Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.19.24

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

Good Friday morning.

New polling from Florida Atlantic University shows that Florida is still Trump country and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign — and potentially Casey DeSantis 2026 — is doing even better than the former President.

The survey, conducted April 15-17, found that 50% of registered voters in Florida support Donald Trump compared to 42% who favor President Joe Biden. Another 5% opted for alternative candidates, while 3% remained undecided.

A new poll gives Rick Scott room to cheer.

Meanwhile, Scott has 51% support in a still-hypothetical contest against former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who has just 35% in the trial heat. FAU also found the First Lady with 38% support in the GOP Primary for Governor compared to 16% for U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.

Notably, neither Republican has announced a campaign and other polling has indicated U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds — whom respondents weren’t asked about — would draw considerable support should he enter the contest.

“There is clear interest among Republican voters in seeing Casey DeSantis run for Governor in 2026,” said Kevin Wagner, co-director of FAU’s PolCom Lab. “This poll also suggests that the race is still open for new candidates to emerge over the next couple of years.”

Additionally, the poll found uncertainty for the two major constitutional amendments slated for the 2024 ballot. Recreational pot enjoys just 47% support with 35% opposed. The abortion rights amendment has less opposition at 49%-19% but is still well short of the 60% share required for passage.

“The results point to an 11% gain that needs to happen between now and Nov. 5 for the ballot initiative to pass. Since almost one-third of respondents do not know how they would vote if faced with the ballot initiative, this means that it could go either way come November,” said Luzmarina Garcia, an assistant professor of Political Science at FAU.


The Southern Group is bolstering its lobbying roster in South Florida with the addition of Olivia Vairo.

Vairo is the former assistant director of Legislative Affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, where she helped to successfully advance and advocate for the federal Farm Bill.

TSG bolsters its South Florida footprint with the addition of Olivia Vairo.

At the Bureau, Vairo worked with members across all 50 states to ensure legislative priorities were supported. She was also responsible for the coordination of fundraising for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s Political Action Committee.

“Ms. Vairo has been an outstanding contributor to the Florida Farm Bureau Federation team. She possesses and exhibits impeccable character, impressive competence and a remarkable work ethic. Our significant loss is The Southern Group’s gain,” said Jeb Smith, Florida Farm Bureau Federation President.

Vairo, a Fort Lauderdale native who resides in Miami, holds an undergraduate degree in marketing from Florida State University.


@byJasonDelgado: The Satanic Temple’s @LucienGreaves on the school chaplain bill @GovRonDeSantis signed into law. “He’s directly inviting satanic chaplains into public schools. He can say he’s doing otherwise but he will not prevail in court.”

@skgoodell: I guess you are too stuck on wanting to repeat your rhetoric and propaganda about things that are not happening in a K classroom that you have missed my point. K students are not equipped to even come close to understanding the evils of communism. I guess I actually care

@Olivianuzzi: A prospective juror, talking about who he follows on Twitter, tells the court, “Let’s go with Twitter, I don’t call it X.”

@ProjectLincoln: If you ran for President, would your family endorse you?

@TheRickWilson: I’m guessing after two humiliating days of #DonSnoreleone that Trump is rocking so much Adderall his eyes are vibrating.

@MaxwellFrostFL: The Freedom Caucus created a group called FART. You can’t make this stuff up lol

Tweet, tweet:

@FlaBryan: Local control of Gainesville’s local utilities is moving forward! The City Commission voted unanimously today to place the elimination of the GRU Authority on the ballot in November with the ballot language seen here: #RepealTheGRUAuthority #FlaPol

Tweet, tweet:


Florida Housing Summit ‘Blueprint for Better Outcomes’ begins — 12; Kentucky Derby — 14; 2024 Leadership Conference on Safety, Health & Sustainability — 21; ‘The Blue Angels,’ a feature documentary from J.J. Abrams opens in IMAX theaters — 28; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 29; French Open begins — 31; Special Election to replace Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill — 32; ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ premieres — 33; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 33; Monaco Grand Prix — 37; the 2024 World Cup begins — 53; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 58; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 71; Republican National Convention begins — 87; the 2024 World Cup ends — 90; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 95; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 97; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 116; Florida Primary Election — 123; Democratic National Convention begins — 123; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 127; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 140; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 140; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 182; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 185; 2024 Presidential Election — 200; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 213; MLS Cup 2024 — 228; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 298; the 2025 Oscars — 317; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 319; 2025 Session ends — 379; ‘Moana’ premieres — 429; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 460; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 462; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 567; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 609; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 746; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 762; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 973; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,113; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,072; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,794.


President Joe Biden to visit Tampa next week” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Biden is making a campaign stop in Tampa on Tuesday in his latest visit to the donor-rich Sunshine State.

More details about his visit, including whether he will be making public remarks, are forthcoming.

Joe Biden returns to Tampa to pick up a few checks.

