Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.7.22

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Commentary and links on Florida politics as crisp as your morning bacon.

Good Wednesday morning.

AARP Florida has selected longtime volunteer Ken Thomas as its next state president.

Thomas previously served as the organization’s state president in 2014 before being selected to become the first AARP Regional Volunteer Director for the newly constituted Mega Region, of which Florida is a member. In his new role, Thomas will be leading the efforts of the AARP Florida Executive Council, which helps drive AARP work in the Sunshine State.

Congrats to Ken Thomas, who received a big boost at AARP.

As the top volunteer position in the AARP Florida state office, the state president works in partnership with the state director and other staff and volunteers to lead AARP’s advocacy and programmatic work in the state.

“On behalf of 2.8 million members across Florida, we are delighted to welcome back Ken Thomas as our state president and a leading voice for Floridians 50-plus. Ken’s experience and commitment to improving the lives of all Floridians will be important to our state. He has an incredibly strong track record of leadership and service, and I’m confident he will excel once again in this role,” said AARP Florida state director Jeff Johnson.

“We give heartfelt thanks to Donna Ginn for her service and commitment as AARP Florida’s state president over the last six years. Donna has been an exceptional partner in our work during some very difficult times for volunteers and staff alike. We look forward to continuing to work with Donna in other capacities as she continues to volunteer for AARP.”

Thomas was awarded AARP Florida’s Andrus Award for Community Service in 2020. He committed more than three decades of service to the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Air Force, turning his attention to community volunteerism after his retirement.


The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Insurance Summit continues today with discussions centered on the state’s litigation climate.

After a recap of the 2022 elections, Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large will moderate a panel on “fixing Florida’s legal climate.” FJRI and other tort reform groups have pinned the blame for rising rates on boatloads of frivolous lawsuits filed against insurers.

Participating in the panel are Joseph Tessitore, a partner at Roper PA; Kansas Gooden, a shareholder at Boyd & Jenerette PA and Michele Morales, a partner at Cole Scott & Kissane.

Litigation is the keyword for Day Two of the Florida Chamber 2022 Insurance Summit.

The next segment, titled “The Incentive to Sue,” will feature American Consumer Institute President and CEO Steve Pociask and James Madison Institute senior fellow Christian Camara, with Personal Insurance Federation of Florida VP Scott Matiyow serving as moderator.

And in a preview of what’s to come during next week’s Special Session on insurance, state Reps. Tommy Gregory, Tom Fabricio and Bob Rommel, as well as Sen. Linda Stewart, will take part in a panel titled “Advocacy in Action: A Discussion with Florida’s Legislative Leadership.”

A full agenda is available on the Florida Chamber’s website.

More from the Summit:

Jimmy Patronis wants to eliminate AOBs ‘once and for all’” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer Patronis has put the assignment of benefits agreements in the crosshairs. The CFO, whose department houses the Office of Insurance Regulation, said the Legislature has the appetite to tackle reinsurance solutions and bad-faith lawsuit reform. But most importantly, he said, “we need to eliminate AOBs once and for all.” Lawmakers in 2019 passed an AOB reform package that placed added requirements on contractors that offer such agreements and allowed insurers to offer policies with limited AOB rights — or no AOB rights at all. Still, the bill fell short of the total elimination that insurers wanted, and that Patronis vocally supported Tuesday. “These folks continue to go door to door, and they solicit,” Patronis said of contractors. He added, “I think AOBs are probably the worst thing that I’ve seen that can be done to a human individual after disaster.”

Citizens Property Insurance exec ‘optimistic’ upcoming Special Session will deliver lawsuit changes” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Top officials at Citizens Property Insurance, which is supposed to be the carrier of last resort for homeowners in Florida, are spelling out steps they want to see taken in the upcoming Special Session or in the near future to help the company bolster its finances. Those steps could include making it harder for customers to keep coverage with Citizens. The company is also about to embark on a plan to redirect legal disputes over some claims to the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) instead of having them go through circuit courts. Citizens, with 1.11 million overall policies, has been exploding in size amid turmoil within Florida’s property insurance market.

Insurance summit: A blueprint for resilient communities” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Policymakers have crafted programs in recent years to encourage storm hardening and resiliency, and there’s a community in Southwest Florida that recently showed how that kind of preparation can pay off during extreme weather events. Kitson & Partners CEO Sydney Kitson spoke to attendees at the Florida Chamber’s 2022 Insurance Summit about one resilient community in Florida that recently passed a big test, Hurricane Ian. Kitson’s company led the development of Babcock Ranch in Charlotte County. The planned community is home to about 20,000 residential units and 6 million square feet of commercial space.

State regulators place United Property and Casualty under administrative supervision” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — United Property and Casualty Insurance Company was placed into administrative supervision by state regulators Monday. The consent order from the Office of Insurance Regulation states the St. Petersburg company had seen at least $35 million in losses each of the last five years. United also posted a $169.8 million underwriting loss in its third quarter report to the office while posting a surplus of $56.9 million for the 142,785 policies it had in force as of Nov. 1. That surplus was a drop of more than 66% since the start of the year, or $112.4 million.


Meenan PA is hiring Susanne Murphy as an Insurance Regulatory Consultant.

Murphy has more than 30 years of experience in insurance regulation, both in Florida and South Carolina. She most recently served as Deputy Commissioner of Property and Casualty for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, following a ten-year tenure at Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.

Suzanne Murphy brings her extensive knowledge of insurance to Meenan PA.

Murphy began her career in insurance regulation at the South Carolina Department of Insurance, where she served as general counsel and Deputy Commissioner, before being tapped as the first female Chief Insurance Commissioner in South Carolina. She is a member of the South Carolina Bar.

In 2018, Moore was a recipient of the National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s Robert Dineen Award for Outstanding Service and Contribution to the State Regulation of Insurance. She has extensive experience in all aspects of property insurance regulation, including licensing, form and rate filings, financial solvency and market conduct.

“Susanne is well known throughout the insurance industry, both here in Florida and nationally. We are excited about the opportunity to bring her in-depth understanding of insurance regulation and Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to our team,” said Tim Meenan, managing partner of Meenan PA.

Meenan PA is one of the top law firms in the state specializing in insurance and stands for clients working in several areas of the sprawling industry. In addition to insurance regulatory clients in the property and casualty, life, and health insurance arenas, the firm aids clients in the state procurement, energy, health care, financial services, and medical marijuana industries.


