Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.17.24

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Wake up right with Sunburn — the best of politics and policy in Florida.

Good Wednesday morning.

Breaking late Tuesday — “Tom Keen flips HD 35 from red to blue in critical Special Election” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Orlando Democrat came out on top in a critical Special Election in House District 35, besting Republican Erika Booth. The win prompted celebration by Democrats. “Florida Democrats rallied behind Tom Keen,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried. “We saw unprecedented enthusiasm and investment in this Special Election from all corners of the state, as well as many of our national partners. We proved that Florida is still worth fighting for and that a well-organized, well-funded Democratic campaign can still win a swing seat in this state.” Unofficial final results showed Keen winning 51.3% of the vote with all precincts reporting and only 36 mail-in votes unprocessed.

Tom Keen made Florida Democrats’ hearts quiver with a win in HD 35.


Two Cabinet members, the House Speaker and a couple of top lawmakers will be at the Hotel Duval tonight to headline one of Florida TaxWatch’s marquee annual events.

The State of the Taxpayer Dinner speaker list: Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, House Speaker Paul Renner, Senate Democratic Leader-Designate Jason Pizzo, future House Speaker Jennifer Canady past FTW Chair and former Sen. Pat Neal, FTW President and CEO Dominic Calabro and FTW Executive Vice President and former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp.

Ashley Moody is once again a featured speaker at the Florida TaxWatch State of The Taxpayer Dinner.

According to FTW, the event will feature these elected leaders and policymakers speaking “directly to the interests of hardworking taxpayers and their families.” It kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

FTW didn’t say what’s on the menu, though the organization is perhaps best known for its annual “Turkey List,” which calls out spending, including member projects that make it into the budget but appear to be inappropriate or wasteful.

Last year, Florida TaxWatch found nearly $600 million worth of turkeys in the state budget — about a half-percent of the $117 billion spending plan for the 2023-24 fiscal year. To that end, expect tonight’s programming to focus on how the state can trim a little more fat so the average Floridian is left with a bit more cash in their pocket.


The Senate President-designate’s family got a little bigger over the weekend.

“Last week during my opening comments, I had the opportunity to share with you some of the many blessings the Senate family has received over the last few years. Today I am excited to add one more to the list,” reads a Tuesday memo sent by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo.

The good news: Wauchula Republican Sen. Ben Albritton and his wife, Missy, are celebrating the birth of their second grandson, Joshua Walker Albritton, who will be called Walker.

Congrats to Ben Albritton — who welcomed his second grandchild.

Walker was born to Joshua and Emi Albritton on Friday. According to a memo sent out by Passidomo, Walker weighs in at a healthy 8 lbs. 11 oz. and is 20 inches long.

The Albrittons say Emi and the baby are both doing well

Walker joins 19-month-old Brooks, son of Rebecca and Dustin Goodwyn, as the second Albritton grandchild.


She said yes! Amelia Johnson, daughter of Brenda Johnson of Enterprise Florida, is engaged to Fletcher Vaughn. Fletcher proposed in the Capitol Courtyard, where Amelia’s grandfather’s memorial brick for his service in World War II is located.

Amelia and Fletcher have been together for four years and both come from families with strong ties to Florida. Amelia grew up in the political environment due to her mom working for the House, Senate, Cabinet, and Judicial Branch. She spent several Spring Breaks paging or volunteering in the Historic Capitol Museum and now works for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Amelia’s grandfather would skip school at Leon High and hang out in the old Capitol Dome — a fitting and meaningful place for this special occasion. Fletcher’s family is from Louisiana originally, but he grew up just outside Tallahassee in Quincy. He currently works for McKibbon Hospitality in managerial roles.


@NikkiHaley: We’ve had five great debates in this campaign. Unfortunately, Donald Trump has ducked all of them. He has nowhere left to hide. The next debate I do will either be with Donald Trump or with Joe Biden. I look forward to it.

@RonDeSantis: Nikki Haley is afraid to debate because she doesn’t want to answer the tough questions such as how she got rich off Boeing after giving them millions in taxpayer handouts as Governor of South Carolina. The reality is that she is not running for the nomination; she’s running to be Trump’s VP. I won’t snub New Hampshire voters like both Nikki Haley and Donald Trump, and plan to honor my commitments. I look forward to debating two empty podiums in the Granite State this week.

@MattGaetz: It’s over man (in response to Ron DeSantis).

@TomBevanRCP: Despite the caucuses being tough, the polls this year were quite good. Like (Ted) Cruz, (Rick) Santorum & (Mike) Huckabee before him, DeSantis’ ground game powered by evangelicals helped him overperform by 5.5 points. Everyone else was basically on their number.

@mehdirhasan: Congrats to Ron DeSantis’ brilliant comms team @BryanDGriffin, @JeremyRedfernFL, and @ChristinaPushaw, who spent all their time trolling online while their guy tonight lost to Trump in Iowa by 30 — count ‘em, *thirty* — percentage points.

@GrayRohrer: Well, it looks like Democrats are going to make up 30% of the Florida House instead of just 29%.


