Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.12.24

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Good morning. ‘Sunburn’ has been waiting for you.

Good Friday morning.

A top-of-Burn birthday shoutout to our dear friend Stephanie Lewis Cardozo, who we hear is the hardest-working lobbyist in Jacksonville.

Congrats to Stephanie Lewis Cardozo as she celebrates another trip around the sun.


@MarcACaputo: With OJ’s death, the renewed attention on his trial is a stark reminder that jurors bring their own sense of justice to court — especially in high-profile cases In 4 days, jury selection starts in Trump’s criminal trial, the 1st of a former POTUS & de facto major party nominee

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:


Florida Housing Summit ‘Blueprint for Better Outcomes’ begins — 19; Kentucky Derby — 22; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 28; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 36; French Open begins — 38; Special Election to replace Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill — 39; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 40; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 40; Monaco Grand Prix — 44; the 2024 World Cup begins — 60; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 65; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 78; Republican National Convention begins — 94; the 2024 World Cup ends — 97; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 102; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 104; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 123; Florida Primary Election — 130; Democratic National Convention begins — 130; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 134; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 147; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 147; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 189; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 192; 2024 Presidential Election — 207; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 220; MLS Cup 2024 — 235; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 305; the 2025 Oscars — 324; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 326; 2025 Session ends — 386; ‘Moana’ premieres — 436; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 467; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 469; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 574; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 616; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 753; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 769; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 980; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,120; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,079; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,801.


Matt Gaetz is winning” via Elaine Godfrey of The Atlantic — Two incidents have defined Gaetz’s tenure in Congress and helped make him a household name. The first was the Department of Justice’s 2020 investigation into whether he had sex with a minor and violated sex trafficking laws.

Matt Gaetz is going places. But where? Image via AP.

Gaetz has repeatedly and vehemently denied the claims. That probe was dropped in early 2023, but the House Ethics Committee is still investigating those claims, as well as others — including allegations that Gaetz shared sexual images with colleagues. Gaetz has all the features — prominent brow, bouffant hair, thin-lipped smirk — of an action-movie villain, and at times he’s seemed to cultivate that impression.

The second defining event of his time in Congress thus far came in early October, when he filed a motion to kick Kevin McCarthy out of the House Speaker’s Chair.

Rather than cowing him, the allegations seemed to give Gaetz a burst of vengeful energy.

The Republican field in Florida is full of potential gubernatorial Primary candidates. Possible rivals for Gaetz include Rep. Byron Donalds, state Attorney General Ashley Moody and even Casey DeSantis. But in Florida, Gaetz is more famous than all of them, and closer to the white-hot center of the MAGA movement.

If he gets Donald Trump’s endorsement, Gaetz could have a real shot at winning the Primary and, ultimately, the Governor’s mansion.


Civilian Review Board bill heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis — A bill that would prohibit Civilian Review Boards from investigating law enforcement officers was sent to the Governor’s desk. HB 601 would prevent more than 20 Florida cities with Civilian Review Boards from investigating complaints against law enforcement. However, the bill would allow county sheriffs to create civilian oversight Boards that would review policies enacted by law enforcement. Such Boards would have to include at least one retired law enforcement officer.

COVID-19 death toll nears 2,300 in 2024; experts urge updated vaccines” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — Although COVID-19 cases are currently low, nearly 2,300 people have died in Florida this year from a virus that refuses to disappear fully. That has health care experts reminding Floridians again that it’s time for another booster shot of vaccines designed to prevent serious illness and death. The biggest risk is for people ages 65 and up. They account for 91% of Florida’s COVID-19 deaths. During initial vaccine rollouts, elderly people were highly vaccinated. Now only 43% of U.S. residents over 65 are up-to-date on their shots. This has led experts to urge this group especially to get immunized.

COVID continues to leave its mark in Florida.

DBPR gains new chief of staff, senior-level officials” via Eric Daugherty of Florida’s Voice News — The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced three new senior staff members on Thursday. The agency is led by Secretary Melanie Griffin, who was appointed by DeSantis in 2021. The DBPR’s prime functions include licenses and regulations for businesses in Florida. Jared Ochs is joining as the agency’s chief of staff. He was most recently the deputy chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. He was previously the director of communications and external affairs at the State Department of Education. Other past positions include being the assistant deputy chancellor of public schools and the director of legislative affairs in the Office of the Commissioner.

