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Last Call for 10.23.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

With two weeks left before Election Day, President Donald Trump’s approval rating has improved by nearly six points.

That’s according to the latest statewide opinion poll by the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative (FAU BEPI).

From 38.7 percent in last month’s poll, it rose to 44.5 percent in the latest survey. Trump’s disapproval rating fell to 42 percent.

The survey was conducted Oct. 18-21 and polled 704 Florida registered voters who said they are likely to vote. Party breakdown was 37 percent Democrats, 35 percent Republicans and 28 percent Independents.

“The survey was conducted using an online sample supplied by Survey Sampling International using online questionnaires and via an automated telephone platform (IVR) using registered voter lists supplied by Aristotle, Inc.,” the fine print says.

Responses for the entire sample were weighted to reflect the statewide distribution of the Florida population. The survey has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.

Evening Reads

Roger Stone is running out of options” via Abigail Tracy of Vanity Fair

New polls show Andrew Gillum ahead in governor’s race; Rick Scott and Bill Nelson tied in Senate race” via Dan Sweeny of the Sun Sentinel

Outside spending tops $53 million in U.S. Senate race, boosting Nelson” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

TV ad wars intensify in Scott-Nelson Senate race” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Undercover FBI agent got Gillum ‘Hamilton’ tickets, texts show” via Matt Dixon and Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida

Gillum targeted by new racist robocall” via Ali Vitali of NBC News

After CNN debate, Gillum talks ‘whooping’, Ron DeSantis ‘contrast’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Gillum’s vision for America should be every Democrat’s closing argument” via Jay Willis of GQ

Trey Radel-tied ad contains thick lines about Gillum” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

DeSantis wrong on Tallahassee crime rate” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press

The most contested U.S. House races in Florida: Will the Republicans keep their seats — or not?” via Mitch Perry of The Florida Phoenix

Bill Posey, Democratic challenger disagree on just about everything” via Dave Berman of Florida Today

Pro-veterans group hits Lauren Baer over 9/11 comments” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Jim Bonfiglio files ethics complaint against Mike Caruso in HD 89” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Sheriff candidate Darryl Sheppard’s Facebook page posts fake Trump-endorsement tweets” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel

Judge clears way for challenges to gun law” via the News Service of Florida

Quote of the Day

Shot: “Did y’all see that whooping we put on Ron DeSantis? This brother can’t get off the stage soon enough.” — Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum to supporters in Jacksonville, one day after the CNN gubernatorial debate.

Chaser: “You saw a contrast. I’m a leader. I have a record of service to the country … Andrew’s a career politician. He’s never done anything outside of politics since college.” — DeSantis, in response.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Citrus Commission is expected to discuss an October budget revision and assessment rates. That’s at 9 a.m. Florida Department of Citrus, 605 East Main St., Bartow.

The Re-employment Assistance Appeals Commission will meet at 9:30 a.m., 101 Rhyne Building, 2740 Centerview Dr., Tallahassee.

GOP U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross will help announce plans for a new research, training and advocacy center at Southeastern University. Ross, who decided against seeking re-election this year, will join the university’s faculty and will help lead the center. That’s at 10 a.m., Southeastern University, Buena Vida Auditorium, Lakeland.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch is slated to speak to the Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club. That’s at 11:30 a.m., City Fish Market, 7940 Glades Road, Boca Raton.

Republican gubernatorial nominee DeSantis and Democratic candidate Gillum will take part in a televised debate hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association. The debate will be broadcast on television stations in markets across the state and on C-Span and will be on Florida Public Radio. That’s at 7 p.m., Broward College, Bailey Hall, 3501 Davie Road, Davie.

Howard Simon, the longtime executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida who will retire next month, will discuss civil-liberties issues during an event in Miami-Dade County. Also taking part will be Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s national executive director, and Nancy Ancrum, editorial page editor of the Miami Herald. That’s at 7 p.m., The Biltmore Hotel, GableStage, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.

Tampa Bay Times’ Dan Ruth in ‘semi-retirement’?

As far as we know officially, columnist Daniel Ruth hasn’t left the Tampa Bay Times.

But — of course, there’s a but — after placing a call to him Tuesday at the Times, we were told he no longer works in the newsroom because he’s “semi-retired.”

Seems like news to us.

Ruth

After some digging, one source tells us Ruth told that person that he had, in fact, retired from the daily grind of newspaper journalism.

A second person confirmed that story, but added Ruth will continue to pen one column a month in, yes, semi-retirement.

No matter the exit, Ruth’s departure as a regular presence in the Times is a high-profile loss for Pinellas County’s paper of record.

He shared with Tim Nickens the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing for “their diligent campaign that helped reverse a decision to end fluoridation of the water supply for the 700,000 residents of the newspaper’s home county.”

His leaving also comes after news of other recent brain-drain from the Times’ editorial trenches.

Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet will leave after Election Day for another gig still to be announced; former Washington bureau chief Alex Leary already decamped for the Wall Street Journal; and managing editor and 30-year Times veteran Jennifer Orsi took a job managing content at Carillon Tower Advisers, an asset management firm and subsidiary of Raymond James Financial.

Ruth’s impish bio describes him as “scribbling away for four decades as a reporter, film critic, television critic and columnist for the Tampa Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Tampa Bay Times.

“He also has worked as a radio talk show host as well as an adjunct professor for the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and Columbia College in Chicago.

Ruth also “is a Peter Lisagor Award recipient for his columns in Chicago and has been honored by the Pinellas County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union with the Irene Miller Vigilance In Journalism Award.”

One of our reporters sent him an email for the lowdown; we’ll let you know if he writes back.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.23.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Less than 12 hours after Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum sparred — and met — for the first time in Sunday’s gubernatorial debate, a new poll of the nationally watched contest found Gillum leading by a point.

While the St. Pete Polls survey didn’t get a bead on how, or if, Sunday’s debate resonated with voters, though it may serve to bring the Gillum campaign back down to earth after a pair of Sunday polls found the Democratic nominee rocketing ahead in the home stretch.

The CNN debate may have brought Andrew Gillum’s campaign down-to-earth.

With that outlier poll from CNN mixed in, RealClearPolitics polling average shows Gillum up just 3.7 percentage points, and with 9 percent undecided DeSantis has plenty of room to catch up.

In other words: Brace for another close one.

St. Pete Polls also found that the Senate race is still looking like a dogfight. Exiting Republican Gov. Rick Scott and incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson are deadlocked as of Oct. 21, with Scott leading by a statistically insignificant three-tenths of a point.

Whether those polls prescient or pyrite remains to be seen, but all other polls have cast the race as one that’ll come down to the wire. And come Tuesday afternoon, when FAU-BEPI pops the poll du jour, the race is likely to move back into “too-close-to-call” territory.

In its only other post-primary poll of the statewide seats, FAU found Scott and Nelson were separated by a point, 42-41 percent, with Gillum and DeSantis registering as a 2-point affair, 41-39 percent.

But Nelson only needs to win by one vote to earn a fourth term, and he’s the odds-on favorite to do just that according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, which currently gives the longtime lawmaker a two-thirds chance of hanging on despite his expected vote share breaching just 51 percent.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

—@NateSilver538: Democrats have a generic ballot lead of 8.5 or 9 points. Not sure if people realize how large that is. A bit larger than the 1994 and 2010 waves, when the GOP won the popular vote by ~7 points each time. Similar to 2006, when Dems won by 8 but underperformed in swing districts.

@MCIMaps: With multiple polls out, I feel 100% comfortable saying Scott got NO bounce from his Hurricane Michael leadership. This doesn’t surprise me, storm was very regional, and he didn’t get an Irma (2017) bump either. When running for #FLSEN — ideology is trumping all else

@DavidBauerlein: Several national television and print reporters at the rally for Democrats at UNF including the Showtime show “The Circus”

@Ryban1001: National Council for Home Safety and Security’s 2018’s 100 Most Dangerous Cities in America and #Tallahassee isn’t listed. Who is? Florida City Cocoa Belle Glade Lake City Homestead Riviera Beach Daytona Beach, Lake Worth Miami Ft. Pierce

@Fineout: Looks like @treyradel is getting involved in this year’s governor’s race with a radio ad that calls @AndrewGillum a “champion for the people” because he will ban guns, legalize drugs and establish government-run health care. Group behind ad says it will run in Panhandle

@JHendersonTampa: I just got a phone call that started with a recorded voice ordering, “Don’t hang up.” I immediately hung up

@SkipFoster: My eyes are wide open on the trouble FSU is going to have blocking Clemson, but I think the Noles are improving, esp. on defense. I like the under and an FSU cover — something like 28-16 Clemson.

@BrechtHeuchan: On Twitter/news seems like world is on fire, ppl mean to ea other. But when you go out, there is a diff reality. Our church gathered tons of supplies, loaded some into the bus & dropped in Marianna. Can’t describe what I saw, devastation yes — but kindness & humanity more.

— LATEST TURNOUT FIGURES —

Monday marked the beginning of Early Voting for many counties in Florida, but with the first day in the bag just 1,958 votes were added to the state’s election tracker.

With massive counties such as Miami-Dade and Palm Beach among those opening up for early voting on Monday, it’s likely there’s scores of ballots waiting to be added in to the total on Tuesday.

Of the few EV ballots reported, 1,811 of them came from Okaloosa County, while 146 hailed from Charlotte County and one solitary vote came from Palm Beach County. GOP voters make up more than 70 percent of the miniscule EV sample one after Day 1.

Mail ballots came in at an equally slow drip. As of Sunday afternoon, nearly 924,000 ballots had completed their round trips and were back in the hands of county supervisors of election. Many expected Monday to push the VBM tally into the seven figures, however, only about 12,000 more ballots were returned during the 24-hour interregnum. So, 935,633 it is.

Thanks to the slow day, Election 2018 currently features nearly the same partisan divide, give or take a few tenths of a percent, as it did on Sunday and the day before.

Republicans have cast a combined 412,963 ballots and make up 44 percent of the whole. Democrats have turned in 358,922 ballots and have a 38 percent share. And NPA and other-party voters have sent out or shown up to mark 165,706 ballots, accounting for just under 18 percent of the total.

A final noteworthy tidbit: Liberty County made the scoreboard on Monday after turning in its first batch of mail ballots. Heading into Tuesday, only Gulf and Hendry counties were still showing zeroes across the board.

Story you won’t read in Sunburn: “25% of millennials say they have PTSD from the 2016 election, study says — psychologist available.

— TOP STORY —

Joe Biden’s descent on the Sunshine State drew thousand-plus crowds in Tampa and Jacksonville on Monday as he rallied alongside Gillum, Nelson and other Democrats. 

But Biden could be doing as much for himself as he is for his party’s candidates in Florida; he’s undoubtedly energizing voters to back Democrats Gillum and Nelson, but also finding friends in the Sunshine State as he explores a potential presidential bid in 2020. 

And he’s not the only one. There’s an emerging trend of other presidential potentials making headlines in Florida this cycle. Among them: Michael Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. 

Joe Biden wows the crowd in Tampa.

In Tampa: Biden’s midterm message was that the election is larger than life. “This election is bigger than politics. For real. This goes well beyond,” the Delaware Democrat told the crowd, according to Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times. 

In Jax: The message was the same. But in the Bold City, a brief “run Joe run” chant broke out. 

‘Wasting time’: That’s how the Republican National Committee described Biden’s cameos. “While Biden was attempting to gin up support for an unhinged Democratic Party, Republicans were rallying behind our proven Republican leaders who have fought hard to get Floridians back to work,” RNC spokesperson Joe Jackson said.

Assignment editors Biden will headline a public ‘Winning Ticket Rally’ in Orlando joined by congressional members Stephanie Murphy and Val Demings, Cpt. Mark Kelly, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other Democratic candidates: pre-press set 1:30 p.m., doors open 2:30 p.m., preprogram 3 p.m., main program 3:45 p.m., Cheyenne Saloon, 128 W. Church St., Orlando.

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

Morning must-read (trust us, this will be driving the day)Actually, yes, Andrew Gillum signed a Dream Defenders pledge” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Ron DeSantis backs out of meeting with USA TODAY Network” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A spokesman for the campaign informed the Democrat this morning DeSantis would not be attending the hourlong meeting in Tallahassee. The campaign said a statement would be forthcoming, but by late afternoon nothing was sent. DeSantis had agreed last week to the hourlong discussion with editors and readers of the six newspapers that make up the USA TODAY Network-Florida. Gillum will meet with the editors next week, Oct. 31. The discussion will be broadcast on Facebook Live.

Hillary Clinton in private fundraisers with Andrew Gillum in Manalapan, Miami” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — Clinton will be in Manalapan for a daytime reception with Gillum, then appear at a Miami dinner for Gillum’s Forward Florida PAC with tickets ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 for “premium seating,” according to an invitation. The Manalapan fundraiser is at the home of major Democratic donors Marsha and Henry Laufer, who also hosted a fundraiser for Clinton in April 2016 as she pursued the Democratic presidential nomination against Bernie Sanders. For the Clinton-Gillum event, admission ranges from $250 “friend” tickets to $5,000 for a private lunch. The Miami event is hosted by former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, one of Gillum’s rivals for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and veteran Democratic fundraiser Chris Korge.

Florida Conservation Voters support Gillum with nearly $500K digital buy — Florida Conservation Voters Action Fund is committing to a nearly $500,000 digital advertising effort to elect Gillum as Governor. FCV has endorsed Gillum as the only candidate who will fight for clean water and climate action to prevent algae blooms and lessen the impact of red tide events that hurt Florida’s economy. The fund will run digital ads across multiple platforms, focusing on the current red tide crisis and the need to fight climate change.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Running mates may add heft on health care” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — When it comes to the nuts and bolts of providing access to coverage, it may be running mates who have a deeper knowledge of the industry and the ripple effects that potential changes could have across the state. DeSantis, who has sharply criticized the federal Affordable Care Act and government-provided health care, tapped as his running mate state Rep. Jeanette Nunez, a Miami Republican whose income comes in part from a public hospital that relies heavily on Medicaid. Gillum, meanwhile, chose as his running mate Winter Park businessman Chris King, who spelled out a detailed health care proposal while running unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for governor. King has shied away from discussing the concept known as “Medicare for all,” which Gillum embraced in the primary. Health care has become a major issue in the race for governor and in numerous other races. A key part of that issue is the role of government programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, should play in the health care system.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will campaign tomorrow in Jacksonville, and Miami: 8:30 a.m., announcement by regional Sheriffs, Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, 300 a Philip Randolph Boulevard, Jacksonville; 1:30 p.m., pastors outreach event, Church at the Cross, 700 Good Homes Road Orlando; 4 p.m., Jewish Unity event, Mo’s Bagels, 2780 NE. 187th St., Miami.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Bill Nelson racks up another polling win, Rick Scott camp pushes back with own numbers” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Nelson is holding onto a 6-point lead over Scott, according to new numbers released Monday by Quinnipiac University. Nelson has held slight leads in five of the last six polls. Each time Scott’s camp has publicly scoffed, but the new numbers prompted them to release numbers conducted by their pollster showing Scott up 51-46. Quinnipiac has long shown Nelson with a lead among voters who have no major party affiliation. That lead has now grown to more than 20 percentage points, which if it were to hold, would make the three-term Democratic senator very difficult to knock off. While Nelson holds substantial leads among those key demographics, Scott holds a 54-44 lead with men, and a 53-44 lead with white voters, both key voting blocs for Republicans. Nelson leads 94-3 with black voters and 59-39 with Hispanic voters. The poll released by the Scott campaign, which was conducted by Virginia-based OnMessage, was compiled between Oct. 14-18. It had a sample size of 2,200, leaning Republican by 1 percentage point. It had a margin of error of 2 percent.

Scott internal poll has him leading Nelson” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new internal poll released by the Scott campaign shows the Republican ahead by 5 percentage points in the race for U.S. Senate. That’s in disagreement with a pair of independent polls released Monday, which show the candidates either deadlocked or with Democratic U.S. Sen. Nelson in the lead. The Scott survey was conducted by OnMessage Inc. and consisted of 2,200 likely voters. It showed Scott earning 51 percent support with Nelson nabbing 46 percent, leaving 3 percent undecided. The margin of error was just over 2 percent. The 5-point margin for Scott does match his lead in polls taken from May through mid-August, most of which appeared to show Nelson was in trouble of losing his Senate seat. However, Nelson’s fortunes have turned around in recent months according to outside pollsters. FiveThirtyEight now gives him about a 2 in 3 chance of beating back Scott’s challenge.

Scott rolls out Spanish-language ad — “Fight for You” is a new Spanish-language highlighting Scott’s continued commitment to Puerto Rico and his work supporting the island territory following Hurricane Maria. The 30-second spot also blasts Nelson for failing to stand up for Puerto Rico, choosing politics above people: “Bill Nelson: Weak. Confronts no one and only shows up on election time.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Scott defends education spending in latest ad” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The 30-second spot, per a campaign media release, is “highlighting Senator Nelson’s false attack on Governor Scott’s historic funding for Florida’s education system.” “Time and time again, Senator Nelson has been confused about the reality of Florida’s education accomplishments over the past eight years,” the media release asserts, citing spending more dollars on education and per-pupil funding, assertions that have been disputed. The script mirrors that perspective: “Under Rick Scott, Florida has its biggest education budget in history, more spending per pupil than ever before … After 40 years on Washington, Bill Nelson in confused about what’s happening in Florida.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

ICYMI from last night’s “Last Call” newsletter — A proposed constitutional amendment to increase the homestead property tax exemption is failing, according to results of a new poll. A survey by St. Pete Polls shows that nearly 49 percent of voters asked said they had already voted for it or planned to. Amendments need no less than 60 percent approval, however, to be added to the state constitution. Another 35 percent said they voted against it or planned to, and another 16 percent still hadn’t decided how or if they would vote on what’s “Amendment 1” on the statewide ballot.

Amendment 3 backers spend heavily on direct mail” via the News Service of Florida — Voters In Charge, a political committee behind the proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot, spent $483,720 on direct mail from Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, according to a newly filed finance report. The payments, which went to the West Palm Beach firm Cornerstone Solutions Florida, made up almost all of the $488,813 that Voters In Charge spent during the period. Voters in Charge, which has been heavily funded by Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, is backing an amendment that would change the Florida Constitution and give voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state.

Voters in charge are leaning heavier on mail pieces to get the word out about casino gambling in Florida.

Voter restoration amendment spends another $1.8M on ads” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The committee sponsoring the “Voting Restoration Amendment,” which would restore voting rights to Florida felons who have completed their sentences, spent more than $1.8 million of its reserves pushing the proposal on the airwaves, online and via direct mail between Oct. 6 and Oct. 12. … Topping the ledger was a $1 million media buy through Screen Strategies Media, followed by a $400,000 digital ad buy through Mercury Public Affairs and another $400,000 payment for direct mailers from Mission Control. … The spending was augmented by a $112,000 “in-kind” contribution from ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, which bought another round of digital ads. … Amendment 4 would restore voting rights to the vast majority of those individuals with the only carveouts being felons convicted of sex offenses or murder. Constitutional amendments must earn 60 percent of the vote to pass.

Another ugly Florida campaign — over dog racing” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — A bitter Florida campaign featuring charges of lying, dirty tricks and bad faith is nearing an end. But this isn’t the battle for governor or Senate: It’s a ballot question that would ban greyhound racing in Florida, one of the industry’s last bastions. The fight over Florida’s Prop 13 has been rife with drama, punctuated earlier this month by a state government decision to shut down public tours of kennels — a loss for greyhound racing advocates who were looking to disprove the allegations of animal cruelty that critics have thrown at them. Backers of the ban have promoted the amendment with hours of race video capturing dog deaths and countless photos of injuries and mistreatment. The ballot question fight has left the industry’s nerves raw amid the increased scrutiny from animal rights groups.

Dog racing is bringing out the worst in Florida politics.

Pam Bondi backs Gus Bilirakis — Attorney General Bondi officially endorsed U.S. Rep. Bilirakis for re-election in Florida’s 12th Congressional District, citing the Tarpon Springs Republican’s commitment to fighting opioid abuse. “Gus Bilirakis has consistently been a good partner when it comes to protecting Floridians, especially on the issue of combating opioid abuse,” Bondi said in a statement. “For example, Gus understood how important Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs were in the fight to shut down pill mills and he worked across the aisle to help secure federal funding for them. His record of service and proven leadership is clear to anyone who has had the privilege of working with him. Whenever we need his assistance on any issue, Gus is always there for us.”

