Sunburn for 8.17.16 — 13 days until Florida’s primary elections - SaintPetersBlog

Sunburn for 8.17.16 — 13 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.

CONTINUING OUR HYPER FOCUS ON THE UPCOMING PRIMARY ELECTIONS (although many of you expressed regret that we were shelving our Olympic coverage)…

THE YEAR OF THE OPENLY GAY CANDIDATE IN FLORIDA POLITICS – Four openly gay Orlando-area Democratic candidates are running for election in federal and state races this year; Valleri Crabtree in Florida’s 9th Congressional District centered in south Orlando and Kissimmee; Bob Poe in Florida’s 10th Congressional District centered in west Orlando. There is also Beth Tuura in the 47th Florida House District centered in central Orlando, and Carlos Guillermo Smith in the 49th Florida House District centered in East Orlando. Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT organization, is tracking six other openly gay candidates for state offices this year, including Democratic incumbent state Rep.

Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT organization, is tracking six other openly gay candidates for state offices this year, including Democratic incumbent state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach, three running in Broward County (two against each other) and one in Pinellas County. Equity Florida’s politics committee also is supporting Smith and Tuura in Central Florida, Jennifer Webb in St. Petersburg, Richardson in Miami Beach, and Paulette ArmsteadKen Keechl, and Michael Gongora in Broward County. Openly gay Kevin Burns also is running, against Gongora. “It really is a sign of the changed times that, overwhelmingly, voters care about candidates’ qualifications irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund & Institute tracks, researches and supports gay candidates nationally. The political committee calls Florida a “low-equality state” in a comparison of states’ legislative records. Among low-equality states, Florida’s current one openly gay lawmaker is about average, but its bushel of candidates this year is highly unusual, said Victory Fund & Institute spokesman Elliot Imse.

Pollitzer said Florida’s number would certainly double this year and there is the potential there could be five or six gay lawmakers in Tallahassee next year, citing Smith, Tuuro, Webb, Keechl, Gongora and Armstead (who could become the first openly-gay African-American office holder at any level in Florida) as all having good shots at winning.

At this point, only Smith, who is running in Saunders’ old district, is a shoe-in to win. He has practically no opposition, save an independent candidate with little money, Shea Silverman. Smith also has as much support, organization, campaign experience, legislative know-how, and money as any non-incumbent in Florida, in a youth-filled district centered around the University of Central Florida.

All of the candidates have firsthand experiences with anti-gay hatred, and all of them still face legal discrimination, for in Florida it is legal for businesses to fire employees just for being gay. All of them promote legislation to stop that. But it also becomes more generalized.

“My thing is, we, all of us, need to have equal rights. I think that’s the story here,” Crabtree said. “It’s not that I’m focused on any particular group. I want all of us to have equal rights. Because I am gay, I’ve had some painful things happen in my past. This has caused me, I believe, to have a greater level of empathy for other groups that are discriminated against, and that could be discriminated against.”

MONMOUTH POLL: FLORIDA VOTERS THINK MARCO RUBIO RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION TO IMPROVE PRESIDENTIAL CHANCES — The survey found 53 percent of Florida voters polled said they thought Rubio’s decision to run for re-election was to improve his chances at a future presidential bid. About 25 percent said they thought he got in the race because he wanted to serve the public. Rubio initially said he wasn’t running for re-election, but changed his mind in the final days of the qualifying period. Despite the skepticism, the poll found Rubio leads both Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson. Rubio leads Murphy 48 percent to 43 percent, with 3 percent indicating they planned to pick another candidate. In a hypothetical match-up between Rubio and Grayson, Rubio would come out on top with 50 percent of support compared to Grayson’s 39 percent. The survey was conducted by phone from Aug. 12 to Aug. 15, and polled 402 likely Florida residents likely to vote in November. The margin of error was 4.9 percent.

MSNBC’S MORNING JOE CRITICIZES MARCO RUBIO FOR STANDING BY DONALD TRUMP — Joe Scarborough, the host of the popular MSNBC morning show, slammed Rubio for his tepid support of Donald Trump. “I don’t know. If somebody’s a con man, you do not say in the next sentence but I’m supporting that con man. If somebody’s a racist, as Paul Ryan has Donald Trump epitomizes racism with his statements, you do not follow that and the next statement by saying I endorse the man who epitomizes racism with his words. You guys, there is no explaining that away.” In an editorial board meeting with the Miami Herald earlier this week, Rubio said he has stood by everything he said in his presidential campaign, including calling Trump a conman. Rubio has said he would back the Republican nominee, a comment Democrats have seized upon.