Will a Florida museum on Black history tell whole story? Some worry it won’t.” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s proposal to create a statewide Black history museum prompted interest and then glossy reports, from eight communities eager to be the home of a new state institution. Eatonville, the tiny Orange County town incorporated in 1887 by newly freed slaves, was among those that submitted a bid last month. Town leaders hope Eatonville’s historic status as the nation’s oldest Black-run town, coupled with the tourist juggernaut that is neighboring Orlando, will give it an edge. But many are wary of the state’s plan, questioning how Florida’s recent history would make it a good steward of a Black history museum.

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Sen. Rick Scott softens his abortion position after Florida Supreme Court ruling” via Stephany Matat of The Associated Press — Sen. Scott this week joined the ranks of Republican incumbents scrambling to strike a balance on reproductive rights, saying he opposes a November ballot initiative to strike down his state’s six-week abortion ban but thinks Congress should leave those decisions to the states. Scott, who is seeking re-election this Fall, was one of multiple Senators who followed Trump’s lead in softening GOP messaging on abortion. It comes in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning the constitutional right to an abortion and leaving the matter for states to decide. Democrats, buoyed by a series of wins in state ballot initiatives and other contests since then, have made it clear that they hope to put the issue front and center this November.

Rick Scott’s stance on abortion has ‘evolved.’

Trulieve joined by other marijuana companies in recreational pot push” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — When it came to paying for the effort to get a recreational marijuana amendment on the 2024 ballot, Trulieve, a Tallahassee-based medical pot company, stood alone, donating $40 million. Now that the Florida Supreme Court has allowed the measure to appear on the ballot as Amendment 3, other companies are joining the push to persuade voters to approve it. Smart & Safe Florida, the political committee behind the effort, raised nearly $14.9 million in the first quarter. Trulieve gave $9.25 million, or 62% of the total. Verano Holdings, a Chicago-based medical pot company, gave $2.25 million; Boston-based Curaleaf gave $2 million; Greenthumb Industries and Ayr Wellness Inc. each gave $500,000 and Cresco Labs chipped in with $400,000.


Donald Trump appears at lawyer Dan Newlin’s Orlando-area fundraiser” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Trump drew a crowd of supporters outside a campaign fundraiser held by prominent Orlando lawyer Newlin at his home near Windermere. A campaign representative did not respond to a request for comment about how much money was raised. Trump arrived at Orlando International Airport just before 5 p.m., according to Jack Sweeney’s Trump Jets social media accounts, coming from another fundraiser in Atlanta that had been expected to take in about $5 million. At the exclusive Keene’s Pointe gated community, Orange County deputy Sheriffs were stationed outside the entrance, where only residents were allowed in. Along State Road 535, Trump flags flew from a few cars parked along the road, which garnered some honks in support.

Dan Newlin (shown here with his daughter) rolls out the red carpet for Donald Trump.


State Attorney, Public Defender back Tom Leek for SD 7” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Rep. Leek’s campaign for Senate District 7 announced endorsements from State Attorney R.J. Larizza and Public Defender Matthew Metz, both of Florida’s 7th Judicial Circuit. Larizza previously worked in the Florida Department of Corrections, then as an Assistant State Attorney and pursued a private practice career before successfully running for State Attorney. Metz was felony division chief over the 7th Judicial Circuit before being elected Public Defender in 2020. “I am proud to support Tom Leek in his bid for state Senate. He recognizes the complex needs of the state of Florida, including maintaining law and order and a firm, trustworthy criminal justice system, and his leadership in the Florida Legislature has already proven he has a unique understanding of the responsibility that comes with public office — and it is a responsibility he bears well,” Larizza said.

Tom Leek garners even more high-profile endorsements.

Jennifer Kincart Jonsson enters race to replace Melony Bell in HD 49” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Kincart Jonsson is joining the race to replace Rep. Bell in House District 49, becoming the third Republican to join the contest. “My deep love for my family, my devotion to service, and my commitment to leaving a better community for my children compel me to enter this race and give our district a passionate and tireless defender of freedom, opportunity, and prosperity,” Kincart Jonsson said in a statement announcing her run. “Florida’s success is no accident. It is built on the backs of conservative leaders who were willing to stand up for what is right and deliver results for Floridians. I’m running to help build on that legacy of conservative leadership with a fresh and renewed perspective that helps meet the challenges we face and seize on the opportunities before us.”

Shawn McDonough adds $90K in Q1 — House District 49 candidate McDonough raised nearly $92,000 for his campaign during the first quarter of 2024. The new report brings his to-date total to nearly $180,000, making him the clear fundraising leader in the race for the Polk County seat. ““I couldn’t be more proud of the hard work my team has put into making this fundraising milestone possible,” said McDonough, a Republican. “And I want to thank our generous donors in the district for their strong showing of support for me in this race. We are getting ready to kick into high gear to secure an August victory, and my strong numbers only solidify my confidence in our win. I’m a freedom-first Floridian who wants to see something done about the insane policies coming out of Washington that are ruining our nation, and clearly, Polk County feels the same way.”