Kristen Carlson, DCCC spend big on CD 15 advertising — Lakeland Democrat Kristen Carlson joined up with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to buy another $825,000 worth of ads in the race for Florida’s 15th Congressional District, where she faces Republican state Rep. Ross Spano… Carlson’s campaign account was the source of $455,000 of the TV buys, with $361,000 of that spending heading to broadcast ads in the Tampa Bay media market and another $95,000 or so heading to cable buys set to run from Oct. 23 through Oct. 29. The DCCC ad spending totaled $370,589, with their ads set to air on cable channels starting tomorrow and running through Election Day. … Spano and the National Republican Congressional Committee are putting down some cash for ads, but not nearly as much as Carlson & Co. The pro-Spano buys totaled $127,000, with $76,000 heading to cable and $51,000 going toward broadcast. … Carlson and the DCCC have spent a combined $1.5 million on CD 15 ads this cycle, while Spano and the NRSC have spent less than $300,000.

Here are a couple of fun reads …

Paid time off to vote is on the rise, survey says” via Steven Melendez of FastCompany — About 44% of U.S. companies will do so, up from 37% last year, meaning that the majority of companies still don’t provide such a provision, according to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management. Some businesses have also instituted no-meeting policies for Election Day, hoping to clear up employee schedules, and some have added on-site registration to make sure their employees are actually eligible to vote.

Twitter, Lyft, Bumble and Tinder: How tech and social media companies may change the election this year” via Cat Hofacker of USA TODAY — Tech companies and social media platforms have unveiled initiatives to encourage their users to show up at the polls. Just under 70 percent of Americans use some form of social media, according to the Pew Research Center. With userbases numbering in the millions — and often billions — social networking platforms have the ability to reach voters on a massive scale. This year, many tech companies zeroed in on voter registration. Last month, for National Voter Registration Day, organizations flooded their social media accounts with messages promoting registration and information about the various state deadlines. While voter registration is the first step for many companies, others like Lyft are taking it a step further. The transportation company has made headlines with its “Ride the Vote” campaign, which offers half-price rides on Election Day and connects voters to their nearest polling place.

— DOWN BALLOT —

State campaign committee rakes and money” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee received about $2.3 million from Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, with the money funneled from other political committees. The Committee, which is chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano is not required to file a finance report until Nov. 2. But reports filed by other committees for the period from Oct. 6 to Oct. 12 are included in the state database. They indicate the Galvano-led committee received contributions such as $750,000 from Treasure Florida, a committee tied to state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis; $500,000 from Jobs for Florida, a committee led by Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson; and $300,000 from Working for Florida’s Families, a committee led by Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley.

Dana Young trounces Janet Cruz in fundraising” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Young has raised nearly $1 million for her re-election bid against Democrat Cruz. Not included in that figure is another $580,000 in in-kind contributions from the Florida Senatorial Campaign Committee. Cruz had $358,000 with $160,000 more in in-kind contributions. Her fundraising haul so far also includes $60,000 in carry-over funds from her House campaign account. That puts Young way out ahead in campaign cash in what is shaping up to be one of the state’s most competitive Senate races. Young’s campaign raised $56,000 from Oct. 6-12, with $41,000 of that coming through in-kind contributions. (They’re defined as “anything of value except money made for the purpose of influencing the results of an election.”)

Lindsay Cross ad: ‘Put a scientist in the Senate’” via Janelle when Taylor of Florida Politics — Cross is running against incumbent Jeff Brandes for the Senate District 24 seat covering parts of St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and St. Pete Beach. “As executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, I fought for our water supply and our environment. Now I’m ready to fight for you to make sure we have great public schools, access to affordable health care a clean environment and a strong economy because what we don’t need is more red tide and empty promises,” the 30-second ad says. It ends with Cross’s catchphrase: “It’s time to put a scientist in the Senate.” The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee launched a website and accompanying television ad blasting Cross for her “radical progressive agenda” and tying her to U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum. The website and ad, which have the same imagery, say the “radicals” support open borders, higher taxes and government-run health care.

To view that ad, click on the image below:

Jennifer Webb wants false attack ad removed from the airwaves” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The ad condemns Webb for taking contributions from special interest groups, political insiders and lobbyists, but was chock full of inaccuracies and falsehoods. Webb asked her opponent, Ray Blacklidge, to petition the group behind the ad to remove it from the airwaves. In response, Blacklidge posted on his campaign Facebook page a public denouncement of negative advertising by third parties. “District 69 voters are looking for candidates with a positive vision for our region and effective solutions for the challenges we face. They have had enough of political games and immature attack ads from third parties, and so have I. All third-party political attacks should stop now,” Blacklidge wrote last week. In a disclaimer at the end of the ad, Citizens for Florida Prosperity Political Committee took responsibility for the ad. But when the Webb campaign reached out to Spectrum, they said the Republican Party paid for the ad.

Happening tonight — Democratic candidate Webb hosts the final fundraiser in her campaign for House District 66, featuring special guests Congressman Charlie Crist, County Commissioners Janet LongCharlie Justice and Ken Welch, St. Pete Beach Mayor Al Johnson, Vice-Mayor Dave Wells, commissioners Fred SteiermanKeith Overton and Tim Bogott among others, 5:30 TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, 5500 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach.

— AFTER MICHAEL —

Hurricane Michael killed at least 29 in Florida, 39 total” via The Associated Press — Florida Emergency Management Division spokesman Alberto Moscoso says the state toll stood at 29 on Monday afternoon. Ten deaths have been reported in other states. The latest update in Florida adds four deaths from the hardest-hit coastal Bay County, bringing the total there to 19. Gulf County had 3 deaths, Gadsden and Jackson counties each had two deaths, and Clay, Liberty and Calhoun counties each had one death. State emergency management officials tally storm-related deaths based on rulings from district medical examiners.

After hurricane, Ken Detzner sends reminder on early voting” via Florida Politics — Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s chief elections officer, sent out a reminder Monday on early voting options for the Nov. 6 general election … Gov. Scott issued an executive order that gives Supervisors of Elections in Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington counties the authority to extend the number of days for early voting and designate additional early voting locations … “All 67 counties will offer early voting from Oct. 27-Nov. 3 at designated early voting sites,” Detzner said. “Some counties may offer additional days of early voting and counties severely impacted by Hurricane Michael have more flexibility in providing early voting and vote-by-mail options to their voters.”

Gov. Rick Scott and CFO Jimmy Patronis met with emergency management personnel at the Liberty County EOC on Monday.

Judge rejects second lawsuit on registration deadline” via the News Service of Florida — U. S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued a two-page order denying a preliminary injunction sought by the groups Common Cause, New Majority Florida Education Fund and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund. The groups and the Florida Democratic Party filed separate lawsuits this month that sought to give Floridians an extra week to register to vote because of Hurricane Michael. Both cases sought an extension until Oct. 16 because of concerns that the hurricane could prevent people from registering to vote.

Toll collections resume after Michael” via the News Service of Florida — Tolls had been suspended on the Mid-Bay Bridge and Spence Parkway in Okaloosa County, Garcon Point Bridge in Santa Rosa County, Bob Sikes Toll Bridge in Escambia County and the Orchard Pond Parkway in Leon County. Gov. Scott ordered the suspension Oct. 8, two days before Michael made landfall in Bay County and caused massive damage in parts of Northwest Florida. Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Yu said in an email that “in counties unaffected by Hurricane Michael, tolling authorities were given the authority to resume tolls as early as Friday evening.”

Marco Rubio highlights need to restore fighter jets at Tyndall” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Several expensive fighter jets stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base were sheltered on site instead of being moved to a different location while Hurricane Michael crept toward Florida’s Panhandle. That’s cause for concern to Republican U.S. Sen. Rubio, who noted that at least 17 of the 55 F-22 Raptors at the Panama City facility — almost one third — were designated Non-Mission Capable, or NMC, and consequently unable to be relocated ahead of the storm. “While the damage assessment of these remaining aircraft is still underway, the facts are clear that any damage sustained could have been avoided if the NMC rate for the F-22 was lower,” Rubio wrote in a Monday letter addressed to Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force.

Widespread destruction is left behind in the wake of Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Airforce Base. (Image via USA TODAY)

After Michael, Panama City residents cope with no power, cash-only transactions and baby-wipe showers” via Frances Stead Sellers, Kevin Begos and Katie Zezima of The Washington Post — Residents are now carving out new, unfamiliar existences amid the destruction, driven by the dictates of survival and loss of the staples of modern life. Some are devising fresh ways of doing former jobs. Others are seeking entirely new employment, often facing competition from outsiders looking to take advantage of the repair work that follows a disaster. And everyone is adapting to a society where credit cards and cellphones often don’t work. The recovery has transformed their surroundings into a giant construction site, where the whine of sirens joins the constant buzz of chainsaws and the clanks of heavy equipment. Traffic crawls. A week without infrastructure is testing even those who prepared for the storm and its aftermath.

Final flight into Michael captured rare storm data” via Tristram Korten of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting — Michael developed quickly over unseasonably warm water, allowing it to continue intensifying right up to landfall, which is very rare. Also rare, perhaps unprecedented, is for a Hurricane Hunter mission to follow a hurricane to its landfall, which this one did. The data recorded from this flight is invaluable, according to climate scientists, because how hurricanes intensify so rapidly, as Michael did, is not well understood. “The data from that flight is going to be studied and debated and delved into very deeply for a decade,” said Ryan Truchelut, a meteorologist with the private forecasting service WeatherTiger. These missions are more critical now because of global warming’s impact. As Michael intensified, water temperatures in the Gulf measured 83 to 84 degrees, three to four degrees warmer than average for this time of year. Warm water is hurricane fuel. The warmer the water, the faster storms grow.

Lt. Col. Sean Cross of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron pilots the plane into the eye of Hurricane Michael on October 10. (Image via Tristram Korten.)

Could Michael extinguish Apalachicola’s struggling oyster industry?” via Andrew Yawn of the Pensacola News-Journal — The most violent storm in the history of the Panhandle shifted limestone bricks like Jenga blocks and toppled entire walls. Light bulbs were filled with water by the 9-foot storm surge and 155 mph winds — the fourth strongest in history by a U.S. hurricane — tossed oyster boats 500 yards and across the highway. In the past decade, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, over-harvesting and a battle for fresh water with up-the-stream Atlanta — dubbed the “water wars” — have reduced the once-booming oyster industry to a shell of its former self. Many felt the oysters would one day come back if given proper time, and millions of dollars have been spent rebuilding the bay in the past three years. After this latest storm, however, optimism for the bivalve’s return to prominence is in short supply among current and former oystermen, even if hope isn’t.

Paying it forward: Florida man joins mission to help hurricane victims” via Eileen Kelly of the Florida Times-Union — Tyler Gay had been on vacation in Philadelphia with his girlfriend and her family as many Panhandle residents were packing up and dodging Hurricane Michael’s path. At the airport, Gay learned his connecting flight back to Tallahassee was canceled. So he flew to the Panhandle, the place where he grew up. He had no idea of the approaching storm. He said he got distracted by his vacation and wasn’t paying attention to the news. When he learned of the hurricane’s path, Gay and his family got a few sandbags, bolted a piece of plywood to the front window of his brother’s townhouse and pulled the couches close together in the family room. And they waited. After the storm, Gay went back to Tallahassee but only long enough to collect money, sending an email to about 100 colleagues about the devastation in his hometown and how he was going back to help. The information technology worker borrowed a pickup and filled it with medical supplies, soup, water, apples, chips, sandwiches, military MREs and tarps. Gay picked up a chainsaw, a hatchet, and gasoline and set out on a mission.

FSU Panama City campus to reopen next week” via the News Service of Florida — The university said in a news release that it has made “significant progress” in repairing damage from Hurricane Michael. The campus is tentatively scheduled to reopen Oct. 29. “Repairing and reopening the Panama City campus is a critical step,” university President John Thrasher said in a prepared statement. “But the toughest part is, and will continue to be, helping the members of our FSU family impacted by the storm get back to life as normal. For a great number of our students and employees, especially those in Panama City and the surrounding areas, life as normal is still a long way off. We’re doing everything we can to help them get back to what will inevitably be a new normal.”

— TWEET, TWEET —

— STATEWIDE —

Study: Puerto Ricans in Florida after storm below 50,000” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — A new study released this month by the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research suggests that between 30,000 and 50,000 islanders settled in Florida in the past year. Researchers reached this estimate by comparing passenger flight data between Puerto Rico and Florida with migration data from the U.S. Census. Earlier estimates from the University of Florida and from Hunter College had put the number above 50,000 people. The new study says there appeared to be large flows of Puerto Ricans to Florida in the immediate months after Maria made landfall in September 2017. But flight data also suggest there was a strong return flow in January, followed by smaller flows back to the island in subsequent months.

Rick Scott denied state played a role in FIU bridge collapse. Records indicate otherwise.” via the Miami Herald — The governor’s administration has said its role in the Florida International University bridge was limited to issuing traffic permits, conducting a “routine preliminary review” and acting as a “pass-through” for federal funding. It also said an FDOT engineer was unable to listen to a voice message describing cracks that were forming at the structure’s north end because he was out of the office on assignment. The message was left by one of the bridge’s private contractors two days before the newly built span fell onto Southwest Eighth Street, killing six people. In fact, the FDOT engineer, Thomas Andres, was present in the office on March 15. And nearly two years before the collapse, that same engineer expressed concerns in writing to the bridge’s design-build team that its design left it vulnerable to cracking. Andres’ deep familiarity with the plans suggests the state played a far more significant role than it has so far acknowledged.

Workforce quality tops small biz agenda in Florida Chamber survey” via Florida Politics — Florida’s small businesses are most concerned about the quality of the state’s workforce as voters prepare to pick their next Governor Nov. 6, according to survey results released Monday. At the same time, the Chamber issued a guide showing that Republican DeSantis ticks every box on the organization’s issues checklist. Democrat Gillum doesn’t check any. It was the eighth quarter running that workforce skills ranked as small business’ top concern. And it led by a considerable margin — 26 percent, compared to the next ranked concern, government regulations, at 9 percent. Access to capital and economic uncertainty tied, at 8 percent each; followed by “lawsuit abuse,” taxes, and health care costs, all at 6 percent. Confidence in the state’s direction was up compared to the third quarter, to 59 percent. Some 48 percent of respondents expected to hire in the next six months, up from 45 percent last quarter. Forty-three percent expected to invest in plants or equipment, down from 49 percent one year ago.

Tort reform group slams Florida for ‘excessive’ litigation” via Florida Politics — The state loses more than $11.8 billion and 126,000 jobs each year to “excessive” litigation, according to an analysis released Monday by the Florida Justice Reform Institute. The trend most hurts the retail sector, at the cost of more than 39,413 jobs, followed by business services, at 20,237, and health services, at 17,452, according to research conducted for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, another tort reform organization. The analysis claims more than $7.5 billion in lost personal income, including wages, interest and rents — more than $357 for every person in Florida. Additionally, such litigation trims almost $615 million from annual state revenues and $516 million for local government. “These findings detail how Florida’s lawsuit abuse climate is holding back our economy and costing every person real money,” institute President William Large said.

Michael Dunn resigns from Lakeland City Commission” via John Chambliss of the Lakeland Ledger — Dunn has resigned four days after he was charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting an alleged shoplifter. Dunn, 47, had been a commissioner since January after defeating challenger Larry Durrence in a runoff election. Dunn was indicted by a grand jury on Friday for killing Christobal Lopez, 50, on Oct. 3 at his business, the Vets Army Navy Surplus Store at 819 N. Florida Ave. “It is with a heavy heart that I submit this letter to you,” Dunn wrote. His wife delivered the letter to City Hall on Monday afternoon. “Being born and raised in Lakeland, this city means a great deal to me and always will,” Dunn wrote. “Thank you to the residents of Lakeland for having given me the opportunity to serve.”

Rural boundary segregates races in Seminole, River Cross developer’s lawsuit claims” via Steven Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — Former state legislator Chris Dorworth, whose company proposed building 600 single-family homes and 500 apartments in rural east Seminole County, has sued the county in federal court, saying its voter-approved rural boundary and county commissioners’ refusal to rezone 670 acres for the River Cross mega-development violate the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit claims the boundary has “a clear and negative disparate impact on racial minorities … denying them their rights to housing.” “Seminole County’s actions perpetuate a history of residential racial segregation in Seminole County …” by limiting development, according to the lawsuit, which asks U.S. District Judge Anne Conway to order the county to get rid of the rural boundary, established in 2004 through a vote of residents.

Bidder steps up to purchase CareSync’s assets from liquidation” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Nashville, Tennessee-based Vatica Health Inc., a health care technology solutions provider, is the stalking horse bidder and has offered $1 million for the assets of CareSync, which filed for an assignment for benefit of creditors in July to liquidate its assets. Vatica, if approved and being the best bidder, would obtain CareSync’s online health platform, related intellectual property, data and documentation, and certain accounts receivable, according to county documents. Joseph Luzinski, the assignee for the benefit of creditors of CareSync, filed an emergency motion with the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court for Hillsborough County Oct. 16 to approve the bidding and sales procedure and authorize the sale of purchased assets to Vatica Health, subject to higher and better offers. The court hearing is scheduled for early Oct. 23.

What Gray Rohrer is reading: “A 14-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico verges on becoming one of the worst in U.S. history” via Darryl Fears of The Washington Post — Between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day have been spewing from a site 12 miles off the Louisiana coast since 2004, when an oil-production platform owned by Taylor Energy sank in a mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan. Many of the wells have not been capped, and federal officials estimate that the spill could continue through this century. With no fix in sight, the Taylor offshore spill is threatening to overtake BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster as the largest ever. As oil continues to spoil the Gulf, the Trump administration is proposing the largest expansion of leases for the oil and gas industry, with the potential to open nearly the entire outer continental shelf to offshore drilling. That includes the Atlantic coast, where drilling hasn’t happened in more than a half-century and where hurricanes hit with double the regularity of the Gulf.

Pasco to promote itself as Florida’s Sports Coast” via CT Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times — Visit Pasco, the county’s tourism agency, is poised to rebrand Pasco as Florida’s Sports Coast to capitalize on its sports facilities, outdoor adventure offerings and water activities along the coast. “Our goal is to find things that are most relevant about Pasco County and the things that are most different about Pasco County and package that to draw tourists,’’ said Andy Jorishie, managing director of the Zimmerman Agency in Tallahassee, which is leading the rebranding effort for $45,000 as part of a $326,000 contract with the county. The agency briefed the Tourist Development Council, and the full county commission is expected to consider the branding and marketing plan next week.

— OPINIONS —

Blake Dowling: Reflections on the storm” via Florida Politics — Why is the national news not covering this issue like they have superstorms in years past? There are people who have run out of money, died in the storm, looting is happening, and in our community, it seems as if everyone I know helped in some way. But it doesn’t feel like that from the outside. And when I say outside, I mean the media. If you want to see what help looks like, come to Tallahassee. It’s ground zero for the recovery effort. It was a terrible storm. Lives have been lost; homes and businesses destroyed. If you want to help, consider giving to the Red Cross (www.redcross.org) or contact your local elected official or law enforcement office as there are massive recovery efforts underway and North Florida needs a helping hand. Prayers to all affected and to all those who have answered the call to help.

Joe Henderson: No tax for tracks, or anything else in Hillsborough” via Florida Politics — No tax for tracks. No tax for anything. What else is new? The grumpy demographic in Hillsborough County has weighed in on the All For Transportation referendum and guess what? They’re agin’ it! I know you’re shocked … It was predictable. It was adorned with a picture of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. Both men heavily support the referendum, so they were trolled with the label of Bob “Billions” Buckhorn and Jeff “Vision” Vinik. Ouch. That hurts. They didn’t mention the more than 77,000 people who signed petitions to get this issue on the ballot because a majority of the county commissioners couldn’t bring themselves to do it themselves.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Andrew Atterbury joins POLITICO Florida — Tallahassee bureau chief Matt Dixon announced Atterbury’s hiring Monday on Twitter. He replaces Daniel Ducassi as the site’s education policy reporter. Atterbury was most recently education reporter for TCPalm, covering the Treasure Coast counties of Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River. He previously covered education and city politics in West Texas. Atterbury graduated Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas in 2012. He also spent 5 ½ years as a Starbucks barista, according to his LinkedIn page.

