Sunburn for 10/21 – 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: On October 22, 1968, the Apollo 7 spacecraft splashed down 11 days after blasting off from Florida’s Cape Kennedy Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 34. The mission was a rousing success, providing the first manned test of the Apollo vehicle after the tragic Apollo 1 fire. The mission featured the first live television broadcast from space and got America’s space program back on track for the moon. It also produced a spectacular photo of the Florida peninsula – nothing like a photo of home, sweet home, eh?

Now, on to the ‘burn…


An overwhelming majority of voters in the most competitive 2014 elections say it feels as if events in the United States are “out of control” and expressed mounting alarm about terrorism, anxiety about Ebola and harsh skepticism of both political parties only three weeks before the Nov. 4 midterms.

In a POLITICO poll testing the hardest-fought states and congressional districts of the year, two-thirds of likely voters said they feel that the United States has lost control of its major challenges. Only 36 percent said the country is “in a good position to meet its economic and national security” hurdles.

The public distress manifests itself across a range of issues:

Terrorism: Eighty-four percent of voters say the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant poses a “serious” threat to the U.S. homeland, including 43 percent who say it poses a “very serious” threat. Just 12 percent said the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is not a serious concern.

Health care: Most voters believe their health care costs will go up under the Affordable Care Act. Fifty-seven percent said they believe their personal costs will increase, while only 7 percent said they will decrease. A third said their costs would remain the same. (At the same time, support for repealing Obamacare has continued to drop, now down to 41 percent.)

Presidential management: Voters in the midterm battleground states are evenly split on whether President Barack Obama or George W. Bush was more effective at managing the federal government. Thirty-eighty percent named Bush, while 35 percent preferred Obama. A quarter of respondents said the two men were equally competent.

Ebola: Only 22 percent of respondents said they had a lot of confidence that the government is doing everything it can to contain the contagious disease. Thirty-nine percent they had some confidence, while a third said they had little or no confidence. The poll concluded Oct. 11, before the hospitalization of the second nurse who treated an Ebola patient in Dallas.

POLL: LIKELY VOTERS FAVOR GOP-LED CONGRESS via Ried Epstein of the Wall Street Journal

Voters likely to cast ballots in the midterm elections favor a Republican-led Congress over a Democratic one, 49 percent to 44 percent, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg survey finds.

Registered voters, a larger group than likely voters, also said they’d prefer the election to produce a Republican-led Congress, a first since the poll began asking five weeks ago. The GOP held a lead of 45 percent to 43 percent on the question among registered voters.

The survey is yet more evidence that Democratic voters are tuning out the midterms. Democrats carried a 10-point lead among low-interest voters, who the party is trying to reach and motivate with vigorous turnout operations across the country. Republicans carried a 10-point lead in the new survey among voters who said they were highly interested in the election.

The findings come at a difficult moment for Democrats and for President Barack Obama, as he tries to calm anxieties over the spread of Ebola amid complaints from lawmakers that his administration has not responded forcefully.

The poll of 1,172 registered voters – among them 484 likely voters – was conducted from Oct. 10-16. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.56 percentage points. For likely voters the margin increased to plus or minus 5.42 percentage points.


SCOTT, CRIST RUMBLE ONE LAST TIME IN TV DEBATE via Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

What have Gov. Scott and former Gov. Crist got in store for their final act before a statewide audience on CNN?

If past is prologue, then the third debate between Republican incumbent Scott and Democratic challenger Crist could feature a heavy dose of style points and strategized spitballs.

The 7 p.m. debate will take place in Jacksonville with a more tightly controlled environment than the prior two, which had news media access and audiences.

CNN has notified both candidates that its rules specify no electronic equipment — including fans — for the face-off.

And while Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie’s legal challenge to get into an earlier debate wasn’t successful, the third-party candidate pulling double-digit support in some polls is doing his own live webcast in Jacksonville to respond to debate questions.

Many political experts expect the TV barrage to produce diminishing returns in the final weeks as voters tune out the ads. With one last chance to make a positive impression, don’t be surprised if both candidates tone down the attacks.

Debates historically don’t provide candidates with much of a bump. Florida’s gubernatorial showdown has devolved into a nasty, mudslinging contest expected to blanket airwaves with more than $100 million in advertising by Nov. 4.

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: On campaign trail @FLGovScott repeats line that @CharlieCrist can “bring a fan” to last debate. So will @CNN & @jaketapper let him?


Widely reported and heavily mocked, the ‘Fangate’ from the governor’s debate doesn’t appear to have had any effect on the race, according to a new poll from the Republican-leaning firm 0ptimus that shows the contested remains tied.

