Sunburn for 10/22 – 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…

FINAL GOV’S DEBATE NASTY AND PERSONAL via Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen of the Times/Herald bureau

In a fast-paced final debate Tuesday, Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist showed their mutual contempt to a national TV audience and clashed on issues ranging from jobs to Cuba to the minimum wage.

or an hour on CNN and in TV stations across Florida, Scott and Crist disagreed, distorted each others’ records and swapped insults on a wide range of subjects. With their neck-and-neck race in its final two weeks, both men are fiercely trying to gain last-minute tactical advantages with voters — only a tiny percentage of whom remain undecided.

Under sharp questioning by CNN’s Jake Tapper, they disagreed on issue after issue, especially the condition of Florida’s economy — the very foundation of Scott’s case for a second term.

Scott said Florida is “on a roll” but Crist said millions are forced to work two or three jobs to survive, but that Scott wouldn’t know that because of his “personal jet” and “oceanfront mansion.”

“You’re out of touch,” Crist told Scott. “They’re hurting and they need somebody who’s on their side.”

Scott stood firm, saying the state has added 651,000 new private-sector jobs and 261,000 job openings after the state sank into economic misery when Crist was governor.

“You almost bankrupted the state,” Scott told Crist.

Mocking Crist’s 2007 promise as governor to make property taxes drop “like a rock,” Scott said: “The only thing that dropped like a rock was home prices.”

The candidates dismissively called each other “Rick” and “Charlie” as a split-screen image showed them sneering in disgust at each others’ answers.

At times the animosity became personal.

Crist called Scott “out of touch” with average Floridians. Scott called Crist a “divider” who grew up rich and couldn’t relate to the struggles of poor people. Crist shot back, saying “you don’t know me. You can’t tell my story” and claimed that even if Scott grew up poor, the multimillionaire didn’t care enough about the middle class by his policies.

5 KEY MOMENTS via Jeremy Wallace of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

1. … it was Scott who surprisingly accused Crist of being out of touch with working families because he grew up rich. 2. If there was one answer that was clearly unscripted by the candidates it was when CNN anchor Jake Tapper pressed Scott on his opposition to increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour as Crist has advocated. 3. When Crist was asked about his ties to close associates who have gone to prison, such as his handpicked Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, Crist responded … maybe too simply given how close he was once Greer. 4 … Crist showed no fear in talking about Obama. 5. Scott talked about creating more than 600,000 jobs under his watch, as expected. But he was challenged on his original 2010 campaign promise …

ADAM SMITH’S 4 TAKEWAWAYS: 1. Meet the Bickersons. It hardly seems possible for these two candidates to emerge even less inspiring than they were already after so many millions of dollars in negative ads, but they managed it. 2. Scott, the Inartful Dodger. For the better part of three decades, Charlie Crist has been excellent in saying little or nothing of substance when answering questions, but at least he takes a stab at responding to questions. Rick Scott barely even pretends to answer questions. 3. Weakest moments: Tapper asked Crist about his judgment considering that at least five of his top political allies, from former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer to Ponzi schemer and top Crist money raiser Scott Rothstein, wound up behind bars for crimes. “Well, you know I don’t have a crystal ball, and you can’t always foresee what people are going to do in their future,” Crist said lamely. Scott’s worst moment, when Crist pressed him about his decision to postpone an execution because it conflicted with a fundraiser for Attorney General Pam Bondi, was even more painful to watch. 4. No clear winner.


USA Today, Scott, Crist clash sharply in final Florida governor debate – “… a nasty battle between two unpopular politicians in Florida … no sequel to a fiasco that overshadowed substance in their Oct. 15 meeting.” Wall Street JournalA Political Theme-Park Ride With National Stakes – “Who needs Carl Hiaasen. The race for governor of Florida offers a daily nonfiction parody of the Sunshine State.” Orlando SentinelScott-Crist debate has no fan, but plenty of heat – “’You’re worth at least $100 million,’ Crist told Scott. ‘God bless you for that, but the way you got that money was pretty unsavory.’” CBS MiamiCrist Defends Party Switch In Florida Final Debate – “Crist defended his party switch … saying Republicans have been kidnapped by the Tea Party.” CNNDebate opens without fan fight – “’Everybody’s comfortable here?’ asked CNN’s Jake Tapper … a subtle reference to last week’s seven minute standoff.” Local10.comGov. Rick Scott, Charlie Crist square off in final debate – “There won’t be a fan … the air-conditioning temperature has been lowered and the doors to the studio are shut.” Orlando News13Rick Scott vs. Charlie Crist in final Florida Gov. Debate – “… probably the fiercest debate of the season … argued over issues that at times turned personal.” News4JaxFan-free debate addresses jobs, wages, utilities, other issues – “… there was no fan under Crist’s podium to delay the start of the discussion or distract from the issues … difficult time to get the candidates beyond their talking points.”


