Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.13.22

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Heat up your day with a dose of Sunburn, the premier first read of Florida politics and policy.

Good Tuesday morning.

A top-of-Sunburn happy birthday shoutout to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

A lot has been written, much of it critical (with some criticism coming from this author) about Commissioner Fried, but she deserves recognition for what she has accomplished.

Another trip around the sun: Happy birthday Nikki Fried.

If you had said five years ago that lobbyist Fried would be the last Democrat to hold statewide office, you’d have been laughed off the fourth floor of The Florida Capitol. But Nikki shocked the political world and won her race, and she has been the leader of the loyal opposition ever since. Twenty-five years from now, it won’t matter if she lost a Primary for Governor. But what will matter is that she entered the arena, as so few others do.

I have zero doubt big things are still in store for Nikki Fried. She’s shocked us all before — and it’s a near-certainty she will again.

Happy birthday, Commissioner.


Ballard Partners has added former U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller to its Washington, D.C. team.

“As the 118th Congress prepares to convene with new House leadership in a few weeks, we are delighted to have such a respected former member of the House Republican Leadership join our Washington office,” said Brian Ballard, the firm’s president and founder. “Our firm’s clients will be uniquely served by Jeff’s special insights, experience and relationships in Congress.”

Miller represented North Florida in Congress from 2001-17 and spent three of his eight terms as Chair of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Jeff Miller is bringing his considerable insight as a lawmaker to Team Ballard.

He was also a senior member of the Armed Services Committee and a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He also served in the Florida House from 1998 through 2001.

“I am excited to be joining Brian and the exceptional team of professionals at Ballard Partners,” Miller said. “As the new Congress convenes and begins its important work, I look forward to assisting the firm’s clients in the new political environment in Washington.”

A Florida native, Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida. He joins 20-plus other government affairs professionals on the D.C. team led by Dan McFaul, who last month was elevated to managing partner of the Washington office.


Florida State University Vice President and Athletic Director Michael Alford will headline the Capital Tiger Bay Club’s lunch program this afternoon.

Alford has been president and CEO of Seminole Boosters — the support organization for FSU athletics — since 2020 and last year was named VP and athletics director. Since Alford took the top spot at Seminole Boosters, the organization has added 2,000 new members and raised $15 million for a new football operations center.

Michael Alford will discuss how he has been effective as FSU’s top booster.

Before coming to Tallahassee, Alford worked as the athletic director for Central Michigan University. He previously worked as the Senior Associate athletic director for the University of Oklahoma, senior director of Corporate Partnerships and Sales for the Dallas Cowboys, and general manager of Crimson Tide Sports Marketing at the University of Alabama.

The Capital Tiger Bay Club event will be at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola St., in Tallahassee. It begins with an 11:30 a.m. luncheon. The main program will run from noon to 1 p.m.

There is a $35 guest fee for non-members to attend the event. Registration is needed and is available online.


For your radar — History in the making! At 3:30 p.m. today in a White House ceremony, President Joe Biden will officially sign the Respect for Marriage Act, codifying same-sex and interracial marriage. Invitees include Miami-based Democratic consultant and activist Christian Ulvert and Carlos Andrade, who held their wedding ceremony in D.C. nearly 10 years earlier, following the landmark decision that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The couple later sued the state of Florida to recognize their marriage — and won in 2015 when the courts struck down the state’s ban. “This is especially heartfelt because Carlos, a Venezuelan American immigrant who fled political oppression from his home country, found a voice here in the U.S.,” Ulvert said in a Facebook post. “He will be sitting in the White House bearing witness to what freedom means, and a right we fought for and won.”


One other note:

↘️ — Young voters like Dems, but their support is waning: Young voters (under the age of 30) preferred Democrats at 53% compared to just 41% for Republicans, but that support was down from earlier elections, according to The Associated Press. The outlet’s VoteCast showed voters went for now-President Biden over Donald Trump in 2020 at 61% to 36%, a 20-percentage point drop. Looking at the previous Midterm Election in 2018, support dropped even more, from 64% in an election year that saw Democrats retake the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Read more here.


@JimmyPatronis: This Special Session will put policyholders first. Insurance is supposed to help people get back on their feet after disasters; not shakedown policyholders. Unscrupulous attorneys and other corrupt parties need to go somewhere else. In Florida, we’re done with it

@GaryWhite13: Received an email from my property insurance company reminding me of Special Legislation Session, asking me to sign petition telling Legislature to “curb the roof claim and litigation abuse” it blames for Fla’s high insurance rates.

@MDixon55: New TV in the Senate press gallery. @Kathleen4SWFL playing the long game here

Tweet, tweet:

@AnnaForFlorida: Appreciate the caller who left us a voicemail asking why we want to “teach woke” and “kill children” but also said have a nice holiday with your family lol


‘Avatar 2’ premieres — 3; Military Bowl with UCF Knights against Duke — 15; Cheez-It Bowl with FSU against Oklahoma — 16; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 19; last day to ride Splash Mountain before remodeling — 40; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 43; 2023 FAC Access 67 Broadband Summit — Florida Association of Counties begins — 44; Bruce Springsteen launches 2023 tour in Tampa — 50; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 66; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 67; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 76; Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 77; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 78; Tampa Municipal Election — 83; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 84; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 88; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 101; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 121; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 136; 2023 Session Sine Die — 143; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 143; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 171; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 220; ‘‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 227; Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 325; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 472; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 528; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 591; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 591; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 633; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 696; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 794; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 871. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,060.