IT’S OFFICIAL: PLUG PULLED ON TV DEBATE AMONG REPUBLICAN U.S. SENATE CANDIDATES via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – The Lemieux Center for Public Policy at PBAU had planned to host the debate Aug. 23, a week before voters choose the Republican and Democratic nominees. It was to be broadcast around the state. But since Rubio reversed course and decided to run for re-election, most of the original GOP field has dropped out of the race. Rubio also is giving his leading opponent … Carlos Beruff, the cold shoulder when the underdog calls for debates. The same is true on the Democratic side, where Murphy refuses to debate top rival Grayson. No debates are planned before the primary.

PATRICK MURPHY PICKS UP CONSERVATION ENDORSEMENT, OVER HIGHER-RATED ALAN GRAYSON via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Murphy scooped up the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund … with both the organization and congressman drawing sharp contrasts with Republican Marco RubioTiernan Sittenfeld of the league called Murphy, “The only candidate who can defeat climate-change denier Marco Rubio.” Murphy … touted his support for federal funding of efforts to restore the Everglades and reduce pollution from Lake Okeechobee discharges. He said that “protecting our environment is central to my campaign for the Senate.” His leading rival, Grayson, wasted no time pointing out that Murphy joined a Republican-led vote in favor of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, opposed by President Obama. Grayson also earned higher ratings than Murphy from the league last year and also over the course of their time in Congress. Murphy, however, has been tapped as the Democratic establishment’s choice in Florida’s Senate race, and many organizations seem to be falling in line. “Grayson and his 97 percent LCV lifetime rating shows he’s the true environmental defender in this race. Murphy’s 80 percent rating, for a Democrat, is an embarrassment,” said Michael Ceraso, Grayson’s campaign manager.

PAC SLAMS MARY THOMAS OVER CONNECTIONS TO CHARLIE CRIST IN NEW AD — Right Way Super PAC is out with a new advertisement highlighting Thomas’ connections to former Gov. Crist. “Conservatives can’t trust career bureaucrats like Mary Thomas. When Charlie Crist pushed his radical climate change agenda, it was Thomas that filed lawsuits against Florida cities. Even after Crist left the Republican Party, Thomas kept collecting her government paycheck as a senior member of his administration. Now, that she’s running for Congress, Thomas is hiding her job for Crist. That’s why Mary Thomas can’t be trusted in Washington.” Thomas was appointed as the assistant general counsel to the Florida Department of Community Affairs in 2009 by Crist. Thomas is running in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. She faces Ken Sukhia and Neal Dunn in the Aug. 30 primary.

NEW AL LAWSON AD SPEAKS TO THE AMERICAN DREAM via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – “Al Lawson escaped with his mother as their house exploded into flames,” goes the first line in the ad, perhaps completely unique in the genre of political messaging. Lawson “lost everything” and “had to work the fields at 8,” the ad’s gentle female voice-over contends. From there, he had to catch-up in school. “Then, high school class president,” and marriage to his college sweetheart. And, of course, college and pro basketball to boot. A “successful small-business man,” who has created jobs, “now Al Lawson is running for Congress.” In a campaign season where the incumbent in CD 5 faces 22 federal counts, the ad projects stability and security. And looks like that of a winner.

— “Corrine Brown has bigger issues than a newspaper endorsement” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

DARREN SOTO ANNOUNCES HISPANIC, CARIBBEAN, MUSLIM CAUCUS LEADERS’ ENDORSEMENTS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Soto’s campaign announced endorsements from Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida President Vivian Rodriguez, Democratic Caribbean Caucus-Orlando Branch Vice Chairman Karen Green and American Muslim Democratic Caucus of Osceola President Khorshed Hossain. The endorsements come as Soto, and Orlando Democrat, continues to push his campaign to become the first member of Congress of Puerto Rican descent from Florida, and the first Hispanic congressman representing Central Florida. “Darren Soto has been a strong voice for our rights and for all diverse cultures throughout his career. As a fellow Caribbean community citizen, I can attest to Darren’s commitment to fight for the issues that matter to working families while serving as a state legislator,” Green stated in a news release … “He has advocated in favor of immigrants, students, women, seniors and our environment and has a record to prove it.”

