Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.9.24

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Florida politics and Sunburn — perfect together.

Good Tuesday morning.

A top o’ burn birthday shoutout to Golden Rotunda award winner, INFLUENCE 150er, incredible aunt and pet lover extraordinaire Heather Turnbull of Rubin Turnbull & Associates.

Happy birthday to our friend Heather Turnbull.

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Walmart is bringing Bethany McAlister in-house as its new Director of Public and Government Affairs for Florida.

McAlister heads to Walmart from Corcoran Partners, a top-15 lobbying firm that counts the retail giant among its many clients. Before joining the firm as a partner in mid-2022, McAlister spent four years working in the Florida Department of Education, including a year as Chief of Staff, and previously held managerial positions at Leadership Florida and the Zimmerman Agency.

Bethany McAlister is tapped to represent Walmart.

“I am incredibly grateful for my time at Corcoran Partners and the unwavering support I’ve received from the entire team,” McAlister said. “Joining Walmart is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to further my personal and professional commitment to community engagement and advocacy. I am excited to support Walmart’s mission in Florida to save people money so they can live better in the Sunshine State.”

Walmart said McAlister’s experience “will be instrumental in advancing Walmart’s efforts to create opportunities, improve access to essential goods and services, and foster sustainable growth in the communities it serves.” She fills the position vacated by Monesia Taylor Brown, who is now the vice president of Government Relations for North Highland.

The move earned praise from Rep. Chase Tramont, who said that as a member of the Corcoran Partners team, McAlister was key to getting two of his favored bills across the finish line.

“She epitomizes hard work and success. I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving and qualified for this opportunity, and I have no doubt she will elevate Walmart’s brand and reputation to its highest peak,” the Port Orange Republican said.

Corcoran Partners founder and CEO Mike Corcoran and Managing Partner Matthew Blair were likewise effusive, with the latter saying the firm is “excited for Bethany and grateful to keep a trusted and valued colleague in our client family.”

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Miami-based political consulting firm EDGE Communications announced a volley of strategic hires as the firm continues its expansion ahead of the 2024 Elections.

The new team members include Veronica Goddard as Senior vice president, Elise Stuewe as Senior Field and GOTV Director, Jessica St. Jean as Outreach Director, Jose Torres as Communications Coordinator, and David Cruz as Communications and Special Projects Coordinator.

EDGE Communications adds a wave of strategic hires.

“This election cycle is like no other, especially in Miami-Dade County. It’s why I am excited to lead a strong, diverse, and talented staff who love Miami-Dade and are passionate about ensuring the right leaders are guiding us into the future,” EDGE founder Christian Ulvert said.

“Their combined experience and expertise will be instrumental in our success this cycle, and I am proud to work with them. Our additional team members join an already battle-tested team at EDGE who are ready for the critical work ahead.”

EDGE Communications is one of Florida’s top consultancies for progressive candidates and causes, and each of the new hires sports connections to big-name Democratic politicians and advocacy organizations.

Goddard’s résumé includes upper-level positions on Philip Levine’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign and Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign and as Deputy Campaign Manager for incumbent Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

Stuewe, another veteran operative, most recently worked as a training director for Ruth’s List Florida and previously managed a multistate voter registration drive that registered over 75,000 new voters from historically disenfranchised communities.

St. Jean comes to the firm after working as a field organizer for NextGen Florida. Torres, a University of Miami law grad, has a portfolio that includes Levine Cava’s re-election bid, as does Cruz, who is also working on James Reyes’ campaign for Miami-Dade Sheriff.

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Personnel note: Sierra Club Florida selects Jessica Clark Wisdom as new Development Director” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — An in-state environmental group is bringing on an experienced Democratic political operative from Lee County to fill its Development Director role. A news release from Sierra Club Florida announced that Wisdom would take over that role. Wisdom “held key leadership positions with Obama for America, where she played a pivotal role in orchestrating successful fundraising campaigns in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” the news release noted. “She further demonstrated her acumen in political advocacy and campaign management when she served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Charlie Crist’s campaign for Governor,” the Sierra Club added. “We are thrilled to welcome Jessica Clark Wisdom as Sierra Club Florida’s Development Director,” said Susannah Randolph, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director.

Sierra Club Florida selects political operative Jessica Clark Wisdom as its new Development Director.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@PoliticusSarah: President (Joe) Biden had an extremely detailed neurological exam, which found no issues. His gait issues are from a fractured foot, spinal arthritis and neuropathy. Most importantly, doctors found him Healthy and fit

Tweet, tweet:

Tweet, tweet:

@Fineout: Dem Senate candidate @DebbieforFL Mucarsel-Powell on Biden & presidential race: “I think that we all saw what we saw on that debate stage. And it really raised concerns for a lot of people. But it’s up to the President to make the case for the American people that he can lead.” When asked if that was a yes or no, Mucarsel-Powell said, “I think that we still have four months … and I’m watching to see what happens. It’s really important for us to make sure that we win this election in November because so much is at stake … ”

@Olivia_Beshears: New: Rep. (Anna Paulina) Luna tells me she’s bringing her (Merrick) Garland inherent contempt resolution to the floor on Wednesday. She told me she expects Speaker (Mike) Johnson to raise it in conference “tomorrow morning.”