Gov. Scott gets 41 percent support from likely Florida voters and Crist gets 40 percent – a lead by the Republican that’s well within the poll’s 1.5 percentage-point margin of error.

Scott nudged up 1.7 percentage points and Crist lost 0.3 percentage points since 0ptimus’ last poll last week. Those are shifts well within the margin of error and are therefore not statistically significant for the poll.

With that caveat in mind, the partisan crosstabs of the poll have some intriguing numbers. Since last week, 0ptimus shows Republican support marginally increased for Scott, Democratic support for Crist remained about even, while independent support for Crist grew. He now leads independents by 10 percentage points.

Both sides will have something in the poll to find that they like. For Scott, it’s the topline. For Crist, it’s the data about independents.

RASMUSSEN POLL: SCOTT 47%, CRIST 47% Full blog post here

A new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of likely Florida voters finds current Scott and  Crist each picking up 47 percent of the vote. Two percent (2 percent) prefer some other candidate, while 4 percent (4 percent) remain undecided.

Seventy-six percent (76 percent) of Florida voters are certain of whom they are going to vote for, but 24 percent say they could still change their mind between now and Election Day. Scott has a slight 51 percent to 49 percent edge among those who are certain of their vote, but Crist leads 41 percent to 32 percent among those who might change their minds.

Among the 87 percent of voters who are certain they will vote in this year’s election, it’s Scott 48 percent, Crist 47 percent.

Crist had a 42 percent to 40 percent edge in September after Scott held a similarly negligible 42 percent to 41 percent lead in early August. In April, Crist led Scott by six points – 45 percent to 39 percent.

Scott has the support of 82 percent of Florida Republicans and 15 percent of Democrats. Crist is backed by 80 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of Republicans. Crist also has a 46 percent to 41 percent edge among voters not affiliated with either political party.


The latest Rasmussen poll — showing Scott and Crist deadlocked at 47 percent each — was begun on the first night of #FanGate and continued for the next two nights.

Did the debate impact the outcome of this poll? It’s hard to tell. On one hand, the shock of seeing the empty stage could have a profound impact on voters, but often the water cooler conversations have a longer lasting impression and this poll was taken during both of these phases.  It would have been neat to see the breakdown for each day, but that information was not available.

In rating this poll, we have to give it a few grains because it was a blended sample (a robo-poll with some Internet respondents thrown in), with no cell phones, and the survey did not include either Wyllie or the other two NPA candidates.

The full details show that this poll had an equal number of Democrats and Republicans and a too-large number of NPA voters at 26 percent.  So by “taking into account the state’s voting history,” we must assume they used a 2012 model. We project and most pollsters seem to agree, that this year we will see something akin to an approximate +3 GOP turnout (and nothing in the absentee numbers already reported suggest that will get any lower) meaning this product from Rasmussen is probably a bit too Democratic leaning.  (Whodathunk?)

This poll likely favors Crist a bit and we rate it somewhere between a few grains and a full shaker.

COLUMBIA/HCA LEGACY FOLLOWS RICK SCOTT via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

From his poor poll numbers to his formidable fortune, Scott’s political standing revolves around Columbia/HCA.

Scott was once hailed as a “wunderkind” for making the hospital chain the largest health care company in America. Then, he became a pariah after he and his company were investigated for Medicare fraud, leading to his ouster in 1997.

Today, Scott avoids even mentioning the words “Columbia/HCA.”

“In 2010, the Democrats attacked me,” Scott said at a debate earlier this month, omitting he was first attacked by Republicans. “And I said when I ran a company I would take responsibility for the actions while I was CEO.”

But Scott never really did take responsibility at the time. Initially, he denied anything was out of the ordinary. He ultimately faulted others under him.

For some former Scott allies, employees and supporters, the denial and blame-shifting is but one pattern of behavior Scott took with him from the board room to the Governor’s Mansion.

As at Columbia/HCA, Scott delegates responsibility to those under him and takes little responsibility for problems on his watch. When asked about any recent controversy at agencies under him — from prison inmate deaths to a dysfunctional unemployment-compensation system — he doesn’t answer the question and refers it to his appointees.

“There’s a similarity with HCA in that you cannot just let the people below the executive run the show without the executive knowing what’s going on,” said former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.


In 2012, Gov. Scott was clear about plowing his personal fortunes into his re-election campaign: “I won’t have to.”

