Sunburn for 10/17 – 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: “Boardwalk Empire” fans take note: On this date in 1931, notorious mobster and part-time Florida resident Al “Scarface” Capone was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison on a rather unlikely charge: tax evasion. Capone, who virtually ruled Chicago during Prohibition, died in Florida in 1947 – in a luxurious mansion in Miami’s Palm Island that he bought three years before his tax conviction. Capone is believed to have planned 1929’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre at the Miami home, and his alibi was that he was enjoying the Florida sunshine at the time of the killings. Capone bought the mansion for $40,000 cash; last summer it sold for $7.4 million.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Have you ever had the choice between eating a two month old and three month old burrito? One is technically less bad, but neither is appetizing. That’s the choice currently presented to Florida voters in the race for governor there. I wrote in July that Floridians disliked both Crist and Gov. Scott. Yet, voters must pick one, and right now Crist appears to be — by a hair — the more popular choice.

Crist led in the vast majority of polls conducted early this year. But much of that lead was built on his bipartisan appeal; Crist was once a Republican after all. The problem for Crist, of course, is that he’s now a Democrat (and arguably only became one once it was clear he couldn’t win as a Republican — see the 2010 Republican Senate primary).

Scott’s folks began an advertising assault on Crist that clearly had an effect on Crist’s standing. Scott has outspent Crist $43 million to $25 million.

Crist’s 5-percentage point lead fell precipitously through the first half of the year. It was gone by the beginning of June. Through the summer, Scott held a small lead. Of the 18 polls taken from June to August, Scott was ahead in 12 and behind in just four.

But something has happened over the last month: Crist has come back.

According to the local regression, Crist’s lead currently stands at just about 1 percentage point. This change in momentum is best seen in the SurveyUSA tracking poll done for WLFA-TV. In the three polls taken since Sept. 26 by SurveyUSA, Crist has been ahead in all three by an average of 4 percentage points. He was behind in five of their previous six polls by an average of 2 percentage points.

In the latest SurveyUSA survey, Crist’s net favorable rating (the percentage who view him favorably minus the share who view him unfavorably) was -10 percentage points. Scott’s was -8 percentage points. A CNN poll put Crist’s net favorable rating at -11 percentage points and Scott’s at -7 percentage points. That’s actually worse than in the beginning of the year, when Crist had a net favorable rating of -2 percentage points and Scott was at -5 points. It also means that this election will set the record since 2005 in a gubernatorial campaign for candidate disdain by the voters.


CRIST BROKE RULES, ORGANIZERS SAY via Karl Etters via The Tallahassee Democrat

n a release sent out by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association Thursday, the rules of the meeting, signed by both campaigns, were set out.

The letter specified, “candidates may not bring electronic devices (including fans), visual aids or notes to the debate, but will be provided with a pad and pen,” which had been amended by Crist’s campaign with a handwritten note saying “with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary.”

… A statement from Crist campaign adviser Kevin Cate criticized the debate spin of organizers.

“Debate spin should come from campaigns, not debate ‘organizers,'” Cate wrote in an email. “This is pathetic and transparent. We have the rules, signed and delivered to organizers two days ahead of time. They even installed the extension cords for the fans.”

A copy of the debate rules obtained from Crist’s campaign shows a hand-written addition that reads “with the understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary.”

CRIST TAKES THE HEAT, AS LONG AS THERE’S A FAN via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

For as long as Charlie Crist has been in the spotlight, he has used a fan to keep him cool and, on more than one occasion, it has steamed his rivals.

The man with the tan doesn’t want people to see him sweating under the glare of hot TV lights. So Crist keeps a portable fan handy whenever he knows he’s going to be on camera.

Crist’s fan fancy is something his rivals know well. In the 2010 U.S. Senate debate, the audience could see and even hear the whirr of the portable fan. Rubio’s staff joked they should protest, to make him mad.

Crist adviser Dan Gelber said Scott threatened to boycott last Friday’s Telemundo debate in Miramar if Crist used a small, 5-inch portable fan in the Miramar studio. He said the network’s debate producer, Maria Barrios, agreed to the request.

Debate rules typically prohibit the use of “electronic devices” on stage to prohibit one candidate from gaining a tactical advantage through the use of a hand-held device like an iPhone.

“They’re very small, very discreet. Nobody sees them,” Gelber said of the fans. “Anyone who gets hot under the lights knows it’s uncomfortable.”

Gelber said he expected no problems as both campaigns conducted a routine walk-through of the Bailey Hall stage on Tuesday, and the fan was in place, tucked inside Crist’s lectern, with an extension cord nearby.