Breaking overnight: Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock wins runoff, re-elected to Senate” via Cameron McWhirter of The Wall Street Journal — Warnock won re-election in a Georgia runoff contest Tuesday, defeating GOP challenger Herschel Walker, who had been backed by Donald Trump. With 92% of the vote counted, Warnock had 50.4% to 49.6% for Walker. The contest is closely watched by both parties. Tuesday’s result will offer more clues to Georgia’s political direction after a series of hard-fought contests for Governor, Senator and President in recent election cycles. Warnock’s victory means that Democrats will control the Senate 51-49 starting in January, slightly increasing their hold on the chamber.


Just one tweet:


‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 9; Military Bowl with UCF Knights against Duke — 21; Cheez-It Bowl with FSU against Oklahoma — 22; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 25; last day to ride Splash Mountain before remodeling — 46; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 49; Bruce Springsteen launches 2023 tour in Tampa — 56; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 72; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 73; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 82; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 84; Tampa Municipal Election — 90; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 90; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 94; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 107; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 127; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 142; 2023 Session Sine Die — 149; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 149; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 177; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 226; ‘‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 233; Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 331; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 478; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 534; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 597; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 597; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 639; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 702; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 800; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 877. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,066.


‘Focused on the Senate’: Rick Scott rules out 2024 presidential run” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — That’s the takeaway from his comments on the Hugh Hewitt Show, during which the first-term Senator repeatedly rebuffed the host’s questions about a potential bid for The White House by saying he was “focused on the Senate.”

“I have no plans to run for President and I have a 100% plan to run for the U.S. Senate,” Scott said.

“I’m running for re-election for Senator from the great state of Florida,” Scott added. “I will, you know, work my butt off for the next two years for my re-election.”

Rick Scott is passing on a presidential run in 2024.

Scott, who is wrapping up a two-year term as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in which the GOP failed to flip the Senate, seems to have a rocky path there as well. He received just 10 votes in a challenge to Mitch McConnell’s leadership of the minority caucus last month. Nevertheless, he asserted his priority is staying in the chamber.

Scott has faced questions about a presidential run since Trump lost the White House in 2020. In December of that year, he said Trump “ought to do it again” while denying interest of his own in a run.

“I’m not planning to run,” Scott said on the Fox Business Network. “I’m a new Senator. I’m working on my job as a U.S. Senator, trying to make sure I’m taking care of everybody in Florida.”

Yet by November of this year, Scott was not willing to endorse Trump, instead predicting a crowded field.


COVID could be DeSantis’ secret weapon in 2024” via Caitlin Owens of Axios — Gov. Ron DeSantis — should he run for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination — has an opening to attack former President Trump’s COVID response from the right. The big picture: The federal COVID response has become a red-meat issue for the party’s base, and DeSantis’ 2020 actions are much more aligned with the GOP’s tone today. DeSantis has even said he wishes he’d been more vocal in speaking out against the Trump administration’s calls for lockdowns early on in the pandemic.”

Christian Ziegler throws hat into race to lead Florida GOP” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Former Sarasota County Commissioner Ziegler announced his bid to chair the Republican Party of Florida. After four years serving as Vice Chair, Ziegler made the announcement after it was clear close ally Joe Gruters would not seek another term. “I love the party,” Ziegler said. “Whatever I can do to help the party grow, I am going to focus on that.” Ziegler’s announcement, made first to those in attendance at a quarterly meeting for the party, follows one from Leon County Republican Chair Evan Power, who announced his own candidacy for state chair in November. With county party elections unfolding across the state, it’s likely at least one more candidate will throw their name in the hat.

Christian Ziegler throws his hat in the crowded ring for Florida GOP Chair.

Anthony Sabatini seeks county GOP post in apparent play for Florida GOP Chair” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A county Republican Executive Committee could decide if failed congressional candidate Sabatini runs for Republican Party of Florida Chair. Sabatini is challenging Walter Price, longtime Chair of the Lake County Republican Party, in a local election Sunday, Dec. 13. If elected, he will be eligible to run for state Chair. Two prominent candidates, Leon County GOP Chair Evan Power and Sarasota County State Committee member Christian Ziegler, have already announced bids for GOP state Chair. Price feels confident he will win another term as Lake County Chair, a post he first won in 2016, but said he’s taking nothing for granted. REC members will vote by secret ballot.

Alfie Oakes slate takes over Collier County REC” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A slate of candidates endorsed by controversial State Committee member Oakes swept the Collier County Republican Executive Committee contests. The local REC on Monday evening elected a slate that included Nick Lichter as Chair and Dan Cook as Vice Chair. It was among the high-profile attempts in Southwest Florida by “America First” members of the party to take over local RECs — and one of the major successful political coups. Oakes won his own Committee member post after unseating an incumbent two years ago but has faced attempts to unseat him based on low attendance. Now he has full control of the Board.


Lawmakers set to meet on ailing insurance market” via The Associated Press — The Florida Legislature will meet next week for a Special Session on property insurance and property tax relief in the wake of damage caused by Hurricane Ian, officials announced Tuesday. The leaders of the Florida House and Senate issued the proclamation convening the Legislature from Dec. 12 to 16. Lawmakers will be tasked with reforming elements of the state’s troubled property insurance market, providing tax or other financial relief related to damage from Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, and creating a toll credit program for frequent Florida commuters.

Jimmy Patronis calls Special Session proclamation ‘welcomed news’ — CFO Patronis said the announcement of the Special Session on insurance and hurricane recovery is ‘welcomed news’ in a statement issued through his office. He said the Special Session “demonstrates strong leadership by the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House. It also highlights the warped financial incentives that have made Florida No. 1 in the country for property insurance lawsuits and No. 1 in the country for insurer instability and rate increases.” Ahead of the announcement, Patronis announced his office will “pursue legislation to ban Assignment of Benefits (AOBs) and stop bad actors from profiting off disasters.”

Jimmy Patronis sets the stage for the insurance Special Session.

Building codes, resiliency get attention as insurance Special Session nears” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Building code and resiliency requirements are to construction what traffic, signals and stop signs are to drivers. Without road rules, there’s no safety for drivers, passengers and onlookers. Without modernized building codes, structures, whether palatial private residences, entry-level homes, or municipal buildings, aren’t as safe from hurricanes as they can be. “That’s just the bottom line. Codes work,” Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson said Tuesday at the Florida Chamber’s summit, Insuring Florida’s Future.

