Sunburn for 10/13 – A morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics

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

Today’s Rise and Shine Fact-iversary is brought to you by Sachs Media Group, the firm best known for smart, strong and strategic counsel across the diverse and ever-changing media landscape: It was a magical day on this date in 1995, when Walt Disney World in Orlando welcomed its 500 millionth guest. At the time that seemed like an astonishing number, but it was only just the beginning. The park, which turned Orlando into the world’s leading tourist destination, attracted 100 million visitors in its first eight years – and then quintupled that number over the next 16 years. Last year the Magic Kingdom drew more than 18.5 million guests and has now topped 800 million total visitors, easily making it the most popular amusement park attraction on the planet. With numbers like that, it can’t be called a Mickey Mouse operation!

Now, on to the ‘burn…


President Barack Obama lodged his worst-ever disapproval Saturday in the Gallup tracking poll — another ominous sign for Democrats scrambling ahead of the midterm elections less than a month away.

While the Gallup tracking poll is notoriously noisy, the 57 percent who disapprove of his performance marks a new high for the president, while his approval rating, 39 percent, is just a tick above his all-time low.

Obama had hit 56 percent disapproval a couple of times in the Gallup tracker during his presidency.

But he’s less popular in the Gallup poll than he was during either of his elections or the 2010 midterms, when the Democratic House was wiped out.


It’s a strategy playing out in New England diners, Midwest truck stops and West Coast cafes: conservative organizers train and send out thousands of volunteers holding an iPad and an interest in helping fellow activists shift America’s politics to the right.

They are the backbone of Americans for Prosperity, the flagship organization of the political network backed by industrialist billionaires Charles and David Koch. While the group’s spending in Senate races has attracted national attention, it’s these less noticed field efforts that could have greater impact and help reshape the Republican Party heading into the 2016 presidential election.

The organization has more than 500 paid workers in 35 states and has become one of the conservative movement’s best organized, most powerful outside groups. Building on the community-based approach President Barack Obama used successfully in 2008 and 2012, it now has a political footprint unmatched among GOP-affiliated operations and is racking up legislative victories.

The group scuttled efforts to raise taxes to build a downtown campus for the well-regarded zoo in Columbus, Ohio, and derailed plans in Florida’s Legislature to subsidize improvements to the Miami Dolphins’ football stadium. It helped fend off a recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker and pushed pro-business workplace laws in Michigan and Indiana.

It didn’t shy away from going after traditional allies, as was the case when Gov. Scott briefly considered expanding Medicaid, a core component of Obama’s health care law. Americans for Prosperity mobilized supporters, the Republican-led Legislature quickly rejected the idea and Scott dropped his proposal.

Andreas Malave, the group’s Hispanic outreach chief in Florida, spent more than three hours knocking on doors in the scorching sun on a recent Tuesday. He kept asking the questions and punching in the answers on his iPad so leaders at headquarters could figure out which messages were working.

Reaction from voters was mixed and answers came in a blend of English and Spanish. But, as Malave asked about the health law and government spending, he found a few potential recruits.

SPOTTED: Jeb adviser Sally Bradshaw in Berlin, where she spoke to the Internationale Konferenz Fur Politische Kommunikation (the International Conference on Political Communications).


Starting this week, a tidal wave of political ads are coming to a television set near you, courtesy of a huge ad buy from the Republican Party of Florida for Gov. Scott’s campaign.

The state’s gubernatorial race has been the most expensive in state history, much of that due to the non-stop barrage of ads from both campaigns. But starting Wednesday, the day of the second gubernatorial debate, it gets real.

Over a six-day period starting that day, the state GOP has reserved $6.3 million in airtime across the state, which is a monumental number.

To put that in context, it’s more than the Scott campaign has spent on television the entire month of August. In the nation’s largest swing state, President Obama spent $5.8 million during the same timeframe in 2012.

By comparison, Crist’s campaign is spending roughly $3 million over the same time frame. By no means chump change, but by comparison: chump change.