New Hampshire Primaries — 6; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 7; ‘Sexy Beast’ premieres on Paramount+ — 8; ‘Masters of the Air’ premieres on Apple TV+ — 9; federal campaign finance filing deadline — 14; Inter Miami CF 2024 season opener stand-alone — 15; second government-funding deadline — 16; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 17; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ final season premieres on HBO — 18; Nevada Primaries — 20; Nevada Republican Presidential Caucus — 22; Super Bowl LVIII — 25; Ninth Annual Suits for Session begins — 34; South Carolina Republican Primary — 38; Michigan Democratic Primary — 41; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 42; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 44; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 45; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 46; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 47; Super Tuesday — 48; State of the Union address — 50; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 51; 2024 Oscars — 53; Georgia Democratic Primary — 55; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 62; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 63; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 64; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 71; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 79; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 80; The Masters begin — 85; Kentucky Derby — 118; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 113; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 120; French Open begins — 123; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 126; Monaco Grand Prix — 130; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 163; Republican National Convention begins — 180; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 189; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 195; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 212; Democratic National Convention begins — 215; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 220; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 275; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 278; 2024 Presidential Election — 293; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 309; MLS Cup 2024 — 325; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 394; ‘Moana’ premieres — 527; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 555; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 660; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 660; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 702; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 839; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 855; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,066; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,206; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,165; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,887.


How Ron DeSantis salvaged a distant second place in Iowa” via Emily Mahoney and Jay Cridlin of the Tampa Bay Times — After seven months of tireless campaigning, it took an all-out blitz at the finish line for DeSantis to salvage second place. His distant finish behind Trump and narrow edge past Haley was not the narrative-defying result that DeSantis and his backers had promised, nor what pundits once expected of a candidate seen as the Republican Party’s next standard-bearer. But it might be enough to keep his campaign alive a bit longer.

“In spite of all of that they threw at us, everyone against us, we’ve got our ticket punched out of Iowa,” he told the crowd at his Caucus night watch party.

How did Ron DeSantis eke out a second-place finish in Iowa?

It’s hard, though, to call DeSantis’ Hawkeye State experience a win.

DeSantis’ inability to pry the party from Trump, even as the former President fends off criminal indictments, defies history, said Will Rogers, former Chair of the Polk County, Iowa, GOP.

“I never get anybody to tell me any substantive answers about why (DeSantis) wouldn’t make a great President,” he said. It’s just that they still prefer Trump.

Rogers likened DeSantis’ dogged pursuit of traditional metrics for success, like visiting every county and locking up coveted endorsements, to cramming for an important test. The problem was, he was competing in a popularity contest.

Jacob Fuller, 53, who owns a construction business, said he’s supported Trump since “Day One” in 2016 and he never considered DeSantis as an option. Pollsters have consistently estimated that unshakable Trump supporters like Fuller make up about a third of the nation’s GOP base.

“I don’t trust him,” Fuller said of DeSantis. “He is not a leader. Not one iota. He repeats everything Trump does. … He’s not real.”


GATE Program proposal clears Committee — The Senate Committee on Postsecondary Education introduced and advanced a bill (SB 7032) that would create the Graduation Alternative to Traditional Education (GATE) Program, GATE Scholarship Program, and GATE Student Success Incentive Fund. All three programs create an alternative pathway to career credentials for students aged 16 to 21 who have dropped out of traditional high school programs. “Some students may have challenges in completing the requirements for a high school diploma in a traditional setting, but everyone has gifts and talents that can contribute to their community,” said Sen. Erin Grall, who chairs the Committee. “The GATE program will provide students who have left high school before graduation the opportunity to access high-quality workforce education programs that can help them earn industry-recognized credentials that lead to good jobs, at no cost to the students.”

Senate looks to increase Citizens caps, boost wind mitigation grants” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Another major overhaul to Florida’s property insurance laws isn’t likely this year, but lawmakers are still moving ahead with minor changes aimed at softening the blow of skyrocketing rates many homeowners are facing. The Senate Banking & Insurance Committee unanimously passed two bills that would allow pricier homes to be covered by Citizens Property Insurance, a state-run company and to provide $100 million for a grant program to improve homes’ protection against windstorm damage. Sen. Ed Hooper is sponsoring SB 1106, which raises the cap on homes that can be covered by Citizens from $700,000 to $1 million. He said the change to the cap, which was put in place in 2014 and phased in over three years, is needed to keep pace with the increase in home values.

Ed Hooper seeks to raise the cap on homes insured by Citizens.

Senate panel advances bill aiming to offer more housing to seasonal farmworkers” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Lawmakers are looking for a solution to Florida’s housing shortage for seasonal farmworkers, and new legislation aims to help address the issue. The Senate Community Affairs Committee voted to advance the bill (SB 1082) via a unanimous 8-0 vote. The measure bars local officials from prohibiting “the construction or installation of housing for agricultural workers on land classified as agricultural land,” save some limited exceptions laid out in the legislation. Sen. Jay Collins is carrying the bill, with Rep. Kaylee Tuck fronting the House companion (HB 1051). The measure also lays out varying zoning and building regulations for the housing. Florida is experiencing a general housing crunch, with residents flooding into the state.


