Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.21.24

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Sunburn — get all the 'hot takes' you need on Florida politics.

Good Tuesday morning.

Here are a few items of interest:

🐘 — Not all Republicans: It’s kind of old news that former Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is reluctantly backing President Joe Biden for re-election over former President Donald Trump, who Duncan really, really doesn’t like. What is new is The anti-Trump Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson’s interview with him. They talk about jumping off the Trump train and politics in general in a post-Jan. 6 world. Listen on substack.

Republican Geoff Duncan talks about why he is voting for Joe Biden. Image via AP.

🎰 — Bet on sports, not politics: Gambling is all over the place these days as more and more states legalize sports wagering and other app-driven betting platforms. The lottery goes even further back and is in even more spaces. But now regulators are trying to block betting on politics, with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission ordering a ban on such betting through prediction markets. Read more about it here.

🛢 — (Please don’t) drill baby, drill: The Department of Environmental Protection is not living up to its name with its preliminary support for a proposal to allow exploratory oil drilling in the fragile Apalachicola River Basin. More than 1,050 letters have rolled in opposing the plan, with just one letter supporting the practice. It begs the question: What is going on here? Find out in this rundown.


@Timodc: The U.N. does a moment of silence for the butcher of Iran in a dark comedy international version of Veep and the Iranian state TV gets to use it as propaganda. Lord

@JuddLegum: Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like a core principle of a lot of these AI companies is stealing other people’s work

@Fineout: Everyone is wondering when @GovRonDeSantis is going to finally sign the budget and roll out his line-item vetoes. Hearing from those on plaza level (EOG) that it won’t before Memorial Day and looking more like early June. Enjoy that long weekend.

@DLoesch: Exclusive from the FLORIDA SOS: “Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd personally traveled to Turks and Caicos to negotiate for the release or extradition of Floridian held for possessing two bullets.”

Tweet, tweet:


Dave Matthews Band 2024 Summer Tour begins in Tampa — 1; 72nd annual three-day Florida Folk Festival begins — 3; French Open begins — 4; Monaco Grand Prix — 6; Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 12; the 2024 World Cup begins — 22; DreamWorks Land officially opens at Universal Orlando — 25; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 27; CNN Presidential Debate — 37; Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens at Disney World — 38; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 39; Freedom Month Sales Tax Holiday begins — 42; Universal Mega Movie Parade debuts — 43; Republican National Convention begins — 54; the 2024 World Cup ends — 58; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 63; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 66; ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ premieres — 67; Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday begins — 70; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 88; Florida Primary Election — 92; Democratic National Convention begins — 92; second Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 96; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 96; Tool Time Sales Tax Holiday begins — 104; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 109; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 109; first of three Presidential Debates — 119; Vice Presidential Debate — 128; second Presidential Debate — 132; third Presidential Debate — 142; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 151; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 158; Florida TaxWatch’s 45th Annual Meeting — 167; 2024 Presidential Election — 168; Legislature’s 2025 Organizational Session — 182; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 182; ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ premieres — 199; MLS Cup 2024 — 200; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 267; the 2025 Oscars — 286; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 288; 2025 Session ends — 348; ‘Moana’ premieres — 398; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 429; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 429; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 536; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 578; ‘Avengers 5’ premieres — 714; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 731; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 942; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,082; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,041; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,763.


Abortion rights draw support as most call current law ‘too strict’ — but economy, inflation top factors for Floridians” via Anthony Salvanto, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Kabir Khanna of CBS News — Voters here rate Florida’s economy as mixed and the national economy as bad, with inflation and immigration having more impact on the contest right now.

Florida’s voters tend to think they’ll be better off financially with Trump, who leads comfortably in his bid to carry the state for a third straight time.

Abortion is a hot-button issue, but it’s not at the top of Florida voters’ list. Image via AP.

There is a lot of support in Florida for abortion access, including the majority view that the current six-week ban is too strict. Women are even more likely than men to say so.

Most Florida voters would want abortion to be legal in most cases, and overwhelmingly in at least some cases.

But in the presidential race, that doesn’t all benefit Biden or entirely hurt his opponent, Trump.

Here’s why: First, while it is important, abortion isn’t seen nearly as important as the economy and inflation for likely voters. In fact, it trails a host of other issues.

(That’s partly because it’s partisan: Democrats care a lot more than Republicans.)

Second, Trump has distanced himself a bit on the issue, with a lot of voters neither blaming nor crediting him for Roe’s overturn. While there’s relatively more blame than credit, coming especially from Democrats, it’s less for independents and less across the wider electorate.

Then relatively few think Trump would try to pass a national ban going forward.

So even for those who want abortion to be legal, there’s no consensus on what the implications of a Trump vote would be in that regard.

