Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.21.24

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It's not morning without your first look at stories driving today's agenda in Florida politics.

Good Friday morning.

Breaking overnight — “Report: Newberry Education First board member solicits sex from teen boy on Snapchat” via Ryan Wyatt Turbeville of WCJB — One of the people leading the charge to attempt to convert Newberry public schools into charter schools was arrested for inappropriate contact with a child. Joel Searby, 43, was booked into the Alachua County Jail on charges of lewd and lascivious behavior, communication to lure a minor, communication to travel to meet a minor, and using a communication device to commit a felony. The arrest report from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office transcribes a conversation between Searby and the victim on the messaging app Snapchat. Searby sent the boy multiple photos of himself with his face obscured, including a photo of his hand in his pants. He then invited the boy to visit his home the next morning, secretly.

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St. Pete Pride will host the 22nd annual Pride Parade this Saturday, the largest in the state. With issues related to the LGBTQ+ community dominating political headlines in Florida and abroad, now is an opportunity to put politics aside and enjoy a celebration providing a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.

The celebration offers something for just about everyone. Sponsored this year by CAN Community Health, the parade and associated celebrations will feature Saucy Santana as the main stage headliner. The rapper, recording artist and reality show star is known for his hit singles, “Walk,” “Up & Down” and “Booty.” Saucy Santana has been nominated for MTV Music Awards and a People’s Choice Award.

Saucy Santana performing alongside Nikia Dragun. Image via AP.

The festival will be held from 2-10 p.m. Saturday, with local vendors, food trucks, parade seating, beverage gardens, entertainment stages and a family area located in North and South Straub Parks. 

The parade itself will meander along Bayshore Drive from Albert Whitted Park to Vinoy Park, beginning at 6 p.m.

St. Pete Pride’s 6th annual Trans March will also be held separately from the main parade. 

Whether you’re decked out in rainbows and glitter or just swinging by for a quick look, the event no doubt showcases the diverse people and personalities of St. Petersburg, the state and even the nation, and every year it offers a great time for those looking to celebrate.

Here’s how St. Pete Pride became the largest LGBTQ festival in the southeast” via Gabrielle Calise of the Tampa Bay Times — Visit St. Pete/ Clearwater calls the one-month festival the largest Pride event in the Southeast, with over 300,000 expected to attend this weekend’s festivities alone. In June 2023, over half a million people attended local Pride events. St. Pete Pride was founded in 2003 after the Tampa Bay PrideFest held in Tampa fell apart, according to LGBTQ+ news outlet Watermark. That year, the first “St. Pete Pride Promenade” drew about 10,000 people to the city’s Grand Central District, Times archives said. … To create more room on the street, St. Pete Pride separated the parade and street festival into two events across one weekend. This allowed for more vendors to participate. … By 2017, the parade had outgrown its original neighborhood and moved to the downtown waterfront.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@VoteRandyFine: I’ve been trying to put into words the emotions I felt last night. For now, I will say this. Jews are taught the Western Wall is our holiest site because it is where we can be closest to G-d’s presence. Sorry Rabbis, it isn’t true. The holiest place I will ever go is the Erez Crossing with Gaza, at 2am last night, spending time with 19 year-old boys, guns and tzitzit dangling from their bodies, watching them dance and laugh and sing a few yards away from those who would kill them, their families, and my sons. Calling them heroes just doesn’t do it justice. They radiate the presence of G-d.

Tweet, tweet:

@AGAshleyMoody: I look forward to the Eleventh Circuit likely reversing Judge Walker’s decision on Florida’s Riot Act given the Florida Supreme Court’s decision today. As @GovRonDeSantis and I have said since the beginning, the Riot Act (HB1) was aimed at those who were engaging in or assisting those engaged in violence or disorderly conduct, not peaceful protesters. I am grateful that the Florida Supreme Court agreed with that commonsense reading of an unambiguous statute.

Tweet, tweet:

@BeauBabien: Can’t believe it’s already been two years with the exceptional team @GT_Law, it has been an exciting journey. Looking forward to finally catching up with old friends in the Governor’s Office to talk business!

@ChrisCilliza: If you need to understand how polling has been totally weaponized: Democrats typically insist you have to ignore Fox News polls because, well, it’s Fox. (Fox’s polling unit is actually very credible and good!) But new Fox poll shows (Joe) Biden up 50-48 over (Donald) Trump. So it’s good now!

