Here’s Brunch, a pop-up, weekend email during the 2022 General Election — 10.16.22

Pumpkin milk cocktaill
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 be about the 2022 campaign cycle in Florida, but again this week is mostly focused on the incredible response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian.

But let’s begin on a lighter note and guess how many times David Johnson has whistled “Rocky Top” since Chase McGrath made a 40-yard field goal to give Tennessee a 52-49 victory over Alabama.

Brunching on a high note — Tennessee versus Alabama.

Happy birthday to Sen. Loranne Ausley of Tallahassee and Carrie Patrick, the Deputy State Director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida.

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

ICYMI the Florida Standard released its Top 5 of the most influential lobbyists in Florida. It’s pretty impressive to see our friends Adrian Lukis and Will Rodriguez coming in at #3 and #5 respectively, right there along with heavyweights like Nick Iarossi, Brian Ballard, and Ron Book. Read the full list here.

Now, please enjoy Brunch.

— Here comes the Prez —

President Joe Biden announced he will travel to Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 1 to campaign at a reception for Charlie Crist for the final days of the Midterm campaign. Details to follow.
Better late than never: Charlie Crist gets some presidential backup on Nov. 1.

— Thanking heroes —

Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered $5,000 checks to newly recruited officers in the Cape Coral Police Department who served the community during Hurricane Ian.

Recruitment bonus program: The checks are part of the first-of-its-kind Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Payment Program that awards one-time $5,000 bonuses (after taxes) to newly employed officers in the state. The program is meant to boost law enforcement service amid shortages.

Police transplants: DeSantis awarded checks to six new Cape Coral Police Officers. Of those, two relocated from New York, one from Maryland, one from Georgia and two are new to the law enforcement profession.

Ron DeSantis heads to Cape Coral with a pocketful of big checks.

DeSantis’ take: “I am happy to be able to hand deliver six recruitment bonuses to new officers at the Cape Coral Police Department,” the Governor said. “We are glad these officers chose to bring their talents to the law enforcement profession in Florida. The heroism all our officers displayed when responding to Hurricane Ian is yet another example of why we must always back the blue.”

The details: Gov. DeSantis proposed — and the Legislature passed — a sweeping law enforcement recruitment program in the 2022 Legislative Session, including the bonuses. The program, along with other pro-law enforcement policies in the state, is meant to encourage Floridians to join law enforcement and incentivizes existing officers from other states to relocate.

In addition to a $5,000 recruitment bonus, benefits of becoming a Florida law enforcement officer include financial stability, upward mobility, excellent health and retirement benefits, student loan forgiveness programs, home loan programs, and more, the state said.

— Tourism beyond Ian —

VISIT FLORIDA has plans to highlight how the sun’s shining in the state and is ready to welcome visitors to 14 areas that Hurricane Ian left untouched.

Buying reach: The state’s tourism marketing agency announced the launch of a $2.7 million campaign, so travelers know there are plenty of places on the peninsula to sip a margarita and watch the sun rise or set.

VISIT FLORIDA reminds the country that Florida is still Florida, y’all.

Plenty of time to attract: The campaign, called “Sun’s Shining in Florida,” will run in major U.S. markets on digital and social platforms through Oct. 31, VISIT FLORIDA officials announced.

Dana Young weighs in: “Tourism is Florida’s top economic driver and VISIT FLORIDA is committed to safeguarding our industry. Our marketing programs will help protect Florida’s tourism brand and demonstrate to visitors that Florida offers infinite vacation options.”

The $2.7 million expense is the initial effort. More will be spent to support areas of the state that were dealt Hurricane Ian’s hardest blows, officials said. After all, this is the industry that in 2021 brought $17.3 billion into the state in hotel revenues alone, according to state officials.

— Duke hurricane aid —

Duke Energy Florida has committed thousands to support local recovery and rebuilding efforts in communities affected by Hurricane Ian. The aid will also help the agriculture industry.

Count on Duke: “During emergencies, our customers count on us,” said Duke Energy Florida State President Melissa Seixas. “We are proud to work alongside the organizations that are on the front lines providing critical relief and recovery services across the communities we serve. We are grateful for their service to those affected by this devastating storm.”

