Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Will Florida’s ‘eyeball wars’ flare up again doing the 2017 Legislative Session?

It’s been several years since the war ended.

Many of the veterans who fought the battles of this war are no longer with us.

All that’s left are the headlines declaring the end of hostilities.

I am referring, of course, to the ‘Eyeball Wars’ that raged through the last decade and the beginning of this one.

And while a fragile peace has held for nearly five years, the threat of renewed fighting looms, say some Capitol insiders.

Need proof the war could be heating up? The Florida Optometric Association is pouring millions of dollars into legislative races this election cycle.

Record show that through July 29, the Florida Optometric Association and associated organizations have given more than $2.1 million to committees and candidates across the state.

The biggest contributor was OD-EYEPAC, the political arm of the Florida Optometric Association, which gave more than $1.1 million to committees and candidates through July 29. The Florida Optometric Association gave $535,000; while the Florida Optometric Eye Health Care Fund gave $260,000.

Local associations, including the Palm Beach County Optometric Association, the Broward County Optometric Association, and the Southwest Florida Optometric Association, have also poured a significant amount of money into the races. The Palm Beach association gave $25,000, while the Broward County association gave $21,000.

When it comes to where the cash is flowing, records show committees received $2 million through July 29. That includes $125,000 to the Republican Party of Florida and $10,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. Other committees received more than $1.1 million.

Candidates received $117,300 of the $2.1 million. Records show Republicans received $84,800; while Democrats received $31,500. Senate candidates are receiving a bigger piece of the pie, receiving $64,800 through July 29. House candidates received $50,500.

Are the optos making all of those contributions because they believe in good government. Undoubtedly. But they may also be looking to have the rules and regulations governing the profession changed and/or softened. Specifically, the optometrists’ lobbyists, the well-skilled David RambaBill Rubin, and Michael Corcoran, could push during the 2017 Legislative Session for optometrists’ scope of practice to be expanded.

That’s what the last war was about.

It was between optometrists, who test vision and fit patients for eyeglasses, and ophthalmologists, medical (or osteopathic) doctors who specialize in eye care.

They skirmished over scope of practice – what kind of care a health care professional can provide – and how optometrists were allowed to care for patients.

Indeed, the Florida Optometric Association has long had its own well-established stable of influence professionals.

The next dispute was over contact lens manufacturers wanting to prevent retailers from selling or advertising contact lenses below a set price.

Sen. Tom Lee, brought in lobbyists from Las Vegas, Utah, and Washington, leading former Senate President Don Gaetz to joke that Lee, another past Senate President, deserved the “Visit Florida” award for the number of lobbyists who traveled to the state to testify on the bill.

Lee noted the number of people who wear contact lenses and the amount of money they could save if the Legislature passed a bill. 

State Sen. Jack Latvala also waded into the fraught world of vision care, once pushing a measure to prevent the concentration of too much control by insurers over access to eye and vision care.

The Clearwater Republican wanted to prevent health insurance providers from forcing either ophthalmologists or optometrists – perennial foes in legislative food fights – from joining a particular network.

That would have spared vision care providers the expense and limitations that go along with joining a given insurance network. 

His bill explicitly said insurers could still contract with other vision care plans, but that they could not collude to restrict vision care providers from accessing certain suppliers or laboratories.

At the cessation of conflict, two of the main lobbying protagonists, Rubin and Brian Ballard, reached an agreement that there would be no further hostilities.

But this has always been a fight with serious implications for interested insiders of The Process, combining regulation, prestige and good ol’ fashioned money. War could break out at any time.

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Final poll of SD 17 GOP primary shows Ritch Workman closing gap vs. Debbie Mayfield

It is arguably the nastiest — and perhaps the weirdest — legislative race of the primary election cycle.

Not a day goes by without a negative flier landing in voters’ mailboxes. On most days, there are several.

A slew of Twitter accounts and websites authored by anonymous bomb-throwers have sprung up. The race has even featured a television ad in which not only the wife, but the ex-wife of one of the candidates, offers a testimonial to refute charges related to said candidate’s involvement with the Ashley Madison website.

Of course, I am referring to the Republican primary between state Representatives Debbie Mayfield and Ritch Workman in state Senate District 17.

For most of the race, the public polling have shown Mayfield with a wide lead over Workman. A Viewpoint Florida survey showed Mayfield lapping Workman 47 percent to 20 percent, with Mayfield holding big leads in both Brevard and Indian River counties.

A new St. Pete Polls survey commissioned by FloridaPolitics.com shows Workman is now in striking distance of Mayfield.

Among likely primary voters, Mayfield is at 37 percent, while Workman is at 33 percent. The third candidate in the race, Mike Thomas, receives 22 percent.

Bolstering the narrative that Workman could still catch Mayfield is the fact that 59 percent of SD 17 Republicans still plan to vote in the election.

The race has become one of the most-watched Senate races in the state, as the two state lawmakers battle it out to replace Sen. Thad Altman in the Florida Senate. The newly drawn district includes all of Indian River County and portions of Brevard County.

Outside groups are pouring thousands of dollars into the race, with two opposition groups — Accomplished Conservative Leaders Fund and Stop Career Politicians — popping up in hopes of exposing the records of Mayfield and Workman.

The poll of 737 Republican voters was conducted August 25th and has a margin of error of 3.6 percent.

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Brian Mast fudges promise to return sugar money, blasts opponent who calls him on it

Brian Mast is one of the 12 candidates seeking Florida’s 18th Congressional District, currently held by Democrat Patrick Murphy, who is now running for U.S. Senate.

The retired Army sergeant is one of only two candidates who had accepted money from the sugar industry.

The other is Republican Rick Roth, an actual sugar farmer.

According to campaign finance records, sugar industry interests raised approximately $100,000 for Mast’s campaign and victory committee by way of two exclusive private fundraisers. The Fanjul family — owners of Florida Crystals — hosted two separate events benefiting Mast’s Victory Committee, which brought $100,000 either directly to Mast’s campaign or to his Victory Committee.

Donations such as those are posing a real challenge for Mast, particularly since he’s running in a region hardest hit by Lake Okeechobee discharges. The donations have gone over like a lead balloon with environmentalists, who blame Big Sugar for both the discharges and pollution of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, as well as the Indian River Lagoon.

When the contributions were made public, the Army veteran quickly retreated, claiming he returned “every penny” of it.

Indeed, once TC Palm reported Mast received the contributions, the Treasure Coast Republican struggled to clear his name through a Facebook video explaining away his actions, where he reiterated the claim he returned “every single penny” received from Big Sugar.

However, Mast’s claim is not entirely true.

Records do show Mast returning a fraction of the money — identified as coming from the Fanjuls themselves — but kept a vast majority of the cash received from members of the host committees of the fundraisers organized by the Fanjul family.

Of nearly $100,000 of sugar industry money, Mast gave back only five contributions, just under $12,000.

But don’t try to bring these discrepancies to Mast’s attention.

When confronted, he viciously called a Republican opponent — who called him on his half-truth — “a real piece of shit.”

During the taping of WPTV’s Republican candidate debate, the Palm Beach Post reported an eyewitness account: “Brian Mast angrily responded to criticism from fellow Republican Rick Kozell that he had pocketed money from the sugar industry.”

The reporter, during a commercial break, overheard Mast single out Kozell by saying, “wow … you can tweet this out: real piece of shit right here.”

“Mast said, fuming ‘They said I couldn’t swear on TV,’” the Post reported.

There is no sin in accepting money from the sugar industry, particularly in South Florida. That said, telling supporters you will return an embarrassing donation, but not following through (or, at least not returning ALL of it) — that’s bad.

And using intimidation when confronted with the truth; well, that’s just plain wrong.

Fanjul Fundraiser for Brian Mast 3.28.2016

Fanjul Fundraiser for Brian Mast 12.14.2015Copy of Mast Sugar Donors 2

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Sunburn for 8.26.16 — 4 days until Florida’s primary election

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

START YOUR MORNING WITH THE 10,000 MANIACS

The color of the sky as far as I can see is gull gray … I lift my head from the pillow and then fall again … I get a shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather

Pack your galoshes, and get to the polls.

The Florida Department of Emergency Management is monitoring a potential storm brewing in the Atlantic Ocean.

weather2

It’s too early to say whether it will hit Florida, but voters should be prepared for a soggy day primary election.

And that weather forecast has Florida elections officials encouraging voters to get out and take advantage of the final days of early voting.

“While it is too premature to determine if voters will be impacted by adverse weather conditions, I encourage all Florida voters who have not voted by mail to get ahead of possible weather disturbances by voting early,” said Secretary of State Ken Detzner in a statement Thursday.

At the 8 p.m. update Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said the system had become less organized and environmental conditions are not expected to be as favorable for development. Conditions could become more favorable over the weekend or early next week when the system is closer to the Florida Keys or over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.

Early voting continues through Saturday in most counties. Ten counties — including Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Miami-Dade — will offer early voting on Sunday.

As of Thursday afternoon, 1.3 million Floridians had already cast a ballot either by mail or in person ahead of the Aug. 30 primary.

CONTINUING OUR HYPER-FOCUS ON THE PRIMARY ELECTIONS:

House District 60 was considered a swing seat when Republican Dana Young captured it in 2010, but as she now attempts to advance to the state Senate, Democrats think they have a chance to turn it blue in the person of attorney David Singer.

He faces the survivor of the Republican battle Rebecca Smith and Jackie Toledo taking place August 30.

Smith has headed her own construction company, the A.D. Morgan Corporation (named after her two golden retrievers), since the late 1980’s. A former board member of the Tampa/Hillsborough Expressway Authority, Smith is the more establishment candidate, and has been endorsed by people by local heavyweights such as Will Weatherford, Jeff Atwater, Adam Putnam, Rick Baker and Mel Sembler.

She’s running against Toledo, a civil engineer and entrepreneur who ran a controversial and ultimately unsuccessful campaign for Tampa City Council in 2015. She’s back again this year, and has been running as the ‘Law and Order ‘candidate, complete with an ad touting her as “tough on crime” as well as the backing of the NRA.

But her relatively low-key campaign has veered off in recent weeks, as she made news with a mailer boasting that she would crack down on “illegal aliens” by pushing to repeal two immigration bills that the GOP-led Legislature and Governor Rick Scott signed in 2014. That was followed by the embarrassing admission that her husband, immigration attorney Jose Toledo, had helped bring Honduran undocumented immigrants across the Mexican border into Texas in 2014.

“Spouses don’t always agree on everything and this is one of those instances,” said Ryan Wiggins, a spokesperson for Toledo’s campaign. “While her husband has a law practice to run, it is Jackie, not her husband, who is running for office. Jackie stands by what she has already said on this issue.”

Smith has stayed quiet, and it remains to be seen how Toledo’s get tough on crime stance will appeal to the voters of a district that voted for Barack Obama in 2012.

An interesting factoid: Toledo received more votes than Smith at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Hob Nob, the bastion of the Hillsborough County businesses establishment Singer received the most votes at that forum).

Smith has raised $403,000 in the race, $218,000 from  her own pocket. Toledo has raised just under $150,000, which includes a $25,000 loan to her own campaign.

Another race that encompasses most of the city of Tampa is the House District 61 contest in the seat that currently is being held by Ed Narain.

Three Democrats (and no Republicans) are vying for this heavily Democratic-oriented seat: Attorney Sean Shaw, East Tampa businesswoman and activist Dianne Hart, and environmental engineer and vocational trainer Walter L. Smith III.

For Shaw, it’s his second shot at the seat, which he lost in a contentious battle with Narain in 2014. One of the knocks on Sean at the time was that he was something of a carpetbagger, with deeper roots in Tallahassee than in Hillsborough. It’s two years later now, and there’s less of that talk in the district, but his task is no less formidable against Hart, who has been entrenched in the community for decades.

That history of community involvement was noted by the Tampa Bay Times when they announced they were backing her in the race. “As a legislator, Hart could make a bigger impact in the level of constituent service she already provides,” the newspaper wrote.

Had also has the support of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, former Police Chief Jane Castor and the West Central Florida Federation of Labor.

Shaw is backed by the influential Florida Sentinel-Bulletin, the Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus, and outgoing Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner.

He supports raising the minimum wage in Florida to $15 an hour, and has sent out mailers with members of the “Fight for $15” movement included. That’s become an issue in the campaign, as Hart is backed by the Florida Retail Federation, which has strongly come out in opposition of a $15 minimum wage.

Like Shaw, Walter Smith also has a Tallahassee pedigree, as he was born in the state capital while his father — Walter L. Smith — served as president of Florida A&M University. Smith has talked on the trail about the economic divide between the thriving parts of downtown Tampa versus the rest of the city, name checking West Tampa, East Tampa, Sulphur Springs and East Ybor City. “This is the area where we’re forgetting about those people,” Smith said. “We’re detached. You need somebody who is attached.”

Shaw has raised $87,559, Hart $44,610 and Smith $15,291.

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THE PRESIDENTIAL TRAIL RUNS THROUGH THE SUNSHINE STATE — The Democratic vice presidential nominee is spending the weekend in Florida. Kaine will kick off his two-day swing in Tallahassee with a voter registration kick-off at 11:30 a.m. at “The Set” at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, 1628 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. He’ll then take a 1 p.m. tour of Domi Station, 914 Railroad Avenue. On Saturday, Kaine will meet with local elected officials in South Florida at 10:30 a.m. at the Southwest Focal Point Center, 301 NW 103rd Ave. in Pembroke Pines. He’ll then take a 2 p.m. tour of Design South Florida, 14374 Commerce Way in Miami Lakes. Not to be outdone, Republican VP hopeful Mike Pence is expected to attend a fundraiser in St. Petersburg on Wednesday. The event is hosted by Brian Ballard, Ambassador Mel Sembler, and Attorney General Pam Bondi, among others.