“The Scott people went crazy,” Gelber recalled, referring to Scott’s debate coach, Brett O’Donnell. “They got their just desserts because they were jerks.”

AFTER FANGATE, BLOWBACK FOR RICK SCOTT via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

Gov. Scott’s sudden absence at the start of a statewide TV debate reshaped the governor’s race Thursday as event sponsors accused Crist of breaking the rules and Scott’s side fretted over whether he damaged his re-election prospects.

At the center of the storm was a $20 fan that viewers couldn’t see, quietly whirring at Crist’s feet as he stood alone on stage at Broward College in Davie.

Scott denied that he refused to go on, even though viewers saw his empty podium for seven chaotic minutes. Crist’s campaign and debate organizers gave contradictory accounts of what led to “Fangate” and pundits had another reason to make fun of Florida politics as the fan flap drowned out talk on jobs, education and health care.

“He was sweating and he needed a fan,” Scott told CNN. “I’m surprised he didn’t try to ask for dry ice.”

That’s what worries many Republicans.

“It was a missed opportunity. It was very odd,” said Fort Lauderdale lawyer Ed Pozzuoli, a Scott ally and former Broward County GOP chair who echoed numerous Republicans. “Gov. Scott has a record that he needs to extol at every opportunity, and the only thing being discussed now is the fan.”

TWEET, TWEET: @MarcACaputo: Remember when there was an empty chair at the RNC & Romney World said it was great? Scott World doing the same with the empty lectern.

WOLF BLITZER ASKS SCOTT: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott appeared on Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room … The news organization led its politics page with a story and headline that read: Florida Gov. Rick Scott stalls debate over opponent’s fan.

Here’s (part) of the transcript from CNN:

BLITZER: All this over a fan. I guess the key question, what were you thinking?

SCOTT:  Hard to believe, isn’t it?  I was anxious to get out there.  I wanted to talk — you know, we did a debate last weekend.  He didn’t like talking about 832,000 jobs lost.  So I think he was just — he was just worried he was going to sweat.  I’m surprised he just didn’t bring some dry ice with him or something to keep himself cool, because he worried so much when I keep — kept bringing up that he’d lost 832,000 jobs.  But we — I came out and we did the debate.  He — you know, he didn’t want to talk about jobs.  We talked about jobs and education.

BLITZER:  So anything you — if you had a do-over, what would you have done differently? Because the criticism of you is you refused to debate the guy because he had a fan.

SCOTT:  I never did.  I was waiting — I was — I was told he wasn’t going to — he wasn’t going to come out.  He wasn’t going to do the debate.

BLITZER:  You don’t want to make that flat accusation that he actually broke the rules of the debate?

SCOTT:  Well, he clearly broke the rules, but that’s not the point.  The point is we should talk about jobs and education, what people care about in their state.  That’s why I got elected the first time.

WATCH: The Daily Show skewers Fangate here.

ROFL: “Based on that skin tone, I’d say (Crist’s) core temperature is 450 degrees. But why should Crist get to cool himself with a fan but Scott isn’t allowed to control his temperature by laying on a chilled rock?” — Stephen Colbert


Miami Herald, Debate organizers: Charlie Crist’s fan was a violation of rules – the chaos backstage was more intense than it would look in living rooms … Scott’s advisers urged … to end the debate before it started … Miami’s WFOR, refused to pull the plug. Wall Street JournalCharlie Crist Fan Controversy: The Inside Story – In their statement, organizers said they didn’t anticipate “the possibility that a candidate would not honor the debate rules,” apparently referring to Mr. Crist. MSNBCCharlie Crist campaign quickly capitalizes on ‘fangate’ – Before the Florida gubernatorial debate was even over … Crist’s campaign was already capitalizing on the awkward four minutes … Various left-leaning politicians and groups immediately jumped on the hashtag #fangate … trending on Twitter. POLITICORick Scott faces the ‘Fangate’ heat – A day after Charlie Crist’s fan stole the show at the Florida gubernatorial debate, Rick Scott was the one sweating it out … fan puns are still dominating social media and news coverage of the debate. Mediaite.comThe Florida GOP Is Really Trying to Make Charlie Crist’s Fan a Thing – The meme from the Florida GOP today appears to be that Crist is obsessed with fans and it’s weird … With, I swear to God, a BuzzFeed list … literally nothing but pictures of Crist with his fan. Washington PostThe truth of #fangate and why Charlie Crist absolutely hates to sweat – … you need to know something about Crist and sweat … what I recall most was that Crist, even when red-faced and benching 170 pounds, didn’t sweat. Not one bead. It was miraculous. The WeekCNN to Charlie Crist: No fan allowed at our Florida debate! – CNN is laying down the law … Crist may not bring his electric fan onstage at the debate it is hosting in Jacksonville … no notes, no props and no electronic devices … range from a cell phone to a fan.