Duke Energy brings more than just labor for Hurricane Ian — there’s some cold, hard cash.

Helping those, helping you: Many of the organizations that received funding are among those delivering disaster relief and recovery services, including meals, emergency services and supplies to individuals, families and communities across Florida.

Hope Partnership: The agency, which works to end homelessness and poverty in Central Florida, received $5,000 from the utility company.

Farmer’s aid: Duke also committed $45,000 to help farmers and ranchers throughout the state rebuild, and $25,000 to the Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s Hurricane Relief Fund for Agriculture to support farming-related losses.

Other organizations benefiting from Duke’s philanthropy include The Florida Cattleman’s Foundation, which received $10,000; The Alumni Association of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources ($10,000); Hard Help Center ($10,000); SendMeMissions ($10,000); Foundation for Orange County Public Schools ($5,000); Osceola County Council on Aging ($5,000); Christian Sharing Center ($5,000); Meals on Wheels ($5,000); and the Council on Aging of Volusia County ($5,000).

Duke previously contributed $100,000 to the American Red Cross, with an added $50,000 available in employee matching donations, as well as $100,000 to Volunteer Florida’s Disaster Fund. The company is also supplying support through employee volunteerism and food and supply distribution.

Humana aid

The Humana Foundation donated $1 million to support disaster recovery for those affected by Hurricane Ian in Florida and Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico.

Who got the cash? Following Hurricane Ian’s landfall, several nonprofits in communities directly hit by the storm received funding, including the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the Community Foundation of Collier County, and Collaboratory (formerly the Southwest Florida Community Foundation).

But wait, there’s more: In addition to monetary contributions, Humana is also supplying direct support to hurricane survivors. Since Sept. 29, Humana has delivered about 83,000 bottles of water and more than 10,000 ready-to-eat meals to families found in hard-hit areas.

Humana also answers the call.

Relief is widespread: Humana is actively working to ensure communities in Arcadia, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Tampa, Bradenton, Fort Myers, Naples and Cape Coral are receiving the support they need.

An important partnership: Through a partnership with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Diaper Bank, Humana has helped supply more than 600,000 diapers to families in need. Humana also opened several of its Neighborhood Centers to the community, supplying water, snacks and recharging stations.

The health insurance provider has also set up a crisis intervention hotline through LifeWorks, a free counseling service for anyone in need to help people cope with the disaster and its consequences. The LifeWorks Crisis Support Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can be reached at 1-877-757-7587 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

— Meals for victims —

The Harry Chapin Food Bank and other Feeding Florida network members are providing meals and relief to those impacted by Hurricane Ian as hard-hit parts of Southwest Florida continue to recover and rebuild.

Help for all who need it: The Feeding Florida network is providing relief to all 19 disaster-declared counties in partnership with the Florida Department of Emergency Management’s mass feeding team.

Breaking records: The Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida will serve the hardest-hit areas, distributing more than 1.5 million pounds of food throughout the group’s five-county area over the last week. That relief includes supplies, MREs, produce and food boxes. The distribution is a record for the group, besting their previous high of 1.3 million pounds during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Southwest Florida goes hungry, Harry Chapin Food Bank springs into action.

By the numbers: Feeding Florida has distributed 800,000 MREs, 2.1 million bottles of water, 1.7 million meals and food boxes, 240,000 snacks and 1.1 million pounds of fresh produce.

What they’re saying: “The Feeding Florida network was in these communities before landfall and immediately on the ground helping victims after the disaster. This is what we do, and our efforts continue after the initial emergency aid is provided,” Feeding Florida Executive Director Robin Safley said. “Our food banks and their partner agencies are embedded in these communities and in it for the long haul; they know better than anyone how to care for their neighbors during this difficult time.”

Feeding Florida is the state’s largest hunger relief organization and the only food bank network with an active presence, providing ongoing community-based food distribution in all 67 counties of Florida.

— Still welcome —

Sunshine Health’s Welcome Rooms, which opened immediately in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, continues to offer an air-conditioned, fully stocked venue to recharge and gather needed supplies, including water, food and diapers, among other daily necessities.

