Sunburn for 11/6 – 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: Two elections, held on this date 129 years apart, charted decidedly different directions for Florida. On November 6, 1861, voters in Florida and the rest of the South elected Jefferson Davis to a six-year term as president of the Confederate States of America, confirming a decision made earlier that year by the Confederate Congress. Davis, a former U.S. senator and Secretary of War, held the Confederacy’s highest office until it was dissolved in 1865. Another former U.S. senator – Lawton Chiles – was elected Governor of Florida on this date in 1990, defeating incumbent Bob Martinez with 56.5% of the vote. Chiles was Florida’s last Democrat elected governor – a fact Gov. Rick Scott is undoubtedly thankful for this week.


Mitch Perry, one of Tampa Bay’s most respected political reporters, joins health care journalism expert Christine Sexton as the newest members of Extensive Enterprises Media (EEM).

EEM publishes the popular Sunburn daily political digest, as well as influential websites SaintPetersBlog, Context Florida, Politics of Pot, and the soon-to-launch Florida Politics.

For the past five years, Perry was News and Politics Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa in addition to hosting a weekly local news show on WMNF 88.5.

Perry’s role at EEM will be to lead the expanding local coverage on SaintPetersBlog, as well as provide his unique political blogging style to Florida Politics and other EEM assets.

“I’m extremely excited to be joining Peter and his growing staff of reporters,” Perry says. “I’m hoping to bring some of my CL readers over to, and make it the essential site for political junkies in Florida.”

Christine Sexton is a correspondent whose work has appeared in Bloomberg, the New York Times, the Associated Press, Florida Medical Business, the Florida Current and a range of trade magazines. She is also president of

Her specialty is healthcare and medical issue reporting, and will lead health care policy coverage for Florida Politics.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to provide comprehensive health care reporting to a growing and important audience,” Sexton says. “Health care is big business in Florida and I’m eager to cover the issues.”

Perry and Sexton join a diverse roster of experienced journalists, including editors Thomas O’Hara and Rich Bard, Tallahassee-based reporter James Call, writers Phil Ammann and Janelle Irwin, as well as more than three dozen occasional contributors, including Martin Dyckman, Bruce Ritchie, Diane Roberts, Daniel Tilson, and Adam Weinstein.

U.S. JUDGE WON’T LIFT STAY IN FLORIDA GAY MARRIAGE via Curt Anderson of the Associated Press

A Florida federal judge refused to lift a stay of his ruling in a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, meaning no gay weddings can take place for now while state officials continue to pursue an appeal.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee ruled that the stay would remain in effect through Jan. 5. Like numerous other judges around the country, Hinkle in August ruled the Florida gay marriage ban violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. But he stayed the effect of his decision, hoping to avoid confusion as the case works its way through the legal system.

Attorney General Pam Bondi is seeking a review of the decision by the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Gay marriage proponents had asked Hinkle to lift the stay, which would have allowed gay marriages to begin despite the appeal.

Bondi is also appealing decisions by Florida state judges declaring the same-sex ban unconstitutional on similar grounds. The ban was added to the Florida Constitution by voters in 2008.

Hinkle also denied Bondi’s request to leave the stay in place as long as the 11th Circuit is considering Florida’s appeal, setting instead the January deadline. The judge said that would mean unnecessary delay, especially considering “the unbroken line of circuit decisions striking down bans on same-sex marriage.”

The same-sex marriage ban’s challengers, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, asked Hinkle to dissolve the stay after the U.S. Supreme Court opted in October to let stand federal appeals court rulings that cleared the way for gay marriage in five states.


Latinos in Florida said the most important issue facing the Latino community that politicians should address is the economy – a slight difference from respondents in other states, who put immigration reform tops, according to a new poll.

Asked about the 2014 midterm elections, Latinos in Florida ranked the economy and jobs tops; of Florida respondents, 46 percent ranked it as one of the most important issues, and 39 percent said immigration reform was. Health care/Medicaid was third, at 19 percent, and education was right behind at 18 percent.

Respondents were able to select more than one item. They were asked: “Thinking about the 2014 election, what are the most important issues facing the (Hispanic/Latino) community that our politicians should address?”

