Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.14.24

Sunburn Orange Tally (5)
Politics, process, personalities: ‘Sunburn’ tells you what you need to know — now.

Good Tuesday morning.

Corcoran Partners is expanding with the addition of Brian Ford III as a Government Consultant in the firm’s Tampa office. Ford brings diverse experience in external affairs, corporate partnerships and constituent events.

Ford joins Corcoran Partners after recently serving as the Corporate Partnership & Events Manager for the Special Olympics Florida. Before that, Ford worked under Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran at the Florida Department of Education.

Corcoran Partners deepens its bench by bringing on Brian Ford III.

Ford also volunteers his time as a gubernatorial appointee to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group, which is composed of 21 individuals dedicated to preventing juvenile delinquency throughout the state.

“Brian’s readiness to tackle any task speaks volumes about his character,” said Taryn Fenske, former Communications Director for Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“During our tenure at the Department of Education, as we navigated the challenges of 2020, Brian’s work ethic and personable demeanor were invaluable. Not to mention his ‘daily puns,’ which added a touch of lightness and humor to our office! I am confident that Brian will quickly become an indispensable part of the Corcoran Partners’ team.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Brian to the firm,” added Michael Corcoran, founding partner and CEO of Corcoran Partners. “The addition of Brian marks another step in our firm’s growth and commitment to deliver results for our clients. Brian’s ability to develop and maintain strong relationships and his unparalleled character will serve both our team and our clients well.”


Bacardi Jackson has been appointed as the next Executive Director of The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, succeeding interim executive director Howard Simon.

For over 25 years, Jackson has been a seasoned litigator and trial attorney, championing civil rights and social justice causes in Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania. For the last four years, Jackson has served as Southern Poverty Law Center’s Deputy Legal Director for the Democracy: Education & Youth Advocacy and Litigation Team.

Bacardi Jackson is the new Executive Director of The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

“My roots run through the Deep South. I grew up in the struggle for racial and economic justice,” Jackson said. “In the wake of the bombing of the four little girls in Birmingham, my father moved to Alabama to take on the battle for a true and inclusive democracy. He is often called the ‘Father of Black Voting Rights’ and helped initiate the marches from Selma to Montgomery, which led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”

Before SPLC, Jackson spent more than a decade in private practice, where she maintained an active pro bono docket. This included representing the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Women Against Abuse and Habitat for Humanity, among others.

“The appointment of Bacardi Jackson as our Executive Director is an exciting new chapter for the ACLU of Florida, especially at this critical time, said Eric Smaw, President of the organization’s Board of Directors.

“She is intellectually astute, experienced, and she will bring an energizing force to the state affiliate as it faces numerous civil rights challenges. Bacardi was the unanimous choice of our Board of Directors. We are proud to have her leading the affiliate, and we look forward to working with her.”


Robbie Vogan is joining Central Florida Public Affairs as a Government Affairs Advisor.

In his new role, Vogan will advocate for the firm’s public policy efforts at the local and state levels and will manage political and legislative affairs on behalf of the firm’s clients.

“I’m thrilled to join CFPA’s exceptional team,” Vogan said. “Building on Sharon Smoley’s incredible success, we’ll drive even more positive change for Central Florida.”

Robbie Vogan is the latest big hire for Central Florida Public Affairs.

Before joining CFPA, Vogan served in the offices of several state Senators, including Sens. Jason Brodeur and Keith Perry. Recognized for his strategic acumen, Vogan played pivotal roles in securing substantial appropriations and advancing key legislative priorities in areas such as the environment, agriculture and child welfare.

Vogan joins Sharon Smoley and Senior Policy Advisor Rachael Kobb, both seasoned lobbyists, at CFPA. Founded in 2021, the firm represents multiple Fortune 100 companies, leading sports and entertainment agencies and specialized industry firms.

“Robbie brings a wealth of experience in public policy, government affairs, political strategy and campaign management,” said Smoley, founder and CEO of CFPA.

“Robbie has garnered recognition for his innovative approaches to legislative and campaign advocacy. Across the last three election cycles, he was instrumental in pivotal roles within the largest state Senate campaigns in Florida’s history. He brings those same strategic skills to bear on behalf of our clients.”

Stephen Lawson — former Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott staffer — joins Dentons in Atlanta” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Southeast Politics — Lawson, an ex-staffer for Gov. DeSantis and former Gov. Scott, has joined Dentons’ Atlanta office, where he will lead the firm’s public affairs efforts. “His reputation as a distinguished communicator and strategist precedes him, and his wealth of experience positions him as a trusted leader in this space. His track record of success and widespread respect within the industry make him an invaluable addition to our team and our clients,” said Eric Tanenblatt, the Firm’s Global Chair of Public Policy and Regulation. Most recently, Lawson served as President of Full Focus Communications, a full-service public affairs firm that serves corporate and advocacy clients. In addition to working for DeSantis and Scott, Lawson has experience with prominent officials in Georgia, including former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and, most recently, Speaker of the House Jon Burns.


@TND: .@Gallup said Monday that its recent survey found 71% of Americans have given “quite a lot” of thought to the upcoming election. And that, Gallup said, portends a high voter turnout this Nov. 5.

@ADL_Florida: We thank @FHPOrlando for expeditiously dismantling this anti-Israel demonstration that blocked I-4 and arresting the demonstrators. While peaceful protests are vital to any democracy, blocking traffic like this is shameful and puts lives in danger.