Mobile medical care: Units are offering health screenings, well checks, vaccinations and testing for illnesses such as the flu and strep throat at their Welcome Rooms.

Sunshine Health’s Welcome Rooms offers an oasis for anyone affected by Hurricane Ian.

Not just for the public: Members of the media covering recovery efforts in Southwest Florida are also welcome and are invited to use the facilities to recharge equipment and take a breather.

11 Welcome Rooms statewide: The centers are open for basic immediate needs from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The rooms are open to the public and include snacks, supplies, internet, community and resource connections. All Sunshine Health Welcome Room locations can be found here.

Sunshine Health members affected by Hurricane Ian can visit or call Member Services at 1-866-796-0530 (TTY: 1-800-955-8770) for assistance with physical or mental health needs, or community resource connections.

— Verizon answers the call —

Verizon is donating $250,000 to help support small businesses recover following Hurricane Ian’s strike. And the telecom giant is partnering with Collaboratory and Florida TaxWatch to establish $10,000 grants to further help impacted businesses. That’s in addition to the work Verizon is doing to help customers get reconnected.

Strong connection: “We are committed to helping small businesses who have been affected by this terrible tragedy,” said Aparna Khurjekar, Chief Revenue Officer, Business Markets and SaaS at Verizon Business. “Many of these businesses are dealing with insurmountable challenges, ranging from functional and operational disruptions to the destruction of property. We hope that this donation will help accelerate business recovery and provide assistance for the small business communities affected by Hurricane Ian during their time of need.”

For small businesses affected by the hurricane, Verizon comes to the rescue.

Stepping up: “Hurricane Ian has significantly impacted the livelihood of many small-business owners in Southwest Florida and nearly 20 counties in the peninsula,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. “Florida TaxWatch is proud to be partnering with Verizon Business and Collaboratory to offer grants to many of these hardworking people, supporting them and their families, as part of our ongoing work.”

“Critical component”: “Collaboratory understands that local small businesses are part of the lifeblood of our community,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of Collaboratory. “They employ our workforce, create new innovative solutions and ideas, and drive our economic future. Assisting these businesses post-storm is a critical component of the rebuilding of Southwest Florida. Donations like this one from Verizon Business help us to do just that.”

— Is it enough? —

Hispanic voters favor Democrats in congressional elections, but by a smaller margin than four years ago, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll. Inflation and low approval ratings for Biden are helping Republicans maintain gains made among Hispanic voting blocs in 2020, The Washington Post finds.

Rising prices dominate: Hispanic and Latino voters rank rising prices as the most critical issue this election cycle. Meanwhile, they’re evenly split on their trust for either Republicans or Democrats. More than 1 in 3 don’t trust either party. While that points to a backslide for Democrats, those on the left still have some wins.

Is Joe Biden helping Hispanic voters move to Republicans?

Democrats still lead: Hispanic and Latino voters continue to favor Democrats on other top-tier issues, such as inspiring trust to handle abortion, the second highest concern among the voting bloc.

But the lead is shrinking: The Post-Ipsos poll found that 63% of Hispanic voters currently support Democrats for Congress, a 27-point advantage over Republicans. That’s about the same support Biden found in 2020, but it’s a fall from four years ago when Dems commanded a nearly 40-point advantage.

This is a big deal for Florida, where Hispanic and Latino voters are a larger share of the electorate than the national average. Across the U.S., Hispanics make up about 14% of the overall population. In Florida, they represent about 21% of the electorate.

— Fighting back —

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book is joining with Democratic Senate candidate Janelle Perez to push back against GOP campaign tactics.

Sick or slick? At issue is a Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee hitting Perez over her health care insurance business with the tagline, “We get sick, Perez gets rich.” But Perez, a cancer survivor, said a portion of that ad features her in a baseball cap recovering from chemotherapy.

Counterpunch: Perez responded with a social media post featuring her difficult recovery, bald and bedridden, and accusing Republicans of using a post-cancer photo in the ad. To be clear, the image in the GOP ad is not so explicit, but Democrats have rallied to Perez’s side and she competes for the Senate District 38 seat against Alexis Calatayud.

