Sunburn for 10/14 – The 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: Little more than 90 miles from Florida, the end of the world almost began 52 years ago today. The Cuban Missile Crisis began on Oct. 14, 1962, when U.S. Air Force Major Richard Heyser – a native of the Florida Panhandle fishing village of Apalachicola – flew the U-2 reconnaissance mission that obtained the first photographic evidence that the Soviet Union was building offensive missile facilities in Cuba. Over 13 tense days, the world’s two greatest superpowers pushed themselves – and the world – to the brink of nuclear war and potential annihilation. President John F. Kennedy’s steely resolve forced Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to back down. Ironically, exactly two years later Khrushchev was ousted from power and largely written out of official Soviet history.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Republican allies are pumping millions of dollars into a final swarm of television ads in the run-up to Election Day, hoping to blunt Democratic attacks and tip the Senate back to GOP control.

[M]uch of the advertising by outside groups is coming later – and at a much steeper cost – than many on the right had hoped, largely because top conservative donors were slow to open their checkbooks. … This decentralized approach provides an early glimpse of how big-money Republican operations might play out in … 2016 … when as many as a dozen potential presidential candidates will be vying for the allegiance of the party’s top donors. …

Democrats, historically known as an unruly mix of political constituencies, … have used this election cycle to further tighten coordination among their super PACs and liberal allies … Crossroads and its sister nonprofit, which are expected to pull in $100 million this cycle, are rushing to spend a last-minute surge of cash. Together, the two groups have plunked down more than $26 million to run TV ads in October.

Stung by the losses that conservative candidates suffered in the 2012 elections, donors on the right were reluctant to invest early, demanding detailed business plans from groups seeking their funds. They weighed in on the political tactics organizations should employ and viewed lavish ad campaigns with skepticism after such efforts failed to prevent President Obama’s re-election.

… Field organizing has been a top priority this year of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch and other wealthy donors. After pumping $50 million into TV ads early in the cycle, the organization is devoting resources to building a permanent ground force. The group — which says it has more than 500 paid staffers deployed in key races — is on track to spend more than $60 million on the effort.



Vice President Joe Biden vouched for Charlie Crist as a Democrat, urging Floridians during campaign appearances to support the former Republican governor.

“With Charlie, it’s not about right or left. It’s about right and wrong,” Biden told hundreds of supporters during one of two campaign rallies. “And here’s the deal guys, I heard this criticism that he used to be a Republican and he left. Hell, he didn’t leave the Republican Party. It left him. This ain’t your father’s Republican Party. This is a different deal, folks.”

Biden said today’s Republican Party leaders are not so much conservative as they are “anti-government.”

Biden’s first Florida stop was held in a community room at the Temple Beth Shalom at Century Village in Boca Raton. He made a second appearance for Crist at a Broward College campus, located in Florida’s most heavily Democratic county.

“We need to turn out every vote,” Biden told the Boca Raton crowd. “If the people of Florida show up and vote, Charlie will win this race far and away.”

Biden’s swing through Florida came just as Gov. Scott called on President Barack Obama to visit Florida “to see the results of our pro-growth policies — even if he is not invited on the campaign trail with Charlie Crist.”


Gov. Scott is slightly leading Democrat Crist 43-42 percent, according to a new poll from Republican pollster McLaughlin & Associates.

Like other recent polls that show Crist up by a point or two, Scott’s lead in the McLaughlin survey is within the margin of error, making the race essentially tied. The Republican Party of Florida paid for the poll of 1,000 likely voters.

Scott’s big advantage: independents, leaning 39-32 percent in his favor. Both candidates draw about the same level of support from their respective bases and from voters of the opposite party.

So far, about $72 million has been spent on broadcast and cable TV ads that have run or will run by Election Day. Scott’s side has spent more than $51 million, and Crist about $21 million. Most of the ads have been negative, dragging down the candidate’s standing in the polls.

There’s another reason the race is so close: both candidates are essentially up for re-election — Scott’s the incumbent, but Crist is his predecessor, pollster Jim McLaughlin said.

