Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.25.23

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Good Tuesday morning.

Hurricane Ian destroyed large swaths of Southwest Florida and left an intense need for social services personnel in its wake.

The state has contracted with multiple companies to supplement social services offerings in the months since, but one contract — granted without a competitive bidding process — was awarded to a company that celebrates its use of DEI.

DEI — shorthand for diversity, equity and inclusion — is a now-controversial governing principle that has become a boogeyman among Republican politicians, particularly in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has championed legislation defunding DEI programs at public colleges and universities.

The purpose of DEI, as its component words indicate, is to increase the representation of people with diverse backgrounds; promote fairness and justice; and foster a sense of belonging among all people involved with the company or institution implementing DEI practices.

But conservatives have railed against DEI for promoting “discrimination” and for “indoctrination.”

That didn’t stop the Florida Department of Children & Families from working with Unite Us, a collaboration software vendor that was awarded a $12 million contract to deploy its platform in regions affected by Hurricane Ian.

Unite Us regularly touts its DEI practices, producing videos heralding it and winning awards for its programs in that arena.

To watch one of the Unite Us videos, please click on the image below:

“We are proud to announce that Unite Us is a recipient of the 2021 Diverse and Inclusive Employers Award. Through companywide policies and practices, we continue to work to build an environment where all team members are supported equally in health, career and well-being,” the company wrote after it was recognized by The Startup Weekly.

“Thank you to our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) team and our cross-functional DEI Committees for all their support and impact-focused initiatives, (which) have ensured we are upholding our values and foster an equitable and inclusive environment.”

In addition to its DEI programs, Unite Us has close ties to well-known liberal politicians through its financial backers, Oak HC/FT and TownHall Ventures.

Among the upper-level staff at Oak HC/FT is Dr. Ezekiel “Zeke” Emanuel, the brother of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who served as Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama and later as a member of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Meanwhile, TownHall Ventures is linked to Andy Slavvitt, the Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the last two years of the Obama administration and a senior adviser to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator from Jan. 2021 to June 2021 under Biden.

Disaster response is always an apolitical endeavor, where those impacted have the space to feel comfortable healing and seek the aid they need to make it happen. By contracting with an organization that has such deep ties to practices, individuals and groups known to promote leftist politics and liberal policies, the Florida Department of Children and Families is perhaps alienating individuals who differ in their ideologies.

Had the state utilized the transparent competitive bidding process, the public would have had a chance to weigh in. Instead, the state is partnering with a group that promotes policies it has clearly rejected.


DeSantis to speak in Iowa at Rep. Ashley Hinson’s annual BBQ Bash — 12; ‘Billions’ final season premieres — 17; Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ tour in Tampa — 22; Port Orange, Lake Helen, Ponce Inlet to hold elections — 28; The first GOP Presidential Primary debate — 29; ‘Ahsoka’ premieres on Disney+ — 29; The U.S. Open begins — 34; 2023 Florida Chamber Technology & Innovation Solution Summit — 37; Florida House Fall 2023 Interim Committee Meetings begin — 55; Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ premieres — 73; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 90; Britney Spears memoir ‘The Woman in Me’ drops — 91; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 101; Suncoast Tiger Bay Club hosts ‘Evening with the Tigers’ — 105; ’Captain Marvel 2′ premieres — 108; Formula 1 will take over the Las Vegas Strip — 114; Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ premieres — 120; Florida TaxWatch’s Annual Meeting begins — 127; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 141; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: (Donald) Trump vs. DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 168; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 168; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 176; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 193; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 196; Georgia Democratic Primary — 202; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 213; Michigan Democratic Primary — 219; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 229; 2024 Oscars — 231; ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ Part 2 premieres — 248; ‘Deadpool 3’ premieres — 283; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 303; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 367; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 367; New ‘Alien’ premieres — 388; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 396; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 514; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 570; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 647; ‘Moana’ premieres — 703; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 878; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 1,011; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,033; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,246; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,385; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,341; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,704.


Vaccine politics may be to blame for GOP excess deaths, study finds” via David Ovalle of The Washington Post — The political maelstrom swirling around coronavirus vaccines may be to blame for a higher rate of excess deaths among registered Republicans in Ohio and Florida during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study published Monday.

The report in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine underscores the partisan divide over coronavirus vaccines that have saved lives but continued to roil American politics even as the pandemic has waned.

The politics of vaccines may have caused more unnecessary deaths among Republicans. Image via AP.

Yale University researchers found that registered Republicans had a higher rate of excess deaths than Democrats in the months following when vaccines became available for all adults in April 2021. The study does not directly attribute the deaths to COVID-19. Instead, excess mortality refers to the overall rate of deaths exceeding what would be expected from historical trends.

The study examined the deaths of 538,139 people 25 years and older in Florida and Ohio, between Jan. 2018 and Dec. 2021, with researchers linking them to party registration records. Researchers found the excess death rate for Republicans and Democrats was about the same at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

Both parties experienced a sharp but similar increase in excess deaths the following winter. But after April 2021, the gap in excess death rates emerged, with the rate for Republicans 7.7 percentage points higher than the rate for Democrats. For Republicans, which translated into a 43% increase in excess deaths.


Another Florida billionaire hedge-fund chief reportedly ‘rethinking’ support for Ron DeSantis presidential bid” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Nelson Peltz, a billionaire hedge fund manager from Palm Beach, is reportedly rethinking support for DeSantis’ bid for the Republican presidential nomination. The Financial Times cited “people familiar” with Peltz’s thinking in a report over the weekend, among many in recent weeks highlighting various elements of DeSantis’ much dissected rocky start as a formally declared candidate for the 2024 nomination. “Peltz has taken issue with his stance on abortion,” the Financial Times reported. The Financial Times said Peltz declined to comment but quoted a person familiar with his thinking saying: “Nelson Peltz thinks that most of DeSantis’ policies are acceptable, but his position on abortion is way too severe.”

Nelson Peltz seems to have soured on Ron DeSantis.