@Mustard: Summer started last week according to me!! See ya sooner than you think!


‘The Blue Angels,’ a feature documentary from J.J. Abrams opens in IMAX theaters — 4; ‘Bridgerton’ new season (part one) premieres on Netflix — 5; French Open begins — 7; Special Election to replace Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill — 7; Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 9; Monaco Grand Prix — 3; Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 19; the 2024 World Cup begins — 29; DreamWorks Land officially opens at Universal Orlando — 32; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 34; Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens at Disney World — 45; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 46; Freedom Month Sales Tax Holiday begins — 49; Universal Mega Movie Parade debuts — 50; Republican National Convention begins — 61; the 2024 World Cup ends — 65; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 70; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 73; ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ premieres — 74; Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday begins — 77; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 95; Florida Primary Election — 99; Democratic National Convention begins — 99; second Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 103; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 103; Tool Time Sales Tax Holiday begins — 111; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 116; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 116; first Presidential Debate — 126; Vice Presidential Debate — 135; second Presidential Debate — 141; third Presidential Debate — 149; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 158; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 161; Florida TaxWatch’s 45th Annual Meeting — 170; 2024 Presidential Election — 175; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 189; ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ premieres — 203; MLS Cup 2024 — 204; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 274; the 2025 Oscars — 293; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 295; 2025 Session ends — 355; ‘Moana’ premieres — 405; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 436; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 436; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 542; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 584; ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ premieres — 721; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 738; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 949; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,089; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,048; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,770.


Donald Trump leads in 5 key states, as young and nonwhite voters express discontent with Joe Biden” via Nate Cohn of The New York Times — The surveys by The New York Times, Siena College and The Philadelphia Inquirer found that Trump was ahead among registered voters in a head-to-head matchup against President Biden in five of six key states: Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Biden led among registered voters in only one battleground state, Wisconsin.

Donald Trump takes the lead in several battleground states.

The race was closer among likely voters. Trump led in five states as well, but Biden edged ahead in Michigan while trailing only narrowly in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. While Biden won all six of those states in 2020, victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin would be enough for him to win re-election, provided he won everywhere else he did four years ago.

The findings are mostly unchanged since the last series of Times/Siena polls in battleground states in November. Since then, the stock market has gained 25%, Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan has started, and the Biden campaign has unleashed tens of millions of dollars in advertisements across the battleground states.

The polls offer little indication that any of these developments have helped Biden, hurt Trump or quelled the electorate’s discontent. Instead, the surveys show that the cost of living, immigration, Israel’s war in Gaza and a desire for change continue to be a drag on the President’s standing. While Biden benefited from a burst of momentum in the wake of his State of the Union address in March, he continues to trail in the average of national and battleground state polls.


He’s lying; she’s running — “DeSantis says Casey DeSantis has ‘zero’ interest in being Governor” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — DeSantis said that if he “had to characterize her interest in getting into the political thicket as a candidate,” he would “characterize it as zero.” “But, you know, I think it’s because she’s had a front-row seat (for) all the nonsense that goes on when you do it,” DeSantis added while speaking in Coral Gables. Surveys have suggested that Florida Republicans might embrace her as a candidate. A poll conducted in April by Florida Atlantic University and Mainstreet Research showed 38% of 372 Florida Republicans polled would choose the First Lady in a head-to-head race against U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who would receive 16% support in this scenario.

Ron DeSantis swears his wife Casey has no interest in being Governor. We’ll see.

DeSantis mocks ‘trash’ in Bethlehem, ‘Queers for Palestine’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Governor amused a crowd in Coral Gables‘ Granada Church with riffs about a quickly thwarted protest in Central Florida, before rehashing familiar complaints about conditions in Bethlehem. Regarding a “Queers for Palestine” protest near Disney that was dispersed after 11 minutes, DeSantis said that blocking traffic was “no bueno.” He noted that Miami law enforcement had cleared a different protest in 15 minutes and that the better time from Florida Highway Patrol likely would lead to a “friendly competition” between local and state troopers “to see who can be out first.” “Bethlehem is in a Palestinian Arab-controlled area. And you, know you go to the church where they have it to commemorate the birth of Christ. And it’s a nice church. But you walk out and there’s this massive mosque that they built, like, to overhang it, and there’s trash everywhere, and it’s just not nice,” DeSantis said.

Spotted — At the Governor’s Cup cocktail reception and dinner at the Camp Creek Inn in Inlet Beach: Gov. DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis; Secretaries Alex Kelley, Shevaun Harris, and Jason Wieda; Sens. Ed Hooper and Jay Trumbull; Reps. Griff Griffiths, Lawrence McClure. Will Robinson and Jason Shoaf; Slater Bayliss, Cody Ferrell, Sam Ferrin, Craig Hansen, Nick Iarossi, Drew Meiner, Chuck Perdue, John Schrader, Katie Strickland, and Will Rodriguez.

DeSantis signed education deregulation measure, a priority of Kathleen Passidomo” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — DeSantis has signed a legislative package loosening regulations on Florida’s public school districts. Multiple bills (SB 7002, SB 7004) free Florida’s school system of many requirements that did not impact private competitors. The “Learn Local” package was a top priority this year for Senate President Passidomo, who presented the changes as an appropriate follow-up to the state’s move last year toward “universal school choice.” The changes go into effect July 1. Changes include overhauling requirements for teacher training, governance issues and student promotion requirements. “I am tremendously grateful to Gov. DeSantis, Speaker [Paul] Renner, and all of the members who worked on our Learn Local package,” Passidomo said.

