Sunburn 10.17.16 — It’s Debate Night in Florida!

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

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


Tonight could be the night that helps determine the course for the next two years in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy are set to square off in their first debate ahead of the Nov. 8 general election. This will mark the first time the two men shared a stage, and comes at a critical time for both men.

The stakes could be highest for Murphy, who polls suggest lacks the name recognition needed to topple an incumbent lawmaker. But for Rubio, a loss in November could torpedo his chance of a future White House bid.

Rubio appears well-positioned to win come November. The Miami Republican crushed his primary opponent, and has led in the polls since announcing his re-election bid. According to RealClearPolitics, Rubio leads by an average of 4.9 percentage points.

But he has taken heat in recent weeks for not revoking his support of Donald Trump following reports the GOP presidential nominee made lewd comments about women. He’s been hesitant to commit to a full six-year term if re-elected, and has been slammed for his attendance record.

Murphy will likely raise all those issues and more during the debate, but the Treasure Coast Democrat needs to use the debate to introduce himself to the voters. A recent poll from Public Policy Polling showed 36 percent of likely voters said they didn’t have an opinion of him.

Could that change in the next three weeks? Maybe.

Murphy snatched up endorsements from three of the largest newspapers in the state — Tampa Bay Times, the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He’s got the backing of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and recently appeared on the campaign trail with Clinton.

But Murphy has his own problems. Outside groups, like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Senate Majority Pac, are cancelling or parring back ad buys amid Murphy’s stagnation in the polls.

And he’s been haunted for months by a CBS Miami report that claimed he embellished his resume, which has been used in numerous attack ads. The Murphy campaign has pushed back against the claims, and PolitiFact Florida rated one ad by the National Republican Committee featuring the report “mostly false.”

Want to tune in? The hour-long debate — hosted by WFTV Channel 9 in partnership with POLITICO Florida and ABC News — is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. at the University of Florida and will livestreamed at

— “Monday debate may be crucial to Patrick Murphy, Democrat hopes for U.S. Senate” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

— “Patrick Murphy attacks, Marco Rubio defends Donald Trump endorsement going into first debate” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

HAPPENING TODAY – RALLY TO SUPPORT PATRICK MURPHY BEFORE FIRST DEBATE — A coalition of groups will hold a rally at 5 p.m. at the corner of West Plaza Drive and Gemini Blvd. North on the University of Central Florida campus in Orlando. The groups — including For Florida’s Future, America’s Voice, Working American Coalition PAC and iAmerica Action — will be joined by UCF students in support of Murphy

U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE STEVEN MACHAT SUES TO GET HIMSELF AND OTHER INDIE CANDIDATES INTO MONDAY NIGHT DEBATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – In papers filed with the 11th Judicial Circuit court in Miami-Dade County … Machat is calling for a temporary restraining order to prohibit the debate sponsors — Cox Media, Leadership Florida Statewide Community Foundation and Capital New Company (the parent company of POLITICO) — from putting Monday night’s debate without including the other Senate candidates. The FCC is also listed as a defendant. “I’m trying to sue on behalf of all the candidates who have qualified to appear in this debate,” Machat told WMNF radio … “What happened is our society — and I call it political payola — they’ve created a world where the Republican and Democratic parties are the only two parties that get the commercial advertisements to promote and market a platform, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the people’s parties.”

Machet initially filed a complaint against the sponsors Sept. 28 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Christina H. Burrow, an attorney with Cox Media and Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV, wrote back to Machat Oct. 4, informing him the sponsors are using a 15 percent polling threshold as the cutoff for inclusion in the debate — the same criteria used by the the Commission on Presidential Debates, which precluded Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein from being part of the presidential debates. “Because you do not meet WFTV-TV’s minimum eligibility standard, you are not entitled to participate in the debate,” Burrow wrote.

— “Who are 5 U.S. Senate candidates in Florida besides Marco Rubio, Patrick Murphy?” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post

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POLL: RUBIO 44%, MURPHY 38% AFTER DONALD TRUMP TAPE LEAK via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – A fresh poll from Public Policy Polling … has Rubio up 6 percentage points on Murphy, even after Rubio re-affirmed his support for Trump after the controversial “Access Hollywood” tape was leaked last week. The poll, done Oct. 12-13, found Rubio with 44 percent support, compared to 38 percent support for Murphy. Libertarian Paul Stanton had 6 percent support and 12 percent were undecided. In a head-to-head matchup, Rubio led Murphy, 48 percent to 43 percent, with 9 percent undecided. The Democratic-leaning PPP surveyed 985 likely voters for results with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Respondents were also asked about Rubio’s decision to stand by Trump, and the results were split. About 39 percent said they were less likely to vote for Rubio, 32 percent said it made them more likely to support him, and 25 percent said it didn’t make a difference. Four percent weren’t sure.

MURPHY HOPES FALLOUT FROM TRUMP TAPE WILL HELP HIM OVERTAKE RUBIO via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Ten days ago, Murphy’s chances to unseat Rubio in the U.S. Senate looked less and less likely. Florida’s Senate race was — and still is — competitive, but after weeks of going head-to-head against the Republican incumbent, Murphy had failed to take the lead or even gain a measurable advantage on Rubio. Then came the leaked footage of Trump … This was the golden opportunity Murphy’s campaign has wanted to try to knock Rubio down a few pegs. “We feel really confident that these comments from Trump and these accusations against him this week are going to be a lead weight on Rubio’s chances,” Murphy campaign spokesman Joshua Karp said …  But political observers say it’s too soon to tell whether the Trump controversy will give Murphy enough to overtake Rubio in the final stretch of the campaign. Several don’t expect it to.