Polls show DeSantis really does need a reboot” via Ed Kilgore of New York Magazine — Debates aside, polls are beginning to reinforce the widespread sense that DeSantis’ campaign is in trouble, though hardly terminal trouble. He’s in a squeeze between Trump’s steady grip on about half the Primary electorate and improved showings by a couple of the dark horse candidates eager to replace him as the principal challenger to the 45th President. DeSantis has lost more than a third of his support since the end of March, when he was at 30.1% in these averages.

— “Rasmussen poll: DeSantis at 13% support in GOP Primary” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics 

In new state polling, DeSantis falls back into the 2024 pack” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — Attempting to put the best possible face on the state of his candidate’s campaign, a representative for DeSantis’s bid for the 2024 Republican nomination summarized the state of the race for Axios. “No matter how much the media and D.C. elites try to destroy Ron DeSantis,” Andrew Romeo said, “they can’t change the fact that this is a two-man race for the nomination.” Setting aside the breathless effort to blame the all-powerful media for DeSantis’ failure to gain any traction after formally entering the contest two months ago, it’s worth noting the caveat that applies to Romeo’s presentation. Yes, at the national level, DeSantis has a healthy lead over every other candidate who isn’t named Trump. But in new state-level polling conducted by those D.C. elites at Fox Business, DeSantis is just another member of the trailing-Trump pack.

At Utah donor conference, DeSantis supporters optimistic about the campaign reboot” via Matt Dixon of NBC News — After two months of being bludgeoned by Trump, some supporters of DeSantis’ presidential campaign see the Florida Governor in a similar moment: DeSantis was once seen as the next great hope for conservatives but is now in a political campaign few think he can win. “When Rocky needed to beat Drago, he was out there chopping logs and running the mountains and just getting hard-core,” Nick Iarossi, a DeSantis fundraiser and one of his earliest supporters, said. “Those are the things we are going to start doing.” Iarossi was one of 70 donors and political bundlers that spent the weekend in the exclusive Stein Eriksen Lodge here to try and chart a path forward as DeSantis’ presidential campaign has stalled.

DeSantis unveils another campaign reboot.

Social media analysis shows swing voters prefer DeSantis over Joe Biden, Donald Trump” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An analysis of online chatter shows that regardless of GOP Primary polling, DeSantis holds growing appeal for swing voters. Impact Social has conducted a long-term analysis of online and social media communications for swing voters. It found that as of mid-July, DeSantis still scores better on its swing voter sentiment tracker than Trump or Biden. Between July 5 and 19, DeSantis’ score on the tracker went from a -22 to a -12. Meanwhile, Biden’s score went from -22 to just -20 over the same period. Meanwhile, Trump’s score on the same tracking dropped from -38 to -40. What’s behind the bump for DeSantis? Impact Social analysts say it’s all about electability.

DeSantis campaign pitches donors on ‘leaner,’ ‘insurgent’ campaign to beat Trump” via Steve Contorno and Kit Maher of CNN — Responding to intensifying concerns among his supporters, top advisers to DeSantis met with key donors and fundraisers over the weekend in Utah, where they promised a new direction to jump-start his fledgling White House bid. DeSantis’ team laid out a plan for a leaner campaign more focused on the candidate’s strengths and vision for the country, a clear acknowledgment that the campaign has struggled with cost overruns and messaging since he entered the race in late May. His campaign also fielded suggestions from donors and bundlers on messaging and debate strategy, including how to best handle Trump, ideas for debate one-liners, and what to do if DeSantis’ top rival for the nomination doesn’t show up for the first GOP Primary debate in August.

DeSantis commits to a leaner, insurgent campaign.

Florida Police Chiefs endorse DeSantis for President” via Florida Politics — The Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) is endorsing DeSantis for President. “The Florida Police Chiefs Association is honored to fully endorse DeSantis for President of the United States of America. From his commitment to safe communities and defending the rule of law, to his unwavering support for the profession of law enforcement through better pay and recruiting bonuses, DeSantis backs the blue,” FPCA President Keith Touchberry said.

‘No B.S.’: DeSantis plans another New Hampshire trip” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis will head to Rye, New Hampshire, Sunday for an installment in what is called the “No B.S. BBQ Series” with Ambassador Scott Brown. The event kicks off at 3 p.m., for those interested in making the drive. The Governor’s latest trip to the state comes after polls show him struggling in second place. A new J.L. Partners poll reported Sunday by the British Daily Mail shows DeSantis with just 15% support, 27 points below Trump’s 42%. In a tie for third place with 8% each: former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Scott of South Carolina.

RFK Jr., Gavin Newsom now have better White House odds than DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A long shot Democratic candidate and a man who is not a candidate at all have a better chance of winning the 2024 Presidential Election than DeSantis. That’s the read from the Election Betting Odds website, which aggregates investor sites including Betfair, Smarkets, PredictIt and Polymarket, and shows investors continuing to cool on the Florida Governor’s White House quest being fulfilled in 2024. DeSantis’ 5.5% chance of winning places him in a fading third place in the overall White House chase. Kennedy, with 7.3% odds, and California Gov. Newsom, with 6% odds, are both surprisingly above him.

Kellyanne Conway contends DeSantis has ‘ruined himself for 2028’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — One political commentator says DeSantis’ presidential campaign is so bad it’s damaged his brand not just for 2024, but for 2028. During a Fox News interview, Conway was blunt in her denunciation of a DeSantis campaign that is in “reboot” mode just weeks after a formal campaign launch. The “reboot,” Conway said, is “usually not six weeks after you launch your campaign.” Conway contended that DeSantis should have “waited” to run, adding that the damage has been done not just for this cycle but the next one. “I think he’s kind of ruined himself for 2028,” Conway said, before turning her attention to two fulcrums of the DeSantis message. “He does way too much ‘woke’ and way too much COVID,” Conway said. Conway suggested the Governor’s messaging is not aligned with what voters want.

