Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.3.23

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Coffee is for closers. So is Sunburn, your morning rundown of Florida politics.

Good Tuesday morning.

You might have noticed this holiday season that the usually productive team here at Florida Politics has been uncharacteristically quiet. It’s by design.

We cherish the holidays as an important time of year to reflect on the past, look ahead to the future, and enjoy the bonds of friends and family. We didn’t want to encumber that spirit by arguing over drag shows in Broward.

Still, even though our Florida Politics family was able to enjoy a peaceful, somewhat detached from the news cycle during Christmas and New Year, we had some great end-of-year coverage to keep things rolling and provide a forward-looking perspective as we enter 2023.

We named First Lady Casey DeSantis our Politician of the Year.

Florida’s top politician for 2022: Casey DeSantis.

Ace health care reporter Christine Sexton chronicled the top 10 most important Florida health care stories of 2022.

We also had rundowns of top headline-grabbing news in regions across the state, from Northeast Florida to Miami.

We’re also providing coverage of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ second inaugural, despite clear indication from his office that any coverage that isn’t fawning is unwelcome.

Of note, we’re particularly excited to see two men we admire — Bill Rubin and Jeff Hartley — join Brian Ballard and Nick Iarossi on the inaugural host committee.

And now that 2023 is here, there is so much to look forward to. As always, we’ll be bringing wall-to-wall coverage of the upcoming Legislative Committee Weeks, and all things Legislative Session.

In a very exciting new year development, I’ll also be heading to Las Vegas shortly after celebrating my 47th birthday to cover the CES, the largest tech industry forum of the year. After all, as Jeff Brandes will remind us, what debuts there often needs regulation in Florida in the few years to follow.

Look forward also to news beyond the Sunshine State, with coverage on DC happenings as a new Congress, and its new makeup, gets underway, and local coverage of off-year elections happening in various communities where our reporters are boots on the ground to provide insight, information and updates on those races.

We hope you haven’t missed us too much these past couple of weeks, but we are rested, reinvigorated by a season of blessings, and ready to make 2023 another year full of Florida Politics.


INFLUENCE Magazine’s recognition of the rising stars in the state’s governmental affairs sector will be unveiled in the upcoming issue. We are now taking nominations for those who belong on this prestigious list. We seek bright shiny faces from the lobbying, fundraising, and public affairs arena (campaign staffers are not eligible). This will be a tight list of about 15-20 individuals, so make your nominations count. Email them to .


Joe Buscaino, former President Pro Tempore of the Los Angeles City Council, has joined the lobbying firm Ballard Partners.

Buscaino comes on as Managing Partner of the firm’s Los Angeles office, which opened in October as part of an expansion into the California market.

“Joe has had a distinguished career on the Los Angeles City Council for more than a decade and we are honored to have him lead our Los Angeles office,” said Ballard, the firm’s President and founder. “His expertise on issues across Los Angeles, his relationships throughout the Southern California region and his role as national municipal leader will be invaluable to our firm’s clients.”

Joe Buscaino makes the jump to Team Ballard’s Los Angeles office.

Buscaino has represented the Council’s 15th District since 2012. He served as the Chair of the City’s Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee. In that role, he was responsible for oversight of the Port of Los Angeles, the busiest container port in the U.S., as well as LAX, the second busiest airport in the U.S., and the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.

In 2019, Buscaino was elected as President of the National League of Cities which represents more than 2,000 cities, towns and villages across the country.

“With my public service now concluded, I couldn’t be happier to join Ballard Partners and lead its Los Angeles office,” he said. “The firm’s professionals are exceptional and its reach from Tel Aviv to Washington to Miami and places between is unparalleled.


Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@Kathleen4SWFL: When I moved to Naples almost 43 years ago, the community was talking about the lack of housing for our workers. It was a problem then, and remains a persistent problem today in many areas of our state. As our state continues to grow, we need to make sure Floridians can live close to good jobs, schools, hospitals and other critical centers of our communities that fit comfortably in their household budgets, no matter the stage of life or income. There is no single solution to this problem. We can, & we will, take a multifaceted approach, looking at state & local regulations, existing housing programs, taxes, business incentives, & yes – funding – to comprehensively address these challenges

Tweet, tweet:

@VarianTimes: I feel like somewhere in Florida, one of those frozen iguanas woke up and didn’t see its shadow, and so we’ve gotten blasted straight back to Summer.

@ElonMusk: New Twitter navigation coming in Jan that allows swiping to side to switch between recommended & followed tweets, trends, topics, etc. Until then, tap stars icon on upper right of home screen to switch.


‘Star Wars: The Bad Batch’ premieres on Disney+ — 1; final Broadway performance of ‘The Music Man’ with Hugh Jackman — 12; Mayor of Kingstown’ premieres on Paramount+ — 12; Ashley Children’s Gasparilla Parade — 18; last day to ride Splash Mountain before remodeling — 19; The James Madison Institute’s Annual Dinner — 22; 2023 FAC Access 67 Broadband Summit — Florida Association of Counties begins — 23; State Senators have a 5 p.m. deadline for submitting requests for drafts of general bills and joint resolutions, including requests for companion bills — 23; Seminole Hard Rock Gasparilla Pirate Fest — 25; Bruce Springsteen launches 2023 tour in Tampa — 29; ‘Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ premieres — 45; ‘Snowfall’ final season premieres on FX — 50; city of Tampa Municipal Election early voting begins — 55; DeSantis’ ‘The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival’ released — 56; ‘The Mandalorian’ returns — 57; ‘Creed III’ premieres — 59; The Oscars — 60; Tampa Municipal Election — 63; 2023 Legislative Session convenes — 63; World Baseball Classic finals begin in Miami — 75; ‘John Wick: Chapter 4′ premieres — 80; Taylor Swift ‘Eras’ Tour in Tampa — 100; final performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ on Broadway — 103; American Association of Political Consultants Pollies ’23 conference begins — 105; 2023 Session Sine Die — 122; ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ premieres — 122; ‘Fast X’ premieres — 136; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ premieres — 150; ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ premieres — 178; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 192; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 199; ‘Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 206; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 304; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 451; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 507; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 570; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 570; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 612; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 675; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 753; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 850. ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,039.


In second-term inauguration, Ron DeSantis doubles down on ‘Free State of Florida’ theme” via Kimberly Leonard and Warren Rojas of Business Insider — The Governor will take the oath of office on the steps of the Historic Capitol on Tuesday at noon, and several other events will be scattered in Florida’s capital over two days.

Eagle-eyed viewers will be closely watching for signs of DeSantis’ national ambitions.

Ron DeSantis’ second inauguration to lean heavily on the ‘free state of Florida’ theme.

“When he gives his speech, I think that speech — although it will be for Florida — may be telling his projections for 2024,” Jennifer Carroll, who was Lieutenant Governor under former GOP Gov. Rick Scott, told Insider. “For the inauguration, that would be the thing to look for: What is he going to say in the speech? What is going to be the delivery and the tone?”

After the noon swearing-in, First Lady Casey DeSantis will hold “A Toast to One Million Mamas,” in recognition of the 1.1 million women she mobilized in support of her husband.

