Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.29.24

Sunburn Orange Tally (7)
Your morning review and preview of the issues and players behind Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

The group behind a ballot measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use landed a major ally and it plans to announce the details at noon.

Smart & Safe Florida, which recently launched a $5 million statewide TV ad buy, didn’t provide details on who the “key endorsement” is coming from, but the news conference venue might be a hint — they’ll go live on YouTube from the Orlando offices of Morgan & Morgan.

The megafirm is led by John Morgan, who has put his might behind two successful constitutional amendments, including the 2016 ballot question that legalized medical marijuana.

Morgan has not been officially involved in the recreational pot campaign, which has received most of its support from the current slate of medical marijuana companies operating in Florida, especially Trulieve, which has poured more than $40 million into the effort so far.

The Tallahassee-based company, the world’s highest-valued legal cannabis corporation, has been joined by Curaleaf, Verano Holdings, Greenthumb Industries, Ayr Wellness, and Cresco Labs in bankrolling the next leg of the campaign.

Recent polling shows that support for legalizing recreation is high, but it’s hovering just shy of the 60% threshold needed to amend Florida’s Constitution.

To watch the livestream, please click the image below:


The stakes always seem higher in a presidential year, and this year’s class of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians are, in each their own way, navigating the political minefield that comes with it.

We’ll begin running profiles on this year’s honorees today and will continue posting until we reach the No. 1 spot on Tuesday.

As it typically does, this list contains some familiar faces. But it also has some surprises, including who landed at the top and who fell off from last year. Some of this year’s honorees are repeating on the list — some for several years running — but from different positions.

Who has the juice in Tampa Bay? Find out here.

And the list continues to shine a light on how power and influence differ depending on position. For example, it should come as little surprise that legislative honorees are more likely to be members of the GOP — after all, Republicans enjoy supermajorities in both chambers. Democrats on this list either find themselves in a minority party forced to soften what they see as bad legislation or leading in areas friendlier to liberal policies and ideas.

So, who wields the clout — and who’s bold enough to flout it? For its annual list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians, Florida Politics scoured opinions from the Sunshine Skyway to the Strawberry Festival grounds and far beyond, consulting with the leaders, lobbyists and politicos, each an expert on the wielding of influence.

A special thanks to RSA Consulting Group, the sponsor of this year’s rankings.


Florida Politics is putting out another call for Influencers — inviting you and all interested parties to take part in an Influencer Poll now that the 2024 campaign cycle is fully underway. If you are in The Process or know someone with insight into what’s happening — or going to happen — this Summer, we want to hear from you! Drop us a line at [email protected], and we’ll add you (or them) to the list.


🏖 — Summer vacation, brought to you by these lobbyists: Ever wonder what makes or breaks tourist destinations? Wonder no more with this handy rundown of who has lobbyists on retainer to ensure the snowbirds keep flocking and the Europeans keep coming. From Ron Book to Mike Corcoran, these are the guys and gals you want on your team to make sure policy spells success. Read more here.


Happening today — The Florida Retail Foundation, Sen. Corey Simon, and Rep. Allison Tant will distribute disaster preparedness kits and encourage Floridians to prepare for hurricane season during Florida’s Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday: 9 a.m., Apalachee Ridge Estates Technology & Learning Center, 937 Kendall Drive, Tallahassee.


Tweet, tweet:

@Budlightlyman: George W Bush: 8 years of allowing Angel Hernandez to umpire MLB games Barack Obama: 8 years of allowing Angel Hernandez to umpire MLB games Donald Trump: 4 years of allowing Angel Hernandez to umpire MLB games Joseph R. Biden Jr: stopped Angel Hernandez in 3.5 years

@AlCardenasFL_DC: Trump’s lawyer is not looking for an innocent verdict-he is looking for that one juror who can disagree w a guilty verdict and vote no; thereby causing a hung jury That one juror who was willing to vote guilty as long as they were not sending Trump to jail but now that jury knows it’s not their call-it’s the judge’s prerogative, may lean to vote vs the majority. Strategy is to get a hung jury and have Trump avoid jail and guilty verdict

@Fineout: Fla. @SenRickScott held hurricane preparedness events today in Mexico Beach — which is where Hurricane Michael hit — and in St. Pete Beach. He has another scheduled for Hialeah tomorrow & plans to do a total of 5 events to warn folks ahead of start of hurricane season on June 1.

@GovRonDeSantis: Happy National Burger Day! In Florida, we reject the WHO and global elites who want us to eat fake meat and bugs. We have taken preemptive action to keep Davos’ agenda out of Florida. The @wef can take a hike!

Tweet, tweet:

@Scott_Maxwell: Florida elections division chief sounding very well-informed and professional, urging local supervisors to use a list created by a political activist while saying: “I do not know when the information was exactly compiled and what all sources were consulted to derive this list.”