@MDixon55: And campaigns can just pay PPP to do a poll for them and present it as though it’s normal public polling, which is peak weaponization of it all

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

CNN Presidential Debate — 6; Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens at Disney World — 8; ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ premieres — 9; Freedom Month Sales Tax Holiday begins — 12; Universal Mega Movie Parade debuts — 13; Donald Trump’s felony sentencing — 20; Republican National Convention begins — 23; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 32; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 35; ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ premieres — 36; Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday begins — 39; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 57; Florida Primary Election — 58; Democratic National Convention begins — 60; FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon, begins — 61; second Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 65; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 65; Tool Time Sales Tax Holiday begins — 73; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 78; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 78; Vice Presidential Debate — 97; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 121; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 128; Florida TaxWatch’s 45th Annual Meeting — 136; 2024 Presidential Election — 137; Legislature’s 2025 Organizational Session — 151; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 151; ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ premieres — 169; MLS Cup 2024 — 169; College Football Playoff begins — 182; Fiesta Bowl — 193; Peach, Rose & Sugar Bowls — 194; Orange Bowl — 202; Sugar Bowl — 204; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 238; the 2025 Oscars — 256; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 258; 2025 Session ends — 318; ‘Moana’ premieres — 368; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 402; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 402; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 509; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 547; ‘Avengers 5’ premieres — 683; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 700; FIFA World Cup 26™ final — 720; FIFA World Cup 26™ final match — 758; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 911; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,051; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 2,010; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,732.

— TOP STORY —

DeSantis lawyers argue top deputy’s phone logs not a public record” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Lawyers for DeSantis told a Judge that records of phone calls about state business made on an official’s private cellphone were not public, a dramatic new interpretation of the state’s public records law and the administration’s latest attempt to shield information from the public.

During a nearly two-hour hearing about records relating to DeSantis’ 2022 migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard, lawyers acknowledged that DeSantis’ Chief of Staff, James Uthmeier, was using his personal phone, instead of his state-issued one, to conduct official taxpayer-funded business.

But they argued that a log of phone calls, like the ones on a billing statement, are “data points” that aren’t subject to the state’s broad public records law because they weren’t produced on state property or with funds paid for by the state.

“If you hold that these tertiary data points are somehow public records that also have to be captured by a public records custodian, that is a sweeping — sweeping — interpretation of public records,” DeSantis lawyer Christopher Lunny told Leon County Circuit Judge Lee Marsh.

But under that argument, Marsh said, all government business could be shielded from the public.

“We ought to just put out word, ‘Let’s do all of our business on private, bring-your-own cellphones,” Marsh said. “Then we don’t need public records laws because there’ll be no public records, right?”

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Rick Scott Spanish ad to target Copa AméricaScott’s new Spanish-language ad is set to run during every game of Copa América to reach out to Hispanic voters as he seeks another term in the Senate. The ad pictures a fictional game matchup between Scott and “Equipo Libertad” (or “Team Freedom”) against his likely Democratic opponent, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, and “Los Socialistas.” Pictured next to Mucarsel-Powell are members of The Squad. The side-by-side graphic compares Scott’s economic policy versus that of his opponent. To view the ad, click on the image below.

With giant birth control device as a prop, Democrats keep up attacks against Scott” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Behind the backdrop of a large inflatable IUD outside Orlando City Hall, Florida Democrats targeted U.S. Sen. Scott and called him a hypocrite for saying he supported in vitro fertilization (IVF) after he voted against federal protections for it. “It makes sense that a Senator like Rick Scott would say one thing and then do another,” said U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost at the press conference. “He’s someone who holds a record in terms of health care, having done the largest fraud in the history of our country for Medicare.” The event was organized by Americans for Contraception, which is taking the 20-foot-tall IUD across the country in a media tour. The birth control prop’s first appearance was at Washington’s Union Station.

— 2024 — DOWN-BALLOT —

Shock poll: Democratic survey shows Cory Mills vulnerable, Jennifer Adams within reach” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An internal poll from one of U.S. Rep. Mills’ Democratic opponents suggests Florida’s 7th Congressional District could be competitive. But is it an outlier? Adams, the lead fundraiser within the CD 7 Democratic field, released a Public Policy Polling survey that shows her 5 points behind in a hypothetical matchup with Mills. More importantly, it finds support for Mills under 50% as he runs for a second term. The poll shows Mills leading with 48% support to Adams’ 43% among registered voters in the district, with the remaining 9% of voters undecided. A polling memo does not disclose the margin of error in the survey.

New polling indicates Cory Mills could be vulnerable in November.

On the heels of Juneteenth, Black leaders step up for Whitney Fox in CD 13” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Just one day after the nation celebrated Juneteenth, the recently recognized federal holiday honoring the day enslaved people learned of the Emancipation Proclamation, congressional candidate Fox has secured support from two prominent Black leaders. Her latest endorsements include state Sen. Tracie Davis, who represents the Jacksonville area and is line to lead Senate Democrats in 2026, and state Rep. Michele Rayner, who represents parts of Pinellas County including much overlap with Florida’s 13th Congressional District, where Fox is running, and ran for the congressional seat unsuccessfully in 2022. Davis praised Fox for her stance on voting rights and health care access. Rayner, a civil rights and social justice lawyer, called Fox “a fierce advocate.”