LATEST MASON-DIXON POLL OF FLORIDA: Hillary Clinton 44 percent, Donald Trump 42 percent.

JEB BUSH RIPS ‘MORPHING,’ ‘ABHORRENT’ DONALD TRUMP ON IMMIGRATION via Nick Gass of POLITICO – “Well, I can only say that whatever his views are this morning, they might change this afternoon, and they were different than they were last night, and they’ll be different tomorrow,” the former governor told WABC Radio’s Rita Cosby in an interview … Bush, whose own campaign hands have expressed similar sentiments, remarked that he could not specifically comment on Trump‘s views because “they seem to be ever, ever changing, depending on what crowd he’s in front of” … “Sounds like a typical politician, by the way, where you get in front of one crowd and say one thing, and then say something else to another crowd that may want to hear a different view,” Bush continued. “All the things that Donald Trump railed against, he seems to be morphing into — it’s kind of disturbing.” As far as whether he sees Trump coming around to his views, Bush could not say. “I don’t know what to believe about a guy who doesn’t believe in things. I mean he doesn’t … this is all a game,” Bush said. “He doesn’t … his views will change based on the feedback he gets from a crowd, or, you know, what he thinks he has to do. Life is too complex. For me I couldn’t do that. I have to believe what I believe, and if it’s popular, great, if it’s not, I try to get better at presenting my views. But shifting my views because, because it’s political to do it? That’s what politicians do in this country, that’s what Trump is trying to do right now. I find it abhorrent.”

LATEST FLORIDA VOTER FIGURES – As of Thursday afternoon, 1,204,310 Floridians have cast either vote-by-mail (900,531) or early in-person ballots (303,779); 35 percent of the 2,411,755 mail-in ballots provided have been returned: 435,574 Republican (39 percent of 1,062,358 provided), 346,905 Democrat (36 percent of 915,879 provided) and 118,052 NPA/other (26 percent of 433,518 provided). As for early in-person voting, 145,753 Republicans, 135,880 Democrats and 145,753 NPA/others have cast ballots. Total early voting turnout stands at 9 percent of 12,379,292 registered Florida voters (13 percent Republican; 10 percent Democrat; 8 percent NPA/other).

‘WE’RE IN UNPRECEDENTED TERRITORY’ WITH UNLIKELY VOTERS WEIGHING IN ON FLORIDA’S PRIMARIES via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Almost half of the mail ballots returned so far for Tuesday’s primary election have come from Floridians who voted in either one or zero of the last four primary elections in Florida. That means a big, decisive chunk of the vote will come from Floridians who have not been polled, and potentially not courted, targeted or accounted for by countless campaigns across the state. “This is huge,” said Marian Johnson, Senior Vice President of Political Strategy for the Florida Chamber and one of the foremost experts on Florida campaigns and politics. “I can envision election night when the votes are counted that certain people win that nobody thought had a chance, and that being attributed to this trend.” As of Thursday morning, more than 855,000 primary ballots had been cast by mail. More than a quarter of those votes came from Floridians who had not voted in the last four primaries and another 20 percent from people who voted in just one of the last four primaries. In other words, these are not “likely voters” surveyed by most pollsters or targeted by sophisticated political campaigns. The trend applies to Democrats and Republicans alike and across the state, said Johnson, who was shocked when she first spotted the trend developing weeks ago. “I believe there are going to be more zeros and ones that vote absentee than threes and fours…We’re in unprecedented, unchartered territory,” said Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson. “Nobody’s been polling these people, nobody’s been marketing to these people.”

POLL: MARCO RUBIO, PATRICK MURPHY EASILY WIN PRIMARIES, BUT FACE CLOSE CONTEST IN NOVEMBER via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Rubio has a marginal 3-point lead over Democratic Congressman Murphy, according to a new poll of likely Florida voters that indicates the race is close to tied. “It’s a competitive race. It’s not a slam dunk,” said Brad Coker, pollster for Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the three-day Florida survey of 625 voters … Coker said the Republican incumbent’s 46-43 percent lead over Murphy can be considered a tie because of the poll’s 3-point error margin. He said Murphy has room to grow because he’s relatively unknown. Both men are more liked than disliked, but only 22 percent are unfamiliar with Rubio while 59 percent say they don’t know enough about Murphy. However, the bilingual Rubio has a base in the Democrats’ stronghold of Miami-Dade County and can pull more Hispanic votes than most Republicans, Coker said. Murphy still leads among Hispanics in the Mason-Dixon poll, but by 49-41 percent. Murphy also dominates the black vote, beating Rubio 79-12 percent. Rubio has a sizable lead among non-Hispanic white voters, 53-36 percent. Men support Rubio 50-38 percent; women favor Murphy 47-43 percent. An X-factor in the race: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who had been struggling in recent Florida polls.

MURPHY ON DEBATING RUBIO: “YES, ABSOLUTELY” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – “We’re about 75 days out, things are getting heated now,” he said in Miami Beach … Murphy, who recently is polling within the margin of error against Rubio, did not hesitate when asked if he’ll debate Rubio. “Yes, absolutely,” Murphy said. “I’ve always debated my opponents. I had a great debate with Congressman Allen WestCarl Domino my last opponent…I look forward to debating Senator Rubio because there is going to be a very sharp contrast.” Murphy did not offer set terms for a potential debate, saying “Our teams will, I’m sure, be in touch with those terms but any forum where we can exchange ideas I look forward to.” However, Murphy made similar comments earlier in the primary phase of this campaign but ultimately didn’t follow through on his pledge. Murphy generally avoided public forums where he would have shared the stage with his Democratic rivals, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson and Miami attorney Pam Keith.

AFP TO START CANVASSING AGAINST MURPHY via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The Koch Brothers-aligned conservative nonprofit is spending nearly $60,000 to pay canvassing staff to go door-to-door talking to voters. The group backs Sen. Marco Rubio, and the spending is specifically listed as opposing Democrat Murphy. It’s the most the group is spending in its most recent canvassing efforts, according to Federal Election Commission filings. “We’ve been growing our footprint and our activists and staff have been canvassing door-to-door spreading our message all across the state,” said Andres Malave, communications director in Florida for Americans for Prosperity. The group has long backed Rubio, who will be speaking at their Defending the American Dream Summit next month in Orlando.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Murphy will hold a veterans’ roundtable with Bunker Labs at 1 p.m. at Level Office, 25 N. Market Street in Jacksonville. Media is asked to RSVP to press@MurphyForFlorida.com.

HAPPENING SATURDAY – RUBIO RALLY SUPPORTERS IN ST. AUGUSTINE, JACKSONVILLE Rubio will hold a get-out-the-vet event at 9 a.m. Saturday at 157 King Street in St. Augustine. Doors open at 8:30 a.m. Media is asked to RSVP to press@marcorubio.com by 7 a.m. on Saturday. Rubio will then attend the grand opening of the Republican Party of Florida’s regional volunteer headquarters, 3428 Beach Blvd., in Jacksonville. The event is scheduled for 12:30 p.m., and doors open at noon. Media is asked to RSVP to press@marcorubio.com by 9 a.m. on Saturday.

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CHAMBER POLL FINDS 70% SUPPORT FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY AMENDMENT via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – Seventy percent of Florida voters support a renewable energy tax credit on next week’s ballot, according to partial results from a Florida Chamber of Commerce poll … Amendment 4 would extend from residential to commercial properties a tax break for renewable energy source devices. The proposal has support from environmental and business groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and there is no organized opposition. The poll of 258 Democrats, 249 Republicans and 101 others found that 70 percent said they would vote for it; 14 percent would vote against it. “Amendment 4 on the Aug. 30 primary ballot will bring more solar jobs to Florida and help diversify our energy grid,” Sen. Jeff Brandes, a Republican from St. Petersburg, said in a statement from the chamber. “This poll shows broad bipartisan support for solar in Florida, and everyone regardless of party affiliation should vote yes on or by Aug. 30.”

WILL MARY THOMAS BE OWNED BY DC SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP CLUB FOR GROWTH? via Florida Politics – What does it say when a candidate is backed primarily by a single special interest group? A majority of the nearly $1.6 million benefiting CD 2 Republican hopeful Thomas seems to come from a single source — the conservative action group Club for Growth. The group … making a major play in CD 2. According to Federal Elections Commission records accessed Thursday, Club for Growth so far has sunk $756,028 into the CD 2 race. Hard-dollar contributions filed by the Thomas Campaign reported Club for Growth bundling another $173,561, making an overall $929,589 the conservative action group has either directly given or bundled. In addition, FEC reports also show $838,941 in receipts for Thomas (a number that includes money bundled by Club for Growth). This makes $1,594,969 in total dollars for Thomas’ campaign, 58 percent of which can be directly attributed to a single special interest group. When a single group has a majority interest in your campaign, it leads to an obvious question — who will own Mary Thomas should she win CD 2?

THE FIREBOMBING OF SUSANNAH RANDOLPH via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Randolph’s campaign for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 9th Congressional District is spending much of its last week before the primary putting out fires from a political equivalent of a Molotov cocktail thrown her way — by a political operative going public with a troubling story involving Randolph. Starting two weeks ago, Randolph, running as the true-blue progressive candidate with the lifelong reputation as a staunch feminist, has been the target in Facebook and blog posts authored by Holly Fussell, alleging that Randolph ignored complaints about sexual harassment of Fussell by a man on staff. And that man allegedly eventually raped Fussell, though Fussell wrote that Randolph bears no blame for that. Until now Fussell was offering slim detail … Fussell, now 23 and living in Silver Spring, Maryland, responded …  by answering a list of written questions. She still is not naming the alleged rapist, saying she’s declining to do so on the advice of her attorney. However, she said she’s intending to file criminal charges or a lawsuit — or both — against the man, and he will be named then. Until now, no one has looked into Fussell’s story, though it is echoing around the internet through other bloggers and social media, which are adding nothing new except judgments against Randolph. The vague allegations left Randolph and her staff little to respond to, except to deny that anything like that ever happened. After hearing the latest details offered by Fussell, they still are maintaining that nothing like that ever happened.

BRIAN MAST DIDN’T THINK RICK KOZELL’S SUGAR ATTACK WAS SWEET via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post – Kozell turned a question on another topic into an attack on Mastduring a debate … between Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives District 18 seat. Kozell, a small-business owner, insinuated that Mast was in the pocket of the sugar industry. Mast, a special forces veteran who lost both legs during an improvised explosive device explosion in Afghanistan, didn’t take too kindly to the suggestion, using a break in taping to call Kozell “a P.O.S.” … “I was completely taken aback by his comments,” Mast said after the debate, which will be aired by … WPTV Channel 5, during its To the Point show on Sunday at 10 a.m. “I was very surprised.” Kozell didn’t relent during the debate, saying Mast accepted contributions from the sugar industry and raised more money during a fundraiser hosted by someone in the industry. Mast said he returned the sugar money and raised “very little” during the fundraiser.

TIM CANOVA AD SAYS DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ FLIP FLOPPED ON FRACKING, MEDICAL MARIJUANA via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – In an Aug. 14 debate on CBS4, Wasserman Schultz sounded open to fracking in Florida. Host Jim DeFede asked: “So you are open to fracking as a possibility in Florida?” She replied: “As long as we have significant regulations.” When the Miami Herald sent her spokesman a list of questions asking what type of regulations she wants, the campaign sent a statement saying she supports a state ban. “Let me be clear, I am against fracking, especially in Florida,” she said in a statement. The ad also accuses Wasserman Schultz of flip flopping on medical marijuana, payday lending and Trans Pacific Partnership … She voted to fast track TPP in 2015 but recently told the Sun Sentinel that she is still evaluating it.

TIM CANOVA HAS NOW RECEIVED MORE THAN 200,000 INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO HIS CAMPAIGN FOR CD 23 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Canova has now raised more than $3.5 million since he announced his candidacy in January, with an average individual donation of just $22. This month alone, the campaign says it has raised nearly $850,000 in online donations. Canova’s reliance on so many small donations is reminiscent of the insurgent presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders, who has endorsed Canova’s candidacy. However, he isn’t scheduled to campaign with Canova, despite the fact that he said he might do so back in July. According to a Florida Atlantic University survey published in Sunday’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Wasserman Schultz leads Canova by 10 percentage points, 50 percent to 40 percent. Wasserman Schultz has served as representative for the district since 2004. Canova also released another ad today, where he bashes Wasserman Schultz for not coming out against fracking. The name of the ad is, “Fracking Flip-Flop.”

WILL SCOTT FUHRMAN BECOME THE ‘ACCIDENTAL CONGRESSMAN?’ via Florida Politics – Could Fuhrman, challenging Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District, be this year’s Tim Mahoney? And is there a path for Fuhrman to become 2016’s “accidental” member of Congress that doesn’t involve Ros-Lehtinen having a Mark Foley-like implosion? Increasingly, the answer to both questions keeps inching toward “yes.” The with that Cook Political Report recently included CD 27 in its list of 45 seats that moved from the “safe Republican” column to “likely Republican.” POLITICO likewise featured Fuhrman in an Aug. 19 story about Florida House Republicans’ anxieties over the political risk they face having failed to find Zika research and response before adjourning for summer recess … [The] Miami Herald also mentioned the Ros-Lehtinen/Fuhrman race in the context of Zika. Maybe a combination of her longevity and respect in Miami, her #NeverTrump status, and #LittleMarco making ticket splitting fashionable among Cuban Republicans, will save Ileana this November. Maybe she can defy demography and partisanship and a 20-plus point Hillary Clinton victory in the 27th. Maybe the NRCC will have money to spend bailing out an incumbent who they never calculated in a million years would be vulnerable. Maybe. And maybe Scott Fuhrman becomes the accidental congressman from Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The cliché that, “stranger things have happened,” is perhaps more true in this election cycle, in this state, than it has ever been before.