MURPHY’S OWN RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTED HIS TIES TO TRUMP via Emma Loop of BuzzFeed News  – When Murphy … was up for re-election in 2014, his staff commissioned an opposition report on their boss — a fairly typical move in modern politics. One finding of that book: Murphy’s family business has done work for Trump, something that the firm writing the report cast at times as an asset and at times as a liability.

The book was assembled by True Stories Research, a Democratic opposition research firm based outside Jacksonville, for the Murphy campaign. The Murphy campaign did not dispute the book’s authenticity, but suggested that it was part of a hack targeting Democratic candidates. A Republican source … said it was obtained more than a month before hacker Guccifer 2.0 posted a series of documents from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee relating to Florida’s primaries. This document is not among those publicly released by the hacker.

The research book says that in “April 2009, Construction Today reported that Coastal Constructions was the construction manager at risk for two luxury condominium projects belonging to Donald Trump.” Murphy’s family runs Coastal Construction, a major construction management company based in Miami. One project was the 55-story Trump Royale in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, the book says. The other was the 42-story, $150-million Trump Hollywood in Hollywood, Florida.

The research book, quoting a 2008 edition of the South Florida Constructor, says Coastal Construction president Dan Whiteman said that many of the company’s large residential projects had “been built for world-renowned developers including Jorge Perez, Craig Robins and Donald Trump.”

MURPHY’S DAD DROPPED ANOTHER $250K INTO PRO-MURPHY SUPER PAC via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The donation was reported in a quarterly financial disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission just before midnight Saturday evening, the day of the reporting deadline. The pro-Murphy “Floridians for a Strong Middle Class” reported entering October with $764,000 in cash on hand to spend in the final weeks of the campaign. Thomas Murphy Jr., chairman, CEO and founder of Miami-based Coastal Construction Group, has a long history of financially supporting his son’s political efforts, starting with Murphy’s first bid for Congress four years ago. Including the most recent check to “Floridians for a Strong Middle Class” on Sept. 27, the elder Murphy has donated at least $1.75 million this cycle … The $1 million quarterly haul for “Floridians for a Strong Middle Class” was its strongest fundraising period this cycle. The super PAC also reported spending about as much as it took in between July and September.

RUBIO PRAISES MIKE PENCE, AVOIDS MENTIONING TRUMP, AT TAMPA GOP FUNDRAISER via William March of the Tampa Bay TimesRubio followed vice presidential nominee Pence to the podium in a Tampa hotel ballroom full of enthusiastic Republicans … praised Pence and other GOP leaders and then gave his usual rousing stump pitch. But he did it all, speaking 34 minutes, without once mentioning the name of Pence’s running mate, the presidential nominee the Republicans were there to support, Trump. Rubio this week maintained his tepid support for Trump for president after eight days of scurrilous revelations and accusations of Trump’s abusive attitudes toward women. But if anything, Rubio’s speech Saturday night suggests he hopes to put even more distance between himself and Trump. Rubio emphasized the key role the Senate will play in the next four years, but spoke almost dismissively of the presidential contest. “I want to talk about the importance of the Senate race,” he said. “We all know the importance of the presidential race.”


ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Alliance for Retired Americans and Florida seniors angry with Rubio will gather at the Rubio’s Orlando office to demand his pledge to protect Social Security. Event begins 11 a.m. at 201 S. Orange Ave. in Orlando.

PAM BONDI SAYS TRUMP’S REMARKS ABOUT WOMEN ‘DISGUSTING’ via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO – Bondi, a loyal Trump supporter in a key battleground state, made no mention of the latest allegations raised by several women who say Trump made unwanted sexual advances against them. Bondi made her remarks as guest speaker at a luncheon with the Florida Federation of Republican Women in Pasco County. It was the first time since the video rocked Trump’s campaign that she had spoken publicly about it. “I believe the statements that, that Donald Trump says were disgusting … um, disgusting. Period,” Bondi told the GOP group. Bondi said she had spoken to Trump “multiple times” since the damaging video emerged last Friday, saying Trump told her that “he believes what he said was disgusting” … “He is horrified, apologetic,” she said in describing Trump’s reaction. Bondi, echoing Trump’s running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, she said she will continue to support the former reality TV star because “I believe in forgiveness” … “I believe what Donald Trump said was disgusting,” Bondi repeated to the crowd. “I also believe in the Constitution of the United States of America.”

IN CASE YOU HAVE LOST COUNT – Twelve women came forward this week to allege sexual misconduct by Trump in cases that echo the vulgar conduct he described in the 2005 Access Hollywood tape that surfaced last week, per USA Today. Trump has denied the stories and is threatening legal action against some of the news outlets.

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STATE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE – WATCH NEW HAMPSHIRE FOR SIGNS OF A TRUMP COMEBACK via Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight — Donald Trump hasn’t had a lot of good polling news lately. Very few swing-state polls have shown him with a lead since the first presidential debate, and those few leads have mostly been in states like Ohio and Iowa that aren’t part of Hillary Clinton’s path of least resistance to 270 electoral votes. To find good polls for Trump in states that could be part of Clinton’s firewall, you have to cherry-pick a bit — and you have to accept the fact that “good” in this context means trailing by a little instead of by a lot. Some of Trump’s better numbers have come in New Hampshire. A MassINC poll released on Friday morning showed Trump trailing by only 3 percentage points there. And a Suffolk University poll … conducted before the release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” videotape had him down only 2 points in New Hampshire. As far as our model is concerned, the outcome in New Hampshire is more uncertain than in the other Clinton firewall states. In New Hampshire …  there really are a lot of swing voters. In particular, there are lots of middle-class and upper-middle-class white voters who aren’t highly religious and don’t belong to one of the major parties. Those voters are often torn in their presidential vote in this and in other elections. … So while Clinton would be highly likely to win New Hampshire in an election held today, the question is what happens if Trump makes some type of comeback. … If Clinton wins Florida or North Carolina — or loses Pennsylvania — New Hampshire’s four electoral votes will look measly in comparison. But according to our voter power index, New Hampshirites have the most influential votes in the country in both the presidential and the contest for control of the U.S. Senate. Overall, Clinton’s chances of winning the election are 86 percent in our polls-only forecast and 82 percent in polls-plus, little changed from recent days.