Without updated building codes, expect more scenes like this. Image via AP.

Democrats outline their plan for solving the state’s property insurance woes” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — A Special Session next week on property insurance is triggering a bipartisan hope that the state’s crisis can be stopped from spiraling out of control, and House Democrats are releasing specific steps they believe will make that happen. House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell said her caucus will push for more than tinkering at the edges to stop spiraling insurance rate increases, prevent insurance companies from going belly up, and ensure more consumers don’t depend on the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Insurance. “Our caucus believes those changes need to be robust,” Driskell said.

Toll credit program in mix as legislative leaders issue proclamation for Special Session” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida’s legislative leaders, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner, released their official proclamation for a Special Session, calling their colleagues to convene next Tuesday to stabilize the property insurance market and remove or reduce property taxes for Hurricane Ian victims. DeSantis previously mentioned those issues as the main need for a Special Session, but another topic was included in the proclamation: a toll credit program pushed by DeSantis to give commuters a break on road fees. With a large surplus of $17 billion, DeSantis cut tolls for commuters who go through at least 40 toll booths in a month.

Women will take the lead on health care issues in the Florida Senate” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Passidomo has put women in charge of health care policy and spending in the Senate. Passidomo on Monday announced that Sen. Gayle Harrell will Chair the Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services and Sen. Colleen Burton will Chair the Senate Committee on Health Policy. Moreover, to ensure there is continuity between health spending and health policy, Passidomo appointed Harrell to the substantive policy committee, and Burton will serve on the health care spending panel. Indeed, 10 of the members of the Senate Health Policy Committee also serve on the Health Care Appropriations Committee.

—“Freshman Senator Jay Collins lands committee Chair overseeing agriculture” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

—“Nick DiCeglie appointments could spell success for Tampa Bay” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Blaise Ingoglia lands two committee Chairs in first Senate term” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

—“Lauren Book lands committee spots dealing with appropriations, children, health policy” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Linda Stewart to serve as Vice Chair on 2 committees, lands other key committee posts” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Lawmakers break Florida’s improvement streak in latest ‘Judicial Hellholes’ report” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — For the first time in four years, Florida failed to improve its “judicial hellhole” standing. The holdup? The Legislature. In the latest edition of its annual Judicial Hellhole Report, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) says the Legislature has done little to mitigate lawsuit abuse in the Sunshine State even after DeSantis and the Florida Supreme Court have made strides in improving the state’s litigious environment. ATRA praised the Governor and the courts last year for improving the state’s environment for three years running. Although no Florida jurisdiction made it in the 2021 or 2022 Judicial Hellhole rankings, ATRA named the legislative branch at the top of its watchlist for the second year in a row.

Battle of the birds: Scrub jay bill flies again” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Florida scrub jay might not be migratory but calls to honor the bird are returning for the Legislative Season. Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew has again filed legislation (HB 17) to usurp the mockingbird as the state bird. He and fellow birds of a feather say the Florida scrub jay deserves the honorific. The northern mockingbird is the state bird of five (southern) states: Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and, of course, Florida. Meanwhile, the Florida scrub jay is the only species of bird that is endemic to the Sunshine State.

Push to put partisanship in Florida school board elections revived” via Christine Sexton of Florida Politics — Fresh off of an election where school board candidates backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans won key races, a GOP legislator is launching another effort to make school boards races partisan. Several Republican legislators unsuccessfully pushed for the change, and now Rep. Spencer Roach is embarking on a fresh effort to put it before voters. Voters back in 1998 overwhelmingly voted to make school board races nonpartisan. Roach filed a joint resolution that would require county school board races to return to being partisan beginning with the 2026 election cycle.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Michael Corcoran, Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Bethany McAlister, Will Rodriguez, Corcoran Partners: Grace Landing

David Guerrero: Coast to Coast Referral Center

Ray Rodrigues: State University System of Florida Board of Governors

Cameron Yarbrough, Ramba Consulting Group: Collier Mosquito Control District

New Florida laws on classroom topics make teaching about the holidays trickier” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The state has threatened to remove teachers’ certification if they violate new laws relating to the instruction of topics such as race and gender. At the same time, it has amplified the rights of parents to control their children’s lives in areas such as education and religious upbringing. Warnings against “indoctrination” loom large. Many key details are still vague. The environment has made some teachers reluctant to keep books on their shelves or introduce potentially contentious subjects into their lessons.

Battle looms for faculty tenure review across Florida” via Christian Casale of The Independent Florida Alligator — In January, the Florida Board of Governors will decide whether to adopt a regulation that would institute a tenure review every five years for faculty at Florida public universities. The United Faculty of Florida union, which represents 25,000 faculty members and 8,000 graduate students across the state’s 12 public institutions, has signaled the regulation — called 10.003 — in its current form would be a blow to academic freedom and faculty job security. The Board of Governors, on the other hand, say it’s a way to ensure the best educators are tenured and to reward faculty who deserve recognition. Faculty at UF already go through a post-tenure review process — the Sustained Performance Evaluation Program (SPEP).

Florida Apartment Association launches website detailing housing scarcity across Florida” via Florida Politics — The Florida Apartment Association is launching a new website to provide residents and policymakers reliable information on rental housing needs in their communities. tracks Florida’s rapidly growing housing requirements, reviews a range of key demographic indicators, and compares those indicators statewide and by county and metro area. Between 2010 and 2020 Florida’s population grew by 15%, or about 2.7 million people, ranking second overall, after Texas. Every county in the state of Florida is projected to grow, some by more than 40%. Based on Florida’s current growth trajectory, more than 570,000 apartment homes must be built by 2030.

Flags to be lowered to half-staff in remembrance of Pearl Harbor” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — On Dec. 7, 1941, the United States was attacked by Japan, leading to its formal entry into World War II. Though more than eight decades have passed since that infamous day, states across the country are lowering their flags to honor the sacrifice of those service members, and Florida is no exception. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proclamation notes the 2,400 American lives lost on that day 81 years ago, a mass casualty that set the stage for the enlistment of 248,000 Floridians, as well as thousands more who “contributed to the war effort by working on the homefront.”