Congratulations to Andrew Atterbury.

Gunster adds another attorney amid Tampa growth — The full-service business law firm added Jounice Nealy-Brown to its business litigation practice as an associate in the firm’s Tampa office. Nealy-Brown previously was a newspaper journalist, sales and marketing executive, and strategic corporate communications director at the Tampa Bay Times. Upon graduation from law school, she served as a law clerk for Judges Anthony E. Porcelli and Mary S. Scriven, both with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. “We are thrilled to have Jounice join our growing team in Tampa,” Tampa office managing shareholder Bill Schifino said. “Her experience both in journalism and the corporate sector brings a unique perspective to the firm and how she will work with clients.”

— ALOE —

Disney roller coaster patent hints at Epcot ride” via the Orlando Business Journal — The patent would help with the storytelling process in rides. A new patent from The Walt Disney Co. has many fans curious if it’s for the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Epcot. The patent appears to provide an enhancement to the coaster ride car that includes being able to rotate a car on a horizontal axis while also providing the power the system needs to perform those turns throughout the ride. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this patent is used on rides. However, it gives insight into what ride inventors are researching toward making better attractions.

New plans filed by Walt Disney World for an Epcot rollercoaster lead some to think it may be the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride.

Florida retailers expect scary good Halloween spending” via Florida Politics — According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, an affiliate of the Florida Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend some frighteningly large sums celebrating the eve of All-Hallows — nearly enough to crack the all-time record of $9.1 billion. NRF estimates the average consumer taking part in Halloween to spend more than four Jacksons and a five-spot, which would make for a nationwide rake of $9 billion at the cash register. And FRF head R. Scott Shalley said the Sunshine State is expected to post similarly strong results.

Uber ambitiously eyes 2021 for food-delivery drones launch” via Greg Bensinger and Andy Pasztor of The Wall Street Journal — The San Francisco company is seeking an operations executive who can help make delivery drones functional as soon as next year and commercially operational in multiple markets by 2021, according to a job posting that appeared on Uber’s website. App-reliant Uber has limited experience developing hardware beyond its nascent electric scooters and its equipment for self-driving vehicles, an as-yet unproven technology. The drone executive will “enable safe, legal, efficient and scalable flight operations,” according to the job listing, which refers to UberExpress, an internal name used for the drone delivery operation within its UberEats prepared-food delivery unit.

What Kevin Sweeny is reading: Growing up surrounded by books could have powerful, lasting effect on the mind” via Brigit Katz of Smithsonian.com — Growing up with few books in the home resulted in below average literacy levels. Being surrounded by 80 books boosted the levels to average, and literacy continued to improve until libraries reached about 350 books, at which point the literacy rates leveled off. The researchers observed similar trends when it came to numeracy; the effects were not as pronounced with information communication technology tests, but skills did improve with increased numbers of books. So, what are the implications of the new study? Take, for instance, adults who grew up with hardly any books in the home, but went on to obtain a university degree in comparison to an adult who grew up with a large home library, but only had nine years of schooling. The study found that both of their literacy levels were roughly average. “So, literacy-wise, bookish adolescence makes up for a good deal of educational advantage,” the study authors write.

Happy birthday belatedly to Ramba Consulting’s Cameron Yarbrough and state Rep. Jim Boyd. Also celebrating today are good guys Brian Rimes and John Sowinski, as well as state Rep. Patricia Hawkins-Williams.

Last Call for 10.22.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

A proposed constitutional amendment to increase the homestead property tax exemption is failing, according to results of a new poll.

A survey by St. Pete Polls shows that nearly 49 percent of voters asked said they had already voted for it or planned to.

Amendments need no less than 60 percent approval, however, to be added to the state constitution.

Another 35 percent said they voted against it or planned to, and another 16 percent still hadn’t decided how or if they would vote on what’s “Amendment 1” on the statewide ballot.

Here’s the fine print behind the poll: It was “conducted through an automated phone call polling system.

“The results were then weighted to account for proportional differences between the respondents’ demographics and the demographics of the active general election voter population for the state of Florida. The weighting demographics used were: Political party, race, age, gender and media market.

“The voters polled were chosen at random within the registered voter population within the state of Florida. Voters who said they were not planning to vote were excluded from the results … The scientific results … have a sample size of 1,575 and a 2.5 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.”

Evening Reads

Republicans hold cash edge heading into final stretch if the midterms” via Kenneth Vogel and Rachel Shorey of The New York Times

How to win Florida” via Michael Grunwald of POLITICO

15 days out — Joe Biden time in Florida” via Steve Schale for his blog

Joe Biden lays it out in Tampa: ‘You will never vote in an election that’s more important’” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott camp disputes poll showing Bill Nelson ahead in Senate race” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Ron DeSantis backs out of meeting with USA Today network” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat

These people have little chance of being governor. Here’s why they’re running anyway.” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald

The battle over Florida’s proposed greyhound racing ban has one side accusing the other of employing ‘the worst of modern politics’” via Kirby Wilson of Tampa Bay Times

New poll shows Ross Spano 6 points up in CD 15 contest” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Lindsay Cross ad: ‘Put a scientist in the Senate’” via Janelle Irwin of Florida Politics

Who are professional women, moms duking it out in unusually clean Florida House 54 race?” via Laurence Reisman of the TC Palm

As HD 15 race gets pricey, Wyman Duggan holds cash lead” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Quote of the Day

Andrew Gillum “signed a pledge to cut police funding and support a group that says, ‘police and prisons have no place in justice,’ (and) that ‘police were never meant to serve us.’ It’s dangerous.” — Florida Police Benevolent Association President John Kazanjian.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council will meet and discuss issues such as the implementation of a new law aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Florida Department of Health, 4025 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission will continue two days of interviews of candidates to replace Chief Judge Leslie Rothenberg and Judge Richard Suarez. That’s at 8:30 a.m., DLA Piper LLP, 200 South Biscayne Blvd., 25th floor, Miami.

The Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors, which makes decisions about how to spend money in Northwest Florida from a Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement, will meet in Okaloosa County. That’s 11 a.m. (Central time), Warriors Hall Community Center, 201 Stillwell Ave., Crestview.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will appear at an Orlando rally for the re-election campaigns of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Also expected to take part in the event is Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. That’s at 3:45 p.m., Cheyenne Saloon, 128 West Church St., Orlando.

Republican Ashley Moody and Democrat Sean Shaw, who are running for Attorney General, will participate in a one-hour debate that will be shown live on Bay News 9 in Tampa and Spectrum News 13 in Orlando. That’s at 7 p.m., Bay News 9. Tampa.

sugar

Sugar farmers label Bullsugar a ‘radical hate group’

Citing threats of violence and ongoing law enforcement investigations, the Florida Sugarcane Farmers are now calling the anti-sugar grassroots organization Bullsugar a “radical hate group.”

“As you may know, Florida’s sugarcane farming industry provides more than 12,500 jobs and contributes more than $3.2 billion to Florida’s economy,” Frierson Farms owner Ardis Hammock wrote in an email. “Our industry is made up of generational, family farmers that have planted, harvested, and processed sugarcane for generations, dating back to the early 1900s when Florida was just getting started as one of our nation’s largest farming states.”

Hammock went out to say sugar farmers’ way of life “is under attack by radical hate groups such as Bullsugar, which is driven by an agenda aimed at shutting down farming in Florida.”

The email cited numerous articles published by POLITICO, Sunshine State News, the Orlando Sentinel and other outlets describing the behavior of Bullsugar representatives and allies. Also included in a 15-page packet compiled by Florida Sugar Farmers were snapshots of posts on Bullsugar’s Facebook advocating violence.

“All of this crap should have been run through a filtration system before it was discharged, who ever did this should be shot on national television,” one of the comments reads, presumably referring to the sugar farmers Bullsugar blames for the toxic blue-green algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee.

Hammock noted that similar threats of violence directed at Glades farming communities have spurred the sheriff’s offices in Palm Beach, Hendry and Glades counties to open investigations into Bullsugar members.

Also noted was the dissonance between Bullsugar’s attacks on politicians who have received campaign funds from the sugar industry and the group’s own status as a 501(c)4 organization. Such organizations are not required to disclose their funding sources.

Bullsugar is one of several organizations that place considerable blame on the sugar industry for Lake O algal blooms, though most scientific research concludes that even though human activity is the root cause of the blooms that the agriculture industry’s role in the recurring environmental crisis is minimal.

Florida Atlantic University professor Brian Lapointe recently presented research concluding that the tens of thousands of septic tanks surrounding Lake O as well the state’s aging and inadequate wastewater infrastructure were responsible for most of nutrients behind the algal blooms rather than agricultural runoff.

“Where reducing fertilizers tremendously in the Sunshine State, so where are the nutrients coming from?” Lapointe asked in a presentation last month. “All you have to do is read the headlines.”

“Septic tanks are the major source of nitrogen. Around the Tallahassee area, 50 percent of nitrogen is from septic tanks and only 8 percent is from agricultural sources,” he said.

Hammock concluded the anti-Bullsugar email by asking readers to “consider these facts, and consider facts from independent sources showing sugarcane farmers are not to blame for coastal water quality issues. We appreciate your careful consideration of these issues.”

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.22.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

If the goal of either side in the Florida Governor’s debate Sunday night between Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis was to change minds, that probably didn’t happen.

During a spirited hour-long debate on CNN in which no punches were pulled, both candidates to be Florida’s governor kept their respective cool, got in their talking points and attacks, and dodged issues they didn’t want to directly address.

DeSantis kept up the line of attack he has used throughout the campaign, namely that Gillum is a corrupted socialist who wants to ruin the state with massive tax hikes while dodging a corruption investigation by the FBI.

Gillum countered that DeSantis is a corrupted Donald Trump acolyte who is controlled by the National Rifle Association.

That’s what they have been saying about each other since the August primary, and with the election now about two weeks away they didn’t deviate. Both men were prepared, they didn’t commit a grievous blunder during the spicy back-and-forth that could have led to a disastrous headline.

Each man was well-coached to deflect attacks and ready to sprinkle in a snappy one-liner that just might appear in a TV commercial in the closing days of the campaign.

So, here’s a random sampling of things that jumped out:

Favorite zingers

From Gillum: “If the congressman is elected, which he won’t be, he will worship at the feet of Donald Trump.”

From DeSantis: “If you believe with that record that he (Gillum) ain’t gonna raise your taxes, then I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona I’d like to sell you.”

Sunday night’s debate may not have changed many minds.

Monkey business

DeSantis was asked by moderator Jake Tapper, who did a good job of keeping things on track, to explain his “monkey it up” comment about Gillum and the state’s economy on the day after the primary election. It was widely panned as a racist dog whistle.

“Here’s the deal. You look at my record. When you’re down-range in Iraq, it didn’t matter your race. We all wore the same uniform. We all had that American flag patch on our arm. And that was the end of story. You look at me as a prosecutor working with law enforcement. It didn’t matter the race of the victim. We were there to support the race of the victim. So, Floridians can know that I will be a governor for all Floridians.”

Gillum’s counter: “The congressman let us know exactly where he was going to take this race the day after he won the nomination. The monkey up comment said it all. He has continued throughout the course of this campaign to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin. … The only color the people of the state of Florida care about is the blue-green algae that is flowing out of the state.”

Was the original question answered?

Not really.

Parkland

DeSantis is loved by the NRA.

Gillum is not.

That’s an issue.

After the slaughter of 17 innocents at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the state adopted modest gun control restrictions – opposed, strongly, by the NRA. DeSantis said as governor, he would have vetoed the law.

Why?

After invoking the shooting at the congressional softball game, DeSantis dodged the question, saying the shooter who “should have been convicted of a crime” and “he should have been Baker-Acted.”

Um, Congressman? While there were warnings about the mental state of confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, he hadn’t done anything that would have led to a conviction before entering the school. And the state’s Baker Act law would have allowed him to be held only 72 hours for observation.

Gillum’s counter: “He is wholly owned by the NRA.”

What now?

No doubt, both sides believe they won this debate, but I really think the people of Florida did.

Both men were pointed in their barbs, but it didn’t get out of control. They made their points, and it’s up to the viewer to agree or not. It was lively, and I don’t think either man got rattled by the other.

It was healthy. It was informative.

In the end, we were given a good look at both men and what they stand for. That’s what debates are for.

Debate tweets:

—@JimRosicaFL: Sorry, just broke up a cat vs. chihuahua fight, and now it’s bathtime. Is there a political debate or something going on tonight? 

—@JacobEngels: Not gonna lie. @AndrewGillum has a better cut on his suit/style far exceeds @RonDeSantisFL… who looks a little tubby.

—@JoshSidorowicz: Lots of people already noting the contrast in candidates’ opening statements. DeSantis went on attack against Gillum. Gillum responds: “wow, that was quite a mouthful” and leaves it at that.

—@NewsbySmiley: Tapper asks why DeSantis is wrong that Gillum’s a socialist. Sidebar: Before this debate, a PAC aired an ad that basically said all Democrats are socialist, and told viewers electing Democrats will give them a screaming Nancy Pelosi with a massive gavel

@JacobOgles: Fun fact. Disney got rid of the old FastPass system and now has people sign up for particular times to ride. In other words, a waiting list.

@SteveBousquet: Ron DeSantis sidesteps CNN’s question on whether he agrees with $15 minimum wage at Disney; says it’s an “incentive for automation”

@DeFede: Here is the line of debate so far. @AndrewGillum: “The Congressman let us know exactly where he would take this race the day after he won the nomination. The monkey up comment said it all. And he has only continued in the course of his campaign to draw all the attention …” … “… he can to the color of my skin. And the truth is I’m black. I’ve been black all of my life. So far as I know I’ll die black.” My guess is he had that line ready to fire as things heat up.  @RonDeSantisFL stopped smiling at that point.

@Rob_Bradley: This is a good debate. Jake Tapper is doing what a moderator should do-letting it be about the candidates, not him, but keeping things moving.

@DeFede: It is clear @RonDeSantisFL and @AndrewGillum do not like each other. This is a bloody affair. Not sure what voters are learning. 

—@TalesDarkSide: “I am black, I’ve been black and I far as I know I’ll die black.” — Mayor Gillum, I straight did my entire Black History Month *praise lap* and it’s only October.

@GrayRohrer: Fun fact: the governor of Florida has no affect on immigration enforcement

@PatriciaMazzei: DeSantis has turned pretty much every question into an attack on Gillum. (Which Gillum predicted in advance of the debate.) DeSantis asks Gillum questions; Gillum says, “You can proceed with your time.”

@JamilSmith: It is notable that @AndrewGillum calls @RepDeSantis “Congressman” and DeSantis calls him “Andrew.” Gillum is still Mayor of Tallahassee, and DeSantis is not even a Congressman anymore. It is clear what his word choice implies.

—@AdamGoodman3: @CNN #FLGovDebate Tonight’s bottom line: @RonDeSantisFL effectively stoked & stroked his base but lost visual battle on TV. Despite some tough moments, @AndrewGillum looked at ease and in command; and his closing statement was a winner.

—@realDonaldTrump: Ron @RonDeSantisFL DeSantis had a great debate victory tonight against Andrew Gillum, a mayor who presides over one of the worst run, and most corrupt, cities in Florida. Ron will build on the great job done by Governor Rick Scott. Gillum will make Florida the next Venezuela!

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING. Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!

—@MattYglesias: “If you want change, you should vote instead of yelling at politicians in restaurants” would be a more compelling in a system where getting more votes than the other guy guaranteed electoral victory.

@NateSilver538: If a pollster publishes a poll that looks like an outlier, the right move is to: 1) Be happy that the pollster was willing to publish it. It means they’re doing honest work. 2) Put it in the average. Don’t ignore it, but also don’t assume it’s the new normal.

@NickGourevitch: I don’t claim to know what will happen in two weeks (spoiler: nobody does) but I’m pretty sure nobody truly understands the turnout dynamic this year. I’m a pollster telling you that polls are flawed tools at telling you what the turnout dynamic will be.

@GBennettPost: Shades of @CharlieCrist — an electric fan on stage at @AndrewGillum rally in Riviera Beach.

—@DavidJollyFL: Just gonna say it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with confronting elected officials in public. Nothing. Zero. We should do more of it. It is who we are as Americans. Channel Thoreau. Do it. No politician was conscripted to serve. They asked for the opportunity.

@Poniewozik: If I could change one thing in media, it would be: no news outlet, ever again, would base its policy on perception and “How will this make us look?” It serves no one, we get too cute by half, we look phony — because it IS phony — and bad-faith critics will attack us regardless.

@NateMonroeTU: I’ve been a reporter for the better part of a decade — so no grizzled vet — but @JSOPIO is easily, by far, full stop the most secretive, least open police department I’ve ever seen. It’s a huge problem in a county that leads the state in the murder rate.

—@GrayRohrer: Ah, so I see Kirk Herbstreit talked trash about UCF in the morning yesterday day then saw his alma mater get stomped by a team in black and gold at night. Karma, bitch.

— LATEST TURNOUT FIGURES —

Through this weekend, more than 877,000 ballots had completed their round trips and were back in the hands of county supervisors of election. Republicans, as is tradition, led the overall VBM tally with 386,101 ballots returned — 44 percent of the total — while registered Dems were 5 points back and independents made up nearly 18 percent of the vote so far.

The overall returns represent a little over a quarter of mail ballots sent out and roughly an eighth of the 7 million votes expected to be cast by pencils down on Nov. 6. In 2014, the most recent comparable election, Floridians returned nearly 1.2 million mail ballots.

Though the Friday tally wasn’t particularly large, there were a couple of noteworthy stats among the stacks of mail. Chief among them: Bay County processed its first ballots. The Panhandle county was among the hardest hit when Hurricane Michael tore through Northwest Florida two weeks ago. Gulf and Liberty counties, however, are still yet to show up on the statewide box score.

Happening today — Early voting begins in several counties across the state, including Alachua, Bradford, Broward, Charlotte, DeSoto, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Gadsden, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jefferson, Lake, Lee, Leon, Levy, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie and Taylor. Counties statewide are required to start early voting Oct. 27, but they have authority to start as early as today.

— BATTLE OF THE POLLS 

Just ahead of Sunday night’s CNN debate in Florida’s gubernatorial contest, a trio of new polling shows wide fluctuation in the race, ranging from a double-digit lead for Gillum to a slight advantage for DeSantis, which led to disputes and doubts over methodology.

A CNN poll released Saturday gives Gillum a 12-point advantage over DeSantis, resulting in immediate pushback from Republicans, who said it “polled an electorate never seen in Florida.” The survey of registered voters, taken Oct. 16-20, shows Gillum winning 52 percent of the vote over DeSantis’ 42 percent. Another 5 percent reported no opinion and 1 percent said they would not vote for either candidate.

Ahead of Sunday night’s CNN debate, polls in the Florida gubernatorial race were all over the map.

The DeSantis camp criticized the CNN poll for a sample size that gave Democrats a 3-percent edge in a nonpresidential election. Pollsters SSRS said the sample included 32 percent Democrats, 29 percent Republicans and 39 percent independent of third-party voters.

That NPA turnout, DeSantis officials said, also seemed unrealistically high, as independents never outnumber Democrats and Republicans at the poll in a Florida statewide election.

To counter, an internal poll touted by Team DeSantis gives the Republican a two-point edge over Gillum, 47 to 45 percent, with another 7 percent unsure. In the polling memo, campaign chair Susie Wiles said her pollsters surveyed potential voters over three consecutive nights in advance of the debate.

“This survey included over 2,000 live interviews with a projected universe reflecting a historic midterm election turnout among Democratic and women voters,” Wiles wrote. “In short, this assumes a challenging electoral scenario for Republicans, but one we are presently rising above. We currently show Ron with a 47 percent — 45 percent lead. Ron’s lead is larger at +7 percent among voter that have already cast vote by mail ballots.”

Meanwhile, well-regarded Florida pollster Tom Eldon of SEA Polling has come out with a new statewide survey Sunday that gives Gillum a six-point lead over DeSantis, 48-42 percent, with 10 percent undecided. Taken Oct. 17-20, pollsters asked 600 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent. Propelling Gillum is strong support among NPAs, women and Hispanic voters, Eldon’s polling memo said.