@JordiOnTheRun: I’m happy to share that I have officially joined @FlaDems as Political Director. As Florida goes, so too goes the nation. I look forward to developing new relationships w/ voters, grassroots orgs, & communities across all 67 counties as we #TakeBackFlorida. Let’s get to work.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Katy Perry’s ‘Woman’s World’ drops — 2; Republican National Convention begins — 6; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 14; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 17; ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ premieres — 17; Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday begins — 21; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 39; Democratic National Convention begins — 41; Florida Primary — 42; FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon, begins — 43; second Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 47; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 47; Tool Time Sales Tax Holiday begins — 55; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 60; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 60; Vice-Presidential Debate — 79; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 103; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 110; Florida TaxWatch’s 45th Annual Meeting — 118; 2024 Presidential Election — 119; second half of Yellowstone season five premieres — 124; Legislature’s 2025 Organizational Session — 133; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 133; ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ premieres — 151; MLS Cup 2024 — 152; College Football Playoff begins — 165; Fiesta Bowl — 176; Peach, Rose & Sugar Bowls — 176; Orange Bowl — 184; Sugar Bowl — 186; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 220; the 2025 Oscars — 241; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 243; 2025 Session ends — 303; ‘Moana’ premieres — 350; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 384; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 384; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 491; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 529; ‘Avengers 5’ premieres — 665; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 682; FIFA World Cup 26™ final — 702; FIFA World Cup 26™ final match — 740; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 893; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,033; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 1,992; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,713.

—TOP STORY —

Joe Biden tells Hill Democrats he won’t step aside, says of party drama: ‘It’s time for it to end’” via Lisa Mascaro, Zeke Miller and Seung Min Kim of The Associated Press — Biden’s efforts to shore up a deeply anxious Democratic Party came as lawmakers returned to Washington confronting a choice: Work to revive his campaign or try to edge out the party leader, a make-or-break time for his campaign and their own political futures.

Save the drama; Biden stays firmly in the race.

Biden wrote in the two-page letter that “the question of how to move forward has been well-aired for over a week now. And it’s time for it to end.” He stressed that the party has “one job,” defeating presumptive Republican presidential nominee Trump in November.

“We have 42 days to the Democratic Convention and 119 days to the General Election,” Biden said in the letter, distributed by his re-election campaign. “Any weakening of resolve or lack of clarity about the task ahead only helps Trump and hurts us. It’s time to come together, move forward as a unified party and defeat Donald Trump.”

Anxiety is running high as top-ranking Democratic lawmakers are joining calls for Biden to step aside despite his defiance. At the same time, some of the President’s most staunch supporters are redoubling the fight for Biden’s presidency, insisting there’s no one better to beat Trump in what many see as among the most important elections of a lifetime.

Biden followed up the letter with a phone interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, in which he insisted that “average Democrats” want him to stay in the race and said he was frustrated by party officials’ calls for him to step aside.

“They’re big names, but I don’t care what those big names think,” Biden said.

— 2024 — PRESIDENTIAL —

Biden is ‘all in’ on run for President, First Lady says in Tampa” via Nina Moske of the Tampa Bay Times — First Lady Jill Biden on Monday assured voters that Biden is “all in” on another four years as commander in chief. “President Biden wakes up every morning ready to work for you,” she said at an event in Tampa. The first lady was in Tampa to promote a campaign program for veterans and military families in battleground states. In Tampa, the first lady focused on Biden’s record — not his health. In a 10-minute speech, she touted her husband’s support of veteran mental health and family planning programs for military members. She said the new campaign program would mobilize veteran and military voters. Biden also spoke of her late son, Beau Biden, who served in Iraq.

Jill Biden makes it very clear in Tampa that her husband is not going anywhere.

—“Jill Biden says she’s ‘all in’ on husband’s re-election as he insists anew he won’t leave the race” via Darlene Superville and Curt Anderson of The Associated Press

Biden tries to soothe his top fundraisers on a private call” via Theodore Schleifer, Reid Epstein, Lauren Hirsch and Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times — Biden spoke directly to some of his biggest fundraisers and donors on Monday, repeating his assertion that he was staying in the race and telling them they needed to shift the focus of the campaign away from him and onto Trump. “We can’t waste any more time being distracted,” Mr. Biden said, according to a video recording of the meeting viewed by The New York Times. “I have one job and that’s to beat Donald Trump — to beat Donald. I’m absolutely certain that I’m the best person to be able to do that. We’re done talking about the debate. It’s time to put Trump in the bull’s-eye.” His appearance amounted to the most formal entreaty to his financiers since his poor debate performance over a week ago that they should stay the course.

—“House Democrat joins donor discussion about replacing Biden on ballot” via Michael Scherer and Tyler Pager of The Washington Post

Gretchen Whitmer shuts down 2024 presidential talk but doesn’t hide her ambitions in timely book launch” via Joey Cappelletti and Isabella Volmert of The Associated Press — Set for release Tuesday amid the frenzy over Biden’s recent debate performance, “True Gretch” won’t do much to dispel questions about her national ambitions. However, in a pre-launch interview, Whitmer did what she could to shut down such speculation. When asked if she would consider becoming a candidate this year if Biden were to step down, she responded with a definitive “No.” “It’s a distraction more than anything,” said Whitmer. “I don’t like seeing my name in articles like that because I’m totally focused on governing and campaigning for the ticket.” Whitmer has been pushing the topic of abortion access in her role as co-Chair of the Biden campaign, saying he is on the “right side” of the abortion fight despite his lackluster performance in the recent debate on the question of reproductive rights.