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SD 11 DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE GARY SIPLIN SAYS TAX LIENS ARE CONTESTED, NOT A CONCERN via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Siplin, a former state senator seeking another shot at the Florida Senate … dismissed more than $243,000 of federal tax liens as contested taxes that he expects will go away through federal appeals processes. “All I know is according to my accountant, everything is fine,” Siplin said about the liens, on file with the Orange County Comptroller. “Whatever taxes that we owe — we don’t believe we owe. we’re appealing them.” Siplin said he does not know what the tax liens are for. There are nine tax liens., brought by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for various debts the IRS claims from years spanning 2003 to 2013. Siplin is in a hotly contested, four-way Aug. 30 Democratic primary race with state Rep. Randolph Bracy, activist Chuck O’Neal and former state Rep. Bob Sindler, also a former Orange County Commissioner.

WE POLLED THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY IN SENATE DISTRICT 19; YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT via Florida Politics — A new poll by St. Pete Polls found the race is essentially tied, proving the outcome will depend heavily on ground game and get-out-the-vote efforts in the final days of primary. The survey, conducted for FloridaPolitics.com, found 26 percent of Democratic voters said they were backing Ed NarainDarryl Rouson is in second with 24 percent, followed by Betty Reed with 19 percent. Augie Ribeiro is polling at 17 percent, while 14 percent of voters said they were undecided. More than half (54 percent) of respondents said they had already voted in the primary.

SOUTHERN HERITAGE GROUP SLAMS ED NARAIN via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – A Southern heritage group is giving Narain an F-minus grade as he campaigns to advance to Florida’s Senate District 19 race, but he’s not complaining about it. Among the pieces of legislation the Tampa House Democratic District 61 representative has boasted about on the campaign trail is his bill to remove and replace the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith from the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. Smith was a St. Augustine native who served as a Confederate army general during the Civil War. The law called on the Florida Arts Council and the Department of State to estimate the costs of replacing the statue, including the costs associated with designing and creating a new statue, removing the current statue, and any unveiling ceremony. While some Republicans in the Legislature didn’t support it, the bill still passed in the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Scott. One group not pleased with that bill was the group Save Southern Heritage, who is giving Narain that F-minus rating. They also claim a candidate survey he filled out recently shows he also would like to dig up the graves of American Veterans who served for the South if they are buried in public parks or cemeteries. When contacted, Narain says he began filling out the survey, but never completed it, because he felt it was irrelevant to his candidacy or what he believes in.

— “Multi-millionaire Senate candidate Gary Farmer’s unpaid tax bill” via Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat.com

GUN ADVOCATES AND BLOOD DRINKING LIBERTARIAN PLAN MARCH TO “IMPEACH” MIGUEL DIAZ DE LA PORTILLA via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times – This past February … Diaz de la Portilla used his powers as chairman of the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee to prevent the Senate from voting on two controversial pro-gun laws. One would have allowed 1.5 million Floridians with concealed-weapons permits to openly carry handguns. The other would have allowed permit-holders to take concealed guns onto college campuses. Now, some of those advocates are planning a march outside Diaz de la Portilla’s Coral Gables house — and they’re taking along noted goat-blood-drinking Libertarian candidate Augustus Sol Invictus. For Diaz de la Portilla, it’s strange to be labeled a liberal-controlled gun opponent. For one, he’s a Republican. For another, he has a concealed-carry permit himself. But he believes those bills he killed wouldn’t have made anyone in Florida safer. That didn’t stop someone from editing Diaz de la Portilla’s Wikipedia page in February to say he ignored “his role as a servant to the people” … Augustus Sol Invictus, one of two Libertarian Party candidates for the U.S. Senate seat that Marco Rubio currently holds, will attend the rally. Invictus has made headlines for his unorthodox campaign.

BERNIE SANDERS POLITICAL GROUP BACKS DWIGHT BULLARD via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Our Revolution, the group spun off from the presidential campaign of Sanders, has endorsed Democratic state Sen. Bullard. “Senator Bullard has served as a leader in the area of education due to his outstanding leadership and commitment to education, both as a teacher and a policymaker,” the group wrote on its website. Bullard is running in a Democratic primary against Andrew Korge. The winner primary will face Rep. Frank Artiles in the general election for Senate District 40, which is in Miami. Our Revolution was formed with the mission of continuing the policy proposals Sanders put forward when he ran for president. The group is also developing an infrastructure to recruit and support progressive candidates. It is a 501(c)4, which means it does not have to disclose its donors.

DIRECT MAIL ROUND-UP: CONSERVATIVE LEADERSHIP FUND TAKES A SWING AT ERIN GRALL IN HD 54 via Florida Politics — Mailers from the “Conservative Leadership Fund” hit mailboxes in House District 54 comparing Erin Grall to a grizzly bear. The mailer claims Grall is a “liberal trial lawyer … disguising herself as a friend of small businesses,” but has spent her career attacking them.” “Erin and her trial bar friends attacked every lawsuit reform measure advocated by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Governor Rick Scott,” the mailer reads. “Conservative Leadership Fund,” a Tallahassee-based political committee, has received $303,546 since June. Records show “Floridians for Equitable Government,” a political committee backing Doug Holder, has given the committee $180,000. The committee also received $80,000 from the “Florida Conservative Action Fund” and $40,000 from Citizens for Florida Prosperity. Grall faces Republicans Dale GladingGreg MacKay and Lange Sykes are vying to replace Rep. Debbie Mayfield in House District 54. Grall has received the backing of Senate President Designate Joe Negronand Carole Jean Jordan, the former chairwoman Republican Party of Florida and the Indian River County tax collector. Sykes has been endorsed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has been running digital spots in the district to support him. Holder has also been endorsed by the Florida Chamber.

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BEN DIAMOND AND ERIC LYNN CONFRONT EACH DURING WMNF RADIO DEBATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Those two exchanges came toward the conclusion of a 38-minute debate on Tampa radio station WMNF 88.5 … when the two candidates were allowed to question each other in a debate … The two St. Petersburg-based Democrats are challenging each other in the seat that has been occupied by Dwight Dudley since 2012, and are ideologically very similar on most of the important issues going into Tuesday’s primary election. “I’ve been working on a number of local issues for a while,” Diamond said in leading up to his question to Lynn, referring to his work on the PSTA board and his support for 2014’s Amendment One ballot measure. What have you done? he essentially asked his primary opponent. Lynn attempted to turn the tables as he considered his response, indirectly calling out Diamond for lacking sufficient roots in Pinellas. “I know that you’re new to St. Pete, Ben, that you just moved here two years ago.” He went on to say he was most proud of being an advocate for veterans in the county … When it was his turn to ask a question, Lynn reminded listeners about a controversial issue that took place back in 2013, when Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Co., a Pinellas County firm that had given $110,000 to Gov. Rick Scott‘s re-election campaign, was rewarded when the Citizen’s Property Insurance Corp. board of governors (the insurer of last resort in Florida) approved a deal that could have ended up paying Heritage up to $52 million to take over 60,000 insurance policies … Scott’s office said the governor played no role in the $52-million deal at Citizens, and insisted campaign contributions were not a factor. Lynn then got to the point, saying that same Heritage Property and Casualty Insurance Company has contributed $20,000 to Diamond’s political action committee, “Protecting Pinellas Families.”

GOOD READ – INSIDE FACEBOOK’S (TOTALLY INSANE, UNINTENTIONALLY GIGANTIC, HYPERPARTISAN) POLITICAL MEDIA MACHINE via John Herrman of The New York Times Magazine – Facebook is hosting a huge portion of the political conversation in America. … a new and distinctive sort of operation that has become hard to miss: political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook, uniquely positioned and cleverly engineered to reach audiences exclusively in the context of the news feed. These are news sources that essentially do not exist outside of Facebook, and you’ve probably never heard of them. … Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people. On Facebook, they rival the reach of their better-funded counterparts in the political media, whether corporate giants like CNN or The New York Times … They are, perhaps, the purest expression of Facebook’s design and of the incentives coded into its algorithm – a system that has already reshaped the web and has now inherited, for better or for worse, a great deal of America’s political discourse.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a Zika preparedness round table at 10:30 a.m. at Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, 1920 Meridian Ave. in Miami Beach. Scott will then head to Hialeah to highlight job growth at 3 p.m. at Hot Pandeyuca, 6043 N.W. 16th Street, Suite A-22 in Hialeah.

TWEET, TWEET: @ochocinco: @FLGovScott Rick I love you man, can we have a cigar & cafe con leche tomorrow, I’m attending The Roundtable on Miami Beach.

FLORIDA TAX CREDIT SCHOLARSHIPS HIT RECORD LEVEL via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – The partial total of 92,011 scholarships is up 17 percent from a year ago, and more than 550 percent from 2005. The state’s new Gardiner education savings account also served 5,844 students with special needs. A second, smaller scholarship authorizer did not issue numbers. “Florida is a national leader in expanding educational opportunity, and the latest numbers again show that parents appreciate the power to access additional options that can best serve their children,” Step Up president Doug Tuthill, said in a news release. “We are proud to be part of this growing, bipartisan movement to strengthen public education.” The statistics arrived just days after an appeals court dismissed the Florida Education Association’s challenge to the program, saying the union lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. The court found that the tax credit scholarship money is not part of the state budget, as it’s donated to private organizations that distribute the funds. The donors then get a tax credit from the state. This year, the average income level for scholarship recipients was $24,075, or 4.4 percent above poverty. Sixty-nine percent of scholarship students are black or Hispanic.

VISIT FLORIDA PULLS PLUG ON PITBULL CONTRACT via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Visit Florida, a public-private tourism promotion group, has not renewed its contract with the rap superstar to be a “brand ambassador” for the state. Under the agreement, Pitbull was required to promote Visit Florida to his millions of followers on social media and use his 2014 “Sexy Beaches” single as a marketing video for Visit Florida. The contract, the terms of which were never revealed, expired on June 30. “With the recent release of his music video for ‘Sexy Beaches’ and his ongoing concert season, Visit Florida will continue to derive benefit from this contract beyond the end of the fiscal year,” Visit Florida spokeswoman Kathy Torian stated in an email. “The potential for future contracts have not been determined at this time.”

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT RULES DOCTORS CAN BE LIABLE IF PATIENTS COMMIT SUICIDE via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – In a decision that could influence how patients are treated for depression, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a physician could be sued for medical malpractice for a patient’s suicide. In a 5-2 decision, the court opined that while a Florida physician does not have a “duty” to prevent suicide for an outpatient – or a patient who is not in a hospital – the physician does have a statutory obligation to treat a patient within the standard of care. “Although the inpatient duty to prevent suicide does not apply here, there still existed a statutory duty under section 766.102 to treat the decedent in accordance with the standard of care,” Justice Peggy Quince wrote for the majority, which included Justices Barbara ParienteJorge LabargaR. Fred Lewis and James E.C, Perry. The more conservative judges – Charles Canady and Ricky Polston -dissented, but did not write a separate opinion. The underlying case stems from the October 2008 suicide of Jacqueline Granicz, who hanged herself. Her husband, Robert Granicz, sued the physician, Joseph S. Chirillo, and Millennium Physician Group, for medical malpractice. Granicz started taking the antidepressant Effexor in 2005, but stopped in 2008, court records show. Granicz’s husband … sued the physician and his medical group, alleging Chirillo was negligent for failing to recognize that the patient was depressed, for failing to speak with her directly and for failing to conduct an evaluation before prescribing Lexapro.

ORLANDO HEALTH, FLORIDA HOSPITAL WON’T BILL PULSE SHOOTING VICTIMS via Kate Santich and Christal Hayes of the Orlando Sentinel – Instead, the hospitals will write off an estimated $5.5 million or more in care. “The Pulse shooting was a horrendous tragedy for the victims, their families and our entire community,” Orlando Health President and CEO David Strong said. “During this very trying time, many organizations, individuals and charities have reached out to Orlando Health to show their support. This is simply our way of paying that kindness forward.” Its main hospital — Orlando Regional Medical Center — treated 44 of the more than 50 victims who needed immediate medical attention from the June 12 attack that killed 49 people. The nightclub is only a couple of blocks from the Level 1 trauma center. Nine of the Pulse patients died shortly after arriving at ORMC, and their families also will not be charged, hospital officials said. One victim remains hospitalized there. At Orlando Health, bills will be sent to health insurers for patients who had coverage, but whatever those policies don’t cover will be absorbed by the hospital chain, said spokeswoman Kena Lewis. At Florida Hospital, which treated a dozen of the clubgoers, officials said they would not even bill the victims’ insurance for the treatment, nor will they bill for follow-up surgeries the survivors may need.