>>>Keep in mind that during the GOP primary, it was DeSantis’s internal polling, not any public polling, which was the most accurate about the state of that race.

— MORE GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

Trump tweets that Andrew Gillum runs ‘one of the worst’ cities” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The president of the United States took to Twitter at 10:56 a.m. Saturday and called Tallahassee one of the “worst & most corrupt cities in USA!” Trump appeared to have wanted to boost the campaigns of DeSantis for Governor and Gov. Scott for the U.S. Senate, while throwing a jab at Gillum without naming him. But in doing so, he placed Tallahassee front and center in a social media firestorm that pitted city critics with passionate defenders who call Tallahassee home. Gillum quickly responded, suggesting the tweet was cowardly. “When you lie about me from the most powerful office in the world and still don’t have the courage to @ me …” Gillum said while retweeting the president’s tweet.

Gillum releases tax returns, calls on Ron DeSantis to do the same” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gillum filed joint returns with spouse R.J., and the two reported a combined income of $480,000 for the two years. His spokeswoman immediately called on Republican nominee DeSantis to follow suit. “Mayor Gillum took an important step in being transparent and open with Floridians by releasing his tax returns, and now, it’s time for Ron DeSantis to do the same,” said Communications Director Johanna Cervone. “Floridians deserve transparency, honesty and integrity from their next governor, which is exactly what Andrew Gillum has done as Mayor and what he’ll do as Governor.”

DeSantis is ‘uniquely dislikable candidate,’ says Gillum” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — “They have a uniquely unlikeable candidate. He’s easily dislikable,” said Gillum. “I don’t think anybody could spend a lot of time with him and walk away feeling inspired or encouraged or believe that he in some way knows what it means to live their life. They realize they can’t package him in that way … I’ve heard from Republican members of Congress (DeSantis would) go on these congressional trips with them, and he’d put on his headphones and not talk to them the entire time.” The Tallahassee mayor’s tough comments came, ironically, as he sought to contrast his campaign largely focused on his agenda for Florida with DeSantis’ largely focused on attacking Gillum. He predicted Republicans and DeSantis would spend the remaining 17 days of the race trying to push down turnout by attacking him.

DeSantis keeps up negative (and false) attacks on Gillum in Tampa” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — In Tampa, an enthusiastic crowd made up largely of grass-roots campaign workers crammed into a tiny GOP campaign office suite for an appearance by DeSantis, his wife Casey and Rep. Matt Gaetz. For about 20 minutes, they heard DeSantis launch one attack after another. DeSantis used the same attack themes, many of them distorted or false, that has been a staple of ads run on his behalf against Gillum by Republican Party organizations. He said Gillum is a socialist who’s hostile to law enforcement, intends to take away people’s Medicare and veterans’ health benefits, has made Tallahassee “the most crime-ridden city in Florida,” and plans “a 40 percent tax increase” for Florida. “I’m the only candidate (for governor) who can credibly say he’s not under investigation by the FBI,” he added, referring to an investigation of Tallahassee city government.

Ron DeSantis continues to insist on spreading false attacks on Andrew Gillum, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Remaining mum on amendments” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — But don’t look for some of the state’s top politicians to help you sort out the ballot. Gov. Scott and the two main candidates running for governor have voiced opinions on only a handful of the measures on the ballot. Both Scott and fellow Republican DeSantis, for example, oppose Amendment 4, while Democrat Gillum strongly supports the measure. If passed Amendment 4 would allow most former prisoners, except for murderers and those convicted of sex offenses, to have their voting rights restored after they serve their sentences. DeSantis has expressed concerns about Amendment 3. Both Scott and Gillum have kept silent on the measure. Scott has said he plans to vote for Amendment 9, a proposal put on the ballot by Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission that deals with both oil drilling and vaping. Neither DeSantis nor Gillum has taken a stance on the measure.

Gillum wants criminal justice reform. DeSantis wants mandatory minimums. Here’s how the candidates differ” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-Union — To Gillum, the state is wasting money locking up people who deserve second chances. To DeSantis, any retreat from the state’s tough-on-crime policies is an offense to police and will reverse the state’s 50-year low crime rates. Gillum, the Tallahassee Mayor, talks about criminal justice in an aspirational tone. He talks of reforming the state’s bail system, of investing in re-entry services, of ending mass incarceration. DeSantis, the former congressman who until recently represented the suburbs south of Jacksonville, avoids offering his own policy proposals, instead invoking fear that any change to the status quo will threaten Florida’s safety. Gillum never mentioned DeSantis in his speech, but DeSantis inveighed against Gillum in nearly every sentence. He said that Gillum was not only incompetent, but that Tallahassee’s high crime rate “flows from his radical ideology.”

Election ad pitch to young voters: ‘Our chance to finally elect Florida’s first black Governor’” via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The political organization NextGen Florida is spending $1.2 million on the ads, which will run through Election Day. The pair of ads is running on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit, Hulu, Vevo, Spotify, Pandora, Google search and the gaming platform Twitch. Targeting young voters, the ads are more direct than traditional television advertising. NextGen said the ads utilize research-based messaging to reach their intended audience: 1.8 million young Floridians. The organization’s research found that effective messages include explaining to young people that politicians won’t listen to their needs if they don’t vote; that, as the largest eligible voting bloc, they have the power to bring about change are the most; and that encouraging people to make a plan to vote on Election Day works.

Hillary Clinton to keep low profile in race for Governor” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Clinton is coming to Florida next week to support Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum — but don’t expect the campaign to make a big deal about it. Clinton will hold closed-door fundraisers in support of Gillum but no public events … Gillum announced last month that he would campaign Oct. 23 with Clinton in South Florida, adding that he was “honored to have Secretary Clinton join me.” That wasn’t greeted well by some Gillum supporters, who wrote on Twitter that Gillum would be making a mistake by appearing with Clinton. “Gillum’s already got South Florida in the bag,” Miami filmmaker Billy Corben wrote on Twitter. “Why polarize? Even Hillary voters don’t want to see or hear from her again.”

Alt-right Florida GOP operative complains he was assaulted while taunting people at Gillum” rally via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — An Orlando-based Republican consultant and member of the far right Proud Boys group, attended Andrew Gillum’s women’s rally in Tampa Friday night, shouting into a megaphone about billionaire liberal George Soros as Gillum addressed the crowd. Video footage showed several people shoving the man, Jacob Engels, and/or trying to knock the megaphone from his hands. Engels, a provocateur and close associate of fellow InfoWars contributor Roger Stone, used to attack Republican DeSantis during the GOP primary. He said a “violent mob” of Gillum supporters assaulted him Friday, part of a narrative many Republicans across the country are using lately about Democrats. Engels also accused Gillum supporters of being homophobic because he is gay.

Assignment editors — Republican Lt. Gov. nominee Jeanette Nuñez hosts a meet-and-greet, 5 p.m., Havana Jax Café, 2578 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Rick Scott has millions invested in Puerto Rico electric company” via Dan Christensen of FloridaBulldog.org — The Governor and his wife have untold millions of dollars invested in the commonwealth’s devastated electric company … via AG Superfund, a New York hedge fund which with other large investors issued $9 billion of credit to the government-run Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA. Those bond investors were enticed by the island’s lucrative tax breaks. In July, Gov. Scott’s blind trust valued its AG Superfund holdings as worth between $1 million and $5 million. He also disclosed that four trusts and a family partnership in the name of First Lady Ann Scott valued their investments as being worth over $1 million each — meaning the Scotts’ total investment in AG Superfund is at least $5 million.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority employees fix power lines in San Juan, Oct. 19. (Image via Xavier Garcia/Bloomberg News)

Revealed: Scott’s financial link to botched SunPass contract” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott has financial ties to the vendor that operates the troubled SunPass toll-collection system. Here’s how public documents explain the latest link: By late June, records show, a manager of a hedge fund called Highline Capital Management held 7 million shares of stock worth $127 million in Conduent Inc. Scott and his wife Ann have invested at least $5 million in the fund managed by Highline. A Conduent subsidiary, Conduent State and Local Solutions, won a $287 million Florida contract in 2015 to manage SunPass. The contract, which has grown to $343 million, was awarded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) whose secretary is appointed by Scott. Direct oversight of Conduent is the responsibility of the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, an arm of FDOT. Scott attended a Senate campaign fundraiser in Dallas in May at which his hosts included Darwin Deason, a Texas investor and a major shareholder in Conduent.

Red-tide awakening: How Florida’s environmental woes could hurt Scott in Senate race” via David Knowles of Yahoo News — “It impacted a few media markets where swing voters live — Tampa, Fort Myers, and West Palm Beach,” Democratic strategist Steve Schale told Yahoo News. “There are voters who have voted for both Nelson and Scott in those markets.” After the Army Corps of Engineers released water tainted with a different microorganism, blue-green algae, from Lake Okeechobee in the wake of Hurricane Irma last fall, the red tide, which can stain the ocean a rusty-brown hue, got much worse. Schale thinks the duration of this year’s red tide has left Scott vulnerable: “These voters have been living with algae for many years now, and for Scott, who talks about getting things done, the fact nothing has changed on algae, and red tide goes right at his strength.”

New Bill Nelson ad labels Scott as ‘Red Tide Rick’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Nelson is going into the swamp for his new television commercial attacking Scott over his past problems in the private sector, his finances and environmental record, labeling him, “Red Tide Rick.” The 30-second commercial, “Swamp,” features talking cartoon frogs that keep croaking, “Rick” and “Scott” each time a narrator rolls out an allegation about Nelson’s opponent. “Now our Florida is poisoned with toxic algae,” the narrator declares. “He’s so slimy. Let’s leave him in Tallahassee. We can’t trust Red Tide Rick.” “Nope,” croaks one of the frogs.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Scott ad touts he’s ‘Good for Florida’ — In the latest 30-second spot, Scott says: “Florida needs a Senator who will work with the President of the United States.” “That may seem obvious,” he adds, “but Bill Nelson refuses to work with the president on anything — even issues that really matter to Florida. … As for me, I’ll work with President Trump when he’s doing things that are good for Florida and America … And when I disagree, I have the courage to say so.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

LIBRE Action rolls out pro-Scott bilingual ads — The ads from the conservative Hispanic group, one each in English and Spanish, are focused on building support for Gov. Scott in his race for the U.S. Senate. In a statement, LIBRE Action Senior Adviser Daniel Garza said: “Latino families across Florida are eager to support a candidate who is focused on real solutions that address the challenges we face as a community and as a nation. Gov. Scott has been a champion for Latinos and a partner on the issues that matter most. He has shown his commitment to effectively serving a broad and diverse constituency, which includes engaging and listening to the concerns of our Latino community.”

To view the Spanish version, click on the image below:

To view the English version, click on the image below:

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Assignment editors — Former Vice President Joe Biden visits Florida to campaign for Nelson, Gillum, and other candidates on the Florida Democratic Party’s “Winning Ticket.” Biden will headline a Tampa rally, open to the public, the same day early voting starts in several counties across the state. Press preset begins 9:45 a.m., doors open 10:30 a.m., preprogram is 11:30 a.m., the main program begins noon, University of South Florida, East Gym, 12301 USF Maple Dr., Tampa. Media RSVP here.

Interest in midterms surges, boosting Trump approval rating” via Janet Hook of The Wall Street Journal — A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found … nearly two-thirds of registered voters showed a high level of interest in the election — the highest ever recorded in a midterm election since the Journal/NBC poll began asking the question in 2006. “It’s a barnburner,” Bill McInturff, a GOP pollster who conducted the survey with Democrat Fred Yang, said of the surge of voter interest. “There’s a switch that’s been flipped … They are engaging in the campaign and the process.” Also helping Republicans is a rise in President Trump’s job-approval rating to 47%, the highest mark of his time in office, with 49% disapproving his performance. That is an improvement from last month, when 44% approved and 52% disapproved of his performance. Democrats still lead on the question of which party should control Congress. Among poll respondents identified as likely voters, 50% prefer Democrats, while 41% prefer Republican control, about the same as in last month’s poll. Among all registered voters, a broader group of respondents, Democrats’ advantage over the GOP is narrower — 48% to 41%.

Assignment editors — The Florida Democratic Party hosts an early voting event for senior citizens featuring state Sens. Victor Torres and Linda Stewart, Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill and Florida CFO candidate Jeremy Ring, 10 a.m., Beardell Senior Center, 800 South Delaney Ave, Orlando.

Happening today — The NAACP joins other civil-rights groups for a news conference about an initiative to turn out minority voters. Featured speakers include Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Barbara Watson, 10 a.m., Florida Asian Services Center, 659 N.E. 125th St., North Miami.

For Our Future Florida doubles down on staff ahead of early voting – Progressive group For Our Future Florida said it’s doubled up on Sunshine State staffers ahead of early voting getting underway in some of the state’s largest counties Monday. For Our Future Florida has already been pounding the pavement in all corners of the state for weeks, but after expanding to 1,250 field staffers, which gives it the largest on-the-ground operation among PACs playing in Florida’s 2018 elections. Those numbers, which don’t include its volunteer recruits, give the group enough manpower to rap on more than 300,000 doors a week, a threshold it eclipsed last week. “The scale of this program is due to the fact that we’ve been on the ground, organizing in communities since we launched in 2016. We never left. That work has enabled us to build relationships and create a statewide volunteer program dedicated to working on the issues that matter to Floridians,” state director Ashley Walker said.

Sean Shaw invokes father, PBA to counter ‘cop killer’ sympathy accusation; Ashley Moody sticks by ad” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida Police Benevolent Association leaders defended Democratic Attorney General candidate Shaw against allegations he supported going easy on a “cop killer.” Shaw and the law enforcement leader also invoked the memory of Shaw’s father while dismissing the new attack. “We know from firsthand experience that Representative Sean Shaw, like his father Justice [LeanderShaw, fully supports law enforcement officers and their families,” said Mark Puckett, executive director of Florida’s PBA. The defense follows a fresh ad questioning if Shaw would support law enforcement. The TV ad says Shaw “backed reduced punishment for a cop killer.” Shaw labeled the ad a “misleading and reckless” attack by Republican Attorney General candidate Moody.

Matt Caldwell, Nikki fried question each others’ allegiances in Agriculture Commissioner race” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, defended his environmental record and ties to the National Rifle Association during a debate with Democrat Fried in the contest for state Agriculture Commissioner. Caldwell and Fried faced off on “Facing South Florida” on CBS4 in Miami for the only debate of the race. Caldwell, who has been endorsed by the NRA with an “A+” rating, was asked by debate host Jim DeFede if he was too close to the group to regulate weapons. “No one should get a license if they are not qualified for it,” Caldwell said. “And if somebody is not doing their job, they should get fired.” Fried said the department under Adam Putnam “was beholden” to the NRA and that Caldwell has been “dismissive” of the licensing issue. She said the state should consider putting licensing under a law enforcement agency such as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “I think we need to start that conversation to make sure we are doing it in an effective and accountable manner,” Fried said.

Assignment editors — Marsy’s Law for Florida, the group advocating crime victims’ rights through Amendment 6, will host a public early voting rally featuring special guests including former Miami Heat basketball players, entertainment by The Old Skool Gang and free food, 4 p.m., Miramar Branch Library, 2050 Civic Center Pl., Miramar.

— MORE NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Sanjay Patel launches digital ad in CD 8 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The two-minute, 17-second video offers a montage of images of Florida’s Space Coast and Treasure Coast from Kennedy Space Center rocket launches to beaches; of struggles, of someone suffering health problems in a bed, dead fish, and toxic algae; and also of Patel himself, in contemplation, and meeting with voters. The video has a distinctive progressive Democratic theme of the powerless against the powerful, summed up with his observation, “It’s time to prove that the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Kristen Carlson outraising Ross Spano in U.S. House race, polls tight” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Democrat Carlson expanded her fundraising lead over Republican Spano in Florida’s 15th Congressional District race during August and September, as one top analyst forecast the race razor close. Carlson pulled in $579,017 for a total so far of $905,567, including $92,114 from herself, and showed $502,151 in cash. Spano raised $191,530 for a total $439,952, including $104,500 from himself, and showed $165,613 in cash — but also debts of $165,366 to campaign vendors. Polling analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com rates Spano ahead by less than 2 points and gives Carlson a 40 percent chance of winning in the GOP-leaning district.

Brian Mast, Lauren Baer: National groups pumping more money into 18th District congressional race” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm — The GOP’s Protect the House donated $96,000 to Rep. Mast‘s re-election campaign in September, bringing his total to $190,000 — the most the group has donated to any of the 26 candidates it’s trying to elect to retain control of the House. Vice President Mike Pence and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy launched the fundraising committee to help especially vulnerable candidates. So why has Protect the House poured the most money into Florida’s 18th Congressional District race, when nonpartisan political analysts have long maintained Mast will win? Both parties have promoted both candidates as “crucial” for House control. Increased ad spending is often a sign a race is growing more competitive, but because it’s less than a month before the election, it could be a sign campaigns are simply emptying their coffers, said Spiro Kiousis, a University of Florida professor who studies political communications.

Carlos Curbelo, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell fling attacks during English-language TV debate” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — And though WPLG’s Michael Putney led off the debate with health care, Mucarsel-Powell went immediately on the attack, blasting a protest by Republicans and far-right activists against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this week at a campaign event Mucarsel-Powell attended with Donna Shalala. Curbelo condemned the protest and said he had no connection to it, but also took a shot at Mucarsel-Powell for promoting a campaign event with Rep. Barbara Lee, a liberal member of Congress who praised Fidel Castro after his death in 2016. Lee’s scheduled appearance sparked the protest, but she ended up as a no-show at the event. As Putney and Milberg attempted to move through a variety of policy issues like health care, taxes, and guns, the debate careened from the protest attack to Curbelo attacking Mucarsel-Powell for “not working in three years” and Mucarsel-Powell attacking Curbelo for an attack ad against her that depicts a man holding a gun. Mucarsel-Powell said her son was watching baseball the other night when the ad came on, and it upset him.

Hecklers curse and call Nancy Pelosi a ‘communist’ as far right disrupts a political event” via Eli Rosenberg of The Washington Post — It was yet another incident that stoked fears that the country’s bitter and emotional political environment is at risk of leading to violence. The video shows a small group of protesters cursing at Pelosi and calling her a communist in English and Spanish, as she enters an event Wednesday in Coral Gables to campaign for Democrat Donna Shalala in Miami. “You don’t belong here,” one says, telling her to get out in Spanish: “Afuera!” After Pelosi calmly walks by them and enters the building, people bang on the door. “Open up! It’s the Proud Boys in here,” one says, referencing the far-right group that was implicated in a street brawl in New York last weekend. “Socialism sucks,” others chant.

Demonstrators chant outside where Nancy Pelosi spoke at a get-out-the-vote event for Florida Democratic congressional candidates Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. (Image via Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)

Donna Shalala, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will not return money from Castro-supporting lawmaker” via Martin Vassolo and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Barbara Lee never came to Miami. But the mere mention of the California lawmaker’s name on the programming flier for a campaign event in Coral Gables was enough to trigger a protest, a call for South Florida Democratic candidates to divest from her campaign contributions and an attack ad from a Super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan. The congresswoman, who turned heads in 2016 by praising former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro after his death, was listed as an expected guest at a “Get Out the Vote” event on news releases issued by the campaigns of Democrat Shalala and Mucarsel-Powell. Despite the protest flare-up outside the event Wednesday — a crowd of mostly Cuban-American demonstrators yelled and waved anti-Communist signs — Shalala and Mucarsel-Powell said they would not return the $5,500 Lee donated to their campaigns ahead of the November election.