Speaking out: Now, Leader Book and Perez will join together for a Monday morning presser aimed at “condemning Republicans’ vicious and disqualifying actions during this election cycle,” according to a release. The event will be at 10 a.m. Monday at Miami’s Kennedy Park, 2400 S Bayshore Drive.

— Senate Dems pick up pace —

Senate Democratic incumbents are picking up the pace in fundraising — at least that’s what new finance reports covering the last week of September and the first week of October show for two key Senate races.

Janet Cruz dominated this fundraising period, collecting $308,623 between her campaign and affiliated political committee, Building the Bay PC. Her opponent, Republican Jay Collins, collected $43,543 in the same time frame between his campaign and political committee, Quiet Professionals FL.

The pair are running for Senate District 14. This past week, Cruz’s campaign announced hitting the $2 million fundraising milestone.

Janet Cruz kicks it up a notch.

Loranne Ausley also saw big gains as she defends her North Florida Senate seat. Ausley raised $219,926 this period from her campaign account and affiliated political committee, Florida 2020. Ausley’s challenger, former football star Corey Simon, collected $55,310 between his campaign and committee, Friends of Corey Simon.

Ausley is considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, named one of two key incumbent “front line” seats for Senate Victory, Senate Democrats’ campaign arm.

All about cities

The Florida League of Cities will celebrate Florida City Government Week beginning tomorrow. The Florida League of Cities, which has provided a united voice for the state’s municipal governments for more than 100 years, is sponsoring the weeklong campaign as part of its ongoing effort to promote and foster civic education and engagement.

Public outreach: Throughout the week, cities throughout the state will provide educational outreach to the public on the importance of local government, including lessons on what it does and how local government actions affect residents.

It affects you: “Local government is the one closest to the people and the one that has a direct impact on the daily lives of their residents and businesses,” said FLC President and Port St. Lucie Vice Mayor Jolien Caraballo said. “Particularly during times of crisis or disasters, cities are there each day helping residents recover, repair and reconnect to each other. Florida City Government Week is an opportunity to recognize not only what cities do in difficult times, but also the many wonderful things they do to make Florida’s cities great places to live, work and play.”

Jolien Caraballo says local municipalities are the front lines in disaster recovery.

Be a part of it: The Florida City Government Week’s annual theme, “My City: I’m Part of It, I’m Proud of It,” encourages cities to celebrate what makes their individual city, town or village great. FLC is asking cities to plan events and activities to achieve its mission, including City Hall open houses, volunteer projects, citywide contests and more.

Florida City Government week is each October and one of FLC’s signature events. The weeklong event launched in 1990. Find more information here.

— Endangered slither —

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) denied with one hand but provided with another over the past week as it denied an attempt to place Florida gopher tortoises under increased protections through the Endangered Species Act but did propose additional protections and critical habitat designations for two South Florida snakes and four plant species in both the Florida Keys and Everglades.

The rim rock crowned snake gets a boost in status.

Slow going: Florida gopher tortoises are squeezed by rapid loss of habitat due to development, but federal officials determined this tortoise population segment as robust, while declaring the western gopher tortoise population around Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana as threatened under federal law.

Sliding up and out: Key ringneck snakes will be covered under the Endangered Species Act under the proposal, with critical habitat across 2,604 acres of land within four areas in the lower Keys. These snakes are at risk of extinction because of sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion in rockland areas. The rim rock crowned snake will get nearly 6,000 acres across 11 units in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

— Sports bill —

By all accounts, Sinclair Broadcasting Corp. made a terrible business decision in 2019 when it paid $9.6 billion to The Walt Disney Co. for 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) and Fox College Sports. Sinclair quickly rebranded the outlets as Bally Sports. It tried to leverage — well, strong-arm — streaming services like YouTube TV and Hulu Live into paying much higher rights fees but was rebuffed.

Blacked out: While cable carriers like Spectrum still carried the sports networks, subscribers to the affected streaming services lost the chance to watch local teams like the Rays, Lightning, Marlins, and Panthers. The world did not crumble.

