Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn 09.07.16 — Five days later

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

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

FIVE DAYS LATER…

RICK SCOTT REMAINS VEXED BY TALLAHASSEE’S HERMINE RESPONSE via Arek Sarkissian of the USA Today Network – Scott and Gillum said nothing to each other during a Tuesday meeting at the state Emergency Operations Center, but the governor voiced his continued irritation after the meeting adjourned. “Remember where we started and remember our expectations and that we would be at odds and ends by Monday night,” Scott said. “It’s now Tuesday, and we had to postpone schools, and for whatever reason, the utilities didn’t make the decision based on the day of school.”

There were 11,549 Leon County homes and businesses without electricity as of 5 p.m. Tuesday. Of those, 1,623 homes and businesses were served by Talquin Electric Cooperative, which services unincorporated stretches of the county. The remaining 9,926 were served by Tallahassee’s utility company. That tally put the entire county at 8 percent without power, according to information provided by the state Division of Emergency Management.

SHOCKING — “Tallahassee ministers back Gillum’s handling of recover” via TDO.com

INSULTING — “Capital embarrassment: Complainers and whiners” via Gerald Ensley and includes this gem. “For so many people, Hurricane Hermine will be remembered as NOT their finest hour.  They have become unreasonable complainers and unattractive whiners.”

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersBlog: Meanwhile, can someone point me to the column/story in @TDOnline written by someone not fawning over City Hall? Guess no one’s upset.

OFFICIALS SAY THEY DID NOT “REJECT” OFFERS OF HELP WITH POWER RESTORATION; THEY JUST DIDN’T SAY “YES” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – That was because too many workers, rather than being a boon, would have presented a coordination and safety nightmare, officials suggested. The Tallahassee City Commission held a special meeting to “discuss the impacts of Hurricane Hermine and the (electricity) restoration progress.” One of the lessons to come out of that meeting was the need to avoid a communications failure like the one over the last few days, where residents complained of conflicting information about how and when their juice would return. The city and its critics, including Gov. Scott, have been locked in a round robin of recriminations over its response to the storm, particularly in restoring power to homes and businesses. In Leon County, 14,000-16,000 homes were still without power as of Tuesday morning, according to the state’s Emergency Operations Center.

But, as City Manager Rick Fernandez told commissioners, 90 percent of city utility customers are back online four days after the storm, compared with only 65 percent restored in four days after Hurricane Kate in 1985. With thousands still without electricity, “let’s go get them power,” City Commissioner Scott Maddox said, “and let other people snipe” … “We have hit our targets every day,” utilities chief Rob McGarrah said. “In fact, we’re a little ahead of where we thought we might be.” McGarrah also addressed complaints that he and other administrators were rebuffing assistance from other utility companies, including investor-owned utilities. Workers from Gulf Power have joined the effort, with others from Jacksonville Electric Authority expected today. But offers from Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light went unanswered.

POST-STORM PR WOES LOOM OVER ANDREW GILLUM’S POLITICAL FUTURE via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – (W)hat’s clearer than the murky social media blame game stirred up by Hermine is that emergency management of such a big storm can define a local official’s legacy. And, for Gillum, the at times palpable post-storm ire will now likely remain a political thorn in his side as he rises through Democratic politics. “The ad writes itself,” said notoriously pugilistic GOP message man Rick Wilson. “You say ‘when Hermine hit and Tallahassee needed help, Andrew Gillum said no.”

It’s a reference to the back-and-forth over the city’s rejection of assistance from outside power companies. Last week, the City of Tallahassee Utilities turned down help, including 575 workers from Florida Power & Light. City officials have said they feared that outside crews, unfamiliar with the city-owned utility system, could present “safety” issues. “I think we should take every bit of help to get the job done fastest,” Gillum said after the Monday meeting. “The experts have to determine exactly about how they go about doing that.”

Others say the explanation does not hold water. “That’s nonsense,” said an elected Democrat from South Florida. “A tree falls down on a powerline and specifications are set. A sub[contractor] goes and completes those specifications. It is dangerous, but not brain surgery.” The Democrat said it was a “surprise” to see the barrage of press releases from Scott’s office and the public sniping between Gillum and the governor.