@SkipFoster: June 18 appears to be a big day in FSU vs. ACC. Judge Cooper not fooling around — wants to rule on all pending motions.

Tweet, tweet:


Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 3; the 2024 World Cup begins — 14; DreamWorks Land officially opens at Universal Orlando — 16; season two of ‘House of the Dragon’ returns to Max — 18; CNN Presidential Debate — 29; Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens at Disney World — 30; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 31; Freedom Month Sales Tax Holiday begins — 34; Universal Mega Movie Parade debuts — 35; Republican National Convention begins — 46; the 2024 World Cup ends — 50; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 55; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 58; ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ premieres — 59; Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday begins — 62; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 80; Florida Primary Election — 84; Democratic National Convention begins — 84; FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon, begins — 84; second Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 88; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 88; Tool Time Sales Tax Holiday begins — 96; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 101; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 101; Vice Presidential Debate — 120; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 143; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 150; Florida TaxWatch’s 45th Annual Meeting — 159; 2024 Presidential Election — 160; Legislature’s 2025 Organizational Session — 174; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 174; ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ premieres — 191; MLS Cup 2024 — 192; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 260; the 2025 Oscars — 278; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 280; 2025 Session ends — 340; ‘Moana’ premieres — 390; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 421; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 421; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 528; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 570; ‘Avengers 5’ premieres — 706; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 723; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 934; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,074; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,033; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,755.


Florida educators trained to teach students Christian nationalism” via Judd Legum of Popular Information — A three-day training course on civic education, conducted throughout Florida in the Summer of 2023, included a presentation on the “Influences of the Judeo-Christian Tradition” on the founding of the United States.

According to speaker notes accompanying one slide, teachers were told that “Christianity challenged the notion that religion should be subservient to the goals of the state,” and the same hierarchy is reflected in America’s founding documents.

That slide quotes the Bible to assert that “[c]ivil government must be respected, but the state is not God.” Teachers were told the same principle is embedded in the Declaration of Independence.

Florida educators get instruction on teaching Christian nationalism.

Popular Information obtained the slides from the Florida Freedom to Read Project, which received them from the Florida Department of Education after filing a public records request.

The next slide in the deck quotes an article by Peter Lillback, the president of Westminster Theological Seminary and the founder of The Providence Forum, an organization that promotes and defends Christian nationalism.

Myndee Washington is a Florida middle school teacher who attended the in-person Florida Department of Education civics training in 2022 and 2023. Washington told Popular Information that, in one session, the presenters used the King James Bibles to illustrate their points.

“I was absolutely gobsmacked,” she said.

Along with the in-person training, the Florida Department of Education offered a 50-hour online civics training. Teachers who successfully completed the online training received a $3,000 bonus. Popular Information spoke to a Florida teacher who completed the training in 2023.

Overall, the teacher said, “There was a real emphasis and focus on the idea of the Ten Commandments underlying our governmental principles.” She noted that most of the online instructors were “from private Christian colleges outside the state of Florida.”

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Florida’s 6-week abortion ban increases wait times in other states, study says” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Wait times at abortion clinics in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Washington, D.C., rose by about 30% since Florida’s six-week abortion went into effect May 1, according to a new Washington Post story. While the wait times are longer, the clinics have not been slammed to the brink of closing, the report also found. “Many said fewer Florida women appeared to be leaving the state for abortion care than was widely expected — a finding they largely attributed to the increasing availability of telemedicine and abortion pills, in addition to long driving distances that may leave some women feeling they have no choice but to carry their unwanted pregnancy,” the Post reported.

Florida’s abortion ban has a ripple effect with longer waits in other states.

Donald Trump endorses Vern Buchanan over MAGA-wannabe Primary challenger” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Buchanan landed what’s likely the most important endorsement in a Republican Primary this year. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in 2024, is endorsing the Longboat Key Republican’s re-election. “Congressman Vern Buchanan is a tireless advocate for Florida’s 16th Congressional District!” Trump posted on Truth Social. “Vern is a self-made man and he is working hard to Lower our Taxes, Grow our Economy, Support our Military and Vets, Protect our Seniors, and Defend our always-under-siege Second Amendment. Vern Buchanan has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

— 2024 — DOWN-BALLOT —

‘A proven leader’: Another sitting lawmaker, Stan McClain, lands support of Ben Albritton and FRSCC” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Albritton-led Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is backing McClain in Senate District 9. “Stan McClain is a common-sense conservative who has always fought for Florida’s hardworking families,” Albritton said. “With a focus on water quality, keeping taxes low, school choice and job creation, Stan is a proven leader who will work to expand access to opportunity for all Floridians. I am proud to endorse Stan McClain and look forward to welcoming him to the Florida Senate.”

Ben Albritton’s super PAC calls Stan McClain a ‘common-sense conservative.’