Senators advance hurricane recovery assistance bill” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A Senate panel has advanced lawmakers’ plan to supply immediate relief to Floridians hit by a pair of hurricanes that ravaged the state late in the hurricane season. After Hurricanes Ian and Nicole struck Florida’s west and east coasts this fall, DeSantis called for a Special Session to cut property taxes on Floridians affected by the storms. The headlining measure from the bill will provide homeowners with tax rebates based on how long their homes have been considered uninhabitable by the storms.

Travis Hutson suggested SB 4A is the first in a series of measures the Legislature will take to ease the cost of the storms on Floridians and mitigate future damage.

Lawmakers move forward with bill to hike Citizens’ rates, expand reinsurance bailout” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida homeowners could soon find it more difficult to sue their insurer, and insurance companies are in line for another $1 billion in reinsurance backed by taxpayers after the Legislature moved forward with a bill designed to stabilize a struggling property insurance industry. The Legislature kicked off its Special Session and the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee followed by passing SB 2A, which sets up a new reinsurance program on top of another state-backed reinsurance fund approved in May, seeks to limit lawsuits against insurers and make state-run Citizens Property Insurance less attractive to homeowners.

Lower insurance rates not coming soon, Florida lawmakers say” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Could Floridians see lower property insurance rates? Probably. Eventually. That was the testimony by Florida’s insurance regulator, who gave a tepid endorsement to Republican lawmakers’ latest plan to address Florida’s insurance crisis, the fourth in as many years. “I think that this will go a long way in mitigating the rate increases,” Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told a Senate committee. He said he was “optimistic,” but cautioned: “This will take some time.”

Special Session goal: Prop up failing property insurers, not strapped homeowners” via Jeffrey Schweers of Orlando Sentinel — On the same day the Florida Legislature opened its Special Session to fix the property insurance industry, FedNat Holding Co. announced it had filed for bankruptcy. The company said in May it was leaving Florida and planned to dump 56,000 policyholders. The news came on the heels of last week’s announcement by United Property and Casualty that it would abandon Florida, leaving some 140,000 homeowners scrambling for another insurance provider. Yet none of the Republican measures help those abandoned homeowners or any others immediately, even after lawmakers were criticized for ignoring homeowners during a Special Session in May when it provided $2 billion to prop up insurers.

Toll reduction bill zooms through Senate committee” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Some drivers could see a 50% credit on tolls in the 2023 calendar year, funded by Florida’s budget surplus, under a priority proposal of DeSantis that is on a fast highway to the finish line during this week’s Special Session. The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee on Monday voted unanimously to approve SB 6A, which authorizes the Florida Turnpike Enterprise to establish a toll relief program for drivers that notch 35 transactions a month on their SunPass transponders. The bill cleared the committee, while the House Appropriations Committee will consider its version of the proposed bill (HB 5A) in committee on Tuesday.

To hear Senate President Kathleen Passidomo talk about SB 6A, click on the image below:

FAIA praises insurance bills for consumer focus” via Florida Politics — The Florida Association of Insurance Agents praised proposed legislation to stabilize the property insurance market but cautioned that the effects will not be felt overnight. FAIA, standing for 2,000 independent property and casualty agency members, lauded the bills (HB 1A and SB 2A) for focusing on consumers rather than “insurance companies, attorneys, public adjusters and roofers.” The association highlighted several provisions it said would foster “consumer protection and consumer choice,” including the principal part of the bills which would make available another $1 billion in reinsurance coverage that insurers could buy from a fund backed by taxpayer money. “Florida’s consumers have long paid the price for the excess litigation and fraud in the property insurance market,” FAIA CEO Kyle Ulrich said.

Happening today:

9 a.m. — The House Commerce Committee meets: Room 212 of the Knott Building.

10:10 a.m. — Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book) joins Sen. Jason Pizzo for a media availability: Outside the Senate chamber.

10:30 a.m. — The Senate convenes a floor Session.

12:30 p.m. — The House Ways & Means Committee meets: Room 404 of the House Office Building.

3 p.m. — The House Appropriations Committee meets: Room 212 of the Knott Building.

6:30 p.m. — The House Rules Committee meets: Room 404 of the House Office Building.


The Ron DeSantis secret weapon that Democrats — and Donald Trump — should fear” via Douglas MacKinnon of The Hill — Within the five major “megaphones” of our nation — the media, academia, entertainment, science and medicine — the only women deserving credit and acclaim are those from the Left who create, instill and parrot the liberal policies and narratives of the moment. If that’s the case — and it is a belief among many Republicans, conservatives and people of traditional faith — then it stands to reason that any future Republican presidential candidate would need an exceptionally talented and tough-as-nails Press Secretary to help navigate that sea of perceived bias. Enter Christina Pushaw, the secret weapon of Florida Republican Gov. DeSantis.

Christina Pushaw: Ron DeSantis’ secret weapon?

DeSantis leads Trump by 32 points in Florida GOP favorability rating” via Zac Howard of The Florida Standard — DeSantis holds a significant edge over Trump among Republican voters in the Sunshine State. Ragnar Research Partners found that DeSantis’ net favorability rating among GOP voters was 76%, compared to 44% for Trump. DeSantis’ total favorability rating was 86%, while Trump’s was 70%. DeSantis scored an impressive 79% “very favorable” rating, whereas the former president only notched 48% on that metric.

