Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.19.22

Sunburn Orange Tally (7)
Notes and highlights from today in Florida politics.

Good Monday morning.

A longtime power player in Republican politics — serving under President Ronald Reagan and reaching the Executive Committee of the national party — is retiring from the lobbying firm he built into one of the state’s top 10 firms.

But don’t expect to stop hearing from Al Cárdenas, who has been rated the “best in the business” for lobbying, according to The Hill. He’s also been co-Chair of the 2004 Bush-Cheney Florida Campaign and a key force propelling the Institute of Politics’ 2020 founding at Florida State University, where he’s the Chair of the Institute’s first Advisory Board.

Al Cardenas may be retiring, but he’s not slowing down.

“I like to call it a legacy phase,” Cárdenas said, describing what he will be pursuing after about 20 years spent building The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners.

Yes, he’s planning to improve his golf handicap and add pounds to his bench press, but, mostly, he’s looking for ways to spread the heft of the insight he’s gained from decades in state and national politics. Expect to see him serving on more boards of directors, investing in new ventures, and reaching out to the next generation of leaders.

“It’s not going to be as busy a schedule as I had before, but it’s a whole new agenda,” Cárdenas said.


Spotted at the post-election Christmas party for SIMS Wins: Founders Anthony Pedicini and Tom Piccolo, AG Ashley Moody and her husband Justin Duralia, Sens. Gayle Harrell and Ed Hooper and his wife Lee, Reps. Adam Anderson, Danny Alvarez, Jennifer Canady, Linda Chaney, Traci Koster, Karen Pittman, Kevin Steele, and Brad Yeager, former Senate President Bill Galvano and his wife Julie, former Speaker Chris Sprowls and his wife Shannon, Sheriff Chad Chronister and Nikki DeBartolo, Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, Bradenton Mayor Gene Brown, Bradenton Council member Marianne Barnebey, Mike Moore of The Southern Group and his wife Lauren, Omar Raschid of Johnston & Stewart and Aly Coleman Raschid of On 3 PR.


Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@ChipRoyTX: It’s not complicated, @RonDeSantisFL is leading the polls for a reason. Principled, conservative, leadership on issues Floridians (and all Americans) care about. #StandUpForAmerica

Tweet, tweet:

@elonmusk: Should I step down as head of Twitter? I will abide by the results of this poll.

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:


Military Bowl with UCF Knights against Duke — 9; Cheez-It Bowl with FSU against Oklahoma — 10; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 13; last day to ride Splash Mountain before remodeling — 34; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 37; 2023 FAC Access 67 Broadband Summit — Florida Association of Counties begins — 38; State Senators have a 5 p.m. deadline for submitting requests for drafts of general bills and joint resolutions, including requests for companion bills — 39; Bruce Springsteen launches 2023 tour in Tampa — 44; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 60; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 61; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 70; Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 71; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 72; Tampa Municipal Election — 77; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 78; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 82; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 95; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 115; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 130; 2023 Session Sine Die — 137; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 137; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 165; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 214; ‘‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 221; Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 319; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 466; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 522; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 585; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 585; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 627; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 690; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 768; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 865. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,054.


Ron DeSantis reverses himself on coronavirus vaccines, moves to right of Donald Trump” via Isaac Arnsdorf of The Washington Post — Early in the pandemic, DeSantis repeatedly praised Trump for the expedited development and rollout of a coronavirus vaccine. The Governor’s office pushed for $480 million in pandemic resources, including media campaigns promoting the shots, according to state budget documents. And DeSantis even lauded the Joe Biden administration for helping to expand access to vaccines.

“We’re having more vaccine because of this, which is great,” DeSantis said of a federal program shipping shots to pharmacies in February 2021.

But this past week, DeSantis threw himself into misleadingly disparaging the vaccines, meeting skeptics to buck guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and seeking to investigate vaccine makers for fraud.

Ron DeSantis pivots on vaccines, a move to the hard right. Image via Orlando Sentinel.

“These companies have made a fortune off this federal government imposing or at least attempting to impose mandates, and a lot of false statements,” DeSantis said at a roundtable event Wednesday. “I think people want the truth and I think people want accountability, so you need to have a thorough investigation into what’s happened with these shots.”

A review of DeSantis’s public positions on the vaccines shows a full reversal that has unfolded gradually since 2021, seizing on the shots’ waning efficacy against new virus variants and portraying evolving scientific advice as deliberate deceit.

The hard-line position he’s now staking out is taking on added significance: DeSantis is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2024, with many Republicans wanting him to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination and some seeing vaccines as a potential wedge issue to outflank the former President to his right.

DeSantis succeeded in drawing cheers from pro-Trump corners of the far-right. “What I like about DeSantis, he’s probably not a guy you’d like to run at, let’s go have a beer, but he’s all business,” former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon said on his podcast.


DeSantis has $60M left from the election. What will he do with that pot of gold?” via Skyler Swisher of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis and his team are sitting on more than $60 million in campaign contributions after vanquishing Democratic challenger Charlie Crist and cruising to victory. DeSantis, a possible presidential contender, now faces a question: What is he going to do with all that money? DeSantis could use it to boost his national profile or expand his power and leave a lasting political legacy in the Sunshine State. He could draw on the funds to travel to out-of-state fundraisers, back like-minded candidates, or stage political events that generate national media attention. “It is the wild, wild West,” said Ben Wilcox, research director for the government watchdog group Integrity Florida.

Ron DeSantis is sitting on a pile of money. What will he do with it?