The final event of the two-day bash is the inaugural ball, which typically takes place at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. The DeSantises want guests to stay late and dance at the ball, getting a band to perform, said a person briefed on the planning.

Five people who donated $1 million will get the “inaugural Chair” designation and access to multiple inaugural events, according to a breakdown of sponsorship packages obtained by POLITICO.

The overarching theme is “The Free State of Florida.”

DeSantis embarks on a second term next week with bigger political ambitions” via John Kennedy of the USA Today Network — DeSantis emerged as a different leader than the newly minted Republican Governor who four years ago became the state’s chief executive. “He’s morphed. But in many ways, if you’re one of his political advisers, you’ve got to say, ‘all’s good,’” said Brian Ballard, a co-Chair of the inaugural events, which are heavily weighted toward fundraising for the Florida Republican Party. Anders Croy, a spokesperson for DeSantis Watch, a website critical of the Governor, called him, “the great divider.” “The promises he made four years ago when he took office sound hollow today. We’ve seen that what he only cares about are his own ambitions, and policies that will make him more palatable to voters in Republican Primary states.”

—”Ahead of DeSantis’ second inauguration, many wondering about 2024” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Joe Biden faces questions over whether he can beat DeSantis” via Alex Gangitano of The Hill


DeSantis’ culture wars grabbed headlines — and legal challenges that cost $17 million” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — DeSantis’ political strategy has won national attention for his ability to shrewdly select culture war issues and use a compliant Florida Legislature to advance them. But while the agenda has drawn more than 15 lawsuits, it has so far yielded few legal victories, and cost Florida taxpayers nearly $17 million in legal fees to date. In case after case, courts have scaled back, thrown out, or left in legal limbo rules and laws that impose restrictions on social media giants, limit voting, curb gender-related health care, influence speech in the workplace, college campuses and classrooms and create new crimes for peaceful protests.

—“State regulator issues warning to Florida venues hosting “all ages” drag show” via Zac Howard of The Florida Standard

Hispanic evangelical leaders ask: Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis?” via Jennifer Medina of The New York Times — Gov. DeSantis hasn’t announced he’s running for President yet. But among the right-leaning voting blocs that are pulling for him to enter the 2024 primary field are some of his biggest fans: Hispanic evangelical Christians. It’s not that they’re opposed to the one Republican who has already declared himself a candidate, former President Trump. But a showdown between the two titans of the right wing could turn Latino evangelicals into a decisive swing vote in Florida.

DeSantis aide — using alias ‘Clarice Starling’ — helped ex-client bid on migrant flights” via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — A top aide to DeSantis used a private email address with the alias “Clarice Starling,” a reference to the Hannibal Lecter serial killer novels, to help his former client win a state contract to operate Florida’s controversial migrant flight program. The records suggest that Larry Keefe, DeSantis’ public safety czar, wrote some of the language that the private contractor, Vertol Systems Company, used in its bid proposal to fly migrants from Texas to Democratic states. Keefe, a former U.S. attorney under the Donald Trump administration, represented Vertol for many years in private practice. DeSantis appointed him last year as a top adviser with a portfolio that included combating illegal immigration.

Larry Keefe has an interesting taste in pseudonyms.

DeSantis hails Cord Byrd return as Secretary of State” via Florida Politics — DeSantis announced last week that he will retain Byrd as Secretary of State as he begins his second term. Byrd, who had previously served for more than two terms as a state lawmaker representing Duval and Nassau Counties, was appointed ahead of the 2022 election, which was a blowout win for Republicans in Florida against overmatched Democratic opposition. “Secretary Byrd has done an excellent job ensuring Florida has fair and secure elections. It is my pleasure to have him return as Secretary of State for another term,” DeSantis tweeted.

DeSantis is reshaping Florida’s medical boards” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — DeSantis continues to reshape important medical boards that are a key component of his push to limit gender-affirming care, especially for minors. His latest appointments are drawing fire from critics who contend the new appointees are being put in place to keep pushing ahead with a “transphobic” agenda. DeSantis this week appointed two doctors to the Board of Medicine, both of whom have weighed in on the debate over the types of treatment offered to minors. DeSantis appointed Gregory Coffman, a pediatrician at Orlando Health Physician Associates, and Matthew Benson, a pediatric endocrinologist at Nemours Children’s Health to the Board of Medicine.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pushes for DeSantis to stay four years as Governor” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Following a pardon from Trump, Flynn has emerged as a conservative culture warrior, getting involved in local politics in Sarasota County and speaking to audiences around the country. Flynn moved to Englewood in south Sarasota County in 2021 and has since become active in the Sarasota Republican Party. He now serves on the Sarasota Republican Executive Committee, but his preferred candidate in the race for Sarasota Republican Party Chair fell short earlier this month. “I live in the southern part of Sarasota,” he said. “In Sarasota County, it’s like the North v. the South down there. There’s an extraordinary amount of corruption that we have exposed, sadly,” Flynn said Tuesday night in a speech in Clearwater to the Tampa Bay Trump Club.

Gov. DeSantis appoints Melissa Stone, others to Florida Commission on the Status of Women” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Gov. DeSantis, just before the new year, appointed three women to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women. Included in the appointees is Melissa Stone, Cavalry Strategies CEO. Stone previously served as Chief of Staff for former Gov. Rick Scott. Stone has been an outspoken supporter of DeSantis, most recently offering punditry supporting Florida’s chief executive amid expectations that he will make a bid for the White House, taking on the powerful former President Trump. In a Herald-Tribune think piece speculating whether DeSantis is “peaking too soon,” Stone defended DeSantis’ track record, noting his 20-point re-election victory over former U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and taking an “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the Governor’s chances.


Florida’s November revenues soar $447M above estimates” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Florida’s red-hot revenue streak continued in November, as the state pulled in nearly $3.63 billion, or $447.2 million more than state economists predicted. That’s according to a monthly revenue report released by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research. Sales taxes made up the bulk of the average, as the $2.9 billion in sales taxes collected was $412.1 million over the estimates. The large haul is another sign Florida’s economy isn’t slowing despite persistent high inflation.

Florida is the fastest-growing state in the nation, Census estimates show” via Ian Hodgson of the Tampa Bay Times — It’s not your imagination: People really are flocking to Florida. The Sunshine State had the fastest-growing population in the country last year, the first time the state has taken the top spot since 1957. The nation’s third-largest state grew by 1.9% from July 2021 to July 2022, netting over 400,000 new residents to reach an estimated population of 22,244,823. That’s the second-largest numeric gain behind Texas, which has a larger overall population.

It’s true; people are flocking to Florida.

Fewer hate crimes were reported to the FBI in 2021. But that doesn’t mean there were less of them.” via Angie DiMichele of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual report on hate crimes released in December lacks information from nearly 40% of all the law enforcement agencies in the country, a fact that experts say makes the data too incomplete to interpret accurately and could have detrimental consequences. There were 7,262 hate crimes in the country in 2021, lower than the 8,263 in 2020. But in 2021, 11,834 law enforcement agencies, or 63% of all agencies, reported their hate crimes, a significant drop from when 15,138 agencies, or 81%, reported, the previous year.