New Spanish-language ad: Shalala should be ‘ashamed’— “Castro” is the new ad in Florida’s 27th Congressional District from the Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC endorsed by House Republican leadership. The 60-second Spanish-language spot attacks Shalala for campaigning with “political ally” Barbara Lee, the California Democrat who said Fidel Castro’s death should be mourned and lobbied President Obama to oppose sanctions on the Maduro regime in Venezuela: “Donna Shalala is not from Miami … she doesn’t speak Spanish … and she doesn’t understand our community.” The radio ad will run in the Miami media market. Listen to the ad here.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Conservative committee sends ‘sexist’ Amanda Murphy attack mailer” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee this week sent out a demeaning attack ad against Democrat Murphy, who faces Ed Hooper for Senate District 16 in north Pinellas. On one side is the image of a young girl wearing a larger than life bow on her head while crying. Next to her, it says, “career politician Amanda Murphy behaves like a spoiled child.” On the other side is a claim: “Amanda Murphy throws a fit when she doesn’t get her way … because Amanda Murphy is good at making a spectacle but fails when it comes to making a difference.” The mailpiece does not make any specific reference to “fits” she has thrown or offered any action to back up the assertion she behaves like a “spoiled child.” In the era of “#MeToo,” the ad might appear to some as tone deaf.

Conservatives ‘sexist’ ad attacking Democrat Amanda Murphy.

Realtors roll out more House endorsements — Florida Realtors PAC announced four more candidate endorsements for the Florida House: Chuck Brannan in House District 10; Anthony Sabatini in HD 32; Mike Beltran in HD 57 and Ray Blacklidge in HD 69. The full Florida Realtors® PAC 2018 general election endorsement list can be found at pac.floridarealtors.org.

National GOP group names Ardian Zika among ‘Races to Watch’ — Republican State Leadership Committee honored Zika in its “18 in ’18 Races to Watch” List. “Republicans at the state level would not be reaching historical highs, without the growing diversity of our party, and candidates like Ardian Zika. Ardian represents the best from our Future Majority Project (FMP) and Right Women, Right Now (RWRN) initiatives. The RSLC has invested over $20 million in these initiatives since 2011, electing 500 new female and 100 new diverse office holders in the process,” said Matt Walter, President of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Stockton Reeves’ new TV ad paints Anna Eskamani as radical” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The new commercial, running on Orlando cable, draws stark contrast, depicting Eskamani with chaotic shots of her speaking at a rally, and of other people rioting; and then of himself with shots of him with his wife and two young children, and calm pictures of happy people. “This district isn’t home to extremists. But it is home to independent leader Stockton Reeves,” the commercial states. Eskamani dismissed the commercial as “laced with lies and dog whistling.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

— AFTER MICHAEL —

Hurricane victims’ biggest fear: ‘people are going to start forgetting’” via Glenn Thrush and Alan Blinder of The New York Times — Many in Jackson County are simply not ready for the hurricane relief to end. There is a feeling, fair or not, that officials are moving too fast, chasing the image of normalcy before a real recovery has taken root. That feeling of being hurried, and eventually left behind — the normalizing of a catastrophe — is a growing worry for people who are caught between a short-attention-span country that has seen one disaster after another and the long-term effort it takes to rebuild battered lives. Marianna, with a population of about 10,000, was hit almost as hard by Hurricane Michael as Panama City was … Downtown Marianna still looks like London after the Blitz. There are signs that the region is slowly recovering. Power has returned to downtown Marianna, allowing a few stores to reopen, including the gas station and the Winn-Dixie supermarket. “It does a lot of good for people to look out and see the glow of those lights at night,” said Louis Roberts III, the county sheriff.

’Mexico Beach Strong’: An obliterated community vows to rebuild after Michael” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Hurricane Michael destroyed Mexico Beach physically, but residents will be damned if the wake of that monster crushes its spirit. Survivors who have lost everything hope one thing is spared: the charm that kept Mexico Beach an off-the-beaten-path bastion of The Other Florida. “We really hope — we know it’s probably not going to happen — but we really hope it stays the same,” Julie Gardner said. “We don’t want to be commercialized. We don’t want a bunch of chains coming in here. We want it to stay a little mom and pop little town. Mexico Beach relies on the thousands of summer tourists to support the economy. It is unknown when it will be possible for them to come back. But it will happen, people here say. Eventually. Right now, their task is to hold each other up.

Mexico Beach residents vow they will rebuild. (Image via USA TODAY)

Panhandle medical care on life support after Michael” via Brendan Farrington and Jay Reeves of The Associated Press — Panama City’s two major hospitals, Bay Medical and the 216-bed Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center, still aren’t admitting patients. Only emergency room services are available at either facility. Patients with the most serious needs are being sent to other hospitals by ambulance or helicopter. Both hospitals are receiving help from Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, which set up air-conditioned tents in parking lots and operate something like the military field hospitals depicted in the old television series M*A*S*H. Besides the care they’d provide on a typical basis, like treating strep throat, doctors and nurses also are treating many people with storm-related injuries and health conditions. While they aren’t admitting patients, the hospitals are stabilizing people with serious injuries or illness and transporting them to hospitals outside the heavily damaged areas.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai eases up on criticisms to Michael response” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Federal Communications Commission chairman Pai praised Florida’s first responders and telecommunications companies Friday — a positive change in tone from earlier this week. The chairman was in Tallahassee Friday afternoon, meeting with state officials at the emergency operation center discussing the response to Hurricane Michael. In a statement, the chairman took a different tone. He demanded the nation’s wireless carriers compensate Florida customers with free cellular and data service, and slammed the companies for failing to restore service to the Florida Panhandle quickly. Pai said that the companies’ failure was “completely unacceptable” and said he plans to launch an investigation. He told reporters Friday that he was happy to see telecom companies react to his statement and contribute resources to local relief efforts.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai changed his tune on wireless carriers after a visit to the Florida EOC in areas impacted by Hurricane Michael. (Image via Twitter)

Michael struck at the worst time for Florida and Georgia pecan, cotton farmers” via Mark Hinson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Go south on the path of the storm and the story gets more depressing when you talk to survivors who own land or work on farms. The Georgia Department of Agriculture said this week that losses are between $2.3 billion and $2.8 billion. From the car, whizzing by Highway 91, the cotton fields look fine, even though the eye of Hurricane Michael went straight through the farm communities. Upon closer inspection, many of cotton puffs and unopened bolls are in the dirt. Some of the cotton plants were sprayed with a chemical before Hurricane Michael to make them more sturdy against the winds. It worked, and it did not. “It could not have happened at a worse time,” land renter and veterinarian Dr. Cleve Bridges said of the cotton crop near the banks of the Chattahoochee River. “It was prime harvest time.”

VISIT FLORIDA plans $9M marketing push to counter Michael” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The taxpayer-funded tourism agency’s executive committee voted Friday to support a plan that includes highlighting what has reopened in areas hit by the deadly Oct. 10 storm in Northwest Florida. The plan also seeks to call attention to other areas of the Panhandle, such as Pensacola, that were largely unscathed and deliver a message that “the rest of Florida is wide open for business.” “If we do not manage the customer perception, it could be very devastating to our economy if they think that (hurricane damage) is very widespread,” said committee member Dan Rowe, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau.

10 days after hurricane, football offers a welcome escape” via David Brandt of The Associated Press — Under the bright sunshine at Tommy Oliver Stadium in downtown Panama City, a small return to regular life had already begun. For a few hours, football was important again. And the Dolphins were ready to punch back against the Pensacola Tigers. In many ways, it was almost shocking to see football being played in the midst of such widespread devastation. From the higher seats of the stadium, the effect on Panama City was evident, with debris, utility crews and snapped pine trees as far as the eye could see. It was a joyful gathering where everyone forgot their worries. Fans, football players, cheerleaders and band members from several area schools were at the game. “Man, this is great,” said Nate Starr, the lead game official whose home in Callaway was heavily damaged during the storm. “It gets the community together. We’re all family now.”

Ships wrecked on Dog Island in 1899 unearthed by Michael” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Ships that washed ashore on Dog Island during the 1899 Carrabelle Hurricane were unearthed completely by Hurricane Michael’s vicious storm surge last week. It’s unclear which of the 15 ships, or how many, that grounded on the Franklin County barrier island during the storm 119 years ago were unearthed. Sitting on the Gulf of Mexico side of the island, the wooden ships now rest in plain view near the west end of the island.

Happening today — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam meets with Gulf County officials and tour areas hit by Michael, 11 a.m., Gulf County Emergency Operations Center, 1000 Cecil G. Costin Sr. Blvd., Port St. Joe.

— STATEWIDE —

Happening today — Representatives of Equality Florida and other groups will deliver letters to Gov. Scott’s office to request protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer state employees, 1:15 p.m., outside the Governor’s office, The Capitol.

Florida county dedicates new Civil War memorial” via The Associated Press — A new monument in Tampa was erected with a nod to those who fought for both the Confederacy and the Union. The new memorial features two granite obelisks mounted with informational plaques and separated by a few dozen feet of blue marble meant to symbolize the Hillsborough River. Until Saturday, Veterans Memorial Park included monuments honoring local veterans from nearly every major American conflict — but no major monument dedicated to the Civil War.

Fire blazes at Santa’s Enchanted Forest, video shows” via Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald — Flames and billowing smoke coming from Santa’s Enchanted Forest in Southwest Miami-Dade could be seen Sunday from the Palmetto Expressway. Helen Avendano, a spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Fire Department said a call came in at about 7:30 p.m. reporting trees and bushes were on fire at the amusement park. It appeared that the fire had been started by a power line, she said. The fire was out by about 8 p.m., Avendano said. No injuries were reported and the extent of the damage was not immediately known.

— OPINIONS —

Don’t let the gambling industry confuse you on Amendment 3. It’s not about schools” via Fabiola Santiago for the Miami Herald — The latest tactic of the gambling lobby comes by way of ads that tell you a Yes vote would be an anti-schools vote. Nonsense. Schools have both state and local budgets that fund them. As for the size of the state’s tax dollar pot, there’s already plenty of gambling in Florida that generates revenue — including the state lottery, which funds education, although not at the levels originally promised. If you want to help better fund schools in Miami-Dade, for example, vote to give teacher pay raises on referendum #362. But don’t fall for the line that gambling funds education. Gambling funds crime and corruption; you can’t hire enough law enforcement to keep up.

Greg Munson: Four nonpartisan principles on Florida water” via Florida Politics — Whoever wins Florida’s upcoming elections will — or should — face difficult decisions on Florida’s water supply, water quality and environmental restoration. After nearly two decades engaged in the controversial debates about Florida’s water and environment, and a substantial amount of time in the outdoors, I offer a few nonpartisan principles to those newly elected: Collaboration is more effective than confrontation; Beware of the “fix du jour;” Don’t demonize the opposition; Follow the science. Following these recommendations is the easy part. Actually, balancing the food, power, water, and goods we need with the environmental impacts is where the buck stops.

Michael Williams: Hurricane Michael showed how we bend but don’t break” via The Capitolist — We live in the Big Bend area of Florida. It gets its name from the way the coast bends around from north-south to east-west. But after seeing what I’ve seen over the past week, I think there’s another reason. When I was helping my parents clean up, only one tree was down in their backyard. When I went to take a closer look, I saw this. The tree had fallen down on another tree, bending it over just to the point of breaking. When I saw that I immediately thought, “Wow. This is the perfect image of our community.” As soon as the hurricane passed, first responders and utility workers were out in the streets doing their jobs, trying to return people to a little bit of normalcy. We are a Big Bend people. We support those around us and serve even when it feels like one more thing could make us break, but we don’t. We just bend a little more.

Will Weatherford: Let voters decide on expanded gambling” via Florida Politics — After spending eight years in the Florida Legislature, the last two serving as speaker of the House, I came to a conclusion about the future of casino gambling in Florida. Some decisions are better put into the hands of the people. Casino interests have become one of the most powerful special interest groups in Tallahassee. The pressure they apply to the political process is nonstop. It is why, almost every legislative session, we see casino expansion on the agenda. If nothing more, taking gambling off the political agenda will allow lawmakers to focus on the issues that matter most to their constituents. Voters know when to say when. They serve as a check and balance on the political process. Voter control works. That is why I proposed restoring it in 2014 and why I support Amendment 3 now.

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Al Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: AFIMAC Global

Nick Iarossi, Ashley Kalifeh, Capital City Consulting: Hygea Holdings

Andrew Kalel: Criminal Conflict & Civil Regional Counsel Region Four, Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel Second District

Sean Pittman, Pittman Law Group: Trulieve

Lincoln Quinton, NorthPointe: New Home Title

Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: National Council of State Boards of Nursing

Clark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Validity Diagnostics

— ALOE —

What Michelle Todd is reading — “UCF is the best college football team in Florida. So, where’s the respect?” via Marc Tracy of The New York Times — Florida, after all, has the highest percentage of high school players who are recruited by Division I teams, the most blue-chip recruits of any state, and is by many other metrics the best state in the country in which to set up a college football team. And that makes UCF the current definition of disruption in college football. Still, undefeated UCF is probably the fourth- or fifth-best-known team in the state, a directional university celebrating its 50th anniversary, whose football program has played in college sports’ top tier for barely two decades. Three years ago, UCF went 0-12. Yet the No. 10 Knights are, for a second year in a row, the best team in the state and one of the best anywhere else. In the last five years, they have won two New Year’s Day bowl games. They hold the longest active winning streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision, at 19 games. “I often say that reputation lags reality,” said Dale Whittaker, the UCF president. He was referring to the university as a whole, but it might apply to the football team especially.

UCF is Florida’s best football team. So, where’s the love?

Disney Princess Kristen Bell has some real concerns about ‘Snow White’ and consent” via Lindsey Bever of The Washington Post — Bell, who provided the voice of Princess Anna in Disney’s animated film “Frozen,” told Parents magazine that when she reads “Snow White” to her two young daughters, she poses a question: “Don’t you think that it’s weird that the prince kisses Snow White without her permission? Because you cannot kiss someone if they’re sleeping!” She told the magazine she also warns her 3- and 5-year-old daughters not to take apples — or anything else — from strangers. “Every time we close Snow White I look At my girls and ask ‘Don’t you think it’s weird that Snow White didn’t ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got the apple?’ I say, ‘I would never take food from a stranger, would you?’ And my kids are like, ‘No!’ And I’m like, ‘OK, I’m doing something right.’”

Why Spaceship Earth may miss Disney World’s 50th anniversary” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Disney news site WDW News Today reported earlier this month that Spaceship Earth would be undergoing a major overhaul, closing in early 2020 and not reopening until the second half of 2022, in time for Epcot’s 40th-anniversary celebration. This would mean the ride housed in the iconic Epcot structure would be closed through the resort’s 50th anniversary year … the rumored Spaceship Earth plans would deviate from the timeline of other Disney World projects — including Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy coaster and Ratatouille ride — which are all supposed to be ready in time for 2021. “They don’t want any construction happening for the 50th. That entire year, they don’t want any construction on any of the parks,” an Epcot cast member, who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly, told Orlando Rising. “If you have hopes of anything being made, it would have to start in time to open for the 50th, and I think they have their hands full right now.”

There’s a rumor that Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth could be closed for the park’s 50th anniversary.

Wet and mild: Warm winter predicted for much of the U.S.” via The Associated Press — Tampa meteorologist Jennifer Hubbard said the Tampa Bay area could expect mostly the same, with mild winter temperatures near or slightly above average, as well as more rain than usual. Hubbard said the bay area’s streak of record-breaking hot weather in October is not related to El Nino, but is instead caused by a combination of factors, such as dry high pressure in the area the past few weeks — which blocks rainfall — easterly winds and little sea breeze. “All of that together, we basically bake,” Hubbard said.

Happy birthday from the weekend to Cameron Yarbrough and state Rep. Larry Lee Jr. Celebrating today is our brilliant friend, Tony Carvajal of the Florida Chamber Foundation, former Sen. Nancy Detert, and Watson Haynes.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Forgotten no more

The Forgotten Coast, coined for the swath of shore stretching Mexico Beach to St. Marks, suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Michael.

But thanks in part to the efforts of two Tallahassee creatives, the region won’t be left behind.

In the days following destruction, Jesse Taylor, a local graphic designer with Marketing for Change, teamed up with Alex Workman, of We Are The Workmans and Aerial Tallahassee, to design a memento for the devastating storm.

The final product: a campaign titled “Never Forgotten Coast,” brandishing an outline of the Sunshine State with a heart intersecting the Big Bend and Panhandle regions affected by the hurricane. The campaign name is complemented by an infinity symbol seen from where the heart intersects the coastline.

‘Never Forgotten Coast’ is a reminder of the urgency in areas hardest hit by Hurricane Michael.

Taylor told us the message isn’t Florida-specific. Instead, it’s something that anyone watching the news around the nation can recognize — the regional slice of life hit hardest by Hurricane Michael.

On their own time, Taylor and Workman crafted the campaign with a sense of urgency. “It was important to get the message out there as soon as possible,” Taylor told us.

While a long road of recovery awaits some of the areas of the Forgotten Coast, the campaign’s reception has been stellar.

Workman and Taylor already have received more than 600 orders for their premier product, a T-shirt (available here) displaying the impactful design. All of the proceeds will go to Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe nonprofits aiding in relief efforts.

In the capital city, the image has galvanized the community. Taylor and street artist group BAET Collective have finished a mural on a building on Adams Street south of Monroe at Catalina Cafe’s new headquarters.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

Scott issues hurricane update — As of Friday morning, the climbing death toll attributed to Hurricane Michael had risen to 24 in Florida, 34 nationwide. A sweeping update issued from Gov. Rick Scott’s desk Friday highlighted the state’s ongoing efforts across the regions hit hardest by the storm’s path, which made landfall more than a week ago in Mexico Beach. Approximately 7 million meals, 2 million gallons of water and 3 million pounds of ice are being distributed, according to Scott. As of Friday morning, 105,648 residences were still without power. Thirteen shelters currently operating under the state’s direction are inhabited by 2,393 Floridians. Currently, there are no fuel shortages in the affected areas. “Governor Rick Scott is in constant communication with federal, state and local emergency management officials and state agency leaders to ensure that communities impacted by Hurricane Michael are receiving the resources they need,” reads a media release accompanying the update. Peruse the extent of the state’s full recovery and relief efforts here.

State extends early voting — Supervisors of elections in eight Florida counties Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty and Washington can now extend early voting, beginning next Monday, under an executive order issued by Gov. Rick Scott this week. The order extends the registration date for poll watchers to noon, Oct. 26, 2018. In the named counties, which were hit particularly hard by the Hurricane Michael, vote-by-mail ballots can be forwarded to different addresses. Fax and email ballots were not permitted, as they remain “an unreliable method for returning ballots,” according to the Department of State. “The Department shares the Governor’s commitment to ensuring that all registered voters from counties devastated by Hurricane Michael are able to exercise their right to vote safely and securely in the upcoming General Election,” Secretary of State Ken Detzner said.

Next Governor will name new justices — A long-disputed legal battle over who has the authority to name three new Supreme Court justices came to a close this week when the high court ruled that outgoing Gov. Scott cannot appoint replacements for the court’s three upcoming vacancies. “The governor who is elected in the November 2018 general election (most likely Democrat Andrew Gillum or Republican Ron DeSantis) has the sole authority to fill the vacancies that will be created by the mandatory retirement of Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince,” the court’s one-page unsigned order said. Scott has publicly said he’d replace the departing jurists. The successful challenge to his remarks was brought forth by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.

Senate seeks halt to harassment probe — The state Senate request to end an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation into a top aide’s sexual harassment and retaliation claims will be heard Tuesday. The Senate’s legal complaint, filed earlier this month, counters that “the ongoing EEOC action violates the Florida Senate’s sovereign and constitutional rights,” including “violat(ing) the Senate’s sovereign immunity.” Rachel Perrin Rogers, chief assistant to Senate Republican Leader and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, says former Sen. Jack Latvala repeatedly groped her and made unwelcome comments about her body over a four-year period. The Senate is seeking a “temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction” to suspend that inquiry. The Tuesday hearing will be procedural in nature rather than focused on substance, according to U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle.

Session shaped by hurricane remains uncertain — Incoming legislative leaders Sen. Bill Galvano and state Rep. Jose Oliva told The News Service of Florida this week that they’re prepared to convene lawmakers to address needs prompted by Hurricane Michael. Gov. Scott and state agencies have the authority to request legislative relief, despite the 2019 Legislative Session’s March start date. “If the governor identifies an unmet need that requires swift legislative action, we will certainly work with him to address it,” incoming Senate President Galvano told The News Service. “In the here and now, if the governor or any agency needs resources or assistance for issues created by Hurricane Michael, the Florida House stands ready to help,” Oliva said.

State leaders criticize telecommunications post-Michael

After Hurricane Michael left crippled communications infrastructures throughout the state, some state leaders are voicing their frustration.