Winning Florida in November seems an uphill battle for the President. Trump has consistently led in the polls, and a Florida Atlantic University poll of registered voters released Thursday had the former President up by eight points.

But the campaign believes it has a pathway to victory in the state based on the GOP’s “toxic political agenda,” including abortion, according to a campaign memo released this month.

During a stop in South Florida in January, Biden raised more than $6 million in a single fundraiser hosted by attorney Chris Korge, a longtime Democratic donor.


A national insurance company wrote a bill to obstruct asbestos lawsuits in Florida” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — A lobbyist for the Florida Chamber of Commerce urged lawmakers to pass the bill. So did someone from Associated Industries of Florida. Representatives from the Florida Insurance Council, the Florida Justice Reform Institute, and the United States Chamber of Commerce all endorsed it, too. It was a powerful display of public support. And it suggested that numerous companies were behind the legislation, which would have made it easier for corporate defendants to defeat lawsuits brought by people who contract lung cancer from exposure to asbestos — an easily inhaled fiber that was once widely used in construction and manufacturing. But records show the bill was sent in to the state House by one company in particular: Nationwide, the giant insurance company best known for its earworm advertising jingle. Nationwide turned a $1.3 billion operating profit last year — but the insurer has also had to cover deep losses from asbestos-related claims in recent years and remains exposed to further claims in the future.

Florida’s affordable housing agency rejects allegations from former director” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — The internal review, which was requested by Ryan Benson, the current Chair of the Board of the Florida Housing Finance Corp., looked into whether the FHFC was sitting on nearly $1 billion in “investment assets” it was not tapping into, and whether the agency had another $2 billion spread across 50 bank accounts with “little to no backup documentation.” But the internal review — which was briefly discussed by the Board of the FHFC at its last meeting in late March — did not cover all the allegations made by Mike DiNapoli, the former executive director, including that Board members had potential conflicts of interest with projects that were awarded money or tax credits. The report refuted DiNapoli’s assertions and stated that there was “accountability” with the accounts and that the $900 million in investment assets had been “accessed daily.”

Ryan Benson looks into unused money in the Florida Housing Finance Corp. coffers.

Florida kicked their son off Medicaid in the ‘unwinding’ but not their daughter” via Phil Galewitz of NPR — Indira Navas of Miami found out that her 6-year-old son, Andres, had been disenrolled from Florida’s Medicaid program when she took him to a doctor appointment in March. She had scheduled Andres’ appointment months in advance and is frustrated that he remains uninsured. Meanwhile, Navas said the state could not explain why her daughter, Camila, 12, remained covered by Medicaid even though the children live in the same household with their parents. “It doesn’t make sense that they would cover one of my children and not the other,” Navas says. The Navas family are among millions of Americans caught in the bumpy Medicaid unwinding, playing out across the country over the past year.

College crime surging back to pre-COVID levels. Here’s the crime at Florida colleges, universities” via C.A. Bridges of USA Today Network — Not everything back to normal after the pandemic is good. Campus crime has risen back up, too. Government data shows the number of crimes reported on college campuses around the U.S. surged back up to pre-pandemic levels by 2022. Crime reported from nearly 6,000 institutions rose about 8% from 2019, even though enrollments dipped during the same period. Experts see little reason to worry and say the numbers are largely consistent with what colleges have been experiencing since 2013, according to S. Daniel Carter, president of the consulting firm Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses.

Leading Dem slams offering $500 for college students to participate in politically focused state survey” via Fresh Take Florida — A prominent Democrat is criticizing Florida universities for trying to boost student participation in a politically charged state survey by offering a $500 bookstore raffle at their respective schools. The Board of Governors announced the raffles last week when it extended the deadline for completing the survey to Friday from last week. Earlier this week, Fresh Take Florida, a news service at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, reported that the survey of college and university students includes a host of new questions this year. Critics said they thought the deadline extension and raffle with a financial incentive stemmed from fears about low turnout.

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Ron DeSantis says Florida amendment allows abortions ‘until birth.’ What’s true?” via Alexandra Glorioso and Romy Ellenbogen of the Tampa Bay Times — Since the Florida Supreme Court cleared an abortion-rights amendment for the November ballot, DeSantis has criticized the proposal as “incredibly radical” and allowing “abortion up until birth” — a claim the amendment’s backers say is false. “It’s not something that occurs,” Floridians Protecting Freedom Campaign Director Lauren Brenzel said.

Donald Trump leads Biden by eight points in Florida in new Florida Atlantic University survey” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Trump continues to hold a strong lead over Biden in a new survey of Florida registered voters. The poll of 865 adults from the Florida Atlantic University Political Communication and Public Opinion Research Lab and Mainstreet Research released on Thursday shows Trump with 50% support, while 42% support Biden. Another 5% prefer other candidates, while 3% remain undecided. When independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is included in the mix, Trump’s lead goes to 10 points, with the former President at 48% support, Biden at 38%, and Kennedy Jr. at 7%.