Has Florida reached an endemic stage of COVID-19?” via Cindy Krischer Goodman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — While thousands of Floridians continue to be infected by coronavirus, state health officials already are treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease, with health experts clinging to hope that it has become more predictable, manageable and less deadly. Memorial Healthcare System had only one patient die from COVID-19 for the week ending Dec. 27, a drastic decline from January when nearly 43 people in the hospital system surrendered their lives to the disease in a single week. While confirmed cases are rising weekly, the state has closed all but a few of its testing sites in each county. Public health officials recognize there is no way to know how fast and furious COVID-19 is spreading in Florida with most of the testing now done at home, if at all.

Florida toll rebate program kicks off 2023” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Starting Sunday, drivers who frequently use Florida tolls will begin to tally credits for rebates on those payments as part of a program passed by the Legislature during a December Special Session. Under the program, drivers who hit 35 tolls in a month will get a 50% rebate the following month. Drivers must have a valid SunPass or other Florida toll transponder account in good standing to qualify, and the program covers most tolls in the state. Only drivers of vehicles with two axles are eligible, but no sign-up is required. “This program is expected to benefit approximately 1.2 million drivers and will save the average commuter nearly $400 in the 2023 calendar year,” Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Jared Perdue said in a released statement.

Bright Futures scholarships, college admissions and college entrance exams in Florida: What should we do after the Orlando Sentinel’s investigation?” via Paul Cottle of Bridge to Tomorrow — Do students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Florida have a fair shot at earning Bright Futures scholarships and being admitted as new high school graduates to the state’s public universities? Two articles published by reporters Leslie Postal and Annie Martin demonstrate students from low-income communities win Bright Futures scholarships and admission to universities like the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida at rates much lower than students in affluent communities.

Questions swirl around state tech program; did it lead to agency head ouster?” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A newly released report from Florida TaxWatch says there should be more “scrutiny” over the still-unfinished software system designed to help manage a Medicaid waiver program used to provide home and community-based services to people with disabilities. The report from the business-backed government watchdog group notes the contract with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) to put the iConnect system into place has been extended three times and that several key elements of the program have not been launched or jettisoned altogether. The Florida TaxWatch report was released days after APD Director Barbara Palmer announced her resignation, which she said was submitted at the request of her boss, DeSantis.

Florida education official Jacob Oliva named to top Arkansas post” via The Associated Press — Incoming Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders tapped Oliva, a senior chancellor at the Florida Department of Education, to serve as secretary of the Arkansas Department of Education. She said she’ll also seek to have the State Board of Education appoint Oliva as the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. Sanders touted Oliva’s “proven success increasing student achievement” and said in a statement that “we will expand access to quality education for every kid growing up in our state, empower parents, not government bureaucrats, and prepare students for the workforce, not government dependency.” The appointment suggests Sanders may emulate in Arkansas the education agenda of DeSantis. Sanders’ announcement cited Oliva’s work implementing “DeSantis’ parental rights policies and bold education reforms.”

Jacob Oliva gets a boost to lead Arkansas’ Education Department.

Richard Gentry resigns as Public Counsel” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Longtime lobbyist Gentry has resigned his state position as Public Counsel, in which he stood for Floridians in utility regulatory cases. Gentry’s resignation will take effect Jan. 6, nearly two years after the Legislature approved him for the position. He submitted his resignation letter last week to Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner. At the Office of Public Counsel, Gentry represented ratepayers in electric, water and natural gas cases before the Public Service Commission (PSC). “Serving Florida’s utility ratepayers by making their voices heard has been the honor of a lifetime, and I am deeply grateful that the Florida Legislature granted me this opportunity,” Gentry wrote.

How a Florida anti-abortion center claimed to be a medical clinic” via Laura C. Morel of the Tampa Bay Times — Patricia Henderson handed women three pages of paperwork to fill out: questions about everything from their highest level of education to the date of their last period. State investigative documents lay out what clients say happened next: She led them to a pink-walled ultrasound room, where she would reveal their pregnancies in grainy images that only a licensed physician or a specially trained advanced practice nurse should interpret. Henderson told one woman that abortion causes breast cancer, a claim widely disputed by medical research. In the most serious accusation against her, Henderson told yet another woman that “the baby was stuck” in her fallopian tube, a potentially catastrophic complication. Henderson allegedly advised the woman to “relax at the beach” and come back in a few days.


Legislature gears up for 2023 Session with interim meetings this week” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Legislature will hold two days of committee meetings this week, kicking off the run-up to the 2023 Legislative Session. After last month’s Special Session delayed the start of the usual interim meetings, and after New Year’s and DeSantis’ inauguration postponed the workweek, lawmakers will reconvene in Tallahassee on Wednesday for introductory meetings. Each legislative term, the first interim meetings are historically reserved for committee members to get a rundown of their panels’ tasks and goals for the new Session. Agencies also start outlining their proposals and initiatives for the new year.

—“Latest on the House legislative staffing merry-go-round” via Phil Ammann of Florida Politics

Joe Gruters, Spencer Roach renew push for partisan School Board races” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis enjoyed significant success with School Board endorsements statewide this year. Does that mean voters are hungry for more politics in education? Sponsors behind an attempt to make School Board races partisan again filed legislation and see a greater chance of the bill reaching the floor this Session. Sen. Gruters filed a bill Monday (SJR 94) that would put the matter to voters. Rep. Roach filed companion legislation (HJR 31) in the House earlier this month. Because voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1998 requiring School Board races be nonpartisan, it will take another voter-approved amendment to change the contests back to party affairs.

Joe Gruters looks to make School Board races partisan again.

Ileana Garcia refiles bill to add transparency to vacation rental regulation, upkeep” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — It’s been years since Florida lawmakers largely won the battle with local governments over regulation and oversight of vacation rental properties and the platforms that advertise them. But a proposal by Sen. Garcia would at least ensure those responsible for the properties’ upkeep are locally answerable. Florida law currently bars cities and counties from prohibiting vacation rentals or capping how long people can stay at them, among other things. Garcia’s bill, SB 92, is comparatively modest. It aims only to clarify that localities can pass and enforce ordinances requiring vacation rental operators to provide local governments with contact lists for people who handle complaints about the properties “and other immediate problems.”

Legislators look to expand hate crimes’ definition to those based on gender or gender identity” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Hate crimes are on the rise, members of the Broward County delegation learned Wednesday, but the law doesn’t recognize a category that’s becoming more common lately: Crimes based on gender or gender identity. And delegation members say they want that fixed. State Attorney Harold Pryor and Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott were among those who addressed the lawmakers Wednesday. The delegation is beginning to map out legislative priorities for the coming Session that starts March 7.

Republicans line up for House seat vacated by Joe Harding following indictment” via Fox 35 — The race to replace former state Rep. Joe Harding in a special election in Marion County’s House District 24 is getting crowded. Five Republicans, including former Rep. Charlie Stone have opened campaign accounts to run for the seat. Stone, who served in the House from 2012 to 2020. The latest candidate filing for the race was Lateresa Ann Jones, who opened an account Wednesday. Candidates filing paperwork earlier were Stephen Pyles, Ryan Chamberlin, and Jose Juarez. No Democratic candidates had opened accounts as of Friday morning.