In every other state highlighted, Latinos put immigration reform tops, followed by jobs and the economy. Nationally, 45 percent of respondents selected immigration reform, and 34 percent picked the economy.

The poll was conducted by Latino Decisions, a research firm that has previously explored Latino attitudes and voting trends. It involved nearly 5,000 Latino voters nationwide and in the pivotal 2014 states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas.


ACTUAL PRESS RELEASE: “Florida Armenians Endorsed Candidates Overwhelmingly Win On Election Night”


From July 10 through November 4 at 7 p.m. ET, 40.7 million people on Facebook in the United States made 250.2 million interactions (likes, shares, comments) regarding the midterm elections. On Election Day alone, through 7 p.m. ET, 22.2 million people on Facebook in the United States made more than 63.2 million interactions regarding the midterm elections.

TWEET, TWEET: @TheFix: Just once I want a politician to say: This election victory wasn’t about you. It was about me.

EXIT POLLS: MIXED VOTER FEELINGS ON SCOTT, CRIST via Mike Schneider of the Associated Press

Incumbent Republican Gov. Scott won re-election despite a majority of Florida voters having an unfavorable view of him, buoyed by white voters and residents in rural and suburban areas, according to the results of exit polling conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks.

More voters disapprove than approve of how Scott responded to health care reform, the polling showed. Although 51 percent of voters had a favorable view of Democratic challenger Crist, 60 percent say the former GOP governor switched parties to win elections rather than to reflect his own beliefs. Overall, 73 percent of Florida voters expressed worry about the economy and 62 percent believe the nation is on the wrong track.

WHO LIKED SCOTT: White voters (58 percent) and senior citizens (56 percent) overwhelmingly supported Scott. The incumbent dropped 15 percentage points among late middle-aged voters compared with the 2010 gubernatorial election. Voters without a college degree favored Scott over Crist, as did voters earning more than $100,000 a year and Catholic and Protestant voters. Voters in the Panhandle and along Florida’s Gulf Coast preferred Scott over Crist, as did voters in the state’s suburban and rural areas.

WHO LIKED CRIST: Crist appealed to blacks, Hispanics, moderates and younger voters. Around 85 percent of African-Americans supported Crist over Scott. Crist split the vote with Scott among Cuban voters, typically a GOP-leaning group. Overall, Scott lost 12 points in support among Hispanics compared with the 2010 gubernatorial race. Voters in South Florida and central Florida preferred Crist over Scott, as did voters in cities.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Though it failed to secure the necessary 60 percent for passage, the medical marijuana amendment won majority support among voters from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, income levels and educational attainment. Democrats and voters who identify as independent also supported the proposed amendment. Only senior citizens and Republicans opposed legalizing medical marijuana.

TOP ISSUES: The economy was the issue of top concern, cited by 45 percent of Florida voters. Six in 10 Florida voters approve of the U.S. military action against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. Florida voters are evenly split on whether the state should recognize same-sex marriage, 48 percent on each side. About half, 47 percent believe the 2010 health care reform law went too far, compared with just 20 percent who don’t think it went far enough.


Much analysis of Florida politics centers on swing voters and demographic shifts in the fabled I-4 corridor between Daytona Beach and Tampa Bay. But in the election, improved Republican performance in the mostly red counties around Interstate 10 from Jacksonville to Pensacola helped provide the margin of victory for Gov. Scott.

Scott won statewide by 70,493 votes or 1.19 percent over Crist – a similar margin to 2010, when he defeated Alex Sink by 61,550 votes or 1.15 percent.

After the 2010 nail-biter, both candidates focused on turning out their respective partisan bases for this election. Scott and Republicans did a better job.

Crist spend much of his time and energy on South Florida and the three Democrat-rich megacounties of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade. Crist won those counties by a combined 361,289 votes – an 88,620-vote improvement over Sink’s margin in 2010.

By themselves, Crist’s South Florida gains more than erased Scott’s narrow margin from 2010. But they weren’t enough.

