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Sunburn for 10.20.16 – Donald Trump needed debate reset, instead he riled GOP

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 and Jim Rosica.


Trailing in the polls, Donald Trump had little to lose in his final debate against Hillary Clinton. He still managed to send shock waves, refusing to say he would accept the results of the 2016 election if he loses.

Trump largely steered clear of making personal attacks against Clinton at the start of the debate, but repeatedly clashed with the former secretary of state as it went on. He called her a liar, questioned her experience and at one point labeled her “such a nasty woman.”

Unconventional as always, the celebrity businessman wouldn’t commit to conceding the election if he fails to win the White House, a staggering declaration by a presidential nominee.

Some takeaways from Wednesday’s debate:

— No surrender —

More than an hour into the debate, Trump would not commit to honoring the election results if Clinton wins. Pressed by moderator Chris Wallace, Trump said he would “keep you in suspense.”

Clinton said it was “horrifying” that Trump wouldn’t heed the nation’s tradition of having a peaceful transfer of power. The businessman has argued without providing any evidence that the election is rigged against him and has suggested Clinton would be an illegitimate president because she used a private email server as secretary of state. He said she “never should have been allowed to run.”

— Nasty woman — 

Trump faces the possibility of a large gender gap against Clinton and some of his commentary is unlikely to help him with women voters in swing states.

At the end of the night, Trump referred to Clinton as a “nasty woman” and denied again that he had engaged in any sexually aggressive behavior, blaming Clinton’s campaign for the series of women who have charged him with groping and other forms of harassment and assault in recent days. The GOP candidate said he didn’t know his accusers.

“I didn’t even apologize to my wife,” Trump said, “because I didn’t do anything.” In an interview earlier this week, Melania Trump said her husband apologized to her.

Clinton didn’t let the moment go, noting that Trump had derided the women as unattractive and “disgusting.” Clinton said, “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger.”

— Bad hombres — 

When Trump reiterated his call to build a wall along the Mexican border, he vowed again to get rid of “drug lords” and “bad people” in the country. Adding a touch of Spanish, Trump said, “we have some bad hombres here, and we’re going to get them out.”

The phrase quickly resonated on social media with allies of Clinton saying Trump was denigrating immigrants.

Clinton said Trump’s immigration policies would amount to “rounding up people who are undocumented” and would “rip our country apart.”

— Abortion —

The candidates had their first extended exchange over abortion rights of the general election. Trump said he thought Roe vs. Wade would “automatically” be overturned if he is elected because he will appoint justices who are against abortion rights. But he refused to say whether he personally thinks the landmark case should be overturned.

Clinton said she’d strongly defend the ruling and offered a passionate defense of a woman’s right to have an abortion, even as Trump accused her of supporting “ripping” babies from their mothers’ wombs.

“This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make, and I do not believe the government should be making it,” Clinton said.

— Putin — 

A question over immigration quickly turned into a sharp exchange over Russia’s role in the election, an issue that has become central to the campaign.

Asked about her apparent support for “open borders” in a private speech to a Brazilian bank, Clinton pointed out that the excerpt came from a hack of her campaign chairman’s personal email — an intrusion that U.S. intelligence agencies blame on Russia. She called on Trump to “reject Russian espionage against Americans” and cast him as a “puppet” of Vladimir Putin.

Trump shot back that Clinton was the “puppet,” saying “of course” he condemns Russia or any other country interfering in the U.S. elections. But Trump said he doubted that Russia had hacked emails from her campaign. Trump went onto say that Putin is not “my best friend.” He added, “She doesn’t like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way.”

— ‘Bad experience’ —

At the end of President Barack Obama‘s two terms, Trump tried to reach voters who may be in the mood for a change in Washington. He cast himself as an outsider, acknowledging to Clinton: “The one thing you have over me is experience. But it’s bad experience.”

Trump said, “The problem is, you talk, but you don’t get anything done, Hillary.”

Clinton responded by comparing her record over the past three decades to Trump’s resume as a businessman. She pointedly noted that on the day she was inside the White House Situation Room during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Trump was hosting his NBC reality show, “Celebrity Apprentice.”

— Too late —

Trump did not appear to do enough to connect with women, college-educated and suburban voters who have gravitated to Clinton during the fall and helped her build a solid lead in preference polls.

His unwillingness to say he’ll accept the results of the election should he lose will give Clinton another way to argue that he doesn’t have the temperament to be president.

And now Trump has little time to make up ground. When the debate got underway, about 2.2 million Americans had already voted and many more will take part in in-person early voting next week. Clinton’s campaign expects more than half the electorate in the battleground states of Florida, North Carolina and Nevada will vote before Election Day.

For many voters, the debate may have been the final chance for Clinton and Trump to make their case.