SCOTT REPORTS $8 MILLION IN 2013 INCOME, QUESTIONS REMAIN via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott released his 2013 tax returns “in the interest of full transparency’’ with just weeks to go before the election.

Scott, a multi-millionaire who files his annual return jointly with his wife Ann, reported that he and his wife have adjusted gross income of $8.2 million and paid $2 million in taxes. They filed their returns on Wednesday, the final day allowed by the IRS for taxpayers who sought the six-month extension.

The release of Scott’s tax return, however, left unresolved many questions that have emerged about the accuracy and completeness of his financial disclosures since he filed his 2013 state financial disclosure reports as required to run for re-election.

The governor reported a net worth of $132.7 million, and put many of his assets in a blind trust managed by his long-time investment advisor, Alan Bazaar. The goal of the blind trust, the governor said, was to shield him from any conflict of interest when the companies in which he holds stock do business with the state.

Excluded from his reported assets, however, are investments held by his wife, or held by his family’s Scott Family Partnership Trust. The Herald/Times reported last week that documents filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission show that Scott has a history of dividing his assets into those and other multiple trust accounts and he remains the “beneficial owner” on some of the stock.

According to the reports filed with the state, Scott may only be disclosing the assets held in his newly formed personal blind trust, not the assets for which he is the beneficiary, raising questions about the completness of his reports.   In his 2013 joint tax return, for example, Scott reported $8.2 million in adjustable income to the IRS while he disclosed only $3.2 million in income on his 2013 state financial disclosure form.


First Lady Michelle Obama heads to Florida  to crusade for Crist.

Obama will appear at the grassroots “Commit to Vote” rally, which the Crist campaign calls an event to” energize voters and lay out the stakes for Floridians in the critical election on November 4th.”

The rally is at the Barnett Park Gymnasium in Orlando. Doors open at 11:30 a.m., the event begins at 1:30 p.m.

Attendees will experience security delays, and will go through airport-like security for entry. The audience will be standing for long periods, and since it is an outdoor event, they should dress appropriately for the weather.

There will be no large bags, sharp objects, umbrellas, or signs allowed into the venue. Guests can bring necessary items to stand in line prior to entry, but they cannot bring those items inside.

ADRIAN WYLLIE SAYS HE’S ONLY ADULT IN GOVERNOR’S RACE via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press

Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie believes voters are upset with both major party candidates in the Florida governor’s race, and that will allow him to pull off an upset victory over Republican Gov. Scott and Republican-turned-Democrat former Gov. Crist.

“We have two children for Florida governor right now and I’m the only adult in the race,” he said in an interview Thursday.

… The state budget has grown by $11 billion under Scott and now stands at $77 billion. Wyllie wants to cut it by 30 percent.

“When you say that right off the bat, there’s a kneejerk reaction: ‘Thirty percent! That’s draconian! That’s outrageous!'” Wyllie said.

But he said the budget is bloated by big contracts that lawmakers and the governor steer toward friends and political supporters. He also said some functions of government should be reduced.

His proposal would cut state spending by $23 billion. To achieve that, he said, all property taxes should be eliminated and 2 percent of the 6 percent sales tax Florida now collects should be given to the counties to replace the property tax revenue they rely on.

EARLY BALLOT RETURN NUMBERS as of 10/15 (courtesy of St. Pete Polls): 687,204 Total ballots returned. 332,329 Republican 48.4%; 237,578 Democratic 34.6; 117,297 Independent 17.1%.

TAMPA BAY TIMES POLL: PAM BONDI LEADS GEORGE SHELDON, 41 – 31 PERCENT via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times

(A) new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/UF Bob Graham Center poll shows the 48-year-old Republican incumbent cruising to re-election with a solid lead over Democrat George Sheldon and Libertarian nominee Bill Wohlsifer. The telephone survey of likely voters shows 41 percent supporting Bondi, 31 percent supporting Sheldon, 6 percent supporting Wohlsifer and 16 percent undecided.

… The poll shows Bondi’s support strongest among voters 60 and older, with 49 percent support to Sheldon’s 30 percent.

… Without money to get his message out, voters won’t hear him. Sheldon has yet to air a TV ad, while Bondi has aired two, with money for more.


School voucher supporters said they would get involved in Florida statehouse races this year — and they are delivering on that promise.

