Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.30.23

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Good Friday morning.

No one in Florida has served longer as a public school system Legislative Affairs Director than Polk County’s Wendy Dodge. Now she’s bringing her nearly 25 years of experience as a fierce advocate and respected thought leader in the education industry to The Southern Group and its growing education team. 

Working from TSG’s Tallahassee office, Dodge will leverage her deep expertise and experience to provide advisory and consulting services for The Southern Group’s clients. 

“Wendy has been a staple in shaping education priorities for Central Florida and across the state. Our education practice is a priority for us, and we know Wendy will make an impact for our clients,” said Southern Group Managing Partner Rachel Cone.

Wendy Dodge. Image via The Southern Group.

Most recently, Dodge served as Senior Director of Legislative Affairs, Policy, and Legislative Liaison in the Polk County Public School System, the seventh-largest school district in the state. There, she effectively managed all legislative matters pertaining to the school district, playing a pivotal role in the development and implementation of state and federal policy priorities.

“Wendy has been an exceptional asset to our school district, consistently providing invaluable advice and strategic insights that have propelled our school district forward. Her dedication, expertise, and unwavering commitment have been instrumental in shaping the future of our students,” said Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Fred Heid

Bill Montford, a former state Senator and CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents added, “Wendy has a remarkable network of statewide relationships and has consistently demonstrated a deep understanding of K12 education policy. She will be an unrivaled asset to pave the way for strategic collaborations with local school districts.”


Tweet, tweet:

@BarackObama: Affirmative action was never a complete answer in the drive towards a more just society. But for generations of students who had been systematically excluded from most of America’s key institutions — it gave us the chance to show we more than deserved a seat at the table. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision, it’s time to redouble our efforts.

@RonDeSantis: While the (Joe) Biden-(Merrick) Garland DOJ sides with Communist China, I side with the American people. As Governor, I prohibited CCP-tied entities from buying land in Florida. As president, I’ll do the same.

@SenMannyDiazJr: As a Hispanic, I want to succeed based on merit and hard work, not the color of my skin or my ethnicity. The Supreme Court got today’s decision right, ending racial discrimination in the college admissions process.   All races deserve equal protection under the law.

@Fineout: Just a reminder in the wake of today’s SCOTUS ruling re affirmative action. Fla eliminated affirmative action in state university admissions more than 20 years ago under then-Gov. @JebBush

@JaredEMoskowitz: You may not be aware, but @fema⁩ is gonna run out of money during Hurricane Season which will hinder communities’ ability to respond and recover from disaster. We must immediately fix this issue. I’m calling on Congress to fund the Disaster Relief Fund.

@ACUFforJustice: Disappointing to see a Governor doubling down on the failed tough-on-crime policies of the past to get votes. The probation and expungement legislation that was vetoed would greatly improve public safety and enhance the strength of Florida’s workforce.

@CraigAWelch: My new National Geographic just arrived, which includes my latest feature — my 16th, and my last as a senior writer. NatGeo is laying off all of its staff writers. I’ve been so lucky. I got to work w/incredible journalists and tell important, global stories. It’s been an honor.


Jacksonville Mayor-elect Donna Deegan’s inauguration — 1; Wimbledon begins — 3; ‘Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning — Part One’ premieres — 12; 2023 MLB All-Star Game — 14; Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 20; new Steph Curry documentary premieres — 21; Lionel Messi to make his Major League Soccer debut with Inter Miami CF — 21; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 22; Gov. Ron DeSantis to speak in Iowa at Rep. Ashley Hinson’s annual BBQ Bash — 37; ‘Billions’ final season premieres — 42; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 47; The first GOP Presidential Primary debate — 54; ‘Ahsoka’ premieres on Disney+ — 54; The U.S. Open begins — 59; Florida House Fall 2023 Interim Committee Meetings begin — 80; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres — 98; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 115; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 126; Suncoast Tiger Bay Club hosts ‘Evening with the Tigers’ — 130; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 133; Formula 1 will take over the Las Vegas Strip — 139; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 145; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 193; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 218; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 221; Georgia Democratic Primary — 228; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 239; Michigan Democratic Primary — 241; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 251; 2024 Oscars — 253; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 273; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 308; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 328; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 392; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 392; New ‘Alien’ premieres — 413; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 421; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 539; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 595; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 672; ‘Moana’ premieres — 728; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 903; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 1,036; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,058; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,268; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,407; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,366; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,729.


Supreme Court strikes down race-based admissions at Harvard and UNC” via Adam Liptak of The New York Times — The Court ruled that the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina were unlawful, curtailing affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation, a policy that has long been a pillar of higher education.

The vote was 6 to 3, with the court’s liberal members in dissent.

The ruling is expected to lower the number of Black and Latino students at medical schools, law schools and other professional degree programs.

In a brief filed with the court, groups including the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association said that “states that have banned race-conscious admissions have seen the number of minority medical-school students drop by roughly 37%,” reducing the pipeline of doctors from those groups. Nationally, about 5.7% of doctors are Black and 6.8% identify as Hispanic.

Chief Justice John Roberts laid out statistics from the petitioner, Students for Fair Admissions, on how significant a role race has played in UNC. admissions: In the top academic decile, more than 80% of Black applicants were admitted, compared with under 70% of White and Asian applicants. In the second highest decile, 83% of Black applicants were admitted, compared with 58% of white applicants and 47% of Asian applicants. “The dissent does not dispute the accuracy of these figures,” he wrote.

Former President Donald Trump’s political organization cast him as a catalyst for the court’s ruling against affirmative action, saying, “He delivered on his promise to appoint constitutional justices.”

DeSantis team resurfaces clip of Trump saying he’s ‘fine’ with affirmative action” via Julia Manchester of The Hill — DeSantis’ presidential campaign resurfaced a 2015 clip of Trump saying he was “fine” with affirmative action following the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck a blow to the college admissions practice. The Governor’s team posted a clip on the campaign’s war room account from the 2015 interview with then-candidate Trump on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I’m fine with affirmative action. We’ve lived with it for a long time. And I lived with it for a long time. And I’ve had great relationships with lots of people,” Trump tells host Chuck Todd in the interview.


Largely ignored by Congress, DeSantis woos state lawmakers to help lift his campaign” via Alex Roarty of the Miami Herald — As he tries to build support for his GOP Primary campaign, DeSantis and his political team have undertaken a calculated and sustained effort to court the endorsement of state lawmakers, hopeful that politicians with little national profile but close ties to grassroots voters can best bolster the Governor’s candidacy. The strategy — one that top campaign officials say is suited to DeSantis’ background and strengths as a politician — has yielded tangible results, particularly in key early states, and especially in comparison with his lack of support from better-known federal officials who have flocked to Trump’s campaign. To DeSantis officials, these state lawmakers serve as a rebuttal to the perception they’re losing the endorsement battle to Trump — and offer an important group of allies to help appeal to rank-and-file Republican voters across the country.

