Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.16.24

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Here's your morning briefing of everything you need to know about Florida politics.

Good Tuesday morning.

Breaking overnight — “Vivek Ramaswamy suspends 2024 bid, endorses Donald Trump” via Caroline Vakil of The Hill — Ramaswamy on Monday night announced he’s dropping out of the 2024 GOP presidential race following a disappointing showing in the Iowa Caucuses, the latest announcement to winnow down the Primary field as Trump dominates. “As of this moment, we are going to suspend this presidential campaign,” Ramaswamy told supporters in Iowa. Ramaswamy’s exit more broadly underscores the enduring strength of Trump in the Primary, who has continued to widely lead his challengers in national and local polling. Ramaswamy’s candidacy as a Trump-aligned contender ultimately did little to move the needle among voters, including those who committed to the former President.


The former Legislative Affairs Secretary to California Gov. Gavin Newsom is joining top government relations firm Ballard Partners.

Anthony Williams joins the firm as it expands its footprint into the Golden State capital, where he will lead an office as Managing Partner.

“We are delighted to have Anthony join us and lead our new office in Sacramento. There are very few people who understand Sacramento as well as Anthony and who are as widely respected there as he is,” said firm founder and President Brian Ballard.

Anthony Williams is expanding the Ballard footprint in California.

“Our office in Los Angeles has achieved remarkable success, and now, with Anthony’s presence in Sacramento, we intend to become one of the most effective government affairs firms in the state of California.”

Williams recently served as Director of Public Policy for Amazon, and from 2014 to 2019 he served as Director of National Strategy and Engagement at the Boeing Company. In addition to working as Newsom’s Legislative Affairs Secretary for the 2019 and 2020 Legislative Sessions, he served as Policy Director and Special Counsel in the California State Senate from 2010 to 2014.

Williams also served as Director of Government Affairs for the State Bar of California from 2004 to 2007, and Legislative Advocate at the Judicial Council of California from 1994 to 1999. From 2007 to 2010, he was the Founding Partner at Wada Williams Law Group.

“Knowing of the firm’s exceptional national reputation and having seen firsthand the firm’s work in Southern California, I am delighted and honored to join Ballard Partners and open its new office in Sacramento,” Williams said. “Our strong presence in Los Angeles and Sacramento will allow us to provide exceptional service to the firm’s clients here in California.”


Davis Bean has been elevated to Partner at top Northeast Florida lobbying firm The Fiorentino Group.

“When Davis joined us, he had a proven record of success in campaigns and as a legislative aide. He has since built on that success as an outstanding advocate for our clients and the issues that matter most to them. His political instincts and knowledge of the legislative process are exceptional,” said firm President Marty Fiorentino.

Bean got his start in politics in Polk County, serving as Campaign Manager for former Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican who capped her legislative career as Senate Budget Chief. He was also a top aide to then-Rep. Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican who now serves as Florida’s Secretary of State.

Davis Bean moves up to partner at TFG.

“Davis is an invaluable asset to The Fiorentino Group,” Byrd said in a news release. “I know firsthand his ability to guide issues through the legislative process, using his keen insight and steady resolve to deliver positive results for the clients he represents. Davis’ promotion to Partner is a well-deserved recognition of his talent.”

At TFG, Bean has leveraged his knowledge of the legislative process to assist clients with appropriations, agriculture, local governmental matters, economic development and education issues. He also helps develop and execute the firm’s strategic marketing ventures.

“Davis is part of the next generation of leadership both within our firm and in Florida’s political landscape,” said Joe Mobley, Partner and Managing Shareholder at TFG. “His relationships and legislative insight have been key to our recent success. We are proud to elevate him within the firm to signify the trust and confidence placed in him by his colleagues and clients.”

Bean, who was one of INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2019 Rising Stars, earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degree in management from the University of Florida. While at UF, Davis was tapped into Florida Blue Key. He was also inducted into the UF Hall of Fame in 2015 for his outstanding commitment to improving the University of Florida.


Spotted — At Chris Latvala and Bianca Sabrkhani’s wedding, held Saturday at Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall: Brian Aungst (Sr. and Jr.), Bruce Bartlett, Rep. Kim Berfield, Dave Eggers, Bob Gualtieri, Frank Hibbard, Sen. Ed Hooper, fmr. Sen. Jack Latvala, Janet Long, Julie Marcus, Stephanie Meyers, Sara Mollo, Kathleen Peters, Adam Ross, Veronica and Preston Rudie (groomsman), Michelle and Peter Schorsch (groomsman), Brian Scott, Shannon and Chris Sprowls (groomsman), Charles Thomas, Missy Timmons, and Rep. Kaylee Tuck (as officiant).

Congrats to Chris Latvala and Bianca Sabrkhani on their wedding.


@andrewromeo33: Absolutely outrageous that the media would participate in election interference by calling the race before tens of thousands of Iowans even had a chance to vote. The media is in the tank for Trump, and this is the most egregious example yet.

Tweet, tweet:

@LarrySabato: To no one’s surprise, 68% of Iowa Caucusgoers say (Joe) Biden didn’t win legitimately in 2020. But I don’t hear anchors pushing back at every opportunity to say that is totally FALSE. Repetition is vital lest the Big Lie continue to spread. #IowaCaucuses

@LarrySabato: Ignorance is tougher than steel.

@JoeTrippi: So here is why I think Trump is weaker than most think. Its Iowa. He has taken total control of the party. He is unstoppable and everyone there knows he will be nominee. But 49% went with someone else. (Ron) DeSantis is dead but still circling the drain. This is the worst outcome for (Nikki) Haley even if she comes in 2nd late in the evening (which is still likely to happen). Because she needs to right this minute go out and say — “DeSantis lost to Trump, and he lost to me. Thank you, Iowa! On to New Hampshire!” Waiting is a mistake. Ask Rick Santorum.

@NateMonroeTU: I’m shocked — shocked — the battalion of bleary-eyed state employees and rogue’s gallery of state legislators failed to sway the good people of Iowa toward Florida’s Governor

Tweet, tweet:

@fineout: Meanwhile …. Fire the cannons

Tweet, tweet:


Florida TaxWatch’s State of the Taxpayer Dinner — 1; ABC/WMUR’s New Hampshire debate — 2; first government-funding deadline — 3; CNN’s New Hampshire GOP Primary debate — 6; New Hampshire Primaries — 8; Red Dog Blue Dog 2024 — 9; ‘Sexy Beast’ premieres on Paramount+ — 9; ‘Masters of the Air’ premieres on Apple TV+ — 11; federal campaign finance filing deadline — 15; Inter Miami CF 2024 season opener stand-alone — 16; second government-funding deadline — 17; South Carolina GOP holds first-in-the-South Primary — 18; ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ final season premieres on HBO — 19; Nevada Primaries — 21; Nevada Republican Presidential Caucus — 23; Super Bowl LVIII — 26; Ninth Annual Suits for Session begins — 35; South Carolina Republican Primary — 39; Michigan Democratic Primary — 42; James Madison Institute’s ‘Red, White and Bluegrass’ dinner — 43; ‘Dune: Part Two’ premieres — 45; Michigan/Idaho/Missouri GOP Primaries — 46; Netflix to stream “The Netflix Slam,” Rafael Nadal/Carlos Alcaraz faceoff — 47; Trump’s D.C. trial on charges related to trying to reverse his 2020 Election loss — 48; Super Tuesday — 49; State of the Union address — 51; last day of Regular Session, if Legislature completes work in 60 days — 52; 2024 Oscars — 54; Georgia Democratic Primary — 56; Arizona/Florida/Illinois/Kansas/Ohio Primaries — 63; James Madison Institute’s ‘2024 Naples Dinner’ with keynote speaker Laura Ingraham — 64; ‘3 Body Problem’ premieres on Netflix — 65; Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2024 season — 72; March Madness Final Four (women’s) begins — 80; March Madness Final Four (men’s) — 81; The Masters begin — 86; Kentucky Derby — 119; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 114; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 121; French Open begins — 124; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 127; Monaco Grand Prix — 131; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 164; Republican National Convention begins — 181; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 190; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 196; Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 217; Democratic National Convention begins — 216; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 221; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 276; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 279; 2024 Presidential Election — 294; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 310; MLS Cup 2024 — 326; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 395; ‘Moana’ premieres — 528; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 556; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 661; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 661; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 703; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 840; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 856; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 1,067; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,207; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,166; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,888.


Trump takes Iowa, and a big first step toward a rematch with Joe Biden.” via Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times — Trump won the Iowa caucuses on Monday, a crucial first step in his bid to reclaim the Republican nomination for the third consecutive election as voters braved the bitter cold, looked past his mounting legal jeopardy and embraced his vision of vengeful disruption.

The victory, called by The Associated Press on Monday night only 31 minutes after the Caucuses had begun, accelerated Trump’s momentum toward a historic potential rematch in November with President Biden that could play out on both the campaign trail and in the courtroom.

Across the five precincts that Caucused at Franklin Jr. High in Des Moines, the results were: 110 votes for Haley, 96 for Trump, 68 for DeSantis, 26 for Ramaswamy, and one each for Asa Hutchinson and Ryan Binkley. Haley won three of the five precincts, Trump won one and DeSantis won one.

DeSantis staffers at his watch party — and on Twitter — are expressing a lot of outrage at the early call for Trump. It is worth watching if DeSantis himself picks up the narrative, which he has embraced on the trail, that the media is in the bag for the former President.

Ron DeSantis braves the frigid Iowa weather to eke out a second-place win.

Ron DeSantis takes second place” via Fox News — The Fox News Decision Desk can now project that DeSantis will take second place in the Iowa Caucuses. DeSantis will trail Trump by a significant margin, but coming in second may give his campaign a much-needed boost. Haley will come third. She will look to regain support in New Hampshire. Ramaswamy comes fourth. Because Iowa awards delegates proportionately, all of the top four candidates will receive delegates. “They threw everything at Ron DeSantis. They couldn’t kill him. He is not only still standing, but he’s now earned his ticket out of Iowa. This is going to be a long battle ahead, but that is what this campaign is built for. The stakes are too high for this nation, and we will not back down,” a senior DeSantis campaign official told Fox News Digital.

DeSantis campaign alleges ‘election interference’ as media calls Iowa early” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — As expected, Trump is headed to victory and taking at least a plurality of Iowa delegates, with more than 50% of the vote and early polls suggesting that result would hold. The Associated Press and others called the race, vexing DeSantis’ spokesperson, Andrew Romeo, and others from the Governor’s army of communicators. “Absolutely outrageous that the media would participate in election interference by calling the race before tens of thousands of Iowans even had a chance to vote. The media is in the tank for Trump, and this is the most egregious example yet,” Romeo posted to social media, then sent out to the media mailing list.

Why Trump’s victory was called so soon” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — Trump’s win tonight was called so quickly that some Caucusgoers hadn’t even voted yet. Team DeSantis was mad about that, as he and Haley fight it out for a distant second place. In a statement, campaign spokesperson Andrew Romeo called it “election interference” by the press. “The media is in the tank for Trump, and this is the most egregious example yet,” he said. It wasn’t just DeSantis — several members of the press and pundits observed on social media how quickly the call came. In an era of smartphones, some Caucusgoers absolutely got a push alert before they voted. Typically, results aren’t released in (most) states until polls close — and The Associated Press generally will wait until voters are done voting before calling a victory.

Trump’s Iowa win upends the old ways of Iowa Caucus campaigning” via Dan Merica of The Messenger — Trump has effectively rewritten the rules for the Iowa Caucuses, blowing a hole in the Norman Rockwell-ification of the contest as a quaint exercise where people who have met a range of candidates gather with their neighbors one winter night to pick the candidate who best represents them. Trump did very little of that. But around 30 minutes after Caucuses across the state began, nearly every media outlet called the race for Trump, all but validating his extremely anti-nostalgic view of Caucus campaigning.


How financial literacy can help the Legislature set up Florida for a strong future” via Suzanne Costanza of the Miami Herald — As Florida’s Legislature convened earlier this month, our leaders shared their vision for the future of our state. House Speaker Paul Renner underlined several priorities for Florida’s legislative agenda, including the importance of fostering economic resilience, empowering Floridians, prioritizing mental health, alleviating poverty and a strong public safety policy. The prioritization of financial literacy initiatives will advance these legislative goals across our state and set Florida up for a strong economic future for years to come. Financial literacy is integral to the economic vitality of our state, and its impact extends beyond financial outcomes only. We have seen firsthand how financial literacy plays a pivotal role in enhancing mental health by reducing stress and promoting overall well-being. When individuals possess the knowledge and skills to manage their finances effectively, they gain a sense of control and confidence in their financial decisions.

Financial literacy is key to a successful and healthy Florida.

‘Stand your ground’ against bears bills making their way through Florida Legislature” via Justin Matthews of Fox 13 — House Bill 87 and Senate Bill 632 are making their way through the Florida Legislature right now, which allow people to shoot and kill a bear on their property without needing a permit, but only if they feel threatened. “Our children and our pets all mean a great deal to us. This bill isn’t about getting rid of the black bear. I am not a bear hater,” said Sen. Corey Simon. Opponents have instead called for better management of trash in rural counties where interactions between bears and humans have reportedly increased, also expressing concerns about the risks of shooting a bear without proper training.

Didn’t see this coming. Republicans in Florida Legislature act to help voters.” via The Palm Beach Post — There’s a right way and a wrong way for state lawmakers to address voting in Florida, and The Palm Beach Post editorial board wants to recognize two Republicans in the Florida Legislature for their efforts in making sure that whenever a Floridian goes to the polls that their votes actually count. First, kudos to State Rep. Peggy Gossett-Seidman. She acted after learning that voters in Palm Beach County, and possibly other communities around the state, had their political party affiliation changed to “No Party Affiliation, or NPA” upon renewing their driver’s licenses.


DeSantis credits permitless carry with ‘big drop’ in Miami homicide rates” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis says changes in Florida gun laws have cut the murder rate in one South Florida city. “Since we’ve enacted that you’ve had a big drop in murders in Miami, they just reported that’s what’s happened,” DeSantis said in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Florida enacted HB 543 in 2023, which is permitless carry legislation. The Governor calls it “constitutional carry,” for what it’s worth. Though the phrasing nettles firearms enthusiasts, DeSantis consistently used that while promising for years permitless carry would become law. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said this week that Miami’s 31 homicides in 2023 may have been the lowest rate in the city’s history but credited “law enforcement” and not the new state law for the reduction in killings.

