Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.18.24

Sunburn Orange Tally (5)
Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Good Thursday morning.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign has released its third ad as part of an ongoing multimillion-dollar Hispanic ad buy.

The new ad, “Socialismo,” is running on TV in multiple markets and across multiple digital platforms as part of the seven-figure buy.

The ad asserts that President Joe Biden and the Democrats — including his opponent former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell — are pushing the United States toward socialism while turning “a blind eye to dangerous dictators in our hemisphere.”

“Let’s talk straight. Every country that goes socialist destroys freedom and makes people poor. And President Biden is moving America toward socialism,” Scott says in the ad.

“Everything, food, health care, housing, it all costs more, which leaves you with less. That’s the way of socialism; the government gets stronger and the people get weaker.”

Scott’s campaign said the incumbent “remains committed to standing with every Floridian who wants a freer and more prosperous future, and continues to fight every day against the Democrats’ radical socialist agenda so every American, regardless of their background, can have the chance at the dream of this county.”

To watch the ad, please click the image below:


According to Florida TaxWatch, today is a day of symbolic weight for Floridians who are chafing under the burden of taxation.

The watchdog group proclaimed April 18 as this year’s “Taxpayer Independence Day,” the date after which Floridians stop working to pay their taxes and start working for themselves. The date assumes, of course, that every dollar Floridians earned since the start of the year has been used to pay local, state and federal taxes.

Based on the relative size of all taxes paid in Florida to the state’s total personal income, it took taxpayers an average of 107 days to pay their taxes this year, which is one day longer than in 2023.

Florida KidCare drops thousands of children from its rolls.

According to FTW, the date marking taxpayer independence has fluctuated over the past 25 years, but it has remained within the 20-day time frame of April 6-26. In fact, Florida TaxWatch points out that Florida Taxpayer Independence Day 2024 falls on the same day it did in 2002.

“Florida TaxWatch observes Florida Taxpayer Independence Day 2024 on April 18 and celebrates the average Florida taxpayer earning enough to pay their taxes for the year. It should also be noted that because Florida’s state and local tax burden is relatively low, tax independence likely comes earlier for Floridians than the average American, thanks in part to our legislative leaders’ prudent decision-making and sound fiscal policies,” said FTW acting President & CEO Jeff Kottkamp.


Tweet, tweet:


@BarackObama: Bob Graham was a friend and a consummate public servant. As a Governor, Senator, and legislator, he spent decades fighting for the people of Florida. He was also a champion of the environment, which is why, after the BP oil spill, I asked Bob to co-Chair a Commission tasked with preventing a disaster of that magnitude from ever happening again. Michelle and I are thinking of Bob’s family today and everyone who knew and loved him.

@GovRonDeSantis: Florida mourns the loss of former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham today. He was a devoted public servant who, among other important work, made enormous achievements in conserving Florida’s natural resources. We are grateful for his service to our state and nation. May he rest in peace.

@Kathleeen4SWFL: So much of modern Florida is a credit to the legacy of Governor Graham. His commitment to stewardship of our environment and natural resources and respect for the dignity of work always stood out to me. He was loved by so many. My prayers are with his family on this sad day.

@SShawFL: There are generations of Floridians who don’t know who Bob Graham was. And that is the problem.

@DanGelber: I loved that he was an unapologetic wonk, but also empathetic, inquisitive and entirely original. How lucky were we to have Bob Graham dedicate an entire lifetime of remarkable service to our State? There will not be another like him. He was Mr. Florida and will be missed.

@MarcACaputo: Al Gore’s decision in 2000 to make CT Sen Joe Lieberman his running mate instead of FL favorite son, Sen. Bob Graham, ultimately altered the course of history when (George W.) Bush won Florida — and therefore the White House — by 537 votes

Tweet, tweet:


@NateMonroeTU: the next public school to close could be that cute little elementary school in your leafy neighborhood, or the high school you went to, and just try remembering who didn’t give two shits about that when it happens


Florida Housing Summit ‘Blueprint for Better Outcomes’ begins — 13; Kentucky Derby — 16; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 22; ‘The Blue Angels,’ a feature documentary from J.J. Abrams opens in IMAX theaters — 29; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 30; French Open begins — 32; Special Election to replace Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill — 33; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 34; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 34; Monaco Grand Prix — 38; the 2024 World Cup begins — 54; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 59; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 72; Republican National Convention begins — 88; the 2024 World Cup ends — 91; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 96; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 98; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 117; Florida Primary Election — 124; Democratic National Convention begins — 124; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 128; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 141; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 141; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 183; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 186; 2024 Presidential Election — 201; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 214; MLS Cup 2024 — 229; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 299; the 2025 Oscars — 318; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 320; 2025 Session ends — 380; ‘Moana’ premieres — 430; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 461; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 463; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 568; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 610; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 747; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 763; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 974; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,114; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,073; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,795.