A new poll gives Donald Trump the advantage in Florida. Image via AP

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell continues to hammer Rick Scott on abortion restrictions” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Mucarsel-Powell hopes to win her party’s nomination to take on U.S. Sen. Scott this Fall, and her campaign is betting heavily on the abortion issue galvanizing turnout. With the state’s Heartbeat Protection Act banning the procedure in most cases after six weeks of pregnancy, and a potential constitutional amendment that could roll back Florida’s abortion law to permit termination of pregnancy “before viability” of the fetus on the ballot, the former South Florida Congresswoman has repeatedly slammed Scott for rhetorical inconsistencies on the issue. A new press call offered more of the same, with the candidate ripping Scott for saying he would have signed the state-level abortion law and suggesting that if he could, he would impose a national abortion ban. Mucarsel-Powell said Scott “doubled down on his support for Florida’s near total abortion ban just 24 hours after claiming that he no longer supported it.”


Kennedy clan endorses Biden, in a show of force against RFK Jr.” via Nicholas Nehamas and Michael Gold of The New York Times — A broad coalition of the Kennedy family endorsed Biden at a campaign rally in Philadelphia, pointedly rejecting one of their own in Kennedy Jr., the independent candidate who many Democrats believe poses a significant threat to Biden’s re-election chances. Among the relatives of Kennedy who backed Biden were his siblings Joseph, Kerry, Rory, Kathleen, Maxwell and Christopher. Roughly a dozen Kennedys appeared at the rally, where Kerry Kennedy introduced Biden. “He has us thriving again, believing again, behaving like good neighbors again,” Kerry Kennedy said of Biden as he and five of her siblings looked on from the stage. “Nearly every single grandchild of Joe and Rose Kennedy supports Joe Biden. That’s right, the Kennedy family endorses Joe Biden for President.”

RFK Jr.’s family all line up behind Biden. Image via AP.

James Comer refuses to learn anything from his investigation into Biden” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — House Oversight Committee Chair Comer’s angry effort to rebut the Committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Jamie Raskin, in the middle of a hearing, got off to an unusually promising start. The now-discredited allegation that Biden had taken a hefty bribe from a Ukrainian business owner was, in fact, not the “genesis” of the Republican-led investigation into Biden as Raskin had said; instead, it was merely one of several ultimately unproductive avenues of inquiry that Comer and his allies explored. Then, goaded into a debate by Raskin, Comer quickly lost the high ground. “If you believe that it would have been illegal for Joe Biden to take $5 million from Ukraine — it certainly would have been,” Raskin asked. “What do you think about Donald Trump taking more than $5 million from the Chinese government while he was President?”

Trump’s trial now has 12 jurors — and one angry man” via Jose Pagliery of The Daily Beast — Despite the troubles plaguing Trump’s first criminal trial in New York City, the process reached a milestone Thursday afternoon when the judge filled all 12 seats of the jury that will determine his fate. But the slog is far from over, as prosecutors and defense lawyers must now screen dozens of other jurors to pick the half-dozen New Yorkers who will serve as alternates during the next month or two — and might not even make it into the deliberation room.

Team Trump is undermining its bias claim against Juan Merchan” via Andrew C. McCartney of National Review — Trump has a good argument that Judge Merchan should recuse himself from the ongoing “hush money” trial due to patent political bias. It’s true that Merchan has bent over backward to accommodate the dubious legal theories of Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, the elected progressive Democrat who has brought this unabashedly political prosecution — although the judge has sprinkled in a couple of rulings that benefit. Consistent with his MO, though, Trump is undermining a good argument by provoking dumb controversies in a transparent attempt to portray Merchan as utterly blinded by anti-Trump animus. Because this entails saying things that aren’t true, it is apt to lead reviewing courts to conclude that the true things Trump has said about Merchan are suspect. As ever, the Client from Hell is his own worst enemy.

Prosecutors: Trump violated gag order in hush-money trial seven more times” via Ivana Saric of Axios — Prosecutors accused Trump of repeatedly violating the gag order the judge placed on him in his New York hush-money case. Trump is already in hot water for criticizing potential witnesses Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen, with prosecutors moving earlier this week to hold him in contempt of violating the gag order. Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the case, had previously scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday over prosecutors’ request to hold Trump in contempt for alleged gag order violations. Prosecutors on Thursday alleged that Trump has violated the gag order seven more times since Monday.

Judge rejects Trump’s effort to delay Jan. 6 civil cases” via Alan Feuer of The New York Times — A federal judge on Thursday rejected Trump’s attempt to delay a group of lawsuits that are seeking to hold him accountable for inspiring the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump had sought to have the suits put on hold until after the completion of his federal criminal trial connected to many of the same events. But in a nine-page ruling, the judge, Amit P. Mehta, decided that the lawsuits could move forward without running the risk that Trump might damage his chances in the criminal case by revealing his defense strategy prematurely or making statements that prosecutors might use against him. Last month, when lawyers for Trump first asked Judge Mehta to postpone the civil cases, it was the latest example of the former President seeking to pit his multiple legal matters against one another in an effort to delay them.