DeSantis picks up 19 presidential endorsements from North Carolina politicians” via David Zimmerman of Washington Examiner — In his campaign run for the 2024 presidency, DeSantis raked in 19 endorsements from North Carolina Republican state leaders on Wednesday. North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell was among the top state politicians to announce his endorsement for DeSantis. “Gov. DeSantis is a principled leader, a protector of individual liberties, and the Left’s biggest nightmare,” Bell said in a statement. “He will beat Joe Biden and usher in a Great American Comeback in which parents are empowered, our streets are safe, and our economy is booming once again.”

Ron DeSantis has (North) Carolina on his mind.

DeSantis angers Rockland’s GOP chair” via Julia Marsh and Hajah Bah of POLITICO — DeSantis irked an influential New York Republican after his Presidential campaign failed to coordinate a Rockland County fundraiser with the local party leader. The suburban county’s GOP Chair Lawrence Garvey said he got no heads up from the DeSantis campaign before it sent out a flier for a $6,600-a-person June 29 fundraiser with “major business leaders” at the Crowne Plaza in Suffern. “The Republican Party is a big tent and we’re always honored to have national figures come to Rockland County. At the same time there’s courtesies and protocols involved,” Garvey said.

—“Just 11% of New York Republicans back DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Chris Christie rips DeSantis’ ‘ridiculous’ Jan. 6 take” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Christie pilloried a response DeSantis delivered during a New Hampshire town hall earlier in the week. A high school student at the town hall asked DeSantis whether Trump “violated the peaceful transfer of power” with his actions. “So I wasn’t anywhere near Washington that day. I have nothing to do with what happened that day,” DeSantis responded. “Obviously, I didn’t enjoy seeing, you know, what would happen, but we’ve got to go forward on this stuff.” For Christie, that answer was insufficient: “He wasn’t anywhere near Washington. Did he have a TV? Was he alive that day? Did he see what was going on? I mean, that’s one of the most ridiculous answers I’ve heard in this race so far.”

How a border photo stunt could end up costing DeSantis” via Roger Sollenberger of the Daily Beast — When DeSantis took a trip to the Texas-Mexico border, his campaign had the good sense to take and promote a photo of the Florida Governor in front of a helicopter for an image ready-made for a political ad. But that photo — and the accompanying tweet — may end up costing DeSantis much more than he bargained for. The helicopter DeSantis posed in front of is property of the Texas Department of Public Safety. And experts say his use of Texas government resources for his own political purposes appears to constitute a campaign finance violation. His trip is now raising legal questions about who paid for the junket and why the campaign was granted access to Texas government property to promote a political event in the first place.

Ron DeSantis’ trip to the U.S.-Mexico border may come back to bite him.

DeSantis, Trump seek to rewrite history on COVID response” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In January 2021, DeSantis was proud to announce the one-millionth COVID-19 vaccine given out in Florida. Back then, DeSantis often praised the state’s coordination with the Trump administration, which was partly responsible for the quicker-than-expected development of the vaccines, thanks to its Operation Warp Speed. Now, the DeSantis and Trump presidential campaigns are squabbling over how each candidate handled the vaccine and lockdowns, particularly amid the worst of the pandemic. Kenneth Goodman, a bioethicist and director of the Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy at the University of Miami, said the sparring “would be just another ordinary example of the silly season in American politics if it weren’t that so many lives were at stake.”

DeSantis influencer blames Trumpers for leaking racist messages” via Tracy Connor of The Daily Beast — It appears the battle between Trumpworld and DeSantis’ camp over right-wing influencers is getting down and dirty. On Tuesday, the far-right website Breitbart published a story reporting that in 2019 and 2020, a conservative writer named Pedro Gonzalez, who was once a Trump backer and is now supporting DeSantis, sent antisemitic and racist messages. The article, which went viral in conservative circles, included a raft of direct quotes from the messages sent in a group chat called “Right-Wing Death Squad” and to a single member of that group chat. “Tfw [that feeling when] when you realize whites are the only hope non-whites have of living civilized lives, but whites themselves are too cucked to preserve their own civilizations,” one read.

—“DeSantis trails Trump by 50 points with younger GOP voters” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

—“Another Nevada poll shows DeSantis 30 points behind Trump” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

DeSantis gives Francis Suarez a pass on Uyghur gaffe” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis danced around a question about another Floridian Presidential candidate’s foreign policy gaffe. Asked by host Martha MacCallum about Suarez’s failure during a radio interview to recognize the Uyghurs in the context of a China discussion, DeSantis took the high road and didn’t discuss the Miami Mayor’s mess up. “I’m running my race. I’m going to beat (Joe) Biden. We’re going to get all this done. I’ll let these other guys handle themselves,” DeSantis said. Suarez was holding forth about China but froze up when asked about an ethnic minority oppressed by the communist regime in Beijing.

Francis Suarez’s gaffe wasn’t good, but it wasn’t an Aleppo moment either. Image via AP.

Comedians are starting to mock DeSantis. What it means for the 2024 candidate.” via David Catanese of McClatchy DC — Trump spawned a fresh generation of comedians and impersonators who capitalized on his ostentatious disposition and sneering insults. Now, a crop of humorists are rushing to hone their caricatures of DeSantis, a backhanded affirmation of his national ascendance as he appears to be the most viable alternative to Trump in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Austin Nasso, a 28-year-old comedian and social media influencer, does political impressions for The Howard Stern Show. “I’m kind of nasally so I think it works. That voice comes easier for me. Nasally, somewhat in the middle register,” he said.

— MORE 2024 —

Trump team lobbying for primary rule changes to boost his 2024 chances” via Nathan Layne, Alexandra Ulmer and Gram Slattery of Reuters — Trump is leveraging his connections to loyalists in key primary states to lobby for voting rules and dates that could cement his front-runner status in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Trump’s campaign is reaching out to Republican state parties to push for the changes, as party officials set the parameters for contests that kick off early next year ahead of the Nov. 5, 2024 Presidential election. Several states adopted Trump-friendly rules in 2020 to ward off competition for the then-president, and a recent change in Michigan appears to have bolstered his advantage in the race to secure delegates who determine the party’s nominee.

Koch network raises over $70 million for push to sink Trump” via Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times — The political network established by the conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch has raised more than $70 million for political races as it looks to help Republicans move past Trump. With some of this large sum to start, the network, Americans for Prosperity Action, plans to throw its weight into the G.O.P. presidential nominating contest for the first time in its nearly 20-year history. The network spent nearly $500 million supporting Republican candidates and conservative policies in the 2020 election cycle alone.

Charles Koch is raising big bucks to sink the former President. Image via AP.

