Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 7.10.24

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Don't miss your first look at stories driving today's agenda in Florida politics.

Good Wednesday morning.

Milwaukee will get a big dose of sunshine next week when Florida’s delegates roll into town for the Republican National Convention.

Renominating Donald Trump is the main draw for the weeklong convention, but the Sunshine State’s delegation will be able to have a little fun before lining up behind the former President.

On Monday, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will hold an RNC kickoff event to bring together Florida delegates ahead of “what is sure to be a great week of strategy to win back the White House for President Donald Trump.”

Jimmy Patronis will bring a little Florida sunshine to Milwaukee.

The CFO, a staunch Trump supporter, will be posted at the Red Rock Saloon, 1225 N Water St. in Milwaukee, starting at 9:30 p.m. CST.

“We are excited to welcome our Florida delegates to Wisconsin and we couldn’t think of a better person to kick us off than our very own CFO Jimmy Patronis. I am looking forward to coming together to rally the change makers in our state and continue the RED WAVE all the way to the White House,” said Republican Party of Florida Chair Evan Power, emphasis his own.

As an increasingly red state — and one that’s increasingly crucial to Republican’s odds of controlling Congress and the White House — Florida Republicans are making a statement at the RNC with “standout events that will distinguish Florida’s delegate experience as the best in the nation,” Power said.

The CFO’s welcome party is just the first act. On Tuesday, another member of Florida’s Cabinet will serve as the master of ceremonies.

Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, who was endorsed by Trump and returned the favor in the early goings of the former President’s 2024 bid, is set to headline the Sunshine State Shindig, which RPOF is billing as “Florida’s event to remember at the Republican National Convention.”

The Shindig will be held at the Harley-Davidson Museum, 400 West Canal St. in Milwaukee, starting at 9:30 p.m.

“Florida’s delegates are poised to make history once again on the path to the White House, and Kathy and I are so honored to be hosting this celebration of President Trump’s nomination,” Simpson said.

___

Ron DeSantis not scheduled to speak at the convention — but he’ll still be in Milwaukee” via Gary Fineout, Meredith McGraw, and Kimberly Leonard of POLITICO — DeSantis, whose bid for President ended following a distant second-place finish in Iowa, will join thousands of Republicans when they gather next week in Milwaukee. Just don’t expect to see him up onstage at the Republican National Convention. DeSantis, once seen as a rising conservative star, is not scheduled to have a main stage speaking slot during the weeklong celebration of Trump. But DeSantis will participate in other Republican events in conjunction with the convention that could keep him somewhat in the spotlight — and in the minds of the party faithful.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Acyn: (Joe) Biden: Before this war. (Vladimir) Putin thought that NATO would break. Today, NATO is stronger than it’s ever been in its history

@SamanthaJoRoth: (Chuck) Schumer responding to all questions related to President Biden today: “As I’ve said before, I’m with Joe.”

@MikieSherill: I know President Biden cares deeply about the future of our country. That’s why I am asking that he declare that he won’t run for re-election.

@DaveWeigel: RCP poll average on this day in prior campaigns: 2020: Biden +9.0 2016: (Hillary) Clinton +4.7 2012: (Barack) Obama +2.5 2008: Obama +4.2 2004: (John) Kerry +2.0 First time in 24 years that the GOP nominee has led after the July 4 holiday, going into conventions.

@Redistrict: @CookPolitical is shifting six Electoral College ratings toward Republicans. AZ: Toss Up to Lean R GA: Toss Up to Lean R MN: Likely D to Lean D #NE02: Likely D to Lean D NH: Likely D to Lean D NV: Toss Up to Lean R

@HugoLowell: Trump lawyers planning new scorched earth legal battle to shut down evidence in Jan. 6 from becoming public before the election, blocking evidentiary hearings on immunity turning into “mini-trials,” per ppl familiar

@NikkiFried: The ENTIRE Republican Party is OK handing America over to the Heritage Foundation as they implement Project 2025.

@DrNealDunnFL2: Floridians don’t need government regulators in their kitchens! I’m proud to vote in favor of the Refrigerator Freedom Act and the Stop Unaffordable Dishwashers Act to block Biden’s attempt to make decisions about your kitchen appliances.

@JimmyPatronis: NewsGuard and other companies like it are anti-First Amendment censorship companies. We ran a bill last Session to bar these technologies from gaining access to taxpayer money; didn’t pass, but that’s OK. This is an emerging issue most members hadn’t heard about. We’ll be back.

@RBReich: A law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that bans municipalities in Florida from mandating shade and water breaks for outdoor workers went into effect this month. A study found that heat-related deaths in FL shot up by 88% between 2019 and 2022. This is the GOP’s vision for America.