A judge strikes down a motion to delay the Jan. 6 trials.

Trump is funneling campaign money into cash-strapped businesses. Experts say it looks bad” via Zac Anderson and Erin Mansfield of the Palm Beach Post — Trump’s main 2024 White House campaign fundraising operation sharply increased spending at the former President’s properties, including his Mar-a-Lago resort, in recent months, funneling money into his businesses at a time when he is facing serious legal jeopardy and desperately needs cash. Trump’s joint fundraising committee wrote three checks in February and one in March to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, totaling $411,287 and another in March to Trump National Doral Miami for $62,337, according to a report filed to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week. Federal law and FEC regulations allow donor funds to be spent at a candidate’s business so long as the campaign pays fair market value, experts say.


Laurel Lee has drawn plenty of challengers. But do any of them have money?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A call by President Trump for someone to Primary Lee seemed to rush candidates to file. But to date, it’s unclear who has the resources to challenge the incumbent in a swing district. Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican, raised nearly $411,690 from the start of the year until the end of March. That brings her total fundraising for the cycle to nearly $1.01 million. She also spent nearly $69,000 this quarter. With all things together, she closed March with more than $781,000 in cash on hand, nearly 29 times as much as any challenger.

Challengers are lining up to face Laurel Lee. But do any of them have the cash to compete?

Vern Buchanan outraises Eddie Speir 17-to-1” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Buchanan massively outraised GOP Primary opponent Speir in the first quarter of 2024. Buchanan, who serves as Vice Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, added nearly $263,000 in new contributions between the start of the year and end of March. That brought his total contributions this election cycle to more than $1.1 million. Meanwhile, he spent less than $117,000 over the same time period. He wrapped the period with upward of $1.7 million in cash on hand. Meanwhile, Speir, founder of Inspiration Academy in Bradenton, raised less than $16,000 in Q1. That said, he spent more than $60,000 on his Primary challenge bid against Buchanan.

Jared Moskowitz taps local donors, national groups to add $474K in Q1 toward CD 23 defense” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Moskowitz added $474,000 to his re-election war chest in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District last quarter through a blend of progressive and Israel-supporting donations from three dozen political committees and advocacy organizations. After spending roughly a third of that between Jan. 1 and March 31, he had $614,000 left to spend going into the second quarter, including a $181,000 self-loan that is fully refundable if unused. Meanwhile, a former supporter of Moskowitz’s — ex-Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth — led a crowded Republican Primary field with $223,000 raised since Jan. 2. Of that, $100,000 was self-loaned. Weinroth’s first quarter gains were more than the combined fundraising of half a dozen other candidates seeking the GOP nod in August.

Inside the war chests: Christian Caban political committee raises $125K; Rudy Ferguson pulls closer to Jack Porter” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Despite having no opposition, Leon County Commissioner Caban raised a huge amount of money — over $145,000 — last quarter, far more than any of the other candidates. Ferguson — in one of two races that could decide control of City Hall — is among four candidates challenging City Commissioner Porter for Seat 1. His fundraising last quarter pulled him within about $7,000 of the incumbent, who has raised $72,762.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Filmmaker Billy Corben says he will run for Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair” via Max Greenwood of the Miami Herald — Corben, an award-winning filmmaker who moonlights as an acerbic political activist, is launching a bid to lead the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. His announcement, which is expected Friday on his podcast “Because Miami,” will put him in direct contention with state Sen. Shevrin Jones, who this week became the first person to jump into the race for party Chair. Jones already has the backing of some of Miami’s most prominent Democrats, including Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson. In a profanity-laced interview with the Miami Herald, Corben described the election of Miami-Dade Democratic Party’s next Chair as an attempted “coronation” of Jones.

Billy Corben is ready to jump into party politics head first.

Fort Lauderdale is maxing out on cemetery space. Could closed Broward schools be the fix?” via Raisa Habersham of the Miami Herald — Fort Lauderdale is running out of cemetery space. One potential solution? Turning shuttered Broward County schools into more burial space. During a City Commission conference, Mike Watson, the District 1 representative for the city’s Cemetery System Board of Trustees, urged Commissioners to consider it as an option, saying city-owned cemeteries are almost full and more space is needed. Last year, the Broward County School Board asked Superintendent Peter Licata to identify five schools to close or repurpose by 2025 because of low enrollment. “I honestly understand the School Board has not made a decision but want to make sure you are aware of the need,” Watson told the Commission.

