Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 11.29.23

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Here's your morning briefing on what you need to know about Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

Longtime public affairs specialist and political operative Juan “J.C.” Flores is joining DCI Group as the leader of its new Tallahassee office.

“We’re proud to have J.C. join the DCI Group team to continue our growth and expand our reach,” said DCI’s Managing Partners Justin Peterson and Brian McCabe. “Over the past 25 years, DCI Group has established a bedrock culture of execution for our clients, and we’re excited about this strategic expansion into one of the largest, most politically consequential states in the country.”

Public affairs specialist Juan “J.C.” Flores will head up DCI Group’s Tallahassee office.

Flores spent over a decade working for AT&T in Florida, most recently as a vice president in the company’s Latin American and EMEA external affairs office.

Previously, Flores cut his teeth in Florida policy and politics as an operative in the state Republican Party and later as a special assistant to then-House Speaker Marco Rubio. He also worked as Director of Communications to now-U.S. Rep. Carlos Giménez when he was a Miami-Dade Commissioner and additionally managed Giménez’s successful Miami-Dade mayoral campaign in 2010.

“This is an exciting time in Florida politics, and I’m thrilled to be joining the DCI Group team as they expand into Tallahassee,” Flores said. “They are the best at what they do, and I’m looking forward to helping them grow.”

Based in Washington, DCI Group is a top national public affairs and public relations firm. The Tallahassee expansion will allow Florida companies to access the same expertise several Fortune 100 companies rely upon.


@ChristinaPushaw: I knew and respected many people involved with @AFPhq. I’m disappointed that an organization that used to oppose corporate welfare & reckless government spending is now endorsing the corporate welfare candidate + de facto supporting the candidate who added $7.8 trillion in debt.

@JoanWalsh: There’s deep irony in AFP’s attempt to stop (Donald) Trump. As the major financial and political force behind the reactionary, anti-Obama Tea Party movement, AFP helped create Trumpism.

@JackPosobiec: (Ron) DeSantis confirms Bob Vander Plaats was paid before his endorsement

Tweet, tweet:


@TheRecount: Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA): “Why do you think that Chicago has become America’s largest outdoor shooting range?” Dr. Megan Ranney of the Yale School of Public Health: “Mississippi, Louisiana, and Missouri actually have higher firearm death rates.”

@APantanzi: Redistricting contrast: In Tally, @AngieNixon staged a sit-in protest of the Governor’s congressional map that a court found violated Black voters’ rights. In City Council, @Priestjax was primarily responsible for a map that another court found violated Black voters’ rights.

@TheRickWilson: If you’re playing the game of receipts in Florida politics, put your money on @PeterSchorschFL. Team DeSantis is presently making a bad, bad bet on trying to cover up and lie about Pete Antonacci’s death.

@JordanTrav13: Surgery was very successful. Thank you for all the prayers and love. All part of God’s Plan.

@JesseScheckner: OK, guys, I’ve given it some time and can confidently say these captionless images for news stories on @X are confusing AF and look like the result of bad coding.


Florida TaxWatch’s 2023 Government Productivity Awards Ceremony — 6; in-person sports betting begins at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa — 8; 2023 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit — 14; Zack Snyder’s ‘Rebel Moon’ premieres — 22; Michael Mann’s ‘Ferrari’ premieres — 25; Matt Dixon’s ‘Swamp Monsters: Trump vs. DeSantis ― the Greatest Show on Earth (or at Least in Florida)’ released — 41; 2024 Florida Chamber Legislative Fly-In and reception — 41; Florida’s 2024 Regular Session begins — 41; 2024 Primetime Emmy Awards — 47; House District 35 Special Election — 48; Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 49; New Hampshire Primary — 55; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 56; South Carolina Democratic Primary — 66; New Hampshire and Nevada Democratic Primaries — 69; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 87; Michigan Democratic Primary — 90; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 93; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 96; Super Tuesday — 97; 2024 Oscars — 102; Georgia Democratic Primary — 104; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 162; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 176; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 211; Republican National Convention begins — 229; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 261; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games — 240; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 269; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 324; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 327; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 358; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 443; ‘Moana’ premieres — 576; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 604; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 709; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 709; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 751; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 884; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 910; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,115; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,255; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,214; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,942.


Koch political network endorses Nikki Haley in GOP Primary” via Erin Doherty of Axios — The political network backed by billionaire Charles Koch is supporting former United Nations Ambassador Haley in the 2024 Republican Primary.

The endorsement is a boon for Haley as she looks to chip away at former Trump’s commanding lead in the race for the GOP nomination with less than two months until the pivotal Iowa caucuses.