“Families understand that the telecommunications industry, like the power companies and other services, experienced catastrophic damage to vital infrastructure — but that does not change our expectation that each telecommunications company will be open and communicate a clear plan on how they intend to quickly restore service while treating families fairly,” Gov. Scott said in a strongly worded media release this week.

CFO Jimmy Patronis meets with Donald Trump during a tour of damage from Hurricane Michael. Patronis asked the FCC this week to help harden wireless communication networks in case of disaster.

Scott also outlined expectations he has for telecoms companies. Among his demands: the ability to switch providers without penalty, bills waived for October for families affected by the storm, and an open and transparent plan to restore power.

In a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis expressed the need to better prepare telecommunications infrastructure for catastrophes.

“After more than a week of wireless service failures in Hurricane Michael’s hardest hit areas, I urge you to recommend industry-wide measures that would help prevent downed telecommunications for extended periods of time,” wrote Patronis. “FCC recommendations on best practices to preposition equipment so companies are prepared to come in and make repairs quickly after a hurricane passes, for example, could ultimately save lives by getting communications back up to aid first responder search and rescue operations.”

Florida timber suffers billion-dollar damage

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is pegging Hurricane Michael’s toll on Florida’s timber industry at $1.3 billion.

“This is a catastrophic loss to the forest industry in the Florida Panhandle,” said Commissioner Putnam said. “We are committed to helping Florida recover from this devastating storm and will continue to work closely with the agriculture industry on hurricane-related damage assessments.”

Florida’s timber industry could take a multibillion-dollar hit from Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane Michael, which made landfall more than a week ago as a Category 4 storm, swept through nearly three-million acres of forestland, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the Florida Forest Service.

The Big Bend and Panhandle counties in the storm’s path: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Wakulla and Washington — all among some the top timber-producing counties in the state.

“As the downed forest debris dries, the potential for wildfire conditions increase,” said Jim Karels, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “It is critical for the Florida Forest Service to continue clearing trees and hurricane debris from roadways to re-establish fire lines and accessibility to timberlands.”

Long-term caregivers, heroes of the storm

Among those most affected by Hurricane Michael’s devastation were long-term caregivers in Florida’s Panhandle.

During the Category 4 storm, the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) set up shop at the state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), working in partnership with the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Health to keep member centers informed and ensure each facility followed established emergency preparedness plans.

Working tirelessly to keep residents safe, long-term caregivers were among the true heroes of Hurricane Michael.

Before, during and after Michael, FHCA continued to work with federal, state, and local government officials as well as transportation and utility partners to coordinate evacuations and power restoration.

In a natural disaster of this magnitude, where everyone faced extreme challenges, those in the long-term care profession worked tirelessly to meet the unique needs of each resident who was affected by this historic storm.

As a result, FHCA caregivers brought every resident safely through the hurricane, even as their own homes were without power, damaged and belongings swept away. In response to Michael, the FHCA is continuing to gather and deliver essential supplies to facilities in affected areas from Marianna to Panama City to Blountstown.

FHCA is committing to supporting them and their families while they continue to ensure Florida’s long-term care residents are safe and secure during this demanding time.

Instagram of the Week

State-backed program offers hurricane housing solution

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is helping families displaced by Hurricane Michael find affordable rental housing through online tool Socialserve.

Together, the two entities will conduct “extensive and frequent surveys with rental property owners in the impacted counties regarding available and suitable housing for households that cannot return to their homes,” according to the state.

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is ready to help families impacted by hurricane Michael find affordable housing. (Image via Naples Daily News)

“Florida Panhandle families have had their lives turned upside down by this monstrous storm,” said Florida Housing Director Trey Price. “Florida Housing stands at the front lines efficiently providing long-term housing assistance and resources to those in need.”

Gov. Scott added that the service “will help many Floridians get back to a sense of normal life sooner.”

Florida residents displaced by Hurricane Michael can visit the affordable rental housing locator service here to find available units in Florida.

Health department: ‘Drain and cover’ after Michael

The Florida Department of Health is reminding Floridians to take precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses as counties impacted by Hurricane Michael continue to clean up.

“Drain” any standing water, the health department advises. “It only takes a bottle cap of water for some mosquitoes to breed and multiply,” reads an alert from the agency.

Health department officials are reminding Floridians to drain any standing water to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses.

“Cover” skin with clothes or repellent, and doors and windows with screens, the agency advisory continues.

“Although there are currently no areas of active, ongoing transmission of Zika in Florida, it is important to remain vigilant to protect ourselves and neighbors from mosquito bites in and around our homes,” adds the health department.

Old tires, playgrounds, gutters and troughs are among many household items that can harbor mosquito breeding sites. The department has created a public service announcement on the Drain and Cover method, available here.

Florida Lottery: ‘Win big this weekend’

Two state-run lotteries are offering a combined $1.47 billion jackpot this weekend.

The Mega Millions lottery recently rose to an estimated $1.0 billion, and the Powerball jackpot rose to $470 million, according to the Florida Lottery.

This week’s Mega Millions is reaching the one-billion-dollar mark.

Both lotteries start at $40 million and roll until someone wins. Floridians can win the Mega Millions by matching five white ball numbers (1-70) and the golden Mega Ball number (1-25). Powerball players can win by matching the five white ball numbers (1-69) and the red Powerball (1-26).

There are more than 13,000 Florida Lottery retailers peppered across the state. The Mega Millions jackpot number was pulled Friday night. The Powerball jackpot drawing will be Saturday evening.

Police chiefs make mark in post-Michael relief

A group representing some of Florida’s first responders deployed members from locations across the state after Hurricane Michael came through Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend areas.

“Hurricane Michael was the first Category 4 storm on record to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle and it devastated several communities in its path,” Florida Police Chiefs Association President David Perry said in prepared remarks.

FSU Police Chief David Perry praises the influx of law enforcement officers to help the Panhandle after Hurricane Michael.

“Just as they did before and during the storm, men and women in law enforcement and public safety continue to answer the call to protect and serve during the recovery efforts.”

Perry, who serves as the Florida State University Police Chief, said hundreds of sworn personnel from the FPCA traveled to impacted areas following the storm.

“These officers are working with local law enforcement and state agencies to distribute supplies, keep people safe on our roadways, answer calls for service, perform welfare checks, and maintain a public safety presence in areas with infrastructure damage and limited communication,” he added.

Analysis: High school students lack access to necessary coursework

Nationwide, millions of students lack access to courses that would help them transition into college or a career, according to a new report from ExcelinEd.

“For example, not a single state offers Algebra I or Biology in all high schools,” said ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque. “Additionally, the data reveal a disturbing pattern of inequity: as the percentage of minority or low-income populations in schools increases, access to core courses decreases.”

A new report finds high schools lacking in the coursework needed to successfully transition to college or the workforce.

After analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection, ExcelinEd also found that access to education is inequitable. “It is worse for schools with high populations of minority students and schools with high populations of low-income students,” reads the report.

The solution? The group recommends states individually audit course offerings and levels of access; inform families of courses necessary for students to achieve beyond high school; and identify policy solutions to help reduce access problems.

The full report can be viewed online here.

Walmart mobile pharmacy sets up shop in Marianna

Walmart is offering a unique service for those who are unable to get needed medicine in Marianna, which suffered extensive damage after Hurricane Michael hit the community last week.

Located at 2255 Highway 71, the Walmart mobile pharmacy seeks to help offset patient demand while the Marianna Walmart Supercenter gets back on its feet.

It will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., providing prescriptions, immunizations and general resources for those affected by the storm. According to the retailer, it is capable of issuing up to 3,000 prescriptions per week. It is 53 feet in length and 17 feet wide, boasting a waiting area and space for immunizations.

A temporary solution: Walmart deploys its mobile pharmacy trailer to Marianna.

The makeshift solution, announced Tuesday, prompted a commending response from Gov. Scott.

“Thank you to [Walmart] for opening your mobile pharmacy in Marianna to support FL families impacted by Hurricane Michael that are in need of prescriptions, immunizations and resources,” Scott tweeted.

Uber, Lyft chip in hurricane relief

Two private-sector ride-sharing companies did what they could to help those displaced or stranded after Hurricane Michael.

Shortly after the storm, Uber began offering free rides up to $25 each to and from state-approved evacuation shelters in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. The service is ongoing, under the promotion code “MICHAELSHELTER.”

Uber, Lyft offer free rides to state-approved evacuation shelters for Hurricane Michael.

Similarly, Lyft offered rides up to $15 each across Panama City, Tallahassee and Albany, Georgia. That promotion ended Friday, Oct. 12.

According to Uber, teams had coordinated “with local officials to understand where these services can be most helpful.”

Before the storm made landfall, Lyft says it “donated to a Relief Rides program and partnered with United Way’s 2-1-1 program to help those in need evacuate.”

Study ranks Florida 23rd in ‘political engagement’

The Sunshine State isn’t the best but is far from the worst in terms of how politically engaged its electorate is.

A new study out this week from personal-finance website WalletHub put Florida at the 23 spot in “2018’s Most & Least Politically Engaged States.

That’s better than some of the state’s larger counterparts like Texas, New York and California, which ranked 41, 44 and 24, respectively. But Florida lags well behind Washington, D.C., Maine and Utah — the top three finishers.

Florida falls somewhere in the middle, in terms of political engagement (or lack thereof).

“In order to determine where Americans are most involved in politics, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 10 key indicators of political engagement,” the company’s Communications Manager Diana Polk wrote in an email. “They range from ‘percentage of registered voters in the 2016 presidential election’ to ‘total political contributions per adult population.’”

On average, ‘blue states’ were more politically engaged than ‘red states,’ according to WalletHub. A little more than 60 percent of the country’s electorate participated in the 2016 election, compared to 36 percent participation in 2014’s midterm.

FSU film student wins Student Academy Award

Shae Demandt is the latest rising star of Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts.

Earlier this month, Demandt secured the Student Academy Award in the Alternative category for her documentary, “Reanimated.” One of just 20 students from around the world to win, Demandt is now also eligible to compete in the Oscars. She is the ninth student in the college’s history to receive the honor.

FSU film student Shae Demandt gives a speech as she accepts her Student Academy Award in Beverly Hills. (Image via FSU)

“Reanimated” zeros in “on the long-shuttered Miami Marine Stadium, once a prized and popular 6,500-seat venue for boat races, concerts, rallies and sporting events,” according to the university. Abandoned after the 1982 Hurricane Andrew swept through the area, the stadium has since evolved into “a barren cement behemoth gleaming with vivid art.”

In her acceptance speech, Demandt said that during her childhood she would let her imagination run in order to “escape the real world.”

“However, when you get older you’re forced to stay in the real world and you have to leave that part of your childhood behind,” she continued. “But as I got older, I realized that filmmaking could be the part — could be the medium — where I could relive my childhood fantasies.”

Relief fund helps FSU med students

A fund has been established to help medical students, faculty members and staff of the Florida State University College of Medicine who have been left reeling after Hurricane Michael.

John P. Fogarty and Alma Littles, respectively the dean and the assistant dean of the college, sent a memo this week announcing the creation of the fund.

Dean of FSU College of Medicine John Fogarty announced a fund to aid students, faculty and family affected by Hurricane Michael.

“In the past week, some at the College of Medicine have seen trees slice buildings in two. Some have lost family homes to ferocious winds. Some have gone days without air conditioning or news from the outside world. Some have lost a refrigerator full of food and can’t afford to replace it. More than one person experienced a death in the family,” the memo said.

The FSU College of Medicine established a “rural medical education program” in Marianna in 2005. It offers students the opportunity to spend their third year of medical school in a rural community.

Marianna was one of several rural Northwest Florida communities in the path of the deadly storm, which made landfall last week in Mexico Beach with 155 mph sustained winds, making it just shy of a Category 5 storm.

“This somber occasion provides an opportunity to also give thanks that we are part of a College of Medicine centered on a mission of togetherness and service. We thank you for being a part of our family,” the memo about the fund said.

 ‘48 Hours’ to spotlight Tallahassee murder

CBS mystery show “48 Hours” will examine the enigmatic murder of Mike Williams at the 10 p.m. slot this Saturday.

Williams went missing more than 17 years ago, but his body wasn’t discovered until last year, after Tallahassee real estate appraiser Brian Winchester confessed to shooting Williams during a duck hunting trip at Lake Seminole in Jackson County.

After 17 years, Mike Williams’ cold case finally heats up.

Winchester claimed that Williams’ wife, Denise, was a co-conspirator. Denise Williams’ trial is set for December.

Featured prominently in the hourlong special is Jennifer Portman, who covered Mike Williams’ disappearance for the Tallahassee Democrat and currently serves as the paper’s news director.

A preview of the special is here.

Capitol Directions

The News Service of Florida and Tallahassee correspondent Michael Moline also contributed to this week’s edition.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 10.19.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Earlier this week, Florida Politics reported on poll results from two state Senate races Florida Democrats were targeting as part of their effort to flip that chamber. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the numbers in Senate Districts 8 and 22 are not promising.

But it’s a different story in Senate District 16, where Democrat Amanda Murphy is running against Republican Ed Hooper. According to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, the race is a real dogfight heading into the final days of the campaign. The two former lawmakers are separated by two points, with Hooper at 48 percent and Murphy at 46 percent. And that’s with a sample that some would consider generous to the Republicans.

The race is even closer among those who have already voted: Hooper and Murphy both receive 48 percent.

The Democrats ambitions of taking the Florida Senate are likely out of reach this cycle, however, if they want to narrow the margin, they’ll have to make some tough decisions, such as giving up on some candidates who just can’t win and devoting the resources they would have spent there to places like SD 16.

We’re very happy about this — “St. Pete Polls added to RealClearPolitics political polling averages” via Florida Politics — The polling operation founded by Matt Florell more than 5 years ago is now included in RealClearPolitics averages of Florida’s U.S. Senate race between incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott as well as the Governor’s race between former Congressman Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. “We’re excited to have our polls be included as part of the RealClearPolitics polling averages,” Florell said. “It’s great to see all of our hard work being recognized by one of the most popular political news organizations in the country.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RealDonaldTrump: All Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don’t, they will after I speak to them. I am in total support. Also, Democrats will destroy your Medicare, and I will keep it healthy and well!

@Fineout: What Gov. Scott did not do – postpone election beyond Nov. 6. Fla. law allows governor to delay elections due to emergency, but it’s an open legal question on whether states can do that for fed elections.

@ScottMaxwell: The @OrlandoSentinel’s editorial endorsements are out: – Gillum – Nelson – Murphy All Dems. So yeah, “liberal media.” (Of course, people also screamed that when paper endorsed Romney … and went 50 yrs straight for GOP…and was 1st to call for Bill Clinton‘s impeachment. But yeah)

@CharlieCrist: Excited to welcome my friend and the next Governor of the great State of Florida @AndrewGillum to my hometown tomorrow. Doors open at 11am — see you there, St. Pete!

—@BSFarrington: Something I never, ever expected. Open a press release about the hurricane and there’s @wakullawriter and @FLGovScott arms around each other’s backs and smiling. I guess disasters can bring people together.

@AGGancarski: “The five B’s of public speaking are simply ‘be brief, brother, be brief'” – @AndrewGillum

@DavidABergstein: One problem with the text I just received warning me to vote because of the Democrats is that I’m a Democrat

@JimmyPatronis: Just got word that: 2/3 of Panama City Beach has been restored, there will be WiFi on wheels at the Walmart in Lynn Haven, and anywhere that Xfinity shows up on WiFi, anyone can access for 2 hours.

—@FLMolly: I’m going to be dropping off a load of dog food and other pet supplies at Costco in Tallahassee today – where there’s a coordinated collection of anything and everything you’d like to send to those in need in the Panhandle. Won’t you join me? Every little bit helps.

@PaulFlemming: Think we’ve got a new tagline for Tallahassee. From @PatriciaMazzei and @mattfleg‘s NYT profile of the mayor and gubernatorial candidate, this description: “A community of students, families and a striking number of mattress stores.”

@RWoolington: Some personal news: I am very excited to say that I will be joining the investigative team @TB_Times next month. I am so grateful to be joining such an amazing team and a newsroom that I have long admired.

— LATEST TURNOUT FIGURES —

— TOP STORY —

7 reasons why it’s silly to count out Ron DeSantis in the Florida Governor race” via Peter Schorsch – 1 .Donald Trump is strong, maybe at his strongest in some time; 2. The polls have stabilized for DeSantis; 3. The down-ballot polls show little indication of a “Blue Wave”; 4. Gillum did not receive a hurricane bump; 5. DeSantis has all the money in the world; 6. DeSantis has stopped serving the ball into the net; 7. Republicans are doing what they do during early voting.

— AFTER MICHAEL —

Search and rescue teams complete sweeps in the Panhandle” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — As of a briefing Thursday morning, the state’s count of deaths attributable to the storm was 17, with 12 of those in Bay County. Local officials have confirmed at least eight more deaths, including 3 in Jackson, 2 more in Gadsden and three additional deaths in Bay. The final “secondary” search — which involves dogs and shoring up collapsed buildings — was “100 percent” completed overnight, though a few teams with dogs remain on the ground. State officials said that with the search and rescue missions complete, they are shifting gears toward recovery efforts and disaster assistance, particularly in the hardest hit counties.

Tweet, tweet:

Florida to bend voting rules in counties hit by hurricane” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — With tens of thousands throughout the region still without power, Florida Gov. Scott relaxed or waived voting rules for eight counties hammered by Hurricane Michael last week. Scott’s order represents a delicate balancing act for the Republican governor since most of the Panhandle counties affected by the decision are GOP strongholds that usually deliver thousands of votes for Republican candidates. Scott himself is challenging Democrat U.S. Sen. Nelson in a closely watched race that could help decide control of the U.S. Senate. … Using his emergency power as governor, Scott relaxed rules on early voting, including limits on where local election officials are normally allowed to set up early voting sites.

Michael insurance claims quickly pile up” via the News Service of Florida — Nearly 70,000 insurance claims had been filed, with estimated insured losses of $680.7 million, according to data posted online by the state Office of Insurance Regulation. Insurers reported 69,950 claims as of 1:45 p.m. Wednesday. The storm caused widespread damage in the Panhandle and the state’s Big Bend before continuing into Georgia. The vast majority of claims filed as of Wednesday — 54,607 — involved residential property. Of that number, 52,452 claims remained open, the data shows.

Where’d you hear that? A rumor mill churns amid hurricane Michael’s rubble” via Alan Blinder of The New York Times — Misinformation, well-intentioned or otherwise, is common in disasters, fueled by human nature and a speak-now-assess-later approach that has only been magnified in an era of text messages and social media posts. Making matters particularly difficult in Florida is the scale of the disaster, the delay in resuming cellular service and the fact that what is true in one county is not necessarily so in another. The speculation starts in lines for food and water, gas and generators, where statistics and facts can inadvertently begin to merge into a grim mythology. The solution for some is to try to avoid information entirely: “I don’t even listen to the radio right now,” said Ryan Fountain, whose home in a nearby town suffered minor damage.

Officials still mum on status of Tyndall’s F-22s” via Jim Thompson of the Northwest Florida Daily News — More than a week after Michael made a direct hit on Tyndall Air Force Base, neither the Air Force nor members of Florida’s congressional delegation who could be contacted are providing any specific information on the numbers, or the fates, of the F-22 Raptor fighter jets left behind as the base was evacuated in advance of the hurricane’s arrival on the northeastern Gulf Coast. Fifty-five of the fifth-generation stealth tactical fighter aircraft are based at Tyndall, and various reports indicate 33 of the planes were flown elsewhere as Hurricane Michael approached the base, home to the 325th Fighter Wing. Using those figures, as many as 22 of the base’s F-22s were left behind to ride out the storm.

An aircraft hangar damaged by Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force Base.

State marshals support to rebuild Air Force Base” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Members of the Florida Defense Support Task Force, a legislatively mandated panel within the economic-development agency Enterprise Florida, expressed a need to expand support from the state’s congressional and legislative delegations. Despite Pentagon officials saying they intend to rebuild Tyndall Air Force Base, concerns linger that the 29,000-acre facility in southeastern Bay County could face downsizing or closure. The base employs about 11,000 military and civilian personnel. Tom Neubauer, task force vice chairman, said during a conference-call meeting that efforts are underway to add to a show of support that was sent last week to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Pentagon Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein by U.S. Sens. Nelson and Marco Rubio, and U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican whose district includes the base. “We’re just trying to get that put together now in the form of a formal declaration from all of our delegation across the state,” Neubauer said.