Before septic tanks fail, more South Florida homes are switching to sewers” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As South Florida faces sea-level rise, flooding and storm surge, officials are working to switch thousands of septic tanks across the region into sewer connections. “Within a number of years, they’re going to fail and that will be horrible,” Broward County Commissioner Steve Geller, who also is the Chair of the Water Advisory Board. And as more sewage seeps into the groundwater that “of course affects the safety of our drinking water,” he said. Until now, Broward has eliminated 16,424 septic tanks, according to county officials. Many more adjustments are on the way. A septic tank is a buried container built to receive and partially treat raw domestic sanitary wastewater, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

A children’s library at home, for free: Miami-Dade literacy program expands to 60,000 families” via Kate Payne of WLRN — Parents of young children know there’s only so many hours in the day when your babies aren’t screaming, crying or in need of a diaper change. And in those precious moments of calm, those sleep-deprived young parents are probably not doing a deep-dive into the best new children’s books. But families in Miami-Dade County have another option — the Children’s Trust Book Club. Launched in 2015, the initiative run by the taxpayer-funded organization sends a free book every month to young children from birth until they turn five.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Prepping for a nightmare scenario: What happens if there’s a condo collapse in Volusia County?” via Sheldon Gardner of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — From mass shootings to monster hurricanes, Volusia County emergency management officials and first responders must be ready for anything. This week, some are training on how to respond to what would be a true nightmare: A condo collapse in Daytona Beach Shores. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is hosting the training at the county’s Emergency Operations Center. Volusia County and chose the scenario. The county’s coastline is lined with condos and hotels, and some were evacuated as a precaution because of Hurricane Ian and Tropical Storm Nicole. The center is the hub for disaster response in the county, where law enforcement, firefighters, local governments and others all have representatives to coordinate resources and save lives.

As guardian program volunteers, Brevard Schools employees can be trained to carry guns” via Finch Walker of Florida Today — After six months of discussion, Brevard Public Schools (BPS) is moving ahead with allowing employees to take part in Florida’s guardian program, a plan that will let trained individuals other than school resource officers carry weapons on Brevard campuses. How the decision to implement the voluntary program in Brevard was made remains murky. In the event of a school shooting, guardians — who will not include instructional staff at BPS — are meant to act to protect students and staff. While the idea to expand the program was initially raised in October of last year by Board Chair Megan Wright, little action was taken after public outcry against more guns in school at the following two Board meetings in November and December.

Megan Wright is pushing for more guardian volunteers to get gun training.

Volusia County School employees will see a nearly 6% increase on health insurance” via Mary Ellen Ritter of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Volusia County Schools employees can expect an almost 6% increase in their health insurance rate next year. Per the April 9 meeting agenda, Superintendent Carmen Balgobin recommended that the Board approve the increase starting Oct. 1, 2024, with the addition of the submitted attachment brought before the Board. The motion passed 3-2 with Chair Jamie Haynes, Carl Persis and Jessie Thompson in favor and Anita Burnette and Ruben Colón opposed. According to the Employee Benefits Renewals Plan for the year of Oct. 1, 2024, to Sept. 30, 2025, included in the April 9 School Board meeting agenda, this approval will result in a 5.9% increase in Florida Health Care insurance.

County ramps up $100 million in transportation work after tax effort suspended” via Ryan Lynch of the Orlando Business Journal — The county voted to suspend bringing a tax to fund transportation needs to the ballot in 2024, but still is putting some of its funds forward for projects.

Disney, Universal report leg injuries, loss of consciousness on rides” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Visitors at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando experienced leg injuries, shortness of breath and loss of consciousness on rides at their theme parks in the first three months of 2024, a state report revealed Thursday. The document listed eight guest injuries at Disney and two at Universal from January through March. In January, a 63-year-old visitor injured her leg while leaving the ride vehicle for the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, and a 70-year-old guest fell and injured her leg while loading into Epcot’s Spaceship Earth attraction. At Magic Kingdom, a 32-year-old female lost consciousness while aboard Space Mountain, and a 46-year-old had head pain and nausea after riding Tron Lightcycle / Run roller coaster. Both were reported in January.


Gus Bilirakis announces kickoff tour for re-election effort” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Bilirakis will officially launch his re-election campaign in the coming weeks. Bilirakis originally planned to open with a kickoff tour on April 20, but postponed “due to a previously unscheduled Saturday vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.” A campaign email explains that House Speaker Mike Johnson has “scheduled votes on five critical bills for this Saturday,” prompting its decision to postpone so Bilirakis could be present to vote. The campaign says details on a rescheduled date will follow.

After a brief delay, Gus Bilirakis is ready to take his campaign on the road.