DeSantis team boasts declining crime rate over Gavin Newsom’s California” via Eric Daugherty of Florida’s Voice — Amid the latest crime report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement finding a stark decline from 2021, DeSantis’ team responded to Newsom’s repeated criticism. Newsom, a Democrat who won deep-blue California by approximately the same margin DeSantis won previously purple Florida, has tweeted at DeSantis 13 times since April. The latest hurl, on Dec. 9, included a Florida voter fraud case brought by the state being dismissed on jurisdictional grounds: “The third DeSantis ‘election fraud’ case being dismissed really speaks to who is the ACTUAL fraud.” On Dec. 5, Newsom also tweeted at DeSantis, saying Florida is “where civil rights go to die.”

Eric Hall returning to Juvenile Justice for DeSantis’ second term” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Secretary Hall is the latest official returning for DeSantis’ second term. DeSantis announced Hall will return to the Department when he is sworn in for the new term on Jan. 3. DeSantis announced Hall’s retention on Monday on Twitter. “(Dr. Eric Hall) has worked hard to reform Florida’s Juvenile Justice system and has encouraged mentorship and educational opportunities for Florida’s youth,” DeSantis tweeted. “I look forward to his continued services as Secretary of (DJJ) this upcoming term.


Anna Eskamani files bill to make diaper tax break permanent” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Legislation exempting diapers from the state’s sales tax for one year won bipartisan support last year. Now, Rep. Eskamani wants the break on nappies made permanent. “As the Ranking Member of the Ways & Means Committee, I am committed to making life easier for working families and everyday people. I’m honored that my colleagues agreed in the 2022 Session to remove this tax, but we need long-term relief,” Eskamani said. DeSantis signed a tax relief bill last year cutting a break on diapers and other items for a year. The legislation had been championed by Eskamani in the House and by Sen. Book, a Davie Democrat.

Out of the gate: Anna Eskamani pushes a bill to give millions of Floridians a permanent tax break.

Ryan Chamberlin files in HD 24 ahead of expected Special Election” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A Special Election still hasn’t been called to replace state Rep. Joe Harding. But two candidates have already tossed their hats in the ring to replace him. Conservative author Ryan Chamberlin is launching a campaign in House District 24. He said many Ocala leaders had already approached him about running for a neighboring seat. “Over the past several months, my wife and I had been approached by many people in Marion County about running for the seat being vacated by State Rep. Stan McClain due to term limits,” Chamberlin said.

AppointedElise Engle, an associate attorney at Shutts & Bowen LLP, to the 13th Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; Steven DeLorenz, a senior partner at Talisman & DeLorenz P.C., to the 15th Judicial Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Ron Book, Kelly Mallette: Pacesetter Personnel Services

Angela Drzewiecki, Katie Flury, Kim McDougal, GrayRobinson: City of Cocoa Beach

Anna Higgins, Team 180 Consulting: IXL, Self-Storage Association

Seth McKeel, Sydney Ridley, David Shepp, The Southern Group: Aerospace Center for Excellence, Indian River State College Foundation, The Skills Center


Joe Biden establishes government task force to combat antisemitism” via Brett Samuels of The Hill — The White House said Biden will establish a task force to coordinate government efforts to address antisemitism and other forms of religious bigotry in the wake of a rise in antisemitic rhetoric from high-profile public figures. Biden is creating an interagency group led by the staff at the Domestic Policy Council and the National Security Council, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. The group’s first order of business will be to formulate a national strategy to counter antisemitism. The announcement comes roughly one week after more than 100 lawmakers sent a letter asking Biden for a national strategy to combat antisemitism and a “whole-of-government” approach to threats and violence against Jewish communities.

Joe Biden is creating an interagency group to formulate a national strategy to counter antisemitism.

Hopes fade for year-end tax deal in Congress to aid companies, children” via Richard Rubin of The Wall Street Journal — Republicans and many companies want to reverse, prevent, or delay some tax increases on businesses that were scheduled in a GOP-backed 2017 tax law and that began taking effect this year. Democrats, who control the House and Senate, have expressed openness to some changes, but they want to expand the child tax credit at the same time. With just a few weeks left before the new Congress starts Jan. 3, key members of Congress haven’t agreed to any such deal, lawmakers and aides said. And even if they do reach an agreement, it would likely need to be included in a broad federal-spending package, which also is stalled.

Democrats ready one-week stopgap funding extension” via Aidan Quigley and Lindsey McPherson of Roll Call — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer put his chamber on notice Monday that a weeklong spending bill is on its way to the floor, given conversations between the two parties on fiscal 2023 appropriations have been productive but negotiators won’t meet the Friday deadline. Discussions turned more positive over the weekend, Schumer said, giving party leaders enough confidence to keep the talks going beyond this Friday night’s scheduled continuing resolution lapse. Democrats had planned to release an omnibus they had written without Republican input, but designed to earn Republican votes on Monday, but punted on that plan after progress in the negotiations over the weekend. Both sides have agreed to about $858 billion in defense-related spending — a roughly 10% increase over last year.

NASA chief: SpaceX leader says Elon Musk’s Twitter drama is ‘nothing to worry about’” via Marc Caputo of NBC News — NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said he saw the head of SpaceX last weekend and wanted to hear just one thing from her considering company owner Musk’s tumultuous Twitter takeover. “Tell me that the distraction that Elon might have on Twitter is not going to affect SpaceX,” Nelson, recalling the conversation, said he asked Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and CEO. “I assure you, it is not,” Shotwell responded, according to Nelson. “You have nothing to worry about.” Nelson, who first mentioned the exchange earlier Sunday after a news conference in Houston, said the encounter took place after the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington on Dec. 5 and that it was completely friendly because he knows Shotwell is running SpaceX.

Elon Musk’s Twitter shenanigans will have no bearing on SpaceX — we hope.