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Abortions spike as six-week ban takes effect — Agency for Health Care Administration data shows there have been 22,409 abortions performed in Florida year-to-date as of May 1. The latest figure indicates 7,674 were performed between April 1 and May 1, when the state’s ban on abortions after six weeks of gestation went into effect. The current ban, signed by the Governor last year, became law after the Florida Supreme Court upheld a 15-week ban that lawmakers and the Governor approved the year prior. Voters in November will decide whether to end the current restrictions via a proposed amendment, which will appear on the ballot as Amendment 4, that would prohibit restrictions on the procedure until the point of fetal viability.

Florida’s six-week abortion ban causes a spike in abortions. Image via AP.

Amendment 5 would lower taxes on homeowners, but others could pay more” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — Florida voters will get to decide in the November election whether to shield more of the value of their homes from property taxes under a proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution, but the measure might mean higher taxes for renters, landlords and other commercial property owners. The Annual Adjustments to the Value of Certain Homestead Exemptions measure will appear on the ballot as Amendment 5. To resolution sponsor Rep. James Buchanan, a Republican from Sarasota County, the desired effect is simple. “This HJR is going to encourage homeownership, drive down the cost of homeownership and ensure over time, as the cost of living goes up, that is reflected in their homestead exemption taxes,” he said.

— 2024 — DOWN-BALLOT —

Andrew Gutmann launches new TV ad in CD 22 — Republican Gutmann released a new TV ad backing his campaign to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel in Florida’s 22nd Congressional District. In the spot, “Never Again,” Gutmann highlights his upbringing in a Jewish household. “I grew up hearing my grandparents and parents saying, ‘Never again.’ But it’s happening … again,” Gutmann says in the ad, referring to pro-Palestinian protests. “The same woke radicals teaching our kids to hate America rejoice with Hamas. This isn’t FDR’s Democratic Party anymore. It’s time to take a stand. For America. For Israel. Before it’s too late.” Gutmann is one of three Republicans challenging Frankel in CD 22, a district drawn to favor Democrats.

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

Rising Senate leader Ben Albritton endorses Donald Trump-backed Randy Fine for Senate” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Sen. Albritton, next in line to be Senate President, is backing Rep. Fine’s bid for the Senate District 19 seat. The endorsement of the Wauchula Republican means Fine, a Brevard County Republican, is likely to have smooth sailing through the GOP Primary — if there is one. Albritton, who will be Senate President after the 2024 Elections, is in charge of Senate Republican campaigns this cycle as head of the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Randy Fine has unapologetically fought for the shared conservative values that continue to preserve freedom and opportunity for all Floridians,” Albritton said. “He has stood on the front lines to protect parental rights in education and to keep our families safe in the face of ever-evolving dangers. I’m proud to endorse Randy because he is an important voice at a time when we need it most.” Fine is running for the SD 19 seat occupied by Sen. Debbie Mayfield, who is term-limited.

JAXBIZ backs Nick Primrose in HD 18” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — The nonpartisan political group associated with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce has made its pick in a St. Johns County House race, supporting Nick Primrose in House District 18. “Nick knows business from his executive role at JAXPORT, the economic engine that accounts for tens of thousands of jobs in our community. Nick also knows Tallahassee, having served as Deputy General Counsel for two Florida Governors,” JAXBIZ Chair Tyler Mathews said. “Nick has the background, knowledge and pro-business perspective we need in the Florida House and we look forward to working with him in Tallahassee.” Primrose is running to replace term-limited Rep. Cyndi Stevenson. He leads the money race in the Republican Primary, where he faces Kim Kendall. St. Augustine’s Keith Clark Matthews is running Democrat, but HD 18 is a safe GOP seat.

Bryan Beckman to challenge Kim Berfield in HD 58 following his wife’s Clearwater Mayor defeat” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Bryan Beckman, a Democrat, has filed to run against Republican Rep. Berfield in the House District 58 seat she currently holds. His filing on May 17 comes after his wife, Kathleen Beckman, lost her bid for Clearwater Mayor. Bryan Beckman served as his wife’s Campaign Manager in that race. Bryan Beckman is the Executive Committee Chair for the Florida Suncoast Sierra Club, a group that advocates for environmentally friendly policy that works to curb climate change and support sustainability and resilience. Republicans control nearly 38% of the electorate in the North Pinellas-based seat, compared to less than 30% for Democrats. Beckman has raised more than $123,000 since early 2023 and retains about $90,000 of that in her campaign account. Further, she has another $137,000 available in her affiliated political committee, Friends of Kim Berfield.