21-year-old marketing manager takes on Jessica Baker in HD 17” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Opposition took its time to manifest against Rep. Baker, but just weeks before the qualifying deadline, a Democratic challenger has filed in House District 17 in southern Duval County. Bryson Kade Morgan, a 21-year-old marketing manager for the Texas Roadhouse chain, is looking to take a bite out of the Republican supermajority in Tallahassee by defeating the wife of one of the region’s most proven political consultants. Morgan, a graduate of Atlantic Coast High School and member of Jacksonville Young Democrats who has lived in the area since 2014 believes his professional experience translates to what will be an uphill battle against one of the most connected Republicans in local politics.

‘MAGA Meg’: Notable Trump backers are lining up behind Meg Weinberger for HD 94” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Five Republicans are running for the soon-to-be-open House District 94 seat representing a large western portion of Palm Beach County. Just one appears to be attracting the affection of notable Trump allies in and out of Florida. Weinberger, an animal rescue nonprofit executive and Chair of the Palm Beach chapter of Moms for Liberty, is racking up endorsements from the MAGA world. That includes nods this month from U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, ex-news anchor Kari Lake, and Real America’s Voice (RAV) anchor Gina Loudon, all Trump stalwarts.

Save the date:


Trump continues his revenge tour against pro-Ron DeSantis lawmakers” via Brent D. Griffiths of Business Insider — Trump on Tuesday endorsed a Primary challenger to Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, his biggest shot yet at a lawmaker who crossed him during the GOP Presidential Primary. Trump isn’t the only top Republican Good has crossed. The two-term lawmaker supported Gaetz’s effort to remove then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy from power. McCarthy allies have supported a revenge tour of their own against the eight Republicans who joined with Democrats to force the Californian’s historic ouster. Trump has tried to seem magnanimous at times when discussing DeSantis. But it’s clear Trump is well aware of those who crossed him. The former President previously lashed out at Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, another conservative Republican who backed DeSantis. But Trump called for a Primary challenger to Roy after the filing deadline had passed.

Bob Good crosses Donald Trump; now he faces an endorsement of his Primary opponent.

Why Democrats worry Marco Rubio as Trump Veep could bedevil Joe Biden’s bid” via Adrian Carrasquillo of Vanity Fair — There is one major obstacle: the fact that Rubio and Trump both reside in Florida. (The 12th Amendment of the Constitution prevents electors from voting for a President and Vice President who live in the same state without losing that state’s electoral votes.) In theory, Rubio could get around this simply by moving, which, as Marc Caputo notes, could open up a Pandora’s box of lawsuits that Rubio would have to fend off. But the mere notion of the first Latino Vice President being a Cuban American Republican is enough to make Hispanic Democrats reach for the Tums. The harsh reality for Biden’s re-election campaign is that the President needs more goodwill among Latinos — a lot more.

Dems in full-blown ‘freakout’ over Biden” via Christopher Cadelago, Sally Goldenberg, and Elena Schneider of POLITICO — A pervasive sense of fear has settled in at the highest levels of the Democratic Party over Biden’s re-election prospects, even among officeholders and strategists who had previously expressed confidence about the coming battle with Trump. All year, Democrats had been on a joyless and exhausting grind through the 2024 Election. But now, nearly five months from the election, anxiety has morphed into palpable trepidation, according to more than a dozen party leaders and operatives. And the gap between what Democrats will say on TV or in print and what they’ll text their friends has only grown as worries have surged about Biden’s prospects.

Biden camp brings in Robert De Niro to go after Trump at the site of his trial” via Elena Schneider of POLITICO — As closing arguments in Trump’s trial kicked off nearby, the Biden campaign held a news conference that featured the famed actor and former U.S. Capitol police officers Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone, who served during the attack on Jan. 6, 2021. The trio described Trump as an “authoritarian who answers to and serves only himself,” Fanone said during his remarks. “When Trump ran in 2016, it was like a joke,” said De Niro, who cut an ad for Biden’s campaign that characterized Trump as a threat to democracy. “With Trump, we have a second chance, and no one is laughing now. This is the time to stop him by voting him out once and for all.”

Trump lawyers assail limited gag order request in documents case” via Alan Feuer of The New York Times — Trump’s lawyers assailed a request by federal prosecutors to limit what he could say about a new flare-up in a case accusing him of illegally retaining classified documents after leaving office. In an angry court filing, the lawyers pushed back hard against the request by the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, to revise Trump’s conditions of release by forbidding him to make any public comments that might endanger federal agents working on the prosecution. On Friday evening, Smith’s team requested what amounted to a limited gag order on Trump, prompted by what it called “grossly misleading” social media posts Trump made last week falsely claiming that the FBI had been authorized to kill him when agents searched Mar-a-Lago, his Florida club and residence, in August 2022.