Tweet, tweet:

— DAYS UNTIL —

Katy Perry’s ‘Woman’s World’ drops — 1; Republican National Convention begins — 5; 2024 MLS All-Star Game — 13; Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games on NBC/Peacock — 16; ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ premieres — 16; Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday begins — 20; ‘Alien: Romulus’ premieres — 38; Democratic National Convention begins — 40; Florida Primary — 41; FBHA’s annual conference, BHCon, begins — 42; second Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins — 46; Georgia Tech to face Florida State in 2024 opener in Dublin — 46; Tool Time Sales Tax Holiday begins — 54; 2024 NFL season kicks off — 59; Packers will face Eagles in Brazil — 59; Vice-Presidential Debate — 78; Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour stops in Miami — 102; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Meeting & Future of Florida Forum — 109; Florida TaxWatch’s 45th Annual Meeting — 117; 2024 Presidential Election — 118; second half of Yellowstone season five premieres — 123; Taylor Sheridan’s ‘Landman’ premieres — 130; Legislature’s 2025 Organizational Session — 132; Las Vegas Grand Prix — 132; 2024 Florida Chamber Annual Insurance Summit begins — 146; ‘Mufasa: The Lion King’ premieres — 150; MLS Cup 2024 — 151; College Football Playoff begins — 164; Fiesta Bowl — 175; Peach, Rose & Sugar Bowls — 175; Orange Bowl — 183; Sugar Bowl — 185; ‘Captain America: Brave New World’ premieres — 219; the 2025 Oscars — 240; Florida’s 2025 Legislative Session begins — 242; 2025 Session ends — 302; ‘Moana’ premieres — 349; ‘Thunderbolts’ premieres — 383; ‘Fantastic Four’ reboot premieres — 383; ‘Blade’ reboot premieres — 490; ‘Avatar 3’ premieres — 528; ‘Avengers 5’ premieres — 664; Untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 681; FIFA World Cup 26™ final — 701; FIFA World Cup 26™ final match — 739; Another untitled ‘Star Wars’ movie premieres — 892; ‘Avengers: Secret Wars’ premieres — 1,032; ‘Avatar 4’ premieres — 1,991; ‘Avatar 5’ premieres — 2,712.

— TOP STORY —

Donald Trump returns to campaign stage in Miami” via The Associated Press — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Trump has returned to the campaign trail for a rally in Miami, Florida as his opponent, Biden, faces calls to resign amid questions over his health.

Earlier in the evening, Biden spoke at the NATO summit, welcoming world leaders without referencing the domestic political drama swirling around him.

Donald Trump returns to the campaign trail, joined by Marco Rubio in Miami.

Challenging the President to another debate or even a “golf-off,” Trump is basking in the Democratic infighting around Biden’s candidacy.

During his rally, the former President has also stepped up his attacks on (Kamala) Harris, nicknaming her “laughin’ Kamala” and referring to the “Biden-Harris administration,” a deviation from his normal practice of casting blame primarily on Biden.

The former President quickly cast the Republican Party — “more unified than ever before” — against the Democratic Party, which he characterized as “divided, in chaos, and having a full-scale breakdown, all because they can’t decide which of their candidates is more unfit to be President — sleepy, crooked Joe Biden, or laughin’ Kamala.”

“Despite all the Democrat panic this week,” Trump said, “the truth is, it doesn’t matter who they nominate because we are going to beat any one of them in thundering landslides. And this November is going to be amazing.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the top contenders to be Trump’s running mate, spoke at the rally in his home state of Florida without directly addressing speculation that he might join the Republican ticket.

But he notably seemed to insert himself into Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” slogan by twice suggesting it was something they’d do “together,” saying, “Together, we’re not just going to make it great again. We elect this man as President, we will make together America greater than it has ever been.”

Rubio also dedicated much of his time to skewering Harris, whom he’d be expected to face in a vice-presidential debate if he’s chosen as Trump’s running mate.

At one point, Trump marveled at the number of reporters in attendance.

“They probably think I’m going to be announcing that Marco is going to be Vice President,” he said of Rubio, sitting in the front row.

Later, when discussing his pledge to make tips tax-free, he said Rubio “may or may not be there to vote for it.”

His campaign has also been fundraising off the hype, with emails like one titled “Will I announce my VP pick in 60 minutes?”

Trump has repeatedly said he plans to announce his pick just before or at the Republican National Convention, which kicks off Monday in Milwaukee.

—2024 — PRESIDENTIAL —

‘There’s no way out’: Democrats feel powerless as ‘elites’ fall in line behind Joe Biden” via Natasha Korecki and Jonathan Allen of NBC News — Biden is attempting to frame his quest to retain his candidacy as him against the “elites” in Washington. But in interviews, rank-and-file Democrats, Party Chairs, battleground leaders and elected officials say Biden has it exactly backward. They say they’ve felt deep concerns about Biden but have felt powerless to act in the face of a White House and Democratic Party that’s been under Biden’s thumb. “I wish I was more brave,” said one Democratic state Party Chair who thinks Biden should step aside. “I would be crucified by them if I spoke out of line,” the Chair continued.

Rank-and-file Democrats are concerned with Joe Biden staying in the race.