DeSantis may snub Big Tech inaugural donations, strategists say” via Michael C. Bender of The New York Times — DeSantis is considering refusing donations from major tech companies for his second inauguration next month, in a move aimed at energizing conservative activists who are eager to take on Silicon Valley. DeSantis, who is weighing a potential challenge to Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has often accused companies like Apple and Google of overreaching and limiting free speech in their efforts to slow the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories.

A weakened Trump will draw more challenges” via Chris Stirewalt of The Dispatch — Polls that show big leads for DeSantis do not indicate a short Primary process or a quick, decisive end to Trump’s rule. Indeed, those polls aren’t really about DeSantis at all. They echo the same sentiment often heard over the past years from Republicans: It would be awfully nice to be done with Trump. Trump is seemingly unfazed. He’s bragging about his claim that he got people to spend $4.3 million this week on digital pictures of him dressed up like a soldier or a cartoon superhero. Outside the Vaseline-lensed view from Mar-a-Lago, Republicans are getting serious about what to do with Trump, who these days looks like a sure loser, even against an unsteady Biden, and a down-ballot disaster for the party.

New book on DeSantis gives insider look at the DeSantis’ success via Zac Howard of The Florida Standard — A new book chronicling the meteoric ascent of DeSantis from the perspective of former Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran was announced Thursday with an expected publication in the spring of 2023. Post Hill Press’s Bombardier Books will publish “Standing Our Ground: The Inside Story of Ron DeSantis’ Rise and Battle for Freedom.” Corcoran shares his insider’s perspective on the Governor’s battle to reopen schools, prohibiting mask mandates, supporting parents pushing back against authoritarian school boards and Disney’s attempt to undermine the Parental Rights Bill.

—“After a busy day at work, ‘regular guy’ DeSantis pops into Chick-fil-A for a bite” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist


Democrats decry lack of rate cuts as DeSantis signs property insurance bill” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — A major rewrite of property insurance laws that seeks to limit lawsuits and stabilize a beleaguered market was signed into law by DeSantis, sparking outcry from Democrats who say it gives too much to insurance companies without mandatory rate reductions or protections for consumers. The bill, SB 2A, imposes changes to property insurance lawsuits long sought by the industry that limit the ability for homeowners to file and win court challenges in a claim dispute; sets up a $1 billion reinsurance program backed by taxpayer money, and makes several changes to state-run Citizens Property Insurance designed to push its policyholders into the private market.

Democrats believe the Ron DeSantis-backed insurance proposals are not going to save homeowners any money.

—“After latest insurance reforms, what rights do policyholders have left?” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

DeSantis appoints four appellate judges after Florida Supreme Court rejects challenge” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis named four judicial appointments to the 5th District Court of Appeal; a move necessitated by legislation he signed in June. Since last month, the appointments were delayed by a legal challenge. DeSantis’ office announced the appointments Friday. The appointees, chosen from a list the 5th District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission provided Oct. 18, will take the bench on Jan. 1. They will fill four vacancies created through HB 7027, which set up the new 6th District Court of Appeal and revised other appellate court jurisdictions.

Sixth DCA readies for Jan. 1 launch” via Patrick R. Fargason of The Florida Bar

Florida subpoenas organizations pushing transgender agenda” via Jonas Vesterberg of The Florida Standard — In a countermove against transgender advocates, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) subpoenas 20 organizations for information on their internal decision-making processes, leadership structure and other details. So-called gender-affirming care is no longer covered under the state’s Medicaid program. In September, a coalition of LBGTQ rights groups filed a lawsuit against AHCA, claiming that the agency is in violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees “fair and equal protection of the laws” — plus a number of other federal statutes. 20 organizations have filed amicus briefs in support of the plaintiffs. Those entities are now being subpoenaed by AHCA and requested to provide internal documentation.

—“Simone Marstiller: ‘I’m never leaving Florida’” via Jonas Vesterberg of The Florida Standard

State leaders vow reforms to crack down on sex trafficking in Florida after Sun-Sentinel investigation” via David Fleshler, Spencer Norris and Brittany Wallman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — State officials vowed to implement new measures to fight sex trafficking in hotels, protect victims who cooperate with law enforcement and increase penalties for traffickers after a South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation exposed a broken system that enables the illegal trade to flourish in Florida. Several proposals appear likely to be introduced in the coming session of the state Legislature. Legislators from both parties, including Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, expressed concern over the issues revealed by the series.

Michael Gottlieb takes up effort to base Florida’s electoral votes on popular vote” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An effort will continue to have Florida award its Electoral College votes for President based on the popular vote. Rep. Michael Gottlieb, a Democrat, filed his first bill of the new legislative term. The Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote (HB 53) would join Florida in a multi-state compact and change how the nation’s chief executive is decided every four years. Gottlieb’s picking up an effort championed for years by former Rep. Joseph Geller, who could not seek re-election last year thanks to term limits. “We should follow the will of the voters,” Gottlieb said.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian Ballard, Adrian Lukis, Ballard Partners: Advance Financial Administration

Matt Bryan, Jeff Hartley, Teye Carmichael, David Daniel, Lisa Hurley, Jonathan Rees, Smith Bryan & Myers: Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, Roller Skating Association International, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

Sara Clements, Rhett O’Doski, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Tarpon Blue Agriculture BRP, Tarpon Blue Silver King 1

Brennan Garcia, Ashley Spicola, Continental Strategy: M&S Media, Okta

Christopher Davidson, George Levesque, Gray Robinson: Atlantic Housing Partners, Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County

Taylor Ferguson: Google

Ashley Shew: American Association of Nurse Practitioners


Biden marks 50th anniversary of death of wife, daughter” via Colleen Long of The Associated Press — Biden and his family held a private memorial service Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the car crash that killed his first wife and their baby daughter. Biden’s raw openness around grief and his ability to empathize with fellow Americans who have experienced loss have become defining traits of his political career. Biden married Jill Jacobs in 1977 and they had a daughter, Ashley. Both women joined him on Sunday, as did Hunter and many of the President’s grandchildren among others at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church. After the service, the family walked out toward the graves carrying two large wreaths.