Happening tonight:

Save the date:





Poll: Ron DeSantis is preferred Trump VP pick, with Marco Rubio far behind” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — That’s the takeaway from the new Harvard-Harris Poll, which finds voters want DeSantis and not Rubio on the ticket. DeSantis leads a host of potential picks with 12% top-choice support among the electorate, including 23% of Republicans, 7% of no-party voters and 4% of Democrats. Rubio has 4% support, but just 3% among Republicans, 4% among no-party voters and 5% among Democrats. He trails U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Rubio would offer a net boost for the ticket, with 27% of respondents saying they’d be more likely to vote for him and 17% saying they’d be less likely. The pollster didn’t test the same question with DeSantis for reasons that are unknown, however.

Voters want Ron DeSantis as VP, leaving Marco Rubio in the dust. Image via AP.

‘Oct. 7 was a turning point’: Trump’s pro-Israel fundraising accelerates.” via Marc A. Caputo of The Bulwark — Almost as soon as Biden announced he would halt a weapons shipment to Israel, Steve Witkoff’s iPhone started buzzing. “Every one of my friends started calling and asking, ‘What can I do for Donald Trump?’” Witkoff, a pro-Israel donor and fundraiser for Trump’s campaign, said. Witkoff and the Trump campaign had been waiting for these calls ever since October 7. But Biden had maintained an unexpectedly strong alliance with Israel even as the Gaza death toll skyrocketed, his relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grew strained and U.S. public opinion shifted against the war. A number of top Republican Jewish donors, some of whom never much liked Trump, remained on the sidelines. Biden’s May 8 announcement on CNN— “I made it clear that if they go into Rafah … I’m not supplying the weapons” — appears to have changed the calculus.

Nikki Haley faces a murky path forward and a key decision on whether or not to endorse Trump” via Steve Peoples, Meg Kinnard, and Thomas Beaumont of The Associated Press — Haley is perhaps the highest-profile Republican in the nation who has refused to fall in line and endorse Trump’s presidential bid. It’s unclear how long that might last. Some allies believe she may be forced to endorse him before the November election to avoid permanently alienating the Republican Party base. Some even suspect that Haley will re-emerge on Trump’s shortlist of vice-presidential contenders in the coming months, despite Trump’s recent statement to the contrary. But if Haley submits to Trump, as so many of his GOP critics have done, she also risks destroying her own coalition of independents, moderates and anti-Trump Republicans, who are still showing up to support her in low-profile Primary contests from deep-red Indiana to deep-blue Maryland. On Tuesday, she gets another chance to demonstrate her sustained strength in Kentucky’s Presidential Primary contest, which comes more than two months after she suspended her campaign.


How much does it cost DeSantis to travel from one place to another? Florida won’t tell you” via Douglas Soule of the Tallahassee Democrat — The state says such financial records are exempt from public records disclosure, citing a 2023 law geared at concealing certain information to prevent the endangerment of the Governor and other officials. A total amount for how much is spent on the Governor’s travel is released every year by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, but the agency recently denied a public records request seeking a detailed breakdown. “I don’t understand this inconsistency. … He was at a public event; it doesn’t make any sense to protect that,” said Michael Barfield, director of public access initiatives for the Florida Center for Government Accountability, which has filed multiple public records lawsuits against the Governor. “It’s my understanding the legislation did not preclude the release of financial amounts.”

Ron DeSantis’ flights to public events are being kept secret. Image via AP.

Jimmy Patronis says Obamacare Marketplace ‘facilitating fraud’ — In a letter to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Brett Guthrie, who chair Committees overseeing the U.S. Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, CFO Patronis warned that the Obamacare Marketplace does not adequately guard against bad actors who switch policyholders’ health insurance plans without consent to collect commission. “Policyholders are getting plans they didn’t want or ask for,” Patronis said. “Thanks to the weak security measures of the Marketplace, Floridians are being signed up for health policies in different states, then getting penalized by the IRS because they made too much to qualify for plans. This fraud can only occur through a Marketplace that’s got more holes in it than a cheap slice of Swiss cheese.”

Florida leaders offered $3B to property insurers; $2.2B wasn’t claimed” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Orlando Sentinel — More than two-thirds of the $3 billion set aside by the Florida Legislature to shore up the state’s collapsing property insurance industry has gone untouched since it first became available in 2022. Many insurance companies, which asked the Legislature for help, have mostly steered clear of that money. Industry analysts said it only covered a small part of their hurricane losses or was too expensive compared with the reinsurance they could get in the private market. Insurers had to reduce rates to get the money. Legislative leaders and insurance industry insiders, meanwhile, are cheering modest signs that the Florida property insurance market is improving.