SOME OF CD 15 CANDIDATE JIM LANGE’S WEBSITE LANGUAGE IS VERY SIMILAR TO BERNIE SANDERS AND ELIZABETH WARREN’S via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Lange is running as a progressive in the Polk/Hillsborough county-based district, and has been called by some supporters as being “in the mold of Bernie Sanders.” Some of the language listed on his website also appears to be in the mold – or language of – the Vermont Senator, as well as that of Massachusetts’ Senator Elizabeth Warren. On Sanders’ website under the heading of “Improving the Rural Economy,” is a subsection that says “Family Farms instead of Factory Farms.” … “It is unacceptable that just four corporations control 82 percent of the nation’s beef cattle market, 85 percent of soybean processing, and 63 percent of pork processing.” On Lange’s website, under the section called “Improving the Rural Economy,” there is this: “It is unacceptable that the top 10 percent of farms collect 75 percent of farm subsidies, while the bottom 62 percent do not receive any subsidies leaving many of our local farmers out to dry.” When contacted … Lange wrote to FloridaPolitics.com in an email that, “My site reflects my philosophy and that of members of my party whom I respect and want to emulate. I will allow you to draw your own conclusion and distribute your opinion to your readers as you see fit.”

FIRST IN SUNBURN – BRIAN MAST HOLDS DOUBLE-DIGIT LEAD IN CD 18 — Mast leads the field with 39 percent support, according to polling data obtained by FloridaPolitics.com. The poll found Rebecca Negron was in second, with 19 percent, followed by Mark Freeman with 18 percent. The survey found 10 percent of voters said they were backing Carl Domino. The automated phone survey was conducted from Aug. 4 through Aug. 7. The poll surveyed 364 likely Republican primary voters. Mast had the highest favorable rating, with 54 percent of respondents saying they had a favorable opinion of the veteran. Nine percent said they had an unfavorable view of Mast, while 36 percent said they were unsure.

NEW TV SPOT NOTES RICK KOZELL ‘ISN’T MARRIED TO A POLITICIAN’ via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – A new 30-second spot by attorney Kozell takes a clear shot at Negron and the rest of the GOP field without naming them. “Rick isn’t married to a politician — he’s married to a schoolteacher,” a female narrator says in a reference to Negron, the wife of powerful state Sen. Joe Negron … “Rick didn’t move to our community just to run — he’s from here. Rick isn’t trying to buy your vote — he’s working to earn it,” the ad continues. Three other Republicans in the District 18 primary are recent transplants to the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast district. The “buy your vote” line is a jab at Freeman (who has poured $1.2 million in personal money in the race) and Domino (who spent $1.2 million of his own money on a losing 2014 campaign and has put more than $400,000 into this race).

FRANCIS ROONEY HAS DOUBLE-DIGIT LEAD IN CD 19, POLL PAID FOR BY HIS CONSULTANT SHOWS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The poll, released by Remington Research Group, showed Rooney had a double-digit lead over his Republican rivals … Rooney leads the pack with 45 percent of the vote. Chauncey Goss is in second with 29 percent, while Dan Bongino received 15 percent support. The poll found 11 percent of respondents were still undecided … The survey showed 53 percent of Collier County voters and 43 percent of Lee County voters said they supported Rooney. Goss received support from about 20 percent of Collier voters and 32 percent of Lee voters; while 13 percent of Collier voters and 15 percent of Lee voters said they backed Bongino. Support in Lee County will be key to the election. The district includes most of Lee County, and Collier County candidates have not fared well in that part of the district in the past. The district also includes part of coastal Collier County. Remington Research Group surveyed 1,606 likely Republican primary voters in Florida’s 19th Congressional District from Aug. 14 through Aug. 15 … The Missouri based firm the polling arm of Axiom Strategies, which is consulting for Rooney in his congressional bid.