Trump is fighting tooth and nail against a gag order in his classified documents case.

Trump’s pattern of sowing election doubt intensifies in 2024” via Karen Yourish and Charlie Smart of The New York Times — Trump had planted seeds of doubt among his followers long before Election Day, essentially setting up a no-lose future for himself: Either he would prevail, or the election would be rigged. He has never given up that framing, which no evidence supports, even well after the end of his presidency. And as he seeks to return to the White House, the same claim has become the backbone of his campaign. By last Summer, Trump had honed the language and made it a staple of his stump speech: “They rigged the presidential election of 2020, and we’re not going to allow them to rig the presidential election of 2024.” Trump has adapted the specifics of his accusations with each of the three election cycles. But in each case, his pattern of discourse has followed the same contours. He sows doubt about the legitimacy of the election, and then begins to capitalize on that doubt by alluding to not necessarily accepting the election results — unless, of course, he wins.

George Conway says he put up Florida billboard saying don’t vote for ‘psycho’” via Filip Timotija of The Hill — Conway said he put a billboard up in Florida that is urging people to vote for Biden over “psycho” Trump. Conway, a staunch Trump critic whose former wife once worked for Trump, shared Thursday on social platform X that he had placed a billboard on Interstate 95, which passes through West Palm Beach and is near Mar-a-Lago. The billboard has a blue background and white text that says, “Vote for Joe, Not the Psycho.” “So, just for kicks, I put up a billboard a few miles south of Palm Beach on I-95 South, perfect for anyone happening to travel from Mar-a-Lago to Doral to, say, play golf,” Conway said.


Voucher program for home-schoolers on pace to at least double this year” via Ryan Dailey of the Orlando Sentinel — A state voucher program that began in the 2023-2024 school year is on pace to at least double as applications roll in from families who teach their children at home in search of funds to make a range of purchases. What’s known as the Personalized Education Program provides voucher money to students not enrolled full-time at public or private schools. The program was established through a 2023 law (HB 1) that massively expanded the state’s voucher programs. Money from the Personalized Education Program can be used to purchase such things as instructional materials, virtual education courses, tutoring and services at public schools. It is provided to students through what’s called Education Savings Accounts. The law allowed for the Personalized Education Program to provide vouchers for 20,000 students in its inaugural year, and the program almost hit its cap, with vouchers for 19,514 students funded.

Home schooling takes a larger chunk of Florida’s voucher cash.


Rick Scott, Anna Paulina Luna and Laurel Lee trash Trump prosecution as trial nears end” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — Speaking in Pinellas County to reporters after a news conference on hurricane preparedness, U.S. Sen. Scott, Luna and Lee claimed that the prosecution of Trump was political and in the words of Lee, “a travesty of our justice system.” A reporter asked Scott if he would respect the jury’s decision, no matter the outcome. He said he would, but then went on to dispute every element of it in his response. “I’ll always respect any jury, but this is just political persecution,” he said.

Rick Scott, Anna Paulina Luna and Laurel Lee take time at a news conference to bash the Trump trial.

Former Rubio intern indicted for storming Capitol on Jan. 6” via Alex DeLuca of the Miami New Times — A former Florida International University student and Miami GOP strategist has been indicted on criminal charges for storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — finally. Barbara “Barby” Balmaseda, a Miami Lakes native with ties to high-profile Republican politicians and the far-right Proud Boys, was arrested in December 2023 on a handful of charges related to the riot, including corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering and remaining in a restricted building and engaging in disorderly conduct in a Capitol building with the intent to impede a Session of Congress. According to court records, on May 22 a grand jury formally indicted Balmaseda, who will turn 24 in June, on all five charges.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

Following North Florida, Tampa Bay redistricting concerns, ACLU lawsuit targets South Florida maps” via Michael Moline of Florida Phoenix — A lawsuit filed by the ACLU Foundation of Florida asks a federal judge to invalidate four congressional districts and seven state House districts on the ground that they represent unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. In a 38-page complaint filed last week, the organization argues the Legislature grouped diverse populations of Hispanic Americans into unwieldy districts, treating them as a monolithic group based on ethnic stereotyping. “South Florida’s Hispanic community is not politically cohesive …,” the complaint asserts. “Rather, it is nuanced, multifaceted, and diverse with respect to political behavior and preferences. But in crafting the challenged districts, the Legislature ignored this diversity and assumed that Hispanic voters in South Florida were politically homogenous and monolithic. This assumption was false. The Legislature was not entitled to draw race-based districts based on uninformed assumptions of racial sameness,” the document says.

—”Daniella Levine Cava again qualifies by petition for Miami-Dade Mayor race” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics

Daniella Levine Cava hits a milestone in her re-election bid.