Kellyanne Conway proclaims DeSantis dead in the water for 2028. Image via AP.

— MORE 2024 —

The GOP Primary’s newest hot button issue” via Lucy Hodgman of POLITICO — It’s a presidential election first: the issue of gender-affirming care, especially for those under 18, is front and center in the 2024 Republican Primary. The bulk of candidates have taken hard-line stances against gender-affirming care for minors, matching Republican state lawmakers across the country who have targeted legislative efforts toward restricting it. Yet there also are a few voices of moderation in the GOP field, including Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, raising the likelihood that the issue surfaces at the Aug. 23 presidential debate.

Trans care: The new battleground in the GOP Primary. Image via AP.

7 Republican presidential candidates meet polling criteria for first RNC debate” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN — Seven Republican presidential candidates have met the polling requirements to appear on the August debate stage following new polling from Fox Business in Iowa and South Carolina. Trump, DeSantis, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Scott of South Carolina, and Christie each reached 1% or higher in at least two qualifying national polls and two qualifying state polls from separate states, which is a requirement set by the Republican National Committee. Candidates must also meet fundraising criteria and sign a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee to qualify for the Aug. 23 debate.

Tim Scott awaits his moment. But will it come?” via Maya King of The New York Times — Scott is perfectly positioned to seize the moment if Trump collapses under the weight of his criminal cases or if the challenge to him from DeSantis of Florida evaporates. The only question is whether either moment will come. Scott’s growing popularity in early Primary states has made him more of a contender in the still-young Primary campaign and, in the eyes of current and potential supporters, and donors, a possible alternative to DeSantis, who is seen as an alternative to Trump.

Trump rages over legal problems on Truth Social” via Jared Gans of The Hill — Trump vented about his ongoing and potentially impending legal issues on Truth Social on Sunday, lobbing accusations of politicization against the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the prosecutors investigating him. The DOJ appears close to potentially filing charges against the former President over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and broader efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. Trump announced last week that he had received a letter informing him that he was a target of the investigation and had four days to decide whether to appear before the grand jury to make his case.

Thorny rules and maybe an absent Trump: A month out from the first GOP debate” via Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times — With a month to go before the first Republican presidential debate, the stage in Milwaukee remains remarkably unsettled, with the front-runner, Trump, waffling on his attendance and the rest of the participants far from certain. Over the next month, political observers will see a steady taunting of the front-runner by candidates who see a no-lose scenario. Either they goad Trump to share the stage with them, giving them equal billing with the front-runner and a chance to take a shot at him, or they paint him as too scared to show up, denting his tough-guy image.

Biden campaign beefs up its data operation” via Tyler Pager of The Washington Post — Biden’s campaign had scant resources and stunted momentum as it braced for disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. As the campaign prepared for the make-or-break moment of Super Tuesday, when 14 states would hold Primaries or Caucuses, a small group of staffers in the Philadelphia headquarters suggested a plan to maximize Biden’s prospects. The strategy called for pouring resources such as ads, endorsements and media into specific congressional districts where Biden could sweep the delegate haul rather than splitting it with other candidates. The plan succeeded: On March 3, Biden won nearly 100 more delegates than Sen. Bernie Sanders, catapulting him from underperformer to likely nominee.

Biden campaign names data and analytics leadership team” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have filled leadership roles to head data and analytics strategy over the next 16 months. Becca Siegel, Biden’s Chief Analytics Officer in the 2020 campaign, is returning as a senior adviser, tapped to lead the campaign’s effort to comprehensively integrate data and research into all campaign strategies. Meg Schwenzfeier is joining the campaign as Chief Analytics Officer. Together, the two will translate polling and raw voter data to build accurate models and inform critical campaign strategy. Their work will help determine where to hold campaign events, what messaging to include in paid media, and how much the campaign will spend on what.


Rick Scott earns endorsements from 59 Florida Sheriffs for 2024 re-election bid” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A week after drawing his first major challenger, U.S. Sen. Scott is unleashing a volley of endorsements for his re-election campaign. The first-term Republican Senator and former Governor announced that nearly all county Sheriffs in the state — 59 — were backing his 2024 bid. In a news release, the campaign said Scott “has been proud to work alongside these sheriffs” on “crises affecting the state like hurricanes, storm recovery, school safety and the fentanyl crisis.” The endorsement announcement came alongside the rollout of Scott’s public safety platform for the 2024 Election.

Phil Ehr claims $500K in 1st-week fundraising in challenge to Sen. Scott” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Ehr, a Navy veteran whose last run for office was a 30-point loss to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in 2020, has brought in more than half a million dollars in his first week as a Senate candidate. That money, notes his campaign, has come from all 67 Florida counties and more than 10,000 individual donors. “The massive show of grassroots support our campaign has seen in the last week is the surest sign yet that Floridians are ready to show Rick Scott the door and replace him with someone who will restore honor to the seat and finally represent the interests of the middle class,” Ehr said.

Phil Ehr enters the U.S. Senate race with a bang.

Mark Jordan joins HD 26 race” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Jordan, a retired first responder and small-business owner is running for the House District 26 seat. Jordan is the third Republican to enter the race to succeed Keith Truenow. The Tavares Republican is not seeking re-election to the House and instead is running for Senate. “I am an America First, Free Florida loving Republican who will stop at nothing to keep advancing the conservative ideals Florida has become known to represent,” Jordan said. Jordan joins Michael Levine and Addie Owens in the GOP Primary for the seat. So far, no Democrat has filed to run. The district is deep red.

Rick Baker, Robert Blackmon endorse Vince Nowicki for Pinellas County Commission” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — Two Pinellas County Republicans are offering their backing for local government watchdog Nowicki in his bid for Pinellas County Commission. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Baker and former St. Pete City Council member Blackmon are endorsing Nowicki, a Republican running to unseat Democrat Charlie Justice in District 3. “Vince has the vision and energy to lead Pinellas County to a more prosperous future for all residents. He has a proven track record of being a fighter for the citizens of St. Pete. We need that fighting spirit for all citizens of Pinellas County. I am happy to endorse him,” said Baker, a prominent conservative leader in St. Pete. Blackmon ran for St. Pete Mayor in 2021 rather than seeking re-election to Council. He lost in the General Election to now-Mayor Ken Welch. Nowicki was briefly a candidate also but withdrew from the race.

