Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.17.23

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Get ready for an espresso shot of Florida politics and policy.

Good Monday morning.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is joining Ballard Partners as a partner in its Washington, Tallahassee and Jacksonville offices.

“Lenny’s exemplary stature as a leader in our state and nation is rare and we are especially honored to have him join our firm,” said Brian Ballard, the firm’s President and founder. “Given his extraordinary relationships and experiences, Lenny will be an invaluable advocate for the firm’s clients in Washington, Tallahassee and Jacksonville.” 

Winning both his first campaign in 2015 and his re-election campaign in 2019, Curry served as Mayor of the City of Jacksonville from 2015 to 2023. Before he served as Mayor, Curry was elected as Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is joining one of the biggest lobbying firms in the nation.

He also previously served as a Jacksonville Housing Commission Board member, a Commissioner of the Florida State Boxing Commission, a Junior Achievement Board member and a Jacksonville Symphony Association Board member. 

“I am delighted to be joining Brian and the outstanding team at Ballard Partners, and I am looking forward to contributing to the firm’s continued growth and success across the country,” said Curry. 

From 1994 to 2002, Curry practiced as a Certified Public Accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world’s largest accounting firm, where he was a Senior Manager in the Jacksonville office. In 2002, he became a job creator when he co-founded a Jacksonville-based professional services firm, ICX Group, providing finance and accounting consulting, executive recruiting and staffing services. 


Jason Harrell is joining the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants (FICPA) as Chief External Affairs Officer, effective Monday.

Harrell will be stationed at the FICPA Governmental Affairs office in Tallahassee and will direct all aspects of the FICPA’s public policy, advocacy, governmental affairs and regulatory efforts. He will serve as the liaison to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Florida Board of Accountancy and will be responsible for all advocacy-related external communications and campaigns to increase the value of the CPA license.

Alongside FICPA’s longtime external public affairs agency, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, Harrell will establish and implement the FICPA’s lobbying strategy.

Jason Harrell. Image via FICPA.

“I’m extremely honored to join the FICPA as its new Chief External Affairs Officer,” Harrell said. “I understand the important role CPAs play in our economy, and I welcome this incredible opportunity to represent the organization and the profession in Tallahassee. I look forward to working with the FICPA leadership team and accounting professionals across the state to promote the profession and further grow our legislative advocacy program.”

As a member of the executive team, Harrell will work alongside FICPA President & CEO Shelly Weir, Chief Growth & Innovation Officer Carrie Summerlin, and Chief Financial Officer Kristin High to lead and execute the strategic direction of the FICPA.  

“Advocacy is at the core of what we do at FICPA. Jason’s rich experience in public policy and governmental affairs make him a perfect fit for the FICPA,” Weir said. “After our extensive search to fill this role, it was Jason’s expertise, professionalism and enthusiasm that truly stood out. I am excited to work alongside him as we continue our efforts to protect and promote the CPA profession in Florida.”


Florida Chamber 37th Annual Environmental Permitting Summer School — 1; new Steph Curry documentary premieres — 4; Lionel Messi to make his Major League Soccer debut with Inter Miami CF — 4; Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ premieres — 4; Gov. Ron DeSantis to speak in Iowa at Rep. Ashley Hinson’s annual BBQ Bash — 19; ‘Billions’ final season premieres — 25; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 30; Port Orange, Lake Helen, Ponce Inlet to hold elections — 36; The first GOP Presidential Primary debate — 37; ‘Ahsoka’ premieres on Disney+ — 37; The U.S. Open begins — 42; 2023 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 45; Florida House Fall 2023 Interim Committee Meetings begin — 63; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres — 81; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 98; Britney Spears memoir ‘The Woman in Me’ drops — 99; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 109; Suncoast Tiger Bay Club hosts ‘Evening with the Tigers’ — 113; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 116; Formula 1 will take over the Las Vegas Strip — 122; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 128; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 135; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 149; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 176; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 184; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 201; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 204; Georgia Democratic Primary — 210; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 221; Michigan Democratic Primary — 227; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 237; 2024 Oscars — 239; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 256; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 291; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 311; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 375; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 375; New ‘Alien’ premieres — 396; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 404; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 522; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 578; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 655; ‘Moana’ premieres — 711; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 886; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 1,019; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,041; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,254; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,393; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,349; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,712.


Veterans quit DeSantis’ Florida State Guard, citing militia-style training” via Lawrence Mower, Emma Rose Brown, and Ana Ceballos of the Times/Herald — When Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in 2021 that he wanted to revive the long-dormant State Guard, he vowed it would help Floridians during emergencies. But in the year since its launch, key personnel and a defined mission remain elusive. The state is looking for the program’s third leader in eight months. According to records reviewed by the Times/Herald and interviews with program volunteers, a number of recruits quit after the first training class last month because they feared it was becoming too militaristic.

Florida State Guard members train in this image from the website of Gov. DeSantis.

Weeks into that inaugural June training, one volunteer, a disabled retired Marine Corps captain, called the local sheriff’s office to report he was battered by Florida National Guard instructors when they forcibly shoved him into a van after he questioned the program and its leadership.

… Three former members told the Times/Herald the program veered from its original mission.

“The program got hijacked and turned into something that we were trying to stay away from: a militia,” said Brian Newhouse, a retired 20-year Navy veteran who was chosen to lead one of the State Guard’s three divisions.

… The training only loosely resembled a military boot camp, however, according to Newhouse and two other volunteers who together spent decades in the military. They described the National Guard trainers as inexperienced and the training as slapdash.

Unlike a military boot camp, State Guard volunteers were given almost no written training materials, and they weren’t tested on what they learned. Despite having to meet physical fitness tests, no doctor issued them physical exams to determine their level of health.

Some military veterans found themselves being barked at by National Guard members who were much younger — and had much less experience.

… The program now finds itself leaderless for the second time in less than a year. Most of the original leadership Soler appointed have quit.