House Dems’ ‘sad’ venting session yields no clear path forward on Biden’s future” via Sarah Ferris, Nicholas Wu, Adam Canryn and Daniella Diaz of POLITICO — House Democrats spent Tuesday morning privately venting to each other about Biden’s future. It left them no closer to resolving the split that has consumed their party. In a closed-door caucus meeting hosted at Democrats’ campaign headquarters, increasingly distressed Democrats spoke candidly to each other for the first time since Biden’s unnerving debate performance. Several lawmakers who have already called for Biden to step aside made their case, provoking a larger block of the caucus that believes Democrats need to stay united behind the President, according to about a half-dozen members in the room. “It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Biden-backer Rep. Juan Vargas, who called the President’s critics a “circular firing squad.”

How the Democratic movement to dump Biden went bust” via Ben Jacobs of New York magazine — The varying opinions on Biden had left Democrats frozen: While most of his critics figured the President would likely lose if he remained on the ticket, they also estimated that an unsuccessful effort to oust him would just widen the margin of defeat and cause collateral damage down-ballot, possibly dooming their own campaigns. Many abstractly viewed the process as an intellectual question that needed to be worked out on a blackboard. “I think we are having an important national conversation, and I am confident that the President will make a decision in the best interest of the country,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland told reporters Monday. There was no sense that Biden had already announced his decision several times, including in a letter to congressional Democrats and again during a phone interview with Morning Joe.

Donald Trump Jr. issues warning about Marco Rubio” via Flynn Nicholls of Newsweek — Speaking on his podcast Triggered, Trump Jr. speculated that if his father picked Rubio as his running mate, “RINOs” — or Republicans in Name Only, a term Trump frequently uses to describe disloyal GOP members — in the Senate would vote with Democrats to impeach Trump for Rubio to become President. “I have a good relationship with Marco, but there’s some truth about having someone that’s a little more establishment in there. It’s like, wouldn’t the Senate RINOS, wouldn’t they love that? By the time my father’s hand moves off the Bible in the swearing-in process, the second it moves off, it would be like, ‘Impeachment!’” he said. “There’s something about having someone outside the establishment to sort of further protect you from that establishment.”

Yikes! —

Yikes! — “Trump VP hopeful Byron Donalds’ ex-wife shares her story, says what he’s doing is ‘super-dangerous’” via Bob Norman of Florida Trident — When Bisa Hall met fellow Florida A&M University freshman Donalds on campus in 1996, she believed the future Congressman and Donald Trump vice-presidential short-lister was from another country. “He told me he was from Jamaica, and he had a Jamaican accent — and he was cute,” Hall said. “Then the next time I saw him, the Jamaican accent was gone, and he said he was from New York.” She said Donalds, who was then 18, explained why he’d initially deceived her. “He felt like it would make him stand out,” Hall said. “And he was right. There were a ton of guys from New York around, but there weren’t any guys from Jamaica. He was right; it got him noticed.” The chameleon-like patois role-playing certainly won her attention — Hall wound up marrying him. And that first encounter has special resonance as she watches her ex-husband’s political career go places that would have seemed unfathomable during those early days.

J.D. Vance has a problem on his face” via Marc Caputo and Tim Miller of The Bulwark — “J.D. has a beard. But Trump is a clean-shaven guy. He just doesn’t like facial hair,” a Trump confidant, who wants Vance on the ticket, told The Bulwark. “You just never know.” So why not shave his face? It’s probably out of the question for Vance because of how young he is and how he looks. The Ohio Senator turns 40 on Aug. 2 and would be the third-youngest Vice President to serve. But Trump wants someone who is experienced — or at least looks experienced. And “without the beard, Vance looks like he’s 12,” said another Trump adviser. Trump hasn’t raised the beard issue with Vance, insiders say, but, like many ladies of MAGAville, Trump has repeatedly commented favorably on his “beautiful” blue eyes and long eyelashes.

— 2024 — FLORIDA —

Support for legal abortion has risen since Supreme Court eliminated protections, AP poll finds” via Christine Fernando and Amelia Thomson-Deveux of The Associated Press — A solid majority of Americans oppose a federal abortion ban as a rising number support access to abortions for any reason, a new poll finds, highlighting a politically perilous situation for candidates who oppose abortion rights as the November election draws closer. Around 6 in 10 Americans think their state should generally allow a person to obtain a legal abortion if they don’t want to be pregnant for any reason. That’s an increase from June 2021, a year before the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to the procedure when about half of Americans thought legal abortion should be possible under these circumstances. Americans are largely opposed to the strict bans that have taken effect in Republican-controlled states since the high court’s ruling two years ago. With limited exceptions, full bans have been enacted in 14 GOP-led states. In comparison, three other states prohibit abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy before women often realize they’re pregnant.

After SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade, support for legal abortions is getting stronger. Image via AP.

— 2024 — DOWN-BALLOT —

Nick Primrose snags First Coast Manufacturers endorsement — The First Coast Manufacturers gave Republican Primrose their stamp of approval to replace term-limited Rep. Cyndi Stevenson in House District 18. “The economy is thriving in Florida, and I know that the manufacturing business is a driving force in making that happen. I am grateful for their endorsement and look forward to working together to protect the highly skilled jobs they provide and facilitate further growth to such a crucial industry in the state.” The trade association representing Northeast Florida manufacturers has also endorsed Kim Kendall, who is also vying for the Republican nomination in the safe GOP seat covering part of St. Johns County.