But now that Crist outraised him 6:1 last week, Scott appears ready to open his personal piggy bank. He has spent $56.5 million on ads (at least two-thirds of them negative) to Crist’s $26.5 million (also heavily negative) yet he and Crist remain tied.

Rumors for weeks in Tallahassee were that Scott would commit $20 million to $22 million – a vast sum that still pales in comparison to the $75.1 million of his own money he dropped in 2010. The Crist campaign is trying to make that $20 million amount into gospel so it can scrounge for more cash. But that’s likely far too high.

Scott could be plowing money into the Republican Party of Florida, which doesn’t have to report its finances until the end of the month. Scott signed an election bill that required more disclosure, but it omitted disclosing these types of transactions.


The road to political victory in Florida is not just a metaphor, it’s a place: Interstate 4, the busy highway that cuts across the vote-heavy heart of the state from Tampa to Daytona Beach.

And the I-4 corridor, as it’s called, now runs through a swing-vote region undergoing significant demographic change.

Puerto Ricans have been migrating by the thousands to the area — part of the largest exodus from their island territory to the mainland since World War II. They currently make up about 10 percent of Central Florida’s population, and their numbers continue to grow.

A Pew Research Center report released in August shows that Orange County alone was home to nearly 150,000 Puerto Ricans in 2010, up from 86,583 a decade earlier, out of a total population of 1.4 million. The surge pushed it to No. 3 in a ranking of U.S. counties according to Puerto Rican population; only Brooklyn and the Bronx ranked higher.

“The I-4 corridor is the key to winning Florida: Win the area and you win the election,” says Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, pointing out that roughly 45 percent of the state’s registered voters live in the Tampa and Orlando media markets.

Yet some Floridians, including politicians, are still trying to figure out how to talk about the newcomers. Because many Puerto Ricans work at Disney World, Floridians dub them “Disney Ricans” or “Mickey Ricans,” labels they don’t find amusing.

And it didn’t go unnoticed when the chairman of the Orange County Republican Executive Committee, Lew Oliver, blamed the “Puerto Rican influx” for a decline in registered Republicans and called the island territory “semisocialist” and a “basket case.” Under fire from various groups, Oliver issued an apology, saying his words were taken out of context.

EARLY VOTING EMAILS: “I voted today” via Charlie Crist; “voting-alert” via Joe Garcia; “TEAM JOE Needs You” via Joe Saunders; “Shorter Lines, More Options” via Bill Hager and Bill Young; “What you need to know” via United for Care


Early absentee voting shows Republicans maintain their early lead over Democrats in some of Florida’s biggest swing areas, but the GOP advantage shrinks considerably in some of those closely contested districts in Tampa, Orlando and Miami.

In 11 of the closest House seats in the state, Republicans currently hold a 38-31 lead over Democrats, a much narrower margin than the 14-point statewide lead in early voting, according to the analysis of absentee ballot numbers from the state’s House districts. Republicans are returning more ballots in the hotly contested districts in Miami, Orlando and Tampa, the analysis shows.

The state is littered with swaths of deep Red or Blue characterized by one-party dominance. There are, however, pockets of the state up for grabs. It’s those regions that receive the most resources from state political parties eager to turnout voters and capture seats in the state Legislature.

Because much political muscle is imposed on those hotly contested areas, they can also help shed light on the state of larger races like the heated campaign for governor. It offers a snapshot of the race in areas where both major parties are focused.

That includes four Tampa-area House seats, where the GOP holds a 43-36 lead over Democrats. Those with no party affiliation are getting 16 percent of the absentee ballots. The closest regional race is for a Pasco County seat held by Democratic state Rep. Amanda Murphy. Her party leads by 164 votes in a seat that’s considered one of the state’s most consistent swing districts. She is running against Republican Gregg Chris.

In another razor thin regional margin, Republicans lead by 234 votes in the district currently held by state Rep. Mark Danish. He’s running against Republican Shawn Harrison. Overall, the GOP is leading in absentee ballots by a 46-35 margin in the Tampa media market.

TWEET, TWEET: @TreyFLA: Hey did you know #earlyvoting began in #Florida?  I did, from the 1,245,754 emails telling me. #MakeItStop

TWEET, TWEET: @AmySherman1: Slow early voting start in Broward: 5,805 on first day.

TWEET, TWEET: @gbennettpost: Turnout for first day of early voting in Dem-leaning Palm Beach County up 32.5%


Property insurance played a critical role in the Senate District 34 debate between Ellyn Bogdanoff and State Sen. Maria Sachs. The potentially game-changing debate took place on the “To The Point” political program on WPTV Channel 5 (NBC Palm Beach). The debate focused on Bogdanoff’s experience with complex insurance issues and multiple missed votes by Sachs. In the end, Maria Sachs was totally decimated in front of an audience of Kings Point seniors who were surely watching.