Joe Biden marks the 50th anniversary of the defining moment of his life.

For Biden family, the holidays are both somber and celebratory” via Matt Viser of The Washington Post — Biden visited a strip mall a few miles from his house, walking near a jewelry shop, dipping into stores that offer luxury outerwear, and browsing the aisles of menswear store Jos. A. Bank before emerging with a bag in hand. About 24 hours later, Biden arrived at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church for a memorial Mass and a day tinged with more than a little tragedy. It was 50 years ago on Sunday that Biden’s wife Neilia and 1-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident as they were out shopping for a Christmas tree. The two events over two days were a reminder of how this time of year holds a mix of emotions for Biden and his large family, one that is marked with the somber and the celebratory.

Biden second quarter job numbers off by 1 million, Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank says” via Dave Boyer of The Washington Examiner — The Biden administration vastly overstated its estimate that employers created more than 1 million jobs in the second quarter of this year, claiming historic job growth when in fact hiring had stalled, according to a new estimate. Job growth was “essentially flat” in the second quarter with only 10,500 jobs added, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said. Republicans are accusing the administration of lying about the employment data in an election year and are demanding answers.

What Trump promised, Biden seeks to deliver in his own way” via Josh Boak of The Associated Press — Trump pledged to fix U.S. infrastructure as President. He vowed to take on China and bulk up American manufacturing. He said he would reduce the budget deficit and make the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes. Yet after two years as President, it’s Biden who is acting on those promises. He jokes that he’s created an “infrastructure decade” after Trump merely managed a near parody of “infrastructure weeks.” His legislative victories are not winning him votes from Trump loyalists or boosting his overall approval ratings. But they reflect a major pivot in how the government interacts with the economy at a time when many Americans fear a recession and broader national decline.

Biden comes under pressure over expected easing of U.S. asylum rules” via Jason Lange of Reuters — U.S. lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, on Sunday pressed Biden to take action to manage an expected wave of asylum-seekers at America’s southern border when COVID-19-era restrictions are set to end this week. U.S. border cities are bracing for an influx of asylum-seekers after a U.S. judge in November moved to strike down a policy enacted by the Trump administration in 2020 that has allowed migration authorities to rapidly send asylum-seekers back to Mexico and other countries.

Biden to refill U.S. oil reserves after reaching lowest level in decades” via Herb Scribner of Axios — The United States will soon purchase 3 million barrels of oil in order to replenish the country’s dwindling Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Department of Energy said. The Biden administration tapped into the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve earlier this year to slow down rising gas prices. The Department of Energy said the new purchase is “a good deal for American taxpayers” since the repurchasing price will be lower than the $96 per barrel average price it was originally sold for.

Biden team planning a dramatically expanded digital strategy for 2024” via Michael Scherer of The Washington Post — Biden’s political advisers are preparing a strategy for his likely 2024 re-election campaign that would dramatically expand efforts to organize content-sharing between supporters and their friends on digital platforms, including TikTok and WhatsApp, where political advertising is not allowed. The plans, which build upon lessons from the 2020 campaign, are one part of an expansive research effort funded by the Democratic National Committee to prepare for Biden’s expected campaign launch next year. Top advisers have been testing ways to reactivate volunteers and donors, and they completed a review this summer of the shifts in how voters consumed political information over the past two years.

The student loan company being used to attack Biden’s debt relief plan” via Michael Stratford of POLITICO — The fate of Biden’s multibillion-dollar student debt relief plan could hinge on an obscure financial services company just outside of St. Louis. The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, a state-created loan company known as MOHELA, is at the center of a legal challenge from six Republican states trying to stop Biden’s plan to forgive student loan debt for more than 40 million Americans. Missouri argues that MOHELA will lose money under Biden’s relief plan because it’ll have fewer accounts to manage.

Joe Manchin says he thinks Biden will ask for Title 42 extension” via Olafimihan Oshin of The Hill — Sen. Manchin said he believes Biden will ask for an extension of the Title 42 immigration policy, as officials warn of chaos in border states if the policy ends this week. “The President needs to use every bit of power he has as an executive to find a way or ask for an extension. The President can basically, I think, ask for that extension. I think his administration is doing that or will do that. I sure hope they do. But we need an extension until we can get a viable answer for this,” Manchin said. Title 42 was implemented early in the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing officials to block migrants from seeking asylum claims in the U.S. under a public health emergency.

Joe Manchin thinks the Title 42 immigration policy isn’t going away anytime soon.

Congress passed an $858 billion military bill. Here’s what’s in it.” via Catie Edmondson of The New York Times — Congress on Thursday gave final approval to an $858 billion military policy bill that would increase the Pentagon’s budget by 8% and repeal the coronavirus vaccine mandate for the troops, after lawmakers in both chambers overwhelmingly approved the mammoth, 4,400-page legislation. Seen as one of the few must-pass bills taken up by Congress at the end of each year, the legislation, which authorizes an annual pay increase for the military and typically draws broad bipartisan support, lays out lawmakers’ national security priorities for the coming year. It is also a perennial magnet for unrelated pet projects.