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STATE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE — CLINTON’S TEXAS OPPORTUNITY (AND HER TEXAS PROBLEM) via Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight —  Another day, another traditionally Republican state that Donald Trump could shockingly manage to lose. … Today, we turn to Texas, where two new polls show a tight race: A University of Houston poll has Trump up just 3 percentage points there, while SurveyMonkey puts Trump’s lead at 2 points. Trump will probably win Texas. Earlier polls had shown a close-ish race there, but with a Trump lead in the high single digits. (Our) model still has Trump ahead by 5 or 6 percentage points in Texas, and puts Clinton’s chances of an upset at 17 percent. But to put that in perspective, Texas is closer than Pennsylvania right now (where Clinton leads by 7 to 8 points). And Clinton is more likely to win Texas than Trump is to win the election, at least according to the polls-only model, which puts Trump’s overall chances at 12 percent. … Texas isn’t some sort of outlier. Instead, it typifies the national trend. Compared with Mitt Romney, Trump is underperforming more in red states than in purple states or blue states. And Trump’s vote has fallen off more in the South than in other parts of the country. In 2012, President Obama lost the South … by 7 percentage points. This year … Clinton is losing the South to Trump by only 1 point. There’s just one somewhat negative aspect of this for Clinton … The gains in red states could yield an inefficient distribution of the popular vote for her, in terms of its impact on the Electoral College. Texas and Utah alone are responsible for shifting the national popular vote by a net of about 1 percentage point toward Clinton, relative to Obama’s performance in 2012. So while the upside for Clinton is potentially turning some very red states blue if she maintains her current position in the polls, there could be a penalty if the race tightens again and Clinton loses a lot of states by a narrow margin.

— “Clinton holds clear advantage in new battleground polls” via Dan Balz and Scott Clement of The Washington Post

NEW AD IN FLORIDA FOCUSES ON CLINTON’S VISION OF AMERICA via Florida Politics — The Clinton campaign released a new 60-second spot Wednesday. The ad … is set to air in several swing states, including Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. “This is not an ordinary time and this is not an ordinary election,” the Democratic hopeful is heard saying in the advertisement. “I want to send a message to every boy and every girl, and indeed to the entire world, that America already is great and we are great because we are good.” The narration … is from Clinton’s comments at the second presidential debate in St. Louis. “My vision of America is an America where everyone has a place,” she says. “This is the America I know and love. If we set those goals and we go together, there’s nothing that America can’t do.” Click the image below to watch the ad.

THE RIGGED 2000 FLORIDA RECOUNT AND THE PATH TO TRUMP via Jonathan Chait of New York magazine – Trump has repeatedly warned that the election is “rigged,” insinuated that hordes of African-American and illegal immigrants will steal the election through illegal ballots, and urged his supporters to monitor “certain areas.” Many observers have denounced these paranoid warnings as dangerous and corrosive to democratic politics. But Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney calls these warnings liberal hypocrisy, because Democrats disputed the legitimacy of the 2000 election: “I attended a Congressional Black Caucus hearing in the weeks after the election when one CBC member called the 2000 election a ‘coup d’etat.’ This was a member of Congress talking about the president. Jesse Jackson, less than a year after receiving the Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton, consistently accused Bush of a coup. Four years later, Democrats held a charade on the floor objecting to Ohio’s electoral votes.”

Carney is missing an important part of the definition here. The point of the complaints about Trump’s rhetoric is that he is falsely impugning the fairness of the election problem, by citing imaginary conspiracies. Nobody is saying it’s wrong to impugn the fairness of an election that was actually stolen. It is clear that we can find examples in American history in which authorities did orchestrate fraud or violence to countermand election results. Acknowledging those episodes does not undermine the proper functioning of the system. And, yes, the 2000 election is absolutely one of those cases … There is a connection between Florida 2000 and Trump’s hysterical rhetoric, but it is the opposite of the one Carney describes. A party that was already beginning to go off the rails was already exhibiting the irrational authoritarian traits that its presidential nominee has now made so alarmingly plain.

NEW TRUMP AD IN FLORIDA FOCUSES ON ‘ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT’ KILLERS — The Trump campaign released a new campaign ad Wednesday featuring Laura Wilkerson, whose son was killed by an immigrant who entered the country illegally. In the 30-second spot, Wilkerson says the man hit her son on the head “with a closet rod so hard that it broke in four pieces, and then he took him to a field and he doused him with gasoline and set him on fire.” She continues: “It was the hardest day of my life. Hillary Clinton’s border policy is going to allow people into the country just like the one that murdered my son.” The ad is scheduled to air in major markets in Florida, Iowa, Maine, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Click the image below to watch the ad.

DO CAMPAIGN ADS MATTER? TRUMP OFFERS A RARE CHANCE TO FIND OUT via Lynn Vavreck of New York Times’ The Upshot — Since June, there have been roughly 300,000 TV commercials on behalf of presidential candidates. Most of them have been in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, but a small number have been on national networks. According to data collected by Kantar Media/CMAG, 80 percent of the ads to date were run by or on behalf of Clinton, while only 18 percent were shown by or on behalf of Mr. Trump. Nearly everywhere the race is competitive, Mrs. Clinton has run far more ads. Most presidential campaigns are not like this. They are more like a tug of war with both sides pulling equally hard. … But this year, one side has stopped pulling, giving us a rare chance to learn two things: whether all the effort exerted by Mrs. Clinton is moving the flag, and whether Mr. Trump’s method is a good substitute for a conventional ad campaign. … All told, from June to October there were five states with more than 100 ads in which Mr. Trump dominated, and 18 states with more than 100 ads in which Mrs. Clinton dominated. The largest imbalance for Mr. Trump was in Michigan, where he out-advertised her by 1,567 ads. The largest Clinton advantage was in Florida, where she is up by nearly 44,000 ads. … Over this same period, The Upshot’s state models estimated that Mrs. Clinton’s vote margin went up by an average of about a half percentage point. In battleground states where the race is traditionally hard fought, places like North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, her margins have gone up since June — and sometimes by quite a bit. In Pennsylvania, the increase was nearly six points. In Florida and Nevada, it was about two points.

