Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.23.22

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Here’s the day that was — and will be — in Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

A new edition of INFLUENCE Magazine is dropping, but it won’t just be the 2022 INFLUENCE 100. This year, I’m adding 50 spots to the list.

Simply put, there were just too many people who deserved a spot on the list for me to stop at 100. Even at 150, some hard choices had to be made over who made the cut. We could have easily expanded further — if you’ve kept track of the INFLUENCE 100 over the years, you likely know its origin as “The Fortune 500 of Florida politics.”

That may be a difficult mark to hit, but at the rate of Florida’s growth, I can at least understand how, over the years, Billboard’s simple Top 10 list grew into the monstrous Top 200.

And stopping at 150 was a risk I was willing to take — “the action is the juice,” if you will.

As always, I’m responsible for those facepalming, out-of-left-field choices, as well as glaring sins of omission. I’m the one who initially decided not to rank the list. I’m the one who moved so-and-so from the “150” section to the honorable mentions.

But if you’re upset about not making the cut, wait a few months before you start “talking to an empty telephone” or tell me, metaphorically, to leave the car keys and the kitchen on my way out the door.

The January edition of INFLUENCE will include the 2023 Rising Stars in Florida Politics and our first-ever Most Powerful People in Health Care Lobbying. Knowing those were in the pipeline made some decisions easier, and it should soothe those of you who are flipping through the pages looking for a mention.

At the very least, it should help you slow down enough to enjoy the excellent photography and bios penned by honorees’ peers, competitors and admirers.

There are no elected officials or agency heads in the INFLUENCE 150. That’s for two reasons. Obviously, the Governor is the most influential person in the state, love it or hate it. Further, most power among officeholders derives from the position itself — typically speaking, their influence wanes once they’ve left office.

Instead, the INFLUENCE 150 includes the fewer scene-masters of the universe: The Players, The Thought Leaders, The Lobbyists, The Titans, The Counselors, The Media, The Industry Leaders, The Advocates, The Wonks and The Legends.

And on a side note: bonus points for next time if you quickly noticed that I just watched “Heat” and read the sequel.

Here is the 2022 INFLUENCE 150.

To view, click on the image below:


@BruceBartlett: I think a key reason why (Donald) Trump’s criminal behavior pre-White House was largely ignored by the media is that it was old news. Every reporter who covered Trump knew he was a crook and just figured that the public knew as well and simply didn’t care.

@AdamBlickstein: I’ve never run for President but “kidnapping people for politics” probably isn’t the best platform to campaign on

@TheRickWilson: So, the people of Florida just spent $1 million of their tax dollars so Ron DeSantis could “punk the media.” Is that an in-kind contribution to his 2024 Presidential campaign?

Tweet, tweet:

@KevinCate: Not trying to stress anyone out but General Election mail ballots drop next week in Florida.

@KKFla737: Every single day here in Florida I realize climate change is not only real, but accelerating. 2022 is so different than 2007 or 1992. I fear if I am alive in 25 years, I will not recognize this place.

@JimRosicaFL: PEOPLE OF FLORIDA NEWS MEDIA: Please stop referring to state Rep. @CarlosGSmith as “Guillermo Smith” on second reference.

@JuddLegum: Funny how interest rates are going up and banks are dramatically increasing rates for mortgages and other consumer loans, but banks continue to pay virtually no interest on money in savings or checking accounts


Joe Biden to speak at a DNC rally in Orlando — 4; vote-by-mail mailing deadline for General Election — 9; 22-23 NHL season begins — 14; WPEC televised debate in Florida Governor’s race — 19; deadline to register for General Election — 21; ‘Before You Vote’ TV debates (Senate) — 25; Taylor Swift’s ‘Midnights’ release — 28; Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 31; Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Passenger’ releases — 32; Jon Meacham’s ‘And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle’ releases — 32; City & State Florida Digital Summit — 34; Early voting begins for General Election — 36; 2022 General Election — 46; ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ premieres — 49; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 49; FITCon 2022 begins — 55; ‘The Flash’ premieres — 55; The World Cup kicks off in Qatar — 59; The U.S. World Cup Soccer Team begins play — 59; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 68; ‘Willow’ premieres on Disney+ — 68; McCarthy’s ‘Stella Maris’ releases — 74; ‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 84; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 100; Bruce Springsteen launches his 2023 tour in Tampa — 131; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 147; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 165; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 182; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 207; 2023 Session Sine Die — 224; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 224; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 252; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 301; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 406; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 420; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 553; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 672; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 672; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 777; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 955.


Democratic divide in Florida: Ron DeSantis challenger to rally with Joe Biden, but Senate candidate won’t” via Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki of NBC News — Biden is coming to Florida next week to campaign with Charlie Crist as he tries to unseat DeSantis in a battleground state that has increasingly become a Republican stronghold.

But Democratic Senate candidate Val Demings won’t be there Tuesday to meet the President in her hometown, Orlando.

Charlie Crist welcomes Joe Biden to Florida; Val Demings, not so much.

The divergent whereabouts of the two candidates say as much about their respective campaigns as it does about Democrats’ approach-or-avoid conflict with the President, whose approval ratings are still underwater as he nevertheless regains his popularity and starts hitting the campaign trail in the final weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 Midterm Election.

Democratic candidates across the country have either tiptoed around or embraced Biden, depending on their races.