Happening today — The Florida Elections Commission meets for a public session: 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

DeSantis signs bill allowing surplus lines insurers to take over Citizens policies” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Lightly regulated insurance companies will soon be able to take over policies from Citizens Property Insurance Corp. DeSantis signed a bill Friday that includes that provision. The bill, HB 1503, contains several pieces related to Citizens, including allowing the state-run company to obtain patents, copyrights and trademarks. However, the part of the bill that grabbed the most attention from lawmakers was allowing regulators to approve takeouts by surplus lines companies. Surplus lines are out-of-state insurers that haven’t been admitted to the state market. The Office of Insurance Regulation doesn’t approve their rates, and any dispute over a claim must be resolved in a court outside of Florida. However, surplus lines companies are still subject to Florida regulatory oversight in some areas of the law. Typically, surplus lines carriers insure riskier, more expensive homes the domestic market won’t cover.

DeSantis enacts new adoption regulations” via A.G. Gancarski — On Friday, DeSantis signed HB 1083, which updates Florida law and processes to bring them into federal compliance and offer more safeguards and input for potential adoptees. One significant change is that the legislation will align the Department of Children and Families’ background checks with federal requirements. After a satisfactory criminal records check, all household members have seven days to submit fingerprints to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Visitors to homes are under scrutiny as well, with DCF checking the names of certain nonresidents for criminal history, including those who will be in the home for five straight days or seven days within 30 days. The bill also establishes a process for dealing with orphans, allowing an “interested party” to “file a petition for permanent commitment.”

DeSantis signs anti-human trafficking law, raises stripper age to 21” via Owen Girard of Florida’s Voice — DeSantis signed anti-human trafficking legislation on Monday that amends awareness and reporting procedures, as well as regulates adult entertainment businesses. The bill prohibits the owner of an adult entertainment establishment from employing anyone under the age of 21. The owner would receive a first-degree misdemeanor if they were found illegally employing anyone that age for any form of labor. Additionally, the bill issues a second-degree felony to the owner if they employ anyone under 21 to work while nude at the establishment. The legislation modifies the requirements for human trafficking reporting procedures by requiring the Florida Human Trafficking Hotline number to be utilized, rather than the National Human Trafficking Hotline number.

DeSantis signs a bill that limits that bans adult entertainers under the age of 21.

DeSantis signs off on increased penalties for gas safety violations” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Individual daily fines will be $266,015 (increased from $25,000), with aggregate totals raised from $2,660,135 (up from $500,000) through the end of June 2025, under SB 366, which DeSantis signed Friday. The Florida Public Service Commission will have to impose enhanced penalties beyond that point by rule-making, with “revisions to such penalties based upon consideration of the Consumer Price Index, penalties established in federal law for pipeline safety violations, and the intent of the Legislature that the Commission maintain its certification with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or any of its successor agencies, to enforce pipeline safety.”

Some doctors’ offices will have to carry liability insurance under new law” via Christine Jordan Sexton of Florida Politics — For the first time, Florida will require some physicians to carry professional liability insurance under a new law aimed at improving the safety of care during gluteal fat grafting procedures, commonly called Brazilian butt lifts (BBLs). DeSantis signed the bill into law late Friday. The law requires physician-owned surgery centers performing gluteal fat grafting procedures to establish financial responsibility by either obtaining and maintaining professional liability coverage of at least $250,000 per claim, with a minimum annual aggregate of at least $750,000 from an authorized insurer, surplus lines insurer, risk retention group, joint underwriting association or self-insurance plan; or obtaining and maintaining an unexpired, irrevocable letter of credit of at least $250,000 per claim, with a maximum aggregate credit availability of at least $750,000. The mandate is a seismic policy change.

Randy Fine calls on state to suspend license of Muslim dentist calling for ‘murder of Florida’s Jews’” via Owen Girard of Florida’s Voice — Rep. Fine issued a letter calling for the state’s Board of Dentistry to suspend the license of a Muslim dentist who purportedly called for the “murder of Florida’s Jews,” according to Fine. “Muslim terrorists are in our midst, and one is practicing dentistry courtesy of the people of the state of Florida,” Fine said in a letter to Florida Board of Dentistry Chair Dr. Jose Mellado. He explained how Dr. Fadi Kablawi, a dentist in North Miami, reportedly advocated for the “murder of Florida’s Jews” during a sermon he led at a local mosque in April. The state representative referenced an April 26 sermon. Fine said that Kablawi asked God to “annihilate the tyrannical Jews” and referred to those who practice Judaism as “brothers of apes and pigs.”

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Many Floridians don’t know 6-week abortion ban is in effect, claims Nikki Fried” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — “Most people don’t know, but this not knowing is going to have a forever impact on people’s lives,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Fried. Fried and other Democratic leaders spoke at a virtual news conference that centered around the upcoming Amendment 4 November ballot question on abortion rights. Florida’s 15-week abortion ban was replaced with the six-week ban as of May 1. Abortion rights advocates argue that many women don’t even realize they are pregnant at six weeks, so the new policy feels like a total ban. “We’re going have to continue telling these stories from every advocate to every elected official, to the media. We’re going to have to keep talking about it to make sure that more and more people are hearing it,” Fried said on the call.