What the polls show 11 days after the Biden-Trump debate” via Mark Murray of NBC News — Biden was trailing Trump — albeit within the margin of error — in many national and battleground polls before Biden’s debate debacle. Now Biden is trailing by one to two points more in some surveys. However, the movement is still within the margin of error, and few of the results reflect a radically altered race — though in our polarized and tightly divided politics, the campaign could very well hinge on such margins. That’s the polling takeaway 11 days after Biden’s disastrous debate performance, as a handful of Democrats have called for the President to exit the race and a defiant Biden insists he’s remaining in the 2024 campaign. “I’m not going anywhere,” he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The biggest movement came from the national New York Times/Siena College poll, but even that movement didn’t suggest a sea change in the race over two weeks. Before the debate, according to that survey, Trump was ahead of Biden by six points among registered voters and four points among likely voters.

The plane is ready, the fundraisers are booked: Donald Trump’s VP search comes down to its final days” via Jill Colvin of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — All that’s left: an announcement from Trump unveiling his pick. Senior advisers and longtime allies insist they still don’t know whom the presumptive GOP nominee will choose to join him on the ticket — with many believing the choice is still in flux. The decision will come at an unprecedented time of upheaval in the presidential race. Biden and the Democratic Party continue to grapple with his dismal debate performance and the intensifying calls for the 81-year-old President to step aside in favor of a younger candidate. The Democrats’ crisis has given Trump little incentive to change the subject with a VP announcement that would be sure to draw a flurry of attention and focus.

Trump pushes new GOP platform softening party’s positions on abortion and same-sex marriage” via Matt Dixon and Vaughn Hillyard of NBC News — The new draft party platform, which still must get approval from the full Republican National Committee, came after the Trump campaign made a quiet push to keep those seen as too socially conservative off the platform Committee out of concern that they would make a vocal push for things like a federal abortion ban, which has consistently been unpopular in public polling. “The reality of the situation is (that) this platform reflects modern-day realities,” said a platform Committee member who spoke anonymously. “This is a position that leaves it up to the states, which is the position of the Republican Party.”

Latest Lincoln Project ad predicts dystopian future if Trump wins again” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — An ominous video from The Lincoln Project predicts mass chaos and arrests of Democratic Governors if Trump wins the presidency. The four-minute “Aftermath” video compiles the most controversial elements of Project 2025 — a blueprint for the Trump administration made by the Heritage Foundation to implement a lasting right-wing agenda — with the consequences of recent Supreme Court decisions. The video imagines a dispirited and divided Democratic campaign falling to Trump’s rhetoric, displaying pictures of Trump’s 2017 inauguration as a reminder the GOP leader has won before. “Unfortunately, he keeps his promises,” a narrator says.

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

On politicized prosecutions, Marco Rubio has a poor memory” via Steve Benen of MSNBC — By all accounts, Sen. Rubio is a finalist for his party’s vice-presidential nomination. With this in mind, the Florida Republican has eagerly participated in the GOP’s “race to the bottom.” Against this backdrop, the Senator sat down with CNN’s Dana Bash, who asked about the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling. In a move that likely pleased viewers at Mar-a-Lago, Rubio largely ignored the question and toed a partisan line. “His vengeance is going to be by winning and making America great again, not going after his political opponents,” Rubio said. So, a few things. First, if the Senator or his allies have any evidence of White House officials “going after their political opponents,” Republicans have kept the proof well hidden.

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Abortion rights initiative’s fiscal impact draws long debate in state panel” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A state panel became gridlocked on the abortion rights initiative’s full fiscal impact — especially on potential litigation costs and whether abortions would ultimately be a Medicaid covered procedure. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference met in a nearly all-day debate to determine the ballot wording that accompanies Amendment 4, which would overturn the state’s six-week abortion ban if approved. “This is a prohibition on government action, not a right to abortion,” said Florida’s top economist, Amy Baker. “Even if it’s a right, it does not mean the government has to do anything. … We have a proposed amendment to give a right to hunting and fishing in Florida. I don’t think anybody is here saying, ‘Oh, we have to buy a fishing pole for everyone and a rifle for everyone.’”

How much will Florida’s abortion ban cost the state? Depends on who you ask.

Ron DeSantis, Florida House pay outsiders to influence financial statement on abortion measure” via Ana Goñi-Lessan of the Tallahassee Democrat — State officials are collectively paying anti-abortion advocates hundreds of dollars an hour to represent their interests on an obscure government panel in the battle over November’s abortion ballot measure. It’s another loud-and-clear move that DeSantis and Florida House of Representatives leadership are serious about defeating Amendment 4, the constitutional amendment aimed at ensuring abortion access in the state. The Executive Office of the Governor is paying Michael New, an assistant professor of social research at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., $300 an hour, to speak at the state’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) meetings.

— 2024 — DOWN-BALLOT —

Matt Gaetz ads tear into Primary challenger Aaron DimmockGaetz’s re-election campaign is rolling out two ads blasting his opponent in the Aug. 20 Republican Primary for Florida’s 1st Congressional District. One of the ads casts Aaron Dimmock as a “raging liberal” who supports policies maligned by Republicans, such as DEI, and claims his candidacy is supported by “the lobbyists who hate Matt Gaetz.” The other ad hits similar beats while touting Gaetz’s role in former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster and his recent endorsement by Trump. Gaetz’s campaign said the 30-second spots will run on TV and digital platforms as part of a 12-day, six-figure ad buy.

