Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray and Jim Rosica.
In a year marked by partisan divides, the growing threat of Zika is doing something few issues could: Bring Republicans and Democrats together.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, introduced legislation to provide $1.9 billion to help curb the spread of the virus. That proposal mirrors the request made by President Barack Obama earlier this year.
“I’ve said repeatedly that Congress should not allow politics to delay action on Zika, and I’m hopeful we’ll begin to see some meaningful action on this public health emergency very soon,” said Rubio on Thursday. “No one wants the Zika issue to become a full-blown crisis that leaves us scrambling to respond.”
Without action, some fear a public health crisis may be on the horizon. Amir Attaran, a professor in the School of Public Health and the School of Law at the University of Ottawa, said the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil “must be postponed, moved, or both, as a precautionary concession.”
“Simply put, Zika infection is more dangerous, and Brazil’s outbreak more extensive, than scientists reckoned a short time ago,” wrote Attaran in the Harvard Public Health Review.
Ginger Cameron, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Cedarville University in Ohio, said there could be a spike in the number of cases worldwide as athletes and their families return home from Brazil.
And that is what has some Florida officials concerned. With 112 verified cases and counting, Gov. Rick Scott has asked Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to send 5,000 Zika preparedness kits to Florida to make sure “residents and visitors have access to items that will reduce the risk.”
Florida is taking steps to reduce risk. Mosquito control districts across the state are upping surveillance. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has equipped the Bronson Animal Disease Laboratory with the necessary tools to test mosquitoes.
“In Florida, we know that we have to prepare for a hurricane before a storm makes landfall,” said Scott in a statement Thursday. “Battling Zika is no different. If we don’t prepare now, our families and visitors will be at risk if this virus becomes mosquito-borne in America.”
IS ZIKA HOW HUMANITY ENDS? via Caleb A. Scharf of Scientific American – [Humans are] the only species capable of (and interested in) self-examination and world-examination – in a way that has led us to mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, computation and technology. Minds have brought us food, health, and individual longevity. Degrade those neural networks and we don’t just become drastically less capable, we can quickly become incapable of even rudimentary survival. That is true for individuals, it is also true for our species.
BILL NELSON, MARCO RUBIO, OFFER BIPARTISAN $1.9B ZIKA ALTERNATIVE TO BIPARTISAN $1.1B ZIKA COMPROMISE via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Nelson and Rubio have been arm-and-arm in calling for urgent and significant anti-Zika funding. The $1.9 billion in their proposal is the same that Obama sought in February. It’s $800 million more than the proposal announced by Sen. Roy Blunt, the Republican who chairs the spending subcommittee that oversees health funding, and Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat … That Blunt-Murray deal was seen as a compromise to break a partisan logjam since Obama’s proposal. But both Nelson and Rubio said $1.1 billion is not enough, and they’ll push their $1.9 billion plan as a competing proposal. “The administration has been clear from the start: it’s going to take $1.9 billion to stop the spread of this virus, not $1.1 [billion],” Nelson said in a news release jointly issued by his and Rubio’s offices. Their strategy is to get the proposal attached to a military spending bill next, which also was Blout’s and Murray’s plan. It’ll be up to the Senate leadership to decide which one to offer for a vote.
WHO IS LOBBYING CONGRESS ON ZIKA? Groups include the American Medical Association, Bayer, Arent Fox for SC Johnson & Son, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi and the U.S. Travel Association. H/t to POLITICO Influence.
RICK SCOTT ASKS HHS CHIEF FOR FEDERAL ZIKA AID via the Tampa Bay Times – “Miami is leading the state in travel-related cases of the Zika virus and is an international hub for travel, especially for those traveling to Brazil this summer for the Olympics where the virus is spreading rapidly,” Scott said. “Mosquito populations are also at their peak during the summer season, which means we need a solution fast. I want Congress to hear directly from our county health officers, our mosquito control districts and doctors about what is needed in our state in order to be prepared.”
TELL THE FDA WHAT YOU FEAR MORE: ZIKA, OR GMO MOSQUITOES? via Jennifer Kay of The Associated Press – If you feel strongly about this issue, you have until midnight Friday to make your opinion known as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers whether to approve an effort to kill the disease-carrying mosquitoes by releasing genetically engineered bugs in Florida. The biotech firm Oxitec plans to release non-biting male mosquitoes that have been modified to produce offspring that don’t survive after mating with wild females. Scientists have weighed in on both sides in the nearly 1,300 comments viewable online so far. Fear is also a common theme, but there’s a split over what people find more frightening: genetic engineering, or birth defects linked to Zika. Researchers believe that within a few generations, this should sharply reduce the mosquito population. Critics raise the potential consequences to human health and the environment of releasing GMO mosquitoes without more long-term research, arguing that the risks are too high even amid a global health crisis.