Tampa Police give all-clear after bomb threat, suicide in FDOT parking lot” via Jason Lanning of Bay News 9 — Bomb squad officials were called to a Department of Transportation office Wednesday after a man committed suicide in the parking lot. McKinley Drive between Busch Boulevard and Fowler Avenue reopened to traffic early Thursday once investigators determined the area was safe. Police said the man, in his 60s, made threats he had a bomb and was going to drive into the FDOT offices. Tampa police responded to the scene when 911 calls started coming in. Officers said when they approached the man’s car to talk to him, he took his own life. Overnight, when the man’s body was removed from the car, investigators said they found wires and other suspicious items that required the bomb squad to investigate.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Bob Graham, Florida Governor and U.S. Senator, to lie in state at Tallahassee’s old Capitol” via James L. Rosica of the Tallahassee Democrat — Graham will lie in state at the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in Tallahassee, known informally as the “old Capitol,” 11 a.m.-1 p.m. next Friday. Funeral director Rocky Bevis also said a private graveside service would follow later that day at the city’s Oakland Cemetery along Bronough Street, not far from the Governor’s Mansion where Graham spent eight years (1979-87) as the state’s chief executive. A celebration of life is set for May 11 at Miami Lakes Congregational Church, the “Graham family’s home church,” Bevis added.

Tallahassee says goodbye to Bob Graham, who will lie in state at the Old Capitol. Image via Jack Levine.

Former Jacksonville Deputy General Counsel Lawsikia Hodges joins private firm” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Former Jacksonville Deputy General Counsel Hodges has been hired by the law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell. Hodges has joined the Jacksonville office of the firm, which is based in Atlanta. Hodges will head up the firm’s governmental affairs practice in Jacksonville. She’ll also be a member of the firm’s real estate group. “We are pleased to welcome Lawsikia to SGR and salute her many years of public service to the City of Jacksonville,” said Steven E. Brust, managing partner of the Jacksonville office. “Her experience in city, county, and local government will be a valuable resource to our clients.”

Personnel note: Leah Courtney heads to NFIB — U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn’s Communications Director, Courtney, is leaving Capitol Hill to join the National Federation for Independent Business as a Senior Media Manager. “It has been an absolute pleasure working with you throughout the past 4-5 years — some of you, I’ve worked with for even longer,” she said in an email to the press. “Serving in Congressman Dunn’s office has been a wild ride. Between impeachments, a worldwide pandemic, and hurricanes, you all have been very patient with me, and I cannot thank you enough.” Courtney added that Dunn’s office is working to hire a permanent replacement “ASAP.” Alex Vargo will serve as the interim contact for Dunn’s office.

Group replacing New World Landing scales back plans for new downtown Pensacola hotel” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal — A hotel group that plans to replace New World Landing with a new building is scaling back their plans for the South Palafox property. 3H Group Hotels of Chattanooga, Tennessee, had previously won approval from the Pensacola Architectural Review Board to build an eight-story hotel, but are now scaling back their proposal to a seven-story, 220-room hotel. The new plans, which will have to be approved by the ARB on Thursday, remove the planned rooftop bar and pool and add a second-floor patio overlooking Palafox and Cedar streets. The building will now be 87 feet tall as opposed to the nearly 100 feet of the previous design.

Ascension St. Vincent’s appoints new CEOs for Jacksonville area; here’s their credentials” via Beth Reese Cravey of the Florida Times-Union — Ascension St. Vincent’s has named new leaders for two of its four Jacksonville-area hospitals. Kevin Rinks is now president and CEO of St. Vincent’s Southside, and Bryan Walrath is president and CEO of St. Vincent’s Clay County. Rinks and Walrath are longtime health care professionals and have already assumed their new duties. Both oversee day-to-day operations at their respective hospitals, focusing on “advancing patient access to specialty care in the region, bolstering the quality of the patient and associate experience at each hospital and strengthening ties with stakeholders in each community,” according to Ascension. The Catholic health care system’s facilities are among the Jacksonville area’s 10 full-service hospitals. The system also operates 90 other health care facilities and employs about 5,300 people.

The results: Will any of Newberry’s schools convert to public charter?” via Lillian Lawson of The Gainesville Sun — The votes to determine the possible conversion of Newberry’s three public schools to charter schools were counted Wednesday at the Mentholee Municipal Building in Newberry. In summary, the conversion movement failed in all three cases, though it is disputing one set of results. The city of Newberry announced a plan on Feb. 19 in collaboration with Education First for Newberry to convert its public schools — Newberry Elementary, Oak View Middle and Newberry High — to public charter schools. Since then, the group spearheading the campaign had been unable to offer many guarantees to the public. The plan had also been updated multiple times amid residents voicing their concerns and opposition to the proposed conversion.

Thousands expected at Tallahassee Pridefest at Kleman Plaza” via Kenya Cardonne of WTXL — Celebrating visibility and representation of the LGBTQ community, Saturday marks the second year of Pridefest since the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted annual Tallahassee Pride festivities. As many as 5,000 people are expected to join the fun. “Finding community in other people who look like them, and then for our allies yeah just to support and love on this community that we know is so beautiful and worth being seen,” said Interim Chair of Tallahassee Pride, Lauren Kelly-Manders.

Tallahassee is ready to show its Pride.