Florida’s 125% surge in property-insurance bills sows havoc” via Lauren Coleman-Lochner and Melina Chalkia of Bloomberg — With Florida being threatened by more powerful hurricanes, commercial-property insurance costs last year surged at nearly five times the national pace, according to credit rating firm AM Best Co. Inc. That’s slapping what care providers say is effectively a new — if little-noticed — tax on an industry already contending with labor shortages, soaring wages and rising supply costs. The result? More and more nursing homes are closing down each year, while others are missing debt payments. At the same time, the costs for senior care — at all levels from independent living to round-the-clock nursing — are rising, threatening to become unaffordable for a growing number of retirees.

Florida child welfare agency wages legal battle, seeks felony charge for ex-watchdog” via Carol Marbin Miller of the — As the state’s longtime child welfare ombudsman, it was Heather Cox Rosenberg’s job to fight for Florida’s foster children and their parents — an assignment her former employer accused her of sometimes doing too well. She even sued her bosses in an effort to get help for her own adoptive children. On Friday, the agency where Rosenberg used to work went to court to strip her of custody of one of her three children, telling a Tallahassee judge she had effectively abandoned him by refusing to take the boy home following a protracted psychiatric hospitalization.

Heather Cox Rosenberg is under fire for doing her job too well.

Appeals court denies Florida request for wetlands permitting stay” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO — A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in an order Monday only that Florida had not “satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal.” The judges did not address the merits of the case. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in its April 26 stay request, said the judge’s ruling in February creates “irreparable injuries” by placing projects into an “indefinite regulatory limbo.” Federal agencies told the appeals court that they were not taking a position on the request. Tania Galloni of the Earthjustice law firm, which represented the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups challenging the Trump administration’s decision to delegate permitting authority to Florida, said Monday it was time for Florida “to move on.”


Matthew Montavon launches website to track Greg Steube votes and statements” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — One of U.S. Rep. Steube’s Democratic challengers has started a tracking effort on the Republican incumbent’s actions and votes. Sarasota Democrat Montavon launched Steube Watch, a campaign to “bring attention to prejudicial actions of our Congressman.” Montavon said the information gleaned will appear on his campaign website. “I will work for the people on election integrity and voter access, the environment, energy efficiency and women’s right to choose,” Montavon said. “I have dedicated my career to making organizations work better through service and management. I am the candidate for common sense and common ground.” The tracking includes controversial votes against infrastructure spending and green energy and notes Steube’s support of restrictions on abortion. But Montavon also suggested that Steube’s recent statements about a Special Counsel investigation of Trump cross a line.

Matthew Montavon is keeping a sharp eye on Greg Steube.

Personnel note: Mike Waltz names George Alderman as Press Secretary — Republican U.S. Rep. Waltz has brought on Alderman as his new Press Secretary. In a social media post, Alderman said he was “thrilled to be joining this team and to be serving the people of Florida.” Alderman most recently worked as an associate at Targeted Victory, an agency that produces digital campaign ads for Republican campaigns.

New 9/11 evidence points to deep Saudi complicity” via Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon of The Atlantic — The global War on Terror was based on a mistake. A new filing in a lawsuit brought by the families of 9/11 victims against the government of Saudi Arabia alleges that al-Qaida had significant, indeed decisive, state support for its attacks. Officials of the Saudi government, the plaintiffs’ attorneys contend, formed and operated a network inside the United States that provided crucial assistance to the first cohort of 9/11 hijackers to enter the country. They allege that Saudi officials — most notably Fahad al-Thumairy, an imam at a Los Angeles mosque and an accredited diplomat at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in that city, and Omar al-Bayoumi, who masqueraded as a graduate student but was identified by the FBI as an intelligence operative — were not rogue operators but rather the front end of a conspiracy that included the Saudi embassy in Washington and senior government officials in Riyadh.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

—”11 current, former elected Miami-Dade officials endorse Daniella Levine Cava for re-election” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Judge urges reprimand for Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — An administrative law judge Monday said Tony should receive a written reprimand and be required to complete ethics training after concluding that the sheriff violated state law by not disclosing in 2019 that his driver’s license had previously been suspended. Judge Robert L. Kilbride issued a 31-page recommended order that also called for Tony to be placed on an 18-month “probationary status.” The decision stemmed from a complaint filed in 2022 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission that alleged Tony did not disclose the suspension in driver’s license applications over a series of years. Kilbride’s ruling said Tony’s Pennsylvania driver’s license was suspended in 1998.

Gregory Tony is facing a reprimand for an old, suspended driver’s license.