Crist’s South Florida improvement was more than offset by a 99,631-vote gain for Scott in the I-10 corridor.

Scott won the four counties around Jacksonville by 115,797 votes – a 40,498-vote pickup over his margin there four years ago. In Duval County, Scott surprised the Crist camp by expanding his 14,977 margin of 2010 to 34,430 votes this year.

DID VOUCHER LAWSUIT DOOM CRIST? via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times

With rumors flying that the Florida School Boards Association would file suit to challenge the state’s voucher program, a vigorous campaign by voucher backers claimed two FSBA leaders seeking re-election.

Now one key lawmaker is suggesting that the same issue led to Crist’s 70,493-vote defeat against Gov. Scott.

“Bet Crist, Zimmerman, Danish, & crew regret suing the 70k low income families wanting educational choice for their children this am,” State Sen. John Legg posted on Twitter.

We asked Legg if he really thought that the voucher issue was the one that pushed the race over the top. He didn’t have any doubt.

“Crist lost by 70k votes. He did support the program. Now supports the lawsuit to cancel the program. Yes, it was the margin that cost him the election,” Legg said via e-mail. He followed up with a text message. “Want to point out that the Dems lost their entire education team – Dentel Castor, Danish, Saunders, Zimmerman. Message?”


In his victory speech to supporters, Gov. Scott described his defeated rival Crist as “very gracious.”

Crist added some details to that brief phone call, including a push to expand the Medicaid program in Florida.

Crist said he told Scott: “I just want to wish you well even though we had our differences” — which, considering the tone of both candidates’ TV ads, is probably the greatest understatemtnt of the campaign. The conversation turned to Scott’s view that the campaign was over and it was time to move the state forward, and Crist said he told Scott: “Medicaid expansion might be an area where you can bring Florida back together.” As Crist recalled it, Scott told him: “‘I’ll look at that.'”

Crist’s loss by 70,000 votes out of 6 million cast was almost by the identical margin that Democrat Alex Sink lost to Scott four years ago. It also was Crist’s third statewide defeat, which proved to be a political death knell for several other big-name Florida politicians such as Bill McCollum, Tom Gallagher, Bill Gunter and Jack Eckerd.

Crist was not ready to say he’s leaving the political stage. “I care about Florida and I love my family,” Crist said. “I want to remain active in a way that will help the quality of life in Florida. That’s enough for me.” He said he and his wife Carole will escape to Useppa Island near Fort Myers for a few days of relaxation.

“I’ve got to recharge my batteries,” Crist said. “I left it all on the field.”


A couple hours before Crist lost the governor’s race and the U.S. Senate flipped red, Sen. Bill Nelson insisted he did not second-guess his decision not to challenge Gov. Scott himself.

Nelson was playing down talk from “prognosticators” about an imminent Republican takeover and still pointing to a prestigious committee he was in line to take over that made staying put in Washington worth it.

“No, it was the right thing for me to do to stay in the Senate,” he told a few reporters covering Crist’s election night party at the Renaissance Vinoy hotel. “Now, with the expanded responsibility that I will have, I’ll be in a good position. I will either be chairman or ranking member, depending on whether or not we have the majority, of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. That committee has a huge portfolio — all telecommunications, all oceans, the Coast Guard, all science, NASA … all highway safety, all railroads.”

A reporter cut in, “You would take ranking member over governor of Florida?”

“Well. I never made that decision,” Nelson said. “I made a decision instead to do this, and I enthusiastically support Charlie.”

Before the results came in, Nelson said he was expecting runoffs in Georgia and Louisiana that would postpone a possible Senate power-flip. Louisiana’s Senate race is going to a runoff, but Georgia’s was decided in Republican David Perdue’s favor.


Supporters of medical marijuana may have lost their fight at the ballot box, but they’re promising to take it back to the statehouse.

A day after Amendment 2 narrowly failed in Florida, the chair and chief financier of the initiative said that if lawmakers didn’t successfully pursue the issue, it would be back before voters in 2016.

“This is just the first battle and I plan to win the war,” said Orlando trial attorney John Morgan, who led the charge to pass the initiative, in part because of the suffering of his quadriplegic brother.