Ed Montanari continues fundraising momentum in Q1, is closing the gap between incumbent Lindsay Cross” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Montanari outraised the incumbent Democrat he’s challenging in House District 60, by a little less than $5,000 in the first quarter. Republican Montanari raised $40,135 in the period spanning Jan. 1 through the end of March, between his campaign account and his political committee, Friends of Ed Montanari. Rep. Lindsay Cross raised $35,765 during the same period between her campaign and political committee, Moving Pinellas Forward. While Montanari has had momentum on his side since joining the race late last year — also outraising Cross in the fourth quarter of 2023 — Cross’ length of time in the race leaves her with more funds raised overall and a significant cash-on-hand advantage.

Ashley Brundage launches campaign for House District 65 Brundage, a community leader, author, and professional development and leadership educator, has officially launched her campaign for House District 65. Republican Rep. Karen Gonzalez Pittman currently represents HD 65, which covers parts of Hillsborough County, According to a statement, Brundage, a Democrat, is “dedicated to bringing her unique perspective and proven leadership skills to tackle key issues facing Floridians.” Her professional development company, Empowering Differences, focuses on optimizing growth through differences, empowerment, workplace equality, and leadership. “I’m not just running for office; I am determined to bring my transformative vision of inclusive leadership to Florida’s Legislature,” Brundage said. ” All Floridians deserve the freedom to be healthy, prosperous, and safe which requires leaders that will protect reproductive rights, tackle the property insurance crisis, and empower small businesses in our community.”

Ashley Brundage throws her hat in the ring for House District 65.

Bill Conerly enters HD 72 race — Republican Conerly launched a campaign for House District 72 on Thursday. Conerly is an engineer by trade and a shareholder with Kimley-Horn. The Conerly campaign said it plans to focus on an “America First” agenda for Florida, which includes a renewed focus on securing our borders and prohibiting illegals from receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. “Florida is at a crossroads. We can continue to kick the can down the road, year after year, on issues like immigration, insurance and our quality of life or we can act. I am running to take quick action, just like President Trump,” Conerly said. HD 72 is currently represented by Rep. Tommy Gregory, who is not seeking re-election after accepting a job as State College of Florida president.

Alina Garcia charges into Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections race with $165K haul” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Rep. Garcia landed with a boom last quarter in the race for Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections, stacking $165,000 in less than a month and a half thanks to ample GOP support. She collected close to $126,000 through her campaign account, more than half of which were carry-over funds from her now-closed state account. Another $39,000 came through her political committee, Florida Always First. Her closest fundraising competitor in the first quarter of 2024 was lawyer Megan Pearl, who also entered the race in February and amassed $9,000 through March 31. Former state lawmaker Juan-Carlos “J.C.” Planas, a Republican-turned-Democrat, raised nearly $10,000, while Democratic consultant Willis Howard added almost $7,000 to his campaign coffers.

Milo Thornton tops $375K for Indian River Sheriff campaign — Republican candidate Thornton’s campaign collected $28,930 in the first quarter, bringing his overall fundraising total to $306,900 through his official campaign account. Including donations to his political committee, the candidate has raised more than $375,000. “I’m incredibly grateful for our community and their willingness to support this campaign,” Thornton said. “Everywhere I go, both small and large donors are willing to invest in a strong, safe, and secure Indian River County, with high standards of ethics and professionalism. That is exactly what I’m campaigning for, and it is really resonating with the people of our county.”

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez removed amid City Hall controversy” via Joey Flechas, Tess Riski, and Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald — Méndez was removed from her position Thursday, a demotion that comes amid controversy and criticism over her performance near the end of her 20-year career at City Hall. In a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Joe Carollo voting no, the City Commission voted to relegate Méndez to a transitional role immediately and name her chief deputy, John A. Greco, as the interim city attorney while a Selection Committee continues a search for City Hall’s next top legal officer. Greco is out of the country on vacation until April 22, so until then, Deputy City Attorney George Wysong will serve as acting city attorney. Méndez will be allowed to remain an attorney in the city’s legal department, with an instruction to help with the transition for the next city attorney.

Victoria Méndez gets demoted.