DeSantis says ‘constitutional carry’ helped lower the murder rate in Miami.

Billions of dollars at stake as Florida prepares to pick Medicaid winners and losers” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Florida’s top health care regulators at the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration have their hands full as they sift through a long list of major decisions and policy changes expected to take place this year. The agency is already tasked with picking winners and losers in the Medicaid managed care system with billions of dollars on the line. But on Friday, the Live Healthy Act made more progress through the Florida Legislature, passing a key Committee hurdle with the backing of Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. The bill could bring even more changes than are already on the way to the state’s massive health care system with a strategic overhaul of state health care regulations, policies and practices.

Florida must take charge in enacting congressional term limits” via Nick Tomboulides of the Orlando Sentinel — Recently, progressive State Rep. Anna Eskamani called on Floridians to oppose efforts by our state Legislature to call an Article V amendment convention for the purpose of term-limiting Congress. This is ironic because democracy as we know it wouldn’t even exist in America today if our nation had followed Eskamani’s advice. That’s because, for the first 126 years of our country’s history, the U.S. Senate was an undemocratic body. Although Rep. Eskamani wasn’t aware of it, we would have much less democracy today if states had never taken the initiative to challenge Congress by calling for a convention. With the quality of our representation slipping away, it is once again time for states like Florida to take charge.


Happening today — Sens Tracie Davis and Shevrin Jones, and Reps. Anna Eskamani and Michele Rayner will join Equality Florida for a news conference to rebuke attacks on LGBTQ Floridians and lift the voices of those “being targeted by the Governor and his right-wing allies.” 1:45 p.m. Eastern time, Fourth Floor Rotunda. Zoom link here.

8 a.m. Duval Day begins. Capitol Rotunda.

8 a.m. Florida Hospital Association’s Hospital Days begin. Capitol Rotunda.

8 a.m. Broward Days at the Capitol. Capitol Rotunda.

8:30 a.m. Senate Ethics and Elections Committee meets. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

8:30 a.m. Senate Judiciary Committee meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

8:30 a.m. Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Space and Domestic Security Committee meets. Room 301, Senate Office Building.

8:30 a.m. Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets. Room 401, Senate Office Building.

11 a.m. Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

11 a.m. Senate Community Affairs Committee meets. Room 401, Senate Office Building.

11 a.m. Senate Education Postsecondary Committee meets. Room 301, Senate Office Building.

11 a.m. Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee meets. Room 37, Senate Office Building.

12:30 p.m. Pride at the Capitol Kick-off with Equality Florida. Historic Front Steps.

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

1 p.m. House Health & Human Services Committee meets. Room 17, House Office Building.

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

1:30 p.m. Senate Agriculture Committee meets. Room 301, Senate Office Building.

1:30 p.m. Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee meets. Room 110, Senate Office Building.

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

1:30 p.m. Senate Health Policy Committee meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

4 p.m. Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining Committee meets. Room 412, Knott Building.

4 p.m. House Select Committee on Health Innovation meets. Room 17, House Office Building.

4:30 p.m. Taste of Florida Agriculture Reception. Capitol Courtyard.

6:15 p.m. Senate Special Order Calendar Group meets. Room 401, Senate Office Building.


Negative, defensive and dark: The final ads of the Iowa campaign” via Rebecca Davis O’Brien of The New York Times — Subzero temperatures and swirling snow squalls have hampered campaign events around Iowa this weekend, but Iowans are getting plenty of exposure to the Republican presidential candidates through a last-minute blitz of advertising before Monday’s Caucuses. The parting messages from the candidate, in their ads as in their speeches, have been notably negative, defensive and dark. DeSantis and Haley are locked in a battle for second place in Iowa, and their camps have unleashed fresh attacks on each other in the waning days of the race here. In a dynamic that mirrors the race overall, their ads have dealt only glancing blows to Trump, while Trump’s final ad looks past his Primary rivals and seeks to undermine Biden.

To watch the final pro-DeSantis ad, please click on the image below:

To watch the final pro-Haley ad, please click the image below:

DeSantis put his all into Iowa. Is it enough?” via Kimberly Leonard of POLITICO — DeSantis is facing likely the biggest moment of his campaign in Iowa tonight as he stares down the prospect of coming in third, should the polls bear out. He devoted more time and energy here than in any other state, and he’s projected to do poorly in next-up New Hampshire. The campaign insisted this morning that the stakes were higher for rivals Trump, the faraway front-runner, and Haley, who’s seen a boost in poll numbers and appears to be gaining momentum. Being an underdog is “just the way we like it,” said campaign spokesperson Romeo.

DeSantis’ final Iowa pitch hits Trump: ‘You kiss the ring, he’ll say you’re wonderful’” via Max Greenwood of the Miami Herald — DeSantis is ramping up his attacks on Trump with less than 24 hours to go before the Iowa Caucuses. On the eve of the Caucuses, DeSantis and his allies used a rally in Ankeny, Iowa, a northern suburb of Des Moines, to deliver some of their sharpest attacks yet on Trump, marking something of a last stand for DeSantis’ campaign in Iowa before voters head to their Caucus precincts on Monday night. “You can be the most worthless Republican in America, but if you kiss the ring, he’ll say you’re wonderful,” DeSantis said. “You can be the strongest, most dynamic, successful Republican and conservative in America, but if you don’t kiss that ring, then he’ll try to trash you.”

DeSantis has enough cash to sustain 2024 bid into March, adviser says” via Julie Fine, Hadriana Lowenkron, and Stephanie Lai of Bloomberg — DeSantis has enough cash to sustain his 2024 U.S. presidential bid past Monday’s Iowa Caucus into crucial Primaries in March, one of his finance Chairs said, reassuring donors concerned about his standing in polls. “If we have the success, I think we can have in Iowa and exceed expectations, I think fundraising will really be robust,” Roy Bailey said. “We have plenty of fuel in the tank to get the job done to get into Super Tuesday,” referring to March 5 when 15 states hold GOP primaries. Yet Bailey acknowledged that a poorer-than-expected performance in the first-in-the-nation Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus would make it difficult to get donors to continue to bankroll DeSantis’ bid.

DeSantis in third place in South Dakota, with 9% support” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Republicans may not be thinking about the South Dakota Presidential Primary yet, but residents of the upper Midwest state seem to be thinking they want four more years of Trump. That’s a takeaway from a new Victory Insights poll. The survey shows Trump as the “undisputed” front-runner, with 52% support ahead of June’s nonbinding Primary. Far behind in second place is Haley, who has 12% support and is the only other candidate in double digits. DeSantis has 9% support, just ahead of Chris Christie (7%) and well ahead of fifth place Ramaswamy (3%).

Bettors rate Ramaswamy over DeSantis in 2024 race” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — With hours to go before the Iowa Caucuses, people betting on the presidential race are fading DeSantis. The latest evidence is Ramaswamy passing DeSantis in betting markets for both the Republican presidential nomination and the November election. In terms of the GOP nomination, Ramaswamy is seen as having a 2.1% chance, 0.1 points ahead of DeSantis. They are both far behind Trump, seen as having an 82.8% chance of being nominated, and Nikki Haley, who is at 11.3% at this writing.

