Sunburn for 11/10 – 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 public affairs firm known for unparalleled relationships and winning strategies: On this date in 2007, Miami bid a fond farewell to an icon as the University of Miami played its last home football game in the legendary Orange Bowl. Built in 1937, the Orange Bowl played host to an amazing array of events, including true football glory – the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ perfect season, the Joe Namath-led New York Jets’ improbable 1969 Super Bowl victory and 14 national championship games, three by the hometown Miami Hurricanes. The Hurricanes played their final Orange Bowl game seven years ago before moving to what is now Sun Life Stadium. Though now demolished, the “Old Lady” lives on in the hearts and memories of countless Floridians.

Now, on to the ‘burn…


Democrats are planning an extensive review of what went wrong in the 2014 and 2010 elections.

The goal is to find ways to translate success in presidential campaigns into future midterm contests.

Democrats will form a committee in the coming weeks to conduct a “top-to-bottom assessment” of the party’s performance in recent elections.

The head of the Democratic National Committee — Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida — says the review will examine the party’s tactics, message, get-out-the-vote operations and digital efforts in nonpresidential elections.

Democrats suffered heavy losses in last week’s elections, ceding Senate control to the Republicans and surrendering more seats in the already GOP-majority House.

Republicans picked up governor’s offices in Democratic-leaning states such as Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois and strengthened their grip on several state legislatures.

HEY DEMS: HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU via Kristen Soltis Anderson of the Daily Beast

After spending the last few years talking about  “war on women” issues like abortion laws, equal pay, and contraception, and with commentators lampooning Republican efforts to appeal to female voters, it was expected that the 2014 midterm elections would come down to the “gender gap,” the difference between how men and women vote in the election.

Well, the pundits were right: the political “gender gap” would decide the fate of candidates in the 2014 midterms. But the decisive point wasn’t that Republicans have a female voter problem. It was that Democrats have a male voter problem.

Contrary to popular belief, women are not always a solidly Democratic voting bloc, though they do tend to break slightly more Democratic than men do. In the 2010 midterms, Republicans actually did slightly better than Democrats among female voters nationwide, winning 49 percent of their votes for Congress. But certainly in the last presidential election, in the wake of awful comments about rape and birth control from a small handful of absolute morons, it wasn’t hard to paint the entire GOP as anti-woman.

During this election, Democrats doubled-down on the strategy of bludgeoning Republicans with “women’s issues” scare tactics. They were aided by the national controversy around this summer’s Supreme Court ruling that allowed Hobby Lobby, a privately owned company, to opt out of providing employees with insurance coverage for some forms of contraception. They were energized by the emergence of a figure like Wendy Davis in Texas, who rose to national prominence following her filibuster over a law increasing regulations on abortion clinics and prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Candidates like Mark Udall in Colorado made these issues a centerpiece of their campaigns, if not the primary rationale for why the Republican ought not be elected. In the Colorado example, by the time election day rolled around, Udall’s own donors were openly criticizing the campaign’s decision to pound the “women’s issues” theme as the only real message he had. Meanwhile, his Republican opponent Cory Gardner had come out as vocally pro-contraception and was eager to move on to other topics.

On election day, Mark Udall did win female voters by an eight-point margin. But he lost male voters by 17 points.

It was a pattern repeated nationwide. In Iowa, Republican candidate for Senate Joni Ernst—the first woman Iowa has ever sent to Washington as an elected representative—tied her opponent, Democrat Bruce Braley, among female voters. She won men by 18 points.  Or take, for instance, the unexpectedly non-competitive race in Georgia, where a Republican man defeated a Democratic woman; the Democratic candidate won female voters by eight percentage points but lost men by a staggering 23 points.


At some point in the next two years, the pollsters and ad makers who steer American presidential campaigns will be stumped: The nightly tracking polls are showing a dramatic swing in the opinions of the electorate, but neither of two typical factors — huge news or a major advertising buy — can explain it. They will, eventually, realize that the viral, mass conversation about politics on Facebook and other platforms has finally emerged as a third force in the core business of politics, mass persuasion.