—2024 — DOWN-BALLOT 2 —

Senate Republican leaders get behind Blaise Ingoglia in SD 11 — The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is backing Ingoglia as he seeks four more years in the Senate. Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, Senate President-designate Ben Albritton and Sens. Jim Boyd and Jay Trumbull are endorsing Ingoglia. Boyd and Trumbull are next in line after Albritton to lead the Senate. “Blaise Ingoglia has been on the forefront of the Conservative Revolution that’s made Florida the role model for the nation,” read a joint statement. “He’s worked to ban sanctuary cities, secure our elections and reign in big tech. While extremists demanded more government, Blaise held the line on government overreach. We proudly endorse Blaise Ingoglia for Senate because he is a proven leader willing to stand up for hard working Floridians.”

Top Senate Republicans are lining up behind Blaise Ingoglia’s bid for another term.

‘Incredibly proud’: Bryan Ávila gains major police union endorsement” via Robert Haughn of Florida Politics — The Florida Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is endorsing Sen. Ávila for his re-election campaign in Senate District 39. The FOP is an organization representing law enforcement, with over 23,000 members in Florida. They are endorsing Ávila, who is running for his second term representing SD 39. The FOP named Ávila their legislator of the year for 2023. Recently, Ávila has pushed for legislation regarding protection for police enforcement. This includes a bill (SB 184) which prohibits people from approaching law enforcement while conducting legal duties, in an effort with other legislators to create harassment-free zones for first responders. The bill was signed by DeSantis in April and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2025. “I am incredibly proud to have earned the support of the Fraternal Order of Police,” Ávila said. “I will always be a voice for our state’s law enforcement officers in the Florida Senate.”

Greg Folley drops new TV ad in HD 81 contestFolley is releasing a new TV ad, titled “Disgusted” as he battles Yvette Benarroch for the Republican nomination in House District 81. “There’s only one thing more disgusting than the radical liberal agenda: weak-kneed Republicans that cave in and won’t fight,” Folley says as the screen shows images of Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney. “We must secure the border, stop woke indoctrination in our schools, take back the American supply chain from China and deliver real property insurance and tax cuts for neighbors here at home. Pro-Trump Conservative Greg Folley: fighting the woke for the Free State of Florida.” To view the ad, click on the image below.

— 2024 — PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden-Harris campaign looks to score with Hispanic voters during Copa América — Biden’s re-election team is ramping up Latino voter mobilization efforts around the soccer tournament, reaching out to fans and pushing Copa-inspired merch. The team is also releasing a new ad targeting Trump. “Four years ago, we were shut down. Stadiums were empty. Trump failed us. But then Joe Biden took over. He reopened the country and got us back on track, creating 15.6 million new jobs, investing billions to create new American businesses. And he’s even making out communities safer from gun violence. Trump talks and talks. Joe Biden actually gets s**t done.” To view the ad, click on the image below.

Donald Trump’s VP pick may have just been revealed” via James Bickerton of Newsweek — Eagle-eyed social media users have noticed the web address trumpburgum.com automatically redirects to Trump’s official campaign website, sparking speculation that North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum could be his 2024 running mate. Internet users attempting to access the address are instead being sent to donaldjtrump.com, whereas similar combinations for other Republicans regarded as potential Trump vice presidential picks return no results.

Web domain registrations hint Doug Burgum could be Donald Trump’s VP pick. Image via AP.

Trump lashes out at Fox News over latest poll: ‘TRASH!’” via Nick Robertson of The Hill — Trump blasted Fox News after the network published a poll showing him trailing Biden nationally for the first time this year. The poll found that 50% of respondents said they would vote for Biden in November, while 48% said they would back Trump. It’s a 3-point improvement for Biden over last month’s Fox News poll, when Trump led by 1 point. “The latest Fox News poll is TRASH!” Trump said in a Truth Social post. “They used a biased, Democrat-leaning sample of voters, polling more Biden 2020 voters than Trump 2020 voters to skew the results in favor of Crooked Joe.” “I am leading BIG in virtually every other poll, including in all of the key battleground states, like Wisconsin, where I just held a massive rally, and Pennsylvania, where I will be on Saturday,” he continued.

Biden’s lead with women is smaller than Trump’s with men, a warning for Democrats” via Ruth Igielnik of The New York Times

Trump gets the final word at CNN debate after coin flip” via Eric Bradner of CNN — Trump will get the final word when he debates Biden on CNN next week, after a coin flip to determine podium placement and the order of closing statements. The coin landed on the Biden campaign’s pick — tails — which meant his campaign got to choose whether it wanted to select the President’s podium position or the order of closing statements. Biden’s campaign chose to select the right podium position, which means the Democratic president will be on the right side of television viewers’ screens and his Republican rival will be on viewers’ left. Trump’s campaign then chose for the former president to deliver the last closing statement, which means Biden will go first at the conclusion of the debate.

—“Kennedy fails to qualify for CNN debate” via Chris Cameron of The New York Times 

‘The Daily Show’ going live with Jon Stewart at political conventions” via Rick Porter of The Hollywood Reporter — Comedy Central’s late-night show — which has enjoyed a sizable upswing in ratings since Stewart’s return in February — will go live on the final night of each convention: July 18 for the Republicans in Milwaukee and Aug. 22 for the Democrats in Chicago. Stewart will host the live episodes, moving from his usual Monday-night spot in the anchor’s chair to the end of the week. The show’s news team will host the Monday-Wednesday shows (which will be taped a few hours ahead of their 11 p.m. ET/PT airing) during the convention weeks as part of The Daily Show’s “Indecision 2024” coverage. Correspondents Ronny Chieng, Jordan Klepper, Michael Kosta and Desi Lydic will be on hand at both convention sites.