DeSantis officials, staff depart capital in droves to knock on doors before Iowa Caucuses” via the USA Today Network — Wherever DeSantis finishes in Monday’s Iowa Caucuses, you can’t say it was for lack of a ground game. He had a lot of help from his friends, allies, and appointees. Volunteers for DeSantis headed to Iowa in droves this weekend, to knock on voters’ doors and urge them to cast their ballots for the man often referred to as “America’s Governor.” Most notable, as multiple social media posts show, was the number of high-ranking elected officials, department heads and other members of his administration who braved subzero temperatures to turn out the vote, even causing what appeared to be a momentary political “brain drain” in the Sunshine State.

DeSantis volunteers in Iowa include several Florida lawmakers and staff.

Our DeSantis and Nikki Haley reporters switched places. Here’s what they found.” via Jazmine Ulloa and Nicholas Nehamas of The New York Times — As beat reporters, we’ve been trailing DeSantis and Haley for so long that we can recite every punchline, anticipate the applause and guess their potential responses to questions from voters on the campaign trail. Normally, Nicholas Nehamas is on the road with DeSantis and Jazmine Ulloa follows Haley. “The first thing I noticed when I walked into Second State Brewing in Cedar Falls: Ms. Haley’s warmup music wasn’t deafening. At DeSantis events, the music drowns out every thought and makes it difficult to talk to voters. Which almost feels intentional,” Nehamas said.

Marco Rubio joins Rick Scott in endorsing Trump over DeSantis for President” via Mark Skoneki of the Orlando Sentinel — Rubio has endorsed Trump, joining Scott in backing the ex-President over DeSantis. “I support Trump because [his] kind of leadership is the ONLY way we will get the extraordinary actions needed to fix the disaster Biden has created,” Rubio posted on X. “It’s time to get on with the work of beating Biden & saving America!” Scott backed Trump’s re-election efforts in November, saying, “When you look at what is going on in the world today, this would not be happening if he was the President.” Rubio and Trump have a complicated history dating back to the heated GOP presidential campaign in 2016. Trump constantly derided Rubio, calling him “Little Marco” and hurling other insults.

Marco Rubio gives a major slap in the face of DeSantis.

DeSantis on Rubio’s Trump endorsement: D.C. establishment backs Trump” via Kimberly Leonard of POLITICO — DeSantis this morning dismissed Rubio’s endorsement of Trump as evidence the former President is in line with the “D.C. establishment.” “Donald Trump is the party of Washington, D.C. establishment. They have lined up behind him,” DeSantis said. “I am the candidate that would be a change agent in Washington, D.C. And I like that contrast.” Trump’s endorsement over the weekend of the senior Senator of Florida, posted on X, came as a surprise given that he’d given no indication up to then about who he might back. Rubio campaigned for re-election alongside both DeSantis and Trump in 2022, and Haley backed his 2016 presidential bid.

DeSantis tells Iowans he’s ‘upset’ about a mosque in ‘pigsty’ Bethlehem” via David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement — Speaking to supporters ahead of Monday’s “First in the Nation” Iowa Caucuses about the importance of Israel to religious freedom, DeSantis expressed outrage that there is a mosque in Bethlehem. “That Holy Land is something that’s really meaningful to not just the United States, but all of Western civilization, because that was the foundation of everything that’s happened since then,” DeSantis claimed Sunday. “So, in that sense, I think it’s something that, that it is a special relationship between us and Israel.”

DeSantis says he could have run for President immediately after re-election” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis is defending his decision not to start his presidential campaign earlier than he did, saying he owed it to the people of Florida to keep his “promises.” DeSantis explained why he waited until the middle of 2023 to launch his campaign. “Here’s the thing: I made promises to the voters in ’22. I had to deliver on those,” DeSantis said. “Yes, I could have just turned around and launched a campaign, but I had to do what I said.” “And so I can now say I’ve delivered on 100% of my promises. I got elected to be able to do those things, not just run for another office. So, I don’t think there’s any way you could have done it any different,” DeSantis added, framing it as being “true to myself.”

— MORE 2024 —

A big reason to pay attention to Iowa? New Hampshire.” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — Absent a polling meltdown, Trump’s victory would be one of the more impressive illustrations of his dominance over the Republican Party. In 2016, Iowa voters rejected Trump in favor of Ted Cruz. And unlike most of the country, the Republican establishment in Iowa has not gone along with Trump. Yet he’s poised for an overwhelming victory anyway. If the polls are even in the ballpark, the only interesting race might be the one for second place, between DeSantis and Haley. Whether Haley or DeSantis loses by less in Iowa might not seem very compelling. But every bit of momentum might turn out to matter for Haley in New Hampshire, where she has a real if narrow path to victory.

Iowa offers some clues to how New Hampshire will vote.

Ahead of Caucus, Nikki Fried warns Iowans about DeSantis, Trump” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Ahead of the Iowa Caucuses, Fried swiped at two Florida men seeking delegates. Fried served as Florida Agriculture Commissioner during DeSantis’ first term as Governor. She also campaigned with Biden against Trump. She dished on both DeSantis and Trump as both rally support in the Hawkeye State. “Take it from a Floridian — our country can’t afford another four years of Donald Trump, but Ron DeSantis isn’t the answer either,” she said. “A Trump or DeSantis presidency would be an absolute disaster for our pockets and our freedoms. They’ve already failed Florida — don’t give them a chance to fail America too.”

With 2 elections unfolding, who’s in Central Florida and who’s in Iowa?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Competing elections have some state Representatives braving the snow in Iowa and others knocking on doors in Kissimmee. A Special Election in House District 35 drew Republican Speaker-designate Daniel Perez and House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell to Central Florida. At the same time, many loyalists to DeSantis spent the weekend in Iowa, including state lawmakers who shared images of themselves trekking through the snow. Speaker Renner made the trip to the Hawkeye State, where he and Senate President Passidomo will work phones for the presidential campaign ahead of the Iowa caucuses tonight.

How Trump sidestepped the tradition of Iowa pandering” via Anjali Huynh and Kellen Browning of The New York Times — Campaigning in Iowa in the months leading up to the Caucuses has traditionally involved candidates’ embracing local customs, visiting familiar locations and championing policies aimed at helping the state’s farm-driven economy. But this year, the Republicans seeking their party’s nomination have largely avoided over-the-top pandering to local priorities — and any such attempts appear not to be as effective as in the past. That’s largely because Trump, who has run in the style of an incumbent, has dominated the state while barely setting foot in it. Though he refers to Iowa farmers in his speeches and talks about how he has poured money into the state, Trump has eschewed the classic retail politicking that is a mainstay of the Caucuses in favor of larger rallies while focusing his message more on national issues.

Spin wars: Trump pushes back on talk he needs to top 50% in Iowa caucuses” via Paul Steinhauser of Fox News — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds — taking to the airwaves hours before her state’s Caucuses lead off the 2024 Republican presidential nominating calendar — to raise expectations for Trump. “I think it’s going to be bad for President Trump if he doesn’t come in over 50. He’s not meeting expectations that the media and the polls have been putting out for the past several months,” Reynolds argued. Reynolds is the top surrogate in the Hawkeye State for Trump’s rival, DeSantis.