More than 22K children dropped from Florida KidCare in 2024 as state challenges federal eligibility protections” via Christina Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — State data shows that 6,780 children were disenrolled from the Florida KidCare program on Jan. 1, which, according to the federal government, is when a 12-month eligibility requirement went into effect for children enrolled in the Medicaid or the state children’s health insurance program (CHIP), which in Florida is called Florida KidCare.

That was followed by another 5,147 children in February, 5,097 children in March, and another 5,552 in April.

Florida KidCare drops thousands of children from its rolls.

“Florida, as it stands is the only state who is challenging this new protection and Florida is the only state that we know of that is violating the new protection as we speak,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families and a Research Professor at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy. “ This is a brazen disregard for federal law that is designed to protect children from becoming uninsured. It’s discouraging to see this and Florida clearly is doubling down.”

The 12-month continuous eligibility requirement was included in the 2023 federal budget. The Biden administration flagged the change in a September 2023 State Health Official letter that was sent nationwide and an October 2023 “Frequently Asked Questions” follow-up document further explaining the policy change and enforcement.

The Ron DeSantis administration three months later, however, filed suit in federal court asking a judge to block the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing the 12-month continuous eligibility requirement and acting against states that don’t abide by the mandate.


Bob Graham, former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator, dies at 87” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Graham, who ushered in the state’s era of school-competency testing, crafted the foundation for its modern environmental policies and grappled with the mass influx of Cubans fleeing across the Straits of Florida in the early 1980s, died Tuesday night. He was 87. Graham left his fingerprints throughout the state over his more than four decades in Florida politics, during which he became known for his pragmatic, centrist approach. As Governor, his 1983 “Save Our Everglades” restoration program served as the foundation for four decades of state and federal efforts to bring back and preserve the natural flow of the River of Grass.

Bob Graham is remembered as a great Floridian. Image via Jack Levine, 4Generations Institute.

—“The great debate of ’98” via David Johnson for Florida Politics

—”Readers share their Graham memories and moments” via Jim Rosica of the Tallahassee Democrat

Capitol makeover moves Gov. Ron DeSantis administration to temporary digs” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Amid ongoing renovations to the Capitol, employees of DeSantis’ Office have moved out of their offices there to a spot near the Governor’s Mansion until the work is completed. The move took place two weeks ago. The renovations on the Governor’s wing of the Plaza Level, the entrance floor of the Capitol, aren’t expected to be completed until the end of the year, a DeSantis spokesperson confirmed. At the latest, employees will return before the start of the next Regular Session, which begins March 4, 2025. Employees in Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Department of Legal Affairs, who occupy the same side of the Plaza Level, have also been temporarily displaced.

A continued remodel is causing a shift in offices.

Americans for Prosperity recognizes state leaders for Session efforts — Floridians will receive thank-you flyers in their mailboxes this week from Americans for Prosperity-Florida, applauding a number of Florida lawmakers for their work this past Legislative Session. The commendations cover an array of legislative accomplishments favored by AFP, including stopping a costly automatic Cost of Living Adjustment for state workers, expediting the processing to secure building permits, and advancing efforts to minimize government waste. AFP-FL is celebrating what it considers a successful Legislative Session, crediting many of the state’s leaders for legislation focused on removing barriers to individual achievement and ensuring that Florida remains the best state to live, work, and play.

FDACS inspectors find nearly 200,000 hemp products targeting kids in search” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — State inspectors discovered nearly 200,000 hemp products illegally being marketed to children, with the state intervening to keep them off the shelves, said Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Commissioner Wilton Simpson. The Department released photographs of the merchandise showing brightly colored products looking like candy that had been found at High Roller Private Label in Hollywood. “The discovery of over 186,000 packages of hemp products targeting children serves as a stark reminder of the importance of protecting the safety and well-being of our communities — especially from euphoric, high-potency hemp products that can pose serious health risks when ingested by children,” Simpson said.

Florida boasts three cities on list of best places to live in U.S., Ybor City near top” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Three Florida cities made the list of Top 50 best places to live in the U.S., but none of Florida’s major municipalities made the cut. compiled the list, which saw two Florida cities end up in the Top 10. Tampa’s Ybor City district and Babcock Ranch in Charlotte County both finished in the top tier. used factors such as local economy, affordability, diversity and quality of life to compile the list. Ybor City in Tampa came in second on the list of best places to live, only behind Metuchen, New Jersey. Ybor City, only a short distance from Tampa Bay, was described as “the cultural epicenter of one of America’s hottest cities.”