TWEET, TWEET: @NickKristof: Republicans blasted Obama on his handling on the Ebola crisis—but he was proven right. Maybe listen to him on Zika?
ZIKA’S APPROACH TO U.S. RAISES TRICKY ABORTION QUESTIONS via Associated Press – Fearful they might bear children who suffer from brain-damaging birth defects caused by Zika, more women are expected to look for ways to prevent or end pregnancies. But the highest risk of Zika spreading is in Southern states where long-lasting birth control and abortions are harder to procure, and where a mosquito that transmits the virus already is plentiful. […] The issues already have been raised in Latin America, epicenter of the Zika epidemic and home to numerous countries where abortion is illegal.
ZIKA AND A POLITICAL CRISIS HAVE MADE THE RIO OLYMPICS INTO A LOOMING DISASTER via Kevin Draper of Deadspin – There are very real questions about [Brazil’s] ability to simultaneously mount the world’s largest sporting event and manage a potential global health crisis. Not only is its economy in free-fall, but its political system is undergoing a profound constitutional crisis that is threatening to return the country to the dark days of dictatorial rule that ended in the 1980s. … [B]oth of these crises legitimately threaten to derail the Olympics, and more importantly make a forceful argument that the Olympics, whatever it claims to stand for, is vastly more likely to exacerbate world crises than to solve them.
TWEET, TWEET: @TheHill: Olympics officials say Rio games a go despite mounting Zika virus concerns.
TWEET, TWEET: @EdgeOfSports: Rio is already a global city. Receives five million tourists a year WITHOUT the Olympics. Canceling games won’t solve spread of Zika.
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HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND — FLORIDA GOP KICKS OFF QUARTERLY MEETING — The Republican Party of Florida holds its 2016 quarterly meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tampa on Friday and Saturday. The two-day event includes a presentation by Rep. Matt Hudson and Sen. Kelli Stargel about the 2016 legislative session and several committee meetings, including ones on voter turnout, minority engagement, and “Next Generation GOP” roundtable. On Saturday, the RPOF executive board will meet and is scheduled to select the remaining 15 delegates it will send to the Republican National Convention.
DONALD TRUMP HIRES EX-MARCO RUBIO AIDE AS CAMPAIGN FINANCE COO via CBS News – The billionaire has hired Eli Miller, who was the deputy finance director for Rubio‘s presidential campaign. Miller has also worked for Mitt Romney‘s 2012 presidential bid and then as the Ohio state director for Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-linked group. While at Americans for Prosperity, Miller became close to Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s current campaign manager … Trump has said that he doesn’t want to self-fund the general election campaign, which he estimates may cost him $1.5 billion, he said in an interview with Fox News. Earlier this week, he told the Wall Street Journal that he would still “be putting up money” … he won’t rely on public financing for the general election either. “I don’t like the idea of taking taxpayer money to run a campaign. I think it’s inappropriate,” Trump said in an interview. “I think it’s inappropriate.
GROUP LAUNCHES WEBSITE TO HELP VOTERS ASK LEGISLATORS: DO YOU BACK TRUMP? via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The weaving and dodging of some elected officials over whether or not to endorse the presumptive Republican nominee has prompted the left-leaning advocacy group, Florida Strong, to unveil a new website, www.WhoBacksTrump.com. The site urges voters to find out where their Republican legislators are when it comes to Trump and lists the GOP lawmakers in the state House and state Senate. If voters don’t know who their legislators are, the site provides a handy link to the interactive finder on the House and Senate sites. “Elected officials nationwide continue to stumble over the question when journalists ask whether they will support Donald Trump,” he group claims in its statement.
TWEET, TWEET: @FoxReports: Asked Rubio if he would reconsider Senate bid. “I’m not focused on that.” I note he has till June. He walks away, turns and says “June 24”
— “Jeb Bush’s anti-Donald Trump stance beats Marco Rubio’s” via the South Florida Sun Sentinel
U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Republicans Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox will be in Tampa.
