Last Call for 9.21.22 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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A digest of the day's politics and policy while the bartender refreshes your drink.

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Attorney General Ashley Moody is continuing her assault on fentanyl this week in North Florida.

The Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office shut down a fentanyl trafficking operation, seizing 8.35 kilograms of the drug. The Sheriff’s Office arrested two suspects who ordered the drugs and distributed large quantities of fentanyl to other dealers in Clay and Duval counties.

Authorities also seized 1.36 kilograms of cocaine, 2.38 kilograms of methamphetamine and various paraphernalia.

“Fentanyl is killing Americans at a record pace, and these drug traffickers compiled enough of this deadly synthetic opioid to kill everyone within 18 counties of their criminal operation,” Moody said in a statement. “Thankfully, working with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, we were able to take these deadly drugs off the streets before they could kill Floridians.”

In July, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the United States Postal Service and Florida Highway Patrol began investigating a drug trafficking organization utilizing USPS to order fentanyl from California.

The Sheriff’s Office arrested Alvin “AJ” Mercado on fentanyl trafficking charges and Jason Setzer on drug trafficking, drug possession and firearm charges. Mercado faces up to 60 years in prison while Setzer faces up to 140 years.

“If you are dealing drugs or involved in the drug trade in any way, shape, or form in Clay County, we are coming for you,” Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said. “I promise you, every member of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office will continue working hard every day to keep drugs off of Clay County streets.”

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This November, five state Supreme Court justices and 28 appellate court judges are on the ballot, and a recent survey shows Florida lawyers want them to keep their jobs.

Every two years, Florida holds Merit Retention Elections in which voters get to decide whether some portion of state judicial officials keep their posts. According to a Florida Bar survey of its members, no judge or justice scored less than 59% support.

On the Supreme Court, Justice Charles Canady scored 73%, Justice John Couriel scored 63%, Justice Jamie Grosshans scored 59%, Justice Jorge Labarga scored 85% and Justice Ricky Polson scored 74%. Judges on the District Courts of Appeal scored as high as 86% and as low as 63%.

The survey results come from a ballot mailed to all lawyers practicing and residing in Florida who are in good standing with the Bar. Of 78,405 ballots sent, 3,626 participated in the voluntary survey. Only the responses from lawyers saying they had considerable or limited knowledge of the judges were included in the results.

Florida law requires Florida Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges to be placed on the ballot in nonpartisan elections during the first General Election following their appointment and then every six years. This year, five 1st DCA judges, eight 2nd DCA judges, two 3rd DCA judges, seven 4th DCA judges, and six 5th DCA judges are on the ballot.

The poll results and judicial biographies are available on the Florida Bar’s website.

Evening Reads

—“Donald Trump accused of vast fraud in suit by New York Attorney General” via Michael R. Sisak and Larry Neumeister of The Associated Press

—“Ron DeSantis administration’s proposed rule will delay access to care for poor, autistic children, providers say” via Christine Sexton of Florida Politics

—“Marco Rubio pulls two ads off broadcast TV after Florida Politics reports” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“Joe Biden calls for more U.N. support for Ukraine, rebukes Vladimir Putin for new threats” via Shannon K. Crawford, Sarah Kolinovsky, Molly Nagle and Alexandra Hutzler of ABC News

—“Florida doesn’t gain many new women voters after Roe ruling, but abortion issue remains” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

—“Citizens board, officials cite lawsuits as ‘root problem’ of insurance crisis” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics

—“Florida appeals 11th Circuit social media ruling to SCOTUS” via Rebecca Kern of POLITICO

—“Poll shows Laurel Lee with healthy lead in CD 15” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“Biden coming to Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday. Focus is health care costs, Medicare, Social Security.” via Anthony Mann of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

—“Miami-Dade commissioners vote to double their pay, but ‘ambassador’ plan dies in budget” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald

—“Florida’s ‘real’ tourist attraction is rocket launches” via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times

—“Coors beer covers I-75 in Hernando County after tractor-trailer crash” via Michaela Mulligan of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, plain and simple, and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should make your blood run cold.”

— President Joe Biden speaking at the United Nations General Assembly.

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