Facebook is on the cusp — and I suspect 2016 will be the year this becomes clear — of replacing television advertising as the place where American elections are fought and won. The vast new network of some 185 million Americans opens the possibility, for instance, of a congressional candidate gaining traction without the expense of television, and of an inexpensive new viral populism. The way people share will shape the outcome of the presidential election. Even during the 2014 midterms, which most Americans ignored, Facebook says it saw 43 million unique individuals engage in the political conversation. Now a powerful video may reach far more voters in a few hours than a multimillion-dollar ad buy; and it will reach them from trusted sources — their friends — not via suspect, one-way channels.

And so we at BuzzFeed News are deeply excited to have nearly exclusive access (it’s shared with a broadcast partner, ABC News) to a powerful new window into the largest political conversation in America. This data will be drawn from a Facebook project working in the tricky field of “sentiment analysis,” the attempt to analyze people’s feelings based on what they write, which we think may be the most important new source of political data in the 2016 elections. This project will allow BuzzFeed News reporters to ask Facebook for data on, for instance, how Iowans feel about Hillary Clinton, or which Republican candidate appears to be best liked by women.

The field of sentiment analysis is as famous for its pitfalls as for any successes. Sentiment analysis has been bad at detecting sarcasm, for instance. But there’s good reason to think that if anyone can pull this off, it will be Facebook. First, it has access to a far, far larger sample of natural language than any other social network. What’s more, that carries with it contextual data that can serve as a point of departure for sentiment analysis — the field, in particular, that allows people to include how they’re feeling or what they’re doing when they post status updates. And third, Facebook quite simply has some of the best data scientists in the world, and has built a company on a deep and comprehensive understanding of user data. We’re also comfortable with Facebook’s approach to its users’ privacy with this data, which is anonymous and aggregate, with no data available for groups of interactions under 1,000.

JEB BUSH GIVEN 50-50 ODDS BY GEORGE Wvia The Associated Press

Former President George W. Bush is giving even odds about whether another Bush will try to occupy the White House.

Brother Jeb is “wrestling with the decision” of running for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, George W. Bush says.

“I think it’s 50-50,” the former president told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“He and I are very close. On the other hand, he’s not here knocking on my door, you know, agonizing about the decision. He knows exactly, you know, the ramifications on family, for example. He’s seen his dad and his brother go through the presidency. I’d give it a tossup.”

The former president was more conservative in his estimate than another family member. Jeb Bush’s son George P. Bush said two weeks ago it was more likely than not that the former Florida governor would move forward.

George W. Bush is promoting “41,” a book about his father, former President George H.W. Bush.

“One of the lessons you learn from George H.W. Bush is that you can go into politics and still be a good father,” George W. Bush said when asked if it’s worth putting a family through a presidential campaign. “I put our family through it,” he responded.

George W. Bush said he would be “all in” for his brother if he decides to run for the office and would do whatever he asks, even if it’s to stay behind the scenes. As for their mother’s position that enough Bushes have run for president, he said, “Sometimes her prognostications haven’t been very accurate.”


Sen. Marco Rubio says he’s nearing a decision whether to run for president or re-election.

“For me,” he said on a Colombian radio show, “the decision is made based on the following: I have my agenda that I have talked about for more than four years and the decision that I have to make is where is the best place to advance this agenda as a presidential candidate or continue at the majority in the Senate.

“That is a decision I will make in the coming weeks along with my family because it requires a whole series of things.”

In other Rubio news, a top aide, Cesar Conda, has left his office to rejoin the lobbying firm Navigators Global. Conda had been Rubio’s chief of staff then transitioned to his PAC and Albert Martinez took over at COS. News release on Conda’s move below:

“Cesar’s return to Navigators Global – and our already strong bench of Republican talent – helps position us as the go-to strategic government affairs firm for the new Republican Congress,” said Phil Anderson, President and Managing Partner of the firm.