Nikki Fried hopes to inform all female Floridians of the consequences of a new law banning abortion after 6 weeks.

In South Florida, a Democrat’s pitch links abortion, immigration and freedom” via Mel Leonor Barclay of The 19th — Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is drawing on her own family’s own experience to reach voters in this state, home to a wide array of immigrants from Central and South America. The Democratic Senate candidate is urging voters to see Republican policies like the state’s new six-week abortion ban as undermining the freedom they sought in the United States. Mucarsel-Powell has made reproductive rights a key focus of her campaign against Scott, a powerful Republican who holds ambitions to lead the GOP in the Senate. Mucarsel-Powell is the first Latina to run statewide in Florida in a decade, and in a state where 1 in every 5 voters is Latinx, her success depends on her ability to stem GOP gains with that group here in South Florida.

‘A dangerous political game’: Dems blast María Elvira Salazar for supporting citizenship question on Census” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Salazar is catching heat from critics across the political aisle for voting “yes” this week on a bill that would place a citizenship question on the next decennial Census. Salazar was hardly alone among her Florida GOP peers in voting for the measure (HR 7109), which cleared the U.S. House by a 206-202 vote Wednesday. Nor was she the only one with a large Hispanic constituency; Mario Díaz-Balart and Carlos Giménez, the immediate past Mayor of Miami-Dade County, also voted in the affirmative. But she is the only Republican member of Congress — aside from Anna Paulina Luna, who didn’t vote on the measure — that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) identified last month as a “district in play” this election cycle.


Bingo games, daytime TV: Biden woos older voters to stop Trump” via Akayla Gardner of Bloomberg — Pollsters are calling the 2024 Presidential Election a coin toss. Biden’s campaign hopes the race will actually be decided by bingo balls. The President’s team is intensifying outreach to older voters, with volunteers organizing bingo games in swing states and running ads during daytime shows popular with seniors, such as The Price is Right. It’s a bid to capitalize on polls showing Biden leading Trump among those 65 and older, reversing a trend that’s seen seniors back Republican nominees in recent elections.

Joe Biden reaches seniors one bingo card at a time. Image via Bloomberg.


Top Senate Republicans endorse Gayle Harrell’s re-election bid — Senate President Passidomo, Senate President-designate Ben Albritton and Sen. Trumbull — a likely future Senate President — issued a joint endorsement for Harrell, who is running for re-election in Senate District 31. “Gayle Brings an unparalleled health care expertise, a relentless commitment to protecting our waterways and a steadfast drive for preserving parental rights to the Florida Senate on behalf of the hardworking Floridians she serves,” the statement reads ” … We are proud to endorse Gayle Harrell for the Florida Senate because no one will work harder to be a voice for Senate District 31.”

Gayle Harrell gets endorsements from two top Senate Republicans.

Wilton Simpson backs JJ Grow for HD 23 — Agriculture Commissioner Simpson is endorsing Republican Grow in the race to succeed Rep. Ralph Massullo in House District 23. “I am proud to enforce my friend JJ Grow for the Florida House because I know he will fight for the shared conservative values helped by the hardworking families of Florida House District 23,” Simpson said. “As a businessman, JJ is personally invested in the success of his community and will work tirelessly to be their voice in Tallahassee.” Grow faces Tod Cloud in the Republican primary for the seat, which covers Citrus County and part of Marion. Democrat Judith Vowels is also running though HD 23 is a safe Republican seat.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Miami appeals Judge’s racial gerrymandering finding after delaying settlement in lawsuit” via Tess Riski of the Miami Herald — The city of Miami is appealing a Judge’s ruling last month that found the city had racially gerrymandered its voting districts, a move that could further extend a contentious and costly legal battle. The city informed the court that it will appeal two key rulings in a case brought against Miami in 2022 by voting rights activists represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. That includes a Judge’s order last month that invalidated the boundaries of the city’s five districts, which U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore determined the city had drawn based on the race and ethnicity of residents.

Doral Mayor calls on ex-Council members to return canceled pension money” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Doral Mayor Christi Fraga is asking four former City Council members who collected pensions until last year to return the money they received through the now-canceled program and drop an ongoing lawsuit. She says the lifetime retirement plan, created in January 2021 under ex-Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez and repealed in June 2023 after she took office, was unjustified and illegal. At least two of the four former beneficiaries, including Bermudez, disagree and argue Fraga acted improperly by contacting them directly through her office without Council approval. Fraga penned identical letters Wednesday to former Council members Pete Cabrera, Michael DiPietro, Sandra Ruiz and Bermudez, who now sits on the Miami-Dade County Commission.

Christi Fraga is asking four former City Council members who collected pensions until last year to return the money.

Federal funds pave way for many new affordable homes in Lake Worth Beach” via Abigail Hasebroock of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — More families will be eligible to buy affordable homes in Palm Beach County, this time thanks to federal funds going toward building nearly 40 new residences in Lake Worth Beach. A half-million dollars in federal aid will help construct the residences where people “can actually have a place to rest their heads, for the kids to do their homework, for the families to have their meals together,” said U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat. It’s the latest in a string of efforts across South Florida to address the critical lack of affordable housing. The $500,000 in funds for Lake Worth Beach is part of a multibillion-dollar government funding package.