Congress is considering financial help for parents. Here are details.” via Claire Cain Miller and Alicia Parlapiano of The New York Times — None of the family policies the Biden administration has wanted have come to pass. Now, with less than a month before the new Congress starts, Democrats are trying once more to push through one of them: the expanded child allowance. The idea had a test run in the second half of 2021 when the administration sent families monthly checks as part of the pandemic relief package. Many Democrats again want to expand it to the lowest earners. Some Republicans want to continue to give it only to families who earn a certain amount, to encourage parents to work.

Congress braces for a hectic year-end week. It wasn’t always this way.” via Paul Kane of The Washington Post — On Nov. 19, 2002, the Senate confirmed a federal judge, passed a resolution funding the government and created the Department of Homeland Security. After that, the chamber doors closed, nine days before Thanksgiving, and the Senate did not come back into session until the new Congress was sworn in seven weeks later. It’s how things are supposed to work on Capitol Hill. But it’s exactly the way things no longer work. Although this has been a productive two years overall for major legislation, congressional leaders have again waited until deep into the holiday season to assemble must-pass bills.


Trump faces a week of headaches on Jan. 6 and his taxes” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — After more than five years of dramatic headlines about controversies, scandals, and potential crimes surrounding Trump, the coming week will be among the most consequential. On Monday, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol by Trump’s supporters will hold what is almost certainly its final public meeting before it is disbanded when Republicans take over the majority in the new year. The biggest topic is whether to recommend that Trump face criminal charges. On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee will meet privately to discuss what to do with the six years of Trump’s tax returns.

It’s going to be a tough week for Donald Trump.

Jan. 6 panel plans vote on referring Trump for insurrection and other charges” via Luke Broadwater of The New York Times — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol plans on Monday to vote on issuing criminal referrals against Trump for insurrection and at least two other charges. It had been widely expected the panel would recommend charges against Trump for obstructing an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The panel’s members had already argued in federal court that they believed it was likely that he committed those two felonies. But the addition of an accusation of insurrection was a new development.

Trump calls Jan. 6 panel members ‘Thugs and Scoundrels’ ahead of Monday hearing” via Brad Dress of the Miami Herald — Trump slammed lawmakers on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, calling them “Thugs and Scoundrels” as the panel prepares for a final public hearing and report this week. The panel has also expected to issue symbolic criminal referrals, with multiple members arguing there is plenty of evidence that Trump is guilty of crimes. “Republicans and Patriots all over the land must stand strong and united against the Thugs and Scoundrels of the Unselect Committee,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform. “It will be a dark period in American history, but with darkness comes light!!!”

Trump has one underrated advantage in the 2024 election” via David Byler of The Washington Post — Many Republicans think Trump is unelectable now. They have solid evidence: Only about a third of Americans view Trump favorably. Voters and journalists now treat him as old news. But Trump has an ace up his sleeve if an “electability” debate emerges in the GOP primaries: the Electoral College. Trump has proven that he can win 270 electoral votes even when Democrats win the popular vote. If Republicans choose DeSantis or some other Trump alternative, that edge might shrink or even disappear. Trump’s Electoral College advantage comes through most clearly when we compare the “tipping point” or “pivotal” state to the national popular vote.

Trump on RNC Chair race between Ronna McDaniel, Harmeet Dhillon: ‘I like them both’” via Breitbart — Trump declined to endorse either incumbent Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair McDaniel or her challenger, RNC National Committee member from California Dhillon. “Harmeet is a lawyer for me you know,” Trump said when asked about the two candidates. “Harmeet is my lawyer.” When asked whether that means he favors her or McDaniel, the current chair whom Trump selected after his 2016 White House victory and backed again in her later re-election as Chair, he declined to pick a specific candidate. The race between McDaniel and Dhillon has been heating up in recent weeks, and Trump’s decision to stay neutral could have major implications for or against either candidate.

Trial to begin Monday for ex-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio. Will he testify?” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — In the uneasy days before Congress met in January 2021 to certify the presidential election, Tarrio and other senior members of the Proud Boys plotted a rebellion at the U.S. Capitol building to stop the lawful transfer of power from Trump to Biden, federal authorities say. Tarrio, the Miami-based leader of the White nationalist group, and his colleagues set up a Ministry of Self-Defense and exchanged hundreds of encrypted text messages about their “1776 Returns” plan to “storm the Capitol” and ring in the new year with a “revolution,” according to an indictment.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Miami Beach limits developers’ spending on elections. Here’s how they get around it” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — Russell Galbut is one of Miami Beach’s most powerful real estate developers. He is behind some of the city’s premier projects in recent years, like the Five Park condo tower at the gateway to South Beach on Alton Road. Campaign finance laws in Miami Beach aim to restrict deep-pocketed developers like Galbut from currying favor with elected officials. Developers and lobbyists seeking certain city approvals, as well as active city vendors, are barred from donating to campaigns under rules that have expanded over the past two decades.

Russell Galbut knows his way around campaign finance rules.

Will Cutler Bay be Miami-Dade’s next boomtown? Its hopes are set on a $1 billion project” via Tes Riski of the Miami Herald — The town of Cutler Bay has set its sights on becoming the next boomtown of South Miami-Dade County. Those hopes are pinned on a semi-vacant shopping mall that has struggled to rebound since Hurricane Andrew and is now the site of a $1 billion redevelopment project. Cutler Bay leaders say this project will be a much-needed boon for the town of 45,000 where 96% of residents work elsewhere, according to the town’s 2021 Transportation Master Plan. If successful, it may become a blueprint for future large-scale developments in the often-overlooked South Dade region, as available land across South Florida continues to shrink.