Mariana Blanco launches bid for Palm Beach School Board with incumbent’s endorsement” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Blanco, Assistant Executive Director of the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth Beach, is running for the Palm Beach County School Board. Blanco just filed paperwork to run in what is now a three-person race to succeed Alexandria Ayala in the panel’s District 2 seat. And Ayala, who confirmed last week that she will not seek a second term on the seven-member Board, is backing Blanco’s bid, Blanco’s campaign said. “I am eager to put my extensive community engagement experience to work for Palm Beach County students, teachers and staff,” Blanco said. “I am focused on working to reach educational equity and build upon the incredible successes outgoing Board member Ayala has accomplished. Together, we can build a school system that empowers every student to thrive and succeed.”

St. Lucie County Sheriff election — who is making this race the most expensive in the region” via Wicker Perlis of Treasure Coast Newspapers — The race for Sheriff here likely will be the most expensive local election campaign in the area. Nine candidates have filed paperwork to replace Democrat Ken Mascara, who abruptly resigned in December and was controversially replaced by DeSantis with then-lieutenant Keith Pearson. Richard Del Toro, a Republican, is the Interim Chief of the Port St. Lucie Police Department. He has been in the race for more than three years, having declared in January 2021, when he was assistant chief. Del Toro’s campaign war chest appears to have benefited from that head start, as he had raised nearly $318,000 as of the end of March, the most in the Sheriff’s race.

Riviera Beach advances City Council redistricting plans for first time since 1979” via Wayne Washington of The Palm Beach Post — The Riviera Beach City Council voted unanimously to advance a trio of maps that would change district lines for the first time in 45 years. The new district maps will be the subject of a pair of community meetings that will be held in advance of June 5, when Council members will decide on a new map. Reapportionment — the process of updating district lines known as redistricting — is, for people not interested in politics, typically as exciting as watching paint dry. But the process is important, particularly for elected officials who could face the prospect of having to move or give up their seat, depending on the new boundaries.

Real estate mogul Charles Kushner quietly funded PAC network that backed Surfside candidates” via Alex DeLuca and Naomi Feinstein of the Miami New Times — Amid a tense municipal election last March, residents received a blitz of political mailers in support of re-electing then-Mayor Shlomo Danzinger, then-Vice Mayor Jeff Rose, and other Commission candidates. The ads came from an obscure political action committee: One Surfside. Records show that One Surfside was part of the political committee network to which Kushner and Fort Lauderdale development group Fort Partners contributed a combined $40,000. The contributions came in the midst of criticism from Surfside residents and activists who claimed town leaders were too cozy with developers and were poised to fast-track pending projects, including a build out by Kushner Companies and others under development by Fort Partners.

$231M project would connect I-95, Florida’s Turnpike in Martin County” via Keith Burbank of Treasure Coast Newspapers — A project costing up to $231 million would connect Interstate 95 and Florida’s Turnpike in southern Martin County, making it easier for drivers to move between the two highways. The Florida Department of Transportation is already studying the concept and is to present details to the Martin County Commission Tuesday. But there is “no plan for an additional exit” from the turnpike in Martin County,” said Troy McDonald, Stuart City Commissioner and Chair of the Policy Board of the Martin Metropolitan Planning Organization, which coordinates transportation improvements in the county.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Orlando-area Senators call on Governor not to veto stormwater projects” via Gray Rohrer of Florida Politics — Two Orlando-area Senators want DeSantis to spare stormwater projects when he takes his veto pen to the budget. Democratic Sens. Linda Stewart and Victor Torres cited recent floods and the decision by the Orlando City Council last week to hike stormwater fees in calling on DeSantis to keep their stormwater projects. “Homeowners are getting hit from all sides right now, for years we have proposed appropriation projects to help our Central Florida communities deal with stormwater and sewer issues,” Torres said in a released statement. “We have walked through knee-deep water in our communities and seen firsthand how our population growth has affected our water system.” Stormwater fees in Orlando will jump 52%-131% over the next four years.

Victor Torres and Linda Stewart urge DeSantis to not veto local stormwater projects.

Election Day is here for voters in Orlando’s District 5” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Seven candidates have spent the past six weeks making their cases at a half-dozen candidate forums and neighborhood doorsteps, hoping to be the interim District 5 City Commissioner in Orlando. Now it’s up to the voters. Election Day is Tuesday in the district spanning downtown and neighborhoods like Parramore, West Lakes and Mercy Drive west of Interstate 4, with the chance to serve out the rest of a term won by Regina Hill. DeSantis suspended Hill last month following her felony indictment on charges of elder abuse and fraud.

In Orlando, $350K moved 250 people off the streets” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — For four years, Vanessa Artis and her two adult children slept on the sidewalks of Parramore, hoping for a bed of their own. Finally, last year, their fortunes began to change with the help of the Christian Service Center and a rush of federal funding that has made a surprisingly large dent in the neighborhood’s ongoing homelessness crisis. First, the Artis family was placed in an extended-stay hotel. Once she had a stable job, they were moved to an apartment in Sanford, where the nonprofit helped them afford to settle.