WHAT CHRIS HARTLINE IS READING — “Who wants Marco Rubio’s old job?” via Kevin D. Williamson of National Review. The story is solid introduction of Beruff.
GOP WANTS SENATE DEM CANDIDATE PATRICK MURPHY TO DONATE $100 K via Jonathan Swan of The Hill – [Murphy] donated more than $16,000 in campaign cash to domestic violence groups after receiving contributions from a longtime friend who pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife. Republicans are seeking to make Murphy’s relationship with major Democratic donor Ibrahim Al-Rashid an issue in a race that will help decide which party controls the Senate. Murphy has already returned all the campaign cash donated by Al-Rashid over the past three cycles, but Ian Prior, a spokesman for the Republican-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, says Murphy should donate all the money Al-Rashid gave to a pro-Murphy super-PAC in 2012 — two years before he pleaded guilty to the assault charge. Prior notes that American Sunrise, the super-PAC Al-Rashid funded, ran a controversial ad that showed a cartoon version of Murphy’s then-opponent, Allen West, wearing boxing gloves and repeatedly punching women in the face to illustrate how he was hurting them with his votes on health care and other policies. “[Murphy] should reach into his own pocket and donate an additional $100,000 that corresponds to what the American Sunrise super-PAC received and used to air an ad on his behalf that made light of domestic violence,” Prior said in a statement.
RICHARD CORCORAN BACKS CARLOS LOPEZ CANTERA via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Richard Corcoran … joins a list of Lopez-Cantera endorsers that includes Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, current Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and current Senate President Andy Gardiner. He’s also picked up endorsements from dozens of other state legislators. Lopez-Cantera served eight years in the Florida House before he was elected to be the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser.
JOE BIDEN VISITS ORLANDO RESTAURANT TO BACK PATRICK MURPHY via Associated Press – Vice President Biden says he rarely steps into a Democratic primary, but is backing Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy for Senate because he has the ability to work with Republicans. Biden and Murphy visited a downtown Orlando restaurant Thursday just outside of Senate opponent U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson‘s district. … Biden said his endorsement isn’t a knock on Grayson but rather a belief that Murphy can work with Republicans. Murphy also has the backing of President Barack Obama, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other establishment Democrats.
BIDEN TO FUNDRAISE FOR DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ IN SOUTH FLORIDA via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Biden will headline a fundraiser for Wasserman Schultz in early June. Stephen Bittel, a developer who lives in Coconut Grove … is hosting the fundraiser … his presence at a fundraiser for her is another sign that Wasserman Schultz is taking her Democratic primary challenger — Tim Canova — seriously. Canova … said in a fundraising email earlier this week that he is close to raising $1 million — a huge sum for a first-time candidate who started his campaign in January. Wasserman Schultz raised $1.8 million through March but hasn’t announced what she has raised since that time.
JEFF MORAN PROMOTES ‘BLUE COLLAR’ EXPERIENCE AT CAMPAIGN STOP via Eryn Dion of the Panama City News-Herald – “I’m a blue collar conservative,” Moran, a Republican candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, said at the Republican Roundtable’s monthly meeting. “I live this.” Moran billed himself as a Washington outsider who would work to defend the Constitution on Capitol Hill and protect the interests of the district. “I want to come home and look everyone in the eye and say, ‘I did what you asked,’” Moran said. He took a swipe at opponents taking out-of-state contributions to build their campaigns, saying he would do his best to keep donations local. He also questioned candidates campaigning on the platform of eliminating federal agencies. “In our lifetime we have never eliminated a federal regulatory agency,” he said. “Let’s focus on what we can really do.”
FLORIDA DEMOCRATS THINKING ‘OUTSIDE THE BOX’ FOR 2018 GUBERNATORIAL RACE via Troy Kinsey of Bay News 9 – As Florida Democrats look ahead to the 2018 gubernatorial contest, some party strategists are keeping a keen eye on Trump‘s presidential campaign, which they say could provide an unconventional model. Disillusioned by losing five consecutive attempts at capturing the Governor’s Mansion, Democrats could face another challenging environment in 2018 … if Hillary Clinton were to win the presidency this fall, midterm turnout could follow historical norms and benefit the Republican ticket. Trump, however, has proven that voters are hungry for unconventional candidates … With Democratic North Florida Congresswoman Gwen Graham … considering entering the 2018 race, the lessons of Trump’s rise are weighing heavily on Democrats who believe it’s critical to think outside the box. Many of them are intrigued by the potential candidacy of Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a well-heeled progressive who recently tapped his fortune to run radio ads implicitly criticizing Scott‘s opposition to raising Florida’s minimum wage. Far from “Trumpian” in his thinking – a plus in Democratic circles – Levine has nonetheless taken Trump-like pains to show he has a finger on the pulse of the electorate.