First Coast Manufacturers gives its imprimatur to Nick Primrose.

‘Dedication and sacrifice’: Five more unions endorse Debra Tendrich for open HD 89 seat” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Tendrich’s bid to represent Palm Beach County in the House continues to pick up steam in the endorsements department. She recently welcomed five new nods from labor groups representing more than 1 million vital Florida workers together. They include the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association (CTA), SEIU Florida, Florida Professional Firefighters, and the state and Palm Beach-Treasure Coast chapters of the AFL-CIO. La Guia News, a Spanish-language media outlet covering Palm Beach, endorsed Tendrich. She’s also been designated as a “Gun Sense Candidate” by Moms Demand Action.

—2024 — DOWN-BALLOT 2 —

Daryl Parks drops first TV ads in SD 3Parks’ campaign to flip Senate District 3 back to the Democrats is rolling out a pair of commercials this week. The first, “Winning,” focuses on the candidate’s upbringing and career as a civil rights attorney. “Like you, I’ve fought for everything my family and I have,” Parks says. “And I’ve spent my life fighting for the people against the powerful.” The second, titled “C’Mon Man,” criticizes incumbent Republican Sen. Corey Simon for supporting a 2022 bill meant to abate the insurance crisis, which the ad asserts padded insurers’ pockets without providing any relief for ratepayers. “C’mon man,” Parks says in the ad. “I’ll stop that mess.”

To watch the ads, please click the image below:

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— STATEWIDE —

Three years after Piney Point disaster, Florida settles lawsuit with environment groups” via Max Chesnes of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida environmental regulators on Monday settled a federal lawsuit with advocacy groups over the 2021 Piney Point wastewater disaster that dumped 215 million gallons of polluted water into Tampa Bay, likely sparking a red tide outbreak that caused widespread fish kills. Five environmental advocacy groups agreed to dismiss their lawsuit against the state once regulators issue a permit to prevent future pollution disasters and lay the groundwork for enforceable oversight at the troubled Manatee County phosphate plant.

Florida settled with environmental groups that sued over the Piney Point disaster.

Florida fire trucks will soon have blue rear lights. Here’s why” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — Large fire trucks throughout the Sunshine State will soon have blue rear lights and red taillights seen on practically all vehicles nationwide. There’s a good reason. This past Legislative Session, state lawmakers unanimously approved a bipartisan bill (HB 463) to allow government-owned fire department vehicles weighing more than 12 tons to have blue lights on their rears. Previously, the allowance only applied to police and prison vehicles. Numerous studies have found that red and blue are the most visible illuminated colors on the spectrum. That includes a 2004 study by the Florida Highway Patrol that determined that red flashing lights are most easily perceived in daylight, while blue stands out best at night.

— D. C. MATTERS —

Laurel Lee continues leadership on anti-terrorism standards at chemical facilities” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Lee is continuing her push to support an anti-terrorism program that would reauthorize standards at chemical facilities. The Lakeland Republican questioned witnesses recently during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing on cybersecurity and infrastructure protection, pointing her inquiries toward fleshing out the importance of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). Lee introduced the Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act of 2023 (H.R. 4470) last year. It passed nearly one year ago, on July 25, 2023. The bill would extend the CFATS authority to ensure regulatory standards set at chemical facilities are reauthorized. The CFATS program expired just two days after House passage.

Laurel Lee seeks to help harden chemical facilities against cyberattacks.

— LOCAL: S. FL —

South Florida cities scramble to find homelessness solutions to address new state law” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — South Florida’s local governments are now urgently seeking solutions to address a new Florida law that will ban the homeless from sleeping in public spaces. Broward County administrators recently addressed a handful of Broward’s 31 cities to brainstorm what would be an “appropriate response” to what they called a “pretty devastating statute.” With time running out to come up with the money to build new homeless shelters to accommodate people off the streets, county officials said they need “any and all ideas” for answers and there needs to be a “collective assessment” of what is still to come. “We can’t do it by ourselves,” Broward’s Deputy County Administrator Kimm Campbell told city leaders.

‘Impressive and consistent’ South Florida PBA, GSAF Local 100 endorse James Reyes for Miami-Dade Sheriff” via Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics — A regional law enforcement union and a local chapter of the Government Supervisors Association of Florida (GSAF) are throwing their support behind Miami-Dade Chief of Public Safety Reyes’ campaign for Sheriff. The South Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA), which works on behalf of more than 7,500 law enforcement professionals in the area, confirmed its endorsement of Reyes. So did Miramar-based GSAF Local 100, which represents nearly 6,000 employees in Broward, Collier, Miami-Dade and St. Lucie counties. “In his current role as Chief of Public Safety, James has demonstrated his commitment to law and order and providing our officers with the resources they need to do their jobs more safely and effectively,” South Florida PBA President Steadman Stahl said.

Unions for LEO and government supervisors give a big thumbs-up for Nick Primrose.