Happening today — Florida business, higher education, Dreamers, and other allies will join American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) Action for a virtual news conference to urge Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to pass a bipartisan immigration package that, among other provisions, would offer a pathway to citizenship for the country’s roughly 2 million Dreamers: 11 a.m. Eastern time. Register here.

Happening tonight — Rubio is holding a holiday reception and fundraiser this evening to benefit his Reclaim America PAC: $500 for individuals and $1,500 for PACs. Despite winning re-election by a convincing margin over Rep. Val Demings, and being floated as a potential 2024 presidential candidate, Rubio has not announced any plans.

Happening tonight:


Judge officially dumps Trump lawsuit over Mar-a-Lago document seizure” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Trump’s legal effort to thwart a Justice Department investigation into classified documents seized from his palatial Palm Beach estate was officially tossed out Monday. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, after being rebuked by a federal appellate court for allowing Trump’s lawsuit to move forward, brought his controversial lawsuit to a halt after the court had ordered her to end it. “This case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction,” Cannon wrote in a one-page order released Monday. “The Clerk of Court shall close this case.”

A judge dumps Donald Trump’s dispute over documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

How a Trump-allied group fighting ‘anti-White bigotry’ beats Biden in court” via Beth Reinhard and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The deal in early 2021 was hailed by advocates for Black farmers as the most significant piece of legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — about $4 billion in President Biden’s massive pandemic stimulus package to rectify decades of discrimination. Minority farmers began investing in new machinery and other improvements, expecting tens of thousands of dollars in government aid. But today, the landmark deal on behalf of historically disadvantaged farmers is dead — successfully challenged in court by a fledgling conservative organization that argued the program racially discriminated against White farmers. America First Legal is headed by Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Prosecutor: Oath Keepers saw Jan. 6 as ‘first battle’ in war” via Michael Kunzelman and Alanna Durkin Richer of The Associated Press — Four Oath Keepers charged with plotting to stop the transfer of presidential power from Trump to Biden accepted an “invitation to sedition” issued by the far-right extremist group’s founder, a federal prosecutor said Monday at the start of a second trial for group leaders and members. Jurors heard opening statements two weeks after a different jury convicted Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs of seditious conspiracy and other charges stemming from a mob’s attack on the U.S., Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

There’s still aid left for South Florida renters struggling to pay the rent. Here’s what communities are offering.” via Amber Bonefront of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Many renters are still struggling to afford their rent after massive rent hikes, and various South Florida cities are offering aid to help. While the overall growth of rents has started to slow, rents are still significantly higher than they were a year ago. The typical rent in South Florida is about $2,827, a 16% increase from the year before. Even worse, there’s little indication that rents will drop substantially, meaning that renters’ budgets will likely remain tight for the foreseeable future. There’s still aid available through some county and city-level programs.

Indiantown Village Manager Howard Brown resigns, replacement search to be discussed Thursday” via Lina Ruiz of Treasure Coast Newspapers — Village Manager Brown has resigned after almost four years in the position, serving as Indiantown’s first Manager after its incorporation in late 2017. Brown was hired in January 2019 after a nationwide search conducted by the Florida League of Cities. Brown sent his letter of resignation to the Village Council during its regular meeting on Dec. 9, which the Council unanimously accepted, according to Village spokesperson Nicole Grant. Administrative Services Director Susan Owens was appointed as the acting Manager. The Council is to have a special meeting on Thursday to discuss the search for a new Manager.

The search begins: Howard Brown, Indiantown’s first Manager after incorporation, resigns.

Police union presidential candidate got 20-hour pay suspension after pulling gun while off duty” via Joshua Ceballos of WLRN — A candidate for president of one of Miami’s largest police unions, Sgt. Thomas Reyes was placed on a nearly yearlong suspension this February, but for a long time, Miami police wouldn’t confirm why. In February, Reyes had his wallet and police badge stolen by a man he met on a dating app in Tallahassee, a man he later pointed a gun at and allegedly forced to the ground. Tallahassee police’s report on the incident was redacted and MPD refused to comment on the ensuing Internal Affairs case. Documents show Reyes was offered a reduced punishment by the MPD Chief of Police: 20 hours of unpaid suspension, half the amount recommended by IA. One local civil rights attorney believes the decision creates a “bad perception” of the police department.

Muslim group urges feds to investigate after teacher disrupts students who were praying” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — A Broward charter school dismissed a teacher last week after a video in which she appeared to admonish a group of Muslim students for praying went viral on social media and now a prominent Muslim group is asking federal law enforcement officials to investigate. The Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations (COSMOS) is urging the hate crime branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to investigate the incident as a civil rights violation. The group is also asking Franklin Academy Charter School in Pembroke Pines, where the incident took place, to allow them to educate its staff on the Islamic religion and on the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right of freedom of religion.

‘Time for justice.’ Miami widow of Pan Am bombing victim applauds terrorist’s arrest” via Grethel Aguila of the Miami Herald — For decades, Victoria Cummock has awaited the day there was justice for her husband and the 269 other people who were killed in a terrorist attack in Europe. Now, she’s one step closer. On Sunday, the U.S. had one of the suspected attackers in custody. At a news conference Monday, Cummock spoke about the arrest, which she called the “first tangible step made by the U.S. Department of Justice in 34 years,” from the courtyard of her home near Coral Gables. Abu Agila Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi is accused of building the bomb that detonated on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988.

Long overdue justice: Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988 after the bombing of Pan Am 103. Image via AP.