House puts brakes on Senate school testing deregulation” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the USA Today Network — An education deregulation measure that sped through the Florida Senate could stall in the House because of a provision that would remove testing requirements for high school graduation. The day after senators unanimously passed a package of bills, House Speaker Paul Renner said the House disagrees with taking away accountability measures. “I’ll light myself on fire, and so will many of the people standing behind me on some of these things that really go to the core of accountability,” the Palm Coast Republican said in front of the Historic Capitol.

House health care panel OKs bills placing mandates on hospitals, insurers, health plans” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — A House health care panel passed four bills that collectively put mandates on hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, insurers and managed care plans. The House Select Committee on Health Innovation voted unanimously to pass HB 63, which requires Florida hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to go surgical smoke-free beginning Jan. 1, 2025. The legislation requires hospitals to implement and adopt policies that require the use of a smoke evacuation system during any surgical procedure that is likely to generate surgical smoke. The smoke evacuation systems must effectively capture, filter and eliminate surgical smoke at the site of origin before the smoke contacts the eyes or respiratory tract of people in the room. A staff analysis pegs the costs of the regulation at $10,000 a year per surgical suite.

Bill adding more protections for kratom consumers clears first Senate hurdle” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Less than six months after Florida’s first statewide regulation of kratom went into effect, lawmakers are advancing legislation to make companies more responsible and accountable for the safety of their kratom products. Members of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee voted unanimously Tuesday for SB 842, which would impose a host of new standards by which makers of kratom products must abide. The bill would prohibit the production, sale or distribution of kratom products adulterated with other substances, including synthetic alkaloids that strengthen it to a dangerous degree or that state statutes list as poisonous or harmful. SB 842 would also ban any product labels claiming kratom is intended to treat, cure or prevent any medical condition or disease. Violators would face a $500 fine for the first offense and $1,000 fines for each offense after.

Lawmakers take a second crack at regulating kratom.

LGBTQ lawmakers, advocates vow to resist repressive legislation this Session” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — Several hundred LGBTQ-rights advocates gathered in the Florida Capitol to denounce fresh attacks on their rights and urge passage of legislation that would repeal existing restrictions on their rights. Legislative Democrats joined the crowd on Tuesday, including out gay Sen. Shevrin Jones and House member Michele Rayner along with representatives of Equality Florida, which organized the affair. The crowd was good-naturedly rowdy despite the threat they saw to their well-being. “I will not be scared out of the state. You will not make laws to remove me or my dreams. I was raised on an America that believed that freedom will ring,” said Angelique Godwin, coordinator for trans-related events at Equality Florida.

2 lawmakers want extra safeguards for neurodiverse students” via Danielle Prieur of WFSU — Two Central Florida Representatives have co-sponsored a bill that would put extra safeguards in place for students with special needs at risk of running away from school (referred to as elopement in the bill). Autistic students are nearly four times as likely as their non-autistic peers to try to leave school unattended. That’s according to the National Autism Association. Rep. Anna Eskamani and Sen. Victor Torres’ bill would require schools to have a plan in place to quickly respond when a child with special needs goes missing. It would also require schools to designate a School Staff Assistance for Emergencies Team or SAFE Team in charge of deploying the plan and carrying out the search for the child.

Florida House puts brakes on Senate school testing deregulation” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the USA Today Network — An education deregulation measure that sped through the Florida Senate could stall in the House because of a provision that would remove testing requirements for high school graduation. The day after senators unanimously passed a package of bills, House Speaker Paul Renner said the House disagrees with taking away accountability measures. “I’ll light myself on fire, and so will many of the people standing behind me on some of these things that really go to the core of accountability,” the Palm Coast Republican said in front of the Historic Capitol.

Bill to force disclosure on political ads that use AI adds criminal penalty” via Ryan Dailey of News Service of Florida — With the bill’s sponsor saying that rapidly expanding access to generative artificial intelligence “threatens the integrity of elections,” a bill that would require disclaimers on political ads created by using the technology began advancing Tuesday in the Florida Senate. “This is something that is very new. This is something that we’ve seen more and more frequently, I think, as the political campaign season has been accelerating here recently,” bill sponsor Sen. Nick DiCeglie, an Indian Rocks Beach Republican, said of the use of artificial intelligence in political ads.

Boca Raton Republican files legislation to address ‘glitch’ changing voter party affiliations to NPA” via Stephany Matat of The Palm Beach Post —  Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman said she has been working during the past months with Dave Kerner, who heads the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles, Wendy Link, the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections, and the Florida Department of State to repair the software used by motorists to also update voter registration cards as they renew or replace driver licenses. “They told me it was happening for seven to eight years,” Gossett-Seidman said of the problem in the software. “This is not a partisan thing. This is bipartisan and it affected both big parties.”


7 a.m. One More Child Day. Old Capitol Steps.

8 a.m. Florida Cattlemen’s Association Day. Large Vehicle Area, Capitol Complex.

8 a.m. House Constitutional Rights Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee meets. Room 404, House Office Building.

8 a.m. House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee meets. Room 17, House Office Building.

8 a.m. House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee meets. Room 212, Knott Building.

8 a.m. Firefighters’ Day in the Florida Capitol. Capitol Complex.

8 a.m. State Corrections Day. Capitol Courtyard, Capitol Complex.