PROPERTY OWNERS BEGIN FILING HERMIINE-RELATED CLAIMS, BUT FULL DAMAGE ESTIMATE UNCLEAR via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida –  As of Monday, 405 Hermine claims had been filed with Citizens Property Insurance Company, most from the Tampa Bay area, said spokesperson Michael Peltier. He did not have a dollar estimate. Peltier did, though, say he expected the number of claims filed to be on the uptick “as policyholders and their agents return from Labor Day Weekend.” Insurance Information Institute spokesperson Lynne McChristian said her member companies have had thousands of claims but that because Hermine was a Category 1 storm when it swept ashore near St. Marks with 80 mph winds the “numbers of claims aren’t as high as they may have been” … Hurricane Hermine left 68 percent of the homes in Leon County without electricity and 99 percent of the homes in Wakulla without power. McChristian, whose member companies include State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide, Travelers, USA, Liberty Mutual and Farmers Insurance, said the number of claims filed with carriers in the coming days will increase as power is returned and people can begin assessing damage. Automobile claims also will be filed due to the storm she said but there won’t be the “hundreds of thousands” of claims as there were in 2004 and 2005 when hurricanes ripped across the state. Karen Clark & Company – a catastrophic risk management and modeling firm – estimates the storm cause an insurance and reinsurance industry losses approaching $500 million and economic loss approaching $1 billion … The estimate was for residential property and autos lines of business, across the states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

TALLAHASSEE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, UNIVERSITIES PREPARE TO REOPEN AFTER HURRICANE via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – Public schools and universities here are preparing to re-open [today] after Hurricane Hermine dealt light infrastructure damage and power outages across the capital city. Like most buildings in Tallahassee, many Leon County public schools lost power … The district is served both by the city’s public utility and Talquin Electric, a nonprofit cooperative electricity company that operates outside city boundaries. Over the weekend, district officials communicated with school principals to develop an itemized list of damages and debris, which city and county crews addressed. Twenty-five drivers were dispatched to survey and prepare bus stops, spokesman Chris Petleysaid. District officials decided to delay opening … to confirm bus services and food deliveries would operate as usual. The district is home to 21 Title I schools where students are eligible for free breakfast and lunch.

All schools now have power, air conditioning, running water and food, Petley said. The hurricane hit Tallahassee’s two public universities during the first week of the semester. University officials delivered thousands of boxed breakfasts and lunches to students who live in the dormitories Friday morning and afternoon, hoping to encourage them to stay inside while the campus was surveyed for damage and debris … With the help of generators, two main campus dining halls were open for much of the weekend, as was the student health center, he said. Classes will resume as normal.

HAPPENING TODAY – SCOTT TO JOIN FDOT IN HURRICANE HERMINE DEBRIS REMOVAL EFFORTS —  Scott will join Department of Transportation crews around Tallahassee to help remove Hurricane Hermine debris. He’ll be joined by members of the Florida National Guard, veterans’ groups and agency heads in his effort. “Over the past five days, I have travelled across Tallahassee and spoken with families affected by this storm. Driving around the city, it is clear that there is still too much debris on our roadways and in our neighborhoods,” said Scott in a statement. “Cleaning up these areas in Tallahassee is not only crucial to helping utility workers quickly restore power, but it is also crucial to keeping our families and children safe.” Scott will kick off the day at 8:30 a.m. at the Florida Department of Transportation, 605 Suwannee Street in Tallahassee. He’ll be at the first clean-up site Lake Bradford Road between Springhill Road and Orange Avenue at 9 a.m., before heading to E. Indianhead Drive and Kolopakin Nene at10:45 a.m. At 1:45 p.m., Scott will help clean-up debris at Glenview Drive and Hollywood Drive.

— “Rick Scott makes emergency loans available to small businesses impacted by Hermine” via Florida Politics

JACK LATVALA WANTS ANSWERS AFTER TALLAHASSEE’S HERMINE EXPERIENCE via Jim Rosica of Florida PoliticsLatvala … is considering calling for legislative action next session to address the City of Tallahassee’s response to Hurricane Hermine. Latvala … is slated to be the next Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Specifically, he said he questions whether community-based power operations—such as City of Tallahassee Utilities—are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms. “In fact, there are several issues that have come to my attention with regard to municipal power agencies,” Latvala said in a text, without elaborating. “Their members’ ability to repair their utilities after a storm is only one part of it … The citizens in Vero Beach have voted twice to get out of the electric business as a city but have been stymied by a contract that appears to have no end.”

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DAYS UNTIL: NFL season kick-off – 1; First presidential debate – 19; First day domestic vote-by-mail ballots can be sent – 26; first day of early voting – 51; Election Day – 61; first Legislative Organization Session – 75; premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – 99; start of 2017 Legislative Session – 180.

POLL: NINE WEEKS OUT, A NEAR EVEN RACE via Jennifer Agiesta of CNNDonald Trump and Hillary Clinton start the race to Nov. 8 on essentially even ground, with Trump edging Clinton by a scant two points among likely voters, and the contest sparking sharp divisions along demographic lines in a new CNN/ORC Poll. Trump tops Clinton 45 percent to 43 percent in the new survey, with Libertarian Gary Johnson standing at 7 percent among likely voters in this poll and the Green Party’s Jill Stein at just 2 percent … most voters say they still expect to see Clinton prevail in November, and 59 percent think she will be the one to get to 270 electoral votes versus 34 percent who think Trump has the better shot at winning … both candidates have secured about the same share of their own partisans (92 percent of Democrats back Clinton, 90 percent of Republicans are behind Trump) but independents give Trump an edge, 49 percent say they’d vote for him while just 29 percent of independent voters back Clinton.