— “What the Tampa Bay Times did not include in exposé about the Florida State Guard” via Julio Rosas of Townhall 


Ron DeSantis’ campaign finances have some flashing warning signs” via NBC News — Gov. DeSantis tapped out top donors and burned through $7.9 million in his first six weeks as a presidential candidate, according to an NBC News analysis of his new campaign finance disclosure. The numbers suggest, for the first time, that solvency could be a threat to DeSantis’ campaign, which has touted its fundraising ability as a key measure of viability. They reflect the broader reality that DeSantis stalled after his launch: polling ahead of the Republican primary pack but far behind former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis campaign sheds staff amid cash crunch” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Fewer than 10 staffers were let go by the Florida Governor’s campaign, according to a person familiar with the internal deliberations and granted anonymity  to describe them. Each of the aides was involved in event planning, and some of them may soon wind up at an allied outside group. Never Back Down, the pro-DeSantis super PAC, has received resumes from staffers who’ve been let go, a person familiar with the group said. The decision to shed the staff comes as the DeSantis campaign has struggled to meet its fundraising expectations.

—“Trump team blasts DeSantis for admitting post-midterm polling was only a ‘sugar-high’” via Rachel Schilke of the Washington Examiner

‘A long slog’: Inside DeSantis’s early struggles and effort to rebound” via The Washington Post — DeSantis’s allies were eager to regain momentum on the eve of his presidential campaign launch in May. Supporters gleefully predicted the sheer buzz from a splashy announcement — live on Twitter — would rival Donald Trump’s 2015 ride down a golden escalator. Fundraisers were upbeat as they convened at the Four Seasons Miami, some convinced Trump’s daunting lead would shrink as DeSantis finally got in the race. That hasn’t happened. More than seven weeks in, skepticism about the Florida governor’s 2024 bid has grown.

The Ron DeSantis campaign is shedding staff amid a cash crunch. Image via AP/Rebecca Blackwell.

Door-knocker complaints show risks of DeSantis super PAC strategy” via Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post — With his foot on a front porch of a stately home in Charleston, S.C., a canvasser for a $100 million field effort supporting DeSantis vented on July 7 about a homeowner who he said had told him to get off his lawn. Speaking on his phone while wearing a T-shirt with “DESANTIS” in big letters and a lanyard representing the Never Back Down super PAC, he used lewd remarks to describe what he would tell the homeowner to do to him. “And I’m a little stoned, so I don’t even care,” he added, holding materials and appearing to wait for another homeowner to come to the door.

‘DeSantis discount’: Governor slashes seat price for Hamptons fundraiser” via Lydia Moynihan of the New York Post — When it comes to campaign fundraisers, DeSantis has been relegated to the “discount section” as his chances of winning the White House continue to fade, sources told On The Money. The cost to attend the Florida Governor’s July 20 fundraiser in the Hamptons has dropped to $3,300 per person — less than three weeks after the Republican hopeful on June 29 charged $6,600 a plate at the Yale Club in Manhattan, according to invitations reviewed by On The Money. “DeSantis is now in the discount section,” one source close to the campaign told On The Money.

—“DeSantis visits Dairy Queen in Iowa after Trump’s ‘Blizzard’ flub” via Zoë Richards and Alec Hernández of NBC News

—”‘Fox and Friends’ details how DeSantis lost the Iowa Dairy Queen caucus” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

DeSantis to become 1st GOP candidate to file for South Carolina Primary during visit next week” via Meg Kinnard of The Associated Press — Florida Gov. DeSantis plans to file his 2024 candidacy for South Carolina’s Republican Presidential Primary when he’s in the first-in-the-South voting state next week, becoming the first GOP hopeful to do so. DeSantis will file his paperwork at the state GOP headquarters in Columbia on Tuesday, his campaign told The Associated Press. DeSantis will make his candidacy official during his third campaign swing through South Carolina, where Republican hopefuls have been stumping for more than a year already. On Monday, he makes a stop in Tega Cay, an affluent community on Lake Wylie along the state line with North Carolina.

— “DeSantis to sit down with CNN’s Jake Tapper for an exclusive interview Tuesday” via CNN 

—“Trump says 2024 running mate could be one of his primary opponents” via Brett Samuels of the Miami Herald

Wall Street execs make first bets against Trump in 2024” via Brian Schwartz of CNBC — A wave of executives in the finance sector made early donations to Trump’s primary opponents in the second quarter, as many on Wall Street look for an alternative to the former president to lead the Republican Party in 2024. New Federal Election Commission filings show that dozens of Wall Street executives donated the legal maximum of either $3,300 for the primary or $6,600 for the entire election cycle to many of the Republican candidates polling below Trump in the primary. DeSantis took in at least 15 notable contributions from leaders in finance, including veteran hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, who donated $6,600.

Ron DeSantis says he’d consider Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds as running mate” via Jack McCordick of Vanity Fair — DeSantis said he’d consider Iowa Gov. Reynolds as a potential running mate at an event during his two-day tour through the state. “Of course,” he said on Saturday when asked about the prospect of running with Reynolds, who is extremely popular in her state and boasts a 90% approval rating among Republicans. “I mean, she’s one of the top public servants in America.” The statement is just the latest example of a growing coziness between the two governors, as DeSantis hopes to mount a strong challenge to frontrunner Trump and revive his flagging campaign. The campaign recently hired a former Iowa state Senator as a “senior adviser on all things Iowa,” Axios reported, and has embarked on a blitz of events in the state.

Ron DeSantis is floating Kim Reynolds as a potential VP pick. Image via AP.

Club starts anti-Trump blitz” via Josh Kraushaar of Axios — A group affiliated with the anti-tax Club for Growth this week launched a sustained ad blitz against former President Trump, featuring a supporter concerned the GOP front-runner is unelectable in 2024. The ad is a textbook example of how tricky it is to convince Trump-friendly Republicans to consider voting for an alternative in next year’s Primary. The ad tries to play up the chaos surrounding Trump’s presidency along with concerns about his electability against Biden. The ads by the Win It Back PAC cost about $3.6 million and are airing on television in the critical early states of Iowa and South Carolina. “We definitely need someone that can freakin’ win,” a man sitting at his home says in the spot. “I think you’d probably lose that bet if you voted for Trump.”

DeSantis says Trump not only didn’t fulfill major promise, it got worse” via Jessica Chasmar of Fox News — DeSantis rattled off a list of what he deemed to be broken 2016 campaign promises by Trump, saying he’d rather attack the GOP front-runner on the issues than personality. “Substantively, we’ve been very frank about our differences with respect to the former President,” the Florida Governor said. “I mean, for example, he promised to drain the swamp – it got worse. He did not drain the swamp. He promised to have Mexico pay for a border wall. They did like 50 miles of wall. There’s massive expanses still there. He said he was going to eliminate the national debt. They added almost $8 trillion to the debt in four years.” DeSantis made the comments Sunday on Fox News Channel’s “Media Buzz” after anchor Howard Kurtz referred to recent criticism by fellow GOP candidate Christie.