Joe Ladapo’s escalating vaccine war is a DeSantis campaign strategy, critics argue” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida Surgeon General Ladapo’s campaign against COVID-19 vaccines has intensified in the past few weeks before DeSantis’ crucial tests in the Iowa Presidential Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary. And experts say that’s not a coincidence. “It’s one thing for a large state’s leading health officer to be an advocate for shared values,” said Kenneth Goodman, the director of the University of Miami Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy. “It’s another to weaponize medical misinformation to trick citizens into voting for his boss.” Ladapo called for a complete halt in the use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines earlier this month. A few days later, he called the mRNA vaccines “the Antichrist” on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast.


Mystery grows as 1 million voters have been purged from Florida’s rolls as number of registered Democrats drops by nearly 10% while Republicans only lose 3% of registered voters” via Rachel Bowman of The Daily Mail — Nearly 1 million voters have been wiped from Florida’s voter registration rolls in the past year, leading to speculation over how that will affect the 2024 Election. As of Nov. 30, the number of active registered voters in the Sunshine State decreased by 996,676 voters from 2022 to 2023. The active registered voters with the Florida Democratic Party fell by 467,337 voters or nearly 10%. The active registered voters with the Republican Party of Florida decreased by 153,369 or approximately 3%.

Florida GOP lawmakers turned to Maine Democratic leader to discuss drug pricing plan” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Drew Gattine, a senior policy fellow for the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), spoke on Jan. 8 to the House Health & Human Services Committee. There, he was one of two expert witnesses invited to discuss international drug reference pricing. It’s an issue Gattine has discussed in front of state Legislatures across the country, including Connecticut, Minnesota and North Dakota. But in Maine, Gattline served in the Legislature from 2013 until 2020 as a Democrat and also chaired the Maine Democratic Party through the 2022 Midterm Election. Rep. Randy Fine, Chair of the Committee where Gattine testified, said he was unaware of the health expert’s political background, but it doesn’t matter to him.

Florida lawmakers tap Democrat Drew Gattine for his input on drug pricing.


Congress to vote on Chuck Schumer-Mike Johnson deal to avert government shutdown” via Katie Hawkinson of The Independent — Key Congressional leaders will vote this week on a funding agreement to extend government spending into March. Speaker Johnson and Majority Leader Schumer have agreed on a top-line funding agreement — called a Continuing Resolution (CR) — to extend funding to 1 March and 8 March, avoiding the first funding deadline of 19 January. Congressional officials released the full text of the resolution on Sunday evening. “Last week, House Republicans achieved an improved top-line agreement that will finally allow the House and Senate to complete the annual appropriations bills,” Johnson said.

Chuck Schumer and Mike Johnson team up to help avert a government shutdown. Image via AP

House Republicans stick by Hunter Biden contempt vote — for now” via Jordain Carney and Olivia Beavers of POLITICO — House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said Sunday that Republicans will move forward with a vote to hold Hunter Biden in contempt, unless they reach a deal with his team for an interview. Scalise’s comments, made during a call with the House GOP conference, come after Biden’s legal team made a U-turn on Friday and said that the President’s son would take part in a closed-door deposition if Republicans issued new subpoenas. A contempt vote is currently on the House schedule for Thursday. Both the Judiciary and Oversight Committees passed reports and resolutions last week recommending that Biden be held in contempt after he skipped a closed-door deposition last month.

House Republicans to issue new subpoenas for Hunter Biden in coming weeks” via Summer Concepcion of NBC News — House Republicans on the Judiciary and Oversight Committees said Sunday that they will issue new subpoenas for Biden’s son Hunter after his lawyer said he would comply with a congressional subpoena if the lawmakers issue a “new proper” one. House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan indicated that new subpoenas to Hunter Biden would be issued in the coming weeks in a letter to Hunter Biden’s lawyer Abbe Lowell on Sunday.

Mitt Romney says lawmakers should get paid even more than $174,000 so that lawmakers stop sleeping in their offices” via Bryan Metzger of Business Insider — Sen. Romney says he believes members of Congress are not paid enough. Members of the House and Senate are paid $174,000 annually and have been since 2009. Majority and minority leaders make $193,400, while the speaker of the House makes $223,500. But Congress isn’t like any old job: Most members travel back and forth between D.C. and their home districts twice a week, and they need somewhere to sleep when they’re in the nation’s capital. Rep. Patrick McHenry, who briefly served as the interim speaker of the House, said members of Congress aren’t paid enough. House Speaker Johnson, a man of relatively modest means, has long slept in his Capitol Hill office.


Voters today decide a critical Special Election and fill the only vacancy in the House. Republican Erika Booth and Democrat Tom Keen will battle for votes to determine who represents House District 35.

The election will decide who fills a House seat vacated by Fred Hawkins, a St. Cloud Republican recently hired as South Florida State College President. Hawkins won the district in 2022 by 10 percentage points. But two years before that, voters in the district favored Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election by 5 points.

Tom Keen and Erika Booth face off for the open House District 35 race.

While Speaker Renner has committed to swearing in the new member immediately, regardless of the election outcome, the winner will arrive in Tallahassee more than a week into the Legislative Session. That could severely affect the role they may plan in crafting legislation during their first stint in Tallahassee, but in the long-term, a victory could mean an extended tenure and outsized influence for a redshirt freshman.

The election won’t have an enormous impact on the balance of power in the House, where Republicans already hold a supermajority with 84 seats. But the race could set the tone during the first presidential election year in decades when Florida isn’t widely considered the nation’s most valuable swing state.

As of the Dec. 18 registration deadline to vote in this race, the 37,389 registered Democrats barely outnumber 37,155 registered Republicans. Voters with no party affiliation outnumber both groups, with 37,786 registered.

A final report after Early Voting concluded this weekend shows more registered Democrats than Republicans had voted ahead of the Special Election date itself. Through Sunday, 6,020 Democrats had cast their ballots either through early voting or through the mail. By comparison, 5,402 Republicans had done the same. Another 2,295 voters with no party affiliation had voted.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Daniella Levine Cava far outraises Miami-Dade Mayor challengers in Q4, celebrates $3M haul in 2023” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Levine Cava is starting 2024 with a bang, reporting a more than $421,000 haul last quarter to bring her 2023 fundraising total to $3.2 million. Campaign spending through New Year’s Day brought her holdings to $2.3 million between her campaign account and political committee (PC), Our Democracy. In a statement, Levine Cava expressed gratitude for the support she’s received, including close to 13,000 petition signatures toward getting her on the ballot without a fee. “Together, we are investing in a future-ready Miami-Dade that uplifts and protects every resident and family,” she said. “I am humbled by the community’s overwhelming support and I remain committed to leading Miami-Dade with vision and integrity while working hard to deliver results for everyone.”