Charles Koch’s support of Hikki Haley is a slap in the face for Ron DeSantis.

“The moment we face requires a tested leader with the governing judgment and policy experience to pull our nation back from the brink,” said Emily Seidel, the senior adviser to AFP Action, the leading political arm of the Koch network, in a memo on Tuesday.

“Nikki Haley is that leader,” Seidel wrote.

“In sharp contrast to recent elections that were dominated by the negative baggage of Donald Trump … Nikki Haley … would boost candidates up and down the ballot, winning the key independent and moderate voters that Trump has no chance to win,” the memo stated.

Americans for Prosperity Action said that Haley “will have the full weight and scope of AFP Action’s unmatched grassroots army and resources.”

That includes putting thousands of grassroots leaders and AFP activists in the field “knocking on doors and urging voters to support Nikki Haley,” per the memo.

It will also launch “extensive” mail, digital and connected television campaigns.

A spokesperson for DeSantis’ campaign wrote on the social media platform X: “Every dollar spent on Nikki Haley’s candidacy should be reported as an in-kind to the Trump campaign.”


Ron DeSantis claims Haley ‘wouldn’t like’ how a debate hosted by Laura Ingraham would go” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During an interview on “The Ingraham Angle,” the 2024 presidential candidate said Haley “probably wouldn’t like what the debate would be about,” pointing to various “establishment-oriented positions” she has taken. DeSantis cited her belief in a social media registry, contended she believes there should be “no limits” on immigration, and what he described as a pro-Walt Disney Co. over Florida stance as examples of her being “fundamentally out of step with Republican voters.” “I think she’s relying on liberal media to prop her up,” DeSantis said. “But I’m game for the debate.”

DeSantis says Nikki Haley would not enjoy a Laura Ingraham moderated debate. Image via Never Back Down.

DeSantis meets with potential GOP donors to new super PAC” via Amy B. Wang and Hannah Knowles of The Washington Post — DeSantis is meeting Monday with potential donors to Fight Right, a newly formed super PAC that is backing his presidential campaign, amid tensions with another super PAC that culminated last week in the departure of the group’s chief executive. DeSantis campaign manager James Uthmeier said the campaign would welcome the efforts of Fight Right, while also praising the “incredible field operation and ground game” of Never Back Down, which has played an unusually large role in DeSantis’s 2024 White House bid.

Former Tim Scott adviser is running new pro-DeSantis effort in Iowa” via Natalie Allison of POLITICO — Blake Harris, who most recently served as senior political adviser to Scott, will lead Fight Right, the super PAC confirmed first to POLITICO. The group launched last week with a $980,000 television ad buy likening GOP rival Haley to Hillary Clinton. It will focus on airing ads in Iowa attacking Haley, the former South Carolina Governor, as DeSantis struggles to maintain his No. 2 position in the state. While lagging behind Trump for months in the first Caucus state, the Florida Governor now also has Haley on his heels there, despite focusing the vast majority of his time and resources in Iowa since the Summer. Fight Right’s Board of Directors includes three allies from DeSantis’ time as Governor: Jeff Aaron, David Dewhirst and Scott Ross.

Chris Sununu sees ‘significant slide’ for DeSantis in New Hampshire” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — During a podcast interview with Tara Palmeri, Sununu says the Florida Governor has had a “significant slide” in the Granite State. “Ron’s campaign is Ron’s campaign, and obviously, he took a pretty significant slide,” Sununu said. “He’s been spending a lot of time in Iowa. So that’s why he’s doing, I think, well, better in Iowa and not quite as well in New Hampshire, but he’s still got a game here, to be sure. He’s still coming, but not quite as much, and he’s putting a lot of his chips into Iowa, and there’s reason for that, and that’s understandable to a certain extent,” Sununu said. “You have to play in both states if you’re going to do well.”

Chris Sununu notices DeSantis’ ‘significant slide.’

DeSantis is latest presidential candidate to submit signatures for Maine ballot” via Billy Kobin of the Bangor Daily News — DeSantis is the fourth 2024 candidate to submit at least 2,000 signatures required to appear in Maine, with campaign representatives and volunteers turning in the paperwork Tuesday morning to the Maine Secretary of State’s office in Augusta. Trump, who continues to comfortably lead the GOP field in polls, was the first to submit signatures earlier in November. Former South Carolina Gov. Haley, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat making a long shot bid to defeat President Joe Biden in the Primary, filed after Trump, according to a spokesperson for Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows.