— MORE 2024 —

The 2024 field (minus Trump) goes through the Tucker stress test” via Sally Goldenberg of POLITICO — On paper it was a chance for presidential candidates to appeal to conservative Christians in the nation’s first caucus state. In practice, it doubled as the Tucker Carlson show. Most of the Republican field arrived at a packed convention center Friday for an annual forum traditionally billed as a chance for candidates to pitch themselves to Iowa’s influential evangelicals. Instead, several were subjected to a combative stress test conducted by the ousted Fox News anchor whose 9 million-strong Twitter following demonstrates his continued sway over the GOP. One candidate Carlson did not have the opportunity to grill on stage was Trump. The GOP field’s frontrunner skipped the event, citing a scheduling conflict, a move that angered the head of the hosting organization.

At Florida event, Trump tells DeSantis to give up the race” via Neil Vigdor of the Orlando Sentinel — On the home turf of his chief Republican rival, Trump told a conservative gathering on Saturday night that it was futile for DeSantis to keep battling him for the party’s presidential nomination. In a prime-time speech at the Turning Point Action Conference in West Palm Beach, Trump claimed that his polling lead over DeSantis and every other GOP candidate was insurmountable, and suggested that the Florida governor should stand down for the good of the party. Trump, who leads DeSantis by roughly 30 percentage points in national polls and 20 points in the latest Florida poll, dismissed DeSantis’ early momentum as a mirage.

Trump focuses on young voters at Turning Point Action conference” via Stephany Matat of the Palm Beach Post — Former President Trump told young conservative voters that the 2024 Presidential Election would determine “whether your generation inherits a fascist country or a free country,” and pledged to enact a list of right-wing policy preferences if re-elected. “Sixteen months from now, each of you will vote in one of the most important elections of your lifetimes,” Trump said. “I know the young conservative warriors — and you are warriors — of Turning Point can’t let this happen, and you won’t let this happen.” In his speech to about 6,000 people at the Turning Point Action conference at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, the twice-impeached former President painted the country in a grim, dark light.

For Cuban American voters in Florida, it’s Trump’s race by a mile” via Aaron Franco and Morgan Radford of NBC News — The race to secure Cuban American voters’ loyalty appears to be Trump’s to lose, leaving his Republican rivals in the state playing catch-up. Although Trump won Florida in the 2016 Republican primary, exit polls show he lost the Cuban American vote to Sen. Rubio, whose parents are Cuban immigrants, by 46 percentage points. After that, Trump went on what Amandi described as a “full court press charm offensive,” campaigning heavily in Florida, appearing on Spanish-language radio and delivering hard-line policies toward Cuba during his time as President.

Miami’s Francis Suarez raises $1 million in White House bid” via Gregory Korte, and Bill Allison of Bloomberg — Suarez raised nearly $1 million in the first two weeks of his campaign for the presidency, but the real strength in his bid is in the more than $12 million generated by two super political action committees supporting his candidacy. Suarez would not say how close he is to meeting the 40,000-donor threshold to make the first Republican National Committee-sponsored debate in Milwaukee next month, and he has polled no higher than 1% in any national poll.

Francis Suarez has raised more than $1 million since announcing his presidential campaign.

Suarez is fundraising with drawings for tickets to Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami debut” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Miami Mayor Suarez’s presidential campaign is raffling off Inter Miami tickets as part of a blitz to secure enough donors to make the first Republican primary debate in August. Federal campaign laws generally permit raffles, but the campaign’s actions could raise questions about compliance with Florida’s gaming laws. A donation to Suarez for President, Inc., his official nonprofit campaign organization, is not required to enter the drawing. The free-to-enter policy is required for nonprofits to legally hold raffles. But other public notices required by state law, including contest rules and the location and time of the drawing, were not shared in the tweet Suarez sent promoting the contest. For the prize, his campaign turned to a familiar source.

Dark horse GOP candidate Doug Burgum drops $10M into his White House bid” via Paul Steinhauser of Fox News — North Dakota Gov. Burgum told Fox News last week that when it comes to funding his dark-horse bid for the Republican presidential nomination, he’d “put dollars into this campaign.” The multimillionaire former software company CEO turned two-term Governor wasn’t kidding. Burgum’s campaign reports raising $11.7 million in the 23 days from June 7 — when the Governor declared his candidacy for President — through the end of the month, which marked the close of the April-June second quarter of 2023 fundraising. That figure, shared first with Fox News, included a $10.2 million personal investment from Burgum.

—”Key takeaways from the latest presidential campaign finance reports” via Maeve Reston, Anu Narayanswamy and Clara Ence Morse of The Washington Post

It’s trans adults, too: GOP candidates now back trans medical restrictions for all ages” via Alex Roarty of McClatchy DC — Trump had recently finished a familiar riff about banning gender transition surgery for children when the former President, speaking to an audience of Evangelical voters, moved on to something new: a policy that would affect transgender adults. “I will ban all taxpayer funding for sex or gender transitions at any age,” said Trump, receiving thunderous applause at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Washington last month. The Republican leader, who moments earlier had also pledged to reinstate a ban on transgender men and women serving in the military, paused for several seconds to soak in the crowd’s adulation. It’s the kind of moment — and the type of policy — increasingly common on the GOP presidential campaign trail this year.

Young voters are getting less likely to identify as Dems. It spells trouble for Biden.” via Myah Ward of POLITICO — Biden’s Gen Z whisperer has a warning for the President: Get going on addressing youth enthusiasm now, or it may be too late. John Della Volpe, one of the Biden 2020 campaign pollsters, has issued these admonitions in briefings with the President’s reelection team and in conversations with top White House aides. Having analyzed youth voter data for more than two decades, he said that voters under 30 today are less likely to identify as Democrats compared to spring 2019. More consider themselves independents, and fewer see politics as a “meaningful way to create change.”

—”Biden camp pops Trump, DeSantis over fundraising” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

—“Biden says the economy’s doing great. Lots of his own voters don’t believe him.” via Monica Potts of FiveThirtyEight

TFG —Robert F. Kennedy Jr. suggests COVID-19 was designed to spare Jews, Chinese people” via Ruby Cramer of The Washington Post — Kennedy advanced a dangerous conspiracy theory this week that the coronavirus could have been a bioweapon “deliberately targeted” to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people while disproportionately attacking White and Black people. “There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately,” Kennedy said during a dinner on New York’s Upper East Side on Tuesday evening. “COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.”