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DOUG BROXSON VOICEMAIL COULD BE INVESTIGATED via Tom McLaughlin of the NWFdailynews.com – A Santa Rosa County resident wants the State Attorney’s Office to prosecute Broxson for a voicemail the state representative left for political opponent Mike HillJames Calkins took a copy of the message to the First Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office … Calkins claims Broxson broke the law by first collaborating with a political action committee, then threatening Hill by relaying the organization’s willingness to provide “an unlimited amount of support” to fund a negative campaign on Broxson’s behalf. Broxson and Hill are running as Republicans for Florida’s District 1 state Senate seat, left vacant by outgoing Sen. Greg Evers. Both currently are state representatives — Broxson serving District 3 and Hill representing District 2. The campaign has gotten increasingly nasty in recent weeks, with each candidate questioning the other’s conservative bona fides. Calkins contends Broxson crossed the line by communicating with the unnamed PAC. Under Florida election rules, contact between candidates and outside groups is not allowed. A spokesman said the Broxson campaign maintains the candidate did nothing wrong.

— “Meet Victor Torres: Democrat running for Senate District 15” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

DIRECT MAIL ROUNDUP: FLYER SAYS AUGIE RIBEIRO NOT A TRUE DEMOCRAT, HAS NO FLORIDA LAW LICENSE via Anne Lindberg of Florida Politics – A flyer that landed in Democratic mailboxes the first day of early voting in Pinellas — tells voters … Ribeiro is not only not a true Democrat, he wasn’t even a Democrat until 29 months ago. And, worse, he has no Florida law license. And, although it does not use the term “carpetbagger,” the flyer says multimillionaire Ribeiro is a “New York lawyer” who “thinks he can buy an election” … “Like Rick Scott, now he’s spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and wants to be your voice in Tallahassee,” the flyer says. The mailing is a product of the Ed Narain-connected political action committee “Floridians for Principled Leadership” … “If someone’s going to make an allegation that I’m not a true Democrat, that’s a little surprising to me” … That’s because, Ribeiro said, he has impeccable Democratic credentials. Not only did he support President Barack Obama, but he’s also been on Clinton’s Florida finance team since before she became an official candidate. Ribeiro concedes he has no license to practice law in Florida although he’s admitted to the bar in Connecticut and New York. He is also admitted to the federal bar. But, Ribeiro said that, in the lawsuit over the BP oil spill, he represented local cities — St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island — and Tampa municipal subdivisions — Raymond James Stadium, the Florida Aquarium, golf courses and others — as well as local nonprofits. It’s true, Ribeiro said, that he has been able to finance his campaign because of his own wealth and the generosity of relatives and friends. That was the goal — to avoid taking money from special interests.

ribeiro

MEANWHILE … ED NARAIN USES FACEBOOK LIVE TO CRITIQUE CAMPAIGN MAILERS via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times – Narain used the live video part of Facebook … as he flipped through campaign mailers at his home. While there were several candidates included, most of his attention was focused on those from Augie Ribeiro, a lawyer who entered the Senate District 19 race earlier this summer and has contributed more than $400,000 to his own campaign. “Augie…Augie…,” Narain mused, pretending not to recognize the name of the candidate whom he has debated in several settings. “Oh, Augie Ribeiro. Oh yeah, that’s the guy, the new guy to the district. That’s right, the one that’s trying to buy the seat.” Narain, who has served two years in the Florida House of Representatives, spent almost six minutes on the app, commenting on different mailers and taking jabs at Ribeiro. “I’ve got to tell you guys, it’s embarrassing that this guy would drop into our community and try to pretend to be something he’s not by smearing candidates in the mail,” Narain said. “It’s unbelievable that someone who has this kind of money would actually spend it trying to smear us.”

CAUGHT ON VIDEO SAYING IT WAS AGAINST LAW TO RECORD, GREG STEUBE SAYS TAPE DOESN’T TELL THE WHOLE STORY via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Charlotte County Florida Cop Watch posted a video to its YouTube page over the weekend that shows Steube telling a person it was a felony to record someone without their consent. The video was one of three videos featuring Steube posted to YouTube, and were taken during an event in Charlotte County … “You know it’s actually a felony to videotape people without their permission,” a nearly four-minute video shows Steube saying at the end of a conversation. “Nope, not true,” a man with a camera is heard saying. “That’s not true. Not in Florida” … Steube responds by saying “on private property it is.” Steube isn’t entirely wrong. It is against the law in Florida to record someone without their consent. But according to the Digital Media Law Project, the law makes an exception for in-person communications where there isn’t “a reason expectation of privacy, such as when they’re engaged in a conversation in a public place where they might reasonably be overheard.” Those types of in-person conversations can be recorded “without breaking the law” in Florida … Steube said he was ambushed by the group, who questioned him about whether he could help investigate 9/11 conspiracy theories among other things. That conversation, he said, was recorded by with a handheld camera. Once they were done talking, he said mentioned to the group that it was against the law to record without consent. Those comments, he said, was caught on a hidden camera. “There were two cameras, one that was hidden in a guy’s bag, which was recording unbeknownst to anyone,” he said. “I would imagine any of those people would be disturbed if they knew they were being videotaped and recorded.”