Vince Nowicki earns some high-profile Republican endorsements.


Lawyers push to make transgender care court challenge a class-action lawsuit” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — Those suing over Florida’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors want to expand the lawsuit to address restrictions on care against adults and widen the legal challenge into a class-action lawsuit. The amended complaint adds four adults who say they are facing disruptions in their medical care due to SB 254, the new law dealing with gender-affirming care that was passed by the Legislature and signed by DeSantis. Some of the other parts of the law, as well as the Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine rules that are being challenged, include a ban on advanced practice registered nurses from treating patients. The law also bans physicians and patients from using telehealth, requiring in-person consultation for all care.

Florida and DeSantis dig in as criticism of Black history curriculum mounts” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO — Florida officials are digging in and defending the state’s new standards for teaching Black history amid continued widespread criticism on Monday, including threats of possible legal action from a group of civil and religious leaders. Black leaders and Democrats — and some Republicans — are using the issue to hammer DeSantis and his White House ambitions, specifically targeting the new standards that require middle schoolers to be instructed that “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Black leaders vow pushback against new state curriculum guidelines” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Outraged and disturbed by the state’s new African American curriculum standards, a group of the state’s Black religious and civil rights leaders say they will bring the “woke” like never before. The group is aiming to open 25 new “Freedom Schools” by 2024, register 1 million new voters and assemble a “Teach our History Task Force.” Leaders set those goals after the state arranged a new curriculum guideline that contains the assertion that African American slaves derived some benefit from their enslavement. DeSantis has said Florida is where “woke goes to die,” but these leaders say it’s going to be where DeSantis’ agenda for education will be stopped.

Kim Daniels distances herself from DeSantis’ administration’s new Black history standards” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — A Jacksonville Democrat on a board that helped to formulate controversial new Black history standards is rejecting the product that came out of it. In a statement, Rep. Daniels rejected the work product of the African American History Task Force, to which she was appointed by Florida Commissioner of Education, Manny Diaz. Specifically, the Jacksonville legislator noted she “never participated in any conversation about the state’s Black history standards,” which include an assertion that slavery had “benefits” for the enslaved. “In fact, I was never consulted about these standards, I disagree with and would have immediately challenged and resisted any notion that slavery was a benefit to African Americans,” Daniels said.

Note to Florida and DeSantis: Enslaved Africans were already skilled” via Gillian Brockell of The Washington Post — DeSantis doubled down Friday on controversial new rules passed by his state’s Board of Education that will require educators to teach that enslaved Black people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” “They’re probably going to show that some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life,” DeSantis said. “But the reality is, all of that is rooted in whatever is factual.”



Challenge to Florida drag shows law won’t go to trial until Spring 2024” via The Associated Press — A trial to determine if a new Florida law targeting drag shows is constitutional won’t start until next Spring. A filing posted in federal court in Tallahassee late last week shows that the trial won’t start until the beginning of June 2024. It is scheduled to last two days and will be decided by a judge instead of a jury. The law, championed by DeSantis, is on hold for now. A federal judge last month issued a temporary injunction preventing it from being enforced until the trial is held. The state of Florida has appealed that decision. Last week, U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell issued an order clarifying that the injunction applied to all venues in Florida.

The lawsuit against a Florida law against drag shows will have to wait until next Spring.

Florida is getting opioid settlement money. Here’s how it’ll be spent.” via Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — The state fund is getting the largest amount of money from the settlement over the 18-year payout. The state money will be appropriated by the Legislature in its budget, which is then signed or vetoed by the Governor. This first year, the Legislature had about $205 million available and appropriated more than $173 million. The rest can go back into an investment fund, with profits also available to the state. About $27 million of the money will go toward expanding the Coordinated Opioid Recovery program, or CORE, to 17 new counties. The program was established last year and focuses on three ideas: immediate lifesaving care, addiction-focused specialists to help patients stabilize, and then recovery aided by a variety of social services. Twelve counties currently have the program.

ACLU to Florida Supreme Court on marijuana initiative: Remember your place” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — In a brief supporting a citizens’ initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use, the ACLU accuses the Florida Supreme Court of abusing its authority to strike proposed state constitutional amendments from the ballot. The court is supposed to review proposed amendments to ensure the ballot summaries voters will read at the poll aren’t misleading and that they don’t “logroll” unrelated ends into a single amendment, the brief argues. But the court over the years has ginned up legal tests unsupported in the text of the constitution, including that proposed amendments shouldn’t affect more than one “function of government,” the ACLU argues.

State Farm Florida is now the state’s second-largest home insurer. It vows to stay in Florida.” via Ron Hurtibise of the Orlando Sentinel — State Farm is becoming a good neighbor to Florida again. The company regained its position as the state’s largest private market insurer and No. 2 insurer overall, during the first quarter of the year, supplanting longtime No. 2 Universal Property & Casualty Corp. It’s a positive sign amid continued bad news about Florida’s insurance market, and an early indication that recent reforms could inspire more companies to expand their presence in the state. State Farm increased its number of personal residential policies from 558,604 in the third quarter of 2022 to 588,005 in the first quarter of 2023, the data shows. That’s an increase of 29,401, or 5.3%. Universal Property & Casualty, meanwhile, lost 44,775 policies, or 7.0%, during that time and reported 584,954 policies in the first quarter of 2023.

State Farm insists it’s not going anywhere.