When getting wind of the ad buy, Crist’s camp immediately cast the move as desperation. Four consecutive polls have shown Crist with a razor thin lead. Crist consultant Steve Schale had this to say:

The large buy also bolsters the persistent rumor that at some point Scott, who spent $73 million of his own money in 2010, would use his personal wealth to try and put space between him and Crist.


Ten days ago, the race between Scott and Crist was a different animal. In fact, 10 days ago the consensus was that Charlie was behind but closing. That is no longer the case.

In the news business, 10 days is a long time. So why on earth would it take the New York Times and CBS Evening News, 10 full days to release a poll that took even more days to conduct?

Did they simply forget that they did it? Did it get lost somewhere and they figured now is a good time to release it? Ten days? Really?

And did it really take them 11 days to conduct a tracker? Who even thinks of that?

If – IF! – today was Oct. 2 and I wanted to put it to the salt shaker test, I might have questioned a poll that was weighted to show 32 percent “IND” voters – a fiction that will simple not happen. I might also question a poll that had 3 points more Democrats than Republicans – also an Florida Democratic Party fantasy. Further, I would shed doubt on a poll that forgot to testAdrian Wyllie and relegated him and the other NPA candidates to “other.”

But it’s not, so I won’t.

This poll is not even worth wasting a grain of salt on. So put away the saltshaker and ignore this one completely.


Gov. Scott has used tax breaks and other incentives to attract tens of thousands of new jobs to Florida, but after nearly four years, most of the jobs still do not exist, according to state records.

Scott has built his case for a second term largely on the slow but steady improvement in the Florida economy, especially a drop in unemployment and growth in private sector jobs as measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As the self-proclaimed “jobs governor,” Scott has traveled across the state, promoting new jobs and major capital investment lured with incentive deals paid for by taxpayers.

They include Hertz’s relocation of hundreds of workers from New Jersey to a new rental car headquarters in Lee County; aviation engineering jobs at Boeing and Embraer on the Space Coast in Brevard; and Amazon’s fulfillment centers in Ruskin, Davenport and Lakeland.

But since Scott took office in 2011, of the 47,746 new jobs that the state has promised through tax breaks, job training grants and other programs to nearly 400 companies, only a small fraction exist as of August 2014, according to the job tracking site maintained by the state Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

That’s even the case for promises made early in Scott’s term. During 2011, the administration made deals on 87 projects that promised 9,290 jobs, but three years later, as of August, the number of jobs created was 1,223, or 13 percent of the total.

DEO executive director Jesse Panuccio said most of the projects under the Scott administration are on track, with 85 percent of the jobs having been created by their due date.

DID SCOTT CUT TAXES? NO, HE ACTUALLY RAISED THEM via Randy Schultz for the Sun-Sentinel

Gov. Scott runs for reelection, one of his main campaign themes is that he cut taxes this year by $500 million. Did he?

No. Not even close.

Scott claims roughly $400 million of those tax cuts from the portion of next year’s state budget — which he signed — that lowers fees for registering cars and trucks. Scott brags that the change “rights the wrong” when Charlie Crist in 2009 signed the budget that raised those fees by about the same amount.

First, the overall decrease in fees is estimated at $309 million for 2015. It rises to $395 million only in 2016.

Second, a fee is not a tax. Most fees cover the cost of a specific service. If you don’t use the service, you don’t pay the fee. If you don’t own a car, Scott’s supposed “tax cut” didn’t save you anything. If you didn’t own a car in 2009, Crist’s supposed “tax increase” didn’t cost you anything.

More important, Crist — then the well-known Republican — signed a budget produced by Republicans. Five years ago, it was the depth of the Great Recession, and Republican legislators urged Democrats to support higher vehicle registration fees to avoid further cuts to services.