Police unions endorse Lourdes Casanova for Palm Beach County Judge” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Royal Palm Beach defense lawyer Casanova’s bid for a bench post on the Palm Beach Court now has the support of two major police unions in the county, her campaign says. Casanova’s campaign announced the endorsements of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association (PBA) and Fraternal Order of Police, representing thousands of law enforcement professionals. “We are confident Lourdes will serve our community with integrity and fairness, and we are proud to endorse her campaign for County Court Judge.” Palm Beach PBA President John Kazanjian said.

Parkland school massacre site is readied for demolition” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A moment that many South Floridians have awaited comes next month: Workers will demolish the Parkland school building where 17 students and staff members were killed in a 2018 massacre. Then will come the next effort: Deciding what will go in that place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, “where the spirit of a lot of people are,” says Broward School Board member Debra “Debbi” Hixon, who lost her husband, Chris Hixon, Douglas’ wrestling coach and athletic director, in the shooting. For years, many community members have wanted the fenced-off building gone, no longer wanting to see a reminder of the killings at the school. Then last year, the Broward school district announced it would be demolished this Summer, after the school year ends. And the district recently confirmed the 1200 building is still on track to be razed next month, likely by mid-month. “I will be personally glad to not drive up to MSD and see the building,” Hixon said.

Boca Raton man who joined mob in tunnel at U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 found guilty” via Angie DiMichele of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Boca Raton man who joined a mob in “one of the most violent areas” of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol has been found guilty of several felony and misdemeanor charges for his participation, federal officials said. A jury found Richard Cook, 38, guilty of one felony count of civil disorder and five misdemeanors: Entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds and engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds, in addition to impeding passage through the Capitol grounds or buildings and act of physical violence in the Capital grounds or buildings.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

A closer look at the 7 candidates to represent Orlando’s District 5” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — An engaged and knowledgeable field of candidates has emerged in Orlando’s District 5, each making the case they’re the best choice to be Interim City Commissioner. The seven hopefuls emerged quickly after the downtown and West Orlando-area seat opened up following the indictment of Commissioner Hill. District residents can begin casting ballots on Monday, with early voting set to last until May 19. Election Day is May 21. If none of the candidates get more than 50% of the vote, then the top two will advance to a June 18 runoff. The winner will take office soon after and could serve until the term is up at the end of 2025.

Seven candidates are lining up to replace Regina Hill.

Orlando hikes stormwater fee despite objections” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Property owners in Orlando will see a higher stormwater bill starting next year, providing a costly shot in the arm to fund maintenance and improvements to the aging pipes that move rainwater from streets and neighborhoods to lakes and ponds. By a 5-1 vote Monday, the City Council signed off on the controversial hike after hearing from about two dozen residents opposed to the increase, most of whom argued it wasn’t equitable. Commissioner Tony Ortiz cast the lone opposing vote. “If Bill Gates moved into town and bought a $10 million house, he’d be paying the same stormwater fee as me,” said city resident Bill Giardello. “That’s nonsense.” The fee is calculated based on a property’s impervious surface — essentially the hard surfaces like a rooftop, driveway or pool deck. The fee will drastically increase between 2025 and 2028.

Seminole wants tourists to pay for new indoor events center” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — For years, Seminole County has wanted a large indoor facility for sports tournaments, music concerts and other events, to serve its own residents and help draw visitors from outside the region. Now, officials have discovered an unconventional way to pay for such a venue, estimated to cost upward of $65 million: By setting up a tourism improvement district that lets the county’s larger hotels tack on an extra fee for each room night stay. That extra charge — at a rate set by the hoteliers — would come in addition to the county’s 5% tourist tax and 7% state sales tax already added to a tourist’s bill for the cost of a hotel room or other short-term lodging.

Lawsuit seeks to restore election canceled by timing of Polk circuit Judge’s retirement” via Gary White of the Lakeland Ledger — Two local lawyers are trying to stop what they consider a ploy by a retiring Judge to have his successor chosen by DeSantis rather than voters. Steve Pincket and Renee M. Reid are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed May 7 asking a court to reinstate an election in August for the position being vacated by Circuit Judge Wayne Durden of the 10th Judicial Circuit. The suit names DeSantis and Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd as defendants. Pincket and Reid were among four lawyers who planned to run for the circuit Judge seat. “This is probably the most significant constitutional issue, as to the judiciary, that we’ve seen in the last 20 years,” Pincket said.

George W. Bush’s paintings could get their biggest audience yet at Disney World” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Bush once painted in secret. But starting next month, Bush’s paintings will get their biggest audience yet — seen by millions of people at Disney World. After he left office in 2009, Bush picked up a brush, discovering a new hobby taken up by many wartime leaders like Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower. Bush’s pastime was revealed publicly following an email hack. He published a book of his work in 2017. The paintings were showcased at the Lincoln Center and traveled around to venues across the country. Now, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors — a collection of nearly 100 paintings — will be on display at Epcot’s American Adventure Pavilion for a year beginning June 9. “As our 43rd, President, our post 911, Commander in Chief, really, I think it’s special to him to be able to tell and share people’s stories of resilience in service to country,” said Jason Galui, Director of Veteran and Military Families at the George W. Bush Institute.