SPOTTED: Adam Goodman on Fox & Friends to recap the Republican sweep of the midterm elections. Watch here.


After cruising through his first re-election, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy has unfinished first-term work to complete, from bills that didn’t get traction to increasing funding for the Indian River Lagoon.

The Jupiter Democrat will be part of an even smaller House minority next year, but his past bipartisan votes — he ranks in the top 20 most independent members — could put him in a favorable position with the GOP majority to get some work done, said Susan MacManus, political science professor at the University of South Florida.

Murphy, who beat Republican Carl Domino 60 percent to 40 percent, formed a bipartisan group of House freshmen in his first term and almost 50 percent of the bills he co-sponsored were introduced by Republicans.

Like most freshmen, he couldn’t get any of the 23 bills he introduced through the House since taking office in 2013.


Murphy’s blowout re-election victory in a Republican-leaning district during a GOP tsuanami year is impressive on a number of levels.

Murphy won Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 with 59.8 percent. He carried heavily Republican Martin County with 55.4 percent, even garnering 303 more votes there than Gov. Scott. Murphy raised and spent more than $5.3 million — the most of any House Democrat seeking re-election this year. He managed to run 13 TV ads without going negative (though outside groups took some shots at Republican challenger Carl Domino).

Given the Florida Democratic Party’s dearth of statewide political talent, there’s already some chatter about Murphy or Rep.-elect Gwen Graham running for Senate in 2016.

“It seems kind of absurd,” says Democratic pollster Tom Jensen, “but it’s just a function of how few options there are for Democrats in Florida in 2016.”

10 TAKEAWAYS FROM FLORIDA’S 2014 ELECTIONS via Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald

1. Florida isn’t purple. It’s schizophrenic. 2. Obama’s election machine without Obama is not a machine. 3. Don’t bash the polling just yet. 4. TV ads are still king in Florida. 5. Libertarians need to build a party instead of a Twitter troll army. 6. Vote early or die. Florida doesn’t have a single Election Day. 7. Medical marijuana is meh for Democrats. 8. The Republican Party is a cult of policy compared to the Democrats’ cult of personality. 9. Florida Democrats’ greatest strength in a presidential year is a weakness in midterms. 10. Florida Republicans’ greatest strength in a midterm year is a weakness in presidential years.


Since Gov. Scott came out of nowhere in 2010 to win the Florida governor’s mansion, Floridians have seen two versions of him.

There was the Tea Party champion of his first year or two in office, who denounced big government, sought unprecedented education cuts and said bureaucrats and school systems would “have to figure out how to do better with less.”

Then there was the comparatively moderate, establishment Republican of the last year or two, who said he was “proud to announce” historic increases in education spending and the biggest budget in state history.

It’s fair to ask which Rick Scott Floridians are likely to see in his second term, when he has no need to worry about an upcoming re-election.

In interviews after Election Day, several prominent Republicans including legislative leaders said they expect to see Gov. Scott continue in the mode he eased into late in his first term, after a rocky start in his relations with the Legislature — a business-friendly, consensus-oriented executive who seeks common goals with the Legislature and is more ideologically moderate.

NO GLOATING, PASCO GOP via Tom Jackson of the Tampa Tribune

Mike Fasano wanted to make one thing abundantly clear: His guy might have lost, but none of Pasco’s Republican hotshots better be spiking the ball.

Fasano, by day Pasco’s (ostensibly GOP) tax collector, was returning from two days in St. Petersburg, where he’d stood a hopeful, then anxious and finally morose vigil for Charlie Crist, his longtime friend and the Democratic nominee for governor.

Remember, Crist seemed to have momentum when Election Day dawned. Late polls broke Crist’s way, prompting Nate Silver — whose FiveThirtyEight blog is famous for nailing, or very nearly nailing, every election since 2008 — to give him a 60- percent chance of victory.