Another 16 percent back Johnson, 6 percent Stein. Women break for Clinton (53 percent to 38 percent) while men shift Trump’s way (54 percent to 32 percent). Among women, those who are unmarried make up the core of her support, 73 percent of unmarried women back Clinton compared with just 36 percent of married women. Among men, no such marriage gap emerges, as both unmarried and married men favor Trump. Younger voters are in Clinton’s corner (54 percent to 29 percent among those under age 45) while the older ones are more apt to back Trump (54 percent to 39 percent among those age 45 or older). Whites mostly support Trump (55 percent to 34 percent), while non-whites favor Clinton by a nearly 4-to-1 margin (71 percent to 18 percent). Most college grads back Clinton while those without degrees mostly support Trump, and that divide deepens among white voters. Whites who do not hold college degrees support Trump by an almost 3-to-1 margin (68 percent to 24 percent) while whites who do have college degrees split 49 percent for Clinton to 36 percent for Trump and 11 percent for Johnson.

YES, HILLARY CLINTON IS STILL AHEAD via Nate Silver  Clinton’s ahead, by a margin of about 3 percentage points in an average of national polls, or 4 points in our popular vote composite, which is based on both national polls and state polls. While the race has tightened, be wary of claims that the election is too close to call — that isn’t where the preponderance of the evidence lies, at least for the moment. If one candidate is ahead by 3 or 4 percentage points, there will be occasional polls showing a tied race or her opponent narrowly ahead, along with others showing the candidate with a mid- to high single-digit lead. We’ve seen multiple examples of both of those recently.”

In swing states, the race ranges from showing Trump up by 1 point in Iowa to a Clinton lead of about 6 points in her best states, such as Virginia. That’s a reasonably good position for Clinton, but it isn’t quite as safe as it might sound. That’s because the swing states tend to rise and fall together. A further shift of a few points in Trump’s favor, or a polling error of that magnitude, would make the Electoral College highly competitive.

CLINTON IN TAMPA: DONALD TRUMP IS ‘TEMPERAMENTALLY UNFIT’ TO LEAD via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post Clinton began the post-Labor Day homestretch of the presidential race by focusing on the large number of military voters and veterans in the crucial Sunshine State and calling Trump “temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified” to be commander in chief. Clinton reminded voters of Trump’s feud with the family of a soldier who was killed in Iraq and of his claim that “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.” She accused the Republican nominee of “loose talk” about nuclear weapons and of having no credible plan to fight terrorism. “We’re going to work with our allies, not insult them. We’re going to stand up to our adversaries, not cozy up to them. We’re going to have real plans, not claims and secret plans,” Clinton told a crowd of about 1,500 at the University of South Florida. Clinton touched on a variety of familiar themes, from expanding internet access to easing student loan debt to raising taxes on millionaires and enacting tighter restrictions on gun purchases. But her campaign clearly sought to emphasize national security in a city that is home to MacDill Air Force Base. “We are a military town,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in one of the speeches introducing Clinton.

CLINTON SUPER PAC’S NEW FLORIDA AD CASTS TRUMP AS WARMONGER via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Priorities USA Action … will begin a new TV ad in Florida and other battleground states that continues a theme that Trump is “too dangerous” to be president. The ad, called “I love war,” features Trump talking tough on the campaign trail. Priorities said it is spending $5 million and the ad will also run in North Carolina, Ohio, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire.

TRUMP HELD FUNDRAISER FOR PAM BONDI AT MAR-A-LAGO AFTER SHE DROPPED INVESTIGATION via the Huffington Post – In March 2014, Trump opened his 126-room Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, for a $3,000-per-person fundraiser for Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general who had recently decided not to investigate Trump University and was facing a tough re-election campaign. Trump, whose personal foundation had given $25,000 to a pro-Bondi group the previous fall, did not write a check to the attorney general that night. But by hosting her at Mar-a-Lago and bringing in some of his own high-profile Florida contacts, he provided her campaign with a nice financial boost.