— MORE 2024 —

Even most Joe Biden voters don’t see a thriving economy” via Lydia DePillis of The New York Times — Presidents seeking a second term have often found the public’s perception of the economy a pivotal issue. It was a boon to Ronald Reagan; it helped usher Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush out of the White House. Now, as Biden looks toward a re-election campaign, there are warning signals on that front: With overall consumer sentiment at a low ebb despite solid economic data, even Democrats who supported Biden in 2020 say they’re not impressed with the economy. In a recent poll of voters in six battleground states, 62% of those voters think the economy is only “fair” or “poor.”

Feeling about the economy does not bode well got Joe Biden. Image via AP.

Biden campaign attacks Donald Trump’s Obamacare threat with help from Nancy Pelosi” via Skylar Woodhouse and Gregory Korte of Bloomberg — Biden’s campaign seized on Trump’s call to overturn Obamacare, using it to cast the Republican as a threat to Americans’ health benefits ahead of a likely rematch with the President. “The former President reminded us that he is hellbent on destroying the Affordable Care Act,” former House Speaker Pelosi said on a call organized by Biden’s campaign. “When he says he’s going after our health care, believe him because he’s done it before.” Pelosi was joined by another campaign surrogate, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, as the two lambasted Trump for his latest threat to repeal Obamacare if he wins a second term.


California vs. Florida: The surprising answer to which state handled COVID better” via Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money and Sean Greene of the Los Angeles Times — In raw terms, significantly more Floridians died on a per capita basis during the COVID-19 emergency than Californians. Of the four most populous states, California had the lowest cumulative COVID death rate: 2,560 for every 1 million residents. Florida’s rate was 60% worse, with 4,044 COVID fatalities for every 1 million residents, according to a Times analysis of Johns Hopkins University data through early March, when the university ended its data tracking. In other words, Florida’s raw death tally — 86,850 in early March — came close to California’s total, 101,159, despite California having roughly 18 million more residents.

Who handled COVID better? Crunching the numbers.

DeSantis settles free speech lawsuit over activist’s press event ban” via Naomi Feinstein of the Miami New Times — DeSantis’ office has settled a federal lawsuit brought by activist Thomas Kennedy, who alleged his civil rights were violated when he was banned from attending the Governor’s news conferences and placed on a “situational awareness” flyer by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Kennedy filed the federal case in June 2022 against DeSantis, the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County, and FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass, saying he sued to “defend free speech and ensure that independent journalists” have access to publicly funded news conferences. He claimed his placement on the FDLE list and the media conference ban, which was implemented after he loudly criticized DeSantis during a 2020 event, violated his rights to free speech, due process, and equal protection.


Mike Johnson raised $1.4M at fundraiser hosted at Vern Buchanan’s home” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The event was the first major fundraiser since Johnson was elevated to House Speaker after a protracted leadership fight following the historic ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. “It has been a challenge these past couple of months, but Speaker Johnson is just the leader we need to get our country back on track,” Buchanan told event attendees. “We are thrilled to welcome him to the Sunshine State and honored that he chose Southwest Florida as his first stop as we work to expand the House majority.” This fundraiser benefited Mike Johnson for Louisiana, Johnson’s American Revival PAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Vern Buchanan hosts Mike Johnson in Longboat Key. Image via Buchanan campaign.


Why the Florida homeowners insurance crisis should worry us all” via Alexander Nazaryan of Yahoo News — Earlier this year, Chicago native Steve Swanson decided to move full-time to Sanibel Island, , where he had vacationed as a child. A boomerang-shaped barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, Sanibel was devastated by Hurricane Ian last year, but Swanson did something that would have been unthinkable anywhere in the country a few years ago: He purchased a small house but declined to purchase homeowner’s insurance, which would reimburse him in case of another disaster. “You self-insure,” Swanson said, describing how he adds each month to a rainy-day fund against natural disasters instead of paying a premium to an insurance company. “And then you just hope that it never happens.”

Senator proposes banning reparations for descendants of slaves” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Sen. Blaise Ingoglia wants to end the debate in Florida over whether reparations should be paid to descendants of slaves — by banning it in the state constitution. On Monday, he filed a resolution (SJR 582) that would place a question on the 2024 ballot asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment prohibiting any government in Florida from “paying reparations to certain individuals.” Those individuals, the measure says, include anyone with an ancestor who was “an enslaved individual who lived in the United States before Dec. 6, 1865.” Congress abolished slavery that day through the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Blaise Ingoglia takes a hard pass on reparations. Image via Colin Hackley.