Federal agents raid Florida Keys house, by land in armed SUVs and by water in a raft” via David Goodhue and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Heavily armed FBI agents raided a Florida Keys house Friday morning, according to neighbors. Agents dressed in body armor and carrying semi-automatic rifles came to the Mars Lane house on Geiger Key by SUVs with mounted turrets and by raft in a canal. Law enforcement sources said the raid was connected to a human trafficking investigation. Several people were taken into custody, but it was not immediately clear if there were any formal arrests or charges. Neighbor Belinda Coyner took video of agents throwing a flash-bang grenade into the home and yelling demands for those inside to exit the Lower Keys house because they had an arrest warrant.

Where is the red tide in Florida? What to know about the toxic bloom along the coast” via Ryan Ballogg of the Miami Herald — Red tide is blooming along Florida’s Gulf Coast. This past week, levels of the toxic algae dropped around Manatee, Sarasota and Southwest Florida, although the toxic algae is still around, water samples and local beach reports show. But the bloom has intensified in Lower Tampa Bay and around Pinellas County, including St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island. The organism that causes red tide, Karenia brevis, was found in 88 samples over the past week in waters from Pinellas County south to Monroe County. K. brevis produces neurotoxins that kill fish and other marine life and can make humans ill with breathing irritation and other symptoms.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Central Florida leaders are about to abuse a state law to help a big developer” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — Osceola County is creating a tax district under a decades-old state law that was originally designed to steer extra resources into poor communities struggling with “slum and blight.” Osceola will use it to steer millions of dollars into a sprawling new housing development being built by The Tavistock Group — the real estate firm owned by investor Joe Lewis that also built Orlando’s Lake Nona community. Osceola and Tavistock are exploiting a state law known as the “Community Redevelopment Act,” the latest in a long line of local politicians and big businesses to do it. Osceola Commissioners approved a resolution declaring that 126,627 acres of land in the northeastern part of the county — much of which is still undeveloped — has become “blighted.”

The Tavistock Group will reap rewards from a taxation district meant for ‘blighted’ areas.

Disney is suing over its property tax assessments — again” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Some things in this world are certain, like death and Disney fighting its taxes. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts recently filed a dozen lawsuits to appeal the 2022 property tax assessments done by the Orange County property appraiser. It’s the second time this year Disney has turned to the courts to fight its tax bill. Disney filed a series of lawsuits six months ago over the assessments for several resorts and administrative spaces. Disney argued against the property appraiser’s methodology for the assessments at the four theme parks, multiple resorts and some of Disney’s other buildings.

Orlando Free Fall owner denies state’s allegations in Tyre Sampson’s death” via Katie Rice of the Orlando Sentinel — The owner of the Orlando Free Fall, where 14-year-old Sampson fell to his death March 24, is disputing the state’s conclusion that the company broke several laws in how it ran the 430-foot-tall tilting drop tower. Orlando Slingshot filed on Wednesday a request for an administrative hearing to challenge the results of the months-long investigation conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The company took issue with allegations that it was aware safety sensors on two ride harnesses had been adjusted to open wider than the normal range and that attendants were told to seat “larger guests” in those seats. It also disputed that the adjustments were made outside the ride manufacturer’s specifications or without its approval.

League of Women Voters honor Orlando Sentinel with Warrior for Democracy Award” via the Orlando Sentinel — The Orlando Sentinel was named the winner of this year’s Warrior for Democracy Award presented by the League of Women Voters of Orange County. Barbara Lanning, co-president of the non-partisan group, presented the award to Orlando Sentinel editor-in-chief Julie Anderson and managing editor Roger Simmons during the group’s holiday party on Thursday in Winter Park. “In a time when misinformation and misdirection abound, the Orlando Sentinel remains a daily, trusted source of fact-based information that’s essential for a democracy to function,” Lanning said.


County GOP takeover bids largely fail around Tampa Bay” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Encouraged by right-wing political figures including Bannon and Michael Flynn, political activists often calling themselves “America First” adherents have been seeking to take over leadership of county Republican Party chapters in Florida in elections this month. But they have failed in several Tampa Bay area counties. Flynn, convicted of lying to the FBI and pardoned by Trump, leads a Christian nationalist movement and has become involved in local politics. He and former Trump political strategist Bannon have advocated taking over the Republican Party from the grassroots level, precinct representatives, and the county party officials they elect, the bottom rung of the party leadership ladder.

Steve Bannon tried to influence Tampa Bay politics, to negligible effect. Image via AP.

Jane Castor announces $230K on hand for re-election” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Castor entered the race on Nov. 28. Records available since then show she raised more than $62,000 to her political committee, Tampa Strong, in November. She raised another $3,250 for her campaign in the final two days of November. Castor’s committee shows $170,277 on hand as of the end of November. Of the contributions posted to Castor’s campaign account so far, three were top $1,000 donations, from lawyer Ben Dachepalli, former C1 Bank founder Trevor Burgess and lawyer Dennis Lopez. November fundraising for her committee included a $10,000 check from Friends of Tampa General Hospital, as well as several $5,000 checks, including from Las Vegas investor Benson Riseman. Riseman also gave $12,500 in in-kind contributions for an event, likely Castor’s kickoff.