A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Clinton leading Trump by four points nationally, 47% to 43%, with Johnson at 5%.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Clinton leading Trump by seven points nationally, 44% to 37%, with Johnson at 6% and Jill Stein at 2%.

HILLARY CLINTON BUILDS $150 MILLION WAR CHEST, DOUBLING DONALD TRUMP via Nicholas Confessore and Rachel Shorey of The New York TimesTrump entered the homestretch of the campaign at a pronounced financial disadvantage to Clinton … far below the self-funding goal he set for himself earlier in the race. After raising $100 million in partnership with Republican Party organizations in September, Trump and committees linked to his campaign began October with $75 million in cash on hand. Clinton raised $154 million in September and began October with roughly $150 million in the bank, her campaign said, twice as much as Mr. Trump. Many of the Republican Party’s leading contributors have stayed away from his campaign, judging from financial disclosures filed by Trump and his party … signaling his difficulties in persuading party elites to back him … Clinton will have a huge war chest for last-minute advertising and organizing at a time when she has regained her lead in public opinion polls and Trump is openly feuding with his party and mired in accusations that he groped women. The monthly figure was a record for Trump and provided evidence of his powerful appeal among grass-roots donors: The campaign now estimates that 2.6 million people have given to his campaign. But it was only a small improvement over his fundraising in July and August, suggesting he might have peaked.

TRUMP CASH HAUL BYPASSES CAMPAIGN via Isaac Arnsdorf of POLITICO – Trump posted an impressive fundraising haul last quarter, but a less efficient operation and his dependence on an estranged party apparatus mean his campaign only benefits from only about a third of that. Only about $68.7 million of the almost $212 million that Trump collected in the last three months through joint ventures with the [RNC] and state parties actually reached his campaign … Almost as much — $63.5 million — was eaten up by operating expenses such as paying for fundraising and compliance consultants, catering and event spaces, list rentals, direct mail and digital ads.

CLINTON’S FLORIDA LEAD CONTINUES TO GROW — Public Policy Polling‘s newest Florida poll finds Clinton’s lead in the state continuing to tick up. She’s at 46% to 42% for Trump, with Johnson at 5%, and Stein at 1%. When PPP last polled the state two weeks ago, Clinton’s advantage was 45/43.  In a head to head, Clinton’s lead over Trump grows to 5 points at 49/44.

Trump was already unpopular in Florida but after the revelations of the last week his favorability numbers have cratered in the state. The last poll he had a net -11 rating (42/53) and that’s declined by another 11 points to where it’s now -22 (37/59). Clinton, on the other hand, has seen a slight improvement from 43/53 up to 44/51.

It seems like Trump’s last ditch effort to revive his campaign might be trying to use Bill Clinton‘s past accused actions against his wife, but voters in Florida are likely to firmly reject that line of attack. Only 35% of voters think it’s fair to hold Hillary responsible for the behavior of her husband, to 57% who say that’s unfair. That line of argument might play well with Trump’s hardcore base, but it’s not likely to help him win over many new converts.

One thing that’s helping Clinton’s prospects in Florida is that voters say 52-43 they’d rather have another four years of Barack Obama as President than the sharp change of direction that a Trump presidency would represent. Undecided voters, by a 29 point margin, would rather have Obama than Trump. Those folks don’t like Hillary Clinton or else they’d already be voting for her, but it seems they might go Clinton, or they might go third party, or they might stay home. But they’re not likely to move to Trump, who literally not a single undecided voter in our poll said they had a positive opinion of.

BARACK OBAMA TO STUMP FOR CLINTON IN FLORIDA via Jordan Fabian of The Hill – Obama was previously scheduled to appear at a Clinton rally Wednesday in Miami Gardens, but the trip was scrapped due to Hurricane Matthew. The president was also forced to postpone a planned speech on his health care law in Tampa the same day. Obama will instead deliver that speech Thursday at Miami Dade College.

TIM KAINE’S WIFE TO CAMPAIGN IN TALLAHASSEE via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – The wife of Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine is coming to Tallahassee. Anne Holton is expected to swing through North Florida … Holton is the former Virginia secretary of education. She resigned the position to campaign full time for the Clinton-Kaine ticket. Holton is known as an advocate for public education. As governor of Virginia, her father A. Linwood Holton quelled desegregation protests in the state by sending his children to a public school with mostly black students. The Clinton campaign is scheduling a women for Hillary event in Tallahassee and campaign stops in Panama City Beach and Pensacola.

WE WILL SUPPORT CONTINUATION OF CUBA EMBARGO, MIKE PENCE TELLS MIAMI CROWD via the South Florida Sun Sentinel – For Pence, the VIP treatment he got … from Miami-Dade County Republicans might not have been immediately evident. Donald Trump‘s running mate, after all, is the governor of Indiana, where punctuality is not known to be a problem. But to come to Miami, where life moves on Miami Time, and run on schedule? This was a Big Deal. Pence knew to play to the crowd at the DoubleTree by Hilton Miami Airport and Convention Center. In his first South Florida appearance of the campaign, he veered from his regular stump speech to offer a few words about Miami-Dade Republicans’ dearest foreign policy issue. “Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would lift the embargo completely and normalize relations with Cuba for nothing in return,” he said. “Let me make a promise to you Donald Trump and I will take to the White House: We will reverse Barack Obama’s executive order on Cuba. We will support a continuation of the embargo until we see real political and religious freedoms take hold in that country.”