One Republican strongly supporting the higher fees was Carlos Lopez-Cantera. At the time, he was a member of the Florida House. Today, he is Scott’s running mate, part of the team bashing Crist for agreeing in 2009 to what Lopez-Cantera wanted.


Standing before hundreds of people at an energy summit in Orlando, then-Republican Gov. Crist made a policy pitch that would take a financial toll on the state.

“The development of ethanol and other biofuels is incredibly important to Florida’s future and America’s future,” Crist said at the 2008 Farm to Fuel Summit. “I truly believe that investing in renewable and alternative energies in the Sunshine State can propel us as a leader, no question about it.”

At the time, federal and state officials used government subsidies and policy shifts to draw private companies into the biofuel game.

Companies lined up for the money, planning for the large, expensive plants that could convert materials such as corn, citrus peels, grass and sugarcane into fuel.

Over two years beginning May 2007, the state doled out roughly $50 million in taxpayer-funded grants to help sprout biofuel plants. Nearly 90 percent went to private companies, the rest to state universities.

The industry has had recent successes, but the Crist administration’s early effort to fuel its growth largely failed.

The state spent $16 million that was never refunded and another $23 million was refunded from projects that never created promised jobs, according to a review of regulatory filings and state records by the Tribune/Scripps Capitol Bureau.

Crist, now running for governor as a Democrat, says he was trying to boost an industry that could help “fuel the industries and jobs of the future.”


As outrage increases over electric rates, particularly in Crist’s home county of Pinellas, Crist is promising that if elected governor, he’ll “completely overhaul” the state Public Service Commission that regulates them.

But it’s not that simple.

The commission Crist promises to overhaul consists of five individuals, all of whom Crist either appointed to their seats or reappointed during his 2007-10 term as governor.

This position has drawn charges of hypocrisy from the campaign of Gov. Rick Scott. But it does suggest the governor can’t unilaterally change state utility regulation.

As governor, while still a Republican, Crist had bitter conflicts over PSC appointees with the Republican-dominated Legislature, which has substantial power over them, and he wasn’t able to appoint his first choices.

If elected as a Democratic party-switcher, there’s no reason to think there would be fewer conflicts.

Under Florida law, the governor’s appointees must be confirmed by the state Senate.

In addition, the governor must pick appointees from among three recommendations for each PSC seat made by the Public Service Commission Nominating Council, which is controlled by the Legislature.


“Over the years, Crist has stood up to the powerful and been an effective advocate for average Floridians. He knows Florida and Tampa Bay, and as governor he would check the excesses of a Republican-led Legislature that is out of step with this state’s centrist values.”


“… Scott did something after his rocky start for which he does not receive sufficient credit. He listened to critics, studied the issues and adjusted his policies to better reflect public priorities, particularly as increased state revenues allowed more spending.

“He sought to invest wisely in schools, conservation, disabled children programs, transportation and other state needs.

“By no means did he abandon his anti-tax, small-government principles. Throughout his administration, he’s worked to strengthen the private sector by slashing more than 3,000 regulations on small businesses and cutting dozens of taxes.

“Scott also brought a private sector-like discipline and accountability to government.”


The first debate between Gov. Scott and Crist reflected the negative tone of the campaign.

The debate hosted by Telemundo 51 on Friday found no common ground between the candidates on issues including health care, the minimum wage, Cuba policy, gay marriage, medical marijuana.

Scott used almost every question to criticize Crist for jobs lost while he was governor or tuition increases. He repeatedly said Crist was a do-nothing governor when he served from 2007 to 2011.

Crist said that just as he can’t be blamed for the state’s downturn during a global recession, Scott can’t take credit for Florida’s recovery as the economy improves across the country.

Crist also said he would help the middle class and Scott has hurt it.