Joe Biden visits Arizona computer chip site, highlights jobs” via Josh Boak and Aamer Madhani of The Associated Press — Biden is visiting the site for a new computer chip plant in Arizona, using it as a chance to emphasize how his policies are fostering job growth in what could be a challenge to the incoming Republican House majority. Biden has staked his legacy in large part on major investments in technology and infrastructure that were approved by Congress along bipartisan lines. The Democratic President maintains that the factory jobs fostered by $52 billion in semiconductor investments and another $200 billion for scientific research will help to revive the U.S. middle class.

For Joe Biden, it’s jobs, jobs, jobs.

The Supreme Court thrives on hypotheticals. Samuel Alito’s latest sparked a backlash.” via Robert Barnes of The Washington Post — Supreme Court justices live on hypotheticals. And sometimes they blow up in their faces. Justice Alito found that out Monday. His questions about Black shopping mall Santas and kids dressed in Ku Klux Klan outfits, in a case involving whether a Christian graphic artist must create a wedding website for a same-sex couple, became fodder on social media for complaints that he was being insensitive or unserious about a case in which he is likely to be in the majority, ruling for the designer. The justices often use “hypos” to test legal theories and the limits of a party’s argument.

Democrats make major concession on vaccine mandate” via Ellen Mitchell, Rachel Frazin and Mike Lillis of The Hill — In a compromise with Republicans, House Democrats are allowing language into the National Defense Authorization Act that repeals the coronavirus vaccine mandate for U.S. service members a year after it was enacted, House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mike Rogers confirmed to The Hill Tuesday. The bill, which lays out how an $847 billion Defense Department top line will be distributed in fiscal 2023, is tentatively set to be released as early as Tuesday evening and voted on by the House Thursday, Rogers said. Asked if he believes the language will stick amid all the last-minute jostling over the bill, Rogers replied: “Yes.”

New wrinkle in veterans dispute as negotiators seek omnibus deal” via Lindsey McPherson and Aidan Quigley of Roll Call — Democrats want to reclassify some Veterans Affairs spending as mandatory during the current negotiations for a fiscal 2023 omnibus, but Republicans object to the effort as a chance for Democrats to increase nondefense spending in other policy areas. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the House Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, said Tuesday that classification of the funding as discretionary or mandatory is part of the omnibus negotiations. “In the negotiations generally, whether or not you have it all discretionary, or some mandatory, or some combination, is part of the talks,” she said. Wasserman Schultz said with increasing veterans’ health care costs provided in legislation passed this summer and in previous years, Democrats need to move that spending into the mandatory category to afford other priorities.

Maxwell Frost, first Gen Z Congressman, gets his bearings on Capitol Hill” via Stephanie Lai of The New York Times — He is a fan of early-2000s rock, which was popular when he was in kindergarten. He is still working to get his undergraduate degree. And he is couch surfing to save money as he starts his new job, which is representing Florida’s 10th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Frost, a 25-year-old Afro-Cuban progressive activist from Orlando, is about to be the youngest member of Congress. He has swapped the megaphone he once used to lead protests for a seat in one of the nation’s most powerful institutions, where he will be the first member of Generation Z to serve.

Jared Moskowitz fills six key staff slotsMoskowitz is announcing that he filled six key roles for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, which stretches from Fort Lauderdale to Boca Raton. “We will hit the ground running and be a loud voice in Washington for the people of Broward and Palm Beach counties,” he said. Leading operations is Chief of Staff Lale Morrison, who held the same position under Alcee Hastings and Stephanie Murphy. Moskowitz also hired Deputy Chief of Staff Morgan Cintron, Legislative Director Clare Plassche and Communications Director Dylan Smith. District Director Wendi Lipsich and Deputy District Director Theresa Brier will keep the jobs they had under outgoing Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutsch, whom Moskowitz is succeeding. His swearing-in is on Jan. 3.

TikTok national-security deal faces more delays as worry grows over risks” via By John D. McKinnon, Aruna Viswanatha and Stu Woo of The Wall Street Journal — A potential deal between the Biden administration and TikTok — once expected around year-end — has run into more delays as worry grows over national-security concerns that U.S. officials say the popular app poses. The review has dragged on amid a range of concerns, including how TikTok might share information related to the algorithm it uses to decide what videos to show users, and the level of trust Washington would need to place in the company, these people said. U.S. officials haven’t returned to TikTok with additional demands to address the recent concerns, some of the people said, leaving the path forward unclear. A TikTok spokeswoman said the company is looking forward to a “timely conclusion to our agreement with the U.S. government, much of which we have already started implementing in earnest …”


Trump Organization found guilty in tax fraud scheme” via Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Lola Fadulu of The New York Times — Trump’s family real estate business was convicted on Tuesday of tax fraud and other financial crimes, a remarkable rebuke of the former President’s company and what prosecutors described as its “culture of fraud and deception.” The conviction on all 17 counts, after more than a day of jury deliberations in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan, resulted from a long-running scheme in which the Trump Organization doled out off-the-books luxury perks to some executives: They received fancy apartments, leased Mercedes-Benzes, even private school tuition for relatives, none of which they paid taxes on. The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which led the case against two Trump Organization entities, had previously extracted a guilty plea from the architect of the scheme, Allen Weisselberg, the company’s long-serving CFO.

Trump Organization lawyers William Brennan and Michael van der Veen exit the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse in New York City. Image via Reuters.

Justice Dept. subpoenas Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin officials for Donald Trump communications” via Amy Gardner, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Patrick Marley of The Washington Post — Special counsel Jack Smith has sent grand jury subpoenas to local officials in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin, three states that were central to Trump’s failed plan to stay in power following the 2020 election, seeking any and all communications with Trump, his campaign and a long list of aides and allies. The requests for records arrived in Dane County, Wisconsin; Maricopa County, Arizona; and Wayne County, Michigan, late last week, and in Milwaukee on Monday, officials said. They are among the first known subpoenas issued since Attorney General Merrick Garland named Smith last month to oversee the Jan. 6 Capitol attack case.