WITH LATEST CHECK, IRV SLOSBERG HAS NOW LOANED HIS CAMPAIGN MORE THAN $750KSlosberg keeps pumping his personal fortune into his campaign coffers in his bid to unseat Sen. Jeff Clemens. The $260,000 infusion brings his total loans to $760,000, nearly all of which has been spent on advertising and mailers. The Boca Raton Democrat had about $40,000 in his campaign account on Aug. 5, compared to $57,000 for Clemens, who also has about $80,000 on hand in a pair of political committees.

— “To pack punch in Florida Senate District 34, Democrats should pick Gary Farmer” via the South Florida Sun Sentinel

DWIGHT BULLARD ORDERED TO PAY FINES IN ELECTIONS PANEL CASE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Florida Elections Commission ordered state Sen. Dwight Bullard to pay $2,000 in fines for filing faulty campaign finance reports. Bullard … had been charged with failing to fix incomplete reports in 2013 and 2015 — even after being told how to do so, staff told commissioners. He was given “multiple opportunities to respond” but never did, a commission lawyer said. Bullard did not attend [the] hearing. Because Bullard knew of the problem and failed to act, he was found in “willful violation” of the law and fined $1,000 each for the two reports. The 39-year-old schoolteacher now represents Senate District 39 and faces voters this year. Because of a recent court-ordered redistricting, he is running for South Florida’s new District 40.

IN MAILER, HD 60 CANDIDATE JACKIE TOLEDO SAYS SHE’D CRACK DOWN ON “ILLEGAL ALIENS” IF ELECTED via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Toledo says … she’d work to repeal two immigration laws passed by the Republican majority in recent years … on Toledo’s list of “bad bills to repeal on Day One” would be legislation that provides in-state tuition and law licenses for “illegal aliens.” Both bills passed in 2014, as Governor Scott was battling for the Hispanic vote as he faced a tough re-election campaign against Charlie Crist. “Politicians in both parties pass some bad laws, and Jackie will work with her colleagues in the Legislature to educate them on the need to change these policies,” says Ryan Wiggins, a representative for the Toledo campaign.” Her background as the daughter of legal immigrants from Peru makes her uniquely qualified to do so.” Wiggins says that “nearly every voter Jackie talks to is concerned about illegal immigration and its effects on our economic well-being and national security, and right fully so. Voters are upset that politicians continue to give taxpayer benefits like subsidized, in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants, and then passes legislation that allows undocumented immigrants to practice law. It’s not fair to hardworking Floridians who play by the rules and follow our laws each and every day.”

BERNIE FENSTERWALD RESISTS TAPPING HIS PERSONAL FORTUNE via Brian Burgess of the Capitolist – After examining July fundraising reports, it appears Fensterwald’s personal net worth of $20 million remains intact. The Democrat raised just over $20,000 in the race to unseat Republican Chris Sprowls, and has spent about half that amount. By contrast, Sprowls has raised $281,000 so far in the cycle, and still has about $225,000 cash on hand. Fensterwald has the ability to write himself a check that might instantly make the race competitive, but has thus far resisted doing so … in July, he said he was relying on campaign help and advisors that people in Tallahassee probably hadn’t heard of. But so far, his campaign has been relatively frugal on that front, too. In July, he made a $1,000 payment to “Catalyst Movement Building Group, LLC” to hire a part-time campaign manager, and then on Aug. 2, made a second payment of $2,300 to the company, which is owned by Clive Hunt of Saint Petersburg Fensterwald has also spent over $3,000 on “campaign literature” and postage. But with just over two months remaining in the general election contest, time is getting short.