Miami Lakes to honor Florida State Guard for controversial Texas Border Operation” via Joshua Ceballos of WLRN — The Town of Miami Lakes in Northwest Miami-Dade County on Tuesday is honoring the Florida State Guard for a controversial operation that took place more than 800 miles from Florida’s border. Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid will present a proclamation at 5:30 p.m. to honor the state guard — a state-funded force supported by DeSantis — for its help in Operation Lone Star, an immigration control mission at the Texas-Mexico border pushed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. “We are incredibly proud of the Florida State Guard and their tireless service during Operation Lone Star,” said Mayor Cid in a statement. “This proclamation is representation [sic] of our deep appreciation for their unwavering dedication and the positive impact they have made.”

Broward County businessman faces charges over smuggling to Russia” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — A Broward County businessman is accused of illegally smuggling technology to help Russia’s war in Ukraine, federal court records show. Kirill Gordei, a Belarusian citizen who is the President of the Hallandale Beach-based Apelsin Logistics, is accused of exporting a mass spectrometer valued at $600,000 that is used to speed up scientific discoveries. The device can detect chemicals, explosives and narcotic compounds. Gordei was indicted on multiple federal charges, including conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States. He was arrested last month in Florida and is scheduled to be arraigned in Massachusetts. The spectrometer was on a list of banned technologies that could only be sent to Russia with a license after the United States added stricter export rules in 2022 following the Russian invasion.

Fort Lauderdale and contractor fined $175K over blunders during drainage project” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The mangrove trees and pines that shielded the River Oaks neighborhood from a nearby shipyard are gone forever. County officials say that the city-hired drainage contractor that chopped them down also dumped gravel into a canal that runs through River Oaks and discharged water into both the canal and a nearby wetland preserve last year, increasing turbidity above allowable limits. Broward County has fined Ric-Man Construction and Fort Lauderdale $175,450 for that. The city and contractor are splitting the fine, with Fort Lauderdale paying $78,808 and Ric-Man paying $96,642. Ric-Man was tapped to oversee a $50 million drainage project in River Oaks and nearby Edgewood.

Defamation lawsuit filed against St. Lucie Sheriff candidate Richard Del Toro” via Amber Jo Cooper of Florida’s Voice — A defamation lawsuit has been filed against St. Lucie County Sheriff candidate Del Toro by Anthony DiFrancesco, a Fort Pierce businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. The complaint was filed in the 19th Judicial Circuit Court on July 8. Del Toro is listed as a defendant in the lawsuit along with the Florida political committee “Friends of Richard Del Toro.” The lawsuit said Del Toro is the Chair of the political committee, as confirmed by the Division of Elections website. Del Toro is currently the chief of police for the city of Port St. Lucie and is running for St. Lucie County Sheriff. DeSantis appointed Keith Pearson as Sheriff of St. Lucie County in December 2023.

Richard Del Toro sees the business end of a defamation lawsuit.

Westgate Resorts, the timeshare king, lays off 357 employees” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The Orlando-based timeshare king Westgate Resorts is laying off 357 employees next month. Westgate Marketing and Westgate Resorts filed a WARN notice, which alerts the state when employers are doing mass layoffs. The company, which describes itself as “the largest privately held timeshare company in the world and one of the largest resort developers in the United States,” said the layoffs are permanent and that the employees’ last day is Aug. 30. “Westgate Resorts has recently merged several of its marketing and operational support teams in order to streamline operations and provide a better experience for Owners and guests. Team Members affected by these changes will be given the opportunity to apply for open and available positions throughout the company,” Westgate said.

— LOCAL: C. FL —

Orlando Commissioner Regina Hill’s trial delayed until September” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Suspended Orlando City Commissioner Hill could face trial as soon as late September on the elder abuse and mortgage fraud charges that have imperiled her political career. A Judge granted a request from Hill’s legal team for more time to prepare her defense, delaying her previously set July 22 trial date. Hill was indicted and arrested in March after a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation into allegations she had taken advantage of an elderly woman and spent the woman’s funds on travel, property and luxury items like vitamin infusions and perfumes. The FDLE probe found Hill to have spent more than $100,000 of the woman’s money on personal expenses as the woman’s power of attorney.

Regina Hill’s trial is pushed back to September.

Amy Mercado re-elected Orange Property Appraiser after opponent who sued her drops out” via Silas Morgan of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County Property Appraiser Mercado was re-elected Monday after her only challenger withdrew from the race. Mercado was first elected as a Property Appraiser in 2020, following two terms in the Florida House of Representatives. Her 2024 challenger — briefly — was local real estate attorney Kevin Pribell, who accused her office of undervaluing a condo he owned in Winter Park. At a hearing he requested before the Orange County Value Adjustment Board in October 2021, Pribell submitted two appraisals, one valuing the condo at $311,000 and the other at $333,000, to challenge the $205,000 value assigned to the property by Mercado’s office. The Board’s magistrate ruled in favor of the property appraiser’s office. Pribell voluntarily dropped the suit that September.