Funeral services set for longtime lobbyist Ron RichmondRichmond, a former state House Republican leader, died Dec. 22, according to an online obituary. He was 81. Richmond served in the House from 1972 to 1984, including a term as minority leader. As a lobbyist, Richmond represented clients such as the Florida Hospital Association. He had registered last year to lobby for Capital Insurance Agency, Inc. The funeral service is Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Faith Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee.


Congress approves new election rules in Jan. 6 response” via Nicholas Riccardi of The Associated Press — Congress on Friday gave final passage to legislation changing the arcane law that governs the certification of a presidential contest, the strongest effort yet to avoid a repeat of Trump’s violence-inflaming push to reverse his loss in the 2020 election. The House passed an overhaul of the Electoral Count Act as part of its massive, end-of-the-year spending bill, after the Senate approved identical wording Thursday. The legislation now goes to Biden for his signature. Biden hailed the provisions’ inclusion in the spending bill in a statement Friday, calling it “critical bipartisan action that will help ensure that the will of the people is preserved.”

Rick Scott had a rocky year, but he’s still a favorite for re-election” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — U.S. Sen. Scott’s 2022 included a widely disparaged plan to tax every American, Republicans losing ground in the Senate under his leadership and a doomed bid to become Senate Minority Leader. But none of that may matter in 2024. Scott has never won an election by more than a percentage point or so. But a combination of incumbency, GOP strength and lots of money still make him the clear favorite for re-election in that year. “He clearly seemed to have presidential ambitions,” said Gregory Koger, a professor of Political Science at the University of Miami. “But I think that’s less likely than it was two years ago.”

Rick Scott may have a clear shot at re-election, but a presidential run is all but out of the question.

Max Frost to ‘couch surf’ as Washington housing woes continue” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Housing troubles continue for Florida’s youngest member of the incoming Congress. Frost, a Democrat representing Central Florida’s 10th Congressional District, told a national audience Sunday that he still hadn’t found a housing option that worked, a complaint he has made before but one that has renewed urgency as the new Congress looms. “It’s not cheap. I’m dealing with it right now, trying to get an apartment, trying to figure out where to live because I have bad credit. I’m probably just going to have to couch surf for a little bit,” Frost said. Frost’s personal housing crisis has been a matter of public knowledge for weeks, with the first Generation Z Congressman lamenting his inability to secure a place to live in the uber-competitive Washington rental market.

Jared Moskowitz, lone new member of Congress from South Florida, prepares for two years as Democrat in Republican-ruled House” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — About to fulfill his life’s dream, Moskowitz is excited and optimistic, yet clear-eyed, about what’s ahead. On Jan. 3, he’ll become one of 73 new members in the 435-person U.S. House of Representatives, and the only new member of Congress from South Florida. Almost two months after Election Day and the week before taking office representing Broward and Palm Beach counties, Moskowitz said it still is “humbling that people voted for me to go to D.C.” “It’s a big deal, and it’s an honor to go there, and we can do things. And, so, the gravity is not lost on me — even though in today’s day and age a lot of it has turned into a circus,” he said in an interview.

Vern Buchanan says Congress has better things to do than chase down Donald Trump’s tax returns” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Florida Congressman hoping to lead the House Ways and Means Committee is slamming sitting leaders for releasing Trump’s tax returns. U.S. Rep. Buchanan said Democrats chose the wrong battle in its yearslong effort for the former President’s private finances. “Weaponizing the IRS to go after your political opponents sets a dangerous new precedent in this country,” Buchanan said. The House Ways and Means Committee on Friday published six years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns. That followed years of fighting for the records in court after Trump in 2015 declined to publicly release his tax records while running for President, the first major party nominee to do so since before the Richard Nixon era.

—”Buchanan will learn this week if he’s the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

María Elvira Salazar bill battling substance abuse, homelessness passes as part of omnibus” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — More help is coming to communities struggling with substance abuse, thanks to legislation backed by U.S. Rep. Salazar and others. The measure (HR 7234) reauthorizes programs to combat the opioid epidemic and reduce homelessness through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA). Its title, the Summer Barrow Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Act, is named for a Virginia woman who overdosed on fentanyl in January 2020. Biden ratified the measure as part of the $1.7 trillion omnibus appropriations package that will fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2023.

‘We better watch out’: NASA boss sounds alarm on Chinese moon ambitions” via Bryan Bender of POLITICO — The race to the moon between the United States and China is getting tighter and the next two years could determine who gains the upper hand. So says NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who warns that Beijing could establish a foothold and try to dominate the most resource-rich locations on the lunar surface or even keep the U.S. out. “It is a fact: we’re in a space race,” the former Florida senator and astronaut said in an interview. “And it is true that we better watch out that they don’t get to a place on the moon under the guise of scientific research. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they say, ‘Keep out, we’re here, this is our territory.’”

Bill Nelson warns that in the space race, China is catching up to the U.S. Image via AP.

Citrus growers disappointed with new federal budget omnibus” via Wes Wolfe of Florida Politics — At times it seems like everybody got something in the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, passed in haste by Congress Dec. 23. One group that would like more federal assistance and isn’t seeing it is Florida’s citrus growers. “With this bill, Congress appropriated $40 billion dedicated to disaster relief and most of it will fail to reach those who need it most,” Florida Citrus Mutual CEO Matt Joyner said. “Unfortunately, the bill was written in a backroom by Congressional leadership and dropped in the dark of night three days before the deadline. “It leaves Florida citrus growers on the outside looking in when it comes to disaster relief in 2022. We will now work closely with our delegation and the administration to determine what existing authority the Secretary (of Agriculture) has to deliver for the Florida citrus growers.”

Al Lawson secured millions for North Florida in his final weeks in Congress. What’s next?” via James Call of The Tallahassee Democrat — There will be only one congressman representing Tallahassee and Leon County when the 118th United States Congress is sworn into office Jan. 3. Lawson capped a six-year run in Washington by securing more than $25 million for North Florida projects in the federal government’s 2023 omnibus spending bill, including $13 million for Leon and Gadsden counties projects and another $3 million for a network of food banks in 16 Big Bend counties. The 74-year-old lawmaker was defeated in November after lawmakers erased his minority-access seat in the redistricting process. He had challenged incumbent Rep. Neal Dunn in a redesigned Congressional District 2.

Maxwell Alejandro Frost seeks to bring equity focus on renters rights, gun violence” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Frost will arrive in Congress as the youngest member of the body. He also hopes to bring with him the concerns of working Americans nationwide. Elected to Congress after winning a crowded Democratic Primary and later a General Election in a deep blue seat, the first Generation Z Congressman-elect has generated national buzz. He hopes to marshal that into policy change. Enormous attention, for example, surfaced following his revelation he couldn’t pass a credit check for a Washington apartment despite landing a job with a $174,000 salary.


2023 presents complications for Donald Trump comeback” via The Associated Press — Trump began 2022 on a high. Now he is mired in criminal investigations that could end with indictments. He has been blamed for Republicans’ disappointing performance in the November elections. And while he is now a declared presidential candidate, the six weeks since he announced have been marked by self-inflicted crises. Trump has not held a single campaign event and he barely leaves the confines of his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Instead of staving off challengers, his potential 2024 rivals appear ever more emboldened. DeSantis, fresh off a resounding re-election victory, increasingly is seen as Trump’s most formidable competition.