8 a.m. House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee meets. Room 102, House Office Building.

8 a.m. Tallahassee Florida Hospital Association’s Hospital Days. Capitol Complex.

8 a.m. CPA Day at the Capitol. Capitol Complex.

8 a.m. Broward Days begin. Capitol Complex.

8:30 a.m. Pace Center for Girls Day. 22nd Floor.

8:30 a.m. Senate Children Families and Elder Affairs Committee meets. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

8:30 a.m. Senate Education Pre-K- 12 Committee meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

8:30 a.m. Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee meets. Room 301, Senate Office Building.

8:30 a.m. Senate Transportation Committee meets. Room 110, Senate Office Building.

9 a.m. Clerks’ Day at the Capitol. 3rd Floor Rotunda.

9 a.m. Florida Goodwill Day at the Capitol. Second Floor.

10:30 a.m. House Appropriations Committee meets. Room 212, Knott Building.

10:30 a.m. House Ways & Means Committee meets. Room 404, House Office Building.

11 a.m. Senate Finance and Tax Committee meets. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

11 a.m. Senate Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

11 a.m. Senate Appropriations Committee on Transportation Tourism and Economic Development meets. Room 110, Senate Office Building.

1 p.m. Florida School Boards Association Day in the Legislature. Capitol Complex.

1 p.m. House Education & Employment Committee meets. Room 17, House Office Building.

1 p.m. House Judiciary Committee meets. Room 404, House Office Building.

1 p.m. House State Affairs Committee meets. Room 212, Knott Building.

1 p.m. Clay County Reception. Capitol Courtyard.

1:30 p.m. Senate Appropriations Committee on Education meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

1:30 p.m. Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice meets. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

1:30 p.m. Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture Environment and General Government meets. Room 110 Senate Office Building.

3:30 p.m. Senate Rules Committee meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

4 p.m. The House holds a floor Session. House Chambers.

5:30 p.m. The Florida Bar Legislative Reception. 22nd Floor.

5:45 p.m. Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets. Room 401, Senate Office Building.


The inside story of how DeSantis got crushed by Donald Trump” via Marc Caputo of The Messenger — For months, DeSantis clung to the fiction that his relentless Hawkeye focus would lead to an Iowa victory, springboard him into front-runner status in the Primary and expose Trump as the weak figurehead of a flimsy Potemkin village of a campaign. But Monday’s Iowa blowout showed the folly of the belief. All the pre-election polls did, too. Yet DeSantis refuses to quit, complaining that an early call declaring Trump the winner amounted to “election interference.” DeSantis is still vowing to fight on in the other states where all the polls show he’s likely to meet a similar — or worse — fate than in Iowa. And DeSantis will face the same problem: he doesn’t know how to beat Trump in a GOP Primary.

Ron DeSantis put all his hopes on a win in Iowa before Trump crushed him at the Caucuses.

Why AP called Iowa for Trump: Race call explained” via The Associated Press — Trump scored the first victory of the 2024 Presidential Primary season Monday with a sweeping and broad-based win in the Iowa Republican caucuses. The Associated Press declared Trump the winner based on an analysis of initial returns as well as results of AP VoteCast, a survey of voters who planned to caucus on Monday night. Both showed Trump with an insurmountable lead. Initial results from eight counties showed Trump with far more than half the total votes counted as of 8:31 p.m. ET is significantly ahead of the rest of the field. These counties included rural areas that are demographically and politically similar to the large number of counties that had yet to report.

DeSantis is in survival mode as Nikki Haley battles Trump in New Hampshire” via Matt Dixon, Natasha Korecki and Jonathan Allen of NBC News — “He’s staying in,” a DeSantis supporter familiar with the campaign’s thinking told NBC News. “If Nikki loses New Hampshire — which is her best chance out of all states to win — and loses her home state of South Carolina right after, she will need to get out and we get our two-man race.” Inside a DeSantis finance team meeting at the Surety Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tuesday morning, campaign manager James Uthmeier painted the picture of a difficult but manageable fundraising environment for the campaign. “Going to be tough sledding,” another DeSantis supporter familiar with the thinking said. “The sentiment is we have and can raise the resources to get through South Carolina.”

Poll: DeSantis at 4% in New Hampshire, his worst performance in any poll yet” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The latest American Research Group survey of next week’s Primary finds the Governor at 4%, with Nikki Haley and Donald Trump tied at 40%. The survey of 406 Republicans and 194 independents, taken Jan. 12 through Jan. 15, is the latest to suggest that the Governor is headed toward a very distant third place in the first-in-the-nation Primary. Every New Hampshire poll shows DeSantis way behind Haley and Trump. The Saint Anselm College Survey Center survey taken Jan. 8-9 finds Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy tied with 6% support each. Chris Christie was at 9% before dropping out. Ramaswamy has also just dropped out, meanwhile.

Haley’s post-Iowa push will be too little, too late” via Mary Ellen Klas of Bloomberg — After her 32-point drubbing in the Iowa caucuses, Haley stood before her supporters Monday night and boldly proclaimed, “I can safely say, Iowa made this Republican Primary a two-person race.” Then she packed her bags and headed for New Hampshire. The former bookkeeper wasn’t making a math error. DeSantis is still in the race, although he’s bypassing the first-in-the-nation Primary and heading straight to South Carolina. His campaign is on life support and Haley argues that because polls show her within striking distance of Trump in New Hampshire, she has a shot. But the joke’s on her. It’s too little, too late.