Mario Knapp tops Miami-Dade Sheriff race fundraising in Q4 with $70K haul” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Knapp collected $70,000 in the fourth quarter of 2023 toward his bid for Sheriff, the most among 15 candidates competing for the job. He also spent more than $12,000, most of it on consulting and bank fees, to have $156,000 left on New Year’s Day between his campaign account and political committee, For a Safer Miami-Dade. Knapp, one of a baker’s dozen Republicans in the race, received a blend of personal and business checks. Many of the people who gave to him reported having law enforcement backgrounds. His biggest single gain was $10,000 from Michael Fux, a Cuban American centimillionaire who made his fortune selling foam sleep products. Knapp’s donations ledger lists Fux as a “developer.”

Mario Knapp posts some serious bank.

Raquel Regalado adds $143K to keep Miami-Dade Commission seat, past foe rebuilds war chest” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Regalado amassed nearly $143,000 between Oct. 1 and New Year’s Eve to hold on to her seat representing District 7 at County Hall. It was her first active quarter of fundraising this election cycle and amounted to more than the combined gains of two challengers, one of whom, former Pinecrest Mayor and state Rep. Cindy Lerner, narrowly lost to her in 2020. Some 60 people gave to Regalado in the fourth quarter (Q4). She spent roughly $17,000 in Q4, leaving herself with $719,000 between her campaign account and political committee, Citizens for Excellence in Miami-Dade Government, heading into 2024.

Scholarship recipients, Rick Ross celebrated at 5000 Role Models MLK Day breakfast” via Michael Butler of the Miami Herald — Hundreds of well-dressed Black and Brown people chattered excitedly as they walked into the Miami Beach Convention Center’s Grand Ballroom for the 5000 Role Models’ 31st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast. The Martin Luther King Day Jr. event honors role models and scholarship recipients of the organization founded by U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson. Dressed in a shiny red cowboy hat and a red outfit to represent 5000 Role Models’ primary color, the former educator was impossible to miss. “My colleagues in Congress call me the Mary McCloud Bethune of today because of my love for children,” she said in reference to the Black educator and philanthropist.

More than 100 ATV, dirt bike riders arrested during MLK Day crackdown in Miami-Dade” via Syra Ortiz Blanes of the Miami Herald — Nearly 150 people have been arrested in the last three days as part of a public safety operation to crack down on the illegal use of all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, and motorcycles during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Miami-Dade County Police announced. “We will continue to have Zero Tolerance for anyone breaking traffic laws and being reckless in our county,” the agency said in a written statement. The enforcement operation started Friday as part of the department’s safety initiative for the holiday weekend and is expected to end by next Friday, barring any major overnight incidents or accidents.

A new hotline is being created to try to stop mass shootings. Here’s the plan.” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A well-known South Florida homeless advocate is branching out into a new area, creating a hotline with the ambitious goal of trying to stop mass shootings. Sean Cononie, who has opened homeless shelters in Broward and Polk counties, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel he hopes to use skills he has learned dealing with the mental health challenges of his clients to try to help those who may want to commit violence. Modeled after suicide-prevention hotlines, Cononie is launching a “mass shooting prevention call center” in his Davie estate. The project will operate through his nonprofit agency called Coalition of Service and Charity Foundation.

Miami Heat announces Dwyane Wade statue outside Kaseya Center. ‘I didn’t dream of this’” via David Wilson of the Miami Herald — A banner with his old jersey number hanging from the rafters at the Kaseya Center isn’t enough for Wade: The Miami Heat is building him a statue. Wade already has his jersey retired, a spot in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, three championships and just about every record of note for the Heat, so there wasn’t much more for Miami to give him to memorialize his legendary career but a statue on Biscayne Boulevard. The bronze statue will stand 8 feet, it had to be bigger than Shaquille O’Neal, Pat Riley quipped and set Wade apart from every other great the franchise has ever had, as the only player to have a statue outside the arena. “I didn’t dream of this,” Wade said, choking up after Riley told him the news. “I’m very grateful.”

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Barbie Harden Hall hopes to flip Daniel Webster’s seat blue” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Hall has announced a challenge against Webster. The Democrat hopes to flip a Republican stronghold blue. The Central Florida paralegal became involved in policy after her son Everett was diagnosed in late 2021 with metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD). It claimed the 2-year-old’s life in May 2022 about six months after the initial diagnosis, due to complications from a cord blood stem cell transplant. She has since become active in promoting awareness of MLD and other rare diseases impacting children. Now, she’s doing so by running for Congress “Are you ready for the craziest thing I have ever done?” Hall said in a campaign announcement this week.

Can Barbie Harden Hall flip Daniel Webster’s seat blue?

Hundreds watch Ocoee parade to honor Martin Luther King” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Hundreds of spectators packed the sidewalks along an Ocoee street to watch equestrian units, community leaders, dance troupes and rhythmic marching bands pass by in honor of Dr. King, the slain civil rights leader who espoused peace, racial equality and unity. “This is a celebration of Dr. King’s message that we all come together in peace,” said Billy Crayton, of Orlando, who brought along his wife and four grandchildren to watch the morning parade under a gray sky and light rain. “That message is still important today.” The 16th annual Unity Parade and Celebration parade honored King, who was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and became one of the most important voices in the American civil rights movement.

New bill aims to help Osceola County mobile home park residents fight back against owners” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — Angela Silas lost 103 pounds over the last three years as the rent increased from $410 to $915 on her mobile home lot in Lake Runnymeade in St. Cloud after new owners purchased the park. Silas said she has had to cut back on groceries and prefers to go hungry rather than giving her 14-year-old child or 38-year-old disabled husband less food. “I feel like I have to penny-pinch everywhere that I can, and I’m going to take the hit first before my child,” Silas said through tears. A bill filed by Rep. Paula Stark, whose district includes St. Cloud, aims to help mobile homeowners like Silas dispute rent increases.

Florida Virtual School spent $1M-plus in tax dollars on federal lawsuit it lost” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — The Florida Virtual School lost a long-running trademark dispute that it spent more than $1 million to pursue when a federal judge ruled that it had shown “no credible evidence” that a competitor had infringed on trademarks or confused parents looking for virtual classes for their children. The virtual public school’s “prosecution of this lawsuit seems more akin to a ‘trademark bully’ harassing a competitor than a party seeking reasonable redress for any harm,” wrote Judge Gregory Presnell of the U.S. District Court in Orlando in his Jan. 2 order. Although it sought “millions” in damages, Presnell wrote, the school made a “feeble” claim.

UCF breaks ground on new nursing building in Lake Nona” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — University of Central Florida (UCF) officials celebrated the groundbreaking Friday of the new Lake Nona nursing building that will help the school educate more nurses at a time when the state badly needs them. Construction on the high-tech $68 million Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion is set to be completed in Fall 2025. “A building is space where you’re able to do what you need to do. For the UCF College of Nursing, it will be a venue where great thinkers live, future nurses learn, and innovators and scholars work together to solve our world’s most pressing health care problems,” said College of Nursing Dean Mary Lou Sole. “In this building, the Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion, UCF will unleash the potential that will have an immeasurable impact for generations to come.” UCF showcased renderings of the building that featured exterior facades with bright windows and inside mock hospital rooms and classrooms.