Shevrin Jones pans reparations bill — Democratic Sen. Jones issued a response to Ingoglia’s bill questioning whether it was filed with any earnesty. “How can we take a bill seriously from someone who literally tried to ‘cancel’ the Democratic Party legislatively last year?” Jones asked. “It is perennially disappointing that Sen. Ingoglia and his allies in Tallahassee choose to manufacture crises over taking action on the pressing issues facing Floridians today.” Jones then listed off other issues he believes Ingoglia, and the Republican majority, should focus on, including property insurance, affordable housing, education and gun violence.

Kelly Skidmore publicly announces bid to become the House Democratic Leader in 2026” via Anne Geggis of Florida Politics — Rep. Skidmore has publicly announced her intention to become the next House Democratic Leader for the 2026-28 term and unveiled a slew of endorsements for the job. But the Boca Raton Representative, now the House Democratic Caucus Policy Chair first will have to get by Rep. Christine Hunschofsky who is also making a bid to succeed the current Democratic House Leader Fentrice Driskell. Driskell’s term ends in 2026. Skidmore’s prepared statement highlighted her bona fides as one of the longest-serving members among the House Democrats.

Lawmakers again float changing balloon regulations” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Lawmakers are again looking to tackle a different kind of inflation problem in Florida: balloons. This month, Sen. Nick DiCeglie and Rep. Linda Chaney filed related bills to change state regulations for the popular inflatables, which have been criticized for their environmental impact. Both versions of the legislation (SB 602, HB 321) would classify the outdoor release of balloons as littering. Both would also switch the associated penalty from a $250-per-violation fine to a $150 charge for every 15 pounds or 27 cubic feet of material improperly scattered.

Happening today — The Pinellas County delegation holds a pre-Session public meeting: 1 p.m., SPC Seminole Campus, 9200 113th St. N., Seminole.

Assignment editors — Sen. Linda Stewart will hold a press availability on the Reedy Creek Improvement District local bill following the conclusion of the first half of the Orange County Delegation meeting: Orange County Administration Building Lobby, 201 S. Rosalind Ave., Orlando.

Attention lobbyists: Claims bills may become a thing of the past” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — The oft-criticized claims bill process could be upended under legislation proposed by a pair of Republican legislators. Sen. Jason Brodeur and Rep. Fiona McFarland have filed bills that would likely eliminate the need for many claims bills by allowing local governments and state agencies to pay off legal settlements that exceed the state’s sovereign immunity limits without getting legislative approval. SB 472 and HB 569 also double the current sovereign immunity limits from $200,000 per individual and $300,000 per incident, taking it to $400,000 per individual and $600,000 per incident. The bills allow that cap to be readjusted for inflation annually.

Lobbying compensation: Rubin Turnbull & Associates earns $2.6M+ in Q3” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — With an estimated $2.62 million in Q3 pay, the firm led by Bill Rubin and Heather Turnbull is well on its way to breaking $10 million in earnings for 2023. Contrary to most firms, the majority of Rubin Turnbull’s earnings were reported in its executive branch compensation report. The firm represented more than 100 clients in the executive, earning an estimated $1.33 million. The firm reported $1.29 million in legislative earnings across 106 contracts. Using median estimates, Rubin Turnbull & Associates ranked No. 7 on Florida Politics’ Q3 Lobby Firm Rankings.

Bill Rubin and Heather Turnbull have a solid Q3.

Lobbying compensation: Greenberg Traurig eclipses $2M in third quarter” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The lobbying team at Greenberg Traurig closed out the third quarter with another Top 10 performance. The international law firm netted $1.16 million lobbying the Legislature and an additional $855,000 lobbying the executive branch during the quarter that ended Sept. 30. Greenberg Traurig ranked No. 8 on Florida Politics’ Q3 Lobby Firm Rankings. The firm is also on pace to exceed the $7.6 million in overall lobbying earnings it tallied in 2022.


Angie Nixon draws HD 13 Primary challenge from Brenda Priestly Jackson” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — There will be a competitive and contentious August Primary for a Jacksonville House seat after all, with both candidates coming out swinging. Rep. Nixon will face off against fellow Priestly Jackson in HD 13, a seat that encompasses parts of Duval County North and West of the St. Johns River. The predominantly Democratic seat likely won’t see much action in November, but the Primary will see Nixon face off against a political veteran who has served on both the Jacksonville City Council and the Duval County School Board.