AN INTERNET JOKESTER BEAT TRUMP TO OPENING A MIAMI CAMPAIGN OFFICE via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – For more than eight months, the “Donald Trump for President Dade County Office” Facebook page has drawn comments from eager fans looking for a way to help the Republican presidential nominee. All the support might come as a shock to Trump: His campaign has no Miami office. The Facebook page? It’s a gag, created by 39-year-old Democrat Mark Bernstein to amuse guests at a Trump-themed New Year’s Eve party he threw December. “I didn’t think it would ever last this long,” he told the Miami Herald. “But in the void left by him not actually having any infrastructure, it’s been listed on Google Maps!” The page is the first Google hit when you search for “Trump Miami campaign headquarters” — above the link to Trump’s official volunteer sign-up page. The real campaign has opened a single Florida office, in Sarasota. The address for the faux Miami office is Bernstein’s Edgewater condo. That hasn’t stopped Bernstein — who backed Bernie Sanders and plans to vote for Hillary Clinton — from giving himself a Trump-operative persona online. “We are in America! You need to speak English,” Bernstein replied to the woman who posted in Spanish about Trump’s delegate count. “Boss has spoken about this,” he added, linking to a video clip of Trump chiding Jeb Bush for campaigning in Spanish. “OK,” she responded.

TIME, LOCATION SET FOR BILL CLINTON VISIT TO ORLANDO via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando SentinelClinton is scheduled to appear at the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center at 1723 Bruton Boulevard at 11:15 a.m. … Bill Clinton will “discuss Hillary Clinton‘s plans to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top,” the campaign said. Members of the public interested in attending the rally can visit Hillary Clinton’s website for tickets.

PRIDE FUND ENDORSES CLINTON via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence – a political action committee created as a response to Orlando’s Pulse nightclub massacre – announced its endorsement of Clinton … Pride Fund Executive Director Jason Lindsay will meet with Clinton … during her Tampa stop. “We are endorsing Hillary Clinton for the presidency because her record on gun policy and LGBT rights reflect the will of the American people, not the gun lobby,” Lindsay stated in a news release issued by the Pride Fund. “Hillary Clinton has committed to achieving clear policy reforms, like putting comprehensive background checks in place and closing loopholes that put guns in the hands of violent criminals and terrorists.” Pride Fund officials also blasted Republican president nominee Donald Trump. “Clinton’s opponent has espoused the most regressive, anti-LGBT platform in modern American history,” said Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, a member of Pride Fund’s Board of Advisors … “Florida voters are tired of hateful rhetoric that seeks to restrict the rights of LGBT citizens while allowing violent criminals and terrorists to have access to firearms. Clinton has vowed to close the ‘Charleston loophole’ which allows anyone to purchase a firearm after three days, even if their background check has not been completed. This is the kind of common sense legislation that Pride Fund supports.”

PATRICK MURPHY GOES FULL ‘MARCO POLO’ ON MARCO RUBIO via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Rubio has heard “Marco Polo” jokes countless times, and now Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy is using it in his first general-election TV ad to poke fun at the senator for missing too many votes in the U.S. Senate. Called “Polo,” the 30-second spot opens up with kids playing the game as one sneaks away. “Marco…Marco…Marco,” one boy calls out. “It’s not a game, when our Senator doesn’t show up,” Murphy, a congressman from the West Palm Beach area, says in a voice-over as this phrase flashes onscreen: “Marco Rubio – Worst Attendance of Any Florida Senator in Nearly 50 Years.”

ABORTION RIGHTS GROUP HITS MARCO RUBIO OVER ZIKA — NARAL Pro-Choice America released a new campaign ad Tuesday, hitting Sen. Rubio over his decision to support legislation that didn’t fund women’s health clinics in the wake of the Zika outbreak. The advertisement — part of a six-figure ad campaign — also takes a swing at Rubio for not allowing women infected with the disease to get an abortion. “The Zika virus is here, it’s dangerous to pregnant women and it has no cure. But Marco Rubio voted against funding health clinics that provide critical care during this public health emergency,” an announcer says in the ad. “Marco Rubio continues to be against a woman’s right to choose an abortion even they’re infected with the Zika virus. Tell Marco Rubio to stop putting his agenda ahead of the health and safety of women and families.” The organization is running similar ads in Tennessee and Mississippi.

DSCC DELAYS AD BUY IN SENATE RACE via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The DSCC … canceled its ad buy planned for Sept. 20-26 — what was to be the committee’s first foray into Florida’s general election between Murphy and Rubio. National Republicans were heralding the news as positive for their side, saying Democrats were “bailing” on Murphy’s “losing campaign.” But the DSCC official argues their change in strategy is no indication of dwindling commitment in Murphy’s race. “Florida is clearly a competitive race and one that Democrats can win given polling that was released today,” the official said, referencing an internal poll that showed Murphy and Rubio virtually tied. (The poll contrasts with other recent polls, though, that have found Rubio with a several percentage-point advantage.) “This spending is simply being moved to come later in the election to backload our current Florida buy,” the official added.