In Florida, Crist has a tougher race on his hands than Demings. He trails DeSantis by a wider margin than Demings does in her matchup against Sen. Marco Rubio, recent polls show. Demings also has about as much campaign cash as Rubio, while Crist is going up against an incumbent with $120 million on hand, a record for any statewide race in the country.

Given the size of the state and its 10 expensive media markets, Crist needs Biden to at least get free media exposure, said Steve Vancore, a Democratic pollster.

“Val Demings doesn’t need the money and attention that Charlie Crist does,’” Vancore said. “So, therefore, she could look at polling and say, ‘I need to get crossover voters, and Joe Biden’s underwater.”

Marco Rubio edges Val Demings by 2 points in new Florida Senate poll” via Zach Schonfeld of The Hill — Rubio leads Demings, by 2 percentage points, according to a Civiqs poll released on Thursday. The poll found 49% of likely voters expressed support for Rubio, compared to 47% support for Demings. A majority of independents — 55% — favored Rubio, while 37% indicated they would vote for Demings. Rubio also holds a 10-point lead among suburban voters and a 1-point lead among rural voters, while Demings carries urban voters by 14 points.

House passes Demings’ VICTIM Act boosting police funds” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Demings presided over the House in the morning as the chamber took up and approved her Violent Incident Clearance and Technological Investigative Methods (VICTIM) Act (HR 5768). When the House passed the bill on a 250-178 vote, the Orlando Democrat’s office described it as landmark legislation. The legislation if it becomes law will fund local police departments to hire victim support personnel. Demings, a former Orlando Police Chief and longtime beat cop, said those resources could make a huge difference in solving crimes. “Real life is different from television. Half of gun murders in the United States go unsolved, and victims are often left with no justice and little support,” she said.


Hypocrites: Media now blasts DeSantis for not flying immigrants to Delaware” via Zac Howard of The Florida Standard — Fresh off a week of negative headlines about DeSantis’ decision to fly 50 illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, members of the legacy media are now criticizing the Governor for not choosing to relocate another group of migrants. Last week, national and state media lambasted the Governor, calling the act “cruel,” “dehumanizing” and “human trafficking.” Headlines from the Miami Herald included the quotes “Sadistic Lie” and “A New Low.” One editorial headline read: “With shameful Martha’s Vineyard stunt, DeSantis dishes out cruelty with a smirk.” Reports indicated Florida’s relocation program for illegal immigrants would be sending a group of Venezuelans from San Antonio to a town near Biden’s home in Delaware on Tuesday. But the group never arrived.

Ron DeSantis promised to drop migrants off in Joe Biden’s home state; that didn’t happen.

Company hired to arrange DeSantis’ migrant flights is tied to high-level state official” via Lawrence Mower, Mary Ellen Klas, Romy Ellenbogen and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Destin-based Vertol Systems Company was familiar to a key member of the DeSantis administration: Larry Keefe, the state’s “public safety czar” responsible for carrying out the Governor’s anti-immigration programs. So far, Keefe’s ties to Vertol Systems are the best explanation of why the state hired the company. In addition to Keefe, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, whom Keefe hired before Gaetz was elected to Congress, also represented Vertol Systems in two 2010 lawsuits. The company and its owner, James Montgomerie, have given $27,000 to Republican politicians and political committees since 2005. Vertol Systems is also a partner in a company called Zeppelin Holdings LLC with Jay Odom, a prominent Okaloosa County developer and close associate of Gaetz.

Florida migrant-moving company gave GOP cash, has ties to DeSantis’ immigration ‘czar’ and Matt Gaetz” via Marc Caputo of NBC News — The air charter company Gov. DeSantis’ administration hired for his controversial migrant-moving program has contributed big money to some top allies of the Governor and was once legally represented by U.S. Rep. Gaetz and his former partner, who is now Florida’s “public safety czar” in charge of immigration policy. DeSantis’ administration has refused to release a copy of the $12 million contract with Vertol Systems Company Inc. for its role in administering the “unauthorized alien” program — which state Democrats want to block with a lawsuit Thursday — nor will the Governor’s Office comment on the nearly $1.6 million the company has received to send migrants to so-called “sanctuary” cities that welcome immigrants.

Jared Kushner: ‘Very troubling’ to see migrants used as ‘pawns’” via Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, appeared on Fox News this week and criticized the use of undocumented immigrants as “political pawns.” The implied criticism of Gov. DeSantis, who has dominated headlines recently after Florida chartered two flights of Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, comes as talk continues to ramp up that DeSantis could rival Trump for the White House in 2024. A Fox News host posed the question about immigration to Kushner during a Tuesday appearance on the cable news channel. It was directly preceded by a clip of DeSantis defending the flights, saying they have exposed the hypocrisy of liberals who had “a freakout” over his actions but ignore the humanitarian crisis at the border.

Jason Pizzo plans to file lawsuit to block more DeSantis migrant flights” via Steve Contorno of CNN — A Democratic lawmaker is expected to file a lawsuit seeking to block DeSantis from transporting any more migrants from the southern border to other states. State Sen. Pizzo of Miami said the DeSantis administration broke state law last week when it arranged to send 50 migrants in San Antonio by plane to Martha’s Vineyard. Pizzo said a legal challenge seeking an emergency injunction is “imminent.” Pizzo is hoping for a hearing by the end of the week. DeSantis has vowed to transport more migrants from the border, telling reporters the flights to Martha’s Vineyard were “just the beginning.”