To watch the ad, please click the image below:

‘The hope that Florida needs’: Eric Swalwell backs Whitney Fox for CD 13” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Swalwell, a California Democrat, is endorsing Fox to represent Florida’s 13th Congressional District. “Whitney is the hope that Florida needs. She understands the challenges facing Floridians and is committed to finding solutions that work for everyone, not just the wealthy and powerful,” Swalwell said. “Whitney’s focus on affordable housing, health care, and protecting individual liberties aligns with the values I fight for every day. I am proud to endorse her candidacy and look forward to seeing her make a real difference in Washington.” Swalwell represents California’s 14th Congressional District. As a former prosecutor, he has positioned himself as a stalwart defender of public safety, criminal justice, and the protection of victims and their families.

—2024 — DOWN-BALLOT 2 —

Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey endorses Randy Fine for state Senate: ‘A conservative warrior’” via Amber Joe Cooper of Florida’s Voice — Brevard County Sheriff Ivey endorsed Fine for state Senate on Monday. Ivey said Fine has “been a fighter for law enforcement and Brevard County,” according to the announcement. “For eight years, we have worked together to fight illegal immigration and keep our residents safe. He has been a conservative warrior in the Florida House, and I am proud to endorse him for the Florida Senate,” Ivey said. Fine said he is “honored” to have Ivey’s support and “grateful to have his guidance and proud to be his friend.”

Wayne Ivey gives a big thumbs-up to Randy Fine.

Realtors endorse Nick Primrose for HD 18 — The Florida Realtors’ political committee is backing Republican Primrose in the race to succeed term-limited Rep. Cyndi Stevenson in House District 18. Florida Realtors PAC Trustees Chair Jarrod Lowe said “Primrose (is) a leader we can count on to advocate for a strong, stable real estate industry. As more and more people move to the state, smoothing the pathway to homeownership remains a high priority and we are confident that Nick will work hard to help us achieve this goal.” Primrose is squaring off against Kim Kendall in the Aug. 20 Primary, the winner of which will be the heavy favorite in November.

Kim Kendall for HD 18 lands First Coast Manufacturers endorsement — The trade association representing Northeast Florida manufacturers is supporting Kendall’s campaign to replace term-limited Rep. Cyndi Stevenson. “The First Coast Manufacturers Association is pleased to announce that our Association is endorsing Kim Kendall’s candidacy for election to the Florida House of Representatives, District 18,” said Lake Ray, president of the First Coast Manufacturers. “We appreciate her hard work and dedication to serve and run for office. Our members also appreciate her openness to meet and listen to our concerns regarding policy affecting manufacturing.” Kendall is in a head-to-head race with Primrose for the Republican nomination in HD 18, a safe GOP seat covering part of St. Johns County.

‘A crucial voice’: Equality Florida Action PAC backs Ashley Gantt in HD 109” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The political arm of Equality Florida, a group advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ community, is endorsing Democratic Rep. Gantt as she faces a high-profile Primary challenge in House District 109. “Equality Florida Action PAC is thrilled to endorse Ashley V. Gantt for her unwavering commitment to equality and justice,” said Stratton Pollitzer, Chair of Equality Florida Action PAC. “We have witnessed unprecedented attacks on our LGBTQ community coming out of Tallahassee, and Ashley Gantt has been a crucial voice in the House pushing back on dangerous anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. We wholeheartedly endorse her for re-election, and we need more public servants like her in the Legislature.”

Happening tonight:

— STATEWIDE —

Sex? Grandstanding? Arts leaders, experts examine why DeSantis cut funds — and prep for future” via Matthew J. Palm of the Orlando Sentinel — Could it be that simple? Was a cheekily titled piece of theater at the Tampa Fringe responsible for DeSantis’ veto of $32 million in arts funding from the $116 billion 2024-25 state budget, affecting more than 600 organizations statewide and leaving all cultural grant programs unfunded for the first time ever? That seemed to be what the Governor was saying at a June news conference when he referred to the state’s Fringe Festivals, including Orlando’s, as “sexual” in addressing his veto of cultural funding. “How many of you think your tax dollars should go to fund that? Not many people would do that,” he said.

Could Ron DeSantis’ arts vetoes be explained so easily?

Ashley Moody, other states take action against Biden’s ‘costly’ proposed washing machine standards” via Owen Girard of Florida’s Voice — Moody and 22 other states wrote a letter to the Department of Energy that raised concerns over its newly proposed “costly” washing machine standards. Moody’s office said that the department’s new direct final rule regulates residential clothes washers without considering the economic impact that American consumers will face on appliance cost hikes. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers joined other appliance companies in highlighting major concerns with the standards. The letter touched on the organization’s issues.

Happening todayMoody and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will be in Tampa to release the 2023 Drugs Identified in Deceased Persons Interim Report and discuss statewide efforts to combat the national opioid crisis: 9:45 a.m., Florida Department of Law Enforcement — Tampa Bay Regional Operations Center, 4211 N. Lois Ave., Tampa.