— STATEWIDE —

DeSantis highlights massive inflation as property insurer proposes rate increases, touts reforms” via Owen Girard of Florida’s Voice — DeSantis pointed to U.S. inflation numbers under Biden as a leading reason for why some property insurance rates in the state have increased over time. The comments came after Florida’s biggest property insurance provider, Citizens Insurance, recommended raising its rates by an average of 14%. The move is not yet official, as it must be approved by regulators. “We still have inflation increasing in this country,” the governor said during a press conference. “The media, oh my gosh, are they trying to spin a tail. It’s all to help Joe (Biden). They’re trying to say inflation is down so sharply.”

Gov. DeSantis’ vetoes anger the arts community as state funding gets wiped out” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Advocates say a Shakespearean tragedy is unfolding in Florida’s arts community after DeSantis’ $32 million line-item vetoes left nothing for the arts. Normally, arts funding cuts happen during bad economic times, which makes it unusual in this relatively good year, said University of Central Florida political science associate professor Aubrey Jewett. The state’s Division of Arts and Culture evaluated the art groups’ grants on merit and economic impact and initially recommended spending $77 million. After the Legislature budgeting process and then the Governor’s vetoes, that amount ended up at $0.

DeSantis’ veto of Ocklawaha River rehabilitation study marks a first for the issue” via Craig Pittman of Florida Phoenix — DeSantis used his special veto pen to slash funding for a study of credit card rates, but then it turned out his veto also eliminated 200 legislative support staff positions. This little item that DeSantis canceled called for the state to spend $500,000 for an updated study of ripping out the decrepit old Rodman Dam and freeing the once wild and scenic Ocklawaha River. “All the people we had intelligence from said that it was good to go,” said Matthew Cohen, interim director of UF’s Water Institute. DeSantis is like lots of Florida politicians who try to convince the voters that they’re greener than a Kermit the Frog float in a St. Patrick’s Day parade because they spend taxpayer money on environmental projects. But you can’t claim to care about Florida’s environment and then oppose freeing the Ocklawaha.

Cities and counties can ban gas leaf blowers, thanks to DeSantis veto” via Jason Garcia of Seeking Rents — DeSantis signed the new state budget last week, but not before removing nearly $1 billion worth of projects from the state spending plan. One of the sillier line items the Governor struck from the budget was $100,000 for a study of leaf blowers, the loud yard tools that are irritatingly familiar to anyone who has ever tried to sleep in on a Saturday morning. But that little line-item veto has big consequences: Because by blocking the money for that study, DeSantis also blocked a last-minute attempt by the Republican-controlled Legislature to tie the hands of any local community wishing to limit the use of leaf blowers that run on gasoline — the noisiest and dirtiest kind.

Local gas leaf blower bans are safe thanks to the Governor’s veto pen. Image via Adobe.

Florida rebounds with a drop this week in new jobless claim filings” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Florida this week nearly erased a notable recent spike in first-time unemployment claims. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a new weekly report on initial unemployment claims, showing there were 1,303 fewer first-time filings in Florida for the week ending June 15. There were a total of 7,597 initial claims for unemployment last week, down from the previous week’s figure of 8,900, before seasonal adjustments. It’s the latest data in what has been a fairly mixed jobs market in Florida this year. The first-time weekly unemployment benefit claims have been fluctuating for most of this year from week to week. Last week, for instance, saw an increase of 1,649 more claims filed in the state.

Gainesville State Attorney rejects ‘Tooth Fairy’ case” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — State Attorney Brian Kramer, on behalf of the 8th Judicial Circuit, has rejected a case related to Jacksonville dentist Howard Fetner. In a strongly worded letter to DeSantis, Kramer points out what should have been obvious to DFS — that only his Miami-Dade counterpart and the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor have jurisdiction in the case. Kramer’s letter says “the crimes, if any occurred, occurred in 13th Judicial Circuit.” The desperate notion that some part of an alleged crime might have happened in Jacksonville was “circumspect at best, and there is little evidence to support it.” That was reason enough to send DFS back to the bench, but Kramer went on to highlight some other spectacular errors. For example, he said the state had not charged Fetner with a crime and, in fact, had offered him immunity because they intended to use him as a witness.

The price of pursuit: FHP’s new policy blurs when it’s safe to chase” via Jack Lemnus of the Florida Trident — Four teenagers were riding the rural roads of north central Florida in a Honda CR-V when they passed a Bradford County Sheriff’s deputy just after midnight. Then the vehicle was flooded from behind by flashing lights. When the deputy attempted to pull them over, the compact SUV veered from the roadway, as if it might stop, before the driver peeled away. FHP Trooper Alan Palmer took over the chase and pushed the SUV with his patrol car in a bid to bring the vehicle to a stop, a tactic known as a PIT (Precision Immobilization Technique) maneuver. Palmer described the ensuing disaster on the radio. “PIT, PIT, PIT, rollover, rollover, rollover,” Palmer said.