Charlie Crist blasts DeSantis for abortion restrictions in new Spanish-language ad” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A new Spanish-language ad from Crist’s gubernatorial campaign is bashing DeSantis for supporting restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, including Florida’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Titled “Decisión Familiar” (Family Decision), the 30-second spot takes aim at the abortion limits DeSantis signed in April. The telenovela-style ad shows three generations of Hispanic women — a grandmother, a mother and her daughter — in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. They agree to proceed with an abortion 16 weeks into the daughter’s pregnancy. As the mother gets up to inform the doctor of their decision, a police officer tells her she and her daughter are under arrest.

To watch the ad, please click on the image below:

Assignment editors — Crist will take part in events to address the affordability crisis plaguing everyday Floridians: 8:45 a.m., affordability roundtable with Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Orlando; 10 a.m., news conference on the cost of Ron DeSantis, Orlando. Locations upon RSVP at [email protected].

— 2022 —

Rubio appears to have compared abortion to vehicular manslaughter” via Carter Sherman of Vice News — In a virtual town hall Monday, Rubio seemed to compare abortion to vehicular manslaughter. “In most states in this country, if a drunk driver runs a red light and kills a pregnant woman, they are charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter,” Rubio told Florida attorney John Stemberger, leader of the Florida Family Policy Council, a Christian advocacy group. “One for the child and one for the mother. So, we are already, in other areas of the law, recognize that is a human life worthy of protection of our laws.” In his comments, captured on video obtained by VICE News, Rubio also said that abortion ban exceptions meant to protect the health of pregnant people are “a massive loophole.”

Is abortion like vehicular manslaughter? Marco Rubio seems to think so.

Neal Dunn leads Al Lawson by 6 points in CD 2 poll” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Republican U.S. Rep. Dunn enjoys a 6-point lead over Democratic U.S. Rep. Lawson in a new poll of Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. The poll, commissioned by the Lawson-backing Southern Roots PAC and conducted by David Binder Research, shows 49% support for Dunn and 43% for Lawson in the North Florida district. Additional survey results show Lawson’s support rises to 47% after respondents were told positives and negatives about each candidate, while Dunn’s share remains unchanged. The district has drawn attention as a target of DeSantis, who proposed and signed congressional maps in an unprecedented move this year that eliminated Lawson’s original district, drawn in 2015 to empower the Black electorate.

Black lawmakers push DCCC to fund Lawson’s north Florida race” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Over the past two days, prominent members of the caucus have pressured Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee leadership to get behind Lawson, a three-term Black Democrat whose North Florida district was functionally wiped out by DeSantis in this year’s redistricting process. “I’ve met with [DCCC Chair] Sean Patrick Maloney two or three times, and I’ve been told the DCCC was not going to play in my race,” Lawson said in an interview. “They are city people,” he said of the DCCC. “They don’t always know how it works here.” During a DCCC-hosted meeting Wednesday night, CBC members grilled Maloney, a New York Democrat, over the group’s lack of support for Lawson, according to a person who attended the meeting.

Florida Independent Party endorses Eric Lynn for CD 13” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — The Independent Party of Florida (IPF) has announced its endorsement of Democratic nominee Lynn for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The IPF endorsement comes as CD 13 is home to roughly 185,000 nonaffiliated or independent voters, which may help Lynn in the Republican-leaning district. The district has a history of electing moderate and centrist officials like former U.S. Reps. Crist, David Jolly and Bill Young. Candidates are running to replace Crist in November. “Throughout his career, Eric Lynn has shown a commitment to American and Pinellas values,” Independent Party Chair Ernest Bach said in a statement.

Jason Brodeur pocketed $60,000 from a public grant. It’s not clear what he did for the money.” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — Details are emerging about Brodeur’s role in a much older controversy: An economic-development deal in which a company co-founded by Brodeur and another state lawmaker took a multimillion-dollar grant from one of the poorest counties in Florida — a company that didn’t even exist at the time they applied for the grant and eventually went out of business. The deal was ridden with conflicts of interest and allegations of political favoritism, and it sparked at least two criminal investigations (but no charges), a damning grand jury report, critical audits, and years of litigation. Brodeur was included in grant application and contract discussions; bank statements and canceled checks showing that he personally pocketed about $60,000; and depositions and auditor reports that show some local officials weren’t sure what Brodeur actually did to earn that money.

Surrounded by scandal, Brodeur campaigns against the Orlando Sentinel” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — In most places, it’s a big deal when a politician or political operative gets indicted or arrested. In Seminole County, it’s just a Tuesday. Some connected to Greenberg. Some connected to a ghost-candidate scheme in the state Senate race won by Brodeur. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to be any of the people charged with crimes. But you know who else you might not want to be right now? Brodeur. So, with his former chamber employee convicted and Brodeur realizing he has some P.R. problems, he has debuted a new campaign strategy — running against the Orlando Sentinel.

—“Largo Mayor Woody Brown endorses Berny Jacques’ campaign for HD 59” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics

Woody Brown gives Berny Jacques the big thumbs-up.

GOP’s gains with more Miami-Dade Hispanics a bad sign for Democrats” via Stephany Matat and Antonio Fins of the Palm Beach Post — Immigration and business activists angered by DeSantis’ “shameless” brazen shipping of people seeking refuge in America sent veiled and not-so-veiled electoral warnings last week. “This shameless action, foisted upon our defenseless people, fleeing persecution and violence, is a mere political ploy in his quest for power — and won’t go unnoticed,” said Maria Corina Vegas with the American Business Immigration Coalition. But whether the Governor or any Republican candidate, will face retribution at the polls in November is far from clear, especially in South Florida’s Hispanic enclaves. Here, the GOP has only strengthened its grip on this critical electorate in the past two years.