On the abortion front, Florida faces a clash between potential ballot proposals in 2024” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix — Last weekend in Miami Beach, organizers behind a constitutional amendment protecting abortion access on next year’s ballot say they’ve gathered more than 420,000 petitions and raised more than $4.7 million in just two months — but opponents are trying to slow their momentum. While it’s received little media attention, a group called Protect Human Life Florida is working on their own effort to collect signatures for what they are calling the Human Life Protection Amendment, setting up a potential clash on abortion proposals on the 2024 ballot. The Protect Human Life constitutional amendment would recognize “the God-given right to life of the preborn individual” and define “preborn individual” as a preborn human person at any stage of development.

Eileen Higgins’ re-election campaign continues posting strong fundraising numbers. Image via Eileen Higgins.

Eileen Higgins raises $91K in month leadup to Miami-Dade Commission re-election bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Higgins is currently unopposed for re-election next year, but she’s been fundraising as if she faces tough competition. Since New Year’s Day, the incumbent Democrat has amassed more than $234,000 through her political committee, Rebranding Politics, to retain her District 5 seat on the technically nonpartisan County Commission. Her biggest monthly haul this year was in June, when her PC took in $91,500. She filed for re-election Monday.

A ‘new’ Florida Democratic Party wants to oust a rich Senator? See it to believe it” via the Miami Herald editorial board — The Florida Democratic Party finally has a few things going for it: positive news headlines, a new leader and renewed sense of energy. Party leaders are calling the annual “Leadership Blue” fundraiser at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach last weekend a “new day” for them. Democrats had an embarrassing show in last year’s midterms, when they lost Miami-Dade County for the first time in decades. DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Rubio cruised to reelection by double digits. Fanfare and fancy events aside, a new day will begin when Democrats start winning statewide elections again.


Democrat Phil Ehr will launch his campaign to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott today, according to a source familiar with the Panhandle politician’s plans.

Ehr’s rollout will include an introduction video, emails and texts. He is expected to aggressively target Scott’s embrace of Trump and other “extreme MAGA Republicans” as well as Scott’s much maligned 11-point plan to “Rescue America,” which included the potential sunset of Social Security and Medicare.

Sources close to Democrat Phil Ehr say he’ll officially launch a bid for U.S. Senate on Monday.

Ehr previously ran for Congress, challenging U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in Florida’s 1st Congressional District. That cycle saw his campaign amass more than $2 million and those on board for his Senate run expect to post a significant early fundraising tally for his 2024 bid.

The 26-year U.S. Navy veteran recently returned from doing humanitarian work in Ukraine, delivering medicine, supplies, food and other essential items.

To date, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is the only high-profile Democrat to file but the Orlando-area politician is not seen as a true threat to the incumbent. When Ehr’s entry is official, he will be Scott’s first serious challenger.

Scott defeated former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, by a razor-thin margin in the 2018 cycle. His re-election campaign recently announced that it raised $1.5 million in the second quarter and currently has $3 million banked.


DeSantis may have a successor in the wings: Byron Donalds” via Pablo Manríquez of Vanity Fair — “He’s as well-spoken … as any member of Congress is,” says Rep. Ralph Norman, pausing midsentence for three awkward seconds before completing his thought. “That’s why I put him up for Speaker,” he says, smiling. “I think it was originally Chip Roy’s idea,” Rep. Matt Gaetz clarifies to me later. “Yeah, he did,” Donalds laughs. “I had to pray about it, talk about it, then go do it,” says Donalds of accepting the nomination. Six months later, Donalds is trying to catapult himself into a voice for his party, and maybe into the Florida Governor’s Mansion. “Oh yeah, I would do it,” Donalds, 44, tells me when I ask him if he wants to run for Governor.

Byron Donalds 2026? It could happen.

A Presidential search was halted because of ‘Anomalies.’ The board Chair says nothing’s amiss.” via Emma Pettit of The Chronicle — In a surprising move, Florida Atlantic University’s search for a new president was suspended last week just days after the institution announced its finalists. Ray Rodrigues, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, flagged concerns about the process, prompting FAU’s search firm to defend its practices and others to criticize the move as politically motivated. On Friday, Rodrigues called for the search to be suspended in light of alleged “anomalies.”

DeSantis camp drops Disney montage after CEO says company isn’t ‘sexualizing kids’” via Amber Jo Cooper of Florida’s Voice — The DeSantis War Room, an arm of the DeSantis campaign, shared a montage Friday after Disney CEO Bob Iger publicly commented that the company is not “sexualizing children.” The back and forth debacle between DeSantis and Disney has continued for more than a year. Disney faced backlash after vowing to have Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law repealed in March 2022. The Parental Rights in Education law banned discussions and teachings about gender and sexual identity in grades K-3. Left-wing activists have falsely dubbed it “Don’t Say Gay.”  In the montage, Iger said, “The notion that Disney is in any way sexualizing children, quite frankly, is preposterous and inaccurate.”

Ashley Moody warns DOJ against investigating migrant flights” via Darryl Coote of UPI — Moody is asking the Department of Justice to reject California’s request that it open a criminal investigation into her state’s scheme to ship migrants to Democrat-led cities. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, last week called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to open a federal criminal investigation into flights chartered by DeSantis that transported dozens of migrants and asylum seekers from Texas to Massachusetts Martha’s Vineyard and California’s Sacramento. Newsom and his attorney general, Rob Bonta, have accused DeSantis of using the asylum seekers as “political props.” 

Gov. DeSantis reappoints lawyer who helped secure ‘sweetheart deal’ for Jeffrey Epstein to Judicial Nominating Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — DeSantis has reappointed a lawyer who negotiated a “sweetheart” plea deal for Palm Beach billionaire sex offender Epstein 15 years ago to one of several commissions responsible for nominating judges in Florida. DeSantis again named Miami Beach lawyer Lilly Ann Sanchez, a shareholder at LSN Law Firm, to the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami-Dade County. He first appointed her to the group July 2, 2019. Sanchez was part of a quartet of lawyers that included Ken Starr, author of the Starr Report that led to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, who defended Epstein against charges of the statutory rape of numerous underage high school girls.