“It’s an anti-incumbent year,” McLaughlin said. “What’s different about this race is you have basically two incumbents. The real question is, if you’re undecided on Nov. 3, do you still vote?”

ST. PETE POLLS: SCOTT 45%, CRIST 44% Full blog post here

It’s important to note that this may be one, if not the, most comprehensive polls of the governor’s race. It includes a mix of both robo-calls and email polling. The poll has also been rebalanced to reflect the three percent partisan advantage most forecasters give to the GOP.

Scott holds a one-point lead over Crist, 44 to 43 percent. In the survey taken Oct 8-11, Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie takes nearly 8 percent. Five percent of respondents are undecided.

The poll, commissioned by SaintPetersBlog, then asked those undecided respondents if they leaned toward a choice.

When adding undecided “leaners,” Scott remains about a point ahead at 45 percent, with just under 44 percent for Crist. Wyllie also stays at about 8 percent.

Gauging each candidate’s job approval, the survey of Florida registered voters found both Crist and Scott struggling with public appeal. Crist … fares the worst in approval rating; 52 percent of respondents view him unfavorably; nearly 40 percent approve.

Scott manages just a little better, as 51 percent of likely voters say they disapprove of the incumbent; 41 percent approve of the job he is doing.

CRIST AND SCOTT SPENDING NECK-AND-NECK via Michael Van Sickler the Miami Herald

As polls show Crist building a slight lead in the gubernatorial race, his campaign is burning through more cash than ever.

During the latest round of campaign reporting, for the period between Sept. 27 and Oct. 3, Crist’s campaign spent nearly twice as much as it raised $3.4 million to $1.9 million.

His Republican opponent, Gov. Scott, spent $3.4 million as well, but managed to raise $2.4 million.

That allowed Gov. Scott to pad his edge in available cash over Crist: $8.1 million to $6 million.

Crist’s big expenses included $2 million to the Florida Democratic Party, nearly $1 million to the Washington D.C. ad firm GMMB, Inc., and $38,416 for a fundraiser at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

The majority of Scott’s expenses was $3 million paid to the Republican Party of Florida, as well as $43,750 to the pollster Tony Fabrizio, whose firm has been paid $420,650 so far.


If former Gov. Crist gets his old job back, he promises to expand Medicaid to roughly 1 million low-income residents by calling a special session of the Legislature or through an executive order.

If Gov. Scott is re-elected, the decision will be once again left to the Legislature with little meddling from him.

The debate over Medicaid expansion, a key part of President Barack Obama’s health law, has been contentious in the campaign leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

The Sunshine State has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country. That pent-up demand was clear as nearly 1 million Floridians bought private insurance through the federal health marketplace when it opened a year ago.

But another million fell into a gap: too poor to qualify for tax credits in the marketplace, yet earning too much to qualify for Medicaid.

The federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion costs for three years — about $50 billion over 10 years — and start phasing down to 95 percent in 2017. Gov. Scott and state Republicans have rejected the measure amid concerns that the feds will not make good on that promise, leaving the state on the hook for the tab.

Crist, who brings up the topic on most campaign stops, says one of the first things he’ll do if elected is call a special session, although it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Legislature would cooperate. Crist was a Republican when he became governor in 2006, but became an independent before running for the U.S. Senate in 2010. He is now a Democrat.


In a new campaign ad released today, Florida Democrats are only doing what Gov. Rick Scott asks: hold him accountable for campaign promises the then-political novice made in 2010.

“Promises” is Charlie Crist’s latest 30-second spot, produced by the Florida Democratic Party to be released statewide. The digital ad takes Scott to task on his oft-repeated campaign pledge of 700,000 jobs “on top of what normal growth would be.”

Included is a Fox 13 broadcast in September 2014 questioning the incumbent Republican’s repeated claims – all captured on video – that he would bring jobs over and above “natural” job growth numbers.

“Now, a million jobs short of his promise,” the voiceover adds, Scott repeatedly denies making the claim, despite several video clips showing him saying exactly that.