ERIC LYNN AND BEN DIAMOND ARGUE ABOUT WHO DROPPED BALL ON DEBATES – BUT BOTTOM LINE IS, THEY’RE NOT HAVING ANY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – At a Tiger Bay Forum … the candidates appeared similar on the issues. It prompted Diamond to challenge Lynn to as many as five to seven debates. But with early voting scheduled to commence this Saturday in Pinellas County, the candidates have engaged in a one-on-one candidates forum exactly zero times. The two campaigns argued about who had dropped the ball in attempting to get at least one debate organized, but the bottom line hasn’t changed – no debate appears to be on the horizon. “It’s disappointing that no group seized on the opportunity to host a debate for the District 68 primary,” said Susan McGrath, chair of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee. “This is a race with two outstanding candidates and the winner holding the seat for years; there is a high degree of interest among voters. Voters will need to avoid the distractions and do their homework by digging down and determining which candidate best reflects their interests.” When contacted about whether any debates were scheduled before the primary in two weeksMeagan Salisbury, an official with Diamond’s campaign, emailed back, “There haven’t been any debates. I reached out to Eric’s team to set up a schedule, but nobody got back to me.” Not true, replied Team Lynn. It sent an exchange of emails that ended with Lynn writing to Diamond Friday, July 8, calling on Diamond to have his campaign team contact, Robin Rorapaugh, Lynn’s campaign manager.

UTILITIES, TRIAL LAWYERS GIVE BIG IN RECENT REPORTING PERIOD via Florida Politics – Florida candidates and committees collected more than $10.5 million in contributions for the July 30 through Aug. 5 reporting period …  More than a quarter of that total came from utility companies pumping money into “Consumers for Smart Solar” … Duke Energy led the cadre of power companies with a $1.5 million check … with FPL, Tampa Electric and Gulf Power Co. adding six-figure checks … Associated Industries of Florida came in at $150,000, with $100,000 going to Smart Solar and another $50,000 to “Let’s Get to Work” … Dosal Tobacco Corporation contributed $60,000 for the week, including $15,000 to “Innovate Florida,” the committee of future Senate President Bill Galvano, which also took in a check for $25,000 from Duke Energy. The Florida Chamber of Commerce donated more than $250,000 for the week through its “Florida Jobs” political committee, including $103,000 to “Main Street Leadership Council,” which is opposing Rep. Matt Hudson in the Republican Primary for Senate District 28. “Florida Jobs” also cut check a $70,000 check to “Citizens for Common Sense in Government” and a $25,000 check to the “Committee to Elect Real Conservatives” … The United States Sugar Corporation also crossed the six-figure contribution mark for the week with $126,500 in donations, including a $100,000 check to Associated Industries of Florida … Florida Crystals gave $45,000, including a $25,000 payment to the “Taxpayers in Action” … Hudson’s PAC, “Making the Right Call,” made a $175,000 contribution to “Sun Coast Patriots,” and a committee chaired by Republican Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, “Protect Florida Families,” also made a $175,000 contribution to “Truth Matters, Inc.,” a committee behind attack ads against her primary opponent Jason Maughan in the SD 27 race.

NRA SENDS REMINDER EMAIL ABOUT CANDIDATES’ GUN GRADES via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The National Rifle Association’s top Florida lobbyist sent an email blast … reminding campaigns and reporters of the grades and endorsements the group made in July, following a number requests for information on lawmakers’ NRA ratings. NRA endorsements and grades often become part of the political fodder in heated primaries. Republican candidates work to advertise themselves as the most gun-friendly candidate, sometimes inflating their grade in mailers or candidate forums. In Democratic primaries, candidates often look to distance themselves from the NRA, so any grade higher than an “F” is seen as bad politics. “We keep getting phone calls from media and campaign consultants asking for the NRA grades of particular candidates,” Hammer wrote. “We did an email blast on July 28 providing the link to NRA’s grades that have been posted online since July 27.” The grades have been a point of contention this year in the high-profile Democratic primary between attorney Gary Farmer and former Rep. Jim Waldman. Farmer accused Waldman of receiving an “A” from the NRA, which would not be helpful in the liberal South Florida Senate district, but the information was not accurate, according to PolitiFact. Similar fights are being played out all over the state, with just two weeks before the Aug. 30 primary, which prompted Hammer’s email.

ENDORSEMENT WATCH:

Stephanie Murphy, running for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, and Susannah Randolph, running for Florida’s 9th Congressional District, have been endorsed League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund, which works to elect candidates who will implement sound environmental policies.

Daniel Webster, who is running for Florida’s 11th Congressional District, has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association.

Doug Broxson, running for Florida Senate District 1, has been endorsed by state Sen. Travis Hutson, who represents SD 6.