When a bus without seat belts met a dangerous driver, Florida farmworkers paid the price” via Hannah Critchfield and Juan Carlos Chavez of the Tampa Bay Times — The farmworkers packed into the white bus by the dozen. In the early morning darkness, they rode along a rural highway, winding through horse country on their way to the watermelon fields of Dunnellon. Not everyone could see the truck approaching. But Rodolfo de la Cruz sat at the front of the bus. With the rising sun, he caught a flash of the pickup just as it swerved into their path. Near him, workers gripped their seats, bracing for impact. The crash killed eight farmworkers and injured at least four dozen others.

NSB’s top City Manager semifinalist pick no longer in contention after video surfaces” via Brenno Carillo of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — The highest-ranking semifinalist for the New Smyrna Beach City Manager position is no longer in contention after a video surfaced showing him making disparaging comments about the Mayor of the city he managed, according to a report from KBZK-7. Jeff Mihelich, who led the 13 semifinalists last month, served as City Manager in Bozeman, Montana, from 2020-24. He made the remarks about Bozeman Mayor Terry Cunningham in a virtual meeting with a colleague. In the video, Mihelich expressed frustration over Cunningham’s requests for information, referring to it as “annoying,” as well as other comments.

A video leads to Jeff Mihelich’s rejection as the top candidate for New Smyrna Beach City Manager.

UCF versus the conservative professor: Judge dismisses some, not all, counts in lawsuit” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A federal Judge kept alive a lawsuit against the University of Central Florida (UCF) — though with some counts dismissed — as a conservative professor sues the school, accusing UCF of violating his freedom of speech. “Although the plaintiff (Charles Negy) made statements that offended a significant portion of the UCF population, the First Amendment protects speech without regard for its social worth or if it is acceptable in the mainstream Nowhere is this more important than at an institution of higher learning,” U.S. District Judge Carlos E. Mendoza wrote in an order late last month. UCF investigated Negy and then unsuccessfully tried to fire the tenured professor after he authored a book on White shaming and posted some controversial tweets. Using his personal account, Negy wrote one post in 2020 that said, “Blacks are not systematically oppressed in the United States.”


In Hillsborough, a School Board campaign takes a spiteful turn” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times — Bonnie Lambert — a career educator with moderate views on issues such as spending and library books — is challenging District 3 incumbent Jessica Vaughn, whose positions are more progressive. Lambert and Vaughn are Democrats. Their party has a slender Board majority, even though the seats are officially nonpartisan. But instead of congeniality in the interest of party unity, the two have spent the last nine months taking jabs at each other on social media. Things reached a low point Thursday when Lambert brandished an enlarged arrest photo of Vaughn from two decades ago at a political forum in Seminole Heights. Both candidates contend they are the aggrieved parties. Both say they have shown restraint when baited by the other. Both have spoken, at times, of withdrawing from the race.

The race between Bonnie Lambert and Jessica Vaughn takes a turn toward nastiness.

Moffitt Cancer Center appoints new CFO” via Devonta Davis of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Moffitt Cancer Center has appointed a new Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President. Joanna Weiss, who joined the center in 2006, will be taking the reins. In her role as the director of Internal Audit, Weiss held various leadership positions within the finance department. In her new role, she will oversee all financial operations for the cancer center.

St. Pete embarks on $1.6 million seawall project” via Mark Parker of St. Pete Catalyst — A long-awaited initiative to replace St. Petersburg’s aging and eroding seawalls will soon commence as City Council members unanimously approved a $1.6 million construction proposal on May 16. Edmonton, Canada-based PCL Construction will rebuild structurally deficient sea walls in three flood-prone areas around the peninsula. Those include the 31st Avenue Northeast bridge on Snell Isle, the 79th Street South bridge over Boca Ciega Bay and a span along 87th Avenue North in Riviera Bay. “One of the seawalls that is being done is a project I’ve been working on for years,” said Council member Ed Montanari, who represents Snell Isle. “I know there’s a couple of other seawalls in other Council members’ districts who I’m sure are very happy to see this coming forward.”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Tallahassee celebrates Florida Emancipation Day at the Knott House Museum” via Casey Chapter of WFSU — Citizens of all ages gathered at the Knott House Museum to commemorate May 20, 1865, when the Emancipation Proclamation was first read in Florida and all enslaved people in the state gained their freedom. The date is separate from Juneteenth, which commemorates the day that enslaved people in Texas learned they were free. Texas was the last state to honor the Emancipation Proclamation. The event included a performance from the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra and a re-enactment of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation from the steps of the Knott House on Park Street, where the original reading took place more than 150 years ago.