Happening tonight:

Autopsy: Felon who was GOP congressional nominee in South Florida died from overdose” via Fresh Take Florida — Family members of a Republican congressional nominee in South Florida are mourning the death of a man they described as a loving father who wrestled with addiction. Newly released police and autopsy records show he died of a fentanyl and cocaine overdose after relapsing into using drugs. “I just love that boy, and I’m so sorry I lost him,” said Jeffrey Mariner, father of Jason Mariner of Loxahatchee. “I tried so hard.” Jason Mariner would have turned 38 earlier this month. Mariner won the two-person GOP Primary in November 2021, six months after his divorce was finalized, with 58% of the vote in the heavily Democratic 20th Congressional District, which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Jason Mariners with his two children, Colt, left, and Carson, middle, in 2021. Image via family/Fresh Take Florida.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Once Miami’s Mayor, Tomás Regalado returns to politics for a Miami-Dade run” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Six years after leaving public office as Miami’s Mayor, Regalado is running for property appraiser in Miami-Dade County. The 76-year-old Republican filed papers this month to compete in the GOP Primary for the office currently held by Pedro Garcia, 86, who is not seeking re-election after three consecutive terms overseeing the appraisal system. The property appraiser’s office sets taxable values for all properties in Miami-Dade, calculations that set annual tax bills based on rates set by local governments. Regalado is the father of County Commissioner Raquel Regalado, who is running for a second term this year representing parts of Miami in District 7.

Miami-Dade prepares for the return of Tomás Regalado.

Broward schools superintendent informed about transgender athlete by citizen tipster” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — Broward Schools Superintendent Peter Licata publicly weighed in for the first time on Tuesday morning at a news conference about a controversial sports issue involving a transgender student that led to the removal of five employees at a Coconut Creek high school. On Monday, the school district announced it reassigned five employees — James Cecil, the principal; Kenneth May, the assistant principal; Dione Hester, the athletic director; Jessica Norton, the information management technician; and Alex Burgess, a temporary athletic coach — “pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations of improper student participation in sports.” The situation involves a transgender female student who was playing for Monarch High School, near Coconut Creek.

—“Dept. of Ed responds to reassignment of Broward principal: ‘Serious consequences’” via Sommer Brugal, Ana Ceballos, and Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald

Broward high school students stage walkout in support of transgender student” via Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald — Hundreds of students at Monarch High School staged a walkout during school hours Tuesday, one day after their principal and four other staff members were reassigned to nonschool sites amid an investigation that a transgender student had been playing on the girls’ volleyball team. State law prohibits transgender female students from playing on women’s and girls’ sports teams. The event, which lasted about a half-hour, happened on school property and was peaceful. The group congregated at the football field starting around noon before making their way to the fence at the parking lot on the north end of the school. Once there, they shouted chants including “Let her play,” “trans rights are human rights” and “Free Cecil now.” Cecil refers to Monarch principal James Cecil.

Florida author Tim Dorsey dies at 62” via Colette Bancroft of the Tampa Bay Times — Dorsey, author of 26 popular novels about a unique Florida Man named Serge Storms, has died at age 62. Dorsey, who had recently had health problems, died at his home in Islamorada. Randy Wayne White, a friend and fellow Florida author, said by phone Tuesday, “When he started writing a series about an insane serial killer, I thought, how long can that bulls — t go on? But he wrote about every nook and cranny of Florida. He colonized it. That will last. He was not a haphazard researcher; he was a field historian. Plus, the books are freaking hilarious,” White said. “Humor plus history — that’s a winning combination.”

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Carolina Amesty’s school should pay taxes on $1.6 million home, magistrate rules” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Rep. Amesty’s family-run university should not be exempt from paying property taxes on the $1.6 million house it owns near Windermere because it is used as a private residence and is not “an integral part of the educational institution,” according to a special magistrate ruling released Tuesday. Central Christian University, where the Republican lawmaker serves as vice president, argued it should not pay 2023 property taxes on the five-bedroom pool home, because its president, Amesty’s father, resides there and uses it for some university business. The house sits in an upscale golf community that isn’t accessible to visitors unless they show a pass to a guard at its entrance. It’s about 15 miles from Central Christian’s campus on North Hiawassee Road.

A judge says, ‘pay up.’ Image via Facebook

Orange County seeks financial information from now-dissolved onePULSE Foundation” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Orange County officials want financial documents from the recently dissolved onePULSE Foundation. At an Orange County Commission meeting, county leaders said the collapse of the organization, which formed in the wake of the 2016 Pulse shooting, has prompted anger and frustration. The foundation originally intended to build a museum open to the public to remember the shooting, but the organization earlier this month canceled any plans to do so. “As a county, we have to do our due diligence,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. “Because of the contractual relationship we had with the expenditures of the people’s money, and going forward given the dissolution that is underway, there are some contractual things that have to take place.”