Young Republicans target Castor with dirty water ad” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — A slickly produced, funny but disgusting video attacking Castor’s proposed wastewater recycling program, which the city administration calls the PURE program but opponents call “toilet to tap,” has received almost 3,000 views on the Tampa Bay Young Republicans Facebook page. It features a mother and young daughter pretending to be enthusiastic about drinking “potty water,” and claims the program will cost $6 billion and “triple your water bills.” “The video is almost 100% inaccurate,” responded Castor spokesperson Adam Smith. “There is no plan under discussion to convert reclaimed water into drinking water, and there hasn’t been for years.”

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

Clearwater Council moves to oust City Manager Jon Jennings after one year” via Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times — City Council members voted 3-2 on Thursday to begin the process of firing City Manager Jennings a little more than a year after they hired him. The action came on a night when the Council had been poised to discuss giving Jennings a raise despite a tenure that included some rough patches, mainly over his communication style. The tide turned quickly this week after some Council members said Jennings was slow to prepare them for a major vote Thursday on a contract for Ruth Eckerd Hall to manage the 4,000-seat amphitheater under construction in Coachman Park. Mayor Frank Hibbard broached the issue by addressing Jennings’ absence from the Council dais.


Michael Thompson declares war on Florida GOP with Anthony Sabatini appointment” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Just 48 hours after being elected by a one-vote margin on the third ballot of a bitterly contested contest, Thompson appointed Sabatini, a disgraced former state Representative who failed his feeble attempt at higher office and consistently makes a mockery of Florida, and the GOP, as the General Legal Counsel for the Lee County Republican Executive Committee. For Thompson to tap someone for a leadership position within the county party apparatus who has a blemished political career, known affiliation with nefarious actors and who consistently undermines key figures in Florida GOP politics is not only wrongheaded, it’s dangerous.

Anthony Sabatini is the first shot in a fusillade against the Florida GOP.

‘Burden on landlords’? Collier Commissioners mull repeal of new notice rule for rent hikes” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Newly elected Collier County Commissioner Chris Hall wants to repeal a controversial notice requirement for rent hikes. At his first meeting Tuesday, he proposed reversing course on a recently passed ordinance that requires landlords to give a 60-day notice when they intend to hike rent for apartments or other housing by more than 5%, outside of city limits. After several failed attempts, the ordinance narrowly passed by a 3-2 vote in October. Two of the three County Commissioners who supported it, Penny Taylor and Andy Solis, are no longer in office. Solis decided not to run again, while Taylor lost her re-election campaign.

Joe Neunder, Mark Smith campaigns received support from heavyweights of development” via Anne Snabes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The two newly elected Sarasota County Commissioners each received a sizable part of their campaign funding from the region’s most prominent developers, builders and land-use law firms. District 2 Commissioner Smith received about 22% of his funding from these companies and individuals, while District 4 Commissioner Neunder received nearly 19% of his campaign money from them. These percentages don’t include smaller developers; they only include the most powerful development companies in the Sarasota-Manatee area, such as Benderson Development.

City of Naples cancels NYE fireworks” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — Naples leaders have canceled New Year’s Eve fireworks off Naples Pier because of damage to the pier from Hurricane Ian and too few beach access points being reopened. The Naples City Council made the decision to cancel the fireworks that usually draw 20,000 people to the beaches and realized the area could not accommodate that many with beach closures, city spokesperson Monique Barnhart said. On the plus side, four more beach accesses in the city have opened, bringing the total opened after debris cleanup to 14, she said.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Charlie Adelson’s trial set for April 24, a new yard line in the long field toward justice for Dan Markel” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — We’ve learned while covering the Markel murder trials that when a case management hearing sets a trial date, it’s more of a suggestion than set in stone. Katherine Magbanua’s attorneys had secured what felt like endless delays, moving the goal post again and again until her conviction was finally secured. Friday’s 11 a.m. case management hearing itself had been delayed for a few weeks, with the request to postpone from Adelson’s lawyer Daniel Rashbaum coming in right after it was announced that Magbanua turned state witness and was transported to Tallahassee to give a proffer.

Moving the goal posts: Charlie Adelson’s trial uses creative case management in securing a conviction.

Federal judge expected to rule on City Council, School Board redistricting proposal this week” via Brianna Andrews of News4Jax — A federal judge is expected to decide the future of the county’s redistricting maps on Monday. Right now, it is still up in the air how Duval County districts will be drawn. This decision will have a big impact on whether Jacksonville will lean Republican or Democrat. The redistricting maps will also affect how School Board districts are divided which can be concerning if those boundaries are drawn to favor one political party. Multiple organizations including the NAACP, the ACLU and the Northside Coalition spoke out against the proposed redrawn maps, calling them unconstitutional and saying that they favored one political party or race over another.

Group flies Confederate flag, banner over stadium again ahead of anticipated game” via Sarah Glenn of First Coast News — A plane was spotted flying over TIAA Bank Field on Sunday morning displaying a banner with a Confederate flag. The banner flew over the stadium ahead of the highly anticipated Jacksonville Jaguars vs Dallas Cowboys game. The plane with the banner was sponsored by a group called Save Southern Heritage. This is not the first time the group has flown a banner with a confederate flag but this time the banner read “History Not Hate.” The plane flew over TIAA Bank while football fans were tailgating ahead of the game advocating for keeping and putting back Confederate monuments.

Here we go again. Image via Twitter.