Florida firm bankrolls drive to legalize recreational marijuana” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida-based Trulieve, one of the nation’s largest medical marijuana companies, has kick-started a campaign to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in the Sunshine State. The company has contributed $10 million to date to the Smart & Safe Florida campaign to get a constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot, and so far, is its sole contributor. The organization has already spent $6.5 million to start collecting the nearly 900,000 signatures needed to bring the citizen initiative to a vote. Florida has “22 million residents and 130 million tourists a year, so it’s a huge market opportunity,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said during her keynote address on Sept. 14 at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago.


Gov. DeSantis wants further crackdown on China, ‘malign’ foreign influences” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — DeSantis signed an executive order Thursday prohibiting state agencies from contracting with Chinese-based companies for projects that could allow them to access Floridians’ personal data. It’s part of a broader crackdown on the Chinese government’s attempts to “infiltrate” institutions throughout the country. DeSantis also said he’ll push the Legislature next year to ban gifts from certain “malign” foreign countries, such as China, Russia, Cuba and Iran, to higher education institutions. Under his proposal, any government agency, including local governments, wouldn’t be able to contract with Chinese-based companies if the contract allows access to personal data. DeSantis also bashed the tactic of the Chinese government of buying tracts of agricultural land in the U.S., as well as land nearby U.S. military institutions.

‘Parental rights’ movement leaves out these Florida parents. Here’s what they’re doing about it” via Kathryn Varn of the USA TODAY Network — Before the Palm Beach County School Board meeting last month, Julia Sanderson’s daughter asked her what she was going to wear. Sanderson wasn’t sure yet, so the 16-year-old junior pulled out one of her mom’s T-shirts as a suggestion. “Affirming parent ≠ felon,” it read, referring to a Texas law that criminalized parents who helped their transgender children transition. It was a fitting choice for Sanderson, who was planning to speak at the School Board meeting to advocate for her daughter and other trans kids. Sanderson is one of many parents who have felt compelled to stand up against what they see as dehumanizing and inaccurate rhetoric around public schools and teachers that has arisen from the “parental rights” movement.

Tweet, tweet:

New road through this Florida state forest is an idea going the wrong way” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — Someone from the Panhandle contacted me to investigate Walton County’s efforts want to ram a road through Point Washington State Forest. My first reaction was: They’re STILL trying to do that? Walton County officials have been complaining about Point Washington State Forest since state officials first established it 30 years ago. Apparently, they haven’t stopped. At one point, Walton County officials wanted to build a whole new town in the middle of it. And they’ve been trying since 2015 to slip a slab of asphalt through it — specifically, a two-lane “connector road” linking State Road 30A and U.S. Highway 98. In 2015, the Walton County Commission approved a $600,000 contract with a company to do a planning, design, and engineering study on the “South Walton Connector.” The contract keeps expiring, and the Commissioners keep renewing it as if this time it’s going to produce something popular. Excuse me, I have to run to my bookshelf and look up that famous quote about the definition of insanity.


Rick Scott, Rubio urge FEMA to make Puerto Rico’s recovery from Fiona ‘top priority’” via Sergio Bustos of The USA Today Network — The Senators, along with Puerto Rico’s Representative Commissioner Jennifer González-Colón in Congress, asked the Biden administration to move quickly to aid Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the devastating damage done by Hurricane Fiona. In a letter Tuesday to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell, the lawmakers urged her to “make the island’s full recovery from this storm a top priority. Florida is home to nearly 1.2 million Puerto Ricans, who represent the second-largest Hispanic group behind Cubans.

Rubio bill pushes back on Russian attempt to annex Ukrainian territory” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — As the Russian Federation eyes annexing Ukrainian territory via purported referendums, a Florida Senator stands in the way as part of a bipartisan push back. Republican U.S. Sen. Rubio is teaming up with Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois on legislation that would just say no to any attempts at the annexation of Ukrainian soil by the Moscow regime. The legislation is urgent, given that these votes will start as early as Friday in disputed territory, including Luhansk, Kherson and the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions. The Non-Recognition of Russian Annexation of Ukrainian Territory Act would formalize into law the U.S. rejection of any Russian Federation claim of territory currently recognized as part of Ukraine by the international community.

New Lincoln Project ad hits House GOP plan as a bad ’90s throwback” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — The Lincoln Project is leaning into a ‘90s throwback theme, comparing a new House Republican plan to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America,” which some wags at the time coined the “Contract on America.” This week featured a botched launch of the House Republicans’ plan, called the “Commitment to America.” The plan, which accidentally went online before its time, confirmed what some folks long suspected, including pursuing a constitutional ban on abortion, along with cuts to Medicare and Social Security. The elections section includes repeated references to observer access, which both conjures images of poll worker intimidation and inappropriate access by partisans, something that already happened in the last Presidential Election.