Biden is wrapping a campaign fundraising blitz aimed at making a bold early statement” via Zeke Miller of The Associated Press — Biden has cozied up to high-dollar donors at Upper East Side penthouses in New York and on West Coast decks in recent weeks. He has two more fundraisers in Manhattan that will close out an end-of-quarter campaign blitz that his team believes will put him on strong financial footing for a 2024 White House contest expected to set spending records. The pair of evening events will be Biden’s 9th and 10th fundraising receptions of the past two weeks, numbers matched by Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden, and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.

For some Republicans who endorsed Biden in 2020, the next election looks bleak” via Peter Nicholas and Katherine Doyle of NBC News — Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman was part of a cohort of prominent Republicans who broke with the party in 2020. Fed up with Trump, they gravitated to Biden’s campaign thinking he would be a unifying figure who would lure moderate Republicans into government and ease partisan tensions that had been smoldering for years. Ditching the party nominee was nothing they took lightly. As Whitman said during her convention speech: “What am I doing here? I’m a lifelong Republican.” Since that time, Biden’s GOP validators have largely scattered. Some say they never heard from the Biden political operation again.


Fred Hawkins will leave House on June 30” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Rep. Hawkins announced that Friday will be his last day in the House. The St. Cloud Republican in May signaled he would need to resign his term early after being named the lone finalist for president at South Florida State College. Hawkins has since negotiated a contract and accepted the job, and has wanted an early July start date. Hawkins announced on Facebook that his exit from the Legislature comes this week. “It (has) truly been an honor to represent the people of District 35 and the great State of Florida. To get to know and serve with the people that I have the last three years and the friendships that were made has just been incredible,” Hawkins said.

It’s Fred Hawkins’ last day in the House. Onward and upward.

West Wing star Bradley Whitford to deliver keynote at Leadership Blue Gala in Miami Beach” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Whitford, best known for his prominent role on “The West Wing,” will be the keynote speaker next week at this year’s Leadership Blue Gala in Miami Beach. The Florida Democratic Party (FDP) confirmed Whitford’s participation in the event, which is July 8 at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Tickets to the annual Democratic bash sold out last month, before the FDP announced its roster of guest speakers. Supporters can still purchase watch tickets to stream the event online — at $125 a pop.

AIF backs Erika Booth in HD 35 Special Election” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — One of Florida’s most politically active business groups is picking a favorite in a critical House race. Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) is endorsing Osceola County School Board member Booth in House District 35. “Through her experience as a longtime educator and a School Board member, Erika Booth has proven that she is a powerful voice for her community and an effective education reform advocate,” said AIF President and CEO Brewster Bevis. “Erika will no doubt fight to ensure Florida’s education system is meeting the needs of our students and preparing them for brighter futures. AIF is proud to endorse her campaign.”


Gov. DeSantis agency sent $92M in COVID-19 relief funds to donor-backed project” via Michael Scherer, Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — The administration of Gov. DeSantis steered $92 million last year in leftover federal coronavirus stimulus money to a controversial highway interchange project that directly benefits a top political donor, according to state records. The decision by the Florida Department of Transportation to use money from the 2021 American Rescue Plan for the Interstate 95 interchange at Pioneer Trail Road near Daytona Beach fulfilled a yearslong effort by Mori Hosseini, a politically connected housing developer who owns two large tracts of largely forested land abutting the planned interchange. The funding through the DeSantis administration, approved shortly after the Governor’s re-election, expedited the project by more than a decade, according to state documents.

DeSantis voted for the First Step Act and hailed its ‘successes.’ He now calls it ‘the jailbreak bill’” via Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck of CNN — As a Congressman, DeSantis voted for a House version of the bill in May 2018 containing some of the same provisions he and his campaign now condemn. A review of DeSantis’ comments as a congressman and governor also found that he once supported early release for some prisoners and said he was open to easing mandatory minimum guidelines – provisions in the First Step Act, the prison reform bill, he now says he would repeal. DeSantis’ turn on the prison reform bill mirrors the changing political winds on criminal justice reform once more popular among Republicans.

DeSantis pushes for the federal Disney trial to start after the Presidential election” via Matt Dixon of NBC News — Attorneys for DeSantis are asking a federal judge to wait more than two years to start a trial in the administration’s long-running legal fight with Disney, a time frame that would have them in court after the 2024 Presidential election. The lawyers for DeSantis, who is running for president, said that the discovery process in the case should be delayed for a number of reasons, including that they filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit this week. In their motion, the attorneys argue that Disney does not have the standing to sue the Governor because he does not directly enforce the laws at issue, and he has legislative immunity that “shields” him from being sued for his role in crafting specific pieces of legislation.

The DeSantis v. Disney trial is a ways off. Image via AP.

How migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard came to call it home” via Edgar Sandoval of The New York Times — It has been nine months since the government of Florida, under the direction of DeSantis, chartered two flights from Texas that picked up newly arrived migrants and dropped them off on Martha’s Vineyard, a liberal enclave that until then had little firsthand experience with the surge in migration on the U.S.-Mexico border. Deici Cauro is one of at least four migrants who have quietly stayed behind on the island, forming bonds with a community that opened what doors it could. “I did not even know where Martha’s Vineyard was. And now I feel welcomed by everybody here. I’m working, making friends and this is home for me now,” Cauro said.

Advertisement— STATEWIDE —

Florida sweetens pension pot, hoping to retain public employees” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis and state lawmakers are gambling that an expansion of government employee retirement benefits that take effect Saturday will keep veteran teachers, firefighters, police and other crucial public employees from leaving their jobs. The expansion of the Deferred Retirement Option Program could prove lucrative for career government workers and educators, who will be able to draw pensions while continuing to work for eight to 10 years instead of the current limit of five years. Chronically underfunded for years, the pension fund reportedly has a $38 billion deficit and can only cover 82% of its outstanding benefits.

Alina Garcia levels cheating allegation against Jennifer Canady, but it’s quickly dismissed” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Despite a last-minute accusation of rule-breaking, state Rep. Canady remains the winner of the House Speaker contest for 2028. While Florida Politics reported the Lakeland Republican’s victory in early May, those in opposing camps are lobbing new allegations. State Rep. Garcia sent a letter to sitting Speaker Paul Renner accusing Canady of picking sides in a GOP Primary, thereby violating caucus rules while a leadership contest was on. “On June 20, 2022, Rep. Canady made a $1,000 contribution to the Daniel Alvarez Campaign for House District 69 during a contested Republican Primary,” Garcia alleged.

A last-ditch effort won’t derail Jennifer Canady’s win in the 2028 Speaker election.

DeSantis signs measure banning local voter referendums on land development” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Voters will soon have little say in how the areas around them change through construction large and small, due to legislation DeSantis just approved. The measure (SB 718), which goes into effect Saturday, prohibits voter referendums or ballot initiatives on land development regulation. That means all decisions over zoning, building approval, annexations and various other pivotal matters related to a county or municipality’s streets and skylines will be left to the members of its local governing body.