DEBATE ANALYSIS via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

1. A warmer Scott — Scott was smiling more frequently and brought up stories about his family throughout the debate to convey a more human component than the former CEO typically did in his first campaign. 2. Democratic stand – If there was any lingering questions about whether Crist … was truly a Democrat, there was a key early moment in the debate when he made his case. 3. Still more mud – … both did plenty to add to the ugliness of the campaign. 4. Confused timeline – Scott surprisingly accused Crist of being the one who failed to expand Medicaid when he was governor in 2010 … 5. Glitch city – Watching the debate in English was full of challenges on Friday night.


So, CNN graciously agreed to host the last of Florida’s three gubernatorial debates.

It will come Oct. 21, two weeks before election day, which means there will be huge media interest. Jacksonville – the host city – will be overrun with state and national media looking to cover the final showdown in what’s been a nasty race, watched closely by national political observers, right?


The debate venue is WJXT, a Jacksonville television station, and will be “exclusively” aired by CNN, the Atlanta-based news giant that touts itself as “The Most Trusted Name in News.”

When they say exclusive, they mean exclusive.

No other media is allowed to attend the hour-long debate, which is being moderated by Jake Tapper, CNN’s chief Washington correspondent, and WJXT anchor Kent Justice.

The first debate was held Friday at the Miramar television studio of Channel 6 NBC/Telemundo 51. The media listened in the building’s lobby, away from the actual debate.


Despite an electorate split down the middle that voted for Barack Obama for president twice, half of Florida’s All-Republican state Cabinet is cruising toward re-election with only token Democratic resistance.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a North Palm Beach Republican, will technically face off against Deerfield Beach Democrat William Rankin on the Nov. 4 ballot.

But he’s never met the man and has declined to debate him.

Atwater has raised $2.9 million, is a mainstay on the statewide campaign circuit and began airing television commercials last week touting his efforts to lower insurance rates by cracking down on health-care and auto-accident fraud.

Compared with the mudslinging gubernatorial ads between GOP Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, Atwater’s positive spot “cuts through the clutter,” he said.

Likewise, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has been on television for two weeks.

Florida Democrats for years have made no secret they were eyeing the Governor’s Mansion and defending seats in the Legislature above all other electoral goals.

But 2014 has taken Democratic indifference in Cabinet races to a new level.


“The wording of the amendment is ambiguous, opening what we believe will be an onslaught of reasons why people need the drug to deal with a multitude of illnesses or pain at a doctor’s discretion. … We are not comfortable that all the legislation on who will be able to grow and sell the drug has yet to be written. We believe this amendment is more about who can profit from it, rather than who it might be able to help. There is very little scientific data to support this drug’s effectiveness over any other drug.”

CARLOS CURBELO LEADS JOE GARCIA IN NEW POLL via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

A new poll shows Miami Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo, the Republican nominee, has the edge on U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.

The poll from Saint Leo University Polling Institute shows Curbelo taking 46 percent while Garcia garners 42 percent.

“Congressman Garcia is in a weaker position than he may have hoped for with less than a month to go in the campaign,” said Frank Orlando, a political science instructor at Saint Leo University. “Curbelo, the Republican challenger, can take satisfaction in knowing that over twice as many voters view him as strongly favorable than strongly unfavorable.

“There’s still time for Garcia to make a move, but he must court independent voters,” Orlando added. “Although demographics and a gradual shift in Cuban political identity are making the district more Democratic, Garcia must also win a greater share of Republican votes, a hallmark of his successful 2012 campaign.”

The poll of 400 likely voters was taken from Oct. 1-Oct. 6 and had a margin of error of +/- 5 percent. More than an eighth–54 of the 400 voter interviews–were conducted in Spanish.


State Sen. Jack Latvala will be back in Tallahassee next week for a luncheon fundraiser in support of his District 20 re-election bid.

The event is Monday, Oct. 13 from noon – 1 p.m. at the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, 230 South Adams Street.

Fundraising for his own re-election campaign is almost a moot point for the veteran Republican lawmaker, since by most accounts Latvala has that race in the bag.

However, he remains hard at work supporting a few key Republicans allies, such as former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff in her bitter District 34 race against incumbent Democrat Maria Sachs. If she wins in November, Bogdanoff would be the deciding vote in Latvala’s bid for the Senate presidency.