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Customers took Florida’s biggest power company to court. DeSantis and lawmakers stepped up to help … the power company.” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — This spring, just a few months after Hurricanes Ian and Nicole flooded Florida, state lawmakers made a bunch of changes meant to help communities recover more quickly from natural disasters. But tucked inside that natural disaster package was a favor for Florida’s big power companies: A new law shielding them from lawsuits brought by customers who suffer losses during post-storm power outages. It surfaced in the state Capitol just a few weeks after Florida’s largest electric utility lost a key round in a class-action lawsuit brought by customers who lost power after Hurricane Irma struck the state in September 2017. The company — Florida Power & Light — is now trying to use the new law to convince a judge to toss the lawsuit.

Kathleen Passidomo could face civil rights complaint over stalled recall bill” via Zac Howard of The Florida Standard — A group pushing for more accountability in local government is accusing Florida Senate President Passidomo of unlawfully killing a bill during the last legislative session. Recall Florida is a nonpartisan group working towards amending the Florida Constitution to allow every county in the state the ability to remove elected officials for egregious conduct. For the past three years, Recall Florida has lobbied for bills that would allow the 47 counties without a charter to recall corrupt local officials guilty of gross misconduct. The group is now threatening to file a federal civil rights complaint against Passidomo because they believe she deliberately stonewalled their latest bill.

Kathleen Passidomo could be facing a civil rights complaint. Image via Colin Hackley.

—“Jason Shoaf tallies wins for rural Florida, helped shift higher education policy” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

State Farm to remain in Florida as Farmers Insurance pulls out” via Amber Jo Cooper of Florida’s Voice — DeSantis’ office confirmed State Farm Insurance plans to continue its presence in the Florida insurance marketplace after Farmers Insurance declared plans to leave the state. State Farm spokesperson Roszell Gadson said a statement that the company plans to commit to “responsible growth” to “deliver promises” to customers. “We are encouraged by the recent insurance reforms and efforts to curb legal system abuse and we will continue to work constructively with the Florida Legislature and the Office of Insurance Regulation to improve the marketplace on behalf of our Florida customers,” Gadson said.

Schools struggle to apply new book law in which even William Shakespeare is ‘suspect’” via Douglas Soule and Ana Goñi-Lessan of USA Today Network — In Leon County, a media specialist says even Shakespeare could be at risk. “A lot of the content that we would have been able to teach before using the Miller Test, I probably couldn’t do that. Even Shakespeare is suspect,” said Kathleen Malloy, Leon County Schools’ coordinator for instructional materials. Shakespeare’s works have already been listed as restricted for certain grades in Orange County. The Miller Test, also called the three-prong test, was how Malloy used to decide what books to purchase as a high school media specialist. The test was established by the Supreme Court to determine whether something was obscene.

MAGA propaganda collides with Florida reality” via Fred Grimm of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Imagine the cognitive dissonance in mocking climate change as so much liberal hype even as the heat index in South Florida exceeds 100 degrees for the 33rd straight day. And counting. Imagine hewing to the official state pretense that Florida’s property insurance crisis isn’t a crisis in the same week that Farmers Insurance Group notified the state that it was skedaddling. Imagine acting as if the spate of racist, homophobic, sexist laws spat out by the Florida Legislature embodies sound policy rather than the cynical contrivances of the Governor’s Presidential campaign.

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House Ethics Committee reaching out to witnesses in revived Matt Gaetz probe” via Paula Reid, Alayna Treene and Annie Grayer of CNN — Investigators from the House Ethics Committee have begun reaching out to witnesses as part of a recently revived investigation into Rep. Gaetz, focused on allegations that he may have engaged in sexual misconduct, illicit drug use or other misconduct. At least one witness said they have spoken to investigators about the Republican congressman in recent weeks about alleged lobbying violations, and sources familiar with the Ethics Committee probe say other witnesses also have been contacted. A source said the Justice Department’s decision not to bring charges against Gaetz does not impact what the committee will and won’t investigate. The committee plans to examine the same allegations they were looking into when they opened the investigation in 2021.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio pitching bill to ban federal use of ‘Latinx’” via Julia Meuller of The Hill — Republican U.S. Sens. Cruz and Rubio are pitching a bill that would ban the use of the term “Latinx” from official government communications, the Texas senator’s office announced Thursday. “Hispanic Americans overwhelmingly oppose the term ‘Latinx,’ and I want to make sure our government does not bow to woke activists in our federal departments or agencies by insisting on ridiculous terminology like this,” Cruz said in a release, adding that the term “has no place in official government communication.” The bill, called the Respect for Hispanic Americans Act, would prohibit federal agencies from using “Latinx” — a gender-inclusive variation of the Spanish terms Latino and Latina — in official communications or forms from agency heads or employees.

Marco Rubio wants ‘Latinx’ deleted from government lexicon.

House passes defense bill with abortion, transgender provisions” via Linsay Wise, Isaac Yu and Simon J. Levien of The Wall Street Journal — The Republican-controlled House narrowly passed a $886 billion defense-policy bill loaded with measures restricting abortion access, transgender healthcare and diversity efforts in the military, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy kept his party largely united amid strong Democratic opposition. The vote was 219-210, with just four Republicans and four Democrats crossing party lines. The Senate is working to pass its own version, and then lawmakers will work behind closed doors to come up with a compromise that must clear both chambers before heading to Biden’s desk for his signature.

Biden national security adviser: Defense bill ‘is never getting to the President’s desk’” via Miranda Nazzaro of The Hill — National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday the House-passed version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is “never getting to the president’s desk.”  “What you’ve seen from an extreme group of Republicans is to put forward a set of amendments that try to mix domestic social debates with … the security needs of our nation,” Sullivan told CNN’s Jake Tapper. Questions were raised last week whether the House would approve the must-pass legislation after conservative lawmakers stuffed the bill with culture war amendments centered around transgender care and diversity and inclusion initiatives.  The House Armed Services Committee passed the measure in a 58-1 vote in June, but support from Democrats dropped after the GOP-sponsored amendments were put in the bill.