— MORE 2024 —

Haley under pressure from donors to defeat Trump in New Hampshire after Iowa caucus loss” via Brian Schwartz of CNBC — “I would still like to see her get somewhere, but the mountain she has to climb is enormous,” Andy Sabin, a Haley fundraiser, told CNBC. “As much as I like Haley, I don’t even know what Trump could do to stop himself right now.” Sabin plans to help raise money for Trump if Haley doesn’t make it through the Primary season, despite previously telling CNBC he wouldn’t give the former President “a f—ing nickel.” “He may be the only choice I have,” said Sabin. Several Haley fundraisers conceded that, unless she gets a very close second to Trump or manages to pull off an upset win in New Hampshire, the race could effectively be over for her after that.

Haley PAC launches ad calling Trump a ‘bully’ — The super PAC supporting Haley’s presidential campaign has released a new ad calling Trump a “bully” for the way he has treated the former South Carolina Governor. “For Donald Trump, the fact that Haley is the candidate Biden fears the most is a hard pill to swallow, but their constant attacks and bullying will do nothing to derail her or her conservative agenda for our country. The momentum is on Nikki’s side as she shares the hard truths and wins over the hearts and minds of voters.” SFA Fund spokesperson Brittany Yanick said in a news release.

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

Trump’s biggest Iowa gains are in evangelical areas, smallest wins in cities” via Dan Keating, Adrian Blanco and Clara Ence Morse of The Washington Post — Trump dominated the caucuses in the style of other Republican winners of the past 20 years, a pattern that works in Iowa but did not propel them to win the nomination. Meanwhile, Trump’s weakest performance was in the parts of Iowa that more closely resemble the rest of the country, with fewer White evangelical Christians, fewer farmers and more people living in cities with higher education and more income. With over 50% of the Caucus vote in Iowa and strong leads in polls in the other early Primary states, Trump remains a strong favorite to win the Republican nomination for the third time in a row. His victory, however, included potential weak spots for the General Election.

Liz Cheney sees weakness in Trump’s Iowa win” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — “If you look at the results last night in Iowa, it’s clear that he prevailed,” she said. “It’s also clear that just as many of the people who showed up to caucus voted for other candidates, and I think it’s significant that he only got something like 50% of the Iowa voters who showed up to caucus, which obviously was enough to prevail but is not necessarily a very strong showing.” Cheney spoke to the press ahead of a speech in Sarasota as part of the Ringling College Library Association’s Town Hall lecture series. She devoted much of her speech to warning Trump posed a continued threat to democracy, but only because his supporters aid and enable him. Speaking in the county where former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn calls home, she called the Venice Republican a specific threat to democracy.


Trump official who OK’d drugs From Canada chairs company behind Florida’s import plan” via Phil Galewitz of KFF Health News — The Food and Drug Administration’s unprecedented approval of Florida’s plan to import drugs from Canada was made possible only after Alex Azar, as the Trump administration’s Health and Human Services secretary, certified that bringing medicines over the border could be done safely. Azar made the historic declaration in September 2020, just two months before his boss, Trump, lost reelection. Now, Azar’s involved in the business of making importation happen. He is chairman of the board of LifeScience Logistics, a Dallas-based company that Florida is paying as much as $39 million to help manage its Canadian drug importation program.

Florida launches revolving loan program for farmers affected by Hurricane Idalia” via James Call of the USA Today Network — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson launched a first-of-its-kind revolving loan program for farmers, ranchers and growers who suffered losses when Hurricane Idalia struck the Big Bend last August.  Idalia came ashore at Keaton Beach in August with 125 mph winds, blazing a path of destruction that extended to Jefferson County in north Florida, south to Pasco County and east to Columbia County. Simpson said damages to crops, livestock and agriculture infrastructure totaled more than $447 million, and that has produced a revenue crunch that threatens future crops and the existence of some farms and ranches.

Federal judge blocks JetBlue’s proposed $3.8 billion takeover of South Florida-based Spirit Airlines” via David Lyons of the Orlando Sentinel — A federal judge in Boston on Tuesday blocked the $3.8 billion takeover of Spirit Airlines by JetBlue Airways, a ruling that will keep the Miramar-based discount carrier independent for now. U.S. District Judge William G. Young, in a 113-page ruling, said that while the deal might well pressure American, Delta, United and Southwest — the four big airlines that control 80% of the nation’s commercial airline industry — it would hurt air travelers who rely on Spirit’s low fares. “A post-merger, combined firm of JetBlue and Spirit would likely place stronger competitive pressure on the larger airlines in the country,” the judge acknowledged. “At the same time, however, the consumers that rely on Spirit’s unique, low-price model would likely be harmed.”

A federal judge puts a roadblock in the JetBlue/Spirit merger.