WHAT RICK WILSON IS READING – HOW EVAN MCMULLIN COULD WIN UTAH AND THE PRESIDENCY via Benjamin Morris of FiveThirtyEight — It would take a fascinating scenario — in which much of the technical detail of how we select presidents comes into play — for McMullin to be sworn in as the 45th president, but the chances of its happening are slim, not none. Indeed, his chances of at least making things very interesting may be as high as 1 to 3 percent — about the same as the odds of the Cubs’ coming back to beat the Giants on Monday. … The idea that an independent candidate could swoop in to win has been largely dismissed, on the grounds that any conservative-leaning third-party candidate would be more likely to hurt Trump than Clinton, thus making a Clinton victory more likely. But McMullin may have one advantage that other second-tier candidates do not: Utah. His path to the presidency basically looks like this: 1. Win Utah; 2. Deadlock the Electoral College; 3. Win in the House.

OVER 300,000 VOTE-BY-MAIL BALLOTS NOW HAVE BEEN TURNED IN via Florida Politics – As of Friday, 310,760 ballots have been returned for the November general election. The exact tally was posted on the state’s Division of Elections website. That includes ballots to service members and others outside the country. Registered Republicans lead in voted ballots to Democrats 130,758 to 124,773, a difference of 5,985. Other party and no-party voters have returned another 55,229 ballots to their local supervisors of elections. Lawmakers recently changed the name of such ballots to “vote-by-mail” ballots from the traditional “absentee” ballots. The state’s website for vote-by-mail and early voting statistics is here.

THE LAST WORD ON VOTER REGISTRATION NUMBERS IN FLORIDA via Dan Smith for his blog Election Smith – Democrats now make up only 38 percent, NPAs are up to 24 percent, and Republicans continue to comprise roughly 35 percent of the overall statewide electorate, which now weighs in at a hefty 13.7m registered voters … there was much rejoicing among Republicans…as the gap between registered Democrats and Republicans had narrowed, from roughly 595k to just 419k of all Active, Inactive and Pre-registered voters on the statewide voter rolls, as of Aug. 31, 2016, … this narrowing (by 176k voters) does not mean that Republicans have out-registered Democrats over the past 3 ½ years … Democrats have actually out-registered Republicans over this period of time … the 2.32m newly registered voters, by party, of those who registered between Jan. 1, 2013, and Aug. 31, 2016, and who are still in the voter file. These are not voters who registered before Jan. 1, 2013, and who subsequently changed their party registrations. No, these are NEWLY registered voters over the 3 1/two years as of Aug. 31, 2016. of the 2.32m voters who registered during the 44-month period and who are in the statewide Florida voter file (as of Aug. 31, 2016), 31 percent are registered as Democrats, 38 percent are NPAs, and 28 percent are Republicans. In real numbers, over 80k more Democrats than Republicans are in the voter file who registered during the 3 1/2-year period. More precisely, for those of you who really like facts, as of Aug. 31, 2016, there are 80,329 more Democrats who registered since Jan. 1, 2013, than Republicans who registered over the same period of time and who are in the statewide voter file as of Aug. 31, 2016.

JUDGE REBUKES FLORIDA’S TOP ELECTION OFFICIAL IN BALLOT CASE via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – A federal judge issued a scathing rebuke to Florida’s top election official in an order canceling a hearing on a lawsuit over vote-by-mail ballots. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker accused Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner of delaying a hearing on the lawsuit “so that he could use every second available to run out the clock” so there wouldn’t be enough time to address problems raised in the lawsuit. The judge also said Detzner’s actions amounted to an “undeclared war’ on the right to vote in Florida, the largest swing state in the presidential election. The judge in Tallahassee, Florida said he will make a decision on the lawsuit without a hearing that had been set for [today]. “This court will not allow the Florida Secretary of State – a high-level officer of the State of Florida – to take a knee and deprive Florida citizens of their most precious right,” Walker said in his order. A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, Meredith Beatrice, said in an email that the department had responded by the court’s deadline. She also said her office wasn’t the right defendant in the lawsuit since canvassing of mail-in ballots is done by county canvassing boards.

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NATION’S LARGEST GAY RIGHTS GROUP ENDORSES STEPHANIE MURPHY IN CD 7 via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The Human Rights Campaign — billed as the nation’s largest gay rights organization — has endorsed Democrat Murphy … “Stephanie Murphy is someone who will work to ensure that everyone, including LGBTQ people, can one day live free from fear of discrimination,” JoDee Winterhof, the organization’s senior vice president for policy and public affairs, stated in a news release. “HRC is proud to endorse Stephanie Murphy, who will be an important ally as we fight to pass the Equality Act and take us an important step closer to equal treatment under the law for LGBTQ people.” Murphy, of Winter Park, is taking on Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica … which covers Seminole County and north-central and northeast Orange County. “Equal rights are human rights, and no American should face discrimination because of who they are or who they love,” Murphy stated in the release. “I’m proud to stand with HRC in support of the Equality Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and education. We must continue the fight ensure equal treatment for all LGBTQ Americans.”

— “WESH 2 News debate show John Mica, Stephanie Murphy getting personal in CD 7 race “via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

MURPHY NAMED ADAM SMITH’S WINNER OF THE WEEK IN FLA. POLITICS via The Tampa Bay Times: “The little-known Rollins College business professor has emerged as one of the brightest stars in the Democratic Party’s long-shot effort to win back a majority of the U.S. House. Operatives on both sides say she has decent shot of unseating … Mica.”