TCC trustees sign resolution, unveil new academic seal in honor of ‘historic’ rebranding” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee Community College — soon-to-be Tallahassee State College starting July 1 — brought out the Champagne Tuesday right after its Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to recognize the rebranding. The college’s new TSC academic seal was unveiled during a reception that followed the Board meeting in TCC’s Hinson Administration Building on campus, where President Jim Murdaugh and trustees made a toast to the new beginnings. “This is such a historic day as we celebrate TCC moving into Tallahassee State College,” TCC Board of Trustees Vice Chair Karen Moore said.


Transcript from Christian Ziegler sex video details decision not to pursue rape charge” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A transcript of a sex video provided by Ziegler confirms details that ultimately undermined a rape accusation against him. But the same records batch also provides more context of a previous threesome between the woman, Ziegler and his wife, Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler. The records were released to the Florida Center For Government Accountability, which has fought for the release of documents around the now-closed criminal investigation of Ziegler. The just-released video transcript confirms graphic details that police sources had previously relayed to the organization. “Police were able to authenticate that the video was taken on 10/2/23,” the police report said, referencing the date of a sexual encounter between Ziegler and the woman.

Oh lordy, there are tapes.

Sarasota Republican club lawsuit alleges former members stole funds to start new group” via Christian Casale of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A dispute over control of the second largest Republican club in Sarasota County has shifted to the courts, as the Republican Club of South Sarasota County (RCSSC) has sued four of its former members and officers, alleging they stole club funds and property when they broke away earlier this year to create a new group — the America First Southwest Florida Caucus. But a lawsuit filed on April 12 in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court by the Republican Club of South Sarasota County alleges that the founding officers of the new organization had no authority to dissolve the RCSSC’s charter and seeks $63,000 in damages.

What will ‘wilderness’ designation mean for the Big Cypress, swamp buggy riders?” via Chad Gillis of the Fort Myers News-Press — Hunters, swamp buggy enthusiasts, politicians, Gladesmen and others are fighting to keep the federal government from giving a wilderness designation to the Big Cypress National Preserve outside of Naples. A few environmental groups support the move, which would likely prohibit swamp buggy and airboat usage in much of the preserve. They’re battling over a wilderness designation that was triggered by an ecological review of the Big Cypress. Designating an area as official “wilderness” is the highest level of protection that can be afforded to lands in the United States. “Motorized would be off-limits, like the sawgrass in Everglades National Park,” said Matthew Schwartz, with the South Florida Wild Lands Association, who supports the designation.

Manatee officials argue over illegal immigration’s effects on local hospitals, governments” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Manatee County officials gathered for a special meeting to discuss any economic impact potential illegal immigration may have on local hospitals and government agencies. The meeting drew criticism from the Manatee County Democratic Party, which issued a written statement chastising the meeting as divisive and calling for federal legislators to take a bipartisan approach toward immigration policy reform. “It is disappointing to witness our elected officials prioritize divisive rhetoric and partisan gamesmanship over the well-being of Manatee County residents,” the Democratic Party stated. “If the Board truly cares about immigration reform, we urge them to direct their efforts where they can make a meaningful impact: advocating for bipartisan immigration reform at the federal level.”


Why we must teach true history of communism in schools” via Manny Diaz, Jr. for the Miami Herald — It is widely understood that those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it, and that is exactly why the true history of communism should be taught in public schools.

In Florida, we are taking the lead.

Beginning in the 2026-2027 school year, public school students will learn that 110 million people died under communist rule from 1900 to 1987 and that this horribly flawed political and economic philosophy has spawned misery and despair across the globe. Sadly, even today, communist rule subjugates millions of innocent people.

Whether it’s North Korea, Venezuela, China, the former Soviet Union, or any other communist regime, their fabled utopia is always around the next corner — but never comes.


Florida got it right on common-sense vape policy where federal government failed” via Rep. Alex Rizo for the Miami Herald — As we have done many times, the Florida Legislature stepped up when the federal government failed to. This Session, I supported legislation to ensure the safety and well-being of Floridians from harmful, unregulated vape products without restricting safe, FDA-authorized vape products to help adult smokers kick the habit. The reality is there has been a proliferation of illegal, disposable flavored vapes from China flooding our state. The Biden administration and the FDA simply aren’t doing a good job of enforcing the vape market, and now, across the United States, sales of illicit disposables exceed $2.6 billion annually through monitored channels alone. However, projections indicate this figure could double when considering the unmonitored market.

Yes, Biden can win the working-class vote” via Timothy Noah of The National Review — Last year, a team working for Navin Nayak, president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the advocacy arm of the liberal nonprofit Center for American Progress, or CAP, reviewed a database containing every news release, tweet, and Facebook post from every House and Senate Democrat during the Midterm Election year of 2022. These added up to 570,000 individual communications. The goal was to quantify how frequently congressional Democrats addressed the economic concerns of working-class voters, traditionally the Democratic Party’s core constituency, and to consider necessary adjustments for 2024.