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

DeSantis slams marijuana amendment again, warns of ‘toking up’ near schools” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — DeSantis continues to deride a measure legalizing recreational marijuana, raising the specter of users smoking near K-12 schools. “That would be put in the constitution. So, someone walking by an elementary school just sitting there toking up that’s somehow OK?” DeSantis told reporters at an event in Miami. “How is that good for the state of Florida?” The measure, which will appear on the ballot as Amendment 3, would legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes by those over 21. It would also grant licensed medical marijuana treatment centers the ability to “acquire, cultivate, process, manufacture, sell, and distribute” marijuana and related products for such use. The amendment also notes that it doesn’t change federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug that is illegal.

Ron DeSantis warns that the marijuana amendment will allow ‘toking near schools.’

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell takes aim at Rick Scott’s changing abortion views” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Last week, U.S. Sen. Scott said he would have signed Florida’s six-week abortion ban if he still were Governor. This week, he said he preferred a 15-week ban. And on Monday, within hours, he and his office gave two answers on whether he would consider voting for a federal abortion ban. Former U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell, Scott’s likely Democratic opponent in the November election, has been calling out his shifting positions, trying to give her Senate campaign traction against him. “He’s hiding from a toxic record that he knows he cannot win on,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “He lies about his record time and time again because he knows that the majority of Floridians in this state know who he is, and they don’t want him back in the Senate.”


DeSantis urges reporters to ask Donald Trump where he stands on Florida abortion rights initiative” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Asked about whether he wanted to see former Trump “get involved” in the fight to stop a constitutional amendment that would roll back Florida abortion law from a looming ban on the procedure after the sixth week of gestation via 2023’s Heartbeat Protection Act, DeSantis was terse about his one-time rival’s potential impact on the Amendment 4 fight. “You should ask him about that,” DeSantis told a reporter Wednesday at the Hialeah Gardens Museum. “President Trump supports preserving life but has also made clear that he supports states’ rights because he supports the voters’ right to make decisions for themselves,” went a spokesperson’s statement reported by the Bulwark’s Marc Caputo.

DeSantis wants reporters to press Donald Trump on his evolving position on abortion. Image via AP.


Daniel Webster outraises Anthony Sabatini nearly 6-to-1 in Q1” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Sabatini, a former state lawmaker challenging U.S. Rep. Webster in a GOP Primary, collected just over $17,000 in contributions during the first quarter of 2024. That’s more than $100,000 short of what the incumbent raised during the same time. The bottom line: Webster wrapped the first quarter of 2021 with almost $599,000 in cash on hand to defend Florida’s 11th Congressional District. Sabatini has about $128,000, but that now includes a full $30,000 in loans. The difference appears more significant considering Sabatini has spent upward of $201,000 on the seat, including about $72,000 in the first three months of 2024. He has reported more than $294,000 in donations since launching his campaign.

Daniel Webster is taking charge in fundraising his re-election campaign.

Ben Diamond won’t run for CD 13 seat, endorses Whitney Fox” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Former state Rep. Diamond is endorsing Fox in her bid for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, putting to bed any remaining speculation that he may still enter the race himself. In his endorsement, Diamond offered a nod to Fox’s ability to attract bipartisan support. “I am thrilled to endorse my friend Whitney Fox for Congress. Whitney embodies the spirit of public service and dedication that we desperately need in Washington. I know Whitney will work across the aisle to find solutions that benefit all Floridians, particularly in preparing our state for the impacts of climate change, expanding access to health care, and investing in better-paying jobs and infrastructure that are vital to our economy,” Diamond said.

Mike Davey leads Dem Primary field, trails GOP incumbent in Q1 fundraising for CD 27” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — In its first five weeks, Democratic Key Biscayne Mayor Davey’s campaign for Florida’s 27th Congressional District raised more than double what his lone Primary opponent collected in three months. Davey still placed second overall in first quarter gains behind Republican U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, whom he hopes to unseat this November. Between Feb. 21, when he launched his CD 27 bid, and March 31, Davey amassed $314,000. That included a $100,000 self-loan and $13,200 he donated to his campaign. Davey collected around 185 personal checks ranging from $10 to $3,300. The average amount was $1,157. He took no corporate or political contributions.

‘An incredible advocate’: Debra Tendrich adds 17 more endorsers to HD 89 bid” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Nonprofit executive Tendrich’s campaign to take the open House District 89 seat representing an inland portion of Palm Beach County now has the backing of 17 more elected and community leaders. Atop the list are Kissimmee Sen. Vic Torres, Orlando Rep. Anna Eskamani and Wellington Rep. Katherine Waldron. All are fellow Democrats. “I’m so excited to endorse my friend, Debra Tendrich,” Eskamani said. “Not only is she an incredible advocate for public education, but she cares about the cost of living and wants to make it easier for every Floridian to reach their fullest potential.”