To watch the ad, please click on the image below:

Tweet, tweet:


Donald Trump’s legal troubles are mounting. And his support is consolidating.” via David Siders and Meridith McGraw of POLITICO — The lawsuit filed Wednesday in New York accusing Trump and three of his adult children of fraudulent financial practices was met with fresh outrage on the left. Jaime Harrison, the Democratic National Committee Chair, suggested with a GIF that New York had produced the receipts on the former President. Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian, wrote he’d “never seen anything remotely like this in history of American presidency.” But to Republicans, after Trump’s presidency and its aftermath, the bombshell was simply more of the same. Just as they rallied around Trump when the FBI searched his estate at Mar-a-Lago, they saw little reason to conclude the New York lawsuit would do anything politically but help Trump with his base.

Donald Trump’s legal troubles just make his supporters say ‘meh.’

Shot —Republicans spend millions on TV ads for Midterms, but why doesn’t Trump?” via Jason Lange and Jarrett Renshaw of Reuters — Fundraising groups tied to Republican Party leaders are sharply increasing spending on campaign ads to help the party win control of Congress in the Nov. 8 General Election. But not Trump’s Save America, a PAC fundraising group that under U.S. election law can fund the Republican former President’s political allies and his frequent rallies but not any election campaign of his own. Despite amassing more than $90 million in the PAC — an unprecedented sum for a former leader — Trump’s group has yet to report any ad spending to support Republican candidates, according to a disclosure filed to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.

Chaser —Trump to unleash millions in the midterms in possible prelude to 2024” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Trump’s top lieutenants are launching a new super PAC that is expected to spend heavily to bolster his endorsed candidates in the midterm election — and, some people close to the former President say, could become a campaign apparatus if he runs in 2024. Sanctioned by the former President, the new group, dubbed MAGA, Inc., will become the primary vehicle for Trump’s operation to engage in political activity in 2022. The outfit is designed to funnel large sums into key races and could conceivably be used to boost Trump in the event he seeks the White House again.

Trump’s super PAC raised just $40 in August in sign of weakness” via Caitlin Gilbert and Courtney Weaver of the Financial Times — Fundraising for one of Trump’s biggest political action committees has slowed dramatically in recent months, according to new election filings, in an early sign that the former President’s escalating legal troubles may be damaging his prospects with donors. The Make America Great Again, Again! super PAC, which is the only active super PAC affiliated with Trump, raised just $40 in August, after bringing in $351,000 in July and zero in June. In April and May, the group had raised more than double that amount, with $864,000 in total contributions. That total second quarter fundraising represented a marked fall from the $4 million to $5 million raised in the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year.

How Trump supporters came to hate the police” via Luke Mogelson of The New Yorker — In early August after agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, allies of the former President were quick to villainize the FBI. Although the raid had recovered more than a hundred classified documents, Republican pundits and politicians questioned its legitimacy and denounced the federal agency as a “gang of dangerous criminals,” “wolves,” the “Gestapo,” “the KGB,” and “the enemy within.” Given the broad support that Republicans have historically enjoyed from law enforcement, their escalating hostility toward the FBI may seem paradoxical. Right-wing extremists, however, have always viewed state agents as pernicious antagonists, and so the institutionalization of that mindset should come as no surprise as the GOP embraces the ideas and attitudes of its radical flank.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Miami clinic kicks off first national study of LSD, once a ‘public enemy,’ to treat anxiety” via Natalia Galicza of the Miami Herald — The gurus of the psychedelic era of American pop culture extolled the experience of the “acid trip.” But the U.S. government and much of the public remained leery of LSD, with President Richard Nixon declaring it and assorted other drugs “public enemy No. 1.” Now, half a century after Nixon launched the War on Drugs, a Miami-area private research clinic has kicked off a federally approved clinical trial to test LSD as a possible treatment for generalized anxiety disorder. The milestone trial — billed by the drug developer as the largest study of LSD for potential commercial use ever conducted in the United States — reflects a growing body of research that suggests those hippies were maybe on to something.

Surfside Mayor proposes ‘sister city’ pact with Israeli settlements in West Bank” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Surfside Mayor Shlomo Danzinger is proposing that the small beach town that was rocked last year by the Champlain Towers South collapse establish a “sister city” relationship with a region consisting of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Danzinger placed a resolution on the Town Commission’s Sept. 28 meeting agenda recommending that Surfside enter a partnership with the region of Shomron — which includes about three dozen Israeli settlements in the northern West Bank — and honor Shomron Regional Council Chair Yossi Dagan with a ceremonial key to the town.

Shlomo Danzinger wants Surfside to buddy up with the West Bank, and honor West Bank Mayor Yossi Dagan.

Prosecutors drop some charges in Broward nursing home deaths” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — Prosecutors dropped manslaughter charges Thursday against three nurses who were present when 12 nursing home patients suffered fatal overheating five years ago after Hurricane Irma knocked out power to their facility’s air conditioning. The Broward County State Attorney’s Office dismissed charges against Althia Meggie, Sergo Colin and Tamika Miller, but not Jorge Carballo, the home’s administrator. He is still scheduled to go on trial next month, and prosecutors said Meggie, Colin and Miller would testify against him. The victims, ranging in age from 57 to 99, had body temperatures of up to 108 degrees (42 degrees Celsius), paramedics have reported. The staff has been criticized for not taking the patients to a hospital across the street that had air conditioning.

First-time PBC Commission candidate outpaces Mayor in August fundraising” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — First-time candidate and Republican Marci Smoak Woodward is taking on Democratic Palm Beach County Mayor Robert Weinroth, who has raised more than $321,000 for his bid for a second term representing District 4 on the Commission. Woodward is far behind in the overall money race. But between Aug. 6 and Sept. 9, Woodward raised double what Weinroth did. An $11,000 donation from the Republican Party of Palm Beach County boosted her fundraising to $25,432 in that stretch, outpacing the $12,004 Weinroth raised in the same period. Weinroth has been winning elections since 2014, when he ran for a seat on the Boca Raton City Council.