Robert McClure: Secret study on credit card interchange doesn’t belong in Florida’s budget” via Robert McClure for Florida Politics — Florida has a long history of transparency and openness in government dating back to Gov. Reubin Askew’s administration nearly 50 years ago. We call it “Government in the Sunshine.” Few states have public meetings to negotiate every jot and tittle of the budgeting process, with “offers,” as we call them, passed back and forth between the House and the Senate during the legislative budget-making process. This 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.

Republicans wanted a crackdown on Israel’s critics. Columbia obliged.” via Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times — Columbia’s exceptionally poised President Nemat Shafik clearly has no intention of going down like the former heads of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, both driven from their jobs following disastrous appearances before a congressional Committee investigating campus antisemitism. Testifying before the same panel on Wednesday, she readily agreed with Republicans’ premise that pro-Palestinian activism at Columbia is shot through with anti-Jewish bigotry, and explained how, under her leadership, Columbia is cracking down. Fifteen students, she said, had been suspended, and six more were on disciplinary probation. By bending over backward to be agreeable, Shafik emerged from the four-hour grilling largely unscathed. All that’s been damaged is Columbia’s guarantee of academic freedom.



ABC Action News Full Circle with Paul LaGrone on Channel 10 WFTS: Ex-CIA analyst David McCloskey, author of “Moscow X”; ABC Action News political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus; Southeast Florida publisher Janelle Irwin Taylor; and ABC News political director Rick Klein.

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 environmental issues facing the state of Florida, and what lawmakers are doing to balance growth and environmental protections. Joining Walker are former State Sen. and Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice and Haley Busch, outreach director for 1000 Friends of 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 pollster Steve Vancore.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Will Lahnen of Jacksonville City Council District 3; Duval County Schools Board Chair Darryl Willie; and Chris Hand, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Bob Graham.

— ALOE —

For the first time in 1 billion years, two life-forms truly merged into one organism” via Laura Baisas of Popular Science — Evolution is quite a wondrous and lengthy process, with some random bursts of activity that are responsible for the diversity of life on our planet today. These can happen on large scales like with the evolution of more efficient limbs. They also occur at the microscopic cellular level, such as when different parts of the cell are first formed. Now, a team of scientists has detected a sign of a major life event that has likely not occurred for at least 1 billion years. They’ve observed primary endosymbiosis — two life-forms merging into one organism. This incredibly rare event occurred between a type of abundant marine algae and a bacterium that was observed in a lab setting. For perspective, plants first began to dot our planet the last time this happened. The results are described in two papers recently published in the journals Cell and Science.

The last time this happened, the Earth got plants. Image via Popular Science.

Intimate artifact from warship sunk off Key West found stashed in piece of furniture” via Mark Price of the Miami Herald — The USS Amesbury is well-documented as a hazardous shipwreck split in two off South Florida, but a mystery has emerged from its heyday as a naval destroyer in World War II. A log that details the ship’s travels was found in Massachusetts, stuck in a piece of furniture. Who wrote it, what happened to the author, and how it ended up in Massachusetts are among many unanswered questions. The notebook’s content intrigues maritime archaeologist Matthew Lawrence of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. “There are little gems of information that provide insight into someone’s experience with USS Amesbury. If only we knew who wrote it,” he told McClatchy News.

Carnival Cruise Line shuts down illegal onboard activity” via Daniel Kline of The Street — Cruise ships sailing from the U.S. generally operate under U.S. federal laws, but they must also follow the rules of the various ports they stop in, at least while in port. The situation can confuse passengers in certain areas. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Lines, Virgin Voyages and Margaritaville at Sea all use 21 as their onboard drinking age. Passengers under that age may be able to drink in certain ports where the legal age is lower, but they’re not allowed to imbibe on board.


Happy birthday to Secretary of State Cord Byrd, Sen. Colleen Burton, our friend Towson Fraser, Scott Jenkins of Delegal | Aubuchon Consulting, Jennifer Motsinger, and one of St. Pete’s best, Rob Kapusta.


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.


  • alex z

    April 19, 2024 at 9:30 am

    good morning PETE reporting live that i’m still here…. the motherfccers still havn’t hauled my ass away….. guess depriving me of my freedom wouldn’t draw considerable support…… is that gag worthy enough for you? lolz

  • alex z

    April 19, 2024 at 9:32 am

    ps happy fccn birthday to my best fccn friend / tyrant / totalitarian whos birthday is not exactly today but since i said so it is i might get thrown in handcuffs prettyyyyy shortly if the RIGHT person sees this!!! lolz

  • alex z

    April 19, 2024 at 1:14 pm

    Hey PETE

    I know you prob think you know what’s best for me but youre just like everyone else who they themselves are just as convinced

  • alex z

    April 19, 2024 at 1:18 pm

    PETE, I want to give you a reminder before I may never see the light of day again

    Nobody gives a f***

Comments are closed.


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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