“I don’t know who said that,” Scott says in one clip, with another where he plainly says, “no” when asked about the 700K job claim.


Gov. Scott’s lawyers have asked a judge in California to wait until after the election to decide whether Google can release details about the Gmail accounts used by the governor and two former members of his staff.

Lawyers for the governor filed notice for a Nov. 7 hearing, three days after the election, in which they are asking a judge to quash a subpoena sought by Tallahassee lawyer Steven R. Andrews.

Andrews is suing the governor to get access to emails in Scott’s private account, alleging that he and his staff created the accounts to circumvent Florida’s open records law when conducting sensitive public business. The hearing date was set without his input.

Last month, a Florida judge ordered the governor to stop fighting the subpoena, but the governor took the battle across the country and hired a California lawyer, at taxpayer expense, to fight it in Google’s hometown.

Andrews is pushing back. On Monday, he served the governor with notice to appear in a Santa Clara County courtroom for the Nov. 7 hearing and called for the governor to appear in a videotape deposition in Tallahassee on Oct. 28 about his [email protected] account.

Scott spokesman John Tupps called it a “fishing expedition” for information “that is not a public record” and he accused Andrews of “seeking out revenge for his personal grudge against the Cabinet and state government.”

Andrews said he considers the latest legal move another stalling tactic in his two-year fight to get access to the governor’s records.


If one thing was clear from the Telemundo network debate, it is that Gov. Scott and Crist are the equivalent of Pavlov’s candidates.

When a camera’s red light is illuminated, Scott immediately begins sputtering about jobs and high tuition rates. For Crist, it’s education funding and minimum wage.

Each time, Scott seemed to give rambling answers touching on jobs and tuition. And each time, the moderators had to ask him if he could please address the specific question.

This is not a new issue for the governor. On the rare occasions when journalists get close enough to shout questions, Scott’s answers could be used as sound bites for absurdist theater. They’re painfully predictable, occasionally nonsensical and always apropos of nothing.

Crist’s problem is dancing around the minefield of his own career. He has to be careful about topics and phrases lest he run the risk of contradicting his previous words and deeds as a Republican. It’s hard to imagine any former governor so carefully steering conversations away from the boldest type on his resume.

The result is Crist, like Scott, sounds too rehearsed. Too scripted. He was so consumed with hitting his own talking points that he even allowed Scott to get away with suggesting Crist was to blame for the lack of health care coverage in the state.

Meanwhile, the rest of us keep hearing answers to questions that were never asked.


The effort to get enough signatures to qualify Amendment 1 for the Nov. 4 ballot may have been more challenging than getting enough votes to pass the measure, which guarantees money to buy and care for environmentally sensitive lands.

The amendment, which requires 33 percent of the proceeds of taxes on real estate documents be used for land conservation and restoration for the next 20 years, has no organized opposition besides the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Council of 100. Florida TaxWatch has not officially opposed Amendment 1 but instead suggests in its voter guide that “this is a policy decision that does not belong embedded in ‘constitutional concrete’ in the Florida Constitution.”

Polls taken by the amendment’s sponsor, Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Inc., show widespread support among voters. The amendment must receive approval from at least 60 percent of the voters to become part of the state’s constitution.

“Floridians understand the importance of clean water and protecting wildlife,” said Will Abberger, the campaign’s manager. “Support for Amendment 1 is strong.”

Amendment 1 will not raise taxes, a fact that Abberger hopes is not lost on voters. Instead, it would shift how the money collected through an existing tax will be distributed.

Historically, taxes on real estate documents, mainly deeds and loan documents, are used to fund a number of cause-specific trust funds. Doc stamps, as they are often called, are among the largest source of revenue for the state, bringing in an estimated $1.98 billion in the current fiscal year.

One third of the money goes into the state’s general revenue fund, which the Legislature can divvy up as it pleases. The rest is used to pay for transportation and housing programs, debt service on Florida Forever and Everglades restoration bonds and a variety of trust funds, such as the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, which the amendment would finance.