In Fasano’s home county, nearly 20,000 more Republicans than Democrats voted, so Pasco Republican Party activists might pat themselves on the back about their get-out-the-vote effort. But, he said, don’t let them fool you into thinking their work contributed mightily to Scott’s win.

In 2010, Gov. Scott out-polled Democrat Alex Sink in Pasco by more than 11,000 votes, roughly eight percentage points. And while Gov. Scott won again in Pasco on Tuesday, Fasano noted, the margin was only 2,800 votes and about 1.7 percentage points. In fact, in reliably red Pasco, Scott ran behind other Republicans competing for statewide office between 13 (Attorney General Pam Bondi) and 20 (Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam) points.

Still, whether Crist accounted for most of the difference — Fasano’s conclusion — remains incalculable, considering the performance of Libertarian Adrian Wyllie. Evidently, more than 11,300 Pasco voters — 7 percent of the county’s turnout, nearly double his statewide haul — could not be persuaded to “hold your nose and pick the lesser of two evils.”

Of course, absent exit-poll analysis, how Wyllie’s votes would otherwise have been distributed also is unresolved, but there are clues in the other statewide races, all won by Republicans. With a Libertarian peeling off 6,400 Pasco votes in the attorney general’s contest, Bondi finished a fraction below 60 percent. Without Libertarian competition, Putnam and re-elected Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater each topped 65 percent.

FRANK MIRABELLA LEAVES THE GOP via James Call for SaintPetersBlog

A former Republican fundraiser who successfully managed four statewide campaigns, including the initiative creating the Florida Lottery has left the GOP. Frank Mirabella said “elements” of the party funded a dishonest campaign to defeat Amendment 2, the tightly contested medicinal marijuana proposal which failed to get 60 percent of the vote Tuesday.

Mirabella, who registered as a Republican in 1999, switched his registration Thursday to No Party Affiliation because of what he told friends in an email the “actions of some cold-heartless elements” of the Republican Party.

The weekend before the election, Mirabella wrote on his Facebook page about Kate, his teen daughter who was afflicted with cancer and passed away 20 years ago. He said he was moved to write after seeing Vote No on 2 commercials on the proposed amendment.

Reached Friday by phone to discuss his email blast about leaving the GOP and his feelings about the anti-Amendment 2 campaign, the retired lobbyist observed “we are the sum of our experiences.”


The biggest winner in the election was the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature. It coasted to victory with little effort, broke fundraising records and came away with enough political power to control the agenda — even that of Gov. Scott’s.

Florida voters gave the governor four more years in office, but more people voted against him than for him. Unofficial election returns gave Scott a 1.1 percent victory over Democrat Crist, a margin of nearly 66,000 votes out of 6 million cast, nearly identical to Scott’s 61,550-vote win over Alex Sink four years ago. Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie got 223,000 votes.

By contrast, Republicans in the Legislature picked up a super-majority in the House and preserved their majority in the Senate, essentially restoring the numbers they had in 2010 when Scott was first elected in the Tea Party wave.

The results are a reminder that Florida remains a deeply divided state with a majority that swings right during the mid-term elections and swings left in presidential years.

The returns also show that, even in a year in which Republicans swept most competitive seats and the Florida GOP invested more than $100 million re-electing the governor, Scott’s political persona remains weak. He will go down in the history books as the only governor elected twice without getting a majority of the vote either time.

“There is no mandate for Rick Scott,” said Florida Democratic Party chair Allison Tant. “We’re going to continue to hold him accountable. He does not have the support that he thinks he has.”

BIG MONEY, LITTLE TURNOVER IN STATE HOUSE RACES via Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald

Politicians seeking a seat in the Florida House spent a combined $23.8million on their races this year, elections records show. That doesn’t include the millions of dollars spent by political parties and outside groups.