PERSONNEL NOTE: ROBIN SPILLIAS PROMOTED AT LEADINGAGE FLORIDA via Florida Politics — She’ll be Director of Membership, the organization announced. Spillias will direct and coordinate all activities related to membership recruitment, retention, renewal, and benefits. “Robin is a problem-solver, an effective communicator, and a creative thinker,” LeadingAge Florida President & CEO Steve Bahmer said in a statement. Spillias said she was “excited about the possibilities ahead of me … I look forward to reaching-out to prospective members.” LeadingAge Florida was formerly known as Florida Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Founded in 1963, it represents continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), nursing homes and assisted living facilities, among others.

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Brian Ballard, Justin Sayfie, Ballard Partners: Bequest, Inc.

Lora Goldwater: Cheyne Capital

John Harris, GrayRobinson: Mush, Inc.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Christian Camara, our friend Joy Friedman, Jonathan Rees, and Rep. Irv Slosberg.

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Will Scott Fuhrman become the ‘accidental congressman?’

Could Scott Fuhrman, challenging Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District, be this year’s Tim Mahoney? And is there a path for Fuhrman to become 2016’s “accidental” member of Congress that doesn’t involve Ros-Lehtinen having a Mark Foley-like implosion?

Increasingly, the answer to both questions keeps inching toward “yes.” The Cook Political Report recently included CD 27 in its list of 45 seats that moved from the “safe Republican” column to “likely Republican.”

POLITICO likewise featured Fuhrman in an Aug. 19 story about Florida House Republicans’ anxieties over the political risk they face having failed to fund Zika research and response before adjourning for summer recess. Today’s Miami Herald also mentioned the Ros-Lehtinen/Fuhrman race in the context of Zika.

While his personal connection to the Zika crisis — in the form of his six-months-pregnant wife, Lindsay — may be getting Fuhrman’s name in print recently, Zika alone is not taking down a much beloved, 25-year incumbent like Ros-Lehtinen. Mosquitoes aren’t going to force Ileana into an early retirement, but a troll could.

Ros-Lehtinen probably entered the 2016 cycle feeling — in the words of Larry David — pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good. Obama, the only Democrat in generations to win a majority of Florida Cubans, was no longer eligible to run; her longtime ally, Jeb Bush, had amassed an insane war chest and looked like a lock for the nomination. Little Marco was going to fizzle early in his quixotic crusade against his old mentor, Jeb, and eventually run for re-election, helping with election-critical Cuban turnout in Miami-Dade County.

Only the last of those three things came to pass the way Ros-Lehtinen had hoped.

Instead, she finds herself on the ballot alongside a man who she’s been forced to say she’ll “never” vote for; a man whose bigoted rhetoric is driving Hispanic voters to Hillary Clinton in outrageous margins. A Public Religion Research Institute poll of Hispanic voters nationally, released today, showed Trump getting a mere 18 percent of that vote, 10 points less than Romney in 2012.

A May poll of CD 27 showed Clinton winning Ros-Lehtinen’s district by a whopping 23 points. Four years ago, Obama won it in the low 50s, and she won with 60 percent, spending over $1 million against two candidates who spent a combined $0.

Maybe a combination of her longevity and respect in Miami, her #NeverTrump status, and #LittleMarco making ticket splitting fashionable among Cuban Republicans, will save Ileana this November.

Maybe she can defy demography and partisanship and a 20-plus-point Hillary Clinton victory in the 27th.

Maybe the NRCC will have money to spend bailing out an incumbent who they never calculated in a million years would be vulnerable.

Maybe.

And maybe Scott Fuhrman becomes the accidental congressman from Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

The cliché that, “stranger things have happened,” is perhaps more true in this election cycle, in this state, than it has ever been before.

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Sunburn for 8.25.16 — 5 days until Florida’s primary election

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

FORECASTERS PREDICAT INVEST 99L COULD TURN INTO TROPICAL STORM HERMINE, HIT FLORIDA via the Tampa Bay Times – The system … hung in the Atlantic 100 miles north of Puerto Rico on Wednesday evening. The National Hurricane Center predicted the disturbance had an 80 percent chance of turning into a tropical depression and, with the right wind speed, Tropical Storm Hermine.

As of 8 p.m., the wave still did not have a well-defined circulation, according to reports from a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane.

“It’s still very disorganized,” said 10Weather WTSP chief meteorologist Jim Van Fleet. “On Thursday or early Friday, if we can find a center, then models will get more accurate. If it does impact Florida in any capacity, late Sunday, Monday and Tuesday would be the days to watch.”

weather forecast

CONTINUING OUR HYPER-FOCUS ON THE PRIMARY ELECTIONS: GOP PRIMARY FOR SD 17 MAY BE NASTIEST RACE IN THE STATE

Just when you thought the 2016 election couldn’t get any stranger, along came the Senate District 17 race.

It has been marked by feuds and attacks on families. Outside political groups have poured thousands into the race in hopes of defining the candidates. And with less than a week to go before the Aug. 30 primary, there’s still plenty of time for the race to take another turn.

Republicans Debbie Mayfield and Ritch Workman are vying to replace Sen. Thad Altman in the newly drawn Senate District 17. The district covers all of Indian River County and part of Brevard County.

First elected in 2008, Mayfield succeeded her husband, Rep. Stan Mayfield, in the Florida House. The Vero Beach Republican is a staunch opponent of Common Core, and has the backing of Florida Parents Against Common Core.

The group, which is the largest parent-led organization to stop Common Core, said it endorsed her because she has “demonstrated a repeated and sincere commitment to bottom-up politics, in education that means respecting and championing those most affected by education policy.”

She’s also been backed by the Florida Board of Realtors, The Republican Liberty Caucus, and Florida Right to Life. And in a rare move, Sen. Marco Rubio threw his support behind Mayfield.

“I’m supporting Debbie not only because she is my friend but also because she is a committed conservative with the courage to stand up and fight for what she believes in,” the Miami Republican said in a statement. “She’s honest, hardworking and the type of proven leader that Republicans can be proud of.”

But the long list of backers hasn’t spared her from attacks. Workman called for her resignation after a bio box appeared in Florida Today saying she moved to Brevard County in 2015. Her House district doesn’t include any part of Brevard.

And the Accomplished Conservative Leaders Fund — a political committee funded largely by Workman’s political committee, Citizens United for Liberty and Freedom — has taken a swipe at her voting record, family businesses, and personal loans to her campaign.

The attacks seem mild, though, compared to what has been thrown at Workman. His campaign has been rife with controversy since the beginning. Stop Career Politicians, a political committee backing Mayfield, has called out Workman for using taxpayer dollars to send a mailer outside of his House district, votes on immigration, and support for an alimony reform bill.

And after months of attacks, Workman’s wife and ex-wife came to his defense. The campaign released an advertisement featuring both women, who hammered Mayfield for attacking Workman.

“Ritch and I used to consider Debbie and her husband Bob to be good friends,” said Tiffanie Lande, his ex-wife. “We introduced Debbie to Bob, even vacationed together. It’s sad that people I held in such high regard would stoop so low for the sake of politics.”

Workman is a Melbourne Republican first elected in 2008. He rose to the position of House Rules chairman under House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. Workman previously served as the chairman of the House Finance & Tax Subcommittee, and played a role in shepherding through tax cuts the Florida Legislature. That role is highlighted in a TV ad featuring Gov. Rick Scott.

“He’s one of the hardest working members of the Florida Legislature, and I got to work closely with him when we passed the single largest tax-cut package in Florida’s history,” says Scott in the advertisement.

While the governor didn’t endorse Workman, he did receive the backing of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Medical Association.

“Representative Ritch Workman continues to place Florida’s long-term future at the forefront of his campaign,” said Marian Johnson, senior vice president of political operations for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.  “As a Representative he helped move our state in the right direction and we are confident he will do the same as a Senator. We are proud to endorse Representative Workman for the Florida Senate.”

Recent polling by St. Pete Polls found Mayfield led Workman 43 percent to 25 percent.

Mayfield has raised $175,145 for her campaign. That sum doesn’t include $500,000 in personal loans. Workman has raised $422,290 for his official campaign. Records show political committee has raised $816,881.

Republican Mike Thomas is also running in Senate District 17.  The winner of the Aug. 30 Republican primary will face Amy C. Tidd in November.

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LATEST FLORIDA VOTER FIGURES – As of Wednesday afternoon, 1,070,986 Floridians have cast either vote-by-mail (862,371) or early in-person ballots (208,615); 34 percent of the 2,403,080 mail-in ballots provided have been returned: 416,046 Republican (37 percent of 1,059,959 provided), 332,833 Democrat (34 percent of 911,769 provided) and 113,492 NPA/other (25 percent of 431,352 provided). As for early in-person voting, 98,052 Republicans, 95,022 Democrats and 98,052 NPA/others have cast ballots. Total early voting turnout stands at 8 percent of 12,379,292 registered Florida voters (11 percent Republican; 9 percent Democrat).

HALLELUJAH – LAST DAY TO DONATE TO CAMPAIGNS AHEAD OF PRIMARY — Expect a flurry of emails from candidates today asking for last minute donations ahead of the Aug. 30 primary. The deadline to donate to a candidate is midnight on Aug. 25. According to Contribution Link, candidates had received $67.9 million in contributions through Aug. 12.

REPUBLICANS’ VOTER REGISTRATION GAINS PROBABLY AREN’T GAINS AT ALL via David Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight.com – Take … Dixie County, near Florida’s Panhandle, where President Obama won a measly 26 percent of the vote in 2012 and Trump took 63 percent of the GOP primary vote in March. Between November 2012 and March 2016 … the Democratic share of registered voters in Dixie County fell from 60 percent to 52 percent … The county’s voter rolls also fell 7 percent during that period. Trump didn’t spur new registrations, he simply accelerated Dixiecrat migration to the GOP. In Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — the three most important supposed “ray of hope” states … ancestral Democratic registration advantages are simply coming into alignment with the modern competitive realities of each state … Between November 2012 and August 2016, Florida Democrats’ registration advantage fell from 535,987 voters to 259,321 voters. About 59 percent of that decline occurred during the run-up to the March 2016 presidential primary, when many voters switched to the GOP to choose between Trump and home state Sen. Marco Rubio. And about 86 percent of that decline took place in counties Mitt Romney already carried in 2012. Helpfully, Florida also breaks down its registration tallies by race — and that breakdown tells a far different story. Since November 2012, Florida has added a net 436,484 voters to its rolls. Hispanics have accounted for 55 percent of this net growth, and overall, nonwhites have accounted for 76 percent. In other words, most voters who are truly new to Florida’s electorate belong to demographic groups that are generally hostile to Trump.

MARCO RUBIO SAYS SUPREME COURT IS BIG REASON HE RAN AGAIN via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Rubio, at the Republican Party of Florida’s new victory office in Lee County, said he had a lot of reasons to rejoin the race in June, but focused on the eventual replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia who died earlier this year. “And now the balance of power in the U.S. Supreme Court is going to be determined by the next Senate and the next president who will appoint but the next senate must confirm,” Rubio said. Rubio went further, warning that if Democrat Patrick Murphy wins in November, he would be a “rubber stamp for Hillary’s agenda, if God forbid she were elected.” And like he did earlier in the week, warned supporters that if Democrats win the majority in November, Sen. Chuck Schumer … is in line to become the Senate Majority Leader.

FAU POLL: PATRICK MURPHY, RUBIO POISED FOR A TOUGH RACE IN THE FALL — A statewide poll by Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative found Murphy and Rubio are locked into a tight general election race. In the likely general election match-up, Rubio leads Murphy 44 percent to 39 percent. The poll found 12 percent of voters were undecided, while 5 percent said they were going to vote for someone else. Rubio leads among white and Hispanic voters, and has strong support among voters in the northern and central parts of Florida. Murphy, the survey found, has strong support among African American voters, and leads in the southern part of the state. When it comes to the presidential race, the FAU BEPI poll found Donald Trump leads Hillary Clinton, 43 percent to 41 percent. Gary Johnson, the survey found, was polling at 8 percent; while 2 percent said they’d back Jill Stein. The Florida poll was conducted from Aug. 19 to Aug. 22. The general election poll consisted of 1,200 registered likely voters, and had a margin of error of 2.7 percent.

FIRST ON FLORIDAPOLITICS.COM – FLORIDA CHAMBER POLL: RUBIO, MURPHY WALLOPING OPPONENTS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — The statewide poll shows Rubio leads Manatee County Republican Carlos Beruff by nearly 50 percentage points. The poll shows Rubio is at 68 percent, while Beruff is at 19 percent. Ten percent of respondents said they were still undecided. Marian Johnson, the senior vice president of government and political relations at the Chamber, said it is unusual to see so many voters still undecided. “A week sounds like a short time, but it can be a lifetime for a campaign and provide candidates the opportunity to make solid gains that can improve their outcome,” she said in a statement. “It’s unusual to see this many undecided voters this close to the election, but for candidates, it’s good news. They still have time to move the voters.” While Rubio and Murphy are poised to win their primaries, they both face some problems when it comes to how voters view them. The survey found 44 percent of voters polled said they had an unfavorable view of Rubio, while 41 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party. The survey didn’t include favorability ratings for Murphy, but 46 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party; while 56 percent said they had an unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Patrick Murphy will hold a news conference with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 1 p.m. at Royal Media, 960 Alton Road in Miami Beach. RSVP to Press@MurphyForFlorida.com.