Palm Beach County teachers may soon see raises and bonuses thanks to a pending contract” via Giuseppe Sabella of the Palm Beach Post — Palm Beach County teachers stand to earn raises and bonuses under a pending agreement between the union and the school district. On average, teachers could expect to see a 3.5% salary increase. The actual amount, however, depends on a host of factors and will vary between teachers, said Justin Katz, president of the Classroom Teachers Association. Florida law dictates how teachers are paid based on when their employment started, how they fared on performance evaluations and the type of contract they work under, Katz said. According to the school district’s 2023 budget, local teachers currently make anywhere from $48,175 to $97,024, with the average person earning $56,095.

Oakland Park student gets Obama Foundation scholarship” via Jennifer Shapiro-Sacks of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A student from Oakland Park, Jheannelle Johnson, who attends Howard University, will be part of an inaugural cohort of 100 Voyager Scholarship recipients in the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service Program. The Voyager Scholarship is a highly selective scholarship funded by a $100 million personal contribution from Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to the Obama Foundation for students pursuing careers in public service. “Through their stories, it’s clear that each of these Voyagers has a commitment to serving their communities, a deep curiosity about the world, and big plans for the future,” Chesky said in a statement.

Mental health, primary care key issues for 7 candidates for Indian River County Hospital District Board” via Janet Begley of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A desire for increased focus on behavioral and mental health services has seven candidates running for three open seats on the Indian River County Hospital District Board of Trustees. Along with mental health, the importance of improving the quality of primary and specialty care offered in Indian River County, particularly as it relates to Cleveland Clinic, are also key issues to these candidates. Seats 2, 4 and 7, all non-partisan, are open on the Indian River County Hospital District Board of Trustees for the Nov. 8 election, with two candidates running for Seats 2 and 4, and three candidates for Seat 7.

‘Total lack of transparency.’ Keys investigators say ‘strategic plan’ kept vote secret” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — An investigation by the Florida Keys prosecutor’s office found a government-wide ‘strategic plan’ was hatched in May to keep a high-ranking city employee’s generous severance package out of the public eye before it was approved without discussion by elected officials. The report, issued this week, concluded that “all parties involved, except the public, clearly knew” that the Islamorada Village Council planned to approve the $185,000 separation agreement for Roget Bryan, the village’s in-house attorney, during a meeting on May 12. Monroe County State Attorney’s Office investigators wrote in the report that “all parties” include acting Village Manager Maria Bassett, attorneys with the law firm Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, and the five elected members of the Council.

Islamorada Village officials kept Roget Bryan’s severance under wraps.

Boat driver charged in deadly parasailing crash into a Florida Keys bridge” via David Goodhue of the Miami Herald — A Florida Keys boat captain who told police he cut a cable tethered to a struggling parasail rig, sending a young mother and two small children plummeting into the water, was charged Thursday with causing the woman’s death. Daniel Gavin Couch, 49, was booked into Monroe County jail on one count of manslaughter. He is being held on $100,000 bond. The woman, 33-year-old Supraja Alaparthi from Schaumburg, Illinois, died after the rig, with her and the children still strapped in, was dragged across the waves by the windblown parasail up to 2 miles, eventually slamming them into the Old Seven Mile Bridge near Pigeon Key in the Middle Keys.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Ax the Tax takes swing at Orange County transportation initiative” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Orange County activists opposed to a sales tax are kicking off a campaign to defeat the tax measure on the November ballot. Outside the Orange County Administration Building, Ax the Tax rallied in Orlando. The event came in response to a measure promoted by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings for a penny increase in the sales tax for transit and transportation improvements. “Inflation is out of control; gas prices are too high. The cost of renting or buying a place to live is getting further out of reach for many residents of Orange County,” said Brian Henley, Ax the Tax president.

Ax the Tax mobilizes to stop Orange County’s proposed transportation tax.

Consultant wants trial in ‘ghost’ candidate case moved to different county” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel — Political consultant Eric Foglesong, accused of violating election laws while helping launch “ghost” candidate Jestine Iannotti’s campaign two years ago, is asking a judge to move his trial to a different county, citing the Sentinel’s “braggadocious” coverage of the case. In an 11-page motion filed Wednesday, attorney Jacob Stuart Jr. argued the newspaper’s coverage of the spoiler candidate scheme has “created a pervasive community bias” against Foglesong that would prevent him from finding an untainted jury in Seminole County. The motion asks Circuit Judge Donna McIntosh to relocate the trial to “some other convenient county where a fair and impartial trial can be had.” Foglesong, a longtime political consultant in Central Florida, faces three felony and two misdemeanor charges related to his role in Iannotti’s 2020 independent candidacy for SD 9.

Orlando Museum of Art, Garden Theatre face questions for county grant” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — The Garden Theatre and Orlando Museum of Art came under scrutiny as 34 organizations made their case to receive Orange County money through annual cultural-tourism grants. Both the theater and museum are seeking $155,000. Panelist Theo Webster asked Orlando Museum of Art representatives about the staff’s ability to carry out the programs described in its grant application, which was submitted months ago before the FBI seized an exhibit of purported Jean-Michel Basquiat art amid an investigation of its authenticity. OMA interim chief operating officer Joann Walfish pointed out that despite high-profile leadership departures — director Aaron De Groft was fired after the FBI raid, and interim director Luder Whitlock later resigned — the staff has been fulfilling its responsibilities.