Morgan pledged to begin the process of putting medical marijuana back on the ballot in 2016. He thinks the fear of its possible impact on the country’s biggest swing state during a presidential election may sway lawmakers to revisit the issue in Tallahassee and pass a medical marijuana law next session. He signaled openness to changing the wording of any future initiative and a willingness to spend more of his fortune on the effort.

Amendment 2’s backers seemed, for a time, to have momentum on their side. Forums around the state filled up with supporters, who far outnumbered opponents. Celebrities including Jimmy Buffett and Melissa Etheridge lent their endorsement. One Quinnipiac University poll found nearly nine out of 10 Florida voters approved of medical marijuana.

And, in fact, the amendment garnered impressive margins: More than 880,000 more votes in favor than opposed, representing just under 58 percent of the electorate.

Nearly anywhere else, it would’ve become law. But Florida – unique with Illinois – requires a three-fifths majority to pass a constitutional amendment. That provision itself came into law under a ballot question in 2006 that put the stricter requirement before voters. It passed with nearly the same level of support as medical marijuana advocates achieved Tuesday.


So, what happened?

History. No incumbent Florida attorney general has lost reelection in 50 years, so his chances were never good.

Democrats on a losing streak. It’s not just incumbents beating Democrats in Cabinet races. Dan Gelber got just 41 percent in 2010 against Bondi when the seat was open. The last Democrat to win was Bob Butterworth, way back in a different era, 1998, when he beat Republican David Bludworth 60-40.

Lack of party discipline: Democrats failed to unify behind one candidate, creating a distraction that didn’t end until the August 24 primary.

No party support. The gubernatorial race sucked most of the Democratic money out of other races, leaving candidates like Sheldon at a disadvantage. While Bondi got $2.2 million from the GOP, Sheldon received nothing.

Big possible donors didn’t bother.  No TV. It takes money, and with limited funds, Sheldon didn’t have money to air an ad in any of Florida’s 10 media markets.

Lack of debates. With no media attack from her opponent, Bondi didn’t have to engage with Sheldon, who, as a former deputy attorney general, could challenge her with his knowledge of the office. She only debated him once, and that was on a subscription cable station aired only in Tampa Bay.

Bondi’s messaging. Adam Goodman, Bondi’s media guru, took a complicated office and distilled it to its simplest form — public safety.

FLORIDA ELECTION 2014 WINNERS AND LOSERS via Jeff Henderson and Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News

WINNERS: Billy Rubin. Lobbyist, longtime Broward County influencer, 20-year friend of Gov. Rick Scott; Americans for Prosperity. No right-of-center group worked harder in Florida than AFP in reaching out to voters and knocking on doors. Business groups. The leadership of the business community — particularly the Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce — had two big priorities: keeping Scott in office and defeating Amendment 2 on medical marijuana. Steve Crisafulli. After Chris Dorworth lost in 2012, Crisafulli quickly rounded up the votes to become the next speaker. Florida Medical Association. The FMA won big as Amendment 2 went down and 71 of 75 of the candidates it endorsed claimed victory. One of the most powerful groups in Tallahassee, the FMA only added to its luster as medical marijuana lost and most of their candidates rolled to victory. Patrick Murphy. On a bad day for Democrats in Florida and across the nation, Murphy won big.