THE SAGA OF DEMOCRATS’ FAKE DAVID JOLLY/TRUMP TV ADS REFUSES TO DIE via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times – WTSP-10 News, like other Tampa Bay TV stations, has been airing a controversial ad produced by the Democratic National Campaign Committee that ties Republican congressman to Trump. The ad includes images altered to make it look like Jolly and Trump are bros who hang out all the time. There’s lots of photos showing Trump shaking hands and smiling with Jolly — or rather, with Jolly’s head superimposed onto whoever was meeting with Trump. But in reality, Jolly said he’s never met Trump and doesn’t plan to vote for him. [On] Friday … The Jolly campaign sent out a news release with a fuzzy screen shot of the WTSP logo bearing a Facebook message saying the station has agreed to stop airing the ad. The TV station, according to Jolly’s announcement, “responded to multiple messages from outraged Pinellas voters on its official Facebook page that they have taken all photos and videos regarding the matter off our website and our television channel.” Turns out Jolly wasn’t right. But he wasn’t wrong, either. The station’s news director, Bob Clinkingbeard, said someone sent private messages using WTSP’s Facebook account, but without authorization. The messages were “erroneous,” he said, and the station has no plan to stop airing the ads. But it is still trying to find the Facebook culprit, Clinkingbeard said, using a tone of voice that seemed to indicate he’d rather have spent his Friday afternoon on any other business. The DCCC couldn’t resist a victory dance.

— “Charlie Crist is needed in the U.S. House, congresswomen say” via Anne Lindberg of Florida Politics


Bottom line, Crist is probably not leading Jolly by as much as some polling showing, but I don’t think Jolly is any longer as close to Crist as he one was. Let’s break down the numbers.

The recent poll by the University of North Florida showing Crist leading by Jolly by 18 points is the very definition of an outlier. What’s troubling about the UNF poll is the ratio of completed responses by landline (28 percent) to a cellphone (72 percent). That ratio should probably be inverted.

Crist supporters have learned to be wary of surveys from UNF after its final poll of the 2014 gubernatorial race showed the Democrat beating Rick Scott by five points.

I also don’t put a lot of faith in the poll commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Committee showing Crist leading Jolly by 11 points. In this case, the pollster (Anzalone Liszt Grove Research) is to be trusted. However, this poll’s results came after right after I received a survey that was nothing less than a push-poll. It was a live interview poll, so I have a feeling the 50 to 39 percent result that this poll showed came after a few less-than-flattering questions about Jolly.

Unfortunately for Jolly, the polls from UNF and the DCCC both made headlines and the rounds in all of the morning tout sheets.

Even if the numbers from the polls are bogus, they had to have hurt Jolly, who is already in a precarious position when it comes to fundraising. Is a major donor — already weary of Jolly’s position on fundraising — going to kick in $25,000 to a pro-Jolly super PAC after reading two polls that showed him down an average of 15 points? Even billionaire Mike Fernandez has his limits.

Jolly’s camp pushed back on the UNF poll by releasing to the Tampa Bay Times an internal poll that showed him losing to Crist, but only by two points. The pollster, Data Targeting, is highly credible, but the survey had a margin of error of six points, which means Jolly could be losing by as many as eight points.

Which brings us to the poll I believe is the Goldilocks of this race: the most recent effort by St. Pete Polls that shows Crist leading Jolly by five points.

Although St. Pete Polls does not have the national reputation of Anzalone or Data Targeting, it absolutely nailed the special election in CD 13 when Jolly was first elected. It also recently showed Jolly winning the race, so it’s difficult to argue that St. Pete Polls is biased against Jolly or has some other anti-Republican house effect.

Not surprisingly, St. Pete Polls has Jolly right where Data Targeting has him if you split the difference on the margin of error — a dangerous apples-to-bowling balls comparison, but an appropriate one here because the two pro-Crist polls would skew the average of these four polls to Crist +9, which I just don’t believe is where the race is at.

Two final points about all of these polls …

One of the reasons the Jolly camp has to push back hard on this polling narrative is that, if it is behind big, it does not have the passing game to catch up with Crist. Although there are somepro-Jolly super PACs with some money left to help, Jolly’s campaign is running on fumes.

The second point is, as should be said about any polling story, it’s about the trendline, not the top lines. In the case of the St. Pete Polls survey, there was an eight-point movement for Crist. Even if those polls are wrong, they’re wrong in a way that shows that Jolly is almost certainly trailing Crist.

VAL DEMINGS’ POLL SAYS SHE HAS A 38-POINT LEAD IN CD 10 RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The poll, done by Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group in early October, shows Demings with 59 percent of the vote in the west Orlando district and Lowe with 21 percent, according to Demings’ campaign. The poll was taken among 400 likely voters with a margin of error of 4.9 percent. The poll also shows her crushing Lowe in three demographics Demings’ campaign considers key: up by 69 points among Democrats, 83 points among black voters, and 41 percent among women. Demings, a retired Orlando police chief, is African-American. Lowe, a retired businesswoman, is Vietnamese-American. “After an overwhelming primary victory in a crowded field of contestants, Chief Val Demings is well positioned to turn Florida’s 10th Congressional District from red to blue Nov. 8,” her campaign stated in the release. “Recent polling, fundraising, and endorsements show Chief Demings is on track to be elected the next congresswoman to represent Florida’s 10th Congressional District.” The deck has been stacked against Lowe since redistricting flipped the district December from having a voter base that leaned Republican to one that is strongly Democratic. It also takes in much of Orlando’s historic African-American communities in west Orlando and west Orange County.

JUST A THOUGHT, but if a candidate conducts a poll and it shows them leading by 38 points, the candidate did not need to poll.