It is all set — record-setting Brevard County budget of $1.85 billion approved” via Ralph Chapoco of Florida Today — The County Commission unanimously approved the spending plan during its second budget hearing on Tuesday. The budget amounts to a 5.23% increase from the current 2021-22 fiscal year budget of nearly $1.76 billion. The aggregate tax rate will be $4.9777 per $1,000 of taxable value, a reduction of 8.58% from the $5.4446 from the 2021-22 budget year. The county’s aggregate tax rate represents all 20 operating property tax rates. The county’s budget year runs from Oct. 1 of one year to Sept. 30 of the following year. “I think the staff did a great job putting together a budget that reduces the tax rate, while taking into account compensation” increases for county employees, County Commission Chair Kristine Zonka said.

EFSC receives $6.6M grant for high-tech training, CareerSource Brevard gets $3M” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — Eastern Florida State College has been awarded $6.6 million in state grants to increase the scope of its programs that are training students for the Space Coast’s high-tech workforce. In addition, CareerSource Brevard will receive $3 million that will be used for workforce training and outreach programs, as part of a multifaced allocation announced by DeSantis during a news conference in Daytona Beach. And Brevard Public Schools will get funding to help support a certified logistics associate course. In all, the governor’s announcement encompassed $29.9 million for programs to support workforce development along the Space Coast and nearby counties.

Tampa City Council votes against massive raise for itself” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — The vote was unexpected and close. But Tampa City Council members decided against giving themselves a 42% raise Thursday. The vote came at the end of a Council workshop when most of the anticipated items concerning the city’s volunteer police oversight board and potential changes to the city’s charter had been continued to a later date. Proposed by Mayor Jane Castor in August, a vote on the raise wasn’t on the agenda. Instead, Council member Orlando Gudes raised the issue at the end of the meeting after most of the audience had left. The 4-3 vote came after Gudes pushed for a vote. He voted for the raise, which would bring council salaries to nearly $74,000 from $52,060. So did Lynn Hurtak and Bill Carlson.

Orlando Gudes broaches the subject of Council raises — after the audience left.

Pasco Commissioners deliver a funding blow to TBARTA” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Pasco County Commissioners voted this week to withhold funding from the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority until at least January. The delayed funding comes after the regional transit agency’s board members gathered for a workshop to discuss its future — yielding little results. The city of Tampa isn’t contributing funding at all, despite being asked to do so. Pasco County was slated to contribute over $95,000 to TBARTA. TBARTA was created to deliver regional transit projects but has struggled to garner support for its 41-mile express bus service from St. Petersburg to Wesley Chapel. “I have a sneaking suspicion that TBARTA will be going bye-bye by our legislators come next Session,” Commissioner Mike Moore said.


NCH Healthcare can apply to exceed 42-foot height limit for new heart center after council vote” via Liz Freeman of Naples Daily News — After months of back and forth between the city and the nonprofit hospital system, the Naples City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to add a community hospital as a conditional use in the public services zoning district. The vote sets the stage for NCH to apply for its Downtown Baker Hospital to be rezoned and to put together a site plan for the five-story complex with a new parking garage, along with other details required by the city for the planning staff to review. After evaluation by the Planning Advisory Board, the plan would ultimately go to the council for a final decision. NCH representatives said it will take roughly six months to prepare and submit the applications to the city.

Cape Coral asks drivers to point out Pine Island Rd problem areas” via Joey Pellegrino of WINK News — The City of Cape Coral is hosting a virtual event where drivers will have the opportunity to shape the future development of Pine Island Road from Nicholas Parkway to Del Prado Boulevard. That particular stretch of Pine Island Road is already marked by development and new construction. Cape Coral officials want to start planning what that corridor will look like 50 years from now. They want local drivers’ ideas on how to improve the road as far as traffic and safety. The Florida Department of Transportation is putting on a virtual event for drivers to point out on a map of Pine Island Road where they find problem areas, be they sites of bad congestion or areas that could be made safer for walkers and bikers.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Lenny Curry to replace Jacksonville Transportation board member Kevin Holzendorf after arrest for DUI” via First Coast News — Mayor Curry will be replacing 55-year-old Jacksonville Transportation board member Holzendorf after he was arrested on a charge of drunken driving. Holzendorf failed to stop at two red lights at Monument Road and Interstate 295 around 2:10 a.m. Sept. 16, according to an arrest report from Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. The officer who conducted the stop said Holzendorf smelled strongly of alcohol and was unsteady on his feet while slurring his words with bloodshot, glassy eyes, the report continued. Holzendorf told the officer it was 11:55 p.m. during the stop when it was 2:15 a.m. and said the date was “Sept. 13, 14, 15 or 16.” He began sobbing during the officer’s instructions.

Kevin Holzendorf’s days are numbered.


Is Trump pushing civil war?” via Matt Labash of Slack Tide — Every time the cockeyed optimist in me thinks, “OK, we’ve hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere to go but up,” we sink even further into the muck.

But now, Trump, who previously merely flirted with QAnon, is full-on finger-banging them in public. First, Trump had a rally over the weekend, which played Q-Anon-themed music, as all the Trumpbots raised their index fingers to indicate the number “one.”