50 years of Haitian migration to South Florida: A story of protests, detention and triumph” via Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — They arrived 50 years ago, fleeing dictatorship and death. Along the treacherous, three-week ocean journey, the seafaring Haitian asylum-seekers traded their shoes for food and water in Cuba and were briefly jailed in the Bahamas before being asked about their final destination. “Miami,” they all said. When their leaking, 56-foot wooden sailboat finally made landfall 40 miles north of Miami in Pompano Beach on Dec. 12, 1972, there was no family or Haitian community to welcome them, or protesters lining the shorelines demanding their freedom. “They arrested us, put us in jail,” recalled Marie Bernard, who was among the 65 passengers, including two children, aboard the Saint Sauveur, the first documented boat of Haitian refugees to arrive in South Florida.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Orlando evangelical leader Joel Hunter heads to White House for same-sex marriage bill signing” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Hunter will be at the White House on Tuesday to witness Biden’s signing of the Respect for Marriage bill into law, a measure that will protect gay matrimony in the United States. “It’s a privilege to be there,” Hunter told the Orlando Sentinel in an interview Monday about the invitation to attend. “I’m a conservative evangelical, so this is not exactly our wheelhouse,” said Hunter, the president of the nonprofit Parable Foundation in Lake Mary and former pastor of Northland Community Church in Longwood. “But we ought to be the first ones to be a part of the reassurance of the LGBTQ community and others that their marriage rights aren’t in danger.”

Joel Hunter wants to give reassurance to the LGBTQ community that their marriage rights aren’t in danger.

John Tobia running for Brevard Supervisor of Elections in 2024” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — County Commissioner Tobia has filed paperwork to run for Brevard County Supervisor of Elections in 2024. He is the first official candidate for the job in Brevard ― in what has become a much-sought-after position around the country since Trump falsely accused the 2020 elections of having been stolen. Tobia, a Republican who lives in Palm Bay, is in the middle of his second four-year term as County Commissioner. Tobia’s term ends in 2024, and he could not seek re-election as a Commissioner because of term limits. The current Brevard Supervisor of Elections is Tim Bobanic, who was appointed to the post in September by Florida Gov. DeSantis.

Canaveral Port Authority attorney gets ‘unannounced’ raise to $250 an hour” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — Canaveral Port Authority Commissioners unanimously approved a raise of more than 42% in their attorney’s hourly rate — an item that was not on the Authority’s agenda but was brought up at the end of Wednesday’s meeting by Commissioner Jerry Allender. Port Authority attorney Harold Bistline’s pay rate will increase from $175 an hour to $250 an hour, under the proposal introduced during “Commissioner reports” by Allender, who is one of three attorneys on the five-member Canaveral Port Authority board. Allender said after the meeting that he chose to bring the matter up at Wednesday’s meeting without advance notice because he “just decided the day of the meeting that it was time to discuss it.”

Orlando airport frets fuel pinch as tanker trucks added, inbound jets carry extra fuel” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — With Orlando’s airport stirring national news about a pinch in fuel supply, officials said additional supplies are being brought in by truck and airlines are being told to keep their jet tanks as full as possible when inbound. Spokesperson Carolyn Fennell said Orlando International Airport “is not out of fuel, and fuel is being delivered after extended weather issues.” The airline tracking technology company FlightAware is showing no cancellations or delays for Orlando International Airport on Monday or Tuesday. Southwest Airlines, which runs the most daily flights from Orlando among all airlines, downplayed concerns.


Hillsborough NAACP chief says Mayor Jane Castor snubbed national leader” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times — When Yvette Lewis read the late Sunday evening email informing her that Castor wouldn’t be attending a meeting with a national NAACP leader, she wasn’t surprised. “Some people don’t like accountability. And the Mayor is one of those people,” said Lewis. “We used to meet once a month. Then every other month. Then it gets few and far between. We should be meeting with the Mayor at least once a month,” said Lewis, who said she last met with Castor in March. Lewis said it was about the same time that she started to hear rumors that Castor was recruiting someone to challenge her as president of the Hillsborough branch of the national civil rights organization.

Jane Castor is blasted for her ‘unavailability’ to civil rights orgs. Image via Kim DeFalco.

Assignment editorsJanet Cruz holds a campaign kickoff party in support of her bid for Tampa City Council, District 3: 6 p.m. Eastern time, Ulele, 1810 N Highland Ave, Tampa. RSVP here.

St. Petersburg fires 3 directors and 1 manager, but won’t say why” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times — Three directors and one manager were fired from City Hall this month. The fired employees are Alfred Wendler, real estate and property management director; Diana Rawleigh, pavement and traffic operations director; Blair Barnhardt, pavement and traffic manager, and Nina Mahmoudi, the city’s marketing director of eight years, gave her resignation on Dec. 2, saying it was effective immediately. City spokesperson Erica Riggins said the city does not comment on personnel matters.

New questions arise for Ken Welch as several staffers get axed” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Leadership is right not to elaborate and doing so often is unfair to those dismissed. However, constituents living and working under city leadership, underscored by what has appeared to be at least some level of dysfunction, deserve to know at least some modicum of the reasoning behind the shake-up. Certainly, an explanation is possible without undermining any needed confidentiality. Based on what little is known about Welch’s at-times-tumultuous first year, one could be forgiven for making assumptions. And assumptions are the last thing a Mayor whose top appointed staff resigned just eight months after assuming office — both seemingly under varying degrees of distress. These distractions take away from his agenda, especially when question marks loom about the rationale.

