additional hearings. After the committee’s Thursday hearing, which will focus on Trump’s effort to deploy the Justice Department to help overturn the 2020 presidential election, House investigators will resume hearings in July, Thompson said.

—“DOJ endorses delay in Proud Boys trial, citing Jan. 6 committee’s ongoing work” via Kyle Cheney of POLITICO

Alone in Washington, Rusty Bowers tells world what happened in Arizona” via Yvonne Wingett Sanchez of The Washington Post — Hours before Arizona House Speaker Bowers testified about how he refused to help Trump overturn the 2020 election results, he sat alone in his Capitol Hill hotel room, reading quotes about courage from John F. Kennedy and watching a church elder’s video about being a peacemaker. He awoke early Tuesday to read some notes he kept during that time, written in cursive in personal notebooks. “I did have a conversation with the President,” he said carefully and deliberately, his glasses perched on the end of his nose. “That certainly isn’t it. Anywhere anyone, anytime, has said that I said the election was rigged — that would not be true.”

Rusty Bowers needs to get something off his chest.

Trump attorney links Florida to efforts to use alternate electors to undermine Biden victory” via Laura Cassels of the Florida Phoenix — Amid the partisan turbulence of the 2020 presidential campaign, attorney John Eastman and other strategists for then-President Trump were making plans to help Trump remain in office in case he did not actually win, according to evidence being gathered in Congress. On Tuesday, Florida burst into that picture with Eastman saying in a video that Florida played a role. “You (the video’s audience) could also do what the Florida Legislature was prepared to do, which is to adopt a slate of electors yourselves,” Eastman said in the video, played Tuesday during the fourth public hearing of the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the nation’s Capitol.

Rick Scott calls Jan. 6 hearings ‘reality TV’ and ‘irrelevant’” via Alex Roarty of the Miami Herald — Republican Sen. Scott dismissed the importance of the ongoing Jan. 6 congressional hearings on Wednesday, comparing them to lowbrow entertainment and arguing it will fail to prevent another attack. “I think it’s irrelevant,” Scott said during a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “It’s reality TV.” Told that the first televised hearing earlier this month had 20 million viewers, the Senator said he remained unimpressed. “I’ve not gotten asked about it in my state,” he said. The hearings have featured testimony from retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig, who advised former Vice President Mike Pence, that Trump and his supporters represented “a clear and present danger to American democracy.”

Ivanka Trump expressed a different view on the election to a filmmaker” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Trump, the former President’s elder daughter, told a documentary film crew in the middle of December 2020 that her father should “continue to fight until every legal remedy is exhausted” because people were questioning “the sanctity of our elections.” The video, played for The New York Times by someone with access to it, was part of a trove that the filmmaker Alex Holder turned over to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. He recorded several hours of interviews with Trump, Pence, some of Trump’s adult children, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Holder is expected to be interviewed by the committee on Thursday.

— MORE LOCAL: S. FL —

Broward Sheriff makes first public comments about the prospect of no longer being a certified cop” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Sheriff Gregory Tony made his first public comments early Wednesday regarding the possibility he’ll lose his law enforcement license for untruths he made while filling out driver’s license applications, saying he wasn’t concerned about the prospect of no longer being a cop. A panel, part of the state Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, conducted a Probable Cause Determination hearing Tuesday and decided there is evidence for continuing the case. Tony appeared on “First News with Jimmy Cefalo” on Wednesday and told the radio host that his email has been “blowing up” with support. He said it’s been years of “slander and attack.” And he said he wasn’t concerned because there wasn’t a precedence to revoke his certification.

Gregory Tony speaks. Will it help?

‘I’m a mess.’ Surfside survivors struggle to reclaim their lives after tower collapsed” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — Raysa Rodriguez hears voices. They wake her up at night. They speak to her when she’s riding her bike. They plead with her when she’s cooking dinner. It’s as if the ghosts of her friends and neighbors are trapped in her head, one year after they were trapped in the rubble of Champlain Towers South. They are moaning. They are screaming. The most distinct voice is of a woman crying, “Please help me. Please don’t leave me here like this.” “I hear them dying,” Rodriguez said, matching names to unit numbers and describing personalities. “Dying in the wreckage of our homes. And I couldn’t save them. It haunts me.”