Jan. 6 Gold Medal ceremony gets awkward” via Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call — Honorees visibly avoided handshakes with Senate Minority Leader McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a receiving line, after exchanging warm greetings with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Gladys Sicknick, the mother of the late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, was among those to decline to shake hands with the top House and Senate Republicans. “I’m just tired of them standing there and saying how wonderful the Capitol Police is and then they turn around and … go down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss his ring,” Sicknick told CNN, referring to Trump.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Divisions appear in Miami-Dade Commission leadership vote” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade Commissioners were in full agreement Tuesday when they selected interim Chair Oliver Gilbert III to keep his post permanently through late 2024. They weren’t as united in electing their new Vice Chair, Anthony Rodriguez, revealing potential alliances and rivalries that could impact future votes from the dais. The 13-member board voted unanimously for Gilbert, a former Miami Gardens Mayor who since winning his County Commission bid in August 2020 has worked to be a consensus maker. Shortly after taking his seat two years ago, the board elected him Vice Chair, a role he kept until term limits prompted the departure of former Chair Jose “Pepe” Diaz and several other long-tenured Commissioners.

Oliver Gilbert gets to drop the ‘interim’ from his title.

Miami bidding to host 2028 Republican National Convention. Here’s the initial pitch” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Miami has submitted a bid to host the 2028 Republican National Convention at the city’s downtown arena. The bid comes at a time when Florida’s rightward shift stands out in the U.S. national political map, and as Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, mulls a potential 2024 presidential bid. Emails obtained by the Miami Herald through a public records request show the RNC invited the city to bid in July. In September, a senior adviser to Miami City Manager Art Noriega submitted the city’s first formal bid to host the event where the GOP will select its nominee for the 2028 Presidential Election. RNC staffers visited Miami Oct. 6-7, said Donald Wolfe III, Noriega’s adviser.

After veto, county Mayor settles for new votes on Medley, Virginia Gardens annexations” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Medley and Virginia Gardens won’t be able to expand this year after Miami-Dade County Commissioners granted Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s request Tuesday for more time to push for millions of dollars in annexation fees from the municipalities. At issue is how much annexations will cost local and county taxpayers in future years as more cities seek added land where property owners currently pay Miami-Dade municipal property taxes. Those tax dollars shift to municipalities after annexations, along with costs for providing local services like police patrols, sidewalk repair and cleaning up litter.”

Miami Beach cops ‘conspired’ to cover up pepper spray attack on tourist, lawsuit alleges” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Over a year ago, a Miami Beach police sergeant pepper-sprayed a New York woman who was filming officers, an incident caught on disturbing cellphone video. Officers later arrested her under a Miami Beach law that has been roundly criticized as being used to target Black visitors who video cops. Attorneys for Mariyah Maple have now expanded their federal excessive-force lawsuit against Miami Beach to include a group of nine officers they say “conspired” to arrest the woman on July 25, 2021. The suit claims that officers, from the start, knew Maple committed no crime and some lied on police reports and misrepresented evidence — all to cover up for the officer who attacked her.

Fort Lauderdale election drama ends as new Commission sworn into office” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Three new Commissioners took their seats on the dais Tuesday before a standing-room-only crowd at Fort Lauderdale City Hall — even John Herbst, the newly elected District 1 Commissioner whose residency was challenged by a losing candidate. “Running for office is not for the faint of heart,” Herbst said after taking his seat on the end of the dais. Pamela Beasley-Pittman, the first Black woman elected to the Commission, and Warren Sturman also took their seats after a swearing-in ceremony that drew dozens. Former County Commissioner Ken Keechl, the losing candidate who challenged Herbst’s residency just days after the Nov. 8 election, was a no-show.

Broward holds on to control of 911 operation, sidesteps talk about giving it away” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Broward County Commission sidestepped the demands of a state safety panel Tuesday when it dug in its heels to keep control of the regional 911 system and not hand it over to the Sheriff’s Office. “I don’t think anybody up there wants to give up the system,” County Commissioner Michael Udine said after Tuesday’s meeting. “The Commission is going to continue to do what we can to upgrade the technology, the Commission is going to continue to do what we can to fund the personnel, and the Commission is going to do what we can to provide the best public safety for the residents of Broward County.”

After big Midterm Election gains, Broward Republican Chair wins second term” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Tom Powers will lead the Broward Republican Party through the 2024 Presidential Election as party Chair after members rejected an attempt by an unsuccessful former state legislative candidate to oust him. Powers was re-elected 170-106 over challenger Jenna Hague at a lengthy Monday night meeting of committee members from throughout the county. “I’m very happy with the results. I had a very strong win. I think that is because of the many volunteers that were such a strong part of giving us a very good year in Broward County for Republicans,” Powers said. “It’s a very tough county to make gains in, but we made gains. And it’s a path forward for us now.”

Melissa McKinlay joins development company after PBC Commission term ends” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Fresh off serving two terms on the Palm Beach County Commission, McKinlay is the new vice president for Government Relations at a West Palm Beach-based engineering firm. The company, WGI, builds public infrastructure and develops real estate, according to its website. McKinlay, whose second term on the Commission ended two weeks ago, is being enlisted to reach out to municipal, county and state governments throughout Florida — and beyond — on behalf of the company and its projects, according to a news release from the company. “WGI is one of the nation’s fastest-growing firms dedicated to its associates, clients, and helping communities improve infrastructure through environmentally friendly design,” McKinlay said, according to the company press release.

After finishing her term, Melissa McKinlay moves to a development firm.

led the Florida Division of Emergency Management from January 2019 to April 2021.

Gov. DeSantis appoints three to Health Care District of Palm Beach County” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis announced the appointments of Tracy Caruso, Patrick Rooney and Carlos Vidueira to the district’s seven-member Board of Commissioners. Each appointee will take three previously vacant seats the Governor has the sole power to fill. Caruso serves as Vice Chair of the Palm Beach Housing and Finance Authority, a county agency created in 1979 to help improve the local affordable housing index. In private life, she is the co-founder and President of Delray Beach Executive Suites, a private rental agency.

Vero Beach approves 15% water, sewer rate hikes to pay for new wastewater treatment plant” via Thomas Weber of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Water and sewer rates here will jump about 15% next year to pay for an $82 million wastewater-reclamation facility. Starting in January, water and sewer rates will be merged for all customers and jump from a combined $51 to about $59 for the average customer, who uses about 4,000 gallons of water a month. That will be followed by three more rate hikes: 18% in October, 18% in October 2024, and 2% in October 2025. By that point, rates for that average user would be about $83 a month, according to a city study. The City Council voted 4-1 to approve the plan, with Tracey Zudans in dissent. “I had the same hesitancy of doing this,” said Mayor John Cotugno.