Bogdanoff stated her experience in the insurance industry would help South Florida homeowners fight high insurance rates. Sachs claimed her series of insurance workshops was helping homeowners. But these residents had to be lucky enough to receive an invitation and to know to attend. It’s likely Sachs’ invitations went out to Democrat households, leaving independents and Republicans out in the cold.

Sachs tried to quickly change the subject when Bogdanoff repeatedly asked her what she has done in the last two years on any of these important issues.

It appeared Sachs fell into Bogdanoff’s trap by repeatedly saying voters should judge candidates based upon their actions.

Sachs mentioned this bit of wisdom she heard as a child, “Maria, What you’re doing speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Bogdanoff quickly reminded voters Sachs is a “do nothing” senator who can’t even bother to show up for work for key votes.

Bogdanoff referred to critical pieces of insurance legislation that came before the legislature over the past two years where Sachs failed to vote. According to Florida Senate voting records, Sachs skipped votes for Senate Bills:  SB 1842 (2013), SB 542 (2014), and SB 1672 (2014).


Like so many others in Florida politics, when Nancy Watkins calls, I answer the phone. Always. Well, almost always.

Watkins, the ultra-connected campaign treasurer for dozens of candidates and political groups throughout the state and across the nation, phoned me two weeks ago, but, inexplicably, I missed her call. That’s no bueno because, usually, Watkins is calling to let me know that one of my clients has authorized her to cut me a check.

But this time, Watkins said she was calling for another reason. Unfortunately, we ended up not connecting despite playing a vigorous game of phone tag. That’s understandable because if there is one person busier than this never-sleeps blogger, it’s Watkins, who keeps dozens of candidates on the straight and narrow.

Now I have an idea what Watkins may have been calling about. According to La Gaceta‘s Patrick Manteiga, the rumor du jour is that Watkins is thinking about running for the state House after Representative Dana Young, the recently appointed Majority Leader, is term-limited from running again. If that’s so, where do I sign up to volunteer? Because if there is one person I’d walk door-to-door for, it is the highly-intelligent, classy Nancy Watkins.

Young’s South Tampa seat opens up in 2018, so Watkins has plenty of time to consider whether she wants to live in the fishbowl. Something tells me she won’t have any trouble raising money if she does decide to run.

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REST IN PEACE, TOM SLADE via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Tom Slade, one of the smartest, funniest and most consequential political operators in modern Florida history, died Monday afternoon at age 78.

“I can’t think of anyone as instrumental in the development of the modern Republican Party as Tom Slade,” said retired University of South Florida St. Petersburg political scientist Darryl Paulson, who has studied the state party extensively. “Jeb Bush, in many respects, could not be possible without Tom Slade.”

The folksy and blunt former state legislator and chairman of the Republican Party of Florida from 1993 to 1999 died Monday at Orange Park Medical Center following heart failure he suffered last week after choking on meat at a restaurant.

“Boss Slade,” as he was known both fondly and not-so-fondly, was in many respects the perfect man at the right time for the Florida GOP as it was poised to become the majority party. A strategist, organizer, message maestro, money raiser and occasional bully, Mr. Slade could pull disparate interests together. He capitalized on the momentum from Ronald Reagan, who made the GOP acceptable to lifelong Democrats in North Florida as well as Cuban-Americans in South Florida.

Mr. Slade “was a bold and decisive leader who inspired others to get on board with the causes and campaigns he was passionate about throughout his time in public office and in the political arena,” former Gov. Jeb Bush said in an email. “And, if you found yourself on the opposite side of a campaign, he was a true force to be reckoned with politically! Tom also had a huge heart, a larger than life personality and a truly wonderful sense of humor. He was a blast to be around.”



Tampa Bay TimesFlorida GOP pioneer Tom Slade dies at 78 – “… one of the smartest, funniest, and most consequential political operators in modern Florida history, died Monday afternoon.” The Florida Times-UnionTom Slade, former state GOP chairman, dies at Orange Park Medical Center – “A mix of intellect and easy camaraderie shaped people’s memories of him.”, Tom Slade, who led the Republican Party of Florida as Jeb Bush rose to power – “Slade was known for his sense of humor and toughness. He could be very blunt.” Palm Beach PostTom Slade, who guided Florida Republican Party to power – “… always personable, quotable and as a party leader, could raise massive volumes of campaign contributions. Asked shortly after his election to assess his job and the formidable goals ahead of him, Slade likened himself to a man jumping from a 100-story building. ‘When the guy passes the 50th floor, someone yells, ‘How’s it going?’ And he answers, ‘So far, so good.’”