JOHN MORGAN CONCEDES 2014 LINK BETWEEN CHARLIE CRIST, MEDICAL-POT INITIATIVE via the Orlando Sentinel – Morgan, who’s spent more than $7.5 million of his and his law firm’s money trying to pass a constitutional amendment to broadly legalize medical marijuana, made a confession of sorts this week at the nation’s largest pot trade show. “The last time I got into this thing, I got into it before Charlie Crist, a lawyer in my firm, started running for governor,” Morgan said. “I will confess that, once I got into it, there was a benefit to having this on the ballot at the same time that a member of my law firm was running for governor of the state of Florida … I confess that now.” Morgan, a major Democratic fundraiser, quickly backpedaled from his apparent truth telling, however. “I didn’t really lie. What I did was, I said this could be two-for-one, because I started my marijuana deal before Charlie got in the race. … That’s the truth. I got real fired up about it because I thought, hey, we could get marijuana and Charlie. So that really motivated me,” Morgan said.
EARLY FUNDRAISING LEAD FOR ED NARAIN IN DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR FLORIDA SENATE SEAT via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Narain, Rep. Darryl Rouson … and former Rep. Betty Reed … are all battling to represent the newly drawn District 19. That districts starts in Temple Terrace and East Tampa, and runs south to pick up parts of Brandon, Riverview and Apollo Beach. It then cross Tampa Bay to pick up St. Petersburg. No Republicans had filed to run in the race … New campaign finance records show Narain raised $15,000 in April and now has raised $119,000. After spending nearly $39,000, Narain had more than $80,000 to start May 1 … Rouson has raised nearly $62,000, but has spent $35,000, leaving him with less than $17,000 to start the month. Reed has raised $23,000 for the race and has spent $8,100, leaving her with $15,000.
KELLI STARGEL DRAWS POLK COUNTY DEMOCRAT CHALLENGER IN SD 22 RACE via Florida Politics – Former Polk County School Board member Debra Wright made the announcement during the Open House at the Democratic Headquarters in Haines City. During the same meeting she earned the support of Polk County Democratic State Committeewoman Ruth Ann Eaddy. “Ms. Stargel’s record has shown a disregard for what is best for her constituents by writing laws and taking positions that are best for her corporate sponsors and are especially bad for women,” Wright said … “The law she wrote that would make it impossible for a judge to award custody of children in divorce cases to the more responsible parent was so poorly crafted even our Republican governor was persuaded to veto it.” After the announcement, Eaddy said Polk County Democrats were “delighted” Wright is “taking on one of our most misguided state legislators in this new district.”
TRIAL LAWYER MICHAEL STEINGER OPENS DEMOCRATIC STATE SENATE CAMPAIGN via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Steinger of the Steinger, Iscoe & Greene firm opened a Democratic campaign for a northern Palm Beach County state Senate seat … setting up a primary fight against state Rep. Bobby Powell and attorney Tony Bennett. No incumbent is running in the Democrat-leaning District 30 seat. Steinger is emphasizing his outsider status. “People are tired of politics as usual and want a state Senator who will fight for better schools, affordable health care and a living wage regardless of gender, ethnicity or level of education. In my personal and professional life, I fought the special interests to protect our kids, seniors and minorities. I bring proven leadership and real world experience to take on the Tallahassee establishment and move forward a vision that looks out for the everyday Floridians, not the privileged few,” he said in a statement.
SEMINOLE TRIBE WANTS TO BLOCK RELEASE OF PUBLIC RECORDS via The Associated Press – The Seminole Tribe of Florida is trying to get a federal judge to block the release and publication of information related to a key gambling trial. Tribe attorneys filed an emergency motion this week asking to seal a deposition of the chief executive officer of the company that runs the Seminole casinos in Florida. The motion asks to block release of information from the deposition until the tribe can decide whether the material contains trade secrets. The state and the tribe are locked in a dispute over whether the Seminoles casinos can continue to have blackjack tables.