Records drop in doctor residency applicants post-Roe v. Wade” via Sam Ogozalek of the Tampa Bay Times — Ritu Sidgal volunteered at a hospice in California in high school, reading to patients and offering bedside comfort. After attending college in Missouri to study biology and global health, she applied to medical schools and eventually moved to Tampa, enrolling at the University of South Florida. She won’t graduate until 2027, but she’s already thinking of specializing in women’s reproductive health care as an obstetrician-gynecologist. “I did very early on fall in love with the idea of healing and medicine and helping others through service,” said Sidgal, 23.

Most abortions performed last year in Florida done after six weeks, suggesting impact of new ban” via Caroline Catherman of the Orlando Sentinel — About 60% of the abortions performed in Florida last year would be illegal under the state’s new, six-week ban that took effect on May 1. Data from the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration released June 27 shows that last year, 39.8% of abortions — about 33,000 — were performed before a fetus reached six weeks gestational age and 60% were performed after that six-week mark. Until the new ban took effect, abortions in Florida were allowed up to 15 weeks and before 2022, up to 24 weeks. The six-week ban has already had visible impacts, sending more people out of state and to the internet for abortion-inducing pills, along with shrinking revenue at abortion clinics like The Center of Orlando for Women, which started a GoFundMe to stay afloat following a “drastic” decrease in patients.

A cyberattack at the Florida Department of Health is causing problems for funeral homes” via Adrian Andrews of WFSU — A recent cyberattack at the Florida Department of Health is causing problems for funeral homes statewide. The Florida Department of Health confirmed a group of ransom thieves hacked the state’s “Vital Statistics System,” which is used to process birth and death certificates. Thomas Griffin Jr. works at Strong & Jones Funeral Home in Tallahassee. He told WFSU on Monday that the attack has kept families from receiving burial services. “We can’t accommodate the families at this time period as far as what they need done to accomplish insurance policies and things of that nature,” explained Griffin. “A lot of stuff you can’t get done without a certified copy of the death certificate.”

A cyberattack on the FDOH has funeral homes grinding to a halt.

Homeowners frustrated over new My Safe Florida Home Program requirements” via Nadeen Yanes of ABC Action News — Several Florida homeowners are sharing their frustrations over changes to the state’s My Safe Florida Home Program, which re-opened on July 1. The My Safe Florida Home Program is touted as a solution to the state’s insurance crisis. It offers Florida homeowners grants of up to $10,000 to harden their homes, with the goal of lowering insurance rates. The program quickly ran out of money in 2023, leaving many in limbo, like Steve Freed. He and his daughter applied for the grant last August to get hurricane-impact windows ahead of hurricane season. “They decided, ‘Well, we ran out of money, but we’re going to keep you in the loop. Basically, you are still in, not in the queue, but you are in a holding pattern,’” Freed said. “So, we waited.”

Satanists in Florida offer to fill school counselor roles after DeSantis law” via Lexi Lonas of The Hill — Florida Satanists are volunteering to fill school counselor roles after DeSantis signed a law allowing religious chaplains into public schools amid staffing shortages. “Nothing in the text of the bill serves to exclude us, and no credible interpretation of the First Amendment could. Should a school district now choose to have chaplains, they should expect Satanists to participate as well,” Lucien Greaves, co-founder and spokesperson for The Satanic Temple, said in a statement to The Hill on Monday.

— D. C. MATTERS —

Parkinson’s expert visited the White House eight times in eight months” via Emily Baumgaertner and Peter Baker of The New York Times — Dr. Kevin Cannard is a neurologist specializing in movement disorders and recently published a paper on Parkinson’s. The logs, released by the White House, document visits from July 2023 through March of this year. More recent visits, if there have been any, would not be released until later under the White House’s voluntary disclosure policy. It was unclear whether Cannard was at the White House to consult specifically about the President or was there for unrelated meetings.

Joe Biden’s White House gets a series of house calls.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

In a Florida retiree stronghold, anger and hope for Biden” via Lori Rozsa of The Washington Post — Eighty-five-year-old Lucille Grabinski steered clear of discussing politics as she worked on a set of bejeweled cat coasters at her community’s arts and crafts workshop on a recent afternoon. Neighbors in the gated RiverWalk neighborhood in West Palm Beach abide by an unwritten code not to talk about the upcoming election. But these days, in between aquatic exercise classes and pickleball matches, the presidential contest is almost all anyone can think about. “He had a bad night,” Grabinski said as she cleaned up her leftover beads. “I think he got better toward the end. We’re all rooting him on.” Perhaps nowhere are Biden’s senior moments hitting closer to home than in places like RiverWalk, a community that skews older in snowbird-friendly Palm Beach County. The neighborhood is built around the idea that getting old doesn’t mean staying still. Many of the residents keep a busy calendar well into their 80s. And they reject the idea that there should be an age limit for running the country.

‘Exactly what our city needs’: Sierra Club endorses Norby Belz for Fort Lauderdale Commission” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — One of the nation’s leading environmental organizations is backing small-business owner Belz as he pursues the District 1 seat on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission. “The Sierra Club is proud to endorse Norby Belz,” said Sierra Club member Andy Deering, who lives in Fort Lauderdale. “We believe Norby’s leadership will be instrumental in addressing the current and future challenges facing Fort Lauderdale. His commitment to environmental protection, sustainable development, and collaboration with stakeholders is exactly what our city needs.” Norby is seeking to oust incumbent Commissioner John Herbst in the contest. He thanked the Sierra Club for supporting his efforts in a prepared statement. “I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Sierra Club,” Belz said.

Sierra Club gives Norby Belz its stamp of approval.