— “Miami City Attorney helped steer $10M meant for citywide projects to Joe Carollo’s district” via Tess Riski, Joey Flechas and Sarah Blaskey of the Miami Herald

Corruption trial of suspended Miami-Dade Commissioner stalls as court mulls Judge’s actions” via Charles Rabin of the Miami Herald — The long-anticipated public corruption trial of a decorated cop who parlayed 17 years of policing into decades of public service at the highest levels of Miami-Dade County government, was delayed at least a week as an appeals court mulls the interaction between the suspended Commissioner and the Judge overseeing the trial. As state prosecutors and attorneys for Joe Martinez argued a motion, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lody Jean halted the discussion and asked Martinez to take the stand. She spent most of the next minute warning Martinez to refrain from making gestures because it could harm his chances of acquittal with jurors. Attorneys Ben Kuehne and Neil Taylor, concerned the Judge showed a bias, asked Jean to recuse herself.

Broward School Board is asked to rescind teacher pay raises” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Broward School Board member has proposed rescinding teacher raises that were just approved in February. The request, called “No Employee Left Behind,” is scheduled to be discussed at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday. It was drafted by Torey Alston, an appointee of DeSantis who has been highly critical of how the School Board manages money. The School Board has been facing a budget crisis due to the dwindling enrollment and the expiration of federal COVID-19 relief dollars. The School Board agreed 6-3 on Feb. 27 to use nearly $20 million in COVID dollars to pay for the raises averaging 3.96%. But that money won’t be available to pay for future years, meaning the district starts its next budget year needing to cut $20 million just to maintain the salaries. Alston has requested the state investigate whether the Board’s actions were proper.

Is Miami Beach’s protest crackdown really ‘nonpartisan’? Records show Israel views played role” via Aaron Leibowitz of the Miami Herald — A resolution by Miami Beach Mayor Steven Meiner to impose new restrictions on protests in the city initially asserted support for Israel and condemned the use of a pro-Palestinian chant before it was edited by the City Attorney’s Office to remove most of those references, according to emails obtained by the Miami Herald. While much of the language was removed from the resolution that the City Commission passed unanimously on March 13, the draft version sheds light on the apparent intentions behind establishing time, place and manner restrictions for protests — despite statements by the Mayor at two recent meetings that the Miami Beach government is “nonpartisan” and that his measure “never mentioned” Israel.

Coral Gables Mayor says recall effort is funded by ‘dark money.’ Where did it come from?” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — A campaign finance report shows that the political committee petitioning to recall the Mayor of Coral Gables raised $50,000 in the first quarter of 2024 but does little to answer questions about the recall effort’s financial backers, with the Mayor accusing the group of raising “dark money.” End the Corruption, the political committee that launched March 13 to recall Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago, disclosed just three sources of funding in a report that the campaign plans to file: $17,500 from a political committee controlled by a Tallahassee lawyer, $17,500 from a Tallahassee-based group called Florida Consumer Alliance and $15,000 from a Tallahassee-based political committee with the same address called Florida Workers’ Alliance.

Vince Lago says the effort to recall him is backed by ‘dark money.’

Flood city: Record rain hit one year ago. How far has Fort Lauderdale come in bracing for next big storm?” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Experts covering last year’s April 12 deluge referred to the record-breaking downpour as a 1,000-year storm. But another record breaker could come along sooner than we think, they warned. Heeding the wake-up call, Fort Lauderdale has put a long-term plan for drainage upgrades on the fast track. Last year’s mid-April deluge prompted the city to add 17 neighborhoods to the list of eight already in line for improvements. The entire project, an investment of more than $750 million, will take a decade to complete. The work can’t be done in a day, but city officials say they are expediting the work as quickly as possible. Critics have complained that the work should have been done 10 years ago.

This kitschy Vietnamese restaurant in Miami was just named to the Michelin Guide” via Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald — A popular Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Miami, was just added to the internationally famous Michelin Guide. Known for its signature kitschy style, exceptionally eclectic wine list and hidden karaoke machine, the busy, energetic restaurant Tam Tam was announced as a 2024 Bib Gourmand. The designation highlights restaurants that offer good food at moderate prices. Owned and operated by husbands Tam Pham and Harrison Ramhofer, who met at Florida International University’s School of Hospitality in 2017, the restaurant began life as a pop-up at the couple’s home. It then moved into the Asian food hall 1-800-Lucky in Wynwood and later popped up at Low Key in Little River.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Winter Park runoff election features familiar fights over development” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — The tense race to fill a Winter Park City Commission seat comes to a head next week. Voters in the tony suburb will choose between Craig Russell, a high school teacher and football coach, and Jason Johnson, a commercial litigator. The two men have differing views on development, which has long been a flashpoint in the city — Johnson favors preserving the city’s village-like character and charm, while Russell has said the city needs to embrace some level of growth for future generations. Johnson says he’s not “anti-development,” while Russell says he “doesn’t want to pave over the city.” The winner of the April 16 runoff will serve the nearly two years left on Sheila DeCiccio’s term.