There’s a new hairy nuisance in Seminole County: Coyotes” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Seminole County has long been known as Florida’s epicenter for bear encounters in residential neighborhoods. But now there’s a new hairy beast in town: coyotes. Over the past four years, the number of calls to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission from residents to report the skinny pointy-eared canines in the Seminole area has more than doubled, from 35 in 2020 to 75 last year. And along with the sightings comes an increase in nuisance behavior, ranging from pesky — coyotes knocking over trash cans, raiding bird feeders, leaving dead animal carcasses in yards — to downright scary — attacking small pets, raiding backyard chicken coops, or even following humans on their nighttime walks.


Proposed citywide curfew for juveniles open for public discussion” via Lydia Vazquez of ABC Action News — On Tuesday, Tampa city officials will hold a panel discussion on a proposed curfew for juveniles under 16 years old. This comes months after two people were killed, including a 14-year-old boy, and more than a dozen people were shot in Ybor City over Halloween weekend. Calls for change are being laid out by city leaders, gun reform advocates, and business owners. One Tampa local said he worries a curfew could harm local businesses and instead wants the community to focus more on providing resources for the youth.

Cloudy skies don’t dampen MLK Day celebrations across Tampa Bay” via Claire Farrow of WTSP — Cloudy skies and scattered rain didn’t stop thousands of people across the Tampa Bay area from coming out and joining in Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations honoring the life and legacy of the civil rights pioneer. Smiling faces were seen Monday on both sides of the Bay during parades in St. Petersburg and Tampa. Parade floats cruised by, bands played their music and volunteers handed out beads to paradegoers of all ages. Over in Pinellas County, St. Petersburg’s Dream Big MLK Parade brought hundreds of people to the festivities along 1st Avenue downtown. Following the parade, an MLK Family Fun Day was held for families.

Tampa Bay celebrates the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Winter storms in the U.S. lead to more than 100 flight disruptions at Tampa International Airport” via Jordan Bowen of Fox 13 — Winter storms across the country caused interruptions for more than 100 flights at Tampa International Airport on Monday. Couches were full inside terminals at TPA with some passengers forced to wait hours for their flights. “It’s awful. Not fun at all. You know when you’re at the end of your trip, and you just want to go home, no fun,” passenger Cathrina Mugford said. Mugford and her daughter Bianca were set to fly home to Canada on Monday morning after visiting Disney World for the first time but, like many, their flight was impacted by winter weather across the country. At its peak Monday, TPA had a total of 78 flight delays and 32 flight cancellations.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Censured St. Johns County Commissioner sues Board over ‘credible threat of prosecution’” via Steve Patterson of The Florida Times-Union — St. Johns County Commissioner Krista Joseph has asked a federal judge for an order saying she’s free to endorse efforts to oust fellow Commissioners seeking re-election in August. The Commission censured Joseph last month over remarks during a meeting of the elected Board that one Commissioner labeled a “campaign speech.” Joseph said in those comments that “developers are controlling the Boards” but added: “You know what, there’s hope. [In] Less than nine months, we have an election.” Joseph was elected in 2022 to serve a four-year term, but three of the Commission’s five members have terms ending this year. Two of those, Commissioners Roy Alaimo and Henry Dean, have listed themselves as candidates for re-election.

Krista Joseph says the St. Johns Commission is ruled by developers.

City of Tallahassee to interview finalists for City Attorney position” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee City Commissioners will interview four finalists, two internal candidates and two external, as they seek to replace City Attorney Cassandra Jackson, who resigned in November. Jackson quit amid turmoil when City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow called out Deputy City Manager Wayne Tedder on social media, releasing text messages Tedder sent to another attorney, belittling Jackson’s legal expertise.

Prominent Milton entrepreneur speaks out against Mayor’s ‘unfounded attack on my ethics’” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News Journal — Prominent Milton businessperson Melissa Simpson has threatened legal action against the city in the wake of comments made about her and her business practices by Mayor Heather Lindsay in an email exchange with City Manager Scott Collins. Simpson stood at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to criticize “an unprovoked and unfounded attack on my ethics, morals, integrity and personal behavior.” Lindsay’s mention of Simpson was made in a Dec. 30 email sent to Collins in response to his suggestion that the city rent office space at a Justice Avenue building being marketed by Simpson on behalf of local business owner and developer Prashant Patel. The recommendation from Collins to the Mayor and City Council was based in large part on a site visit to the property in question conducted by Milton Economic Director Ed Spears.

Prosecutors want jury to see ‘nefarious’ plan from JEA’s former executives” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Federal prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Brian Davis that jurors need to see for themselves the “insidious and nefarious” series of steps JEA’s ex-executives took in an alleged effort to cash out millions of dollars in personal gain during the failed effort to sell the agency to a private power company. Crucial to that, they said, was to dig into JEA’s current financial and operational performance — a topic defense attorneys for former JEA CEO Aaron Zahn and CFO Ryan Wannemacher have asked Davis to ban from discussion during their upcoming trial. The lead federal prosecutor on the case, A. Tysen Duva, disclosed government plans to introduce trial exhibits that compare JEA’s electric sales over the past five years with dire projections that Zahn’s executive team shared with JEA’s then-Board of Directors.

Police Memorial Building nears end as headquarters for Sheriff’s Office in future plans.” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — The Florida Blue office tower that opened a half-century ago as a health insurance headquarters could become the future home base of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. The prospect remains in the discussion stage but is picking up speed. If the Sheriff’s Office were to make the move to the Riverside Avenue office tower, it would be a sign of how the COVID-19 pandemic and remote work have impacted Jacksonville’s office market by making it less costly to lease space than build something new from the ground up.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is looking for a new headquarters.

School absenteeism has hit record levels in Florida. Santa Rosa bucking the trend.” via Katherine Kokal of the Pensacola News Journal — The statewide average of the number of students missing 21 or more days of school has hit a record high at 20.9%, according to data from the Florida Department of Education from the 2021-22 school year. But the problem isn’t evenly spread throughout Florida. In Santa Rosa County, just 13.8% of registered students missed 21 or more days of school, data shows. That’s below Escambia County’s 21.8%, which is slightly above the state average, and far below the state’s highest absenteeism rate of 42.3% among students in rural Putnam County, located between Gainesville and St. Augustine.

Okaloosa County home prices fell 1.5% in December, with houses listed at a median of $430,000” via the USA Today Network — The median home in Okaloosa County listed for $430,000 in December, down 1.5% from the previous month’s $436,450, an analysis of data from shows. Compared to December 2022, the median home list price decreased 8.5% from $467,900. Okaloosa County’s median home was 1,756 square feet, listed at $266 per square foot. The price per square foot of homes for sale is up 1.1% from December 2022.


Lee County, Captiva to spar in court over rebuilding island, as citizens group sues” via Bill Smith of the Fort Myers News-Press — Captiva Island residents, worried by county code changes they fear could bring as many as hundreds of new housing units, more cars and more people to the island, took the first legal step toward overturning land use changes. The Lee County Board of Commissioners made the changes in September and December. Residents want to overturn amendments to the county’s comprehensive land use and development codes the Commissioners adopted a year after Hurricane Ian slashed through the island. Some say bigger crowds will visit the island as accommodations increase and services and amenities are added. The island sustained more than $1 billion in storm damage.