MEDIA VULNERABLE TO ELECTION NIGHT CYBER-ATTACK via Darren Samuelsohn and Hadas Gold of POLITICO – Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars on security upgrades, U.S. media organizations have failed to properly protect their newsrooms from cyberattacks on their websites, communications systems and even editing platforms — opening themselves up to the possibility of a chaos-creating hack around Election Day. In just the past month, BuzzFeed has been vandalized, and both Newsweek and a leading cybersecurity blog were knocked offline after publishing articles that hackers apparently didn’t appreciate. Federal law enforcement is investigating multiple attacks on news organizations, and journalists moderating the presidential debates say they’ve even gotten briefings from the FBI on proper cyber hygiene, prompting them to go back to paper and pens for prep work. “We do a lot of printing out,” said Michele Remillard, an executive producer at C-SPAN, the network home to the backup moderator for all the debates. Journalists are seen as especially vulnerable soft targets for hackers. Their computers contain the kinds of notes, story ideas and high-powered contact lists coveted by foreign intelligence services. They also work in an environment that makes them ripe for attack, thanks to professional demands like the need for a constant online presence and inboxes that pop with emails from sources whom they don’t always know and which frequently contain the kinds of suspicious links and attachments that can expose their wider newsroom networks.


DEMOCRATS WANT JUDGE TO PUT IN NEW VOTING RULES FOR FLORIDA via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – The Florida Democratic Party this week asked U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to order state election officials to allow people to cast a ballot during early voting even if their registration application has not yet been verified. Democrats made this unusual request … after saying that some election officials have told them that they won’t be able to verify thousands of voter registration applications before early voting starts in many counties Monday. Walker has scheduled an emergency hearing for [today]. Walker … ordered that the state’s voting registration deadline be pushed back from Oct. 11 to Oct. 18 due to the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Matthew caused disruption and damage as it scraped the state’s Atlantic coast. Secretary of State Ken Detzner has estimated that nearly 64,000 people registered during the extended period. But as of Tuesday, there were nearly 27,000 people whose applications were still undergoing verification, including checking Social Security numbers and driver’s license information. State officials say they are working to verify all applications by Oct. 29, the date mandatory early voting begins statewide. “Our No. 1 priority is to make sure that voters have the resources they need to have the opportunity to vote,” Detzner said in a statement. “Our goal is to encourage 100 percent voter participation and have zero percent fraud. The state of Florida is committed to ensuring that all Floridians who have registered to vote by the extended voter registration deadline can vote.” But early voting is starting next Monday in large urban counties that include the cities of Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa.

FLA. ELECTIONS OFFICIALS, GOP WARN OF ‘CHAOS … INSANITY’ IF DEMOCRATS GET JUDGE TO CHANGE VOTER VERIFICATION RULES via Daniel Ducassi and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – After persuading a judge to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline by a week, the Florida Democratic Party now wants the court to force Gov. Scott‘s top election official to verify all of the new sign-up forms by 5 p.m. Sunday – the day before in-person early voting begins in big urban counties in the nation’s biggest battleground state. And if the state fails at the task, Democrats want the judge to go an extra step: allow un-verified voters with proper ID the right to cast a regular ballot at early voting sites. Normally, a person whose voting status is unverified would cast a provisional ballot that’s either counted or rejected after Election Day. Elections officials and Republicans began buzzing that this last requirement would be tantamount to a same-day voter registration model that the state is not equipped to handle. “That would be insanity. It would be unreasonable,” said Brian Corley, Pasco County’s elections supervisor who’s the immediate past president of the state’s elections supervisor association. “What they’re asking for is the honor system. That won’t work.” Corley said that provisional ballots for un-verified potential voters are safe and don’t disenfranchise voters. But it gives local elections officials, who meet after Election Day, time to make sure that an actual lawful ballot has been cast. “I’m going to agree with the critics on this one: I don’t think I want people just showing up at the early voting polls and say ‘hey, I’m registered to vote, give me a regular ballot,'” said Michael McDonald, an early voting expert and political science professor with the University of Florida.

CLINTON’S CONNECTIONS IN THE SUNSHINE STATE ARE ABOUT LOYALTY AND LONGEVITY — AND BILL. via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Hillary Clinton’s relationship with Florida, not unlike an enduring but exacting marriage, is long and complex. Consider her journey from idealistic law student at Yale sticking up for Florida migrant workers to presidential frontrunner chatting up the corporate elite who paid $50,000 a plate to dine with her on Miami Beach’s Star Island. In July 1970, 22-year-old Hillary Rodham, an intern for a children’s advocacy group in Washington, was sent to monitor Walter Mondale’s Senate committee hearings about terrible working conditions on corporate-owned farms in Florida. Some Yale classmates with internships at big law firms saw the hearings as proof that agribusinesses needed better PR. But Clinton, who had baby-sat migrant children in Illinois, had a different take. “I suggested that the best way to do that would be to improve the treatment of their farmworkers,” Clinton wrote in an autobiography. She threw herself into studying how laws affect children. Fast forward 20 years. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton launches a bid for president with his lawyer-wife at his side and they target Florida as key to winning the Democratic nomination. They seek the money and support of sugar baron Alfonso “Alfy” Fanjul, whose family-owned company faced numerous lawsuits alleging mistreatment of Jamaican guest workers cutting cane in South Florida’s muck. No matter. Fanjul becomes co-chairman of the 1992 Clinton campaign. Four years later, an embarrassing political footnote: President Clinton was in the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky when he had a 22-minute phone call with Fanjul, whose industry enjoyed special protections under Clinton’s NAFTA deal. Today, most of the cane cutters are gone from the Fanjul fields in South Florida, replaced by machinery. But the Fanjul family remains tight with the Clintons, donating at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Records show Alfy Fanjul met numerous times privately with Secretary of State Clinton. In August, shortly after the Democratic National Convention, Fanjul, his wife, Raysa, and former Ambassador Paul Cejas and his wife host a $100,000-per-couple dinner at Cejas’ Miami Beach mansion for the Democratic nominee who decries the unfair clout of the rich.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, will be leading a statewide bus tour through Florida with “Mayors for Hillary.” The bus tour is kicking off Thursday, Oct. 20 ahead of the start of Early Vote, concluding in South Florida Monday, Oct. 24.