Katie Blaxberg faces criticism for once being a Democrat, but her reason is hauntingly familiar for too many women” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Pinellas County School Board candidate Blaxberg is speaking up after months of attacks on not her platform, but private and personal choices she has made over the years. That includes her past and current party affiliations, despite running in what is statutorily a nonpartisan race. For Blaxberg, the personal attacks are more than just politicking as usual. The mom of three has installed extra security at her home in response to fears that her critics may take things beyond internet chat rooms. At issue are those who support one of Blaxberg’s opponents — most of them affiliated with the controversial Moms for Liberty group that is targeting School Board races nationwide.

Katie Blaxberg gets heat from critics, mainly from Moms For Liberty.

St. Petersburg City Council race heating up” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — The race between incumbent St. Petersburg District 5 City Council member Deborah Figgs-Sanders and challenger Torrie Jasuwan shows signs of becoming seriously competitive. One possible wild card: This will be the first Council race in at least several decades to be held along with a national and statewide General Election on Nov. 5, which will dramatically increase turnout. If it remains a two-person race, the contest will take place in the General Election, when all city voters can cast a ballot in Council races even though the victor represents just a geographic portion of the city. That could benefit Jasuwan, in part because the city has a larger proportion of White voters than the district.

Familiar faces throw in for vacant Pasco Commission seat” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Lisa Yeager of Port Richey, a politically connected former official of Pasco Hernando State College, looks likely to be the choice of the Pasco County GOP establishment in a Special Election to fill the seat of the late County Commissioner Gary Bradford. Bradford’s death April 21 stirred up the county’s normally predictable politics. It opened up a seat representing western and central Pasco for a countywide election in November, with only a bit more than a month before the qualifying period; and it opened an opportunity to apply for appointment by DeSantis to fill the vacancy until then.

Happening today:

— LOCAL: N. FL —

‘I’m super lucky’: Amid vast destruction, many in Tallahassee are relieved just to have homes” via Douglas Soule of the Tallahassee Democrat — There was a lot of scattered debris that could’ve battered the front of Col Stinson’s white GMC truck, but he thought it might have been a shingle from a nearby house. “These shingles are kind of heavy,” Stinson said on Friday afternoon, nudging one with a foot. But, looking back at the shattered left headlight and split bumper, he added, “But I don’t know if a shingle’s going to do that.” It was far more obvious what afflicted his boat, a 14-foot poling skiff. He didn’t think there was any damage but wouldn’t be sure until the tree on top was cut away. “You walk around the corner, and someone’s car is just completely smashed by a tree,” Stinson said. “It sucks, but I think other people got it worse.” Tallahassee experienced wind gusts reported between 80 and 100 mph on Friday morning. One person died after a tree fell on her home.

Tallahassee suffers vast destruction, but some have it worse than others. Image via City of Tallahassee.

After the storm: Indianhead neighbors gather for community cookout and share stories, help” via Jim Rosica of the Tallahassee Democrat — As day turned to night in Tallahassee’s Indianhead neighborhood, dozens of residents Friday gathered in Optimist Park for an impromptu cookout to grill food that otherwise would have spoiled in powerless freezers and fridges. Most were relieved that being without electricity or having their driveway blocked by a tree was the worst of their problems. The early Friday storms otherwise scoured central Tallahassee, snapping trees and utility poles like pencils “I have four trees on my house,” said Angel Hirai, who’s lived in the neighborhood since 2006. “The back wall is missing and there’s water and trees inside. We’ve seen neighbors’ houses damaged (in past storms) but nothing like this.” She said she already made a claim with her insurance company, the state-backed Citizens, and hopes to have the trees removed by next week but doesn’t expect to be back in her home for another year. She and her family hope to find a rental in the neighborhood in the meantime.

—“Capital City Country Club feels brunt of two tornadoes, cleanup and assessment underway” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat

Storm damages FSU MagLab, operations suspended this week” via Ana Goñii-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat

Leon superintendent Rocky Hanna on latest school cancellation: ‘This is unprecedented’” via Alaijah Brown of the Tallahassee Democrat — As a lifelong resident and school employee for more than a quarter century, Superintendent Hanna has seen a lot. “In my 60 years of living here, and in my 36 years of experience with Leon County Schools, this is unprecedented,” Hanna told the Democrat in an interview. On Monday morning, the school blasted out on social media it was ending the school day early and called on parents to pick up their kids by 1 p.m. The announcement is the latest head-snap cancellation as school district administrators try to navigate the quickly changing dynamics and threat levels of a recent barrage of severe weather and what may be the city’s worst tornado strike in history.

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office sued for publicly stripping man” via Nichole Manna of The Tributary — A 47-year-old man has alleged in a lawsuit that his constitutional rights were violated when two Jacksonville Sheriff’s officers strip-searched him in public, without justification, in September 2022. Despite failing to find any drugs on Ronnie Reed, the officers arrested him anyway, suspecting he’d given a nearby man cocaine. The officers justified removing Reed’s underwear by claiming they saw him clench his butt, leading them to believe he was attempting to hide drugs or money. As Reed was being searched, another group of officers found the money in the other man’s hands, according to body camera footage and a police investigation. Reed was charged with selling cocaine.