New law adds guardrails to lender-placed property insurance” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Companies in Florida that provide lender-placed property insurance will soon have to operate under a new set of rules due to a law going into effect next month. The measure (HB 793) addresses collateral protection insurance, also called CPI, which protects a lender’s interest in a piece of collateral property, typically a car or home, in the event a borrower fails to maintain required insurance coverage. Basically, when someone takes out a loan to buy a vehicle or house, the lender will want to ensure it is protected in case of an accident or natural disaster. To do this, lenders frequently require loan recipients, including mortgage holders, to have insurance coverage on the property.

On Saturday, Florida hospitals start asking patients’ immigration status. Advocates call requirement ‘dangerous’” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Starting Saturday, most Florida hospitals will start collecting data on patients’ immigration status, bucking advice from clinicians who warn this could deter sick people from seeking care. A new law signed by Gov. DeSantis in May, SB 1718, requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to inquire about immigration status on patient admission forms. The hospitals are required to then de-identify this data and submit quarterly reports to the Agency for Healthcare Administration, which will calculate Florida’s annual cost of uncompensated care for people who live in the state illegally. Health care providers from across the state have spoken out against this law, arguing it may deter people here illegally from seeking care until a condition is life-threatening.

Teachers unions work to increase membership as new law kicks in” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s teachers’ unions, running an “I’m sticking with my union” campaign, are working this summer to overcome the hurdles of a new state law they argue is unfair and unconstitutional. The new law passed this spring by the Florida Legislature and signed by DeSantis ends payroll deductions for union dues, which have been in place for years, and requires bigger membership numbers for unions to remain active, among other changes. Republican lawmakers who pushed for the new law (SB 256) argue it makes unions more transparent and accountable to their members. The unions call it a revengeful effort to weaken them.

Private school voucher program approves more than 150K applications” via Q. McCray of WFTV — Tens of thousands of Florida parents recently got some great news after their child was awarded a state-funded scholarship. It’s all part of the governor’s new voucher program. If you’re a parent who applied for a state-funded private school scholarship, there’s a good chance you got an email saying your scholarship was awarded. “We’ve approved 150,000 applications,” said Doug Tuthill with Step Up for Students. Tuthill said his organization is handling the majority of the new applications for DeSantis’ new Florida Family Empowerment Scholarship voucher program.

— SKED —

Happening today: The Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine will meet to discuss rules about treatment of gender dysphoria: 1 p.m., info at

Happening today: The Department of Economic Opportunity’s Office of Broadband will meet to discuss broadband connectivity: 5:30 p.m., the University of North Florida, Adam W. Herbert University Center, 12000 Alumni Dr., Jacksonville.


Biden admin finalizes student debt ‘safety net’ as repayment looms” via Michael Stratford of POLITICO — Biden administration officials are devising plans to ease the sting of requiring tens of millions of Americans to resume paying their student loans this fall for the first time in more than three years. The Education Department in recent weeks finalized a three-month grace period for missed payments once student loans come due in October and directed loan services to be “prepared” to extend that flexibility for subsequent 90-day periods. Once interest accrual resumes on Sept. 1, under the department’s current plans, it would continue to pile up even if borrowers miss payments.

Supreme Court strengthens protections for religious rights at work” via Ann E. Marimow of The Washington Post — The Supreme Court on Thursday strengthened protections for religious rights in the workplace, siding in part with a Sabbath-observant mail carrier who quit the U.S. Postal Service after he was forced to deliver packages on Sundays. Gerald Groff, the former postal worker, had asked the justices to overturn a decades-old Supreme Court decision, which his lawyers said undermines religious protections by allowing employers to deny accommodations that would cause them more than a minor inconvenience. In a unanimous decision authored by Justice Samuel A. Alito, the justices declined to get rid of past precedent and instead clarified that employers must meet a higher standard to reject a worker’s request related to religious observance.

Happening today: U.S. Sen. Rick Scott will speak at the Pasco County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner: 6 p.m., Spartan Manor, 6121 Massachusetts Ave., New Port Richey.

Former Florida GOP congressional candidate accused of threatening rival nabbed in Philippines” via Olivia Land of the New York Post — A former Florida congressional candidate who allegedly threatened his campaign rival with a “Russian-Ukrainian hit squad” two years ago has been arrested in the Philippines. William Robert Braddock III, 39, was nabbed on Roxas Boulevard in Manila as part of a joint operation between the Bureau of Immigration Fugitive Search Unit (FSU), the FBI, and the US Diplomatic Security Service-Overseas Criminal Investigations, the Manila Bulletin reported. It is not clear how long Braddock, who was taken into custody as an illegal alien, has been in the country.

William Braddock III got picked up in the Philippines. Image via AP.

—“Like her or not, Anna Paulina Luna just got vindicated” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics 

—“Anti-abortion Rep.’s husband invests in company that uses embryonic stem cells” via Dave Levinthal of RawStory

Vern Buchanan wants America’s heroes serving in safer conditions and accessing benefits” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — With Independence Day on the horizon, U.S. Rep. Buchanan filed three bills celebrating America’s heroes. Two bills focus on the needs of veterans, while another seeks safer conditions for those in service now. “As someone who represents over 64,000 veterans in Florida’s 16th district, serving our nation’s heroes is one of my top priorities,” Buchanan said. “The brave men and women who served our country in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer every day – not just on Independence Day.”

Lawmakers spearhead bipartisan push to refill dwindling FEMA Disaster Relief Fund” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Hurricane season is a bad time for federal disaster relief funding to run dry, but that’s exactly what will happen without legislative action. Now a bipartisan group of Washington lawmakers from Florida are working to make sure that doesn’t happen. U.S. Sen. Rubio and U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz have introduced measures in their respective chambers (S 2029, HR 4295) to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund. The legislation would provide $11.5 billion in supplemental funding. Without the apportionment, the fund will be more than $10 billion in deficit by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

NOAA proposal could shut down 4 Florida seaports, industry leaders say” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida seaport leaders say a potential federal rule to protect whales could shut down four of the state’s most important docks. A regulation under consideration by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) could impose regulations on navigable waters on the Gulf Coast. The proposed “Vessel Slowdown Zone” would restrict nighttime water travel to 10 knots within waters that are 100 to 400 meters deep. The restrictions would be in place from Pensacola to Tampa Bay. But the Florida Ports Council argued the rule could massively hinder activity at four of the state’s 16 ports. The organization said it would virtually shut down Port Tampa Bay, SeaPort Manatee, Port Panama City and Port of Pensacola.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Ex-deputy Scot Peterson found not guilty of all charges in Parkland mass shooting” via Rafael Olmeda of the Orlando Sentinel — Former School Resource Officer Peterson, the only person other than the gunman to face charges in the 2018 Parkland massacre when he was accused of failing to rush into the building to confront the mass shooter, has been found not guilty on all charges. After the first not-guilty verdict was read, Peterson placed his head on the table and sobbed while being consoled by his attorney Mark Eiglarsh. Peterson’s wife also wept in the courtroom gallery. “I got my life back after 4½ years,” Peterson said outside the courtroom. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster for so long.” Prosecutors left the courthouse without commenting.