—D.C. MATTERS —

Judge in Trump Florida documents case rejected suggestions to step aside” via The New York Times — Shortly after Judge Aileen M. Cannon drew the assignment in June 2023 to oversee Trump’s classified documents case, two more experienced colleagues on the federal bench in Florida urged her to pass it up and hand it off to another jurist, according to two people briefed on the conversations. The Judges who approached Cannon — including the Chief Judge in the Southern District of Florida, Cecilia M. Altonaga — each asked her to consider whether it would be better if she were to decline the high-profile case, allowing it to go to another Judge. But Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, wanted to keep the case and refused the judges’ entreaties. Her assignment raised eyebrows because she has scant trial experience and had previously shown unusual favor to Trump by intervening in a way that helped him in the criminal investigation that led to his indictment, only to be reversed in a critical rebuke by a conservative appeals court panel.

Aileen M. Cannon rejected suggestions from other Judges that she hand off the classified documents case. Image via AP.

Supreme Court upholds 2017 tax on foreign corporation holdings” via Michael Macagnone of Roll Call — The Supreme Court voted seven-to-two on Thursday to uphold a 2017 Trump-era tax provision. The provision requires a one-time tax on people who owned at least 10 percent of a foreign company, and was challenged by Charles and Kathleen Moore after receiving a $15,000 tax tied to their shares of an Indian company. Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that the provision fell in line with the focus of collecting income as outlined in the 16th amendment, and said that the Moores’ argument against it could endanger trillions of dollars in government revenue. However, the ruling left the issue of the constitutionality of wealth taxes unanswered, which can lead to future debate on the issue in court.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

South Florida sees slowdown in rising rents, but still falls behind other big regions in the state” via Abigail Hasebroock of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Floridians are no longer likely to face a tense period of rapidly rising rents as rent growth cools, but the region still faces greater monthly costs than most of the state’s other large metropolitan areas. According to researchers at Florida Atlantic University and two other schools, rental premiums — the extra charge for a rental that exceeds its market value, which is measured by a percentage — soared into double-digit territory about a year ago. Since then, those percentages have fallen to less than 1% in many large cities — but not in South Florida, where the premium remains nearly 4%.

Fort Lauderdale election draws crowd vying for Mayor and 3 Commission seats” vis Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Fort Lauderdale’s five-member Commission calls the shots on everything from tax hikes to deciding how to spend taxpayer dollars and whether to approve those tall towers that dot the city’s skyline. The city’s Nov. 5 election comes during a period of unprecedented growth that has seen a boom in high-rise construction while the city battles challenges on several fronts, including drainage woes, traffic congestion and a pervasive homeless crisis. Mayor Dean Trantalis and three City Commissioners — John Herbst, Steve Glassman and Warren Sturman — have drawn challengers in the upcoming November election. Pamela Beasley-Pittman, the District 3 Commissioner, was automatically re-elected when the city’s qualifying period ended with no opponents coming forward.

Dean Trantalis will face a challenger in his bid for another term as Fort Lauderdale’s Mayor.

Miami-Dade walks away from $160M deal to replace the South Dade Government Center” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — A $160 million real estate deal for a new South Dade Government Center died after the administration of Mayor Daniella Levine Cava notified the owner of the Assurant office complex near Cutler Bay that it was backing out of the planned sale. “It is with much consternation that I write to confirm that Miami-Dade County is not prepared to move forward with the acquisition of the Assurant property at this time,” Dawn Soper, Director of the county’s Real Estate Division, wrote to a commercial broker representing the owner of the 80-acre campus, American Bankers Life Assurance, an insurance company that operates as Assurant.

Communications workers endorse David Richardson for Miami-Dade Tax Collector” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Former Rep. Richardson is adding support from a chapter of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in his bid to become Miami-Dade County’s next Tax Collector. CWA District 3 is endorsing Richardson in the contest. The union advocates for workers in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina and Puerto Rico. The group represents more than 72,000 communications workers in the private and public sectors. “The members of CWA District 3 are incredibly proud to stand with David Richardson and will work to ensure that he is our Miami-Dade Tax Collector come November,” said Manny Hartman, Florida LPAT Coordinator for CWA District 3.

‘Proven advocate’: Broward AFL-CIO backs Sheriff Gregory Tony for re-election” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Broward County AFL-CIO wants Sheriff Tony to continue leading the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO). The union is throwing its support behind Tony as he navigates a four-person Primary to earn another term as Sheriff. “As a proven advocate for social and economic justice, Sheriff Tony stands poised to champion the needs of Broward County’s working people,” Broward County AFL-CIO President Andy Madtes said. “The Broward County AFL-CIO and its members proudly endorse Sheriff Tony in his bid for reelection for his proven dedication to advancing the rights of all workers. Together, we will continue our mission to foster inclusive communities, ensuring Broward’s workforce thrives under his leadership.”