Pensacola City Council approves smoking and vaping ban in city parks” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Smoking in Pensacola’s city parks will soon be a thing of the past. The Pensacola City Council voted 6-0 to pass the first reading of a new ordinance that bans smoking and vaping in all city parks. Council member Casey Jones proposed the new ordinance and Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves co-sponsored the measure. Jones put forward the measure after learning the Florida Legislature changed a law that had previously prohibited cities from regulating smoking outdoors. The new law allows cities to pass their own ordinances if there is an exception for unfiltered cigars.


The end of the Trump era will be unsatisfying” via Ross Douthat of The New York Times — While DeSantis surges in multiple national polls, the former President has busied himself shilling $99 digital trading cards to his most devoted fans. The promised battle royale, in which Trump emerges from Mar-a-Lago to smite his challenger and reclaim his throne, may yet be in the offing.

But it’s also possible that Trump 2024 will end up where many people expected Trump 2016 to go, diminishing into an act of self-indulgence that holds on to his true loyalists but can’t win Primary-season majorities.

If that’s how Trump goes out, doing a slow fade while DeSantis claims his mantle, the people who have opposed Trump most fiercely, both the Resistance liberals and the Never Trump Republicans, will probably find the ending deeply unsatisfying.

There will be no perp walk where Trump exits the White House in handcuffs (though he could still face indictment; that hope lives), no revelations of Putinist treason forcing the Trumps into a Middle Eastern exile, no Aaron Sorkin-scripted denunciation driving him, in shame, from the public square.

Nor will there be a dramatic repudiation of the Trumpist style.

But an unsatisfying absence of repudiation or vindication is a normal feature of democratic life.

This desire for vindication is completely understandable. How else can you ensure that serious mistakes won’t be repeated, or that an awful demagogue won’t just slip into sheep’s clothing and return?

The answer, however (and this is tough medicine), is that the way to avert that kind of repetition is to make certain you have a strategy for winning the next election, and the ones after that — on the public’s terms rather than your own.


Free elections won in 2022, but deniers will be back in 2024” via Ryan Teague Beckwith of Bloomberg — An all-out offensive by activists and state officials against election denial scored major successes in clamping down on the “stop the steal” movement in 2022, amid continued attempts to undermine free and fair elections in the U.S.. Advocacy groups spent millions on ads against candidates who adhered to Trump’s false claims that he lost due to widespread fraud and were running to oversee voting in presidential battlegrounds or lead them as Governors. Local and state elections administrators coordinated with law enforcement to ensure that polling places remained safe.

Vaccines saved lives. DeSantis threatens that progress.” via The Washington Post editorial board — Vaccines saved millions of lives in the pandemic, and the mRNA technology was rolled out in record time. It counts as a massive success and might help fight other diseases, too. Nonetheless, populist DeSantis last week demanded a grand jury investigate “criminal or wrongful activity in Florida” involving the “development, promotion and distribution” of coronavirus vaccines. As public opinion shows vaccine hesitancy is growing, DeSantis’s move is not only absurd but also dangerous. Vaccines work. A mathematical model, based on country-level data, found they directly saved some 15.5 million lives worldwide.

The DeSantis delusion” via Christian Schneider of the National Review — Following the 2022 Midterms, it finally appeared that a growing number of Republicans were willing to move on from Trump. Many had stuck with him after he tried to reverse the results of the 2020 Presidential Election he lost. They stuck with him after two impeachments. But finally, these Republicans found an aspect of Trump they could not abide. He was making them lose elections. And many are looking toward Florida’s pugnacious Governor, DeSantis, to be the penicillin that does away with the Trump years. But there is no guarantee DeSantis will sail into the 2024 election.

Is the Florida Democratic Party salvageable?” via Carolina Ampudia, Osvaldo “Oz” Hernandez, Lorenzo Canizares, Russell Giambrone and Jim Langford for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Florida Democratic Party (FDP) is in crisis. The dismal results of the 2022 Midterm Elections in our state show this unequivocally. Florida is now a red state. We must identify the root of the problem and find a solution if we are ever to become a viable party that contributes to Democratic victories for the people at the local, state and federal levels. Let’s start with an example of how not to do this. In 2020, current FDP chair and former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz ran on a platform he never began to deliver. He did not build his planned 67-county strategy. In his post-Midterm public letter, Diaz admitted having visited just over half of our state’s counties.

Never mind property insurance: Rent and housing is itself in a crisis” via Robin Merrill and Ebonni Bryant of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida is in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis, and our elected officials and local governments are not handling the problem with the caliber of seriousness it needs. The deterioration of living standards for the working class is an injustice that should not exist in modern America. Wages are nowhere close to keeping pace with South Florida’s escalating housing costs. Help is not widespread enough to come anywhere near alleviating the stress inflicted on a growing segment of our communities. Those in power must make affordable and low-income housing a priority on their political agendas and in every single meeting they have.

Holiday gloom at The Washington Post” via Erik Wemple of The Washington Post — In December 2006, David Carr, the media columnist for the New York Times, wrote a column about The Washington Post and mentioned that layoffs could be in the works. Leonard Downie Jr., then The Post’s executive editor, responded with fury: “We want to quash any stupid, false rumors like this one,” said Downie. That didn’t mean The Post wasn’t slashing its payroll. Thanks to its rich pension fund, the company laid out a series of buyouts in the 2000s, generous packages bulging with cash and health benefits, which aging Posties had trouble resisting. But at least they weren’t layoffs. What Publisher Fred Ryan announced at a town hall event on Wednesday, are layoffs.