I did not really know Steve Madden, but … I’ve come to understand what he stood for, or at least part of what he stood for. He represents that untouched, but threatened, part of “this thing of ours” or however you want to describe politics and consulting and lobbying.

The untouched aspect which allows most of us, at our finest hours, to put aside the adversarial back-and-forth to be our better angels.

Don’t believe in these better angels? Go read Steve’s Facebook page. Read about the many, many lives he impacted for the better. Than ask yourself, if you died today, would people be saying the same about you.

I didn’t know Steve Madden, but his death had a profound, albeit contained, impact on me. His death was the first of someone I knew since the birth of my daughter, Ella. Steve Madden, to me, is like the headline on the newspaper printed on the day of Ella’s birth.

He’s a reminder, an inspiration, a touchstone.

I wish I had known you better, Steve.

***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***

FLORIDA POPULATION SURGING AGAIN via William Gibson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

People from other countries and other states are pouring into Florida again, a sign of the state’s recovery from a long period of economic doldrums and slow growth.

Recently released U.S. Census numbers show that Florida’s foreign-born population increased by 140,000 from 2010 through last year. And movement within the United States left Florida with a net gain of 105,000 residents last year and 109,000 in 2012 — 84 percent more than in the previous two years.

The population surge has accelerated this year, according to state estimates, growing at a rate of about 700 new residents a day. That’s a healthy increase, though still less than the big migrations during the Sunbelt boom of past decades.

For many job seekers, South Florida has become a hip beachside destination with a nexus of entrepreneurs, investors, a big consumer market and a gateway to Latin America.

Older transplants from the North, frozen in place by the Great Recession, say the recent recovery makes it easier to sell their homes — or come up with enough money to buy a second home — and make that long-awaited move to sunny Florida.

A fierce winter in much of the North early this year helped motivate people to follow the traditional pathway to Florida.

Partly as a result, the state’s foreign-born population reached 3.8 million in 2013, a 140,000 increase from 2010, according to a compilation of census numbers by the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy group in Washington.


Florida came in second to Texas as having the best business climate in a new survey of corporate executives released at the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference. Texas easily trumped all comers, picked by 49.7 percent of 356 execs as having the best climate. Florida, with 18.1 percent of the vote, nudged out North Carolina, which has held the No. 2 spot for nearly a decade. Florida received high marks for its tax climate and “pro-business environment.”

North Carolina and Georgia tied for third at 17.6 percent.

Conducted every three years, the survey by Development Counsellors International has tracked economic development trends since 1996.


A delay caused by technical difficulties with the conference call phone line took almost as long as the meeting itself. But Florida State University’s Board of Trustees has approved John Thrasher’s contract, including a $430,000 base salary.

The board made some small changes, such as clarifying that a potential $100,000 annual bonus will be tied to Thrasher’s ability to meet performance goals approved by him and the trustees. But members generally agreed on the substance of the contract and approved it unanimously.

Thrasher is expected to start work Nov. 10. The state Board of Governors must sign off on his contract first, but that should happen during its meeting Nov. 5 and 6.

Once that happens, Thrasher has promised to step down from the state Senate.

FSU Provost Garnett Stokes served as interim president but was unsuccessful in her bid for the permanent job.

Thrasher is expected to focus on fundraising and working with elected officials in obtaining more resources for FSU, leaving many of the day-to-day operations in Stokes’ hands.


Leticia Adams: Walt Disney World


On Context Florida: Anti-government, anti-Obama, anti-Democratic Party, hardcore conservative voters constitute a majority of the 4.1 million or so registered Republicans in Florida, says Daniel Tilson. However, they are a minority of the state electorate overall, representing maybe a third of 12 million registered voters statewide. The title of the Florida Public Service Commission is about as relevant to reality as that of the People’s Republic of China, writes Martin Dyckman. The true constituency is a narrow group of self-perpetuating special interests. Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain, a native of Madison County, has toiled in anonymity in the smaller markets of Milwaukee and Kansas City. Until now, says Bob Sparks. When defining the ethnicity, gender and race of American society, Anthony Major finds it is interrelated with the cultural dialogue. The African-American experience has always been tied to those topics.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Adam Babington, the chief state lobbyist for Disney.

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.