AARP Florida report: Drop in nursing hours increased hospitalizations for nursing residents” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — AARP Florida continues to express concerns over the quality of care provided to nursing home residents in Florida, releasing a new report showing that hospitalizations for short-stay residents increased after the Legislature agreed to lower the number of required nursing hours residents were required to receive. From 2019-20 to 2022-23, the rate of re-hospitalizations for short-stay residents increased by 12%, with more than 1 in 4 residents having to be readmitted to the hospital during their nursing home stay. Emergency department transfers also rose, with nearly 10% of short-stay residents requiring a transfer to the emergency room, which is a 28% increase since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Florida’s nursing homes are facing a critical juncture in delivering quality care to our vulnerable residents,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida State Director.

Trump official who OK’d drugs From Canada chairs company behind Florida’s import plan” via Phil Galewitz of KFF Health News — The Food and Drug Administration’s unprecedented approval of Florida’s plan to import drugs from Canada was made possible only after Alex Azar, as the Trump administration’s Health and Human Services secretary, certified that bringing medicines over the border could be done safely. Azar made the historic declaration in September 2020, just two months before his boss, Trump, lost reelection. Now, Azar’s involved in the business of making importation happen. He is chairman of the board of LifeScience Logistics, a Dallas-based company that Florida is paying as much as $39 million to help manage its Canadian drug importation program.


Save the date:

— LOCAL: S. FL —

John Barrow outstrips Primary opponents in Q4 fundraising for Miami-Dade Sheriff” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Miami-Dade Police Major Barrow raised more than double the cash his two Democratic Primary opponents collected last quarter toward becoming the county’s first elected Sheriff in decades. Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, Barrow amassed $43,000 between his campaign account and political committee, A Safer Stronger Florida. His closest Primary competitor, former federal agent Susan Khoury, raised just under $31,000. Meanwhile, Democratic former Miami-Dade Police Lt. Rickey Mitchell reported a meager $900 haul after leading all candidates in June fundraising. Barrow said in a statement that his Q4 gains reflect his campaign’s “broad support and growing momentum to win the Democratic nomination for Sheriff.”

John Barrow demonstrates some robust fundraising.

What happened to thousands of voters? Registrations suddenly drop in Broward, Palm Beach counties” via Anthony Man of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward, the state’s second-largest county, had a robust roll of active registered voters at the beginning of December: 1.28 million. By the start of 2024, the number suddenly had plunged — to 1.09 million. A few months earlier, records show, Palm Beach County saw a large downward bump as well. The county went from 946,189 active registered voters at the end of September to 847,617 a month later. The drop-offs in South Florida and elsewhere in the state have generated questions and concerns at the beginning of what already promises to be an enormously contentious election year in which people will decide on the presidency and, possibly, referendums on highly charged questions of recreational marijuana and abortion rights.

‘Eighteen inches deep in muck’: Divers find missing people, hundreds of cars in South Florida canals, ponds” via Shira Moolten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On June 27, 2001, 8-year-old Christina Baber would wait for her mother to pick her up from Girl Scout Summer Camp with all the other girls eager to reunite with their parents. But unlike the other girls, Baber would not get to see her mom walk through the door. Instead, she would sit on the bench, eventually joined by her father, while camp counselors tried to figure out how they could send her home since her mother, now missing, was the parent listed to pick her up. It was more than 20 years later, in January 2023, that Karen Moore’s remains would be found.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Monique Worrell formally launches bid to return as Orange-Osceola State Attorney” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Worrell formally launched her election campaign to return as State Attorney in Orange and Osceola counties after being suspended. “From Day One, I used my voice to make powerful changes, all while contributing to a significant decrease in crime in the Ninth Judicial Circuit,” the Orlando Democrat said. “I made a promise to prosecute dangerous criminals, crackdown on corruption and identify programs that serve to rehabilitate the citizens of our community and I did just that.” Worrell also bumped heads with DeSantis, who last August suspended her from office, and has since boasted across the country about suspended prosecutors backed by progressive donor George Soros.

Monique Worrell plots her return.

ACLU sues Daytona Beach, saying redistricting was driven by protecting incumbents” via Frank Fernandez of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit challenging the Daytona Beach City Commission’s redrawn redistricting map, saying it was designed to protect incumbents. The lawsuit was filed in Volusia County Circuit Court on behalf of five residents, according to an ACLU news release. The ACLU issued a statement saying “that the Commission’s mapmaking was driven by the desire to protect incumbents and keep each of their residences in their districts, in violation of state law. Centering Commissioners’ home addresses, above all else, caused the Commission to split traditional communities of interest, including the Beachside neighborhood and the Embry-Riddle and Bethune-Cookman campuses.”

‘Changing the narrative’: Attorney counsels Brevard School Board on improving public image” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — With the goal of “changing the narrative” about Brevard’s School Board and how they function, the Board hosted a local lawyer at their first work session of the year in search of advice for improving their public image. The Board, which has consisted of the same members since the November 2022 Election, has faced public scrutiny for a number of actions, beginning with the removal of former Superintendent Mark Mullins at their first meeting and continuing with the handling of implementing various state rules. “If the Board improves, our school district improves,” said Board Chair Megan Wright, who asked the lawyer to attend the session.