Though despite his dropping popularity from the sheer weight of all his legal entanglements, in the RealClear 2024 Republican Primary poll aggregates, he still is No. 1 by about 30 points, no matter how hard Ron DeSantis tries to convince us he’s Trump without the baggage. (Or without the personality.)

So … let’s do something prosecutors and grand juries aren’t likely to do for Trump: let’s take him at his word. He’s a bona fide Q-nutter now!

Leading us to believe one of two things:

Trump is insane.

Or Trump wants other insane people to believe he’s as insane as they are, to ratchet up tension, to put pressure on prosecutors who might fear civil war, or at least instances of violence. And to once again crown himself the Iceberg Slim of division-pimps.

Neither of these are attractive alternatives. Either of these are disqualifiers to again run for higher office — as if Trump needed another one of those after trying to overturn an election.

Does Trump want civil war? Of course, he does. Or at least he wants us to think that storm might be coming if he gets prosecuted.


Why DeSantis thinks weaponizing asylum-seekers is a winning strategy” via Masha Gessen of The New Yorker — In 2021, the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenka arranged for thousands of people from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and other countries, who were in need of international protection, to fly to Minsk, from where they were escorted to borders with European Union members Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. Years earlier, Vladimir Putin’s Russia appeared to facilitate the passage of people fleeing Syria — where Russian troops were waging war on the side of Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship — to Finland and Norway, apparently as part of a larger plan to destabilize European democracies. The Republican Governors’ strategies, like those of the Eastern European dictators, rest on the cynical assumption that no one actually wants to offer refuge to people fleeing adversity.

DeSantis did his Democratic challenger a huge favor by trafficking migrants” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Soapbox — The Governor’s open contempt for political or legal precedents is often met with an arrogant moral certainty about both the legality and ethics of his decisions. But in the case of the Martha’s Vineyard migrant trafficking operation, this arrogance and moral certainty may have finally tripped up DeSantis. Democrats in Florida have nominated former GOP Gov. Crist as DeSantis’ challenger for this November’s election. Crist, who has been struggling with fundraising this entire campaign, has suddenly seen his fortunes improve. He raised $1 million in the 48 hours after news broke of DeSantis’ migrant-relocation stunt. Additionally, Crist’s support appears to be broadening, not only from rank-and-file Floridians but also from former asylum-seekers from left-wing dictatorships.


ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Jake Holehouse, president of HH Insurance; WFTS Tallahassee reporter Forrest Saunders; political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus and ABC News political director Rick Klein.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A look at World Tourism Day and the impact that tourism continues to have on the Florida economy. Joining Walker are Sen. Ed Hooper; DT Minich, president/CEO, Experience Kissimmee; and Jim Kunau, general manager of Island H20 Water Park.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: the latest on the migrants flown from Texas to Florida and up to Martha’s Vineyard; and an interview with Rep. Fentrice Driskell about her concerns with state money being used for migrant flights.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Interviews with Florida’s 10th Congressional District candidates Calvin Wimbish and Maxwell Alejandro Frost.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon and pollster Vancore.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Duval County Judge-Elect Audrey Moran and Chris Hand, former City of Jacksonville Chief of Staff.


— ALOE —

Florida tops ‘Best States for Fishing’ list — Florida is the No. 1 state to fish, according to Lawn Love’s “Best States for Fishing” list. The ranking considered 22 factors, including community interest, access, affordability and supplies. Florida tallied 48.95 points across all categories, which was more than 7 points ahead of No. 2 state Alaska. Florida’s best categories were “Number of Bassmaster Tournaments” (No. 1), “Number of Fishing Charters and Guides” (No. 1), “Number of Free Fishing Days” (No. 3) and “Bait and Tackle Shops per 100,000 Residents (No. 10).

Florida does fishing like no other state.

‘This city really embraced me.’ Meet HistoryMiami museum’s first female CEO” via Amanda Rosa of the Miami Herald — When Natalia Crujeiras arrived in Miami from Mexico 20 years ago, she had little money, no connections, and no nearby friends or family to lean on. Today, she made history with HistoryMiami Museum. The museum announced Thursday that Crujeiras will be its next CEO, marking the first time in the museum’s 82-year history that a woman will helm the position. She starts the job on Oct. 3. Crujeiras said she is honored to be the museum’s first female CEO, especially as a Mexican immigrant. “I feel very honored to be tasked with the responsibility. I think it’s an important message from the board of the museum and how they want to open space for more representation,” she told the Herald.

Buckle up: 10-year-old Fellsmere cowboy ranks among world’s top 20 miniature bull riders” via Gianna Montesano of Treasure Coast Newspapers — How many pounds of berries does one have to pick to earn $1,500? About 700 pounds, according to 10-year-old Trip Burley, a Fellsmere boy who’s raising money to compete in the 2022 World Championship Miniature Bull Riding World Finals. When Trip found out his trip to Texas would cost $5,000, he asked his mother how he could help pay for it. She suggested picking saw palmetto berries. So, the family obtained a state-required permit in August, and he got to work picking on weekends. Trip also plucked weeds for neighbors to raise money and received donations after his mother posted an appeal on Facebook, allowing him to reach his $1,500 goal.


Celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Lawson, Nicole Hagerty of HCA, John Fox, Jeff Frederick, Lisa Greer, Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, Jake Saur, former Public Safety Director for Manatee County, and Kimberly Diaz Scott.


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. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

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

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