City by city, measuring how Broward’s property values have increased” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Property values have gone up considerably across Broward County, with some of the biggest cities and smaller communities all seeing increases. Countywide, there has been an 8.77% increase in taxable value, according to newly released property appraiser’s figures, based on sales from Jan. 1, 2023, through Dec. 31, 2023. Larger cities drew notable gains, such as Fort Lauderdale, at 7.81%, and Pompano Beach, at 10.75%. And some smaller municipalities, such as Sea Ranch Lakes, at 17.26%, and West Park, at 12.6%, saw some of the highest increases in their taxable value.

Should Broward close some schools in 2025 or 2026? The latest considerations” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward School Board members could decide Wednesday how quickly they want to start closing schools to deal with dwindling student enrollment. Superintendent Howard Hepburn plans to bring to the School Board on Wednesday two proposals that would close eight schools: One that would take effect in the 2025-26 school year, and another that would take effect a year later. No school names are listed. “We’re going to present to the Board as much information as possible so they can make the best-informed decision about what plan they want to execute,” Hepburn told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

New Broward Schools Superintendent Howard Hepburn says he’s here to stay” via Scott Travis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Hepburn is vowing to become a different kind of Superintendent for Broward County Schools, one who actually stays. Hepburn signed a three-year contract on May 21 at an annual salary of $340,000. He became the sixth person in three years to hold the title of superintendent. Since longtime Superintendent Robert Runcie stepped down in 2021, the district has had a revolving door of leaders, with four different people serving as Superintendent in 2023 alone. “Hopefully, I’m the last superintendent for a long time,” Hepburn said. “I’m committed to Broward County Public Schools. When it comes to changing the trajectory of an entire district, you can’t do that in six months or a year. I’m committed to being here for a long haul to see that through.” His rise as the top leader in Broward was quick and unexpected.

Florida is establishing the ‘Office of Ocean Economy’ at FAU, pushing to advance discoveries” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida’s new Office of Ocean Economy — a statewide effort to harness public and private research, education, technology and business applications involving water — will be housed at Florida Atlantic University. The effort, which envisions a collaboration among all state universities and businesses, was sponsored by Democratic and Republican state lawmakers from South Florida. Rep. Chip LaMarca, a Lighthouse Point Republican, described the program last week during a Broward legislative delegation gathering in Davie. He worked with and credited his House co-sponsor, Rep. Kelly Skidmore, a Palm Beach County Democrat, and Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

COVID-19 pandemic left its mark on academics. Are students caught up from learning loss?” via Colleen Wixon of Treasure Coast Newspapers — The academic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt on the Treasure Coast, years after students returned to the classrooms without masks or quarantines. During the months of distance learning and continual interruptions from quarantines, educators were concerned students would fall behind academically and take years to get back on track. While some school districts say students now have caught up in math and reading, others say students continue to struggle, just as federal money targeted for tutoring and intensive Summer recovering programs is set to end this Fall. “Overall, we are still seeing the lingering effects on students, especially in key grades,” said St. Lucie County Schools Deputy Superintendent Helen Wild.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Central Florida legislator failed to file state expense reports for months” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A Central Florida lawmaker failed to properly document how she spent state money allocated to her district office, prompting legislative staff to suspend payments earlier this year. Republican Rep. Paula Stark of St. Cloud provided “unacceptable” descriptions on reports listing expenses totaling more than $7,000 and did not file reports for six months last year, according to an email from a legislative staffer sent to Stark in March. Two former aides to Stark say they alerted House staff members to issues with her office account earlier this year. Both were later fired.

Paula Stark is in trouble for some unaccounted-for money.

Driver charged with DUI in farmworker bus crash now faces more charges” via The Associated Press — A driver already charged with DUI manslaughter after his pickup truck crashed into a bus and killed eight farmworkers in Central Florida is now facing additional charges for the injuries of 11 other farmworkers on the bus, authorities said. Eleven counts of DUI with serious bodily injury were filed last Thursday against Bryan Howard, who already was facing eight counts of DUI manslaughter in connection with the accident two weeks ago. Court records show Howard, 41, has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges and has waived his appearance for an arraignment next month. Howard was arrested on eight counts of DUI manslaughter after authorities say he crashed his pickup truck into a bus carrying dozens of farmworkers on May 14.

Sheriff Mike Prendergast’s troubles give hope to Citrus County challengers” via Mike Wright of Florida Politics — Prendergast once owned this room. Now he’s a no-show. Prendergast, the two-term incumbent Citrus County Sheriff, finds himself fending off attacks from all directions, including the Citrus Trump 47 Club where Prendergast enjoyed full support for his first six years in office. When the club had a forum for Sheriff’s candidates in Lecanto, Prendergast’s three challengers eagerly presented their platforms. Prendergast’s campaign was absent. Opponent Calvin Adams Jr., a retired colonel with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, made sure attendees knew the incumbent didn’t show up. “That should be emblazoned in your mind,” he said. “That is a disgrace. A flat-out disgrace.” Four Republicans are in the race: Prendergast, Adams, Doug Alexander and Dave Vincent.