Craig Russell and Jason Johnson will duke it out in Winter Park.

Orlando Police Foundation creates $75K endowment for UCF undergrads on ‘Day of Giving’” via Cristóbal Reyes of the Orlando Sentinel — University of Central Florida criminal justice and legal studies students will be able to receive new annual scholarships as part of a $75,000 endowment announced Thursday by Orlando police Chief Eric Smith. The endowment, donated by the Orlando Police Foundation on UCF’s “Day of Giving,” will fund $1,500 scholarships annually to two undergraduate students of both majors. Smith, who graduated from UCF in 1993 before embarking on a 28-year career at the Orlando Police Department, said the money is aimed at helping students complete their programs and, hopefully, to boost recruitment efforts at the department and other local agencies. “We have a lot of UCF alumni that work for us throughout the whole department. From our communications to our police officers to our analysts, we are well-represented by UCF graduates,” Smith said.

Brevard County Commission approves new 1-year contract with state lobbyist Ron Book” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — Brevard County Commissioners unanimously approved a new one-year contract with their state lobbyist, Book, and increased his pay by 20%. County Commission Chair Jason Steele had negotiated a new contract with Book, under which Book’s firm would receive $72,000 a year, up from his previous stipend of $60,000 a year. Book’s firm has been Brevard County’s state lobbyist since October 2016, and his contract was scheduled to end on May 30. During the discussion of the issue at a County Commission meeting, Steele said there is no conflict of interest involved in Commissioners who have received political contributions from Book voting on the new contract.


Florida TaxWatch identifies risks in Rays’ stadium proposal” via Breanne Williams of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — A report from Florida TaxWatch has identified several risks in the Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium proposal in downtown St. Pete and has offered suggestions to “mitigate risk” for the city. Florida TaxWatch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog and taxpayer research institute, released “If You Build It, He Will Come: Florida TaxWatch Looks at the Tampa Bay Rays Ballpark Proposal” on April 9. The report was created following a request from St. Petersburg City Council member Lisset Hanewicz. The report examined the plan to build a $1.3 billion stadium surrounded by nearly 8 million square feet of mixed-use development. The St. Pete City Council and the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners are expected to vote on the deal in the coming months. The Council will hold its first discussion of the deal on May 9.

Lisset Hanewicz called Florida TaxWatch to give the Rays’ stadium plan a once-over.

Christine Miller raises $450K for Hillsborough County Commission race, the only candidate to hit 6 figures” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Miller has raised nearly seven times as much as any other candidate in the race for Hillsborough County Commission, District 6. Miller has raised nearly $450,000. That total includes $400,000 raised to Miller’s political committee, Friends of Christine Miller, and $49,488 added to her campaign account. “We’re very excited to have support from all across the county from those who want to see conservative, common sense, and responsible leaders on the County Commission. Hillsborough County has tremendous opportunities ahead, but we must have leaders who understand how to grow our economy, invest in our critical needs and protect people’s pocketbooks,” Miller said.

Michelin gives Tampa’s Streetlight Taco a Bib Gourmand distinction” via Helen Freund of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa restaurant Streetlight Taco on Thursday received the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand distinction, ahead of next week’s star reveal for the 2024 Florida guide. The contemporary Mexican restaurant, which opened at 4004 Henderson Blvd. in January, is an homage to chef Michael Brannock’s lifelong appreciation of Mexican culture and cuisine. Brannock partnered with Jack Murray and Nick Reader, managing partners of Michelin-starred Tampa restaurant Rocca, to open the restaurant, which has already garnered widespread accolades from Tampa diners.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

JEA CEO ‘settled the waters at a very difficult time.’ Now he’ll be replaced, Council says” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — JEA will be replacing Jay Stowe as its CEO, according to two City Council members. City Council member Rory Diamond said in a message posted on X that Stowe would be departing as CEO. Diamond said Stowe “settled the waters at a very difficult time.” “For our new CEO, we need someone who is highly competent but also understands to their core that JEA must be a positive force for our community,” Diamond said. JEA spokesperson Karen McAllister said the utility did not have any information it could share at this time but would have more information at a special Board meeting that will be on Monday.

Jay Stowe helped ‘settle the waters’ at JEA.

A Tallahassee business owner has entered the City Commission seat 1 race” via Tristan Wood of WFSU — Another person has filed to run for Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter’s seat. Business owner David Wamsley is the fifth person filed to run for Seat 1. He launched his candidacy by publicly challenging Porter during a City Commission meeting. He is a former local developer and founder of Rosebud Communications, an online advertising company that lists Los Angeles, Chicago and Tampa as its locations on its website.