Shark-diving tourists thought they were saving fish. Instead, they helped steal commercial fishing gear.” via Angie DiMichele of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A group of tourists aboard a boat to dive with sharks were conned by their captain and mate into helping them steal an authorized commercial fishing set up in the waters off Jupiter, thinking they were helping free tangled sharks from illegal lines. A jury convicted captain John R. Moore Jr., 56, of West Palm Beach, and mate Tanner J. Mansell, 29, of Jupiter, of theft of commercial fishing gear in the federal waters off Palm Beach County, court records show. They each face up to five years in prison. Moore and Mansell led a group of six tourists out into the water in August 2020 to swim with sharks off the Jupiter Inlet, federal prosecutors said.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Sales tax for transportation on ballot in 2024? Mayor Jerry Demings: ‘I will not rule it out’” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Beginning his second term as Orange County government’s chief executive, Mayor Demings said Tuesday he would not rule out another push to persuade voters to raise the local sales tax to narrow an estimated $21-billion gap for transportation improvements. The Mayor discussed challenges facing the county — including transportation funding deficits — during a briefing after a ceremony in which he and three other victorious County Commission candidates took their oaths of office at the Convention Center. About 60% of county voters rejected a referendum on Nov. 8 to boost the sales tax by a penny per dollar despite his appeal for it.

‘Who’s next?’: Outrage swells after neo-Nazi demonstration outside Lakeland drag show” via Gary White of The Ledger — Two days after neo-Nazis gathered in Lakeland, the organizer of an event that included drag routines said he was buoyed by the support he had received and vowed to continue performing. Meanwhile, a range of local leaders condemned the demonstration that mixed Nazi symbols with a Christian flag and expressions of bigotry toward the LGBTQ community. Jason DeShazo, the organizer of the event, said he had been deluged with encouraging messages since The Ledger reported on the protest by about a dozen men displaying Nazi symbols and posing in “Heil Hitler” salutes.

Feeling the love in Lakeland.

State will provide temporary housing for Volusia’s Tropical Storm Ian victims” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Good news for Tropical Storm Ian survivors who have been slogging through bad news: Free housing is on the way. The Florida Department of Emergency Management is distributing travel trailers and recreational vehicles to Volusia County residents whose homes are uninhabitable because of damage from Tropical Storm Ian. Those who receive temporary housing will only be able to use the trailer or RV for a maximum of six months, but they’ll at least have a safe place to live that doesn’t drain their finances while they figure out a more permanent solution. Applicants must meet the criteria to qualify for the temporary housing program.

FDEP relaxes seawall permitting rules in Volusia County amid Ian, Nicole recovery” via Sheldon Gardner of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — To speed up recovery from Tropical Storms Ian and Nicole along Volusia County’s coast, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has temporarily changed seawall permitting requirements. The FDEP is in charge of issuing coastal construction permits for seawalls, and the Department recently changed its Emergency Final Order for Volusia County, according to a Volusia County government news release. Among other things, the updated emergency order for coastal armoring “waives a provision that only allows seawalls for existing structures,” according to the county. “This will allow a seawall to be permitted where a structure was destroyed or substantially damaged by the storm.”

Deputy charged in shooting death pulled trigger twice on gun he thought was unloaded, report says” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — Brevard County Deputy Andrew Lawson pulled the trigger twice on what he thought was an unloaded pistol when he accidentally shot and killed his roommate and fellow deputy Austin Walsh in Palm Bay early Saturday, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrest report. Sheriff Wayne Ivey called the incident an “extremely dumb and totally avoidable accident” in a video update posted to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) Facebook page Sunday. But the incident, which flies in the face of basic firearms and law enforcement training, has raised many questions, including about BCSO training standards and discipline.

Disney marathon volunteers irked about half-day ticket gifts” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — After helping runners at Disney World’s runDisney marathons in shifts that can run eight hours or more, volunteers looked forward to receiving a complimentary full-day ticket to Disney’s theme parks in return. But that changed last month after volunteers at Disney’s Wine & Dine Half-Marathon Weekend said they unexpectedly received a half-day ticket after the event. The disappointment ran deep for many who woke up hours ahead of the race’s 5 a.m. start time to set up, worked until the last runner cleared the finish line, and helped clean up afterward.


Tampa Bay lawmaker who called U.S. 19 pedestrian project ‘waste’ walks back claims” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — In October, state Sen. Ed Hooper publicly took aim at a project in his own neck of the woods, and at the state for funding it with what he called a “waste” of taxpayer money. “It should be alarming to all of us that (the Florida Department of Transportation) is investing over $242 million of Florida’s taxpayer dollars to construct three pedestrian underpass tunnels along U.S. 19,” the Clearwater Republican wrote in an op-ed published by the news website Florida Politics. Hooper directed readers to a website where they can fill out a form asking Gov. DeSantis to “Dump the Humps.” But the dollar figure he cites is for a much larger project.

Ed Hooper rethinks his stance on a U.S. 19 pedestrian project.

As elections near, a restive Tampa City Council flexes its muscles” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor filed for reelection and if history is any guide, she should cruise to a second term. But irrespective of Castor’s re-election prospects, municipal elections in March could bring a new power struggle to City Hall. Castor, who turns 62 today, is a Democrat and former Tampa police chief who captured 73% of the vote in the 2019 mayoral runoff election. As the first woman named to be Tampa’s chief of police, she was widely credited for overseeing a drop in violent crime and for making the police force more community-oriented.

Memes shared within Tampa Police Department show staff celebrating chief’s resignation over golf cart scandal” via Colin Wolf of Creative Loafing — Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor resigned Monday morning after bodycam footage showed her flashing her badge to get out of a golf cart traffic violation, and while some at TPD may be upset and disappointed with her sudden departure, others within the city’s largest department celebrated by sharing memes. The memes were shared within TPD chats and covered everything from jokes about O’Connor’s golf cart scandal to suggestions for her replacement.

What’s next for Tampa’s police department? Mayor Jane Castor starts from scratch.” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — Ten months after Tampa Mayor Castor selected a new police chief, she is back on the hunt after requesting and accepting the resignation of her last pick — O’Connor — on Monday. O’Connor stepped down from her $192,000 post after an investigation found she violated department policies by flashing her badge and asking a Pinellas deputy to let her and her husband go during a traffic stop last month. Castor said Monday that she plans to do a national search that she described as exhaustive, comprehensive, and inclusive of the community’s input. Castor drew criticism earlier this year when she picked O’Connor after a process that some, including City Council members, said lacked transparency and community involvement.