Broward judicial candidate drops Orlando author’s self-published tell-all from her campaign stump speech” via Rafael Olmeda of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A salacious tell-all alleging shenanigans in a Central Florida circuit court has somehow found its way into a Broward judicial race, complete with a peculiar audio clip that would be scandalous — if it were authentic. It’s not, according to the people named in it. The book was self-published last year by a disgruntled ex-employee of the 9th Judicial Circuit, who criticized the judges he worked under. Broward judicial candidate Lauren Peffer, best known locally as an animal rights lawyer, had cited the book as evidence that the judiciary in Florida suffers from a lack of public trust, a trust that she can help restore.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Some Central Florida governments feel ‘sticker shock’ at SunRail’s future costs” via Martin E. Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — When SunRail trains first started rolling down tracks just over a decade ago, it was agreed the state would pay the bills for several years — but local governments along the route would eventually pick up the tab. Four counties and three cities — Osceola, Orange, Seminole, Volusia, Orlando, Winter Park and Maitland — are now preparing to take over operating and maintaining the 61-mile commuter rail line from the Florida Department of Transportation. And some local officials are experiencing sticker shock as bills come due in January. In Maitland, the City Council unanimously agreed on June 24 to pull out of a contract with Orange County if a new deal could not be reached.

SunRail’s future costs are giving Central Florida agita.

Where are Osceola’s homeless? Kissimmee Mayor getting blame for undercount” via Natalia Jaramillo of the Orlando Sentinel — Local advocates say the number of people experiencing homelessness in Osceola County was significantly undercounted in Central Florida’s census this year — and a nonprofit run by Kissimmee’s Mayor is getting some of the blame. Volunteers for the annual Point-in-Time homeless count, conducted in January and released in June, reportedly could not tally the homeless when they showed up at Kissimmee’s Church and Community Assistance Program. The program, a nonprofit founded by Mayor Olga Gonzalez, is a primary place for people in need in Osceola County to receive services, including hot meals. In an interview, Gonzalez insisted volunteers were not prevented from entering and counting but would not clarify what happened.

Brevard firefighters seek new contract, more competitive pay, as attrition remains issue” via Dave Berman of Florida Today — Who earns more, a rookie Brevard County firefighter or a new fast-food employee? Actually, they earn about the same: $15 an hour. Brevard County Fire Rescue union members are approaching the end of their current three-year contract, and union officials hope to see a substantial pay bump in the next contract. County Commissioners may be reluctant to do so, saying county rules restrict them from raising property taxes enough for the pay increase. On Tuesday, a contingent of union members and their supporters plan to be at the Brevard County Commission meeting to urge Commissioners to back the firefighters in their fight for more money.

New president at Florida Poly replaces longtime Provost with New College administrator” via Gary White of the Lakeland Ledger — One day after assuming his role as president of Florida Polytechnic University, Devin Stephenson has made a significant staffing change at the Lakeland school. Stephenson is replacing Terry Parker, who has served as provost at Florida Poly since 2016. Bradley Thiessen, an administrator who has been at New College of Florida in Sarasota for the past eight years, will take the role. Parker came to Florida Poly eight years ago from the Colorado School of Mines, regarded as one of the nation’s top schools for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. As provost, Parker directed academics, student recruitment, faculty hiring and the pursuit of research grants.

— LOCAL: TB —

Hillsborough School Board member Lynn Gray fundraises on protecting what critics say are ‘sexually explicit’ books” via Amber Jo Cooper of Florida’s Voice — School Board member Gray sent a text fundraiser alleging the group “Moms for Liberty” is “coming after” her for voting to keep books in school libraries that critics previously described as “sexually explicit.” The text message said Gray became a “top target” because she voted to “protect” two books from being removed from school libraries. “The sad truth is they want me gone so that they can make sure the only books left are the ones that support their worldview. But that’s not how education should work,” Gray wrote.

Lynn Gray says she is a target of ‘Moms for Liberty.’

St. Pete Beach appointed new Commissioners legally, judge rules” via Jack Evans of the Tampa Bay Times — The St. Pete Beach City Commission acted appropriately when it appointed new members to four of its five seats in the wake of a mass resignation late last year, a judge ruled last week. For now, it ends a lawsuit filed early this year by an activist group and nine residents. They alleged the city violated its own charter by appointing new Commissioners rather than waiting for a Special Election, “bypassing the democratic process.” However, in a summary judgment released July 2, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Michael Andrews wrote that the appointments did follow the charter’s rules for filling vacancies. He also ruled that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing for several complaints.

Tampa ranked in Top 30 for Gen Z tech job opportunities” via Drew Dixon of Florida Politics — Tampa stands out as the best Florida city for young workers entering the technology field, according to a new study by BizInsure.com. BizInsure.com looked at the tech industry in every state and Washington, D.C., and ranked the best tech towns. Analysts looked at 324 metro markets across the United States, using metrics such as tech job availability, rent affordability and lifestyle for the Generation Z demographic entering the workforce. On the national scale, Tampa ranked 28th in the country for best tech city for Gen Z recent college graduates entering the workforce. According to the study, Tampa has 36.29 jobs in the tech field for every 1,000 total jobs in that market.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Charlie Ward wants to put a $26.9M athletic facility in Southeast Tallahassee” via Adrian Andrews of WFSU — Florida State University’s Ward is beginning to build his own multimillion-dollar athletic facility. On Tuesday, the Heisman Trophy winner got the Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Commission to approve a rezoning proposal to turn 109 acres of land off Capital Circle Southeast near Woodville Highway into a multipurpose “barnyard” — type facility. The complex will cost $26.9 million to build. Ward approached Blueprint agency in November to ask for $4 million to help jump-start construction.