These Florida state parks were the most and least popular for camping in the past year” via Hannah Morse of the Tallahassee Democrat — Starting next year, Floridians will be able to reserve campsites at state parks sooner than out-of-staters. Residents can book a campsite 11 months in advance, while non-residents will only be able to do so 10 months out. Those 30 extra days will benefit residents, as 61% of reservations made in recent years were by Floridians. Camping is possible at 57 of Florida’s 175 state parks. Thirty-seven counties have at least one state park that offers camping. Which state parks drew the most campers, and which remain potentially hidden gems? Beachside campsites and those near Florida springs appeared to be the biggest hits in the past year, based on the data we received from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the state park system.


Biden issues veto threats on House GOP-drafted spending bills” via Aidan Quigley of Roll Call — The White House has threatened to veto two fiscal 2024 appropriations bills House Republicans plan on bringing to the floor this week. Biden would veto the Military Construction-VA and Agriculture bills if they reached his desk, the White House budget office announced Monday. However, the Senate is pursuing its own appropriations bills with higher spending levels, meaning the bills House Republicans are considering are unlikely to become law and are intended to stake out a negotiating position. The Rules Committee is set to meet Tuesday to set the terms for floor debate of the Military Construction-VA measure, and on Wednesday to consider which amendments to allow for the agriculture bill.

Joe Biden is preparing his veto pen.

Biden announces Shuwanza Goff as new legislative affairs director” via Mariana Alfaro of The Washington Post — Citing her history of bipartisan work with members of Congress, Biden announced Goff will serve as an assistant to the President and as the new director of the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs. The 38-year-old is the first African American woman to be appointed to the position, which serves as the main point of contact between the White House and Congress. Goff, who previously served as the office’s deputy director under Biden, will replace outgoing director Louisa Terrell. The Biden administration faces upcoming work with Congress to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration and pass appropriations bills in the coming weeks to fund the government for fiscal 2024.

Why the fed isn’t ready to declare victory on inflation” via Nick Timiraos of The Wall Street Journal — Uncertainty over the path of inflation later this summer makes it hard to predict the Federal Reserve’s next steps following a likely quarter-percentage-point increase in interest rates this week. Some Fed policymakers and economists are concerned that the easing in inflation will be temporary. They see inflation’s slowdown as long overdue after the fading of pandemic-related shocks that pushed up rents and the prices of transportation and cars. And they worry underlying price pressures could persist, requiring the Fed to lift rates higher and hold them there for longer.

Democratic memo takes aim at GOP-released FBI form with Biden-Burisma allegations” via Emily Brooks and Rebecca Beitsch of The Hill — Democrats on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee are poking holes in GOP arguments that Biden is corrupt, claims that are founded on unverified allegations from an FBI form released in controversial fashion last week. The uncorroborated allegations of Biden corruption and bribery are related to his son Hunter’s business relationship with Ukrainian energy company Burisma and were part of an FBI form released by Sen. Chuck Grassley and House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer last week. While the GOP sees the document as key to its investigation of the Biden family’s business dealings, Democrats view the release as a stunning move that jeopardizes the FBI’s ability to work with confidential sources while offering no proof of any wrongdoing.

IRS halts surprise visits to homes and businesses” via Alan Rappeport of The New York Times — The IRS said that it would immediately curb the practice of sending agents to make surprise visits to homes and businesses, scaling back a policy that for decades was central to its efforts to collect unpaid taxes amid political backlash and increasing threats to its employees. The change comes as the IRS embarks on a multibillion-dollar modernization project that aims to upgrade technology, ramp up enforcement of the tax code and improve customer service. It also coincides with increased scrutiny of the tax collection agency, which has faced criticism from Republicans over perceptions of political bias and from taxpayers who claim that its tactics are overly aggressive.

The IRS will no longer make house calls. Image via AP.

Feds to send more than $14M to boost outdoor recreation in Florida” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The U.S. Department of the Interior is shipping more than $14.3 million to Florida as part of its share of Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). That pot contains more than $295.5 million. The federal government has also released guidance this year pushing states to use the money to work with native tribes as well as create parks in underserved communities. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund helps further President Biden’s commitment to investing in America’s lands and waters, expanding access to the outdoors, and safeguarding the environment,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “These grants, matched primarily by state and local governments, will inspire collaborative conservation and (improve) equitable access to the outdoors for all.”

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Whoa —Miami-Dade’s Police Director shot himself after domestic dispute at Tampa hotel, police say” via Charles Rabin, Douglas Hanks and Ryan Ballogg of the Miami Herald — Miami-Dade County’s Police Director was in stable condition after shooting himself on the side of a Florida highway following an apparent domestic dispute that forced his departure from a Tampa hotel where he and his wife were attending a law enforcement convention, according to multiple police sources and reports. Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez, a Democratic candidate for Sheriff in the 2024 Election, was recovering after surgery at a Tampa hospital, according to an internal Miami-Dade Police email and multiple law enforcement sources. Ramirez, 52, suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head south of Interstate 75 south of Tampa, according to accounts by law enforcement agencies.

A domestic dispute leads to a possible suicide attempt. Image via Facebook.

—“Miami-Dade Mayor names interim top cops a day after police director shot himself near Tampa” via Grethel Aguila of the Miami Herald

She was a GOP congresswoman. Her son is a transgender activist.” via Jesús Rodríguez of The Washington Post — “All of these headlines, they’ve bothered me greatly,” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says. “But it’s just never-ending, the onslaught of bills and the news conferences and the hateful words. It impacts me emotionally.” She’s talking about the animosity toward transgender people — and criticizing it more harshly than you might expect from a woman who, as recently as the Trump administration, was a Republican member of Congress. Her son Rodrigo is transgender. He came out as trans to his parents when he was in college, in 2007, a piece of news that came as “a shock” to Ileana. But she and her husband had embraced their son’s identity, and they have since encouraged other parents to do the same — a sharp contrast to the dominant view in her party, which is openly fighting the mainstream acceptance of transgender people.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Arrest at Orlando community leader’s home came after second meth raid in 18 months” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The home of a prominent Orlando city leader was raided for the second time in 18 months. A bust at the home of Jane Healy took place despite pleas from neighbors asking the justice system to intervene regarding the activity of her 40-year-old son, Randall Healy Clark. Most recently, Clark was arrested on Friday, June 21. Clark was booked into the Orange County Jail on multiple drug-related charges. On the most serious charge, trafficking in more than 14 grams of methamphetamine, the bond was set at $25,000, and 33rd Street Bail Bonds paid that on Saturday. But this is just the latest arrest for Clark after a SWAT team raided the Healy household on Greenwood Street.