David Jordan knew brother would challenge Carey Baker, says incumbent should have paid his fee” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Lake County Tax Collector David Jordan knew his brother, Mark, would file against Property Appraiser Baker. He also knew Baker had filed as a write-in candidate for re-election before. By his own telling, he tried to signal to his fellow constitutional officer that it was a bad idea. “I did the best I could without outing my brother and his political strategy,” Jordan said. But Baker did file for re-election as a write-in, unaware he would face any opposition. He left the Supervisor of Elections Office around the Qualifying Day deadline. Already in line to file his own paperwork, Mark Jordan paid a qualifying fee and instantly became the Republican nominee. He faces Baker as a write-in on the General Election ballot.

‘Shut up and sit down’: Seminole County judge faces 60-day suspension for abusive behavior” via Silas Morgan of the Orlando Sentinel — A Seminole County Judge acted like a “playground bully” during court proceedings, cursing defendants and robbing them of their rights, a panel of the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission announced. Circuit Judge Wayne Culver is now facing — for a second time — a potential 60-day suspension without pay from the Florida Supreme Court over two cases in early 2022 where he held or threatened to hold several people in contempt of court. However, the high court rejected the 60-day penalty in 2022, raising questions over whether it will find this recommendation sufficient.

Thomas Feiter complains to Florida Bar after Orange County GOP backs Seth Hyman” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — State Attorney candidate Feiter has filed a bar complaint after failing to receive Orange County Republicans’ endorsement. The Orlando Republican said party leaders were uninformed and potentially coerced when they backed Hyman as a preferred choice for party nominee. “I have no problem with the Republican Party supporting the candidate they feel is most appropriate,” he said. “In this particular case, Seth Hyman was terminated for unethical behaviors, and it appears they did not know that before they decided to endorse.” Hyman did not return calls for comment. But Orange County GOP Chair Erin Huntley said the party took a stance chiefly out of concern that Feiter’s values were out of step with the party, while Hyman has been a party regular for years.

Thomas Feiter has a beef with The Florida Bar. Image via YouTube.

Man who left his puppies in hot car at Disney Springs blamed slow restaurant service for his actions” via Gabrielle Russon of Florida Politics — The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has released an arrest warrant affidavit on animal cruelty charges after a Puerto Rican man was accused of leaving his four puppies in his hot car as he ate dinner with his family at Disney Springs. Wilson Nieves Cortes, 39, blamed Disney Springs’ lack of fast-food restaurants for why he left his puppies behind in the parking garage, the affidavit said. The affidavit found probable cause that Nieves Cortes, 39, committed four charges of animal cruelty. One of the dogs had to be euthanized; three survived and appeared to be OK, playing with officials.

— LOCAL: TB —

Andrew Warren pushes federal court to open path to reinstatement” via Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times — Ousted Hillsborough State Attorney Warren is prodding a federal appeals court to move on an earlier ruling that could get him reinstated. “Every day that passes in this posture is one in which the results of a free and fair election are denied,” Warren’s attorneys wrote in a motion to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this week.

Andrew Warren is urging a federal court to move on his reinstatement.

Tampa Bay small businesses are buckling under rising debt, weaker sales, and inflation” via Christina Georgacopoulos of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — A recent report paints a bleak picture of the health of local small businesses, adding to concerns about an alarming rise in bankruptcies over the last 12 months. The percentage of small businesses in Tampa Bay that said they were operating at a loss was 44% — nearly 10% higher than the U.S. rate — and 46% said their revenue decreased over the prior 12 months versus 39% nationally. Nearly half of local small businesses have more than $100,000 in outstanding debt, which is 10% higher than the national and statewide average, the report shows. The annual survey collected data on 100 local businesses with fewer than 500 employees between September and November 2023.

Jimmy Buffett-branded cruise ship chooses Tampa for home port” via Beth Luberecki of Business Observer Florida — When the Margaritaville at Sea cruise line was searching for a home base for its new ship Islander, Port Tampa Bay floated to the top. “I live in Orlando, and I’ve just watched the transformation of Tampa, the Channelside District, everything they’ve been doing broadly over the last five to 10 years,” says Christopher Ivy, CEO of Margaritaville at Sea. “Where you start and where you finish [a cruise experience] is really important … I believe Tampa is a fantastic destination to start and end a cruise.” Why? Port Tampa Bay is easy for leisure travelers to navigate, and Tampa International Airport is a short drive from downtown Tampa. And TIA’s not just any old airport: It was recently ranked No. 1 by Airports Council International’s annual Airport Service Quality Awards among North American airports with 15 to 25 million passengers. It was also named the No. 1 large airport in the J.D. Power North America Airport Satisfaction Study in 2023 and 2022. “It’s a fantastic airport,” says Ivy.

— LOCAL: N. FL —

Florida State’s DJ Uiagalelei declines ACC Kickoff invite, wants teammates to represent FSU” via Liam Rooney of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State football quarterback Uiagalelei has declined his invitation to speak at the 2024 ACC Kickoff media event. His reason? He is opting out of the preseason media event to give his teammates who won the ACC title last year a chance to represent the school. The transfer quarterback has previously attended the ACC Kickoff event twice, representing Clemson during his time as the Tigers single caller. Uiagalelei announced his decision to decline the invite on his X (formally Twitter) account Tuesday afternoon.