‘One of a kind.’ Miami Beach Commissioner Mark Samuelian dies at 58 after illness” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — Samuelian, who was known for his “resident first” governing style and a focus on public safety, first took office in 2017 and was re-elected in 2021. He was born in Boston and bought his first home in Miami Beach in 2003. The news of his death stunned the city, leading to messages of sadness and admiration from the residents he served and his colleagues on the Commission. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava posted her condolences on Twitter. “He was one of the most kind, big-hearted public servants — a truly rare and special person we will miss dearly,” she wrote. His partner, Laura Dominguez, said Samuelian died from an “unexpected illness” but did not disclose further details.

RIP to Mark Samuelian, a true servant of the people of Miami Beach.

— MORE LOCAL: C. FL —

Orange County Commission debates center on growth versus affordability” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orange County’s continuing massive population growth and growing gap between housing prices and wages had candidates in three County Commission elections debating ways Wednesday to balance growth and affordability. The widest-ranging debate took place Wednesday at a forum featuring five of seven candidates in the county’s District 6 election, which has no incumbent because Commissioner Victoria Siplin is term-limited. Lawanna Gelzer, a longtime community activist and business owner, pressed hard on two points: that development needs to consider environmental impact and that Orange County needs to rethink what could be possible outside of traditions and then rewrite regulations to make it possible, such as to encourage widespread development of tiny houses.

Central Florida hotel group backs Jerry Demings for second term” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association is backing Orange County Mayor Demings and other incumbents across Central Florida for re-elections to new terms. The Association’s political action committee and political committee, representing a vast business sector across Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties, backed incumbents in all seven County Commission races. “CFHLA PAC and PC is extremely excited to support this diverse and effective group of bipartisan candidates throughout the 2022 election cycle,” said Jay Leonard, general manager of the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Disney Springs Resort Area and the chair of the CFHLA PAC and PC.

Orlando hotels love Jerry Demings.

‘I have to find a home and a job,’ says resident of ‘The Florida Project’ hotel” via Trevor Fraser and Amanda Rabines of the Orlando Sentinel — Heather Squires doesn’t know where she’s going. She has lived at the Magic Castle hotel for three years, paying for her room by working there. “Now I have to find a home and a job,” Squires said Wednesday, tearing up. “That’s a lot to dump on someone in less than 24 hours.” As first reported by WFTV-Channel 9, residents of the hotel learned Monday that the hotel had been purchased, and the new owners were forcing everyone out. Located along Kissimmee’s tourist strip, Magic Castle was the setting for the award-winning movie “The Florida Project,” released in 2017. It came to be known as the quintessential pay-by-the-week motel used by low-wage residents who can’t afford market-rate apartments.

Orange County’s rental crisis will be focus of Special Session Thursday” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — With rents soaring, Orange County Commissioners will meet in Special Session to discuss relief strategies to help struggling tenants. A board majority backs a proposed ballot measure which, if voters approve, would impose a temporary cap on rent increases. But even supporters of the “rent stabilization” initiative aren’t sure how much it will help. The average market rate rent in Orlando is $1,799. The Special Session will also explore other housing-affordability measures, including a “Tenant Bill of Rights,” which would require that landlords or property managers give 60-days’ advance notice of a rent increase.

Pinellas County prepares to pass Tenants Bill of Rights as rental costs soar” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — A single mother raising three children and working as a paralegal recently qualified for a $2,800 housing voucher through the Pinellas County Housing Authority, which should have been enough to secure a three-bedroom apartment. But landlord after landlord turned the woman away solely because most of her rent would come from government assistance, according to Elisa Galvan, director of the county’s housing choice voucher program. “Those are the things we see every day at the housing authority,” Galvan told the Pinellas County Commission on Tuesday.

Suit seeks Hillsborough election records on 2020 voter education spending” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — A Lakeland attorney wants to know if Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer used a nearly $3 million grant to run a partisan get-out-the-vote campaign leading up to the November 2020 election. In a May 25 lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Hardam Hitarth Tripathi of Lakeland is seeking public records from Latimer and consultant Vistra Communications of Lutz documenting how the grant was used. Vistra devised and implemented a wide-ranging voter education campaign on Latimer’s behalf in fall 2020 that included advertisements on television, radio, billboards, ride-share vehicles, gas pumps, movie screens, airport displays, print news publications and social media.

Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes claimed improper homestead exemption” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa City Council member Gudes said he has lived in his childhood home in East Tampa for more than four years, but until last month, he enjoyed an improper tax break for another residence he owns in North Tampa. Gudes requested that the homestead exemption on the North Tampa home on May 18 be removed and has paid $13,222.42 to the Hillsborough County Appraiser’s Office, said Marilyn Martinez, director of administrative services for the office. The payment is for the 2019, 2020, and 2021 tax years and includes penalties and interest.

Polk’s COVID-19 positivity rate surges to 19%” via Gary White of The Ledger — New infections of COVID-19 are still increasing in Polk County as a subvariant of the omicron virus spreads through Florida. The Florida Department of Health reported 2,642 new cases for Polk County in a biweekly report issued late Friday afternoon. That total, based on figures from June 10 to June 16, indicated a jump of 24.8% from the previous report. The agency reported that the positivity rate for COVID-19 testing in Polk County stood at 19% compared to 14.8% two weeks earlier. The county went more than two months with the positivity rate below 10% before a surge that began in mid-May.

— MORE LOCAL: SW. FL —

School Board candidate decides against attending campaign event hosted by local Proud Boys activist” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County School Board District 4 candidate Robyn Marinelli said she will not attend a meet and greet campaign event hosted in part by a local Proud Boys activist. James Hoel, 50, and his wife, Kathy, were listed as RSVP contacts for the event initially scheduled for June 23. The event was to take place at Island Organics Cafe in Venice, owned partly by Kathy Hoel. Marinelli’s campaign manager, Collin Thompson, did not answer whether the event was canceled or planned as a fundraiser. Instead, he responded to coverage and criticism of the event.

Robyn Marinelli takes a hard pass on a Proud Boys event.

State Attorney charges Manatee Commissioner George Kruse with DUI” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The State Attorney’s Office has charged Kruse with DUI in response to an April incident where Kruse crashed his truck into a tree in his neighborhood. The office announced the charges Wednesday afternoon. The State Attorney’s Office will be filing a single count of DUI, and Kruse’s arraignment is set for July 19. The office added that it would not be making any statements on the pending case. The charges arise after police responded to Kruse on April 20, after he had crashed his truck into a tree within his residential gated community in Bradenton. A Manatee County Sheriff’s deputy who responded to the call described Kruse immediately after the crash as “in an overall confused state,” according to police reports.

Heads of Collier County charity that honors slain cops arrested; founder charged with embezzlement” via Francisco Alvarado of the Florida Center for Government Accountability — A husband-and-wife team steering a Naples nonprofit has been hit with felony criminal charges. Rosemary Zore, president of the Robert L. Zore Foundation, was charged with embezzling from the non-profit she formed in 2018 and named for her father, a Miami-Dade police officer killed in the line of duty in 1983. The Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement also charged Zore with failing to properly register the foundation. Her husband, Michael Randall, faces a single felony charge of failing to register as a professional solicitor after he took a cut of the proceeds from donations.

— LOCAL NOTES: N. FL —

Nassau County Commission Chair Aaron Bell charged with DUI” via First Coast News — Fernandina Beach Police Department Deputy Chief Jeff Tambasco confirmed Bell was arrested on Tuesday night on Sadler Street in Fernandina Beach. Police say he is in the process of being booked. Bell, an Amelia Island resident since 2009, serves as Commission chair and represents District 2. He is reportedly the former president and CEO of Science First, an 80-employee manufacturing company in Yulee.

Aaron Bell is not so happy at the moment.

— TOP OPINION —

A sunshine state of mind” via The Spectator — There is a state pride in Florida that I haven’t seen in New York in a long time. “FloGrown” decals on the backs of cars are standard, even in my bluer new South Florida home. I’m from here and you new arrivals better recognize that. Those who got here before the pandemic freedom rush are particularly proud. They discovered the cool band when they were still rocking the local bars. They’re the early adopters, the ones who were right all along.