‘Up to the task’: AFSCME Florida endorses James Reyes for Miami-Dade Sheriff” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Reyes’ campaign for Sheriff now carries an endorsement from a union representing thousands of government workers across the state. Florida’s chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) endorsed Reyes, citing his “proven track record of not just supporting and collaborating with labor, but his unwavering advocacy for his staff and workers.” “Miami-Dade County’s new Sheriff’s Office will employ and oversee a large number of AFSCME members. That’s why this election is crucial for us,” AFSCME Local 199 President Se’Adoreia “CeeCee” Brown said in a statement.

Sam Stern outraises crowded field for State Attorney in Q1, is looking for a red boost in blue Palm Beach County” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Stern raised more than $116,000 in the first quarter of 2024, which spans January through March. And he did so after entering the race more than a month into the period. It’s more than any of the other six candidates in the race. Stern’s fundraising includes more than $51,000 for his campaign and another $65,000 raised for his political committee, Stern PC. His campaign spent just $5,931, while his committee only spent $36. Combined with a $25,000 candidate loan to his campaign, Stern has about $135,000 on hand to spend. While he outraised the entire field in the first quarter, Stern’s cash on hand is still slightly less than the top-funded Democrat in the race, Alexcia Cox. Cox has about $163,000 available between her campaign and political committee, Friends of Alexcia Cox.

Sam Stern outraises the entire field, in his effort to turn Palm Beach County red.

Michael Barnett laps challenger in Q1 fundraising for Palm Beach Commission” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Palm Beach County Commissioner Barnett added $80,000 to his campaign coffers in the first quarter of 2024 — more than twice as much as his lone challenger. Barnett, a Republican lawyer and former Palm Beach GOP Chair whom DeSantis appointed to the County Commission in January 2023, collected $27,000 through his campaign account and $53,500 through his political committee. His largest donation came from Lewis Stahl, a medical tech and real estate executive who in 2018 pleaded guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. He was released after just eight months during the first COVID-19 wave and, roughly two years later, rejoined the Broward Sheriff’s Advisory Council as Vice Chair.

Alexcia Cox campaign for State Attorney nets Fraternal Order of Police endorsement” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Cox’s campaign for Palm Beach County State Attorney now carries support from a police organization representing 24,000 law enforcement officers. The Florida Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is endorsing Cox, Deputy Chief Assistant at the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office, who is running to be the first woman and first African American to serve as the county’s top prosecutor. “As we approach the 2024 elections, we are aware that strong leaders are needed to lead Florida to a prosperous and safe future,” Florida FOP President Steve Zona said in a statement. “We need leaders that are dedicated to serving their constituents and protecting the citizens in their community. Alexcia Cox is the choice of the men and women in FOP District 4.”

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Miami Wilds sues, accusing Daniella Levine Cava of caving to please conservation voters” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Political decisions by a Mayor seeking re-election killed the Miami Wilds water park, developers said in court filings as they seek damages from Miami-Dade County over the scuttled venture on the Zoo Miami campus. “Mayor Cava made a political decision to kill the Development Agreement and appease some of the political activists who make up her base,” Miami Wilds said in court filings. The filing is the first time Miami Wilds has tried to assign motives for Levine Cava switching positions last year on the long-standing plan to let private developers build a water park on existing zoo parking lots in South Miami-Dade. Asked about the Miami Wilds claims after a County Commission meeting, Levine Cava responded: “That’s ridiculous.”

Daniella Levine Cava is accused of currying favor with conservation voters.

Religious leaders draw up a plan to combat rising rents in Miami-Dade. The Mayor signs on” via Lauren Costantino of the Miami Herald — After hearing from members of an influential religious group about the difficulties of finding affordable housing in South Florida, Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava endorsed a program to subsidize loans for property owners willing to rent efficiencies to low-income tenants as well a series of other steps aimed at addressing skyrocketing rents. The proposals were laid out by People Acting for Community Together, or PACT, a nonprofit interfaith group made up of some 40 churches, synagogues and mosques in Miami-Dade that each year presses public officials to embrace their plans for dealing with some of Miami’s most urgent social problems. Levine Cava was just one of the political leaders at an assembly at Barry University.

Coral Gables Mayor wants forensic audit to prove city isn’t a ‘cesspool’ of corruption” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — Coral Gables officials plan to conduct a “full forensic audit” after a partially completed review of city Amazon purchases became a vehicle for airing political grievances amid an ongoing recall effort for the Mayor. During a discussion about hiring a new City Manager earlier this year, Commissioner Kirk Menendez made a bombshell claim, saying the city is “adrift in a cesspool of public corruption.” But Mayor Vince Lago said a partial audit of employee Amazon charges on city-issued purchase cards, or p-cards, was vindication for the City Beautiful. “Well, the cesspool of corruption ends today,” Lago said. “You want to know why? Because the p-cards were found to not have any issues here.”