Mote Marine Laboratory VP Kevin Cooper launches bid for Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board” via Florida Politics — Cooper, vice president of Communications and Strategic Initiatives for Mote Marine Laboratory and a retired Army Sergeant, is running for the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board, Seat 2. Cooper is an Executive Committee member of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance Board of Directors and previously served as president and CEO of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. He was previously Chair of the Sarasota County Planning Commission. At least four Hospital Board seats will be up for a vote this year in Sarasota County. Cooper officially launched his bid Thursday.

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

Mote named top revenue-generating cultural nonprofit in Tampa Bay region” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and CEO Dr. Michael Crosby were each recently recognized by two area publications for significant contributions. Mote was named the top revenue-generating cultural nonprofit for the Tampa Bay region by the “Tampa Bay Business Journal.” Crosby was named a 2023 Living Legend by “Florida Trend” magazine when it released its Florida 500 list of influential business leaders in the state. In 2020, Crosby was named among Florida Trend’s 500 most influential leaders in life sciences. That puts Crosby in a lineup that includes Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he was quick to stress that any accolades he earned are due to the overall success of Mote.

Local nonprofit sets out to count homeless populations in Manatee, Sarasota counties” via Catherine Hicks in the Bradenton Herald — Volunteers will head out across Sarasota and Manatee counties in late January to count the area’s homeless, data that will be used to determine funding levels both on a state and federal level. Performed annually, the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness’ Point in Time survey, planned for a 24-hour period beginning Monday, Jan. 29, is just that — a snapshot of the numbers and characteristics of the area’s homeless population. It is not intended to capture an overall homeless population figure. The survey, required by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development at least once every two years, seeks to count both sheltered and unsheltered people.

Sarasota County breaks ground on new mosquito control facility” via Elaine Allen-Emrich of the Venice Gondolier — In 2025, a new $12.7 million facility will allow Sarasota County Mosquito Control employees to do more than kill mosquitoes. During the groundbreaking ceremony for the 19,600-square-foot Mosquito Management Services facility, guests learned it will include educational and community outreach areas. The new site, at 16500 Honore Ave., Nokomis, is across from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Support Services Building, and near the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Venice campus, just off Interstate 75. It is more centrally located in the county, Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Neunder said during the ceremony. The former building on Pinkney Avenue in Sarasota was built in the 1970s. The design of the facility cost more than $802,050.

Sarasota breaks ground on a new way to kill mosquitoes.

Sarasota County School Board set to join national lawsuit against social media companies” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota County Schools could join more than 20 other Florida school districts in a lawsuit against social media companies, according to an item posted on the district’s next meeting agenda. The Sarasota County School Board convenes Tuesday evening, and if the item is approved, the district will join a class-action lawsuit against the parent companies of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube. The agenda item cites a Surgeon General’s advisory that cites “mounting evidence for the risk of harm to some children and adolescents from social media use.” The advisory adds that the platforms have easily accessible content that could be extreme, inappropriate or harmful to children.

Issues on height, parking: Naples City Council takes up controversial NCH heart center” via Liz Freeman of the Naples Daily News — NCH’s plans for a five-story heart institute that would exceed the city’s building height limit heads back to the Naples City Council after being in the hands of other city panels since October 2022. Count on the public hearing Thursday spanning hours with some residents saying a rezoning that’s being considered is a slippery slope that would erode the 42-foot height limit for commercial buildings. Voters approved a charter height amendment in 2000. Others will say the state-of-the-heart cardiac and stroke center should be at NCH’s Baker Hospital campus, nearest a big chunk of its patient base that’s in keeping with the standard of “minutes matter” for treatment and recovery.


This is the actual danger posed by DEI” via David French of The New York Times — Yes, the immense backlash from parts of the right against almost any diversity initiative is a sign of the extent to which millions of White Americans are content with their vastly disproportionate share of national wealth and power.

But that’s not the entire story when it comes to controversy over DEI. Outside the reactionary right, there is a cohort of Americans, on both right and left, who want to eradicate illegal discrimination and remedy the effects of centuries of American injustice yet also have grave concerns about the way in which some DEI efforts are undermining American constitutional values, especially on college campuses.

To put it simply, the problem with DEI isn’t with diversity, equity, or inclusion — all vital values. The danger posed by DEI resides primarily not in these virtuous ends, but in the unconstitutional means chosen to advance them.

It is a moral necessity for colleges to be concerned about hateful discourse, including hateful language directed at members of historically marginalized groups. Moreover, colleges that receive federal funds have a legal obligation to protect students from harassment on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation and other protected categories.

Yet that is no justification for hundreds of universities to pass and maintain draconian speech codes on campus, creating a system of unconstitutional censorship that has been struck down again and again and again in federal court. Nor is it a justification for discriminating against faculty members for their political views or for compelling them to speak in support of DEI.

It is urgently necessary to address racial disparities in campus admissions and faculty hiring — but, again, not at the expense of the Constitution.

Virtuous goals should not be accomplished by illiberal means.


Why is the Florida Legislature obsessed with hurting the LGBTQ+ community?” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Jan. 10 Herald-Tribune reported all the bills focused on the LGBTQ+ community. So many bills beg the question, “Why?” They reek of fascism. This is not hyperbole; any history student can cite the similarities. If it is about protecting children, priests have a more documented history as child predators than the LGBTQ+ community. But there are already laws for that. So again, “Why?” Perhaps it is like the Zieglers: Scream morality in public, but in private enjoy the sexual freedoms afforded all human beings. It certainly is not about “Christian” values, where the main theme is love and compassion for all human beings.

AI is a catalyst for innovation that can redefine Florida’s economic landscape” via Brewster Bevis for the Tallahassee Democrat — As businesses across the Sunshine State accelerate the adoption and integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into their day-to-day operations, we’re realizing myriad opportunities for growth and efficiency. But AI is not just a tool for efficiency — it’s a catalyst for innovation that can redefine Florida’s economic landscape. Utilities in Florida use AI to help prevent outages during a storm, restore power when it is out and direct resources to critical areas. In 2021, the technology industry in Florida created 10,522 new jobs, added 2,715 new businesses, and supported 446,266 jobs for Florida workers. Technology contributes $70 billion in total economic impact to the Sunshine State each year. It is critically important that policies continue to foster innovation and promote the adaptation of emerging technologies. Any policies that hinder innovation will not only affect our economy but also harm our state’s global competitiveness.


— ALOE —

Orlando’s Pulse-inspired ‘From Here’ musical to make off-Broadway debut” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — Renaissance Theatre artistic director Donald Rupe has his eye on Broadway for his musical “From Here,” which follows a tight-knit group of friends in the days around the 2016 mass shooting at Orlando’s gay nightclub Pulse. The next step? A six-and-a-half-week engagement off-Broadway this Summer. “It doesn’t feel surprising that this is happening, but it does feel huge,” Rupe said. “It’s all I think about.” The musical debuted at the 2019 Orlando Fringe Festival and has had a few limited runs in Central Florida since. Its only planned full-length run was cut short in 2020 by the COVID-19 shutdown. To that end, Rupe will stage the show at the Renaissance Theatre from March to May before June’s off-Broadway opening.

A Pulse-inspired musical is heading off-Broadway. Image via


Belated birthday wishes to Melody Arnold of RSA Consulting. Celebrating today is José Felix Diaz.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704