HAPPENING FRIDAY — MARCO RUBIO RALLIES SUPPORTERS IN PLANT CITY, ORLANDO — Sen. Rubio will attend an early voting meet-and-greet Friday at 11:15 a.m. the Courier Field & Veterans’ Monument, 703 N. Wheeler St. in Plant City. Doors open at 10:45 a.m. Media interested in attending must RSVP to press@marcorubio.com by 8 a.m. on Friday. Rubio will then head to Orlando to open the Republican Party of Florida regional volunteer headquarters at 2:30 p.m. at 1654 N. Semoran Blvd, #160 in Orlando. Doors open at 2 p.m. Media interested in attending must RSVP to press@marcorubio.com by 9 a.m. on Friday.

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MARION HAMMER CRITICIZES SUPER PAC AD BACKING NEAL DUNN via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – When Hammer heard a radio ad calling Republican congressional candidate Dunn a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, she was amused. “I kind of chuckled,” the National Rifle Association’s top Florida lobbyist [said]. “I do what I always do when I get questions about someone’s membership, I called the [National Rifle Association’s] membership division.” What she found is that Dunn first became a member on an annual basis starting in 2009 through 2011. That membership lapsed and two years later he signed up as a National Rifle Association life member. “It is just wrong,” Hammer said. “Anyone hearing that is going to think he’s been a lifelong member, which usually you think means a member their entire life. Not three-and-a-half years.” The ad came from Right Way PAC, a super PAC that the Dunn campaign cannot directly coordinate strategy or message with … It does underscore the heated fights over Florida’s gun politics. Each election cycle, candidates in Republican primaries fight to be seen as most gun-friendly and those in some Democratic primaries do the reverse. In the process, the truth is often distorted. It got so intense last week that Hammer had to send out an email to media and political consultants reminding people of National Rifle Association grades and primary endorsements. The Right Way PAC, which is a group that popped up this year to help boost more establishment Republicans against those candidates seen as more cut from a tea party cloth. Specifically, the group is targeting members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of members that sits on the chamber’s conservative flank. Mary Thomas, Dunn’s top primary rival, says she will join the caucus if elected, and Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who leads the group, has done a campaign event for her.

JOHN MCCAIN ENDORSES HANS TANZLER IN CD 4 via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The endorsement is rooted in family legacy and the candidate’s father’s relationship to prisoners of war, McCain said. “I know firsthand how much the Tanzler family cares for veterans above all else,” said McCain. “Mayor Tanzler took care of my family while I was a POW in Vietnam. He always gave special attention and care to my fellow veterans and their families. I know and trust that Hans Tanzler will do the same for all Florida families.” McCain has a historical connection to the Jacksonville area; his family lived here for a dozen years beginning in the Vietnam War era and extending to the late 1970s … a timeframe that coincided with the Tanzler mayoralty, which saw the mayor give McCain the key to the city.

POLL: JOHN RUTHERFORD LEADS CD 4 FIELD WITH 33% SUPPORT via Florida Politics — A new poll by St. Pete Polls found Rutherford leads the pack with 33 percent support. The poll, commissioned by FloridaPolitics.com, found Lake Ray was in second with 22 percent, followed by Tanzler with 17 percent. The poll found Bill McClure received 10 percent support, Stephen Kaufman received 4 percent, Deborah Katz Pueschel received 3 percent, and Edward Malin received 3 percent. The survey found 8 percent of respondents were still undecided. Nearly 39 percent of those polled said they have already voted in the primary; 61 percent say they plan to vote in the primary. The automated phone poll was conducted on Aug. 23. The poll surveyed 490 likely Republican primary voters, and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

DENA GRAYSON LEADS SUSANNAH RANDOLPH 33% TO 27% via Florida Politics — A new St. Pete Polls survey found Grayson has a 6 percentage point lead over her nearest competitor in the district. The survey, conducted for FloridaPolitics.com, found Grayson is at 33 percent, followed by Susannah Randolph at 27 percent. Darren Soto is in third with 19 percent, while Valleri Crabtree rounds out the field with 10 percent. The survey found 10 percent of voters were still undecided. The poll was conducted on Aug. 23, and surveyed 336 likely Democratic primary voters. It has a margin of error of 5.3 percent. The survey found 46 percent of respondents have already voted in the primary. The survey found 54 percent still plan to vote.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS — Charlie Crist will host an education roundtable with teachers and educators at 3 p.m. at Kidz World Preschool, 50 50th Street South in St. Petersburg. Media interested in attending should RSVP to franco@catecomm.com.

FRANCIS ROONEY MAKES CLOSING STATEMENT IN NEW CD 19 AD — The Naples Republican is making his final pitch to Southwest Florida voters in a new advertisement. In the 30-second spot, called “Closer,” Rooney says the region needs a lawmaker “with substantive real world knowledge and an honest agenda of working for … the people of Southwest Florida.” A prominent Republican fundraiser, Rooney has put nearly $3.2 million of his own money into Florida’s 19th Congressional District. “Our country can still be great, and I think I can make a difference … I’m asking for your support and your vote,” he says in the advertisement. Rooney faces Republicans Chauncey Goss and Dan Bongino in the Aug. 30 primary.

BERNIE SANDERS A NO-SHOW FOR TIM CANOVA via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Sanders, the politician who elevated first-time candidate Canova to national attention and a rich campaign warchest, doesn’t appear to be coming to South Florida to help out his protégé in his battle against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. At a news conference … at his Hollywood campaign office, Canova pushed back against reporters’ questions about why Sanders hasn’t appeared in the Broward/Miami-Dade district. “You tell me why he isn’t coming,” said Canova defensively. “I don’t have an answer to that. I am very proud to have his support. Quite frankly we don’t need him here to win this election. Our field operation is growing by the day. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the one who needs to run out and get folks to come in from out of town to help protect her — to shield her from the voters. I am out there talking to voters every day.” Wasserman Schultz has recruited many of the party’s top names to campaign for her in the district … For Canova, he has only one big backer: Sanders. In May, Sanders announced on CNN that he was backing Canova and has since sent fundraising emails on his behalf. But it appears Sanders has blown Canova off — perhaps because Canova still appears to be a long shot.

REPUBLICANS COVERTLY SEEK TO SWAY RESULTS IN KEY DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY RACES via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – In Tampa Bay’s most hard-fought Senate primary where black Democrats could be decisive, a new mailer in support of Rep. Darryl Rouson … makes it appear he has the support of President Barack Obama (he doesn’t). The mailer was paid by a group supported by Republican interests. In Palm Beach County, the same group, operating under the nebulous name Floridians for a Better Florida, is helping Rep. Irv Slosberg … with mailers attacking his rival, Sen. Jeff Clemens. Floridians for a Better Florida is a political committee that was dormant until July, when it suddenly got an infusion of nearly $100,000, enough to pay for an avalanche of mail in the campaign’s final days. Of that total, $30,000 came from the Local Business Advisory Council, a GOP-allied Tallahassee group. Another $22,500 came from a political committee called Protecting Leadership Principles chaired by former state Rep. Eduardo (EddyGonzalez, a Republican from Miami-Dade. Gonzalez’s committee, also largely inactive for the past year, was suddenly flush with cash thanks to $55,000 from a committee called Jobs for Florida. It’s controlled by Sen. Wilton Simpson a member of the GOP Senate leadership.

FUNDRAISING INVITATION OF THE DAY via the Ed Narain campaign:

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JASON PIZZO FOCUSES ON EDUCATION IN HIS FINAL SD 38 — Pizzo is focusing on gun laws and education in his final pitch to voters. The 30-second spot will air on cable and expanded broadcast stations. “As a father of twin boys, I know children deserve to have a stronger education system. As your state senator, I will work to ensure every child has access to a quality education regardless of their zip code. It’s time to bring fresh leadership and a new vision to Tallahassee,” he said in a statement. The new ad comes as Pizzo received the backing of Rep. David Richardson and Bishop Victor Curry.

WEB AD CLAIMS ANITERE FLORES IS A FRIEND OF DONALD TRUMP via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – The ad, titled “Ironic,” attacks Flores for taking the minimum-wage challenge and cutting taxes for private jets. Flores … has not decided if she supports Trump.

— “Democrats file complaint after state Sen. Anitere Flores forgets to mention party in TV ad” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

WHAT JEFF PORTER IS READING — FLORIDA CHAMBER POLL FINDS 34% OF FLORIDIANS HAVE UNFAVORABLE VIEW OF TRIAL ATTORNEYS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Floridians aren’t fond of trial attorneys. Those were among the findings of a new poll released by the Florida Chamber Political Institute on Wednesday. The survey, among other things, tried to gauge public opinion of plaintiff trial lawyers. The response? Not great. The survey found 34 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of plaintiff trial attorneys, while 15 percent said they had a favorable view. The survey found 27 percent of those polled said they never heard of them. The survey also tried to gauge the mood of Florida voters. The survey found the economy and jobs remain the No. 1 issue for voters. Twenty-one percent of voters said that was their top concern, followed by education and schools at 13 percent. Florida voters also are split on whether they feel Florida is moving in the right direction. The poll found 40 percent of voters said the state was moving in the right direction, while 41 percent thought it was moving in the wrong direction.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at www.capcityconsult.com.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will make a job creation announcement at 10 a.m. at Reilly Arts Center, 590 NE 9th Street in Ocala. He will then travel to Bradenton where he will present veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award at 1:30 p.m. at the Bradenton National Guard Armory, 2100 13th Ave. East in Bradenton.

HILLARY CLINTON WANTS ‘RAPID RESPONSE FUND’ FOR ZIKA, OTHER THREATS via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – In a statement … the Democrat said it would provide consistent funding “to better enable the CDC, HHS, FEMA, state and local public health departments, hospital systems, and other federal agencies to quickly and aggressively respond to major public health crises and pandemics.” She did not provide details on the level of funding or the source. The idea is not unique to her campaign. “I will also ensure that our government has strong leadership and is organized to better support and work with people on the ground facing public health challenges. Doctors and public health experts have been warning for months that the Zika virus was likely to reach the continental United States, but Congress has failed to pass the president’s emergency funding request. As a result, the Zika virus has gained a foothold in Miami, and 196 people have already been infected in the city—infections that may have been preventable.”

RICK SCOTT ACCUSES FEDS OF NOT BEING A ‘PARTNER’ IN ZIKA FIGHT via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Scott accused the federal government of not sending Florida enough Zika tests or prevention kits for pregnant women or for supplying enough kits for the state to test for the virus. “Here’s what’s frustrating. The federal government has not been a partner,” Scott told Fox News … Scott has been requesting the additional Zika prevention kits for pregnant women for weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though, says it’s delivered what the state needs to protect pregnant women. CDC Director Tom Frieden said he met with the governor August 4 and authorized that 10,000 DEETs – diethyl-meta-toluamide – be sent to the state. If Scott wants other products that were included in Zika prevention kits sent to Puerto Rico – including mosquito netting, standing water treatment tabs and permethrin spray for clothing – he could buy those products with the Zika funding the state has received … the state has received more than $8 million in specific Zika funding and another $27 million in emergency preparedness funding that can be used to support Zika response efforts, including Zika prevention kits.

FLORIDA ZIKA OUTBREAK WILL BE SMALL AND DONE BY WINTER, SCIENTISTS PREDICT via Andres Viglucci of the Miami Herald – Just under 400 people will be infected with the Zika virus by mosquitoes in Florida by mid-September, and about 80 of them will develop symptoms, according to projections developed by an international team of scientists from the University of Florida and half a dozen other research institutions. The study’s authors caution that the numbers, issued by UF, are preliminary and subject to considerable uncertainty, but they say the projections provide reassurance that the current outbreak will be likely small and limited to Florida and other Southern states whose warm climates make them susceptible to mosquito-borne transmission. The outbreak is almost certain to peter out on its own by November or December as dipping temperatures put a damper on mosquito populations and an effective end to transmission, the projections show. “I don’t think large-scale epidemics are possible in the U.S. because of window screening and air conditioning,” said Ira Longini, a professor of biostatistics at UF and one of the lead authors of the study. “We’re talking about small clusters here and there.” The projections also put the number of babies in Florida that will be born from mothers who are infected by the virus during the first trimester — the period at which research suggests they’re most vulnerable to Zika-related birth defects — at eight. Infection does not necessarily mean that babies will be born with smaller than normal brains or any of the other birth defects, ranging from eye problems to joint problems, also associated with the virus.

FLORIDA PLANNED PARENTHOOD: MORE ATTENTION NEEDED TO EDUCATE WOMEN ABOUT ZIKA VIRUS via POLITICO Florida – Planned Parenthood … was going door-to-door in mostly Latino and Haitian communities in Miami to educate thousands of residents, especially women of child-bearing age, about the Zika virus, saying public officials must pay more attention on women – not just mosquitoes – in dealing with the growing public health crisis. “You cannot have a Zika strategy that focuses on mosquitoes, but not women. It is past time for meaningful action to combat this virus. Our leaders must put women and families at the center of the Zika response and fund family planning and education efforts,” said Lillian Tamayo, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida at a news conference in Miami. The Zika virus can be spread three ways: mosquito bites, sex with an infected partner and from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Zika can cause birth defects in children, making pregnant women the most at-risk population for the virus. Said Dr. Christopher Estes, Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood in Florida: “There is no way to fight the Zika public health crisis without comprehensive access to reproductive health care.” Tamayo said canvassers will be visiting Miami neighborhoods over the next six weeks and expect to contact 25,000 households, handing out pamphlets in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole.