Republicans’ conservative election bill heads to House floor” via Justin Papp of Roll Call — The House Administration Committee voted 8-4 on Thursday to advance a conservative election package, batting down dozens of amendments from Democrats during a marathon markup. Democrats have described the bill, dubbed the American Confidence in Elections Act, as a blatant attempt to disenfranchise voters of color, protect wealthy donors and undercut Washington, D.C.’s right to self-govern. Proponents say the 224-page bill is full of commonsense measures to improve voter confidence and election integrity. It would urge states to adopt voter ID requirements; override some D.C. election laws; prevent federal funds from flowing to states that allow noncitizen voting or “ballot harvesting,” in which third parties collect voters’ ballots; and prohibit federal agencies from tapping into conservative nonprofits.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

‘Never seen before:’ Sea turtles likely to break nesting records on Jupiter-area beaches” via Katherine Kokal of the Palm Beach Post — Records are meant to be broken, and sea turtles nesting in Palm Beach County are well on their way. Scientists and volunteers have identified a whopping 17,138 sea turtle nests in the Juno Beach, Jupiter and Tequesta areas so far this summer, according to a news release from the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. At just halfway through this year’s nesting season — which runs from March 1 to Oct. 31 — Loggerhead staff expect to scream past last season’s final number of 18,132 nests on the 9.5-mile stretch of beach they monitor. “We are observing nesting numbers in amounts never seen before,” said Justin Perrault, vice president of research at Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

Amid lawsuit, Miami-Dade Mayor places pet shelter’s director on leave ‘until further notice’” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade Animal Services, the county agency overseeing Doral’s beleaguered Pet Adoption and Protection Center that has struggled with overpopulation and a recent lawsuit filed against its Director, Bronwyn Stanford, by a top benefactor, has a new interim director. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava placed Stanford on paid administrative leave “until further notice,” according to a memo sent to county Commissioners. Cava appointed Annette Jose Interim Director of the Animal Services department to oversee Animal Services’ more than 280 employees. Jose, a county employee since June 2019, had served as assistant director for Animal Services, overseeing its $34 million budget and financing.

Daniella Levine Cava has put the director of Miami-Dade Animal Services on administrative leave ‘until further notice.’

‘It’s really taxing’: South Florida business owners, residents struggle under record-breaking heat” via Shira Moolten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On a sunny Saturday afternoon on the Hollywood Broadwalk, Rasheeda O’Neal sat on the ledge by the beach with an umbrella over her head, waiting for her flight home. “It’s burning up,” she said. O’Neal had come to South Florida from Michigan for a cruise, arriving last Saturday when it was a balmy 93 degrees. “I was expecting it to be hot,” she said, “but it’s a different type.” A record-breaking heat wave continues to envelop South Florida this week, with the heat index, or feels-like temperatures, between 105 and 110 degrees. The heat has been slowing business more than usual, scaring away tourists while locals grit their teeth and continue with their daily routines.

Algae blooms, record heat: Florida climate change puts us all in movie with bad ending” via Frank Cerabino of The Palm Beach Post — The 2021 apocalyptic dark satire written and directed by Adam McKay looks more and more like a parable of Florida living. In the movie’s plot, a civilization-ending comet is hurtling toward the planet. The comet deniers do their best to get people to ignore it. That task grows harder when the comet’s approach becomes visible to the naked eye. So, their solution is to start a disinformation campaign called “Don’t look up.”  The real-life “comet” we face here in Florida is climate change, and the solution state’s leaders seem to be pushing the most could best be described as “Don’t look at the water.” Like the fools in the movie, state leaders are still clinging to their “don’t look” playbooks.

In addressing climate threats, Palm Beach County seeks community input” via Abigail Hasebrookc of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Amid a string of sweaty heat advisories and record-breaking temperatures this summer, Palm Beach County is meeting with the community in a series of workshops to discuss a range of climate-related threats — from flooding to extreme heat to storms. The first meeting took place Tuesday evening in Belle Glade to discuss what’s known as the Climate Risk Assessment & Action Plan. The plan is projected to span several years, the goals of which are to evaluate what specific climate threats impact the county, who is at risk, protect those communities and acquire funding. The department behind it is the county’s Office of Resilience, an agency dedicated to confronting climate change through sustainable development, adaptation and mitigation efforts.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Disney fights to dismiss state-run board’s lawsuit in court hearing” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — An Orange Circuit Court Judge will decide the fate of a lawsuit involving the feud between Disney and its state-run governing board following a court hearing where Disney asked the complaint to be tossed. Judge Margaret Schreiber did not make a decision immediately after the 70-minute hearing. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, formerly known as Reedy Creek, sued Disney in May and accused the Mouse of “a series of eleventh hour deals” meant to steal power from the DeSantis-appointed board before the new members took control of it this year.

The Disney v. DeSantis lawsuit rests in the hands of an Orange County Circuit Court Judge. Image via AP.

Tourism lobby tries to steamroll Orange County hotel tax group” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — I rarely recommend people watch government meetings — unless maybe they have insomnia or a fondness for self-flagellation. But if you want to understand how feverishly the tourism lobby in this community works to keep a stranglehold on politics and politicians in Central Florida, I have one for you to watch. It was the second-to-last meeting of Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ task force on hotel taxes. At least it was supposed to be the second-to-last meeting. For weeks, members had listened to sales pitches for investing billions of tax dollars in big, shiny buildings — a convention center, arena, arts center and football stadium. Taxpayers have already spent billions on these same venues.

Orange County TDT task force members offer other spending ideas” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — The citizens panel assembled to screen funding requests for future tourist-tax revenue will meet Monday for a final time to take up issues Orange County Mayor Demings believes they shouldn’t. Some task force members want to explore how the county might spend tourist-tax millions not just to expand the Orange County Convention Center, fund ad campaigns to lure visitors to theme parks or turn Camping World Stadium into an NFL-ready venue, but to also address dire community challenges — an affordable housing crisis and a failing, inefficient transportation network. They contend 74 million visitors coming to Orlando last year made those problems worse.

Orange County to offer tips to apply for gig worker, business grants” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County government, poised to give away $26 million to qualifying small businesses and “gig” workers, will offer an online class Monday to explain eligibility and how to apply. Small businesses can get up to $10,000; home-based businesses up to $3,000; and gig workers up to $1,400 if they can demonstrate an income loss attributed to the impact of the pandemic. County staff defined “gig” workers as Uber or Lyft drivers, food-delivery workers or others who worked temporary jobs as independent contractors. The available grants may not seem like much, but the money could be enough for a small shop to make a week’s payroll, pay for utilities and stay in business, Mayor Demings said.