Tallahassee Commissioners swap tense comments over projected 2025 city budget deficit” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — Wednesday’s City of Tallahassee budget workshop turned sour after Commissioners learned of a predicted $3.8 million deficit in the as-yet completed 2025 fiscal year budget. City Commissioners received an update at City Hall from Robert Wigen, director of Resource Management, on the budget development for the 2025 fiscal year when they heard of the shortage. Despite Wigen taking the time to explain the increases to specific line items causing the deficit, Commissioner Jeremy Matlow took the time during questions to highlight upcoming pay raises for city employees in light of the impasse on the firefighter contract negotiations. “There’s a huge pay imbalance at the City of Tallahassee, there’s a huge imbalance of what people are being compensated and what it takes to survive,” Matlow said.

Again? For the third time, another company wants to drill in Florida’s Apalachicola River flood plain” via Craig Pittman of Florida’s Voice — Every year in the Spring, there’s an event called Hands Across the Sand, where people gather on Florida’s beaches to show their opposition to offshore oil drilling. This year, the folks in the Panhandle may want to face north instead of south. That’s because the biggest threat from drilling isn’t coming from offshore. It’s coming from inland. That’s right, someone is once again pursuing a permit to look for oil in a rural part of the Florida Panhandle, specifically in the Apalachicola River basin. This is the third time some wildcatter has asked to cosplay Jed Clampett, hoping to find some a-bubblin’ crude in the wilds of North Florida. Oil, that is — Texas Tea! So far, no one has hit a gusher on purpose like the one Uncle Jed found by accident. A company with the ironic name of Clearwater Land & Minerals hopes to be the first. The name is not the only thing that’s odd about Clearwater Land & Minerals. I will get to the other, even weirder stuff in a bit.

‘We can’t go home’: Tallahassee swamped by torrential rains; ‘overwhelming’ ordeal ahead” via Elena Barrera, William L. Hatfield of Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A slow-moving but powerful storm system dumped more than 10 inches of rain on parts of Tallahassee area, flooding roadways, vehicles, homes, schools and businesses and prompting rescues of stranded people in the middle of the night. Two Florida Highway Patrol troopers suffered minor injuries after one of their patrol vehicles flipped over in standing water on Geddie Road. One of the troopers was “entrapped within the vehicle,” FHP said but was pulled out by the other trooper. There were no other immediate reports of injuries. The Leon County Sheriff’s Office and the Tallahassee Fire Department rescued several people by boat from their flooded mobile homes on Southern Bell Loop and Emily Loop, located off West Tennessee Street near the Munson Slough.

Tensions boil over in Niceville as residents try to stop a Drag Show Story Hour” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — Tensions rose at the end of Tuesday’s Niceville City Council meeting as community members raised concerns about a Drag Queen Story Hour scheduled at an upcoming Pride Festival at the Niceville Community Center in June. The community’s outrage began when various Niceville residents shared a flyer for an upcoming event called Emerald Coast Pride 2024 on Facebook earlier this week. The event is scheduled to be held at the Niceville Community Center on June 1. PFLAG Niceville, a local LGTBQ+ support group, will host the event. The day of events is advertised as a family-friendly affair, where attendees of any age can partake in games, face paintings, entertainment from a local DJ and a free pride prom.


Florida conspiracy theorists are making a bid to commandeer a prestigious hospital” via Ja’han Jones of NBC News — There’s a new Daily Beast report on attempts by conservative anti-vaxxers to win control of the medical Board that oversees the prestigious Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida. As the Beast reports, the group of contenders looking to win seats on the Board includes Mary Flynn O’Neill, sister of former Trump adviser and conspiracy theorist Michael Flynn. A victory for the conspiracy theorists would allow them to set standards for what qualifies as effective and ethical health care — a horrifying prospect. Florida is already offering a crash course in the dangers of allowing pseudoscience to drive health policy, in the policies of its Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo. And yet Florida alone doesn’t paint the full picture of the conservative movement’s assault on public health.

Mary Flynn O’Neill is an anti-vaxxer who wants to be on the Board of Sarasota Memorial.

New College President Richard Corcoran gets $200K bonus after first year” via Divya Kumar of the Tampa Bay Times — New College of Florida President Corcoran, who spearheaded a controversial remaking of the Sarasota school over the last year, received a $200,000 bonus Thursday from a majority of trustees who said he had met the goals they set for him. The money adds to Corcoran’s base salary of $699,000, a sum that made him one of the state’s highest-paid university presidents when it was awarded last year.