How will Broward’s new Superintendent deal with school closures, financial crisis?” via Jimena Tavel of the Miami Herald — Broward County Public Schools got a new Superintendent after Peter Licata unexpectedly announced his resignation due to health concerns, and now his successor has inherited all the many issues faced by the sixth largest school district in the country. What are these challenges exactly and how will Howard Hepburn, the new head administrator, tackle them? His first few hours on the dais may have shed some light on that. The main problem in the Broward School District remains the loss of millions of dollars because of shrinking student enrollment. The district’s chief financial officer, Judith Marte, said the loss of 4,300 students over the next school year has translated to a loss of $39 million in state funding.

Broward audit criticizes heart test pilot program; new sales tax shelved for now” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A review of Broward County’s pilot program that has already invested millions of taxpayer dollars into cardiac testing isn’t a universally-accepted test, has no verification that the people benefiting from it live in Broward, and doesn’t have adequate documentation for some expenses, according to a new audit. The audit, delivered to County Commissioners, was conducted at the behest of County Mayor Nan Rich, who had already publicly shared her disagreement with a proposal to charge residents and visitors a new sales tax to pay for the free-to-the-patient cardiac testing. The tests cost taxpayers $1,444 each, according to the audit.

Broward Public Schools will pay debt with charter schools. But state will still monitor” via Jimena Tavel and Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — The Broward County School Board approved a payment plan to settle a debt estimated at about $80 million with local charter schools. But that wasn’t enough to get state officials’ watchful eyes away from them. After meeting in private for about an hour, the School Board publicly endorsed a three-year payment plan that will start this Summer. The School District will pay one-third of the debt plus interest on July 10, 2024, then one-half the remaining balance plus interest on July 10, 2025, and the full balance remaining with interest on July 10, 2026. All charter schools in the county will benefit.

Florida officials optimistic over Broward deal to pay back charter schools” via Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO — Broward County Public Schools agreed to pay back an estimated $80 million to dozens of charter schools over the next three years through a plan that appears to have eased some of the state scrutiny facing the district. While the state Board of Education was scheduled to consider punishing Broward on Wednesday, the issue was put off until July when the first payment is scheduled. “I give you our complete assurance that we will continue to monitor this,” Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. told the state Board Wednesday during a meeting in Tallahassee. Breaking it down: Florida’s second-largest school district has been facing heat from the state in recent weeks over a 2018 tax referendum, passed by local voters to bolster school safety and teacher pay on the heels of the deadly mass shooting at a Parkland high school.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Seven candidates qualify in Orlando City Commission Special Election” via Spectrum News — Seven candidates have qualified for next month’s District 5 Special Election to fill suspended Commissioner Hill’s seat. Tuesday was the last day for them to qualify. The official candidates who met the filing deadline are Travaris McCurdy, Cameron Hope, Shan Rose, Lawanna Gelzer, Ericka Dunlap, Tiakeysha Ellison and Miles Mulrain. Voters will cast their ballots on May 21. The race comes after DeSantis announced he was issuing an executive order to suspend embattled Orlando city Commissioner Hill from office in early April after she was arrested and charged with exploitation and fraud involving a 96-year-old woman.

Deltona names its latest City Manager after a string of short-term hires” via Colleen Michele Jones of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — In a unanimous vote, the Deltona City Commission approved the selection of Dale “Doc” Dougherty to the City Manager post pending final agreement of a contract. The action was taken following a robust discussion among Commissioners and a public comment period debating whether the city should consider extending its search for the position. Of five finalists for the job, three dropped out before a special meeting held Saturday. The remaining two candidates were interviewed by City Commissioners in that meeting. One candidate withdrew due to health-related issues but it was not clear why the other two rescinded their applications.

Dale “Doc” Dougherty has been tapped as Deltona’s new City Manager.

Gun-buy waiting period eliminated in Volusia County despite plea from Deltona Commissioner” via Sheldon Gardner of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Despite another appeal from a Deltona City Commissioner, Volusia County Council members swiftly and unanimously decided to reopen a loophole that allows private gun sales on public property to be made without a background check or waiting period. Volusia County Code required people who sold guns at the county fairgrounds and other public property to conduct a background check and wait three days between sale and delivery. Licensed dealers already have to conduct background checks and wait three days to deliver the firearms that they sell. District 3 Council member Danny Robins proposed the change. He owns an online sporting goods store, Halifax Supply, that sells guns to dealers online and is federally licensed.