TWEET, TWEET: @Mdixon55: Expect to see this clip of @CharlieCrist on minimum wage a looooot moving forward. Video here.

TWEET, TWEET: @fineout: My takeaway from #FLGovDebate – in the last 2 debates @FLGovScott not as assured and able to answer ?s as he was in 2010

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Crist will meet with Jacksonville students to discuss the importance of investing in education at 9:30 a.m. at the Jacksonville Field Office, 1710 North Main Street. Next, Crist to talk with seniors about early voting, 12 p.m. at the Mary Singleton’s Senior Center, 150 E 1st Street in Jacksonville, followed by a visit to a local barbershop, 12:35 p.m. at the International Blades and Shears, 3616 St. Johns Avenue.


Quinnipiac University will release a poll of the governor’s race at 6:00 a.m. Click here for those results.


It really is hard to take polls from 0ptimus with anything but a grain of salt. If for no other reason, the very high numbers for Adrian Wyllie should make even casual observers suspect (they have him consistently in double digits, while no other pollster has him much above 7 percent.)  Secondly, it posts very low numbers for Crist and Scott among their own parties. In this survey, it shows both candidates sitting at 68 percent among their respective bases and no other pollster has shown that for either in several months.  We are not sure why they score this way in 0ptimus polls, but when one pollster’s methodology leads to consistent outliers, you have to question the validity of the poll.

Oh, and did we forget to mention that they do not include cell phones in their samples?

But kudos to 0ptimus for balancing the poll by party to reflect a gubernatorial election and, also in their defense, they have kept to a consistent methodology over time. This is helpful because even with a skewed sample, the trend lines can be useful for comparison.

And this is interesting in light of the fact that this is one of the first post #Fangate polls.  (Tip-o-the-hat to StPetePolls for being THE first.) So in understanding that its methods may have flaws, we can still learn something about the impact of a vacant lectern.

So what was the impact?

Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth. And despite all the dire warnings about Rick Scott death certificates signed at 7:09 p.m. on a Wednesday evening.  And despite the now-cliché fan metaphors and keeping-the-boys-cool one-liners, it seems that Scott, according to 0ptimus, may have weathered the teapot tempest after all. In fact, if you are tracking 0ptimus’ numbers, Rick Scott actually grew a net 2 points.

EARLY BALLOT RETURN NUMBERS as of 10/20 (courtesy of St. Pete Polls): 970,046 Total ballots returned. 469,371 Republican 48.4%; 336,742 Democratic 34.7; 163,933 Independent 16.9%.


The DCCC is unveiling ads in two Florida districts it hopes to win partly by convincing voters the Republican candidates are out of touch and beholden to special interests, against women’s access to certain health care options and driven by greed. The ads: CD 2 here; CD 26 here.

MARCO RUBIO STUMPS FOR STEVE SOUTHERLAND via Tia Mitchell of the Tampa Bay Times

U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland got some help Tuesday from one of his party’s rock stars.

Sen. Marco Rubio visited Southerland’s office in Tallahassee, meeting with the congressman and campaign volunteers. Both men thanked the staffers for helping with ground game and voter turnout, which will be crucial in this Northeast Florida race against challenger Gwen Graham that is currently too close to call.

“This election here is a choice between those two very different views of the future,” Rubio said, “between a Democratic Party and a loyal Democrat who will go to Washington and support the Obama agenda that has brought us to this point where millions of people are worse off than they were four and five and six years ago.”

Rubio called Southerland an effective lawmaker and encouraged the volunteers to work hard for him in the final two weeks of the campaign.

Afterward, the senator answered questions from the media about immigration (he said focus on enforcing current rules, not creating new ones), Obamacare (he still believes it’s a problem for Americans that needs repeal) and Charlie Crist (a “disastrous governor,” Rubio said).

But he also faced the inevitable question about whether he plans to run for president in 2016. Rubio remains noncommittal, saying he hasn’t made up his mind about running for re-election to the U.S. Senate or anything else.

“I’ll have to make a decision about whether I want to continue in public office or not, that’s the first decision,” he said. “If I do, I need to decide where is the best place for me to further this agenda that I believe in so strongly.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Graham will be joined by her husband and local supporters at 10 30 a.m. to cast their ballots during early voting at the Leon County Courthouse, 301 South Monroe St. in Tallahassee.



With a focus on her record, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel released the first television ad today in her re-election bid for Florida’s 22nd Congressional District.

“Kept,” the 30-second spot from the freshman Democratic congresswoman and former longtime West Palm Beach mayor touches on a number of her first-term accomplishments.

“My record speaks for itself,” she says. “I made promises when I went to Congress and I’ve kept them.