Holiday Cosplay adds a winter twist to Tampa comic convention” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — A winter holiday-themed comic convention is coming to the Tampa Convention Center this weekend. It will feature anime, comics, sci-fi, fantasy and gaming with voice actors, comic artists, and professional cosplayers as guests. Dewey Caruthers, the organizer of the St. Pete Comic Con and Anime St. Pete, produced the idea of a winter holiday party “for geeks and nerds to celebrate the season.” Actor Casper Van Dien, best known as Johnny Rico in the 1997 cult hit film “Starship Troopers,” will be there, as will voice actors such as Patricia Summersett, who voices Princess Zelda in “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”


Ian’s aftermath: What you need to know about sending mail, delivery, post offices” via Mark H. Bickel of the Fort Myers News-Press — Among the long list of post-Hurricane Ian challenges for Southwest Florida, the process of sending mail and getting mail is near the top of that list for many. The residents of the hardest hit areas like Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel Island and Pine Island continue to have to find alternative ways of sending and getting their mail, and even the post office in downtown Fort Myers remains closed because of storm surge and wind damage. The News-Press/Naples Daily News connected with David Walton, the U.S. Postal Service spokesperson based in Orlando, to get the latest information on all things mail for the region, including when the downtown Fort Myers post office is expected to reopen.

School Board finalizes terms for resignation of Superintendent Brennan Asplen” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Despite a public outcry for the school district to keep him, the Sarasota County School Board and Superintendent Asplen have finalized terms of separation, according to district public records. The terms of the resignation were finalized and agreed to by Asplen and his wife late Monday evening. The agreement comes ahead of the School Board’s Dec. 13 meeting, in which the Board will discuss and then vote on the separation. If the deal is approved, Asplen would receive 32 weeks’ severance, with compensation for moving and legal fees. In total, the School Board’s desire to remove Asplen could cost the district about $170,000 before the cost of benefits.

Brennan Asplen negotiates a plan to leave.

Punta Gorda City Council to discuss attorney’s contract” via Elaine Allen-Emrich of the Port Charlotte Sun — The Punta Gorda City Council on Wednesday will discuss new Council Member Bill Dryburgh’s request to reconsider the contract of the City Attorney. Dryburgh brought the issue up last month at his first meeting after being elected to the Council. City Attorney David Levin’s contract isn’t up for renewal for two years. Dryburgh admits it’s not something he campaigned on, but it is what he heard at meet-and-greets in residents’ homes. His request is on the 9 a.m. Wednesday City Council and Community Development Agency agenda Wednesday at the Military Heritage Museum, 900 West Marion Ave., Punta Gorda.

Judge denies motion to dismiss $1.4 million excess permit fee suit filed against Venice” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A state judge denied a motion by the city of Venice to dismiss a lawsuit filed by developer Pat Neal over the city charging too much for building permit fees. Following 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Hunter Carroll’s Nov. 30 ruling, the dispute is headed to a Jan. 23 case management conference, though he gave the city 20 days to respond to his order. Neal Communities is asking for a refund of at least $1.45 million in building fees in the lawsuit. Neal’s attorneys contend that a building fee formula — which the city adopted in August 2012 — bases fees on the percentage of a project’s value instead of the cost of enforcement of regulations.

Manatee advocates worry warm waters will leave sea cows vulnerable to boat strikes, cold” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press — Manatee advocates worry that the fabled sea cow may be in danger this year because waters are running several degrees above average this fall. Cold fronts typically drive water temperatures to 68 degrees or below by mid-November, which triggers a manatee migration to inland waters. Instead, highs in the 80s have kept water temperatures as high as 74 degrees off Fort Myers Beach, according to weather records. So instead of clustering up in warm-water refuges like the water discharge at the Florida Power & Light plant along the Orange River just outside Fort Myers, manatees are still swimming in bays and along the coast.

Will there be a third Del Webb 55-Plus community in Manatee? There are some hurdles” via James A. Jones Jr. of the Bradenton Herald — A third Del Webb community is in the works for Manatee County, but there are a few hurdles awaiting the project. Del Webb, a division of Pulte Homes, pioneered the concept of developing active lifestyle communities for people 55 and older. Developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch recently submitted paperwork to Manatee County Building Services to begin site preparation on 699 acres for Del Webb-Catalina at 18940 State Road 64 E. The tract is part of a 2,141-acre purchase by SMR, developer of Lakewood Ranch, on Feb. 22, 2019.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Matt Gaetz files bill to allow NAS Pensacola terrorist attack victims to sue Saudi Arabia” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — U.S. Rep. Gaetz has introduced a bill to allow victims of the terrorist attack on Naval Air Station Pensacola to seek damages from the government of Saudi Arabia. Gaetz’s office announced the new bill on Tuesday, the three-year anniversary of the attack on NAS Pensacola. “This bill will hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable for aiding and abetting terrorist attacks within the United States while financially supporting the victims of the NAS Pensacola Terrorist Attack,” Gaetz wrote.

Victims of the NAS Pensacola shooting could soon have the standing to sue.

District announces safety measures, will use handheld metal detectors, dog in 2023” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — The school district is upping security measures at secondary schools in response to this year’s surge in gun violence and firearm arrests on campus. Handheld metal detectors will be used randomly to search for weapons at Leon County Schools in 2023, said Superintendent Rocky Hanna. The handheld wands will not be used at entrances, Hanna said. The detectors will mostly travel with the district’s second new initiative, its new “pup patrol.” The district will employ a dog named Stassi, who is trained to sniff out firearms.

Confederate banner flies over Downtown Jacksonville yet again” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Jacksonville’s complicated history with confederate monuments is back in the present tense Tuesday. The Save Southern Heritage group flew a plane above downtown Tuesday morning with a Confederate battle flag and what appears to be the message “Curry: Stop the Hate.” That message is a reference to Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican who has repeatedly pushed to have monuments removed. As the plane flew overhead, meanwhile, City Hall staffers were discovering bullet holes in a window near where the Mayor sits daily. “We’re peace, love, and dove,” said Save Southern Heritage spokesperson Kirk D. Lyons. “Nobody was shooting out of the airplane, that I can assure you.”

—“How many Confederate memorials have been removed in Florida? How many are left?” via C. A. Bridges of the Florida Times-Union


Herschel Walker is an American tragedy” via Caroline Randall Williams for The Atlantic — It’s impossible today to talk about Black men and White agendas without talking about Walker, the Republican candidate for Senate in the runoff election in Georgia.