Randall Healy Clark was arrested Friday on drug charges. Image via Orange County.

Key witness had sex with minor, defense attorneys allege in Joel Greenberg consultant trial” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — After Seminole County’s tax collector Greenberg finished having sex with an underage girl in a high-rise hotel room, he called his friend Joe Ellicott and invited him upstairs to also engage in illicit activity with the teenager, a defense attorney alleged in federal court Monday. Greenberg then paid the girl on behalf of Ellicott, and Ellicott offered the teen illegal drugs, including Ecstasy, before also having sex with her, said attorney Warren Lindsey at the start of the criminal trial for his client, Michael Christopher Shirley. Now Ellicott — a former radio host known as “Big Joe” — is one of the main witnesses for federal prosecutors in their case against Shirley.

New partnership offers new help to struggling theme-park, arts workers” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — A new partnership between a local nonprofit and a more than century-old national assistance organization will strengthen the safety net for local entertainment-industry workers in times of trouble — and include theme-park employees under a special arrangement. Formed in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic had shut down theaters, theme parks and other entertainment-based businesses, GOPAR — Greater Orlando Performing Arts Relief — was designed to provide financial and other support to those who saw most of their income unexpectedly disappear. Now, GOPAR has teamed with The Entertainment Community Fund, founded in 1882 and for most of its existence known as The Actors Fund. Based in New York City, that national organization specializes in health, housing, career and financial services to entertainment workers.

‘Once or twice a week they break something’ Volusia struggling with fiber optic company” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Metronet, an Indiana company that specializes in high-speed internet service, continues to wreak havoc on some parts of Volusia County as it races to install underground fiber optic lines. “Once or twice a week they break something,” said South Daytona Public Works Director Steven Danskine. For the past year, the company has been expanding into Daytona Beach, South Daytona, Port Orange, Ormond Beach, Deltona and Palm Coast. Metronet’s crews have become part of the landscape in those cities as they plant wires underground. And as they’re installing miles of fiber optic cable as quickly as they can, they’ve been damaging some underground city utilities with their equipment.

Thomas Chatmon, who oversaw Orlando’s downtown vision, dies at 68” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Chatmon knew how to make an introduction. At downtown ribbon cuttings, celebrations and speeches, he often served as a high-energy opening act, professing his love for downtown Orlando and leading the audience in chants and cheers celebrating “DTO,” as he called it. Often he’d cede the stage to Mayor Buddy Dyer, who he’d refer to as “America’s best downtown Mayor,” or Commissioner Regina Hill as “the people’s champ.” Chatmon, who oversaw major developments, business recruitment and the city’s downtown vision for 16 years, died Saturday after a battle with cancer, Dyer said in a tweet. “Thomas was downtown Orlando’s biggest fan and champion,” Dyer said Monday.


Tim Burke and lawyers deny hacking Fox News, demand return of devices” via Justin Garcia of the Tampa Bay Times — Tim Burke’s home office is gutted. In May, FBI agents searched his house while looking for evidence related to leaked Fox News footage, including an antisemitic rant from Kanye West and behind-the-scenes footage of Tucker Carlson on his now-canceled show. Burke, 44, had his phone, computers, hard drives and other electronic devices confiscated, though he still hasn’t been charged with a crime. On Friday, his lawyers filed a motion to the U.S. Department of Justice demanding that Burke’s devices be returned. Burke also provided a written statement to the Tampa Bay Times, his first public comment to any media outlet since the May 8 FBI search. He and his legal team argue that he didn’t break any laws, and he wants the government to return his equipment and end what he called a “monthslong nightmare.”

Meet the Tampa lawyer who just agreed to defend Trump” via Andrew Long of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa attorney John Lauro joined Trump’s legal team this week as the former President faces the possibility of a third criminal indictment related to a federal investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. Lauro, a white-collar lawyer, is a former federal prosecutor with extensive experience in criminal and commercial litigation who has previously represented Trump attorneys Christina Bobb and Alina Habba. A graduate of Georgetown Law, Lauro has been a prominent legal presence in Tampa Bay for decades, said Tampa criminal defense lawyer and longtime friend John Fitzgibbons. Before joining Trump’s team, Lauro’s highest-profile case came in 2007 when he defended former NBA referee Tim Donaghy of Bradenton, who pleaded guilty to accepting payoffs from gamblers and betting on games himself. The case garnered national attention for accusations that the league encouraged officials to rig games and refrain from calling fouls on star players to protect ratings. The NBA later changed its rules for referees, including an outright ban on gambling.

John Lauro is the latest to join Donald Trump’s legal team.

Chris Scherer among three appointed by DeSantis to Pinellas Early Learning Coalition” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — DeSantis has appointed three members to the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County. The appointees include Elizabeth Loh as Chair, Scherer and Elliot Stern. Scherer is a real estate developer. He previously served as Chair of the St. Petersburg Development Review Commission. Scherer earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University. He’s running for Pinellas County Commission, District 1 to flip another seat on the board red after the GOP reclaimed a majority in the 2022 elections. The Early Learning Coalition is a nonprofit agency focused on high-quality early care and education that works with families and child care providers to prepare children to enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and in life.