Sarasota City Manager to pitch new affordable housing idea” via Christian Casale of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Sarasota’s most common policy complaint likely echoes any of Florida’s booming metro areas: Affordable Housing. More than half Florida’s middle-income families are burdened by their housing costs, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. A 2023 study by the University of Florida found Sarasota County ranks fifth in the state for the highest rents, with prices increasing by 42% since July 2020. Those who cannot afford the luxury condos that dot the downtown skyline have been priced out. Sarasota City Manager Marlon Brown has been with Sarasota since 2009, first as Deputy City Manager before taking over the Department in 2021.

Cape Coral moves forward with Council pay referendum, says no to single-district voting” via Luis Zambrano of the Fort Myers News-Press — Cape Coral City Council decided not to move forward with a referendum on single-district voting but keeps the door open for possible changes to how Councilors are paid. “Being a growing city and we are all voting on issues throughout the city, single-member districts, for me, I can see that being more of a hindrance since we are growing than a benefit,” Mayor John Gunter said. During a Committee of the Whole Meeting, the Council debated the topics as the November 2024 election looms. The deadline to provide official ballot language to the Lee County Supervisor of Election’s office is Monday, July 8.


Growing Latino support for border wall, strict enforcement” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — A new poll by Axios and Noticias Telemundo found that 42% of Latin Americans support building a wall or fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. When pollsters asked the same question in December 2021, the number was 30%. That’s a significant increase as the border crisis created by President Joe Biden’s policies worsens.

It’s also a more severe action than virtually anyone is now proposing. The border is about 2,000 miles long, but some of that is physically impassable and does not need a wall. Trump proposed building a wall on about 1,000 miles. That was enough for many Democrats to unite in hysterical opposition. Now, the Latino voters polled say they would like to see a wall or fence along the entire 2,000-mile border.

In all, the poll marks a real shift in the direction of stricter border enforcement. It’s a significant change. One explanation for the change is that the context in which Latino voters consider the question has changed, too. At various times in the past, the majority of illegal border crossers came from Mexico or Central America, especially the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Now, with Biden’s virtually open border, the situation is much different. People are coming from all over the world, in large numbers, to cross illegally into the United States.

Many surveys suggest that Latino voters are moving away from Biden and toward Trump. Shifting Latino views on border security is part of that, but remember that the top issue for Latino voters, as it is for everyone else, is the economy. Put it all together, and the outlook for the President’s re-election does not look good at the moment.


The great 2024 exodus is all about Trump-era discord and dysfunction” via Frank Bruni of The New York Times — More than two dozen House Republicans, along with more than two dozen House Democrats, have headed or are headed for the exits, but the largeness of those numbers — which track with those in other election years over the past decade — don’t tell the story. What matters is who those Republicans are, the disgust in their goodbyes, their palpable sense of defeat and how it contradicts the fact that they have been in the majority in the chamber since early 2023. In power, they have found themselves close to powerless. That’s the hellish paradox of their surrender to Trump. For many of them individually, his blessing is the best or only way to maintain support among their Republican constituents back home and win election. But for the lot of them, he’s a curse, because he has contributed mightily to a degrading and dysfunctional culture on Capitol Hill.

There is no longer a truly pro-life party in the United States” via David French of The New York Times — While I always respected arguments about the personhood of the baby, I was often frustrated when critics would attribute malign motives to pro-life Americans. I’d been a part of the pro-life movement my entire adult life. But now I’m left wondering how much of the movement was truly real. How much was it really about protecting all human life? And were millions of ostensibly pro-life Americans happy with pro-life laws, only so long as they targeted “them” and imposed no burden at all on “us?” So where is the Republican pro-life consensus today? Philosophically, the movement is breaking. There is no coherent pro-life argument for why a state should prevent women who become pregnant through natural means from destroying an embryo while protecting the ability of families who create an embryo through I.V.F. to either destroy it or keep it frozen indefinitely.

Here’s the latest sign that Republicans are abandoning even their most deeply held principles” via Jonah Goldberg of the Tampa Bay Times — The changing of the conservative mind in recent years could hardly be captured more pithily than in the headline of a recent op-ed: “Why I believe in industrial policy — done right.” So opined Sen. Marco Rubio for The Washington Post and, at greater length, for National Affairs. Note that I’m not addressing the changing of the conservative heart. Calling lawfully convicted violent criminals such as the Jan. 6 rioters “hostages” speaks more to the sad and profound changes of heart on much of the right. What I’m referring to, rather, are the ideas, arguments and principles that once defined conservatism intellectually, among them rejection of the kind of government intervention in the economy that the Florida Republican now apparently favors.