BRIAN MAST INTERNAL POLL SAYS HE LEADS RANDY PERKINS via George Bennett of the Palm Beach PostMast has a 47-to-40 percent lead over Perkins in a poll of 400 likely voters with a 4.9 percent margin of error conducted by Republican pollster Jim McLaughlin for Mast’s campaign. No-party candidate Carla Spalding gets 6 percent in the poll, with 7 percent of voters undecided. Mast’s standing has improved since a McLaughlin poll conducted Sept. 12-14 showed Perkins with a 41-to-40 percent lead — a virtual tie considering that poll also had a 4.9 percent margin of error. The September poll was taken just before Mast began airing his first general election TV spots. While Mast has improved, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is sinking in District 18, which Republican Mitt Romney carried in 2012. Trump led Hillary Clinton by a 46-to-40 margin in the September poll of District 18 voters; Clinton now has a 46-to-44 percent edge — a swing of 8 points.

— “Vets group says Brian Mast didn’t violate contract with new home purchase” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

CARLOS CURBELO OUTRAISES, OUTSPENDS JOE GARCIA via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald  –  What the vulnerable incumbent mostly did over seven weeks was spend money — a lot of it. Curbelo went through $1.2 million from Aug. 11-Sept. 30, his campaign reported. Most of that went to TV ads, which he started airing the week of the Aug. 30 primary, without any let up. Unopposed on the GOP side, Curbelo had saved his amassed contributions for 18 months. He raked in nearly $510,000 in the latest period, including nearly $13,000 from his joint fundraising committee. Curbelo’s big-name donors include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts of Colorado and sugar baron Pepe Fanjul of West Palm Beach. Curbelo also got $2,500 from KochPAC, the political committee for the industrialist Koch brothers, and $3,000 from a political committee for Univision Communications, which has also supported fellow Miami Cuban-American Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen this cycle. Curbelo still has more cash in the bank: $1.3 million, compared to Garcia’s about $354,000. Garcia, who won the Democratic primary despite being outraised and outspent by Annette Taddeo, raised nearly $382,000 through Sept. 30 and spent about $334,000. Among Gn-arcia’s donors are political committees for U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Garcia also got a $1,000 check from author Judy Blume, who lives in Key West.

NRCC CALLS GARCIA ‘TOO DANGEROUS’ IN NEW SPANISH LANGUAGE AD via Florida Politics — The political committee released a new Spanish-language TV ad over the weekend. The advertisement, according to a translation, is meant to highlight Garcia’s support of the Iran nuclear deal. “We fired Joe Garcia once because he embarrassed us, but to send him back to Congress now would be a danger,” an announcer says in the ad, according to a translation. “Garcia said that communism works. And what’s more, Garcia supports the nuclear deal with Iran.” The new ad is similar to an English-language ad released last week taking Garcia to task for his support of the Iran nuclear deal.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY PLOWS MONEY INTO POT INITIATIVE via News 4 Jax – The Florida Democratic Party has spent $200,000 during the past month to back a proposed constitutional amendment that would broadly legalize medical marijuana … The latest reported contribution, $50,000, was made Oct. 7, while contributions of $100,000 and $50,000 were made in September. The money has gone to People United for Medical Marijuana, which has spearheaded efforts to pass what is known as Amendment 2 on the November ballot. The group raised $201,450 from Oct. 1 through Oct. 7, with nearly a quarter of that money coming from the Democratic Party, according to a newly filed finance report. Another $125,000 came from Coral Gables resident Barbara Stiefel, who has been a major financial backer of the initiative.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

SAVE THE DATE: Florida Senate candidates Debbie Mayfield and Greg Steube host a joint Tallahassee fundraiser Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Governors Club, 202 ½ S. Adams Street in Tallahassee. RSVP to Brianna Jordan at or 203-313-4695. Mayfield is running for Senate District 17; Steube for Senate District 23.

BLOCKING CANCER MEDS AND SUPPORTING TRUMP: VOTES DREDGED UP IN UGLY MIAMI STATE SENATE RACE via David Smiley of the Miami Herald – Back when Miami-Dade was still referred to as Metro-Dade and Trump was just a flamboyant businessman, a young Miguel Diaz de la Portilla supported a county effort to give $35,000 to the blustery developer’s Miss Universe pageant on Miami Beach. Twenty years later, now that many Republican candidates are fleeing any association with Trump’s presidential campaign and the former Metro commissioner is a Florida state senator facing re-election, the Florida Democratic Party wants to remind voters how helpful he was to The Donald. “After Donald Trump promised to bring his Miss Universe show to town, Diaz de la Portilla delivered our tax dollars to help Trump,” states a new commercial released this week in the increasingly nasty Senate District 37 race between the incumbent and state Rep. José Javier Rodríguez. The commercial, which Diaz de la Portilla laughingly called a “reeeaaal stretch,” is just one example of how the candidates are using their voting records against each other — fairly or otherwise. The Trump attack, for instance, omits that the Miss Universe grant was proposed by a tourism committee led by then-commission chairwoman and recently retired Democratic state Sen. Gwen Margolis, and supported by past Miami-Dade Democratic Party chairman Jimmy Morales. In one of many mailers by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Rodríguez is accused of voting against funding for government health insurer Florida KidCare in order to appease his campaign donors: “big insurance companies and their lobbyists.” In another, Rodríguez is ripped for opposing a measure that required insurance companies to cover chemotherapy pills taken orally. Rodríguez counters that Republicans are cherry-picking items out of bills that he opposed for different reasons.

OOOPS. SD 39 CANDIDATE BOASTS BACKING SHE AIN’T GOT via Elaine De Valle of PoliticalCortadito.comDebbie Mucarsel-Powell had four endorsements to announce last week in her challenge to the popular and veteran Sen. Anitere Flores. Problem is, she didn’t really. She only had two. Or, at best, three. A social media graphic was posted boasting the endorsements of Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who got a lot of love from the Democratic Party in her non-partisan 2014 race and is paying it back; Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers, Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace and Goulds activist J.L. Demps. But Demps said he didn’t endorse her. In fact, he endorsed Flores. “I met her and I did have a conversation with her,” Demps told Ladra about Mucarsell. “She’s a very nice person also.” But why would she get the idea that he had endorsed her? “I don’t know,” he said. Mucarsel-Powell, who describes herself as a professional fundraiser for non-profits and organizations, told Ladra that Demps inclusion was due to “confusion, a mix-up.” They had met at an school event in Goulds and when they spoke afterward she assumed she had his support. But her campaign manager, Kate Coyne-McCoy, admitted that they did not have a signed endorsement form from Dumps. Flores does.