Some evidence: this new mailer from the Florida Federation for Children supporting state Rep. Erik Fresen.

The education-themed mailer gives Fresen an A+ in three subjects: approving a record-high education budget, lowering college tuition costs and creating “more options” for parents (i.e. voucher programs and charter schools).

The Florida Federation for Children is a political communications organization that supports school choice. Its chair is Tampa venture capitalist John Kirtley, who helped craft Florida’s original voucher legislation in 2001. (Kirtley also chairs Step Up for Students, the non-profit organization that runs the state’s largest voucher program.)

Here’s how the Federation describes its work: “We identify election circumstances in which there is a discernible difference between the candidates on the issues of parental choice and education reform, regardless of any other factor, especially party affiliation. We then engage in electioneering communications to voters throughout Florida, making them aware of candidates and their positions on issues of the day.”

Its major funders include Kirtley, the American Federation for Children, Broward-based school management company Charter Schools USA, conservative philanthropist Roger Hertog, North Miami Beach physician Allan I. Jacob and Jacksonville businessman John D. Baker, II.

Since July, the Florida Federation has spent more than $827,000 on political races, records show.


A Florida appeals court ruled that a write-in candidate was wrongly disqualified from running for a Tampa Bay state House seat, likely cancelling a primary election for the second time.

Rep. Jamie Grant and fellow Republican Miriam Steinberg were supposed to face off in a primary on Nov. 4 that was open to all voters in House District 64, which includes parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. With only two candidates, the primary — postponed from October over questions involving a write-in candidate — would have settled the question of who represents the district.

But a panel of judges at the First District Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling that kicked write-in candidate Daniel John Matthews off the ballot.

Grant said he was unsure how the ruling will affect him and his staff because his current term technically ends on Election Day. He said he will continue to campaign for re-election in the district, which includes Carrollwood, Citrus Park, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor, and hope the courts provide clarity.

“One of these days we’ll be on the ballot in a race that counts,” he said.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Angela Dempsey ruled in July that Matthews did not reside in the district at the time of qualifying, therefore failing to meet the requirements under state law. But Matthews appealed the ruling, saying the Florida Constitution only requires legislators to live in the district at the time of election.

The appeals court agreed and said the Florida law treating write-in candidates differently from others is unconstitutional.


House District 29

Republican Scott Plakon 58%, Democrat Mike Cleland 35%

Republican Rick Scott 53%, Democrat Charlie Crist 34%

House District 30

Republican Bob Cortes 56%, Democrat Karen Dentel 38%

Republican Rick Scott 53%, Democrat Charlie Crist 32%

House District 47

Republican Mike Miller 56%, Democrat Linda Stewart 41%

Republican Rick Scott 47%, Democrat Charlie Crist 35%

House District 59

Republican Ross Spano 57%, Democrat Donna Fore 34%

Republican Rick Scott45%, Democrat Charlie Crist 38%

House District 63

Republican Shawn Harrison 53%, Democrat Mark Danish 40%

Republican Rick Scott 45%, Democrat Charlie Crist 43%

House District 65

Republican Chris Sprowls 50%, Democrat Carl Zimmermann 46%

Republican Rick Scott 46%, Democrat Charlie Crist 43%

House District 68

Republican Bill Young 41%, Democrat Dwight Dudley 54%

Republican Rick Scott 35%, Democrat Charlie Crist 55%

House District 112

Republican Daniel Diaz Leyva 49%, Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez 44%

Republican Rick Scott 51%, Democrat Charlie Crist 42%

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will speak with the media about CDC’s response to Florida’s request for assistance in the state’s Ebola preparedness efforts. Event begins 9:00 a.m. at the Broward County Aviation Department, 2200 SW 45th Street, Suite 101 in Dania Beach.


Crisafulli has picked his leadership team for the 2014-2016 legislative terms, including Tampa’s Dana Young as leader of the House Republicans.

Crisafulli announced his picks in a press release.

Young will become House Majority leader: “I’m very honored and excited to be selected to lead the Republican Caucus alongside Speaker Crisafulli,” she said in a text message.

Another Tampa Bay area lawmaker – Rep. Richard Corcoran – will serve as chair of the appropriations committee.

In other picks, Rep. Matt Hudson was nominated for speaker pro tempore and Rep. Ritch Workman for chair of the rules committee.

The full committee structure for the House will be released in the weeks following the Nov. 4 election.


Ride-share outfit Uber is one-step closer to operating legally here now that the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation says the company’s policy provides legally binding coverage that meets state requirements.