“I intend to keep fighting for the issues most important to my district.”

Among Frankel’s promises are to strengthen Social Security, fight Medicare fraud, protect women’s health care, and ensure veterans receive their benefits.

The ad will run in TV markets in the district starting today through Nov. 4.

SAVE THE DATE: U.S. Rep. David Jolly will be the special guest at a Wednesday, Oct. 29 reception for Maverick PAC, the organization of young professional Republicans. The reception, sponsored by the Pinellas County Young Republicans, will begin 6 p.m. at the Yard & Ale Gastro Pub, 2675 Ulmerton Road in Clearwater. Florida co-chairs include Slater Bayliss and Jeb Bush Jr., with Tampa co-chairs Rob Gidel, Jr. Michael Griffin, Berny Jacques, Glen Gilzean, and Brian Harris. More information and RSVP’s are at


Although most Democrats running for the state legislature in the Bay area are being out-fundraised by their GOP opponents, St. Petersburg-based House Democrat Dwight Dudley isn’t one of them, as he faces Republican Bill Young with two weeks to go in the House District 68 race, which encompasses St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park.

Dudley has kept himself in the news cycle more than most House Democrats by seizing on voter antipathy towards Duke Energy, before it was hip to do so. Now, with recent reports about the public utility being accused of offering higher rates to local businesses and churches to add to its other less-than-customer service-friendly ways, it’s become a bit fashionable in Pinellas County to criticize the local power utility, with state Senator Jack Latvala leading the way.

“What I’ve noticed is this great enthusiasm has started to occur about ten minutes before Election Day,” Dudley replied sardonically, arriving early to greet Charlie Crist at an early voting press event in downtown St. Pete. “I’ve been working on this for more than two and a half years and had zero help until now.” But while admitting he might be a “bit jaded,” he’s also hopeful that meaningful change can finally take place next year in Tallahassee when it comes to the investor-owned utilities.

But he says that proposed legislation from Latvala and Kathleen Peters is more about the “freckles and the warts on the elephant,” the elephant itself being the repeal of the utility tax that the Legislature voted in back in 2006 that allowed Duke to charge ratepayers to build a new nuclear plant in Levy County (that was later canceled) and upgrade the existing Crystal River plant.

Dudley accuses his opponent, Bill Young, of taking campaign contributions “from people that aren’t helpful to us,” meaning the investor-owned utilities. A review of Young’s campaign contributors does show several donations from TECO energy, but he denied he has taken contributions from Duke, and there are no donations from that company listed.

However, he has taken $500 to Duke’s Florida president, Alex Glenn, and $500 from another Duke official. But Young told the Tampa Bay Times’ Curtis Krueger that he didn’t know that Glenn was Duke’s president.


Barbara Homer says she didn’t do it — she didn’t send 3 a.m. campaign robocalls on behalf of any politicians, have an affair with anyone’s husband or offer a free solar energy audit over the phone, but she has been accused of all three.

The 53-year-old Clearwater resident’s name and phone number have appeared on answering machines around the state since Oct. 7 because, she says, she has fallen victim to a “caller ID spoofer.” She said someone stole her phone information to disguise the source of phony solicitations.

Caller ID spoofing is prohibited, according to the Federal Communications Commission and the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, and punishable by up to a $10,000 fine per violation.

Though Floridians have received fake recorded calls from Homer’s phone number for weeks, the scam didn’t garner much attention until Sunday. That’s when dozens of people across at least five counties were awoken between 3 and 6 a.m. by a robocall from Homer’s phone number, allegedly on behalf of Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters’ re-election campaign.

Peters, who represents Pinellas County in Tallahassee, and her opponent, Democrat Scott Orsini, both denied any involvement in the sleep-disrupting calls, which actually ask for support sending Peters to Washington. She ran unsuccessfully for Congress earlier this year in a special election but has said she didn’t recall using robocalls then.

On Oct. 11, Homer disconnected her home phone, which she used almost exclusively to fax paperwork for her job as an account manager.

Rep. Peters and her campaign manager fielded dozens of angry calls and emails from voters who received the false campaign robocall. She has contacted the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office and the Federal Communications Commission, requesting an investigation into the spoofing scheme.


>>> The Florida Medical Association PAC endorsed former Senate President Tom Lee in his re-election bid for Florida Senate District 24, which includes part of Hillsborough County. “The FMA PAC is proud to support President Lee as he runs for a second term to the Florida Senate,” said FMA PAC President Dr. Ralph Nobo. “His longtime legislative service, and his leadership on health care issues, have had a positive impact on Floridians seeking affordable care and we look forward to working with him next Session.”

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An Orlando court dropped misdemeanor charges today against Chris Dorworth, who was facing trial this week for violating state public records laws.