Dennis Baxley, running for Florida Senate District 12, has been endorsed by John Stemberger, President of Florida Family Action.

Bob Healy, Jr., Running for Florida Senate District 15, has been endorsed by the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) PAC.

Ben Diamond, running for Florida House District 68, has been endorsed by the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich, running for Florida House District 103, has been endorsed by Florida Planned Parenthood PAC.

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RICK SCOTT’S BIGGEST DONORS? IT’S ALL BUSINESS via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – The latest campaign finance records show Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Committee this month has received another $100,000 combined from a pair of political action committees affiliated with Associated Industries of Florida, one of the most influential business groups in the state. Now three groups with ties to AIF have combined to give Scott’s committee $740,000 since the start of 2015. But they are still not his top donor. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and a political committee tied to it, hold that spot. They have combined to donate more than $925,000 to Let’s Get to Work. It’s a big drop off after that. Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts gave Scott more than $252,000 last year. And U.S. Sugar Corporation, and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik are next in line, both donating $200,000 to Scott’s committee. Scott continues to raise money in Let’s Get to Work, despite facing term limits and being unable to run for another term as governor because of term limits. Scott has used the fund over the last two years to run television ads and fuel bus tours around the state to promote his agenda. He has raised $6.8 million for the fund since the start of 2015.

WITH STATE FIRE LAB STRIPPED OF NATIONAL ACCREDITATION, CFO JEFF ATWATER FIGHTS BACK via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s only state-run lab that analyzes fire evidence has been stripped of its national accreditation after a review team doubted its work in more than a dozen cases. The lab is run by Atwater … [the] state fire marshal. Fighting to restore the lab’s credibility, Atwater has attacked the motives of the accrediting agency and will challenge the sanction at a hearing …  State and local police and fire investigators rely on the Bureau of Forensic Fire and Explosives Analysis, which reviews up to 4,000 samples every year and is one of only three labs of its kind in the United States that analyzes fire residue for evidence of arson. The lab won accreditation in 2010 and again in 2015 from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) … But everything went wrong in January after its review team visited the lab in Havana, near Tallahassee. The team reported that it randomly tested 26 cases and found 14 in which the lab erroneously found the presence of gasoline, which it said “indicates concern regarding the competency of laboratory personnel” … “There were 14 cases in which concerns for the accuracy of the reported findings are in question,” the review said. The lab’s longtime director, Carl Chasteen, who has 37 years of experience, fired back with a 51-page report that called most of the criticism “unfounded.” In a recent letter to state and local police and fire departments, Atwater staunchly defended the lab’s work and said the accrediting agency’s negative report “defies logic” because it came soon after a positive one. Atwater hired his own experts, Armstrong Forensic Laboratory of Arlington, Texas, which spent three days at the lab and wrote a brief letter that found “no objective evidence” to justify the loss of accreditation. The Texas lab is accredited by ASCLD/LAB.

FLORIDA COURT BACKS STATE’S LARGEST SCHOOL VOUCHER PROGRAM via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – The 1st District Court of Appeal sided with a lower court’s decision to throw out the lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association and others, who argue that its method of funding private-school educations for more than 90,000 schoolchildren this year is unconstitutional. The three-judge panel said the plaintiffs haven’t been harmed by the program, and denied that it violates state law. The vouchers are funded by corporations, which in turn receive tax credits on money they owe to the state … Supporters have mounted an expensive public relations campaign to persuade the union and others to drop the lawsuit. Union officials said they would decide later if they would appeal, but in the past have said they were likely to push their lawsuit all the way to the state Supreme Court, which previously ended a different voucher program championed by former Gov. Jeb Bush. “Once again, the merits of this case aren’t being argued,” said Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall … “The court says that teachers and parents and other groups aren’t allowed to challenge the constitutionality of the tax credit vouchers. The courts ruled a previous voucher scheme unconstitutional. Why won’t they let teachers and parents challenge this one?” Victor Curry, bishop of the New Baptist Church in Miami and chairman of a group fighting to keep the program, reiterated his call to end the legal dispute. “It’s long past time for all of us who care so passionately about public education to put aside our differences and work together,” Curry said. “This sweeping ruling should compel us to focus on the real enemies – despair, hopelessness and the ravages of generational poverty.”