A small Pinellas school offers affirmation, representation, hugs galore” via Madison Hahamy of the Tampa Bay Times — Last year, the Infinite Potential Learning Academy enrolled about 50 students in preschool through fifth grade. For the upcoming year, they’re up to 85. Many students came over from the preschool that Twanna Monroe opened in 2010, the similarly named Infinite Potential Learning Center on 62nd Avenue South. Her first foray into the world of education happened years before, after she volunteered at her son’s preschool. There, she fell in love with teaching and quit her job in pharmaceuticals to get a degree in elementary education from the University of South Florida. Today, her academy occupies a structure built in 1914 that once was a white-only, one-room schoolhouse named Oak Grove Elementary. A loan financed its purchase, along with a renovation led by the construction-savvy Kori Monroe.

Could life and low rent change for St. Petersburg marina’s residents?” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times — Among the residents in this gated, waterfront community are a retired judge and Trader Joe’s employee. Engineers, pilots and a dance teacher. A gig worker with three jobs and an executive working from home. Retirees living their dream, families raising children and young adults just starting out. Poll workers shoot them funny looks when they see their addresses on their IDs. People ask strange questions about how they cook their meals and go to the bathroom when they explain where they live. They can hear Rowdies’ goals and see their decks on TV during the Firestone Grand Prix. And many say they live here for less than $1,000 a month.

Could Rays stadium be a casualty in battle over Pinellas beach sand?” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — Pinellas County and the Army Corps of Engineers remain locked in a years-long battle over the restoration of the county’s badly eroded beaches. During a County Commission work session Thursday, commissioners repeatedly alluded to one project that could be a casualty of the conflict: the effort to build a new professional baseball stadium in St. Petersburg. On its face, the process of pumping tons of fresh sand onto the beach, primarily to ensure it can remain a buffer against storm damage, has little to do with baseball. But in Pinellas County, where beaches are the cornerstone of the tourist economy, the two are inextricably bound.

Video shows beachgoers harassing manatees near Clearwater” via Josh Archote of the Tampa Bay Times — Drone footage taken over a beach near Clearwater shows people touching, swimming next to and disturbing manatees close to shore. The video was taken by the owner of See Through Canoe, a company that makes see-through kayaks and other clear boats. There are federal and state laws that protect manatees, which were considered endangered before being reclassified to threatened in 2017. It’s illegal to feed, harass, harm, molest, pursue, hunt, kill, shoot, wound or annoy manatees. Violators can face fines and jail time. That’s because human interaction can alter the animals’ behavior in a way that can be potentially harmful, said Iske Larkin, director of the Aquatic Animal Health Program at the University of Florida.

Seminole residents should have known about ‘toxic secret’ in their water” via Orlando Sentinel editorial board — When local water utilities realize there’s a potentially cancer-causing chemical in their drinking-water supply that had been there for years, possibly decades, they owe it to their customers people whose pipelines and wells have been delivering water they thought was safe, for years, sometimes decades, to remediate the damage, and to identify responsible parties in the expectation that they will be held accountable. And even as those efforts are underway, utilities should keep residents informed about the risks they face. For thousands of residents in Lake Mary, Sanford and unincorporated parts of northwest Seminole County whose tap- and well-water may have been contaminated by a colorless, almost tasteless compound called 1,4-dioxane, that did not happen.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Quick budget deadline limits Mayor Donna Deegan’s Jax Journey transition committee” via Hanna Holthaus of The Florida Times-Union — Mayor Deegan’s team assessing the need for a new Jax Journey will not have enough time to put specific ideas into her first budget, the chair of the committee said. The Jax Journey subcommittee, charged with deciding whether to reimplement the popular crime prevention program, met Wednesday and only has one more meeting to prepare its preliminary report for the full committee. The group originally hoped to identify programs to fund to meet Deegan’s quick budget deadline, but Chair W.C. Gentry said he asked the administration to set enough money below the line – funds available but not allocated – for later in the year. The group will spend the next few weeks deciding what projects were “imperative” to start soon, Gentry said.

Tight deadlines may bump some Jax Journey items from Donna Deegan’s first budget.

Business groups back county panhandling signs; Chamber CEO calls homelessness a ‘crisis’” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Several business groups are standing behind Leon County’s latest move to deter panhandling by installing signs that urge residents to “not give” and seek other ways to help. In May, the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce received more than 220 responses for its survey asking members about how unhoused residents impact their business. The survey, spearheaded by the Chamber’s Business Advocacy Group, found nearly 60% of respondents said the homeless situation in Tallahassee has risen and that owners have “experienced negative impacts to their business or business practices such as hours of business, trash and litter, safety protocols, fewer clients, etc.”

Panama City sets tentative fire-tax rates for next fiscal year. Locals will pay less” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News Herald — Panama City commissioners approved the tentative fire assessment rates for next fiscal year, which will span from the beginning of October until the end of September 2024. Though their decision did not set the exact rates locals will pay during that time, it put a cap on the maximum amounts they can be charged for the assessment. The approved tentative rates are $1.52 for Tier 1 and $176.62 for Tier 2. This is slightly less than the current rates of $1.59 for Tier 1 and $184.78 for Tier 2. The decrease stems from officials working to create alternatives that could supplement the assessment. The city says Tier 2 is a flat rate paid by every property owner, while Tier 1 is the amount owed per $1,000 of improvements to a property.

Texts show most of Newberry commission doesn’t want meat-processing facility. What now?” via Nora O’Neill of The Gainesville Sun — County and city officials continue to disagree on the details surrounding a proposed meat processing facility intended to be built in Newberry. The controversial meat processing facility has been in talks since last year, but those plans hit a snag when DeSantis vetoed $1.75 million in funding for the project in June. Now, the future of the facility remains uncertain as Alachua County and Newberry commissioners disagree on whether or not it should be built, who should be responsible for it and how high of a priority it should be for the local governments.


Can NSB ban certain businesses in Flagler Ave., Canal St. districts? Officials weigh in” via Brenno Carillo of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — In an effort to preserve the character of its iconic business districts, Flagler Avenue and Canal Street, the city of New Smyrna Beach is weighing the possibility of restricting certain types of shops in those areas. The issue was first brought forth by City Commissioner Lisa Martin first broached the issue at an April meeting. “The background of this is that there are businesses such as the smoke shop that I don’t really think we want on Flagler Avenue and, rather than wait for 17 more to pop up, I would like to ask staff to look at expanding the list to include pawn shops, tattoo parlors, smoke shops, gun stores and package (liquor) stores,” Martin said.