BARACK OBAMA FEATURED IN SPANISH-LANGUAGE AD FOR PATRICK MURPHY via Florida Politics — The Murphy campaign released a new Spanish-language ad, that features the president speaking directly to the camera, urging Floridians to vote for Murphy. A new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed a dead heat between Murphy and Sen. Marco Rubio. According to the poll, 49 percent of Floridians said they were backing Rubio, compared to 47 percent who picked Murphy. “Patrick will fight for immigration reform, better education, and higher wages. Working each day to improve our lives,” the president says in the advertisement, according to a translation. “Go out and vote for Patrick. Your vote is very important.” Click the image below to watch the ad.

REPUBLICANS ACCUSE MURPHY OF U.S. HOUSE ETHICS VIOLATION OVER 2014 OPPO BOOK via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – The Republican Party of Florida’s executive director alleges Murphy violated House ethics rules because a recently leaked opposition research report that Murphy’s 2014 congressional campaign commissioned on the candidate himself says it was done “in collaboration with the staff of Rep. Murphy’s office.” Federal law and House ethics rules prohibit members of Congress from using official congressional resources for campaign or political purposes. Murphy has been in Congress since 2013. RPOF executive director George Riley signed off on an official complaint, which says it was emailed to the U.S. House Office of Congressional Ethics Monday. The National Republican Senatorial Committee — the political committee that seeks to elect Senate Republicans, like incumbent Marco Rubio — distributed Riley’s letter Wednesday morning. Last week, Buzzfeed reported on the contents of the opposition research report, which it obtained from a Republican source. Murphy’s U.S. Senate campaign did not dispute the validity of the 400-page document. Such reports are commonplace for campaigns, offering insight about vulnerabilities (and strengths) into a candidate’s personal and professional record so that the campaign can prepare ways to defend (or highlight) that history.

MY TAKE: DEMOCRATIC SENATORIAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE LOOKING DUMB AND DUMBER FOR ABANDONING MURPHY via Florida Politics – About a week ago, I used this space to offer an honest critique of national Democrats turning their backs on Murphy. At the time, Murphy was lagging behind by about four points; at least one poll showed it was even closer. With Trump cratering, it only seemed logical to this writer that abandoning Murphy was a dumb move. And now, we have new variables to consider. First, there is another poll, this one from Quinnipiac, showing the race tightening to two points (last month, these same folks had Rubio up four.) Second, there is a solid debate performance by the lesser known Murphy (who was expected to get clobbered by the hugely experienced Marco Rubio). I am not suggesting, by any means, that Murphy won the debate. Third, a rough count shows team Rubio outspending Murphy by about 5:1. What should this mean?  With three weeks left, the Democrats should be getting ready to pounce. This seat should be ripe for a win. In one of the funniest scenes in “Dumb and Dumber,” Jim Carreyhopes Lauren Holly’s character will date him. After he forces the question, she admits that the odds of are one in a million. Carey pauses … pauses … before elatedly shouting: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” That’s funny; precisely the opposite of what is happening in Florida … Murphy’s odds are extremely good. He has been massively outspent, running against a well-known incumbent and is still within striking distance in what looks like (at a minimum) a solid year for Democrats. Any idiot can see this race is there for the taking. Apparently, those who call the shots up in D.C. are not just any idiots. They are dumb. Very dumb.

— “Patrick Murphy showing life in Senate race against Marco Rubio” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

MARCO RUBIO AGAIN INSISTS IF HE WERE RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN 2020, HE WOULDN’T BE IN SENATE RACE via Jeremy Wallace of the Miami Herald – Rubio again tried to strike back at criticism that he is only running for re-election to position himself for another White House run in the year 2020. During an interview on AM Tampa Bay on WFLA-AM 970 this morning, Rubio was asked how voters can be sure he’s going to serve a full 6-year term if he wins re-election. “Well, first of all because I said it,” Rubio told hosts Jack Harris and Tedd Webb. He didn’t stop there. “If I wanted to run for something else, I wouldn’t have run for Senate,” Rubio said. “If I were going to run for president in four years, I would have just stayed out of this race and started running on Nov. 9, which is what a lot of other people are going to do. I wouldn’t have run for re-election at the last minute in the toughest swing state in the country, in a year as uncertain as this one.”