Simply, Girl Scouts team up to host CampCEO — Earlier this month, Simply Healthcare Plans and the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida partnered to host CampCEO, a leadership development experience that helps high school girls strengthen their personal development and leadership development skills. This year’s event was held at Camp Wai Lani in Palm Harbor and served high schoolers in the greater Tampa region. CampCEO participants participated in team building, personal well-being and career planning activities. Girl Scout volunteers, women community leaders and partners including Simply Healthcare team members encouraged the high school girls to be the “CEO” of their own lives. Simply said CampCEO was part of its commitment to addressing the “whole health needs of girls in Florida,” which includes mental health, children’s and maternal health, disease management, secondary education, workforce development, rural health and more.

Girl Scout CampCEO offers young entrepreneurs time for personal development.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Local Jacksonville hospital safety grades: 7 area hospitals get A’s, 4 others get C’s” via Anne Maxwell of News4Jax — The grades, published twice a year by nonprofit health care watchdog The Leapfrog Group, are based on data about infections, surgery and safety problems, staff and how hospitals work to prevent errors. Out of the 14 hospitals in the local area, seven received A’s, including major Jacksonville hospitals UF Health, Mayo Clinic and Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville. Baptist Health received A’s for all four of their local hospitals. “It’s quite an honor,” said Baptist Health President and CEO Michael Mayo. “What I think about is that every patient, their family, and their loved ones entrust their lives to us every day when their lives are interrupted by illness and injury. And we don’t take that lightly.”

Baptist Health Jacksonville is all aces.

Effort to incorporate Perdido Key area stalls. Here’s why” via Mollye Barrows of the Pensacola News Journal — An effort to incorporate a big part of southwest Escambia County, including Perdido Key, has stalled for now after Rep. Alex Andrade decided not to place the issue on the ballot. After reviewing We Are Perdido’s feasibility study, Andrade said there are serious flaws in the plan and it’s not ready to go before voters. Andrade consulted with Committee staff and the Florida Department of Revenue on the issue before informing members of the nonprofit organization supporting incorporation, We Are Perdido, that he would not file a bill to place the question of Perdido’s incorporation on the November 2024 ballot.


Poll shows tight Naples race between Ted Blankenship, Teresa Heitmann” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — New polling shows Naples may be headed for a close Mayor’s race next year. Survey results show Mayor Heitmann virtually tied with City Council member Blankenship, who filed for the mayoral race in October. The polling showed a fraction of a percentage point separating the two, with 24.1% of those surveyed planning to vote for Heitmann and 23.8% planning to vote for Blankenship. Less than 11% intend to support former Naples City Council member Gary Price. Pollsters report a 4.3% margin of error. The firm surveyed registered voters between Nov. 24 and 26. A General Election is scheduled for March 19. Candidates have until Jan. 19 at 5 p.m. to qualify.

It’s a tight race between Ted Blankenship and Teresa Heitmann.

Lee County Commissioners to discuss proposals for elected Mayor, single-member districts” via Dan Glaun of the Fort Myers News-Press — Lee County’s Commissioners will hold a special meeting Wednesday morning about proposed state bills that would alter county governance, ahead of Thursday’s meeting of the county’s legislative delegation. One of the proposed bills would expand the size of the County Commission and create single-member districts. The other would replace the county’s hired County Manager with an elected Mayor. If passed by the legislature, Lee County residents would vote on referendums for each proposal in the November 2024 Elections. Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, who requested the special meeting, opposes both proposals. He said an elected Mayor would be less accountable because the Commission could not fire a Mayor for poor performance.

Lee County sees 103% increase in home-schooled students over 4 years” via Annette Montgomery of WINK — Nationwide there’s been a surge in the number of parents deciding to take their children’s education into their own hands. Data from the Washington Post shows since the 2017-2018 school year, there’s been a 72% increase in the number of students home-schooled in Florida. Last year, our local school districts saw an even larger increase. Lee County saw a 103% increase for the 2022-2023 school year since the 2017-2018. school year. Collier increased by 62% since the 2017-2018 school year to last year.

Naples Airport could relocate after years of noise complaints” via Jolena Esperto and Matias Abril of WINK — Loud jets taking off day and night are causing headaches for people who live in one area. Naples Airport could soon be relocating after years of complaints. “We can’t even talk when the planes are flying in. You have to stop the conversation,” said Teresa Bacchi, who lives near the airport. There’s no price tag yet. The Naples Airport Board approved spending more than $400,000 just to study whether it’s worth relocating. “When the airport was originally built in the 1940s, this was way outside of town,” said Zach Burch, Naples Airport Communications Manager. “We were in a swampy area where no one could imagine that there would ever be homes or businesses, and obviously, over the last 80 years, that has changed.”