Tallahassee turns out for Florida Emancipation Day. Image via WFSU.

Railroad Square owners: ‘We can no longer be the sole stewards of Tallahassee’s Art District’” via Kyla A Sanford of the Tallahassee Democrat — Adam and Lily Kaye, the siblings who own Tallahassee’s Railroad Square, are signaling that the capital’s historic and beloved art district is on the brink unless they’re provided with some financial help. “It has always been our hope that the city of Tallahassee, or a related government entity, would purchase at least a portion of Railroad Square, and make it a publicly run or non-profit-owned community resource,” they said in a statement. “We have met with city officials for many years to encourage this to occur and have proposed this to two Mayors. Seven years ago, we informed a group of city staff and elected officials that we could not do this on our own much longer, and their involvement was necessary to retain Tallahassee’s historic Art District.”

Second Harvest to host food drives this week following Tallahassee tornadoes” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — Second Harvest now looks to do what they can by hosting three neighborhood mobile markets which will be able to serve 250 families and will serve items such as fresh produce, bread, protein and more. This is where you can find them this week: Tuesday, May 21, 2 p.m. — 4 p.m., Sable Palm Neighborhood, 2802 Plant Street; Wednesday, May 22, 2 p.m. — 4 p.m., South City Neighborhood, 524 East Orange Avenue; and Thursday, May 23, 11 a.m. — 1 p.m., Lincoln Center, 438 W Brevard Street.

Farm Share, Corey Simon get food to Leon County families impacted by recent tornadoes — A lot of folks in Tallahassee are still hurting from the recent tornadoes that devastated parts of the Capital City on May 10. Farm Share, the state’s largest food bank, hosted a free food distribution at the Leon County Health Department — located in one of the hardest-hit areas of town — handing out enough food for 500 households. Among those at the event were Sen. Simon, Rep. Jason Shoaf’s staff, Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil and LSCO deputies and staff, County Commissioners David O’Keefe and Carolyn Cummings, and Leon County Health Department personnel. Farm Share provides staples including bread, milk, juice, vegetables, nonperishables — even pet food — all to help families restock their supplies, Farm Share joins the Global Empowerment Mission to provide kits with water, nonperishable items, and hygiene products.

Corey Simon lends a hand to distribute food to Tallahassee families impacted by storms.


Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board will consider adopting Joseph Ladapo’s anti-vaccine guidance” via Earle Kimel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Sarasota County Public Hospital Board will weigh a proposal by Board member Vic Rohe that the hospital embrace assertions by Surgeon General Ladapo that COVID-19 vaccinations are risky and inappropriate for human use when it meets at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Federal health officials say Ladapo’s position is contrary to science and potentially deadly. In January, Rohe asked for the proposal — a five-page motion that he said members of the community handed him — to be placed on a future agenda.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital Board takes its cue from Joseph Ladapo’s anti-vax views.

Naples Airport move study identities four potential sites.” via J. Kyle Foster of the Naples Daily News — The exploratory study looking at the feasibility of moving the Naples Airport got to one of the main points with the presentation of potential sites for an airport in east Collier County. Consultant Environmental Science Associates — ESA — met with some of the landowners and came up with a list of four sites that could serve a general airport or possibly one with commercial flights. These landowners were open to the idea of selling land for an airport, ESA’s Doug DiCarlo told the Board. They haven’t met with Collier County Commissioners as of yet. Conservationists were pleased that the list did not include the 74,138-acre Picayune Strand State Forest located about 2 miles east of Naples.

Lee County among the Top 10 Florida counties with most GDP growth; find out where it ranks” via J. Kyle Foster of the Naples Daily News — According to a study by online financial adviser SmartAsset on the places with the highest GDP growth, Lee County ranks No. 8 among Florida counties based on business establishment growth, gross domestic product (GDP) growth and new building permits. Lee County’s business growth actually fell almost 1%; it was the only county with a decline in this category in the top 10 list from SmartAsset. New building permits were the highest on the list, at 29.09 per 1,000 homes. The study showed Lee County as 79th nationally based on the three metrics.


Rubio and the inverted reality of the Trump VP shortlist” via Philip Bump of The Washington Post — House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik joined Fox News host Shannon Bream on Sunday for what Stefanik might justifiably have assumed would be a low-tension interview. But it wasn’t.

Bream pointed out that Stefanik’s name has been mentioned regularly in discussions of who Trump will pick as his running mate for the General Election. Given those mentions, Bream raised past reporting from The New York Times in which Stefanik — like many ambitious Republicans at the time — disparaged Trump’s original presidential candidacy.