Candidate spending, up 23 percent from 2004, did little to change the landscape. Only about 10 of the 120 House races were competitive this year. The vast majority of state representatives were re-elected to their seats.

… The spending was good news for political consultants, who raked in millions of dollars in Florida.

DRC Consulting took in about $1.15million in business, records show. The Miami firm’s owner David Custin said at least 85 percent of that money went directly to mail pieces, phone banking and media buys.

Another firm, Tallahassee-based Front Line Strategies, received about $1.24million from candidates for similar services.

President Brett Doster said his company’s focus was not on making big profits. “If I make a huge profit and I lose all of my races, I won’t have very many clients the next cycle,” he said.

… Most of this year’s spending — about $17.3million — was done by GOP candidates.

Republican Jay Fant spent the most. His bid to win an open seat in Jacksonville cost $616,170.

Fant won the August primary by two votes, edging out Paul Renner, who raised $283,205. Fant did not return calls from the Herald/Times.

Miami-Dade’s top spenders — Republicans Erik Fresen and Daniel Diaz Leyva — were in two of the state’s most competitive races. Fresen spent $492,473 to defeat his Democratic and independent challengers. Diaz Leyva’s failed bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez cost $407,611.

The top-spending Democrat was incumbent Karen Castor Dentel, of Maitland, whose race cost $393,413. Castor Dentel lost her race to Central Florida businessman Bob Cortes, who spent $178,373.

… Even the incumbents who had no opposition spent a combined $3.6million, records show.

Four of them — Republicans Young, Heather Fitzenhagen, Matt Hudson and Richard Corcoran — spent more than $200,000 each on their campaigns.


In the wake of the GOP knocking off six Democratic House incumbents and taking a super-majority in that chamber, state Rep. Dwayne Taylor is challenging incoming minority leader Mark Pafford for leadership of the caucus.

Taylor had considered challenging Pafford, who currently will serve as the House’s top Democrat for the next two years, during the end of the 2014 legislative session after he saw “no plan” for the upcoming midterm elections. Democrats lost six of 10 priority House races, which prompted Taylor to move forward.

“A lot of Democrats are frustrated and a number of people are disappointed with what happened Tuesday night,” Taylor said. “The person who was in charge of that is where that is being directed.”

As incoming minority leader, Pafford was the elected official in charge of coordinating and raising money for his party’s House races. He said he has heard the rumors that Taylor may challenge him, but said they are just that – rumors.

After Tuesday’s loses, House Democrat’s numbers dropped to 39. Taylor says he has the informal support of 24 of those members, and wants to hold a vote in Tallahassee on Nov. 17, the day before the Legislature will convene for an organizational session.

Pafford took that position after formerly elected incoming minority leader Darryl Rouson was ousted in September 2013 on a 24-17 vote. That came after a long running fight with the party that saw, among other things, Rouson start his own fundraising committee to raise money outside of the Florida Democratic Party structure.


Contrary to a report from gadfly Leslie Wimes, the political director of the Florida Democratic Party, Christian Ulvert, is still employed by the FDP.

On Sunday morning, Wimes, a disaffected progressive activist who supported Nan Rich for governor, tweeted to her 61,918 followers on Twitter that “Ulvert has been kicked to the curb.”

Like so much of what Wimes writes, this simply is not true.

Immediately after I wrote about Wimes’ tweet, Ulvert messaged me that her report was inaccurate. Not long after, Florida Democratic Party spokesman Max Steele told me that executive director Scott Arceneaux confirmed Ulvert was still working for the party.

Ulvert, a well-regarded veteran of South Florida campaigns and the Tallahassee lobbying circle, was hired last year to head up the FDP’s political operations. As talented as Ulvert may be, he is one of the staffers most responsible for the thumping Florida House Democrats received at the hands of their Republican counterparts.

For her part, Wimes is sticking by her story.