Pasco becomes the latest victim of lawmakers’ attack on local priorities” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Florida’s Republican-dominated Legislature can’t stop undermining home rule, the concept that the government closest to the people is generally the best government. It’s something Thomas Jefferson supported, as did most Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee until the last decade or so. Now comes a new example, this one involving Pasco County. Pasco officials want to increase jobs in their own county. They are fighting home and apartment builders who are seeking to grab land that officials had already designated for business and industries. Unfortunately, the Legislature has made that much more difficult by preempting the county’s plans, siding instead with the powerful development interests that routinely contribute money to Republican legislators.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

In wake of Kamala Harris visit to Jacksonville, Donna Deegan says she’s not interested in ‘national politics’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Jacksonville Mayor Deegan isn’t interested in conflating local politics with “national politics,” despite her meeting with Harris during her recent visit to Jacksonville, in which the Vice President denounced the state’s new standards for teaching Black history. During an interview on WJCT’s “First Coast Connect,” the recently inaugurated Democrat explained her position, even as she backed VP Harris’ take on Florida’s newly adopted approach implemented by the DeSantis administration in teaching subjects ranging from slavery to massacres of the state’s Black citizens in the past.

Even a visit from Kamala Harris fails to get Donna Deegan engaged in national politics. Image via the City of Jacksonville.

‘Slavery did not benefit Black people’: Duval County School Board member’s shirt goes viral on Twitter” via Cheyenne Cole of First Coast News — A Duval County School Board member is at the center of a post that’s going viral on social media following the Florida Department of Education’s changes to African American studies curriculum. The photo shows District 4 Board Member Darryl Willie holding up a shirt that reads: “SLAVERY DID NOT BENEFIT BLACK PEOPLE.” It’s been viewed by millions of users and hit 80,000 likes on Twitter. Some people are even asking where they can buy the shirt. Willie told First Coast News he made the shirt himself in his garage this weekend, but he didn’t expect it to get so much attention. We caught up with Willie Friday ahead of Harris’ visit to Jacksonville, where she condemned the new standards.

City Council to vote on giving $19M to Duval Jail health care provider that’s currently under investigation” via Anne Maxwell of News4Jax — On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council will start considering the future of the Duval County Jail’s health care contractor for the first time since the I-TEAM exposed the company’s criminal history. That company, Armor Health, is now under investigation by the state after it failed to report its past felony convictions, as the law requires. Still, the City Council is being asked to appropriate more than $19 million to the contractor in the upcoming budget and to continue the city’s contract. The city and JSO signed a five-year contract with Armor last year worth nearly $100 million but since then, the company has become embroiled in controversy with several City Council members saying there’s cause for concern when it comes to this proposal to stick with Armor.

Pensacola fronting half the $4 million design of a new airport terminal” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — Pensacola is moving forward with a $4 million budget to design the Pensacola International Airport’s passenger terminal expansion, but it will have to pay half those costs after securing only $2 million in state funding. The Pensacola City Council unanimously approved a $4 million budget and selection of EXP U.S. Services, Inc. to design the new airport terminal and oversee the construction and inspection of the expansion terminal. The project will add more passenger capacity to the airport’s terminal, including five new gates for airlines. Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves said the project is critical for the airport.

Pensacola International Airport goes full steam ahead on a terminal expansion.

Seeking public feedback: Locals urged to help plan Panama City Marina reconstruction” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — City Manager Mark McQueen says it’s vital for residents’ voices to be heard, especially when it comes to the future of key public amenities. According to McQueen, there is an ongoing comment period for residents to give feedback on how they would like to see the city redevelop the Panama City Marina, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm that devastated the area in October 2018. Though the city has proposed a handful of ideas for what the marina’s redevelopment might look like, including restoring it to its original state, McQueen said there were no “distinguished plans” as of Friday, meaning public input will play a crucial role in the project’s next steps.

Rosewood descendants end family reunion at Mount Olive AME Church in southeast Gainesville” via Voleer Thomas of the Gainesville Sun — Descendants of victims of the Rosewood Massacre came to Gainesville this weekend to have a family reunion to remember and commemorate the 100th anniversary of one of the most horrific racial conflicts in Florida and American history. This year’s reunion officially began Friday with a fish fry meet and greet at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Gainesville, followed by a “Biker Welcome” at the park Saturday morning that included a trip to the Wright House in Rosewood escorted led by Florida Highway Patrol troopers. The House is the last house in what once was Rosewood, a community of 300 people — mostly Black — who lived along State Road 24, the Road to Cedar Key, and less than an hour to the southwest from Gainesville.

Florida Bar honors Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom for work with therapy dogs” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Circuit Judge Sjostrom was honored for his work with therapy dogs during a courthouse ceremony full of furry, four-legged friends who put children at ease in the courtroom. Attorney Ralph DeMeo presented Sjostrom with the Florida Bar Animal Law Section’s 2023 Judicial Achievement Award on July 17 at the Leon County Courthouse. Those in attendance included therapy dogs and their handlers along with Sjostrom and his colleagues and friends, who brought along their own pets.

Jonathan Sjostrom is honored for his work with service animals. Image via Patty Mitchell of the TMH Animal Therapy Program.


New Charlotte Superintendent sworn in” via Elaine Allen-Emrich of the Port Charlotte Sun — Strangers offered Mark Vianello their home so he could begin working as Charlotte County Public Schools’ new Superintendent before he moved here. “John and Ethel Miller, they were wonderful to me,” Vianello told Charlotte County School Board members Monday as he took the oath of office. Vianello was joined by his wife, Shannon, and daughter, Nicole, as he pledged to lead the School District. School Board members agreed Vianello “hit the ground running,” already making changes and working on a smooth transition following Steve Dionisio’s retirement after 16 years at the helm. Vianello, 53, said he’s working on two major changes, including a five-year district strategic plan that will involve meetings with stakeholders, teachers, parents, nonprofits and businesses.

Mark Vianello hits the ground running in Charlotte County Schools.

Manatee County fires a dozen animal shelter volunteers with little public explanation” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Cathryn Bridwell has volunteered at the Manatee County Animal Welfare Shelter for more than five years, but on July 3, she was among a dozen core animal shelter volunteers terminated in a single email with no further explanation. Manatee County records show the shake-up stems from interpersonal issues between core unpaid volunteers who have raised concerns over the handling of animals at the shelter, county staff members who operate the shelter, and at least one other volunteer who instead supports staff efforts. Similar concerns became known a few years ago when another former volunteer, Paul David Daniels, filed a lawsuit against the county.