It’s impossible to highlight Florida’s renaissance without mentioning its Governor. DeSantis’s election was a twist of fate for the state. In 2018, he beat Gillum by a little over 32,000 votes, or 0.4%, and in an election Gillum was predicted to win.

DeSantis’s decision to traverse a different path during the pandemic has made him a star. It wasn’t just that he zigged when everyone else zagged, reopening after only a very short and quite relaxed lockdown; it’s that he took seriously the responsibility to his state to not blindly follow information that made no sense. He prioritized normalcy, especially for kids, and this was a major contributing factor for so many making the move.

The Florida story is about more than the pandemic. If the state has a current unifying theory, it’s freedom. The Governor talks about it frequently.

It’s one thing for masses to move here, for Miami to become the Crypto City and a tech hub, but can Florida stay Florida as the attention it gets reaches presidential proportions?

— OPINIONS —

Gas prices are crazy. Rent is insane. Give Miami families a break — restore child tax credit” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Congress should consider the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC), given to pandemic-stricken families from July to December last year, an experiment — a relatively successful one. And that’s why lawmakers should revive it — with some revisions that will save money, while also directing funds to families for whom it will do the most good. Between July and December 2021, as the pandemic and its dreadful effects on household incomes and budgets continued, families with children under the age of 17 received advance CTC payments each month of up to $300 a child. Nearly every household with children was eligible; single parents earning less than $200,000 and married couples earning under $400,000 also were eligible.

Runaway court judgment in Boca Raton condo case” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — After dawdling for too long, Tallahassee acted effectively after the collapse of a condo tower in Surfside last June 24 that resulted in 98 deaths. Reporting by the Sun-Sentinel, however, shows that unit owners need protection from more than disrepair. They need protection from their own neighbors and rapacious law firms. In 2005, Eileen Breitkreutz bought a two-bedroom, two-bath condo in the Boca View condominium. Eleven years ago, Breitkreutz asked her condo board for the Association’s financial records. The total amount due in the final judgment: $395,553.85. Only about $15,000 would go to the condo association. The rest will go to the Becker law firm. The firm justified its costs by noting “the serious nature of the suit and the aggressive defensive posture.”

In era of Corrine Brown and John Rutherford, longing for ethics of ‘Mr. Clean’” via Mark Woods of the Florida Times-Union — While Orlando decides whether to send Brown back to Washington, Northeast Florida has Rutherford there. In a way, Rutherford is following in the footsteps of Charlie Bennett. He is a part of the House Ethics Committee. He also is failing to fill Bennett’s shoes, again and again. When Rutherford was appointed to the committee, he issued a statement that said, “It is an honor to be chosen to serve on this respected committee.” But it jumps out when the Office of Congressional Ethics issues a report saying there is “substantial reason to believe” that a member of the Ethics Committee violated the STOCK Act. It also jumps out when the report says this committee member would not sit down to answer questions.

Brown and Alan Grayson are back in Democrats’ ‘Return of the Living Dead’” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Six years ago, Florida voters kicked Brown out of office. Two years ago, she was in prison. Last month, she pleaded guilty to tax fraud. And now what does Brown want to do? Run for office again. Then there’s Grayson, the constant screamer whom voters also rejected after The New York Times caught him running an ethically questionable hedge fund while serving in Congress. Brown and Grayson plowed into an uber-crowded primary to replace Val Demings. With 10 different Dems running, someone could fetch a measly 20% or less and walk away a winner.

— ALOE —

Disney Wish employee test sailings canceled to focus on christening” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — While Disney Wish arrived Monday to Port Canaveral amid celebratory fanfare, plans to get the cruise ship in shape this week have not gone as originally planned. Disney Cruise Line confirmed that two test cruises planned for a limited number of Disney employees and their families this week were pulled to focus on preparations for next week’s christening event on June 29. Still scheduled as planned, that ceremony is slated to be followed by a three-night news media preview sailing, the first with a significant number of people on board. After its return, the line will have nearly two weeks before it welcomes a full ship of paying customers.

An employee test run of Disney Wish did not go as planned.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil, Matt Killen of SEIU, Danielle McGill, and Kate Wallace.

___

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 FloridaPolitics.com, 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.


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

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