Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email during the 2022 General Election — 10.9.22

Your Sunday buffet of Florida politics, food, culture & more.

Good Sunday morning and welcome back to “Brunch,” a pop-up newsletter that is supposed to about the 2022 campaign cycle in Florida, but this week is mostly focused on the incredible response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian.

The number of storm-related deaths has risen to at least 101.

Beyond the loss of life, Ian likely caused $53 billion to $74 billion in insured losses from Florida to the Carolinas, according to new estimates by modeling firm RMS, reports Andrew Freedman reports.

Areas slammed by Hurricane Ian have been described as like a ‘war zone.’

I doubt anyone reading this email needs to be reminded that Tuesday is the deadline to register for the upcoming General Election.

Be sure to check out this week’s Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics. Read those by clicking here.

Now, please enjoy Brunch.

— Tervis takes the lead —

First Lady Casey DeSantis is announcing a partnership with iconic Florida drinkware maker Tervis to raise money for Hurricane Ian relief.

Design time: Tervis, which locally manufactures double-walled plastic tumblers with logos of just about every variety, is creating a new design with Florida imagery. All proceeds from the sale of the newly designed tumbler will go toward the Florida Disaster Relief Fund. The brightly colored tumblers show the state of Florida with sunbeams surrounding it and an alligator and palm trees below with the words “Together we Shine.”

Casey DeSantis takes a tumble for Hurricane Ian relief.

Inspired and united: “Witnessing the aftermath of Hurricane Ian has been devastating to the Tervis family, as it has greatly impacted us all,” Tervis President and CEO Rogan Donelly said. “But what has truly been inspiring is seeing how this hardship has united an entire region. People helping others out in any way they can, even if they themselves have experienced loss, is admirable. That is what motivated us to launch an initiative to raise funds for the recovery efforts for all Floridians.”

First Lady approved: “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Tervis to support the Florida Disaster Fund and help Floridians in need. This partnership is uniquely special because as Tervis rebuilds its own team in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, they’re also helping other Floridians recover — such kindness is what Florida is all about,” DeSantis said.

Tervis is a family-owned and operated company based in Venice, which was directly affected by Hurricane Ian. The company partnered with DeSantis and Volunteer Florida to launch the fundraising campaign. The new tumblers go on sale Friday on the Tervis website for $22 and will soon be available in stores for purchase.

— Disaster Recovery Center opens in Naples —

Senate President-designate Kathleen Passidomo and the Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris opened a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) for Floridians affected by Hurricane Ian at the Veteran’s Community Park in Naples on Friday.

Location: The Center is at 1895 Veteran’s Community Park in Naples. It will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. DRCs are found throughout the impacted area and have more than 10 agencies on hand to provide aid to individuals or businesses needing help recovering from the storm.

Collier County was among the hardest hit; Kathleen Passidomo is ready to help.

Here to help: “This Disaster Recovery Center will serve as a one-stop-shop for families and businesses as we begin the process of rebuilding our homes and community,” said Passidomo, who represents parts of Naples. “So many have lost everything. Some are in need of the basic necessities like food, water, medication, and diapers, while others need to replace a lost identification card, or begin the process of filing their insurance claim.”

Feds stepping up: FEMA is setting up added Disaster Recovery Centers and FDEM and locations will be updated at Residents and business owners who prefer not to or who cannot visit a Disaster Recovery Center in-person can call the FEMA Disaster Line at 800-621-3362 or visit

In addition to volunteer groups, representatives from several state agencies, partners and federal organizations are currently on-site and available to help survivors and provide individual and business aid.

— Power up —

With more than 2 million customers’ power now restored, Florida Power & Light has restored service to 99% of its customers affected by Hurricane Ian.

Newest update: As of Friday, approximately 31,000 customers remained without power. The company was aggressively working to restore service to customers able to safely accept power.

Still needing help: Most customers still in the dark are found in areas hardest-hit by Hurricane Ian, where extensive tree damage and flooding have hampered restoration efforts.

Some heroes don’t wear capes, they have cherry pickers.

Working to get the job done: “While 99% of FPL customers affected by Hurricane Ian have been restored, that’s little consolation to the communities still suffering the catastrophic impacts of the storm,” FPL CEO Eric Silagy said. “We refuse to lose focus and are as committed as ever to working as hard as we can and as fast as we can to safely get the lights back on for customers who can safely receive power. In many instances, crews are working in backyards and battling significant damage to gain access to power lines and equipment that serve only a handful of customers. We will not stop until every customer has access to power.”

FPL attributes its quick response to investments in hardening its power generation plants and transmission system. FPL was able to restore power to thousands of customers within the first 72 hours following the storm, but efforts in hard-hit areas required specialized tree-trimming crews to clear debris before linemen could repair or rebuild infrastructure.