POLITICO FILES MOTION TO INTERVENE IN SEMINOLE LAWSUIT via Matt Dixon of POLITICO — POLITICO filed a motion in federal court on Thursday night asking to intervene in (the) lawsuit between The Seminole Tribe and state of Florida.
FLORIDA’S HURRICANE FUND IN BEST SHAPE EVER AHEAD OF SEASON via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – The state-created fund known as the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund should have $17.4 billion available for the Atlantic hurricane season that starts June 1. This marks the first time ever that the fund has more money than it would need to pay out if storms racked the state. The financial health of the account nicknamed the “Cat Fund” is important to Floridians regardless of where they live. The state can impose a surcharge on most insurance policies – including auto insurance policies – to replenish the fund if it runs out of money. Some critics have called the surcharge a “hurricane tax.” Kapil Bhatia, a financial adviser for the fund who works for Raymond James and Associates, said the news about the fund was “very positive” for the state’s insurance market and for the state’s economy. Raymond James prepared a report on the fund’s financial strength for an advisory council that oversees the fund. Twice a year the state relies on Wall Street firms and financial advisers to calculate how much money the fund needs – and how much it could borrow in the event of a catastrophic storm. The latest estimates, which were approved by the fund’s advisory council … show that it should have $400 million more than its obligations for this year. The fund could also borrow up to $7.5 billion after a hurricane hit.
FAMU BOARD CHAIR NOT REAPPOINTED via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO — Florida A&M University’s board of trustees is again without a chair. State higher education officials voted unanimously Thursday to boot Cleve Warren from the board of the historically black public university. Warren had served as the board’s chairman since November. He succeeded Rufus Montgomery, who resigned his post and then his seat on the board after supporting an unsuccessful attempt to oust president Elmira Mangum. Warren was with the prevailing side; he voted twice against firing Mangum.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Mercer Fearington Jr., Southern Strategy Group: Ajax Building Corp.
Susan Goldstein, Susan Goldstein Consulting: DeLucca Enterprises
Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, Jodi Lea Stevens: The Mayernick Group: Excellence in Education in Action
Kimberly Mitchell, Jessica Pinsky: Everglades Trust
Marco Paredes: Magellan Complete Care; Magellan Health Service
Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: “Leadership and Donald Trump, or, What Did We Learn from “The Art of the Deal”?” with analyst Dr. Lawrence Miller.
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS Miami: An interview with Senate candidate U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Political writer William March, 10 News investigative reporter Mike Deeson, Democratic lawyer and consultant Jessica Erhlich, and Republican lawyer Danny Alvarez.
On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: Interviews with Senate candidates U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and developer Carlos Beruff. Plus, representatives from local animal boarders Pet Paradise and a discussion on mental health issues.
Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay: Al Ruechel takes a look at presidential politics and appraises the chances of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. Ruechel also sits down with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis on his run for Senate. Plus PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim made by U.S. David Jolly that he was the only Republican to vote ‘no’ on a proposal to investigation Planned Parenthood and the allegations they sold fetal tissue.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson talks with Ybeth Bruzual about his run for U.S. Senate and PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim made by Gov. Scott about cutting taxes by one billion dollars. “Common Ground” with Alex Sink and Chris Ingram explores incarceration, and POLITICO reporter Katie Glueck stops by to discuss 2016 electoral developments.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve Vancore, Gary Yordon, and Mary Ellen Klas of The Miami Herald.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Interviews with U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and Carlos Beruff, plus a discussion on mental health awareness with Sheriff Mike Williams, Pastor Lee Harris, and NAACP Jacksonville President Isaiah Rumlin.
TAMPA BAY TIMES SETTLES SUIT WITH JEFF GREENE via Florida Politics – The terms of that settlement were not released. “We have been in this legal standoff for nearly six years,” Times editor Neil Brown said in a statement. “The settlement represents our insurance company’s calculation of acceptable legal expenses. “On the central dispute, the Times does not retract or correct our coverage, nor will we limit any future reporting,” he added. Greene … ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 2010 … claimed that both newspapers derailed his Senate campaign with coverage of alleged fraudulent real estate deals and wild parties on his 145-foot yacht. Democrat Kendrick Meek, a former state senator, went on to win the Democratic primary.
STORY I DID NOT READ AT PLAYA MIA IN COZUMEL, NOR WILL YOU FIND IT IN SUNBURN — “George Zimmerman gun ad yanked by one website but posted by another“
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our good friend, Bill Carlson of Tucker/Hall.