Is Bally Sports a loss leader for Sinclair Broadcasting?

Up the stream without a paddle: Sinclair kept promising it would develop a direct-to-consumer streaming app to make Bally available to non-cable subscribers, and that day has arrived under the name of Bally Sports Plus. As now appears obvious, though, Sinclair again miscalculated. At a time when inflation runs rampant, and budgets throughout Florida are squeezed, the company expects consumers to pay $19.99 a month for the service. Good luck with that.

Tough competition: By contrast, ESPN+ is $9.99 a month unless consumers want the $99.99 yearly rate. And ESPN+ gives customers much wider access to live sports and other services. Meanwhile, Forbes reported Bally is “teetering on the edge of bankruptcy” while Sinclair plays accounting games to protect the rest of the company. Oops. Forbes noted, “Weighted under a mountain of $8.6 billion in debt, BSP was supposed to be the Hail Mary to save the RSN unit. However, startup losses at the service paired with cash running low have thrown Diamond into financial turmoil.”

Leagues are watching: Direct-to-consumer probably is the future for much of sports television, but that only means that Bally can expect more competition. All the major sports leagues are studying whether to take over their own broadcast streaming rights. That seems inevitable in some form, and it could change the way you watch sports at home.

What’s that mean for Bally? It’s probably not good news for that company. In the meantime, it should remember this business tenet: A property is only worth what the customers are willing to pay.

— Brunching out —

You don’t have to travel to the legendary Joe’s Stone Crabs in Miami Beach to savor Florida’s beloved seafood delicacy. Stone crab season is here now — it started on Oct. 15 and continues until May 1 — and there are several places where you can buy the crustaceans in Tallahassee and nearby (if you’re willing to drive about 30 miles).

You don’t need to travel far to brunch on stone crabs. Image via Tallahassee Table.

Catch ‘em while you can: Many fans prefer buying their stone crab claws straight from a seafood market, serving it with a mustard sauce (like the kind created at Joe’s) but you’ll find a few restaurants offering them as well. Be patient the first few days as markets start getting their first batch of the sweet, coral-hued crustaceans. “By Tuesday and Wednesday, we should have plenty,” said Matt McCreless, general manager/buyer for Tallahassee’s Southern Seafood Market. Stone crab claws come in medium, large, jumbo and colossal sizes. Prices can vary but they have ranged from about $20 plus for mediums to $50 a pound or more for colossals. When you’re hunting for stone crab claws this season, here are some prime sources:

Blu Halo: The upscale restaurant expects to start serving stone crab claws, which come from the Keys, by Monday. They’ll be paired with Joe’s mustard sauce. Bannerman Crossings, 341 Bannerman Rd., Suite 102, Tallahassee; 850-999-1696.

Capital Seafood Market: The seafood market will be selling medium and large stone crab claws. 1214 Capital Circle SE, Tallahassee; 850-402-1990.

Lynn Brothers Seafood: The market, open since 1983, is from a family of fishermen and gets its own stone crab claws. 28 Lynn Circle, St. Marks; 850-925-6083.

My-Way Seafood: The father-and-son business has been operating for more than 25 years at 1249 Coastal Hwy., Panacea; 850-984-0164.

Riverside Cafe on the River: The restaurant gets its stone crab claws “right off the boats” and also sponsors the St. Marks Stone Crab Festival, which will be held Oct. 22. 69 Riverside Dr.; St. Marks; 850-925-5668.

Southern Seafood Market: The market primarily gets its claws from sources in St. Marks to the Cedar Key area. Timberlane Shops on the Square, Tallahassee; 850-893-7301.

Staff Reports


  • Tom

    October 16, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Joe, Going to brunch shortly!
    Hanging with the Gov at a public event later today! Bloody Mary’s to all!

    • marylou

      October 16, 2022 at 1:45 pm

      Great. When the gov starts complaining that Cruz’s life sentence is wrong, ask him if he still thinks vetoing contraceptives is right. Ask him if he still thinks forced births are right.

  • Tom

    October 16, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Joe, Going to brunch shortly!
    Hanging with the Gov at a public event later today! Bloody Mary’s to all!

Comments are closed.


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