AFSCME RESERVES $1.8M IN AIR TIME TO BACK PATRICK MURPHY via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – … continuing the onslaught of ads that is now well above $30 million for Florida’s Senate race. The ads will start running next Wednesday and run through Sept. 26. They will play only in the Tampa ($948,374) and Orlando ($855,000) media markets, which of the state’s 10 media markets are generally the ones saturated with the most political ads. The money is coming from AFSCME People, a super PAC run by the organization. Through July 31, it has $1.1 million mostly from donors who gave less than $200. Nearly $20 million in general election TV time has already been reserved from groups backing both Murphy and Marco Rubio. Some of those groups tried to make political hay out of one Democratic group shuffling some of their Senate ad buy money. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Tuesday shifted $800,000 from the week of Sept. 20-26 to later in its ad reservation. Republican groups pounced, trying to make it seem as though the DSCC, which has reserved more than $8 million in ad buys to support Murphy, was pulling back because it was losing faith in the candidate.

EPILOGUE – FORMER JEB BUSH SPOKESMAN TIM MILLER JOINING DEFINERS PUBLIC AFFAIRS via Jake Sherman of POLITICOMiller … who has been an outspoken opponent of Donald Trump, is taking a pass on further political consulting this cycle, and joining Definers Public Affairs. Definers was founded by two top GOP operatives: Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager, and Joe Pounder, the former Republican National Committee’s research director. The firm’s aim is to help corporations up their D.C. game by using political campaign type research and communication tactics. Miller said the firm is going to go “more aggressively…directly after threats to our clients” and Definers will build digital platforms for the Washington fights. Many of the firm’s top officials are alumni of America Rising, the political action committee. In joining Definers, Miller … is reuniting with Rhoades and Pounder, who he worked with at America Rising, the firm that helped dig up dirt on Democrats in the 2014 cycle. This cycle has not been as kind to Miller. He moved to Miami to work for Bush, only to have the candidate flameout early in the cycle. He then joined Our Principles PAC, an anti-Donald Trump super PAC.

NRCC, DCCC LAY OUT GAME PLANS FOR CD 18, CD 26 via the Sunshine State News – For the Republicans, the plan is simple: tie Democrats in swing districts to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In the race to replace retiring Patrick Murphy, the Democratic candidate running against Marco Rubio, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) asked if businessman Randy Perkins will back Pelosi to be speaker of the House. “Will Randy Perkins commit to supporting Nancy Pelosi for House speaker if elected this fall?” asked Chris Pack, a spokesman for the NRCC … “Voters deserve to know if Randy Perkins will stand behind Pelosi’s extreme agenda of higher taxes, more spending, and endless red tape that kills badly needed jobs.” Pack asked the same question of former Congressman Joe Garcia who is looking to beat Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo … Garcia beat Annette Taddeo, who had Pelosi’s support, in last week’s primary. While the NRCC is looking to tie Democrats to Pelosi, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is painting Republicans as extremists. Javier Gamboa, a spokesman for the DCCC, insisted Curbelo’s efforts to present himself as a moderate who didn’t back Donald Trump were misleading and pointed to his ties with the GOP congressional leadership. “With a more Democratic-leaning electorate that makes up Florida 26th Congressional District, Carlos Curbelo will have an uphill battle to keep his seat, especially when voters learn that he is saying one thing in Florida and doing quite another in Washington. Curbelo cannot claim to be bipartisan to Floridians and then happily march in lockstep in D.C. as a member of his party’s leadership.” Jermaine House, another DCCC spokesman, noted that Republican Brian Mast, who Perkins will face in November, endorsed Trump and praised former Congressman Allen West who Murphy beat in 2012. “In a moderate district where over 20 percent of the population is made up of diverse voters, Mast is out of touch … Treasure Coast voters already rejected extremist Allen West; they will also reject Brian Mast who supports reckless tax breaks for outsourcers and defunding Planned Parenthood.”

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WALT DARTLAND WINS CD 2 DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY AFTER RECOUNTS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – As of Tuesday evening, the Division of Elections’ website showed attorney Walt Dartland with 30,115 votes to Live Oak tree farmer Steve Crapps‘ 29,982, after machine and manual recounts. Results that are within one-half of 1 percent require a recount by order of the secretary of state. A manual recount was undertaken because the first recount showed a margin of victory of less than one-quarter of 1 percent. Dartland dominated in urban Leon County, home of Tallahassee, while Crapps did better in more rural areas of the district, including Columbia and Jackson counties. The final deadline was 5 p.m. Tuesday to declare a winner of the Aug. 30 Democratic primary. Dartland will now face Republican Neal Dunn … and Libertarian Party of Florida candidate Rob Lapham, a retired IT support-services company entrepreneur, in the Nov. 8 general election.