Donald Trump’s 2022 is making things difficult for 2024. Image via AP.

—“Trump turns on his own supporters over abortion” via Ewan Palmer of Newsweek

Pam Bondi steered White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson to Trump allies, record shows” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Former Attorney General Bondi connected White House aide Hutchinson with Trump allies and suggested there was a “great” job waiting for her after Hutchinson was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 Committee. Bondi was just one of the Floridians featured in the committee’s transcripts and final report released late Thursday, along with U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz. Hutchinson testified that she was urged to reach out to Trump allies for legal representation following her subpoena from the committee. Her former White House colleague Liz Horning suggested she contact Bondi, who in turn told her to work with Susie Wiles, the Florida political operative who leads Trump’s Save America PAC.

Trump’s New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago: Who was there (and who wasn’t)?” via Antonio Fins of The Palm Beach Post — Trump rang in the New Year on Saturday night with hundreds of Mar-a-Lago members and a few political cronies. In past years, Hollywood celebrities have attended Trump’s annual A-list New Year’s Eve party at the Palm Beach club. But this year, the most notable, high-profile figures attending the opulent black tie-and-long gown gala were from Trump’s political orbit, including pollster Dick Morris, legal adviser Rudy Giuliani and pillow maker Mike Lindell. All walked the red carpet but did not comment about Trump or their expectations for 2023. Trump’s second-oldest son, Eric, and his wife, Lara, attended as well. However, it did not appear two other adult children who figured prominently in Trump’s political endeavors, Donald Trump, Jr. and daughter Ivanka Trump, were at the event.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Miami’s erasing its Black history one bungalow at a time. Who will stop it?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Miami needs to take a hard look at Grand Avenue in western Coconut Grove and then a hard look in the mirror. An important piece of Miami’s Black history is being erased before our eyes. And there’s no real drive to stop it. Grand Avenue was once the vital economic engine of this historically Black neighborhood. It’s now mostly shuttered stores and empty lots, gutted by a combination of broken redevelopment promises and decadeslong neglect. We’ve written about those failures time and again. But as Grand Avenue declines, there’s a more insidious loss happening, too: the slow but effective blotting out of the physical traces of the largely Bahamian community that settled the West Grove before Miami was a city and helped carve it from coral bedrock as far back as the 1880s.

Arrival of Cuban migrants forces temporary closure of Dry Tortugas National Park” via David Godhue and Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald — U.S. authorities are investigating an unusual flurry of Cuban landings in the Florida Keys that by New Year’s Day had nearly topped 500 as the National Park Service announced the temporarily closure of Dry Tortugas National Park to the public to provide care for some of the arrivals. Adam Hoffner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s division chief for Miami operations, told the Miami Herald that they are “still investigating” the multiple landings involving Cubans, which the National Park Service on New Year’s Day said included approximately 300 Cubans who had arrived in the Dry Tortugas National Park over the past couple of Days.

Cuban migrants continue pouring into the Keys. Image via U.S. Border Control.

—“Cruise lines ordered to pay over $400 million for ‘trafficking’ in confiscated property in Cuba” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald

‘Legend’ Harvey Ruvin, Miami-Dade’s longest-serving elected official, dies at 85” via Devoun Cetoute and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — Clerk of Courts Ruvin, has died at 85, shocking those in the legal and political communities. “Tonight, we are heartbroken to learn of Harvey Ruvin’s death — a public servant who embodied the best of government, and someone I was proud to call a friend,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava tweeted Saturday night. Ruvin served seven consecutive four-year terms as the county’s clerk in charge of Miami-Dade’s court system. However, his start in politics dates back to the 1960s.

Two South Florida politicians call it quits after state law ruling” via Hatzel Vela and Michelle Solomon of Local 10 News — Miami-Dade County Public School Board Vice Chair Lubby Navarro will leave her post and so will Miami Shores Council member Crystal Wagar. Both resignations come a day after a federal judge made a ruling on a new state law that bans politicians from being lobbyists. Navarro was selected as Vice Chair this past November and has been a member of the school board since 2015. Navarro is a registered lobbyist for the South Broward Hospital District. Wagar was the former Mayor of Miami Shores. Miami Shores city manager confirmed Wagar’s resignation. They resigned a day before the new law went into effect.

DeSantis plots to ‘flip’ Broward School Board” via Steve Bousquet of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — DeSantis loves to rattle Broward’s political cages. He’s good at it, too. Fresh off his blowout re-election victory, he needs a new fight against an evil enemy, one he can use to fire up his base. The obvious target is the Broward County School Board. Even better: Throw in a backup boogeyman, the Broward Teachers Union. “The School Board races in 2024, I think, gives us an opportunity to flip some more of these boards,” DeSantis told supporters at a statewide conference in Orlando that sounded like a partisan rally.

Broward County tell Sheriff Gregory Tony he is out as 911 communications operator” via Gerard Albert III of WLRN — The Broward Sheriff’s Office’s agreement with the county to run the area’s 911 communication system expired this morning. The county say they will now make plans to transition from BSO to a different organization that will receive emergency calls and dispatch officers. It came just a week after it was revealed that Broward Sheriff Tony rejected an extension to continue the partnership into 2023.

Gregory Tony gets booted from Broward’s 911 operations.

Rampant cronyism, nepotism plague Broward County water utility” via Bob Norman of the Florida Center for Government Accountability — As an elected official, Vincent Moretti’s job is to oversee the North Springs Improvement District, a public utility that services large portions of Coral Springs and Parkland.  A big part of the 58-year-old NSID board president’s responsibility is providing a check on its mercurial manager, Rod Colon, who has a well-documented penchant for finding inventive ways to personally profit from his own public employer.  But often it seems Colon is the one overseeing Moretti at the district, which has a budget of roughly $17 million and provides water and sewer to 40,000 county residents.

Former Riviera Beach Housing Authority Chair pleads guilty to extortion” via Hannah Phillips of The Palm Beach Post — A former Chair of the Riviera Beach Housing Authority has pleaded guilty to extortion after using his position to pocket more than $9,000 of the agency’s money. Prosecutors say Delvin Thomas pressured a real estate broker to pay him a $9,400 commission on land the agency purchased for low-income housing. He entered his plea Dec. 16 and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. He is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on March 3. Thomas introduced the real estate broker to authority officials looking to buy land for low-income rental housing in April 2019.

Embezzled by casino employees, laundered by spouses: Miccosukee Tribe sues to recover stolen $5.3 million” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The true-crime saga began, according to a newly filed federal lawsuit, in May 2015 with an anonymous tip to the Miccosukee Tribe. Following convictions of four employees, three wives and a girlfriend, the story still isn’t over. Now the tribe is suing its insurance company to recover $5.3 million swindled in an elaborate scheme that went undetected for more than four years at the Miccosukee Casino & Resort in western Miami-Dade County. The tribe did not know its full extent seven years ago when the tipster told them that technicians employed to service the casino’s video gaming machines were manipulating them to create “ghost credits” that the employees were exchanging for cash.