In return, Winter Park Institute looks to more diverse future” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — The Winter Park Institute, which almost disappeared during the COVID-19 shutdown of 2020, has slowly been making a comeback — and now leaders have high hopes to reach a wider range of people with its thought-provoking programs. “Our goal is we want to bring Winter Park Institute to all of Central Florida and introduce diverse programs for all people,” said Co-Executive Director Lauren Zimmerman. A revitalized Board of Directors includes heavy hitters in the region’s nonprofit sector. The Chair is Florida Blue executive Tony Jenkins, who has been a United Arts Board member and is currently on the Board of Florida Citrus Sports.


After appeals court win, Andrew Warren asks court to hurry up” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Looking to salvage the last year of his term in office as Hillsborough County State Attorney, Democrat Warren is asking the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to expedite his case. “Time is of the essence in resolving this dispute,” Warren’s lawyers wrote in the filing. “As a result of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ illegal suspension of Mr. Warren, the voters of Hillsborough County have been deprived of the official whom they selected as State Attorney. An election involving millions of Floridians has been nullified. Mr. Warren, meanwhile, has been unable to serve in his post. One year remains in Mr. Warren’s term, and it should not be consumed by unnecessary delays in legal proceedings.”

Andrew Warren urges the courts to hurry up and give him his job back.

Mike Twitty raises more than $50K in Q4” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Pinellas County Property Appraiser Twitty raised $53,518 since launching his campaign in October. He brought in another $990 in in-kind contributions from Seabreeze Island Grill in Redington Shores for a campaign event. Twitty maintains more than $47,000 on hand for his re-election bid, according to finance records filed with the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections. Twitty is so far unopposed. “I’m grateful for the support I have received from residents from all over Pinellas since launching my re-election campaign,” Twitty said. “I’m proud of the work we’ve done to improve and enhance our customer service and resources available to taxpayers, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Pinellas County.”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Arctic blast: Multiple hard freezes possible through the weekend in Tallahassee” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The blast of Arctic air that brought snow and ice to the Midwest and Northeast is forecast to dip all the way into North Florida on Tuesday, with another round of frigid weather expected by the weekend. With lows plunging to the low 20s and wind chill values dropping to the teens, the National Weather Service in Tallahassee issued a hard freeze warning and wind chill advisory for the entire North Florida and South Georgia area from Tuesday night through Wednesday morning, “If you do venture outside, make sure you’re dressed for it,” said Eric Bunker, a meteorologist with National Weather Service. “Pets that are left outside should be brought in. Folks that are homeless that are outside should seek shelter for the night.”

Federal judge orders separate juries for trial of former JEA execs Aaron Zahn, Ryan Wannemacher” via Eric Wallace of News4Jax — A federal judge has ruled that two separate juries will be seated for the upcoming trial of Zahn and Wannemacher, due to how protected statements may be used during their defense. Zahn, the utility’s former CEO, and Wannemacher, who served as his chief financial officer, were indicted in 2022 on federal charges of conspiracy and wire fraud, in connection with a proposed bonus plan that could have paid out millions of dollars if the city-owned utility had been sold. They are currently scheduled to face trial on Feb. 5.

The trials of Aaron Zahn and Ryan Wannemacher are on divergent paths.

Duval County voters can expect changes at the booth during Florida Presidential Primary” via Jim Piggott of News4Jax — Right now, training and preparation for the Florida Presidential Primary is underway in Duval County. It’s 63 days from now. Only Republicans will be able to vote, but for many in Duval County, the way you vote and where you vote is changing. Some precincts for some Duval County voters have now shifted and there are 26 fewer precincts than before, but there will be more early voting sites, 24. Training for poll workers to work those polls is now underway. They are learning the rules and what’s all involved in this Presidential Primary. Theresa Carter is one of those poll workers. “A very important job. And they trained us well. And then make sure we know what we know,” Carter said. “I didn’t see any problems. I mean, if everyone just comes in and does what they’re supposed to, versus it should all run smoothly.”


Former Sarasota Chamber CEO files to run for seat on Sarasota County Public Hospital Board” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Kevin Cooper, a former Army sergeant and current vice president for communications and strategic initiative at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, recently filed paperwork to run for Seat 2 on the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board. Hospital Board Chair Tramm Hudson, the current occupant of that at-large seat, does not plan to seek another term. He has been on the Board since 2015. There will be three other hospital Board seats up for election this year in Sarasota County — Central District Seat 1, occupied by Sarah Lodge; At large Seat 1, occupied by Sharon Wetzler DePeters; and at large Seat 3 occupied by Britt Riner.

Kevin Cooper is eyeing a seat on the Sarasota Memorial Board.


DeSantis got the Republican Party wrong” via Zack Beauchamp of Vox — There are many reasons DeSantis failed, ranging from the candidate’s awkward personality to his weirdly lavish spending on private flights. But there’s also a more fundamental explanation: DeSantis and his backers completely misread what the GOP electorate wanted.

The DeSantis campaign was fundamentally a product of a certain class of the GOP’s elite: people who admired Trump’s willingness to break the traditional norms of American politics but saw him as basically déclassé or ineffectual. These are the sorts of conservatives who look admiringly at Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orbán, seeing his use of legalistic arcana to crush liberal opposition as a model for how to fight a culture war and win.