DAVID JOLLY NAMED #1 MOST VULNERABLE HOUSE MEMBER via Simone Pathé of Roll Call – Republican freshmen sitting in Democratic-leaning districts continue to dominate the list of the 10 most vulnerable House incumbents. Jolly now leads the list … Candidates have filed another quarter’s worth of FEC reports, and after the summer conventions, the presidential contest is more solidified. Democrats must gain 30 seats to take the House majority, and they are increasingly giddy that Hillary Clinton‘s widening lead over GOP rival Donald Trump will expand the number of districts in play. Meanwhile, Trump’s missteps continue to cause headaches for vulnerable Republicans. Some of these incumbents are outperforming Trump, and the GOP presidential nominee may actually be a boost in a few rural, working-class districts. But whether that’s sustainable for the next two months is hard to say. Rankings are based on The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report race ratings, fundraising reports, district fundamentals, polling, and conversations with operatives on both sides of the aisle. … Jolly, who spent most of the year running for Senate, climbs from No. 3 to No. 1 in his re-election race against former Gov. Charlie Crist. He’s pledged not to solicit campaign donations, and he’s unlikely to get any help from the National Republican Congressional Committee in this heavily redrawn seat.

MOST VULNERABLE GOP CONGRESSMAN? DAVID JOLLY SAYS IT’S BADGE OF HONOR via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times –  “We take it as a badge of honor,” said Max Goodman, Jolly’s campaign manager. “That’s pure Washington speak. We’re going to do it our way, the Pinellas way.” Replied Crist consultant, Kevin Cate: “Sounds like (Roll Call) agrees with Jolly—-“no Republican can win this district.” The war of words in what promises to be one of the most watched congressional races in the country didn’t even wait for the Labor Day holiday to be over with Jolly bashing Crist for the former governor’s history to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. That counterpunch came less than a week after the Crist campaign attempted to tie Jolly to Trump on the night of his Aug. 30 primary victory over retired Marine reserve general Mark Bircher. That battle continued Tuesday with Jolly’s campaign releasing a video continuing the Trump line against Crist.

JOLLY CALLS OUT CHARLIE CRIST FOR “HIDING” RELATIONSHIP WITH DONALD TRUMP via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – As Jolly was easily winning his Republican primary against Mark Bircher in Florida’s 13th Congressional District … Crist issued a statement saying that “it saddens me to think that anyone who supports Donald Trump’s agenda could ever represent Pinellas County.” The inference was that Jolly is backing Trump in the presidential election. Though Jolly hasn’t ruled out ultimately supporting his party’s standard bearer for president, he hasn’t done so to date, and immediately accused Crist of lying … Clearly, Jolly has had enough. In a new video … the Indian Shores Republican discusses Crist’s own relationship with Trump, including multiple fundraising events at Trump Tower in New York, golf tournaments at Trump International Golf Course in West Palm, and a “questionable courtship” of the business mogul to help raise money for a property tax amendment. The Jolly camp provided financial forms to show how Trump twice provided $2,400 campaign contributions to Crist’s run for Senate in 2010, and also links to a Tampa Bay Times story referring to getting Trump’s help in raising money for a constitutional amendment on the January 2008 presidential primary ballot that would double the state’s homestead exemption and allow people to transfer their accrued Save Our Homes benefits when they move (the measure was approved) … “When it comes to Charlie Crist, political convenience will always trump honesty,” Jolly said. “There’s only one candidate in this race who has ever sought political favor from Donald Trump and that’s Charlie Crist. But to no surprise to all of us here in Pinellas, when it was politically convenient for Charlie Crist last week to abandon his friend, he turned his back on Donald Trump like he’s turned on us so many times.”

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KEITH PERRY WINS LAST SD 8 PRIMARY MONEY REPORT, STILL LAGS BEHIND ROD SMITH via Florida Politics – Gainesville Republican Perry scored a fundraising win over former Sen. Smith in his final report before Florida’s primary election, but he still has a long way to go to catch up to his Democratic Senate District 8 rival. Perry, who currently holds the HD 21 seat, brought in $48,850 between Aug. 13 and Aug. 25, including a whopping 37 checks for the maximum contribution of $1,000. The performance was a huge jump from previous two reports, which combined for a middling $5,725. The third term representative spent just $12,461, mainly on campaign staff, leaving him with about $216,000 on hand Aug. 25 on total fundraising of $385,000. Through the same date, Smith had $276,000 in his campaign account and another $81,000 on hand for his political committee, “Independent Leadership for Florida.” Though neither Perry nor Smith faced primary challengers, the former Florida Democratic Party chair brought in $17,500 in committee cash and $14,595 through his campaign in the two weeks leading up to the Aug. 30 election.

DANA YOUNG STARTS OUT GENERAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN WITH NEARLY $1 MILLION ADVANTAGE OVER DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER via Florida PoliticsYoung had more than $1.2 million on hand between her SD 18 campaign and committee accounts as of Aug. 25 while her opponent, Democrat Bob Buesing had $255,000. Young brought in nearly $72,000 of that money during the Aug. 13 to Aug. 25 reporting period that led up to Florida’s primary election, despite facing no GOP opponent for the newly redrawn Hillsborough County seat. On the donor roll during the two-week stretch were Florida Blue, Fontainebleau Resort and the Michael Corcoran-chaired political committee “Building a Better Florida,” each of which chipped in $10,000 to Young’s PAC. On the campaign side, Young brought in 47 contributions, including 22 checks for the maximum of $1,000. Florida CPA-PAC, insurance company Aetna and telecom company Sprint were among the top donors. Buesing also faced no primary opponent, though he raised more than $25,000 in his pre-primary report.