Heartbreaking — “Homeless baby, family shelter at Walmart” via David Goldman and Jay Reeves of The Associated Press — Their home full of soggy furniture and mosquitoes, Wilmer Capps was desperate to find shelter for his wife and their son Luke, born just three days after Hurricane Michael ravaged the Florida Panhandle. So Capps, his wife Lorrainda Smith and little Luke settled in for the longest of nights in the best spot they could find: The parking lot of a Walmart store shut down by the storm. On a starry night, mother sat in the bed of the family’s pickup truck. Dad sat in the dark and pondered how it could be that his son’s first night out of a hospital could be spent outside a big-box retailer because of a lack of help. “It really upset me, man, because I’ve always been the type of person who would help anyone,” Capps said. “We had everything. Full-time job, a place to live. One day we had it all, the next we had nothing,” said Smith. “This is not what I thought I’d be bringing him back to.”

Lorrainda Smith sits with her 2-day-old son, Luke, in a parking lot after their home was damaged from Hurricane Michael and they were told a nearby shelter was closed, in Panama City. (Image via AP)

Community health centers still open in areas affected by Michael” via Florida Politics — A little over a week after Michael ravaged Northwest Florida, the Florida Association of Community Health Centers said it’s still helping treat patients affected by the storm. “Our Community Health Centers are always prepared to serve patients even following a major natural disaster,” said Andrew Behrman, president and CEO of FACHC. “Community Health Centers specialize in providing integrated care that addresses the unique needs of patients in more rural, diverse, and medically underserved areas. With our mobile medical units on the ground, we will be providing treatment, even in areas that have suffered the most during this storm.” In addition to the mobile units in Callaway and Quincy, FACHC has another eight facilities that have reopened and are ready to accept patients. A full list of those locations is available on FACHC’s website.

Duke seeks pause in sending bills in hard-hit areas” via the News Service of Florida — Duke Energy Florida is seeking state approval to suspend sending bills to customers in counties that sustained heavy damage in Hurricane Michael until the utility finishes restoration work in the counties. Duke, which provides service in hard-hit Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla counties, said in a filing at the state Public Service Commission that hurricane damage has made delivering mail difficult. “Roads are impassable due to residual flooding and the large quantity of debris that remains on the roads,” the filing said. “As a consequence, the U.S. Postal Service does not have safe physical access to the residences of these customers. Due to this reason, the U.S. Postal Service cannot deliver bills to these customers.

Healthy Kids premiums waived in 12 counties” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Healthy Kids Corp. Board of Directors approved a plan to waive children’s health-insurance premiums for three months in counties that sustained heavy damage in Hurricane Michael. The move will waive premiums for children enrolled in the Healthy Kids, MediKids and Children’s Medical Services programs. The waiver will be for November, December and January in Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon, Wakulla and Taylor counties. The move will apply to 5,604 children, most of whom receive subsidized insurance coverage because of their family income levels. About 325 children are in families that pay the full premiums.

FSU explains decision on football game, homecoming as it helps with Hurricane Michael relief” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University is in position to assist people — including FSU students, faculty and staff — impacted by Hurricane Michael. That’s why FSU President John Thrasher believes Saturday’s football game against Wake Forest and surrounding homecoming events can help promote and share the most effective ways to support those in need. Thrasher has been criticized by some who believe the game and events should not be held as the Panhandle recovers from the catastrophic Category 4 hurricane that struck a week ago.

Hurricane Michael: What if it had hit Tampa Bay?” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — The death toll would have been catastrophic, and the damage far greater than what occurred in the Panhandle, according to experts. If such a Michael-like hurricane did hit … Pinellas County would be cut in half by the storm surge. St. Petersburg would suffer a 23 feet surge, while downtown Tampa would see a 26-foot surge with water flooding the lower stories of some downtown office towers. Inland areas would wind up underwater as well because the surge would push Tampa Bay inland. The Howard Frankland and Gandy bridges and the Courtney Campbell Causeway would all suffer structural damage and possibly have their approaches washed away. The scouring winds and waves would destroy 470,000 homes and 10,000 businesses, the study found. About 2 million people would require medical care, and the estimated death toll would be about 2,000 people — slightly more than the 1,817 who were killed by Hurricane Katrina.

Could Michael get reclassified as a stronger hurricane? It wouldn’t be the first.” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — In the hyperdata world of hurricane forecasting, where history is written in millibars and miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center’s 168-year record of Atlantic storms stands as an invaluable index to meteorologists, the insurance industry, government planning departments and, of course, weather geeks. What’s less known: It gets tweaked a lot. Since 2008, hurricane researchers have added new storms to the record almost every year, uncovering more information in old ship and weather records that more often than not depict mightier storms. … Hurricane Michael, which hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm, now enters that record, and in the coming months will get a hard second look.

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

Tom Steyer to donate another $2 million to Andrew Gillum” via Ryan Nobles of CNN — Steyer is personally donating $2 million to Gillum’s “Forward Florida” political action committee, which is aligned with the Gillum campaign. Through his organization, “Need to Impeach,” he is directing a massive direct mail pitch to 300,000 Florida voters that have signed up to support his effort to impeach President Donald Trump. The mail piece makes specific reference to Gillum’s support of impeachment. Another organization funded by Steyer, NextGen America, has already spent more than $5 million on efforts to get Gillum elected. “If you were going to choose a single race that has the most national significance, it would be the governor’s race in Florida,” Steyer said.

Tom Steyer continues to go big for Andrew Gillum.

Ron DeSantis won’t disclose details of taxpayer-funded travel in Congress” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News — While in Congress, DeSantis spent more than $145,000 in taxpayer money for travel, including trips to New York to appear on Fox News as he increased his public profile before his campaign to become Florida’s next governor. But DeSantis is refusing to release records detailing that travel. The former House member who has argued members of Congress should not receive special treatment is using a special exemption given to members of Congress that allows them to withhold public records. “It’s a voluntary choice he is making. He could certainly choose to tell us more to clear up how he spent his time and taxpayer money,” said Lisa Gilbert, the vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen, a nonprofit watchdog group.

New ad from Republican governors asks, ‘Is Gillum caught up in corruption?’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Republican Governors Association (RGA) continues to capitalize on the ongoing FBI probe in Tallahassee, asking in a new ad if Gillum is “caught up in corruption.” The ad hits Gillum, the Democratic candidate for Governor, for his alleged proximity to the investigation, though it’s not clear whether Gillum is actually a target of the investigation. Still, the RGA is attempting to paint Gillum as dirty in its new 30-second spot titled “Corruption.” Gillum is currently competing in the Governor’s race against former Republican U.S. Rep. DeSantis. “Tallahassee’s paper says 20 FBI agents have spent two years investigating the city in Mayor Andrew Gillum’s tenure,” the ad’s narrator begins. “Is Andrew Gillum caught up in corruption? You decide.”

To watch the video, click on the image below:

Gillum begins his closing argument in St. Petersburg” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gillum gingerly steps back onto the campaign trail Friday with a St. Petersburg College town hall meeting that ties the devastation of Hurricane Michael into the closing argument of his campaign. In the afternoon, he is scheduled to campaign in Tampa. The 39-year-old Tallahassee mayor had suspended campaign activities before and after Hurricane Michael struck north Florida, and his St. Petersburg Q&A with voters marks his return to the campaign trail after 11 days. Gillum has sought to run a campaign more positive than negative, promoting his progressive ideas for Florida more than attacking Republican nominee DeSantis.

Assignment editors — Gillum will hold a town hall to discuss his vision for Florida as it relates to climate change, rising sea levels and resiliency, 10:30 a.m. (doors open to the public 11 a.m., event begins 11:30 a.m.), St. Petersburg College, Gibbs Campus Music Center, 6605 5th Avenue North, St. Petersburg.

Happening today:

Meanwhile … Former U.S. Senator backs Reform Party ticket for Governor — Former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Mike Gravel is endorsing the Reform Party candidates for Florida Governor. “I am pleased to put my full support behind Darcy Richardson and Nancy Argenziano on the Reform Party ticket in Florida,” Gravel said. “Republican and Democratic elites have rejected the empowerment of regular citizens at every turn.” From 1969 to 1981, Gravel served as the U.S. Senator from Alaska and is best known for his role in the release of the Pentagon Papers and for helping to end the military draft during the Vietnam War. “I’ve admired Senator Gravel since the early 1970s and I’m deeply honored and humbled to have his support,” said Richardson. In 2008, Gravel left the Democratic Party and joined the Libertarian Party, highlighting his agreement with their stance on foreign policy and the failed drug war.

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

Did Mitch McConnell just cut Bill Nelson a huge break by foreshadowing Medicare cuts?” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — McConnell said this week that cuts to entitlement programs — Washington-speak for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — are necessary due to rising federal deficits. “It’s a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future,” the Kentucky Republican told Bloomberg News. Nelson doesn’t expect that will go over well in Florida, home to 1.9 million Medicare recipients and where nearly one-in-five residents retirement age or older. “Mitch McConnell made a big mistake yesterday: he gave away his real intentions,” Nelson said. “You let the seniors of this state know the Majority Leader is thinking about cutting Social Security and Medicare, they’re not going to be too happy.”

Nelson shifts focus to campaign: I’ve ‘done everything I can do’ to help Floridians affected by hurricane” via Jeffrey Cimmino of the Washington Free Beacon — “I’m going to campaign,” Nelson said. “I’ve spent the last week in the Panhandle in those storm-ravaged counties, and have done everything I can do and they know to call me if they are getting any hiccups. But in the meantime, I’m going to continue to make my case to the people.” Nelson met with scientists and gulf businesses in St. Petersburg in his first appearance outside the Florida Panhandle since the storm hit last week. During his appearance in St. Petersburg, Nelson criticized the environmental record of his Republican opponent, Gov. Scott. Unlike Nelson, Scott has stayed in North Florida to oversee recovery efforts. “I’m going to say this. We’ve got to let folks know that this man helped us,” Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young said of the Republican candidate.

New Nelson ad talks ‘independence’ — In “Closer,” Nelson asks a question: “Who has the independence to put Florida first?” … “When President Trump as for something that’s good for him and bad for Florida, I’ll know what I do. I’ll say no. And we all know what Rick Scott will do.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Florida handed $200 million to Rick Scott donor amid massive contribution to Scott’s Super PAC” via Matthew Cunningham-Cook of The Intercept — The transactions came in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Scott ran the pro-Trump Super PAC at the same time he served as a trustee of the State Board of Administration. The SBA manages the state’s investments, about 80 percent of which are for the state pension fund’s 1 million members and retirees. On September 26 of that year, Stephen Feinberg, the CEO of the sprawling private-equity firm Cerberus, donated $500,000 to Rebuilding America Now, Scott’s pro-Trump Super PAC. One week later, the SBA made a $200 million commitment to a high-fee, high-risk Cerberus fund, Cerberus FSBA Levered Loan Opportunities Fund LP. Feinberg made another $975,000 contribution to Scott’s Super PAC one month later, on November 3, making Feinberg its fifth-largest donor. Scott is one of three trustees of the SBA, but neither the SBA investments nor the Cerberus donations appear to violate any state or federal rules. And the Cerberus investments represent a small fraction of the Florida pension fund’s more than $150 billion in assets.

Scott’s post-Michael media mentions jump 400 percent” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – When Scott announced earlier this week that he would step away from the campaign trail to focus on the recovery from Hurricane Michael, the Republican traded in stump speeches and retail handshakes in the U.S. Senate race for a benefit no other Florida politician can claim: Endless free media exposure. The decision, made three weeks before election day, appears to being paying off. Since the massive storm rammed into the Florida Panhandle on Oct. 11, Scott was either mentioned or interviewed on television 6,417 times, a massive spike compared to his pre-storm exposure, according to media monitoring services TVEyes and Critical Mention. By comparison, Nelson was mentioned 1,119 times during the same period.

— PROGNOSIS? —

The U.S. House has more of a chance to go blue in three weeks than it does to stay red, according to Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political forecasting service published by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. 

“A race-by-race analysis of Democratic House targets shows the party is close to winning the majority, but they do not have it put away, in our judgment, with Election Day less than three weeks away,” writes managing editor Kyle Kondik.

A 23-seat net gain is needed, and “barring a big, positive late change in the political environment in favor of Republicans, the bare minimum for Democratic House gains is in the mid-to-high teens,” Kondik continues. 

Of course, there are some Florida kinks in the Democrats’ plans. 

‘Heartburn’ in CD 27: Nationally, Democrats sought to take over four open seats where their candidates were favored. But in CD 27, where Democrat Donna Shalala is vying to replace retiring Republican incumbent Ileana RosLehtinen, there have been a few speed bumps. “If Democrats flub any of these four races, FL-27 is the one they would lose, and the uncertainty there is what could cause the Democrats to come up short in this category.” 

Elsewhere: Republican South Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo’s seat is “Lean Republican,” per the Crystal Ball. He’s holding up better than other Hillary Clinton-won districts that Democrats are targeting. Democrat Stephanie Murphy’s seat remains “Likely Democratic.” 

No surprise: Statewide, the hotly contested races for Governor and the U.S. Senate are tossups, per the Crystal Ball. 

 — NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Elizabeth Warren endorses Nikki Fried for Ag. Commissioner” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The gesture marked the first major endorsement that Warren, Massachusetts’ senior U.S. Senator, issued personally for any statewide candidate seeking office in Florida. “The status quo has failed the people of Florida,” Warren said. “Big polluters control the state’s water policy and the NRA runs the concealed weapons permit process. “It’s time to elect a leader who will stand up to corporate greed and help Floridians in the fight to take their state back. “Nikki Fried is that fighter, she will make sure the voices of regular people can finally be heard over special interests — I’m proud to endorse her for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”

Elizabeth Warren calls Nikki Fried a “fighter … [who] will make sure the voices of regular people can finally be heard.”

Florida Chamber backs Matt Caldwell for Ag. Commissioner” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Caldwell has hauled in a new endorsement from the Florida Chamber of Commerce as he continues his campaign to be Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner. Caldwell is competing against Democratic nominee Fried. But the Florida Chamber argues Caldwell’s experience makes him the superior candidate. “Matt Caldwell is a seventh generation Floridian with roots firmly planted in Florida’s agriculture community,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “His public service and dedication to ensuring Florida’s job creators and our economy remain strong are priorities that are good for Florida families.”

Gun safety group to spend additional $1.8M on Fried, Sean Shaw campaigns” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald — Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control group co-founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said that in addition to throwing $2 million behind Democratic candidates seeking Florida cabinet positions, it will be dedicating $1.8 million solely to agriculture commissioner nominee Fried and attorney general hopeful Shaw. The organization supports “gun-sense” candidates like Fried, who called for a full audit of the concealed-weapons permit process, and Shaw. Fried’s call for reform has been a marquee issue on her campaign. Fried, who owns a gun and has a concealed-weapons permit, released a video and letter last month distancing herself from the NRA with a clear message: “I won’t be beholden to you.” The agriculture commissioner’s office oversees the concealed-weapons permitting process.

Poll: Overwhelmingly, Florida voters want to expand Medicaid coverage” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — If you wonder about the constant health care talk from Democratic candidates this year, a newly released national Kaiser Health Tracking Poll that included an oversampling of Floridians shows why … 59 percent of Floridians want to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income people, and 34 percent want to keep it as it is today … 44 percent of registered voters said they would be more likely to support a candidate who will protect the Affordable Care Act, and 38 percent said they would be more likely to back a candidate wanting to repeal it … 43 percent of Florida voters support passing a national health plan — “Medicare-for-all” — and 33 percent oppose it … 69 percent would be more likely to support a candidate who wants to maintain protections for pre-existing conditions, and 55 percent of residents said they had a family member with a pre-existing condition.

Happening today — State political candidates and committees face a deadline to file reports showing finance activity through Oct. 12.

Realtors put another $2.9 million into ballot measure” via the News Service of Florida — The industry group Florida Realtors last week contributed another $2.9 million to a campaign aimed at passing a property-tax proposal on the November ballot. The group as of Friday had sent an overall total of $9.56 million to a political committee known as Amendment 2 is for Everybody. The political committee spent nearly $1.12 million from Oct. 6 through Friday, with most of the money going to advertising, and had about $2.3 million in remaining cash on hand. The proposal, which will appear as Amendment 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot, would extend a property-tax cap for commercial and other non-homestead properties.

Does congressional candidate Michael Waltz’s company still hold ‘women-owned’ status?” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Waltz, CEO for Metis Solutions, won the Republican nomination to succeed DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District. He faces Democrat Ambassador Nancy Soderberg. And for eight years, he has worked at Metis Solutions, a company founded in 2010 by Mary Beth Long, the first woman confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Secretary of Defense. The business provided strategy and policy support to military and corporate clients, and since 2012 pulled in more than $100 million in federal contracts, mostly through the Defense Department. But Long in 2016 sold Metis in a private equity deal. Long could not be reached for comment but her staff said they did not believe she had any more ownership in the company. Now Waltz serves as CEO, Long’s former job. A search of federal contracts for Metis Solutions continues to show “women-owned” status still on many projects, even some contracts that started as recently as last month.

Is Mike Waltz’s company still considered ‘woman-owned’ since it was sold in 2016?

Steve Scalise to rally for Mike Miller in Orlando” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Scalise, of Louisiana, was seriously injured in a shooting at a congressional baseball game practice last year. He will be joined at the 10:30 a.m. rally at Orlando Executive Airport by Central Florida officials and first responders. The event is open to the public. Miller is running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, which includes Seminole County and parts of Orange County.

New Chris Hunter ad says Gus Bilirakis ‘sold out’ to drug companies” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “Gus Bilirakis inherited his seat in Congress, took more drug money than any current Florida Congressman, then sponsored the law that let drug companies push more opioid pills,” the ad begins. Bilirakis was one of six co-sponsors of the 2016 “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act” that scaled back the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ability to halt shipments of drugs that posed a danger to the public. “As a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, Chris Hunter put crooked drug company executives behind bars,” the ad went on to say. The “Sold Out” ad paid for by Hunter’s campaign indicated Bilirakis accepted $80,850 from drug companies.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Charlie Crist has $2.3M banked for CD 13 re-election bid” via Florida Politics — Crist added more than $188,000 to his campaign account between early August and the end of September … $114,000 of that cash via individual donors, including $104,000 contributions exceeding the threshold requiring donor names to be disclosed. Two dozen of those donors chipped in $2,700 apiece, the maximum allowable individual contribution to a congressional campaign. The balance of the new receipts came in from PACs, with the National Association of Realtors Political Action Committee leading the way with a $5,000 check. Other household names on his list were AFLAC, AT&T, Merck, UnitedHealth Group, Wells Fargo and UPS.

Clean energy advocacy group to launch ad blitz supporting Carlos Curbelo” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) is a Washington, D.C.-based group which aims to support Republicans who push for clean energy policies in Congress. The organization endorsed Curbelo back in June during the primary campaign. Now, it’s dropping $221,000 on a radio, digital, mail and phone ad buy supporting Curbelo against Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. CRES is linking to a new 30-second spot on its website titled “Independent Voice,” highlighting Curbelo’s environmental record.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

New DCCC Spanish-language ad blasts Maria Salazar as #ConTrumpNoConMiami — A new ad from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee paints “#BravoTrump Salazar” as “completely in line” with Trump’s policies “both on Twitter and IRL (in real life, not the retiring Congresswoman).” The new ad also highlights how she has been endorsed by a group that wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

— DOWN BALLOT —

What Evan Power is reading – “Hardee County ballot blunder could impact statewide races via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

Bob Cortes shares son’s story, his commitment to free-market health care, in Spanish radio ad” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In the 60-second radio ad, Cortes, a New York native and running for re-election in House District 30, speaks about how he and his wife Virginia were living in Puerto Rico when they realized their son needed more medical help than he could receive on the island. So, they moved to Central Florida where he received such care, although he eventually succumbed. The story is of the Cortes’s first son, Bob Jr., who was born with cerebral palsy and died in 1990. Through the struggle, Cortes became appreciative of the free-market health care system and quality of care his son received, and the struggle has led to his commitment to it, he says in the commercial. The ad also is an homage to family.