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Former top staffer sues Orange Osceola State Attorney Andrew Bain for maternity-leave firing” via Silas Morgan of the Orlando Sentinel — A former top staffer is suing Orange-Osceola State Attorney Bain, alleging he sought to force her to work while on maternity leave and fired her when she wouldn’t. Keisha Mulfort served as Chief of Staff and spokesperson to then-State Attorney Monique Worrell from January 2021 until August 2023, when she was fired the day after DeSantis suspended Worrell and appointed Bain as her replacement. Mulfort, whose firing and allegations became public at the time, contends Bain’s actions violated her protected leave rights under federal and state law. She sees the firing as an act of retaliation, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

These employees moved across the country for work, then Disney canceled the project. Now they’re suing.” via Natasha Chen of CNN — Two employees are suing The Walt Disney Co., saying the company moved their jobs from California to Florida, only for Disney to cancel the project and move them back, hurting them financially and emotionally. They’re proposing a class action, alleging there are many others in a similar situation. In 2021, then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced a move of 2,000 positions from California to Florida. But in May 2023, after CEO Bob Iger returned, the company canceled the $1 billion Lake Nona office complex amid a legal and political battle with DeSantis that has since been settled. The plaintiffs, Maria De La Cruz and George Fong, both work for Disney’s product design division.

Some of the Disney employees who moved from California to Florida are taking the Mouse to court. Image via AP.

Charter review committee recommends 8-year term limits for Commissioners, Mayor” via Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Should City Commissioners and the Mayor be term-limited? Should a city auditor be employed who reports to Commissioners and not the City Manager? Should City Commission races be decided in November and not August? Those are just three of 10 ideas a citizen committee contends should be decided by Daytona Beach voters on Nov. 5. The seven-member committee was appointed early this year to give the 36-page City Charter its once-per-decade review and has finished its work. “We believe each one of them is worthy of being a ballot question this November,” committee member Harry Lloyd told Commissioners.

— LOCAL: TB —

City of Tampa’s housing director resigns” via Rebekah Nelson of ABC Action News — The City of Tampa’s housing director has resigned from her position, officials confirmed Thursday morning. According to officials, Kayon Henderson’s last day in the position will be August 23. Henderson has been in the role since May 2023. “I appreciate the trust and support I received from the mayor and city council that helped us accomplish so much,” she said in an email. Mayor Jane Castor called Henderson a “tremendous public servant” in a statement. There are no further details at this time regarding Henderson’s decision to resign. 

WalletHub: St. Pete is the best-run city in Florida” via Devonta Davis of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — A new WalletHub report found that St. Petersburg is the best-run city in Florida and in the top 50 nationwide. WalletHub considered criteria for the ranking such as financial stability, education, health, safety, economy, and infrastructure and pollution. WalletHub compared 148 of the largest U.S. cities to create the list based on their operating efficiency. St. Petersburg ranked 36th in the nation, followed by Jacksonville at 42 and Hialeah at 58. Tampa landed at 82.

WalletHub says St. Petersburg is the best-run city in the Sunshine State.

Tampa dentist arrested after making more than 100 online threats, FBI says” via Jack Prator of the Tampa Bay Times — A Tampa dentist accused of sending online threats to multiple people, including a politician, was arrested Tuesday in Pinellas County. Federal investigators said Dr. Richard Kantwill sent hundreds of online messages threatening injury or death, even after U.S. marshals with the FBI told him to stop … Redacted text messages and emails contain apparent expletives, including what appear to be racial and anti-gay slurs … In September 2019, he wrote to one victim: “God bless the Great President Trump and his family. F–k you and yours. Hire extra security … you’re gonna need it.” The next month, the FBI interviewed Kantwill and told him to stop sending the messages … In February, Kantwill threatened a politician, who wasn’t named in court records, via Facebook, according to an ongoing FBI investigation. “Take note because liberal (expletive) like you get raped in alleys,” the message states. “You are our number 1 target, you degenerate (expletive).”

— LOCAL: N. FL —

City Council amends stadium deal to reduce city’s contribution for community benefit part” via David Bauerlein of The Florida Times-Union — Jacksonville City Council split the city’s proposed contribution to the community benefits for the stadium deal with the Jaguars by keeping $56 million for downtown parks in the deal that will be voted on Tuesday and moving the other $94 million into separate legislation that will be voted on later this summer. While the majority approved making that change, council members said they still want to see the funding studied further for the affordable housing, reducing homelessness and workforce development that the community benefits agreement would have supported from the city’s contribution. The community benefit agreement negotiated by Mayor Donna Deegan and the Jaguars totaled $300 million with the Jaguars paying $150 million over 30 years and the city committing to $150 million over the next two years.