DANA YOUNG WILL DEBATE BOB BUESING ON OCTOBER 21 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Hours after FloridaPolitics.com reported that Young could not attend the originally scheduled encounter on Sept. 16, The Tampa Tiger Bay Club and the Young campaign said all parties had come to an agreement to hold such a forum, now scheduled to take place Oct. 21. “In the interest of fairness to all the candidates, the public and The Tiger Bay Club organization, we agreed at today’s Tiger Bay Board Meeting to move the date of the scheduled Tiger Bay luncheon for all the Florida Senate District 19 candidates from Sept. 16 to Oct. 21,” wrote Vic DiMaio, vice president and program chair for the Tampa Tiger Bay Club … In addition to Young and Buesing, independent candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove are also on the ballot, and are expected to participate in the forum.

MIGUEL DIAZ DE LA PORTILLA WIDENS FUNDRAISING LEAD IN SD 37 via Florida PoliticsDiaz de la Portilla built on his fundraising lead in the Senate District 37 race against Democratic Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, with another $15,000 in contributions between Aug. 13 and Aug. 25. The second-term senator took in 16 contributions over the two-week period, including three $1,000 checks from private prison company The GEO Group and its subsidiaries. To date, the campaign has raised $613,810. The campaign also took in $19,500 in “in kind” support from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, mainly for staffing, and didn’t spend any money during the reporting period, leaving Diaz de la Portilla with about $479,000 on hand. Rodriguez raised $11,618 during the pre-primary reporting period, including $1,000 from service industry group SEIU Florida. The income was offset by more than $60,000 in expenditures, $54,000 of which when to Chicago-based Snyder Pickerill Media Group for an ad buy. On Aug. 25, Rodriguez had about $187,000 in his campaign account.

HD 13 REPUBLICAN MARK GRIFFIN TAPS FORMER CSX EXEC AS FINANCE CHAIR via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The only truly contested race for the state House left in Northeast Florida is between incumbent Democrat Reggie Fullwood and Republican challenger Griffin … Griffin isn’t your typical Republican tomato can challenger. A pastor with a reputation beyond Northeast Florida, Griffin finished the primary period with $29,000 cash-on-hand, putting him above Fullwood, who ended up with just over $17,000 in ready money. And the Griffin campaign believes more money is forthcoming.Charles “Chuck” J.O. Wodehouse now chairs the Griffin campaign’s finance committee, according to a press release. Wodehouse, treasurer of the board of trustees of Jacksonville University, retired in 2004 as president of CSX Technology and senior vice president of CSX Transportation. Griffin first met Wodehouse when he was working at CSX. “I believe Mark Griffin serving in Tallahassee will be great for Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. We are all aware of his tireless efforts working in some of our most challenged neighborhoods. I am proud to be on his campaign,” Wodehouse said in the same press release. Interestingly, Wodehouse’s only Jacksonville political contribution since 2006 went to a Democrat.

FRANK ARTILES MAINTAINS STRONG FUNDRAISING EDGE IN SD 40 via Florida Politics – Although Artiles did not face a primary challenger, he brought in $25,720 and spent $48,450 between Aug. 13 and Aug. 25. Expenses mainly went toward canvassing and printing, including more than $20,000 in payments to Miami-based Green Point Group and another $6,500 to Doral-based Vision Concepts Ink. At the end of the reporting period, he had a six-figure edge over Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard, who took nearly half the vote in a three-way race for the Democratic nomination against Ann Rivas Loganand Andrew Korge. Bullard raised about $21,000 and spent $23,000 ahead of his primary battle. Donors during the two-week period included Disney, the Florida AFL-CIO and about a dozen political committees that each chipped in with $1,000 checks. The major expenditure was a $16,700 ad buy through Campbell Communications Aug. 17. Though Korge came in third place with 23 percent support, he raised and spent by far the most money heading into the contest.

HAPPENING THURSDAY – Republican Rep. Larry Ahern hosts a campaign office grand opening in his bid for re-election to House District 66. Event begins at 5:30 p.m. at 11600 Seminole Blvd. in Seminole, for more information contact larry@larryahern.com or 727-381-2166.