The company’s million-dollar commercial insurance policy has been a major point of contention in the fight to bring the service to the Tampa Bay area. The Public Transportation Commission, which regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough, has opposed the ride-share company since it launched here in April, citing concerns about insurance and licensing, along with insufficient background and vehicle checks.

In recent public meetings, PTC chair Victor Crist and executive director Kyle Cockream have said they would defer to the state regarding insurance issues. Cockream forwarded a copy of Uber’s policy to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation for review.

Monte Stevens, the office’s deputy chief of staff, said in an email to Cockream that the policy is legally binding and provides coverage typical of taxis or other for-hire services. Stevens also said the $1 million liability limits are more than what is required of for-hire services.

Stevens elaborated on the e-mail this week, saying Uber is permitted to do legally binding business in the state and that the policy covers passengers.

“As far as we’re concerned… it meets the requirements of the insurance code,” Stevens said.

Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said he hopes these statements help change the PTC’s approach toward ride-share companies.


In state capitals across the United States, lobbyists give voice to a wide range of industries in an effort to influence policymakers, legislators and regulators.

As ambassadors of the association community, they embody the true spirit of American democracy, above all, the constitutional rights of free speech and association.

Association TRENDS Magazine, often referred to as “the bible of the association community,” annually honors those lobbyists and advocates who have become the cornerstone of a process that touches nearly every constituent nationwide.

One of those recognized in 2014 is Jon Johnson, managing partner of the Tallahassee-based Johnson & Blanton. With a specialty in health-care advocacy — a prime field for Florida — Johnson & Blanton has become one of the elite lobbying houses in Florida.

TRENDS singled out Johnson’s role in the 2013 legislative session, representing 16 associations, and was instrumental in passing a decisive lawsuit reform bill to protect individual engineers from frivolous wrongly.

In the 2014 session, Johnson collaborated with lobbyists on behalf of the Florida Healthcare Association, to enact litigation reform for nursing homes. It became a bipartisan effort that led to a compromise between nursing home owners and trial lawyers.

“One of the wisest association executives once told me ‘if our members don’t know about it … it never happened, which means that communication, communication and more communication is the key element to successfully representing an association,” Johnson told TRENDS.


Howard Talenfeld, one of the nation’s preeminent children’s rights attorneys, is leaving Colodny Fass Talenfeld Karlinsky Abate & Webb, where he has worked since 1978, to start his own firm with three colleagues.

Talenfeld, who has received national honors for his work fighting for abused and neglected children, will launch Talenfeld Law in Plantation on Nov. 1 with Colodny Fass attorneys Stacie Schmerling, Rayni Rabinovitz, and Nicole Coniglio as well as several staffers.

Talenfeld, who started at Fort Lauderdale’s Colodny Fass as a law clerk and made partner in 1982, said he was increasingly conflicted out of cases representing children due to Colodny Fass’s expanded representation as lobbyists for the insurance industry, the Broward County School Board and others.

In his latest litigation win, Talenfeld and attorneys with other firms negotiated a $17.5 million settlement with three New York adoption agencies that helped place 10 special-needs foster children with a woman who tortured and starved them.

Talenfeld is a founder and president of Florida’s Children First, the state’s leading advocacy organization in Tallahassee for at-risk children advocating for legislative change. He is credited with writing a law signed by Gov. Rick Scott this summer requiring legal representation for foster children with special needs.

“I want to build the first children’s rights law firm in Florida representing children who are disabled or abused,” said Talenfeld, adding he will continue doing a considerable amount of pro bono work. When asked whether he felt the firm would be profitable, Talenfeld said, “I’m very hopeful.”


On Context Florida: After seeing a blurb about a meeting of the Boca Area Post Polio Group, Rachel Patron recalls a friend who had polio as a child in the 1950s, about the same time as violinist Itzhak Perlman. If the election for Florida governor took place today, less than 24 hours after “Fangate” or “Fanghazi,” Peter Schorsch says it is likely Democrat Charlie Crist would win his old job back. Gov. Scott’s remarkable bid for re-election in 2014 was blown away Wednesday night, says Daniel Tilson. However, more than “Fangate,” what is remarkable is that a governor with a history of questionable ethics and conservative extremism went into the debate with any hope at all of winning a second term – much less a 50-50 shot at it. Although an electric fan received the most media attention, Bruce Ritchie notes that environment was front and center in the gubernatorial debate. A month from now, however the impact of the election on the environment will be more important than who looked stupidest because of “fangate.”

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Josh Cooper, Mark Hollis, Mitch Kates, Scott Randolph, and Progress Florida’s Ray Seaman.

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.