Charlie Ward has big plans for SE Tallahassee.

Leon County judge could order ACC to give Florida State confidential ESPN agreements” via Liam Rooney of the Tallahassee Democrat — In a proposed court order, the Atlantic Coast Conference may have to provide Florida State University’s legal team a copy of the highly confidential ESPN agreements as the battle between the conference and the school continues in Leon County. In the proposed language that both sides agreed upon, the court order was drafted and submitted on July 2 at 3 p.m. to Leon Circuit Judge John C. Cooper. If Cooper signs the court order, the ACC must hand over an unredacted version of the sought-after ESPN agreement to FSU within seven days of the order. The ESPN agreements have been at the center of the legal fight between the two parties: FSU sued the ACC over its media rights deal, and this move could be a major blow to be landed in the heavyweight fight between the two.

Making a mark: FSU launches new academic logo, reserves Seminole head for sports” via Tarah Jean of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University’s website, social media pages and buses are all decked with a new logo following a recent — and subtle — rebranding. Moving forward, a logo of simplicity that boldly displays the letters “FSU” in gold with garnet outlining takes the forefront of the university’s brand as the new academic mark. Most notable is a markedly reduced emphasis on the Seminole head logo, which the school has called “one of the most recognizable and iconic marks in sports,” reserving its use exclusively for athletics. FSU’s athletic marks, including the Seminole head. While the university’s marketing team has been working on the rebranding for over a year, the new logo was made official Monday and announced to FSU employees via email as part of an internal brand launch.

Bay County is building a new substance abuse treatment facility at the Bay County Jail” via Adrian Andrews of WFSU — Bay County is slated to build a brand-new substance abuse treatment facility at the Bay County Jail. At the last Commissioners meeting, County Manager Robert Majka said the project would cost roughly $4.3 million. The project will expand the jail’s lifeline drug rehabilitation program, which has been around for several decades. “The Bay County Jail Substance Abuse Unit construction is in the amount of $4,385,000,” Majka said at a recent County Commission meeting. “It authorizes the (Chair) to execute the contract or make any contract modifications as approved by the County Attorney.” Dominguez Design-build, a Pensacola-based company, will design the building. The current rehab facility holds 60 inmates.

Leon County spokesperson on leave after appearing in photo with a dig at Trump” via Arianna Otero of the Tallahassee Democrat — Mathieu Cavell, Leon County government’s chief spokesperson, is on administrative leave after appearing in a July 4 Facebook post in which he and others used Independence Day sparklers to spell out the phrase “F— MAGA” — with Cavell being the final “A” in MAGA. The photo was posted July 4 by his wife Kathleen Cavell, a veterinarian at Northwood Animal Hospital. The post, which has since been removed, said, “We’ve done it again y’all — SPARKLER ART! … Happy 4th.” MAGA is short for “Making America Great Again,” the longtime motto of Trump. It’s also used to refer to Trump’s political supporters.

— LOCAL: SW FL —

More Manatee County families, seniors are struggling with bills, report says” via Victoria Villanueva-Marquez of the Bradenton Herald — A new report shows that more families and seniors in Manatee County are struggling to make ends meet. In Manatee County, local living expenses are rising, and higher wages don’t always solve the problem. The latest United Way ALICE report provides a snapshot of economic challenges in the area. ALICE stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. ALICE households earn more than the federal poverty level but less than the basic cost of living for the county. The report shows how many people in Manatee County are living paycheck-to-paycheck. According to the latest data, more families are having trouble with the cost of living.

Manatee seniors are struggling to make ends meet.

Sarasota County Commission puts Sheriff eviction-prevention program funding in jeopardy” via Saundra Amrhein of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Doors might be closing soon on an innovative local eviction-prevention program if the Sarasota County Commission follows through with plans to withhold funding, organizers say. Since launching last Summer, the Supportive Housing Initiative, Eviction Lifeline & Diversion program, or SHIELD, has assisted more than 300 households, according to Chris Johnson, chief operating officer of United Way of South Sarasota County, or UWSSC. A partnership between UWSSC and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, SHIELD helps prevent evictions and provides residents immediate access to a designated case manager and legal aid. In addition, Johnson noted that this past year, SHIELD has brought hope to desperate families caught in the housing crisis while alleviating enormous pressure on Sheriff’s Office deputies during increasingly dangerous eviction calls.

City Commission approves amendments regulating solar energy production on first reading” via Heather Bushman of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The city of Sarasota’s zoning code and comprehensive plan embrace solar energy with updates to regulate the construction of solar facilities. The Sarasota City Commission unanimously approved changes in the zoning code and the comprehensive plan that adds solar utilities as future land use classification in certain zoning districts on the first reading at its meeting. The move aims to regulate and encourage the development of solar energy production facilities within the industrial general and industrial heavy zoning districts. The additions respond to a 2022 Senate bill that mandated local municipalities to regulate floating solar facilities, which consist of solar cells atop bodies of water like stormwater treatment ponds, in their future land use classifications.