FSU’s DJ Uiagalelei gave a hard pass on speaking at the ACC Kickoff media event.

Leon Democrats downplay vulgar social media post by county spokesperson who was put on leave” via Owen Girard of Florida’s Voice — Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow and the Leon County Democratic Party downplayed a vulgar, partisan social media post released by a county spokesman on July 4. The controversy unfolded when Mathieu Cavell, who works under the county administrator with the “Community Relations and Resilience” job title, posted a picture on Facebook where he and others spelled out the words “f*** MAGA” with sparklers. “MAGA” refers to “Make America Great Again,” the campaign slogan for Trump. The county informed Florida’s Voice that Cavell is on administrative leave while an investigation is underway regarding his conduct. The post has since been taken down, but pictures have circulated across social media following the incident.

GoFundMe set up for family of Tallahassee couple killed in Franklin County pedestrian crash” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A GoFundMe has been created to help the family of a Tallahassee couple who were hit by a pickup truck Saturday night and killed while crossing the road after a fireworks show in Franklin County. Benjamin “Ben” Steigner and his wife, Han Wool “Monica” Hong, were visiting his parents, John and Sharon Steigner, when the wreck occurred. The fundraiser was set up by Juan Felipe Emerick, who described himself as a close family friend.

Florida school board, sued for book bans, wants to take testimony of 7-year-old student” via Douglas Soule of USA Today Network — A Florida school board is trying to take the deposition of one of its 7-year-old students in the hopes it helps tank a federal lawsuit filed over some of its book ban decisions. The Escambia County School Board, simultaneously arguing its members can’t be deposed, says it “has the right to explore the claims and defenses in the case directly with the students.” A deposition is out-of-court testimony by a witness given under oath, often at an attorney’s office, for a lawsuit. “What a parent thinks their child wants to read and is interested in and what the child actually wants to read and is interested in may be different,” a defendant’s attorney wrote to those suing in emails found in court records.

Debate rages as Joel Rudman calls for nonbinding Navarre incorporation referendum” via Tom McLaughlin of the Pensacola News-Journal — Rudman sounded like a man ready to put all the bickering over the issue of Navarre incorporation behind him Monday as he attempted to convince the Santa Rosa County Commission to schedule a straw poll to determine, for the first and last time while he holds office, where the majority of people stand on the issue. Members of Preserve Navarre, an organization pushing for incorporation, and Protect Navarre, a group pushing against it, attended the county’s Committee of the Whole meeting to make their feelings known. “I expect the anti-incorporation group would also demand an up-or-down vote,” he said. “Both groups claim to represent the majority, and I would expect both will be pushing hard for their right to vote in a nonbinding referendum.”

— LOCAL: SW FL —

Judge dismisses lawsuit filed against Manatee County Supervisor of Elections” via Jesse Mendoza of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A lawsuit filed against Manatee County Supervisor of Elections James Satcher that challenged his decision to not place a School Board seat on the Primary ballot has been dismissed. The lawsuit — filed by former School Board of Manatee Chair James Golden — argues Satcher erred in his decision not to place the District 5 seat that will be vacated by School Board member Richard Tatem in November on the election ballot. Instead, the seat will be filled by an appointment made by DeSantis. Circuit Judge Ryan Felix supported Satcher’s reasoning and ruled the lawsuit failed to state a clear claim for relief.

James Satcher is off the hook. Image via Your Observer.

Naples Airport Authority to talk with Collier County about managing county airports” via J. Kyle Foster of the Naples Daily News — Naples Airport Authority officials have been talking about the creation of a regional authority to manage the three other public airports in Collier County in addition to Naples Airport. At the same time, Collier County issued a public request to submit a bid for leasing and developing 500 acres of industrial land at Immokalee Regional Airport. No thanks, Naples Airport Authority Commissioners say, but they would like to talk about taking over management of Immokalee and the county’s two other airports — Marco Island Executive Airport and Everglades Airpark. “I’m not sure what we would do with just developing,” said Vice Chair Rita Cuddihy.

— TOP OPINION —

Democrats need to be more French” via Thomas Chatterton Williams of The Atlantic — The likelihood of a far-right nationalist government in France — the first since the Second World War — reinstalled the fear of God in the majority of a population that had grown listless and disorganized under Emmanuel Macron. With just a week to act and no other choice, the center and the left worked together to withdraw candidates from races where they were competing for votes. The lesson was clear: Centrists, liberals, and leftists took the credible threat of right-wing authoritarian rule seriously enough to act quickly and strategically. Behaving as though their country’s future was at stake, they reacted to new information in order to maximize success. This is exactly how Democrats should have behaved after the debate between Trump and Biden.