Pasco County Sheriff spent over $32,000 trying to suppress videos of inmate abuse” via Justin Garcia of Creative Loafing — The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has spent over $32,000 to stop videos that show deputies abusing an incarcerated man from becoming public. Video obtained by the ACLU shows PCSO deputies slamming William Tide to the ground at the Land O’Lakes Detention Center during two different incidents on Nov. 17, 2017. CT scans found that he suffered a fractured rib. PCSO, which has been run by Sheriff Chris Nocco since 2011, hired a law firm and paid $32,400 to prevent ACLU from getting the video. The Sheriff cited a public records exemption for any video that might compromise the safety of the detention center or officers.

Nonprofit founder says she was fired for being conservative Republican” via Justin Wm of The Washington Post — A Republican who twice campaigned for former Trump and founded a Washington nonprofit that offers financial support to congressional interns sued the organization last month, alleging she was fired because of her conservative political beliefs. Audrey Lynn Henson is the founder of College to Congress (C2C), a nonprofit that provides financial aid for Capitol Hill interns. The organization aims to ensure that people from diverse backgrounds can serve in unpaid Hill positions. According to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this month, Henson, who interned for Republican lawmakers and was a welfare recipient raised by a single parent, founded C2C in 2016.

Did Audrey Henson get canned for her political beliefs? Image via Bay News 9.

Tampa jury finds ex-Special Forces soldier with Jan. 6 ties guilty on 6 charges” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — Jeremy Brown, a former U.S. Army Special Forces master sergeant linked to the Jan. 6 insurrection, was found guilty Monday on six of 10 federal criminal charges related to weapons and classified information that authorities found in his Tampa home. After a weeklong trial, a jury of six men and six women deliberated about five hours Monday afternoon before deciding that Brown was guilty of illegally possessing two guns, a pair of hand grenades and a single classified document related to the search for a formerly missing soldier in Afghanistan. But the panel also found Brown not guilty of possessing four other documents related to national defense, which federal agents found on a CD inside his girlfriend’s recreational vehicle.

1,500 pounds of dead fish cleared from St. Pete Beach over weekend as Red Tide looms” via Max Chesnes of the Tampa Bay Times — Crews topped their blue 5-gallon buckets with fish for three days between Thursday and Sunday, and the “worst” day for fish kills so far was Saturday on Pass-a-Grille, according to Mandy Edmunds, parks supervisor for the parks and recreation department at the city of St. Pete Beach. Still, 1,500 pounds over one weekend pales in comparison to what was collected in just 24 hours during last summer’s Red Tide blooms. State water samplers detected “bloom” levels of the organism that causes Red Tide in 29 water samples over the past week, including four in and offshore of Pinellas County and four roughly 10 miles offshore of the mouth of Tampa Bay.


FEMA assistance available for boat owners” via the Port Charlotte Sun — For people living on a boat as a primary residence before and during Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida, and the vessel sustained hurricane damage, FEMA may be able to help, according to a news release. “Survivors living in one of the 26 counties designated for federal assistance are encouraged to apply,” the release said. Designated counties in the area include Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Lee and Sarasota. Applications are online at, visit a disaster recovery center or call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-3362. The line is open every day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Boat owners hit hard by hurricanes this season can now get help from FEMA.

Business, tech titans cut deal for most expensive home in Sanibel history, even after Hurricane Ian” via Phil Fernandez of the Naples Daily News — Hurricane Ian isn’t scaring away some homebuyers. In fact, Sanibel just set a record for the biggest recorded sale ever, with Storm Smart founder Brian Rist’s purchase of an $11.7 million house with his wife, Kim. And this is just the beginning of what’s ahead in the post-Hurricane Ian era even if there might be a bit of a rough patch for a few, said broker Mike McMurray of Royal Shell Real Estate, who closed last week’s undertaking. “Yeah, we’re going to go through our struggles. There are things that we’re going to happen here where you will see probably some good deals,” McMurray said.

Venice Council to discuss resident challenge to land development rules” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Venice City Council will discuss a recommendation Tuesday from its outside counsel that the city reject a petition to place recall of the new land development regulations on the November 2023 ballot, because doing so would put the city in violation of state law. The citizen’s group Venice Unites started the push to recall the land development regulations — technically ordinance 2022-15 because they felt a majority of the City Council discounted public testimony during hearings on the new land development regulations. The Council adopted the regulations on July 12. The recall process started in August, with a goal of gathering 2,228 signatures from registered voters, which would exclude non-resident snowbirds and county residents.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Current, former candidates endorse in Fernandina Beach runoffs” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — As Fernandina Beach’s runoffs for City Commission end, a former candidate is making a late public endorsement. Former firefighter Chris Nickoloff finished third in the first round of voting and recently came out in favor of the incumbent, Mayor Mike Lednovich, who faces James Antun for Seat 4. In a lengthy social media post, Nickoloff said he respected Lednovich’s experience on the Commission and with the complexities of municipal government. “Mike is a proponent of building the sea wall to protect our valued downtown business district from flooding,” Nickoloff wrote.

Former Commission candidate Chris Nickoloff gives a last-minute endorsement in the Fernandina Beach runoffs.

Fernandina Beach could lose park to airport development” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — It’s not quite paving paradise to put up a parking lot, but it’s not far off. A Fernandina Beach park and its recreation fields were never officially established, and a proposal exists to take the park and turn it into more airport, namely, new hangars with “man caves.” However, city staff members suggest that adding recreational outdoor use to the industrial rezoning of Ybor Alvarez Athletic Complex “would allow for continued recreational use of airport property. Since only airport property is zoned as I-A, the city/airport would control the type of recreational use to ensure that any future recreational use proposals, which would require a ground lease, are compatible land use.”