ATTORNEYS DEFEND FLORIDA SUPREME COURT DECISION ON WORKERS’ COMP RATE INCREASE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Trial attorneys mounted an ardent defense of Florida Supreme Court rulings blamed by business interests for threatening an increase in workers’ compensation insurance premiums of nearly 20 percent. Mark Touby, a Coral Gables attorney who helped persuade the justices to eliminate a limit on attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases, insisted during a public hearing that claimants wouldn’t need to hire lawyers if insurance companies played fair. “The carriers are the ones making these decisions. They wrongfully denied benefits — that’s what it’s about,” Touby said. Touby was among the lawyers and business leaders who spoke during the hearing in Tallahassee chaired by state Office of Insurance Regulation chief David Altmaier. Business interests represented included Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. The National Council on Compensation Insurance, which reviews premium levels on behalf of most Florida insurance companies, has proposed increasing rates by 19.6 percent effective Oct. 1. The council placed most of the blame on two state Supreme Court rulings — Castellanos v. Next Door Co., Touby’s case; and Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, which struck down a limit on temporary total disability benefits. The council blamed Castellanos for 15 percent of its proposed rate hike. Insurers face an additional $1 billion in liabilities not reflected in existing insurance rates, according to the council — a tab certain to be passed along to employers.

OPEN GOVERNMENT ACTIVISTS BACK LEGAL CHALLENGE TO WORKER’S COMP RATE INCREASE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – “I think he’s got a cause of action,” First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Peterson said of Miami attorney James Fee, who is challenging the rate hike on open-government grounds. Fee filed suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court last week alleging that the National Council on Compensation Insurance broke state open meetings and open-records laws when calculating its proposed 19.6 percent premium increase. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is scheduled to conduct a public hearing about the hike Tuesday morning. The council insisted in a court brief that those laws don’t apply because it isn’t an agent of the state. State law does impose openness obligations on any committee of a “licensed rating organization”— such as the council. However, the board said, it disbanded its rate-assessment committee in 1991. “Doesn’t matter,” Peterson argued … “If you’re acting on behalf of government, it doesn’t matter whether you get [government] money. It says right here, in the law, ‘a recognized rating organization’ is subject to the public-records law and open-meetings law. What they’re trying to do is subvert the law.”

JEREMY RING DISOWNS TASK FORCE’S PENSION REFORM MOVE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Ring is lashing out against a government-efficiency task force report that again is recommending the state’s pension system be closed to new hires. He is actually a member of the Task Force on Government Efficiency, having been appointed by outgoing Senate President Andy Gardiner. “The Florida pension fund is the gold standard for the state of Florida, the only part of the state that’s not only stable but strong,” said Ring, a former Yahoo executive. “By injecting a political agenda into its operations, the changes to the fund would not only bring about its eventual collapse, but jeopardize the state’s bond ratings and financial stability.” … the Task Force, created in 2006 and meeting every four years, said the state “could save $9.8 billion in 26 years if the Legislature closes the Florida Retirement System pension plan to new employees, an idea already rejected by lawmakers.” The task force made the same suggestion four years ago. “There’s not a legitimate pension expert in this country that would sound the alarm on our state’s pension fund, and to suggest otherwise is a disservice to the beneficiaries, and the taxpayers of Florida,” Ring said.

HAPPENING TODAY — FLORIDA CHAMBER HOSTS MILITARY, DEFENSE AND VETERANS SUMMIT — The Florida Chamber Foundation is hosting a day-long Military, Defense & Veterans Opportunities Summit at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park. The summit is meant to bring together leaders from Florida’s military and defense industry, economic development experts, and policy makers to discuss the challenges facing the state in the next 15 years. The summit begins at 9 a.m. with a presentation by Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, about how Florida’s military and defense industries drive the state’s competitiveness. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to discuss the industry’s economic impact on Florida; while Gov. Rick Scott is slated to speak about making Florida the most military and veteran friendly state. Other speakers include Rep. Gus Bilirakis, the vice chair of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunities; Glenn Sutphin, executive director of the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs; and Sen. Jeff Brandes.

HAPPENING TODAY — FLORIDA CHAIN TO DISCUSS STATE OF PUBLIC HEALTH IN TAMPA BAY — Florida CHAIN CEO Mark Pafford will be joined by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano and other community leaders to discuss the state of public health in the Tampa Bay area. The group will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. at St. Petersburg City Hall, 175 5th Street North. Media is asked to RSVP to Kyle@FloridaCHAIN.org.

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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.
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