Incoming Broward Superintendent’s contract delayed as most Board members absent” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Incoming Superintendent Peter Licata got a first taste of the dysfunction of the Broward County School District after only three of nine School Board members showed up to approve his contract. Three Board members — Chair Lori Alhadeff, Vice Chair Debbi Hixon and Nora Rupert — are out of the country and were on the phone. But the absence of three others — Torey Alston, Daniel Foganholi and Brenda Fam — was unexpected, some Board members said. State law says that a majority, which would be five in this case, must be physically present to have the required quorum.

‘A circus’: Broward School Board scrambles to onboard superintendent. Is it political?” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — Five minutes after starting a School Board meeting on Thursday, Broward Schools’ interim Superintendent abruptly ended it because not enough board members were present, delaying the start date of the newly hired Superintendent — and eliciting head scratches and accusations of political motives. In the absence of board Chair Lori Alhadeff and Vice Chair Debra Hixon, Interim Superintendent Earlean Smiley called the board’s meeting to order at about 9 a.m. and adjourned it shortly after because only three School Board members were at the dais. According to the board’s bylaws, five board members need to be physically present to constitute a quorum and carry out official business.

Hialeah Mayor rules out inquiry into unanswered 911 calls. What he and others are saying” via Verónica Egui Brito of the Miami Herald — Hialeah Mayor Esteban Bovo Jr. has dismissed a demand from Councilman Bryan Calvo for a formal investigation into the city’s 911 emergency line operation. A spokesperson for Bovo’s Office confirmed to el Nuevo Herald that unanswered 911 calls happen in the city but emphasized that this an issue “that happens everywhere.” “We know we have a 5% rate of abandoned calls, but we want to improve that percentage, we want to enhance our operations,” Ismare Monreal said. Calvo urged the city to launch a formal investigation into “the alarming revelations brought to light by two recent Herald articles.”

Esteban Bovo Jr. said no way to an inquiry into the 911 system

South Florida military bases draft plan for climate risk. It’s a national security threat” via Ashley Miznazi of the Miami Herald — From Key West to Port Everglades, the military facilities across South Florida face the same risks from hurricanes and extreme weather as homes and businesses. But when they’re battered by winds, flooded out or lose power, it can also pose a national security risk. Protecting them from the increasing threats of climate change will call for millions of dollars in projects and some key policy changes. “There’s a national security imperative to ensure that our installations, our commands and our missions are resilient,” said Rick Miller, a retired U.S. Navy captain and executive director of South Florida Defense Alliance. “And the great thing about this program is it does it in collaboration with the communities.”

New law transfers swamplands doubling as nature preserve to Wellington officials’ control” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — More than 400 acres of wetlands are coming under the control of Wellington’s elected officials to bolster the land’s protection. Rep. Katherine Waldron, in her first Session, proposed the legislation (HB 943) that will combine the 365-acre Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat with the 45-acre Moncada Property that lies on the western edge of the village. The measure also transfers the land from an independent district to one that Wellington Village Council controls. “It’s going to be over 400 acres so we can combine trails and make it more available to the public while also helping the environment, so it’s a win-win situation,” Waldron said.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Judge denies motion to dismiss evidence against Joel Greenberg consultant” via Christopher Cann of the Orlando Sentinel — A judge denied a motion to exclude evidence against a former Republican campaign consultant who worked for disgraced Seminole Tax Collector Greenberg. Michael Courtney Shirley, who was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Tax Collector’s Office, is accused of paying bribes and taking kickbacks from Greenberg. Shirley’s lawyers filed a motion in late May seeking to have some evidence excluded from trial, specifically evidence showing that Shirley allegedly paid Greenberg $12,828 in kickbacks in 2017 and 2018. The motion said $328.45 of that amount was from three checks written to Greenberg to pay for his vehicle registration fees, and that the other $12,500 was related to a real estate transaction in Brevard County.

Brevard Commissioners spar with constitutional officers over budget questions” via Tyler Vazquez of Florida Today — Fireworks typically reserved for July came in late June to the Brevard Board of County Commissioners during a contentious budget meeting when elected leaders sparred over proposed spending increases. The special meeting, called in June when Commissioners are typically out for the summer, was set to address budget increases that could cause the county to increase its spending over and above a voter-approved cap in the county charter. The cap bars the county from increasing taxes over 3% or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. Breaking that cap requires a supermajority of four votes by the Board for approval. Some constitutional offices have proposed budgets above that 3% cap.

‘Driven by student voice’: Brevard Schools bans furry attire in updated dress code” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — Cat ears, dog collars and tails are just a few of the fashion choices that will no longer be allowed in the halls of Brevard Public Schools. An updated district dress code policy passed by a 5-0 vote with little discussion after a little over a month and a half of deliberation about acceptable attire. The Board worked to eliminate some of the bias against female students found in the old policy and created what they said in work sessions were more specific guidelines surrounding what could and could not be worn. One of those guidelines bans attire that emulates “non-human characteristics” — a stipulation that was added after a student survey raised concerns about “furries.”

Construction is underway on TECO’s newest solar installation.

Construction has begun on TECO’s 600-acre solar farm in Dundee and Lake Wales” via Paul Nutcher of The Ledger — TECO Energy is building a new solar farm on 600 acres in Polk County that will reportedly generate enough electricity to power thousands of homes. The utility-scale solar power plant is located in portions of Dundee and Lake Wales between US 27 and Scenic Highway and along Waverly Road. The project received approvals from Polk County, Lake Wales in the form of a special exception use from its planning and zoning commission as well as administrative approval in May from the city of Dundee. According to a Tampa Electric spokesperson, the Lake Mabel Solar plant will generate 74.5 megawatts of electricity, which can provide electricity to power 11,500 homes.

Nonprofit asks judge to open records in case involving Daytona Beach Shores officers” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — A nonprofit government watchdog is seeking to shed some light on a confidential court petition filed by two Daytona Beach Shores police officers embroiled in investigations into their use of a city holding cell to potty train their 3½-year-old son. In May, Lt. Michael Schoenbrod and Sgt. Jessica Long filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, essentially asking a judge to order State Attorney R.J. Larizza to do something. What that is, exactly, is unknown because the Volusia County Clerk’s Office, citing a court rule, has marked much of the case file confidential.


Tampa Bay airports brace for busy July 4 — expect delays, cancellations” via Bernadette Berdychowski of the Tampa Bay Times — Ahead of the busy July 4 holiday weekend, Tampa International Airport is one of many nationwide experiencing airline delays and cancellations. About 20% of flights were impacted Wednesday morning, according to the airport’s flight tracker. There was a total of 68 delays and 17 cancellations. This is a record travel year for the Independence Day holiday, according to AAA The Auto Club Group. About 4.17 million Americans are expected to travel this weekend, up from 2019′s record of 3.97 million travelers, AAA said in a statement. There will be about 220,000 Floridians flying over the weekend, up 11% from last year. Tampa International officials said last week it expects about 80,000 passengers each day over the weekend, with its busiest days reaching more than 90,000 passengers. But the high demand for flying could be impacted by storms and staff shortages at air traffic control towers around New York City, AAA warned. Most flights to and from Tampa that have been affected are connections to either LaGuardia, Newark or John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to tracker FlightAware.