National Jewish group condemns hate speech at Melbourne Council meeting” via Eric Rogers of Florida Today — A national Jewish advocacy group called out Melbourne Mayor Paul Alfrey on social media after video showed members of an anti-Jewish hate group speaking during a recent City Council meeting. StopAntisemitism, a “grassroots watchdog organization” dedicated to combating anti-Jewish hatred, according to the group’s website, made the post on X after a clip of one of the men speaking during the public comment portion of the April 9 meeting circulated online. The 43-second video shows a man, identified as a member of the Goyim Defense League — an antisemitic hate group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center — making anti-Jewish remarks and decrying countries that criminalize “question(ing) the Holocaust,” according to the video.

Volusia Sheriff’s sergeant demotes self, then quits after pornographic video investigation” via Patricio G. Balona of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — A Volusia County Sheriff’s sergeant who had his shift patrol deputies search for online porn during a briefing demoted himself to deputy before being interviewed in an Internal Affairs investigation, and ultimately resigned. According to an internal affairs report, in November, Deputy Kaelin Darcy, who attended a shift briefing, reported that Sgt. Robert Mitchell made inappropriate comments during a briefing, and later at breakfast at a DeLand restaurant. The deputy reported that Mitchell “actively participated and engaged in a discussion about a pornographic video with his shift,” according to the report. “The gossip consisted of Sergeant Mitchell inquiring about a former law enforcement officer’s OnlyFans account and asking for the link to be shared with him,” the report states.


Whitney Fox outraises Primary opponents, CD 13 incumbent Anna Paulina Luna” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Fox has outraised her Democratic opponents in Florida’s 13th Congressional District to date, and has topped Luna for the second consecutive quarter. Fox, the former Communications Director for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, has raised more than $420,000 since launching her campaign last year, including more than $218,000 in the first quarter of 2024, which spans January through March. Luna came just shy of Fox’s total, with more than $176,000 raised. Fox entered the race in the fourth quarter of 2023, which spans October through December, and outraised Luna then, too.

Whitney Fox is posting solid fundraising. Image via Fox campaign.

Democrat touts DeSantis’ praise in state House run” via Yacob Reyes of Axios — Ashley Brundage wants to become Florida’s first transgender elected official — and she thinks a glowing letter from DeSantis might help her get there. It’s a sign that Florida Democrats are looking outside their base to win over voters in a state that’s turned increasingly red in recent cycles. Brundage is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Tampa Rep. Karen Gonzalez Pittman. In 2022, she received a letter from DeSantis congratulating her on winning the “Spirit of the Community Award.” She believes the letter, which lauds her “dedication and hard work,” sets her apart from other Democrats and could help her win over independents.

Mike Prendergast takes wide money lead in Citrus County Sheriff race” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — If dollars equal votes, then Prendergast is set to win in a landslide. The two-term Citrus County Sheriff, facing a Republican Primary with three challengers, has collected $184,707 in his campaign account. His three competitors added a combined total of $80,000. And, with five months until the Primary, Prendergast has spent $2,125 — just over 1% — mostly to his campaign consultant. A third of the incumbent’s 376 donations are the $1,000 maximum. Of his total donors, about a third are from businesses.

Hillsborough Commissioners come together on halfpenny sales tax” via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times — The next version of Hillsborough’s halfpenny sales tax to pay for projects countywide is one step closer to being on the November ballot for voters to decide. The Hillsborough County Commission voted earlier this month on a referendum asking residents if they want to renew the soon-to-sunset 30-year Community Investment Tax, which paid for Raymond James Stadium in the 1990s and billions in projects from fire stations to roads. In a bipartisan compromise, Commissioners had decided that the next version of the tax would last 15 years ― with Democrats wanting it longer and Republicans shorter.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Okaloosa County Commissioner Mel Ponder won’t seek re-election in 2024” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — At the end of Tuesday’s Okaloosa County Commission meeting, District 5 Commissioner Ponder told those in attendance that he would not run for re-election this November. Ponder gained the seat during the 2020 general election and has a political career that spans nearly 14 years, entering the political area first as a member of the Destin City Council before serving a two-year term as Destin’s Mayor. Ponder won the seat once held by now-U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz in the Florida House of Representatives in 2016 before returning to Okaloosa County in 2020. “It has been a great and tremendous honor for me, my wife and my family, and I hope that in time, I’ve been able to serve the community honorably and effectively, preserving our values and culture in Northwest Florida,” said Ponder.

Mel Ponder has had enough. No re-election for him.

Witnesses accuse Florida Sheriff Scotty Rhoden of intimidating opponent’s supporters” via Susan Clark Armstrong of the Florida Trident — The old C & R Grocery store on a remote stretch of U.S. Highway 90 in the tiny town of Glen St. Mary has long been abandoned, but that didn’t stop Baker County Sheriff’s deputies from setting up a speed post there on Feb. 10. As it happened, the deputies were there at precisely the same time J.D. Carpenter was holding his campaign kickoff at his remote farm just one dirt road west of the defunct store. Carpenter is running against the deputies’ boss, Rhoden, in the Republican Primary this coming August. Attendees said they also watched as Sheriff’s Lt. Gerald Ray Rhoden, the Sheriff’s brother, drove by Carpenter’s farmhouse at least three times during the event.