Closer to home, Latavla should have an easy time Nov. 4, since he has no Democratic opponent. Instead, Latvala will face Tea Party activist Tony Caso, infamous as one of the people who led the fight in 2011 to remove fluoride in Pinellas County drinking water.

SPOTTED at Thursday night’s BYU vs. UCF football game: GrayRobinson’s Chris Carmody and former UCF great Daunte Culpepper.

SPOTTED canvassing for Jeff Brandes: Fellow Senator John Legg.

SPOTTED canvassing for Chris Sprowls in House District 65: Reps. Dana Young, James Grant, Mike Hill, Cary Pigman, and Dan Raulerson.


Sachs-Bogdanoff race is key to GOP supermajority via the Sun-Sentinel.

Rising stars Jose Javier Rodriguez and Daniel Diaz Leyva face off in closely watched Florida House race via The Miami Herald.

HOUSE CANDIDATE: I’LL RUN IN 2016 ON JUST $99 via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

The 2014 general election is still weeks away, but Florida House candidate Ross Hancock is already looking toward the future.

Hancock, an independent who is currently running against state Rep. Erik Fresen in House District 114, has launched his bid for the 2016 election, state records show.

What’s unusual about his 2016 candidacy: He’s committing to a total budget of $99.

“I will accept no contributions, and our campaign account will start with $99 and that’s it until Election Day 2016,” the former community newspaper publisher wrote in an email to the Herald/Times. “You shouldn’t have to be rich to run. A campaign shouldn’t be funded by lobbyists and unions. And ordinary working people shouldn’t be pressured for small contributions. No one should pay to play.”

Hancock said he will use “shoe leather, social media, and people power” to win office.

House District 114 includes parts of Coral Gables, South Miami, Cutler Bay, Palmetto Bay and Pinecrest.  Hancock ran for the seat against Fresen in 2012 and lost by just two points.


Digital advertising is maturing much in the way television did, as targeting becomes more sophisticated and the definition of a viewer expands drastically. ‘Many political strategists don’t think of the Internet as something that can sell out,’ said Rob Saliterman, leader of the elections team at Google, which owns YouTube. ‘But in these smaller states, just as there’s a finite amount of TV inventory, there’s a finite amount of YouTube inventory.’ …

Already, there is almost no remaining YouTube inventory for reserve buys – pre-video [pre-roll] ads that cannot be skipped – in Alaska, Maine, Montana and New Hampshire, and inventory is increasingly tight in nearly a dozen other … states. …

According to data from Kantar Media, which monitors television advertising, the top three television stations nationwide in terms of political spots aired from the beginning of September to the first week of October were WMUR in New Hampshire (4,698 spots), WHO in Iowa (4,237) and WSAZ [Charleston-Huntington, W.Va.] in the West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky triangle (3,476). … Borrell Associates, an advertising research firm, estimates that digital spending in 2014 will surpass $270 million, up from just $55.4 million in 2010.

IMPACT OF ‘NO PARTY’ VOTER SHIFT UNKNOWN via Bill Rufty of the Lakeland Ledger

Florida voters might be waiting into the wee hours of the morning or later after the Nov. 4 election to learn who has been elected governor, a longtime political observer told members of Leadership Lakeland.

Marian Johnson, vice president for political strategy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, told those attending the lunch at the Grasslands Clubhouse that the heavy shift of voters to “no party affiliation” voters means that a large segment of the voting population is hard to measure this far from the election.

“With 2.8 million NPAs, (the election) will be a test of something we haven’t seen before,” she said.

Of Florida’s nearly 12 million voters, 24 percent chose to be independents with the title of no party affiliation, joining neither the Republican nor the Democratic parties. In 2000 the number of registered independents was around 15 percent.

Another factor in the election is that 53 percent of registered voters in the state are women; 45 percent are listed as men, and 2 percent don’t have gender listed in their voter registration records.