Long after Peter Antonacci’s death, nagging questions linger” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Fourteen months later, the Governor’s office has never publicly discussed the circumstances surrounding the death of the 74-year-old lawyer, who served as statewide prosecutor, deputy Attorney General, general counsel to a Governor, Palm Beach County state attorney and, from 2018 to 2020, as Broward Supervisor of Elections.

A few weeks before Antonacci died, he stood with DeSantis at the Broward courthouse as they announced a statewide roundup of people on voter fraud charges. Several cases have been dismissed by judges, while others are on appeal or were resolved. The Fort Lauderdale news conference would be Antonacci’s last public appearance.

The most surprising revelation in the FDLE reports was that Antonacci lay “dead or dying” in a hallway outside the Governor’s Office for 24 minutes after he left a midafternoon meeting attended by nearly a dozen other people.

Antonacci “abruptly” left the meeting right before he collapsed, records show. No meeting agenda has ever been made public, but the subject matter must have involved voting and elections because the participants, besides Antonacci, included the state’s chief elections official, Secretary of State Cord Byrd, and his chief counsel, Brad McVay as well as DeSantis’ general counsel.

Florida’s Capitol can be a quiet place on a Friday in September, but a delay of nearly a half-hour in a body being discovered in the Governor’s office, in an area under constant video surveillance, is an inordinately long time.

In addition, state officials did not order an autopsy by a state medical examiner. Instead, Antonacci was taken to the nearest hospital and pronounced dead by an emergency room doctor, the Florida Bulldog reported, adding that his family physician said that Antonacci had a history of heart disease.


The downfall of DeSantis Is good fodder for the press” via Jack Shafer of POLITICO Magazine — The press seems to thrill at the prospect of a Playoff Bowl between Haley (9.8% in the latest Real Clear Politics polling average) and DeSantis (13.7%), when first-placer Trump (61.6%) seems destined to face Biden in the championship game, is not to paint reporters with hinky-dinkness, only to suggest it. News outlets run as fail-safe systems, designed to function even in the case of such reportorial emergencies as when a candidate leads by a margin that not even a deep trough of $70 million in Koch money can alter. Heavy coverage of the Haley-DeSantis race by reporters can also be defended as insurance in case Trump fractures a hip and lingers in the ICU, is forced to put on an orange suit to match his orange sheen, chokes to death on a burnt steak at his country club, or otherwise vanishes from the scene.

Don’t abandon education reforms that made Florida a leader” via Jeb Bush for the Orlando Sentinel — For more than two decades, Florida has remained committed to educational excellence by ensuring that transparency, accountability and opportunity define our K-12 system. We’ve consistently pushed the envelope, transforming Florida into a national leader. This has not happened by accident. When I took office, nearly half Florida’s fourth graders had significant reading deficiencies. In partnership with state lawmakers, we championed the A+ Plan in 1999 based on core principles. Today, Florida’s fourth graders rank third in the nation for reading. It’s concerning that some lawmakers now seem eager to throw out or water down key components of the policies that led our students from the back of the pack to top in the nation.

Another special district for Disney? No” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — In the battle between DeSantis and Walt Disney World, some state legislators want to undo the special district the Governor created to punish the theme park and return to the days when Disney controlled its own special district for governmental operations. Here’s my idea: How about no special district at all? Not one fueled by the Governor’s political grudges and run by his hand-picked, mess-making cronies. And not one where Disney has special permission to tax, spend and regulate itself unlike any other company in Florida. How about we just treat this company like every other company in the state?

Consumers should reject big government regulation of credit card fees. Again.” via Grover Norquist and Sal Nuzzo for the Tampa Bay Times — In Tallahassee and Washington, bad ideas keep coming back long after they have been exposed as driven by special interests and damaging to consumers and taxpayers. So here we go again, having to stop yet another attack on your right to have and use a credit card. The legislation now being pushed (again) in Tallahassee parallels the big government provisions of the “Dodd-Frank” bill that Democrats passed in Washington in 2010. After Dodd-Frank took effect, more than 20% of merchants raised prices, and only 1% lowered them.



— ALOE —

At town hall, Bob Iger tells Disney employees ‘I’ve never second guessed’ coming back” via Alex Weprin of The Hollywood Reporter — The Walt Disney Co. CEO Iger told employees of the company that his second turn as CEO has been more challenging than he anticipated, but that he is nonetheless “optimistic” about the entertainment giant’s future. “I knew that there were myriad challenges that I would face coming back,” Iger said at an employee town hall Tuesday afternoon. “I won’t say that it was easy, but I’ve never second-guessed the decision to come back, and being back still feels great.” The veteran executive went on to say “I had spent the year with the team fixing a lot of things … but I feel that we’ve just emerged from a period of a lot of fixing to one of building again, and I can tell you building is a lot more fun than fixing.”