Obviously, most Republican voters aren’t this hyper-ideological. But DeSantis and his allies theorized that the “Trump but competent” shtick would allow them to pull from all sides of the GOP electorate. By focusing on his “culture warrior” background — like his fights over COVID restrictions and Disney — DeSantis could win over a key portion of the Republican base. By seeming more competent and organized, he could scan as palatable to the traditional establishment.

Except it turned out that the kind of culture war politics DeSantis offered, an often-abstract assault on “wokeness,” paled in comparison to what Trump served up. The MAGA base wanted Trump and all his hard edges: the bigoted rhetoric and all-consuming post-2020 Election anger.


Let’s look at the Iowa results with a cold eye” via Charles Pierce of Esquire — There is no silver lining to the results of Monday’s Iowa caucuses. What coverage I watched on TV — truth be told, I watched far more of Baker Mayfield than of Steve Kornacki on Monday night — seemed focused on desperate crawling toward a mirage of hope through a democratic republic turned into some godawful hybrid half-Arctic and half-desert. You say that 43% of Haley’s voters say they won’t vote for Trump in the General Election? My conclusion is that a lot of people lie their flash-frozen asses off to pollsters. You say that a third of the Republican caucus voters won’t vote for a convicted felon? An entire third of one of our two major political parties is reluctant to vote for a demonstrable crook? This is supposed to be comforting to me?

Trump wins big, period.” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — There was a last-stand mentality in Iowa among those who hoped to stop Trump from reclaiming the Republican nomination. Their goal was to push the candidacy of Haley hard and hope that Haley, together with the fading DeSantis, would not actually defeat Trump but keep him below 50% of the total vote. That way, they would argue that, in total, more GOP caucus voters had voted for someone other than Trump than voted for him. It didn’t work. Trump won with 51% of the vote and can now make the opposite argument: I won more votes than all the opposition combined. It’s over. Why don’t we just give me the nomination right now? An even shorter version of the night is: Trump won big, period.

With Trump’s win, Cheney and anti-MAGA GOP voters face a choice” via Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post — Cheney, who has become the most articulate voice of sanity on the right, does not want to crush one of the challengers’ chances, no matter how slight. So don’t expect her to do anything to foreclose whatever small possibility remains to defeat Trump in the Primaries. That said, Cheney has begun to look ahead. Last week, Cheney gave her most succinct and clear answer about her outlook on 2024. It bears emphasizing that she is not giving herself or others an “out” by suggesting they all hop on a third-party train to nowhere. Instead, she delivered the hard news: “There are some conservatives who are trying to make this claim that somehow Biden is a bigger risk than Trump,” she said on “The View.” “My view is I disagree with a lot of Joe Biden’s policies. We can survive bad policies. We cannot survive torching the Constitution.”

Social-media ban: Florida’s latest assault on parental and constitutional rights” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — You probably know Florida lawmakers take an oath swearing to uphold the Constitution. Unfortunately, you may also know that many of these politicians take that oath about as seriously as a serial philanderer treats a wedding vow. They regularly and cavalierly violate your rights. Don’t take it from me. Take it from federal judges on both sides of the aisle. One judge, appointed by Trump, struck down an attempt by DeSantis and GOP legislators to kneecap donations to citizen-led amendment drives, calling their attempted restriction “wholly foreign to the First Amendment.” Another judge said their attempt to ban social media companies from regulating their own platforms violated free-speech laws.

Mark Wilson: Working to make Florida even more competitive — addressing early learning & child care crisis” via Florida Politics — Florida is missing out on $911 million annually in tax revenue due to child care challenges with affordability and accessibility. child care-related employee turnover and absenteeism costs Florida job creators $3.47 billion per year. Poor quality and inaccessible child care impacts more than just our current workforce. Making investments in our early learners supports the Florida Chamber’s 2030 Blueprint goals of ensuring that 100% of our children are entering kindergarten prepared, 100% are reading at grade level by third grade, and are equipped to pursue academic success. That is why the Florida Chamber Foundation created the Florida Business Alliance for Early Learning Project which is working to raise awareness around the importance of investing early in Florida’s youngest learners.


— ALOE —

Elton John joins the EGOT club while picking up first-ever Emmy for farewell show” via Kimberlee Speakman of People — John has now been inducted into the EGOT Hall of Fame. The Rocket Man singer, 76, won an Emmy Award for outstanding live variety special for Elton John Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium, adding him to the shortlist of celebrities to have earned an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Amy Poehler, who presented the award, hinted at his new status in her introduction for his nomination saying, “Now I can’t speak for Elton but, ‘EGOT’ to be excited about that.” John did not attend the event to accept the award, but the special’s producers went up to receive the award on his behalf, saying that he “sent his love and thanks” to the voters.

Elton John’s Emmy puts him in the rarefied EGOT club.


Happy birthday to Tom and Bettes wonderful daughter, Caitlin Murray (I was able to see the fam a couple of months ago), as well as U.S. Reps. Maxwell Frost and Carlos Giménez, Brian Goldmeier, AARP’s Jeff Johnson, Emily Rimes and Robert Stuart Jr. of GrayRobinson.


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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