Pinellas Mayor wants to debate state Senator over short-term vacation rental bill” via Mitch Perry For more than two months now, a measure passed in the Legislature that would give more state control over the regulation of short-term vacation rental properties remains stuck — it hasn’t even been sent to DeSantis for his consideration on the bill. Now, a Florida Mayor in the Tampa Bay area is challenging the bill sponsor to a debate over SB 280. Redington Shores Mayor David Will sent a letter to Sen. Nick DiCeglie last week asking for him to accept his invitation to meet somewhere in the county soon to debate the merits of the proposal. “I would like to invite you to debate the merits of Senate Bill 280 with me in a public forum hosted at a location here on the Pinellas beaches where your interested constituents could attend,” Will wrote in a letter to DiCeglie.

David Will seeks a face-to-face debate with Nick DiCeglie.

Tampa Bay’s CareerSource merger controversy continues” via Mark Parker of St. Pete Catalyst — Four Hillsborough and Pinellas County Commissioners met Tuesday to discuss the embattled consolidation of Tampa Bay’s workforce agencies. The meeting nearly ended about 10 minutes after it started. While the debate over who should oversee a merged CareerSource Pinellas and Tampa Bay (Hillsborough) eventually continued, the consortium meeting concluded with a stalemate. The group will meet again on June 4 before a state-mandated July 1 deadline to name an interim — at a minimum — CEO. The discussion was the first since an Advisory Committee’s top two choices to lead a consolidated entity rescinded their candidacies after a nationwide search. Pinellas Commissioner Chris Latvala questioned the process from its onset, and the consortium’s Chair subsequently threatened to adjourn the meeting.

St. Petersburg will pay to repaint pride road murals damaged by cars” via Amber Jo Cooper of St. Pete Catalyst — Police say the city of St. Petersburg will pay to repaint a pride mural that was damaged by vehicles in two separate incidents this month. Two different cars left tire marks damaging the Progressive Pride street mural located at 2500 Central Avenue. The mural is meant to highlight “the original St Pete gayborhood and the birthplace of St. Pete Pride in 2003.” The department believes the two incidents are unrelated, which occurred on May 17 and May 22. During the May 17 incident, police said a truck “accelerated through the mural.” On May 22, around 3 a.m. ET, a blue two-door car was spotted doing donuts on the mural.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

DeSantis might not pick anyone to fill empty Escambia D4 seat, but not for lack of options” via Mollye Barrows of The Pensacola News Journal — Escambia County’s District 4 Commission seat has been vacant since January when former Commissioner Robert Bender was appointed by the Governor as the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections. Longtime Supervisor of Elections David Stafford stepped down to take a federal elections security job. 10 people have applied to be the interim District 4 Commissioner, until the General Election in November. DeSantis has not appointed anyone, and his office has not responded to questions of if or when anyone will be assigned to the seat before the election. If the seat isn’t filled until the election, that means constituents of Escambia County’s District 4 will have gone without representation for almost a year. The district covers southeastern Escambia County and includes much of the city of Pensacola and Pensacola Beach.

Despite anti-LGBTQ legislation, the party continues on Pensacola Beach” via WUWF — Since the early 1990s, Memorial Day weekend on Pensacola Beach has been a large celebration for the LGBTQ community bringing thousands of people from across the country to the Panhandle. Despite a rash of anti-LGBTQ laws in the Florida legislature in recent years — and a travel warning to LGBTQ people from Equality Florida last year — the parties continue. Some say the celebration means even more now than ever. “We’re not letting the opposition of a few dictate how we live,” said Jeff Nall, president of Emerald Coast Equality.

Pride celebrations mean more now than ever.

Attorney: Honor expelled FSU activist who invited Black students to 1957 Christmas party” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — A Florida State University doctoral student back in 1957 — civil rights activist John Melton Boardman — was expelled from FSU for inviting three Black Florida A&M University exchange students to a Christmas party on campus. Now, decades later, Tallahassee attorney Michael Underwood is on a mission to have the 91-year-old Boardman recognized by FSU with an honorary doctoral degree. He says nominating Boardman for the honor is “mostly for concern of our state’s reputation, and in particular, the reputation of FSU.” “I just found it shocking that this could have happened at our university,” said Underwood, 74, who works as an administrative law hearing officer in the Florida Department of Health General Counsel’s Office.

4 books could be pulled from St. Johns County high school shelves” via Ariel Schiller of News 4 Jax — The St. Johns County School District will consider pulling four books from school shelves at Tuesday’s special Board meeting. The four books — which are intended for high school-aged readers — are already on the district’s book objection list: “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, “Freedom Writer’s Diary” by The Freedom Writers, “L8r, G8r” by Harry N. Abrams, and “A Stolen Life” by Jaycee Dugard. Nancy Tray, who has three children enrolled at SJC schools, said she is concerned because the books have already been through the objection process.