TWEET, TWEET:

tweet

INSURERS WARN FLORIDIANS TO PREPARE FOR TROPICAL STORM via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America … recommended Floridians review their policies now, to make sure they’re covered against storm damage, or add coverage, if necessary. “Flood insurance is not covered by your standard homeowners’ policy; however, additional coverage can be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program or your insurance company,” said Logan McFaddin, PCI’s Florida regional manager. “Florida is unique in that some insurers are offering flood insurance coverage, unlike other states, so it’s important to contact your agent or company right away.” There’s a caveat: “Just be aware that there is typically a 30-day waiting period between the date of purchase and when the actual flood coverage goes into effect,” she said. Here’s what McFaddin recommended: Review your policy, especially the declarations page. Does it cover replacement costs or actual cash value for a loss? Inventory household items, photographing or videotaping them for documentation. Keep these records and your policy in a safe place. Keep the name, address and claims-reporting telephone number of your insurer handy, in a safe place. Deploy hurricane shutters or board your windows, and move vehicles and patio furniture indoors. Secure your boat. Keep any receipts for repairs so you can be reimbursed.

LUKE RUSSERT TO ADDRESS LOBBYISTS CONVENTION IN TAMPA via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Former NBC News correspondent Russert will deliver the keynote address during the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists annual conference next month … foundation chairwoman Keyna Cory said. “Luke’s accomplished career and valuable insight will give our lobbyists the freedom to enhance their education and understanding of the political process.” The meeting brings together leaders in Florida’s political influence sector to learn latest trends, best practices and have a chance to meet and greet legislators. Once again, the industry’s premier event will be held from Sept. 7-9 at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, 2900 Bayport Dr. in Tampa. Russert will speak Sept. 8 beginning at 12:15 p.m.

PERSONNEL NOTE: CHRIS CATE JOINS SALTER>MITCHELL PR via Florida Politics — It’s a bipartisan move: Firm president April Salter was communications director to the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles. Cate has served as spokesman for top Republicans, including Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Florida Secretaries of State Kurt Browning and Ken Detzner, and a variety of state agencies. “We are very excited to have Chris join our team and enhance our ability to engage the public and community leaders,” Salter said in a press release. “His expertise will help us better serve our clients’ needs at the local, state and national level.” Cate becomes Senior Public Affairs Director for the firm. In his portfolio: the Weyerhaeuser paper and lumber company, Bank of America, Verizon and Nestlé Waters.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to this guy, the best government reporter in Florida (and a friend, to whom I owe much for his wise counsel):

fineout

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Publix: Where shopping — and making hefty political contributions — are a pleasure

Publix Supermarkets has given nearly $2.6 million to Florida candidates and committees during the 2016 election cycle, including more than $300,000 since the start of August.

Among the Lakeland-based company’s most recent contributions were a $100,000 check to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and an additional $150,000 payment to the group’s “Florida Jobs” political committee.

Adam Putnam’s “Florida Grown” political committee also picked up $50,000 from the supermarket chain, with another $6,000 in August contributions heading to the campaign accounts of candidates for the Florida Legislature.

The August contributions make for $882,500 in donations to the Florida Chamber and its committees this cycle, while the contribution to Putnam’s committee makes for $160,000 since he won re-election two years ago.

Since Election Day 2014, Republicans have earned more of Publix’s dollars than Democrats. GOP candidates have taken in $65,000 in direct contributions since November 2014, compared to $27,500 for Democrats.

The Republican Party of Florida has also received $50,000 in contributions from the company, compared to $30,000 for the Florida Democratic Party.

The candidates who received donations from Publix this month include Mount Dora Republican Rep. Jennifer Sullivan and Republican candidates Tom LeekAlex Miller, and Rebecca Smith. Tampa Bay area Democrats Ben Diamond and Dianne Hart also received $1,000 checks.

After the Florida Chamber, the Florida Retail Federation received the most support from the grocery store chain with $750,000 in contributions since the end of 2014, followed by AIF’s “Voice of Florida Business” PAC which has brought in $170,000 this cycle.

The bulk of the rest of Publix’s 2016 cycle contributions went to “The Florida Justice Reform Committee,” chaired by Tallahassee attorney William W. Large, which has supported the re-election campaigns of many Republican candidates as well as a handful of Democrats.

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Sunburn for 8.24.16 — 6 days until Florida’s primary elections

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

LET’S BEGIN WITH A LINE FROM DAVID MAMET – “Watch the weather, baby, because it’s going to change.”

Here’s the latest forecast for Tropical Storm Gaston, which is forecast to eventually become a hurricane.

Weather

“Tropical forecasts beyond five days are fraught with uncertainty,” says the Weather Channel, but some of these forecasts do show the storm hitting south Florida this weekend and Tampa Bay on Monday. This could play havoc with Election Day. Best strategy for all candidates is to continue to bank those early votes. One candidate sent an email Tuesday urging his supporters to do exactly that…

EMAIL INSIGHTS via congressional candidate Randy Perkins: “I hope you’re watching the weather, because there’s a storm headed towards the coast. Forecasters are saying it may make landfall Sunday or even Monday. If you haven’t voted yet, please take the opportunity to vote early–with bad weather, it’s one less thing to worry about.”

CONTINUING OUR HYPER-FOCUS ON THE PRIMARY ELECTIONS: A DEM PRIMARY IN THE MOST BATTLEGROUND-Y SEAT IN FLORIDA

It might be the most competitive Democratic House primary in the state of Florida, but the battle for House District 68 in Pinellas County was never supposed to happen in the first place, as incumbent Dwight Dudley appeared poised to run for a third two-year term this November. But a funny thing happened to his re-election bid – he quashed it to instead stay closer to home and run for a local judicial position.

It was considered a big surprise in most circles, but not to Ben Diamond. The St. Petersburg attorney who served under Alex Sink during her tenure as CFO issued a statement just hours after Dudley’s bombshell to announce his own candicacy for the position, complete with endorsements from notable Pinellas lawmakers to boot, including St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman.

A week later, Eric Lynn dropped his formidable challenge to Charlie Crist for a congressional seat and moved his ambitions – and the $700,000 plus he had raised in that race – to the HD 68 seat against Diamond.

The race is competitive, in part, because the two candidates are so similar – Diamond is 37, Lynn 38. Both are Jewish, and both relatively progressive in their stances.

Although they have appeared at many events together to speak, they have yet to engage in a true, one-on-one debate setting (they did participate in a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club event in July, but that also included Republican JB Benshimen, who waits in the wings until after the primary to begin his full on campaign.)

Both candidates have received their fair share of major endorsements, though Diamond has snagged two of the biggest, getting the Florida Education Association nod, as well as the Tampa Bay Times imprimatur, which said in their editorial that  “Diamond’s Tallahassee experience gives him an advantage.” That recommendation was featured in his second television ad of the campaign.

The race is considered to be close, but there’s been no independent polling. And the the two campaigns dueling polls that were released on August 9 were no help. Lynn struck first that morning, issuing out an internal poll showing up by 12 percentage points. An hour later, Diamond released his poll, showing him up by nine points.

One issue that has provoked emotions in the contest has been those hundreds of thousands of dollars that Lynn raised as a congressional candidate and then moved to a political action committee, as is allowed under Florida election law. But, he was asked at Tiger Bay debate in late June (the only debate they’ve held), was it the right thing to do?

“I have always said that we need changes in campaign finance reform,”Lynn said. “I think it’s wrong that anyone in the state of Florida can set up a political committee to take unlimited funds. Those funds should be limited in the same way that funds from a federal candidate should be limited. But currently, the law states that a political committee can accept unlimited funds.”

Diamond pounced.

“I don’t have a Washington war chest in this campaign, and just because something may be legal, doesn’t mean it’s right,” he said, adding that perhaps that if Lynn is as concerned with using his PAC money as his comments suggested, “perhaps he and I could enter into some sort of discussion about not doing that.” The two did not appear to be discussing that after the event.

After that Tiger Bay forum, Diamond issued a press release calling for as many as five to seven debates before the Aug. 30 primary. Lynn responded that he was interested, but the two camps never were able to come together (Diamond’s team insists that Lynn dropped the ball), depriving the voters of the chance to distinguish between the two candidates ideologies.

Both have aired two commercials – Lynn’s first ad proclaimed that he would stand up for progressive values, because “progressive values are Pinellas values.”

As of August 12, Lynn had over $33,000 cash on hand with his PAC – Pinellas Community Voters Fund – and more than $20,000 cash on hand n his own campaign fund. Diamond had more than $13,000 cash on hand in his campaign account, and over $9,000 in his PAC -Protecting Pinellas Families.

The District encompasses much of St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, Lealman and Feather Sound.

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MARCO RUBIO ROMPS IN NEW POLL via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – According to a new online poll by St. Leo University … Rubio and Patrick Murphy have overwhelming leads in their primary races for Rubio’s Senate seat, and Rubio tops Murphy in a general election match up by eight percentage points. But St. Leo pollster Frank Orlando said Trump’s poor performance in the survey is a warning sign for Rubio as he looks beyond the Aug. 30 primary. “Despite being the incumbent, Marco Rubio is attempting to defy political gravity to some extent,” Orlando said in a press release. “When the top of your ticket is losing by 14 points, it is difficult (and perhaps not sustainable) to be ahead this comfortably.” In the Senate primaries, Rubio is trouncing Carlos Beruff by a 54-point margin, or 68 percent to 14 percent. Murphy also is blowing out Alan Grayson with 48 percent support, compared to 17 percent for Grayson. Rubio has 46 percent support in a general election, compared with 38 percent for Murphy and 15.7 percent undecided.

— “Marco Rubio is running for the Senate — or maybe still the presidency?” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post

BEHIND RUBIO, A POWERFUL ALLY: PRIVATE PRISON OPERATOR GEO GROUP via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Few candidates in the country have gotten more help from the Boca Raton based company, including $80,400 in the last month alone. Geo Group employees and political action committee contributed $30,400 to Rubio’s Senate campaign while the PAC gave $50,000 to the super PAC supporting Rubio, records show. That’s on top of nearly $190,000 in support Rubio has received dating to his time as speaker of the Florida House, when Geo Group landed a major contract with the state, to his presidential run. Rubio said he hadn’t read the Justice Department report citing cost and safety concerns at private prisons. Geo Group stock plunged but was on the rise as company officials downplayed any significant harm to their bottom line. “I’ll look at the report and what they found and if the findings are such that justify their decision, then it will be justified,” Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times while campaigning in Tallahassee. “At the end of the day, contractors are supposed to save us money, not cost us money.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Murphy will vote at 10 a.m. at the Palm Beach County Gardens Branch Library, 1303 Campus Drive in Palm Beach Gardens. Media should RSPVP to Press@MurphyForFlorida.com.

ALAN GRAYSON FINDS SILVER LINING IN PHONE HACK via Eric Garcia of Roll Call – Grayson said in a fundraising email that after his phone number was released in the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee emails, many people called to offer him praise and encouragement. Grayson noted that one of the leaks posted the phone numbers of nearly all Democratic lawmakers, which led to some members receiving “obscene and sick calls” … “Well, of course, that’s terrible,” he said in the email. “But for what it’s worth, most of mine weren’t like that. Rather, Grayson said many callers appreciated his political stances and one even called for him to stage a presidential primary challenge against Hillary Clinton in 2020, to which he said “thanks, but no thanks” … “But it was interesting to me that while my fellow ‘public servants’ were being served up some very nasty stuff, most people who felt moved to contact me had something good to say about the work that we’ve done, to make the world a better place,” Grayson wrote.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS WORKING TO ASSURE NO SHADE THROWN AT SOLAR AMENDMENT NEXT WEEK via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Amid mud-slinging primary fights and expected low turnout, environmental groups are stepping-up efforts to win voter approval next week for Amendment 4 — a new tax-exemption for homeowners and businesses installing solar equipment. Florida Conservation Voters has posted a website that makes it easy for supporters to find an early voting site near them. Constitutional amendments must be approved by at least 60 percent of those voting on the measure. There hasn’t been much vocal opposition to Amendment 4, put on the ballot by state lawmakers. But supporters know the 60 percent bar is still a high one. “If every Florida voter who supports expanding the use of clean energy and reducing our state’s reliance on fossil fuels came out to vote, Amendment 4 would pass in a landslide,” said Aliki Moncrief, Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director. “The August primary is our chance to make our voices heard.”

HEDGE FUND CHIEF’S SUPER PAC TRYING TO COMPARE MATT GAETZ AND HILLARY CLINTON via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – A super PAC fueled in large part by the president of a Connecticut-based hedge fund is prepared to make the odd claim that state Rep. Gaetz is similar to Clinton. The Citizen Super PAC has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission indicating it is preparing to drop nearly $40,000 in mail pieces in the 1st Congressional District, a conservative seat in the western portion of the panhandle. The group’s website indicates its latest “project” is to raise money for a mail piece calling him a “crony capitalist” and for a TV ad comparing him to Clinton. The mail piece talks about several organizations impacted by Gaetz-sponsored legislation that also gave him campaign contributions. The super PAC’s site says the group is the “first crowdsourcing platform where voters can select and financially back specific ads for the candidates.” People can use the site to make small-dollar donations to support specific ads, including those going after Gaetz. The site does not mention that its biggest donor is George Fox, president of Titan Advisers, a Connecticut-based hedge fund with more than $5 billion in assets under management. He has given Citizen Super Pac $1 million of the $1.8 million it has raised since July 31. Its second-biggest donor is a committee called Citizens for Sound Government, which gave $400,000. It is a new super PAC that has not yet had to disclose its donors.

MARY THOMAS MAKES CLOSING ARGUMENT IN NEW AD — The Tallahassee Republican released the closing ad in her bid for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. The advertisement attempts to contrast Thomas with Republican Neal Dunn. “You and I are different. We work hard, go to church and try to raise our children the very best that we can. We love our country, our constitution, and our freedom. … You and I deserve a voice in Congress.” Thomas faces Dunn and Ken Sukhia in the Aug. 30 Republican primary.