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NEW $3.7B GAS LINE RAISING COMPLAINTS via Ray Henry of the Associated Press

A proposal to build a $3.7 billion pipeline system carrying natural gas into Florida is raising complaints from Georgia residents – including media mogul Ted Turner – who say they’d face environmental costs while others get the benefits.

Spectra Energy Partners LP and NextEra Energy Inc. are seeking federal permission to build the Sabal Trail and the Florida Southeast Connection, about 600 miles of pipeline bringing natural gas from a hub in Alabama, across southwest Georgia and to power plants in Florida. If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the system would start operating in mid-2017.

The project is an economic and political balancing act. The United States has benefited from its expanding supply of natural gas, which has pushed fuel prices to historic lows and made it possible for utility companies to close coal plants for cleaner, gas-burning power plants. The growing reliance on gas also means customers need a steady supply of the fuel. Developers say the two existing pipes serving peninsular Florida are running at nearly full capacity.

Project opponents say the pipeline will decrease property values, cause pollution and put their communities at risk of accidents while the big benefits go to the Florida market.

If federal regulators approve, developers would have the right to force landowners to let the gas pipeline pass under their property. While landowners would be paid, they couldn’t build anything on top of the pipe.

Energy firms say the project is necessary to meet Florida’s appetite for gas. Florida Power & Light Co., a subsidiary of NextEra, wants additional gas supplies to serve its fleet of gas-fired plants. Meanwhile, Duke Energy has plans to build a new combined-cycle gas plant in Citrus County.


Here’s the little secret that neither side of the Amendment 2 debate over medical marijuana is talking about: The Florida Legislature controls its fate.

Access to medical cannabis for those groups wouldn’t be easy, either, if the Legislature put in place a tightly controlled cultivation and dispensing system similar to one it adopted earlier this year when it legalized low-THC, high CBD strains of cannabis.

And what’s to stop lawmakers from doing any of this and more?

“Nothing,” said Jon Mills, former Democratic House speaker and a constitutional lawyer who wrote the amendment on the ballot before voters on Nov.4. “The Legislature can do anything that is not inconsistent with the Constitution.”

The proposed constitutional amendment, he said, prevents the Legislature from creating a barrier to access for patients diagnosed with nine particular debilitating ailments, or others who meet the requirements of the law. But he noted that it does allow lawmakers to establish a protocol for determining what diseases are eligible for treatment and to put in place rules that keep the public safe.

Mills and former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a Republican, headed up a bipartisan panel of law enforcement, medical and government experts who recently proposed 56 ideas — from doctor certification to treatment center access and product testing — that legislators should include when implementing the amendment.

Creating new laws for a new cash-only pot industry is not a job that Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature welcomes, however, and lawmakers have a history of delaying the implementation of constitutional amendments brought to them by citizens groups.

SEN. NANCY DETERT AND PALM TREES via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

State Sen. Nancy Detert couldn’t stand the thought of watching a movie about Florida being filmed almost entirely in Puerto Rico.

Detert said when she heard that a novel based on a Florida book character called Travis McGee was going to Puerto Rico because of film production incentives there, she decided to act.

Though the state’s film incentive program has no money left, she has helped convince Visit Florida to offer the filmmakers $2 million in tax incentives if they will film outdoor scenes in Florida, even if much of the rest of the film is in Puerto Rico. Detert said the shots can help draw tourists to Florida and promote the state’s iconic beaches and landscapes.

She said that in addition to the tourism exposure, it provides more jobs for Florida’s growing film industry.

Actor Christian Bale is set to play the lead role of Travis McGee, based on the book series by John D. MacDonald. MacDonald wrote 21 novels about the Fort Lauderdale-based character. Detert said if the film is successful it could become a series that would showcase Florida for years to come.