The exchange was revealing: To demonstrate your loyalty to Trump, to stay in his good graces, you must necessarily exist in the realm of falsehoods.

Luckily for Stefanik, Rubio offered a much better example of this phenomenon during his appearance on the Sunday political talk shows.

Rubio was a guest on NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” where host Kristen Welker pressed him on shifts in his policy positions over time. For example, Welker noted that he once objected to Trump’s plans to launch a massive campaign centered on deporting immigrants, something Rubio now says he supports.

What eroded confidence in democracy, he insisted, wasn’t a President claiming falsely and endlessly that an election was stolen but, instead, the invented distractions Trump allies created to avoid endorsing his allegations about fraud.

This is a U.S. Senator, making easily debunked claims on broadcast television about millions of undocumented immigrants, about rampant voter fraud and about the need to view election results with skepticism. It is one of the most senior members of the House Republican conference, denying what she said in a radio interview that anyone can listen to.

Presumably, it’s because they know that loyalty to Trump means rejecting reality when that reality is inconvenient.


By flip-flopping on Doral’s call for peace in Middle East, Mayor bowed to hate” via Zohra Khorashi for the Miami Herald — The City of Doral made a historic decision on May 8 by unanimously voting in favor of a peace resolution calling for a permanent end to all hostilities in Israel and Gaza. This resolution, the first of its kind from a city in South Florida, emerged as a beacon of hope in an era tainted by hate, distrust and the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia. The resolution passed and encompassed the sentiments of these equally represented communities. By demanding an end to the conflict, the resolution showcased Doral as a steadfast foundation for promoting peace, acceptance and unity. However, the reactions thus far have been disheartening, characterized by vitriol, further division and, most concerning, exclusion and hate. By introducing a new resolution in response to this hate-based backlash, the Mayor is choosing to value and humanize only one group of constituents, to the detriment of others.

The worst best economy ever” via Annie Lowrey of The Atlantic — The jobless rate is below 4%, as it has been for nearly two and a half years. Wage growth is moderating, but it is higher than it was at any point during the Obama administration; overall, Biden has overseen stronger pay increases than any President since Richard Nixon. Inflation has cooled off considerably, meaning that consumers’ purchasing power is strong. Yet Biden’s approval rating is below 40%. This reality has engendered panic among many Democratic campaign operatives, and no small degree of dismay too. Indeed, the sunny numbers about the economy fail to account for some cloudier elements. Americans remain stressed by, and ticked off about, high interest rates and high prices. Homes and cars, in particular, are unaffordable, given the cost of borrowing and insurance. And inflation has moderated, but groceries and other household staples remain far more expensive than they were during the Trump administration.


— ALOE —

Florida gas prices above last year’s Memorial Day mark ahead of expected record-setting holiday travel” via Florida Politics — Gas prices in Florida rose by 6 cents early last week. But that uptick reversed over the weekend and by Sunday settled at a state average of $3.45 per gallon — the same price as a week ago. The price may remain higher than it was last year through the end of the month, AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins said, due to ongoing hostilities in key regions. “Pump prices are drifting lower as a record-setting 2.5 million Floridians prepare to travel for Memorial Day weekend,” he said in a statement. “However, ongoing geopolitical tensions could prevent pump prices from falling below year-ago levels, during the holiday weekend.” Florida gas prices averaged $3.41 per gallon on Memorial Day last year.

Strong crop expected for Florida avocados” via Tom Burfield of The Packer — Growers are gearing up for the 2024-25 Florida avocado harvest, and indications are that this should be a good year for the green-skin fruit. The Avocado Administrative Committee of Florida estimated that final production totals for the 2023-24 season will come in at 21,235 metric tons, down 6.6% from the 2022-23 season. Growers say it appears that volume for the coming season should be similar to or slightly above last year’s numbers. Florida’s avocado season generally runs from June through December, with some available in January, said Peter Leifermann, vice president of sales and marketing for Homestead-based Brooks Tropicals.

It’s going to be a good season for avocado toast.

Universal announces first 2 haunted houses for Halloween Horror Nights 2024” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Universal Orlando has revealed the first two haunted houses for its 2024 edition of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios theme park. The scare fest will have a sequel of one of the mazes from the 2018 event and will be called Slaughter Sinema 2. The new house was announced during an HHN panel held at a Spooky Empire event in Orlando. “We are thrilled to announce our very first, original content haunted house for Halloween Horror Nights 33, the sequel to a fan favorite, Slaughter Sinema,” said show director Ramon Paradoa. That was followed by the appearance of a leather-jacketed, spikey-haired skull character pacing in front of the stage.


Celebrating today are former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, James Blair, and former Speaker Tom Feeney.


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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