— TOP OPINION —

Biden’s strategy to make the race about Trump is suddenly in doubt” via Reid Epstein of The New York Times — Biden is stuck in a political tailspin, with an abysmal debate performance highlighting his inability to make a case against Trump and prompting a collective national hand-wringing about his ability to do his job, while an increasing number of House Democrats say he should leave the race.

To get voters to focus on the threats posed by a second Trump administration, Biden’s own allies say he must first escape his current doom loop and convince voters — especially fellow Democrats — that he is up to the job himself.

Biden’s top aides thought it was a good idea to move the first debate from September to June — to give voters the one-on-one look at Biden and Trump that the President’s team thought would recalibrate the race, lift Biden’s sagging poll numbers and remind voters what would change if Trump took office again in January.

Biden now must first assuage doubts about himself, a task that his team waited more than a week after the debate to mount a full-throated attempt at doing. When it did, during Friday’s interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, Biden drew a television audience one-sixth the size of the debate’s and spent nearly the entire 22 minutes parrying questions about his fitness for office.

“Trump is a profoundly flawed candidate,” said David Axelrod, a longtime skeptic of Biden’s ability to mount a presidential campaign at age 81. “It is going to be very difficult now for the Biden campaign to put the focus on him.”

— OPINIONS —

Trump, the polls, race, and Biden’s ‘tailspin’” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — The voters who haven’t already made up their minds are moving toward making a decision, and at the moment, it is not in Biden’s favor. Of course, Biden has more immediate worries than facing Trump in November. First, he must hang on to the Democratic presidential nomination amid calls for him to step aside. It’s hard to say exactly what is happening right now because it’s been an up-and-down situation since June 27. First came the hysteria — he’s got to go! — followed by the calm-down reaction — he just had a bad night — followed by a gradual settling-in of a feeling of doom and some calls for Biden to withdraw from the race. Biden is “stuck in a political tailspin,” wrote the New York Times’s Reid Epstein. But now another turn in the drama is coming into view. Biden seems to have strengthened his position by focusing on Black voters and union voters who, by and large, seem inclined to support Biden.

Post-debate Democratic disarray only helps a GOP that rallied behind a convicted felon” via the Miami Herald editorial board — Children are taught that failure is a chance at learning something and trying again. That Democrats are in disarray after one bad night is incredible. I can attest to the good that President Biden and his administration have done. Yes, he is old, but he at least has experience and doesn’t want to dismantle this country for his own gain. We have already seen the consequences of electing a President who appoints people, such as Supreme Court associates, who will determine our lives for years. Just like the right unites behind a man with 34 felony convictions and confusing speeches, Democrats must unite for their candidate. Disarray is a gift to Republicans. We nor our progeny (if we choose to have them) will survive a second Trump term. The Heritage Foundation’s policy proposals, collectively called “Project 2025,” are an alarming threat to us all. Allowing Trump to retake the presidency will thrust us into a dictatorship. We need to pay attention.

His dishonesty reigned supreme at debate but triumphant Trump returns to South Florida” via the Miami Herald editorial board — After the first presidential debate, there’s a sense of triumph for Trump as he prepares to come to South Florida for a rally in Doral on Tuesday. A sense of triumph not because Trump had a remarkable presentation at the CNN debate in late June. He’s lucky that the focus of attention has been not on how he shamelessly spread misinformation but on Democrats’ panic and attempt to replace Biden after his disastrous performance raised reasonable questions about his mental acuity. When Trump takes the stage at Trump National Doral Miami on Tuesday evening, the bar will be set low for him. Trump has to do the bare minimum — looking and sounding vigorous will likely be enough as the news cycle turns to 24/7 coverage of how many Democrats are calling on the President to pass the torch to a younger candidate.

Florida protects America’s iron, steel industries” via Jim Boyd for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Recently, DeSantis signed Senate Bill 674 into law. SB 674 is designed to ensure that Florida taxpayer dollars will prioritize American-made iron and steel in public works projects. Nearly a century ago, the federal government passed the Buy American Act, which required the U.S. government to choose American-made materials over alternatives. This law, which has expanded over time, keeps more of your hard-earned tax dollars in the United States while creating American jobs and supporting American families. This Session, I sponsored SB 674 to extend the same requirements for Florida purchases of steel and iron for public works projects. Each year, the state government spends millions on public works projects — many of which involve steel and iron — and I want to make sure these public funds aren’t leaving our nation’s borders. This is vital because supporting U.S.-made materials benefits us in many ways.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

8 selected for Florida Sports Hall of Fame” via Cole Pepper of Florida Politics — Five athletes, two coaches and an athletic trainer make up the 2024 class for the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. Some of the names are well known to most sports fans, such as former Florida State and NFL fullback William “Bar None” Floyd and former Orlando Magic star Tracy McGrady. Others may not be as well-known while working behind the scenes. Chris Patrick isn’t a household name, but in his 40 years as an athletic trainer at the University of Florida, he supported thousands of athletes while working under four athletic directors and six football coaches. While at UF, Patrick worked with Dr. Robert Cade, the inventor of Gatorade, to refine the flavors and packaging for the sports drink.

William ‘Bar None’ Floyd is one of the more well-known names to be inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to our good friend Bob Sparks. Also celebrating today are Patrick Berman, Ken Cashin, Trip Farmer, Farhood Hoodi, April Salter, the name partner of Salter Mitchell, and Jon Shebel.

___

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.


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#FlaPol

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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