St. Johns County seeks public input on vacated World Golf Hall of Fame site” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — The World Golf Village was once considered a jewel in the crown of attractions for the tourism-rich economy of St. Johns County as it played host to hall-of-fame exhibits and events. But county officials now have different plans for the former hub for players on the links. It’s been just two years since the World Golf Hall of Fame and Museum announced it was pulling up stakes from World Golf Village outside of St. Augustine and relocated to Pinehurst, North Carolina. There have been a series of developments that leave county officials deciding what to do with the empty Hall of Fame spaces since they were vacated in 2023.


City of Sarasota orders New College of Florida to stop removing trees from Uplands Preserve” via Steven Walker of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — New College of Florida is defying an order from the city of Sarasota to halt the removal of trees from the Uplands Bayfront Preserve as the college continues its efforts to turn the land into athletics facilities. The city posted a stop order at New College’s Uplands property — which the college defied, city spokesperson Jan Thornburg said. Attorneys for both New College and the city of Sarasota plan to meet to discuss interpretations of legislation that dictate who has authority over tree removal on the property, she said. New College of Florida spokesperson Nathan March said the college halted work as soon as the city directed them to, with only miscellaneous cleanup continuing after the order.

New College of Florida defies an order to stop cutting down trees.

Impact of density bonuses on Sarasota affordable housing still uncertain” via Heather Bushman of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A controversial developer incentive intended to address the rising affordable housing crisis is continuing to stir local debate, as opponents fear the new policy will exacerbate the issue rather than ease it as supporters predict. Density bonuses, which are meant to entice developers into building affordable housing by providing extra height and units to developments that set aside a certain number of units as affordable, are at the center of the uncertainty. A recently implemented zoning text amendment will serve in part as a guinea pig for the premise in Sarasota, with three new districts along the major corridors of Fruitville Road, Washington Boulevard and parts of U.S. 41.


Florida’s trying to ignore obvious threats; they’re closer to hand in Britain” via Diane Roberts of Florida Phoenix — While the horrors of Gaza have grabbed the attention, especially of young people, the U.S. feels comfortably distant from the horrors of the rest of the planet.

But here in Britain, you don’t have the luxury of ignoring what’s going on in other countries.

The distance from Kyiv to the south coast of England is about 1,200 miles, which sounds like a lot until you consider that’s not even Tallahassee to Boston — and those two towns are in the same country.

But should Putin prevail in Ukraine, he could get tanks to Warsaw in less than 10 days. Then to Berlin in less than two days.

Then on to the shores of the North Sea where, on a clear day, you can see the White Cliffs of Dover.

Everyone in Britain understands that if Vladimir Putin were to strike a NATO nation, there would be a war, and it would be fought on European soil.

Back in my dear, unavoidable Florida, DeSantis is simultaneously stomping around trying to prove he’s the most pro-Israel guy on the entire planet while ignoring dangers to the planet.

He just scrubbed any mention of climate change from Florida law.

A friend in London asked me how this can be: I mean, everyone knows Florida is ground zero for sea level rise, ocean warming, and all the other monstrous effects of promiscuous carbon consumption.

Tallahassee just got hit with three tornadoes, the whole state is experiencing the hottest temperatures on record, and predictions are that we’re likely to have a horrendous hurricane season.

As an enraged meteorologist in Miami said, “Florida is on fire, underwater, and unaffordable,” yet “state government is rolling back climate change legislation and language.”

Good plan, Ronbo.


Dark clouds in the Sunshine State” via Bill Cotterell for the News Service of Florida — DeSantis and the conservative Republicans who run Florida government seem to yearn for the era when a few bosses known as “pork choppers” could divvy up the swag privately. A case is pending at the 1st District Court of Appeal contesting the secrecy of DeSantis’ method of judicial selection. Stripped of all its constitutional and statutory considerations, the issue between the Governor and a citizen identified only as “J. Doe” is whether DeSantis can assert executive privilege to withhold clearly public information just because he feels like it. We used to have Attorneys General like Bob Shevin, Jim Smith and Bob Butterworth who believed the public’s right to know meant more than the Governor’s right to make stuff up. But if you’re hoping to succeed this Governor, as Ashley Moody appears to be, it’s best not to bother DeSantis over picky little details, like laws. This is just one of a handful of sunshine disputes DeSantis seems to relish.