Arrest of heart transplant recipient who died wasn’t ‘the strongest,’ JSO sergeant said” via Nichole Manna of The Tributary — A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office sergeant deemed the arrest of a heart transplant recipient for a low-level misdemeanor as not “the strongest,” yet advised against reversing it, internal investigation documents show. Days after his release without crucial medication, the man died when his body rejected his heart. The Sheriff’s Office cleared the arresting officer, but the investigation also showed the officer had called his supervising sergeant to ask if he could defer arresting Dexter Barry until the State Attorney’s Office had a chance to weigh in. The sergeant, R.A. Goldstein, told Officer Jacob McKeon that since he had already handcuffed Barry, he shouldn’t reverse the decision, even if Barry had a heart condition.


Manatee County School Board member is stepping down. A former official wants her spot” via Victoria Villanueva-Marquez of the Bradenton Herald — After a two-year break, Charlie Kennedy wants to return to the Manatee County School Board. Kennedy has filed to run for the District 3 seat, which is now held by School Board Member Mary Foreman, according to a news release. “If elected to return to the School Board, my constituents can expect I will work with my fellow Board members to ensure financial stability, continued academic improvements, fidelity to Florida law and building Board consensus — even on tough issues — through Superintendent, staff and public input,” Kennedy said. Kennedy has spent 20 years teaching in Florida and other places like Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., the news release said.

After a two-year break, Charlie Kennedy is looking to return to the Manatee County School Board.

Sarasota Democratic Party accuses Tiger Bay of ‘unfair treatment,’ favoritism toward GOP” via Christian Casale of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota Democratic Party blasted the nonpartisan political organization Sarasota Tiger Bay Club for “unfair treatment and favoritism” and recommended that Democratic candidates boycott its events. Sarasota County Democratic Party Chair Daniel Kuether accused the organization of excluding Democrats from forums and representing the interests of Republicans. He also complained about a Tiger Bay Board member who is running for a public hospital Board seat and also facilitating a candidate panel. “It’s plain and straightforward: Sarasota Tiger Bay is not following the policies and guidelines laid out on its website,” Kuether said in a statement this week. Tiger Bay’s website says the group is “political but nonpartisan” and does not endorse candidates.


Florida Democrats focus on abortion. Will it work?” via Dave Trotter of Voting Trend — With the new 6-week abortion ban now in effect, the saliency of the abortion issue in the state has increased. Overall, in Florida, voters think that the new abortion restriction is too harsh. According to an Emerson College poll taken last month, 57.3% of registered Floridians think that the new abortion ban is too strict. However, only 55.9% of those voters are voting for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, with 31.2% of those voters picking Rick Scott. Those numbers are mirrored when looking at the upcoming ballot measure regarding abortion access, with 55.9% of Mucarsel-Powell voters voting for the measure, as well as 31.2% of Scott voters.

This plays into the biggest problem that Democrats have had since taking on identity politics as their campaign strategy, which is the “if we talk about (insert identity issue here), then we will win (insert identity demographic here)” problem. Democrats have this ill-guided misconception that immigration = Hispanic voters, civil rights = Black voters, and now abortion = women voters. But according to the Emerson College poll, 40% of female voters support Mucarsel-Powell, while 42% support Scott. Oops.

Laser-focusing on specific issues can be a recipe for disaster. This usually pigeonholes a campaign on one issue, while making the other issues seem less important. It’s the political equivalent to “putting all your chips on #18“, though the chances of hitting #18 are extremely slim.

What further exacerbates the problem is that most of the voters aren’t focusing on the abortion issue in the first place.


Biden just made his biggest blunder” via Bret Stephens of The New York Times — In announcing that the United States will pause the delivery of 3,500 bombs to Israel, President Biden has the laudable motive of wanting to spare innocent Palestinians from the military consequences of Hamas using Rafah as its last stronghold in Gaza. Less laudably, but no less understandably, he also needs to shore up support among progressive voters who think that Israel’s use of American weapons implicates us in war crimes. But motives are not results. And the consequences of Biden’s decision, if not soon reversed, will be the opposite of what he intends. How so? Let me count the ways. The munitions cutoff helps Hamas. It doesn’t end the war. It prolongs it. It diminishes Israel’s deterrent power and is a recipe for a wider war. There will be unintended foreign-policy consequences. It’s a political gift to Trump.

Biden’s plan to reschedule marijuana may finally end ‘Reefer Madness’” via the Los Angeles Times editorial board — The change in classification would be a major step toward clearing up the myths about cannabis. The limited studies conducted up to now indicate that marijuana can help with certain conditions, such as epileptic seizures and nausea from chemotherapy. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved cannabinoid medications, though their use is highly restricted. Cannabis does not appear to be effective against glaucoma or inflammatory bowel disease, two other claims made in its favor. Marijuana is just a drug, like any other drug that has some psychotropic effects. There needs to be robust research to determine its valid uses, appropriate doses and side effects. If and when the rescheduling occurs, the National Institutes of Health should fund more research and give scientists more flexibility to conduct large trials.

DeSantis should sign vacation rental legislation” via Pat Inmon for Florida Politics — When tourists visit the Sunshine State and transact business — at a restaurant, a lodging establishment, or elsewhere — they should have a basic expectation that the environment is safe. The state of Florida, for its part, has an interest in ensuring that companies transacting business are doing so responsibly. The vacation rental legislation (Senate Bill 280) takes important steps to empower DBPR to create that basic level of accountability. Everyone seems upset about the vacation rental legislation for very different and often contradictory reasons. For instance, cities don’t seem to like it because it takes away too much of their power, and some vacation rental operators don’t seem to like it because it’s too much regulation. When both sides aren’t happy, that’s usually the sign of a balanced piece of legislation.