“…then tell him to put out an official statement saying that, so then I can offer up my proof,” Wimes tweeted in response to my reporting of Ulvert’s non-firing.


Republican former state Sen. John Thrasher begins as Florida State University president.


Florida gambling regulators will pay $200,000 in legal fees to Rutledge Ecenia, a Tallahassee-based law firm that sued the state over rodeo-style barrel races at Gretna Racing in Gadsden County.

The First District Court of Appeal ruled in February that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation mistakenly granted a controversial license to the North Florida racetrack. For the first time in the nation, a license authorized barrel racing as a pari-mutuel activity.

Horse races in Florida authorize a facility to operate lucrative card rooms, with the possibility of allowing more-profitable slot machines.

Controversy over the Gretna license comes in part because the racetrack did not run the typical quarter-horse races.

In granting the license in 2011, ruled an administrative law judge last year, the agency essentially created a new class of horseracing without the proper authority.

Since the judge’s decision, Gretna Racing stopped barrel races, agreeing with the state to hold “flag drop” races, where two horses compete without obstacles.


After a distinguished 14-year career in public office, former State Representative Seth McKeel is taking his extensive knowledge of public policy to Southern Strategy Group.

The Lakeland Republican, who served as chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee until term-limited this past year, joins the SSG lobbying house as managing partner of the Tampa Bay office. He will work with current partner Laura Boehmer to advocate for clients before local governments throughout Central Florida.


On Context Florida: Political parties, corporate patrons, gazillionaires, dark money groups, and the candidates themselves spent $345 million on the 2014 elections — making it the most expensive in the nation. What did Florida get for all that cash, asks Diane Roberts. Gwen Graham’s victory should give Florida Democrats something to think about, says James Call. Campaign appearances in Bay, Jackson, Taylor, Liberty counties and so on were investments that paid off in smaller victory margins for U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, reducing his vote total and enabling Graham’s super majority victory margin in Leon and Gadsden withstand his rural appeal. On a bleak night for Democrats nationwide, Andrew Skerritt notes that Graham’s less-than-3,000-vote margin of victory felt like a landslide. Shannon Nickinson says that the third installment of BP money sent to the Pensacola area under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process includes $18,793,500 for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to build a hatchery and research facility at Bruce Beach. In the wake of mistakes, failures and defeats from the 2014 elections, Daniel Tilson believes that learning and adaptation opportunities abound.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

CAN’T WAIT TO READ The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House by Chuck Todd.

SPOTTED: Liberty Partners of Tallahassee’s Jennifer Green with new FSU President John Thrasher

CONGRATS #1 to Danielle and Ryan Duffy on the birth of Donovan Patrick, all 8 lbs., 19 inches of him.

CONGRATS #2 to Chris Spencer — Gina Herron said “Yes!”

LET’S SEE IF CHRIS AND GINA MAKE IT AS LONG AS RICH AND NANCY HEFFLEY who are celebrating 30 years together today. The two got hitched the weekend after President Ronald Reagan was re-elected!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Florida House Majority Leader Dana Young.


It’s the first week after the election and you’re sick to your stomach with politics. Here are five easy steps you can use to help you move past your political hangover.

Clean up your Google Alerts. There’s no longer a need to get an e-mail every time the words “Charlie Crist” or “Steve Southerland” show up online.  Plus, you’re gonna need room for new alerts, such as when “Gwen Graham” shows up somewhere.

Stop following losing candidates on Twitter. With social media, I am very much beginning to think, Less is More. Scroll through the lists of who you are following and who is following you and just keep clicking “Unfollow.”

Take down the yard signs. Today. Don’t leave them up as a “F— you” to the neighbor who supported the other guy. While you are at it, take any political signs you see in right-of-ways or vacant properties.

Unsubscribe from every campaign e-mail lists. Otherwise, you’ll be getting messages from these guys for years to come.

Unlike Facebook pages of losing candidates. Again, do whatever you can do to de-clutter your social network.

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.