No surprise. Disney’s back in the political payoff game” Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Despite all its high-minded declarations about removing itself from the dirty world of politics, Disney was always going to jump back in the slop. Why? Because campaign donations are basically legal bribery. And Disney has long been one of the biggest bribers in the state. In fact, the main reason DeSantis and other GOP lawmakers revolted against Disney two years ago was because Disney cut off their cash. Sure, the politicians claimed they were upset about Disney standing up for LGBTQ rights. But DeSantis and legislators didn’t go nuclear on Mickey until the company said it was ending campaign donations. Before that, Disney was one of the Florida GOP’s biggest sugar daddies. And the politicians were Disney’s reliable puppets. Some people believe Disney is a liberal company. But this company will give to anyone in a position to do favors — Republican, Democrat or serial killer. Some hard-core Disney fans don’t like to hear that. They like to believe Disney has a genuine moral compass. Not when it comes to campaign donations.

Protests couldn’t stop graduation at New College of Florida” via Richard Corcoran of The Wall Street Journal — It might be customary to have a prominent entrepreneur speak at the commencement of a renowned institution like Princeton or Harvard, but it was a notable honor to have Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, step on stage at New College of Florida. Some students, unfortunately, disagreed, interrupting his speech with scattered boos and chants. Nonetheless, civil discourse and free speech will prevail at New College. Ricketts embodied the ideal commencement speaker: a self-made man who defied the odds, revolutionized lives and amassed wealth through ingenuity. Yet amid his extraordinary success, his humility and empathy shone through as he addressed the graduating class. “I’d like to really talk to you about how special you are. Nobody in the world … has ever been born exactly like each one of you.” That students intermittently disrupted the proceedings was a disheartening reflection of the prevailing intolerance for diverse viewpoints in today’s society.

FAMU and Tuskegee partnership will strengthen Florida’s agricultural future” via Deveron Gibbons for the Tallahassee Democrat — All of us associated with Florida A&M University (FAMU) and all Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are proud of the way our institutions serve as a catalyst, inspiring the leaders and innovation that propel our communities and states toward their best future. A mainstay of the capital city, FAMU has consistently ranked among the nation’s top HBCU institutions as of late and recently broke into the U.S. News & World Report’s prestigious top 100 public universities. As a FAMU alum who is privileged to serve as Vice Chair of the FAMU Board of Trustees, I’m extremely gratified by our institution’s transformation into a research-focused force to be reckoned with.


— ALOE —

Retailers urge Floridians to shop locally during hurricane season, as tax break holiday begins Saturday” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — The official start to the 2024 Hurricane Season begins Saturday, and part of the ritual of living in Florida during that time is stocking up on hurricane supplies during a sales tax break. The Florida Retail Federation is offering tips on how to best prepare for getting through what has often been dubbed as the “Mean Season.” The peak of Hurricane Season doesn’t come until August and September. But FRF officials are advising Florida residents to begin their planning to have proper supplies in place as soon as they can and take advantage of the first Florida Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holidays beginning Saturday and running through June 15.

’Tis the season to be preparing.

Author Randy Wayne White survived Hurricane Ian to write about it” via Colette Bancroft of the Tampa Bay Times — Twenty months later, the repairs on the Sanibel home are almost finished — and White is about to publish a novel based on surviving the storm. White, 73, has published more than 50 books, 26 of them thrillers featuring Marion “Doc” Ford, marine biologist and not exactly retired secret agent. Doc Ford’s is also a chain of restaurants, two of them in St. Petersburg. “One Deadly Eye” is the 27th, and, White says, “It’s my best book.” After the hurricane, White and his wife, singer-songwriter Wendy Webb, moved into a handsome house on Terra Ceia in Manatee County. Given the intensity of what he calls “a very powerful experience, existential,” when did he start thinking of writing about it? “Very, very soon,” he says. “Maybe right away. I certainly took notes. As it was coming, I was observing how animals behaved. You know, people say, birds know what to do. Reptiles know what to do.”

Fun readPop! Culture: I survived bottle service boot camp” via Jess Swanson of the Miami New Times — The job title might read bottle service “girl,” but the five women who signed up for the $299, two-day professional development course titled “Bottle Service Boot Camp: Hands-On Bottle Service Training for Beginners” are all in their 20s and 30s. The most enlightening lesson has been just how much earning potential is in this line of work: 10% is the standard tip for bottle service, which doesn’t seem like much until you realize that most nightclubs have a required minimum that must be spent at a table — typically starting at $2,000 and rising to more than $100,000 for big-name DJs or on New Year’s Eve — and that bottle service girls attend to multiple tables over the course of a shift. By the time the first day of boot camp is dismissed at 6 p.m., the five students are equal parts exhausted and inspired. “So, you’re going to send us the master list of all locations [to scout clients] we talked about?” Marley Fatale, 31, asks as the class winds down.


Celebrating today are our good friends Arron Gober and Corcoran Partners’ Helen Levine, as well as Reps. Kim Berfield and Daryl Campbell.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel Dean, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

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