TPA is expecting some serious traffic this weekend.

‘There is a Black exodus at USF’: Faculty group says USF administration has been silent in the face of racism” via Arielle Stevenson of Creative Loafing — Last month, DeSantis signed SB 266 into law, banning funds for any Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) programs at state universities and colleges. A statement from the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) to the University of South Florida alleges racism and silence towards faculty in the wake of SB 266. The statement was written with Black affinity groups, the Committee on Black Affairs (COBA), and the Black Employee Steering Committees (BESTIES). “Simply put, silence in the face of discrimination and racism is the same as agreement, and the silence of University of South Florida administration before and since the passing of HB/999 and SB266 is deafening,” reads the statement. “Administrators tout their dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion, while not openly condemning SB/266.”

Community calls for diversity training after racism allegations at Tampa fire station” via Rochelle Alleyne of ABC Action News — Hillsborough County NAACP President Yvette Lewis is upset. “This kind of behavior is unacceptable in 2023,” she said. It goes back to January. According to the Tampa Fire union, IAFF Local 754, that’s when a toy monkey was found hanging from the ceiling of Firehouse 13. The union president, Nicola Stocco, said concerns about that monkey and what it represented were then brought to the city’s Human Resources (HR) department in February. And Stocco added that the city’s HR department wrapped up an investigation into the incident in mid-April. But at this point, the outcome of that investigation isn’t clear, leading to concerns from the local NAACP branch. But at this point, the outcome of that investigation isn’t clear, leading to concerns from the local NAACP branch.

Pinellas County school board plans to join legal fight against social media companies” via Justin Schecker of WFLA — The Pinellas County School District plans to join the nationwide legal battle to hold social media companies accountable for the harmful effects their products can have on students. Pinellas school board members say social media apps are fueling online bullying and hurting students’ mental health. “It’s a conversation around every dinner table,” Pinellas School Board Chair Lisa Cane said about limiting children’s social media use.

Expanded scallop season could mean economic boost for Pasco” via Sarah Blazonis of Bay news 9 — For the first time since scallop season returned to Pasco County’s waters, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has given the okay for a 37-day season. The hope is the longer season will come with a bigger economic boost. “We’re getting close to 25,000 visitors that come in for a ten-day span, and now, we’re going to be able to take that compression off of that ten-day span and really expand it over 37 days,” said Adam Thomas, tourism director for Florida’s Sports Coast, Pasco County’s tourism bureau. “This year, we’re going to be watching from a bird’s eye view the population on the water, the visitors that are coming in, and the economic impact that they’re generating.”

CNN’s Anderson Cooper coming to Tampa this fall to accept journalism award” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — CNN anchor and CBS News “60 Minutes” correspondent Cooper will be awarded the Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism by the St. Petersburg-based Poynter Institute at its annual Bowtie Ball fundraiser in November. Cooper joins a long line of renowned journalists who have been honored, including Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Tom Brokaw, Katie Couric, Lester Holt and Judy Woodruff. Each year, the Bowtie Ball celebrates journalistic excellence, the free press and democracy. It is also Poynter’s most significant fundraising event of the year as hundreds of guests dress up in black tie — and bow ties, which were a trademark of Nelson Poynter, the legendary newspaper publisher. The Poynter Institute owns the Tampa Bay Times.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Assignment editors: Jacksonville Mayor-elect Deegan will host a kick-off celebration: 5:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, 225 E Coastline Dr, Jacksonville.

Fired Neptune Beach city manager files whistleblower suit citing reports on police spending” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — Even before Neptune Beach named its new city manager last week, his predecessor was suing over being fired, saying he was victimized for reporting possible fraud and financial wrongdoing. Stefen Wynn, who was dismissed in January, filed a largely unnoticed whistleblower lawsuit last month arguing he suffered retaliation that’s forbidden under Florida law. Wynn “disclosed violations of rules, regulations and laws, and/or malfeasance, misfeasance … or gross misconduct,” the suit argues, and “was the victim of retaliatory actions” that included his firing. “This is a textbook example of the kind of case envisioned by the Legislature” when it protected public employees from retaliation for reporting problems, said Wynn’s attorney, Marie Mattox.

How can Pensacola build more affordable housing? Experts will review zoning laws for solutions” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola is about to undertake a comprehensive assessment of its land development code ­— the key local laws that set the ground rules for property development and use — to boost the city’s housing supply. One of Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves’ campaign promises was to conduct a comprehensive review of the city’s land development code to review it for contradictions and policies that make affordable housing development difficult. “It doesn’t have to be a widespread change that happens in every single part of the city, but there are so many low-hanging fruit opportunities for us to add more doors and make it more palatable to do so,” Reeves said to the News Journal during his campaign last year.

D.C. Reeves promised to tackle affordable housing as a candidate. Now, experts are on the case.

Santa Rosa Commissioners lose patience over James Calkins’ ‘political grandstanding’” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — In what has become a new normal, the Santa Rosa County regular Commission meeting dissolved into chaos Thursday as Commissioner Calkins managed, not for the first time, to draw the rest of the Board into a heated discussion of items unrelated to county business. This time, Calkins introduced a last-minute proposal calling on the Commission to pass a resolution encouraging the Santa Rosa School Board to remove what he believes to be pornographic literature from school district libraries. The item had not been discussed at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. Calkins also sought commission approval to make June pro-life month in Santa Rosa County, an item that had been discussed Monday.

Leon County Schools adding gun-detecting artificial intelligence software to 5 schools” via Alaijah Brown of the Tallahassee Democrat — Hoping to bolster efforts to keep guns off campus, Leon County Schools is turning to artificial intelligence to help detect the presence of firearms. School board members on Tuesday unanimously approved a $30,700 contract with Zero Eyes, a Pennsylvania company, to provide cloud-based software enabling school security cameras to recognize guns when they’re not concealed. Once a weapon is detected in real time, an alert is sent to the company’s monitoring command center in Philadelphia where the detection is immediately confirmed by a human and alerted to the school’s administration and local law enforcement. According to Jimmy Williams, the district’s chief of safety and security, this process takes less than 30 seconds and can be detected as far as the parking lot for cameras located outdoors.

Deaths are rising from rip currents along the Panhandle” via The Associated Press — A firefighter from Georgia and two fathers who drowned while trying to save their children are among at least 10 recent victims of dangerous rip currents along Gulf of Mexico beaches stretching across Florida’s Panhandle to Mobile, Alabama. Many of the deaths happened on days with double red flags — which are posted at beach entrances and on lifeguard stations to warn beachgoers of potential rip currents. Since mid-June, there have been six deaths around Panama City Beach.