New College pushes upperclassmen to dorms with mold issues amid influx of student-athletes” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — New College of Florida is shifting returning students into housing in buildings with mold problems identified by an outside consultant to make way for student-athletes and other incoming freshmen who are part of a conservative transformation of the school launched by Gov. DeSantis. Weeks before the start of the fall semester, the college emailed returning students Tuesday to tell them their housing assignments had been changed at the last minute to accommodate an influx of student-athletes and freshmen. The new cohort would live in the apartment-style Dort and Goldstein buildings — which have historically housed upperclassmen — while returning students would be moved to other, shared-space dorms, such as the older I. M. Pei designed buildings.

Some New College students are being shifted to dorms with mold issues.

NCH, partner HSS move forward with plans for North Naples orthopedic center with imaging, rehab” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — NCH Healthcare System is moving forward with plans to build a medical center jointly with New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery to offer advanced orthopedic surgical services. The nonprofit NCH has submitted documents to Collier County’s planning department for an 80,000-square-foot complex with an estimated price tag of $90 million to $120 million depending on final design and equipment needs. The location is east of the North Naples Hospital off Immokalee Road at the site of an NCH-owned building that will be torn down.Officials with NCH and Hospital for Special Surgery, HSS, announced last November a partnership to bring the expertise and research of the specialists with HSS to the community.

Charlotte County must apply to the state for unmet needs funding” via Elaine Allen-Emrich of the Port Charlotte Sun — Unlike Sarasota County, which received $201.5 million in unmet needs funding for its residents affected by Hurricane Ian, Charlotte County will have to wait for the same federal dollars. On Friday, residents attending the workshop at the Englewood Charlotte Library learned why Charlotte County is treated differently from neighboring Sarasota County, despite having considerably more storm damage. At the Hurricane Ian Long-Term Recovery Committee neighborhood workshop, residents learned Charlotte County isn’t considered an “entitled county,” and Sarasota County is, therefore it received direct funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery. Sarasota County bypassed the state government process and received federal funding due to population information from the 2020 Census.


Neither Trump nor DeSantis will get the GOP nomination” via George Will of the Washington Post — Inevitably, there comes a rebellion against inevitability. Voters have been told that Donald Trump is the all-but-inevitable Republican nominee and that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, operating atop a mountain of cash, will inevitably be Trump’s only significant challenger.

Voters, however, become contrary when told that the game’s outcome is known in the top of the first inning. Hence what G.K. Chesterton called the game of “Cheat the Prophet”: People listen politely to explanations of what is inevitable, then make something else happen.

Will Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump win the GOP nomination? Maybe neither.

… DeSantis, after nearly two months of intensified exposure to non-Floridians, resembles a political Edsel. That was the new car model that debuted to much fanfare in 1957, backed by Ford’s marketing might. It expired in 1959, becoming a byword for disastrously misreading consumers. DeSantis is running hard to be president of Iowa, or of that minority of Iowans who will vote in the January caucuses and think Trump is ideologically squishy (e.g., regarding wokeness) and insufficiently abrasive (e.g., regarding gay rights).

… A New Hampshire student, referring to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot that followed Trump’s incendiary harangue and disrupted the certifying of electoral votes, asked DeSantis last month whether Trump “violated the peaceful transfer of power.” DeSantis’s less-than-courageous answer: “I wasn’t anywhere near Washington that day. I have nothing to do with what happened that day.” Good grief. He wasn’t anywhere near Gettysburg in July 1863 and had nothing to do with the moon landing in July 1969, but that does not preclude him from having thoughts about these events.

Political prophesy is optional folly, but: There are not enough Republicans, in Iowa or the nation, enamored of the snarling contest between Trump and DeSantis — their competition to see who can despise the most American defects — to nominate either of them. Which is grim news for President Biden.


The 18 days that will decide the GOP nomination” via Chris Stirewalt of The Dispatch — In a little more than a month, we will move into the next phase of the Republican presidential nominating contest with the first debate among the serious(ish) contenders. An August 23 debate is a little later start than the last time Republicans had an open seat to fill. Debates are important for what happens on stage — or at least what people think happened on stage—but their most important role is in focusing the minds of voters on the task at hand. The bulk of what the candidates have been doing until the debates begin is about donors, the media, and the perceived kingmakers in early-voting states.

Florida Forever, historic environmental funding, should be just the beginning” via Traci Dean in the Palm Beach Post — When Gov. DeSantis signed the state’s 2023-24 Framework for Freedom Budget, the almost $1 billion for land conservation became more than a remarkable achievement — it was monumental. The new budget brings the total amount of funding for land conservation initiatives to an astounding $2 billion over the last three years. At the height of conservation funding in our state’s history, land conservation programs were receiving $300 million annually. Two billion dollars in three years? Absolutely historic. Just years ago, many state leaders were debating whether to fund conservation programs at all. Since 2021, those programs have included the Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Forever and Florida Communities Trust programs and the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Rural and Family Lands program.

Florida should let the love flow for safe, recreational marijuana” via David Bellamy for the Orlando Sentinel — I am no politician, but I do have a deep respect for Gov. DeSantis as well as our Attorney General Ashley Moody. Both have tough jobs and if their solid re-election numbers last fall are an indication, clearly I am not alone in that belief. But there are times when even the best of friends have disagreements and as a fellow Floridian, I felt it was important to speak my mind. What on God’s green earth am I talking about? The Governor recently noted that he opposes the “decriminalization” of marijuana and did so while on the campaign trail in South Carolina.


— ALOE —

First look: Universal’s Villain-Con Minion Blast and its moving sidewalk” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Studios Florida theme park has kicked off technical rehearsals for Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast, the moving-sidewalk gargantuan video-game attraction/ride. No official opening date has been announced for Minion Blast, but the general public was allowed into the experience Saturday. Participants are each issued a blaster called the E-Liminator X.  It’s a two-handed operation with two triggers, one with unlimited ammo, one with explosiveness but in limited (and unspecified) outbursts. A small display keeps track of the score and if you have drifted from the assigned spot on the sidewalk.


Happy birthday to the man who makes the trains run on time, Phil Ammann, as well as Juan-Carlos Planas. Belated best wishes to Alix Miller of the Florida TruckinGBen Stuart.


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]
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