Santa Rosa County gets $1.4 million from Walmart opioid settlement” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — The Santa Rosa County Board of Commissioners took action to secure its share of Florida’s $215 million settlement agreement with Walmart. To receive its estimated $1.4 million share of the settlement money, the board had to authorize participation in the settlement deal, which resolves state claims against the company that its pharmacies had helped contribute to an opioid crisis. County Attorney Tom Dannheisser said county officials have not determined how the money will be spent.

Jacksonville City Council debates ‘milestone inspections’ for condos, co-ops required by the state” via Hanna Holthaus of the Florida Times-Union — Condominium and cooperative housing buildings will soon have to undergo a new kind of inspection — where in the aftermath, they do not get to vote on whether to fix the problems found. Jacksonville City Council is close to voting on a reactionary bill to Florida Senate Bill 4-D passed earlier this year, which directs local governments to make necessary adjustments to enforce “milestone inspections” on condominium and co-op buildings three or more stories tall. The goal is to prevent tragedies like the 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside.

ECSO seeking drone flight certification to help with missing persons, large crowd events” via Benjamin Johnson of the Pensacola News Journal — After Thursday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is one step closer to receiving Federal Aviation Administration permission to use drones within the county. The Commissioners unanimously approved the County Attorney to send a Public Declaration Letter to the FAA on behalf of the ECSO to certify that the Sheriff’s Office is qualified to operate a public aircraft as part of a governmental function. “Law Enforcement agencies throughout the country are making a lot more use of drones for missing persons; at times they can track suspects and large crowd events,” Sheriff Chip Simmons said. “So, we’re doing the same thing.”

Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is ready to spread its wings and fly (drones).

Giant undeveloped swath of land billed as last bastion of ‘Old Florida’ on sale for $23.7M” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A massive swath of untouched land with direct boat access to the Gulf of Mexico is on the market and listed for $23.7 million. With more than 6,870 acres included, the listing includes about 4,000 acres in Wakulla County and most of the remaining acreage is in Gadsden County. Roughly 200 acres are in Calhoun County. The property may be attractive to hunters considering the land’s deer and wild turkey. It includes several water-based features, including springs, sinks and waterfalls, and is described as one of the last areas that reflect “old Florida.” By boat, a 2-mile stretch in Wakulla County also has scenic views of the St. Marks River.

Last Mile is not just about a race, but how we can help a community become better” via Kamal Morgan of the Pensacola News Journal — The family and friends of local runner Brien Pursell have turned a tragedy into a community gift. Pursell died in 2016 after being struck by a car when he and his son-in-law, Frankie Pesce III, were training for the Double Bridge Run in Pensacola. In the years since his family created The Last Mile 5K in his memory. Proceeds from the annual event are donated every year to community organizations, with Bike Pensacola and the YMCA of Northwest Florida receiving $9,000 this year.


Musk is ruining Trump’s presidential campaign” via Joshua Green of Bloomberg — For years, Trump has survived scandal, scorn and defeat and still managed to keep his warlord grip on the Republican Party. Even this month’s epic string of disasters, from his candidates’ losses in the Midterms and his dinner with White supremacist Nick Fuentes and professed Hitler-fan Ye (Kanye West) to the tax fraud convictions of two of his companies, might not derail him.

But irrelevance might.

In the critical weeks since his Nov. 16 campaign launch, the person who has dominated the right-wing attention economy isn’t Trump. It’s Musk.

Musk didn’t just take over Trump’s favorite medium, Twitter. He seems to have done so for the explicit Trumpian purposes of striking back at his critics, “owning the libs,” and stoking the sort of generalized chaos that was once Trump’s calling card before he was banished from Twitter and took up exile in the empty wilderness of Truth Social. He’s succeeded on all fronts.

What bonded Trump’s most loyal supporters to him, even after he lost re-election, was his unfailing ability to drive their enemies — mostly liberals and the news media — to bug-eyed distraction. But it’s Musk who has taken over the banner of chief troll.

What’s hurt Trump the most, I think, is that Musk has robbed him of the singular quality that fueled his political career from the moment he came down the Trump Tower escalator in 2015: You couldn’t look away from him, even if you wanted to.

Today, Musk occupies that role.


Nothing about this Legislative Session seems special” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In Florida, when the subject is insurance, nobody is laughing anymore. Amid endless rate hikes, policy cancellations, a torrent of litigation, and companies fleeing the state in droves, lawmakers ignored this festering crisis for far too long. It contributes to the larger problem of a lack of housing affordability. For the second time in seven months, and after two devastating hurricanes, they will convene a Special Insurance Session in Tallahassee on Monday.

Why won’t the usually loquacious Gov. DeSantis answer questions under oath?” via Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times — The Huey Long-Lite of the Apalachee Parkway talks a tough game … there is the curious case of defrocked twice-elected Democratic Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, whom DeSantis summarily removed from office because, well, because he could. True to form, DeSantis refused to testify or be deposed in the case, even though he was the one solely responsible for violating Warren’s free speech rights, as well as autocratically overturning the will of Hillsborough County voters. He cares little about explaining why he engaged in a nakedly venal politically motivated assault on a duly elected public official without even attempting to conduct a professional investigation into Warren’s conduct in office, relying instead on his in-house Iago to do his dirty work for him.

What comes next for the war on drugs? The beginning of the end.” via The New York Times editorial board — There are three bills floating through Congress right now that could not only save lives and money but also help to finally dismantle the nation’s failed war on drugs. They all have bipartisan support and could be passed during the lame-duck Session of Congress. The nation’s five-decade war on drugs has been a dismal failure. Overdose deaths have reached extreme levels in recent years, and the number of people who are still in prison for drug offenses remains stubbornly and egregiously high. Still, it is hard to agree on what comes next. What has been shown to work is not always politically feasible, and what’s politically popular often doesn’t make for sound public health. These bills meet both requirements. Congress should pass all three now.