Miami Dysfunction: How a judge’s ruling could finally spur change in scandal-ridden city” via the Miami Herald editorial board — A federal judge’s ruling that Miami’s district map is unconstitutional is an opportunity for a city in desperate need of a shake-up. Instead of continuing to fight for the maps and protect their own interests, Miami leaders should start from scratch. Change should go beyond redrawing the Commission districts that U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore said on Wednesday were racially gerrymandered. With two new Commissioners elected in November on a promise to clean up scandal-ridden Miami, the status quo shouldn’t be an option. Miami must consider expanding the City Commission from five to at least seven seats. That would require approval by voters to amend the city charter. A larger Commission would account for the city’s population growth — districts were created in 1997 — and allow a plurality of voices and points of view. It would also make it harder for a small majority of elected officials to control what happens in South Florida’s largest city, population 450,000.

Time for Lori Boyer to go as Downtown Investment Authority needs new leadership” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — It is time for the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) Board of Directors to conduct a national search for an experienced economic development professional with vision and a fat Rolodex that she or he can leverage to attract outside investment to Jacksonville’s insular, stagnant downtown. Enough is enough. The DIA Board does not need to cast this decision as a public and extensive indictment of the track record of its current CEO, Boyer, though there is certainly ample material to support such a case. The Board simply needs to acknowledge the facts on the ground: Just look at downtown, for Pete’s sake.



ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell; ABC Action News political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus; News Radio WFLA host Ryan Gorman; artificial intelligence expert Tim Dickey.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida and other issues affecting the region.

In Focus with Allison Walker on Bay News 9/CF 13: A discussion of new laws focusing on growing Florida’s health care workforce and expanding access to care and the potential benefits Floridians can expect to see. Joining Walker are Sen. Colleen Burton; David Mica Jr., executive vice president of Public Affairs for the Florida Hospital Association; and Pam Nabors, president and CEO of CareerSource Central Florida.

Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete and Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: The weekly Sunday show is launching as a joint weeknight show airing Monday through Friday at 7 p.m.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon speaks with attorney Sean Pittman and Rep. Gallup Franklin.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz, Jacksonville City Council member Rahman Johnson, and Jacksonville University SVP, external affairs Scott Bacon.

— ALOE —

Citrus harvest projection has Florida growers optimistic” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — The citrus crop harvest projection shows a drop in some production this year. But the citrus industry is generally upbeat. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) citrus harvest outlook shows a fairly stable industry. The projection calls for citrus growers to harvest about 18.8 million boxes of oranges in the 2023-24 harvest season in Florida alone. Another 2 million boxes of grapefruit will likely be harvested in Florida, and 500,000 boxes of tangerines and tangelos are projected to be plucked from trees. Florida Citrus Mutual officials acknowledged that the harvest will be down from the previous year. But representatives of the citrus farming advocacy organization say they’re bullish on the industry.

Hope springs eternal for Florida’s citrus crops.

Simply Healthcare partners with ‘Count the Kicks’ to save lives, transform birth outcomes” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — A mom from Valrico, Florida, credits ‘Count the Kicks’ with helping her daughter, Ashlyn, have a safe arrival. Count the Kicks is a stillbirth prevention program that has extended its reach in Florida through funding provided by Simply Healthcare Foundation to educate expectant parents on the importance of tracking fetal movement starting at 28 weeks of pregnancy. Right after her 20-week sonogram, Amanda Corso was diagnosed with antibody C, which causes fetal anemia. She happened to see a post about Count the Kicks on Facebook earlier in her pregnancy and began using the Count the Kicks app in her third trimester. Amanda was 37 weeks along in her pregnancy when she noticed that her daughters’ fetal movements deviated from her previous patterns.

Universal Orlando shows off new hotels opening soon outside Epic Universe” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Two new hotels outside Epic Universe are opening in early 2025 with 10,000-square-foot pools and sleek, modern lobbies, per an announcement video from Universal showing off the resorts’ amenities. Universal Stella Nova Resort is set to open on Jan. 21, with Universal Terra Luna Resort coming on Feb. 25. The solar system-themed hotels contain 750 rooms each. Both have 10,000-square-foot pools with a hot tub and fire pit to host outdoor movies or games. The two hotels feature fitness centers and game rooms, and each has 1,000 square feet of multipurpose space for small gatherings. Universe described the hotels as “luminous” and “ultramodern” at an affordable price.


Best wishes to our dear friend Fred Piccolo, as well as Rep. Jessica Baker, Chris Chaney of The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners, Capital City Consulting’s Jared Rosenstein, Equality Florida’s Joe Saunders, Joe Sprowls, and Trey Stapleton.


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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