LOSERS: Mike Fasano. The Pasco County tax collector, former Republican state senator, considered something of a kingmaker in Pasco, nevertheless couldn’t deliver his home county to his longtime friend Charlie Crist. Dan Gelber. Ditto, Crist’s top campaign adviser, the former Democratic state senator. David Rancourt. Lobbyist, Charlie Crist’s friend and once-upon-a-time frat brother — and more important, a Republican. Jack Latvala. Trying to catch Joe Negron to become Senate president in 2016, Latvala pinned his hopes on Ellyn Bogdanoff beating Maria Sachs and giving him one more vote in the caucus. But Bogdanoff fell short. Tom Lee. The Republican state senator won easily to claim another term but Amendment 3, reforming how the governor can appoint judges, was his brainchild. John Morgan. What a disaster. Morgan was the force behind Amendment 2 and was counting on his old employee Crist to win. Instead, Morgan’s two causes went down to defeat and the trial attorney has to shoulder some of the blame, especially after a video of him rallying supporters of Amendment 2 with a profane-laden rant went viral. Tom Steyer. The California billionaire vowed to make Scott pay for not believing in global warming. Steyer spent more than $15 million against Scott with his Next Gen Climate super-PAC and it didn’t pay off. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Sure, Wasserman Schultz easily dispatched her Republican challenger. But it was Wasserman Schultz who engineered the plan and wrote the playbook that took Charlie Crist in and sent Democratic chances to oblivion in 2014. Steve Schale. Despite the Obama campaign experience, the always-agitating egomaniacal senior adviser to Charlie Crist was largely ineffective.

TWEET, TWEET: @learyreports: How soon before Democrats begin prepping @GwenForCongress for U.S. Senate (16) or governor (18)?

BOB BUCKHORN RIFFS ON THE IDEA OF RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR IN 2018 via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn wasted no time before mentioning and flirting with the idea of running for governor in 2018.

“Where’s the fan?”

The joke — a reference to Crist’s ever-present and controversial fan — was the first thing out of Buckhorn’s mouth at his first public event of the day, a groundbreaking for a 21-story apartment tower on Harbour Island.

After the ground-breaking, Buckhorn said he was only joking about something that is already in the air.

“I know the speculation is inevitable,” he said. “The mayors are the bench for the Democratic Party, whether it’s Buddy Dyer in Orlando or Jack Seiler in Fort Lauderdale. There’s an argument that could be made that in this hyper-partisan environment, people are tired of the feud and they want their government to work, they want people who are willing to work with both sides to get it done.”

A Democrat who chaired then-President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign in Hillsborough County, Buckhorn, 56, said he told both gubernatorial campaigns months ago that he was staying on the sidelines this year.

He has said Tampa has a lot it needs from Tallahassee so he was not looking to pick fights with Gov. Rick Scott or other GOP leaders and has said Scott has been “particularly good” to Tampa. Plus, he says it’s not like he has a long-standing relationship with Crist, whose nomination he characterized as a sign of a weak Democratic bench.

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KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO ANNOUNCES A 2016 STATE SENATE RUN via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Political Fix

Less than 24 hours after the polls closed on 2014, the race for 2016 has already begun.

State Rep. Kathleen Passidomo announced she planned to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Garrett Richter. Passidomo said in a news release she filed the initial paperwork to run for office.

“A lifetime of civic and professional service in Collier County has afforded me the opportunity to engage with people from all over our community, to understand issues important to them and to serve their interests and only their interests in the Legislature,” she said. “I have the energy, drive and enthusiasm to take my skills to the next level and to continue to serve my community in the Florida Senate.”

Richter cannot seek another term because of term limits.

Her decision to run comes as little surprise to many Southwest Floridians. In September, she told the Daily News she made up her mind about the race and planned to run for Senate.

“I’m going to run. If I don’t, the time will have gone by,” she said in September.

At the time, she said she wasn’t focused on campaigning for the next race and had several things she wanted to accomplish before she leaves the state House.


On Context Florida: As the condolence calls, texts, tweets and Facebook messages started coming in, just before 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night,Daniel Tilson joins other Democrats in asking what is wrong with Florida. A vast majority of Floridians want to preserve the state’s landscape no matter whom they voted for in political races, writes Bruce Ritchie. But voters also backed a conservation lands amendment by a 75-25 percent margin statewide. After what seemed to Barney Bishop like a million television ads, Gov. Rick Scott — the first man to come out of nowhere and win the Governor’s Mansion with his own money — has secured a second term. Tamara Y. Demko says Florida has a chance to drastically change the landscape of its health-care delivery system this session, generate significant cost-savings and lay the foundation for long-term sustainability by enacting telemedicine legislation. The time to act on telemedicine is now.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to David Johnson – the great, great, great, grandson of Speaker of the House Robert Brown, who became Florida’s Speaker in 1846 a year after statehood.

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.