St. Johns County sets sights on buying coastal utility service” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — St. Johns County is in the process of acquiring its seventh utility service since 2005, and sights are set on a coastal community area that might be small, but is a popular destination for visitors to the hot spot for tourists. North Beach Utilities Inc. services about 1,400 customers in the stretch of beachfront communities to the north of St. Augustine. The St. Johns County Commission unanimously agreed recently that the St. Johns County Utility District should follow through in an acquisition project. The area of South Ponte Vedra Beach and Vilano Beach is the stretch of coastal communities serviced by the utility. It’s across a bridge and just north of St. Augustine and straddles the popular State Road A1A.

‘Like no other place in Jacksonville’: Community concerned after Sun-Ray Cinema announces sale, possible closure” via Marilyn Parker of News4Jax — The 5 Points Theater on Park Street could face closure because its landlord is looking to sell the property to a Georgia-based company, which has not extended a new lease to the cinema. It’s not clear when its current lease expires. “The sale isn’t complete, but we’ve not received any offers to continue our lease once the building is purchased,” the post reads. “We had one meeting with the potential buyers from Atlanta back in January and never heard from them again.” The cinema said its attempts to purchase the theater portion of the building were also turned down.


Retired ER doctor, critic of Sarasota Memorial COVID-19 response, runs for Hospital Board” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Dr. Stephen Guffanti, the retired emergency room physician whose complaints about his treatment at Sarasota Memorial Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic helped spur the local “health freedom” movement in protest, has filed to run for at large Seat 2 on the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board. Guffanti’s protestations about the treatment he received — as well as the treatment administered to his roommate while being treated for COVID-19 — galvanized many of the participants in the 2022 health freedom movement that has shaken the award-winning hospital system and its policymaking Board over the last year and a half. That movement resulted in the 2022 Election of three of four “health freedom slate” candidates to the Board.

A critic of the Sarasota Memorial COVID-19 response is running for the Hospital Board.

Sarasota Bradenton International Airport wants to expand, but FAA finds a big issue” via James A. Jones Jr. of the Bradenton Herald — Federal government officials may have thrown a wrench into Sarasota Bradenton International Airport’s long-term expansion plans. In a recent letter to airport leaders, the Federal Aviation Administration said it does not approve of a sale agreement between SRQ and New College. Under the agreement, the airport authority would have sold nearly 31 acres of airport property that the neighboring college leases. The airport authority would also have reclaimed 3.88 acres of leased land north of General Spaatz Boulevard that it needs as a buffer for a possible future concourse. All of the property is east of U.S. 41 and north and south of General Spaatz Boulevard.

Sarasota School Board approves agreement with AI-powered writing program, new positions” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — At a matinee meeting of the Sarasota School Board, the Board approved various new and revised job descriptions in addition to a new collaboration with an artificial intelligence-powered education program to improve writing skills. The district approved seven new and revised job descriptions ranging from Exceptional Student Education administrative positions to construction project managers, of which the district’s Superintendent Terry Connor called some new roles “pivotal.” The Board also approved an agreement with PackBack, a computer-based program that uses AI to help students improve their writing and critical thinking skills while also aiding instructors in grading and coaching. “We have to embrace technology, and artificial intelligence is alive and well and is coming fast and furious,” Connor said.

Madison Cawthorn, former GOP Congressman, accused of rear-ending FHP car in Collier County” via Mark Harper of the Naples Daily News — Disgraced former Congressman Cawthorn has been accused of tailgating a vehicle and rear-ending a Florida Highway Patrol car in Collier County, according to a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. Long before his congressional rise and fall, he was involved in a far more serious accident that left him partially paralyzed. Cawthorn was a passenger in a crash on Interstate 4 near DeLand. Lt. Gregory Bueno, a Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson, confirmed in an email that a 2021 Mercedes rear-ended a patrol car, a Dodge Charger, at 4:30 p.m. on Interstate 75 in Collier County.


Bob Graham’s legacy and its lessons for today” via A.G. Gancarski of — Graham was arguably the last of the great Governors of the state, one who could talk to “old Florida” and “real Floridians” in a way “Walkin’ Lawton” Chiles also understood how to do, and in a way his successors have seemed less interested in doing.

This is a new Florida — one increasingly shaped by the manias of the current age, filled with so-called “COVID refugees” and others coursing in by the millions to see if the state lives up to the billing on Fox News opinion shows.

It’s not Bob Graham’s Florida anymore.

As a Governor and a Senator, and beyond, he was willing to question the orthodoxies of the day.