The “voice” of Florida business is the latest to join a powerful chorus speaking out against legal pot.

The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) came out in opposition of Amendment 2, which seeks to legalize the use of medical marijuana.

“AIF’s Board of Directors opposes Amendment 2 because of the myriad of known and unknown complications it will render to Florida businesses,” said AIF CEO Tom Feeney.  “The practical and legal inconsistencies that Amendment 2 will heft onto our current workers’ compensation, drug testing, workplace safety, disability, discrimination and health care laws, to name a few, will create confusion that breeds litigation and increases the cost of doing business.

“Florida businesses cannot afford the tarnished image this Amendment would bring to our business-friendly state nor the negative consequences that increased marijuana use and availability will have in our neighborhoods and communities.  Simply put, Amendment 2 is bad for business and bad for Florida.”

HOW AMENDMENT 2 MANAGED TO PLUNGE SOUTH via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News

In April, Amendment 2 looked indestructible. Poll after poll gave it upward of 80 percent in voter approval.

Then all of a sudden the cracks began to show. Numbers dipped slightly. And by May, anybody who says he couldn’t see the medical marijuana amendment’s steep slide coming wasn’t looking very hard

The signs were there.

And here’s what I think happened. I think the smooth-sailing pro-constitutional amendment campaign did such a good job of promoting its early popularity, it became a victim of its own success.

Strong Amendment 2 polling numbers plus an end to the struggle in the Florida Legislature to pass the landmark Charlotte’s Web bill launched an entrepreneurial feeding frenzy across the state.

It was like a gold rush. But it was also a turn-off for conservative voters who felt overwhelmed, who wanted medical marijuana, but not the greed they now identified as an accompaniment.

Sold-out, cannabis-themed business expos and training conventions — particularly the ones in Miami and Orlando — got big media publicity, lit up Twitter and attracted medical marijuana “experts” from other parts of the country. Law practices and lobbyists carving out a specialty in medical marijuana consulting were even buying billboard ads along South Florida highways.

The first eye-opening event — well-publicized before and after — was staged in mid-April at the Sheraton Hotel in Miami. Bob Calkin, Los Angeles cannabis hustler, charged wannabe entrepreneurs $299 a pop for a 10-hour crash course on how to make a fortune “dispensing medicine.” His company, Cannabis Career Institute, headquartered in Calkin’s van, raked in $45,000 for a day’s work.


Ed MacDougall, the Cutler Bay mayor who came a distant second to Carlos Curbelo in the Republican primary for Florida’s 26th congressional district, has told acquaintances not to vote for Curbelo in the Nov. 4 general election.

In an email to Larry Hawkins, a former Miami-Dade County commissioner and state lawmaker, MacDougall said he couldn’t endorse his former opponent because Curbelo refuses to disclose the clients of his government and public relations firm.

“It’s not sour grapes, I can tell you that,” Hawkins said of MacDougall, whom he has known for more than three decades.

Curbelo acknowledged that among his former clients are Ecuadorean bankers Robert and William Isaías.

“The people have no stomach for another scandal in this district,” MacDougall wrote. “Carlos Curbelo refuses to release his lobbyist clients while serving on the Miami Dade School board. If he had done so and it proved honorable, I would support him. But he refuses, so this is the reason I ask all good republicans not vote for Carlos Curbelo.

“If we are to change the direction of our Country, let us demand accountability, honesty and honor,” MacDougall concluded. “I am forever a republican looking for the party we used to have.”

MacDougall had told the Political Cortadito blog that he planned to endorse incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia if Curbelo didn’t disclose his client list. The email to Hawkins doesn’t go that far — and even if it did, MacDougall is not so big a name that his support would decide a close race. But he did get more votes than Curbelo in the portion of the district in the Florida Keys.


It’s all about jobs, says Rick Baker, who is taking the high road in a direct mailer supporting state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

The former St. Petersburg mayor, one of the most respected Pinellas County Republican leaders, is a big draw in Brandes’ new mailer, which hit Senate District 22 mailboxes this weekend.

Sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida, the flyer pitches Brandes’ fight for a better economy and jobs.

“Brandes is a champion for business and economic growth here in St. Petersburg and around the state,” Baker says. “He’s a leader in Tallahassee on the issues that matter most.”

Baker concludes by describing Brandes as “a principled leader” who has earned the right to go back to the Florida Capitol.

SNEAK PEAK of State House District 35 candidate Blaise Ingoglia’s new TV spot here.

SNEAK PEAK of State House District 38 candidate Danny Burgess’ new TV spot here.


One of the most intriguing state house races in the Tampa Bay area is taking place this fall out on the north side of Pinellas County. HD 65 has traditionally been a graveyard for candidates with a “D” next to their name. But after two unsuccessful tries in 2008 and 2010, Democrat Carl Zimmermann finally knocked off incumbent Peter Nehr two years ago, 53-47 percent. It certainly didn’t hurt that Nehr self-immolated during the campaign, made national headlines for sending shirtless selfies of himself that he said were simply a way to show friends the weight he lost during a struggle with diabetes. Perhaps, but the press had a field day with it, and helped push Zimmermann over the top.

Now the 65-year-old Zimmermann is facing off against 30-year-old Republican Chris Sprowls, a special prosecutor in the Pasco/Pinellas County’s State Attorney’s Office, and a man groomed by Republicans for leadership — even before he’s been elected.

And the longtime high-school journalism instructor is seizing on the public’s weariness with standardized testing as a campaign talking point as well. In a press release, Zimmernann said, “Accountability goes hand-in-hand with being responsible. And to continue to support unvalidated, still-in-development, high stakes common-core-like tests in our public schools is completely irresponsible.”

Zimmermann has taught broadcast journalism at Countryside High in Clearwater for nearly three decades and certainly speaks for many in public education when he speaks about his disdain for high-stakes testing. According to his press release, there are only three weeks during the school year that don’t involve pulling students out of classes to take a test.

Like much of the Democratic Party establishment in Florida, Zimmermann is opposed to expanding school vouchers and charter schools, something that Sprowls supports. “It is time to stop the charade that the legislature wants accountability,” the first-time legislator says. “They place ridiculous demands on public school students and educators, yet give a pass to those that use public money for private schools.”

Zimmermann’s comments were echoed today by Charlie Crist, who told CL in an interview that “This teaching to the test stuff has become a profit center for testing companies. And our schools are not learning centers anymore. They’re testing centers. And it’s out of control, and they we need to address it, and address it quickly.”

SAVE THE DATE: House District 68 candidate Bill Young II is hosting a major fundraiser in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, October 22. The event begins 6:30 p.m. at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Avenue. Featured guests include Congressmen David Jolly and Gus Bilirakis, state Sen. Jeff Brandes and a host of other Pinellas County Republican leaders. RSVPs are through [email protected] or (727) 272-7638.

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Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins is scheduled to hold a hearing in a challenge to a proposed Florida Department of Health rule that would carry out a new medical-marijuana law. The law allows strains of marijuana low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD. Supporters say the substances can help children with severe forms of epilepsy and some people with other medical conditions. Florida State University, College of Law Advocacy Center, 301 South Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd., Tallahassee. 9:30 a.m.


Miami-based Costa Farms and Plants of Ruskin are challenging the Department of Health’s rules for Charlotte’s Web, a low-THC strain of marijuana, which has cannabinoids used to treat seizure patients and others suffering from debilitating diseases.

An administrative judge has scheduled hearings and will determine whether DOH has the authority to implement the regulations it proposed.  The legal challenge likely will delay the Jan. 1 start date lawmakers authorized for cannabis oil to be available as medicine.

DOH had planned for the rules to be implemented Sept. 30 and then a 15-day application period for the five Charlotte’s Web licenses to be awarded. Even that schedule would have made it difficult for growers to start dispensing the medicine at the start of a new year. Marijuana has a 90-to -100 day growing period and time needed to process the plant into a medical product.