Every time I watch one of these smug, jowly, dangerous Republicans sitting next to Walker, wheeling him out for their own designs, I see that dinner-table conversation in the background of my mind.

Walker is a big, ball-carrying Black man, and these Republicans do not have an ounce of care for him. They are using him to advance their own Constitution-compromising agenda, the way conservative White people in this country have always used Black bodies when given half a chance.

Walker stands up at podiums, and I feel shame and sorrow and resentment. He is incoherent, bumbling, oily. He smiles with a swagger that does nothing to disguise his total ignorance of how blatantly he is being taken advantage of by a party that has never intended to serve people who look like him.

Walker’s candidacy is a fundamental assault by the Republican Party on the dignity of Black Americans. How dare they so cynically use this buffoon as a shield for their obvious failings to meet the needs and expectations of Black voters? They hold him up and say, “See, our voters don’t mind his race. We’re not a racist party. We have Black people on our side too.”

Parading Walker at rallies like some kind of blue-ribbon livestock does not mean you have Black people on your side. What it means is that you are promoting a charlatan—a man morally and intellectually bereft enough, blithely egomaniacal enough, to sing and dance on the world stage against his own best interest.

Is he in on the joke?


The U.S. faces a minerals crisis against China” via Rep. Michael Waltz for the Washington Examiner — When the Biden administration abandoned Afghanistan last year, they didn’t just leave behind Americans and a strategic air base hundreds of miles away from the Chinese border. They also essentially put up a “free minerals” sign for an estimated $1 trillion to $3 trillion worth of lithium, copper, and other rare earth minerals buried below Afghanistan’s surface. It was an unprecedented giveaway to China in its new Cold War with the United States. The administration had full knowledge of the treasure trove of minerals in Afghanistan. With a near-monopoly over the rare earth mineral market, China saw an opportunity to not only increase its economic footprint but cash in on the West’s policy shift toward a green economy that will be powered by these very minerals.

Florida’s Midterms may be over, but the judicial revolution continues” via Howard L. Simon in the Tampa Bay Times — OK folks, the elections are over, and a Governor and Senator have been re-elected. It’s now time to focus on the revolution taking place under our noses. The contests for Governor, Senator and who will control Congress have taken up so much space that we may not have been paying enough attention to the revolution that is being driven by radical judicial activism. Governors and Presidents come and go, hanging around for four, maybe eight years. But the judges they appoint are here for much longer — and the constitutional changes they make last for decades, sometimes generations.

Nazis, name-calling and no votes. Florida is again ground-zero in anti-gay zeal” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Last week, the U.S. Senate united in a rare display of bipartisanship to protect gay marriage. Florida, however, was an outlier state where both senators voted against the measure. A few days later, people carrying Nazi flags gathered outside a charity drag show fundraiser in Lakeland with messages that said, “Drag queens are pedophiles” and “Warning: Child grooming in process.” All this set against a spike in extremism and antisemitism in Florida. None of this is by accident. Florida has very intentionally become ground zero in a national effort to bring back bigotry.


— ALOE —

Hurricanes Ian, Nicole reveal 1800s shipwreck on Volusia coast” via Mike Schneider and Freida Frisaro of The Associated Press — Severe beach erosion from two late-season hurricanes has helped uncover what appears to be a wooden ship dating from the 1800s which had been buried under the sand on Florida’s East Coast for up to two centuries, impervious to cars that drove daily on the beach or sand castles built by generations of tourists. Beachgoers and lifeguards discovered the wooden structure, between 80 feet to 100 feet, poking out of the sand over Thanksgiving weekend in front of homes that collapsed on Daytona Beach Shores last month during Hurricane Nicole.

With hurricanes, you never know what will wash ashore. Image via AP.

Company gives 2 employees free homes, pledges 3 more next year” via Trevor Fraser of the Orlando Sentinel — When plumber David Leedy heard his name read at Universal’s Hard Rock Live on Saturday, he was shocked. “Disbelief,” said the 32-year-old Florida native. “I was speechless. It’s a big thing.” Leedy won a brand-new home, mortgage-free, one of two given away to employees of Altamonte Springs-based Mechanical One. The company announced a contest for employees to win homes last year. To qualify, employees had to remain with the company for a year, complete a financial literacy course and perform 20 hours of community service. The winners also will be required to cover the property taxes and insurance. The company has about 600 employees, but only around 60 met the timing requirement to qualify.


Nikki Fried, Department of Agriculture deliver Christmas trees to Cabinet members” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) are delivering locally grown Christmas trees to fellow Cabinet members’ offices to spread holiday cheer and support local agriculture. “The holidays are such a special time when we are given the opportunity to gather with our loved ones and celebrate the people and traditions we hold dear,” Fried said. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Fresh from Florida program delivered 8-foot-tall Carolina Sapphire trees from Bavarian Christmas Tree Farm in Tallahassee to the offices of the Governor, Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer Tuesday.

Nikki Fried keeps up the tradition of Fresh from Florida trees for the Cabinet.

Destin decks Main Street with Christmas-themed banners” via Tina Harbuck of The Destin Log — Instead of decking the halls, Destin did a little decking of the medians last week as various Christmas-themed banners went up along Main Street. From a surfing reindeer to a snow-covered Christmas tree, the banners are part of the Destin Banner Art Project headed by Ron Sandstead of Flutterby Antiques. This is the fourth year for the banner project and the third time for the holiday-themed banners. The artwork displayed on each of the nine banners is done by local artists. Some have participated in the project from the start and some just a few times. For Ron Lazenby of Fort Walton Beach, this is his second time participating.

Mini but very merry: Holiday villages a flexible tradition” via Kim Cook of The Associated Press — Whether in cardboard, wood or porcelain, little villages — with houses, shops, miniature figures and snowy fir trees — have long been part of many families’ holiday decorating tradition. They’re also popular now as part of an ongoing love of the cozy and the do-it-yourself. “Nostalgia is at the forefront of holiday decor this year,” says Dayna Isom Johnson, a trend expert at the crafts site “So, it’s no surprise that tiny Christmas villages are trending. “From classic scenery with snowy layers to modern ceramics with clean lines, families are putting their creative spin on this decades-old tradition,” she says.


Best wishes to our favorite Mayor Jane Castor, former Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey, and our dear friend Mark Ferrulo.


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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