Gadsden County renames its Extension Service building after former Congressman Al Lawson” via Adrian Andrews of WFSU — The Gadsden County Cooperative Extension Service facility has been renamed in honor of former U.S. Rep. Lawson. The renaming ceremony was held on Wednesday, June 19, in Quincy at the County Cooperative Extension Service facility. “We’ve done a lot of stuff over here during my 34 years in politics,” Lawson said at Wednesday’s renaming ceremony. “This is really good feeling to see the community come out on Juneteenth and show all of their support.”

Al Lawson will be the namesake for Gadsden County’s Cooperative Extension Service facility. Image via Facebook.

Okaloosa County reveals 4 additional women to be honored at Veterans’ Park” via Collin Bestor of the Northwest Florida Daily News — On June 18, the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved four additional statutes honoring women veterans for their contributions to American history. The four statues will be funded thanks to a $1.65 million allocation of tourist development dollars to incorporate more walkways and a reinforced shoreline to protect the Women Veterans Monuments at Veterans’ Park, 1300 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach. Each statue will cost $372,255 and be created by Jon Hair Monumental Sculpture, LLC, which made the park’s eight original statues. According to Okaloosa County Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel, selecting the four women wasn’t as easy as one might think.

— LOCAL: SW FL —

Lawsuit filed against Manatee County Supervisor of Elections over School Board seat spat” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Former School Board of Manatee County Chair James Golden has filed a lawsuit against Supervisor of Elections James Satcher for being turned away when he tried to qualify for a School Board seat that will be vacated this year. Golden has filed a writ of mandamus against Satcher to place the School Board seat that will be left vacant by House District 72 candidate Richard Tatem on the November election ballot, rather than allow DeSantis to name an appointee to serve out the remaining two years of his term. He told the Herald-Tribune he hopes a circuit court Judge requires that the seat be added to the ballot.

5 candidates vying for seat on Collier Commission in District 3” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Five candidates have qualified to run for the Collier County Commission in District 3. As he seeks re-election, Commissioner Burt Saunders faces four challengers. Three of those challengers are running as Republicans, like himself. The fourth is an independent, without a party affiliation. That means the winner of the race won’t be determined until the Fall. If Saunders wins again, it would be his last term, as he’s already on his second. He’s been on the County Commission since 2016 (this time around). In 2016, after besting two Republican challengers, Saunders easily won against his Democratic opponent, Annisa Karim, garnering 66.41% of the votes cast in the race.

2 running for Bonita Springs City Council in District 2” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News — Bonita Springs Councilman Jesse Purdon faces competition as he seeks re-election in District 2. He and his only challenger, Zack Smith, have qualified for the race. Usually, City Councilors can serve up to two four-year terms back-to-back. In Purdon’s case, he would serve a little longer if re-elected, counting his time as a temporary replacement. Following a Special Election, Purdon first joined City Council in March 2020 to fill a vacant spot, then ran for re-election and won eight months later. His predecessor, Greg DeWitt, resigned in November 2019, to focus on his job as Assistant Chief of the Bonita Springs Fire Control and Rescue District. DeWitt later became Chief.

Jesse Purdon and Zack Smith will go head-to-head in November.

Marco Island City Councilman Joe Rola won’t seek re-election, 4 seats open so far” via J. Kyle Foster of the Naples Daily News — Marco Island City Councilman Rola says he is not running for re-election. Rola, who shared the information with the Naples Daily News after a regular City Council meeting, is the only one of the three Council members eligible to run who is not running. “It’s a very tough decision,” said Rola in May. He was elected in 2020. “It’s a lot of work, if you do it right, if you take it seriously.” Rola, who spent the majority of his 42-year career as a defense contractor working in computer system design and program management, spent five years prior to his election to City Council on the city’s planning board.

— TOP OPINION —

The sins of the educated class” via David Brooks of The New York Times — When I was young, I was a man on the left. In the early 1980s, I used to go to the library and read early-20th-century issues of left-wing magazines like The Masses and The New Republic. But I got out of college and realized we didn’t live in the industrial age; we live in the information age. The center of progressive energy moved from the working class to the universities, and not just any universities, but the elite universities.

Today, we’re used to the fact that students at elite universities have different interests and concerns from students at less privileged places. Marc Novicoff and Robert Kelchen in May published an investigative report in The Washington Monthly titled “Are Gaza Protests Happening Mostly at Elite Colleges?” They surveyed 1,421 public and private colleges and concluded, “The answer is a resounding yes.”

A few schools with a large number of lower-income students, they found, had Gaza protests, “but in the vast majority of cases, campuses that educate students mostly from working-class backgrounds have not had any protest activity.” Among private schools, encampments and protests “have taken place almost exclusively at schools where poorer students are scarce and the listed tuitions and fees are exorbitantly high.”

I went to an elite university and have taught at them. I find them wonderful in most ways and deeply screwed up in a few ways. But over the decades and especially recently, I’ve found the elite, educated-class progressivism a lot less attractive than the working-class progressivism of Frances Perkins that I read about when I was young. Like a lot of people, I’ve looked on with a kind of dismay as elite university dynamics have spread across national life and politics, making America worse in all sorts of ways.