There are four challenges to the proposed rule, Costa Farms, Plants of Ruskin, the Florida Medical Cannabis Association and 3 Boys Farms, all revolving around the same set of issues. The suits need to be resolved before DOH can issue the five licenses lawmakers authorized for the cultivating, processing and dispensing medicinal marijuana.

Taylor Biehl of the Medical Marijuana business Association of Florida has constructed a timeline to estimate when the process will begin moving forward. He cautions that the dates are a rough estimate.

Administrative Judge W. David Watkins is presiding over the case and either will uphold the DOH proposal or uphold the complaint and declare the proposal invalid.

FPL HELPS SARASOTA SCHOOLS LOWER ENERGY BILLS via Ian Cummings of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The Sarasota County School District has lowered its electric bills by about $2.4 million since 2009, according to Florida Power & Light.

Area schools found the savings through a combination of rate reductions and energy conservation efforts, and district officials hope for more savings next year.

The FPL utility company is promoting the money saved by the school district and other major customers as part of National Energy Awareness Month in October.

The district has potentially saved even more money than what is reflected in the bills, said Alisha Burris, the district’s energy manager. If the schools had continued to use energy at the same pace, and at the old rates, they could have spent almost $5 million more from 2010 to 2013.

Though the school district has added more square footage in recent years, with higher maintenance standards, it has managed to lower its bills, in part because, since 2009, its electricity rate has gone down more than 15 percent.

Meanwhile, the schools have employed a variety of methods to conserve energy, such as storing power for cooling equipment at night when possible, to capitalize on lower-demand rates, and using computers to manage heating and cooling.

School staff have worked to get students and teachers to turn off lights and other equipment when they are not in use. Some schools have added LED lighting and more efficient bathroom appliances.

***Today’s SUNBURN is sponsored by Corcoran & Johnston Government Relations. One of Florida’s Top Lobbying Firms, Corcoran & Johnston has demonstrated the ability to navigate government and successfully deliver results for clients, time and again. To learn more visit***


On Context Florida: The United States now meets its own domestic natural gas needs, while also becoming the world’s No. 1 exporter of natural gas. Meanwhile, Americans still consume far more oil than our domestic resources can supply, according to retired Naval Commander Tom Garcia, co-chair of the energy advocacy group Vets4Energy. Diane Roberts says college football intoxicates – seduces –perfectly rational people who, in our saner moments, know that investing our emotional well-being in a bunch of barely post-adolescent boys beating holy hell out of each other on a 100-yard field is not intelligent. Or healthy. Where is good ol’ fashioned voter fraud when you need it, asks Linda Cunningham. Let’s let tourists vote in Florida. Especially this November on Amendment 1, which would pony up big chunks of already collected tax dollars to buy, manage, improve and preserve Florida land. If you follow Vice President Joe Biden, writes Steve Kurlander, you know he has a reputation for being politically incorrect and too blunt. No matter how politically incorrect Biden — the working class Joe from Scranton, Pa. — has been, his mouth, in fact, is his strongest tie to the average American, who can relate not only to what he says, but to how he says it.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


The Florida Press Center – still home to the capital bureaus of many state newspapers, television and radio stations, and wire services – will be sold after all.

News of the sale came in an email from Florida Press Association president and CEO Dean Ridings. The association owns the three-story building in downtown Tallahassee.

“The Florida Press Center is under contract to be sold to a local investor,” Ridings said. “The expected closing date is by or before the end of November.

“The buyer intends to operate the Florida Press Center as a going concern and is looking forward to continuing operation of the building as the home for Florida’s capital news bureaus,” he added. “I expect that the building will continue to be named the Florida Press Center.”

That marks an about-face from last month, when Ridings took the property off the market after being listed for about a year. Interested buyers were lowballing under Ridings’ bottom price of $1.2 million, he said.

That’s about what the Press Association paid for it in 1988, according to property records.

He also said the building’s tenants could one day include a mix of tenants including those other than news organizations.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my friend, Pinellas politico Joe Triolo.

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.