CHRIS SPROWLS FOCUSES ON HEALTHCARE PRICE TRANSPARENCY ST CAMPAIGN AD — The Palm Harbor Republican released his first TV ad of the general election. The 30-second spot focuses on the state’s efforts to provide price transparency for healthcare consumers. “There is no other sector of our economy where you don’t get a price up front or know the cost of product or service before you purchase it,” said Sprowls in a Facebook post announcing his ad. “Let’s empower consumers and encourage a vibrant health marketplace.” Sprowls, who is believed to be in like for the speakership, is running for re-election in House District 65. He’ll face Democrat Bernard Fensterwald in November.

JOHN COURIEL VOWS TO KEEP FLORIDA SAFE AND PROSPEROUS IN NEW AD — Coral Gables Republican John Couriel is out with a new advertisement in his House District 114 campaign. In the 30-second spot, called “John’s Platform,” Couriel talks about what he plans to do if elected. “As your state representative, I’ll focus on preparing our children for tomorrow’s workforce in a global economy, and keeping us safe and prosperous will be my top priority,” he says in the advertisement. “I’ll work to bring state resources to our first responders and champion policies that create jobs and improve our economy. … I’ll work hard to make Florida a better place for all of us.” Couriel faces Democrat Daisy Baez in House District 114.

***Host your Election Night Watch Party at the Governors Club, Tallahassee’s premier business, social and political venue! Party packages are available for all budgets, with rooms for 50-450 guests. For more information or to book a celebration, contact Laura Kalinoski, Director of Catering at 850-205-0665 or catering@govclub.com. Visit www.GovClub.com***

REGULATORS OK SHIFT OF 70,000 POLICIES FROM CITIZENS INSURANCE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – “The Office of Insurance Regulation has determined that these companies have the experience and financial security to offer takeout policies for this number of policies,” Michael Peltier, a spokesman for Citizens, said … He added a caveat: “Remember that these figures represent the maximum number of policies approved by OIR for this takeout. History shows that the number of Citizens policyholders who will receive and accept offers will be significantly less than the number approved by OIR.” In total, 69,743 policyholders would be eligible to make the shift in November. That would bring to 570,000 the number of policies approved for “take out” from Citizens by private insurers thus far in 2016. However, only 47,308 have actually left Citizens this year. Policyholders are not obliged to abandon Citizens for private insurers if offered that option. The private insurers involved are Homeowners Choice Property & Casualty Insurance Co., National Specialty Insurance Co., Safepoint Insurance Co., and Weston Insurance Co.

YOU CAN NOW PAY TO SPEND THE NIGHT AT A FLORIDA PRISON VIA AIRBNB via Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times – The “prison” is actually the former Indian River Correctional Institution in Vero Beach, which housed male inmates aged 14 to 18. The facility was closed by the Florida Department of Corrections in 2012 due to budget concerns. The 99-acre prison complex was put up for auction by the state and sold for an amount more than $715,000, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website, which lists surplus state properties for sale. Now an Airbnb user named Rob has listed the prison on Airbnb, the service that lets people list their own homes and properties as vacation rentals. For around $103 per night ($175 on Fridays and Saturdays), guests can enjoy extreme privacy and “99 acres of exploration at your own risk,” after signing a waiver, as well as three ponds stocked with fish. Each rental includes a private two-bed cell with a toilet. The rest of the prison is considered to be a common area, and guests are free to explore some of the other buildings on the compound. Don’t expect a comfy mattress or a free continental breakfast. As the listing puts it, “think of this as a camping trip–bring what you need to survive.”

FLORIDA ASSOCIATION OF PROFESSIONAL LOBBYISTS’ ANNUAL CONFERENCE KICKS OFF — The 12th annual conference kicks off Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, 2900 Bayport Drive in Tampa. The association has a light agenda on Wednesday, with the main focus of the day a seminar on “Ethics: Pitfalls, Errors, and How to Avoid Them.” The seminar runs from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and will be moderated by Andrea Reilly. Speakers include Douglas McAlarney, general counsel at Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, Lawrence Sellers, a partner at Holland & Knight, and Brian Coughlin, with the Bedell Firm and chairman of the professional ethics committee of Florida Bar. A legislator reception is scheduled for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Tampa Theatre, sponsored by the Tampa Theatre, Anheuser Busch and Susan Goldstein Consulting.

TOP SENATE LAWYER JOINS GRAYROBINSON via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO FloridaGeorge T. Levesque, who served until recently as the general counsel for the Florida Senate, is joining law-lobby firm GrayRobinson at its Tallahassee office … Levesque is joining the Orlando firm “of counsel,” rather than as a partner or associate. He has also served as general counsel for the Florida House of Representatives and received his law degree from Florida State University. Leveque was influential last year in the legislative redistricting process and litigation. “We are excited to add George to our capital city office,” said GrayRobinson president and managing director, Mayanne Downs, in a statement. “His relationships and experience in Tallahassee are unmatched.”

APPOINTED: Jennifer W. Hilal to the Broward County Court.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of Top 10 favorite Cates, Chris Cate.

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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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