Pickleball not welcome in Fort Lauderdale’s Snyder Park, critics say” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The distinctive high-pitched pop-pop sound of pickleballs will soon take over a section of Snyder Park — or will it? Grand plans to pave the way for a privately-owned pickleball complex at Fort Lauderdale’s Snyder Park have sparked a turf war, with neighbors joining forces with community activists in a grassroots effort to block a deal to lease an 8-acre section of the park to a private entity for at least 50 years. Critics are worried about noise from bouncing pickleballs and extra traffic. Hours of play will extend from 6 a.m. to midnight.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva becomes Brazil’s President, with Bolsonaro in Florida” via Jack Nicas and André Spigariol of The New York Times — President Lula took the reins of the Brazilian government on Sunday in an elaborate inauguration, complete with a motorcade, music festival and hundreds of thousands of supporters filling the central esplanade of Brasília, the nation’s capital. But one key person was missing: the departing far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro was supposed to pass Lula the presidential sash on Sunday, an important symbol of the peaceful transition of power in a nation where many people still recall the 21-year military dictatorship that ended in 1985.

Overreach? Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey tries to influence public policy beyond policing” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — The banner on the Nov. 28 Facebook video blared: “Breaking news! It’s time to put discipline back in our schools!!” It was, Ivey declared, a “brand new day” for student discipline in the public school system. “If you’re a little snot who is coming into our classes to be disruptive, you might want to find another place to go to school, because we’re going to be your worst nightmare starting right now,” Ivey said. It is not the first time that Sheriff Ivey has sought to exert his influence beyond his role as the county’s chief law enforcement officer. Over the last several years, Ivey has inserted himself into various non-policing debates.

Wayne Ivey says Brevard is ready to take on school disruptions in 2023.

‘Traffic jam in the skies’ impacting flights into Florida” via WESH 2 — Shortly after 1 p.m. on Monday, social media began swarming with reports of flights heading into Florida being halted or canceled. The FAA told WESH 2: “The FAA has slowed the volume of traffic into Florida airspace due to an air traffic computer issue that is being resolved … The ERAM system is a modern computer system at the air traffic centers that handle en route traffic.” Orlando International Airport released the following statement on Twitter: “Due to an FAA control plan in place to help manage air traffic flow in Florida, including MCO, some flights may be affected. While we do not have major impacts at this time, we encourage passengers to reach out to their airlines with any questions.”

New rockets, more spacecraft to take flight in 2023 from Space Coast” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Launchpads at both Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station have been hitting a pace of more than one launch a week, finishing up 2022 with 57 rockets that made it to space. That pace could be in line to nearly double as more launch service providers set up shop in Brevard County, said Frank DiBello, President and CEO of Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency. “How many can we sustain? We’re building and investing, not just us alone, but the Space Force and NASA,” he said. A big chunk of that will come from SpaceX, which continues to roll out its Falcon 9 rockets like dominoes, but 2023 should also treat the Space Coast to several appearances of the powerhouse Falcon Heavy.


DeSantis elevates Florida judge who lost re-election after blocking teen’s abortion” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — Jared Smith, the Hillsborough circuit judge whom voters ousted in August after his controversial ruling in an abortion case, won’t have to hang up his judicial robe after all. DeSantis appointed Smith to fill one of the three vacancies Tuesday on the newly created 6th District Court of Appeal, which will be based in Lakeland. Smith’s appointment will take effect Jan. 1. Smith lost the August election for his judicial seat to Tampa attorney Nancy Jacobs. The unusually contentious race saw abortion loom as a key issue.

After losing re-election, Jared Smith gets another shot at the judiciary.

Downtown Tampa, anchored by its office market, loses a big tenant to Midtown Tampa with TECO move” via Ashley Gurbal Kritzer of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — When Tampa Electric Co. and Peoples Gas move to Midtown Tampa in 2025, the central business district will lose a major office tenant that’s been a downtown mainstay for more than 40 years. More than 900 employees will relocate from downtown Tampa to Midtown, where the utilities will own 11 stories in Midtown East, an office to be developed by New York-based Bromley Cos. and Highwoods Properties. While multifamily developers have flocked to downtown Tampa in recent years, the office market remains the anchor of the urban core. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic shifted office-based employees to remote and hybrid work models, office workers are the most reliable stream of foot traffic for downtown restaurants and retailers.

Ken Welch taps USF St. Pete alum to run government affairs” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Welch has named David Thompson the city’s new Director of Government Affairs. Thompson previously worked as the senior legislative assistant for Ohio Congresswoman Shontel Brown and formerly served as a legislative staffer for former U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist where he managed several initiatives, including education, housing, health care and nutrition policy. Thompson also has experience directing issues related to racial justice and equity. Thompson is a University of South Florida St. Petersburg alumni. There, he served as Student Body President and was the external Vice Chair of the Florida Student Association and on the Campus Board.

Annual ‘State of the Bay’ to be delivered today to Suncoast Tiger Bay” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, St. Petersburg Mayor Welch and Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard will take the mic at Suncoast Tiger Bay’s annual “State of the Bay” event, a historically well-attended luncheon that evaluates how the region’s three largest cities are faring into a new year. The event comes as Suncoast Tiger Bay celebrates its 45th year serving as a civic-minded nonpartisan organization that features monthly luncheons with politically savvy guests and panels tackling salient topics in the region.

Women rule: Citrus County voters change face of county government in 2022” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Citrus County’s political year was anything but ordinary and neither were the results. Voters elected Rebecca Bays and Diana Finegan to the County Commission, where they joined Holly Davis and Ruthie Davis Schlabach to form an unusual majority: four women on the five-member board. House District 23 voters also returned Rep. Ralph Massullo for a final term, a move Massullo himself didn’t envision a year earlier. And an 18-year School Board veteran lost her seat to a longtime school resource deputy. Finegan and Bays took much different paths to their campaigns.

Pasco school district candidates get early start on 2024 Election” via Jeffrey S. Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The conservative wave that swept many school boards across Florida did not make much of a dent in Republican-leaning Pasco County this November. Activists want to do better in 2024. So, they’re getting started early. Less than a month after the general election concluded, two parents who strongly support DeSantis’ education agenda announced their candidacies for posts in the Pasco school district. Firefighter Shawn Hayston, who has two sons in the district, filed paperwork indicating his intention to run for school board District 4, a nonpartisan post currently held by Alison Crumbley.


United to pay on claim after policyholders cried no response on damage” via William Rabb of Insurance Journal — The Legislature’s insurance rescue bill, approved last week, won’t take effect soon enough to help policyholders and insurance agents who’ve had no response from beleaguered United Property & Casualty Co. on Hurricane Ian claims. The lack of information has meant that some Florida homeowners, with damaged roofs, blown-out windows, or rain-soaked belongings, also can’t receive aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which requires proof of insurance claims denials. “There’s been no denial, no communication, just nothing from United,” said Sylvia Van Dyke, a resident who estimates her home received more than $60,000 in damage when Ian hit the area Sept. 28.