THOMAS BAILS ON CD 2 DEBATE IN TALLAHASSEE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Thomas pulled out just minutes before the festivities were to begin. The two remaining Republicans, Neal Dunn and Ken Sukhia, were left to compete for the mantle of the true conservative in the race. Meanwhile, Democrats Walter Dartland and Steve Crapps said they would stick up for the little guy. “What distinguishes me is that I have already fought for the issues we all hold dear,” Sukhia said … Dunn agreed the country is on the wrong track, but said he hopes to cooperate with Democrats within limits. “You have to be able to work together. Maybe I’m not right on some things. Maybe they’re right.” As for Thomas, she telephoned debate organizers for the Network of Entrepreneurs & Business Advocates in Tallahassee “a few minutes” before the scheduled start, said Barney Bishop, the group’s president. “We got a call saying she was in Lake City or Live Oak” and wouldn’t attend, he said. “I think she had another appointment.”

CORRINE BROWN AND LAWYERS ‘BREAK UP’; TRIAL POSTPONED UNTIL NOVEMBER via Ryan Benk of WJCT – Federal Judge James Klindt granted her previous lawyers’ request to be dismissed from the case; it’s the third set of lawyers who’ve departed from Brown since her indictment … Lawyers Mark NeJame and David Haas cited irreconcilable differences in their motion last week, but NeJame said it’s nothing personal. “That’s why a lot of times people don’t represent friends and family — because it does get personal. She’s been a public servant for 24 years in this area. She’s done a phenomenal amount of good,” NeJame said. “We continue to support her personally and professionally, but we simply believe it was not best for us to continue to represent her.” His motion cited “hostility” with Brown, but … said it was more like arguing with a spouse or friend. “It’s simply a breakup and sometimes you break up and you don’t talk again and sometimes you break up because it’s best to remain friends,” he said. Sporting a lipstick mark on his cheek after a kiss from Brown, NeJame said he’ll be instrumental in picking her new counsel, which must be done by a Sept. 7 status hearing. Her trial is set for Nov. 17, after the general election.

CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE BRIAN MAST’S EDUCATION CREDENTIALS QUESTIONED via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Mark Freeman, a physician running in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, said Republican Mast, a veteran also running in the Treasure Coast congressional district, did not graduate from Harvard University. “Brian Mast did NOT graduate from Harvard. He can imply that all he wants but what I say is absolutely true. He graduated from Harvard EXTENSION School. What is the difference you say? A lot,” said Freeman in a lengthy Facebook post over the weekend. Freeman went on to say the extension school has “open enrollment … whereas Harvard University, as everyone knows, a rigorous admission because it is the most prestigious college in the country.” “Mast ought to be proud that he passed the online extension school course. Why does he need to grossly exaggerate his accomplishments?” continued Freeman. “He needs to correct the record, admit that he did not tell the truth and apologize.” The Harvard Extension School offers several programs for adult learners, including undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students hoping to enroll in the undergraduate program must take three admission courses, which are available online, before applying to the program.

NRCC TAKES AIM AT RANDY PERKINS IN CD 18 — The National Republican Congressional Committee has launched a digital ad campaign aimed at Perkins, a Democrat running in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. The 30-second spot, “’Rip Off’ Randy Perkins,” attacks Perkins and highlights some of the negative headlines involving Perkins’ disaster relief business. “Rip off Randy Perkins, sleazy even by Washington standards. Too corrupt to represent us,” a narrator says in the advertisement. The ad buy indicates the NRCC believes Perkins will be the Democratic nominee. The NRCC isn’t the only organization expected to spend heavily in the district. The GOP Congressional Leadership Fund has said it would spend significantly in the district.

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TEACHERS UNION, VOUCHER ADVOCATES SQUARE OFF IN DEM PRIMARY FOR SD 11 via Florida Politics – The Florida Education Association has put another $25,000 into the political committee chaired by Orlando Democratic Rep. Randolph Bracy, who is running in a four-way primary for the newly redrawn Senate District 11. The “Floridians for Progress” political committee has brought in $55,000 in contributions from the teachers’ union, which accounts for nearly half of its contributions to date. Bracy is leading the pack in fundraising one week out from the primary election, with former Sen. Gary Siplin holding the second place spot. Through Aug. 12, Bracy had about $73,000 on hand in his campaign account and $12,000 in his PAC, while Siplin had about $33,000 in the bank. The other two Democrats in the race, former Rep. Bob Sindler and Chuck O’Neal, trail have about $7,000 in on hand cash between them. Notable names on Siplin’s most recent report include John Kirtley, a Tampa businessman who is a leading advocate for school choice in the Sunshine State, and the “Creating Possibilities” political committee chaired by former Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff. The nominee will only face a pair of write-in candidates, Joseph Harris and Miranda Ratcliffe, on Election Day.

NEW POLL SHOWS GOP PRIMARY IN SD 23 COMING DOWN TO THE WIRE via Florida Politics – State Representative Greg Steube receives 26 percent in a new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls … Nora Patterson, a former member of the Sarasota County Commission and Sarasota City Commission is at 24 percent, while former state Rep. Doug Holder is at 22 percent. State Rep. Ray Pilon is in fourth place at 16 percent, but that represents a marked improvement from a similar poll taken a month ago. Rick Levine is at 4 percent, while 9 percent of SD 23 voters say they are undecided about who they’ll vote for. The poll from July showed Holder leading the pack with 29 percent of the vote, Steube at 23 percent and Patterson at 20 percent. The five Republicans are vying to replace Sen. Nancy Detert in the newly drawn Senate District. Detert — who has represented the Sarasota area in the state Senate since 2008 — announced in September she was running for county commission. Detert was elected without opposition to the Sarasota County Commission in June.

SHADE OF THE DAY via a fundraising email from Jeff Clemens: “I am definitively not Irv Slosberg and that’s a good thing. For one, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a neon hat…”

MICHAEL STEINGER DROPS ANOTHER $150 K INTO SD 30 RACE via Florida Politics – West Palm Beach Democrat Steinger [has brought] his total loans to $490,000 since he entered the race in May. Steinger, an attorney, didn’t bring in any other contributions between Aug. 6 and Aug. 12 according to his most recent campaign finance report, while his spending hit nearly $200,000 for the week. About $182,000 of that money went to Virginia-based Screen Strategies Media for an ad buy, with $11,155 heading to Get Out the Signs and $5,000 going to Cornerstone Solutions for campaign management. The performance leaves the candidate with about $40,000 in the bank. Steinger is running against state Rep. Bobby Powell in a contentious Democratic primary, which has seen the two get personal. Steinger’s campaign ran an ad featuring a mugshot of Powell’s father, and Powell fired back by bringing up Steinger’s father, who is serving currently serving a 20-year prison sentence. The winner of the Aug. 30 primary will face Republican Ron Berman in the general election, though the coastal Palm Beach County district carries a sizable advantage for Democrats.

IRV SLOSBERG GIVES ANOTHER $378K TO SD 31 CAMPAIGN, NOW OVER $1M IN LOANS via Florida Politics – Outside of the loan, the veteran lawmaker raised just $1,500 between Aug. 6 and Aug. 12 — $1,000 from Florida Crystals and $500 from UPSPAC-Florida — while he spent $378,618 for the week in the hotly contested primary race against Lake Worth Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens. Most of that money went toward advertising, including $150,000 to Wyoming-based National Campaign Services and $75,000 to Georgia-based CPN Station. Boca Raton shop Mark Graphics also picked up about $40,000 over the course of the week. Clemens brought in about $16,000 for his campaign during the weeklong stretch while his associated committees, “Each Vote Counts” and “Committee for a Prosperous Florida,” brought in a combined $124,000. The Florida Education Association was by far Clemens’ biggest backer for the week, with a $100,000 check Aug. 8 to Each Vote Counts, though he also picked up $5,000 contributions from the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Service Employees International Union Florida.

POLLS SHOW SD 34 RACE WAY TOO CLOSE TO CALL via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – One of Florida’s most expensive state Senate races is dead even, according to two new polls showing former state Rep. Jim Waldman tied with attorney Gary Farmer heading into the last week of early and absentee voting. In one poll, conducted by Waldman’s campaign, he pulls in 25 percent of the vote to Farmer’s 26 percent while state Rep. Gwyndolen “Gwyn” Clarke-Reed receives 17 percent support. The margin of error is four points for the survey … Between their two campaigns and political committees, Farmer and Waldman have spent nearly all of the $2.5 million in the race for a seat in a part-time Legislature that pays less than $30,000 yearly. Waldman has spent about $1 million and Farmer’s campaign and committee have spent about $1.5 million more. Clarke-Reed has raised only $25,000 and spent about $16,000 as of Friday. “This race is a dead heat between Jim Waldman and Gary Farmer and has been so for the last two weeks,” pollster Keith Frederick wrote in an internal campaign memo obtained by POLITICO Florida. “At 31 percent undecided, this Democratic Primary race remains fluid.”

FLORIDA DEMOCRATS LAUNCH FIRST TV AD BACKING JOSE JAVIER RODRIGUEZ IN SD 37 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — The ad, a 30-second spot called “Restore,” features Rodriguez talking about his commitment to the people of Miami. In the ad, Rodriguez says “for too long well-connected special interests have had their way.” Rodriguez faces Republican Miguel Diaz de la Portilla in the November general election. “The people of State Senate District 37 deserve a Senator dedicated to protecting their rights, not another career politician who has spent his career consistently serving the special interests,” said Anders Croy, the deputy communications director for Senate Victory.

OUTSIDE GROUPS BEEF UP AD BUYS IN SD 23, HD 21 AHEAD OF PRIMARY via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – “Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics,” “Conservatives for Truth,” and the “Conservative Leadership Fund” upped their ad buys this week, buying a combined $153,713 worth of TV ad time in at least two legislative races, Senate District 23 and House District 21. Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics is set to spend at least $82,203 for cable ads through Aug. 29 in Senate District 23. The Tallahassee-based political committee was created in June, and has spent $96,000 on advertisements since July. The committee has raised $179,248 since its creation. The committee received $117,500 from “Floridians for Limited Government,” a political committee linked to Rep. Doug Broxson. Broxson is running in Senate District 1. Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics purchased TV time in two media markets — Fort Myers and Tampa Bay. Both of those media markets cover portions of Senate District 23, which includes all of Sarasota County and western Charlotte County. Conservatives for Truth also bought TV time in Tampa Bay and Fort Myers markets, spending $45,994 to air 30-second spots on cable through Aug. 30. The Miami-based political committee was formed in July, and has raised $280,000. Records show the group received $100,000 from “Rebuild Florida,” Rep. Jose Felix Diaz’s political committee.

ENDORSEMENT WATCH:

Dana Young, running for Florida Senate District 18, has been endorsed by the GREY2K USA Worldwide (GREY2K USA), the largest greyhound protection organization in the world.

Sam Killebrew, running for Florida House District 41, has been endorsed by the Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC).

John Cortes, running for Florida House District 43, has been endorsed by the Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC).

Rebecca Smith, running for Florida House District 60, has received the endorsement of the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) PAC.

Robert Asencio, running for Florida House District 118, has received the endorsement of the South Florida Council of Firefighters.

KEN DETZNER TO VOTERS: PLEASE DON’T FORGET TO MAIL YOUR BALLOTS ON TIME via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Detzner reminded voters to get their votes mailed off before it’s too late … telling voters who have requested vote-by-mail or absentee ballots they have a limited time to return their ballots for the August primary. “I strongly encourage all Florida voters who have requested a vote-by-mail ballot for the upcoming Primary Election to allow sufficient time to return their vote-by-mail ballot,” said Detzner. “Voters returning vote-by-mail ballots should also make sure to sign the back of the return envelope. Plan ahead and make sure your voice is heard!” The United States Postal Service says voters should mail their completed ballots at least a week before they are due to ensure they arrive on time. The last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot is Aug. 24. Vote-by-mail ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Aug. 30.

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GOV. SCOTT CONFIRMS LOCALLY TRANSMITTED ZIKA VIRUS CASE IN PINELLAS COUNTY via Michael Auslen, Megan Reeves and Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s the first locally-transmitted case of the virus confirmed outside South Florida. Florida Department of Health officials declined to say when or in what part of Pinellas County the case was discovered. The state believes mosquitoes continue to spread Zika only in two parts of Miami-Dade County, where Scott confirmed four additional infections …  “While this investigation is ongoing, DOH still believes that ongoing active transmissions are only occurring in the two previously identified areas in Wynwood and Miami Beach,” Scott said in a statement. But a University of South Florida expert is warning that the presence of one infected person likely points to more cases emerging, as happened in both Miami Beach and Wynwood. “I think it will be like what we’re seeing in Miami Beach, where we have a few cases,” said José Montero, an associate professor at USF’s Division of Infectious Disease at the Morsani College of Medicine. “There’s never just one. I hope it’s just a few. This is something the whole Gulf Coast is concerned about.” The most likely way the virus arrived was via a person who caught it in South Florida, then traveling to Pinellas and either being bitten by a mosquito or passing the virus on through intercourse, Montero said. About 80 percent of infected people exhibit no symptoms, meaning they go about their normal routine instead of being home bound.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will host a Zika preparedness round table at  9:30 a.m. at the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, 1105 E. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.