The best example of that — or at least the most popularly accessible — was his staunch opposition to the Iraq War in 2003, a time when the media and the political establishment were clamoring for that fateful commitment.

Time and experience proved him right. Far from having liberated Iraq, America poured trillions of dollars into the region, only to end up seeing Iraq aligned with Iran — a surreal outcome for those who remember the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

After leaving the Senate and while pushing 80 years old, Graham pushed then-President Barack Obama for disclosure of the so-called “28 pages” that detailed Saudi links to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He had pushed for the release of the material while in the Senate, a move rebuffed by colleagues and by then-President George W. Bush, who said releasing the material would “make it harder” to “win the war on terror.”

“Eventually, all of this information is going to come out anyway. It’s just a question of when,” Graham told me in 2016, shortly before the material was declassified. He was blunt, saying that Bush had already stained his legacy, and Obama — though “late” in giving the American people a little more truth about one of the most fateful times in our history — at least was in a position to achieve 11th-hour redemption.

But it’s not just the big-picture stuff that made Graham great.

It was the little things that didn’t make headlines as well.


Florida vacation rental murder highlights danger of ‘massive, unregulated’ industry: lawyer” via Chris Eberhart of Fox News — Jeremiah Brown was 22 in July 2022, when he, his girlfriend and her children took a celebratory vacation from California to Central Florida, where they stayed at the sprawling rental community called ChampionsGate. Unbeknown to them, violent criminals actively targeted the rental properties for months. Two days into Brown’s trip, he was fatally shot in the rib during a carjacking and thrown from his car, according to a police report. The suspects, later identified as Tyrell Johnson and Jimmy Robinson III, slipped past security through a broken gate and entered the property through an exit lane, according to a police report.

The Kamala Harris moment has arrived” via Charles M. Blow of The New York Times — Harris is moving into another moment when the political stars are aligned for her as the perfect messenger on a subject that has fixed Americans’ attention and is central in the 2024 presidential campaign: reproductive rights. Criticisms of Harris have been relentless, ranging from legitimate challenges to her policy statements to ridiculous commentary about her laugh. Much of it has seemed tinged with gender bias. The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and Republicans’ lust to enact increasingly regressive policies to restrict reproductive rights in states across the country have made Harris’s voice an essential one in the campaign. In December, Harris announced her nationwide Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour.

Why Joe Biden should not debate Trump” via David Frum of The Atlantic — A consortium of television networks yesterday released a joint statement inviting Biden and Trump to debate on their platforms. Biden’s spokesperson should answer like this: “The Constitution is not debatable. The President does not participate in forums with a person under criminal indictment for his attempt to overthrow the Constitution.” In their letter of invitation, the networks refer to presidential debates as a “competition of ideas.” But one of the two men they’re inviting turned the last election into a competition of violence: Trump tried to seize the presidency by force in 2021.

Robert McClure: Secret study on credit card interchange doesn’t belong in Florida’s budget” via Florida Politics — Extreme transparency is precisely why it was strange to discover that the 2024-2025 Florida budget, which has not yet been sent to DeSantis for action, contains a secret “study” aimed at the credit card interchange system. Disturbingly, in place of any public debate whatsoever this Session, there is now a secret study buried within the “Legislative Support Services” section of the budget. The secret study language is tied to a $1 million increase, which would appear to fund the study for the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. Because of this secret funding, we believe Gov. DeSantis will also be surprised to learn that a study on such a controversial subject as the credit card interchange system is being funded by an arm of the legislature through a “contract with a public or private institution of higher learning” without his input, public discussion, or any public procurement process typically required of a state agency.



— ALOE —

Jerry Seinfeld’s upcoming Netflix movie about Pop-Tarts to be featured in IndyCar race at Long Beach” via Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press — Seinfeld’s upcoming Netflix comedy will be featured during this weekend’s IndyCar race at Long Beach as rookie Linus Lundqvist will drive a car painted to look like a Pop-Tart in recognition of the movie “Unfrosted.” Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 8 will be painted in the texture of an unfrosted Pop-Tart along with images of Seinfeld and some of the movie cast members. The partnership, which is in collaboration with Ganassi sponsor American Legion, is promoting the May 3 film release. The movie marks the directorial debut of the comedian. Seinfeld claimed all the way back in 2018 that he had been “thinking about an invention of the Pop-Tart movie. Imagine the drunk on-sugar-power Kellogg’s cereal culture of the mid-60s in Battle Creek, (Michigan). That’s a vibe I could work with.”

Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘Unfrosted’ gets prime real estate at the IndyCar race at Long Beach.


Happy birthday to the best health care reporter in the state and STILL the best reporter in her household, Christine Jordan Sexton, as well as Sen. Ed Hooper’s better half, Lee.


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