— ALOE —

World’s largest cruise ship Wonder of the Seas brings its own flair to Port Canaveral” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Port Canaveral has welcomed most of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, each of which has held the title of world’s largest cruise ship, but with Wonder of the Seas’ arrival, it marks the first time the Orlando market has gotten ahold of one in its first year of service. Wonder of the Seas debuted out of Port Everglades in the Spring but began year-round service from Port Canaveral in November. The ship comes in at 1,188 feet long, 217 feet wide with 18 decks and 2,867 staterooms.

Wonder of the Seas is the latest in an extensive line of megaships sailing out of Port Canaveral.

After backlash, Elon Musk is staking his leadership on a Twitter poll” via Faiz Siddiqui, Cat Zakrzewski and Marisa Iati of The Washington Post — Musk apologized and launched a poll asking whether he should step down as head of Twitter on Sunday night after the company launched a new policy that would suspend accounts linking to certain other platforms, a move that ignited massive backlash from individuals including some of Musk’s own supporters. Musk’s sudden reversal came after Twitter earlier in the day said it would start suspending accounts linking to “prohibited platforms” such as Facebook and Instagram if those accounts are “used for the main purpose of promoting content on another social platform.”

Streaming’s golden age is suddenly dimming” via John Koblin of The New York Times — American television viewers have become accustomed to it: Dozens of premieres every month, hundreds of shows every year, a guarantee from Hollywood that there’s always going to be something new to watch. The so-called Peak TV era has included unexpected gems, huge hits, meat-and-potatoes fare and the utterly bewildering. But a new reality has become increasingly clear over the past few months in Hollywood: Peak TV has peaked. The never-ending supply of new programming that helped define the streaming era, spawning shows at a breakneck pace but also overwhelming viewers with too many choices, appears to finally be slowing.

The world turns pink and sparkly in first ‘Barbie’ teaser trailer” via Toyin Owoseje of CNN — Released by Warner Bros. on Friday, the 75-second promo gives fans a glorious introduction to Margot Robbie as the iconic doll who changed the landscape for children’s toys. The teaser for the live-action, Greta Gerwig-directed movie opens with an earth-toned parody of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Young girls play peacefully in a desert with their baby dolls. A narrator intones: “Since the beginning of time, since the first little girl ever existed, there have been dolls. But the dolls were always and forever baby dolls. Until …” A colossal Barbie appears in the landscape, wearing the striped swimsuit first seen when Mattel launched the toy in 1959, and the girls turn on their outdated dolls. The promo then transitions into quick snippets of Barbie’s fluorescent pink dream world before closing with a choreographed dance number.

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

Did the box office opening for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ live up to expectations?” via Josh Rottenberg of The Los Angeles Times — It’s a Hollywood axiom right up there with “Nobody knows anything”: Never underestimate James Cameron. Thirteen years after Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi juggernaut “Avatar” smashed global box office records, many wondered whether the filmmaker could repeat history with the sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water.” Would Cameron once again overcome the chorus of naysayers, as he did 25 years ago with another waterborne blockbuster, “Titanic?” Or this time would he end up all wet? In its opening this weekend, “Avatar: The Way of Water” easily dominated the box office, taking in $134 million at North American theaters and an added $301 million internationally.


It’s beginning to look a lot like Hanukkah” via Emma Goldberg of The New York Times — A select group of holiday shoppers on TikTok have some questions for big-box retailers this winter, most notably: Do you know what “oy” means, and are you sure you want to wish it on the world? “I’m convinced that whoever is in the design department at Bed Bath & Beyond has both never met a Jew and doesn’t like Google that much,” said Emma Herman. As she talked to her followers, she shuffled through a series of holiday pillow designs on Bed Bath & Beyond’s website: a Christmas tree truck piled high with dreidels, a blue wreath adorned with snowflakes and Stars of David, a “fa la llamakkah,” a “don we now our Hanukkah sweaters” knit, a reindeer with menorah-like antlers.

The Festival of Lights has begun.

Frigid air poised to invade U.S. during Christmas week with possible snowstorm” via Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow of The Washington Post — Weather models are in strong agreement that blasts of frigid air will plunge into the northern Plains, Midwest and Eastern United States in the days leading up to Christmas. Some of this air, 30 or more degrees below average, might be the coldest in late December in at least two decades. At the same time, there are increasing odds of significant winter storminess in the eastern half of the nation between Wednesday and Christmas Eve. While far from a lock, Mother Nature may deliver a white Christmas for a swath of the Midwest and eastern United States.

Weather forecaster predicts falling iguanas advisory for Christmas in South Florida” via Zac Howard of The Florida Standard — Residents in South Florida may want to keep an eye out for more than just Santa Claus this Christmas Eve. With cold fronts forecast for next week, one meteorologist is predicting that iguanas could start falling out of trees next weekend. On Thursday, Matt Devitt, Chief Meteorologist at WINK News, predicted a “Falling Iguana Advisory” for Christmas considering a major arctic cold outbreak. Temperatures in Miami could dip into the 40s on Friday. “Falling Iguana Advisory for Christmas in South Florida, calling it now. Coldest air of the season so far just in time for the holidays,” Devitt tweeted. The tweet included a weather map of the U.S. showing cold temperatures forecast in many parts of the country


Best wishes to Sean Jacobus, Brianna Jordan, and Danielle Alvarez Ryder. Happy belated birthday to Rep. Bill Posey, Rep.-elect Jared Moskowitz, former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, Will Lester of The Associated Press, Stephanie Smith of Tampa Electric, and former House Speaker and former Florida State University President John Thrasher.


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.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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