— OPINIONS —

Can Biden make the election about Jan. 6?” via Byron York of The Washington Examiner — Biden’s top strategist, Mike Donilon, has made it clear that he believes Jan. 6 will be the main issue in the 2024 election. A few months ago, Donilon talked to the New Yorker, which reported: “In 2020 (Donilon) and his campaign team had to decide whether to emphasize the economy or the more abstract idea that Trump imperiled the essence of America. ‘We bet on the latter,’ Donilon said, even though ‘our own pollsters told us that talking about ‘the soul of the nation’ was nutty.’ That experience fortified his belief that this year’s campaign should center on what he calls ‘the freedom agenda.’ By November, he predicted, ‘the focus will become overwhelming on democracy. I think the biggest images in people’s minds are going to be of Jan. 6.’” It can be hard to determine to what degree voters believe the future of democracy is a top issue, or the top issue, in this election. The problem is that of course voters think democracy is important. But do they think it is so endangered at this moment that it is the primary issue in the 2024 election?

Citizens insurance hike reveals Florida’s needless cruelty to those in need” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — In just about 26 minutes on Wednesday, the well-to-do group of political appointees who oversee Citizens Property Insurance Corp., Florida’s state-backed insurer of last resort, approved drastic rate increases for policyholders who renew next year, equating to hundreds of dollars in extra premium costs for most of the insurer’s 1.2 million customers. That short meeting perfectly encapsulated the corporate cruelty of Florida government: That Citizens is inflicting pain on its customers is no accident. Judged by the prevailing mood during Wednesday’s board of governors meeting, it was a reason to celebrate. And that’s because the state’s elected leaders don’t see Citizens, Florida’s largest insurer, as a powerful tool to help floundering homeowners in Florida’s failed insurance market but as an albatross, and they don’t view its customers as people in need but as numbers on a spreadsheet they’d rather delete. Instead of leveraging a viable public insurance option to help homeowners who are drowning in skyrocketing costs, state officials are myopically focused on kicking them off it.

A pro-secrecy court ruling could cloak small-town corruption in darkness” via Orlando Sentinel editorial board — It’s more than a little ironic that anyone sitting on the federal bench needs to be persuaded that robust financial disclosure by public officials is crucial to public trust. The fallout from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s big fish and Clarence Thomas’s even bigger motorhome loan and all-expense-paid trips to Indonesia and elsewhere should be all the argument needed. But not, evidently, in Florida. U.S. District Judge Melissa Damian recently halted enforcement of a new state law requiring detailed financial disclosures from officeholders in cities, towns and villages. In siding with more than 170 elected officials who filed suit rather than submit to the same financial disclosure that county and state officials have abided by for decades, the judge ignored common sense and overlooked decades of municipal chicanery in Florida.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Clay High grad Caeleb Dressel headed back to Olympics after qualifying for relay” via Justin Barney of News4Jax — Dressel is heading back to the Olympics. Dressel finished third in the 100-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Indianapolis, qualifying for his third straight Games and continuing his medal quest. Chris Guiliano (47.38) and Jack Alexy (47.47) finished in front of Dressel (47.53), but the local product still earned a relay spot for the Paris Olympics by way of his third-place finish. Traditionally, the top four finishers in the trials in the 100 and 200 free events qualify for the Games to be a part of relay teams. Dressel, a Clay High School product and seven-time Olympic gold medalist, had been away from serious competition since the 2022 World Championships. Dressel has said publicly that he needed time away from swimming to recapture his love for the sport.

After some time away from the sport, Caeleb Dressel is ready to make a splash in Paris. Image via AP.

Beware! The monsters are coming at Universal’s Epic Universe” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights wins over fans for being creepy, and sometimes downright terrifying. You can expect the same sort of immersive dark vibe in the monster-themed land at Epic Universe. Universal’s new theme park in Orlando opens in 2025 with five lands. Universal released new details for the Dark Universe land as the countdown ticks away to next year’s opening. Dr. Victoria Frankenstein is the star in Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment, which Universal Creative billed as “one of the scariest rides that we’ve created.”

Tampa General Hospital splashes its name on Tampa Bay Sun soccer jerseys” via Henry Queen of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tampa General Hospital will serve as the Tampa Bay Sun Football Club’s jersey sponsor in a multiyear deal announced on June 18. The new professional women’s soccer team, which will compete in the USL Super League, entered into an agreement with TGH to be the team’s official presenting sponsor and with USF Health Morsani College of Medicine to be its exclusive health care provider. Financial details weren’t disclosed. The TGH logo will feature prominently on the just-released home and away jerseys, which will be navy and yellow, respectively.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to state Reps. Linda Chaney and Chuck ClemonsMichele Cavallo, Cory Dowd, Gia Porras-Ferrulo, Anthony Katchuk, Shannon Love, Gisselle Reynolds and Courtney Bense Weatherford.

___

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 FloridaPolitics.com, 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.



#FlaPol

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