Bob Iger didn’t expect the challenges of his second turn as Disney CEO.

Royal Caribbean takes delivery of world’s largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — There are still two months to go before the first paying customers climb on board, but Royal Caribbean officially took possession Monday of the world’s largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas. Cruise line officials joined leadership with the Meyer Turku shipyard along with about 1,200 employees in Turku, Finland, for the handover ceremony of the 250,800-gross-ton, 1,198-foot-long, 20-deck vessel that had its first steel cut 31 months earlier.

New UF building to act as hub for artificial intelligence, data science” via Lillian Lawson of the Gainesville Sun — A ribbon-cutting ceremony held Friday marked the grand opening of a new data science and information technology building on the University of Florida campus across from the Reitz Union. The $150 million building, named the Malachowsky Hall for Data Science & Information Technology, will serve as a space for medicine, pharmacy and engineering. Its seven stories will act as a hub for advancing computing, communication and cyber technologies to further support the integration of AI across UF’s curriculum. The university said the 263,440-square-foot hall is designed to set the standard for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) buildings across national and international university campuses and aims to transform the artificial intelligence (AI) and data science workforce.

Chef behind one of Taylor Swift’s favorite Italian restaurants in NYC is heading to Florida” via Leah Bitsky of Page Six — Welcome to Florida, it’s been waitin’ for you. The storied, no-frills Italian restaurant Emilio’s Ballato in New York City is known for hosting top celebrity clientele — including recent A-list patron Swift. The pop star dined at the family-owned hot spot with Blake Lively, Sophie Turner and Brittany Mahomes in September amid the “Game of Thrones” star’s high-profile divorce and custody battle with Joe Jonas, who had raved about Ballato just two months prior. And now, the famed eatery’s executive chef, Anthony Vitolo, has partnered with Miami hospitality guru Rob Crosoli to open his new eponymous Italian joint in South Florida: Vitolo. The cozy yet elevated restaurant, located inside the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel, opens its doors Tuesday night.


‘Great opportunity’: Panama City Beach police collecting toys for Cops n’ Kids Toy Drive” via Nathan Cobb of the Panama City News-Herald — Beach Police officers are working to spread holiday cheer throughout the community. With the help of Florida Watersports, a local outdoor recreation shop, the Panama City Beach Police Department is collecting toy donations every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. until Saturday as part of its 29th annual Cops n’ Kids Toy Drive, according to Sgt. James Dinse. The drive was designed to help less fortunate kids in the PCB area. Toys are collected at a bus parked outside the Walmart off Panama City Beach Parkway, near Pier Park. “I feel honored to be a part of something like this,” Dinse said. “I think it’s a huge partnership with the community coming together. … Everyone’s been through a hard time once upon a time in their life. It’s a great opportunity, and it’s a great program.”

Panama City Beach police are spreading some holiday cheer.

The Alternative Christmas Market exemplifies charitable holiday giving” via Tom Flanigan of WFSU — Charitable giving on behalf of friends and family members is once again “a thing” in Tallahassee this holiday season. This Saturday will mark the 36th year of the Alternative Christmas Market at John Wesley United Methodist Church. Alternative Christmas Market Co-chair Susan Capelouto said there will be more than 20 nonprofit agencies on hand. Holiday shoppers then make donations to the agencies of their choice in the name of those on their gift list. “Then you’ll get a beautiful card that has lovely calligraphy and you’ll give the card to that person and the agency will receive your donation.”

Mike Fasano to host Pasco County Holiday Food Giveaway — Pasco County Tax Collector Fasano is hosting the county’s 29th annual Holiday Food Giveaway on Dec. 15 at Faith Baptist Church in New Port Richey. “For 29 years we have hosted our annual holiday food giveaway to feed families in need during the holiday season,” Fasano said in a news release. “We invite any member of our community who needs food to come and pick up fresh and prepared foods that will provide a complete holiday meal and more.” Fasano will be joined at the event by Sheriff Chris Nocco, Property Appraiser Mike Wells, Court Clerk Nikki Alvarez-Sowles, Sen. Ed Hooper and Rep. Brad Yaeger. Food distributions begin at 9 a.m. and will be on a first-come, first-served basis.


Celebrating today is South Florida Democratic political consultant Freddy Balsera.


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.

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