Sanibel welcomes visitors with open arms for first time since Ian destruction” via Tomas Rodriguez of the Fort Myers News-Press — Local businesses, first responders and community members greeted visitors driving to Sanibel Island with open arms for the first time since Hurricane Ian made landfall on the barrier island. Sanibel, a popular tourist and snowbird destination, has only been accessible to residents — with an entry pass — and recovery teams since Sept. 28 when Ian, a powerful Category 4 storm, slammed Southwest Florida.

Shrimp and grit: Fighting to save the Fort Myers Beach shrimping fleet after Ian’s devastation” via Janine Zeitlin of the Fort Myers News-Press — Boats were scattered along the San Carlos Island waterfront in clusters. Six boats were flung into bushes, sea grape trees and dead mangroves not far from Trico Shrimp Company, the other major shrimp player on the waterfront. Ten floated maybe a quarter mile west, up into an RV park and a boatyard. Most of these boats were old before Ian arrived. They had been built to last one decade but stretched for five, held together with the glue of ingenuity, by owners and mechanics unwilling to concede to those calling it a dying industry. Right after Ian, just one boat was fit for the sea. With no fleet, there would probably be no more real industry here.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Duval County showed Florida’s shift to the right” via Shaquille Brewster and Kailani Koenig of NBC News — Democratic overperformance in the 2022 midterm elections did not extend to the state of Florida, where Republicans won big. And Duval County can help explain what happened throughout the Sunshine State. Duval, which encompasses much of Greater Jacksonville, had long been a red-leaning county. But its emerging suburban demographics has made it more competitive in recent elections. Trump won it by just 1 percentage point in 2016, while Biden won by 4 points in 2020. But this year DeSantis sailed to re-election in a landslide. Duval County Republican Chair Dean Black celebrated their recent voter registration advantage, writing in a Facebook post, “Over the past two years we have cut the Democrats voter registration advantage in Duval County by more than 10,000, and we’re just getting started!”

Dean Black is proof positive that Florida has shifted further to the right. Image via Dean Black.

Duval Schools to keep 73 ‘diverse, inclusive’ books out of classrooms” via Claire Heddles of Jax Today — Dozens of books the Duval County School District ordered in the Summer of 2021 will never hit classroom shelves. That’s the result of an ongoing review after the district pulled almost 200 books this spring while the Florida Legislature passed limits on what teachers can say about race, gender and sexual orientation in classrooms and set new rules for purchasing classroom materials. After a 10-month process, delayed by staffing shortages, according to the district, 47 titles are being returned to the distributor. Twenty-six others will remain in storage, awaiting further state guidance.

Jacksonville asks court to waive residency requirement for City Council candidates” via Andrew Pantazi of The Tributary — All 19 Council seats are up for election in March, including 14 districts and five at-large seats. U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard struck down two of the Council’s previous attempts at drawing districts, finding the Council segregated voters by race and didn’t correct decades of racial gerrymandering. While Jacksonville’s charter requires all candidates to live for at least 183 days in the district they’re running in, the city wants Howard to waive the law and allow candidates to run for any district. Even though Howard’s earlier orders affected seven of the city’s 14 districts, it appears the city’s request would apply to all 14 districts and the five residency zones that govern who can run for each of the at-large Council seats.

NCRF endorses LeAnna Cumber for Jax Mayor — The National Committee for Religious Freedom is endorsing Cumber in the race for Jacksonville Mayor. “LeAnna Cumber has consistently condemned acts of prejudice and intolerance in Jacksonville, at a time when they are becoming far too frequent. She was one of the first elected officials in Jacksonville to publicly condemn acts of antisemitism during the weekend of the Florida-Georgia football game. As Mayor, she’ll continue fighting for the right to practice one’s faith without fear of violence or intimidation. We are proud to endorse her candidacy,” said former Amb. Sam Brownback, who chairs the committee. Cumber, a Republican in her first term on City Council, is one of several candidates vying to replace term-limited Mayor Lenny Curry next year. Her GOP competition includes Jax Chamber CEO Daniel Davis and second-term City Council member Al Ferraro.

DeSantis appoints former congressional staffer Roy Alaimo to finish term of late St. Johns County Commissioner” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis has appointed Alaimo to the St. Johns County Commission, where he will serve until the 2024 Election. DeSantis’ office announced the appointment Wednesday. Alaimo will finish the term of District 3 Commissioner Paul Waldron, who died Oct. 18. Henry Dean, who represents District 5 on the County Commission and announced Waldron’s death that morning, told Florida Politics that Alaimo is an excellent choice to succeed the late Commissioner. “I’ve probably known Roy for about 10 years, and he’s a great guy, a great appointee, and he’ll be a very helpful addition,” he said.

Roy Alaimo gets a shot at the St. Johns County Commission.

Biden pardons St. Augustine growhouse owner, 5 others convicted of murder or substance-related crime” via The Associated Press — Biden has pardoned six people who have served out sentences after convictions on a murder charge and drug- and alcohol-related crimes, including an 80-year-old woman convicted of killing her abusive husband about a half-century ago and a man who pleaded guilty to using a telephone for a cocaine transaction in the 1970s. The list also includes a St. Augustine man who used his property for a marijuana growhouse nearly three decades ago. The pardons, announced Friday, mean the criminal record of the crimes is now purged.

Is $66 billion in federal funding the ‘gamechanger’ needed to bring Amtrak back to the Panhandle?” via Tom McLaughlin for the Pensacola News Journal — The federal government has set aside $66 billion to allow Amtrak to reestablish itself as a viable nationwide transportation alternative, and advocates for commuter rail across North Florida believe now might be the time to make a long discussed plan a reality. “Public support for the return of rail service has never waned,” a recent press release issued on behalf of Amtrak said. “The time is right to aggressively communicate the public’s desire to move forward with serious efforts to welcome Amtrak, ‘America’s Railroad,’ back to the Panhandle.”


Activism and apathy are poisoning American politics” via David French of The Dispatch — One thing I keep thinking about is the extent to which Americans hate their political opponents, and the extent to which they’re wrong about the people they hate.

Why are we so wrong? As with any complex social phenomenon, there’s no single explanation. Media is certainly part of the answer. It turns out that “the more news people consume, the larger their perception gap.” The media is so efficient at highlighting extremism that it misses the morality and ideology of the vast majority of Americans.

But there’s another answer, one that’s much less comfortable than simply blaming the media (again) for (another) failure. I’d submit that a toxic combination of activism and apathy are poisoning American politics.

The activists represent the small minority of Americans who focus intensely on politics. A very small minority do this professionally; a somewhat larger group are political hobbyists. But members of both groups often consider politics their purpose.

The apathetic are the broader majority — perhaps the better term is “exhausted majority” — of Americans who don’t spend much time thinking about issues. They might vote, and they care about the future of the country, but politics is distant from their daily lives, often because of a combination of alienation and sheer busyness. Who has time to think about politics when their daughter has soccer practice, their son is due at basketball camp, and their niece has a recital in two hours?


No single solution to affordable housing problem” via Kathleen Passidomo for the Fort Myers News-Press — Safe, attainable, workforce housing. When I moved to Naples almost 43 years ago, the community was talking about the lack of housing for our workers. It was a problem then, and remains a persistent problem today in many areas of our state. In my experience, all too often the issue of “affordable housing” is stereotyped as a challenge for those living at the lowest income levels, with solutions that look like the dangerous, crime-ridden, big city public housing projects we see in television shows set in New York or Los Angeles, circa 1980.