Bob Cortes goes on the radio to tell his story of personal struggle.

Tony Mowry confronts James Buchanan about district-hopping” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Democrat Mowry started a Tiger Bay forum in Sarasota by attacking Republican opponent Buchanan’s perpetual candidacy. “He’s a wealthy politician looking to buy his way into office,” said Mowry. “It makes me angry he thinks he can run in multiple parts of the county after trying his hand in multiple districts.” Buchanan in February lost a special election in Florida House District 72 to Democrat Margaret Good. Buchanan ran in that race after initially filing to run in District 71, but then changing seats after the resignation of state Rep. Alex Miller. Now he’s running in District 74. But Buchanan, who grew up in the district, said he never expected to find himself running in three districts within two years. “When I ran in District 72, it was a humbling experience, an incredible experience,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on running again.”

Internal poll shows HD 115 race could come down to the wire” via Florida Politics — The race to succeed term-limited Republican Rep. Michael Bileca in House District 115 is shaping up to be closer than expected, according to a new poll commissioned by allies of Democratic nominee Jeff Solomon. The Kitchens Group poll found voters in the district the heretofore GOP-leaning district are split down the middle, 45-45 percent, over whether they want a Republican or Democrat to represent them in the state House next year. Another 8 percent of voters said they didn’t see a difference between the two major parties while 2 percent said they were unsure which they preferred. When Solomon and Republican nominee Vance Aloupis were pitted against each other by name, Solomon came out on top 47-42 percent with 11 percent undecided. In both instances, independent voters made the key difference.

Holly Raschein airs first TV ad in re-elect bid — The Key Largo Republican is airing her first TV spot of the cycle, running throughout her Florida Keys and South Miami-Dade House District 120. In the ad, Raschein reminds constituents of her fifteen years of service — first as a legislative aide to a Republican (the late Ken Sorensen), and then to a Democrat (Ron Saunders), before running for the seat herself in 2012. She stresses experience and knowledge are essential to successfully represent this unique district, and that she’s always ready to “work with anyone, anytime, for our home district.”

To view “All of Us,” click on the image below:

Charter schools aren’t included in school ballot measure. They’re not happy about it.” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Several charter schools operated by the Miami-based charter conglomerate Academica have been sharing a critical flier informing parents that charter schools will not benefit from the Miami-Dade County Schools property tax referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot. “Many of you have asked about the Miami-Dade School Referendum Question and what it means for your child’s school,” the flier read. “Therefore, we’d like to provide you with the latest information.” … Although the flier does not oppose the referendum, in bold, it reads, “The School Board has not committed to share this money with your child’s school, or any other public charter school, at this time.”

— EDITORIAL ENDORSEMENT ROUND-UP —

The Orlando Sentinel unveiled three endorsements for Democrats in closely watched races this cycle. The opinion branch of the paper is supporting Democrat Gillum over Republican DeSantis in Florida’s race for Governor, writing, “It’s time for a change. Time for some new ideas.” The team is backing Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Nelson, in part because it is very anti-Scott: “If anything, Scott will further the political tribalism that’s dividing this country, to the peril of us all.” Further down the ballot, Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, of Orlando, received the paper’s support. Murphy “will serve her constituents well in these troubled times,” writes the editorial team.

TCPalm, which covers the Treasure Coast, backed Republican incumbent Congressman Brian Mast over Democratic challenger Lauren Baer “because he has devoted his first term to demonstrable action on the environmental crisis facing District 18, where toxic blue-green algae tainted our waterways again this year.”

— STATEWIDE —

Happening today — The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will release September unemployment figures, 10 a.m.

PSC opens fresh hearings into sale of Vero Beach’s municipal utility to FPL” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Thursday’s hearing centered on the Civic Association of Indian River County’s challenge to a $116.2 million “acquisition adjustment” that FPL would levy against its ratepayers. “They’re saying that without these special favors that they want from the commission that they just can’t do the deal,” said Lynne Larkin, an estates and transactional attorney and former city commissioner representing the watchdog group in her first foray into utility regulation. “Our position is that there hasn’t been enough negotiation, and enough putting your foot down and saying, ‘Yeah, you can make this better,’” she said. “This deal can go forward. But, for some reason, the will of our government has not been such to put their feet to the fire.”

Tests confirm red tide on Brevard County beaches” via Jim Waymer of Florida Today — Tests this week confirmed that the same red tide blooming in Southwest Florida over the past year has indeed struck the Space Coast, raising the specter of more dead fish, beachside coughs and disappointed tourists on the horizon. Onshore winds could continue to push patches of the toxic algae from the Gulf Stream to Brevard County beaches this week, forecasters said. And conditions here have been ripe for red tide, biologists add, because coastal waters are chronically primed by the nutrients the algae thrives upon — partially served up by us in the form of fertilizers and sewage.

— OPINIONS —

Leo Longworth, Matthew Surrency: Don’t be misled — Amendment 1 is a tax shift, not a tax cut” via Florida Politics — Our state politicians are calling Amendment 1 a “tax cut,” but it’s actually a tax shift. A few property owners will benefit, but millions of us will pay for it. Amendment 1 would give a tax break to only one-fourth of those who own Florida properties. That means three-quarters of us would NOT benefit. We believe Florida’s tax system should work for all homeowners, across the board, not just a few. Why should the state politicians get to pick who wins and who loses? As leaders of statewide organizations, we’re hearing from our peers, and they know this plan doesn’t work. Most of us would carry a bigger tax burden … perhaps even a property tax hike. If you rent, you’re not off the hook either. Landlords are likely to pass on their increased share of the property tax burden to their tenants. Don’t be led astray by the false promise of Amendment 1. Vote No.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Veterans Florida launches search for new executive director — Veterans Florida, a nonprofit corporation that assists veterans in the transition to civilian life, named Career Services Program Director Joe Marino as interim executive director. Mariano succeeds Bobby Carbonell, who recently stepped down to become Innovation Program Officer at the Air Force National Guard. The Veterans Florida Board of Directors is currently searching for a permanent replacement and is accepting applications from interested individuals on the group’s website. “I’m very proud of the accomplishments that Veterans Florida made during my time as Executive Director,” Carbonell said. “It was a privilege to work alongside the Veterans Florida staff and Board of Directors as we carried out our mission to place veterans in new careers, help them start new businesses and market Florida as the nation’s most veteran-friendly state.”

Bobby Carbonell, the newly named Innovation Program Officer at the Air Force National Guard.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian BallardChristopher Hansen, Ballard Partners: Cardinal Health

Frank Bernardino, Anfield Consulting: Shark Allies

Rachel ConeMercer FearingtonJames McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: Validity Diagnostics

Chris Snow: Utilities Inc. of Florida

Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalition

— WEEKEND TV —

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, political consultant April Schiff, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith and Zac Anderson, political editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: This week’s show will discuss Amendment 13, which would phase out commercial dog racing and wagering in Florida by 2020. Joining Walker-Torres are Longwood Mayor Ben ParisKate MacFall, co-share of the Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign; Sonia Stratemann, vice chair of Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign; and Paul Hawkes, Florida Greyhound Association.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A discussion with Attorney general candidates Sean Shaw and Ashley Moody. Also, PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim made against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon will speak with attorney Sean Pittman and News Service of Florida political reporter Dara Kam.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will talk recovery efforts in the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael. Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), will discuss how she turned the tragic death of her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll, into the national nonprofit 501(c)3 veterans service organization. Martha Mertz, founder, ATHENA International, will discuss eight principles of the ATHENA Leadership Model and her journey in creating the internationally acclaimed program. Also appearing is Ellen Sullivan, director of the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg host a debate between candidates for Florida’s 26th Congressional District: incumbent Republican Congressman Curbelo and Democrat challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Also, an interview with Republican gubernatorial candidate DeSantis.

— ALOE —

Disney building new resort on former River Country site” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — A new resort and Disney Vacation Club property will open at Walt Disney World in 2022 on what was once the home of River Country water park. Sandwiched between Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, the deluxe resort will be “nature-inspired” to blend in with its surroundings along Bay Lake. It will include more than 900 hotel rooms and DVC villas — but contrary to rumors reported about the project in recent months, it will not be entirely for DVC members. “This resort experience will be a celebration of Walt Disney’s lifelong love and respect for nature, with some fun and even surprising accommodation types that families will find irresistible,” said Terri Schultz, senior vice president and general manager of Disney Vacation Club. The new resort has not yet been named.

River Country’s Slippery Slide Falls in 1977 (Image via Florida Memory Project)

Hi Mickey, ‘Bye Mickey: 6 Disney parks on 2 coasts in 1 day” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press — Heather and Clark Ensminger breathed sighs of relief when their Los Angeles-bound plane took off from Florida on time: Their biggest hurdle was now eliminated for achieving their goal of visiting six Disney parks on two coasts in one day. They succeeded Wednesday, visiting four Disney parks in the Orlando, Florida, area and two in Anaheim, California, with a 2,500-mile cross-country flight and two time zones in between, all within 20 hours. A camera crew from Disney World’s publicity office tracked them down for an interview, and they were stopped by Disney guests who recognized them from media reports. They also updated friends and fans of the Disney parks throughout the day, with posts on a Facebook page for Heather Ensminger’s travel-agent business. “A couple months ago, I was having a hard time with the anniversary of my dad’s death and my husband began planning the trip without letting me know,” Heather Ensminger said.

Universal: Butterbeer sales top 20 million” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Butterbeer sales at Universal Orlando have topped to 20 million mark, the resort says. That’s a lot of foamy mustaches on muggles. The beverage first went on sale at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park in 2010. Butterbeer sales passed the 1 million mark the next year. The drink — which has a butterscotch/shortbread cookie flavor — comes in frozen and hot varieties as well as the original recipe, which was approved by “Harry Potter” mastermind J.K. Rowling. It has since been introduced as an ice cream flavor and is served at Universal’s Wizarding World attractions in California and Japan.

Welcome to the world Timothy Raymond Spencer, the first son of Gina and Chris Spencer. He was born at 4:05 p.m. Wednesday afternoon (hours after Chris, a lobbyist with GrayRobinson, met with gubernatorial candidate DeSantis). Baby and mom are happy and healthy.

Tweet, tweet:

Happy birthday to our friends Tiffany Carr and Rick Lindstrom, state Rep. Ramon Alexander and WFSU-FM’s Tom Flanigan.

Last Call for 10.18.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

Recently proposed rule changes from the state’s Department of Transportation revealed an existing regulation we didn’t know about:

You can’t campaign for office on Florida’s Turnpike. Nor can you stump for anyone else.

“No person shall at any time or in any manner electioneer on any part of the Turnpike System for or against any party ticket or any candidate for nomination, or officer on any party ticket,” the rule says.

That even includes, for this year, proposed constitutional amendments.

No one can advocate “for or against any proposition of any kind or nature to be voted upon at any election.”

Of course, other rules are more commonplace: “The consumption of alcoholic beverages (and) brandishing of weapons by any person is prohibited on the Turnpike.”

Also, leave the greenery alone.

“No person shall disturb, tamper with or attempt to destroy, injure or deface, damage, mutilate or remove any … trees, flowers (or) shrubs.”

Evening Reads

More than 200 Florida Insiders overwhelmingly think hurricane helped Rick Scott campaign” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Scott hammers Bill Nelson for hitting the trail again” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Nelson shifts focus to campaign: I’ve ‘done everything I can do’ to help Floridians affected by hurricane” via Jeffrey Cimminio of Washington Free Beacon

Florida handed $200 million to Scott donor amid massive contribution to Scott’s Super PAC” via Matthew Cook of The Intercept

The sexual harassment case Scott won’t talk about” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida

Andrew Gillum, a Florida insider running as a progressive outsider” via Matt Flegenheimer and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times

Ron DeSantis’ fundraising letter comes with a crisp $1 bill” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Everglades Trust board member disagrees with backing DeSantis” via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville Sun

Donna Shalala walks into anti-Castro buzzsaw” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Democratic candidates for Congress have raised a record-shattering $1 billion this election” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee

Contrast drives HD 15 race between Wyman Duggan, Tracye Polson” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

In House 36, it’s youthful incumbent vs. life-experienced activist” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times

Double fault: Florida House candidate suspended from HOA & tennis club” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

‘A disservice to our voters’: Election supervisors discuss long ballots, bundled amendments” via Sam Turken of WLRN

Houses intact after Hurricane Michael were often saved by low-cost reinforcements” via The Washington Post

For the families of people in prison, hurricanes bring extra panic and uncertainty” via Daniel Gross of The New Yorker

Hurricane Michael: Here’s how we reported from Mexico Beach” via Doug Clifford and Zach Sampson of the Tampa Bay Times

How Florida relies on immigrants” via Mike Vogel of Florida Trend

Orlando airport chairman Frank Kruppenbacher’s global travels span 100 days and $100,000” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel

Florida ticket wins $2 million as Powerball jackpot swells to $430 million” via Doug Phillips of the Sun Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“There are challenges just getting water and food there, certainly. One of the biggest problems we are encountering is communications within some of these counties. The cellphone towers are out. The internet is out. There are a lot of communications issues that we are trying to overcome.” — Mark Earley, Leon County Supervisor Elections, commenting to The News Service of Florida on the impending difficulties for precinct locations and early-voting sites in counties affected by Hurricane Michael.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

State political candidates and committees face a Friday deadline to file reports showing finance activity through Oct. 12.

Florida’s proposed constitutional amendments are the topic at Café con Tampa’s weekly meeting, co-hosted by the League of Women Voters of Florida and the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce. That’s at 8 a.m., upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

The Florida Commission on Ethics will meet. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

The Department of Economic Opportunity will release the September unemployment figures. That’s at 10 a.m.

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum will hold a town hall and conversation climate change, rising sea levels and resiliency. That’s at noon, St. Petersburg College, Gibbs Campus Music Center, St. Petersburg.

Former state Rep. Ray Pilon will join supporters for a sign waving event in his campaign for House District 72. That’s from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., corner of Bee Ridge and Beneva Road, Sarasota. Signs will be provided.

Looking Ahead

The New College of Florida Board of Trustees is set to meet Saturday. That’s at 9 a.m., with full board starting about 11:30 a.m., New College of Florida, Sudakoff Conference Center, 5845 General Dougher Place, Sarasota.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist hosts a Military Academy Day event Saturday for students interested in attending one the nation’s service academies, featuring representatives from the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, and the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. That’s at 10 a.m., USFSP Kate Tiedemann College of Business Auditorium, 700 4th Street South, St. Petersburg.

The Republican Party of Miami-Dade County holds a rally Sunday hosted by state Sen. Rene Garcia, with special guests Ron DeSantis, state Reps. Manny Diaz Jr. and Bryan Avila as well as Vice Mayor Frank Mingo. That’s at 2 p.m., Hialeah Park, 2200 E. 4th Ave., Hialeah. There will be complimentary food and beverages.

Gubernatorial candidates DeSantis and Gillum hold their first head-to-head debate, to be moderated by Jake Tapper and to be shown on CNN. That’s Sunday at 8 p.m. broadcast from the local PBS studio in Tampa.

7 reasons why it’s silly to count out Ron DeSantis in the Florida Governor race

Comparing politics to horse racing is common, but unlike sports, where handicappers plunk down cash on the teams they think will win, political pundits can’t and don’t “bet” on whether such-and-such politician will win their election. There is one outlet that casts aside that professional norm. And that outlet is starting to consider playing the middle.

Here are seven reasons why you shouldn’t count out DeSantis.

Donald Trump is strong, maybe at his strongest in some time — This may not move a lot of independent voters, but the fact is President Trump is on a winning streak, at least by the current standards he’s measured by. Beginning with the superficial renegotiation of NAFTA and continuing through the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and an American pastor being freed from imprisonment in Turkey, POTUS is firing on all cylinders. Meanwhile, the national economy is roaring. All of this matters in Florida because much of DeSantis’ candidacy is based on his connection to the White House. So if a Trump-in-full tells his base in the Sunshine State to turn out for DeSantis, they’re probably more inclined to do so than if Trump was mired in a slump. As goes Trump, so goes DeSantis.

The polls have stabilized for DeSantis — There has been relatively little survey work done in Florida over the past two weeks because of Hurricane Michael. The only public poll conducted since the storm struck the Panhandle is one from St. Pete Polls which shows DeSantis within one point of Gillum, while leading by three points among those who say they have already voted. Before Michael’s intrusion on the campaign, three other polls all showed the race essentially tied. The tied race is a marked improvement for DeSantis because most of the post-primary polling, including a Sept. 20-24 Quinnipiac University survey with Gillum leading DeSantis by 9 points, showed the Tallahassee Mayor with an outside-the-margin-of-error lead on his Republican opponent. We hear (but have not seen) that DeSantis’ internal polling has the former congressman up by a couple of points.

The down-ballot polls show little indication of a “Blue Wave” — Nationally, the Democrats may ride a Blue Wave into control of the U.S. House and additional governorships, but here in Florida, the polling shows little specific evidence of this phenomenon. In battleground congressional races in CD 26 and 27, the Republicans are narrowly leading or tied, while in every one of the state Senate seats Democrats are targeting, the Republicans are firmly in the lead (SD 8, SD 22) or tied (SD 18, SD 36). One of the key, but consistently underreported, reasons Republicans win in Florida is the decentralization of their political operations: Rick Scott and DeSantis have their campaigns, but the campaigns of incumbents like Sens. Keith Perry, Dana Young, Jeff Brandes, Manny Diaz, and so many of the House members are, individually, multimillion-dollar operations with massive GOTV efforts that swamp whatever the Democrats do.

Gillum did not receive a hurricane bump — The fear among Republicans was and is that Gillum would perform so well during Hurricane Michael that the gubernatorial race would all but freeze-up while the Mayor emerged from the crisis with haloed poll numbers. So far, that has not occurred. By this weekend, the race should be back at full throttle (Gillum returns to the campaign trail Friday), while the St. Pete Polls survey showed Gillum with only a +13 favorability rating on how he responded to the hurricane (compared to the two-to-one margin Scott received).

DeSantis has all the money in the world — Cue the narrator from ESPN’s “30 for 30” series … What if I told you a candidate for Florida governor raised $8 million in a week … and the political insiders still thought he couldn’t win? Well, that’s how much money DeSantis raised for his campaign and committee during the first week of October. Ten years ago, that would have been enough money for the entire general election campaign of a statewide candidate, but today, after DeSantis posted those numbers, it seemed to barely turn heads. That’s silly. While other Republican candidates throughout the country are struggling to raise coin, DeSantis has more than enough cash to go balls-to-the-wall for the final two-and-a-half weeks of the campaign. That’s part of the reason the campaign is still able to hire top operatives and consultants.

DeSantis has stopped serving the ball into the net — During the first two weeks of the general election, it seemed like DeSantis was going to double-fault his way to defeat with one unforced, racially charged error after another. And while the damage is done from those blunders, he seems to have stopped stepping on his own d*ck. Undoubtedly, this is why he’s no longer sinking in the polls and is able to raise huge sums of money. No one wanted to be next to the guy sending out racist dog whistles. It’s obvious that adding Susie Wiles and Sarah Bascom to the team cut down on the number of self-inflicted wounds.

Republicans are doing what they do during early voting — Statewide, Republicans have returned 247,530 vote-by-mail ballots to 207,171 by Democrats, 96,629 by unaffiliated voters and 3,020 by people registered with third parties. Democratic operatives will tell you that, relative to 2014, they’re in better shape now than then, but I have become highly skeptical of early balloting as a predictor. This week, the Florida Democratic Party released a memo touting a 6-point bump in Democratic returns in Sarasota County as well as smaller boosts in Charlotte and Lee counties. However, Democrats outperformed in the mail vote in Sarasota County in 2016, too, and we all remember how that turned out. For Gillum to win, he has to beat the historical trend that Republicans do better in nonpresidential years. In other words, the Democrats have to create much of the environment found in a presidential year. So far, the early balloting does not indicate that.

Admittedly, I’ve still got my PredictIt money piled behind Andrew Gillum becoming the next Governor of Florida, and most others are betting the chalk, but anyone who thinks betting on DeSantis is a surefire loss could end up looking like Eddie Mush come Election Day.

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