— HCA donates big —

HCA Healthcare is donating $1 million to Florida’s Hurricane Disaster Fund, an effort to help patients, colleagues and communities recover from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ian.

Hitting home: Many employees with HCA were personally impacted by the hurricane, some suffering substantial or total loss of property. Despite that strife, employees within the system have continued providing services to meet patient needs. HCA employs more than 77,000 people across Florida, including 11,000 physicians.

HCA Healthcare is going all-in for hurricane relief.

Extra effort: Along with monetary support, HCA is working to meet employees’ needs so they can remain focused on patient care. The system activated its HCA Hope Fund to supply grants to employees affected by Hurricane Ian. As of Friday, the fund has aided nearly 50,000 employees with emergency funds totaling more than $83 million. HCA is also helping staff at other hospitals and sites across impacted areas. That includes cash, free gas, access to showers, food, clothing and laundry services. The system is paying 100% of employees’ base rates and is placing dozens of employees who have lost their homes in hotels.

Making a difference: “In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and unfortunate disasters like it, we tend to see such extraordinary stories of people reaching out to make a difference in all of our local communities,” said HCA Healthcare West Florida Division President Ravi Chari. “And by being there for our HCA Florida Healthcare family, our caregivers know that we are taking care of them and their families, so they are able to show up and provide outstanding care and emotional support to our patients.”

— Smiling in the storm —

Hurricane Ian sparked a serious need for supplies, especially in Southwest and Central Florida. On the dental front, LIBERTY Dental Plan of Florida is pitching in, providing more than 15,500 dental supplies following the storm.

Where to? Those supplies have been sent to Lee, Manatee, Hillsborough, Pasco and Orange County families in need, according to LIBERTY.

When SW Florida is ready to smile, LIBERTY is there to help.

“Help however we can”: “We assessed the situation and quickly identified some meaningful ways we could help by donating dental hygiene supplies to family centers and shelters,” said Heather Stearns, President of LIBERTY Dental Plan of Florida, Inc. “As a Florida dental plan, it is important to us to remain a source of support to our members, providers, and staff during this storm recovery, and to help however we can.”

Even more help: LIBERTY has also donated to Volunteer Florida’s Florida Disaster Fund and has “created a Provider Relief Fund to support dental providers suffering loss or damage to their dental office due to Hurricane Ian,” according to a release.

— Help is on the way —

The first community medical center to provide emergency and urgent medical support in Florida, post-Hurricane Ian, officially opened in Lee County this week with Director of Florida Division of Emergency Management Kevin Guthrie in attendance.

Where to get help: The CDR Health facility is housed at 4125 Cleveland Avenue within a former Sears location at Edison Mall in Fort Myers spanning 30,000 square feet. It will be staffed 24/7 with medical personnel to treat, stabilize, and transfer patients to assist with overflow from regional hospitals. The site will have 100 beds with the ability to expand to 1,000 beds, as needed. The facility has the ability to triage and treat patients with low-acuity medical needs and house them for 24-48 hours while they await transfer to the nearest available brick-and-mortar hospital.

Lee County opens its first community health center.

The goal: The objective is to serve as a backup resource and medical center as patients receive treatment and care while area hospitals continue to assess damage as well as repair facilities in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Dozens of doctors, nurses, EMT’s and medical personnel from across Florida and the nation will staff the hospital.

“One mission”: “CDR Health and our entire team are grateful to Gov. (Ron) DeSantis and Director Kevin Guthrie for their commitment to a speedy and safe recovery effort. CDR is here to ensure residents affected by Hurricane Ian have access to urgent medical care as they focus on rebuilding their homes and lives after this catastrophic storm,” said Tina Vidal-Duart, CEO of CDR Health. “We are here to supplement and serve as a resource to local brick-and-mortar hospitals and other medical facilities as they assess, repair, and reopen at full capacity. We have one mission — SAVE LIVES.”

— Sunshine Health all-in —

Sunshine Health and the Centene Charitable Foundation are committing $1 million to the Florida Disaster Fund.

Helping hand: Sunshine Health, which provides specialized health care for children in or adopted from Florida’s child welfare system, committed $30,000 to the Florida Coalition for Children Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund. The funds will go directly to families in Florida’s child welfare system for needs such as temporary housing, clothing, gas cards and other basic necessities. Sunshine Health also committed $25,000 to Farm Share, Inc. to help distribute water and disaster supplies to the communities impacted most by Hurricane Ian. In addition to their financial contribution, Sunshine Health employee volunteers also helped load food and supplies onto trucks traveling to Fort Myers.

Sunshine Health goes big in Florida’s Disaster Relief Fund.