Ten wins in 2022 that all Floridians can feel good about” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — In the spring of 2019, DeSantis signed a giant package of tax cuts for the state’s largest corporations. DeSantis’ cuts saved the top 1% of businesses — the only businesses that pay Florida’s tax on corporate profits — an estimated $2.8 billion. Lobbyists for corporations fought hard to make them permanent; the Florida Legislature said no. When you don’t give millions of dollars to corporations, you have a lot more money to spend helping real people. Now, this year’s package of tax cuts still included some special interest giveaways. But the vast majority of the tax savings will go to Florida consumers. If we’re grading on the curve of Tallahassee tax cuts, this year’s tax package was an A-minus, at least.

Do not cross DeSantis” via Frank Bruni of The New York Times — The Florida Governor and Republican supernova models a version of politics not as messy theater for problem-solving but as spiteful arena for retaliation, in which you’re defined by your enemies — or, rather, by how effectively you torment them. “He enjoyed some of his success by being viciously retaliatory,” James Kimmel Jr., a lecturer in psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, said when we spoke recently. “That has worked for him, at least in outward-seeming ways.” It carried him to “the highest pulpit that the country has available.” He’s a self-styled terminator and, silly me, I thought real leaders were supposed to be germinators. But that’s not the temper of these times. DeSantis has sized them up accurately. And shrunk himself accordingly.

—“A comprehensive guide to why a DeSantis presidency would be as terrifying as a Trump one” via Bess Levin of Vanity Fair

Florida has never had a Governor like DeSantis” via Bill Cotterell for City & State Florida — Like him or not, Gov. DeSantis heads into his second term as the most significant Governor of Florida since Gov. LeRoy Collins had greatness thrust upon him nearly 70 years ago. And, coincidentally, the motivation of both men is public education — the most expensive and important thing that state government does. But while Collins is honored for going against the public will in the mid-1950s, DeSantis has built his unprecedented dominance of state government by catering to the whims and worries of a growing conservative base.

The fight over kids at drag shows is a classic moral panic” via Scott Shackford of Reason — Of course, DeSantis and his administration would contribute to the latest Christmas-themed targeting of drag queens as some existential threat. The state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation sent a letter Wednesday to the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation in Orlando, Florida, because their venue was hosting A Drag Queen Christmas, a touring stage production crossing the country that’s been around for eight years. The letter warns the venue that they have “reason to believe that this drag show is of a sexual nature, involving the exposure or exhibition of sexual organs, simulated sexual activity, and/or the sexualization of children’s stories.” The department says it has “become aware” that the show has been marketed to and attended by children.

Florida must recall racist past to fight for its future” via Randolph Bracy Jr. for the Orlando Sentinel — As a preacher, pastor and social activist for more than 40 years, and one who has enjoyed the privilege of speaking for people who cannot speak for themselves, I find today’s racial climate in Florida as one of those special moments in time that demand a clear response. As a native Floridian, I remember what it was like before Walt Disney arrived, and what it was like for persons of color to enjoy the splendor of Florida beaches in those days. In Northern Florida, there were Nassau and Duval counties, with Blacks relegated to American Beach, the exclusively popular Black beach. As Florida has evolved to become the tourist Mecca of the world, it is important for us not to forget what we as people of color had to endure to enjoy the pleasantries of today.

It’s time to end the harmful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric across Florida” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial board — Shouldn’t the 2023 version of Florida aim to be a better state than the one that made it possible for such shocking anti-LGBTQ hostility to spread and fester during 2022? Shouldn’t we feel a sense of responsibility to do more to ensure the “Free State of Florida” isn’t one that freely empowers those who seek to vilify, marginalize and ostracize our LGBTQ community? If you actually believe the proper response to either of the above is “No,” maybe it’s time to feel compelled to ask yourself this question: Why?

Florida’s LGBTQ community has reservations about the ‘free state’ moniker. Image via AP.

Why does U.S. policy still favor Cuban migrants? Others are plenty deserving, too.” via Lizette Alvarez for The Washington Post — I want to publicly thank the U.S. government and its taxpayers. Why, exactly? Because this country turned my Cuban family and the 2.3 million other Cuban Americans — migrants or their descendants — into the beneficiaries of the single most generous immigration policy in U.S. history. Unfortunately, six decades of unparalleled government largesse — via laws, orders, regulations and accommodations — don’t often feature in the Cuban American origin story of hard work, professional know-how and university pedigrees. Yet these considerable advantages played a crucial role in helping Cuban Americans become a powerful Latino community.


— ALOE —

The day after New Year’s Day — Disney World’s busiest day of this holiday season” via WDW Magic — Crowds are continuing to pack Walt Disney World beyond New Year’s Day, as Jan. 2 looks set to be among the busiest of the 2022-2023 holiday season. As of writing, 29 attractions have over a 60-minute wait, and 12 have hit 3-digits above 100 minutes. There are currently multiple attractions with over a three-hour wait, with Star Wars Rise of the Resistance reaching more than 4.5 hours of standby wait midmorning, slightly down from an earlier peak of 5 hours. Looking ahead at the theme park reservation availability calendar, all parks are at capacity on Jan. 3 for all ticket types — suggesting the crowds will persist. Availability improves late into the week, but Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios remain unavailable through Jan. 6, 2023.

Box office: ‘Avatar 2’ rocks New Year’s with $86.3M” via Pamela McClintock of The Hollywood Reporter — Avatar: The Way of Water is a powerhouse. James Cameron’s tentpole is expected to finish the long New Year’s weekend with an estimated $444.4 million domestically, well ahead of the first Avatar, which finished the year-end holidays with $352 million on its way to earning north of $750 million domestically. The 2009 film still ranks as the top-grossing movie of all time. The sequel will cross $1.4 billion in worldwide ticket sales on Monday after sprinting past the $1.37 billion mark on Sunday. IMAX accounts for a huge $152.2 million of the gross. The pricey tentpole is already among the 15 biggest films of all time. The Way of Water is doing far more business than any other year-end release in what’s been a bummer for other Hollywood studios.

Avatar: The Way of Water is a certified hit.

Meta launches enhanced parental safety controls for VR” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — After launching its Quest 2 in 2020, Meta has worked to create safer virtual reality spaces for teens by helping parents prepare for the new technology. Now, they’ve launched Meta Quest Parental Supervision feature, a set of tools designed to create safety and supervision. Parents can set levels of supervision for their teens, including connecting directly to their child’s account; setting age-appropriate content requirements; monitoring screen time; and reviewing friends and apps. By allowing parents to connect to their teen’s account, Meta’s safety features allow parents to require requested access to apps they’re not old enough to use.

—”VersaWare to launch next generation of smart kitchen appliances at CES 2023” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics


Celebrating today are Rep. Tom Fabricio, our friend Ella Coffee, Wes Davis, formerly of Equality Florida; David Ellis; and Lisa Garcia of Sachs Media.


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, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
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