‘WATER IS OUR LIFE,’ KATHLEEN PETERS SAYS IN SECOND VIDEO AD via Anne Lindberg of Florida Politics – The ad is called “Water is our life” and it bashes St. Pete and other municipalities for recent sewage dumps into Tampa Bay. “Water is our life,” Peters says on her social media post introducing the video. “I remain dedicated to protecting the most valuable resource we have. I hope that I have earned your support and will be given the opportunity to continue the fight for our environment, and for you in Tallahassee.” She adds, “We are under threat from beach erosion, stormwater runoff, and sewage dumping by our local municipalities.” The ad itself starts with Peters standing on a dock talking about moving to Pinellas to raise her family near the “beautiful beaches and pristine” waterways. Later in the 30-second spot, she talks about “local governments dumping millions of gallons of sewage into our bay and the gulf.” The screen flashes a news headline: “Rep. calls for state investigation of St. Pete sewage problem.”

EDWARD JAMES III DEFIES CALLS TO DROP OUT OF RACE AFTER SEX ASSAULT ACCUSATION via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Once the star of this election cycle for local Democrats, James now finds his state House campaign in free fall as his party calls on the candidate to drop out following revelations he was accused of sexual assault. The Sarasota County Democratic Party’s executive committee issued a statement after the Herald-Tribune published an article detailing the accusations against James, who was never arrested or charged with a crime after his accuser stopped cooperating with authorities. “Although James was not arrested and did not face charges, the accusations are severe enough that the Sarasota County Democratic Party has withdrawn our support of his candidacy for District 72 state House and has asked him to step down,” party leaders wrote in the statement. “Respect for women, regardless of political party, is a shared value of all Americans.” In response, James released a defiant statement saying he is not dropping out of a House contest that had been considered one of the most competitive in Florida before news of the sexual assault allegation. The candidate reiterated his previous comments to the police and Herald-Tribune that the sexual encounter was consensual, and that he cooperated with police in their investigation. He indirectly criticized the Herald-Tribune for publishing a report about the alleged sexual assault. “It hurts me to know that there are those who have chosen to entertain this false narrative,” James said in the statement. “It is also disappointing that with all the evidence available clearly showing there was no wrongdoing, the media has chosen to run stories with no objectivity and no concern for the other parties involved.”

— “11 things I think I think about the Tampa Bay Times’ endorsements in state House races” via Peter Schorsch


ICYMI – FLORIDA SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS DEATH PENALTY LAW; 385 CASES ON HOLD via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – In an explosive pair of rulings … the Florida Supreme Court threw out the state’s existing death penalty sentencing law, likely halting executions indefinitely in a state with nearly 400 Death Row inmates. In the 5-2 ruling, justices said that juries must unanimously recommend death sentences before a judge can impose them. In the case, justices vacated the death sentence of Timothy Lee Hurst, convicted of killing a co-worker at a Pensacola fast-food restaurant in 1998. In a separate decision involving Larry Darnell Perry, accused of killing his three-month-old son in Central Florida in 2013, justices also blocked the law from being used in ongoing prosecutions – essentially freezing the death penalty in the state. Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, said the decisions cloud the future of capital punishment in Florida, second only to California in the number of inmates awaiting execution.

“This the biggest challenge to capital punishment in Florida in a generation,” Dunham said. “It’s a real dilemma for the Legislature, the courts, everybody involved.” It’s also the second strike against the death penalty in Florida in less than a year. The U.S. Supreme Court in January ruled against the previous version of the death penalty sentencing law because at that time, the jury’s role was merely advisory, with the judge making all critical findings.

FOLLOWING MASS SHOOTINGS NATIONWIDE, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT STRIVES TO KEEP COURTROOMS SAFE via Laura Morel of the Tampa Bay Times – In August, the Florida Supreme Court announced plans for a committee of judges that will evaluate security plans and propose changes to make the state’s courts safer. “There can be no question of its urgency,” Chief Justice Jorge Labarga said. “It is underscored by the shock, fear and grief we all have witnessed and experienced this long summer.” The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is spending $24 million this year to fund its judicial operations, which handles security at the county’s three courthouses. The duties of a deputy go beyond standing guard inside courtrooms. They monitor cameras, drive around the courthouse perimeter and check bushes, where they’ve found guns, knives, cocaine, even cash … They also have policies on how to deal with weapons detected at the entrance. Sometimes gun owners with concealed carry permits forget to leave their guns in the car or at home. Other times their explanations don’t add up. Among the judges on the Florida Supreme Court’s committee is Hillsborough Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta, who remembers the lack of security when he began his law career in 1983. “All these doors were just wide-open. People came and went and there was no central entrance or exit,” he said. “The world has changed a great deal.” With visitors pouring in throughout the day to resolve often high-stakes issues, a courthouse could become a target for violence. “You have family law cases, child custody cases, lawsuits involving emotional subjects,” Ficarrotta said. “When you walk these halls, you sense the emotion that thrives throughout the building.”