— OPINIONS —

The worst argument in favor of keeping Joe Biden” via Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic — If loyalty is a virtue at all, the loyalty we owe to family members, to friends, to colleagues, and to country — that is, to our roughly 336,706,000 fellow Americans — will always compel us to put what’s best for them before what’s best for any politician, including any President, no matter how much he has achieved or sacrificed. Democrats would do better to run Vice President Harris than Biden and better still to run whichever Democrat polls best, regarding approval rating and head-to-head matchups with Trump. However, even Democrats who think Biden should stay in the race should abandon the flawed loyalty argument. Americans owe our elected officials fair-mindedness, appreciation of how hard governing is, and thanks for a job well done, when earned. To Biden and other past Presidents, we also owe a pension, Secret Service protection, and the option to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. But we owe them loyalty exactly never.

Who enabled Biden? A case study” via Byron York of the Washington Examiner — Even after the President’s extended zone-out at the White House’s Juneteenth concert on June 10, some journalists passed along the White House story that it was all a “cheap fake” cooked up by partisan Republicans. Rep. Patty Murray was on board for all that. Then came the debate, and Murray’s voters could see for themselves what bad shape the President was in. Remember that in her statement she predicated her new position on “talking with my constituents.” The debate, visible for all to see, made it impossible for Murray to play down Biden’s condition any longer. Now multiply that many times over to include the other Democratic lawmakers, White House and administration officials, compliant reporters, and Democratic politicos in Washington who had plenty of reason to know the President is not up to the job. They’re the ones who enabled Biden and the ones who brought presidential politics to its current impasse.

Biden won’t win. Democrats need a plan. Here’s one.” via James Carville for The New York Times — I want to see the Democratic Party hold four historic town halls between now and the Democratic National Convention in August — one each in the South, the Northeast, the Midwest and the West. We can recruit the two most obvious and qualified people in the world to facilitate substantive discussions: Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. They may not represent every faction under our party’s big tent. But they care as much about our democracy as our nation’s first President; they understand what it takes to be President, and they know how to win. How will potential nominees be chosen to participate in the town halls? There is no answer here that will satisfy everyone, but hard choices must be made, given the tight timetable, and I think leaning on the input of former Presidents makes good sense.

From climate to sex, Florida plays peekaboo with reality” via Stephanie Hayes of the Tampa Bay Times — Ever heard of object permanence? Most people know the notion in relation to peekaboo, a game usually volleyed between a friendly adult and a curious infant, not a state Legislature and its citizens. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, who should return from the dead for a haunted Florida weekend if he wants a new case study, formulated the theory of knowing things exist even if we can’t see them.

Alexcia Cox: Taking action against hate, protecting our community” via Florida Politics — As Deputy Chief Assistant to the Palm Beach County State Attorney, I know firsthand that public safety is something we do together — with residents, law enforcement, and our justice system working hand in hand, ensuring people from all walks of life are afforded the freedom to and freedom from. Unfortunately, not everyone shares our demonstrated commitment to safety and freedom. Across the country, including right here at home, hate crimes are on the rise. We must not let this stand. In the face of antisemitism, racism, homophobia, and all forms of discrimination that threaten the safety, well-being, and dignity of our residents, we must act. Hate crimes not only inflict harm on individual victims but also undermine the very fabric of our society, spreading fear and division. By creating a Hate Crimes Unit, we will send a clear message that hate has no place in Palm Beach County and that those who seek to spread it will face swift and decisive justice.

American Dream mega-mall sounds like another boondoggle Miami-Dade should avoid” via the Miami Herald — After seemingly being pronounced dead last spring, American Dream Miami mega-mall has staggered back into Miami-Dade County Commission chambers again, looking to swallow tons of public money. What has energized County Commissioner Juan Carlos Bermudez this time? The developer, Triple Five Group, has defaulted on a construction loan and has a record of financial problems. The project itself is a colossal environmental disaster. No wonder Triple Five wants public money. If the mall is a bust — and it surely will be — Triple Five will want the county to hold the bag while it skips out of town. Where does the county’s Impervious Surfaces Ordinance fit into this request to pave over an untold number of acres for a mega parking lot? Our sage Commissioners should put this misbegotten scheme out of its misery once and for all before pouring our hard-earned tax dollars down a rat hole.

— INSTAGRAM OF THE DAY —

— ALOE —

Disney Cruise Line partners with Japan company to add ship to fleet” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Disney Cruise Line announced it had partnered with Japan’s Oriental Land Co., which has ordered and will operate a new ship to be based in Japan for year-round service. The deal with OLC, which owns and operates Tokyo Disney Resort, calls for a sister ship to Disney Wish to be constructed at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany for sailing, which is expected to begin in early 2029. While technically the yet-to-be-named ship will be the ninth vessel in the DCL fleet, it’s OLC that has entered into the construction contract and will operate the vessel under a licensing agreement with Disney. It would be the fourth Wish-class ship for the DCL fleet following 2022’s Wish, this year’s Disney Treasure and next year’s Disney Destiny. Treasure will join wish later this year with both sailing out of Port Canaveral while Destiny’s home port has yet to be announced.

Disney pairs with a Japanese company on its ninth cruise ship. Image via Disney.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Happy birthday to U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, former Sen. Rene Garcia, former Rep. Gary Aubuchon, and Beth Gosnell.

___

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

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