Brian Ballard, Chris Hansen, Ballard Partners: Florida Bail Agents Association

Nicole Fried, Fred Karlinsky, Katie Webb, Timothy Stanfield, Colodny Fass: Wellcare Health Plans

Nick Iarossi, Jennifer Gaviria, Kenneth Granger, Chris Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Plum Creek; South Florida Community Care Network

Susan Lichstein: Florida Housing Coalition

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WORTH THE CLICK: Democratic political consultant and lobbyist Steve Schale encouraging a fellow runner to cross the finish line during the Tallahassee Democrat “Go Pink 5K & One Mile Fun Run” here.

AT FLORIDA STATE, FOOTBALL CLOUDS JUSTICE via Mike McIntyre and Walt Bogdanich of the New York Times

Last year, the deeply flawed handling of a rape allegation against the quarterback Jameis Winston drew attention to institutional failures by law enforcement and Florida State officials. The accuser’s lawyer complained that detectives had seemed most interested in finding reasons not to pursue charges against Mr. Winston, a prized recruit who went on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead his team to a national championship.

Now, an examination by the New York Times of police and court records, along with interviews with crime witnesses, has found that, far from an aberration, the treatment of the Winston complaint was in keeping with the way the police on numerous occasions have soft-pedaled allegations of wrongdoing by Seminoles football players. From criminal mischief and motor-vehicle theft to domestic violence, arrests have been avoided, investigations have stalled and players have escaped serious consequences.

In a community whose self-image and economic well-being are so tightly bound to the fortunes of the nation’s top-ranked college football team, law enforcement officers are finely attuned to a suspect’s football connections. Those ties are cited repeatedly in police reports examined by The Times. What’s more, dozens of officers work second jobs directing traffic and providing security at home football games, and many express their devotion to the Seminoles on social media.

Certainly, Florida State football players have not always sidestepped prosecution. Over the last three years, at least nine players have been arrested on charges ranging from sexual assault to being an accessory to a fatal shooting.

But on other occasions, despite strong evidence, investigations have been delayed and sometimes derailed.

The Times’s reporting also yielded a fuller account of how Florida State handled the rape complaint against Mr. Winston. In January 2013, days after Mr. Winston was identified by his accuser, senior Florida State athletic officials met privately with Mr. Winston’s lawyer. Afterward, they decided, on behalf of the university, not to begin an internal disciplinary inquiry, as required by federal law.

Only after the end of Florida State’s national championship season did the university, having begun a disciplinary inquiry, attempt without success to interview Mr. Winston. Seven more months would pass before the school interviewed his accuser, who had long since dropped out. Mr. Winston has acknowledged having sex with his accuser, but said it was consensual. He will cooperate with the university’s disciplinary inquiry, which the university said Friday would be conducted by an independent hearing officer.

In the January case, the officers may have been less than diligent in their investigation, but there was one item they did not neglect: notifying their supervisor, Sgt. David McCranie, “due to the fact that it was an F.S.U. football player.”


On Context Florida: To take the pulse of public sentiment about something or someone in Florida politics, Daniel Tilson would rather eavesdrop on strangers’ coffee shop conversations than pour over the latest polls. But Tilson says it provides invaluable insight and deeper understanding of what’s really going on in people’s minds when they answer poll questions. On Wednesday, there will be a televised live debate between Charlie Crist and Rick Scott — and possibly Adrian Wyllie. Did he make the cut, Steve Vancore asks. In a simple assessment of whether Wyllie has met the mark, Vancore’s estimates that he has not. Peter Schorsch notes the botched handling of an Ebola victim, videos of police violence, arson-caused wildfires and ISIS threats, among others, are fueling a sense of vulnerability among Americans to the deeds of the “lone wolf” operator. A constitution should deal only with the fundamental principles of democracy and the manner of running the government, says Martin Dyckman. The public deserves an opportunity to adopt ordinary laws by initiative, not just constitutional amendments.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Lucy Morgan and Rep. Jimmie Smith. Celebrating today is my friend Adam Corey.

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.