Florida Environmental Commission hasn’t met in seven years. The state spends billions on cleanup” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — DeSantis recently announced he wants to spend another $1.5 billion cleaning up the Everglades and on other water-quality issues. By most counts, the money is needed. Here’s the problem: Florida keeps spending billions to clean up environmental messes, but does little to prevent the messes from happening in the first place. Want proof? Well, consider that Florida has an “Environmental Regulation Commission” meant to help safeguard this state’s natural resources. That Commission, full of gubernatorial appointees, could theoretically help protect this state’s water and land before costly repair projects are needed — but only if it ever took any action. It has not. The Commission hasn’t even met in seven years.

Glades community leaders — we urge federal government to protect water, farming and our justice” via Willie Williams of Florida Politics — The Glades Ministerial Association represents pastors and preachers from churches of all denominations and ethnicities around the Glades farming region. Many of our pastors have been here for decades serving the good people who live and work “on the muck.” Despite false media portrayals, our congregations are friendly, family-oriented folks who know their neighbors by name and look after one another. Here, a person’s word and a handshake mean something. That’s why we were hopeful when Biden announced his support of communities like ours through an early executive order promising environmental and economic justice. Biden pledged, “To secure an equitable economic future, the United States must ensure that environmental and economic justice are key considerations in how we govern.” Later communications reiterated the administration’s intent to have all government agencies adhere to these environmental and economic justice promises. Reducing or eliminating the water supply to our South Florida region would have devastating consequences.

As hurricane season approaches, ATLYS Global has developed a targeted solution to ensure Florida disaster recovery gets done” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — In Florida, the question is never “Will a hurricane hit,” it’s “When, where and how much damage will it cause?” Florida is often ground zero for hurricanes, and the destruction can be catastrophic, leaving the state searching for qualified contractors to complete necessary restoration efforts. One company, ATLYS Global, has established itself in Florida with a novel solution to ensure all contractors are able to participate in the disaster recovery business, regardless of the company’s size or credit capacity. To understand the unique ATLYS solution, it’s important to first understand the challenge it is solving. When disaster strikes — whether it’s a wildfire in California, tornado in Kansas or hurricane in Florida — the federal government allocates resources to ensure adequate recovery in communities affected.

Tiny threat, massive impact — battling the pepper thrips invasion” via Talmadge Coley for Florida Politics — Pepper thrips are an invasive species currently wreaking havoc in Florida. Ranging in size from one to four millimeters, they are difficult to see. They fly from plant to plant, curling leaves and sucking the sap. The damage restricts the plant’s growth and reduces crop yields. There is only one Florida grower currently under active quarantine to prevent the spread of pepper thrips, but since 2020 more than a dozen have been quarantined, preventing their products from moving during critical planting and landscaping times. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry is working closely with Florida’s nursery and landscape industry to detect, intercept and control these damaging pests. We are grateful for the leadership of Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson and the agency’s inspectors and researchers in our war against pepper thrips. We’re also working with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) to develop treatment options. But prevention is always better than a cure, which is why we must double down on our efforts to prevent pests from destroying our industry.


— ALOE —

Disney World’s Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens June 28” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, which replaces the Magic Kingdom’s Splash Mountain, will debut on June 28, Disney announced Sunday. Tiana’s has been in the works for years. Disney World announced the ride in 2020 and then closed Splash Mountain for construction in January 2023. The Tiana ride’s theme takes visitors deep into a New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration full of music and new Audio-Animatronics figures. “In many ways, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is a love letter to New Orleans,” Walt Disney Imagineer Charita Carter has said.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure inches toward its June 28 debut. Image via Disney Parks.

Disney auction: Vintage Space Mountain car goes for $43,500” via DeWayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — A refurbished ride vehicle from Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain ride has sold at auction for $43,500, according to figures released by Van Eaton Galleries. The California-based auction house had estimated it would draw a winning bid of between $15,000 and $20,000. The vehicle dates back to the indoor roller coaster’s debut in 1975. “This vehicle preserves the original body and interior of a three-seat Space Mountain rocket on a custom-recreated chassis,” the auction’s catalog reads. It was the highest total for any of the nearly 1,500 items in the auction, which leaned toward Disneyland items. The runner-up was a refurbished Autopia Mark VII vehicle from Disneyland, which sold for $42,000.

Formula 1 racer Charles Leclerc buys waterfront Miami Condo” via Alex DeLuca of the Miami New Times — Aside from taking home two trophies this past weekend, it appears Leclerc left the 2024 Miami Grand Prix with another, smaller victory: a spanking-new luxury pad in the 305. As the fancy cars zoomed around the parking lot at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, reports emerged that the Scuderia Ferrari driver, who finished third in Sunday’s big race, purchased a condo in a yet-to-be-built waterfront high-rise in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood. Leclerc snapped up a “Signature Residence” at Edition Residences, Miami Edgewater — a prism-shaped, 185-unit tower that will boast several floors of luxury abodes and mark the global brand’s first residential presence in Miami.


Happy birthday to the G.O.A.T., Susie Wiles.


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.

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