‘Buy now, pay later’ is booming. So are its problems.” via The Washington Post editorial board — Buying on credit is back in vogue as many Americans struggle to afford what they need, let alone what they want, in this high-inflation era. Credit card balances are skyrocketing, but just as alarming is the rise of a new credit product known as “buy now, pay later.” About 4% of online transactions in North America are done this way, and usage is surging. So, what’s the problem? “Buy now, pay later” is largely unregulated, and substantial issues have emerged. Last year, 10.5% of users were charged at least one late fee, and several signs show delinquencies continue to rise in 2022. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should act swiftly to put up guardrails to protect consumers and assure they fully understand the commitment they are making.

The mockingbird has been Florida’s state bird for 95 years — and it doesn’t need to change” via Marion P. Hammer in City & State Florida — Once again, a few people are attempting to change the state bird from the mockingbird to the scrub jay. They have no legitimate or justifiable reason for making the change. In the past, they have resorted to emotional arguments and verbal attacks on the mockingbird. Attempts to change the state bird to the scrub jay began in 1999. It was a scam for extreme environmentalists to get tax dollars and designate areas of Central Florida as “protected.” The effort was actually to stop people who owned property in those areas from building or doing anything on the property they owned. The mockingbird was a victim in this scam.


— ALOE —

Universal Orlando Foundation gives $1M to Orlando charities” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — Thanks to Universal Orlando Foundation grants totaling over $1 million, 30 charitable organizations across Central Florida are making plans to do even more for the community this holiday season and beyond. On Thursday, the foundation awarded a total of $1,035,000 in varying amounts to local organizations advocating for homeless populations, underserved students, LGBTQ+ youth, seriously ill children and others, according to a release. The event marked the first “Celebration of Giving” at Universal Orlando, which the company said will become an annual tradition. “Central Florida is home for our company and for our 25,000 team members, and we care about our community,” foundation president John Sprouls said in a statement.

Theft of 16-foot mounted marlin sparks outrage in one Florida town: ‘An all-time low’” via Mark Price of the Bradenton Herald — The darnedest things disappear during hurricanes in Florida, but there’s definitely something fishy about the vanishing act of a nearly 16-foot mounted marlin after Hurricane Ian. Not only is it longer than the average car, but it weighs 200 pounds. That means the thieves were creative and well-prepared when they swiped what amounts to a local landmark from the Eagle Grille-Miller’s Dockside. The restaurant is in Boca Grande, about 100 miles south of Tampa. “Someone decided to borrow our marlin; we would appreciate someone returning it to the dock before we get law enforcement involved,” the restaurant wrote in a Nov. 3 Facebook post.

Eagle Grille and the case of the missing marlin.

Goofy’s head goes for $19K at auction” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — A costumed character head of Goofy once worn at Magic Kingdom sold at an auction of Disney-related items for $19,000 this month. That was more than Van Eaton Galleries had expected. The pre-auction estimate was between $4,000 and $6,000. Van Eaton, based in Studio City, California, has periodic auctions stocked with privately owned Disney artifacts from around the world. Its latest event was titled “Exploring the Disney Universe.” Goofy’s head was the highest-drawing item from the auction’s Walt Disney World section. It was described as “incredibly rare” and dating to the 1990s.


Orlando theme parks look for a lift during busy Christmas tourism season” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Tucked in a corner at SeaWorld Orlando was a pair of musicians playing holiday songs as people strolled past. The space felt quieter away from all the big rides and the rest of the festivities, but something happened on a recent Friday night. It was one of those moments — unexpected and joyful — in the theme parks during the holidays. A large family stopped to listen as the duo played “Feliz Navidad.” The matriarch and patriarch began dancing. Others joined in. More visitors came to watch. Soon there was a crowd, dancing and laughing together. Orlando’s attractions are in full holiday mode, and Visit Orlando, which handles the region’s tourism marketing, is predicting a big season for tourism.

A Palmetto family’s holiday home will compete in ABC’s ‘Great Christmas Light Fight’” via Ryan Ballogg of the Bradenton Herald — A Palmetto family is locally famous for making the holidays bright, but this season they’ll dazzle a national audience for the first time. The Florida home will be featured in the finale of the 10th season of “The Great Christmas Light Fight” which premiered Monday on ABC. For Tom and Wendy Stallings, it’s all part of a simple vision: “Bringing joy of Christmas lights across the world.” Lights of Palmetto is an annual Christmas light attraction hosted by the Stallings at their four-acre property in Manatee County. Thousands of color-changing lights are synchronized with Christmas and popular music to illuminate a house, a barn, and a yard of props, many of them handmade.

It’s a jungle out there. Image via ABC.

AAA predicts record travel by Floridians over end of the year holidays” via Larry Spilman of WQIK — “AAA is expecting the number of Floridians traveling for the year-end holidays to set a new all-time record,” Mark Jenkins with the Auto Club says. “6.3 million Floridians are forecast to take at least one trip between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.” That’s an increase of 4% in total travel. Auto travel will be up 3% and air travel by 15% despite higher airfares. Jenkins says travel spending is at its highest point of any time during the pandemic. Airfares are up 6%, and the cost of a hotel room by 5%, but the cost of renting a car is down 19% and the cost of a gallon of gas in Florida could fall below $3 by Christmas.


Celebrating today are Paula Cobb, Director of Environmental Services at Florida Power & Light Company, Hayden Dempsey of Greenberg Traurig, Mike Millner, and Mike Stone.


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, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

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