AS ZIKA COMES TO PINELLAS, CHARLIE CRIST AND DAVID JOLLY CONDEMN CONGRESSIONAL FAILURE TO DEAL WITH DISEASE via Anne Lindberg of Florida Politics – They agreed Congress’ failure to provide funding to combat the Zika virus is unconscionable. They were reacting to news released by Gov. Scott that the Department of Health had confirmed a non-travel-related case of Zika in Pinellas County. Crist, a Democrat who is running against Jolly for the Congressional District 13 seat, said, “For this virus endangering Floridians to now spread unabated to Pinellas County is inexcusable. Lives are in danger, particularly expectant mothers, children, and women planning to have children.” Jolly, a Republican who has long criticized Congressional inaction on the threat from the Zika virus, repeated his call for Congress to return to Washington, D.C., to pass a long-term Zika funding package. “Florida is at risk and Washington is tone deaf,” Jolly said. “Today’s news of a locally transmitted case of Zika in Pinellas County is another alarm that should prompt leadership to call members back to D.C. to address this public health issue … As a representative of a frontline state dealing with the Zika outbreak, I fully understand the serious public health risk this virus presents. But we must address this issue now and responsibly and without playing politics. This is a public health issue, not a political issue.”

BOB BUCKHORN SAYS TAMPA IS ABOUT TO GET AGGRESSIVE IN TRYING TO COMBAT ZIKA VIRUS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Standing in front of an empty pool in an abandoned home in Tampa’s Wellswood area … the mayor announced a plan to attempt to combat the chances that the virus will spread to the region. “We’re going to be aggressive about going out and identifying in those areas and those circumstances and those situations where we can affect some change,” Buckhorn said. “These abandoned pools are one of these circumstances.” The Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito. They tend to breed in standing water, which is why the city will begin utilizing all 45 of their code inspectors and 38 additional neighborhood enhancement personnel to locate areas around the city where standing water has accumulated. Those inspectors will be equipped with 3,600 dunks to drop in those pools of water. These dunks contain BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis), a bacterium that naturally kills mosquito larvae before they can grow up to become flying, biting, disease-spreading adults. BTI is deadly to mosquito larvae, but it is harmless to people, plants, pets, fish, wildlife and beneficial insects. Code Enforcement will distribute those dunks to residents, and also use them throw them into pools, retention ponds and other areas where they know standing water exists. They’re also available at Home Depot and Lowe’s for the general public.

S&P WARNS ZIKA HARM TO MIAMI-DADE TOURISM IS INEVITABLE via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald – Standard & Poor’s said it was too early to say whether Miami-Dade’s bond rating — which scores a government’s ability to repay debt — would be hurt by a Zika travel warning coming to Miami Beach. The agency maintained its AA credit rating for Miami-Dade (defined as “very strong”) and its stable outlook, suggesting S&P sees no immediate change to the county’s financial forecast. Authors of the report wrote that Miami-Dade’s real estate market should provide enough of a buffer to avoid budget disruptions if taxes tied to tourist spending dip because of Zika. The key question, S&P said, was how big of a hit Zika will deliver to the region’s tourism market. “The real question is not if Zika will affect tourism and related revenues, but by how much,” S&P analyst Hilary Sutton said in the report.

RICHARD CORCORAN BRIEFS HOUSE MEMBERS ON NEW SPEAKER’S TRANSITION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – House Speaker-Designate Corcoran updated House members on planned changes to committees, staffing, a rewrite of the rules and other issues … revisions to the House committee structure will be released by Sept. 30 and that his leadership team, including the majority leader and all committee chairmen, will be announced Nov. 9, the day after the general election. Corcoran has not named any chairs, but it’s widely expected that Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican, will chair the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. House members will get committee assignment preference forms Nov. 15. A draft rewrite of the House rules for the 2016-2018 cycle will be available by Nov. 10, Corcoran said. The Pasco Republican said in his memo that he hopes to finalize staff assignments by the end of next month. In addition to chief of staff Mathew Bahl, Corcoran’s senior staff includes Lynn CobbTom Hamby and Carol Gormley on policy; Tony Cortese (process); Celeste Lewis (administration); Fred Piccolo (communications) and James Blair (external affairs). JoAnne Leznoff will stay on as staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, Stephanie Birtman will remain at Rules, and Joanna Hassell will rejoin the House staff next month in the education policy unit.

PSC SAYS IT NO LONGER HAS DOCUMENT SUBMITTED BY FORMER COMMISSIONER IN FPL RATE HIKE CASE via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – The Florida Public Service Commission said Tuesday it no longer has a copy of a document involving former commissioner Nathan Skop that was submitted on Monday with an exhibit and then withdrawn. A PSC spokeswoman said the commission returned the document to Skop, who represents a couple challenging Florida Power & Light Co.’s $1.3 billion rate hike request. But a public records law expert said the commission should have retained the document and should provide it to POLITICO Florida, which had requested it. During a hearing on the rate hike request Monday, Skop distributed a document that he said was an exhibit for use in questioning the veracity of an FPL witness, company president and CEO Eric Silage. Skop, who worked at FPL from 2000 to 2002 as a business manager, said the document addressed the issue of whether he left the company voluntarily.

LACK OF SUBSIDIES IN FILM INDUSTRY DRIVING FLORIDA JOBS TO OTHER STATES via Adam Walser of WFTS Tampa Bay –  “Georgia is cleaning our clocks,” said Film Florida President Kelly Paige. She says there’s a steady stream of film industry employees leaving Florida. “The mill workers, the craft services, the plumbers, the carpenters…they’re all leaving,” she said. It hasn’t always been like that. The state approved $269 Million in film tax credits in 2010. That was supposed last six years, but the money ran out almost immediately. One reason is that the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment awarded incentives on a first-come basis, with no consideration of the number of Floridians hired or the merit of the projects. Some money even went to companies that produced video games and commercials. Lawmakers recently tried to renew incentives. We have over 100-thousand people in the film industry in the state of Florida,” said Florida Sen. Nancy Detert, during a committee hearing last spring. But those efforts failed, largely because the Koch brothers-backed “Americans for Prosperity” lobbied against incentives, saying they were a handout to Hollywood moguls. “We remain in opposition primarily to this incentive program as a whole,” said Skyler Zander, Deputy Director for Americans for Prosperity in Florida. Florida Speaker of the House designate Richard Corcoranopposes incentives and helped to defeat bills calling for more money in committee during the last legislative session.

MICCOSUKEE COURT LOSS COULD CLEAR WAY FOR IRS TO CLAIM $1 BILLION IN BACK TAXES via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald – The Miccosukee Indians have lost a contentious tax case that experts say will strengthen federal government efforts to collect more than $1 billion in overdue personal income taxes. U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga found … that a tribal member must pay $278,758 in taxes, interest and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service for failing to file a tax return in 2001. The judge concluded her family’s gaming income — a distribution of casino profits — was not exempt from U.S. tax laws, a ruling likely to have ripple effects on many of the West Miami-Dade tribe’s 600 members. Altonaga’s decision, which will be formally filed as a judgment against the Miccosukees and tribe member Sally Jim … provides the IRS with the legal power to compel other members — including Chairman Billy Cypress — to pay personal income taxes on casino gaming distributions dating back more than a decade. Miami attorney and tax specialist David Garvin said the judge’s decision was “definitely significant because it sets a precedent … I anticipate this will propel the IRS to move more expeditiously now that they have the court agreeing with their position … The tribe cannot take any solace from this order. The outcome is inevitable.”

NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: 3M Company

AFTER SHOCKING SHOOTING ON THE STREET, A FAMILIAR FLORIDA FAILURE via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – Last month, Arnaldo Rios Soto was swept up in a national spectacle when a North Miami police sniper shot his African-American caregiver in the leg as the man lay prone in an intersection. Rios, a 26-year-old with autism, schizophrenia and an intellectual disability, was playing with a toy truck. Behavior aide Charles Kinsey instantly became an exemplar of the Black Lives Matter movement. But for Rios, there is no movement to sustain him, no placards or demonstrations. If he is a symbol of anything, it is the state’s decades-long failure to provide adequate community-based services for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Rios has languished in a psychiatric hospital since the shooting made headlines July 18. The hospital has restricted his visitors, his family said, and refused to allow them to bring him toy trucks — which are as comforting as a teddy bear for a man who is large in stature but small in maturity. Aventura Hospital wants to discharge Rios, whose tantrums and violence have bedeviled staff. And he’s remained under involuntary commitment long past the hospital’s ability to help him. But state disability administrators had no place to put him. There are no group homes near his mother in Miami capable of handling his very challenging behavior.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a slew of Florida politics, including Dan Bruno, Steve Cona of Associated Builders & Contractors, Dave Kerner, TV’s Troy Kinsey, Andrea Reilly of Smith Bryan & Myers, and Seminole Mayor Lesile Waters.

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Like Zika, other major unfinished business as Congress left for summer is TPP

Anyone paying attention to Florida politics right now knows that Congress is on summer recess until Labor Day.

We know this because we are constantly being reminded by Democratic politicians that Congress broke for six weeks without passing a Zika funding bill.

While Zika is the current football being passed to and fro in our politics, it is worth noting that Congress adjourned without passing another piece of legislation with big, long- and short-term consequences: the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, known as TPP.

Last fall, Congress narrowly approved the trade promotion authority (TPA) needed for President Obama to negotiate TPP and bring it back before Congress for an up-or-down vote. TPA/TPP are the rare issues that are truly bipartisan; Democrats are Republicans were almost equally divided on the bills’ merits.

This division is on acute display among Florida members of Congress in tough elections. To wit, Rep. Patrick Murphy, generally considered the type of New Democrat amenable to a free-trade agreement. Murphy voted against TPA while facing a then-strong challenge from liberal wife beater, Alan Grayson. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, in a tough re-election fight to hold the seat he took from Joe Garcia in 2014, was whipped by leadership to vote for TPA, but was a late decider and might well have voted “nay” had the Speaker not needed his vote.

Both are considered “swing” votes on the passage of TPP, whenever that vote ultimately occurs (at this point likely in the “lame duck” Congress, post elections).

Despite their equal and opposite votes and political pickles on TPA/TPP, Murphy and Curbelo forged bipartisan consensus on some of their shared concerns over the law’s passage. As FloridaPolitics.com previously reported, the two young members from South Florida jointly penned a July 10, 2015, letter to Ambassador Michael Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative, urging a fair resolution to a dispute between a Jacksonville-based company and an Australian bank, over an obscure Australian law*.

They implored Froman to give his “full attention” to the “serious and valid concerns” expressed in their letter. In doing so they gave voice to reservations about TPP from both parties, forcing members to pose the question, “if an existing trading partner and ally, like Australia, can cause such undue harm to a U.S. business interest, what do we have to fear from less established international actors who would be included in this new, broader trade pact?”

(*APR Energy, in Jacksonville, leased tens of millions of dollars in power generation equipment to an Australian utility that subsequently went bankrupt. Because of Australia’s ironically named “Personal Properties and Securities Act” (PPSA), APR’s equipment was summarily seized by the receiver, ANZ Bank and is currently being essentially leased back to APR after they posted a $60 million USD guarantee with the bank.)

Murphy and Curbelo sent that letter nearly a year ago, but its message is beginning to resonate.

Republican Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia seized on the issue in a speech on the House floor in late July. Mooney called the APR/ANZ dispute an “injustice” and the PPSA an “unfair and inequitable law … contrary to the basic right to own and possess private property guaranteed under the U.S. constitution.” He goes on to say that “laws like [PPSA] should make it very difficult for any member of congress to vote for [TPP].”

Curbelo, for his part, weighed back in a day after Mooney, concurring with him that, “[PPSA] is contrary to the elemental right to own and conduct international business, as well as due process and equal treatment.” He reiterates his support for TPP as a potentially “powerful policy for America’s economy” but cautions the need to address “policies and practices [like PPSA] that give trade a bad name.”

As Congress enters week five (six? seven?) of its long, hot, summer break, Zika funding remains unpassed, as does TPP, and a Florida company continues to pay for the privilege of possessing its own private property. At some point, even Florida gets cool enough to kill off the mosquitoes of summer. Unanswered is, in the absence of a resolution between APR and ANZ, will the PPSA kill TPP or will TPP allow the PPSA to kill American jobs and investment?

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Teachers union, voucher advocates square-off in Dem primary for SD 11

The Florida Education Association has put another $25,000 into the political committee chaired by Orlando Democratic Rep. Randolph Bracy, who is running in a four-way primary for the newly redrawn Senate District 11.

The “Floridians for Progress” political committee has brought in $55,000 in contributions from the teachers’ union, which accounts for nearly half of its contributions to date.

Bracy is leading the pack in fundraising one week out from the primary election, with former Sen. Gary Siplin holding the second place spot. Through Aug. 12, Bracy had about $73,000 on hand in his campaign account and $12,000 in his PAC, while Siplin had about $33,000 in the bank.

The other two Democrats in the race, former Rep. Bob Sindler and Chuck O’Neal, trail have about $7,000 in on hand cash between them.

Notable names on Siplin’s most recent report include John Kirtley, a Tampa businessman who is a leading advocate for school choice in the Sunshine State, and the “Creating Possibilities” political committee chaired by former Republican Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff.

SD 11 is being vacated by Orlando Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who is running for Congress in CD 10. Democrats make up a little over 50 percent of the electorate in the majority-minority district, making the winner of the Aug. 30 primary the de facto winner of the seat.

The nominee will only face a pair of write-in candidates, Joseph Harris and Miranda Ratcliffe, on Election Day.

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