RUBIO WON’T TALK ABOUT WIKILEAKS, AND NEITHER SHOULD DONALD TRUMP via Jonathan Karl and Benjamin Siegel of ABC News – “As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process, and I will not indulge it,” Rubio [said] ”further, I want to warn my fellow Republicans who may want to capitalize politically on these leaks: Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us.” Rubio’s stand puts him directly at odds with Trump and other Republicans, who have been relentlessly hammering Clinton and her campaign over the content of the hacked emails. “WikiLeaks has provided things that are unbelievable,” he said at a rally in Colorado … accusing the media of ignoring the leaks. “The media, you have to remember, is an extension of the Hillary Clinton campaign. It’s an extension. And without that, she would be nowhere.” While Trump regularly slams the news media for not paying enough attention to the stolen emails, Rubio argues that making an issue out of the WikiLeaks disclosures plays into the hands of the Russian government. “I will not discuss any issue that has become public solely on the basis of WikiLeaks,” Rubio tells ABC news.

RUBIO ADDRESSES NEW FDA RULES DURING VISIT TO NEWMAN CIGARS IN YBOR via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times – Rubio, a Miami Republican nearing the climax of a contentious re-election campaign, visited the company to draw attention to … new federal Luisa regulations on premium cigars that cigar companies like J.C. Newman say could put them out of business. The new U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations were already on the books for cigarettes. In August, they began to apply to other tobacco products including premium cigars. Proponents of the rules, such as the American Cancer Society, say cigars are dangerous to smokers’ health just like other tobacco and should be regulated accordingly. But Rubio is among members of the Florida congressional delegation who say that premium cigars should not be lumped in with traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes. “This is a law that was passed to keep cigarettes and harmful tobacco products out of the hands of young people and children, and I don’t think any of us disagree with that,” Rubio told reporters after his tour with company president Eric Newman. “Anybody who knows about the premium cigar industry knows it’s not an industry that targets or is consumed by young Americans.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Four North Florida congressional candidates — Democrats Steven SpechtWalt DartlandKen McGrun, and Dave Bruderly — will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. at the Florida Press Center, 336 East College Avenue in Tallahassee. The four men are expected to announce their support for a platform of issues to improve the lives of veterans and their families.

POTENTIAL MOTIONS REVEAL STRATEGY IN CORRINE BROWN CASE MAY BE TO ‘SEVER DEFENDANTS’ via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Both the prosecution and the defense filed a list of potential pre-trial motions in Rep. Brown‘s trial in 2017. In doing so, both sides have illustrated their strategies. The defense listed a motion to admit admissible character evidence; a motion to sever defendants; and a motion to dismiss. These illustrate that Brown may contend she was used by Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons or by Carla Wiley, who ran the One Door for Education charity. It was notable because of its lack of charitable contributions over the course of years, after $800,000 of contributions were raised using the congresswoman’s imprimatur. Wiley, to be sentenced in December, is cooperating with prosecutors. Brown and Simmons have functioned as co-defendants; however, there has been speculation that at some point one will turn on the other.

GABBY GIFFORDS SUPER PAC SPENDING FOR STEPHANIE MURPHY via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – A super PAC aimed at reducing gun violence is funding nearly $20,000 in mailers against longtime Republican Rep. John Mica. Americans for Responsible Solutions was founded by former Rep. Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who nearly lost her life in a 2011 assassination attempt. The group is backing Democrat Murphy in her race against Mica, who has been in Congress since 1992. “We are proud to support Stephanie Murphy, a leader who is committed standing up to the Washington gun lobby in Congress and standing up for bipartisan change that will help prevent gun tragedies,” Giffords and he husband Mark Kelly said in a September statement backing Murphy. Of the $567,483 she has raised through Sept. 20, 40 percent has come from political action committees, including $10,000 from a committee controlled by New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, $5,000 from EMILY’s list, and $7,000 from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a committee she controls. Mica has raised just over $1 million, half of which has come from outside committees.

BRIAN MAST, RANDY PERKINS TOUTING POINTS MADE DURING DEBATE via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post – Republican Mast and Democrat Perkins, battling it out in one of the most competitive and important congressional races in the country, are both highlighting points made during Monday’s debate in Palm Beach Gardens. Mast, a former U.S. Army bomb technician who lost both legs in Afghanistan, jumped on Perkins’ comment that he would “print more money for our seniors” in an effort to portray Perkins as fiscally reckless. “Clearly, Randy Perkins is unprepared to serve in Congress,” Mast says in a news release highlighting their debate exchange. Perkins, a wealthy businessman, latched onto Mast donations he said came from lobbyists for All Aboard Florida, a passenger rail project that would connect Miami to Orlando. Both Perkins and Mast have opposed the project, as do many residents in Martin County, which is part of District 18. “Why would All Aboard Florida’s backers back Brian Mast?” Perkins asked in a news release. “I think we know the answer.”

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AMENDMENT 1 OPPONENTS SAY RECORDING SHOWS ‘FRAUD’ BEHIND SOLAR BALLOT INITIATIVE via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – The Center for Media and Democracy … posted audio during which Sal Nuzzo, of the James Madison Institute, said Oct. 2 that “solar polls very well” and encouraged conservative activists “to use it to our benefit either in policy, in legislation or in constitutional referendums” …  “We now have clear, clear evidence that the utilities are misleading Floridians, totally misleading them, on an issue (solar energy) that has strong voter support,” Pamela Goodman of the Florida League of Women Voters said on a conference call. “This is an extraordinarily dangerous precedent – to allow corporate interests to use their money and their power to go into the state constitution and put in fraudulent wording and fraudulent claims and wrap it around with a bunch of misleading eye candy and spend millions of dollars to get people to vote,” said Stephen Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. But a spokeswoman for Consumers for Smart Solar, the political committee sponsoring the amendment, said … Nuzzo was not speaking for the campaign and that the James Madison Institute had not been involved in writing the amendment. A JMI spokeswoman also said the self-described conservative think tank had not worked on the Amendment 1 campaign.