Thankful: “On behalf of Volunteer Florida, we would like to thank Sunshine Health for its significant financial contribution to the Florida Disaster Fund in response to the statewide recovery efforts from Hurricane Ian,” Volunteer Florida CEO Josie Tamayo said. “Their contribution to the Florida Disaster Fund will help provide essential services in rebuilding our affected communities.”

— Farm Share shows up —

Farm Share has donated 1.76 million pounds of food, water, blankets, cleaning supplies and general disaster relief aid to those affected by Hurricane Ian in Florida, the group announced.

Major operation: The donations took 38 semi-trucks and 12 box trucks to distribute, to put that scale into perspective. The organization has provided relief to those in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, DeSoto, Hardee, Orange, Flagler, Union and Monroe counties.

“As long as it is needed”: “I am proud of my teams’ willingness to put in long hours and work through the weekends to make sure those persons affected by Hurricane Ian have what they need to survive and recover,” Farm Share CEO Stephen Shelley said. “We will continue our relief efforts for as long as it is needed, and the resources are available to respond.”

When Florida goes hungry, Farm Share is there.

Farm Share is one of Florida’s leading food nonprofits and the state’s largest independent food bank. In addition to relief efforts, the nonprofit organization is continuing its normal operations at statewide warehouses to ensure all agencies and food-insecure individuals continue to have access to proper resources. Farm Share plans to continue hurricane relief operations as long as it is needed, they said in the announcement.

— FWC lends a hand, asks for one in Ian’s wake —

A person with a boat and a sense of curiosity may soon find themselves on the water but boating after a tropical cyclone means you’re transiting waters with a higher chance of problematic marine debris. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking recreational boaters to be careful, watch out, and report missing or damaged waterway markers.

Hurricanes may bring lots of water, but traveling by boat is still dangerous. Image via FWC.

Take care: With so many Floridians still working to help their fellow state residents, it helps for people to keep themselves out of danger by expecting “new underwater hazards, so pay close attention and look out for submerged navigation aids and changes to water depth caused by shifting sands. Storms can cause hazardous water conditions by altering the location and condition of pilings, trees, shoals, sandbars and navigation markers.”

Help out: If you see missing or damaged navigation markers, FWC asks boaters to call 866-405-2869 or by filling out an online form at, by clicking “Waterway Management” then “Waterway Markers” and “Reporting Damaged/Missing Waterway Markers.”

— Choice Day of Action —

The Charlie Crist campaign is announcing an Oct. 11 Choice Day of Action to speak against Florida’s recently approved abortion limitations and speak up about abortion rights going forward.

Around the state: That date will aim to mobilize candidates, surrogates and volunteers across Florida. Precise details will be released “in the coming days,” according to Crist’s team.

Charlie Crist springs into a day of action.

Going after the Gov.: Crist is taking on incumbent Republican DeSantis, in the November General Election. DeSantis backed the Legislature’s limitations on abortion, banning the procedure after 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest.

“Extreme”: “Ron DeSantis’ abortion ban does not include an exception for rape or incest, and he does not have the guts to tell us why,” Crist said. “He does not want to be held accountable, so we will make it impossible for him to ignore the voices of Floridians whose freedoms are impacted by his cruel ban.”

— On the media —

In 30 days, your TV, radio and YouTube feed will finally stop bombarding you with political ads. But until then, expect to see plenty of familiar faces every commercial break. Here’s a rundown of whose ads you can expect to see before your next brunch:

—U.S. Senate: Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings spent another $1M on broadcast ads that will start running Tuesday and continue through next Monday in six media markets. The new buy directs $439K to Orlando, with smaller bookings in the Miami, Jax, Tampa, Tallahassee and West Palm Beach markets. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s re-election campaign booked $275K in broadcast ads that will run on the same dates across the Ft. Myers, Jax, Miami, Orlando, Panama City, Tampa and West Palm Beach markets. Demings has now spent $23.4M on ads this cycle compared to $19.8M spent by Rubio and the committees supporting him.

Get your remotes ready, the big campaign ad season is in full swing.

—CD 22: U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel’s re-election campaign has booked $56K of broadcast time in the West Palm Beach media market. According to AdImpact, the flight began Thursday and will run through Oct. 17. The incumbent Democrat has now spent $149K on ads this cycle. She faces Republican Dan Franzese in the General Election and is expected to easily win re-election in the deep-blue district.

— Janet Cruz nears $1.8M in fundraising —

Tampa Sen. Janet Cruz is fighting almost as hard, if not harder, for re-election this year than she did to nab the seat from former incumbent Dana Young four years ago. Her fundraising reflects the challenge.

Big bucks: Cruz’s campaign said the next fundraising reports will show she has raised nearly $1.8 million to date for the 2022 election.