According to a court ruling, the state overreached when applying the Sunshine Law to Dorworth, who is a private citizen and not an elected or appointed official.

The former state representative-turned-lobbyist had pleaded not guilty to violating Florida’s open meeting law for discussing a possible takeover of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.

Last week, former OOCEA Board Member Scott Batterson received a prison sentence of 7 1/2 years in his felony bribery and solicitation case, a major factor in the dissolution of the controversial board.

In August, a court convicted Batterson of bribing a potential vendor with a contract, if the vendor hired people chosen by Batterson.

Florida Department of Transportation Liaison Rebekah Hammond, Dorworth’s girlfriend, had charges against her for public records violations dropped by the state in July.

TWEET, TWEET: @Rebekah_Hammond: I love the Constitution.

DCF BOSS TIED TO SPIRIT MASSACRE ALSO FAULTED IN 2013 DEATH via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald

Last year, Yun Suk “Lee” Manchester was at the center of “a perfect storm”: a 2-year-old boy had become a virtual orphan when his mom, a drug-addicted prostitute, abandoned him to a stranger, but then insisted on taking him back. Child protection administrators left him in limbo, only to see him again months later at the Miami morgue.

Department of Children & Families administrators recommended that Manchester, a child protection program administrator in North Florida, be fired following the brutal killing of Ezra Raphael. Her top boss refused to fire her, and she was given, instead, a one-month suspension.

Manchester did leave the department earlier this month, however, in the wake of another tragedy — this one the gunshot slaying of six young siblings in the small town of Bell, near Gainesville. Records released to the Miami Herald show Manchester oversaw the investigators and supervisors who had been involved with the family of Sarah Spirit in the months leading up to the children’s deaths.

The last of 18 abuse or neglect investigations involving Spirit’s children had been left dormant for two weeks before 51-year-old Don Charles Spirit killed his grandchildren.

Manchester resigned from DCF in a three-paragraph letter. “Thank you for the support that you have provided me during my tenure with the [department],” she wrote to Regional Manager David Abramowitz. “It has been my pleasure to work with exceptional individuals dedicated to serving the state of Florida.”

Two other DCF employees who were involved with the Spirit family cases, Family Safety Regional Operations Manager Amy Butler and Child Protective Investigator Supervisor Cynthia Speed, were transferred to the agency’s Economic Self Sufficiency department on Oct. 3, records show. That department oversees DCF’s food stamp and public assistance efforts. Butler’s pay was cut by 54 percent, from $79,000 to $36,000. Speed’s salary was trimmed by 47 percent, from $50,200 to $26,540.

Although there is no record that DCF has completed a formal review of Ezra’s death, the inspector general report detailed a host of lapses: The investigation was truncated and incomplete because administrators were too concerned about closing it quickly. Front-line workers failed to follow through with requests from their lawyers, who could have filed a petition in court to keep Ezra from his mom. Though Ezra was at serious risk, the agency moved on without first establishing his “legal relationship to a responsible adult.” DCF also failed to aid Raphael, who suffered from untreated depression, abused drugs and was working as a prostitute.


Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Wayne Blanton will retire in February.

“It has been my honor and privilege to represent school boards and school board members for the last 40 years,” Blanton wrote in an email to school leaders. “My professional career has been dedicated to representing public education and assisting local school boards to be the ‘Voice of Education’ throughout Florida. The friendships I have made and the professional relationships that have been developed over the past 40 years will never be replaced or forgotten. Upon deep personal and professional reflection, I will be retiring at the end of February, 2015.”

Blanton said the FSBA will be establishing a timeline to name his successor.


On Context FloridaMarin Dyckman says there is disturbing new evidence that the U.S. is an oligarchy, which the dictionary defines as “government by the few…in which a small group exercises control.” Answering questions is as unspeakable to Rick Scott as eating pork is to someone who keeps kosher, writes Stephen Goldstein. The governor treats talking with the press and public as trayf (Yiddish for tainted food), as though he would be putting himself at risk for the political equivalent of trichinosis. Rubble. Fife. The Dinosaur. Bishop. What these Barneys have in common, asks Ben Pollara, is that none of them live in reality. Barney Bishop’s most recent hyperventilation published on Context Florida about Amendment 2 — which would allow medical marijuana in Florida — both repeated some of his previous made-up contentions and introduced some new ones. Without a doubt, the American people are war weary, says Thomas Rooney, and President Barack Obama’s reluctance to commit troops to the fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is understandable. He has an obligation to rally public support for the worthy cause of defeating the Islamic State.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the smartest people in Florida politics, Tony Carvajal.

EPILOGUE: TWEET, TWEET: @DJGroup: Jim King and Tom Slade just sent Steve Madden to the bar to make the ‘next one a little darker and less ice, pal.’ #missed

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.