THINK TANK SAYS SAL NUZO “MISSPOKE” ABOUT STRATEGY via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – “At an event with an unfamiliar, national audience, Mr. Nuzzo generalized his commentary and misspoke in reference to JMI partnering with Consumers for Smart Solar in any capacity,” (Robert) McClure said in a statement. McClure said his organization never received funding from the political committee formed by the state’s largest utilities to oppose a solar-industry backed initiative and promote a rival amendment of their own. He said that “no one funds individual studies. People support our mission generally and we decide internally what topics we’re going to weigh in on.” “JMI has never worked with or received funding from Consumers for Smart Solar,” McClure said in a statement. “We have released policy positions on both solar amendments and have publicly spoken on the pros and cons of each.” McClure would not comment on whether the utility industry or its supporters provided financing for JMI before it embarked on the research that is now being promoted by the political committee financed by the utility industry, but he denied there was a link.

CENTRAL FLORIDA, JACKSONVILLE, PINEALLAS URBAN LEAGUES BACK SOLAR POWER AMENDMENT via Florida Politics — Consumers for Smart Solar announced Wednesday the Central Florida Urban League, the Jacksonville Urban League, and the Pinellas County Urban League were endorsing the 2016 solar power initiative. In a joint statement released by the campaign, the three organizations said they believe the amendment “provides an effective hammer for breaking down these barriers while providing regulators with the tools to protect low income consumers who still rely entirely on the electric grid from carrying a disproportionate share of the grid’s fixed costs.” The amendment is backed by the state’s major electric companies, and outlines the rules for solar power in Florida. It would put existing law dealing with the rights of homeowners and businesses to own or lease solar equipment into the state constitution. “We are pleased that the Central Florida Urban League, the Jacksonville Urban League and the Pinellas County Urban League have joined us in supporting Amendment 1 and agree that this good amendment will result in increased access to affordable energy in every community,” said ‘Yes on 1’ Co-chairman Dick Batchelor.

BROWARD VOTER’S BALLOT IS MISSING MARIJUANA QUESTION via Brittany Wallman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Former  Oakland Park Commissioner Anne Sallee noticed something troubling about her vote-by-mail ballot. It is missing Constitutional Amendment 2, the medical marijuana question. Sallee, now president of the Broward Chapter of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, knows her way around government. Yet she said she spent a week unsuccessfully trying to get someone at the Broward elections office to pay attention to her complaint. “They said, ‘Oh, no, you’re mistaken. It’s there,’ ” she recounted. The ballot, a scanned image of which Sallee sent to the Sun Sentinel, goes from Amendment 1 to Amendment 3. “We have a check-and-balance system. We can go back and see what we did send to the printer,” she said. “When you’re dealing with this much paper and this many people, we may have made a mistake. But I haven’t heard a lot of people saying, ‘I don’t have it, either.’ We’ve already sent [Sallee] another ballot.” Broward Elections Supervisor Dr. Brenda Snipes said Wednesday that she hasn’t seen Sallee’s ballot yet and can’t confirm there’s something wrong with it. But she and her technical staff spent much of the day investigating, and found no evidence of faulty ballots being sent to voters. Snipes said her office plans to retrieve it “we can start to examine what may have caused the problem.” “We have a check-and-balance system. We can go back and see what we did send to the printer,” she said. “When you’re dealing with this much paper and this many people, we may have made a mistake. But I haven’t heard a lot of people saying, ‘I don’t have it, either.’ We’ve already sent [Sallee] another ballot.” Snipes said her office plans to retrieve it “we can start to examine what may have caused the problem.”

EPILOGUE: PREMATURE POSTING OF ELECTION RESULTS WAS MISTAKE, NOT A CRIME via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – VR Systems, a contractor for the Broward Supervisor of Elections, took responsibility after results from early voting and absentee ballots were posted about 30 minutes before polls closed Aug. 30. It is a felony to release results while voters are still casting ballots. However, assistant state attorney Timothy Donnelly concluded that while results were negligently posted early, there was no evidence that it was intentional. “There is insufficient evidence that anyone purposely intended to post any election results before the closing of the polls, in violation of the criminal statutes…” he wrote in a memo released Wednesday. “It is unfortunate that some election results were reported early and other election results were delayed and reported late. Parties have promised to take measures to insure that this does not happen again.” State law says that “any supervisor of elections, deputy supervisor of elections, canvassing board member, election board member or election employee who releases the results of any election before the closing of the polls in that county on Election Day commits a felony of the third degree.” Although that statute language doesn’t address intent, the goal of the law is to prevent elections officials from posting results early in an effort to sway turnout. In the case of Broward primary night, there was no evidence of intent when results were posted near the end of a rainy low-turnout primary night.