Update from Sheriff’s Office shows Alachua County Jail still severely understaffed” via Nora O’Neill of The Gainesville Sun — A new update from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office shows the county is still severely understaffed with over 100 vacant positions showing little progress has been made since the issue was discussed by county commissioners in February. During the presentation, which was requested by county commissioners, it was revealed that there are a total of 105 vacancies for combined dual certified officer positions and civilian positions at the jail. In February, data showed that the jail is operating with 246 employees who oversee all operations of the 800-inmate facility, despite there being 354-funded positions. The presentation touched on issues such as the length and nature of the recruitment process as well as retention struggles, though the Board of County Commissioners had hoped for more details.


Manatee deaths pile up in Southwest Florida: What’s causing that?” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press — It’s not been a good year for West Indian manatees, especially in Southwest Florida. Also known as sea cows, these slow-moving marine mammals are dying in droves and boat kills, once again, are the leading cause. With the halfway point of the year approaching, manatees are on pace to have the most watercraft deaths recorded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, in a given year over the past decade. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ve been having more mortality from the West Coast of Florida this year,” said Pat Rose, executive director of Save the Manatee Club. “Thankfully we have significantly less on the East Coast.”

Manatees are dying in droves. Image via Fresh Take Florida.

After hurricane, Florida beach resort tries to put even more people in jeopardy” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — Nine months ago, when Hurricane Ian clobbered Southwest Florida, one of the places that suffered serious damage was the South Seas Resort on Captiva Island. The resort was battered so badly that it has yet to reopen. Even in places that are still standing, the storm damaged the roof, letting rain pour in, spurring the spread of mold. While working to rebuild the resort, the owners decided to make a few changes – changes that led to a tense showdown last week with an angry crowd that packed a Lee County Commission meeting. South Seas’ owners wanted to build their buildings higher (hence my “tall tale” reference) and to increase the overall density of the site.

Lovers Key State Park reopens after Hurricane Ian’s hit 9 months ago. What to know” via Samantha Neely of the Fort Myers News-Press — Another park has returned to Southwest Florida after extensive repairs from hurricane damage. Lovers Key State Park reopened this week on Fort Myers Beach, nine months after Hurricane Ian, with limited day-use activities. Both locals and tourists can rejoice over the beloved park coming back to the community despite the fewer activities offered. The state park sustained significant impacts from Hurricane Ian, including extensive flooding, downed trees and vegetation, and damage to structures, according to past Lee County Park updates. In News-Press reports of Ian’s aftermath, videos show sky-high piles of hurricane debris, filled with tree branches, items from beachgoers, and remains from nearby buildings.

Duo impersonated gaming commission staff, confiscated cash at Florida arcades, cops say” via Mark Price of the Bradenton Herald — A divorced Florida couple successfully pulled off two arcade robberies by masquerading as gaming commission investigators, using name tags and a holstered pistol, according to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. Their big mistake, investigators say, was doing it twice in one afternoon. The duo was arrested after the real Florida Gaming Control Commission confirmed none of its agents had been at either arcade in North Fort Myers, the sheriff’s office said in a news release. Both robberies occurred Monday, June 26, and involved a man “dressed in a uniform shirt with a patch labeled US Security Associates and a holstered firearm” and a woman “wearing business attire and had a lanyard around her neck with an ID card,” officials said.

Manufacturing complex in Manatee County sold in $13.75M transaction” via Derek Gilliam of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A Manatee County manufacturing complex that for decades built boats in the Whitfield community has been sold for $13.8 million as a national building supply company expands operations in the area. Builders FirstSource (NYSE: BLDR) purchased the 9.9-acre lot to be a distribution center for the publicly traded company’s local operations. Builders FirstSource is a national supplier of structural building products and services for residential construction and remodeling companies, according to a news release announcing the sale. The property was developed by boat manufacturer Donzi Marine in 1964, which operated at the facility until 2010, said a spokesperson for Harry E. Robbins & Associates.


It’s not too late for the Republican Party” via J. Michael Luttig for The New York Times — The stewards of the Republican Party have become so inured to their putative leader, they have managed to convince themselves that an indicted and perhaps even convicted Trump is their party’s best hope for the future. But rushing to model their campaign on Trump’s breathtakingly inane template is as absurd as it is ill fated. They will be defending the indefensible.

On cue, the Republicans kicked their self-defeating political apparatus into high gear this month.

If the indictment of Trump on Espionage Act charges — not to mention his now almost certain indictment for conspiring to obstruct Congress from certifying Biden as the president on Jan. 6 — fails to shake the Republican Party from its moribund political senses, then it is beyond saving itself. Nor ought it be saved.

There is no path to the White House for Republicans with Trump. He would need every single Republican and independent vote, and there are untold numbers of Republicans and independents who will never vote for him, if for no other perfectly legitimate reason than that he has corrupted America’s democracy and is now attempting to corrupt the country’s rule of law. No sane Democrat will vote for Trump — even over the aging Biden — when there are so many sane Republicans who will refuse to vote for Trump. This is all plain to see, which makes it all the more mystifying why more Republicans don’t see it.

Republicans have waited in vain for political absolution. It’s finally time for them to put the country before their party and pull back from the brink — for the good of the party, as well as the nation.

If not now, then they must forever hold their peace.


Could Biden actually lose the Democratic race?” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — A new Fox News poll asked Democratic voters which candidate, Biden, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Marianne Williamson, or an unnamed other, they “would like to see as the Democratic presidential nominee.” The results were 64% for Biden, 17% for Kennedy, and 10% for Williamson. Another 10% was “other, none of the above, or don’t know.”

What does it mean? First of all, Biden’s 64% is not great, but if he can keep a lid on Kennedy’s support, which has not grown in the last couple of months, he has no reason to worry.

But still, there is this concern: If you combine the support for Kennedy, Williamson, and the “others” and “none of the aboves,” about a third of the Democratic electorate does not want Biden to be the party’s 2024 nominee. That is a pretty significant number.

That raises a question: What if a real challenger entered the Democratic race? A candidate who cannot be dismissed as a kook or a fringe figure or an unnamed “other?”

That might produce a serious challenge to Biden and a real chance of a new Democratic candidate in the 2024 General Election. But who might that candidate be?

If any mainstream Democrat is bold enough to jump in, time is passing, and failure is a real possibility. He or she would definitely face the wrath of Democratic Party officialdom. But they might win support from the party that really matters: the voters.