Ramping up: As of Sept. 23, Cruz had raised nearly $350,000 this cycle to her official campaign account, and had about $142,000 still on hand. Her PAC, Building the Bay, had raised more than $1 million since early 2021, as of the end of September.

Janet Cruz gets big backup for her re-election fight.

The matchup: Cruz faces Republican Jay Collins in the Nov. 8 election. It will potentially be one of the tightest legislative races this cycle, though carries an edge for the Democrat. More than 51% of the district’s voters went for President Joe Biden in 2020, compared to just over 47% who cast a ballot for former President Donald Trump.

Collins heads into the General Election with powerful backing — DeSantis backed him when he entered the race, prompting Tampa business owner Shawn Harrison to exit the GOP Primary. Collins was formerly running for Congress.

— Spooky —

It’s spooky season once again, and the National Retail Federation is measuring an uptick in those ready to celebrate Halloween.

Fright night: According to the group, 69% of shoppers plan to celebrate this year, up from 65% in 2021. That is expected to lead to a record spending amount of $10.6 billion.

Florida focus: That enthusiasm goes for Florida as well. “Florida shoppers are thrilled more than ever to celebrate Halloween,” shared Scott Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “Many have already started their seasonal shopping. Luckily, Florida retailers have stocked up on costumes, candy, decorations and more to help families and children have a delightful, frightful holiday. Whether you’re trick-or-treating, hosting a Halloween party, planning a neighborhood hayride or just handing out candy, remember to shop local and support Florida retail.”

Nothing spooky about the Halloween price tag.

Other spooky stats: Around 47% of shoppers began shopping for Halloween in September. About 67% plan to hand out candy, while 51% will decorate their home or yard and 47% will don a costume. Spiderman is the top kid’s costume for a second straight year, followed by a princess and a witch.

— Price of NFL glory —

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took a hit to his head two weeks ago and it could lead to a much-needed change in the National Football League.

Changes coming: The NFL Players Association’s health and safety committee approved a change to the league’s concussion protocol, closing the so-called “gross motor instability” loophole after doctors cleared Tagovailoa to return to that game.

Looking back: The decision proved to be a bad one, with Tagovailoa falling and appearing distressed. The players association later fired the independent doctor that allowed him to resume play.

Slammed: Tua Tagovailoa suffered what looked to be a traumatic brain injury in the Thursday Night Football matchup between The Dolphins and the Bengals.

What the studies show: Since the 2000s, researchers have been examining the brains of NFL players who died prematurely from various causes and found a common link — brain damage. Doctors called it chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Researchers found CTE present in the brains of more than 340 NFL players. It can only be diagnosed posthumously.

Getting better: Player equipment has vastly improved from the 1960s and ’70s. Helmets were redesigned to provide better protection from blows to the head, and a new penalty — targeting — came into use.

As the Tagovailoa situation shows, though, work remains to be done. Football is the national sport, and fans love the game’s speed and, yes, violence. But no game is worth the price too many players have paid.

— Brunching out —

El Cocinero Tacos y Tequila is a popular gathering spot for its Latin-inspired fare and convivial atmosphere. Now, the Midtown restaurant has added another attraction: Sunday brunch.

Backstory: El Cocinero is one of five restaurants owned by Jesse Edmunds and his team at Seven Hills Hospitality Group. The others are Liberty Bar & Restaurant, Hawthorn Bistro & Bakery, Bar 1903 and Black Radish.

El Cocinero Tacos y Tequila jumps into the Sunday Brunch game.

Setting: There’s dining inside, but the outside deck is the best spot for any meal. Colorful sails offer shade and twinkly lights add a touch of whimsy. The staff is friendly and efficient.

The Menu: El Cocinero doesn’t aim for authenticity but instead draws inspiration from authentic Mexican and Latin flavors, with the chefs adding their own twist to favorites like tacos, burritos and tostadas. The grilled corn pancakes were one of our favorite brunch dishes — and if you’re sensitive to spicy foods, one of the mildest — served with a chile honey syrup (we got on the side), bacon, two eggs and potato hash or cheese grits. The Hash & Eggs is a generous serving with a mound of ingredients that include grilled tomatoes, peppers and onions, hominy, pickled red onions, jalapeños, hash potatoes, fried eggs and potato chorizo (tofu an option). Among other items: Rancheros; smoked salmon tostada and five options for tacos. FYI, after 5 p.m. you can order takeout taco kits. We paired our brunch with basic morning cocktails of a bloody mary and mimosa.

Details: El Cocinero, 1303 Thomasville Rd.; 850-329-6591. On Sunday, brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., limited menu from 3 to 4 p.m. and dinner menu from 4 to 10 p.m. Also open: 5 to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 5 to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Staff Reports


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