HD 67 DEMOCRATIC HOPEFUL DAVID VOGEL MOCKS DISABLED, GOP ‘THUGS’ IN TASTELESS FACEBOOK RANTS via Florida Politics – Vogel … hasn’t had much of a presence on the campaign trail, outside of a recent forum earlier this month at St. Petersburg College. He does not operate a campaign website, nor can he boast much more than the occasional knee-jerk Democratic endorsement. However, Vogel does have a larger digital footprint on Facebook – where he has frequently posted opinions best described as severely liberal, and also questionable – at least for someone seeking elective office. In one post, dated March 1, Vogel blasts Fox News for “collectively whining like a spoiled child” because presidential candidate Trump was asked more than once about “statements that he actually made … These are the same folks who have zero difficulty with repeating the same lies for years – in many cases long after the stories have been shown to be complete fabrications that were ginned up solely to score political points with the fox-news-cum-swallowing crowd.” Vogel uses the same crass euphemism in another post on the same day, referring to the GOP “rethuglicant party,” and calling out “mindless-drone-followers,” who were all but forced to sign a written pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee. “As the rethugs now trip over themselves to act as though that never happened,” he writes, “NOBODY has pointed to out to the fox-news-cum-swallowing crowd that BLATANT DISREGARD for its promises and obligations is STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE for the right-wing.” It’s important to note that Vogel’s rants were not made years ago, with the hope that they would be long forgotten; he posted them only one day before officially filing for the HD 67 race. In this dangerous year of Trump, it might be all the rage poking fun at persons with disabilities, Christians or even Fox News viewers. But this kind of rhetoric simply has no place in a Pinellas County House race.

POLICE UNION WITHDRAWS ENDORSEMENT; CALLS DAVID RIVERA’S CAMPAIGN ‘FALSE AND DEFAMATORY’ via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – Rivera‘s troubled political comeback was delivered another blow Wednesday as the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement saying it “emphatically and unequivocally withdraws our endorsement of David Rivera.” Rivera’s campaign, and the political committee supporting him, has been running daily robo calls repeating unsubstantiated accusations against his Democratic opponent Robert Asencio. They have repeated the claims in at least six different mailers that have flooded the mail boxes of voters in the House District 118 race. The allegations accuse Asencio, a retired police sergeant in the Miami-Dade Public Schools Police Department, of being a “child abuser” even though the school district has said those claims are false. “David Rivera is running a false and defamatory campaign against career public servant and distinguished police officer Robert Asencio,” said Javier Ortiz, district director of the Fraternal Order of Police, District 6, in a statement … “The Fraternal Order of Police does not support David Rivera’s smear tactics and obscene insinuations about Robert’s character and career accomplishments. Unlike Robert who was cleared of any wrongdoing while protecting the community, Mr. Rivera was just found guilty and fined over $57,000 by the State of Florida. “Floridians have the right to vote based on facts, not on politically promoted smear campaigns.”


Bob Buesing, running for Florida Senate District 18, has been endorsed by the Sierra Club Florida.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, running for Florida Senate District 39, has been endorsed by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Joe Greuters, running for Florida House District 73, has been endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business.

***Host your next fundraiser at the Governors Club, Tallahassee’s leading business, social and political venue! Event packages are available for all budgets; rooms for 50-450 guests. For information or to book a celebration, contact Laura Kalinoski, Director of Catering at 850-205-0665 or Learn more at***

RICK SCOTT: FLORIDIANS CAN NOW APPLY FOR DISASTER UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE AFTER HURRICANE MATTHEW via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Floridians who lost their jobs earlier this month due to severe storms and flooding during Hurricane Matthew may be entitled to federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance under a recently-approved request for a major disaster declaration in Florida. Earlier this week, the federal government approved a limited part of Gov. Scott’s request for a major disaster declaration for parts of Florida including Flagler, St. Johns, Volusia and Putnam counties which would allow these counties to use Disaster Unemployment Assistance funds for those affected by the storm. These Northeast Florida counties were among those most heavily impacted during Hurricane Matthew, which hit Florida as a Category 4 and Category 3 storm earlier this month. The federal government has also approved Disaster Unemployment Assistance funds for those affected by Matthew in other states like North Carolina, where many counties are providing similar assistance. Scott said he has spoken with individuals affected by the storm, which dumped inches of rain on parts of Florida, left many without power and caused millions of dollars in damage — and counting — around the state. “We are committed to helping these communities fully recover from this devastating storm, and helping Floridians get back to work is one of the most important ways to do so,” Scott said. “Disaster Unemployment Assistance will provide necessary resources for individuals and families in Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties, but there are many areas along our east coast that still need the federal government’s support.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Scott will highlight job growth during a press conference at 2:30 p.m. at Herc Rentals, 27500 Riverview Center Blvd. in Bonita Springs.

MATT GAETZ JOINS APPLICANTS TO RICK SCOTT FOR CRC POSITION via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The list of applicants to Scott for a seat on the state’s Constitution Revision Commission continues to grow, now including conservative lawmaker Gaetz. The panel, which reviews the state’s constitution every two decades, is scheduled to convene 30 days before the beginning of the Legislature’s 2017 regular session March 7. As governor, Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners and selects its chairperson. That means the Naples Republican will indirectly influence the retooling of the state’s chief governing document for an entire generation. As of late Tuesday, there were 73 names on the list provided by the governor’s office.