Graphic details released in Sarasota’s Mote Marine manatee death from traumatic sex injury” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The death of Hugh, a 38-year-old manatee who died at Mote Marine Aquarium and Laboratory in April, could have been prevented, according to records that detail the beloved animal’s death. Hugh died from a 14.5-centimeter rip in his colon and other traumatic injuries caused by a sexual encounter with another, larger, male Manatee at the facility, according to necropsy report findings published by the United States Department of Agriculture. The inspection report states, “The facility failed to handle Hugh expeditiously and as carefully as possible to prevent trauma and physical harm, resulting in the death of the animal.”


Stan McClain: Nation’s top economy gives money back to taxpayers” via Florida Politics — Just about everyone is trying to save some money these days.

Thankfully, the Florida Legislature, with the leadership of DeSantis, took a proactive approach to tackling national inflationary pressures by passing a record-breaking $2.7 billion in tax relief.

These measures, which include upcoming sales tax holidays and permanent sales tax exemptions for essential items, will give Floridians a little breathing room in their family budgets, allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money, stimulate consumer spending, and support local businesses.

In addition to the tax cuts, Florida continues to prove its commitment to helping our kids get ahead in the classroom through its back-to-school sales tax holiday, which started this week. This initiative allows parents and students to save on essential items like clothing, school supplies, and personal computers.

By reducing the financial burden of preparing for a new school year, Florida is ensuring that every child has the opportunity and tools they need to thrive in the classroom.

One of the most exciting parts of our tax package is the Freedom Summer sales tax holiday. This three-month initiative enables Floridians to save on outdoor supplies, sports equipment, tickets to music and sporting events, and more.

Florida’s recent achievement of being ranked the best economy in the nation by CNBC is further proof that our strong fiscal policies and pro-growth agenda are working. Our commitment to our citizens, coupled with historic economic relief, sets a shining example for the nation. We call that “the Florida Way.”


Is DeSantis the next Scott Walker?” via Douglas E. Schoen of The Hill — Nine months ago, Florida DeSantis was regarded in GOP circles as a savvier, younger and more electable version of Trump, in other words, Trump without the baggage. Now, DeSantis is more commonly typified as the next Walker, the former Wisconsin Governor who famously dropped out of the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary after being considered an early front-runner. Indeed, a new poll in the all-important first Primary state, Iowa, finds DeSantis trailing Trump by 30 points, with 16% support to Trump’s 46%.

Florida Republicans are taking out their hang-ups against the state university system” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — Republicans are scared. They’re scared of citizens voting, so they make it as difficult for us as possible. They’re scared of women taking charge of their own bodies, so they demand the right to track their movements and seize their medical records in case they go to another state for an abortion. They’re scared of vaccines and drag queens and climate scientists and Brown people and Black people and gay people. They’re so scared of “the libs” they make up demented stories about Democrats drinking the blood of children. Trumpist fixer and felon Roger Stone says he heard there might be a “demonic portal” churning in the air above the Biden White House. You’ll be delighted to hear that PolitiFact checked out the hellmouth claim and rated it “False.”

Should Florida’s political leaders care what people in other states think of our education culture debates? Yes. Here’s why.” via Paul Cottle of Bridge to Tomorrow — During my visit to participate in an experiment at the Facility for Rare Isotope beams, which is located at Michigan State University and at which nuclear physicists from all over the world meet, my collaborators on the experiment wanted to talk about public education in Florida. Of course, what they wanted to talk about was Florida’s new standards for learning about African American history. And they weren’t complimentary. Our political leaders would probably say that it is a feature and not a bug of their recent offensive in the culture wars that the perceptions of the nation’s and world’s elites of our state’s education system are being negatively impacted. But that view comes with a cost.


— ALOE —

A St. Petersburg scientist worked with Oppenheimer to build atomic bomb” via Michelle Stark of the Tampa Bay Times — In the midst of the pop culture hype surrounding Christopher Nolan’s new movie “Oppenheimer” is the true story of the development of the atomic bomb. Front and center in the story of how the bomb came to be is physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led the top-secret Manhattan Project. And one of the NASA scientists who worked alongside him retired to and died in St. Petersburg. His name was J Allen Crocker. The Tampa Bay Times wrote about his death in January 1996, when Crocker died at age 84 at St. Anthony’s Hospital. Trained as an electrical engineer, the scientist worked with Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory at the University of California as part of the Manhattan Project. He was born in New York and came to St. Petersburg in 1976 from Bethesda, Maryland. He was a member of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

There’s always a Florida connection.

The ‘Cocoon’ St. Pete estate is on the market” via Veronica Brezina of the St. Pete Catalyst — For $11.5 million, a buyer can claim the historic St. Petersburg estate that features the iconic “fountain of youth” Venetian pool shown in Ron Howard’s 1985 film Cocoon. While the property is known for its Hollywood debut in the movie, which is about a group of seniors who receive energizing youthful qualities after swimming in a pool with alien cocoons, the 2.64-acre property has a name — Casa De Muchas Flores, or “House of Many Flowers.” The 9,932-square-foot Mediterranean Revival-designed manor was built in 1924 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Renowned architect Henry Dupont designed the home at the same time he was also designing the Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach, according to the listing. The waterfront property is lined with oak trees, lush landscaping, and a butterfly garden. The owners added the pool house to replicate the temporary structure filmmakers had built over the outdoor pool for the movie.


Celebrating today are former state Rep. Anika Omphroy, Liz Brown, VP of Federal Affairs for Children’s Hospital Association, Shannon Colavecchio, Melissa Dempsey, Kayla Lott, and Dave Shepp of The Southern Group.

Never forgotten is the late Steve Madden, whose birthday was today. Take a moment to read this rather nice obituary from Mary Ellen Klas.


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
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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