STATE ECONOMISTS LOWER EXPECTATIONS FOR PENSION FUND via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Actuarial Assumption Conference had stalemated earlier in the week, with some wanting the rate held at 7.65 percent, and others arguing to go down to 7.5 percent. Don Langston, staff director of the House of Representatives’ Finance & Tax Committee, agreed with the move, though not without some trepidation. “Unless something radical changes … to turn the long-term (economic) outlook around, there’s going to be continued pressure on this assumed rate-on-return,” said Langston, who has a doctorate in economics. “If you depend on this for (state) budgeting purposes, plan accordingly,” he added, referring to lawmakers and staff. “You probably should expect further reductions in the future.” Here’s why it matters: Pushing investment return assumptions downward almost always means the Legislature has to pony up more money to pay for the pension plan’s unfunded liabilities. The signs for next year’s budget already aren’t good. Last month, legislators were told the latest income and outgo estimates leave Florida with a scant $7.5 million left over out of about $32.2 billion in available revenue.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold media availability with VISIT Florida officials at 10:30 a.m. at Castillo de San Marcos, 1 South Castillo Drive in St. Augustine.

FPL: HURRICANE MATTHEW OUTAGES LESSENED BY DECADE OF CHANGES TO SYSTEM via Colleen Wixon of TCPalm – When Hurricane Matthew slammed into Florida’s East Coast … about 1.2 million Florida Power & Light Co. customers statewide lost power. Within 48 hours, most had it back. That stands in stark contrast to 12 years ago, when Florida was hit by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne and remained in the dark for weeks. About 2.8 million FPL customers lost power after Hurricane Frances, some waiting almost two weeks before power was restored. Three weeks later, about 1.7 million lost power after Hurricane Jeanne. It took FPL eight days to restore power. “By the end of the second full day after Matthew left our area, we were able to restore power to a 98.7 percent of our customers, which is further evidence that the significant investments we’ve been making in our electric grid over the past decade are clearly providing benefits for our customers,” FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said in a prepared statement. “Were it not for these improvements, a storm of this magnitude and strength would have resulted in a much longer and costly restoration.” Likewise, municipal utilities such as Vero Beach electric and Fort Pierce Utilities Authority also reported faster power restoration after Matthew than after Frances and Jeanne because of changes made to their systems. Since 2004, Vero Beach and Fort Pierce utilities strengthened utility poles to withstand strong winds, officials said. Vero Beach City Manager Jim O’Connor said the city also connected Indian River Medical Center between two substations to reduce outages at the hospital. “The hospital didn’t even blink (during Matthew),” O’Connor said.

WHAT STEPHANIE SMITH IS READING — BILL GALVANO BACKS STATEWIDE RIDE-SHARING LEGISLATION via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Senate Majority Leader Galvano will push for ridesharing legislation, saying this week the state needs a “single, unified approach” to the new transportation sector. In a guest editorial in The Bradenton Herald, Galvano said if Florida wants to continue to attract the next generation of innovators, the state “must solidify, through legislation and strategic partnerships, an ecosystem that supports companies defining their own path.” The Bradenton Republican said in the past the state has chosen to “actively engage and help bring” innovators’ visions, like Walt Disney World and the Moffit Cancer Center, to fruition. Galvano said the state is now faced with another issue in the ridesharing arena. “Last year alone, Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies provided millions of trips for Florida residents and visitors. It is clear that Floridians enjoy these services and support their growth,” he wrote in the guest editorial. “However, in some Florida communities, small but powerful special interests are fighting innovation, choosing to create a path of obstacles rather than a strategic partnership with the state that fosters growth.” Galvano pointed to Hillsborough County as an example of a community limiting growth, saying the Public Transportation Commission there will “soon consider increased local regulations that threaten consumer choice.”


Jennings DePriest, Strategos Public Affairs: American University of Antigua; Melbourne Greyhound Park, LLC

Patrick Gillespie: Department of Management Services

Ryan Matthews: Department of Environmental Protection

Larry Overton, Joel Overton, Larry Overton & Associates: Bridgeway Center

THE STORY BEHIND FSU PROFESSOR’S SLAYING DETAILED IN NEW EVIDENCE via Rebecca Piccardo of the South Florida Sun SentinelDaniel Markel had just been gunned down outside his home. And his ex-wife said she had a notion why. On that day, in July 2014, Wendi Adelson told police someone might have done it for her benefit. “I can’t help but feel that this is all my fault. This can’t be a random act of violence; this has to be on purpose. Someone did this for a reason,” she said during a recorded police interview. “I’m so scared that someone did this, not because they hate Danny but because they thought this was good somehow.” The interview is among dozens of newly released documents and recordings that show how investigators began to piece together what they call a murder-for-hire plot. The evidence reveals: Adelson … told police that her brother Charlie … had joked about hiring a hit man … Cellphone records show calls between Charlie Adelson’s phone and Katherine Magbanua, a woman connected with two men accused of carrying out the killing. Shortly after Markel’s death, Magbanua started receiving paychecks from the Adelson Institute for Aesthetics and Implant Dentistry in Tamarac. The two men charged in the crime made significant purchases in the months after the killing. Sigfredo Garcia bought two cars and a motorcycle, and Luis Rivera bought a motorcycle. No one in the Adelson family has been arrested or charged in the case and, through their attorneys, they have denied any involvement in Markel’s murder. Investigators have been candid about what they think happened. They say Garcia and Rivera acted as hired assassins in an arrangement handled through Magbanua. Magbanua was dating Charlie Adelson and has two small children with Garcia.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the weekend to Loranne Ausley, Rebecca O’Hara, Carrie Patrick, and Beth Switzer. Celebrating today is Josh Cooper, Ellyn Bogdanoff, Kristin Jacobs, and Scott Randolph.

FLORIDIANS ARE PULLING FOR THE CUBS via Public Policy Polling – 35% of Floridians want the Cubs to win the World Series, compared to only 23% pulling for all the other remaining teams combined. The Dodgers are second at 11%, and the Indians and Blue Jays each come in at 6%. Democrats (39% pulling for the Cubs to 20% for everyone else put together) and Republicans (32% pulling for the Cubs to 27% for everyone else put together) agree on this one.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, 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.