DHSMV SEEKING PERMISSION TO USE DRONES via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – But the law in question, the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, includes an exception for “aerial mapping” as long as the drone is being operated safely. The proposed bill is part of a “legislative concepts” package Executive Director Terry Rhodes plans to present at next Tuesday’s Florida Cabinet meeting. The measure was mentioned during Wednesday’s Cabinet aides pre-meeting. The department reports to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet … The document explains that state law now prohibits law enforcement agencies from using drones “for surveillance and evidence gathering.” Lawmakers in Florida and across the country have been passing laws related to drone aircraft in recent years. In Florida, the concerns have been mostly about invasions of privacy. But the Florida Highway Patrol, which falls under the DHSMV, wants to use the remote-controlled flying machines “for complex traffic crash scenes where aerial photos and scene mapping can aid in clearing roads.”

SPACE FLORIDA SEEKS FDOT APPROVAL TO HELP SPACEX via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel – The agency will ask Florida Department of Transportation for $5 million to contribute to infrastructure improvements on Spaceport Launch Complex 39A, which SpaceX hopes will one day be the site of rocket launches that send humans to Mars. The move will be discussed during an online-only board meeting next Wednesday. According to meeting documents, “project match funding” from FDOT would be used for “infrastructure improvements by SpaceX.” The move would authorize Space Florida to enter into an agreement with billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s space company. The Hawthorne, California-based company entered into a 20-year lease for the launch pad in December 2014 and has had plans to overhaul the site ever since.

FLORIDA ZIKA VIRUS UPDATE — As of Wednesday, there were are two travel related cases today with one in Sarasota County and one involving a pregnant woman. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to 10 days. So far, there are 1,044 total cases of Zika in Florida: 745 travel-related infections; 165 non-travel related infections; 110 infections involving pregnant women; 19 out of state cases (not Florida residents); and 5 that were undetermined.

ZIKA TEST URGED FOR PREGNANT WOMEN THROUGHOUT MIAMI-DADE via Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press – The government recommended Zika testing for all pregnant women who recently spent time anywhere in Florida’s Miami-Dade County. The county is the only area in the continental U.S. where mosquitoes have been spreading the virus since the summer. Testing is recommended for pregnant women who lived in – or visited – Miami-Dade since Aug. 1, whether or not they have symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously urged testing for pregnant women who had been in one of the county’s Zika “hot zones.” On Wednesday, it extended the advice to the entire county. New cases continue to come in from the Miami area “and we want to be cautious,” said the CDC’s Dr. Denise Jamieson. There have been more than 150 Zika cases in the county blamed on local mosquitoes. Zika is mainly spread by mosquitoes, but can be spread through sex. Most infected people don’t get sick. It can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain. But infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects.

SMALL ISLAND, BIG EXPERIMENT: HOW A TINY FLORIDA COMMUNITY COULD INFLUENCE THE WAY WE FIGHT ZIKA AROUND THE WORLD via Anna Maria Barry-Jester of FiveThirtyEight — When Florida Keys residents go to vote in the presidential election this November, they will also vote on whether to release Oxitec’s mosquitoes in Key Haven, a small community off of Key West. Although the vote is nonbinding, three of the five members of the Mosquito Control Board have said they will abide by the public’s decision. But the board members haven’t made clear who that public is, which turns out to be an important point, because there will actually be two votes: one for residents of Key Haven and another for all residents of the Keys. The latter asks whether voters are in favor of conducting the trial anywhere in Monroe County, which includes all of the Keys and a section of the mainland that’s mostly occupied by Everglades National Park. … The island already has plenty of Aedes aegypti, according to the Mosquito Control District. Zika is also on its mainland doorstep; 155 people were known to have been infected with the virus locally as of Oct. 13. … Although the Keys have had only one serious outbreak of a disease carried by Aedes aegypti in recent memory, officials say they can’t rely on their current mosquito-control approach forever. Not only do current methods require enormous investments of time and money, but the Keys are also now seeing more insecticide-resistant mosquitoes. … The people opposed to the trial are also frustrated because the genetically modified mosquitoes won’t be able to halt or mitigate current Zika outbreaks. That’s partly because approval for commercial use of the mosquitoes likely won’t come in time to help, even if all goes well with the trial, but also because the insects aren’t suited for stopping the spread of an outbreak. … Not everyone is suspicious of the research, however. Several people around Key West told me that they weren’t against the trial, which in effect made them in favor of it, even if they were somewhat apathetic. Others explained that they didn’t want to go public with their support because they were afraid of being harassed by the opposition.

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

APPOINTEDRoaya Tyson to Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council.

APPOINTEDBennett Barrow to the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority: David Hankla and Robert Atkins to the Boating Advisory Council; Dr. Magdalena Averhoff, Dr. Steven Rosenberg, and Dr. Hector Vila to the Florida Board of Medicine.

WHAT TAYLOR BIEHL IS READING – ALL NEW TESLA CARS WILL NOW HAVE FULL SELF-DRIVING HARDWARE via — The manufacturer announced yesterday, “…All Tesla vehicles produced in our factory – including Model 3 – will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability at a safety level substantially greater than that of a human driver…Together, this system provides a view of the world that a driver alone cannot access, seeing in every direction simultaneously and on wavelengths that go far beyond the human senses.” In 2012, Florida was the second state to adopt legislation allowing for automated vehicle testing on public roadways. Expect more news on automated vehicles in Florida. A group named Autonomous Florida has formed and will be an important voice in the conversation about policy related to this technology. Working with Allison Aubuchon as its spokesperson, Autonomous Florida aims to place the Sunshine State at the forefront of policy changes necessary to maximize safety and wisely incorporate necessary infrastructure to reduce roadway fatalities, injuries and congestion.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Dustin Daniels and Eli Nortelus.

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.

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