The Supreme Court will increasingly control U.S. elections” via Jason Willick of The Washington Post — For liberals of a certain generation, Bush v. Gore, the 2000 Supreme Court opinion that stopped Florida’s recount and confirmed George W. Bush’s Presidential victory, is the high court’s original sin, the taproot of its alleged conservative activism. Yet in Moore v. Harper, the “independent state legislature” case decided this week, the justices pointed to Bush v. Gore as a template for resolving election disputes. The judiciary is the best available authority to superintend the nation’s closely polarized elections. But that system is hardly a panacea. the Supreme Court finds itself in an increasingly volatile institutional position: Relied on to decide which party takes power in times of uncertainty, but also increasingly attacked as partisan and illegitimate.

Melony Bell: New hydrogen hub takes Polk County’s economy to new heights” via Florida Politics — The memorandum of understanding that DeSantis recently signed with the LowCarbon Hydrogen Corporation to create a clean hydrogen research hub in Polk County is a huge step forward toward a stronger diversified economy. And it promises hundreds of high-paying jobs to our region. The new hydrogen facility planned for our state will specifically help advance the development and deployment of clean hydrogen and related technologies that will be used to support space launches and other aerospace applications. Now, Florida will be a one-stop shop for companies operating in the space industry, with manufacturing, launching, and fuel production now all happening in our state. The new hydrogen facility being built in collaboration with Space Florida will help create new, high-paying clean energy jobs and position our region in particular as a leader in innovation.

Jacob Lupfer: Lenny Curry was the best Republican Mayor Democrats could’ve hoped for” via Florida Politics — The more I told my new friends I thought the Mayor was OK, the harder local Democrats, albeit with long years of frustrations and grievances, pushed back. They called him a fascist, a neo-Nazi sympathizer, a drunk and a clown. It all seemed a little unhinged to me. None of it squared with my impressions. So, I tried a new tack, and this remains my message to local liberals: Curry was about the best Republican Mayor a Democrat could have hoped for. Given that he was Chair of the state Party in the Tea Party era, Curry is eminently sane compared to the legions of aggrieved Republicans, some lightly racist and actually fascist-adjacent, who came to power then and subsequently.

Anyone else dreading July 1, when Florida loosens its gun laws?” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Anyone with good sense in Florida is dreading July 1. That’s the day when the state starts allowing people over the age of 21 to carry a concealed weapon without a permit and without any gun training at all. It’s the terrible law that DeSantis and the complicit Legislature pushed through this session as they piled aboard the DeSantis-for-President train, intent on giving the Governor the rightest of far-right of platforms to run on, in the hope of siphoning support from Trump. Florida isn’t the only state to do it. In fact, it’s the 26th, joining Kentucky, Alabama, Maine and Texas, among others.

Bridget Ziegler has no background in education. Maybe that explains it all” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Seriously, of all the university professors and scholars with advanced degrees in education in the United States of America, and yet Ziegler is the leading voice? All the superintendents, school board members, principals, and teachers with decades upon decades of experience in one of the most important fields in our country, and yet Ziegler is the one to turn to for her wisdom, guidance, and expertise? Now, anyone who has been paying attention should be quite concerned that someone with no educational background has this much influence when it comes to education. She has no background in education whatsoever, but she did sell Gucci, if that counts.



Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at South Florida politics and other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of Summer tourism in Florida beyond the big theme parks and how the State Legislature is providing tax relief for Summertime outdoor activities this year. Joining Walker are Rep. Stan McClain; DT Minich, president/CEO of Experience Kissimmee; and Gui Cunha, administrator for the Office of Economic Development and Tourism, Seminole County.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: As laws from the 2023 Legislative Session go into effect, a discussion with Rep. Dianne Hart on one of her measures that was vetoed by the Governor; a recap of the Supreme Court rulings; and the latest on the 2024 campaign trail.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: A one-on-one discussion with Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings about crime trends in the county and what officials can do to help bring down the number of gun violence incidents countywide.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon and Jay Revell of Revell Media.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Government law attorney and author Chris Hand.

— ALOE —

The art of keeping Elvis alive in small-town Florida” via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times — Don’t call them impersonators. The men who do this will tell you that any schmo can impersonate. That “impersonator” is akin to “impostor.” That Elvis tribute artists are, well, artists. On a rainy Wednesday afternoon, one such artist leaned against the brown, metal facade of the Citrus County Auditorium, at the edge of a fairgrounds in a rural town with no major highway connection, and reflected on how he got there. On a rainy Wednesday afternoon, one such artist leaned against the brown, metal facade of the Citrus County Auditorium, at the edge of a fairgrounds in a rural town with no major highway connection, and reflected on how he got there.

What Heather Turnbull is reading —Dog given less than 5% chance to walk again defies odds” via James Tully of ABC Action News — One year ago, Brent was adopted from the Pasco County Animal Shelter. But shortly after the adoption, Brent slipped his collar and ran away. Nancy Boyce then teamed up with Lea Haverstock, the founder of Maxx and Me Rescue. Together they assembled a team to try and find Brent. Eventually, a construction worker spotted him and Brent was brought home. But there was a big problem, he was dragging his back legs. It was assumed he got hit by a car. Brent had surgery on his spine, but doctors doubted he’d ever be able to walk again. Vets gave him less than a 5% chance at best. A team of people, including Boyce, Haverstock, and several others, made sure Brent did his physical therapy religiously. Brent went through many months of laser therapy, massage therapy, and hydrotherapy. In the end, it paid off because one day, Brent got up and started walking again. Brent is now defying the odds and is truly a miracle.

What Ryan Wiggins is reading — “Blue Angels Pensacola Beach Air Show 2023 schedule announced” via Brandon Girod of the Pensacola News Journal — The Pensacola Beach Air Show will take place July 5-8 and include a host of world-class aerobatic performers, interactive exhibits, the Blues Beachside Bazaar vendor market and emerald Gulf Coast waters. Breakfast with the Blues will officially kick off the air show weekend on July 5. Visitors can pull up to Pensacola Beach around 8 a.m. as the Blue Angels arrive and circle overhead to mark the show’s coordinates and center points along the beach. A practice show featuring only the Blue Angels will happen at 2 p.m. Thursday and makes for a great way to watch the team perform with slightly smaller crowds. The Pensacola Beach Air Show dress rehearsal will kick off around noon on Friday. The Blue Angels will take to the sky at 2 p.m.

Universal: 3 free months added to annual-pass purchases, renewals” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando is adding three free months onto its annual passes — for both new purchases and renewals — by Florida residents. This deal applies to the range of season passes as well as to the two-park and three-park options. Two-park passes allow entry into Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure theme parks. A three-park pass includes Volcano Bay water park. Posted prices for two parks currently range from $324.99 to $529.99, depending on level. Season and Power Pass levels come with several days of block-out dates; the Preferred Pass has no block-out dates and includes parking in the Universal Orlando garages. Prices for three parks range from $424.99 to $979.99.


Celebrating today are Sen. Erin Grall, former Rep. Travis Cummings; Adam’s better half, Beth Babington; Kelly Mallette, and Carrie DiMuzio Madden. Early best wishes to Andreina Figueroa.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, 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
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